Scene 14: Panic

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The windows weren’t an option. They had bars over them- meant to keep people from getting in- but they also prevented her from getting out. There was no back door.

Fuck. Where was her guard when she needed him? For that matter, where was her guard, period?

A muffled boom outside the house rattled the boxes in the storage room. Right. So she had to, what, hide? That wouldn’t work, would it? She was having a hard time thinking as her breaths came in quicker. Shit. She couldn’t deal with this right now. It was too much, too soon. And this would be just like last time. Trapped. Because she had no where to go.

She was back in the alleyway and the watchguard was glaring at her with dark eyes, gun pointed in her face, shouting- Lothar’s body was on the ground. There were bits of blood- bits of his skull on her face.

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

Shit. Shit shit shit!

The power’s out and time’s up. They were getting in, now.

Right. The alarm company. They’d be sending a signal to the watchguards. They’d get here in five to seven minutes. And another jolt of panic went through her at the thought of watchguards.

Not this time though, right? She was in her own house. Okay, it’s barely been her house for a week. But still, it was her house. She heard shouts downstairs. Shit she had to move. Now.

Where?

The workshop. She scrambled towards the door of the workshop and shut it behind her, quietly. No need to alert the bastards that she was upstairs. They- she heard two distinct voices, one male and one female- were downstairs, shouting for her to come out. Amalia stepped away from the closed door. It stood to reason that if they could blow up the front door, they could blow up the flimsy interior door as well, and she didn’t want to be standing right infront of it when that happened.

And then what? She’d be trapped like a rat. She was in a room with one exit and that would be the one the burglars (kidnappers?) would be coming through.

Stop it. She had soldering tools, sharp tools and heavy equipment in here. Not to mention her new amulet, still clenched in her fist. This wasn’t like last time. This was her workshop, her turf, not some back alley in the middle of a foreign city. She wasn’t half deaf and concussed this time.

She grabbed her original defensive amulet- and fumbled because her hands were shaking so hard- and put it around her neck. Moderate protection. She at least knew its limits, and she hadn’t let it leave her side or go uncharged since the parade.

So she had to hold back two, at the very least, bad-tempered black mages who were attempting to either burglarize her house, kidnap her, or murder her. And she had to keep them held off for the seven minutes it’d take for the watchguards to get here. Another jolt of panic- fine. Forget the watchguards. Help was arriving in seven minutes.

Now how was she going to do it?

Her soldering iron was sitting on her desk, next to some scrap metal, heavy leather gloves, blueprints, and her magnifying glass. Useless, unless she wanted some expensive blunt instruments. She could start up the soldering iron. It’d leave some nasty burns, but she’d have to get in real close.

There was a tank of argon-helium gases in the corner, an extra she had been planning to bring to the shop at University. But the argon-helium mixture was used in welding precisely because it was inert. It wouldn’t explode. Sure, it was heavy, but it wouldn’t do real damage, and it wasn’t like she could lift it and swing it around.

Oh who was she kidding? She couldn’t do this.

But she reached into the tray where she kept the charged crystals and replaced the crystal in her new amulet- the offensive blaster- anyway. Two to three shots and it was out of juice, at least by her calculations. She wasn’t taking the risk.

Her hands were shaking- how was she supposed to aim like this? and really the suspense was the worst part. She could hear him or her walking up the steps slowly, each step creaking with every step.

Stairs.

Fuck it.

She wasn’t waiting in her workshop to die. She was a di Danti.

She ripped open the door as the mage- it was the man- reached the top of the stairs. His face widened in surprise, and he lifted his gun as she practically charged at him down the hallway. He fired twice- her amulet absorbed the shots-

And she fired the amulet. Twice. He was just out of range for the first shot and only stumbled, grabbing for the handrail. She didn’t give him the chance.

He flew backwards with a shout, and hit the slanted ceiling so hard he bounced before dropping and tumbling down the steps.

She froze at the top of the stairs, staring down.

That was how it went, right? People died because of her. Because, fuck, he wasn’t moving.

The woman’s inhuman shriek… goggle boy’s screaming and she wanted to step forward and help him, because he was what, fourteen at most? What was he even doing here?

But she stopped. She was at the top of her steps and a dead body was at the bottom. And it was a woman screaming, a burglar or would be kidnapper, not goggle boy. Just a momentary hallucination. No big deal.

The woman had brown hair and ran to the man’s prone form. She looked up at Amalia, face twisting into an expression of hatred. Amalia didn’t wait for the woman to start chasing her, she turned around and ran into her workshop.

