Part 11: Conclusion
Disclaimers: See Part One
Feedback, as per the usualm can be sent to Terias_McKlay@hotmail.com
*Author's Note: To everyone who has offered feedback and encouragement along the way I give you my most heartfelt thanks. Your kind words motivated me when I couldn't manage to motivate myself.*
"Brian is that you?" Megan asked as she answered her cell phone. She noticed the number on her caller ID: it was her home phone and the blonde smiled as Brian's voice came back across the lines.
"Yeah it's me," he answered his voice shaky.
"God, I was so worried," Megan covered her ear with her hand as a train passed and she walked towards the subway exit.
"I'm okay," his voice crackled over the line and Megan ascended the steps toward the street to get better reception. "Where are you? The line's all static."
"Um," Megan looked up at the street signs, she wasn't familiar with this area of the city. "Right now I'm on Bloor and Dundas. God only knows where Lexina is, she ditched me about half an hour ago." The scent of a hot dog stand invaded her nose and she looked around for the source. It had been hours since her last meal.
"Lex's not with you then?"
"No, are you sure you're okay Brian? You sound a little off."
"I'm fine. Listen, we should meet up, maybe we can track Lexina down," the boy said, Megan finally caught sight of the hot dog stand and made her way toward it her mouth watering.
"Yeah, that's a good idea. Come down here, I'll meet you at the bus stop. We'll go back on the trains and see if anyone remembers her getting off," Megan suggested, it still sounded as though something was wrong with her ex.
"It's a long shot but it's better than nothing. Why don't you give me her cell number? I'll try calling before I leave." Brian said, Megan heard something that sounded suspiciously like voices on the other side of the line.
There shouldn't be anyone over there.
"Brian, are you alone?"
"What? Yeah, of course, why?" The answer came a bit too quickly but Megan decided to chalk it up to Brian's nerves and dismissed her thoughts.
"Nevermind. Anyway, you can try her cell but she's not answering. I'm not sure if she turned if off or if it's because she hasn't got any reception in the tunnels. I was going to take the next train and see if I could find her but I was worried she would double back."
"You think she'd go through that much trouble to lose you?" Megan shrugged and then shook her head at herself when she realized Brian couldn't see her.
"I don't know, she's fairly convinced Gideon tracked us down by his book. Makes sense I guess since there's really no other way he could've located us. She's determined to keep me away from her and the book so I'll be safe." Silence descended on Brian's side of the line and Megan had to check her signal to be sure she hadn't lost the connection. "Hello? Brian are you still there?"
"Yeah, I'm still here, I've got a pen what's the number?" Megan cited the number as she signalled the hot dog guy for two all dressed. He nodded and bent to prepare the dogs as Megan searched her pockets for her wallet. "I'll meet you down there in a few."
"Okay see you later. Brian…" Megan took her hot dogs from the man handing him the money. "Be careful."
Lex looked around suspiciously, taking in the occupants of the train car. She didn't see anyone who sparked her instinct so leaned back and closed her eyes trying to will some of the stress from her body. She was alone now, Megan would be unable to track her down, of that much she'd made sure. The reporter was too resourceful for her own good and the Hunter had taken that into account, making sure to switch trains regularly and avoid cameras. No telling if the reporter would be able to hack into the surveillance system and get a lock on the Hunter.
The brunette lifted up her back pack and unzipped the front pouch. She'd managed to boost a couple of chocolate bars and a bottle of juice from one of the convenience centers on the platforms. She wasn't usually inclined to petty theft but she was low on cash and what she did have she'd need to ride the trains till morning and cab to the airport.
With any luck she would manage to avoid anyone who might recognize her, perhaps a tall order considering her face was plastered all over the TV, by tomorrow morning she'd probably be in the newspapers as well.
The Hunter munched on her small meal frowning when she realized she'd nicked one with coconut in it. She washed the unpleasant taste down with the bottle of apple juice, also not her favourite.
Beggars can't be choosers I suppose.
Her supper completed Lex turned her attention to the book. She hadn't spent much time reading it beyond translating the meteor spell.
What the hell is so important about this thing anyway?
Lex wasn't unfamiliar with putting herself in mortal danger for artefacts. Athena had sent her on a variety of missions for doodads and whatchamacallits many of whose functions Lex couldn't even pronounce. Her Dhaskalos had known their purpose and had seen them fit to be kept out of the hands of evil and in deference to her teacher Lex had complied.
The main reason Lexina was willing to protect the book now was the simple fact that Gideon wanted it. Common sense dictated that if a major soldier of evil wanted something it was likely prudent for the forces of good to do their best to keep it from him.
With a sigh born of frustration and weariness the Hunter opened the book. Though most of the spells were in languages unknown to Lex -at least to the point where she translate without a guide- it appeared some excerpts were written in standard Latin. It wasn't uncommon for witches to intersperse journal entries with spells in their Book of Shadows, the book was as much a telling of the witch's life as it was an indication of magical knowledge.
According to Gideon he joined the Cult of True Humanity shortly after he began practicing magic. The cult, he explained, believed in the inherent evil of all beings. Rather then attempting to mask themselves and fight against what they considered human nature they embraced their inner darkness. They did this to the point that they actively recruited murderers and demons (whom they apparently considered to be the epitome of humanity) into their ranks.
The cult also declared their mission to be the annihilation of the servants of good and the propagation of war, thus enabling another aspect of human nature, its desire to destroy itself. They believed that humanity's destiny lay not in some form of uplifting salvation but in the complete destruction of the human race.
Lex sucked in a breath as she closed the book. She'd never heard of the Cult of True Humanity. Hopefully, they'd gone the way of many ancient cults and just dissolved from existence. The feeling in her gut told the Hunter that probably wasn't the case. Given the state of the world it seemed far more likely that the cult had merely gone underground spreading their poisonous ideas but perhaps no longer laying claim to their ancient name.
