Episodic stories of fantasy and science fiction.

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The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 16

I’m pacing around the trap in the center of the room. Although I had instructed Con not to ask it anymore questions, I couldn’t help but wonder what else it can tell us.

“Con, I need to ask you a favor.”

The boy stopped staring at the light, shining from the string. He turned to me, looking a little more than confused.

“Uh, sure, Branner. What do ya need?”

“You are allowed to talk to the spirit again.”

I need to figure out what it is. And sitting here with it, doing nothing is getting me nowhere.

Quietly, I explain what he is to do.

“Talk with him about anything. His life. Your life. Just don’t mention anything about the demons, or Doctor Maladar.”

“Sure thing I guess, but what is this supposed to do?”

“Buy me some time. Maybe get us a little information on it. Just see let me know everything it says.”

I’m a little strained on what I’m doing, but I think my original plan might still work. I go back to the book from my bag, studying the process to de-spell this room. This spirit, ghost or not, is likely an anchor for whatever is manipulating the spiritual pressure in this room.

Before my plan was to banish the ghost and the spell would have gone with it, revealing what was wrong with this room. But now… If I were to try that, and it really wasn’t a ghost, the repercussions could prove disastrous. But there’s more than one way to break a spell.

While I read, Con moved ahead with his part.

“Mr. Ghost, where were you born?”

The low rumbling immediately after told me the spirit was responding. I do need to make sure it doesn’t interfere with any rituals I perform.

Now, this is likely an illusion spell. Something to keep me from seeing what’s wrong. Ah, this counter should work. It won’t dispel the illusion entirely, but so long as its runes are inscribed in the ground, the spell will be put on hold.

I wait for the low rumbling to stop before I grab my chalk. The runes require a very specific pattern to counter the spell and the slightly shaking room might ruin it. Wonderful, it has stopped. I must work quickly while I have the time.

“Wow… Hey, Branner, he says he was born in this house.”

“Yes, yes, Con. That’s lovely. Just keep it…” He was born in this house? No… Could he really be the brother of Lance? “Spirit, how did you die?”

The low rumble returns. It was fairly short. I look to Con waiting for the answer.

“…betrayal?” Con’s face had a mix of confusion and horror.

“Betrayal… Con, hold off on more questions. I need to finish this.”

What betrayed him? If it was really the demons in this house when he was stabbed by the family heirloom… then was he the one who summoned the beasts?

I finish the chalk drawings going in a circle around the room, runic stones placed in key locations. Now for the hard part. I’m not well versed on my slavic so I might need a bit to make sure I remember how to pronounce all of this. I don’t know what will happen, or what will be revealed in this room. Here I go.

The chant begins, each runic symbol lighting up as I call its name. The spiral of symbols sends out wave after wave of my own energy, holding back another magical force. I finish the spell, as the energy returns and converges on the trap in the center of the room.

The smoke-like spirit within the trap cries out. He falls and settles in the middle, losing his wispy form and gaining a new translucent one. He looks like a young man, with combed dark hair, and the same style of suit the other servants were wearing.

I fear I may have been wrong and this is Marcellus Welling.

Lance, forgive me.

Seeking Dusk: Part 10

I couldn’t stay around Rand any longer. I take off, flying into the night air. I need to clear my head and try to figure all this out. Rand was out of his mind.

He questioned The Presence? Willingly threw himself in league with lesser demons in the name of compromise? The words he speaks remind me of someone else. Someone who long ago thought to question our creator. And the Morning Star paid dearly for his transgressions.

I don’t want to see a good man, my friend, go through all that. But talking with him was impossible! He countered every argument I made, in his on twisted way! Dammit! He’s probably still mad. Still cleaning that mess. If only I could show him. Or talk with someone about it.

Actually, I do think I can do that second one.

The question is whether he will see me. I change direction and fly back to the office of Dr. Alexander Matthews.

I touch down just outside the doctor’s office. It was a strange sensation. Humility. I had angered him and been angry in turn on my last visit. That was a mere day ago. And here I am, already having to come back and ask for help. My foolish pride was going to bruise on this one.

I slide through the door, my spiritual form allowing me to bypass the wall. I’m sure he knows I’m here, it’s not like I’m hiding the energy flowing out of me. He’ll be down shortly.

The office still had all sorts of books and artifacts thrown about the room. The man might have acted all high and mighty, but he’s one hell of a pig. His bookshelves are a different story. Each and every volume was specifically chosen. Each one contains some of the most important information we’ve ever utilized. And a select few shelves contain the only pictures of friends and family he has. It’s actually a little sad. All those memories in his head and-

“Aluma. Back so soon?” The doctor had entered from the hall while my back was turned. Looked like he hadn’t changed out of his clothes from yesterday. Polo shirt tucked into some old jeans all partially hidden under his white lab coat.

The man retired years ago and patching up angels doesn’t exactly get you dirty. I suppose it’s habit. Though that means someone else was just here. Hell, they might still be.

“Of course, doc. You know I can’t stay away.” I walk over and take a seat in a chair he had in the corner of the room. I need to be calm. No insults. I need his help. Be modest, and apologetic.

“How’s the investigation with Rand going?” The doctor moves to his desk, sifting through the drawers. I can’t tell if he’s actually looking for something or just making it seem like he didn’t come in here for me.

“Hard to say. On one hand, we’re talking with someone who might know where to look. On the other, Rand has been making deals with this informant for some time.”

“Is that so? Who’s the informant?” His eyes never leave his desk. Is he really being this petty?

“A shame demon. He runs The Milton.” And here’s the reaction…

“Ah, yes, Dumah. Lucky he’s a coward, or many of your missions would have failed.” …You’ve got to be kidding me.

“You knew about this?” I don’t think it is possible for me to be more incredulous.

He finally looks up, straight at me, like I was the one who just said the completely crazy thing.

“Of course I did. I’m the one who told him where to find Dumah.”

“…I think you broke my brain.”

The old man gives a sigh.

“Aluma, I understand that you were created with the specific purpose of killing demons, but haven’t you ever wondered how we found out where their most secret compounds are? Haven’t you wondered why, despite proving so useful in The Old War, you haven’t moved up in rank?

“You are so narrow minded, and want to kill everything labeled ‘demon.’ There’s a big difference between demons and the fallen. Though they take similar paths to get there, demons started off as humans. Which gives them that freewill we were so special for.”

