Chapter Fourteen: Interlude
Sandra returned home worn down from a hard days work, and after quick hug and kiss, she went straight to the bedroom to lay down.
This gave me more time to brood over things for a while longer before I needed to slip back to normal. Despite her ability to sense when large amounts of spiritual energies were clashing, it seems that my battle had gone un-noted by her.
I mulled over once more in my head my latest findings.
All those I had fought in the past few weeks had been under command from a single entity, calling themselves the Unholy Legion. They were up to something, and whatever it was, my efforts were starting to cause trouble for their plans. Also, the Order – a presumed super power – was completely unaware of the Unholy Legion’s presence until the agent they’d sent to put a halt to my disturbances had arrived.
I lingered on the thought of the woman with the ivory wings. She’d been sent to subdue me before I caused more trouble than I’d already started. The Order had obviously been tracking me for some time, yet, they sent someone who was not even of a higher rank. The Great Demon, Groth, had bested her with ease. Had I not had no interest in her, then she may not have survived.
Despite being a super power, it was a distressing thought that even the Order was unable to keep track of everything; but now they knew of the Unholy Legion’s presence, perhaps they could crack down upon them and assist in putting an end to them once and for all. But this was a thought too unlikely to trust within.
The clock ticked onward to six O’clock. With Sandra still resting, I decided to take fixing a meal on my own. I’d rarely ever cooked, but there were things I still remembered from the times when I did. Just had to find the right ingredients.
* * *
Sandra emerged later to the scent of seasoned oils and roasting meat. Small black bags were evident from under her eyes now her makeup had been removed. But despite the signs of fatigue, she swiftly lurched towards the kitchen to investigate the aroma’s.
It felt good to cook an actual meal for a change, rather than order out or have a instant meal from the fridge. Sandra’s pantry was also full of fresh veggies and spices, making the ability for a nice meal easy to prepare. The beef, however, I’d had to duck down to a shopping centre to obtain. Fortunately, there was money still in my account. Tomorrow, I’d have to get back to work.
Hungrily, Sandra eyeballed the food. Then she turned to me, gave me a quick kiss to the cheek and sat down in the lounge to relax till dinner was ready.
There was a unusual warmth in cooking for another. It was pleasing though and despite all that was upon my mind, I felt at ease. It was a routine that I was not used to, but quickly I’d found satisfaction in taking it up.
I stirred the veggies through once more, making sure each was sautéed just enough to leave a light tan. The meat dripped lightly with juices and a wafting of pepper and paprika. The meal was ready to serve; just in time too as my stomach began to rumble. I’d left my piece extra rare, and the sight of the juicy hunk of meat roused my demon’s senses.
Sandra sat happily watching the news as I entered through with the meal.
“Bon appétit.” I said in a mock-French voice.
Sandra seemed to almost dive for the meal as soon as it’d placed the plate down on the tray on upon her lap.
“Tough day at work?”
“No, just agonisingly dull!” She replied through half a mouthful.
“Guess the weather deterred most people from heading out.”
She swallowed a mouthful, then dug her knife into the steak. “How was your day? Did you have any fun?”
Just before I answered, I considered the faint note in her voice that led on that she may have caught wind of today’s endeavours. “I went out for a while to stretch.”
“Was that all?” She answered wryly as she put a juicy piece of steak in her mouth.
I took a piece of my own and savoured the taste for a while before chewing it entirely.
“You shouldn’t lie to me…” She said suddenly.
There was no dodging the bullet here. She was clearly aware. Never-the-less, I tested her theory.
“Lie about what?”
“Shaun, I know that there was something big going down today. I can’t say what… all I know is I could sense an immense amount of energies. You can’t tell me that you didn’t sense it to.” She paused momentarily to regard the look on my face. “And to intervene.”
I looked down at my plate, avoiding her accusing eyes as best as possible. I’d preferred to avoid telling her the extent of the trouble I’d been involved in. Then again, she didn’t have to know the whole ordeal. That the mass amount of energies she felt were from an onslaught of demon’s.
Still… I didn’t want to be lying to her and going behind her back as soon as she was out of range.
“Okay… There were some disturbances down by the park, and yes, I did involve myself. But you can’t expect me to not take action.”
“You only just recovered!” She exclaimed.
“Yes, but a little is all I require.”
“It doesn’t mean you won’t get hurt again, or worse!” Her voice trembled a little as she mouthed ‘worse’.
I let out a soft sigh and shifted my plate onto the coffee table. “Sandra… I know you worry… I’m sorry about all that has happened, but you must understand that I have no choice.”
“There is always a choice!”
I sat in place for a moment, eyes transfixed to my plate. Again I found myself having to explain something that was important to me. Something that she could hardly understand.
