Long, long ago in a time where humans were in the minority; magic ruled the Earth. Ancient beasts roamed the lands; gigantic dragons flew the skies, kings of their domain. Elves dwelled in forest gales and dwarves mined under mountains.
However, humans are by nature; a violent species. Their intellect and adaptability gave them an ingenuity that other species lacked. Those species that dwelled near the human settlements moved further away to avoid conflict.
Yet, humans are a reproductive lot; capable of reproducing far faster than their long lived cousins. Soon the towns were growing and the humans were forced to move into the surrounding territories.
Angered by this apparent invasion; the creatures struck back, trying to force the intruders from their homes; but to no avail. Having lived next to such creatures for years the humans knew of their weaknesses and created weapons to slay those that stood against them.
For countless years’ war raged between the ever growing humans and the ancient creatures. Species unable to reproduce fast enough were killed off; others became so few in number that humans began to forget they existed.
Finally the Ancients Gods gathered together and transported their non-human children to another realm, parallel to the one they had left. This land was much like the one they left; so they were able to live on, to thrive.
For humans, the creatures and beings that had once been fact; slowly faded into history, then myth and finally into legends.
Science became the new magic and with it the human population flourished.
Occasionally an unfortunate individual would pass between the barrier that existed between the realms and find themselves in a very familiar yet unfamiliar world; but this was not enough to make anyone wonder, just enough though to keep the legends alive.
In the year 2001; the human world changed.
On September 11, 2001 terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center building and part of the Pentagon; killing hundreds. It is believed they wanted to destroy a symbol and make a point…what they didn’t realize was that their act of terrorism would change the world forever.
For when they destroyed the World Trade Center; they accidently destroyed one of five keys to the barrier between the realms.
Two others, one in Japan and another in Russia had already been destroyed in natural disasters. Now, with three of the five keys destroyed, suddenly the Realm of Magic- known as Avalon- and the Human’s Realm began to merge.
From the chaos rose Hunters; warriors who knew and were capable of hunting and killing the supernatural creatures that suddenly plagued the Human Realm.
Local governments took advantage of these individuals and employed them as consultants for law enforcement agencies.
Yet, as Hunters were human in nature; they could not combat all the creatures that came through the rift. Creatures that had lived and preyed on humans for countless centuries… had to be hunted by other Ancient Beings.
So those that governed the human world banded together and created the Paranormal Law Enforcement Agency, P.L.E.A. for short.
Training to become a P.L.E.A. Marshal was rigorous, and often deadly. Those that managed to become Marshals were required to hunt the most powerful and terrifying of monsters.
Only the strong survived.
Talon slapped at his alarm; desperately trying to silence the god-awful ringing that had woken him from his sleep. Bleary eyed; he lifted his head and squinted at the neon green numbers on his digital clock.
“Bloody hell,” he growled softly; too exhausted to put much effort or emotion into it. It took his sleep fogged brain several more moments to realize that the incessant noise wasn't coming from his alarm, but rather from the phone buzzing on his nightstand.
" 'Ello..." he slurred, his eyes trying to slide closed of their own accord.
"Talon?" The familiar gruff voice of his friend and associate Eric Fallow woke Talon up like a splash of ice cold water.
"Yea," Talon mumbled, sitting up and swinging his legs to the side. Two annoyed yellow eyes glared at him in reproach as his movement displaced one of his dogs. "What's up Eric...?”
"Get down to the base of River Road," Eric growled, "we have a situation."
Talon sighed, shoving his hands through his hair. He knew what that meant; someone had died and it didn't look like a human was responsible.
"How many?" He asked; there was a long pause.
"Not sure..." Eric replied, "Just hurry up. Everyone is getting antsy."
Talon sighed as the line went dead. Of course everyone was getting antsy; when weren't they? Ever since the attacks on September 11, 2001; humans had been in a mild state of panic. Not because of terrorists, though that had sent the nation into a terrified panic as well; as if the rest of the world hadn't been dealing with random bombings for years. No, those terrorists unintentionally caused the whole world to shudder and change.
With the destruction of the Twin Towers the world changed; overnight creatures that had been cast into myth were now real…and living next door.
There had always been some, lurking in the shadows; but now it was like the veil between the worlds had been ripped open, spilling the world of myth into the world of man.
Talon was one of the few who hadn't been caught completely unaware. He had known about the monsters that lurked in the shadows, pretending to be human, for years; ever since he was fifteen and his father had been killed by one.
Groggy, Talon rolled out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom. A quick, cold shower later, he was more alert; he snagged a pair of black jeans off the floor and tugged them on, followed by a black tank top. The monotone outfit was finished with black combat boots, black leather wrist cuffs, shoulder holsters, leg sheathes and finally a full length black leather duster.
His associates often teased him about the lack of color in his wardrobe; 'how cliché for a Hunter to wear all black' and all that idiocy. Fact of the matter was; it was simply easier to get blood out of black clothing.
He yawned as he shuffled out into the main room; it was too early for his coffee maker to have turned on automatically yet. Which sucked major monkey balls; Talon was useless without some caffeine in the morning.
Rummaging around in the back of his refrigerator he let out a short exclamation as he found what he was looking for. The last unopened can of Monster energy drink in the very back of his fridge. Now the day could officially start.
He grabbed a banana from the counter and headed for the car; popping the tab on his drink as he climbed into his RAM 1500 Sport.
The drive was unnervingly short; less than a five minute drive down the road. He pulled up and parked next to several other police cars. Lights flashed, casting the area in splashes of red and blue.
Talon sighed as he sat his drink down in the console; he knew he wouldn't be able to drink it while examining the scene. He just hoped he wouldn’t regret putting anything on his stomach at all; the local PD tended to frown on their consultants puking all over their crime scene. Not to mention up-chucking at the sight of blood would cause one to loose major cool points. Heaven forbid someone be forced to jerk his Badass card.
He clipped his Hunter badge to his belt and started forward; adjusting his jacket as he walked. No matter how he adjusted it, though; there was nothing that would dispel the stifling August heat. Even at 4 a.m. the temperature was high, the humidity even higher.
Still, he couldn't go walking around bristling with weapons; it tended to make the norms nervous. So he would suffer the heat in silence and court the edge of heat stroke.
He looked longingly at the black water rushing only a few yards away; and cringed, this was a popular swimming area. He had come here a couple times when it wasn’t packed with teenagers and college kids. It was a pity that such a popular area would now be tainted.
As if there weren't already enough rumors going around about the river being cursed; a murder on the banks would simply add to that growing legend. Soon, only the die-hard river goers would dare step foot off the bank to enjoy the cool waters.
Shaking his head, he walked toward the group of officers; Eric would be getting anxious for his arrival by now. He slowed to a stop as a young officer stepped in front of him.
"No one beyond this point," he said; in the dark it was hard to make out the kids features, still he must be new not to recognize him.
"I'm Talon Hunter," he replied, “I’m the local Hunter, I'm here to see Detective Fallows."
"I don’t care if you the President," the kid snapped, "no one beyond this point. So move on."
Talon felt his eyebrows lift in surprise; his sister’s sassy voice suddenly racing through his mind. ‘Oh no he didn’t….’
