This is the forty-ninth post of my blog. That really doesn't seem like a lot, I know. But I will still celebrate the big 5-0 when it arrives, nonetheless.
Which means that the next part might be my last. I think. Y'know? Cos this is part 9, and so if I can successfully rap up part 10, post No. 50, and the end of my fanfiction, then I will be extremely pleased.
But it might not go down like that.
Instead, I might finish the next part and think that I need more space, and therefore a part 11, and it will be post 51, which isn't that special at all.
Anyways... Here's Part 9! I really hope you enjoy it, but more importantly, I hope that you understand it. Because it would reaaaaally suck if you read it and understood the fight scenes and so on, but didn't actually know why they were where they are now at all. Right? Right.
So if you don't know whatsoever why things are happening, I am asking you, Blogger to Blogger, author to author, to tell me. To ask what the hell is going on, so that I might be able to shed some light on it. 'cos I have this terrible feeling that you are just reading it and not understanding. Don't worry, I won't be hurt. I just want to know.
Israel, Darkane and Nicolette trudged through the dark towards Elysium Asylum, their thoughts heavy. The moment that Echo's heart stopped beating, they stepped over his body and walked in the direction of the Manor, intent on getting on with their mission.
They reached the left side of the mansion, where they hugged the wall and moved to the back of the house. They could hear alarm klaxons sounding in the distance, and their expressions grew grim.
When they spotted the open electrical box with their shapeshifting friends no-where to be seen, they feared the worst.
Darkane's ear twitched to her left shoulder, where a small grey mouse sat. She barely heard it's voice as it squeaked to her a question. "Have we been compromised?"
"No, it's all good," Darkane replied softly, then motioned for the others to stop. The Aquila-mouse jumped off her shoulder towards the ground, morphing back into a human as she went. Skylara stepped forward from the shadows to their right, and joined them.
Nicolette squatted on the ground, using one of her blades to sketch in a map on the ground of where they were. "Alright," she said, drawing an 'X' behind the mansion. "This is us. Almost all of the Sanctuary forces are at the front, guarding the estate as well as it's residents." She drew a large oval in front of the manor. "So this is them. Now, the rest of the forces are inside the manor, searching the rooms one by one and subduing any and all of the residents found."
"The klaxons," Darkane mentioned, and Nicolette nodded hurriedly.
"I know. They must of either spotted us, realized that the cleaver search party we decimated is missing, or they can tell that the lights didn't switch off all by themselves, and are ready for an attack. Which would place them-" she erased the oval indicating the Cleavers with her sleeve "-here." She drew the same sized oval inside the manor. "Which is going to-"
"-Make our job a helluva lot harder." Israel concluded. "Great. Just freakin' great."
Nyx Dawn, the famous assassin, skilled fighter and amazing necromancer, had been captured.
It wasn't her fault, of course. She had been minding her own business, strolling through the hallways of Elysium Asylum, doing absolutely nothing when it happened.
Well, ok, she thought to herself. Maybe she hadn't been minding her business and strolling through the many rooms. More like she had been creeping from cover to cover, watching with hawk-like eyes at her next target, when the Sanctuary agents burst in the room with handguns and proceeded to arrest everyone.
They were all dragged out of the manor, handcuffs tight around their wrists. They were dumped in a penned-off area, guarded by Cleavers and being slowly herded into a semi-truck.
Nyx sighed and dully examined those around her. They were all whispering among each other, glancing at Nyx with looks that she couldn't care to discern.
She was standing apart from the others; they had instantly realized that she wasn't a resident of the manor. Maybe it was the jet-black stealth suit. Maybe it was the whole fifteen minutes it had taken the Cleavers to relieve Nyx of every single piece of weaponry before they shoved her into the pen she stood in now. Maybe it was just general uneasiness about her as an unknown person.
She stared at them with cold, color-changing eyes from the darkened lenses of her sunglasses. She had at least been able to keep those. Without them, a person would quite easily be able to gauge her feelings and emotions.
