Mia froze the moment she set foot in the large brightly lit attic. Her body frozen as she caught the scent of something she had no smelled in a long time, and something she would never forget.
She quickly looked for her sisters. Her gaze darting around the long room. She finally found them in on of the dark corners of the attic. Daphne was pacing frantically, clutching her arms tightly against her chest. Adeline stood near her, speaking softly and calmly. But Daphne kept shaking her head and the look in her eyes was nearly frantic.
“You recognize the scent too,” Ada said with a frown as she moved to stand next to Mia. “Your sister has been like that she we came up here. The moment she caught the scent she went nuts and began to tear the place apart before Adeline was able to corner her and keep her relatively calm. Neither will say what’s wrong, but the rest of us can sense something is not right here.”
“No, something is not right here,” Mia said simply as she looked around the room. She spotted Nathaniel helping Sarah pick her way around the debris as they made their way towards Delilah who was sorting through the larger chunks. Her mother stood off to the side of Delilah, her gaze darting between Daphne and Adeline and the pile of rubble. Did she realize what had driven her Daphne out of her mind? Did she recognize the scent? Did she even understand what it meant if she did?
“Mia!” Daphne screeched, having finally noticed her arrival. As quick as lightning her sister dashed across the room until she stood before Mia, her breath coming in puffs. Mia was unprepared for the strength in her sister’s grip, as Daphne’s hands wrapped around her upper arms so tightly her fingers began to go numb.
“I can smell him. I can smell him,” Daphne said, her voice was raspy, her lips trembling, and her eyes wild. It had been a long time since Mia saw Daphne like this. Right after they banished their father to his eternal sleep, Daphne would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and half crazed. She would attack anyone that we near her. It didn’t matter who they were. In her mind, they were all enemies.
It had been a hard time on them all, but Daphne the youngest had it the worst. She was haunted at night by dreams of her death at the hands of their father. All she would remember was waking up covered in blood and surrounded by death. She had been the first to awaken and when she had seen their lifeless bodies surrounding her, she had lost it. Mia had awoken to find Daphne curled in a ball screaming as Thea leaned over her trying to comfort her.
She had only been sixteen years old when it all started. She had been so innocent and trusting. She hadn’t believed that their father was capable of hurting them. She had run to him, pleading with him to stop, she hadn’t been prepared when her father had grabbed her by the neck and squeezed. Her neck had broken with a loud crack and her lifeless body had fallen on to the blood soaked ground. Her mouth still open in a silent plea.
They had all stood there for one moment. Unable to believe the horror they had just seen. Daphne, their sweet kind little sister was gone. It had happened so fast. They hadn’t even had time to move, to protect her. One moment she was there, the next she was just gone.
Emily had been the first to move. She had left out a scream filled her rage. She had charged at their father without any hesitation. She had last only a second longer than Daphne. Their father had turned empty eyes at his second youngest daughter before swatting her away. Emily had flown backwards and crashed in to a pile of rubble. Her head was twisted at an angle, blood running down the side of her mouth. She was gone.
Mia had looked at Thea and Adeline. They had looked back at her, just as nervous and just as fearful. But they knew what they had to do. They had to stop their father. They truly didn’t expect to make it out alive. Not against their father. But they knew they had to do something to stop him.
Adeline pulled a pitchfork from the stiff hands of one of the fallen. Thea had watched before she to leaned over and grabbed a fallen sword. They didn’t know how to use the weapons in their hands, all they knew was that they had to do something.
Mia knew she had no hope with a weapon in hand. But she had something else. She was her father’s daughter. She had his gift. She watched as her sister circled their father. They stayed well out of his reach and they watched him, hoping for an opening.
Their father just watched the two of them warily. A growl on his lips and murder in his eyes.
Mia knelt down and dipped her fingers in the blood pooled around the dead body of a man she recognized. She didn’t know his name. Her father had always kept her away from the villagers as much as possible. But she remembered that he used to come up to the keep and deliver flour for their mother. He had always been kind and brought little treats for them when they were younger. Nothing big, but usually a small piece of candy or an apple from a nearby orchard. He had been a good man and he hadn’t deserved to die that way. None of them did no matter what they had done.
“Forgive me,” She had whispered to the still body, “But I promise that your sacrifice will not be in vain. We will stop him.”
