The Garden of Bones

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

Chapter 5 (v.7) - The Hell's Collector

Submitted: January 08, 2018

Reads: 90

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Submitted: January 08, 2018



While it was true that no airship had been running since the previous era, that did not mean it was impossible.  The only ones who had been trained to infuse the sails with magic or to fly these ships were pilots of the last war, all of which were dead by now and the ships of a time passed were all rusting away in their crash sights in the vast north. 
No more ships flew the skies above Helena—except for this one. 
The Demon Lord of Fire and Brimstone under the name of Sebastian had become part of Deirdre's band of Hellions before joining the war.  When he and Deirdre had first set sights on an airship casting a threatening shadow over them, they didn't need to say a word to know what the other was thinking; we need that ship. 
Thus, they had boarded the ship and slaughtered the militants inside to claim the ship and they renamed the beauty as the Hell's Collector.  It proved a vital win for their side of the war, the ship faster than the rest and easier to manoeuvre with its size that could fit perhaps a hundred militants, instead of the other warships which could carry up to five hundred.  For their years in the war, the ship was never shot down and it would stand for another thousand years. 
Sebastian had missed their fearless leader who had returned to Ifrean in the short time following the last attack at Kaerndale Castle, in which she beheaded the General for his crimes.  He and some of the other Hellions had taken it upon themselves to remain in Amaelis, wandering aimlessly in the still skies while the rest returned to the Underworld alongside her. 
It was nearly twenty years ago, now, that she had been cast out and now had a new purpose. 
But since that day, a snowy Yulus night, he had seen a change in Deirdre.  She wasn't the same person she was during the war.  She had lost her focus and sense of mindless destruction, she had found a way to smile.  What he found strangest of all, was that she had picked up her old name—her human name, Kasper. 
Sebastian exhaled a puff of dark smoke, his feet kicked up on the control panel that lay in front of him.  In calm weather, the ship would float along as necessary, especially as they remained above the clouds or when the fog helped to hide them, giving him time to sit back and stretch his legs.  They had only recently departed from Troslis, but he was still on edge, despite the impossibility they would be followed.
But that war raged on for seven years and old habits didn't die easy. 
He had once asked Kasper if she had any qualms about his paranoia, but she had only answered, “You never really know” and left it at that. 
He ran his fingers through his deep red hair as he heard someone coming down over the steps before knocking as they stepped into the room. 
“Clear weather.”  She teased, staying in the doorway as he looked over, regarding the alluring temptress.  Her hair was waist length and a soft white blond with hot pink eyes and white lashes.  She was dressed in all black, as was her usual, a classic corset and lace gloves with tight dark jeans and high heel boots. 
“Old habits.”  He shrugged, looking back out at the peaceful sky.  He inhaled more smoke before exhaling.  “How is she?” 
She contemplated a moment, tapping her long nails on the doorframe.  “You want to talk to her?” 
“Hell no.”  He scoffed.  “Why me?”  He and Kasper had always been close, but he had also seen more of her unreasonable side then the rest—and her more stubborn side, which he wasn't quite ready to deal with on a good day. 
“Come on, now,” her voice grew sweeter, “you're her 'big brother', aren't you?” 
He groaned, more irritated this time.  Kasper had been the Demon Lord of Madness when they had first met—if he recalled correctly, they were trying to kill each other, for the other's title, but as it turned out they got along more than they hated each other and instead fought rather consistently but never with the intention to kill the other—not most times, at least.  Amongst “demon standards”, that may as well have made them brother and sister.  But despite their two hundred age gap, his human state was seven years older than her and apparently, appearances trumped demonic age. 
“Is she in a bad mood or something?”  He finally asked. 
“I'm not sure.”  She admitted with a slight shrug, playing with the ends of her hair.  “She seemed okay but she went to her room first and she looked a little beat up.” 
“Hard to imagine a human getting the upper hand against her.  Are you sure she's okay?” 
“I said I wasn't sure.  Aren't you supposed to get all over-protective of her or something?” 
“She'll be fine.”  He assured, turning his chair to look back out the window. 
