HalfBlood

Kanya - A name, a mix, an incarnation.

She was raised in a realm of flame and scale, living with the serpentine drakes she rides and controls, taming them to her hand. Yet a few days before her sixteenth equivalency, a visitor appears in her room, lusting for her strange blood. Everything changes for Kanya, in ways she cannot fathom. Who is her real family? Why couldn't they keep her? Why did that vampire try to kill her...and is literally everything she was raised to believe a lie?

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7. Chapter Seven

Why in the Realms did I agree to this? The night air burned my lungs from how cold it was, as the light of naked stars exposed our position in the yew forest at the fringe of Scandia Cemetery; a teeth-chattering night breeze drifting past Asriel and bringing a foul perfume cocktail of Light and the decaying remains of the dead and buried with it. Every move I made caused the plastic tarp in my arms to rustle loudly, and every breath I took filled the air with a white mist. Why did Cael suggest we waited until midnight, when it gets coldest of all, to do this?

"Can we get on with this? It's freezing, and that dybbuk could have killed someone else by now." I begged, accidentally breaking a twig beneath my foot. To them, the snap was probably minor, but to me, it sounded like a bone breaking.

"Drydon's gotta scout out which grave is hers first, and it would look pretty incriminating if we all went out there with these shovels. I'm doing the digging up, Asriel's doing the reburial, Drydon's on lookout, and you're dealing with the actual box." Cael whispered back, looking over his shoulder out at the stone forest of gravestones. "Keep it down a second, he's coming back." He hissed, as I forced my fangs to stay short, listening to the rustle of short grass and the snap of twigs drawing closer.

"Finally found her. Up in the far corner, fourth row, third headstone. It's pretty covered in little stones, so you can't really miss it. Come on, I don't know how much time we've got." Drydon harshly whispered, beckoning us forward from the yew tree grove.

The smell of fresh earth was stronger now I was out in the actual graveyard, near the freshly dug mounds without headstones yet. It helped a lot to neutralise the decay in the air, and kinda reminded me a bit of...well, Drakine. I know it wasn't exactly homely, but it was my home. That little dorm room of mine, with the Dennenth tapestry and window overlooking the pine forests and sports fields, was home.

And this reminded me so much of it, on just pure scent. Earthy and woodsy, with the faintest traces of decay that could either come from the new graves, or the decaying plant matter in the pine forests. That was home, that scent.

"There she is." Drydon's husky voice suddenly clipped though the air, indicating a low, grey headstone. It was pretty simple, in a plain rectangle, but it was littered with pebbles in every possible colour and shape, from smooth to rough. A star of David had been engraved into the stone in such a way that it looked like it was made of twisted rope, and below that, her name and details were carved in precise script.

Cassia Ella Standen
April 8th 1994 ~ June 17th 2012
Our only child, cut down too soon.
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יהוה אֶחָד

"Yeah, this is her. Shall I make a start?" Asriel asked, as I heard the clunk of the spade being lined up behind me. I hadn't even realised I was kneeling down before her grave until the cold of the wet grass crept through to my legs and tickled them with chilly fingers.

"One second." I replied, running my fingers over the lettering at the bottom in the direction it should be read. I'd no bloody clue what it meant, or how to say it, but something about it just...tingled with power. "Alright, g-go ahead." I eventually stuttered, getting up from Cassia Standen's grave and giving Asriel room. There was just something...something deeply perverted about disturbing the restful sanctity of a grave. It's supposed to be your final sanctuary, your resting space, and not to be disturbed in any way. I couldn't bear to watch as Asriel broke the seal on that grave by digging up that first chunk of earth, turning away and sitting on one of those above-ground stone tombs nearby. I dunno, maybe just it's the vampire in me coming out or something.

"Not used to this, are you Kanya?" Cael asked from behind me, making me jump and turn to look at him scrambling up to join me on the tomb. Asriel was still digging behind us, and Drydon was probably off on lookout duty somewhere in the cemetary. "This is what we do. Dig up graves, chase the wicked, and send the Dark back where it came from with its forked tail between its legs."

"You're the one who said being a hunter is much more noble than that." I replied, remembering his little lecture on hunting. A bunch of revenge-driven sociopaths trying to save a word that can't be saved wouldn't exactly just stick to the dark - well, all parts of hunting are dark to half of my kind - side of it.

"Indeed I did and indeed it is." Cael replied, draping his arm around me in a hug. "It's just balancing out the good and the bad. The Light and the Dark. Occasionally, we do have to pick a less savoury path, and that can't be helped. I've allied both with the king of the crossroads demons, and with Lucifer himself, in order to track down particularly vicious demons. It's not noble, and it's not exactly on the side of Light, but it worked."

