And Jos set out through the snow-covered streets for St Henry’s Cathedral.
Location: The cathedral of St Henry.
The cathedral of St. Henry in the Capitol City was indeed a grand building. Spires and pinnacles stretched heavenward on cascading platforms supported by pillars and arches of various architecture. There was many an alcove with the sculpted likeness of some classic saint and on every fringe and corner could be seen the grotesque figures of the gar-boys and girls.
Many a prayer and praise had been lifted up in that building. And many a sacred ceremony had completed its rites within those walls.
But alas, those days were over now. The cathedral had sustained heavy damage during the BloodVaine war and was now boarded up, being deemed structurally unsound.
Now it was little more then a shelter for the thieves and homeless of Orion. And on this night, it was the hideout for a large group of newly born ghosts.
In the center of the cathedral, stood Brugs. Poised on the altar like a champion surveying the carnage of a great battle won. The sword he had wedged firmly into the wood, acting as a leash to hold all the other spirits inside the cathedral.
He was chuckling to himself and feeling the most alive since his death. Killing was great sport. Even if Brugs had to remember to only kill those weaker then him. It wouldn't do to have some stronger person come in and take control. Old poeple, children and women. Those were the victims. Oh, and the women. it was good to have them back. The Dragon Master had already had his way with a few of the girls he'd murdered. Yes, this was going perfect. But Brug's cruel chuckle was cut short, suddenly, by a challenge from without.
“Demon!” It was Keavur. He called in a bold voice, clutching Derek’s cross and throwing back his hood as if daring the world to deliver him to his brother.
“Come out demon! Come, and try your blackness against my furry! Emerge you coward so I may deliver you back to the pit!"
Brugs went to the window, looking to see this new fool who dared to challenge him.
“Demon, eh? We’ll see.”
“Everyone back in the sword!” he called, striding back to the altar.
Slowly the spirits obliged. Dejected they returned to the cursed sword. All that is, but one, a young boy, stopped at the foot of the saber and looked up at Brugs.
“You’re a bully.” He said, spiting on the Dragon Master’s shoe.
Brugs glarred. You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears. The Dragon Master grabbed the boy’s neck, snapping the spine and throwing him into the sword before he could cry out in pain.
“Anybody else want to object?” Brugs bellowed.
Dale and the rest of the spirits hurried into the sword. Somewhat because of Brug’s threats, but mostly to comfort the boy who though still ‘alive’ would be in great pain.
When all were inside, Brugs turned invisible and yanked the sword out of the altar. He had found that it was easier to control the sword from the outside, where he could use not only his mind, but his strength to control it as well. None of the others would deter him now.
Meanwhile, Keavur had entered the building. The sound of his feet echoed through the sanctuary as he walked down the center aisle.
Then, the sword appeared. “Now, hunter,” Brugs called in his best demon imitation. “I will cut you to ribbons!”
The saber flew at Keavur like an arrow from a bow, but the hunter didn’t flinch. His eyes only narrowed and let lose a telekinetic blast. It was the same trick used to bring down the dragon Coal-blood during the battle for Orion. But his brother had been with him that day, and today he was not.
Brugs took the impact of the blow full force. It felt like a hurricane had just swept passed him and into the wall behind. Indeed, the wall was obliterated and Brugs was stunned for moment. For a moment, but no longer.
Now the ghost charged forward full force, unhindered by any threat to its own safety.
Keavur had barely enough time to ready his spear before the sword was upon him. In the nick of time he deflected the sword and rolled under a pew on his left. “What manner of demon is this?” Keavur swore under his breath. “The blast didn’t even phase him.”
Suddenly the blade appeared right between Keavur’s eyes. Splitting the pew above him until it stopped, just touching the bridge of his nose. Before the hunter could react, a blow to the head sent him rolling from under the pew.
Keavur’s head reeled. It felt like someone had just kicked him full force with a steel-toed boot. “This is no ordinary demon.” Keavur thought. Suddenly there was a sound of splintering above him as the sword freed itself. Keavur jolted back to reality and the problem at hand. He stood up with a backward summersault and grabbed his spear. The sword charged again but this time Keavur was ready.
Brugs was enjoying this. Finally a challenge! The ghost charged again, heading straight for the hunter’s heart. “This man will die!” Or would he? Suddenly Keavur raised his spear, running it right through Brug’s hand, between the hilt and the hand-guard of the sword. Without waiting a moment the master spear wielder spun his weapon down and into the floor. Brugs actually lost his hold on the sword and it clattered to the tiles where Keavur pinned it under his boot.
