“And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.”
The man held me close enough to smell the blood that clung to his breath with an arm around my waist that was much stronger than it should have been. A quick blow through the chest, a blade of black fire, or even my russian kindjal would quickly save the world dealing with one more monster, but those left too distinct a wound and made it easier to track me; so instead, I let him bite my neck and drink. He pulled back after a few seconds and I smiled as my eyes turned black, the mark of a soul eater.
“What? Is there something wrong with my blood?” I spoke softly, mimicking the same innocence I’d used to lure him in. His look was one I’d grown accustomed to: the fear that comes from realization. It was never easy for them to tell who was hunting who.
“Delante,” his voice was a whisper, so I allowed myself Delante’s twisted grin.
“I should thank you, you’ve been the easiest meal I’ve ever had,” with those final words, I reached into his chest and tore out his squirming soul. I watched as it formed a swirling orb in my palm and the now dead vampire crumpled to the ground with a dulled gaze; I’d tried depriving myself of souls before, when I’d worked for Death, but it hadn’t ended well. Besides, it was remarkably easy to spend my days laying low and moving from town to town hunting the things that go bump in the night and blend in so terribly well with humans in the day. By the time I finished the apple shaped soul, my eyes had returned to silver and I ran long pianist’s fingers through my raven coloured hair to dislodge the ringlets. I stopped in the road to look up at the dark sky and take a deep breath, to inhale the cool night air before slipping a silver band from my coat pocket. Silver and Holy Water, as far as I knew, were the best way to keep a demon at bay, but even with enough silver to burn, Delante still managed to slip through from time to time. I drew blood from an old scar in my lip as I slipped the band back onto my wrist, wincing when it seared into my skin. I could hear a carriage rattle along the road and I glanced over at it. It was far enough away that all I had to do was take three steps back out of the way and it would continue by without a second’s thought, but at the same time…
When I opened my eyes again, the carriage had stopped and the two that had been on the driver’s bench were hurrying around to see if I was alright. I sat up with a groan and rubbed my temples a moment before I heard a rather strange shuffling and a very familiar voice.
“You!” I looked up at the back of the carriage and began laughing like the mad woman I’m sure humans normally see me as. The carriage was a prison on wheels and the woman inside was someone all too familiar, “You tried to kill me!” I started to reply, but one of the drivers reached me.
“Oh my gosh! Are you alright?” I climbed to my feet and dusted myself off.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I forced a smile, “See? Not a scratch on me.” The other one, a man and the first’s brother from the looks of them, stared at me with a look of apprehension.
“That’s impossible.” I shrugged at his quiet words.
“Oh and we ruined your dress, as well.” I stared at the woman with a frown.
“It-It’s not mine,” I spoke slowly before turning back to the woman in the cage when curiosity finally got the better of me, “What are you still doing in there?” Este stuttered a moment before she finally got out an answer.
“I wanted to be in here.” I started to shake my head, the disbelief written across my face.
“And why in the three realms would you want to be in a cage?” My disbelief bled into my voice to hide what I truly felt. There was an anger and a hunger inside me that secretly I feared more than life itself. But it couldn’t be hidden from Delante and now she rose inside once again to dye my eyes black and call forth a fire in Este’s prison. The black fire spread quickly to her skirt and I felt myself smile while the two drivers struggled to put it out and frost spread across the prison bars. Only Este begged with me, but I was gone, back inside my sanctuary playing a rather sad tune on the piano and deaf to the world outside; and mercy was not a word Delante was familiar with.
“Demon,” the man spoke upon seeing my changed eyes, “Jenny, go get the bible.” They were hunters, which only partially explained how Este had come to be imprisoned by them. I smirked as Jenny rushed back with a thick, leather bound bible.
“That won’t help you,” I lifted my hand and one of the silver bands around my wrist cracked as the bible caught fire in Jenny’s arms. She dropped it and I grinned wider, “I’m not something that can be exorcised,” the band shattered and before the last fragment hit the cobblestone both hunters were on the ground, the prison door had been torn from its hinges, and my hand had closed around Este’s throat. “I should feed you to my Hounds,” I growled the words and she gave me a weak smile.
“But you won’t,” she sounded so sure, with only the faintest of tremors in her voice to show that she really was afraid of me. So I smiled back, wearing the twisted grin that so many associated with Delante.
“Only because they’re locked away in the shadows.” All at once the fear filled Este’s expression.
“Wha-What if I can tell you something important?” I let the smile slip back into Delante’s icy calm.
“And what would that be?”
“The Angel of Death is being hunted.” I almost laughed aloud at the idea, but the look on her face as she choked out the words told me that it was completely true. Even if it hadn’t, she had no reason to lie when she knew she’d die either way. So I let go of her throat and waited while she gasped for breath.
“Who is it,” I hesitated, “this ‘predator’?”
“They say he’s an angel.” Now I did laugh. Este was rambling on about how white his wings were when I called her back with a question that seemed in my head to be unimportant. “Is he one of heaven’s?” I thought I knew what the answer would be; I was wrong.
“Yes, I think they called him the Angel of Thursday.” I stared at Este, Delante scurrying back inside my head as I recognized the name. I swallowed the momentary panic and stepped back.
“Go, I’ll keep you alive for as long as you prove useful.” She nodded slightly and hurried off down the street. I watched her go before I looked up at the sky and closed my eyes. “Well Cas, I suppose you really were more than a simple a hallucination,” I smirked as I looked down again. “How long have you been hunting me, then?” I got no reply, of course; I’d have been more surprised if I had gotten one. I shook my head and breathed a heavy sigh before I turned to disappear down the road towards home.
My home was as empty as usual, making it seem bigger than it actually was. It was still rather large, a Victorian style home that I had heard qualified as a small mansion. It sat alone on a heavily wooded 40 acre plot, and the few people that had seen it spread rumors about it being haunted. Normally, I would have laughed at the irony, but today my mind was otherwise occupied. It only took me a moment to find the book I was looking for; after an incident a couple centuries back during which I had almost been dragged back to hell, I had become a meticulous note taker and this particular book was one of many old journals, with yellowing pages and a worn leather cover. As I leafed through the pages in search of a certain name, they cracked and filled the air with the scent of old paper and stale blood; I had tried so hard to keep the blood off of them. The name only appeared once, back in a time I’d rather have forgotten, back before I had become Arron Masey. I’d first met Castiel a long time ago, back when I went by the name of Hagar and was maidservant to Sarai.
“So I was right,” a smile tugged at the corner of my mouth, a real smile, “you stayed to help me,” I had never wanted a child, and had God sent an angel that only did as he was told, I’m not sure what would have happened to either of us. I closed my eyes and sighed. “Castiel, if you’re really hunting the Angel of Death, then come and get me,” okay, so I may have been a bit suicidal when the idea popped into my head, but it worked like a charm. A moment later I heard the quiet flutter of familiar wings and I turned.