“Wobbie scum! I’ll slit your throat!” The woman’s shriek followed her up the steps. Amalia slammed the door behind her and grabbed for another crystal. She needed her amulet at full strength. Both of them. The tray with the crystals dropped to the ground and she almost screamed in frustration.

She heard gunshots from downstairs.

The watchguards were already here? It hadn’t been seven minutes. She knew that for sure.

Amalia grabbed the crystals off the floor and quickly replaced the ones in her defensive and blasting amulets. She turned to the bookcase. With luck the man had been the one with the explosives. If she could move the bookcase in front of the door, maybe that’d hold her off for a minute.

There was the woman’s muffled laughter downstairs and more gunshots. The watchguards were shouting in alarm and one of them was screaming. Amalia redoubled her efforts, but the bookcase was heavy.

Which was the whole point. Was there some kind of leverage she could use?

And up until this point, she hadn’t even considered that the watchguards could lose. Because it sounded like they were losing and there was another room-shaking explosion. Alright. The woman was the powerhouse between the two of them, because she obviously had her own amulet and some way of setting off explosions- and how was she doing that? Amalia hadn’t seen any packages on her, nothing large enough to be explosives.

There couldn’t be anything up her sleeves because that woman wasn’t even wearing sleeves- her arms were bare and covered in tattoos. And Amalia hadn’t gotten a close look, but they almost looked like whorls etched into her skin.

Huh. Now, how would that even work? Unless, well, they were probably decorative. But maybe she had hidden crystals down her back? But that’d burn her skin, probably. How much heat would that give off? An explosive powerful enough to… Wrong time wrong place, brain.

The bookcase had barely even moved. Fine. She couldn’t do that. And it was pointless anyway because the black mage was capable of making or using explosives, so it wouldn’t make a difference.

And Amalia stood there. Blasting amulet raised, for all the help it would do her, waiting. The sounds of the fight stopped, and she waited.

There were footsteps on the stairs again, and Amalia swallowed. Could her defensive amulet even take a hit from explosives powerful enough to take out her security system and blast in her front door? Probably. Three hits, at most. She kept her eye on the door, and reached down grabbing another crystal from the fallen tray. Could she replace it fast enough? Depended on the woman. How fast was she able to fire again?

But she’d taken down at least three watchguards. Shit. She wasn’t making it out of this.

“Ma’am?” A distinctly male voice.

“Yes?”

“Are you alright in there? This is the Port Drebon Watchguards. The threats have been neutralized. It’s safe to come out now.”

“I’m fine.” Said her mouth. She thought her voice cracked on the last word.

“Can you open the door?”

And that’s when she realized her illegal research was covering her desk and she had used an experimental, illegal weapon to defend herself.

“One moment.” She said, and then quickly amended. “I’ll need some identification. Proof you’re who you say you are.” First it was good practice, and second she needed to hide this shit.

“Alright ma’am. I’ll slide it under the door.”

Amalia snatched up the blueprints and the scrap metal, quickly dropping it into the box next to the desk. It was still out from when she’d been unpacking her soldering equipment.

“Are you alright, ma’am? I heard some noise. My papers are right there.” The identification papers were slid through the gap underneath the door.

“I- slipped. I’m fine.” She tossed the three broken amulets, partially completed defensive amulet, and the completed blaster amulet, into the box and shut it, grabbing some books from the shelf and stacking them on top of the box.

Then she picked up the papers and glanced through them.

James Milligan, Watchguard. They looked legitimate.

She held them under the light, checking for the faint watermark and the smaller signifiers that it was genuine and not a forgery.

Amalia opened the door.

The watchguard had his helmet off, and she was staring into the eyes of the blonde watchguard, pointing the gun-

“Ma’am? Ma’am!”

Amalia found herself leaning against the doorframe, sweating and shaking.

“Sorry. I-” She looked up at him and felt a wave of nausea. …bits of skull… She looked back down at the floor. “Bit shaken up.”

“It’s fine, ma’am. You’ve been through a traumatizing experience. Your father has been alerted and is on his way.”

“They’re dead?” She asked, staring at her feet. They were in slippers, still. She’d never really put on any real clothes today- just a loose nightshirt and a robe. Hadn’t felt up to it.

“The female is. The man knocked his head pretty hard, but you don’t need to worry. He’s been sedated and is on his way to the Port Drebon Watchguard Station. They’ll find out what-”

“James you need to get down here!” A voice from downstairs. Another watchguard.

“What is it?” James the watchguard shouted back. He turned to Amalia. “Just wait here, alright?”

