Six days and he didn't know how to go another one.
They needed to get her back now or he knew he would do something he'd regret later.
They had at least some intel. They knew who was behind this. And he was about to track them down the old fashioned way...
Once he found them... he was ready to use muirdris poison and even worse methods, to make them talk...
Two days earlier, Eli had arrived at trollmarket after taking the first flight he could get to help his friends. He had cancelled a speech at a conference and taken a flight all the way back from Japan.
With his help they were able to lay out the whole network of the Vestal Legion and Jim was surprised to find out that they had a base in almost every bigger town in northern America and Canada, as well as one in Rome. They hadn't seemed that organized when they had first encountered them...
"Do you think their ranks have been growing?" Blinky asked, looking wide eyed at the map, that Eli had projected onto his cave's wall. He and Nomura were both standing in front of it, while Jim leaned against Blinky's stone table.
Nomura grunted. "Looks like it. I wouldn't have thought of it as possible, but if you think about it... The Janus Order fell almost 15 years ago. It makes kind of sense. Many of them lost their... parents back then, so maybe more of them were open to the legion's ideas."
Jim grunted dismissively. "That is not my concern right now. I'm far more interested in finding out where they hide Claire. And I don't see a base anywhere near new trollmarket..." He crossed his arms and looked at the map, biting his lip "This is another dead end..." he rumbled.
"Maybe they don't hide her in one of their bases?" Eli suggested tiredly. Fifteen years later, Eli was the one who had changed most. After highschool he had stopped growing in height and grown in width instead. As he was also loosing his hair rapidly, he looked older than thirty years in his business suit. But he was also an accomplished high-tech engineer.
Nontheless he hadn't been able to find anything about Claire's whereabouts, even when he tried several routes. It had been surprisingly hard even for him to hack into the Legion's system.
Even the person who had hacked Jim's messenger app was untraceable. So Eli searched the Legion's email-client and then their facilities. There were enough blips to prove that something was up... like delegations of agents that were ordered to New Jersey, hotel bills and shipments of building materials and technical equipment to their town, but still no clue on where they hid her... Afromentioned equipment just disappeared into thin air...
"You said, they wanted Claire all along. What if they set up a sort hide-out just for her?" Eli suggested.
Jim turned halfway around towards the man, sitting at the table. NotEnrique sat atop the table as well, looking at the screen of Eli's tablet. "And you think that sort of thing wouldn't turn up in their facility listings? Like what... a secret hide-out for an already secret organisation?"
"Maybe...? But what wonders me more still, is that I couldn't find any mails or messages or documents regarding their plans with Claire... They must have written all this stuff down somewhere." He shrugged helplessly before he sighed, turning towards his tablet again. "Let me try something else."
Jim groaned quietly, then felt a hand on his arm.
"We'll find her Jim..." Barbara said, but she too looked distressed. And tired. She certainly hadn't slept well in days now. Not since Claire got kidnapped.
His mother felt guilty for this whole calamity and even though Jim felt bad for her, he didn't really know how to comfort her. Because in a way it was true... it all really had to do with his mom. She had asked around for recommendations for OB-Gyns, she had met the woman who called herself 'Angelica', did the simple back-up check as Jim asked her to and now... neither the doctor nor the young nurse that had approached Barbara suggesting the woman, where anywhere to be found.
It was as if they had never existed.
The thought, that this nice little lady, who had treated Claire with so much care, must be an agent of the legion? Jim had been livid, when they connected the dots... She was the only outsider, who knew about Claire's condition. She was supposed to help them and now...
He put his hand over his mother's and rubbed it, exhaling with a sigh.
"I know we will. But waiting... it's torture. Especially since we know exactly who-"
Jim froze in the middle of his sentence, his eyes widened and he gasped.
All eyes turned on him but just as his mother begann to ask him "Jim what...?"
But her sentence was left hanging, as he tore off.
"Guess the 'Claire radar' seems to work again." NotEnrique piped up.
Seven days. She had been held in this hole for seven days now and even though she hadn't and wouldn't give up hope, that Jim would find her soon, she was growing worried.
The cursed stuff they used to shield themselves from her abilities was making her feel constantly nauseous... It was worse than during those first weeks after finding out she was pregnant. She'd bet her captors just got some depraved satisfaction from making her suffer, setting the thing up right in front of her cell, where she couldn't reach it, but still see it.
She hated that tacky little troll figurine.
