-By any chance, has any of you found something?
-Oh, I did.- Amélie and Ezra claim at the same time, drawing everyone’s attention immediately. Not to mention the weird looks both of them gave each other for the perfect timing.

Image by Natasha

-I found a rune in the forest, near the Academy.- Ezra shoots first, almost sounding competitive even though there was no such necessity.
-Well, I found...- Amélie proudly stated as she took out of her bag a diary and three old cassette records, infected by the drunkenness and expectantly atmosphere.-This on an old shack near the Academy as well.
-And that is?-Ophelia, partnered with Ezra in teasing who got better clues and added a little mockingly towards the brunette until being intercepted by Theo with the refute.
-A written record of the activities of the cult from her mother. The cassettes are a plus.
-Well, we found that Ezra’s money source is actually a drug cult dealer.-Ophelia raises herself, taking into account the fact that they almost forgot about Mel’s case.- Which by the way, could be a very important clue about how the hell they bribed everyone!
-Which source of money?-Adélaïde finally added something at the chaos that was developing in front of her with amusement.
-Ah, one pharmacist that lives at the outskirt of Catachan. In a very inhabited and old area.-Ezra looked at Corey for a second to confirm and had a noded for an answer.
-Wait, doesn’t that sound like the one you saw with that man Evan?-Judith lightly tugged on Adélaïde's sleeve to get her attention on the matter. Perking everyone at hearing the name of that mad man.

It didn't take long for the clue competition to turn into a heated discussion about which information should be given priority, considering that there were too many inconsistencies in the stories. And in the midst of all that chaos, the white-haired girl decided to ignore them to calmly take out the things that she had on hand after the Belerose mission from her backpack and inspect with the emerald irises a surface to write on. Finally, an old but surprisingly clean blackboard was peeking through wooden tables and benches.

“At least the cleaning staff does their regular work for maintenance”
”For the pseudo-prestige of this place and that type of scholar watchdog, it would be a wonder if not”

chalk, blackboard, and wattpad image

The blonde giggles quietly as she walked towards it and slowly moves the wooden furniture and search for any trace of chalk. Which after founding it, she gazed at her back for a moment to see how Theo was ready to attack Judith’s throat with a pen if it wasn’t because Amélie was technically pulling her back by her button white shirt while Adélaïde did the same with her friend by strongly grabbing her waist. Ophelia and Ezra were two steps away from the conflict but were muttering aggressively about the truth of their suspicions.

It was until Corey finished writing what they had said so far in a chart, that most of them turned their gazes perplexed after hearing the drop of a bomb sentence:

-Well, since I just found a place where the shadows can’t even enter and some old occult books...-She circled Amélie’s name, along with her subtitle “Cassettes and Mother’s Diary”- I think we should start with this….Did I say something bad?
The almost bloody conflict seized abruptly to then stare at the pale petite girl with an obnoxious expression, whose only main concern was if what she said was considered as offensive. It was a collective effect she had over them since the first time they saw her since she was dangerously calm about the topic as if something worse existed in the first place. Everyone wanted to give priority to their own thoughts of course, but they knew that even if they did not want to, it is necessary to start somewhere and one with evidence at that.

-I think for a starting point this one is fine.- Corey taps Amélie’s name again on the blackboard and looks up with closed eyes, probably to organize her thoughts.- Ezra’s rune and my book records are decoded so we need more time with that, and the topic with Mr. Rafferty is a little complicated since we lack information as well.-The platinum blonde glances at Ophelia apologetically.- I haven’t forgotten about Mel’s situation but to check that, we need a sample of what caused that white smoke to compare it with the white powder so…
-I get it, fine.-Ophelia felt quite disappointed but couldn’t deny the facts of it in the first place. Also, Corey’s rambling was like hearing mini-bullets at her pride.- But what do you mean about a place where the shadows can’t enter?
-I guess Ezra didn’t explain it to you in detail at the end.- The poor boy flinched for the accusation.- Belerose garden ended up being a hut in the main cemetery where the shadows don’t even enter in the first place.
-How’s that even possible?-Theo insisted incredulous with a big frown.
-I don’t really know so.- Corey closed her eyes for a second, frowned, and put a hand over her forehead to finally open her eyes again. With an amused smile towards the olive-skinned girl.-That’s why I wish to hear…-Since she did it first, the rest of them looked at Amélie for the answers she claimed a few minutes ago.- What a former ex-cult member left to say.