I can feel myself instinctively roll my eyes.

“So you’re trying to say demons aren’t all that bad. Oh gee, why didn’t I ever think of that? Thank you so much for showing the error of my ways. I’ll be sure to give the next demon I see a nice big hug.” I start to get up.

Desine

And I immediately freeze in place. Damn.

“Please sit.” The biggest downside to being an angel, is that you were made to serve.

I resume sitting, and the doctor continues his lecture.

“Aluma, you have to understand, as much as I wish we could just run out and kill every last bit of evil on the planet, that is not our duty. Ours is to hold back that tide of darkness for as long as we can.”

“I fail to see how protecting them helps us accomplish that…”

“We’re not letting them do as they please. Aluma, there will always be evil in this world, from now until judgment day. So in turn for letting small fish roam free, we can put our efforts towards stopping the bigger fish.”

“Well, even if I did believe that, that’s not the biggest issue I have. It’s Rand. He’s talking about wanting an end to the war.”

“Well my goodness, that most certainly does sound horrible.”

Okay, it kind of stings to have your own sarcasm thrown back in your face.

“Well, it’s just… I…”

The doctor finally sits at his desk and addresses me directly

“Tell me, Aluma. Why did you come here?”

I think over the question, genuinely wondering the same thing. What is it about Rand that bothers me? If he still has use of the Light, shouldn’t that mean he’s doing something right?

“… I’m lost.” It was painful to admit, but it needed saying. It was what Dr. Matthews was looking for. His proud little smirk tells me that.

“You’re a host of heaven. Not the Lord himself. It’s natural to lose your bearings and need guidance.”

I didn’t want him to be right. The Great Aluma reduced to this. Asking a human for help.

“What has Rand done to shake you? What of it has made him so compromising?”

“It’s the callous way he so quickly became trusting of those we considered enemies. Maybe they can be of use, but to me, they were just things we killed not too long ago. I haven’t been sneaking around the backs of other angels to get what I need. I’ve entered a new world where allies, enemies and tools can spring from nowhere, and just as easily switch what they mean to me. And somehow, I’m just supposed to accept all this?”

The doctor shifts forward in his chair, his face showing concern. This hasn’t been easy for him either.

“It takes getting used to, but I can speak from experience on this matter. You want so badly for things to be one way. Black and white. But time with the angels of our Lord has taught me of the shades of gray plaguing my previous assumptions. While I might not always claim to understand the actions taken by such heavenly beings, I can tell you I either trust them, or call them out. Which do you think this deserves? What has Rand done?”

I can’t answer. I can’t say he’s compromised his ideals, since his first and foremost goal was protecting mankind as I have. I can’t say hiding these dealings from me, since even I can see, and am currently proving, I would take the news so poorly. I can’t respond.

“Aluma, why don’t you go get some air? I’ll send for you if I hear movement on more of the demons.”

I obey.

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 15

“What now? Do we just talk to it?” Con was pacing around the trap containing a ghost. The curtain of light shined with a flickering luminescence, enrapturing his attention.

“Not quite. See, ghosts such as this aren’t whole, and don’t have all their mind to aid them in communicating. They’re more of a flurry of different emotions, bound to a spirit with unfulfilled purpose. And depending on the how long such a storm is allowed to wander, it can intensify, becoming something else entirely.” I reached for a small book I keep in my bag, hoping it held the spell I needed.

“Oh. So, how do you know how old it is?”

“Well, the methods vary and usually involve something of a-”

“HEY! GHOST! HOW OLD ARE YA?!” Con yelled at the ethereal being in the light. I didn’t quite know how to react.

“Now Con, uh, that’s not…”

A low moan rumbled throughout the room, shaking the bookshelves around me. I could hear a bit of shuffling against the floor behind me. It was Lance, attempting to get as far into that corner of the room as possible. Poor chap. Likely afraid of the vision before him.

“The spirit can’t understand you. All you’re doing is-”I began to speak, but was cut off.

“He says he’s 23, Branner!”

“I- Well- What?” Did he just talk to a ghost?

Con excitedly moved closer to the curtain.

“What should we ask it next?” Can this boy really speak with ghosts? Demons have no particular affinity for our dearly departed. Why would he be able to do that? He could always be fooling around. Of course. He must be. I regain my composure.

“Con, could you please not agitate the-”

“HEY! WHAT’S YOUR NAME, BUD?!” Con yelled again.

This was getting frustrating. I’ll have to find some way to explain to him that there’s no time for games, but it seems his whole demeanor is different now that he’s my assistant as well as a guest. He’ll… Wait. The spirit is moaning again. No. No, this can’t be. Can it? Coincidence, right? Ghosts aren’t conscious of their actions or even the world around them, necessarily. They only respond to other emotions, and even then, it’s a very primitive form of communication.

“Marcellus? Well, nice ta meet ya, Marcellus.” Oh my goodness. Con was talking to a ghost.

“Wait, what did you say?” Lance had finally found his courage again. He approached us from the safety of his corner as he spoke. “Did you just tell me that the spirit is 23, and is named Marcellus?”

Con looked over at the young man helping the two of us. “Naw, Mr. Ghost here told me that. Try to keep up.” He gave a wry smile to reinforce his sarcastic remark.

“Well, it’s just… I think that’s my brother…” Lanced seemed to have lost his breath. He was on the verge of tears.

Oh dear. This was bad.

“Lance, I need you to calm down. Step outside if you need to, but don’t do anything rash. This spirit isn’t your brother anymore, do you understand?” I tried to calmly walk toward the boy. People tend to do outrageous things in a hysterical state. If he did something to disrupt the ring of light around the spirit we could lose it and all that effort would be lost.

“Mist-…er, I mean, Branner, sir, do you think it’s possible this is all true?” His hands were shaking, his eyes never left the spectacle in the center of the room.

No use lying to him. The truth might even reassure him.

“I’m not sure. It’s possible this is your brother, but it is very unlikely. This estate has had many come through and pass on.

“If Con is indeed talking to the ghost in some manner escaping my understanding, it could also be that the spirit is lying.

“Now, I must ask you to leave, Lance. You are excused. Leave us and return to your normal duties. I’m certain this isn’t your brother.” Alright, that last sentence was a lie.

