All Hollow’s Eve
The sudden jerk on her arm woke her with a start. The dim light of a candle placed on the rickety old bedside stand gave her enough light to see by. Charity stared into the aged, worn and tired face of her father. An expression of fear played in his eyes. Before she could utter a single word he pulled Charity from her bed in the middle of the night. Without giving her time to grab her clothing, weapons or armor, he tugged her frantically towards the bedroom door. The tattered bed shirt she wore concealed the essential areas, but offered little coverage let alone protection on this freezing winter’s night. Christ, I only fell asleep a few hours ago; she fumed.
Her bare feet raced across the cold wooden boards. While her mind tried to wake itself fully, she barely registered the now all too familiar squeaking noise of the tired old floor. Why the hell is he in such a panic?
“Father what’s wrong?” She asked, but he ignored her question as he continued to hurry her through the house. She wished she took the time to heal some of her injuries as every movement grew more painful with her cracked ribs.
Charity’s father yanked her toward the old rickety door which led into the family’s small mess hall. Her father knocked the small bin over by the sink As they dashed toward the back exit. Their week’s rations of potatoes and salted fish spilled across the floor. Charity stopped and bent to pick the precious supplies up.
“Leave It!” Her father snapped at her. She blinked back unsure of why he would want her to leave their rations on the ground. It would be a whole week before they received more from the Store Treasurer.
“Hurry up, this way now, we must keep moving!” Her father barked out the order with every bit of authority she had become accustom to. Her military upbringing made her comply without further hesitation.
He rushed her out the back door of the decrepit building they called home. She heard her mount in the makeshift stable beside the house. Razor kicked up a fuss as if he hoped it was time to fight yet again. His large black scaly snout stuck out the paddock window, as he snorted a great billow of steam rolled from his nostrils. She could hear his huge clawed feet tearing into the frozen sod of the stalls bare floor. His large blue reptilian eyes watched excitedly, as if he wanted his rider to ready him for battle.
Her father yanked her in the opposite direction of the stable and Charity stumbled after him. Her breath left a trail of white steam in the frigid night air as did the stray golden strands of her messy long blonde hair. Her unprotected feet burned in the snow as he dragged her along behind him. She staggered and fell, landing on her hands and knees.
Her father reached down and hauled her back up to her feet, she stared up into his dark-blue eyes. The pit of her stomach twisted in on itself from the expression he gave her. Never in her life had she seen so much trepidation in a man’s gaze. “Father?” she began.
“Keep moving Charity!” he demanded harshly as his eyes lined with tears.
Her bare skin stung from the cold as the wind began to pick up and swept across them. They ran passed the piles of rusted husks which at one time had been something called cars. Their empty skeletal remains were stripped ages ago of anything of value. Turning the corner, they ducked under the twisted arched metal frame that barely read San Diego anymore. She knew they were headed toward the huge field separating the military families from the civilian survivors.
The wind began to wail, and the snow started to fly around the field in little white whirlwinds. She was accustomed to this cold climate. Yet, tonight, as they crossed the barren snow covered field, it seemed even more bitterly cold. Her father carried very little with him, other than a large leather satchel bag, an old musty book and his short sword, sheathed at his side. His grasp on her wrist more like an iron vice then a fatherly hold. Almost as if he feared losing his grip on her would result in losing her forever.
The moon hung high in the cloudless night sky making it very easy to see as it cast its light across the white landscape. This area of San Diego was still in fairly good shape. With a few dozen buildings left standing. The rest of the once vast city lay in ruins. Huge piles of rubble scattered across the landscape for as far as the eye could see. This spot one of the few remaining zones not overrun by the invading Horde. The area housed many small pockets of survivors left hiding deep in the city’s ruins.
Long gone were the days when Mages and other supernatural beings remained in hiding from normal people. Gone were the world’s governments, infrastructures, resources and most of the human population. The world ,which at its height, had nearly twenty billion people on it was decimated down to a mere few hundred thousand. When the Horde breached the fabric of reality, the Mage Conclave was caught off guard. The ensuing battles nearly destroyed the entire planet within the first few years.
