58 - Ain't No Rest For the Wicked

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January 2, 1486

Monteriggioni, Italy

Catherine shot up with a gasp, panting hard as sweat dribbled down her face. Eyes wide, she looked down at her upturned, shaking palm. The rest of her shook, too, with a burning cold that coursed through her. It was not unlike when she used the Clock, and there was even an ache in her mind, but she had not activated it. The device was complacent on her nightstand, but she felt the lingering warmth in her fingertips, and she felt a dribble of fluid from her nose. She reached up to touch, and in the dark she could make out the black liquid—blood.

"No—no, no, no!" she hissed, her voice quivering. Beside her, Ezio suddenly shot up, dagger in hand and ready to attack. His eyes flared to see what danger lurked in the dark, but there was only the two of them, and when he looked to his lover he found the despair in her eyes. His body slumped as he realized what had happened and tossed the dagger aside.

"Again?" he inquired softly, reaching up to wipe the remains of the blood from her face.

Catherine couldn't muster a reply, her body still shaking and eyes beginning to sting. She pressed her hands to the sides of her head, nodding weakly as she squeezed her eyes shut. Ezio cursed, running a hand through his hair, and she couldn't help a whimper that soon became a sob. Tears came, and although his arms were around her instantly, pulling her close, it did not ebb them. If anything, it grew worse as she buried her head into Ezio's chest. He tightened his hold, kissed her brow, and kept her close as he sent a scathing glare at the artifact—the source of all the pain. Torn between his rage at it and himself—for being unable to do anything to protect the woman he loved—and despair for Catherine and the agony it gave her, all he could do was comfort her as she battled the pain in the only way she had left.

She calmed after a little while as she usually did; this night only one of many over the countless months now. She dared to say ever since they had returned from Venezia that the nightmares had started. Or rather, she likened them to visions; they were too real to be just dreams, and she knew her Clock had activated. The sensation upon waking could only be made by it, and her bleeding nose was the ultimate sign. She didn't know why, though—or how. She had never done this before, and she could not make sense of the dream-visions. The "God" was not there. Rather, she saw a figure blurred—made of light. She vaguely recognized them. She knew she'd seen them before, and in their hand an object glowed like a miniature sun. The world was made of lights, and it was if she had been pulled into the world of the Clock. Yet, she was not as she usually was. She was only a spectator, and she watched as the figure altered the word—cut lines and molded them. He changed things around him, although she didn't know what. She knew there was some purpose to it and that she should try to figure it out, but she did not understand. There was no rhyme or reason, and the "God" within her Clock was silent.

The first dream had shocked her and left her wondering. The second irked her, the third angered, the fourth raged, and the fifth drew her into a frenzy. When her rage was spent, only the confusion remained, and it quickly gave way to despair. It didn't help Ezio was filled with as much the same; to be unable to help her in any way. It brought her grief knowing that, but what could she do? She was not the true master of the thing. She knew she was the puppet, but to have no explanation? No sign at all? And to know each activation harmed her? It might not have been the same, but what was it doing to her? What was it doing to her body? What would it take from her next?

It had gone on only a few times a month at first, but now it had become once a week. Waking up in cold, hot sweat and shaking; Ezio embracing her tight; the dull ache after she had spent her tears.

She wasn't sure how much more she could take.

"What do you see this time?" the young man asked gently, holding her in his lap as he leaned against the headboard of the bed. He rubbed along her bare side and leg gently; soothingly; the other arm entwined their fingers together while he kept his chin against her brow.

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