The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 9:07 am

By JKolasch

Xander stood in the center of a group of twenty or so other Conduits. They were standing on a small hill. A hill which Fin realized was really the rubble and remains of a collapsed building. Swords planted in the ground, the Conduits and Xander made a striking image. Black and silver coats were buffeted by the wind as they all pointed in unison and fired silver beams that coalesced together, combining their power, and sliced through the now thinning horde of Thieves.

            The relief Fin had initially felt was short lived. He was still pressing hard onto Carl’s wound, attempting to slow the loss of blood. But that was a fight he was rapidly loosing. “Grace! I need you!”

            Grace’s head finally shifted and Fin could see the silver streaks of light flying past them reflected in her wide eyes. She looked over to Fin, her face ashen, save the scarlet stream of blood that was starting to crust on her face. Her eyes were still wide, almost glassen and unseeing like a doll.

            “Grace! Snap out of it! Come on!” Fin desperately wanted to go over to her, but he knew he couldn’t leave Carl. And even if his sword wasn’t broken, he was nowhere near as gifted at healing as Grace was.

            Mills strode over to Grace, Callie at his heel. She was limping and her steel fur was covered in a muddy white: the gore of her own wounds mixed with torn viscera and flesh of the Thieves. Mills knelt down and grabbed Grace’s face. “Hey, your friends need you. You good?”

            Grace stared into Mills’s face for a moment. Then she blinked. And blinked again. She gently shook her head as Mills let go of her face. “I… Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.” She took Mills offered hand and let him help her stand.

            “Go. Carl’s hurt bad.”

Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 9:07 am”

The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 8:21 am

By JKolasch

Mills was like the conductor of a symphony. He stood in the center of a whirling inferno of smoke and fire, a blue tornado of destruction. It was a ring of protection around the three people on the ground. Three people who had tried to stand against a tsunami of Thieves. Callie was crouched near Fin, her eyes fixed on Mills, but ready to protect the fallen Conduit and his companions at a moment’s notice. Mills’s face was calm, even as his torrent of elemental power ripped around him, thrashing his hair and trench coat. His eyes were fixed on the horde in front of him. With a flick of his wrist, he shot a tendril of fire into the mass, like a whip. It cracked through the ash bodies, cleanly separating torsos from legs. The Thieves made little effort to move forward or attack but Mills knew better than to give them the opportunity.

            “How they doing, Call?” Mills kept his eyes forward, his attention on the Thieves.

            Callie whined softly.

            “What I figured. Let’s get them moving. Surprised no Soulless have showed up to this party yet.” Mills sent two more tendril whips into the mass. It didn’t seem like it was doing anything to thin their numbers. Mills risked a quick glance back and saw Fin stirring again. “You gotta get up, Conduit! We’re sitting ducks here.”

            Fin struggled, but he managed to sit up this time. His head was throbbing, pain ran through his entire body, and his throat still felt like it had been torn apart. He looked over at Grace and Carl: they were both stirring and starting to get up. They looked beat to hell. Hair matted to bloody and sweaty foreheads. But they were moving. He heard a soft whine at his side, and he turned to see the dog, Callie sitting next to him. He reached out, but hesitated, unsure how she would respond. Callie ducked her head toward his hand. Fin smiled and scratched between her ears. He groaned to his feet, but he was up and standing. He heard the fire whip cracks from Mills’s attacks.

            Fin was momentarily frozen in awe. The shear power the man was wielding, and so casually. Even still, Fin couldn’t help but notice that for as effective as the Elementalist’s attacks were, there was no visible dent in the Thieves before them. No. Fin’s eyes narrowed as he looked beyond the whirling ring of fire surrounding him, Grace, Carl, the man, and his dog. Thieves were surrounding them. Of course. It’s not like the creatures would stay on one front while getting attacked. They would reposition and work to regain a tactical advantage. For as mindless as these creatures seemed, they possessed a wicked and carnal intelligence.

            “Who the hell is that?” Grace asked. “And is that a dog?”

Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 8:21 am”

Rise, Rise – Chapter Eighteen

By JKolasch

Xanthiilus slowly opened his eyes to sunlight filtering through dusty blinds.  Squinting, he tried to look around, but even the light coming through the blinds was too bright.  He shifted, and noticed he was on a couch, with his cloak thrown over him.  Out of habit, his hand reached for his sword, but it wasn’t in the sheath.  Xan sprung up, his head swimming, and he slumped back onto the couch, holding his head in his hands.  He felt something softly sit down next to him, and an arm brushed across his back as it wrapped around him.

            “I missed you,” Saleena’s soft voice whispered into his ear.

            Xan squeezed her hand and smiled softly, the smell of trees and flowers filling his nose.  “Is this a dream?  Or am I dead.”

            “Neither.”  Saleena kissed his cheek softly.  “Although you were almost dead.  Those hunters found us and helped us get you out of there.”

            “I tried to get to you…”

            Saleena gently rested her head on Xan’s shoulder.  “You almost killed yourself using that much energy.  You could have completely burnt yourself out.”

            “I don’t remember what happened.  I burst into the church, and then I was in that room, surrounded by blood.”

            “Xan.  You killed the Council.  There’s no one left in there.”

            Tears started falling from Xan’s eyes.  “I had to find you.  I had to get you back.”

            Saleena cradled Xan in her arms, gently rocking him.  “Shh.  It’s okay now.  You did.”

            “What about Sympheros?  And Maryanne?”

            “They’re in another room.  They’re safe.”

            Xanthiilus rested his head on Saleena’s.  He closed his eyes and sighed.  “I didn’t kill all of the Council.”

            “What do you mean?  I saw the…the massacre,” Saleena whispered.

            “The vampires are dead.”  Xan stood up and walked over to the window, pulling a cigarette from his cloak.  “The demon leading them is not.”

            Saleena walked over as Xan lit his cigarette.  “A demon?”

            “Tobias talked to me after you were kidnapped.”  Smoke drifted from Xan’s mouth as he talked, telling Saleena what he had found out.

The sun had gone down, but Xan was still standing in the window, a fresh cigarette hanging from his lips.  Saleena was stretched out on the couch.

            “Take Sympheros and Maryanne and go home.  I have to take care of this demon king.”

            “Xan.”  Sal sat up.  “You know what Tobias told you is true.  There is no way to kill him except to take his place.”

            “I still have to try.”  Xan turned and walked over to the couch, kneeling down in front of Saleena.  “I love you.”

Continue reading “Rise, Rise – Chapter Eighteen”

The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 6:13 am

By JKolasch

“Dragon event?” Grace broke the silence.

            “Does that mean what I think it does?” Fin’s eyes were glassy orbs staring past the phone screen still held up for them to read. His voice was calm, but not the calm of a still pond. It was the calm of sail without wind.

            Carl nodded, tapping at the phone’s screen. “Based on how you just asked, I’m assuming you’re at least a little familiar with the dragon.”

            “I’ve read some stories. Saw snippets of damaged footage that was salvaged.”

            “Wait, wait.” Grace was shaking her head. Her arms matched the motion, cutting against each other. “Is this why the Soulless have been gathering? To summon one of those things?”

            “Very likely,” Carl said. “I may have been a lot younger the first time around, but it’s basically the Soulless’s M.O.”

            “So you weren’t just there when New York was destroyed.” Fin was still calm.

            Carl looked at Fin for a moment before answering, eyes scanning over the Conduit’s passive face. “No, I wasn’t.” There was an ache in the way those words pushed out of Carl’s lungs. “I am a veteran of the War of Souls. I lost family and friends then, and I’ve lost family and friends now. No escape it seems.” Carl’s lips tucked together. Clearly, he was trying to smile to pass it off, but he wasn’t fooling anyone.

            “Oh Carl, I’m so sorry.” Grace reached out gingerly, as if to comfort Carl, but stopped and pulled her arms back, hugging herself tightly.

            “Just figured once was enough, you know?” Carl walked over and grabbed his rifle from by the door. He pointed at the swords. “Might want to grab those, we need to get going.”

            Fin nodded, going to retrieve both swords. He paused. “Hold on. How are you getting this kind of information? We haven’t heard anything from headquarters.”

