Hyraaq Tobit Parte 2

The Enchanted Door to Delphia
They gathered around her hotel room closet. Nothing looked particularly special about it.

“So, this will really take us to Delphia?” Derrick asked.

“Yes, once you step through, you will be there. If I set this up right, we should arrive in a small safe house. Weapons will be there for us. We will meet up with the Unwashed after we arrive, and move into the next phase from there.” Lena explained.

No one seemed to be in a big rush to go first. Finally, Clair stepped up. “Okay, if this works, I’ll see you all on the other side.”

She didn’t wait for any noble goodbyes or stoic words of commencement; she simply stepped into the closet. Once she crossed through, small snow flurries began to float from the closet.

“Clair?” Trevor called into the closet.

“She’s in Delphia now. See the snow?” Lena answered.

Derrick and Trevor took one last cautious look at each other, and then stepped through themselves, followed by Lena, leaving the sane world behind them and stepping into the heart of madness.

“When we stepped through the closet and into the little safe room; it turned out to not be so safe,” Trevor had stated to Gregory, nearing completion of his story. “We arrived in this tiny little gray room. We still weren’t even sure where we were, honestly. Clair had gone through first, and she was standing there, a look of relief on her face as we all came through. Lena came in last. She told us to all hold tight while she grabbed some armaments. Turns out there was only one firearm waiting there, hers. She opened a crate and pulled out a pistol, and in the next second she was ordering us all down on our knees. We all just sort of stood there in shock for a second, not knowing what to do. Then the blue uniformed cops came busting in through the door, pushing us to the floor. We were shackled and brought to the tower.”

Since then, Trevor lived in the former Grand Magus’s chambers. He’d not been allowed to see Clair or Derrick; he had no idea what was going on. The last time he saw Lena, when she handed him over to his brother’s custody, she'd whispered, “Don’t trust him,” into Trevor’s ear. So far, that was the last he’d seen of her. His brother came by daily to visit, and they would talk. Gregory had told Trevor all about how he’d become the Champion of Tobit, about how he’d fallen into the good graces of Pinkerton and Tabitha. Over those last two weeks, he was fed well, given whatever he asked for as far as comfort items were concerned, but received no information as to what was going on outside of the chamber walls. The fates of his friends were still a mystery. His own fate was also still shrouded in fear and uncertainty.

Gregory now walked towards the Grand Magus’s chambers, a room he’d thought of as his own for a little while, and then started thinking of as Trevor’s room. Now he didn’t quite know what to think of it. He’d lived long enough to have seen many efforts and projects of his destroyed. That was quite normal in the business world. He’d had proposals that he’d worked weeks on shot down in minutes. He’d had ideas ignored. He’d seen failure enough times to know it from a block away. However, today, as he was watching television with Tabitha, he’d see a legacy destroyed. A legacy that was not just his, but one that had spanned several generations of Leary blood. Starting with Brandon Leary, working its way down the line, finally landing on his father, and then on Gregory and Trevor themselves. That legacy to keep Delphia out of the public’s mind, to keep Tobit locked away in secrecy. He’d always taken great pride in that, and today, in the course of a one-hour television program, he’d seen it all destroyed. He was furious.

He kept thinking of everything he’d given up in life to pursue this, the family he’d never started, the trips he’d never taken. He thought back to his interview when he was fresh out of college, the day a man named Mr. Blackman sat him down for a dream job, a job lost because a member of the Faithful had arrived and made flesh puppets behind Blackman’s head. He thought about all the mental conditioning that he’d had to perfect in order to adjust to seeing the Faithful around every corner. Learning to live with them as though they were friends of his. Worst of all, he reflected on the night not very long ago, that night he made the painful choice to open Trevor up to the horrors of Tobit. When he allowed himself to ponder on the fact that just a short time later the whole world would be talking about Tobit regardless, it was enough to drive him into a blind rage. However, he could not allow his anger to take him here. It was too dangerous. Whatever accord he’d developed with Tabitha Shaw and Pinkerton, Gregory was willing to bet was delicate. After all, they’d watched in glee as he gunned down Lance Madison, a man who’d worked his way up to a high position here, a man who’d sold himself to Tobit. They’d demonstrated no real loyalty to him in the end. So what could Gregory hope to achieve here? Sure, they called him the Champion, but he knew pandering and manipulation when he saw it. He was content to allow them to believe he was strung along for now, if that’s what it took to keep himself and Trevor safe. However, Gregory knew things inside of him had changed since seeing Newsroom, since listening to the cold hard facts, that the whole damned world was now aware, at least on some level, of Delphia and Hyraaq Tobit. Decisions would have to be made now, dangerous ones.

He arrived at the Grand Magus’s chambers, originally intending to enter and try and talk to Trevor, get his younger brother on board around here. He agreed with Tabitha that he’d have a hard time selling Trevor’s residence here should he still be brooding when the man known as Pinkerton returned. Pinkerton had been absent from Delphia since the day Gregory had arrived, and it was now apparent exactly what he’d been up to. Gregory extended his arm to the door handle, then stopped again.

Tough decisions, that’s what he’d thought. Dangerous choices too, that’s what had been on his mind as he’d walked towards his chambers. Pinkerton had gone out and destroyed his family’s legacy, that was also Gregory’s original conclusion on the idea. But had he? Gregory realized that there was still one last option on the table here, one he’d initially dismissed. He wanted to work with Delphia, that much was true. From the belly of the beast he was confident that he could keep everything under control. However, there was more to it than just that. He also had other interests in Delphia. For one, the oil, all that oil. Gregory was well aware that Antarctica housed tons of oil and natural gasses just waiting to be refined and sold. He also knew that due to a treaty signed a long time ago, that there could be no drilling on Antarctica for many more decades to come. The idea of using Delphia, a place masked from the world by magic, to dig into that oil was something he’d considered for a while. He could bring the men in himself to set up the equipment, and then just trained the sea of slaves that lived against their will right here in the city to work the machinery. He could sell it and never worry over competition. He’d actually crunched the numbers on this project and written it all up in his little notebook that he kept in his jacket pocket. He considered showing it to Tabitha, so that he could go to Pinkerton with some real support when he proposed it, but due to her mood since the arrival of Lena, he’d decided it might not be such a great idea to bother her with such requests right now. He’d wait on that one.

That, however, had been when he believed that he’d won by becoming Tobit’s Champion. He was confident that he’d ridden his family of the curse of Tobit, and therefore had completed his goal. He had been overjoyed at knowing he was the first, in a long line of Learys, that had actually finished what his uncle had started. However, the Newsroom report changed it all.

Now Tobit was all over the news. He remembered the night that he decided not to show the police the little chalk drawing of his murdered father that he’d found in the small utility building. It was evidence, the police should have seen it, but he’d declined that because he did not want the name of Tobit spreading about. He gave up so much more than just that throughout his life, all in the name of the Leary family legacy. He even stood before Tobit’s congregation and accepted their madness in order to continue the family business. But Pinkerton had felt otherwise. He’d somehow revealed that Red Star to the world, and now, at least according to Jack Elder of Newsroom, the whole damned world was talking about Tobit.

This now opened up options to Gregory, or rather forced them on him. He, without knowing it, began using the Theory of Two for his own gains. On one hand, he could remain here in Delphia and work his best to contain things. Perhaps he could convince Pinkerton to remove the Red Star from the sky, but that choice opened up two more options that he didn’t really want to explore. He could imagine trying to convince that slimy little man to do anything against his own devices to be a task born in Hell. He had no desire to take that ride. Of course, speaking out against the will of Pinkerton, even as a simple matter of opinion, could result in a fate worse than death. He couldn’t forget how easily they’d turned on Madison, a man who’d been loyal for longer than Gregory cared to imagine. That left Gregory with the other option, one he didn’t like any more than the other, but one that perhaps could be accomplished yet. He wanted to sample it at the very least, to see what lurked there. It was a gamble, but of course, so was just about everything these days. So, without allowing himself too much time to dwell on it, he walked past the Grand Magus’s chamber doors, allowing Trevor to remain undisturbed, and made his way out into the city of Delphia.

Nephew and Uncle Divided
It didn’t take long for Gregory Leary to be marked. They’d been watching him intently, ever since his little stunt at the Cathedral when he turned on Clive and Emily, giving them over the Pinkerton. It’d been a bizarre night to say the least. First they’d watched him shoot Madison, and their first thoughts had been that Gregory was in fact their savior, a man finally striking a real blow to the forces that be. He’d then turned, claiming ownership of rank in Delphia, and giving two Unwashed away without a second thought. Where the man stood and where his loyalties lie was still a mystery, so they’d been watching him over the last two weeks. Over that time they’d found that he rarely toured Delphia alone. He was almost always in the company of Tabitha Shaw. Today, though, he was alone, and from the look on his face, not in good spirits. Perhaps something had happened that’d changed his perspective on things. Perhaps he was just having a bad day and needed time to himself. Either way, the outcome was the same. The time for action was here, things needed to be done now, and Gregory Leary had proven to be a bit of a monkey wrench in the grand machine of things. Now, though, he was alone and vulnerable. What value he may have still sits in mystery, but the time for wondering was behind them. Things were moving too fast now to stop and think about anything except for the immediate goal. They watched as Gregory moved from the populated hub of Delphia, the shops and the restaurants, the street vendors and the masses of people moving about. He turned towards the warehouses, a place where foot traffic was seldom. The watchers began to wonder if this was a ploy; he seemed to be moving in that direction intentionally. However, as was stated before, the time for concern about the unknown was moving on, and the time for action was here. It was time to take action. Once he was in an isolated part of the city, they made their move.

Gregory left with the intention of being seen. He was hoping for contact; however, he was not sure how it would come to him. Once he was alone among the storage buildings, he made himself look like a man looking for a man, if that makes sense. He had his head down, but his ears were up. He figured contact would be made quickly. When he rounded a building and found himself in a small and narrow alleyway, he wasn’t surprised to hear footsteps coming behind him quickly.

“Took you long enough. I was starting to…”

There was a heavy ‘thud’ that cut off Gregory’s sentence. He heard it more in the back of his head than he actually felt it. The world slowly started to go gray around him as he noticed the ground was suddenly rising up to meet him. He had no real time to register any solid thought on the matter, for as the ground met his face, his world went black.

Gregory Leary awoke sometime later in a small room lit with a gas lantern. He was aware of an intense headache and a throb on the right side of his face. His hands also sent waves of discomfort through his arms. He rubbed his fingers into his palms and felt scratches there. His mouth was dry and his back hurt. He attempted to stand and found that his arms and legs were bound to the chair. A nervous fear began to eat into the pit of his stomach.

“Where… where am I?” he spoke weakly.

“You’re awake at last, lad. At first I was starting to think you were going to sleep through the night,” a familiar voice replied.

“Brandon…” Gregory asked into the darkness around him.

“Indeed, nephew, it seems we meet again,” the voice of Brandon Leary replied.

“Why did you bring me here? Why did you jump me from behind?”

There was a flicker of light from a corner of the room, Gregory could see his uncle lighting a cigar. The match flicked out and Brandon Leary walked into the light. He dragged a chair from the darkness behind him and sat down opposite of his nephew.

“Bring him some water,” Brandon ordered.

A large dipper was suddenly in front of Gregory’s face, and water sloshed out into his lap. It was cold, and the bound man’s lips suddenly wetted with want.

“Go on, give it to him.”

The dipper rose to his mouth. Gregory couldn’t see who was holding it out for him, but he didn’t care. He was thirsty. He ducked his head down and began to drink greedily from the dipper. Once his captor felt that he’d had enough, the dipper was pulled away, leaving Gregory to face his uncle once more.

“We’ve gotten ourselves into a fine mess here, haven’t we, lad?” asked the leader of the Unwashed.

“Tobit, the whole world knows about him now. Pinkerton revealed some star and it’s causing people to go crazy,” the nephew replied.

“And now you know how it feels to have your entire life’s mission crushed, is that what brings you here, Gregory? Your failures?”

“I wanted to talk to you, Uncle, to make things right.”

“Ha!” Brandon replied, saying the word more than actually laughing. “You want to make things right now? Now that you’ve gone and tossed this entire operation into the shitter, now you come out here and want to make things right? I trusted you, Gregory, I really did. I didn’t like the nephew that I met, but I believed in our family. You have let me down, lad; let us all down.”

“I’m sorry, Uncle.”

“No, you’re not, Gregory. You’re sorry that you lost control of things, that’s what you’re sorry for. I gave you every chance to come in with us, to help in really bringing Delphia down. I gave you the identity of Emily and Clive in hopes that you’d do the right thing. I shouldn’t have, and that is my cross to bear every second they are sitting in the dungeon. I was a fool for that, and do you know why I wanted to trust you so badly, Gregory? Do you really want to know why?”

Gregory nodded.

“Because, lad, I’m tired. I’ve been here for almost two centuries. Fighting the same fight all the time. Praying for the day that Delphia falls so that I can finally rest. When I saw you show up here in Delphia, I just wanted so badly to believe that you were here to relieve me from this duty. I wanted to believe that whatever gods govern all of this shit, that they’d finally decided to give an old man a day off. My body may not age here, but lad, my mind surely has. When I first arrived here, stowing away on Madison’s boat, sneaking into the city, I intended to arrest the man. Yeah, that was the plan. In the name of Scotland Yard and all that, I was going to arrest Madison and bring him back to London to stand trial for his crimes. Imagine the shock when I realized that I was trapped here with him. No escape. To make matters worse, I find out that this city has its own damned army, those coppers out there, plus all of the Faithful. Can you picture a fat man going into the Cathedral, removing my badge and just ordering Madison to come with me? I wouldn’t have been dead before the arrest order could leave my lips. So, I did the only logical thing I could think. If they had an army, I would need one to. It took me over a century to really get the Unwashed together, to get the right people in the right places. Eventually I recruited enough high-ranking folks in Madison’s court, enough for us to learn this city’s one great weakness. However, for every step we took forward, Pinkerton was there to push us two steps back. If we took a foot, they pushed us back a yard. It was always an uphill battle, Gregory, a daily battle it would seem. So imagine my joy when one of my very own shows up here. I thought it was a sign that the tide was turning. They warned me, hell, everyone did, not to trust you just because of who you were and what family line you came from. I should have listened, but I gave in to my own mental fatigue and I trusted a snake, you. And now two of my most trusted people are in the dungeon, undergoing God-knows-what kind of torture, because of my own nephew.”

“They’ve not been tortured, Uncle; this I know. Tabitha has been too caught up with the death of one of her agents; she hasn’t even been down there. They’re waiting for Pinkerton to return to make any big moves.”

