It was almost daylight when Xan got back to the safe house. He could have gotten there instantly, but he decided to walk, to have more time to think and smoke. The shock of the werewolf and what the werewolf had said were still bouncing around inside his head. Xan had lived through so much, yet it was unsettling hearing this wasn’t the first life had been through. He had always accepted that nature had created him to help combat evil, but he never thought that he had been different than the others. His thoughts left him when he reached the front door of the safe house. He was suddenly so tired, and he just wanted to crawl into bed with Sal and hold her as he fell asleep.
“There you are, Xanthiilus.”
Xan turned around groggily, to see who was addressing him. Wings sprang from his back and his sword was in his hands in the blink of an eye. A demon stood before him.
“Is that anyway to welcome a guest?”
Xan couldn’t believe he hadn’t recognized that voice as demonic. They all sounded like chains being dragged over stones. “What the hell do you want?”
The demon chuckled. “I certainly do not want hell. I have been locked up there for a lot longer than I would like. I just thought I would stop by and see how everyone is doing. I would especially like to say hello to that little slut of yours.”
A streak of fire pierced the demon, and Xan stood behind it, fire dripping from his sword. The demon gurgled, a large cut appearing through its middle as black blood oozed from the wound. It placed its hands on the cut, and black wisps of clouds drifted from its fingers followed a sharp hissing sound. Xan watched as the cut began to mend jaggedly, leaving a large scar on the demon’s middle.
“Heh,” the demon coughed, “I seem to have hit a nerve. Ever see demonic magic before? It can be fun.” The demon lifted its hands in front of its chest and a large black ball swirled into existence. The demon spun around and threw the ball at the safe house.
Misted flooded into the street, and Xan watched in horror as the ball of black magic flew toward the house. He blinked, and the ball slowed to a crawl, his eyes bursting with silver light. He let go of his sword and it hung, suspended in the air. He walked forward, moving around the demon, the feathers of his wings bursting into flame and slowly molting off. Xan walked pass the magic, the demon frozen with its hands thrown out, a giddy smile on its face. He turned and stood in front of the ball still slowly moving toward the people he cared about. Eyes closed, he reached out his hands and waited.
The shockwave blasted through the neighborhood, shattering windows in homes and cars. The magic ball had stopped at Xan’s hands, and brilliant wings of fire streaked out behind him. He gently cradled the ball, like a football, and opened his eyes, two brilliant silver orbs. The demon yelped in surprise. The demon’s black magic slowly sifted away, being replaced with phoenix fire. Xan threw the ball back at the demon so fast the demon couldn’t have even seen it move. Xan was gone.
The demon blinked and looked down, a gaping hole through its middle.
“Ever seen phoenix fire before?” Xan was standing behind the dying demon, his blade across its throat.
Black blood bubbled out of the demon’s mouth, and it lifted its hands to the hole in its body, flakes of black falling from its fingers.
“Now let’s see you heal this.” Xan jerked the sword across the demon’s neck, and vanished in a flash of fire, stepping out in front of the door. He sheathed his sword as the demon’s head fell of its body. Xan’s wings of fire dissipated into the mist as he walked in through the door.
As soon as he stepped in, Saleena tackled him in a huge hug.
“Where were you? And what the hell did you just do to that demon?” Sal’s voice was hurried and broken because she was kissing Xan repeatedly.
“I was…” Xan’s voice trailed off when he saw Sympheros and Maryanne sitting up in the hide-a-bed. Apart from the sheet they were holding up to cover themselves, they were clearly naked. “…apparently not the only one who got lucky last night.”
Everyone stared at each other briefly, before bursting into laughter. Xan hugged Sal close, glad to be back with her and savoring the brief happy moments he could find. He knew they would be harder and harder to find in the coming days.
“I needed that laugh. I had an interesting night.” Xan quickly recounted what had happened, and everyone seemed just as surprised as he had been about the werewolf. Maryanne interrupted briefly, saying she had been right about the legend, but she stayed quiet as Xan finished telling them all what had happened.
“So, what happened out there?” Sympheros asked. He and Maryanne were dressed and sitting next to each other on the couch, holding hands.
“Something just seemed to click, especially with what the werewolf said about fighting for those that are alive. I felt inhibitions burning away, and then I felt suddenly free and capable. You guys are alive, and I knew I could help keep you alive.”
Saleena smiled at Xan. “Now there’s a reason to fight.”
“But, once again we don’t have a safe place to stay. And still no way to determine where demons are,” Xan said.
Sympheros frowned slightly. “I’m not sure I can help with the place to stay bit. But, couldn’t we lure all the demons together somehow?”
“Wouldn’t there be too many?” Maryanne asked.
“Honestly, we don’t know how many were sealed in our prison.” Saleena looked over at Xan.
