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  • Writer's pictureC.A. Lightfoot

The Guardian - Chapter Seventeen

Summary: Determined to prove Elise is not Damned, Dover convinces Embry to do something a little insane.




 

Chapter Seventeen

Because it would always be allowed, Dover walked into Embry’s place without knocking.

With the indecipherable journal tucked under one arm, she strode through the door, slamming it closed with her foot. Not bothering to locate the man of the house, Dover headed directly for the prayer room, using a hip to push the door open.

“Dover? What the hell?”

She paid no mind to Embry’s irritated voice. Dover flicked the light switch, moving toward the working altar, where the book of angelic spells lay open on nullifying satin. She set the journal beside the ancient tome, flicking open the first pages to peer at the swirling script.

The angelic book held a table of contents, each section of the book marked and broken down into specific spells. Dover compared these symbols to the columns of Elise’s journal, finding several of the symbols in the spellbook matched.

Rocking back onto her heals, Dover considered for a moment. Elise had at least some understanding of Celestian that eclipsed even Embry’s vast knowledge. What could that have meant? Guardians were only taught a handful of Celestian spells, most of them keyed to the destruction of demons or the protection of Charges.

From what Embry had deciphered of the book thus far, the first few sections were geared to evading and attacking angelic creatures. He had not yet been able to unlock the secrets of the final two sections.

Of course, those sections contained the symbols that matched Elise’s book.

When the door slammed open, Dover turned to glance at her friend. Embry had apparently dressed in haste, for he had only donned a pair of tattered sweats that hung low on his slender hips. She turned back to the books as he walked into the room, staring at her as though she’d lost her mind.

“I found this in Elise’s place.” Dover explained. “I can’t make out some of the symbols, but I knew I’d seen them. Have you figured out these last sections of the book?”

“No.” Embry sighed, moving toward her.

Sorrow had settled on his shoulders as surely as it had Dover’s. No matter how she wanted to comfort her friend or take comfort from him, Dover resisted the urge. For the first time in days, she had something to work on, she had hope that her friend had not left of her own volition. The guilt that gripped Dover’s heart released, just a fraction.

“The entire thing is coded.” The Guardian explained to her druid companion. Embry leaned over her shoulder, frowning at the pages filled with Elise’s unmistakable script. “It was under her bed.”

“Dove?” Embry sighed. “The pages are blank.”

A chill rushed over Dover’s skin, leaving gooseflesh in its wake. She glanced to her friend, then back at the pages. “Em, they’re not. They’re filled with Celestian.”

“I believe you.” Her friend said simply. “The book is probably spelled to be read by someone specific. Elise had enough knowledge to pull that off.”

“Could she have spelled it to be read by angelic creatures?”

Embry shrugged. “That’s more difficult to twist and easier to break. All she needed to code it to you was a strand of hair and a few symbols on the spine. Allowing all angels to read it, that’s some serious magic.”

“Right.” Dover reached into a drawer on the desk, pulling out a notepad and pen. She copied the first line of text from Elise’s journal. Though her Celestian wasn’t as elegant as Embry or Elise, it was legible. Her friend glanced over the sheet, a frown crossing his handsome face.

“Well, the first part looks like a name. At least, that’s how names are recorded in Celestian.” Embry mused. “The last two columns look like identifying marks. I’m not sure what they are, but this curve here on the top, that’s part of the symbol for healing. I’ve never seen it linked to this rune though. If it falls in line with the way the language is set, I think this means ‘control of the body’.”

Dover glanced down the lines of text, copying another line.

“Same thing.” Embry murmured. “A name and two identifying marks. Only, the last one here has something to do with the mind.”

Her friend continued to stare at the symbols, but Dover’s mind had slipped into memory. She was thrust back to her encounter with the necromancer and his insistence that they discuss the idea of angelic and human hybrids. Elise had never let on that she knew anything about such creatures, but her friend was nothing if not discrete.

The information, keyed to Dover’s eyes only, did have the appearance of a ledger. If her friend had been cataloguing Nephilim, could that be a reason she lost her life?

Quietly, Dover revealed her thought process to Embry at her side.

“It’s possible.” Embry replied, squinting at the symbols Dover continued to copy from the ledger. “Angels have long been forbidden by God from mating with humans, but I’ve been around enough angels to know not all of them adhere to that doctrine.”

Dover shook her head. “Em, it’s crazy. It’s completely crazy. Are we going to stand here and really believe angels killed Elise over a book containing the names of illegal angel hybrids?”

Embry’s eyes were clouded with concern when she glanced at him. He shrugged his bare shoulders, his gaze drawn back to the notepad Dover had scribbled on.

“I’ve seen stranger things, Dove.”

“If someone killed her,” Dover choked. “The Guardians are going to burn her in disgrace. I can’t let them do that.”

“Dover, we can’t prove anything.”

“What if we could? What if we could prove Elise wasn’t in Hell?”

“How?”

Dover met her friend’s gaze, lifting a brow. Realization dawned on that red-whiskered face and Embry stood back, appalled.

“You want me to summon a demon?” Embry’s voice had risen several octaves with shock.

“A necromancer, specifically.” Dover’s heart had begun to pound against her breast. “We have to know, Em, and we have to know now.”

“We don’t even know if they’ll talk to you!”

“Of course, we do!” Dover shot back. “For weeks, demons have been saying my name all over Atlanta. They’ll answer. Come on, Em. We have to find out if someone killed Elise.”

“And then what?” Embry shot back. “You run off half-cocked and either get yourself killed or you kill an angel. Then it’s you who ends up in hell. El wouldn’t want that.”