“I won’t bother to beat the truth out of you, lad. It’s not my style anyway. No, it’s your new friends that are fond of the heavy hand. We are making our move now. No more waiting. You at least were useful enough to show me that the time for patience has passed. When a man cannot trust his own flesh and blood, there is no more time left at all. You will stay here, you will be kept company. Know that the man in this room with you is armed with a loaded pistol. Should you make any wrong moves, he is under instruction to blow your head off. Once we are done, once the mission is carried out, the man will untie you and leave with the rest of us. You will wait a few moments for him to clear the room, and then you are free to make your way to the main gate as well. I don’t have the brains nor the heart to kill you, although every instinct of mine says to do just that.”

“Uncle, please, if I am gone for too long, Tabitha will come looking for me, and if she finds me like this, people will die, likely your friends first!”

Brandon Leary stood up and began to walk towards the exit. “Lad, we’re moving into action now. Your girlfriend up there in the tower isn’t going to have time to look for you. Remember, don’t try anything funny. I don’t want you to be killed, but I doubt I’ll lose much sleep if you are. Too many regrets robbing me of my rest as it is; you’d be so far in the back of the line that I’d die of old age before you made it halfway.”

With that, Brandon Leary left his nephew tied up and under guard. Gregory could hear the man breathing close behind him, watching him from the darkness, ready to kill him if necessary.

The Logic of Grief
Back in the tower, Tabitha was impatiently flipping through television channels. She wasn’t really watching the programs any longer. No, her mind was elsewhere and was simply hoping that her shows could distract her from what she knew she really wanted to do. Lacy continued to bob in and out of her mind, her face, smiling and so full of joy, so dedicated to all the tasks before her. She remembered the night with the dead baby, the night she’d shown up and taken Lacy away from her world of rules and bloodshed, and brought her into one with one simple goal- serve Tobit in all ways. She’d always been Tabitha’s favorite; there had never been a doubt. And now she was dead, supposedly taken down by a very lucky police officer. As she’d told Gregory, she didn’t believe that, not even for a second. She wanted to believe that Lena had lied to her to spare her the punishment for the actions she’d no doubt have taken. She wanted to move on as well. She’d lost agents before. Serving Tobit, as a Sister was never going to be a job that came without very high risks. Still, she wasn’t letting it go, she wasn’t moving on. Tabitha was a young woman who knew herself better than most others in this world. She knew she couldn’t, and wouldn’t, let it be, not until she was satisfied. She also was starting to develop anger towards Lena for lying to her. She had done a fairly good job of keeping herself at bay by simply telling herself that Lena had done these things for the good of her leader, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized that lying was still lying, and Tabitha was not a woman that appreciated lies from her subordinates. Lying is like any other bad habit- you do it once and get away with it, and suddenly you feel that you can do it all the time.

“Wait for Pinkerton, girlie,” Tabitha said out loud. It was good advice. She already knew that the little girl, Soka, was a big supporter of the Unwashed. She had yet to make a move against her though, wanting everything to come together as a beautiful surprise for Mr. Pinky when he came back to Delphia. She’d hand over Derrick and Clair, and she’d tell Pinky all about how she’d learned the identity of the little psychic girl among the rebels, and how the whole damned Unwashed was about to crumble. It was a good plan. A plan that would mean rewards for her and a much brighter future ahead. This was a good plan.

“Sounds like a pussy plan to me, girlie,” a voice spoke inside of Tabitha’s head.

“It’s not, it’s the right course of action. We wait,” she replied to the voice.

“Wait-and-see, eh? Sounds like you’re losing your edge, Tabby, that’s what I think. I would never have imagined the little girl that survived the shack could grow into something so pathetic,” the voice answered.

Tabitha stood up, and gazing back at her from the mirror on her wall, was her stalwart companion in the goat mask. The same woman who’d told her to kill Soka when she was in the dream world with them. Tabitha gazed at her own reflection, the only difference being the mask. She listened as her own voice ordered her to take action.

“Listen, girlie, you can sit up here in your big room all day if you want, just brooding, watching television, fucking your new man, and all the while, the Unwashed laugh at you. Big bad Tabitha, too afraid to come out of her own room and face what must be done. You know Lena is lying. But do you know why she’s lying?”

“To protect me,” Tabitha answered her reflection.

The reflection laughed. “To protect you? Tabby, you really are stupid, aren’t you? Do you remember the night we went and rescued Lena? Remember the choices that you gave her? Join you or be brought back here and fed to Madison’s congregation? Remember that? Yeah, you should, because I bet you all the money in the world that Lena sure as hell remembers it. You really think she’d lie for you? Girlie, I worry about you sometimes.”

“Then she lied to protect herself, to avoid being punished for losing a Sister,” Tabitha argued back to the mirror.

“That makes even less sense, Tabby, much less. The truth or a lie would have added up the same for Lena in most cases. If she was killed by Derrick Reynolds, as you believe, or if she were killed by some police officer, as she told you, losing a Sister is still losing a Sister, isn’t it? So who was that lie to protect? Her? It wasn’t. Unless of course….”

“Unless of course what?”

“Lena never wanted to come here, did she, girlie?”

“Not at first, no, but in time she…”

“Think about it. In time what? She had decades to think about you, Tabitha, to think about her place in Delphia, did she not? You loved Lacy because she was so eager to be part of it all, but you always wondered about Lena, didn’t you?”

“She never gave me a reason to question her.”

“Not until recently anyway, right?”


“So, test her, Tabby. Test her now and be done with it, rather than spending the next decade wondering what really went wrong on that mission.”

Tabitha nodded to her reflection slowly, knowing now what needed to be done.

Many Moving Pieces
Soka Ito was restless. The Unwashed were moving quickly around her. Things were being done now, and done quickly. Something was about to happen, but she couldn’t get any of the grown-ups to slow down long enough to tell her anything. She knew that Emily and Clive were in trouble; that’s why she’d been sleeping at different houses almost every night. She knew something was coming quickly, and she understood it was happening now. She wanted to know what it was, and more importantly, what she could do to help. They’d been gathered into a large warehouse, at least 50 by her count. They were preparing things in small boxes, but she couldn’t tell what they were. Her poor English skills made it hard enough to ask questions, but when no one would even look at her, she was really in for confusion.

Her dreams had been bad recently. In them she saw the Red Star of Tobit, but so did everyone else. Not just the people in Delphia, but people everywhere. The star was making them do bad things. In her dreams she saw murders and rapes. She saw innocent people losing their minds to the will of Hyraaq Tobit. She knew that these dreams meant something very important, but couldn’t figure out what. Now, now all of her friends were running around, grabbing supplies, talking quickly to each other, and she had no idea why.

She felt that she would lose her mind if someone didn’t talk to her soon, and then, without warning, all the noise stopped. The Leader, Brandon Leary himself, had arrived. All the busy people stopped what they were doing and lined up in rows to listen to him speak. She listened too, doing her best to understand the words that she could.

“People, people of the Unwashed, our time has come!” Brandon announced.

There were cheers from the crowd. He raised his hand and they got quiet again and listened.

“It would seem that our time to strike has come now. We all know what parts we have to play; we all know the risks ahead of us. We’ve seen for ourselves just how dangerous these enemies of ours are. They will not show us mercy, nor give us quarter should we surrender. I will not order any of you to die fighting, but I will remind you that should we surrender, an even worse death will await. I have already initiated the first step of our plan. Those of you on the strategic teams, you know where your points are. Once I dismiss you all, you will go to your points and carry out your tasks. To those on the assault team, I will lead you personally. We shall converge on the Cathedral and take it. Our path to freedom lies there, and if the plan works as I predict it shall, all we will have to do is hold that building until what needs to be done is done. Afterwards, we shall make our way to the Mendez Gate. I cannot promise you that any of us will actually be able to leave Delphia. I do not know what Tobit’s magic has done. For those of us who have been here longer than a normal life span should permit, I cannot promise you what will happen once we are outside of Tobit’s magic either. I may age to dust in a matter of seconds, or I may resume aging as though I never missed a day. These are all the mysteries that await us. However, my friends, I know that I cannot sit here a day longer, and I doubt that the lot of you wish to either. If we are to die, let it be on our own terms, fighting! For I would rather die free than live a slave to Tobit a day longer.

“If any of you do not agree, if any of you have doubts or fears, you are welcomed to leave. I will not force anyone of you to fight tonight. For those of you that choose to stay, though, that choose to fight by my side, know that I love each and all of you. We have fought together here for countless years, all in hopes of seeing this day come. Let us fight together one more time, as brothers, sisters and friends. If there is a life outside of these walls for us, let us battle hand in hand to win it. God speed to all of you, I shall see you on the battlefield!”

Roars of applause followed this speech, and Soka watched as men and women grabbed the boxes they’d been preparing, and made their way out of the warehouse and into the night. Soka saw that many of them were carrying guns, and she knew without a doubt that tonight would either be her last night in Delphia, or her last night alive.

“As for the rest of you, gather into ranks and prepare to march on the Cathedral on my command.”

If they were moving against the Cathedral, Soka knew that tonight was the night. She’d been told what to do, and over the last couple weeks she had been successful in making contact with the right people. Now it was her job, a very important job at that, to let them know it was time to head towards Delphia. Soka Ito closed her eyes and began to search. She fell into a meditative state, faces flying by, people that she could perhaps reach if needed. However, she was looking for two very specific faces, and she prayed that they would be able to receive her message.

Lena arrived upon summon to Tabitha’s chambers. She had a feeling she knew the nature of this summon, and was prepared for the worst. As she went to knock, the door opened for her. She saw her leader, dressed for combat, leaning against the wall of her room and twirling a dagger. Lena prepared for her boss throwing that dagger right at her heart, but that didn’t happen. Instead, she beckoned Lena to enter.

“Lena, we haven’t had much time to really talk since you came back from New Orleans. I wanted to congratulate you on the successful capture of Derrick and Clair. Bringing back the whiney little brother was not necessary, but a nice touch. I always appreciate it when my girls go above and beyond.”

“Of course, Tabitha,” Lena answered cautiously.

“About Lacy. You told me that she’d been killed by a police officer, right?”

“I did tell you that, yes.”


“Because, Tabitha, that is what happened.”

“Doesn’t that seem a bit unlikely, Lacy being taken so easily?”

“Tabitha, she was a little overly risky on this last mission. I had to keep reminding her of that. I think she… I think she was trying too hard to impress you.” Lena chose this excuse carefully. She wanted to somehow avoid painting Lacy in a negative light, while still explaining how a common officer of the law could take the girl down.

“I see… I wish all of my girls were so eager for my favor.”

“Why do you say that, Tabitha?”

“I forced you to be a Sister, didn’t I, Lena? I dragged you into this under threat of death. Do you begrudge for it?”

Lena knew that Tabitha had grown suspicious; there was no denying this game. She already suspected her of lying, and another lie would no doubt seal her fate. She took a risk with her next answer.

“At first I did, yes. The night you saved me from Ortiz, you told me that I could go with your or die. It was hard for me at first, I will admit that, but I’ve had plenty of chances to try and escape, and yet I’ve come back to you each and every time, carrying out your missions. There is no other life for me now, Tabitha. What would I do anyway? Return to Columbia and try to explain to my family, to Interpol, to everyone that ever knew me how I’ve hardly aged in over 20 years? No, Tabitha, that is no option for me, that life; the life I knew is over. You are my life now, you and the Sisters. I swear it!”

“So, you wouldn’t mind proving it then, now would you?”

“Anything! Let me show you my loyalty!”

“Very well, I intend to have a little private ceremony tonight. We haven’t had much use for the Cathedral since Madison has been dead. Gregory certainly doesn’t know how to conduct a proper sacrifice, and with Mr. Pinky away, well, I guess that makes me in charge, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose it does.”

“Good, go on down to the dungeon and gather me up Clair and Derrick. I think it’s time that Tobit is appeased once more, and I can think of no two better candidates for the task.”

“But Tabitha, won’t Pinkerton be furious should he return and they’re dead?”

“I just watched the news today, Lena, and you know what I saw? Seems that ol’ Mr. Pinky convinced the Council to reveal the Red Star to the world. That tells me that Pinkerton has been playing his own game all along. Seems as though he’s turned his sights to bigger things than Delphia. I’m not sure what his end-game is, but I am certain that when he does return, he will be happy to know that the rebels are squashed and his little trouble makers from the outside world are dead. If he isn’t, I’ll deal with the results. After we finish in the Cathedral, I’m going to go and track down that little girl Soka as well. She’s had more than enough time to play, and now it’s time for the game to conclude.

So, go down to the dungeon and bring Clair and Derrick to the Cathedral. I’m going to head there first and prepare for the ritual.”

“As you wish, Tabitha!” Lena walked away quickly, heading down the long rows of winding steps that would take her to the pit of the tower, where the prisoners were held.

Tabitha summoned one of the uniformed guards that patrolled the halls.

“Gather several of your comrades and follow Lena to the dungeon. She is to remove the prisoners and bring them to the Cathedral. If she doesn’t anything besides that, kill her.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the guard replied, and marched off quickly to carry out his orders.

Tabitha closed her doors and began to make her way out of the tower. As she passed the Grand Magus’s chambers, she suddenly had other ideas. She was in the mood to cause pain, and she felt that the whiney little prick Trevor was in need of some real advice. She figured she could spare a bit of time with him before making her way to the church. She didn’t really need to prepare much anyway; she really just intended to kill them to avenge Lacy. She figured that she had enough time for a quick stop. As she turned to open the Grand Magus’s doors, she caught sight of her reflection in a mirror hanging in an alcove.

“Don’t dawdle, girlie, you know what you need to do,” the goat masked woman informed her.

“Why don’t you just shut the fuck up already?” Tabitha replied to her reflection, and gripped the door handles.

Trevor's Gamble
Trevor heard the approaching footsteps, and at first thought that it was Gregory coming to see him. As distant as he felt from his brother these days, he still welcomed the visits eagerly. Never in his life had he felt so alone anywhere like he did here in Delphia, so the act of simply having his brother around did wonders for him. No matter what Gregory had allowed this place to turn him into, he was still Trevor’s brother. They’d only had each other for the majority of their lives, and that couldn’t be changed by anything. Then he heard the female voice of Tabitha Shaw. It sounded as though she were talking to herself. Asking herself questions and answering them. Trevor patted his waistline once, nodded, and prepared for what would come next.

Tabitha entered without being invited, and took a long and fierce look at Trevor Leary.

“How did you and Gregory come out of the same damn womb, that’s what I want to know?” Tabitha asked him.

“Well, not all of us were spawned from Hell, Tabitha,” Trevor replied, actually surprising her a bit with his nerve.

“Watch yourself, pussy-boy. You’re only alive as a favor to your brother, who I am a little bit fond of. Test me too much though, and there are a million ways I can make you hurt. Do you believe me Trevor?”

“In fact, I do. I have no doubt that you would not think twice about putting a knife in my back.”

