Sunday, 14 September 2008 18:06

Petra 1: Rock and a Hard Place (Part 7)

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Petra 1: Rock and a Hard Place - Part 7

By Renae

[Note the author does not speak Italian, or any other languages, so apart from a few words here and there all dialog will be in English. You may however presume that it is what ever language you feel comfortable with. Special thanks to Warren for providing taxi ride experiences in Italy, and a bunch of other insanity. (Yes some of it really is his fault! Smiley) And Maggie for help with Saul.]

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As he turned to the door Leigh’s face was decidedly pink and thoughtful looking, “Don’t wait up for me,” she said with a giggle, “I may be a bit tied up.”

“Are you trying to top from the bottom?” asked Josh with a warning rumble.

“No! Oh no sir Josh, I would never do anything like that,” she quickly replied with a wink in our direction.

“I see, you don’t sound very sincere,” he paused at the door and turned to give us a one handed wave which nearly planted Leigh’s face into the door, “goodnight ladies, don’t do anyone I wouldn’t do.”

“That leaves you a ‘lot’ of leeway!” said Leigh as Josh walked out the door.

There was a loud popping sound as Josh elicited a screech out of Leigh, “No telling tales wench!”

“Sadist!” screeched Leigh with a giggle.

“Yes, occasionally,” Josh said with a second loud pop on her bottom.

As the sounds of giggles and spankings faded off down the hallway I gave Michelle a smirk, “I bet if you followed them you could get tied up too.”

“N-no,” she stammered quickly, “I’ll just have to settle for lustful fantasies.”

“Chicken,” I said with a giggle.

“Oh Mich-elle,” sang Rose as she wandered into the room, “I just found out a vendor for chain mail bikinis and other interesting ‘hardware’ was here.”

I watched as Michelle blushed utterly, “I think you just missed him.”

“The large muscular man who was spanking Leigh as he carried her away?” asked Rose as she looked back at the door, “Oh my.”

“Yes, he said he was a part time blacksmith, but I think selling stuff is the last thing on his mind,” I replied with a chuckle, “he said something about trying for applause in the morning.”

It was interesting to watch Rose first look thoughtful and then blush, “Oh my, hmm.” She paused to look at Michelle thoughtfully, “We could make it a competition.”

“Please no,” I said with a groan as I envisioned sounds rivaling cats in heat in the next room, “not unless I get a cup of that knock out tea first.”

“I can arrange that,” said Michelle with a chuckle.

“Or I could see if I have enough scarves to gag you both,” said the Matron with a warning chuckle as she walked in.

“Hmm, scarves,” said Rose as she eyed Michelle with a leer.

“Perverts!” I said with a giggle.

“Ok you two, out,” said the Matron with a shake of her head, “Petra needs some sleep as do the rest of us.”

“Like Petra is going to stay in her own bed,” said Michelle with a grin as she poked me.

“I’m just glad I’ve not ended up in any of the other clan’s rooms,” I said with a sigh.

“Don’t tempt fate,” warned the Matron as she smiled wandering out of my room.

Michelle rolled over and gave me a quick peck on the lips, “See you in the morning cute stuff.”

Rose walked over and did the same thing with a smile, “Night cutie.”

“Night girls, don’t break each other,” I said with a grin as I sat up.

“We’ll try to keep that in mind,” said Rose with a smirk at Michelle.

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Later and from under a pair of pillows, I made a point of putting earplugs on my must buy list. I also decided that a secret stash of that knock out tea was also warranted for such occasions.

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I awoke, if that is what you could call it, to the sounds of chanting and the shuffling of books. My head was resting on a table that was ink stained and littered with blobs of wax, since this was not my bed I was a bit confused and suspicious. The air was heavily scented with wood smoke and other odd spices and I was puzzled as everything seemed both very antique and yet new.

“So the bad seed finally shows up,” said a voice behind me and I turned to see a bearded man glowering at me. His face was full of wrinkles and the remaining hair on his head was gray and unruly as it circled around his ears.

I gave his brown monks robe a glance, and tried not to wince at the obvious food stains, “Uh yeah, right.”

“So you agree you are a bad seed?” he asked as he studied me, lifting a red candle up and down as he did so.

Frowning I gave him a shake of my head, “No, I was giving vent to a bit of sarcasm.”

“Sarcasm? Whatever for?” he asked as he walked around me.

“Put yourself in my shoes; you wake up in a strange place, and are seemingly addressed in the form of an insult, by an overweight bald man who has hygiene issues.” I gave him a closer look, “Though your hands are clean, from what I shudder to think.”

“Soap and water,” he said with a glance at his hands.

“But you neglected your clothes?” I asked shaking my head.

“I wash it every Saturday,” he said defensively.

Deciding that I really didn’t want to ask ‘which’ Saturday, I settled for glancing around the room. “Just so I know what this dream is about, who are you and what the heck am I doing here?”

“You are dead, and I am here to tally your sins,” he said with an amused smirk in my direction.

“Funny,” I paused to give him the finger, “tally this.”

“I often find the bad seeds to be a refreshing change of pace,” he announced after a pause to smirk at me, “those others don’t often get my jokes.” 

“So you are just trying to jerk my chain?” I asked as I wandered around the room.

“Precisely and exactly, I am sorry its about the only form of amusement I get,” he explained with a chuckle as he walked around behind me. “So you are another loophole in the magickal matrix?”

“Yes, so it seems,” I said with a shrug as I looked back at him.

“Interesting so what otherworldly power has fastened itself to you?” he asked as he walked to a window.

“Kellith,” I said as I followed him.

“Ah,” he replied in a noncommittal tone, “and you are as insane as Jehenne le Puce was purported to be?”

“Well if you mean that I have a second self that is also me, maybe,” I admitted with a roll of my eyes.

“Well sanity is not a requirement to be a Knight, in fact it may help,” he paused to give me a bland look, “frankly I can’t see why anyone would want the job myself.”

“Well if they were like me, they were tricked into it,” I shook my head in annoyance, “though I guess there are a few that would want to save the world.”

“And you, do you want to save the world?” he asked as a cloud drifted by the window.

“Well there are parts of it I like, and some of the people in it too,” I looked at him with a shrug, “other parts of it just suck.”

He turned to look at my face closely, “So those good parts are worth saving, even if it means keeping the parts that ‘suck?’”

Considering that for a moment, I nodded, “Yes I suppose so.”

“Excellent!” he exclaimed with a smile. “So how can I help you?”

“Help me? You haven’t even told me your name, much less where I am,” I said with a snort.

“I didn’t?” he asked as he looked at me blankly.

“No,” I said with a longsuffering sigh.

He chuckled and scratched his head, “Sorry, I am Brother Bartholomew, though some of the Knights call me ‘Brother B,’ and or Bart; evidently there is some sort of comedic tie in that no one has bothered to tell me about.”

“Oh that’s prolly Bart Simpson, he’s a bit of a smart ass,” I said with a smirk in his direction, “he likes bad jokes.”

“Oh, so its not a bad thing?” he asked as he paced around the room.

“No, not as such,” I said as I tried to picture him on a skateboard.

“That’s good, then you may call me which ever suits your whim,” he smiled and then chuckled, “I will have to research this ‘Bart’ later on.”

“Ok and this place?” I asked as he seemed to loose track of his thought processes.

“It’s the Repository. All of the knowledge that a Knight acquires in his or her life, is recorded by the ring, and stored here.” He paused to indicate the room’s door, “Not so much in here, but the rest of the tower that is.”

“Oh goody so ‘everything’ is recorded by the ring?” I asked cautiously.

“Oh don’t worry its specifically created to record just facts, and a bit of history about the Knights,” he smirked pointedly in my direction, “and while there are bits in here that make the Kamasutra look like a child’s primer, very little of a persons ‘personal’ life ends up permanently recorded.”

“Oh, well that is a relief,” I said with a relaxed sigh.

“Not that the editors don’t get to see every tawdry detail,” he replied with a smirk.

“My comforted feeling just went away,” I muttered sourly in his direction.

Laughing he smirked again, “That happens frequently around here.”

“Wonderful,” I said with a sigh, “so what sort of useful things are kept here?”

“What is your current biggest problem?” he asked as he opened the wooden door and motion for me to follow him.

“I have several, a lack of control for magick, someone sending daemons after me; oh and the biggie where all the Knights in Rome have forgotten they are Knights, and that people who are supposed to know them don’t.” I paused to take a breath, “Seriously it’s a bit overwhelming.” 

“Hmm, so which of the three is the most troublesome one?” he asked with large eyes.

“Well I’ve survived the daemons, and while I’m seriously at a disadvantage with my magick being screwy its not life threatening;” I shook my head with grumble, “so I would have to say it is the issue with the Knights going AWOL.”

“I would have to agree,” he said somberly and then he smiled, “magickal control is usually a process of practice.”

