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    science experiment gone wrong
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    Default Rook: Knight of the Double Blade

    Rook: Knight of the Double Blade – A Makai Knight Mini-Series


    OP - CFO$ - Catch Your Breath


    Walking the streets at night, a young woman in a simple dress paid no attention to her surroundings. Most people ignored her as she past, paying more attention to their phones or conversations than a single person. Not having a destination in mind she just wonder aimlessly. So lost in whatever thoughts that were in her head she didn't even noticed that she left the crowds and lights behind and entered a more run down part of the city, a darker, less populated area.

    Now she was aware of some people following her. Quickening her pace she heard them walk faster as well. Before long she was at a full on run, but her followers didn't chase her down. More worried about what was behind her she looked back, and missed the ones suddenly in front of her. They quickly covered he mouth and dragged her into an alley. Forcing her to the back where no one could see they threw her down and hovered over her. “Please,” she practically squeaked, “please don't hurt me.”

    “We ain't gonna hurt you,” the apparent leader said, sneering at her trembling form. Licking his lips he told her,” You look almost too good to eat.” That got a sick chuckle out of a couple of those with him. The very sound made her try and squirm further into the wall.

    “Please,” she repeated as he traced her cheek with a dirty finger. His very touch made her recoil in disgust. That sneer just grew more menacing and disgusting.

    “Who the fuck's that?”, one of them asked. Everyone looked back at the opening.

    In a dark overcoat, a man with dirty blond hair calmly walked toward them. Hazel eyes seemingly studying all of those present. Dark pants, a deep blue dress shirt and boots was all he wore. His coat simple adorned by a thin gold pin on his right lapel and some sort of Gothic looking face pin on his left breast. He only said one thing as he got closer, “Leave now.”

    The woman tried to move but the leader pushed her back down, “Fuck his shit up!”

    The group charged him. The closest to him reared back and swung with all he was worth. The newcomer grabbed his arm and flipped him over his would be attacker shoulder and continued forward. Another came at him low that he easily jumped over it. A third tried to tackle him, he was able grab him to stop his momentum and keep him in place long enough to flip over his back. Turning around briefly he kicked him into the second attack as he tried to get up. Again this new guy made his way toward the back of the alley. Another one was smart enough to come at him with a pipe. Ducking the first few swings he reached into his coat. The attacker took one giant swing at the other man's head trying to cave it in.

    There was an audible clang as the pipe met, and bent around, a black, roughly two and a half foot staff with gold inlay wrapped around the ends and in the middle. The would be attacker and couple of the others stared in disbelief at the now twisted weapon. Here the newcomer takes his eyes off the back wall and at the wielder of the pipe. Pulling the staff free he kicked the other man back. The newcomer went to put the staff back when the other man recovered faster and nailed him in the arm with the bent pipe. It hit him in just the right area that the shock went down his arm and caused his hand to open. The staff landed with a huge thud on some garbage and cinder blocks that shocked the others present. Another kick put him down for good this time. The newcomer looked angry with himself momentarily as he looked at the down man then looked back at the back of the alley.

    He stared at the rest of them, gauging where they were in front, and where they were in back of him. All it took was him glancing down at the staff for the rest to jump him. They were finally able to force him back as a group and away from his weapon. Taking a few punches he grabbed one and tossed him into the group and created enough space to break free. Positioning himself between the group and their leader and the woman he looked back and forth at them, silently weighing his options. Realizing he only had one. He took most of he group by surprise by running at them. They weren't prepared for his attack as he took them down as fast as he could.

    As the last two went down and their leader slack jawed at the sight, the newcomer looked at the down men shaking his head. Finally focusing on the back of the alley he went, “I said leave.”

    “Fuck you bitch,” the leader snarled as he charged him. Every punch and kick was blocked or dodged, infuriating him even more. But he was able to get the fight closer to the woman. Figuring if he was trying so hard to save her maybe he could use that to his advantage. Grab her and threaten to kill her or something. When they were close enough, the girl actually stumbled toward them making this even easier, he reached for her. The newcomers moved faster than he thought was possible, grabbed his arms and crossed them against his chest as he slammed him against the brick wall. He looked the newcomer in the eyes as he was held in place, just seeing determination.

    That just made him angrier, “You expecting a thank you fuck from this little bitch? That she be grateful and just give it up to the god damn hero?”

    “She's not the one I'm saving,” he grunted. In his free appeared a black, demonic eye looking Lighter. He turned just enough to put it in the woman's face and lit it. Transfixed by the blue flame her irises glowed as ancient lettering appeared in her eyes.

    A small, tinny male voice said, “And neither one of you are his type.”

    Briefly looking annoyed he cut the flame and grabbed the woman. She grabbed him and threw him away from her. Demeanor completely changed now, more confident and looking at the leader as hungrily as he did her and grabbed him around the throat. The newcomer quickly got to his feet and grabbed the woman, broke her grip and forcibly moved her away from the man. He sucked in air as he held his throat as he watched the two of the struggle with the woman eventually being thrown down.

    She was suddenly very animalistic in her movements, crouched down and ready to strike. The newcomer got between her and and the other man and took up a fighting stance. She started speaking, but it wasn't in any tongue her now scared to hell would be attacker understood. But the man in the over coat understood her perfectly. “Makai Knight,” She tried to get in a position to get around him but he made sure he was a constant obstacle in any path she tried to take. In a more demonic sounding English she went, “Do you not know what he and his followers intended to do to this body?”

