The London smoke.
– Okay, I get that. – I tried to reason with him. – But there was something that was making this steam right? Some coal engines like on the old ships I’ve seen in the books. Hell, people still use steam today and it’s always accompanied with smoke. Why was there none of it in that dream city of yours?
I looked down and froze.
I shook my head, not knowing what I should say.
– So, The Steam Giants were just a ploy to get me interested? – I laughed.
– No no no! Those were real and majestic! I’m just terrible at describing things – he laughed,
We stayed completely silent for a moment, just staring at each other, when he stood up from the chair, cracking his bones. He was doing it really often, especially after learning that it slightly grosses me out for the skeleton to just crack when someone moves.
– So, I guess it’s time for us, ey? – He stretched, once again cracking his bones.
– Yeah I guess it is. – I stood up. – You know... – I continued. – Thank you for telling me that story, you know, for trusting me.
– Don’t mention it. – He laughed again, waving his hand. I haven’t seen him like that in a while. – You think it’s cold outside? – He looked at me, zipping up his leather jacket.
I opened my mouth to answer him, but I instantly froze. In the small spaces between the door and the frame, there was visible a dull, green glow. I pointed at it, to make him look this way. He slowly turned around, moving a step away from the door. But we couldn’t do anything. The door exploded, with a flash of flame, into tiny splinters that I just barely stopped from blinding me by covering my eyes. Before I could check if my friend was alright a tall figure entered the room. With a shorter, slightly humpbacked person besides them.
– On your knees and hands up! – The short one screamed. I was too paralised with shock and fear to follow their instructions.
Quickly after the command, six men in shining armor swarmed the room, the knights, the angels, death. Two of them grabbed me and Devon and forcefully pushed us to our knees in front of the gold covered angel. From there I could finally look closely at them. Their leader was a hooded knight in golden armor and a mask covering his face, with a long white cape, and a weird structure on his arms, resembling wings. His underlings were all in silver and whites with swords, whose handles resemble sickles or the Moon. All of them also had a headgear composed of weirdly angled blades. I heard those are to stop mages from mind controlling them.
Besides their leader there was also a short person dressed in black clothes. The executor. I had no idea why they called them like that, because every angel was permitted to kill mages, or even people just suspected of being one on sight.
– Why do you? – Devon started but was interrupted with a sword strike from one of the knights. It was just the flat side of the blade but I could see on Devon’s face that he was in a lot of pain. We both instantly lost all urge to talk or resist.
– Don’t speak before the Inquisitor tells you to do so. – I heard a snake-like voice of the executor. From just their voice I couldn’t guess what gender or age they were, but I figured that in a couple of minutes it won’t matter, if the whole death squad bothered to visit us.
The golden angel looked around, not bending his neck even a little bit. After noticing that the room was nearly empty, he ordered his men to look through everything that was still inside, by just pointing them in the direction of the wardrobe and the bed. Suddenly the executioner screamed at me.
– Stop staring at the Inquisitor, you worm! – I didn’t even realise I was staring, but I quickly lowered my head muttering “yes sir”. Their voice was full of hate and disgust, but just as I followed their order, they let out a pleased murmur.
Then there was silence, just sometimes broken with the armor of the knights clinging as they were looking through our stuff. It took them around a minute or five to look through everything, and during the entirety of this time I dozed off, looking at the floorboards I was kneeling on. Soon I heard the two soldiers standing in the places they were in as they entered the room, and one of them reported:
– There was nothing of value or dangerous, we didn’t find any objects or detect any focused Zero Light. It’s all clear Sir. – I heard him standing at attention.
– Good. – The Inquisitor finally spoke. – Stand up. – He said, but before we could do it on our own, the soldiers grabbed us under our arms and pulled us up. – Do you know why are we here? – He asked, looking directly at us.
I shook my head, Devon most likely did the same, cause the Inquisitor sighed unhappy. He pointed his hand towards the wall, and his soldiers pushed us there, still facing him. He slowly moved to the window and sat on one of the chairs.
– You know who I am? – I looked worried at Devon, he was staring directly at the Inquisitor with barely hidden rage.
– Yes. – He blurted out, – You are an Inquisitor, a murderer made to harass normal people.
– Yes yes. – The man waved his hand dismissively. – Sure, I’m the devil in your eyes. But that wasn’t the question. Do you know who I really am?
– No...– Devon looked puzzled.
– O, that’s great! – I shuddered, hearing genuine joy in his voice. – I am just one of many, and the fact you don’t know me points towards your innocence. – He nodded his head slowly, looking outside the window. – Do you know what I do? – Before Devon could open his mouth, he added amused. – Of course aside from killing and stealing.
We both looked at him scared, this man just laughed as if he was joking with his old friends, and not his new prisoners, toys. He then joyned tips of his fingers and looked at us.
– I… Test… – He started slowly. He seemed like he said it a thousand times, with perfect timing as if it were some kind of sick play. – I go around listening, I ask my children things and I listen. – He nodded. – And sometimes they tell me… things. – He seemed to take pleasure from our stress. – And sometimes those things lead me to the lost ones. The sheep that got away from the glory of our gods. And I test them if they are worthy to come back. – He laughed quietly to himself. – I see you are confused, so let me be quick. I will ask you a question, and then we will do a little test, okay? – He looked at us as if he was waiting for an answer.