“Look kid,” Talon said, only to stop and wince as his mind was barraged with anger and indignation. Who the hell does this guy think he is? Damn fucking reporters think they can do whatever the hell they want; the kid’s thoughts slammed into Talon’s mental shields like a freight train, Freedom of the Press [A1] my ass. C’mon asswipe, keep coming… gimmie a reason to arrest your punk ass….
Talon cleared his throat and tried again.
"Look kid," he said trying and failing at keeping his voice calm and level; it was just way too early to be polite. "I'm not a fucking reporter, you idiot. I'm a Hunter. Detective Fallows is expecting me so either move...or I'm going to move you. And I double dog dare you to try and arrest my ‘punk ass’. Now get the fuck out of the way."
The kids eyes widened and the fury that had been beating against his mind suddenly turned rancid with fear. Talon sighed and wanted to slap his forehead. He didn’t need this crap so dang-gum early.
"You're one of them!" The kid screeched, pulling his side arm and leveling it at Talon’s chest. "Monster!"
Talon barely had time to realize what the kid was doing as the sound of a gun echoed in the still night air. Talon moved on instinct; the bullet whistling past his temple, leaving a hot trail in its wake. He glared at the young officer.
“What the fu….”
He didn’t get a change to finish as his instincts screamed at him. Again he dodged; his gift automatically telling him where to move.
Before the officer realized it; his gun clip was empty and Talon was looming in front of him. Furious he snatched the weapon away from the trigger happy youth even as several of older officers came to escort him away.
"Are you done showing off?" Eric asked; arms crossed over his broad chest. His blonde hair was cropped in a military crew cut; his grey-blue eyes were hard and steely.
Talon snorted in distain; “Showing off my ass,” Talon growled, “Since when do the new recruits greet Hunters by opening fire on them?”
"This way," Eric said, ignoring the question. Not that Talon was really surprised; they walked in silence for a couple moments,
"Do you want to press charges?" Eric said softly, steel-grey eyes giving him a side-long glance.
"Whatever man, next time just keep the newbies leashed," he snorted, "and maybe switch them to decaf."
Eric led him down to the river bank; the coppery scent of blood filled the area, overpowering the scent of water and fresh cut grass.
Talon shivered at the wrongness that blanketed the area. He moved cautiously as a sickly, oily aura slid across his skin. Something truly evil had been there; recently enough that the aura still lingered like a thick choking fog.
It had been a long time since he had felt an aura this black and evil. Any Hunter worth their salt would recognize that thick, choking evil aura at a hundred paces away. A demon had been there.
"Well?" Eric said impatiently; Talon held up a hand, motioning his friend to have patience.
There was blood everywhere; the clearing was painted in it. It looked like someone had taken several gallons of rust colored paint and splashed it across the grass in a ten foot wide circle. Several mushy lumps indicated that there was something other than grass under all that gore.
"There was more than one body here…" Talon said, glancing at Eric for confirmation. He suddenly regretted eating before he came; his stomach rolled at the overpowering scent of blood and bile. He swallowed hard; he wouldn't throw up, he wouldn't throw up, he wouldn't throw up.
“We believe so," Eric said, "we found three purses....but there weren’t..." He paused for a moment, than, “we'll know for sure once the coroner does his report."
Talon winced and nodded. He didn't envy the coroner the grisly job of putting these poor souls back together again.
"You said there were purses? Any ID's?" He asked.
"The ID's are for Lisa Gardener, Angel Paterson, and Kara McCormick." Eric stated; Talon's brain shuttered to a stop. Surly it was a coincidence... it couldn't be HIS Lisa, Angel, and Kara. He had just had lunch with them and their coven last week.
"Let me see the ID's," Talon said, coming to his feet so fast that his friend had to stumble backward. Eric gave him a puzzled look and handed him the evidence bags. His heart clenched painfully as the familiar faces of Lisa, Angel and Kara stared back at him.
"Aw hell," he muttered. They didn't deserve this fate. They were sweet women; simple practitioners. They didn’t do complex arcane magic; they were simple witches that worked with herbs and natural remedies....
“You know them..." Eric said; it wasn't a question so much as a statement of fact. Talon nodded anyway;
"Yea," he replied, "they were friends. They were practitioners. They create natural beauty products that they sell down at the Spirit and Soul. It's a new age shop on Williams Street."
Talon closed his eyes and sighed; handing the ID's back to Eric. A wave of sorrow crashed over him. Yet more friends he would have to bury.
He knelt next to the blood smeared area and allowed his senses to flow outward. He had known Lisa, Angel and Kara for several years; he could pick their energy signatures out of a crowd. So why was it that this area was completely devoid of any sense of them? Even with the evil aura of the demon blanketing the area; he still should have been able to sense the remnants of the woman's energy.
He studied the scene; something just wasn't right. He looked past the blood and past the gore;
"Well fuck me sideways," he swore, as he noticed there was a perfect two inch circle of dead, brown grass around the bloody scene, where the very earth had been leeched of its energy.
"Mind sharing?" Eric replied dryly. "You know what did this?"
"I believe it was a demon," Talon said, coming to his feet again, he hadn’t realized he had crouched back down to get a better look; "the entire area reeks of one. From the looks of it; the demon drained them. It fed off their fear and pain and eventually their deaths. Look at the area around the blood; the grass is brown. This area is dead; all of its energy has been leeched away."
"I didn't know a demon could do that," Eric said, writing in his notebook, "leech power from the earth, I mean."
Talon shook his head, "Ordinarily I'd say they can't," he replied, "but Lisa was an Earth witch. She was also the most gifted of the three. She was a true witch instead of an herbalist. I'm guessing that Lisa tried to fight it and drew off the Earth's energy to do so. When the demon killed her and took her energy; it devoured the Earth's energy through her."
"So what you're telling me is we have a demon killing witches and devouring their magic?" Eric stated.
"Fuck me sideways indeed," he swore, echoing Talon's earlier sentiments.
"So what do we do?"
Talon thought about it a moment. There wasn't a whole hell of a lot they could do. Humans couldn't really hold a candle to a demon in a fight. It was hard as heck to actually kill a demon; it wasn’t like someone could just shoot them. Demons had a bad tendency of laughing as they’re pumped full of lead, then somehow sending the barrage of bullets back at whoever was shooting at it.
Add that to the fact that no one in Downtown would speak to a city cop; then yea, there wasn’t much they could do. The city's prejudice against the nonhuman inhabitants was well known and had developed into a near war.
Now Downtown Fredericksburg belonged to the Nonhumans. They claimed it, ran it and had more or less turned it into a major money making tourist attraction; 'come mingle with the monsters' type of thing.
Talon never understood the fascination the general public had with the monsters. Just goes to show a good PR representative goes a long way.
Talon knew the truth though; he knew vampires weren't 'just people with fangs', and werewolves weren't just 'people who turned into cute furry dogs once a month'. They were monsters. They were predators in every sense of the word. There was nothing human about them anymore. Their humanity went the way of the dodo the second they chose to live as a monster. To them, humans weren't people...they were food.
Talon sighed; he was well aware the he had a chip on his shoulder the size of the Santa Andres when it came to Nons. Most Hunters did; their job didn't allow them to see anything other than the absolute worst of their world. Which was fine; Talon was alright with that. He didn't want to be one of the sheep; he would never be able to go back to living in ignorant bliss.