            “Well, we haven’t exactly checked in, either.” Grace had gotten their swords. She held Fin’s out for him.

            Carl looked back and forth between the two. “Seriously? That gives me loads of questions. But first, we know because we share information. We’ve got people all over the city keeping an eye on things and fighting.”

            “Speaking of more questions,” Fin started.

            Carl cut him off with a flutter from his hand. “It feels like you’re implying that you guys can’t talk to each unless you are actively trying to talk to each other. Which is crazy.”

Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 6:13 am”

Rise, Rise – Chapter Seventeen

By JKolasch

A black arrow streaked across the sky appearing briefly in front of a full moon, and fell as it neared its target.  A flurry of flaming wings spiraling in front of it, and the silver streak of a sword as it sliced through the arrow.

            “Damn it!  I need this one alive!”  Xan yelled, turning back to his pursuit of the vampire.  That was all he needed now.  Vampire hunters.  He heard more arrows whistling in the air behind him.  Grimacing, he urged himself to fly faster.  The vampire wasn’t too far in front of him now.

            A breathy laugh trailed back to him, and the vampire turned, her long black hair blowing wildly.  “What’s the matter, Xan?  Can’t catch a girl?”  She threw her head back and laughed, and suddenly yelped in pain.  A black arrow piercing her arm.

            “God damn it!”  Xan spun around and stopped, his wings fanning out behind him as embers and smoke billowed after the vampire.  He leveled his sword at the approaching hunters and waited, eyes gleaming dangerously in the moonlight.  He needed to catch that vampire, but the damn vampire hunters were causing too much trouble.  He needed her alive.  Xan closed his eyes and waited.

            Seconds past, and he heard the trudging footfall of heavy boots on the stone street.  They scuffled and slowed as they neared Xan, and without looking he could tell they were uncertain of him.  Their feet shuffled awkwardly.  Xan opened his eyes.  Four large crossbows were leveled at him.

            “I don’t normally kill humans.  But if you keep this up, you’ll force my hand.  I need that vampire alive.”

            He watched indifferently as four fingers slowly squeezed the triggers, causing a slight click as four black arrows gently left the crossbows.  They moved through the air slowly, and Xan watched the grimacing faces seemingly frozen in place.  Two men and two women.  He sheathed his sword and walked toward the arrows, grabbing them from the air as he passed.  He stopped in front of them, holding two arrows in each hand.

            “It’s quaint, still using crossbows.  Guns would be better, but still not effective.”  Xan almost smiled watching the humans react.  Only one of them stepped back in surprise.  The others only showed surprise in the widening of their eyes.

Continue reading “Rise, Rise – Chapter Seventeen”

The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 5:03 am

By JKolasch

Fin woke to someone standing over him, something long and metallic pressing into his chest. It was cold, even through the layers of his uniform. He couldn’t quite make out any details about who was standing over him, the lights of the room haloed the figure in a blurry haze. As far the object pressing into his chest, Fin was pretty sure it was a gun. The end felt too blunt to be anything else. He blinked his eyes, trying to clear the sleep and to acclimate to the light.

            “What are you doing in my room?” The voice was gruff.

            Fin blinked. “Your room? I… We…” He glanced over to see Grace sitting on the couch. Her eyes met his and glanced from the gun at Fin’s chest to the something else he couldn’t quite see. But he could guess.

            “And don’t even think about going for those pigstickers you lot like to brandish about.”

            Even if Fin had wanted to, his sword was across the room. It was propped up against the wall by the door, alongside Grace’s sword. He almost spoke, but thought better of telling the man currently pinning him down with a firearm that he didn’t need his sword to use magic. True, he would be limited. But against what appeared to just be a normal person?

            “I’ll ask again.” The tip of the barrel drove into Fin’s chest, emphasizing the man’s words. “What are you doing in my room?”

            “We needed a place to stay,” Fin said.

            The man guffawed. “Really? No shit! But in a hotel full of rooms, why’d you pick mine?”

            Fin stared blankly into the man’s face. He could finally make out details: a nose that had obviously been broken before (likely several times); sunken, but very alert, grey eyes; weathered skin that was starting to show signs of wrinkling; and dark hair with a salt and pepper beard. “It was just the room we went into.”

