Here's one I don't intend to publish. (Not that i don't trust everyone who's been posting on this game, I just don't trust the other people who may come across it. Also, I dislike postin partial ideas...then I feel compelled to finish them...)
Prologue: Fire Child
She silently crept through the shadows, as if they and her were one. She could here the slightest breath of a nesting squirrel from thirty yards to her left and knew her prey hadn’t passed that way. He wasn’t quiet like she was. Silence followed in her wake as the surrounding forest recognized her for what she was. A Demon. The child of a creature mankind hadn’t seen in over a thousand years.
Forget everything you think you know about Demons. They aren’t the servants of the devil, if such a beast exists, but the offspring of something much more deadly. Dragons. A little known fact about Dragons is their remarkable ability to shape-shift. Her mother, a beautiful blue Dragon called Xal’Nat, had broken the one rule Dragons had about this shape-shifting ability. She had mated with a human. A crime punishable by death.
The last thing her mother had done for her after the egg she was born in was laid was give it to her father. At first, the man had been horrified at the prospect of having had sex with a Dragon, but he was indeed deeply in love with this woman, and could not deny this, the simplest of requests. Keep her egg safe until it hatches. After that, he was free to give the baby up to someone able to take care of it. Her only request was that if it was a girl, as she suspected it was, was that she would be named Katrina.
Shortly afterwards, Xal’Nat was discovered by her kind and her sentence was carried out. They burned her with Dragon Fire, the only fire able to burn through Dragon Scales. But by the time they found the man she had been with, the egg had already hatched and he had given up the baby girl. They killed him and gave up the chase.
All Katrina knew about herself was written in a letter by her father. At first, she didn’t believe a word of it. That was before she discovered her uniqueness. It was at the age of fifty that she realized her father hadn’t been lying about her mother’s heritage. And that was only because she looked to be no older than twenty-eight. And felt half that young. One thing to know about Dragons is that they live a very, very long time. Demons are no exception to this.
A crack in the night snapped her out of her trance. He was close. The one she was hunting. She didn’t know why she did what she did, it just seemed right to her. Katrina was, as far as she knew, the last of her kind. As such, she felt a very strong urge to make sure nobody suffered her fate, by not allowing herself to love. Unfortunately, she couldn’t kill herself. Her will to live was far too strong to allow that.
And much worse, was that she couldn’t not help somebody in need. She had visions of people who were going to die. Young people not yet ready for death. Un-variably she would rescue them, and unvariably they would fall in love with her, because that is the natural way of things. Especially at a young age. Out of fear that she would love them as well and have one of their children, with her curse, she always had to kill them. But only when she started to feel for them. Care for them. This man was the next on her long list, for he was very attractive, and had been sending her letters for nearly a year.
She heard heavy breathing and knew she was close to him now. It used to cause her great pain to kill the ones she cared about, but after the first thousand years, that went away. Now, at four thousand years old, she almost enjoyed it. As a rule, she always gave her victims a chance. They always got a warning before she saved them, and the only weapons she used were a sword and a bow, and occasionally a dagger she kept on her right leg. Tonight, she would use the bow, for this man was not putting up any struggle. He was just running. She saved her blades for the men who were willing to put up a fight. And the dagger for those who fought well. But none were ever spared. That was a rule.
The breathing stopped, but she could feel his heartbeat. He was close, twenty feet to her right. She closed her eyes and said a word in the Dragon Language she had learned. Katha’Gor. Bright Eyes. She was by no means fluent in the tongue of Dragons, but some words she knew instinctively.
Now she could see almost like it was daylight. He was sitting down on the ground, holding his breath. ‘Pity.’ She thought, then spoke aloud. “Just seven years ago, you were such a good soldier. Now you hide like a coward. I feel no remorse for your death Jack Nelson.” She picked an arrow from the quiver on her left leg as he got up and bolted away from her. Lining him up in her sights was easy. He was running in a straight ling. She aimed at the back of his head and let the arrow fly. A moment later, he fell. Unstringing the bow and putting it in her quiver, Katrina slowly walked to his lifeless body.
“I had hoped you would bring me a challenge Jack.” She pulled the arrow from his head and wiped it clean on his shirt and put it back into her quiver with the other seven. She hadn’t lost a single arrow in her life, and didn’t plan on starting now.
As her final act towards the man she had killed, she raised her palm to him and said another word in Dragon Tongue. Drakis’Rike. Dragon Flare. A white-hot flame swept over his body and consumed it. All that remained was a pile of ashes. And nobody ever noticed them before they were washed away, mistaking them for the remains of a campfire. They couldn’t be more wrong.
She turned from the still smoldering ground and started walking away immediately, with a look of empty satisfaction on her in her eyes. A new face had entered her mind. Or, more precisely, an old one.
Instead of giving this death time to fall into history like all the thousands of others, she simply gave a small smiled and said. “Byrne, your time is up.”
Chapter One- Iraq- 4:37 AM
Colonel Byrne Djeske sat in the small four by eight room that served as his quarters aboard the Carrier Damascus as he read the letter. Jack was missing. That was the last of his old team, three out of the five of them that were still alive. Arnold, and Brian had been missing for almost three months now. And now Jack was gone too. He knew Claire would be safe. He knew exactly who was behind all of this. Katrina. The Demon who had saved their lives seven years ago and promised to take them back when she wanted them. Wanted to hunt them. She had promised Claire would be safe, but wouldn’t say why.
He had thought he’d have more time than that. Seven years? That wasn’t enough time. Why save people if you’re just going to kill them later? He didn’t know. All Byrne knew was that he was Thirty-Two years old and had a very attractive, if somewhat psychotic, woman who wanted him dead. Not the best position to be in.
As he read the last part of the letter, his heart dropped. It was orders to leave the ship as soon as they docked in Maine and go home, waiting until this whole thing was figured out.
“Great.” He said aloud to himself. “I’ve got a crazy woman who seems to be permanently PMSing trying to slit my throat, and they want to send me out into the middle of nowhere to wait for my death. Well screw regs. I’m not leaving my weapon behind.”
He pulled out his HK.40 pistol and held it reassuringly. It would be his only defense if he was attacked in his uncle’s home in Florida. He had recently inherited the small house due to an unexpected illness that had killed his last surviving relative, other than his sister Cailin. She was married with two kids. No way he’d go there and put them in danger too. Still, she would be getting a similar letter, as Jack was her husband’s brother. She would call and insist he come stay with her. And he would have to insist that she not worry. And when that didn’t work, make up an excuse as to why he couldn’t leave the area. Maybe a fake court martial…
A knock on his door snapped him to alertness as he cocked his pistol.
“Who’s there?” He said.
“Corporal O’Riley. I’ve got another letter for you sir.”
“Come in soldier.”
The door opened and a young man in his twenties stepped through. He handed Byrne a letter and saluted, looking nervously at the pistol.
“Can’t be too careful.” Said Byrne, re-holstering his weapon and returning the salute. “Dismissed.”
“Yes sir.” The man turned and left his quarters, closing the door. Byrne opened the letter, not thinking to read who it was from. Inside was a dark red note card with a single sentence written on it.
‘I want what is mine.’
“Shit.” He said. He looked closer at the card and realized it wasn’t consistently colored. It wasn’t even ink that had made it such a dark red, but blood. She had cut herself and let the wound bleed on the card before writing on it.
“Katrina, you sick, twisted bitch. I won’t go down as easily as the others. You’ll have to do better than this.”
He threw the card into his drawer and looked at the envelope. The return address was a P.O. box in South Carolina. Jack’s home state.
Chapter Two- Old Friends
When the Carrier docked in Maine, Byrne didn’t give a second thought about unloading his pistol and stuffing it into the middle of his duffel bag. When he got safely away from the base, he would put it into his shoulder holster. Then he would be safe.
He hadn’t told anyone where he was going, or that he was even leaving the ship. Only Admiral Harper knew about that. And She wouldn’t be saying anything until they were well out to sea. So nobody could send messages to the murderer. If only the Admiral knew how pointless this all was. Katrina was a Demon. She had said so herself. Sending him away from a military owned ship was just making her job slightly easier. He knew he was dead in the long run, but if he even got one shot off. Even if she were only hit in the arm, he would be satisfied. Then he could die in peace.
As he arrived at the train station, a slender hand rested on his shoulder. He almost jumped back and went for his pistol until the voice caught his memory’s attention.
“Reach for that gun and I’ll break your arm Byrne.”
He turned around and looked at his old teammate. She was still as beautiful looking as ever. And as deadly. There weren’t many people who could sneak up on Byrne. And the other three he now knew to be dead.
