Ch ch ch kah kah kah hah hah hah
“Not funny Desmond,” I scolded seconds before the lights in the parking garage went black.
“Not funny Connie,” Desmond chuckled in the dark.
“Uh, that wasn’t me,” I barely got the words out before a brimstone red light started shining in the darkness, and the real lights came back on to reveal a freakish nightmare. Arms and legs too long for its body, grinning teeth too large for its face, and red eyes the color of, well I’m sure you can guess. It was a demon, and I filled Desmond in on this fact as we both started backing away rapidly.
We had two things going for us:
One: I’d caught the warlock’s proverbial hand in the proverbial transformed corpse cookie jar only twenty minutes before. That means he had deduced my location by magic, ‘safely’ summoned up a demon, and then sent it directly to my current location in under twenty minutes. That was a hell of a lot of powerful magic done very quickly, which likely meant that the demon in question, horrible though it was, probably wasn’t anything overly powerful. Well, as far as demons go anyway. You don’t mess with the Ebola virus while doing two other things at the same time in a mad rush, but maybe you would risk it with the common cold or the flu. The metaphor goes double for demon summoning.
Two: There was a whole mess of pipes full of running water all around us.
I’d scarcely told Desmond what to do before he was pulling out his .45 and slamming rounds into a nearby valve, sending water spraying out between us and the Slendo-Demon©, making a magic grounding barrier. Sure enough, the water was slowing it down, literally barring it’s access to us lest its ectoplasm body be washed away to nothing. I immediately dropped to my knees and started summoning up the electromagnetism you can find nearly anywhere close to the earth. Sure, running water grounds out magic, but at some point magic becomes reality, or else big wizard fireballs wouldn’t cook baddies up quite so nicely. Thus, as I reached my hand out and cast the Earth’s own energy out in the form of electricity it reacted just as you might expect electricity would with water. The creature was blasted back several feet in a massive arc of current and I nearly toppled over onto my side. I can do air magic all day long, but without my staff earth magic can be a real downer. (Heh, gravity joke)
On the plus side (there needs to be a sarcasm font on typewriters) the demon turned out to be a tad stronger than I thought, seeing as it cast its now even more elongated arm through the grounding water and slammed me to the concrete. If it weren’t for Daniel’s hoodie, painstakingly altered with runes worn into the very fabric and backed by my dead husband’s love for me, the creature would have likely ripped me in two. As it was I ended up with some very sore ribs as the monster pushed through the water to our side, ignoring its body ebbing away. Desmond had not stopped shooting the thing for a second during all this, but bullets only go so far against Never Never stuff.
I knew if the Slendo-Demon© got a real solid hit on me I’d be paste, hoodie or not, so I focused my will into my wedding ring and formed my usual swirling shield of air as strong as a wall of reinforced steel. I knew I was ready for the next hit, or I thought I was until the next hit turned out to be a two ton SUV propelled by the Slendo-Demo© right at my head. Luckily, air magic is oh so very versatile (which, you guessed it, is why I’m so practiced with it), so instead of trying to catch several thousand pounds on my arm I reversed the air into an outward force and slammed the SUV straight down onto the ground, bouncing it hard once, breaking all its windows, and leaving it settled facing the Slendo-Demon©.
Now, Desmond was very new to the whole monster slaying gig, but as it turns out killing monsters at three in the morning is something you can be born with a knack in. Desmond was already slamming the SUV into nuetral and pushing it down the downward ramp toward Mr. Slendo(TM?).
“Push it Connie! Slam it into it!”
Desmond had never dealt with this kind of stuff before this weekend and already he was using his surroundings to help him, thinking ten steps ahead, and fighting his hardest to keep us alive. God bless the Marine Corp.
I pulled my focusing fan, hanging by its leather strap from my wrist, into my hand, opened it up, and with a flourish I waved it and screamed out a word of power.
I had only meant to send the SUV speeding down the ramp on its wheels, but nearly dieing always makes me put a little too much umph into my spells. The SUV lifted off the ground spinning in the air sidewise until at the last second it turned toward the Slendo-Demon© and slammed it directly into the side of the parking garage at nearly seventy miles an hour. The SUV landed with a thud, it’s suspension ruined, air bags out, half crushed, as every other car on the level had their alarms blarring. The Slendo-Demon© slowly evaporated back into ectoplasm, and Desmond and I beat a hasty retreat in the Tonka Truck.
- – -
The next day, leaving the Inkwell by climbing into the Tonka Truck through the very dented passenger door, I felt like garbage. Sure, grandma’s spell wasn’t techniqually breaking the third or fourth laws since the. . .damn I was gonna say victim. . . and I’m probably not wrong. Yeah. The victim keeps their mind their own, and they also keep their free will, which means no broken laws, but it is an extreme lowering of inhibitions and conscious thought, and an addict like Jason Ivory had little of those as it was. I’d come as close to committing rape as I’d ever had in my life. Of the mind, not the body, but violation is violation. Amber was pissed, and she had every right to be. I told myself I did it to save lives, and I had, but the ends don’t ever justify the means where magic is concerned. I thought I’d learned that lesson for good two years ago, but here I was again. I didn’t know what I was going to do to make up for this one.
