Episodic stories of fantasy and science fiction.

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Seeking Dusk: Part 15

The wait is unbearable. I can hear their voices in the building, but force myself to not listen. It would be wrong of me to ignore an order from Lord Zadkiel. I can still speculate, though.

What would The Dominion want from a human? I mean, a soldier or messenger might talk to Dr. Matthews for information, but the combined sight of these angels encompasses almost all of creation. And for things they can’t see, they can speak with the archangels, or in extreme cases, The Creator!

Why manifest here themselves? And now that I think of it, where did Kushiel and Ariel take Rand? The human is talented, but the power of The Dominion would crush him.

The door starts to click open. I straighten up from the reclined position I had taken in the air as I played with my thoughts. As much as I’m questioning in my mind, I still feel the need to obey and assist these powerful beings anyway I can. …And, maybe follow the protocols a little more closely while they’re around.  Don’t judge me! I’ve seen enough mortals to know I am not alone in this reaction. I’m not used to them following me around all the time.

Dr. Matthews leads them back here, his face scrunched in thought. What did they talk with him about? What could perplex the good doctor so thoroughly?

“Thank you for your help, Alexander.” Lord Zadkiel came after the doctor. He’s taken to calling the human by his first name, which seems more than a little disrespectful. But then, he’s been like that since he landed…

“Of course, my lord.” Despite responding quickly, the doctor’s voice sounds far away. This is going to drive me crazy.

“If you learn anything else, please, pray to us. We will hear you.” Lady Puriel spoke reassuringly, which was strange to me. In my defense, it’s the first time she’s spoken like that since she landed.

The hosts piled out of the building, while I stood at attention. I thanked the good doctor for his help as they left. He finally looked me in the eye, and I could see more to his expression. He was scared. Terrified. I wish I could help, but all I could do is give him my own frightened look back.

The matters of hosts are rarely simple, but the Dominion are something else entirely. As Zadkiel put it, all of creation must be at risk for all five of them to land. But the secrecy is different. Last time they were here, they fought the threat of the Nephilim. An open war. Glorified in their actions and majestic in their terrible might. So to see them being so… subtle, is jarring.

But it makes me think of the kind of cloak and dagger missions Rand had been engaging. Have I really been the only one to still see this war as it was? To be left behind as my leaders and allies fight a new battle? I never did apologize to Rand. I suppose I now really should when I see him.

“Aluma, thank you for your assistance.” Puriel spoke to me with the same assurance she used with Dr. Matthews. I was still not used to it.

“Of course, my lady. What will we do now?”

Lord Zadkiel looked to his comrades and then to me. “If I remember correctly, you still have your own assignment to complete. You may resume your hunt. If we need you again, we will call upon you.”

I was stunned. But Zadkiel said I would be needed. That they needed someone to help guide them on earth. Did I do something wrong?

“Of course. I wish you well, my lord and ladies.” I took off into the air, too ashamed of the tears I felt. I did not want them to see. Dammit, Aluma! Get yourself together!

I soared over the rooftops of the city, not really looking for anything. Instead I fought with my emotions and questions. It would be wrong of me to disobey a direct order, but…

Was it an order? Zadkiel had said I ‘may’ go back to my mission.

“Piecing it together are you?”

I whip around, shocked at the voice I heard. Lord Zadkiel was right behind me. I didn’t even realize I had stopped flying forward.

“Well, Aluma, you are a loyal soldier. I was right to think I could trust you.”

“My Lord,” I exclaim, bowing as I do, “Where are the Ladies Muriel and Puriel?”

“Busy.” His calm demeanor was actually starting to worry me. “But you need not worry. I am here because I need your help.”

I would like to say I was humble, and not at all proud of his trust in me, but that would be an absolute lie.

“You’ve been a busy host, Aluma.” Zadkiel and I were floating around the city. While I’ve been torn between my feelings, I do my best to piece together what exactly is going on. Lord Zadkiel seems to be betraying the trust of the rest of The Dominion, but at the same time, I have to think that he has a reason for doing so. The whole of creation is in jeopardy, right?

“I suppose so, my lord.” The pride I had felt was gone, and instead replaced with my confusion.

“How many demons have you sent to The Pit in just these last seven missions?”

Was he genuinely curious? Potentially getting me buttered up?

“I am unsure. A few dozen?”

He smiles, “In such a short amount of time. A mere blink of an eye and so many of our enemies fade into the void. It is not just your strength, Firebrand. You can find where these creatures hide. Your tenacity in the face of demonic entities is nothing short of spectacular. This is why I need your help.”

“Of course. I am at your service, Lord Zadkiel.”

We slow to a stop, his eyes still searching over the city.

“Come, we shouldn’t talk in the open.” He floats straight down, almost losing me. I go after quickly, keeping my eye on him. He descends into an alleyway, taking care to examine the area around us. What is he hiding?

“My lord,” I speak calmly, “why are we taking such pains to not be seen or heard?”

When he appeared satisfied that we were alone, he spoke.

“Aluma, were you not listening when we spoke of The Box?”

“All of reality was at risk. I heard you, my lord.”

He sighs.

“It goes deeper than that. The Presence, The Creator himself might be in danger.”

…Excuse me?

“I’m sorry, sir, but that’s not possible. He is-”



The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 25

I’d love to spend more time lying here, but there’s work to do.

“No time to rest just yet, Con.” I struggle to my feet, my chest aching in such pain. “We have to find out more. This demon is down, but not dead.”

Con looks annoyed as he sits up.

“So what? We tie him up with that special rope of yours? Torture him to make him talk? Not sure how well that’ll work.”

“Now that’s just silly.” I shuffle back towards my bag, hoping I remembered the healing powder. “We clearly don’t need rope. It’s incapacitated from its injuries.”

Con shakes his head. “Okay, but what about talking with it? These things only speak that weird stuff. Unless they’re pulling from people’s memories, they don’t speak no human language.”

