The Wyrd West: Eldrich Calgary
When Jade and Allister hunt for a demon, they find more than they bargained for…
I sighed as the last of my students left, bunch of white kids, rich parents, and no idea about what following the way of the sword really meant. Maybe some would learn, either way it was something to pass the time and earn my keep. No way was I going to be in debt to a wizard, no matter how much he claimed he wanted to help me. I climbed up the stairs to my room and made my way to the shower, stripping as I went. Showers, one of the things people forget to give thanks for. Believe me after 5 years of being on the run, hunting, being hunted you appreciate a steaming hot shower. I had taken a long one each day since arriving, scrubbing away the dirt that had set into my skin from the years of hard living. Despite being the safest I had ever been in my life, I wasn’t comfortable here, and had a sneaking suspicion that Allister had only invited me to keep tabs on me. Something about the laws of magic, and a common cause. That said it was a good deal, well most of it was anyway, I’ll take a warm bed and a hot shower any day.
“Excuse me?” Said a voice on the other side of the shower. I crouched into a combat stance before realizing, that this was the house keeper Athena. Yes, that Athena. Don’t ask me how it works.
“What is it Athena?” I asked relaxing and continuing to enjoy the shower the best of my ability. The first time this had happen she had materialized in the shower with me naked. Ever try to uppercut an Old god? Don’t, doesn’t end well.
“Allister is on his way up, to talk to you. I believe he plans to speak with you, perhaps.” I could hear her wry smile from where I was. “You should cover yourself before he arrives. Unless of course you want him to see something exciting…”
“Out!” I shouted. She had been scheming for the two of us have a sexual escapade. Something about how adult wisdom was best. I was having none of it. I vaulted out of the shower as her manifestation disappeared, and reached for the towel just as I heard Allister’s heavy steps on the stairs, no finesse. I wrapped the towel around me and turned off the shower as I heard the lock click on the other side of the door. The wizard could open any of the locks in the house with a thought, of course so could Athena. And half a second later the door opened on its “own” fully ajar as he stepped into my room, he was breathing slightly harder than usual as he scanned the room until his eyes came to rest on me. He blushed lightly as he realized how little I was currently wearing.
“Oh uh sorry,” He said, regaining composure quickly. “Athena said you were reading I guess she…”
“Lied?” I finished for him. “No shit. What do you want?”
“I found a lead on something I think you might be interested in.” He walked forward and pushed two pictures towards me over the counter. “The first is a symbol of a cult, I was wondering if you’ve seen it before. The second…” He trailed off for a moment. “Steel yourself, it’s ugly. Really ugly.”
I reached down and picked up the photos, the symbol, I recognized almost instantly. It was a widespread cult, operating out of most major cities, especially inland cities; strange things tended to happen around them, but I never had a reason to go head to head with them. Only minor skirmishes, and then I looked at the second photo. I instantly wished I hadn’t. A hand came up to my face to cover my shock, for the photos showed a person’s, I couldn’t tell which gender, body that had been torn to shreds, I mean shreds in the literal sense, the largest pieces were the size of a nose, or an ear. It didn’t even look human anymore. Even the bones were cut or smashed, or… I don’t even know. I fought the urge to cough, to vomit to let it out and then realized Allister was standing very close to me. Trying to look away but with his hands out, and that’s when I realized I wasn’t holding on to the towel any more.
“Allister, perhaps you should remove your hands from my body and your person from this room.” I said biting back some irrational anger. He had tried to preserve my privacy, somewhat at least. He nodded and backed up, and exited the room, though not without taking a last appraising glance before he disappeared behind the now closed door. Men. Ugh. I got my small clothes on and found the housecoat I had left in the bathroom for emergencies. Then I stepped out into my bedroom. I told Allister what I knew and he nodded.
“This photo, these killings…” he clenched his fists, “There are more of them. Dozens. And an investigator I know said he felt something, wrong, something more wrong than he could explain. Sounds like it might be a match for You-Know-What.”
“My Demon.” I said sneering.
“Right.” He replied.
“No, we’re leaving.” I paused and looked at him. His face was stern, his eyes focused. I could feel the sparks of his power flickering, he was angry. This wasn’t about me, it was about the killer for him. I sighed and nodded my assent.
“Alright, but we’re leaving immediately.”
“I’ll make the arrangements.” And with that he started muttering and drawing his power in.
“Could you do that somewhere else?” I asked. “Unless you want me along half naked, I’d like get dressed in privacy.” He stared out for a second, and seemed to consider it for half a moment before getting up to leave. “Ass.” I muttered as he left.
“I heard that.” he said as he shut the door.
“Good,” I whispered. “And you and I or going to have words, you immortal bitch” I heard a slight chuckle from nowhere in particular. As I got ready I remembered my family code. The last rule on the list. “Never trust a Wizard.” This was going to be a bumpy ride, I just knew it.