    He replied, “I have an idea.”

    “Then why protect this scum?”, she snapped. “Let me feed on this filth and those like him. Let me take their darkness away from this city.”

    “Human affairs aren't my concern,” he told her. “And how long before you start feeding on those who wouldn't attack you?” She hissed and took a swipe at him even though she was too ar away to make any contact. “I only have one job. Cutting down Horrors and protecting the ones your kind hunts, no matter how disgusting I find them.”

    With a roar she came at them and he cut her off with a kick to the gut. Taking the attack to the Horror he tried everything he could to get her away from the man. A few of his group came too, saw what was happening as the two of them fought each other and finally took heed of his warning and ran out of there, dragging who the could along the way. Their leader was still frozen in place having seen and heard thing they didn't. He looked at them then spotted the staff still on the ground, leaning against a cracked cinder clock. Finding his courage he ran for the staff, grabbed the end in the air and headed for the fight. Then he looked like someone took the street out from under his feet an his feet went up and nearly threw his own shoulder out as the staff didn't budge an inch. “Fuck,” he muttered trying to grab at his shoulder and get up at the same time.

    The so called Knight kept the horror at bay as long as he could. He made a misstep and she charged in connecting with a swipe to the chest that sent him reeling and went for another. He backed up, soon back flipping out of the way as she gave chase. The other man stumbled out of the way as he came closer, his foot kicking down on the staff as he landed causing it to spin in the air. An awaiting hand grabbing it he swung and clocked the woman in the head snapping it around and making her stumble back a few feet. She brought her head back around and snapped her neck back into place. The Knight seemed unfazed but the would be attacker kept crawling backwards.

    He ran into something and looked back. Two people, a woman in a dark coat that went past her waist and a white blouse and tan pants, looked down at him. “Well this is a problem,” she said. The other one, a man in a black and purple double breasted fully buttoned coat. looked on with indifference. Both wore similar black leather bracers on their wrists “You're getting sloppy Carter,” she called out. He grunted in response as he continued the fight.

    With his weapon he was able to keep the Horror at bay easier now while trying to wear it down and damage what he could. Without warning he tossed the staff at the Horror. She caught it on instinct and immediately her hand drop to the ground. She looked up realizing how exposed she was at the moment and could only watch as the Knight ran in with a kick to the face. She fell back and he grabbed the staff and smashed it against her legs as she got up. She scrambled out of the way as he swung the staff down at her and faced him as he prepared himself for what was next. Opening her mouth she shout a small spike that he batted away with the staff. She shot another one and had the same results. Inhaling she fired them out of her mouth at a rapid fire pace. The Knight swung the small staff around deflecting what he could and trying to avoid the ones he couldn't. Spinning around he grabbed the other end of the staff and pulled. Both hands deflecting the spikes as what light in the area caught the surface of what he was swinging making look like it was flashing for the briefest of moment. One last spike left her mouth and shot right at him. A metal blade deflected it enough that it just missed the right side of his face and embedded itself into the wall behind him. He repostioned himself for the attack wielding the two half of the staff that now revealed the hidden blades that were inside.

    Not taking his eyes off the Horror he called out, “Jules, I need a barrier now.”

    “On it,” the blond woman said. Revealing a wide brush with a white bristles, she pulled out some red paper with markings on them. Her companion grabbed her arm and stopped her. She looked back at him, “Reks?”

    “Do not take orders from a Knight,” he told her. She pulled away and stared at him.

    “It to keep the Horror in,” she informed him. “If you weren't so pig headed.... Just watch the jackass here.”

    Turning back to Carter and the Horror, she saw him swing and cut the horror while avoiding it's swipes. He jumped off a trash container high in the air. The horror was ready for him when he landed. Jules already had a different type of paper, gray this time but still marked, in hand. Bringing her brush to it the end glowed a bit as she swiped it toward the horror. The paper formed a long metal spike that embedded itself above the Horror. Carter landed on it and sprung off as the Horror grabbed where she thought he was going to be, Flipping in the air and landing behind the shocked Horror he swung both blades and cut her deep in the back. Recoiling in pain and screeching in response she caught Carter with a savage back hand that sent him flying into the opposing wall.

    “Carter!”, Jules called out. Again Reks held her back.. She freed herself one more time as the woman bent backwards, her skin going leathery and black as night. Her arms became another set of legs as a pair of arms with pincers appeared to grow out of her hips. Her neck elongated into a tail as her head became it''s stinger. Mandibles snapped at Carter as he slowly got to his feet, blades in front of him to defend himself. Jules held her brush close, did some small, quick hand moments and fired off a blast of magical energy that struck the Horror in the side.

    Angered the Horror angled it's tail toward her and fired of more spikes from it's stinger.

    “What are you doing?!”, Reks demanded as he used his brush, similar in design to hers but with a metal ring separating the bristles from the main body of the brush, to use smaller blast to intercept the spikes.

    “Taking on a Horror like we were trained to do,” she said as she kept up her attack.

