“Not again! This is getting old Memphis!”

A disgruntled sigh left her lips as Valeria beheld her husky dashing off into the darkness. It had been a week since her return from the impromptu trip she had taken and it comforted her in a way to notice that nothing really had changed around the city. While her old self would have found that dull and would have embarked on a new adventure, this new more mature side of her welcomed such stability. It was  afterall like coming back home.

For most of her life, Val had tried to understand the word home and what it really meant to have one. But with the way her family had disintegrated very early in her childhood, that sense of belongingness had eluded her- a space left empty that, if she was being very honest with herself, even years of wanderlust had not filled.

Evermore, in that regard, had been a surprise for her in more than one way.

Her thick boots began tracking Memphis’ paw prints, the chilly air brushing past her cheeks and Valeria couldn’t help wondering about the way things worked out in the end or atleast what seemed to her like a momentary end- an end of a moment and the beginning of another new one. Her eyes flickered across the panorama in front of her, the view so familiar that she could now close her eyes and still know where to go and what she would find. A few months ago, she had believed such luxury of belongingness far beyond the realm of her destiny, but here she was in a place that has come to mean so much that the thought of ever leaving it sent a pang of unease to her heart.

Though the territory she was currently venturing into didn’t seem all that familiar. Her husky’s exuberant take off and her own musings had made her lose track of the direction. She was in the process of turning on her phone’s flashlight to observe her surroundings better when a familiar bark greeted her ears. With an exasperated ‘that husky shall be the death of me’ Valeria began walking in the direction of that sound.

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The diviner didn’t feel like herself. Since the moment that ring had shattered into pieces, everything had come seeping in bit by bit, her powers were unruly and seemed to have a mind of their own, they kept showing up at the worst moments and she was lucky that she hadn’t exposed herself yet. For the most part she had just avoided going outside, because being around people seemed to be what triggered her emotions, like when she saw a couple in the street or someone walked by with a cologne that smelled like Bradyn’s used to.

Tonight however she found herself with no choice but to head out onto the streets of Evermore, after realizing she had quite literally eaten herself out of house and home over the past week. She wore a thick winter coat and a black hoodie underneath which she had pulled up over her head to keep it warm and also to keep her face hidden. It was a simple trip to the store to buy groceries, she could handle it right? She kept telling herself she could over and over again as she walked, though she noticed that the more she said it the more she noticed strange things happening around her.

Dakota shook her head, refusing to let it control her, she couldn’t remain cooped up in her apartment forever could she? She had to learn to tackle this head on before she seriously hurt herself or worse, someone else. The brunette tried to slow her breathing, pulling in the threads that felt like they were extending around her, Kota was still new to this magic thing but it was almost like she could see it around her, weaving liked it had its own thoughts and will.

Kota thought she was doing a pretty good job of reigning it in, watching as the lights above her stopped flickering and the wind that she had caused to race slowed back to it’s normal pace for a cold winter’s night. Well she was doing well until she started to hear footsteps walking behind her and a small animal figure brushed past her legs. Kota did her best to control her reaction but in tandem with her shock the streetlight above her blew the bulb and shattered glass down onto the street.

Walking around the city in the evenings one of her favorite activities and with the cold wind playing with her hair, Valeria often felt truly and utterly free. Strangely, she felt like she was more free settled here than she had been on all her wanderlust journeys across the world. At times it stunned her, just how far she had come from being without a purpose to now overseeing a faction and there were times when her mind played the whole ‘what if’ game with her- what if she had never been called here by Max, what if she had been stubborn and refused to accept his offer, a whole collection of questions that made her hold on to the reality of her current life even more tightly.

And like any other evening, today's walk should have been nice and relaxing, well as nice and relaxing as it could get handling a mischievous dog. Valeria had expected some chaos to ensue where Memphis was concerned. In the span of a week since their return, her husky had stolen a wallet, grabbed somebody's donut, tried eating a pet squirrel and had gotten people to play catch quite against their desires. Yet none of those shenanigans had prepared her for the situation she was now confronted with.