We stepped out of the Neverever in to the Sun, it was a brisk but clear day in Albuquerque. A nice change from the path we had had to take to get here. A straight path, in the middle of a blizzard, which doesn’t seem bad at first, till you try walking in a straight line with a howling wind at your side and only being able being able to see two feet in front of you. Allister had conjured a fireball to help keep us warm, and I had contributed by creating a path in the frozen snow. All in all we made good time. Which is good. We were both in a rush. We got a hold of our surroundings and started heading to the crime scene. Allister told me it would already be picked clean by the mortal authorities, but we might be able to find a magical trail of sorts. I wasn’t worried, where my demon was concerned trouble often found me first. We would find something out, one way or another.
We reached the park, it was mostly deserted, and as we reach the centre it became even more so, it wasn’t hard to reason why. The closer we got the crime scene the more my body told me something was wrong, the hairs on the back of my neck kind of thing. It was also, well to quote the cliché’, quiet, too quiet. This was an outdoor space, you should hear people interacting, birds, squirrels, dogs and the like. Here there was only the faint rustling of the wind in trees. Grade A creepy. Allister grimaced beside me. He had felt this before, I had too. Bad Juju. He stopped and turned to me.
“You ready?” He asked motioning to my carrier bag, it held my smaller weapons, Kissing Snake, and Spinning Turtle. Asi was already in my hand. Though currently it just looked like a bamboo walking stick, its sheath had been made to appear less conspicuous than the average katana and the blade was straight so to aid in the deception. I nodded and cocked an eyebrow in response. We went off the trail and into a small gathering of trees, I noticed the stench of blood, and grimaced. Allister and I walked forward and began looking for anything of the ordinary, a breadcrumb anything that might lead us to out next stop, anything pointing to the perpetrator. As expected nothing came up, this place had been sweep by the police, we weren’t going to find any mundane evidence. I looked to Allister.
“Well wizard, got any tricks up your sleeve?” He nodded but paused.
“I’d rather not use my sight here, I have a feeling that it’s an image I’d rather not have in my head for the rest of my life. Have you got anything?” I did, not that I’d let him know. He had explained the laws of magic to me, and while I wasn’t overtly breaking them, I wasn’t sure where ghosts stood on some of the issues, it might be better to leave him in the dark about Asi’s ability to let me commune with the dead.
“I might,” I replied. “I need more information to go off of before I do anything, a loose string… or you know a line of questioning.” He looked at me, and sighed. He looked tired for a moment, and then he stood concentrating.
“There was magic done here.” He said after a pause. “Centralized… focused, maybe some sort of communal ritual.” Then he stopped a look of epiphany on his face. “They used a circle to concentrate the energy!” And then he ran scouring the ground until he found something just beyond one of the trees. “Yes right here!” I ran over and knelt to see what he had found. A line in the ground about half an inch deep. We followed it until we can to a break, a clean slash, some sort of bladed weapon, but thick and heavy. Too heavy for a human.
“Monsters in the night.” I said nodding toward the slash in the ground.
“Smart ones, strong willed.” He replied “A circle this big, they were working with something big. More than just murders. “
“You got this all with your sight?” I asked.
“No, I haven’t used it yet.” I shivered. Not the sort of man I would want after me. “Is that enough to go on?”
“Yes, I guess, but it’s not a sure thing.” I paused. “And I’ll need some privacy.”
“You don’t trust me.” It was a statement, not an accusation.
“No I don’t.” He nodded.
“You don’t have to trust me right now. But I’m already protecting you, from the rest of the White Council. I need to know who I’m sticking out my neck for. I need to cover my bases.” I stared at me waiting for a response.
“You already know what.” I said drawing Asi from its sheath very slightly.
“No, I know you have a magic sword, with abilities I don’t understand, and a history I can’t research.”
“Well if you, the “mighty wizard” can’t figure it out I guess we’re safe from the rest of your comrades.”
“There are wizards out there that are stronger and more sensitive then I am. With more resources, more time, and more help.” That was a scary thought. “There are even some, who don’t play by the rules,” his voice dropped low, eerily calm “If I think you’re breaking the laws, I’ll turn you in myself.”
“Charming, I bet you have lots of friends.” I hadn’t expected him to threaten me like that. Even if he was bluffing I couldn’t call him on it. It was too much of a risk. I bit my lip unconsciously.
“Friends trust each other.” He said he expression stern, his eyes staring into my forehead. I looked away. I didn’t want a soulgaze. But I recognized it as an offer. He hadn’t condemned me, not yet.
“Fine stay, but this stays between us. If I found out you blabbed…. Well you might not wake up in the morning.” I eyed his chest, his body tensed at the threat, but he nodded.
I drew the sword, and opened by eyes up to begin looking for ghosts. “Hello?” I called out hoping to draw a shade near to me.
