It's not every weekend you spend your time running for your life.
Usually, you head straight home in hope of spending your weekend
with your friends, or topping your high score in Ghost Recon. I
never thought I'd end my week sat in a car with strangers.
It all started a year ago last Tuesday, when I was leaving College for the last time in my life.
"Alas, Mathew, we're heading home again." I said to my friend. Leaving college, as you can guess, is… was my favourite time of the day. The same could be said for most people my age, wanting simply to leave and return home.
"Chemistry was interesting though, with all the acid and everything." He said, evidently not born and raised in the British Aisles by his accent.
"Yeh, poor Jake, 'eh?" We both laughed, remembering one of my classmates, Jake Hyke, spill bromine water down his new shirt.
"Yeh," he laughed, "poor Jake."
We walked down the road in silence for a few moments, until Mathew spoke up again.
"What do you think happened at dinner?"
At this, I genuinely didn't know what to say. Earlier, far off to the North, great streaks of fire plummeted towards the ground. Granted, they were a far way off, but the fact we could see them in the first place worried us.
The same streaks had been seen over Paris a year ago, although none had been reported over Britain before.
"I don't know Matt… I just think we should get home whilst we can. I don't like it." Matt remained silent, probably getting the same chilling feeling that I was.
As we strolled briskly down the high street, a truly chilling feeling was definitely present, seeming to effect us all.
"It's cold out isn't it Matt? Wasn't too cool earlier on, was it?" My hands were frozen, turning blue in the frosty air.
"Fair point. Saying that, we've screwed up the climate so much, who's to say it should stay warm all the time?"
Matt never was one for conspiracy. Though, out of the countless opportunities to be one for it, I wish he had thought more about it then.
It might have saved his life.
I knew something was wrong when the first snowflake fluttered
towards the ground.
It wasn't white.
It was black.
"Matt…" I whispered, although I don't know why.
He didn't reply. He knew perfectly well what was running through my head.
We stood in silence, amongst the busy streets, seemingly the only ones to notice the black snow.
After a few moments of silence, I looked up.
My heart nearly stopped.
Dozens of fireballs were hurtling towards us, filling the sky in a thick cloud of granite.
"Inside, now!" The whole street fell into chaos instantly, seeming to notice the dire situation we were in at once.
Matt pushed me to one side, following me into the butchers to my right. No sooner were we in shelter, the first streak met the ground.
It felt as though Vesuvius was erupting.
Windows shattered, and those closest to the door were thrown inside in the blast. Ears ringing, I struggled to my feet. Some bodies, those further from shelter were smoldering, some of which were actually alight.
I didn't even have chance to fully recover before the next comet hit the earth, throwing me backwards.
I must have the hit something pretty hard, because I couldn't remember anything for the next few minutes.
When I finally came to, I did so to the sound of screaming. I
had only every fainted once before, although the second time was
no easier to wake up from than the first.
Everything was blurred, just one low resolution picture flickering before my eyes. Something was moving, I could tell that much. I couldn't tell what it was though.
"M… Matt?" I struggled, finding speaking painful.
"Sorry kid, not sure who you're on about." I didn't know that voice.
With that, I sat up as quickly as I dare, worried.
I didn't find it easy though, head spinning as I sat up. Finally, after half a minute or so, my vision reluctantly returned to me.
The man before me then was crouching by me, head bleeding from a wound on his forehead. He was looking at me with a cocked head, checking behind him every now and then.
"You ok kid? You alright to move?"
With a brief nod, my insides were saying "No" from the dizziness that overcame me.
I stood, however, getting a helping hand from the stranger.
"I'm Paul, by the way."
Trying to speak was difficult, so I just nodded again. When Paul moved into the street cautiously, my heart skipped from what I saw.
The high street I once knew was no more.
Most of the buildings were either flattened or crumbling, the odd house charred black as night.
"What… what happened here?"
Paul looked around, remaining silent.
"Follow me, keep quiet."
As many would, I felt I wanted to protest, but I wasn't aware what was lurking the streets.
Paul snuck down the road, closely followed by myself. The smell was overwhelming. Truly overwhelming. All around, corpses lay sprawled out, smoldering husks littering the streets.
"What happened here?" I asked again, this time getting a quiet response from Paul.
After halting at a corner in the road, he turned slightly to face me.
"You know what's been going on across the world? All the attacks?"