“Wonderful,” I muttered as he lead the way down a circular flight of stairs.

“You are not the first Knight to find themselves blessed or cursed with magick as part of the rings endowment,” he said as he picked up a candelabra, “and doubtlessly not the last.”

“So I have magick because of the ring?” I asked as I followed him into a dark brick lined chamber.

“Its more like you have ‘access’ to magick, everyone has a bit of magick in them.” He paused briefly to check a sign on a stack of books, “I need to remember to put those away.”

“Everyone?” I asked skeptically.

He laughed and continued walking, “Well its debated frequently, but I tend to think of prayers as being a source of magick. People pray and ‘miracles’ happen all the time.”

“Ok, but is that a result of some god answering the prayer or the person’s prayer acting as a spell?” I asked as we threaded our way through bookshelves and then down a spiral staircase.

“Yes or both, may sufficiently be the answer. It depends on how much you believe in higher powers or God,” he said calmly as we walked along.

“Well I theoretically know there is a god, as I have met Satan,” I said as we shuffled along.

“Which Satan? There are so many.” He paused and chuckled, “I know of whom you refer, most of the Knights call him the Opponent or Adversary though as to avoid his attention.”

“Like I have been able to avoid that,” I muttered with a grimace.

“Well those that fight daemons or other worldly things usually need healing afterwards, it’s the nature of the beast,” he admitted to me with a shake of his head. “In time you either get better at it and the damage is minimal or you die.”

“That’s comforting to know,” I said with a frown.

“You would likely have preferred a comforting lie, I know, but in this place we focus on the truth not deception.” He turned to look at me thoughtfully, “Even Satan prefers the truth, more often than not.”

“So why do they call him the Father of Lies?” I asked critically.

“Well when he lies, and he has had a lot of practice; it’s very often something close enough to the truth that it really tends to mess people up,” Bart explained with a sigh of resignation.

After a moment of thought I nodded, “Cute, so do I dare believe anything he tells me?”

“Ah there is the rub in it,” he said with a chuckle, “as far as I can tell he has never lied to a Knight.”

“That makes an odd bit of sense considering he is so concerned with the Balance,” I said as we walked down another corridor.

“The Balance is a hefty topic it seems, we have many upon many books where various discussions are recorded, some of them are even relevant.” He rolled his eyes at me, “Personally I think it is a bit of a scam on his part, though the bits about the Rupture do concern me.”

“Rupture?” I asked as he started to light more candles in a large room lined with bookshelves.

“You might call it the Big Bang Theory,” he said as he walked about the room lighting things. “Or you may prefer, ‘In the beginning God said ‘Let there be light and there was light.’”

“But you called it the Rupture,” I pointed out.

“Yes, admittedly it is not my idea; lets say you have this balloon, and you fill it up, and fill it up, what usually happens sooner or later if you keep adding air?” he asked as he started scanning row upon row of books intently.

“It pops and stings your fingers or face if you are unlucky,” I pantomimed releasing one, “or it flies around making noise.”

“Yes, now picture a container around the balloon, and for every time you add air to the balloon, air is added to the container.” He stood up and walked over to a different row of books and started looking for one on them, “What happens?”

I hazarded a guess, “The balloon cannot expand?”

“More or less,” he said with a smile, “but if the pressure becomes too great outside of the balloon; it may either crush the balloon or force the air inside of it out, causing a different form of rupture.”  

“So Satan is trying to keep things from going one way or another?” I asked carefully as he paused to open one book and then reshelf it.

“It could be, it could be that he is trying for a larger ‘bang’ for when the container ruptures,” he ducked down and picked a large tome from a shelf and carried it over to a table.

“What would that give him?” I asked critically.

“It’s just a guess, but I think it would be something like, ‘In the beginning Satan…’” he trailed of with a mirthless chuckle, “but when you add in the Elder Gods and so on it may just be he is looking for an escape clause.”

“Lovely, so what have you got for me?” I asked as he sat down and started flipping pages quickly.

“I’m looking for a reference to a similar event, I suspect you are dealing with a bit of contagion magicks.” He glanced up and then said, “It’s a bit of magick where you affect one object by causing an effect on an similar item.”

“Oh like a Voodoo doll?” I asked quickly.

“Yes, but on a much more larger scale, as this seems to affect others that know of the Knights, well at least those in Rome.” He turned a page and grunted, “Ah here we go, ‘… in the thirteenth century a Ring was found to be involved in a lethargy that caused a great many of the Knights to become lost in battle. While several of the Knights were able to press on and eventually succeed in laying waste to the lair of the black hearted one; the lethargy was not removed until discovery was made of a severed finger in a diabolic circumstance. Once the finger and ring was freed from the odd machination and unholy influence, the grievous lethargy vanished.’”

Glancing down at the picture that was scrawled across the page, I shuddered and said, “Yuck, that is just sick.”

“I suspect you have a similar problem, but finding the location of missing Rings has always been problematical,” he sighed and closed the book, “it’s part of the Rings make up. If you could find the others by finding one, the Order would have been smashed years ago.”

“Great, so how do I find such a thing?” I asked in annoyance.

“Find the body it belongs to and follow a magical link back to it,” he said with a roll of his eyes, “surely your teacher or teachers in magick can explain the process to you?”

“I expect so,” I said with sigh, “more painful spells.”

“Experience is an effective teacher, you just need to practice,” he said with a smile as he got up and started dousing the candles about the room. “I think someone told you that you need to work on your meditation and such correct?”

I gave a thought back to Sara and the Reservation, “Yes.”

“Then you should do so,” he said as the last candle that was in the room went out leaving me in darkness.

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“Oh there you are, I’ve been looking for you for an hour now,” said Sara with a faintly irked expression on her face.

“Sorry, I was kidnapped by an old geezer who runs the Knights Repository,” at her odd blink I added, “big freakin’ library that evidently holds all the prior Knights knowledge.”

“A library, so you ditched me for a librarian,” her frown turned thoughtful, “can you sneak me in?”

“We’ll have to try that some night,” I suggested quickly as her hands slid up and then part of her mind was in mine, ‘and hello to you too.’

“All those books, wow,” she paused and then the image from the contagion book was reviewed in my head, “ick now that is an unpleasant bit of work.”

There was an odd tugging sensation and we were sitting with that book in front of us, “Um Sara?”

“I just made a copy from what you have seen,” she said quickly as the page enlarged and she laid the book on the table.

“Oh ok, it just felt weird,” I said as I rubbed my head.

“They were not up against Yiggites,” she muttered as she studied the picture, and then she started to dissect the drawing into smaller and parts then enlarging them parts for examination. “Ugh, this bit looks like a spine from a baby.”

“Well we know the person or persons doing it have been kidnapping people and possibly sacrificing them, one or more were pregnant,” I review aloud for her, “also the daemon that attacked me the other day shot spines at me. The dart kind not skeletal.”

She gave me a hug, “Yes I seem to recall that bit from your memories.”

“Then I later healed the fat bitch, and her left over skin had a daemonic spine in it,” the was an odd tingle as Sara seemed to review that incident as well. So I said, “I am not sure if her deranged state was due to the spine or just emotional crap.”

“Or both,” she murmured as the drawing took on a physical form in the air over the diagrams, “similar is right.” She paused to turn the sickening structure on its axis, then it fell apart except for the ring and the ruins of a finger in it. “They jammed something into the length of the finger,” as it turned she grunted, “it looks like a barbed, stinger-like spine to me.”

“Wonderful, so what are we facing here?” I asked carefully.

“Possibly a person influenced by Glaaki,” she said unhappily, “if so it means you’ve got a huge problem on your hands and not just someone trying to get rid of the Knights.”

“Something way out of my league?” I asked cautiously.

“I won’t lie to you, you are definitely not ready for this sort of thing,” she shook her head in irritation, “but you also seem right in the middle of it.”

“Which means I may not be able to get away even if I hightail it for the Himalayas?” I asked with a joking smile.

“Yeah, I’ll wake up Otto and ask if he’s got anyone in the region or knows of someone who might have an idea,” she gave me a kiss, “so no cuddle for you until later, maybe.”

“Crap,” I said feeling a bit bummed out by that news, “I’ve been enjoying our nightly visits.”

“Duty before pleasure love, but I did note a rather large blessing or two a while ago,” she said with a leer in my direction, “maybe I chose the wrong one of you to play priestess.”

“Why don’t you get Paige to give a blessing,” I said with a chuckle, “I’m sure she prolly will have the same effect.”

“I would but she’s on campus…” she rolled her eyes, “can you imagine the flack I would get for giving almost ‘everyone’ on campus a simultaneous orgasm?”

I giggled and gave her a kiss, “You can’t be blamed for what your followers do, can you?”

“I am sure someone would try,” she said with a return kiss, “no, bad idea, just bad idea.” She giggled and shook her head, “Really bad idea, even if it would likely piss off Englund, talk about a man needing to get laid in the worst of ways.”