“You look different.” He said as he looked her over. It was true. Her blonde hair was almost twice as long as regs allowed for women, just touching her shoulders. And her skin was darker than he remembered.
“I’m retired now. After that brush with Katrina I decided military life wasn’t for me. I would have wrote, but nobody would tell me where you were stationed. And when I did find out, I couldn’t get a message to you.
“Katrina didn’t seem to have any trouble.”
He pulled the note out of his pocket and handed it to her.
“How sweet. I think she likes you.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I am.” She said, pulling a strand of hair out of her eyes.
“Oh.” He said. “Sorry if I don’t have a sense of humor at the moment.”
“So why are you here anyway?”
“That, is the stupidest question you could have asked.”
“You aren’t thinking about coming with me to Florida are you?”
“I am coming with you to Florida.”
“Claire, no. I can’t put you in danger too. She said she’d spare you. Don’t throw your life away for me.”
“Byrne, we’re a team. I will not stand by and watch another one of us get killed when there is something I can do!”
“But there is nothing you can do!”
“I can try.” She said this last part quietly.
“Claire.” He said. “Please, don’t.”
“I’ll follow you. You can’t stop me.”
“No. You can’t talk me out of this. Jack did, and look what happened to him.”
“You knew about Jack?”
“Yes. He got a note card too. But it wasn’t covered in blood.”
“Maybe she does like me.”
She lightly punched him in the arm. “And I thought you didn’t have a sense of humor.”
“I changed my mind.”
“Oh. So you’ll let me come with you?”
“There’s no way I’m talking you out of it.”
“Good. I parked my car up top.”
“We’re not taking the train?”
“And leave my car here? Hell no.”
“Fine.” He picked his duffel bag up off the ground and followed her.
“Claire.” He said. She turned around and looked at him thoughtfully. “Thanks.”
“No problem Byrne. Let’s go.”
Claire’s car was nothing short of what he had expected. A blue 1972 Corvette Convertible.
“Nicely done Claire.” He said as he looked inside at the leather seats and fully electronic control panel.
“I thought so too.”
He turned around to see a young soldier, about twenty-eight, standing behind him.
“Demitri didn’t think I’d be able to handle this myself. When he found out about it, he refused to get out of my car. You can dump your bag in the back.”
She pushed a button on the panel and opened up the back. When he got around to put his bag in, he dropped it on the floor instead. “Where the hell did you get all this!”
Inside the small trunk was a weapons locker style compartment. To either side held CAR-15 Assault Rifles with M-203 Grenade Launchers mounted underneath. He counted four. Alongside these were an M-249 SAW Machine Gun and three M-72 Rocket Launchers. Two Tactical Shotguns on the bottom rounded out what he saw for weaponry. In the middle was a duffel bag identical to his own.
“I told Colonel Harden what was going on. He felt that this was a good use of weaponry.”
“One of the advantages of having slept with the man who runs the armory I suppose.”
“Do you want me to shoot you?”
“Not a chance Byrne. I came her to save you, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
“Had to try.”
She smiled at him and got into the car. He put his bag next to hers and closed the trunk, then got in the other side. “Where to?” She said as he buckled the belt.
“Edgewater? Do I even want to know how far into the middle of nowhere that is?”
“Probably not, but I’ll tell you anyways. You know those big swamps you here about in south Florida?”
“You’re kidding. You live there?”
“When I’m not on Damascus.”
“And why do you live there again?”
“My uncle left the house to me when he died. It’s paid off, so all I have to pay is taxes.”
“Oh, so it’s cheap.”
“That, and I practically grew up there. If it weren’t for uncle Frederick I would never have made it.”
“Right, the fire.”
“Yeah. He was the only family member I had left when my parent’s house burned down. Him and Cailin.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you had an attachment to the mosquitoes down there.”
Claire’s version of a sense of humor. Sometimes, it gets to you.
“Yeah, well by now they’ve probably all tasted me a couple of times. Edgewater seems to be where they make their summer homes.”
“How nice. Not only do you have a psycho-bitch trying to kill you, but we get to be the buffet for a bunch of bugs.”
“Well, look on the bright side Claire.” He said. “We’ve got the three day drive from here to there with nothing to worry about.”
“Except her driving.” Said Demitri as he slid into the one rear seat Claire had. This wasn’t a standard option, but something she had thought up. Claire always was a strange one. But maybe we’re all a bit strange.
“Demitri, one more wise crack about my driving and I’ll push you out half way to Mosquito Town USA.”
“I’ll be good Mrs. Claire.”
“I’m not a Mrs. Yet, and I have no intention of becoming one any day soon.”
She started the car and backed up.
“Byrne, be a sweetie and program the computer to take us to your little town thingy.”
“Edgewater. And what comp…”
As he started to speak, a laptop had popped up between the seats. A list of settings was showing, asking him to enter his destination and starting point.
“Nice.” Was all he could think to say. When he finished, he sat back and turned the screen towards Claire so she could see while she drove.
“Yeah. This thing says it’ll take four days.”
“Three. We’re not stopping anywhere we don’t have to. And I want to get there as soon as possible so we can secure the perimeter.”
“Right. So I guess that means we take turns driving again?”
“It’s not that far Demitri.”
“Sure, not after a trip from California with just the two of us.”
“You two were in California?”
“Actually,” She said. “I was in Wyoming.”
“So why did you go to California?”
“Somebody decided it was a good day to ask for a ride to his brother’s house on Tennessee.”
“Which explains how he got into your car.”
“So, now that you’ve figured that navigator out, mind showing me how it works?”
“You don’t know how to use a navigator?”
“The Army uses simpler machines. This thing has more features than a Swiss Army Knife.”
Byrne laughed, and for the first time since he read Katrina’s letter on the Damascus, he forgot he was being hunted.
Chapter Three- Family Reunion
Katrina Stepped off the train in Portland and stared at him through the crowd. He hadn’t changed in seven years.
“Byrne, you’re so predictable. I think I’m going to enjoy this hunt.”
Just as she finished talking, another familiar face appeared beside her target.
“What’s this? Come to try to save your friend little Claire? Pity. I would have left you alone as I promised. Oh well. Two is a much more exciting hunt.”
She waited for them to talk, then followed them up to the parking lot. Another man was waiting there. When all three got into the car, she had second thoughts about this hunt. For the first time in her life, it looked like she was going to get a real challenge. A smile swept across her lips.
Just as she was going to go to her own car, a blue Chevy Sprint parked next to Claire’s, a vision swept across her eyes. A young man in the park down the street. He was hanging from a rope. She swore and bolted for the source of this sight.
‘Why can’t I ever leave things alone.’ She thought.
She got to the boy. Now she could see that he was seventeen years old. Far too young to die like this.
“Can you hear me?”
“Ket Be Down!” He managed to say.
“I could. But the price is very high.”
“Anything you say? How about your life?”
“I’ll save you now, but someday I will come to kill you.”
“We have a deal then?”
“Yes? Okay.” She pulled her dagger from her back and slashed it across the rope, dropping the boy to the ground.
“So how did you get up there anyway?”
“I…My Girlfriend’s Ex. He wanted to get rid of me.” He paused. “You didn’t mean all that about killing me later, did you?”
“I could put you back in the tree. Would you rather I did that?”
His eyes widened. “No!” He said quickly. She turned around and started walking away. Then, realizing she didn’t have a name, she turned back. The boy was gone.
In his place stood a man who looked to be about her own age.
“You look familiar. Have I saved you before?”
“No. But we have met.”
“When? I never forget a face.”
“Why Katrina, I am shocked. Don’t you recognize your own brother?”
She froze. “I don’t have a brother.” She said sternly. It was true, as far as she knew, she had no brother. Unless…
“We’re twins, you and i. I’ve spent my whole life trying to find you, and now here you are. I’m so glad we can finally all be together as one.”
“Why, the other Demons of course. You didn’t think you were the only one did you?”
‘Yes.’ She thought.
“Well, you’re not. There are thirty-seven of us actually.”
“Yes. All Sons and daughters of Dragons, just like you.”
“So, I’m not the only one?”
“No. You’re not the only one. In fact, I think there may be others like us. Hunters and Huntresses like yourself.”
“Can I meet them?”
“Of course you can. Come with me. We’re actually camped not far from here.”
“Okay. But if you’re my brother, what was our mother’s name?”
His eyes went cold. “We do not speak their names.”
“Tell me, or I will not be going anywhere with you.”
“Very well. But come close. If they hear, there’ll be hell to pay.”