I nodded, dreading what I was about to hear.
"Well, whatever they are, they've arrived here. You must've been knocked out or something if you don't know what happened, 'cause it was ruddy loud."
Looking around, I took in all the destruction… all the death. No more than an hour before hand, my hometown was packed, full of life and prosperous. Then, it seemed as though Paul and myself were the only survivors.
"We need to reach my friend a little further up the road quickly, before we get spotted." Paul took off down the street, moving briskly to make up lost time. Now on edge, I decided to stay close to my new colleague. Fortunately, he knew where he was going.
I know I should have too, but the town I once knew was now a strange wasteland I had never seen before.
"Where is your friend Paul?" I asked, cautious not to speak too loud.
"Up at the old R.O.A.B club up the road."
Nodding, I stalked after him as he made his way up the road. We weren't really sneaking, mostly walking with a slight hunch to try hide ourselves.
Maybe we should have.
Sure enough, another man greeted us at the old pub. Paul didn't introduce me to his friend, although it would soon have turned out to pointless.
"Do you have my pack?" Paul asked him,
"Yeh, yeh. It's 'ere." His friend handed over a large backpack, presumably packed with supplies.
With a sad smile, Paul turned to me.
"Sorry, This is all we have. We didn't think we'd find anyone else, so we only packed for us two."
"Don't worry, we'll probably find more anyway."
He smiled, but soon fell deadly quiet.
"No… It can't be…" I turned, only just in time.
An almost deafening shriek pierced my ears, bringing me to the ground in agony. Although I hate to admit it, I soon found myself in tears from the shear pain.
Paul grabbed me by the collar and ran, dragging me behind him in agony. My eyes snapped open at the wrong moment. His friend, who I never got to know, was screaming in utter fear.
In fear of what, I didn't know.
Then it appeared.
Grotesque is the word that sprung to mind.
The first winged Demon came upon him in an instant, digging great talons into his chest. He gurgled, unable to breath.
The Demon's wings were torn and ragged, dark rotten flesh hanging loosely around its' chest. The eyes were black, cutting straight through the poor mans' soul. Then it sank its' teeth into his neck.
It took a good chunk out of his windpipe, stabbing his torso over and over with the talons.
Another swept down from the sky, pinning itself onto his back. Then, one after another, more Demons descended upon the corpse. Or, at least, I thought it was a corpse.
As Paul dragged me away, impossibly the poor man screamed. To this day, I fail to forget that sound. The gurgling shriek for help, helpless himself and lost.
I wanted to scream myself, but something inside stopped the sound escaping my throat. It was probably for the greater good.
"On your feet you idiot!"
I scrambled to my shaking feet as the Demons shot after us. Fear was coursing through my veins, urging me on.
Fear. You may think you've experience such a thing. I can assure you, you have not. You have not experienced a fear that is comparable to what I have.
You never will.
They were nearly upon us, and would have been if it weren't for Paul's quick thinking.
We turned left onto a side road, throwing the Demons as they shot onwards. Our feet carried us onwards, impossibly. A shriek behind us told us we needed to be moving faster. I, however, was moving my fastest.
I risked a glance backwards, hollering at the sight of a bloodied jaw hanging slack behind me. Evidently, Paul's dear friend failed to feed their hunger.
Suddenly, the Demon's face disappeared in a torrent of blood and bone, dropping to the street.
Shocked, I turned to see a van parked across the road. The driver's door was wide open, hiding an old looking man with a rifle.
I ran on, jumping at the sound of another shot. Judging by the wet 'thump' behind me, I guessed the bullet met its' mark.
"Hurry up boy!" Shouted the old man, spurring me on. He fired again, before retreating to his seat. The van became alive, roaring towards us.
Paul was faster than me, getting to the car a good ten seconds before I managed to. The side of the van was open, now filled by Paul, hanging out to catch me. More shrieks were behind me, indicating that more of the Demons had arrived.
With one last shot, I pushed forwards, holding out my arm…
Paul hoisted me aboard, slamming the door just as the Demons were upon us.
We both collapsed, breathing heavily.
I was too tired to notice the girl sat in the passenger seat, but I certainly was not tired enough to lie down.
"It's alright boys, we got ya. You're safe now."
Oh, how glad I was to hear that.
As I sat in a cold, dank warehouse, I knew my fate was
decided. I had little choice in what I had to do.