“Uh huh, right,” I said with a matching giggle, “I know that look.”

“Go to sleep you, before you get me in trouble,” Sara said with a kiss that rocketed deep into my groin.

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Saturday, 2 December, 2006

Oh the whole of things, I much prefer waking up to the feel of warm bodies bedside me; rather than the pain of someone trying to stab me to death. I am not sure what was more jarring in some respects, the sudden sharp stabbing sensations or the screams of rage, pain and fear in my ears. In either case waking up mostly dead sucked in a big way. The only consolation I had as my body flashed into the white glow of a forced healing to come, was the odd golden blur as it smacked solidly into Bethany’s head with a crunch.

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“Oh this is a pleasant surprise,” said Satan as he drug the wailing form of Bethany off of me, “two for the price of one.”

I sat up and tried to ignore the numerous holes in my body, “It was a surprise alright, that wacko bitch tried to kill me.”

I watched with surprisingly little sympathy as he nailed her down to a cutting board, “I had wondered,” he said as he turned to me.

“Yeah, she’s a total fucking nut job, and evidently her becoming skinny didn’t sort any of it out,” I said with a sigh as he walked over and drug me over to an electric chair.

“I see,” he said as he brutally forced me into the chair and started strapping me down, “I know this seems a bit pointless to you considering electricity can’t usually hurt you. However you are mostly dead and since you didn’t invoke the ring I have to cheat.”

“Gee, sorry to inconvenience you like this,” I said with a wince as he screwed electrodes directly into my skull.

“Not to worry, I’ll take my pound of flesh out of dear darling Bethany,” he said with a chuckle as he flipped the switch that powered my chair.

I started screaming about that time, so I only caught bare bits of what he did to Bethany… Satan was brutally fucking evil to her, but that is his job I guess.

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“Is she coming around?” asked a male voice I pegged as belonging to Josh.

“Goddess this is such a mess, first we have a nut try to kill both the Preistess and a Blessed One of Kellith, not to mention the Priestess nearly killing the girl…” Miguel gave a soft groan of complaint, “Can you just picture the tabloids? I mean it is bad enough both of them were naked in bed together, and I don’t care if she is a Blessed One, she’s under age!” 

“Miguel shut up,” said Alicia with a growl, “its not her fault.”

“Excuse me, can someone please take the knife out of my chest?” I asked as my arms seemed reluctant to move for some reason.

“We don’t think that is a good idea,” said Josh as he looked at me worriedly.

“Why? Its not like I won’t heal.” Then I said with a bubbly chuckle, “It’s just a flesh wound, I can still fight.”

“We think the knife got stuck in your spinal column,” said Josh with a frown, “and there seems to be some nerve damage to support that it.”

I glanced at my chest, “Gods people, its right through my fucking sternum, if I was going to be dead I’d already be that way,” I said with a glare, “just pull it the fuck out!”

“That’s not a good idea Petra,” said Alicia softly as she looked around the room.

“For Kellith’s fucking sake! Will one of you grow a pair and just do it!” I tried to yell but it only came out as a thready whisper.

“You rang?” asked a familiar voice and I looked over to see Alicia glowing with a golden red aura, for a moment I could see Sara’s body overshadowing Alicia’s before it faded slightly. “So you need a bit of faith I see?”

“Hi Kellith, nice of you to drop in,” I said with a raspy chuckle.

“Well I did get this odd prayer,” she said with a chuckle as she looked at the others expectantly, “so who needs to grow a pair?”

Miguel blinked up from the floor where he was prostrating himself, “We thought.”

“Yes I am sure you did,” said Leigh as she pushed into the room trailing a few chains behind her, “oh goddess what a mess.”

“Christ! Petra!” said Michelle as she followed Leigh in with a barely dressed Rose not far behind her.

“Sorry I would have been here sooner,” Leigh said with a scowl at Josh, “but Mister ‘I’m an EMT’ forgot to unchain me properly.” 

“You were the one who said ‘go!” he protested loudly as Leigh approached the bed.

“It would probably be best if you have an electrical cord or defibrillator handy, she converts electrical energy into regeneration,” pointed our Sara with a smile as Leigh gripped the handle of the knife.

“Just pull it out,” I muttered as Leigh tried to do just that.

I suppressed the urge to whimper as Leigh tried to ease it out, “Crap, I’d love to but I think it’d take Josh’s muscles or better leverage.”

“Goddess in proximity with standing, I’m very hesitant to do so, it may cause more damage,” Josh said bluntly as he eased the cloths away from the knife to look closer, “the bleeding is slower though.”

“Josh there are a few things you have to take on faith,” said Sara calmly, “she regenerates by both magick and due to her mutation.”

“I’ll get the defibrillator from the kitchen,” said Rose as she hurried out of the room.

“So you say,” Josh said with a shake of his head, “I’ve seen people die of such wounds.”

“I am not going to die, just pull the damned thing out,” I said as I coughed spraying bluish blood every where. “I’d do it myself but my arms are sorta useless at the moment. An the bitch seems to have nicked a lung in the process,” I said with a second cough.

“Speaking of which, I was informed that she survived, where is she?” asked Sara with a glare at the room in general.

“Tied up,” said Josh with scowl, “and gagged when she started going on and on about how sorry she was.”

“You are very practical, I like that in a man,” said Sara with a smile, “are you attached to your gods?”

“Usually, though I have not exactly settled on a goddess to pair Thor up with,” he paused to chuckle, “That and I think some of the Norse or Celtic goddesses have ‘issues.’”

“So you are available?” she asked with a purr.

“Maybe,” he admitted with a slightly shy smile.

“Hello? Hot babe with a blade in her chest, does that ring any bells?” I asked with a soft laugh.

“Drama Queen,” said Sara with a chuckle as she ran her fingers through my hair, “are you trying to play up the audience?”

“Well this thing in my chest is rather annoying,” I countered with a sigh as some of the pain washed away into pleasure.

“Ah Goddess, why can’t you just heal her?” asked Leigh with a puzzled frown.

“It’s a matter of Balance, I can manage to manifest with out tipping things one way or another, due to the presence of my Priestesses being here, that and the fact that ‘my’ Petra has been blessing the living snot out of the place.”

“I had noticed that,” said the Signora as she walked into the room, “so we’re waiting on?”

“The defibrillator,” said Rose as she puffed her way noisily into the room and passed it over to Josh, “some idiot had locked it up in a closet.”

“Remind me to kick their ass later,” I muttered with a muffled curse.

“Oh no, I have dibs,” said Rose as she leaned on a dresser to catch her breath, “once my foot heals up from kicking the door to pieces that is.” 

Josh spared her a look from the defibrillator and shook his head, “I’ll wrap that up once I get done here.”

“I’ll take care of it, once I get unstuck,” I said with a sigh, it’ll do the masses good to see another miracle.”

“You are such a masochist,” Rose said as she shook her head, “but I suppose I’ll let you.”

“So who was the winner last night in the screaming competition?” asked Sara with a grin as she looked from Leigh to Josh, then Rose and Michelle.”

“Were we in a competition?” Josh asked as he taped the electrodes in place on my chest and abdomen.

“Well the girls were enthusiastic,” I said with a cough, “and someone needs to buy me ear plugs if this is going to be a nightly competition.” I glanced around to see a few weak grins and a pair of blushes start, “Oh come on people lighten up.”

Josh looked at Sara expectantly, “Should I give her a jolt to get things started?”

“Yes,” Sara said with a smile, “it will give her system a needed kick.”

“Two hundred joules or all the juice she can take?” He asked as he did something out of my field a view that sent a tingle into my body.

“Turn it all the way up, its not going to do more than tickle her,” Sara said with a chuckle, “if that.”

“More power, more power rawr!” I said with a grunt.

“Clear the bed, and the patient, Goddess or not this is going to be a zap,” he said as Sara stepped back after kissing me.

“Spoil sport,” I muttered up at him.

“Ready Petra?” he asked quickly.

“Ah was born ready just pull the trigger,” I said after a brief tingle, “any time now…”

“I did already,” he gave me an amused look, “I guess a few more times can’t hurt.”

“Let her fly McFly,” I said with a giggle.

“Yup she got it,” said Sara with a smile and a shake of her head.

After a few tingles my mood had improved to where the whole thing was silly, “Ok that’s good, I’m starting to get a real good buzz on.”

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t kiss you until after you shed a few volts,” said Michelle as she studied my face, “you’re hair is slightly sparky.

“Not-ta problemo,” I said with a giggle, “I’ld like to get this thing out of my chest now, it’s a bit sticky.”

“Gah, she is punning, get it out quick!” said Sara with a laugh and roll of her eyes.

I watched as Josh wrapped a towel around the blade and looked down at me as he braced himself with his other arm on the bed. “OK kid, if this doesn’t work I’m sorry,” he said as he looked at my face intently.