“They speak Enochian, similar to the angels, but there are ways to translate that, if necessary. However, I don’t think we need it since you have a rather useful skill.”

I make it to my bag. Rifling through it, I find what I had hoped. A small vial of a glittering dark powder. It can mend my wounds, and heal my bruises, but it costs something most aren’t willing to give.

Luckily, I am not most. I pull a small pinch of dust out and throw it at my chest. The effect is immediate. Bones literally snap back into place. Blood starts flowing again through mended veins.

The pain increases to unbelievable levels for an instant, but becomes non-existent soon after. I groan and then stretch, making sure everything is as it should be. My chest feels almost like new. Well, except my clothes. But I can mourn my coat later.

“Hey, Branner. What is that stuff? I could use some after that fight.”

“You do not want this, Con. It’s dried blood of the fae. It can heal wounds and extend your life, but it costs a bit of your humanity each time. The more severe your wound, the more it takes. And with you being half demon, you have very little to give. Your demon abilities will have you healed soon enough.”

I replace the vial in my bag. “It’s time to get to work. Let us see what this beast knows.”

I cross back to the mayhem the battle with the demon left. Not much could be done about it, but I’m sure the Doctor’s staff will clean it all the same. The creature that had been tormenting us was lying sprawled on the floor, pieces of his arms and torso missing from his body. So much was more visible now.

Between the dust, blood, and outlines of wounds, I could see his entire form. The serpent tail fused to the humanoid torso was as strange as last time, but there was a stranger sense to it. Like it didn’t belong, even to such a foul beast as this.

“I’ll need one more item.” I run to the pile of destroyed bookshelves and start sifting through the wreckage. The statue I was initially trying to get should be in here. After a short search, I find it.

“Con! I’ll need you to hold on to this. It should help you acquire a connection with the beast,” I call back to the boy.

As he walks over to get the figure, the doors to the study burst open. Several servants enter the room, followed by the undercook, and finally Doctor Maladar himself. They gasp at the destruction in the room.

I look around from the destroyed bookcases, to large holes in the walls, to the beast itself, sprawled upon the ground.

“I’d tell you this isn’t what it looks like, but I can’t imagine what you believe this to be.”

I was not very gifted with humor, but I had been told it helps to disarm a bad situation.

Seeking Dusk: Part 14

“Aluma, being so accustomed to the workings of these humans, would you mind showing us to the one called Alexander Matthews? We would have words with him.”

Zadkiel exited his crater as the other of The Dominion did the same. He came right towards me, while Ariel went off to the side, seemingly to speak with Puriel.

“Doctor.” Rand’s voice popped up again, unexpectedly.

Zadkiel looked genuinely surprised. “Excuse me?”

“He has a medical degree. He prefers to be called Dr. Matthews.”

Rand! Now is not the time for semantics!

“Oh, that is cute. Humans giving themselves titles.” Well, that was a bit condescending of Zadkiel…

“He earned it! And his healing proficiency has saved your soldiers more times than I can count!” The fury of the human was beginning to show. Dammit Rand.

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic. I am very grateful to one, anyone, who would serve The Presence, but the affairs of the hosts are so far above you humans. Your lifetimes are so short, as is the knowledge you can accumulate.”

“And it’s that very knowledge you now need from a human, so give it a little respect,” Rand sneers.

Oh that is enough!

“If you two would please stop posturing!”

I swear, whether they be hosts or apes, men are all the same. Maybe I should have used more caution around my superiors, but I’ve never been one to make proper decisions.

Still, I gather up my composure and continue my mission. “Now, if you would all please follow me, I can take you to the mortal you seek.”

“Not all of us are going. Zadkiel, Puriel, and Muriel will accompany you. Myself and Kushiel must away to other business.” Ariel spoke floating away from Puriel, their conversation appearing to be concluded.

I give a bow of acknowledgement.

“As you wish, Lady Ariel. Please, let us go. The sun is coming up, and our human friend is not as well shielded from mortal repercussions as we. He likely needs rest.”

“Actually, could we borrow your comrade? The human warrior might be of use.” Kushiel spoke while studying Rand. What could they have in mind for my friend?

“I suppose… Rand, what do you say?”

He walked around, looking over the angelic hosts, inspecting what little trinkets and things he can see.  It was all a show of course. I’ve seen Rand do this before. Feels it makes him seem more perceptive than he really is. Does he really think-

“I’ll go with them. Looks like they could use my help.”

…I think Kushiel just relaxed a bit. How the hell does Rand get away with this shit?

“Then it’s decided! Let us all away!” Zadkiel’s enthusiasm caused me to smile. Just a bit.

As we flew through the air, the three Dominion that accompanied me kept looking around the city and making comments. Some thoughtful, others a bit condescending.

“Look! Most of these buildings are larger than the Tower of Babel! Amazing what humans can do in a few thousand years!”

“The females in these images are barely wearing any clothing… Are such advertisements directed at the men, or the women? And what is the secret of Victoria?”

“The telecommunications implemented are impressive, but seem to be poorly utilized.”

It was exasperating at times, but at others, it was amusing to see such powerful beings amazed at the technological advancements of these humans. They sometimes forget, but Lucifer fell because he couldn’t see their value. And it’s best if more of my brethren could learn to understand these creatures.

We finally reach the home of Dr. Matthews. The sun is fully risen by now, but I can only hope he’s not still sleeping. It was a long night. We land outside the building, in an alley way.

“It’s common human courtesy to rap upon the portal and wait to be invited in before entering,” I explain.

“That seems frivolous! Why not just enter the building! Our matter is of the utmost importance!” cried Puriel.

It certainly didn’t seem that way when you all sat staring at the giant television screen downtown for the better part of half an hour…

“Please, this is their realm. It is best if we abide their customs.”

I focus my energy to push the air in front of the door to give the impression of a short succession of knocks. There’s a shuffling of books and papers from inside as I wait for the man to open the door. When he does, he seems surprised to see me.

