Cherie’s Father knocked on Cherie’s bathroom door. “Cherie, honey, we need to talk.”
Cherie stepped out with a toothbrush in her mouth. “Hmm?”
Cherie’s Father looked down and took a deep breath then looked back up. “Cherie, honey,” he said, “you can take the day off of school. I need you to come to work with me today.”
Cherie’s eyes widened.
“What’s going on, dad?” Cherie asked.
“We need your help.”
Cherie squinted. “What? How? You told me your job was top secret. I’m not even supposed to know what it is. I don’t know what it is.”
“Cherie, I will explain everything to you when we get there.”
Cherie pressed back against her seat. She took a deep breath. “This isn’t you doing something illegal, right?”
“No.” He took a deep breath. “I waited a month for permission to do this.”
Cherie looked around her father’s office. It buzzed with activity. The people walking around all wore the same black suits Cherie’s father went to work in every morning. Cherie followed her father down the hall. They stepped into a dark room. It had a white tiled floor and two chairs sat near the center. “Sit down,” Cherie’s father said. Cherie walked to the seat and sat down. Her father closed the door and sat down across from her. He looked down. He took a deep breath. He looked her in the eye. He looked down again.
Cherie’s put her hand on her father’s knee. “What is it, dad?”
Cherie’s father swept her hand off and shed a tear. He took another deep breath. “Cherie…” He looked down and then back up. “First, you need to know what I do.” He looked to the side, then back at Cherie. “This place, where I work; it’s called the Division for the Investigation and Appropriation of Paranormal Phenomena.” Cherie’s father looked down. “We know what Cody is.” Cherie’s eyes widened. Her father looked up. “We fight it. We fight those things. We protect people from them.” Cherie’s father pressed his lips together. “We kill those things, ideally. We’re a branch of the United States government dedicated to combatting the threat that they pose.”
“Cherie, if you weren’t my daughter you’d be dead right now.”
Cherie gasped. “What?”
“I love you.” Cherie’s father put his hand on Cherie’s shoulder. Tears streamed down his face. “I love you more than I love anything. That’s why you have to listen to me, okay? I’m going to give you an offer and I need you… I need you to say yes.”
Cherie looked at her father. She looked down and took a deep breath. She looked back up. “Okay.”
“Cherie, I need you to inform on Cody. We already have a way of spying on him, but you, as a person, can press him for information. You can ask him important questions. You can get him to say things we’d never learn just by bugging his pho…” Cherie’s father pressed his lips together.
“Cherie if you don’t do this, you’ll die.” Cherie’s father looked up, his face red and soaked with tears. “You’ll be killed. We have your confession on tape. The closest thing you’d get to a trial has already happened, and you were found guilty. If you don’t do this; if you don’t inform on him for us; you’ll be executed.” Cherie’s father looked down. A stream of tears dripped from his face onto the floor. “There’ll be nothing I can do to stop it Cherie.” He put his hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “I love you so much. You’re the most important thing in the world to me. Please say--”
Cherie’s father’s eyes widened. He sat back in his seat. He smiled. He hugged Cherie. “Thank you so much,” he said. He took a deep breath. “I thought I…” he sat back. “Never mind. We’ll spend the day giving you some training, and you’ll report here every day after school for more. This is dangerous, but Cody’s one of the few devourers who won’t kill you if he finds out.” He took his daughter’s hand. “Thank you so much, Cherie.”
Cherie took a deep breath. She hugged her father back. “No problem, dad.”
Cherie took a deep breath. She clinched her fist. Cody was supposed to come over today, after school. She heard the doorbell ring. Her eyes widened. She took a deep breath, got up, went to the door, and opened it. It was her friend Julie. She flinched, then smiled. “Oh, hi Julie.”
“Hey, Cher, I got your homework today.” She held up several pieces of paper.
“Oh, thanks.” Cherie took the papers.
“You’re welcome. I’m sorry you got sick, but you look better. Do you think you’ll be able to come back to school tomorrow?”
