Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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Blood Gate pt. 2

Fluffy grey clouds gathered above the West Norwood Cemetery as the group stood in front of the pointed stone archway. A rusted iron gate to keep the living out, Helena thought as she looked on ahead.

“Ah, a lovely place to spend the night, wouldn’t you agree?” Nora asked with a giggle. “Perfectly suited for the undead gathered here.”

Helena grasped Lucious’ arm when she noticed him shifting towards the siren. They were getting close to the Demon Gate, and the air around the cemetery got thicker as they edged to the entrance.

Two of Nora’s bodyguards snapped the steel chain and pushed open the gates. With a broad smile plastered on her face and a skip to her stride, Nora was the first to cross the invisible threshold to the land of the dead.

The warmth from earlier was replaced with a chill. It clung to Helena, and she wrapped her jacket tighter around her.

Graves and mausoleums of old were scattered along the path in an almost random pattern. Her attention jumped from each gravestone as if waiting for something to lunge at her, and she unknowingly huddled closer to Lucious who slipped his arm around her shoulders.

“Are you scared?” he whispered, tickling her ear with his cool breath.

Helena scowled and chose to separate from him. She shuffled to Maya and Ben. The hunters had been quiet about this ordeal, and Helena was thankful for it. They remained true to their word. Not once did they complain about the arrangements. They were aiming to kill Lazarus with her. But, for some reason, that did not sit well with her. Was she becoming what they wanted her to be—a killer?

“This place gives me the creeps,” Maya said, scratching her arm.

“You’ve slept at a cemetery before, Maya, this place is no different,” Ben said matter-of-factly.

Helena raised a brow. “You’ve slept in a cemetery?”

“Long story.” Maya lowered her voice. “Do you think we can trust the witches and the saint?”

Helena glanced at the three of them leading the group along the concrete path. “I trust Madeline and Nadine. I can’t be sure about Reaver…”

Maya handed her the knife she was playing with earlier. “Take this in case you need to defend yourself at any point.”

Before grasping the leather-wrapped hilt, Helena studied it. “What will we find on the other side?”

“No idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if the saint’s guardian is holding out on us, or maybe it’s the saint. I don’t trust anyone but Ben to have my back in this mission. No offence, sis.”

“None taken,” Helena replied, knowing full well where she was coming from. Sure, she wanted to trust every last one of them, but too many of them had their own reasons for being here.

The air got colder and gooseflesh populated her skin underneath her summer jacket. They separated into a single file to follow the tiny path overgrown with shrubbery. Large branches swayed towards them with the faint gust of wind.

Her breath fogged as they neared the entrance of the crematorium. Following Maya down the stone steps, she gripped the frosty metal railing. When she looked over her shoulder, she found Lucious close behind.

“I can see dark energy around this building,” Lucious said, and she stopped in her tracks.

He pulled her in, and his shields cloaked her.

She saw thick miasma clinging to the building. As if it had a life of its own, it shifted around every crevice of the old crematorium, and Helena pushed away from him. “I’d rather not see what I’m walking into.”

“Oh, hurry it up already,” Alexander complained. “We do not have the time to dawdle.”

Lucious smirked. “I swear you have said that before, my friend.”

“It is because you two take forever to get anywhere. You may be late to your funeral at this stage.”

“Peachy,” she said with a shake of her head and descended the last two steps.

Yellow light irradiated the brown-brick walls of the spacious, dank room. A strange contraption stood at the centre of it. She studied the coffin-sized hole in the ceiling and shot Lucious a questioning look.

“The chapel is upstairs. The coffin lift mechanism uses a valve on the side to push the coffin up and down,” he replied.

“Do I even want to know why you have this information?”

Alexander stopped behind them and wrinkled his nose. “I have researched this dump. I suggest you keep your human close. There are victims of smallpox from the 1850s outbreak in here.”

Lucious’ hand caught Helena’s. She wanted to roll her eyes but stopped as it reminded her too much of the first time she entered the Angel Realm and lost control.

Helena spotted Maya and Ben disappearing around the corner. She nudged Lucious to move on. Reluctant, he strode ahead with her at his side, and Alexander ambled behind them.

Worn, hardwood coffins with rusted metal hinges lined the barrel vault’s sides. So much death surrounded them, she had to fight the urge to vomit on the dirt beneath her booted feet. There was no life around. No flies, no spiders, not a single cobweb.

At the end of the tunnel, a large brick wall looked back at them. The group stopped, and Nora turned around with her arms spread out like she was orchestrating a spectacle. “We have arrived at the Demon Gate.”

Frowns deepened on everyone’s faces except for Lucious, Madeline, and Nadine. They looked at the wall with uncertainty and apprehension.

“Who wants to bleed first?” Nora asked.

Helena scowled. “What are you talking about?”

“What Demon Gate would open without a smidgen of blood magic?” Nora asked, slapping her hands to her hips.

Kaliroth took off from Nora’s shoulder and flew towards one of the vampires. He fished out a small bag from his coat’s pocket. The pixie took it with her tiny hands and sprinkled the contents around their group.

“What is that?” Alexander asked.

“A barrier,” Madeline replied. “It will protect those within it as long as the gate remains active.”

Helena assessed the small shimmering specks on the ground. “What happens if people leave it?”

