DISCLAIMER: These two look vaguely similar to someone you might have once known but otherwise the plot and the characters are mine. If you want to archive the story just drop me a line so I know where it's going.
VIOLENCE: Yep, it's in there, it's not 'House of a 1000 Corpses' kind of violence, probably isn't anything you wouldn't see on prime time TV.
LANGUAGE: I've tried to keep the dialogue as realistic as possible. I find few things as annoying as a 17 year old on a TV show speaking at a PhD level. The characters will curse, contract words, and there's the occasional double negative because sometimes people just do that kind of thing.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Death of Innocence
By Terias McKlay
Shadow Hunters: Supernaturally gifted warriors, ever changing, who fight to prevent the ancient war between humans and demons from spilling into the streets. Chosen by fate, these Thirteen men and women are destined to root out evil at its source and eradicate its minions.
Payton had been a typical teenage girl; well Perhaps she was more than that. She was pretty, popular and by all accounts headed straight for the top. One fateful day her life was forever changed and she found herself slated to be a Shadow Hunter: a mighty warrior blessed by The Powers That Be and fated to be a Champion for mankind.
New to her legendary powers, Payton makes a costly mistake, her beloved mother paying the fatal price. Heartbroken, she changes her name and denies her past throwing herself into her duties. Now, as Lexina, she is a street fighting wonder laying into the demonic underworld with a vengeance.
Unmatched in combat and a fledgling witch of considerable power the Shadow Hunter must face her toughest challenge ever. Dark forces are at work within her city and her Dhaskalos is only one of the many victims of the new evil. Betrayed by those she would trust and losing time the young Shadow Hunter must face the evil menace on her own.
In her quest for justice the Lexina rescues a young reporter who may hold the key to their enemy's demise. Thrown together by circumstance and bound by friendship the pair vows to fight the darkness. Can the Hunter and her companion master their powerful abilities in time to save the world?
"It's too soon," Carlson stated his deep voice carrying across the meeting hall. The podium on which he stood did little to equalize the height difference between himself and the senior Tribunal members who sat on the bench. The addressees scowled at him from their own position not even attempting to hide their contempt for him and his argument. This battle had been lost long before the debate had begun, he'd had an inkling of that before even stepping foot in the Tribunal chambers. The stakes were too high for him not to have made the attempt; his Protégé's life lay in the balance. "Emma is not ready for her trials, not the one you've placed before her. Give me another year to refine her skills and "
"You've had four years Carlson; she was to be ready for anything by now. If it was going to be a problem you should've come to us earlier in her training." One woman said, Archer, if Carlson memory served him correctly. She was a toady of Ackerman Senior and was working on bettering relations with his son. Ackerman Junior was rumoured to be a favoured candidate for replacing his father when the old man retired. A chorus of agreement sprang up around Archer's comment and the Dhaskalos felt his blood begin to boil.
"Why? So you could replace me with someone who had less experience and was willing to burn her out?" He asked angrily his flush becoming apparent beneath his greying beard.
"Carlson, you forget your place." Ackerman said sitting forward. "Your job was to create a valuable tool for the Tribunal, for us to use as we saw fit. Your personal feelings for the girl "
"Have nothing to do with it. She's not ready and she's not your bloody instrument to use and toss away like so much rubbish. I won't allow it!" Carlson boomed his voice resonating through the room. He saw some of the younger pages flinch at his tone; it was rare for anyone to question the Tribunal, rarer still for it to be in such an antagonistic manner.
"You seem to think your wishes are of our concern in this matter Carlson," Ackerman stated an unpleasant smile flitting across his weathered face. "You are of course, mistaken." The man sat back rubbing his chin with a somewhat contemplative look.
"The girl became our property the moment she accepted to train. Or would you prefer we'd left her to die in the vampire infested hell-hole we found her in?" Ackerman shook his head. "The girl belongs to us and it has been decided. Winston is on his way to deliver her orders."
"What? I don't understand, if you already knew the outcome why the hearing?"
"To keep you away from her, just a bit of insurance for peace of mind. We wouldn't want you putting any silly notions in the girl's head about running away now would we? She's one of the most magically powerful Protégés currently in training and we can't afford to lose her."
"But you'd send her to deal with Gideon?"
"You knew the assignment would be difficult before you agreed to train her Carlson. If she's not ready and she dies it's on your hands not the Tribunal's."
"She's a child; you can't possibly mean to send her to her death."
"The girl will do her duty, the Tribunal knows where her loyalties lie," Ackerman said signalling to someone behind Carlson. "Unfortunately we're no longer confident in your ability to discern where your ultimate loyalties should be placed." The Dhaskalos narrowed his eyes hearing the booted steps come towards him. Strong hands were wrapped around his biceps and began to drag him away from the podium.
