Sara and Arthur ran at nearly full speed. The streets were now much less busy, so it didn’t take long to reach the Chapel District.
“Here we are,” Arthur said, lightly huffing as he held his sides, “You know the routine. Walk this way and that way, and that’s it. Someone will come to relieve you of duty at midnight.”
Sara took a quick survey of her surroundings. The chapel rested in an alley-riddled area where the buildings and streets radiated outward from it, “Well, I guess this is it.”
“Finally!” Arthur said tiredly, “I thought I’d never get rid of you!”
Sara laughed out loud.
“See you around,” Arthur said. With that, he turned and left Sara to be on her own for the first time.
Sara watched as Arthur faded into the darkness. As she patrolled her beat, she could hear the creaking of signposts, the chirping of crickets, and a gentle breeze of cool air every now and then.
At one point, her route branched in two directions. One path winded several blocks to the chapel. The other was a dark, narrow alley. There were a dozen reasons to not take the alley, most of them nothing to worry about.
Sara stared down the less-traveled alley, telling herself there was nothing to be afraid of, nothing she couldn’t handle. A blast of cold air rushed out from the alley that made Sara’s hair stand on end.
“Maybe next time,” Sara whispered to herself. As she began to walk down the street she heard a clang like sound that seemed to come from the alley. Sara stopped and looked again, “What the...”
Sara moved through the alley trying to make as little noise as possible. There was nothing out of the ordinary, except that she occasionally heard an odd noise that sounded like cloth moving through the wind. Each time, it came from a different direction.
“Is anyone there?” Sara asked. After a moment, she continued through the alley and eventually came upon a wooden crate. She leaned back against a wall for a rest from the games she thought her mind was playing on her, “Get a grip,” she said, taking a seat on the crate.
After some eye rubbing and a yawn, Sara was back on her feet. She stretched her arms and took a deep breath. She took several steps forward and then stopped when she had an undeniable feeling of being watched. There were several places in the shadows for someone, or something, to hide.
Sara examined the alley in front of her. Another gentle breeze blew across her back. As calmly as she could, she turned around. At first, she couldn’t really make out anything in the dark, but after about three seconds she realized that there was someone standing just a few feet in front of her.
Sara’s heart jumped. With the speed and grace of a cat, she grabbed her equinox and extended its blades. Just as quickly, the figure leaped straight up into the air and onto the rooftop, and almost immediately after that, something else right behind her did the same thing.
Sara spun around and barely caught a glimpse of it as it disappeared over the rooftop. Whatever it was, it was really fast and the dark didn’t help to see any. Sara ran through the alley, hoping that when she reached the street there would be more Guardians around. As she turned another corner, she looked up and spotted a dark figure moving from one roof to another.
Before she knew it, Sara burst onto the street. Everything was quiet. Her eyes were glued to the buildings around her. She paid especially close attention to the area around the alley.
A faint hissing noise came from a building next to the alley. Sara had heard a cat hiss before. This didn’t sound anything like it. It sounded like it came from something bigger and it sent a shiver down her spine. She managed to zero in on it just in time to see the dark figures suddenly take off across the rooftops.
“Guardians!” Sara yelled, hoping to attract help. She moved on hoping to not lose track of what she was chasing. Every few steps she would spot odd-looking shadows moving around. These were her only clue as to where to go. As she ran full speed around a corner, she realized the street ended at the chapel.
The chapel was one of the bigger buildings in the city, with larger than life windowpanes that were quite colorful. The stairs leading up to the front doors were vast slabs of concrete.
One of the dark figures made a daring leap from a roof and went crashing into one of the chapel’s windows. The other dark figure was quick to follow.
Sara could only hope that the noise of the windowpane breaking was loud enough for other Guardians to hear. She ran as fast as she could up the stairs and pushed hard on the door to open it.
Inside the chapel, drapes hung from the ceiling. The pillars holding the roof up were more like statues, and the pews were arranged in an arc pattern going around the altar at the far end of the chapel.
A large open space lay between the pews and the altar. It was there that she finally caught up the phantoms she’d been chasing—Vesuvians.
One of them looked similar to the descriptions Sara had seen. Most of his clothes were black. He had slightly pale skin and blue eyes. His hair was black and shaggy.
“Now look what you did, Bekal,” said the other Vesuvian. In one hand, he carried a black staff that was about three feet in length, “You’ve got the humans involved. This is your last chance to come back quietly, or things are going to get messy.”
When Sara came within a few yards, Bekal flashed his fangs at her, “Leon, look what we have here,” he grinned.
Sara couldn’t make out much detail about Leon He was almost completely covered from head-to-toe in black clothing. His hood, casting a shadow over much of his face, connected to his long, tattered tunic. He was shorter than Bekal but slightly taller than her.
“How can you not be interested?” Bekal asked, pulling two serrated knives from his coat, “I know you can smell her blood…her youth…her strength.”
Sara took a defensive stance. She was slightly winded from her pursuit. Her nerves were on edge. She looked back and forth between the Vesuvians, expecting to be attacked at any moment.
Leon spun his staff and focused his attention on Bekal.
“You’re a coward and a traitor!” Bekal exclaimed, “I’ve had many dreams of taking your head, Leon”
Sara stepped forward, “Put your weapons down and surrender!” she demanded, trying to keep both foes in sight.
Bekal took one look at her and began laughing, “Little girl, you have no idea who you’re talking to.” With a loud snarl, he ran toward Sara at full speed and raised his knife in to take a fatal swipe.
Leon launched himself forward and used his staff to block the knife.
Without missing a beat, Sara swung her equinox, slicing Bekal’s other hand off and then landed a hard elbow to his face to send him down.
Leon quickly retreated several steps.
Sara circled towards him, “You have to surrender, Vesuvian. I won’t ask you again.”
“I’d be more worried about Bekal here.” Leon said.
Growling in anger, Bekal stood and swung his knife wildly at Leon – who easily dodged the attack and struck him on the side of the head with his staff. The blow sent him sprawling against the pews just a few feet away.
Sara went after Leon, whom she was still unable to get a good look at. Every swipe she took was either blocked or dodged. For a moment, it seemed pointless until she decided to put more of what she’d learned to use. She spun the equinox in a disorienting fashion, hoping to throw Leon off guard, and she belted him with a hard kick to the midsection.
Most humans, or even most Vesuvians, would have keeled over in agony. Leon skipped back several steps and paused.
The look on Bekal’s face was that of complete anger. He ran at Sara, repeatedly swiping at her from all directions. His frustration only grew as his attacks met with no success.
With every attack, Sara desperately looked for a way to end the fight, thinking that at any moment Leon was going to stab her in the back.
Keeping most of her focus on the immediate threat, Sara swung the equinox up to block Bekal’s knife and stabbed him in the heart with her talon.
Several Guardians burst through the door as Bekal fizzled away into a heap of ember and ash.
Sara spun around just in time to see Leon make an incredible leap through the broken windowpane.
One Guardian turned to the others, “Go back out and track him!” he ordered, before running to Sara’s side, “Were you just fighting with two Vesuvians?”
Sara stood motionless. She could feel her heart beating like it was going a hundred miles an hour.
“Hey!” the Guardian said, patting her on the shoulder, “Are you okay?”
Like waking up from a daydream, Sara turned to him, “Yes, I’m fine.”
“This is incredible!” the Guardian laughed, “Man you sure paid attention in class, didn’t you!”