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The Arcanist

Chapter Text

The hair on the back of her neck stood on end, giving her pause as the feeling registered. It had been weeks since she last felt that sensation, and it only ever meant one thing.

She quickened her pace and zipped up her jacket, pulling its hood up over her head as she moved through the busy city streets with haste.

"N'chao" She murmured in annoyance. Things had been going so well.

Closing her eyes briefly, she allowed a wisp of her magic to flow over her. It was a simple, yet profoundly useful illusion spell. She had used it often to avoid the unwanted attention of city guards, and of her marks.

Now enveloped she did her best to blend in. The spell influenced the minds of those around her, made her hard to focus on and therefore hard to see. But it was fragile. Once focus was attracted, the spell was broken.

Hoping to minimize the chance of that happening, she moved to the rhythm of the crowd, weaving in and out between them, ever forward. How she missed the natural cover of night.

But no one made eye contact with her for many blocks. It was working. Another perk of these large cities, she supposed. So many busy people who didn't want to be bothered.

Feeling more secure she began to take quick glimpses around her. Children with their parents; groups of tourists; the occasional drunk. No one stood out, though the feeling remained.

A sudden push against her landed her on the floor.

"Watch where you're fucking going!" It was an older woman who now sat on the pavement in front of her.

"Apologies." She muttered through gritted teeth, all the while cursing herself for being so careless.

After a few moments, she felt a chill run down her spine and a thought dawned on her; her spell was broken. The woman jabbered on in the background while she stood herself up. She looked up and about her, a strange feeling of apprehension grabbing hold of her. There. For a moment, between the crowd. She saw him.

"N'wah." She said, turning towards the opposite direction and running.

She made a hard right into an alleyway. Had he seen her? She growled under her breath. If he hadn't seen her, he'd certainly heard the woman yelling after her as she left. She briefly wished she had stuck a dagger in her before running off.

"Too many people." She reminded herself. "Just keep moving."

Quickly she made her way through the narrow alleyways. Her trained footfalls were silent, but the pounding of her heartbeat was loud in her ears. It was a foreign feeling for her. She didn't like it.

It was only noon, but she was exhausted; sleep deprived. She didn't recognize these streets, but she kept on, more and more being driven by instinct than foresight.

She could feel him. Like being stared at from across the room. She pushed herself. Faster. Further. A left here. A right there.

"S'wit." She cursed herself. If only she could just teleport. It was how she'd gotten away before, but now... now she was weak. This place she was in was unlike any other she'd been to before. Magic did not flow freely here. What she came with was all that she had, and her reserves were growing low.

She realized too late the warning signs around her. High walls, chainlink fences, fewer and fewer shops and residences.

Turning another corner, there it was. A dead end.

She stopped, nearly out of breath, and walked towards the brick wall at the other end. Too tall to hop, no footholds for climbing. Briefly she contemplated turning around and finding another way. But she knew it was too late. Instead, she rested her forehead on the cold brick before her, her hands clenched into fists.

When an audible breeze sounded behind her a moment later, she growled and pounded her fist against the wall. How could *she* be cornered? How could she wind up the skeever in the trap? She was Cey Varo, damn it.

"I must congratulate you." She heard behind her.

She turned, her frustration plain on her face.

"No one has ever eluded me for so long."

It was him. The one that'd been chasing her for months.

"I don't know what the higher ups want with you, but it's easy to see why they do." She narrowed her eyes at him. He ignored her. "Being able to handle yourself against an angel, that's no small feat." He smiled. "Though, unsurprisingly, you're not quite up to par."

The statement infuriated her. And while she hated to admit it, it was true. She had handled her own at first, but this 'divine' as he called himself, had proven impossible to kill. And she had wasted a good deal of her magic trying. In the end she had opted to run, to hide, to wait.

It was why she had come to this city. To hide - and to find allies. After their last encounter, she had taken it upon herself to do some research. Luckily, libraries existed here as well. And while they didn't have magic, they did possess a kind of technology that made the process relatively quick.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of information. Information that ranged from sacrosanct religion to bloodied histories to muddled philosophy. She didn't know what was fact and what was fiction. Eventually she found herself in a corner of "the web" that spoke of these angels as not saints, but psychopaths. It was there that she heard a rumor of a group that were fighting against them.

She had been trying to contact them for several weeks while she moved from city to city, making her way here. So far, no answer.

At least the hiding had gone well. For a while. Illusion magic was a far simpler kind of magic, not as resource-intensive. But in the end - here they were. Again. She was beginning to suspect that her dwindling power is what was making her more and more visible to whatever it was he used to track her.

She glared at him and he cocked his head. In amusement, she ventured.

"Seeing as you're still standing here, I'm guessing that little disappearing trick won't be an issue this time, will it?"

She stood herself up straight, and pulled a dagger from her jacket.

He sighed.

"I had hoped you'd come willingly this time. But if I must subdue you first, so be it." He widened his arms. "Come, I'll give you the first shot. A freebie, as these humans say."

She narrowed her eyes. He'd soon regret those words. She wasn't going to make this easy.