            The man sighed, glancing over at Grace who was still sitting on the couch. He waggled his hand holding the pistol at her.

            “He’s not wrong, “ she said. “Most of the other rooms we tried were locked. The door to this one was propped open.”

            The man titled his head at her. “You are Conduits, right?” He waggled the pistol from Grace to the swords by the door. “I mean, I imagine a lock would be pretty minor. Hell, if you didn’t want to magic a door open, you’ve got a friggin’ sword.”

Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Four, 5:03 am”

Rise, Rise – Chapter Sixteen

By JKolasch

Several weeks had past, and the humans were already rebuilding their city.  They had taken care to preserve as much of Saleena’s forest as possible, and had actually taken some creative measures in building around, or with, the trees and glades.  Xanthiilus smiled, watching the sunset over the city.  His warehouse was repaired, and there had been a few alterations.  The forest half was larger, to make room for Saleena’s new tree, an oak that was growing rapidly with the help of some magic users who specialized in the earth element.  The other half was also larger, with more living quarters for those supernatural people who had nowhere else to live.

            Xanthiilus finished his cigarette and put it out in the ashtray.  The ashtray was a demand of Sympheros’.  Sympheros’ had felt he was entitled to some demands after helping most of the people escape the glade while Saleena was killing the demons.  Maryanne had sighed, commenting on how overdramatic Sympheros was.

            Xanthiilus turned and found Saleena standing in the doorway.  As always, she was stunningly beautiful.  But today, she was radiant.  The sun glistened on her skin like droplets of dew clinging to leaves in the early morning, and the energy from her tree was overwhelming.  It had spread its roots throughout the entire city.

            She slinked over to Xan, wagging her hips seductively.  He clasped her hands and kissed her passionately on the lips, before lifting her hand and kissing it.

            “I think we should get married.”

            Saleena took a step backward, shock splashed across her face.  “What?”

            Xan’s hands were still floating in the air, where they had been holding Saleena’s.  His mouth hung open, silver eyes soft and hurt.  “But I…”

            Saleena smiled, quickly flashing her teeth before jumping into his arms and kissing him.  “Silly.  Aren’t you even going to propose?”

            Xan quickly dropped to a knee.  “Saleena, will you…”

            “Of course I will!” her light, tinkling laughter cut him off.  “Honestly, thinking you had to propose to me.”

            Xan glared at her, pulling another cigarette from his cloak.  Saleena’s eyes flashed as she grabbed the lighter from his hands.

            “Here, let me get that for you, hubby.”

            A loud groan echoed across the rooftop.  “You guys are gonna live forever.  Calling each other lame ass pet names.  The world will never make it.”  Sympheros plopped down on the edge of the roof, a wide grin covering his face.

Continue reading “Rise, Rise – Chapter Sixteen”

The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 9:18pm

By JKolasch

The German shepherd was crouched next to a man leaning against the broken concrete barrier. The remnants of skyscrapers loomed into the late evening, the sunlight casting a contrasting glow against the fires burning across the city. The man shifted, crunching worn leather boots against the gravel and broken concrete of the sidewalk. He reached into the pocket of an equally worn brown trench coat that crumpled around him. The man looked at the smashed pack of cigarettes he had fished out and sighed. Pulling the least broken cigarette to his lips, he touched the tip with his finger. The cigarette cherried and he puffed, letting the smoke drift through the hair slipping into his eyes. The dog whined gently.

            “What? It’s not like they’re gonna see the smoke.” The man gestured vaguely in the air, smoke trailing from the burning the cigarette. “There’s plenty of haze and fire to hide one cigarette.”

            The dog cocked its head slightly, one ear drooping just a bit.

            “No. I’m not putting it out yet.” The man took a long drag, the hint of a satisfied smile touch his lips like the cigarette. “It’s not like I can just run to the store again. They’re all kinda closed for some reason.”

            The dog laid down, tucking its head between its front legs and whined, brown eyes staring into the mostly empty square beyond the concrete barrier they were hiding behind.

