A Bad Idea

A Bad Idea

I never asked for this you know? Never wanted it either. If you’d have ever come up to me a year ago and told me that my destiny was to be a part of this great legacy of saviours of mankind and stuff;I’d have been like,’Yeah,whatever buddy.’ I still think whatever all-powerful entity is in charge of handing out cosmic power must have knocked back a few too many ‘Meganova Mai Tais’ the day he pulled my file.I really doubt that Cylly believes it either. She spends most of her time stalking around,swearing under her breath, and moaning about how I’m some sort of great ‘karmic punishment’. She complains about it all the time,but she still insists that I always come along when it’s time to fight demons and other evil stuff. Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?I mean do I look tough to you? I’m way too dainty and cute to be fighting creatures from hell,or hades,or the ninth dimension,or wherever it was Cylly told me they come from.Besides which,I have soap operas to watch for crying out loud.Not to mention how often I miss my afternoon snack,and I still haven’t found out whether or not Duke Freedom defeated the Purple People from Pluto and married his sweetheart,Lady Lightening.And no,I do not read too many comic books!

Of course the others could care less about my problems. You know that’s a weird thing isn’t it?Why do some people say that they could care less,when what they mean is that they couldn’t care less?It’s sort of like when people say ‘bad’ but they really mean ‘good’. Aren’t people just weird sometimes?

Ummmm,what was I talking about?

Oh yeah,right. So anyway,the point is that I never asked for any of this. Unfortunately nobody, fate included,seems to care in the least.

The time is eleven twenty at night;and I think I’m about to die. I’ve been hiding inside a sewer pipe for the last hour or so with a terrified eight year old clutching my side for comfort. My stomach is rumbling because I haven’t eaten in what feels like a week and my body is exhausted from running for long hours on end. My back and body are bruised,sore,and cut up from being beaten pretty badly;I think my right eye is swollen and starting to blacken. It seems that my body won’t stop shivering from the awful cold and there’s this majorly annoying drop of water that drips down on me,keeping my hair wet with sewage and plastered to my head. I think I ran out of tears about fifteen minutes ago and now all I can do is dry-sob and whimper in self-pity as I hug my body to the little boys in an effort to keep us both warm. The worst is the icky smell that’s down here. I think I could bathe for a week and I’d still never get it all out.

I wish I was home in a nice warm bath.

I’m going to die. There’s a part of me that’s accepted this fact and is almost peacefully awaiting the inevitable;the crowning moment to what has been the stupidest series of things that I’ve ever done. It seemed,like things like this usually do,to be the best idea I’d ever had at the time. Now I’m about ready to promise anything in the whole world if it could just let me undo the past few hours. But it’s the kid who makes it even worse. Not only did I screw up,but now the kid is going to die with me. I’m such an idiot.

I think I’ll go back to crying.

If I wasn’t so terrified I’d try to sneak out of here,but my body won’t move anymore. At least I’m not all alone. It’s not so bad being terrified when you’re not alone. I should never have gone off like this on my own. I’m such an idiot.

I’m so tired.

I think I’m going to die.

If I close my eyes to rest I’m sure they’ll find me while I sleep. So I have to keep awake;I know I do. It’s so hard though…maybe I could just get in a few quick winks. That would be nice. My eyes are too heavy to keep them open for much longer. I lost a lot of blood and even supernatural healing and regeneration can only go so far. I just don’t have the energy to heal my body anymore. It takes all the energy I can focus just to keep my heart going. I am so tired,I need to sleep.

I think..I’m…going……

I didn’t wake up until noon or so this morning. That’s why I love saturdays. I made a brunch for myself,kicked the pipsqueak out of the living room and sat down to watch the newest cut-and-paste,carbon copy,run-of-the mill teen drama. There’s this new guy named Jason,he’s the total badboy type,and he has the most amazing eyes. Everytime he looks at me through the screen I think I could just die from an overdose of male yumminess. Uhhhh,let’s just forget that I said that.

Sophie came by at around three or so with the new Anita Childes single and we spent hours sitting around dancing to music and singing until the little troll that has the room next to me yelled something about us strangling a cat. Somewhere in the middle of singing pop songs offkey and trying to figure out which Uptown Boy has the cutest butt it popped into my mind that there was somewhere else I was supposed to be. Without even a word of explanation to Sophie I ran like hell out the door and down the streets. I think she probably thought I’d suddenly gone off the deep end something extreme with the way I burst out the door. I couldn’t explain to her that I was way late to meet the others and that if I didn’t get there soon Cylly was definitely going to make me commit hari-kari. You’ve probably never met Cylly,so you have no idea how scary she can be when she’s hacked off,which is pretty much most of the time really.

I was completely out of breath by the time I ran all the way to Cylly’s house,or I guess mansion would be a better word for it. Jonothan and her had long since finished training and practicing,something which I miss way too much looking back. They were sitting around and talking when I slinked guiltily into the living room. Neither one seemed to notice I was there,which was more than a little bit of a blow to the ego. Apparently they both thought that I was so useless that there was no point in even caring if I showed up or not. I felt like a total feeb as I flopped down on the couch next to Jonothan and tried to look small and insignificant. Maybe she wouldn’t notice me.