“Shaun…” She began, resting a hand on my arm. “I just can’t bare to see you hurt again. You don’t know what it was like to watch you at the hospital, not knowing how you would fare in the end. It was torture. Even if the doctors said you were stable, how can they be so certain?”
I let out a shallow sigh. “It is my duty. I must fight whenever a threat arrives. It is how things are.”
She eased back to the couch and slowly began to eat her food once more. Her eyes gazing aimlessly as if at something beyond her food. She hated the idea of me fighting, and I doubted her view on it would ever change. But she’d have to understand in time that it was necessary for me to continue doing what I did.
Still, her being upset put me in a displaced mood. She only cared, after all. My mind drifted for a moment.
Then it set back after a moment of running down thoughts in my head.
“Sandra… I do love you, and I don’t wish to worry you more than I can avoid. Just give me time to take care of business when it arrives, and I promise you, I will never again fight.”
She continued to stare off into the distance, then she came out of her trance. “I know… I’m sorry I snapped.” Her gaze then shifted, and reflected in her eyes was a brief picture of madness. She quickly came back out of her reverb and closed her eyes for a moment, sighing softly as she did. “I guess you can sense it too?”
I had. The world around warped ever so slightly, indicating that something again was amiss. I cursed my luck under my breath, and gazed back at Sandra. Her deep blue eyes reflecting her concern.
Then she forced a slight smile. “You do what you needs to be done… I will wait, and pray that you return.”
She kissed me, taking her time to savour the brief interaction.
Standing up, I slowly began to focus my energy and locate the presence. Then, once it’s location was noted, I headed for the window, preparing to phase out.
“I’ll be back before you even get to say such a prayer… Don’t you worry.”
Chapter Fifteen: The Order
The presence hovered high above the building. My senses estimated it as hovering in the stratosphere. It was amazing how strong Sandra’s senses were to detect it.
Putting aside that slight amazement, I glided high up higher into the night sky, above the storm clouds that enveloped the sky as energy waves continued to ripple down, becoming stronger and more frequent as I got closer; until finally they dispersed without a trace. For a moment I hung there, not moving. The presence had vanished so suddenly. Never a good sign. Anything that could disappear entirely had to be powerful.
Suddenly a wave of energy jetted past from behind. I dodged out of the way, manifesting my shadowy blade, and readied to face my opponent.
I stared transfixed at the woman as she floated gracefully, the blades tip angled towards me and a bolts of energy faintly illuminating along its edge.
“You again. Have you come to finish me off?”
She glared out me, seemingly fighting back a strong urge to attack or curse my existence.
“No, Slayer, though I would gladly destroy you here if given the chance… Fortunately for you, I have another agenda for being here.” She said mockingly, as if she were the clear dominant one on the field now.
“Then elaborate. Why did the Order send you?”
Her face seemed to contort slightly in rage, as if something beyond dealing with me was angering her. “The Order has deemed that the Unholy Legion is real.” –‘No shit’, I mouthed to myself.– “They deem this entity no more a cult, but, a potential nuisance to the balance of our realm… I, Alexandria Du’ Alitus, have been charged with the duty to observe you and keep track of your movement closely, since you have more experience with them.” She hid no disgust in having to undertake such a task, and neither did I at the news.
“This is bull shit! Not only do I not need a babysitter, the Unholy Legion is not a mere cult group! They are a threat, not an inconvenience!”
“Do not speak out of turn, half-breed! It is miserable enough that I must remain in this dimension and observe, let alone have to remain close in proximity to you!”
“You and your Order are all a bunch of worthless fools! As Groth himself had said, you are all ignorant to what is happening in your realm.”
“Damn you, how dare you speak ill of the Order!” She charged forward, her blade gleaming in a bright white light.
I was fed up now. My mood already tempered by today’s event’s and Sandra’s worry, that putting up with the Order and their knowledgeable arrogances was pushing me past my limit.
Keeping a firm grip on my own anger, I swiftly dodged back and out of the range of her strikes as she screamed at me and edged me on to fight back.
“You are a worthless mortal, no better the use to clean my own armour! Fight back, you worm! Damn it!”
Her rage set her off balance. I hadn’t even peaked up my power a little, and still I was capable of evading her attacks.
“Is this what the Order has in their ranks! The Unholy Legion is fact, they are a threat to both our dimensions, and you are the display they have to show they can handle things when all turns to worse?”
She roared out angrily. “Argh! Bastard!”
Her wings began to glow brighter, their once ivory colour slowly shifting to a dark hue of red. She lashed out, striking hard upon my own weapon. I felt the shockwave of pure energy ripple through my body as she quickly vanished before me and in an instant reappeared from behind, bringing about her weapon for another strike. I barely managed to come about and deflect it once more as again the ripples of energy struck me and she vanished to reappear in another spot around me to strike out again.