blueeyes, cold, and dark image Image by Victoire Alonso

The brunette gulped awkwardly as she stood behind Theodora, looking at the adamant hand that offered at the distance the little piece of chalk as if a teacher was talking. In the intricate part, Corey’s gaze became colder but her shimmering eyes depicted high amusement. Like the time when she defended her against Miss Calisson in their first meeting.

Amélie quietly grabbed the chalk and started to write the symbols she found on her mother’s diary. Creating even more confused glances between them but still paying attention nonetheless.
-As I said, this was on an abandoned shack, yet, this thing was on a clean shelf, along with...- The girl makes a pause and moves her hand to let Theo know that it was time to show the rest of the things from her backpack; a small jewelry box and a piece of parchment.
-Do you know what those drawings mean? -Ezra gets up to get closer to the blackboard, demanding silently but politely the chalk to draw the rune he remembered on the tree that day. Still, a little far away from the space Amélie decided to use.
-There was an inscription in Latin that explained that the symbols were called.- starting from the first rune on the left.- Skud, Urd, and Verandi.
-And that means?-Ophelia was almost literally using the maximum capacity of her brain to understand and connect the clues. It’s the first time in a while she has paid more attention to a blackboard.
-Apparently, it means the past, present, and future. Some sort of Nordic Morai.-The girl says dissatisfied. This is not the answer she wanted to bring here, it was too incomplete.
-Wait, this one…-Ezra added curiously, turning at Corey for confirmation again.- You had this one on your maps, isn’t it?
-Yes, but we called them a little different.-The boy passes the chalk to the Scottish girl.- Urd is what we call “Fehu” which means wealth, Skud is “Algiz” which means guardian or protection, and Verandi is called “Othila” which is a little bit difficult to explain but the closest translation means Heritage.
-So in short, this thing could mean guardian?-Theo rises up a little pendant with a carved rune in deep shiny blue with the rune Algiz, directly from the jewelry box, subsequently making the rest to display them on a big table near the blackboard.
-If we assume that, the other ones should mean a role in the cult too…-Adélaide and Judith added almost synchronized, ready to inspect the whole bunch of clues with them.

television, screencaps, and the vampire diaries image vikings, runes, and tattoo image book and journal image box, secret, and golden image

As time passes, everyone sees how the dark-green space is filled with Nordic runes, speculations here and there, symbols or addresses in between the connecting lines little by little. Then, the honey-eyed girl tries to explain that the diary is filled in a secret language, probably the same that is in the Grimoire-kind book Juliette gave them and Ophelia offered the last meeting, which after some considerations was passed to Corey to try and decode it while they talked about any other theories. Also, Adélaide took the liberty to write everything relevant they were talking about in a notebook on her own, just for the recording. The next thing that was left was the record cassettes; which by the way, lacked any type of label in the first place.

-I’ll go and see if there’s any cassette player in the other rooms.- Ezra auto-tasked himself and run immediately to any of the other classrooms around.
-What do you think?-Adélaïde questioned Corey, who was trying to compare the Grimoire to the journal and her diary notes so far.
-There’s enough coincidence and matched patterns in the writing to think that is the same language but I can’t…
-You can’t what? -Judith got in between and almost demanded with her gaze any improvement yet she was successfully ignored.
-I can't find the bases. It is as if they change depending on something that is not in the books.- She rotates the three books to explain to the people on the other side of the table.-Here it could mean the location of where the rituals were planned for how is written, yet, in this part, it repeats but with the explanation of a pentagram.
-So you can’t find how yet?-Ophelia looked hopelessly at the blonde who was twitching her eyebrows in hopes of making her brain work harder, but all in vain after this one shook her head sorrowfully.