After all the blathering they didn't really care all that much for her well-being. That was no surprise. Not as long as she was still able to deliver...
She had quickly found out that the cause for her suffering was in the little "air refresher" in her cell and had demolished the vial containing the fragrance within it. Then she had been able to devise her plan of breaking out - if only because of the fact that it was easier to think if she didn't need to constantly control her bowles.
It still had taken her days of concentrated work, but then she had finally been able to use her magic in spite of the crystal's qualities. She took advantage of the guard's change of shift to crack one of the crystal bars with her bare hands, then slipped past after shattering it with a well aimed kick, knocked out the guard and made a run for it.
She should have known better than to think, that the Vestals' base wouldn't be equipped with a load of traps and gadgets to hold their prized prey...
Learning their true intent had made her blood boil and at the same time... it made her veins freeze in fear.
This was exactly the thing she had been so afraid of since learning that she was pregnant.
The thing that had sent her blindly running in panic after she found out.
They wanted to take her babies.
Jim was ready.
Toby, Merlin and Douxie were with him. Waiting at a side entrance of the abandoned factory. NotEnrique, who had demanded to be included, was hidden in a sportsbag. He still felt weird, asking the wizard for help to break out Claire, but he didn't know the other witches from her coven that well, nor did he know how to reach most of them. He needed more magical backup and he had needed it fast. And Douxie had appeared at trollmarket's gate, just moments after he had called him.
As Eli had found out, the Vestals had made quite a lot of progress in the last few years. Probably because they managed to aquire a number of real scientists into their ranks... Their understanding of magic though was still rather mediocre - even though they were obsessed with the art.
Combining this fact with their other... beliefs, was the reason for their crazed plans.
While Jim and his group would take the entrance from above with Jim, protected by the stone that granted immunity to sunlight and a glamour mask. The trolls were waiting to break into the hide-out from the sewers. The whole guard of trollmarket, led by Nomura and including Arrrgggh! were waiting for his signal.
Strickler and Blinky had decided to stay behind in trollmarket with his mother and Eli.
The Vestal Legion had rented an old warehouse on the city's outskirts and set up more of a jail than a fortress underneath it. Everything was attuned to keep Claire captured instead of keeping out intruders, so with a well planned mission they should be able to break her out within minutes.
But that was not all Jim planned to do... The trolls had the order to go all out, wreck the place to pieces and hopefully drive home the lecture, that no one should mess with them. Of course they weren't supposed to kill the humans, with exeptions of self defense, but he needed to take the Legion down and do what was necessary to make sure they stayed down... Their cultish constitution and hunger for power were too dangerous as some of Eli's findings proved... he would need to inform the government that the organisation's main ambition had shifted from taking revenge on trollkind to achieving power over mankind.
When he got back to trollmarket after almost tracking down Claire, Eli was able to narrow down his search with Jim's information and finally found out about the warehouse the Legion had rented just weeks before. That resulted in a snow ball effect, uncovering their complete plans and making Jim realize then that they would not leave his family alone. He needed to make an example of the Vestal Legion...
He hadn't taken the Vestal Legion seriously before. But they obviously hadn't taken him as serious as they should have in turn.
He would make sure they would do so in the future. Provided they even continued to exist after today...
"So how are we doing today Claire? Feeling sick again?"
Claire wouldn't even roll her eyes at the question anymore.
"Being an asshole again, Ovid?"
She wasn't in the mood for puns. She was feeling too nauseous to be witty in this dire situation. That was Jim's specialty. She just wanted to get out of this hole and breath fresh air. And knowing that the man behind those bars fully intended on letting her rot - literally - in this cell, did not help with that. At all.
"Now Claire, is that really a way to talk for an expectant mother?" The man chuckled.
Claire just snorted.
She knew Ovid wasn't his real name. The Vestals high ranking leaders just liked to name themselves after ancient philosophers and poets. She had first met him almost ten years ago. Back then they hadn't really taken them seriously.
The Vestal Legion as they called themselves were a secret organisation that originated from the Janus Order. Originally connected, the Vestals' turned against the changelings in the 18th century and after being destroyed, continued to work against the order.
Unbeknownst to them.
The reason for their continued work, despite being decimated down to a few people, was as simple as surprising to the trollhunters, back when they uncovered their existence.
Because the Vestal Legion consisted of the children that changelings had with humans. And there were surprisingly many of those.