“Good, I like that we all know where we stand here. If you do survive this, you will be expected to get on board with the way things are done here. I’m sure Gregory has tried to explain that to you a few times, and from what he’s told me, you are proving to be just so stubborn. So, allow me to help you. This isn’t home, this isn’t jail, and this isn’t a kidnapping. You have no rights, there are no police that are going to come and look for you here, you have no lawyer and you don’t get a phone call. What you may get to do is live, and that depends on how much longer we keep your brother around, and how much longer we can tolerate you. And let me tell you something, Trevor- if you keep acting like this, that won’t be very long at all.”

Trevor chose to remain silent through all of this. He could tell Tabitha was on edge, and she wouldn’t need much help to push her over it. Trevor was determined to just let her say her piece and be done with it. That was, until Tabitha made that choice impossible.

“I just wanted to come by and let you know a couple of things, to sort of help you fit in here. For one, Gregory isn’t getting to leave. I know he thinks he is. He has this whole plan in his head; to go back to London, manage his business from there. He talks in his sleep you know, and I am a pretty good listener. He might have these ideas of drilling for oil here, making lots of money off of Delphia, coming and going as he pleases, but guess what, Trevor- none of that is going to happen. Gregory might be given a real title one day. That ‘Champion of Tobit’ is just something that Mr. Pinky made up on the spot. He really does like your brother- as do I, like him a lot, in fact- but not enough to grant him too much special favor. Sure, he can have the big bed in the private room, he can have you, so long as you don’t become a nuisance and hell, he can even have me so long as he remains so passionate. But guess what, Trevor- that’s all it’ll be. He is as much a full time resident of Delphia as you and the rest of these poor bastards are out there. Delphia doesn’t change, it just changes people. We’ll get a new Grand Magus and the old rituals will pick right back up. The Maskings and the Feastings and all that other good stuff. After all, it’s not a ritual if you keep changing it. Me and Pinky knew right away that your brother was a real ‘shaker and a mover’ and we decided to let him keep believing that he was going to come here and just shake stuff right on up. If that makes him happy, all the better.”

Tabitha took particular pleasure in watching Trevor’s face change with each and every new fact she dropped on him. Perhaps he really had believed that Gregory had some real power around here. Perhaps he thought that any day now they would just head right back to London together and resume their lives. She was enjoying this so much that she was almost drooling with the anticipation of the next piece of reality she was going to give him.

Smiling, she continued, “As for your friends, Clair and Derrick, tonight will be their last night on earth, I’m afraid.”

Trevor’s eyes went wide and his face was swallowed with horror. This fueled Tabitha even further.

“They’re going to be sacrificed, by me, tonight. They’re already being taken to the Cathedral. I just wanted to stop by and tell you. Maybe you’d like to come along. I’ll even give you a front row seat, how’s that sound?”

Trevor had never been known for his courage. Gregory was always the brave one. Trevor had never been known for speaking out; Gregory had always been the bold one. Trevor had never been known for taking actions; Gregory had always been the adventurous one. However, if someone were to line both of the Leary brothers up, arm and arm, and asked who was the noble one, the honorable one, the one that could come through for anyone in a pinch, they would have pointed to Trevor each and every time. Trevor was kind, Trevor was selfless and Trevor was loyal. Perhaps to a fault.

Upon hearing that Clair and Derrick would be killed by the very woman standing before him, Trevor took action in ways that he was not familiar. Even as his own hands and arms moved towards the waist of his pants, his own mind screamed, ‘What are you doing?’

He had always been cautious, and should he hesitate for even a second and allow himself to question what he knew had to be done, he was fully aware that he would lose all chance. He ordered the rational and cautious part of his brain to be silent as he followed through with the only course of action that he deemed could be useful.

“I love you, brother! May you find your self once more!” Trevor whispered as he pulled from his waistband the pistol that Gregory had used to shoot Madison. The powers that be had allowed him to keep it, and from the moment Trevor found it during the many hours that he was left alone in Magus’s chambers, he’d hoped he would never have to use it. He’d checked the magazine and found that there were three bullets still left. Three chances, should he be forced to actually fire it. And now, as Tabitha Shaw came to inform him that she would now murder two of his friends, he knew that the time to draw the gun had arrived.

Trevor was not a trained combatant as Tabitha was. He did not have a killer instinct, as Tabitha did. He did not have her enhanced speed or reflexes. He knew nothing of the craft of fighting. Still, his sudden actions took her by surprise. She was a woman that was never surprised anymore, and perhaps it was her sheer disdain for Trevor as a man that had allowed her to believe he was incapable of fighting back. Maybe it was her focus on Lacy that made her sloppy. Her rush for revenge had perhaps taken her eyes off the prize. Regardless of what or who she blamed, the end result was the same; Trevor Leary had gotten the drop on her. She had no time to react, and in that moment was almost drowned in shame.

Trevor locked the gun on her chest, something his father had perhaps once told him, to aim for the chest, not the head, because the chest was easiest to hit. He was aware somewhere in the back of his mind that he was about to murder someone, but he refused to allow that part of him, the London Trevor, the nice, weak, happy, lovable, pathetic and weak Trevor, to dictate his course of action. In that moment there was no Trevor, just a man who wanted to survive and help his friends.

Trevor pulled the trigger; Tabitha closed her eyes, awaiting the report and the pain that would follow. However, there was no report and there was no pain. She immediately opened her eyes and saw the problem. Trevor hadn’t pulled the slide back on the pistol; there was no bullet in the chamber.

Trevor had only a split second to realize something was wrong. He didn’t know if the safety was on, or if the bullet were just duds. His mind told him to look at the safety or something, but by then it was all too late. His chance had come and gone. He saw Tabitha reach towards her belt, her hands moving quickly, so fast they were almost a blur. He wanted to say something to her, beg, plead, anything. However, the look on her face told him that there was no amount of begging in the universe that would stop her now. He decided instead that he would die with dignity. He thought of his brother, the times they’d spent together. He thought of Clair, a woman he’d developed a small crush on. He remembered them in the French Quarter, going about laughing as though life was normal and they were just tourists on vacation. He thought of his mother and father. He remembered the night Gregory told him all about the cult of Tobit and what it meant to bear the Leary name.

He saw Tabitha bring out a dagger and raise it to the level of his head. He could almost hear it as the blade cut through the air. He knew it wouldn’t miss. In his final moments, Trevor thought of Gregory. He forgave his brother, who’d only been doing what he’d done their entire lives, trying to protect his family. As the blade buried itself into Trevor’s skull, his final thoughts had been of forgiveness and love. In the next second the blade pierced into Trevor’s brain, ending all thoughts forever.

Old Friends in Bad Places
Derrick and Clair had been prisoners now for two weeks. They were kept in the dungeon, which also housed Emily Pert and Clive Andrews, as well as Timothy VanBuren. Together they had formed their own little think tank over the last 14 days or so.

Derrick had initially been thrilled that Timothy was still unharmed. However, hearing the rest of the situation brought his thrill down to dread. Apparently Gregory Leary had joined the side of Tobit, being appointed the rank of Champion, for whatever that was worth. His first official act, besides killing Madison, had apparently been to turn Emily and Clive over to the Delphian authorities. They’d been promptly locked away, and had learned that they were being held until the return of someone known as Pinkerton. When Derrick asked who that was, Timothy was happy to inform him.

“He’s the Avatar of Tobit, a man who has gained so much favor from him that he is allowed to carry out the will of Tobit directly. His words are considered to be the very words of Hyraaq Tobit, and he is not questioned here.”

“Worse then Madison then, huh?” Derrick had asked.

Emily replied, “Far worse. If Madison is a pimple, think of Pinkerton as full blown AIDS.”

“Derrick, just what in the hell are you doing here anyway?” Timothy had demanded, and so they told them, Derrick and Clair taking turns telling bits and pieces of their story. In the end, Timothy looked at Derrick with a sense of sadness and disappointment.

“I wish you hadn’t come back here, son, I really do. I didn’t rescue you from this place just to see you come back. Still, thank you for remembering me. I am sorry to see that it was perhaps for nothing.”

“It won’t be,” Clive spoke. “Lena is still out there, right? She still knows what to do, doesn’t she?”

“I hate to break it to you, Clive, but it was Lena that double crossed us. As soon as we got here, she tied us up and brought us to the dungeon. Seems as though she decided that her loyalties lied somewhere else,” Derrick explained.

“Then we are doomed,” Timothy stated sadly.

“Wait, just wait!” Clair had told them. “Maybe this is bleak, but we’re not dead yet. I doubt everyone else, the rest of your Unwashed group, has just given up, right?”

“Clair is right,” Derrick joined in. “There could still be a chance. I’ve survived this once before, and the odds looked bad back then, worse even. I’m not saying this is the best-case scenario, but we are still alive. Wouldn’t your leader try and rescue us?”

“I don’t know,” Clive answered. “If he sees a chance to rescue us and bring down Delphia, then yes, but if he gets his chance to bring the city down, I think he’ll take it no matter what.”

“Then we wait and see. We can’t do anything else anyway,” Clair stated, and that is what they did.

During that time they spoke and got to know each other a bit. Clair told them all about the Triassic Journal, how she’d been slowly pulled into the world of Tobit. She told them how Soka had helped her in her dreams, and even when awake, when she’d delivered her ‘magic word’ to Clair when they were prisoners in Derrick’s apartment. She wanted to meet Soka in the real world quite badly, thank the little girl for all of her help.

During their two weeks they shared more stories, becoming closer friends. Timothy eventually brought the bad news out to Derrick. Sergio had been captured on the very night of Derrick’s escape. He’d been quickly punished for opening the doors and allowing him to escape Delphia. The mob had dragged him back to Madison, who did not see the same use in him that he did in Timothy. Sergio had been killed the following night at a large ritual; the intent was to remind everyone that no one tampered with the will of Tobit.

Derrick did not speak at first. He’d been afraid that Sergio did not make it, but somehow he’d always hoped his friend was still alive. Hearing the news that he’d not made it left Derrick feeling as though he’d been punched in the stomach and all his air was forced form his lungs.

“He died bravely,” Clive suddenly spoke. “I was there when they did it, in the Cathedral. He didn’t cry and beg, didn’t give Madison an ounce of pleasure.”

“Damn this place,” Derrick spoke softly.

“He wouldn’t have made it on the outside anyway, if it helps any,” Timothy stated sadly. “He’d been Masked, brought back to life in the service of Tobit. He would have spent years here as one of Madison’s Faithful, and that is a fate worse than death, Derrick.”

Derrick didn’t reply though. He sat down in the corner of his cell and allowed tears to flow. There was nothing more to really say on the matter after all. Just more death in a sea of dying.

As their two weeks in the dungeon carried on, hope began to dry up for all of them. Derrick and Clair began to believe, more and more with each passing day, that the small shred of hope they’d come down here with had in fact been false, and that now they were simply awaiting death. Food was brought to them once or twice a day by a uniformed guard. Sometimes they would demand answers; sometimes they would ask to see someone in charge. The guards would never reply; they would simply drop off the meal and move along.

So, on the present night, as Derrick watched from the tiny window at the top of his cell as the stars and moon came out once more over Delphia, when he heard the large metal door swing open at the top of the stairs, no one thought this visit would be any different. Just another drop off of whatever Delphian delicacy was being brought in tonight. Only this time it wasn’t a silent guard that came down to greet them, but rather a very familiar face- Lena.

She rushed in quickly, her keys dangling from her belt, and went about opening the cell doors.

“Lena, what the fuck is going on here?” Derrick snapped.

“It’s time,” she replied.

“Time for what?” Clair asked.

“A ritual, of course,” she answered again.

“What have you done, Lena? What is going on?” Emily demanded as Lena opened her cell.

“Look, we’re going to the Cathedral, all of us,” she answered, and suddenly was struck from behind by a blunt object.

“Traitor!” shouted the guard. He’d followed his orders from Tabitha. Lena was ordered only to bring Clair and Derrick, so when he saw her open Emily’s cell, he took action.

“Lena, watch out!” Emily cried as the guard raised his baton for another strike.

Lena watched him raise the baton, and should that baton come down on her head it would likely kill her in one hit. Then she saw the man taken off of his feet as Derrick tackled him to the ground. As Derrick and the guard struggled, Emily once again shouted a warning to Lena. “There are more coming, Lena, be careful!”

Two more guards, the ones the first had been ordered to bring along, came running down the steps. Clair, who was still caged, could do nothing other than watch in horror. Emily’s cage was open, but she felt helpless to do anything. Derrick was holding his own against the guard, but she didn’t like his odds against two more.

“I’ve got this!” Lena shouted, as she moved up to meet the two incoming guards. She drew a small pistol from an ankle holster and took aim.

“Unauthorized tool!” the guard shouted.

As his mouth was still moving, still shouting his condemnation of the gun, Lena fired once, the bullet striking the guard in the head and silencing him forever. The next one was swift, sidestepping Lena and avoiding the second shot that she fired. Using his baton, he knocked the gun from her hands and took her by the neck. He pushed her to the wall and pressed the baton against her throat, pushing upwards and actually raising her off the ground. She looked down at his face and saw no mercy, no thought, and no concern. He was a cold, heartless killer who was beyond reason or compassion. She struck out at him with both hands, aiming at pressure points, trying to force him to loosen his grip. It did no good; he was too determined, and he would not stop until they were all dead.

Just as she felt that all hope was lost, she saw Derrick rise up behind him, baton in hand.

“I got your unauthorized tool right here!” he screamed, and began beating the man with the club. He dropped Lena to the floor as he attempted to turn around and fight, but it was too late for him. Derrick slammed the club into his head over and over again, until he fell to the ground, blood gushing from his head, his nose, his mouth and even his eyes. Derrick continued to pound the club into the man’s skull long after he was dead. Tears were coming from his eyes, and as the noise finally began to settle, she could hear that he was chanting over and over again each time he swung the club. “Sergio, Sergio, Sergio,” was what he said with each swing.

Once Lena regained her feet, she went about opening the rest of the cell doors. Clair ran over to Derrick and put her hand on his shoulder. He was still trying to swing the baton, though he was now too winded to do much more the lift it weakly and drop it. He’d apparently killed the other guard as well, as his body lie still where they had struggled.

“That’s enough, Derrick, you did it, okay? You saved Lena, you avenged Sergio, we have to go now,” Clair said to him soothingly. Eventually he let the baton drop out of his hands. He was still weeping.

“She’s right, we do have to move. We are going to the Cathedral. I had to convince Tabitha to sacrifice you all to Tobit tonight,” Lena stated.

“Why?” Clair asked.

“To make sure the idol is out on the altar, for one thing. Also, to have an excuse to get us all into one place; once the ritual starts, we’re going to have some company.”

“So the old man has finally pulled the trigger on raiding the Cathedral?” Clive asked.

