As time passed she thought she heard voices from the main floor and even though she tried to block them out, she soon couldn’t ignore the heavy feeling that seemed to settle in the castle and she sat up, sliding her legs over the edge of the bed.
Katie quietly made her way out of her room and down the corridors until she came to the stairs. The hushed whispers became louder and she realized that over a dozen people were standing in the foyer, talking quietly to each other. That which caught her attention was the fact that they were standing in a circle, but she couldn’t see what it was that was in the centre.
Katie slowly made her way down the stairs and once she had reached half way, Alaric looked up and met her gaze. The tears she saw in his eyes caught her off guard and she frowned, feeling how her stomach knitted itself in worry.
She reached the bottom of the stairs and made her way towards the center of the group, but when her eyes landed on what it was, she stopped dead in her track and a scream got caught in her throat.
On a a large table lay Vanessa. Her beautiful green eyes were closed and her fiery red hair stale with blood. Her clothes were ripped and bloody and several large gashes dominated her upper body, having destroyed most of the colorful tattoos that adorned her chest.
Katie slowly and hesitantly made her way towards the woman, barely noticing that Gabriel and Adam was sitting on either side of her, holding her hands. Katie gently placed a hand on Vanessa’s arm, flinching when she felt the coldness of her skin against her fingertips. It slowly and painfully dawned on her that Vanessa was dead. That she had died because she had been forced to protect her.
Alaric then sighed, a sound that echoed omniously in the large hall and he wiped away his tears with the back of his hand. “Vanessa will be brought to the crypt where the Sisterhood will prepare her for her final journey.” he said quietly, his voice close to breaking, “They will let us know when we can say our farewells.”
A couple of minutes later had the group dispersed, leaving only Alaric, Katie and Gabriel left by Vanessa’s side. Gabriel was still holding her hand, but no tears trailed down his cheeks and Katie found it odd. He was obviously shaken by the loss, yet he didn’t allow himself to grieve.
As Katie reached out to gently caress Vanessa’s cheek, Gabriel looked up. Hate was burning in his eyes and he let go off Vanessa’s hand as he abruptly stood.
“This is your fault.” he growled and pushed Katie forcibly, “If you hadn’t come here, pretending to be important, she’d still be alive!”
Katie stumbled backwards from the impact of Gabriel’s push and she fell hard, hitting her back against the bottom of the stairs.
“I’m sorry!” she said quietly, blinking away her tears, “I’m so sorry!”
“LIES!” Gabriel shouted and kneeled beside her, his face inches from her own, “You think you’re better than us, that we don’t matter! But I’d happily trade your life for hers!”
“Gabriel!” Alaric said firmly and pulled him to his feet, “This is not the time nor place.”
“Screw you!” Gabriel spat and pushed Alaric’s hand off of him, “If you hadn’t been so fucking adamant that we’d bring her here, nothing of this would have happened!”
Gabriel then stormed off up the stairs and disappeared. Katie looked after him, feeling her heart beat hard in her chest. She had never believed he could become so angry, but when she had looked into his eyes had it been as if it was another person entirely.
“Don’t listen to him.” Alaric said and helped her to her feet, “He has taken her death very hard.”
“They must have been very close.” she said and absent-mindedly watched as the Sisterhood took the stretcher with Vanessa’s body and disappeared down a corridor.
“She was like a second mother to him.” Alaric explained and gestured for her to follow him, “Technically she was like a second mother to all the Winter siblings, but Gabriel was the one who was closest to her.”
“What about his real mother?” Katie asked as Alaric led her down a corridor she had never been.
“Liza.. disappeared when Gabriel was ten and he never really recovered.” he said as he stopped in front of a large photo.
Katie studied the group photo. She recognized Alaric, Vanessa and one of the blonde men, but she didn’t know if it was John or Jonathan. Beside Alaric stood a beautiful blonde woman and she was holding a young boy in her arms, whom Katie guessed were their son. Beside Vanessa sat another woman, she had black hair and intense blue eyes and she had a boy and a girl in her lap, whom Katie guessed were Zachary and Isobel, and beside the woman stood a young boy, looking dreamily into the camera. That must be Gabriel.
Katie pointed at the woman with the three children, “Is that Liza?”
Alaric nodded, “This is taken two years before her disapperance.”
Katie hesitated, then she pointed at the woman beside Alaric, “Is that your wife?”
A sad sigh flew over his lips as he nodded, “Yes, that’s Maria.” he said, “And Michael.”
“May I ask where your wife is now?” Katie wondered hesitantly and looked at him, “I haven’t seen her around.”
A sad smile nudged at the corner of Alaric’s lips as he turned around and continued walking, “She died nineteen years ago.” he explained quietly, “Michael was only five at the time.”
“Damn!” Katie cursed herself quietly, “I’m so sorry..” she said then, “I didn’t mean to pry.”
“It’s okay.” Alaric sighed and clapsed his hands behind his back, “Her murder was a difficult time for all of us.”
Katie stopped in her track, “Your wife was.. murdered?”
“Yes.” Alaric replied firmly and glanced at her over his shoulder, “And it seemed Liza was somehow involved, although we don’t know how.”
Katie was stunned by Alaric’s straightforwardness. It was evident that he was still hurting from his wife’s death, yet it seemed as if he didn’t truly know that Liza was involved.
“What happened?” she asked hesitantly and studied his back, “I mean, it’s ju -“
“It’s not important.” he cut her off and she could hear a firmness in his voice that she guessed he reserved for those that intruded in his personal life. “Besides,” he said then, “shouldn’t you check on Gabriel?”