Originally the Janus Order had used their own human offspring to furthen their agenda in the human world. But it was also a way to protect potencial offspring from Bular and their fellow changelings. Instilling ideas of world-domination and superiority in them, combined within a occult believe system surrounding their own trollish origins and magic. The Janus Order secured their loyalty that way, as their children were truly nothing more than normal humans. Usually...
They served the virgin goddess Vesta, symbolized by fire and partnered to the god Janus. Where Janus was the beginning, Vesta was the end and thus the Vestals saw themselves as the means to bring reign to the changelings, brightening the way to a future where powerful trolls would rule. And in this world their parents promised them their own special place as the purest of humans.
Over time and generations though, the human children began to form their own ideas... the Janus Order's manipulations grew into something bigger, something that developed a life of it's own and thus the Vestal Legion changed it's face and goals. Still obsessed by their own supposed superiority, product of their trollish descendence, they aimed to overthrow and even destroy the Janus Order. To make it simple: They thought they were the best of two worlds combined and thus decided they were the ones made to rule all of it.
When they first encountered them, the Legion seemed like a bunch of weirdos that had aquired a mediocre understanding of magic through the centuries and was fond on experimenting on magic by combining it with human technology and science.
Something that Claire herself was not aversed to, but unlike most of the Vestals she actually knew what she was doing...
Unlike Claire though, none of the changeling children were real wizards or witches. None of them had magical abilities and over the centuries they had grown to regard humans capable of using magic as "competition" to their aspirations. After the Janus Order had fallen, the Vestals had believed they could finally succeed them. So they tried to - quite inexpertly - to finish off the last ex-changelings and take on the trolls while they were at it. Ironically when Ovid first encountered Jim, he thought his organisation could bring the halftroll to their side. Seeing some kind of messiah in him and when he had laughed their ideas off, they had been mortally offended. A lot like little children would be. Temper tantrum and all...
In conclusion: The Vestal Legion regarded pretty much everyone as lesser than themselves. Changelings, trolls, witches, wizards and even humans. After loosing the changelings guidance, their ranks were reduced to a cult of loonies with a superiority complex.
That the bunch of loonies had managed to capture her though, provided some cause for concern. And learning of their motivation for it even more so.
When Ovid, the Legions leader had explained how they caught her, how they had been spying on Barbara for years to gain any sort of information about the trollhunter. So naturally they immediately took action when she had been asking around for an OB Gyn... that's how Claire learned "Angelica's" real name: Charlene Stemhower. The daughther of a changeling they were... well acquainted with.
"You know, you should feel honored, witch..."
Claire's eyes narrowed. Her lips forming a tight line to keep in the sneer that she'd otherwise spew at the afromentioned woman as she entered behind Ovid.
"To gestate our worlds future rulers... just imagine the power these beings will hold! The power of a troll and the gift of sorcery." The face of the woman she had met as "Angelica" came into view. Her words, paired with the friendly smile she had always seen hear wearing before, appeared now like a deranged grimace.
"Yeah right... what an honour to serve as your asshats breeding machine, only to be cut open and left for dead in the end, so I won't come after you. Tell me again: How exactly are you planning to escape the trollhunter's wrath once he finds out about all of this?"
She couldn't help asking in disgusted fascination. After she had gotten the woman to talk the day before, learning all about their depraved plans, she still couldn't belive it. She had known about their cultish believes... that they thought of trolls as some sort of godlike creatures whose true power would only come to full fruition through the alliance with man. She had also known that they believed magic to be the key to their dreams of ruling the world. But she'd never have combined those two facts to one crackpot lunatic perverse baby-stealing nightmare of a plan.
Somehow they had gotten the idea, that since Jim wasn't their messiah- his children could be.
Sure: They had been able to catch her and they were obviously well equipped to keep her trapped. But how in the world they came to the conclusion that they could escape Jim for years and years to come, was unfathomable to her.
"Oh don't worry Claire. You will be remembered as the honorable mother to our rise to power. And as for the trollhunter... We know exactly, that as well aquainted with magic as the full-trolls might be, they're hopelessly incompetent when it comes to human technology. And we were able to aquire the best, young heads for our cause. He will never find your body, nor the children." Ovid offered his explanation with a self-satisfied smile that made her want to set his hair on fire.