She ran at him, blade gripped firmly, expertly, in her hand. This was her last chance, she knew, and she aimed to make the most of it. With one fell thrust, she plunged her dagger into the center of his forehead.

She watched as his face went slack and his body slid from her blade to the floor.

She stepped back a few paces, surprised. Last time she had stabbed the blade into his heart - and he had just stood there, smiling.

"Are you Cey Varo?" She turned, dagger ready and directed at the sudden voice behind her. He put his hands up, defensively. "It's alright, I'm here to help."

She eyed him up and down. He wore a brown trenchcoat atop a white dress shirt and brown slacks. She wasn't sure what to make of him.

"Help who?" She asked, thinking of the heap behind her.

"You. Please, we must go before he gets back up."

She half-lowered the weapon as her eyes widened at the thought. He couldn't. Not after that. Could he? She glimpsed the brick wall behind this stranger.

"Wait. No. Wait." She stammered, trying to think straight. "Where did you come from? Just now."

The man sighed, suppressed frustration. "You're wasting time." He said. Putting his hands down he walked towards her, no sign of fear or worry on his face. No sign of concern for the weapon she held.

"You're one of them." She realized aloud.

He reached for her; she twisted away and around him, using the momentum of the motion to speed the swing of her dagger. She'd put him down, too. For a brief moment she felt triumphant. Then he caught her by the wrist, the blade just inches from the side of his head.

"Quite the blade dancer, isn't she?" The voice was accompanied by a small laugh and smaller groan.

They both turned towards it in unison.

"If I had known you were going for my head, I wouldn't have given you the freebie." He was standing now, and smiling. A small mixture of brain matter and blood was still visible on his forehead; it was the only sign that she had done him any damage. He wiped at it, and it was gone.

"Castiel." The angel said with eerie glee. "So good to see you again." He seemed to examine him for a moment. "You look, well."

"Stay behind me." Castiel said to her, using his arm to push her back. She didn't object. "But stay close."

"Jacob." He started, an unusual silver dagger falling from his sleeve to his hand. "Leave now and no harm will come to you."

The angel frowned. "It's always straight to threats and fighting with you, Castiel. Can't we talk this out?" He feigned hurt feelings.

Castiel seemed to consider his options. "Why does heaven want her?"

Jacob sighed. "I was thinking more along the lines of a trade. You know, you give us the girl and maybe you can... come home? "

"I've been given that choice before. My answer has not changed. So please, answer the question."

Jacob laughed. "You obviously haven't seen what she can do." He paused, glancing at her. "Or rather, could do."

Castiel glanced at her, interest evident on his face.

It was then that the angel attacked. In the fraction of a second he had a silver dagger in his hand, the same as she had seen in Castiel's, and lunged. He moved with remarkable speed, taking him mere moments to close the gap between them.

But Castiel was quicker. In what felt like the same breath, he pushed her out of the way, dodged, and slashed the other angel on the arm as he passed.

Jacob growled. She watched with great interest as the wound glowed a bright white for several moments.

Her gaze flicked between the daggers they wielded. She was transfixed by them, their silver glittering beautifully in the sunlight. She watched them as they danced through the air. Another flash of light. She recalled having read of something similar. Another flash. A cone-shaped spear. Another. An angel blade.

By the time she remembered the obscure piece of writing she had read on some forum or other and returned her concentration to what was happening before her, she found herself greeted with an exceptionally wounded Jacob.

"You can't keep up with me, brother." Castiel said, looking not at all fatigued. "Please," he begged, "stop this."

Jacob looked defeated, angry. He was standing, his shoulders hanging and his stance wide to support him. He looked down at his hands. She realized they were empty.

She quickly scanned the area around her. There, not far from her, was the dagger. She slowly made her way towards it.

Jacob sighed. "I can't let you have her." He said.

She reached down and pocketed the dagger.

He pulled out another.

This one was much shorter, black, with what looked like dried blood on it.

"That can't hurt me." Castiel said.

Jacob looked pointedly at her. "I know."

Her earlier maneuvering for the blade left her closer to him than Castiel to her. Had it been a trap? The self-assured grin on his face seemed to confirm the brief thought.

They both moved for her. She knew who'd reach her first. She lifted her hands, a spell beginning to form in one hand and the blade in the other.

He was but a foot from her when the spell took hold. She watched as the thrust of his blade slowed before her. She pulled her left leg back and swung her right shoulder forward to avoid it. She wasn't quick enough. It caught under her jacket, slicing along and over her left clavicle to her shoulder. He must have been aiming for her heart.

With his hand and the knife still caught in her jacket, she grabbed his wrist with one hand plunged the angel blade into his stomach with the other.

A bright white light blinded her for a moment. When it cleared, the angel lay at her feet, eyes seemingly burned out of his head.

"He's really dead now, right?" She asked.

Castiel nodded, a look of remorse on his face. "We should go." He muttered.

"No, no. You still haven't told me who you are."

He sighed. "I'm Castiel."

"Castiel. Brother of that thing," she motioned to the heap before her, "I got that part. Tell me something I don't know. Why should I go with you?"

