• C.A. Lightfoot

The Guardian - Chapter Eight

Summary: Dover rushes to Jon Bennett's aid and comes face-to-face with a necromancer.



Chapter Eight



Wind screamed into her ears, drowning out any thought or feeling that wasn’t part of the free fall Dover took toward the humid Atlanta streets. Breath was impossible as the stories flew by, a blur of reflective glass that boasted a crystal-clear image of the moon. Dover’s eyes stung with the pain of wind whipping between her lids.

Unable to inhale, she concentrated on the swiftly approaching sliver of light that was her salvation. The faint luminescence might not hold her; it might shove her back onto the street. An impact with cement at this velocity would incapacitate her, leaving Jon to fend for himself.

Failure was not an option.

Bending all of her will, her prayer, her faith, into the light, Dover closed her eyes as she came in contact with the shaft of luminescence that was Jon’s only hope.

Our Father

Who art in Heaven

Hallowed be thy name

Dover’s prayer ended in a gasp of breath. The Slide took firm hold of her, forcibly pulling the Guardian from the pavement. It was a close call, close enough that Dover scraped the toes of her boots on the asphalt.

The siren call of the Slide held no sway. Dover could only focus her will on Jon and his heart-breaking panic. Her Our Father continued in her head as she traveled through the beams of light, a stammering method of travel since night had long-fallen.

Her chest ached. The panic and pain writhing through her body was not only her own. Jon was concentrating on calling for her. The call was weakening, which could mean that he was injured.

Dover shoved aside the panic grasping at her heart, refusing to think of the circumstance that might be Jon’s undoing. The liquor she had consumed with her friend threatened to resurge, forcing the Guardian to concentrate through its buzz. She would make it. She had to.

When Jon’s pull reached its crescendo, Dover thrust herself out of the Slide.

As she stepped out of the light, Dover raised the pistols she had hidden in her coat, blinking rapidly as the vodka again tried to regain its hold on her senses. The Sigs were heavy and cold in her hand, familiar in ways that even a lover’s touch could not duplicate.

The scene that greeted her was one of absolute horror.

What looked as though it had once been a simple bar was in shreds. Wood and metal lay in pieces on the floor, tables overturned and chairs scattered recklessly. Blood smeared the tile, the walls, the handful of people she could see lying on the floor.

Jon!” Dover screamed for her Charge, stepping over the bloodied body of a young woman. The Guardian’s stomach threatened to empty its liquor-soaked contents, so she did not inspect the injuries too thoroughly.

A stench permeated the air, as familiar as the feel of her guns; sickly sweet and pungent with death. Dover rounded the bar at a near crouch, her guns held out in protection. Jon’s heady pull still resounded in her chest, making the fine hairs covering the back of her neck stand at full attention. The reek of this place, mixed with the bloodied bodies and lack of demon activity spoke of a horror Hell barely contained on a good day.

Somewhere in this decimated bar lurked a necromancer.

For all her jokes about being undead, Dover could not stop the revulsion that rose in her throat at the thought of such a perversion. Rupturing the still silence of peaceful death was a sin counted among the very worst. Disturbing corpses to use them as a puppeteer might affronted God in a manner unlike any other. Dover slid one of her Sigs back into the holster, grasping at her throat to replace the steel with her silver crucifix.

Necromancers could work with any dead thing that once moved, but they had a particular fondness for the recently deceased. Most of them were not allowed on Earth, their appetites for violence voracious even among their kind. Often, necros would rise, destroy an entire structure, then raise the corpses to do their bidding. Hiding their malevolence became too much a chore for the demons that ruled Hell.

Dover glanced around the room again, turning in a slow, methodical circle. She counted two dozen, at least, among the dead bar patrons, all of them available to be raised at any moment.

The Guardian stepped directly into a trap.

“Jon?” She called his name again, stepping carefully around the fallen debris, ensuring she did not slip on the congealed blood surrounding what appeared to be the bouncer. Dover swallowed hard, then kneeled beside the still-warm body.

Neither her Charge nor the necro she knew skulked nearby could be seen as she reached over the body to check for life signs.

He had no pulse, no breath, for death had taken him some minutes before her arrival. Dover used a drop of holy water from the container in her pocket to draw a wet cross on the dead man’s bloodied brow. With a whispered prayer, she protected him from rising once more. With a necromancer, every dead body became a weapon. Without hands-on enchantments, a sanctified corpse would not reanimate. Usually.