Instead she flipped both of them off and ignored their bemused giggling on her account. "Such infantile behaviour..." Charlene chortled "Good thing, we'll safe the children from your negative influence." But not even that vitrioloic comment provoked a reaction from Claire. Those idiots were not worth her ire and she kept quiet.
"Well then. It was nice talking to you Claire. Try and keep some of the food we're offering you down, will you darling. It's fajitas for lunch." Charlene said airily as they turned to leave the room.
"Wait a second." Claire spoke up as she realized something. "You keep talking about my kids becoming some sort of super powered beings. What if they're not?" She asked, her expression sceptical.
"What do you mean?" Angelica asked in return.
"What if they're neither troll-like nor have any magic abilities? You know that just the boy is developing horns, but who says that they'll have the strength of trolls or will be gifted with magic?"
Angelica blinked at her, like she had never before thought about that possibility, while Ovid just looked at her unfazed.
"In that case I guess they're just as useless as their father and will be disposed of in due time. Let's hope that won't be the case, it would be such a waste of time and effort, now wouldn't it?" He nodded at Angelica and they left her without another look.
Several feet above, at the same door that Claire had almost busted the day before, Jim turned towards his companions. "He got it. Break the lock." Jim said with a low voice and held his breath as Douxie nodded at him and broke the lock with a spell, proving that Eli had been successful in overriding the alarm system. The door opened easily and he opened the bag he had used to carry NotEnrique in before he motioned for Merlin to follow him. The small troll immediately jumped up on his shoulder.
Before they parted ways, Toby adressed them "Okay. Let's rerun: Me and Douxie will shut the whole building down. You get Claire. Whoever finishes first, goes to meet up with the other group when in need for backup."
The wizard at his side continued "If anything goes wrong, we portal outside. Anything else we should know?"
Jim shrugged. "Make sure not to get trampled by any trolls. Other than that... No. We should pull this off in no tim."
Toby gave him a thumbs up at that and turned towards the tunnel that would lead him and Douxie to the control room.
Jim and Merlin were headed straight for Claire's cell.
"Can you trace her yet?" The wizard asked him as he observed their surroundings and Jim answered "No. No changes yet."
He had been able to feel his connection to her ever since the morning before, when he suddenly had been able to locate her for the first time in days. But then he suddenly lost it. For some reason he was still able to their connection vaguely, but wasn't able to trace it. At least he knew that she was still alive and unhurt, so that had been a relief.
With a sniff his eyes narrowed and he motioned for Merlin to stop, signaling him that someone was coming. They pressed themselves to the wall and Merlin obscured them from human view with a spell right before one of the mask wearing agents of the legion turned a corner to walk down the hall they had been following. Once the man had passed them though, the alarms suddenly started blaring and a rumble was heard from somewhere in the building.
Jim guessed, that Toby and Douxie had not made it to the control room unnoticed. Oh well...
When the agent that had just passed them turned around and ran towards them again, Jim suddenly stepped out of Merlin's invisible barrier and into the man's path, roaring in his face.
For a second the man froze, then suddenly fell over right in front of Jim's feet.
"Subtle." Merlin commented and Jim shot him a look.
"That... wasn't supposed to happen. I would have liked to ask him for directions, you know?"
He turned and walked along the tunnel again, Merlin following along.
"Of course you did. And let me guess, afterwards you'd have thrown him against a wall?"
"Maybe." Jim answered then pulled a transceiver from his hip that Eli had given him.
"Nomura, you're clear?" He spoke into the device and a moment later he heard the affirmative "We're here and ready to go, trollhunter."
Jim nodded. They had reached the end of the tunnel and had to decide wich way to go.
"Alright then." he answered the female troll and looked down the hallway to his right, before deciding to take the left one. "Unleash hell."
When Claire heard the low rumble she perked up. Another moment later the sounds of alarm sirens was heard and she was sure, that the trolls had broken into the hideout.
Checking her surroundings, she gave the metall bars at the head of her bed a calculating look. For days she had tried to loosen one of them to use as a possible weapon and since they had exchanged the water bottle with a plastic one after she had thrown the thing against the crystals, she saw no other option.
Laying down on the bed, head at the foot of the matress, she kicked against the head of her bed with all her strength while holding her stomach. After the third kick the upper bar finally fell to the floor with a loud clang and Claire breathed in relief. She huffed as she hurried to get up and get the bar as she was sure that they would try to take her away before Jim could reach her.
And truthfully, just as she sat back up on the bed, the metall rod now in her hands, the door opened and two guards stumbled into the room.