“Hello” said a tiny voice next to me. I looked down it was a small boy. He was covered in branches and mud, a kind of natural camouflage. “You can see me.” He said. I nodded.
“I have some questions for you.” I said a little softer. Dead children were the worst to talk to. So much wasted potential.
“So I can find some murderers. So I can settle a debt. So I can have vengeance. So that there might be justice.” He looked up at me with wide eyes.
“Are you a knight?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Oh…” He looked disappointed.
“I’m a ronin, do you know what that means?” He shook his head. “I am a wandering blade with a personal quest.”
“That sounds like a knight!” he said looking confused.
“I’m not as nice as a knight, but it’s close.” I said nodding. “Will you answer my questions?”
“I’ll do my best!” He said saluting. A tiny soldier.
“Did you see what happened here?”
“No but I heard the screaming. It was loud.” He looked, scared. He was dead, and he knew it from what I could gather. Dead and scared… Bad Juju. “And I saw a man.”
“What did he look like?”
“He’s the barber man.” I bit my lip. Kids.
“Where is the barber man from?”
“Down the street from main!” He looked happy for a moment, then sad. “That’s what my mommy used to say.”
“Thank you” I said trying to hold back my tears. I was bad with this kind of thing. “What’s your name sweetie?”
“How did you die Colin?”
“I was hiding, I’m the best at hiding.” The spectral image shifted and suddenly amidst the homemade camo there were deep nasty cuts.
“A lawnmower… “ I gasped. He nodded. No one had found him.
“Well Colin you are found now.” He smiled and disappeared.
“So are you.” I whirled around and saw what he meant.
“Are you quite done muttering to yourself?”
“It was a ghost you ass. And you might want to get your equipment, because there are more of them. And they don’t look as nice as the one I was talking to.”
“Wraiths!” He grimaced and started drawing in his power. I gulped and did the same. It was going to be a long day.
“DON’T STOP MOVING!” Allister yelled as we broke into a sprint. My mind reeled into focus, we needed protection and fast. But only a barrier of some sort can stop a ghost, a threshold, or something… I ducked and rolled away from a spectral claw as Allister hit the deck. I screamed at my brain to come up with something, but it refused to oblige, something about focusing on not dying. I turned to avoid three ghosts and regained my footing. This was bad, I realized as I surveyed the area, they were corralling us. Keep us from escaping while they closed in. In the end game it meant we were surrounded and in close quarters. We needed a way to break through. Too bad magic doesn’t do shit against Wraiths.
“Allister!” I shouted, “You use gravity right?”
“Over simplification!” He gasped, he was breathing harder than me. “But yes.” I paused Cogs in my brain moving. Then remembered that if I stopped moving I would probably die and jumped over a lunging wraith. I didn’t go high enough and felt a flash of pain as my calf was slashed at. I landed and grimaced.
“When I say make us light!” I screamed in what I assumed came across as panicked. And began to form a spell in my mind. Forcing my will down into my feet, the power began building up. “I need a target to aim for.”
“For what?” He yelled back, we were getting closer to each other, and the wraiths were closing.
“For us.” I said the power I was focusing was starting to force itself up, and I felt my wounded leg throb with it .
“Six O’clock!” He said, we were in arms reach now he was bobbing and trying to dodge, but I could see he had a few cuts. It was now or never.
“Do it!” I said as he jumped back and took hold of me. I instantly felt gravity’s hold lessen, And I jumped sending jets of pure force through my feet making the two of us a living missile. I screamed something that might have been a curse and held on to Allister for my dear life. Now came the tough part. Landing.
“Insane woman!” Allister yelled as he clutched me tighter.
“Shut up and put a shield up around us” I knew there were only seconds before we crashed, and seeing as we were forty feet in the air moving faster than a human really has a right to without mechanical support, we had better prepare for it.
“FUCK! “ Was the response but I felt him start on an invocation. I drew my power in too I was going to need a lot of it, Exhaustion had started to pour in from my super jump, but I gritted my teeth and reached for the liquid part of my mind. I was going to need water. “Done!” He screamed “I’m going to haunt the shit out of you if this kills me!” His tone was anything but collected.
“Baby!” I gathered as much as I can all my fear, and pain. Even the small part of me that like be held and felt the throbbing again. I managed to sheath Asi as I shouted “Hold your breath!”
“Son of a bi—“ Was all Allister got out before I filled his invisible, and spherical spirit shield with water. A second passed before the shield smashed into the ground, I remember seeing concrete as we impacted the ground Allister and I then hit the shield. Allister took the worst of it, and the shield popped spilling us and the water across what later turned out to be a parking lot. The combination of the water and shield had dispersed enough of the impact to keep injuries to a minimum, but that didn’t stop the road burn I felt on my arm as we skidded across the almost empty lot. That was lucky, if we had hit anything else, it would have been a different story. I came to my feet and looked around and saw Allister lying on the ground ten feet away, motionless.