“Yes. The other teams are already moving through the city setting everything into place. Once I give the signal, Brandon will lead the assault team on the Cathedral itself. Clair here is our best hope of cracking the defenses around the idol. We will all need to give her the breathing room to do that. We have to hold off the Faithful, keep her safe. With Madison dead and Pinkerton gone, the worst one here is Tabitha, and if it comes to a fight, I think I can give her a hard time. Either way, the gun shot down here is going to attract attention. We need to go now!”

Clair and Derrick started to make their way up the stairs followed by Lena. However, Clive, Emily and Timothy didn’t follow.

“Come on, what are you waiting for?” Lena demanded.

“We’ll stay here with Timothy. He’s in no condition to walk, much less run or fight. Leave us the pistol. I’m sure you’ve got weapons stashed for everyone anyway,” Clive informed her.

“You’ll die if you stay here,” Lena replied.

“You said yourself reinforcements are coming. Let us stay here and slow them down a bit. If we make it, we’ll join you all in Cathedral. If not, we’ll die doing our best to slow them down for you. The longer it takes them to report the escape, the longer you’ll have time to work on the idol,” Emily stated.

Lena handed her the gun. “Make it hard for them, Emily.”

“I will, we all will.”

Derrick had come back down the stairs upon hearing this new plan. He walked over to Timothy VanBuren, who was still sitting on the cot in his cell.

“So you’re staying behind again. That must be your hobby or something.” As Derrick spoke, tears ran down his face.

“Derrick, thank you for coming back for me. Now, let me make the trip worth your time. That idol has got to go- destroy the idol and no more Delphia. Go out there and fight.”

Derrick gently hugged the frail man who’d once led him to freedom. It would appear that Timothy would once again lay down in the line of fire for him. “Thank you, I’ll never forget you, Timothy.”

“Then survive so you can remember me. Now go, go before this place is swarming with guards and we all die like fools together!”

Derrick and Clair followed Lena up the stairs. Derrick looked back one last time at Timothy, who once again stood, although with the support of Emily and Clive, and prepared to face the powers of Tobit again. Derrick knew there would be no third time to save him. He knew this really was the final goodbye. He hated himself for leaving Timothy behind, but he was determined to obey the man’s last wish, for him to survive.

Once Lena and the others were gone, Clive, Emily and Timothy gathered together at the bottom of the stairs. Clive held on to the gun now, ready to fire at the first sign of Delphian guards.

A few moments later they heard the door above smash in, followed by the aggressive footfalls of guards. Clive stood and readied the pistol. Emily and Timothy armed themselves with batons from the dead guards.

“Well now, it would appear that we fight one last time. Very well, stiffen those upper lips, for you fall under command of an Officer of the Royal Navy. Let's make these fools pay for every step they take!” Timothy mustered.

Clive aimed the pistol and had time to take one shot. It went wild and to the left, missing the advancing guards. In the next second they were swarmed, batons brought down upon them. The gun was knocked away from Clive, who collapsed to the floor. Timothy attempted to swing the baton, but months in the dungeon, months of malnourishment and confinement rendered him weak and frail. He was quickly disarmed. As Emily was struck across the head with a baton and felt herself drop to the ground, her last thoughts on Earth were, “You better succeed, Lena, you better succeed.”

Gregory was still a prisoner within the small room, being held at gunpoint by forces unknown. He knew it was a member of his uncle’s group. He knew that his uncle had clearly decided to allow his nephew to live. He also knew something big was going to happen, apparently tonight and apparently very soon. He had to get to Trevor. Whatever was about to go down, he wanted, in that moment only, to protect his little brother. During his time tied to this chair, he’d not been able to get the man behind him to speak. He only heard breathing that had slowly become heavier and slower. Whoever was back there was in no mood to speak or move around much. After an hour of this, he began to suspect that his captor had fallen asleep. He couldn’t be sure though, so very slowly he began to test the waters. He moved his wrists about, attempting to loosen the ropes that bound him. From his captor he received no resistance. He began to twist them about more persistently, taking pleasure in the slow loosening of the ropes. He was no expert on bondage, but he got the feeling that he’d been tied down quickly. If it really was his uncle's intention to make some big more tonight, it stood to reason that he wouldn’t waste a lot of time just on making sure that his untrustworthy nephew was properly tied down. Still, though, he didn’t want to risk being shot in the back in the process.

After about an hour of slowly moving his wrists in a back and forth sort of motion, he finally felt that he could slide his hands free. Now was the time for the gamble. He knew that the man behind his could just be bored, could just be watching him fully prepared to bring down the hammer should the man in the chair actually succeed at getting his hands undone. Still, he had to try, and now he almost thought he could hear snoring coming from behind him. He didn’t want to risk it, but he knew this was the only way. He had to go for it.

Slowly he pulled his arms forward from behind his back, careful to keep hold of the rope so that it wouldn’t fall to the floor and wake his companion from his slumber. Now that he’d managed to free his hands, he was convinced that the man behind him must have been sleeping. Now was the hard part- his ankles were tied to the chair as well. He bent forward in the chair and very carefully went to work undoing the knots. They were in fact sloppy and he found that he had little trouble working them off his ankles. Now it was time to stand up. Very slowly he rose from the chair, careful to give his legs and arms time to get some good blood circulation. He didn’t want to stand up just to collapse from weak legs. Turning around very cautiously, he finally made eye contact with his captor. Just some chubby bastard with curly hair and a beard; he did have a gun though. Gregory was overjoyed to see that this man had actually sat the gun down on a crate next to where he was sitting. Then he’d simply dozed off, likely from boredom.

Very slowly, making as little noise as possible, Gregory approached. He reached forward and took hold of the pistol, when the man’s eyes suddenly shot open.

“You!” he had to say.

“Nice to meet you!” Gregory replied, before bringing the butt of the gun down onto the top of the man’s head.

“There you go, mate, right back to sleep with you, just like you like,” Gregory whispered. He thought about tying the man up, but didn’t want to spend that much time in here. He had to get to Trevor quickly, before whatever his uncle had planned took place. He exited the small building, tucking the gun into his jacket, and made his way towards the tower.

Lena led Clair and Derrick from the tower at a run. They were moving towards the Cathedral, but making sure to take the shadowy streets, staying close to buildings to remain unseen. On their way across town, Lena had stopped along the side of a rather bland building. She’d searched around for a moment, before finding a loose cobblestone.

“Help me lift this, Derrick,” she’d ordered, and Derrick obeyed. Underneath the stone were several firearms. Lena took hold of what looked like a sniper rifle to Derrick. She examined it, ensured it was loaded, pocketed an extra magazine and nodded. Derrick and Clair grabbed two pistols. “We have a nice stockpile of weapons hidden around the city. We get them from the storage warehouses. Lucky for us, Madison wanted to keep everything he took off of his new residents. I just thank God he never wanted to arm the guards with anything bigger than a baton. Guess he was afraid of the inmates running the asylum.”

They continued to make their way slowly about the city when Lena stopped once more. Again she searched about the ground, and brought out an orange flare gun. “When I fire this, it’ll let Brandon know to bring his men to the church. We have to protect Clair until she figures out how to dispel that idol.”

“Gee, no pressure, huh Lena?” Clair stated.

“No, Clair, none at all,” she replied, “it’s only our lives at stake here.”

Once Lena led them within sight of the Cathedral, she fired the flare once in the air.

“No going back now,” she stated, and the three ran across the small town square to the side of the Cathedral. “Tabitha will expect you to be brought in from the side, this way.”

They made their way to a side door. Lena fished through her set of keys and opened the door. “This will take us through a small rectory and then into the main Cathedral. Tuck your guns into the back of your belts; Tabitha has to think that I’ve taken you by force. Put your hands behind your backs and hold onto your guns. It’ll give the illusion that you're bound. Once we get in there, I’ll hold off Tabitha. Derrick, you use your gun and hold off the Faithful if they show up. Clair, you know what to do, right?”

“Right, try to destroy the idol.”

“Okay then, let’s go.”

The Siege on the Cathedral of Delphia
Lena led them into the dark rectory, towards their unseen futures.

Soka had been told to stay back in the safe house, to wait until Brandon or some other trusted adult came back. Two adults had been left to watch over her. Brandon introduced them to her and told her to obey them no matter what. Then the flare had gone off in the sky, and Brandon and the rest of his friends, about 25 or 30 in all, left the building, walking towards the Cathedral. They looked like they had guns too. Soka knew she should listen; she knew that Brandon knew what was best. However, she was worried about Clair. Over the last two weeks, Clair had been on her mind all the time. She knew she was here, somewhere in Delphia, but she hadn’t been able to make a connection with her. There was something blocking her. She knew, however, in the ways that she knew most of the things in her life, without a real reason, that Clair would be at the Cathedral. She would be with Derrick Reynolds, and Soka knew that they were important people. She wanted to be there to help them. The two grown-ups left to watch her weren’t paying any attention to her. They were sitting across from a table and talking to each other. Soka could pick up their intentions. She didn’t quite understand them, but she knew they wanted to do ‘grown-up’ stuff with each other. They’d instructed her to sit still and wait for Brandon to come back.

“Ummm, I need to use the bathroom,” she walked over and told one of the adults.

The man, she didn’t know his name, rolled his eyes and looked at the lady sitting across from him.

“You take her, she’s a girl and all. I’d feel weird,” he said.

“Christ, Benjamin, all you have to do is stand outside of the door. You don’t have to wipe her,” replied his female companion.

“I can go alone, I know it’s right in the other room,” Soka replied.

“I don’t know, Brandon said not to let her out of our sight,” the woman instructed her friend.

“It’s just the bathroom, we’ll be right out here,” Benjamin said, and the lady friend gave in.

“Okay, sweetie, but hurry up and come back quickly, okay?”

“Yes, ma’am” she replied, and quickly walked towards the far room with the small chamber pot.

Once inside she shut the door and looked around. There was a window. She turned the chamber pot over, disgusted when a foul liquid poured out all over the floor. Very carefully she stood on top of it and pushed up on the window. It took some effort, but slowly the window rose until Soka was confident that she could fit through. Without hesitation, she slid out and ran around the side of the building. She could see Brandon’s people, all walking towards the Cathedral. She ran a bit but stayed behind them enough to remain unnoticed. She followed them as they made their way to the Cathedral doors.

As Lena led Clair and Derrick into the main Cathedral, Derrick was awestruck for just a moment; he never imagined that he’d have to see the inside of this place again. Now that he was here though, he felt that this was exactly where he needed to be. He would avenge Sergio and Timothy; he would ensure that Delphia no longer stood to hunt its prey. Clair’s eyes immediately fell to the altar and to the idol that sat atop it. She knew at once that this was the very idol that Epor had watched the Primes carry away after they destroyed his city in the name of Hyraaq Tobit. Looking at it, remembering back to her notes, she knew right away that it could, and would, be shattered tonight. She only hoped that the other part of this plan would still go properly. It was a long shot, but one she felt confident could work.

“Well, well, looks like the gang is all here!” the voice of Tabitha Shaw suddenly spoke.

Lena looked over and saw her former leader sitting a few rows back. They’d failed to notice her upon entering.

“Lena, I see that you brought the sacrifices as instructed, good girl. I was starting to doubt you there for a minute. Glad to see some people are still reliable around here.”

Now that Lena was actually faced with the woman, she was feeling the nerves really kick in. Her first thought was just to fire the rifle at her, try to end Tabitha Shaw in one shot. Should she succeed, this could be an easy night; should she fail and give Tabitha a chance to make a move, she could doom them all.

“Derrick and Clair,” Tabitha began, “so nice of you to join us. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to come down and visit with you sooner; it’s just been a real madhouse around here. Now, here’s what’s going to happen. Me and Lena here are going to have a little private Feasting. No big fancy ritual, no fanatics chanting for more, just us. You’re going to die really slow, for what you did to Lacy. Unless one of you would like to confess, then maybe we can move things along a bit nicer. Maybe there can be less screaming between when I start cutting and when you finally stop bleeding. I’m a reasonable person like that.”

Tabitha stepped from around the pews, and Lena saw that she had several knives tucked at the ready into her belt. She’d seen Tabitha take birds out of the sky with those knives, so she knew that any move she made against her would have to work the first time. She’d have to get Tabitha to drop her guard for just a second, long enough to raise the rifle and take the shot.

“Okay now, Lena, you can go ahead and put your rifle down. It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that I’d feel a lot better if I were the only one with a weapon right about now,” Tabitha ordered.

“It’s now or never,” Lena thought, and prepared to raise the rifle and take her one shot at Tabitha.

As Lena went tensed her muscles to raise the gun, another shot suddenly rang out.

“You bitch, you fucking bitch, you killed my brother!” A male voice bellowed from behind them.

Derrick and Clair spun around to see Gregory Leary burst through the small side door they’d entered through. He’d come in shooting and missed on the first shot. Tabitha turned all of her attention to Gregory, who was advancing upon her, ready to shoot again.

Lena did not waste this precious moment. As Tabitha turned her attention to Gregory, Lena raised the rifle and fired. She saw blood fly from Tabitha as the leader of the Sisters dropped behind the pews.

“Did you get her?” Derrick shouted, pulling his own gun from behind his back.

“I don’t know!” Lena shouted, moving around to flank Tabitha from the other side.

“Where is she, where is that bitch, I’m going to kill her myself!” Gregory continued to scream.

“Trevor… is dead?” Clair asked, feeling tears form in her eyes.

“No time to think about it, Clair, you have to do whatever it is you have to do to that idol!” Derrick shouted.

Clair ran over to the idol and began to examine it, doing her best to remember what she’d read concerning this item. There was a way to destroy it, she and the rest of the think tank knew it. Now it was time to see if she could actually do it when it mattered most.

Lena scanned between the pews for Tabitha, but saw no sign of her. She was still alive.

“You, Gregory, is it? She’s still alive, so if you really want to avenge your brother, look alive and don’t let her get the drop on you!” Lena called to Gregory. He looked over at her, his eyes still in a haze of rage, but nodded once.

Derrick looked back and forth. He wanted to make sure Clair was safe, but he also thought just standing here was a waste of time. When suddenly he became very glad he did. Two of the unformed guards came rushing through the small door, their weapons raised.

“Protect the altar!” one of them yelled.

Derrick, who’d never shot a gun in his life, suddenly had no trouble at all doing so. He aimed at the guards and fired a volley of bullets. One of them went down. The other ducked back into the door for cover.

“We’ve got company!” he shouted to Lena.

“Make sure Clair is safe, that’s all I need you to do!” Lena yelled back.

She knew if Tabitha was hiding, that meant disaster for her. There was no sneaking up on Tabitha Shaw. Lena’s best bet was to get up high and use the sniper rifle to its fullest potential. Above the pews was the choir box. From up there she could watch over the whole place, and even provide cover fire for Clair and Derrick. She quickly made her way up the stairs and took up position in the in box, using the oak railing for cover. Scanning the pews, she still saw no sign of Tabitha. However, she did see that Derrick was about to be overrun. Three guards had made it through the door and were advancing to surround him. Locking her sights on one, she fired, taking him clean in the head. “Uno,” she said to herself.