Kneeling beside the weapon, Keavur placed his hands on the hilt and closed his eyes. It had been a while since he had performed an exorcism and he’d never before done it on a sword. Quickly he mumbled the ancient words that sounded vaguely like Latin. He hadn’t got two sentences out, however, before he was interrupted. Suddenly Keavur found himself hoisted into the air as though by some invisible phantom and hurled across the room.
He didn’t fly very far, but slid when he landed, across the floor and into a pile of ruble and stained glass.
“Nano!” Keavur swore. “That’s no demon. That’s—
“A ghost.” A voice behind him finished.
It was Jos. The baker was crouched behind the ruble, sweating and panting. It had been a long run to the Cathedral and his old side wound was hurting like mad.
“Come on.” Jos wheezed. “I saw a door back there that was still on its hinges.”
Jos gave the demon hunter and hand up and they both ran for the door.
Meanwhile Brugs ripped Keavur’s spear out of the cracked tiling and threw it across the room. “Let’s see how long you last without your weapon!” Brugs said picking up his sword.
“Leave them be, Brugs.” said Dale from inside the sword. “Can’t you see they’re retreating?”
“Shut up!” said Brugs. “They’re already dead.” The Dragon Master looked up to where his prey had just slammed a door. “Fools!” he thought. “Doors do not hold me.”
“What do you know about this?” Keavur demanded as the two scaled the stone staircase. Yes, it was staircase that the door had led to and a staircase that seemed to lean awkwardly at an angle. No doubt a result of the war.
“It’s a long story.” Said Jos in heaving breaths. And the baker proceeded to tell it as they both raced upward. Jos wasn’t a particularly good storyteller. Not like an old acquaintance who used to buy jam from him. He skipped a great deal and mumbled so much that by the time Keavur reached the top, he still had but a muddled and small understanding of the story.
They were in one of the bell towers now. Or rather what was left of it. A whole two sides of the tower above were gone and the bell was no where to be seen. They were high up and the wind was shrill and cold.
“Why didn’t you tell me this at the bar?” said Keavur one he caught his breath.
“I—I didn’t want to get in trouble.” Jos stamered.
“Ok ok. Great! So how do we stop it?”
“You don’t.” said a voice from the shadows. It was Brugs. The Dragon Master was visible now, giving the men a frightening look with a snarl on his ugly face. “You die, hunter! But you can watch this one go first.” And he pointed the sword at Jos.
Now Jos, bless his heart, was a baker, not a warrior and while a fine man in his own right, wasn’t above being frightened or running for his life. Even when, as in this case, there was no where to run.
Jos jerked to a halt at the very edge of the tower. Time seemed to stop for the baker as he stared from his dizzying perch, frozen in fear. But time hadn’t stopped and the sword slashed across his back. Jos yelped in pain… and fell.
But Keavur was not idle during this and taking advantage of the distraction, jumped through Brugs and grabbed the sword. He knew his only chance would be to disarm his opponent. Back and forth, they rolled. Struggling for control of the sword. But it was only a matter of time, really. Keavur would weaken soon and Brugs… Brugs would not.
Inside the sword Dale was having a wrestling match of his own.
Go, Dale. You can help him!
No, no I can’t. I can’t help anyone. Besides if I do, Brugs will just hurt the others more.
But if you don’t do anything this man will die!
Oh, he’ll die anyway! I couldn’t stop Brugs from killing these people or from killing Jos! I—I tried…I I turned the blade to keep him from stabbing Jos but… but Jos still fell! I just cant…
And Dale buried his face in his fists
But Jos wasn’t dead. No not yet, though he might soon be. He was hanging on the outstretched neck of a gargoyle. Hanging out over empty space.
It was an uncomfortable place to be. Holding on for your life and staring straight up into the snarling mouth of a hideous beast. Icicles hung from the gargoyle’s mouth like the blood some traveler who ended his life on its fangs. Jos reached up again, trying to find a better place to hold on. The wind was blowing sharp and hard, as if trying to make him lose his grip.
Jos was just contemplating how to get out of his predicament when something strange happened. Jos didn’t know if he was dreaming or crazy or what, but he could have sworn that the gargoyle blinked!
It was so strange and unthinkable that Jos recoiled in shock and let go.
Meanwhile, in the bell tower above, Brugs was gaining the upper hand. The ghost rained blow upon blow down on Keavur.