Still, demons didn't summon themselves, least not any that he knew off; which meant some idiot had to have summoned this thing from one of the Hell Realms.
The fun part would be figuring out what moron had thought that particular idea had been a good one. Summoning a demon wasn’t easy; controlling said demon was even more difficult, nay impossible. It took an very powerful, extremely focused Practictioner to accomplish it; which were few and far between.
Most demon Summonings he had witnessed had been kids playing with things they shouldn't have. It never ended well for the kids and normally a lot more people died as the freed demon went on a rampage.
The fact that this one killed three people and left indicates that either the demon has amazing control; not likely since demons aren't known for their control. Or, and more likely of the two, whoever summoned it knew exactly what they were doing and had the power to control the demon.
"For now," Talon said, "about all you can do is find out if anyone else has disappeared. If it’s a rogue demon, there will be more bodies....a lot more bodies, and soon. Demons don’t kill just for food, they enjoy it. So if this is a rogue there won’t be much time between attacks."
"And what will you be doing?" Eric asked. Talon stood,
"I'll ask around and see if I can find out who in this area has the power to summon and control a demon." He said, "There aren't that many sorcerers out there who have that ability."
"Why the hell would they talk to you and not us?" Another officer growled. Talon didn't bother to turn around and see who the speaker was; he could sense the hostility coming off them in waves.
"Well if you want to start poking around Downtown with a badge on, asking questions; you go right on ahead," Talon replied, wiping his hands on his jeans. He glanced at the figure behind him; one of the newer officers, older then Talon yet new to the force. Didn’t they teach these newbies anything before letting them loose?!?
"Question though," He added, "Do you want to be buried in that or something decent?"
Talon smirked at the flash of rage he sensed from the overweight officer. Idiotic flat-foot. Everyone knew that cops weren't welcomed Downtown.
Hell, Hunters were barely tolerated Downtown. He really didn’t understand why so many of the officers had such problems with him coming into an investigation. True, he was young; Talon had only just celebrated his twenty-seventh birthday in July. So perhaps the older officers felt insulted that they had to listen to someone so much younger than they were. Whatever their reason; it annoyed the hell out of Talon.
Talon shook his head as he strode back towards his truck. What that officer didn’t understand was the inherit danger that Talon was taking upon himself; sparing the normal Human officers the hardship that came with negotiating the slippery slope that was dealing with anything Paranormal.
It wasn’t like Hunters were welcomed in Downtown; his life always hung in the balance whenever he stepped foot past Layefette BLVD.
Most Nonhumans loathed Hunters and had a bad tendency to kill them simply for breathing. Not that he could really blame them; Hunters generally viewed Nonhumans in the same unforgiving, brutal light – the only good Non was a dead Non.
It took less than ten minutes to drive to Spirit and Soul; the streets still eerily quiet in the early hours. He knew that if he was to have any luck finding the one who had summoned the demon, then the shop’s owner, Sandra, would be able to point him in the right direction. Knowing her, she wouldn’t actually just GIVE him a name; that wasn’t how things were done Downtown.
Talon pulled his truck to the curb and slid it into park; he hesitated for a moment as grief hit him. He had been fond of the victims; he had enjoyed their company and enjoyed talking with them. Now… now he had the unpleasant task of informing their coven sisters about their deaths.
Eric would have his officers looking for the next of kin of the girls; but Talon knew that though the police might find a few blood relatives… the coven was their true family.
Squaring his shoulders; Talon shut off the truck and stepped out into the cold. He shifted his jacket; pulling it tighter against his body in an attempt to ward off a chill that had nothing to do with temperature.
He moved silently down the street; his heavy boots barely making a sound over the sidewalk. Spirit and Soul didn’t stand out like most shops tried to; they didn’t care about appealing to the tourists. They didn’t need to. Spirit and Soul looked just like every other shop on William’s street. It could have been the front window of a townhouse; with heavy curtains covering the double windows and not even a welcome mat outside the door.
Spirit and Soul operated on the principle that if someone needed them, then that person would find their way to them.
Talon opened the dark cranberry colored door; not bothering to worry that it might be locked. Sandra never locked the door. Since this shop was in essence her home and the home of her coven; she felt no need to lock the door. If someone showed up on her doorstep in the middle of the night; then it was just a sign that they were SUPPOSED to be there.
A small bell over the door chimed as Talon walked through; he could feel the slight pressure as he passed over Sandra’s wards. He paused just inside the door; both out of politeness and to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkened room.
The scent of sage and sandalwood filled the air, soft Native American flute and drum music played in the background; Talon closed his eyes and allowed the peaceful atmosphere to envelope him for a moment, the soothing sounds and smells washing away the lingering taint of the crime scene.
Talon sighed in contentment; if only he could curl up in a corner and take a nap…
There was the slightest shift in the air, the soft whisper of fabric, and the distinct sound of a shotgun being cocked.
Talon’s eyes snapped open, his hand instantly going to his own weapon.
“Don’t move,” Sandra’s normally warm, welcoming voice was hard and frigid.
“You know,” Talon said, looking up at the ceiling as he tried desperately to reign in his irritation, “I’m getting really fucking tired of people trying to shoot me today. Bloody day has barely even started; could we at least wait until after lunch to pull out the guns? Or at the very least, wait until the sun has come up? Seriously?”
Sandra paused and regarded the shadowy figure standing in her foyer,
“Talon?” she asked, suddenly recognizing the voice despite the disgusting oily energy that was clinging to the man.
“In the flesh,” he replied drily, “Is this how you’re greeting people now? Not sure that’s the best way to go…from a business stand point, I mean…”
Sandra snorted, “Well you certainly sound like Talon,” she admitted, still wary and suspicious. “I find it hard to believe anyone could be quite so sarcastic so early…”
Talon rolled his eyes heavenward, praying for patience. “Fine, fine,” he growled, as he slide out of his duster and allowed the jacket to hit the floor. “Don’t shoot me… I can prove my identity…”
He reached up and tugged his shirt over his head; he held out his arms and spun in a slow circle giving her a clear view of the large intricate black tribal tattoo that started above his heart and flowed up over his shoulder and down his back to disappear under the edge of his jeans.
He knew, without looking, that the tattoo simmered with magic. It was a Hunter tattoo; proof that he was who he claimed he was. When he became a legal, sanctioned Hunter, a licensed Mage placed the mark upon him; every Hunter mark was different, uniquely identifying, and completely un-forgeable.
“Goddess Bless, Talon!” Sandra exclaimed, as the familiar tingle of energy unique to him alone, pulsed through his Hunter mark. “What they hell have you been messing with, young man?!”
Talon dropped his arms, “That’s what I’m here to speak to you about,” he said, then gesturing at the gun, “Can I put my clothes back on now or are you going to shoot me?”
Sandra studied him for several long moments; so long in fact that Talon felt heat rise to his face, suddenly embarrassed at her appraisal.