Of course there had been no reply. But still Mia hoped that some how, some where he had heard her words and he understood. They would not let their father get away with this.
Gathering the magic that was her own, she used the man’s spilt blood as payment. She wasn’t sure it was going to work at first. She had never done anything like this before. Usually the other person had to be the one asking for a wish, not the wish granter. But there was no one here to make a wish but herself. So she hoped and she prayed that this worked.
“Please grant us the power to stop our father and to end this blood shed. Grant us the power we need to protect the innocent and the weak. Give us the strength we need to end this horror,” Mia begged and pleaded with whatever entity it was that given her and her father this power. She had no idea if there was so god or some force out there to hear her plea, yet she prayed and dared to hope. “Please!”
At first nothing happened. There was no change. There wasn’t that click within her that she usually felt when a wish had been grant. There had been nothing. She wanted to cry then as she looked from one sister to the next. They were going to die. They were going to die and their father would live on, spreading more death and destruction and there would be nothing out there to stop him. He would go on unimpeded and he would keep killing until there was no one left to kill. He would be the end of humanity.
That thought catalyzed something in Mia, something she had never felt before. All she knew was that he could not be the end of it all. This could not be the end of their world.
Mia jumped to her feet prepared to fight to the death. She would not let him end them all. Mia felt it then. Some sort of power she had never felt before. It burst out from her in a wave of light that threw her sisters and father off their feet.
Thea and Adeline could only lie there in the bloody mud staring at her in surprise. The father though was on his feet in an instant. He charged a Mia, madness in his eyes. He was so fast. Mia had never seen anything move so fast before in her life. Her eyes could barely track him. One moment he was ten yards away, the next he was right before her.
Mia could only watched in horror as his large hand come up to wrap around her neck. She didn’t even have a chance to scream. The last thing she remembered was the snap of her neck and then everything had gone black.
When she opened her eyes again, she was covered in blood. It seemed to cover every inch of her. Even her hair was dripping with the dark coppery liquid. She swore she could even taste it in her mouth. She had been too stunned and confused when she first awoke that nothing around her made sense.
It took her a moment to realize that she should have been dead. Daphne and Emily as well. Yet they were alive. She looked down at her blood covered hands. Had she done this? Had she brought them all back to life?
Even now she still wasn’t sure what had happened. If it had been that wish she had made right before her death? Or was it just something that had awoken in them when their father has taken their lives. Mia had no idea, all she did know was, that when they woke up, they had new powers.
Until that moment, blood magic as the world now knew it had not existed. Using blood to power your magic had been something completely new and something that they had needed to learn to use. They had nearly killed themselves a hundred different times in those first weeks when they discovered the powers. Simple thoughts became dangerous as the drew upon the powers they didn’t even realize they had. It had taken them a while to learn just what their powers were truly capable of.
It was years before they truly became capable of wielding them. And in those years their father roamed the lands terrorizing the people. They chased him across the land, from one end to the other. Wherever he went, death followed. They never arrived in time to save anyone. All they could do was send out warnings and hope people were able to flee in time.
Back then, the land had been sparsely populated. But now, if he were to be let loose, millions of lives could be lost in a single day.
“Mia, what’s going on?” Sarah asked worriedly, her hand held tightly in Nathaniel’s.
“I can smell him,” Daphne practically wailed, her voice hoarse, her grip on Mia’s arms tightening. This was too much for her youngest sister, she needed to remove her from the room before she became a danger to herself or to the others. After all, she was one of the true Omegas. Not matter how she acted or what she used her powers for, Daphne was still just as powerful as Mia or Adeline. She could do some serious damage before they would be able to stop her. The wards around the house were powerful, but they wouldn’t be able to sustain for long under a barrage of power. After all, the wards were designed to protect from enemies outside, not from within.
“Ada, get her out of here,” Mia ordered as she pried Daphne’s fingers from around her arms. Ada had to help her peal Daphne’s fingers off. When they were finally able to free Mia, the damage was already down, purple bruises were already starting to form. With their natural healing powers, they would disappear in a day or so. But still, Nick would not be happy when he saw them.
Daphne began to scream and holler, fighting Ada and Mia’s grip as she began to thrash around.
“Delilah, help Ada,” Mia shouted to be heard over her sister, “Get her out of here now!”
