Agent Lambert sat with his colleagues around a large metal table. They gave their attention to a plus-sized man in a grey suit. “Welcome everyone,” he said. “Thank you for gathering here today. We’ve two things to discuss in light of the new developments regarding the Angel of Death: what is being planned, and how we must respond. Agent Lambert, as the head of the East Coast subdivision, I’d like to hear your opinion on this issue.”
Agent Lambert nodded. “Thank you, sir. First, let me state that I am very confident that Bavandersloth is behind this plan.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I recently gave Cody Giles, the real Angel of Death, a bugged cell phone. Bavandersloth has been mentioned by name several times during the boy’s conversations. We have found his trademarks in the area. There is a secluded mansion perfectly meeting the criteria for a standard residence of his not far outside of Goldfalls’ city limits. Cody’s conversations make it clear that he was the one who was initially sent by the community to respond to the Angel of Death incident.”
“I see. What do you believe his endgame is? Or do you believe his public statements about the community of liches’ intent to take on the Angel’s feeding habits should be taken at face value?”
“I cannot be sure, sir, but I suspect that there is an endgame this. It is a big risk for the community of liches to reveal themselves to the public, and the longer they stay revealed, the greater the risk to them that their secrets get out. It’s not like Bavandersloth to stay in such a risky situation for so long. I believe he must have some long-term plan to remove the threat of public knowledge altogether,” Agent Lambert took a deep breath, “which would likely entail disaster for mankind.”
“Do you have any ideas as to what he is planning?”
“Countless, though none in particular stand out compared to others. Given that he now has three other liches, including Valthakar, under his control, it’s difficult to discern what his long term plan could be.”
“I see. Is that all you have to say?”
Agent Lambert nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Good then. Sit down.” Agent Lambert nodded and sat. “Now, do we have any ideas as to what we ought to do about these events?”
“We could send in an Exterminator,” one of the agents said.
The grey man nodded. “Yes, this does seem like just the time for one. I move that an Exterminator be sent to Goldfalls, CA to exterminate the Angel of Death, Bavandersloth, and Valthakar.” The grey man turned to Agent Lambert. “You mentioned a fourth devourer?”
“Yes, sir. He’s been mentioned in several conversations. His name is Justin Cooper. He was an eleven year old boy whose parents were killed one week ago, seemingly by Bavandersloth, judging by Cody’s statements, though Cooper believes that Valthakar is responsible. He’s currently living with Bavandersloth.”
“I see. Well then, I move that an Exterminator be sent to exterminate all four of the devourers currently residing in Goldfalls, CA. Does anyone object?”
An agent raised her hand. “Sir, isn’t it risky to put an Exterminator up against four devourers, including Valthakar no less? If she is devoured, D.I.A.P.P. could be exposed to the community of devourers.”
The grey man scratched his chin for several seconds. “You are right to call it a risk,” he said. “It is still, however, our best chance. Exterminators have won harder battles, and if Agent Lambert is right, then Bavandersloth’s plan must be of a scope that justifies risks much greater than this. Are there any other objections?”
No one spoke.
“Very well then. The motion is approved.”
Justin dashed around the city, cloaked in darkness. He smiled as he jumped around, sniffing for fear. It was a while before he caught a scent. He followed it. He found a man holding a gun to another man, demanding his wallet. Justin smiled and stood outside the alley. He crouched down and pounced, tackling the man who held the gun. The victim ran away, screaming.
The man Justin was pinning looked up at him, eyes wide. “Plea--” he began. Justin plunged his scythe into the man and took out his soul. He ate it. He savored its taste for a second, and then swallowed it.
He picked up on another fear trail. He sniffed a few times. Something was off about it. He wasn’t sure what it meant. He stood up and rushed over to its source. As he neared, he saw that it was leading him to the Northwest District.
