Ten (Vers. 2)

The Secret

Trigger Warning: this chapter has removed the images containing excessive gore, however there are still descriptions, as to keep the original chapter in tact. If you would like to read the full version of this chapter, bloody images and all, click here



It was dizzying.



Esmerelda’s vision was blurring as she laid perfectly still on the ground. Explosions were still going off, she could hear them faintly through the heavy ringing that filled her own ears.
It felt surreal.



She needed to move her body, to run, yet she continued to lay motionless, staring at the ominous gray skies as rain began to fall. Wasn't there a ceiling there before?
Technicalities didn't matter anymore.
Living did.



Calypso was here - her followers. She needed to get out and run, yet she was held in place. Her brain was screaming to get up but her body didn’t seem to notice or care about the order.
She began to hear whispers speaking unintelligibly, but she knew she had to be mistaken. Her ears were still ringing too loudly for it to be anyone nearby. She was slowly starting to get feeling in her body and she felt weight across her chest and a dull throbbing in her stomach that matched her pulse.



It was an aching pain that was slowly getting worse and worse as the ringing in her ears began to subside, replaced with the sounds of distant screaming.
Pleasant, she thought bitterly as she closed her eyes tightly. Even that couldn’t make that nightmare less real.



Carefully Esmerelda got the strength to lift her head up. She winced as pain began to override her other senses. Her sight narrowed slightly until she adjusted and was faced with a horrifying sight.
She was impaled.
She resisted gagging at the sight as blood oozed from the sides of the wound. Her mouth fell open and panic began to fill her.



She was impaled. She was fucking impaled.
Oh gods what was she even going to do?
She rested her body weight on one of her arms and with the other hand she slowly reached for the shrapnel that was horrifyingly sticking out from her body.



She felt like she was going to be sick and her vision darkened further. She closed her eyes tightly to try to regain her senses and she felt a slight jolt through her body like a soft pulse. It jolted her eyes open and she stared in horror at the blood gushing from around the foreign object that fucking impaled her.
She had to get it out of her.



It was the only thing she could think of.
It had to come out. It had to come out or she would die here.
She didn’t want to die here.
She didn't want to die period.
Without thinking any longer on it her hand reached forward and grasped at it carefully. Her throat tightened and she whimpered as her body reacted to the ever-so-slight movement of the wood in her stomach. It was inside her. It was impaling her.
It had to come out. It had to come out. It had to come out. Her grip tightened on the object as she tried to will herself to take it out.
It had to come out.
Rip it off like a band-aid.
It had to come out.
Oh gods why did this always have to happen to her?
She needed to do this now. She needed to do this now.
She closed her eyes and started a countdown in her head.
Five. This was miserable.
Four. She didn’t ask for this.
Three. Why did this always happen to her?
Two. She didn’t want to do this.
One and a half. It had to come out.
One and a third. It had to come out.
Tears prickled in her eyes as choked on a horrified sob.
One.
She hesitated before finally yanking as hard as she could.
The piece came loose and she chucked it away from her, gasping as she did so and her hand smashed against the hole that was left.
Tears fell from her eyes freely now and she sobbed; she wanted to pull herself away from from the wreckage of the room but everything hurt.
She could feel the blood coming through her fingers that clutched her open wound and her eyes spared a glance down as the pain started to lessen.
She yanked her hand away at the sight of her own blood turning bright blue. She clenched her hand into a fist and nearly slammed it into the ground.
Gods why couldn’t she just be normal?
She was light headed and the world was getting darker. No matter how hard she fought she couldn't stay awake. She blinked slowly and eventually her vision went black.


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“She’s so… small.”



“She is small and feeble.” Her mother responded calmly. “She’s not worthy of that artifact.”
“Are you questioning Calypso’s will?”



“I have never and will never question the will of Calypso… merely my own misfortune.”
Esmerelda tipped her head slightly around the corner and down the hallway to see her mother talking with the teacher of her class.



Her teacher had responded but the words had been spoken too softly.
“Are you sure they put the artifact in her? Perhaps there was a mistake?”
“No mistake at all, she definitely has it. Can’t you feel it?”



“Of course I can. I can’t even sense her Siren abilities because of it and I’m her mother. Though I’m beginning to wonder if she has any Siren abilities at all.”
“She’s the weakest of her age range. If she doesn’t perform well at her Rights Ceremony in a month then Calypso will have her killed and the artifact implanted in another child instead.”