I suppose this explains why it was a private hearing, he thought disgustedly.
"This is ludicrous," he stated though he knew it would do him no good to argue. He struggled in their grip cursing silently as he felt the cool metal slip around his wrists and a gun was pressed to his temple.
"I understand you care for the girl, it's admirable, however, every Dhaskalos is taught from the beginning to keep their distance to avoid disturbances such as these. If I don't make an example of you I would have concerned Dhaskalos' lining up at my door lobbying against all of my decisions. This is my organization and I will not see it fall apart."
"Ackerman don't do this," Carlson pleaded as he was taken to the door.
"I apologize old friend, it's for the greater good," Ackerman said looking at Carlson with something akin to pity. The Tribunal director looked to one of the prisoner's captors. "He's been found guilty of treason. His actions are dangerous to the Tribunal and the members thereof. Throw him in a cell, I'll deal personally with his sentencing."
"The Tribunal thinks it's time to test your mettle," the young man said as he sat down in Carlson's chair sipping at his tea. He watched as the girl pulled her sword from its sheath and sat down at a work bench with a wet stone.
"It's about bloody time," Emma answered, "I was wondering if they were ever going to get around to giving me an assignment." The girl sharpened her sword with extra care, knowing tonight would be special. The blade shone, even under the dim light of the single 60-watt bulb.
The large unfurnished room was purposefully left dark to make it seem more like an actual night time situation. This Dhaskalos, Winston something or other, had called her here to the basement for an impromptu training session.
Emma had realized this would be more than a regular sparring match when he had told her to make her weapons ready for battle. The young Shadow Hunter Protégé had hoped it was finally time for the live fire exercise the Tribunal had been hinting at for weeks. Her training had certainly been stepped up in both frequency and difficulty. Instead of single two hour sessions she now had two four hour sessions. Each lesson left her covered in sweat and more often than not with a few cuts or bruises.
"It will be difficult," the Dhaskalos cautioned. Emma looked at him as if he were slow. Did he honestly think she didn't know that? She'd been training for this day for years, she was hardly unprepared.
"I assume the other Protégés have their own tasks complete?" Emma asked as she slipped her sword into its sheath. She pulled a quiver full of crossbow bolts out of the weapons trunk and sat back down. The girl methodically checked each one, insuring the wood hadn't cracked or rotted.
"Yes, of course," Winston answered as he leaned over and took out a bad arrow Emma had missed. He tapped her on the shoulder with it to show one had escaped her eye before tossing it onto the discard pile. He may not be her specific Dhaskalos but he still had a duty to the girl, she would need all the help she could get with this mission.
"Then I must do my own task," Emma said firmly as she put the quiver on her back. Winston smiled slightly, Carlson had raised her well.
"This won't be like your other exercises Emma. You're not going against lone vampires and there won't be anyone there to help you," he explained handing the girl her crossbow to check over.
"Understood," Emma said sombrely though inwardly she smiled. Despite his warnings she didn't think the Tribunal would have given her this mission if she weren't ready. Her skills were well above average and she rarely had trouble dealing with vampires by herself. Even without the legendary powers that came with being a member of the chosen 13 warriors, her battle prowess and quick mind made her a formidable opponent.
In the Tribunal's eyes however, she knew she was nothing more than a tool and she was smart enough to realize that among the Protégés she was nothing exceptional. Each Protégé went through their own specialized and rigorous training. The ones who simply weren't 'meant to be' were weeded out soon after they began their outside exercises.
Emma secretly thought that most Protégé deaths had been due to the stupidity or cockiness of the warriors' Dhaskalos. Some pushed their charges into the outside world far too soon and the Protégés were usually the ones to pay the price. Not Emma though, Carlson had slowly built her up, working constantly with her for nearly three years before allowing her to go on a hunt. By then his thin, delicate, 14 year old, Protégé had evolved into a lean, muscled 17 year old with stunning agility. Her muscles had increased her strength without hindering the one advantage her 5'4" frame allowed her, amazing speed. In hand to hand combat even Carlson was hard pressed to land anything but a glancing blow.
"Your orders," Winston said opening his briefcase and handing the girl a simple envelope, the Tribunal's insignia the only decoration on its white surface. Emma took it with a small sense of trepidation. There had always been a net to catch her if she fell: now she was on her own. The Protégé shook her head, she was ready, Carlson wouldn't have allowed her to have the assignment if he didn't think so. She trusted her Dhaskalos above all others and if he believed in her then nothing but her own fear could overcome her.