“I’m thinking, I’m thinking….” She muttered, not even trying to hide the fact that she was giving him a once over. “Seems a pity to cover up such a fine physique…” If possible Talon blushed harder, “but yea, I suppose… put your clothes on, boy, the others will be here soon. Wouldn’t want to get anyone overly excited this early in the morning…”
Talon felt his neck grow warm and knew that his blush had spread; suddenly he was very grateful for the dim lights. He snatched up his shirt and pulled it on. He quickly composed himself, and then followed Sandra through a beaded curtain and into the kitchen.
Sandra had recently put a pot of coffee on; already the delicious scent of chocolate and espresso filled the small kitchen. The energy drink may have satisfied his cravings for caffeine; but they just couldn’t compare to a fresh cup of coffee.
“Sit,” Sandra said, as she started moving around the kitchen; soon the table was filled with cups, saucers, milk, sugar, and creamer.
As if on cue, the shop door chimed; Sandra rose and moved to the front, gun in hand.
Talon starred at the beaded doorway, still swaying with the motion of Sandra’s passing; something was up.
Obviously Sandra sensed something; the older woman had never greeted guests at gun point before.
Something had her on edge; was it that she sensed something had happened to her Sisters? Had she already sensed the presence of a demon so close to their home?
Sandra returned a few moments later with a young woman gliding behind her; Talon instantly recognized the dark haired woman. Kathy was one of the older members of the coven; both Sandra and she were in their mid-forties, perhaps late thirties. Both were powerful Practitioners in their own right.
She, like Sandra, wore a simple faded t-shirt and jeans; the only difference was that Kathy had an old faded shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Either could be someone’s mother or grandmother; it was hard to envision them as powerful witches.
The door chimed again, and moments later a young woman in her mid-twenties walked through the beaded-curtain; dressed in a black button up shirt, black and white plaid school-girl skirt, and knee high platform boots over thigh high socks. Cool, heavily kholed blue eyes regarded the three in the kitchen silently; before nearly black lips curved into a sad smile.
“I assume since the Hunter is here,” Patricia said, placing a doughnut box in the middle of the table, “that something has indeed happened to our Sisters?”
Talon swallowed heavily as he glanced around the table; suddenly at a loss of what to say.
“Talon,” Sandra said, placing a hand comfortingly on his arm, “Why don’t you tell us why you are here…”
Talon took a deep breath; “I can’t tell you everything since it’s an on-going investigation,” he said softly, “But at 4 a.m. this morning, I was called to a crime scene down on River Road. I won’t get into details… and please remember that we don’t know anything for certain yet…. But Lisa, Kara, and Angel’s IDs were all found at the scene. There was evidence that point to a demon being involved…”
“That would explain the weird vibe coming off of you,” Kathy stated, as she tried to draw her shawl tighter around her shoulders, “You need a cleansing my friend.”
Silence fell around the table after Kathy’s statement; they all seemed reluctant to speak. Yet, Talon was surprised at how calmly the women were taking the news; though tears slide down their cheeks, there was no weeping, no sobbing. Just quiet…mourning.
“I take it their passing doesn’t come as a surprise?” Talon said when the silence continued to stretch. As reluctant as he was to discuss this tragedy; he had a job he needed to do. He needed to hurry and find this bastard before more people had to suffer.
“I had a dream that something horrible was going to happen to them,” Patricia said, as tears made dark streaks down her face. “I tried to warn them, but they didn’t listen. They thought I was just over-reacting. They so wanted to do their little rite.”
She snatched a napkin from the table and blotted at her face. “I had the dream again last night," she continued, "I called them as soon as I woke up. I knew they would be pissed; but I needed to hear their voices…. Only they didn’t answer. When I saw all the commotion over by River Rd…. I knew….”
With a choked cry, Patricia covered her face with her hand and sobbed. The two older women rose in unison to comfort their youngest member; they stood over the sobbing woman, rubbing her back and speaking soothing nonsense.
Talon remained silent; there was nothing he could say that would help the situation. There was nothing the girl could have done differently; if her friends had been determined to go to the river despite the warning… Patricia couldn’t have stopped them; unless she hogged tied them and left them in their rooms.
Talon gave them a moment to collect themselves. Sandra straightened and motioned for him to follow her, even as Kathy gathered the broken woman to her chest and held her as she cried.
“I appreciate you coming to tell us personally, Talon,” Sandra said, as they moved into the front room. Talon nodded absently;
“It didn’t seem right for ya’ll to hear about it in the papers,” he said, “they were my friends too.”
“I know,” Sandra said, patting his arm affectionately, “I also know that that is not the main reason why you are here.”
Talon shook his head, “I need to know is there’s a[A2 practicing Dark Magick here,” he said softly, “anyone who would be capably of summoning a demon.”
Sandra moved away from him then, walking behind the glass counter where her register sat. Her eyes got a faraway look in them as she tapped her fingers absently on the glass.
“I know you can’t give me a name,” he said, seeing the hesitation in her eyes. Secrets were horded in Downtown, and it was an unspoken rule that one didn’t rat out another to the authorities. “Just point me in the right direction. This thing is nasty, Sandra. I didn’t want to mention it in front of Patty; she seems to be taking this hard enough. I believe the demon took their power. The Earth around the scene was completely leeched of its energy. I couldn’t even sense the girls’ energy. Nothing. If there hadn’t been blood on the ground; you wouldn’t have been able to tell that anyone had been there besides the demon. I need to find this thing and fast; before it strikes again….”
Sandra cast him a sidelong glance; her dark eyes hard. “I’ve heard rumors,” she said softly, “that there is something foul lurking around over on the Cold Side. It seems that some of the local wildlife has been disappearing without a trace; not even their alphas can sense them.”
Talon nodded, understanding what Sandra wasn’t saying. The Cold Side was what locals called the Northern part of Lake Anna. There was a small pack of Werewolves that called that area home. The Lake Anna Pack Alpha was a man named Jeremy. Talon had met the Wolf on a couple different occasions; he wasn’t a bad sort… for a Wolf.
“Have they reported the disappearances?” Talon asked; Sandra gave him a pointed look.
No, of course not, silly question; the authorities wouldn’t have done anything, so why report it?
“Thank you Sandra,” he said, “That at least gives me a direction to look.”
“I’ll see what else I can find,” she said, “If I find out anything important, I’ll call you. “
Talon smiled, “I’ll find him,” he said. Sandra shook her head.
“Don’t just find him, Talon,” she said, “If he’s summoned a demon, he’s too dangerous to leave ‘til trial. Just kill the bastard. Kill him, burn his body and salt the ashes.”
With those words hanging in the air, Talon shrugged his jacket back on, and stepped back out into the humidity. He stood on the side walk; breathing in the heavy air. The heat and humidity seemed to press down upon him.
He moved slowly down the sidewalk, heading back toward his vehicle. The sky was just beginning to lighten with the first rays of dawn; Talon pulled out his cell, flipping through his contacts to find Eric’s number.
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of his neck rose and a[A3] wave of malicious energy surged behind him. Talon reacted on pure instinct; leaping forward and tucking into a roll just as something whistled over him exactly where his head would have been.
He rolled to his feet, his blade out and glinting in the dull light. He swallowed hard as the shadowy mass behind him solidified and condensed into a towering seven foot tall monstrosity; it was a seething mass of spikes, scales, teeth and talons. And drool; couldn’t forget the drool that was currently eating a hole into the sidewalk.