If Lex wanted to wax philosophical about it every enemy she'd ever faced was a member of the cult, whether they knew it or not. Vampires, Laox, Gideon, all doing evil for evil's sake. Whether the official cult remained its will was done regardless and the evil continued in a self perpetuating circle.
Happy thoughts, even if we win we lose. How does that saying go? Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity?
Lex wasn't a fool, she knew she was an active participant in all of this, violence done in the name of good was still violence. She could comfort herself with the fact that she was a member of a spiffy organization that prided itself on serving the greater good but even that was a crock. They were as infected with malice as anyone else, Athena had proved that. Her Dhaskalos had tried to stop it and in the end it had cost her her life. Lex supposed that the danger lie in trying to discern those who had good intentions from those who acted solely with malicious intent. Lex wasn't even sure if that made a difference.
How then was the Good supposed to win? It seemed to have its hands tied behind its back. It couldn't fight without perpetuating the very cycle it sought to prevent but if it didn't fight surely the forces of Good would be overrun.
Maybe we're not meant to win, maybe this battle is what being human is all about, the fight to protect what little good there is and somehow not lose ourselves in the melee. The Shadow Hunter shook her head, it was uncomfortable to think that in the grand scheme of things all her efforts had really been meaningless, or perhaps, even detrimental. Lately, every time she'd gone into battle she'd lost a little bit of herself, it was becoming increasingly difficult to pull herself back from the precipice, to stop the violence from taking her.
Lex took a deep breath. Though she had her misgivings she couldn't afford to capitulate to some higher path of non-violence, not now, when so many lives hung in the balance. Doubting herself would get her and many others killed, Megan would likely be among their number, that was unacceptable.
A small smile crept onto the Hunter's face at the thought of the blonde. She'd send word to the reporter once she was in England, perhaps she'd even be able to entice the older girl to visit. Assuming the blonde would forgive her for leaving her in the subway.
There was a connection between them the likes of which the Hunter had never felt before. The closest she could approximate it to was her Hunter Powers, she hadn't realized she felt incomplete until she'd been chosen as a Thirteen and tried to remember the time before she had her powers. It felt wrong, disjointed somehow, the same was true with Megan, she hadn't realized there was another part of herself missing until she looked back to the time before she met the blonde. Their connection was intrinsic, much like her powers, or Megan's magical abilities, there was no explanation as to why, it simply was.
The Hunter hoped she and the blonde had a chance to explore where the connection may lead.
First things first Lex, lets just get ourselves out of this mess before we go getting ourselves into another.
That decided Lex put the book back in her bag and pulled out the picture of her mother. She kissed the image and tucked it into her pocket for safekeeping.
I love you Mom, but I'm not ready to give up on this world yet. Gideon wants this book, he's gonna have to work for it.
Megan tapped her foot impatiently as she sat on the bench. It had been nearly an hour since Brian had called and the boy had yet to show up. The reporter had pretty much lost all hope of finding Lexina. The trail would have been cold had she followed her friend on the first train after she'd been dumped. Now, nearly an hour and a half later the trail had probably turned to ice.
"Damn it, Brian where are you?"
"Sorry I'm late." Megan fought the urge to scream as Brian suddenly appeared behind her. She turned and gave him a solid punch on the arm in retribution for the years of life he'd just scared out of her.
"You bastard! You scared the hell out of me."
"Ow, I'm sorry," he rubbed his arm giving Megan a glare. The reporter ignored it and stood looking at the taller blonde. Aside from a nasty shiner and a cut that stretched from his wrist to his elbow he looked none the worse for wear.
Considering he had a rather heavy door land on him recently.
"Where do you want to start?" Megan asked wiping the road dust off her sleeves. Brian shrugged in answer and moved to cross the street not waiting for Megan.
Then again we didn't exactly wait for him when we ran out of the apartment like bats out of hell.
With a shake of her head the blonde followed after the sullen high school student narrowly avoiding a speeding car. Once she was across the street she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to a stop. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Nothing," he jerked away from her arm and stuck his hands into his pockets. Megan sighed and brushed past him taking the steps to the subway two and three at a time. If they were lucky they could catch the next train and be on their way within minutes. She heard Brian's running shoes padding against the cement steps and turned to make sure he didn't break his neck coming down. He had a tendency to be a bit of klutz sometimes. Megan shivered as a chill ran up her spine and she felt the hairs rise on the back of her neck.
Something's wrong here.
Megan turned slowly to the tracks her eyes having trouble adjusting to the dim light compared to that of the harsh street lamps above. She took small steps toward the train tracks wondering why the station was so deserted. Less than two hours ago it had been crawling with people. Taking a deep breath she moved away from the stairs searching for any sign of movement.
"Brian?" Megan looked back to see the tall boy at the base of the stairs. He reached into the pockets of his cargo pants and pulled out two batons. He snapped them out and moved toward her holding them at the ready.
Something's very freaking wrong here.
"What are you doing?"
Why am I asking that, I know what he's doing. Little bastard, I knew there was a good reason I dumped him.
Megan made a dash for the tracks, there was always a security guard on duty this time of night in the more populated stations. She vaulted over the security gate and turned to the mini food court. It took her a few moments to realize that the ear rending scream that echoed off the tunnel walls came from her own throat. Dozens of people lay strewn across their tables, in some cases, blood poured onto the ground. One child's eyes stared at her vacantly and Megan had to force herself not to puke. She turned to face her ex barely ducking a strike at her head. She put her shoulder down and charged the boy knocking him to the cement floor.
One baton flew from his hand and rolled across the ground sliding to a stop five metres away. Megan pushed herself up from on top of Brian giving him a healthy kick to his groin as she did so. He curled up in a ball dropping his other baton and held his knees to his chest.
The reporter picked up the discarded weapon and gave him an extra kick to the head before running to grab his other baton and head toward the exit. She was nearly to the base of the steps when she felt the tackle from behind. She crashed down onto the cement, the breath leaving her lungs as she hit. She turned over in Brian's grip and whipped the baton at his head catching him in the temple.