“Suicide is a sin, you know.” I frowned, there was no hint of recognition in the eyes of the angel that stood before me, but still it was him; there was a bit more black in his hair than when last we’d met but otherwise he was the same. “You’re the Angel of Death, then? I never expected you to simply tell me where you were one day.” I gave a brief smile.
“Had I known I was being hunted, I would have called sooner,” I set my journal down and leaned back against the table. “So? What are you waiting for? Maybe we’ll get lucky.” He studied me a moment with something akin to curiosity in his eyes. He always had seemed so close to... human.
“You really want to die?”
“Look around you, it gets lonely spending eternity with very little contact outside of collecting souls and the occasional ‘dragon slayer’,” my words were bitter and he nodded slightly.
“Sadly, I can’t grant that wish,” the ice in his voice when he spoke hurt more than the day my wings had burned away. “Heaven doesn’t want you dead, they want you in a cage.” I swallowed the pain and feigned nonchalance in my response.
“A cage? That’s a new one,” I paused a moment as I re-examined his words and I caught a glimpse of hope, “‘they’ not ‘we’?” A smirk tugged at the corner of my mouth, “Careful Cas, keep speaking like that and someone might think that you don’t agree with them.” His pale blue grey eyes turned to ice.
“If I made the decisions, you would be choking on your own blood on the floor by now,” his words carried a snarl that seemed so unfamiliar in his voice. Then he tipped his head to one side, the curiosity returned to his eyes, “you called me Cas?” I looked down, suddenly unable to meet his gaze; it makes me laugh now, the idea that his hatred could fill me with such a fear as that I felt then.
“Yes, it just sort of,” I swallowed, “slipped out.” If this was how he felt about me now, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know how he’d react to the rest of the story, “I won’t-”
“No, it’s alright. It’s just that I haven’t heard that name in a long time, not since...” he trailed off.
“Hagar,” I spoke automatically and he blinked in surprise as for a moment we let the name settle on the silence like a weight.
“How do you know that name?” He spoke slowly and for a moment, I was thankful for my former employment.
“I was there when she died,” I paused, “she asked for you.” Suddenly the ice was gone from Castiel’s eyes, and for the briefest moment he was the same angel I had known all those years ago, except that now the look on his face appeared to be one of grief.
“How,” he stopped and swallowed, “How did she die?” His voice was quiet.
“Slit wrists,” at least this fake version of me could have been successful, but me? I was stuck with the scars that I would never let fade, “She said she felt so alone she just...” I trailed off with a shrug. At my lie, he sat down heavily in one of the chairs facing me, eyes wide and shaking hands pushing the hair from his face.
“She could have called to me, she never had to be alone.” In my sudden frustration, I didn’t think through my response.
“She did! A thousand times she tried! You never answered,” My voice became a snarl, “Why do you think she felt so alone?” He stared at me a moment before replying.
“How do you know that?” I swallowed, taking a moment to think up an even semi plausible response.
“Hagar was sick,” I spoke slowly, choosing my words carefully, “like tuberculosis or the plague sick, I had been following her for a few days, waiting for the disease to take hold. I liked Hagar, I didn’t want her to suffer, so when she killed herself, it was a near godsend. She didn’t have to suffer anymore,” I trailed off, my eyes finding the pale scars on my wrists once again. “So this cage, do they really believe it will hold me?” I asked out of honest curiosity and a need to change the subject but I think Castiel mistook it for arrogance.
“It is not just any cage, it was made to hold Delante, a mere reaper will not be able to escape from the Eternity Box.” Well in any case, it was nice to know I hadn’t been completely forgotten by the man upstairs.
“I know after all of the things I’ve seen it’d be a miracle for me not to be even a little bit mad, but I don’t really want to be locked in the Eternity Box,” I was quiet, “and I haven’t worked for Death in more years than I can count.” Castiel was silent a moment, studying me with the cold cool gaze so familiar to other angels but not with him.
“Then don’t,” he said it so simply that for the briefest moment, I believed it possible.
“I thought you were the good little soldier, just like your brothers.” He gave a dark laugh and leaned back in the chair, running a hand through his hair. In that movement, I saw more black in his hair than I had thought possible for any but Lucifer. I leaned closer to him, studying his soul through his eyes as I spoke, “What happened to you that you’ve done so much wrong?” He stiffened when I reached for the black in his hair, “relax, I control whose soul I take.” He continued to watch me with a wary gaze, so I dropped my hand back to my side, “really though, from what Hagar told me, you obeyed every order you were given.” He studied me a moment, eyes like ice.
“There’s a war being fought, maybe you hadn’t noticed.” I’d like to say that he picked up the sarcasm from me, but honestly it’d be too hard to tell.
“Really Cas? Does that mean you’ve killed someone?” Naturally, my response to sarcasm was more sarcasm but he simply glared.
“I was ordered to do things I didn’t think were right.” Now I was really curious.
“An angel questioning God’s orders,” I said it aloud mostly to prove just how strange it sounded. “The last time that happened was...” I paused in thought, “How old am I?”
“My orders are not coming from God, they haven’t in a long time.” I nodded slightly.
“So this ‘not being locked in the Eternity Box’ thing, how exactly is that going to work with a rogue angel in my library who would rather see me dead than follow Heaven’s orders.” He studied me in silence.
“You didn’t believe that you would be doing it alone, did you?” For a moment I just stood there in continued silence as my brain struggled to piece together an even semi-coherent response, but thankfully some brave soul chose then to knock on my door.
“I’ll be right back,” it took everything I had not to run from the room but I wasn’t really in any particular hurry to see who was at the door, either. “Este,” to be perfectly honest, I had completely forgotten about Este, but there she stood on my step in the pouring rain and yet completely dry.“I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
“Oh no, I just have a rogue angel sitting in my library who would rather see me choke to death on my own blood than follow Heaven’s orders.” From the look on her face she assumed I had suddenly become the type to joke about such things, and she seemed to be waiting for me to recant my statement. When I didn’t, realization slowly spread across her face as what I’d said, if somewhat sarcastically, finally seemed to set in.
“Well good day to you too,” she muttered the words and slipped past me into the entryway.
“Come on in,” I muttered back; I didn’t like having people I didn’t trust in my home.
“A rogue angel,” she studied me a moment, completely ignoring my having said anything at all, “the Angel of Thursday? The one hunting you?” I nodded.
“The same.” Este breathed a heavy sigh.
“Well that was a waste of time.” I gave a harsh laugh.
