"Garker's out." Rust said.
He and Janice had been sitting on the edge of a cathedral roof for about fifteen minutes now, in silence. Janice had been crouched, her eyes scanning the city while Rust had just been sitting with one leg over the edge and his other knee raised, his right forearm resting on it.
"He killed four people before leaving Edinburgh. Two children, a man and a woman." He was staring at the cars passing below them and drifting his mind back to when he'd fought the assassin. Clarrigan Garker was the most feared assassin for a reason. Not only could he get past every lock, ever defense mechanism and ever army in the world, he was one of the deadliest people in the world at hand to hand combat. He was fast enough to avoid a bullet and he could outrun even the best Olympic sprinter. He wasn't even a sorcerer, technically: he was able to snap a bone with as much effort as it would take a normal person to snap a little twig. The only reason Rust had managed to imprison him was because he himself had taken the assassin by surprise, something that had been more difficult than most people assumed. It had been a long and bloody battle, lasting several days but the end result had been Garker unconscious and already being bound by chains.
"You think he's coming to kill you?" Jane asked, breaking her silence. Rust scratched the back of his head.
"I don't know. He's an assassin and a professional one, at that. If he does come after me, it's because someone wants me dead. Probably wants us dead." Jane gave a small sigh.
"So, the boy's a Necromancer?" When Rust nodded, Jane continued. "I say we kill him. It's too risky having one of them around, no matter how inexperienced. Glacier barely had ten years' training and he was still on his way to slaughtering the entire human population."
"Glacier was... Exceptional." The older man chose his words carefully. "He found out how to be the most powerful sorcerer on the planet and he was determined not to let anyone else get that power."
"And you didn't feel the urge to take the power of the Shadow Ruby?" Janice asked.
"The Shadow Ruby is a Necromantic source. I couldn't use it even if I wanted to, only a Necromancer can wield it."
"But you've never once hoped you could be that powerful?"
Rust didn't reply at first and stayed silent for a full minute.
"I don't trust Necromancers because they're easily corrupted." He said quietly. "Their power is the strongest but most terrible to gain. Even so, it's still the easiest to obtain. Kill someone and you can become more powerful, it's that simple. Anyone could succumb to that temptation. That's why we have to make sure this kid doesn't find out just how powerful he can be. As long he believes he has limitations, he won't be a threat."
"But now do we know that? By now, Sarper has probably already told him how Necromancy works."
"Because he's a child. He doesn't have the heart to murder." Rust turned to Jane. "You're going to have to train him."
At this, Jane's eyes widened.
"No... No, no! I'm not going to train the little brat! You already got me to call Sub to get the kid clothes, I'm not going to teach him!"
"You're the only one who's a good enough teacher."
"I don't care! You train him, if you love him so much!"
"Janice, you know how much it can help to have a Necromancer on our side!" Rust barked. "You know as well as I do that something big is coming. If Jeremy is concerned about the Ruby, that's reason enough to have all the help we can get." Jane grumbled like an upset teenager before mumbling a confirmation. "Alright, then. Now we need to figure out where Garker is. He was last seen half an hour ago so he's probably halfway here by now. We'd better make sure to greet him. We can't have him killing any innocents before us and we both know how he disdains human life." Jane nodded and stood up.
"So now we have a sadistic torturer and an unstoppable killer after us. Who'd have the connections to hire both of them? And who would be able to break Garker's bonds?"
"I have an idea but I hope to whatever God is listening that I'm wrong." Rust replied before he turned and made his way to the ladder leading down the building.
The city of Aberdeen was an old city. The oil capital of Britain, it had a lot of rather beautiful architecture and had an apt nickname of the Granite City.
Of course, none of this mattered to an assassin.
