Ashes of Fate, Season 2

by Cynus

Episode 11

Malevolence Part I

The cellar door opened with a loud creak, and a shot was fired from deep inside. The group dove for cover, all except for Jacob who stood tall and angry at the top of the staircase that led down within. Another series of shots came his way, but these hardly distorted Jacob's ghostly form as he started down the steps, his eyes burning with unspeakable rage.

He saw them then; five soldiers crouching behind overturned tables for cover. This was a makeshift mess hall for the troops that were stationed at the manor, and now it was a battlefield. Jacob could feel the energies of the souls around him like he had never felt them before. Their life-force called to him, resonating with his soul. They weren't even human; every single soldier that faced him was a werewolf. He cared little for their souls as they were the enemy of mankind, the ones who had destroyed everything to begin with.

And they were terrified as they watched their bullets pass through him. He breathed that terror in like it was a sweet fragrance, knowing he had caused it; their fear of him only served to fuel his rage. He reached out his hands and made a grasping motion as he thought about reaching into their chests and seizing their hearts. Two of the soldiers stood, clutching at their chests as he felt their trembling life-muscle in his hands, feeling their blood pumping in their veins, and then all at once the blood stopped flowing as their hearts, frozen by fear and his ghostly touch, stopped beating, and they collapsed to the ground as dead as he was.

Unlike humans, who once seeing their doom often turned to flee, hoping there would be some escape to be found, the remaining three were in touch with their canine blood. As their fear bit into them, they became like cornered animals, shifting into their wolf forms and snarling at him as they circled around his spiritual body. He watched them out of the corner of his eye, not bothering to turn, simply gazing at whatever one was in his field of vision at the time as they tried to reason through their fear. They tried to find an opening in his seemingly immortal defenses.

But they would try in vain. He focused his thoughts to the air around the room, seeking the objects that resonated most with his soul; the steel and iron tools and utensils that lay scattered about the room. Pots and pans, knives, forks, spoons; he could feel every single piece, and he knew that with his anger he could move it all and force it to do his bidding. A large clattering filled the room as he latched onto the objects, preparing to send them flying through the air to crash into his enemies.

Shots rang out and the werewolves collapsed to the ground, and Jacob released his hold on the items, letting them fall to the floor or countertops they had come from. He looked back to see Finn's soldiers entering the cellar, followed immediately by Hayden and Luke, and then Micah who had shifted into his feline form, and Tristan with his hands covered in flames. Zach was the last one to enter, and he looked at Jacob with a worried expression that didn't seem to lessen when he surveyed the dead men standing around Jacob.

Jacob smiled in an attempt to disguise the rage he was feeling, but Zach seemed to see right through him. For a brief moment the thought entered Jacob's mind that Zach was now a threat for his ability to perceive that something was wrong, but Jacob quickly pushed the thought aside, surprised that it had come at all. He looked away, from Zach's eyes, suddenly disturbed, and felt his anger ebb away slightly.

"You could have warned us there were five men in here, Jacob," Hayden chided as he kicked one of the bodies with his foot, making sure he was dead. "I thought that was the whole point of you leading us here."

"I knew I could handle them," Jacob said with a shrug. "It looks like I was right."

"Yeah, Jacob, about that," Luke said with concern. "What exactly did you do? Or more specifically, why are you able to do that now when you never could before?"

"I've learned a few tricks from Sparrow," Jacob replied quickly. "What does it matter?"

"We'll talk about it once we rescue the others," Tristan said, and Jacob was glad that at least someone seemed to be on his side for a moment. "If Jacob's learned some new abilities, I say we use them to our advantage rather than fighting about it."

"I agree," Micah said, nodding toward the door at the other end of the room. "Which way do we need to go in order to rescue the others?"

Jacob wasted no time and explained as he started toward the door, "Straight ahead until you reach the end of the hallway. Turn right and you'll find a set of stairs that lead further down after ten yards or so. You'll take those down two flights and then you'll be at the dungeon. They are all being held on the last block, which is protected by a reinforced steel door. The guard posted outside the door has the key."

"Good," Micah replied with a nod. "Now where are Finn and Sparrow?"

"Upstairs, by my best estimation," Jacob said with a shrug. "It's hard to tell. Sparrow is… everywhere, but there are only two humans I can sense outside of this room and they are both above us. If Finn is anywhere, he's up there."