Delilah was there in an instant and the two woman wrestled Daphne down the stairwell right behind them. Mia could hear her sister’s cries as they dragged her away.
“Mia, what is going on?” Sarah asked again as she looked around at the room.
“Nathaniel, I think it would be best if you and Sarah left as well,” Mia said, her voice strained as she ignored Sarah’s question. She wasn’t ignoring Sarah’s questions because she didn’t want to answer her. She just couldn’t get in to it all right now. She didn’t have the time to explain what was going on. Whatever was in the attic was dangerous and she needed to remove her friends from that danger as quickly as possible.
“I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s going on this instant,” Sarah argued, crossing her arms over her chest as she stuck her chin out stubbornly. Normally, this would have brought a smile to Mia’s face, but right now she needed them out fo the room and if she had to go over there, pick up her friend and literally carry her out of here, she would.
Nathaniel must have read something on her face, because he gripped Sarah’s elbow and began to lead her across the room, “I think it would actually be best for us to leave. I think there are things at work right now that are above our pay grade.”
He tried to keep his voice cheerful as he guided Sarah across the room once more. She fought him, she tried to pull her arm out of his grasp but he held on tightly.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she tried to fight him but Nathaniel was not unprepared for her. He easily wrapped one arm under her legs and threw her over his shoulder.
“I should actually probably carry you. It’s a little dangerous around here. You never know what you might step on. Would hate for you to cut your foot,” He said as he easily carried her across the rubble.
“Nathaniel St. Croix, I don’t care who you are or just how old you are, put me down this instant,” Sarah ordered as she struggled in his grasp. But he held her in such a way that he easily held on to her. She had no leverage to fight him, “I will never forgive you if you do not put me down right now.”
“Sarah,” Mia said as the two drew up at her side, “I’m really sorry about this, and I promise to tell you everything later, but for right now, it really is best that you not be in this room. I don’t know what exactly was left here, but it’s not safe for either of you.”
“Then obviously its not safe for you either,” Sarah argued as she tried to lift her head enough to look in Mia’s direction.
“Sadly, we are probably the only ones that are safe from whatever magic is in this room,” Mia said with a soft snort as she looked toward Adeline who was slowly making her way towards Mia. There was dark frown on her lips.
“You may be able to make me leave, but good luck if you think you can keep Nick away. When he finds out what’s going on, he’s going to lose it. ” Sarah threatened.
“I would really prefer it that you don’t say anything to Nick at the moment. There is nothing he can do here and he’s already at his limit. It would be nice if we didn’t have to worry about him as well as Daphne,” Mia said as she gave Nathaniel a look over Sarah’s shoulder.
Nathaniel nodded his head in understanding, “Come along my dear. I think it would be best if we waited for everyone in the kitchen. We should probably start making the coffee now because I have a feeling we’re going to be needing it very soon.”
Nathaniel easily navigated his way down the stairs with Sarah balanced on his shoulder. She went down far more quietly than Daphne, but not before throwing one last threat up at Mia.
“You better not be doing anything dangerous up there or I will never forgive,” She called out as her head disappeared from sight.
Mia let out a weary sigh as she turned back to look around the nearly empty attic. The only ones that remained were Adeline, herself and their mother.
“You know what it is, don’t you?The reason father’s scent is all over the place. It’s the reason you had the rest of them leave,” Adeline said as she reached Mia’s side.
“I don’t know for sure, but I have an idea,” Mia nodded as she gazed around the long room. All the furniture and chests along the wall remained untouched. But whatever had been placed in the middle of the room was now nothing more than a pile of scraps. Broken wood, scraps of fabric, and shards of porcelain were all that remained.
“What are we looking for?” Adeline said, following her sister’s gaze.
“What do you smell?” Mia asked, as she turned to Adeline. Her sister’s frowned but did as Mia asked and sniffed the air around them.
“I smell father’s blood,” Adeline answered.
“And what else?”
“Iron,” their mother answered as she moved to stand besides them, “Iron, and your blood.”
“Yes,” Mia nodded.
“I don’t understand,” Adeline said as she turned back to look t Mia, “What does that mean.”
“It means that we have a weapon,” Mia answered as she stepped forward, away from her sister and mother and towards the pile of debris in the middle of the room where the smell was the strongest.
“What weapon?” Iliya asked as she followed behind Mia.