Xan nodded in agreement. “The first demon that came through told me it was the Lord of Fire and his thirteen generals. But that demon was just a servant. These last demons? Soldiers, servants, who knows. We really have no idea how many are out there now.”
“Well, we better go. Broken windows, remains of a creature from hell, pretty sure cops will be here soon,” Sympheros said. “Maybe the warehouse will be safe for a bit. Sal’s tree’s there, that should help with some protection if we stay in the forest right?”
Saleena nodded. “Protection enough, at least.”
It was dark and snowing when they got to the warehouse. It was just as they had left it, and there didn’t seem to be any evidence anyone had returned to look for them or harm Saleena’s tree. Hopefully, no one looking for them would think to come back so soon. Xanthiilus entered first, sword drawn and glowing dimly with silver light, the feather glimmering in the dark. Saleena entered with Maryanne and Sympheros followed them in. Scattered books and charred remains from the earlier explosion were all that greeted them in the darkness. They crept toward the doorway to Sal’s forest, a soft green glow emanating through open doorway.
“My ward,” Saleena said. “It would be red if someone had tried entering.”
Maryanne jumped when Sal spoke, holding a hand to her chest. It had been eerily quiet until Sal broke the silence.
Xanthiilus stepped through into the forest, sheathing his sword. He felt a flash of pity for Maryanne. She was a magical human, but her magic did nothing to protect her. She was only able to feel emotions strongly, and store some of that energy inside her. It had come in handy when Saleena had almost died, her energy being drained away by the seal. Maryanne had proved invaluable, though. She was very book smart, and she had helped Saleena try to find a way to find the demons.
“Looks cozy,” Sympheros said, breaking the silence once again.
Saleena smiled softly and nodded. “It is. The forest floor can be very comfortable.” She winked at Xan.
Xanthiilus ignored the remark. “Sympheros, can you help Saleena add some offensive wards? Her protective wards are incredibly strong, but it might help to have some bang if anyone actually tries anything.”
Sympheros stood silently, looking around the forest.
“Symph, do you know how to place wards?” Maryanne asked quietly.
Sympheros shook his head. “I’ve learned a lot through trial and error, and the internet. Never really paid much attention to what I found on wards.”
Xanthiilus and Saleena exchanged glances, having witnessed what Sympheros could do.
“You mean, you’re completely self taught?” Saleena’s voice sounded disbelieving.
Sympheros nodded. “That’s right.”
“That’s incredible.” Xan said. “I’ve rarely seen a magic user of such talent and raw power.”
Sympheros looked down at the ground. Maryanne smiled and slipped her arms around him. Xanthiilus walked over to them; an idea had suddenly occurred to him, and he asked Maryanne.
Maryanne frowned slightly, her forehead creasing in thought. “I’ve never thought about trying something like that before. Not that I have had much opportunity to. But I think I could help him direct his magic.”
Sal stepped over and gently placed on Sympheros’s shoulder. “Do you trust her?”
Symph looked up at Saleena. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“What she means,” Xan said, “is that you will have to let Maryanne inside your head so she can control your magic.”
Sympheros nodded. Maryanne kissed him briefly, before placing her hands on his head, almost cradling it.
“You really have to touch someone to do that? I thought that was just something movies did,” Sympheros said.
“Well, kinda. You can either touch the person, or use a conduit,” Maryanne explained.
Xanthiilus sat down next to a tree, leaning back against the solid trunk. “Like a voodoo doll.”
“This shit just gets weirder and weirder.” Sympheros laughed and smiled at Maryanne. “Well, go on then.”
Maryanne and Sympheros stood still for several moments. A dim light appeared in their eyes, a soft mix of red and purple. “I’m ready,” both of their voices said.
Saleena began to sing, her body moving hypnotically to her words. Small sparks of light filtered through the foliage and danced into the air, swirling around Saleena. Xanthiilus watched her, the lights reflected in his eyes. He always enjoyed watching her work complex magic. Her dances were incredibly entrancing. Sympheros’s and Maryanne’s voices spoke as one, chanting in time to Saleena’s music. Xan had only seen magic performed like this once before. Saleena’s singing was guiding the magic that Maryanne was working through Sympheros. It wouldn’t have worked with just Sympheros, because he didn’t know how to cast wards. Although Maryanne wasn’t able to because of her magic, she had learned how in all of her reading, so she was able to follow the directions being sung to her. Saleena’s dance was reinforcing her own wards, while also weaving in the new wards from Sympheros’s magic. Xan’s eyes slowly closed watching Saleena dance, small lights twirling around her as small wisps of fire from Sympheros joined with the other lights. The hypnotic singing slowly lulled him to sleep, the past few days catching up with him.