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Chapter 8

Clarrigan Garker was standing in the corner of the room, his shoulders hunched to fit into the tall room and his fingers stretched. His hands stopped at his knees yet his fingers carried on to the middle of his shin. He was as silent as ever and his face was directed at the opposite corner. The room itself was a large room, with a long table surrounded by four chairs. Three of them were occupied with one being reserved for Garker, who just stayed standing. It was a dimly lit room with a single light bulb above the table. The walls were a plain dark grey colour and the floor had varnished oak floorboards. The table itself was made of the same dark oak and was elaborately carved. The chairs were very soft and tall backed. There was a fireplace in the wall opposite the door, crackling quietly with a small flame slowly burning the logs to ash. The fireplace itself was made of polished marble and was carved in the design of two dragons breathing fire at each other.
“Thank you for attending, gentlemen.” The figure nearest the door said, breaking the silence. He was a tall man, nearly seven foot tall and was very muscular. His face, however, was hidden in the shadow of a hood. The only part of his face that could be seen was the large, bushy beard. “You may be wondering why you’ve all been hired by me. I’m sure you each had your motives for accepting. To cause chaos, perform experiments or simply just because it’s in your nature. What matters is why I brought you all together.
“A new day is dawning. A day where we sorcerers will rise above the squabble of mankind and assert our rightful place upon a throne carved from the bones of the world’s leaders. For too long we’ve been hiding in the shadows, lurking in fear of the humans and their foolishness. All we need is a single man, one person and our destiny will be assured!”
“Karl Glacier is dead, senor.” Jared Hedge pointed out. “He’s been missing for centuries.”
“We do not need Karl Glacier.” The bearded man said. “He was an exceptional mage, of course. However, the only thing we need is the source of his power. The Shadow Ruby.” With that, the man took a large box from under the table. It was a box carved from stone, a very plain box. It looked like a large brick with a seam near the top. The man opened box, taking the lid off and revealing a black silk cushion. On the cushion rested a single ring. The ring was a rather unremarkable thing; a band of white gold, polished to a shine and with a single, small ruby inlaid in it. The ruby itself seemed to make the room grow darker and it was almost as if the darkness of the cushion upon which it rested became blacker than black.
“The Shadow Ruby, gentlemen.” The man said with a smile. “A single Necromancer is all it takes to wield it. And we have a perfect candidate.” He pulled a photograph from his coat pocket and laid it next to the box, which he closed. “Derek Monroe. He’s been seen in the company of Rust Lycan and Janice Thorne. The boy is young, inexperienced and of course, prone to new ideas.”
“Why should the child help us?” Hedge asked. “And how do we know that’s the Shadow Ruby? From what I've heard, the Ruby itself has a mind of its own.”
“That it does, my friend.” The man replied. “However, the Ruby is dormant. What it required is the blood of a Necromancer. Whoever’s blood is soaked into the gem shall be the one to control it.”
“The child is protected!” Jester was doing a handstand on his chair, effortlessly holding his body upside down in the air while gripping the armrests. “His mummy and daddy would let no harm come to him, oh no!”
“Rust Lycan has been incapacitated thanks to Garker.” The man responded. “In an hour, you will go and acquire Rust. Bring him back here and prepare him for Mr Hedge’s experiments.”
The Spaniard nodded and the Jester did a small flip before landing in a crouch on the chair.
“Mr Garker, the girl and the boy were last seen outside the apartment of Barry Lore. The chances are that they’ll have left there already. Your job is to intercept them on the way to their hospital facility.”
Garker just stood still, like a statue, and stared straight ahead.
“We must get Rust back here alive.” The man stated. “He’s no use to us dead.”
“Heart thumping, blood pumping, growling and screaming like a little puppy!” Jester laughed and fell off his chair.
“Get back here by this time tomorrow. I’ll want to ask him a few questions.” The bearded man stood and walked out of the room, his raising his hood. Hedge, Jester and Garker were left in the room alone until the former two made their way out of the room, Jester muttering nonsensical ramblings. Garker, on the other hand, simply stayed in the corner. He stood there for two hours, unmoving and easily mistakable for some form of modern art. Finally, he walked out of the room and leapt through the window on the other side of the corridor.