Yeah,I didn’t really buy that either.

Cylly was leaning back in a large chair with her feet propped up on the coffee table. She was dressed in a pair of old and worn-out jeans that she pretty much has an almost endless supply of. Not exactly the most fashionable choice of clothes but please don’t tell her I said that. Her tight-fitting t-shirt had faded letters that read ‘Megadeth’,whatever that means,and that old brown duster of hers was settled around her body even though we were indoors in a well-heated room.

I still find it really hard to believe that Cylly’s actually a girl. The first time we met I was so convinced she was a really pretty guy,Sophie and I followed her around like a pair of love sick puppy dogs for two whole days until Jonoathan finally decided to tell us. Would you believe he actually thought it was funny to let me go all ga-ga over another girl?Anyway I ummm,oh yeah I was talking about Cylly. She was doing what I call a ‘slowburn’ when I finally sat down. She looked pretty po’ed. She gets really scary when she gets mad,which is actually pretty much anytime she’s awake. It’s about at times like these when I remember uncomfortably that when Cylly and I first met she was trying to kill me.

…It’s a long story.

Jonothan barely even blinked,damn him. He could at least have the decency to roll his eyes or mutter under his breath. I think I deserved at least that much for being so irresponsible. Sometimes he is just sooooo infuriating.

“Only two hours late?” he said in a mild voice, but I know that tone. Inside he was laughing at me.

I flashed him one of my patented ‘I’m oh-so-cute’ smiles,and fluttered my eyelashes charmingly. He just raised an eyebrow and looked amused. Damn him. But trust me,if he were any other guy he’d be trembling puddy in my hands. No guy has ever stood up to my cute face.

Oh well, I tried.

“I’m sorry,” my eyes drooped down to the floor, making the cute face fall away as I tried to avoid looking directly into Cylly’s face.

She glared at me for a moment and I noticed from the corner of my eye the vein on her forehead that serves as a warning sign to duck and cover.After a tense moment she let out a long,soothing breath. She shook her head in resignation,”For what?It isn’t like you ever contribute anything useful anyway.”

“That’s not true,”I whined.”Come on,Cylly. I contribute lots of stuff.”

Cylly grabbed me by an ear like a five year old and tugged on it until I yelped in pain.”I’ve told you not to call me ‘Cylly’ for fucks sake.”

“Whatever you say,Cylly,”I stuck my tongue out at her to show my defiance (probably not my best idea).That earned me a growl and a finger gesture…you know which one I mean.

“We will now pause for the traditional two hour argument.”Jonothan observed with only a hint of a smile.

Cylly glared at him and looked for a moment as though she was about to say something in response. Instead she let go of my ear and flumffed back down in her chair, muttering words under her breath in a language I couldn’t understand.

I turned to Jonothan in the hopes of appeasing Cylly’s temper. “So, uh, what were we talking about?”

‘That there seems to be an increase in demon activity around the city.”

A cold shiver hit me hard as he said that. I had really been hoping that it wasn’t going to be anything about that topic.

My name is Davina by the way. Sort of silly isn’t it?Kind of sounds all regal and important and stuff. Yeah right. I’m also one of the Si’lodet Illumnius. I’d explain what that means but, well, I forgot; and if I asked Cylly what it meant again she’d probably sprain her arm beating me over the head with one of her guitars…again. The upshot of the whole thing is that I’m supposed to help lead humanity into a golden age while also fighting an army of demons who all want nothing more than to use my adorable little butt for target practice. How’s that for a part-time job?Just remember this the next time you complain about not having any free time between working and school.

“I don’t suppose we could talk about something else, like video games?” I asked hopefully.

Probably not the best question I could have asked, in hindsight. At least judging from the gritted teeth and clenched fists I was seeing over from Cylly’s direction.

 Things kind of went downhill from there. It wasn’t long before, Cylly was holding me by the throat and swearing something in another language while I hit her over the head with my fists and blew her a raspberry in a desperate attempt to make her stop. Eventually Jonothan stopped laughing long enough to pry us apart.

“Am I going to have to make you two sit in the corner until you learn to behave yourselves?”he said as I tried to shake free from his grasp so I could keep fighting.

Considering the fact that Cylly could kick my butt six ways from sunday without breaking a sweat,I’m not exactly sure what the hell I was thinking.

To make a long story short we had degenerated down to the level of screaming things like ‘boychick’ and ‘blonde bimbo’ at one another when Jonothan finally got fed up and went off somewhere to let one of us kill the other in the absence of any witnesses. It didn’t really go anywhere near that far,of course. We did spend a lot of time yelling at one another though.

Cylly’s eyes had lit up and were blazing intensely, and when I say blazing I mean her eyes were really on fire. Normally I would have backed off quickly by the time she started losing control of her flames but this time I was way too totally ticked. She started listing all of my faults,then broke down into a tirade about how stupid I am,and finally told me in no uncertain terms that I was nothing more than a cosmic joke that was sent to annoy her and make her life difficult.

