Shadow Born

The Shadow-Born have one terrible secret: they are the hybrid sons of Lucifer himself, sent from the depths of hell to act as judges, determining the guilt and sins of humans as well as returning the escaped damned to their eternal punishment. The only problem with their existence? After twenty years, they are summoned by their father to attempt an impossible Trial, from which none return. With his very self a ticking timebomb because of the invader within his own mind, Luke must learn to accept this new part of himself and make the best of the few years remaining to him - all while attempting to rectify the mistakes and failures of his unlikely new companion.

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3. Dark Deeds

Seven Years Later…

 

“Hah, got you!” Griffin yelled excitedly. Luke cursed as his gunman re-spawned. Now Griffin was up by three. It wasn’t fair,

fighting against a sniper.

“Why don’t you come down here and try that again, Griff? Worried that you’d lose in a fair fight?”

“Why Luke, didn’t you ever hear that there is no such thing as a fair fight? Especially when snipers have such an obvious

advantage over you-” Griffin stopped with a laugh. “Head-shot again. What is that, five in a row now?”

Luke gritted his teeth. He really shouldn’t have chosen a shotgun as his weapon against Griffin. Stupid move. “Alright,

geez, I yield. Damn, Griff, how do you do that?”

“This little thing called practice.”

“The only reason you have so much time to practice is because you have no life,” Mark said, walking into the room. He

pulled his girlfriend Amy in behind him.

They were in Griffin’s room, enjoying their summer vacation. So far, Mark had been able to resist temptation, but it

seemed he was caving. Griffin had the sickest games. It was only a matter of time before Mark disregarded Amy’s wishes and joined them.

And it wasn’t like Griffin couldn’t get a girlfriend if he wanted to. Tall and athletic, with flippy blonde hair and green eyes,

Griffin was almost any girl’s dream. He just had the opinion that he was too good for any of the available ones. Unlike Mark, he wouldn’t pick the first ‘chick’ he saw and ask her out.

Besides, not everyone could be as sexy as Mark. With the body of a model and a reputation for his – talents – Mark could

get any girl he wanted. And did, most of the time. Amy was just another in a long string of short-lived affairs. She wasn’t even close to the prettiest, either. Mark’s current girlfriend was short and thin, almost boyish, with short – and artificially colored – red hair and green eyes that were way too bright to be real. If not for her relationship with Mark, Luke would have wondered if she was lesbian. As is was, he thought she was probably bisexual.

“Hey boys. Still wasting your summer?” Amy smiled when she said it to take the sting out of the words, but they still hurt.

Unlike his friends, Luke’s reputation was a hindrance to dating. It seemed no girls wanted to hook up with you when they thought you were psycho. It apparently outweighed his black-hair-and-blue-eyes combo that most girls loved. “You should come hang with us. We’re going to the beach tonight, to this really awesome party my friend is having. You can come, if you want.”

“Yeah, and then you can spend the entire time trying to hook me up with Lizzy again. And failing, again.” Griffin’s voice was

wry and sarcastic. He was the one who refused to date her, not the other way. Luke laughed along with the others. Bitterness did him no good. Amy managed to look hurt even through her ridiculous giggles.

“Awh, come on Griff. You can’t keep those genes to yourself. Think of all those hot California babes, hanging around ugly

dudes. You could save them.” Mark said, punching his friend’s shoulder. Wow, Amy must really want them – no, no use fooling himself, she wanted Griffin – there. Well, Luke thought, no point in letting a perfectly good way to annoy Mark go.

“I’m game. Maybe I should get a life. I’m so bad at not having one, I guess I need one.” Everyone looked at him in shock.

Amy looked like she was having an epilepsy. “Come on, Griff, I can’t go alone. I’ll need a date to the party.” And then they all laughed again.

They took Mark’s truck, mostly because Luke’s sister’s smart-car wouldn’t even come close to fitting them all. The boys

were all in shorts and t-shirts, but Amy was wearing a string bikini. When she had walked out in it, Mark had nearly had a heart-attack. She looked practically naked, which was obviously the point.

“Yo! Amy, over here!” Oh joy, Luke thought with a mental shiver, Lizzy has found us already. It wasn’t that Lizzy was ugly,

because she wasn’t. Or, for that matter, that Luke particularly hated her. It was just that she seemed… wrong to him, somehow. Like if he looked back at her, she wouldn’t be the same anymore.

