Thief: Chapter 18

Sunday, 3 July 2016






Chapter Eighteen




    Aiden and Gabriel Sr. had checked every place they could think of that Abby might be. The school, the hospital, the library--the search was eerily similar to the one they had gone through on that stormy night not so long ago.
    She hadn’t been anywhere, and Aiden couldn’t rely on a connection the way Gabe had. He was her Guardian now, yes, but it was in name only. And I couldn’t even do that right, he thought bitterly. He had failed to protect her, but he would find her. He had to.
    Gabriel walked towards the park bench where Aiden was seated, two steaming paper cups of coffee in his gloved hands. “Here,” he said, sitting down next to Aiden and offering him a cup. “you looked like you could use this.”
    Aiden took it with a grateful nod. “Thanks.”
    Gabriel hummed in acknowledgment, taking a long sip of his drink. He swallowed, and sighed, steam curling from his lips in the December air. “So,” he said, giving Aiden a sidelong glance. “she isn’t in the city. I think we can cross D.C. off our list.”
    “Only a few hundred million miles to go, then.” A wave of helpless despair washed over him, and panic rose to the surface. “Oh, and that’s if the demons didn’t just drag her down to Hades, or some other far-flung corner of Creation!” Aiden said, his tone growing increasingly agitated as he went on. “And I don’t even know where to begin, or what to do if I do somehow miraculously find her, because God only knows what’s happened to her by now! She could be trapped, or driven insane by her powers, or possessed or even--“
    “Dead?” Gabriel interjected.
    “Yes!” Aiden cried, looking at Gabriel with wide, crazed eyes. His voice dropped to barely above a whisper. “And the worst part is, I’m not even sure that’s the worst that could happen.”
    Gabriel gave him a hard look. “Are you done?”
    Aiden closed his eyes and sagged forward, his elbows resting bonelessly on his knees. He nodded, feeling utterly defeated.
    “Okay. Good.” Gabriel said, his tone curt. “Now, stop feeling sorry for yourself and do your job, General. That’s an order. Nothing matters right now except getting that girl back to safety. We do that, and everything might just work out alright. Maybe I get my son back.” He inhaled sharply, put his hand on Aiden’s slumped shoulder. “And maybe we come out on top of this whole mess. But for now, we need to focus. So, can you think of anywhere else she might have gone?”
    Aiden’s reply was cut off by the telltale flutter of wings and a soft thump of feet hitting frozen ground. He and Gabriel turned to see a woman with dark-blonde hair pulled tightly back from her hawkish features. She wore a black pants suit and a cream wool pea coat, and Aiden vaguely recognized her as one of the Warriors Farrah had summoned. “General, Archangel. I have urgent news.” Her tone was grim.
    Aiden sat up, his heart racing wildly in his chest. Something was wrong. “What is it?” he asked, unable to keep the thread of anxiety out of his voice.
    The Warrior fixed honey-coloured eyes on his. “It’s your daughter, General. She is missing. She, and the Archangels Izrafel and Michael. All three have vanished without a trace--your wife is looking for them, but she asked me to relay the message. She felt that this would be more secure than mortal communication devices, given the sensitive nature of your current mission.”
    Aiden could only stare at her in stunned silence, so it was Gabriel who thanked the woman and sent her on her way.
    She nodded and turned to leave, a pair of spotted kestrel wings unfolding on her back. She stopped and turned towards them. “Ah, and one more thing. Malakh and Rivkah have also left your son’s bedside, Archangel. No one knows where they are at the moment, but that isn’t so strange for them. Your wife wanted you to know that, and that there has been no change in your son’s condition. The Lord be with you both.” She finished, the formality of the words catching Aiden a little off guard.
    “And also with you,” he murmured in response as she flew away, quickly becoming no more than a speck in the mid-morning sky. “Fern…” he whispered, totally unsure of what to do, what to say, what to feel.
    She was gone, and so was Abby, and he had totally failed to protect them both. Two Archangels were missing too, which was bizarre on its own, and then Rivkah and Malakh…A ghost of a thought slipped past him, and Aiden furrowed his brow. “Rivkah left Gabe,” he said out loud, and Gabriel nodded hollowly.
    “Yes--“
    “No, shhh, be quiet!” Aiden hushed him, waved him down. “She left Gabe after Abby disappeared.”
    “So?”
    “So, why would she do that? She wanted to protect Gabe, and she would do that unless something more important happened. Abby left. And then Rivkah left.”
    Realization dawned on Gabriel’s face as the pieces fell into place. “Rivkah left because she knows where Abby is. Protecting Abby is the more important task.”
    Aiden nodded earnestly. “So if we find Rivkah,”
    “We find Abby.” Gabriel finished.
    They both clutched their rapidly cooling coffees, lost in thought for a few long moments.
    They turned to each other at the same time as the answer hit them both like twin bolts of lightning. “The cabin!!”
    Finally, Aiden thought, at least something’s going right.

Thief: Chapter 17

Friday, 17 June 2016
    







Chapter Seventeen





    Winter’s calm had settled over the cabin like a blanket. The previous night’s storm had passed, and a thick layer of snow weighed down the sloped roof. The pathway Horace had led Abby down was covered over without even an indent to show where it had been. After a sleepless night in the little cabin, Abby stood on the snow-covered porch watching the sun rise above the pine forest that surrounded her.
    She still wasn’t sure where she was, exactly. It was colder than it had any right to be--D.C. never dipped too far below freezing, and this much snow was nearly unfathomable. “Looks like we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Abby murmured, reaching a gloved finger out to catch a lazily drifting snowflake.
    “Far from it, actually.” A voice came from her right.
    Abby started, wide green eyes meeting Horace’s dark gaze. She felt the power within her surge instinctively, reacting to her quickened pulse. Abby wrestled it back down, suppressing a shudder at the feeling of it pulsing through her veins.
    “I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. He held an armful of neatly split logs to his chest, an axe gripped loosely in his free hand.
    “Please,” Judah heaved past his brother, both arms cradling a haphazard stack of logs. “that ponytail scares all the girls. Cuz, y’know---yikes.” He stomped up the stairs, dropping the logs on the porch with a dull clatter. He rubbed his hands together and stomped the snow from his boots. “Ugh, it’s so cold!”
    “Complaining won’t make you warmer.” His brother chided mildly as he came up the stairs, setting his own logs down more carefully and propping the axe up against the wall.
    “Well it won’t make me colder, so--“
    “Um,” Abby interrupted.
    Two sets of dark eyes, so similar to Raph’s, locked with hers.
    “Uh, so, what are we…why did you bring me…here?” she asked, indicating the frozen landscape. “And where is here, exactly?”
    Horace and Judah exchanged a glance, then looked back to her. “Somewhere safe.” Horace said. “No one will find you here--and I mean that in the least threatening way possible. You can use your powers here, learn to control them, and no one, demon or angel, will be able to sense it.”
    Abby looked at him quizzically “And why is that?” she asked carefully.
    “Because,” a soft, familiar voice called from behind her, “it is my home.”
    Abby whirled around, and saw Rivkah walking towards them, on top of the snow drift where the path had been. The old woman was draped in a fur-lined dark blue cloak, long silver hair streaming regally behind her. Her booted feet, Abby noticed, left only the faintest impression in the snow. Abby suspected that if she tried walking there she’d end up wading calf-deep through the stuff. She let Rivkah come to her.
    Rivkah ascended the steps lightly, walking across the snow-covered porch towards Abby and pulling her into her arms. “I’m so glad you’re alright, dear.” she said, hugging Abby tight.
Abby stiffened at her touch, and the kindness in her tone. She thought of Gabe, lying in his hospital bed, thought of Raph carving into his flesh. Thought of how, if it wasn’t for her, none of this would have happened. She fought back the lump in her throat, the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, and the power that roiled and raged to be unleashed.
    “Are you sure?” she asked, voice cracking.
    Rivkah gave her an extra squeeze, and let go. She looked at Abby with her ageless gaze. “I’m sure.” She said, smiling gently. “Now,” Rivkah said, turning to look at Horace. “What can you teach her?”
    “Ma’am.” Horace said, giving a stiff, formal little bow with military precision. “We’re working on containment, first of all. Abby’s powers are practically feral, totally uncontrolled. If they remain that way, they could very well rip her apart, both mentally and physically. For now, I believe we need to focus on her using and shutting down her powers.”
    Rivkah gave him a long, appraising look. “I agree.” She finally said, nodding curtly. She turned back to Abby. “Abby, my dear, I know you’ve been through a lot--more than any one person should have to go through, in my opinion--but it’s only going to get harder from here on out. I want to make that clear to you. This will not be easy. Are you absolutely sure you want to continue? Say the word, and I’ll return you to Aiden and all the safety the Wards can provide. Just know that even their collective power would not be enough to stop what struggles inside you, should you lose all control.”
    The power sparked and cracked along Abby’s skin like lightning at Rivkah’s words, and Abby felt the warmth of it run through her. She inhaled deeply, tasting the cold air as it burned in her lungs.           "I’ll stay.” She said, voice soft, but resolute. She had to--there was no other way.
Rivkah’s gaze, older than time itself and just as unfathomable, held hers for another long, silent moment. “Good.” Rivkah said.
    She stepped forward, opening the cabin door and taking a step inside. “Come inside; we have much to discuss. And you, boy,” she said, waving offhandedly at Judah, who’d been absent-mindedly picking up handfuls of snow and melting them with wisps of blue flame that sprung from his palms. “Stack those logs up properly, it won’t do if they get wet.”
    Judah frowned, steam sizzling out of his clenched fists. “Why do I have to listen to you? You’re not--“
    “Jude.” Horace hissed, widening his eyes in exasperation.
    “What?! She’s--“
    “You,” Rivkah interrupted, drawing herself up to her full height and looking at the demon disdainfully, “are still alive because you serve a purpose. Don’t give me a reason to disappoint an old friend.” The thinly veiled threat hung in the frozen air as Rivkah glided serenely inside, beckoning Abby to follow. “Come now, my dear. We have a lot of work to do.”