“The only weapon we ever had against father,” Mia said as she stopped at the edge of the debris and knelt down. She carefully moved aside a couple large pieces of wood, which looked to have been a bureau in it’s previous life before her sister got to it. Sweeping away the dust from a shattered vase, she found the end of a delicate gold chain. She carefully pulled on the thin chain, dragging the necklace from beneath what remained of antique armchair. Daphne had probably caused thousands and thousands of dollars in damage up here. Mia just hoped Nathaniel hadn’t lost anything precious to him.
When the necklace finally emerged from the remains, Mia could only stare at the large golden pendant at it’s end. Her breath caught as she fingers shook. The golden links feel from her hand and in to the dust at her feet.
“Mia, what is it?” Adeline asked, as she knelt next to Mia, warily studying at the necklace before them. When Mia made no further move, Adeline reached out and picked up the pendant. Her thumb rubbing over the smooth large ice blue stone in the middle pendant. A single word curved across the top of the pendant. “Stormrider?”
Adeline frowned as she turned over the pendant to find an inscription, “Do not fear death, for it is not the end, it is just another beginning.”
“I don’t understand, what does this mean?” Adeline asked as she turned to Mia. “I thought the Stormrider Clan was dead. You told us your clan wiped them out.”
“They did,” Mia said, her voice strangled as she reached for the pendant in her sister’s hands, her hand shaking. The ring around her thumb began to hum and heat the closer she drew to the pendant.
Her hand froze, hovering a few inches above Adeline’s palm, her fingers prickling. A spell? But it would mean that it was a spell meant only for her if Adeline had no reaction to it. Did she dare activate the spell? It could be a spell meant to harm her. Touching it could strike her dead in a blink of a eye. But it could also be something more. Something they would need to fight their father. If it truly was Thea who had left this here for her, then it could be a clue. If so, wasn’t it worth the risk then? Did she really have anything to lose?
Before anyone could argue, Mia moved those last few inches and picked up the pendant, the blue stone pressing in to her palm. There was one moment of pain, the instant the stone touched her flesh. But it was just for an instant. A prick, nothing more. As if the stone was tasting her, verifying that she was indeed it’s target.
Mia was just opening her mouth to warn Adeline away when the stone in palm let out a burst of light so bright that Mia had to look away. The pendant fell from her hand as she raised her arm to block her eyes.
“What the hell?” She heard Adeline swearing beside her.
The flash lasted only for a second, but it had been so bright that even when it was gone Mia still couldn’t see. When she opened her eyes once more, all she saw was a white blur.
“Damn, this better not be permanent,” Mia could hear her sister muttering beside her.
“Don’t move, any of you,” Iliya called from behind them.
“Wasn’t planning on it,” came her sister’s reply a second before Mia heard something fall with a heavy thud and Adeline swearing. Mia couldn’t help it, a snort left her lips.
“This isn’t funny,” came a taut reply.
“It kind of is,” Mia argued as slowly the room around her began to take shape as she saw Adeline sitting on the ground beside her, blinking as she looked around the room. When she saw the smirk on Mia’s lips, her eyes narrowed and her lips pressed tightly together. “She did tell you not to move.”
“I didn’t move, I shifted. My leg was beginning to cramp up.”
“Excuses, excuse,” Mia said as she held a hand out to Adeline to help her get off her butt.
“So what was that anyway?” Adeline asked as she pulled herself up.
“Nothing good, I’m sure,” Mia said as she turned to look at the ground where the dropped pendant lay. The pendant had fallen stone side down. She worried for a moment that the stone might have broken or cracked. She still had no idea what magic the necklace contained if any. It might have just been that one spell and Mia still wasn’t sure what it had done.
She was just reaching out for the necklace when her the back of right hand and wrist began to burn. She pulled her hand back hissing as the searing pain grew stronger.
“Mia, what’s wrong?” Adeline reached out for her, but Mia batted her hand away with her free hand.
“Stay away,” She groaned as she held her arm against her chest. The pain had become nearly unbearable. It felt like someone was placing a red hot brand against her skin. Sweat began to bead on her forehead as her breath came out in painful gasps.
“Mia!” Adeline’s eyes were wide as she stared down in horror at the arm Mia had pressed against her chest. The pain began to spread as it creeped up her arm towards her elbow.