"Allying with Lucifer isn't the same as breaking the seal of a sacred resting spot though. I know it may sound daft, but for vampires and vampiric mixes, it's everything." I replied, over the sound of Asriel digging. "It's the final sacred resting spot, the grave. To do so is the greatest offence to my kind, and could risk invoking the wrath of any vampire who bears witness to it, at their whim, and that is notoriously unpredictable. A vampire's whim is the greatest mystery to everyone. There have been volumes written on the subject, offering predictions on what it could be. Do we intend to kill when we feed? To reduce the suffering of prey? Do we revel in their almost drug-induced stupor when we take the bite? No one knows, Cael. Though the basics of pleasing one of vampiric blood are widely known and believed."

The air seemed particularly thick and heavy once i'd finished, and my fangs had extended without my knowing. Cael was looking at me with a mix of fear and intrigue, strange power seemed to glow in my veins, and the entire cemetery seemed tense; one single wrong action could either snap it, or send it pinging like an elastic band across a classroom.

"My my, what do we have here?" Asriel suddenly announced, from the gravesite. Turning back around, I could see he was chest-deep in it, with his wings out and his bare chest stained by earth. The shovel had been cast aside, stuck comically out of the pile of earth on the plastic sheet, before he kneeled down into the grave. "The box isn't here."

What? "Can you see the coffin?" I asked, slipping off my perch on the above-ground tomb. That's weird...everything made sense, so the dybbuk box had to be there.

"I'm standing on it. It's not here, Kanya." Asriel replied, as I went over to the grave and knelt down by it, looking in. The pale oak and silver fastenings of the casket stuck out in the darkness of the six-foot grave, still coated with clumps of earth and a generous smattering of small stones. it was a pretty plain split-lid coffin, but still held onto an aura of restful beauty no matter what. Yet despite how sacred and restful it was, the dybbuk box we'd dug up her grave for was nowhere to be found.

Oh great.

"Then there's only one place it could be." I whispered, my voice catching. Of course...it would be a lot easier and make a lot more sense for the dybbuk box to be slipped inside the coffin at the funeral home or wherever just before the actual service, then to wait until after she was buried to dig her up and put the box in before covering her up again.

I couldn't take part in this anymore, as that was just another level. Digging up a grave is one thing, but then opening the coffin and exposing her body is one step too far. Still, I remained transfixed, almost paralysed in my place as Asriel dusted off the coffin lid, undid the bolts, and opened up the upper part of the lid with a creak that could have pierced my ears, letting loose a musty, rotting smell that burned my nose and made my eyes water. Death was always foul on the senses, especially for a half-vampire like me, and the smell of trapped rot was causing me to cough and choke on the rancid mix of rotten eggs, meat gone bad enough to be crawling with maggots, half-devoured livestock, decayed food, airkill and conjealed blood all mixed into one package and tied up with - for some really weird reason - cat urine. Now that's odd. The harsh reek of ammonia was permeating the air, reminding me of an unclean kitty litter tray, when usually that wasn't present around anything dead.

"Will you knock it off, it's not that bad." Cael suddenly announced from my side, as I staggered away, tripping over a low gravestone and thunking my head on the wet earth. Not that bad, ha! No vampire genetics, no opinion.

"Easy...for you to say." I choked out, pulling myself up. The raw bacon I'd had earlier felt uncomfortably heavy in my stomach, and I could practically taste the festering flesh. "You don't have a predator's senses. No ability to smell your own blood type, no opinion." I added, as I got up, and gingerly picked my way back to the open coffin.

The vast majority of her had already decomposed into the white velvet of the coffin lining, but there was still a bit of flesh clinging to her bones. Her hair was still intact, spread out in soft waves of pale blonde down to her shoulders, and the bones poking through the neckline and cuffs of her soft lilac burial gown seemed to shine in the cold starlight. So this was Cassia Standen, in her restful state. There she lay, her arms crossed over her chest, with a plain wooden box resting unassumingly on where her stomach was.

"So that's the source of all the trouble?" Asriel asked, as he helped me slip down onto the closed half of the casket lid. Down here, the rotting smell of her flesh was even worse, but at the same time, I could tolerate it better. Kneeling on the lid, the box seemed to shudder as I picked it up, and the strong aroma of cat urine got even more pungent. It was pretty heavy for its size, so it wasn't empty, and absolutely reeked of cat urine.

"Yeah...this is it. Can you smell that?" I replied, almost choking from the strong smell. "This definitely has a dybbuk tied to it. Only demonic spirits can give off a scent this strong."