***

    Abby waded through the snow behind Rivkah’s dainty steps, Horace slogging along behind her. Judah had stayed in the cabin, complaining of the cold and boredom. Abby secretly thought that he was probably just afraid of Rivkah--she couldn’t really blame him for that. Horace had quickly left him behind, seemingly happy to be free of his little brother’s pessimism.
    They reached a clearing in the trees, a wide circle of pines ringing one tall, bare-branched tree, its bark and branches a stark, bone white aside from a gouge of pure black that split it neatly down the middle.
    “This tree doesn’t look very healthy,” Abby said as she circled it, running her fingers lightly along its trunk.
    “It’s dead.” Rivkah replied.
    “Ah,” Abby said, feeling a twinge of regret at Rivkah’s words.
    “I want you to bring it back to life.”
    Abby looked at Rivkah, startled. “You want me to what?”
    “Revive the tree. Your power is unique; this should be a simple task for you.”
Abby looked at Horace, who nodded encouragingly. “Try it. It’s not like you can hurt it. It’s already dead.”
    Abby looked at the tree skeptically, unsure of what to do. “How--“
    “Here.” Horace said, walking up behind her. He took her hand in his, placing her palm flat against the trunk of the tree, her fingers ghosting over the lightning burn. “Think of your power as an extension of your intentions. You want the tree to live? Will it to regrow. Use your power to find what is broken, and then fix it.”
    Abby nodded uncertainly, and Horace took a step back.
    Feeling the rough bark beneath her palm, Abby closed her eyes, and concentrated. She thought of her power, that sickening, exhilarating gold rush, and it jumped to the forefront of her mind. Her vision flooded gold, and she inhaled sharply. There was so much of it, and it was so strong--it took all she had to keep from being swept away.
    Find what is broken, she thought, urging the torrent of power forward, channeling it down her outstretched arm to flow from her fingertips into the dead tree. The gouge was cavernous inside the trunk, a hollow that ripped through the heart of the tree. Ash and rot held the tree up, and it had long-since dried out to a withered husk of what it had once been.
    Abby opened her eyes, looking at the tree. The white bark sparked with flashes of gold as her power poured into it, and something in her mind clicked into place. And fix it.
    She reached into the hollowed core of the tree, and grasped at the nothing with all of her might. Brow furrowed and skin twined with gold, Abby began to turn the nothing to something.
    She could hardly hear Rivkah as the ancient woman said something in a warning tone, something Abby didn’t quite catch. She didn’t hear Horace’s words, either, hardly felt his hand on her shoulder as she poured golden light into the hollow tree.
    The bark began to glow more brightly, golden light racing up the cracks in its surface. All Abby could hear was the rushing sound in her ears, all she could see was golden light. All she could feel was the softness of the snow rushing up to catch her as her vision faded, abruptly, to black.

***

    Abby woke in the garden, a warm breeze tugging gently at the ball gown she wore. She sat up slowly, feeling the sun beating down on her face as she looked around. The maze of roses stretched out around her for miles, the heady scent carrying so many memories with it.
    She looked down at her dress--it was the same one she’d worn to the dance, she realized with a stab of anguish. It was whole again, new and untorn; she raised a shaking hand to her neck. The necklace, Gabe’s gift, was around her neck.
    She let out a shaky breath, one she didn’t realize she’d been holding. “I must’ve passed out,” she murmured. “Go figure.” She stood up, noticing that her feet were bare, as they always were in this dream. The garden was quiet and calm, the warmth of the sun soothing--there was nothing in this dream to be frightened of.
    She began walking, one hand touching her necklace, the other trailing along the wall of multi-coloured roses. They were velvety-soft under her fingertips, smooth petals leading to more of the same. And then she pricked her finger on a thorn. “Ow!” she cried, snatching her hand away instinctively and raising it to her mouth. “Why does that always happen?” she grumbled.
    The wind rose suddenly, flattening her voluminous skirt against her legs. “Aaaaabby,” she thought she heard.
    She looked around, wide-eyed, but she could see nothing but roses.
    “Aaabby,” she heard again, the voice a tortured groan obscured by another gust of wind.
    “Gabe?!” Abby cried, tears welling up in her eyes. The voice was battered and pained, but she would recognize it anywhere. “Gabe! Where are you?! Gabe!!”
    Another gust of wind shook the garden, bringing with it Gabe’s voice, clearer this time. “Abby? Abby…”
    With a strangled sob, Abby took off running in the direction the wind had come from. Rose petals were falling all around her, carried on the breeze like a river. There was a flash of silver hair as Abby turned a corner, ignoring the flowers falling whole from the vine now.
    She could see him in the distance, chained to a wall of obsidian, dried blood on his chest, matted in his hair. His stormy eyes locked with hers, and Abby saw them light up in recognition, then blanch in fear as she began to run to him. He opened his mouth to say something as she raced towards him, the grass of the garden turning to jagged stone.
    Gabe’s image flickered, doubled, disappeared, and the ground fell away from Abby’s feet. The dream faded, and darkness surrounded her as she fell though nothingness, towards a faint speck of light that rushed towards her. She closed her eyes against the intensity of it, blinking slowly.
    Her vision came into focus, and she realized that the light was firelight, dancing along the wall of the cabin. She could smell fresh bread, and something savoury. She turned her head carefully to look out the window--it was dark outside.
    She tried to sit up, and groaned. Okay, this was definitely reality; headaches like that just didn’t belong in dreams.
    She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, Rivkah stood over her.
    “Welcome back.” She said.
     Abby only groaned in response. This was going to be harder than she’d thought.