“It’s best not to test whether the gods are on our side tonight,” Madeline said. “Those with silver souls and temporarily bonded to the saint will remain in the circle. You must decide now who is going through the gate, Helena.”

“It’s a no-brainer,” Maya said. “Ben and I will go through and kill the demon.”

“As much as I would like to see you perish on the other side of this wall, there is another task that needs to be accomplished,” Lucious said.

Ben took out his two pistols and checked them. “You and Helena can save the vampire while we take out the demon. Give us the Arcanae Mortum.”

Lucious snorted. “As if I would trust you with the only weapon we have against the demons.”

Maya took out her gun and stroked her slender finger along the metal barrel. “We either do this or we don’t. Which is it?”

“We should give Maya the blade, Lucious,” Helena offered.

“On this matter, I will not budge, my dear. I cannot trust these hunters.”

“Quit squabbling!” Nadine shouted. “We are risking our lives to open this gate for you. So, vampires, ready your wrists.”

Dumbstruck, Helena gaped at the saint—a girl who never raised her voice was now commanding the proceedings. She turned her head and found Lucious’ displeased expression. His eyes narrowed on Nadine.

Nora clapped her hands. With one look, Helena knew Reaver was back in control as Nora’s left eye was blue. “My men will guard the entrance while we prepare for the ritual. I suggest you ready your weapons because, once the gate is open, whatever awaits us on the other side may come pouring in.”

“Have you done this before?” Helena asked.

“I haven’t. No one is foolish enough to do this. No one but this group it seems…”

Alexander shook his head. “Figures.”

“It is finishedeth, Master Reaver,” the pixie announced in a high-pitched voice.

Reaver beckoned for Lucious and Alexander to step forwards. “Don’t be shy, my good men. I’m certain you’ve bled more than what I will need for the ritual.”

“I do not like to bleed for blood magic,” Lucious grumbled.

“I concur,” Alexander said.

Reaver took the dagger Maya had given Helena out of her hand. He returned to the men and sliced their offered wrists. Blood rushed to the surface and dripped onto the dirt between their feet. Reaver guided them to the wall where he pressed their wrists to the brickwork.

The room buzzed with energy and the blood spread out along the wall, turning into archaic words and patterns Helena couldn’t read. The scarlet vines expanded further and painted an archway before both of the vampires were permitted to move their arms away.

“A Blood Gate,” Helena muttered, remembering her grandmother’s entry in the grimoire. The final entry she had almost forgotten which stated that her father had passed through a ‘Blood Gate’ to save them from the darkness. She didn’t understand it at first. Now, it all fell into place. Her father could be on the other side…

Reaver smirked. “An archaic name not used for over a century, but, yes, it is also called a ‘Blood Gate’ by the Wiccan Circles in the East.”

Helena clutched her chest. This is it…

Reaver rummaged in his pocket and fished out two black crystals. He handed one to Helena and kept the other. “In case you are wondering what it is, it is the viator bijous. To activate it, the wielder must sacrifice a dash of their life force. Nothing major, I assure you.”

Lucious pushed past Madeline and Nadine and lifted the crystal from Helena’s hand. “I will hold on to this.”

“It doesn’t matter who surrenders their life force,” Reaver said. “I only suggest using the bijous sparingly. It can make the user exhausted fast.”

“Duly noted,” Lucious said.

“And don’t forget, to kill a demon you must stab it in the heart with the blade,” Reaver told Lucious and, with a broad smile, winked at Helena. “For you, I have prepared a special gift. It is a freshly blessed amber stone to keep the darkness at bay since you are running low…”

Helena lifted her hand and pulled back the sleeve of her jacket. Just as Reaver implied, her bracelets were almost black. The fact he could tell without seeing them made her more nervous. Nonetheless, she mouthed a ‘thank you’ as she took the stone and tucked it into her pocket.

Reaver motioned for Nadine and Madeline to step into the middle of the barrier.

Alexander took this chance to whisper something into Lucious’ ear. He stepped away and headed back out of the tunnel.

Helena shot Lucious a questioning look. He shook his head and didn’t elaborate. So, she dismissed it.

Maya, Ben, and Lucious moved out of the circle, and Helena edged closer to them. She folded her arms and waited.

Each passing second seemed longer than the last. With sure strides, Nadine took her place in front of the witches and lifted her hands, palms facing the Demon Gate. As she did so, Horus materialised at her side with a look of disapproval, but he said nothing. The angel placed his hand on her shoulder, as did Nora and Madeline, and they closed their eyes.

Heat rolled off the small group in waves, pushing away the chill that clung to Helena’s bones since they had entered the cemetery. Her skin began to prickle.

The blood on the gate started to glow red and rotate. Nadine’s hands ignited with a golden light, much like Michael’s had done in the past. Over the constantly increasing humming in the cramped space, Helena couldn’t make out what Nadine was whispering. Soon, the blood on the wall merged into a single large bead at the centre. One by one, the bricks turned into a liquid mirror that reflected their shocked and worried faces.

Once the gate was large enough to fit two grown men, Nadine stopped chanting and shouted, “Go. Now!”

Helena recited a tiny prayer to the thudding of her heartbeat. She used her clammy hand to hold Lucious’, and they ran through the Demon Gate.

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