BloodBorne Ch. 10bypurefire©
"The tea can help you with that."
Xan screwed her face in disgust at Arianna's offer. "I don't drink tea, especially one that has goat urine in it."
"The mixture will help you clear your mind and allow you to sleep without fear of unwanted visitors."
"As appreciative as I am, I'll pass." Xan took a step back, cursing herself for her random decision to talk to the sorceress. Arianna had been at the manor for only a few hours and in that time, she'd not only reinforced the protective enchantments that kept the house covered, but had also seen each of the brothers individually. Xan didn't know why, but she did notice that each of them seemed substantially calmer afterward. That was the reason for her reason to seek council from her regarding her dreams. She never expected goat urine to be the answer.
"That's fine," Arianna conceded. "But if you change your mind..."
Xan was tempted to speak her mind, but the fact that she stood in front of a powerful sorceress kept her from doing anything more than inclining her head. She glanced toward the end of the hall when Alauria approached. Her eyes were a bit glassy, a clear sign that she'd only woken up a few minutes ago. She stared at Arianna curiously as she approached, but remained silent. "Alauria, this is-"
"You are Lindsay's life mate."
Alauria nodded slowly at the description. She stared down at Arianna, unsure of what to say.
"I am Arianna. Come talk with me."
Xan wanted to laugh at the near panicked look on Alauria's face, but decided to play nice. "It's ok. She's here to help Caleb."
"As well as the rest of you," Arianna added. She placed a hand on Alauria's arm and led her away from the hall, toward the room she'd retreated to with the brothers.
The second she left, Xan felt an unnerving cold wash over her. Immediately she longed for the sorceress' presence, going so far as to begin to follow after her. Common sense made her stop herself from intruding on her time with Alauria and instead, went into Caleb's room. She felt a sense of comfort at feeling the raw power that bounced off the walls. It was as if Arianna was in the room with them.
Xan approached the bed slowly, and for a minute, she asked herself why she was being so careful. Caleb was in a coma; he couldn't hear her stomping around. His color was a little better, she noticed. Or was this a case of wishful thinking? She touched her fingertips to his forehead, checking for any sign of fever. While his skin was warm to the touch, he felt fine. "Caleb? I don't know if you can hear me, but you have to come back to us. Your brothers need you." And she needed to stop feeling guilty. Yes, this was Sherlaine's doing, but that didn't change the fact that it was contact with her body that put him in the coma. "Please come back."
"He will return when he is ready," Arianna said from the doorway.
Xan turned to face her, slightly embarrassed at being caught. She stepped away from Caleb and approached the sorceress, feeling warmth spread through her. Yes, this was the comfort she needed. "You seem so sure."
"Walk with me, Xan. You seem like you might need a glass of warm milk."
"Just plain milk, right?"
Arianna only smiled as she led Xan out of the room. The walk to the kitchen was a quick one, primarily because Arianna preferred speed-walking. Neither woman was shocked to see the brothers situated there in silence.
"How is he doing?" Roman asked.
"His color looks a little better," Xan replied.
"Where is Alauria?" Lindsay asked anxiously.
"She was feeling a little sick after I spoke with her," Arianna replied. At Lindsay's dangerous look, she added, "She is fine. No worries."
"There'd better not be."
Xan walked to Liam and leaned against his back as he sat next to Alexis at the island. While she liked the way he reached behind to take hold of her hand, she had to admit that she would have preferred the comfort that came from being near Arianna. She watched the sorceress closely as she went about preparing that glass of warm milk. There was a fluidity to the tiny woman's movements, a grace that would have made many a professional dancer envious. Intrigued by the woman, Xan continued to study her. Arianna kept her hair coiled in a tight bun; it brought the focus to her large hazel eyes that almost seemed to take over her face. The flowing squirts swished around her legs as she walked through the kitchen.
"Where are you going?"
Xan blinked and looked back toward Liam. She hadn't realized that she'd started walking away from him. He cradled her hand in his, stroking the back of his hand with his thumb. A shiver of pleasure coursed through her arm and down her body. Her skin warmed in embarrassment when she glanced at Alexis; there was a small uplift to his lips. Was he pleased to see her with his brother or amused by her embarrassment, she wondered.
She looked at Liam's concerned face and forced herself to concentrate on him. "Sorry, I guess I spaced out."