    Seeing the opening she gave him Carter ran in and jumped, landing in front of the horror and jamming one of the blades into it's head as he did so. Struggling to hold on to the blade as to struggled to get free he looked up to see the tail ready to strike. Pulling the blade loose in time he jumped out of the way as it struck the ground. Landing near the other three he spun the duel blades in his hand a bit, deflecting more of those spikes, before bringing them together at the other end, forming a double bladed staff that was almost five feet in length. Stabbing and swing as he charged he forced the Horror back then retreated a bit to make some space between them.” Jules.”

    She was already prepared with the red paper in her hand, “One barrier coming up.” The bristles glowing again, she placed the the slip of paper in the ground and brought the brush to it, a barrier of energy flashed to life momentarily before fading from view. The only hint that it still existed was part of it flashed when Carter deflected another spike into it. “Be careful. This one isn't going to last that long to begin with,” she reminded him.

    He didn't make any sort of movement or sound that he understood, just kept his attention on the Horror in front of him. One who took a small woman to use itself as bait to attract it's prey. Concentrating a bit her brought the staff over his head and spun it. Both ends seemingly cutting a line in the air that formed a circle when he was done and brought the staff down to his right side. The interior of the circle cracked and broke as an otherworldly light shined on top of him. Then, what seemed to be with the slightest nod of his head, plates of metal came down on top of him. Clad in flat red armor, he looked more like a metal wolf with the snarling head and clawed fingers, a silver diamond shaped jewel at his waist, Blue eyes staring defiantly at the Horror in front of him The staff changed as well, the blades growing a little longer and at the base where it met the staff curved bladed like hilts appeared. He swung the staff around with practiced ease, now he was more than just Carter Greystone he was Rook, Knight of the Double Blade.

    Slowly he walked forward, using either the staff or his fist to bash away the spikes coming at him, the ground cracking beneath him with each step. Once he was close enough the Horror tried to jam it's tail into him. He caught it with his free hand and swung the bladed staff through the tail severing it from the rest of it's body. The lone man who had no idea what was going on held his ears as the creature cried out in tremendous agony. As it scurried away. The tail disintegrating in his hand he ran at the fleeing beast. Jumping up and off a wall he flew over the Horror and swung the staff. As the blade cut through as he past he landed and the beast appeared to exploded in a fireball before the flames turned into those symbols momentarily before fading completely.

    After the armor flew up to whence it came Carter turned around, separated the staff and returned it back to it's original staff stat as Jules removed the paper from the ground removing the barrier. Shooting a glance art her companion she looked at the guy Carter just saved, “So what are we going to do with this one?”

    “Drop him at the police station,' was his answer.

    “I'll take him,” Reks said. Grabbing him by the arm he hauled him to his feet and dragged him toward the alley's opening. Looking back a bit at the Knight he leaned in and spoke, low enough that only his current companion could hear, “Don't worry, I'm not taking you to the police.”

    Oblivious to that conversation Jules told Carter, “They're not going to believe him if Reks doesn't do anything. And if he does they still don't have anything to hold him for.”

    “Not my problem.” Turning his head to the left a bit he, “Xypher, are there any more Horrors around?”

    The pin on his label spoke in that tinny voice, “No, Scorpina there was the only one.”

    “That wasn't it's name,” Jules said with a slight smirk.

    “Eh, I like my name better,” the pin said. “Unfortunately me and Carter got here in time to stop her.”

    Carter looked a little closer at the pin on his chest, “Unfortunately?”, he said.

    “Well he was planning on raping her.”

    “And she was planning on eating him,” Carter said.

    “Not my problem if she has poor taste in meals... Ow,” he exclaimed as Carter flicked him.

    “And he'll probably do it again,” Juels said, mainly to stick up for the Madou pin. “And that one won't be a Horror.”

    “I know,” Carter said softly. In his more normal tone of voice he told them, “But human affairs aren't our concern. We protect them all, no matter who they are. No matter how we feel about them.”

    “I know,” Jules said but not in a mocking way. “Well we better keep hunting, who knows if there's another Horror around. I'll let you know if I find anything.” Carter nodded. Jules reached out and squeezed his arm and smiled before using her brush to make the metal spike disappear and walking off. Carter watched her a moment before heading back to the street himself.
    ***

    Reks opened a door and gestured for his companion to head on down the staircase in front of him. As he said he didn't take him to the police. But he never said he take him home either. A fact that seemed to go over the other man's head. At least until right now. He started to back up, but simply bringing his Madou brush back into view quickly stopped that. “Go ahead,” Reks said. “It's perfectly safe. They won't be able to find you down here.”

    “W... who won't?”, he asked.

    Lifting an eyebrow he replied, “Things like that woman.” That was enough to get him down the stair, so fast he almost tripped himself going down them. Closing the door behind him Reks calmly followed hitting a switch near the bottom to light up the nearly bare room. “It's not much but it'll keep you comfortable for a couple of days. The mattress over there on the floor isn't much but it's better than nothing.

    “Thanks,' he muttered as he looked around, Outside of the mattress there was a couple of different sized crates in a corner making a makeshift table and chair. “You sure nothing like that bitch will find me here?”

    “Positive,' Reks told him. Still he looked around the room again unconvinced. “There are seals in place,” he told the man. “To make sure they can't sense anybody on the inside. Like that barrier my partner put up earlier.” That made his guest a little more at ease with the situation.