I felt this painful twist in my stomach. Almost like a knife cutting into me as she openly regretted the day that we had met. How could she say anything like that?Tears were pooling in the corners of my eyes and I hated myself for it. She told me that I was the baby of the group, the weak one who cries,the one who needs to be looked after. And there I was again,crying the very instant she started yelling harshly to me. So I did the only thing that I could think of to do.

I turned and ran away from her.

I don’t remember the running part,I was too busy crying. Just a vague memory of my feet moving really fast and not knowing or caring where I ended up. All I really remember is ending up on a nearly deserted street that smelled faintly of discarded beer cans and old vomit. It wasn’t exactly the nicest part of town but I didn’t really care at the time.I sat on the street corner and felt sorry for myself.

It isn’t that I didn’t think Cylly wasn’t right in what she said,but she didn’t have to say it so meanly. She hadn’t even bothered to soften the blows. I always knew that she didn’t like me,but it was obvious just how much she hated me now that she’d let it all out and said what she wanted. And here I was sobbing and proving that I was just as much of a baby as she had accused me of.

Geez,I’m pathetic.

After a while I got up and started to head home,because you can only feel sorry for yourself for so long before it gets tiresome even to you. At the time it was just starting to really get dark out and the streetlights had been on for a while. The glow they were casting was enough to see where you were going but only just barely. In no way did it help you to avoid being in a position where some nutcase couldn’t grab you off the streets and steal you away without being noticed. Send your thanks to our penny-pinching dweeb of a mayor for that one,folks.

At least that was one problem I didn’t have to worry about. Having supernatural powers does come in handy after all, and while I may not be good with demons I can wipe the floor with any punk-thug who might try something on me. Still,the thought of meeting some drooling pervert in a dark alley is really scary for a pretty young girl like me,no matter how tough I am.

On the other side of the street I noticed three really creepy looking guys keeping step with me. They were trying to look casual about it and doing a really bad job. A deep sinking feeling crawled its way through my stomach as one of them looked over at me and snickered something to one of his friends. The largest creep was a greasy-haired latin-looking type guy that looked like he hit every branch on the ugly tree,bounced up from the ground and went through a plate glass window before rolling out into the street to get run over by a fleet of speeding ice cream trucks. Would you believe that the guy actually looked over at me and leered,licking his lips. I mean like,major total ewwwwwwww. I’m pretty sure my disgust was written all over my face because Greaseball looked totally hacked when his buddies laughed. Quickly I sped up,hoping that they’d take off. It looked like they hadn’t yet actually worked themselves up to trying anything just yet. A shiver ran through my body that reached to every bone in my body,but it was just the cold.

It was, really.

Something heavy settled over my shoulders and I cried out loudly as I spun to face my sudden attacker. My hand snapped out reflexively to strike my attacker with all my strength. A stronger hand grabbed mine in a tight grip before I even came close to my target.

Jonothan didn’t even blink.

In fact I thought he was annoyingly unphased considering that I’d just tried to hit him with my best move. I mean he could at least pretend like it cost him a little bit of effort to do that, the jerk. He picked up the jacket that he’d tried to place over my shoulders.

“I don’t need that,”I mumbled under my breath. Needless to say I was way embarrassed.

“It’s a little cold out for a blouse and skirt.”He ignored my protests and settled the coat around my shoulders. He even did up the zipper for me.

“You didn’t have to follow me.”I couldn’t look at him, I just couldn’t.

“You shouldn’t be walking the streets alone,” he wagged his finger in front of my face. He placed an arm protectively around my shoulders and cast a single glance at Greaseball and his goon squad.

Not that there was much need apparently. They’d already started to disappear as soon as they spotted him with me. They moved even faster the instant he gave them that calm,unconcerned look of his though. In case you’ve never met Jonothan,he can be the coolest person you’ve ever met. Cyllia is absolutely fearless when it comes to danger. But Jonothan never seems affected by anything. He can tear a demons arms off and beat him with them with about the same bored expression on his face that he uses when I’m talking about clothes and shopping and he’s trying not to look like he doesn’t give a damn. I guess that’s why he can say so much with the simplest expressions. All he really did was barely raise an eyebrow at them. But with his calm,almost uninterested seeming face,they quite clearly got his message.

Bring it.

“You didn’t have to do that,you know.I’m not a baby anymore.”

“I know. You stopped soiling your diapers a whole two months ago,”he remarked calmly as he led me along. “Your parents and I were so proud.”

“You are so not funny!”I threw his arm off of me.”I can take care of myself!I don’t need you to look after me like when we were kids!”

“Cyllia seemed to think you do.”

I guess I must have looked really surprised to him.

“Who did you think sent me out here?”

“Why would she care?She’s hated me from the beginning.”I dug at the ground with my toe as I tried not to meet his eyes.

He only gave me that infuriating slight smile of his as he picked the coat back up and put it around me again.