The world around her began to blur, no longer able to balance on her feet, she crumbled to the ground, curling her body tightly around her arm.
Just a little longer, just a little bit longer, a voice whispered in the air beside her ear. I’m sorry for the pain but this is the only way. Please bare it for a little longer.
“The-a,” The name came out of Mia’s lips as a groan. She tilted her head up as she tired to find the source of the voice. But all she saw were Adeline and their mother leaning over her. Their mouths moved but Mia couldn’t make out there words.
I can’t explain now. It’s too dangerous to say more. Just know that you are not alone. When the time comes, I will be beside you. You must be careful until then. Someone close to you means you harm and this will help protect you. That is all you need to know for now.
The pain had gotten so bad by then, the Mia’s eyes were watering and she could taste blood on her tongue. She could barely understand what the voice was saying. She didn’t know if it was truly her sister of if she was just imaging things.
She really truly wouldn’t be surprised if she was beginning to hallucinate. Nothing made sense to her anymore. Maybe this was just one more thing. Hearing voice, phantom babies, it was all getting to be too much.
A choked laugh broke from her bloody lips. She could taste the magic in her blood. Oh, how easy it would be to dip in to that magic, to mold it and wield it. To make the pain stop. But even in her pain addled mind she was aware of the fact that magic meant death. William had warned her. If she were to use any magic it would be too much for her reborn body and she would die. As tempting as death was at the moment, she wasn’t ready just yet.
Of course she changed her mind on that last thought when in the next moment the pain flared to heights she had not known before. She almost passed out it was so bad. Even when her body was being reborn, it hadn’t hurt that bad. It was as if someone has stuck a molten poker straight in to her arm and metal bled straight in to her veins.
The air whooshed out of her lungs in a choking cry that was barely above a whisper. Her whole body tensed up, her heart beating so furiously she was afraid for a moment that it was literally going to burst from her chest. A bolt of power shot from right hand, zipping through her body, lighting it on fire from the inside out.
The world exploded in to light once more and the room vanished before her eyes. She thought for a moment that she must be dead. She hadn’t survived whatever that was and now she was dead. That was the only explanation for what she saw.
“Kai.” She reached out towards the man who stood before her. His back was to her, but she would recognize him anywhere. It was her Kai. His long flax hair hung down his back. His wore the gray tunic she had sewed herself one year for his birthday. She would recognize her crooked stitched anywhere.
Upon hearing his name, he turned towards her, a smile on his face, his golden eyes glowing brightly.
Mia tried to move towards him, to reach him. But then he turned around completely as she saw he was not alone. A little girl with pale blond pig tails and bright silver eyes clung to him. Her smile was all Kai, but her face, Mia saw that face every morning when she looked in the mirror while brushing her teeth. A child, their child.
Suddenly the man and child vanished and in their place stood a young woman with long pale blond hair plated in a braid that hung over her shoulder and down to her waist. The woman’s dark silver eyes sparkled, matching the large smile on her lips. It was almost like looking in a mirror.
Mia’s eyes were drawn immediately to the necklace around the woman’s neck. It was the same necklace Mia had left back in the attic or it was an exact duplicate.
“Everything is not as it seems. There are things you do not remember. Things you needed to hide. But soon you will have all your answers. Soon the time will come. Do not forget, do not fear death, for it is not the end, it is just another beginning.”
The young woman began to fade as slowly the light began to dissipate and the room around her began to emerge once more.
“Wait!” Mia reached out towards the woman, trying to reach her, to touch her. But her finger brushed only air.
“Aunt Thea sends her love. Let him know.” The voice grew softer with each word so Mia barely heard the last sentence. She wasn’t even sure she heard correctly as light and woman vanished completely, leaving Mia laying there on the hard ground staring up at the dark wooden paneled ceiling.
“Mia, sweet heart?” A voice said from her side, she turned her head slowly. Things around her were still out of focus, she squinted her eyes to try and make out the face of the woman hovering above her.
“Are you okay?” Iliya‘ s face slowly came in to focus, her bright green eyes staring down at her.
“What happened?” Mia groaned as she tried to sit up. A hand was suddenly at her back as strong arm helped her up. The room began to spin around her and she would have fallen flat against her face in her face hadn’t encountered a hard chest first.