Clarrigan Garker stepped past the welcome sign and into the city and as soon as he did, he felt it. Almost lazily, he raised a leg as a blade swung to slice it. Then, faster than the eye could see, he smashed his foot down onto the blade, shattering it. Garker was wearing a very dark suit, made with the darkest fabrics. The suit included a shirt, tie, blazer, trousers and shows and all of them fit Garker's tall, lanky frame perfectly. He turned to avoid another blade which pierced the air where his head had been and quick as a snake, his hand came up and grabbed whatever had been attacking him. His senses were always heightened when he touched something. He now knew that his assailant was female, she appeared young but was far older than her face let on. She was a sorcerer. Garker paused for a moment before his arm snapped out, throwing the girl away and smashing her into a nearby wall. He then twisted his body, bending it sideways as a heavy fist flashed with the intent to hit his spine. He reached out and his hand closed around thin air.Garker's eyebrows twitched downward.
Garker turned and faced his old foe, silent as always and not moving a single muscle. The shorter man looked up at the assassin, trying to predict his mvements. Rust contemplated scenarios and plans in his head, trying to gauge how the fight would turn. After a few seconds of quick thinking, Rust ran forward and jumped, aiming a punch at the stitched head of Garker. The assassin responded by tilting his head slightly to avoid the punch and his knee snapped upwards, catching Rust's ribs and snapping several of them. The man was launched into the air , roaring in pain on the way up and Garker stared straight ahead, seemingly oblivious before his fist snapped forward, connecting with Rust's back and slamming him hard into the welcome sign.
Suddenly, Garker staggered, feeling something hit the back of his shoulder. He turned around to see who'd hit him but there was nothing there. As if to prove him wrong, however, something else hit him in the chest, where his heart was. Whatever it was pierced his heart but it had ceased to beat centuries ago. He looked straight ahead and felt something else hit his thigh. Knowing he had no idea what was going on, Garker suddenly turned and began sprinting out of Aberdeen, out of sight within seconds. He couldn't afford to have his body damaged too much. Especially so close to his quarry.
Janice let go of the concrete knife in her hand and tried to steady her breathing as it crumbled and turned to gravel before hitting the ground. She pushed herself to her feet, visually grimacing and groaning as she held her ribs. One hand on the wall, she made her way to Rust's unconscious body a second before someone suddenly appeared over him. The figure very carefuly rolled Rust onto his back and began performing basic medical checks, making sure he was still alive.
"Is there anyone else who's going to be fighting alongside you?" Doctor Cutthroat asked with a very serious tone to his voice. "If so, give me their names so I can put them at the top of my patient list."
"Ah, welcome back!" Jeremy Serper smiled widely as Rust flicked the small spike away from him. When Jeremy saw the look in Rust's eyes and how he was hobbling, hand on his ribs his smile dropped. "Oh... I'd forgotten." With a sigh, he gestured them in.
"Where was Garker last seen?" Janice asked, still as cold as ever.
"According to my calls, he was last seen in Stonehaven. I don't know who he's killed but I suggest stopping him as soon as possible. If he's left alone for too long, he'll end up cutting a path of death towards you two."
"We tried to stop him!" Jane snapped. "We tried and he flattened us! It was only because I took the lanky bastard by surprise that we-" Jeremy suddenly laughed.
"You're good, Janice but you're not that good! Nobody can take Clarrigan Garker by surprise. Rust did it once but that was sheer luck. The creature can see anyone coming from meters away and he doesn't need eyes to do it." Jane grumbled grumpily before sitting down on the couch, crossing her arms and hunching her shoulders. Jeremy turned to Rust. "So... He's really back?" His voice was lined with worry and a little bit of fear. Rust nodded.
"I don't know who freed him," He started. "But I have a sneaking suspicion it's the same person who bought Jared Hedge. Just seems too obvious, doesn't it? Freelance torturer is back in action, then the deadliest assassin in the world is freed from what we'd hoped was an unbreakable prison. Have you heard anything about Glacier? No hints of him returning?" Jeremy shook his head slowly.