He chased the trail, detouring from it to stop another crime along the way, before entering the Northwest District. As he entered the district, the brilliance of its decrepit nature struck him. He felt the cold wind on him, and smelled salt in the air. He focused on the trail. He walked. The decay in the area around him made him smile. It was marvelous. The trail of fear led him to an old house in the district. He approached it. He heard noise coming from inside. It made him cringe. Was that classical music? Justin fought the urge to cover his ears as he reached out, turning the knob and opening the door. He looked inside. His eyes widened. He saw a single figure. It was covered head to toe in strange tiles that flashed in bright colors. Justin gagged at their beauty. The figure turned toward him. In its hand, it grasped a hose of some sort. It was connected to a large tank behind the figure’s back. Justin’s eyes widened.
He leapt backwards as a burst of flame came out above him. He scrambled to his feet and ran away. After a few seconds, he heard a motor starting. He turned around to see the figure riding after him on a bike with the same flashing lights as the suit. Justin rolled aside as another burst of flame came from the figure’s hose. The bike overshot Justin, who shot a magical burst at the figure. It missed. The figure turned the bike around and looked back at Justin. He scrambled away from another burst of flame as the bike zoomed toward him. He fired several magical bursts backward, but was unable to hit the figure. He could never bear to look back on the figure’s flashing lights for too long. The classical music made it hard for Justin to focus. He heard the flamethrower burst right behind him. He raised his shield. The flames passed around it. He raised an eyebrow. He stopped in his tracks, keeping his shield up. The bike swerved around the shield. As it passed next to him, Justin pounced on the bike. Its rider fell off and rolled aside.
Justin picked up the bike as the figure pointed their flamethrower at him again and fired. Justin rolled under the flame, going downhill toward the beach. He hugged the bike and made it decay away before the figure reached the hilltop above him. Justin ran forward and to the right, evading the flamethrower. Justin ran down the beach and into the water. He swam out. His true form was buoyant, and he had a hard time forcing himself below the water. He swam to the end of a large dock, and dove down, hugging the beam that supported it. He waited. He looked up as he heard the figure approaching. He saw it looking down at him.
The figure pointed the other hose down. Justin’s eyes widened. He scrambled down the supporting beam. The water above him froze. Justin shimmied downward to evade the freezing water. He saw a fish above him freeze in place
Justin heard a splash behind him. He turned around. He saw the figure in the water. It held out a hose in its left arm, and the water in front of it froze. Justin rushed away, swimming for the shore. He stepped out, dripping onto the sandy beach. He ran forward. He heard the figure chasing, but it was unable to catch Justin without the motorcycle.
The next day, after school, Bavandersloth approached Cody as he walked toward the bus. “Cody, I need to speak with you,” he said. Cody turned around.
“About what?” he asked.
“Come with me. I’ll explain.”
Cody stood for a moment then followed Bavandersloth to the back room of the library. Cody closed the door behind him as he entered. “What is it?” Cody asked.
Bavandersloth took a deep breath. “Last night, Justin was lured to the Northwest District and attacked.”
Cody’s eyes widened. “What? By whom?”
“We’re not sure, hence the urgency. We don’t think it was Pretty Pink Ponytails, though even that is uncertain. I’ll call your mother and make up an excuse. You must come to my mansion immediately for a meeting.”
The four liches sat around the coffee table in Bavandersloth’s great room. Valthakar took a sip of wine. “Thank you for gathering here, everyone,” Bavandersloth said. “As you are all aware why I have brought you here, I shall cut to the chase, so to speak. Tkoralkiarch, please tell your story to all.”
“Well, I was out hunting last night, and I smelled a fear. It was kinda funny though. Now that I look back on it, I think it was a bit off; like it didn’t smell just right. Anyways, I followed it, and it led me to this one human. He was all covered in sparkling pieces of glass, like tiny screens. It was really hard to look at. He was playing ugly music too. As soon as I went into the house where he was, this was all up in the Northwest district by the way, he shot a flamethrower at me. I ran away, but he followed me on a motorcycle. I was eventually able to get a hold of it and make it decay. After that, I ran into the ocean. I tried to hide underwater, but he saw me and jumped down. He shot something else. It wasn’t the flamethrower. It made the water in front of it freeze, like really fast. I barely got out, but without his motorcycle, he wasn’t able to chase me, so I ran away.”
