𝐸rik stood before the young Australian, covered in dirt and barefoot with blood dried along the hairline near his forehead. He looked tired with shadows under his eyes, dirt under his fingernails and messy hair. Shackles were bound around his wrists. He was practically unrecognizable, for everyone knew that he was always so immaculately clean and organized.
Shocked, Jon mumbled as he dropped the note and attempting to reach out, giving his friend a hug, his hands went through him as if he were a hologram. Glancing at his hands then raising his gaze looking into Erik’s pale-tired gray eyes, he questioned,
“What the f*ck is this? Erik, mate...are you astral-projecting?” he watched as Erik’s form faded in and out for the connection was weak.
“Yes, and I don’t have long.” Erik argued, “You have to warn Keeps and tell her that Leonus plans on killing her in the Boar-wolf cave.” he paused sniffling quickly.
“Wait...where are you?” Jon questioned, “Everyone’s been looking for you, mate.”
“I don’t know where I am, but it looks like some sort of…” he glanced around as if examining his surroundings, “old cellar or prison. There are bloody rats down here, mate...and hungry ones.” his figure jumped as if something nibbled on his bare toes, “Look, I don’t really remember what happened because it’s all too much of a blur but…” then his image faded.
Erik sat on the cold damp ground, listening to distant water dripping and rats squeaking. He breathed heavily for the sigil that lay etched near the cage’s door blocked all his magical capabilities and he barely managed the astral-projection. He stumbled to his feet kicking away the small rodent vermin then leaned against the bars feeling tired, cold and hungry.
“Erik!” Jon called out, “Erik!” but his figure was gone, “F*ck me!” he cursed then sped around his room in his supernatural Demonic swiftness, dressing in a black hoody and grabbing a flashlight, placing it in his pocket. Standing at his door, he reached to his wall, removing two daggers from their place, concealing them up his sleeves. He glanced around, then teleported to the mechanic’s shop appearing behind the structure in a pale green swirling flame per the instructions from the note.
He enhanced his vision toward the wall, where Wraiths or Demons weren’t currently positioned; all making their nightly rounds. Snow crushed beneath his feet, as he shuffled forward where he noticed two of the low wattage bulbs laying shattered in the snow. Examining the shards, he suddenly without a doubt, caught the scent of Lycynian. Removing the daggers from his sleeves, he swiftly turned around, watching as a figure stepped from the shadows along the building; their face blacked out and covered with a scarf.
“Easy, kid…” the figure warned in a deep voice.
“Who are you and why am I here!?” Jon quietly barked; his red Demon eyes coming forth.
“I’m surprised you showed up, but relax Demon.” the figure stepped forward.
“Derek!? What is this...what’s going on!?”
“First off, kid...put the blades away. If I wanted to hurt you, I wouldn’t have to do it close range.”
“Where’s Erik!?” Jon ordered, “He astral-projected before I came here…”
“He did?” Derek grew curious, “He’s a strong kid. Stronger than...never mind. Please...put those away.” he gestured at the young man’s daggers.
Jon hesitated before sliding the daggers up his sleeves once more. Derek looked around and convinced Jon to step inside, so they’d be out of sight and away from potential prying ears. Jon watched as Derek entered the shop, then cautiously followed him inside, but on constant alert. Scanning the interior, Jon turned to Derek asking again firmly,
“I won’t ask you again. Where’s Erik and how do you know where he is!?”
“Before I tell you...just know I have nothing against Wraiths or Demons. Absolutely nothing. Your races have done nothing to me, so when I found out what Leonus had planned for Erik...it sickened me.” Derek answered bluntly, “Now...what I’m about to tell you, was not my doing. I swear on my family and my honor as a warrior. I just wanted to see how far Leonus would go.” he paused glancing down at his feet then explained it all. He watched as Jon turned away, leaning his hands against the wall, head held low in disgust. Jon placed his right hand to his mouth, feeling sick to his stomach. He shook his head as he turned to Derek; eyes closed in disbelief, “Are you alright?” Derek continued softly.
