Walk Between Shadows | Chapter 22 – Tides Come


Walk Between Shadows | Chapter 22 – Tides Come

 DISCLAIMER – This story features images of violence, adult language, and some adult situations.

The following story is Copyright © 2015 Padraig O’C. Copying this story without permission from the author is strictly prohibited.

Night met her with an embrace of chilled wind, and alpine aromas. The trees were already root deep in snow as the area just outside the main door was nearly empty and only a smattering of cars marked the existence of civilization inside the building behind her. Without the light pollution of the city, the air above her was only barely lit with the lights of the building providing a light overtone of illumination. The moon was obscured by the lazy drifting of cloud cover that only left it peeks of like across the already stained ground of the overhead halogens that rained down upon the snow covered clearing surrounding the lodge.

It was cold, but Nyla could stand the cold. For reasons he still had yet to understand, there were times when the elements barely affected her since she awakend a trace of her Fae self. Sure the cold did bother her, after a while, but not if she was just outside for a few seconds. Her eyes were adjusting to the variance in light as she decided to drink in the sight of the landscape surrounding the lodge. It was not unlike most of the parks she grew up seeing in the city, or living out on Anian Island. However, a distinctive quiet reigned in the forest. She stared at the snow and thought of simply walking out into it and shrugged as a small violet flame streamed in front of her steps. No need to get her feet wet at least.

The heels by now were slowly starting to cause her calves to stiffen just a bit. She did not mind wearing heels, and in many ways she loved the feeling of them. An utterly feminine sense of empoerment tricked when she strutted once in a while. Now she was simple trying to stay off the ground as she walked toward the treeline while thinking of where the Alchemist might strike. Gods only know the woman was likely already inside. There was no where she could have made it passed the barriers that flanked the hall and the surrounding property without coming in with the rest of the guests.

Not even the Shadow could be penetrated here without a decent amount of power at one’s back. She let that little thought linger for just a bit as she inhaled the cool air of fallen pine needles, and enjoyed the scent of the wild. The Fae although being masters of magic, were inherently drawn to the unsettled places of the world. Such places echoed with the power of Crénhu Thaorin, the World Tree of their ancient home. Nyla could feel magic seething along the lines as her senses awoke to the baser instincts that ran in deep in her bones.

It was a nice little break to have before she went back in and assisted Jack and Aoife in tracking the Alchemist, Bozena Knezevic. The madwoman could be anywhere. I dislike waiting.

“Then don’t,” a voice behind her said. Dammit. What small trace of safety she had was gone in the blink of an eye. A great disquiet descended from the trees above as a loud thump sounded in front of her. Suddenly the Golem materialized in front of her, its great squared mannish faced forced into a sneer of hatred. She could turn her back to it, or keep her back to Bozena. That was not a good set of options.

“You have a weird sierdin’ fixation with me,” she replied. Words would only buy perhaps a chit’s worth of time. Not time to cash in karma either, the gods were not that damn forgiving.

“You are not getting the contract of Cold Iron,” Nyla barked.

“That’s only part of what we are after.” We, godsdammit. There are more than one of them? The woman started to wonder who was backing the psycho even more so than before.

“You assume I’m crazy, I have never seen more clearly,” a hand gripped her shoulder and yanked her around hard. Pain lanced up her shoulder as she was shocked to feel how strong Bozena was. The woman who met gaze was blonde with streaks of blood red coloring in her hair. Hollow violet eyes met her emerald orbs, and the slim figured rippled with feline muscle. This was Bozena? The picture that Jennifer provided had shown a young lithe ballet dancer, not a kick boxer. Shit.

“All pyscho’s say that,” Nyla hissed.

“You know they lie. The briar’s don’t drive you insane. They merely bring you to a new revelation of what magic is.”

“I’ve got you monologing,” Nyla quipped.

“No I’m letting you live while my associates prepare to seize the blood of the Courts,” the woman said. More blood? Damn sierdin’ bitch has more planned. Jack had the scroll for the Golem, so she had nothing to deal with the great silvery clay bound thug. Her eyes lit up as fury stirred beneath her countenance. Fury that lay deeply with all the sket the woman had caused. The moment just became tenser as she felt the grip of the woman and then the Golem pressed upon either shoulder.

“Promi wants to repay you for the last few times,” she was told.

“You sierding talk to much,” Nyla said as she reached to the magic she was holding back. Her arms burst into flame as violet fire burst from her skin as she turned around. The Golem grimaced as it pulled away its hand and Bozena responded with a glare. The focus she needed for the magic was pulled back as she glared and felt her stress unleashed itself. The Léthas Fé over took her as she pulled away from the Golem. The large creature leaped toward her as Bozena made a retreat.