The blast of far-off explosions stopped them both in their tracks and the two turned their heads towards the booms. The distant night sky lit up briefly to show a swarm of the gigantic monsters trying to breach the eastern mountain range of defenses. Although they were many miles away from here, she could make out their unearthly howling; it made her blood run cold. The flashes of magic illuminated the heavens as the Dragon Defenders met the enemy in battle. Her father growled at her to hurry up as he pulled on her hand with even more urgency.
Bewildered, Charity followed her father as he rushed her down the steps outside the old corner store. She wondered why she was not gearing up to go to aid the rest of the Defenders with her dragon mount. For the life of her, she couldn’t understand why he ushered them into the shelter as if they were cowards. As her father sealed the old bomb shelter’s doors shut, she turned to face him. “Father, what is going on.” she demanded, her voice rising in fear.
She stared at the man who was normally calm and rational, ready for any situation that arose. For the life of her she didn’t understand why he was acting this way.
“The Horde has crushed the last members of the Conclave. The Citadel has fallen. The only things holding back those abominations are the last of the Defenders!”
“I have to go and help them,” she stated,” They’ll need me.”
“No, they’re already as good as dead.” he said as he locked eyes with her. “You’re our last hope Charity; it’s your destiny to change the outcome of this war.”
“But--” she started to protest again.
“We will not go without using every last bit of power we have, come child you need to trust me.”
He pulled a piece of chalk from his satchel and began to mark symbols on the door. The power he evoked into them vibrated in the air. The symbols were ones she had seen countless times. He was placing a protective ward, one to ensure no one came in.
Her father finished his casting and turned and held her gaze. He took a deep breath and rapidly explained how this world had come to such great ruination. How one little insignificant looking item had turned the entire planet into a post-apocalyptic world in just a hundred and twenty years. Now the only way to save it was to break the laws of magic and time, he told her of his plans and what it was she must do. No other Mage had the blood powerful enough to create this spell all alone, so she would have to go.
He stared into her eyes and asked her to forgive him for what he was about to do.
“I’m afraid.” She whispered as he held her hand. Her magic still only at the basic levels. Her self-doubt made it hard for her to believe she could do as he asked.
“You can do this Charity. You have to, if not we are doomed!”
“But I will never see you again.” She whimpered as if a small child. He had been her only parent after her mother had perished when Charity was two. The bond they shared so much more than that of a father and child, he was her mentor, her advisor, her leader.
“It’s a small sacrifice child,” He told her, his voice soft but demanding.” Humanity will be lost to the Horde if you don’t do this.”
Reaching out he pulled her into his strong arms and held her close, she could smell his familiar scent. The smell she’d always known and loved. Thoughts of never being able to again see her father flooded her as the tears lined her eyes. “Hush child, it will be all right, this is your destiny.” he whispered as he hugged her more tightly.
Charity could hear his voice crack, his own tears seemingly trying not to crest over his eyelids. Pulling away from her, he reached into his tattered old coat pocket and pulled a long silver chain out. He swept her hair away from her neck before clasping the necklace around her.
“It belonged to your mother...never forget the sacrifice we have made.” He whispered as she opened the locket and saw the image of her mother and father within.
“Dad.” she mumbled, the tears now free of her eyes, tickling her cheeks as they streamed down them.
“We have to do this now, we are running out of time.” he told her as he wiped the tears from her face.
Forcing her mind to open to his, he placed an extremely powerful and forbidden spell into her memories before he set his plan into motion. She watched still a bit in a daze. He quickly took his charcoal stick from his pocket and made an archaic design in the thick dust upon the floor around her. From his bag, he removed the things he needed, setting everything into place. This being something she witnessed countless times in other rituals.
The large pentagram on the floor where she stood had candles placed at the very outer points, just outside the exterior of the two circles which encompassed them. Each one a different color, representing one of the five elements, with her in its center to embody the power. Within the twinned circles, were the runes of the names of the angels. The script a style of Enochian the language of Angels and Demons. She still needed to learn it completely, only grasping some of the context.
“Ignis!” her father commanded in Latin and the candles lit.
The enchanted obsidian blade lay at her feet, she realized her blood would be the sacrifice needed for this spell to work. Charity stood there transfixed on her father, shocked and scared. She’d only registered a few things he said. He began chanting the ancient ritual, she grew alert. Aware her father now broke the laws he’d upheld for over a century and a half scared her. But it was the only way. Staring intently into her father’s dark brooding eyes, she realized she would never see him again.