    “What the fuck was she?”, he asked suddenly. “That wasn't fucking human.”

    “She used to be,” Reks said walking toward the crates and sitting on one of the smaller ones. “And I'm sure she might have been a lovely person before the Horror possessed her.”

    “Horror?”, he said looking confused. “You guys used that word a lot when the bitch,” he made some motion with his hand trying to find the right word, “turned into whatever the fuck that was.”

    “That was it's true form,”m he explained. “That was a Horror, or the name we call then. A creature from a different dimensions that makes it's way into our world, looking for food. Or to take possession of a person so they can move about and hunt more easily.”

    “You mean like an alien invasion?”

    Reks looked almost amused by his question. “Not quite. No, it's said that they're are born from, and drawn too, the darkness in human hearts. It'll be inside a gate, waiting for the right moment to emerge. Usually when some one is close enough, either with said darkness on their hearts or at their darkest and weakest moments. It very possible that woman was being attacked by a similar group to yours, it just happened to be by a gate.”

    He seemed to be understanding things better now, “So it made her a deal, the power to get out of it.”

    “In a sense,' Reks told him. “From my understanding that particular Horror tends to hunt down those groups looking for an easy victim.” His guest started to say something, almost like he was going to protest, but Reks didn't give him an opening to do so. “But what the Horror never tells their unwitting victims is that in doing so they are consuming their very soul. That woman was dead the moment she agreed to it.”

    “So it was wearing her like a outfit.”

    “In a manor of speaking,” Reks said, losing the amused look. “The memory and personalty is still there to keep up the disguise if need be. But the person she was, eaten by the Horror.”

    “That is fucked up.”

    “No truer statement was ever spoken.”

    “So who are you guys then?”

    “We are an order that had been protecting the rest of you from for longer than most people can imagine. In secret of course, mostly because we have too for various reason.” Standing up and brandishing his brush he exclaimed, “I am a Makai Priest.” The bristles glowing he pointed the brush at the wall and let lose a small ball of energy that exploded on contact. His guest was stunned to the point his jaw dropped.

    Walking over and almost touching the smoking spot on the wall, but was too afraid to. He looked back and forth between Reks and the spot on the wall a couple of times before going, “That was magic.”

    “How observant of you,” he said dryly. “We learned ways to challenge the Horrors and hold the back. A few of us can even defeat one.” To anybody else watching he may have seen a little too proud of that particular fact.

    That bubble, as they say, burst when they other man asked, “What about the other guy?”

    Shooting him a deadly glare that made the other man stumble back he went, “Who?”

    “Th... the other guy. The one with the....” he started swinging his arms around in the air like that explained everything. “The one who killed that bitch.”

    “She isn't dead,” he said coldly.

    And the other man expression changed back to panic just as fast. “You said she was dead.”

    “I said the woman it possessed was dead,” Reks said getting close enough the other man backed up some more. “You can not kill a Horror. You can only send it back to the Makai dimension.” Reks backed off a bit to regain his composure. A little calmer he went on, but the disdain was still evident in his voice, “That other one was a Makai Knight. Something we created and they quickly forgotten that fact.”

    “Fucker seemed strong,” the other one commented. He quickly backtracked when Reks glared at him again, “I mean that weapon of his was fucking heavy. Almost ripped my shoulder out trying to grab it.”

    Chuckling now he understood where he was coming from Reks went on, “That's because his swords and armor are made of soul metal. Unless you are especially trained in their use hey are extremely heavy, and dangerous to touch. Practically burning those who aren't properly prepared to wield them.”

    “But I ain't burnt,” he said looking at his hands then showing them to reks.

    “The casing around them protected you. The bare metal itself.... that would have been a different story.” The other man gulped and stared at his hand. “Now somewhere in that addled brain of yours you have to be wonder why am I telling you all of this. Because secret societies are supposed to be secret after all.”

    “Not really,” he said starting to look nervous again.

    “Of course you are,” Reks put an arm around his shoulders and guided him across the room. “You see I think you can be of use to our cause.”

    “H... how?”

    “Oh I'm sure we can find some place for you.” They stopped by a section of wall as Reks backed away a bit. “From an informant of sorts to,” he studied the other man a bit. “Perhaps a Makai Priest like myself, if you have the right, shall we say, talent for it.”

    “Seriously?”, he asked looking more interested than confused now.

    “Oh yes, we are a very open order for a secret society. We are all considered equal.” A little darkly he muttered, “More or less.” Shaking himself out of it he turned his attention back toward his guest. “But that is neither hear nor there. In fact we can begin right now if you'd like with a simple test. A test of courage.” Touching part of the wall beside him a door sized panel opened up. Nothing but complete darkness could be seen on the other side. “Unless of course if your courage is failing you at this particular moment we can wait a bit.

    “Naw,” he said puffing out his chest a bit before walking through, “I not afraid of shit.” The door closed behind him. “Hey!” he banged on the door but it wouldn't budge. As his eyes adjusted tot he dark he realized there was a bit of light coming in from outside. Not a lot but just enough to curb the stifling feeling of being in complete darkness. Staying where he was he looked around a bit and say a shape close by, practically hanging against the wall. Figuring this was part of the test he slowly edged toward it. “Hey,” he whispered. He said it again a little louder, “Hey.” Starting to reach out a hand he felt goosebumps forming on his arm right before the form moved. In what light there was he saw a black demonic face came at him.

