The warded limousine pulled up right in front of the gym’s entrance. It straddled the concrete walkway, but was mostly on the grass. The teacher supervising the parking lot was clearly pissed at the flagrant breech of traffic regulations, and the look on his face said he was going to let the driver know about it.
“Are you drunk?!” He yelled as he banged on the window. “You can’t park on the grass. You’re blocking the door. It’s a fire hazard!”
“My apologies.” Anton got out from behind the wheel and smiled.
The teacher wasn’t mollified, because the next second Anton had the man by the throat and was slicing into his jugular with his fangs. The human weakly beat against Anton’s shoulder, but he might as well have been punching a brick wall. The resistance went from feeble to pathetic before the human expired. The smell of shit filled the air and Anton tossed him aside. Blood coated his face and the front of his tuxedo, but he didn’t bother to wipe it off as he walked around to the other side and opened the door.
Jezebel stepped out of the limo first in a dress to die for. She walked right passed the ticket table and toward the locker room where Vicky had set her ambush. Judging by the sounds it wasn’t going well.
Jeb and Lono were next. They moved to block the door; one with his sheer mass, and the other with a murderous expression. As the two Infernal lieutenants moved into position, Anton’s people rushed passed them into the gymnasium. Over a dozen Soulless barred their fangs at hundreds of shrieking teenagers and backed them onto one side of the gym. It was only when they tried to intimidate one of the teachers that things got interesting.
The Soulless that was snarling at him flew backward as he took a vicious punch to the head. He wasn’t dead, but he was clearly stunned. Two more vampires jumped toward the older man. One got caught in midair with a kick and went rocketing across the gym. The other landed on the man, but had his momentum used against him. He rolled off the man as he turned and ended up being thrown into the wall. The bricks cracked under the pressure.
Gerry emerged from the limo just as the man pulled a slick six-shooter from the small of his back and started blasting away. The Soulless – who a moment ago had been terrifying students – were now leaping behind cover. Two didn’t make it in time. The bullets ripped into them and they dissolved into ash. The students screamed again at the ghastly sight, but remained corralled on their side of the gym.
The man burned through his six rounds in no time. The revolver opened and the spent rounds spilled out. Before they’d even hit the floor the man had six fresh rounds loaded and was flipping it closed with a flick of his wrist. The slight slack in firing brought a few Soulless out from behind cover. One took a bullet through the brain for her trouble.
Gerry watched the show with a grin. It seemed there was more than one Nephilim at this shindig. He let it go until three of the Soulless were immobilized and three more were dead. There was an end point where it stopped becoming fun and the teenagers started to get the idea that they could escape.
With hand gestures – that were now second nature to the Dux – he summoned a shield in front of him and advanced toward the man. A bullet smashed into the shield and it cracked from the force of the bullet.
<A normal bullet wouldn’t do that,> Gerry thought calmly as another bullet hit the same location and broke through the energy barrier.
He was already spinning away and repairing the shield. He passed a table during the spin, grabbed it by the edge, and chucked it at the teacher. The man stood his ground and pounded the shield with another bullet before reaching out and swatting the table out of the air. It went careening toward the kids, and that’s when Gerry saw his weakness.
The man’s eyes darted toward the screaming humans and concern flashed through them. Gerry rolled away from another bullet, slid under a table to avoid another and came up in a crouched position between the man and the children.
The man had Gerry dead to rights, but he didn’t fire.
Gerry didn’t give the man time to think. With another gesture he formed another energy sword and advanced on the man. The man dropped the gun and shifted into a fighting stance. He looked confident.
“Get him, Mr. Delgado!” some idiot kid – probably a football player – charged at Gerry trying to catch him by surprise.
Gerry easily sidestepped the human’s tackle and moved his blade so the child impaled himself. “Please, Mr. Delgado, come and get me,” he smiled.
Gerry siphoned the anger rolling off of the Nephilim as he charged. Thirty seconds later and he had to give credit where credit was due. The Nephilim was good. He’d clearly done this before. His strikes were precise. He didn’t overextend or go for any obvious bait. In fact, he was trying to rotate Gerry away from the children so he could get his gun and resume shooting.