The smell of searing metal caused her to peer toward the bomb shelters’ door. Something she knew her father hadn’t perceived because he was locked in his ritual. The thick reinforced metal began to glow red around its edges. She could barely hear a voice outside the door casting a spell. The telltale essence of magic flooded the area and it was foul and corrupt, tainted with Horde power. Panic gripped her. She would be unable to defend herself or her father, both encumbered by the spell he cast.
The voice definitely that of a man, deep and determined sounding and somehow familiar to her. Charity sensed the unmistakable release of magic as the heavy door ripped from its hinges. The scream of the tortured metal crashing onto the floor was deafening. The dust billowed up and went flying through the air, making it harder to see. The candles’ flames flickered, nearly snuffed out by the flow of air.
As the dust started to settle, a form walked just into the doorway. Her breath caught in her lungs at the sight of the man standing in the entrance to the shelter. Extremely handsome, tall and well-muscled, as if he were a seasoned soldier. Dark skin and eerie green eyes. His short jet-black curly hair had a small silver streak running from his left temple to just behind his ear. His square jaws bristled with day-old whiskers.
He wore a floor length black leather cape. The evil Horde magic symbols embedded in the thick material. Each of his large hands had ebony claws about an inch long on his fingertips. In his left hand, he carried a great gnarled blacken staff. Charity sensed she knew him in every part of her soul, even though she was sure she’d never met him before. His very presence made her warm all over, in spite of the cold night’s air drifting in from where the door had been. As he stood there, she had an instinctual urge to go to him.
The Sorcerer reminded her of a lover lost to her somehow. All she could do was think of his warm embrace and his lips against her skin as if they were there once before. A hot rush ran from her chest to her inner thighs as the man’s gaze locked with hers. Desire welled up in her. Unable to enter across the protective ward inside the door, the man extended his hand towards her. She took a small step towards him, the need to go to him consuming her thoughts.
A humming sensation snapped her back to her senses. She stared down at her arm. The enchanted obsidian blade flew up from her feet and now sliced her across the wrists before crashing to the floor, shattering as it hit. Her soft cry of pain and surprise sprang from her lips. The tiny black shards sprayed across the inner area of the pentagram and began to vibrate.
Charity watched her deep red fluid well to the surface of the wound. Her blood began to trickle in rivulets down her hand and along her fingers. The flow started forming droplets on her finger tips and began dripping onto the floor. This was the last component in the spell.
The blood formed a small pool on the old concrete, dust strewn floor. Now focused on the blood which began to float upward. First a drop, then several more until the blood from her wrist stopped flowing downward altogether and dripped upward instead. The dust began to swirl lightly around the floor within the circle. Her messy hair moved in the ethereal winds that began to build. The sounds of sucking and howling from above her were barely audible.
The hum of power swelled in the air around Charity. The electrical vibes built to its pinnacle as her arm hairs stood on end. The flow of magic washed around her in waves, its flavor familiar, warm and welcoming. Her father’s magic had always been that way, with a sense of great power in it. She knew she would never feel its familiar warmth again, and more tears stole from her eyes. Her heart already heavy with loss and the fear that overwhelmed her of being sent away.
The Horde Sorcerer lashed at the wards with magic, over and over, cursing his words. His power stronger than her father’s and abruptly the ward fell. From her peripheral vision, she saw him step inside the room as he muttered an incantation. Charity’s mind was absorbed with the magic’s assaulting her body; it was painful. The pulling of her very essence to flow upward along with her blood was disconcerting. Her body jerked hard with the increased tempo of her father’s chanting, and she prayed it was nearly over.
Daring to glance up, she saw a fist size inky black hole ripping through the fabric of time. This spell so powerful, the offenders were punished by immediate death. The vortex began to widen over her head. The stranger screamed in fury at her father as Charity stared up into the opening. Fear filling every fibre of her being. As her father uttered the last words of his spell, the surge of foul magic swarmed into the room. The counter spell hit her with a blast of energy like a sledgehammer. Charity’s body went into a small seizure, her body twitching out of control as she thought she heard the faded scream of her father.
“Harris for god sakes NO!” then everything turned to blackness.