    On the other said of the doorway Reks listened to him scream, almost in concert with another, demonic sounding scream. Within a few moments both screams stopped and he started smiling to himself. “As if a low life like you deserved anything else.” Turning to leave he saw that he wasn't alone anymore. Seeing this newcomer was angry he looked worried for the briefest of moments before putting up his usual expression. “Just feeding the pet,” he said as he walked past. “You should know how important that is.”

    The other one said nothing, just clenched a fist tightly, trying to control the anger that was building.

    ***
    Horrors always hunted at night, that was a fact that was never questioned. It was why they often possessed human in order to walk around during the day. Picking out potential targets to keep track of, to pounce on when the time was right. It was near dawn now so any Horror still in the city would have started to go back to whatever hole they, or in those cases, their “host” bodies had. As such Carter knew the hunt was over for now and he needed to rest before it began all over again.

    In a small wooden area outside the main city he walked the well worn path. His destination was a two story house that would fit a larger size of family comfortably based on appearances and would seem better placed in one of the better neighborhoods than the middle of this area. Lantern like lights illuminated his way as he got closer. He didn't even slow down or question as he saw Jules lounging on the steps leading up to the front door. She gave him a friendly wave and smile. His response, “Why are you here?”

    Moving just enough to give him room to walk up those steps she said, “I know Reks is going to be a tool later when I see him. I want to avoid it as long as possible. Which does mean I don't really have a place to stay tonight since he decided he's crashing at my place.” She looked up at him and smiled again as she battered her eyelashes. After a moment Carter just nodded his head toward the door and she quickly got up and joined him. “Thank you kind sir.”

    “Like he ever turns you down when you ask,” Xypher said as Carter opened the door

    “I am being polite,” she told the pin. “It would just be rude just to walk in when you two aren't here.”

    Letting her go in first Carter said, “You're welcome to be here any time.'

    “I know,” she smiled. “But like I said, it be rude.” Being familiar with the place as she was she flipped the switches that turned on the lights. and continued on inside. Jules removed her coat and laid over a nearby chair as they continued on. In the main room of the floor Carter took a right to a door that lead to a small study with several bookcases built into the walls, all of them loaded with old books and various other things. Heading over to the desk he removed Xypher from his place on his chest and slid him onto a display on the desk. “Knowing you there's no food prepared.”

    “I'm sure there's something,” Carter said as he removed his coat and placed it on a hanger on the wall.

    “Well if you had a servant like a proper titled Knight,” she started to say. When she looked at him he was staring at a small table by the chair she was standing by. At a small red envelope that was on it to be precise. “It never stops being creepy how it just shows up like that.”

    “It was there when we entered the room,” Xypher told her. “I saw it when Carter put me here. Those Watchdog messengers can get in just about anywhere.”

    “It's a little late for orders,” Carter said as he picked it up with one hand and reached into his pants pocket with the other. Holding the envelope by the one corner he used the blue flame of his Madou lighter to ignite another. Letting go as the flame quickly consumed the envelope the ashes grew and formed letter of the ancient Makai language in the air.

    As both of them were trained to understand the words they read the orders the message contained. “The Watchdogs want to see you about tonight,” Jules finally said.

    Carter finished it as the letters disappeared, “Because I came into conflict with the civilians earlier.”

    “Word traveled pretty fast,” they looked back at Xypher,” I haven't even sent a report in yet.”

    “I'm pretty sure I know who did,” Jules said, looking half angry and half disappointed.

    Carter said, “He's doing his job.”

    “And I'm sure if you were a Makai Priest Reks would have been a little kinder in his report,” Jules shot back. “I don't understand why he's like that. Particularly lately.”

    Xypher commented, “He seems to be the same pain in the neck to me.” Carter shot the pin a look, “And you can't flick me from over there so I'm safe for the moment.”

    Jules gave the pin a sly grin, “He could walk over there just as easily.”

    “Don't give him any ideas,” Xypher protested.

    “Unfortunately that attitude isn't only confined to Reks,” Carter said as he left the den. Jules followed as he continued, “I've met some Knights who have the same attitude toward Priests.”

    “That's fine, I'll just hang out in here,” Xypher called out.

    Jules told him, “We'll be right back.” She lost a bit of the smile though, “But sometimes I wonder if that what happened with Reks. Meeting some of those Knights you mentioned I mean. He wasn't like this when we were training.”

    “Maybe it was always there and it just now starting t come out,” Carter offered.

    Jules studied him a bit as they entered the kitchen. “I'm trying to decide if you actually think that's true or if you're saying that because you have a bit of a problem with Reks. too”

    “You know him better than I do,” Carter said as he started rummaging around to see what he had. “I just see the man I've dealt with.”

    “Well in my eyes he wasn't always like this,” Jules said as she gave him a hand, being familiar with his kitchen as well. “It wasn't after we started going out into the field that he started to change. Maybe he did met some of those Knights and never told me.”

    “Maybe he did,” Carter conceded. “You always seemed to be a good judge of somebody's character. And like I said you known him better.”