"Was it Sherlaine again?"
"Impossible," Arianna answered from the far end of the room, "He may have access to her mind, but he would be foolish to abuse the power."
Xan did not like the sound of that. "What the hell does that mean?" She ignored the comfort that came with the sorceress' approach as she accepted her cup of milk.
"There are limits to the way he uses the connection," Arianna answered. She allowed Alexis to assist her onto one of the island chairs as she continued her explanation. "Sherlaine is a very powerful demon. He can be compared to a remote control; he dictates the way a piece of machinery works, but you are the battery. A very limited battery. Too many uses between charges will render the remote useless."
"So what you're saying is that though he might want to have me walking around trying to kill people, he can't?" Xan felt a small spark of hope. It was possible that if she kept herself exhausted, Sherlaine wouldn't be able to take advantage of their connection. "There's a loophole?"
"A small one," Arianna answered. She placed a hand on Xan's and encouraged her to drink her milk. "Until we can completely sever the link, he will always know your thoughts."
Which meant he would know anything she was told. Xan sighed dejectedly as she placed her cup down. "I can't be here."
"What?" Liam fought the urge to shout his denial as she stepped back. What did she mean, she couldn't be at the manor? "What the fuck are you talking about?
"Liam, if Sherlaine and I are still connected, that means he knows everything I know. Which becomes everything you let slip in front of me."
"So we don't tell you anything. Problem solved." The furious pounding of his heart made his legs weak. Liam was nauseous; the mere thought of separating from Xan wasn't an option. "You're not leaving."
"Don't tell me what to do." Xan looked to Alexis for help. He was the levelheaded brother, the brother who saw the sense in everything argued. "Fine. Don't tell me anything. But do you really think it's a smart idea to keep me around when it's clear he can take over my body basically whenever he chooses? Can you honestly tell me that you have the time and the recourses to sit here and watch me twenty-four-seven?" While she expected his infuriating silence, she knew that in this case, there was no right answer for Alexis; if he agreed with her, he caused a rift with Liam. If he agreed with Liam, everyone in the house was in danger because of him. She took his silence as a validation of her argument. "That's what I thought."
"Xan, you can't control everything."
"I know, Arianna, but I can try. I'll do what it takes to keep you guys safe. This isn't just about me anymore."
"No, it's not about you anymore," Liam agreed, "Where the fuck would you go? The second you leave, you're as good as his."
"That's a risk I'm willing to take."
"What the fuck, Xan?!?" Was she so opposed to being with him that she was willing to get herself killed? "If this is about us-"
"Oh, get your head out of your fucking ass for five goddamned minutes, Liam," Xan interrupted, "You think I want to leave my sister? You think I want to leave you? The last thing I want to is abandon my sister and dump her on you and your brothers, but it's better than the alternative, don't you think?" The silence was deafening as her words sank in. What could anyone say? She had a point and everyone knew it. "I need to go before it's too late."
"Where will you go?" Arianna asked.
"I don't know."
"Walk with me," the small woman commanded as she exited her seat. She led Xan out of the room and up the stairs, silent as she reflected on the situation at hand. As they approached Caleb's room, she turned to look up at Xan. "You have gone through much suffering. Death is all around you."
Xan had to force herself to concentrate as Arianna spoke to her. Waves of comforting pleasure wafted over her, compelling her to step closer to the sorceress. "My best friend died recently. He was trying to protect me." It was odd; if she even thought of Pogue at any other time, Xan became choked with grief. With Arianna, however, she felt cocooned in what could only be described as bliss. The tiny woman sure did pack a wallop of power. "What are you doing to me?" She watched as Arianna walked into Caleb's room and followed her inside.
Alauria sat vigil next to the comatose man, gently washing his face with a damp cloth. "He looks like he's doing a little bit better," she murmured as she brushed the cloth over his neck.
Xan followed Arianna to the bed. Caleb looked the same to her, but she said nothing; Alauria seemed proud of her involvement in his supposed improvement. She looked exhausted, however, and that worried Xan. "Maybe you should get some sleep."
"I tried, but I couldn't. I figured I would be more useful here rather than tossing and turning in bed. Lindsay will probably have an aneurysm, but he'll survive."
"Never have I met a group of men more overprotective than the Brethren." Arianna stated.