“In all honesty, I only asked so that someone would find my body.” She studied me, almost as if she was unsure of how to respond. I would have waited, but something pulled me away, the slightest of tremors to tell me that one of my Hounds had slipped through the cracks between our world and the shadows. Curiosity caused me to turn away from Este and follow the tremor back into the library where I’d left the angel. What I found set my face into a snarl, “harm my Hound, and I won’t be this docile thing you’ve been talking to anymore.” Castiel looked up; the silver knife in his hand frozen mid flight on it’s way down into Keep’s spine. Keep snarled up at him, the silver in his pointed ears and the seal I’d placed on his soul long ago the only things keeping his spines flat along his back. “Keep.” In an instant his demeanor changed to passive and he turned to press his head into my hand, “how did you find your way through?” I smiled, “Are the others with you?” I studied his empty gaze a moment and frowned, “no, it’s just you,” I sighed and sat back on the floor when Keep butted his head into my chest.
“So the other Hounds,” Castiel had lowered the knife but he still kept a wary eye on Keep, “where are they?” I wore a lonely smile.
“All around you, hidden away in the shadows.” He tipped his head to one side as he examined me, weighing his possible responses. Finally he replaced the knife inside his coat and sat back in his chair.
“Who was at the door?” I only had a moment to be surprised by his nonchalance.
“I was.” I looked back over my shoulder at Este as she studied me, “There were always rumors that when you escaped, your wings were sealed in ink; I’d never believed them before,” I glanced past Este at my reflection in the mirror, where black ink wings could be glimpsed through the tears in my dress. For a moment I could taste the power locked within the ink, but I tore myself away and my gaze returned to Este. I shook my head ever so slightly, hoping that she wouldn’t tell what she knew about who I really was. “So you’re him, then? The Angel of Thursday?” The expression Castiel wore as he appraised her was one of boredom. After a moment of silence I climbed to my feet again.
“Castiel, this is Miss Este Demetriou,” I kept my voice steady, hiding behind Delante’s calm as I felt the worry rise within, “Este, this is Castiel, the Angel of Thursday.” One day, I would look back and laugh at my thoughts, but at the time I was too busy fearing that my home would be torn apart by an angel and a rather powerful witch. Apparently my worries were unfounded, because suddenly Castiel became the perfect gentleman.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he stood and stepped forward, offering his hand.
“It’s, uh,” Este paused and swallowed, “It’s nice to meet you too, Castiel,” she shook his hand with a new tinge to her cheeks and her French accent bleeding into her words, “or do you prefer the Angel of Thursday?” I sighed again and slouched into one of the empty chairs.
“I go by Castiel.” The two of them took the other seats and I frowned as an uncomfortable silence fell.
“Well,” I broke the silence and stood again, “I’d offer to make tea, but I actually don’t have any,” I started to turn to leave but paused, “I’m going to go, uh, change,” I glanced down, “and see what I can do about returning this dress.” Castiel watched me go, but Este just waved me off, her gaze never leaving him; I almost laughed as I climbed the stairs to the second floor.
I sat frowning at the many, many holes in my borrowed dress and spinning a needle and thread across my knuckles. I sat back with a sigh and flicked the needle like a dart at the pin cushion on my side table.
“Well this is completely ruined,” I held it up again, “I’m sorry Miss Meyer.” I climbed to my feet and took a moment to be thankful for the lack of rustling fabric that my trousers afforded me. Este and Castiel were still chatting in my library when I slipped out into the rain, pulling the hood of my coat up. I had always loved the rain; it made the world seem so much more peaceful than I had ever known it to be. The walk back into town was long and as I neared, the air began to fill with the damp, familiar scent of factory smoke. I put on a bitter smile, Londoners and their love of their factories never ceased to amaze me. Most of the people in the streets gave me a wide berth, I was, after all, living in a ‘haunted’ house.
“Is it true what they say about you?” I looked down in surprise at the little girl as she hurried along beside me, “that you’re a witch?” I smiled, slowing my stride so that she could keep up.
“No child, I’m just overly fond of fresh air and silence. Besides,” I paused to look back at the trees, “don’t you think the trees are beautiful?” she started to reply but a woman, I assume her mother, took her by the hand.
“Come dear, you mustn’t talk to her, you’ll catch a curse.” I nearly laughed at the sheer impossibility of such a thing, but thought better of it. As she led the girl away, I raised a hand in a silent farewell and she smiled and waved back. Children, I believe are young enough that curiosity wins out over the instinct that normally led to the distrust I tended to receive. I shook off the thought and carried on down street after street as I wound my way towards a small seamstress’ shop.
“Miss Meyer?” I called out as I came in, pulling my hood back, “I’ve brought the dress back, though at this point it’d probably be more useful as kindling,” I trailed off as Vanessa Meyer opened the door from her studio. “I’m sorry,” I held up the dress, “I was in a bit of an accident.” Vanessa’s eyes widened and she took the dress to get a better look, as if she didn’t believe it.
“What on earth happened?” I ran a hand through my hair and hoped that she would drop it, but no such luck.
“I was run over by a carriage.” She tossed the dress aside and started to examine me as if I were a new customer, “relax Vanessa, I’m alright.” The look she gave me was one of disbelief so I changed the subject, “How is the business going?” I’d had an invested interest in her little shop since she had come to me to borrow the money to start it.
“It’s blooming wonderfully, like a rose.” I frowned at her uncharacteristic phrasing as she hurried back around a counter covered in designs, “I still wish you’d let me make you a dress, if only to thank you for the help with the payments.” I laughed.
“I don’t think that’d be a good idea,” I spoke slowly but she took my arm in hand and started to lead me back to her studio anyway.
“Nonsense my dear, it’ll be a beautiful dress, just perfect for you, and it could even show off your wings.” That’s when I pulled out of her grip.
“The wings, how did you know about the wings?” My voice was low, a warning. She smiled in response and the image of the short, stout woman that stood before me faded into a stranger.
“Of course I know about the wings,” she tipped her head to one side and her eyes turned to a snake’s. “We were comrades in Hell after all.” I didn’t have time to react before she hit me, knocking me back through the front door. I was on my knees when she followed me out.
“Where’s Miss Meyer?” I was quiet.
“You actually care about these pathetic little children?” She laughed aloud, “They do nothing but toddle around and get eaten by father’s monsters.”
“Where is Vanessa Meyer.” She rolled her eyes at my repeated question.
“She’s at home, sleeping off a drugged glass of champagne.” I kept my eyes on the ground and smiled at her bitter tone, not my normal fake smile but a real one; one filled with madness.