Derrick shot the other one, causing the one lone guard to take cover behind a pew. More footsteps could already be heard coming from the small rectory though, and Derrick was afraid he’d run out of bullets before Delphia ran out of guards.

Clair continued to work on the idol. She knew the symbols. The instructions were fairly easy to follow, once she and her think tank had figured them out. She just wasn’t sure how long it would take.

“Where are you, Tabitha?” Lena whispered as she scanned pew after pew.

Gregory continued to move about the aisles himself, making no effort to conceal himself or move about tactically. He was lost in bloodlust and wanted only one thing. “Why’d you have to kill him, you fucking whore? Why? He was no threat to anyone! He was my baby brother! You just, left his body there! Did you not think I’d know your fucking knife when I saw it?”

More guards now were trying to push their way in. Derrick fired at them, but they weren’t falling back now. They simply used the one in front of them as a human shield. The lone guard that had hidden behind the pew now made his way around, flanking from Derrick’s blind spot. Lena saw him and picked him off with one shot. “Dos,” she whispered.

“I’m losing ground here!” Derrick shouted, and fired at the guards again, this time taking one of them down. This left two, and they ducked behind the nearest pews.

There would be more though. Derrick had to lock that door. He fired his gun until it ran empty at the guards hiding behind the pews, and attempted to close the door leading to the rectory. As he neared it, he could see more guards making their way in. It would only be a matter of time before they were completely outnumbered and outgunned. He shut the door, looking for a way to lock it. As he did, though, he saw the two guards move towards him. He backed up, waiting for them to swing their batons, when two more gunshots rang out. One guard was taken in the head, another in the back. He looked up and saw Lena moving to reposition herself in the choir box. “Tres y cuatro,” she whispered.

Momentarily free from the distractions of the guards, Derrick ran up to the altar and grabbed a sturdy looking wooden chair. It was heavy, and he hoped that it would serve to bar the door for a while. As he advanced to the door, he felt a hot wind pass in front of his face, and suddenly realized that a knife had missed him by less than an inch. Tabitha stood up long enough to try and take out Derrick, but quickly ducked back into the pews as one of Lena’s rounds tore through the wood right next to head.

Gregory saw Tabitha pop up and quickly ran over, pistol at the ready, only to find she was gone again.

“Okay, Lena, you gotta go!” the voice of Tabitha rang out, but she saw no sign of her former leader.

Derrick was able to plant the chair in front of the door, the backrest underneath the doorknob. He backed up, hoping it would hold. Derrick could hear pounding on the other side of the door, men trying to get in. He saw the chair buckle with each hit and realized this wouldn’t hold for very long. He also knew that Tabitha was still running loose. The pounding grew louder and louder, until it seemed as though it were coming from everywhere.

Derrick climbed up on the altar and pulled Clair’s gun from her waist. He needed it more than her; she had to focus on that idol. He aimed the fresh gun at the door, watching as the chair weakened a bit with each strike.

In all of the confusion, no one, not even Lena, who had gained an over watch of the entire room, saw the little Japanese girl climb in through a small air vent on the floor of the Cathedral. Soka had followed Leary’s group. They were preparing right now to storm the Cathedral. She wanted to stay near them, near safety, but the strange knowledge that always seemed to guide her told her to find another way in. It told her that it would take the Unwashed a long time to get in, that the door was sealed and very strong. Yet, there was a way for a small girl like herself to get in. An old way that very few people knew about. A little air duct around the side that would take her right into the church, where Clair and her friends needed her the most. She stayed in the shadows, avoiding the familiar faces of the Unwashed as they prepared to start kicking down the door. She moved around the side of the building and found her way in, just where she knew it would be the whole time. Working her way through the small space, she could see the lights of the Cathedral ahead, and hear the shouting of people from inside. It was scary, but she knew she had to be in there.

Clair continued to do her best to work on the idol despite all the commotion going on behind her. There were gunshots and shouting. She was vaguely aware that Derrick had grabbed the pistol she’d had tucked in her waistband. That was fine with her, as she’d never even held a gun before in her life and was afraid that she’d shoot her hand off the first time she tried to use one. So far her friends had been doing a good job of holding the advancing guards off. She was aware, somewhere deep in her mind, that Derrick had just barred the door with a chair. She didn’t have any idea how long that might last, but she knew that any additional time was a blessing. She examined the idol closely. It was stone for one thing, a stone goat’s head. She guessed by the age of the idol that as soon as she was able to remove whatever was protecting it, that it might very well turn to dust. Either way, smashing it on the hard floor of the Cathedral would also do the trick. The problem was in removing the spell that protected it. Looking closely at the words written in Dawning, she did her best to compare each one with the instructions left behind for her. According to her notes, the idol could be safely dislodged from its stand, thus breaking the barrier, if it were twisted in the right order. She compared this to opening a safe, easy enough. The clues to removing it, though, were written in Dawning, and although she had translated the language, that didn’t exactly make her fluent in it now. Luckily, the instruction and the necessary combination were only a few words; it was just a matter of knowing how to use those words the right way. She’d been working her way through the first line of code while Derrick and Lena held off the guards. The first line was easy; it was the rest that became more cryptic.

“Okay, first word, second line is ‘twyn.’ Twyn means ‘to face darkness’ essentially. So, face darkness, what could that mean?”

She let her mind explore these options. The people of Epor’s tribe, while advanced for their time in history, also had a limited understanding of the world around them. To face darkness might mean to face away from the sun. That would make sense. However, facing away from the sun during the day would still be to look into the light, so does this mean facing away from the sun at dawn, or dusk?

“Okay, see it through the eyes of Epor. He was scared and alone, so any work that he did would have been done during the day, that just makes sense. So, to face away from the darkness would be to face away from the morning sun. Alright, the sun rises in the east, so if I were looking at a compass, that would be to turn away from the light would be to rotate the idol one click…”

She held her breath as she turned the idol, bracing herself for any trap that might trigger should the wrong combination be applied. When nothing happened, she breathed easier and continued.

“Next word is ‘chisme.’ In Dawning chisme sort of translates to ‘star.’ Okay, next to chisme is ‘vod’ and that means something like… big or grand. Okay, grand star. This is another sun reference. I don’t get it. How does that tell me which way to turn the damned thing?”

“Think it through!” the voice of Dr. Redbay spoke up in Clair’s head.

“How? This clue makes no sense!” she snapped at no one.

“Picture it through his eyes, Clair. How would someone try to reach the sun back then?”

“I don’t know!”

But she thought she did. The Primes had not only become cannibalistic but also ritualistic. If they were out during the day, praising the sun, they would likely be reaching straight up, with… two hands, one of either side.

“It’s absurd, that’s too obscure to be remotely correct!” Clair yelled again at nothing.

“Great scientists have always been called absurd, Clair, but they follow their instincts. Now, you follow yours!” Redbay scolded, as if he shouldn’t have to waste his time explaining this to a woman as accomplished as Clair.

“Fine, two arms up, a click left and a click right, but in what order?”

Her imaginary Redbay did not answer again. He’d given his advice and moved on, much like the real Redbay would.

“Fine, okay, most people are right handed, it’s the natural order of things. Let’s just hope that same rule applied for Epor.”

Clair squeezed her eyes shut again as she clicked the idol once right and once left. She saw several sparks fly from the base, and was amazed to discover that the pole that connected the idol to the base was now wobbling about in place a little. She was almost there! Just a few more puzzles to solve and she would have it. She just hoped her friends could buy her the time.

Derrick was now doing double duty, guarding the door and watching out for Tabitha. She was hiding in the pews and he knew it wouldn’t take much for her to nail him. Gregory continued to pace up and down, screaming for her to show herself. Lena was still perched atop the choir box, scanning the entire Cathedral with her rifle.

Suddenly pounding began at the door, hard and loud. Derrick readied his gun, prepared for more guards. He took a quick glance up at Lena and saw that she was waiting, taking aim. That was when the door crashed forward, but what entered was not guards but rather goat-masked Faithful. Unlike the guards, they did not flinch when Derrick pointed his gun at them, nor did they seem to care when he shot at them. They started advancing with break neck speed. Derrick climbed the small row of stairs leading up to the altar, trying to stay near Clair. She still needed more time to figure out the idol. He shot at one of the Faithful, striking it in the chest. It grunted and fell to a knee, but did not appear to die. Two more entered around it. Lena sighted in and took her shots.

“Cinco, seis,” she whispered as she dropped two more. She saw the one that Derrick had shot getting back to its feet. She took aim, but was pleasantly surprised when Derrick shot it again, this time putting it down.

“Now, where are you, Tabitha?” Lena whispered. As these words were leaving her mouth, she saw two more Faithful dart through the doors, moving fast for their size. She sighted in on the one nearest Clair, but never had a chance to fire. As her finger tensed on the trigger, she suddenly felt the presence of someone standing directly behind her.

Slowly, Lena turned her head, praying that it was a friend. It wasn’t. Tabitha Shaw had made her way up into the choir box. Her right shoulder was in bad shape; that was where Lena shot her. Blood coated her face and arm.

“Tabitha…” Lena whispered.

“Boo!” Tabitha shouted and drove her knife forward. Lena never had a chance to spin the long barrel of the sniper rifle around to aim. Tabitha drove the knife into Lena’s heart. The rifle fell from Lena’s hands as her eyes went from registering shock to registering nothing at all.

Derrick looked up just in time to see Tabitha roll Lena’s corpse over the side of the choir box. It hit the Cathedral floor with a sickening thump.

Gregory noticed this as well, and upon seeing Tabitha, opened fire on her position with his pistol. Tabitha ducked behind the railing, laughing as she did so.

“Gregory, keep her from coming down from there. If you see her pop up, shoot her, please!” Derrick screamed. He wasn’t sure if Gregory Leary couldn’t even comprehend simple instruction at this point, as the man’s rage had clearly taken over all sensible thought.

Derrick turned back to guard Clair but was suddenly lifted off of his feet and driven into a nearby wall. A Faithful had caught him. Its strength was inhuman. Derrick struggled, but the monster took a strong hold around his throat. Derrick struck the Faithful in the arms and chest, but his punches had effect. He aimed the gun down at its foot, the only place he could hope to shoot it in his current position, and fired. The man behind the mask grunted and loosened its grip. Then the other one was on Derrick as well, both of them. He was struck hard into the wall again, this time dropping the pistol. He looked over to see Clair rotating the idol, still not finished. How much longer she’d need he didn’t know. He glanced to Gregory, but he was busy screaming profane threats towards the choir box. Derrick tried to call for help but the Faithful were back at his throat again and he could form no words.

From the choir box Tabitha watched all of this. She’d taken the bullet in her right shoulder, which threw off her knife throws just a bit. However, Gregory was close and she was attacking from an uphill advantage. She quickly popped her head up again, waiting to see his reaction. He was firing the gun erratically. Judging by the small holes in the wall where the bullets were striking, he was off by at least 5 feet with each shot. Easy enough, she stood and made her move.

The knife readied in the left hand that she would now have to trust; she stood up, took aim and watched as Gregory went to shoot back at her. She could tell just from the way he was holding the gun that he would miss on this one. Taking her time and using the blade as a guide, she took aim for his chest. With a flick of her wrist, she let the knife sail. It whirled in a long arc, almost appearing to be a wild shot that would have no chance of striking him. However, as she predicted, the arc continued, closing itself back as gravity did its job. The knife took Gregory in the lower abdomen. Perfect.

Gregory had a moment to register a sharp pain in his stomach, and looked down to see the hilt of the knife and the blood forming on his shirt. He attempted to raise the gun one last time, Tabitha wasn’t even attempting to hide at this point. However, he couldn’t keep his arm up. The gun suddenly felt as though it weighed a ton. Gregory Leary tipped over, landing between the pews.

“Now that all of that is taken care of, let’s get down to business!” Tabitha shouted with glee. The two Faithful were pinning Derrick to the wall. Others came into the room, preparing to advance on Clair.

“Stand down, boys, Clair is mine. This little bitch has been a thorn in my side for long enough. I’ll do the honors. You make sure Derrick over there stays pinned to that wall. I want him to see this,” Tabitha ordered with demonic joy and anticipation. The Faithful obeyed and stood down. Clair, so caught up in being so close to finishing here, didn’t even notice Tabitha approaching.

Outside the Cathedral, Brandon Leary continued to rally his men. No sooner had they marched on the church then a huge platoon of guards stepped out to meet them. They’d had the advantage through much of the fight, using guns against batons. However, batons didn’t jam, batons didn’t run out of bullets, and the guards were doing a fairly admirable job of holding them off. They had the numbers, and that was starting to become a problem.

“Listen, boys, we must gain entry to that church! Break off into groups. Those of you with ammunition, focus on the guards! The rest of you, attack the damn doors!” As Leary shouted this command, a cheer went up through his ranks.

“We’re coming, I swear it!” he shouted towards the walls of the church.

Back inside, Tabitha continued her slow pace towards Clair. As she walked, a dozen or so Faithful had made their way into the Cathedral and taken up position around the altar. They stood waiting for orders. Derrick had time to glance at these numbers, to see Tabitha now only a few feet away from the altar and realize that all hope was lost.

“Stop, you won’t hurt her!” A small yet strong voice suddenly filled the room.

Tabitha turned at the sound of the voice, and almost had to fight through laughter at the sight of Soka Ito standing in the isle.

“Really, Soka, and what are you prepared to do to stop me? This isn’t your little dream world anymore; it’s just you and me. So you know what, I’m going to let you and Derrick here have the pleasure of witnessing the death of Clair Nobles, and then you and I, little girl, we are going to have a nice long talk, real close up!”

Soka didn’t flinch at this threat, but rather took another step forward.

“No, no, NO!” she screamed, and for a moment Tabitha was a little shocked at such a strong voice from such a tiny child. Who could imagine?

Soka stepped forward again, and Tabitha actually had to blink and rub her eyes. She was sure she was seeing things, but it almost looked like the child’s eyes were… glowing.

It was then that a massive force shook the Cathedral, followed by another and yet another. At first Tabitha thought it was an earthquake, but the booms were a pattern, spaced just far enough to be, almost, the footsteps of a giant.

That was when she saw it. Derrick saw it too and even in his current state of shock, on the doorstep of death itself, his logical mind couldn’t believe what his eyes were telling him. From behind the pews, rising as though from out of the ground, rose the largest alligator he’d ever seen. Easily 20 feet long and perhaps 10 feet high, its dimension defying all logic and reason; then, just to prove that things could get crazier, it spoke.