“Oh.” Cherie nodded. “Yeah, I think I might.”
Cherie nodded. “Yeah.”
They stood for a moment. “Cool. Well, see you around,” Julie said. Cherie closed the door. She walked toward the couch. After a few steps, she heard the bell ring again. She clinched her fist. She turned around and opened it. It was Julie again. “Hey. I’d put your math book in my backpack and I’d forgotten to give it to you.”
“Thanks.” Cherie took it. She closed the door and turned around. She heard another ring. She turned back around and opened the door. It was Cody. Cherie’s eyes widened. She clinched her fist.
“Hey, Cherie,” Cody said.
Cherie sighed. “Hey, Cody.” She let Cody in.
Cody looked up at Cherie. He squinted. “What’s wrong?”
Cherie looked down. “School trouble,” she said.
Cody tilted his head. “Oh. That bites,” he said. He put his hand on her side. “It’ll probably turn out alright though.”
Cherie walked down her stairs. “I don’t know.” Cody followed. “It’s one of those things where all of the outcomes are bad, you know?”
Cody looked down. “Yeah.” He took a deep breath. “I know the feeling.” They arrived in the basement, and Cherie sat on a couch. Cody sat next to her.
Cherie looked at Cody. “But never mind that.” She clinched her fist. “What’s going on in your life?”
Cody looked down. “The others and I are planning an attack on a gang’s headquarters. Some of Justin’s souls tipped him off about it.” Cody looked up. “I should be happier right now. I’m still only eating one person a night, even though I’m stopping more crimes than that. I’m probably saving a dozen lives for each one I take.”
“Where are these headquarters?”
“It’s in the northwest district, like half the criminal activity around here. One of the old houses. Why do you ask?”
Cherie pressed her lips together. She needed to figure out where exactly. What could she ask without looking suspicious? She clinched her fist. She couldn’t think of anything. “Oh, just curious.” Cody squinted at Cherie. “So, do you want to watch some TV or something?” Cherie asked.
Cody sat back and smiled. “Sure.”
Cherie looked down. “He told me that they were planning to bust into a gang’s headquarters somewhere in the Northwest District.”
Cherie’s father put his hand on her knee. “Okay. Where exactly?”
“That’s all I got.”
Cherie’s father’s eyes widened. “Cherie, why didn’t you press him?”
“Was I supposed to ask him for the address? I don’t want to look suspicious.”
Cherie’s father looked down. “I know.” He took a deep breath. “You did well, it’s just... What you said might be enough for us to find it in time. He said it was tonight?”
Cherie nodded. “Yeah.”
Cherie’s father leaned back. “Okay. I’ll get my guys on it. Do you know how he got the information?”
“It was supposed to be from one of the souls one of them ate.”
Cherie’s father nodded. “Okay then.”
Cherie looked down.
Cherie’s father put his hand on her shoulder. “Hey, listen; you’re doing a good thing.” He sat back and took a deep breath. “Have I ever told you the story of why my parents gave me my name?”
Cherie looked up. “Yes; several times. They called you Deerward because they were animal rights activists and wanted you to help them protest hunting.”
“Right,” Deerward said. “It means ‘protector of the deer.’ I used to be ashamed of it. I thought it was weird. When I was your age, I’d get people to call me Wade instead.” Deerward smiled. “Now, though, I wear it as a badge of pride. That’s what I do here, sort of.” Deerward put his hand on Cherie’s knee. “I protect people from things that want to hurt them. That’s what we’re doing here, and that’s what you’re doing now.” Deerward leaned forward. “No matter how nice Cody is, and he is a good kid, what he’s doing means he needs to be stopped eventually.”
Cherie looked down. She shed a tear. “I know. When I first found out what he was, he told me he wanted that.”
Deerward put his hand on his daughter’s knee. “He does. It’s not uncommon for them to want to.” He sat back. “There have been a few times when I’ve taken down a devourer that I’ve been thanked.”
