O, Death: Part XVII

by Matt P.

The nightmares didn’t start again until they made it to the stairwell, which was probably for the best—how could they have seen them if they had still been in the dark? Fortunately, for the nightmares at least, the stairwell still had emergency lighting. In the now familiar crimson glow Siobhan could see the swirling darkness begin to form in to shapes in front of her. The shapes didn’t attack, but stood and swirled in place as if waiting. Siobhan reached back to take Antigone’s hand, and squeezed it.

“More surprises, be ready,” she warned softly. Antigone squeezed her hand back and nodded. “Could be some kind of illusions like the hallway. Or visions. Or…creepy stupid crap,” she finished, sighing. Antigone nodded, and they began walking forward slowly.

The first figure slowly resolved in to a woman, tall and fair skinned despite being made out of shadows and horror. Her most distinctive feature was hair that was so dark it was almost blue, and it hung loose to her shoulders. Siobhan stopped, gasping at the sight, and Antigone walked in to her back. “Who…” Antigone began to ask, before the memory clicked in to place. Her mouth formed in to a little ‘o’ of shock. Siobhan, meanwhile, recovered from her shock and brought her sword up one handed to point at the blue-haired woman.

“You killed me,” the blue-haired woman said. Her voice was a mixture of anger, shock, and regret. She looked down at her shadowy form, considering it for a long moment before she looked back up. “You killed me…” she offered again, weighing the words and putting a different emphasis on them. She looked like she was about to say it again before Siobhan raised the tip of the sword up to her.

“You were trying to kill me and Annie. If this is trying to make me upset, then you’re going to be awfully disappointed. I have no desire to cry over a killer working for a mad king,” Siobhan offered forcefully. “So what’s the point…why are you here, and wha do you want, or can we get on with our shit?”

The woman paused, as if the interruption was unexpected. Maybe she had more she expected to be able to say. Maybe there’s a script, Siobhan thought sarcastically. After a few moments of thinking about it, the blue-haired woman scowled. “I was a soldier, and soldiers don’t get a choice about who they kill. Besides, I was going to kidnap you, not kill you—you were important.”

Antigone piped up from behind Siobhan, where she kept a hand on the hound’s neck. “I’m not sure that’s better. We saw him, and I don’t think I want to be in his dungeon. I mean better than death, but…”

The blue-haired woman continued to scowl. “You wouldn’t have been hurt. He thought you had great power that he could have used, but he once went to war when someone threatened his children.”

“He sent assassins to kill us,” Siobhan pointed out as she matched the scowl on the woman’s face. Blue-hair started to interject, but Siobhan held up a hand to silence her. Surprisingly, she did go silent. “Not you. Men with guns at a psychic shop. They shot at us pretty closely, and I don’t think they set their bullets to stun.”

That revelation set the woman back. She looked like she was going to speak again, her face looking sad before a scowl replaced the sorrow. “I think I was here to terrify you, but screw it. You can have the horror show from someone else—my oaths ended when I died. Oberon had a lot of people advising him, and some of them waned to turn him in to something much darker. The magic keeping the Fomori away whispered to him, I think, like a little voice trying to make him more violent and angry. So watch out for that,” she finished with a shrug.

Siobhan and her sister shared a meaningful look at the Faerie woman’s words. That magic, the geas, was in their father now; it manifested as a tattoo on his arm. Morgan had warned them about its influence, but hearing it from a third party was worse. “So this is part of the…show?” Antigone asked, gesturing. The blue-haired woman nodded.

“Yeah. I think it’s common. I saw the people I had killed when I died. I guess you only have to sow up for somebody else once, if you do. Maybe if I hadn’t died fighting. But the people for me weren’t there to frighten me, just…to cause me to reflect, I guess,” she offered with an artless shrug. “I don’t know. I don’t think we’re playing by all the normal rules here. And I’m out, so have fun.” The last bit was said while the woman raised her hand and made what looked like a backwards peace sign.

That left them in the silent crimson shadows once more, with the stairs in front of them. “Well, that was…that,” Siobhan murmured softly. “So we’re right, this is definitely Death off his meds. Begging for help, trying to scare us.” Siobhan paused, and then sighed. “A schizo grim reaper.”

“But does that mean all of what we’re seeing is true?” Antigone asked softly. Siobhan thought back to the hallway, which she figured was on Antigone’s mind as well, and shivered. “I hope not,” she murmured truthfully. “But…probably?” She squeezed her sister’s hand. “Come on, we’ve got to keep going. I think it…wants us to stop this. So let’s do it, and hope that’s the worst and the weirdest.” They took to the steps, walking down the stairs carefully as they passed the first floor, and continued on to the stairs to the basement.

“So far so good…” Annie murmured, and then plowed in to Siobhan’s back as she stopped. “What…” she began. But her eyes widened when she saw over Siobhan’s shoulder, and fell silent as well.

Their mother was standing in the well of the stairs, waiting patiently.