-No, no, you’re just going crazy-

“It’s all a product of the damage you sustained in the accident,” the doctors would say, whenever he brought up what he

saw.

Amy took off across the sand, towing Mark behind her. Griffin and Luke exchanged grins and followed them. Lizzy was in

the middle of hugging Amy when she saw Griffin. Luke watched, feeling excluded, as her eyes went wide and she blushed.

-And here you thought girls stopped blushing after they turned twelve. Guess you learn something new every day-

“Luke? Luke,” it was Morgan, her brown hair up in a pony-tail, her clothes loose and baggy. Finally, a girl who didn’t insist

on going everywhere half naked. “Hey, I didn’t think you guys would come. Guess J owes me ten.”

“Betting on whether or not Mark could get us here? That is so overrated.”

Morgan replied in her usual clipped statements. She never did mince words. “Not Mark. Amy. Didn’t she tell you?”

“Tell us what?”

Morgan pointed behind him, and Luke turned cautiously. He was expecting some sort of ridiculous stunt involving drugs

or alcohol. Both were present at the bonfire, of course, but there was something else, too. Something weird. “Guess you’re gonna find out.”

And suddenly Morgan was gone, just like that. Luke turned back, but the fire had ruined his night-vision. Everything was

darkness and shifting shadows. Feeling uneasy, Luke joined his friends. Amy was giving Mark a lap dance, while Griffin fended off Lizzy’s offer. If anything, the rejection just made her more excited.

It wasn’t until almost an hour later, when the fire was dying down to embers and Luke was starting to drowse, when Amy

finally approached. “Hey, Loner. Thought you were going to try to rectify your alone-ness.” Well, Amy at least seemed half-somber. Luke, too keyed-up to drink anything, was probably the only other one in driving condition.

“I did. You’re here, aren’t you. See, not alone. And I’ve got Griff here, if he ever wakes up.” With a shrug, Amy sat back down

next to the intoxicated Mark. He was still mumbling, and apparently hadn’t noticed her momentary absence.

“Yo! Boat-Boy, look at her!” Luke didn’t recognize the voice, but it was definitely a girl. Laughter burst from those who

heard, but most were too far gone. “What do you see? Any scales? Fangs? Dead bodies?”

“Ewww, where? Lola, where are they? I wanna see!” The girl shrieked. Apparently lost in the conversation, she swiveled

her head, trying to find the bodies, her bleached hair flying in the wind.

-And here they go again, Luke. Don’t know why you keep showing up to these things-

 Luke silenced the voice and jumped to his feet. Without a backward glance, he stormed out toward the water.

The comments and the jokes didn’t bother him. He was used to that now. But it did bother him when, looking at that girl,

he did see the things. Luke knew they weren’t real, but his mind and his body didn’t want to connect. When he saw them – the girl’s eyes bulging, her nose nonexistent, her ears torn to bloody shreds – he wanted to vomit. Sometimes he even saw them around his friends. Mark, with nails like knives, covered in blood, his tail twitching nervously as he sniffed the air. Griffin with wings and tall, pointed ears. None of it made any sense.

            “Oh look, a Shadow, out here all alone. Where are your friends, boy?” Luke was far from the bonfire, angrily kicking at the mud when he heard the voice. It was more of a hiss, really. “I wonder, Boy, if they will come when you scream?”

            “Who are you? Who’s there? I swear, Mark, if this is one of your jokes, I will kick your drunk ass.” Luke whirled toward the voice, but in the darkness he couldn’t see anything. “Dammit Mark, where are you hiding?”

            The face that came into view wasn’t Mark’s. It was a tall, thin, almost willowy man wearing a suit and tie. The ends of his white hair were dyed bloody red, a shade that matched his eyes perfectly. The eyes sat in deep hollows in his face, as if there was only skin covering bone, nothing more. “Is this Mark a Shadow as well? Thank you, Boy. Two of you, and I only had to hunt down one.” When the thing talked, Luke saw his mouth. Unlike the rest of him, his white teeth gleamed perfectly. It was disorienting, when compared to his rotten, swollen tongue.

            Luke recoiled as the thing came closer, sniffing the air strangely. He had only taken one step when something caught his neck, pinning him in place. Another one, he thought, but without turning his head there was no way to know. The hand holding him certainly felt thin and bony. “Look, just let me go, and you can have whatever you want. Look,” Luke added, plunging his hand into his pocket and pulling out a faded brown leather wallet. “Look, you can have it, just let go.”

