To Whom I Kneel: Nine Kings Episode 2

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Chorus 3

If you saw the world through my delusions

Numbed yourself to what I feel

Would you draw the same conclusions?

Bow your head to whom I kneel?

I kneel to no one!


Kell thanked Valentine for his help in Ukraine and parted ways. She called Stazia and gave her the updates prior to boarding the Aeroflot flight for Belgorod. She even had some time to email Evan and see what he had been into. He gave the typical boyish reply. Not much. Just working and waiting for her to return. Hoped her convention thingie was going well. Boys.

A car was already waiting to take her to the orphanage when she landed. Stazia pulled some strings to get an interpreter on short notice. Once Kell explained that she had information on one of their missing runaways, they were more than willing to comply. Her translator, Marco, conveyed the information with the headmistress of the home.

She invited Kellerika into her office. “It is quite unfortunate what happened to young Larissa.”

“You speak English.” A bit of Kell’s anxiety melted.

“Of course,” the headmistress said. “I am Tatya.” She took her seat behind her desk. “We have lots of families from the UK and America that adopt many of our children. Knowing your language has come in quite handy.” Tatya pulled up a file on her desktop. “Anya was Larissa’s friend.”

Kellerika came around for a better look. “Where is she now?”

Tatya gave her a defensive look.

“It’s urgent to the church that I find her,” Kell clarified. “Father Andrei in Kharkiv---”

“Da,” Tatya said. “We spoke. I’m not a religious person.”

Urgency bled from Kell’s pores.

“Fine.” Tatya puffed a stray brown bang from her eyes. “We had to have her committed to the asylum.” She closed the file on her computer. “Anya started talking in tongues and trying to harm herself and my staff.”

Kell got her cell. “Can you give me an address where she’s being held?”

Tatya set a finger on the map on her screen. “Here. Belgorod Psychiatric Hospital.”

Marco grumbled. “I know the way, Ms. Virtanen. I’ll take you there.”

Tatya led them down the hall and back out to the parking lot. She tossed up a hand as they departed. “Give my best to Anya!”

Marco drove them to the Belgorod Regional Psychiatric Hospital on the north side of the city. When they arrived, the director met them at the front doors to the administrative building. He was a tall, thin man sporting a Magnum P.I. moustache. The director rushed over and took Kell by an elbow. Guards scrambled from the main gate shack and across the quad. She looked to Marco. Gunfire followed by pleading guards.

“He says that something terrible has happened. Tatya told him we were coming.” The director went on at ninety miles an hour as he led them into the building. “Guards in the ward wings have been murdered. Patients have broken free.” Marco shook his head of short brown hair, looking for the right word. “Complete chaos.”

She jogged to keep up with the director down a passageway on the first level. Sirens resounded. Yellow lights flashed.

“How did all this happen?” Kell repeated her question to Marco.

Marco conversed with the director who led them into his office. “Dr. Vorzhak tells me that it was Anya. She got out of her room.”

“Which building and floor?” Kell studied the map on Vorzhak’s computer screen.

The doctor singled out the farthest dual-level building from the compound.

“She is there,” Marco said. “Second floor. Room 45.”

She stopped in the doorway. “Stay put. I’ll deal with this.”

Outside, large rings of clouds rotated in the sky as Kellerika jogged across the parking lot. Shots rang out from the hidden side of a building followed by shrieks of terror. She ran past the first two buildings, stopping between the third and fourth. Three boys wandered off the sidewalk. Their senses detected an intruder and found her. Their mouths frothed. Faces reddened and shook.

“Oh, no.” Kellerika whipped out her revolver.

Fangs sprouted. Snouts pushed their way forward. The shortest of the trio took steps toward her. Kell pumped two rounds into his torso, dropping him mid-transformation.

Did I load this thing from the village? No time for contemplation. Kell squeezed the trigger, taking down one of the two survivors. The third charged her. It had completed the shift. She trained the bead on his heart.

Click. Click.

“Holy hell.” She holstered her sidearm and grabbed for the hilt of her sword.

The werewolf closed their gap to mere paces. Her blade sang as it slid from the sheath. She ducked to one side as it lunged for a shoulder. Kell hacked the tendons free on the back of its left calf. The monster buckled to the pavement, screaming. She raised her weapon over her head and brought it down, splitting the lycanthrope’s head in two. Forks of light streaked across the spinning skies. Tortured souls whispered from within its rotations. Kell stormed into the main hallway. Hollow and empty.

“Miss Virtanen.” A young feminine voice filled the corridors. “Better late than never, I guess.”

Kell jogged toward a flickering sign at the end that she assumed meant EXIT. “Anya? She told me about your pact.”

“Did she?”

The EXIT light blew apart. Sparks trickled to the carpeted floor. Tiny tongues of fire popped up around the destruction.

Kellerika stomped flames out on her way up the emergency stairwell. “Let the girl go! This is between you and me.”

A low laugh. “Let her go?” The voice, now ethereal. “She’s already ours.”

“I banish you back---” Cinder blocks exploded from the wall beside Kell’s head, sending her to the floor. A cloud of yellow stars consumed her field of vision. She wiped a line of blood from her cheek. “I banish you back to the realm from whence you came!”

Another chuckle from the demon. Winds whistled around the corner outside. “I’m taking your sorry ass back with me. You’ll serve the darkness well as its slave.”

She stumbled to the second-floor exit and flung its door ajar. “Try me.”

As Kellerika advanced down the corridor, shadow figures crawled up the walls and across the ceiling. A petite brunette waited at the end of the corridor.

“Anya.” Kell drew her sidearm. “Fight it.”

An inhuman cackle. Beams of white shot from the girl’s eyes. “I told you.”

Distant shouts. A section of the light blue wall bulged into a human form. It ran across the ceiling. Help me!

