Chapter Four: Arcane
“We are royally fucked.”
“Settle down, Wick.” Trish made a point to shoot him a daggering glare across the bar as she tended to the man called ‘Ethan’, rubbing an herbal salve over his bleeding wound. Meanwhile, Wick couldn’t stop his pacing back and forth. Every time he thought he might have settled down, he would catch sight of the strange girl in the corner of the room and be thrown into aggravation all over again. She kept meeting his glance every time, which only made the situation worse.
“Seriously, we might as well lube up and bend over, because as soon as Alarich finds out they’re here-”
“I said cram it,” Trish snapped, slamming the salve container down on the table.
“That Alarich guy. You know him?” Ethan asked Trish.
“No,” she relied simply, “but he does.” She made a swooping gesture with her neck over to Wick.
“You know that jackass?” asked the girl.
Wick squinted in her direction, hackles raised. “Excuse me, little girl, but no one was talking to you.” He rubbed down the side of his stubbled cheek, noticing the tingle in his nerves. His body still floated with bourbon, and it made it difficult to concentrate on her spinning form. Okay, maybe that was just his equilibrium.
“Little girl? I'm twenty,” she jeered. “And I have a name, thanks for asking. It’s Ashe.”
He stifled a laugh. “Ash? Like the soot in a fireplace?”
”As if you’re better off,” Trish interjected. “Wick.”
“Short for Wickland,” he pointed out.
“And Ashe is short for Ashelia,” said the girl, scraping her chair back to stand. “Looks like we both were given shitty names, so how about you stop being a dick for five seconds?” She pulled up a seat next to Ethan and observed Trish’s work.
“I happen to like my name,” muttered Wick, catching Trish roll her eyes at his admission.
“Is he going to be okay?” Ashe asked her.
It was apparent to Wick by the expression on Trish’s face that Ethan would not be okay, and he caught the way she avoided Ashe’s question by saying, “You need to rest.”
“I feel like I’m gonna puke,” said Ethan.
“I’ll get a bucket,” said Ashe, turning her attention toward Wick. “You got a bucket, candle stick?”
Wick liked Ashe less and less - not that he found her favorable in the first place. He shuffled to the broom closet, retrieved the bucket, and a moment later joined the three at the table, slipping into a nearby chair and letting his eyes fall to Ethan’s neck. “How much do you know about Vampire bites?” he asked the other man, his voice as even as he could muster.
“Enough,” Ethan snorted quietly before sputtering and upchucking into the bucket, which still smelled of pine cleaner. Wick’s sensitive nose flared at the smell of vomit, and he swallowed back a bit of his own. Under his breath, Ethan whispered so quietly no normal human could hear, “Don’t tell her.” He glanced at Wick out of the corner of his eye sternly. Wick shifted uncomfortably in his seat—so, Ethan didn’t want Ashe to know about the lethality of Vampire bites. Interesting...well, she’d figure it out, sooner or later; later being when he was dead, of course.
“How did you know to come here?”
Ashe spoke up. “I’ve been wondering the same thing, myself. Not that I’m ungrateful for the warding around this bar, but you hate the Occult, Eath.”
“Not all of the Occult,” Trish smirked. “You wanna tell them, or should I?”
Ethan exchanged careful glances with the pretty bar manager, wiping at the corner of his mouth. “Trish and I...we sorta have a thing. She gave me the Friendly Key incase of emergencies.”
“A thing?” asked Ashe, crossing her arms.
It didn’t take long for Wick to put the pieces together. “Don’t tell me this was your ‘hot date’ last night?” He gestured to the quivering sack of Clipper in front of him. Trish merely shrugged in response, which made Wick’s eyes narrow in thick prejudice.
“What a hypocrite…” Ashe was on her feet in an instant, loose strands of hair falling in front of her eyes. “What was all that tonight with Charles, then? Some Occult are okay to sleep around with, but others you refuse to get involved with and land yourself as beef jerky in the process?”
Ethan could only hurl into the bucket to answer her.
“The sword,” said Wick, “where is it?”
“In the trunk of the car,” she answered quietly.
“And you didn’t think to bring it in?”
“I’m sorry. I thought I was trying to take care of my injured friend and get him to safety. How silly of me. I should have grabbed the sword first, by all means—where are you going?”
Wick was already headed toward the door, painfully focused on the task at hand. “While you’re busy being sarcastic, I’m going to go get the damn thing.”
“Wait!” She grasped at his sleeve, jerking him back. “It isn’t safe.”
“Ashe,” she corrected.
“Ashe,” he tried, forcing his voice steady, “every moment you waste in here is another moment for him to find us out there. If you don’t want me to throw you out this door-”
“-Ignore Wick,” said Trish. “He’s all bark and only a little bite. Lucky for you, his bites aren’t powerful, being demi-vamp and all.”