    “Then why am I usually hanging out with you?”, Jules shot back. The smile saying it was a joke. Carter just shrugged in response. After a bit they both had something to eat. Although Jules forced him to keep her promise to Xypher as they ate in the den. Sitting on opposite ends of the same couch hey spoke about little thing as they ate, potential dens where Horrors might be located, rumors of anything that may pertain to their particular line of work. Nothing really important, just things to pass the time while they finished.

    “Well that was good,” Jules said as she put her plate down on the coffee table in front of them. “I think I'm going to call it a night. I'll see you later Carter.” She gave his hand a light squeeze as she stood up. Carter rose as well and walked her to the den's doorway. He stood there as he watched her walk up the stairs and enter the room he usually slept in.

    Back on the desk Xypher went, “So, just you and me again tonight?” Carter looked back at the pin but said nothing. He glanced back up to the room Jules entered before turning back into the den.

    ***
    The next morning Jules came down the stairs and found Carter on a couch in the main room. Well at least it was bigger than the one in the den. In what became sort of a tradition she quietly walked into the den and removed the cover off the stand Xypher was on. Blank eyes seemed to blink a bit as they readjusted to the sudden brightness. “I guess you want me to tell Carter you said goodbye again?”

    “If you would please,” she said softly then started to leave like usual. But she caught sight of Carter sleeping. “Xypher,do you think he'll ever get the hint and join me up there?”

    “Oh I'm sure he already got the hint,” the pin told her. “But he's too proper a Knight.”

    “I know he is,” she said as she walked back to the desk. She bent over a bit to get eye level with the pin. “It's one of the things that makes Carter Carter. You know, all this time and I still don't even know why he takes a couch. He does have a couple guest rooms up there, I used to stay in one until I made my way into his.”

    “He wants to be the first line of defense,” the pin told her. “As he figures it any attack would come from the lower level and not the top floor.” She looked back at the sleeping Makai Knight and smiled. That would explain all the barriers he had her put on the windows on the second floor. “Although if you really wanted him up there with you could just ask.”

    “It's not quite that simple Xypher,”

    “Anybody ever tell you that you humans make things more complicated than they need to be?”, the pin shot back. “You ask, he either says yes or no. Simple.”

    She knelt down a bit, 'You're probably right. But if I have to be honest, whatever is between me and Carter, I think it's part of the reason why Reks is acting the way he is. He has a problem with Makai Knights in general, but Carter just sets him off for some reason. If me and Carter....” she sighed. “I need to get things straighten out between me and Reks first.”

    The pin snorted, “Way too complicated.”

    Jules smiled, then looked back at Carter. “Xypher, can you do me a favor? If I know Reks he's probably going to be at that meeting with the Watchdogs too. And I know how he's going to try and spin it. Just back Carter up.”

    “For you, anything.” Jules lightly rubbed the top of the pin and stood up. Entering the main room she quietly walked over to the couch. Reaching out a hand she carefully brushed a few stray hairs out of his face, trying not to wake him. Retrieving her coat from the chair she put it the night before she left his house and headed home.

    ***
    Later that day, after his usual morning workout Carter stood in front of the Watchdogs, the beings who gave him and the other Makai Knights and Priests their orders. Several columns circled a brightly lit area. But that light barely gave the slightest hint to what was in the darkness beyond them. Standing in the middle of the area he locked up at two balconies on his left and right. On the left one stood a woman, the right an older man. Both wore white robes. The woman had a necklace of pale colored seashells around her neck. The man had a wreath of white leaves circling around his head. Between them, right on the floor in front of him was a statue of a demonic looking dog with an open mouth.

    As Jules had predicted, Reks was there and was already giving his version of the events from the previous night. Both Watchdogs looked bored and uninterested as he spoke. Audible to only Carter Xypher gave out a small grunt. Not being privy to his and Jules conversation from earlier he looked down briefly trying to decipher what that meant. But only briefly as he knew the Watchdogs would notice.

    Also because Reks decided to point a finger right at him at that moment. “That's when I saw this man viciously attack the very people he was to 'protect'.”

    Above them the female Watchdog spoke, expression not changing at all. “Is this true Rook?

    Still looking bored as well the male added, “If true it would be a heinous breach of duty and protocol. How do you answer?”

    Ignoring the look Reks was giving him Carter stepped forward a bit. “His version is not completely true.”

    Here the female tilted her head a bit, but her expression didn't change, “So what Makai Priest Reks is saying is partially true?”

    “Let the Knight answer Illumnia,” the male said.

    She responded, “I am merely asking for calcification Nisoka. With charges such as these nothing must left to interpretation.”

    “Agreed,” the male said after a bit. “Knight, continue.”

    Carter nodded, “I discovered the Horror I was tracking had already found some potential prey. I ordered them to leave. They decided to to attack me.”

    Here the male expression change to a more curious one, but still with a hint of that previous boredom. “Why would they attack you Knight?”

    “My only assumption at the time was they thought I was trying to save the woman the Horror had already devoured..”

    “He drew his weapon,” Rek spoke up.

    “In self defense!”, the pin on his coat snapped.

    “Xypher,” Carter hissed.

    Both Watchdogs stopped looking bored. They showed nothing, which was more worrisome than anything. Carter could never get a good tell on either of them as it was.. “Is this true Knight?”, Nisoka demanded.