Esmerelda frowned nudging her feet together. They always were so quick to talk about killing her. So calm. She had assumed everyone was spoken about that way.
“That artifact has killed eight infants before and now that it’s finally in a child it’s useless - so much for that.” Her mother was waving her hand, as if brushing it off.



“Most parents would be proud if their child defied possibilities in this way, Juliana.”
“I never asked to be a parent.”  
“Sometimes good things come from bad situations.”  
Her mother choked on a laugh before growing serious again. “She’s a good child. Do you really think she’ll fail her Rights Ceremony?”



Esmerelda felt her eyes sting. There was concern in her mother’s voice. Maybe she didn’t actually want her to die?
“I signed her up in the hopes that she wouldn’t be the one to survive the artifact… but now that she’s here...”



Esmerelda closed her eyes and rested her cheek against her knees.
Her teacher sighed “It doesn’t look good for her, no.”
She clutched her knees tighter.
She didn’t want to die. She wouldn’t.



“You haven’t seen her shape shift yet, though. She’s very good.”
“Juliana…”
“I’m serious - she’s very good at it. She can do it quickly too, it’s practically undetectable especially because of that artifact.” It was strange to hear her mother argue on her behalf.



Her teacher cut off her mother. “Juliana, it is doubtful that alone will impress Calypso, and you know it.”
It was silent and Esmerelda swallowed. Would her mother tell about their secret? The practice they had? The fact that Esmerelda could do more than change her appearance?
There was silence.



“We’ll work on it. Thank you.”
Esmerelda folded her arms across her chest, dread seeping into her as her mother said goodbyes to her teacher. She needed to sneak back off to bed, but she felt stuck in place.



“I know you’re listening, Nightingale.” Her mother called to her from the living room, sending a shiver down her spine at being caught. “Come on out.”
She shuffled to her feet and pulled herself into the light of the living room. “Sorry, mama.”
“What are you doing up, child?”



Esmerelda felt her lip tremble and she studied the worn wooden floor. “You… you were talking about me.”
“Yes, your teacher had stopped by to let me know of your progress.” Her mother’s gaze was level, and they both knew it was more than that.
Esmerelda sniffled and hastily wiped at her nose before shoving her hands behind her back. “I… I don’t wanna die, mama.”
Her mother held out her hand. “Come here, Nightingale.”



Esmerelda ran across the living room, burying her face into her mother’s skirt where she cried.
“I’m certain your abilities will impress Calypso, child. We just need to reveal it at exactly the right moment.” Her mother smoothed her hair down as she spoke.
“B-B-But what-what if I… I-I can’t do it on… on command?” Esmerelda choked on her words between her tears.



“We’ll practice some more tomorrow, now you need your sleep.” Her mother kept stroking her hair before she began to sing softly. The song was all-too familiar and comforting.
“I can’t sleep tonight, wide awake and so confused. Everything is in line, but I’m bruised. I need a voice to echo, I need a light to take my home. I kind of need a hero, is it you?”



“I never see the forest for the trees. I could really use your melody. I’m a little blind, I think it’s time for you to find me.”
“Can you be my Nightingale? Sing to me I know you’re there. You could be my sanity; bring me peace; sing me to sleep.”



“Say you’ll be my Nightingale?”  

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“ESMERELDA?!”
Quinn was screaming as he ran through the deserted town. This town was just too big. A small town it was, but it was just too damn big.



She could be anywhere and he couldn’t even think straight about where to begin.
It was stupid to run like he was, to give away his position. His disguise was hasty, he was lucky he remembered one at all.



He should’ve paid more attention at the Madhouse meeting. Why here of all places? Why her?
She would be another casualty. Another ant smashed under the boot of two bickering gods.
His heart was racing and he swallowed, preparing to call out to her again, but he knew that was foolish and wasn’t going to get him anywhere.



He wasn’t here to draw attention to himself. This wasn’t his fight. There weren’t many people around, but it didn’t matter - they were always listening, those bloody Sirens.



He stopped to catch his breath, leaning against a building in the park he had come across. Rain was beginning to fall now - just perfect.
Quinn had always hated Sirens.
Esmerelda was a Siren, but she wasn’t; she didn’t feel like one.
Not like those other Sirens.



“I keep my nose the fuck away from the gods as much as I possibly can.”
It was so much more than that, though. She wasn’t anything like anyone he had ever met before. She was beautiful. She was fun. She was free.