“You’d do better to avoid that assassin.” Doctor Cutthroat said as he finished rubbing the sickly green paste onto Rust’s ribs. He washed his hands thoroughly and then got a different paste, this one a pale yellow colour, and began applying it to Rust’s jaw.
“It’s not like I have a choice.” Rust mumbled, trying to keep his broken jaw as still as possible. His head was throbbing with a dull but sore pain.
“Of course you have a choice.” Cutthroat replied. The doctor had a rather unfitting name but his bedside manner had always been as impeccable as his stitchwork. “You can simply run away. Or better, travel in populated areas.”
“You can’t run from Garker, he’d catch up in seconds.”
“Then go for populated areas. The thing’s an assassin, what good is an assassin if everyone knows your face?”
“Good point.” Rust sighed through his nose. “I just don’t like running. I beat the bastard once, I can do it again.”
“You only beat him because of the weeks of planning you had, not to mention that medication you took for it.” Cutthroat finished with his jaw and again washed his hands. “Try not to talk too much or get hit in the ribs for the next hour.” He said.
“So you’re saying I should just sit back and let Jane and the kid get killed? The boy might be the closest thing to a trustworthy Necromancer we’ve had, we need him to get the Ruby.”
“Either way, it might be a good idea to lay low for at least a day or two.” Cutthroat smiled. “Why not go on holiday? I hear that Australia is lovely this time of year.”
“I’m not taking a break, Doctor.” Rust stood up, visually and audibly wincing as he felt his ribs protest. “I’m not going to let Glacier get that Ruby.”
“Then you should at least wai-“

There was the sound of shattering glass, followed by a few bangs and clatters of metal falling to the ground. A woman screamed in fear. The scream was cut short after a second. As Rust and Cutthroat listened, they heard some soft, squelching footfalls. Cutthroat grabbed a scalpel from the table and Rust took the small crossbow from his coat pocket, raising it and aiming at the door. A few seconds passed with the only sound being the footsteps drawing closer to the door. Eventually, the source of them came into view and stopped in the doorway.
Jester was standing there, blood-stained spines in each hand and twirling them like circus batons. His mask was as eerie as ever, the smile marred by a slight splatter of blood.
“Kicking and screaming, punching and roaring, oh how you would love to do those!” The short man laughed and tossed the spines behind his shoulders to clatter against the wall. “And the good doctor, whose work will be undone like a simple sailor’s knot!” Suddenly, both Cutthroat and Rust were flung backwards and collided with the counter. Rust roared in pain as his ribs his the hard edge of the counter, snapping them.
“Time for another little dance! Come alone, lovebirds, come hop into my pie and be burned alive!” Jester laughed maniacally and leapt, the laughter not stopping for a second.