Bavandersloth took a deep breath. “Gentlemen, if this account is true, I fear something formidable is against us. The Selechii syndicate would not have the resources to be behind such an incident as this. In particular, they’d be unlikely to have access to large supplies of liquid nitrogen, or an equivalent, which this human must have to make the water freeze as Tkoralkiarch describes. What we are facing is much grander.”
“Do you have any idea what it might be?” Valthakar asked.
“My first guess is the United States government,” Bavandersloth said. “We’ve always thought we’d managed to hide ourselves from the governments of the world, but it seems we might have been wrong.”
“That probably is it,” Valthakar said, laying back. He laughed. “What do you propose we do? I could send my souls out to search for things.”
Justin’s eyes widened. “No.” he said.
Valthakar leaned forward. He smiled. “Not all of them, little one.”
“I worry that that will accomplish little,” Bavandersloth said. “By the time they’d find anything, we’d have already acquired and eaten this pursuer.” Bavandersloth smiled. “Speaking of which, that is my plan. I hope to gather together to attack the figure. I believe that between the four of us, it might be possible to devour them. Once we have, we need only wait until they have been digested and interrogate them as to their origins.”
Justin nodded. “That sounds good.”
“I agree,” Valthakar said.
Bavandersloth turned to Cody. “Odelarch, what say you?” he asked.
“Is there any way not to eat them?” Cody asked.
“No,” Bavandersloth said.
Cody took a deep breath and looked down. “Do I have to help?”
“Why wouldn’t you want to?” Justin asked.
Cody closed his eyes. He took another deep breath. “If you’re right, this person is basically innocent.” He looked up. “I mean, look at us. We eat people. I’m not surprised if someone wants to kill us.” He looked down. “If I wasn’t a lich, I’d want to kill them.”
Justin put his hand on Cody’s shoulder. “Hey, c’mon man. We’re helping people. I remember what you said about not taking eating people lightly, and I don’t, but I also have to be willing to do it for the greater good.” Justin took his hand away. “If we leave this unchecked, someone might stop us from helping people.”
Cody looked down. He heard Bavandersloth grunt. He looked up. Bavandersloth held a baseball in his hand. He gestured toward the fireplace with it. Valthakar chuckled. Justin turned around. Bavandersloth stopped moving his hand. “Oh, hey, don’t you think we should leave that here?” Justin said.
“Oh, I was going to,” Bavandersloth said. “It is your phylactery after all.” Bavandersloth looked at Cody. Cody’s eyes widened. He looked down. “Also,” Bavandersloth said, “I think you told me you had an engagement with Ms. Lambert you needed to get to.”
Cody clinched his fist. He took a deep breath. He looked at Bavandersloth. “Fine.”
“Good. So, tonight, let’s all hunt as a unit, and do so every night until Justin recognizes the unique scent he detected. Then, we shall chase down this figure and devour it.” Bavandersloth looked at Cody. “Oh, and Odelarch, may I speak with you privately for a moment?”
Cody gritted his teeth inside his mouth. He pressed his lips together. “Alright,” he said.
Bavandersloth pulled him aside. “Here’s a fun piece of information for you,” he said. “Whenever a potential existential threat to the community of liches comes into being, the conventions are suspended.” Cody’s eyes widened. Bavandersloth grabbed Cody’s shirt. He seethed. “If you stand in the way of all our lives, I have every right to take Cherie, your mother, and everyone else you care about, and kill them.” He let go of Cody. “But if this one human, who tried to murder a child, means more to you, go ahead.” Cody shook his head. Bavandersloth smiled. “That’s what I thought.”
That night, Cody snuck out of his window and met up with the others near Bavandersloth’s mansion.
“Here is how it shall go,” Bavandersloth said. “Valthakar and I shall remain invisible. Odelarch and Tkoralkiarch shall remain cloaked. All of our noses shall contribute to our hunt, though I shall make final decisions on who we target. Each night, we shall rotate who eats first. Tonight, Tkoralkiarch shall have the first meal, then I, then Odelarch, then Valthakar. Tomorrow, I shall go, then Odelarch, then Valthakar, then Tkoralkiarch, etc. We shall continue this each night until we come across the figure Tkoralkiarch described. As soon as we do, Odelarch shall approach them and lure them out. When they emerge, they shall have the other three of us to contend with. Are there any objections?”