There was no need to stand on ceremony in my Celestial form, for there were only my closest and most reliable men with me. I didn't have to show off to impress them.
I sat upon a large crate, feet hanging loosely in the darkness. Truly, I detest darkness. The claustrophobia; the fear that dwells there. Truly, I was sick of it.
A simple white suit fitted me nicely, a rather comfortable fit in all honesty. Surprisingly, I actually enjoy my Human form. I get the chance to understand them more, to actually be one of them.
Someday, I may become Human. You see, when an Angel dies, there are three things that may happen to them. Firstly, they may become a Free Spirit, roaming the Earth as they please, doing as they please. Secondly, they may become a Ghost. These are bound to walls and lines, forever imprisoned until the Lord sees fit.
Finally, an Angel may pass onto the next life. Granted, it is a frightful business. You remember nothing. You become a new being, using your old spirit as a life source. You become Mortal.
I used to smile to myself when I thought about this. I would give anything to finally become Mortal. Deals can be done with the Devil, apparently, to become Mortal. The Deals, however, are never worth it.
You become Mortal for all but a lifetime, until you have to suffer in Hell for eternity.
After an hour or so in the van, we arrived at our
The owner of the vehicle introduced himself as Ted, the girl told me her name was Marianne.
It was a lovely name, a warm welcome after an hour of actual Hell. She looked after Paul, tending to a nasty wound he picked up jumping into the van.
She then, thankfully, tended to a nasty gash on the back of my head, probably from when the Meteors knocked me against the Butcher's wall.
Ted, it was fair to say, was not a talkative man. He must have been at least fifty, although he did not at all seem old enough to be sixty. The van, I am pleased to say, was in good condition and apparently running on a full tank of fuel.
We arrived at one of Ted's friend's house, several miles away from where we had been an hour beforehand.
I opened the van's side door, wincing in the light. Paul followed me out, massaging his head for a second or two.
Smiling, I patted him on the shoulder.
"Take it easy, you just hit your head on a van… you're going to feel dizzy."
Ted and Marianne joined us from behind the van, the girl looking quite tired.
"Is your friend still here, then?" enquired Paul, who was poking at a withered looking patch of flowers with the toe of his trainer.
"Nah, he'll have moved on. If he's not dead. Let's get inside, before it gets too dark." Ted fumbled around under a flowerpot until he produced a key and unlocked the door.
Marianne followed him inside, leaving myself and Paul stood outside for a moment.
"Sorry about your friend, Paul…" sorry for him.
He glanced up, smiling.
"It's alright mate… he was a bit of a dick anyway."
Stunned, I walked into the house with Paul, who was now grinning away to himself.
'Perhaps he hit his head a little hard…' I thought to myself. Various weapons lined the walls of the house, from rifles to katanas; this guy was evidently well prepared.
Ted chuckled something to himself up ahead, but I couldn't catch enough of it to put it together. Ted and Marianne reached a conservatory up the hallway, soon joined by Paul and myself.
I peered out of the windows and -
"Is that… an Anderson shelter?" I almost laughed at the sight.
"Not just an ordinary Anderson shelter, Doug my boy." He opened the conservatory door and led us all into the garden.
"'Ave a look." Said Ted.
Being first in the line, I poked my head round the doorway.
"Oh my God, you have to see this, guys!" Inside, shelves lined the walls, each stacked with food. At the far end, a small set of stairs led to a lower level somewhere below.
Marianne was grinning beside me, pleased with our recent stroke of luck.
"Well go on," Ted prompted, closing the door behind us, "Let's see if he's left us anything."
Down below, our dreams came true.
Water tanks, food, clothes: even petrol.
"It's just like the movies," I joked, "This is amazing."
"We'll take what we need," Ted decided, "Stay here for the night and leave in the morning. Savvy?"
Paul smiled and saluted.
"Yes, sir!" We all laughed until we were silenced by Ted.
"Shh!" he hissed, "Hear that?"
We stood in silence for a few moments, hardly daring to breathe.
Then I heard it. That high pitched shrieking I hoped never to hear again. Nobody moved as silence set in again. Then, above us, an almighty crash of something striking the metal shell of the shelter.
The Demons were here.
"Crap… are there any weapons in here?" Paul asked, scrambling about the shelves and boxes.
"No… they're all in the house."
Inside, my heart dropped.
"You mean… we're defenseless?" I asked, struggling to stop my voice from shuddering.