“You! Foul creature, are the real problem for the Order! So many occurrences have happened that have beckoned the need of our forces to come through and clean up your mess. If this Unholy Legion is a damned disturbance, it is due to your interference!”
I began to phase out more, summoning just enough power to withstand her onslaught. Her rage was fuelling her power which, though it gave her much more strength, set her concentration off, and even with her added speed, with only a slight manifestation of my own power I could keep up and block her attacks.
It was now a test to see who could last the longest. Despite some of my better judgement, I continued to edge her on, knowing full well that her own anger would get the better of her.
“Is this the best you have? They sent YOU to keep an eye on me? If you’re going to be stuck here, I’d rather not have to babysit you, because if this is the display you show, then you have no chance what-so-ever in surviving. Maybe I should’ve let Groth come down upon you, and the Order may have sent someone with better abilities to follow me.”
Her face contorted in rage, and warped into something half human, half wolf. Her sword glowed a brilliant red to match her now pure crimson wings. Her eyes glowed with a naked hatred as she struck out towards me once more with a fast swing aimed at severing head from body.
She’d lost herself in a rage. With a nimble counter she was parried off balance, and I drove the hilt of my sword into her gut, followed with another blunt strike to the back of her head. Not a killing blow, but strong enough to knock most targets out. She slopped downwards, shaking her head to clear her vision as I fell down alongside, keeping my eye locked to hers as she stared angrily back at me.
I spoke in a stern, authoritive tone, “If you are an example of what the Order has to fight back, then there is no hope left… I have my own pressing matters to attend to, and keeping you alive is only going to be a hindrance.”
“Damn you…” She mouthed.
“And control your rage… Back in the spirit realm it may be easier to call yourself back, but here if you lose all control it’ll be much harder to regain your composure.” I phased back out, not taking my eyes off hers, then let myself fall back to the earth to rejoin Sandra who I knew, after such energies were released, was likely waiting, unable to move from upon the couch.
* * *
As guessed, Sandra sat waiting in the lounge, her half eaten food sitting now cold on the coffee table. Her gaze was transfixed upon the turned off TV.
She snapped out of her state as I phased myself back through the window.
“I could sense the fight.” She spoke softly as I came up behind her and rested my chin upon her shoulder, kissing her cheek. “But this was different. You left your foe alive.” She came about to fix her eye on my own, just staring for a moment as she tried to analyse what had happened.
I kissed her once more. “It’s fine. Just a little confrontation. Nothing for the cause for death.”
“Well… I’m glad then.” She seemed about to say something else when her eyes darted off to a position behind me. Before she could say another word, I kissed her firmly again to quiet her down, before pulling away.
“It’s fine… This is the matter that has occurred… I’ll try to explain.”
The woman from the order stood by the window, arms folded and expression set in disapproval. “Again you seem to test the limits of your nature, Slayer. A Demon, half-breed or not, should not be consorting in such way with a human.” Her face coiled in a brief disgust when she uttered ‘human’, but she regained her plain look when she noticed the anger I displayed at her disrespect.
“Shaun. Who is this?” Sandra spoke with a note of bitterness.
I stood erect, keeping myself slightly in between the two women. I’d hoped as I sensed the women’s eventual appearance that tension would not go awry between the two, but it seemed that would be unavoidable. I quietly sighed to myself, knowing that I’d have to pluck up my act even more to keep things calm.
“This is an agent of The Order… I have the misfortune on having to babysit her.”
Alexandria seemed again on the verge of outburst, but kept her voice under control. “Babysit me? You forget yourself, half-breed, it is my own displeasure that I have been charged with the work of keeping an eye upon you.”
I was about to retort when Sandra intervened. “Excuse me, but this is my home, and while you are here, intruding I might add, you will keep your otherworldly disrespect back where it came from and speak in kind to both me and Shaun!”
Again I was interrupted before I could speak, “Mortal, this is none of your business. I suggest you either depart this room, or else fetch me the finest food while I, a true-blood is here. I will not be down-talked by a mere–“
“Now listen here!” Sandra exclaimed as she quickly stood up, pushing past And you are intruding upon both.” She came up to within a metre of the women, showing no sign of fear as she continued to speak with as much dominance she could muster. “While you are here, in my home, you will either leave it as a beaten and bruised intruder, or, you can pay respect and I might consider giving you somewhere to rest as a guest!”
Alexandria, aggravation across her face, her eyes almost beginning to glow ablaze in rage, seemed to be fighting back the urge to kill Sandra where she stood. Caught between her moralities and the urge to defy orders and obey. She knew that it was law not to take a life in this dimension without any need, but Sandra’s disrespect to her presence put her on the verge of throwing away her restraints.