-I’m back! -Ezra appears with what he promised and even more on his hands.- I wasn’t sure of which one so I brought everything that appears to have a cassette input.
-This one looks fine enough.- His partner in crime grabs the less tattered between the whole bunch.
-Which one first?-Amélie lifted the cassettes and almost all of them pointed at one that looked like the heaviest.-Well, let’s start then.

Almost everyone took a seat on the spaces where their closest allies were in different parts of the classroom. Judith and Adélaïde took over the only mini-sofa there was, Theodora and Amélie stayed near the player, still leaning on the wooden table where most of the research was laid out. Ezra and Ophelia ended up putting three chairs together to make a pseudo-bench for just themselves and Corey stood behind them, journal and pen in hand.

And so, one of them finally pushed the play button.

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At first, there was some static, possibly a product from the dust that may have begun to accumulate from the time passed until Amélie retrieved the tape trio from the warehouse, and as such, they all had different levels of discomfort varying on their tolerance to such high pitches. None of them knew what to expect from those cassettes but from all that they could have guessed from, a heavy breath and some whimpers were not a part of it.

They grew louder and sounded as though the recorder was desperately looking through some papers, making them look at each other, questioning if it was better to pause it or not...

Until they heard the first bang and a loud yet incomprehensible curse.

”Damn it!”
”Damn you! Why... Why did you have to lead them with an express ticket to misery's hut?”
”Is this what you truly wanted!? No... Yes?... I don't know anymore…”

An unnerving laugh and the group started to share alarmed glances with each other, more than one already wanting the tape to be brought to an end.

”The path towards salvation was supposed to be painless, easy even, and to ensure that we made sure that every Urd received their dosage before having the slits made.”
” They suffered no illness, no pain, and no terror. As cocoons, they were nothing aside from empty shells of whom they used to be by the time that the full moon came. And yet, I cannot shake the feeling that they perhaps did not entirely know what they should have... Why we had to do this.”
”Oh God, how do I pray that they were aware though and I pray for forgiveness if I played a part in a deception unbeknownst to myself. Even if I know that I do not deserve to be regarded as a servant of thyself, not anymore.”

Another laugh conveying his own incredulity in regards to his actions before the unknown man slammed something and his cries increased in intensity.

”My dearest Anna, you did great. You were majestic, full of vitality and radiance, not even tarnished by the entity that was sealed on you... It just pains me that I convinced you to go ahead when I should have told you to turn around and bolt far away from this hell. When your skin began to lose its beautiful colour, when your eyes began to sink into their crevices, when your hair started to fall and your physique weakened, I almost couldn't believe it!“
”How could an angel be gone almost in a second?”
”Oh God, why couldn't you have been just a rêverie? A picture created by my mind of my soulmate and perfect woman? No... No!”
”Instead, I watched, almost aghast how... How you bloody died on me! If any the one that had to be dying and disappearing in time had... To be me... Why you...? WHY THEM?! WHY-”

The tape was abruptly stopped by a stricken Amélie when she felt the tears starting to accumulate in her eyes, the soft whimpers of their sweet boyish cinnamon roll that desperately hugged his partner in crime in a search for some sweet comfort that even she, in her shaken state, couldn't properly provide. But they were not the only ones; Theo was swallowing her sobs as she tried not to make eye contact with any of them, in the meantime, Judith and Adélaide tried to console each other with unfocused eyes, showing how the shock was overwhelming. And at the end, Corey only stared blankly at her diary, repeating the same movement over and over with her pen.

“...ait!”

book image

An unfinished line surprised almost everyone, activating their fight or flight mechanism against the ominous door, which only showed the shadows of not only one, but probably more than two people behind it. And before they could even drag themselves to hide, the door is slammed open showing the desperate, terrified, and extremely haggard face of their History and Architecture teacher; Mr. Austen, along with familiar yet non-acquainted faces dragging him inside the classroom.