"I'll make the Tribunal proud," she said as moved to the stairs that would lead her out of the training area. Winston nodded from his seat.
"I have every confidence you will Emma."
"If this goes awry, thank Carlson for everything he did for me will you?"
"Of course." With a curt nod the girl bounded up the old wooden stairs taking them two at time. Good luck little one, Gods save you, no one else will.
Emma ducked from shadow to shadow as she made her way to the center of London. Despite it being summer, cold rain pounded on her back and obscured her vision. Typical English weather, maybe after this assignment they would place her and Carlson somewhere warm. She'd heard America could be quite pleasant.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves Em, mind on the mission.
The Protégé tossed her head absently to get her hair out of her eyes. Sighing in frustration she ripped a strip from her shirt using it to tie the deep brown locks in a ponytail. She'd been tempted more than once to simply chop it all off and be done with it but had yet to get up the courage to follow through.
She approached the dilapidated building with caution: supernatural beings weren't the only danger in this part of town. Shadows sprinted across streets and every so often a scream pierced the sound of the falling rain. Emma walked up the cracking concrete steps to the door her hand gripping the crossbow tightly. She pulled on the door hearing it groan with her efforts. It didn't budge.
She had to get into the building, her mission briefs indicated it was the best place to perform the spell. The ground below the building was unstable with energy and she could use that excess energy to do the spell rather than using herself as the source. Emma cursed, as body slamming the door did nothing to move it. It was likely blocked by fallen debris on the inside.
The Protégé growled angrily but refused to allow this relatively minor incident defeat her. Slinging her crossbow she looked up trying to see the top of the building against the monsoon levels of rain that fell. With a disgruntled growl she jumped onto the concrete banister and searched for a foothold.
"Alright Emma, onward and upward."
Emma heaved herself onto the top ledge and straddled the crumbling piece of wall. She'd climbed the three stories to the top of the building using protruding bricks and windowsills as grips. A quick inspection of her fingertips showed them to be bleeding and raw to the touch. The teen blew lightly on them and held her arms outstretched letting the rain clean the blood from her hands. She took her crossbow from its place on her shoulder and stepped onto the roof of the old apartment building. She poised the weapon at the ready and walked slowly toward the door she assumed would lead her into the building.
She tried to tune out the pounding of the rain searching for sounds that would indicate she was something other than alone. Abandoned buildings were prime vamp territory and it just wouldn't do to be ambushed tonight. The ground beneath her began to groan under her weight and Emma cursed as she heard the distinct snap of a wooden beam. The Protégé looked forward a few feet and noticed the cracking of the cement and she took a nervous step backward.
"Bollocks," she muttered as the cracking spread toward her. She looked around to see she was surrounded by unstable roof. She screamed as the floor gave way beneath her breaking through pieces of wood as she plummeted three stories toward the ground. The Protégé grunted in pain as she landed hard on one of the lower floors. Years of training took over as she felt her feet hit solid ground and she bent her knees and rolled forward to bleed off some of the impact. Chunks of cement, old glass and wood pelted her from above and Emma coughed in the dust.
"I wonder if I could be just a bit more of a prat tonight," she asked aloud as she stood and dusted herself off searching for her crossbow. The weapon lay in pieces off to her right and her bolts were scattered around the room. The young brunette shook her head not caring for the way her evening was turning out so far.
"Oh Bloody hell," she cursed as the wood beneath her feet cracked. She was unable to find something to anchor herself to before the floor disappeared from beneath her and she began to plummet. Emma grunted as her body broke through two rotted floors and she landed in the dirt of the basement. She wasn't quite able to get her feet under her before she hit and was rewarded by landing on her chest and knocking the wind from her lungs. Her first attempts to take in air gained her nothing more that a mouthful of dirt and the Protégé turned onto her side curling into a foetal position.
Well since I haven't been eaten yet I suppose it's safe to assume there aren't any vampires in here, she thought disgustedly as she struggled for breath. The brunette rubbed her head to ease the pain as she looked up at the gaping hole she had created. As if to mock her further the rain increased leaving Emma soaked to the bone lying in mud.
The girl groggily got to her feet stumbling as she tried to gain and maintain her balance. A once over revealed a sore sternum and a monster of a headache but she was, much to her surprise, otherwise intact. Her weapons were next on the checklist and she was dismayed to notice the only weapon she still possessed was her katana. The throwing knives she had put in her boots had been lost somewhere along the fall as well as the hip dagger she kept. The map and spell were fine, thankfully, without those the mission was a lost cause.