It was a sensible plan. The only problem was the half-angel would have to go for the gun eventually. Gerry dropped his sword and shield and engaged the man had-to-hand. He was strong and durable, but so was Gerry. He didn’t draw on any of his Infernal talents yet. The wards weren’t powered up, and revealing who he was would bring the Divine down on them. He couldn’t have that before the sacrifice was complete.
Gerry backpedaled to avoid a combination that ended in a kick. It drove him the farthest away from the gun so far, and that’s when the Nephilim took the bait. He dove for the gun and Gerry moved. The Dux had always found the best way to catch an enemy off-guard was to hide the true extent of what you were capable of. In this case, Gerry hadn’t shown the man how strong or fast he really was.
He drove his knee hard into the side of the half-angel’s face mid-leap. The man careened off course and landed in a heap ten feet from the gun. He was stunned, and trying to shake it off, but Gerry jumped on the opportunity…literally. He landed on top of the Nephilim and started raining down blows onto his face.
His cheekbones gave out first and crumbled inward to give his face a sunken look. Gerry’s left first shattered the suborbital bones above his eyes before right fist cracked his forehead. The back of the man’s head drove further and further into the hardwood floor with each blow. Only when the man’s arms had fallen to his sides in defeat did Gerry let up. He stood up, towered above the man for a second and then grabbed him by the neck and lifted him off the ground.
That was about the time the locker room door opened and Jezebel dragged their target into the gym.
“Ah, Maria, glad you could join us. Thank you Jezebel.” Gerry felt the overpowering desire for violence and blood slowly fading away with the victory.
“Fuck you,” the smaller Nephilim spat, which only succeeded in getting his blood up again.
“If we have time, but first,” he raised the older Nephilim higher so everyone could see.
“Don’t you fuck…”
Gerry didn’t care what the little girl had to say. He snapped her defender’s neck and tossed his lifeless body to the ground. The wards reacted instantaneously. He felt the power of the half-angel’s death release a burst of pure æther. The wards on the ceiling doors and floor blazed to life as they absorbed the power. The children screamed as the posters and banners covering them burst into flame. They clustered into an even smaller circle like herded animals instinctually trying to protect themselves.
Gerry didn’t pay them any more attention than the dead Nephilim. He watched the wards to gauge their power. <It’s a start.>
Vicky appeared from the locker room looking a little shaken, but she got her shit together by the time Gerry reached the three women.
“She chose to suffer.” She stated, so he drove his foot into Maria’s knee and snapped it. She screeched in pain for what felt like ever until he put her out of her misery.
“Bravo.” A slow clap started near the door as Lucian stepped out of the protection of the limo and directly under the protection of the half-powered wards. Gerry would have preferred he waited another moment, but it was too late now. Even half-powered the wards should be able to cloak them from their enemies.
His lust-powered infernal was on his arm with her fanged teeth and alert eyes. She hissed at Jezebel as they stopped next to Gerry and her Dux looked at the body of their target.
“It is best not to linger.” Lucian nodded toward the center of the gym. The explosion of æther had burned out the weak inner concealment ward and revealed the trio of power conduits.
“Bring the alter.” Gerry ordered, and Lono lumbered forward with a giant stone slab that was placed directly in the center of the triangle.
“Please…We don’t have anything to do with this. Just let us go, and we won’t tell anybody.”
Gerry tasted the lie on the other teacher’s tongue as he tried to negotiate. The Dux was surprised the human didn’t realize it yet. There was no leaving this place alive. They all served a purpose.
“Deal with them.” He gave a dismissive gesture at the hundreds of humans huddling together. “Don’t waste anything.”
Nothing powered wards like blood sacrifice. What followed was a slaughter. The remaining Soulless went through the humans like wood through a wood chipper. Their lives were snuffed out and the æther released into the world. The wards acted like magnets and pulled that power in. With each dead student the power of the wards grew until they’d reached their maximum effectiveness. Anymore and they’d burn out.
Together, Gerry and Lucian sealed the wards with a complex bit of Infernal magic. They could be who they truly were now. They didn’t need to hide.
Both men grew larger. Muscles bulged and skin grew taught as they expanded. Their inferiors backed up at the sight.
“Much better.” Gerry felt the æther swirling through him like a long-lost friend as he towered nearly ten feet above the tallest Soulless.
