Thursday, January 18, 2007

"That stuff last night. Do you do that often?"

"What stuff?" asked Dante, looking up as the waitress placed a large plate of pancakes in front of Emily. He nodded as she waved the coffee pot at him, and wrapped himself around the cup when she'd finished.

"I mean," Emily leaned in, lowering her voice to a whisper "Rescuing women an alleys and throwing angels off buildings"

"Oh. Yeah. More then you'd expect, anyway" he said, with a grin.

They were sitting in a cafe around the corner from Dante's office. Emily had appeared at his door almost as soon as Dante had opened the blinds. He'd taken one look at her, said "what, no coffee?" and grabbed his coat.

"What was last night about? Why did he come after me?"

“Honestly, I don’t know. It thought your soul was in danger from something. But everyone’s soul is in danger from something. According to the rules he follows, that’s pretty much the deal with ‘life’. The instructions are pretty clear – humans have free will.”

“Am I safe now, or will there be others?”

“Well, Gwinette isn’t actually dead. To take on physical form, angels – and demons – have to obey the basic rules of the universe, which means they can be killed. Except all killing them really does is send them back to the spiritual realm.”

“So he can come back?”

“Well, it takes time and effort to generate a body – especially the sort of body they like to ride around it. So you’re safe for probably 6 months or so. But more importantly, Gwinette was almost certainly acting alone. And now he’ll be subject to the discipline of his order.”

“There’s one thing that been bugging me since you dropped me home last night. You know, apart from the whole ‘mythical winged creature trying to kill me to save my soul’ thing. Why were you in that alley last night?”

Everything else had been foreplay. This question was the main event.

“I was working a case. I was hired to protect you.”

“Hired by who?”

“The client specifically asked to remain anonymous. Well, anonymous to you.” Dante smiled. He was looking forward to the next bit. She might demand. She might rage. She might pout or sulk. Hopefully she’d try to use her charms to get the information. Whatever she tried, it would be interesting.

Instead, much to Dante’s disappointment she just let it go with a shrug. Apparently the main event was still coming.

“I want to know why that angel was after me. I want to hire you.”


Harsher Light Lexicon

A quick note to encourage anyone who actually reads this to come play the Harsher Light Lexicon Challenge. It will be fun - really!

Fury (4 of 4)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

They faced off on top of the building. On one side stood Dante - positioning himself in front of Emily, armed with a length of chain that had been securing the fire escape door. On the other side stood the angel Gwinette - wings spread, head down and ready to pounce.

"I'm not going to let you kill her Gwinette, so you may as well just fly home now."

"Why would you want to prevent her from entering the gates of paradise? You, more then most of your race, must understand that fate."

"It's her choice to seek forgiveness. I seem to remember that was part of the deal made a couple of thousand years ago..."

"Hang on!" yelled Emily, finally breaking the death stare between the man and the angel "Forgiveness for what? I haven't done anything!"

"But you have" whispered the angel "Your soul is blemished with countless sins that would need to be worked off in Purgatory. But you will soon be marked by a much greater stain. A stain that I would not be able to remove."

"What the hell are you talking about?" she screamed

"Enough!" Dante said, silencing Emily. "She has free will. She can choose to avoid this 'great sin'. She can choose to seek forgiveness for it. It is not for you to decide her fate."

"But if I do not, her soul will be lost forever!" the angel wailed. "She cannot choose to avoid the sin - she is already on the path. Either she dies with one innocent's blood on her hands, or thousands. Regardless, she will die with a mortal sin on her soul. And there is no one who can forgive her!"

With that, Gwinette leap forward, pushing Dante aside and grabbed for Emily. Dante grabbed the angel by the shoulder and hurled it back. Gwinette staggered, regain its balance and then charged Dante. Gwinette smashed into Dante, wrapping its' arms around his torso while pushing him backwards. With a powerful jump and a push down with immaculate white wings, Gwinette leaped into the air carrying Dante off the ground.

Still struggling, the two came crashing down by the edge of the roof. Suddenly realising he was still clutching the length of chain, Dante swung blindly as Gwinette tumbled over the top of him. The chain wrapped around, pinning the angel's wings together. As Gwinette, scrambling to its feet, tried to reach around to pull the chain free, Dante grabbed the closest ankle. Hauling himself up, Dante pulled Gwinette's leg out from underneath it, and push back has hard has he could. For a brief moment the angel wobbled on the edge of the building before tumbling over the side.


Fury (3 of 4)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Running along only a few steps behind Dante, Emily was ready to throw the open the fire door the moment they reach it. But with only a few metres to go, Dante pulled up short and whirled around. It took Emily a moment to stop, and by the time she'd turned around, Dante was blocking the path, his baseball bat raised. Beyond him, the angel was standing, looking like some kind of a living statue.

"Out of my way mortal." he growled at Dante, his eyes locked on Emily "This does not concern you."