"Thanks," One of Finn's soldiers said, giving a gesture to two of his soldiers and a second one to the third. "We'll go after Finn and you rescue the others. One of my soldiers will travel with you to ensure Ivan's safety, but Finn made it clear that we are to trust your judgment in his absence, Micah. If you're all right with that plan, we will proceed."

"Mine?" Micah asked with surprise, glancing at Hayden and Luke who shrugged. "Very well," Micah acknowledged the soldier with a nod. "We'll go with that."

"We're wasting time here," Jacob interrupted. "Every moment we stand here is another second they have to shore up their defenses and make our jobs more difficult."

"Then lead the way, ghost," The soldier said, gesturing toward the closed door. "I don't mind."

Jacob nodded and entered the aether, exiting it a moment later on the other side of the door where he was immediately met with bullets firing at him once again. The anger was back, and so too was his connection to the life force of his enemies. In a matter of seconds, that life force was taken from them, and the hallway was quiet, and Jacob was smiling.

Finn stopped speaking as soon as he realized he was taken. There was no reason to keep trying to give orders when he was nowhere near his soldiers. He had to hope that the instructions he left with them were explicitly clear. Micah was the best person to lead them against Sparrow, because his instincts could be trusted even if Sparrow showed up to interfere with them.

He also trusted that Micah would keep opening his mouth and making his opinion known. Hopefully nothing would happen to compromise Micah's usual desire to share his thoughts at every point. But now he had other things to worry about. Wherever Sparrow had brought him it was unfamiliar. A room in the manor he suspected, though with the goblin it was possible that he could be anywhere in the world that Sparrow had been before. That was the most troubling thing of all when dealing with tricksters; they always kept their prey guessing.

This room was empty and simple, though the style of the architecture seemed to fit with that of the manor house. The floor was solid wood, and well cared for. There was a single door, which Finn was sure he would find to be locked, and it was solid enough that it would take him some time to break his way through it with nothing but his hands and feet. A single window was set in the wall, and that would be his best approach if he were to seek an escape route; but it would also be the one that Sparrow would expect him to take. Despite knowing that, Finn headed for the window anyway, and he was not disappointed when he heard Sparrow's voice.

"If it isn't Finn Turner, the Hunter of Ghosts and Slayer of Shadows. Whatever pointless title you're wielding against me, it will do little good," Sparrow taunted from all corners of the room at once. "Do you not remember the last time you faced me? Ivan had to rescue you, and even then you barely escaped."

Finn didn't bother answering. He had learned a lot since then. It had been fifteen years since the last time he and Sparrow had crossed paths, and at that time Sparrow had been going under a different name altogether, but he was still the same trickster. Finn, however, was not the same man anymore.

The last time they had crossed paths, Finn had been trying to save an old friend from Sparrow's torments. Jack had been captured, and though he was god-like in some ways, his ability to deal with Sparrow's tricks had been strongly lacking. By the time Finn had arrived to help, Jack had already destroyed an entire village by being convinced that they were his enemies. Ivan had been forced to kill Jack in order to save Finn, and though Finn had forgiven Ivan for it, he had never forgiven Sparrow.

He knew the place that Sparrow had taken him; it was the same village that Jack had destroyed. Sparrow's intentions were obvious. He was trying to unbalance Finn by making him angry with the memory, but the location had the opposite effect. Instead, Finn focused inwardly, using the anger that tried to rise and changed it into fuel for his senses. He took calming breaths and looked around him, searching for Sparrow. Each and every person in the village had his face, and they all seemed to be taunting him.

Finn stepped forward calmly, knowing that he was walking deeper into Sparrow's intended trap for him. There was a large fountain at the center of town, and it had been the epicenter for Jack's madness. As poetic as Sparrow typically aimed to be, Finn was certain that Sparrow would seek the same fate for him as the one that befell his master.

"You're not going to play the game, are you?" Sparrow said with a sigh. The world shimmered and then shattered around him, fading to a realm of light. Finn felt like he was falling, and every time he tried to right himself it seemed like there was a new direction that gravity was pulling him. A moment later he slammed heavily into the ground, knocking the wind from him.

As soon as he climbed to his feet, he was falling again, this time through a void of darkness. Finn felt his frustration beginning to rise, and he snarled at himself, forcing his emotions back to a calm nothingness. As soon as he did so, his feet settled gently onto the ground, and the void dissipated as if lights were suddenly turned on overhead. He looked around and instantly knew where he was. A corn field in the middle of Northern New York State.