"None. As far as my contacts are concerned, he's as dead as he's ever going to be. If he is back, though, and he has the Shadow Ruby..." He sighed. "We're going to be in trouble if we don't end him quickly." Rust nodded before running a hand over his head.
"What about the boy? Have you found his talent?"
"We have." Jeremy nodded. "It seems he has the ability to manipulate the shadows. I almost laughed when I found out that was it and he wasn't able to do anything related to corpses."
"So, should I take him to Adam?"
"I think that might be a good idea. Just be careful, though... We don't want that guy thinking we're working on giving him an army."
"We won't." Rust replied. "Adam is trustworthy, you have my word." Jeremy just sighed in response.
"I'll be right back with the boy." He said before walking out of the living room.
"I still think we should just kill Cockroach." Jane murmered. "It's not like he's going to be very useful..."
"Jane, think about it. If Glacier is back, we just have to get the Shadow Ruby from him and if he's still too powerful, we'll have a Necromancer to wield the Ruby. If the kid ends up being corrupted by the power, we'll kill him. It's that simple."
"But if we get the Ruby out of Glacier's grasp, that'll be enough, won't it? We can just destroy it and that's it all over with. Right?"
"It's not that simple. For starters, the Ruby is a purely Necromantic item. If anyone else other than a Necromancer touched it, it would drive them insane and kill them. Even an untrained Necromancer might go insane from all the spirits trapped in the Ruby, which is why we have to make sure the boy is trained before we try and fight Glacier."
"But what if we have to fight him sooner than later?" Jane asked. "What if he walked in right now?"
"Then we'd be dead already." Rust replied. "Besides, Glacier is a leader. He'll send his soldiers in first to weaken us, then pick up the scraps. The man doesn't have honour but he is clever." When Rust had finished, Jeremy and Derek walked into the room. Jane glared at Derek for a second and was inwardly satisfied by the cringe he showed.
"The bad news is that Glacier's soldiers are half as powerful as him." Jeremy said. "And that's still enough to warrant caution. It would be suicide to try and fight Hedge or Garker alone. And what's more, I've heard that Jester has come out of hiding." Jane's eyes narrowed and her jaw clenched obviously.
"What's that madman back for?"
"Nobody knows." Jeremy shrugged. "But if I were you, I'd see anyone who might know what he's back for."
"We don't need to ask around, the lunatic doesn't need a motive!" Janice snarled. "He'll just pop up, kill a few people and probably go back under whatever rock he crawled from!"
"There's more to it." Rust said. "He hasn't killed yet, has he?"
"That's right." Jeremy confirmed with a nod. "Apparently, he's been around for a few days but there's been no reports of any murders or deaths aside from what Garker's done."
"You think Glacier's hired him too?" Rust asked.
"It's possible. But what's Glacier even waiting for? He's already got the interrogator, he's got the assassin... He doesn't even need either of those. As long as he has the Shadow Ruby, he could kill anyone who tries to stop him." As soon as he stopped talking, Jeremy's eyes widened and a lightbulb was flicked in his head. Rust nodded.
"He doesn't have the Ruby." Rust stated. "He's come back and is likely very powerful but he doesn't have the unstoppable source of power he needs to make his name heard."
"So that means we have a chance! All we need is to find the Ruby and we've won! Hurry up, get to Barry Lore! He's the expert in everything surrounding Glacier, he'll know where the Ruby is!" Jeremy began bustling about, a wide smile on his face and a spring in his step. He couldn't stop laughing. "I still have his address, he's sure to know where it is!"Derek just stood in the living room doorway, practically baffled by what was happening.
"We don't know each other very well." Derek stated. Rust and Jeremy were in the other room, talking to Barry Lore over the phone and trying to get information. Derek and Jane were sitting on the opposite ends of the couch.
"We don't." The girl replied flatly, not giving a hint she'd elaborate so Derek did it instead.