“Of-of course. Should I report to The Doctor your current progress?” Lance was quickly fighting his fear and attachment. Talented young man. Not sure how I would do in such a situation.

“Yes, that would be prudent. I just need you to not be here anymore.” A very blunt way to put it, but I am sure he understands.

Lance bows out and walks to the door. As he leaves, I can see the fear return to his face.

Now that the most pressing issue is resolved, what in the name of the creator is going on with Con?!

The boy seems to be communicating with the ghost. I’m not sure how that’s even possible, if it’s true. All my understandings of ghosts points to a being of nigh-pure emotion, their sense of mind having long abandoned them with their body.

Even if you could speak the same language, their consciousness no longer consists of reason or logic. They shouldn’t be able to answer in kind to your questions. And yet, I don’t think Con is lying to me.

This leaves me with three options. First, my knowledge of ghosts is lacking, and I just haven’t encountered one with the power to think. Nor have I had someone along who can talk back to the spirit. Fairly unlikely. Second, we got extremely lucky, in that the being is still emotional, and the things it has fixated upon sound like answers to the questions Con has asked. This option is the least likely. No, what I believe the answer to be is my third thought.

This isn’t a ghost.

Seeking Dusk: Part 9

Most of the creatures are smart. They fled off into the night after the death of the lead vampire. The few scragglers who wanted to stand their ground would soon know why I am feared among their kind. Why my sword is the bane of their masters. And why my temper is something not to be trifled with.

I grip the hilt of my sword tighter and prepare the descent to-

“ALUMA!!”

Dammit. It’s Rand. He’s standing just out of the door of the club, arms crossed, wearing the face of a disappointed parent.

The other beasts notice the second holy warrior and run away.

“Don’t you ‘Aluma’ me! These creatures laid a trap for us!”, I cry out.

“That you willingly walked into. Did you even consider asking for help? Did you think when you maimed a dozen human souls without the mercy of a swift death?”

I float down slowly, my anger far too focused on my friend for me to go faster.

“You don’t get to judge me, Garrow! How long have you been coming here?! How long have you been making deals with the darkness? You offered what I could never condone. Was I to ignore that? I leave and they ambushed me. They wished to cause me harm. Yes, the vampire gave them courage to attack, but they’re the ones who wanted to. I refuse to let a mortal judge me for defending myself, especially against such an attack by the lowest of beasts.”

I touch down right in front of him. He’s thinking. Thinking about what happened here. About my words. He’s trying to find a way to turn this around. To find a way I could have avoided violence. But he knows there is none. Humans. Ever hopeful.

“You still could have come and got me.”

“I didn’t think I had the time with a wendigo at my throat.”

“No, you just didn’t think.” He turns to one of the wounded creatures. He points his hand at the beast and lets his energy pour out. The bright white beam shooting out his hand envelopes the monster and when he’s finished, there is no more.

“I’m going to take a while cleaning up here. Go patrol. We’ll rendezvous-”

“No.”

He turns and faces me.

“Excuse me?”

“You’ve been acting so morally superior all day.  What is wrong with you?”

He looks around, slightly annoyed. He doesn’t get to play this game.

“Tell me Rand. Something happened between last night and this morning. Hell, something happened in the last few years. When I was last on assignment, you never would have gone to The Milton alone. You never would have defended these monstrosities.” He turns back around. I won’t let him escape so easily. “You never would have lied to me.”

“I didn’t-”

“Don’t start. Those marks on your arm this morning weren’t from a dog. It’s my turn to tell you to stop being stupid and tell me what’s wrong.”

He sighs. His head moves from left to right, surveying the carnage I wrought.

“I’m tired, Alli. Tired of fighting. Tired of this war.”

Is that all?

“You’re only human. An absolutely amazing one, but still human. Been fighting for, what, 10? 15 years? I’ve been at this for eons. Since the Morning Star first fell. The doctor isn’t as active-”

“No. I’m tired of this war. Tired of seeing pointless blood be spilled.”

Surprise doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.

“Rand… this is far from pointless.”

“Sure it is. One ideology versus another. Good and evil are merely-”

“Don’t you dare blaspheme around me, Garrow!”

“Alli, we want to protect humans, yet here are souls, wounded by your own blade. I can only purify so many before I get exhausted. Our God chooses to leave them to the wolves.”

“He leaves them to us. And we are-”

“Warriors. Spillers of blood. Violence is our nature, and he expects us to be equipped to heal the very warped souls he orders us to destroy?”

“He expects us to do our best.”

“Then I will. And if that involves me making deals and allies you don’t like, don’t complain to me.”

This is insanity. How could he have lost so much faith in The Presence? 

“Garrow…”

“Don’t you ‘Garrow’ me. Humans are born into a trap. Our world pains us. Teases us. Brings us down.”

“You at least have freedom.”

He walks over to the next creature and extends his hand.

“Freedom to choose how we die.”

The white energy fires from his hand.

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 14

The study was a bit small. Not truly a proper library, like I assumed from the double doors, but I do suppose it provides a cozy environment in which to perform his research. All the walls were covered in bookshelves, there was a somewhat modest desk for this house over in the corner and no windows… Something is off.

“This is the room you requested, Master Branner. Do you require any further assistance?” Lance was looking rather uncomfortable in this room. It wasn’t the one his brother was killed in, but it did have one of the more memorable events occur. Still, I require his help. He hasn’t been here long enough to have been the one who summoned demon, and has the motivation to see to it I complete my task. I’ll just have to make him tough it out.

“Yes I do. If you would, please tell me what you know about the incident that took place here.” If I keep him talking, it should also keep him distracted. Might not take his mind off the unpleasant feelings, but it will give him something to do.

“Of course… *Ahem* After escalating events relating to the paranormal activity in the estate, Mr. Patrik…”

While he tells his story, it’s time to see what we can see. I look to Con. He had this incredibly odd look on his face. If I had to describe it, I would say ecstatic. I can’t imagine he’s had much time around books. A whole new world for him to explore lies in every wall surrounding him. Of course, he can’t quite access them yet.

He picks up a book, flips it open and frowns. He just figured it out, too. I walk over to him, thinking about why I really need him here. Lance is continuing his explanation behind me. He’s gesturing around the room and not paying attention to me. Thankfully.

I quietly whisper to Con, “I’ll teach you to read some other time. Start seeing what kinds of feelings you can sense.” I cross back around the room to examine the desk. Lance’s story was coming to a quick close.