The building had been erected over one of the gates that led to what the Tribunal had called the Other Realms. These gates were present all over the world and though not necessary made it considerably easier for mortals to travel between realms. As a fledgling witch Emma would need all the help she could get.
"Divining powers I ask,
For your aid in this task."
Emma reached into her shirt and pulled out the pouch she'd hung around her neck. She poured the contents of the pouch into her hand looking at the sandy substance with a grimace. She'd had to break into a magic shop to get the ingredients and she could only hope that she had gotten the mixture right. Offering a prayer to whatever gods were listening she blew the sand softly into one of the collapsed doorways.
"Guide me to Other Realms I say,
Where dark is light and night is day."
The doorway shook dangerously bringing dust and loose pieces of material down on the girl. Emma covered her face to protect her eyes as portions of the building collapsed around her. When she pulled her hands away the rotted wooden steps that had been before her had transformed to show a brick stairwell. Taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders she walked across the threshold.
There was a startling moment of disorientation before she felt her feet hit solid ground. The girl's head was swimming as she took a step forward and leaned against the brick wall. Her stomach threatened to rebel from the unpleasant experience and the Protégé fought to keep the nausea from overcoming her. Once she was sure the contents of her stomach would in fact remain where they were she headed up the staircase. Her ears picked up the sound of movement and she instinctively reached for her sword only to find that both it and the sheath were gone.
"Of course, because it'd be too easy if I could actually defend myself," she muttered. The brief had warned that Gideon might have some sort of protective ward that kept weapons, physical and magical from coming through the portal. Emma had hoped that wouldn't be the case.
Not like anything else has gone right tonight.
With a sigh she made her way up the staircase feeling for the wall since there was no light. If she'd done the spell properly she had transported herself to the stairwell that would lead her directly to her objective. The smell of lamp oil invaded her nostrils as she stepped into the hallway. Torches lined the walls every so often casting light in their direct vicinity but not completely illuminating the hallway.
The girl flattened herself against the bricks and moved silently, the frequent shadows her only form of cover. Emma moved down the hall until she felt cool stone give way to smooth wood. She reached for the doorknob and jiggled it lightly. Locked. Emma dropped to one knee and examined the lock trying to see in the poor light. She removed a pick set from her belt and with the expertise of a master thief set to work on the lock. The old metal finally gave way with a satisfying 'click' and Emma silently entered the room.
Sometimes it pays to come from the wrong side of the tracks, she thought with a smirk as she looked around the room.
Torches illuminated the room and a large fire blazed at the far end, judging by the smell something other than food was cooking in the cauldron that was settled just above the flames. The Protégé began tossing the room searching for her objective. Previous excursions had allowed the Tribunal to determine this was the Warlock's workroom and would thus be the most likely place for him to house his Book of Shadows. Emma's task was to obtain the book and if possible kill Gideon.
Yeah that's bloody likely, I think I'd rather set fire to the place and hope for the best. Or would it be the worst? Hmm. The Protégé shrugged her shoulders and continued her search being as quiet as possible, no sense in alerting anyone to her presence if it could be avoided.
Speaking of presence, the Protégé thought as she felt the hairs at the nape of her neck rise. Now I wonder how he got in here? I know he didn't come in the front door.
The Protégé grunted as she felt the blow knock her into the wall. The rough stone bit into her back and she barely had her senses in order in time to duck the next strike. She grabbed the torch nearest the door and swung it at the man forcing him back. She swung again, stepping forward with the momentum of her strike. The Protégé's eyes widened in surprise as he grabbed the flaming end in his bare hand and ripped it from her grasp. The torch was flung back at her and the Protégé yelped as she caught part of it on her shoulder. Before she could recover her feet were swept from beneath her and she collapsed to the ground the stone driving the air from her lungs. Emma coughed trying to suck in air while running through her mind for some sort of viable escape plan.
Red eyes appeared inches from her face and Emma tried to move from her opponent. He grabbed her by the front of her shirt picking her up and tossing her to the far end of the room. The Protégé tried to scurry from him but he was unnaturally fast and she found herself backed into a corner. He took her wrist in an iron grip and whipped her into the edge of the table and the girl felt the concrete tear into her side. Emma bit her lip to keep herself from crying out in pain, as strong hands took her by her coat and flipped her onto the table.
The Protégé growled angrily as she felt her pants being tugged from her hips. She shot her leg out, her foot connecting with something dense. A muffled grunt from her attacker rewarded her and brought forth another round of kicks from the girl. Her enemy soon had her legs pinned beneath his weight leaving Emma with no avenue for escape. She felt her legs and arms being strapped down and tested the bonds. They would be near impossible to break. Emma fought the urge to cry as her clothes were unceremoniously ripped from her body leaving her clad in nothing but her bra and underwear.