I jumped in quickly to intervene, pushing myself between them, mustering a controlled burst of energy which created a small barrier to deter their advance.
“Listen here. While I’m stuck having you following me around, then you are going to have to conform to the way things work here, or else, if you cause trouble I will end you where you stand.” Then I more gently said to Sandra, “I’m sorry about the turn of events lately. Hopefully the Order will get their damned arses into action and things will go back to normal, sooner rather than later.”
Sandra glared at me for a moment, and I could feel the same heated glare behind me from the woman. She groaned angrily, then stormed back off to the bedroom.
Alexandria turned away and walked off, muttering to herself.
Without turning I said, “If you must, then the couch can be folded out… Personally I’d rather you didn’t, but your order’s were clear enough.”
Without turning also, she replied, “My orders are to keep observation on you. I can be within fifty miles and manage that… Besides, I wouldn’t wont to sleep within this filthy human abode.”
She then phased through and disappeared into the night.
I remained standing in place for a moment, mulling over the day’s events. I knew it was going to be a long week.
Dinner remained sitting, barely touched, upon the coffee table. I decided to reheat mine and finish it off rather than waste it, then retire to bed.
Chapter Sixteen: Muddle
Sandra hadn’t spoken through the night, and had been barely audible when she’d spoken a ‘good-morning’. I felt bad about how things had turned, but stuck in a position where things would have to play out of my hands for a moment. I hoped that later on, work would distract me from my troubles.
I’d stayed in most of the day, leaving only once to return the wheel-chair to the hospital. Though unlike being stuck with my usual thoughts, the presence of the women from the Order hung over me. Every now and then she’d increase her presence as if to remind me that she was keeping a close eye. It was an annoying feeling to have her following my every action so closely, and I dreaded that her constant presence would cause disruptions between me and Sandra.
To my fortune, it seemed that there’d be no encounters that day. Either because there were none about on the hunt, or because she’d been emanating her energies, uncaring about keeping her presence hidden.
I’d come to question her ability since I’d met her. When she’d appeared during my skirmish in the park, her assault had been strong and focused, but she was quick to temper and once her composure was lost she became feeble and easy to defeat.
Her presence was also at a question. She was here to follow me and record any appearance from the Unholy Legion, yet she put no effort into masking her powers to better conceal herself. I hope that the Order had better agents in tow that were less incompetent than her, but there was a dread that even if they had such, the Order weren’t going to put in enough effort in any case to resolve the problem anyway.
Finally, the time came to return to work. Sandra was still keeping quiet, putting little effort into conversations to show her disapproval. But when I’d gone to leave, she stepped in briefly to block my exit.
She stood, looking me dead in the eye, waiting to say something but not able to find the words. So instead, she simply fell against me, pressing her face to my chest and shaking as if holding off unknown tears.
I held her in place for a moment, comforting her, but not sure why.
Finally she titled her head up and spoke. “I’m sorry. I’ve just had too much on my mind lately. Please be careful tonight.”
I smiled warmly at her and kissed her.
“There’s nothing to worry about. I’m only going back to work.”
She sighed quietly to herself and rested against me, still holding on tightly around my waist. “Just be careful… I don’t like that woman whose been trailing you. She’s… unstable… and you seem to get into more trouble at night; you must understand why I worry?”
I hugged her tightly, then shifted around to the door, kissing her once more before I departed. “I understand, but try not to worry still. She may be trailing me, but if anything, she’s a deterrence to most of the lesser spectres about, and if there’s big trouble, she can only assist me, not be part to my downfall” – ‘despite what she’d prefer’, I added thoughtfully to myself – “I’ll try and finish up quickly tonight so I can return not too late. But I can’t make any promises.”
She stood watching from the doorway as I disappeared down the corridor.
* * *
It was a busy night. A large party had come by and almost all were drinking it up, singing loudly to the music, and making happy chants. It wasn’t how I’d wished to return to work, after enduring a long week of rejuvenation and constant scouting. My routine had been knocked out of place, but if the large party, if not a full distraction from my problems, worked me back into a rhythm quickly.
There was still the odd looming presence that continued to trail me. Alxeandria, as with throughout the day, continued to display the same arrogance by discharging small pulses of energy. I’d gotten familiar with the note behind the waves, but with each one I felt a slight headache loom as my other senses naturally reeled in.
Patrick and Lisa were on tonight. Mr. O’Malley had fallen ill the other day, and, having not recovered yet, Michael was on his way down to help out. It wasn’t so bad, as now I’d be able to catch up with them all, even if only for a while and during such busy hours.
“It’s a nice night out, don’t you think?” Mused Patrick as he passed by where I was pouring a few lager’s from the tap.
“A bit too nice, perhaps. At least we’ll bring in a nice sum tonight.”
