Damn. Was she going to get that warm feeling inside of her
every time she thought of him from now on? Mulling over it for a
second, she decided that she probably would. That brought a smile
to Rae's thin lips again.
"Pretty inappropriate time to be thinking about that sort of thing," she
chastised herself, her voice only slightly wistful. "We're going to have
to have a long talk after all of this is over." A very long talk,
she added inwardly.
Maybe behind a closed door, with some champagne…
He likes cherry pie, doesn't…?
Rae blinked. Something wasn't right. The commotion had died
down far below, but she could still feel the Rush empowering her.
That meant that some of the evil creatures still lurked. She quickly
scanned the battlefield. Two corpses lay still in the firelight,
and she caught a glimpse of a few Slayers just before they disappeared
down the alleyway that Nabob had dove into. None of the other vampires
Straining her ears, she thought that she could almost make out something
that sounded like chattering…
hello there, honey," came the startling voice from behind her, on the
rooftop. "Fancy running into you up here."
She turned slowly, hand slowly sliding her Colt handgun out from her belt,
already knowing whom she would see. Sure enough, standing across
the rooftop from her, arms folded across a well-muscled chest, was the
cruel form of Lucas Pondexter.
"I expected that you would try to get out of the city," she snarled. "Guess
I gave you credit for having more intelligence than a donkey. My
He stepped forward. He was wearing camouflaged black fatigues, and
a long, slender assassin's knife hung from his belt. "I couldn't
leave just yet, sweetcheeks. I made you a promise. You gave
me my freedom, and I promised you that I would return the favor some day."
Pondexter stretched out his hands, both of which were empty. "So here I
am to repay the debt."
"Don't call me sweetcheeks."
"Sorry. I suppose it isn't particularly becoming for a lady of your
is it? Ladies who crawl around on filthy rooftops watching with glee
while their friends risk their lives in the fight against evil. I've
seen it all too often before, and it sickens me to the core."
"And you sicken
me!" Barely even thinking about it, Rae brought
the weapon up to eye level with both hands and took her aim squarely between
Pondexter's eyes. The man didn't even flinch. Hesitation wasn't
one of the traits that Rae's ancestors had passed down the generation line
to her, though. She pulled the trigger.
"Tsk, tsk…" he scolded as she pulled down on the trigger again and again,
each time with the same result. "I told you before, technology doesn't
suit me well. Seems to practically design itself for failure just
when you need it the most."
Casting the useless pistol aside, Rae fished around on her belt and decided
that the old-fashioned way might be best. She pulled out her trusted
ferro-compound stake. "What's your game here, Pondexter?"
He eyed her curtly, still maintaining his irrationally calm poker face.
"You really haven't figured it out yet. But then again, I guess I
gave you credit for having more intelligence than a mere mortal."
He allowed a smug grin. "My mistake."
Rae tried to circle him, probing for an angle that would prove most advantageous
to attack by, but Pondexter remained totally nonchalant, eyeing her warily
but without making any sort of movement in response. From somewhere
below she could make out the sounds of gunfire and screaming, but before
she could even turn her head to get a better idea of what was going on,
he spoke again.
"That Nabob fellow…he really should have taken better care of you, little
at him. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that I warned him about this in advance," he said. "I told
him that it'd be a real tragedy for him if something were to happen to
you. Too bad that he didn't listen. Now he's going to have
to find out what life without you is like."
Delay wasn't helping, so she gave in and acted on impulse. The Rush
still beat strongly inside of her, and she sprang forward, closing the
distance between them in a heartbeat, mentally blotting out the horrible
sounds of pain from five stories down on the street below. There
would be time to worry about that later. First she would finish Pondexter…with
the Rush on her side no normal human could stand his ground for long against
her…and then she would hit the street to help out against whatever…
Her curled fist struck his face and the immediate surge of pain up her
arm informed her that punching through an armored battleship's hull might
have been slightly more forgiving on her fingers.
Pondexter, for his part, flinched visibly.
Immediately backing up, Rae stared down at her hand in disbelief, now swollen
and red from the pain. Then her gaze drifted back up to the man who
had just withstood her best Rush-enhanced blow without giving so much as
an inch of ground.