She had been running along the pavement getting closer to her husky's chasing form, when all suddenly the streetlight blew the bulb and the shock of it combined with her haphazard attempts to avoid the glass rain made her lose her momentum. Trying to gain it while still unbalanced was certainly not a smart choice and Val found herself tumbling on the ground, her palm hitting one of those wayward pieces of glass and her ankle throbbing with pain. It took her a moment to regain her senses only to find Memphis growling loudly at a woman standing a few steps ahead of her. In her steady intent on getting to her husky, Valeria had not noticed her presence there and now that her focus was drawn to her, it almost seemed like she had caused the explosion. Streetlights, afterall did not usually blow themselves in that manner.

"What was that? What were you trying to do?!" Her rattled inquiry wasn't the best conversation starter, but having been knocked off her feet and left bleeding a little, Val wasn't in a mood to play polite. If there wasn't anyone around, she could have healed the cuts and bruises, but whatever had happened just then, hadn't been a technological error, rather it seemed more to do with magic and that made her stay alert and distrustful. If there was anything that could considerably weaken the Dhampirs, it was magic and she really did not want to find out till what extent it could make her vulnerable. 

The moment that she heard the smashing of the glass the diviner felt her heartbeat begin to quicken and she raised her hand as if to block any shades of glass from hitting her knowing they would hurt if they buried into her skin but with her current deteriorating state the movement caused a burst of magic to surround her in an ethereal light which there was no mistaking to be magic. She did her best to try and reign it in but it seemed like her powers had a mind of her own at that moment, the bubble only getting brighter around her despite her attempts.

It wasn’t until she heard the sound of someone falling to the ground that she finally managed to stop the light from appearing, it flowing back into the female’s body. She wanted to make a run for it before it got worse, in all this time her emotions were just getting worst realizing that what she had accidentally done had hurt someone. She could see blood running from the woman’s hand as the dog which had run past her earlier was now growling at her, standing in the space between Dakota and the other woman. But as she stepped back the husky continued to edge towards her, standing protectively over its owner.

Dakota wanted to try and make it clear to the blonde that she hadn’t purposely tried to hurt her but her heartbeat was already beginning to pound in her chest, scared at what she had done and scared from the fact she was now being shouted at. This was a bad idea, this was a really bad idea. “Don’t come any closer” she tried to warn the pair of them, her hands holding up in what she wanted to show as surrender but of course her wayward magic chose that moment to show it’s face again, the diviner’s eyes turning a bright shade of pale blue and wind picking up pace around them once more. One thing was for sure, Dakota wasn’t doing a very good job of stopping a fight breaking out right now and she already knew that she would lose if one did.

Valeria couldn't remember the last time she had felt physically vulnerable. Emotionally, she often did find herself struggling though that had lessened the moment she had left Paris. It had taken her a long time to mend the scars left by her father and she often found herself running away the moment things got too complicated- a habit she had to break but Evermore had been instrumental in the many positive life-style changes that had taken place. The urge to pick up a bag and travel at the drop of a coin had settled and although Valeria would always enjoy travelling, it would now be for a change of scene more than a means of escape. Plus Evermore had always been a safe haven for her and she knew for certain that it would now always be her home.

But being on the ground with her right hand bleeding, she was definitely reconsidering the whole safe thing and her husky's continued barking and growling wasn't helping matter either. With a stern 'Memphis quite', Val focused her attention on the stranger, now certain that she had been responsible for the blasting streetlights. She didn't know exactly what her intentions had been, but Val intended to find out. She had always supported peace co-existence and anything and anyone that threatened that was automatically seen as the enemy. Though some may see her vision as being too black and white, it was how she had always functioned and it had worked well for her so far.