"They've lost a lot during their lives." Xan smiled wistfully at the knowing nods the women gave her. She identified with the brothers; had she met them under different circumstances, she would have definitely considered them more family than guardians.
"So have you," Arianna murmured. She walked to stand beside Alauria and quickly checked over Caleb. "I sense something within him. An awareness."
"Like he can hear us?" Alauria asked.
"Yes... and no." Arianna bent over Caleb and placed her hand over his chest. A surge of energy shot through the room when she touched him. "He is alone, but he is not."
"Did Sherlaine get to him?" Xan asked. She wrung her hands together as she watched.
"There is something more powerful than Sherlaine keeping him where he is." Arianna straightened and looked at both women as she said, "He is safe from all of this. When the time is right, he will return to us."
"What the fuck is that?" Xan grumbled. Was Caleb purposely remaining in a coma? Was that even possible?
"You must rest," Arianna said to Alauria, "You are no good to anyone like this."
The three women looked toward the door as the brothers walked into the room. Lindsay looked furious as he stormed in. Unfortunately for his wife, his attention was focused on her. There were no words spoken as he lifted her into his arms before storming out of the room.
Xan was tempted to laugh at the scene in front of her, but the severity of the situation kept her from doing anything. She felt the bliss that came with Arianna's power weaken and instinctively took a step closer to her. Warmth washed over her and she sighed; this was what she needed. This was what made the guilt for Caleb's condition fade.
"Has he made any progress?" Alexis asked.
"None that would bring him back anytime soon."
Liam looked at Arianna incredulously as he asked, "what the fuck does that mean?" As much as he wanted to intimidate the woman in front of him, Liam knew better than to prick her temper. The last thing anyone needed was for him to develop a severe case of leprosy. His gaze flickered to Xan, who'd slowly inched her way closer to Arianna. "Xan, what the fuck are you doing?" It looked as if she wanted to smell the smaller woman's hair.
Xan blinked in surprise as she realized the lack of space between her and the sorceress. "My bad; your mojo is pretty overwhelming." She blushed at the smile Arianna gave her and took a small step back.
"Arianna's power does take some getting used to," Roman admitted, "Drake couldn't stay away from her the day we first met."
"I remember having to dodge the both of you those many years ago."
"It's only natural that you would want to be near her, Xan," Alexis interrupted. He was in no mood to rehash old memories while his brother remained in a coma. "There is a natural cloud of power around beings like Arianna. I'm surprised you haven't glued yourself to her yet."
Xan's face felt as if it was on fire. Though she didn't do anything wrong or unnatural, she couldn't shake her embarrassment. Instinct told her to take a step back, to prevent any chance of more ridicule, but her legs wouldn't cooperate. "I should go check on Xi."
"She's fine," Liam replied, "She was sleeping the last time I checked on her."
"Your aura has changed," Arianna said. She took hold of Xan's hands and brought them to her lips.
Xan watched Arianna work and gasped as a rush of oppressing heat shot through her. She wanted to pull her hands away as they were on the verge of burning, but her body remained frozen. The room went black; she wasn't sure if she was blinded or if she simply closed her eyes; it was difficult to tell. There were voices in the distance and she could have sworn that she heard Liam's muffled profanities. Weightlessness gripped her body; Xan didn't feel secure on her own feet. She became lightheaded and had it not been for the hold Arianna had on her hands, she would have become lost. It felt as if she would faint at any moment.
Xan wasn't comfortable with this new vulnerability; Sherlaine could have taken over her body r thoughts at any moment. How was she supposed to fight him when se wasn't steady on her feet?
A ripple of fear coursed through her at the prospect of Sherlaine returning. Would she be able to activate her abilities if he did? Would she be able to keep everyone in the room safe? Because she had no answers, she forced herself to move. With a sharp tug, she pulled her hands from Arianna's. The connection between them broken, she pitched backward and would have fallen had Liam not been behind her.
"Are you all right?" He asked.
Xan would have loved nothing more than to answer him, but her body shook with such force that she was unable to do anything more than stare blankly as Alexis cradled Arianna in his arms. Thankfully, she wasn't in a coma, but her skin was pale and her hands also shook as she reached up to touch the silent brother's face.
"Xan, goddamn it, answer me."