Fear began to mount in her breast.
"It's too late for you, Rae," he said calmly. "Almost a shame that your
death is going to be such a waste. Perhaps if you had lived your
life better, it wouldn't be."
"What…what are you?" she gasped, still cradling her hand.
He considered carefully for a moment. "Well…why not?"
Then Pondexter's brow furrowed in concentration and his entire figure seemed
to contort. Rae's eyes widened with both horror and fascination as
a radiant aura seemed to flow out from him, like something out of a dream.
Then, from his back, glowing, white tendril-like appendages burst through
his fatigues as they materialized behind him. It took her a moment
to recognize them. She had only had a vision of the Archangel Azraella
once, but she distinctly remembered the silky tendrils of holy energy.
They were wings.
An Angel's wings.
"My true name is Rashanan, as you may
have heard that crude Nosferatu refer to me as,"
he said, voice suddenly changed and somehow amplified beyond itself. "I
was a True Angel, holy soldier in the most glorified legion of the High
Heavens, lieutenant to the Archangel Janzen."
"You…you're a fallen angel, aren't you?" Rae managed, awe-struck as she
was. "One of the defectors to the Burning Hells…"
"Not fallen, mortal. Enlightened.
I have realized that the ideals of goodness and order are but a sham, a
tired façade for the weak to hide behind. This world in itself is
proof of that. Look around you, Slayer!"
he swept a broad arm across the skyline. "This
is neither the territory of Heaven nor Hell, but look at it! Corruption…decay…filth…hatred…all
rampant across the face of this planet. It is proof of which side
is stronger. I have joined the darkness so that I too may share in
the spoils of glorious victory. I have pledged myself to a new master…a
master who has great things in mind for you Slayers."
gone totally mad, Rash…whoever you are!"
the Angel pulled the sword from its scabbard. Upon contact with the
air brilliant blue-green flames burst into being around it. On any
other occasion such a sight would have been serene, beautiful. Right
now, though, its presence struck chords of additional fear in her heart.
"No, mortal, not mad. Simply enlightened.
I have found my place in this world."
A grotesque sneer appeared on his face. Angelic features had not
been designed to produce such expressions. "Everything
has gone according to my master's plans. My mortal form, my imprisonment…both
were ruses to lure you Slayers out into the open, where you could be easily
annihilated. Listen carefully, Rae…listen to the sound of your comrades
as they breathe their last…"
"You gave them to Plague Sever!" she shouted, fury coursing through her,
tangible as blood. Indeed, she could hear the screams, now
more violent and vibrant than before. "You gave them to the goddamn
Rashanan smiled cruelly. "Yeeesssss, and soon
the repercussions will be fully realized. Almost a shame that you
won't be here to see it happen." He
began to move forward, thunder seeming to roll beneath his feet with every
Rae tried to back up, her feet touching the rooftop's ledge. Panic
flashed through her as her eyes locked upon the advancing Angel.
There was nowhere she could run to, and there was no way that she could
hope to defeat it. "Listen to me, Rashanan…this isn't right, and
you know it! This isn't your nature! Fight against it!"
"You cannot tell me what my nature is, Slayer.
Nobody can. Not anymore. I am in control of my own destiny…"
"And what good is that freedom if all you use it for is destruction?" she
retorted. "That makes you no better than…than a demon!"
He smirked. "It transcends your comprehension,
mortal, but if you wish to call me a demon, then so be it. If I am,
then at least I shall have the strength of the Darkness. The strength…and
the victory." He pointed the sword squarely
at her chest. "And you shall be joining
the Light that you so cherish, only to discover the truth."
"That there is no Light."
Then the fallen Angel lunged, flaming sword at the ready, lusting to run
the female Chimneysweep through. Rae spun out of the way, the sword
barely missing the seam of her shirt, and instead piercing the space that
she had been in an instant before with an audible roar. Rashanan,
formerly Lucas Pondexter, howled in irritation as the nimble Chimneysweep
stayed half a step ahead of him, flipping past his expert slashes, narrowly
avoiding the flaming weapon. The streaming tendrils of light that
composed his wings moved about in a flurry as well, trying desperately
to snag her and hold her down for just long enough to deliver the death
Landing off of a springing flip on her hands, Rae braced against the concrete
ground and leaped forward, her foot connecting with the outsider's face.