"Gwinette" Dante said, cocking his head to one side "I don't know if I should be insulted that you don't remember me, or flattered that you called me mortal"

The angel head snapped towards Dante in surprise. There was a moment of recognition before Dante's bat connected, breaking in half and knocking the angel from its feet. Dante delivered two lightning kicks to the perfectly sculpted stomach, and then ran. He grabbed Emily by the arm as he ran past, pulling her towards the glowing green of the exit sign.

"God that felt good!" Dante said, panting as he pulled the door open and stumbled into the stairwell. "Come on, we've got to get to the roof. That won't slow him down for long"

"Then why didn't you just shoot him? You've got a gun!"

"I'm out of bullets. And besides, it wouldn't have been nearly as satisfying."

"You know him?" Emily said as they raced up the stairs, her voice high with disbelief. She was in much better shape than Dante, and was hardly out of breath as they passed the second floor.

"You could say we used to work together. But that would imply some kind of choice on my part and actually doing something useful on his. But yeah, I know him. And I know he's going to kill you when he gets his hands on you, so keep moving!"

"What the hell is going on?"

"Been wondering that myself..." Dante whispered to himself.


Fury (2 of 4)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Like a retired runner starting late in a public race, Dante's old jaguar slid effortlessly through the traffic.

"What was that thing?" the woman - Emily Olsen - said for the third or fourth time. She was still frantically scanning the sky, but at least seemed to be getting over her initial fright.

"I think you know." Dante said distractedly - his attention mostly taken by trying to keep all four wheels on the ground. "You certainly got a better look at him then I did"

"I thought it was just a man - some guy who was stalking me. But he had wings! Like an angel..."

"Bingo!" Dante swerved around a truck, and took a sharp right to avoid a slow moving beetle. "He belongs to an order called the Piaculum."

"The what? 'Sacrifice'?"

"Close," said Dante, slightly impressed "but no. It's more 'atonement'."

"But how does attacking me make up for anything?" Emily screamed as Dante moved onto the other side of the road.

"No no no" he swerved from left and right around the oncoming traffic. "The Piaculum are responsible for purifying souls so they can enter heaven. They're the ones who brought Noah's flood, destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and who guard purgatory. He's not atoning."

"I can't see him any more. I think we've lost him..." she said, avoiding the conclusion Dante had not made and resuming her watch.

"Nah" said Dante as they shot past a couple of vacant lots and a small Seven-11. "Watch"

Emily turned in time to see a man appear at the edge of the roof overlooking the vacant lots. White wings spread out from his back as he dived forward, glided over the Seven-11 and scrambled onto the roof of the next skyscraper.

"He can't fly - not really anyway - but he can glide. That's how he's fast enough to keep up. But he'd have a hard time getting altitude and maneuvering between the buildings. So we're safe down here - as long as we keep moving."

The car in front suddenly decided not to run the orange light. Dante wrestled the jaguar into a narrow alley, but then had to slam on the brakes anyway - their path was blocked by a pair of dumpsters. Taking a deep breath for the series of expletives that he was about to erupt with, Dante glanced in the rear-view mirror. Directly opposite the alley was the entrance to an underground garage - it's imposing grill open to let a black SUV trundle out.

Turning quickly around in his seat, Dante slammed the stick into reverse and pushed the accelerator to the floor. The jaguar's tires screamed as it tore from the alley, shot across the street and leaped down the ramp as the grill clattered closed.

Dante carefully pulled into the closest spot, turned off the ignition and then remembered to breathe out.


Fury (1 of 4)

Monday, October 30, 2006

The woman was scared. He was still following her, she was sure. As she pushed her way frantically through the crowd, she’d occasionally catch glimpses of him. Over her shoulder, in the windows of office buildings, even on the massive television screen that hung outside the subway station. She desperately needed to get away.

She just managed to make it across the road before the storm of cars erupted again. As she dared another glance over her shoulder, she saw him. He was standing at the front of the mass of people waiting to cross. He had eyes only for her. His brown overcoat seemed impervious to the wind. His hands, thrust deep in his pockets, guarded treasure troves of fear.

Running now, no longer caring if anyone thought her strange or crazy. Her only thought was to get away. In desperation, she found herself making random turns, taking side streets and alleys. It was too late when she realised her mistake – away from all the people, there would be nothing to make him wait.

She was halfway down the narrow street between two office blocks when she heard steady footfalls behind her. Unable to stop herself, she turned to face her stalker. His face was beautiful and his golden hair flowed down his neck. But his eyes held an anger and hate she had never known. His coat hung open, and with a shrug it slid off revealing an impossibly chiselled chest and four beautifully perfect wings.

“What are you?” she pleaded. Somehow he was closer to her now – she could smell rosemary and incense and blood. Still he said nothing, but hate twisted his face.

