Chapter 44: Confrontation
Glass shattered, and wood splintered. One door separated from its hinges entirely, exploding onto Richard’s back. Alex caught Chloe as she dropped, flinging her clear. Aaron and Arthur dove for cover. Flames shot from Kerlvin’s hands while the sword flashed. Lightning and black spears flew from Edgar’s cloud, slamming into Richard. He was bent over as bolt after bolt and slash after slash slammed across his back. Alex watched in horror. Richard reached out in front of himself, cracking his knuckles. He rolled his shoulders, cracked his neck, and then stood up. Thrusting out a hand, Edgar and Kerlvin flew back into the front room. Stretching his back, Richard slipped a hand into his jacket.
Spitting with anger, Kerlvin scrambled forward. Suddenly he stopped, arms outstretched, claws ready to shred, his sword raised to strike. Richard held out the demon’s horn. Alex watched as Richard flicked the horn up. Kerlvin flew to the ceiling. Edgar threw stabbing shards of shadow at Richard. They exploded a foot in front of him like he was covered in an invisible dome. Kerlvin fell to the floor. Richard threw out his other hand to block fire from Kerlvin and more spikes from Edgar. Alex’s eyes scanned all around, falling on a pry bar lying just the other side of the fight. Throwing himself forward, he ran, and then ducked, sliding across the floor. Chloe saw what he was doing and flew at Richard.
Richard had regained control of the demon. He was using him to attack Edgar. Sweat boiled up on his brow. With the fight between Edgar and Kerlvin, Richard lowered his hand, dropping his defense a little. A screaming in his ears and fingers clawed his eyes. Chloe attacked with all she had. She kicked and bit and scratched. Her small fist, holding seventy years of anger, slammed into the side of his head. Richard was more than a match for magical attacks, but the rage of this girl took him by surprise. Instinctively he threw up his arms over his face.
Kerlvin was free. He blasted Richard with a fireball. Richard threw the girl off. He pointed the horn at Kerlvin. Pain exploded in his arm. The horn clattered to the floor. Richard screamed in agony, holding his now-broken arm. Alex’s breath was coming in gasps. He held the heavy metal bar like a sword. He was shaking; the snap of the bones still echoed in his ears.
“You will regret that, boy,” Richard snarled. A glow showed under the hand holding the broken limb. Richard flexed his fingers. He shook the now-healed arm. Alex saw a flash of silver around Richard’s wrist before he was smashed into the wall. The wind knocked out of him, Alex tried to breathe as he tried to pull himself out of the hole he was stuck in. His legs were two feet off the ground. He was bent almost in half, which only compounded his breathing issues. Richard was advancing on him.
“Now you’ll feel my true power,” he threatened.
At first Richard’s smile grew listening to Alex’s wheezing attempt to breathe. The smile faltered as the wheezing turned into more of a laugh. Alex forced himself out of the hole. He hit the ground hard. He stayed on his hands and knees for a moment. Spitting blood, he continued to laugh. He forced himself up into a crouched position. His hand on his knees for support and spitting more blood, Alex held out a hand to pause his attacker. Painfully standing up straight, Alex smiled wearily at Richard.
Richard’s sneer was back. “Are you ready to die now? Ready to join dear Chloe?”
Staggering a little, Alex wiped his mouth. “I’d be more concerned with yourself at the moment.” He laughed, pointing behind Richard.
A soft laughing mixed with heavy angry breathing now reached Richard’s ears. Chloe stood there, her eyes ablaze with anger. Next to her was Edgar, his black hatred swirling and crackling with lightning. Finally, there was Kerlvin. Slowly he raised his head. Richard took a faltering step back. Kerlvin’s twin horns rose gracefully from his head. The ebony shone mirrorlike in the dim light. “So nice to be whole again.” The grand demon smiled. “So nice to be in control…again.”
“You control nothing,” Richard cried, throwing balls of white light at Kerlvin, who flicked them aside lazily. Edgar joined the fight; lighting crashed, strobing the room. In the flash Alex saw the flash of silver again as Richard cast from his left then right then left hand again and again. Edgar and Kerlvin kept up a constant attack. Their advance was slow, but the shield around Richard seemed to be getting closer by the second. Alex waved at Chloe from behind Richard. He pointed at his wrist, then to Richard. Chloe’s eyes grew huge. She saw it.