She stepped close to him and allowed him to get as close as necessary to whisper the name. “Xal’Nat.”
She sank to the ground. So, it was true. This man really was her brother.
“The boy, he’s you isn’t he?”
“What would you have done if I hadn’t come?”
“I would have died. I wasn’t lying about my girlfriend’s ex.”
A disturbing thought crossed her mind. “Is she…one of us?”
“No.” Was all he said in return.
“Then you’ll spread our curse!”
“Curse? Is that what you think this is? Katrina, our power is a gift!”
“But…What about what happened to our mother! Surely the Dragons had a reason for their rules?”
“They still do. It’s to keep their power to themselves. Katrina, they’re greedy! Our mother wanted to share her gift with men!”
“Then why was she killed? Why would she do it if she knew she would die?”
“Because she knew it was necessary. Katrina, it’s our job to spread our heritage to all of the human race! To get rid of them once and for all! We are meant to rule this world! Not Dragons, or Humans. Demons! The best parts of both species!”
‘Great.’ She thought. ‘I find out I’ve got relatives, and they’re all crazy.’
“We’re not crazy Katrina.”
“Of course you are! You’re talking about destroying the human race! And…”
“The human race are a bunch of worthless paracites!”
‘They are not. You’re insane to think so.’ She thought.
“Call me what you want, you know it’s true.”
“You can read my thoughts!”
“Yes. I thought you knew we could do that.”
“No! What else can you do?”
“We, can do anything we want if we know the right words. Unfortunately, there aren’t many that we know.”
“Words? You mean like Drakis?”
“Yes. How many more do you know?”
“Come with us and we’ll tell you all we know. We can share our knowledge.”
“I can’t. I’m in the middle of a hunt.”
“That human and his friends? Why hunt them?”
‘Because I don’t want to spread our fate to my children.’
“Are you in love with this man? Is that why you’ve been killing people all these years? Because you love them, and don’t want to have their children? Children like us?”
“Yes.” Was all she said. “I only hunt the people I’ve saved when I begin to feel something for them.”
“Well, I’ll send someone to kill him for you. We need you now, to start our first phase.”
“First Phase? No. I won’t be part of any plans you have to overthrow the human race. And I won’t let you send somebody else to kill my prey. I’ve waited a long time for a hunt like this. He has friends who want to help him. Ones who I wouldn’t have hunted otherwise. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
“Very well. When you’re finished, meet us here.” She opened the piece of paper he handed her and read what was on it.
“Edgewater, Florida? What, did you read my mind to get this?”
“Maybe. But isn’t that what brothers are for?”
“Close. Nick, actually. Nicolas Deuce.”
“The last name of our father.” He explained. “That one took a while to find out, but I did.”
“I’ve got to go Nicolas.”
“If you say so. See you in Edgewater.”
She turned around and ran for her car. This was too weird, even for her. Could there really be other Demons out there like her?
Slipping the keys from her pocket, she scrambled with the door handle. Good, it wasn’t locked. She got inside and started the engine. Finally, something familiar. The sound of her car’s engine struggling to stay running. She put the car in gear and drove. After almost an hour, she calmed down long enough to change directions so she was on Interstate 95, the road that would take her right past Edgewater. And to Byrne. This was familiar too. Preparing for the hunt.
“Byrne, I’m sorry, but I have to do this.”
‘Why did I say that? I’ve never apologized for my hunting before. Nicolas must have gotten to me.’
She shook off what he had said to her. She would hunt Byrne, then deal with Nicolas.
Chapter Four- Nothing Capitol of the World
“Damn it Byrne!” Yelled Claire as she swatted another mosquito off her arm. “I thought you said they were thick in the summer!”
“They are. This is nothing Claire. Sometimes, they come in real swarms. Almost black at times. You’d be lucky to get away from that swarm without getting some disease.”
“I believe you…I won’t get anything here, will I?”
“Probably not. The diseases carried by mosquitoes are pretty rare here nowadays, but they do pop up once in a while.”
“Byrne, if I get Malaria from this place you wont have to worry about Katrina. I’ll kill you myself.”
“My, but aren’t we testy this morning. We haven’t been here a week and you’re already threatening to kill me. I’m not so sure I like my new body guards so much.”
“Yeah, well we’re not too keen on you either.” Said Demitri as he stepped out of Byrne’s uncle’s house. Did you get the bug spray I asked you for when you went to town?”
“Yeah.” Byrne reached into his jeep and threw Demitri a can of Bug Kill.
“And the Repellant?”
“Calm down Claire.” He said. He threw her a bottle of insect repellant. “And I got a couple of bug zappers.”
“Good!” Said Demitri as he ran to the back of the jeep. “I’ll set them up!” He pulled the three black lamps out of the back seat and went up to the porch.
“And even after you two almost broke me getting all this bug crap, I still managed to get us some food.”
“Food? Is that what you call that stuff you’ve been feeding us?”
“If you want to cook, you go right ahead. Until then, we eat what I buy.”
“I wouldn’t mind your cooking if you actually cooked something. Popping TV dinners in the microwave doesn’t count if you keep doing it every night.”
“I’d kill for a Pizza right about now.” Said Demitri.
“I second that.”
Byrne smiled. “Your wish is my command.” He pulled a couple of boxes of frozen pizzas out of the back of his jeep.
“Oh no.” Said Claire. “Now I won’t ever be able to eat pizzas again either.”
“All right!” Said Demitri. “Byrne, you’re the best!”
“Yeah, well I just wish Katrina would stop playing her games and show up already. I’m sick of this waiting bullshit.”
“Don’t think about it Byrne.” Said Claire. “You’ll just drive yourself crazier.”
“Ha Ha. So funny I forgot to laugh. Just help me get all this stuff inside.”
“Fine. But if you got any more TV dinners I’m going to shove them up your ass.”
“On second thought, I’ll get this stuff. Why don’t you help Demitri put up those bug zappers before he electrocutes himself.”
“Too late.” She said.
“I had to open my mouth.” He said
“Hey Byrne!” Said Claire when she got up to the porch and looked down at Demitri. He was holding his hand and wincing. “You’d better come look at this!”
He had expected to see Demitri’s hand screwed up. Instead, he almost ran to Claire’s car for a gun. Lined up in the window of his house were pictures of him, Claire, and Demitri at a rest stop. The only one they’d stopped at.
At the end of the row was another note card. On it was only one word.
“Byrne, maybe we should leave. She obviously knows where you are.”
“No. I won’t play her games. I know these swamps. If she’s going to make me fight her, I’ll do it here, where I’ve got home field advantage.”
“If you say so.”
“Look on the bright side.”
“What bright side?”
“If she kills us, you won’t have to eat any more TV dinners.”
“That’s not funny Byrne.”
“It wasn’t? Hmm. I guess that sense of humor only works for crazy women.”
“Don’t forget it.”
“Hello!” Cried Demitri. “Man in pain here!”
“Oh shut up you big baby. I can’t believe you were stupid enough to stick your finger in that thing.”
“I wanted to make sure it worked!”
“That’s what the humming sound does Dippo.”
“Claire, I’m beginning to think you don’t want me here.”
“I told you that before we left.”
He sighed. “So you did. I’d leave, but I don’t have a car to drive.”
“Or a license to drive it with.”
“Ouch.” Said Byrne. “She’s got you there.”
“Are you two forgetting about the woman trying to kill Byrne?”
“Actually, I think she’s after all of us now Claire.”
“Yeah, well all the more reason for us to get the hell out of here!”
“No! Claire, we can’t play her games! That’s what she wants! A hunt! If we don’t play her games, she can’t scare us!”
He looked into her blue eyes and watched as a tear slid down her cheek.
“Byrne. She’s going to kill us.” She said softly. “How can you not be afraid of that?”
“Because it’s going to happen. There’s no getting around it, we’re going to die. If you just accept that fact, it’ll make things a lot easier. She can’t scare you if you have nothing to fear.”
“That’s a horrible thing to say Byrne. You want me to give up hope? That’s the only thing keeping me together right now!”
She turned away from him and ran into the house.
“She’s right Byrne.” Said Demitri. “Hope is all we have.” He followed her inside, calling her name. Byrne stayed out on the porch, thinking about what had just happened.
“Damn it Katrina why don’t you just kill me and get it over with!”
“Because I haven’t begun my hunt yet.” She said
He froze. “Katrina?”
“In the flesh.”
He turned around slowly and looked her over. ‘Subtle, Byrne.’
“Red hair, kinky outfit. Definitely Katrina.”