Cherie sobbed. “Dad, how will Cody die? I mean, how will you kill him when--”
“Right now, we’re keeping him alive on purpose.”
Cherie looked up. “What?”
Deerward took a deep breath. He looked down. “The devourer he works under, Bavandersloth, he’s got some kind of big plan going on right now.” He looked back up. “We don’t know a lot about what he’s planning, but we know it’s bad. He’s the one the public knows as Light-rook. His plan has something to do with the public appearances he’s making. Beyond that, we don’t know much. Cody might be the key to getting enough information to stop him.” Deerward leaned farther in. “In the past, and on other planets, these things have been known to enslave whole species.”
Cherie nodded, then sat up straight. She squinted. “On other planets?”
Deerward looked down. He pressed his lips together. “Has Cody told you about the devourer’s spellbooks?”
“We have a few. They contain lists of every single devourer. A lot of them are on other planets.” Deerward sat up straighter. “Look, the point is, whatever Bavandersloth is planning could mean disaster for us; all of us. What you’re doing could well save the entire human race.”
Cherie took a deep breath. She looked down. “No pressure then.”
Cherie’s father patted her on the shoulder. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
Cody, Justin, Bavandersloth and Valthakar arrived in the Northwest District. They approached the address they’d been given and saw red and blue lights. Cody squinted then tilted his head. “Police?”
“What?” Justin said.
Cody looked. He saw several police cars surrounding the house and a few officers coming out with people in handcuffs. There were S.W.A.T. officers around. “Looks like the police got here first,” he said.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Bavandersloth said. He looked at Justin. “Tkoralkiarch, didn’t you say that the soul told you that no one knew about this place?”
“It was supposed to be really secret, yeah.”
Bavandersloth approached one of the police officers. “Excuse me, officer,” he said.
The officer sniffed and looked at Bavandersloth. “What are you doing here?” the officer asked.
“We were planning to take this place down, but apparently you beat us to it.”
The officer raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“How did you find out about this place? We were under the impression it was top secret, for that gang I mean.”
“We got an anonymous tip this morning,” the officer said. She looked back at the house. “The chief ordered us to get out here tonight. She said that if this were the real deal it could--”
“I understand,” Bavandersloth said. He walked back to the others.
“What happened,” Justin asked.
“We’ve got trouble,” Bavandersloth said. “Come. Let’s get out of earshot.”
The four ran a few miles to another neighborhood. “Tkoralkiarch, summon the soul who helped you find that place.”
Justin nodded. He summoned the soul.
“What is it?” the soul asked.
“You told your master that the house you directed him to was rather secret. Exactly how many people knew about it?”
“The leaders and their closest associates; I’m pretty sure you’ve been tracking all of them.”
Bavandersloth nodded. “I have. Had any of those people informed on your organization, I should have learned about it.” Bavandersloth scratched his chin. He looked up at the soul. “Thank you.” He turned to Justin. “Dismiss him.” Justin dismissed the soul. It flew away. Bavandersloth looked at the others. “I’ll interrogate my souls tomorrow to see if one of them failed to inform me due to a lapse of judgment.” He pressed his lips together. “Still, this doesn’t feel like the result of an informant. They wouldn’t just up and use information they knew could only come from one of about twenty people, not this blatantly anyways, and under such comparatively non-urgent circumstances.”
“So what do you think it was?” Justin asked.
“It’s possible that we’re being spied on somehow.”
The others’ eyes widened. “What makes you say that?”
“No one intelligent would use information they knew could only have come from a high-ranking member of a gang. You’re not supposed to let your enemies know that you know their secrets. If someone were spying on us on the other hand, they might have heard that we learned of this house from someone we ate. Most of the criminals we eat are relatively low-ranking, so they might assume that if one of them knew it, most of the people in the gang might know it. We’ll check the mansion for bugs. We’ll do the same with Odelarch’s house.” He turned to Valthakar. “Get your souls on that.”
Bavandersloth and Justin stood outside of the mansion playing catch. Justin smiled. Bavandersloth turned as Valthakar came out of the mansion. “What is it?” Bavandersloth asked.