“…making a full recovery and resuming his normal duties. The room has not been declared off limits, but no one wishes to explore it after the incident.”

“Hmm, yes of course.”

What is wrong with this desk? It’s been calling to me since I first entered. Screaming out that something is wrong, yet I can’t hear it.

“Con! What do you notice about this piece of furniture?”

“Uh, it looks kinda nice, I guess?”

“…That was wonderfully helpful. Thank you.” Shouldn’t act so sarcastic. Bound to hurt his feelings. “Lance, do you see anything wrong with it?”

“No sir. Seems the same as ever.”

“But it’s not. There is something wrong with it. Something wrong with this room.”

I set my bag down and pull out a few things. Some twine, chalk, a ruby colored gem, and most importantly, an apple. I place the twine in a large circle in the center of the room. Using the chalk, I draw perpendicular, intersecting lines. I set the gem down where they cross. I stand to examine my work.

“What are you doing, Master Branner?”

“Just call me Branner. And I’m trying to see if I can detect what’s wrong in this room. Assuming there’s some kind of spirit in here, this gem will light up.”

“I see. And what is the apple for, sir?”

“Oh this?” I hold the apple up. “I’m just hungry.” I take a bite and go back to ensuring the circle isn’t off. Chalk lines are straight. Gem should still have some energy in it. Time to start.

I begin the chant, enticing the energy in the gem to show me what made this room feel so odd. I could sense some presence manipulating the flow of spiritual pressure around me, but what it was, what it was doing, and why this room was so special, I couldn’t tell. The gem hums, not glowing just yet. Wind whips up around me, as I feel my body become weary. The spell was doing its job, draining me of some energy to complete its work. Everything was building to a boiling point. Soon it would-

“What?!” The sensation cut out. No more drain. No more wind. The gem just sat there, like the shiny rock it now was. I believe I used up what was left in it for nothing.

“…what’s supposed to happen, Branner?” I turn and see Con on all fours, staring at the now lifeless jewel in the middle of the room. I didn’t know what to say to him. Well, I suppose I could answer his very simple question.

“Assuming there was a spirit in here, the gem would light up with energy. From there, I could have summoned the being here, and bound it in the circle. But something went wrong…”

“There was no spirit here.” This time Lance pipes up. He said that like he knew.

“So there wasn’t. Care to chime in as to why, Mr. Welling?” He turns a beet-red. What is he hiding?

“I- Well, it’s just- There are patterns to the occurrences. They transfer slowly from room to room. Since the last thing to happen was in the entrance hall, I would say by tomorrow something would happen in the grand hall…” His voice slowly trailed off until his last words were barely a whisper. He’s looking at me, and I can guess why. My eyes are wide with surprise. Lance was declaring a pattern that most anyone else should have seen, and more importantly, told me about.

“How do you know this? You’ve only been working here three days. Not enough time to be so sure of a pattern. Not to mention, we injured the demon occupying the entrance. He’ll likely be out of commission for a while.”

Lance resumed his servantly demeanor. He spoke with as much calm as he could gather, which wasn’t much.

“I would wander all around here when my brother still worked for the Maladars. That is why I know the layout of the estate so well. How I came to notice these patterns with the attacks. It’s the reason, I think, that Doctor Maladar agreed to giving me a job. I already knew how much of the house operated.”

“Right, right, but that’s not the point. You noticed a pattern. A very simple one at that, but you noticed it, nonetheless. Why didn’t anyone else? Why didn’t you tell them? Why didn’t you tell me until now?”

The boy was getting nervous. He’s still hiding something. What else could he be-

“Branner, ya may wanna turn around…” Con was entranced with the gem, which now shone with a brilliant light. And it was getting brighter.

No time to think.

“Stand back, boys. You’re about to see something rather… interesting.”

I close my eyes and focus on a realm of pure ethereal. My thoughts leave my body, and I channel some spirit to do the work I need done.

“Anima continet… uinculis alligandum…”

The words poured out of my mouth, but I was not saying them. I barely heard the first two lines before I lost my connection with the physical world.

Instead, I was floating in a place of color with no form. The air around me seemed to twist with a whimsical nature, an attempt to make me lose focus. To lose your mind here is to lose yourself. You can’t go back. And I can’t let that happen.

That should have been enough time. I push my will outward and reach out for my own body again. The world around me reacts, changing from the soothing formless color, to a malevolent emotion, trying to engulf me. I touch the back of my own head and pull myself in. Such harrowing experiences should really be reserved for an occasion where I can plan for death, but I’ve yet to memorize the spell for this situation.

I return to my body to find myself on my knees, my arms, lazily collapsed at my sides. The spirit must have just jumped ship when it felt my return. It won’t cause any trouble and will be pulled back to the other side when necessary. Time to wander the earth is the payment for its services. I start to open my eyes, ready to-

My cheek stings with a rather sharp pain that shudders throughout my whole face.

“BRANNER! ARE YOU IN THERE?!” Con was shouting in my ear. It would appear he’s a bit worried about me.

“Yes, I’m fine Con. The slap was unnecessary. The yell was annoying. Anything else you’d like to do?” I give him a quick glare. He jumps back to his feet with a huge grin on his face. He turns and addresses Lance.

“See! Told ya he was okay!”

I pull myself to my feet and examine my work. The string on the ground was shining a curtain of light upwards, entrapping a spirit within. The smoke-like being inside let out some low moans, likely lamenting its current predicament.

“So, Master Branner, what is this?”

“This, Mr. Welling, is a ghost. And I told you before, just call me Branner.”

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 13

“What is that boy?”

Oh no.

I turn to the doorway and see the doctor’s head looking around it, staring at Con. How much did he see?

“Doctor, you have to understand, I have only the safety of-“

“Safety!?” he asks.

He steps through the door and walks toward me, rage barely contained in his being.

“You’d have me believe you’re thinking about our safety? This boy just survived what no man could. He injured what you have been having trouble trying to even locate. He vanished from one side of the room like a magician!”

“But this,” he gestures to Con, “thing is supposed to keep us safe?”

“Yes!” I nearly scream.

“Wouldn’t you say with all these abilities he is better equipped to protect your people? That he is strong enough to help with this situation? And if you saw all that, you must know he has thrown his life on the line to protect you!”

The doctor’s eyes break from mine. An opening.