"Get off me you prick!" She switched her grip on the weapon and jabbed the baton tip into Brian's eye. His head snapped back and he held his hand to his eye which started to bleed.
"Bitch." He grabbed one of her arms pinning it to the ground and limiting her range of motion in the other arm. He was stronger than Megan had given him credit for her and the punch that he nailed her in the jaw with made her see stars. She took a breath chocking as her mouth filled with blood.
The blonde spat it out at Brian blinding him long enough to writhe out of his grip and give him another shot to his skull. He rolled off her nursing his bleeding head. Megan half crawled half limped to the stairs using the rail to pull herself up. She reached the second flight from the top when a dark figure stepped in front of the exit blocking the light from the street above.
"Shit!" She turned to go back down the stairs and was met by Brian standing at the bottom looking smug. Looking to the top of the stairs again she was met by Gideon's boot heel and felt her feet leave the ground. She landed roughly on the cement steps tumbling head over heels to the bottom the batons flying from her hands.
She shook her head as she tried to stand falling to the ground again as Brian picked up one of the discarded batons and snapped it into the back of her leg. She turned to look at the blonde defiance written in her sea green eyes as the boy raised his weapon.
"Say good night bitch."
Lex tugged her backpack higher onto her shoulder as she navigated through the throng of people. She'd gotten off the train an hour or so ago and was now wandering aimlessly downtown. Her stomach burned from lack of food and the brunette contemplated whether she could afford the time and money to get some pizza. She turned her cell phone back on checking to see whether she'd gotten her reception back or not.
She had initially turned the phone off to conserve power while she hung out in the tunnels. There was no sense in wasting the battery when she couldn't receive calls anyway. She collided with someone on her left bouncing harmlessly off the steroid jockey and landing on the sidewalk. He looked down at her before shaking his head and moving down the street, a flock of girls in tow.
"Suck my strap on you no nut asshole," Lex called out wishing she had time and energy to teach the guy some manners.
"Are you alright?" The Hunter looked up into clear blue eyes startled by their close proximity.
"Uh, yeah." The man offered her a hand and Lex took it allowing him to pull her to her feet. He twitched his tweed jacket back into place and ran a hand through his closely cropped hair. His hair color was a slightly lighter shade compared to Lex's but had probably been the same color before age had dulled it. He had one nearly white streak of hair running along either temple and the man reminded Lex of someone. His height paralleled hers and the Hunter felt a light go on as she realized who he looked like.
Wow, been awhile since I've even given my father a thought. It's creepy how close they resemble one another.
"Some people's children," he shook his head and Lex smirked a little. "Isn't it a little late for you to be wandering around this neighbourhood?"
"I can take care of myself. Thanks for the hand." Lex turned away from the man and toward 'Tony's Pizza Place'.
"Excuse me Miss, you dropped this." The Hunter looked back at the man to see what he had in his hands. He held out her cell phone and Lex stepped toward him to take it. She patted her back pocket for her wallet making sure it was still there before reaching out for the phone. This was a bad area for pickpockets.
The brunette saw his other hand move and felt her instincts kick in. Lex booted the hand that didn't have her cell and heard something clatter to the ground. As she moved in close range she ripped the mobile from his hand and whipped an elbow at his head. He staggered but before he could fall Lex grabbed him and pushed him into a nearby alley. She put a forearm into his throat and held him against the wall of a building.
"Who are you?" He didn't answer and she pressed her arm into his jugular. He sputtered as his breathing was hindered and Lex decided to go about it the easy way. She chanted a truth spell she'd learned from Gideon's book and used her free arm to search his pockets. She pulled a 9mm Browning from his waistband and slipped the pistol into the pocket of her coat and continued the search.
The truth spell would take a few minutes to take its full effect so she had time to spare. Lex smiled as she found his wallet and dropped the man to the ground. The Hunter put her boot on his throat to keep him still as she searched the wallet. She pulled the money from it, a few badly crumpled ten dollar bills and some euro. The brunette tossed the business cards to the ground and finally found some ID.
Hmm, this is interesting.
"Well now Mr. Smith, what's a former Tribunal field operative like yourself doing robbing little girls?" He retained his silence and Lex stepped on him a little harder. Spell should be kicking in right about…Now.
"Getting vengeance," he finally said his voice barely above a whisper. Lex narrowed her eyes at him and tossed his wallet onto his chest.
"I suggest you start explaining before I develop a lead foot."
"Your Dhaskalos, Emma Morrow, killed my father when he discovered she'd kept Gideon's book and was planning the ruination of the Tribunal."
"Impossible, I may not be able to counter your truth spell but I know when I'm under one."
"Athena would never kill a human, she only wanted to bring justice to a corrupt system."
"That's one version of the truth. Another is that your Dhaskalos was a murderer and you're too blinded by your feelings for her to see it." Lex dug her boot heel into his throat and he gagged trying to suck in air. He began to turn a deep shade of purple and the Hunter relented, she wasn't quite finished with him yet.
"So now you're what? Banding together with Gideon to be chronic pains in my ass?"
"You stupid bint, I'm as much against the warlock as you are."
"I highly doubt that. If you two aren't in bed together why won't you let me do my job and protect the book?"
"The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy." Oh fer frak sake.
"Look asshole, I don't have time for philosophical bullshit. Gideon is probably pinpointing my position as we speak, assuming he hasn't already."
"He won't waste his energy tracking you down, he'll make you come to him." Lex snorted.
"Now how the hell is he going to do that?"
"Your blonde friend, the reporter."
"Megan? She's been working with Gideon the whole time?" Not possible, it can't be.
"No, the boy. I was the one pulling his strings for a while but he's working for Gideon now, he's leading your little girlfriend into a trap." Lex felt her guts tighten as Smith spoke. She'd left Megan to protect her and had unknowingly played right into Gideon's hands.
"Where?" Lex growled putting the pressure back on her captive.
"I don't know, I only heard part of the conversation. When I found out you were alone I saw it as my chance to take you out. It was only right your Dhaskalos lose something she loved before I finished her. I was actually happy when Azriel failed, it gave me a chance to really enjoy torturing the bitch when I get my hands on her."