There was a lot of silence between us right then,though. I felt like a little girl needing her big brother to walk her home. I am the baby of the family,I thought to myself then. How were the others ever going to take me seriously if they were convinced I still needed help to get home at night? Normally it wouldn’t have bothered me so much that he was trying to baby me like this. I probably would have liked it. My mind at the time though was ringing with what Cylly had said to me. That’s why I pulled his arms away from me again. He looked at me with those calm eyes. I guess he probably already knew what I was thinking. He just wanted to find out if I was serious enough to say it.

“I can go the rest of the way on my own,”I said after taking a deep breath.

“There are demons crawling all over the city. It’s not a good idea.”

“I said I can look after myself. I’m not a baby!” I declared with a glare.

“I never said you couldn’t. That doesn’t mean you should be left to, however.” He adjusted the coat so that it covered me better.

I shook the coat off trying to give him a good glaring at. From the look on his face I think he found it more cute than intimidating.”I can look after myself, damnit! I don’t need you pretending to be my big brother all of the time! Now get the hell away from me!” I regretted those words as soon as I said them.

For the longest moment he stood there staring at me and I shifted uncomfortably. As usual I had almost no idea what he was thinking and his face wasn’t much help either. Then with a sigh he nodded and turned to go,leaving me to stand there dumbfounded. I’d expected him to totally have kittens when I told him that I should go alone. But he just turned and left instead. I felt like such a bitch right then. Jonothan hadn’t deserved that, not in the slightest. I started to call out to him but the words wouldn’t come out, because I had no idea what I was going to say. His back retreated from my sight as he left me alone and I should have run after him and apologized a lot for yelling like that.  He did leave his big jacket wrapped around my body though.If I’d had any brains I would have ran like hell to catch up with him.

Now that I was alone the streets seemed even darker and more oppressive than ever.The feeling I got was causing my hands and body to shake in terror before he had even fully left my sight.Already I thought to myself that I’ve just made a dreadful mistake,that I should have asked him to take me back home all the way. Mom would have been happy to see him, she’s always happy whenever he’s around. She’d have baked those chocolate chip cookies of hers that he likes and we would have stayed up late watching movies in my room. There would have been no dark streets, no weird thugs, and especially no chance of demons running around. It wasn’t really too late, I thought. There was still time to catch up to him and apologize….apologize a lot.

Cars sped past me on the street as I stood there frozen in my own indecision.Biting my lip I yelled at myself in my own mind,reminding myself of why I had to do this.I’m tired of being the baby,I say.I can stand on my own two feet without being propped up by the others.My feet were walking before my brain had fully made it’s decision.

That’s a really bad habit of mine.

I’d walked for maybe ten minutes when I first got that sick feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach that always makes me want to toss cookies.There are some things so horrible that they make the earth itself sick with their presence.Most people don’t notice those sorts of things,but I’m like hyper-sensitive to the kinds of feelings they leave behind.It’s sort of like how certain smells just make you all sick and pukey inside for no real reason that you know of.Except I have a lot of reasons for getting the types of feelings that I get when there are demons around.And naturally I was heading right towards the source of the bad vibes I was getting;and naturally I didn’t even think about what the hell I was going to do there until I was already staring down an alley at six demons.Luckily I was scared enough that I stopped to peek at them around the corner,rather than just charging in.

I guess being a coward is good for something at least.

Halfway down the alley were five hounds,sniffling and pawing through the dirty trash that was scattered over the ground.They used to be people,but now their faces were just some whacko joke of humanity.Hounds,in case you were wondering,are sort of like demonic scrubs.They’re the end result of humans that were corrupted into giving themselves up to the demons in exchange for whatever it was they wanted when they were still dancing to the human beat.After their deals are up they get to become the lowest ranking dweebs on the demonic totem pole.By themselves they’re not much of a threat even for me,but it was what came into my vision next that had been giving me the heebie-jeebies.

It’s nine foot body made the hounds look like pygmies by comparison.From head to foot it was encased in armour of the blackest metal,ecthed with black symbols.Burning red eyes were held inside of a face that reminded me of every nightmare that I’d ever had,topped by a big horned helmet that was decorated with what looked like blackened pieces of bone.I didn’t even want to think of where he’d gotten the materials for that.Coiled at his side was a whip of the darkest flame and a fearsome broadsword stained with deep layers of blood hung from his waist.As soon as he appeared the hounds fell to the ground before him,fawning and whimpering pitifully.

A Dark Prince.

The Prince growled something to the hounds in a language which I thankfully didn’t understand one bit. Whatever it was he said the hounds were terrified of it. I sort of suspected at that point that they were looking for something and whatever it was,the stupid mutts had lost it. That definitely explained the Princes rage and the obvious threats. From what I could see they were trying to find it with their sense of smell but the horrible smell of the alley was confusing their sensitive noses. I know that even from where I was crouched and peering around the corner it was not very pleasant.I almost felt sorry for them.