The girl shivered as cool metal touched her bare thighs and moved up to her stomach and neck. Emma knew it was hopeless but she felt honour bound to struggle against the inevitable. The brunette bucked her hips and pulled at her bonds stopping only when she felt the knife touch her throat. One wrong move and she would be responsible for the blade cutting her open. The knife moved from her throat and tapped her cheek. Emma's vision finally cleared and she was able to make out some of the features of her captor. Golden blonde hair framed a strong clean shaven jaw. If not for the red eyes the man might well have been considered attractive. At the moment -oddly enough- Emma was rather immune to his good looks.
"Tribunal's still sending children to do a Hunter's job. Tisk, tisk. Ah, well. At least I have a new toy to play with." The man lifted a soaked rag and grinned maliciously as his red eyes blazed. Emma's eyes widened in fear and despite her efforts she found herself screaming loud and long. Reacting instinctively the Protégé held her breath as she felt the cloth descend on her nose. A sharp shot to her ribs caused her to inhale painfully and Emma couldn't help but let her grip on consciousness slip. Her last thoughts were of how disappointed Carlson would be and how much she was going to hurt when she woke up. If she ever did.
Lexina crept through the cemetery her every sense on full alert as she tracked her quarry. The half moon shone down upon her illuminating the pathway that stretched across the grass. As she walked further into the cemetery a healthy wind kicked up rustling the leaves and blowing hair into the young Hunter's face. With a frustrated sigh she took an elastic from her wrist and pulled the raven locks into a ponytail, it wouldn't do to be blinded in battle by errant hair. The vampire she had chased through five blocks worth of back alleys had disappeared from view somewhere near the crypt to her left.
The ancient edifice was one of the many that called the cemetery home and each crypt made for prime leech real estate. Lex pulled a stake from her kit bag and placed a vial of holy water down her boot. She dropped the bag behind some bushes looking around to insure no bystanders had seen her. Not that that was likely, most people in this city had the good sense to avoid cemeteries at night.
The Hunter followed the path as it wound its way past the crypt trying to get a good view of its door. From her vantage point on the path it was difficult to tell whether or not the door was open much less whether the vampire had taken refuge in it. It would be risky to go in blind but the vampire had already killed a young woman before Lex had been able to stop him.
The Hunter tried to shake off the guilt, another life had been lost because she hadn't been fast enough. She'd been dealing with tracking a particularly murderous demon for most of the night and had just dispatched it when she'd heard the girl's initial screams. Given the area she'd been in at the time and the girl's clothing she was likely one of the many homeless youths forced into selling themselves to survive. The sin district was a choice hunting ground for the vamps, they knew the chances of anyone missing their victims were slim to none.
There but for the grace of the Powers go I, the Hunter thought with a shake of her head. She was honour bound to kill the vampire, his victim deserved that much.
Her resolve in place and her weapon ready the Hunter moved forward. She put her back against the crypt and used the shadows to hide her approach as she moved to the door. It was open, barely, and a few strays of light passed the threshold and were lost to the dark night.
The blue eyed Hunter strained her ears for the sound of voices. Arguments could be heard though the speech was muffled by the stone door. The words 'Hunter' and 'followed' were brought up more than once and Lex began to reconsider her hunt. She no longer held the element of surprise and if her ears served her well there were at least six vampires, far too many for her to handle alone, at night. She would return in the morning, perhaps with her Dhaskalos, Athena, and take them out while they slept.
Lex backed quietly away from the door wincing as a twig snapped beneath her boot. The teenager cursed herself for not putting on more fight friendly foot-wear. Her Dhaskalos had told her often enough that she should take her vocation more seriously. Her guardian was the typical Englishwoman: uptight and much too concerned with duty.
Not that Lex didn't take her responsibilities seriously, but when life essentially consisted of whoopin' ass and the occasional high school lecture a girl had to get her kicks somewhere.
True to her chosen field name 'Athena' was wise in the ways of combat, both of mind and body. Sometimes Lex could imagine her Dhaskalos wearing the armour of the goddess herself standing on Olympus with her stern expression.
Pay attention! She ordered herself pulling her thoughts away from her Dhaskalos and putting them back in the cemetery where they belonged.
She had a bad habit of getting distracted during patrols, it wasn't really her fault, lately the Dark side of the force hadn't really seemed to be making too much of an effort. With the exception of the demon and this nest of bloodsuckers the last couple of weeks had been pretty dead.