‘SIERD,” she cursed. The large creature would only be taken down by the damn scroll. However, it hated fire. She surmised that the clay it was made of and the silver embedded into its exoskeleton must rely on being cool to move with its great bulk. Nyla smiled as she lit her hand with fire flung a swathe of it at the creature. The magically fed flames easily caught fire on the monster’s clothes and started to bite into the flesh. A grew roar erupted from its blocky squared jaw as it lunged at her again this time she danced out of its way. Still healing, but fully aware of what it could do she was determined to lead it inside where she could find Jack and the scroll.

She was able to move away from the creature quickly as she kicked off her heels and ran across the wet asphalt of the ground. Following the path she had melted earlier she quickly reached the doors as she found them hanging open. Already a din was building inside as several lean husk like figures were assaulting those inside. The great clomping run behind her warned her of the oncoming Golem, Promi. Did she name it after who I thinks he did? Promotheus was going to be incredibly insulted at such a haphazard creation named after him.

No bloody time. Already she was looking for Jack as she ran deeper inside and ducked a slash of an out thrust arm from one of the strange husks. She glanced at its hollow eyes and kicked the creature in the chest as it hissed at her. Matted hair, and clammy skin met her bare boot as she hit it in the chest. It crumpled back for a few seconds before rising again.

“I HATE SEAL PEOPLE,” the Alchemist had brought a large cadre of the wakened dead creatures as many were already attempting to scramble atop the Fae warriors who were already cutting several down near the four great thrones. Among the fighters was Laughing Crow wielding a great wooden club shaped from a pointed Salish oar. He let out a wailing cry as his hand glowed a bright light that easily evaporated one of his attackers. So that is what the son of Sunbringer can do. A loud cutting sound was heard as Lady Emerald Eyes was wiedling a large long curved scimitar and slicing through the body of a small crowd of child-like attackers.

The eyes of the Seal People were glassy and dead. They looked dried out in some cases and were missing in others. The bodies were likely borrowed from those who had drowned at sea or were recently stolen from the morgue. Nyla cursed Bozena as the woman appeared nearby Lady Snow and the woman raised her left hand while bearing what appeared to be a jagged knife. Why does she have a Kukris? Shouldn’t she be using an Athamey or something?

She was close to making a crack on the woman’s state of mind, and compare it to her jagged knife before she caught herself. Yup love how idiots like her expand ableism. She sighed and wondered if somewhere in another life she would have been some kind of sarcastic social justice warrior. Not self righteous enough! At some point she would maybe join the internet debate on issues. But not till after she was no longer having to avoid Seal People. I hate soul eaters.

The battle continued on for several more intense minutes. Jack appeared in the fray wielding a large dane pole ax while Aoife was bearing a great steel claymore. Both were fighting back to back while a surge of Seal People swept toward them. She felt her body starting to strain as she killed the flames summoned by her contract. Then a great thumping was heard, and the door too the hall was bash open. The wood groaning as it absorbed the strike of the Golem as her attacker dove into the field of battle. Nyla immediately turned and ran toward Jack. Promi made no attempt to wait as he started to wade through the swathe of fighting. A selkie fighting a Seal Person was kicked out of the way as the creature chased after Nyla.

Her focus was split as she reached Jack and Aoife while side stepping a swipe from one of the attackers she reached Jack just in time to say, “I NEED THE SCROLL NOW!”

Jack’s response was to reach into his coat pocket with one hand while using the other to beat off several of the Alchemist’s minions. A moment passed as he then shoved it into her hands and pointed just as the Golem reached them. The great beast-like clay man was heaving head to toe with rage. Cold crystalline eyes met her own as the monster bellowed in her face and reached a large meaty clay hand toward her. Nyla knew she needed to deal with the great creature before it became an even larger problem. The Fae warriors were holding their own against the tide of the Seal People, but that was likely a distraction. A feint to hold the attention of the Fae so their master could finish her work.

In the fray Nyla could see a form wearing a dark grey hoodie flitting, in and out of the mayhem. The arms covered in a knotwork of glowing vine like markings that seared across their skin in a length of branded into her flesh. Then the figure was gone, their shape dissolving into the insanity that filled the hall. Clanging, beating, and yelps of pay filled the air. Battle was met as bodies on both sides marking casualties of war let loose.

Bozene Knezevic would pay dearly for the anarchy she had released that night. Yet, where was she? Promi took Nyla’s seconds of hesitation to draw back his fist and deliver a great haymaker punch toward her jaw. She ducked leaned just out of the way to have the edge of the punch grace her head and cause he to get knocked to the ground. The Golem’s strength and his durability where his only strong points. He was fast too which added to his deadly level of combat skill. Nyla just could not face up to the raw power of the Alchemist’s pet henchmen as he reached forward and prepared to choke her. Just as his hands grasped her neck she prepared for the pressure from his grip.