Thief: Chapter 16

Sunday, 1 May 2016





Chapter Sixteen




    Satan walked into Notre Dame Cathedral like she owned the place, all casual grace and one small, self-contained smirk at the stone saints that surrounded her. Their cold, empty eyes passed over the Queen of Hell as she waltzed right past them and into the sacred sanctuary.
    The cathedral was strangely empty; it was too early for evening mass, though the lack of tourists with their flashing cameras was a little surprising. Satan shrugged elegantly in her fitted black wool coat. One less thing to worry about--all she had to do was set up a barrier to keep them out.
    Her fingers trailed lightly over the backs of wooden pews as she walked down the centre aisle, and her eyes flashed red. Humans loved their iconography, and, for a little while, would be very interested in the carvings that covered the building’s exterior.
    The light of the hundreds of candles reflected in her eyes as she strode to the high altar, Louis Vuitton heels clicking on stone, the sound echoing around the silent nave. One well-manicured hand was hovering over a golden Eucharist goblet when someone cleared their throat behind her.
    Satan whirled around, immaculate red curls trailing after her. “Hello, Michael,” she said, red lips curling into an almost-fond smile.
    “Sataniel,” Michael said, looking up at her from his place at the foot of the altar steps. “It is…it is good to see you.”
    Satan looked at him curiously. “Why are we here, Michael? The last time we spoke--well, I didn’t think you’d want to see me again, with your consequences this and He knows that.”
    Michael’s face was as calm and inscrutable as ever. “Last time we spoke, I seem to recall doing you a favour. I was hoping that now, you could help me.”
    Satan blinked. “The great Archangel Michael wants to make a deal with the Devil? My dear brother,” she grinned sharply, perfect white teeth glinting in the candlelight “I thought you would never ask.”
    Reaching behind her, Satan plucked the chalice from the draped altar and sat where it had been, crossing her bare legs demurely and carefully arranging her red skirt. She set the chalice down beside her, idly running a finger around its golden rim. “What would you like?”
    Michael, who looked-to Satan’s glee-at least somewhat put-off by a demon sitting on the high altar of one of the holiest places on Earth, grimaced before he spoke. “Abby Shepard,” he said softly, saying the name like it was a curse. He looked into Satan’s eyes, and she saw something there that she hadn’t expected. “I--we--need to destroy her, once and for all.”
    Satan leaned forward, green eyes wide as she searched his. “You’re afraid of her.”
    Michael stiffened, looking down at the worn checkered tile. “We all should be.” He said after a moment, gaze returning to hers.
    Satan considered this, pursing her red lips and nodding slowly. The pensive look melted into a small smile. “It seems we both want the same thing.” Satan said, “I’m happy to help.”
    Michael’s shoulders relaxed, his posture, while still technically perfect, a little softer. “Thank you, Sataniel. I--“
    “One question, though--why not just kill her yourself? You’re an Archangel, so it’s not like you can’t get to the little whelp. And I know you’re not squeamish--I’ve seen you fight.” She said, matter-of-factly. “So why would you come to me for help? Did her weak little Guardians stop you? Or does she just remind you too much of Set--“
    “Don’t talk about him.” Michael snapped, a flash of anger and guilt flitting across his usual careful calm.
    Satan looked down on him through narrowed eyes. “You never had the stomach for it. What happened? Couldn’t bring yourself to kill his daughter?”
    “That’s not--“ Michael growled, then took a deep breath, steadying himself. “That is not what happened. We were ready to finish her. She escaped before we could do anything.”
    “Escaped? How?” She was just a girl, powerful, but completely raw and untrained. She shouldn’t have been able to leave a warded estate filled with some of the most powerful angels in Creation.
    “She had help. Two of your kind.”
    Satan once again found herself surprised. “Really. Two demons broke into a house teeming with angels and spirited her away, right under everyone’s noses? I’m a little impressed, if that’s true.”
    “It is true. I thought--I’d hoped--that they were in your employ. It seems they are related to that Thief of yours. Raph, was it?”
    Satan’s breath caught in her throat, the words she’d been planning to say dying on her tongue. She stared up at a grand stained-glass window, flaring rainbow light in the slowly-fading sunset. “Raphael.” she said flatly as she digested the news. Things were clicking into place in her mind. “Of course he’d try to save her.” she sneered, looking at her brother “He thinks he’s in love.”
    “Love.” Michael repeated thickly, a strange look on his face.
    Satan nodded. “Love. Which means we must act quickly. You know what they say about love, right? It makes you do the craziest things. So this needs to be over before that atom bomb of a girl decides to tear a rift in the cosmos in the name of love.”
    Michael didn’t say anything, no doubt remembering what had happened nearly eighteen years ago.
    She hopped down off the table, stepping off the raised dais to stand in front of him on the steps, her eyes level with his, green gazes locking. “You can stop it this time. You and I can finish this, once and for all. Together.”
    Drawing in a nearly imperceptibly shaky breath, Michael nodded. “Alright. Thank you, Sataniel.” He looked up at the stained glass window, the light behind it dimming in the twilight. “We have been here too long. I will contact you soon.” He turned to leave.

    “Earlier,” Satan said, stopping him in his tracks, “You said ‘we’ were ready to finish her. ‘We.’ My dear brother,” she said, clicking down the steps to stand next to him, and looping her arm through his. “I simply must meet your accomplices.”


