*The Watcher in the Darkness Series and all characters contained therein are the sole copyright of K.M. Spires. All rights reserved.*
The Watcher in the Darkness series contains adult situations, graphic violence, and lots and lots of bad language. Rated M for Mature, seriously.
Chapter 45, part 2
Every muscle in my body tensed as I turned to face him.
“I do not need Karen beyond that for which I have already used her. She is an accessory, a bauble, and just as easily discarded.”
I came to stand in front of him. “I promise, before this is over, you’re a dead man.” To Karen, I said, “Come on, Karen, open your ears. Hear what this sick fuck is actually saying.”
Karen continued to trace chalk runes around the circle as though I hadn’t spoken.
“Yes, Karen, by all means, hear that if this half-breed fails to uphold his end of the bargain, I will rape you to death, then rape your blood-soaked corpse right in front of him, just for fun. Also, the black flu golems you’ve made are still plentiful. Just think, by the time this disease is contained, you may very well be responsible for killing thousands.” Karen looked up from what she was doing with a warm smile, then Khalid chuckled. “Ah, who knows what she heard?”
I shut my eyes tight as I struggled to contain my temper. Through clenched teeth, I said, “Tenanye, I need you. Now.”
“Yes?” Gwen said, curt and impatient, as though she’d been standing next to me the entire time. The deep black dress she wore made her skin look like white marble. Her eyes behind the lacy black veil were full of contempt. She crossed her arms over her chest, and I realized just how much weight she’d lost.
“Stop this,” I said. “Make Karen hear what’s really being said.”
Gwen gave me a disdainful look. “What part of ‘his magic is stronger than mine’ was unclear for you?”
“My dearest Gwen,” Khalid said when he realized she had joined us. “I’m so glad that you are here. I have something for you.” He pulled the tarp from the statue of the demon and angel. “This was not seized along with the rest of my assets, because it has always belonged to you.”
“Indeed,” Gwen said, unmoved. “I accept your generous offer, djinn. I shall enjoy smashing it to sand for little more than my amusement.”
Khalid nodded. “Don’t forget spite, my dear,” he said as he turned his back on us.
I shook my head. “I don’t buy that. There has to be something…” It was then that I finally noticed the skylight. Several panels of sheet metal had been removed from the roof above the circle. Through the gaping hole, I watched clouds roll across the sky. There would be no protection from the coming rain. Or the sun.
I looked at Karen again as she referred to the book in her hands and tweaked the runes. She didn’t notice the ones she’d already drawn shifting behind her. Then again, if Khalid controlled what she heard, logically he could also control what she saw. Her reality was in his hands.
“I wondered when you were going to notice that,” Gwen said.
“What am I about to become?” I said with dull horror.
“A Pure vampire. Except, after your transformation, the circle will contain you.”
Ah. Of course. “So, when the sun rises, I’ll be dead. I guess I shouldn’t count on your help here, huh?”
“Judging by your tone, I think you know the answer to that. You know my True Name, Toby. I will never be safe for as long as you are alive.”
I nodded. I wasn’t even offended. “Well, I suppose there’s nothing to say, then, except Mata Diablo.” The dagger appeared in my hand as I turned toward Khalid. Gwen said nothing as I walked in his direction, but Karen happened to glance up.
Her eyes widened in alarm. “Toby!”
Every muscle in my body seized and I froze in place. Khalid looked over his shoulder, curious, saw the dagger, then scowled. I would’ve cursed if my mouth still worked, but all I could do was growl.
Karen held out her hand. “Come here. Come to me. It’s almost time to begin.”
My body turned, then my feet marched into the circle. I felt the wards slam closed behind me like the clang of a prison door. My legs bent then I dropped to my knees in front of Karen. My head bowed and my body relaxed, but I still couldn’t move. It was like my spirit was trapped in a heavy meat shell. I couldn’t even glare at Karen as she took Mata Diablo from me. She placed the weapon on the floor between us then took my hands in hers.