“Then she’ll never know.” The hunter demon wore a look of curiosity as I climbed to my feet. “You picked the wrong time to start a fight with me,” I lifted my hand and snapped my fingers; instantly they caught black fire, “I’ve been itching to burn someone for a while now,” I grinned as the hunter demon attacked me; she was fast, but nowhere near as fast as I was, “Lucifer created your class to be my subordinates, were you honestly foolish enough to believe that you alone could drag me back to that place?” She squirmed, struggling against my grip on her throat, “Burn away.” I’d imagine that since I wasn’t later chased out of England, no one saw my black eyes or the fire that burned the strange demon away as I watched in silence; silence always fell when the black faded from my eyes. “What a waste of a soul,” I spoke softly as I watched her disappear and looked up as the rain continued to fall. For a moment I was back in Edo and it was 1657, when I’d watched as the fire finally died off and the ashes fell like snow; it had been my fault. After a moment of peace the all too familiar sense that the world was spinning around me set in and the ground rushed to embrace me.
I woke on the side of the road to someone pulling on my coat so I groaned and sat up, pressing my fingers to my temples as pain sparked in my head.
“Stop pushing me, I’m going,” I shot a glare at the person now pushing me before I realized that it was Keep, trying to get me back on my feet, “Keep,” I rubbed the thick of fur around his neck, “what are you doing out of the house? Did I call you?”
“He came with me.” I looked up, squinting against the glare of sunlight off the fog, “Is it customary for you to sleep on the sides of roads?” I gave a harsh laugh and climbed to my feet, dusting myself off.
“No Cas, I got a bit distracted and,” I stopped, catching myself before I gave myself away, “may have had a bit much to drink.” He nodded slightly and I couldn’t help but be a little insulted that he didn’t ask why I’d have been drinking. “When did you become friends with Keep? He was ready to tear you limb from limb when I left.” He shrugged.
“Miss Demetriou requested I walk her home and he followed me out the door. He was friendly enough after we dropped her off.” I blinked in surprise and glanced down at Keep, but I could think of nothing to say. “I never understood why humans are so preoccupied with relationships, that’s all Miss Demetriou talked about.” I raised an eyebrow.
“Is that something they taught you when they dragged you back to Heaven after Hagar?” He gave me a glare that ended the discussion immediately so I turned to walk back to my home in the woods, Keep trotting along at my heels. When Castiel followed I paused in my stride, “Do you plan on following me for long?”
“I was sent to drag you to Heaven but instead I am going to help you avoid that, so I plan on keeping an eye on you for a while.” I made a face.
“I take it that you have no idea how strange that sounded.” It wasn’t a question, but he seemed to need to reply.
“Did it?” I nodded but kept walking in silence, at least until we reached the trees.
“Would it help if I were sealed?” He blinked in what seemed like a brief moment of confusion or surprise.
“I suppose it would, but that kind of seal would be very painful.” I shrugged off his warning and flashed a grim smile.
“I’ve been sealed before, I know what to expect,” he studied me again with curiosity.
“Why?” I hesitated a moment.
“I’ve done a lot that I regret, and I was trying to find a way to make up for it and prevent my doing anything else,” I shrugged, quiet a moment as I thought over my half-truth and my motive for a second seal, “It sounds idiotic when I say it aloud.” He shook his head as I opened the front door to the house.
“It sounds human.” I studied him a moment but said nothing. “I heard rumors while in London that there was a witch living in an old house in the woods, that wouldn’t by chance be you, would it?” I laughed.
“Yes, that would be me. They don’t know this, but there is currently only one witch in London, and she can be a bit territorial.” He raised an eyebrow.
“And who would that be?”
“You met her earlier, Miss Demetriou,” I mimicked his voice and he stared at me.
“She’s a witch?” he paused in thought, “I suppose that explains the multi coloured cat eyes.” I had forgotten about her eyes, like a black cat’s in green and violet.
“I forgot to mention that, didn’t I.” He nodded and I sighed as I hung my coat on the hook in the entryway, “I let her hang around because it makes my job easier in the long run”.
“You also neglected to say what your name is.” I blinked.
“I’m the Angel of Death, did you need more than that?”
“Not if I were following orders, no, but I’m not following orders.” I started to argue his point, but nothing came to mind.
“Fair point,” I offered my hand, “I go by Arron,” he shook it, “Arron Masey.” He smiled for the first time since he’d come.
“It’s been…” he paused, seeming to search for the right word, “interesting meeting you.”
“I would’ve said Hell.”
“It hasn’t been that bad.” I shrugged.“If you say so,” I moved past him and through one of many doors into a kitchen too large for one person. “That tea I mentioned earlier, would you like some?”
“I thought you didn’t have any.”
“That’s a bit rude, don’t you think?” I paused and studied him over the kettle as I filled it with water.
“Would you invite an enemy into your home for tea?”
“Fair enough.” I turned away from him as I set the kettle on the stove. The fire below started instantly for me, alive with flickering hues of blue, black, and violet as it burned and frost spread like a web across the stovetop.
“So,” I broke the silence, “a seal,” I turned back to Castiel, “anything I need to track down?” He stood silent for a short while, contemplating an answer.
“Holy water, Silver, Vervain, and white sage.” I blinked, “Oh! And a lot of white paint,” he spoke so simply that I’m not sure he knew how difficult it could be for me to obtain some of those ingredients if certain ships weren’t in port and luck wasn’t on my side, which it rarely was.
“Well,” I spoke when the kettle’s whistling broke the silence, “at least I have the basics.” He blinked as I poured the tea.
“You have Holy water, and silver just lying around your house?” I nodded, “Why?”
“What? Did you think these piercings were fake?” I pulled a piece of my shattered silver band from my pocket, wincing as I tossed it to him.
“This is real silver.” I nodded and held out his cup to him.
“I needed to get a replacement for that, but a second seal would probably work even better, even if it means that I’m constantly being tracked.” He nodded in understanding and set the silver fragment on the counter.
“You mentioned you’d been sealed before,” he trailed off, the question in his voice. I hesitated a moment before I turned my back to him and unfastened the leather vest I wore over my blouse. He could see the black ink wings through the light fabric of my shirt, “who did it?” I shrugged the vest back on and picked up my tea.
“It’s been so long, I don’t remember.” He nodded and didn’t press, but I doubted he believed me.
“At least it explains why the humans called you Angel of Death, if you had wings once.” I nodded though I knew it wasn’t true; I’d lost my wings long before I began working for Death. There was a loud thump and the sound of a sofa sliding across the wood floor in the sitting room; it wasn’t much, but at least it was a momentary distraction.
“Keep, stay off of the furniture,” I called out and heard the Hound climb down before I leaned back with a small smile.
“He seems like a handful,” I gave Castiel a nonchalant shrug.
“I manage alright,” I smiled, “I’m just glad he doesn’t shed,” he nodded slightly as his brow furrowed in thought.
“You called him Keep?” I nodded as I sipped my tea, silently swearing at myself for using his name, “Isn’t that the name of one of Delante’s Hell Hounds?”