"So. This is how you got Jacob, isn't it?" Finn asked with a shake of his head. "There's a problem here, Sparrow. You're thinking that I regret what I did here. There was no regret at all."

"You're lying to yourself, Finn," Sparrow said from his right. Finn glanced in that direction and saw a shape disappearing into the corn but decided not to follow. It was pointless to play the game until he was sure he could draw Sparrow out into the open. From his left the voice came again, this time taunting, "You wish you had never sworn your loyalty to Jack."

"Why would I wish that?" Finn asked, shaking his head. "Without Jack I wouldn't know half the things I know about the world."

"Without Jack you could have given Max a normal life," Sparrow taunted from behind Finn. "How many times have you thought about how easy life would be for the two of you if you had never come back to this corn field?"

"An easy life is not one worth living. Of course, you would know all about that, wouldn't you, trickster?" Finn said with a sneer, turning to face Sparrow. "That's all you've ever known, is a life of luxury, surrounded by your toys."

Sparrow shook his head and cackled, disappearing from sight and reappearing thirty feet further back. His image doubled, and then doubled again. The cornfield began to shake as it was steadily trampled by duplicates of Sparrow reappearing all around Finn. In a matter of seconds the corn was flattened to the ground, and in its place there was nothing but an endless crowd of Sparrow's simulacrums.

"Now you are the one surrounded by my toys," Sparrow said from all of his mouths at once. Finn closed his eyes and listened, trying to sort through the maddening volume of the many mouths. This was not like the real world, where he could communicate with the earth beneath his feet, or the corn that had been broken and battered by Sparrow's illusions. This was a product of his own mind, and he would find no spirits here beside his own and Sparrow's.

But that also meant that he was in control of the setting, and he slowly and subtly began to make some changes. He knew that any major shifts would tip Sparrow off to his new mental abilities, and that was the last thing he wanted. As he reached out and spread his mind to the trampled cornstalks, Sparrow made his next move, and a form emerged from the ground in front of Finn.

Long arms seemingly made of straw and held together by a long cotton jacket were placed against the earth for support, and then the tip of a dust-covered hat came through the soil, resting atop a pumpkin headed carved with a face, glowing with the light of a candle inside. The scarecrow continued to climb from the dirt until his straw legs were free, and he shook the dust from his worn leather boots.

And then the scarecrow stood, staring at Finn with his wicked fiery eyes, and the image began to shift, slowly becoming Jack's true form. Where straw had been was now leathery muscle, browned by centuries in the sun, and at the end of his long arms were dangerous claws that gleamed in the afternoon light. Instead of the grinning jack-o-lantern, a demonic horned skull stared at Finn with burning malevolence from eyeless sockets that radiated with orange flame.

"Hello, Finn," Jack said in a deep and gravelly voice, "I've been waiting for you."

"Jack," Finn said with a grin, "It's good to see you again. Everything else in this world is an illusion, but I know you died here. I can't be sure this is you or not. Sparrow's good."

"I have to kill you, Finn," Jack replied with an angry glare at all the Sparrows that surrounded them. "I'm sorry. I don't want to."

"It's the way it has to be," Finn said with a shrug. "You're already dead. I'm not morally opposed to killing the dead. You're the one who taught me not to worry about such things."

"Indeed," Jack said with a growl. "Prepare to die, my student."

Finn bowed his head as Jack charged him, sensing the movements as best as he could. He heard the rustling of the corn as Jack dashed across the surface, could feel the movement in the air as Jack displaced it with his superhuman speed. He shifted his stance slightly, preparing to meet the charge… and then let Jack collide into him, acknowledging the fact that the image had come from his own mind and could not harm him, no matter how hard Sparrow tried.

He knew that Jack was an illusion. Although Finn's words had been different, Jack's words were exactly the same as they had been on that fateful day long before, and there was no doubt he was facing but a memory of his dead master. No harm would come to Finn as long as he maintained control of the knowledge that this scene was unfolding within his own mind.

Jack's form dissipated and Finn made his move, calling out to the rows of cornstalks to reach up and grab at every image of Sparrow that they could get their stalks around. Sparrow screamed in alarm as the world shifted, and suddenly the extra images were gone, and only one Sparrow remained, caught in Finn's trap.

"You've gotten better, Mister Turner," Sparrow said with an appraising nod, "But I'm not out of tricks yet."