"Rather difficult to come anywhere near you in my current position. Not only is my hand bleeding but I may also have sprained my ankle" she shot back with a humourless laugh. Perhaps this could be the test, if she was indeed harmless and if that had been an accident, she would probably help Val and they could both go their merry way. Thought apparently that didn't seem like her companion's plan. An angry curse spewed from her lips as Val beheld her eyes changing her and the wind around them picking up the pace. It made some particles enter her eyes and momentarily blinded her which caused her already fraying temper to exclalate. Though on the ground, Val grabbed her weapon and pointed it at the girl "I have no idea what your deal is, but if it is a fight you want, it will be a fight you'll get" 

Dakota knew she was dangerous, at this point she didn’t actually know how to stop the powers from coming, the more emotional or panicked she got the worse they responded, they manifested in violent ways, such as breaking delicate objects or affecting the weather around her. She really wished she could get a grip over it because then perhaps this part of herself wouldn’t feel like so much of a burden but for now, she was just doing her best to keep her calm, trying not to let her emotions get out of control and for the most part stay away from others.

Staring in shock back at the blonde who she noted had fallen back and cut her palm, Dakota was almost horrified by what her mistake had caused, the problem was that her own reaction to what was happening only seemed to spur her powers on further, her hand began to tremble at her side causing things around her tremble too, from the wind that increased in speed to the very ground below them. The brunette’s eyes moved to the dog who obeyed his master and backed away as asked and Dakota breathed a sigh of relief, though her entire being was now riled up and she still wasn’t able to get a handle over it.

Dakota sucked in a breath as she realized the damage she had done to the other female, she felt awful for it, it was all she was trying to avoid doing, hurting others and yet that seemed to be the first thing her powers did whenever she lost control of them. Kota didn’t know how to handle it. She shook her head from side to side a few times shielding herself with her arms as though that would stop her powers from escalating, instead, it did the opposite and she saw dark tendrils flowing around her arms. Seeing the weapon pointed towards her she gasped softly shaking her head “I don’t want to do this please don’t aggravate them” she pleaded knowing she couldn’t stop her powers when they started taking her over.

“Just run, everyone else does” she warned as she attempted to slow her breathing, her eyes fluttering shut she tried to figure out how to pull in all the tendrils in her mind that were surrounding her “I can’t…” she spoke defeated “I don’t know how to c….” she didn’t get the word control out before she felt her whole spirit leap, causing her to teleport a few meters backward. In shock, Dakota panicked and fell backward to the floor.

If Valeria had learnt anything over the years, it was the fact that most people could neither be trusted nor relied on. While some may see this as a jaded view on life, for her, it had served well as a defense mechanism. The people she had often relied on when she had been young, had either left or had never been trustworthy in the first place. Though that perspective was slowly changing since coming to Evermore, it would be a long while before she could easily believe what others were saying. Which is why, despite the woman's words, she didn't lower her weapon. And perhaps her reasons were justified when she saw dark tendrils flowing around the female's arms. Without wasting a single moment, Valeria invoked the shield casting rune and formed a protective shield over both her and Memphis. It wasn't a difficult rune to cast but in the presence of magic, she could feel her powers slowly start to drain. 

Using her weapon's strength, Val slowly rose to her feet, her balance precariously unpredictable. "As you see, it would be a miracle if I can walk, let alone run right now" she huffed out a reply, her gaze fixed on the woman in front. Val had no idea what she had done to aggravate her or just what was going on right now, but the next few seconds definitely cleared that up for her. As she saw the woman being lifted up on the ground and being teleported backwards, her grip on her own weapon tightened. Either something was really wrong or the woman perhaps had no control over her own magic.

And as she heard those fragmented words and observed the woman falling backwards, it became evident that it was the latter. "What is happening? Why can't you make it stop?" her curiosity burst forth from her lips as she tried to regain her footing. However, before she could say anything further, Memphis who had been pretty well-behaved till now, decided that it was an appropriate moment to act out and charged towards the woman, bouncing around her and barking loud enough to wake up the dead. "Memphis! Enough! Come back here!" Valeria commanded, however it seemed like her husky had decided to ignore her words and with a muttered curse she began slowly making her way towards the pair, trying to explain her dog's wayward behaviour "She means no harm, she is all bark and no bite" 

Dakota was probably the least likely person to want to hurt anyone, especially a stranger who had done nothing wrong, none of the things she did with her powers were intentional, she just got the feeling this was backlash she deserved for pushing them away for so long. Young diviners went through a short spot of this and then they learned how to get a handle on it and they then got on with her life. Dakota, however, seemed to skip that part and went straight to self destruct mode. Every time she tried to show the blonde that she wasn’t looking for a fight and she was not threatening her powers seemed to show the opposite and the more panicked she got about everything the more they manifested.

