Sari was the first to awaken, having already been alerted in her dreams to the presence of her goddess and the passing of her mother. If she had awakened later with the others, Holic would have already gone to join Whocate.
After her rather indelicate way of rousing the other adults, she uncharacteristically ran from the dining room to Hyacynthe’s room, letting forth an exhale of fear at the site of Holic slumped in the corner, unconscious – a calm, peaceful look on his features. A few tense moments of CPR later by his father brought the young man’s pulse back and his eyes fluttered open just as the other three youths came into the room.
If he had been more coherent, he would have probably questioned the stunned looks on everyone’s faces when they caught sight of his eyes. Alaina and Wilfred traded their own looks of shock, still, Wilfred, thinking quickly, blocked Glen from seeing the change in their cousin’s eye color.
“She’s gone,” Sari announced quietly of Hyacynthe when Erik went to check on her. “I sensed it – and Holic – “ she trailed off, watching Kelie fuss over her son. He had closed his eyes again, unconcerned at the cluster of adults around him, also not caring he was still on the floor.
Narik looked to his nephew. “Wilfred, help me get Holic up.”
While Erik drew the sheet over Hyacynthe’s form, the two males struggled with getting Holic up off the floor, Narik biting back the pain of his still burned/frozen hand. Erik quickly joined them, got the leather-clad youth to his feet and drug him over to the love seat by the window.
“That doesn’t look good, Narik. I’m going to have a look at that hand whether you like it or not,” Erik reminded him, concerned at the way his brother was cradling his hand, the fingers ghastly pale and curled into a claw, unmoving.
“Friendly medical advice couched into a warning,” the larger man joked, gritting his teeth against the pain it was causing him. He gestured to his unconscious son. “Take care of Holic first.”
“Father, take a look at this,” While the others gathered around, Wilfred smoothed his friend’s jacket so they could all see the jagged area that had eaten away the leather and the boy’s shirt underneath. Something dark marred the skin directly below it, a strange, soft glow just visible. He reached out to touch it.
“Take care Wilfred,” his mother warned. The boy quickly withdrew his hand.
“Mmmm…” Holic moaned softly, still trying to get his head clear, feeling his clothing being drawn aside, still too out of it to understand or care what was going on.
“Is he okay?” Alaina asked from behind them.
“He is,” Erik said distractedly, unsure, but also unwilling to upset the sensitive girl. “We’re just making sure he’s breathing properly again.” He looked to the other adults with a nod to keep the children in the dark for now about the fact of Holic’s near death and this strange occurrence of his clothing being in such a state.
“It looks like it’s been eaten away, Erik,” Narik said quietly, mastering his own discomfort for the moment, moving Wilfred aside and poking at the material of his son’s jacket.
“No…aged…to dust,” Erik breathed, watching the edges crumbled under his touch.
Wilfred let his Aunt Kelie in, stepping aside to rejoin Alaina and Glen. It seemed the adults wanted to handle this, as they did all difficult, metaphysical issues in the family. As curious and concerned as he was about his friend and relative, he feared they would keep him, Alaina and Glen in the dark about what had happened to Holic. They were very unlike Hyacynthe, who had always involved the children in every situation they ran across, making certain they understood what was going on to the best of her abilities. There had been arguments between her and the parents about this early on – loud ones – but in the end, it had proved the absolute best decision. Still, there were times like this where their fear and old habits took over when something new and unknown like this presented itself.
Kelie moved in, drawing Holic’s damaged jacket aside, gasping quietly at the sight beneath it. Where his skin had been unblemished before, Holic now had a ghostly outline of – something – imprinted on his flesh. The mark, having been left so recently, still glowed with the inner blue fire Holic has seen Whocate breathe over his grandmother’s dragonfly soul to strengthen her.
Sarlayna raised an eyebrow at this. Her role as Seeress had caused her to see this ethereal glow before in relationship to the passing of numerous Whoticores in the past. She knew what it was, but kept the knowledge to herself in the presence of the younger children of the House. “Let us get him back to the spare bedroom,” she addressed the adults. “We must watch him.”
As Erik and Wilfred lifted Holic, everyone else cleared the way for them to exit the room except Glen. “What about us?” he complained, indicating himself and Alaina. Alaina rolled her eyes in disgust, certain he was unhappy at not being the center of attention in this crisis.