She didn’t deserve to get dragged down into this stupid spat between two obscenely powerful beings.
Quinn had never been so reckless before.
He had never cared before.
He stopped himself; ok, cared was a strong word. Perhaps it leaned more on felt responsible for, or maybe even a touch of liked?
Maybe he just saw a lot of himself in her? That would work too.
Caring was never on his agenda.
Esmerelda was just different and he liked that about her.



His eyes glanced around at the wrecked surroundings. Her messages said something about food - a restaurant? It had been a long time since he’d been in Moonlight Falls but he racked his brain to recall any places to eat.
There was that diner all the way off on the other side of town… and there was McMillans right down the road. Quinn leaned around and glanced at the old family restaurant that was now splintered and smoking.



His gut sank and he pushed himself off the wall to pick up jogging again.
He would check there first, though the diner was farther and if she needed him he should get there as soon as possible…
McMillans first. Just to confirm she wasn’t there.



From the looks of the building, he silently hoped she wasn’t there.
He picked up speed as a sick feeling of impending dread filled him. He could hear the shriek of a Cursed Siren nearby and he clenched his fists.



He skidded to a stop at the archway where the door used to be. This place had been annihilated by a bomb - or several. The smell that filled the air was rancid and Quinn resisted gagging.



He doubled over and retched when he spotted a limb from someone half concealed by a table.
What if that was her?
His gut flipped over and he cursed under his breath.
Something bright shone in the light and caught his eye, causing his head to jerk to the side.
A shell.



It was glittering and seemed magical, yet it was only magically colored to look that way. He picked it up carefully and twisted it in his hand when he glanced at the scene around it.
There was a stain on the ground and his fingers dipped to touch it.



Blood.
Still wet.
His fingers retracted into a fist reflexively, but before he could move to stand he spotted a cell phone that had skidded under the nearby rubble.
No.
Gods no.
He dove for it and flicked it on. The screen was a little beat up and splattered with blood, but it still came to life.
Not Quinn.



He couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t wrap his head around it.
His eyes began to search the area desperately. Blood on the ground, but no body. A shell. A phone. Esmerelda’s suitcase.
No Esmerelda.
Where was she?
Surely the Siren’s couldn’t have-



He remembered the way Zeke had dumped that woman in the water and all the air escaped his lungs at once.
No, his logic calmed him, there would’ve been scraps. A grotesque fact, yet it comforted him slightly. She was here.
She was alive. She had to be.



He shoved himself to his feet and opened his mouth to call for her when the shriek of a Cursed Siren echoed all too close by followed by another. There were at least two of them here to scope the wreckage.
Quinn was not in a forgiving mood.
His heart was pounding and the longer he sat in the filth and wreckage of this place the angrier he became. He moved with bitterness and purpose as he stepped towards the nearest gaping hole in the wall, following the shrieks.



He prepared to step through to the other side when a Cursed Siren flew past him through the hole, promptly slammed into the ground where it rolled and lay unconscious, sparks still flying from where it came.
Quinn looked at the creature confused before his head spun around to look outside for what had caused such a force.
Ambar's followers did not have magic like that.



No one he knew had magic like that. That was a raw magic reaction, not something anyone who used regular, filtered magic would be capable of.
There was another Cursed Siren swatting at the air outside and Quinn felt his confusion intensify.
He could ask his master about it later. He pulled his hand backward and twisted the magic in the air around him; strings shot down towards the Cursed Siren and yanked it upward.
The stupid thing didn’t even bother to fight his strings, instead it kept reaching and grabbing for a bird that weakly struggled to stay in the air.



A bird? Really? In the middle of a war and these stupid things were distracted by a bird? Quinn shook his head with a mixture of hatred and pity as he tugged harder, finally doing the killing blow.
He let the body drop and his eyes searched for the bird once again - it was a brown, tiny bird. One of it’s wings seemed to struggle to keep it airbound.
A nightingale.



No, it couldn’t be. He had to be superstitious if that was truly a nightingale. His eyes were glued to it as it struggled to gain altitude before dropping again and again. He stepped out of the hole in the wall to keep his sight on it when it finally plummeted out of the sky.



His eyes widened and he jolted forward, reaching and trying to manipulate the magic around it to slow the fall.
It touched the barrier he created and burst suddenly. He winced back, concern filling him until he realized what was happening.



Esmerelda.


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Playlist
"Indestructible" by Twelve Titans
"My Love" by Sia
"Faded" by Alan Walker

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