Calling Down The Demons

[For the City of Bones 24 hours competition] Madeline is a Soulthief. But no matter how baddass a hunter you are, there's one thing you mustn't do: get caught in London at night.
Demons and monsters roam the endless streets. The hunter is about to become the hunted.
When Madeline gets stuck in London, night falling fast, her salvation comes from an unlikely source.

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1. Saviour

London by day was beautiful, bustling and loud.

But London by night? Well, that’s an entirely different story.

There was only one reason I was dashing through the endless streets and underground tunnels that were spray painted every design and name imaginable, and that was to get to Trafalgar Square before the sun set.

As I raced through another tunnel, the light from the sunset was bathing the walls that were covered in a heavy layer of graffiti amber and gold. One design was of a dragon in all black. Its tail extended the entire length of the dark tunnel, its head the size of my entire body. Its spray painted eye glinted as the sun hit it, causing me to stop dead, heart hammering inside my chest.

The claws flexed, the black tail shivering as it came to life.

As I watched, the dragon shook its head, skeletal wings on its back rustling. It echoed through the tunnel like wind.

It appraised me for a long moment before merely turning itself away, ignoring me. Damn, I was late. The city was waking up and I didn’t even have a blade on me.

Once more I ran. Yes, I’d been trained for stamina as well as speed, but even this distance was a painful one for me. My feet burned inside their boots, lungs screaming at me to slow down and catch my breath. But there was simply no time.

And there it was. Stumbling a little, I dashed across the road towards the gigantic fountain sat before Buckingham Palace. A quick glance over my shoulder at the sun confirmed my worst fear; I wasn’t going to make it.

I could see my fellow Soulthieves up ahead. One girl’s honey blonde hair was shimmering as the sun hit her. No. God no I was too late. I was going to be stuck in London all night long without a way to get home-!

And then we locked eyes. She gasped, starting forwards but one of the others milled there grabbed her. It was like they were fading out as the sun enveloped them completely.

Then they were all gone. And I was alone.

I finally stopped to catch my breath, sinking to my knees with a hand over my heart. Dear god was this a heart attack? No, I was simply out of breath.

But how the hell was I going to survive until sun up in such a destructive city by night?

There was a creak from the statue, causing my face to go white. To normal humans, the ones that never looked at their world properly, the lion was made of white marble. To me, it was real.

Silly girl. The shadows will walk soon. Better run. Run and run and run. He turned away from me, the white gold mane fluttering in the breeze. Humans had no idea of the world that was right in front of them, hidden in plain sight. Sometimes they’d look twice, thinking they had seen something out of the corner of their eye. That was the only time they noticed.

The wind picked up, causing my hair to stand on end. Oh god there was a demon around. And it would want me. To crush the life out of me and take it as his own.

And he was staring at me from the front of the majestic gates. Oh hell. This wasn’t happening.

The demon was tall, human in appearance. They always were. This one had long black hair, which was unusual for demons. They kept it short, because it was a liability in fights. His attire was all black, all the better for melting into the shadows. Those eyes would be black too. Like chips of obsidian.

He started forwards, and I took a step back, snarling out, “stay the hell away from me-!”

It made him stop dead anyway. For a moment he sized me up it seemed, then he called in a strong, clear voice, “you missed your train home little Soulthieve.” But then he cocked his head a fraction. “Oh wait, but you’re not old enough to be one just yet. You’re certainly not eighteen. Bummer.”

“Maybe,” I snapped. “But I can still kick that ass of yours.”

He was closer now, and I could finally see the finer details. For a demon he was good looking I had to admit. Maybe around my age. And there were the dusky eyes that both entranced and terrified me. Despite the dangers of getting my soul crushed like a peanut, I stood my ground.

And then another demon appeared. This one was older.

“Dante! Are you playing with your food?” he growled, and I froze- they knew each other. The boy before me laughed, zipping up his leather jacket. “Big brother, do you really think so little of me? Go away. This one’s mine.”

And then I took off. Running as fast as I could towards the safety of the trees.

A hand caught my arm, yanking me back. Then a foot caught my ankle, causing me to crash to the floor in a heap. I was pressed to the floor, lips at my ear. “If you want to stay alive, you’ll pretend you’ve given up.”

“Liar,” I snarled under my breath. The boy, Dante, laughed lightly. “Suit yourself. I’ll let him have you.”

Oh god. Suddenly, the idea of the other demon having me sounded… I was scared. Fear was causing my heart to crash like thunder inside my chest. I couldn’t breathe.

“Did you just subdue her?” I heard an annoyed voice say. Dante growled softly, and I know it was a warning for me to stay quiet. He straightened up, saying pleasantly back, “you can run along now. She’s mine.”

And then, to my utter surprise, there were receding footsteps as the elder demon left. Just like that-?

“Honestly,” Dante tutted, grabbing the back of my coat and dragging me to my feet. “You’re lucky it’s me that found you. Rykan would have killed you in a split second.” He let me go as I yanked away, eyes narrowing. I’d punch him if I had to. “Why did you save me?”