"I'm here to help. You've been trying to contact us."

The group she'd heard of. She was beginning to wonder if they were real. "You're a hunter?"

"I, yes. No. I work with hunters."

She'd been running for months. Alone. It was hard to trust anyone right now. She looked back at the remains of Jacob. He had just helped her. She looked back up at Castiel. If he wasn't really here to help, there was nothing she could actually do about it.

"Ok." She said. She'd go willingly now and weigh her options later.

The hair on the back of her neck stood on end, giving her pause as the feeling registered. It had been weeks since she last felt that sensation, and it only ever meant one thing.

She quickened her pace and zipped up her jacket, pulling its hood up over her head as she moved through the busy city streets with haste.

"N'wah." She murmured in annoyance. Things had been going so well.

Closing her eyes briefly, she allowed a wisp of her magic to flow over her. It was a simple, yet profoundly useful illusion spell. She had used it often to avoid the unwanted attention of city guards, and of her marks.

Now enveloped she did her best to blend in. The spell influenced the minds of those around her, made her hard to focus on and therefore hard to see. But it was fragile. Once focus was attracted, the spell was broken.

Hoping to minimize the chance of that happening, she moved to the rhythm of the crowd, weaving in and out between them, ever forward. How she missed the natural cover of night.

But no one made eye contact with her for many blocks. It was working. Another perk of these large cities, she supposed. So many busy people who didn't want to be bothered.

Feeling more secure she began to take quick glimpses around her. Children with their parents; groups of tourists; the occasional drunk. No one stood out, though the feeling remained.

A sudden push against her landed her on the floor.

"Watch where you're fucking going!" It was an older woman who now sat on the pavement in front of her.

"Apologies." She muttered through gritted teeth, all the while cursing herself for being so careless.

After a few moments, she felt a chill run down her spine and a thought dawned on her; her spell was broken. The woman jabbered on in the background while she stood herself up. She looked up and about her, a strange feeling of apprehension grabbing hold of her. There. For a moment, between the crowd. She saw him.

"B'vek." She cursed, turning towards the opposite direction and running.

She made a hard right into an alleyway. Had he seen her? She growled under her breath. If he hadn't seen her, he'd certainly heard the woman yelling after her as she left. She briefly wished she had stuck a dagger in her before running off.

She chided herself. "Just keep moving."

Quickly she made her way through the narrow alleyways. Her trained footfalls were silent, but the pounding of her heartbeat was loud in her ears. It was a foreign feeling for her. She didn't like it.

It was only noon, but she was exhausted; sleep deprived. She didn't recognize these streets, but she kept on, more and more being driven by instinct rather than foresight.

She could feel him. Like being stared at from across the room. She pushed herself. Faster. Further. A left here. A right there.

"S'wit." She cursed herself. If only she could just teleport. It was how she'd gotten away before, but now... now she was weak. This place she was in was unlike any other she'd been to before. Magic did not flow freely here. What she came with was all that she had, and her reserves were growing low.

She realized too late the warning signs around her. High walls, chainlink fences, fewer and fewer shops and residences.

Turning another corner, there it was. A dead end.

She stopped, nearly out of breath, and walked towards the brick wall at the other end. Too tall to hop, no footholds for climbing. Briefly she contemplated turning around and finding another way. But she knew it was too late. Instead, she rested her forehead on the cold brick before her, her hands clenched into fists.

When an audible breeze sounded behind her a moment later, she growled and pounded her fist once against the wall. How could *she* be cornered? How could *she* wind up the skeever in the trap? *She* was Cey Varo, damn it.

"I must congratulate you." She heard behind her.

She turned, her frustration plain on her face.

"No one has ever eluded me for so long."

It was him. The one that'd been chasing her for months.

"I don't know what the higher ups want with you, but it's easy to see why they do."

She narrowed her eyes at him. He ignored her.

"Being able to handle yourself against an angel, that's no small feat." He smiled. "Though, unsurprisingly, you're not quite up to par."

The statement infuriated her. And while she hated to admit it, it was true. She had handled her own at first, but this 'divine' as he called himself, had proven impossible to kill. And she had wasted a good deal of her magic trying. In the end she had opted to run, to hide, to wait.

It was why she had come to this city. To hide - and to find allies. After their last encounter, she had taken it upon herself to do some research. Luckily, libraries existed here as well. And while they didn't have magic, they did possess a kind of technology that made the process relatively quick.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of information. Information that ranged from sacrosanct religion to bloodied histories to muddled philosophy. She didn't know what was fact and what was fiction. Eventually she found herself in a corner of "the web" that spoke of these angels not as saints, but as psychopaths. It was there that she heard a rumor of a group that were fighting against them.

She had been trying to contact them for several weeks while she moved from city to city, making her way here. So far, no answer.

At least the hiding had gone well. For a while. Illusion magic was a far simpler kind of magic, not as resource-intensive. But in the end - here they were. Again. She was beginning to suspect that her dwindling power was what was making her more and more visible to whatever it was he used to track her.

She glared at him and he cocked his head. In amusement, she ventured.

