- Dec 12, 2006
- Running for daylight, sleepless...
Okay, some of you probably remember that last year for the Halloween contest I submitted a two part story that ended well enough where it was, but probably didn't feel complete. Well, I finally finished and cleaned up the story a little while ago, so here's the full three part story as a little tidbit to enjoy while we wait to find out who the winner is for this year's Halloween contest.
Okay, you guys know the drill. Read, enjoy, and review. Questions, comments, concerns, dirty jokes. You got any, leave 'em here. Hope you like the end to the story! Until the rest comes out, that is...
Dante was going to be sick. He curled up in the corner of his room, hiding his face in his knees as he took a deep, shuddering breath. He tried to ignore the ice in his veins, to block out the reminder that his bastard friends had locked him in his f.ucking room. But at the same time…
That’s what you do with a monster, right?
The cold was spreading through him like wildfire. He hated it when this happened, when his old man tried to take over. While there were a few perks to being cambion, the half demon offspring of a human woman, they weren’t worth the rest of the shit he had to deal with, especially since he had the honor of being the son of Moloch, archdemon of wrath. “Avoid becoming that sonuvabitch’s Gate into the mortal realm,” yeah, sure; how the hell was Dante supposed to keep his damned temper all the time and keep the Prince of Wrath from descending on the world? It wasn’t humanly possible, even if you had the patience of a saint!
Which Dante didn’t.
Desperately, his hand scrambled across his desk, trying to find his pack of smokes. Maybe, if he could calm down, he could think enough to find a way out of this. Yeah, he just needed to calm his nerves…
Did you miss me?
Dante’s eyes widened as the words whispered around in his mind, the jade and gold irises taking up nearly all the space as his pupils contracted to small pinpricks. No way, no way in hell. That f.ucker could just piss off. He didn’t have time to deal with this shit right now!
Come on. I know you’re bored.
The cigarette pack was empty. Dante’s fingers curled, crumpling the pack into a tight ball as he gasped, a cold sweat breaking out on his brow; he shivered, goose bumps creeping up and down the flesh of his arms. This was nuts, this whole damn plan was insane. What the hell had he been thinking? He wasn’t going to get off the Demon’s Bane this way; he was gonna lose his damned mind, get possessed, Moloch would wear his meat suit like a whore’s dress to the prom, and by then, Dante was gonna be dead.
I’m still here…
“Go the f.uck away!” Dante’s voice was hoarse as he screamed, trying to get that whisper to shut up and leave him alone. Dropping the pack, Dante’s hands scrabbled at his head, tugging his hair and scratching along his face and throat, leaving bloody furrows as his nails grew longer.
I’m haunting you.
Dante bellowed, clambering to his feet as he flew across the room and pounded on the door. Screw this shit, he was demanding Lucas let him the hell out now! Dante’d clean up later. Maybe he’d try a needle this time instead of smoking, though. The cigarettes didn’t seem to be working as well as they used to; Moloch’s all too intense presence in Dante’s brain was more than enough evidence of that. Feeling a prick at his lips as his canines lengthened, the cambion drew a shaky breath, trying to will his head into a semblance of order so he could get out of his room and get a more refined hit of the Demon’s Bane; maybe he needed the shit in a more potent liquid form to finally send the demon in his head packing.
Dante? Mor’du’s deep rumble sounded in the young cambion’s head, alarm in the usually unshakable bear’s voice. Dante, block him out!
But even as Dante tried to listen to Mor’du, the bear’s presence faded from his mind as
Moloch pushed his partner out.
Right. I don’t think so. Time for some fun, kiddo…
“Are you sure we’re doin’ the right thing, Lucas?”
Lucas didn’t answer right away. He had his violet eyes trained on his hands, studying long, thin fingers as he lost himself in thought. Finally, the words floated out as he said, “I don’t know, Christa, but it’s better than the alternative. Dante’s got too much Bane in his system. He needs it out, before it overwhelms him. We just need to be patient…”
Both of them fell silent for a moment, the implications of what Lucas had and hadn’t said hanging between them. Lucas and Christa used the Demon’s Bane too; so did Eric, Delilah, Angie, and Jason, for that matter. Demon’s Bane was a plant that was exactly what its name implied: It blocked demons and diminished their power, or just down and out killed them if the demon was weak enough. As cambion sired by the demons of the Seven Deadly Sins, Lucas and his group of Hunters needed every edge they could get in the war at times, especially when their sires tried to possess them and use them as their Gates into the mortal realm. The half-demon Hunters needed the Demon’s Bane when they felt their grip on the darker side of their heritage slip when they gave into their Sins. Wrath for Dante. Sloth for Christa. Gluttony for Jace. Angie, Lust. Eric, Greed. Delilah, Envy.
