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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