Sparrow's form shimmered and broke, and he took on the image of a small brown bird, flying off into the sky. Finn urged the cornstalks to snatch at the bird, but Sparrow proved to be too quick and agile for Finn to catch, and he disappeared into the sky. The world faded into darkness, and Finn felt himself falling again, though this time his feet collided with the ground quickly, and he immediately dove into a roll.

He quickly took stock of his surroundings and realized that he was in the manor house again. He paused and listened, hearing the faint sound of footsteps running in the opposite direction of him. Finn took off at a sprint in the direction of the sound, knowing that as quick as Sparrow was, he wouldn't get away again. Not this time; not ever again.

They met resistance at every turn, but it hardly seemed to slow them down. Jacob tore into them like a beast, and Tristan was beginning to pick up on Zach's worry. He began to look at Jacob with new eyes, wondering at the smoldering fury that he saw in Jacob's youthful gaze. Those enemies that did not fall to Jacob's new and strange powers were kept occupied by Micah dashing toward them, taking his fair share of bullets, teeth, and claws, but hardly being phased by them at all. The soldier that Finn had sent with them was there to mop up the rest, though he was wisely conserving his ammunition and letting Jacob and Micah do as much of the work as they could.

"This is too easy," Hayden remarked to Luke as they hid around a corner. "It's almost as if these men have been set up to die."

"What do you mean? It's not like they could have expected to have an all-powerful ghost coming against them," Luke said with a shake of his head. "Frankly, I'm quite surprised myself. This is very strange."

"You don't think that Jacob might be leading us into a trap, do you?" Tristan asked, surprising himself by letting the words take shape. Before they had just been thoughts, but the more he listened to Hayden and Luke, the more he had to admit that what they were saying made a great deal of sense. This definitely felt wrong, and he was growing more uneasy with each step.

"He's not doing it on purpose," Zach said, shaking his head as he slid against the wall next to them, peeking around the corner as Jacob rose into the air, his eyes locked on his next target who was gasping for air as Jacob crushed his lungs. "I can feel Jacob's emotions through the knife, well, at least somewhat, and I can tell you that he's not trying to deceive us, though there is a great deal of anger."

"Anger?" Luke asked with alarm, turning toward Hayden with narrowing eyes before turning back to Zach. "What do you mean by anger? Is it directed, or is it wild and chaotic?"

"We've reached the staircase!" Micah called back to them, and they moved from their position to join Jacob and Micah in the next hallway. Micah was nodding toward an open doorway before darting inside. Jacob cackled and disappeared from sight, though the sound of shouting below them told Tristan everything he needed to know about where Jacob had gone. The soldier followed after them both but the sound of gunfire decreased rather than increased as the enemy fell to Jacob and Micah's joint efforts.

"I'd say that wild and chaotic is a pretty safe bet," Tristan said with a bewildered shake of his head. "I don't know what to make of it. I've never seen Jacob act this way."

"Neither have we, and we've known him a great deal longer," Hayden said with a grimace. "This is very bad. Something happened to him while he was here to make him act this way, and we need to calm him down before we lose him completely."

"What do you mean 'lose him completely'?" Zach asked with concern, darting a nervous glance toward the open doorway. "If he's in danger we have to help him."

Hayden nodded solemnly but it was Luke who spoke. "We will, but you have to be ready, Zach. You're going to have to try to control him."

"Me?" Zach said in wonder, looking down at the knife, "How the hell am I supposed to do that?"

"Tristan," Hayden said with a nod in the direction of the doorway. "You're going to have to go with Micah. Get to Nevala, or failing that get Ivan. I don't know if Luke and I will be able to talk him down, but if his malevolence goes unchecked he might not be able to recognize the difference between friend and foe for much longer. Anger is what makes ghosts go bad."

Tristan nodded and hurried to follow Micah and Jacob, though he glanced over his shoulder briefly to see that Zach was being given instructions by Luke. Zach was nodding along, but his eyes were filled with worry, and Tristan couldn't leave him that way. He rushed back and surprised Zach with an embrace.

"No need to be afraid, brother," Tristan said quickly. "We'll get through this." He squeezed Zach's shoulder and then nodded briefly to Luke and Hayden, smiling weakly. As he rushed away again, he didn't take the time to look back. He knew from the eerie look in Luke's eyes that their only hope was in the men that were trapped in the dungeon below.

"How many people have you killed, Finn?"

