Xanthiilus stood on the ledge of the warehouse, cigarette hanging from his lips with the smoke curling around his head. The morning sun was fighting valiantly to burn through the mist that had gradually taken over the city, but there were only patches the light managed to shine radiantly through. Saleena stepped up next to him, slipping an arm around him. Xan puffed on his cigarette and pulled her closer, leaning his head against hers.
“We need to find a way to locate the demons, so we can hunt them.” Xanthiilus flicked the cigarette out into the empty air.
“Or at least set a trap.”
“A trap, huh? How do you propose that?”
“Not really sure, but it’d have to be in a park.” Saleena slipped her hand into Xan’s cloak and pulled out a cigarette.
“Do we try to get them all, or just a few at a time?”
“Now,” Saleena took a single drag and gave the cigarette to Xan, “that is the tricky part.” She blew out the smoke and it spiraled through the air.
“Where are they entering our world from?” Sympheros’ voice was unexpected.
Xan and Sal turned around and found Sympheros eating an omelet.
“Where’d you get the omelet?”
Sympheros took a big bite, and smiled. “Maryanne found your food, and surprisingly the kitchen stuff wasn’t hurt in that explosion. But, that doesn’t answer my question.”
“I’m not sure we know, or could find out in a timely manner. Every attack has come from a different location. It’s possible they just came out there, instead of travelling from someplace else,” Xan said, eying the omelet.
Maryanne peeked her head out of the door. “Symph! Didn’t you tell them I made breakfast?”
Symph took another big bite from his omelet. “Hmm, nope. I didn’t.” He grinned.
They all walked downstairs to get breakfast, talking about different theories and ideas, trying to figure out how to find the demons. They sat in Sal’s forest after eating, empty plates and what books they could find still intact scattered around them.
Xan set the book down he had been looking through. “What happened to the wards?”
Saleena looked up at him. “What do you mean?”
“Well, last night, when I woke up it was dark. I remember the wards glowing green before. And nothing happened to that demon when he came here.”
“Did the demon come inside?”
Xan shook his head. “He called me from the skylight.”
“Well, then we know the wards worked somewhat at least. The demon couldn’t come inside. And you didn’t see a glow because it wasn’t there anymore. We got rid of it, so that the wards wouldn’t be as obvious.”
“What makes the wards strong enough to repel a demon?”
“Xan, you should know all of this. The forest supplies its own natural magic, as well as the strength of our magic in casting the wards.”
“Right,” Xan said, talking fast. “The demon Sympheros fought said this city strengthened its power, and that it was such a nice change from all the nature that used to be here. The city has renewed the demons’ strength at an incredible rate.” Xan paused for a brief second before continuing. “It’s like the Soulthiefs in the subway. I underestimated them in such an unnatural element, and it was almost my undoing.”
Sympheros looked up from the book he was reading. “So, what are you saying?”
Maryanne spoke up, quietly. “Bring nature to them.”
Sympheros tossed the book aside. “And how do you suggest we do that?
Saleena stood up and walked over to her tree. She placed a hand gently on the trunk. “It’ll take me a few days to build up enough energy to spread a glade across the city instantaneously.”
“Wait a minute,” Sympheros said. “Why is everyone so quiet and somber?”
Xanthiilus walked over and wrapped his arms around Saleena. “There are only a few dryads that have done this in the past. The sudden release of energy like that can severely hurt the dryad’s tree.”
“Isn’t there another way?” Maryanne asked.
“I can just sacrifice my tree.”
“What?” three voices yelled.
Saleena turned around in Xan’s arms and kissed him. “It’s not as bad as you think. I’m the first dryad. I can take the acorn from my oak so I can replant my tree. I’ll just be weakened by the effort.”
“And vulnerable to the demons that we’re hunting.” Xan’s eyes were full of concern.
“Well,” Sal whispered, kissing Xan, “my phoenix will just have to save me.”