However, it would never be that simple. The Golem heaved her up and laughed, its deep throaty voice sounding like rocks cracking before a landslide.

“My mistress wanted you to live for reasons she failed to explain,” the Golem was far more articulate than Nyla guess. Already the thing was slowly closing its hands around her neck. A steady wall of death descending upon her person.

“Something the other masters wanted done, so that we could fulfill the greater plan much quicker,” he smiled by forming his clay and silvery flesh into a wide grin that was bluntly garish. A mockery of a true smile as the Golem was far from living. As a creature made from alchemy and likely given intelligencet through blood magic the Golem, Promi, would never attain full feeling. Nyla started to cough and sputter as she could not breath. However, as she did so she summoned the last of her focus. Just enough as she grasp the scroll in her hand.

“Time to di-” he started to speak as she rammed her hand, and arm down his throat. The action throttled Promi’s attention as the creature reeled backward and loosened his grip. He tried to close his throat and throw her out. In a singular motion he dislodged her and cast her to the ground. The impact knocked the wind out of Nyla’s lungs as she felt a jab of pain in her throat and her back. Her mind came back into focus as she watched the Golem attempting to extract the scroll from its neck.

“Fuck no its your time to die,” she spat at him as she jerked to her feet.

“EMET! MAVETH!” she screamed ancient hebraic words hoarsely for death at the creature as the Shem, the rabbincal scroll etched with kabbalistic incantations, began to undo its life. The Golem’s body began to spasm as the clay that formed his flesh, and muscle strained against the silver bone and skin that was refusing to move. In a great rumbling roar erupted from his mouth as the Golem flung back his head and the action ripped his spine from his back. The rest of his body began to crumble apart as the magic that gave him life was suckced out. Aleph, truth, in ancient hebrew, became Emet, death. The thing fell to the ground as his clay-flesh turned to pottery. Soon entire thing then crashed with a clashing sound across the hard wood floor.

“Sierd off you skettin twat,” she spat. The things head was in pieces across the ground, its eyes staring at her an abject rage, and hatred. Nyla kicked the head pieces around as she brushed off her arm. A Seal Person in the form of a ragged haired man with a long drool covered beared dress in a red flannel shirt charged her. Her response was to leaned directly toward the screaming wakened creatured and grab its snatch its beard before fluidly jerking its head downward and cutting its neck with a shard of the Golem’s remanants. Black oozing blood reminescent of the Filaya Nilusa spilled over her dress. Already angry she channeled the unabashed show of emotion outwardly.

“Nicely down kid,” Jack said as he back handed a Seal Person across the face with the hilt of his weapon. Jack then uttered a word as he grabbed the created’s face. A sickly crunching sound was heard as the skull of the wakened dead exploded in the Tricker’s grasp. Black gore splattered to the ground as he smiled.

“Diversion, where’s the psycho bitch then?” he asked as Nyla finished scrawling a series of emblems upon her arm. He glanced at it and noticed that it was an incantation. A series of totems all drawn along with lines in ogham. She finished the last sigil and then winced as she channeled magic into it.

“I’m goign to banish the bitch, that’s where she’s going,” Nyla said under her breath, obviously giving into her fury at this point. Jack responded by catch her arm before she turned to leave.

“Not a good idea lass,” he told her. Aoife who had been busy decapitating the last remanants of the possessed corpses of the Seal People. The woman then turned to face Nyla and gave her a once over. Aoife was a woman of few words, and more often simply expressions.

“That’s not going to work kiddo,” she said with a light tone, “You’ll need to defeat her another way.”

They were right. Banishment could only be conducted under certain circumstances specifically for spirits, and other creatures from realms not of the mundane world. Mortals even if magically charged while in the throws of their own madness could only be shunted back to the mortal realm, no other. There was a kicker though. Wait. If I modify the recipe for the dweomer. An idea came to her, time to fight fire with fire.

“I’ll break her incantation,” she replied with a smile before taking off. The emblems on her arm were already starting to increase in heat as the black toxici blood seeped into her flesh. Her connection to the roots of the World Tree burned brightly as her soul sang to it. The problem was locating the actual person she wanted to stab brutally to death at the moment. Her thoughts were more than overly specific about plans for retaliation that she would render unto the bloody Croatian woman. And yet, the problem would be finding her.

The hall itself wa snow littered with piles of bodies, the casualties of war already were being tallied. Many of the bodies were not Fae, but were Seal People who had been killed or more accurately sent back to the Shadow. The dead corpses they had stolen were now nothing more than heaps of rotting flesh. She then scanned the mayhem of the attermath of the fight, and started to noted a few facts. Laughing Crow was there physically speaking to a grouping of his warriors, and so was Bronze Falcon who was nursing a serious gash along his chest. A nurse was attending him while many other Fae limped about the place, and others still mourned the dead.