“The souls have reported back,” Valthakar said as the ball hit Bavandersloth’s mitt. “There was nothing out of the ordinary in the mansion, but Odelarch’s home was a different story.”
Bavandersloth’s eyes widened. “It was?”
“His cell phone has a piece of equipment that shouldn’t have been there. I did some research and there’s no accounting for it. That phone is probably bugged. It’s possible that it’s been recording every word we’ve said while it’s been on and near us.”
Bavandersloth looked down. “I see.”
“Hey,” Justin said, “you gonna throw the ball?”
Bavandersloth nodded. “Yes.” He pulled his hand back and threw the ball. Justin caught it. He threw it back. Bavandersloth caught it. “Send a soul to alert him to this. Make sure he’s instructed not to react.”
Cody and Lester sat in Lester’s house playing video games. “Odelarch,” Cody heard behind him. “Go to the bathroom. Leave your phone on the counter. We need to speak.”
Cody nodded. He paused the game. Lester tilted his head. “What’s up, man?”
“I need to use the bathroom,” Cody said.
“Oh, okay. Did you uh, eat late last night or--”
Cody nodded. He walked away, leaving his phone on the counter. He entered the bathroom and locked the door.
“What?” Cody asked.
“You’re phone is bugged.”
Cody’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Your cell phone. It has a bug. It’s been recording everything you’ve been saying around it while it’s on. We’ve not been able to tell who the information is going to, but you need to be careful not to bring up any sensitive information around it, okay?”
“Good. That is all. Speak with Bavandersloth after school tomorrow.”
The soul went away. Cody stood up. He went back into Lester’s living room. He sat down.
“You okay, man?” Lester asked.
Cody took a deep breath. “Yeah. I’m fine.”
The next day, after school, one of Bavandersloth’s souls called Cody to the library. Cody walked to the library and went in. “You asked for me?” he said.
“Yes,” Bavandersloth said. “Come with me to the back room.” Cody obeyed. Bavandersloth closed the door.
“Is your phone on?” he asked.
“Good. What opportunities might someone have had to bug it?”
Cody thought. “Let’s see, basically any time I’ve been charging it I guess. That’s when I’ve been away from it.”
Bavandersloth nodded. “Where do you normally charge it?”
“Either at my house, Cherie’s house, or Lester’s house.”
Bavandersloth scratched his chin. “Hmm. Has there ever been an incident where you’ve noticed something odd about it?”
“Not that I can think of. By the way, I’m usually at least in the building with it.”
Bavandersloth looked up. “I see. When have you not been?”
Cody thought. “I left it at home when I went to school one time, and I left it at Cherie’s house…” Cody’s eyes widened. “I left it at Cherie’s house the day she found out what I was.”
“I see,” Bavandersloth said.
“But she couldn’t have bugged it. She wouldn’t know how.”
“Probably not; still, the possibilities are narrowing. Well, that is all, I think. You may go.”
“You don’t seriously think that Cher--”
“I said you may go.”
Cody clinched his fist. He nodded and walked away.
Bavandersloth stood as Cody walked out of the room. It made sense for DIAPP to use Cherie as an informant. From the beginning, she was known to have a connection to the Angel of Death. If this organization wanted to fight him, she’s who they’d go to.
Bavandersloth summoned a soul. “Yes?” it asked.
“I need you to follow Cherie Lambert for me. She lives at 6708 Carobwood Ave.”
“Yes, master.” The soul flew off.
That afternoon, Bavandersloth was playing a board game with Justin when his soul came back to him. “Master,” it said.
Bavandersloth turned to it. “What is it?”
“Ms. Lambert is definitely working for DIAPP. I saw her go into their office. She’s receiving training. She seems to be working as an informant for them.”
Bavandersloth nodded. “I see. Go back to her. I’ll send some souls with you to keep an eye on that office.”
“With all due respect master, there’s more.”
Bavandersloth looked up. “What?”