“Laissez les bon temps rouler!!!!” the massive reptile shouted, in what Derrick recognized as a rather stereotypical Cajun accent. And to make matters even more insane, if that were possible, riding on the gator’s back appeared to be a black cat wearing a dress.

“Hey dere, Soka, dey tells me ya’ll could use a little gator muscle!”

“Al, Maria, please, help Clair and Derrick!” Soka shouted.

“Oh, dat be easy, watch dis!”

Tabitha watched in horror as the giant reptile charged its way through the Cathedral, destroying pews as it stomped past. She actually had to duck out of its way to avoid being trampled. “How is this fucking possible… how!” she screamed.

Faithful cultists rushed towards the alligator only to be met by crushing bite after crushing bite. After five or six of them were left in pieces, the rest seemed to back off a bit, not knowing what to do.

The cultists that were holding Derrick to the wall dropped him and ran over to join the fight.

“Get them, Albert!” Maria demanded in his ear.

“I’m trying to, Maria, but you be distactin’ me wit all dat chatter! Now hush up and let me CHOMP!”

“Don’t just stand there, you cowards, kill it!” Tabitha shouted, standing up from her hiding spot.

“You be quiet back dere, you damn hoodoo woman! I thought you learn’t yo lesson, but I guess not!” Al followed this scolding by swinging his huge tailing towards Tabitha. She leapt out of the way as several rows of pews were crushed.

“C’mon, boys, I be hungry!” he shouted, and ripped into the two cultists that had been attacking Derrick. Bloody robes were all that were left.

The remaining cultists seemed at a loss for actions. They stood back, looking from Al to the small rectory door.

“Albert, do not let them escape!” Maria ordered, and Al obeyed. Lunging forward, he crushed three of them beneath his enormous body. The remaining two actually drew daggers and brandished them at the monster before them.

“Look, Maria, des ones right here come wit dey own toothpicks, how nice!”

In one chomp the cultists and their daggers were nothing more than memories.

“Only one left now, and I been savin’ room for ya!” Al announced, turning his huge and hungry eyes on Tabitha.

“Where… where the fuck are the reinforcements, where the fuck is everyone!” she shouted in panic, backing away until she felt her back touch the wall.

Tabitha closed her eyes for the second time tonight in anticipation of death. The gator’s teeth were inches from her face. However Soka had done this, the damn thing was real. She felt its hot breath on her face, felt its drool dripping onto her arms. She braced herself for the end.

“ENOUGH!” a familiar voice suddenly bellowed through the church. There was a force that went with that voice, a voice Tabitha recognized at once. She opened her eyes in time to see the gator and cat whisk out of existence like dust in the wind. She looked around, saw that Soka had collapsed and appeared to be unconscious. The illusions were gone. Standing now, in the center of the Cathedral, was the answer to her prayers…. Mr. Pinky had returned.

“My, oh my, oh my. I go on a little trip and this… tomfoolery is what I return to?”

“Oh, Mr. Pinky, you made it back just in time,” Tabitha shouted, running over to the man.

“Miss Shaw, you had better start explaining this mess.”

Tabitha knew that there was no right answer in the situation. If she tells him that Lena was a traitor, he would blame her for having Unwashed infiltrate her Sisters of Tobit. If she put the blame on Gregory, she would still take the fall for trusting him. She couldn’t think of a good answer, so instead she with the most urgent matter.

“We have to stop Clair Nobles! She intends to dislodge the idol!”

“Nonsense, such an act cannot be done! You are speaking madness!”

“Just look!” Tabitha shouted, and Pinkerton finally turned his head, just in time to see Clair and Derrick raising the idol from its base. Through all of the insanity, Clair had managed to solve the riddles and break the protection.

“You there, woman, put that back! You do not know what will happen if its balance is disturbed!” Pinkerton shouted at Clair.

“Well then, let’s find out!” Clair shouted, and she smashed the stone idol onto the hard Cathedral floor. The old stone, now without magical influence to keep it safe, shattered into dozens of tiny pieces, some of it grinding down to dust.

“We did it, Clair, it’s over,” Derrick whispered.

Derrick didn’t know how the fabric of Delphia would react to the idol’s destruction, but he pictured something big. However, nothing happened. No earthquakes, no crumbling of buildings, no nothing. Delphia still stood.

“Clair, what went wrong?” Derrick asked, panic in his voice.

“Have a little faith, Derrick,” she whispered back.

Pinkerton begun to laugh, an evil and shrill sound that made Derrick’s head hurt. “You see, nothing can bring down Delphia, for the will of Tobit is indestructible. You two however, are not. I am going to enjoy tearing you apart. Why, I might even have to take my jacket off for this one.”

“Okay, what now, Clair? Faith is really running out!” Derrick pleaded.

“Mr. Pinky, would you be so kind as to allow me the honor of dealing with the little brat on the floor over there?”

Pinkerton smiled, “Of course, Miss Shaw, feel free to be creative.”

Pinkerton advanced on Derrick and Clair. As he came forward, they attempted to make a break for the small door leading to the rectory. Pinkerton simply flicked his wrist and the door slammed shut in front of them. They backed up behind the altar, searching for something, anything to defend themselves. Derrick remembered the pistol that he’d dropped. He grabbed Clair’s hand and made a run for it, only to find it was gone.

“Looking for this, Mr. Reynolds?” Pinkerton announced, holding the gun in his hand.

Tabitha was closing in on Soka, a knife held in her hand. “Goodbye, little Soka,” she whispered.

It was at that moment that the main doors of the Cathedral came crashing down in one tremendous strike. Standing in the door was Brandon Leary.

“There boys, Pinkerton and Tabitha, just the two we were hoping for. Take them, give no mercy, for they would surely show us none!” Brandon shouted, and led a charge into the Cathedral.

Pinkerton looked over his shoulders to see dozens of armed men charging in. Tabitha was sprinting towards him, looking over her shoulder, face full of fear.

Brandon Leary stopped long enough to scoop up Soka and laid her on a pew. He screamed for two armed men to stay with her until it was over. Clair and Derrick backed away from Pinkerton, who now seemed to be the one caught.

“Get back all of you, damned heathens!” Pinkerton screamed. He thrust his arms forward, and at least ten of the charging men were thrown backwards, crashing into pews, striking the floor and slamming into walls.

Brandon Leary continued his charge, fists balled. Pinkerton raised his arms again, preparing for another attack, but was suddenly struck from behind. Derrick, wielding the pole that once supported the idol, struck Pinkerton hard across the back of his bald head, sending the portly little man stumbling forward. Brandon was waiting, and delivered a fierce punch, taking Pinkerton across the face and sending him to the floor.

“Get up, you bastard! I’ve been waiting a very long time for this brawl, and I don’t intend for it to end so easily!” Leary shouted at Pinkerton.

Delphian guards rushed in through the rectory entrance and met the mob of Unwashed; however, it was the guards’ turn to be outnumbered. They were only succeeding at slowing the attack down, but lacked the weapons or numbers to stop it.

“So, Detective Leary, you wish to fight me. Very well, allow me to show you what I can do!” Pinkerton shouted, and was on his feet so quickly that it was almost as if he teleported to a standing position.

“Observe Tobit’s power!” With this, a barrier suddenly formed around the altar, isolating Brandon Leary, Clair and Derrick with Pinkerton and Tabitha. The Unwashed who’d broken through the line of guards tried to breach the barrier, but with each attempt were knocked back, left on the ground twitching.

Leary reared back to throw another punch, but Pinkerton caught his hand with ease. He began to apply force, and Derrick could tell by the Brandon’s expression, that his hand was being broken. The sound of crunching bones followed, confirming his suspicions. Pinkerton, still holding onto Leary’s hand, threw the large man across the altar. He landed in a heap near Derrick, who stepped up, still brandishing his pole.

“This ends now, Mr. Reynolds. I do not know who you think you are, how you have the audacity to stand before me in my own city, but I promise you that your screams will break the walls around you. I will….”

Pinkerton’s words were suddenly cut off as the entire world around them shook. Every window in the Cathedral shattered, and Pinkerton and Tabitha were both knocked to their knees.

“What… how… how did they find the other one…?” Pinkerton gasped.

Clair answered him. “You mean the other half of the idol? Yeah, it was all there in the Triassic Journal. Epor did a little more research and writing before he buried that book. But you were so aggressive with your little nightmares early on that my think tank and I realized it was best if we kept some things to ourselves. Like the other half of the idol, buried outside of the city, locked under Bannister Church. The one that is being ripped from the ground right now.”

“No… impossible… no one could know of it… you….” Pinkerton was gasping. The barrier around the altar collapsed.

“Tabitha, get out there to Bannister, stop whatever is happening out there… Now!” Pinkerton screamed.

Tabitha only nodded and ran out through the rectory door. Derrick and Clair were stunned for a moment. Delphia was still standing, which meant that the idol below Bannister had yet to be broken.

“We have to help,” Clair shouted.

“Go!” The voice of Brandon Leary spoke. “Take Soka and make your way to the Mendez Gate! I’ll stay here and deal with Pinkerton!”

“Thank you, for everything!” Derrick shouted to Brandon as he grabbed Clair’s hand and made his way towards the main doors to the church. He knew the way to the Mendez Gate; it’d been his escape the first time he was here. They reached the last pew and saw Soka there, still unconscious. Derrick grabbed her up and he and Clair made their escape.

Brandon Leary moved slowly towards Pinkerton. They were both injured.

“Now, lad, let us finish what we started!” Leary shouted, and charged towards Pinkerton. As Leary closed in, Pinkerton stood. Brandon prepared to deliver another haymaker, but was suddenly stopped cold. His legs were frozen in place.

“Any last words, Detective?”

“Christ, you fat little shit, kill me now so I never have to hear you speak again!”

Pinkerton snapped his fingers. “Granted.”

As Leary fell to the floor, his heart slowing to a stop, he felt pride in death. They would succeed, he knew that well enough. Pinkerton was just too stupid to realize he’d lost.

Pinkerton quickly walked towards the main doors of the Cathedral. He had to restore some order, one way or another.

The Cathedral now empty, no one was there to witness Gregory Leary slowly rise from behind the pews. Tabitha’s knife had struck him in the stomach, that was true, but the bandages that he’d been using to wrap his wound from his fight with Lacy had served to stop the blade from fully entering his abdomen. His mind was still fierce with revenge; he would avenge his brother yet. While he’d been lying there playing dead, he’d listened to everything, and he knew his next move.

The Escape, the Gate and the Fall
Outside of the invisible gates of Delphia stood Bannister Church. It’d stood there for longer than anyone knew, and would likely remain that way. A snowmobile sat parked outside of it. The church, normally a dead place of rotting silence, was now hosting guests. Within its basement, locked away from prying eyes, sat the other half of Tobit’s idol. It too came with a puzzle written in Dawning. It would take a brilliant mind to solve it, one like Clair Nobles's. However, if Clair herself was not available, she had two fill-ins who could solve the riddle just fine.

“Blast it, Janice, we’re going to freeze to death before we figure this thing out!” Christopher Allens snapped.

“We’re almost there, we already loosened it. Stop complaining and help me figure out this last line,” Batiste scolded.

Many plans had been changed from the time Clair Nobles boarded the plane from New York destined for New Orleans. One of which had been this. As Clair had explained to Pinkerton, there were more entries in the Triassic Journal than the think tank had actually read. At first they would have likely read the entire thing, as that had been their duty. However, once the nightmares began, it became apparent that some things needed to be kept secret, even from the scientific world. The last chapter in Epor’s journal was a detailed report of him following the Primes into what would become Delphia. Epor had observed how they erected the idol, how it snapped into place on its pole by a series of puzzles, like a combination. He’d also seen that it came in two pieces, each one, in Epor’s opinion anyway, equally vital to anchoring Delphia to earth.

The night before Clair, Lena, Derrick and Trevor left New Orleans for Delphia, once Clair knew for sure that the mission at hand was destroying the idol, she’d called Batiste and Allens and instructed them of what to do. They would have to get to Antarctica somehow, and then find lodging at the Dakota Science Station, as it was the closest to Bannister Church. It was actually the appearance of the Red Star that enabled them to do so. Christopher Allens had put in a call to Dr. Redbay and told him that Clair needed them at that particular science station as soon as possible. Redbay didn’t know much about Allens or Batiste, but he knew Clair had been missing. Allens assured him that them getting to the Dakota was paramount to Clair’s safety. Redbay had tried pressing for more answers, but Allens had held strong, promising the man full disclosure once their job was complete. From there it took the combined efforts of Allens, Batiste and Redbay, all using their school’s full influence, to convince the researchers at the Dakota that these two scientists were vital in unraveling the mystery of the Blood Star, but could only do so from Antarctica. After several days of tense conversation, the arrangements had been made.

“I had to call in a lot of favors for this, so you better be telling the truth about Clair!” Redbay told Allens on the day he and Batiste left for Antarctica.

It was then that the little Japanese girl began to contact them. At first, Allens or Batiste would wake up and simply think they’d had a strange dream; they’d certainly had enough of those to where it had become the norm. However, when they began to compare the dreams, they realized that this was intentional. Clair was reaching out to them from Delphia through the little girl. In most of the dreams the girl would simply tell them that Clair was safe, followed by ‘it’s not time yet.’

However, this last dream had been very different. Had Allens not dozed off into one of his frequent naps, he may have missed the cue. Luck was on their side though, as he’d dozed off and met the little girl once more.

“Dr. Allens, it’s time. Go to the church, you know what to do. Clair will be doing her job here with me, please, hurry!” Soka had given him this urgent message, and as he awoke, he grabbed Janice Batiste and they made their way out to Bannister Church.

“I still don’t know why we didn’t just smash this thing when we first got here! Now it’s a big rush!” Allens continued to complain.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Christopher. Had we meddled with this horrid thing before Clair took care of her task, they might have just come out here and repaired it or something. This all has to be together, give the bastards no time to react!”

Allens smiled. “Why, Janice, I do believe there is a little pepper left in you after all!”

“Wait, Christopher, I think, I think I have it!” Janice screamed, and gave the idol two deliberate twists. She applied upward pressure to the idol and was thrilled to see the pole rise up.

“Whoa, whoa, what are those?!” Allens shouted.

Looking below the base of the idol, the two scientists could see a large stockpile of glowing orbs. There was a hook attached to the base of the pole which fed down into the pile of orbs.

“You don’t think?” she asked.

“Those exploding orbs from Epor’s story? Yes, I would wager that is exactly what those are. The damned thing is booby trapped!”

“What do we do, Christopher?” Janice Batiste shouted.

For the first time in Dr. Christopher Allens’ long career in science, he did not have an answer.

Clair and Derrick, with Soka on his shoulders, continued to run through the streets of Delphia. They were accompanied by the few remaining Unwashed who had not fallen in the raid. They believed they were home free when suddenly the saw a mob waiting for them. At least 20 men and women stood barring their escape. They all held torches, and this reminded Derrick far too much of his first frantic run from Delphia.