Ted looked at me briefly, apparently worried himself.
"Yeh… that's what I mean."
Paul almost jumped at a new idea.
"What about your rifle? I remember you nearly shooting us when they followed us last time."
Ted's frown remained on his face, shaking his head.
"In the van."
Paul's spirits dropped instantly.
Marianne was silent, staring at a patch behind me.
"We're done for then, aren't we?" she asked, emotionless.
Ted's face told us all we needed to know.
"I'm sure we'll have some stroke of luck," I smiled, "We survived the beginning, so someone wants us to survive this as well."
I don't know where that came from. I wasn't a religious lad beforehand, so I really don't know what possessed me to make a reference to God. I know now, of course, but it was so strange and confusing then.
"I don't think God's on our side boy. If he was, then the Demons wouldn't have even found us."
I swallowed, hard.
"Paul, I don't suppose you're willing to help me out?" Ted was massaging his knuckles, looking for any kind of weapon he could use.
"Well," Paul laughed, "I may have a gaping hole in my forehead, but I can sure as hell return the favour."
Ted nodded, picked up a shovel and made his way up the stairs. Paul looked round frantically, snatched up a woodcutter's axe and followed the old man to the exit.
Looking around, my eyes fell upon a small hatchet, tucked into a bucket.
Marianne's eyes followed mine.
"No," she shook her head, "Not a chance Doug. We're staying here."
My arm was already stretching towards the hatchet.
"They'll need all the help they can get out there."
The door creaked above us, a few shallow foot steps -
"Holy sh..!" Something roared outside, getting a cacophony of shrieks from the demons.
Paul fell down the steps, stunned.
"… the hell was that, Ted?"
On queue, Ted came down the stairs, face frozen with fear. Shrieks came to us from outside, horrible cracks and tears beginning to turn Marianne pale.
"I… I…" Ted was lost for words.
My soul was shaken from the horrors we heard. Apparently, even Ted's was somewhat disturbed.
"That was no demon…" Paul struggled, slowly getting to his feet.
Ted nodded, eyes glued to the door.
"What was it, Paul?" despite Paul's obvious disposition, I needed to ask him.
He shots daggers at me, but answered none the less.
"I don't know… I really don't…"
Something hit the side of the Anderson shelter.
"Shh…" Ted held a finger to his mouth.
Silence filled the space.
The shelter shuddered again.
"Something's out there…"
We were all knocked onto our backs as the shelter was torn from the ground.
Marianne screamed, Paul yelled at the top of his voice beside me. I myself let out a short shriek, although the others didn't seem to notice.
They were all distracted by what now stood above us.
Pebbles rained down upon us from what now towered over the garden.
Imagine a large gorilla. Imagine the gorilla has a head like that of a turtle, flat with a beak. Now imagine one as tall as a house and made of stone.
Someone screamed next to me. It couldn't have been Marianne… she was speaking to me at the same time.
"What… is… it?"
The thing turned to Marianne, neck grinding.
"It?" The thing bellowed, thunderous and deep.
"I am a 'he', dear lady."
Paul's face twisted, eyes wandering between the Giant's legs.
The thing roared at Paul, who scrambled behind me.
"Uhm… are you going to kill us?" I managed, worried for our lives.
The things' great granite eyes rolled slowly towards me.
"If I wished to kill you, you would not have been able to ask me such a question."
I gulped, slightly happier knowing we were not about to die.
"Then… what do you want?" Paul's eyes returned to the things' face, horrified.
"I want nothing, however I have been told to help your kind whenever possible… Hence my being here."
Ted finally spoke up.
"Who asked you, kind sir?"
"Currently, none of your business. I hate to seem rude, but he said I must keep it terribly secret."
Ted nodded, although none of use really understood what was going on.
"In the meanwhile, you must leave, before more of the scum turn up to hunt you."
As suddenly as it had arrived, the giant turned and stalked away with thunderous steps.
Paul looked at me with confused eyes.
Nothing else was said that day.
We simply packed any supplies we needed, got into Ted's van and drove until the sun went down.
Hellfire was and still is such a terrible thing. Capable of
burning hotter than Satan's heart, Hellfire strikes fear into
even the most valiant Angels.
I however, am not one of these.
Nothing scares me.
I stood there, above a town whose people had fallen victim to Hellfire.