Talon felt his heart skip a beat as beady red eyes fixated on him. As a general rule, Talon stayed away from demons. He knew his limits; and even the lowest ranking demon out classed a human in a fight.
Being that Talon was human, and didn’t possess on drop of divine blood; he could easily calculate his odds in this fight…. And they weren’t particularly good.
“My Massssssster requessssts your pressssenccccce, Hunter…” the demon hissed.
“Really,” Talon said, slowly trying to back away, “Um…I’m kind of busy at the moment…how about, we…uh….reschedule…?”
“I’m afraid that wasssssn’t negotiable,” the demon stated in a voice that sounded like it gargled with glass shards. It gave Talon what he figured was the equivalent of a demonic grin; then he was flying through the air.
Talon slammed into something very hard and very solid; all the air left his lungs in a sudden whoosh.
He slid limply to the ground, his vision dancing with black and white dots. Why did Fredericksburg have to make their walls so damn hard? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have a soft Styrofoam wall every now and again?
He shook his head, trying to force his body to obey him. Bloody hell; were all demons so damn fast? He hadn’t even seen the blasted thing move…
He stumbled to his feet, leaning heavily on the wall behind him; every breath felt like he breathed in lightning. He could vaguely sense the demon moving towards him. He blinked, trying to clear his vision; but still everything blurred and swam. He could see the demon though; its huge shadowy form moving towards him with a grace that belied its grotesque appearance.
Its claws made a distinct clicking noise as it approached; the razor sharp talons leaving fallows in the concrete.
It gave a low gravelly laugh as it eyed him; its black forked tongue flicking across its lips. Talon tried to step away from the wall; he had to run, to get away… only an idiot would stay and fight a creature that clearly outmatched him.
A shadow fell across his face; Talon glanced up in time to see a dark object slam into his face. He felt his feet leave the ground, he had the momentary sensation of being weightless; then gravity kicked in and he slammed into something with a dull, metallic THUNK that echoed in the dark alleyway he found himself in.
There was a sickening pop in his shoulder and bolt of searing white hot pain tore through him. Talon clenched his jaw around the scream that bubbled up in his throat. Darkness swam at the edges of his vision.
A slimy, scaly, clawed hand wrapped around his throat; lifting him from the ground. Talon grasped futilely at the hand as he felt his feet leave the ground for the third time.
“I am mossssssst dissssapointed, Hunter,” the demon hissed; “He asssssssured me you would be a chhallanggge”
“Sorry….to….dis..a….point…” Talon wheezed through clenched teeth; the blood was roaring in his ears. He felt the demon draw his arm back; then he was once again slamming into a hard unyielding surface. Pain exploded throughout his body even as darkness consumed him.
Talon woke with a start, a yell lodged in his throat as he sat bolt up-right where he lay. Pain exploded in his side and chest; he sucked in a ragged breath and slid to the side, curling into himself on the cold, hard cement as he rode out the pain.
He took several slow, shallow breaths; waiting for the pain to fade back to a manageable level. Finally, after several long moments, the haze faded from his vision. Slowly, so very slowly, Talon pushed himself back into a sitting position; careful not to make any sudden movements.
He swallowed hard, each breath sent white hot pain through his torso. It was hard to concentrate on anything besides the pain; but he knew he had to work through it. He forced the pain aside; shoving it into a little space inside his head appropriately named ‘Shit to Deal with Later’, and slammed the mental door.
His pain no longer at the forefront of his mind, Talon focused on the space around him. Wherever he was, it was dark and cool; the only light that laminated the enclosure came from a small vent opening on the wall a few yards away.
As his eyes adjusted to the light, Talon could make out concrete walls, bare concrete floor, wooden rafters above and vertical bars….
Talon bit back a curse as he realized he was trapped in some sort of homemade cell probably in someone’s basement, and apparently, he wasn’t the only one.
Now that his brain was finally working as it should; he could feel the press of other minds against his barriers. Talon tensed, listening for the sounds around him.
Across the room, there was a soft, shuffling sound; as if someone was shifting positions. Talon closed his eyes and took a slow breath; slowly he sank into himself. What he was about to do was dangerous… but he needed to know who else was down there with him.
Carefully, Talon let his mind gently brush against those he sensed within the room; there were five total, each mind had red-lightning racing across their energy in what Talon had come to associate with pain. Five individuals, all with varying degrees of injury… and not a blessed one of them was human.
Again, Talon allowed his power to flow over the others in the group. With is back against the wall, he could sense two minds in front of him; both fiery and primal in his mind’s eye – shape-shifters of some form, probably Werewolves.
Beyond them, was a mind that felt cool and calm; there was a feeling of depth and strength that reminded Talon of a deep, dark, fathomless pool of water. A water entity of some sort; he was willing to bet money on it.
Then, last on the row, was a mind that felt warm, yet mischievous; it held similar characteristics to the raw primal energies of the two Wolves… but more subtle, and…airy… The being sensed his light touch and drew back sharply; Talon got the distinct impression of a foxlike creature snapping in warning.
Talon withdrew; it appeared that all of the cells were lined up against one wall, with Talon in the furthest corner. All, except one, that is; to Talon’s left there was another entity, whose energy was far more contained then the others. He focused on that individual and reached out to gently brush against it with mental fingers.
The response was immediate and violent; frigid power slapped against his shields. The force of the blow would have knocked him on his ass, if he hadn’t already been sitting down. As it was the pain was such that it robbed him of his vision for a moment.
Despite the initial, cold, mind-numbing pain the attack caused, Talon could feel the faint echo of intense pain from the entity beside him. He could also pick up the echo of desperation and all-consuming rage.
Now that he felt that deep, cold rage, Talon could feel it permeating the air around him. The creature was seething with barely checked fury.
How in God’s little green Earth, was something that powerful, still locked in this basement prison? Talon thought, more to the point, how in the hell was such a powerful being caught in the first place?
Once again Talon allowed his mind to slowly glide over the outer edges of the creature’s mind; then, he touched something that flared a brilliant, yet sickly yellow in his mind’s eye and attempted to attach itself to his energy.
Talon jerked away from the sticky, slimy substance that seemed to wrap around the creature. He shuddered in disgust; that sickly yellow substance had a distinct feel of blood magic about it. Small wonder the creature couldn’t free itself; it was being held by some sort of spell fueled by blood magic.
"Well, well... seems ol'crazy has caught himself a Hunter, boys,” A baritone with a country twang said, somewhere in front of Talon.
"Seems he's caught himself a couple wolves too," Talon replied; his eyes flicking over to the shadows the voice had emanated from.
"Heh, heh... he's got you there, pup," another voice stated, cool and smooth...liquidly; the water entity.
"Shut the hell up, fish face," another voice snarled; this one not nearly as deep and with more of an insolent tone.
Talon smirked, he was willing to bet that the ‘fish face’ was right; the insolent voice was a younger wolf. The deeper voice though… Talon suspected that he wasn’t so young.
“It would be wise for everyone to keep your voices down, else he comes down to see who is making all the noise,” a fourth voice said in a soft, velvety, feminine tones. “Or worse, he sends his demon…”
“Mind your own business, fox,” the younger wolf snapped; yet the mention of the demon was enough to silence everyone.