“Exactly! It’s been a little quiet the last few nights. Even Sunday night wasn’t too busy.”
“Really?” I held on the thought for a bit as I handed over drinks. “How is your father?”
Patrick didn’t respond quickly. He reached up for a bottle of rum and began to measure a shot. “He’s doing alright for now. The Doctor said it’s could be a mild flu, but he’ll recover in time.” There was something about his tone that told me that it may be more than just a flu. I began to serve another customer as Mike arrived, slipping in through the back door, looking flushed and fatigued.
“Ah, Mike, just in time to enjoy the last few hours of the party!” Remarked Patrick.
“I came by as fast as I could, but traffics hell out there. Think another storm may be on the way too.”
Patrick served up a drink to a customer, then gave Mike a playful pat on the back as he said joking, “Aw, don’t worry we’ll make sure to keep you inside all the time while the rain passes.”
Mike half laughed, and shoved Patrick aside. “How’s your father?”
Again he paused. “He’s alright.”
Mike’s tone became more reassuring. “Don’t worry, Patrick, he’ll recover fine. That old man of yours has more life in him than some people our age!”
Both me and Patrick couldn’t help but laugh at that. “You’re right, he is pretty stubborn.”
Lisa walked through the door with a tray of nacho’s in time to see us stifle our laughter and serve customers. She gave a quick disapproving shake of her head, and walked off to serve the food telling us to get back to work in a mock-stern voice.
The night rolled onward and the mass party-goers dwindled lightly, but the rumpus towards the back continued on with slurred singing and laughter. I’d Begun to feel more relief and comfort in being at work this busy night. If there were lingering thoughts of current events, they weren’t evident tonight with the rush.
Then, getting closer to ten-thirty, a woman with blazingly blue eyes, brown hair with blonde-streaks and a soft, pale face came up to the bar. Her eyes briefly levelled on me and at that instant I realised who it was.
She slipped in front of where I poured a drink for a customer, then after I’d served she spoke.
“May I have a scotch and coke?”
There was an awkward passing of time as she stood waiting patiently, fiddling with a note and some coins in her hand. My mind raced trying to figure out why she’d be here. I’d known she’d be nearby observing my movements, as was her mission, but coming in this close proximity disguised as a normal person was almost on the verge of crazy.
We didn’t say anything else as she received the drink and began to slowly drain it with a straw.
I turned back to the rear of the bar to check on if any drinks needed to be restocked and noticed Mike had turned a little pale. He gazed back out towards the crowd watching Alexandria as she slipped into the heart of the crowd.
For a brief instant I considered asking what was the problem, but stopped and instead said I was going on a brief break.
* * *
The night rolled on, and we weren’t packing in until after midnight. I’d had to call Sandra to tell her I’d be later than normal, but Martha had come down just as I’d made the call and forced me to head home now instead of wait until things had all been packed away.
My protest was overridden when Mike walked into the backroom and placed a hand on my shoulder, for a moment staring with piercing eyes I’d never seen before.
Then his expression changed completely.
“Sandra’s been through a bit with the accident, and it’s only been a week after. You did tell her you’d try not to be late, after all.”
I didn’t respond quickly, my thoughts running a mile. I knew something was up, but as I tried to force forward the thought, I was pushed back by a lapse into fatigue. Even if I’d wanted to help stay and pack up after this late night, I’d be half out of it by the time I’d gotten home. I accepted the fact from being still fatigued after my long week.
Shortly after leaving I felt the brief presence on Alexandria following behind, but not through my senses. She was openly walking, masked in a dark cloak. Then my mind decided to forget about her and recent events. The walk which would normally take about twenty minutes passed by in a short instant and before I knew it, I’d changed and slipped back besides Sandra, falling into a deep sleep.
Chapter Seventeen: Burn
Within my dream, there was a scream that resounded out through the darkness that enveloped. Then there was a deafening sound as if a thunderclap, and a piercing light tore apart the darkness. The light changed to a new bright red, which rippled and danced as it shifted from red to orange then yellow and back.
Loud screams filled this new brightness with a anguished cry that shook my core. Yet, oddly enough, knowing it were a dream I felt as if my body had somehow reacted to it still.
One noise became more audible, familiar, and it screamed out to me, calling my name in a hollow and frightened tone. But was that voice coming from the dream or reality? I pushed through the shifting colours, feeling their energy ripple past me.
There was something not right here, and as I pushed further in I felt a resistance, some sort of invisible barrier, that hindered my approach.
My own mind scream out now to wake up, and the voice became more familiar, and it screamed the same words my mind did.
“But why do I need to wake up?” I asked the shifting colours.
Then in response, the energies were sucked back into a warp within an instant, then without giving time to let the new darkness envelope once more, a quick image flashed at me, a beast-like face with glowing eyes that pierced back into me.