“The demon?” I laughed, “I’m flattered that you think so highly of me,” I tried and failed to keep the sarcasm out of my voice and his gaze narrowed. “He’s mine from back when I worked for Daniel,” I paused in thought, “but when I think about it, aren’t all Hell Hounds Delante’s? She did create them, after all.” He shrugged. Silence stretched between us again, as if it were a living thing that existed simply to swallow the words as they came to us. I sipped my tea, taking the moment to count my lies and place them in a neat and orderly fashion on a shelf in my head. I’ve spent a majority of my life lying about who I was, keeping myself in the ‘Angel of Death’ category alone shouldn’t be too hard; at least I didn’t think so. I set my tea cup in the sink and broke the silence, “I’ll go look for the not so traditional things we need,” I paused in thought, “come with me, I’ll show you where the paint is,” he raised an eyebrow and set his cup down slowly, carefully, as if it held all of his thoughts within.
“Alright.” He spoke slowly and followed me out of the room after only a moment’s hesitation. I came to a locked door in my hallway and pulled the key from my pocket. It turned with a reassuring click and I couldn’t help my smile as I pushed the door in. Castiel started to follow me but I stopped him in the doorway.
“Give me a moment to get the light.” He nodded despite the slight confusion that found its way to his face. I knew that when I stepped inside I would disappear from sight as long as I left the lights off, it’d be so easy for me to simply vanish for good; but a small piece of me still trusted Castiel, even if he didn’t know who I really was. I snapped my fingers and lit the matchstick in my hand before using it to light the oil in front of me. The light triggered another and another until all of my painted lanterns were lit and a colour tinged warm glow filled the room.
“Wow.” I looked back at Castiel in surprise as he studied the paintings that covered my walls.
“It’s a good way to pass the time.” He nodded slightly though he didn’t appear to have actually heard me as he reached out with light fingers to a painting of a dark haired young woman hugging her knees and crying as her semitransparent black wings wrapped protectively around her and her wrists dripped blood. I shivered and looked away; the image conjured too many old and painful memories. “Cas,” I called his name and he pulled back his hand, pale blue grey gaze snapping to me, “the paint,” I gestured to the gallons of white paint that sat in the center of the room.
“Why do you have this much white paint?”
“So that I can start over with a blank canvas.” He blinked.
“You’re painting over this?” I nodded, not sure about his interest in saving the paintings by someone he had earlier wanted dead.
“I had planned to…” I spoke slowly.
“I’m sorry?” I choked on the word in my complete surprise.
“It’s amazing, you can’t just paint over this.” I raised an eyebrow at that.
“These walls have seven layers of paint,” he just continued to stare at me so I sighed and shook my head after deciding that it wasn’t worth the argument, “fine, I’ve got a couple more empty rooms I can use.” I looked around at the walls of the room and then back at him, “what do you need the paint for anyway?” He looked down at the wood floor, studying it for a moment before looking up again.
“Do you mind if I paint on your floor?” I frowned and studied him a moment before giving a shrug and an answer.
“I guess it’s only fitting to have paint on the walls and the floor,” I paused, “but what are you going to paint?” I asked out of curiosity. He seemed to speak with extreme caution when he finally replied.
“It’s kind of a, uh,” he paused to take a step out of my reach, “modified Demon’s Trap,” in that moment, for fear of giving myself away, I shot him a look that carried as much of Delante’s cold stare as I could manage without my eyes turning from silver to black. “It won’t trap you until an angel tells it to,” he frowned, “this is a lot harder to explain than I thought it would be.” I shook my head and took a deep breath, a seal required a certain amount of trust on my part after all.
“Just, start painting, or whatever it is you’re going to do. I’ll go get the other things,” I turned and left, not waiting to hear his reply.
The White Sage, if I were lucky, would be at the docks; there was bound to be a shipment from the Americas. The docks smelled of the sea and I paused to take in the scent as it mixed with those of plants, meat, and the ever present London smoke. I took a step forward, into the torrent of people that hurried by, letting them carry me the direction in which I wanted to go. I ducked out when I caught the scent of something not quite human, following it around a corner and towards an American Galleon.
“Excuse me sir,” I caught up with one of the sailors as he unloaded crates of unidentified contents. “You wouldn’t happen to know the inventory of this ship, would you?” I gestured to the ship as I spoke and he nodded.
“Aye, is there something specific you’re looking for?” I saw no harm in trying the easy way, it has been known to work before, just not for me.
“I’m looking to purchase a small quantity of White Sage.” The man gave me a strange look and scented the air like an animal would.
“You’re a demon,” he snarled the words and I watched in patient silence as his shape began to change. His bones popped and cracked, reshaping his skeleton into a rather large predatory cat I had never seen outside of the London zoo and the Asiatic wilds. I breathed a heavy sigh as I rubbed the bridge of my nose.
“You know, I had really hoped to avoid this.” He bared long canines and sharp teeth as I opened my coat for the scoped flintlock pistol in its holster on my hip, “but I’m a bit paranoid,” I pulled a bullet from the pouch next the holster, “so I always carry these things with me,” I held it up, “A bullet filled with white ash, if I remember correctly a shot to the neck with this is the only thing that can kill your kind,” I loaded my flintlock and pointed it at him, “and I am a very good shot.” I paused, tipping my head slightly to one side, “thing is, I don’t really want to kill you; your kind is after all fairly harmless to humans. Honestly, is one small bit of White Sage worth your life?” His snarl faded, they always do when looking down the barrel of a gun that carried death. He seemed to glare at me while his tail flicked his frustration, but honestly it was too hard to tell what he was thinking. A moment later he changed back to human form and I smiled as I lowered my gun. “Good, now if you don’t mind, I’d like to collect it myself.” He nodded slightly.
“Follow me,” he didn’t wait for a response before he turned and climbed the gangplank onto the ship’s deck. I climbed up behind him and blinked as he opened a door in a smooth wall.“Clever man, hiding such a thing where it won’t be found and won’t be damaged.” He didn’t reply, simply gestured me inside the door to a box filled with leaves of a dusted white. I stepped up, paused as I thought better of it, and turned back to him with a quiet laugh. “Just so you know, if you try to shut me in here, I will get out, and I will burn you alive,” I looked up at him with eyes turned black and he took a few steps back.
“Yes ma’am.” I smiled as my eyes changed back to silver and I turned to take a few leaves of the plant. The door didn’t close behind me and when I turned back to the man, he was about to leave. I caught hold of the back of his vest.
“Just out of curiosity, where are you hiding the pelt?” he turned part of the vest so that the inside could be seen and I smiled when I saw the tiger’s stripes, “clever man,” I repeated myself and he nodded. “Thank you for your assistance,” I let go of his vest, handed him an excessive amount of coin, and stepped past him onto the gangplank, “Perhaps I’ll see you around,” he nodded and I waved goodbye as I slipped back into the crowds of people that continued to fill the streets.