"Seeing as you're still standing here, I'm guessing that little disappearing trick won't be an issue this time, will it?"

She stood herself up straight, and pulled a dagger from her jacket.

He sighed.

"I had hoped you'd come willingly this time. But if I must subdue you first, so be it."

He widened his arms. "Come, I'll give you the first shot. A freebie, as these humans say."

She narrowed her eyes. He'd soon regret those words. She wasn't going to make this easy.

She ran at him, blade gripped firmly, expertly, in her hand. This was her last chance, she knew, and she aimed to make the most of it.

With one fell thrust she plunged her dagger into the center of his forehead.

She watched as his face went slack and his body slid from her blade to the floor.

She stepped back a few paces, surprised. Last time she had stabbed the blade into his heart and he had just stood there, smiling.

"Are you Cey Varo?" She turned, dagger ready and directed at the sudden voice behind her.

The man there put his hands up defensively. "It's alright, I'm here to help."

She eyed him up and down. He wore a brown trenchcoat atop a white dress shirt and brown slacks. She wasn't sure what to make of him.

"Help who?" She asked, thinking of the heap behind her.

"You. Please, we must go before he gets back up."

She half-lowered the weapon as her eyes widened at the thought. He couldn't. Not after that. Could he? She glimpsed the brick wall behind this stranger.

"Wait. No. Wait." She stammered, trying to think straight. "Where did you come from? Just now."

The man sighed suppressed frustration. "You're wasting time." He said. Putting his hands down he walked towards her, no sign of fear or worry on his face. No sign of concern for the weapon she held.

"You're one of them." She realized aloud.

He reached for her; she twisted away and around him, using the momentum of the motion to speed the swing of her dagger. She'd put him down, too. For a brief moment she felt triumphant. Then he caught her by the wrist, the blade just inches from the side of his head.

"Quite the blade dancer, isn't she?" The voice was accompanied by a small laugh and smaller groan.

They both turned towards it in unison.

"If I had known you were going for my head, I wouldn't have given you the freebie." He was standing now, and smiling. A small mixture of brain matter and blood was still visible on his forehead; it was the only sign that she had done him any damage. He wiped at it, and it was gone.

"Castiel." The angel said with eerie glee. "So good to see you again." He seemed to examine him for a moment. "You look, well."

"Stay behind me." Castiel said to her, using his arm to push her back. She didn't object. "But stay close."

"Jacob." He started, an unusual silver dagger falling from his sleeve to his hand. "Leave now and no harm will come to you."

The angel frowned. "It's always straight to threats and fighting with you, Castiel. Can't we talk this out?" He feigned hurt feelings.

Castiel seemed to consider his options. "Why does heaven want her?"

Jacob sighed. "I was thinking more along the lines of a trade. You know, you give us the girl and maybe you can... come home? "

"I've been given that choice before. My answer has not changed. So please, answer the question."

Jacob laughed. "You obviously haven't seen what she can do." He paused, glancing at her. "Or rather, could do."

Castiel glanced at her, interest evident on his face.

It was then that the angel attacked. In a fraction of a second he had a silver dagger in his hand - the same as she had seen in Castiel's - and lunged. He moved with remarkable speed, taking him mere moments to close the gap between them.

But Castiel was quicker. In what felt like the same breath he pushed her out of the way, dodged, and slashed the other angel on the arm as he passed.

Jacob growled. She watched with great interest as the wound glowed a bright white for several moments.

Her gaze flicked between the daggers they wielded. She was transfixed by them, their silver glittering in the sunlight. She watched them as they danced through the air. Another flash of light. She recalled having read of something similar. Another flash. A pyramidal spear. Another. An angel blade.

By the time she remembered the obscure piece of writing she had read on some forum or other and returned her concentration to what was happening before her, she found herself greeted with an exceptionally wounded Jacob.

"You can't keep up with me, brother." Castiel said, looking not at all fatigued. "Please," he begged, "stop this."

Jacob looked defeated, angry. He was standing, his shoulders hanging and his stance wide to support him. He looked down at his hands. She realized they were empty.

She quickly scanned the area around her. There, not far from her, was the dagger. She slowly made her way towards it.

Jacob sighed. "I can't let you have her." He said.

She reached down and pocketed the dagger.

He pulled out another.

This one was much shorter, black, with what looked like dried blood on it.

"That can't hurt me." Castiel said.

Jacob looked pointedly at her. "I know."

Her earlier maneuvering for the blade left her closer to him than Castiel to her. Had it been a trap? The self-assured grin on his face seemed to confirm the brief thought.

They both moved for her. She knew who'd reach her first. She lifted her hands, a spell beginning to form in one hand and the blade held tight in the other.

He was but a foot from her when the spell took hold.

She watched as the thrust of his blade slowed before her. She pulled her left leg back and swung her right shoulder forward to avoid it. She wasn't quick enough. It caught under her jacket, slicing along and over her left clavicle to her shoulder. He must have been aiming for her heart.

With his hand and the knife still caught in her jacket, she grabbed his wrist with one hand and plunged the angel blade into his stomach with the other.