She gave him a pouty look. “Oh come now Byrne. Your words cut deeper than you’ll ever know.”
“Is that because you actually have a soul, or you’re here to kill me now.”
“Not now. I said tomorrow, and I meant it. I’m here to give you a chance to send your friends home. They are of no concern to me. It’s you I want.” ‘If you only knew how badly I want you. That’s why I have to kill you.’
“How do I know you’re not just trying to separate us?”
“You don’t. But I gave my word, and you should know I am a woman of my word.”
“I hope you use the term woman loosely.”
“Make sure you tell your friends of my offer.”
She saw him reach for his pistol and snapped her sword to his throat. “Don’t make this harder than it has to be. I am looking forward to our hunt tomorrow.”
He lowered his hand, but she did not flinch.
“Can I ask you one question first?”
“Maybe. But I don’t promise any answers.”
“Why do you feel the need to kill me? What did I ever do to you? What did Jack, or Arnold, or Brian do?”
“I can’t answer that.”
“What, you don’t think I deserve to know why I have to die?”
“No. It’s personal.”
“Katrina, it’s a simple question. And even if you do tell me, I won’t be alive long enough to tell anyone. Except Claire and Demitri.”
“That’s two people too many.”
“What if I gave you my word that I wouldn’t tell?”
“Why do you care why I want to kill you? All the others were a little pre-occupied with the fact that I was. Why are you so different?”
“Because I know what you really are.”
“What?” He couldn’t possible know.
“You’re a Demon. The child of a Dragon and a man. I know that you’re over four-thousand years old, and that your mother was killed for loving your father. I know that your kind are shunned by Dragon and man alike.”
“How could you possibly know all that?”
“Research. I read everything I could about your kind, and you in particular. It took a while, but I got a lot of information about you. All I need to know is why? Why do you do what you do?”
“I…I have to go.”
She knew he was trying to say something, but she disappeared into the trees before he could finish the first word.
Chapter Five- Nicolas the Hunter
Byrne sank to his feet when Katrina disappeared. He had come so close to learning more about her.
“What’s going on out here?” Said Demitri as he stepped onto the porch. “It sounded like you were talking to somebody.”
“Tell Claire I want everyone in the living room now. It’s important.”
“She said what!” Said Claire. “Are you insane! We can’t leave you here to die!”
“Yes you can. And you will. Tomorrow, when the hunt begins, you two are going to get into Claire’s car and you will leave me here. I won’t be responsible for your deaths. Besides, I stand a better chance of survival alone.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“No. Claire, if you want to help me, want to be a friend to me, leave. Give me that much. The chance to save the only people who give a damn about me. My only friends. My real friends.”
“Please Claire. Please.”
She lowered her head. “Okay.” Was all she could manage to say.
“But we’re staying until tomorrow.” Said Demitri sternly.
Claire got up off the couch and went to the back room of the small house. When she emerged, she was carrying a CAR-15.
“You’re not going anywhere without a weapon anymore Byrne.”
“I’ve got my HK .40.”
“Not good enough. You know that. Jack never would have been caught dead without his pistol.”
He reached for the rifle and she tossed it to him.
“And put your combat gear on for christ’s sake.”
“She won’t be here until tomorrow. I trust her that much.”
“First thing tomorrow then.”
“Okay Claire. Right after you guys leave.”
“No way Byrne. We’re not leaving until noon.”
“She said she’d start the hunt tomorrow. I don’t know what time.” ‘Yes I do. First thing tomorrow. Claire has no intention of leaving me here. Claire. I know you’re trying to help me, but don’t. You’ll just get yourself killed.’ He thought. ‘I’ll leave tonight. I’ll hide in the swamp. I’ll end up there anyway. Might as well get an early start.’ He glanced at the clock. ‘Six-Thirty. I’ll leave at midnight. They should be asleep by then.’
“Byrne? Are you okay?”
“What? Oh. I’m fine Claire. I’ll be fine. Let’s just eat and go to bed. We all have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
“Byrne. Please be careful. I can’t stand to lose another team member. Please. Don’t get yourself killed.”
“Yeah.” Said Demitri. “Kill that psycho bitch instead. Do it for Brian and Arnold. And for Jack. Do it for all of the people she’s killed over the years.”
“And I’ll do it for you guys. And for all the people who have lost somebody to her hatred.” ‘Is it hatred? Or something else?’
They ate the pizzas Byrne had bought at around seven o’clock and ended up going to sleep at ten. As soon as the clock struck midnight, Byrne was moving. He put on his green Cargo Pants and a Black T-Shirt, then his combat boots and a thin pair of shooting gloves. He picked through their gear and took only what he thought he’d need. One of the CAR-15s, with five clips extra and five grenades for the launcher, his HK .40 and five extra clips, and one of the M-72 rockets. ‘If I’m going out.’ He thought. ‘I’m going out in style.’
He grabbed a pair of night vision goggles, a compass, and his knife off the table and walked into the darkness. Through the goggles everything looked like it was glowing green on a black background.
A breeze blew by, causing chills to run through his body.
‘Glad I remembered to put on my jumpsuit. Damn it’s cold out here.’
He made it to the swamp after only twenty steps.
‘Good. I still remember my paces here. That will be useful.’
He froze in place. That wasn’t Katrina’s voice. Or Claire or Demitri’s either. But it did remind him of Katrina’s in some way. He couldn’t quite figure it out.
“Byrne, is it?”
“How do you know my name? Who the hell are you?”
“Katrina didn’t tell you? I am shocked.”
“She’s not really in to giving out personal information.”
“I see. What was it you wanted to know?” The voice asked. It was definitely male.
“I want to know why she’s hunting me.” ‘Like you can answer that.’
“She hunts only the ones she loves. Or those who love her, which is much, much more common.”
“Hunts the ones she loves? What are you talking about?”
“Katrina is…different from the rest of the Demons. I assume you know about Demons?”
“I know enough.”
“Very well. She believes our very existence is a disease of sorts. A curse. She is afraid of falling in love and passing her…uniqueness to her children. Plainly, she’s insane.”
“No. I understand that. She suffered, and she doesn’t want her children to suffer, so she won’t let them exist.”
“She suffered because she thought she was the last of her kind. She felt that she had control over our entire existence. Our race.”
“Our? Are you…Are you a Demon too?”
“Yes. My name is Nicolas. But you can call me the Nick.”
“Why are you here then?”
“I’m here to offer you something. Something very dear to you I hope.”
“My life? It’s Katrina who wants me dead. How can you give me my life?”
“By helping you persuade the Huntress to let you live.”
“And how will you do that?”
“She’ll listen to you, if you are given a chance to talk to her. A chance where she can’t run away when she gets a question she doesn’t like.”
He thought about what was being said, then froze. “You want me to make her fall in love with me?”
“It’s too late for that. I want you to make sure she knows that you love her.”
“But I don’t. She’s going to kill me tomorrow!”
“Not if she can’t go through with it.”
“She’s been going through with it for Four-Thousand Years!”
“Yes, she has. But she has never allowed herself to get close to any of her victims. She’s always killed them before that happened.”
“So what do you have in mind?”
“Simple. There’s an abandoned building not fat from here.”
“The old factory? What about it?”
“She’s there now. Give me your weapons, and I’ll take you there.”
“I’m not going anywhere near her without a gun.”
“Fine. We’ll go to her, and you’ll both put your weapons down.”
“Okay. But if this doesn’t work…”
“Either you or Katrina will be dead.”
“That’s reassuring. I doubt you’ll let it be one of your own.”
“No. I won’t.”
“What if I refuse to come with you?”
“She’s a hunter, Byrne. You won’t stand a chance out here, even with your weapons. I’m offering you a chance, though it be a small one, to live. I doubt you’ll turn it down.”
‘Damn it. I hate it when other people are right.’
“Okay. But I will not go anywhere un-armed.”
“Then put your weapons away at least. Show some good faith, or you’re dead before any of this can happen.”
He slung the CAR-15 across his shoulder and secured it to his pack, then closed the flap over his pistol.
“I thought you’d see things my way.” He saw a smile creep across Nicolas’s face through the goggles.
‘What have I gotten myself into now?’
Katrina sat in the corner of the small room she was using to sleep in. Her eyes were barely slits in the darkness, but she could still see while she slept. An advantage of being part Dragon.
She dreamed of the people she’d killed, like she always did. She saw their faces right before they died. The horror in their eyes, the love turning to fear, turning to hate. They didn’t come in any particular order, they just appeared, one after another. Some of them over three thousand years dead. Others within the last ten years. And everywhere in between. She remembered every one of them. Their names, their faces, whether they had families. The day she killed them. The way she killed them.