“Why not?” Dante shrugged, then his head snapped around as he listened intently. “We should be going. They do a patrol to check for stragglers like you.”

“There’s no ‘we.’”

“Shame. I hope your death is swift. You’re a cute one.” And then he started walking away, melting into the shadows. The gates creaked behind me, fear hitting me head on again. What if he was playing with me? Elongating the hunt?

It was a risk I had to take.

“D-Dante-!” I yelled, dashing after him. He’d paused on the edge of the road, waiting for me. “We’re not all bad, you know?” the boy told me with a grin. “What’s your name?”

“Bite me.”

“Tempting.” He teased me. I rolled my eyes. “Madeline.”

Dante nodded. “Okay then Madeline. For tonight, you’ll have my wonderful company.”

“Oh what luck (!)”

He started walking and I hastily followed, glancing up as the streetlights started to come on. An imitation of daylight, but not enough to hurt the demons and other monsters that stalked London by night.

“How come you missed getting home?” he asked now. I shrugged. “Walked slow.”

“Mmmnhmm. You look twitchy.”

“It’s your fault.”

Dante looked thoughtful for a moment. “I suppose I have to give you that one. I’m guessing stories about good demons were never told to you at bedtime?”

I laughed at that. “Of course not. It’s like saying vampires don’t feed on blood.”

“Well I have a vampire friend who feeds on cats. You know… fluffy little kittens. The Persian kind.”

I felt sick. If he was joking, I couldn’t tell. God he better have been. The mental image was enough to make me want to hurl.

We walked until we stopped before a block of high rise flats behind a supermarket. I arched a brow at him. “Are you really expecting me to come up?”

Dante sighed in exasperation. “You’re one to talk. Soulthieves like you are half demon after all. You are monsters in your own right.”

“Yes. But we are also part human. And we understand what kind of monsters you all can be.”

“You lot are monsters too.” Dante’s tone was cold as he opened the faded red door, holding it for me. I felt a muscle twitch in my cheek and he groaned, letting it slam shut. “You are impossible. I offer you shelter and you refuse me! You freaking-!”

“Manners,” I told him sweetly, sitting down and resting my back against the wall. It was well lit, and most demons avoided well lit places. If Dante truly lived here, they would avoid him. Demon’s avoided each other in fear of conflict.

He had some great boots. They were ankle ones with demonic symbols set into the sides in dark silver. One of them was the symbol of Lucifer, the devil. It looked like a few V’s. One large one and then there were smaller ones and lines. I knew it from Demonology classes back in school.

“The Buckingham gate to Arcadia is dangerous. Why that one?”

I shrugged, thinking about the reason why I’d been late. Why I’d missed the sunset.

My father was a dirty rotten cheat. And I didn’t want to believe it. But after seeing him in that house with his other family… I’d finally realized. He didn’t love us. Me or mum. He’d seen me looking in through the window. Tried to talk sense into me… but I fled.

And it was his fault an unauthorized, underage Soulthief was out here alone. He was going to get into such terrible trouble if I told the Council, but… it wasn’t worth it. That man needed to be gone from my life.

“You look like you’re about to cry, little Soulthief.”

“I’m not even a Soulthief yet,” I snapped up at him.

He crouched down before me now, cocking his head lightly once more. Those eyes really were as black as hell, and yet, strangely, they did show emotion. Demons didn’t feel emotion. This one did.

“You’re strong,” Dante told me slowly. “Whatever it is, you’ll fight it. And you’ll win. I assure you. You’re going to make a fantastic Soulthief when you’re older.”

“Next year,” I muttered. “I’m coming of age next year.”

“Guess I’ll be running then,” Dante grinned, eyes sparkling. “No matter how much I admire your spirit, I don’t want to be your first kill.”

I frowned at him now. “You’re not even playing with me, are you?”

Dante shook his head. “Some demons… aren’t made through murder. Things like that.” He paused. “My father sold me to a demon. Well, my soul. Simply because he was in debt with gambling. That was in 1802.”

I just stared. “Your father caused you to turn into… this?”

“He wasn’t a nice man, I assure you.” Dante shrugged. “I’ve done bad things. I’m free now, but I still wish I was human. But I’m fine. I… I cope.”

There was me. Feeling sorry for a demon. He wasn’t evil like the others.

But still, I never let my guard down though the entire night while we were talking. And when it was time for the sun to rise, Dante growing tired, we walked back to the Gate. I’d make it this time. And with my own personal bodyguard. As I stepped into the area that would transport me home, he cleared his throat. “You better look me up again. Trapped on the surface or not.”

Dante was grinning as the sun enveloped me. It blurred my features but I could see his clear as day. He’d changed my thoughts on demons, that was for sure. There was light in the darkness, no matter the situation.

I smiled, feeling myself start to fade. Home was calling me. “Then see you tomorrow.”

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