Hehe, pretty dead get it Lex?
Shut up please, I'm trying to make a stealthy escape.
The Hunter shook her head at herself and slowly moved from bush to bush making her way back to her knapsack. She regretted leaving the vampires alive or undead or whatever. It was still a good six hours until dawn. It was possible they would kill more people before sunrise. Each of those deaths would be on Lex's conscience. As much as she played off her duties to Athena, mostly just to get a rise out of the older woman, Lex was committed to the good fight.
I won't do anyone any good if I'm dead though, with a silent sigh she slunk toward the bush which hid her bag, near as she could tell she'd made it back unseen.
"It's dangerous for little girls to wander around cemeteries late at night." Lex turned to see a man, vampire, she mentally corrected as his face morphed, moving toward her.
Okay it's only one. No problem here, I'm a big bad Hunter right? Right. Okay.
Lex squeaked when a strong hand clasped her shoulder and squeezed. The brunette could feel the joint begin to displace itself as the grip tightened. She threw a mule kick into the vamp behind her feeling it connect with his body. The Hunter wrenched free of his hand and picked up her bag pulling out a loaded crossbow. Lex put her back to a tree and took stock of her attackers. Apparently she hadn't been as quiet as she thought. The occupants of the crypt had filtered into the cemetery. In all, seven vampires had formed a semi-circle around her. Lex had only the one crossbow shot, the others would be on her before she could load another.
No chance I'll outrun them all and there's no help around. Great. Lex squared her shoulders and accepted her fate.
"Okay you Anne Rice rejects," she said as she pulled the weapon into her shoulder and aimed the crossbow. "Come get some."
Lex pulled the trigger and the bolt flew silently through the air imbedding in the biggest vampire's chest, he screamed and disappeared in a puff of dust. Lex tossed the crossbow at her nearest opponent using his distraction to get in a roundhouse kick to his head. The vamp staggered back, had he been anything other than a supernatural creature of the night the blow likely would've broken his neck. Dead and strong as he was the kick did little more than piss him off.
Going into full battle mode Lex whipped two stakes from a hidden pocket in her coat. The girl blocked a series of punches barely escaping a kick that came from the side, she momentarily holstered one stake and took the leg of the vampire twisting around and snapping a sidekick into his nose.
The bloodsucker dropped to the ground clutching his face. Without wasting a second Lex shoved a stake through his chest knowing instinctively that her strike had hit the mark. The attacker that had come at her with the barrage of punches stepped toward her, fangs bared. Lex flung her weapon at him grinning ferally when he disintegrated into ashes.
Four left, one stake. Not good Lex.
The Hunter threw herself at the nearest vampire tackling him to the ground. Lex used her momentum to roll off his undead body and back up into a fighting stance. She delivered an axe kick to his shoulder snapping his collarbone. The vampire screeched in a painfully high pitch and Lex dropped to one knee and pushed the stake threw his heart. It was as much to stop the noise as anything else.
The Hunter cursed as she felt strong hands grab her by the collar of her coat and pull her forward. Before she could register what had happened, let alone defend, the vampire had lifted her off the ground and tossed her backward. Her body twisted in mid air and she hit a gravestone landing on her stomach before flipping over onto her shoulders. The Hunter struggled for breath, her landing had pushed all the air from her lungs and she was fairly certain she'd cracked a rib. Lex groaned as she forced herself to her feet.
Ugh, pretty, young woman killed in cemetery by unknown monsters. How cliché.
Oh, so now we're pretty are we?
Shut up I've got to concentrate.
Lex had heard once that talking to yourself was healthy but answering yourself meant you were insane. She'd thought on more than one occasion that she was pretty well off her rocker.
C'mon girl, back to work. You can go Freudian on yourself after this is over.
Lex waited for the vampires to approach her giving herself that much more time to recover. "Give up girl," one vampire suggested. The undead woman walked nearer giving Lex a perfect shot if she threw her stake. That leaves two with no weapons. Lex shook her head as much in answer to the vamp's suggestion as to her own internal debate. The woman shrugged as though it was of no consequence, which likely was, and moved towards her.
The three leeches pounced on her as one, the first caught her with an elbow to the face and the others landed kicks in her stomach. Lex groaned but refused to give in determined to take as many of the bloodsuckers with her as possible. She thrust her stake randomly into the melee of bodies justifiably surprised when one vampire dusted.
Lex punched the remaining woman in the jaw snapping her head back and the Hunter used her momentary vulnerability to dust her as well. Her last opponent backed up, his eyes wary. Lex held no illusions. Her initial battle lust was dying down and her injuries and exhaustion were beginning to overtake her adrenaline rush.