"We need to get her out of here! What do you think the boss would say, if we told him, that we just sat back and surrendered our salvators?" The first one proclaimed, while the second one grabbed his arm from behind, trying to hold him back or at least make him turn around to face him. The masks they wore, muffled their words. "And how exactly do you want to control her? The moment that cell's open, she'll turn us into frogs or something!" Both of them glanced distractedly at Claire for a moment, as she snorted a laugh. Another, louder crash was heard in the background. The second guard hesitated before he continued to speak. "Listen, we need to stand down! Fight them off till backup is here!"
Now Claire laughed outright, before she smirked at them, tilting her head "Oh, don't worry boys, you don't have to argue. I'm not planning on going anywhere..." she pointedly begann to smack the metall bar against her palm. "But do me a favor and stay within sight, will you?" She paused and gave them a saccharine smile "I want to see you wetting your pants, when Jim breaks down that door."
The first guard ripped off his mask and for a moment Claire was taken aback by how young he looked. How old was that guy? Twelve?
"You think you're scaring us, you freak?" He challenged "You think I'm a fool? We'll see how you like it when we knock you out again!" He grabbed his collegue and they left the room, slamming the door shut. Claire's eyes narrowed and she looked up at the ceiling.
Truthfully, just a moment later the hidden nozzles in the ceiling started to release the dreaded gas that had knocked her out before. Claire cussed in annoyance, her hands cramping around the metall in her hands as she stood. As the crashing and rumbles outside got louder, the sizzling sound of the gas was almost inaudible.
Why did Jim take so long!?
Another moment later though the floor vibrated again, the lights flickered for several moments and then the gas stopped filling the room... Claire did not dare to take a deep breath in relief, but she was sure now that the trolls would find her in time. Tentatively she touched the crystal bars to find there was no more electricity running through them.
Meanwhile the crashing outside got louder and louder, screams were added to the noise outside of the room holding her.
Then there was a thump on the door, then a second, another crash and finally someone opened the door with a squeak. She couldn't see if anybody entered in the dark room beyond the glow of the crystal bars, but heard the disembodied voice of her adoptive brother.
"Oy, stop! She's here." Another moment later, the trollhunter hurried into the room, banging the door against the wall. "Claire!" she heard him call. He was in front of her cell another moment later and she exhaled in relief. She'd finally get out of here!
Jim looked looked just as relieved, as he reached towards her through the bars.
"Oh gods, I was so worried! You're not hurt, are you?" he said as he cupped her cheek and Claire blinked rapidly to ward off the feeling of tears forming in her eyes. She hadn't realized how stressful the past days had been. She had been too busy putting up a tough front to admit to herself how afraid she'd really been. Not only for herself, but for the unborn lives within her.
"I'm fine... just- I'd really like to get out of this cell now..." She said and Jim's eyes turned towards the bars as he gripped two of them in his hands and took a step back. "Would you take a step back, please?" He asked her, before he hightened the pressure till cracks formed along the surface. With a hard tug from his hands the bars crumbled to the floor. Leaving a gap for her to slip through, where Jim pulled her into his arms, holding her to him and breathing her in. She pulled away another moment later though and looked up at him, showing him her encased wrists.
"Jim, could you first...?"
He looked at the crystal handcuffs and gripped them, shattering them with the same ease as he had done with the bars of her cell, then he grabbed the cuff around her neck and cracked it more carefully, holding the bigger pieces in his hand. Before he could throw them to the ground though, Merlin, who had entered wordlessly, stepped beside him and held out his hand for one of the pieces to examine.
Claire brought her hands to her neck and rubbed it, sighing in relief as she turned and tilted her head to each side. Then her eyes searched the floor until she found another source of her distress.
With a disdainfull glower she pointed her finger to the little porcelaine figure and it exploded in a flurry of violet flames.
Jim and NotEnrique jumped a little at the sudden burst of magic energy and turned towards her in surprise.
"They used the vapor to surpress my magic." She offered as an explanation and Merlin raised an eyebrow at her "They were not very successfull it seems..."
Claire shrugged, before she hugged Jim again, closing her eyes and snuggling against his chest. "Took me a few days, but I think I developed a resistence against the stuff. Makes me nauseous though. And those crystals don't work on me that well anymore as well. I was able to crack one of them and even got my shackles off yesterday. But they caught me and hooked them up to electricity."