As we drove toward the 33 and the 190 thereafter I kept taking peeks at Desmond. I had known he was messed up from the war. I was messed up myself, but as dangerous as my life had been I’m not sure even blood thirsty vampires and the like can match up to 7.62 rounds buzzing past your head and IEDs killing half of your friends because they stepped in the wrong spot. I had assumed he’d lost his home because of his PTSD. Like maybe he went crazy a few too many times at work, or just stopped going to work, or just dropped out of life all together, but after the past few days and what I saw in the Inkwell I wasn’t so sure.
I hadn’t even meant to stir up his memories. I was so lost in the hundreds of terrible things I’d seen with my Sight I had never even thought talking like that would bring up similar memories in Desmond. His tears broke my heart. Desmond was not a weak man and certainly no coward. He’d faced down a raging ghoul and an honest to god demon the day before and barely batted an eye, at least when compared to most people. Daniel had told me war stories about Desmond, and there was no doubt in my mind he was a hero, especially after these last few days with him. Seeing a man I thought was made of steel and barbed wire crying like that was like a vice on my insides. I knew right then Desmond was far from crazy, but that he hurt more inside than I could ever know. I’d hugged him only because I didn’t know what else to do. Some pain just doesn’t go away, no matter how much time passes. I knew one thing from it all though, a man with that much control over his hurts, able to hide so much inside so seemlessly, did not end up homeless on his own. Someone was the cause of Desmond’s misfortune, and I had a pretty good idea who it was.
I didn’t have the time to deal with it right then, but as we headed for the old surplus warehouse I promised myself I’d do whatever I could to get Desmond back on his feet, and whole inside again. He deserved it. I owed it to him to at least try. I owed it to Daniel.
- – -
I couldn’t kill him with my magic. I wouldn’t, and the warlock knew it. He’d used magic to kill four beings, two of them human, and two part of rival vampire clans. He was trying to start a vampire gang war that would lead to hundreds, maybe thousands of deaths as it ran its course. I needed to stop him, but all I could do was hold on.
Desmond had shot him already, but still he blasted jets of fire at me, one after another, and I had lost where Desmond had went. I could almost smell the hate burning off the fire. I couldn’t imagine how far you would have to fall to murder a person with magic. Monsters, and vampires, and demons were one thing, but a person? I’m not proud of my own law breaking. In a lot of ways breaking the seventh literally put all of humanity at risk, and I had done it for selfish reasons, but straight murder, the first law of magic, ‘thou shalt not kill with magic’, was so direct, so final. To break the first left a deep darkness on your soul. Magic comes from inside you, it is all that you are, it is the primal source of life. It’s something to be used for good, not death. Beyond that, you couldn’t even use magic in a way you didn’t believe in one hundred percent. This man believed in murdering those people to his core, and to use magic to do it, well. . . there are few sins greater.
One of his more potent fire streams caught me dead center in my chest. My husband’s hoodie was, after my wedding ring, my most powerful direct connection to him. He had always worn it, summer, winter, fall, spring, he had had that hoodie on. He loved it. He had worn it through the countless dates we had, and the hours of being close to one another over the years. It had always hung on its post at the foot of our bed when we made love. During our marriage all of our love for each other had soaked into that unassuming piece of clothing for four years plus. I had added some of my own will and power to it sure, but when I wore that hoodie, my husband’s hoodie, the love of my life’s hoodie, I might as well have been wearing a suit of armor, he had loved me that much, and I him. As the warlock’s fire hit Daniel’s hoodie it slid off like water over oil.
That’s when I saw Desmond creeping behind him, the warlock was so blinded by his power he didn’t even know a devil dog was about to tear his throat out. I needed to keep the warlock’s attention, give Desmond his shot. It was win, right now, or die. “Come get me!” I yelled as I focused my will into my ring, poured my love for Daniel, my fear for Desmond and myself, my need to stop this monster all into the strongest shield I had made since my ‘carving’ days. The air circulating was so strong it tore at the cement beneath my feet. The warlock likewise put everything he had into his attack. The gout of flame he fired was the size of a large motorcycle. He screamed at the top of his lungs for me to die. Right as the fire got in range of my shield I reversed it. Instead of making the air into a solid shield I vacated it from the area in front of me, made a complete vacuum in the middle of the room and snuffed the fire out completely. Physics can be such a downer. (Heh, another gravity joke).
Desmond put the sawed-off’s barrel to the side of the warlock’s head. “Check your corners bro.” The warlock died badly.
- – -
Things calmed down in the weeks following. The White and Red Courts went back to their cold war, the Wardens didn’t cut my head off, Kevin wrapped up his case (damn wild-animal attacks), no one had tried to kill me in a few days, and things were getting as close to normal as they ever got around me. Well, except for Desmond living on my fold out couch, but even that seemed more and more normal with every passing day.
I won’t ever forget seeing Desmond with my Sight. It’s in my mind clear as day forever now, but it’s far from the worst I’ve seen, and it’s one more thing to remind me why I need to help him. Besides, wizarding is a dangerous business, and a girl sleeps a lot better knowing she has the ‘Knight of the Hiltless Blade’ sleeping on her couch.
I’m going to rebuild his sword’s hilt, somehow, and woe be it to the man, monster, or being from beyond that gets in my way.