You talk to her.”  He argued, smothering the last bit of his cigarette in his over-filled ashtray.  “You're her best friend, I'm just the one who gives her a smack when she does something stupid.  Which is a lot, but still.” 
“And talking to a hunter and engaging in a fight with them isn't something stupid?” 
He took another cigarette out and placed it in his mouth for a moment before looking back at her again.  “Depends on the hunter, probably.” 
“Sebastian,” her voice sweet as honey as her hair slid off her pale white shoulders, “I'll do anything.”  She promised, her lip gloss glistening under the gaslanterns. 
“A lonely night is better than Kasper's line of fire.”  He answered matter-of-factly, then lit the cigarette.  “Tease all you want, it's not worth it.” 
She finally sighed, “Fine.  I'll keep that in mind for next time.”  She winked before turning and continuing back up the stairs. 
The ship may have smaller than most of the standard warships during the Purification War, but it was large enough to comfortably house about a hundred Crusaders but was now home to the band of nine demons nicknamed the Hellions.  Light shone out from the windows of the captain's quarters, bright yellow against the dark night sky and the fog that carefully surrounded them. 
As Seiko walked towards the door, she looked up at the sails, shimmering a deep red from the magic infused into them.  Everything else was still and almost eerily silent, even the wind was dead. 
Only a couple of days prior, Kasper had bounded into the mess hall with that look on her face as she poured a glass of whiskey and announced that she had come across a hunter in the sleepy town named Byshade.  "I was there for a friendly drink and to deal with the Black Annis that haunted the little town until he swooped in and stole my prey with those eyes like frozen stars.  He's mine, now." 
It had taken Seiko and perhaps even the others a moment to realize what Kasper was saying that day: he's the one. 
How long had it taken Kasper to be so sure that a hunter would listen to her plea..?  How long had she spent in the seclusion of her room, surrounded by maps and going mad by the silence that surrounded her when she had stopped mumbling to herself.  And all it took was that one little moment, for Kasper's hope to reach the heaven's and now she was skulked off to her room. 
Afterwards, when Seiko reminded her of a human's stubborn nature to be untrusting of them, to be ignorant and set in their ways, Kasper had only said I'm sure he'll listen.  But Kasper had a sharp tongue and human hearts were sensitive.  Seiko couldn't imagine a human listening to Kasper for more than five minutes without the excessive need to attack her. 
That's how most of them met her, after all. 
She finally raised her hand and knocked three times, loud enough to hear from her mostly soundproofed room.  Kasper didn't like it when they heard her bouts of madness and rage during the last war. 
Only a moment later, Kasper opened the door, looking up at the tall and slender temptress. 
The first thing Seiko noticed was the cut on her cheek dried with blood and then her eyes, shimmering with curiosity. 
Seiko barely got a word out before Kasper grabbed her and pulled her into the room.  “Wait, Kasper!”  She turned to their leader as she closed the door, latching it shut. 
When Kasper turned to look at her, Seiko could still see the curiosity—but now the honesty shone through, and she was euphoric.  “I have wonderful news.” 
Seiko stared at their leader as she trudged across the paper covered floors.  “Wonderful..?  I thought you were upset.”  She reflected, watching Kasper's red hair bounce over her shoulders. 
She looked at Seiko with a curled lip, as though confused.  “Why would I be upset?” 
Seiko eyed the cut on Kasper's cheek and then stole a glance at her bare arms now that she had her jacket and flannel pulled off to leave her in a short sleeve.  “Your arms are bruised.  He totally kicked your ass.” 
Kasper only smirked.  “Only adds to the charm, my dear Seiko.” 
“Guess you were going easy on him.” 
She sensed Kasper hesitate, and then she stood back up with some gathered papers in her tiny arms.  “You could say that.  But it was all friendly.” 
“Your kind of friendly, or my kind?”  She smirked back. 
Please,” she scoffed, “he's a stranger to me.” 
“Stranger or not, you look pretty pleased with the fact he held his ground against you.  Are you sure it wasn't my kind of friendly?” 
“Good mood or not, I'll still hit you.”  She dropped the papers on her desk. 