Quickly, I put the box back at ground level, and clambered out of the grave with Cael's help, turning back to pull Asriel up with me once he'd re-bolted the coffin lid. Lying there in the wet grass, it looked so...plain, and ordinary. If it weren't for the cat urine smell, I doubt I would have believed this was in any way anything but a bog-standard box. "So now what?" I asked, picking the box back up and looking it over.

"Burn it, I'm guessing. You destroy the box, you destroy the power supply for this dybbuk, and it basically starves to death. Shouldn't take too long, and it'll take care of whatever's in it too." Cael replied, picking up the shovel and beginning to work on reburying Cassia Standen.

"We don't even know what's in it though. That might not work if it has anything stone in it." I replied, running my finger over the join between the two doors. It was pretty nice wood, carved well and sanded so it was as smooth as metal. It would be a huge shame to burn it, as I bet it would be useful in some way or another, and I bet the cat urine smell would go with the dybbuk.

"There may be no other option, Kanya. What do you suggest we do? You're the one of us with the most Dark experience." Asriel added, watching me feeling the smooth wood of the cabinet.

Well what do you do with a box tied to a demon of Jewish folklore. Dybbuks are so freaking weak that we're not even taught about them in Dark Defence class. They're just grouped in with common djinns and wraiths in the Lesser Undercroft of Hell section. How in the Realms do you deal with a dybbuk?

"I'll think of something. There's probably been research done on it. If not...well we'll have time to prepare a bonfire for th-AGH!"

I dropped the box and couldn't help but swear violently, as what felt like a red hot spike shot out from between the doors of the box and impaled me right in the finger. My finger throbbing, I put it in my mouth and briefly sucked it, tasting my own warmly sweet, almost spicy blood. Though I knew there was no way anything could have slipped through the hairline gap between the doors, something had impaled me in the finger deep enough for me to taste my own blood, and there was no way it could have come from anywhere else but inside the box.

"Ok, this thing is potent." I added, picking the box back up and taking my finger out of my mouth. "There's gotta be a way of getting rid of it."

"Tell you what, you can check out what's in there when we get back. If there's anything stone, you take it out and we'll figure out how to destroy it seperate from burning the box." Asriel replied, putting his arm around me. The smell of Light coming off him wasn't all that bad after all. Better than dybbuk box cat urine, that's for sure.

That seemed fair enough. "Ok, that seems fair." I replied, as Asriel began leading me back.

"Great. We'll meet the others back at the cabin." Asriel purred contently, as his wings tucked away back into his back.

*

The smell of cat urine was just as strong back at the cabin, as I sat it on the kitchen counter and began examining it all over. It was completely plain aside from the carvings I'd discovered in the back of the box, spelling out something in Hebrew that Asriel was looking up. The doors were kept shut via a small mechanism controlled by turning one of the small wooden handles, and it still stank. What the bloody hell is with dybbuks and the ammonia-heavy scent of cat urine?

"Ok, dybbuk, let's see what's in here that holds your powe-oh!" I gasped, once I got the doors opened. I don't really know what I was expecting to find in it. Some sort of pentagram thingy or maybe a star of David carved into something, some blood in a phial, or maybe a chunk of flesh to appease the dybbuk. Not a lot of easily-accessible things really.

I certainly wasn't expecting what I found. Two old US pennies, a candlestick, a dried rosebud, a gold wine goblet, a chunk of marble with more Hebrew carved into it, and two locks of hair. What in the Realms...why would a dybbuk have use for any of this stuff?

"Shema Yisrael." Asriel suddenly announced from the living room, catching me off guard and making me jump slightly. What in the Realms?

"Shin-a-his-ra-what?" I replied, looking over into the living room. Asriel had his wings out again, sitting with his back to me.

"It's the translation of the words carved into the back of the box. The Shema Yisrael is like a declaration of faith and central to prayers. The full version is well over fifty lines long, but commonly just the first line, Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Ehad, is recited twice daily, and is supposed to be the first and last thing a Jew hears. Occasionally it's carved on gravestones, like Cassia's. The first line of it has been carved into the back of the box for some reason."

So that was the strange Hebrew phrase carved on her gravestone. That would explain why I felt such power from it. "So why was it carved into the back of the box? Was it like a defence thing, so the dybbuk couldn't turn on the summoners?" I asked, as Asriel brought up another website.

"Possibly. Or it could be like a seal, to start and end the summoning. Most likely it's there to indicate the purpose of the items in the box to the dybbuk. What did you find in there, by the way?" Asriel suggested, scrolling down and focussing on an image of something too dark to see from where I was.

"Um...a wine goblet, a chunk of marble with more Hebrew carved in it, two pennies, a candlestick, a dried rosebud, and two locks of hair. Why do you ask?" I replied, counting off the list of things on my fingers. Asriel's wings seemed to flutter in amusement at my words, as he continued scrolling.