“Oh just give it a good jerk, and then hold the stupid button down no matter what happens,” I said with an annoyed grunt.

“I’ll do that,” said Michelle as she knelt down by the bed, “just get it out.”

“See you on the other side kid,” said Josh as he closed his eyes and tensed his muscles.

“Oh Goddess I can’t watch,” Leigh said as she quickly turned away.

I was about to say something witty about Leigh’s tattoo but then was this sudden unpleasant grating sensation as Josh jerked the blade out of my chest with and explosive exhalation. “Oh fuck!” he said as my blood sprayed upwards and splashed liberally across him. There was a moment of shock as I watched the drops fall in slow motion, then things started to go gray.

“Button’s down!” shouted Michelle from what sounded like the depths of a deep barrel.

“Pressure on the wound,” growled Josh as he seemed to lean on my chest.

‘Pull the power in,’ instructed Chaddy as I felt him lean into electrical lines.

“Oh great, there goes the power,” said Rose with a worried sigh.

“That’s good,” said Sara as the room seemed to dim further, “suck it all in Petra.”

“I’m stuck,” said Josh quickly and I watched him twitch as my eyes glazed, “don’t touch me though or you will get hit by the current.”

“I’m sorry Josh,” I heard Sara say as I watched a knife slash his arm, “this will trigger her into an external healing mode and it will keep you from having heart tremors.”

“Fu… Oh wow…” he said as he knelt there stuck to my chest by the current, “talk about an adrenalin flush.”

I felt the stabbing pains rush into my wrists, feet and into my chest forcing me to not quite shriek and then cough. I felt rather than could see the white healing aura Satan had ‘blessed’ me with spring up, and then there was a secondary wash of warmth that coiled into my heart painfully. Blinking against the sudden fires I managed to lift a leg up and push Josh off of my chest.

There was a muffled thud as he landed on the floor, and I managed to roll over to look at Michelle who had her eye closed while firmly pressing the button down with all of her strength. “It’s dead Jim,” I said after I hawked a few times to get air into my lungs.

“Quick you get the tricorder while I get the wallet,” said Leigh as she turned around with a relieved giggle.

Michelle gave me a look mixed with relief and annoyance, “You had me freaked!”

“Don’t touch her,” said Sara in warning, “she’s glowing too much from the charge for it not to hurt you, and the other glow is still going too.”

I gave Sara what felt like a silly grin, “Aww I just wanna kiss everyone.”

“Lay-ter,” said Leigh and Sara as one.

“Spoil sports,” I said as I sat up and then fell back over, “Ok that was odd.”

“Give yourself a moment to fully knit Petra,” advised Sara as she looked at me critically, “you also seem to have an extra heart from what I can see.”

“Second heart?” Miguel asked in disbelief as he watched from what he thought was a safe distance. “She’s got the Stigmata and a second heart?”

“Put away the calculator Miguel, do you know what happens to people if they get tissue from a regenerator in them?” asked Sara quickly as she pointed down to me, “if it does not kill them they take on the same physical characteristics as the donor.”

“Oh crud,” said Josh as he looked at Sara then me in worry, “I totally forgot about blood safety protocols.”

“I think you are safe Josh,” Sara said as she pointed at me, “she’s glowing white, which means you likely were healed before you could be contaminated, that and I am fairly sure that healing process would cancel that out as it falls under the miraculous healing aspect of things.”

Josh paused and then grunted in relief, “Oh good.”

“What, you can’t yourself living life as a cute girl?” asked Leigh with a grin as she draped herself on Josh and kissed him.

“Um I rather like this body,” he said quickly as he looked at Sara, “surely you won’t hold that against me?”

“So many bad lines, so little time,” said Sara as she grinned, “I need to let my Priestess have her body back soon.” She then walked around to tap Leigh on her tattoo, “Nice, but the color is all wrong,” she said with a smile as she rested her palm there, “there, much better.”

I watched as she lifted her hand and then smirked as she kissed it, “Why not collect the whole set?” I asked with a giggle.

Grinning she kissed Josh’s arm where she had sliced him and I could see the scar shift and change slightly, “Don’t worry I’m not staking a claim on you just yet; but I like what I see in you thus far.”

It was amusing to see a big guy like Josh blush, “Uh thank you?”

“No,” she said as she eased Leigh off to the side, and then kissed him deeply, “thank you.”

Then she turned to everyone in the room and then kissed them same way, well excepting me as I was way too zingy. Admittedly I felt a bit cheated but well, I could always collect more kisses later. Then after a long moment, Alicia seemed to almost swoon to the floor in evident delirious pleasure. ~‘I just can’t just waltz away without making someone orgasm in extreme pleasure can I?’~ she sent as she winked out of my head.

I sat there for a bit as my hearts seemed to synchronize, then a bit longer as other things seemed to adjust, “Ok so this two hearts thing takes a bit of adjustment,” I muttered aloud as my veins and arteries seemed to burn and then burn some more as my head felt like it was starting to split in two, “As much as I hate doing this, I’m going to check out for a moment.” With that I glared down at the ring, “Just heal me,” I said with a sigh.

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“Admit it, you like coming here, don’t you?” asked Satan as he dropped me into a large pot.

“No, but I dislike aneurisms even more,” I said as I tried to dog paddle around the spoon he kept poking at me with.

“Oh well, you should be simmering soon enough, I think I’ve hit upon a solution for dear sweet Bethany,” he said with a sinister laugh.

“Do I want to know?” I asked as I felt a wave of heat rush up from the bottom of the pot.

“I think she’ll make a wonderful Knight, once she gets over the entire lack of faith in a deity thing that is,” he smirked and started cutting onions and dropping them into the pot, “it almost brings a tear into my eye at having to give her up.”

“Like you won’t get quality time with her if you do so,” I said as I surfaced after getting bashed by half an onion.

“Precisely, admittedly it is a bit irregular but since I will be sending you back with a ring…” he paused to look down at me with a grin, “surely you can appreciate the irony?”

“Yeah,” I admitted with a half-hearted grin of revenge and then I sighed frowning, “it is not the fate I would wish on anyone though.”

“Call it her penance if you like, but it will happen,” he said somberly, “I could just make her vomit it up if you don’t do it, but I like things tidy. I don’t need an extra messenger, as it would stretch things too much.”

“So what oath do I swear her to or which god?” I asked with a frown.

“I am sure someone would have an idea, why don’t you ask around when you get back.” He paused and dumped in a small bowl of seasonings, “I’m making a chili, in case you were wondering.”

I cough and choked as the pepper burned my eyes and deeply into my lungs, “I could not have guessed, you seem to like hot things.”

“Oh! We’ll just have to try a sauce some time, bar-b-que in fact… its called Devil’s Spit,” he paused and then smiled widely, “I may have to tweak the recipe some to make it truly hot though.”

“Oh great, I can wait I assure you,” I said as things seemed to get even hotter.

“We’ll see my, little masochist in the making.”

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“I hate that,” I said after I surfaced back in the real world only to start hacking blood up and out of my lungs.

“Well your color has improved,” said Josh as he dropped a sheet back on top of me.

“Though you are still all glowy with blue and white,” said Rose as she sat on the dresser, “oh and welcome back.”

“Thanks I think,” I said as I took inventory of myself. Stigmata bleeding and painful, check. Rings plural, one in my hand one on my hand, check. Serious case of the ass, check. “Do I have clothing somewhere in here?”

“It is on the way, we figured you have bared enough flesh for a day,” said the Signora with a wry chuckle. “So that was Kellith?”

“More or less,” I said with a smile, “she’s not exactly the most reverent of people.”

“Deities are not required to be reverent, that is the worshipers job,” said Alicia with a dazed smile, “but there are many forms of reverence.”

“Just keep me away from zealots and fanatics,” I said with a sigh, “of any type, which leaves us with: What do we do with Bethany?”

“Much as I would like to suggest a lynching,” said Michelle with a pained sounding sigh, “this isn’t Texas.”

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Saturday (afternoon)

As one of the ‘injured,’ my presence was only briefly tolerated in the tribunal of witches. Basically I was there long enough to point her out as ‘that screaming bitch who had stabbed me,’ which only set her off on a crying jag. Needless to say the term ‘hostile witness’ applied to me, though the looks of sympathy from the others in my direction made up for it some.

So rather than sit around while the ‘adults’ figured out what to do with the wicked witch, I was taking a nature break. The sky was blue, the wind was chilly and the mud and other bits, were mud and other bits. I was armed in that I had a few knives on me, the ones from the HQ. For some reason people had a dim view of me carrying around an unsheathed dagger, so I was without the blessed dagger. Ok so I was sulking and didn’t feel like sulking indoors.