“What do we do?” Clair asked.

“Go around them somehow? A side street maybe?”

One of the Unwashed came over. “We have a contingency for this,” he said, and removed a flare gun from his jacket.

“Get ready to hold your ears!” the man shouted as the flare popped in the sky. The mob, clearly having seen enough, began to march towards them. That was when the streets were suddenly lit up with fiery explosions.

The Unwashed had planted boxes of dynamite in strategic locations, and now they were setting them off to clear a path of escape.

“Look!” Derrick shouted through ears that were still ringing. Coming towards them from the direction of the Cathedral were several dozen Faithful cultists, being led by Pinkerton himself.

“You two go, get Soka and yourselves out of here. We’ll slow them down!” the man shouted.

“What about you and the other Unwashed?” Clair asked.

“We’ve been here too long, been through too much with the bastards. We decided a long time ago that going home might never be an option. But watching this place burn, that is most certainly something we want to see!”

“Good luck to you!” Derrick shouted.

The mob that had formed in front of them was still rolling on the ground, taken by shock at the sudden explosions all around them. The Unwashed split into two groups of about 8 men each. Half assaulted the mob that was still rolling on the ground and trying to regain themselves; the others ran straight towards Pinkerton and his men.

“Come on, we can make it!” Clair shouted, and she and Derrick ran through the scattered crowd towards the Mendez Gate. As they ran, they could hear more explosions behind them, as tactically hidden explosions slowed down the forces of Delphia. It wasn’t until they reached the gate and found it locked that they began to feel fear once more.

Batiste and Allens continued to silently debate their next move. To remove the idol would be to set off the orbs. To fail to do so would be to condemn Clair and likely themselves as well. They may have stood there and stared at each other a while longer had a voice not spoken up, breaking their silence for them.

“I would stop right there if I were you two!” a commanding female voice ordered.

Batiste and Allens looked up and saw a woman, bleeding badly from her right shoulder apparently, walking down the stair to the basement. She had lost a lot of blood and was starting to feel the part, but she knew that she still had enough gas in the tank to stop two middle aged fucks from destroying the City of Delphia.

“You’ve lost a lot of blood, young woman, are you okay?” Batiste asked.

“Oh, I’m pretty fucking far from okay, but if you’re worried about my little wound, then I think you’re missing the point here.” With that comment, Tabitha drew a knife, preparing to take aim.

“What do you want, who are you?” Allens demanded, although he had no doubt that she was part of this cult of Tobit.

“I want you to step away from that idol. If you haven’t noticed, it’s rigged to blow. Then I want you to stand still so I can kill you both. Think you can help me out with that?”

Neither scientist moved. They kept their hands firmly gripped around the idol.

“Okay then, stand there and die, it’s all the same to me!” Tabitha shouted as she raised her knife, ready to throw.

As she raised her hand knife at the ready, a gunshot suddenly rang out in the small basement, causing Janice to scream. The bullet struck Tabitha in her side. She dropped the knife and rolled down the stairs, landing at the bottom. Looking up through eyes filled with shock, she saw Gregory Leary standing at the top of the stairs, gun trained on her.

“I told you I’d get you…” he gasped. The running he’d had to put in to catch up with Tabitha had re-opened the wound on his stomach. He too was bleeding badly.

“Gregory, you, you shot me!” Tabitha stated, as though she were surprised in the end that he would follow through with his threat.

“I paid you back for my brother,” he said through short gasps.

Batiste and Allens shared a quick glance of concern, and decided that it was indeed time to make a move.

“Wait!” Gregory shouted to them.

“You’re not stopping us from doing this,” Allens shouted.

“No, you’re right, this has to be done. Delphia is a disease on this planet. It must be removed. I’ll destroy the idol. You two get out of here, go and catch up with Clair!”

“Can you lift it in your state?” Janice Batiste asked.

Gregory began walking over, holding his stomach. “I’d lift it on my deathbed if it meant an end to this.”

As he stepped forward, intending to relieve Allens and Batiste of their duty, he suddenly saw their eyes go wide, “Look out!” Allens screamed.

Gregory had no time to register a response. He felt the knife dig into his shoulder, pull out, and then dig into the small of his back. Gregory fell backwards, landing in a sitting position against the wall. Falling next to him was Tabitha, blood-dripping knife in her hand.

“Sorry lover, but I don’t like to lose,” she said through raspy breaths of her own.

“We do it now!” Allens commanded.

“I’m scared,” Batiste told him.

“Do not be afraid, my dear, for we are in this together.”

Without another word between them, the two scientists lifted the idol from its base and smashed it on the floor besides them, reducing it to rubble. As this happened, the hundred or so orbs, once used by Epor’s people as explosive weapons, began to glow, working their way towards detonation.

“Christopher, will you accompany an old woman into the next world?” Batiste asked.

“My dear, it would be a duty and an honor,” he replied, taking her hand.

“Well, it’s about to get really hot in here. Hope you’re satisfied, Greg,” Tabitha spoke weakly next to Gregory.

However, in a strange moment of humanity, she held her hand out to him. Gregory, in his final moments, decided that he too could show compassion. Gregory Leary and Tabitha Shaw joined hands and shared a quick smile.

“You’re the only guy that ever won me over, Gregory,” she whispered, and in the next moment as the orbs began to erupt in massive explosive force, all those in the small church were removed from the face of the earth in one blinding ball of light.

Clair and Derrick suddenly felt heat and pressure building on the other side of the Mendez Gate.

“Get back!” Derrick shouted, pulling Clair to the side. There was a massive explosion on the other side of the door, one they could feel more than actually see. The Mendez Gate rocked on its hinges and fell open. Derrick looked over and saw that Pinkerton and his Faithful were closing in. There was no sign of the Unwashed or any other form of resistance.

“Let’s go, now!” Clair shouted, and she and Derrick threw open the Mendez Gate and fled from Delphia, running out into the freezing chill of Antarctica.

Much like Derrick’s first escape, no one followed. This time, though, Bannister Church was gone, and what he and Clair stepped out into was a massive crater. They pushed forward, looking back, seeing the faces of those sworn to live and die in Delphia once more staring out, their eyes filled with that same strange jealous rage that Derrick had seen last time.

“Why aren’t they chasing us?” Clair asked.

“I don’t think they can leave the city. They didn’t chase me last time either,” Derrick gasped, shifting Soka to his other shoulder.

“Well, let’s count our blessings and keep going!”

“We have to try and get to a science station before we freeze to death out here!” Derrick shouted.

Suddenly from behind them, explosions rang out. Clair and Derrick turned in time to witness Delphia falling. The city was suddenly visible to them, a huge stone metropolis behind a large wall. They saw the enormous stone buildings collapsing by the dozens, saw the massive cathedral collapsing on itself as though it were imploding. Far to the rear of the city they could see the Tower, once the home of the Grand Magus and his most trusted, tipping over. Rubble flew, dust filled the sky, and then the light show began. Bursts of light and energy shot in every direction and in all colors. There seemed to be strange storms, isolated just within the stone walls. Derrick saw a twister, like a tornado of energy, tear among the few rooftops that still stood, and then, without warning, the entire city began to disintegrate towards the sky, being carried upward in huge chunks. Clair and Derrick began to run, but would look back every second or two and watch as more and more of Delphia was wiped from existence.

They ran on for about another ten minutes, still looking back and catching glimpses of the city as it was pulled off the face of the earth. By the time they stopped to rest, they turned and watched the final pieces of Delphia vanish. A massive white energy built up around the remaining pieces of city. It built and built, humming and buzzing until Clair began to fear the explosion would take out the entire continent. Derrick placed Soka between himself and Clair, and then turned, shielding them both with his back. The light roared and rose in enveloping the entire city from wall to wall. Then, in a massive flash, it all shot into the sky.

When Derrick and Clair finally felt it was safe to look, they saw that where Delphia had stood, there was now massive scorched earth, the dimensions of the burn perfectly set to those of the fallen city. It was over.

“Okay, let’s get out of here!” Derrick shouted. He and Clair began to briskly walk, hoping they would make it to help before freezing, when a sight of horror was suddenly blocking their path.

Thaddeus Pinkerton stood in the snow, blocking their path. He no longer looked like the proper southern gentleman now. Now his suit was ragged and torn in many places. Blood oozed from his mouth. His eyes were wide and wild. He looked insane.

“You little fuckers, you meddling little shits!” he screamed. “You’ve ruined it all, eons and eons of work, undone by you. Do you really think you can stand against Hyraaq Tobit? Do you think so highly of yourselves?!”

Derrick handed Soka to Clair and stepped towards Pinkerton. “Get out of our way! We’ve all had a rough day but from the looks of you, I think I can knock your head off. Step aside or I’ll hurt you, man!”

Pinkerton laughed, an ugly, ear grating sound. “Is it fisticuffs that you want, Mr. Reynolds? Oh my no, we are far from that. I have come out here to show you the meaning of power, and power you shall know! The game ends here! It’s time for you to meet The Master!”

Pinkerton held his arms up the sky, “Hyraaq Tobit, I summon you here! Come to my aid and smite these fools directly!”

A massive roar filled the air. It was so loud and deep that it knocked Clair and Derrick off of their feet. Pinkerton stood, laughing as The Demon Tobit of Delphia came into existence beside him.

Clair’s brain could barely compute what she was seeing. A massive creature, taller than some buildings; a masculine body with the head of a goat. Its head had three burning red eyes, two in the normal places and one in the center of its forehead. Its horns extended another ten feet from its head, long and twisting.

“Hyraaq Tobit, Molder of our Minds, King of the Void, I beg you, destroy those two now!” Pinkerton shouted, and Clair and Derrick had just enough time to see the monster reaching towards them. They closed their eyes and waited.

The Child-Tobit of Delphia
Clair felt a hand on her shoulder, and was sure that it was the hand of Tobit, though it felt too small. Derrick felt the same.

“Do not be afraid, for he means you no harm,” a male voice spoke. It was soothing, like the voice of a father very much beloved by his children.

Derrick and Clair risked looking, and saw that they were now flanked on either side by what appeared to be a man and a woman, both dressed in, well, the only way she could describe it was ‘regal attire.’ They even wore crowns.

“Hyraaq, stop this at once, you’re scaring these nice people,” the male stated in a rather conversational tone, the same tone a father might use to gently correct a wayward child.

“I believe we must have a conversation with Thaddeus Pinkerton, for it seems he’s overstepped quite a bit,” the woman stated. Her voice also carried that comforting quality, a loving mother’s voice to be certain.

Derrick looked over and saw two things that amazed him. Tobit had shrunk. No longer was he a hulking beast, but now he was the size of a child, maybe just a little taller than Soka. He still had the head of goat, but even that had more of a cartoonish quality to it now. Not really frightening, just strange.

The other shocking development was that Pinkerton, apparently first name Thaddeus, had dropped to his hands and knees and was groveling in the snow before the two beings that had just appeared. This day was indeed full of wonder.

“My name, well, it’s a bit hard to say, so you can call me Queen if you’d like. I’m not really a queen, mind you, but it seems to be what humans like to see me as, so we shall keep it simple,” the woman said in that same kindly, almost addictive voice. Derrick saw that she was beautiful, with long blonde hair and eyes that were, well, a color that he couldn’t quite identify. She looked both young and old at the same time, as hard as that could be to explain.

“You may call me King then, I suppose. Same explanation as my wife just gave, it’s just easier that way,” the male stated. He too looked handsome and stately, and Clair had to agree later with Derrick, that he somehow too looked both young and old.

“We are from the Council of Nod, and we have come here to intervene. It would seem that Thaddeus has committed a rather grave crime here today, haven’t you?” King asked.

“Forgive me, Masters, forgive me, my Lord and Lady, all I did I did for Hyraaq, for his growth,” Pinkerton sniveled, his face still buried in the snow.

“Are you… gods, angels?” Derrick struggled to ask.

“Neither and both, I suppose,” Queen replied. She walked over to Soka and caressed the girl’s face. Soka began to wake up. “There we are, sweet-girl. You’ve had a long day.”

“What’s happening?” Soka asked in that tired way children do when they wake up and go right into talking.

“So, who are you exactly?” Clair was bold enough to ask.

King began to explain, “As we said, we are the Council of Nod, or at least, a small fraction of it. We are also the parents of Hyraaq over there, who I see has been quite naughty recently. We let him out of our sight for a few days and look what he did.”

“A few days?” Derrick asked, but he felt as though he understood.

“Of course,” Queen replied. “What seems like billions of years to you is really just a couple of days to us. We have a very different concept of time.”

“As I was saying,” King began again, “we come from the Council of Nod. Our race, you see us as gods, but in reality, we are much like you, just a bit more advanced. We were born from the nothing that was the first universe. Lots of energy with nothing to do with itself. Just like your first beings born from proteins and such, we were born from the pure, chaotic energy of the first universe.”

“We created galaxies, planets and star systems as art, did you know that?” Queen asked. “Indeed, we were a species with no wars to fight or conflicts to resolve, so, we turned to art. And as we created, life began to form on our own creations, like painting a picture and watching the people in it suddenly start walking about and having conversations.”

“For what you would call eons, we and the rest of our people were content to live this way. However, we too fell to the same follies that your race falls to quite often. Greed and envy, jealousy and pride. As each of the little pieces of art began to develop, the artist would brag that their people, you mortals, were superior to the others. This started off innocently at first, just a creator taking pride in his or her work, but over time some members of our people began to hedge their bets. They would gift their people with more intelligence, more aggression, more tools or more lust. We were fools ourselves at first, you know?”

King nodded towards Queen to tell from there.

“Yes, fools. We saw mortals as ours, our property. It was not until much later that we started to realize you were all just like us, just on a smaller scale. You had families and lives; you built and created, governed and built societies. We eventually deemed that it was no longer right for us to use you to compete with each other. So, the Council of Nod was formed.”

“Think of it as rules for gods,” King stated, picking the story back up. “As you all became more advanced, we stepped back. There are many rules that we follow, and it would take us decades to explain them all, so I will tell you this: we, as beings, are not allowed to directly interfere with your lives. We can have some influence, sure, but no direct contact. To do so would defeat the purpose of you even living your lives on your own.”

Clair, Derrick and Soka were enthralled in all of this. They hadn’t noticed, but the temperature around them had been raised to perfect comfort levels.

“Anyway, Hyraaq here is our child. He was one of the first of our kind of be born from two parents. He was considered quite a prodigy. He’s young though, only a couple trillion years, really just a kid by your standards. We gave him Earth, yes, we’ll admit that, and perhaps it was a mistake. Your people were very primitive, and we felt that he couldn’t mess things up too badly, and we watched him carefully to make sure things went smoothly. For a long time, they did.”

