Chapter 1: There's no trust.
Claire held her breath as she heard several feet rush past her through the tunnel she had been following.
They were running towards the direction she had come from and she hoped this meant that she was on the right track.
It wasn't like she could rely on her memory of the place nor her magical gifts...
Debating for a short moment she decided to try again. She couldn't hear anything, so it was safe to assume that no one would surprisingly attack her.
She felt for the collar around her neck, then took a look at the shakle on her left wrist. It was hard to see the pale crystal in the dark but she knew that she needed to get rid of them.
Fleeing this hole would be so much easier if she could break them off...
She inhaled deeply, then put both her hands to the collar at her neck, concentrating before she pushed her energy to the tips of her fingers.
Her hope that it might be just a tiny bit easier was disappointed. It felt just as straining as before, as she could feel the energy forming in her chest and slowly, arduously creeping through her limbs with agonising slowness. The amount of concentration it took would make her head swim, she knew and when her hands and jar started to shake she gave up. Panting, she suppressed an angry groan.
It was too hard. She had used too much energy already to break out of her cell.
But she still needed to get them off... It was highly unlikely that she would otherwise make it out of here.
So she grabbed the shakle on her right wrist and tried again. This time, with the energy reaching both her right wrist and her left hand, gripping the stone, actual cracks formed on the surface.
Claire gritted her teeth. She was doing it!
And that's when she heard a voice...
"Search the whole tunnel! She must be here somewhere!"
Just. Freaking. Great.
She gripped the stone even harder at the sound of the footfalls nearing her hiding spot and smiled when it finally fell free from her hand.
The clueless sap, right around the corner from her just got out "What was that?" Right before she blasted his sorry ass into the opposing wall behind him.
Then she shot another huge blow of energy towards the incoming group of the masked persecutors in military uniforms and ran into the other direction.
She panted heavily as she ducked, almost loosing her balance and knocked a magically enhanced fist into another one's mug as he emerged from another tunnel on her right, trying to grab her.
When she saw a heavy lead door right up in front of her she prayed to all her lucky stars that she found an exit and used her energy to fly towards it, stopping only before she smashed into the door. Claire readied herself to blast the door open but just as she was about to fire several nozzles started to spray some sort of mist into the tunnel and she immediately knew what would happen.
'Fudgeknuckle' was the last thing the witch thought when the energy surrounding her fist fizzled out harmlessly, as her hands went limp and the world around her disappeared in black nothingness.
When she came to, she was back.
Groaning and rubbing the side of her head as she sat up, she held her middle protectively. The feeling of nausea was back full force and she noticed the little dispenser on her nightstand. Claire growled at the sight, took the little porcelain troll figure and threw it against the dimly glowing bars.
This time though, she heard a faint sizzling sound as the thing cracked against them.
Curious she stepped towards them and reached out, then quickly pulled back her hand with an "Ouch!"
"You left us no choice, you know?"
She rolled her eyes with an disgusted expression and looked through the bars, trying to see the man speaking to her.
"After that little stunt this morning, we needed to take higher safety measures. You know you should really be a little more careful, considering your condition."
She crossed her arms and snapped at the dark figure "Oh I should be careful!? That's rich, coming from the crazyhead who imprisoned me in some magic-proof cell!"
She went back to her bed an sat down "You'll never get through with this, you know? I mean... you talk about being careful, but what do you expect to happen in a few months from now, huh?"
"Oh don't worry." the pale, middleaged man with watery blue eyes said, "we've got that covered." Unlike his cronies, he wore no military uniform but an ill-fitted grey suit. He hadn't aged well from the last time she'd seen him. Ten years ago he still had a full head of hair.
He made a short commanding move with his hand and she heard someone else stepping into the room, but when that person stepped in front of her cell, Claire's face fell.
"YOU!" she exclaimed, her face contorted in a snarl. She grabbed the water bottle on her night stand to throw against the bars where it shattered with loud bang, the electric current running along the crystals surface crackled aloud as it heated up the water.
Chapter 2: No faith, no honesty in men.
Barbara smiled at the young woman as she kissed her son's cheek in parting. It was just a small intimate gesture, but the way she looked at him...
She knew that the fact that Claire came back to him, was a dream come true for her son. And the fact that they were going to have a family together, more than he ever hoped for.
But seeing that Claire was happy as well, was what truly set Barbara's mind at ease.
Their break up seven years ago had been an ugly affair and the time that came after had been incredibly hard on Jim. But seeing them now...
