The Garden of Bones

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 3 (v.7) - A Flickering Heartbeat

Submitted: December 31, 2017

Reads: 83

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Submitted: December 31, 2017



The morning was barely coming over the mountains when Adrian pushed the doors open to the Crescent Moon Academy. A gust of wind blow flicked some snow powder into the foyer, and even more when the doors slammed back shut. Adrian started up the staircase, but midway down the hallway, Seishin was leaving Jules' office. 
Seishin was a tall and built man well past sixty years of age. Long grey hair fell over his shoulders, with uneven bangs and tired dark eyes and the start of a beard. When Adrian had gone to school, Seishin had taught weapons training since he retired once becoming a Paladin. 
A measly four and five years ago, Seishin had slick black hair with only the remnants of grey hair, but now it was stripped of it. He once said to Adrian, I blame you for making me worry too much. 
Adrian was inclined to believe Seishin wasn't exaggerating. 
“Jules asked me to give you this.” He handed him a dossier. 
“Thanks,”Adrian accepted it. 
“It's in Troslis.” 
Adrian opened up the dossier to look at the pictures. “Pariah City, huh?” 
“I don't understand that.” 
Adrian looked up at Seishin with a light smile. “It's just an old nickname. Where a disgraced Sage settled so many thousand years ago. Thanks for this, Seishin.” 
“Yes,” he gave a slight bow. “Adrian!” He called out when he started leaving. 
“Jules recommended that you take someone along with your hunt.” 
Adrian hesitated. “He recommended.  I don't have to.” 
“No. But the murders in the pictures look like an obsidian blade. Could be a stronger demon than you're used to.” 
“I can handle it. Takk.” He started away again and found himself smiling softly to himself. With any luck, it would be a stronger demon. 
Before leaving the Academy, Adrian made his way for one of the castles larger towers. Up the winding stairs, he found himself pushing the creaky door back to Seve Merser's tower. It was once just the armory, but now Seve watched over it and treated it like his own shop and he at least made it look that way. 
Aside from the dusty supply shelves and counters, papers were strewn everywhere. 
The shelves held ammo of crystal bullets, incendiary rounds, solar flares and blessed water casks. A glass counter had a couple dozen enchanted knives with old runes carved down the side, but he already had his own knife. 
In the corner of the room was a coffin leaning against the wall, with heavy chains wrapped around with a skull lock. 
Adrian made a quick glance around the room lit only by a single candelabra and the light coming in from the arrow slit window. 
“Seve! Where are you?” 
A cold blade touched his throat, but he already drew his own blade out and held it back to point at his heart. He tilted his head back, looking at Seve. “Your energy is disturbing—it would be impossible for me to not feel it.” 
Seve starts laughing, lowering his blade. “As fast as ever, Harbinger.” 
Adrian lowered his knife and to this day had no idea why people called him that.
“Although, it takes someone minutes to die from a stab to the heart but you die instantly from having your throat slashed.” He mused walking further into the dark room. He laughed again until he started coughing, bending over and covering his mouth with his hand that was covered in his excessively long sleeves. 
“Well, you would know. How long does it take to die from Infernal Affliction?” 
Seve laughs again, looking at his sleeve that was spattered in some blood from his cough. “You're cold—and the shame of demonic caused infliction's is that death is never guaranteed; only suffering.” 
Adrian watched his step in the cluttered room, but Seve struck a match and lit another candle. He eyed Seve in the growing light. Usually hunched over, but he once stood at six foot four, now close to skin and bone with grey pallid skin. His hair was shoulder length, the colour of ash and it fell over most of his face that was wrapped in bandages that covered even his neck and his left eye. His right eye, however, was a nearly glowing purple, with white lashes. He covered himself in several ratty layers, a long sleeve and coat and a scarf wrapped around twice that still touched the floor. His affliction, of course, was not contagious but he remained a fair distance away from everyone. Everyone except for Adrian, of course. 
Looking at him, there was no way to tell that he was only twenty-eight years old, but four years of Infernal Affliction would drive even a sane person mad—and Seve Merser was never known to be perfectly sane. 
“What can I do for you, today?” His grey lips curling into a smirk. 
“I'm running low on ammo.” He answered. “And some howlers wouldn't hurt.” 
