Chapter Twelve

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For a moment, Julian can't breathe as the shadows of the Leyway swirl around him like thick water, and he makes the mistake of gasping for air, only to be greeted with heavy nothingness swarming into his lungs. Before panic can set in, a forest clearing begins to emerge before him, shimmering just beyond the translucent darkness.

Body tilting, he tries to steady himself before the ground rears up before him, throwing his hands out quickly to soften the fall. His head spins dangerously, oxygen rushing back into his lungs as he draws in as much air as possible. Pulling himself to his feet, he barely has time to register where he is before another figure stumbles out of the Leyway, more successfully than he did, and takes a few staggering steps before pitching towards the ground.

He manages to catch Eva before she hits the floor, sweeping his arm underneath her, hand supporting her from the small of her back. Setting her upright, she looks around blearily, swaying slightly on her feet.

"What the-" she begins, before her face blanches quickly and she's sent running for the bushes.

She vomits violently, and Julian hesitates, unsure of what to do. So unused to caring for anyone but himself, he takes a cautious step towards her before deciding it's probably best to give her some space.

Once she's done, she stumbles back over to him, eyes shining with thinly suppressed pain.

"Are you alright?" Julian asks, brows knitting together in scowl-like concern.

"I'm fine," she replies, though Julian is almost positive she's lying. "It's just the portal-thing, I don't think it agrees with me." She gestures to where the Leyway had been, eyes growing wide. "It's gone," she breathes.

"Well they don't stick around forever," Julian says, "Otherwise who knows how many creatures would be spilling into our world as soon as they stumble across an open Leyway that'll take them there.'

Small mercies, he guesses. He's met a fair amount of supernatural creatures - or Sidhe, as they call themselves here - to be grateful that passage between realms is, on the whole, strictly controlled, save for a few illegal Leyways some Sidhe were powerful enough - or stupid enough - to conjure up. Leyways like the one they've just come through. Hoping their arrival hasn't caused any kind of noticeable disturbance, Julian pushes everything he's heard the Sidhe do to trespassers out of his mind.

"What do you mean our world?" Eva asks, voice dangerously calm. "Where exactly are we?"

Julian shrugs, "Elphame, the Otherworld, call it what you will. It's basically a refuge for the descendants of fallen angels, disgraced demons and everything in between. Birthplace of humanity's myths about Faeryland. Which kingdom though? I'm not quite sure. Let's hope it's not Algoris, I've heard that's the worst one."

Eva's eyes narrow venomously, "You owe me an explanation. Now."

Julian has to admit she's right, no one in their right mind would see what she's just seen and be fine with it, no questions asked.

"What do you want to know?" he asks simply, watching as she begins to pace the clearing.

"You died," she states, an almost undetectable edge to her voice. "I saw you die."

"That's not a question," Julian replies evasively, despite knowing it won't help at all with calming her down.

She stops in her tracks, brow furrowing as she studies his bloodied clothes, eyes fixing on the tear in his jeans where the skin lies unmarked underneath.

"What are you?" she asks, her voice almost a whisper as if she's scared to hear the answer.

"Human, just like you," Julian responds. It's not a complete lie - well, maybe a half-truth.

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