Thief: Chapter 15

Sunday, 24 April 2016






Chapter Fifteen




    Lorelei had chased after him like a lost puppy. Mammon didn’t stop her, and didn’t let her lose his trail entirely. She was pursuing him relentlessly as he travelled around the globe, spying on him as his plans began to come together. It was almost…cute, how sneaky she thought she was being.
    If she truly was his child, though--well, that was a matter for another time. Right now, he had bigger fish to fry.
    The thought brought the faintest curve of a smile to his pale lips, and the Selkie queen stopped talking, her liquid black eyes narrowing suspiciously. “Somethin’ amusing to you, Hunter?” she asked, her Irish accent thick and rolling. Her heavy, curvy form was draped in a flowing sealskin robe, the thick white fur contrasting sharply with her mottled grey skin.
    They spoke on neutral ground; the half-submerged wreck of some ancient ship served as a fine meeting-place for a Hunter and a Selkie. The cold mist from the roiling dark waves didn’t seem to bother her, and Mammon did his best to ignore the way it clung to his clothing and dampened his hair. It wouldn’t do to show weakness to anyone now, much less Siofra, leader of the Selkies.
    Mammon shook his head in one sharp, dismissive motion. “No. Nothing worth mentioning, I’m afraid.” He adopted a polite, nearly friendly tone, keeping his body language soft and unthreatening.       He wanted something from her, and his usual methods, his preferred methods, wouldn’t help him here.
    He’d left Fenris and Freja on the mainland to rest, giving them a chance to lick their wounds and giving him a chance to negotiate without his dogs skulking menacingly in the background.
    He gave the Selkie queen a once-over, saw through the thin veneer of calm she presented. He’d try the delicate approach first, then. “I have a proposition for you.”
Siofra’s full lips curled into a sneer. “Yeah, and you’ve said as much. What do you want from me and mine?”
    Mammon’s lips curled into an oily smile. “The question is, what do you want from me? Name it, and it’s yours. All you have to do is help me with one. Little. Thing.” He drew out the last three words, and Siofra raised a round eyebrow curiously. She motioned for him to continue with a blunt-clawed hand.  
    Mammon looked her steadily in the eye, pale grey on solid black. “I need an army. A resistance-- a force willing to help me claim the throne of Hades. In return, I’ll fulfill any request you and your kind have…after I have my throne, that is.”
    Siofra’s sharp bark of laughter echoed across the waves, reverberating back at Mammon from all sides. “Your throne?” she laughed again, a softer chuckle as she shot him an almost pitying look. “I’ve heard of you, boy. Double-dealin’ with the wrong people’s what got you here in the first place. And you want us to fight on a promise? On a damn IOU?!” She barked another laugh, this one in disbelief.
    Mammon leaned forward, lifting his chin as he stared her down. The delicate approach had failed--time for something more his speed. “No. I want you to win on a promise. A war is coming,” he stated bluntly, “ and I intend to wait it out. Let them fight for blood and glory, let Satan and Lucifer destroy themselves with their own pride and vanity. Let them cripple their forces with petty in-fighting and a doomed war against Heaven, and when they’re down for the count…Then,” His grin turned sharp and wicked, voice nearly a snarl. “Then, we will lay claim to the ashes.”
    He leaned in even closer, mere inches from the Selkie’s face. “And you and yours will want to be on my side when it happens.” He straightened up to his full height, looking down at her, every scrap of false friendly warmth gone. “Better to be owed a favour by a king than to be his enemy.”
    Siofra’s black eyes were wide, a thin rim of white ringing them. She scurried backwards, away from Mammon, the cold wind rising and whipping at them both. “You’re--you’re completely mad!” Siofra sputtered, glancing from Mammon to the roiling sea below and back again.
    “So I’ve heard,” Mammon drawled, smirking. “Now are you going to join me, or should I skin you alive? And, just so I’m being abundantly clear, I’m not talking about that robe of yours--white really isn’t my colour.”
    Siofra looked away again, black eyes searching the sea for answers. After a long moment, she nodded. “Yes,” she said, lifting the hood of her robe over her head with hands that only trembled slightly. “You have the Selkies; we’ll come when you call.”
    Mammon’s smile broadened unpleasantly. “Your cooperation is greatly appreciated, your highness. I’ll be in touch. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have so many other places to be.”
Siofra levelled her black-eyed gaze at him and drew her hood over her head, and a soft white glow enveloped her. There was a splash as the waves took her, and Mammon watched her lithe seal form slip away from the shipwreck. 
    His smile faded, and he drew in a big lungful of the wet, salty air. “One down,” he exhaled, “more to go.”
    He looked out over the horizon one last time, eyes passing over Lorelei’s clever hiding spot. And, with a knowing little grin, he was gone. 



Thief: Chapter 14

Thursday, 3 March 2016





Chapter Fourteen



    Aiden was doing his best not to pace back and forth; no matter how distraught he was, pacing just wasn’t appropriate at a funeral. Much less at his almost-son-in-law’s funeral. He was having a hard time standing still, though.
    He couldn’t believe that Abby had left like that, run off with two demons. He didn’t care that they were related to Raph. Nothing good had come of their relationship, so he didn’t see why she would be so quick to trust his judgement again. If they were so trustworthy, why did they have to leave like thieves in the night, bolting off to who-knows-where?
    He shifted from foot to foot, eyes half-lidded against the crackling, snapping brightness of the pyre that was quickly consuming Eli’s lifeless body. They had hurriedly constructed the pyre in the sprawling backyard, shielding the blaze from human eyes with the help of Michael and the collective power of the other angels. It wouldn’t do for some well-meaning neighbour to call the fire department, and no one wanted to have to explain to the police why they were burning a young man’s corpse.
    Keeping the authorities out of Gabe’s incident had required more underhanded bribery. And begging. And mild threatening. He had done it all with absolute grim determination, however, because someone had to keep it together. Someone had to keep everyone else, everything else, from falling apart at the seams.
    It had been Aiden who had called in favours and reinforcements. He’d called down friends who wouldn’t ask questions to guard the girl who had been quickly spiralling out of control thanks to a cracked seal on her powers, the likes of which none of them had ever seen. Aiden, who had watched some of those friends get seriously injured by the girl he had just let escape, wild, untamed, and unchecked, into the world with two creatures of Hades.
    He wasn’t sure who to be angry with; Abby, for letting him down, or himself, for letting Abby down. He should have done something more, talked her out of it, gone after her immediately, but…
His eyes drifted to the column of flame and smoke that turned Elijah’s body to crumbling ash. This. He had to be here for this, to remember the life and the senseless tragedy of a young man’s death. Elijah had died a hero. He should not have died at all, and as he watched the fire and heard his daughter beside him sobbing brokenly in her mother’s arms, Aiden clenched his hands into hard, white-knuckled fists.
    Eli’s sacrifice wouldn’t be meaningless. He would find Abby and protect her, train her to control her power and use it, and somewhere along the way he would find that pale bastard and atomize him. And if he couldn’t manage Serena’s elegant destruction? Well, then he’d take his time, beat Mammon with his bare fists if he had to, until all that was left was a smear of dried blood on the ground somewhere. Him, and his dogs, too.
    The hand landing softly on his shoulder started Aiden out of his thoughts, and he looked over to see Gabriel Sr. giving him a grimly determined look, almost as if he knew what Aiden had been thinking. The archangel’s eyes were red-rimmed, glistening in the light of the burning body. Gabriel gave him a nod and let his arm drop to his side, turning his attention back to Michael as he continued the funeral service.
    He was doing an excellent job of it, too, his flowing, heartfelt speech delivered flawlessly in the most formal dialect of the angelic language. Aiden had been trying his best to block it out; it hurt less than listening to the archangel speak of death and life and the existence of someone he’d only met briefly. But, to his ultimate relief, Michael’s speech was winding down, drawing to a steady conclusion about Elijah now being in a better place.
    Aiden wasn’t quite sure how to feel about that sentiment at the moment, but he let it go after a moment of unease. Though, somewhere at the very back of his mind, a dark, oily spark of anger and hurt flared. Surely, he soothed himself, taking a deep breath through his nose, surely this, too, was part of a greater plan.
    But…he looked over at his daughter, her broken, huddled form clinging desperately to Farrah to remain standing. What purpose could that much hurt have? Was that feeling of emptiness gnawing away at them all supposed to help them on their mission? What good could possibly come of this, Aiden asked silently.
    Michael lapsed into silence and quietly melded into the shadows, standing beside Izrafel and watching the fire consume what little remained of Eli.
    Aiden couldn’t make out Izrafel’s face from where he stood across the pyre and beneath a sprawling cherry tree, its branches naked and twisting heavenwards in the frozen December air. He could see the way the black man’s shoulders shook beneath his suit jacket, though whether from sorrow or cold or pure rage, Aiden didn’t know. He suspected it was some combination of the three, and wished, not for the first time, that he could think of something to say to him that wouldn’t sound completely hollow and pointless.
    He was having absolutely no luck on that front, so he turned back to Gabriel, who still stood next to him, one arm wrapped around Serena as she sniffled quietly into a delicate silk handkerchief.
    “We have to go after her.” Aiden said quietly but firmly. This wasn’t negotiable. Nothing good could come of Abby running wild--he was certain of that.
    Gabriel squeezed his wife’s shoulder comfortingly and looked at Aiden. “I know. It’s just…Gabe is still--“
    “I know.” Aiden hesitated for a moment before continuing. “We need to find her as soon as possible, though. For all our sakes, but especially Gabe’s.” He spoke softly and chose his words carefully, but Serena still shot him a look at the sound of her son’s name. “Serena, I--“
    Serena shook her head, cutting him off. “No,” she breathed in shakily, steadying herself. “No, you’re right. She shouldn’t be wandering out there all alone. That poor girl…she didn’t deserve any of this. None of them deserved this.” Her eyes filled with tears again, glimmering bright in the firelight. “You two go,” she said quickly, trying to speak before her emotions flooded over again. “I’ll stay and watch over Gabe’s body. I’ll keep our boy safe.” She promised, looking at her husband with determination shining through her sadness.
    Gabriel pulled her in for a soft kiss. “Thank you, love.” He said as he reluctantly let go of her.
    “You bring her back safe. Bring her home.” Serena said, forcing a watery smile.
    “We will.” Aiden said, hoping desperately that his words were true.