"Is this what we have brought upon these people, Icarus?" I mumbled to the man beside me.
"No, sire. We did our best to prevent such suffering… this is not our doing."
Icarus. I trusted him with my life and secrets. That man followed me to Hell and back again.
He never left my side.
"Then why are we here? Why do these people have to suffer? Most of them would not know what it is to sin… Most of these people don't deserve this."
Icarus sighed, heart heavy with guilt.
"You needn't feel guilty, my friend. You were right, we are not responsible for what happened here."
I stepped from the rooftop, landing upon an old car.
"We are responsible for what happens next."
Icarus joined me on the street, wings stretching out by his sides. There was little need for our disguises then. The demons we were hunting knew perfectly well we had arrived.
My armour gleamed in the hellish sun, gold glinting in my eye. Crisp white robes kept the blazing heat from my body, a welcome relief in the new layer of Hell.
Icarus, only being my Protector and a Minor Angel, only wore Silver.
My blade seemed ablaze as I pulled it from its' scabbard, thirsty for blood.
"Be wary, Icarus. These Blood Seekers are as cunning as they are foul."
"I take it they are unbearably cunning then, sire?"
I turned my head with a smile, before reverting my attention to the matter at hand.
Blood Seekers, as well as other things, are demons that even I have trouble fighting. They may as well be Demonic Bounty Hunters, after one thing and one thing only.
When Vampires go to die, they must go to Hell. I knew some good Vampires in my time, but the rules of the Keeper say they must enter Hell due to their curse.
The thing that makes them such… 'Dedicated' warriors is their Bloodlust. Despite their greatest efforts, once they get the scent of blood, they wish only for one thing: more.
We were after their ringleader, who was apparently lurking within the boundaries of the town.
It didn't take long to find them.
"Sire, do you hear that?" Icarus stopped with a hand to his
ear. I stopped myself, silencing the clattering of my
Not too far away, a great clamour was easy to make out.
"Seekers?" My squire asked, grasping his blade a little more keenly than before.
With a nod, Icarus went from a talkative young man to a silent, fierce and merciless warrior.
Needing no discussion (due to planning and practice) we both went our separate ways, sticking to the ground as not to attract any unnecessary attention.
I trusted Icarus, and I knew perfectly well he was more than capable of fighting off a few Blood Seekers.
If, however, they managed to draw but a drop of blood from either of us, the tide of battle would be turned upon us in an instant.
Using my well-tuned ears, I could make out a faint conversation round the next corner.
"Why… kill the… They stand… should be easy…" Another voice, rugged and gruff, took over.
"Don't dare… Soluhekt commanded us!.... Our duty…"
At this, I immediately became more on edge.
What would the Right Hand man of Satan want with Blood Seekers? Usually, he trusted his pathetic Imps to take on his tasks.
The situation had changed. I needed one alive, in the hope that I could get some information from one of them.
There was but one flaw with this plan.
Icarus knew nothing about the change of plan.
"I must hurry…" I whispered to myself.
The talking round the corner had stopped, which could mean one thing: the Seekers had smelt my blood.
Confirmation came as something blurred overhead in a fearsome roar.
My blade sliced down the length of the Seeker's body, showering me in a hail of organs and entrails.
The corpse landed with a wet 'thud' a few metres in front of me, although my attention was soon diverted to more of the scum trying to get to me.
Another leaped down before me, snarling. All Seekers are blind, and usually cover their eyes with some kind of material of mask, although their sense of smell and hearing meant they needed it very little.
This one lunged at me, great ragged abyss of a mouth going for my wing. With a simple spin, the point of my wing caught the Demon in the eye. This Seeker was unlucky enough to have chosen a simple rag to cover his eyes, of which could not have stopped the point.
My blade made for his head, but he ducked. My knee was soon united with his groin, keeling him over and opening a new opportunity to strike. Soon, the Seeker was slipping off the end of my blade.
After focusing my attention on the Seeker, I had left myself open to the others. I was now surrounded.
"You've made a mistake, coming here, Angel!"
"Evidently," I replied, "You have no clue who you are dealing with, Seekers?"
They seemed to give little care for the matter. All they cared for was the blood coursing through my veins.
This became apparent when another two came at me, brandishing fierce looking claws.
Before the fight had even begun, my sword took a pair of hands from one Seeker, before following through with a lunge into the second's stomach. I wrenched my blade free, bringing a stomach and a torrent of blood along with it. The others shrieked at the sight of two fallen brethren, and advanced on me in a ring.