But even though it helped to control the demonic urges, Demon’s Bane was dangerous, potent stuff. It killed nearly all mortals that ingested it, and the few that survived were driven completely out of their minds, dependent after just one hit, and dead after just a few more. As hybrids, Lucas and the others didn’t have to worry about that side effect too much, but they were still half-human, so they had to be cautious of how much they used in any given period of time. Too much in as short a span as two weeks and they could suppress their demon’s blood to the point that the plant became poisonous to their human side, killing them after a few doses; on the other hand, though, it could weaken their resistance to their demon sires, making the Big Seven’s task easier as they searched for entrance into this world.
Lucas was worried because of how much of the Demon’s Bane Dante used. The drug was supposed to be a holding tactic; it wasn’t meant to work forever. But Dante had been using it more and more recently, and Lucas could see his best friend falling into addiction, becoming more unstable as he became more dependent. Seeing the darkness creep into Dante’s eyes, the shadows that followed his every move... Lucas couldn’t deny it. He was scared. They’d been like brothers for over twelve years, but…
Lucas felt like he was losing him.
A mighty crash sounded from one of the upstairs rooms, shocking the two into silence. Lucas faced Christa, his look of horror mirrored in her icy blue eyes. Without a word, they both raced for the stairs, Lucas moving slightly faster than Christa so that he bolted up the steps first.
Lucas barreled down the hall, slamming into Dante’s door full force. For an instant, he thought he was going to bounce right off; but that thought hadn’t even finished forming in his head before he crashed through the door, the old oak paneling screaming as it tore itself apart.
Lucas blinked, trying to clear his vision. He got his head under control just enough to scream hoarsely, “Get the others, Christa, and tell them we’ve got a Code Ira. He’s gone!”
The girl didn’t say anything. She just bolted away, rousing the others from sleep. Lucas climbed to his feet, his head fuzzy, as he looked at the shattered glass that still hung in the window frame; upon closer inspection, Lucas could see streaks of red smeared across the shards. The wind howled, the bite of the late night air slowly creeping into the room. The man felt a knot forming on his head, and a lump in his stomach. He swore softly.
They were so boned.
It wasn’t long before Christa had the others out of bed. It took even less time for the living room to become overcrowded as the cambion and their partners pushed in. Even with the familiars in their smallest forms and with how big the room was, there were still twelve bodies in the area, so of course it was a tight fit.
“You sure about this?”
Christa turned to look at Eric as he snarled the words, Merlin just visible on his shoulder, the frog watching the room from the curtain of the teen’s blonde hair. He sounded cross, but Christa knew it was just concern for his sister; any hint that Delilah could be in danger, and Eric was instantly watchful, filled with aggressive energy. Christa found her eyes instinctively drawn to Delilah, her arms crossed over her chest, the hell hound Sonnet sitting at her heel.
“What, you think this is some kind of Halloween prank, Elric? Get your head out of your ass and think!” Jason snapped, his usually unflappable demeanor fraying, eyes glowing hazel fire. Jezebel’s feathers puffed out slowly as she shifted her weight on Jace’s shoulder, her eyes trained on Eric as the hawk hissed softly.
Before things escalated further, Lucas said, “Enough, both of you. We need to find Dante before things get even further out of hand. We need to cover a lot of ground, and fast. So pick a better time for this skirmish, ‘cause it sure as hell isn’t right now.”
“He’s right,” Angie said, defusing the last of the tension. Turning to Lucas, she asked, “What do we do, Thorne?”