Pain sprang back through her leg, but this time it seemed to have not been
in vain. She heard the crack of the connection, and the fallen
Angel staggered back slightly.
Only slightly, though.
One of the gleaming tendrils finally snagged Rae, wrapping around her leg
and hauling her up with frightening strength. With an intense force
it lifted her clean off the ground by her leg and then smashed her back
down upon it, knocking the wind out of her. Rashanan gleefully repeated
the process twice more, pounding Rae's willowy body into the cement.
When she lifted her face again, it was smeared with blood.
More of the tendrils wrap around her arms and torso, and an instant later
she was being lifted up off of the ground, dangled in the air like a rag
doll. Rae tried to struggle, tried to use her Rushed strength to
break free of the grip, but against a celestial being it was a futile effort.
Rashanan forcibly lifted her across the rooftop and allowed her to hang
in front of him, her feet hanging numbly above thin air and the five story
drop that awaited her below. Both of his hands free, the fallen Angel
dramatically brought the sword forward, placing the tip of it just beneath
"I would tell you that I'm sorry that this
had to be done, but I'm not. Your death is peripheral to the grand
scheme. Like I said, fairly meaningless. Just like your life."
The sword lowered, touching her sternum. "This
is just for the pleasure of doing it. See you around…sweetcheeks."
Then, with a motion no greater than a flick of the wrist, the sword pierced
her breast, running her all the way through, the flames burning away the
tortured scream of agony that tried to rise up out of her throat.
Tears formed in Rae's eyes as she watched the Angel slowly pull the blade
out, leaving a gaping, burning hole in her chest. The tendrils unwrapped
themselves from her, releasing Rae's body to its long plunge down to the
A dull moan passed through her lips as she fell.
VIII. "Rush Damnation"
"I was across town. Not all of us can will ourselves across the globe
in a picosecond, Sith. Why the hell have you intruded on my life?"
"Straight to the point. It's good to see not everything about you
has changed, GAVAL."
"My name is Ted Benoit, and if you continue to disrespect the wishes I've
made clear for a while now about my designation, I have no further business
here. You're lucky I stuck around this long." Ted turned away
from the shadows and started out when he heard a dry leaf crunch under
someone else's foot. He knew Nighteye had finally emerged from the
"Such disdain for someone who I've come to indulge with gracious redemption!
I really ought to rethink my philanthropic strategies!" Ted paused but
didn't turn around. He knew that at any moment a laser sword could
pierce his kidneys from behind and emerge from his midsection. Nighteye
could kill him at any moment. For Rachel, he had to curb his tongue,
remain cordial despite hatred, and get out of this alive. Let the
Slayers or CWAL deal with Nighteye. Tact. Poise. At
least turn around so you can face him when he runs you through!
"Are you under the impression that I'm some kind of charity case?"
Ted turned around and saw Nighteye leaning against a headstone, a grim
with leafless trees made up the background. The Dark Jedi wore his
usual black robes, a shroud of black making up his hood with only the shine
of three small bolts emerging from the darkness within: that of the eyepatch
Nighteye had to use after the Great Holy War had left its mark.
"I would be hard pressed to elevate you to the level of charity case!"
Eye of the Night's teeth appeared from the shadow of his hood for a moment
as he glared at the mortal who stood before him. "You were once one
of the great warriors of light. You've stood toe to toe with evils
even I would reconsider ever facing. You've beaten death and the
odds that nip at death's heels time and time again, and yet you are willing
to settle for this pathetic existence?! A manling living in man's
herd of a world trying to convince himself that he can ever belong?
Ever make some kind of difference without power, allegiance, or responsibility
to the cause that once drove you?"
Ted's eyes narrowed a bit but he still showed no emotion despite the fury
Nighteye's taunting had ignited.