“Aluma, what are you-“

He stops as he notices my guests. Another human who’d never seen The Dominion. But unlike Rand, the doctor knew their significance. And he froze, unsure of how to react.

“Greetings, Doctor Matthews. May I present to you, members of the Dominion order of Hosts. Lord Zadkiel, Lady Puriel, and Lady Muriel.” At the mention of each of their names, the angel gave a bit of a nod.

“H-How do you d-do?” The doctor gave a bit of a bow, but kept his eye fixated on the beings of light.

“We are well, thank you Doctor Matthews. Please, might we come in?” Zadkiel spoke with the joviality he so adored.

“Of course!” The human bade us inside, quickly scampering about, attempting to straighten up and clean what he could for his guests. Puriel looked unimpressed, but Zadkiel seemed to delight in the frantic movements of our host. Muriel just kept her affable smile on, not paying attention to much of anything.

“I’m terribly sorry, I wasn’t expecting guests.”

“That’s quite all right, sir.” Zadkiel seems to have taken Rand’s words to heart. At least, I hope so. “Now, if you don’t mind, we have a few questions of you.”

“Anything for the servants of my Lord.” As he spoke, Dr. Matthews moved his hand towards the crucifix around his neck. I could see him mouth a little prayer to himself and his god.

“Thank you.” Zadkiel tursn towards me. “Aluma, if you could please leave us, this matter is private.”

“Excuse me?” I can’t contain the surprise with a hint of anger in my voice.

No but seriously, what the hell?

“The subject of this conversation is not for you. I am sorry.” There was no twinkle in Zadkiel’s eye this time. I was to not know what they talk about here.

I give a quick bow and float out of the house. Despite this, I feel a void in the house, as one of the Dominion shield the room from anyone getting in.

This entire matter is perplexing me.

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 24

I try to push myself off the ground when I hear my protégé crash into the beast. The sound of breaking wood tells me they landed on one of the fallen bookshelves. I can’t waste too much time. I use my cane to pull myself back to my feet. Looking over, I see Con grappling with our unseeable enemy.

Well, I was going to throw him my cane to use as a weapon, but he seems too busy for that. I can only hope he doesn’t need it, seeing as it’s all supporting me right now. I struggle to move forward, needing to complete my modified ritual.

When I initially discovered this stone, the shenwu had it set in the middle of a room, with channeling energy used to create a powerful protection field. I experimented with the stone myself and found different effects the talisman could produce based on the kind of energy put into it, as well as other controlling factors, such as my chalk lines. The circles I drew crossed over each other, allowing me to push the energy from one side to the other. The intersecting lines would condense the power from the stone into a beam of light that should do more than stun our adversary. While it can’t kill the beast, I can hope for incapacitation.

I lay the talisman upon the ground in the middle of one circle. I’ll need Con to bring the monster into position to finish this, but I have to say, this kind of encounter becomes much more simple with the addition of a half-demon child on my side.

I look again to my helper. Con and the demon were having an intense battle of strength. The boy could throw a rather spectacular punch, which became especially impressive when you realize how much larger the creature is over the child.

But it was the passion that moved me most. The feral zeal with which he attacks was admirable. While his fighting was unrefined, he understood enough about the way he and his enemy act to render such training unnecessary.

Con takes both of his hands together and slams them as hard as he can into the beast, sending it flying, not entirely unlike what the demon had done to me not so long ago. The beast crashes into debris and I realize this is my chance.

“Con! Catch!” I throw the cane to the boy. Con grabs the stick in midair, looking a little perplexed in addition to the exhaustion he must feel.

“I need you to move the demon to the center of this circle,” I point to the chalk drawing with the talisman in the center, “once there, hit him with the gem on the end of the cane, while focusing your energy similar to how I had you do so with that truth spell earlier. It will electrify the beast and…”


“I got it, Branner.” And with that he jumped back into his fight.

Meanwhile, I needed to perform my end of this plan. Taking a seat on the floor in the circle opposite the trinket, I consider how to best enact my ritual. The chant I use for the talisman is a rough translation of the original Chinese words spoken to activate the stone’s mystic properties. But it’s been said that a spell spoken in the original language is stronger.

While I’ve been studying it since I first received the stone, I haven’t had a chance to test the properties. Now I need to decide whether I think the concentrated power from the English translation will be enough, or if I should attempt the Chinese phrasing in the event the extra power is needed. This beast is draining so much energy from myself and Con, that putting it down now is imperative if I hope to live to save these people.

I start chanting. In Chinese. I’m terrible, but the effect is activating. The chalk lines light up with the energy of the talisman leading me to think it will at least be equally as powerful.

Con is across the room, using something I never considered he’d might be skilled with; his agility. He leaps from wreckage to the beast itself, and lands several hits, then jumps to another destroyed bookshelf. All this taunting enrages the demon, whose attacks have become so much more violent, and yet, it works. The unbridled fury keeps the monster from refining his strikes and most importantly, keeps him from using his deadly fire eyes.

The boy is leading the beast back to my ritual. I’m keeping as close an eye on them as I can, without losing my concentration on the chant. Con’s tactics are much better than I’d have ever expected. He’s balancing his strength with his speed, attacking enough to keep the demon’s attention, but not enough to provoke an over-reaction.

His strength and agility are far beyond anything I could imagine a human has the capability to perform. Each move he takes is planned multiple steps ahead of time. His martial prowess is astounding. However, I’m reminded that each strategy and strike are learned from a life of need and want. You do not excel at violence like this without leading a harsh life.

Each step Con brings the monster towards me, echoes with the pounding of my heart. I’m worried. I’m regretting my choice of going with the Chinese chant. I should have gone with the translation I had been using. If this attack fails, I can’t guarantee we’ll make it out of this room alive.

No! I can’t think like that. The energy feeding into the talisman from myself can’t be tainted with doubt. This will work. This must work.