Even with the threat of possible daemon incursions the parking lot for the weekends witching seemed to be filling up with cars. I watched as people laughed and greeted each other for a time, occasionally the looks they traded were somber and harried, though most of them seemed happy to be there. Witches evidently came in all sorts of sizes and economic packages, at least that is what most of the cars they drove seemed to indicate. Occasionally one or more would show up with a truck or trailers full of stuff, only to stop and unload it and carry it inside.

Every now and then I would get up to help some ancient person of either gender with their stuff. Evidently it was not unwelcome or uncommon to help others and truth be told I was bored off my ass, so the odd diversion of carrying things broke up the morning somewhat. I did note that there were several newcomer’s taking up rooms in the Signora’s Clan wing, though most of them hustled off to ‘tend to things’ before I could really get a feel for them. 

During one such delivery I got that persistent burning itch I had learned to associate with daemons start to grow and burn. So I detoured back into my room to fetch the blessed dagger, and then walked back outside to watch for it. I think I drew more than a few odd looks as I stood there on the small rise that looked over the parking lot, gripping the dagger tightly. Unconsciously I felt Chaddy take control as he started to work us through a series of stretches.

Taking the flip-flops off and socks off, I sat them on a pile of stones that were next to a circle of stones. The small pea sized gravel of the path leading up to the Lodge was cold and tried to glue itself to my feet with the bits of mud others had tracked along the path. While I wasn’t exactly planning on physical contact with the coming daemon, I let Chaddy guide us through a few kicks and slices, taking bits and pieces from the anti-mutant training and piecing them into and improvised kata.  

“An interesting mix of attacks and blocks,” offered an intruding yet calm voice.

“Just limbering up some,” I replied and repeated a set of them that had seemed shaky to me.

“For what?” asked the man as he eased around me giving me a wide berth as he did so.

“Well, there is a daemon coming, again,” I said as I tried to get a better feel for its direction while still continuing the series of moves.

“Hmmm, and you plan on doing combat with it?” he asked casually as he removed a pipe from his pocket and started to fill it from a pouch.

“Well telling to just go away and leave me alone has not exactly worked out,” I said as I paused to point off in the direction I knew it to coming from, “it’s coming from that direction.”

“You seem to be an interesting mix of magicks and prior wounds,” he said prompting me to look at him carefully. He stood a foot taller than myself, though I could tell he might have been taller at one time, as age had seemingly caused him to hunch over somewhat. He was wearing a double-breasted jacket that seemed to mimic those seen in films of old rich men who lived in England, and a floppy leather hat that had seen much wear. His trousers were a pair of dark pinstripes and they were tucked neatly into a pair of shiny brown riding boots.

“Oh, yeah, I suppose I am at that,” I said as I paused to rub at the scars on my wrists from the spikes.

“I am Faustino,” he offered after a moment.

Chaddy butted in and asked, “Not the writer of the Inferno?”

“No,” he said with a chuckle, “that would be Dante’s Inferno, if you followed literary themes I am a poem of an entire other flavor.”

“Ah, I’m Petra,” I said with a semi-apologetic shrug.   

“It is a pleasure to meet you,” he said with a nod and he waved his pipe around briefly before proceeding to light it.

“So what drags you out of the warmth?” I asked as I placed the socks and flip-flops back on my feet.

“Oh, my bad habit,” he said with a chuckle, “while I could get away with smoking it indoors, I find the weight of all the scowls it would garner me a trifle wearing.”

“It can’t be any worse than some of the incenses and stuff they burn at odd hours,” I said with a roll of my eyes, “at least it doesn’t reek.”

“Good tobacco doesn’t,” he said with a laugh, “should you ever find yourself tempted to smoke, you should remember that.”

“Not that I am tempted, I’ll keep that in mind,” I replied with a grimace, “I tried a cigarette once, nasty things.”

“Cigarette’s are not generally made of good tobacco,” he observed as I turned to watch a yellow blob appear in the distance on the road.

“Ok I can feel it getting closer, so why don’t I see it yet?” I half grumbled aloud as I tried to place the sensations clearly.

“Have you tried opening up your ‘eyes?’” he asked in a distracted tone of voice.

“This place has so much magick my eyes would nearly bleed from the glare,” I said as I tried to take a brief peek and quickly reverted to normal sight. “Gah, I hate that.”

He nodded and pointed in a direction parallel to the distant road, “So you are a fledgling in the Craft?”

“I guess you could say that,” I said, as the yellow blob in the distance seemed to accelerate and slowly become recognizable as a car.

“So what are you doing out here getting ready to fight a daemon if you have had no real training?” he asked as he pointed the stem of his pipe at me.

“Because it has to be done,” I said simply as I watched the yellow car stop in a cloud of burning rubber. “Oh great that can’t be good.”

We stood the watching as an immense dog erupted out of the car and raced out ahead of it. A moment later a very large man seemed to unfold himself from the driver’s side and then walk around to open the trunk. We lost sight of the driver as the trunk opened, but a moment later he reappeared with what seemed like a small cannon in his arms.

“Hmm, it seems the driver does a bit of big game hunting,” said Faustino as he drew heavily on his pipe.

“No kidding,” I muttered as he walked down the center of the road, his trench coat or duster blowing open with the breeze.

Seconds later a frightful howl seemed to send the flesh of my arms crawling up my arms with goose bumps. “Interesting, very interesting,” said Faustino as he exhaled sharply.

There was a sudden disruption off the side of the road as the dog reappeared barking and howling, we stood there watching the man as he placed the weapon on his shoulder. As the dog backed further onto the road, it seemed to double in size as its fur bristle brushed all along its body.

“That’s one pissed puppy,” said Chaddy as he filled the silence with his comment.

“Indeed,” said Faustino as he watched critically.

“And there’s the daemon,” I said as a disfigured form lurched out onto the road.

“Nasty, it looks like it might have started out as Saint Bernard,” observed Faustino as he took a long hard look at the scene. “Well that’s what the coloration suggests,” he said as I glanced back at him.

“I seriously doubt whoever has been sending them after me has run out of cows,” I said uncertainly.

“Cows, cows are stupid, not much brains to work with, so it could be who ever it is, is trying to ‘upgrade’ his daemons potential mayhem.” Faustino scowled and said, “Dogs have cunning, and a pack mentality if enough are present.”

“Wonderful,” I muttered in disgust, “my opponent has brains.”

“Yes but for how long?” observed Faustino as the man on the road opened up on the daemon with several looking impressive blasts.

I blinked in amazement as the daemon was shredded in quick order by the gun that the man was using; but then the reports from the gun echoed belying the intensity of that gunfire rolled past. Mutely Faustino and I shared a look of disbelief as the sounds produced could only have come from a cannon, a large cannon. “Big damned gun,” I said after a long moment.

“Undoubtedly,” said Faustino as he noted a stream of people joining us.

Seemingly unconcerned about the smoking bits of daemon on the road, the man pivoted and aimed in the direction his dog was ‘pointing.’ He then did something with his gun and angled it higher before firing it a few times. A moment or so later a section of the ditch further up the road from him erupted with fire smoke and dust.

“Whatever that gun is, I want one,” I said happily once the explosion’s reports passed us by.

“I don’t think it is a very practical weapon,” said Faustino thoughtfully, “sure it is likely good for outdoor use, and perhaps making a breech to gain access to a structure. It would be brutally hard to use in close quarters if you have to rescue someone and keep them or yourself intact.”

“I have a hunch that once I find whomever is sending the daemons after me that finesse will not matter much.” I shrugged and said, “Or that many folks would be too upset at any property damage incurred.”

There was a pause in our conversation as the echoes of more blasts rolled by. “You may be right,” he said in a slightly condescending tone of voice, “but if there is a chance of this person having hostages….”

“Yes I know, I’d have to be careful, that is if there was any bit of them left to really save.” I paused to look at him; “From what I have learned GOO’s or Elder or even Outer Gods don’t generally leave much of humanity in their victims.”

After an odd moment of silence punctuated by more explosions Faustino said, “Define daemon.”

“A hostile entity from another plane of existence, brought in voluntary or not, set to the task of either granting dangerous knowledge or causing death and destruction,” supplied Chaddy as the ring warmed slightly.

He paused to look at me intently, and then he nodded, “Very good, how do you define god?”

“Which one?” I asked in turn as the man down on the road seemed to be collecting things from out of smoking piles of ash.

Faustino laughed heartily for a moment and then he gave me a soft bow, “Point taken, any thoughts on the matter?”

I paused to consider what I knew of ‘gods, goddesses and so on,’ “I don’t have much use for any that seem intent on existing by ignoring things and doing nothing in exchange for worship.”

“And the concept of free will versus intervention?” he asked as the man and dog got back in their car.

“Is a crock of shit, if you will pardon my French. What part of free will is in effect really free? If there were such a thing, we’d not have a book or books full of rules that others seem intent on forcing down peoples throats.” I paused to see him watching me intently, “A god of any type that ‘supposedly’ believes in such a philosophy and is yet ‘all seeing, all knowing’ and gives out such things isn’t offering free will at all.”