* * *
“Shaun! Wake up, you have to come quick! Shaun!” I’d awoken suddenly the next day to Sandra shaking me, her voice shaken in a sobbed yell.
I rolled over instantly, checked the time, 6:30, and half leaped out of bed. My senses reeling back into full focus.
“What’s going on?”
She tried to respond but only a soft murmur was audible. She wrapped herself around me and hugged tightly, then without saying another word she dragged be off to the lounge where the Tv was showing the news.
My jaw almost dropped and my eyes opened in wide horror as the news continued on.
“…the fire took down two buildings entirely, causing structural damages to those around them and leaving a car mangled in a wreck. Eighteen people have been reported dead, including the elderly owners of the popular bar, their son injured and hospitalised. Police are…”
I sunk down onto the floor, my eyes not taken off of the Tv. But my mind had shut-down, not hearing the words spoken as imagery of the burned down buildings was shown.
A sharp pain stabbed at my chest and I fell forward onto balled fists, shaking violently and grinding my teeth as tears came running down my cheeks. The pain stabbed harder and harder, filling my body with a strong ache that overwhelmed my senses. I felt an unknown hatred and feeling of loss come over me as my demon roared out from within. I felt my energies overwhelm, threatening to take over and transform me into a blood lusted figure of chaos.
Then a soothing sensation.
Sandra rested herself gently upon me, an arm wrapped gently around my waist as the rested her chin softly upon my shoulder, whispering faint words into my ear, soothing words.
I felt my rage subside for a moment and pull back enough for me to sit back and slide over to sit against the wall behind me. Sandra slumped over to me and encircled herself in my arms, kissing my cheek as she did and resting upon my chest.
Time seemed to be non-existent as we sat there, taking comfort in one-another’s presence. Then my controlled senses reeled in and I willed myself to take back full control over all emotion.
Sandra shook a little, obviously sensing the shift.
“You have to go and investigate this.” It wasn’t a question.
Without saying a word we both stood up. I briefly hugged her, keeping her close for a moment longer. She kissed me one last time before I vanished. Even her senses, as keen as they were, would not be able to keep a real track on my whereabouts now.
I jetted off in a specific direction. I’d gotten familiar with Alexandria’s energies enough to be able to track her in an instant. She was hiding, however, masking her abilities well. For some reason, my mind had been blanketed from last night. The events leading up shortly to when leaving work were easy to recall, but for some reason everything after was a vague blur. But I knew she’d been there last night.
A hot temper flushed through me again, forcing me to take a brief interlude to calm myself. Biting back against the pain and anguish. My mind was a muddle as it struggled to fathom what had happened, pleading for an answer that would relieve it of the anguish bought on it. But finding none outright, it felt as if to scream out loud in agony.
I found her hidden away by the industrial zone. A fair distance from where the apartment was. It was a good indication that she’d been involved somehow, or else she’d be staying nearby and be keeping an eye on me.
She seemed to sense my approach and hastily attempted to mask her presence further. She was frightened. But it was too late for her to hide herself now; she’d spent too much time previously making her presence known that her energies were detectable among many.
But then there was a note in this energy, something different. There was another strong vibe that briefly rippled, then vanished.
My inner demon aware that answers were close, I let out an uncontrolled roar as I dropped down quickly to land before Alexandria as she huddled against a wall, shivering and eyes red. She sobbed as she drew her tattered garment across her more to hide her bruised body, her cloak splotched with red stains. Patches of blood left a small trail on the ground where signs of haste patching up were evident.
Without a moment’s hesitation, I drew my blade, fully manifested, and left it lingering short of her throat. The move shocked even me. My demon was in command over my actions.
“Tell me!” My voice almost a roar. “I demand it! Tell me!”
She sobbed again, stiffening up against the wall, trying to mask her fear. She searched for words, then tried to speak, but only managed a half-gurgled mumble.
I breathed deeply, relaxing myself and forcing my arm to withdrew the blade from her throat. But my demon would not allow me to un-summon it, my hand gripping its hilt so tightly my knuckles had gone completely white.
She stifled another sob and tried to speak, but struggled still. I forced back my demon, gaining as much control as I could over its rage, trying to hide its energies. Despite what I knew of this woman, or her strong and almost chaotic nature, she was clearly still young, fragile and afraid.
It was a side I never expected to see.
I knelt down, relaxing my weapon as much as possible and spoke softly. “I need to know what happened.”
She stared at me a moment, then tightened her cloak around herself and replied. “The Bane of War is alive.”
I stared back curiously at her, “Who?”
“The Bane of War… a powerful warrior who fought long ago during chaotic times. His prowess was minimal, but he had a unique talent that nullified others.”
“You mean this Bane of War could prevent someone from channelling their energies?”
