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Julia’s story – fanfiction by Refugnic
A few days after the return of the group to the camp with the spellbook and its involuntary guardian, Julia approaches a surprisingly large tent and knocks against one of the supports.
“Excuse me…is this the tent of Doctor…Kowalski?” she asks aloud.
The creaking of a folding chair and a few heavy steps later, Stefen opens the cloth door, recognizes the face standing in front of him and responds, “Ah, Miss…Julia, was it?”
Julia nods and asks, “Laura told me that you wanted to talk to me?”
“Yes, that is correct. Please, come in. Oh, and call me ‘Stefen’. Nobody calls me ‘Kowalski’ any more these days…except for Laura maybe, because of that bloody penguin. Honestly, I never should have told her my last name.”
Julia stifles a laugh but remains reluctant to enter.
“What…did you need me for, Dr…Stefen?”
“I wanted to talk to you about your time with Adam. And it’s just ‘Stefen’.”
Stefen notices Julia’s anxiety and asks, “If it helps, I could ask Nina to join us. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”
“W-what makes you think…”
“Listen, I’ve heard about the story you gave Robert and Ada, how Adam ‘kept you around for your knowledge’. But, quite honestly, I do not think this to be the entire truth.”
Julia twitches ever so slightly, just barely enough for Stefen to notice.
Stefen sighs, pulls out one of his cigarettes and offers it to Julia.
“Oh, I don’t…”
Stefen withdraws it without saying a word and lights it for himself.
After taking a deep breath and exhaling a cloud of smoke into a different direction he says, “This is a small camp, Ms. Julia. Word travels fast here. Now…you can help me clarify a few things in private here…or you can wait until the rumor mill starts. Furthermore, it helps to talk about traumatic experiences like that.”
“And you’re…a professional counselor or something?”
“No, but Nina and me are the closest thing to one you’re going to find here. Only that Nina is currently preoccupied with her own issues. Now…”
Stefen steps aside, holding the door into his spacious tent open with an inviting gesture.
Julia sighs, eyes Stefen carefully and finally admits defeat and enters the well-lit tent.
Stefen walks in himself and motions her to take a seat and fetches another folding chair to sit across from her.
After they’re both seated, Julia asks, “Alright, what…what do you want to know?”
“Your story, Ms. Julia. Please tell me what happened.”
“Didn’t you say, you had questions?”
“If I ask questions now, there’s a good chance, I’ll miss important information about how Adam thinks and why he does the things he does. Understanding your enemy is the first step towards defeating them as I’m sure you know. So please, by all means, tell me everything.”
Julia sighs, leans against the folding chair and closes her eyes.
“I understand that the memories must be painful, but we must know as much as we can learn,” Stefen tries to encourage her.
Julia opens her eyes again and begins, “You are…right, Stefen. I…did tell Robert and Ada that he kept me around solely for my knowledge, but…that was not all there is to it. You see, before…it happened, we were…close. Far closer than we should have been. He was young, charismatic and ambitious…the perfect candidate for our organization. A…perfect…candidate.”
Julia stares blankly into the distance for a moment before resuming, “When all hell broke loose, the demons assaulted the national headquarter of the organization, wiping out all those who could possibly pose a threat to him. I was staring down the maw of one of them myself before I even knew what was happening. But just before it ended my life, Adam appeared and just…pat its head and told it, that I was his. And the demon actually listened to him! It was then when I realized what a grave mistake I had made enlisting him. He then took me to the basement, where he forced me to open the vault for him.”
“The vault where we kept the records about the magical artifacts, where to find them, what they do and so on. Lots of ancient scriptures and tomes.”
“And…what did he want there?”
“It…was also, where we kept the register of our members and where to find them. He just…walked over, picked up the files and assigned the demons to take care of them. As if it was nothing to just order the death of a person. Of course I tried to stop him, but he just struck me down with his flat hand and proceeded as if I wasn’t even there.”
“What happened then?”
“He…took me to the media room and tuned in to the news. To the desperate fight of the humans against the first wave. The newscaster claimed, that the attacks originated from seemingly random buildings. Universities, town halls, mansions…but I knew better. Adam…had prepared this for a long time. These buildings…were the other branches of the organization. The attack originated from within the organization and by the time the world reacted, it was already too late…and all those who might have been able to stop him were dead. Sure, some still tried, but they all failed. And I got to watch.”
Stefen motions Julia to stop for a moment, gets up, pours a cup of tea and offers it to her.
She thankfully takes it into her shaking hands, almost spilling the contents.
“Please calm down, Julia. It’s all good now.”
Julia jumps to her feet and shouts, “No, it’s not ‘all good’! All these people are dead! And it’s my fault! Because I failed to see the signs!”
“Nobody did, Julia. Do not blame yourself for things you did have no control over. Now…what happened after the news room?”
Julia stares at Stefen, before looking down at the now almost empty cup in her hands.
She sits back down and mumbles, “Sorry about the tea.”
“Don’t worry about it. I will clean it up later.”