Then I noticed the barest hint of movement from a large dumpster behind the Prince. I focused my eyes as hard as I could in the dim light of the lamps. It looked like a young kid poking his head out from under the lid. I covered my mouth quickly to mask the sound of my gasp from the hounds hearing. Was he what they were looking for?He sure as hell looked terrified enough,but then again who wouldn’t be right?The Prince was kicking and cursing at the hounds,driving them farther down the alley and away from the kid. That was the good news. The bad news is that the kid wasn’t feeling very patient with six demons breathing down his neck and started trying to clamber out of the dumpster the instant they had their backs to him.

Stay down,kid. I prayed hopefully.

Too bad that never works.

The kid tripped coming out of the dumpster and fell to the ground with the horrible sound of clanking metal. Needless to say the demons all turned around and stared at him. I saw the Prince’s dark features curl up into a vicious smile. Trust me kids,a smiling Dark Prince is never a pretty sight. The kid was frozen like a deer in the headlights of a truck…a truck with really big fangs. Now I should mention that it did cross my mind to whip out my M3 and dial up Jonothan, or Cylly and tell them I was in a lot of trouble. Of course there wouldn’t have really been time for them to get there and do anything but pick up my pieces anyway,and besides,I um……..I’d already stepped out into the mouth of the alley and was shouting at the demons.

“Don’t you dare touch him!”Believe me,I sounded about a billion times more confident than I felt.

I was so thoroughly screwed. Seven pairs of burning eyes fixed themselves on me. What the hell do I think I’m doing?I’m getting ready to throw down with a Hell Prince,I thought to myself. I really should have thought twice about several of my recent decisions. I wanted to turn right around that very instant and not look back. Fear had my throat in it’s grip,strangling out the screams that were desperate to emerge. Probably for the best since the last thing I wanted was for them to see me screaming like a little girl. Every nerve in my body was paralyzed,while my brain was shrieking at my legs to run away from here and call it a day. Crawl into my nice warm bed,read a couple comics and call the others and let them deal with it. But that was the thought that snapped me out of it. Like a blast of cold water hitting my face. I can’t run to them for help, I won’t. I can take care of myself,I really can. Deep down I knew how stupid what I was about to do was,that I was probably going to die. As usual,it occurred to me only after I’d started moving.

If this were one of my comics and I was one of the superheroes I always read about,I’d have some sort of snappy wisecrack to make. Then the demon would say something menacing and dramatic and we’d banter back and forth for a bit. But there’s a few things that even I’ve learned doing this sort of thing. Number one,I totally suck at making clever remarks when I’m shaking in my dainty little size sevens. Two,unlike in comic books,the bad guys rarely want to take the time to strike up a conversation. And three,psychotic hell-borne killing machines are not the best conversationalists anyway. Have we learned something here?Good,then let’s move on.

Anyway just as it was entering my mind that I was doing something monumentally foolish,some backdoor part of my mind noticed that the prince was going for his whip and told my feet to start moving. Figuring that he’d manage to snag me with the whip if I turned to bolt I charged straight at him,keeping my body low. Snarling he let fly with his whip and even from six feet away I got a good blast of stanky demon breath. Quickly I ducked to the right,avoiding the lash. I dove past the hounds and felt the air move as they missed slashing me to ribbons by an uncomfortably narrow margin. Hitting the ground as lightly as I could I rolled towards the kid and sprang to my feet;putting myself between him and the demons.

Hey not bad,I thought to myself,this might be pretty easy after all.

Oh,yeah. Thing number four,I should never,ever say or think stuff that.

Agony went through my arm as the dark whip wrapped itself around my wrist. I think I screamed but I’m not sure. The burning was worse than any normal fire could ever have been. With a powerful tug he pulled me off my feet like a fish on a hook towards him. The next thing I saw was a ginormous armoured fist going full-speed towards me. The blow hit me right in the chest and I was pretty sure I heard something crack under the impact. There was so much force that it hurled me backwards into the wall next to where the kid had been hiding. I hit the wall so hard that the bricks cracked and buckled under my body,leaving a Davina sized dent. If I’d been a normal person my body would have ended up smashed to a pulp. Even as it was my bones ached and creaked,my brain filled with flashing lights and stars. I heard that damn armoured jerk chuckling at my expense in a crackling voice. I bit my lower lip to hold back the moans of pain as I pulled myself slowly to my feet. I’d be damned if I’d give this demon the satisfaction of hearing that. My eyes focused unsteadily on the Prince. He was standing there smiling smugly.

If nothing else,I swore to myself,I was gonna wipe that smug look off this demons ugly mug.

I reached into my soul and drew the power into my body. A pure white energy filled me,consuming the blackness of the alley. The agonized cry of the hounds shattered windows as they scampered away from me. Their clawed hands tried to shield their eyes as best they could. Smoke rose from their bodies as the light burned their demonflesh with a dreadful sizzle that left a smell even worse than the rot of the alley. Hah,didn’t expect that,did you,little demons?I think I even smirked confidently.

I should never do that either.