She nodded, then hastily her eyes. “He’s…” She paused searching for the right words, “frightening.”
I stood up, gripping my weapon tightly. “So he’s responsible for the incident… You were there, where did he go.”
She shuddered as she briefly closed her eyes and let out a deep breath. “He’s still nearby. He’s been slowly following me, hunting me… I only escaped briefly through a warp.”
“You shall have to be my bait then.”
She looked up and me horrified. “No!”
“This demon is too powerful to be left roaming, and if he can mask his strengths so well, then I need bait.”
She stiffened and seemed ready to try and flee again, but with another deep breath she forced herself to stand again, denying a hand in helper her up. She slipped back her cloak, and stretch out her damaged and bloodied wings. She drew her sword and for a brief moment seemed to go into a trance. Warm energies ran through the alleyway, then vanished, leaving a sudden cold chill.
“He is coming.” Is all she said.
* * *
We waited in the shadows of an old warehouse. There was little time to plan any trap, needless to say I’d stay hidden and once it appeared I’d strike. Alexandria sat against some crates, meditating to regain her strength and heal a little faster.
I strained my own senses and began to half wish that Sandra was here. Her senses were somewhat keener than my own, and only extremely immense power or something almost not there could stray past the range of her senses.
I shook my head. She would be at risk of death if she came along, and already I had to try and keep Alexandria alive.
Suddenly there was one sensation that stood out. The warmth around seemed to drain a little, and the air grew dense and dry. Suddenly a figure in the form of a human draped with a black cloak appeared with its back to where I hid.
I prepared to strike, but found that my body seemed frozen suddenly. Then the figure pulled back the hood.
“Shaun. You should be with Sandra. Dark times are here and she is not safe.” The voice sent an instant shock through my body that seemed to rattle my bones. I forced myself up and landed on hand and knees to the ground below. The figure half turned and looked at me as I stood up to face my old friend.
He threw back his cloak, revealing a pure silver rapier which omitted a faint glow of orange and red.
Alexandria came out of her meditation and stood up. Her stance was that of someone ready to fight to the death, but I sensed fear by the look in her eyes as she faced down her opponent again.
“You… I don’t understand.”
Mike sighed then threw away his cloak, a rush of energy pouring out from him with a strong heat that pierced the once cold warehouse so suddenly it stung. He charged me first, then before lashing out, vanished in an instant. I swung through the air and spun around to find him nowhere then heard the clash of steel.
Turning I found Alex and Mike locked in combat. Mike swinging without taking his eyes off Alex’s as she parried, hastily trying to find an entrance to counter attack.
I charged forth, knocking his blade away and allowing Alexandria a moments reprise.
“How can this be!” I yelled. “Who are you!”
Mike parried my attacks effortlessly, as if he could read my mind.
“I’d rather have not seen things come to this, Shaun. But fate has strange ways of judging us all. And if this is how it must be, then it must be.”
“Damn it!” He struck out and knocked me back, causing me to slide to a halt as he launched forth again, this time to Alexandria. He was powerful, but despite his uncanny tricks, he was not more powerful than me or Alexandria; I could sense it.
I focused, trying to manifest enough power to overwhelm him but found none. I could not manifest, or phase out, nothing. My blade was still in its less physical, shadow form.
Alex seemed at trouble too. Her blade lacked the faint golden glow or pulse of energy it normally had in combat. It was as she’d said. He could somehow nullify another’s abilities. Prevent them from being able to fight back at full strength. This was why he was called the Bane of War.
“Why did you destroy the bar!” I yelled, forcing myself again between him and Alex to fight while she was allowed to regain herself and fight again. “Why did you murder them all, those who were as much family to you as your own flesh and blood!”
Mike forced himself back, then with a swift jolt, parried my blade back. A pulse of energy struck through my arm and coursed through my body with an electrical pain. Grinding my teeth and falling to the ground, Alexandria forced me aside and took up arms again. Despite her fear and dislike for teaming up, she was wise enough to know both of us had to put our effort in to win.
I fought back the pain quickly, and stood up, shaking of the shock and tensing my grip around my blade. I felt a linger for a moment in Mike’s power, a chance to summon my ability and for a brief instant my blade almost took form, but it remained shadow.
I slashed out, parrying side long to Alex, our combined efforts countering Mike’s.
“Tell me damn it!”
Mike again, lapsed back and struck out, this time avoiding me, but his blade rang against the steel of Alex’s and this time she was struck by the bolt of pain. I lashed forth and missed Mike as he vanished in a quick wisp and appeared behind me, slamming the hilt of his sword into my back.
I felt pain erupt as the sound of bone’s cracked and shifted from the blow. I knew if I couldn’t manifest I’d not have a chance to survive.