            “Seriously,” he said in a puff, “it’s not happening. Regardless of…”

            The man trailed off. He and his dog both watched as two figures, dressed in the black and (he could only guess based on the distance and available light) silver of Conduits. They were walking low, hiding behind a burning bus. Looked like the bus had some sort of safety slogan wrapped along its side. The group of Soulless he had been watching had so far ignored the two black figures, but they were pushing their luck. Sure enough, a Soulless noticed them. The creature lifted its arm and pointed.

Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 9:18pm”

Rise, Rise – Chapter Fifteen

By JKolasch

Xanthiilus stood, watching Saleena.  She wasn’t moving.  She was just sitting in front of her tree, a green glow radiating from her skin and small lights dancing around her.  Xan knew she was almost ready, and he was getting worried.  The battle with the Lord of Fire would be intense, and Xan knew the Lord would not be fighting alone.  He was sure the demon had a reserve of demonic minions yet, and would do everything it could to stay alive after just breaking free from its prison.

            “I’m ready, Xan.”  Sal’s voice was quiet, and strained.

            Xan knelt down next to his dryad, and caressed her cheek, tears forming in his eyes.

            “Everything will be fine, Xan.  Trust me.”

            “I wish I had your confidence.”

            “You will.  I’ll be out there with you, in my forest.”

            Tears began to flow freely down Xan’s face.  “Just promise me you’ll be back.”

            Saleena looked up at Xan, her skin radiating with power.  She smiled, gently wiping his tears away.  “Of course I will come back.  I’m not going anywhere.  Now, get Maryanne and Sympheros ready.  I can sense a great evil about to enter this world.”

            “I love you, Saleena.”

            “I love you too, Xan.”

            Xan started walking away, but he stopped.  “Sal, we’ve been together for thousands of years.  When we met, you joked we were getting married.”

            Saleena nodded, her eyes closing again.

            “When this is all done, I’d like to actually get married to you.”

            Sal’s eyes opened and she smiled.  “I’d love to marry you, Xan.  Now go kick some demon ass.”

            Xanthiilus continued walking out of the forest, tears falling down his face.  There was a brilliant green flash, and the forest erupted, spreading rapidly through the warehouse, spilling outside, and flowing over the city.

            Xan walked out onto the roof, and found Maryanne and Sympheros holding hands and watching Sal’s spell take over the city.  The sun was going down, and it looked like a wave of dark green was washing over everything.

            “Let’s go,” Xan said.

            Maryanne and Sympheros turned and nodded at Xan, their eyes sad.

Continue reading “Rise, Rise – Chapter Fifteen”

The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 9:00pm

By JKolasch

The Soulless were a ring of white bodies tinged with the flaming red of their hair around the cratered remains of what used to be Times Square. They all stood perfectly still, facing inward, with the hint of their mouths whispering. It was hard to tell from this distance what they were doing. But gatherings of Soulless like this were never good.

            Fin ducked back behind the once yellow and twisted remains of the taxi cab. He tried to ignore the black and bloody remnants in the seats. His head swam, momentarily overwhelmed by the acrid scent hanging in the air, the constant overwhelming reminders of death and defeat at every turn. He and Grace had slowly picked their way across the ruins of New Brooklyn from the Conduit bunker on their way back to Times Square. The sun was low on the horizon, but the brilliance of the sunset was lost in the glow of a city on fire. It was oddly quiet and still, considering the level of destruction around them and the horde of Soulless chanting in a circle several hundred yards from Fin’s position behind the taxi.

            “We have to keep moving.” Grace’s voice was low, barely audible in the oppressive silence around them.

            Fin glanced toward the Soulless again and opened his mouth to answer her. He simply nodded instead. He glanced around for a path forward that didn’t lead them to the Soulless. While most of the area was reduced to rubble, some buildings still partially stood. Not much had survived the earlier aerial assault and subsequent massacre the Soulless responded with.

            “There,” Fin pointed. A smoldering bus (Fin fought to keep the thought of what all was actually still burning out of his mind) provided cover to a small hill of rubble and a relatively intact building. It would provide enough cover to navigate around the Soulless. They seemed to be oblivious to their surroundings, but Fin didn’t want to take any chances.

Continue reading “The Fall of New Brooklyn, Day Three, 9:00pm”
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