She awoke not to a sound, but a feeling. “What are you doing here Byrne?”
She knew he was coming towards her. He was outside the building, and he wasn’t alone. Somehow, the other person seemed familiar.
‘What is Nicolas doing with Byrne?’ She thought to herself. ‘Leading him to me? Why?’
“I’m not waiting around to find out.’ She reached for her bow, and froze when she couldn’t find it. ‘What the hell?’ Her dagger and sword were gone too.
‘Nicolas, what have you done?’
She sank back into the shadows and waited.
‘If I can’t run, I’ll fight. With or without my weapons.’
She saw Byrne and Nicolas enter the building.
‘Byrne. My but aren’t we looking dangerous tonight. If you weren’t here to kill me, I’d almost think you looked sexy dressed up in that gear. Too bad I have to kill you. I wish I didn’t.’
She stared at them for a moment. Nicolas was slowing down, but Byrne didn’t notice. The spell was cast before she had time to notice it.
Byrne froze in place where he was, unable to move his arms or legs. She watched in fear as Nicolas took the weapons from him one by one and put them in a crate. She saw her weapons there too.
“Katrina!” Said Nicolas after sealing the crate. “I can hear you back there. Why don’t you come out here and talk!”
“Why don’t you come over here!”
“Because if you don’t come over here, I’m going to kill Byrne.”
“No!” She whispered. ‘Why do I care who kills him?’
“I’ll only give you one more chance Katrina!”
She could hear Byrne’s heart-rate go up. He was afraid.
“Wait! I’ll come out!”
“That’s a good girl!”
She stepped from her hiding place and was shocked when she heard words in the Dragon Tongue she had never heard before. It happened so fast, they were thrown from her mind as soon as she realized she was paralyzed.
‘Let me go Nicolas!’
‘I don’t think so. Katrina, you need to see what I’ve got for you. See what the world will be like when we’re in control. We’re going to take over this town, Katrina.’
‘How? They will fight back!’
‘We’ve cut off their phones. They will all be dead before dawn. But I wanted you to see where it begins.’
He waved a hand over her and said another word. Then over Byrne.
“You son of a bitch!” He yelled. “You said we were going to…” Nicolas punched him in the stomach.
“Don’t touch him!” She yelled.
“So you do care for him?”
“You know I do! I wouldn’t hunt him if I didn’t!”
“Then why do you care what I do, if you plan to kill him?”
“You have fallen in love with this one Katrina.”
“NO! I haven’t! I can’t!”
“You have. Sister, why do you insist on being alone? Why won’t you let yourself love? Let yourself be happy and have children and continue our race?”
“Because our race should not exist!”
“Oh come now. If you really believed that you would have killed yourself long ago.”
“I…Stop it! Let me Go! Let US Go!”
“Do it!” Said Byrne. “What the hell is wrong with you! You used me as Bait!”
Nicolas punched him again and laughed. “Indeed I did. And it worked. I have you both alone, just like I said I would. Only you aren’t trying to kill each other.”
“No. At the moment I’m trying to think of a way to kill you!”
“Now, now, Byrne. Let’s not say anything you’re going to regret.”
“Wow Byrne.” She said. “I think we actually have something in common.” ‘What am I doing? Am I flirting with him? Stop it Katrina! Focus!’
Nicolas pulled a piece of something black. She smelled the air.
He didn’t answer. Instead, he proceeded to draw a ten foot by ten foot square on the floor around them. As soon as it was finished, she could move her arms. She dove for him.
As soon as she got to the edge of the square, she was flooded with pain. It felt like she was being burned from the inside. She was barely able to step back before she collapsed to the floor.
Byrne was only two seconds behind her, but stopped as soon as he saw what happened.
‘Do you actually care, or are you just being smart?’
He stood over her, a look of nothingness on his face. No, it was hate.
“What the hell kind of games are you playing Nicolas!” He yelled, not taking his eyes off of her.
Byrne stood over Katrina as she lay on the floor gripping her stomach.
“I’m not playing games Byrne. I’m fulfilling my destiny!”
“Let us out of here!”
“Sorry, but there’s only one way for this spell to be broken.”
“What do I have to do to get out!”
“It’s not what you have to do Byrne, but what you both must do.”
‘What the hell is he talking about?’ Thought Byrne.
“Damn it Nicolas!” Screamed Katrina. “If you did what I think you did I’ll kill you!”
“You’ll have to get out first.”
“What did you do!” Yelled Byrne.
“It’s simple really. A kiss. That will get you out of the square. A real, heartfelt kiss.”
“That’s not going to happen Nicolas!” Katrina yelled as she got to her feet. Byrne stepped back nervously. “You can’t keep this up forever!”
“I don’t have to.”
Byrne looked at the square on the floor. It looked…different somehow.
“What do you mean? I won’t do it Nicolas!”
Byrne snapped his head up and looked into her eyes. “It’s shrinking!”
“What?” She gasped. “Oh my god! Nicolas! Let us out!”
“Sorry Katrina. Only a kiss will break the spell. It’s up to you two.”
She snapped her head back to him. “Byrne…”
“No way in hell.” He said. “You’ve been threatening to kill me for months now! And now you want me to kiss you?”
“We’ll both die if we don’t.” She said.
“I die either way Katrina. You never break a promise. Remember that? You promised to kill me someday.”
He could see her thinking. He knew what he was thinking. ‘I can take you with me at least.’
“Byrne, please. I…This won’t kill me.”
“This spell won’t kill me.”
“What do you mean? I saw what it did to you just now.”
“It would have killed you instantly, but it can’t kill me. If we don’t…”
“You’ll fell that pain forever. So, why should I care? Serves you right for all the murders you’ve committed.”
‘Why do I care?’
“Please Byrne! I’m sorry!”
There it was. That was what he was waiting for. Some hint of remorse for what she had done. Some fraction of a soul.
“I know why you do it.”
“I know why you kill the people you love. I think you did it for the right reasons, but you did the wrong thing.”
“I tried to kill myself! I couldn’t do it! And I couldn’t get anyone to kill me either! I had no choice!”
“There’s always a choice!” His voice echoed through the main room of the building as he stepped forward and was surprised when she stepped away.
‘Did I actually scare her?’
She sank down to her knees. “Byrne…I’m sorry. I can’t help what I do.” He could barely hear her.
“She can’t leave a person to die Byrne. That’s why she continues to help people she knows she’ll have to kill. She can’t let a person suffer if she can help.”
“Shut up!” He yelled.
“My, my. It looks like this isn’t getting anywhere fast. Looks like I’ll have to kick things up a notch. Time to start the show early I suppose.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I told you, everyone in Edgewater will be dead by morning. I figured I’d start with the two who would have put up the most resistance.”
‘Most resistance? Who…?’
“Where are they!”
“Right behind you.”
Byrne turned around to see Claire and Demitri standing up on the rafters of the building. They were standing with their arms tied behind their backs. And ropes around their necks.
“NO!” He yelled as he stared up at them helplessly. “You can’t do this!”
“Sorry, but I have to. You both need to know that I’m serious.” He waved his hand towards them and Demitri took a step forward, into nothing.
The sound of the rope coming taught rang through the silence of the night air. He didn’t even scream as he fell, just stopped and twitched.
Byrne turned and ran towards Nicolas, only to feel something wrap itself around both of his feet and pull him to the floor.
“The spell!” Cried Katrina. “It will kill you!”
“I don’t care! I’ll kill him!”
He tried to crawl forward, but she was too strong. She held him in place, but just barely. He stopped trying and rolled over onto his back, looking up at Claire.
“Please.” He said softly.
Katrina released his legs and stood to her feet, barely able to hold her own weight. Her legs felt like rubber, but she managed to get behind him and fall to the ground. She sat up over him and put his head on her covered leg, then looked back at Nicolas.
“Don’t do this Nicolas!”
“Time is running out Sister. The square is closing faster.”
He was right. It was only seven feet now. Another two minutes and they were…Byrne, was dead.
Suddenly, he sat up in her arms and turned to face her, a look of confusion on his face.
“Why do you care about me? I came here to kill you, and you still care. How can you love a person who wanted to kill you?”
“Because I know you didn’t really want to do it.”
“Of course I did! You would have killed me!”
“Exactly. You wouldn’t have done a thing if I hadn’t sent that letter.”
He laughed. “Nice touch by the way. The blood I mean.” He stopped. “It was yours, wasn’t it.” It wasn’t a question.