“So are you going to tell me what happened, or leave me guessing?”  She watched as Kasper trailed over to the washing room in the back.  Aside from the pipes running along the walls, it lacked any form of decorating, with a copper tub and shower on one end and the sink and mirror at the other. 
She followed Kasper over as she gathered water in her hands. 
“You don't think he listened to me, do you?” 
Shrugging, Seiko sighed.  “You would be pissed off if he reacted exactly as I had assumed.  So?” 
Kasper splashes the water on her face, clearing away the blood on her cheek.  She flicks her head back, the strands of hair that got in her face wet, so she grabbed a towel and dabbed at the cut. 
“He was listening.” 
Seiko looked at her. 
“Whether he stayed out of fear or curiosity, I'm not quite sure.  He didn't seem all that afraid when he attacked me.” 
“You're hardly bothered that he did.  How long was he listening to you before he pulled a weapon?” 
“Long enough for me to tell him what I wanted.” 
“To help.”  Seiko's voice was almost mocking.  “I'm sure he took that well.” 
Kasper smirked as she dried the rest of her face.  “Well enough.”  She turned the sink off.  “There was something hidden in his voice.” 
“Like what?” 
“When he denied me, there was something in his voice, his eyes that told me that he wanted to believe me.  But he couldn't.” 
“Because who could trust a demon..?” 
“It wasn't that, I don't think.”  She stood straight again and looked at Seiko, her eyes determined.  “As we fought, he realized that I had no intention of killing him.  Somehow, that disappointed him.” 
“What?” Seiko frowned. 
Kasper continued, “He realized I had chances to, but I didn't, he realized I was playing, he realized that there was at least some truth to what I was saying.  He was truly going to listen to me.” 
“But he didn't..?” 
“The city's sentinels were on high alert with the beast around, surely they could feel the energy from our fight.  So they intervened.” 
“It's a shame,” Seiko grinned, “by the sounds of it, you and him could have been on your honeymoon by now.” 
Kasper grabs the towel and flicks it at Seiko, making her laugh.  “What?”  Seiko kept her smile as Kasper pushed past her.  “It's strange seeing you this amused by something, let alone someone.  Let alone a human.”  She finished as Kasper sat on the edge of her bed. 
“Yes—my distrust and distaste for humans prove difficult for such situations.  But I took a leap and met with him, I took a leap to take off my human mask and he stayed, he listened.  Seiko... we have a chance, now.” 
Seiko stares at her leader, her sudden and unwavering determination in this stranger.  There had to be more than she was letting on, Kasper never acted on blind faith.  Madness, yes.  But this act of hope was unlike her. 
“Why him?  The Academy probably has over a hundred hunters his age.  You could have chosen any of them.  So what was it about him that made you make this leap?” 
She saw the answer in Kasper's eyes before she spoke—she didn't know, herself.  At least not an answer that could satisfy anyone, let alone herself, or anyone else she decided to try and convince.  “His eyes.” 
Seiko raised a brow. 
“Focused, yet conflicted.  Fearless, yet... completely afraid.” 
“Everyone is afraid of you.” 
“Not of me.  He's afraid of himself.  He's afraid of how he will react to this, to me.” 
“Most hunters would have attacked you right away, I'll give him that.  At the least, they would have ran.”  She folded her arms.  “But I don't want you to get your hopes up.  Not only is he just a human, by the sounds of it, he's quite unstable.” 
Kasper smirked at that.  “An unstable mind with a steady hand.  It's strange—like his mind and his heart don't match up.” 
“Does he know who you are?” 
“I told him my name is Kasper.  But he saw the ship as I left.” 
“I suppose that's fair.”  Seiko walked over to one of the windows.  “If you said you were Deirdre straight away, he probably wouldn't have believed you.  That or his fear would have taken over.” 
“Whatever he's afraid of, it isn't death,” Kasper assured.  “I think he wanted me to kill him.”  She whispered. 
“All you need is a human who will drag more chaos into your mind.” 
“I can handle the chaos.”  Kasper stands.  “It's all I am.” 
Seiko shrugs.  “You're more vengeance than chaos these days.” 
“Thank you,” Kasper smirked, taking a shirt from the heap on the floor before flicking it out. 
