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The Last Spell 34.1

by SilverNight


Warning: This work has been rated 16+.

As Shane’s eyes opened, he blearily squinted at the bronze color of the walls, trying to determine who had snuck in and repainted the walls of his suite.

The pain in his neck told him the answer. This wasn’t his room. Right.

Shane leaned away from the dresser he’d fallen asleep against, wincing from the soreness where the brass handles on the drawers had driven into his back. The morning light streaming in through the curtains was dim, but still enough to make his head throb. Sprawling his legs out on the floor, he rubbed at his eyes, finding them crusty and dry from old tears. He couldn’t remember passing out, but it must have happened at some point— and it had done nothing for his exhaustion now. His whole body felt heavy and stiff, and he nearly decided to give up and collapse back again.

But then he saw movement on the bed in front of him, and he sat up higher, trying to see over the edge of the mattress.

“Cyrin?” he whispered.

Silence for a few moments. Then a very soft sound, like a groan of pain.

Shane immediately pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the ache in his back as he stood, with his heart pounding urgently as he scanned Cyrin.

Cyrin was much like how he’d seen them when he’d rushed over to this room. Their face was sweaty with fever, and their breathing was shallow, even labored. Cyrin’s eyes were closed, and they were still eagle-spread on top of the bed, but there was a faint furrow in their brow that Shane hadn’t noticed where he’d been watching over them.

“Cyrin,” he whispered again, a little louder.

Again, there was no reaction for an eternal moment. Then one of Cyrin’s eyes opened, peering at him. Closed again, as if the room was too bright. Then reopened, the other eye with it. From the way Cyrin was blankly staring at him, Shane had to wonder if they even recognized him.

“Hey,” he said quietly, not sure what else to add.

Cyrin closed their eyes, mumbling a short sentence that he couldn’t understand.

“What?” Shane asked.

“Can I have water?” Cyrin croaked, their expression pained.

“Oh. Yes. Of course, just—” Shane nearly stumbled in his haste to get his feet moving, and then had to cut himself off from saying just wait here. “I’ll be back.”

Cyrin didn’t respond as he rushed from the room.

Shane’s thoughts raced faster than his movements as he hurried to the kitchen, nearly slamming a glass down on the countertop as he poured water from a pitcher into it. Cyrin wasn’t better. Of course he wouldn’t be. It didn’t matter how many silent unaddressed prayers he’d made that things might, impossibly, be alright. That no one had to die today.

Why should it have to end that way?

His hand felt cold, and he realized he’d overpoured the water, which was now spilling over his fingers. Cursing quietly, he took the glass and ran back, making a mental note that he was sure he’d forget about to wipe off the counter later.

When he got back to the room, Cyrin hadn’t moved, but he was now staring up at the ceiling through half-lidded eyes. Shane pulled over the chair by the antique desk, setting it next to the bed before quickly taking a seat and holding out the glass for Cyrin to take.

For a few moments, Cyrin stared at it like he didn’t know what to do with it. He finally raised a hand weakly and took it, shakily bringing it to his lips to drink about half the glass. He held it for a few seconds, then suddenly tipped it back and splashed the rest over his face.

Shane half-stood, ready to search for a towel, but Cyrin raised his arm with a grunt of effort— or pain— and wiped the water off his face with his sleeve. If it had been to snap him out of something, he didn’t seem any more alert. Instead, he strained to set the empty glass on the nightstand, then closed his eyes and let his head fall back again.

“Am I dead yet?” they muttered, each word sounding like a struggle to speak.

Shane swallowed, feeling another pang in his chest. “No.”

Cyrin groaned quietly, pain flickering across their face for a moment. Shane didn’t need to reach over and feel their forehead to know they were burning up. A sickly gold glow was still flashing under the skin of their neck, no fainter than it had been yesterday.

He didn’t know how much of a conversation they would be able to have before Cyrin inevitably passed out again, but he had to start with something.

“We all got out of there, thanks to you,” Shane said quietly. “We’re back at the hotel, getting ready to travel to Starlight City. We couldn’t get the First Spell, and he’s headed there, so we’re going to get it back. Hopefully before he does anything with it.”