Jim just hugged her to him wordlessly, while Merlin hummed. "Huh... I always knew you were a special young witch, but you still manage to surprise me... Now- even though I find this display of affection to be quite touching, I suggest we...- how did you say before changeling?"
"Make like pea soup and split!" NotEnrique quipped and pointed his thumb backwards to the door.
"I love these modern colloqualisms." The wizard drawled and left the room, NotEnrique in tow.
Jim exhaled and took a step back, before he cupped her cheeks and pressed a light kiss to Claire's lips.
"Before we do that. Look what I found..." He said and held out her retracted staff.
Claire took it with glee in her eyes "My staff! Where did you...?" But Jim just shook his head "Doesn't matter. Let's just get you out of here." He said and Claire smiled at him, taking his hand and leading the way to the door. Once outside, the ground was shook by yet another explosion and Jim put his arms around her shoulders, steadying her. Then he took the transceiver at his hip. "Trollhunter calling. Tobes, you copy?"
"Affirmative!" the answer came a moment later "Did you get Claire?"
He smiled down at her and confirmed his friend's question. "Great!" Toby replied, sounding a little distressed as yet another pang interrupted him "Are we clear to portal out of here? We kind of locked ourselves into the control room and I'm pretty sure, they're trying to blow us up."
Now that turned Jim's smile into a frown. He cussed under his breath before answering "Alright Tobes, get out of there. We'll be right behind you."
Jim exchanged a look with Merlin and Claire, before they started to make their way up the tunnel that they had come from. Meanwhile he spoke into his transceiver again "Nomura, did you listen? What's your twenty?"
"Did so." The female troll's strained voice was heard "But we have a situation here... the whole ground level was spiked with explosives. Kronk and a few of the bigger trolls basically hold up of the whole structure at the moment. I adivse you to get out of there ASAP!"
"Shit!" Jim cursed out loud "You okay?"
"Yes. Just get the humans out of here!"
"Roger, but can you give me more time? I've got something to take care of." Jim grumbled as he quickened his steps.
"Five more minutes at most." came the reply.
"Why can nothing ever go according to plan...?" He grumbled as they turned a corner.
Claire shook his arm, as he pulled her along "Jim, what do you need time for? Let's just get out of here!"
He wouldn't meet her eyes when he answered. "You and Merlin get out of here. I just... I need a minute to find Ovid."
Claire's brow furrowed as she looked up at him, before realization crossed her features. "Jim... Listen, we... There's no need for that. I'm free. The whole building is going to collapse. It's too dangerous!"
Jim stopped walking, turning towards her and taking her hands. He quickly looked up to check the tunnel, before turning to her again with a pleading look. "Claire you don't...- Do you know what they wanted to do?"
Her expression turned dark. "I do."
"Then you know- I can't just let this slide! These people are obsessed!"
"I know that, but can't we..." She exhaled, then shook her head "No. You're right. But there's no way I'm leaving without you!" She said as she looked up at him with furrowed brows.
Jim groaned at her answer, straightening up and grabbing at his horns. "Claire... please! Time's running and I spent a week being afraid for you. Just give me the peace of heart, knowing that you're safe before I take care of the Legion's leader! Just this once! Please."
Claire crossed her arms at him and gave him a resolved look as NotEnrique jumped on her shoulder and answered for her before she could. "You thought she'd let you kick that sleazebag's butt on your own kid? Are you on crack?"
Jim exhaled and let his hand's fall to his sides, giving her a resigned smile "Nope. Just hoped this wouldn't be necessary."
Claire had only a moment to notice his glance towards Merlin before she yelped as the wizard knocked her staff out of her hands. He suddenly grabbed her arm, pulling her through a portal with him and the last thing the halftroll heard was her furious shout of "Jim!" before they vanished.
He winced as he immagined for a moment how badly she'd kick his butt later, but the thought of bringing her anywhere near the people that had abducted her again was out of question.
With that thought he rounded the corner and took the tunnel that would lead him to the control room.
"Tobes, you there? Did you get out?" He spoke into his transceiver as he walked along the tunnel. A moment later he got his answer.
"Affirmative. We're outside at the gate in the back. We'll wait for you." Jim heard a yelp and a round of laughter from somewhere in the back before Toby spoke again. "Ouch... Uh... you might want to hurry Jim, Claire's about to rip off Merlin's beard."