A bright white light blinded her for a moment. When it cleared, the angel lay at her feet, eyes seemingly burned out of his head.

"He's really dead now, right?" She asked, bending down and pocketing the small blade.

Castiel nodded, a look of remorse on his face. "We should go." He muttered.

"No, no. You still haven't told me who you are."

He sighed. "I'm Castiel."

"Castiel. Brother of that thing," she motioned to the heap before her, "I got that part. Tell me something I don't know. Why should I go with you?"

"I'm here to help. You've been trying to contact us."

The group she'd heard of. She was beginning to wonder if they were real. "You're a hunter?"

"Yes. No, I-. I work with hunters."

She'd been running for months. Alone. It was hard to trust anyone right now. She looked back at the remains of Jacob. He had just helped her. She looked back at Castiel. If he wasn't really here to help, there was nothing she could actually do about it.

"Ok." She said. She'd go willingly now and weigh her options later.

Chapter Text

One second she was standing in an alley, the next in a large room. The floor and walls were made of polished stone and the arched ceiling rose high above her. It reminded her briefly of the inside of the White-Gold Tower.

"Where are we?" She asked, walking into the center of the room and looking about her.

"A safe place." Castiel said, walking past her and into the dinning area behind her.

She turned and followed him up the few short steps. In that space there stood a small table surrounded by a couple of chairs, several bookcases, and piles of papers and books. It was obvious this area was used more for research than eating.

It suggested that these hunters were also scholars of a sort. She only hoped they really were as capable as their titles had led her to believe.

She glanced at Castiel who poked his head into an adjoining room. Perhaps the strength of these hunters lay in their allies. They had made friends with a divine. Who knew what other company they kept.

"Even Daedra have been known to help mortals on occasion." She reminded herself. "When it suits them."

She wondered what the angel got out of the deal.

"Dean? Sam?" He called down a hall.

He turned back to her. "They'll be here soon. If they're here." He paused. "They're probably here."

"The hunters?" She asked.

"Yes." He nodded.

By the look on his face, she could tell he was still processing all that had happened with Joseph. He had yet to remark on how she'd killed him. He no doubt had questions. As did she.

She sighed, finally beginning to feel the exhaustion of the past few weeks. She hadn't slept much in that time. She'd never felt safe enough.

Honestly, she wasn't sure how safe she felt here. She'd yet to decide. By nature she was untrusting and in this foreign world, that instinct was stronger and louder. But back home she could take care of herself. Here? Here she was going to need allies, whether she liked it or not.

She was drilling that into her head when the sound of footfalls down the hall finally reached her ears.

"Cas, did you find them?" Came a deep voice from the hall. A moment later, two men entered the room.

The first was tall, his hair short and brown. He had a rugged look about him and a dark look in his eye that she had seen many times in her long years. He was the brawn, she decided.

The second man was taller, his hair long and blonde. His face was softer and his eyes bright. He was decidedly clever. The brains. The scholar.

Despite their polar differences, there was a certain similarity to their appearance as well.

Castiel said nothing, nodding in her direction. She realized he'd been watching her.

The men followed his gaze.

"You must be Cey." The first one said, extending his hand towards her. "I'm Dean." He gestured at the other one. "My brother..."

"Sam." He called over his brother's shoulder.

She took Dean's hand and shook it, unable to suppress a small laugh. "So you shake hands." She was often amused by the similarities between the cultures of Tamriel and here.

"Uh. Yes." He said, confused. "I don't know what you've heard about me, but I *am*capable of manners. Sometimes."

The comment gave her cause to give a smile, albeit a small one.

Meanwhile, the angel had moved closer to watch the exchange between them.

Sam noticed.

"Is everything alright?" He asked Castiel.

"He's curious." Cey replied for him. He was undoubtedly still trying to figure out what to make of her. As she was of them all. She turned towards him, expecting a response.

"Curious?" Dean repeated.

Castiel ignored the comment.

"Heaven is after her." He said.

"What?" Sam asked. "Why?"

"Pissed off the feather heads, did you?" Dean laughed, walking to a nearby cabinet and pulling out a drink of some sort. "Welcome to the club." He said, opening it.

He offered it to her but she shook her head. She could smell the poor substitute for ale from where she stood.

"Dean, it's two in the afternoon." Sam muttered to his brother.

Dean shrugged him off.

"No, that's not it." Castiel continued. "They wanted to bring her back to heaven."

"Impressed them then, it seems." Dean corrected. He raised his drink towards her. "Congrats."

Castiel ignored them, turning to her instead. "You were being chased by Joseph for months. He's... He was one of Heaven's best trackers. Second only to Uriel."

"If you say so." She said, unsure of what he was getting at. She was glad she had stuck to her instincts and stood in the foray's opening. She felt less cornered there.

"How?" He asked.

She glanced at the other two. Sam seemed genuinely interested. Dean took a chug of his drink. He didn't seem to be listening.

"I was using magic to hide myself from him." She explained simply.

"But not this time? Why not? Did it run out?" He asked.

She bobbed her head from side to side. "Nearly."

Dean had stopped drinking.