Yet again, Cyrin was silent for long enough that he had to wonder if they’d even heard him.

“Why is he going there?” they mumbled hoarsely, their eyes still closed.

“There’s a House event that the five of us were meant to attend anyway,” Shane said. “He means to disrupt it. That spell I was poisoned with, and that you now—” He faltered for a moment. “It’s a new type of unstable, dangerous magic. He’s going to try to make all magic like that.”

“And make the Houses look weak.” Cyrin already sounded out of breath.

“Yes.”

Cyrin’s eyes slowly opened, and he settled his gaze on Shane, taking a labored gasp for air.

“It’s not surprising,” he said hoarsely. “He’ll want to make a power grab. He’s been wanting the Houses to fall for longer than either of our lives.”

Shane sank back in his chair. “He’s that committed?”

Cyrin let out a weak huff that abruptly turned into a painful-sounding wheeze, and their face contorted. Shane waited for it to pass, but instead Cyrin gasped in a breath that sounded close to a death rattle. Too close.

The guilt stabbed through him again.

This should be me.

He wasn’t going to do any good stopping Sparrow, but Cyrin could. What was the point to trading their lives? If Shane died, the world would move on. Flint would find a replacement and settle for some distant cousin who hopefully wouldn’t sink the country. There would be a funeral for him at the plot where his parents were already buried. It was only fitting. He shouldn’t have been a guest at the last funeral, not when he should’ve been the host it was meant for.

He hadn’t been beloved like them. He would slip away quietly. One large headline, then a handful of smaller ones, then only the yearly whisper to mark the event.

The same wouldn’t be true if the world suddenly remembered Cyrin Bridger existed, while simultaneously learning that he’d been a criminal ever since he’d disappeared from the public eye.

“Cyrin,” Shane whispered. “Why… why did you do this?”

Cyrin’s face was a mask of pain. “Save you?” they ground out, through gritted teeth.

Shane bit his lip, nodding.

“Because you don’t…” Cyrin groaned softly, their head falling back limply as they closed their eyes tightly again. “You don’t… get to die like this.”

“Why should you?” Shane argued. The anger directed at Sparrow was flaring up, and he found it hard to keep the spark out of his voice. “You don’t deserve—”

“Shane,” Cyrin choked out, shaking his head fiercely with what looked like all the energy he could muster. “This is far more complicated than you realize.”

“What don’t I realize?” Shane asked urgently. “If there’s something, then— please, just tell me. I don’t understand why this needs to happen.”

The pain on Cyrin’s face seemed to be replaced with a new kind as he stared at Shane. There was something else, too. Desperation?

“It needs to happen because you need to live,” they said, more hushed and strained.

“No, I don’t!” Shane exclaimed, throwing up his hands as his voice took on a pleading tone. “I’ve lived past where I should’ve stopped living, with barely anything left to live for. I don’t want my life. I’m of no use to the world, but you still could be. You’re someone who could stop Sparrow. I can’t. If anyone has got to die, it should be me.”

Cyrin only looked more aghast, and by some instinct, Shane felt like what he’d said had only made things worse, but they spoke up before he could say more or take it back.

“You don’t want to… live?” they asked, barely above a whisper.

Shane felt frozen in the chair, his hands clutching the edges of the seat until his knuckles felt painful. He’d never actually thought that question. Not in those words. But he really didn’t like the answer his brain was providing him with.

It felt like the truth. One he’d been avoiding settling on consciously for a while now.

And if it was the truth, and Cyrin was dying, this might be the only way he could admit to it.

Shane lowered his head, staring down at the ground.

“I wish it was me in the car instead that day,” he said quietly.

As fast as the racing of his heart had felt a moment before, he swore he felt it slow down once the words were hanging in the air. Boom. Boom. Boom. The weight of Cyrin’s gaze made him withdraw into the back of the chair even further, and he closed his eyes, praying for them to say something soon.

It took a few seconds. But they did speak again.

“Then there’s a second reason you should know about,” Cyrin said, very lowly. “But… only if you think you can hear it.”