“Split into pairs, we’ll cover more ground,” Lucas said, his pacing carrying him across the room; Twila, the hell horse in her filly form, trotted at his heels. Her eyes caught Dallas’ for a moment where he sat in Christa’s arms, the black cat’s eyes reflecting Christa’s rare moment of intensity. The moment passed as Twila and Lucas moved past, still giving orders. “Elric, comb Central Park from top to bottom; monsters both demon and human are going to be out in force tonight, so be sure you watch each other’s backs, and don’t stray far from Sonnet or Merlin. Angie, you and Nightshade are coming with me and Twila to Staten Island; the little sense of direction I was able to pick up from the blood upstairs suggests Mor’du’s on patrol there; Dante might go to him so he can get his help in driving Moloch out. Christa, Jace, I want you taking Dallas and Jezebel and scour Brooklyn.
“If anyone’s able to get a twenty on Dante’s location, send out the message and wait for backup. If he seems like himself, try to talk him down, but if he appears off, do not engage, or even approach him. We’re not dealing with low demons tonight; Dante could be dangerous, and we need to take precautions. Keep an eye on him and wait for the rest of us to arrive; if he seems especially bad, say it, and we’ll use Corridors to get there. Is everyone clear? If so, move out!”
Everyone paired off, some heading upstairs momentarily to collect weapons, others
heading right out the door. Within ten minutes, everyone was gone, the rich brownstone empty.
Two hours past midnight, and Brooklyn was surprisingly quiet, the trick-or-treaters long gone, only a very few drunks brave enough to face the streets so late at night. Before the demons rose out of Hell, it was a different story; after the kids had finished their night of masquerades and had brought home their prize of candy and quarters, the adults would head out for their own parties, or the older teens would find the scariest haunted houses and jeer and ridicule their friends until they got the courage to go and scare themselves shitless. Halloween was a time for spooky tales and ghastly fun when the stuff of nightmares stayed out of the real world.
But the last time things had been like that was when Christa had been a baby. In the last twenty years, goblins and Grim Reapers would still prowl the streets in search of their sweets, but it was obvious it was the braver members of the population that were carrying on old traditions to spite the reign of fear the demons held. Parents wouldn’t let their kids go begging after dark anymore, only someone with a death wish went out without their pockets full of salt and a flask of Holy Water, and everyone knew where the safe havens lined with devil’s traps were by heart. Costumes of ghouls were few and far between, and no one had had the gall to dress as a demon in fifteen years. Graveyards were sanctified and circled in traps, but even then, most folk stayed away from them because demon magic still seeped in, reanimating the dead from time to time. On Halloween? No one went near cemeteries, and barely a soul stayed out past midnight. The veil between worlds, already thin, became practically non-existent, allowing the spirits of the damned to rise along with the demons to feed on the souls of those foolish enough to go out unprepared. Other than the occasional drunk, just about the only people out at this time of night were Hunters on the prowl for the supernatural.
It was in this kind of atmosphere that Christa and Jace approached the house. Despite the quiet of the night and the cheery pumpkins that lined the walkway, the two of them were on edge, an eerie foreboding enveloping them both. Truth be told, it was too quiet; the two of them hadn’t run into a single demon or ghoul in three hours of hunting. It was just dead silence, not even the sound of late fall insects are cars to break the stillness. Neither of the cambion liked it when things were this quiet; even though they didn’t relish a battle like Dante, when nothing tried to jump out at you it meant even the low demons were hiding, nervous of some stronger power lurking in the shadows. The absence of demons in the neighborhood could be an indicator that Dante was here; though cambion, he was the son of one of the Seven Sins, and Moloch’s Gate into this realm. Christa and the others had to find Dante and get him calmed down, before he gave into a fear fueled rage and let Moloch in. But just the fact that there were no demons around, merely because of the possibility of a powerful half-demon?
It was a chilling thought.
Carefully, Jace opened the door, allowing Christa to go in before him. Opening her senses, Christa let herself be led through the house, her demon’s blood calling out to and seeking other cambion or demons that might be lurking near. It was a risky move, advertising herself as Belphegor’s daughter; demons looking to get in favor with the archdemon of Sloth might try to capture her, or Belphegor himself could try to slink into her head. But Jace and Christa had agreed it was the best course of action they had available. Demon blood called out to its kin, leading half-demons and full alike to each other quicker than searching the mortal way.
“You hear that?”