“Don’t you have parents?” Janice asked. She and Derek were standing at a bus stop, sitting on the extremely uncomfortable bench and waiting for a bus to take them to the hospital. Jane’s question took Derek by surprise.
“Parents? I don’t know, I never knew them. I know I was adopted when I was a baby, maybe I was a mistake. I was probably a mistake.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me.” She replied. “If you hadn’t been born, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.”
“But wouldn’t Karl Glacier return anyway?”
“He definitely would. I just wouldn’t have to babysit a useless child.”
“I’m not all useless!”
“Yes you are.” She replied. “You can’t fight, you can’t use your magic unless you’re surrounded by corpses and you’re the one who let yourself get roped into this mess.”
“I didn’t want to be part of this!”
“You said it yourself, your life is boring. This is a big adventure for you, something exciting and new!” Jane sneered. “Just a naïve little boy.”
“Yes, I used to think of this as an adventure.” Derek replied. “That was before I met that Gherkin thing, whatever its name is, and learned that some old tyrant is coming to slaughter the human race!”
“So that’s what it took for you to find your senses? It wasn’t the vampire clawing holes in you or the fact that I actually, sincerely wanted to kill you before letting you in this world!?”
“And why would you want me to not be in this world? Because you’re starting to like me?”
“I’ve told you before, I hate you!” She snapped. “You’re worthless, useless and brainless!”
“Then why are you keeping me alive?” Derek asked. “Is it because you want me to be a punch bag? A sack of meat to toss to the monsters when they’re chasing you? Someone pathetic to make you feel better about yourself?”
“You shut your face before I shatter it!” Jane snarled, pure and unbridled hatred in her voice.
“And what’re you going to do!? Slap me again? Tear my heart out of my chest and make me eat it? Cut my head off and toss it under the wheel of the bus?” Derek’s heart was pounding in his chest but he didn’t stop. His mind was a haze and he was feeling more confident than ever, despite the fact that he barely heard what he was saying. “Then why haven’t you killed me yet? Look at you, you’re the perfect killing machine! Nobody would suspect an innocent looking young lady to have it in her to slice someone’s head off without batting an eye! Was it seeing your brother get killed that made you the stone-hearted witch you are now? Was it-“
“Say one more word and it’ll be your last.” Janice said quietly. Her eyes were burning holes through Derek’s soul and her voice was completely void of all emotion. Her fists were clenched and right then, it looked like she could slaughter a whole city of people in the blink of an eye. Derek blinked a few times and stumbled back, his words catching up to him in his mind.
“Janice, I…” He started but stopped. Jane didn’t say a word. He expected her to just reach out and snap his neck and at that moment, Derek wouldn’t have stopped her. He was surprised at himself for that sudden outburst. He’d never insulted anyone like that before. When he’d spoken, he’d felt like he could easily stand against Janice. He'd felt as if he was stronger than her in every way… Like she was nothing. Not worth his fear, his sympathy or his kindness.

As if she was a nobody.

Without a word, Jane turned and began walking, her feet moving slowly as the rain began to pour. Derek just watched her walk until she rounded the corner out of sight. He stood there for a few seconds before slowly sitting down on the metal bench and putting his head in his hands. He shook his head and groaned.

Clarrigan Garker was crouched on a rooftop, watching the boy and the girl converse across the street. His sewn eyes, as always, were staring directly ahead and he simply kept a tab on the couple’s presences. The boy seemed to get getting angrier, however his anger was being dwarfed by the rage building in the girl. Then something that made Garker tilt his head ever so slightly…. A spark from the boy. It was a magical spark, as if something had pushed against something within him. Like something trying to get out… As soon as it happened, however, it disappeared and Garker felt the girl walk away from the boy, her anger burning brighter than a sun. When she rounded the corner, Garker crept along the roofs silently, quieter than a stalking cat. He gently jumped over the gap over the road and followed the girl from a few meters behind. He didn’t strike yet.

To kill somebody discreetly, you had to take in different factors. Was your target in a secluded area? Was there a chance of someone seeing the kill? Is your target likely to run or fight? If they fight, how good are they and what would be the best way to approach them? If they ran, how fast are they and how far can they go? If the girl decided to run, Garker would have no problem taking a single step to overtake her. However, from previous encounters, he knew she would fight. He also knew that she had projectile weapons, so staying close to her would be a must. A simple touch is all it would take for him to kill her. Or to start killing her, at least. Touch one arm and she’ll lose that arm. Even better, touch her head and her skull would cave in like a ball of paper.

All that remained was waiting until nobody would see them and killing her fast enough.