“Shit” I muttered as I limped toward him. His chest wasn’t moving, probably swallowed water during the impact. I looked around as I came over. We had landed in a church parking lot outside of the park, if we could get inside, the ghosts would be unable to reach us. First things first though. I tried to remember the CPR training I had done in high school. One, Two, Three breath, push on the nipple line. Luckily, he spit up some water, but he was still groggy. “Lay off on the twinkies next time.” I said to his unhearing ears as I dragged him towards the church doors.
“Hey! Help!” I yelled at the doors, I could feel the Wraiths closing in and sneered. I moving in as steady a stride as I could manage. The doors opened revealing a priest, fairly young. His eyes widened as he rushed to my side “Come in, come in!” He took Allister’s other side and helped me inside. I could have sworn I heard screams as we entered the church, the door loudly closing behind us. The priest led us to a small back room with a couch and helped me lift Allister onto it. I collapsed into a chair and the Priest eyed my wounds.
“I have a first aid kit, don’t move” He turned to fetch it.
“Thanks be to you father.” I managed to mumble. After he had helped me bandage my leg and arm I pretended to fall asleep to avoid his questions. To my surprise he simply sighed and placed me on the couch with Allister, who I assumed was fully conscious at this point, not that he was showing it. Great minds, what can I say? The priest shuffled off, presumably to call the police.
“Jade.” whispered Allister when all was quiet.
“Allister… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for…” I started to apologize before he interrupted me.
“You should be, a church on the second date? I didn’t know you were a fan of shotgun weddings.” A joke? I sat up looking at him stunned.
“You ass.” I managed to stutter. I punched him in the ribs lightly to punctuate my disapproval. He winced. “Sorry” I added after.
“Time to move.” He nodded, as he gingerly got up. “Let’s go.” And with that we walked to the back door. And out of the church.
“The Barber down from Main” I told him, we staggered out into the night. Soaked and sore, but still standing.
It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, as we made our way down the street. I passed the time as we travelled in silence to study Allister for injuries. He seemed to be walking normally, in fact he looked a lot better than I felt. I doubt he needed any medical attention. He had taken the lead after we stepped out of the church, and seemed to be scanning the street looking for something. He turned to me.
“So are you going to share what your little ghost friend told you?” I had forgotten that he wouldn’t be able to see what I saw, hear what I heard. I silently chastised myself, I was so used to being on my own I had withheld important information.
“A suspect, a barber.” I started more sourly than I had intended to. I tried to lighten up my voice. “The only directions I have are down the street from main.”
“Real descriptive.” He snarked, maybe out of frustration.
“What do you want, he was a little kid, we were lucky he even came out to talk to us with those wraiths hanging around. They would have snuck up on us without him too. Show some respect for the dead.” I said perhaps a little too hotly. He didn’t know I literally carried around the spirits of my ancestors with me.
“We should focus.” He said after a pause. “We need more information, a map, or a guide. I don’t suppose you know anyone around here?”
“This is the most time I’ve spent with one person in five years.” I said. “The less innocents around the less likely they get entangled in my mess.” He looked at me for a second the corners of his eyes softening for a moment before nodding and looking around again. “We should find a gas station.” I offered. “There are maps, and we can ask the attendant for directions.”
“A good a start as any” His body relaxed a second. I hadn’t realized but he had been waiting for an attack. “There should be one off of a bigger road way.” He turned down an alleyway and I followed. Now that he had a destination in mind his strides were almost forceful, I had seen this type of walking before. Soldier going to war, resolute in his fight. He knew things might get very serious very quickly.
“You’ve killed things.” I stated as a fell into stride with him, my legs moving just a little faster to keep up.
“Yes.” He said.
“Have you killed people?” I had been thinking about it since he invited me to stay with him in his manor. He had told me one of the Laws was that to never kill with magic. A distinction that wasn’t lost on me.
“Yes, many.” He grunted, he didn’t really want to talk about it. He turned as we reached the end of another block. A killer. Not surprising in itself. I had cut down a few people myself, eat or be eaten kind of thing. It was refreshing that he wasn’t trying to hide from it though.
“Never with magic?” I needed to know for certain. The first rule of the Akai honour code demanded to kill no mortal with magic. I couldn’t pair up for long with any would who had. And this outing might be a good time to disappear. He stopped and turn looking at me trying to get a read on me.
“Never” he squinted at me. “Have you?”
“Never have, never will” I replied squinting back at him. A gesture that may have appeared more comical than I intended; I didn’t flinch out of it though. He nodded and looked solemn for a moment.
“Good. I wouldn’t want to kill you,” I was reminded just how dangerous of a man he was. That chill on my spine came back. I supressed my shudder and turned to take the lead. But he grabbed my arm. My reflexes kicked in and in a flash I had my other hand on Kissing Snake. “Whoa there Jade!” He relaxed his grip a bit. “I need to ask you a question.”