Much as I disliked the idea, the only people that I knew would have something like Vervain were witches, and, as I’d told Castiel, the only witch in London was Este. I found her home in the French Quarter, a large house that matched her need for feminine looking things. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door, a part of me hoping she wouldn’t answer while the rest of me just wanted to know that I would never lose control again. Este opened the door with a certain excitement about her, right up until she saw that it was me.
“Oh, it’s you.” I blinked in confusion as she turned and walked back into her home, leaving me to either stand on the step for eternity or follow her inside. I opted for the latter.
“Were you hoping it was someone else?”
“To be perfectly frank, I would be disappointed that you showed up even if I were not hoping that.” I raised an eyebrow.
“So you were, then?” I am fairly certain if I could die, I would be the source of the saying ‘curiosity killed the cat,’ “it wouldn’t be a gentleman by any chance?” she studied me with apprehension.
“Why does it matter to you?”
“I’d like to know for next time I decide to hunt you.” She glared at me, despite my blunt honesty. “You were hoping it was Cas, weren’t you?” I’m not sure I wanted to know the answer to that one.
“What do you want, Miss Masey.” I frowned my disappointment at her change in subject.
“I was hoping I might be able to talk you into letting me have some Vervain,” she stared at me with something akin to shock.
“I’m sorry, did you just say Vervain,” I nodded.“It’s for a seal,” I paused, “or at least that’s what Cas told me,” she shook her head.
“You already have one seal on her, normally that’d be enough.” I shook my head.
“I swear, all of you must believe that I just where all of this silver for kicks.” Este remained silent, “You know my demon isn’t ‘normal’, you’ve seen what I can do when I’m in control, imagine the destruction if she were in control and still had that kind of power,” she studied me a moment longer before breathing an exasperated sigh.
“Alright fine, but only because I want to win next time you come after me,” I gave a half-hearted laugh as she disappeared deeper into her home, returning a moment later with a few sprigs of something that looked like lilac coloured milkweed.
“Thank you, Este.” She nodded slightly as she handed it to me.
“Let me know if it works.” I wore a sad smile.
“After how she reacted to the last seal, I imagine you’ll hear reports of an unstoppable fire burning London to the ground if it doesn’t.” She gave me the smallest of smiles.
“I suppose we will,” she was quiet and before I knew it, the door was closed again to me. I breathed a sigh of relief and turned for home.
Home was warm when I stepped inside, not the usual warm that came from being in out of the chill, but something… unnatural. I paused in the entryway, hanging up my coat while the unease settled over me. I let out a low whistle and listened for Keep.
“Keep? Where are you going?” I heard Castiel’s voice echo down the hall as Keep came around the corner.
“Hey pup,” I crouched and rubbed the fur around the thick of his neck when he sat in front of me, “I suppose if you’re still here, not much could have gotten into the house.” I smiled briefly.
“You’re back.” I looked up at Castiel when he stopped at the corner.
“Stating the obvious?” He said nothing so I stood, “You are a messy painter.” I studied him a moment. His long coat hung on the rack next to mine and his shirt sleeves were rolled up but still he’d managed to get them and his forearms splattered with white paint, “How did you manage to do all that? I painted an entire wall without getting it anywhere but my pants.” his gaze narrowed but he said nothing in defense. “Alright then,” I pulled the White Sage and Vervain from my coat pockets, “I’m not sure why you needed these, but here.” He nodded as he studied the plants I handed him.
“Thanks.” I raised an eyebrow.
“Shouldn’t I be thanking you?”
“You’re not sealed yet,” he paused to change the subject, “Silver and Holy water?”
“Those are in my pantry.” He nodded and followed me back into the kitchen. I pulled off my vest and tossed it over the back of a chair before I turned back from the pantry to find him standing expectantly not two feet away. “I’ll carry this.” He backed away with a nod and I breathed a quiet sigh of relief; I had never liked to have people that close, not unless they were my next meal. We were silent while we walked back to the painted room, and when I spoke, it was more to fill the silence than anything else, “You finished painting then?” He nodded and continued across the room to a set of four copper bowls. I didn’t ask where they had come from; I didn’t really care to know. I stopped at the edge of the white paint, still not trusting that once I entered, I would be allowed back out.
“It’s alright, you won’t get stuck,” Castiel’s gaze had softened some since earlier, but I still struggled to trust those eyes as I had before. He set a bowl at each of four points within the painted seal; the White Sage in one, Vervain smoking in the next, then he spoke again, “you’ll have to enter it at some point, you have to be sitting in the middle.” He took the silver and holy water from my hands and each of them were left in a bowl of their own. I watched him move to lean on the wall, waiting, before taking a deep breath and taking the first step onto the seal. I breathed a sigh of relief when I felt no sudden grip or pressure on my body. I looked up again at Castiel when I heard a quiet, almost inaudible laugh; he was wearing the smallest of smiles but when he saw me look, it vanished. “I told you that it would be harmless alone.” I glared.
“Forgive me for not trusting the person who earlier stated he’d rather see me dead than follow orders.” He nodded slowly at my sarcasm.
“Fair enough.” I stepped into the center of the circle and stopped.
“What am I supposed to do here, anyway?” He studied me a moment.
“Sit.” I started to ask another question but he had begun to speak in Heaven’s Latin and instantly I was forced to my knees by the sudden weight of a Demon’s trap. I managed to spit out a single swear in Hell’s Latin before I was on the ground writhing in a pain that blinded me and made Castiel’s voice seem ten times louder, despite the screaming in my head. Then it was over, and I found myself temporarily blind on the ground while I struggled to begin breathing again. The weight was gone, at least for the moment, and I blinked the colour back into my eyes.
“Is it over?” My voice was hoarse as I looked over at Castiel from my place on the ground.
“Yes,” he slid down to sit against one wall and rubbed his temples, “you are quite the screamer.” I glared.
“You try being sealed, it’s quite painful.” He nodded slightly while I sat up, “I suppose I won’t need these for a while then,” he watched in silence as I began stripping off silver bands and earrings that now did nothing to burn me at their touch. “I’ve worn these so long, I feel a little lost without them.” He smirked and shook his head before lifting a silver cross from around his neck and tossing it to me. I studied it a moment before looking up again, about to voice my confusion.
“It’ll keep the seal intact for a while when I’m not around.”
“Ah,” I smiled briefly and hung it around my own neck, the contrast of its warmth against my skin sending an involuntary shiver down my spine, “you know, Este might kill for this sort of thing.” He looked slightly confused by my comment.
“A seal?” I laughed.
“No, the cross. Apparently most women find things like this… flattering.” He still looked confused so I shrugged, “Don’t ask me to explain it, the only thing I find it is useful, and that’s only if it’s silver,” he nodded again. I moved to lean back against one of the other walls and breathed a heavy sigh, “You look as exhausted as I feel.” Castiel smiled at that, quiet for a moment before he began to laugh, “What are you laughing at?”