“Why do I have to be the bait?” Cody asked.
“Because you’re the one who isn’t invisible, but whose shield will likely still be able to stand up to just about anything they’ll likely have.”
Cody sighed. “Fine.”
The four hunted in that matter for four days without incident. On the fourth such night, it was Valthakar’s turn to eat first. The four ventured out.
Cody caught a specific fear trail and the four followed it north. They came across one man beating another. Valthakar became invisible and ran up behind the assailant. “Now, have you--” the assailant began, speaking to his victim, his fists covered in blood. Valthakar ripped his soul out and devoured it. The victim’s eyes widened as his perpetrator fell to the ground. Valthakar allowed the victim to run off as he left the perpetrator’s body behind.
As Valthakar returned to the group, Justin sniffed the air. “I think that’s it,” he said.
Bavandersloth raised an eyebrow. “You mean the scent you caught--”
“Yeah. I think this is it.”
Bavandersloth smiled. “Let’s follow it then,” he said. He turned to Valthakar. “Can you smell it?”
“Yes,” Valthakar said. “I think I know what the boy is talking about. It’s coming from the Northwest district, and it does smell just off of the normal scent of fear.”
“Can you lead us there?” Bavandersloth asked.
“Yes,” Valthakar said. He ran. The others followed him into the Northwest District. Valthakar stopped them when they neared St. Joseph’s Memorial Hospital. “It’s coming from inside the hospital,” Valthakar said. “Relatively high up, in fact. I’m not sure how we’ll all advance without the figure noticing. I think it best if Justin hangs back.”
“No. It is not wise to split up,” Bavandersloth said. “Not for him, at least. Perhaps you, Valthakar, could go without us. Simply remain invisible.”
“Let me first send a soul to scout the location out,” Valthakar said.
“Alright then. Send one,” Bavandersloth said. Valthakar summoned a soul.
“What is it, master?” the soul asked.
“Go up to the seventh floor of the hospital two blocks from here. There should be an armored figure. Inspect them. Learn everything you can about them in a few minutes and come back.”
“Yes, master,” the soul said. It flew off. The four stood for a minute, waiting, before the soul came back.
“What did you see?” Valthakar asked.
“The figure was alone up there, in a hallway. She’s wearing strange armor, and carrying a flamethrower in her right hand, and another hose, connected to a tank of a cold liquid in her left. There’s lovely music coming from her suit.”
“Was there anything that could indicate a trap?” Valthakar asked.
“Other than her, no.”
“Very good. You are dismissed.”
The soul nodded. “Thank you, master.” The soul flew off.
“I’ll go up,” Valthakar said.
“Come back the instant something goes wrong,” Bavandersloth said.
Valthakar nodded. He headed off.
Valthakar was silent as he walked toward the hospital. The parking lot was overgrown, as was the path leading up to the entrance. Valthakar went inside. He took the stairs up to the seventh floor. He was careful that the rusty stairs didn’t collapse under him. When he arrived on the seventh floor, Valthakar looked around. He saw most of the windows broken. There was a bird’s nest on a windowsill, where a young bird and its mate slept. Valthakar crept by them. He approached the figure. It was scanning the area around it. Valthakar smiled. He approached the figure, his scythe at the ready.
The figure faced him. Valthakar didn’t slow. The figure stopped rotating. Valthakar advanced for another few seconds until his eyes widened. A shower of fire erupted from the figure’s hose. Valthakar dove aside. The flame spewed behind him. He heard the birds fly away. He looked up as the figure launched liquid nitrogen onto him. He tried to jump out of the way, but the nitrogen froze his legs. His eyes widened. He struggled. He looked over as the figure prepared the flamethrower. Valthakar put up his shield. He waited inside, summoning a soul.