“What's his name?” 
“Adrian Martel.”  She said as she slid her arms through the sleeves of the black and green flannel.  “He's Lumren, and Shakos I believe.”  She said as she fixed her hair from under the shirt. 
Seiko grinned at that.  “Raven hair?  Pale skin?” 
“Blue eyes.”  Kasper finished. 
“Sounds hot.” 
“You're so shallow.”  Kasper's voice turned flat. 
“It's in my nature.”  She teased.  “So, when are you going to meet him again?” 
“Shiro has a sense of his energy, now.  I'll meet him next time he leaves the City of Angels.” 
“What are you going to wear?”  Seiko grins. 
“Shag off.”  Kasper flicks a pen at her, Seiko catching it with ease.  “Anything else?” 
Seiko sighs, playing with the pen, now.  “Was he really that special?”  She nearly pouted.  “Humans are all pretty similar to each other.  And hunters—he's probably self-righteous.” 
“If he was so self-righteous, he wouldn't have listened to the words of a lowly demon.”  Kasper holds out her hand and Seiko returns her the pen.  “We agreed to try and make an agreement with the Academy.  Try not to overthink it.” 
“It's hard not to.  You seem like you actually like this guy.” 
“I'm amused.”  She shrugged lightly, then smirked.  “And I'm curious to see what he'll do.” 
Seiko stared at Kasper, seriously now.  She trusted Kasper with her life, she always had—and now a profound determination lay behind Kasper's ruby eyes, a stubborn resolve that would now set their lives in motion once again.  Seiko thought of this human as Kasper returned to the chaos of her papers, and she wondered how a human could entrance their fearless leader so effortlessly.  It was in that moment that Seiko decided that Kasper's sudden fascination with him, made him as dangerous as any enemy. 
~ ~ ~
Back at the Crescent Moon Academy, sixty-year-old Madeline Roth pushed the front doors open, storming in.  Her slick black hair streaked with silver was tightly pinned back, her deep grey eyes intense, wrinkles beginning to form around her narrowed eyes and sharp lips.  Her heels clicked on the stone floors below, as she hurried through the foyer and up the stairs to reach the headmaster's office. 
"I swear that boy's luck is the worst," she decided as she marched down the last hallway, her fists tight to her side and her shoulders squared. 
As she reached Jules' door, she skipped the knocking part and flung it back and it was perhaps the first and only time he would not lecture her on his “quirks”.  Instead, he was sitting behind his desk with a phone held to his ear as he glanced over at her. 
After her eyes met his, filled with concern and confusion, she turned to Seishin Kato who was already in the office, his arms folded but his eyes remained far calmer than either of theirs.  When he signalled for her to stay silent, she relented with a sigh and closed the door much calmer than she had opened it. 
“But you said that Adrian's okay?”  Jules repeated for her sake, watching the relief take over her stricken face.  After a moment, he continued, “If he wants to come back to Astra Valley, there's little you can do to stop him, even if he is injured.  As long as they're not serious.”  Pause.  “No, I didn't think so.  W... he's already on a train?” 
Seishin sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. 
“I suppose I can't imagine him bothering to go to the hospital,”  Jules muttered.  “For now, it's best to leave everything to us.  No report is necessary if the demon is gone.” 
“What demon..?”  Madeline whispered but she could tell by her colleague's expression that he didn't know either. 
“Thank you.  Goodbye.”  Jules hung up the phone and calmly leaned back.  “Adrian was sent on a hunt to Troslis, to deal with a beast.  Another demon showed itself in Troslis—it spoke to Adrian.” 
“What?!”  Madeline snapped, though Seishin remained calm.  “A demon?!  Why in bloody hell was a demon talking to Adrian?!” 
“Madeline, please calm down.”  Seishin looked at her. 
“How could I?  The boy's been through enough; this has to stop!” 
“Adrian said he saw the demon before.  She was in Byshade, but had a glamour activated that hid her demonic eyes and her energy.” 
“What..?”  Seishin asked. 
“That can't be a coincidence,” Madeline argued. 
“I know.”  He admitted.  “According to Adrian, she had long auburn hair and was around five feet tall.  Bright red eyes, and freckles...”  He trailed off, both Madeline and Seishin staring at him. 
