Throught the Night

A world on the edge of war. A boy who hosts a dormant evil on the brink of being unleashed. A tortured woman with a dark past. An ex-prisoner with an infinite stash of secrets. A blind assassin who knows nothing but bloodshed and darkness. All of these come together in an unlikely band to join the rebellion against the forces of hell itself. But when the skeletons in their closets come out to play, who will find themselves on heaven's side, and who will burn?

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6. Racing Against Time


 

Hachi opened his eyes. It was dark. So dark that it was almost tangible as it pressed around him. But it wasn't cold and uninviting. To the contrary, it felt warm and soft. It was his friend. Suddenly, in the distance, there was light. It was angry, red, and hot. But he didn't fear it. And then, he was in the light. It was strange, there had been no nearing of the light, it hadn't grown closer. He had just focused on it, and then suddenly was there.

He was in hell. And it was like heaven.

"Shanda. It's nearly time. Can you feel it?" A smooth voice greeted him. The most beautiful creature Hachi had ever seen started towards him. He knew in the back of his mind that he shouldn't find this creature lovely. He knew that he should be afraid, that the fire should be burning him, and that the screams permeating the air should pierce him through, but he wasn't afraid and nothing affected him. He looked down at his hands. They were not Hachi's hands. They were long and spidery, bony and jointed. They were black. He was not Hachi, he was Shanda.

"My strength returns. I wait only for the right chance." His voice came out whispery, a few strange clicking noises sounded from the back of his throat. How he had missed speaking in his own voice.

"And then we can take revenge." The creature, the other demon smiled. A sight that would have frightened his young human host to the point of heart failure.

"Yes. It is nearly time."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


 

"How bad is it?" Kimiko asked through tears. Jasper had bandaged Hachi and was rushing away from the busy market, the unconscious boy in his arms.

"Let's just get to a private place. He's not going to die. This will just delay us." Jasper said. "There is something I can do."

They ran out of the street and through a couple winding alleys until they were sure that none had followed them.

Jasper set Hachi down and promptly ripped the shirt off of the boy. The makeshift bandage was already soaked in blood.

"It looks bad," Kimiko said, staring at Hachi's pale and clammy face.

"He is losing too much blood," Jasper agreed, his brow furrowed. "But I can fix that."

"What do you mean?" Kimiko fought more tears. But Jasper didn't answer. He got on his knees and held his hands over Hachi's torso and the seeping wound. Concentrating, his eyes close, Jasper mouthed a few words.

Suddenly, the wound on Hachi's side started closing. Jasper's hands shook slightly. The bleeding stopped. A few tense moments passed, and then Jasper let out a sigh of exhaustion and opened his eyes. The wound had closed, now just a thin, red line.

Kimiko stared at Jasper, eyes wide with shock. "You...are a caster? A... spell caster?"

Jasper didn't meet her gaze. "Was. I haven't practiced for a long time. But this much I can do. He should be fine now."

"Who the hell are you?" Kimiko demanded, but before Jasper could find a way to avoid answering directly, Hachi saved him by coughing weakly and opening his eyes.

"Hachi!" Kimiko turned her attention to the boy, but then sent Jasper a quick glance that said "You're not getting out of this talk."

He ignored her. "Hachi, how does it feel?"

Hachi's eyes were now wide. "I had this dream..." he trailed off.

"Hachi pay attention." Kimiko snapped her fingers. "Are you ok?"

He looked briefly confused and disoriented, but then sat up and stared, hunched over, to stare at the newly healed wound.

"It feels...terrible." He winced as he touched the still tender area.

"I wasn't able to heal it completely." Jasper admitted. "There may still be some damage internally."

Hachi suddenly screamed and started scratching fervently at the wound. "It hurts, it hurts!"

"Hachi, what's wrong?" Jasper asked calmly, but Kimiko could hear the worry in his voice.

"It burns. Everywhere." He gasped.

Jasper examined the wound area closely. To Kimiko, it looked as good as it could be considering the circumstances, but Jasper suddenly looked grave.

"There is only one explanation." He turned to her and said in a low voice, "he's been poisoned."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A few hours later, they were packed and ready to get moving. Jasper had bought a horse from the local stables and Hachi was now sitting on its back, weak and barely conscious.

"What can we do? Can't you just cast a spell to get the poison out?" Kimiko fought panic.

"It could be any number of poisons. There is no way for me to detect it. I am not an advanced spell caster. But I know of a good spellcaster who lives in Gallica." He sounded reluctant when he added the last part.

"Great then lets hurry. How long do we have?" They looked back at Hachi.