Alex began to edge closer. Richard ignored him. Suddenly Alex stopped and stared. While Kerlvin cackled and sprang into the air flying and throwing flame, Chloe leaned over to speak to Edgar. Shaking his head to clear his confusion, Alex began to move again. Chloe’s scream of battle filled the room painfully. Alex caught sight of Aaron and Arthur cowering and covering their ears. Chloe flew at Richard. She was a vision of terror, hair flying, eyes the color of blood, her face gaunt and hollow. She was a specter of pure horror. Richard was stunned by the display. He recovered quickly, waving his hand. She flew against the wall, where she lay stunned.
In the seconds Chloe had distracted Richard, Edgar advanced. The two brothers threw everything they had against each other. Even though Richard was forced back, Edgar was paying a terrible price. Suddenly Edgar’s voice cried out from above the fight, “Boy! Grab it!” Alex didn’t need an explanation. He took two huge steps and leaped into the fray. Time slowed. Richard cried in triumph as Edgar crumpled to the ground. Kerlvin came in at Richard, sword aimed at his throat. Alex’s hands outstretched, his body flying through the air. The small cross stuck into his hand; the chain whipped around his hand as it parted from Richard’s arm. Kerlvin’s blade slammed into Richard’s body. Demon and man fell to the floor. Kerlvin’s sword kept Richard pinned to the floor. Blood spurted from his mouth and pooled under him.
“Well, well, well, what shall we do with you?” Kerlvin grinned, tapping his claws on Richard’s chest.
Alex got gingerly to his feet. He could feel the thin chain with its tiny charm in his hand. He turned to find Chloe crouched next to Edgar. Alex made his way over on shaking legs. The black cloud was gone now. Edgar seemed small to Alex. “Did you get it?” Edgar whispered.
Holding the chain, Alex let the cross fall from his hand. It swung glinting in the unsteady light from the broken chandelier. “How did you know?” Alex asked but felt he already knew the answer.
“She told me.” Edgar gestured weakly to Chloe. He gasped as a tear escaped her eye.
“Thank you, Edgar. I know you didn’t kill me, but”—she sniffed—“I forgive you.”
Slowly he reached up to grasp her hand. “I know I am going to hell for what I have done.” He coughed. “But at least I know I did right by you.” Flapping wings and a snicker ruined the moment as Kerlvin arrived.
“I told you I’d have a job waiting for you when we won.” Kerlvin beamed. He thrust his hands into Edgar’s chest. Edgar screamed in agony. Chloe screamed and clawed at Kerlvin while Alex held her back. Edgar convulsed and contorted, shrinking slightly but growing muscle. His skin turned red while black horns and claws grew. Kerlvin withdrew his hands while Edgar lay breathing heavily. Suddenly Kerlvin stood up, a focused look on his face. “Come on—up. Chop-chop. We have a soul to deal with.”
Edgar got slowly to his feet. He regarded Kerlvin for a second and then replied, “Yes, sir.”
“You can’t take me,” Richard spat. “I have a deal with a higher demon than you,” he cried as Edgar grabbed his arms. “You can’t break the deal.”
“Oh dear, Richard, didn’t you read the fine print? That deal was in place only as long as you had hold of the souls. Since you lost them, you have no deal.” Kerlvin’s laugh was cruel and malicious.
“No, I still have one. I still have her.” As Richard pointed, he saw his naked wrist and the glint from Alex’s hand. Kerlvin turned to Chloe and Alex. He smiled an evil grin and was gone in a cloud of sulfur. Edgar kept pulling the screaming Richard, the blade cleaving him as he was dragged to a pit that opened in the floor. The scream was cut off when the hell fires closed. Only the heavy golden sword with its multitude of gems was left behind.
“I think it is over,” Chloe said. Before Alex could say a word, she was floating down the hall to the conservatory. Aaron was torn between watching Chloe leave and the golden sword as it teetered and fell heavily to the floor.