“The agent she’s working with is her father.”
Bavandersloth’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped. “What? You’re sure?”
Bavandersloth looked down. He turned back to the soul. “Is that all?”
“Then go back. I’ll send several more souls after you.”
The soul flew away. Bavandersloth turned back to the board and drew a card. He realized he now knew where DIAPP was stationed, at least locally. He smiled. As grave as the news of Ms. Lambert working for them was, it was nothing compared to the advantage he had to gain from this knowledge.
Bavandersloth turned his mind back to the situation at hand and schemed. After a few minutes, he had the rough outlines of a plan in mind, and after a few hours, he had it hammered out.
That night, Cody left his cell phone on the charger as he went out to feed. He sniffed for a fear. Before he could pinpoint one, one of Bavandersloth’s souls approached him.
Cody looked up. “What now?” he asked.
“Come,” the soul said. “Master Bavandersloth needs to see you.”
Cody looked down and took a deep breath. He followed the soul to Bavandersloth’s mansion and knocked on the door. Bavandersloth greeted him. “Come in,” he said. Bavandersloth led Cody to the great room. They sat down. “Gentlemen,” he said, “and in particular, Cody, I have grave news.” Bavandersloth looked at Cody. “I have already told you about DIAPP I believe? That’s where the exterminator came from?”
“Good then.” Bavandersloth took a deep breath. “Cody, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but I had a soul spying on Cherie today, and both she and her father are working for DIAPP.”
Cody’s eyes widened. “They…”
“I’m sorry Cody.”
Cody looked down. He shed a tear. He clinched his fist. He took a deep breath. He looked up, eyes wet. “Why?”
“Her father seems to have worked for them for some time. As for Cherie, it is impossible to know.”
Cody looked down. “I see.” He closed his eyes, shedding another tear. “She’s probably doing the right thing.”
“Listen,” Bavandersloth said. Cody looked up. “You need to keep your emotions in check. This could be a major blessing for us. We now have a means by which to feed them false information.”
“That wasn’t a question, Cody. I already have an idea in mind. We can only do this once before it will become clear that we’ve discovered the leak.” Bavandersloth looked down. “Normally, that’d make me want to save the opportunity.” He looked back up. “But not in this case. I’ve thought it through, and I know exactly what I want to feed them.”
The next night, Thanksgiving, Cody rushed to Cherie’s house well after 11:00 p.m. He knocked on the door. Cherie’s mother answered it. “What is it?” she asked.
Cody panted. “I need to come in. I need to see Cherie.”
Cherie’s mother called her. Cherie ran to the door, her eyes wide.
Cody looked down. He clinched his fist. He took a deep breath. “We need to talk in the basement,” he said.
Cherie and Cody rushed downstairs. They sat on the couch. “What is it?” Cherie asked.
Cody looked down. He took a deep breath. He looked back up. “Bavandersloth is planning to attack the Midnight opening of the mall tonight, the one that’s in less than 10 minutes. He told me just now. He said he planned to eat everyone there.”
Cherie’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Liches get more power with each soul they eat. He said he’s nearing a threshold. He only needs a few hundred more souls before he can cast a mind control spell powerful enough to affect people basically by thinking about them.” Cody looked down. He shed a tear.
Cherie sat, mouth open. Her eyes narrowed. “Why are you telling me?”
Cody took a deep breath. He put his hand on Cherie’s knee. He gulped. “Bavandersloth spied on you,” he said. “I know what you’ve been doing, with DIAPP, with your father.”
Cherie gasped. She looked down. “Cody, I--”
Cody shed a tear. “It was the right thing Cherie.”
Cherie looked up at Cody. “What?”
Cody hugged Cherie. “I can’t help you win, Cherie, but I want you to. You should be siding against us, and against me. It’s the right side to take. I wish I could take it myself.” Cody sat back. He looked up, his face wet with tears. “You’re doing the right thing, Cherie, and I want to help you however I can. I want to help you stop me from hurting anyone else.” He looked down. “But I can’t do that. ” He looked up. “Whatever I can do, though, I want to.”