The beast is almost in position. Con runs right up to the demonic being and seems to slap its face. He then turns and quickly runs towards me. The monster is charging right behind him, ready to kill. Con stops right in front of me, flashes a smile and bends backwards, sending the cane right into the face of the demon. Sparks pour out from the gem, electrifying the targeted monstrosity who lets out the roar of all his agony.

I end my chant, letting the talisman do the rest of the work. The lines of chalk glow brighter when our final goal shows itself. The beam of light shoots up from the center of the second circle, piercing the enemy.

The roar of agony turns to one of pure fear as he realizes what is happening. As the light drills through the monster, portions of his being start to fade, unable to ever regrow in this realm. He pulls all his effort together to move out of the ritual, but the damage was done. He collapsed, more than likely cursing his immortality.

I let out a sigh of relief, hopeful that we can solve the rest of this mystery without further interruption. Con falls on his back, exhausted from his efforts.

“That was amazing…” he says, drifting off into unconsciousness.

“You certainly were.”

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 23

I find myself perched precariously on the precipice of a shelf. Climbing up here to find that statue, I question whether I should have kept Con behind to do this kind of thing for me. It would certainly be much easier for the half demon boy to fetch this than myself.

“Please be careful, Branner! I’m not exactly here to catch you if you fall.” Marcellus had been looking rather fearful, though whether that was for my own personal safety or the potential for the bookshelf to make a mess in this room, I was unsure.

“I’ve almost got the statue.” I step up another shelf and reach my hand out behind the books to acquire the sculpture.

My fingers just barely brushing against it, I curse my situation. I’m not close enough. And I can feel the bookshelf wobbling beneath my grip. The shelf starts to lean over. I quickly adjust my weight, hoping to counterbalance it. The book-filled piece of furniture falls back into place. That was too close. All right, it’s time to try something else.

At that moment a deep and loud roar pierces the air.

No. No, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no! NO!

I can hear the sound of thunderous crashing as the demon barrels through bookshelves trying to get to me. I have to get down, before the monster kills me. I look down trying to find the next shelf, when I feel it lean back again.

“Oh, hell…”

The bookcase tilts back towards me from the domino-like destruction around it. I can’t climb down in time. However…

I turn my head as far around as I can, looking to time my jump. As the bookshelf closes in on its neighbor, I leap to the next one, landing higher up than where my old shelf will hit it. Being on this side certainly helps, but the crash at the bottom is jarring to say the least. Optimistic thought, I’m not squished.

The beast roars out again, sending a shiver up my spine. He stands before me in the wreckage of wood and paper.

Pessimistic thought, the demon I barely injured with the help of a supernatural boy has recovered and found me again. At least I can tell his general location by the eye wound Con inflicted upon him earlier. He’s still covered in coagulated yellow blood, allowing me to aim my attacks at his head.

“Marcellus, please find Con. I have a feeling I’ll be needing him.”

I reach into my pocket and try to think of what I can use to fight such a beast. I find them empty. My talismans and gems are in my bag, back near the entrance to the study.

The beast doesn’t waste time. It charges me. The debris covering the floor hampers my movement, I don’t have time to run out of its path. Instead, I dive around the side of it, with my arm out. If I remember right, it has four arms. I catch on one and swing myself up on top of it. Its body is scaly, and rough. I also find this plan to be a mistake. He swings his arm, and knocks me off. At least I’m out of the path of his life-threatening tackle. But I’m still on the wrong side of the room to acquire my tools.

“Branner, I don’t know much about my current state, but I can’t seem to leave the room,” Marcellus yells from the door.

This must be a joke.

“All right then. Just…” What can he do? “Try calling for help. See if you can get someone else to get him.”

Though if I’m lucky he’ll have already heard the thunderous crashes and be on his way. I remove my jacket and throw it off to the side.

The beast changes tactics. I see a light appear about where his good eye would be. Fire shoots from his eye, aiming for my airborne jacket. It hits, incinerating the article.

“No!” I was fond of that jacket.

I close my eyes as tight as I can and scream, “BLITZ!” The flash from the gem embedded in my arm blinds the beast. I open my eyes, vision still blurry despite my efforts. But I can see well enough to make it to my bag. The demon is not so lucky. He roars and yells at his lack of sight. I can hear him crashing against the walls, ground, and furniture, but I don’t have the luxury of admiring his predicament. I make it through the rubble to the other side of the room as my vision finishes returning. The demon’s sight won’t be far behind.

I reach into my bag and grab what trinkets I can. I also grab my cane. If all else fails…

“Branner! He’s behind you.”

The beast was quick. I don’t have time to think. I spin around, swinging my cane and feel it hit the creature. Without thinking, energy pours through the staff and the gem on the end glows, releasing a bolt of electricity. The demon screams out a distorted yelp of pain. That bought me more time. Now, what did I grab. I have my octagonal talisman, several spellbound gems, and my chalk. I can make this work.

I twist the end of my cane and slide the chalk into a compartment at the bottom. Next, I race away from and around the demon, dragging the chalk across the room. I don’t have much time to prepare this, though I’m sure nothing short of eight prongs will bring this behemoth to his knees.

The monster recovers and searches for me, quickly finding me. The more I injure him, the less transparent he becomes, in a way. He’s covered in burn marks from the electric bolt, his eye is still gouged, and a bit of dust from his charging makes him significantly opaquer.

But it hasn’t made him less deadly. His charge can still squish me, and the fire he releases from his eyes is beyond deadly, though luckily it takes him time to prepare that attack. As long as he doesn’t try anything new, I should be able to-

“Grooghr!” The beast growls as it takes it’s demonic whisp form. Oh bugger, forgot about that.

He roars again as he materializes quickly behind me. I barely have time to turn before he slams one of his powerful arms into my chest. The blow sends me across the room. I hit a wall and feel several ribs crack. It takes everything I have not to pass out. I push myself to stand upon my feet before he has time to attack again. I look for the signs of his presence. I don’t see his eye and burns anywhere. I chance it.