In that moment, I was achingly aware of just how unbalanced our relationship would always be. I was a vampire, half or otherwise, and that wasn’t going to change. Karen was human. At the end of the day, she would always be my primary food source.
Worse, she was an untrained necromancer. Her power over me would become absolute when this ritual was finished. Without intending to, without even realizing it, she had condemned me to death. Neither of us would ever be safe around the other. When this ritual was finished, so were we.
That hurt so much more than the knowledge I was about to die.
Karen’s fingers tightened until the blood blanched from her knuckles. She took a breath through her nose then said, “The time has come, the powers that be, almighty universe, work now through me.”
The candle flames tripled in size then began to jump and flicker. The ugly music of the city faded to silence as the hair on my body stood on end. Even the dust held still, suspended in the air by thick magic.
“Behold, wondrous nature. Death-bringer and life-giving mother.” The echo enhanced the resonance in Karen’s voice. “Pray, heed your modest servant, and bestow upon me a small portion of your power. I kneel, humble and unworthy, as I impose upon your vast generosity.”
I soaked up the warmth of her fingers and took a deep breath of her scent. If I survived, I hoped the memory of both could carry me through the centuries.
Karen released my hands to place a large mason jar in front of me. Thick red sludge swirled around the bottom. I could smell metallic blood despite the jar’s tight lid. Inside, a crude clay sculpture rattled against the glass. I recognized it at once as the same vessel Karen had used to trap Alex Shepherd. A green caterpillar crawled along the misshapen torso, on a blind quest for food.
As Karen’s focus shifted to the ritual, her domination over me began to subside. Control of my body returned, and I looked up at the skylight again. I had until about noon the next day before I was barbequed alive. I wished I could warn Karen, but there was no telling what Khalid would let her hear. I had to find some way to snap her out of his control, but…
Then it hit me. I knew what to say. Shit, I’d been told what to say, the key phrase to wake her up. I just hadn’t realized it at the time. I had no reason to believe it would work, but a shot in the dark still has a chance to hit.
To Gwen, I said, “When this is over, you have to forgive him.”
Khalid blinked in surprise as Gwen’s entire being darkened. “You can’t be serious,” she said.
“I am, and I’m not Pure yet. When this is over, you will give him a chance to make this right.” The way Karen looked at me, she seemed to be able to hear my words as they are spoken. Mentally, I crossed my fingers.
Gwen made a disgusted sound in the back of her throat. “Forgetting for the moment that such a thing a beyond the realm of possibility, your influence over me ends when you are a Pure vampire. I am under no obligation to promise you anything.”
“Then listen to reason. He loves you. I mean, he really, really loves you.”
Khalid’s eyes narrowed, as though trying to figure out my game, but he said nothing.
“People throw that word around and most have no idea what it means. But I do.” I looked at Karen. “I do.”
Karen’s brow furrowed. I could tell that my words were registering, and that she knew I wasn’t talking about her.
“I loved Justine,” I said. “More than I thought it was possible to love someone. The worst part about laying in that cold grave was knowing that she put me there. Compared to that, the stake in my heart was nothing. That’s the wound that won’t heal. I’d almost convinced myself that I hated her, but you were right. Love and hate aren’t so different. You really can feel both at the same time.”
Karen bowed her head with a wounded smile.
I wasn’t done. “With love and hate, you find yourself thinking about the other person all the time. That feeling wraps itself around your heart and squeezes. It always hurts. Everything reminds you of the other person. Every sight, every smell, every sound, somehow leads back to them. The memories poke you in that sore place over and over.” I put my hand on the side of her face, and Karen grabbed my wrist. “Over the last couple of years, being around you, I’ve been able to shove Justine to the back of my mind. But she’s always there. She’s always close.”
Karen’s bottom lip quivered as she nodded in sad understanding. I felt like shit for hurting her.
“They say time heals all wounds, but not love. Time and distance don’t change love. That scar is always ready to break open again. It still hurts. It still bleeds.”