"Athena's dead." The man looked up at Lex in surprise. "Gideon beat you to her."
"That's why the locator spell finally began to work." He said as realization dawned. "I thought she'd just gotten too weak too maintain it without Siobhan's power."
"You knew about Siobhan?"
"Knew about her?" He pushed up a little on the Hunter's foot. "Who do you think pulled the trigger?" Lexina picked her leg up and slammed her boot into the man's face knocking him unconscious.
I should kill him. Lex sighed, she knew she had it in her, for all the pain he caused she could easily kill him. But then what? She'd be the murderer everyone thought she was. Damn it.
She took Doucette's wallet off his chest and pocketed the credit cards before tossing the remainder in the dumpster along with the gun clip. She knew how to fire a pistol but she was a shit shot and would probably do more harm than good with it. She cocked the weapon ejecting the bullet from the breach before she tossed the gun into a sewer.
Normally this would be the time she'd call the apartment and ask Athena to do a locator spell for her and find Megan.
That's not an option anymore Lexina, think Hunter, where do we go from here?
Back to the subway where she'd left her friend, maybe Megan had gone back to the apartment for some reason and had gotten caught there. Turning down the block to the subway the Hunter bolted for the entrance.
"Hello?" Lex said as she picked up her phone. "Hello? Is anyone there?" Lex checked her signal seeing it was bouncing between one and two bars. She moved the phone around to try and get a better signal going so far as to jump onto a trash can and hold the phone as high as possible keeping a grip on a cement pillar to maintain her balance. The reception shot up to four bars and the Hunter could finally make out sounds on the other side of the line. "Megan is that you?"
"Not quite, she is here with me though," Brian said. Lex could hear Megan's cries coming from the phone.
"Lex don't come it's a trap," the reporter screamed.
Right cause I didn't know that before.
Lex listened as Brian cursed something at the girl and heard his fist connect with the blonde even over the static of the phone.
"If you hurt her…" Lex let the threat dangle in the air.
"Gideon doesn't want her, just the book. Once he has that you and she can go free." Brian said.
"He's lying Lex, stay away!" Another hit and she heard Megan yelp in the background.
"I'm going to rip your throat out." Lexina growled as she felt the cement crumble beneath her fingers.
"Don't insult me with your idle threats because I think we both know that's really all you've got don't we?" Lexina hung her head, he was right. Until she got Megan to safety she couldn't risk going into battle. She ran a hand through her dark hair and contemplated what to do.
I should let them kill her, one life for the many. Lex nearly wanted to puke at the thought. She couldn't let her friend die, Megan was all she had left and she was unwilling to give her up.
"Where are you?" She asked with a sigh.
"Good girl. We're at the Dundas and Bloor subway station. Be here in an hour or… Well I guess I don't really have to elaborate, you can fill in the blank." Lex swore as the phone line went dead.
"This will never work you know," Megan said as she struggled against the ropes that bound her to a cement pillar. Brian was free, standing next to one of the demons that had attacked them last night. "Lexina is too smart for you."
"Hardly, she's dangerously predictable. The only thing that would restore my respect for her would be if she were to leave you here to die. It would be the smart thing to do: get the book to the Tribunal and allow herself time to prepare before she met me again." Gideon grabbed her by the jaw feeling the soft flesh bruise beneath his fingertips.
"But she will come to rescue you simply because she cares, that my dear will be her downfall and you will get to watch as I rip her heart from her chest." Gideon released his hold and waited for the inevitable pleading for her life that was to follow. He was surprised when she glared at him defiantly her sea green eyes burning with anger.
"You really need to have every square inch of your ass kicked. And you," she turned to Brian, "what did he bribe you with to betray Lex?"
"Life," he answered simply as he toyed with one of his batons and smirked at the blonde.
"You're a coward. Can't think beyond anything but your own miserable existence." The warlock raised an eyebrow.
"She's right," he stated turning red eyes on the girl. "I have respect for those willing to die for their cause. If it will make you feel better about the whole thing," he began, looking at Megan. He turned to his last remaining demon and gestured toward Brian. "Kill him."
"Wh…?" Brian words caught in his throat as a strong arm wrapped around his neck and clamped a hand over his mouth. The boy kicked and squirmed managing to wrench his way free of the demon. He dropped to his knees in front of Gideon tears streaming down his face and clutched at the warlock's cloak. Gideon laughed before pushing the boy away from him with his boot.
"Pathetic, the woman has more gall than you."
The demon took hold of Brian again and Megan watched in horror as the demon picked him up and dropped him across his knee. The boy let out a disturbing scream before the monster took him by the head and snapped his neck. Gideon acknowledged the demon with a nod before looking down the tunnel for the next train.
He'd used a mind alter spell to keep the other trains that had passed moving without stopping or the passengers being privy to what was going on. He couldn't afford to have his plan ruined my some do gooder security guard. He sniffed the air and let a small smile curve his lips: the girl was close.
"Now we shall see if your precious Hunter is worth the faith you put in her," Gideon said looking at Megan as he allowed the train to pull in.
Lex hitched her backpack higher on her shoulders and slowly walked down the concrete steps that led to the Fischer & Sargas train station. She'd gotten off a stop early hoping Gideon was counting on her getting off at Fischer. If she was lucky she would be able to get near to Megan before Gideon realized what was going on.
The Hunter descended the steps at what felt like a snail's pace trying to make her heavy boots soundless against the cement. From her position she could see the bodies of a few unlucky souls. One corpse was that of a young girl, probably no older than Megan's niece Tara. A thought tickled her brain and Lex tried to grab hold of it, a wisp of some conversation she'd had. No time for that crap now Lex, mind on the mission.
The Hunter shuddered at what Gideon was capable of. The brutal murder of the most innocent of beings and he'd likely done it without a second thought.
If he can do this to a station full of people what is he going to do to me?