I continue.

“Wouldn’t you say all of that is worth the benefit of a doubt?”

The doctor’s hand is shaking slightly. He holds onto that anger so tightly. I will admit, if any of his workers were in the room, I wouldn’t dare be so audacious. But if they were here, I doubt an appeasement would have helped my case anyway.

“You said you trust me, Dr. Maladar. You gave me permissions to search everywhere on your property. That means something from a man such as you. I cannot explain what this boy is, or how he came under my employ, other than he is who we need.”

He looks as if he is about to interrupt me, when I quickly finish my speech.

“If you do not allow him to remain, I will cease my investigation. Abandon you and your people to the horrors that ravage your home and not think twice.”

His mouth dropped open in surprise. A man raised in all that wealth and authority, and he’s never had someone speak to him this way.

Admittedly, I wouldn’t truly abandon him. These demons are too dangerous to leave alone. Even so, Maladar has no clue how to react to anything I’ve said.

The look of surprise fades quickly. He resumes a controlled and collected demeanor.

“Go into the main house, Branner. One of my servants will escort you upstairs. The study was your next destination, correct?”

“Indeed it was,” I reply, a sense of dread lifted from my thoughts.

“Go. Before I change my mind, Branner”

I turn to Con and give him a nod. We gather my things and leave the hall for the main house. As we exit, I hear the front door open, as the doctor exits.

He must be truly upset to open that door himself. My words were harsh, but not wrong. I do not think we can solve this without the help of Con.

Though I’m not to be trusted either. Yes, I need Con’s help, but I also believe him to be something more than the half-demon he appears to be. Even when released, he has full control of his demonic blood. I need to study him more after this investigation.

“Branner! We gonna move or what?”

“What? Yes! What?”

“You’ve been standin’ down there for a while now. Ya got something you wanna share with us?”

I clear my throat and start stepping up the stairs.

“No, no. I do believe I’m ready to continue.”

“Great. Then come on! I wanna see the upstairs when I’m not tryin’ to run for my life.”

The boy excitedly runs up the stairs. It’s a mean trick, but I did promise Maladar to keep him contained. I focus on the ring. The energy seeps out and into the band on his finger. He trips.

“Grah! What did ya do that for?! This stupid friggin, frappin…”

“Come now, Con. Such language should not be used in public. How are you feeling?”

“…grrr…hate you…” He stands up and shakes his head.

“It seems you’re getting used to the transformations. Soon you might be able to go back and forth with no problem.”

“Yeah. That’s a real shiny thought.” He cracks his neck. I notice some of the maids passing through become startled. I suppose he’ll take a bit of refining before he can become my official aide, but then, one could say something similar about me.

I flag down one of the passing servants, a young looking man who looked a bit nervous, and ask him to lead us to the study. We continue up the stairs, Con wobbling just a little bit.

“So, what is your name?”

“Con. Ya already knew that.”

“I wasn’t talking to you, though I do know that can’t be your real name. I was referring to the young man helping us.”

“Oh! Uh, my name is Lance Welling, sir.”

“Don’t look so timid. We’re not going to hurt you. Is this your first day?”

“Third, sir. I hope my inexperience isn’t-“

“Don’t worry about it, son. It’s why I picked you.” Someone summoned these creatures long before Lance started here. Actually…

“Why did you take up the position here? Surely you know of the dangers in the house.”

“I do sir. All too well, actually. See, my older brother worked for the Maladars before me. He provided for us. When we lost him…”

I understand.

“Your brother worked as a cleaner.”

“Yes, sir. I suppose Doctor Maladar told you about the incident.”

“He offered you money. He felt responsible. But you refused the flat out charity.”

“Indeed. Instead I agreed to work for him. To earn my money.”

I can’t keep being this cruel.

“Mr. Welling, if you would prefer to return to your normal duties, to keep away from these instances, I would understand. It would earn you no disrespect in my eyes.”

“I am fine, Master Branner. If I’m to be working here, I must be able to do all that is asked of me. Ahem, this way.”

He turns and directs us down another hall. These upper levels are like a labyrinth. And Lance has already worked through and memorized the layout.

I do seem to have a knack for selecting proper help, now don’t I?

Seeking Dusk: Part 8

The lead vampire puts his hand stretched out into the air. I could feel him gathering energy into it. Absorbing bits of power from the other creatures. Three vampires, a wendigo, and two animali. Those would inspire lots of fear in any other hunter.

I start trying to tug out of my body. This is going to take a bit. Picking this fight was a bad idea.

Without warning, one of the animalus shifts into his true form, a wolf, and starts jumping down from the fire escape he was perched on. My attention is focused on the beast as it descends, but I forgot about the vampire. He throws the ball of destructive force at me, leaving barely enough time to react. I jump to the side and fall behind a dumpster as the energy explodes and sends chunks of concrete in the air.

This body is so damn annoying. I’ve got my head and shoulders out, but the rest of me is still stuck in here. The wolf is on the ground, but where is his companion?

“CRAHHH!”

Oh wonderful. He’s an eagle. And he’s divebombing right for me. I get up and run towards the wolf. He roars at me and lunges. Got to time this just right…

I jump and step on the wolf’s head for added momentum. Pushing with all my strength, I break free of the false body. It falls to the ground. Going to be pretty dinged up when I return it. If I return it.

In midair, I extend my free wings and quickly spin around, drawing my sword. Holding it out just in time, I block the bird from hitting me. He knocks me back a bit. Even without drawing on The Power, he shouldn’t have been able to do that. Still, just a shrug.

“GRA-ha! I wonder what Angel tastes like?” The other two vampires tackle me while I was dealing with the eagle, and latched onto my body. The air isn’t safe when four of the things I’m fighting can fly. They pulled me down a little. This is getting to be too much. One started going for my neck. Dammit.

My body lights up, engulfed in holy fire. The vampires are thrown back, burning to ash from the experience. My armor materializes. While I should now have the upper hand, this shouldn’t have been necessary.

“There it is. That’s what we came to see.” The last vampire was laughing from atop the building. I shoot a dirty look to the monster. He just smirks back.

I aim straight for the ground and slam my sword as hard as I can into the wolf. He dodges at the last minute. Something isn’t right. These creatures should know that with this power I could annihilate them all. Why aren’t they running?