“Go alert the others to get away,” Valthakar said. “Tell them that this person can see us when we’re cloaked.” The soul nodded. Valthakar stood underneath the shield. He turned to the figure. He smiled. “You’re never getting past this,” he said. “It’d take centuries for my shield to break if it were submerged in lava, let alone due to your flame.” He looked down. “Then again, that also means you can’t hear me,” he said.
Cody stepped back as one of Valthakar’s souls neared. He looked up. “Valthakar is cornered,” the soul said. “He said that the person attacking him can see liches when they are invisible.”
Bavandersloth’s eyes widened. “What?” Bavandersloth turned as another soul approached from the south. It was one of Bavandersloth’s.
“Master,” it said, “Your mansion is on fire.”
Bavandersloth gasped. His jaw dropped. He turned to Justin. “Justin, summon your phylactery, now.” Justin nodded. The baseball teleported into his hand. “Odelarch, yours is at your house, right?”
“Justin, you have to go up there,” Bavandersloth said.
“What? But if that thing can beat Valthakar--”
“If it can beat Valthakar, then all the other liches in the world combined won’t be able to stop it unless you save him, and that means getting close enough to get his phylactery back from the house. Odelarch and I will come with you. We should be able to just stay behind our shields and be fine.”
The three hurried to the hospital. They rushed up the stairs to the seventh floor. They donned their shields as they entered the stairwell. As soon as they opened the door, a shower of Liquid nitrogen came down upon them. Cody heard the music from the figure’s suit. He cringed. Justin ran forward. The figure looked at the other two liches before turning around and launching Liquid Nitrogen at Justin, making his shield flicker.
Cody ran at the figure, and was able to crash into them with his shield. The figure flew backward. After a moment, the figure stood up and ran. Cody and Bavandersloth pursued, Cody knocking the figure back again. The figure stood and reached behind its back for something it had strapped to its shoulder. It pulled the object, a long metal cylinder, out and fired at the ground beneath Cody and Bavandersloth. A grenade came out of it and exploded on impact with the ground, making the floor crumble.
Cody and Bavandersloth fell through the floor to the level below them, and crashed through it to the level below that. Cody’s shield popped. He stood up and dashed away, expecting grenades to rain down on him. Instead, he heard more explosions above him. The figure had probably blown up more of the floor.
“That explosion would be powerful enough to destroy Justin,” Bavandersloth said.
Cody looked up. “Crap,” he said. “Justin has his phylactery on him, doesn’t he?”
Bavandersloth’s eyes widened. “Yes.” He punched a wall. “Damn it. I forgot it was there. How could I let him carry it into battle?”
Justin ran from the figure as it shot grenades at him. Each one made his shield flicker. He clutched his baseball. He ran forward. Before long, he saw Valthakar in front of him. He was inside a shield, frozen to the ground. Justin ran up beside him and willed his Phylactery into his hand. He got it. He held the necklace. He felt another explosion. His shield went out for a second when it hit. He raised his shield back up. He ran around a corner. He looked around. He saw an elevator shaft. He smiled. He approached it and ripped its doors open. He jumped inside, hearing a grenade follow him in. He looked up. He saw the elevator higher in the shaft. A grenade was shot downward, toward him. It broke his shield as he left the shaft. He ran outside the hospital, passing a rusty wheelchair.
As soon as he got outside, he turned around to see the figure grappling downward with a hook affixed to the roof of the hospital. Justin sped up. He saw that the figure was heading toward a new motorcycle. It was too dangerous to go back for it. Justin sped away, eyes wide.
Valthakar lowered his shield as the figure went away. He looked back on the lower half of his body. He looked forward. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. He planted his hands on the floor below him and pushed with all his might. He felt the skin around his waist stretching. He closed his eyes. He took a few deep breaths. He pushed again and, with all of his strength, ripped the upper half of his body from his frozen legs.
He took a moment to gain stability on his hands. He felt an intestine trialing behind him, but no pain. He walked on his hands, his torso swinging back and forth. He went to a window and climbed up to its sill. He saw the rope the figure was grappling down on. He smiled, and grabbed it in his hand, making it decay away.
