“Like hell I’m staying here with HIM!”
Caroline was finishing up a cup a tea while Dark was trying to make it loudly clear that he didn’t intend to spend the evening with Alistair. Not that she blamed him. With Lily Grey and Conrad gone to Montana instead of being around to get him riled up, staying behind with Alistair must have been boring indeed. With that same restrained patience she usually used with him, Caroline had the porcelain cup vanish as she frowned at Dark.
“We’ve discussed this many times before. You cannot always come with me. I’m sure a few hours with Alistair will not harm you.”
“That’s what you think.” Dark muttered under his breath.
Caroline pretended not to hear, casting a sideways grin as she pulled out the small needle from her pocket. “Behave.” Before he could shout more protests at her she vanished.
– – –
Caroline landed neatly on her feet, standing in knee high grass looking towards a large house. Old and abandoned, it didn’t seem like anyone had been living there for a very long time. She frowned. A contact had said there was a family recently living here having issues with a particularly nasty haunting. Alas, maybe her contact was thinking “recently” in terms of demon years instead of humans.
With a wary silence, Caroline approached the house. Stepping over the shifted path stones and watching her step as she climbed on to the porch. The aura of the place was eerie. Not in the sense that she felt an odd presence, but nearly the opposite. Everything here felt dead. Even the air was stale and still.
Inside the home pieces of abandoned furniture was scattered across the floor. Broken pieces of an old life. There were even pictures on the walls, faded and indescribable. As she wandered in to the kitchen a stew pot and a kettle sat on the stove. What used to be in them was long gone. There was definitely a family here at one time. One that vanished in the middle a cooking dinner without a person in the world seeming to notice they were gone.
A giggle made her pause. A very familiar giggle.
“Here she comes. Oh Raven Warrior on thine righteous quest. To save a soul for every one she so brutally slaughtered…”
“Malsuada.” The sound of that woman’s voice made her skin crawl. Not from fear of her but from what the devil would dare show her face for. Caroline had been so sure Gabriel had killed her. Even Malsuada could not be so foolish as to tempt fate a second time? “You walk a dangerous line, Malsuada. To be on the mortal world when the Infamous Himself wants to end you.”
Though Malsuada did not appear, her laughter carried through the empty kitchen. “Hahaa! Are you going to use him as a shield again Caoilainn? Half a century you spent slaying demon and beast in the name of penance and here I give you a chance to face your demon, and you wish to summon a knight to save you. You poor little coward…”
Caroline flashed her teeth in a dangerous smile. “Don’t mistake wisdom for cowardice, devil. You finally took the wrong soul and I intend to make sure you get the full benefit of it.”
“That is where you are wrong, Caoilainn.” A shimmer near the corner and Malsuada appeared. A fingernail file in one hand as she looked completely unconcerned with the conversation. “The Infamous One has his weakness and right this very moment it’s being exploited. Without a friend in the world to help him.”
It was enough for Caroline to understand the tone in the devil’s voice and to know that she wasn’t kidding. Pulling out her needle again to cast her transportation spell, she found herself surprised when nothing happened. Malsuda’s unconcerned expression slowly crawled in to a wide self satisfied smirk. “No one. To help him. Not those humans, not that little princess brat, nor his handsome clone child thing. And especially not you.”
Not yet. Caroline sprang forward as if she were going to tackle the woman, but shifted on her heels to dart out the back door. The house had some sort of ward over it, but she could run far enough to get outside of them. Malsuada’s cackling followed her out in the yard along with the odd feeling of a spell being shot outwards. The ground underneath her feet rumbled as bony hands shot up from the dirt in her path and started shuffling towards her. To the side there were more and behind her more still. A strange cross between demon and human, there were nearly a hundred of them!
Caroline summoned her axe. Glimmering silver, there was no hesitation of movement as she swung. Metal met bone as a head went flying. Another swing took an arm. Another lodging in to a chest. From her pockets she pulled out her ribbons, letting the streams fly and wrap around bodies to jerk them aside or fling them aside. There was never any blood as she slashed her way through them, trying to get farther from the house. Only grinding of bones and the hiss of dust and ash flying through the air. At first she was doing well, chopping them down before they drew near her. But the longer it took, the more she realized they were rising again. Claws grabbed at her clothes, ripping through to skin. Caroline banished the ribbons, pulling one of her marbles from her pocket with a crack… finding that it too had no effect. Her magic was getting neutralized!
A panicked growl escaped her as she shoved through several of the demons to make a mad dash back towards the house! She collapsed through the door using a foot to slam it shut behind her. Outside the demons were shuffling after her, now clawing at wood of the house. Caroline drew herself up to her feet trying to catch her breath. Inside, the color of the place had shifted. Everything looked darker. Draped in shadows. As she walked to cross the room they shifted, moving across the ceiling and walls and dripping downwards to follow. Just like outside she was surrounded by it as it drew closer. Griping at her feet and inching upwards as it ate away the light of the room.
‘Is hopelessss. Trapped heeeeerrreeee. There is no escaaaaape. Only deaaaaaath. Despaaaaair.’
Caroline could not move. The voice was eating away at her. Pulling at her mind, burning her thoughts. The floor shifted out from under her with the sound of wood planks shattering. The burning sensation was replaced with ice cold as she hit water. Whatever it was over her had pushed her down until her back hit solid ground. She couldn’t breath! This couldn’t be the end.
Willing herself to move, her hand snuck in to her pocket. Her fingers wrapped around the marbles in her pocket. All of them. Squeezing her hand she cracked them, each one to let loose the reserved power and with it she willed whatever strength she had in her to cast her transport spell.
The ceiling above one very annoyed Dark and a smug Alistair opened up. A ton of water, red water, poured down with large stone bricks dropping around them and globs of dirt and sand. Finally Caroline dropped as well. Clothes torn and coughing up water with blood with a body covered in cuts and burns, she was trying to push herself off the floor.
…and she hadn’t arrived there alone.