She lazily leant back against the fence that was surrounding them, raising her head at an angle that told everyone around her that she was above noticing any of them. This made them break into yet another chorus of angry whispers about her. Nyx didn't care. Let them believe what they wished. She would be out of there soon enough.
Something caught her gaze, through the many bunched up residents. A swirl of purple robes, an aging face.
She almost smiled. The Sanctuary, of all people, had brought her target to her.
Instead of smiling, however, she readjusted her glasses, shifted the bangle next to her handcuffs from which would protrude a small, poison tipped blade, and casually started to walk towards the center of the group of E.A residents.
She knew that a stab to the thigh or waist would paralyze and then kill the old man within seconds. If she timed it right, maybe even the people around him wouldn't notice he was dead until she had walked away. The Cleavers would surely notice, however. Their eyes watched intently from beneath their visored masks, seeing all in the small temporary prison camp set up for the residents.
So she would have to act fast. Take out her target, scale the fence, take out the guards, and escape from the estate. Then, when all that was over, she would return to Dusk and get paid. She sighed inwardly at the thought. It had been a long time since she had been paid.
The residents saw her approach, and instantly the whispers ceased. They moved forward at some unknown signal, blocking her way onwards. The man in the purple robes was cleared a path to the head of the small crowd, and positioned himself right in front of Nyx so that they were face to face. She could see now the creases that lined his face, the wisdom behind those intelligent blue eyes. Why had Dusk ordered her to kill this man? She couldn't see any obvious reason to do it.
Yet kill him she must. If she wanted to be paid, if she wanted to not return home empty handed, then the life of this old man must be taken.
He opened his mouth to speak. Perfect. As he uttered the first word, she would stab him straight in the stomach, killing him instantly.
Time seemed to slow down. Nyx's color-changing eyes could almost see the cold air being swept towards the man's mouth as he drew breath. Her ears could almost hear her own heart working overtime as the adrenalin that rushed through her veins whenever she was about to take a life spiked up, making her hands shake slightly.
But when the first syllable was spoken, she stopped. Her heart failed and then restarted within the space of a millisecond, her arms falling simply to her sides.
Then the second syllable came, and the next, but she still felt no release of the calm that had settled over her, restraining her from doing anything but stare into those all-knowing, terrifyingly wise, blue eyes that her target harbored.
Time speed back up to it's normal rate, and the syllables melted in on each other to create words.
"Why have you come to harm me, child?" the man spoke, but Nyx felt that he already knew.
"It's not..." her voice petered out almost immediately and she almost shrunk back in fear of what form the senior magician's wrath might take. A small part of her stirred, telling her that she should not be afraid; it was only an old man, scolding her like a parent. And she was the trained assassin, capable of taking out the most dangerous of foes before they had even registered they were being attacked.
But there was something about this man-Octaboona Ambrosius, if she remembered well enough from the file-that told her to not underestimate him. His very being radiated waves of magic unheard of since the time of the Ancients themselves...and it was this feeling, coupled with the mind-numbing effects of his voice, that told her to tread cautiously.
She shook her head, and forced her vocal cords to co-operate with her brain. They still wouldn't.
But Octaboona continued talking anyway. "It does not matter. You were going to escape, correct?"
"Well, unfortunately for you, the moment has come and gone," Octaboona said, gesturing towards the fresh group of Cleavers that were taking up positions to join the already-guarding Cleavers that stood around the fenced off area.
If she could speak, Nyx would of undoubtedly let loose a large string of obscenities at the inconvenience. There was no way she could escape without being killed now.
She turned back to Octaboona, who was exchanging a quick word with the other mages. He stopped once they had reached a supposed conclusion about her.
"We might be able to reach an agreement of sorts," he told her. "We all need to get out. We can't do it with these shackles on. You need to get out, but I know you'll need our help. Being the assassin you are, I wonder- do you have any sort of lock-pick on you?"
Toward the end of Octaboona's talking, Nyx felt the spell that had halted her tongue and free will to move fade away, and then leave all together. She smiled at the last sentence he said, reaching around with her cuffed hands to uncoil the bangle from her wrist. On the inside of it, cleverly hidden from sight, were an assortment of tools and lock picks, several of which would fill their needs.