Cherie nodded. She hugged Cody back. They kissed. She stood up. “I’ll go call my father.”
Cody nodded. He cried as she ran out of the room.
Cherie rushed to her telephone. She dug into her pocket. Her father had given her an emergency number to call in situations just like this. She dialed the number.
Her dad picked it up. “Hello, Cherie?”
“Dad, that Bervandersloth guy is planning an attack on the Black Friday midnight opening.”
Cherie’s dad gasped. “What?”
“Cody told me he just found out. He said something about Bavandersloth being about to get better mind control powers.”
There was a pause. “Thank you, Cherie. You’ve done well.”
“Did he say what kind of force they’re coming with?”
Cherie’s father sighed. “Alright. Is that all?”
Cherie looked down. She shed a tear. “He knows everything.”
“About what we’ve been doing.”
Cherie’s father didn’t speak for a minute. “That’s unfortunate,” he finally said. “We can deal with that later though. I love you. I need to work.”
Agent Lambert ran from the phone and into the office. “We’ve got a possible attack on the mall in five!”
An agent’s eyes widened. “Five?”
“Yes. Five minutes. Is there an exterminator on standby here?”
“Yes,” another agent said. “There are two actually.”
“I want missiles aimed at the parking lot of that mall. If a lich shows up and you can get a clear shot, fire immediately. Get those exterminators over there as fast as possible.”
Agent Lambert sat down. He took a deep breath.
Bavandersloth approached the mall, invisible. He walked to the edge of the crowd and waited. He looked around. After a few minutes, he saw two exterminators on motorcycles pull up. He smiled. One of the exterminators took out a megaphone and spoke. “Attention,” she said, “by order of the United States government, clear away from the mall.” The humans in the crowd turned around. One of the exterminators fired a machine gun into the air. The people screamed and dispersed.
Bavandersloth smiled. He activated his cloud of darkness. “Are you two here about me? I think there’s some kind of misunderstanding.”
“Lower the cloud and put your hands in the air.”
“Woah, take it easy. I can’t lower the cloud. There are security cameras around, and seeing my true form could harm someone.”
“Comply with the order or you will be shot.”
“Go ahead. Bullets won’t do anything to me. But as I said, there’s no need anyway. I’m not here to hurt anyone. One of my healing friends and I are here because a few people are normally trampled to death at each of these things. I was cloaked because I didn’t want to show off my smell.”
“I said comply. This is your last chance.”
Bavandersloth laughed. “And who are you to order me to do anything? I recognize your suits. You’re from the same organization that crime lord stole her equipment from I suppose? I’ve been curious about you. Your suits seem perfectly designed to target the weaknesses of our kind.” Bavandersloth looked around. He saw someone recording the event with their cell phone. “But I wonder if it’s really us you’re after, or if it’s something else that you’re mistaking us for, something similar, with perhaps similar weaknesses. Indeed, I worry that it might be that the only--” Bavandersloth heard a sound above him. He saw a small missile. He gasped. He rolled out of the way, activating his shield as the missile hit, breaking his shield and blowing a hole in his chest. Bavandersloth cloaked himself. The Exterminators rode their bikes after him. Bavandersloth smiled and dashed away. He cast his cloud and turned visible. He looked behind him. One of the bikes was gaining on him. He stopped and smiled. “Look, surely we can make an arrangement. Don’t the dozens of lives I’ve saved testify to my benevolence? I think you think I’m a dev--”
The Exterminator blasted his flamethrower at Bavandersloth. Bavandersloth smiled. He turned around. The woman with the camera was still holding it. He turned toward her. He fell forward. He rolled, but the exterminator blasted him again. Bavandersloth smiled as the flames consumed his form.