Dover swallowed hard, closing her eyes. “I know. But I have to know what happened to her. I have to get justice for her. She’d do the same for us, Em. You know it.”

Her friend turned away, running a hand over his short, ginger hair. She watched the muscles of his back flex and release as he considered her words. Dover’s heart pounded mercilessly against her chest, her hands shaking as she considered what she was asking of her friend. What they were considering was against every oath she had taken as a Guardian. Even considering this was enough to get her thrown from the Host.

She had to know, before they burned Elise in disgrace, if her friend deserved that fate.

“Alright.” Embry said, at last. “We have to lock this place down. If the Host gets wind of what you’re up to, you’ll lose everything, Dove.”

Nodding, Dover crossed the prayer room and enveloped her friend into a strong hug.

“I know.” She whispered. “It’s time to use those anti-angel wards.”


Embry was vulnerable during the ceremony.

Once the house was covered and protected by the wards that hid them from angelic eyes, Dover’s cell phone chirped. Though their last words had been in anger, Hanael appeared to be concerned enough to reach out. She replied to his text with a message that she and Embry were experimenting. Then, to be sure she wouldn’t reveal anything she shouldn’t, Dover turned her phone off.

Powders were mixed, candles lit, a circle of salt drawn around the fire pit. Dover stood at the northern end of the circle, her gun drawn. If the necromancer managed to escape the bonds put on him by Embry’s spellwork, she needed to be able to take him out.

Dover promised Embry she would keep him safe.

The chanting began at sundown, when the veil between living and dead was the most diaphanous. In the dim candlelight, Dover could almost see the gossamer threads of the veil being pulled back, since she was a creature that had been once risen.

Unlike the creatures that stalked the night, though, Dover’s second life was not looked upon as an abomination.

After what seemed like days of Embry’s melodic incantation, she noted that the center of the unlit firepit had begun to smoke. Dover shifted her weight onto her heels, planting her booted feet into the carpeting. Her grip settled on the gun in her hands, eyes straining to see the creature crawling out of the smoky haze in the center of the room.

It was a grotesque thing, with gray-tinged flesh hanging from pocked bones. Clothing that seemed lost in another time was torn and faded, draped over a form that was swallowed by the fabric. Where there should have been eyes were fathomless pits, the orbs glinting like pieces of obsidian in the flickering light.

Dover shoved down the feeling of revulsion. She had never seen a necro unmasked. This was the soul of those that ruled the undead, torn and corrupt and diseased. Even the scent was something worse than death; it reeked of rot and piss and excrement.

The Guardian felt her own Light dim in the face of such a monster.

“Dover Ellis.” The creature hissed her name, turning those obsidian eyes to her while a smirk played about its skeletal mouth. “You changed your mind, Guardian.”

“Quiet.” Dover demanded, shifting her gun a tad higher to compensate for her own fear. “The one who Summoned you has Bound you. Answer my questions.”

The creature thrashed against the salt that held him in place, howling with preternatural rage against the druid who entangled him in magic. Dover prayed that her friend’s magic held. If it broke, she was not sure even a Holy Light spell would repel an angry, unlocked necro.

“I will not be held by the scum of the Host!” The necromancer wailed. “Release me.”

“Obey.” Embry’s deadened voice commanded, the echo of his magic intoning the one word until it ricocheted back like a gunshot. “Answer the questions, filth.”

Licking her dry lips, Dover adjusted her hands on the gun, her right forefinger hovering over the trigger.

The necro turned back to her, those hollow eyes seeming to smile in the dancing candlelight.

“Ooh, an angel consorting with a necromancer.” The creature’s hollow laugh chilled her bones. “What will the higher ups think of that? Dover Ellis is playing with demons. Dover Ellis let her mentor die. Dover Ellis is going to cry.”

She pulled the trigger.

The bullet cut through the salt circle, its demon-keyed runes flaring as the projectile tore through the too thin flesh of the necromancer’s shoulder. It screamed, the sound horrible and piercing. Dover did not flinch, even as Embry grunted with the effort of keeping the necro under his power.

“Answer one question, necro, and I’ll let you get back to your cozy little hell fire.”

It glared hatefully at her, gripping his shoulder as sticky black ichor leaked onto the rags of his clothing. The creature’s skeletal mouth worked its way into a frown. With one fleshless hand, he indicated to the Guardian.

“One question, no more.”

Dover licked at her cracked lips once more. “Yes.”

“Ask,” the necromancer hissed hatefully.

She had to word this carefully, as demons and corrupt souls were ever so eager to lie. Dover kept her gun poised, her eyes darting to Embry. Her friend was coated with sweat from the effort of keeping the necromancer bound.

“The Guardian known as Elise Porter, has she been damned to the fires of hell?”

The creature’s flinty eyes shifted left and right, as though it were searching for information. Dover held her breath, her gun steady in her hands as she awaited the final decision.

“No.” The necromancer rasped. “Elise Porter was rewarded in heaven.”

Tears spilled from Dover’s eyes as she allowed the lids to close. She was right. Elise had not taken her own life. Someone had murdered her friend and covered it up to disgrace the well-liked Guardian.

Dover exhaled slowly, opening her eyes.

“Em. Release it.”

Her old friend gave a grunt of effort and one sharp command. The air immediately cleared of smoke, taking with it the foul stench of the necromancer. The creature said nothing as it was swept back to the hellfire that bore it. Dover allowed herself to relax, her weary legs giving out so that she crumbled gracelessly to the floor.

Embry collapsed as well, panting as he stared at her across the circle where they had just held a creature born of corruption and evil. In his eyes were tears and triumph.

“She isn’t damned.” Embry whispered with a smile.

Dover had the fortitude to smile back, finally. “She’s gone home.”

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