“No, I’m not alright!” Jon snapped, “Take me to him!” he growled; his fists glowing a faint hue.
Derek stepped back as he nodded, walking toward the spare parts room with Jon close behind. Derek was well aware of Jon’s fighting skills and wasn’t about to start an argument right now. The Samoan unstacked the tires out of the way, pulling back the mat revealing the hidden door. Jon pushed Derek out of the way, reaching for the iron ring but Derek rushed forward, grabbing onto Jon’s wrists.
“Whoa...easy there, kid. That door and its ring are made of an older iron alloy and even though you’re wearing gloves, it could still burn your hands through the fabric.” Derek warned, “Despite what I took part in, I don’t want anyone else getting hurt here. Let me…”
“Fine, but let go of my wrists.” Jon threatened, pulling his arms away from Derek’s grip, “And why are you showing me? Why not go to Yza with this?”
“Are you kidding?” Derek argued as he knelt on his knees, looking up at Jon, “If she found out what happened, she’ll not only kill Leonus but she’ll also kill me or feed me to her hound or dragon.” Derek smirked, “Or…” he tilted his head, “she could just burn me to a crisp.”
“Not a bad idea.” Jon grunted, “But if this is a trap and Yza finds out I’m missing too…” he knelt alongside Derek leering into the man’s dark eyes, “she knows Leonus had something to do with all of this so it wouldn’t take her very long to find out that you were also involved.”
“Fair enough.” Derek nodded then grasping onto the ring, he yanked the door backwards with one strong pull. Standing to his feet alongside Jon, they stared into the pitch blackness looming below them. Glancing behind him out into the empty shop Derek instructed quickly, “Make it quick. Leonus comes around every night, gloating about it. It’s disgusting.” then he glanced down at his watch, “You have an hour. I’ll wait outside and cover you just in case.” he turned away ready to leave when Jon said over his shoulder, looking at Derek in the corner of his eye,
“No problem. Thank YOU for the trust.” Derek answered then exited the room, standing outside in the mechanic’s shop, scampering around making it appear as if he were working late.
Jon removed the flashlight from his pocket, shining its light downward, taking in the sight of the set of rock steps leading down. He hesitated, listening for sounds then slowly and cautiously descended one step at a time. Reaching the bottom, lanterns with low bulbs barely lit the room.
He thought as he searched around shining his flashlight at the walls and floors, “WHAT THE HELL KIND OF PLACE IS THIS, YOU SADISTIC BASTARD!” then called out verbally in a soft whisper, “Erik? Where are you, mate?”
“Jonathan?” Erik’s voice answered in a cracked squeak, “Jonathan?”
Jon turned, quickly flashing the light toward cages behind him; Erik stood in the center cell shielding his eyes with his hands from the brightness of the light. Rushing toward the cage Jon stuttured in disbelief,
“Oh, my God, Erik...are you alright?”
“No...no I’m not.” Erik complained leaning against the bars, cautious of their iron alloy.
Up close, Jon took notice that Erik had healed from a head wound; dried blood around the neckline of his white tank. Complete shock hit him as tears welled in his eyes as he carefully reached his arms through the bars, managing to grab hold of Erik’s upper arms and shoulders, trying to give him a brotherly hug, which Erik returned. At this point, Erik was hungry for contact from another individual, especially a kinder one, even though he hated to be touched at times.
“You look like shit. What happened!?” Jon inquired, eagerly wanting to hear his side of the story.
“Gee, thanks.” Erik replied as he managed a chuckle. He rested his upper arms on the bars, patting Jon on his shoulders. Erik briefly explained what occurred and took place from his point-of-view. He frowned, playing the moment over in his mind, creating an ache on his thoughts, “I barely managed the astral-projection.” he sniffled once more, “Looks like Leonus has done his homework.” he glanced down at the ground; Jon followed his gaze and lowering the flashlight toward the ground, there it was...a sigil that blocks magic.