"Icarus!" I roared at the top of my voice.
On queue, Icarus dropped from the sky in a blinding flash, beheading a Seeker effortlessly. He rolled instantly, quickly swinging wildly at another, who dropped within seconds of the Angel reaching him. With the others going after Icarus, I plunged my blade into the back of one, planting my elbow into the jaw of another. With my blade still impaled in the demon, I reached for a dagger strapped at my boot. I brought up in the blink of an eye, dropping another Seeker. I didn't need to be aware of the blood gushing to the floor, for Seekers hate the taste (and smell) of other Seekers' blood. I can tell you from experience, it tastes as foul as the meat from which it comes from.
Quickly, I snatched my sword from the corpse, wielding both weapons as I turned to meet the rather large crowd trying to take on Icarus.
His blade was but a blur in the sunlight, stinging my eyes whenever the glint caught them. Unfortunately, the same was not happening to the Seekers, who had no eyes to sting.
"Out of my way, demon scum!" Icarus roared, cleaving three of them into two. Following up with a lunge to another, I then forced my own blade to join Icarus' in taking the Seeker's soul.
"Behind you, Icarus." My Protector ducked, just in time as my blade swooped above his head. Being only one neck in the way of my blade, the steel sliced its way through with little effort before meeting a brick wall.
Grunting, I struggled to remove my blade from the bricks, having to leave my efforts to save my own life. Icarus saved me first, taking the claw off yet another Seeker. As I turned to face another opponent, my heart was in my mouth. Dozens of Blood Seekers.
"We need go, now." I snatched my sword from the wall with one final yank, before splaying my hand to the demons.
Hellfire leaped from my hand to the nearest Seeker, searing through his body and soul.
Icarus took the sky in a boom, leaving me behind for a fraction of a second.
That fraction cost me everything.
One Seeker's jaw managed to latch onto my wing at the last moment, drawing an unhealthy amount of blood. Fortunately, the chunk it took a liking to came off instantly, otherwise I would have fallen into the frenzied mob below.
Yes, I was a fierce and fearless warrior in my time, but nothing had prepared me for the pain that flooded in.
I simply screamed.
A Word from Icarus
I found my master's journal. Whilst he was too ill to write
down events, I took the liberty of telling the story for him. I
am sure that, when he finds strength, he will write about what
happened in the space I left him before this entry.
My name, as you may have gathered, is Icarus. My father, Osmo the Grand Mage, swore his allegiance to the Arch Angel, thus entwining my fate with that of Xaan. He was the son of Astus, although at this point in the story he would have denied who's blood ran through his veins.
Honour, you see, is a valuable commodity amongst us Angels. Although we are meant to be perfect, according to your Human beliefs, we still have our… 'flaws'.
Enough about our past, I suppose. I must tell you about what had become of my master and myself.
When he suffered a bite from a Blood Seeker, we both knew that only one being could save him. Similar to the toxins found in the saliva of 'Komodo Dragons', Seeker spit stops any wounds from healing, thus leaving a constant trickle of blood for the Seekers to feed off. However, another toxin is found in their saliva. This is much more potent, actually capable of killing any ordinary being within a minute of being bitten. Xaan, being much stronger, managed to last much longer.
After a long and troublesome flight, I decided it would be best to return to the ground before my master had to do so involuntarily. Our plan was to find a suitable place to construct a Portal, which would take us to Xaan's savior.
I set him down next to a tree, collecting a few clean looking leaves to bandage his wound as best I could. It must have been painful, for even Xaan let out a scream when the Seeker bit him.
Bone protruded from his wing, countless fragments stuck to his back. He seemed barely conscious at the best of times.
"Where… are we?" He managed, although soon appearing exhausted after the effort.
"Please, rest. I'm trying to construct a Portal so we can get you to safety, sire."
My father, Osmo, taught me a great deal about mystic runes and wards. Never did I believe I would need them, however they came into a world of their own when I had to leave my master.
Some make a barrier around them, others shock whatever approaches… some even explode; however I was not particularly keen on killing Xaan by accident.
And so, I left my master to collect what I needed.
First on my list: stones.
Thankfully, we had stopped in a rocky hillside forest, littered with various rocks, pebbles and stones to use.
I quickly constructed a small altar, leaving room to fit a small, precious but very special gem.
