Marcus reacted without thought, Dorian forced out of his thoughts. The concrete beneath the carpet cracked as he pounded the ground to gain as much speed as he could before launching himself through the window. He caught himself in the air and used the momentum from the jump to fling himself towards downtown where he saw two columns of smoke rising into the darkening sky.
Two more booms sounded before Marcus arrived upon the scene. Below him, a man stood in the center of a plaza hemmed in by three gray brick skyscrapers. It looked as though he was floating on the thick black clouds roiling around him, an unnatural darkness shrouding him. The three tall buildings had gaping holes in them and Marcus could only see fire wherever smoke wasn’t billowing. When the man raised his hand and a ball of darkness condensed in front of him, Marcus dropped to greet his old friend and exorcise a few recently acquired emotions.
As Marcus landed, he threw a sphere of flame to deflect the incoming ball of darkness. The two balls collided, a loud clap ringing out before an intense vacuum appeared and briefly tugged at Marcus in the air. By the time the vacuum was done, the shrouded figure was drifting towards him with a smile on his face. Marcus distinctly remembered that he saw no face the last time he fought this man, but somehow this man’s face still resonated in Marcus’s mind. That was slightly off-putting. How could he recognize a face he’d never before seen?
“Who are you?” Marcus asked as they circled one another. “Why are you doing this? What do you want?”
Though the black clouds made distinguishing between the man and the night difficult, that blackness only framed his face. That long lanky brown hair and long goatee pulled on Marcus’s memory, but nothing came to him.
“You mean you don’t recognize the man you left hospitalized after killing fifteen of his closest friends, guy?” the man asked.
Fifteen was a very specific number and Marcus remembered where he recognized the man from.
“You’re one of those AD guys,” Marcus said, the guilt from that night poking up in his chest.
The man bowed in his black cloud. “Paul Johnson, former Sergeant-At-Arms for the Damokles Chapter of the Angels of Perdition but everyone calls me Skip.” Skip said as he stood back up.
“How did you get the ring?” Marcus asked.
Skip frowned with a smile on his lips. “And why exactly would I tell you that, guy?” he asked.
“What does a dead man need with secrets?” Marcus asked.
Skip laughed. “And who exactly is the dead man?” he asked.
Skip laughed even harder this time and he pointed at Marcus as his mirth subsided. “You got balls, guy,” he said. “I will give you that, the pair dangling under your manhood are big indeed, but I guess your little romp in my clubhouse should’ve told me that.”
Marcus said nothing and just stared at Skip who now seemed to be in a bigger black cloud. Skip rubbed his chin as he stared down at Marcus and the gold of his ring flashed even from the depths of that unnatural darkness. After a while he dropped his arms and shrugged.
“One of your family members gave it to me,” Skip said nonchalantly.
Marcus felt like someone slapped his cheek, but the revelation wasn't the punch in the stomach he would’ve expected such an admission to be. He supposed that after everything he learned, something like this would be almost expected of the Spyros.
“Who?” Marcus managed to ask.
“The infamous one,” Skip answered. The gold in the dark cloud glittered as Skip raised his hand and Marcus unconsciously tensed. “He gave me this ring with one condition. All I had to do was kill you. Lucky for me I already planned on doing that!”
A thick arm of darkness shot out from the undulating black cloud and fastened around Marcus’ throat before Marcus could defend himself. The arm lifted him into the air and Skip rose with him, the cloud growing as they gained altitude. When he got close to Marcus, Skip pulled his arm back and darkness solidified around his arm. Marcus couldn’t see what Skip had over his arm, but he knew he would die if that darkness touched him.
Just before Skip gave the killing blow, Marcus gripped the bar of darkness around his neck and ignited the molecules in the pocket of air between his palms and the surface of the tendril. The darkness was blown away and Marcus began falling before he caught himself in the air and put some distance between Skip and himself.
Skip retreated back to the ground and Marcus threw two spheres of flame down at him. The cloud of darkness grew to absorb the impact of the flames long before Skip was in any real danger and Marcus threw a few more spheres of flame down, but the cloud absorbed everything in an autonomous manner. Before the steam from Marcus’s failed offensive cleared, Skip was pointing up at him and two tendrils of darkness burst through the mist. Marcus was able to avoid one completely. The other made a gash down his side and caused him to falter in the sky for half a second.
Blood began dripping from his side as Marcus formed two shields as more tendrils of darkness crashed against the shimmering air. These tendrils continued to spew forth more tendrils, but they only succeeded in breaking against the shimmering air. With his back protected for now, Marcus clenched his fists as he stared down at Skip. Within seconds, balls of concentrated fire began pouring down on the former biker. Not that one could tell from the Skip’s face.
Skip stared up at the destruction coming for him with a blank face as the cloud began absorbing the rapid fire flames autonomously like before. Only this time, Marcus didn’t stop at a few. He sent hundreds of flaming spheres down at Skip, needing just one to sail past that cloud of darkness. Unfortunately, that cloud was impregnable.
Two more tendrils of darkness smashed against Marcus’s shields with enough force to move him backwards into the sky. Fortunately, his shields were nearly as autonomous as that black cloud below and so Marcus did not have to redirect any attention to defending himself. Instead, he put all his energy into sending as many spheres of flames at Skip as he could.