The question seemed to come from within his own mind, though Finn was certain that it meant Sparrow could see him. He had lost Sparrow's footsteps when the sound led him into a large circular library that spanned the entire height of the manor, with four floors that were connected by ladders rather than stairs. Each level had a balcony with a railing that looked out into the room, though he was unable to see much of the other floors from where he was standing.

The door slammed shut behind him, and he heard the lock catch. He tried the handle anyway, unsure whether it was Sparrow's magic or an illusion that had him trapped, and when the lock held fast he knew that he was truly trapped. This was to be the next battlefield, and Sparrow had been planning the maneuver for some time.

His finely tuned senses told him to move just in time as he dashed to the side, a shot ringing through the air as a pile of books was knocked over by the force of the bullet piercing a member of their stack. Finn sought the nearest cover he could, realizing that the shot had come from the floor above him.

"How many people have you killed, Finn?" Sparrow asked again, this time it was said smugly, and Finn growled impatiently. He was playing a dangerous game by remaining silent, but he held his ground, forcing Sparrow to come to him on his terms.

A book flew off of the shelf next to him, hitting him in the side of the head. More toppled off of the shelf, trying to bury him, and he rolled away. He sprang to his feet as a series of shots followed his movements. He sprinted for the ladder that led up to the next level and scrambled up the rungs. He made it up the ladder but not unscathed as a shot pierced his right forearm. He gritted his teeth against the pain and dashed behind a bookshelf.

Books came off the shelf again, though this time they were knocked off by the bullets that collided with them from the other side. Finn remained motionless, tucking himself into a corner as he closed his eyes and reached out to sense the other living things in the room. There were three enemies, each one on the same level as him, though one was circling around the other way on the circular level. In less than a minute he would be flanked, and the only potential escape would be down.

He had to fight, though three against one when they were ranged and he was unarmed were not good odds. The only weapon he had was books, and those would do him little good. Still, he had to try, or… or what?

He realized there was another option, and it was better than all the others he had discarded. "I surrender, Sparrow!" He called out without opening his eyes. The soldier that was circling around stopped moving. "I'm yours! Take me!"

"You surrender?" Sparrow's voice asked in his mind. "Then come out and answer my question."

Finn rose as best as he could, clutching at his injured forearm as he stepped out into the open. He felt the eyes of the soldiers lock onto him, but he was more concerned with Sparrow who was looking down at him from the level above him. "Well, well, giving up so easily, Finn?"

"I never give up easily, Sparrow," Finn replied coldly. "Trust me, this was quite difficult."

"Indeed," Sparrow said with a chuckle, "Then answer me this, How many people have you killed?"

"Not enough to get what I want, and too many to ever deserve it if I were to get it," Finn replied cryptically, "But I always make sure I get the right ones." He flicked his hand up into the air, throwing droplets of his own blood from his open wound across the room, some of it splattering onto Sparrow's pants and shoes, and then he vaulted over the railing toward the floor three stories below him. He rolled when he hit the floor of the bottom level to absorb the impact and then dashed into the shadows created by the balcony above him.

Instead of shots following him as he had expected, his descent was followed by three heavy thuds. Finn glanced back to see three bodies lying in a heap in the center of the room. He knew all three of them well; they were three of the soldiers that Finn had brought with him, and there was no doubt from their dead eyes staring back at him that they would not return home with him.

"Now you've killed three more," Sparrow cackled, the sound growing ever more distant as Sparrow moved away. Finn locked eyes with his soldiers, vowing to avenge them before closing his eyes and focusing on the blood that still clung to Sparrow's clothing. Goblins were said to be untraceable spiritually, but there was no scent that Finn knew better than his own.

Clutching at his wound again, he opened the door and headed back into the main area of the manor.

Jacob had never felt more alive, at least not in all the years that he had been dead. He was burning with energy, and every soldier that fell beneath his powers seemed to add more fuel to that fire. And there seemed to be no end to them, no end to those who sought to pierce his fleshless immortality.

And what made it all better was that they were the enemy he had faced all along. They were the ones who had killed Kurt, the ones who had killed Trisha and Vance. The Rembrandts, and all their other friends had fallen at the hands of them or people like them. Tyrants and those who supported them deserved the fullness of his wrath. Every heart he crushed and every soul he broke with fear tasted of sweet vengeance, of justice for all the friends he had lost; all the souls that he had fought alongside and been forced to watch die.