Talon let his eyes wander over the places he knew individuals were at; trying to see figures through the shadows. He could dimly make out the dark outlines of the two wolves sitting with their backs against the stone wall, in the deepest part of the shadows their cell offered.
The cold figure beside him was the easiest to make out; it being the closest to the light streaming in from the vent opening. Unlike the others, this figure wasn’t locked in a cell; instead it was chained against the wall with its arms locked above its head.
No…not ‘it’… her. The figure was female. The light wasn’t the best, and the figure was still wrapped in shadows, but Talon was able to make out the pale outline of a leg, the curve of a breast and the subtle line of an arm hoisted above her head.
Her head was bowed, the face obscured by long, dirty, pale hair. Her posture was limp; he could sense her exhaustion beneath the bubbling rage.
Suddenly, she tensed, her head shifting ever so slightly; Talon almost missed the movement. She grew still; a trait that he had seen some of the ancient vampires preform. It was an unnatural stillness…
Then, something black and oily pricked Talon’s senses and he understood why the woman had reacted as she had. Above them, the tread of heavy steps filled the small room.
Everyone seemed to hold their collective breath as they heard the clank of dishes; then the footsteps seemed to retreat to the far side of the room and there was the unmistakable sound of a door hinge squeaking as it opened.
The soft thump of footsteps on stairs seemed to echo with a malicious dread through the dark basement; beside him a low threatening growl echoed through the room as the wolves tensed.
When the basement door squeaked open, Talon was expecting a tall, imposing figure; someone that would inspire fear. Instead, a smallish man walked into the room and flicked on the overhead light.
Talon flinched from the brightness; only to feel his aching eyes widen in disbelief as he saw his captor. The man was older, perhaps in his forties, with short, dull, medium brown hair and small squinty brown eyes. He had a large hooked nose and black rimmed glasses as well.
Talon couldn’t help the curse that fell from his lips; it was the police officer he had insulted at the scene, the one who wanted to know why Talon could get answers from the Downtown residents and the PD couldn’t.
"Recognize me, do you?” the Police Officer-turn- Sorcerer stated; "You disappointed me; after that wonderful display this morning I figured you would have been more of a challenge for my demon to capture. What a pity. Guess you’re not quite as much of a hot shot as you thought you were, hm?" He turned away from Talon; dismissing him with a vague wave of his hand.
Talon forced himself to his feet; his temper giving him the strength to shove the pain and nausea aside. The man didn’t pay Talon any heed; his attention was completely focused on the woman hanging against the wall.
Now that Talon could see her clearly; it was obvious that she had been this man’s…guest… for quite a while. Everything about her was dull and life-less; her skin had a greyish, waxy look to it, her hair hung limp and dirty around her face, her eyes were sunken with large dark circles around them, her cheeks had a hollowed out quality and her clothes hung off her in thin dirty, bloody scraps.
The thin man smiled viciously at the women; his beady eyes practically glowing with lust.
"Hello, my sweet," he whispered as he ran his fingers down the front of her body; the woman didn’t respond, she didn’t so much as twitch as his fingers ghosted along parts of her body only a lover should touch.
"Leave her alone," Talon snarled. Gods above but he hated to see a lady in distress, even if she wasn't human. Beady, lust filled eyes flicked over to him and narrowed in annoyance.
"Do be silent, Hunter" he snapped and flicked his wrist at Talon.
Talon was suddenly physically lifted off the floor and thrown across the cell. He hit the opposite wall with a bone crushing force; he felt something snap inside. Blood splattered the cell floor as his breath left in a great WHOOSH of air.
Dazed, and barely able to see through the haze of pain; Talon slid limply to the floor. A piercing scream ripped through Talon’s mind; the utter agony in the cry, forced him to his hands and knees.
Talon beat back the pain filled darkness that hovered at the edge of his vision and searched for the source of the cry. No sound met his ears; yet the scream still echoed in his mind.
The Sorcerer stood in front of the chained woman, his hand pressed against her chest; the woman’s back was bowed, every muscle taunt, her mouth open in a silent scream. Talon watched in horror; he could feel the Sorcerer draining the woman’s energy.
Holy Mary, Mother of God…. Talon swore, his eyes wide; it hadn’t been the demon that had leeched the power from the Earth and consumed his friend’s energy… it had been this little, pip-squeak of a man.
He almost preferred the idea of the demon consuming them; for some reason the thought of a human being capable of such sick, twisted, violence made his stomach roll.
After, what seemed like an eternity, the Sorcerer removed his hand; the woman fell back against her chains, once again limp.
"Soon,” the man said with a twisted, sadistic smile, “Soon your power will be drained completely…. When that happens… Not even your frigid touch will save you. I will have you, my sweet…”
Talon felt a chill slide down his spine as he caught a very clear picture of what the Sorcerer intended to do to the woman; his intentions made Talon both want to take the man’s head clear from his shoulders….and throw-up everything he had eaten in the last month.
The Sorcerer regarded his other captives with a cruel smirk; then without a word, went back upstairs.
Talon forced himself to his feet, leaning heavily against the wall. He glanced at the woman hanging limply a few feet away, her eyes were closed, her breaths shallow… she barely seemed to be alive.
"That's how it's been since we arrived," the younger of the wolves said into the silence. "He comes down, touches her, then leaves; he doesn't ever say anything to us."
"We're just here to be replacements for when he's finished draining her," the one dubbed ‘fish face’ replied, his voice filled with remorse, "Poor woman has barely been conscious for the last month; though, she could have been here longer. She’s been here since before I was brought in… As soon as he uses her up, he’ll move on to the rest of us. I doubt we’ll last as long as she has.”
A short while later, the door opened again and the demon entered, carrying something resembling food. Talon starred at the slop that was dumped into a dirty bowl and thrust into his cell…and felt his stomach clench. He knew he should eat; but he couldn’t bring himself to put anything prepared by that psycho and his pet into his mouth.
Instead, Talon settled for slumping back against the wall and closing his eyes. For a moment pain overwhelmed him; the mere act of breathing brought intense, knife-like pain through his chest.
Dimly he wondered if he had any internal injuries. He knew he had a few cracked ribs, a busted shoulder, and a concussion… Darkness danced around the corners of his vision; he knew he should try to stay awake… yet, despite his best intentions… his eyes slide closed.
When Talon next opened his eyes, night had fallen. The basement was pitch black, save for a small stream of moonlight coming through the vent opening.
He sat there for a moment; silently listening to the soft snores of his fellow captives. Slowly Talon climbed to his feet; keeping his hand on the wall as his vision wavered and spun. He leaned against the wall; trying to breath past the pain and nausea that assaulted him.
Mindful to keep a steadying hand against the wall, Talon slowly picked his way around his cell. His leg ached with each step and his knees felt a bit like Jell-O.
He paused as the metal bars became cold to the touch; causing his hand to ache from the severity of the chill. He snatched his hand back; he hadn’t realized he had ended up so close to the woman’s side of his cell.
With as injured as he was; his mental shielding was shot to hell. Thankfully, his fellow captives seemed to be lost in the depths of dreamless sleep; else he would be forced to share their dreams.
The woman in front of him however, wasn’t lost in the peaceful realm of dreams; instead, her energy flickered and faded.