“I was going to kill you, or at least drag you to Heaven with me, but now here we are. I sealed you, it’s like I’m helping you stay in hiding,” he shook his head, “It’s funny how quickly plans get torn up when the events actually come to pass.” I grinned at that.
“That’s why I never make them.” He smiled and I studied him in thought a moment, “What made you change your mind?” His smile turned sad and he seemed to hesitate.
“You reminded me of Hagar.” My smile slipped away and I almost said something to point out the obvious connection, but then I caught myself; he didn’t know and I’d like to have kept it that way.
“You cared about her a lot, didn’t you?” My voice was soft as I spoke the words and he studied me as they hung in the air between us, the smile gone from his face and nothing but grief and guilt in his eyes.
“I loved her,” he finally spoke, his voice barely above a whisper, “and I was the reason she killed herself.” I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat.
“I’m sorry,” I had never understood why people said that to others when they lost someone, not until now, when there was nothing else for me to say when it really was my fault; nothing but the truth. I said it because I had caused the pain in his eyes and yet I was still unwilling to tell him the truth, because it was true that Hagar had died that day; she was forever lost and replaced with me who couldn’t trust and never seemed to care. “At least she tried,” I breathed the words, looking up in momentary panic when I realized that I had spoken them aloud, but Castiel had fallen asleep. So I smiled again, a sad smile, “at least she tried to forget and move on,” I used to tell myself that Hagar had been weak, a coward, but the truth was that she had had the strength and courage to carry on while I hid behind lies and never stopped running. I sighed and leaned my head back against the wall, “I’m sorry Cas,” the words sounded so final to me as I closed my eyes and set my jaw against the nightmares that I knew waited for me.
I woke to someone banging on the front door and the sound of thunder outside. Castiel was still slumped against the wall asleep as I climbed to my feet. I found Keep baring his teeth in a silent snarl at the door and gestured him back so that I could answer it. Este was at the door, soaked and bloody as she pushed past me and slammed it shut again.“Este?” I started to ask, but I couldn’t get another word in.
“They’re coming after me again, the hunters from the carriage.” I raised an eyebrow.
“They’re human,” my voice betrayed my disbelief.
“They’re dangerous, and powerful-”
“And you led them,” my voice had become a low snarl, “to my home.” I shook my head and sighed at the impending headache, “Castiel is asleep in one of the rooms down the hall. Whatever you do, don’t let him near the windows,” she gave me a confused look and I wore a sad smile, “unless by some stroke of luck on their part I die, he can’t ever know about who I really am, any of it,” she nodded slightly, “good.” I turned to leave but she grabbed my arm.
“Just, try not to burn down the city, alright?” at her words I nearly decked her, but I had given her a more important task than lying unconscious on the floor so instead, I grit my teeth, nodded, and stepped out the door. Without my coat or vest, I was soaked through in only a moment as I made my way down the path to meet the hunters.
“Evening,” I called out to the hunters when I saw them, maintaining an air of nonchalance as I blocked the footpath up to the house.
“You!” For a moment I was distracted by how often I was being greeted like that lately. I kept my hands shoved into my pockets as I studied the one who’d spoken, Jenny I believe her name was. “You left me in the mud. And what self respecting English woman wears trousers?” I glanced down at my pants, leaning back on my heels for a moment.
“First off, I’m not English,” I paused in thought, “at least not originally, and second, I quite like trousers.” She swung at me with a silver knife in her hand but it was an easy dodge as I glanced at her brother.
“Is clothing all she cares about? How do you stand her?” He had armed himself with holy water when he saw me and it stung when it hit my face. “Well then,” I wiped the water from my face and flicked it from my fingertips as they stared with wide eyes, “that stuff stings more when you have to drink it.” While I was distracted, Jenny had changed her grip on the knife and now it punched into my stomach up to the hilt. She stepped back, letting go when my gaze turned black; I could imagine what they saw, the cold black calm that Delante’s eyes held chilled even me to the bone. “Why must people always insist on the hard way?” I pulled the knife out, blood dripping from the wound, and balled my empty hand into a fist as the air sparked and caught fire between my fingers, “I really don’t like having to constantly kill people,” I waited for them to pull another knife, but they didn’t.
“Why would you not like to kill people? And drinking Holy Water? You’re a demon.” I gave a harsh laugh as the black fire flickered out and the dark faded from my eyes.
“Not all of us monsters are as bad as the ones you Hunters are brought in to hunt.”
“So you’re telling us that that witch isn’t actually a bad person,” the man voiced his disbelief and I hesitated as I spoke, weighing my answer.
“No, she actually has been known to make the occasional human sacrifice, but at the same time, she keeps the other witches out of London,” the two of them exchanged looks of skepticism.
“And you?” Jenny practically snarled the words, “What’s your excuse?” I shrugged.
“I’m a demon trying to make up for all of the wrong I’ve done,” I paused, “I’m double sealed now.” They scoffed at that so I shook my head, “The angel in my house, if we wake him up he’ll tell you about the second.” I think they only followed me back up to the house to see whether or not I was lying about Castiel. Este had started a fire in the sitting room’s stone fireplace and I paused by it, hoping my clothes would dry.
“What were you thinking?!” Este panicked when she saw the hunters follow me in.
“Relax Este,” I paused, “Where’s Cas?” She nodded towards the painted room, her eyes never leaving the two. I started towards the door but Este caught my arm again.
“You can’t leave me here alone with them, they’ll kill me,” her voice still carried panic but I shook her off.
“You’re not alone, you’ve still got Keep to watch you.”
“Like some mangy mutt is going to protect me against them.” I glared at her and jerked my arm from her grasp.
“Oi, that ‘mangy mutt’, as you so eloquently put it, is one of my Hell Hounds,” my voice was low, “show some respect,” I left without waiting for her next complaint. “Hey Cas,” I opened the door and crouched beside Castiel’s form in the dark, “Cas wake up, we’ve got visitors.” He didn’t respond, nor did he when I checked for a pulse, so I leaned close enough to whisper in his ear, “It’s me Cas, don’t you recognize my voice? I’m right in front of you, just open your eyes.”
“Arron?” I leaned back on my heels, “Did you say something? While I was asleep,” he trailed off as I shook my head.
“I just said that we have visitors.” He nodded slowly. I pulled him to his feet and led the way back to the sitting room. I returned to my place by the fire and watched while Castiel introduced himself to Jennifer and Nathaniel Rivers, as the hunters claimed to be. Este seemed to be hiding behind him and Keep had settled himself at my feet.
“You’ve collected quite the menagerie, love.” My blood ran cold as the familiar voice drowned the others out and my gaze found Lucifer leaning against the archway and smiling as his fire filled red gold eyes held mine, “I’m coming for you, love, you and all of your rebellious friends,” I had begun to shake, holding myself up on the mantel, “starting with Alter.”