"It's funny that you ask," she replied, her grin spreading across her whole face.
Thirty seconds. Skylara started the countdown in her head, loading her crossbow with a bolt and aiming at the back door of Elysium Asylum. Thirty seconds and Israel would fire his gun, causing all hell to break loose.
Thirty seconds, and more Cleavers than she had crossbow bolts for would come storming through the door, alerted by the firing of the gun and looking for someone to slice up.
Skylara raised the crossbow to her shoulder. She wasn't about to disappoint.
Teamwork. Assassin's knew no such thing. Pain, they understood. Killing, definitely. Stealth, they handled with ease.
But teamwork, Nyx concluded to herself as she undid the shackles from the hands of Octaboona Ambrosius, was something she was going to have to get used to-or at least understand- at that moment.
She didn't know what teammates did. Smile at each other? She tried smiling at the next sorcerer she was told to undo the handcuffs from- a girl with a black vest and sturdy hiking boots- and received nothing but a scowl in return. Stuff it, Nyx thought to herself as she released a few more mages. Being nice is hard.
The girl's scowled face seemed to bend for a moment, twisting and shifting to change her human face into one of a cat. Her body followed suit, and she stalked away from Nyx's feet, releasing a final hiss in her direction. Nyx could of sworn she heard her profession uttered along with the hiss, used more as an insult or a curse word rather than just the name of he job. So it's true, Nyx thought, sighing inwardly. Assassin's really don't have much going for them these days. I wonder if we're more-liked than vampires, though...
More magicians stood forward, their arms raised, but Octaboona shook his head and waved them away. "We have enough. We will free you when we can."
They stepped back, and Octa, as everyone around him seemed to be calling him, gave Nyx the signal to begin the plan that they had formed earlier.
So she smiled, drawing her gold-entwined dagger from the hiding spot in her jacket, and launched herself towards the fence.
She wouldn't of cleared it. But in mid-leap a gust of wind swept her upwards, high into the air and the night. She hadn't remembered the name of the Mage that had been given the task of lifting her, but he had done an amazing job. From all the way up here, she could see all of the estate; it was beautiful. Strangely, all of the lights on one side of the estate's oval had been switched off. It was while she was wondering why this was when the Mage stopped lifting her, an her rapid descent began. A thought flitted past her head, telling her that the plan had been for her to land on top of the manor with three other sorcerers and somehow get inside, reach the armory and free the rest of the prisoners. But something wasn't right as her descent had started too early. The ground loomed dangerously close and Nyx spread her arms out to her sides as she had been taught, leveling her body out.
One hundred metres, and she was having serious doubts about surviving the fall. The wind whipped her hair all over her face, obscuring her view of the dangerously close ground, but she did not dare move it away with her hand for fear of unbalancing herself.
There was an orange burst of flame beneath her, and bright flashes of green and red light exploded from the hands of tiny figures below. Whatever had gone wrong had caused a fight to begin between the Cleavers and the five or so prisoners that she'd freed.
Fifty metres up and it occurred to Nyx that she wasn't going to make it. In all of the confusion of the fighting below, no-one to look up. So she sadly brought her arms in beside her, holding her precious dagger in both hands at her chest. At the ten metre mark, her mind formed prays that she had no time to utter.
She stopped, hovering. The battle still raged, and a rouge fireball crackled past her head, singeing a few strands. It was at this that Nyx turned her head and saw the purple-robed figure who was controlling the air around her and holding her aloft; Octoobana. With a shout his free hand shot up above his head and there was a brilliant purple flash. When Nyx's eyes started to see well enough again, she glimpsed purple wisps of smoke- or possibly vapor- slowly spiraling through the air, back towards Octa's hand and the magical residue returned. His eyes were closed and his lips were mouthing some unheard words, and every single Cleaver re-sheathed their blades and sat down.