She could slip away right now, before she was seen and keep moving until tomorrow morning when she met the Tribunal.
And sacrifice Megan's life in the process, I'd never be able to live with myself. She's never abandoned me, I won't leave her here to die. No matter what I have to let this play out to its proper end.
The Hunter took a deep breath and prepared to meet whatever lay ahead. If she was going to die today she'd do it as a warrior not as a frightened girl cowering in the corner.
Time to die, as she thought it she wasn't sure if the statement was directed at herself or at Gideon.
If I go I take him with me. With a nod of resolution the Hunter continued toward the bottom of the stairs.
Her instincts were tingling again and Lex knew she was heading into serious trouble. The feeling had never been this strong before, even when she'd faced off against Max and Azriel. It wasn't until she felt a hard blow connect with her shoulders that she realized it wasn't just Gideon setting it off. She dropped to her knees and turned in time to grab the bat as it made a return swing and glared at her attacker.
"Smith. What are you doing?" She held tightly onto the bat to make sure he didn't try to make a home run out of her skull.
"Preventing you from doing something stupid. You can't give the book to Gideon."
"Try and stop me," he kicked for her chest and Lex caught his leg pulling his feet out from under him. His head bounced off the cement step and judging by the sound Lex figured that would be the end of him.
Of course, I've been wrong before. He groaned and recovered and with startling speed he lunged at the Hunter. The brunette leaned back to avoid him grunting as he took grip of her coat and tumbled down the steps. The Hunter followed behind him landing beside the man, the bat tumbling loudly down the steps. One ice blue eye looked at the ex-Tribunal agent with aggravation.
"So much for the element of surprise." The Hunter got to her feet and dusted off her pants before picking up the bat.
"Think he heard us?" The bat exploded in flame and Lex tossed it away shaking her burnt hand. She looked over at the token booth where Gideon stood calmly dancing across his palm.
"I think it'd be safe to say he knows we're here."
"You can still run, get the book to the Tribunal."
"I won't leave my friend." Lex pulled a six inch blade from behind her waist and tossed it to the man. "This isn't your fight, do what you will." The Hunter unsheathed her sword and held it at the ready.
"I won't leave the book to fall into his hands. Go, free your friend, I'll hold him off as long as I can." Lex eyed him suspiciously but before she had a chance to question his motives Smith charged at Gideon. Banishing all thoughts but Megan from her mind Lexina took out off toward the other side of the token booth.
She jumped over the gate as a bolt of lighting sped by and crashed against a sign breaking it from its metal chain. It clattered loudly to the ground the sound echoing off the tunnel walls and momentarily drowning out the sounds of the battle. Lex ran to where she could see her friend bound, completely missing sight of the body on the ground. She caught her foot under his arm and dropped to the ground as she became tangled with him.
Good job dumbass, get up.
She kicked the body over mildly disappointed when she realized it was Brian. Lex had wanted a piece of him for betraying her not once, but twice. Salt stains ran down his face and the Hunter shook her head sadly. He hadn't even had the grace to die like a man.
The man laughs when the boy cries.
"Where have I..."
"Lexina!" Megan struggled against her ropes, her wrist chaffed and bleeding. The Hunter pulled herself from her thoughts and got to her feet heading for the girl at a flat out sprint. She very nearly slipped in a large pool of blood that surrounded the pillar and she noticed the bodies of dozens of other families and couples lying dead across the tables of the station's fast food court.
One of you lives, the other ones die. The memory hit the Hunter as it all suddenly came back to her.
Tara reached up toward the Hunter her arms wide and it took a second for the Hunter to realize what the girl wanted. She took the tiny girl into her arms giving her a hug albeit an uncomfortable one. She was about to pull away when the girl whispered into her ear.
"The man laughs when the boy cries, one of you lives, the other ones die." The Hunter pulled back seeing a quiet sadness that had no place in a six year olds eyes. Tara gave her a final pat on the shoulder before turning and skipping back into the apartment.
The Hunter skidded to a halt in front of her friend and brought her sword up striking the ropes in one fluid motion. The girl collapsed into the Hunter's arms breathing heavily. The Hunter took grip of her chin and forced the reporter to look up at her. "Megan I need you to think. Did Gideon laugh when he killed Brian?"
"His demon killed Brian," Megan answered, "I…I don't know where it went, it was here just a second ago."
"Okay, just think Megan, did Gideon laugh when Brian died?" Megan tried to turn away but Lex forced her to look up. Scared green eyes looked into a calming blue before the blonde nodded.
God damn it all to Hell, why didn't I see it?
Megan had the gift of foresight, it had never even registered that her niece could have the same gift.
Even after she told me she had been expecting me,and the fact that I know magical gifts tend to crop up in families not individuals. I missed it and now only one of us is going to get out of this alive and I have a pretty good guess about who that's going to be.
If only one person came out of this realistically the chances were it would be Gideon, he had the power, the experience and he'd been playing Lexina like a fiddle.
"We're going to die aren't we?" Megan asked.
"No, you are not going to die today,"
I won't let the price of our friendship be her life. If one of us lives today it has to be her.
"Can you walk?"
"I don't think so, I'm feeling pretty woozy," The Hunter nodded and hefted her friend onto her shoulder and made her way toward where she'd come from. She caught sight of Smith and Gideon, the ex-Tribunal member was actually holding his own and matching the warlock strike for strike. The trouble was, Smith was beginning to look tired and it was only a matter of time before Gideon started to get one up on the man.
Lex couldn't afford to worry about that now, her concern was getting Megan out of here as quickly as possible. The Hunter adjusted her friend's weight and ducked down, running low to keep attention from herself and the reporter. She heard a groan from the blonde and it took her instincts switching to high power milliseconds later for the brunette to realize her friend had been trying to warn her.