“I see, and the Judeo god?” he asked quietly.

“Evidently exists, considering I know that his counterpart exists,” I said with a shrug, “but I can’t say I would follow him considering his lack of reciprocation.”

“I detect a bit of anger there in your voice,” he said after a time.

“Well yeah, he’s not holding up his part of the equation,” I said as I inwardly shrugged off the possibility I could be telling the Order’s secrets. “It’s supposed to be three seconds of Hell, three seconds of Heaven, and three of Purgatory, but all I ever get is Hell and a stupid train ride.”

“I could see where those three seconds of Heaven and or Purgatory could be worth all the damage a Knight is willing to endure, but I’m not so sure Hell is a good motivator though,” he said with a quiet chuckle.

“It’s a good one,” I said with a pained chuckle, “it reminds you to not get hurt.”

“Ouch, point taken,” he said with a smile, “so shall we go meet the man whose artillery has attracted the others?”

“May as well,” I said with a grin, “his toys seem so interesting.”

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“Look,” said a calm sounding bass voice that seemed to roll over the crowd’s agitation like thunder, “I’m not here to cause any trouble, if you had not noticed I just killed a quintet of daemon-hybrid dogs, on your bloody doorstep.”

“Thank you for that,” said Rose as she gave him a less than friendly look, “but why are you here?”

“I’m here to play bodyguard for a pain in the ass little girl who keeps getting half killed while trying to put down daemons,” he stated bluntly as he seemed to try and scan the crowd with his eyes.

I studied the man, to my normal ‘eyes’ he was not quite seven foot tall and built like the Hulk, that is to say muscles on top of muscles. His hair reminded me of the mop-like dread-locks that Rob Zombie wore, though he was black with a rich chocolate skin. His clothing seemed to be a rough mix of Pappa Midnight from ‘Constantine’ and that of ‘Blade.’

To my other ‘eyes’ he was cruelly angelic, and seemed to carry an air of otherworldliness that made me take a step backwards into a defensive stance. Frowning I gave him a harder look, noting the spots of blue fire that seemed to burn where his eyes were and that his skin seemed to be shifting as if it was trying to keep something volatile inside of it.

“Other-kin,” muttered Faustino quietly as he rested an hand briefly on my arm, “not so much evil as they are connected with other planes. It’s what happens when a Hollow-man or woman is taken by a other planar entity, and then they procreate with a normal human… provided the embryonic growth doesn’t kill both the mother and the child.”

“Wonderful, so evil or not evil?” I asked as a hissed question.

“Part human, part other, its like any other person raised in this world.” He paused and looked at me somberly, “It depends on their choices and the actions of those that raised him.”

“Human is as human does,” I said with a shrug, “I suppose we should see if I will have to kill him.”

“You worry me Petra,” Faustino said as he studied me critically.

“I had a seriously fucked up childhood, it probably makes Fluffy’s childhood life over there looks tame,” I said with a resigned shrug, “seriously tame.”

“I see, we may have to discuss that later,” he paused to tap a few people as he strode forward creating a wake in the sea of the crowd.

Following Faustino, I gave Rose a salute with my dagger as we got closer to the man. I also noted his dog was still in the car and ‘unpleasantly’ growling at just about everyone near the car. Shrugging I walked around the Rose and the man who were still in ‘debate.’

“… Look as much as I would love to go back to my home, drink a few bottles of whiskey and refund the money I was sent, things don’t work out that way.” The man paused to scowl at the crowd and then at his car, “Mutt! Shut up!”

“Oh let’s hear the man out,” I said from behind him to Rose while wearing my very best ‘mentally disturbed’ grin, “I can always gut him later if he’s not anything worth keeping around.”

As he spun around dropping into a sweep I hopped over his leg and placed the dagger at his throat, “Twitchy, twitchy, twitch the wrong way again and I will bleed you out,” I said coldly with my demented grin still in place.

“You are the pain in the ass girl I am supposed to protect?” he asked, as he stayed immobile in what had to be a slightly uncomfortable pose.

“That would depend, who sent you to protect me?” I asked coolly as I stared at his chest and not his eyes.

“Doctor Otto, head knee biter at the Arkham Research Corporation,” he said as he eyed my steady hand and the dagger in it, “nice blade, blessed too, care to not cut me?”

“I’m thinking,” I said after a long moment, “Doctor Otto isn’t exactly a friend of mine.”

“Gee, really? I kind of gathered that when he labeled you as a ‘a genius with anti-social behavior tendencies, and a few extra voices in their head.’” He smirked and then said, “He actually predicted our encounter would likely start of with each of us trying to prove who had the bigger dick.”

“I’ll bet he actually said ‘who was the bigger pain in the arse,’” I said as I took a step back before easing the knife away from his throat.

He gave my ‘guarded’ stance a nod, and then slowly eased his feet up under his body before standing, “He also said I should not underestimate how much chaos or violence you could achieve if overly pressed.”

“That sounds like him too,” I said calmly, “so he sicced you on me?”

“Something like that,” he admitted as he dusted himself off, “old debts of honor are a pain in the ass.”

“So is this a long term gig for you or are you just another colorful body to notice and dismiss?” I asked coolly as I idly spun the dagger in my hand.

“That depends,” he tilted his head back and forth making popping sounds as he did so, “are you a little whiny bitch that doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up or stay the hell put when told to?”

“I don’t whine, I act,” I gave him a dirty look, “as for staying put, it’s not a matter of if I can stay put; but if your scruffy and butt ugly half-breed ass can keep up.”

“My eyes are up here,” he said with an upward flick of his fingers.

“Yes but your center is where my eyes are, so if you try something I am ready to cut deeply,” I said as I wove the dagger gently in a circle.

“Yes he said something about you being trained to take down mutants,” he said as if reviewing facts in his head, “but I am not a mutant.” Then he seemed to blur as light fell away from him, and I spun to follow the odd shadow-like form, using the bright blob near his chest as a guide I spun to keep my blade up and pointed at him.

“If you are trying to impress me, you failed,” I said as I flicked the knife up and into position to throw it.

The air seemed to still as he eased back into the light of the day holding his hands up over his head, “Impressive, impressive indeed young Jedi.”

“Are you two done with your pissing contest?” asked Rose with a scowl.

“I am done,” I said as I looked at the man, “are you done?”

“Hmm, let me think,” he stood there apparently studying the horizon.

I tapped my foot and tried to suppress the urge to give him a ten-kilowatt handshake, “Well?”

After a moment he said, “I’m still thinking.”

Flipping him off I took a few easy steps backward, “Fine you stand here and think, I am going to find food.”

“Damn I think we are either going to be friends or we’re going to end up half killing each other,” he said as he shook his head.

“I would suggest being friends, she probably would heal from having her guts burned out faster than you would,” observed Rose with a scowl.

I suppressed a shiver and looked at him, “And yes I have already done that once, not a fun experience.”

“Gee tough crowd,” he paused and shook himself, “Ok I am done.”

“Good, I suppose you have a name?” I asked as I turned to walk back to the Lodge.

“Saul,” he said as he opened the door and picked up a gun belt and snapped it on. “Mut out, behave,” he instructed the large dog that seemed more intent on growling at everyone.

I cautiously watched as a dog that was taller than a Great Dane slowly exited the car. I briefly considered telling Saul that the welded logging chain collar was a bit inhumane, then Mutt stretched in place and all the muscles on him stood out against his fur. A second look at the growling dogs teeth made me wonder if the log-chain collar and chain would hold him.

“Mutt sit, stay,” instructed Saul as he dropped the chain to the ground and made an odd hand motion. “Come here Petra.”

“Is it safe?” I asked before I even took a step in the dog’s direction.

“Yes, he has to get your scent so that he knows you are to be trusted and protected.” Saul gave me an amused look, “Don’t tell me the girl that fights daemons is afraid of the little puppy dog?”

Ignoring the goad, I gave Saul the finger again, “Just because I can heal from some fucking serious wounds doesn’t mean I am going to shove my foot in the fire to prove it to you.”

“So there ‘is’ a brain in that head,” said Saul with a blunt look at me, “just walk up and put your hand in front of his nose.”

Giving Saul a dirty look, I cautiously did so, and when Mutt tried to snap at me, I reacted by slamming the dagger point first into his jaw. “Fucking dog, behave!” I screamed in anger as I jerked it out and leaped backwards.

I watched as Saul gave the dog an annoyed look as it whined up at him, and then he knelt down and grabbed Mutt by the wounded jaw. “So Mutt you finally met someone else you could not intimidate and who could hurt you?” he asked the dog as its tail thumped one time.

“Is she going to have anymore trouble out of you?” he asked the dog. Mutt seemed to think about it and then he thumped his tail two times.

Saul looked at me expectantly, “He said he’s not going to try that shit ever again, didn’t you Mutt?” Of which Mutt thumped his tail once.