“A hunter with two miseris weapons would certainly need plenty of howlers.” He commented, still smirking. He crouched down behind the counter with knives and started rooting around in his disorganized mess. “If memory serves, the first time you turned your aura into weapons you collapsed from exhaustion.” 
“It's not easy sparing that much energy.” Adrian tapped his fingers on the glass, looking at the knives. “But I guess you're the epitome of vitality.” 
Seve just grinned and shook his finger with a few tsk's. “Your tongue will get you killed, Harbinger. You shouldn't be so heartless.” 
He stood back up and laid two boxes of ammo on the counter. “Crystal or incendiary?” 
“I'll take one of each.” 
“Smart man.” He leaned across the counter, pondering up at Adrian with a demonic-like grin. “I remember not too long ago, hunting as often as you did. It's exhausting, isn't it?” 
“What, hunting?” 
“Nei, nei.” He waved him off, and stood back up, looking at Adrian with his purple eye. “Trying to fit in with humans.” 
“What are you talking about?” Adrian sighed, taking the boxes and stuffing two howlers to his inside jacket pocket. “I am human. You are too, Seve.” 
Seve tapped his bandaged fingers on the counter. “Human, yes. Normal—certainly not. Last I heard, you don't even try to fit in. I thought you were friends with them, but you stopped all interaction with them, didn't you?” 
“I don't need to hear that from a man who hides in a tower. But you hear a lot for someone who also avoids people.” 
“I have a mindful ear and hunters come through here quite frequently for their demon killing weapons. Not a week goes by that I don't hear the name Adrian Martel, or harbinger, or the advocate.” 
Adrian just stared back at Seve. Everything would have been a lot simpler back then if people had just ignored him like they did the first two years. “Why do you always say these things, Merser?” 
Seve grinned an odd grin. “No reason. Good luck hunting.” 
~ ~ ~
To get to the planetarium, one had to first pass through the twisting halls of the Astral Castle, a path that Oskar Jakobsen knew too well in her many years associated with the Academy.  While hunters spent their time training to hunt down and kill demons that had become threats to towns and cities, Oskar was learning the way of the Gothi, becoming a priestess part of the Full Moon of Helasadh, their religious order. 
That didn't mean that it refrained her from the battle field--even now, spirits could latch onto humans to whisper in their ears and sometimes even go so far as to possess them entirely.  It was never an easy ordeal, Oskar had lost many lives to attempted exorcisms.
Some spirits were more stubborn than others.  Some were just desperate to take what they could with them. 
The last hallway leading to the planetarium was built around the side of the mountain, with stone half-walls and pillars along the left side, opened to the cold winter air.  The wind tossed her strawberry blond hair and made her shudder, the only thing keeping her warm, the cups of hot chocolate in each hand. 
She managed to balance one cup on the other as she opened the door to the planetarium that resembled something straight from the Gaslamp Era, almost as much as the inside did. 
When she stepped in, she fell against the door to close it, a gust of wind waving through before the warmth settled again. 
"Warn me, next time."  Neari grumbled, fixing his sweater around his shoulders tighter. 
"Sorry," Oskar smiled, "will this hot chocolate suffice for compensation?" 
"Only if it has marshmallows." 
"They're probably melted by now."  Oskar smiled sweetly and walked in.  The planetarium had a dome above head, and the telescope was the largest in Aveile, while the largest in Helena remained far north, in Imbris, home of the Kashiri.  Books and papers were strewn about in disorderly fashion, at least to Oskar, it seemed that way.  Gaslamps floated around, but many were molded to the wall to keep a constant display of light, and stained glass windows surrounded the curved walls. 
"Do the stars have anything to say?" 
"I've been a Seer for six years, no doubt, but it's hard reading the celestial body without the help of Riluka.  They worship the universe, after all.  Sometimes I don't blame them.  The universe is divine, our Gods are cruel." 
"At least they recognize their cruelty."  Oskar smiled.  "But they are equally giving at times." 
Neari had to give a nod to that one as he got off the main platform and down the few stairs toward Oskar.  His hair was brown with a light purple tinge, tied back into a lose pony tail with long bangs and thick rimmed glasses over deep purple eyes, while Oskar's eyes were a brighter purple.  Her hair also remained above the shoulders, but was thick and soft. 
"Tell me, Oskar, do you have unwavering faith in the Gods?" 
"I believe everyone should question what they believe in once in a while.  It keeps the Gods busy." 
Neari smiled at that, as she past him one of the hot chocolates.  "I'm sure even Gods grow bored from time to time.  I wonder if that's why the Gate opened."  He theorized as he took the cover off the drink to see the marshmallows mostly melted in the drink.  "It'll do."  He put the cover back on and moments later, they were sitting down and sipping their drinks together. 