***

    The pyre had burnt down to glowing coals and tiny licks of flame, and what had been Eli was now ash. Fern had cried herself out and could only manage dry, heaving sobs that escaped her when she thought she was finally finished crying.
    Her heart was broken. Eli was gone, Gabe was gone, Abby was…Abby was a monster. Fern stared into the flames and felt the anger welling up inside. This was Abby’s fault, all of it. She’d get her for it--she would avenge Eli. She’d--
    “I’m sorry, Fern.”
    The deep voice beside her made Fern jump a little. She’d thought she was alone. Everyone else was inside the house now, to let her be alone with her thoughts.
Izrafel stared at the fire, dark eyes reflecting the orange light. “I know you loved him. He loved you too.” His lips curved up in a small smile. “He always talked about you whenever I saw him.”
    Fern shut her eyes tightly and drew in a slow breath. “Thanks,” she said carefully. “I miss him.” Her voice broke a little, right at the end, and she sniffed noisily.
    “I do too.” Izrafel said, glancing at her. “But missing him won’t stop the thing that did this to my son.”
    Fern wanted to be surprised, but she wasn’t. Part of her felt a bit relieved that Izrafel felt the same way she did. “We need to destroy her--she’s too dangerous. If she hadn’t been here, none of this would have happened!”
    “I agree.” Michael stood at her other side, as if he’d appeared out of nowhere. “That is why we are going to neutralize the threat. A creature that powerful and untamed must be dealt with.” He looked at Fern, holding her gaze. “Will you help us?”
    Fern didn’t ask any questions; she only had one answer. She couldn’t help the snarling, feral grin that marred her pretty features. “Yes.” 




Thief: Chapter 13

Sunday, 28 February 2016





Chapter Thirteen




    The sound of the cell door opening forced Gabe awake, and for one groggy second, he felt a sliver of hope. Someone was here to rescue him, his family or a team of Warriors or God Himself there to fix what was obviously a huge mistake.
    And then he heard the click of her heels on the dirty stone floor, saw the glint of her red curls in the flickering torchlight. Hope faded.
    “Slept well?” Satan asked as she stepped into the cell, the creature on the end of the chain dangling from her wrist scurrying in behind her. She wore a tight black dress that stretched to her mid-calf, and she managed to look comfortable despite the freezing temperature in the dungeons.
    Gabe shot her a murderous look, and she laughed musically. “Oh, don’t pout. It’s so unbecoming in such a handsome boy.” She stretched up to pat his cheek, her small delicate hand blazingly hot against his skin.
    Even though Gabe was disconnected from his body on earth, he still felt everything physical, from temperatures to touch. That didn’t surprise him; his kind had never been fully corporeal, and there wasn’t as much of a separation of existences for angels as there was for humans. He was as solid and real here as he would have been in Heaven. He wasn’t a ghost or a wandering soul; he was just Gabriel Junior, Guardian trapped in the bowels of Hades.
    “The girl,” Satan said coyly, and suddenly she had Gabe’s full attention. She smiled at him, plump red lips pulled into a knowing smirk. She laughed again. “You really are in love with that monster, aren’t you? I’d reconsider that if I were you. I mean, look where it’s gotten you so far!” she said, all mock concern.
    “Don’t call her that!” Gabe snarled. “Abby isn’t anything like you, and you’re the only monster here.”
    Satan leaned in closer, her big green eyes widening. “Nothing like me?!” she grinned, baring her perfect teeth. “Are you sure about that?”
    Gabe ignored the bait, ignored those eyes that seemed so familiar aside from the crazed light in them. “She’s nothing like you!” he growled.
    “Go on, then. Tell me all about the little freak of nature. Tell me what she can do with those mutant powers of hers.” She stepped back and snapped her fingers, an ornately carved wooden chair appearing behind her as her eyes flashed red for an instant. She sat gracefully, smoothing her skirt over her legs. “And then you can explain to me why a weakling like you was called on to protect something as powerful as Abby Shepard in the first place.”
    Gabe held his tongue--she was trying to get a rise out of him, hoping that he’d get angry and tell her everything she wanted to hear. That wasn’t going to happen, not if he could help it.
    “Oh, come on, Gabe. Is she even worth protecting? Look around! You’re in Hell, literal Hell because of that little skank. If you ask me--“
    “I didn’t!” Gabe spat.
    Satan continued on like she hadn’t been interrupted, the only indication she’d heard him the grin that flashed across her face. “She’d be better off dead. Why are you angels even keeping her around? That girl is dangerous. Wouldn’t it be better if she just…disappeared?”
    Gabe didn’t say anything. He thought of Abby, replayed her face over and over in his mind’s eye. He remembered the way she looked when she smiled, the way her face would light up when she laughed. He prayed to the God who probably wasn’t listening to him anymore that she was safe. He prayed that she stayed that way.
    He locked eyes with Satan. “I won’t tell you anything. I love her, and I wouldn’t betray her for anything. Besides,” He tried his best to shrug nonchalantly, his shoulders aching with effort, “I’m already in literal Hell, right?”
    Satan stared at him for a moment with an expression he couldn’t quite read. She stood wordlessly, and walked towards him slowly. “Is that what you think?” she asked softly, running her fingers delicately up his bare chest. “That it can’t get any worse?!” She shrieked as she hooked her fingers, driving them into the wounds on his torso.
    Gabe cried out, gasping at the sudden sharp pain. Satan dug in harder, fingernails tearing at flesh and muscle. Gabe could’ve sworn she scraped bone.
    Her eyes flared red and black, tattoos spiralling inky-black down her fingers. “You can’t even begin to fathom what I can do to you!” Satan hissed, her voice doubling and tripling into a many-layered horror.
    Gabe writhed against his bonds, trying desperately to get away from her and the pain and terror he felt. All of that was nothing compared to the absolute dread that filled him when her power entered him. He could feel the darkness pouring in through her hands, its malicious intent as it wormed its way into his very being.
    Satan pulled him closer, fingers still hooked into his chest. Blood trickled down her wrists, mingling with her tattoos as they spun wildly. She smiled a hideous, crazed smile. “Tell me what I want to know, and I will free you.”
    Her words oozed into his mind like syrup, his vision flickering with black lines. Maybe she was right, part of him whispered urgently. Was Abby really worth all this? One meaningless girl in exchange for his freedom. It was her fault he was here in the first place. Why should he go through all this for that thing, that…monster?
    “No!” Gabe shouted, forcing the thoughts away. He breathed hard, feeling his mind returning to him. His vision cleared as he glared at Satan. “I won’t tell you anything. I won’t betray her!”
    Satan raised an eyebrow. “Impressive,” she said, yanking her hands out of his flesh. Gabe cried out again in pain, but she ignored him. “though I’d expect at least that level of strength from Gabriel’s son. Come, Eron!” she snapped her fingers, and her pet hurried to her side.
    Gabe avoided looking at the poor creature; it made his skin crawl to think of how it had once been an angel.
    Satan strode out of the cell, her pet scurrying along behind her. “Now, don’t go anywhere,” Satan smiled cruelly. “I’ll be back soon.” The cell door slammed shut with a resounding clang, and Gabe was alone. 