Violet Fox stood in front of the mall. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m standing in front of the West Coast Plaza where just moment ago, a woman recorded this footage in which the Angel, Light-rook, who’s given multiple interviews for Channel 4, is apparently struck with multiple blasts from flamethrowers by figures resembling the one he lured to St. Joseph’s Memorial Hospital. The connection of this incident with that one is so far unknown. However, one of Light-rook’s companions, an Angel identifying himself as Orichalcum, has agreed to comment on the subject tomorrow morning. Please remember to tune in for that when it happens.”
Valthakar carried Bavandersloth’s phylactery, a feather quill, downstairs to the basement.
“How exactly is this all going to work?” Justin asked.
“As soon as I set it down, that is, when it’s stable, Bavandersloth’s phylactery will begin the process of constructing him a new form. That process will take about thirty days. While he’s down here, his souls will instinctively reanimate any nearby corpses and use them to protect him.”
Cody’s eyes widened. “Wait, thirty days? And he won’t be--”
“Precisely. When Bavandersloth awakens, he’ll be starved. He’ll wake in his frenzy state. The only way to bring him down from it is to feed him thirty souls, at which point, a sort of countdown will begin, and he will frenzy for about six more hours before he calms down. We can make the first part easy by having thirty humans waiting for him, but the second part will be harder.” Valthakar clinched his fist. “Even I will have to be inventive to keep him in here. He’ll have no rational thought. He won’t even be able to speak and he’ll happily decay away this entire mansion to escape.”
Justin looked up at Valthakar, eyes wide. “Are you sure you can do it, like, contain him?”
Valthakar looked down at Justin. “If anyone can, it’s me.”
“Hello,” Violet Fox said. “And welcome once again to Channel 4 news at Noon. We’re here today for an exclusive interview with an Angel requesting that we call him Orichalcum.” She turned to Valthakar. “First, where does that name come from?”
Valthakar smiled. “It’s a metal. It was supposed to be produced by Atlantis. I was brainstorming for a name and it was the best I could come up with.”
Violet nodded. “I see. So, we’re all very concerned about the loss of--”
“Let me stop you right there. Light-rook isn’t dead. He’ll heal in a month.”
Violet’s eyes widened. “What”
“He’ll heal in a month. It’s just a matter of waiting for his… for his body to be restored.”
“Oh,” Violet said. “Well, a lot of the questions I was going to ask pertained to--”
“I’ll be leading the pack around here until he’s back, if a crisis comes up. We might try to avoid any big operations until then.”
“I see.” Violet looked down. “Do you have any comment on the men who killed him?”
Valthakar smiled. “We believe them to be part of a government task force of some sort, a kind of men in black, if you will. The truth is that we’ve suspected such a thing existed since before we went public. You see, there are other supernatural creatures besides us.” Valthakar looked down. “And many of them are malevolent to humanity.” Valthakar looked up. “In fact, one of them is a sort of evil counterpart to our kind.”
Violet’s eyes widened. “Oh…”
“They’re called devourers. I’ll spare you the reason why. They act and smell a lot like us, but there are a few key differences.” Valthakar took a deep breath. “One feels sorry for them, actually. They’re more or less forced to be the way they are. Still, what they are is harmful.” Valthakar looked up. “We, the creatures you call Angels, are their rivals.”
Violet’s mouth was wide. “I see. Is there anything--”
“I’d rather not say any more until Light-rook returns. I’m not sure what all he’d want me to tell you. The wrong information, about both good and evil, can harm a human mind. That is part of the reason we cover our forms. They’d damage a human psyche.”
Violet nodded. “I see.”
The interview went on for another several minutes.
The next day, Cody showed up at Cherie’s door. She opened it. “Hi, Cherry,” he said, smiling. Cherie slammed the door in his face. Cody knocked. “Cherie. Cherie. C’mon, Cherie, at least give me a chance to explain.”
Cherie opened the door. “You have five seconds.”
“Bavandersloth made me by threatening to kill you and my parents.”
Cherie’s eyes widened. She stopped, looked down and took a deep breath. “Come in,” she said. Cody entered. He followed her down to the basement. He sat down on the couch. Cherie sat next to him.