"Ah... hah..." Jim winced "Roger. I'll be with you in a minute. Over and out." He put his transceiver back and called daylight as he continued on his way. As he quietly snuck along the corridors he couldn't help worrying how much his decision to get Claire out of danger, may put a dent in their growing relationship. Then he reprimanded himself for sidetracking. He had to do this.
Since they hadn't encountered any of the Vestals on their way back he was quite sure that the ones that hadn't run already must be still trying to get into the deserted control room. That suspicion confirmed itself when he reached the last corner before the control room without stumbling over another agent. He could already hear them talking from where he stood.
"No, you need to fill the whole fissure with plastic explosive! It doesn't matter whether we destroy the whole structure. I want these intruders dead!"
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Jim called out as he rounded the corner "the whole building is about to collapse." Half a dozen agents and their leader jumped up in alarm, grabbing for their tazers and guns.
"Oh please..." Jim drawled before sprinting into action. The tazers had always been useless against him and gunshots from regular weapons, albeit damaging to him, would not be deadly unless someone got to shoot him point blank in the head. He was faster than most humans could aim, even able to avoid bullets being shot at him and if he wasn't able to avoid them... he had learned how to dodge them, leaving nothing more than some mean bruises.
He had thrown the two gun wielding guys halfway across the tunnel where they landed on top of each other and knocked the others away from the door or against the walls, before their leader could even give them the command to fire. Ovid himself was without a weapon.
Jim spun in a crouch while kicking the last agent away, then he pushed up, to grab the pale, balding man by the collar and slammed him into the metall door they had prepared to blow out.
"You know, you made your last mistake when you took Claire." Jim growled as he jammed him against the metall, pushing him up a litlle further.
Ovid wheezed a laugh "Ah... So the hero resumes to violence... how- ugh... predictable!"
Jim snarled once more, baring his teeth "Sorry princess, but I'm not your hero. And what were you expecting after what you were planning to do!? You thought I'd just leave after I freed Claire?"
"Oh... there was no leaving on Claire's part planned, trollhunter..." Ovid chuckled before his comment got him slammed into the wall once more.
"Listen bastard, give me one more reason to make you suffer a little more before I snuff you out and I'll gladly do so." Jim growled. At this point he wasn't even sure why he was still talking to the guy... That asshole was pretty much begging him to kill him... and yet...
Through all these years, Jim had somehow avoided killing a human with his own bare hands... He had been responsible for human deaths. Even planned and executed missions that involved deadly strikes against human combatants. But always in battle, always in defensive. He had never taken a life while looking an unarmed man in the eyes. He knew it would haunt him as much as he knew, that he couldn't let him go...
Ovid suddenly grabbed at the arm that held him up and gave him a deranged smile.
"Kill me trollhunter! Go on and kill me. Just know one thing: The Legion of Vesta is like a hydra... Cut off one head, another will grow! Our reign is inevitable, like the sun rises to banish trolls into the ground, the sun will rise to lift us to a new pantheon! I should have seen back when you refused us that you're no better than our ancestors! You're too much of a troll. Your transformation turned you into a mongrel, not a god. But your seed... Your seed will grow into a new sort of higher beings, above humans, above trolls, above mere wizards! They will lead our way and we will seize them, whether you kill me or not..."
Jim's lips curled in disgust and he let the man fall to the ground like he had accidentally touched something repugnant.
"What kind of shit are you smoking, man!? It may have taken me a week to find Claire, but let me tell you before you die: We know all about your organisation's development, hacked into all your systems, know about all your plans. Just cause you actually aquired some competence, doesn't mean your systems are impossible to infilitrate." He narrowed his eyes at the man, sitting at his feet "And whether they find a new guru or not... you've been responsible for this whole sick plan. I doubt your followers will just bounce back, once you're gone..."
As Jim started to bend down in that moment, reaching out to Ovid, the Vestal Legion's leader smirked. "Be assured my legacy will live on. And without you, who's going to protect your family?"
In that moment several things happened at once:
Jim's eyes widened, as he realized that the man before him had reached for the bomb's trigger on the ground, he felt a small hand grab his shoulder, a powerful magical aura suddenly crackling at his back.
He managed to turn his head, the violet light visible from the corner of his eye, reflecting on her face as Claire answered Ovid's question. Her dark eyes, cold and determined.
Then he was suddenly pulled backwards through the vortex, heat flashing against his front as Ovid's surprised expression disappeared in darkness.