Thief: Chapter 12

Thursday, 18 February 2016





Chapter Twelve




    The angels had left Abby alone. They’d locked her in her bedroom, its newly pink walls still smelling a little like wet paint. She sat on the edge of the bed, waiting. Well, she wasn’t entirely alone. Two of the angels, the ones she’d never met before, were stationed outside of the door.
    “For your own safety,” Aiden had said gravely.
    Abby rolled her eyes. More like for everybody else’s. If her powers went crazy again, those two angels would probably rush in and try to kill her.
    Let them try, something within her roared softly, the voice tinged with gold. She shook her head, willing the thoughts away. Closing her eyes she lay back, flinging her arms up over her head so that her hands brushed her pillow. “This is crazy. I’m crazy” she murmured.
    She was drifting, her mind finally quieting, when something flashed bright orange light across her closed eyelids. Squeezing her eyes more tightly shut, she tried to ignore whatever it was. The light flashed again, and again, and Abby cracked one eyelid open. The orange flash filled her vision and she groaned in exasperation. What was that? Ugh. So bright, she thought as she groped around on her bedside table.
    Her fingers landed on something she hadn’t expected--the light was coming from her mother’s mirror. Aiden must’ve put it there for her. Something, not quite a memory, tickled at the back of her brain. The mirror, the orange light; it was all familiar somehow. The whatever-it-was slipped through her grasp as the mirror flashed again, and she opened it.
    “Abby?” a voice came through the mirror, distant and broken at first, like a cellphone with bad reception. She recognized the voice as it became clearer. “We need to talk. Please put the mirror on the floor and stand back.” Horace.
    Abby nodded, then thought that maybe they couldn’t see her. “Alright,” she said, rolling onto her side and sitting up. She stood, placing the mirror down in the centre of the room, and backed away. There was a flash of light, huge and orange and bright black, and when Abby had blinked away the spots in her vision, Horace and Judah stood before her.
    “Thank you.” Horace said, giving Abby a polite nod.
    “Nice room,” Judah said, looking around. “it’s really…pink.”
    “Shhh!” Abby hissed, mindful of the Warriors on the other side of the door.
    Horace caught on quickly. “I--ah. Don’t worry about the guards. I’ve cloaked our presence. As far as they’re concerned, you’re alone in here.”
    Abby wasn’t entirely convinced, but no one had come rushing in, weapons drawn and powers blazing. They hadn’t even reacted to the light from the mirror, and that had been pretty unmissable from where Abby stood. “What do you want?” she asked. “It must’ve been important for you to risk coming here.”
    Judah snorted as he rifled through Abby’s dresser, tossing random articles of clothing onto the floor. “I’ll say,” he said, holding up a paint-stained hoodie. “hey, is this the warmest thing you own?”     Abby gave him a weird look, unable to answer as Horace cut in.
    “We’re here to help you in any way we can, Abby.” He said, dark eyes boring into her green ones. "What did you want to ask me?”
    Abby blinked. She hadn’t expected that. “Can I--can I trust you?” she asked quietly.
    “Yes.” Horace answered simply, holding her gaze.
    “I need you to do something for me.”
    “Name it.”
    Abby looked at the ground for a moment, thinking hard. She looked back up at him, certain. “I need you to get me out of here.” She’d hurt enough people around here, people she cared about. She’d only hurt them more by staying.
    “Are you sure about this?” Horace asked.
    Abby nodded. “I can’t be here anymore. I’m a prisoner now, a time-bomb they don’t know how to defuse. I love them, and now I’m tearing them apart. And until Gabe comes back, I’m only going to be the reason that he’s gone. Serena can’t even look at me anymore, and Fern--”
    Her voice broke and she stopped for a moment, swallowing back the lump in her throat. “They’re better off without me.” She sniffed, willing away the emotions that unfurled inside her, hot and bitter and aching like an old wound that had never properly healed.
    Horace didn’t say anything until her breathing returned to some semblance of normal. “If that’s what you want,” he said after a long minute, “we have a place prepared for you. Somewhere far away from here. But I want you to be sure.”
    She thought about Aiden, and all he’d done for her. He wouldn’t want her to leave, certainly not with two demons, but she had to. It was the right thing to do. She didn’t want anyone else getting hurt because of her.
    She remembered what Metatron had projected to her, how she should go with them to master the powers warring inside her. She didn’t have much of a choice. “I have to.” She said.
    Horace inclined his head gracefully. “As you wish. I’ll need your help. Can’t have those Warriors raising the alarm, and they’ll definitely notice when you disappear.”
    “Can’t you just use your power to hide my presence? Or lack of presence, I guess.”
    Judah shook his head as he dumped Abby’s backpack full of art supplies and began shoving warm clothes into it. “Not with the power you’ve got. That’s like getting an infrared camera to miss a raging volcano. It’s just not gonna happen.”
    “Okay, so what do we do?” Abby asked, hoping the answer wasn’t ‘kill them’. She couldn’t go through with that. She thought of the look on Izrafel’s face when he’d seen her. She’d already done enough.
    Horace inhaled deeply, closing his eyes. When they opened, they were pitch black. Glowing black tattoos wound down his arm, stretching and reaching over his hand and swirling down his fingers.           "Your hand,” he said, holding out his own.
    Abby hesitated for a second, glancing from his hand to his black eyes, then reached out and took his hand in hers. His power flooded into her in an instant, merging with her own. Gold and black spun in her veins, and she felt as though she’d be carried away by it. His free hand pointed at the door and he snapped his fingers once, twice. Abby felt her power being controlled by his. There were two identical soft thuds against the floor outside as the angels collapsed. Something in Abby new that they were unharmed; only unconscious.
    Horace dropped Abby’s hand. “Thank you.” He said, his eyes returning to normal and his tattoos receding.
    “Wait, so that’s your power?” Abby asked shakily, the thrum, the rush of that much power flooding her still fading.
    Horace smiled faintly. “I’m a good teacher. Channelling and directing someone else’s raw power is part of helping them learn to control it themselves.”
    “Yeah, it’s a great parlour trick,” Judah grunted as he struggled to zip up the backpack and hefted it onto his back. “Got all your essentials here, but you’d better put something warm on--It’s cold where we’re going.”
    “Okay,” Abby said, “Thanks. Turn around so I can change.”
They did as they were told, and soon Abby was dressed in thick jeans and her warmest baggy sweater. She pulled on the parka Aiden had purchased for her, and the boots she hadn’t had a chance to wear yet.
    “Ready.” She said, and the two demons turned back around.
    Horace stooped to pick up the mirror from the floor, and held it out to Abby. “I don’t think you’ll want to forget this.”
    “Thanks,” Abby said, pocketing it quickly.
    He pulled another mirror out of his own pocket, one similar to hers but made of tarnished, greening copper. He opened it, murmured something in the demon tongue to it, something she didn’t quite catch.
    A flash of orange and a blast of freezing air filled the room, and Abby heard footsteps in the hallway, coming closer and breaking into a run.
    “We’re out of time.” Horace said, nodding to Judah. Judah saluted him sharply but mockingly and disappeared in a flash of orange light.
    “We have to go!” Horace said, grabbing Abby by the arm. The footsteps had reached the door, and know there was muffled shouting. Someone starting banging on the door, the handle rattling hard as someone tried to force it open.
    The door burst open and Aiden ran in just as Abby and Horace were engulfed in orange light. Abby felt her head spin as the world went white.
    She landed on her knees in something cold and soft, and she opened her eyes, blinking a few times. The world was still white.
    “Snow?” she wondered aloud, looking down at her legs. She had landed in a tall snowdrift. Horace stood a few feet away on a beaten-down path through the snow. She looked around. It was night, and they were in a forest of tall, bare-limbed trees. It was snowing fat, puffy flakes that were building up rapidly on Abby.
    “Here,” Horace said, grabbing her by her arms and helping her up out of the snow.
    She dusted herself off on the crude path, and looked at Horace. “Thanks.”
    Horace inclined his head. “Of course. Come on, it’s just down this path.”
    Abby was going to ask what ‘it’ was, but Horace was already walking away. She struggled through the snow to keep up with him. There was a light on the horizon, a soft golden glow that was faint at first, but it grew stronger with each passing minute. Finally the source of the light came into view. A cabin sat in the middle of a grove of pine trees, smoke puffing from the chimney.
    They walked to the door, and Horace stood there, hand hovering over the doorknob. He turned to face her. “Are you sure?” he asked. He was giving her one last chance to go back, she realized.
    Squaring her jaw, she nodded affirmatively. “Yes.”
    He gave her another rare smile and opened the door. “Come inside, then.” He said.