“Then let go of me!” I ripped my arm free and glared at his chin. “And ask.” I hadn’t removed my hand from my weapon, I wouldn’t have time to draw it if came down to a conflict. He gave no indication he noticed my hostility he simply let my words hang heavy in the air.
“How much do you know about your demon, and where he comes from?” That was quite a question, I didn’t flinch. He was studying me and I knew it. I relaxed my stance a bit, so it relayed readiness, confidence, but it was no longer aggressive.
“I know what it does, I know that it’s evil, and…“ I said pausing. “I know it’s not from the neighbourhood.” I kept the answer in lingo, it wasn’t good to talk about it openly. He didn’t look satisfied. “And I could find out more if I wanted to.” I added, which was mostly true; all I had to do was ask the sword, and the spirits would provide what they knew. Which could be very little for all I knew; I was too cautious to have asked such a question. Number two on the honour list was that knowledge was not only power, but also a burden. Meaning that the more important the information the bigger the burden. “I am not without guidance, you have your laws, and I have my family code.” It was the first time I had told him of the code. I saw surprise creep into his features, perhaps my words meant more to him than I had thought. He recovered quickly, but seemed satisfied. He eyed my hand and I removed it from the hilt of my blade. “Are we done here?”
“We are.” I turned my back on him; a little furious he had forced me into that situation. He shifted and tried to fall in step with me, but I pushed forward so he was still a half step behind me. Silence reigned for the rest of the walk. We came up to an Exxon and he asked me to stop. I did so. Grudgingly. He suggested that perhaps I should leave this to him, as I still smelled of blood, and had two limbs pretty obviously bandaged. I agreed to be lookout and leaned against the building, the neon above me flickered and went out… Guess I was still a little angry at him. He went into the building and I was left alone. Which was fine, I had to refocus. It wasn’t good to go into a fight without resolve. I just had to remember what was at stake. Lives, a lot of them. Perhaps then end of my family’s legacy. I focused on Allister, and how I was feeling about him. I had been pretty volatile since I had met him. Angry, grateful, scared, and paranoid. He was pushing his way closer to me little by little, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Years ago I had often wished some knight in shining armour would come and save me, lift me up from the dark cold world I had come to know. Allister was no knight I knew that, but he had saved me. But it had never been about me. It was to save lives, to stop the bad guy. I wondered if I was nothing but a tool to be used, in the pursuit of justice to him. I shook the thoughts out of my head and clad my heart in resolve and waited.
Nothing of note happened while I waited for Allister. When he came out of the station he was carrying a map and a bag. “Turns out the clue you found was a pretty good one. Down from main is a strip mall not far from here.” He reached into the bag and pulled out a three musketeers bar, offering to me. “Peace offering.” I took it, realizing I was starving; he tossed me a Gatorade and took out his own. We ate in silence. I had nothing to say, we were going to kick down the door. Blow up the secret base and go home that’s all there was too it. He cleared his throat “Maybe sometime you could tell me this family code of yours.”
“No chance Leclair.” I said finishing off my junk food “You aren’t family.”
“Is that the only reason?” He asked, he was serious, but I could tell it wasn’t a question I had to answer.
“No…” I paused looking for the right words. Never trust a wizard. “It’s because of what you are.” He frowned, like he didn’t like the taste of his food.
“I was afraid of that.” He stood up. “Let’s get a move on then. No time to waste.” We started to walk down the street. And headed to the destination, I noticed our steps sync up I held Asi within its sheath in a ready position. We arrived in short order, it was only about a half hour walk, meaning it was late enough for the place to be deserted. We found the barber shop quickly, “Bob the Barber” read the simple sign atop. It look old fashioned even had the candy cane pole right outside the door. Across the door a sign was draped that said in big bold letters CLOSED. I could see a warm light from the back though. Someone, or something was in there. Allister motioned me to the side away from the window right in front of the butcher shop which was beside the barbers.
“Follow my lead this time—“ Was all he got out before I heard the sound of cracking glass and turned to see several hooded figures smashing through the glass of the butcher shop. Bad Juju, was all I thought as I stood ready for a fight with Asi drawn. Bad Juju.
You can tell a lot about a person if the first moments you meet them. This goes double for when the person, or persons in question are about to attack you. The first thing I noticed is these people weren’t particularly smart. There were five in all and only two were wielding weapons. Short curved daggers, the kind you see in horror flick when disembowelment is involved. Real original thugs. I call them thugs because it was all they could be. Fact one I was holding a sword, fact two I wasn’t alone, fact three there wasn’t any good way to sneak up on us, and fact four they had smashed through a window using their bodies. Not too bright, either by design or by need. One of them howled something unintelligible as he swiped at Allister, who promptly sidestepped and clubbed him in the temple with his blasting rod. The thug went down like a sack of potatoes.