“Half-breed,” Ethan growled, his eyes shut tight as sweat dripped down his forehead. Wick felt a cold, white anger flare up inside of him until his eyes met Trish’s hardened glare.
“He’s delusional,” she explained. “It’s the venom. And you don’t need to worry about Wick, hun. He’ll be fine.”
Ashe didn’t look convinced. “I’m going with you.”
Wick shook his head. “You’ll just get in my way.”
“It wasn’t a request. I fought him off before. C’mon.” She pushed past him and swung the door open, glancing over her shoulder. “You coming or what?”
Impressed, Wick fixed his glasses on the bridge of his nose and stepped out with her into the murky city air. As soon as their feet hit the sidewalk, the door swung shut behind them of its own accord. “Finicky little thing,” Wick commented, scanning his eyes down the streets as he followed Ashe to her car. “You’re fortunate it hasn’t been towed yet.” Normally, Wick tried to tune out his heightened senses, but tonight, he listened to every sound on the block, watched for every movement and flicker of a shadow. The groan of the trunk hatch opening roared against his eardrums.
“I’m sorry,” said Ashe, bending over to reach inside the trunk. Wick’s eyes instinctively trailed down to the sway of her hips before he caught himself and whirled around to keep an eye on the street. The tips of his ears burned; he was sure they were bright red by now.
“For what?” he mumbled.
“What Ethan said. The half-breed thing. It’s not like you’re technically a half-breed, anyway. He’s not normally so xenophobic.” She sighed. “Well, maybe he is.” The hatch slammed shut, making Wick wince. “But he’s not so vocal about it.”
“Like I care what a Clipper thinks about me.” If he thought his ears were burning before, it was nothing compared to how they surely were now. “We done?”
He followed her back to the bar but stopped her when she reached for the knob. “Wards, remember?” He placed his hand on the wood and felt the magic spread through his fingertips, recognizing his aura. Misplaced nostalgia overwhelmed him as he turned the handle and ushered them back inside. The bar was bright in comparison to outside, but it could have also been due to his heightened senses, which he tried to stuff back inside like shoving toilet paper down a clogged drain.
When his eyes adjusted again, they spotted the glistening, familiar sword in Ashe’s hand. Stomach dropping in recognition, he cursed under his breath again, this time in Gaelic, before instructing her to set it on a nearby table.
Trish strolled up beside them, hands on her hips. “He’s upstairs, resting.”
“Resting where?” Wick snarled. “Better not be in my bed.”
“Don’t be such an ungracious host.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, Trish. It isn’t the fact that he’s a Clipper that sickens me. It’s that someone you slept with is in my bed.”
Trish stuck out her tongue as Ashe made a gagging noise under her breath. “Please. Ethan’s like a brother to me. I don’t need that image stuck in my head.” Wick made a mental note about that and tucked it away.
“So there it is,” Trish said in awe. “Zeitenklinge.” She gave a low whistle. “You know, you hear the legends, but you just never think you’re going to see it in your generation…”
“What is this thing?” asked Ashe.
“A bit above your paygrade, I imagine,” Wick smirked. His head less fuzzy, he walked over to join Ashe around the table with the sword. “Zeitenklinge, or ‘time blade.’ Ancient. One of a kind. Hand forged in the fires of Mordor.” Ashe rolled her eyes. “Kidding—well, about that last bit.” There was a pull as he waved his hand over the metal, as if it called for him to pick it up. “What do you know about the Ancients?”
Ashe’s posture shifted to one of an academic know-it-all. Her shoulders squared, and her head tilted up as she recited from memory, “They were the first immortals created by the demon Vampyre.”
“Congratulations, Ashe.” Wick clapped her on the back with his hand, purposefully knocking the breath out of her. “You managed to come across an Ancient that wanted you dead and survived.” With his still over-heightened senses, he could hear her pulse quicken as a heat shimmered over her skin.
“You’re telling me Alarich is an Ancient.”
“Did I stutter?”
She ran her fingers through her hair all the way to the nape of her neck and released a shuddering sigh. “Impossible.” She blinked rapidly, hand slapping down on the table for purchase.
“For a human, yes,” said Trish with an air of flippancy, “but for an Occult…”
Ashe shook her head. “I’m not.” But even as she said it, she stared wearily down at the hand wrapped around the table’s edge. Wick recalled she’d said she managed to escape Alarich by burning a hole in his chest with just her palms. Either she was a very convincing liar, or she was telling the truth. He prefered the former to the latter, because the truth would mean...
“May I?” Trish offered her hand out. Wick felt like a fly on the wall as Ashe gave the woman an incredulous look.
“Don’t tell me you’re some sort of palm reader.”
“Even better. I’m a Fae.” Without further prompting, Trish snatched up Ashe’s free hand and settled the back of it against her palm, smoothing out Ashe’s fingers. “Fairies have moved on from this world, but their magic still flows in the veins of some of us whose ancestors fell for the guiles of the Fair Folk.”