“I see,” I warily said, “is it a smarter than average dog or a trick on your part?”

“Mutt is half-breed like me, something the Army tried but fail miserably at,” Saul said bluntly, “fucking idiots were trying for a Krypto and got a Cujo, really fucking smart of them.”

I cautiously walked over to where Mutt lay and I could visibly see the wound I gave him trying to knit. “So,” I said as I looked down into Mutt’s eyes, “if you try that again I get to neuter you?”

Mutt whined and looked over to Saul evidently trying for sympathy. “Mutt knows better now, don’t you Mutt?” asked Saul as he then continued, “You already know what it feels like to regrow them Mutt. So do you really want to see what happens if she uses that knife of hers on them?”

Mutt whined and then thumped the ground with his tail twice. “Don’t think I can’t do it,” I said more or less to both of them.

“Oh he knows it,” said Saul as he stood up and patted Mutt on the head in a rough but affectionate manner, “if you think he is ever trying to test you; just clock him a good one or threaten to not give him his treat.”

“My twin sister beat the shit out of a Wear-wolf,” I said looking at the both of them, “and I was trained by the same fuck-wads that trained her, don’t think I am incapable of kicking the shit out of you.”

“Yeah, yeah Otto mentioned that and that you were schooled in a fairly nasty manner,” Saul gave Mutt’s jaw a quick look, “you gave him a good scar to remember you by. But we may have to spar later on to see if your school was as good as mine.”

“When we don’t have to worry about daemons trying to kill us,” I said with a kowtow in his direction.

“I’ll look forwards to kicking your ass,” he said with a matching bow.

“Bring a jar for your teeth,” I said with smirk.

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“So what was the verdict?” I asked as I sat down for a very late lunch with the others.

“Hangin’ was too good for her,” intoned Michelle with a grimace.

I gave vent internally to an emotional sigh of dismay, and then said, “How about we just shoot her a bit?”

“Nonsense hanging is good for any occasion,” said Saul as he sat down next to me, “if it was good enough for Saddam Insane it’s good enough for anyone.”  He paused and pulled his phone out of his duster’s pocket, “I have it saved on my phone, it cheers me up immensely every time I play it, and it gets more funny every single time I see it.” He thumbed through his phones controls, “Wanna see?”

I had a brief flashback to when Mark was murdered, “No.”

“But it’s fun-ny,” he continued with a chuckle as he started to watch the phone, “One minute he’s all calm and cool, ok so he looked a little stoned.”

“Shut up,” I semi-growled in his direction, “its not funny.”

Saul then put his hand up to his throat and made his neck crack obscenely, “The next he’s all fish eyed and looking sideways at the ceiling.”

“Not funny,” I said as I glared at him.

Saul gave me an amused look and continued, “I mean it doesn’t get more real than that, unless of course they botch the snap, then the poor bastard just kicks and flops a lot, I have a good one of those too.”

I snapped about that time and put my dagger at his throat, this time actually nicking the skin as I pulled his head back by his dreads as I did so. I was a bit shrill, as I not quite bellowed in his ear, “My brother was hung for being a mutant, and I saw it! Hanging! Is! Not! Fucking! Funny!” I paused as the silence in the cafeteria weighed in upon me, I took a tense breath and then coldly hissed in his ear, “It is not funny, do you fucking get me?”

“You cut me…” he said after a moment as his eyes widened.

“Maybe I should cut a bit deeper to make sure I have your fucking attention,” I growled as I pulled back on his dreads forcing his chin up even further. “Not funny, ever. Do you fucking get it?”

“You would not be so tough without that blade,” he said as he seemed to consider the idea.

“Petra, that is quiet enough,” said the Signora as she walked around the table to stare at the two of us, “luncheon is not the time for such matters.”

I considered that for a long moment and then eased the dagger away from his throat, as he seemed to tense under my fist full of dreadlocks I paused and eased the knife to his scalp. “No twitch, no get scalped…”

“Petra that is enough,” said the Signora as she tapped her foot.

Taking a large step back as I released his hair, I brought the dagger up to a guard, “I am sorry Signora, but some things are intolerable.”

I watched as he placed both hands flat on the table and turned to study me evidently taking in my distance and my stance, “You will do.”

“You sir will apologize,” said the Signora as she stood there.

Slowly Saul nodded and he looked from me to the rest of the room, “I am sorry, but I had to know if there was a sociopath in your head or just a ball of pain and anger.”

I remained in my stance for a moment then eased out of it as I glared at him, “If you are a shrink you can get the fuck out of here now.”

“No I am not a shrink, I just read your file,” he paused to look at me critically, “so yes I knew exactly how to push you to the edge of murder, and I am sorry.”

“You play a dangerous game,” said the Signora as she watched us, “one I find contemptible.”

“It wasn’t a game. But it was dirty, unfair, and down right mean of me, but the girl has been exposed to several ‘unfriendly’ Extra Planar Entities,” he said as he looked at me then the Signora. “I needed to be sure she had not deviated from what her profile said was her norms.”

“She could have killed you,” stated the Signora bluntly.

“You could cut my head off, broil it, and then put it back the stump and I’d just get up after a bit,” he shrugged and said calmly. “It would be annoying but not much more than that.”

“I need a better knife,” I muttered sourly as the anger slowly leeched out of me.

“I will want to see those files,” said the Signora as her eyes flicked from Saul to me.

“They are in my car,” he said simply.

“Fetch them,” instructed the Signora as she flicked her hand at Saul then the door of the cafeteria.

I looked down at the hand that touched mine then the dagger, semi-numb I let Michelle ease it from my fingers. Quietly she put her arms around me and then hugged me, “I’m so sorry I didn’t know.”

“… Not your fault,” I murmured into her dresses top, “I don’t like to think about it, much less talk about it.”

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“She is asleep,” said Rose as she approached the others gathered around the smaller dinning room’s table.

“Well that’s good,” observed Faustino as he looked at a laptop’s screen.

“Troubled childhood, now that is an understatement if there ever was one,” said Michelle as she looked at a different laptop, “there isn’t much here that is any different from what she told us, past history wise.”

“Yes,” said the Signora as she glanced up to the next level briefly, “though she didn’t mention how her brother had been killed, quite understandable given she only recently unblocked that memory.”

“She’s still grieving I take it?” asked Rose as she sat next to Michelle and started reading over her shoulder.

“Very much so,” said the Matron as she looked up briefly from her own laptop. “Not to mention that several of her doctors had abused her in various manners.”

Saul grunted as he looked over from where he was cleaning his very large rifle, “If I did not have to be a bodyguard for her, I would be all to happy to hunt down a certain doctor and probe his spleen with a spoon.” 

“I am sure I could find you a rusty one,” said Faustino as he tapped a key, “on the economic front, I would not want her upset with me, ever.”

“I heard that,” said Saul as he removed a part and stared into it critically, “I made sure I had a very large cash reserve set aside before I even considered provoking her rage, and a set of new identities to fall back on.”

“Practical,” commented Faustino as he leaned back in his chair.

“Its SOP for the most part for me, I tend to piss off a lot of people, most of them tied to funky cults and so on that summon nastiness.” Saul paused to shrug briefly, “Occupational hazard.”

“And I thought it was due to your charming personality,” said Michelle with a pointed look at Saul.

“Funny,” said Saul with a lewd grin, “but I used to have a friend that said my personality actually improved after my getting shot in the head.”

“Oh?” asked Michelle, as she looked thoughtful, “Can we pump a few shots into his head, maybe we’ll actually get him to be pleasant to be around?”

Saul gave her a smirk, “Ha, ha, its been suggested a few times.”

“I have no doubt,” replied Michelle as she returned to reading the files.

Faustino took out his pipe and chewed thoughtfully on the stem of it, “In a perfect world this child would not and should not be chasing daemons, however the world is never perfect. She is remarkably resilient for all the mental harm inflected up her, though I suspect that had nothing to do with her psychologists.”

“Love makes the world go round,” said Alicia as she walked into the room, “I heard that there was a second incident today with Petra?”

Several heads to turn to look at Saul who grunted, “Just a bit of a san-check.”

“A what?” asked Rose as she looked up.

“San-check, sanity check, you fail it and you lose a bit of your mental toughness, lose too much and you go bug-fucking-crazy,” said Saul as he briefly made a circular motion near his ear. “Don’t you people read the gaming books?”

“Whatever for?” asked Michelle as she glanced at Faustino who was nodding.

“Well the rule books are mostly useless as research materials,” said Faustino calmly, “but the monster manuals and such are useful when cross referenced against others and other sources.” Faustino’s voice took on a lecturing tone, “Artists, usually in the fantasy and horror genera, seem to tap in to unconscious collective or frequency that allows them to perceive such things and record their existence.”

“Yup,” said Saul as he started putting the pieces of his weapon back together.