    Carter glanced over at Reks. His smugness was the only thing worse than the blank looks on the Watchdogs. “I was attacked with a pipe. I acted on instinct to block the assault. But I never used the Swords of Rook on my assailants.”

    “You still should have found another way,” Nisoka scolded.

    Illimina added, “As a protector of these humans you must be mindful of the difference between you and the ones you protect.”

    Carter chaffed a bit but said, “Yes sirs. I will do better in the future.

    “But Carter was telling the truth,” Xypher spoke up/ “He was attacked and had to defend himself.”

    Illumina started to say something but Nisoka raised a hand, boredom returning to both their faces. “Let the Madou pin speak, it can be entertaining on occasion.” The female Watchdog nodded in acquiesce.. “Continue.”

    “My pleasure,” Xypher said. “They group Carter was trying to save attacked him like I said. The Priest here didn't even make himself known until Carter engaged the Horror. If that one didn't hit Carter on the arm with the pipe he never would have known Carter drew it to protect himself.”

    Glaring at the pin Reks said, “I know what I saw.”

    “And I was in the middle of it,” Xypher shot back.

    Nostrils flaring a bit Reks went on, “Why should we care about your opinion jewelry?”

    “I'd care about it over the guy arguing with the 'jewelry' you son of....” Carter put a hand over the pin. His muffled protest could just be heard. Reks raised his brush fully prepared to retaliate for the cut off insult.

    “Enough!”, both Watchdogs ordered. Carter lowered his hand as Reks kept his Brush as the ready. Although their unwavering gaze on him made him slowly lower it.

    Illumina spoke first, “Makai Priest Reks where were the Swords of Rook when you and Makai Priest Jules arrived?”

    He answered readily, “They were out like I said.”

    Nosika spoke next, “Were they in Rook's hands.”

    He was a little more reluctant to answer this time, “No, they were on the ground.”

    “Were the blades drawn?” Reks looked away in disgust. The watchdogs started at him until he answered with an angry shake of his head. “It appears you own testimony backs up Rook's claims in this particular event.”

    Looking almost sick Reks said, “Apparently it does.” He walked away from the scene. Stopping right at the edge of lighted area he turned smartly, “With your leave.” Then he entered the darkness before permission was given.

    “Rook,” Illumina spoke. If either of them were insulted by Rek's actions as usual they didn't show it. “While we do not condone your actions of the previous night we do understand that there were special circumstances involved.”

    Nisoka spoke next, “But we will not remind you again to take care if a similar situation happens in the future. Nor will we be as lenient.”

    Bowing Carter replied, “I understand.”

    “Now,' Illumina said, “step forward and cleanse your blade of the Horror's foul darkness.” Without a word Carter stepped forward, drawing his weapon. Separating it he placed both blades into the mouth of the dog statue before him. There was a hissing sound as as the stone eyes seemed to glow. With a stream of smoke a small metallic looking feather blade appeared at the base of the statue.

    Retrieving his blades and recombining them a small, hooded person appeared from the darkness. No one said a word as it reached out and gingerly took the blade with a gnarly, weathered hand. The blade disappearing inside the sleeve of it's robes the figure quickly returned to the darkness. Stepping back to his original spot Carter faced each watchdog and bowed before turning to leave.

    “A moment longer Rook,” Nisoka said. Turning back around he was surprised to see Illumina gone leaving the two of them. “There is a task we wish to assign to you. As Illumina is in need of rest I can easily relay the order.”

    Walking back to his previous spot Carter went, “What is the task you wish me to do?”

    “There is a disease in our ranks,” he said. “One that causes a rift between Makai Priests and Knights.”

    Confused at this information Carter said, “I thought the Golden Knight in Japan took care of that situation a couple of years ago.”

    “Yes he did,” Nisoka readily agreed. “However he only removed the primary source of the conflict. Symptoms still exist after the fact. One could argue they existed before Sigma made it worse. Now we fear someone here is trying to cause those rifts to grow again.”

    “Oh boy,” Xypher muttered.

    “Do you have an idea who?”, Carter asked.

    Slowly shaking his head Nisoka replied, “We do not at this time. Which is why we place the burden of this task upon your shoulders. While it would safe to assume another Makai Priest is behind this a Knight could just as easily be attempting to fan the flames. Find out who it is and stop them. But do not trust any one in this task and suspect everyone.”

    That last bit rubbed Carter the wrong way, “With all due respect, it's possible that sort of thinking is what helped create those rifts in the first place.”

    “I due believe the Watchdog misspoke,” A new voice said. Carter turned around to see an older man walk out of the shadows. Wearing loose dark clothing, the dark red highlight of his jacket being the only bit of color, and a turban like wrap around his head he smiled warmly at Carter The wrinkles around his eyes the the gray of his beard was the only give away of his age.

    Carter bowed in greeting and in respect, “Makai Priest Vincent.” He didn't return the bow. Instead he took the younger man's hand and shook it.

    “If I may be so bold,” he briefly glanced up at the Watchdog, “I believe he meant to say be careful of who you trust.”

    “If you so wish,” Nisoka said.

    Carter only just caught the smallest hint of a smirk on the older man's face. “I will brief Carter on what is going on.” Nisoka nodded and walked to the interior of the balcony. “Come my boy,” Vincent said as he guided him toward the exit, “Let's talk in the open and not a stuffing room like this one.”