Marcus heard another explosion in the distance, but he was too busy focused on this fight with Skip to even think about what that explosion could have been. Besides, Noch would take care of whatever was going on out there. Marcus needed to focus on taking out whoever this man was and getting that ring away from him.
The stalemate between the two Shadows of God remained in place for a few minutes. Skip sending up tendrils of darkness to crash against the shimmering air of Marcus’ shields while Marcus sent down concentrated fire that was eaten by Skip’s cloud. Skip began sending up even more tendrils of darkness and while his shields still kept him clear, Marcus knew he was going to need to curve his shields soon to make a dome. Unfortunately, before Marcus could snap the dome into place, a tendril branched off another tendril at an odd angle. This newest tendril snuck past the shields and snatched Marcus by the throat, sending him hurtling towards the concrete tiles of the plaza.
As he fell, more tendrils grabbed Marcus and he felt the speed of the wind increase to frightening levels. Marcus tried to catch himself and lift away from the tendrils, but the darkness was growing over his body and the udulation of the black cloud made grabbing himself near impossible. Even more tendrils of darkness shot out from Skip’s roiling cloud to crash into Marcus and speed up the spread of the tar-like blackness.
The concrete tiles of the plaza exploded as though a mine detonated when Marcus crashed to the ground. Marcus was knocked nearly unconscious, but he remained awake and fighting. He was still struggling when the darkness covered his body up to the collarbone and repositioned him into a kneeling position. Skip came into range on his black cloud and Marcus saw darkness condense around one of Skip’s arms. Marcus immediately felt that same sensation of imminent death staring at that vague shape.
Marcus’s struggles became frantic. He tried to grasp the power of the ring, but when he made commands to rip away the darkness, nothing happened. He tried grabbing, picking, shoveling and every means forced movement he knew, but to no avail. The ring's powers couldn't counteract these powers and Skip was coming to a stop in front of him. Terrified golden eyes met with jubilant brown eyes when Marcus flicked his wrists as he jerked his hands under the cloying sludge of the black clouds.
Two white globes the size of balled fists blinked into existence above Marcus’s hands. He didn't dampen the heat from the miniature suns, but he noticed that the heat wasn’t doing any real damage. However, anywhere the light touched, the darkness was noticeably weaker. Marcus wanted to kick himself. Of course light was how he would fight the dark. A child would have figured that out by now.
Skip fell back from the sudden light of the two miniature suns. The dark clouds reacted immediately and covered their master, pulling him away from danger. Before Skip could get far away, Marcus formed a shimmering dome thirty feet in diameter with him at the center from his kneeling position. The two globes began rotating lazily around Marcus, melting away the darkness as he got to his feet. Marcus smiled as seven more white globes winked into reality, rotating around him as though there the entire time. Marcus increased his sensitivity within the dome and felt Skip trying to get away from him, crashing against the boundary of the dome and rolling along the surface. The cloud was likely looking for a gap but there would be none.
Never moving from his place at the center of the dome, Marcus sent the nine white globes drifting towards Skip as though attached to him with slow motion bungee cords. As the miniature suns got closer, the white spheres grew in size and the former biker’s black cloud continued to diminish, the biker crying out in anguish. Skip’s cries grew louder, more frantic and more insistent. The cloud continued to shrink and shrink. Before long, the cloud evaporated altogether and the former biker was dropped onto his face. Skip’s cries of pain stopped as soon as the final trails of mist dissipated. The former AD slowly got to his feet wearing an old dirty hospital gown and he stared at Marcus with wide eyes as Marcus.
Marcus dimmed the light from the miniature suns and dampened the heat as he walked forward. As he walked, he used small ropes of air to snatch away the glittering ring on the middle finger of Skip’s left hand. The suddenness shocked Skip but he didn’t fight. The drained looking man just watched Marcus catch the ring and give the ring a cursory glance.
“What more can you tell me about this ring?” Marcus asked once he was close enough for Skip to hear.
A loud crash behind Marcus stole attention for a second, but Marcus only saw Noch. He turned back and frowned when he realized his entire ring hand was covered in blood, but the thought was fleeting as he focused on the ring in his palm. Like looking at your house if someone else decorated the rooms, the ring he was looking at was eerily familiar and yet entire new. Some of the symbols were the same between the rings but the majority were not and the picture on the face of the ring was completely different, a stick figure with a triangle and sphere. He wanted to put the ring on, but he knew that was a mistake without Papa’s knowledge. With the knowledge, he knew putting on both rings would drive him insane within a few hours. That desire was more like a call of the void and…
Why had Skip not answered?
Marcus looked up and saw a look of absolute terror on Skip’s face. His skin was pale and waxy, sweat streaming down his face like he sat in a sauna. His was breathing rapidly as he stared at Noch and although Marcus initially believed the biker’s shock was from the existence of two superheroes, Skip’s eyes changed that notion. Looking into those brown eyes, Marcus saw recognition.
The famous one? Dorian, right...no, the infamous one. Infamous like an assassin would be.
Before Marcus could do anything, Skip's head was enveloped by a black cloud that billowed in a tight circle for a few seconds before dissipating. Blood gushed from the stump of a neck that was left behind and the late biker’s body crumpled only after the final tendrils of darkness evaporated.