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September 18, 2023

Further into the Darkness 24

By Lydia Manx

Chapter Twenty-Four

Clearing his throat, Caleb finally spit out, "How much did they know about us before they got here? The witchy -- lady," a term he used hesitantly but he wasn't going to resort to the vulgarities of his generation, "she knew how to get to Valerie, quickly. I mean, yeah sure, I know Valerie was stupid to get so close but still --" here he trailed off as we all acknowledged his insight. Trust a grad student to put together and tie it up with a damn bow. But he was right that the crone was far too quick with the horribly physical action. She'd immediately flayed open Valerie's arm -- though stupidly offered -- who the hell stuck their arm into a cage? She'd known something about us before she'd been grabbed and tossed into the cage. The cells were still glowing softly with the various spells enchanting them. Both mine and Jasmine's -- I think Zach added something from the outside but I wasn't positive and not willing to ask anyone. Now nothing that we were discussing was being overheard. At least that was one thing we had going for us.

Harry sighed and walked to the crone's cage and commanded, "Your name."

"Many to choose," she struggled to keep her names private. Names held power -- especially when it came to witches.

"Name that keeps your power," Harry demanded and I saw that he quietly had Zach stumble closer to the cage. I could see from Zach's dead white face that he wanted to stay far out of range from the bars. Valerie's ill-advised mistake had been reaching into the magically enhanced cell, that stupid action had given the crone the ability to strike. Harry and Zach were at least a long arm's length from the iron bars -- relatively safe in my opinion. But I wasn't volunteering my thoughts on the issue. Harry was in charge and I watched the witch struggling inside the cell. Zach was looking slightly ill at being so close to the witch. He wasn't happy about what was happening at all.

Suddenly without a word, she clawed at her throat. I quickly figured out that she was actually trying to slice open her very body with the claws that made up her hands that were curled into a weapon. I spoke an archaic word of my own and her hands froze unable to finish the intended action. A thin line of blood had been clawed out, but it wasn't fatal. Zach spun to me and coughed out, "How the hell do you do that?"

Harry said, "Later, Zach. We need names."

The crone looked past them and her eyes found me and pure hatred flowed blackly inside her skull as she obviously wanted to physically harm me. Gee, again I was making friends right and left. My popularity was growing by leaps and bounds. I truly missed my self-indulgent isolation of mere days ago.

"Marie Rose," she growled, sounding not in the least sweet or nearly soft as either of her given names.

Harry slowly nodded and said, "Marie Rose -- go sit on the bed and be silent. Our words are hidden until we call your name." His words were filled with the power of Jasmine's spell along with the sigils etched into the iron bars and walls. She wasn't going to hear anything until we called her. I liked that spell and from the smile on Harry's face, he too, was a fan.

Robotic motions were awkwardly going on inside the cell as the witch got her feet, her hands still curled unresistingly at her throat. She was not able to open her throat and frustration poured out from her frame. She made her way stiffly to the cot. Silently she wiggled onto the thin mattress furious by the binding commands Harry had given her. Very angry crone on a cot, I just barely kept from laughing aloud at the notion of the current use of my basement. It was so not the norm in any way for my world.

Harry moved slowly without turning his back on anyone inside the cells to the middle cage. The creature inside was the furred out werecat. The eyes of this creature were glittering with savvy anger and the wild passions of an intelligent creature denied its freedom. I could smell its fur and body heat, and immediately I knew the human side of the werecat was female. She wasn't in the least happy finding herself in a concrete and iron cage. Not my problem.

Once Zach reluctantly joined Harry again at his silent bidding -- they stood quietly in front of the bristling werecat. Without dropping his eyes from the werecat Harry called out over his shoulder, "Morgan, is this creature able to speak without shifting?"

Morgan nodded then coughed out, "Yeah, she's old enough. If she's forced to change, she may be weaker but can lie easier. The were nature is more basic and were-animals find it harder if not impossible to lie when they are in their natural furred bodies."

That wasn't a fact widely known in most supernatural circles, but I'd been aware due to my past as had Harry, but I figured he wanted Morgan and the others to be engaged in our questioning and focused on the potential issues. I felt Caleb shift beside me on his feet and then he asked, "Can this creature hear us?"

I answered, "No, Harry hasn't asked any direct questions. Right now, we aren't talking as far as all three of them know. The spell Jasmine cast was pretty specific." After all, I knew that Caleb was really new to all of our spells, magic and our very natures. I was impressed as it had been a good, well thought out question.

I felt, rather than saw, Caleb nod at my reply. I really did appreciate Caleb's questioning us as it gave the info to Zach without assuming the null already was aware of were animals and their capabilities. A null had different life experiences than humans for sure. Their innate ability to suck down all magics for the most part was feared and not completely understood. Nulls kept to themselves and went nearly invisible to both humans and nonhumans throughout their lives.