The girl turned the next corner and was walking alongside a plain brick wall. There were no windows on either side of the road and Garker struck.
First, he jumped down from the roof and landed silently in a half crouch before he stepped across the road and stopped behind the girl. He felt her anger begin to fade away and be replaced with a sadness. He heard a slight sob from her and the girl stopped. She turned and leaned against the wall, not seeing the tall, lanky figure beside her yet as her eyes were closed. She was silently crying, her hair let loose from its normally tight ponytail and hiding her face. If anyone else had been sent to kill the girl, they would have hesitated and probably not killed her.
Of course, Clarrigan Garker was not just an assassin. He was a walking corpse and any emotion he he’d once had, had faded away decades ago. Instead, his hand simply altered its course to continue towards her head. A single touch, just the lightest tap of her head is all it would take…

Garker stopped. He turned and flattened himself against the wall as a bus rumbled past, the lights from inside barely illuminating him through the windows and rain. The bus stopped at the traffic lights ahead and Garker moved his hand towards the girl again, continuing with his plan. The rear window of the bus was blocked off by some advertisement for a new movie, meaning there were no witnesses. Nobody to stop Garker from fulfilling one part of his contract.
His index finger was a hair’s breadth from the girl’s head before something collided with his chest, sending him through the air and slamming him into the ground several meters away. The girl’s head snapped up and looked over at Garker, who was lying on the ground. The assassin instantly rose up again, pushing his hands behind him and keeping his legs straight as he pushed himself back to his feet. His hands and arms had stayed in the same position on the ground and he turned them nearly two full circles to click them back into place again. He tilted his head and felt another presence, standing several meters past the girl. It was the boy, the one who’d been yelling at the girl.

“Stay away from the old lady.” His voice carried over the air and for the first time in a long time, Garker understood the words that were said.

Derek stayed sat on the bench for a few seconds before the bus arrived. He put a few coins in the pay slot and took his ticket before walked a little onto the near empty bus and sat beside a window. He leaned his head against it silently. Jane had been right. He was useless. He couldn’t even feel any power now, let alone use his magic. He couldn’t fight, he wasn’t exactly in the best shape ever and the only way he’d be guaranteed to have magic at all times was to be a killer and he knew he didn’t have it in him to even hurt someone, let alone kill them.
The bus rounded a corner and Derek’s forehead pressed harder against the window before settling again. Maybe Jeremy Sarper would know what to do. He was a clever man. Or maybe he should go back to Adam and Allison Shadow. He was sure that if he let Allison know he wasn't--

Suddenly, Derek felt a spike of coldness in his stomach and he sat up slightly, looking out the window. It’d been a spike of magic. Necromantic magic. Had someone died? The colour drained from his face when he remembered the direction Jane had went. Was she dead? The bus stopped at the end of the road and Derek quickly stood and rushed to the front of the bus.
“Sorry,” He said quickly to the annoyed looking driver. “I just remembered I, uh… I left my… Bag at my, uh… At my…” His mind raced quickly, trying to think of something. “Girlfriend’s! I left my bag at my girlfriend’s!”
The driver rolled his eyes and grumbled something about kids before sliding the doors open. Derek rushed out of them and saw someone leaning against the wall further down the street. He ran and instantly noticed the stark white hair. He was already drenched from the rain when he saw someong else… Someone—no, wait. Something leaning over Jane, a hand drawing slowly closer to her head. The closer he got to them, the stronger the fire in his stomach burned and Derek swiped a hand as he skidded to a halt, causing a broad pillar of solid shadow to rise from the ground and hit Clarrigan Garker square in the chest, taking him by surprise. As Garker got further away, Derek felt the power get more faint so he slammed the pillar into the ground before letting is dissipate into the shadows of the ground.

He saw Garker rise from the ground like a puppet but Derek just swallowed his fear this time, putting on a brave face.