She looked down.
“All of those things I said to you Cherie, about wanting to help people, about wanting to stop Bavandersloth’s plan, about wanting to help your side, that was all true.” Cody hugged her. “You mean everything to me, Cherie.” Cody looked down. “I’m the bad guy here, I know that.” He looked up. “And I know it’s my fault.” Cody shed a tear. “You have no idea what that feels like.” Cody clinched his fist. “But I’m not making any excuses for myself. I say I want to stop Bavandersloth,” Cody looked down, “stop what I’m being forced to help him with,” Cody looked back up, crying, “and I mean it.” Cody put his hand on Cherie’s knee. “I’ll do whatever I can to make up for the help I give him.” Cody looked down, and then back up. “And hopefully, I can die when this is all over. I won’t be able to make that happen, but I’m sure DIAPP can beat me in a fight.”
Cherie shed a tear and hugged Cody. “I understand,” Cherie said, “and I believe you.” She took a deep breath. “I want to help you.”
Cody hugged her tighter. “Thank you.”
Cherie sat in her dad’s office. Her father looked down. He looked back up. “I’ll definitely want to accept any help he can give…” Cherie’s father looked down. “I don’t think we can trust him though.” He turned around. “After all, we just did, and now the public knows about us, more or less.” He turned around. “I mean, they don’t know what we’re called, but they know…” he looked down. “They know too much.”
“I know,” Cherie said. “Of course we can’t trust him.” She looked down. “But maybe we can find some other use for him?” Cherie shed a tear.
“Like what?” Cherie’s father asked, sitting down.
Cherie took a deep breath. “I’m not sure. Maybe as a double agent. He could perform a surprise attack on them.”
Agent Lambert looked up. “Yes, he could.”
Cherie looked down. “Dad,” she said.
“Do you really think we can win this thing? Against this Bavandersloth guy I mean?”
Agent Lambert took a deep breath. He looked down, and then back up. “I think we can,” he said. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be trying. If we will or not, that’s another question.” He sat back. “And it’s one I don’t know the answer to.” He put his hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “But I do know this: We will do everything we can. We are the protectors of humanity.” He looked down. “The protectors of the vulnerable; of the weak.” He looked back up. “Of prey.”
In a frosty chamber in the underworld, a beast slumbered. With each snore, it chilled its surroundings. All but the most magical of life was unable to enter his chamber and share the company of those unfortunate souls doomed to it for purgation or damnation.
The ground shook. A soul fled a falling icicle. The creature sniffed and snored. A stalactite fell on him from above. He stirred. He sensed an aura. He looked up.
“Master?” he asked
“Yes, my pet,” he heard.
The creature stood. He kneeled. “Oh, how pleasant it is to hear your voice. I thought that usurper would forever--”
The creature bowed. “Yes, my lord.”
“I’ve a task for you. I need you to rise, travel to the realm or mortals, and visit a small planet, and I need you to cool it. Cool it until it is dead. Cool it until there is not a single living thing there.”
“It will be done, my lord.” The beast bowed lower.
The ground shook. The beast retreated away from a stalactite. “This is the most important thing you will ever do, understand? That world’s destruction is the key to ending my imprisonment.” The shaking stopped. The beast stood. “My servants need act there if I am to be freed. The things living there now,” the ground shook again for a moment, “the soulless ones in particular, they may stand in my way. In order for me to succeed, it would be best if I were to simply destroy the life there, and with it, that which preys on life.”
The beast bowed. “It will be done, my lord.” A door from the chamber opened. The beast spread its wings and flew into the vast cavern of the underworld, looking for a portal.
In the middle of the night, Cody stood up from his bed to hunt. He went outside. “Odd,” he thought, “it feels colder than usual out here.” He ran, sniffing for a fear. He found one. He ran to its source, another back alley mugging. He stopped it, and paralyzed the perpetrator. He headed for a hospital. As he exited the alley, he looked up. Something was falling from the sky. He squinted. “Is that… snow?”
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