"Just as I thought...well I can tell you from this account that the Hebrew carving is a greeting to the dybbuk, to get it on the side of the summoners. It says that dybbuks may be demons, but they're polite. Kinda like the Japanese kappa. They have to be politely greeted, even if it's with a simple 'Shalom' carved into a bit of marble."

Huh, polite Lesser Undercroft demons. Who knew they existed. Normally ones at that level are vicious little bastards eager to possess, devour, and wreak havoc upon whoever they come into contact with. "And what about the rest? The hair and rosebud and all that?"

Asriel chuckled quietly to himself as he continued reading. "So eager," he muttered, "well the goblet, candlestick, and rosebud are all linked. They're what the dybbuk draws power from. The candlestick holds a light for reducing the rosebud to ash, which is then mixed in the goblet with wine. By drinking it, the dybbuk gains power."

What? Ok, I know only being able to consume blood and raw meat is strange, but so is drinking ashes in wine. "So if we burn and destroy the rosebud, goblet, and candlestick, we cut off its power and the dybbuk goes back to where it came from. That sounds pretty simple."

"Indeed, it sounds very simple." Asriel began, leaning back against the sofa and draping his wings over the back. "Too simple. The locks of hair are summoners samples, so the dybbuk knows who summoned them. My guess is that they came from Cassia's parents. Human grief is an incredible force that makes people take ridiculous risks. If the dybbuk can't get power in its usual way, it'll latch onto the summoners and begin leeching power from them, kinda like an oppressive stage. When it gets really low..."

"possession." I added.

"Exactly. We'd have to get rid of the locks of hair too. The actual box is the only thing we don't need to destroy."

Oh great. "And what about the pennies? What are they for?" I asked, as Asriel chuckled to himself.

"Well dybbuks are demons. You can't really expect a demon to do something for a non-demon out of the goodness of its own still heart now. Dybbuks require payment. Not much, but still payment. We get rid of the pennies, we cancel payment. We get rid of the locks of hair, we protect the summoners. We get rid of the candlestick, goblet and rosebud, we remove its power. You see now?"

Oh I saw alright. "What about the greeting, and the Shema Yisrael? Surely they act as seals for the dybbuk, giving it ties to the Realm."

"Hmm..." Asriel began, before briefly typing something and bringing up another page. "Well for the greeting, I'm guessing we revoke it. Replacing Shalom, meaning hello, with Layla tov, meaning goodnight, should do that. There's a chisel in the tool chest beneath the sink, so scratching out the Shema Yisrael should be easy." He added, getting up from the sofa and turning to look at me. "If that doesn't do it, then...nothing...will...Kanya..."

What the...his wings had tensed up in a defensive-looking position, and the colour had practically drained from him, turning him as white as the upper part of his wings. Had my fangs extended or something? He was staring right at me. "What? What's wrong?" I asked, as he stared right at me, unblinking.

"Kanya...do not make any sudden movements...and do not look behind you. Just come towards me now...nice and slow." He calmly stated, beckoning me towards him. Huh, what the hell is with him right now? Cautious, I began doing as he said; slowly coming towards him without looking behind me or making any sudden movements.

"Asriel, are you gonna tell me what's going on? What the hell's going on, and why can't I look behind me?" I asked, as he carried on beckoning me forward, and some kind of flame-like glow that reeked of Light sprang up along his fingers and gathered in his palms.

"Look, just trust me Kany- Get down!" He yelled, before his wings unfurled and he seemed to glide over me. He would have smashed into me had I not dived to floor, sliding slightly on the polished wood as I rolled once, colliding with the back of the sofa with a thud that sent shockwaves through me and teased out a groan of pain. Ugh, what the hell is with that angel? Sore and dazed, I pulled myself up to my hands and knees, and looked behind me, feeling my slow-beating heart race in my chest.

That could only be the dybbuk, that creature. It perched on the kitchen counter, slithering off like living oil and leaving skeletal footprints of black ick and blood behind. Chunks of flesh hung off of it by threads, exposing the bare bones beneath what looked like a robe of flesh stitched together by threads that dripped blood over its skin garments. It looked like it had skinned itself then made a tunic-like robe from its own skin, and the exposed flesh had been attacked by blind maggots and festered. It's eyes - black and hollow with a burning scarlet pupil - were the only thing that indicated it wasn't just a malfested corpse, but an actual demon, easily capeable of inflicting serious harm on those it chose to.

I was stupid, I shouldn't have screamed, but I couldn't help it. I know I have Dark blood in my veins, but there's a very big difference between being a half-vampire and facing a freaking Lesser Undercroft demon. It turned to me once it heard my scream, ignoring Asriel as it crouched low, and dived right past him towards me.

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