    Abby walked into the cabin, refusing to look back. 

Thief: Chapter 11

Thursday, 11 February 2016





Chapter Eleven



    Cara gave Raph a sideways look and motioned for him to follow her. “Come on, we haven’t got all night. You know how they get if you keep ‘em waiting.”
    Raph pushed to his feet and followed her out the back door. “They’ll wait.” He said, staying close behind her as they walked down the dank, dimly-lit alley behind the bar.
    Cara snorted. “What do you know, Raph? They’re only waiting because I told them to. You aren’t their leader anymore--I am!”
    Raph sighed--he didn’t have the patience left for her posturing. “I don’t care.” He said tiredly, speeding past her at a brisk clip. Cara clattered on her heels behind him, trying to catch up and swearing loudly as her ankles nearly failed her.
    Ignoring her, Raph shoved the same pile of debris and bottles that has always been there out of the way and uncovered the grate in the wall. Prying it open deftly, Raph dropped himself into the familiar sewer tunnel that lead to the gang’s hideout, landing on his feet with a splash that soaked his shoes completely. “You coming?” he asked, popping his head out to watch Cara as she stomped over.
    “Shut up and get out of my way.” She huffed, slinging herself in beside him. The grate slammed shut with a dull clang behind them. “Let’s just get this over with.” She muttered darkly, skulking away from him further into the cramped tunnel.
    Raph followed after her, stepping lightly to avoid any traps or pitfalls. Luckily for him, it didn’t look like Cara had bothered to change them up since his time. An oversight on her part, sure, but it worked out just fine for him.
    His dress-shoes squelched in something disgusting and he skidded forward, waving his arms to maintain his balance. Grimacing, he made a mental note to change out of the damn suit as soon as the opportunity presented itself. He probably looked as gross as he felt--falling through an arcane portal to Hell would do that to a guy.
    The tunnel stretching out in front of them began to widen, and soon opened up to a large cavern with three more tunnel entrances on the far wall. Cara veered towards the one on the left.
    “That’s the wrong way.” Raph said quickly, glancing towards the path he’d always taken.
    Cara rolled her eyes and kept walking. “You didn’t think we’d keep everything the same, did you?”
    “I guess not,” Raph muttered under his breath.
    Cara led him down an unfamiliar, twisting series of tunnels and corridors, stopping in the middle of one and pulling up a grate in the floor. “Watch your step,” she smirked before jumping down into darkness.
    Raph followed, cautiously lowering himself down and only letting go of the ledge when his feet touched solid ground. He pulled the grate back in place and wiped his hands off on his suit jacket, looking around at the place he now stood in.
    He let out a low whistle, impressed despite himself. “Nice.” He said, taking in the high ceilings of the rough, dark-stone cave. It was much bigger than their old hideout, which had been built into a forgotten section of the old sewer tunnels. There were mismatched sconces lighting up the room with flickering orange flames.
    A long wooden table took up half of the room, and was surrounded by young demons sitting in an odd assortment of mismatched chairs. Raph silently wondered how they’d gotten a table that big all the way down here.
    The kids began to stand up at their approach. “Raph?” A tall, thin boy with prematurely grey hair walked over. He looked Raph over with an expression of mock-confusion. “Wow, you’re a lot more…alive than I thought you’d be.”
    Raph punched him on the shoulder lightly. “Nice to see you too, Allister.” Allister chuckled and rubbed at his shoulder. “Ow. Yeah. Nice isn’t the word I would’ve gone with. The hell did you get yourself into?”
    A girl with pointed ears showing through her long dark hair came up behind Allister, draping herself over his shoulder and leaning heavily on him. “You mean what the hell did he get us all into, right, Alli? Hi Raph.”
    It took Raph a second to place the girl’s face. He nearly did a double-take as he realized who she was. “Isabelle?!” he said, failing to hide the surprise in his voice. Her full lips pulled into a smirk that showed off a flash of fangs. That was her, alright. When Raph had last seen Isabelle she’d been a tiny, scrappy little thing, all adolescent angles and big, midnight blue eyes. She’d really grown up since he’d left the gang, and wasn’t hiding her hellhound features the way she’d used to.
    “You totally didn’t recognize her!” Cara called accusatorily from her seat at the head of the table. Of course the chaise lounge was her seat.
    Isabelle laughed and shook her head. “It’s okay, I almost didn’t recognize him. What are you even wearing, the Ralph Lauren Hot Mess collection?”
    Raph scowled and grumbled something about portals made of angel flesh.
    Isabelle raised both eyebrows and cocked her head to the side. “You know what? I don’t want to know.” She stated, walking back to the table and taking her seat.
    “Come on!!” Cara cried impatiently. “Some of us were in the middle of looting, remember?”
    All of us were in the middle of looting, boss.” A boy sitting near her pointed out.
    “That’s exactly why I need your help.” Raph said as he strode towards the table. He sunk into the seat at Cara’s right hand, a battered leather armchair that had seen better centuries. “You all know your way around Hades; you know the back alleys and the places that people have forgotten on both sides of the river. You’ve forgotten more about the nobility and their palaces than most demons ever learn.”
    Allister nodded. “Know your enemy. You taught us that.”
    “Right,” Raph said, inhaling shakily before he continued. He had to do this, even if it was crazy. He’d promised. “I need your help to break into the dungeons and rescue an angel.”
    The room exploded into noise as a dozen voices began talking all at once.
    “THE FU--“
    “An angel? What--“
    “HOW DO YOU EXPECT--“
    “--suicide!” 
    “---all gonna die--“
    A sharp, piercing whistle tore through the air, echoing shrilly off the cavern walls. Cara glared at her crew, then turned her gaze to Raph. “Explain. Tell them what you told Judah and Horace. Guys, I know this sounds crazy, but my stupid big brother has gotten involved in some end-of-the-world shit and we need to help him.”
    Raph explained the situation, all of it, reliving details he’d almost forgotten and telling them why Abby, and therefore Gabe’s soul, were so ridiculously important to their continued survival. He finished and looked at the stunned faces surrounding him, feeling once again like this was all a huge mistake.
    It was Isabelle who broke the silence. “I’ll help you, Raph. I owe you one, right?” She winked at him, offering a smaller smile than before. “But if we pull this off, you’ll owe me.”
    Allister stared Raph in the eyes. “You’re crazy and this whole thing is suicide. But I’m in.” He grinned at Raph, who glanced at Cara.
    She rolled her eyes. “You already know I’m going to help, idiot. I’d have led you into the death tunnel if I wasn’t.”
    Raph blinked. Death tunnel? He didn’t have time to dwell on that as everyone else around the table grudgingly chimed in their acceptance.
    “Okay, so we’re doing this,” Cara said, looking over the gang like a queen holding court. “Any ideas?”
    A short kid near the end of the table spoke up in a surprisingly deep voice. “Getting in is the easy part. The palace is ancient. There are passageways and corridors that have been abandoned for years, entire wings that no one remembers. Getting in isn’t the problem. Getting out is.”
    A girl with short spiky blonde hair nodded in agreement beside him. “You’ll need to escape quickly once you grab the angel--Gabe, right?-- but you can’t. Mirrors won’t work in the dungeons, not for demons like us. Ever heard of anyone escaping the dungeons?” she asked, looking around at her companions. “Yeah. You haven’t. Because only an Original Fallen’s power works in the dungeons. And unless one of us is secretly a General who’s been slumming it, we aren’t getting that angel out any time soon.”
    Raph took a moment to digest this new information. The girl was right; without a quick way to escape, they had no chance. If he couldn’t just warp Gabe and himself to the surface, they’d both end up imprisoned, and Abby wouldn’t be far behind.
    “Well that settles it then,” Allister said, like he already knew the answer. Raph shot him a questioning glance. Allister shrugged. “All we have to do is blackmail an Original Fallen. How hard could it be?”
    Raph stared at Allister unblinkingly as he turned the idea over in his head. “That…might actually work. How good are you guys at stalking people?”