“I don’t know. I’ve never done that before. I cut myself with my dagger and just let it drip over the paper. It seemed…I don’t know, Romantic.”
“Sounds a bit twisted to me.”
“Yeah. Sorry if I scared you.”
“You weren’t afraid to die?”
“I’m a soldier by career. It takes a lot to scare me. People want to kill me every day.”
“Right.” She said, trying to keep back a smile.
‘What am I doing? I can’t do this! I can’t love him!’
He stared into her eyes as he stood to his feet, and grabbed her by the hand. She stood up and was shocked when he stepped forward. She didn’t step back.
“Katrina. I know you don’t want to spread your…condition. But you don’t have to kill the people you love to keep from doing that. Why do you feel you have no right to exist?”
She flinched. He’d hit it dead on.
“It was my mother. She was killed for wanting me. If I had a right to exist, she wouldn’t have been killed by the other Dragons.”
“That’s not true! You have every right to exist! You are what you are for a reason! Don’t think otherwise for a second, or it’s true. You have a right to exist if you want to exist. That is your choice. What do you want?”
She was barely able to choke out the words she wanted.
“I want to love you.”
He kissed her. Not a quick kiss on the lips that would have broken the spell, but a real, heartfelt kiss. She pulled away only when he did.
“Very good!” Said Nicolas. “I knew you’d come through!”
She turned to him and raised her palm. ‘Drakis’Rike! White hot flames swirled around him, but he wouldn’t burn. Instead, he appeared right next to her.
“Did you really think it would be that easy sister?”
Byrne threw himself at Nicolas, and went through his body like it wasn’t there. Because it wasn’t.
“You’ll never find me, Katrina. Or the others. I had hoped you would see things my way when you accepted yourself, but I was wrong. The only thing left to do is kill you.”
“Over my dead body.” Said Byrne.
“Do-able.” Said Nicolas. He turned around and swung his fist. But instead of going through him like Byrne had expected, it connected, and sent him flying across the room.
“Byrne!” She yelled as he collided with a pile of boxes. Then Nicolas hit her. She was ready.
Although she was prepared for the blow, it still took her by surprise how strong he was.
‘How is he doing this if he’s not here?…Because he is here! He’s doing all this with his power!’
“Nicolas! Come out and fight me like a real man!”
“I’m right here Katrina.” Said the illusion. “Fight me, if you can.”
“No. I will fight you, yourself, Nicolas.”
“I don’t think you’re in any condition to be fighting Katrina.”
“Thinking is over rated.”
She swung her fist at the illusion, but went through it just like Byrne did.
‘Byrne!’ She looked over to where he should have been, but he was gone.
‘Where are you Byrne?’ She thought.
As she was distracted, Nicolas hit her from behind. Now two images of her brother lingered in the room.
‘Which is real?’
The one to her right dissolved.
Byrne struggled to his feet after he got re-oriented. Katrina was fighting with Nicolas now.
‘Good.’ He thought. ‘He’s distracted.’
He looked up to where Claire was balancing on the rafters. She was staring forward like she didn’t have a clue what was happening.
“Don’t worry Claire. I’m coming for you.”
He averted his gaze from Demitri’s lifeless body. It was too late for him.
With one glance back at Katrina to make sure she would be okay, he bolted for the stairs.
‘As long as he doesn’t see me, I’ll be fine. I’ll get to Claire.’
He ran across the balcony linking the two ends of the building and looked out to Claire. She was still staring straight forward.
“Hold on Claire!”
He jumped up and grabbed hold of the rafter she was on and pulled himself up, linking his feet around the lower bar. Inch by inch he made his way towards her.
‘Just a few more inches…’
He kept going until he was right under her, then climbed up on top so he could work.
First, he untied her hands, allowing them to drop to her side lifelessly. Then he started to work on the noose around her neck.
Claire took a step forward.
Katrina and Nicolas began to fight. Not the one sided beating that the illusion was making, but a real fight. He struck her in the stomach, and she hit him in the throat. Both Demons fell to the ground in pain, and stood back to their feet.
“You are a worthy adversary, brother.” She said to him as they began to circle one another.
“You’re not the only hunter in the family sister.”
“You, a hunter? Nice try Nicolas. You’re far too full of yourself.”
“I caught you in my trap didn’t I?”
“A lucky shot. It won’t happen again.”
She dove at him and struck her palm against his chest, launching him into a stack of crates ten feet away. He hit them hard, knocking three over, and fell to the ground.
At first, she thought she’d knocked him out as he lay there staring at the ceiling. Then she looked up as well. Nicolas was staring at the girl in the rafters. Claire. And Byrne was right next to her.
Fear swept through her body as she realized what was about to happen. She saw Byrne and Claire hanging from the rope in her eyes. A split second later, it happened.
Byrne reacted instantly, wrapping his arm around Claire’s waist and attempting to pull her back, but she was already too far over. He felt his body being pulled with her and grabbed on tighter, grabbing the rope and pulling it down so there would be slack in it when they stopped.
The drop was fast. And almost fifteen feet. When the rope went taught, it slid through his fingers, tearing skin with it. But he didn’t let go.
“Claire! Answer me!”
She didn’t speak.
She blinked hard and looked around, then threw her arms around him when she realized where they were.
“Byrne! What’s going on!”
The rope turned and she was facing Demitri.
“Oh my god! No!”
“Claire! Calm down! You have to get the rope off your neck! I can’t hold us both up much longer!”
It was true. He didn’t know how long it would be before his hand gave out, and Claire fell the last foot to suffocate.
She struggled to get her hand through the rope to get it off, but he slipped downward. The rope stopped just before it went taught around her throat.
“Byrne!” She screamed as the noose slowly started to close. “Help!” Her hands shot upward and grabbed the rope, allowing her to pull some of the weight off her neck, but her face was already purple with blood loss. She’d pass out in a few more seconds.
“Katrina! Help!” He yelled, not knowing what else to do. He could now see that she and Nicolas had stopped fighting, and were looking up at them.
Katrina snapped out of her trance of fear as she heard Byrne’s voice. Now she looked frantically for a way to save both of them. Her bow!
‘Where is my bow?’
She looked around and found the crate with their weapons in it.
“Not so fast sister.” Said Nicolas as he stepped between her and the crate. “We’re not finished yet.”
He punched her in the chest again and sent her to the ground. She stood to her feet and rushed forward, catching him by surprise. Just as she was about to strike again, he turned and ran towards the outer door. Katrina started to follow, but Byrne caught her attention again.
She looked back in time to see him begin to slip down, and turned to the crate. When she got close enough, she was very happy to see that it hadn’t been completely sealed yet. She tore the lid from the top and dug frantically for her bow.
‘There!’ She thought as she caught sight of the weapon. She dug it out of the crate and grabbed a single arrow out of her quiver.
‘I’m going to have to make this one count.’ She thought. She aimed the bow up at them, seeing that Claire’s weight was now entirely pulling on the rope. And Byrne was losing his grip.
She aimed up a little farther and followed the sway of the rope. Back and forth. Left and right. She moved the bow with the rope, and when she was sure she had the rhythm down, she let go.
The arrow rocketed from the string and shot towards its target with surprising speed. Just as it hit, she realized her mistake.
“They’ll fall!” She said to herself as she bolted forward, not knowing what she would do. She could catch one of them easily, but two would be nearly impossible. Especially if they were both flailing around as they fell.
‘I’ll catch Claire.’ She thought to herself. ‘Byrne has a better chance.’ Then she thought about what she was risking. The one person throughout her life who had fallen in love with her after she started her hunt. After! How could she risk his life to save another woman? And a woman who she knew had feelings for Byrne to top it off! But she knew she had to. Byrne had lost too many friends because of her. And she herself had killed all but one.
Then as the rope snapped, everything in the room seemed to slow to a stop. And the stillness of night took over the sounds of Byrne and Claire screaming as they fell. She knew this feeling was familiar, but didn’t know where she had felt it before. Unless…
“Dragons!” She screamed as everything in her mind fell into place. Three bright lights began to glow behind her. She turned to look at them, but they were very bright. As she watched through her fingers, the lights grew, and then faded from sight. When the light was almost gone, she took her hand from her face and was looking into the eyes of three very big Dragons.
“Demon! How dare you speak our name!” Cried the bronze colored one to the left. She flinched as his voice grew.
“Quiet!” Said the blue to the right. “Sinn’Nat wishes to speak with you Demon.
“Do not speak!” Said the bronze.
“That is enough, Xaan’Nat.” Said the Dragon in the center. He was still glowing, but Katrina couldn’t tell if that was because his light hadn’t faded, or because his silver scales were reflecting what little light was already in the room.