"Hooold up." He interjected. "You're a witch?" He asked, the look on his face said he didn't much like witches.

"Mage." She corrected.

"Is there a difference?"

"Well," Sam began, "witches use incantations with spells whereas mages don't normally need to speak for their magic to work."

Castiel was nodding. "That makes sense." He said, but she had the feeling he wasn't responding to the statement.

Dean rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Magic is magic. And I don't like it. We have enough to deal with as it is."

He turned to look at her and sighed. "You asked for our help, and we'll give it to you." He reassured.

"We just haven't had the best experience with witches... magic." Sam clarified.

Castiel seemed rather uninterested in this exchange.

"Heaven is keen on having you. Do you know why? Is it because of your non-verbal magic?" He asked.

All the questions had her head spinning. She shrugged her right shoulder. "All I know is they've been after me since I got here. I don't know why."

"Since you got here?" Sam murmured.

He looked as if he were going to say more before they heard a voice from down the hall.

"Oi!" It growled.

She turned just in time to see another man walk into the room. He was older than the other three, at least, in appearance. She still had no idea how this species aged. Probably along the lines of Imperials, if she had to guess. But that's all it was. A guess.

"You lot have had me waiting back there for bloody ages!" He was saying. His tone was that of annoyance, but there was an ever-so-slight grin on his face. She recognized it as the look of a man who was used to being in charge and giving orders - a man who enjoyed it to near perversion, and who found this turn slightly amusing.

She doubted it was discernable to the others, she merely recognized it as the same look she had seen on Sheogorath whenever he deemed her as being 'insolent'. Which had been often.

The thought made her grin in turn.

He spotted her. "Oh." There was a hint of intrigue in his voice. "A guest, have we?" He said, his grin growing wider.

"We?" Castiel asked, clearly annoyed. "What are you even doing here, Crowley?"

"The boys needed my expert advice." He shot the angel an amused look before turning back to her.

He held out his hand. She took it. "Crowley. King of Hell."

"Cey Varo." She hoped he didn't expect her to list impressive titles. Most of hers were old and tasted false on her tongue.

"Pleasure." He added. There was a mischievous gleam in his eyes.

*Indeed*, she thought.

Dean was standing directly beside them and had seen the entire exchange. He was currently staring at their hands that hadn't yet parted from the handshake.

"Alright..." He began. "That's enough of... whatever that is."

Crowley let go of her hand but didn't take his eyes off her. Instead he moved to her left, giving the rest of the group an "in" to the conversation.

"And what brings you here to this den of miscreants?" He asked.

"Heaven is hunting her." Castiel said simply.

"Really?" Crowley asked with genuine interest.

She was sitting now, feeling suddenly tired. That last spell had drained more magic than she liked, unsurprisingly. She had never been very good at Alteration magic.

"Well," She said. "They only tried to kill me after Castiel showed up to help."

She knew what hunting another mer, or man, was like. And that wasn't what it had been, not at first.

"It was more like aggressive... retrieval... or recruitment, I guess." She shrugged her shoulders and cringed slightly at the sting of the wound over her collarbone. She ignored it. She had had worse, and far closer to fatal, wounds.

"Angels have no finesse." Crowley laughed. He gave Castiel a mocking glance.

"But why you?" Asked Sam. "I think that's the question we should be asking ourselves here. They find you important enough to kill for."

She wiped at her brow, feeling suddenly warm. "But not important enough to keep alive." She reminded. Joseph had tried to kill her in the end.

"Or maybe you're just that important." Castiel said. "They would rather have you dead than alive and in our hands."

"That would suggest that they consider her some kind of tool." Dean spoke up.

"Or a weapon." Crowley added.

The thought made everyone pause.

In the silence of the room, she couldn't help but laugh. She briefly placed the palm of her cool hand on her forehead. It wasn't the first time she had been considered a weapon. Far from it.

Everyone turned towards her. Castiel, Dean, and Sam seemed surprised, confused, at her outburst. Crowley only smiled an unusual smile.

"If what they want is my magic, I'm afraid I'm not going to be of much use." She said. "I've not much of that left."

Castiel shook his head. "It must be more than that. Joseph still wanted you in the end, even knowing how drained you are."

"Do you really not see it?" Crowley asked, incredulous. He was looking at Castiel.

"See what?" He asked.

Crowley sighed. "What she is."

She looked up at him, questioningly. Did he know?

"A witch?" Dean asked.

"Mage." Sam corrected.

"Mage. Whatever."

Crowley rolled his eyes and turned to her. "You're barely holding on, aren't you, love?"

She sighed a cross of amusement and annoyance, but nodded. The confrontation with Joseph had left her with so little magic. She was fighting to hold onto it, to hold onto her last remaining spell.

"Normally I wouldn't say anything, but it seems it's rather important that they know."

She gave him another questioning look.

He winked. "King of Hell, love."

She didn't know what that meant but figured he was just posturing anyhow.

"Know what?" She heard Dean ask. He seemed to be growing annoyed at being kept in the dark.

She looked from Crowley to the others and nodded in agreement.

"Yea. Okay." She said, standing. She sighed. "I'm not the same species as you."