Headlights blasted the shadows from the alley as a small dark sports car came roaring towards her. He tensed like a cat ready to snatch its prey from a rival, only to be driven back by a hail of bullets. The car skidded to a halt, the driver holding the steering wheel in a death grip with one hand, and frantically working the trigger of a large revolver with the other. With a scream of frustration, The winged man scrambled straight up the alley wall, threw himself into the air and took flight.

"Get in!" screamed the driver.

"Who the hell are you?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, where are my manners. My name is Dante Harsher, and I'm pleased to meet you. Now will you get in the fucking car before it decides to come back?"


Pact (6 of 6)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

"How are you feeling?" They were sitting in Dante's car, parked in front of the Green's house. Jennifer wore Dante's jacket; her blood-soaked top had been left behind.

"Better. Much better." Once again she lifted the jacket to look at her stomach. There wasn't even a scar. "I feel like I could jump buildings"

"The euphoria will probably last for a few hours. Your system was flooded with endorphins due to your injury. Normally you'd have crashed by now - or died. But since you've been healed, your body's trying to work out what it's meant to be doing..." Touching on something he didn't really want to deal with yet, Dante trailed off.

"Are you going to ask me about it? I know you want to" Jennifer climbed out of the car, and Dante followed.

"You've made a pact Adramelech, which is nearly as bad as a deal with Satan himself. Possibly worse if you believe Silverberg. It's very serious, but there are still ways to undo it."

"But I'm alive."

"For now. Any demonic pact has hidden barbs, but from what I know of Adramelech, he's one of the worst. How long do you have? Do you even know?"

"Thirteen months."

"That's... that's not long. We'll need to work quickly. Let your parents know you're alright, and then we'll get started on finding you a way out of this deal."

"But why would I want to do that?" Jennifer said, a small smile dancing across her lips as she rang the doorbell.

"There's always a price to pay for what they give you. And regardless of what you agreed to, it usually ends up being your soul."

"I already agreed to give them my soul. Thirteen months is more then enough time." She giggled at the look on Dante's face. "Adramelech gave me more then my life. In thirteen months, he will return to take this body's soul to hell. But he showed me how I could swap souls with someone else. Every thirteen months after that, I'll select myself a new body. I'll live for ever."

Just then, Richard Green opened the door and nearly fainted in surprise.

"Jennifer! Where have you been? What happened to you?"

"None of that matters Daddy" she said, smiling. Dante was quick enough to connect the small movement of her hand with the sudden vacant look that came across her father's face.

"No... I guess not..."

"Come now Daddy. Mr Harsher is very busy." Jennifer slide past her father and stepped inside. As she pulled the door closed, Jennifer Green locked eyes with Dante "You can send Mr Harsher his money tomorrow. After all, he did his job."


Pact (5 of 6)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Dante had been careless. He'd assumed the girls range of tricks only extended as far as summoning demons and creating a lure. Which is why he was now lying helplessly on the ground. The imp had given him enough information to find the girls before Dante had trapped it inside a matchbox, but had failed to mention they knew how create a circle of entropy. He'd managed to sneak into the room without the girls noticing him, but as soon as he'd crossed the circle, all of his energy had been sucked away. It was taking all of his tricks just to remain conscious. He quietly ran through a list of things he was going to do Alexander when - if - he got himself out.

The coven was clearly inexperienced, but they knew enough. The girls were dressed in robes - all black except for Anna Copeland who was dressed in purple. They stood around a large stone slab in the centre of the room, to which Jenifer Green was tied. A collection of knives, herbs and other dark ritual essentials lay on tables.

In movies, sacrifices were always clean, simple events - the evil cultist stabs the victim, and the demon comes. But as Copeland drove the knife into Jenifer's stomach, there was no flash of light, no earthquake, no dramatic entrances. Instead there was just the cries of a scared young girl in immense pain. Blood was usually the key ingredient, but there wasn't enough blood in a single human to summon something as big as Adramelech. Pain and fear would serve as substitutes, which is why the ritual called for a painful wound that would take hours to die from.

Unfortunately, it seemed Alexander had neglected to mention that part to Copeland.

"Nothing's happening! Why is nothing happening?" Copeland wailed, her eyes like the abyss. "It must need more blood. There's not enough blood!"

"What do you mean...?" one of her companions started to ask, but before she could finish, Copeland had grabbed one of the other knives. The circle of entropy worked both ways - as her companions tried to flee the stabbing frenzy, they were rendered helpless.

As the last girl died, the air started to shimmer and glow, and Copeland began to laugh - nails breaking glass. Then suddenly, her laughter turned to a groan. Jennifer Green had pulled the knife from her stomach and driven it into Copeland's back. With a look of utter surprise, Copeland fell into a crumpled heap. Jennifer dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around the wound in her stomach. Tears poured down her face.

All Dante could smell was blood and sulfur. He tried to pull himself up, he tired to call out to Jennifer, but it was no use. As his vision started to fade, he heard a voice echoing from the distortion.

"I have been summoned. What is it that you want?"

"I... don't want to die..." the scared girl sobbed