Nyx felt the magic around her begin to unravel and she dropped the last metre to the wet grass beneath. With a shudder, she remembered that the last time it had rained at Elysium Asylum had been two weeks ago, and the sprinklers weren't set to turn on until two o'clock in the morning. She stood quickly and ripped off her jacket, the fashion-part of her brain complaining because, as it seemed to be telling her, "Three hundred dollar eggshell-white jackets are never meant to be coated in any shade of red."
The corpse near her wasn't the only one. She saw the Mage that had been given the job of propelling her onto the roof of the manor had also been slain, his life seeping into the ground only ten metres away.
So Nyx walked over to a small group huddled at the edge of the fence, and sought out the one who had saved her. "Thankyou," she said to him, and found the word a little rusty on her tongue. She couldn't remember the last time she had said the word, yet alone meant it.
"Think nothing of it," Octa said, a little distracted. He flourished his hand in the air and Nyx thought it to be a hand gesture of just waving her away, but then the entire fence toppled over and she saw what it really was.
"No, really, think nothing of it." Octaboona continued, raising both hands and concentrating briefly. There was a universal 'Chink' as every set of shackles un-locked themselves and fell to the ground. "Because right now, we need to be focused on forming a new plan."
Klaxons started up somewhere near to them, the shrill sounds piercing the night air. Octa moved through the crowd, calling over to Nyx as he went.
"They know we've escaped. Someone, somewhere, saw us. Also, while you were enjoying some time up in the clouds, we were not only trying to overcome the Cleavers but were also dodging bullets from gunmen in the windows of the manor."
"Ah. They got to the armory before us. Damn..."
"Indeed. Do you know of anything else that could help us turn the tide? Any other armory?"
Nyx shook her head, sighing. "Nope, that was the last one. There's no other place within a hundred miles of here that can supply us with what we need to take back E.A."
"Actually," said the voice of a girl who faded up from the darkness past the fallen fence. She strode towards the crowd, and six or seven sorcerers Nyx had never seen before walked in her wake. The girl's right hand absently fiddled with the black lining of the dark purple hood on her head. "That's not entirely true."
Time was up for Skylara. Half a second after it was meant to, Israel's gun fired a shot from somewhere behind her, and she tensed up in her hiding spot as she waited for an alarm to be raised. She heard shouts from within the manor itself, and movement came from the darkness inside the doorway. She fired her first shot and was satisfied to hear the impact and a thump as her target fell to the floor. Her hand moved in the way she had trained it, loading another bolt and cocking it. She raised the crossbow, scanning the shadows for her next target. She debated whether she should reach for the small night-vision goggles in her pocket that she had gotten from the box in the back of Israel's van, by decided against it. Instead, her eyes appeared to blur momentarily, folding in on themselves shifting to smaller, brighter cat's eyes. Who needed an electronic aid when she could see just fine in the dark, anyway?
Her vision went blank for a couple of seconds as her body struggled to accept the images from her new eyes. Then her vision returned, enhanced, and she pulled the trigger on the crossbow, claiming her next kill. She glimpsed a helmet on the head of the next kill, and a scythe in the hand of the next. So at least she wasn't shooting at innocents.
It took two minutes for the Cleavers to find her hiding spot. I'm impressed, she thought as she jumped to her feet and stumbled out of the range of their scythes. She reached the cover of a tree and jumped for it. She turned mid-leap, bringing her crossbow up and firing it at the closest soldier to her. Of course, being impressed isn't going to stop me from killing them.
She didn't stop to watch the crossbow bolt streak towards the Cleaver , instead she manipulated the magic inside her to transform her body once more. Her human ears gave way to smaller, feline ears, and her cheeks appeared to shrink and stretch against her face until it was fitted perfectly over a large, angular face. Her clothes were replaced with a large, shaggy coat, and the cat's eyes she had transformed into two larger, bright green ones. She twisted around to face the tree once more, holding her now-clawed hands out to grab it.
All of this happened within the space of one and a half seconds, such was her speed. The moment she hit the tree, her form was that of a wolf. She spared no time in kicking away from the tree, heavy paws landing on the chest of a Cleaver. She tore him apart not with glee nor satisfaction- only the thought of finishing the job. Of buying the others some time.