"Human." Crowley whispered in her ear.

"Human." She repeated.

Dean visibly tensed. Castiel put his hand on his chest, halting him.

"What are you then?" The angel asked.

"Dunmeri." She said. Though it was obvious they didn't know the term. "An elf." She ventured.

"Bullshit." Dean said. "Elves are those tall, golden creature things with pointy ears and a stick up their asses."

Sam gave him a bewildered look.

"What?" He defended. "I watch movies."

She chuckled at the visualization and shook her head. Spot on description of an Altmer in her opinion.

Castiel said nothing. Thoughts seemed to be turning in his head.

"Show them." Crowley whispered to her.

She looked at him. She didn't know how he knew, but that wasn't what was troubling her at the moment.

"If I let go.." She sighed. She was already so weak. "I don't know if I can get it back."

He didn't reply, but instead seemed to insist with his eyes.

"Fine." There was a hint of complaint in her voice. She could tell it amused him, which annoyed her.

Instead of saying as much, she closed her eyes and raised her palms. The action wasn't necessary, but it had been so long since she had last been herself. She wanted to clearly feel the air around her bare skin when the illusion melted away.

It didn't take long. The familiar tingling started at her feet and moved upward. Soon her fingers were tingling, then her arms, her chest, her neck. She heard a gasp from who she guessed to be Sam. When she opened her eyes she saw mixed reactions. The brothers looked to be in shock, the angel was difficult to read, and Crowley, he seemed pleased.

Sam was the first to speak. "Your eyes."

"Her eyes!?" Dean remarked, as if that had been the dumbest thing thing he'd ever heard. "Her skin, hair..."

He looked at her. "You don't look like any elf I've ever heard of."

"What I meant was," Sam said, "for a moment I thought maybe you were a Drow. But they usually have red eyes."

Dean rolled his. "Okay, nerd." He teased.

"My people *do* normally have red eyes." She left out the complications of half-Dunmer and their various eye colors. Point was, "I'm... different." She could see questions start to form in their heads. "It has to do with curses, or blessings, from gods. It's complicated, don't worry about it." She waved off.

"I personally don't see why you bother with disguises when you clearly don't need them." Crowley muttered low enough that the others couldn't hear. That look was back in his eyes.

"I didn't think elves existed anymore."

It was Castiel. He was staring at her, his gaze contemplative.

"Neither did I." Crowley added. "And yet here she is." He turned to the angel. "What I really want to know is why you couldn't see her. Almighty angel that you are. And a Seraphim no less." His look was more than questioning, it was accusing.

Cey felt suddenly warm, too warm. She set her palms to the table, bracing herself as her head began to spin.

"Cey?" She heard faintly.

She blinked, trying to clear her vision.

Hands grabbed gently at her waist, urging her to sit. She complied, finding the chair beneath her.

After a few moments her sight began to clear. She tilted her head back, taking a deep breath as she did.

"Are you ok?" She heard around her. She looked back at the men, shrugged, and winced.

Crowley cocked his head as he regarded her. "What's this?" He asked, using his hand to pull back the left side of her jacket.

She looked down at the wound she knew was there. But what she saw wasn't what she expected. It was turning black.

"Uhm... Is it supposed to look like that?" Dean asked, setting down the now empty drink.

She shook her head. Her blood was red. She pulled back her arm. It hurt to move it, but she did so anyway.

Fishing in her jacket pocket she pulled out a knife.

"Joseph." She muttered, holding it up with some difficulty.

Soon thereafter everything went black.

Chapter Text

Crowley sat in the study the Men of Letters had left behind. Moose had suggested that he might find answers in it, but it hadn't been necessary. The moment Cey had produced the dagger, he had known precisely what it was. 

His knowledge of such things was vast. He had done much research and had chased after many artifacts in his time. He was tempted to say it had been a hobby, something he did when he wasn't being summoned at crossroads, to pass the time. But in reality, it was one of the many ways he had searched for a means to overthrow Lucifer. 

Crowley turned the dagger over in his hand. It was a remarkable piece of work. Durable obsidian blade covered in strange runes and layered with demon blood. A lot of time had been put into it - to great effect. Despite its ultimate use, he couldn't help but be impressed. Especially considering its origins. 

"Do you know what it is yet?" He heard. 

He looked up and found the trio standing in the doorway. He sighed and sat back further in the plush chair. 

"Im afraid so, boys." He said. 

They gave each other worried glances knowing they wouldn't like what he had to say. 

"Tell me," he started, "have you ever heard of the Arcanist?" His gaze was fixed on Castiel. He doubted the Winchesters had any clue of what he was speaking. 

The angel's brows furrowed upward, his eyes scanned the ground as his mind put the pieces together. 

There. He saw it click. 

Castiel looked back up at him, a tinge of what he could only describe as horror on his face. 

He was pleased the angel remembered, yet disappointed he hadn't put two and two together sooner. 

Castiel said nothing, simply stared at him.

"Uh, hello?" 

He turned his attention back to the Winchesters. One of which had the expression of a petulant child upon his face. Not moose. 