Talon felt his eyes widen and without thought; he reached through the bars and barely brushed her shoulder. Immediately, the sickly yellow spell that wrapped around her like some demented python, attempted to ooze over his wrist; desperately trying to seek a foot hold to latch onto Talon’s energy.
The protective rune tattooed on Talon’s forearm flared painfully; burning away the foul magic as it slide across his skin unable to find purchase.
The woman’s skin was cold to the touch; nearly as frigid as the metal bars of his cell. The woman let out a small pained noise at the contact.
She shifted, he could barely make out softly glowing eyes peering at him through the curtain of pale hair; he swallowed hard at the sight of something staring at him with their eyes glowing with blood-lust.
"Come on woman; you don't want to die here" Talon whispered to her; trying to swallow his initial fear, “Don’t give him the satisfaction…”
He should have expected what happened next; he had seen the hungry glow in her eyes. Yet, he was still caught unaware, as something latched on to him with icy, cold, mental fangs.
Talon gasped as his energy was drained from him; the dizziness he had kept at bay, swamped him. Then, without warning, his knees buckled and the ground came rushing up to meet him.
Talon blinked; his mind struggling to remember where he was and what had happened. Cautiously, he pushed himself to his feet, the dizziness was gone, the pain a distant ache.
Snow swirled around him; yet, for all the wind and snow, he wasn’t cold. He turned in a slow circle; the icy tundra seemed to go on without end.
Where was he? How did he get here?
He felt something move behind him; whirling, he encountered only swirling snow and ice.
“Who’s there?!” he shouted, his voice whipped away on the wind.
“I’m afraid I took a little too much of your energy, human,” a cool voice stated from behind him. Again he turned, and again all he saw was swirling snow.
“Where am I?” he demanded.
“Lying in that pathetic little blood Mage’s basement cell,” the voice replied.
“Show yourself…” he demanded. The snow in front of him seemed to solidify into the shape of a person.
"Who are you?" Talon asked; his heart hammering in fear.
“No one of consequence,” the voice replied, “Just another hapless victim…”
“Hapless victim indeed,” Talon snorted, “I’m not buying it. What is this place?”
“It seems you somehow stumbled into my healing sleep,” the figure shrugged.
“Stumbled….?” He muttered to himself, then louder, “Not likely. What do you want?”
"To keep you from fading away" the voice said; it had a distinct feminine quality, "Foolish little Hunter; you know better than to touch the skin of an unknown being".
She...it... the voice, whatever it was, was right; Talon did know better than to touch the skin of an unknown paranormal creature. Their abilities tended to be amplified by touch.
“Yea… right,” Talon replied, “There’s no way you’re concerned about my well-being… so again, what the fuck do you want?”
The figure chuckled softly, the sound sent chills running down his spine.
“What….I can’t show my… appreciation?” the voice asked, cool breath tickling his neck as the entity whispered into his ear. Talon jerked in surprise; but couldn’t move.
“Tell me, human,” the voice asked, he could feel the presence at his back, and ghostly fingers trailed along his collarbone. “Why is it a Hunter would care whether a random Non lived or died while imprisoned?”
Talon shuddered, suddenly realizing who he was speaking to; apparently the pale woman in chains, hadn’t been as near death as he had initially believed.
“Don’t lie to me, Hunter,” the voice said, still pleasant; yet the delicate press of cold claws against his throat belied the sweetness in her voice. “I know you Hunters hate us… so why the concern for one lonely Non’s suffering?”
“B-because…” he said, “No one deserves to die like that….”
The disembodied voice chuckled darkly and the pressure around his throat lessened; instead, the women took to lightly running her claws up and down his neck.
Once again Talon tried to move; to turn around and face the ghostly phantom that was taunting him. Yet, he couldn’t move; his feet seemed to be frozen to the ground. He glanced behind him, but could only make out the swirl of snow….
“How did you get past the spell that holds me?” the voice demanded; he could feel the presence slide around him, her claws trailing along his shoulder and collarbone in her wake.
“The Protection Runes tattooed on my arms,” he replied, “The spell couldn’t get past them.”
He felt cold fingers wrap around his wrist and lift his arm; he could only assume the being was examining the markings he spoke of.
“Can you use these to remove the rest of the spell from me?” she demanded, her voice now sharp as a knife. Talon shook his head.
“They’re personal protection,” he said, “Only reason it worked before was because the spell was trying to latch on to me….”
For a moment the storm seemed to grow fiercer; the wind whipping around him in a blinding fury. Instinctively, Talon raised his arms to defend himself from the swirling snow and icy lashing at him.
As suddenly as it came, the furious storm ended; Talon could practically feel the woman trying to reign in her temper.
“I’m sorry….” Talon said softly; he could sense her frustration and desperate need for freedom, “If I knew how to extend the protection to you I would… but it only works if something physically touches me.”
“It’s not your fault, Hunter,” she said, her voice soft. Talon turned, his feet no longer frozen in place, and could easily see the swirling, snowy manifestation, now that the blizzard had dissipated. “I was a fool to lower my guard, and this is what I get.” She uttered what sounded like a muttered curse, then, added, “You’ll be waking up in a moment, Hunter… I appreciate your concern, but, in hindsight, you should have just have let me go.”
“NO!” Talon snapped; suddenly furious at the defeated tone in the being voice, “You can’t give up yet, surely there is something you can do to get free?”
A harsh bark of laugher met his words; “Do you think I haven’t tried?” she demanded, “As long as that bloody spell is on me, my power is sealed. With the damn chains binding me I can’t even use my physical strength; it’s taking all I have to sit here speaking to you like I am.”
“What…” Talon frowned, suddenly feeling as if he was making a deal with the devil. “What if I could somehow manage to get you free of the chains?”
A feminine snort echoes through the quiet stillness; “You are injured,” she stated, “Quite severely I might add.”
“That’s never stopped me before…” Talon stated, crossing his arms. He wasn’t sure why he was so adamant about this; but for whatever reason, the idea of this entity giving up and dying just didn’t sit well with him.
She laughed without mirth; “Alright Hunter,” she said, “We shall see how powerful your will is. When I was captured, the Mage didn’t remove my jewelry, he wanted everyone to know who I was; so he left the ornamentation on. However, I have been in this coma-like sleep for weeks; trying to heal. I have no idea if my armband still adorns my arm. If it is, remove the feathers….”
Talon blinked, surprised; “Why should I do that?”
“Wake up Hunter…” she said, ignoring his question.
Talon blinked up at a dark, cobweb covered ceiling; it took him a moment to realize that he was actually awake and not still trapped in the frozen wasteland.
Slowly he sat up, biting back a groan of pain. He felt like he had been hit by a bus, then that same bus had kicked it into reverse and run over him a second time; just to make sure it hadn’t missed.
Glancing around, Talon found himself lying parallel to the bars of his cell, his arm stretched between the bars, toward the pale woman chained to the wall.
He studied the woman; the strange dream he had just experienced still running through his head. Was it possible?
Sure enough, as his gaze traveled up the woman’s limp form; he saw a worn, leather armband wrapped around her bicep. The accessory looked Native American in origin, with bits of turquoise and what appeared to be white bone. In the center of the piece was an intricate silver piece; from the center hung two worn white bone feathers.