She'd probably never tell him- or at least not tell him anytime soon, that being apart had been for the better. They both had needed that time.
As wonderful as Claire had been for her son when he lost half his humanity, there were things that he needed to work out on his own. Things that she took from his shoulders. The hunter, the soldier in him, became more and more evident in his behavior with age and his soft, caring traits were lost somewhere between the grind of his daily duties and the expectations he set for himself.
And Claire... there was so much more in her... and Barbara had realized too late back then, that she needed to be more than just the trollhunters sidekick. After a while it just wasn't enough to Claire to follow his goals, without finding her own. Claire liked to take risks, needed the kind of autonomy that Jim had not allowed her out of fear and jealousy and the need to protect her.
For Jim that time meant a lot of self searching and reorientation. He threw himself into work. He even got a college degree and started to assist Blinky in managing all the troll's political relations with the government. During those few years he truly grew up after loosing himself in his trollhunter persona, he finally learned to balance the emphatic, kind hearted person her son really was with the calculating, callous part of himself. Iinstead of just playing the soldier, he learned to distinguish that role from his personality. Fittingly, his longterm plan was to connect the different worlds again. Not only so that he could hope to start living a somewhat normal life again, but to prevent needless conflicts between the different species and work together instead of against each other. To do that he needed to prove his worth, the trolls worth as allies to the government.
And that's why he needed Claire's help in their last big battle.
Barbara never doubted for a second that they would win. But Jim and his friends... for someone as young as him he had wound up his life too many times already.
But he was still here. They all were, thanks to him and Claire, and now both of them had a future ahead of them that neither had believed in.
When her boy told her what had happened, that Claire was pregnant, she had seen the sheer hope and excitement so clearly underneath his confusion and hurt. Seeing them now? Watching them grow a new relationship, a life together, was so heartwarming.
Claire was still full of doubt, vulnerable. But with each visit Barbara could see reappear more and more of the self-assured woman she really was. And the way Jim carried her on his hands was almost too adorable...
"As cute as this is, are you two lovebirds quite done? I'd like to take my daughter-in-law to our shopping trip before the week ends, you know?"
She couldn't help teasing those two a little. When Jim had been a teenager he was far too shy and awkward to make fun of, but now? They had it coming after all the drama they put everyone through - including themselves.
Claire looked at her sheepishly over her shoulder, while her son gave her a flat look.
"Is the teasing really necessary, mother?"
Barbara laughed. "Not necessary, but fun. Now come on, I have the night shift at the hospital, I'll need to leave in a few hours. And Claire can't walk around all day."
The younger woman sighed. "That's right I fear. And the sewers give me nausea Jim, I'm sorry."
She hugged her son briefly before turning towards her.
"No need to apologize, have fun you two!" He said and with another wave he disapeared through the portal. Claire joined Barbara at the lead door, leading out of the sewers and they stepped into the sunlight together.
"It's good that they installed these portals. It would have taken another half an hour just to get into the inner city if we'd have taken the other exit."
"Yeah." Claire answered "Jim said they'd get me my own keys before the twins will be born. I can't wait to get out on my own and roam around town now and then."
Barbara gave the younger woman an affectionate look. Claire had been through a lot and for the past few years she had been used to a lot of freedom, used to make her own decisions and now? Barbara herself had been in a similar position at a younger age but it never got any easier, did it...? She took the stairs that led up to the street and looked around to see if anybody looked at them strangely for stepping out of the canal.
"So, what do you want to do first? Babystuff or Momstuff?"
"I was thinking Babystuff. I think I've got almost everything I need for myself. Jim and I got some things together, but we haven't yet been able to get out since finding out about the genders. Not that we're missing a lot, I already have a set of onesies and a set of our own old baby clothing from you and my mom, but there's still some things I want." Claire smiled at her and Barbara was glad to see her so excited.
"You want to go all pink and blue for the twins?" She chuckled and laid an arm around Claire's shoulders, while starting to walk towards the nearest mall. Claire shook her head laughingly. "Nah... well not exactly. I don't really care about that, but to be honest? Ever since I found out I'll have a little girl I couldn't help but wanting to buy a teeny tiny dress? I just can't help it." Claire looked up at her with a bashful grin.
Barbara laughed again "Oh darling, that's absolutely understandable. You're just excited! And you're allowed to, if I might add."