I spun about, clenching my jaw shut to fight back the pain. Again I felt the lapse in power, the opening I needed to gain the upper hand, but it was lost in the brief instant it appeared.
Mike stood alert for a moment, poised above Alex. With one swift kick to the gut Alex was on the ground, cringing with her mouth agape in an empty scream as air was forced from her lungs. Mike lifted his blade, his gaze empty and hollow. Then just before he jabbed down, his focus shifted and he phased away, appearing behind me again and shoving me forward into a stumble.
“Damn it.” I screamed. “You son of a bitch, tell me why!”
Mike stood expressionless as he regarded the two broken warriors before him. He knew he had the upper hand, but for whatever reason, held back. Finally he spoke.
“You know I regarded them like I would my own mother and father; and Patrick was as close to me just as you were, as brothers. I’d never willing wish to kill them or cause them harm, and the fire was not entirely my doing. Perhaps you need to ask your friend more thoroughly?”
He continued to regard me with a blank expression as I fell to one knee. Using my still shadowy blade as a brace. I turned about to see Alex, barely recovered, her wound bleeding heavily again.
“What have you not told me?”
Alexandria did not speak. Her eyes avoiding all contact. She now shook with a fear expectant from a mouse cornered by a cat. I knew in an instant why her fear had frozen her. For whatever had occurred to cause the fire she was just as much responsible as was Mike; and now she feared facing down not only the Bane of War, but also one of the most renown Slayers.
My demon raged from frustration. It wanted vengeance on someone, to get answers, to lash out and release its hate. All it needed was a source to do so.
I fought it back, using all my training over the years to control myself. But I knew it was a losing battle. Soon my demon would become uncontrollable.
“I want answers! From either of you. Now!”
Alexandria continued to shake on the spot, unable to regain her composure, while Mike flexed and readied to attack. He relaxed a little, letting out a soft sigh.
“When she entered the bar last night, it was decided then that we would have to fight. I have been in hiding for a century, disguising my form and changing my identity. It was… unfortunate, that someone from The Order came across me and was able to recognise me.”
I stared blankly at Mike, not certain on how to gauge what was being said. I’d known Mike ever since I’d wandered into the O’Malley’s Bar and then taken up employment.
“You seem in shock, Shaun. In part, it amasses me that after all this time you could never tell I was a demon. Could you never sense the odd sensation of calm whenever you were at work? The fact that no spectre of any sort ever appeared at the bar, under an circumstance? Why whenever we hung out, even if we were all drunkenly stumbling down through town from bar to bar, that nothing bad ever happened?”
My mind still made no sense of it all. It struggled against too distinctive sides. One was Mike as remembered, a simple man making his way in the city like everyone else, friendly and well humoured. The kind of guy you could depend upon to stand up and have your back when you needed it.
Now this new man stood before me with little regard for the concerns of others. A hunter, and killer, a being with unique powers to manipulate and control even the energies around him. Yet there was a softness to this warrior; something that showed he had no love for the battle.
“But why the cost of all those lives! Why get the O’Malley’s caught within a fight.”
He stared blankly at me, revealing the softness he had towards battle. “I’d rather have not gotten mixed up in conflict. But you of all being should be aware that sometimes battle’s cost lives. Remember the fire, Shaun? Twenty people were killed, some in their sleep. Another thirty would be injured. As a Slayer, you must be aware that death and chaos is all around. Ask your friend, and I’m sure she can give you a similar if not same comparison.”
I swung blindly forward, finding a salve of energy I needed to manifest my weapon. In the duration of the conversation I’d found another part of the bridge through his own powers which nullified my own. Steel rang out as we duelled.
“I grieve for the loss. They were all as much a family to me as they were to you. Do you not think if it were avoidable, that I’d fought so close? Risked the chance that the area around would suffer a drastic blow?”
His words stung into my ear, diverting my attention from the battle. In the brief relapse, he phased through, this time appearing at my side with a heavy lunge. I recoiled, barely parrying his blade, before tucking and rolling to the side and sliding to a halt on one knee.
Alex remained stiffened in place, afraid to move. A part of me shifted, and my mind coursed with rage towards her as well. She was just as responsible for the fire as was Mike. I wished to lash out and seek vengeance.
Mike’s blade pierced me in that moment, slicing through my abdomen and sending a sting through my side. He retracted his blade in one swift motion and with a thundering blow, knocked me sideways in the head with his hilt.
I crumpled to the ground, feeling weak. My wound stung with a fiery pain. I knew without the ability to manifest, the wound would bleed me out.
My blade lay across the ground not far from me. I felt the darkness now. A soft voice whispered from a distance, yet I could not make it out.
I called to it but found no air was left in my lungs. My eyes were heavy. The ground now seemed soft. It was time for a sleep.