Slowly, Shane raised his head again. Cyrin wasn’t looking at him anymore. The sweaty, feverish sheen on his face gleamed brighter, paired with the drained look in his eyes as he stared at the wall ahead. Shane felt his heart race with dread again.

“I can,” he said, just as quietly.

Cyrin took a deep breath, and even without hearing the rasp of his lungs, Shane knew it was painful from the way his chest heaved.

“When Sparrow told Clarity to poison you,” he began faintly. “He left Kasumi alone, didn’t he?”

Shane nodded after a moment. “Yes,” he said slowly. “Like he was making an example of me.”

Cyrin nodded vacantly. Even though the look on his face didn’t change, he didn’t seem surprised to hear it.

“That had to be intentional,” he murmured. “I had a bad feeling when you said he was wondering if he knew you from somewhere. I didn’t know why before, but—”

Cyrin broke off with a cough that became a whimper of pain, and they squeezed their eyes shut. Shane’s heart hurt more as he watched them sadly.

It was unusual that they should’ve even been able to wake up. He didn’t know how much longer they could stay conscious.

“The 26th of Winter, 2137,” Cyrin said weakly. “You know that date, right?”

Shane felt his heart skip a beat. Maybe two. “Yes.”

Cyrin opened his eyes, but he still wasn’t looking at Shane. In fact, he seemed to be trying to turn his gaze as far away from him as possible.

“About a week before, Sparrow hired an assassin.” He saw the bulge in their throat as they swallowed. “He sent them to Starlight City with instructions and a bomb. The instructions were simple. Locate a car. Set up the bomb. Then watch from the top of a roof nearby for the car to pass by a crowd of viewers.”

Shane’s mouth felt dry, and the thoughts in his head started swirling around, as if they’d been picked up by a stormy wind. He knew what this meant. He knew. But the puzzle pieces for the words in the statement wouldn’t fit together.

“He killed…” he started to say.

“Yes,” Cyrin confirmed, quieter than ever. “He got your parents killed.”

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Sat Dec 30, 2023 10:12 pm
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Another banger of a chapter. I have to say, I'm surprised to see Cyrin actually conscious. From the way everyone has described magic poisoning, it seems like a thing that effectively sends you into a coma and then kills you. I'm not sure if it's because I read that part a while ago, but I am a little confused as to how long it usually takes to kill someone; from somewhere in my brain I feel like I remember it being a couple of days, but the way Shane's treating Cyrin in this chapter makes it feel like it's maybe a little more slow-acting? I just thought I'd ask to verify!

That being said, I really enjoyed the Shane/Cyrin moments in this one. I think Shane especially got to shine emotionally; the way you handled his guilt about surviving and how it's essentially manifested into near suicidal thoughts was really well done. All I can say is for someone who seems like he has his life together, he's probably one of the ones who needs therapy the most.

I love how you're keeping the readers in suspense as well with the big truth bomb (forgive the pun) that is Cyrin killing Shane's parents; I appreciated how Cyrin began to own up by at least telling him a part of the truth. I'm curious to know when the other shoe will drop and Shane learns that Cyrin was the assassin, because that'll for sure cause drama, especially because the two have gotten so close.

Specifics

“He killed…” he started to say.

“Yes,” Cyrin confirmed, quieter than ever. “He got your parents killed.”


I really love how you had Cyrin change the phrasing when they finish Shane's sentence. It's a really nice, subtle way of Cyrin perhaps distancing himself from the crime.

Overall: lovely work, as always. This chapter was really well done. Until next time!




SilverNight says...


Hey Plume! Welcome back and thank you ^^

I just thought I'd ask to verify!


Ah this is a good question! I imagined it as taking something like 1-2 days, but I didn't go over the symptoms all that specifically and think only mentioned that it was just a slim possibility that Cyrin might wake up first. This helps to know, thank you!

I really love how you had Cyrin change the phrasing when they finish Shane's sentence. It's a really nice, subtle way of Cyrin perhaps distancing himself from the crime.


This!! So glad you caught this!



Plume says...


Thanks for the clarification!




One fish, two fish, red fish, aardvark.
— alliyah