Run! Her mind commanded.
Flicking her eyes to her bag Lex jumped the nearest grave marker and sprinted to where the attack had begun. The vampire was on top of her in seconds but Lex was ready for him. She reached into her boot and pulled out the vial of holy water. She cracked the bottle against his temple spraying the contents over both of them, his skin sizzling as it came into contact with the liquid.
The vampire rolled off her covering his face and screaming in outrage. Lex slung her bag over her shoulder and dashed for the lighted streets. She made the opposite side of the road just as something sharp ripped through her shoulder. The Hunter dropped to the curb her eyes bulging as they met the arrowhead protruding from her left shoulder. She turned to see the vampire reloading her crossbow her quiver tucked under his arm.
Damn. I knew I was missing something besides my mind. The vampire stood in the street and took aim.
"Any last words little girl?" Lex looked to the side and smiled.
Lex limped to her apartment breathing in sharply as she jarred her shoulder. It was times like these when the girl was glad her Dhaskalos and her guardian were one and the same.
This would be a little hard to explain to my mother.
She stood in the outside lobby debating whether it was worth the effort to grab her keys. The Hunter moved her hand to her pocket stopping in mid motion as her damaged ribs screamed in protest. With a sigh the battered teen used her shoulder to push the intercom button. Athena's voice came through promptly her speech thick with her British accent.
"It's me," Lex said knowing she wouldn't need to elaborate.
"I was beginning to worry," her Dhaskalos said as she buzzed up her young charge.
Ha. Right, she sounds more angry than worried.
"Better get the medical kit out," Lex said before she pulled open the door. If her Dhaskalos had a reply to her comment she didn't hear it. Lex shrugged her good shoulder to better settle her backpack. Her crossbow was a total right off and at the speed that tour bus had been going she doubted there was enough left of the vampire to fill a pothole.
She'd left most of the bolt in her shoulder only breaking off the shaft in the front so it wouldn't catch on her coat as she walked. It was a good thing most people knew better than to wander the streets at night. Even in these days of violence a teenager walking around with an arrow sticking out her back might draw just a little attention.
"Look at what you've done to yourself," was Athena's greeting as Lex reached the open door of their shared apartment. "And your weapons?"
"I'm fine Athena, thanks for asking," Lex said her voice dripping with sarcasm. Her Dhaskalos shook her head in disdain as she motioned her charge in, quickly checking the hall to be sure no one had seen the wounded girl. The Hunter dropped her backpack unceremoniously onto the floor with a tired moan.
"You've ruined your jacket and I dare say the rest of you has seen better days."
"Tell me about it." Lex sat heavily on the kitchen table her Dhaskalos sighing as she caught sight of the quarrel. The woman moved around to Lex's back to get a better look at the bolt. The Hunter cringed as her Dhaskalos pressed along her back and sides, checking for broken bones.
"You're lucky you weren't using your heavy crossbow, one of those bolts would've bloody near taken your shoulder off."
"If you want to call being shot with my own weapon lucky," Lex retorted.
Athena grabbed firmly onto Lex's shoulder, it always surprised the Hunter how strong her Dhaskalos was given the small size of the woman. In training, her speed made her a formidable opponent and had the gods given her a few more inches of height she'd be damn near unstoppable.
"On my count," she declared. "One, two " Lex screamed as she felt the imperfections of the arrow slide through her flesh and her Dhaskalos dislodged the offending piece of wood.
"What happened to three?" The Hunter asked through clenched teeth, she could feel the wood of the table cracking and forced herself to release the white-knuckle grip. She shrugged out of her coat and tossed it onto the counter.
"Stop whining," her Dhaskalos said with a glare before taking a small suture kit from the cabinet. "I hope you don't have any nerve damage. Hold this," Athena commanded handing the Hunter the suture kit. "Make a fist." Lex did as she was told holding back a grimace as her hand tightened. "Resist," Athena pushed her arm down Lex offering as much resistance as she could. "It should be fine."
"Thanks to your loving care," Lex said smiling with false brightness. Athena turned her attention to tending to her charge, long ago hardened to Lexina's scathing remarks. She used the suture scissors to cut off the girl's shirt and set to work stitching.
"So, what happened?" The Dhaskalos asked long minutes later snipping the needle from the thread as she spoke. Lex flinched as Athena liberally poured disinfectant over the sutures.
"What do you think?" The teen asked sharply as she slid from the table and stalked into her room to find a new shirt.