I plucked the gem from my helmet, gleaming.
Elf Stones were rare relics, existing only in a few planes and realities. My stone came from an ancient realm, one of which I was fortunate enough to experience. Legend has it, that every plane has its' own Gem, although less than half have been found.
The Elf Stone was soon fitted into the altar, gleaming green despite the lack of light.
"Now, for the sacrifice."
Rituals were, by far, my least favourite part to magic.
My father became familiar with my groans of displeasure fairly soon when he tried teaching me about them, although they helped in some occasions.
They just tended to hurt.
I knelt before the altar, right arm naked above.
Drawing a dagger from my boot, I began to chant spells in an Angelic Tongue, handling the words so delicately as though they may shatter in my mouth.
Wind seemed to be blowing through the trees, as though joining me in the ritual.
Xaan was moaning behind me, although his cries were distant and quiet.
The blade was cold against my bare flesh, and would soon become painful.
Grimacing, I drew the steel across my arm, drawing a small stream of blood. Lightning cracked above the canopy as the first drop hit the altar. Another and another touched down, slowly forming a puddle of crimson.
Weakness dawned on me so suddenly I nearly collapsed. The altar crumbled into the pond, which began to tint red with my lifeblood.
Lightning seared its' way through the tree tops, striking the pool in a hail of sparks.
Xaan was groaning, shielding his eyes.
With a final sonic clap, the lightning snapped into the sky, leaving the pool bubbling and whirling.
We had ourselves a Portal.
Now, onto Witherdel.
We drove into darkness that night. Marianne had fallen asleep in
the journey, not looking too comfortable in the front of Ted's
van. Paul and I had resorted to playing cards in the back,
although I soon gave up when carsickness struck me.
"The sun's gone down." Ted said, "I'm not risking travelling at night - we'll be seen." He sighed and scratched the back of his head. "Let's get some food and some shut eye and move on in the morning."
It was the longest sentence I had heard throughout the entire journey, although we had a few short conversations when someone had thought of one.
Afterwards, however, the silence in the van was eerie. We even ate in silence, listening to our inner voices.
"Right," Ted began, putting aside an empty can, "We'll establish watches, Douglas, you go with me and Marianne, you go with Paul, okay?"
Marianne nodded, I smiled weakly in agreement with Ted.
"Since there's only four of us, the watches are gonna have to be pretty long, you guys alright with that?"
"If it means we survive, then yes." Marianne sounded so dull… almost dead. Ted seemed slightly flustered by her bluntness, but soon pulled himself together.
"Okay then, we'll go first, then - you up for that, Doug?"
"Yeah," I replied, voice hollow, like Marianne's. Empty. Ted opened the side door of the van, letting the cool evening's breeze enter.
"You got your stuff?"
I gripped the hatched I picked up at the Anderson shelter and nodded. I had become so attached to that hatchet, although to this day I have little clue why.
"You two get some sleep," Ted continued, "We'll change over at about…" he checked his watch, "… one-ish."
With that, we left Marianne and Paul to rest.
Outside, the quiet was truly overwhelming. Even the insects were silent that night. The only sound came from our footsteps, and the occasional sigh from one of us.
Ted's rifle clattered on the ground beside him as he sat himself on the floor next to the van.
"You can go the other side Doug, if you will. We don't want anything sneaking up on us from the other side."
"Alright… I'll get right on it."
Taking position on the other side of the van, Ted shuffled towards the front end of the vehicle.
"So, where are you from, Doug?"
I played with the hatchet, at my feet.
"I'm, uh… I'm from Nottingham. I moved to Scunthorpe when I was five and… well, I've lived there ever since."
Ted grunted, probably checking his rifle over.
"I knew a guy from Nottingham… He helped me at the school I worked at, another caretaker. Towler, that was his name I think."
"Nope," I shook my head, "Doesn't ring any names."
Ted peered round the van, "I didn't ask if you knew him."
"Oh, sorry." An eerie silence fell upon us again. My assumption was that Ted (rather evidently) was not one for conversation.
For the next couple of hours, we sat in silence. Ted sat still at the other side of the van, making it sound as though every move I made was an earth was shaking.
Eventually, I resorted to simply throwing small pebbles across the field, although it soon became rather boring and started to irritate Ted.
I must've fallen asleep, because they next thing I knew, Ted was kicking me into consciousness.