Justin heard a crash behind him. He turned around to see the figure’s grappling rope cut. He saw the figure stand up off the ground. It walked. It looked down at its feet. It had a limp. The figure looked over at their motorcycle and limped to it. They mounted it and sped off.
Bavandersloth and the Angel of Death ran outside of the hospital. They approached Justin. “Summon Odelarch’s phylactery,” Bavandersloth said. “The figure might go after it.”
Justin nodded and called the Angel of Death’s cube to appear in his hand. He handed it to the Angel. “Are we sure he won’t come back?” Justin asked.
“It ran away because it was injured,” Bavandersloth said. “Unless that was an act, it’s not coming back.”
“That’s good,” Cody said. He took a deep breath. He looked up. “So how do we get Valthakar down?”
Bavandersloth walked over to the hospital. “Come down,” he said. “It’s safe.” Bavandersloth took several steps backwards as Valthakar activated his shield and dropped down inside it.
Bavandersloth walked over to Valthakar, picked him up and carried him to the others. They looked at Valthakar.
“It’ll grow back,” Valthakar said. “You can bring me food until then. For now though, you have a more important question to think about. How are you going to kill that thing?”
“I have an idea,” Bavandersloth said.
Valthakar smiled. “You always do.”
“That’s why I always come out on top, even against you.” Bavandersloth turned to the others. “It will require a few days to put together, but I’m very confident that this will work.”
Bavandersloth entered the news studio and approached the receptionist. “Hello,” he said.
The receptionist’s eyes widened. She rolled her chair backward to the wall. “Mr. Angel of Death,” she said.
“An associate of his, actually,” Bavandersloth said.
“Oh. Well, what is it you want? Do you want to schedule an interview, too?”
“Eventually I will, but that is not why I’m here now.”
“Oh. Why are you here now then?”
“To give you this,” Bavandersloth said. Bavandersloth handed the receptionist two envelopes. “I am going to take newsworthy actions later. The exact nature of those actions is revealed in the message in the blue envelope, which you are to open and read on air at 11:00 PM. The second envelope must not be opened until later, when I instruct you to do so. When I do, please open it and read both of the pages inside. One of them is written on notebook paper. The other is not. The one that is not written on notebook paper is to be read first, and the other is to be read second. Your network is free to hype this up as much as it wants, but you must not open either letter so much as a second earlier than requested.” Bavandersloth handed the receptionist another sheet of paper. “Here are the instructions written down just so you’re sure to remember them. Do you understand everything I just said?”
The receptionist sat speechless for a moment, mouth open. She shook herself out of a daze. “Uh, sure.”
Bavandersloth smiled. “Thank you.” He walked out.
Cody ran to the others. “Ah, at last you have arrived,” Bavandersloth said. “All things are ready. We shall now get into our positions. Justin, I hope you’re ready to play your part?”
Justin took a deep breath. “Yeah.”
“Good, be off then. It’s time.”
Justin ran off.
Justin did his best to stay out of sight as he approached a Laundromat. He looked around. He saw a woman. She was looking at her watch.
Another customer turned to her. “Is there a problem?” she asked.
“Oh, I just ma-- Justin burst into the Laundromat through the door, but was careful not to break it. He grabbed the woman. She screamed as he carried her outside and ran off with her.
Justin ran with the woman back to where the others were. “Got her,” he said.
“Good,” Bavandersloth said. He looked at a pocket watch. “It’s about time,” he said. “Let’s head over to the hospital.”
It was 11:00. “And with that,” Violet Fox said, “it’s time for us to read the Angel’s first note.” The media had taken to calling all liches ‘Angels.’ Violet opened the letter.
“Hello, Channel 4. By the time you are reading this, Some friends and I have ki[napped a woman by the name of Sarah Rogers. One of my friends is holding her on the basement floor of St. Joseph’s Memorial Hospital in the Northwest District. Should the police, or any vigilante, or anyone save a very special, very flashy person who knows who they are, come in an attempt to rescue her, her knowledge will be stolen and she will be killed. If our special someone isn’t here by 3, she will be interrogated and killed. It is recommended that Channel 4 news spread this message as widely as possible, to ensure that it reaches the special someone I have in mind. Yours truly, Light-rook.”