For Rachel. "Can someone so learned
really be this ignorant of what life really is all about? I know
you have no virtue's worth mentioning, Nighty, but to ignore the power
of one? Haven't you lost enough battles to realize that no one with
their heart in the right place should ever be underestimated?" Ted
let loose a pitying smile for the clueless being before him. What
can true evil ever really appreciate? It's kind of sad, really, this
guy...he'll never understand what life's really about...
" `Virtue!' `The power of one!' A warrior for any cause knows
that in the big picture it is the strongest who survive in the end, and
you, manling, are pathetically weak!"
"I'm not here to debate my importance in the cosmos, Nighteye, nor am I
here to indulge your fascination with name-calling and insult. What
do you want?"
He finally got up from the headstone as if ready to deliver a speech.
"What do YOU want?"
"You called me here, answer my question."
"What do you want?"
Ted was getting really fed up. Impatient. He just wanted to
be on the couch eating popcorn in Rachel's lap now. Fear?
He had to get out of this and Nighteye wasn't going to let him off easy.
Why won't he just tell me what he wants?! Indulge him.
"I want you to leave me alone."
"No, no! What do you want in the big picture? Out of life?
What makes you tick, man?!"
"I have what I want. I have a normal life and I'm content.
That's what life's about, being happy."
"Being happy? Is that really all you require from your existence?"
"Everything every being and creature does is to further its existence towards
being content, then comfortable, and if possible happy."
"Is THAT what they teach you in your silly philosophy courses?! HA!"
"No, that's common sense."
"If the world were that easy I'd be indulging myself in a harem of virgins
and Siberian Vodka for the rest of my days."
Ted couldn't help but sigh. "What do you want?"
"Let me tell you what YOU want." Nighteye began pacing slowly back
and forth. "You want to be a Slayer again."
"No, I prayed very often to be free of my pureblood and the pain that it
"You relished in the adventure it brought!"
"I prayed to be able to experience love and peace without putting those
I love in danger."
"You knew full well that you could have both a life of adventure and bliss!"
"I was tired. I'd had enough!"
"And yet you fought for months exhausting every possible resource to regain
"I had one final mission to complete."
"VENGEANCE?! Is this one of your precious virtues?!"
"No, but I felt obligated to redeem Coy, and Cabbott and the others...it
was MY fault they lost their lives!"
"Cabbott is alive and well and still fighting the good fight despite his
loss of power. Why wasn't that good enough for you, Cajun?!
WHAT DO YOU WANT!?"
"I want you to get the hell out of my life! LEAVE ME ALONE!"
Ted started to turn around but was suddenly gripped by an unseen force,
his head forced to turn towards Nighteye, his eyeballs glued to the Sith's
face as he spoke from a dark shroud with disgust and hatred.
"You pathetic worm of a man. If you weren't so harmless and wretched
I'd have killed you before you even knew I was here, but I want to relish
in a clean victory over the GAVAL who meddled with my genius so many times!
AND TO WHAT END?! I lose an eye! I lose my dark lord!
I am forced to retreat to the frozen wastelands in a place nobody wants
to be or own! I shall have my will fulfilled, Cajun, and you shall
indulge me, not because I say so but because you will WANT it to be so."
Ted struggled against the dark power but found himself to be a puppet in
Nighteye's hands. The sensation was one of utter helplessness, something
he was very unused to. "What are you...talking about?"
"I know where Plague-Sever is. I know he is going to strike soon.
I know he'll take the lives of several of your friends as they try to hunt
him, and I know that even now he lurks in the darkness relishing in the
thoughts of the nourishing nectar that he shall steal from his favorite
delicacy, the heart and soul of an Evil Slayer. He cannot be found
unless he wants to be found except through the means I have at my disposal.
The Slayers are pathetic and weak. Over the years they have lost
the might that their god had granted them so long ago and if not for the
few lucky excursions such as those you've been able to pull off before
you fell to the Specter, the ASG would be all but washed up, their legacy
lost in the pages of history. I have foreseen it and have no reason
to mislead you in this premonition."
"They'll find him and they'll stop him."
Nighteye's right hand reached out as if to push an unseen foe before him
and Ted's feet instantly left the ground as he felt himself hurtled into
the cemetery wall.