Kell followed it. “Anya?”

The form reversed course. Get away from me!

Anya’s body walked closer. “As I said, she belongs to me.”

The demon hunter leveled her pistol. “Release her.”

It lifted a hand to the running form and twisted. The form screamed, and the walls shook. Kell sent a bullet into the chest of the girl’s mortal shell. The demon shrieked. Intense light consumed the tight space. An explosion. Kellerika’s wrist recoiled again. Anya’s body fell in a shower of ashes. The shouting form in the hidden dimensions of the structure raced down the hall, and Kell followed.

It won’t stop.

“Anya?” Kell chased it to a doorway across from the stairwell.

Claws ripped and tore. Momma? God, save me.

“Damn it!”

An inky splotch grew above the doorway. Ripples and dripping nothingness. A demonic face lunged from its depths and snapped its jagged fangs at Kell’s face. She staggered back into the stairwell door. Dust trickled from spreading cracks in the ceiling. Rumbles emanated from deep within the Earth’s crust. She raced downstairs and along the first floor, dodging falling wires and debris. A wall of fire leaped from a crack in the floor in front of the main doors. She sprung over the inferno and tumbled through the door onto the front walk.

“It’s all coming apart.” Kell followed the destruction into the parking lot.

Huge sections of the lot blew out toward the yellow-green clouds in the boiling skies. A pillar of darkness shot from the crater in the ground and punctured the core of churning wrath.

“I cut all your tethers and ties to this realm!” Kellerika holstered her gun. “I banish you back to the plane from whence you came.”

Something enormous howled beneath the surface. A swirling vortex of darkness grew in the sky overhead. Thick masses of sleek black flesh slithered out of their hole in the earth. Some searched the skies while others snaked across the ground toward her. She shot at the one nearest to her. The round ricocheted off the pavement in a shower of sparks.

“Damn it.” She pinched off another shot which sank into a tentacle.

The creature wailed, whipping its injured limb around. Kell jumped the swats and took aim into the massive hole. Two slugs. More cries from the thing. Two tentacles dove down from above. One knocked the gun from her hand. The other wrapped itself around her legs and lifted her into the air.

“No!” Kell’s sword was slipping from its scabbard. She reached back, catching the hand guard before it fell.

The creature swung her back and forth. In her upside down version of the world, two of the four patient buildings burned. Plumes of water shot into the air. Kellerika swung at the thicker section of the thing’s limb. The severed flesh loosened as she fell onto the hood of a parked car. Searing pain blasted through her in a violent shockwave. Another extremity plowed through the windshield next to her. Kell found her sword on the hood, rolled to her knees, and chopped off its end.

Its two injured limbs writhed and slung hissing inky smoke.

Kellerika slid to the pavement. “Serves you right.” Her right leg buckled from another surge of stinging.

A large pair of black eyes blinked underneath the raised pavement. Wedges of its skin peeled back like flower petals, revealing a maw ringed with curved fangs. An enraged roar blew streams of mucus onto the parking lot.

Kell limped toward the monstrosity. “I banish you, demon. You have no power over this land.”

One tentacle slammed into the pavement on her left, then another on her right. She switched her sword to her left side and scooped up her gun. Three quick shots into the creature’s forehead. A line of blacktop and topsoil split behind the crater and raced toward the grove of pines at the back of the property.

Kellerika set her gun back in its holster. “I’m here. Come for me!””

Mist slithered from the new crevice and bent out in search of the instigator. Two gray tubular protrusions launched from the hole and latched on to either of Kell’s shins. Powerful rings of thorns bore into the meat of her calves as the thing dragged her toward its angry maw. She chopped at the one on her left leg. It had a tough leathery hide that refused to yield.

“Get,” a swat, “the fuck,” another pair of gashes, “off me!”

The creature howled as its left feeler wriggled back under the crater. Its right one clenched down and yanked Kell to the edge of the gaping hole. The thing roared as Kellerika clung to the jagged lip of the chasm.

She shut her eyes, summoning all her strength. “With the grace and might of the Supreme Creator, I cast you out!”

This weakened the demon enough to give her some slack. Kell pulled herself up onto the ledge of pavement and severed the feeler from her leg. The section of it remaining on her came off in a bath of bloody mucus. Pools of her blood matted her pants to her skin.

“Go back to Hell.” Kell flung the chunk at its owner.

Its tentacles smacked the ground in a fit of rage. Kell used her sword to hobble around to the head of the thing and heaved it in both hands above her head. “In the name of the Creator, I cast you back!”

She plunged her weapon into the crown of its skull. Bright light spewed from the wound, blinding her. Hunks of its flesh and bone exploded. A gust of wind blew her onto her back. Its remaining extremities recoiled into the abyss, and the demon incarnate screamed in its death throes. The winds reversed course, tugging Kellerika across the loose gravel toward a pulsing disc of light. Tongues of lightening cracked across the surface of the gateway. She flipped on her stomach and fought against its current. Cars rocked next to her. The spinning clouds went blood red.

Kell got to her feet and ran against the winds. Marco and the doc stood on the front steps of the admin building, gawking. “Get inside!” She waved an arm through the strengthening gale. “Shit!” The truck next to her rolled on its side and disappeared into the paranormal whirlpool.

As she crossed the main drive, the winds weakened. Kellerika waved them off again. “Go back insi---”

A deafening boom blew her into the riser of the bottom stair. A towering shadow clamped its huge claws into the parking lot, refusing to go down.

“Cast you…” Her strength waned. “Cast you out.” As she sat up against the stairs, the demon sank down into its prison. Skies dissipated into a clear blue as the gate shrank and blinked into oblivion. Kell flopped back onto the step and watched a hawk circle the clearing skies.

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