Allister took the time to shout “Mortals!” before he was engaged in a fist fight with the two unarmed thugs. Which left me with the two crazies wielding knives, they advanced in a frenzied lunge, coming at different angles. I couldn’t tell if they had planned the co-ordinated attack but it didn’t matter. It was sloppy, I brought Asi around in an arc, catching both knives and disrupting both of the assaulters balance. They had been too aggressive. My blade flashed as they stumbled past me and both screamed as the blade bit into flesh. The first who I decided to name Grunt for the pleasing noise he made when he hit the ground took the worst of the attack. I had cut through all the ligaments in his right leg and he was bleeding heavily. He wouldn’t be able to stand very well ever again if he survived the night. The second escaped with a leg wound nearly a foot long. He crouched in pain and said something in a guttural language in the direction of his comrades who were faring no better against Allister.
He had managed to pull out his machine pistol out with one hand while beating them off with his blasting rod. BRAP-APAPAPAPAP! Bullets sprayed out of his gun and both of his opponents were covered in rather bloody wounds. They made a couple of resounding thuds as they hit the ground and I turned back to my two victims. Grunt was lying still but breathing. His comrade gave me a look of pure rage and flung himself at me as best he could. It was a poorer version of his previous lunge, if that’s possible. I simply hit the knife aside with Asi and then in one clean motion slit the man’s throat open. Quick, clean and quiet. He gurgled a few breathes before becoming still. I looked to Allister and then to the thug he had knocked out at the beginning of the fight. I cocked my eyebrow in question. He was mostly unharmed and not a current threat. He calmly walked over to the down man flipped a switch on his gun and fired a single bullet into his head.
“Guilty.” He said. “Of murder and of breaking the laws.” He looked from the now dead man to me and then to Grunt. “You should end his suffering.”
“I will not kill a defenseless man.” Then after a short pause I added. “I won’t stop you though.” Allister muttered something and walked over to Grunt. I turned away and heard the gun shot, followed by a click that switched it back to automatic fire. I cleaned the blood from Asi’s blade.
“Let’s try to investigate while we can. This isn’t over yet.” Allister touched my shoulder as he bent to go through the broken store front. I shivered a little. Dangerous man. “Whatever is in that barbershop, knows we’re here now. Best to move fast and hit hard.” His voice was low but he held his weapons ready.
I got kissing snake in my hand, and headed in to the butcher shop. It seemed ordinary at first glance, and mostly because it was. Well, at least until we got to the back room. There were five tables made of marble and on four of them lay bodies. Human bodies, I silently thanked whatever higher power that was watching that they hadn’t been shredded yet. We crept closer and Allister motioned for me to keep watch while he inspected them. I held my power in a tight circle feeling it thrash around in my center and focused on being alert. My defensive stand was interrupted after a few seconds and Allister indicated we should switch positions. His face was grim, his eyes angry. I went to look at each of the bodies in turn. Each was the same, not a scratch on them except for the gaping hole in their chests right where the heart was supposed to be. I swallowed, I had seen wounds like this before. I couldn’t be sure but, the signs were there.
“Allister—“ I whispered before I was cut off.
“What do we have here?” A silky voice purred behind me I whirled in the direction of the sound, as did Allister, and was couched in a defensive stance. A thin man entered the room, he had a large wax mustache, a bald head and … amber coloured eyes. Bad Juju. I knew what this was. The reclusive Amber court always stuck to the shadows. The young aggressive ones made themselves too visible, but the older ones were patient. This one I assumed was young, as he still looked human. “My my, two with the talent, no wonder my associates failed in their appointed task.”
“Shut up,” spat Allister the veins in his forehead bulging. I could feel him building up his power, a lot of it. He held his ground though. I was slightly behind him. The man smiled, and took and step forward.
“Now now, no need to be rude. I’m not responsible for those dead people over there. I killed them but what you’re really what you’re searching for is downstairs.” Allister had started to raise his blasting rod and opened his mouth to incant. “HOLD!” The man said quickly but without moving. “At least hear me out. You don’t really concern me, and you seem to be a gentleman of some sort. I’ve made a deal to be allowed to feast on those who are already condemned to death by the cult. In exchange I help guard the entrance. You see I’ve sworn a portion of my power to this, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a way around it.”
“I bet this is a good one.” Snarked Allister. He was making jokes, but I could tell he was angry. I tried to inch closer to tell him what I knew. That this was a vampire, one he likely didn’t know about. One I knew about not only from experience, but also from my ancestors helping me out.
“I simply need to detain one of you, I will be fulfilling my duty and you will be free to pass. I would prefer it, if the young gentleman stayed with me. The lady behind you seems…violent.”