“Leave him alone,” I whispered the words, “Leave them all alone.” Lucifer simply smiled, and before I knew what was happening, I was on my hands and knees doing more coughing and choking than breathing.
“You forget love, you still belong to me.” I watched his image vanish as Castiel crouched beside me and the others stared.
“Arron,” his voice was soft as Keep licked my hand to show his worry, “are you alright?” I looked up at him and forced a rather bloody smile.
“He’s gone,” I started laughing, a hysterical, breathless laugh as I collapsed onto my back, “He was never here, he’s still locked away in Hell. He can’t come for us, he’s not here.” Castiel stared at me and Este came out of hiding as I continued my mad laughter. “He can’t break out, he can’t ever break out,” I held my head as the headache set in. “If he does…” I trailed off; if he does, the only people I care about will fall.
It took me a moment, when I woke up, to figure out what had happened to cause my sudden loss of consciousness; I wasn’t sure I believed the events when I did. I sat up and took a moment to find my bearings before climbing out of bed and opening the door. Castiel stood on the other side, fist poised to knock and for a moment we stood frozen in a complete and uncomfortable silence.
“Hi.” He lowered his hand when I finally spoke.
“Good morning.” I glanced out the window and nodded, “Are you alright? Last night, you just started coughing up blood and then the laughing and…” He trailed off and I nodded again.
“Sorry, I was,” I swallowed, “hallucinating.” He gave me a confused look, “I was told that Alter was going to die,” I swallowed, “and he would only be the first.” I shook my head. “I need to go.” I slipped past him and ran down the stairs so fast I nearly fell down them.
“Where are you going?” He called down the stairs after me as I shrugged on my coat.
“For a walk, I need some air,” it was a lie, but it was enough that he would always know where I was, he didn’t need to know what I was doing there and I was out the door before he could ask.
I had broken into a sprint the minute I reached the edge of town; it was dread that propelled me down street after street, fear that one of my friends might have already fallen. The house I stopped at was almost as old as mine and a bit larger, but the same familiar scent of unnatural things clung to its walls. I stood on the step banging on the door until a young woman who appeared close to my age opened it.
“Ena,” I spoke her name in a breathless exhale as I hugged her.
“Arron,” she pulled back to hold me at arm’s length as she studied me with amber eyes, “are you alright?”
“Yes,” I paused; I’d never been able to lie to Ena “well no, not mentally. Is everyone alright? I saw,” I stopped again and swallowed, “I saw Lucifer.” Her eyes went wide, “He told me that he was coming for us, starting with Alter.” Ena stared at me a moment, a fear in her eyes that I’m sure was mirrored in my own.
“He’s been missing,” she was quiet, “he just vanished from his room one day, the door was still locked.” For a moment, I was falling into a pit of panic that almost made me decide right then to just tuck tail and run… again.
“Vanished?” my voice was barely a whisper as my stomach clenched and I let go of Ena to cover the coughing fit that suddenly wracked my body.
“Arron? You look really pale,” she trailed off when she saw the blood on my hand, “I’m sorry,” her voice was soft as her eyes changed, one red and the other so pale blue it was nearly white. “I can’t,” she stepped back while I wiped the blood from my hand.
“Why did you have to follow me?” She didn’t get the chance to answer.
“Ena? Who are you talking to?” Normally when Death is standing at the door, it’s a bad thing but this time it only raised an opportunity.
“Daniel,” I swallowed the blood that filled my mouth.
“Delante.” I grimaced at the name and he corrected himself, “My apologies, Arron.”
“It’s alright,” I paused as I tried to quiet the urge to run, “Do you still have the key I gave you?” He nodded slightly and took it from his vest pocket.
“Here,” he handed it to me and I smiled in relief at the familiar, cold weight in my palm.
“Thank you.” He nodded as a spark of black fire snaked its way through the key’s loop hole and around my neck before it pulled tight and turned to thin black chain. The feel of the metal against my chest beside Castiel’s cross gave me a sense of comfort that I hadn’t known I could feel. “Watch yourselves,” I spoke again, the fear still in my voice, “Lucifer is coming, and he’s bringing Hell with him.” Daniel nodded and Ena gave me one last hug.
“Be careful Arron, he’ll search England for us, but he’ll go to the ends of the world for you.” I nodded and gave them a weak smile before I turned to go.
On my return home, I was met on the step by Jenny and Nate, both of whom were wearing solemn expressions. I stopped when I saw them.
“It’s good to see you on your feet again,” I studied them a moment, slightly surprised at Nate’s toneless words.
“Can I help you with something?” I wasn’t sure what to expect from their sudden appearance at my home, but what they said next was the farthest from what I would’ve thought.
“The East End, the streets are empty,” Nate shook his head, “it’s like everyone just disappeared,” I frowned.
“So you came here?”
“It was wrong,” Jenny’s voice shook, “all wrong.” I studied them a moment, then breathed a heavy sigh.
“I guess I do specialize in ‘wrong’ so, what do you think it is?”
“Pestilence.” I stared at them, “The horseman,” my gaze narrowed.
“He’s a friend of mine, I know what he is,” I growled the words and for a moment I just wanted to collapse into a chair that wasn’t there. “He wouldn’t do this though, he couldn’t even leave his bed last time I saw him.” They stared at me when I fell silent and I tried to think of another option; I couldn’t, not without seeing it, “Show me where you were.” They exchanged worried glances before nodding.
I could feel it before we reached the edge of the East End, the sickness like a thick fog resting over the neighborhood. I didn’t want to believe it, but my instinct told me the same thing Nate and Jenny had. I stopped at one of the doors and knocked, hoping for survivors; no one came. I glanced back, checking for witnesses before I kicked the door in. Immediately we were hit by the acrid stench of the dead and Jenny covered her nose with a handkerchief. Nate followed me inside to where we found the bodies, collapsed in the hall and the kitchen as if they had suddenly succumbed an aggressive and very accelerated case of the Black Plague shortly before they died. Nate reached out to examine one of them and my hand shot out to grab his wrist.
“Don’t touch them, they’re still infectious,” he nodded and I let go. The silence that met us back outside was only slightly less disturbing than the one inside had been. “I hate to think of what would cause Alter to do this, but it was definitely him,” I turned to Nate and Jenny as I spoke, “on the upside, if he were still here, the two of you would be dead.” They stared at me a moment before replying.
“I don’t really see how that’s a good thing, we don’t know where he is now,” I nodded slightly.
“True,” I was quiet for a moment, “I’ll go back to my house and see what I can do to find him. I’ll contact you if I hear anything,” it was a lie of course, I would go after Alter alone before risking the slim chance that they found a way to kill him. We said our goodbyes and I began on the long walk home.