“That bastard thought things through pretty clear.” Jon frowned.
“How’s Keeps?” Erik fretted, “She must be worried sick.”
“You have no idea. She thinks you left. At least that’s what she thought from the note you left.”
“What note?” Erik questioned, “I didn’t leave a note, because I never left!” he pushed himself away from the bars beginning to pace, “That bloody pig did good.” he nodded, “And my father?”
“He’s acting like a crazy man, screaming at everyone he meets, in Chinese. And everyone knows how he gets when he’s angry.” Jon revealed.
Erik chuckled, knowing that’s how his father acts when he’s under stress.
“Wait a minute…” Erik turned to his friend, “how did you find me? I didn’t tell you.”
“Derek told me.” Jon answered bluntly.
“What!? Jonathan, mate…you can’t trust him!” Erik argued, “If he had a hand in doing this to me, who’s to say what he’ll do to you!? He’ll probably throw you in the cage next to me! Oh god...Yza will also be in more danger!”
“Erik...you’ve explained what happened in your words, but you should hear Derek’s side of it.” Jon argued in return.
“Why!? I just told you everything that happened! Isn’t that enough for you!?”
“Yes, but you’re forgetting one person here!” Jon complained, “Yza! Remember her!? She already knows Leonus has a part in this, but she’s waiting for him to slip up and believe me, with all of his gloating and macho bravado, he’ll slip and Derek might be the only one who could help us nab him. I don’t really think he’ll do her any harm. But never mind all of that...wait until Yza finds out where you are! She’ll probably set this entire island on fire.”
“You can’t tell her!” Erik objected, “She has enough to deal with right now.”
“But she has to know!” Jon backed away from the cage. “She cares deeply for you, mate!”
“Perhaps she does, but right now...you need to listen to me very carefully. Leonus is planning to kill her in the Boar-wolf cave. I overheard him when I was unconscious. I mean, come on...think about it. Telling her I’m here, won’t protect her because if she knew, it could get her killed and I’m trying to protect her the best way I know how.”
“Yeah? Well, staying here certainly isn’t the best way of protecting her, mate!” Jon frowned.
“Knowing where I am, she’ll be too distracted in rescuing Lucy.” Erik tried justifying his current predicament.
“She’s already distracted!” Jon waved his arms expressively, “But how am I going to keep this from her? She’ll read me like a book and know something’s wrong and this...this isn’t something I can keep locked away in my thoughts. She won’t give up until I tell her, you know how persistent she is!”
“Don’t I ever.” Erik mumbled.
“Jonathan…” Derek’s voice shouted from above, “Leonus is coming. Hurry it up!”
Jon turned to Erik, who reached through the bars pleading desperately grabbing onto Jon’s arm,
“Please, mate...you can’t trust him!”
“We don’t have a choice.” Jon objected, “Now, look...I’ll be back, alright? Trust me.” then he backed away, scampering up the stairs closing the door. Recovering it, he clapped his hands together in relief then stepped outside thanking Derek before portaling back to his room.
Once Leonus arrived, he gloated once more as he and Derek scampered around inside. Derek remained silent continuing to listen to the smug satisfaction in Leonus’ voice before there was a moment where Derek leered at Leonus’ back wanting to end his life then and there, making it appear as an accident in the shop during one of his drunken stupors. They’ve been frequent so it would be believable. Quietly reaching for a large screwdriver on a nearby table, his grip tightened around the handle as he held it down alongside his thigh. Leonus turned observing Derek’s threatening mannerisms.
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing!?” Leonus roughly barked, “Put that down!”
“I could you know. End your life...” Derek threatened in a low raspy voice, “here and now and it’ll be so easy.” he raised the tool held in hand, “So easy.”
