Ethan was struck by the absurdity of Dorian cowering as Nadya’s petite frame stood over him. Hysterical laughter suddenly bubbled up inside of him until he couldn’t contain it. The more Ethan thought about the outrageous things he had seen and experienced in the space of a few days, the harder he laughed.
His world had been turned upside down and inside out. The gag was that he had no frame of reference for even attempting to anticipate what would happen to him next and was powerless to save himself. He couldn’t seem to stop laughing.
Enmerkar turned and brought an abrupt end to his mirth. Ethan suddenly felt the familiar sting which ignited searing pain which raced along the tattoos on his hands, up through the elaborate ink on his arms. Ethan tried his best not to scream, not wanting to give Enmerkar that satisfaction, but the pain became too great. The agony consumed him. Ethan was hoarse by the time Enmerkar was satiated.
“Not so funny when you’re on the receiving end is it?”
“I wasn’t laughing at Dorian…”
“Be silent worm! They wouldn’t have gotten away if your friend hadn’t…”
“He’s not my friend. I barely even know the man.”
“That matters not. You selected him to be a part of our trinity. I hold you responsible for his actions.”
Enmerkar was unmoved by Ethan’s attempts to argue his case. Ethan violently raked fingers through his hair, trying to get a grip on himself. The unfairness of Enmerkar’s decisions was frustrating and more than a little scary. How could he hold one man responsible for the actions of another man? Dorian had demonstrated how impulsive he could be. There was no way that Ethan could anticipate what the man would do next.
The idea of being subjected to that searing pain even one more time made him feel frantic. Ethan talked until he ran out of arguments in his defense. It wouldn’t do to start begging in front of Dorian, so he forced himself to be quiet. If he was to win the man over to his side, then he couldn’t show weakness, not after Enmerkar’s display of power in bringing Dorian back from the dead.
“What happens now,” Ethan heard himself ask.
“Now, we wait for her to use the talisman again.”
“So, we’re just going to sit around here twiddling our thumbs?”
“I don’t know about you but I must rest this body. Magic is quite draining on mortals. I suggest you do the same.”
Enmerkar made a pallet of dusty stage curtains and lay down onstage. Ethan waited until he could hear signs of slumber before taking a seat by Dorian.
“So what was it like,” asked Ethan.
“What was what like,” Dorian said blankly.
“What do you think I mean? Don’t be coy with me. You died and came back!”
“What makes you think I died? I wish I had died. That is the most pain I have ever felt, including the weeks I lay in that antiquities store rotting away like a zombie in some second-rate horror movie. I should never have made that deal with Charles! I wish that I had just let the sickness take me. I was afraid of death. Now, I’m afraid of living.”
Ethan was about to object, when he saw the haunted look in Dorian’s unfocused eyes and the ceaseless way he rocked back and forth. He had the look of a man with failing grasp on sanity. Ethan sat back and blew his breath out in frustration.
Things had gone from bad to worse. His plan B would never work, even if he could win over Dorian. Ethan knew from experience never to place any trust in a spineless man. Dorian was far more likely to stab him in the back than to have his back. Ethan would have to keep his escape plans to himself.
At the moment, he was too exhausted to come up with any new ideas. Enmerkar had drained him and Dorian like a couple of batteries in order to activate the teleportation spell. The blistering pain he had just undergone had left him shaky. All of that on an empty stomach.
Ethan summoned up the last of his failing strength and went in search of a shadowy corner in which to secret himself so that he could sleep without the fear of someone creeping up and catching him unaware. He laid on his back and felt something hard press against his spine. Ethan sat up and pulled the book of spells out of his waistband. How could he have forgotten about that? Maybe there was something in there that would prove helpful.
Marko, Janet and Patricia were miles away before they felt safe enough to stop weaving in and out of traffic. They were still in shock, each trying to reconcile what they had just experienced. Nadya, Ethan and Dorian had just materialized out of thin air right in front of them. Marko was trying to figure out how his friend could have worked such a powerful teleportation spell. He had never known Nadya to exhibit that kind of power.
It all happened so fast, Marko couldn’t decide if he had imagined it or if Nadya really had a strange glow in her eyes. Another thing that bewildered him was the idea that right before he pulled the sisters out of there, Nadya appeared to be reaching for the talisman. That couldn’t be right. Could it? Marko was concentrating so hard that it took him a few moments to notice Andrea gazing at him in the rearview mirror. His eyes fled from her scrutiny and met Janet’s equally penetrating gaze. She was turned around in her seat staring at him. Marko sighed wearily.
“What do you two want?”
“We have questions,” they said in unison.
“Right now, I don’t have many answers but I’ll do my best. I do know that Nadya used a teleportation spell to bring her, Ethan and that guy into our midst. Who was that crazy guy anyway? He seemed to have a grudge against you Andrea.”
“His name is Dorian. He’s one of Charles’ devotees. I have no idea how Ethan and Nadya know him though. Him showing up with them was weird. They weren’t with us when we met him. Now, I have a question for you. How the hell did they find us? I know for a fact that no one was tailing us.”
“I don’t know….unless Nadya somehow tracked the talisman.”
“How could she track a talisman,” asked Janet.
“Well, it’s not so much the talisman itself as the discharge of energy from its activation back at that house. In the supernatural realm, there would have been a slowly decaying trail of residual magic. Don’t ask me how Nadya was able to track it.”