“Stay away from the old lady.” He snarled as the shadows from the ground started to grow upwards. They were simply wisps, small tendrils of shadow but Derek couldn’t help it. He felt like he had when he was shouting at Jane, almost like an out of body experience. He was scared—terrified—but he didn’t let it show. He was oblivious to Jane looking at him with reddened eyes, a slight hint of fear in her eyes but mostly anger and hatred.
Suddenly, Garker leapt, easily clearing the brick wall beside them and came down directly above Derek. Derek stepped back and his hand flicked at his side. One of the wispy tendrils at his legs sharpened and snapped out, piercing Garker’s stomach and slamming him into the brick wall. He was close enough that Derek’s magic was still strong. Two more dark javelins pierced Garker’s hands, punning them to the wall. Derek was glaring at the undead assassin, making barely any movements at all when the shadows struck. Another shadow sliced through Garker’s throat and pinned his head to the wall.
“A message for whoever hired you.” Derek’s own voice surprised him. It was deeper, more guttural and it dripped with venom, hatred, malice, every emotion that could be linked to anger and aggression. He couldn’t stop himself, however. It was as if he was locked off from his own body and he could only watch in fear as he spoke and controlled the shadows like a conductor controlling an orchestra.
“Stay away from me.” He continued. “Bring us the Shadow Ruby and if you try and lay a single finger on me, I will cause pain to you that your lapdog Hedge would be envious of!” And with that, a shadow stabbed into Garker’s stomach. All the other spikes retreated except the one in his stomach. Garker was lifted into the air, high above them and then flicked, like a piece of paper on the end of a plastic ruler, across the city of Aberdeen.

As soon as he was out of sight, Derek blinked a few times and stumbled, putting a hand out to place against the wall. He leaned his back against it and slid down, his head starting to pound and his throat burning. Janice was looking at him, the anger and hate in her eyes replaced by what looked like fear.
“Y… You’re not new to magic…” She breathed, taking a step back. He barely heard her, just kept on blinking. For a long time, he stayed the silent.
“I don’t know what happened.” He replied finally, after what seemed like an eternity. “What happened? I couldn’t stop myself…”
“You said you couldn’t hurt a fly…” Jane said. “You said you’d rather—“
“I don’t know what happened!” He suddenly snapped and took a sharp breath through his teeth and put a hand to his forehead. “Please, I don’t know what happened.”

There was another pause.

“Why did you help me?” Jane asked. “I expected you to help him kill me.”
Derek couldn’t help but chuckle. “You’d think that, wouldn’t you? Believe it or not, you’re the closest thing I’ve had to a friend. Sure, you hate me and have probably tried to kill me on a few occasions but you’ve saved my life.”
“I’m not your friend!” She growled back.
“I know you’re not.” Derek replied. “Still, I’d like to think you don’t completely hate me.”
“Okay, fine, you want to know why I’ve been saving your life?” The fear in her voice was instantly replaced with anger and hate again. “It’s because we need you. There, I said it. You’re important. We need you to transport the Shadow Ruby!”
Derek frowned. “Why can’t you or Rust do it?” He asked.
“Because only a Necromancer can touch it! If anyone else touches it, they get killed instantly and their spirits are sucked into the Ruby. How do you think all those spirits fuelled it?”
“But why me?” He asked. “I’m just a stupid kid with no friends who just happened to stumble upon a couple of sorcerers.”
“Oh, really? It didn’t look like it a minute ago!”
“I told you, I don’t know what happened!”
“Oh, yeah right! Just like you didn’t know what you were doing when you started insulting me!?”
“Look, can we just deal with this later?” Derek said, gripping his head. “That thing’s probably going to be coming back and I don’t plan on being here when he does. Let’s just see if Rust’s any better and try and figure out a plan.”
“And who put you in charge?” Janice snarled.
“I did.” Derek replied almost immediately. “If you have a better plan, feel free to share it while we’re on our way to the hospital.” He then turned and began walking. If looks could kill, Janice would’ve killed Derek right there and then. Instead, she just growled in her throat and reluctantly followed the boy. She didn’t say anything.

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