She turned sword upraised and caught the demon's arm on the blade. The plated forearm slid off the sword unharmed and the demon gave her a back hand from Hell. Between the strike and Megan's weight her balance was totally thrown off and the Hunter crashed to the cement making sure Megan landed on top of her rather than vice versa. The girl groaned as Lex pushed her off just in time to raise her sword and block a heavy footed stomp. She kicked upward catching the demon in the stomach sending him back far enough for her to get up. He charged at her again and the Hunter side stepped bringing the blade down across his back. The demon grunted as they sword rebounded off his armour and the Hunter cursed.
She heard a cry of pain come from the other side of the token booth and cringed.
I highly doubt that was Gideon.
Moments later Smith's body flew over the gate and crashed into the demon. The impact pitched the monster off the platform and onto the electric rails. The shock caused the demon to flail about madly and smoke began to rise from its burning body. The Hunter fought to keep down the bile that threatened to rise from her stomach. The smell was enough to put any sewer to shame. Smith moaned from where he was, turning off his back and getting to his feet. He wobbled dangerously before steadying himself and looking at Lex.
"Get your friend and get out Hunter, I won't be able to hold him much longer." Lex knew she was out of options, she couldn't save this guy even if she wanted to. Granted he was helping her and Megan but he had still been the cause of all this. If Azriel hadn't attacked Athena they would've all stood a chance. By putting that first piece into play he'd sealed all their fates for better or worse. He just didn't know it yet.
Smith went back out to face Gideon and Lex went to her friend. The girl seemed to be coming out of whatever stupor she was in and was rubbing her wrists as Lex approached.
"C'mon babe, we gotta go." She grabbed her friend around the stomach and pulled her to her feet. "Stay low, I'm going to get you out of here." Megan looked up at her uncertainly and Lexina smiled in reassurance. The blonde nodded and stood up a little straighter, supporting more of her own weight. "Good girl." She jumped over the gate and helped Megan over the top. Gideon and Smith were somewhere at the other end of the station, Lex's view of them blocked by the token booth. "We have to run." Megan nodded and took a hold of Lex's jacket. "On three."
"One." The pair ran at the stairs firebolts landing near their feet scorching the cement.
"Hang on," Lex screamed as she sensed a fireball coming straight for them. She took Megan by the belt loops and crouched low before pushing up and forward with every ounce of strength her legs and powers allowed. Lex's jump barely cleared the fireballs damage area and she and Megan hit the ground hard sliding along the floor. The blonde let out a grunt as she rolled into the base of the steps and came to a stop. She'd heard Lex's voice often enough to know the scream that suddenly tore through the station wasn't hers and the blonde turned to the source.
Gideon had the man by his throat and was slowly pulling out his entrails. Megan was frozen to her spot until she heard a mumble come from her friend. The brunette was starting to get to her feet and Megan did the same slowly backing up the steps and watching as Lexina followed.
The blonde watched in awe as the Hunter worked a shielding spell and a barrier appeared between them and the warlock. Lexina let out a deep breath and turned to the reporter wiping her forehead with the back of her sleeve.
"Let's go," Megan nodded and took the brunette's hand not sure she'd be able to make it topside by herself. They were half way up the stairwell when Lexina collapsed to her knees. "I can't hold it, it's too much, I'm not strong enough."
"We can't stop now, you can't give up on me, get up."
"I can't, I'm sorry. Take the book." Lex made as if to slide off the book bag but Megan stopped her with a hand.
"We don't have time for this self-sacrificing crap. You didn't leave me to die, I won't leave you, now get…" The Hunter was unable to stop the strike that broke down her shields and sent her tumbling back down the stairs grunting painfully as she hit the bottom.
"Get going! Get out of here!" The Hunter ordered as the girl turned to make her way back down the stairs. Ignoring her commands Megan slid down the railing, landing next to her friend. "I told you to go."
"Since when have I listened?" Megan questioned reasonably as she looked over at Gideon. He had finished with the stranger and was approaching them at a languid pace. It didn't look as though he thought they were going much of anywhere. Think again asshole, I'm not dying down here and neither is Lexina. "Let's get out of here, we'll fight him another day."
"I'm afraid that's not an option," Gideon said as he gestured with his hand and a barrier sprung up at the base of the stairwell. The shield was translucent much as Lex's had been but it gave off just enough of an eery glow to let them know it was there. Where Lexina's had been a healthy shade of blue Gideon's wavered between black and crimson red.
"Let's finish this Hunter. I've got things to kill and organizations to topple."
Megan can't get out if that shield is up. I've got to get rid of enough of his energy to break down the spell so she can run. Please, if I ever get to save the life of someone I care about let it be this one. Lex unsheathed her sword and took off her backpack tossing it to Megan. If the girl got a chance to run Lex wanted to be sure the book went with her.
"A sword?" He asked with a chuckle. "How cute."
"This place is old, it's already been hit with a lot more than it was designed to take," Lex said pointing with her sword to where deep cracks ran along the wall of the tunnels. One of the pillars looked to be almost split in two and the halves were already shifting along each other. It wouldn't be long before things started to crumble.
He nodded as if taking her argument into consideration before pulling a sword from his cloak. Admittedly Lex hadn't had a good look at the warlock yet but she was pretty sure she would have noticed a sword that size if it had been hung at his hip.
He's a conjurer, he could've literally pulled that from thin air. I'm in some serious trouble here. Athena I hope you're watching because I think I'm about to pull out the best damn performance ever. Gideon got to within a foot of striking range and looked at the Hunter giving her that humorless smile.
"It seems you're right young Hunter, back to basics," Lex blocked his overhead strike with ease though the force of the blow made her teeth chatter. She returned it with one of her own swinging at his exposed midriff, the warlock stepped just out of range and flashed a beam of light directly in her good effectively blinding her. The Hunter felt as though her eye was on fire and she shook her head as she back pedaled to keep away from her opponent.
"Conspicari," Lex screamed and suddenly her world became clear again. 'Sight', goddess, I never thought I'd be so grateful for all that translating practice.
"Very good, I'm glad to see you're up on your Latin," Gideon said as he thrust at Lex. She knocked the flat of the blade away with her forearm and charged the warlock arcing her blade up one side of his body and down the other.