Amalia nodded, still looking anywhere but at him.

“He’s going into…”

And she wasn’t taking orders. Not today. She edged down the stairs, prepared to run back up if anything even looked remotely dangerous. The site that greeted her at the bottom of the stairs wasn’t pretty.

The man, the black mage, was convulsing. The watchguards standing over him were cursing.

“…second one this week!”

And all she could think was how convenient it was, that this man was dying. Because now she wouldn’t get in trouble for the experimental amulets.

The black mage on the ground was choking on the air like he was having an asthma attack. His eyes rolled back in his head and he stilled. Amalia looked away. The woman was lying in the remains of her front door. The tattoos were whorls. She wished she had an eidetic memory, because she desperately wanted to study those arms. She didn’t recognize any of the whorls, but she was too far away to actually see anything. Still, where did she hide the crystals?

She surreptitiously studied the woman from the stairs. No abnormal bumps or anything. Of course, she could be lying on top of them.

Amalia gripped the bannister, mouth dry. Watchguards were everywhere.

“Ma’am, you need to leave.” The man’s voice fuzzed off into static. She was sweating again and she could see Lothar’s shattered skull and the barrel of the gun, light glinting off the watchguard’s armplates. And he was telling her to get on the ground, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t move and stars he was going to kill her and there was nothing she could do. Couldn’t fight, couldn’t run, and all the adrenaline rushing through her system wasn’t making one bit of a difference. They wouldn’t believe her.

“…probably shell shock. I heard a rumor she was at the parade. It’s not uncommon. Sometimes people never recover, they can’t handle the stress.” Said a woman’s voice. A watchguard. Amalia realized she was slumped against the bannister, shaking.

She walked down the last two steps with all the grace she could muster, hiding her shaking hands in her pockets.

The watchguards got her coldest stare. “Di Danti’s do not suffer from common mental illnesses.”

“I apologize, m’lady. But if you are, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.” said the Watchguard. Her male partner nodded.

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

The watchguards looked skeptical. She felt a small ball of anger roar into an inferno.

“Do you realize how much damage they did to my house? I’ve barely lived here a week and they’ve managed to destroy the front door. And that couch- the one covered in blood and dust- that’s from the villa in Pankhurst. It’s been in my family for four generations. And that rug that you’re stepping on with your bloody boots? That’s almost five hundred years old. How am I supposed to explain this to my Head of House, my mother?”

“I’m very sorry, m’lady.”

“Yes, well, your ‘sorry’ does little to repair my priceless furniture, so pardon me if I ignore it.” She gave them a withering look. The watchguards flinched.

“I’ll be in my quarters. Alert me when my father arrives. Expect to have words with him.” And with that she marched back upstairs and into her room, shutting the door behind her.

Her face crumpled, and she slid down to the wooden floor, shaking. She was fine. She was fine. It would be fine. She clenched her hands into fists. She’d fought them off, right? She’d survived. Again. When she thought she was two seconds away from death. She’d done it.

Her breath came out in harsh pants. This wasn’t- why was she even in the city? Why had she even wanted this?

What was worth getting attacked in your home and-

Fuck.

She dropped her head back, leaning her weight against the solid wall. Slowly, her fists uncurled, and her palms stung from where her nails dug into the flesh. Her ankle was starting to throb again. The pain had been forgotten in the excitement and now she was feeling it.

And she’d acted like an asshole to those watch- those people. The ones who’d helped her, who probably weren’t like the watchguards from- she focused on the ground beneath her and her breathing, slow and steady.

She’d just have to avoid that word from now on. It seemed to trigger the, the shell shock. If that was even what was wrong with her.

Di Danti’s didn’t get that, did they? And if they did, they certainly couldn’t let people go about telling other people. It’d spread and everyone would think she was weak, like her mother said.

People don’t think you’re like them when you display anything less than your best. They think you’re weak, they think they can step on you, that they can take advantage.

So people couldn’t know. And her mother couldn’t know, because Amalia’d already embarrassed her enough. And her father would just worry himself needlessly, because what could he do? She was pretty sure there weren’t doctors for this kind of thing.

She let out a soft breath. So she’d keep away from certain words, and she’d keep doing the breathing exercises.

And it’d probably go away. She couldn’t imagine people living like this for years. And even the watchguard said that only some people suffer from it for long periods of time, right?

And she certainly wasn’t weak in the mind, so that was unlikely to happen to her. She’d be fine. She’d deal with it, and it’d go away. And then things would go back to normal.

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