"Do you slap every guy you meet for the first time?" He asked. "Or do you just take a particular shine to me?"
"Stop talking around me or I'll rip your intestines out and strangle you with them."
"Why not get to know me? I think I can be a very likeable guy, I really don't know why-"
"Do you think this is a video game!?" She suddenly snapped, turning to glare at him. "Do you think this is some game where you can just respawn if you die? It's not, okay? If you get killed in this world, there's no coming back! You get killed and that's it, poof, end of story! You'll likely join the other poor spirits in the Ruby and I pity them for that. Shouldn't you be worrying about homework or acne or something?" Derek took a minute to think of his words before talking.
"I know this isn't a game, I just think some optimism helps every now and then. To be honest, I'm kind of glad I'm with you two. It's exciting. Before yesterday, the most entertaining thing to happen to me was..." He paused. "Actually, I don't think anything exciting did happen to me. I woke up, made myself breakfast, went to school, came home, did homework, played some games, go to sleep and repeat. It was boring and absolutely nothing happened."
"So what, you'd rather get torn to shreds because you were bored?"
"No, I don't plan on getting torn to shreds." He sighed. "I know you hate me even more now than you did because I'm a Necromancer but I'm not going to go on a killing spree. Hell, I can barely stand on a bug because I don't want to hurt it, even though I hate bugs."
"So you're a coward." A smirk appeared on Jane's face. It was the closest thing to a smile he'd seen her do since meeting her. "You're no used to us."
"You know what? Yes, I'm a coward. I'm terrified of what I've seen these last few days. I'm scared to death of vampires, this Glacier guy and whoever he's got... I'm absolutely terrified, okay? But with some practice, I could probably learn to fight." Derek continued. "I want to help, I really do. I don't want to be the useless one who slows you down and is only good for bait."
"You're already slowing us down. You're always going to be useless and you're not going to be good for anything except being a nuisance!" Janice growled. "You can't fight, you only just found out about magic yesterday and you probably couldn't run five meters without being out of breath! All you'll be good for it slowing down any vampires who decide to eat you while Rust and I get away!" There was a minute of silence in the room, interrupted only by the loud ticking of the clock on the wall.
"How did you get into this?" Derek asked quietly. The question was met with an annoyed glare from Jane.
"I told you not to talk around me."
"I'm just curious."
"Curiosity killed the cat."
"Not if you count Schrödinger's cat." Jane made what sounded like a dog's growl before speaking.
"I was out with my brother. It was my eighteenth birthday and we were going to see a movie, I think it was Frankenstein. The cinema was packed with people, it was the first night the movie was being shown. Right when Frankenstein came up from the table, people in the audience started screaming." Jane's features seemed to soften ever so slightly, it was barely noticable. "My brother told me to stay still and he went down to see what was going on. He was always a fighter, my brother. Always defended the geeks getting bullied in school.
"The lights came on a few minutes later and it was a bloodbath. Corpses were everywhere and a vampire was chewing on the spine of my brother. When it saw me, it just jumped at me. I didn't move." She took a breath and cleared her throat. "Then Rust jumped from behind me, the projector box. He fought the vampire and tore its head off. After that, I just sort of followed him and he decided to teach me magic." Jane finished speaking and her face still had the scowl, however it was still a little bit softer. After a few seconds it hardened again and she looked at Derek with those ice cold eyes. "There. Happy?"
"When you say Frankenstein movie..." Derek started. "... Do you mean one of the remakes? Like the recent ones?"
"No, I mean the original one. It was nineteen thirty-one."
"Seriously!?" Derek's mouth dropped. He knew she was older than him but eighty four years? "How can you be that old? You don't look any older than nineteen or twenty!" A small smirk appeared on her face.
"Magic pretty much makes you immortal. Once you reach a certain age, your body just stops aging. Nobody knows why it happens, it just does."
"Well... You look good for an eighty year old." Derek said with a small smile. The smirk on Jane's face, however, vanished.