I move as quickly as possible with broken bones back to the middle of the room to finish my chalk drawing. Two concurrent circles intersected by eight lines. The center of this drawing will pull the energy I fire from the talisman directly towards it, concentrating its power to pierce right through the damned monster.

I feel it. I hadn’t moved like this in a very long time, but my instincts kick in and I jump, barely dodging a swipe from the demon’s tail. I’m saved from the attack, but my chest makes me immediately regret the decision. I land and fall over, my body beyond fighting.

The monster lets out a roar, most likely due to his oncoming victory. This is it.

“Just what in the hell do ya think yer doing to my friend?” a boys voice yells from across the room.

Con, you may be half-demon, but right now, you’re my angel.

Seeking Dusk: Part 13

I don’t move. This is not my fight, but I am somehow involved. How could a member of the Dominion threaten another? I’d never heard Lord Zadkiel be so intimidating.

This whole endeavor is quickly escalating into something far beyond my expectations. They should have decided all this before they came. And what is Puriel thinking? If there is such a threat to reality, more help is better than less. It’s why The Presence sent me in the first place, isn’t it?

“Aluma Firebrand, if you would stem this tide of darkness, listen well.” Zadkiel spoke, lifting what felt like a long silence after his threat.

“There is an artifact that has been taken from within the Gates of Paradise. It would for all appearances be nothing of value. A small wooden box. But the power it holds could turn the tide of our war.”

“Do we know who has taken this box?” I ask, my mind cleared of previous doubt. Zadkiel smiles.

“Yes. He is one called Azazel, and he is a former angelic host.”

A fallen angel? How could someone like that have gotten a hold of such an artifact?

“After taking the box, he fled to earth, and has been in hiding beyond even our combined sight.”

“How can something hide from The Presence?”

“Well, The Presence is-“

Zadkiel is cut off by Puriel.

“Absolutely not! You may fight us on telling her why we’re here, but business involving The Creator is far beyond anything I would allow you to share with a mere soldier!”

If what I thought I saw in her before was anger, then there isn’t a word to describe what she’s showing now. The Power in her is leaking out, far more than she means to. And if this is but a fraction of her power, she is not someone I want to have for an enemy.

A smile stretches across Zadkiel’s face as he looks at Puriel.

“My apologies. You are absolutely right.” He turns back to me. “This fallen host is hiding from The Presence. That is all I can tell you.” His eyes glimmered as if to add ‘for now’ to the end of that sentence.

Kushiel breaks their hovering formation and quickly flies to the other side of Rand, intensely studying the man.

“Tell me, Mr. Garrot, are you willing to lay down your life and soul for this mission?”

Rand barely moves, glaring at the large angel out of the corner of his eyes.

“Like I haven’t proved that already?”

Kushiel’s eyes narrow.

“Don’t be flippant. This is far beyond your petty squabbles with these lesser demons. You’ll need to be ready to fight a full-blown angel.”

I interrupt this rousing conversation.

“But he is fallen. He doesn’t have access to The Power. And unless he can venture down to the bottom of The Pit, he won’t be receiving any help from the Morning Star.”

“That is where the artifact comes into play,” Ariel says, in her relaxed voice.

“Indeed.” Muriel spoke next. “Tell me, Aluma, have you ever heard the human legend of Pandora’s Box?”

Human legends? What kind of nonsense is this? Rand must have seen my look of confusion because he took this opportunity to step in.

“Pandora’s box, Greek myth of a girl who opened an ancient box and let loose all the ills of the world. But the box also contained hope, keeping mankind ever determined to push past such problems.”

“Yes, in ways, very similar to the story of Eve eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge.” Muriel seemed to know much of human story telling.

I found the courage to speak.

“Okay, so you’re saying this box is real?”

“Degrees of truth, my dear.” Zadkiel took over again. I glance at Puriel, only to see her trying to contain her anger. But Lord Zadkiel just ignores it and keeps talking.

“There was an incident of someone opening a box and releasing something terrible. But the box didn’t contain ‘the world’s ills.’ Instead, it housed power. Tremendous power. Dark power.”

“And our job is to retrieve it from someone who is likely willing to use it against us?” Rand sounded annoyed.

Zadkie’s lips curl into a sly smile. Which is my clue that this is going to be beyond dangerous.

“Of course! Aluma is already tasked with the hunt for demons associated with the theft. What’s one more task for our beloved soldier?”

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 22

The spell broken, the small study had become a massive library. It wasn’t quite that the rest of the room was hidden. Rather, our minds were prevented from seeing it. From noticing it.

Rows, upon rows of shelves of books. The whole thing stretched back, filling the space to the wall. On the other end of the room were large windows, flooding the space with daylight.

I remember Marcellus and turn to our spirit friend. He isn’t as enamored with the reveal of the room as Lance and Con. Rather, his attention was focused on his own being. His body was stable, if translucent.

If pressed, I couldn’t explain what had happened to him. Some combination of the manner of his death and magical spells used to maintain his presence on this plane of existence.

“Marcellus, how are you feeling?”

He turns to me.

“I’m… I’m not sure. Based on your conversation, I didn’t expect to still be here after you destroyed the circle.”

“Understandable. I wish I could offer you any comfort, but I’ve no idea what was done to you. We’ll have to question your brother on his part in that later.”

Upon hearing us talking about him, Lance realizes his predicament. He tries to run, but his arm is immediately snatched up by Con.

“I don’t think so buddy!”

I point to the desk chair across from us, and Con understands. He takes Lance over as I reach into my bag and pull out some rope. We tie the boy to the chair, ensuring he can’t escape.

“Please! Let me go!”

I speak, informing him he’s still needed.

“Lance, you’re the only one who has any idea what is really going on. And you have much to answer for. You’re going to stay put until we have a better handle on things.”

Marcellus hangs his head, unable to look at his helpless brother. I do not blame him, as his condition is the direct result of Lance’s actions.