"Werecat, what are you called?" Harry commanded in front of the cage. As with Marie Rose, the werecat would have a hard time physically striking at the vampire. Zach was a half-step behind Harry to the right. He was still looking a bit queasy. Somehow, I got the impression that nulls didn't get out much amongst us wilder supers. Maybe it was just Zach, later I really had to ask Harry to explain what he knew about nulls and how he came to have Zach under his command.

"Vampire, I am called She-Cat," her voice was slightly raspy and awkwardly spoken over a mouthful of razor sharp predator teeth.

"She-Cat. Enough. The human name is stronger on your nature," Morgan called out from the couch. Jasmine shuddered and seemed to try to pay more attention to us. I still felt like she wasn't fully aware of us all, but I had to commend her obvious effort. I liked that Morgan had called out. He was more engaged than he'd been so far in what Harry was trying to sell me on with the attackers and the Vampire Council's decree.

She-Cat actually chuckled, a sound that made Caleb shudder, it wasn't a happy noise but obviously a predator's warning.

Harry pushed with a strong wave of his vampiric control voice, "Name!" It wasn't a question by any means.

"Whitney. Whitney." Came the coughing reply. Chuffing in anger the werecat glared at Harry. Unhappy werecat for sure -- too bad.

"Whitney, you are to go to the cot immediately and sit quietly until I command you. You are not to listen to us." Harry pushed at the werecat just with his voice.

Whitney moved bonelessly with the fluidity of a large angry cat to the cot as ordered. Her tail was held erect and swished as warning to her mood and her body was moving on all fours not upright, as werewolves could. Werecats could stand but she wasn't in the mood, it seemed. She couldn't refuse the command but was wet cat angry well beyond just furious. I watched as Harry slid to the final cell on the end. The creature inside was covered head to toe with matte black clothing. There was a raw fury being held inside and as of yet we'd not been able to see who or what lay beneath the mask and armor. Tightly coiled fury that we'd easily detected was linked deeply with an arrogance that fed every line of this one. The punch to its head by Morgan earlier resulting in disabling it and made it easily caged had just increased the raw anger that ruled the cell's current guest.

"Remove your mask," Harry's voice was strong and filled with his vampiric power. I watched as gloved hands went to the head and I could see a real struggle was being waged inside the armored suit. Harry waited quietly as his power continued to roll off him and I saw Zach stumble backwards slightly. Guess Zach felt Harry' raw strength.

A whisper of an arcane word from beneath the mask was spoken Jasmine heard it the same moment I did and we both shouted out nearly simultaneously, "Everyone duck!"

There was a bolt of green that strobed inside the warded cage coupled with the sharp sound of a vial of glass breaking warning us something dark had been cast and we all dropped to the floor of the basement. Except Harry, naturally. He stood firmly and spit out, "No."

I wasn't sure where that was directed but it didn't matter as the green energy bounced around the iron cell and hit back into the still camouflaged creature. Hard. I wouldn't recommend casting spells in what was a combination Faraday cage and a few other horridly nasty bits of spell craft from both Jasmine and myself. Hell, I wasn't even sure how the spell the creature had just cast had even survived the magics from both of us. But I figured it was cast into the now broken vial while using some other unseen token or object magically spelled or hexed prior to the creature being tossed inside the cell. We probably should've strip searched all of them -- but it wasn't like we could put a cork back in that bottle now. I sighed from my crouch on the floor. Stiffening my spine, I stood back up joining Harry's side. The creature rocked back on its legs and stumbled backwards then down hitting its masked face and head on the lovely stainless steel toilet I'd installed -- I mean I wasn't a total savage. Not anymore at least.

Blood spurted from the face mask, it was bright red and from the scent in the air, I knew it was partially human, but there was something else scenting the blood; I wasn't sure what it was. I hadn't tasted any of its blood yet so we'd have to wait to see what kind of creature was bleeding so generously down the floor's drain. The individual drains inside each cell were really a necessity. Right now, the blood flow had begun to slow down -- the droplets fell in large spatters beneath the masked creature. The gloved hands on either side of the stainless steel toilet returned slowly to the black mask.

Harry spoke again, "Remove your mask." The creature had fallen back onto its ass -- still dripping blood but like I'd noted at a much slower rate. The hands went behind its head but this time I had a power word or two ready to cast if need be. The green glow from whatever had been triggered hadn't completely faded from inside the cage. Harry asked Zach to step back and allow me to come forward. Zach had barely gotten to his feet, but had no problem scurrying over to the couch where Morgan and Jasmine still sat. I noticed then that Caleb, without being directed, had done the same and was at the opposite end from Zach. They all huddled together silently waiting for the unveiling. They were unified in fear and at the same time interest in who or what was hidden beneath the mask.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-11-22
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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