“The prototype can’t give these beasts enough strength to bring you down, but I have a feeling I know what will.” The lead vampire puts two fingers to his lips and whistles. A group of about a dozen and a half more supernatural beasts pile outside from the door. He had backup hiding in the club.

They should still be nothing, but then that eagle was supposed to be nothing. The doctor’s words echo in my head. Courage doesn’t have to mean stupidity. Damn humans…

A good number of those reinforcements can fly. And if they’re as unnaturally strong as the vamps and animali, I have less than a second. A thousand and one ideas all go rushing through my mind. And the simplest one sticks out.

Take out the ringleader.

I push The Power just a bit more, the wave of light shoving the beasts away from me. I speed towards the top of the building keeping out of reach of the now ascending monsters. I ready my sword to rend that vampire’s head from his shoulders. I barely noticed the oddly cold wind brushing against my face….

I’m hit and knocked to the side. The wendigo tackled me in midair.

“They aren’t very bright, but they do make such lovely pets, wouldn’t you say, Host?” I hate vampires. Always so damn cocky.

I struggle with beast during the descent, which I was able to slow just a bit. The deranged human looking fiend kept gnashing at me. I finally spin and throw him off, just in time to see the group of monsters flying up at me.

I am not prepared for this. I should have ran. I should have called for Rand. I never should have agreed to this idea in the first place. I should never have sat there wishing for the bar to attack just so I could wipe them out.

The beasts finally reach me. I start slashing. Each cut is made without conscious thought. Instinct kicks in. It feels like it did during the war. That horrible war. Battle after battle.

It was cruel. I didn’t kill most of them. Sliced off an arm here. A leg there. I finally did stab that harpy at the end. It didn’t last long. One second, they were charging me. The next they were falling out of the sky. That harpy looked at me with a tear in its eye. But I could feel no pity.

“You realize they’re all part human, right? That each one is a soul. And because of your sword, none of them will reach your beloved heaven.”

I look up to the vampire. I see him smile that damned smile.

That did it. I point my sword back up at the vamp. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t make a sound. I manipulated The Power in a way I haven’t in so long. One instant ago I was halfway between the top of the building and the ground. No time passed. I was just there. Behind the vampire. My sword already sliced through his neck. His head fell the long way down towards the other beasts. They lost their leader. They lost their controller. And they knew fear of me once again.

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 12

At that moment the doors to the main house opened. An infuriated Dr. Maladar burst into the hall followed by a few servants.

“Mr. Branner! Do you mind explaining what this street rat is doing in my house?!”

I see I touched a nerve. Seems to be a good moment to put on my own facade. Let’s see if the doctor can pierce it this time.

“I told you to just call me Branner. And if you could explain the issue using a more civilized tone, I would appreciate it.”

My posture straight, my gaze fighting the owner of the house, I stand defiantly in front of the doctor. He was understandably upset, but I needed this boy’s help.

Mister Branner, this young man has been more than a nuisance to my estate.” He came to a stop a few paces from where I stood with my new assistant.

“He has forced his way onto the premises without permission, stolen my property, caused untold destruction in the area and from what I’ve been told, directly assaulted your persons! How can you expect me to let such a boy free reign in my home?”

“That’s simple. I don’t.”

Con looks uneasy during all this. More than uneasy. This poor child. I’ve had to take away his strength, put him through the awkward position of walking among the people he has become so used to seeing as enemies, and now he must endure the rage of Doctor Maladar himself. This will not stand.

“Doctor, this boy can provide valuable insight into this investigation. He has many talents like the ones which enabled him to evade capture by your men for so long. And regardless of his past, he has been officially hired on as my assistant. If you wish to keep my services, you will accept that he will come along.”

“Yeah! Accept that!” Well, Con was looking a bit less sheepish. Funny boy.

“You are trying my patience, Branner. What gives you the right to talk to me in such a tone while you are a guest in my house?” His steely gaze was still in full force, but I have a hunch there isn’t much backing it up. Time for a gamble.

“Simple. You mentioned yourself that there have been plenty to try their hand at solving your particularly dangerous quandary. I am the first to prove there’s more to my words than just air. I am the expert on these types of events. You called for me. And while you’ve done much to hide your own feelings on the matter, you truly believe I am the first person you’ve brought here with a chance of helping you. So let me help you.”

I don’t believe it. The doctor backed down. His stare broke and he glanced sideways momentarily. Alright, I have the edge now. Time to bring it back. I turn to Con, who is looking ecstatic.

“But, as I said, I don’t expect you to trust him. Measures have been taken to ensure he won’t step out of line. In addition, he will only go where I go, sleep in my room and if you do find him away from me, you may feel free to escort him off the premises, never to be allowed back.”

The boy’s face went from joy to horror in an instant.

“Branner! That ain’t fair!”

“Oh really now? And what did you plan on doing that would take you away from my side, Con?” I glare at him. He should know better than to complain. True, I don’t like the idea of holding this boy’s own sense of normalcy over his head, but I have no choice.

Making peace between warring parties is always more difficult than starting the war. Sometimes it takes peace offerings. Sometimes it takes threats. And sometimes it completely fails and you’re forced to run from an angry tribe while they burn your formerly favorite coat.

Con just looked a bit upset. I will make it up to him. Someway. I really do feel bad about this, but I’m afraid I don’t have the luxury of playing nice in this situation. I turn my attention back to the doctor. His eyes have the similar sense of betrayal that Con’s had. Stay strong. I can’t let their emotions jeopardize the safety of everyone else. Show of force.

“Now, Doctor Maladar, if you’re quite through, I will need to examine your library. The room where Mr. Patrik was held. The one with the flying books.” I shoot a glance over at Con. His eyes light up. Now he knows what I meant.

“Branner, if you really expect me to-“

The doctor is interrupted by the sound of rushing wind and the whole hall goes dim for a mere second. It appeared as if a large shadow passed by, outside the windows. Everyone in the area is struck with silence. We all turn and looked where it came from, but whatever is was, it is gone.

“AHHHHHHHHHHH!” a housemaid screams out.

Well, that didn’t last long.

One of the men at the doctor’s side went to go comfort her. I look around. The beasts were gaining in strength, but they still can’t leave the house. That shadow wasn’t coming from outside, blocking the sun. They are creatures of darkness, possibly lacking a full physical form.

But their power radiates that darkness, like a reverse light. So the being must be on the other-

“Branner, now’s not a good time be in here.”

