Ever Rain: Nine Kings Episode I

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Chapter 4

She carted her dirty dishes to her sink and ran some water over them. Kell may not have had the best hand-eye coordination, but what she lacked there she more than made up for in the kitchen. She had loved cooking all her life. If not for her father’s insistence on taking the pre-med scholarships to Georgetown, she would’ve wound up as a Michelin chef in a high-end restaurant somewhere.

As she ran warm water over a plate, Kellerika’s mind sped around several corners of how the upcoming call with Stazia might go. I could always throw in some stipulations to the deal.

“Nah.” She sat the plate into the dishwasher. “She’d never go for any of that.”

Kell swished some tap water around in her cup before setting it in the washer as well. She dried her hands on the towel and tossed it on the counter. “Damn it.”

Her phone beckoned her from its sliver of warm sunlight on the coffee table. Her mentor’s words resounded in her mind: ‘Things won’t ever be the same once you’re sworn into this rank.’ Kellerika snagged her beer by its slender neck and settled in on the couch for the inevitable.

Her gaze fell on Roger’s wayguide next to her cell. “But, before all of that…” She picked up the book and flipped through it. She caressed its penned words with a gentle touch. Some of his final entries caught her attention.

‘I have met my old friend Doug and his team. After touring the home and property with them and the suspected medium, Sean, I am confident that one of the Nine Kings is bound to this land. For what reason, I haven’t a clue.’

And, from later that same day:

‘We’ve located the missing team member, Donna. She’s a filthy mess. Doug says she’s been missing for days, and likely hasn’t eaten much (save the rat I saw her eat raw) in that time. I have subdued the girl and bound her to a chair in the dining area with ropes and railroad spikes.’

Then, Roger’s final entry:

‘I’ve attempted to cast the demon from her. Though I’ve succeeded, I fear that I’ve enflamed the situation here. Donna’s soul is somewhere in the walls of this house. A portal has opened up in the dining hall fireplace. After a heated huddle, Doug and I have agreed to let Sean go in after her. This thing is far more powerful than the others. Creator save me.’

Again, Kell used the butt of a palm to clear the tears from her eyes. “God damn it, Roger.” She knew he had done what he swore to do, but it did nothing to numb her loss.

She cleared her throat and took a swig of her beer. “Let’s do this.”

Kellerika patched into a VPN server and requested a hidden connection into the backdoor one of her employer’s many international nodes.

Stand by for your party’s connection…

Kell’s screen blinked up with Stazia.

“Ah, Kellerika.” She laced her hands on a desk. “I take it you’ve come to a decision.”

“I have.”

Stazia sat in stoic quietude.

A reluctant grumble. “I’ll take the job.”

Stazia brought her hands together over the desk. “Ah. Very well. Then, on to the next order of business in that regard.” She took a large leather tome and cracked it open in front of her. “The Oath of the Legion.”

The Legion. The most elite of the Ordo Tenebris.

Stazia held up her right hand and set her left on a golden relic resting on the book. “Raise your right hand, and repeat after me.”

Kell did as instructed and echoed the oath: “I, Kellerika Virtanen, do avow and swear that I will defend all creatures large and small from those know as the Nine Kings and any and all emissaries anywhere on this plane of existence. I further attest that, being of sound mind and spirit, I do solemnly vow to seek out and combat these same entities until the end of my days. Should I fail or break any of these vows of my Oath of the Legion taken on this day, any of my brothers or sisters holds the right to take my life by forcing my heart upon their blade and, in the event of my disclosure of any secrets of our Sacred Order, administer the same.”

Her boss closed the book and set it to one side. “Welcome to the Legion, Miss Virtanen. Your first assignment should be an investigation into the McAllister estate, as it’s the one known location of one of the Nine.”

Kellerika’s muscles tensed. Talk about salt in the wound.

“However,” Stazia said, “we have a more pressing proposition that has surfaced.”

Kellerika knocked back another dose of booze. “I’m all ears.”

“Dozens of people are either being killed or disappearing entirely around the world. It began today. As of now, most of these have occurred in Japan, China, and the Far East.”

Kell rubbed her hands together. “That’s no big deal. Mafia murders and human trafficking happen all the time.”

“No.” There was a firm resolve in her voice. “These were not isolated incidents. It’s moving like a tidal wave across central Europe.”

“Do we have any leads? Anything that connects the Kings to this?”

Stazia’s face lowered to the desktop. “Not many, I’m afraid. All victims were in their homes at the time of their murders or disappearances.” The fifty-something leader sipped from her porcelain cup.

“A serial killer wouldn’t move that fast,” Kell said.

“We suspect something,” Stazia patted the big leather book, “more sinister afoot, but I need you to investigate.”

Kellerika flipped on her TV. “Where do I start with this?”

Stazia set her cup on a saucer. “I’ll send you the articles and some contacts. See what you can come up with from these while I keep digging from here.” She laced her hands on the tabletop. “We’re all here for you should you need us, Kellerika.”

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