Jace’s whisper was soft, but it still broke Christa’s reverie after the silence since they’d left Lucas’ apartment. Looking up, she saw him pointing up the stairs; having caught her attention, she could hear it now too. It was quiet, but it sounded like someone was in one of the upstairs rooms. Giving Jace a nod, Christa started up the stairs, utterly silent. Reaching the landing, she crept along the wall, careful not to give herself away. As she walked, the soft voice grew louder, a certain rhythm and pitch that almost sounded like a woman singing a lullaby. Christa drew closer, until she was outside of the room, and she caught a snatch of the woman’s song.
Everybody’s gone in the cotton and the corn; didn’t leave nobody but the baby…
Carefully, Christa stepped into the room, her eyes on her surroundings. She was in a baby’s nursery; moonlight filtering in through the window showed walls painted in soft pastels, and a canopy hung over a crib in the corner, a mobile of ducks and ponies hung between. A toy chest overflowing with blocks and dolls was along one wall, a rocking horse near the chest and in front of a changing table.
Honey and the rock and the sugar don’t stop; gonna bring a bottle to the baby…
Christa turned her attention to the rocking chair just to the left of the window, the soft creaking of the chair underscoring the woman as she continued her song. Her face was shadowed, so Christa couldn’t make out her features, but her voice was low, with a strange quality to it, almost like the rustling of leaves across the bark of trees. In her arms, the woman held a small, blanketed bundle, one that stirred gently in time to the woman’s rocking. Feeling guilty, Christa stepped forward, saying, “Our apologies, ma’am; we didn’t mean to intrude…”
Come lay your bones on the alabasters stones; and be my ever loving baby…
Christa’s body reacted before her brain had the chance to process what was happening. She dropped to the floor, instinctively reaching out to Dallas with her mind even as her hands reached for her throwing knives. Looking up, she was already scrambling to her feet as Jace went flying across the room, throwing his rope spear so it wrapped tight around the woman’s figure.
Except it wasn’t a woman; not anymore. The figure that had been in the rocking chair was a skeleton, a few scraps of flesh and gore still clinging to her bones, the dress she’d been buried in no more than a few tatters of cloth. Even as Jace sent a jolt of electricity along the rope to sizzle the reanimated bones, the skeleton’s jaw hung open slightly in a gruesome pantomime of a grin, a soft, breathy hiss issuing across her teeth as she laughed, still singing the lullaby as her voice whispered out like dry, rustling leaves and dead things once again.
You and me, and the devil makes three; don’t need no other loving baby…
Christa had just enough time at this point to get a throwing knife in front of her before she was attacked; it was also at this time that her brain finally caught up with the fact that the bundle the skeleton woman had been holding was in fact a demon child. The child stopped just short of Christa’s face, a grin twisting across its face made gruesome by the fangs poking around its blood red lips and the cat eye pupils it had. Its clawed fingers tested Christa’s grip on her knife for a moment, a surprising amount of force behind the gesture for how small the beast’s body was; then, with a grunt and a twist of her wrist, Christa knocked the demon to the side, her free hand balled into a fist as she sought the water in both the demon’s body and whatever remained in the skeleton.
Dallas and Jezebel both burst into the nursery then, Jezebel swooping in on the skeleton to help Jace while Dallas leaped at the child. A puddle of water formed under both monsters as Christa leached the moisture from them. Orange shot through Jace’s irises as he laid a heavier jolt along the line, charring the dried out skeleton into a black husk. The demon child’s skin grew
taught and leathery, its flesh stretching across its face to form a ghastly mask as it was turned into a pseudo-mummy right in front of the cambion’s eyes.
Dallas didn’t waste a moment; snarling, the tom dove at the demon, turning from a house
cat into a black panther mid leap. Christa could have sworn she heard the soft snick as his claws slid from their sheaths, though she did hear the sound of tearing flesh as the hell cat tore through the demon. The thing screamed, a high, thready cry made all the more terrible for sounding like a wounded child; but it still fell, the light going out of its eyes as it sunk back to Hell.
“You two okay?”