Suddenly he clapped his hands and stood up. – Okay I can see you guys had their breath taken, no worries, it happens when you stand in front of one of His apostles – He seemed to smile through his mask. – But I need your answer, and it has to be honest, from the bottom of your hearts! – He again clapped full of enthusiasm. – Can we do it?
He seemed to take our silence as a “yes” and got really close to both of us. I could see that the knights pointed the backs of their swords our way, like some comedic guns. He then tilted his head and asked both of us.
– Is any of you guys… – he stopped for a second, slightly straightening his back to be taller than us. – A light user?
We both were speechless, but only for a second, because in the next moment we felt immense relief. We looked at each other and nearly at the same time answered.
He again clapped his hands. – That’s splendid! – I nearly believe you! Now all you two have to do is complete a little test, okay? I will leave the room to not help you too much. – He moved his head as he was winking at us. – But first we have to pick one of you and… – He stroked his mask in the place where there should be a beard, with a loud clanging of the metal gloves on the golden faceplate. – Ene, due – He pointed once at me and once at my friend, then continued the counting silently, just pointing at us. After a couple of seconds of that he ended at Devon. – Okay! So it’s you! Have fun! – Without another word he turned around and left the room.
We both looked confused at each other. No one was moving from their place for a very long moment, until finally the executioner stood in front of us. Without a word they took out a rod connected to some cable from beneath their dark cloak.
– Point at it. – He simply said and then waited.
Devon looked at me confused and stressed, and then slightly shaking he pointed at the device extending his index finger.
– Good. Hold it. – Said the executioner, and then he started to play with different dials on the device. It was buzzing, sometimes beeping, sometimes slightly shaking, but nothing was happening.
Suddenly I felt something, like a heat flowing through me. It started in my right arm and radiated further into my body. I touched my right arm which didn’t go unnoticed by the executioner.
– What are you doing? – They seemed slightly scared. – Why are you touching your arm? What’s happening?
– I.. I just thought I felt something but it was just some sweat – I lied.
The device on the executioner’s back emitted a loud crack.
– YOU ARE LYING! – They screamed, moving a step back, with a shaking hand. – WHAT DO YOU FEEL!?
I quickly raised my hands in defence – Nothing! Just got a bit warm! – Everyone held their breath and focused on the executioner, but their device stayed silent.
– Why did you lie before? – They asked me, still visibly worried.
– I don’t know why, I just… – I stopped mid sentence, realising that the executioner isn’t looking at me anymore. They moved back, dropping their metal rod. I looked at what they and the rest of the soldiers were looking at, and I met a terrified look in the eyes of Devon. He was looking at his extended hand, shaking.
.– I do-don’t know w-what happened – He was stuttering, waving his hands around leaving trails of fire in the air. I stepped back from him, and he looked at me scared and hurt. – No no, that’s not like that. – He seemed to be explaining himself more to me than them. I could see the tears forming in his eyes. He was a…
– DEVIL! – The executioner screamed as my friend fell to his knees and was trying to explain himself, but his sobbing was drowning all the words, making it impossible to explain what he was saying, and the more he tried to control the fire swirling around him, the more powerful flames became. I was fighting with myself thinking fast what could I do to help him, to somehow fix this situation, but then.
My ear was blasted with a loud bang, and a bullet pierced Devon. I’ve seen his terrified eyes look at me, gradually losing any sign of life in them. He tried to reach out his hand to me, this time the flames were gone, and soon after them, he was gone, falling to his face, quickly spilling blood on the wood. I’ve fallen to my knees, kneeling next to my friend, terrified, angry, and sorry that I didn’t help him in his last moments. That I tried to walk away from him, scared of him.
I held his hand, I was screaming at the soldiers to help him, I was ignoring the giant hole in his head, that so quickly stopped bleeding I hoped he was alive, he HAD to be alive. And just as I was holding his colder and colder body in my arms, feeling the salt of tears in my mouth the door opened.
– I heard a bang! – He peeked inside the room. – Oooo, so it was a span of satan!? – He seemed almost happy. – Good you got rid of it. – He pretended to dry sweat off of his forehead.
– So what do we do with the other one? – The executioner asked his master after a second of silence. And the golden knight folded his hands in front of his face, pretending to think.
– Well, they know each other, yes? – He pointed at me, I held Devon more tightly, my body was shaking and my breathing became irregular.– That makes it or him an accomplice! – He once again clapped his hands. – And the punishment for that is? – He looked at his executioner.
– Death. – They responded and took out a pistol from beneath their cloak. Slowly with what I can only imagine to be a smile beneath the mask, they pointed the weapon at me and pulled the trigger.
I screamed.and saw as the bullet flew towards me. Everything felt as if it were in slow motion. I could count the beating of my heart. It would take three beats for the bullet to reach me. I somehow knew it, my brain was working on higher levels, it was doing something that it never did before. I could feel the blood in my veins, I felt oxygen in my system, the only thing I couldn’t do was to move. That “super speed” was limited to my brain and despite seeing death approaching me I could’t do a thing just kneel and stare. The second beat.
The most important muscle flexed and relaxed, pushing the blood to my brain, and all the little places in my body. I was slowly getting ready for the third beat, slowly accepting my death, but then I realised something. I could feel something more, I became aware of some kind of heat inside my veins, the same heat I felt when Devon created the flame. But this time inside of me. I tried to focus on it but then.
The third beat. Bullet was barely centimeters away from me. I still had enough time to close my eyes, and just as my eyelids covered my sight I felt the fourth, fifth and sixth beats.