“Get bent Alfonso. DUMAT!” Shouted Allister and a ball of golden flame erupted around the newly christened Alfonso. My eyes widened as he stepped forward through the fireball burning and grimacing from the pain but regenerating skin at a remarkable rate. He leapt forward towards Allister, who was now emptying his clip into the vampire’s chest. Alfonse seemed for his part, largely unaffected, though the bullets did slow and halt his momentum.
“Allister stop he’s a—“ BRAPAPAPAPAPAPAPAPAPAPAP. The gun drowned me out. I had to act fast, Alfonso was going to close on Allister and once he did my partner would be in a world of hurt, if not dead.
“Chidura!” I shouted sending a jet of water of pressurized water into Alfonso’s chest that while not really injuring him, did send him flying through the wall back into the barbers shop. “Allister stop he’s Amber Court—“
“He’s WHAT!?” Allister rounded on me, letting the gun fall silent.
“A vampire, a heart eater, Ammitas!” I yelled in frustration. “We need to destroy it’s heart!”
“Oh I’ll fucking destroy his heart!” The change in him was noticeable. And all of the sudden Allister started to channel his earth magic tearing the marble tables from the ground and flinging them into the hole where Alfonso was re-entering the shop. He managed to dodge the first two but the third clipped him in the shoulder and sent him flying, I heard a nasty sounding crunch as the vampire hit something hard. “I’ll tear is fucking head off!" Allister stormed forward drawing both his power and his gun and striding forward. He was losing it.
“Allister we need precision we need to fo—“
“I’ve been killing Vampires for longer than you have! Don’t worry he’ll die. Well, he’ll wish he was dead.”He was insane. No use talking to him. I’d just have to be ready to strike. I built up my power, and focused it evenly across my body. Allister was shooting again. I saw a pair of trimming scissors hit his arm and he dropped the gun.
“Akai” I whispered and felt the magic saturate my muscles. I focused in on Asi drawing the knowledge of strikes from my ancestors. Allister threw up a shield that looked like nothing more than a heat distortion as Alfonso barreled into to him. Sparks flew off of the edge of the shield and I knew it was now or never. “Jade Akai” I muttered under my breath and then I moved. I moved faster than humans should be able to and in the blink of an eye I was beside Alfonso as he flew through the air with Allister keeping pace. Allister blinked as I plunged Asi through Alfonso’s armpit and skewered his torso from side to side. I felt the magic enhancing my speed and power begin to fade. I planted my feet, braced Asi and slashed forward ripping the sword and the crystalized amber heart out with it. The heart crumbled away to nothing off of the sword. And Alfonso, now thoroughly dead, finished his luxury flight with Allister by crashing with him into one of the overturned marble tables. I heard Allister gasp in pain. But saw he was still conscious, if injured, and blinked again.
“That hurt.” He gasped again.
“Get up.” I said, feeling no sympathy for him. If he had listened to me we could have planned it better. “We still need to destroy the true heart.”
“The true heart? You and I need to have a debriefing after this.”
“Fair,” I said in response, and waited for him to get up. “Are you too injured to move?” I finished by cocking an eyebrow in challenge.
“Why do you have to be such a bitch?”
“Why do you have to be such a man? If you need help because of your broken ribs admit it.” He scowled and grunted, which turned into a gasp and a grimace as he stood up.
“Definitely a bitch.” He muttered.
“Next time I’ll let the monster kill you then.”
“Good point. Lead on then, oh mighty savior bitch”
I rolled my eyes and headed to the corner we had seen the amber glow coming from.
“Be careful of the beckoning, or you’ll be turned.” I explained whole drawing near the glow I could see it. It was a large amber crystal the size of a German Shepard sitting behind a curtain and in-between two walls. If it had grown big, then many hearts must have been added to it. I shuddered to think how many people had been part of this. I felt the magical pull it sent out, just an impulse to touch it, though if you did so with bare hand your heart would become bound to it’s crystalline power. “And don’t’ touch it.” I readied kissing snake and without hesitation thrust it into the amber. “There might be some backlash so take cover.” I didn’t know what was going to happen after this. I had never done it, never had the chance. “Chidura!” I shouted pouring as much energy as I could muster. And then everything went bright white and the crystal exploded and sent me flying through the air. I was vaguely aware of hitting the ground but it was nothing compared the agony in my head. I hid from the light and noise for a moment, then stopping screaming. I hadn’t realized I had started. And then everything was silent.
“Jade!” I vaguely heard Allister call out me, vaguely felt him sit me up. I tried to answer him but my mouth didn’t fully comply and only gibberish came out. “Open your eyes!” I didn’t know why that was important. I focused on trying to get my bearings instead. I may have squeezed my eyes shut to spite him. “Jade if you don’t open your eyes…” I tried batting away his arm which was supporting me, but my arm didn’t respond and firmly as I would have liked so it simply came to rest on the arm instead of pushing it away “I need to know you aren’t turned. Open your eyes!” I felt a gun barrel on my chest. “I don’t want to shoot you, but I won’t let you become a monster either!” His voice was wavering a bit. I struggled to oblige him. And my eye lids fluttered open. The pain was excruciating, and I dimly wondered what it would have been like were all the lights on. I couldn’t focus but managed to lift my head up to Allister’s face. I may have been snarling. “Oh thank god!” Allister relaxed and I felt the gun retreat away from my body. Then he did something that surprised me and let his forehead rest on mine. We stayed like that for a while, it took some time for me to regain my senses.