Christa turned to Dallas as the panther butted his head against her side; rubbing his head, the girl took a shuddering breath, trying to calm her nerves. On the other side of the room, she saw Jace do the same, the orange of his demon power slowly fading from his eyes as he ran his fingers through Jezebel’s feathers, attempting to smooth them down. Christa grinned slightly as she eyed Jace’s hair; though it was probably her imagination, she couldn’t help but feel that his hair was ruffled, just like the hawk’s feathers were.
“Yeah, we’re good. Thanks Dallas, Jez. You were awesome, like always. Wish they’d give us a warning though. Even with feelin’ something here, I hate havin’ my guard down,” Christa said as she bent to draw a devil’s trap around the body of the child, an act to keep the demon from entering it again.
Jezebel cut Jace a look and a quick squeeze of her talons to show what she thought of the comment, but the hawk let it slide as she said, “That’s beside the point. Dante’s not here, so we need to keep searching.”
Yo, you guys got anything?
“Nothing,” Christa said, both mentally and verbally, in response to the question from Eric. She felt Jace come to stand closer to her, even though it wasn’t necessary; Eric was projecting so they could both hear him, it was just a force of habit that made Jace do it. “You?”
Just the usual crazies dancing around cauldrons, waving brooms in the air. Not much happening in Central Park tonight, surprisingly. You sure you don’t have anything?
“Just a skeleton and a child’s body puppeteered by a demon. You got the better deal!”
Eric laughed darkly before he said, Sorry, Clear, not the best time to be…
Elric, Jace, Christa! Get to Staten Island; we need you guys here ASAP!
The hell? Concern lanced through Eric at the same time it shivered through Christa upon hearing the distress in Angie’s voice. Catching Jace’s eye, Christa saw him give a shallow nod as he called the portal. Jezebel squeezed his shoulder as Dallas leaned in tighter against Christa’s leg. Christa felt Eric cut the connection just as he called up a portal on his end for him and Delilah to hop through to Staten Island.
Jace’s face set in a hard line as he said, “Be there in a sec, Ang. Hold tight!” Then both he and Christa were through the portal.
Just where the devil had Dante come from? Lucas hit the ground on his shoulder, rolling with the impact instead of sprawling, finally landing with his feet under him as he faced the way he’d just come. The corn maze on Staten Island felt eerie enough on its own just because of the dried out corn husks and opening well after dark. Now, it was practically destroyed, the three cambion and their familiars doing their best to raze the attraction to the ground. Lucas and Angie hadn’t seen Mor’du, but they had run into Dante. One look at his face, one look at the red starbursts in the green of his eyes, and Lucas just knew. Mor’du wouldn’t be able to help.
Dante was out of control.
Lucas took the brunt of Dante’s next blow with his shoulder, grunting at the impact. Instead of caving, Lucas hooked both of his arms around Dante’s right shoulder, wheeling the shorter cambion around until Lucas had forced him into the dirt. Lucas spared the barest thought for Angie as she hastily worked on a devil’s trap while he kept Dante occupied. They needed the trap in case Moloch got loose, but there were no other demons brave enough to come near at the moment to distract them; thank God for small mercies.
Flames licked across Dante’s back and shoulders, forcing Lucas to break his hold with a muttered oath. Dante flipped onto his back with the distraction, his legs drawn in tight to his body before he delivered a kick to Lucas’ chest. He was sent sprawling this time, winded and with pain radiating from his ribs. A scream and a howl rent the air as Twila and Nightshade jumped into the fray, the mare and tiger giving Lucas a brief window to collect his breath. As the demonic familiars engaged Dante, Lucas sensed two portals open just a short distance away, and he felt a hand reach under his arm as Jace asked, “What now, boss man?”
Lucas was aching, but he knew how to push that ache to the back of his mind. He let Jace pull him to his feet as he said, “Angie should have the trap set up now. Delilah, Eric, I need you and your partners to help Angie and Nightshade take point on the trap and anchor it; with the six of you on perimeter, it should be strong enough to hold even Moloch for a while, if it comes to that. Christa, Jace, I need your help subduing Dante; I think he might have merged with Mor’du already, so we need to be ready for a Halo Breaker at any moment.”