He would kill them. All the Sparrows, all the Fausts; all of the Bret Walkers. His vision filled with the image of his father. The smoking guns that they foolishly wielded against him became the belt that his father had tried to beat him with. He ripped them out of their hands and beat them to death with it, growling with sadistic glee as their faces were bashed in by their own weapons. He kept beating them long after they were dead, and then he saw another face in his field of vision. Micah's. His feline features tried to contort into the image of Jacob's father's face, but they didn't quite morph correctly, and Jacob latched onto the last shred of sanity that was offered to him.

"Micah, are there more enemies for us to defeat?" Jacob asked sweetly, his heart filling with the giddiness of more people to punish for the crimes that had been committed against him and his friends.

"Jacob, they're dead, you can stop now," Micah said calmly, glancing down at the dead soldiers at his feet. Jacob started nodding slowly, feeling his anger begin to settle, when another soldier moved into his field of vision, walking past Micah. He turned to glance at Jacob, belt raised in his hand and wearing the face of Bret Walker. Jacob screamed and reached out to grip the man's heart in his chest, channeling all of his anger into the maneuver.

"Jacob! Stop! He's on our side!" Micah yelled, stepping between Jacob and the soldier defensively, but Jacob only needed to see the soldier to be able to kill him, to make his father's heart stop beating. The soldier collapsed to the ground, dead as all the others, and then Jacob turned back to Micah and smiled sweetly.

"They're all dead, Micah. We can rescue the others now, can't we?" Jacob asked excitedly. Micah glanced down at the soldier that Jacob had just killed and then looked back up to Jacob. His features began to morph and shift as he took on his human form, but instead of the face of the black-haired boy that Jacob had expected to see, instead Micah shifted into the form of Bret Walker.

"Jacob! Listen to me…" Micah pleaded, but Jacob's features grew dark as his anger surged white-hot.

"No! I am done listening to you!" Jacob shouted in fury as he reached out to clutch Micah's heart, Micah looked down in confusion, not seeming phased by the attack, and Jacob redoubled his efforts, throwing all of his anger and rage at Micah. Micah's body went rigid as he looked at Jacob with eyes full of sudden fear. Jacob cackled madly as he tried to crush Micah's body with his malevolence.

And then he was burning, his entire body enveloped in orange flames. He screamed as they ate at his body and he turned around to see Tristan staring at him with fury to match his own; except it wasn't Tristan, it was… and then Tristan was gone, and the image that floated in his mind instead was that of Kurt, calling him back to the knife. Jacob hungered for that voice, and followed it quickly, forgetting the flames that had just sent him away. He was sure that it had just been a dream.

After all, why would Tristan and Micah turn against him? Were they really on the enemy's side?

He emerged from the knife, and looked at Kurt who held it gingerly, as if he were worried about something. He looked almost as young as he had the day that they had met, though this was not the woods where they had first met, they were inside somewhere, though the exact location Jacob couldn't remember.

Kurt spoke though his voice seemed wrong somehow. "Jacob, we need to talk," Zach said, meeting Jacob's eyes as he gripped the knife firmly. Jacob nodded emphatically. He would always listen to what Kurt had to say, no matter how odd it seemed that he would be speaking instead of fighting. Kurt wasn't one to wait around when people needed help. Their friends were in trouble.

"I can't right now, Kurt," Jacob replied with a shake of his head, overriding his earlier nod. "Our friends are in trouble. Trisha, Vance; Elaine and Timothy. Little Timmy… We need to help them."

"We're here to help you, Jacob," A voice said from behind him. He recognized the voice, but he couldn't place it. When he turned, however, he knew that something was wrong. Something was very wrong. Faust and Sparrow were standing in front of him, giving him looks of concern. "Jacob, you need to calm down," Hayden, no, Sparrow said with a voice that was full of worry, but a sneer of contempt on his face.

"Kurt, there are enemies here!" Jacob shouted, glancing back at Zach. "We need to fight! Why aren't you fighting!?"

"Jacob, these are our friends, Hayden and Luke!" Zach said, and Jacob turned back to look at Zach with frightened eyes. He didn't know why Kurt would be lying to him, but it was obvious that there was something going on that he didn't understand. Still, he knew where the enemy lay, and he knew what had to be done.

"I'm sorry, Kurt," Jacob said as he reached out and touched the knife held in Zach's hands, and then reached into Zach's body through the blade. And then he was seeing his enemies through Zach's eyes, Faust and Sparrow taking a step back in alarm. "I have to do this. I have to kill them all," Jacob said with Zach's voice as he took a threatening step toward Luke. Hayden immediately stepped in the way, assuming a readied stance.