Katie hesitated for a moment, “Yes, of course..” she nodded and turned on her heel, but as she walked back the way the had come, she glanced over her shoulder and saw that he was wiping tears from his eyes.
She walked back up the stairs and followed the corridors back to the dorm wing. There was a heavy feeling resting over the sanctuary and all the hunters she passed seemed to hold a quiet vigil for Vanessa, so when she heard raised voices coming from Isobel’s room, Katie couldn’t hide her curiosity.
“You know it’s true, John.” Isobel hissed, “There’s something really odd about it all.”
“I know, Izzy.” John – whomever that was – replied firmly and Katie could hear someone pace back and forth inside the room.
“Then you know we should investigate!” Isobel stated firmly and the pacing stopped, almost immediately.
“Do you have any idea what it is you’re suggesting?” John asked, seemingly shocked by whatever it was Isobel had suggested.
“Of course I am.” Isobel replied matter-of-fact, “You think I’d suggest it otherwise?”
“You should bring this up with Alaric.” John sighed, “He needs to hear it.”
“I can’t.” Isobel muttered in irritation, “Since Vanessa has passed, you’re the Senior Mentor. He’ll only listen if you bring it up.”
John seemed to hesitate, before sighing heavily, “Fine.” he stated firmly, “But I’ll only do it on one condition.”
“You’ll look into that file I gave you.”
Isobel hesitated for a moment, “Fine, I’ll do it.” she muttered, “Now, go!”
Katie could hear footsteps approach the door and so she hurried away from it as quickly as possible, and she managed to hide behind a pillar just as Isobel’s door opened and a man with blonde, shoulder long hair walked out. He glanced around a few times before walking in the other direction and disappear around a corner.
Katie walked forth from behind the pillar when Isobel stepped out of the room as well, and she looked at Katie suspiciously. Her blue gaze was cold, but it didn’t hold as much resentment as it had done earlier.
“What are you up to,” she asked and crossed her arms tightly, “skulking around in the shadows?”
Katie chuckled nervously, “Well.. I haven’t really learned that yet.” she replied as calmly as she could. Isobel always made her nervous. “I was actually looking for Gabriel’s room?”
Isobel cocked an eyebrow, an amused smile nudging at the corner of her mouth, “And why are you looking for my brother’s room?”
Katie shrugged lightly, “I thought I should check on him.” she replied, “He was pretty.. upset earlier.”
Isobel nodded slowly and she sighed deeply, “He was really close with Vanessa.” she answered absent-mindedly, “She was the one he confided in.”
“I see..” Katie mumbled as she casually crossed her arms, “Could you please point me in the right direction?”
“It’s there.” Isobel pointed at a door two doors down, “And hey, Katrina.” she called after her as Katie turned on her heel, “Play nice with him, or I will skin you alive!”
Katie glanced over her shoulder at the black haired woman and nodded in acknowledgement before walking over to the door that was decorated with a large symbol that resembled the Eye of Horus.
She raised her hand and knocked, but got no answer. She tried again, but since she still got no answer and so she turned to walk away when a loud noice from inside the room caught her attention. Katie hesitated for a moment before carefully pushing the door open.
She glanced inside the room and found Gabriel lean against his desk, his hands placed firmly against the table top. His hair was messy and his shirt had earned several tears. Katie let her gaze sweep across the floor, only to realize that it was littered with broken glass, torn photos, and papers.
She slowly walked into the room, trying not to disturb him, but his gaze snapped towards her when she accidentally stepped on a piece of glass. To her surpise he didn’t say anything. He didn’t yell, nor shout, not curse. He just stood there, his shoulders slumped and looked at her before going back to look at somthing on the desk.
Katie took a deep breath and slowly walked up to him to the beat of crunching glass. She glanced at whatever he was looking at, realizing that it was a photograph of a young Vanessa, and an even younger boy.
The photo was taken in the sanctuary’s courtyard. It was a sunny day and Vanessa, she couldn’t be more than fifteen, was crouching in front of a rose bush. A wide smile danced on her lips and her eyes glistened in the sunlight. Her hair was much longer then, reaching well below her shoulders, and had a softer tone of red. Freckles decorated her delicate skin. She had her arms wrapped around the waist of a young boy with destinctive black hair and intense brown eyes. The boy was laughing heartily at something Vanessa had said and he radiated so much serenity and love that Katie wondered if it was the same man that now stood before her, broken and devastated.
Katie felt how her feelings for him changed from irritation to something that could resemble pity. She gently reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, expecting him to shake it off. But to her surprise did he seem to take comfort in her presence.
Katie didn’t know how long they had been standing there, when a gentle knock on the door drew their attention. John was standing in the doorway, his gaze sweeping across the mess on Gabriel’s floor.
“Sorry to interrupt,” he said solemnly, “but the sisters are ready.”
“Thanks.” Katie replied, “We’ll be there shortly.”
John hesitated for a moment, but then he nodded and walked away. Katie squeezed Gabriel’s shoulder before letting her arm fall to her side and turned to walk away. But she hadn’t taken more than one step when she felt how he reached out and grabbed hold of her wrist.
Katie stopped and turned back to Gabriel, noticing the haunted glimpse in his eyes.
“I can’t do this..” he whispered, “I can’t say good bye to her.”
Katie placed a hand ontop of his, “Then don’t.” she said softly, “Wish her well on her journey and tell her you’ll see her soon.”
Gabriel nodded slowly as her words sunk in and then a sad smile shadowed his lips.
“Will you be there as well?” he asked quietly.
“Of course.” Katie replied and gently took his hand, slowly letting him guide her to the crypt where her new family was going to say good bye to one of its own.