“Who are you?” He said after looking her over for a full five minutes.
“Who am I? I am Katrina.”
“I asked who you are, not your name.”
“But that is…” She thought hard about what he was saying, not wanting to argue with a Dragon. Without knowing why, she glanced back up at Byrne and Claire.
“Is that your doing Demon Katrina?”
“No.” She said quickly. “I mean yes. I didn’t put them up there, but I shot the rope.”
“Why are you so adamant on saving those who you have killed throughout your life?”
She looked into the eyes of the blue which had been speaking to her.
“I…I love the man. And I have promised the woman no harm.”
The blue considered this, then looked questioningly at the Dragon called Sinn’Nat. He simply nodded, not breaking eye contact with Katrina. “When she has answered my question, sister Xal’Nat.”
“Xal’Nat!” Cried Katrina.
“How dare you name us Demon!” Said the bronze, beginning to step forward. Sinn’Nat put an arm out to stop him.
“Leave her, Brother. Demon Katrina, answer my question. Who are you?”
“I…I am Katrina, daughter of the Dragon Xal’Nat and a man, who’s name I do not know. I am Demon, and Huntress.”
“But who are you? What are you?”
“What do you mean? I don’t understand?”
“Tell me who you are?”
“I…” ‘What is he talking about? I’ve told him who I am. Unless he means… Xal’Nat…Xann’Nat…Sinn’Nat…Nat. They all have that name in common. The name of my mother…Our mother.’
“I am Katrina. Demon. Huntress. And sister of Dragons. I am your sister.”
“If you truly are our sister,” Said the blue, “Speak your true name.”
‘Okay, I’ve got it. But what is my true name? Mother told my father I was to be called Katrina. Why would she call me something else?’ Then it hit her. ‘How could I be so stupid?’
“I am Katrina’Nat.”
‘If Dragons smile,’ Thought Katrina, ‘That is definitely what it looks like.’
Sinn’Nat looked back to the blue Dragon with her mother’s name and nodded. As if on cue, she gracefully glided up from the ground and grabbed both Claire and Byrne in one claw each. Then she set them down on the floor. Katrina bolted to them and immediately took the rope off of Claire’s neck, then looked to Byrne. He was staring right at her, a look of fear and hate in his eyes.
Of course he really wasn’t, she thought. She was just standing where he had been staring when time stopped. But that look burned into her just the same as if it had been directed towards her.
“This can’t happen.” She said to nobody in particular. She put her hand on Byrne’s forehead and brushed his hair back, then backed away. “I’m sorry.” Tears streaked down her cheeks as she backed away and turned back to the Dragons.
Xal’Nat stepped forward and encircled her with her massive, yet slender tail, and Katrina fell to the ground in tears.
“Why do you insist we help this Demon!” Said her brother Xaan’Nat.
“Because this Demon is our Sister!” Said Sinn’Nat, in the first real yell she’d heard her newfound brother use. “I would sooner die than betray my family! And I would hope you would do the same!”
Xaan’Nat cowered back as he realized he’d gone too far with his brother’s patience.
‘Great.’ Thought Katrina. ‘I’ve made two enemies in one day that could destroy me if they set their minds to it. Good work Katrina.’
“What is to happen to me?” She said, not yet able to talk clearly, but her brother seemed to understand.
“Our law states that any Demons that Dragonkind comes across are to be exterminated.”
“But you just spoke of helping me?” She said, confused.
“I did. We will not kill you sister. We are going to help you to give your kind another chance.”
“What did we do to deserve such hate?”
“Demons, unlike normal humans, have Dragon Magic. I assume you already knew this. What you did not know, is that only Dragon Magic can kill a Dragon. Dragon elements to be exact. The first Demons were like your brother. They thought they should rule over mankind, or replace them altogether. But they knew that we would not let them. So they became Dragon Slayers. One by one we were exterminated from the face of the earth, until we finally had to hide, or face our own extinction. We loved mankind, as most of us still do, but we were not ready to be annihilated to save them. Our kind are much more important than any one species on this earth.
“After years in exile, we were able to come up with a magic capable of destroying all of the Dragon Slayers. Unfortunately, it was far too dark for any but the most powerful Dragons to use. Our king, Sinn’Tarac’Xii, had been killed by a group of Slayers, and therefore could not use the magic. This left us only one choice.”
Just as there are good and bad people,” Said Xal’Nat, “There are good and bad Dragons. Xaan’Tu is the darkest of them. He was, and still is, the only Dragon capable of using the magic. But he will not. In all his years of life, the magic has only been used once. The result was that every Demon alive at the time was killed. Instantly.
“Afterwards, we made the law that no Demon was to be allowed to live again. Xaan’Tu broke that law. He and his daughter, Mal‘Tu. She worked with her father to create many Demons he could control and use as his agents.”
“Why didn’t he do it himself?” Interrupted Katrina. “Why risk his daughter betraying him?”
“It was necessary.” Said Xal’Nat. “Only female of my species can safely mate with a human. If Xaan’Tu had done this himself, he would have had to kidnap his women, and the end would not have been pleasant for them.”
“What do you mean?”
“Demons, like Dragons, must be hatched from Dragon Eggs. If Xaan’Tu had impregnated a human, she would have died before the egg was mature. They are far too big for the human womb to contain. She would have burst.”
Katrina flinched. In order to know that for sure, it would have had to have happened at least once. She suspected more than once. “Please. Continue.”
“There is not much to say, except your brother Nicolas has betrayed us. He has spread his lies to every known Demon on this earth. Xaan’Tu’s Demons have begun to revolt against him. Every Dragon has been forced to retreat to our most secret of strongholds, and even that will not be safe long.”
“Why didn’t Nicolas tell me about Xaan’Tu’s followers? He said there were less than a hundred of us. You speak of an army.”
“Your brother has gained the trust of those he mentioned. The others share his wish of a Demon race controlling earth. That is why they follow him. He did not speak of them, because he is the only free demon who knows of them.”
“They’re his secret weapon!” She said.
“Yes. They are the ones he will use to eradicate mankind.”
“Then what of his other followers?”
“They are being used to breed the new race. He didn’t want you for you power, Katrina. He and his followers have been doing exactly what cannot be done. They have been trying to mate with humans to create more Demons.”
“But Demons must hatch from eggs.” She thought. “It is impossible for Demons to create more Demons!”
“No.” Said Sinn’Nat. “Demons can mate with each other. There is a magic Nicolas has been able to use. But they cannot use it on human females. His followers, all of them male, have killed hundreds of human women around the earth. You can imagine why he wanted you, sister.”
“He…He was going to use me for breeding stock!”
“Yes. You are the only female Demon he knew of. Until yesterday.”
“What? There weren’t any females among Xaan’Tu’s army?”
“They were killed, out of fear that they would see their survival as self able. He did that much for us.”
She paused. “What did you say about yesterday?”
“Nicolas has discovered another female Demon. She is in Germany.”
“Yes. Her name is Konstanze’Cal
“Why are you telling me this?”
“She is already of the mindset that Nicolas is. She will join him.”
“But if you know where she is, why don’t you tell the other Dragons? If you know she will join Nicolas, why risk it?”
“Because this is how you will redeem yourself. You will convince this Konstanze’Cal to leave with you before Nicolas is able to arrive.”
“But he’s already left!”
“Not too long ago. And Xal’Nat will help you.”
“Yes Brother Sinn’Nat.”
She turned towards Byrne. ‘I can’t be with him.’ Then she looked at Claire. ‘She could. He feels for her. He just doesn’t know it yet.’
“We should leave as soon as possible.” She said.
“Indeed we must.”
“Just a second.” She went over the crate that held her weapons and grabbed her sword, dagger, and quiver, and placed them all in their proper place on her body. She then looked around the room and found her arrow embedded in the wall.
She ran forward and jumped up to it’s height and grabbed it, pulling it free in one try. It was in her quiver before she hit the ground again.
As Katrina turned around again, she saw the white glow of before consume her brothers. In a flash, they were gone.
“Come, Sister Katrina’Nat.” Said Xal’Nat. “We have much work to do.”
Katrina stepped forward until she was close to Xal’Nat.
“Get on my back. It will be much easier that way.”
Katrina hesitated. For anyone, especially a Demon, it was unheard of to mount a Dragon. “Are you sure?”
“I am sure.”
Katrina hesitated a bit longer, then climbed atop her sister’s back and held on. She heard the Dragon say something, but missed what it was. In a second, they were both surrounded by the white glow the Dragons had arrived in. Another second later, Katrina had no idea where they were.