The teleportation backward, while it was rough and the instant that Dakota landed on the ground with a thud she knew she was going to bruise, was actually something that she triggered semi purposely. Or at least she had been thinking about getting out of there so hard that her powers seemed to listen. She let out a grunt of pain and she ran her hand over her arm which she had landed on funny before curling up in a ball. Honestly, she just wanted to burst into tears at that moment because she didn’t know what else to do, she had tried everything short of begging another diviner to make her another protection ring but she knew that would only ever be a temporary fix. Instead of crying though she attempted to slow her breathing, which was hard to do when the dog from earlier came running.

Her natural reaction was to try and scramble backward away from the husky, she had no idea what her temperament was and she had just accidentally caused harm to the dog’s owner so she was half expecting the dog to be aggressive. She was shaking her head a little trying to calm herself down, breathing in, counting a few seconds and then breathing out despite the loud barking sound. When she heard the woman come closer to her she turned her head up towards her and swallowed before she very hesitantly held her hand out towards the animal. To her surprise, the pup seemed to calm a little and stepped forward to sniff her hand. A smile crossed Dakota’s face in response and then a peal of laughter escaped her lips when she felt the husky lick her hand.

Realizing she was in her own little world she was suddenly snapped out of it by the blonde’s voice again, Dakota’s eyes widened as she saw the blood and scuff marks on her “Oh my gosh I am so sorry” she just sat there looking up at her with a guilty look on her face for a few moments “I uh…” she looked down ashamed “I don’t know how to control my powers so when I get panicked or scared then things get crazy” she breathed a long sigh.

With a relieved sigh, Valeria slowly lowered herself down and sat besides the girl. She didn't know much about Magic, but she definitely knew something about control and how difficult it can be at times to achieve it. All her life, she had to control her emotions and her heart from getting involved too deep or getting tangled too much. Her childhood had simply shown her a bleak world view of just how detrimental attachments could be and she had spent her whole adult life running away from it. It was ironic how the very thing she did to protect her heart from hurt ended up wounding her even more. And although the impulse to escape wasn't there in her any longer, the impulse to shield and protect herself was still strong and Val knew it would take much effort and a lot of patience to trust others and not instantaneously jump to worst case scenarios.

"It is all right. I've had worse" she replied with a smile turning towards the girl "I don't do well with magic. It...weakens me so I had to react the way I did" And the truth was rather evident in her words, her usually agile body now feeling like a dead weight. She doubted whether she could actually make it home by herself and knew she'd probably have to call Donovan or Scorpios to pick her up. "Despite the outcome, that was some cool exhibition of power though. I know it is not exactly the right thing to say in the present situation but...I figured if we see something as being a source of freedom rather than a bondage, we'd have better chance at dealing with it" A nonchalant shrug followed her statement and as Memphis came to lay its head on her lap, she chuckled and lightly scratched its head "But I am not the best person to comment on this. I don't know much about your circumstance so I'll spare you my agony aunt advice." Rummaging through the purse, she removed a packet of cookie and held it towards her companion "Doesn't mean I can't share these. Hopefully you'll feel much better after having them"

Noticing the time, Val let out a tired sigh "Are you okay to get back home? I might call my friend for help and we can drop you. We are pretty harmless" The fact that she had started to see the humor in the situation was enough to tell her that she wasn't badly hurt. If anything it seemed like a good enough lesson for her to incorporate training against magical attack in the course for the new members. Her companion had no intention of hurting her, yet the magic had been very powerful. She didn't even want to think of what would happen if someone who wanted to hurt her or the faction decide to use it against them. Shaking away from the negative thoughts for now, she turned her attention back to the girl "Doesn't seem like the best situation for meeting someone new, but we can't control everything now, can we? I am Valeria Aldridge. Now let's get ourselves home."