Sari speared her son with a sharp eye. “You will stay here and watch over your grandmother’s body,” she instructed.
“What? – “ he began to protest.
“It is your punishment for your disrespect of her on her deathbed,” she nodded towards the body, watching him as he stepped aside for the others to leave. “You will sit with her, next to her bed and if I return and find you have moved from her side, I will bind you to the bedpost so close you’ll be staring in her corpse’s eyes until the insects eat them away. Understand?” she finished in a calm, deadly voice.
The look of horror in his eyes indicated that he did. He wasted no time grabbing the only chair in the room and setting it by the shrouded form as everyone else moved to leave.
Once Holic was safely deposited on the bed in the guest room, Sari directed Wilfred to fetch Holic some food and water and sent Alaina out for Erik’s medical bag. With all the children safely out of earshot, the adults collectively sighed.
The Seeress tried to rouse Holic, but only succeeded him getting him to groan softly, opening his eyes halfway. A flare of blue – the same effect as on his skin – died down, revealing his eyes were still completely and utterly black. Behind her, Kelie sobbed, putting a hand to her mouth as her son drifted back out of consciousness.
“No, he’s too young!” she choked, tears in her eyes. “Not already!”
Narik drew her aside, trying to comfort her. She struggled against him, immediately regretting it when she shoved him away, pushing at his injured hand. The pain was too much for him and he failed to contain a groan of his own, turning away to hide the agony on his face.
“All right, Mr. Tough Guy,” his brother Erik scolded, intervening. “Sit down!” He and an even more upset Kelie moved him into a chair, Erik slipping into professional mode to assess the inexplicable damage to his brother’s appendage. He shook his head, clearly perplexed at the cause of the blanched skin on his fingers, blood rising in blisters where Narik had touch Holic’s hand. “Incredible!” he muttered low so only Kelie heard. “I have never seen nor heard tell of the touch of another person to do such damage.” Glancing back at Holic’s hands, his gaze returned to Narik. “Especially when Holic appears unhurt.” His own dark eyes took in his wife’s when she came over to him. “Sari, what caused this?”
“You heard him as I did, husband,” she replied. “His equilibrium was disturbed, as if he were walking between worlds.”
“But that is something only our female seeresses have the ability to do,” he argued quietly.
Sari touched his shoulder. “The Goddesses did impart to me that all ends yet changes with our children, Erik,” she reminded him.
Behind them, Alaina came in, handing the head of the family his medical bag. Erik pulled out several salves. He made a quick decision and discarded one, spraying the preferred one over his brother’s wounds.
“How do you know how to treat it, Erik?” Kelie asked, clearly distressed. “We never saw what caused it!”
“It’s frostbite,” he replied, not looking up.
“What? How do you – “
“His hand would be red if it were caused by heat,” Erik told her simply. “White indicates a freezing of the circulation, a lack of blood to the area.”
“But how?” Kelie raised her voice. She had never been good in these situations and tended to panic easily, like a frightened bird. Fortunately, their side of the family had never had to deal with most of the strangeness that dogged the Whoticores’s blood line, though it looked to Erik that the blessings of their good fortune had now taken a radical turn and not for the good.
He shot Sari a practiced look that told her to take the crying woman in hand to allow him to work. “Kelie, let Erik work,” Sarlayna urged, drawing here away. They pulled back enough Alaina was able to come forward, Erik giving her instructions on what to give him from his bag while he attended to his brother’s grievous injury.
Wilfred came in and was asked by Sari to leave the food and drink on the nightstand. This suited the youth fine as he felt a need to stay by Holic’s side and out of the way of the other adults as they worked on Narik. He was vaguely aware of Erik talking to Sari, and Kelie arguing with them, letting the noise filter into the background as he stood by his cousin’s bedside, studying him.
Physically, except for the strange mark on his chest, Holic appeared unharmed, but a glance at the tough leather jacket tossed aside on the bed made him shudder at the thought of the power that had assaulted his cousin. Something strong enough to have burned through leather and stop Holic’s breathing, maybe even his heart at the same moment Hyacynthe had died, seemed too much of a coincidence to the young man. If only he were awake to tell them what had happened!