Spitting a foul curse,the hell prince drew his body up to his full height,and from him emerged a cold wave of darkness that started to consume my light. This was seriously not good. Drawing in a deep breath I pulled together all of the will I had and pushed back against his dark aura. White and black energies merged and collided like two big waves crashing against one another,each trying to overcome. The Prince stood strong and unmoving in the midst of his darkness. His mouth curled into a really sick version of a happy grin. I guess he realized who I was and how well he’d be rewarded if he delivered me to his masters in quivering pieces of flesh.

Gritting my teeth I tried to push that terrifying smile out of my mind and focus on just keeping the darkness from overwhelming me. If it had just been me;I might have been able to hack it. Keeping it away from the kid as well was more challenging than I would have thought. My body was throbbing painfully already with the intense pressure of holding so much energy in check. Drawing in power and releasing it is one thing,but to hold it in as a barrier was way harder than I had thought it would be.

I really should have practiced more.

The pain was even worse because of the pounding I took against the wall earlier. There was a good chance that if I kept this up the power would start doing real damage. Slowly he was starting to gain ground on me. Inch by painful inch I lost more and more of the alley to him and the darkness closed in. By now I could feel its cold draining away my life,despite the barrier I had up. I gave up on keeping it away from me and just focused on the kid,yelling at him to run.

Not that I could blame him,but the kid was too frightened to do anything but look up at me with wide brown eyes. The tiniest crack appeared in my barrier. Darkness seeped through and the sensation of having my life drained away was so terrible that I almost lost all control of the energy. If you’ve never had your life drained then I can’t really explain it to you. Picture being outside on the coldest winter you can imagine,only you’re naked and you feel the cold right to the very depths of your being.

My light was starting to flicker and sputter as the cracks became more and more obvious. There was just too much darkness and I wasn’t anywhere near good enough. As much as I’d tried to hold my fear in check I was absolutely terrified now. I cried and whimpered at my own stupidity. He seemed to like the tears but I really didn’t give a damn at that point. My body felt like it was getting weaker and being torn apart all at the same time. I slumped to the ground as the last of my light faded and the darkness overcame me. It was all over me,squeezing my body like one of those really big snakes from the movies. I couldn’t breathe and could barely even muster the energy to think at that point. I saw the darkness rise up over the kid and heard him scream.

That did it!

I have no idea where it came from but suddenly I wasn’t feeling scared or self-pitying and I really didn’t feel like crying. Instead I felt unbelievably angry. I’d screwed up big time and now some innocent little kid was going to die. This demon was going to kill a little kid and I couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it!

This time when I screamed it wasn’t some pathetic little girlie-whine. From someplace deep inside of me a dam burst and whitelight flowed. No,more like erupted from my body. Instantly the darkness was torn apart and the alley became a virtual beacon. The hounds barely had time to make a noise before they were burned out of existence. The whitelight washed over them like a blast wave and scorched their bodies into ash,scattering their remains over the alley. The Prince formed all of the darkness he could around his body to absorb the power but it quickly proved too much for him and I heard the sounds of his body being totally crispified. I have to admit that it sounded really good to me at the time. The Prince vanished from my sight in an instant with a growl that sounded like an ‘I’ll be back’ if I’d ever heard one. Slowly I let the light die out.

The alley was deathly quiet now. Everything that had happened caught up with me and I collapsed to a heap on the ground. My body felt like I’d just called the Power Soldier a sissy. Carefully I tested myself to be sure that I hadn’t broken anything and thankfully came up negative on that score. I was bruised and aching all over though and it was hard to breathe through the pain in my chest.I coughed up a little blood and tried to get myself to my feet. The Prince had teleported away before he’d taken all that much damage from my attack. It was a pretty safe bet that he’d be back with reinforcements. God I wished that I wasn’t in such pain though.

Groggily I looked around the alley for what had happened to my bookbag. I wasn’t futzing around anymore. I fully intended to call my Cylly and Jonothan and tell them what had happened. I found my bookbag behind the dumpster,I guess I lost it sometime when I was flying through the air. I pulled out my M3 immediately and tried to open up a communication line to Cylly. By the time I realized there was no signal I’d noticed the large series of cracks and broken peices in the outer casing. I guess it hadn’t liked crashing into a brick wall.

Just wonderful.

A timid hand tugged on my skirt and I nearly jumped a,mile and a half. I’d totally forgotten about the kid.

I looked him over quickly and he seemed ok. His clothes were dirty and a little torn from running and then hiding in a dumpster but otherwise he seemed none the worse for wear. He was kind of a cute little kid actually. Well I suppose I should think of him as a young man,I know how sensitive boys his age are to that sort of thing. He was like eleven or twelve I guess. Not quite puberty yet but he’d probably be a hottie when he finally grew up. There was this large mop of brown hair that was sort of all over the place on his head. For some reason I had a strange urge to get a comb and a brush.

“A-are you with the monsters?”he asked in a shaking voice.

I blinked in surprise,then tried to give him my cutest smile through all the hurt I was feeling.”Do I look like a monster to you?”

He looked at me with those big brown eyes for a while. Obviously considering the question. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’d just been chased by demons I probably would have found the implications insulting.”Not really,”he said finally.”Are you an angel then?”

I laughed, or tried to.”Not as far as I know.My name is Davina.”