 

Dakota was glad when the other woman stopped pointing the weapon at her, the diviner was pretty sure she wasn’t actually going to use it and was simply just trying to protect herself but it still made her feel nervous nonetheless. She glanced over towards the blonde, who now she was sitting next to her seemed to have quite friendly expressive features which made the brunette smile gently in her direction, the two of them falling into a strange silence for a moment. Kota was mostly focusing on her breathing and getting her powers under control, she didn’t really have much experience with what and what didn’t work when it came to this stuff but she figured deep breaths and calmness was a good place to start.

“I don’t do well with magic either” the diviner commented with a rather ironic laugh shaking her head a little, she should have by now, she was old enough that she should be in her prime of control of her magic but that wasn’t the path she had gone down and now she was forced to learn it all by herself, like she probably should have done when she was 12 “I don’t want to hurt anyone though, I’ve been trying my best just to lead a” she shrugged “human life I guess, but then I suppose I should realize sooner or later that I’m not human” Dakota’s eyes moved down to the husky who laid her head in the blonde’s lap and smiled gently, bark was definitely worse than bite after all “I’ve never really thought about it like that” Kota commented with a nonchalant shrug of her shoulders. Her eyes did light up at the sight of food though, yes, that was why she had left the house in the first place “Damn you already found my weakness” Dakota joked as she took one of the cookies offered and nibbled on the edge “Thanks” she spoke sincerely, this thing could have gone so differently she realized.

When the blonde mentioned getting home Dakota swallowed, well she wasn’t really that far from home but she couldn’t really go back empty-handed, she really was out of food “Well…” she cleared her throat “I actually really need to go to the shop and get some food, my fridge is completely empty” though she was worried about being around all those people, she hummed softly in frustration, she hated feeling like this, like she was a danger to those around her. She did feel calmer around the blonde now she knew her though. Hearing the name Dakota furrowed her brows for a moment, she was sure she had heard that name before but she couldn’t pin where “My name’s Dakota, Dakota Mayfield” she returned the offer as she looked at the other female “There is one spell that I uh…” she pursed her lips “That I know pretty well” it was the only one she learned and sometimes took her ring off to use “I can probably help you heal that” she admitted with a determined nod, she could fix her mistake, she felt like she could do it.

The air felt calm and Val took a moment to stare at the sky littered with stars. Very few knew her passion for star-gazing but something about the absolute vastness of the universe had often served as a way to ground her and put things in perspective. This night had given her much to think about and work on. Val was confronted with the harsh fact that she wasn't as invincible as she'd like herself and the faction to believe, that they would have to work on ways to avoid being affected by magic as much as possible, that if her companion had actually been a real threat, Val would have been in some serious danger. It was a pride-pricking, humbling experience and she didn't know how to really come to terms with it. Echos of her past and her father's words had always lead her to believe that exhibition of weakness was wrong and something that had to be avoided. Today Val realised no matter what principles she was exposed to, a part of her would always be vulnerable, weak and she would have to deal with it.

A slow grin spread across her lips at her companion's words. "I believe this is the moment when I say 'why try to fit in when you can always stand out'. I always wanted to quote that statement atleast once." Though her words were in jest, Val could in some ways understand what she was trying to say. Most people assumed that identity was an easy thing to understand or explain, but when the foundation they were construed upon were themselves weak, it was natural for it to collapse completely and it took months if not years to rebuild it again. Taking a cookie for herself, Val acknowledged her words with a small nod. They sat in relative silence for a few moments eating the cookie and just contemplating about things in general. "You'll...get there you know" she slowly began, her gaze towards the stars instead of her companion "as cliche as it sounds right now, you'll get there"

Memphis' soft bark at the mention of food broke the contemplative air and Val chuckled "Do you want some company? There is no better bonding ritual than food shopping and food sharing" Though getting back up and remaining on her feet proved to be quite a task. Val tried to mask her pain but nothing could hide the hint of grimace across her face or the way her teeth were tugging at her lips. She focused on Dakota's declaration for a moment, weighing her options before giving a slow nod of acquiescence "Well Dakota. I would say it was a pleasure to meet you but I think I'll reserve it for after your magical healing spells" Val grinned despite the steady pain in her limbs before gesturing dramatically "Show me what you got. "

 

Dakota was glad that the tension had faded away and she was able to just sit with the other woman and reflect on things, she knew she couldn’t keep going this way and was probably going to end up really hurting someone or herself if she didn’t get things under control soon, she told herself that she was going to seek out someone to train her, or at least someone who could give her a spellbook so she could practice her magic, she had spent so long pushing away who she was but tonight reminded her that she wasn’t human, she wasn’t her sister. When she looked at the other woman she felt awful for hurting her but she also saw a quiet strength in her that Kota really admired, had they met on better terms dare she say that she was the kind of person the diviner could see herself being friends with.