The other Cleavers held their scythes expertly out in front of them, circling her and waiting for her next move.
They shouldn't of waited, Skylara thought, baring her teeth at her enemies. They should've attacked when they had the chance.
Israel counted to thirty, his gun aimed high into the air, and pulled the trigger. The shot exploded out of the barrel and he was up and headed for the window. He jumped at the last moment, bringing his feet up and smashing his boots through the glass. He came up in a stunt roll on the other side, his eyed closed. He darted to the shadows of the manor's empty living room milliseconds before it's doors were flung open and fifteen Cleavers marched by. He waited for them to pass and then grabbed a vintage, thirty-year old bottle of scotch from the mini-bar and lobbed it through the broken window.
Darkane moved as fast as she could with Nicolette and Aquila behind her to the window after Israel had gone. They reached it and she crouched, slamming he elbow up against the manor wall and peering around in the darkness at her friends. Timing was everything.
There was the sound of many pairs of boots crunching on he gravel, and fifteen Cleavers jogged towards Skylara's hiding spot. Darkane saw a streak of movement and a crossbow bolt appeared in the gap between a Cleaver's helmet and grey suit. She turned away, holding out her hand as a bottle of scotch flew out the window above her. She caught it deftly, then hoisted herself over the lip of the window and into the manor. Nicolette and Aquila clambered over after her, stepping cautiously around the pile of glass.
Darkane strode purposely over to the bar stool that Israel was sitting at. He was unscrewing a bottle of the finest red wine he could find and tipping it, bottoms up, onto the floor. He rotated slowly in a circle to face Darkane as she reached him, the wine's contents making a curved stain all over the floor. She ignored him and walked on to the table, opening the scotch in her hand with one of her knives. She moved in a straight line up and down the bar, the precious liquid pouring over it.
"Remember," Israel said, flipping the wine back upright and drinking the last few sips. "The more expensive and aged the drink-"
"The better it burns," Darkane finished. She threw the bottle in her hands at the shelves of drinks so fast that it smashed into even the toughest wine bottle. The drinks rained down onto the floor, creating a strong smelling, colorless puddle.
"Wait, what?" Aquila asked. "We're burning the bar? What good will that do us?"
"Second distraction." Israel answered, grabbing another bottle off the shelf. "In two minutes and..." he closed his eyes for a moment. "Sixteen seconds, reinforcements sent to find us will run through here. Now they can't do that if there's a huge fire, can they?"
"But wouldn't they just be able to go another way?"
"Nope," said a voice that wasn't Israel's. "No way past this room except through it."
Israel spun around to find the voice. "Ah. Hello, Jack."
The girl leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed and eyes gleaming, flashed a smile from under the brim of her hat. "Hello. I'm guessing that you're all heading up to the armory? It's been looted, I wouldn't even try."
"Not a problem. You already know that it isn't the only armory in the manor." Israel looked around at the strange looks he was getting from his friends. "Oh. OH! You all don't know who this is, do you?" He laughed at their quizzical expressions. "This is Lucky Jack. She lives here too, but she's the official gardener."
Jack raised a delicate hand and tipped the rim of her hat in their direction, then walked forward. It was then that Darkane noticed the array of garden tools strapped to her belt. There was even a small pickaxe on her back, it's tip softly glowing from some inner light. Jack saw her looking and smiled, pulling a small gardening trowel out and flicking it forward so that it embedded itself into the wooden walls next to Israel's head.
"Oh, God! Come on!" Israel said, practically falling out of his chair. "Seriously! You know I hate it when you do that!"
"That's what makes it fun, though." Jack replied, her grin larger than the Cheshire's own.
He shuddered and stood, unholstering his shotgun and moving to stand next to Darkane.
"Alright," Israel said, taking aim at the general area of the bar. "Run."
He pulled the trigger and started backpedaling, the reversed his footing and ran to catch up with the others. Jack led the way through the corridors, passing the ransacked armory. There was nothing left, only a broken spear and a some empty bullet casings. As they retreated further into Elysium Asylum, the halls became more twisted and their sense of direction waned. But Lucky knew exactly where to go.
