Ever Rain: Nine Kings Episode I

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Chapter 2

Kellerika stared into the sun as it rose over the distant hills. Her exhausted body slumped over the steering column of her Highlander as she made her way back home. Fredrick, Maryland wasn’t a booming metropolis, but that’s what she loved about the quaint little town. Close enough to the bonfire to stay warm without having to deal with the smoke and sparks. She pulled her SUV into the cluster of townhomes off Route 144 and found a spot a short walk from her front door.

She shut off the engine and gave herself a once-over in the rearview. A few minor cuts over her eyes. Some scrapes along her jawline. A deep bruise on her high-set cheekbone. Kell winced. Not only for the damage, but her genetics. She’d been teased since coming here in the eleventh grade for her square chin. The other girls had picked on her relentlessly. As a foreigner, she was an easy target.

“Gonna be hard to explain this away.”

Her best friend in those hard times had been a gangly tall boy named Deke Simmons. They had remained pals long after graduation and even after her eventual drop out from Georgetown’s pre-med program. She told him all of her personal pains. All of them except her sworn oath of secrecy to the Ordo Tenebris, the Order of Darkness.

“When he sees this mess,” she slumped into her bucket seat, “Deke will think I got mugged.”

Kellerika gathered her things and moped to the cluster of mailboxes nestled under a young birch. She fished out her key and retrieved her mail.


She flipped through a few junk cards and studied the big padded manila envelope. “You came all the way from France?” Kell lumbered to her front door and unlocked it. “Not good.” She knew of one person in France, and he shouldn’t be sending her anything.

Once inside and bathed in that familiar scent of home, Kellerika tossed her stuff into a chair at her small dinner table and unlaced her sneakers. “Better already.”

She held her tee out from her body and surveyed the damage. “Ugh.”

Several large blood stains. She pulled it over her head as she ambled to the washer-dryer stack in the back corner of her kitchen. Kell spread her favorite shirt out on the washer’s surface. Her eyes welled as she blotted the last remnants of Toby’s existence with a stain stick. She had hung around until the EMS teams arrived and explained everything per the Order’s protocols. How did you console a mother whose son lay in a blob in his room? No chapter in the handbook for that one.

“That should get you clean.”

She unfastened her torn jeans, blotted them with stain remover, and pitched both into the machine. She got her underwear to her knees before her cell went off, forcing her to hike them back up.


She glanced at its vibrating face: Facetime request. Private number.


Her immediate superior in the Ordo Tenebris.

Kell plucked her cell from the coffee table and flopped into her sofa’s fluffy cushions. She propped her feet on the table and swiped right. “Hi, Stazia.”

The bust of her boss filled Kell’s screen. Spiked white hair that stuck out all over her head like a pissed off blowfish. Those eerie red irises and pallid skin. “Hello, Kellerika. Heard about last night.”

Kell’s head dropped onto the back of the cushion. “What about it?”

“We lost the client.” Her boss wasn’t pleased.

Kellerika teased her hair with a hand. She kept it no longer than shoulder length against her mom’s traditional wishes. ‘Grow it out,’ her mom would say. ‘At least to the small of your back. You’d look gorgeous.’ Way too much of a pain in the ass. Kell sat up and combed some brown hairs over her eyes. The frosted strips would have to be retouched. “I know. I used the same ritual I always have.”

Stazia’s emotionless red eyes blinked. “I believe you. We don’t like losing anyone---”

“It wasn’t my fault this time.”

Stazia ignored her interruption. “However, these things happen in our line of work.” Stazia’s chest deflated. “Did it give you a name?”

Kellerika flipped her hair out of her face. “No. I demanded it. Even threatened to imprison his master, but---”

“About that.” Stazia studied her face. “I take it you received our package?”

How does she do that? Kell leaned forward and unfastened her bra. “Got something from France. That it?” She flung the undergarment into the matching recliner.

The motherly Stazia wiggled in discomfort on her end. “That’s the one.” She scratched a smile line around her mouth. “We need to talk.”

Too late. Kell hopped up and strode to the table for the envelope. She sat her cell on an armrest of the couch and tore into it.

“It’s about Roger,” Stazia said from the couch.

Kellerika opened the package and caught the falling blue book.

Stazia went on. “Something happened.”

Kell turned the small book over. Her eyes teared up at the sight of the telltale symbol embossed on its leather cover. “His wayguide.” Tradition, as Roger had taught her, called for the mentor to pass on his or her wayguide to their protégé when

“He’s gone, Kellerika.” Stazia’s hurt eyes lowered. “I know he was like a father to you.” Her red eyes lifted once more. “I’m so sorry.”

Kell let the trash fall to the floor and padded back to the sofa with her memento. She wiped back some tears with a forearm. Weeping in front of anyone was a faux pas in her book.

Stazia pressed on. “He was on assignment at---”

“The McAllister estate.” A sniffle. “I know. He told me he had found one of them.”

Her boss nodded. “His remains were identified by local authorities a few days ago. He left the mailing address in France in his book.”

Kell flipped the front cover open. Sure enough, it was there.

“One of the Nine Kings.” Stazia had a somber tone. “We know one of them is linked to that estate.”

Roger Gordan had recruited Kell in her senior year. Her psychologist was his old friend. Kell’s vivid accounts of demons were too spot on. Roger had honed her natural talents and stood in as a dad where the genetic one failed.

“With his wayguide comes a big promotion.” Stazia blinked back her own tears.

“Wait a sec.” Kell sat up on the edge of her cushion. “You want me to hunt the Nine Kings?” She propped her weary head on an elbow. “I barley survived that job last night in Roanoke. The Nine?”

“I have a vacancy to fill,” Stazia said, “and he hand-picked you for the job.”

“I---I don’t know,” Kell said. “My mind’s flying in a hundred directions. I just need some time to think on it.”

“This is the highest rank the Order can bestow on a member.” Her boss took up a dignified posture in her screen.

“I need some time to consider your offer. That’s all.”

Stazia’s guise hardened. “I can give you until midnight tonight your time. After that,” she said, “I’ll have to move on to other candidates.”

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