“No disrespect, but I wouldn’t call what he did with the Primes an act of kindness,” Clair risked saying.

King responded, “It was and it wasn’t, I suppose. The tribe of humans that lived then would have been wiped out eventually anyway, much in the same fashion your dinosaurs were. Hyraaq preserved the Primes in what would eventually become Delphia. Their gruesome nature, the cannibalism and such, was more of their own hearts acting out than any real influence from Tobit. I suppose they saw meat as meat, whether it came from man or beast. Hyraaq was actually lawful to Nod in not correcting them for that, but rather letting them form their own ways. We could not fault him for that.”

“Pinkerton, though, isn't he one of your people?” Derrick asked, a bit of anger dancing on his lips.

“Thaddeus, one of us? Oh no, my son, he is just another mortal from earth, like yourselves.”

“But, he commanded Tobit?” Soka spoke. “And he ruled over Delphia, he spoke to the Council of Tobit, he…”

“Easy, my child, Thaddeus here is nothing to fear. First of all, there is no Council of Tobit, only Nod. Thaddeus would call on Hyraaq for favors here and there, and then report back that there was some sort of greater tier or power. In reality, the only Council of Tobit to ever exist was Thaddeus himself,” Queen explained.

“As for where Thaddeus Pinkerton came from, it was certainly not the heavens. He came to us from Louisiana; the year, as you know years, was 1699. He was a poor landowner who was trying to stake his claim, I suppose. He’d traveled with a man of some importance in your history named LaSalle. It was actually during a rare family vacation that myself, Queen and Hyraaq met him.”

“Oh yes, he was a charmer. We appeared as humans, of course, wanting to blend in with you all. We decided to seek lodging, and the first place we found was a small house owned by our very own Thaddeus Pinkerton. He did invite us in. We paid him for the room and he did in fact amaze us with his ability to speak. Such a charmer was he. He told us stories and we did laugh. Hyraaq though, Hyraaq liked him the most. He and Thaddeus bonded, I suppose. When it was time for us to leave the next day and continue with our journey, Hyraaq refused to go. He cried and begged for ‘Mr. Pinky,’ as he called him, to come along with us. Honestly, as parents we simply wanted to make our child happy. So, we revealed ourselves to Thaddeus, a moment of foolishness if ever there was. Of course he agreed to come. He promised that he would do his best to guide and aid Hyraaq as he grew. We saw him as the perfect steward, a man Hyraaq loved and who could guide him in the ways of humanity.”

“That was our mistake,” King interjected. “The problem was, though, by the time we realized just how toxic Thaddeus was, we’d already stepped back. Our very own rules of Nod prevented us from just stepping in and undoing the damage that he was causing through Hyraaq. We did try and talk to Hyraaq a time or two, tell him that perhaps he was spending too much time with Thaddeus, but they were best friends, at least in Hyraaq’s eyes, and there was no convincing him otherwise.”

“The only thing we could do at that point was wait, simple as that. The rules of Nod are very specific, and even when Thaddeus convinced Hyraaq to reveal the Red Star, even that wasn’t a direct violation of any of the Nod guidelines.”

“No, Thaddeus did not fully cross the line until he summoned Hyraaq here, to appear before you and commanded him to attack you. At that point he’d violated the Council of Nod, and we were free to intervene.”

“I… am… sorry,” Hyraaq Tobit whispered in a low and almost shy voice. Derrick wanted to laugh if the situation weren’t already so insane.

“Hyraaq, don’t be sorry. It’s your friend Mr. Pinky here who is to be sorry, and he shall be,” King stated.

Pinkerton looked up from the snow. “My Lord, my Lady, please forgive me, please understand my intentions were always for Hyraaq. It was what you wanted me to do when you hired me on, to help him grow and…”

“Be silent, Thaddeus,” King shouted, and raised his hand towards the portly man.

“Please don’t hurt him!” Hyraaq suddenly cried.

“See the problems of parenthood? You always have to put your children above all else,” Queen said to Clair and Derrick.

“Very well, Hyraaq, we shall spare Thaddeus. We’ll bring him back with us and perhaps in time he can learn how to live as a man instead of just a fool who thinks he’s a god.”

“Oh thank you, thank you, My Lord and Lady, thank you all!” Pinkerton sobbed.

“You can wait for us on the Red Star. We’ll pick you up in a few days… a few of our days,” King snapped. “I’m sure there a quite a few people there who would love to see you again.”

Pinkerton’s eyes went wide with terror, and with a flick of King’s wrist, he was snuffed from the earth in a small flash of red light.

“A real shame he was. I suppose now we’ll have to find someone else to try and mentor Hyraaq on his role in humanity,” Queen said softly.

Soka stepped forward. “I’ll do it!”

“Soka, no!” Clair shouted.

“No, listen, Clair,” she explained, language no longer a barrier between them, “he needs a friend. I sense a goodness in him that just needs the right person to bring it out. I can do that, he needs me.”

“Soka, you can’t be serious, stay with us!” Derrick exclaimed.

“I have no family here. My parents were killed in Delphia. If I go back to Japan I’ll be forced to live with relatives that I barely know. I want to do this, please, please let me.”

King and Queen looked at each other and nodded.

“You are a brave little girl, Soka Ito. It is really your heart’s desire to come home with Hyraaq?” Queen asked.

“Yes. If he wants to be my friend.”

“Well, go and introduce yourself,” King suggested.

Soka walked over to Tobit, no fear or hesitation. She extended her hand. “I’m Soka,” she said softly.

“I am Hyraaq,” replied Tobit.

“Can I come home with you? I can show you lots of fun things,” she said to him.

“It won’t be scary there. My castle is very nice,” Tobit replied.

“Are you really going to let her do this?” Derrick asked the King and Queen.

“It’s her heart’s desire, so it seems. I can tell they are already bonding,” King stated. “And we will be there with them. We have learned our lesson about allowing one ‘friend’ to have too much exposure with our son. However, with her I sense that things will go much smoother.”

Clair and Derrick ran over to Soka. They hesitated for a moment at the sight of Tobit. He still bore too many bad memories for them to simply forgive so quickly.

“Soka, you don’t have to… you know that right?” Clair said, tears falling down her face.

“Miss Clair, if I don’t help him, then who will? Another Pinkerton? No, he needs a real friend, that’s all,” Soka answered.

Clair hugged the girl hard, tears soaking into her hair.

“Don’t be sad, Clair. I’ll come and visit you, in your dreams. You too, Mr. Derrick.”

Derrick knelt down and hugged her as well. He too was crying.

“Alright then, looks like we are about settled here,” King announced.

Queen approached Derrick and Clair. “You two are amazing humans. You are what many of our own kind should aspire to be. As for this whole mess that our son caused, we have taken the liberty of removing the Red Star from the sky. I think you’ll find that in time, with its influence gone, that your people will return to normal. Humans heal quite remarkably that way.”

“Yes, oh yes, you do,” King announced. “Now, this is normally the part where we wave our hands so you two would wake up in your beds with no real memory of any of this. Perhaps in dreams, perhaps inspiration. You’d be amazed at how many of your great artists are just men and women whom we have made to forget.

“But that seems wrong to us. We shall not remove these memories. You have fought hard for your people today, and to take this away from you somehow seems like a sin. You shall both live long and incredible lives, that much we can promise you. Your journey is far from over. You will go on to accomplish feats beyond comprehension.

“After we leave, just wait here for a minute or so; rescue is already on the way to get you,” King informed them.

King, Queen, Tobit and Soka stood together.

“Goodbye, Miss Clair, goodbye, Mr. Derrick! I love you both! I’ll see you again one day, I promise!” Soka called out.

Tobit gave a single nod; he and Soka were holding hands.

“Farewell, brave mortals. We shall be watching over you. You forever have our gratitude!” King and Queen called in unison, and in the next moment, they were gone.

One Year Later
“So that, folks, has been Derrick Reynolds and Dr. Clair Nobles, explaining their experience in what has become known as the Big Burst. Demonic cities, cults and god-like beings, really quite a tale!” Jack Elder recapped from behind his desk as Clair and Derrick sat across from him.

The Big Burst had been the largest scale explosion ever recorded on Earth. It left a huge portion of Antarctica scorched, and even now, a year later, no snow will fall on the burnt ground. People felt the explosion all over the world and the light that flew up into the sky could be seen from thousands of miles away. Its source had been one long mystery, and when Derrick and Clair stepped forward, claiming to know its origins, Jack Elder had been quick to invite them on his show.

“You don’t believe us, do you?” Clair asked him.

“Well, Dr. Nobles, I must admit, that’s quite a story to take in.”

“Look at the proof, man. The Red Star vanished at the exact same time as the Big Burst in Antarctica, and you cannot deny what the satellite images showed in the moments before the Burst took place. You saw it, a city, outlined in white light. You could see buildings, streets, zoom in enough and you can almost see people!” Derrick argued back.

“Those are the facts, Mr. Reynolds, but I do believe that my audience, along with experts from around the globe, simply can’t just blindly believe that this Delphia was some sort of hidden city, and that this Tobit was a god-child trying to learn right from wrong,” Elder replied.

“If you went through what we did, there would never be a question,” Clair replied.

“Well, anyway, we are out of time on Newsroom. I’d like to thank my guests, Derrick Reynolds and Dr. Clair Nobles, for sharing their story. We’d like to hear your opinions too folks, so feel free to email us here at Newsroom with your thoughts on the Big Burst and the Blood Star. For Newsroom, I am Jack Elder, good night!”

Derrick and Clair shook Elder’s hand and left the studio.

“So you’re flying back to New Orleans tomorrow?” Clair asked.

“Yeah, gotta get back to work, you know,” he answered.

“Are you sure I can’t convince you to stay a couple more nights?” she asked him.

“Don’t you have book signings all this week?” Derrick responded, smiling.

“Yeah, who would have thought that the author of Applied Mythology would now be America’s best selling author?”

“I would have. Trevor, Lena, we all knew how special you were from the start,” Derrick told her.

They arrived at Clair’s car and leaned on the hood.

“The stars are coming out,” Clair said smiling.

Derrick looked over at Clair Nobles. They’d become close over the last year, best friends perhaps. In that moment, looking at her underneath the stars with the New York City skyline behind them, he wanted very badly to kiss her. He thought she would let him; perhaps they’d even wind up back in her hotel room. However, he didn’t. In Derrick’s mind, Clair would always be Trevor’s girl, a romance that never got to happen.

“Drive me to the airport?” Derrick asked.

“Sure, but let's sit here a little longer, Derrick. Let’s sit here and watch the stars. Maybe Soka is out there somewhere, looking back at us,” Clair said, tears forming.

Derrick Reynolds put his arms around Clair Nobles, and the two sat under the stars together.

Moonwalk 1
Almost a decade later, under the same stars, way down south in New Orleans, a woman of perhaps her mid 30s sat on the River Walk at the bank of the Mississippi. She wore a filthy black hooded sweatshirt and reeked of body odor. The last few years had been very difficult for her, living on the street, separated from all she had known.

Tobit was gone, Tabitha was gone, Pinkerton was gone and Delphia was gone. She had become a ship without a sail. She’d awoken in a shallow grave somewhere in the woods. Her last memories had been of her best friend literally stabbing her in the back. Her friend had meant to kill her, but she didn’t know everything. Those Delphian herbs, the same ones she’d used after a certain British fuck-boy had shot her in the stomach, had still been powerful in her blood stream. Their healing effects had cured her of the stab wound, and her heart had begun to beat once more.

What she first felt was a blessing, though, had turned out to be a curse. She was alone for the first time in her life. The gifts that Tobit had bestowed upon her were gone as well. She was now just another average slob in a sea of them. In her hand she clutched a knife. Not a lovely dagger of Tobit, nothing as special as that, just some piece of shit she’d stolen from some other homeless person. She still didn’t know what exactly went wrong, how those little fucks had done it, but she knew now more than ever that Derrick and Clair, along with the Leary brothers, had succeeded in the very mission she’d been sent down to New Orleans to prevent. She had decided that tonight was to be her last on Earth. She didn’t know what awaited someone like her on the other side, but she knew it had to beat sleeping on the streets and eating out of the trash ten ways from Sunday. The knife, clutched in her hands, her soft wrists, held out in anticipation. She closed her eyes and prepared to cut, when a voice suddenly spoke to her.

“Lacy… is that you?”

She set the knife down and looked up in annoyance. Who would have the nerve to stand between her and the fate the rest that she felt she so deserved?

“Who the fuck are you?” she asked without looking up.

“Robert. You know, Bobby Mayonnaise,” the man replied.

She looked up at him, and sure as hell, standing before Lacy Suzino was the adult Robert Mayo, the very baby she’d once bludgeoned to death.

“My god, Robert, you’re all grown up,” she replied.

“Lacy, I’ve searched for you my entire life. You… you did something to me. I’ve dreamed of you since I was a child. You… opened my eyes.”

“Sorry kiddo, that was Tabitha that woke you up. I was just the dumb bitch that beat your brains out. Are you here to kill me, Robert, because I’d rather do that myself.”

“Tobit used to speak to me, Lacy. He told me that you were the one who brought me to him. Now he’s stopped speaking, but before he did, he told me where I could find you,” Robert Mayo stated.

“Yeah, sorry to tell you, but Tobit is gone, poof, he just left,” Lacy replied.

“Then I give myself to you!” he suddenly cried, and fell to his knees before her.

“I… I’m so fucking confused right now,” Lacy stated, looking at the man groveling on the filthy ground at her feet.

“Lacy, there are others like me, who Tobit has abandoned. We need you, we need you to lead us!”

“You don’t say? I don’t suppose you guys have a nice big house and a fancy car, something to help a girl like me off the streets, do you?” she asked.

“We will give you everything!” Robert cried into the earth. “Please do not abandon us as Tobit did.”

A smile suddenly took over Lacy’s face. She threw back the hood of her sweatshirt and stood up. She tapped Robert’s forehead with her Doc Martin boots and ordered him to stand.

“So, Bobby Mayonnaise, tell me more about these friends of yours,” she commanded.

“Of course, they are ready to be led by you. They need your guidance as do I,” he replied.

“Okay, let’s go. My calendar just happens to be free, so let’s see what you and these friends are all about,” Lacy stated, and she and Robert began to walk towards his hotel.

“Hail Tobit!” Robert suddenly shouted.

“No, no, that won’t do at all,” Lacy corrected him. “Tobit left, remember? Let’s try… ‘Hail Lacy!’”

“Hail Lacy!” Robert screamed, and Lacy Suzino found that she could get used to this. She found that it fit her perfectly.

"Lacy, I was so afraid I'd never see you again," he told her as they walked. "I thought it was over."

Lacy smiled, "Nothing is ever really over, now is it, Robert? Why, I believe there is more to come, even after most people like to believe it's the end."


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