The light falling the falling sun started glimmering through the stained glass windows, casting designs and colours on the marble floors.  The stars started shining brighter as the moon was taking over the sky as it's own. 
"Do you think it was our punishment?" 
"For what?"  Oskar asked Neari. 
He shrugged.  "There isn't much history on Aveile before the Gate opened.  Maybe Halis opened the Gate to punish us--you know he's a stickler for justice." 
"But also order."  Oskar reminded.  "It was alchemists that opened the Gate."  She reminded him. 
He nodded, sipping his hot chocolate.  "Have you had any weird hunts lately?  I know you go with April from time to time." 
"Weird..."  She whispered to herself.  "A couple of weeks ago, someone was possessed by two different spirits." 
"Did they make it?" 
Oskar shook her head.  "Honestly... most don't." 
"I'm relieved I became a Seer," Neari sighed, "I probably couldn't handle people dying on me like that.  You're strong to deal with that, Oskar."  He stood back up and walked over to the sundial. 
"What is it?" 
"Riluka said there's gonna be an eclipse in a few years.  Apparently it's the first one in three hundred years," he smiled, looking at her.  "How cool is that?  We'll all see an eclipse with our own eyes." 
"I know the hunters aren't looking forward to it."  She smiled.  "It's an extra few hours of darkness for demons." 
Neari tapped his chin.  "I never thought of it that way." 
"The thought of an eclipse always scared me."  Oskar admitted. 
"Why is that?"  He inquired. 
"Because I'm afraid the sun won't ever come back." 
~ ~ ~
A demon stood still in wait, it's red eyes hungry for a kill. It waited in the shadows for its victim, it's only witness the crow moon that hung high in the dead night sky. It would wait all night if meant just one kill, one perfect kill. It still had several more hours to find an unlucky soul before the morning light would drive him back to the shadows. 
Surely one more human would be foolish enough. They always were. 
The smell of pine was strong, and the old city was tucked between two mountains, a lake and a forest, with perfectly lined brick buildings. Gaslamps either floated overhead making shadows dance, or remained stilled on posts, flickering at the demon's presence. 
The flicker of energy brought the demon's hope back, but it was far away. Would they come this way? It waited, still, but soon grew impatient and started seeking the next victim. It didn't take long to find them, but the demon remained still, watching from a distance. 
It was a human sure enough, but it's animal instincts kept it from charging. 
A light blue and purple scarf trailed behind them, and deep purple pants tucked into boots, a long dark blue jacket. 
The demon crept closer, silently. Normally, it would play first, strike fear into its victim until finally cutting them down, but it felt cautious tonight. The energy emitting from this human was dangerous, and for just a moment, the demon felt fear. 
It leapt at the human to end it's useless fear. 
The human turned and a bullet rang through the black night. 
The demon crashed back, blood pooling from its shoulder, growling. It was a trap, and the hunter had sensed him from the beginning. He now held the pistol pointed at him, with cold blue eyes. Now, the demon could see the hunter's jacket, a white ankh on the left breast with wings—the symbol of the Crescent Moon Academy, the hunter's reincarnation. 
The demon licked the blood off it's wound with a wicked grin while the hunter stared at him with resentment. He hesitated, then took another shot which the demon dodged with ease, charging at the interloper. It slashed with its arm which was nothing more than a blade, but the hunter dodged and with his free hand, brought forward a blade, slashing at it's arm above the elbow where the blade started. 
It winced away, but it wasn't enough to slice it off, so the hunter stumbled back. It attacked again, but the hunter jumped out of the way holstering his gun and summoned a second blade, the demon growling. 
The hunter blocked the demon's next attack with one blade. The demon made a swing with its other arm and the hunter blocked with his second blade, but the demon pushed him back against the building wall. 
It slashed at him, but he dodged out of the way, the demon's blades tearing a part of the wall that was behind the hunter. 
The hunter stumbled back, carefully, so the demon ran at him. It made another clumsy slash, but this time the hunter dodged and drove one of his blades deep into the demon's side, making it roar in pain. It started bringing it's arms up to stab through the hunter, but before it could, the second blade was drove up through his throat and he was brought to a halt. 