"Try and chat me up again and I'll rip your tongue out." She said coldly. "Just because you know I had a brother doesn't mean we're friends. We're not friends. We never will be friends."
"What if we were more than friends?" Derek winked obscurely and was rewarded with a swift kick to the gut which left him doubled over and trying not to throw up.
Note to self: don't try to chat up girls, it's hopeless. He thought to himself before pushing himself back onto the couch. Once he was comfortable again, Jeremy and Rust stepped through.
"We don't know where the Ruby is." Rust said. "But Lore may have notes on it somewhere. We're going to have to go over and help him."
"We'll be dropping you off with a couple called Allison and Adam Shadow." Jeremy said to Derek. "They'll be able to teach you the basics of Necromancy and maybe help you with controlling your shadows." Derek nodded before standing up with Jane, who seemed to be back to ignoring him. He followed her and Rust outside, Jeremy staying inside and picking up his phone again.
The ride to the Shadow household was a quiet and uneventful ride, with Derek trying to learn how to use his magic. For now, all he'd managed to do was shrink and enlarge shadows and even just that made him very tired and weary. He decided to just leave the magic until they got to Allison's house. He had no idea what to expect, though. A Necromancer's home? He half expected it to be a ramshackle hut in the middle of a graveyard or something.
Suddenly, the large 4x4 car jerked and something thumped hard against the roof. Rust cursed and Jane unbuckled her seatbelt.
"Garker's here." Rust growled before braking hard and turning, causing the car to flip over once, twice, three times. All the while, Jeremy heard thumping all around the car, almost like a giant spider scuttling around the exterior to stay away from the ground. The car landed on its wheels and both Rust and Jane stepped out. She scraped her hand along the ground as she did and came up with four small daggers. Derek, on the other hand, was locked in. His door had buckled from the roll and wouldn't budge. On the other side of the car, he saw a pair of legs step down from the roof. At least, he thought they were legs. They more resembled two twigs, like a spider had learned to walk on two legs. He didn't see their assailant's face or even his waist, however he knew he was tall from the simple fact that the car window only showed his knee and lower thigh.
Rust snarled before jumping, leaping farther than any normal human and swinging a punch at Garker, who again dodged. This time, he reached out with his left hand and wrapped his skinny, unnaturally cold fingers around Rust's chest. The man grunted and tried punching his way out of Garker's grip to no avail. Garker was tightening his fingers before something his his forearm. It jerked him like the last time he'd fought Rust and he let him go. With a slightly annoyed rumble in his throat, the tall assassin turned to the second source of life: Janice. He took a single step towards her and it took him directly in front of her. When she raised her hand, he assumed to punch, he twisted his body slightly to avoid the punch and responded with a kick, catching Jane in the stomach and sending her crashing against a tree.
Suddenly, Garker felt something latch onto his coat from behind and cling tight. He reached over his shoulder but Rust was already gone and stamped his boot onto the back of Garker's shin. He heard a satisfying snap and Garker went down to one knee.
"Looks like all those years of captivity slowed you down, bony." Rust spat on the ground and swung a punch. He caught nothing but air, however and suddenly felt a fist against his bruised ribs again. He roared in pain as he flew through the air and came to an abrupt stop thanks to the jeep, which hit his other ribs and he groaned on the ground. Garker sensed the life around him. Two of them were on the ground, doubled over in pain. There was one more, however... Far younger than the other two, a child. He made his way to the car and took hold of the roof, peeling it back with ease. The metal screeched and crumpled under his grip and his stitched face looked down at Derek, who was staring wide-eyed and frozen in fear. The assassin leaned down to get a better sense of this new life force.
The brow of Garker furrowed ever so slightly before he reached forward with those long fingers, intent on crushing the skull of this sorcerer. A Necromancer was far too risky to have around, especially for someone who was already dead.