“Come, we must investigate the library. Marcellus, can you please help?”

He gives me a look of confusion.

“You’re more spirit than human now. You should be able to float and we need to figure out why this room was being hidden.”

He nods in understanding, and immediately starts to look through the shelves. Con checks the ropes again, ensuring Lance won’t be leaving, and then takes off running down the aisle of shelves.

“Please, let me leave.”

Lance’s voice is small. Sorrowful. Pleading. It almost breaks me.

“You know I cannot.”

The boy hangs his head, his body relaxing in his binds. He won’t be going anywhere.

“Branner! You better come see this!”

Con calls for me. Did he find something already? I leave Lance and rush down to the other end of the aisle of books. There, Con was staring at something off in the corner of the room.

Something hidden by the shelves from where I was in the front of the room. Something for which I was not prepared.

An altar. A demonic altar. A demonic altar encompassed in swirling demonic energy.

Whoever did this, is absolutely brilliant. I cannot merely dismantle the altar and expect the demon to be banished. The energy outside it is binding all the spells together and will react to any hostile force in kind. I…

I actually have no plan to dispel this. This kind of magic is far beyond anything I expected to be here.

“Branner? What is that?” Con never took his eyes off the altar.

“That is why things were hidden. This altar is what has bound the demon we fought earlier, to this house. And the dark energy that we all can feel is preventing me from ending all this right now.”

I can’t hold back. They must know the truth.

“Whoever did this may even be beyond my abilities. And judging from the amount of power coming from the altar, the demon is awfully close to obtaining his sacrifice. The daughter…”

“I remember her! I can’t believe I forgot.” Con exclaimed.

“Yes, now that you mention it, I can’t believe I hadn’t heard anyone mention her name. And she wasn’t outside the house to greet me when I first arrived, a fairly standard practice.”

“Well, that is due to her condition.” I jumped a little. Marcellus had joined us, silently coming behind me.

“Not too long after the demons were brought forth, Juliet Maladar came down with an illness, the like of which even Doctor Maladar couldn’t understand,” Marcellus spoke. A spirit looking very human. This had to be the most unnerving aspect of it all, though it would be better I not say such a thing.

“It may have been inflicted upon her by Lance’s demon. If the girl dies, the other demon cannot collect and would be banished. Assuming I’m right and the beasts are warring.”

I hate to interrupt my thought process piecing together more of the puzzle, but I needed to know what kind of demon Lance had brought forth.

My cohorts and I return to the front of the library where we left Lance. He did his best to avoid the gaze of Marcellus.

“Lance, where is the book you used to summon your demon?”

The boy looked ashamed, as he remembered his role in this mess. “I keep it under my pillow, in the servant’s quarters. I can take you there.”

“No, I have more I must do here. Take Con with you. Fetch it for me. If the Doctor tries to stop you, or harasses Con, just run past him. We have no time to abide social distractions.”

Con turns to me. I’m sure he’s incredulous at what I’ve suggested.

“Branner, you can’t be serious.”

“I’m afraid I am, my friend. I must find something here, and I cannot trust the boy to bring the book back himself. And I’ve no idea what the good doctor would do if he found you by himself.”

I put my hand on his shoulder.

“I’m trusting you.”

The two boys look at each other and understand the tone of my voice. Con walks over and released the ropes around Lance and the two leave the room.

“You try to bolt and I’ll make ya regret it,” Con says.

The door closes behind them and I set about my work, examining the newly revealed room, looking for signs of the enchantment previously placed upon it. Such a large and powerful spell must have used some form of physical conduit. If I can find it, I could maybe breach the dark energy around the altar.

“Mr. Branner, sir. I have to ask, why did you not ask Lance about who committed this heinous act?” Marcellus was following me, his freedom granted with the breaking of the ring of light.

“I already know. And if I want confirmation, I could ask you.”

I reach into my bag and pull out rope and a smooth stone. I hang the stone precariously on the rope and concentrate. The stone stays perfectly still.

Hmm, no chicken bones anywhere. That was a bit of a long shot. What could have been the item used?

“Me? I have no clue who summoned the other demon. I thought Lance had cursed this house.” Marcellus found he could float high up enough to look at the top of the shelves, and began examining another aisle from me.

“Yes, but in your current form, you possess a unique ability. You can see magical remnants. The trails of leftover power from spells and rituals. And since there is a powerful source of such energy in this room, I could have you compare to the other people in the manor.”

I put my tools away and decide to search by hand.

“I believe I understand, but then how do you know who our villain is?” Marcellus asks.

“That would take some explanation. Right now, I need to find something. I’m looking for an odd object. Something out of place here, that would act as a container for energy. There isn’t much that could do that. Precious metals, animal bones-”

“Small statues?”

“Yes! Where do you see that?” I run from my aisle toward his voice and looked about for the spirit.

“It is up here, on a shelf, hidden behind a book.”

I find him floating next to a strange little statue. I couldn’t quite tell if that was what we were looking for, but it did look out of place from the rest of the room.

“Excellent! Can you bring it down to me?”

“Well, I would, but my current form is less than useful on that matter.” Marcellus extends his hand, phasing through the entire shelf.


The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 21

Thousands of questions flashed through my mind, the foremost being a question of where this boy learned such a dark art. But I must delay that, and learn exactly what was his pact.

“Lance, this is important. What was promised to the beast in return for his false loyalty?”

He turned to the other two in the room, looking to them as if he sought a way to escape through them.

“I said, this is important. Please, answer the question.”

The boy sighs, head drops in shame.

“I never wanted these horrible events to happen. I thought I could fix this and get him out before anything happened.”

“Lance, I need to know, what was your pact?”

I give him some time as he builds up the courage to speak.

“I promised him my innocence.”

…This must be a joke.

“Lance, how does it expect you to give such a non-substantial thing?”

“I didn’t think I would. But I’ve noticed over the course of this horrendous event, I’ve experienced such things that I cannot imagine I’d have gone through otherwise.”

