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⤠ ≻ ◈ ≺ ⤟
A MURDER, A MYSTERY
TAoCD ch1: Welcome
They gave Clementine six months. Seven at most. Colligo-interitus became terminal in its later stages. The black bile that had seeped from his mouth could have been caused by several things where he'd grown up—why would anyone think it was a disease that had disappeared over a hundred years ago?
The meds helped. As long as he choked down a little white pill three times a day, he could avoid the throwing up and dark splotches on his pale skin. At least he hadn't lost his hair—his wavy, blonde hair. He ran his fingers through it, leaving smudges of thick crimson. And as he stood over the convulsing body of Harrison Darby, a flicker of delight gleamed in his piercing blue eyes.
Harrison's black tweed blazer stained red as his life oozed from his chest, where Clementine's silver dagger was lodged. The boy gagged, spraying blood through his gritted teeth as he tried to curse his fellow, a look of horror on his face. There was nothing he could do.
The cramped library in which he lay would become his grave, and as Clementine uttered a phrase of banishing through his pouty lips, creaking, cracked fingers made of tree roots and entwining vines seeped through the dark floorboards and dragged Harrison's twitching body down into the earth, leaving not a trace. Nobody would ever find him.
Five months, two weeks, five days; that was exactly how long Clementine had left to find the rest of Harrison's society. And no matter what it took—no matter what lengths he was sure he'd have to go to, he would find every single person responsible for his sister's murder.
An eerie scream then rattled the shelf-lined walls, shaking the dust from the books that sat upon them. Clementine frantically searched his surroundings for a witness, and when he didn't find one, he realized the sound had come from outside.
The thumping of balmoral shoes against oak flooring echoed through the halls, and as hushed voices of panicked students grew louder, Clementine tucked a gold ring he'd taken from Harrison's finger into his trouser pocket and hurried over to one of the library's windows.
A thin, murky mist had warped the evening air, but it wasn't enough to hide the horrified face of the girl that lay bleeding beside the marble fountain. She gasped for air, grasping an oozing slash in her stomach. A flicker of dark snatched Clementine's attention—his vigilance led him to watching the distorted figure of a man or woman fleeing into the darkness of the alder forest that surrounded Aldergrove Academy.
With a frown of curiosity, his gaze reverted to the girl by the fountain. Her brown-white sweatshirt had been torn, blood seeping through the fabric, and as a flurry of gasping, uttering students surrounded her, a rumble of thunder shook the flooring.
It was time for Clementine to leave.
He stepped away from the window and checked his black blazer and dark grey turtleneck for splashes of blood, and when he was sure he carried no evidence with him, he made his way out of the library and navigated the long, gloomy halls until he emerged out into the courtyard.
Professors Huxley, Warren and McMillan had arrived on the scene. While Warren and McMillan tried to usher the students back to their dorms, Huxley crouched beside the girl and tried to help her with her wounds.
Clementine eased through the crowd, getting himself a closer glimpse at her. Auburn hair, patchy brown freckles that stretched across her sharp nose. Molly Brent—he recognized her from induction day; she'd sold lattes and cherry coconut scones in the mess hall. But that was all he knew.
Nobody seemed to be horribly shocked—of course they weren't. There had been rumours that this kind of thing happened all the time at the academy, not to mention the rest of the world. Most of the snobby-faced teenagers stood with looks of intrigue or startle, others with revolt. Three people stared in what looked like anger, though. Clementine watched their faces, observing as their tired eyes searched the crowd of muttering, whispering students and eventually located a large group of dark, expressionless boys, all glaring at Molly with demeaning glowers.
"Clear the courtyard!" Huxley demanded, his voice bellowing through the crowd as he scooped the bleeding girl up in his arms. "Get back to your dorms!"
The congregation of students uttered and groaned but started to disperse, heading over to the doors that led into the black-brick building. Clementine followed, listening to the whispers, 'Who would do such a thing?', 'The year has barely started!', 'Does anyone know her?'. No one seemed terribly horrified that there had just been an attempted murder...that one of their fellow students had just been stabbed in the courtyard. And Clementine was no exception. All he felt was annoyance—was this girl's attacker going to impede his ambitions?
He huffed irritably, glancing over at the oil paintings and portraits lined along the corridor's wall.
"First day and someone's already had their guts spilled, huh?"
Taking his eyes off the art, Clementine looked over at the furrowed face of Elliot, one of his roommates. His dark orange hair shimmered in the light of the lanterns hanging from the rib-vaulted ceiling, his pale lips cracked and flaking. It was hard for Clementine not to dot-to-dot the pimples scattered across his face, and as he waited for him to answer, he blinked slowly.
Clementine stared ahead, following several other students up a flight of creaking wooden stairs.
"Do you know her?" Elliot asked.
"That's the first thing we were told on induction day," he said matter-of-factly, oblivious to Clementine's disinterest. "Don't wander around the grounds alone. Speaking of...where were you?"
The abrupt need to be defensive gripped Clementine. "Using the bathroom," he uttered, now following the long, winding corridor lined with doors to dormitories.
As Elliot nattered on about wandering the academy alone, Clementine located room sixty-three. He reached into his pocket, and as his fingers brushed over the ring he'd taken from Harrison, the realization hit him. He may have hidden his body, but he had killed that boy—that was the first time he'd killed anyone...and it hadn't felt like he had thought. No...he felt content. Joy. Exhilaration. And as the sight of Harrison's bloody face swirled around in his head, he flicked the ring out of his hand's path and grabbed the key to his dorm.
"Are you ready for class tomorrow?" Elliot asked as they headed into the dorm.
Clementine pulled off his blazer and headed to his bedroom. With a heavy sigh, he fell back into his bed and rested his head on his arm, which he moved behind his head, and stared up at the mural-painted ceiling.
"A whole morning of history," Elliot called from across the dorm. "We're in the same classes, right?"
Rolling his eyes, Clementine got up out of his bed and stormed over to the door, which he closed before Elliot could utter another word. He could hear his roommate's voice complaining, but he didn't care to listen to what he was saying. He made his way back over to his bed and laid down.
The gold ring found its way into his hand. He stared at it, holding it between his finger and thumb. The sapphire-encrusted 'R' shimmered in the light of his lantern, and as he glared at it, hate enthralled his heart. The Ravenblood had taken everything from him, and now that he'd taken the life of one of them, he ached to slay another. He only had six months...but he couldn't be careless. Harrison's absence would be noticed sooner or later, and if he started killing too many too soon, the society would suspect that someone was targeting them.
He couldn't let himself become a loner, either. If he was portrayed as the quiet, lonely kid that hung out in dark corners and under staircases by himself, he'd quickly become a suspect. Things at Aldergrove Academy were bound to kick off soon—someone had already been attacked in the courtyard, and once the slaying and attempted slashings picked up, he'd take out his next target. For now, he had to focus on doing everything he could that would help him shift suspecting eyes when the time came.
Clementine sat up and pulled open the drawer of his nightstand. He snatched a small glasses case from within, opened it, and among the hundreds of tiny white pills inside—one of which he picked out—he tucked the ring, slammed it shut, and stuffed it at the very back of the drawer behind a pair of socks.
With a disgruntled grunt, he placed the pill on his tongue, took a sip of water from the glass on his nightstand, and swallowed it.
Four hundred and eighty-three to go...and his time would be up.
TAoCD ch1: Text
TAoCD ch1: Image
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