Nyx Dawn did not know who the new girl that was leading them to the secondary armory was. She had never heard of, seen, or caught a rumor about her. Which was saying a lot.
So she bid her time and kept her mouth shut, trying to learn as much as she could with just her ears.
Necromancer. That's what some of the residents whispered from behind her as they trudged through the longest hallway Nyx had ever walked through.
Friend. That's what the one's who walked with her called her.And then there was the thing that everyone called her, no matter what their opinion of her was.
Sarthacus couldn't believe what he was seeing. The E.A residents that had been captured and trapped out the front of the manor were causing a riot, fighting their way past the Cleavers that guarded them. There was a brilliant flash of light from a figure in the fight that set the thermal scope Sarthacus was still using into a blinding white. He blinked a couple of times and looked back into the scope. Now, every Cleaver was motionless on the ground.
The residents regrouped, and Sarthacus followed their path with his eyes as they moved to the manor. They opened the door and entered.
He pulled out his radio.
A race. Israel hated them. He had always lost, back when he was younger. Now he might lose again, but the price would be the secret armory.
Only four people alive knew where it was. Jack and him were both here. Another person turned out to be an enemy of the state, and was on the run. And Florence Black, the last one to know, was last seen in Nova Scotia, chasing that person.
So. The residents that Sarthacus had told him about could have either accidentally sided with a bloodthirsty criminal or found themselves in the company of Florence. He knew it. Deep down, some instinct of his was telling him that one of those people was helping the residents. Either way, he would have to move fast to make sure that the armory would remain a secret.
They reached the stairs and took them two a at a time, ascending as fast as they could. Nicolette reached the top of the stairs first, and held up a hand to stop the others from moving any further. She peered around the second floor, her eyes struggling to see what her instincts were screaming at her for.
"I hate to sound clichéd, but something's just not righ-" a gloved hand cut into her windpipe, and a bony foot connected with her ribs. She toppled into the others behind her, and barely raised her head when it was stopped by the metal barrel of an revolver. Her eyes widened at the attacker, who she recognized instantly.
"What the hell?" Aquila called out from underneath her. "Get off me!"
She stopped when she saw him too.
Fifteen minutes earlier
Skulduggery Pleasant pulled the brakes on the truck he was driving and winced at the horrific scraping noise that ensued. He missed his Bentley, but he had to drive the caged vampire, Bridget Whiplash, into the Irish Sanctuary. He'd heard too many escape stories about her to just let a few Cleavers handle it.
When the truck finally stopped rocking dangerously to a stop, the sides almost tipping the entire vehicle over the edge of the hill they were parked on, Fletcher spoke up.
"Why've we stopped?" He asked, running a hand through his hair. Valkyrie punched him playfully in the ribs from the next seat over and he turned to her, a pained expression on his face. "And I swear that if you do that once more..."
Skulduggery held up his hand. "Shh. You two hear that?"
They shook their heads. Silence was all around them in the dark of the night.
"Oh..." Skulduggery said. "It's probably nothing, but I could of sworn that I heard a gunsh-"
A brilliant blue wave of energy shot over the edge of the hill and into the sky, illuminating the darkened estate grounds beneath them. Skulduggery craned his head to get a better look at the blue energy, which fizzled out after it had reached around a hundred metres into the air. Valkyrie had never heard Skulduggery swear until now, so it came to her as a surprise to be hearing the profanity rather than a witty remark.
"How the Hell," Skulduggery continued, "did he manage to get here...?"
"What?" Fletcher frowned. "Where are we?"
Skulduggery pulled out his phone and keyed in the number of the Sanctuary agent in charge of capturing Israel. While he waited for it to ring, he undid his seatbelt and loading his revolver.
He didn't say anything when there was no answer on the phone. He just flipped his hat onto his head with his spare hand, pulled off his scarf, and briefly turned to Fletcher.
"Welcome to Elysium Asylum," he said, and stepped out of the car.