He walks a little bit away. I keep watch, ensuring he doesn’t try to edge closer to the door.

“Innocence isn’t something so non-substantial. To demons, it can provide untapped power. I was a fool. By enacting the ritual, I started down the path of guilt. My wonder was replaced with a dark reality. And it culminated in the death of my brother, Mars.”

I am finding myself more and more perplexed. My studies were more on the material reality of demonic beings. To think they could draw power from a concept is baffling to me. Is it a trick? Is it a lie?

Nothing to do but trust it if it’s the truth, and play along until I can figure it out if it isn’t.

“How do we keep him from taking it then? I can’t save us if we have a fully powered demonic entity destroying everything.”

Con offers his two cents. And he had a valid point.

“Then why don’t we get to the part of this where we stop that from happening? Who brought the other big bad beastie here?”

“Yes. Additionally, Lance why would you think to summon a second demon? Where did you learn of such a technique?”

That question perks the boy’s interest.

“An old book. I had found it a long while back buried among the dusty shelves of the library.”

As Lance recounted his story, I looked around. Something is off-putting. Dusty shelves?

He continues.

“I didn’t think much of it, until I tried one of the spells is listed. Turned a yellow flower bright blue. But it wasn’t until much later, I thought of its true use. I learned that someone was summoning a demon. And… it… was…”

What is Lance doing? Something is wrong. Why can I not see it? What is interrupting my thought process?

“Who was it?”

What was Lance doing?
“I-I can’t remember…”
Lance is struggling as much as I am. This should be an important fact. Something he could easily remember. He brought forth a deadly monster because of this fact, and yet he doesn’t remember who did this?
“Con, break the circle.”


“Con, Break. The. Circle.”

My cohort looked over at the spirit of Marcellus. The chalk circle encompassing it.

“But Branner, you said the circle holds him together. Won’t he dissipate?”

“He’s being held together by the spell, yes, but there’s something else with him. I do not believe the delay in the initial curse breaking was a coincidence. There’s something worse in play here. Break the circle!”

Con finally responds and runs to the circle. He hesitates for a moment, but succeeds in wiping part of my chalk away, breaking my spells.

The light is blinding. The power that was poured into maintaining the spells now shines to every corner of the room and smothers all sound.

As it dies down and dissipates, I’m greeted by an astounding sight. Marcellus still stands in his translucent humanoid form. Con and Lance are staring at the rest of the room open mouthed. And I can’t really blame them.

Before us lay the library. The whole library.

It was hidden by a spell, tucked in with the spirit of Marcellus. While my brain is still foggy, there is something cleared. The pieces put together in my mind.

The double doors that led into a smaller room than expected. A lack of windows when this room is on the edge of a building. The pause before my spell enacting, bouncing off the powerful illusion. Everything finally made sense.

And good lord, was it terrifying.

Seeking Dusk: Part 12

Looking around, the other craters have their own angelic beings float out. Each one is adorned in more ornate vestments than myself. With their staffs, sashes, and crown-like halos, The Dominion looked resplendent.  And I quickly became all too aware of my less than suitable clothing to be standing in their presence.

“Aluma Firebrand. We were not expecting to see you so soon.” One of them spoke.

She was to my far right. Her garments were accented with violet rubies. The small scepter she held was how she poured out the love of The Presence. Her halos burned with holy fire, casting harsh shadows on her face that did not immediately endear her to me.

“I received the announcement of your arrival, and immediately sought for your landing. I apologize if I was not meant to.” I spoke humbly, but with as much conviction as I could muster.

The same angelic host, who spoke before, looked confused.

“We did not send an announcement. Where did you get such information?”

Lord Zadkiel spoke. “I sent it to her. I felt we needed a soldier, one we could trust. And there is no host I trust more than the angel of courage. It is for the best, Puriel.”

The idea that Zadkiel thought so highly of me made me blush.

“Thank you, my lord.”

The other Dominion, whose name I now know is Puriel, looked upset. “We were to look into this matter ourselves before seeking any help. Those were our orders.”

“I agree with Zadkiel’s actions. We need help. It has been far too long since we’ve been on this lovely blue planet, and much has changed.” Another of The Dominion spoke, just to the right of Zadkiel. She was slender, her mouth curled into a playful smile. Her halo sat behind her head, looking like a rising sun.

“He should have consulted us! Do you understand the severity of the situation?” Puriel was not pleased.

“If I did not, I wouldn’t be here. The Five Dominion have not walked this planet together in eons. Please, do not mistake my agreement with Zadkiel as complacency.” The other angel spoke with soft words, that carried an unseen force. I felt more calm just from listening to her.

“Ariel, Puriel, enough! What’s done is done, and cannot be undone. But Zadkiel does not get off so easily. Decide now if we shall follow his plan and reveal why we are here.” The angel to my far left spoke, one I’m all too familiar with.

Kushiel, the angel who lead me through The Old War. He was large, made for battle. His right eye was slashed by the Morning Star himself and replaced with a new glowing eye of pure Light by The Presence.
“They are trying to decide. Let them work it out.” Muriel, a summer angel spoke next. Her sash appeared to float around her, the flowers in her hair seeming to spin.

To see all five of them here together… It is rarer than seeing two of the Archangels. And while it should be their decision, I must admit, I am curious as to why they’re here.
“Are you old dozy nutters going to get on with it? What are we here for?”

My head slow twists to the side, as I try to stare right through the human. Rand! What are you thinking, talking to them like that?!

All five of The Dominion turn to my human companion. Kushiel, Puriel and Muriel had looks of disdain. Ariel was curious. But it was Zadkiel that surprised me. He had an amused smile on his face, like the words Rand spoke came from an infant. Rand himself gave a rather menacing glare back at the group of powerful beings. An ant staring down an elephant.

“Aluma, illuminate us. Who is your friend here?” Zadkiel spoke with a playful melody in his words.