As she peered toward the northern edge of the bar, Dover heard the distinct shuffle of moving cloth behind her. Fine hairs on the back of her neck stood to attention again, goosebumps raced along her arms. Another soft scraping sent a chill the length of her spine as she turned.

One of the patrons lying dead on the floor had risen by the shoulders, arms still limp, chin touching chest, as though someone had shoved a hangar into his shirt. It slid forward, propelled by dark magic, forcing the Guardian to begin a retreat in revulsion.

The noise level jumped sharply, the rustle of clothing, the scraping of shoes. As she chanced another look around the decimated bar, Dover noted that at least half of the bodies were now risen, hanging in ominous silence.

Making a split-second decision, Dover dove for the cover of the bar, wedging herself in by the attached barstools.

Dover removed the crucifix from her neck and doused it with holy water. A murmured prayer made the silver hot in her hand, which told her the object was now imbued with holy light.

Taking a deep breath in a futile attempt to halt her hammering heart, Dover glanced toward the splintered stage. She used her battle-ready crouch to slide a few steps, bringing her foe into full view.

She somehow expected her enemy to look more ethereal. He was tall, with a lanky frame tucked into an ill-fitting suit. His golden hair was slicked back and the smirk on his face appeared as empty as his blue gaze. Dover thought he looked less a necromancer and more a used-car salesman.

That being said, necromancers were rare, old, and incredibly deadly. She had one shot, just one, of banishing the bastard.

Of course, he had Jon by the hair.

Her Charge kneeled at the demon’s feet, bound and gagged. He did not appear hurt, save for the ugly blue-black bruise that circled his right eye. His good eye met hers, panic alive in that gaze. Dover tried to calm him with a look, ensure they would be alright.

She only wished someone could do the same for her.

“Necromancer.” The Guardian almost snarled. “Release him. Now.”

The car salesman only chuckled.

“This? I only used it to get your attention.” His echoing voice was grating, filled with the hum of the dead. Dover wasn’t prepared, not for him. She could Turn Undead with the best of them, but coming face to face with the being in full command of the animated cadavers was a whole new ballgame.

“Then release him.” Dover insisted, clutching the crucifix in her hand. She was dimly aware that the fresh ghouls encircling her had stopped shuffling. They were completely still, awaiting command.

She couldn’t take them all out.

“What is your name?”

The man tsked at her, waving a finger to and fro in a ‘no-no’ fashion. “Do you think I am an untried ghoul? My name only gives you power.”

Dover arched a brow, leveling a confident smirk that had to be the best acting she’d ever done.

“Do you think I need your name to banish you, demon?”

The necromancer’s face contorted angrily, making his hollow face seem even more grotesque. He pulled Jon by the hair sharply, pulling a sharp cry from the quivering young man behind the dirty gag. Dover’s blood boiled in her veins.

“Touch him that way again, demon, and I will rip your black heart from your chest.”

“I am not a demon!” His shout was so forceful, spittle leapt from his mouth. Dover arched a brow inquiringly, wondering just how far she could push him until he broke.

Or killed them both.

In the meager space between heartbeats, Dover watched the man compose himself. She kept still and quiet, wondering why a necromancer would lure a Guardian into a trap without making a move. From the stories told to Guardians, it was more likely that one would shoot without warning.

So, why the games?

As though he had read her mind, the necromancer spoke in that oily, eerily calm tone once more.

“I am merely a messenger. Nothing more, nothing less, Dover Ellis.”

“Really?” Dover asked, the word rolling off her tongue on a disbelieving drawl. “Since when were necros bumped down to page boys? Did you do something bad?”

Anger rose behind those luminous eyes, but this time he managed to control himself. Dover inwardly begged her mouth to listen to her brain before they got killed. Again.

“This is in reference to everyone, on both sides of the invisible line, Guardian.” He pulled his hand from Jon’s head, used a fancily shod foot to kick Jon away from him. Dover did not move, afraid to put her Charge in more danger.

“I’ll give you 30 seconds, before I kill you.”

“A noble boast, but a boast none-the-less.”

“Start talking, necro. I’m tired, hungry, and armed. Are you sure you want to play with me right now?” Her enemy stayed put, as though gauging that making no sudden movements would ensure no hasty violence. Dover crossed her arms beneath her breasts, keeping her crucifix hidden, though ready in case she needed it.

“You’ve heard of the Cambion, I assume?”

Confused, Dover nodded once. “Demonic offspring born of one human parent. So?”

