The Archfiend Artifact

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8:02 AM

“I want answers,” I said as I joined Duncan in the back seat of the car. I had been expecting the antique he brought to the shop yesterday, but this was a bit more modern. If you call a mid-1950s Chevrolet Bel Air modern. Nice gray and candy apple green paint job on it, too. The windows were so heavily tinted that I could barely see out of them. And a semi-transparent divider of dark material separated the front seat from the back.

“We all want answers,” said Quinn as he sank into the driver’s seat. Then he shrugged into a black tee shirt.

“I want to know,” and I ticked them off my fingers as I spoke, “why you’re so desperate to get me to come with you; what the heck you’re doing,” I eyed Quinn, “wandering around the city almost naked; who that Khione woman is; and I definitely want to know what that red-eyed thing is and why it’s been following me.”

Quinn shot a glance back at Duncan, who nodded. Quinn licked his lips as his gaze shifted to me. “You know that big, brown wolf that was following you earlier?”

I said that I did and briefly wondered where it had run off to. The lumbering canine hadn’t been outside when we exited the station.

“That was me.”

I had been about to blurt something nasty about liars, but, with the way things have been going for me recently, I just knew that attitude would only cause me more problems. Instead, I chose to simply say, “Prove it.”

The shade of his eyes faded from dark to almost nothing as he said, “You asked if I was lost then told me I could follow you to the station, but not inside or onto a train.”

I just stared at him. As I did, the paleness of his eyes melted away and they returned to the original shade. My mind raced with a bajillion questions and all ended with the same answer. Werewolf. Quinn was a werewolf.

Then I frowned. “I thought werewolves were more…” I pursed my lips as I tried to think of the word. It escaped me. “Well, human-shaped.”

He chuckled. “I have three forms; full human, half-man-half-wolf, and full wolf.” With that, he turned around and started the car.

“So is the silver thing true?”

“Some of my kind are deathly allergic to it, but not all.” He put the car in gear and got us moving. “It’s a long story, and we have more important things to discuss.”

My attention turned to Duncan. “Yes, we do.”

“You must understand,” he said calmly. “I don’t have all the answers.”

Quinn suddenly slammed on the brakes. The Bel Air didn’t have seat belts (they weren’t required back then), so Duncan and I braced ourselves against the front seats. Quinn muttered a curse. “Sorry. Some student driver in their ugly beater cut me off.”

“All right.” Duncan sat back in his seat. “Where should we begin?”

I winced as my abused back brushed against the leather. “Let’s start with what that red-eyed thing is.”

“It is a Shadow,” he said plainly, as if expecting me to understand. When it became obvious that I had no idea what he meant by that, he continued with the details. “They are a type of elemental demon. They have the power to bend shadow and darkness to their will, and they are far more powerful at night.”

I nodded and thought back to my vision about the stolen jewel. “And these Shadow things walk in and out the dark like we walk through doorways?”

His eyebrow quirked. “Yes.”

“Why do you ask?”

I wanted to say I had no particular reason. That it only made sense since those things could manipulate the dark. I got the feeling they would see right through that. So I went with the truth. “Because I saw it do just that yesterday morning.”

“When was this?”

I looked at Quinn’s reflection in the rear view mirror. “Remember when you saw me on the base of the light pole in the parking lot?”

He said that he did.

“That was when I had a vision of Robert Patterson—that’s the guy the cops scraped off the roof of the Caddy—being dropped by one when, just the instant before, he was shooting at it in some museum-looking place.”

“Vell,” said Duncan, clearing his face of surprise. “At least now ve know vhy they keep coming after you.”

“Care to share?”

Duncan looked at Quinn. I followed his gaze.

“Remember me staring at you that morning?”

“Hard not to,” I replied. “You had that look on your face that said you were going to haul me to jail.”

“Close.” He nodded. Then he looked at me through the rear view mirror. “I was staring at you because your eyes were glowing red.”

“Yeah, right.”

His gaze returned to the road ahead. “It’s true. It’s why I followed you to your school.”

“And you say your vision of the Shadow occurred at the same time.”

I looked between them. “What are you getting at?”

“You are not just psychic, my dear,” said Duncan. “You are also a demon.”

“Half demon,” Quinn corrected.

“Heh. What?”

“Technically, half Shadow.”

“Your psychic abilities make you a very rare breed of Shadow. Add to that vhat Khione said about you possibly being a Bloodless, and I can see vhy everyone has been after you.”

“Khione?” Quinn shot a glance over his shoulder. “Khione was here?”

“Unfortunately. She came on NEST business, saw Miss Starr, and offered to take her to the Nethervorld for me.”

“For what?”

I finally came out of my stupor to ask, “What is a Bloodless?”