-I hate to impose ourselves in but...- Everyone admires how one single yellow-haired Senior pushed the poor old man at the silent orders of the brunette one.- We got tired of waiting for this ruthless being to move…
-You are…?-One of them asked silently.
-Dorcan Caiazzo, at your service. This one is Louis and the one at the back is Deus-He politely introduced the other two at the back who waved at them nonchalantly.- We’re Corey’s friends so don’t fret too much.

The guy finally makes Louis let go of the teacher’s coat and tells them something they couldn’t understand completely, but they quickly realize that it meant for the other two to go first and leave only him and Mr. Austen.
-I would recommend you to start talking, Mr. Austen.- Dorcan steps towards Corey who was still almost petrified for the shock, slowly grabbing the diary and the pen from the trembling hands with one hand and patting the blondes head with the other, as he read some pages to get a rough idea, but after mere seconds, his gaze was prostrated on the teacher who was inspected by everyone in the room.- I would hate to report one of my favorite teachers to the police, but oh well, you must be used to that already, huh?
The man remained in silence for a little while, glancing at the fearful but accusing gazes of his students. Nobody really talked until the poor old man sighed heavily and walked towards the blackboard to circle the three runes they discussed at first. Only to left a little description under them; Othila: In charge of the rituals, Algiz: Protection and maintenance of the ceremonies, and Fehu: The offering.
Then, he looked at the table and grabbed each one of the pins before talking.
-These little things were our status, our purpose.- The pin with the Othila rune was hung in his jacket. As if trying to immerse himself in the pond of memories.- My job was to organize the rituals so everything went smoothly, the job for the Skud, represented by Algiz was to recruit and protect everyone involved.- The Algiz pin is lowered, leaving only the “Fehu” pin on his dominant hand.- The Fehu’s or the Urd as Nöelle, I, and the poor boy in the record used to call them were, unfortunately, the volunteers to be offerings. That’s how she interpreted our “Wealth”.

As he gauges his student’s reactions, his gaze momentarily stops on the child of the one other ex-member mentioned, tears streaming on her flushed cheeks but eyes full of anguish and rage, as soon as she opened her mouth, quite possibly to let out what he assumed to be curses, the girl was held down by the waist, with an obvious attempt to calm her down before the black-haired female next to her spoke. Not an ounce of her usual defensive mechanism peeking through as she voiced the query from the group:

-You mean to say that Skud, Urd, and Verandi were the slang terms that your filthy brethren used to call yourselves and those pins were a means for you to not only recognize your own but to be warned as to how much information you were meant to share, right?

-Yes…

-Because I imagine that you, as a Verandi, ensured that no Urd was fully aware of what was happening, right?

-Well that’s…

-Were you acting under Hel’s orders?

-Where did you…

-Evan Friedrich.- Her declaration left him mute, a tense silence falling inside of the room as the group came out of their stupor, all of them showcasing different levels of disgust.
-I should have known that putrid bastard would have not stayed put… -Stopping for a brief moment of consideration, he finally understands how was it that they had managed to get that far and why Delaney Eyston and Nöelle Suárez had been acting out already to lead the children from a distance.
That man was dangerous and nobody knew for certain what his next movements would be, and so he finally agreed to aid them with what he could under the condition that none of the students present in the room would speak of the topic in public and would certainly not report him to any authority, even if he failed to understand a couple of things.

After all, those children were born with mischief and awful curiosity in their blood and he knew that even without his aid, they would continue to ransack what was better left unscathed.

-Have you had your meals yet?

Quite the odd question that confused them enormously, but nonetheless some shook their heads in denial.

-Well, let’s hope that you can stomach this.- he then proceeds to order the boy that pushed him inside of the room to go look for a VHS player. He slowly agreed after making the blonde sit, still in a shocking state in a chair near Ezra and Ophelia.