"AREN'T you listening?! The Slayers have lost the power to stop an
ancient creature of this Specter's power! They've lost the power
and they've lost the knowledge! He'll keep on eating every last one
of you until there is no more mana to sustain him and by then there will
be no more Slayer's Guild! There will be no more pureblood, and there
will be no one significant to maintain balance!"
"And...you want to prevent this why...Mr. Evil shorts?"
"That type of chaos is for ME to bring about, not some endangered species
that likes Slayer on Rye for its bedtime snack! Besides....Plague-Sever's
demise brings about something else I want....you."
"Yes...you...whole again, once again strong enough to stand up to the pain
that I would finally be able to inflict upon you before crushing you like
I've always wanted to."
"What are you talking about."
"Let me spell it out for you, Ignoramus! I can give you back the
Rush that the Specter took from you! I can give you back your powers
over evil and more! A Rush you could bring about at will! An
inner strength that would not only allow you to deliver vengeance against
Plague-Sever, but also to recapture the purpose you've lost while still
being able to enjoy the luxuries in life that you think are so important...the
girl...the education...the future; all because my power you would be able
"What is this?! The last temptation of Ted?! I don't want your
power! I don't need your help! The Slayers will find the creature
and kill it! Of this I have no doubt."
"As I said, your friends will fall. I have foreseen it. Only
I can give you the power to save their lives, and all I ask from you is
that you submit to my power so that I might restore the light that once
burned inside you...and..." He waited for Ted to ask him what else, but
the Cajun would not indulge him. After a few moments he angrily finished
his conditions. "...and that you face me in mortal conflict in
one year's time at my palace in the Shadowlands. A fair fight
to the demise of the weaker. Something to look forward
to besides Mardi Gras next March, yes?"
"What a bunch of bull-shit!" Ted got up and straightened out his
jacket, knowing now that Nighteye's obsession with "fair revenge" would
allow him to walk out alive.
"That's not all, Cajun. The ritual that would return your power would
have its consequence. It is a corrupted magic, that which can take your
light and rekindle it. Every time you use the power, you will lose
a bit of your soul as it fuels the flame. Your conscience
will dwindle and your inhibitions will decay as the power consumes
you. This is not my doing, but a nice perk that comes with the incantation.
The Rush will be more painful every time you use it as well, albeit
more powerful. Still, I get to watch you lose your character
and then I get to take away your life as well! Damn I'm good!"
"You're nuts is what you are. Goodnight, Blinkie....oh, hey, and
I suggest you see someone about this Moby Dick syndrome of yours..."
He started on his way out feeling somewhat less defeated. "...oh,
and this obsession with power that you have? Don't underestimate
the satisfaction that comes with a nice bear hug from the one that you
love. You do know what love is don't you?" Ted walked
out of Gothic Cemetary, the leaves crunching under his feet rhythymcly.
"Oh, I know what love is, CWALer. And you will be back," he
said almost quietly and to himself. It wasn't important that Ted
heard Nighteye's parting words. He would be back. It
"Hit it!" Nabob shouted, his voice coming out in panting heaves as he tried
to scuttle backwards along the ground in the alleyway. He couldn't
see more than the occasional glimpse of the Plague Sever, but he knew that
it was there, knew it all the way from his head to his bones to his very
soul. "HIT IT HARD!"
From behind him the gathered Cajuns, shouting with glee at the prospect
of finally catching up to their quarry, let loose with everything they
had. Silver bullets screamed through the air out the barrels of specially-modified
automatic weapons. Vials of holy water were thrown or spat down the
alley. Crucifixes were in every hand, and sanctified clubs, knives,
and baseball bats were being held at the ready. Nabob swore he could
smell garlic too. A number of holy bolts and Turning spells were
evoked as well, something that only the Cajuns were capable of doing.
The chattering sound from the Plague Sever swelled to a crescendo as the
holy implements exploded around it, showering the alleyway with silver
and holy water. It shrieked as though in grave pain…
…And then fell silent.
Every Slayer hesitated, scanning the dark alley with Rush-enhanced vision,
eyes darting about to look for any sign of the vile creature. A chattering
tooth, a whisper of movement, a rush of cold air…anything that could indicate
its presence. Nabob scrambled back up to his feet and brought out
his not-so-trusty Beretta M9, for whatever good it would do, as he slowly
backed into the crowd of other Slayers. Countless heartbeats passed
in total quiet.