            The things just laughed. It was an odd sound, bubbling from their narrow throats. It sounded somehow… squeezed. Disjoined in some strange way. “We don’t want money, Shadow-Boy. My brother and I have waited years for your blood. Now, it is time to repay what is owed.” The thing moved closer, so that he was mere feet away. Luke had the feeling that the one holding him could snap his neck without difficulty, so he stayed perfectly still. The sweet scent of decay and corruption threatened to make him sick.

            “So you did bring others. Good, they can watch you die.” Luke trembled as one bony hand stroked softly down his cheek. He wanted to say something witty, something brave and smart and funny, but he couldn’t think of anything. When he closed his eyes, nothing flashed. No life story played. There was just the darkness.

            When the hand holding his neck disappeared, Luke fell forward into the sand. One of the things – the one that had spoken to him – snarled, and suddenly something cold and sharp was against the back of his neck. “One step more, girl, and he dies.”

            A voice laughed lightly. It was a pretty sound, Luke thought. Or, it would be if it weren’t so hard and cold and bitter. If it was a real laugh, full of joy and life, it would have been pretty. “Why do I care, Alexie? Dominic’s dead, or hadn’t you noticed. So are you, even if he dies. What do I care if you take some stupid human with you?”

            Luke tried to lie as still as possible, willing his shaking to stop and his breathing to steady. “You should care, girl, because he isn’t human. Shadow-Born are sworn, are you not, to protect one another? You cannot allow the boy to be killed.”

            “That would matter, Alexie, only if he were Shadow-Born. He is not, so he is a casualty of war. So go ahead, kill him. The moment he dies, so do you. But, you are going to die anyways, so really I don’t care.”

            -Are you ready to die, Luke? Will you so easily give up your life?-

 “No. I’m not.”

            Luke rolled out from under the knife and brought his legs up. He sprung off his hands, kicking this “Alexie” on his way, and landed on his feet. Any other time, he would have been impressed with himself, but the adrenalin was making him dizzy. Without thinking, Luke struck out again, but the man was ready this time.

            Without the element of surprise, Luke’s attacks did almost nothing. He was blocked and hit at least a dozen times, without managing to land even one strike. Luke knew he was going to die. Then Alexie shuddered. It passed once through his entire body, from head to toe, and blood welled from every his pore. Luke jumped back from the pool with a curse.

            Alexie was dead in seconds, his body turned to ash blown away, his blood soaking into the ever-thirsty sand. Gone, just like that, without a trace. When Luke looked up, the girl was standing just behind where the monster had been, a dagger in her hand. Her hair, like Luke’s, was black as night, her eyes blue, but darker. Where Luke’s eyes were light, stormy blue, hers were almost violet. The sky at twilight.

            The girl’s mouth twitched up in amusement. “Like what you see, Lucius?” Luke looked away quickly. Then he looked back. It wasn’t like he had anything to be ashamed of. He was looking at her face, after all, and not, as Mark would have said, “at her assets,” which were admittedly incredibly eye-catching. The strange, mottled grey-and-black skin tight clothing she wore did absolutely nothing to hide any of her curves. Luke had the strange feeling that she would be showing less if she was actually naked.

            “Alright, Lucius, I understand ditching us. I get why you left, and I don’t blame you. You had an out and you took it. And maybe my turning up here is a bit of a shock to you, but I just don’t get why you’re standing there. Say something already!” Luke finally realized that he hadn’t said a word since Alexie had died. He racked his brains for something to say, but nothing came to mind. This girl seemed to know him from somewhere, and for the life of him, Luke couldn’t remember where.

            “Um, hi. So, who are you, exactly?” It wasn’t exactly tactful, true, but it was the only thing he had. The fading of the adrenaline left Luke feeling washed out and exhausted.

            “By the Three, you insufferable little-” and she stopped, just staring at Luke, her mouth slightly open. “You really don’t remember, do you?”

“Valerie, we’ve got to finish this. Talking to the deserter does none of us any good, and Glen won’t be pleased if any of

them escape.” The voice came from behind Luke. God, really, hadn’t he been sneaked up on enough for one night? When he turned, it was a young boy, probably about his age, dressed in clothes similar to the girl, with the exact same color hair and even darker eyes. In fact, if Luke hadn’t been so sure that they were blue, he would have thought they were black as well.