Wick coughed, “More like ‘got it on.’”
Ignoring him, she continued, “And as such, we have an innate sense for all types of magic.”
“I’m not a Fae,” Ashe said, her eyebrows creasing.
“No, I imagine not. After all, we can’t conjure scary light from our palms and burn holes in Ancients, now can we?” Trish smirked, placing her hand over Ashe’s and shutting her eyes. “Inhale, dear...this will only hurt a moment.”
Ashe felt a sharp pinch that started in the center of her hand and then bloomed up her arm like a gas-lit fire. At first, it was only discomfort—until the pinch transformed into an ungodly bite that clamped down in the center of her chest. She gasped, pinching her eyes shut from the pain. Heat blossomed from her ribcage, down her arms and into her fingertips. The pain was gone. Slowly, she opened her eyes to find a flickering flame the color of cobalt hovering between her palm and Trish’s.
“Tell me you’re doing that,” she whispered.
Trish moved her hands away, but the blue flame remained, dancing from fingertip to fingertip.
The man named Wick, with his icy, cyan eyes so very similar to her own, merely stood in place as he watched the hungry fire lick at the air. The way he stared at Ashe was disapproving, but he said nothing as he ran his fingers through his ginger-colored hair and licked his lips apprehensively.
“Would you look at that,” Trish said, impressed. “Never thought I’d meet one of you in my lifetime, either.”
Wick gave a dry cough and shifted in place. “Are we done with the parlor tricks?”
Ashe closed her hand on instinct—the flames went out at her will.
“What just happened?” she asked.
Wick didn’t answer her as he snatched up the sword by its hilt, instead muttering, “I’m going to take this upstairs and check on our invalid.” He exchanged one disheartened glance with Ashe before setting off in the direction of the door marked ‘Employees Only.’ Over his shoulder he called out, “You take one foot out that door again without me and you’re as good as dead. You hear?” The next moment, he was gone.
“Never you mind him. He just needs a moment to process,” said Trish, strumming her fingers atop the table.
Ashe’s throat felt tight and strained. Anxiousness crept over her and seized her shoulders, making her rigid. “Why is everyone treating me like I’m some ticking time bomb? That Alarich guy - he called me a hexe. Ethan’s hurt because of me. Just tell me why.”
With a wave of her hand, Trish closed the window shutters around the bar. “Because, in a sense, you are a ticking time-bomb. Without someone to wrangle you in and teach you proper control, you’re just as likely to burn this place down as sneeze, now that you’ve tapped into your magic.”
“I’m human,” Ashe insisted.
“Aren’t we all?” asked Trish with a shrug. “You think I’m not just as human as you? As Ethan? Humanity is a vague term, honey, learn the subtext. Do you know what hexe translates to? Hexe. Magi. Wupó. Brauchau.—Witch. Though I think the technical term is an Arcane. The first one in generations, I would say, and she’s standing right here in front of me. I’m so tempted to say ‘Yer a wizard, Harry,’ but this might not be the right moment.” She reached over and patted Ashe on the shoulder thoughtfully. “You’re lucky, you know.”
Ashe didn’t know how to respond. Every extremity of hers had turned violently cold. She felt like someone had told her that her grandmother died. Nothing, nothing made sense to her anymore. An Arcane? How? There wasn’t a magical drop in her entire family. Oh, God. What would her family think? There was no way she’d be allowed to be a Clipper, now. No matter what Trish said, humanity, in the eyes of The Council, was black and white. There were no gray areas to pardon. Once they found out...
“Believe me, I know it seems that way. I remember telling my mom I was Fae. Felt a bit like coming out of the closet.” Trish glanced back to the Employee Only door. “You’re lucky, though.”
“How do you figure?” Ashe groaned. “I have no idea what I’m doing, what I am, there’s now a bounty on my head, and I have no idea how to...Ethan’s hurt because I-” Panic struck her chest, and sparks flew from the tips of her fingers, igniting a nearby table into flames.
“Hey now!” Trish snapped her fingers, and a gust of wind blew the flames out. “I don’t go to your home lighting shit on fire, do I? Unless you plan to pay for that, keep your emotions in check!”
“S-Sorry...I...I didn’t…” She stared down at her hands as if they were loaded guns. In a way, they were..”How the Hell is this lucky? I can’t control this. And it’s not like anyone can help me, can they? All Clippers are taught the history; the last Arcane died over two hundred years ago!”
Trish gave a pointed smirk. “Yes. Well, you’re lucky because that one came back to life and happens to take residency above my bar.” With an air of confidence, Trish sauntered over to the Employees Only door and motioned, with a wave of her hand, for Ashe to follow. “Once he comes around to the idea, I’m sure Wick will be glad to spill his secrets to you.”