"Your Dhaskalos begged me for mercy you know, when I killed her," Lexina felt her anger possess her and in that one second Gideon caught her loss of concentration and kicked her in the thigh. The Hunter grunted and dropped to one knee swinging her leg out behind Gideon and knocking him off his feet. She flipped onto her feet sword in hand and swung down at the warlock who rolled out of the way of the strike. Lex's blade rang out on the cement and she shuddered mentally at the chip in her blade that was likely to leave.
Gideon got to his feet and swung for her, Lex did a back flip onto a garbage can and put her height advantage to good use as she kicked him in the throat. He backed up a few steps the fury in his eyes making him look all the more terrifying. He ripped his cloak from his shoulders to reveal an old style tunic, dyed a red that matched his eyes.
His little strip show was enough to give Lex a much need rest, Smith had done damage to the warlock that much she knew. Had Gideon been in top shape he would've rained fire and brimstone down on them all and just used a shield to protect himself and taken the book once she and Megan were dead. Yet here he was stuck in physical combat with a lowly member of the Thirteen. The fact that Lex was still alive was enough to make her think he probably wasn't firing on all cylinders.
Still, he was about as close to a god as a mortal could get and Lex held no illusions as to who was going to tire out first. If she was going to stand a chance of getting Megan out of here alive she'd have to create some options. As she thought about it kill or be killed seemed to about cover them all.
The meteor shower, Megan's way more capable of calling it down than me. The problem was that Megan would of not only run the risk of hurting people above ground but of trapping both herself and the Hunter below.
Lex shot out a mini bolt of lighting as Gideon crept up on her singeing his shirt. He returned it with an electrical pulse which Lex was only half able to avoid and she dropped her sword as her left side went totally numb. She managed a one armed block of his next strike catching mostly the flat of the blade on her arm but it left her wide open and Gideon capitalized on it.
He shot his fist into her ribs and Lex crashed to the floor grabbing her chest. The warlock picked her up by the neck with one hand and tossed her into a cement pillar. She dropped to the ground barely on her knees before he shot his fist into her face breaking her barely healed nose.
So much for holding my own.
He took her by the throat again and slammed her into the pillar holding her there.
"Ready to die little girl?," he said with a smile. Lexina waited a second more for the blood to pool in her mouth before spitting it in the warlock's eye. It only distracted him and barely did that but it was enough for Lex to get her knee into his groin. She crawled away from him and grabbed her sword swinging around madly as she got to her feet to the man at bay.
He was under her guard in moments and in one fluid motion he ripped the bandage from her stomach. Lex cracked him against the temple with the pommel of her sword for his trouble and was glad to see a gush of blood pour from his wound. He growled at her and lunged, Lex danced out of the way realizing too late that it was a decoy move. She felt her breath leave her lungs as he put a fist into her stomach and Lex screamed as he took hold of the stitches and ripped them from her skin.
The Hunter doubled over holding on to her stomach as she backed away from him. The warlock sent a flame strike at her and Lex turned just in time to take most of if on her back. She ripped her coat off as the leather caught fire and tossed it in Megan's general direction. Out of the corner of her eye Lex saw her friend stamp out the flames and retrieve the bottle of ingredients they needed for the meteor spell.
"What's that? A sleeping potion or perhaps some bath salts?" Gideon asked.
"Not quite," Lex said putting herself between Gideon and Megan. "Find the spell," she screamed at her friend, Lex threw a kick at the warlock to keep him back. Her stomach was really starting to bleed, her one consolation was that Gideon wasn't doing so hot himself. That hit to the head was really starting to slow him down.
I doubt that knee to his jewels did much for his cause either.
Her blade met the warlock's as he swung for her knees and she slid her sword up his smacking him in the nose with the flat edge of it. He swung for her head but the strike was slow and ill-calculated and the Hunter avoided it without much trouble. Maybe she could get out of here without calling down the meteors. Gideon caught her across the arm with his sword and put his palm into her chest sending her flying backward.
Or maybe not.
She landed on her back her sword falling from her hand and sliding along the floor.
"Megan read the spell." Lex ran for her sword dropping to her knees and sliding to the weapon. She grabbed the sword as she passed and turned in mid-motion to meet Gideon's sword. She swung her blade upward actually knocking his away and leaving him open for a gutting. The Hunter sliced at his exposed mid section and a thin red line appeared across his stomach.
"I don't know the language well enough," Megan said though she was already starting to sound out the words.
"Do as the book tells you, I have faith in you Megan, " Lex said as she avoided a swipe at her head and managed to get in an elbow to Gideon's jaw. Truth was the spell required an good bit of power but she'd felt the magical energy radiating off Megan since the day they'd met. The girl might not have known it but she was just as powerful as Lex, if not more so. It was likely there was a master witch somewhere in recent generations of her family and that's where her power came from. Lex's grandmother on her father's side had been the source of her gifts, or so Athena had said.
Megan began to chant in Sumerian and recognition dawned in Gideon's eyes as Megan began to read more of the spell aloud. "You'll kill us all," Gideon screamed over the sudden roar of noise.
"Whatever it takes," Lex yelled back as she slashed at his kidney. He blocked the strike awkwardly and the force of the blow was enough to knock the blade from his hand. Lex grabbed him by the shoulder and flipped him onto his back and snapped a heel kick into his collarbone.
The ground shook beneath her and Lex jumped out of the way as a piece of ceiling collapsed beside her. She felt a knife slide into her calf and screamed as she felt it drawn down the length of her leg. The Hunter hopped back on one leg to keep back from the warlock, if she could just stay out of range until the meteors she might get both herself and Megan out of this.
I don't have to believe in the prophecy of six year old girl, fate is what we make it. I can change my destiny.
"Lex?" Megan voice rang out loud and questioning.
"Keep reading!" Lex said though she wasn't sure if the girl had heard her. Lex idly wondered what it was like for the people topside. She hadn't wanted to cast the spell in such a populated place but she couldn't risk Gideon gaining possession of the book, even if it meant costing innocents their lives. This way there would be no question of the warlock's survival and she and Megan could live in peace.