Silence was left after Dorcan went outside again. But Mr. Austen dared not speak, despite his barrage of questions, solely because the newly founded Photography Club stood in their previous positions, each and every single one of them deep within their minds, not even bothering to chat with their peers. Or that was until the very same brunette that he had analyzed, sighed and rubbed her temple in exasperation before clashing her honey orbs with his own.

-Door. Black with golden accents, what is it and why can I see it in nightmares? -She asked, her gaze cold and her tone void of the heartwarming emotions that she was known for within the Hearthstone staff.
He paled in realization, his eyes widening and his posture becoming even tenser as every single pair of eyes landed on his figure, he could not even try to muster a reply before the only male in the room spoke up.

-Speaking of which… Why are they more keen on tormenting me compared to the rest?- He certainly hoped that the answer was completely different from what he was suspecting, but his lecturer remained stunned, his hands slightly trembling from what he did not know.

Clearing his throat, Mr. Austen proceeds to recompose himself just enough to reply rather ambiguously albeit confirming their suspicions unbeknownst to their companions.

-You won’t like the answer to either of those questions children...
-We don’t care if we like them or not.- Corey finally spoke in a silent voice. But full sadness on her tone.- We just want you to confirm.

A suggestive look was all they needed, and so they understood, much to their displeasure, just exactly what it meant for Ezra to be so heavily stalked, even if they still had their doubts on the door that the brunette described.

-Was that... How my father... Died?!
-Your father disappeared before we could act, I was unaware that he had perished, so I am sorry Mr. Maher but the shadows seem to believe that you will act as his replacement… And in regards to the door…-he was interrupted by the platinum blonde as Ophelia caught hold of the boy that seemed sick and on the verge of fainting.

benjamín wadsworth, deadly class, and marcus lopez arguello image list, plot, and dark literature image

-Then what about Belerose? He wasn’t even a student…-As Corey said that, Dorcan appears with the VHS player, all agitated.
-Still, Delan thought that if we chose someone from the Academy...well, it would only be easier to blame us, so he found a boy who met all the characteristics to be…
Everyone was startled the moment Corey literally punched the man’s chin to stop his nonsense, almost making him fall from the shock. Except for Dorcan who whistled at the mere sound of the fist making contact on their lecturer’s face.
-Remind me not to mess with you…- he mutters under his breath, his eyes shining in amusement and adoration.

-The more you know… Corey you had it well hidden.- declares Theodora, her smirk conveying everything except purity as she echoed what everyone in the room momentarily thought, confusing both the latter, Dorcan and Mr. Austen who watched everything in disbelief at their mood swings.

-I beg your pardon?

Ophelia and Ezra somehow manage to give her a look that she could not read entirely while Adélaide shared a knowing glance with Judith who had her eyebrows lifted in surprise.

-Turns out that you are not the only one capable of throwing a punch Ly… better try that out with ya’ man and see if it works.
-Theo, I swear that if you continue, you will be the one receiving an uppercut.
-How was it that Lou would go? Calm down fiera!
-Theodora Blackwood!

The sudden laughter on the other side of the table, at the very bottom, depicted Mr. Austen giggling and almost snorting at what was happening. It was all too familiar, too nostalgic, and yet fulfilling. The guilt over him was consuming him profusely, the gazes overwhelmed him, his memories drowned him but there was still space to laugh. Laugh at his poor fate and fortunate new encounter with them. With the children of his belated comrades.
-Thanks for the gesture, Miss Eyston.-The man finally gets up, witnessing the disgusted face of the pale blonde as she hid behind the Italian guy.
-Oh no...Don’t tell me he’s one of those ?
-I’m not….whatever you think I am young lady

Still, the bewildered and disgusted gazes remained, but for the first time since he had been there, he found himself smiling earnestly at the sight before proceeding to request the VHS that was under Corey’s possession and placing one of them in the player, his smile instantly vanishing and a scowl appearing.

antique, fog, and dark image

That night, none of them slept.


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