I turn back to Con. His eyes are filled with absolute fear. He is staring at the ceiling on the opposite wall where the shadow was only moments before. One of the demons was in the room with us. I now knew where it was. Everyone in the house was counting on me to do something.

I just wish I knew what.

Doctor Maladar turns and sees me looking the opposite way.

“Branner… what are you-“

“Doctor, I need you to get everyone out of here right now.”

“Of course, but-“

“NOW!”

I turn behind me.

“Con, tell me if it moves.”

“Oh it’s movin’ Branner. Right for the door!”

No time. I need to react. I reach into my pocket and grab the octagonal talisman from before. Pointing it at the door, I begin the chant.

“The darkness prevails.

Exposed to the-“

“Look out, Branner!” Con screams. I hesitate.

The unseen creature knocked me down. The talisman flies out of my hand. Curses. At least the demon is out of the way.

“Now, Doctor! Get them out!”

“Above you!” I quickly roll to the side just in time to see a huge crack appear in the floor. Con is proving helpful.

I look to the door to see the last of Maladar’s people leave. The demon tried to crush me. He’s favoring physical attacks. The conjuring magic he used before must take time. And to affect the physical world without being fully summoned takes concentration. Those are my only saving graces.

At the very least, this limits the damage he does. Well, to an extent. I need a distrac-

“BRANNER! Would ya unseal my power already?”

Oh right. Con. At least this doesn’t require a chant. I extend my hand and focus on the ring. I feel it click and a rush of smoke flows from the ring over the boy’s body. As it settles, Con falls to his knees. He looks up, a sparkle in those violet eyes of his. A grin comes across his face. He stands up and tosses his wild hair behind him.

“Hey there, ugly! Ya mind taking a break to let me whoop yer ass?” He jumps and catches on to the invisible beast.

He starts flailing around as the demon tries to shake him off. Now’s my chance. I run and grab the talisman off the floor. I point it up at the monster, trying to aim without hitting Con. With his half-demon physiology, the blast would be painful. And assuming it hits only him, that would leave me alone to face an opponent I can’t see.

“Con! Try to hold him in one spot!”

The boy is thrown from the beast. He goes flying against a wall and is left embedded in it.

“…sure thing… just let me try askin’ nicely…”

“Do what you can. Tell me when he’s between me and you.”

I point the disc at the wall and restart my chant.

“The darkness prevails.

Exposed to the light

falls before the veil

and bends…”

As I prepare my spell, Con pries himself out of the wall and falls to the ground. He looks up, sees something and jumps out of the way. A loud crash is heard as the windows around the wall shatter. The boy disappears as he turns into that energy form from earlier. He reappears on other side of his opponent and changes back and climbs up the side of the creature.

Con starts flailing back and forth through mid-air again.

“Alright Branner! In about two seconds here, you’re gonna get your shot. Better make it count.”

I aim for Con and try to keep the energy in the talisman held back. Con is trying to hit something on top of the demon. I can’t tell what, but-

Con’s hand squishes into the creature’s head, yellow liquid squirting out.

Oh. He was aiming for an eye. The creature roars in agony as he throws Con off again. The wound gives me something to aim for.

“Now, Branner!”

Right.

“…its MIGHT!”

I release the pent-up energy right at the floating wound. The beam slams into the invisible beast. The hit sends a shudder of energy throughout the creature, outlining it. The demon is a half humanoid, half serpent. The upper body has four arms and the head and back are covered in spikes. He’s a large beast, easily taking up most of the height of this massive entry hall.

Our opponent lets out another massive roar and vanishes. I can only guess he changed into a similar wisp form as Con. He’ll go somewhere secluded to lick his wounds. Meanwhile, we need to do the same. More importantly, we need to find the altar where the summoning ritual was performed.

“Con, are you alright?”
“Yeah, I think. Is the room spinning for you too?”

“Let’s say yes. I’ll have someone bring you water. When you’re ready, we need to investigate those flying books. As a matter of fact, we need to look into most of the occurrences that happened upstairs. I think they were caused by the other demon.”
“Going from one to the next? You want I should fight the next one blind-folded?”

The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 11

“This is horrible. I’ve never encountered this situation before. If a demon is summoned, they are normally given the signifier of their deal and the summoner is almost always immediately murdered.”

But this? This is new. The demon was summoned, but the deal was not completed. A second summoning would have had to happen almost instantaneously with the first to interrupt the process.

“The second demon has no real allegiance with the first, but I don’t see why he would impede his progress either…” I mumble.

The boy knelt down beside the carved-out floor.

“So, these things… they’re sending messages to each other?”

Well, it appears he is gaining a better understanding of the situation.

“Yes. Whether on accident or intentional, two demons were summoned and given dominion over this place. Yet, neither have full control. This is both good and bad in different ways.”

“Ah, so that’s what ya were trying to say.”

“Ahem, yes. It is.”

Power seeps out of my fingertips, as I draw images of light in the air. I design a false demonic altar and a little person performing a summoning ritual for my new companion.

“See, when a demon is summoned, the place to which it is brought forth belongs to the demon, acting as an anchor to keep him on this plane. Even then, he is severely limited in his abilities, normally requiring an additional sacrifice to gain his full power.”

“So one of our baddies needs this girl to start causing all manner of mess, right?”

“Precisely. But, because of whatever way the house and the things and people within were separated among the two demons, one didn’t get the chance to acquire his sacrifice.”

Con stood up, looking around the room. He caught the eye of one of the workers and became embarrassed. I don’t think he will ever get used to being considered a guest here.

“Alright. So what about the other demon? What’s his sacrifice?”

“I’m not sure. I am mostly sure he does not have it, only because he hasn’t massacred the entire occupancy of the estate.”

“Right. So what kinds of things can be considered sacrifice.”

“People. Objects. Ideas. Memories. Events. Something that means everything to someone. Someone of importance in relation to the area…”

Con gets a strange look on his face as I speak.

He walks away and starts feeling around behind one of the tables in the hall. He pulls his hand out and is holding one of the dead maggot-looking creatures. Seems like the servants missed one.

“This thing… it’s what made the blood in this room, right?”

“Yes. Low class demons barely considered a threat. Meant to inspire fear more than anything.”

“But they are demons, ain’t they?”

“Well, yes, but only in a certain sense.”