Lucian was several feet larger, but Gerry didn’t mind that. He’d let the Infernal have his pride for the moment. There was no debating the Lucian was stronger than Gerry. He just hadn’t been on Eden long enough to acquire the necessary reservoirs of power that Lucian had, so he didn’t try. He focused his physical abilities on being able to avoid the larger Dux if it came to a fight.
“Prepare the girl.” Lucian’s voice bellowed through the space.
When he opened his mouth there was a faint glow at the back of his throat that Gerry made a mental note to keep an eye on.
Preparing the Nephilim was easy since she was unconscious. She was laid on her back on top of the stone slab. She was posed in a peaceful position with her hands clasped in front of her. A wreath of red roses was placed on her head while petals made an unbreakable circled around her. The other Infernals went to work on carving wards that paralyzed her in that position. The few remaining humans – who hadn’t been sacrificed or used by the injured Soulless as a snack – were bled dry over those wards. They glowed a ruby red and wouldn’t extinguish until their power wore off.
Once immobilized and adorned with her crown she was stripped of her clothes and a white linen sheet was laid over her naked body. Different incenses were burned by Lucian and Gerry as they walked counterclockwise around the body. Sometime during the circling, the incense must have awakened Maria, because her eyes were open and bulging when she found out she couldn’t escape her fate.
The other Infernals stood at the four corners of the large tab and chanted in the guttural language of the Damned. It was a bit on the wordy side for Gerry, but it simply asked for this sacrifice of the sixth born of a fair dominion be accepted and the oaths unbroken. Gerry didn’t know about any oaths, but that was what Seere had told them to read so they read it.
They chanted for sixty-six seconds as a sea of blood spread around them.
“It is time.” Lucian motioned for his Infernal to come forward with a sinuously curved dagger wrapped in purple silk. When the silk was removed, it gleamed the brilliant, untarnished silver of Divine Steel.
There were no instructions about who should make the final blow, but the sudden influx of power Lucian was drawing on said he was ready to fight his claim. Gerry couldn’t challenge that might, so he stayed silent while he imagined taking the dagger and driving it into Lucian’s heart by way of his back.
Lucian raised the dagger high above his head. One hand griped the handle while the second laid flat across the pommel. He would need a power thrust to cut into the Nephilim’s heart and complete the ceremony.
“That’s enough.” A new voice cut through the silence that preceeded the death blow.
The man was standing behind Lucian in a flawless white suit, with a flawless smile, on a face that was beyond the definition of flawless.
“We’ll take it from here.” A second voice announced from behind Gerry.
That voice was as familiar to Gerry as the back of his hand. The power of Prince Seere was comforting as it washed over him.
“Yes, My Lord.” Gerry didn’t even think. He stepped aside and let the two Lords of Hell assume the places of honor.
Maria’s eyes were so wide and fearful that he thought they were going to burst out of the young woman’s head. Instead, she gave a shudder and they rolled backwards when she passed out. As far as ways to die, being passed out when two former angels drove a ceremonial blade into your heart wasn’t the worst way to go.
In a rare show of teamwork, the two Lords of Hell each placed a hand on the dagger. Seere wrapped his around the hilt while Lucifer placed his hand on the pommel.
“Like we agreed in our contract, Brother.”
“Yes.” Seere rolled his eyes and held the dagger steady.
The two lords repeated the incantation or prayer – Gerry wasn’t sure which it was – that Lucian and Gerry had stated earlier. Slowly, they let the dagger drop toward the Nephilim.
The roof to the gym exploded with such force that Gerry, Lucian, Jezebel, Jeb, Lono, Vicky, Anton, and the other Soulless were all thrown like ragdolls across the room.
The roof didn’t just explode, it was gone; its matter wiped from existence by Divine intervention. Through it descended several miniature suns; the brightest of which not even Gerry could look upon. He did recognize the voice.
Ava had come for her daughter and she was pissed.
“I will smite you if you move one more inch you foul beasts.” The fabric of reality shook from the threat in her words.
It had little effect on the two Infernal Lords. They looked from each other to Ava – who they had no trouble seeing through the brilliant light – and laughed.
“Oh, baby sister.” Lucifer smiled sadly at the Dominion. “No mother should ever have to see the death of her child.” The sad smile transformed into a grin that would make the Cheshire cat run away and stick its head in the sand for the rest of its days. “But for you, I’ll make an exception.”
With one powerful thrust Lucifer and Seere plunged the blade into Maria’s heart, and everything changed.