“Idiot.” I finally managed. “Get off of me and bandage your arm.” He rolled away from me and I began to test myself of injuries. Nothing too bad, mostly just scrapes and bruises. I checked on Asi, it was fine as usual. Kissing snake wasn’t so lucky, the blade had been shattered from the force of the explosion and I was left holding nothing but a pommel. Didn’t know when I was going to have money or time to fix that. I threw the pommel away in frustration and began to get up. I managed to stagger to my feet, woozy but upright. Allister had finished tying some loose fabric around his arm wound. I moved over to him as clumsily as I felt. “Needs to be a base heart for someone to be turned.” I slurred out.
“Good to know.” He looked at me and smirked. “bitch.” I flipped him the bird in a half-hearted fuck you. “Are you good ? There’s still the basement.” I groaned but nodded yes.
“Give me a few minutes.” He nodded. And I focused on meditating. I tried working my muscles and found my center of gravity. I was going to be sore in the morning, but I could move well enough. I approached Allister and let him know I was ready to go.
“No time for words, we blast whatever we find. Agreed?” He stood rigidly, but favoring his right side.
“Agreed,” I paused. “Me first, you look like a house of cards.” He was about to protest when I started to move down the stairs. I heard him grunt and follow me. The stairs quickly became a tunnel, dark and musty. It wasn’t too dark to see, so I went forward and grabbed Spinning Turtle. I drew in power as I reached a bend in the tunnel. I could see a faint glow of light reflected off of the wall. I took a deep breath and charged forward and saw such a monstrosity I barely kept down my chocolate bar.
Before me stood something in the shape of a man. Made of guts, bones and skin. It was tall, really tall. 15 feet if it was an inch. It’s arms and legs were more than double the length they should have been, and someone had taken pieces of other bodies to extend them. The fingers of the hands ended in jagged bone spikes and razors, longer than my short blades. On the back, numerous protrusions, people’s arms, home-made tentacles, and worse. The side of the neck had a pair of gills, because the face was blank skin pulled taught over the features. The thing bled all over from the crude stitching.
This thing was horrible. I let loose my power, ACIRIO! An arc of acid when forth and sizzled on the beast. It didn’t scream it just… turned towards me and began to charge. I could hear its blood pumping. Squishing.
Allister rounded the corner after me and loose a golden fire lance. The thing just took the fire enduring the hit and tried to smash the wizard. It was faster than it looked, but Allister managed to dodge, although his rod was smashed in the process. He cursed loudly but continued to scamper as best he could. I needed more power, or he did.
“Allister I’ll buy you some time, hit it with everything!”
“EVERYTHING ALLISTER!” And with that I charged to intercept the thing. I poured as much energy into Spinning Turtle as I could and screamed “KABOT!” and a thick shell of clay engulfed my body except for my hands and my head. Then I swung Asi for all I was worth, I managed to cut through the spike the thing had been aiming at me and then had to back off as the thing’s sheer mass began to lumber towards me. I focused on the defensive, deflecting, cutting and probably most importantly, running. I managed to use a wall to get behind the thing while slashing at one of it’s legs. Which was completely ineffective. I was running out of breath, time and space and my clay armour had more than a few bites in it. I channeled at much as I could to keep it going and replenish what I could. I took a solid hit and felt the armour on my shoulder give away, followed by the rest of it. I only have a few seconds to get out of this mess. I sprinted full out and just hoped Allister would come through. He did… barely.
“Jade! Get Down!” Bellowed Allister and I obliged diving forward and rolling towards him. I heard his voice boom “Tulrak NOK” and I head a gigantic crash behind me, followed by a splat. I regained my footing and looked at the carnage. The thing had be impaled by two large stone spikes that had evidently been moving fast enough to lift the leviathan off its feet and into the wall wear it hung slumped. Whatever was holding it together was undone and all the extra mass slithered off until there was only a naked man who had been branded with the cult’s symbol multiple times. He had gills. “Formor…” Muttered Allister as he surveyed the scene.
“Let’s get out of here, I need a nap.” I said turning to leave. “And maybe a shower.”
“I’ll second that.” He said falling into step with me. “Maybe we can find a motel.”
“Not on the second date … ass.”
“Next time I’m letting the monster kill you.” He sounded almost amused.
“Point” I retorted. “Mighty ass saver.” I found myself grinning. It slowly faded. No matter what we had just been through the words of the code returned to my mind. Never trust a Wizard.