And there was that glow, still on his skin and in his eyes. When they moved enough, the strange blue glitter of it shone through his closed eyelids. It seemed – familiar somehow, like a memory of something so faded Wilfred couldn’t tell if it were real or imagined. He wanted to obey his mother and not touch it, but his curiosity was aggravated by fascination with its familiarity. He reached out cautiously, but stopped short at the rising noise of further discussion behind him. His aunt, it seemed, was getting more upset and panicky at something his father was doing to Narik. It was cut short though, by the no nonsense tones of his mother ordering Alaina to take the distraught adult out of the room and somewhere else to calm down. Things quieted as they left and his attention returned to the soft, shifting glow still on Holic’s body. He reached out again, determined to see what it was before any adult could step in and stop him.
*I see now…I see everything…*
Everyone behind him turned towards the youths at the sound. Holic’s voice had a low, guttural, husky sound that froze everyone’s blood solid. Sarlayna’s normally emotionless demeanor cracked at the horrible remembrance of those same words uttered by her mate Erik when his eyes had gone completely black and he had gone mad years ago. Narik, freer now of the pain with the aid of his brother’s topical anesthetics and hypnotic powers, too remembered. One look into his sibling’s white-ringed, normal black eyes told them both that things for his side of the bloodline had just gone from bad to worse than bad.
Wilfred may not have understood the words Holic uttered, but the inflection behind them and some inborn instincts told him they were not the product of a sane mind. Fighting his urge to back away in fear, he touched the young man’s shoulder. “Holic?” he asked hesitantly, quietly.
The room exploded with movement at that instant. Erik ran to his son Wilfred’s side to yank him away, but missed him as the youth backpedaled from Holic’s sudden lunge for his cousin’s throat. This caused Holic to grab the older Whoticore by the arm, twisting it in his grip.
“Narik!” Erik yelled as he shoved his son back out of the way and into safety. Narik ran to the other side of the bed, using his good arm to wrestle Holic back down to the bed, but the youth had superior bulk and insanity on his side, throwing his father off balance and letting go of Erik, shoving him violently away.
*HOLICAIERIE!* Sari’s sharp voice yelled out commandingly, both out loud and in all their heads. She put a merciless amount of force behind the psychic burst, everyone gripping their heads in an instant of pain cutting across their frontal lobes.
Wilfred was the first to recover and dove for Holic, who was intent on getting to Erik’s throat at all costs. Grabbing the enraged teen, knowing he had no hope of overpowering him, he instead went to put pressure on his temples with one hand, the other hand slipping, landing on the strange new mark on Holic’s chest.
Holic gasped, freezing. Wilfred too froze, still tense, his heart racing from the altercation. It gave all the adults time to throw themselves back at the bed, restraining every limb the enraged youth had closest to them.
“Wilfred, get back!” his father ordered, but hesitated as his nephew seemed not only restrained, but he could clearly sense the madness leaving his mind as fast as it had hit. His son also was not listening, staring at the blueish tint of energy that had left Holic’s eyes and chest and was now on Wilfred’s hands. The boy stared at it, unafraid but unsure what to do next. Holic relaxed, getting his racing breath and heart back under control, the blackness shrinking in his eyes until it only covered his pupils and irises, their warm brown light extinguished.
“Erik, don’t touch Wil!” Sari called out, throwing her hands up to wave both men away from the youth.
Wilfred’s gaze turned from the soft glow on his hands to his mother. He cocked his head curiously at her, but became aware of the adults now looking at him strangely. Somehow this fact didn’t seem as important as the familiar feel of the energy he had somehow drawn out of Holic.
During the tense moment where no one moved, Holic’s mind cleared more and more until he was the one to speak up first, “What’s going on – “ he asked, looking from adult to adult. “How did I get here? Why are you all like, crowding me?” When no one answered except to all sigh in deep relief, his gaze turned back to Wilfred. “Wil – what – ” the question died in his throat. “Man,” he breathed, trying to back up, but running into the headboard.
Wilfred felt the tension in every adult in the room, as well as Holic. He felt he should be on guard against them – which would have seemed a ludicrous notion if he had not felt their fear so clearly, but no one moved. Since no one deigned to make the first move, he returned to looking at the soft glow of energy still in his hand, trying to figure out where he had seen it before.