Karen jerked as though I’d slapped her. She stared at me, the blood draining from her face, as the magic around us began to dissolve.
Khalid sensed the change and took a step forward. “Karen, my love? Is everything alright?’
Karen blinked several times. She looked around, as though having no idea how she’d come to be there.
It was almost too much to hope for. “Karen?” I said.
Karen looked at me again, then cleared her throat. “I’m fine,” she said as she picked up the jar of sludge. “Let’s do this before it’s too late.”
I couldn’t contain my disappointment. I bowed my head as I whispered, “Fuck.”
Karen’s voice hardened. “Transformation. Sacred magic that has existed since the beginning of time. Holy transformation, that which births entire worlds from dust.” She removed the lid from the jar, then dropped in a sparkling pebble. “Transformation, that which forms diamonds from coal.”
Inside the jar, the caterpillar twitched. Its body darkened then bulged out, hardening to an instant cocoon.
“Sacred transformation, that which molds the beautiful butterfly from the creeping caterpillar.”
The cocoon split, then shimmering purple wings unfurled from the crack.
The reverberation in Karen’s voice grew stronger. “Transformation, push back death and decay. Transform and transcend, pure and beautiful, the price of metamorphosis paid forward.”
The butterfly twitched, then curled in on itself. Its wings shriveled and turned black.
“Transform, a debt to be repaid with the blood of thousands.”
The butterfly continued to shrink, then delicate tendrils of red rose from the sludge. I felt a tug in the pit of my stomach. Our hair slid over our shoulders, drifting toward the jar as cracks formed in the glass.
Karen spoke louder and with greater authority. “Transformation. Light and energy. As water becomes ice. As gas become stars.”
The butterfly exploded in white flames as the jar shattered. The fire compressed into a pinprick of light. It pulled in every shard of glass and drop of red muck. I felt Shepherd’s scream echo deep in my soul as his figurine dissolved into the tiny cosmic void. The spark hovered between us, singeing the skin on my face.
Karen picked up the Tepes chalice. She scooped the cup under the newborn star, then placed it on the ground again. The brilliant ember remained cradled within, its gleam blinding against the polished gold interior of the cup.
“Fire, crucible of creation and destruction. Purest fire, unmake then remake, ageless and purified. Beacon through the ages. Chosen creator. Bestow your sacred power upon this, the essence of life.”
Karen held her wrist over the chalice as she picked up Mata Diablo with her other hand. She pressed the blade against her dark veins, then hesitated.
“I can’t,” she said after a second. “I’m sorry, my hands are shaking too hard. I’m afraid I’ll go too deep.” She looked at Khalid. “My lord, will you please help me?”
“Of course, my treasure,” he said with infinite patience. He stepped into the circle, placing his hand on her shoulder as he crouched beside her. He reached forward to take Mata Diablo from her hand.
The look on Karen’s face shifted to cold fury as she buried Mata Diablo to the hilt in Khalid’s throat. She yanked the blade free, then Khalid’s blood spurted over her like a red fountain.
“What did you make me do?” she screamed, broken and hysterical. I watched in disbelief as she tackled him to the ground. He flailed at her, but didn’t have the strength to keep her from stabbing him over and over.
I finally overcame my shock then scrambled to my feet. Khalid’s blood pooled over the runes, releasing me from his trap. I lifted Karen off Khalid’s soon-to-be corpse, and she wailed in demented grief. She was heavy in my arms as I pulled her back.
Choking for breath, Khalid stretched a trembling hand toward Gwen. Without any obvious emotion, Gwen watched him drown in his own blood. Khalid’s eyes rolled back in his head as he gave a final sputter, then went limp. It might’ve been my imagination, but the human vessel’s skin seemed to brighten when the dark essence left it.
Gwen shook her head. “Fools.”
Before I could respond, Karen said, “My, my, what big strong arms you have, half-breed.”
It was Karen’s voice, but I’d know that fucking accent anywhere. Her sharp elbow crunched against my still-tender nose, then she ran.
Chapter 46 (The End!!!)>>>
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