“Michael,”the kid answered seriously.

“Hi,Michael. Listen we have to get out of here now. Where are your parents?”They were probably in just as much danger as the kid was.

He looked away as though he didn’t want to me to see the expression on his face.”I-I don’t k-know.There was a big fire when the monsters came. My mom pushed me out one of the burning windows and yelled at me to run. I wanted to help them but I was scared of the monsters. So I ran.”His lower lip trembled as a bead of moisture formed in the corner of his eyes.

I put my arms around him as comfortingly as I could.He clung on to me like he never wanted to let go.”Mom and dad are ok,right?”He asked me hopefully.

“Yeah,Michael,”I said with a lump in my throat.”I’m sure they made it out and escaped just fine.”

I was lying through my teeth. The kid knew it too. But what the hell was I supposed to tell him?’Sorry,kid there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell they didn’t end up as some demonic appetizer’.Besides I could see it in the kids eyes when he asked me. Michael may have been young but he was mature enough to understand the realities of life. Before he even asked he knew the answer. He was alone in this world now. Except for me,that is. That same anger that had helped me out before was suddenly back again,only even stronger now as I held this kid in my arms. I had an irrational urge to just start breaking things. It may not have improved our situation any but it sure would have made me feel a damn sight better about all this.

First things first though,I needed Cylly and Jonothan here.

“Listen,Mikey,”I told him seriously.”We have to get moving now ok? We can’t stay here for much longer.”

Mikey sniffled and wiped the tears from his eyes,but he nodded at me. He was a tough little guy,that was for sure. I helped him to his feet and began leading him from the alley. Walking was a little hard for me right now but all things considered I didn’t have much choice in the matter. Once we were out of the immediate area I could concentrate on healing my body and getting in conatct with the others. I’d handled things pretty well so far though so I thought there shouldn’t be any major problems coming up.

I’m just never going to learn.

I threw the kid to the side the instant I felt it.We were hurrying down a deserted street when I felt a terrible hatred and bloodlust coming from above.

In throwing the kid to the side however,I didn’t have time to get out of the way myself. Tearing pain coursed down my back,accompanied a split second later by the wet sticky feeling of blood. If I’d been just a little slower in twisting my body the claws of the hound would have torn my throat instead. I rolled to the side and put myself between hound and kid. As fast as I could I focused my other senses on the auras nearby. I could feel the presence of three people in a nearby store who were watching the scene in fascinated terror. A few people in nearby buildings who hadn’t noticed anything yet. And some thirty or so hounds milling around,probably looking for me. Damn that was fast. They must have already been in the area looking for the kid when the prince and I had our little tussle.

Just ducky.

The hound raised his face to the sky. It occurred to me that he was going to call out and alert the others to our position. Before he could open his mouth I leapt forward and slammed my fist into the hounds throat. Its cry died before it could take form. The hound doubled over and gasped for breath. I pointed my palm at the thing and concentrated my light into a single short blast of power that reduced the demon to ash on the spot.

I grabbed Mikey and we took off again. I was trying to ignore the serious bleeding on my back. Come on,Davina. I urged myself as I led the boy through the streets past several groups of shocked bystanders. Think for once in your damn life. You need to get Cylly. We could use the phone in one of these stores?No,very bad plan. The demons won’t hesitate to follow you in there and then you’ll have a lot more people in danger. A media terminal?Maybe if I can find one. Have to ditch the bad guys first. Thinking quickly I ducked down into a side alley and started zigzagging our path through the streets. Somewhere in the back of my thoughts I remembered Cylly trying to teach me that hounds have a keen sense of smell but they’re not very bright. Maybe if I doubled back a bit and moved around the area I could spread my scent around enough to confuse them.Not the best plan,but maybe it would buy me time.

I zagged around for a bit before I retraced our steps and went over some of the places we’d been in before. Mikey followed along at my side with barely a word. He looked exhuasted,there was no telling how long he’d been running before he found me. I wasn’t feeling very spry myself either.

I pulled the kid into a little niche beneath an overpass. Even without the demons around the looks we were getting from running around the streets with a garbage-covered twelve year old and my blouse covered in blood were not the sort of thing you wanted when you were trying to keep a low profile. Besides I needed the rest and I’m sure the kid did too. We squatted there in the darkness for a while as I prayed that my body would heal itself soon. I could have used my own powers to heal myself faster but there was no way I could have kept the demons from noticing.

After about half an hour the wounds had closed themselves. It still hurt like hell when I moved my body but at least I wasn’t losing anymore blood. Mikey had fallen asleep against me and I hated the thought of waking the poor kid after all that he’d been through. I would have let him sleep longer,but then I felt that tell-tale sickness in the pit of my stomach. I’d bought enough time to get some rest but it looks like they’d found me again. They must really want this kid for some reason to spend so much time looking for him. Of course it’s more likely that they want to kill me now a lot more than they want him.

“Hey,Mikey,”I said after a deep breath.”You have to get out of here.”