The scent of snow and pine hit her first, then the ever present bite of ozone hit the back of her tongue. She inhaled deeply, burying her nose against her rescuer’s cold neck.
“Did I die?” Her words muffled.
“No, not yet anyway,” Nick informed her curtly as he slid an arm under her legs and lifted her up.
“Hmmm, too bad, I had the weirdest dream then.” Her words sounded a little slurred and the room had not stopped spinning yet. She wrapped her free arm around Nick’s neck and buried her face against his hard chest. Maybe is closed her eyes things wouldn’t be so bad.
“Let’s get her back to examination room and see if there was any damage done.” William’s voice drifted to her from somewhere on her right, but she didn’t bother to open her eyes to check to see where he was. She was too busy trying not to feel sick. Nick would not forgive her if she barfed on him right now. She could probably say it was morning sickness but then he would think she actually believed she was pregnant, which she still didn’t.
Nick easily carried her down the three flights of stairs and back to the hated examination table. She was laid out on it once more, but at least this time she had all her clothes on.
William’s healer was back as she took all of Mia’s vitals. She asked questions that Mia was unable to answer, like ‘What Happened?’ And ‘Where does it hurt?’
Since she had not idea what happened and now that the pain had magically vanished, she really couldn’t give the healer the answers she wanted. She could tell from Nick’s soft growls that he wasn’t any more happy with her answers then the healer was.
“Well, there doesn’t seem to be any physical injury. She doesn’t have a concussion and all her vitals are normal,” The healer informed them as she set her stethoscope down on the metal tray beside the examination table.
“Is the baby all right?” Nick asked, while Mia tried hard not to roll her eyes. Of course her imaginary baby was all right. Instead she lay there like a good girl while the picked up her stethoscope once more and pressed it against Mia’s flat stomach to listen for the baby’s heartbeat Mia could only assume.
“Everything sounds good.”
Nick let out a breath of relief. Mia bit down on her bottom lip to keep her comments to herself. Now was not the time to antagonize him. After all, she was pretty sure William didn’t have another one of those handy dandy protection spells just sitting around waiting to be used. If Nick needed to vent again so soon, it would not be a good thing. He would probably end up doing more damage then Daphne had.
Which reminded her, “How’s Daphne doing?”
“Your sister had to be sedated,” The healer informed her. “She’s resting right now in one of the guest rooms. Your other sister is with her.”
Mia nodded. At least that was one problem she didn’t need to worry about right now. Having been through many of these episodes, she knew it was most likely that Daphne would wake up back to her normal self. All memory of entire episode would be bury deep somewhere in her consciousness. Her death at their father’s hand was still not something she could deal with, even after thousands of years.
Mia wasn’t sure how Adeline dealt with it. It wasn’t really something they spoke about. That was a moment of their lives they didn’t get in to. After they finally defeated their father and recovered, they split apart to start up their armies. After the things they had done, the darkness they had invited in to themselves in order to defeat their father, they had all needed time alone to find their new place in the world around them. They were no longer the people they had been. The things they had done, the lives that had been sacrificed in order the save the world, it had been too much for all of them. Mia knew she had not been the only one to suffer. She had just handled it differently.
“Everything seems to be good for right now. But I’m going to recommend bed rest and lots of fluids. Since we don’t know what happened to her or how it will affect her, the best course of treatment right now is just rest,” Mia heard the words, but she wasn’t really paying attention to them and probably hadn’t been for the last five minutes. It didn’t really seem to matter anyway, since when she turned to the healer, it was to find that she was speaking to Nick and not to her. Mia had no problem with that. She wasn’t actually sure if she could comprehend any of the words anyway.
Whatever had happened up in that attic, it had drained her. She felt perfectly fine, there was no lingering aches or pain, it’s just that she felt so tired. Even now, keeping her eyes open was beginning to become a struggle she no longer wanted to fight.
She could still hear Nick and the healer talking, but their words were becoming indistinct. They were just tones to her. She was a moment away from true sleep when suddenly a pair of arms slid under her as she was lifted up once more.
Her eyes briefly opened to find her face was again flat against Nick’s chest. But she had no problem with that. After all, it was one of her most favorite places to be. Content that she was safe and warm, she closed her eyes and let sleep claim her. She could worry about what happened tomorrow. After she had rested and her brain was functioning once more.
Next: Chapter Seventeen