The Archfiend Artifact

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The Lycan Pharaoh

SAATHOFF ACADEMY, DARK MOON PORT, MABON CITY
TUESDAY, MAY 6
11:43 PM


I know history as long as it isn’t dated.

Oh, I can prattle on and on about many things that occurred since the invention of cave paintings; I just couldn’t tell you the when behind them. That, however, doesn’t apply to my own history, which, I guess, you could refer to as my Dark Ages. I had been orphaned at the age of five, when a demon named Taboo killed my parents. The state thought it’d be a good idea to put me into the oh so loving care of agilisi. My grandma. I suffered at the hands of that horrible woman for ten years before I died in a plane crash. Now I live aboard a huge ocean liner full of people like… Well, not exactly like me (I’m an extremely rare crossbreed), but they’re in the same circles.

The Saathoff Academy was moored in its usual spot at Dock 66 of the Dark Moon Port. It was surprisingly quiet tonight, despite the heavy Saturday night traffic. It would not be quiet for long; I could feel a storm building several miles outside of the harbor. It would still be a few hours before it broke upon Mabon City, but it was already sending dark waves to lap lazily at the ship’s hull. To some of the inhabitants within the enormous ocean cruise liner, the gentle sound was a lullaby. But for those like me, the night was too young for sleep. And I found myself on the outdoor recreation deck, studying for a final.

By studying I really mean that I was trying to kick some serious butt.

I dipped under the open palm strike and swept my right leg in a rapid arc. My counter attack did not land; Quinn moved much faster than that. He leaped back a few feet and probably thought he was out of my range. Actually he was right where I wanted him, and as I twisted in a full circle, I called upon an itsy bit of my true power. In a wink, the deck of the ship vanished into total, icy darkness. A quick count of three and I was meandering within the Rift.

It is a funny place, the Rift. It is best described as the space between the Mortal Realm and the Veil, which is sort of like the Great Wall of China that prevents most of the beings in the Spirit Realm from crossing over. Think of the Rift as an extremely large shopping mall — far bigger than any mall in the world. And instead of shops or outlets, the Rift is full of nothing but doorways; lots and lots of doorways. It had taken me quite a while, but I finally learned how to control my Shadow Jumps. Instead of just flashing through to some random location, I slowed down so I could actually see the Rift and pick out the perfect door to land in strategic positions.

How do I know which door is which? Good question, especially when you consider that each doorway changes as the shadows change and they are never in any particular order. If I know where I want to go, I can usually just feel the right doorway. Not knowing where I am going makes Shadow Jumping rather tricky. I could potentially Jump out of any shadow in the universe (I told ya the Rift was huge). Sometimes I am able to just look at the doorway for a minute, and in the swirling blackness, see where it would lead. Like this one to my left; it won’t return me to the Mortal Realm, but send me someplace deep within the Rift’s other side. Yeah, a scant few of these doorways actually allow passage through the Veil. The doors on that side of the Rift lead to various places within the Spirit Realm.

The Spirit Realm really freaks me out. It looks almost identical to the Mortal Realm except everything has this sort of blue-gray coloring to it. Even the grass over there is blue. And then there are the creatures who call such a place home. Most of them are ghosts, who want nothing to do with you and tend not to notice your presence unless you are the one who killed them. There are also all kinds of creepy crawlies lurking there; beings of pure energy that can only be seen by someone with True Sight. And then there are the Fae.

Fairies are probably the first thing you think of when someone mentions the Fae, but these wee ones are nothing like your tinkers and tooth collectors of the Astral Realm. No, these ones would eat your face off faster than you can say “There’s no place like home.” You definitely do not want to go wandering into one of their gatherings… which was exactly what I did. Thankfully Morgan came to my rescue. She is an Angel and a bit annoying, but that might just be the Shadow Demon in me talking.

Yep, I am a demon. My name used to be Cybil Usalagavi Starr, but, like I said, I died in a plane crash. Now, I’m known simply as Jinx, Daughter of Forlorn. I have chocolate eyes, mostly black hair — I dyed parts of it, and this month’s flavor is purple — and at just four-foot ten, I am freakishly short. Really, though, I am actually only half Shadow Demon. I get that and my Cherokee heritage from my dad. My temper and stubbornness I proudly get from my mom.

I joined the AEON Agency to hunt down their murderer and make him pay for what he did.

AEON is a top secret organization tasked with protecting the Mortal Realm from attacks. What sort of attacks, you wonder? It actually varies. Sometimes the attacks come from a ghost of person who died too suddenly or with a lot of hate. That is where you get your poltergeists and vengeful spirits from. Very rarely does a bored Fae pass through the Veil and start mixing up trouble as entertainment. Possession is one of their favorite things to do, despite the fact that it breaks one of the Laws — cannot take away someone’s free will. Most of the attacks, however, are caused by the creatures of the Netherworld. These guys make the Fae look like jokes. I should know, since I am technically one of them, and I have sort of become my team’s go-to person for all things demon.