It was nice to take her son's girlfriend shopping. Especially to buy things for her own grandchildren. She was relieved to not only see those two to slowly pick up where they left off, but also to see Claire's growing excitement. Considering Jim's dedication they were on a good way to grow into a little family. And Barbara couldn't be more happy for them.
She might have been teasing, but she wouldn't be surprised if Claire and Jim would sooner or later decide to get hitched.
A few hours later, after they had some coffee and tea together they made their way back to the canal, loaded with stuff, that she and Jim had not yet accounted for. Tights, socks, romper bags, nasal aspirators, panthenol and lanolin cream, muslin nappies... and the tiny little dress Claire had wanted. Striped in pink and white and a matching grey-blue romper suit for the boy.
Claire had texted Jim, that they were on their way back and he confirmed that he'd pick them up.
Just as they reached the stairs down to the sewers though, Claire suddenly stopped in her tracks.
Barbara who led the way turned back to her, looking up as she had walked down a few steps and noticed that she wasn't following her.
"Claire? Everything alright?"
Her son's girlfriend was shaking her head, blinking at her, before she focused on Barbara. Suddenly she seemed more hectic and skipped down the steps towards her.
"Yeah, yeah, everything's alright, just a little tired. Let's just get back."
Claire looked around nervously and stepped around her to open the lead door to the sewage system. Concerned, Barbara stepped through the door behind her and almost knocked into the younger woman.
"Where's Jim?" She heard Claire say and then suddenly the door behind her was slammed shut.
Barbaras eyes widened in the pitch black, trying to see what was happening but another moment later Claire's hand began to glow as she held some sort of crystal into the air. Barbara frowned as she noticed a flowery smell, that did not match their surroundings.
Where had she smelled that before?
That's when Barbara noticed a hissing sound.
"They blocked my magic!" Claire snarled and Barbara's fear begann to grow as she noticed some sort of smoke or gas filling up the air around them, making her cough.
Suddenly Claire grabbed her by the arm, almost hugging her as she whispered into her ear. "Tell Jim I'll still be here!"
"What!?" She proclaimed, as the younger woman held onto her and shushed her "Shh! Listen, I'll still be here... underground, under... town. somwhre..." Her voice grew more slurred and quieter with each word.
Barbara scrambled to hold her up as she herself noticed her consciousness slipping from her. The glow from Claires crystal faded, as the smaller woman slipped from her grasp and onto the ground just before Barbara followed her.
The last thing Barbara could discern were footsteps in the dark.
The first thing she heard where the voices. Some louder, some quiet and inbetween... growling.
That's when she realized how much her head hurt.
Had she knocked her head?
Oh... No. Everything was coming back to her. The sewers. Claire. The smoke.
Barbara groaned as she struggled to sit up on the bench.
"Mom!" That was Jim. Her son put a hand on her back to help her up, looking straight at her as she tried to orient herself.
She realized that she must have woken up in Blinky's library. Behind her son she could see Blinky, Aaarrrgh! and NotEnrique sitting on a table.
"Mom! What happened!? Can you tell us who attacked you? Did you see someone?"
"Wha... what? No, what happened? Claire? Where's Claire!?"
Her eyes focused on Jim's and if the desperate fear in them were to somehow grow even more, it did in that moment. His brows knitted together, his lips pulled back and he made a keening sound, just before he pulled away from her. Standing and erratically walking back and forward, evading Blinky's outstretched armes to hug him. Instead he turned around, grabbed at his horns and growled.
"We're gonna find her, chum." NotEnrique said, lamely holding up a hand as he stared at her son. His expression didn't look as hopeful as his words sounded though. Aaarrrgh! too, followed her son's movements with a worried expression.
Blinky kneaded his hands and with another look towards Jim, turned towards her.
"Barbara, now that you're awake... it is of utmost importance that you tell us everything you remember before you lost conciousness. Every detail might help!" The big blue troll sat down beside her.
"So they really took Claire?" Barbara asked "Oh god... Oh this is all my fault!" she sobbed as regret gripped her. Why had she insisted on taking her out shopping? They could have taken Jim with them, but no... she had wanted to treat the expecting mother to a little "girl time". How irresponsible and stupid that was. There was a reason for why Claire lived in trollmarket for the time being...
"This is not the time for being sorry about something you had no control over. We need to focus on finding Claire, so please." Blinky looked straight at her taking her hand "Tell us what you remember". Jim had stopped pacing and faced her as well.