Everyone broke off for their positions, deadly serious. Nightshade went ripping past Lucas, Dante hot on her heels, only to be blocked by Twila as the nightmare reared up in front of him, screaming defiance. Dante growled, lashing out at her, but the mare twisted away from the strike, her forelegs planted firmly on the ground as she spun around to deliver a powerful kick with her hind quarters. Lucas leapt over her as Dante actually blocked the kick, twisting in midair so he caught Dante’s left arm in a lock. For a moment, violet eyes met green, an unspoken plea in the stare in Dante’s eyes.
Dante growled again, sealing Lucas’ decision. His eyes glowing a deeper shade of purple, Lucas called on his earth magic, forcing a decaying touch into Dante’s arm. Dante bucked, flames erupting along his arm as he tried to shake Lucas off, but there wasn’t any effect this time; Lucas held on, leaching the strength and life out of the captured limb even as Dante’s flames caused Lucas’ skin to blister and muscle to blacken.
Red bloomed through Dante’s eyes, erasing all trace of green, and he was finally able to throw Lucas off. Lucas landed on his shoulder again, his forearms and hands screaming hot and red, his eyes wild as he saw the ruby centered in the cross Dante wore. The gem was broken.
“Halo Breakers, now!”
Lucas’ barked command stopped Christa in her tracks, leaving Dallas to jump onto Dante’s back, spinning him around and away from the girl as she screamed, “Are you crazy?!”
But another roar from Dante, the deepest one yet, had Lucas and Christa turning to look at him just as flames erupted all over his body, and he started to grow. Shaggy fur, thick, heavy
legs, long, blunt, yet dangerous claws. The flames formed all of them around Dante, even going so far as to engulf his head, giving him the rounded ears and short, thick muzzle of a grizzly.
The fire bear thundered down onto all fours, a deep throated roar rolling out of him as burning red eyes centered on the stunned cambion. The demon rolled his shoulders, knocking
Dallas off, then he took a swipe at the tom with his flaming right paw. Dallas just avoided the blow, rolling under it and racing back towards Christa.
“Halo Breakers,” Lucas said again, clambering to his feet. He raised his right hand, clutching at his own cross pendant, one with an amethyst instead of a ruby, and he saw Christa and Jace both reflexively grab theirs. Fear colored Christa’s eyes as her thumb rubbed the aquamarine in her cross, and even Jace’s eyes narrowed as he applied gentle pressure to the orange topaz of his.
“You sure, Lucas?”
Lucas couldn’t blame them. The Halo Breakers were a last resort, a trick to be used when they were in over their heads and in danger of dying. They were too risky otherwise; Halo Breakers left the cambion weak and defenseless, open to capture or possession. Lucas watched Dante and the way he limped, his weight held on all legs but the front left. Lucas could feel the weakness in his own left arm from the decay he had inflicted on Dante’s; Lucas knew the limb was dead, handicapping the bear. Even so, he also knew nothing was guaranteed until Dante was out for the count. And with Dante’s own Halo broken…
“We have no choice.”
Resolve broke through fear, shattering three more stones, releasing three more demons.
Power pulsed through the air, and Delilah shivered. She felt Sonnet’s anxiety through the link, and Delilah knew that Eric, Angie, Merlin, and Nightshade weren’t much happier. But as Delilah watched the earthen horse, the water cat, and the thunderbird all take form, Twila, Dallas, and Jezebel fading away, her thoughts echoed Lucas’ words. They had no choice.
Ira, acedia, superbia. Wrath, sloth, pride. Moloch, Belphegor, Lucifer. Dante. Christa. Lucas. Of the Seven Deadly Sins, those three were considered the greatest, those three demons the worst, and those three cambion the strongest of their number. As Lucifer’s, Lucas was in a class all his own, with only a small handful outside of the Big Seven that could give him trouble; a transformed, possibly possessed Dante could. Even Jace, one of their strongest in most fights, was outclassed by the other three, because he was only the son of Beelzebub, the archdemon of Gluttony; as if any of them could be considered an only! If their power houses fell to possession, all their group of Hunters had left were the mages, and Delilah knew she, Angie, and Eric wouldn’t be enough. Envy, Lust, and Greed weren’t strong enough to hold the other four in check. They couldn’t even stand against the Virtues on their own…!
Samson? Sammy, please, we need your help; Dante’s out of control. Bring your nephilim to Staten Island as soon as you can. Please, hurry!