"You think we actually got de bastard?" whispered Chalice.
"You're still standing on two legs, aren't you?" Nabob hissed back. "If
the Rush is still here, then it means that thing hasn't croaked just…"
Then came the scream. Powerful, penetrating, a roaring wail of loss,
remorse, and fear. The Slayers all whipped around, scared as hell,
just in time to see one of the Cajuns who had been bringing up the rear
be literally lifted
up into the air, his entire body trembling with
spasms as though he had just been dipped into the coldest of ice waters.
The wail came from his throat, and a second later the chattering began
again, goading, almost triumphant as the Slayer's eyes rolled back into
his head and the spasms slowly stopped. The body was cast aside,
violently smashing into a wall and slumping to the dirty ground, more lifeless
than anything Nabob had ever seen before.
"It's behind us!" someone shouted unnecessarily as the group of Slayers
suddenly disintegrated into a panicked, frenzied mob.
Guns cracked almost at random, holy water was flung in every direction,
stakes of all kinds and makes were pulled out as the Purebloods ran about
frantically, trying to combat something that they could not see.
Another scream rose from the bunch, and another unfortunate Cajun felt
the cold sting of death as the Plague Sever reached inside of him and drained
away his very essence, and then his life.
The Specter was out in the open, now, with most of the Slayers darting
around it in a vain attempt to find it. Nabob, blood trickling down
his face like tears, pushed himself into one of the shadows in the alleyway,
hands unconsciously caressing his pistol. His eyes were sharp, though,
looking through the crowd of Slayers, catching the occasional glimpse of
the Specter amongst them…
Thinking that he saw it off in the distance, he pointed his gun and fired,
aiming just above the heads of two terrified Cajuns.
For a brief instant, illuminated in the light of the muzzle flash, Nabob
caught a glimpse of the skeletal, ethereal form of the Plague Sever Specter,
hovering less than a foot in front of his face.
Fear almost froze him in place. If it had, he would have been
added to the night's casualty list.
As it happened, his reflexes saved him. Nabob dropped to the ground
instantly, and he could feel the chill of the Specter's embrace brush past
his cheek as he dove. What started out as a tumble turned into a
frantic, desperate scramble out of the way as he felt cold air pass by
him and knew the Specter had just lunged again, and missed. Against
a foe he couldn't see, though, it was only a matter of time…
A handful of seconds later, another scream rang out, and two more Cajuns
went down writhing, not dead but clearly drained in some dark sort of a
way. A third was thrown into the flaming garbage can, fire licking
at his body. He did not rise to push himself away.
Chalice then stepped out in front of Nabob, blue flames encompassing his
fists as he held them out from his body, a holy bolt of pure tactile telekinetic
energy forming. He caught a glimpse of the Plague Sever, then released
the holy Cajun weapon right at it. The chattering burst into a shriek
as the holy energy struck the undead creature, briefly highlighting its
form in the air. Nabob's eyes widened as he saw evil in its entirety.
A deformed, misshapen skeleton hanging above the ground, its skull twisted
with pure malevolence, a cloud of vaporous ectoplasmic residue hanging
about it. Then the apparition disappeared again, and the chattering
returned. It was at that moment that Nabob realized that they could
not win this fight. Not today.
Apparently Chalice realized the exact same thing. "Fall back, you
bastards!" he shouted. "Fall
began to run as the final attempts to keep the Cajuns together as a coherent
force failed and the Slayers finally scattered, fleeing as quickly as their
legs would carry them in any direction. He caught sight of Chalice
somewhere beside him, but quickly lost him in his peripheral vision.
The chattering of the Specter's teeth intensified for a frightening moment,
and then began to fade away into the background. As he ran, though,
the feeling of dread inside of his soul did not decrease, but instead redoubled
itself. He didn't know why until he caught the sound of a shredded,
muffled moan somewhere amidst the screams that surrounded him.
shouldn't have been able to hear it, but somehow, he did.
cut short by the sickening thud of a body hitting the hard ground.
to Page Five