I lay my arm across my chest and bow a little in reverence when I speak.

“My apologies. This is Rand Garrow a particularly impressive human. He has the ability to tap into The Power and fight demons much like an angel. He has proven useful on past missions.”

“Your apologies are unnecessary. I have heard of this human. His reputation is most impressive indeed.” Zadkiel turns his attention back to me. “And more importantly, he is right. Whether or not my cohorts agree, I plan to tell you why we are here. We need your help.”

“Absolutely not! Zadkiel, are you-” Puriel’s words were cut off by the sight of the angel she was yelling at.

He didn’t move much. Just turned his head slightly. His facial expression didn’t even change. But the way his words came out, one had to wonder if he was really capable of it.

“Puriel, my dear. Reality might cease to exist and I will do whatever is necessary to prevent that. Whether that be letting a trusted host in on the conspiracy, or sending you straight to The Pit, it doesn’t matter to me. Just don’t get in my way…”

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 20

In a flash, the transformation takes shape. The cook’s legs straighten not unlike stiff boards. His hands shoot down at his sides, unmoving from the side of his thighs. His entire body becomes rigid.

“Blah! What is going on?!”

Just as he yells, he loses his balance and falls on his face. At some point I should start trying to catch the people I trap like this.

I take a step forward, placing my foot upon his back.

“I do not have time for games. I have done nothing since my arrival, except put my energies toward stopping this evil. Your own master has tried such tactics as you and conceded to me.

“I do not wish to argue. I do not wish to fight. But if you do not tell me what I need to know to save everyone in this building, you will learn of what I am capable.”

I get in close, almost whispering in his ear for what I am about to say.

“The things I can do would drive even a strong man like you to the worst kind of nightmarish lunacy. So, please, where is Lance Welling?”

The man beneath my foot shook. I didn’t think I was terribly terrifying.

“You surprise me, detective.”

Detective? Interesting word.

“Surprising? I worried you thought me terrifying.”

“You win. I will tell you where the boy is. But I’m not sure you will like what you hear.”

Terrifying to terrified. A rather quick transition on my end.

“The boy went to fix his mistake. He seemed worried about failing the master, but I told him things can always be made right.”

I lift my foot off the cook. The energy binding him releases as the gem in my hand loses its glow.

He went back to room after that foolish undercook told him the best way to stay out of trouble is to hide his tracks. Now, the cook didn’t know what he was referring to, but curse it all if he didn’t give that child the most dangerous plan possible.

I turn and run back through the mansion, not even stopping to have the maid guide me back. Despite the maze of a building trying its best to trap me, this is too important, and I strain my mind to remember the way back.

As I sprint, I’m trying my best to dodge every piece of furniture and hired help in my way. The labyrinth-like upper halls stalled me longer than I’d have hoped.

But I find it.

Those double doors to the study where I left Con with the spirit. The creator only knows what I’ll find behind it. Time for action. I push open the doors with all my might, the force causes them to swing and bang against the walls.

“CON! Are you-” I’m stopped in the middle of my exclamations by the sight in front of me.

Con was standing, holding Lance Welling by the back of his shirt. Lance was slumped, either unconscious or just defeated, being held up solely by the will of my young apprentice. The spirit in the middle of the room looked horrified. I haven’t the slightest idea what transpired here.

“Hey, Branner. He tried to rush me.” Con was very calm. And I suppose he answered my question. Well, let’s see if I can speak.

“…Well done, Con. Yes, it seems Lance is hiding something. I don’t know if the spirit is truthful in his earlier tale, but Lance certainly knows something. What did you do to him?”

Con looked a little proud of his achievement.

“Just socked him in the face. He was a bit loony. Tried saying sorry right before attacking me.”

He finally set the unconscious boy on the floor.

Now, what will I do? He’s merely a boy. One whose brother has been killed. He could be the one to have done it. He could also be falsely accused, and more painful prodding would be unwarranted. I must tread lightly.

I cross the room to my bag I’d left in the room, reach in and pull out some smelling salts, to wake Lance from his trauma induced state.

“Con, bring him over here and prop him against the wall.” I point to the far end of the room, away from the spirit.

Con grabs the boy under his arms and does as I instructed. While he does so, I reach into my pocket and grab the jade gem. I might be relying upon it too much. It is bound to reach its limit soon. And yet I cannot think of a quicker, safer way to incapacitate the boy if necessary.

I crack the vial, releasing the smell into the air. I quickly place it under the nose of our stunned friend. As he regains his sense, I do my best to put him at ease.

“Lance, are you feeling well? I want to make sure you’re all right.” I speak slowly, and with care. I watch as he goes quickly from unconscious, to groggy, to alert in mere moments.

He looks back and forth from Con to myself, and back again. I can only assume he is frightened. Con defended himself, and in doing so, injured the boy. I can’t imagine it is a very pleasant feeling.

“Branner! I-I have to leave. At once. Please let me-”

He tries to stand, but I put a firm hand on his chest.

“I’m afraid I cannot. You’re involved in this mess, aren’t you?”

The boy stares at me with a look of absolute horror. His thoughts must be racing. Deciding how much trouble he is in. Or thinking of a route to escape.

“Lance?” It came from Marcellus. The person Lance might have been considering.

“…Mars?” Lance was emotional, the reunion with his brother bringing tears to his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Mars. It wasn’t my fault. I-I was trying to stop it. I just wanted it to end! I’m so sorry!” I stand back letting the boy stand up. He slowly shuffles over to the ghost.

“What happened? Why did you attack me?” The spirit implored.

Lance could barely hold himself together.

“I didn’t! It wasn’t m-me! I told him to not let you leave the room! I was so close t-to ending this. Please you have to understand, I was only trying to help…”

…No. No that boy didn’t do it. He couldn’t have.

I speak up. “Lance, did you summon the second demon?”

He quickly turns, as if the thought I was in the room had crossed his mind for the first time.

“…I did.”

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