Delilah couldn’t wait for the nephilim’s response. Christa slammed into the wall of the devil’s trap, bursting into a wave of water before she coalesced again, the pale blue big cat softly hissing. Delilah poured more energy into the barrier, repairing the damage from the impact as Christa went flying back into the fray, leaping into the air at the same time that Jace went into a dive, electricity crackling along his talons and flaring in bright orange eyes. The two of them collided just before reaching the flaming bear, causing a small explosion to rock through the trap, testing the limits of the three cambion maintaining the perimeter as the trap tried to give out.
Dante shook them off, again, a furious roar his only response to the attack. Lucas screamed as he reared, striking with granite hooves. His mane licked around his face, bright flashes of light that hid his deep, entirely purple eyes. The bear swiped with his right leg, battle rage in his eyes. Fear rose in Delilah’s throat. Moloch wasn’t going to let them win!
“Let ‘em in, Lilah. We got your back.”
A soft voice, one filled with kindness, a gentle touch on her shoulder. Delilah felt her fear and rising envy slide away. Sammy was here. Her eyes still on her task, she asked, “Everyone?”
“Everyone. Come on, girl, we’ve got work to do.”
It was the truth. Delilah saw Devon and Skyler, the nephilim siblings coaxing Angie and Eric to each let go of the terror, of rising lust and greed, letting the soothing touch of chastity and charity take the place of fear.
They created a hole in the barrier, and four winged beings took the chance to dive in. One in particular, the petite, dark haired Harmony, flew straight to Dante, patience in her eyes as she landed in front of him. Everyone else inside backed away as she walked towards Dante, a slim hand raised as she said, “Ān, nán péng you. Peace, my dear friend. Peace, and return to me.”
For a moment, it seemed there hadn’t been any effect. Then, the bear moaned softly, his flaming coat dying out. Harmony came closer, her arms now around his neck in an embrace, a signal for the others to act. Michael went to Christa, his own touch gentle as he ran a hand across her watery fur, saying softly “Come on, lazy kitty, I know you hear me. Get back here.”
Natasha had stepped toward Jace, her arm raised in invitation for him to take a perch as she said, “Ya’ll got him calmed so Harm could finish ‘im off. How ‘bout you guys enjoy your rewards, and come on back now?”
It was Amalia, though, that sealed the deal. She walked up to Lucas, waiting for the great stallion to lower his head to her. Her slim hand rubbed along his forehead, her green eyes half-lidded as she said, “All’s well, my friend, and Halloween is over. It’s time to come back now. Dante’s been pacified. Lucifer can’t have you, Lucas; not tonight, or any other night.”
Her voice was the key to the lock. Where four elemental demons had stood, there were now four exhausted young adults. Harmony sank to her knees as Dante collapsed, his weight dragging the both of them to the ground. Delilah waited a moment longer, wanting to be absolutely sure that the danger had passed. Without a hint or trace of any of the Big Seven to be felt, she let her power slide, releasing her side of the barrier as Angie and Eric released theirs, the three of them running for the center of the carnage, the last three of the nephilim hot on the cambion’s heels.
Devon went straight to where Harmony was kneeling in the earth, her voice soft as she slipped between Chinese and English, her touch even gentler as she stroked Dante’s hair, combing the sweaty blonde strands out of his face, calming him further. Devon knelt by Harmony, a questioning look in his grey eyes, and he waited until Harmony nodded, giving the other nephilim permission to lift the spent cambion to his feet.
Dante was barely conscious, but he refused to be carried. Delilah was grateful for that bit of belligerence, at least; it meant they could get him back to normal. But she watched the way his left arm hung limp and lifeless at his side, and the way his face paled with each step he took, even with Devon doing his best to bear the extra weight. Delilah turned to see Lucas watching the two of them as he leaned into Amalia’s support, his own left arm held close to his chest, his eyes dark as he watched Dante’s dead arm swing.
“Think they’ll be okay?”
Sam had come up behind Delilah, and she let herself drop into the comforting embrace he had ready for her. Just for a moment. They had to get home and get everyone patched up. They’d start psychological analysis tomorrow. But for a moment, she let herself believe it would be okay as she said softly, “I hope so.”
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