Violet’s eyes widened as she looked up at the camera. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she said, “I don’t know what to make of this. Remember that there is still the second envelope. It may well shed light on the issue. Until then, I suppose one of our interns is busy calling the police.”
The Exterminator’s eyes widened as she saw the broadcast. Her jaw dropped. Hadn’t the devourers been trying to set up a better image for themselves?
She turned off the television and went to her room to suit up. Either way, there was a person in danger, and she had to save them. This was obviously a trap, but she might be able to handle it. She said a brief prayer as she strapped on her armor.
The news and police were gathered outside. Cody stood in front of the door, holding them back from entering the building, and ignoring questions. Why did these people feel the need to run up to a serial killer guarding a hostage and ask him a question?
Cody’s eyes widened as he saw the figure appear behind the crowd. He looked at it. The news-people murmured and turned around to see the figure. It put aside its motorcycle and walked through the crowd. As it did, several reporters shoved microphones in its face. “Who are you?” asked one.
“Why do they want you here?” asked another.
The figure stopped and stood, taking a deep breath. Cody raised his eyebrow. The figure turned to the reporters. She shed a tear. “I am a protector; of people, of humanity, of all of you. They want me because they’re what humanity needs to be protected from.” She turned her head and looked into a camera. She clinched her fist. “Never, ever believe anything they say to you. They are your enemies. No matter what good they do for you, they will always be your enemies. Never trust them. Never obey them. They don’t murder to help, they murder because…” she looked down. She turned toward the door. The reporters stormed her with follow-up questions, but she ignored them, heading straight into the building.
Felisha entered, clad in her armor. She raised her flamethrower, preparing herself for a fight. She walked downstairs. She came out of the stairwell and entered the basement. She looked out. She could see a devourer holding the woman who’d been taken inside a shield.
Felisha turned on her radar goggles to check for invisible liches. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped. She hyperventilated. She turned for the door, but a devourer stepped in front of it and eclipsed it with his shield. Felisha stumbled back. She turned around. There were hundreds of devourers down here.
Felisha pulled a gun out of a holster and pointed it at her head. A devourer grabbed her arm. “No, no,” it said. “We can’t have that.” Felisha felt the gun being ripped out of her hand.
“Bring her over to Rngwellokt,” one of the devourers said. Felisha looked up at him as she was dragged through the pitch black room to another devourer. She jerked, but it availed her nothing. She was presented to another devourer.
“Hello, my dear lady,” it said. Felisha’s eyes widened. “Silent type I see. Oh well, may as well do my work.” The devourer made a shield form around Felisha’s tanks. They phased through her hoses. The devourer left a small hole to the side, which led to a long tube of magical energy. Felisha felt light headed. She gazed, sweating, as one of the devourers positioned its hand over the tube. It fired in, and the hole was pinched before the magical blast could hit Felisha’s tanks. They exploded, but their force was contained inside the shield. Another devourer came up behind her to and took the tanks.
Felisha was led over to the devourer who’d spoken before.
“Well, well, aren’t you interesting?” he said.
She spat at him.
“Oh, how rude. Oh well, I suppose you’ve figured out there’s nothing about your fate that can be changed.” The devourer prepared its scythe. Felisha tried to wriggle away. She failed. The devourer sunk its scythe into her and scooped out her soul. It clutched her in its hand. It held her up to its face. “I’m going to savor you,” the devourer said. It tossed her in its mouth and chewed. Felisha tried to scream in pain as the devourer’s teeth crushed her. It did savor her, chewing for what felt like a few minutes before swallowing.
Justin and the woman stepped outside of the shield. They took the stairs back up and outside. Bavandersloth followed behind. He turned to the cameras. “Open the second envelope,” he shouted.
Violet Fox grabbed the second envelope form her lap. She sorted the papers inside. “It’s some kind of legal document,” she said. She gasped.