His eyes took on a panicked look and I tried to smile encouragingly.”No,it’s not anything you did. The demons found us. They’re more after me than you at this point. You’ll be a lot safer on your own.”

Mikey clung on to my body tightly. There were sobs in his voice as he sent off spasms of pain along my spine. I tried to caress his shoulders in a way that was reassuring but I don’t think the kid was all that put to ease. I wasn’t all that excited either to be honest with you. I was about to say something more reassuring to the kid when a large,black-mailed hand shot into the niche and grabbed me by the back of my blouse.

Before I even knew what was happening I felt myself being hurled through the air. The wind whipped by my ears with a sound loud enough to leave me deaf for a week. I could see the cars on the highway streak below me as I thought I heard Mikey scream in terror. My body sailed like a doll across the highway,I hit the far wall with enough force behind me to leave a human-sized dent in the concrete. Something definitely broke somewhere in my body as I bounced off the wall and collapsed into the middle of the street. Somehow I managed to crawl to my hands and knees while choking on my own blood and trying to see through the stars and flashes of light that filled my vision. There was a horrible noise in my head,it sounded like an enormous goose getting gutted alive. Deep in my mind,beneath the pain and the confusion that I was in things started adding up. Bright lights,a really loud honking noise,and the fact that I was lying in the middle of a highway. Without stopping to think I leapt into the air and out of the way just before the car hit me. I threw myself out of the way and across the road.

Leaping like that hurt ten times worse than hitting the wall had. Apparently what had broken earlier was one of the bones in my leg. The hand tore the back of my blouse to shreds as it grabbed me again and lifted me up to come face to face with the Prince. There were still a few minor burns on his body from our earlier fight and he looked profoundly pissed off. Mikey was lying limply on the ground at the demons feet,thankfully only unconscious. A feral grin of pleasure crossed the Princes face as it doubled its free hand into a fist and rammed it into my torso. My body buckled and my ribs cracked from the force of the blow. For a brief second the world went black until I felt the blow from the fist again,and then again.

I tried to go as slack in his grip as possible,he thought that I was too injured to be of any danger to him and I needed him to think that for as long as possible. Already I could feel the auras of the Hounds coming to help their master;it wouldn’t be long before I’d be completely overwhelmed with demons. My hand was behind my back and I was trying hard to focus as much energy into it as I could muster for my last attack. The fist hit me again and I was having a lot of trouble breathing. Something probably punctured a lung. Even a supernatural body can only take so much punishment and I was about reaching my limit. A look was on the demons face that was almost feral,almost hungry. It was enjoying causing my agony and this was probably only the beginning. A demonic tongue slipped out and licked his lips as though tasting a fine wine for the first time and he wanted to make certain that he enjoyed every last drop of my torment. I saw that armoured hand raise itself to strike me one last time.

Snarling at the demon I thrust my hand out and stiffed it into his mouth. For a moment I saw confusion written all across the demons face. Then it seemed to understand what was about to happen and I saw real fear cross the demon’s face for the first time. With a sneer of triumph I released all the energy I had into the demon’s body,point blank. The light tore through his throat with a great roar of force and power. Exploding out the back of his body and illuminating the area behind him for a hundred yards or more. The hand that was holding me ceased to exist and I fell to the ground weakly. His entire upper body had been simply obliterated to the point that not even ash remained to mark its existence. The lone legs fell to the ground and crumpled,only to be blown away on the wind. Within seconds no one would ever have been able to tell that there had once been a demon here if not for the unnatural taint that he left in his wake.

I’d done it. I’d actually destroyed a Dark Prince on my own.

I wanted nothing more right then than to lay down and enjoy the fact that I’d done something so momentous. I needed to heal,my bones were broken,I was bruised all over and covered in blood,dirt,bits of cement and god knew what else. My body felt like I’d been hit by about a dozen jumbo jets and I was far from in good condition to do anything useful. But I could already feel the presence of the Hounds drawing closer. The fact that they hadn’t left when I killed their master meant there had to be another,higher level demon nearby to give them orders. I couldn’t sense him,but whoever or whatever it was I didn’t want to meet him.

Looking around quickly I saw the grate that led into the sewers. The hounds wouldn’t be able to smell me in there and that might be all I needed to escape from them with the kid. I bent down and picked Mikey up with a lot of pain and effort then tore the cover off the entrance. The smell was worse than anything I could describe but I figured it wasn’t quite as bad as having my body ripped apart by fifty hounds.

And that’s more or less how I ended up here. I fled so far and so deep down that I don’t know how to get out anymore. My body is too weak to move and my stomach is aching. Mikey is sleeping in my arms,too exhausted to stay awake any longer. He says that he believes in me,that he knows I’ll get him out of here. I let him think that. I’m too tired to tell him the truth. To tell him that we’re going to die.

I think I’ll sleep now. I probably won’t ever open my eyes again but I can’t care about that now. I’m too tired to care. I’m just too tired to care anymore. All that I care about now is that I let down the others. And they’ll never know how sorry I am that I couldn’t measure up to them when it came down to the last act. I’m just the baby of the group.

And now I’m going to die.

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