"Well. We got into the sewage system and suddenly the door behind me slammed shut. Just as Claire noticed that Jim wasn't there yet. She asked 'Where's Jim?' right before..."
"I got a text from Claire, telling me that you'd need a little longer." Her son said, his voice rough, arms crossed. "But then I suddenly felt Claire panicking and rushed to the exit. That's where I found you."
Barbara furrowed her brows and looked at Jim. "What? No... Claire texted you, when we were on our way back. You were supposed to pick us up."
Jim's arms fell to his side, as Blinky and NotEnrique looked at him questioningly. "Where's my..." he mumbled, turning around and picking up the sweater he had put on the table. He pulled out his phone and showed her the texts he had gotten from Claire.
Barbara picked at her glasses, trying to read as Jim's hand trembled lightly. But it was obvious.
"That's not what Claire wrote to you." She told Jim, eyes widening. "She texted you to pick us up around three, not that we'd take longer. We must have reached the canal just a few minutes after you got this. And Claire told me, that you answered her before that."
Jim looked at his mother, then his phone.
"They've hacked our messenger accounts..."
Blinky furrowed his brows at Jim "You were spied upon..." he mumbled, but then turned his attention back towards her a moment later.
"What else Barbara? How where they able to subdue Claire?"
She looked at trollmarket's leader and remembered how Claire went down. How she wanted her to tell Jim something!
"There was smoke! Smoke or gas or something alike! And Claire, she... she said that they blocked her magic? I didn't know that was even possible!?"
"'Course they did!" NotEnrique piped up "They had to! No other way to bring my sis' down other than to block her abilities. Dirty glarbsuckers!"
"And Claire said something else! She said that I need to tell you that she's still here? I don't know how she meant that, but she said... she said she'd be somewhere underground. Maybe somewhere under the town?"
Jim crossed his arms, looking at her in thought.
"Well it could be possible the kidnapper is trying to hide her somewhere in town... Claire's a powerful witch. No matter what they used to knock you out seemed to have not worked perfectly if she was able to tell you that. But that would also suggest, that they're not able to summon a portal to transport her far away in a matter of moments..."
"Meaning they're problably not wizards or witches?" Barbara commented.
"Probably." Jim confirmed, furrowing his brows a moment later and recommencing his pacing through the room "But it could also be some sort of diversion. And it would still leave us with another couple dozen possible culprits who're able to use enough magic to conjure some sort of sedating potion. And since they managed to block Claire's magical skills and visionary abilities..."
"They had a plan." Aaarrrgh! added.
Blinky scratched his chin "This suggests they acted in collusion. I think we're dealing with an organized group of kidnappers here, Master Jim."
Jim sighed and looked up at the ceiling as he stopped walking, rubbing his forehead "Still leaves a number of possible suspects. We need more than suspicions." He turned around to the table where he had put down his phone. "Blinky, did Merlin report back to you yet? We'll need him. I'll also ask Eli for help... He should be able to find out who hacked our phones."
"Merlin texted back, that he'll be here at... 23:30 CET? How does that odd wizard even do it?" Blinky answered as he stared at his phone, slightly confused.
Jim just raised an eyebrow. "It's Merlin. You're still surprised?" He pulled on his sweater and started to type a message, his expression back to worried tension.
"Tell him to meet us at the eastern canal. I'll text Toby to meet us there as well, he and Strickler are already on his way."
When Claire came to, she first noticed the weight on her wrists as she tried to lift her hand to her face. She rubbed at her eyes with a little difficulty and as her eyes focused, she realized what had encumbered her.
Crystal shakles on both of her wrists.
And as she struggled to sit up she noticed the same kind of rough stone on her neck, like a too tight fetch.
Claire groaned, but not only because she knew this type of mountain crystal... It was of the same variety that had made up the heart of Merlin's tomb. The one that barred all magic in its surroundings. Though looking at this ones pale, almost ashen glow, someone had messed with it in an unnatural and certainly un-magical way.
She groaned because of the nausea rolling in her stomach. So she took a few deep breaths through her nose to try and fight it down, but that only seemed to make it worse. Sweat breaking on her forehead in an effort to control her bowles.
When she looked ahead and saw that the bars of her prison were made of the same sort of crystall, she frowned.
Someone really had done their homework on how to catch a witch it seemed... the question was: Who?
As if on que she heard a male voice, talking to her from the other side of the bars sealing her in and then the man showed her his face, barely illuminated by the weak glow of the crystals, making it appear grey and ghostlike.