Xan looked up and found Draco and Roman hovering around her expectantly as Liam gently lowered her onto the floor. She was sure they waited for her to verify her identity; they'd have to restrain her otherwise. She tried to speak but her tongue felt heavy, leaden. Soft gurgles escaped as she fought to speak. Xan reached out, uncaring of who took hold of her hands and blinked in surprise when Andrae materialized in front of her. She latched onto his black t-shirt, staring into his eyes as he crouched in front of her. She felt the sparks of Liam's power easing through her; it was then that she realized that the leaden feeling in her mouth came from the fact that she'd bitten her tongue.
"Is she all right? I only wanted to run a calming spell." Arianna asked.
"She'll be fine," Andrae assured.
Xan took deep breaths in order to calm her shuddering body. She was aware of Liam's hands running small, gentle circles over the expanse of her back. The rush of blood roaring in her ears nearly drowned out any other sounds in the room. "I'm okay." The words were spoken slowly; she was fatigued but refused to give into the need to sleep; she still feared a cameo from Sherlaine. "Is Arianna all right?"
"I'm fine, child."
"No you aren't," Liam refuted, "It's clear to see that the spell backfired on you." Which scared the living daylights out of him. What would have happened if the spell put the sorceress in a coma? Or worse yet, what would he have done if something happened to Xan? They'd come too far now to lose her to a simple spell. "Are you in any pain? Do you have any wounds?"
"She's fine," Alexis answered.
Xan allowed Andrae and Liam to help her to her feet before walking to Arianna on shaky legs. "I'm sorry, I didn't know you'd get hurt."
"There is no need to apologize, Xan," Arianna replied, "No one knows how these spells will work." She moved to take hold of her hands again but was quickly pulled back by Alexis. "I'm fine. Just a little weak."
Liam watched as Alexis helped Arianna to a seat. Xan followed nervously, no doubt worried that she somehow broke the small woman. He expelled a weary breath; had it really only been twelve hours since the incident at the mall? It seemed as if weeks had passed. Hell, it felt as if years had passed since then; the fatigue wearing him down was enough to make him lose his grasp on time.
"Is he any better?" Andrae asked him.
As much as Liam wanted to rail at his brother for his role in the situation, he did not have the energy. "He's still alive. That's all we can ask for now." He watched Lindsay walk into the room and pull the twins and Alexis to him and Andrae. Xan moved toward Arianna, who seemed stronger though she remained pale. While the women conversed quietly, he focused his attention on his brothers. "I don't know what the fuck just happened, but we can't let that little episode have a rerun."
"It might have just been a fluke," Roman surmised, "Some residual juju from whatever happened with Caleb."
"No more spells when she is around," Alexis announced. He shook his head slowly as he stared at his brothers. "We can't afford to have something else happen."
"Are we even sure he's gone?" Draco asked.
"Not completely," Andrae responded, "Based on the fact that he's invading her dreams, there's still some kind of connection there. She can't be trusted."
"Maybe now you'll understand the wisdom behind her words in the kitchen."
"What words, Lex?" Lindsay asked.
A sharp sound near the women forced the brothers to turn toward them. Arianna, levitating a foot off the ground, kept her hands outstretched as she quietly chanted. Horror washed over them as they watched Xan slowly fall to the floor. Seconds later, an invisible wave pushed them backward into each other. They watched as Arianna's eyes darkened to black pools. "This is not good," Draco murmured moments before the sorceress opened her mouth and emitted a silent scream that chilled them to the cores of their souls. White hot pain exploded in their heads, forcing them on their knees. Liam fought to crawl to Xan's limp body, but the pain in his head quickly spread throughout the rest of his body. A quick glance at his brothers confirmed his suspicion that he was not the only one in pain. He wanted to scream, wanted to let the rage in his veins take control, but the pain so intense, so unbelievably unbearable, that black spots began to form in front of him. Fear gripped him; if he passed out, there was no one to watch over Xan. What would happen if Xion or Alauria walked into the room?
What the hell was Arianna doing? She was supposed to be on their side, but there she was, hovering while she worked a spell to incapacitate everyone. Liam didn't care that she was Alexis' trusted friend; the second he was able to, he was going to kill the tiny woman. Not only had she done something to Xan, but she'd put his brothers in danger.