Lex covered her head as a large chunk of cement fell from the ceiling and landed directly on Gideon's legs pinning him to the ground. He squirmed beneath the weight as Lex approached oddly calm amidst the mayhem. She limped to the warlock her sword dripping with his blood. The Hunter held the blade high over her head, it was time to end this. "For Athena!" She screamed as she drove the blade deep into his heart not stopping until she met the resistance of the floor. She ripped the sword from his chest and took a deep breath. It was over.
"Not such a badass now are you?"
"Lex come on, the whole place is coming down!" Megan screamed pointing at another of the pillars that was beginning to crack in the middle.
Gods there's always something isn't there?
The blonde was already halfway up the steps, Gideon's shield having died with him and leaving the way clear. The reporter had the Hunter's backpack on and was holding her jacket in one hand and the book in the other. Lex dashed for the stairwell only to be cut off by a large chunk of debris. She dodged around it and had nearly made it to the stairway when she realized Tara had been right all along.
So close Payton, we almost made it.
In the milliseconds it took for her to register what was going to happen hundreds of thoughts ran through the Hunter's mind. She caught a flash of her mother's smile, another of Athena at weapons practice and one of the Megan standing at her counter eating breakfast. She mentally apologized to the reporter for all the trouble she'd caused her and cast her best wishes on both the blonde and the new Shadow Hunter that would be chosen within seconds.
Death is my gift.
Lexina felt a weight settle on her shoulders, heavy, hard and all encompassing, then mercifully it went black.
"Lexina!" Megan screamed as she headed back down the stairs: suddenly strong hands had her in their grip and were pulling her away from her friend. "No, wait! My friend's down there, let me go!" She screamed kicking at the man who held her fast.
"She's gone, no one could have survived that," he said as he hauled her out of the stairwell. Megan shook her head willing it not to be true, Lex had been a hand length away from her, she could have made that extra step. But even as she looked into the remnants of the tunnel she knew it wasn't possible even for the unstoppable Lexina.
Megan clung to Gideon's book like a lifeline not allowing it to be taken from her even when the ambulance arrived to check her. The firefighters dug into the rubble quickly and Lex's corpse was removed soon after the search began. The blonde cried as she watched them put her in a body bag, it all still seemed so unreal.
Megan looked at her friend, the battered body was already cool to the touch but the face at least seemed at peace. Megan lightly kissed her friend's forehead and stepped back as the medics zipped up the bag and put her into the ambulance. She sat numbly on the sidewalk desperately trying to figure out why fate had taken Lex's life. After all the wrongs done to her friend it would seem that the gods had decided to deal her this one last slight.
Or had they? Megan wondered as something became clear. Lex had looked happier in death than Megan had ever seen her life and in that one moment of clarity the blonde realized something. For Lexina at least, justice had finally been served.
"Hey Lex, it's me." Megan said as she wiped three years worth of grime from the girl's head stone, just as she already done for her friend's mother and her Dhaskalos. "It's been awhile, I know, but I made it." The blonde sat back on her heels and looked at the non descript headstone that marked the Hunter's grave. "I'm a Dhaskalos now, or so they tell me. It's my job to track down Protégés and test them for magical abilities. I guess it turned out that they never even knew you had any gifts, other than the standard package I mean."
She traced the gentle lines of the script that read Lexina's name and date of birth and death. The Tribunal had arranged the funeral, all those short years ago, and put the Hunter's original name rather than that of Lexina. Megan wondered sometimes if that had been the right thing to do but there wasn't much that could be said about it now so she let it go.
She'd allowed the Tribunal to take possession of the book that had cost everyone so much and they'd put it under tight lock and key.
"Not surprising it's gone missing, to be honest I didn't actually expect whoever took it to wait this long to make their move. Three years is a long time for those power hungry mongrels." Megan sighed as she adjusted her position to make herself more comfortable.
"It couldn't have really come at a worse time though. Protégés are going missing left and right, and the winter after the war devastated the populace. Though I guess you already knew that since it's probably getting crowded up there. What really worries me is that the Tribunal thinks there's something even worse brewing.
'Three of the Thirteen have gone missing, but no one's been called to replace them. The elders think they're being held somewhere so that the big evil that's coming can take us down without having to worry about our champions." Megan sighed remembering a scared teenage girl that had been sent out on patrol and never returned. "Don't worry though, I'll find them, all of them."
The blonde got to her feet dusting off the leather coat that hung past her ankles and rested atop black combat boots. The others had thought it scandalous for her to dress the way she did but Megan ignored them all. She had taken her cues from Lexina and wore what was practical not what was appropriate.
"I'd better get going, my plane leaves in an hour." Megan reached into her pocket and pulled out a small silver case flipping it open. "I'll visit you soon, and if you ever need anything I'll give you my card." The Dhaskalos pulled out a business card from the case and rested it on the dirt placing a rock on top to keep the wind from taking it. She kissed the top of the gravestone and stepped away, her green eyes tearing as she turned to the path. The blonde pulled out another card from the case before putting the container back in her pocket. She gazed at it feeling a sense of pride fill her at what it read.
Her qualifications had multiplied at an almost unnatural rate and she was by far the fastest person to go through Dhaskalos training in over a century. She was now an experience witch slated to take her Master testing within the next few years. She was also a field operative, Protégé Seeker and identifier of magical talents within the Tribunal's recruits.
The blonde reflected on the turns her life had taken in just a few short years: not long ago she had wanted to report the world's evils not fight them. Now, she couldn't even imagine what it would be like standing on the side lines. Thus was the life of any Tribunal member she supposed. Her cell phone rang from deep in her pocket ruining the moments of serenity that had become so rare in her life.
"Artemis here," she answered with a sigh as she walked toward her rental car. Her thoughts of past choices and their consequences laid to rest next to her beloved friend, Lexina the Shadow Hunter.
The End... for now.
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