"Welcome, Claire. I hope your new premises are satisfactory. You'll spend some time in them, you see?"
Claire's eyes widened as she recognized the older man "Ovid!?"
On the other side of town, the trollhunter, his best friend, troll markets leader, his step-father, mother, NotEnrique and Merlin were investigating the canal. Blinky and Barbara though tried to keep out of the way, since the troll elder argued, that too many feet could destroy possible evidence. So they set up lampshades, to reflect the light crystals that were set up throughout the dark sewers.
"You know I could have just cast a light spell." Merlin drawled and Toby snorted. "And polluting possible traces of magical spells in here? Aren't you supposed to be smarter than that?". Jim's friend was searching the ground with some new sort of mineral sensor, that looked like a standard metall detector.
Merlin huffed "Didn't you say, that Claire said she'd still be in town? They were seemingly not able to suffocate her visionary skills completely and since they're not able to transport her with a portal, we're certainly not dealing with magic wielders."
"We don't know that." Blinky grumbled "We need hard evidence, not just hunches."
"Fine." Merlin droned and got down on all fours. "But considering what traces of that so called 'smoke' I'm able to recognize, we're dealing with mere domestical magic."
Jim rolled his eyes as he sniffed the air himself and sneezed. He was horribly high-strung and tense and the wizards antics didn't help. "Watch it, Merlin." He grunted, sneezing his nose. "Claire's grandmother is one of those 'domestic-witches' and Claire learned some pretty awesome stuff from her."
Merlin just made a non-committal sound as he bent down his upper body to sniff at the ground like a dog.
"Man." Toby commented, raising an eyebrow at the wizard. "Do you have to be so weird all the time? We all know you're a wacky wizard, you don't have to live up to it anymore..."
NotEnrique jumped on the stout man's shoulder looking down at the wizard as well, while still adressing Toby. "You saw the old geezer snort the fetuses of a talking potted plant and you think this is weird?"
"Ugh! Don't remind me!" Toby gagged and continued to search the ground with his tool.
"Hah!" They heard Merlin proclaim a few moments later, "Look at what the 'weird' wizard found! And without using some fancy machine I'd like to add. Someone did not do his job to clean up throughoutly!"
The Wizard held up some sort of cartridge and Jim's brows furrowed, taking the metall container from Merlin and looking at it.
"Tobes... does this look familiar to you?" he asked the shorter man showing it to him and Toby's eyes widened.
"The Vestal Legion? Is that even possible?"
Strickler's face fell at his words. "It can't be... The Janus Order lost all significance. Even the few rogue ex-changelings are gone. They have no more grounds for their delusions of ruling the world, no more reason for revenge. And even if they are still set on attacking trollmarket for some reason- what would they want with Claire?"
Jim looked at him worriedly, then at the cartridge in his hand. "Don't know... personal revenge on me?"
"But that doesn't add up Jim." His mother said, shaking her head slightly "You said, they were well prepared to take down Claire. One of the most talented witches in the world - just to get back at you?Why that? Wouldn't it have been easier to... you know, to attack both me and her? To hurt us when they had the chance to, instead of kidnapping Claire? And how did they even do that in the first place?"
Merlin stepped towards Jim at Barbara's words and took the metall vial from him. "The answer to that might hide in this little thing, my dear." he said and sniffed at it, squinting his eyes.
"Hmm... interesting, but not surprising..." he said, looking at Jim "This is a mixture of common herbs, enhanced with some sort of chemical that would be used to ward off magic. It is not what I smell in the air prominentely, not what they used to knock out your beloved and your mother. Instead they could have used this substance to shield themselves from her visionary abilities."
"Human chemicals and common magic... that unfortunately sounds like the Vestals." Blinky sent Strickler a look.
Jim held out his hand to Merlin for the cartridge and looked at it thoughtfully before sniffing himself. He blinked, then sniffed again. His expression growing thoughtful, brows knitting.
"Merlin." He said, expression worried "Tell me. What herbs do you think are in this mixture?"
"Uh..." the old wizard gave the halftroll a shrug "it's very basic, just a little wormwood, lavender, angelica root..."
Jim's eyebrows shot up and he looked at his mother at the wizards words to see her eyes widening as well.
"So I guess you're having the same idea..."
Chapter 3: All perjured, all forsworn, all naught, all dissemblers.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
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.
The story contintues with my collection of in "Times to come", though I'm not sure I'll be able to keep up posting on the regular.