“Someone is killing them. Brutally.” The necromancer said with solemnity she hadn’t expected.

Again, Dover found his words puzzling. She jerked her shoulders up and down in a careless shrug. “Alright. That sounds like a demon problem. I’m angelic. Anything that kills demons or their offspring, kinda ok with me.”

“And Nephilim?” The necromancer shot the question at her. “You’re alright with angelic offspring dying the same way?”

At this Dover rolled her eyes. “Right. Angels banging humans, divine offspring of immeasurable power born on Earth. They are destined to fight the Cambion to decide who inherits Eden. It’s a myth, my friend. Angels don’t procreate. They don’t know how.”

“Are you really so naïve?” His words tinged with no small amount of shock. “Do you really think only the demonic are capable of breeding with humanity?”

For a moment, Dover’s mind flashed back to the passionate embrace she shared with Hanael. Of course, it was possible. Angels made flesh were angelic, yes, but they had the emotions, needs, and desires of a human. They had no idea how to act on it, though. Even eating and sleeping were chores to the Powers that governed the Guardians. Trying to run herd on their own emotions could be amusing to watch, but angels tended to get bent out of shape if you laughed. Still, could it be possible that Nephilim were not merely myth? If someone had asked her three days ago, her answer would have been a resounding hell no. Now, she wasn’t so sure.

As though sensing her hesitation, the necromancer went on.

“You’re a Guardian, has it never occurred to you that your precious Charges may, in fact, be Nephilim? Could that be why they are so ardently protected, Miss Ellis?”

Dover felt her breathing catch, her heart hammering in her chest. She did not want to believe anything this oily bastard had to say. When demons started making sense to angels, shit was going to get bad. Fast.

“What do you want me to do? Your Hell-spawn should be protected by your own kind.”

The necromancer nodded once in understanding. “Yes. But the theory is that the angel responsible for this atrocity is powerful beyond a typical Cherubim, or they may have help amongst the legions. My commander would have your aid in this. Such a fine Guardian, feared by Hell itself.”

“You’re crazy.” Dover couldn’t hold back her burst of voice, revulsion once more rising in her gut. “Angels do not work with demons. Period.”

His answering smile was sinister. “And yet, you’re talking to me. Perhaps you are not so angelic, Miss Ellis.”

That did it. Dover pulled her hand free from where she had tucked it under her arm. The power of her relic was singing in her veins, begging to be unleased.

“Jon! Close your eyes!”

Dover turned her head away, raising the blessed crucifix in her hand. The necromancer snarled angrily and the shuffling of feet told her the ghouls were closing in.

Mustering all of the faith she could, Dover shouted:

“In the name of God Almighty, I banish you, undead, uncouth, unclean!”

The result of her enchantment was chaos. Light burst more brightly than all the lights of Atlanta shoved into a small closet. It was more potent than anything she had ever felt, burning her hand so thoroughly that she screamed. The scent of her own cooking flesh turned her stomach, but Dover dared not drop her hand.

Ghouls shrieked with otherworldly terror, the flames of holy light scorching them to ash. The necromancer screeched his defiance, even as wood and glass shattered into the night. Dover remained crouched on the floor, her hand burning, her heart hammering in her chest.

She only hoped that Jon was alright.

When, at last, the scent of death receded, and the light abated, Dover dropped her arm.

She and Jon were left alone, the necromancer vanished. Dover had likely wounded him, but his minions lay in a smoking ruin at her feet. Cradling her injured hand, Dover staggered toward her Charge to free him of his bonds.

“You’re hurt!” Jon croaked when he could speak.

Dover shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. Get a glass, a jar, anything. Sweep up the ashes into it. It’s a powerful weapon for Embry. Come on. The police will be here soon.”

Jon rushed to do as she asked, his gaze glazed over, while Dover stretched her uninjured hand toward the lights above them. The already faint luminescence flickered as Dover channeled it into her body. Fluorescent wasn’t the best for a Guardian, not compared to sunlight. It would work, however, as a bandage in a time of need.

When Jon returned, Dover took his hand with her uninjured one, the burnt fingers clutched to her chest as agony threatened to take her under.

“There are a few in the back he didn’t turn, should we check?”

Dover shook her head. “I’m sorry. They’re not my concern. Hold on to me. Remember, stay away from the light. Stay with me.”

As he nodded his agreement, Dover pulled in her will. Without hesitation, she pushed them both into the Slide, heading directly for Embry’s home.

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