Levitating to a position just above his hand, it now floated, non-threateningly, bobbing up and down just slightly, he realized, in harmony with the rise and fall of his chest. *Why are you familiar to me?* he asked it in the sacred language.
“Wil – Wilfred?”
He looked up at the sound of his father’s voice. All the adults still seemed to be waiting for him to do something.
“Are you all right, son?”
He didn’t understand the need for words, he could clearly feel their sudden concern and knew they were expecting an answer. “Yes, I’m fine – I think,” he replied mildly, slipping back into their language without even realizing it. His eyes traveled from adult to adult, coming back to Holic. “Are you okay?”
“I have no idea how I got here, man,” the larger youth shook his head. “But Wil, your eyes!”
“My eyes?” Wilfred repeated, then realizing what must have happened. The same thing as with Holic’s perhaps, yet he didn’t feel as murderous as the bigger youth had. “Oh, hmm…” was all he said, returning his attention to what he held before them all.
“Sari – ” his father never took his eyes from his son’s.
“No,” she shook her head.
“Sari – ” he repeated, this time more firmly.
“Do not, Erik,” his wife emphasized. “Do not move and do not touch him!”
“Just because he is not presently acting like – “ Erik began to say, stopping when his brother shot him an acid look from across the bed.
“No, and that is very strange,” Narik finished for him. “So what do we do now?” he pointedly directed the question at his Seeress/Sister-in-Law Sarlayna.
“What – what is that?” Holic asked, breaking the tension, staring at the blue glow in his cousin’s hands.
“I do not know,” Wilfred replied. “It was on your body when we found you on floor in ‘Cynthae’s room.”
“On the floor?” the burly teen’s mouth dropped open. Confusion was replaced almost immediately with remembrance. “Oh man. Whocate. She was there!”
“You saw her, child?” Sarlayna asked, her eyes widening. “Of course you did.” Her gaze went to what Wilfred held. “This is of her.”
“Her what?” Holic shook his head.
“Of course!” this was from Erik.
“Her energy. Her essence,” the Seeress clarified for her nephew.
“That explains the attack,” Narik nodded. “But not why Wilfred’s so calm!”
Holic shook his head. “Wait a sec, dad, she didn’t attack – “
“We have to get rid of this,” Erik shook his head. “Before it hurts Wilfred.”
Everyone collectively backed away as the young Whoticore turned, carefully cradling the softly pulsing light as it floated just above his hands. Someone opened the door and everyone, even a shaky Holic followed him out as he walked into the foyer and towards the backyard. Understanding where he was going, Sari nodded, took her husband’s hand in hers and smiled for the first time in a very long, painful evening.
They walked through the gardens, towards its center. Glen, who had been bored to death at the dead Hyacynthe’s bedside, caught sight of them out the french doors. A curt nod from Sarlayna had him bolting out to join them. Even Alaina, after settling Kelie down in another bedroom to rest, saw them and joined the movement towards the fragrant garden’s center, towards the statue of Whocate.
“What’s going on?” she asked Glen quietly. He merely shrugged, following as everyone else was, behind Wilfred.
Something in Wilfred’s thoughts whispered that this was the right thing to do. He didn’t know what was telling him or why, he just knew he felt compelled to go towards the statue. Very soon they were all standing before it in a semicircle, waiting for him to make the next move.
The magically-imbued statue of the Goddess had always been a fascinating, inexplicable miracle, ever since it had been sculpted by the former family patriarch, Erik and Narik’s father, Loki Whoticore. The dragonflies surrounding her followed a very precisely-ordered dance around the marble form that never deviated. It had always been this way in the 120 years the statue and its dragonflies had existed in the garden. Yet, tonight, the presence of the energy being brought before the statue, caused the creatures to cease their activity, turn and gather around Wilfred. Then, to everyone’s utter shock, the statue of Whocate herself knelt down to the young man, coaxing the essence into its pale, marble hands. When this was done, Wilfred stepped back slowly as the Goddess brought the glow to her breast, absorbing it, causing its eyes to flare with the ethereal energies where they faded into the stone. The statue froze in that position instead of going back to its original pose, leaving everyone – even Glen – mute with wonder and shock.
“Wilfred?” he felt a touch on his shoulder and the distant voice of his father, but only for a moment as he crumpled towards the granite stone ground, unconscious.