"I can't be sure, but it seems as if the poison is fast working. We need to move. I can get us there within twenty-four hours, hopefully."

"What about the Hunter on our trail?" Kimiko brought up the thing Jasper been avoiding.

"He will catch up to us within a day. Its a race against the clock. And this is assuming that the spellcaster I know is still in Gallica. It's been a while since I've heard word of her."

"Then what are we waiting for? Let's move out."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Raven could feel the coolness of the shadows and evening wind creeping around him, waging a winning war with the last rays of warm sunshine.

He walked the quiet street in the town center. No one disturbed him, but he could feel their nervous stares. He approached a particularly nervous vendor who was closing up his booth for the day. Raven noticed that the man worked even faster when he saw that Raven was coming his way.

"What can I help you with, sir?" the man asked in his native, flowing language. It took Raven a moment to compose his answer. He hated using Anglesian. He asked the man the usual questions. Have you seen three people..., where did they go..., etc. Raven was used to people lying to him. Many people assumed that if they just said nothing, they wouldn't get caught up in anything. Or that they were doing something honorable by protecting the prey of a Hunter. Whatever the fruit seller's reason was, it was enough to make him suspiciously deny that he had scene anything.

"No sir, nothing out of the ordinary." The man's deception was obvious in the tremulous voice in which he spoke

Raven drew closer to the man. He could sense the tenseness of the man's body, and noticed the remaining villagers scuttle away down smaller streets and alleys.

"Lying to me isn't a good idea," Raven made a deliberate motion to one of his long knives, which were sheathed on his back.

"Okay, okay," the man was sweating profusely. "Don't get hasty now. There was a boy... he was about to buy from me, but then a man in a brown cloak grabbed him by the arm and pulled him away. He was struggling. Shortly afterwards, another older man and a young woman came racing by. It happened yesterday. That's all I know, my lord."

"Which way?"

"To your right, sir."  Raven turned as if to go, but then stopped abruptly. He turned back to the man.

"I almost forgot to reward you," he said. The man tensed again.

"S-sir?"

Raven cast a quick spell in the man's direction. Immediately, the man's belongings burst into flame.

"Lying to me isn't a good idea," Raven repeated and started walking away, not caring to see whether the man would escape the blaze or not. He had already lost interest.


 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"How close are we?" asked Kimiko, casting a concerned glance at Hachi, who was hunched in front of her, unconscious, on the horses back. Night had fallen. The sky was an impressive array of cosmic beauty. But the stars and planets couldn't be noticed by the trio making their way through the stony ravine on their way into the Gallican countryside.

"Couple more hours," Jasper answered curtly and in between breaths. He was jogging alongside them, keeping up with the horses brisk gait. Kimiko understood that he was on edge, but she couldn't resist.

"He doesn't look so good, Jasper." Kimiko held Hachi's hand. It was feverish. Hachi's skin had taken on a strange, greenish tint. The poison was evident even through Hachi's darker skin, coloring his veins a horrible shade of dark green.

"He's dying, Kimiko. I'm not going to lie to you," Jasper didn't turn to look at her. The only sound was their feet on the gravel road.

"Will she be able to save him?" Kimiko kept her voice calm. She needed to hope.

"If anyone on this earth can, besides Arkuros and his spellcaster son, it is her."

"You're worried that she won't be there, aren't you?" Kimiko asked. Jasper looked up into the hills as he responded, avoiding her gaze.

"A little. But I'm mostly concerned about something else," he admitted.

"What?" Kimiko prodded.

"I'm worried she will refuse to help us."

With those heavy words filling the air, they both fell silent.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The blind Hunter was finished examining the body. He left it lying in the alleyway.

Night had fallen now, and he finally felt comfortable. He always had the advantage in the dark, when the rest of humanity was finally as blind as he was.

He hadn't gleaned much from the corpse, but he did know a few things: The man had stabbed someone with a poisoned knife, his cloak had been torn, and he had been stabbed in the back by a long sword. That gave the prince enough information that he needed. The man was most decidedly from Jalen's troops, which meant that the rebellion was also after the boy now, intending to kill him. The Normann had probably been the one to run the would-be-assassin through, and now Raven knew what weapon he was carrying. The prince was close. If the boy had been poisoned, it meant that Raven's prey was traveling slow. And they would have had to buy a horse to carry the boy.

It didn't take the Hunter to get the necessary information out of the stable master. He bought a horse of his own and set out immediately, filled with exhilaration to be on the chase once more.

It was what he lived for.

His prey would be his within hours, and he would have the legendary Normann captured for his father.

Don't worry father, he thought. They're mine.


 

 

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