“Jules?”  Seishin asks.  “What is it?” 
He shook his head.  “That's not all, I'm afraid.” 
“Do you think I can handle any more than knowing a demon is trying to talk with Adrian?”  Madeline hissed.  “That she saw him in Byshade and is literally going after him?!” 
Seishin glances at her, then at Jules.  “We have to know.” 
Jules stares at them.  “The Hell's Collector was also in the report.  It was leaving Troslis, and the demon who spoke with Adrian escaped on it when sentinels intervened.  So with the report of the ship and of the demon's description... we think it was Deirdre.” 
“Deirdre?”  Seishin looked at him. 
“The blood-soaked Devil of the war,” Madeline whispered.  “What the hell does she want with Adrian?”  Her voice almost cracked.  There was no way this could be happening—not to him. 
“We don't know,” Jules answered as calmly as he could manage.  “But what I do know, is that he's alive, with very few injuries.  That has to count for something.” 
“She's a demon.. a Devil!”  She reminded him.  “That counts for nothing, only a demon's games!  Does she know about him?  Or is all of this some kind of coincidence?” 
“Until he gets back we have no way of knowing,” Seishin answered her.  “Though I doubt he has very many answers, either.” 
She stares a moment, before sighing.  “But the King from the war, Lyre Challen—he signed off on her death.  After she killed her way through the castle, after she beheaded the General, she was killed by a second wave of forces.  That's what all of the reports said, it has the King's signature.  I know there have been reports of the Hell's Collector on clear days over Aveile, but Deirdre herself was killed.” 
“It's likely that was all a lie.  Deirdre became a face of fear across Esmer, it would have been wise to claim that she died.  And since demons leave no body or trace behind, it was easy to fake, I'm sure.”  Seishin told her. 
“I'm sure.”  Her voice grew tight. 
“It'll be fine, Madeline.”  Seishin placed a hand on her shoulder.  “Adrian is alive, and for now, that's all that matters.”  He looked back at Jules.  “What do you think of the situation at hand?” 
Jules was lost in thought when he asked, scratching his chin slowly as he vanished from this world and into the depths of his mind, his memories.  “I need time to think.”  He finally whispered. 
“Jules!”  Madeline protested. 
“The pictures we have of Deirdre, it was believed she had white hair and there was no guessing her height.  This may not be her.  Until Adrian returns, there is nothing more than we can discuss.” 
“Except that he's as stubborn as they come, and regardless of what happened with her, you know he'll return to hunting eventually.  If it is Deirdre, even if it's not...”  Madeline regarded them with her sharp eyes.  “They'll find him again.  This isn't over, yet.” 
“We have to let things play out as they must,” Seishin admitted. 
“How can you say that?!”  Madeline looked at him.  “This is Adrian's life!  If this monster kills him--” 
“He's a hunter.”  Jules steps in.  “Any monster could bring his end, but this one has chosen to speak with him.  Whether it be their own madness, their own games, or rumours of his reputation some time ago, well... that can only come to light if they find him again.  There's no avoiding that.  Is there?” 
Madeline stares at him, and she knows it's true, but it doesn't stop her front pulling the door open and storming from the office. 
She could sense Seishin's energy, following her. 
“Madeline.”  He called to her, his gentle and sure voice giving her ground, though she continued fuming, mumbling about how preposterous this was and the only words Seishin caught were the words, fool and miscreant
“Mind your blood pressure.” 
She finally stopped and turned to face him.  “How is this okay?  I feel like we're keeping him at arm's length as he's the one who has to look over the edge.” 
“Adrian has no fear of looking over the edge.” 
“And it's that fearlessness that will make him jump.”  She insisted.  “His curiosity will get the better of him.” 
She could see in Seishin's eyes that he couldn't argue—he knew the truth as well as she did. 
“You don't understand,” she continued softer now, “you may be his teacher but I'm the one who found when he...”  She trailed off. 
“I know.”  He nodded.  “But, Madeline, there is no guarantee that this is a bad thing.” 

© Copyright 2019 Alex Winters. All rights reserved.


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