Byrne screamed Katrina’s name again, then stopped in mid-word. He was on the ground. Had he fallen? No. He would have noticed that. A fall that far would have killed him. And Claire was here too.
Claire! He moved to take the rope from her neck, but it was already gone. He saw it a few feet away on the ground.
“How?” He said, to nobody in particular. “Claire? Can you hear me?”
She didn’t answer.
He felt for a pulse. It was there, barely, but she wasn’t breathing.
He closed his thumb and forefinger over her nose and opened her mouth, breathing deeply into her lungs with sharp gasps. He did this three times, then centered his left palm over her chest and pushed down five times, in quick succession. He continued this for almost thirty seconds. Closing her nose, breathing into her mouth, and depressing her chest. Finally, after the eighth time her tried, she gasped for breath, coughing.
“Claire! Hold on! You’re going to be okay Claire!”
“Byrne?” She said, barely audible. “Is that you?”
“Yes Claire, it’s me.”
“How did we get here? Did we fall? Did we die?”
“No. I don’t know.”
She closed her eyes and concentrated on breathing.
“Demitri?” She said.
“Dead.” Was all he managed to say.
They stayed on the floor and sat in silence for a full minute before Byrne realized something else.
“Where’s Katrina?” He said.
“What? Why do you want to know where Katrina is?”
“She saved us!” He said. “She cut the rope! One second she was aiming her bow, the next, we were here! Where is she?”
“Katrina? She saved us? But she was trying to kill you!”
“I know, but…I just know it was her.”
‘How do I know? Maybe it was Nicolas. Maybe Katrina agreed to join him and he felt no need to kill us. Or maybe she only agreed to go if he spared us.’
No. She wouldn’t do that.
“Claire, are you going to be okay?”
“Yeah. I’ll be fine.”
“Okay. Then I’m going to look around.”
‘If she didn’t go with him, maybe she’s hurt. Or worse…’
He looked around the entire building, pushing crates out of the way and looking for blood. There was none anywhere. And Nicolas was gone too. Had she chased him after all? Then a thought struck him. He ran to the crate Nicolas had put their weapons in and looked through it. His weapons were all there, but none of Katrina’s.
“She left us.” He said, feeling betrayed.
“Maybe she had to.” Said Claire, struggling to her feet. He now saw a ring of blood around her exposed throat.
“We should get you to a hospital Claire.” He said, suddenly worried for his friend. “I won’t lose you too.” He glanced up at Demitri, then looked away. ‘Why couldn’t she have cut him down too?’
He pulled his knife out of the crate and thought to go cut him down himself, then remembered the rifle. Pulling it out and shoving a clip into place, he kneeled and aimed for the slowly swaying rope and pulled the trigger.
The bullet hissed through the silencer and connected with the rope. A second shot cut more out of place, but the body still wouldn’t fall. It was the third shot that finished the cut. Demitri’s body fell lifelessly to the ground and hit with a dull thud.
“Damn her!” Said Claire.
“It wasn’t Katrina.” He said.
“Who else could it have been!”
“What? Are you out of your mind!”
“No.” He continued calmly. “I saw him. Talked to him. I had no idea who he really was, what he was doing. I thought he’d lead me to her, but I led her to him instead. She was trying to save all of us after that.”
“Why don’t I remember any of this?”
“Do you remember how you got that rope around your neck?”
She shook her head.
“One of the other Demons, that’s what they are, went back for you and Demitri to use against us. Me and Katrina.”
“You and Katrina? Why you…” He could see it click in her eyes. “YOU and Katrina! You actually love her?”
“I…I understand why she did what she did. You wouldn’t understand it, but I do.”
“Why? Why did she have to kill Jack? Or Arnold? Or Brian? Or anybody?”
“She just did. I can’t explain it. All I really know is she won’t do it any more.”
“How do you know that?”
“Oh. Well what do we do now?”
He picked up the rest of the weapons in the crate and slung them over his shoulder, then left the building with Claire.
They arrived back at his home a few minutes later and called the police to report Demitri’s death, then hid all of the weapons so they wouldn’t have to explain their existence to police.
Chapter Six- The Beginning
The trip had been extraordinary. She had felt like she was floating in nothingness. She felt very cold, but didn’t mind at all the fact that ice was covering her bare skin. Her mind had been filled with pictures of beuty, every good thought she’d ever had flooded through her mind in the five seconds the trip had taken. Then it was over.
“We are here.” Said Xal’Nat, as if reading her mind. Katrina immediately climbed to the ground.
“Did you enjoy your ride?” Said her sister. “I did. It has been a long time since we were allowed to do that. I hope that changes soon.”
“Me too. To both.” Said Katrina, then added. “Could you get in trouble for that if we’re caught?”
“I would be executed if the Council of Three saw fit.”
“But you’re not afraid?”
“I am. But this is necessary for our survival.”
“Oh. Then we should do it as little as possible.”
“I agree sister. I’m glad to see you care for my well-being.”
“Of course I care! You’re the only family I have, you and Sinn’Nat and Xaan’Nat!”
“What of Brother Nicolas?”
“He is Not my brother.”
“I see. I am glad you see it that way, because you may have to kill him some day.”
“Gladly. He threatened me and my friend.”
“The man you saved.”
“Is he just a friend?”
“Yes.” She lied quickly. Lied, to a Dragon.
“I see. Well, we’d better begin searching for our Demon.”
“We? You’re still helping?”
As if on cue, Katrina watched as her sister was engulfed in the white light again. When the light faded, she was faced not by a gigantic Dragon, but a young woman, about in her late twenties. She had jet black hair down to half past her fair skinned back and deep blue eyes.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
“As you should.” Said Xal’Nat. “Come. There is no time to waste.”
“I think we’d better get prepared first.” Said Katrina. “You need a human name, so we don’t draw attention to ourselves.”
“What should I choose?” She said.
Katrina looked her over carefully, then nodded. “Krystal. You look like a Krystal to me.”
“Darla.” Repeated her sister. “I like it. It sounds…peaceful I may choose it for my third…”
“What?” Said Katrina.
“Nothing.” Krystal said quickly. “Did I say that out loud?”
“Oh. That isn’t good.”
“No, it isn’t. Now, for our second problem.” Said Katrina.
“What second Problem?”
Katrina coughed and pointed at her sister’s body, waving her hand up and down in a short gesture.
“You need some clothes, sister. When was the last time you changed into a human?”
“About five thousand years.” She said.
“That explains it then. People in this time look down upon others who do not wear clothing in public.”
“Well, there are humans who will…They sell their bodies for money.”
“Sell their bodies? Where do they live if they have no body?”
‘Is she really this clueless?’ She thought.
“Not literally sell their bodies. They have sex with men for money. If you go down there dressed like that, they may take you the wrong way. Whether you’re seen by one of the many who frown upon the act, or one looking for it, the outcome would be disturbing to say the least.”
“I see. What am I to do? I can’t appear here in my Dragon form.”
Katrina thought carefully. “I have no money for clothes.” She said. “And if we’re caught stealing, we’d be no better off.”
“Then it appears I cannot help you.” Said her sister.
“You must! You know more about this girl than I!”
“Then what do we do, Sister Katrina’Nat?”
“First, call me Katrina here. It sounds more human.” She thought some more, then a thought hit her.
“I’m so stupid!” She thought. “This is Europe!”
“Just a second. Let’s go back into those trees.”
They both walked into the thick grove of trees that had been behind them.
“Stay right her for a second.” She said, then went a little further and began to undress herself. When she was down to her underwear, she stopped and walked back out to her sister.
“Put this on. It’ll do for now, until we can get something else.”
“Will these men not think you one of the women who sell their bodies?”
“Not here they won’t. Europeans are much more comfortable with their bodies.”
Katrina waited as her sister put on her red hunting outfit. It suddenly hit her that she now had no way of hiding her weapons, not that they were hidden in the first place.
“We’ll have to hide these.” She said, pointing to the weapons she had carried for four thousand years.
Her sister put then on her own body and whispered another phrase Katrina didn’t understand, and they disappeared from sight.
“How did you do that!” She said, surprised.
“I can still use my Dragon Magic.”
“Oh. Why couldn’t you just make yourself invisible? Or me?”
“I can’t hide what is alive. Only objects. It is how our city stays hidden.”
“Well,” She said, “I guess we’re ready then.”
“Konstanze’Cal. We will find her, Sister Katrina.”
“Just Katrina here Krystal.”
The two started down to the town below at a walk.
End of Section One