"Ok..." Talon whispered to himself, “‘Remove the feathers…’”
Carefully, he forced himself to his feet and reached through the space separating them; his fingers wrapped around the feathers, and with a gentle tug, they slid free with ease. Thin, two inch long blades glinted in the dim light.
Talon starred at the blades, then back toward the woman and felt a smile curl his lips. He turned, stumbling as everything spun for a moment; once everything righted itself, he moved slowly over to the cell door.
Ever cautious, Talon passed his hand over the lock. He didn’t sense even a hint of magic around the lock. That surprised him more than anything; surely if a man went through all the trouble of summoning a demon to catch him Nonhumans to drain… he could spare a little extra magic to prevent someone from tampering with the cell locks?
Talon shook his head sadly; all the power to summon and control a demon… none of the sense to be-spell the cells so his victims couldn’t escape. What an amateur.
It only took a few moments before Talon heard the satisfying click of the lock disengaging and the cell swung open.
“You’ve got to be shittin’ me,” the older of the two wolves swore; coming to his feet. “He didn’t be-spell your door?”
Talon glanced at the wolf in redneck clothing and shook his head, “Are ya’lls be-spelled?”
“Hell yea they are….” He growled, “These damn bars are coated in silver, so the boy and I can’t touch ‘em.”
“Each of ours prevents us from touching them,” the fox said, then to emphasis her point, she touched the space between the bars; there was a flash and sizzle upon contact.
Talon wanted to laugh; apparently, the Sorcerer had planned for each of his captives at great length; but for whatever reason, he hadn’t prepared for Talon. Perhaps, his abduction was an impulse? A simple attack based more in revenge then logic?
With another shake of his head, Talon limped his way across the floor to the door. Everyone held their collective breath as Talon reached out to grab the keys; which were hanging right next to the door.
All the more to taunt his victims; hanging the keys to their freedom so close… and yet impossible to get.
Carefully Talon removed the keys from their rung, fully expecting there to be some sort of trap spell that triggered the moment their weight left the hook.
Yet, nothing happened.
Talon looked at the keys in his hand then back at the now empty rung. What a piss-poor sorcerer.
With another sad shake of his head, Talon limped over and unlocked the fox’s cage than slowly made his way down the line, unlocking each door.
Finally, he stood before the pale woman hanging so lifelessly against the wall.
“Dude, what are you doing?” the younger of the wolves asked, “She’s dead…leave her…”
“No…” he replied, “I said I’d get her free and I will,”
“When did he say that?” the wolf whispered softly; only to be growled at by the older Were.
The air was distinctively cooler over in her immediate surrounding area. Talon ignored the discomfort, reaching up to grab the chain. He sucked in a sharp breath as pain lanced through his shoulder and side. His right shoulder was still injured; he couldn’t lift it past his mid-torso.
He cursed as the key slide against the chains; he was at the wrong angle to work the key in the lock. Plus, pressed as close as he was to the woman; he was freezing. Every part of him that touched her ached from the cold.
He glanced behind him to the four Nons watching him silently;
“What the fuck are you waiting for?!” he snarled, “Get out of here!”
A moment later he could hear rock and cement crumbling under the onslaught of four hundred pounds of furious Werewolf might as they tore at the vent opening.
One of the woman’s arms dropped to his shoulder; Talon barely contained his whoop of joy. One more to go.
Behind him, he heard rock tumble; risking a glance behind him, he could see that the partially turned Wolves had made a sizeable hole where the vent used to be. The fox, a pretty woman with shimmering copper hair and luminous green eyes, was the first out of the hole; then the regal, dark haired man with dark blue eyes and shimmery, iridescent skin.
Finally the key slide into place and the woman was free; her full weight making him stagger. She made a soft pained noise and a single glazed eye opened and blinked at him.
“I told you I’d get you free…” he said softly. Clenching his jaw against the pain, he swung her up so he could cradle her against his chest. His abused muscles and limbs protested the added weight.
As he turned, he froze as footsteps echoed above them. His eyes widened in fear as he glanced at the older Wolf still lingering inside the basement.
“Go!” Talon hissed, limping as quickly as he could over to the opening.
“Give her to me, Hunter,” the older Wolf said, reaching back through the window for the woman.
The basement door suddenly flew open, hitting the wall with a resounding BANG. Talon turned; his eyes widening as the dark beady eyes of the Sorcerer zeroed in on him. The little man’s face turned a dark purple with rage before he shouted something unintelligible.
A mere heartbeat later; the demon appeared in a mass of whirling shadows and sulfuric smoke. Talon turned wide panicked eyes to the Wolf waiting in the window,
“RUN!” He yelled; then the demon slammed into him with the force of a Mack-truck.
Talon slide across the cement floor; with the demon’s heavy weight on top of him; for a moment, everything went dark as his body protested the abuse and pain. Talon struggled back to wakefulness; only to wish he hadn’t.
The demon was crouched above him like a particularly ugly dog over a bone. Talon glanced down the length of his body, between the demon’s legs, trying hard not to notice the large malformed mass hanging there that could only be demon genitalia.
Even with his vision wavering in and out; Talon could make out the pale form of the woman crumpled on the floor and the darker image of the Sorcerer above her.
“Le…eave… her…a...lone...” Talon growled, trying to lever himself up and scoot out from under the demon in a single movement.
“He’s yours,” the Sorcerer stated casually, “And you can have whatever is left of her…”
“No….” Talon’s protest was cut off as a large scaly clawed hand wrapped around his throat. Effortlessly the demon picked him up. Glowing red eyes regarded him with sadistic, malicious glee…
“You have far more imporrrtent thingssss to worry ‘bout, Hunterrrrr…” the creature hissed, it’s forked tongue flicking out to slide along one overly large, protruding fang.
“Fu..ck…y..ou...” Talon choked, his vision beginning to grey. He was then flung away; slamming into the wall with enough force, he felt the bone in his arm snap.
He clung to consciousness; forcing himself to his hands and knees. Suddenly, his head was jerked back by his hair, his neck extended and exposed. Fangs sank into his shoulder and neck, the acid-like saliva burning as it spread through his body.
Talon screamed at the excruciating pain; clawing at the demon in a desperate attempt to survive. The demon shook its massive horned head like a shark with a seal; there was a snap, and Talon hit the floor limply. In a mind numbed fog, he reached up and touched the bloody mess that was left of his shoulder. He could feel the blood pooling around him…
She stood, the Blood Mage’s life energy replenishing her malnourished form. His blood still lingered on her tongue, as she dropped the lifeless husk carelessly to the floor.
She rolled her shoulders in a vain attempt at relieving three months’ worth of tension. A piercing scream echoed through the tight confines making her wince in pain at the volume.
She turned as the grotesque imp shook its prey and flung it across the floor. She was half tempted to let the demon have the human; what was one less Hunter in the world?
She sighed; the foolish human had freed her, just as he said he would. Granted, she had been the one to kill the Blood Mage, but… the human had managed to get her out of those damn magic-inhibiting chains.
The least she could do was take him to a hospital; survival would then be left up to him. Besides… the imp wasn’t overly powerful, just large and ugly… still, demon energy was better than nothing. Waste not…want not…