Let…go…of…my…sword!” Brugs yelled, punching Keavur with each word. Finally Brugs wrenched the saber from Keavur’s hands. The forestman collapsed, bruised and exausted.
Brugs didn’t pause to gloat in his victory or taunt the man before finishing him. He was ready to end this and simply raised the sword.
Keavur watched as Brugs readied to finnish him off. He didn’t care. He was through fighting and now he would share his brother’s fate.
The sword dropped. But it did not pierce his heart. It hit something else. A trinket Keavur had worn around his neck since the day Derek stormspear had used it to defeat Azazael. Reno’s cursed sword hit Derek’s silver cross and in that instant everything changed.
Inside the sword there was a great crack and a beam of pure, celestial light shot from the tip of the saber. Every ghost in the sword moved towards it, curious at first and then shouting in joy.
Dale never said the words “Heaven” but there was no mistaking what it was. One by one the spirits entered the portal, laughing and smiling as they went. And finally, only Dale was left.
How long? How long had he waited and hoped, even prayed for this. True death. What a relief it would be to finally leave this troubled world behind and enter into eternal bliss.
And yet, as Dale stood there, gazing on the gates of eternity, the manifestation of all he had hoped for, yet he turned and looked back.
If he left Dale knew that Brugs would have complete control over the sword.
Dale had a choice to make.
From Keavur’s perspective, when the sword hit the cross, everything seemed to fade away. He found himself surrounded by light. Like being in the center of a star.
“Am I dead?” Keavur wondered. Ther was a strange burning sensation in his chest.
“Hello Keav.” Said a voice from behind him. Keavur whirled around. It was—
“Derek!” Keavur cried, almost dumb from disbelief. “Is it really you? You and Kara!”
“Good evening Mr. Stormspear.” Said Kara, smiling.
“What eh…” Keavur stamered. “I’m not… Am I dead?”
“No,” said Derek. “Sorry Keav, but it’s not your time.”
“But—but I wanna be with you Derek—I—
“I know brother, and you will be someday, but in the meantime you have work to do. And you shouldn’t be afraid to do it without me.”
The men were silent for a moment, just staring at each other until Keavur spoke.
“Alright, I understand. Kara, tell your brother…tell Valus hi from me will you?”
Kara nodded, smiling and then in an instant, they were gone and Keavur was jolted back into the real world.
“Arrggh!” Keavur’s chest felt like it was on fire. The demon hunter tore open his shirt to find the shape of a cross, branded on his chest. Tiny flecks and splinters of silver and blue shown in the burn. It was like Derek’s cross had melted into Keavur’s heart.
“Don’t you ever die?” Keavur looked up. It was Brugs, standing over him with sword in hand.
Keavur smiled. “It’s not my time.”
“That’s right!” said another voice. “It’s your
The transparent form of Dale sifted from the sword. He stood tall and stern, with the piercing eyes of a man whose mind was set.
“You won’t hurt anymore people, Brugs.”
The Dragon Master sneered. “Oh really? And how are you going to stop me?”
Dale flew into Brugs. Not with a fury of fists or a pinning maneuver, but actually into
Brugs, like a man diving into a lake. Brugs stood there for a moment, dumfounded at what had just happened and then…
Brugs wretched back and forth, clawing, scraping at his shoulders and face. “G—get out! Ouuut!” Slowly the man’s features began to change. Thick hands turned to thin musically gifted ones, Dragon Master armor turned to grey robes and Brug’s own ugly mug transformed into the plain face of Dale.
“Jos! Jos wake up!”
Jos moaned, cracking his eyes open and trying to clear his head. “Wha—what happened?”
“That’s what we’d like to know.” Said a voice Jos thought he knew. “We found you lying out on a ledge.”
“Dale? Is that- Dale! What- Are you- Where’s that other guy? Ow!”
“Calm down, Jos.” Said Keavur. “Everything’s alright. Although I thought we lost you when you fell off the tower.”
“I grabbed onto a gargoyle and then… Oh! And then it blinked and I let go! And- and then I grabbed onto it’s arm and slid down to the elbow and fell off again and… I must have dropped ten feet onto that ledge!”
“The gargoyle did what?” Dale questioned. “Are you sure you’re feeling ok?”
“Well I do have a splitting headache.”
“Come on.” Said Keavur cheerfully. “We can sort this out back at the Gold Wallow Inn.”
Let us stop for a moment and ponder the signiture...
Ok, enough of that!