“Well, Leon, what do you want me to do? Leave him here?”

“We can bring him. Guess he can’t do that much damage. But we’ve got to go now.” Leon turned to Luke. “Lucius, keep up

and stay out of the way. Now come on.”

Luke followed obediently. The pace was grueling, and trudging through soft sand made it difficult. Neither of his new

companions’ feet seemed to sink into the ground, but Luke’s ever step felt like it was through wet concrete. The fire was visible in the distance before he realized where they were going.

“Keep up, Lucius, or we can drag you.” Luke hadn’t realized he had stopped, but the others were already a distance away,

watching him disdainfully.

Luke looked from one to the other anxiously. “Why are you going there? Are you protecting them from something? Are

there more of those… those things?”

“Think Lucius. Who are we? Remember.”

Luke thought for a moment. Being called Lucius threw him off. It seemed to pull at something within him. Some memory.

But what? Then he had it. “Valerie. It means Strong. Leon, Courage.” But the epiphany was fading fast. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, at least it’s something. Glen’s going to want answers, but maybe if this continues, we can give him some.” Valerie

looked at Luke with something close to pity. Why would she pity him?

Leon came trudging back across the sand and grabbed Luke’s arm, propelling him forward. “Think, Lucius,” he repeated.

“If we were going to protect them, why would it be us? Strength and Courage. Not really defensive, wouldn’t you say? No, if we were here for that, Glen would have sent Ray, maybe Dylan also, considering the proximity to the ocean.”

“So why are you here?” Luke knew the answer, but he had to hear them say it. He had to know if it was possible. If it was

true.

“The Dwellers are unnatural. They must be ended. Don’t worry, kid, the humans are safe. Unless some stupid children

actually damned their souls already, which would be a record.” Valerie’s words jumbled together, drowned out by the pounding of Luke’s heart. They were here to kill his friends, and they were going to make him watch.

He didn’t speak, didn’t resist, just went meekly along with them. Luke felt like a lamb, being led to slaughter. Leon pushed

him down behind a small dune, just out of sight from the fire. Luke wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the party-goers looked even more intoxicated.

Leon nodded, and Valerie faded into the darkness. She was there one minute, and the next just gone. “Stay here Lucius.

Don’t warn them, don’t try to escape. If you do, I swear, I will kill them all. You think some stupid human children can stop me?” Luke shook his head in mute protest. Leon seemed to take it as acceptance, and then he too was gone.

Luke peered over the top of his dune, wondering which of the teens was about to die. It must be more than one, because

Leon and Valerie had spoken of “them.” Then there was movement off to one side. A second later, a shadowy shape blurred into action.

A scream pierced the night. Then another.

Luke watched in horror as Morgan fell toward the flames, a ragged hole in her chest. Strangely, there was no blood.

Maybe he was too far to see it? But then Morgan was moving again. How wasn’t she dead? She seemed to blur around the edges, her shape refusing to coalesce. With one deadly fast hand, she seized the moving shadow and brought it into the light. Leon, pale and wide-eyed, stumbled into Luke’s view. “But you’re dead.” Was all Leon said.

“Yes, Shadow. I am dead. Thank you. You know, for noticing.” Morgan’s clipped statements took on a new light. She spoke

that way because she couldn’t breathe deeply enough to say more. She had to breathe again between sentences. No. No, Luke, you’re going crazy. Stop thinking.

So he did. Luke threw himself out from his hiding place and ran into Morgan from the side. She was cold as ice as he

passed through her. But, as soon as he hit her, she squeaked in surprise, and dropped Leon. Luke ran without looking back, unwilling to see what would happen next.

Just as Luke turned to trace the source of the second scream, Valerie spun into motion again. Mark crumbled lifeless to

the ground, his eyes glazed and staring into the sky. Luke felt himself scream in denial, even as he began moving. He didn’t consciously decide to run, he just was.

Mark was a crumpled, bloody heap on the edge of a circle of furious motion. Startled, frightened teenagers ran screaming,

trampling each other as they fought free of the crowd. Valerie and Leon had both disappeared, but Luke saw Amy, her lips pulled back in a snarl, showing teeth filed into points, running back toward the fire. She didn’t even pause to look at Mark as she charged by.