“So when such a critter, such as a Excremental, is documented in a multiple of venues, movies, gamers books and comics; it becomes likely that such a critter likely will be documented as ‘real,’ after an encounter is survived with one.” Faustino waved his pipe around briefly, “Occasionally the guides and such do have valid insight into how to deal with them, and usually such information is seeded there by people like Saul.”

“And sometimes it is pure bullshit,” said Saul with a popping sound as he cracked his neck.

“Admittedly such information is theoretical, until proven otherwise,” said Faustino with an uncomfortable looking shrug. “I actually had the miss-pleasure of encountering an Excremental. I had to add bleach to holy water to actually kill it, a lot of bleach, of which actually was the same tactic used in the source material, a comic book.”

“Ugh,” said Rose as she shook her head.

Faustino shuddered and said, “I had difficulties in using a public restroom for months after that incident, the only thing that saved me, apart from the bleach was a Haz-mat suit.” He sighed and added, “I have to carry cleaning supplies with me, for when I use a hotel… or a rest stop, though my wife likes how clean I keep the bathroom now.”

“Don’t your maids keep them clean?” asked Rose as she glanced over.

“Oh they do, but I am afraid the incident left me slightly phobic,” Faustino said with a frown.

“Easing back to topic, you performed a ‘san-check’ on Petra; who in the world gave you that right?” asked Alicia with a blunt look in Saul’s direction.

“No one,” said Saul frankly, “however, given her exposure to the daemons and her ability to sense them, I had to see if she was corrupted by them.” He gave the others a look, “As it is she has shifted away from what I think her ‘baseline’ should be.”

“For worse?” asked the Signora as she looked up from a pile of documents.

“For the better actually, I think,” Saul shook his head slightly, “not that I am a shrink or anything, but she should have done more than simply nick me.”

“Oh?” asked Michelle, “I thought she just wanted to tell you to behave.”

“She should have been screaming profanities as she carved into me,” Saul said calmly as he looked at Petra’s dagger and then placed it on a sheet of leather and started tracing around it with a marker. “So something has changed in her.”

“Maybe she doesn’t think you are that much of a threat,” observed Alicia with a frown at Saul.

“No,” said the Signora, “it was the most that she thought she could get away with in public around an authority figure she respected...”

“This kid doesn’t respect authority, she respects those people that treat her as an adult or as family,” said Saul as he pointed at the various files around the room, “its in there if you look.”

“So why didn’t you try that from the start? It’s certainly Machiavellian enough for you,” asked Rose as she glowered at him.

“I’m going to be her bodyguard, not a brother surrogate,” he gave everyone a frank look, “she can hate me all she wants. I’m an asshole, its not my job to be ‘nice and comforting,’ its my job to keep her alive.”

“But you will respect her,” said the Signora coolly as she gave him a cold stare, “you will not damage this child’s mental equilibrium any more than you already have.”

“Or?” asked Saul as he looked back at her, “I just know there is an ‘or’ in there somewhere.”

“If you do not I will give you an Extra Planar Deportation, to one far from this plane of existence,” the Signora said in a firm tone. 

“Day-yam,” said Saul with a surprised look on his face, “now that is an effective threat.”

“I have found,” slowly stated the Matron, “that the Signora does not threaten, she promises and has no qualms executing such promises.”

“Noted,” said Saul as he slowly turned back to his leather crafting.

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“Um hello?” I asked as I seemed to wake up in an all gray void.

“Hello, you have reached the voice mail of Deities Incorporated. Unfortunately your god or goddess is not at their desk right now. Press one if you would like to speak with the deity on duty, press two if you would like to leave a prayer or press three if you would like to tithe via credit or debit card. Please note the approximate waiting time for results may vary due to any recent hurricanes, typhoons, tornados, tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides, wars, terrorist attacks, chemical spills, mass murders, ferry sinkings, luxury cruise liner sinkings, aircraft crashings, passenger train derailment, and incidents involving the deaths of any sentient life forms in quantities greater than six in a nearly simultaneous manner or other acts of god.” There was a brief pause as the voice inhaled sharply, “Please stay on the line for the next available customer service representative. Thank you, and remember at Deities Incorporated when you talk, we listen.”


{Yes I know it has the run-on sentence from hek in it, but it is funny I think…}

“Ok, that was weird,” I said as I sat up on ‘nothing’ and looked around.

“But funny,” said Gothmog as he opened a door out of nothing and stepped in, “yes?”

I considered the message briefly and shrugged, “Sort of, but usually when I get that kind of message I start hitting zero rapidly. You know, to speed things along.”

He paused and then shook his head, “I rarely have to wait for customer service; I just show up at the home office, find a cute receptionist, flirt a bit, ok a lot, then I sneak into a closet with the receptionist… and so on. Needless to say I get very good customer service.”

I grinned at him picturing just that, “I see, somehow I don’t think I could pull that off.” Glancing around I had to ask the obvious question, “So what has Sara so busy?”

“Ah, she got a phone call from Michelle asking her who Otto was, and why he would send an asshole to be your bodyguard.” Gothmog explained with an odd shrug, “Then she had to make a few calls, and scream at Otto. Evidently she knows of Saul from personal experience, from back when she was still male and researcher at ARC.”

“Asshole is a polite term for Saul,” I said with an unhappy sigh, “he decided he had to make hanging jokes or cracks at lunch, and then he would not stop and shut up.”

“Do you want me to drop in and ‘speak’ to him?” asked Gothmog as he enfolded me in a many arm hug, “I’d be happy to considering I am quite fond of your family.”

“Umm, wouldn’t Sara have dibs?” I asked as I considered the idea of Gothy smacking him around some.

“Sara has a few problems with the Weres,” Gothmog said with a frown, “she needs her energies to help deal with their enemies, but I have no such constraints.”

“Is she in trouble? I could go back to the States if she needed me to,” I paused and sighed, “once the current mess is fixed.”

“No I think it best if you stayed in Italy, you need training, and Sara doesn’t need to have to worry about you ‘and’ your sister getting caught up in it all.”

“Like she could keep Paige out of anything without tying her down physically or keeping her completely in the dark about stuff,” I said with a knowing sigh, “we tend to act, and sort out stuff later.”

“There is that,” he acknowledged with a smile, “so do you come here often?”

“Well lately I’ve been needing a lot of hugs and stuff, it helps me recover from the daemon shit,” I said as I let him hug me.

Nodding he hugged me again, “Not to mention it helps you to heal and so on.”

“Yeah,” I said with a soft smile as I let myself be comforted by him.

“So should I drop in and sort him out for you?” Gothmog asked with puppy dog eyes, “I promise not to level the surrounding territory or start an Armageddon.”

“I may need him intact to be a bodyguard,” I said with a smile, “once he is useful, paper trained and so on.”

“Ah see, well I am going to put you into a deep healing state,” he said as I felt myself drifting out of awareness, “you heal up, I’ll settle him out.”


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“Ah, excuse me Signora,” said a young girl as she solemnly walked into the dining room.

“Yes child?” asked the Signora as she looked up from a file.

“Signor Antonio Marques Dominguez respectfully requests that you send the,” the girl screwed up her face thoughtfully and then said, “the worthless piece of offal outside. Preferably to an area where property damage may be kept to a minimum.”

“Is that all?” asked the Signora as her brows climbed upwards.

The girl shyly scuffed the floor with a foot, “He said you had cookies?”

“Ah, yes. Rose please give our young messenger here a small sack of cookies.” The Signora said with a thoughtful glance at Saul as he looked up from his project. “You should not keep him waiting.”

“Oh and just who the fuck is Signor Antonio Marques Dominguez, that I should give a fuck what he wants?” Saul asked as he scowled back at her.

“Petra’s godfather,” the Signora said with a tight smile, “I really would not keep him waiting if I were you, that is if you knew what was best for you.”

Saul picked up his weapons and started to belt them on, “Well we’ll just see about that.”

“Oh, I don’t think you should threaten him with weapons,” said the Signora as she picked up the file again, “you might upset him.”

“Upsetting him may turn out to be least of his worries,” said Saul as he angrily turned to the door and walked out.

“Antonio, as in ‘Himself…’” the Matron shook her head, “and upset about Petra’s treatment… should we start looking for a new bodyguard?”

Alicia looked at the two women with suspicion, “Am I missing something?”

Michelle giggled loudly, “You should meet him, but not until after he tends to Saul.”

The Signora’s smile was slightly cruel, “I think Saul will be much easier to deal within a few minutes; that is if he doesn’t flee the area for a hole to crawl into and hide for the rest of his life.”

“You think?” asked the Matron with wide eyes.

“Oh yes, assuredly.”

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“And just who the fuck are you?” asked Saul as he stormed up.



Saul shakily stood up in the crater, once his bones would support him, “Fucker.”

“Next we shall address the issue of your use of foul language.”

“Fuck you.”


Read 9900 times Last modified on Thursday, 19 August 2021 00:47

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