"Very well, you can die first, Sparrow," Jacob said as he thrust forward with the knife. Hayden easily blocked the attack, but Zach's lighter frame was bolstered by Jacob's supernatural malevolent strength, and he pressed hard against Hayden's blocking forearm, with enough force to knock Hayden off his balance. As Hayden recovered Jacob stepped in and thrust the blade of the knife into Hayden's stomach.

Luke screamed as Hayden clutched at Zach's shirt and met Jacob's gaze, gritting his teeth through the pain. "Jacob, you have to listen to me, you have to stop…" He was cut off as Jacob pulled the knife back and stabbed forward again, and this time the blade slid between his ribs and pierced his lung. He gasped for air as he fell forward against Zach, and then Hayden was being pulled back by Luke as Luke raised his rifle and pointed it at Zach's chest, his eyes filled with a rage to match Jacob's own.

"If you take one more step, I'll kill Kurt," Luke threatened, and Jacob was sure that the man wearing Faust's face meant every word, but there was one thing he was also certain about. Faust had already killed Kurt, and now he needed to face justice. He hesitated only a moment before he took a step forward and stabbed Luke in the stomach even as Luke shot Zach in the shoulder. The shot hardly slowed him down with his supernatural constitution, and as Luke fell to the ground, Jacob took another step forward.

"What the hell was that all about?" Micah asked as Tristan helped him to his feet.

"Jacob's going crazy. We need to get to Nevala or Ivan as quickly as possible if we want to stop him," Tristan said with a nod toward the door at the end of the hallway. A door with a single soldier laying up against it, dead as all the others in the hallway. Tristan left Micah's side and rushed to the guard, searching him for a set of keys.

By the time that Micah had pulled himself together and joined Tristan, the door was open and Tristan was headed inside. Micah followed him as they found themselves in front of a long row of cells.

"Tristan?" Peter's voice came from the first cell they came across, but Tristan ignored him and continued on. Micah, however, stopped and smiled at Peter and was about to greet him when Tristan called out instead.

"Nevala, where are you?"

"Over here," Nevala's voice called from further down the row of cells. Greetings were called out from all of the other captives, and Micah was pleased to hear Ethan, Ivan, and Nurim chime in. He nodded to Peter and then followed after Tristan as he opened the door to Nevala's cell, and the naked phoenix quickly stepped out.

"We don't have a lot of time. I need you to get up the stairs and help Luke and Hayden. Jacob's gone crazy, and you're the only one that can help," Tristan said, and then quickly gave Nevala directions as to how to regroup with the others. Nevala nodded and took off at a run after assuring Tristan that he could find them.

"Okay, now free the rest of us," Ethan insisted from the next cell over. "We can help too."

Tristan nodded and began unlocking the other cells, but Micah was starting to get anxious. "Maybe I should go see if I can help them, too," he suggested, glancing back at the doorway.

"No," Ivan said as he stepped out of his own cell. "You'll only put yourself in danger. I can sense Jacob's malevolence from down here, and it is as sharp as any poltergeist's. Even your body could be ripped apart by him now."

"You mean…" Tristan asked, looking worriedly at Micah, "Zach… Luke and Hayden…?"

"Who knows?" Ivan said with a helpless shake of his head. "Where is Finn? He could help."

That was all Micah needed to know, and he turned on his heel and sped toward the door with Tristan and the others calling after him. "I'm going to find Finn!" Micah called back. "You get the rest to safety, and I'll regroup with you outside."

He found Sparrow on the ground floor, heading toward the east end of the building. There was no doubt about it. The familiar essence he had been tracking was strongly pulling him in that direction, and then it stopped, pausing as Sparrow seemed indecisive about which way to go.

He heard the sound of soft footfalls coming his way, but he took them for an illusion. He had not met any enemies yet that were not his own soldiers being used against him, and he trusted his senses well enough that they would not fool him again if he were in any real danger. He knew Sparrow's game now, and he wasn't going to let himself get distracted while he was on the hunt.

Rounding a corner he found a door that had been left ajar, and he cautiously moved to the wall next to it and peered through the open doorway. His eyes narrowed in suspicion as he glanced through, seeing an unexpected sight. It was like looking into a mirror, so perfect was Sparrow's image of Finn that he now wore, as he stood over a gagged Max who was tied to a chair in the small study. A hallway led off to the side, heading toward the North, and Sparrow continued to glance toward it nervously, as if he were expecting someone to come from that direction.