Leonus stepped backwards; eyes searching for a tool to defend himself with but those displayed, were too far from his reach. He knew Derek’s speed in throwing weapons so he couldn’t, even if he tried. Derek smirked as he flipped the screwdriver; grip changing to the shaft of the tool. Without warning, he threw the tool toward Leonus, passing his left ear; tip grazed and cut. The tool reached its intended mark; a large rat scampering along the shelf behind Leonus, who heard a brief squeak. Turning around swiftly, he observed the lifeless rat laying in the shadows; the screwdriver plunged through its small furry body covered in oil and grease.
“What can I say!? I never miss.” Derek gloated.
Leonus cursed in his Gaelic Scottish tongue then continued in English,
“What the f*ck do you think you’re doing!? Are you f*cking crazy!?”
“Just exterminating the vermin.” Derek mocked with a shrug of his muscular shoulders, “You wouldn’t want them drawing too much attention would you, because that rat in particular must have escaped from below in search of a change of scenery, I’m guessing.”
“You were going to kill me!” Leonus ordered, pointing at the tool.
Derek smiled joyfully as he answered,
“We’ll never know now, will we? But I’d get that ear looked at. You’re bleeding and wouldn’t want an infection to set in. And if I wanted you dead…you’d be dead. It’s a long time coming.” then he turned; hands tucked in his pockets as he exited the shop.
Leonus held his left hand to his ear, feeling a sharp sting and lowering his hand, blood covered his fingertips. He raised his gaze watching as Derek’s 6’4 frame disappeared behind the door leading outside. Leonus snarled as he removed a bandanna from his pocket, dabbing the blood from his ear; wiping it away from his neck and jaw. Turning toward the shelf behind him, he reached for the screwdriver; roughly yanking it from the vermin before him. Blood and fur covered the shaft so with his blood stained bandanna, he wiped the tool clean. He groaned, having to grab the rat’s tail, throwing the small body in a large trash bin set in the corner near the door. He watched as it fell, hidden among other garbage before tossing the bandanna in with it. Slamming the lid closed, Leonus huffed then turned away, exiting the shop as well.
Poor Erik sat on the stone ground, listening to the never ending water drips and rat squeaks as they scampered around in the darkness. He avoided them from biting his bare feet then leaned against the stone wall. Closing his eyes, he wondered what kept the half-breed’s focus in this very moment. Many scenarios flashed through his mind before images of her and Anthony sparring clouded his thoughts. Innocent moments were mistaken for flirtation. He frowned trying not to dwell on something that held NO truth. He sighed opening his tired gray eyes, staring at the lanterns set on niches in the walls; little-to-no-light provided due to a draining battery. It was then though, he noticed a darkness within the lanterns dying light; a figure of some sort. Erik sped to his feet, unable to fully see a solid form.
“Hello?” Erik’s voice cracked but the presence remained silent as it stood there, “Who are you? Answer me!” he continued, feeling its eyes leering at him.
“For a Demon…I’m disappointed.” the voice answered in a deep male tone, “With all your training, you allowed two Lycynians to do this to you!?” the voice released low, slow TSKS.
“What the bloody hell are you talking about!? Who are you!?” Erik raged, “Show me your face!”
“You’re not worthy of looking upon my face. At least, not now.”
“Then what do you want from me!?” Erik paced his cell.
“From you? Nothing. For you? Nothing. But I am here to give you some advice.”
“Advice? Wonderful. That’s exactly what I need right now!” Erik shouted.
“You need to wake up and realize what you have in front of you before it’s lost. Power and love. You’re a pureblood Demon with great power. Use it! You have the love of a woman that’s too good for you. Cherish it, but wake up, Demon…wake up!” the voice grew agitated, “Before you lose it all.”
“I can’t.” Erik stared at his feet.
“Human excuse…you’re not human! Why can’t you!?” the figure questioned.
“Because I just…can’t!” Erik turned to the bars.