Blood poured down the hunter's blade and coated his pale fingers. The demon started gurgling blood, trying to breathe life into itself, but it was no use—only enough to manage a final laugh. 
“She's... here...” The hunter looked at the demon with a raised brow. “She'll... kill us... all...” 
The hunter brought both blades from the demon, blood splashing out, so the hunter backed away from the dying creature. It tried laughing as it collapsed to its knees, its blood turning to ash before it's body. “She'll kill you too... hunter...” 
“Who is she?” The hunter asked, his voice thick with a Lumren accent. 
The demon smiled wide as the flames consumed him, and nothing was left except for a glowing black soul. 
The clock tower began to chime—midnight. 
The soul started burning away at last and Adrian exhaled in the cold night. He dispersed his blades and walked up to the soul, hovering his hand over it. It was cold, and pulsed like a heartbeat, making Adrian pull his hand back. 
A demon's heart and soul are one, he realized. 
He fixed his jacket around himself and walked away. 
He walked and walked until snow started falling around him, and he tried warming his hands to no avail. 
The clock tower chimed once as he brushed snow off a bench and sat down in the town square. 
Who was the she that the demon was talking about?” He wondered but pushed the thoughts away. 
The center featured a statue of Arael, depicting her on her knees while garbed in her Sage's robes, pleading up to the sky. She was a young pupil at the Followers of Lias, the Helasadh God of art, poetry and music when she was falsely accused of a multitude of sins and was cast out from society. She settled here, is Troslis, and wasn't exonerated for the false claims until she was on her death bed. At least now, she would forever be known as the Sage of Tragedy, and maybe her soul was alright with that. 
Adrian feared that as well—to die and for nobody to truly know who he was. Maybe that's why every hunt he swore would be the last, he fought anyway and survived. Did Deirdre feel that way as well, he wondered. 
The night was colder than most, and he shivered, watching his breath in the air reminding him of when he used to smoke. 
“What am I supposed to do, now..?” He whispered to the silent city, the falling snow and the crow moon. None answered him back, so he closed his eyes to calm down before he returned to the hotel for the night. 
“Who is she? Why was the demon afraid..?” 
Adrian stood back up and started walking back in the direction of the hotel. After four years of persisting hunting, he had grown rather accustomed to most of the cities, and some of the towns. Meanwhile, Astra Valley was becoming a stranger to him. 
A shock wave of energy spilled over the city, bringing Adrian to a halt as it put a shiver up his spine. 
He turned, only to see nothing there besides the steadily falling snow. Everything was still again, but he could still feel an overbearing energy resonating. For a moment, he was almost too afraid to move, but he did anyway, walking, then running in the direction of the source of energy. 
Only a demon could have energy that powerful and while it put irrational fear into his heart, he still pressed forward unable to ignore it or run from it. His mind turned blank as he ran, forgetting the cold, forgetting the weight on his heart. He focused only on this energy, a seething, erratic red pulse. Murderous intent. 
He rounded another corner, the city square with a flowing fountain in the center, but nearby in the shadows of the entrance to an alleyway, he saw them. 
On the ground was a man, bloodied and begging, while standing over him was a shadowed figure, holding a katana coated in blood. 
“Stop!” Adrian called, reaching for his pistol. 
For a moment, he thought she smiled, then pierced her blade through the man's throat, bringing Adrian an immediate stop. 
The man gasped for air, blood bubbling and bursting out. 
The murderer was back on, long hair, thick and unkempt, but under the shadows, it looked a deep red. 
Adrian took a weary step back. If it was a demon... 
His eyes widened. What he thought was a man started turning to ash. And like the last demon, it's soul pulsed like a heartbeat, the demon killer standing over it in silence. 
But the energy didn't leave, and the one who killed it was no hunter. 
She returned her katana to a sheath, and stepped out from the alleyway, taking a few steps closer to him as he backed away, unsure. 
As she came into the light of the town's square gaslamps, he lost his breath. Her hair under the light was a shade of auburn with thick red, choppy bangs and freckles dotted her pale face. She wore a long black jacket with a brown fur hood over a blue and black flannel shirt. She wore tight light grey jeans tucked into black heeled boots, and she grinned a playful smile, and she looked human—all aside from her gleaming red eyes and the energy that emitted from her. 
“Hello, hunter.” 

© Copyright 2019 Alex Winters. All rights reserved.


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