Dakota laughed and wrinkled her nose a little at the slightly cheesy line that she heard from the dhampir’s lips “Did it feel good?” she teased at the fact she had always wanted to say it, she was right though, fitting in just made you like everyone else around you and it had become clear for Dakota even when she was very young that was always going to stand out, might as well just accept it and own it at this point right? She pondered that as she nibbled on the cookie, the silence was strangely comfortable as they both sat caught up in their own thoughts for a little while “I really hope so” Kota responded to her words and gave a half smile “I don’t just wanna go through life just barely coping with my powers, I want to understand them, at least for my own sanity” seeing the other female tip her head back towards the sky Kota did too, eyes taking in the littering of stars all around them.

When Val offered to come with her the brunette was about to shake her head as a natural response but then she paused and pressed her lips together “That would actually be really nice” she commented with a nod, at least someone would be able to keep her in check if her powers decided to show face again “But you don’t have to join me out of pity” she added with a laugh, she wasn’t the blonde’s responsibility after all. She could tell Val was still in pain though, which made her eyes soften, she wanted to help with that, she wanted to prove to herself and the other woman that she could help with that. Hesitantly Dakota reached out to take Val’s arm in her hand and then closed her eyes, she managed to get a grasp over her power and pushed it down to her fingertips which she was holding against the dhampir’s skin “Venez très connu cendre” she whispered and the power flowed through from her to Val. The magic did as it was asked the began the healing process, flowing through the blonde’s body and speeding up the natural healing process exponentially. There was a proud smile on the brunette’s lips as she released her.

A year ago, things would have probably been different. She would have walked away in anger at being defeated and at having her pride ripped to shreds and would have definitely plotted revenge. Her whole life had been based on the philosophy of tit for tat and she wouldn't have been able to see things in perspective. Afterall teamwork itself had been a strange word in the vocabulary for her before Max had dragged her to this city.

"It does actually. I do have TEDx speaker potential, don't you think?" An impish smile grazed her lips as she fiddled with the phone in her hand. "Power is a strange thing...we spend half our life trying to gain it and the other half trying to reign it." An amused chuckle burst forth from her lips at her own words. Her father had driven her to the brink in his quest for control and power and she had seen first hand what uninhibited lust for it did to people and communities. Evermore seemed peaceful now but a part of her was definitely sceptical of just how long it would last. "I hope for your sake..." Val continued "that you do understand them. As initimidating, as it can be to wield power, it is also absolutely exhilarating" She could still remember the rush when she had first cast her rune and she would wish that thrill for all her members and everyone who had the ability to manipulate power if it was aimed at a positive cause.

"You should know that I never do anything for pity. I have purely selfish reasons for coming with you. You are paying for my grocery as a treat after all" As Kota grabbed her hand, the dhampir steeled herself for anything that could go wrong, her mind already whirling with the worst case scenario and the ways to deal with them. She had expected to feel something, but her jaw slackened at the absolute rush of magic that filled her arm and instead of feeling like she was being tossed in a shredder, she felt absolutely invigorated. Not only had the pain started to rapidly subside but also the exhaustion from casting her runes was almost nonexistent. 

"Wow!" a wide grin lightened up her features as she looked at Dakota in wonder "You are going to be my friend from now Kota. I'd hate to be on your wrong side" With a playful wink, she got up. "Now let's get some food and you can tell me more about yourself. You already know my weakness" gesturing from the cookie in her hand to an excited Memphis by her side, she cheekily grinned " it is only fair now that I know yours"

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