She could smell the undertone of burnt hair and meat that relayed the existence of iron. The Alchemist must have armed her minions with it to harm the Fae more effectively. A fairly complicated diversion. What was Bozena up to? Did she mean to attack the medicine tree or not? While her mind wrapped itself around the concept. As with most actions behind the Alchemist the villain was usually a few steps ahead. Everything aimed at some haphazard goal to keep the briars at bay, but was there more to it? Promi said we. I always hate it in stories when the villain indicates a damn we. Illuminati level bull-sket. No there always were plans within plans, no matter how damn convoluted that plot god, they always did that. Nyla gripped the bridge of her nose as she scanned the fray one more.

Lady Snow and Lady Emerald Eyes were missing. That was obvious now, the muscles in her arms and back were still protesting from being abuse by the late Promi the Golem. The lodge itself appeared to have several hallways leading off from the main entry room that held the grand feasting hall. She needed to know if anything important was kept in in the lodge it was the center of the Oaken Court, the local place of peace among the Faerie Tribes. Who would she ask though? Bronze Falcon had no reason to be friendly to her so that left her ancestor, Laughing Crow.

The man was leaning against his great war club while speaking to a Fae woman wearing a long blanket beaded with shells, and feathers. Her hair was obsidian, and her frame only a foot shorter than he. She turned to face Nyla and gave a sly smile, her eyes were marked with ember-like pupils much like Laughing Crow. However, her ears were wolf-like with a minor tuft of fur upon them. Nyla eyed the woman as she walked away toward another grouping of Fae on the opposite sid eof the hall.

“That was my distant cousin,” he said offhandedly without providing a name. Nyla could tell the man was annoyed with recent events even if he did seem to enjoy the combat itself. The war paddle he leaned against was spattered, and covered in a slight film of gore. Laughing Crow grinned like the cat who swalled the canary. The smugness exuded from him, and she could not tell why.

“Okay great, um my Lord I need to know where Lady Snow and Lady Emerald Eyes,” she asked. His immediate response was to thumb his lip before carefully taking a moment to scan the various doorways leading out of the great hall.

“The one on the far right leads upstairs out to a balcony, there’s an altar there,” he told her. His face shifted as he stared at her before saying, “Dammit.”

The man rose as he suddenly barked out a word in proto-Salish, and the warriors in hearing distance suddenly straightened. Nyla herself was a bit surprised that he figured out the course of action that the Alchemist might take. Then again, once he mentioned the altar she herself wondered what could the altar be used for. But she suddenly was at the head of growing bunch of warriors, some of them even from the entourages of the other courts.

“Could the Alchemist actually harm a Fae Lord?” she asked slowly as the warriors formed into a tight rank around them. Made of a mixture of male and female forms in a variety of heights while all were wearing livery from their respective courts. They were the chosen retainers of their lords, those who swore the sword oath to defend them at all costs. Nyla had only seen such processions in a limited fashion, and had never been at the center of one. Laughing Crow held up his war paddle and gave a whooping cry.

“We’ll back you up,” he told her in a matter of fact tone. She took a deep breath while her hands clenched into fists. Sure, Nyla was a fighter of some degree, but she was not a war leader. The sortie surged forward without a second thought, already worried about more creatures to battle they pushed past the door as the group numbed a total of twelve warriors including Laughing Crow himself. The rest were outside cleaning up the last of the walking corpses as the sortie sought to end the life of the one who brought about the chaos in the beginning. Nyla still wondered what Bozena Knezevic desired to accomplish. There was no way that the Alchemist could harm someone of note within the Fae community personally without help.

“I assume she’s got more minions waiting in the wings,” Nyla told Laughing Crow in a low voice. The fight was heading into the next stage, and likely would see more bloodshed. That was evident. The Hallway they entered felt longer than it truly was to Nyla. The tension in the air was so crisp she could feel it on the tip of her tongue. Tapestries and grand arras covered the walls of the hallway and soon the sortie found tiself flanked by classical paintings depictings scenes from Russian, Greek, Norse, Japanese, and Nigerian mythology. Finally they stopped as they passed a row of doors and came to the stairs.

How long is this damn walkway? Her consideration was racing ahead of her as Nyla was about to step upon the stairs when the doors on either side of the sortie burst open.

“As predicted,” Laughing Crow whooped as he took up his war paddle and engaged a series of strange shadowy forms hulking in each doorframe. Nyla was shoved toward the stairway by one of the warriors as the sound of battle sang in the air. The great creatures which appeared to be made of pure shadow leaped upon the fighters, and were beaten back.

“RUN!” Laughing Crow yelled at her as she ran up the stairs. Behind her stood a last line of defense as for reasons she did not know fate had seemingly chosen her. Now she climbed the hard wood steps as each upward footfall drew her closer to the end of the mystery of the Alchemist.

Next Part: Chapter 23

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