Derek acted on instinct. His hand raised and he went to bat Garker's hand away. As his own hand moved, Derek barely noticed Garker's own shadow darkening until it became a solid thing. It raised up from under the monster and, as if in sync with Derek's hand, swiped at Garker, hitting hard and slamming the creature hard into a nearby tree. Derek simply stayed where he was, curled up and staring straight at the sky, where Garker had once been, his breathing fast and heavy. His heart was slamming into his ribcage harder than a kangaroo's punch.
Derek blinked a few times, his breathing still fast and heavy. He could barely remember what had happened. He remembered something leaning over him, something more terrifying than any monster from a movie or game and then it had been gone. His head snapped to the left, where he'd seen it fly off but there was nothing there. Just a tree that had fallen over. After a full minute of his mind catching up to what just transpired, Derek blinked and remembered Rust and Jane. He struggled with the seatbelt for a few seconds before clicking it out and jumped out of what remained of the jeep. He quickly hurried over to Rust, who was unconscious and had a rather large swell on the side of his head. He then went to Janice, who was still awake.
"Don't even think of trying CPR." She growled as she pushed herself to her knees.
"Don't worry, I learned my lesson the last time I tried waking you up..." He muttered back. "Rust is unconscious. What the hell was that thing?"
"That was Clarrigan Garker." Jane grimaced as she stood up, a hand on her stomach. "He's an assassin. The best asasassin. He'd been locked up until a few days ago. Someone freed him."
"Who freed him?"
"I don't know! Stop asking stupid questions and get Rust's phone from his pocket!"
Derek did as he was told and looked through the man's coat. He found the phone in the third pocket he tried and handed it to Jane, who quckly dialed a number.
"Garker again." She said after a second. "Rust is unconscious, can you get away?"
As soon as she said that, there was a slight breeze from behind Derek and he turned to find Doctor Cutthroat kneeling over Rust.
"I'll have to take him back to the hospital," He muttered, rolling the big man onto his side and checking his eyes, mouth, pulse and also pressing a finger to the large lump on his head. "You're on your way to Allison's place?" He asked. Jane nodded.
"Cockroach is a Necromancer. According to Sarper, we're going to need all the power we can get."
"That man's as wise as he is old." The doctor said and stood up straight before turning to Derek with a smile. "Try and avoid Garker, kid. You might be a Necromancer but he's been dead for far longer than your grandparents have been around." With that, he turned and resumed doing medical checks on Rust. A second later, they both vanished.
Janice began walking in the direction they'd been driving before being interrupted.
"Hurry up." She called back. "The sooner we get to Shadow's, the better."
Derek hurried to catch up. "Who are Allison and Adam Shadow?" He asked. "I thought you couldn't trust Necromancers."
"We can't." Jane replied. "And we're not going to trust them. You'll be spending one day there to learn the fundementals of Necromancy, then we're going to Lore's. We'll probably have to hitchhike." She didn't slow her pace as she walked and spoke, her eyes trained straight ahead.
"Will you be staying with me?" Derek asked.
"I'll have to." She replied through obviously gritted teeth. "I'm going to have to babysit you for now, otherwise Jack Skellington is likely to come back."
"But why don't you just leave me?" He asked. "You don't like me, this is the perfect time to just go off on your own and leave me to die."
"I can't leave you alone..."
"Because..." Janice stopped talking for a second, as if thinking. "... I'm... Starting to like you..." For some reason, the statement sounded far faker than it would have due to the fact that Jane was talking as if her jaw was being forcibly held shut. Derek started to object but was cut short.
"Just shut up!" She growled. "No. Keep it shut. Don't even make a single sound or I swear, I will kill you without a second thought! And if you dare tell anyone I said I was liking you, I'll make you wish you were back with Hedge!"
Derek felt himself smile slightly. He made a mental note that Jane admitted she liked him. He could probably use that against her if she ever got at least a little less hostile.