Thief: Chapter 10

Thursday, 4 February 2016






Chapter Ten




    “Daddy?” Mammon asked, both eyebrows raised. Of all the things he had expected to hear from the girl’s mouth, that certainly hadn’t been one of them. “I’m not your father. I don’t have any children.”
    She pouted, and then smirked. “Sure you do, pops. You just weren’t a great dad. Kind of a deadbeat, actually.”
    Mammon glowered at her; he’d never seen this girl in his life, and if he had, he probably would have snapped her neck long ago. She was annoying him.
    She carried on, unperturbed. “My mother is Colonel Lyricia of the 1st Battalion. That should jog your memory.”
    Mammon didn’t even try to stop the laugh that escaped him. “You presume too much, girl. You could rhyme off her name, address and a list of her best features, and I still wouldn’t remember the slut.”
    Her face contorted into an ugly snarl.
    “Calm down.” He snapped. Tiresome girl. “I only seduce people I want something from. If I slept with your mother, it was because she had something to offer me other than her companionship. Whatever it was, it couldn’t have been that memorable.”
    The girl inhaled, sharply and irritably. “Fine, whatever. Since you obviously don’t know, I’m Lorelei. I just came here to help you out, dad. You seem to be in a bit of trouble, you know, now that you’ve pissed off all of the royals.” She grinned, pale eyes lighting up. “Besides, I thought we could get in a little father-daughter bonding!”
    Mammon snorted. “Bonding?” he muttered, glancing at his exhausted, wounded dogs. They weren’t panting as hard, and were quietly checking each other for damage. He was glad to have stopped running, if only for their sakes. If they didn’t have time to recover, they would cease to be of any use to him. And by the sound of it, he needed all the allies he could get right now. Not that he trusted Lorelei as far as he could throw her. The girl was hiding something; that much was painfully obvious. 
    And what could that possibly be, he thought sarcastically. Satan and Lucifer both called for his blood, and if Lorelei was anything like her father, she was all ready to sell him to the highest bidder. No doubt his pretty head would fetch a handsome price. But, he had to admit, he was rather attached to it. A smile curved across his pale lips, lifting the edges slightly. His supposed progeny would soon learn the first lesson her father would ever teach her; never cross a double-crosser.
    “So you want to help me, hmm? Somehow I doubt that.” Power flooded his veins in an instant, his eyes filling with black. Darkly glowing tattoos wove their way across his pale skin.
    Lorelei blinked in surprise, then let out a low chuckle. “Should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy.” Her light-gray eyes abruptly turned black as she tapped into her power. “Why don’t you make this easy on yourself and just give up now? I’d almost feel bad, hurting an old man like you.”
    Mammon snorted again. “Worry about your own hide.” He said, warping behind her fast as a whip and curling his fingers towards her neck. She disappeared just as quickly, materialising at the far end of the clearing.
    Freja growled low in her throat and made to rush Lorelei, dark markings swirling below the surface of her blood-smeared skin. “Stay.” Mammon ordered, giving her and Fenris a look. He wanted to test the girl’s abilities himself; he didn’t need their interference. Lorelei wasn’t nearly as dangerous as she thought she was. “I thought you came here to fight, not run and hide.” He called, voice ringing as it echoed off the preposterously large tree trunks.
    “Fight, yes. Die?” In a snap she was in front of him, so near that he could feel her breath on his face. “Not today.” She pulled away from him, but he was too fast for her, feinting alongside her and gripping her arm. She tried to shake him off, to no avail. With a hard jerk, he twisted her around and pinned her arm behind her back.
    “No?” he breathed, mildly disappointed that it was over already. The fight he had anticipated had been little more than a sorry spat; frankly, he had hoped for more from someone claiming to be his child.
    He was about to say so when she suddenly twisted back around and rammed a short blade into his side up to the hilt. “No.” she snarled, dissipating in a blink.
    Hissing softly through his teeth, Mammon reached down, probing the fresh wound with bare fingers. He held them up to his eye-level, rubbing the fresh, rapidly cooling blood between thumb and fingers. “Interesting,” he said, looking from his bloody fingertips to the girl.
    He smiled coldly at Lorelei, who stood a good ten yards away, holding the arm he had twisted. With the odd way it was hanging, he assumed he had dislocated it. Good. “Well. Perhaps you aren’t as much of a disappointment as I thought. Who knows! At the rate you’re going,” His breath hitched as he pulled the short blade out in one smooth motion. “you might become daddy’s favourite.” He tossed the knife to the ground, carelessly stepping on it as he walked towards Lorelei.
    He had what he wanted; there was no point in drawing this farce out any longer. Plans rapidly constructed themselves in his head now that he had a better idea of her capabilities. Yes, she would do quite nicely, he thought. Na├»ve, misguided little Lorelei wouldn’t realise what role she played in his own grand scheme until it was far too late to stop him; he would make sure of that. He just had to make the next bit convincing.
    He was sure that the sharp blow to the back of her skull was convincing, as was the knee to her stomach as she bowled over gracelessly. The swift kick he dealt her face with his scuffed, filthy shoes had to have been convincing; he’d really tried on that one. He stood over her as she moaned, hands over her bloodied mouth. Something was missing. Ah! Of course. One short second later, he had the dirt and blood encrusted blade in hand.
    “I almost forgot to return this to you, sweetheart.” He said, smooth as silk. “Let daddy help you put your toys away.” He said, plunging the knife into her torso, making a matching wound on the exact opposite side of his own. Her cries of anguish fell on deaf ears.
    “Fenris. Freja. Here.” He commanded, and the dogs rushed to his side. Deftly, Mammon grabbed their hands in his. “Been lovely catching up with you, dear. We must do this again sometime.” He said, smiling pleasantly at the girl writhing in pain on the forest floor. “Now, daddy has to go talk to some very important people about a business proposition.” He braced himself for teleportation. “Be a good girl.”
    He smirked, warping away from Lorelei and the forest of tall trees. He made sure she was following his trail before he changed directions. Stupid girl. Just as he’d banked on. She’d learn by the end of this to never, ever try to cross him again.
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