“Mark. Mark I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” Luke realized that he was crying, but he couldn’t stop. He had known someone was

going to die, and had just sat there. And now Mark was gone. Luke was reaching to close Mark’s eyes when his hand brushed it. At first he thought it was hair, but it was too soft for that. Looking closer, Luke saw two ears, covered in brown fur, sticking out of the dark – and now bloody – hair.

Luke jerked his gaze up in confusion. He knew it was real, somehow. That part of him he never acknowledged, the part

that saw those things, was oddly silent. No, this was real.

When Luke looked up, he saw Valerie, watching him with an unreadable expression. As soon as their eyes met, she

turned away and ran back toward the confusion. Luke wordlessly followed. Morgan was lying in the sand too now, a few feet away. As he walked by, Luke saw her eyes flicker open. It was strange, he would have staked his life that she was dead, but she just walked away, into the night, without looking back.

The next body was Lizzy’s. There were others, but Luke didn’t recognize them. He looked around for Leon or Valerie, both

of whom had disappeared, and realized exactly how many people were dead. Fourteen, counting Mark. Fifteen, if you counted Morgan, which Luke didn’t.

“Found you, Dweller. Thought you could hide, didn’t you?” Leon’s voice came from the other side of the clearing. Luke ran

toward him instantly. He didn’t want to be alone here, surrounded by his friends’ bodies.’

“Leon, just end it. You aren’t Glen, so don’t try to be him. Finish this and let’s get back home.” Luke saw them just as

Leon’s hand cracked across his prisoner’s face. The figure, masked by shadows, rocked back with the force of the blow, but didn’t retaliate. Wings, folded but still recognizable, showed that, whoever they had caught, it wasn’t human.

Wings. Luke thought back to his visions. He had seen all of these people, in his mind, changed into monsters. And now

here they were, dead and deformed, just as he had thought. True, some weren’t there. That girl, the drunk one who had screamed about wanting to see bodies, wasn’t there. Most of the others weren’t either, but then again, some were.

Wings. Who had Luke seen with wings? The memory burned him, just out of sight. Like a word, on the tip of his tongue,

that just wouldn’t come out. Wings and… pointed ears. Griffin.

“NO!” Luke dove forward and pushed his friend away from the swinging knife. Red-hot agony flashed in his outstretched

arm, and he screamed. When he looked down, his forearm was gashed and bleeding heavily. Leon was looking at him with a look of undisguised contempt and annoyance.

“Lucius, get out of my way.” Luke moved to put himself between his friend and the circling murderer. His eyes flicked to

Valerie, making sure she hadn’t moved, but she was just staring in amazement.

Griffin’s hand landed on Luke’s shoulder. He didn’t look, but he would have known that hand anywhere. “Luke, just leave

it.” The hand pushed, trying to force him away, but Luke dug his heels in.

“You can’t kill my friends.”

“Look at him, Lucius. He is a Dweller.” Leon’s voice was hard. Unrelenting. “It’s like telling me I cannot eat a BLT because

the bacon was once your friend. I understand affection for it, after all, I’m sure someone loves their pet pig, but friendship? Maybe you’re more screwed up than we thought.”

“Leon,” Valerie admonished sharply. “Just because he’s messed up doesn’t mean you can kill him. Lucius is still

Shadow-Born.”

Luke was still watching Leon, still circling. Now Valerie was completely out of his sight. He might have looked. He might

have seen her moving toward him. He might have stopped her. If she hadn’t sounded like she supported him. If he didn’t remember that instant of sympathy he had seen flickering in her eyes as he knelt over Mark’s body.

There was a rush of wind, and then the sound of a body hitting the ground. Luke spun and saw Griffin on the ground,

golden wings stretched out to either side. Valerie was sitting on his chest, her knees pinning his arms to the sand, a knife hovering about an inch from his heart.

Valerie looked up. Luke’s eyes met hers. Light blue and violet, pleading and sorrow.

“Luke, I’m sorry. You were the only way to escape Him. I didn’t mean for this to happen.” Griffin said. Valerie’s eyes

widened in shock, as if she hadn’t realized that Griffin could talk. Then, he jerked his arms from under Valerie. Luke thought he would try to run, try to escape. Leon evidently agreed, because he lunged forward with a snarl.

Griffin’s hands completely covered Valerie’s on the hilt of the dagger. Then, without taking his eyes from Luke’s, be drove

it home.

Even Griffin’s blood was golden. It ran over his hands and Valerie’s like molten metal. It was the last thing Luke saw

before he collapsed.

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