“By all the Sumerian gods, you’re pathetic!” the voice shouted in anger, “I don’t know what she sees in such a waste of an existence but she will some to realize who you really are in the end.”
“What do you want from me!?” Erik ordered as he stared into the blackness, watching as the lanterns were thrown from their places shattering against the stone ground; their shards of glass and metal fragments laid there as the rats investigated the disturbance in search of food.
Jon stared at his reflection in his bathroom’s mirror, disgusted with himself knowing he knew of Erik’s location and was going to keep that from the young Keeper.
“What are you going to do, Jonathan?” he whispered, “Are you or aren’t you going to tell her?” he continued staring into his own eyes, “You are. She’s our Keeper...she’s your friend...and she has the right to know. Right.” and turning away, he disappeared with determination.
He reappeared inside the mechanic’s shop where he heard loud voices coming from the parts room. Hearing feet shuffling about, he ran and hid quietly behind one of the large water barrels. He listened as the Scotsman and Samoan argued about his friend’s imprisonment. He watched as Derek remained silent, reluctantly listening to everything Leonus said and in that moment, studying Derek’s mannerisms and listening in on his thoughts, Jon knew Derek spoke the truth when he told him he didn’t want any part in this. He withdrew his head when Derek sniffed around, catching the scent of Demon. He glanced around the shop then caught the glimpse of a disturbance along the ground where smudges in the dirt and oil led behind the barrels nearby.
“Jonathan…” he reached out telepathically, “is that you, kid?”
“Yes.” Jon’s voice snapped, “I’m here to get Erik out!”
“You’re stupidly brave, I give you that.” Derek answered.
“Derek?” Lenous interrupted their conversation, “Are you listening to me?”
“Yes, man...to every word.” Derek argued, “And now that you had your say and I made my point earlier…” he gestured at the Scotsman ear, “are we done?”
Leonus frowned, scrunching his mouth then pushed past Derek roughly, bumping into his shoulder. Derek growled then followed after the man he loathed but before closing the door, making sure Leonus was out of sight, he called out in a shout knowing Jon was still inside,
“Make it quick!” as he locked the door behind them.
Jon waited, before coming out from his hiding place. He sighed, growing relieved that Leonus didn’t catch his Demon scent but he was just too much into himself to notice anything. And if he did, he would probably think it was Erik. He scampered toward the room and standing outside, with fears of opening the door creating a loud creaking sound, he teleported underground. Appearing in the chamber at the bottom of the stone steps, once the swirling flames faded, he stumbled in place for he felt light headed and disoriented momentarily as he’s never portaled or teleported through iron. Shaking his head and taking in a few deep breaths; the damp earth and muck filling his nostrils, he called out as he removed his flashlight from his pocket,
“Jonathan? What are you doing back here?” Erik objected.
“I’m getting you out. That’s what I’m doing here.”
“No...no you can’t.”
Jon didn’t answer as he placed his flashlight in his mouth, aiming its beam toward the cages’ lock. He knelt before it, removing metal lock picks from his boot. He frowned waiting to hear the picks fall into place and once they did, he smiled; flashlight falling from his mouth onto the ground. Jon slid the picks back in his boot then stood, swinging the door open with his foot.
“Come on.” Jon urged, “I’m getting you out of here and don’t you argue with me.” he helped Erik from the ground, kicking rats away from his bare feet. He stepped outside of the cage, avoiding the sigil and holding onto him, Jon struggled to teleport above ground but managed to appear inside the storage room. Erik took in a quick take of his surroundings before Jon took him back to his room. He walked Erik toward his chairs, gently sitting him down.
“What are you doing?” Erik questioned, watching as his friend picked the locks from the shackles bound around his wrist, dropping them at his feet.
“Just...shut up!” Jon snapped as he sped into the bathroom, grabbing a wet cloth, “Here. Wipe your face. I’ll...be right back. You can use the sink to clean yourself off the best you can.” then he disappeared before Erik could object.