“So someone summoned them.”

He’s going somewhere with this.

“Yes. I believe it was one of the higher-class demons plaguing this house.”

“So they brought little things that make blood and left a message for their buddy and just randomly picked this place? I thought you said they each had control only over parts of the house.”

“…I did, but what…”

“So how’s the other demon supposed to know what was said when they can’t step foot in here?”

I had never even considered that.

“…A valid point. What do you think?”

“I don’t think these things were just randomly summoned to scare the staff.”

“They were supposed to help get the message across. Get the message to the other beast.” I figured out where he was going with his questions.

“You killed them. The staff is cleaning them up. Those marks in the floor have that creepy feeling that told me what the words said. And I can say, the rotting carcass of these gross creepy crawlies has the same feeling.”

This is genius. As the staff move them out of the room, and through another, that other demon can feel the sentiment attached to the creatures thus the message is passed on. So, they aren’t so much warring with each other, as having a standoff, with the residents and hired help caught in a violent crossfire.

“This is good. You might end up being of even more use than I thought.”

“Glad to know you need a tool…”

“That’s not what I meant. You can help me. If you choose to.”

He throws the creature to the side and crosses his arms.

“It’s not like I have a choice. You got my strength all locked up in this stupid ring.”

I say nothing. Yes, I still feel horrible about that, but I need this boy’s help. Despite his demon abilities being sealed within the ring, he has some lingering ability. And I need that to piece together more clues.

If he can sense energy and sentiments from spiritual objects, he might be able to give me more insight into some other events in the house.

Con gives a big sigh before speaking again.

“What do ya need me to do, Branner?”

“Have you ever been in a library?”

“A kid who can’t read in a place filled with books? Yeah, ’cause that makes a lick of sense.”

“Oh, you’ll like this one. I’m sure you’ll find plenty to ‘read.'”

Seeking Dusk: Part 7

“Are you two done?” Dumah said as we re-entered the room.

He looked annoyed. Or at least I think he did. It’s difficult to tell emotions under that slime.

“Dumah, we can discuss terms. But how do we know you can make good on your end of the deal?” Rand crosses his arms, trying to look tough, but I bet we’ve lost ground.

“You’ve got no choice. You’re desperate if you came to me for help.”

Rand scoffs at the suggestion.

“You’re stop number 1, mate. Don’t get me wrong, I figured you most likely had the information, but we haven’t knocked on any other doors yet. We’re far from desperate.”

Dumah scans Rand’s face, trying to detect any hint of lies. He shifts to me, almost imploring me to tell him the truth.

“He’s honest. We’ve not questioned anyone else yet. But Rand guessed you’d be our quickest option.”

Dumah sets his drink down and curses under his breath.

“Fine. You want proof?” He reaches into his jacket’s inner pocket, pulling out black smoke. He lays it on the bar.

I step closer, trying to figure out what it is, when Rand puts his hand in front of me.

“Don’t. It’ll make you sick.”

This human is getting on me nerves.

Rand steps forward and holds his other hand out. As he does, a light shines out from his hand, purifying the energy surrounding the item.

The smoke dissipates, revealing a stone totem. Enochian runes are carved into it, denoting a demand for payment.

“Someone is calling in a favor?” Rand asks.

Dumah sighs.

“I don’t know the three demons you’re looking for. But I know who called them. Because he called me too.”

Rand takes another step forward, when Dumah, snatches the stone up and puts it back in his pocket.

“You have my proof. Now I need your word. My person. My establishment. Both under your protection.”

I shake my head.

“I can’t give my word about that. It’s not possible for an Angel to swear to protect a demon, even one as lowly as you.”

“Then you have nothing for me. There’s nothing you have that I want besides to live.”

I’m about to make a threat, when Rand steps in again.

“What if we do?”

Dumah and I are surprised and each of us gives Rand a strange look.

He continues.

“What if we have something you want more than protection for your bar?”

Dumah laughs at the suggestion.

“You’re looking to stop a war, and will probably start one instead. What could I possibly want more than survival?”

His phrasing intrigues me. I’m just here to hunt demons. What makes him think it will start a war?

“A source of true obsidian.”

Dumah stops laughing. I stand up. Rand, you cannot be serious.

“You’re lying.” Dumah is quiet, but curious.

“You could outlast whatever war you’re afraid of. You could outlast even our winged friend here.”

I don’t move. I can’t. How did Rand find it?

“You’re promising me the source of the Devil’s Mirror?”

Rand takes a seat and puts his feet on the table.

“No. I’m offering to get you a piece. A very small one. Enough that you can weather the storm.”

Dumah considers it. Even if he doesn’t use it all, a small piece would be more than enough to buy him a piece of the pie.

I can’t stay here. I start walking to the door, when Rand notices me.

“Alli! Where are you going?”

“I need air. And I have nothing I can offer. Get our information and don’t do anything stupid.”

Rand looks down and back up. Before he can say anything, I speak again.

“You better know what you’re doing. Because if this goes south, it’s on you now.”

I leave the room and cross the club to exit again. The whole building is awash in dark energy and it’s making me sick. I finally make it back out to the alley and take a seat next to the wall. Feels good to breathe again.

The idea of Rand cutting deals feels horrible. How long has he been doing this? Has he given them true obsidian before?

And why do I feel like shit?

I have to wonder if I ever really knew him at all. I’ve lived for millennia and known Rand for only ten years. Why does this feel like a betrayal of a brother?

He isn’t even doing anything officially wrong. If he was, The Presence would have stripped him of his powers. So he has to be doing something right, right?

Damn it, Aluma. Stop being so melancholy.

“Out for a nice stroll, host?” a voice yells in the distance.

That’ll do it. I jump to my feet and look around for the source of the voice.

“Up here!” it calls out.

Up on the building across from me, stand shadowy figures. Looks to be about six of them, though more might be hiding nearby. They’re all low-level creatures and shouldn’t be able to sense me. Dumah barely could and he was suspicious enough to suspect me. Something isn’t right.

“Well boys, you found yourself an angel. Now what are ya going to do?” I shouldn’t be taunting them. It’ll take me a bit to get out of this body. They have the upper hand.

“I think we should play a game. What do you all say?” Vampire was doing the talking. The fact they knew I was here should put me on edge, but all I could do was fight back a smile.

“If you really want to play, I’m game.”

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