“I, Andrea Jones, consent to be lifted and carried to the abandoned and legally enterable St. Joseph’s Memorial Hospital at 11:00 PM on the evening of November the Thirteenth, Two-thousand-thirteen, and remain in its basement for up to several hours. I understand and accept that numerous false threats will be made against my person. I state that I am fully aware of the baselessness of these threats, and understand that they are made because it is necessary that a certain appearance be presented to the public; and in particular to a specific individual.”
Violet looked up at the camera, her mouth wide. She gathered her composure and moved on to the other page. It was a note.
“To the members of my family and to the public, I have recently agreed to accept $10,000 in order to assist a group of Angels in attracting a major crime lord. I allowed myself to be ‘kidnapped’ while notes accompanying the incident and presented to the press identified me as a high-ranking criminal whose identity the Angels had uncovered in the course of their investigations. The theory, which you will know the accuracy of by the time you read this note, is that the crime lord will believe that my capture was a threat to the security of sensitive information and attempt to rescue me, doing so herself because of her belief that she was uniquely qualified to combat Angels with equipment thought to be stolen from the United States government. To ensure I wasn’t identified by the press, I left my home after curling my hair and dyeing it blonde. I apologize to any persons whom I have upset, but between the money and the knowledge that I might save countless lives form this criminal, I couldn’t say no to the arrangement. I beg the forgiveness of all those to whom I have caused distress.
“Sincerely, Andrea Jones.”
Reporters ran up to Bavandersloth and fired off questions. “All inquiries can be answered at a later time,” Bavandersloth said. “In the meantime, I must attend to business. We believe that the crime lord we just apprehended recently committed an act of arson, and intend on restoring the house which was burnt. Fortunately, it was unoccupied at the time.” Bavandersloth walked away from the hospital.
“Sir, what do you have to say to the comments the individual made before entering the building?”
Bavandersloth turned around. “Probably an attempt at revenge against me for foiling its plan. Either way, I assure you, there’s no truth to what she said. I am your friend, as are most of my kind.”
Cody looked down.
The reporters attempted to follow Bavandersloth but he, Cody, Justin, and Valthakar, ran off, traveling off-road to prevent news vans from following them.
“I can’t thank you enough, Vathurlaken,” Bavandersloth said.
“It’s no trouble,” Vathurlaken said. “In fact, I enjoy it. That old hospital deserved the damage much more than this beautiful mansion. It was a worthy trade to move this building’s decay to it.”
“Well I think you, nonetheless.”
Valthurlaken nodded and ran off.
Bavandersloth smiled as he stepped into his newly restored mansion and into its basement. He turned out the lights, and summoned the most recent soul to emerge from him.
“Greetings,” he said.
“Hello, master,” Felisha said.
“Tell me, who are you working for? Who sent you?”
The soul tried to cry. “The Division for the Investigation and Appropriation of Paranormal Phenomena.”
Bavandersloth raised an eyebrow. “The what?”
“It is a branch of the United States government responsible for dealing with paranormal entities. Primarily, we combat supernatural threats to human life and liberty. In theory, our mission is just as much about finding practical use for inert paranormal forces, but so far as I am aware, no such thing is yet to reveal itself.”
Bavandersloth smiled. He lay back, chuckling. “That’s very interesting. What can you tell me about it?”
“It has existed since the nineteen-fifties. It is, at all times, led by a figure called ‘the Grey Man.’ ‘The Grey Man’ is a title, not a single person. I was an ‘Exterminator.’ I’ve killed several devourers, that’s what we call you, in the past. I was not told much about the organization, because it was known that this exact scenario could happen, and I would be pressed for information.”
Bavandersloth chuckled. This was very interesting. Any organization that had evaded the community’s notice for this long must be formidable.
Bavandersloth sat up. He reminded himself that he had quite the fight ahead of him. If his plans were to succeed, it would be best if he were to totally destroy this organization. Barring that, he needed to take some action to end its threat. He looked up at the soul. She tried to shed a tear as he thought about his next question. Bavandersloth smiled.
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