Julia exhales deeply and then continues, “He then confined me into his ‘sanctuary’, as he called it…the one safe place in the world, where the demons could not enter. His personal quarters, where he conducted his studies. While he was away, I studied his records…he is…an obsessed man, Stefen. Obsessed with power.”
“Can you tell me what he is after? Why do all this?”
Julia shakes her head and replies, “Most of his records were written in a language or a cipher I had never seen before. He didn’t leave anything to chance. He knew, that nobody but him could read them, so he left them around for me to despair over them. Among the things I could read I found a number of rituals, including one designed to subdue the will of a person. To create mindless slaves. And the worst thing of all…the pentacle for this very ritual was right there. In his room. He…must have used it to prepare his strike against the organization. And nobody noticed. I did not notice…”
Stefen scratches his scruffy beard and finally asks, “And…why did he not use it on you?”
“I…actually asked myself the same question. I guess he didn’t deem it necessary as long as I obeyed him and…well, I believe you can imagine what he came to me for.”
“Yes, I…can imagine. Most certainly not for a pleasant chat.”
Julia shook her head again with tears in her eyes.
“After…”, she started, having trouble to speak, “…after a while, everything around me fell silent. The demons had moved on to hunt down those who remained. And I knew that it was now or never. I…undid the spell keeping the door closed…”
“You can do that?” Stefen interrupted her, a sense of surprise in his voice.
Julia looks at Stefen a little offended and replies, “I did not make it ‘head of the national branch’ just because of my looks if that’s what you’re asking. Plus, I had plenty of time to prepare my escape. Fortunately, Adam was…rather lenient with me.”
Julia pauses briefly, ordering her thoughts.
“Only after leaving the room, I realized the true extent of what he had done. There were corpses everywhere, many of which got mutilated. Friends. Acquaintances. The people I had considered to be the closest thing to a family I ever had…I…I just ran. Past all the destruction, past all the death. Just outside, I came across a destroyed tank, cracked open like a walnut. Its crew laid scattered around. The expression of terror on their faces…or what remained on them…got etched inside my mind. I see them almost every time I close my eyes…”
Julia leans against the chair and stares towards the ceiling while collecting her thoughts.
“…this isn’t the first colony of survivors I found, you know?”
“No…I came across another group during my escape, holed up in a shopping mall. I mean honestly, just how cliche can you get?”
“Lots of supplies, food, clothing, fairly easy to defend structure, good to hide in, protected from the elements…there is a reason why this cliche exists, Ms. Julia.”
“Yes…yes, I guess you are right. Anyway…it…it didn’t take long until Adam noticed that I had gone missing. He sent out his dogs to go and find me…and they did find me. The survivors tried to fight back of course. They emptied entire clips of machine gun ammo into the hordes, but it was futile…I only managed to escape, because I ran the instant the screaming started…though really, I think it was solely because Adam still wanted me to live for his wicked games.”
“So you escaped the shopping mall…and how did you get to the cabin? I looked it up on the map, it is quite a bit out of the way. Not exactly something you stumble across ‘quite by chance’.”
“I…I found out about it in Adam’s records and figured that it would be the last place where he would go looking for me. I…took a bicycle to get there.”
“A bicycle? Why not a motorcycle? Or a car?”
“You clearly haven’t been to the city as of late. The streets are clogged with cars of people trying to escape. Broken cars everywhere. A motorcycle might have worked, but it would also have caused a lot of noise…and attracted unwanted attention.”
“I…see…how long have you been there before Robert and Ada showed up?”
“About…a week or two maybe. I’m not entirely sure. But…are we done here now? I…I would rather be by myself now.”
“Hmm…yes, that should be enough for now. If you ever need someone to talk, you are welcome to come back at any time though. Thank you very much, Julia.”
Julia nods, gets up, places the cup on the table and leaves, still shaking a little.
About 30 seconds later, Nina comes in and asks, “So? What’s the verdict?”
“I don’t know, to be honest. She seems genuinely rattled, but she could also be a splendid liar. What she said adds up with what she told Robert and Ada. Plus, she passed through that magic barrier which is supposed to ward off those ‘who bear ill will’.”
“You don’t sound convinced.”
“I am not convinced. It’s just…too convenient for her to show up in that cabin. It feels like she was planted there.”
“But why? Why would Adam do that?”
“I’m not sure…do you have any ideas?”
Nina leans against the table and replies, “Actually, I do…to split us up. To bring unrest into the camp. To weaken our defenses.”
“What makes you think that?”
“She is a beautiful woman. And from my observations, she appears to be interested in Robert. Sofia caused quite the scene because of that the other day actually.”
Stefen stifles a laugh before finishing his cigarette and asks, “So…you think she’s trying to split the witch and her guardian?”
“That would be my guess regarding her purpose. Though I’m not sure if she’s even aware of that herself, otherwise the barrier should have rejected her…what do you think? What should we do?”
“For now? For now we need to watch. Adam is not a fool. If Julia was a threat to his plans, she wouldn’t be alive to tell the tale. Though I still don’t know…whether she is yet another victim of his machinations…or a weapon to be used against us.”
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