Finn was angry, but he tried to push that anger away, knowing that it would only become an obstacle from what he was trying to accomplish. He focused in, making sure that everything was as he thought it was. He could still sense his essence in the room, but it seemed to be coming from both of the people in the room, not just Sparrow's copy of him. The image of Max stank of it just as much as the image of himself.

He tried to slip through the crack in the door, but he was slightly too large, and the door creaked open wider on rusty hinges. The image of Finn looked up, wide-eyed as it made eye contact with Finn, and then sped off into the hallway. Finn only had a moment to make his decision. Either his image could be Sparrow or the image of Max could be, and the other one had to be an illusion.

Finn dashed forward and leapt into the air leading with his foot to collide with Max's face. The look of shock in Max's eyes was enough to confirm for Finn that he had made the correct choice; he had Sparrow, and there was no way he would get away this time.

A feline growl interrupted his moment of triumph as a heavy force collided with him from behind, bearing him to the ground. He tried to wrestle out from under Micah, but Micah planted himself firmly on top of Finn and growled in his face, "Finn! Stop!"

"Micah!" Finn protested, "What the hell are you doing!?"

"Finn! That's Max!" Micah said, nodding backward toward the bound and gagged form that was still squirming against his bindings. "That's actually Max!" Micah insisted again. Finn began to fight against Micah again, sure that the shape shifter had lost his mind.

"Max is at home," Finn growled, "That's Sparrow!"

"No it isn't," Micah replied firmly, "I can hear his heart beating. He's real. "Sparrow just used Max as a decoy."

Finn stared into Micah's eyes as he slowly began to calm down. He looked back and forth from Micah to Max, and then realized that Max wasn't going anywhere, he was simply trying to break free. If it had been Sparrow, then the moment that Micah wrestled him from the air would have been all the time that Sparrow needed in order to make his getaway.

Finn nodded and tapped Micah's arm gently, and Micah slid off of him, letting him free to go to his lover. He sheepishly stood and walked over to Max, undoing his bindings and letting him remove the gag himself as he collapsed into Finn's arms.

"Finn!" Max gasped, hugging Finn tightly to his chest. "God, am I glad to see you, I think…" He trailed off as he pulled back, raising a quizzical eyebrow.

"Max, I'm so sorry…" Finn began, looking down in shame, but Max cut him off with a quick kiss as he lifted his chin.

Max then stared into Finn's eyes as he replied, "Don't be. I know you weren't in your right mind. I was there when Jack was killed, remember?" He glowered at the open doorway. "I guess it's just one more reason to hunt that trickster down and put him to rest for good."

"Did he get away, Micah?" Finn asked, listening for the sound of footsteps again but hearing nothing. If Sparrow was still around he wasn't making a sound, and Finn's senses weren't going to help him anymore. He was too emotionally and mentally spent to have the control necessary to read the spiritual connections of the world.

Micah sniffed the air and shook his head with a puzzled expression. "I can still smell him in here, but if I follow it…" he trailed off as he walked to the hallway and then shook his head more firmly, "The trail just ends abruptly."

"He must have teleported again," Finn muttered in frustration. "How did you get here, Max?"

"Sparrow captured me as soon as you left," Max said with a shudder. "I woke up here. He was planning this the whole time I think."

"Come on, let's get out of here," Finn said as he helped Max to his feet. "Micah, how do the rest of our companions fare?"

"Tristan was freeing Ivan and the others when I left, but Nevala is going to need your help with Jacob," Micah explained, glancing nervously back the way that they had come. "He's gone mad, Finn. He doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference between friend and enemy anymore. He tried to kill me."

Finn nodded and then turned back to Max, "Go with Micah. He'll keep you safe."

"What about you?" Max asked with a tremor in his voice.

"I'll be all right," Finn said with more confidence than he felt. "Keep an eye out for Sparrow, Micah." At Micah's nod, Finn turned and started running down the hallway again, not needing directions. He had been so wrapped up in dealing with Sparrow that he hadn't bothered paying attention to anything else he was sensing, and that had already led to Sparrow getting away and almost causing harm to Max. At least because of Micah's interference Max was now safe.

His only hope was that he would not be too late to save Jacob as well, though the surge of spectral malevolence he sensed in the distance made that hope fleeting. He already knew the truth; Jacob had now become his prey.

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