Duncan pursed his lips in thought for a moment. “From vhat I understand, a Bloodless is a child of a High Born, vhich is a demon of royal status, who vas conceived outside a recognized marriage.”

“Sin could explain it better,” said Quinn. He looked at me over his shoulder. “But he’s someone you want to avoid at all cost.”

“Let me see if I got this straight,” I said, turning in my seat so that I faced Duncan more. I moved the same time Quinn turned a corner. Physics took hold, forcing my back to lean against a part of the car door. My back explode in absolute agony, and I tried desperately to keep the pain from showing. I hoped. “You’re telling me that these Shadow things are after me because I’m some psychic demon princess?”

He made a face. “I don’t know about ‘princess,’ but if you truly are the daughter of a High Born, ve vill need to place you in protective custody.”

“No kidding,” injected Quinn. “If the demons of NEST and any bounty hunters catch wind of who and what you are, they will just keep coming after you.”

“I already have that Shadow thing after me.”

“Wonderful,” Quinn muttered, pulling the car to a stop at a red light. He looked back at me. “We definitely need to get you in protective custody.”

I scoffed. “Somehow, I don’t think any law enforcement agency is quite prepared to handle keeping a kid safe from those uber powerful demons you spoke of.”

“AEON is,” replied Quinn. And he got the car moving again.

“What’s AEON?”

I detected a hint of pride in Duncan’s voice as he said, “The Assistance and Enforcement of Othervorldy Natives Agency. Ve are a secret government group set in place to protect the Mortal Realm from supernatural disturbances and to aid our fellow parathropes.”

I had to beat down a guffaw of laughter as I stared at him. What ridiculous nonsense!

“A parathrope,” my gaze wandered to Quinn as he spoke, “is a being or creature of paranormal origins and or with supernatural powers and abilities.”

“Uh huh.” I remained silent for a while, listening to the hum of the tires on the road and thinking over everything. Sure, these guys sounded like they were in dire need of a couple straight jackets and a padded cell, but my mind kept coming back to what I had felt. That strange interaction of energies between me and Duncan. The enormous wolf that had an aura of human power. I mean, yeah, I believe in spirits and what not. But vampires? Werewolves? Demons?

And what of this AEON thing of theirs? A secret government agency for monsters by monsters? Come on! Who would fund something like that?

“Don’t vorry,” Duncan said, tearing me from my thoughts. “Ve have a secure facility for you to stay in vhile ve vork this case.”

“I’ve been thinking…”

Duncan’s violet gaze snapped to Quinn.

“Maybe she can help.”


“She’s psychic. It’s possible she has information that we aren’t aware of. Even a little detail we might have missed could break the case wide open.”

Duncan humphed.

“The cowan constabulary have been known to hire psychic consultants,” Quinn said defensively as he steered the car around another corner. “What harm could it do us?”

“Our mission is to protect her, not to use her.”

“Hey, if I’m stuck with you ’til Saturday, I may as well work with you. Right?”

“Miss Starr—”

Instant rage erupted though my veins, and I snarled through gritted teeth. “Don’t call me that.”

Duncan snapped his jaw shut, cleared his throat. “Cybil,” he carefully said, “you can’t possibly know how dangerous something like this could be.”

“Give me a break,” I bit back. “What’s dangerous is forcing me back to my agi—my grandma. She wouldn’t hesitate to beat me to death for running away again. And, no, I’m not exaggerating.”

Neither he nor Quinn replied.

In the ensuing silence, I fiddled with the broken strap of my backpack and tried to get my emotions back under my control. It wouldn’t do me any good to have a break down now. Especially in front of these strangers. So I breathed in deep and exhaled through my nose, expelling my fear and frustration. It took only a couple of minutes to cleanse myself and relax.

Finally, I looked out the window.

Quinn had driven us to Dark Moon Harbor. Several private speedboats and yachts were floating lazily, tethered to their docks. Only a few spaces were empty, which didn’t surprise me considering it was the middle of the workday. Quinn kept driving past them, heading for the farthest dock, where an enormous, white ship had been docked. This ship was even larger than one of those Royal Caribbean cruise ships but smaller than those big, ocean-crossing, freight-shipping ones.

A guard in a green and white uniform stood beside a security kiosk. He waved for Quinn to halt and approached the driver’s side once the car had stopped. Quinn rolled down the window, greeted the guard like an old friend. As he did so, I noticed the patch on the guard’s shoulder.

Saathoff Academy.

My heart raced with my thoughts. The Saathoff Academy is the most exclusive private school on the east coast. What are we doing here? And where is the school?

The guard waved Quinn through, and the werewolf eased the Bel Air forward. The engine rumbled as he expertly maneuvered the car onto a suspended platform that led somewhere into the depths of the ship.

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