"I think a spoiled, unprepared, irresponsible little girl decided to play Hunter." Athena stated from the kitchen her voice cool and detached. Lexina recognized the tone and instantly knew she was treading on thin ice.
"I was tracking one and I found a nest," Lex explained consciously imitating her Dhaskalos calm tone.
No point in escalating this, I don't have the energy to fight.
She pulled a t-shirt over her head trying to block out the pain as her ribs and stitches began to pulse. The Hunter walked into the kitchen to continue the conversation. "I knew I couldn't handle it so I tried to sneak away and got caught. I managed to dust most of them but "
"One used your crossbow," Athena finished not bothering to disguise her disgust at Lexina's foolishness. Lex sighed and nodded her head. She had no problem admitting her mistake, it had been stupid to leave her crossbow but she'd survived. Why couldn't Athena forget it and move on? "What have I told you? Never leave weapons like that lying around."
"I know!" Lexina snapped as her temper flared. What was Athena's problem? She'd shown once again her ability to take care of herself and she was getting reamed out for it. Determined to defend the remains of her tattered pride the brunette spoke. "I got caught in a bad situation and I had to make a break for it. I wasn't exactly overrun with options."
"You shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place!" Athena chastised allowing a tiny glimpse of her anger to show through her usually cool demeanour.
"Look, I'm sorry I'm not the perfect killing machine, okay? I'm 17 years old and I've seen things that would give Stephen King nightmares. I should be watching horror movies not living one!" With that Lexina picked up her bloodied jacket and stormed out of the apartment.
"Goddess help me," Athena muttered as the door slammed.
Lex sat in an empty corner of the bar, her back to the wall. She'd glowered at anyone who dared approach save for the waitress who had been bringing her drinks. She liked her beer sans saliva thank you very much. Said waitress approached her, a tray balanced easily on one hand. Lexina discretely eyed the young woman, her low cut jeans hung on lean legs and fell over grey sketchers. Her sleeveless shirt was equally well fitted ending just above a pierced belly button and Lexina had a thought. It had been awhile since she'd blown off some steam.
"Last call Gorgeous." Lex smiled at the waitress, she could still call upon her charm from the old days when the opportunity presented itself.
"Sure thing," Lexina watched her leave her eyes falling on a well shaped butt as she moved toward the bar. The Hunter didn't make a habit of frequenting bars, she found most of the drunken patrons distasteful. Athena had gotten her a fake ID that would pass any inspection, the Tribunal was handy that way.
The original purpose of the ID was so she could move in and out of bars getting information unmolested. Beyond that, her Dhaskalos didn't particularly care what she did with it. As far as Athena was concerned she could be getting lap dances in the sin district provided it didn't interfere with patrol.
The woman was on her way back to Lexina when she passed a table of, what Lex assumed, were college students. One of the men at the table grabbed the waitress by the forearm and swung her around and she fell into his lap. Lex narrowed her eyes and prepared to get up, the bartender had disappeared somewhere in the back. The Hunter flexed her shoulder testing to see if her arm was up to a workout. She was sporting a buzz from the booze but nothing close to what it would take for these idiots to put her down.
She stood up and approached the table. The waitress was struggling in the grip of the one who'd grabbed her screaming filthy abuse at him. Lex managed to hide a smirk at some of the epithets and mustered up her 'Hunter' look: the one that said she was about to kill something and that anyone she turned her eyes on was fair game.
The other men around the table stopped laughing as she pinned each with her gaze and she came up behind the man who held the waitress. Using her good hand she put it on his shoulder squeezing. She felt him tense under her grip and try to get up. The brunette easily held him down and leaned over so she could whisper into his ear.
"You'd like to keep your collarbone in one piece, yes?" The Hunter squeezed a little harder and the man nodded. "Let her go." He released his captive and she got up, distancing herself from the group. She looked quizzically at Lex who shrugged and wandered back to her table. She closed her eyes and sat back, this was certainly turning out to be one hell of a night. She looked up at the sound of the woman approaching, a smirk fixed firmly on the blonde's face.
"On the house," the woman placed the bottle on the table and Lex smiled again. She used her foot to push out the chair across the table keeping her smile in place. The waitress raised on eyebrow but sat down placing her tray to her left.
"I'm Lex," the Hunter stated reaching across the table.
"I'm Kim," the blonde shook her hand maintaining contact longer than normal.
"You seem to be having quite the night." Kim shrugged and sat back looking Lexina up and down.
"It was pretty mundane but I have a feeling it might get a little more interesting." She said giving the Hunter a heated look.
One Hell of a night "Indeed."
To Be Continued
Return to Xena and Gabrielle Fiction
Return to Main Page