The other spoke up. 

"Care to clue us in?"

Crowley looked to Castiel, expectant. 

"I..." Castiel began. He sighed. "Back before God created man, he created other beings, magical beings-" 

"Like elves." Sam concluded. 

"Like elves. And other creatures.

"Elves possessed abilities that, although paling in comparison to God, were quite powerful. 

"At first all was well in their Eden. But, like humans, they rebelled." Castiel glanced at him. 

Crowley wished he would hurry the story along. 

"You mean they got curious." Sam said. 

Castiel nodded. "But they desired more than just knowledge. They wanted power."

Crowley raised his eyebrows dismissively. In other words they were a threat. 

"Let me guess," Dean started, "the big guy didn't like that."

Castiel shrugged. "He was indifferent. We Seraphim were tasked with watching over them." 

"So what did you do?" Sam asked. 

Crowley watched as Castiel paused, his shoulders sagging, his gaze to the floor. He could practically feel the guilt radiating from him. 

Dean wasn't the most astute human he'd ever met, but he did always seem to recognize when his angel was upset. He moved beside him, and placed his hand on Castiel's in silent encouragement. 

Castiel smiled a weak but thankful smile. 

"By the time we figured out what they were doing, they'd already grown very powerful." He looked up at them briefly. "We tried to quell their rebellion - their playing with dark and evil things." He sighed. "It became a long and bloody affair."

"Rebellion? What did they want?" Sam asked. 

"To reach heaven. To overthrow us. Control over life and death it seemed."

The room was silent for a moment. Crowley said nothing but was entirely impressed. To imagine beings capable of such a thing was beyond words. 

Sam broke the silence by clearing his throat. "And this Arcanist?"

Crowley spoke up. "He led them. Was the most powerful of them all, if I'm not mistaken."

Castiel nodded his affirmation. 

"And the dagger?" 

Crowley looked to Castiel. 

"It's the same one?" The angel asked him. 

Crowley nodded, passing it to him. 

Castiel looked it over. "I never saw it myself. I wasn't the one that wielded it..." He looked up at the Winchesters, at Dean. "It's what we used to kill him."

Dean eyed it. "So that's the Arcanist's blood then?" 

"No. That's demon blood." Crowley said. "This has been refurbished, it would seem." He couldn't help but grin. It was quite ingenious. 

"Why?" 

"Insurance. In case she wasn't what they thought she was." He said. 

It was something he had thought long about. The dagger had been created specifically to kill a powerful elf. One on which normal weapons, even celestial ones, had seemed to have little to no effect. And in case a fatal wound hadn't been possible, the hope was to drain the target's magic. To make him vulnerable. 

For any other creature, any non-elf, it was just a dagger - deadly in its own right, mostly just to humans. The demon blood and spellwork on it made it deadly to a far greater number of creatures. He supposed the angels expected her to fall squarely within that category. 

He explained as much. 

Sam was holding the dagger now. "That doesn't look like Nokian or any language I've come across."

"It was the Elves' language." Castiel murmured. "Their language and magic evolved over time. It intertwined; it became powerful, dark. In the end, we used it against them." He was staring at the floor. 

Crowley had a pleased look on his face. "Angels using dark magic. Imagine that."

Dean shot him a dirty look. 

"Does it mean anything?" Sam asked. 

"That is where it gets interesting."  Crowley smiled. He motioned for them to follow him out of the room. 

A short walk down the hall led them to where Cey lay. Her eyes were closed, her sleep fitful. Her brows were furrowed and her skin was layered in a thin sheen of sweat. The wound on her shoulder was getting worse, still black, but the surrounding area had begun to purple. 

Castiel stood beside him. "Do you think this is what happened to the Arcanist?" He asked. "Do you think this is how he died?" 

Crowley shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. But that's not why we're here." 

He hesitated for a moment, his eyes raking across her exposed skin. She was covered in scars. Most of them were thin and faint, but some of them had obviously not healed well. And all of them- all of them looked as if they had been made by blades. 

He pulled his gaze from one of the more gruesome ones. Reaching down he took hold of the hem of her tank top and pulled it up to just bellow her breasts. 

The skin there displayed more scars and was covered in ink. 

"Wow." Dean muttered. 

Sam gave him a sideways glance. 

"I mean her tattoos!" 

Crowley looked back down. He'd discovered the markings when he'd taken off her jacket to get a better look at her wound. Her left side, from her hip to just bellow her breast was adorned with a serpent. It's head and tongue pointed inward towards what appeared to be a constellation of some sort, and writing. It was the later he was most interested in. 

"Wait a minute." He heard from Sam, who pushed his way past his brother. 

Finally. Crowley thought. 

Sam held the dagger to her tattoos. "The writing. It's the same." He paused, comparing them. "I mean, some of the characters are the same." He looked up at him. "Are you saying she's one of these elves? From back then?" 

Crowley glanced at Castiel, whose gaze had traveled to her face. He couldn't be certain, but he figured him to be staring at her elven ears. 

"She might be a descendant." He said, a distracted look on his face. "I don't know, but I doubt it's a coincidence."