When the demons of the Netherworld come out to play, that is when AEON really goes to work. There are AEON teams all over the world. Most of them are small, two- maybe three-person units. They take care of the little stuff. Then you have the heavy hitters; teams that are actually given ranks depending on their success and strength. I work with Team Beta, which is led by a vampire named Duncan, aka Revenant. We have a ghost that we call Specter because his real name, Tiberius, is apparently too hard to say (I just think of Captain Kirk). He died alongside Spartacus, and has remained in the Mortal Realm since, so he is a plethora of information — all the volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica have nothing compared to him. Morgan, or Paladin, is our Angel, who keeps us up to date on the happenings of the Astral Realm. There’s me. And, of course, Quinn. He’s a werewolf codenamed Fenrir, and he’s our team’s second in command. He also happens to be my combat instructor at the Saathoff Academy. And I just found the doorway that would let me pop out right behind him and kick his butt.

Whoever said homework couldn’t be fun?

As I had planned, I popped out of the shadows right behind Quinn, ready with a roundhouse kick. He managed to spin around and block it just in the nick of time. He immediately countered with a right hook that left my shoulder tingling. I smiled in spite of myself, and reset my fighting stance. He wiped his shaggy, brown hair out of his green eyes, smirked and sank into his own stance.

Our martial dance continued.

~~~~~*~~~~~

The helicopter was almost upon the ship before Quinn and I took note of it. He called a halt to the training session, and we stood together to watch the chopper make its descent. Air buffeted us in choppy waves that left me fighting for my next breath. It seemed like forever before the chopper touched down on the helipad. The engine cut. The rotors slowly drifted to silence. The door slid open, and Quinn gasped at the man who stepped out.

I had never seen him before. He was tall — much taller than me, but shorter than Quinn’s lanky six foot, two — with black hair held in a loose braid that fell all the way down to his hip. The man was dressed in simple, yet matching, black clothes: shirt, slacks and shoes — probably socks and underwear, too.

He would fit in very well at a funeral.

He spotted us watching, jerked his head in a stiff nod. Even at this distance, I could see that his eyes were bright blue, very similar to Quinn’s when the full moon draws near. But the moon would not be full for a while yet.

“Is he a werewolf?”

Quinn licked his lips, swallowed nervously. “Lycaon isn’t just another werewolf; he is the werewolf.”

My jaw fell slack in surprise. It’s especially rare for us to have a visit from one of the Firsts. I’ve been here since October, and not once did one of them stop by.

How do I explain the Firsts?

Let me see… I guess you could say that the Firsts are the original bad boys and girls of various paranormal species. Just like Dracula is widely believed to be the first vampire in history, Lycaon is the very first werewolf. That is why his kind are often referred to as lycanthropes or lycans. I couldn’t believe my luck. I actually got to see such a renowned figure in the flesh.

Lycaon stepped aside as someone else started climbing out of the chopper. A moment later, a woman was at his side. She was clad in a burgundy dress that hugged her curves and reached down to her ankles. A black bodice with a frill similar to one an evil sorceress would wear covered her shoulders and waist. A ribbon choker with a pendant was against her throat, and a black veil shrouded her face. Her auburn hair was curled and half-tucked under a small hat. She also held a fancy cane with gloved hands. I had recognized her the very instant she had stepped out of the chopper. She was The Lady. The founder of the AEON Agency and a living legend among the schools that bore her name: Lady Zabrina Saathoff.

Something big must have gone down if The Lady and one of the Firsts have come here. I watched the pair draw closer. The Lady moved like a queen; back straight, shoulders squared, cane aloft in one hand. And her footsteps fell silently despite the high heeled boots she wore. Lycaon walked like a shadow a pace behind her. His manner sent out a clear message: Mess with The Lady and I will rip you to shreds. Moon-blue eyes sought hidden threats in the shadows, but there were none. He seemed to relax slightly.

“Lady Saathoff, Lycaon,” Quinn said a bit breathlessly once the duo were a few feet away. “What an unexpected surprise. To what do we owe the honor?”

“I must speak with Revenant at once.” The Lady spoke in a soft voice, thick with an accent that immediately made me think of Dracula.

He is real, by the way; Dracula. Yup, the ol’ boy is still alive and kicking. I know this because Duncan had to go to a meeting with the Vampire Clans a couple months back. I so badly wanted to go, but he told me I would only be seen as lunch if I stepped foot in Drakul’s halls. And when a vampire tells you that you look like lunch, trust me, that is when you back up few paces and start looking for a quick exit.

“Absolutely,” said Quinn. “Please follow us. We’ll take you straight to his office.”

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