    ***
    In the city, on a side street hardly any one used a section of a wall started to glow slightly. Taking a outline of a large door the wall opened, curling inwards from the middle. Emerging from the interior darkness Carter and Vincent walked out and the wall returned to normal as they walked away. Hitting the sidewalk nobody paid them much attention. Still they tried not to draw any extra attention to themselves as they spoke, “Do you think somebody is trying to cause a rift in the order again?”, Carter asked him.

    “It's a possibility,” the older man mused. “The watchdogs seem to think so. However,” he trailed off a bit, looking for the right words. “While I haven't had the honor of meeting other Watchdogs, those two seem rather linear in their thinking. If something appears to be the case then that has to be the situation.'

    Carter looked at him with a unsure expression, “You think it could be something else?”

    “It could be, a feint to distract us from their true goal,” Vincent said with a slight nod. “Or they could be right and someone is trying to cause trouble once again. The information I've seen could sway either way. I will be willing to to share said information of course.”

    “And I would be grateful, “Carter told him.”In keeping our options open can you think of any one who might be taking up Sigma's cause?”

    Vincent didn't say anything right away as he thought it over. “In all honestly, I'm not really sure. Not a whole lot of questions were asked after the previous events. Those Priests who joined Sigma's cause were quietly welcomed back into the order. It could be any of them. Or it could be none of the and a new player is on the field.”

    Xypher spoke up, “Well that narrowed things down.” Vincent gave the pin a amused look.

    “Well there aren't a lot of factors to narrow things down or eliminate any one just yet,' The Priest explained. “For example, Carter do you trust me?”

    The young Makai Knight didn't even hesitate, “Without question.”

    Stopping to face him Vincent asked, “But should you?' Carter just stared at him. “This is a slippery slop we find ourselves on. If we start accusing or hassling innocent individuals wildly we'll be causing those same rifts we were trying to stop.” He started walking down the sidewalk again with Carter quickly in tow.

    “But if we do nothing,” Carter argued, “if there is someone doing just that, he'll have free reign before we can stop him.”

    “As I said, it a slippery slop,” Vincent told him. “It would be the same as wonder if stopping him was an act of justice or vengeance.”

    This time Carter stopped. Vincent went ahead a couple of feet before he noticed. “If he was stopped what would be the difference?”

    “It could decide which slop a man fell down,” Vincent told him. “A vengeful man, would take a small amount of pleasure in stopping the one behind it. Be almost glad he was the one who cut him down. That is a path that leads to darkness. Now,” he continued walking again, “a man of justice, even if he felt the person deserved to be cut down, would not enjoy it. Again a fine line one is never sure which side he is one in the heat of the moment. So carter, after all of this, do you still think you can trust me.”

    This time he didn't answer right away, taking a couple of extra moments to think it over. Something the older was happy to see. Finally he looked at him and said, “Jules trust you, and I trust her.”

    Chuckling a bit Vincent told him, “Who am I to argue when my character reference is my own student. You two do seem to be a little close to each other. If I was her father I'd be asking what your intentions were.”

    “Jules is,” Carter searched for the right word, “special.”

    “That she is,” he quickly agreed. “I would still be asking your intentions though.”

    “She is my friend and ally,” Carter told him.

    “Pity,” Vincent said, confusing the younger man a bit. “I was hoping there would be a slightly deeper and more interesting answer there.”

    “I mean I care for Jules,” Carter said. “as a friend. I mean.”

    “He means,” Xypher spoke up, “he's too proper a Knight to do anything.” Carter flicked him annoyance. “You know it's true.”

    “There's nothing wrong with being a proper knight Xypher,” Vincent said. “It's one of the qualities that spoke to me when we choose Carter to take on the mantle of Rook. But,” he said with an amused look, “do take it from a more experienced gentleman, they won't wait forever. That's a lesson I learned the hard way.” Carter said nothing, but he did nod in understanding.

    The older man pointed out a small cafe that he visited rather frequently. Gesturing at one of the empty tables they sat down. A waitress was soon there. “Will that be the usual for you?”

    “Yes please,' Vincent told her with an easy smile.

    “And your new friend here?”, she asked looking at Carter.

    “Whatever he's having,” he said since he wasn't familiar with the menu as Vincent obviously was. The waitress said she'd be right back.

    Vincent looked around at the others enjoying their food. “Hopefully you'll learn to sit back a bit and reacquaint yourself with the population we're trying to protect. The previous Rook was a bit too hard headed in that aspect. You have to be unmovable as stone....”

    “in order to be a proper protector,” Carter finished for him. It was a saying he quickly became familiar with in a short time. Vincent nodded

    “I never could convince him you didn't have to alienate yourself from humanity in general. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that there are good in people. Especially when we deal with the results of their inner darkness on a regular basis.” Their order, which turned out to be some sort of thick soup, quickly arrived. Apparently a perk when you're a regular customer. Taking a spoon and stirring the soup in front of him a bit he said, “Speaking of Rooks, have you seen him lately?”

    Carter came just short of playing with his bowl, looking a bit ashamed, “No.” Vincent said nothing, he just waited for him to continue. “I never felt that I would be welcomed back.”

    “Now where did you get a fool idea like that?”, Vincent asked him. Taking a napkin he reached over and shined up the slim gold pin on the right side of his coat, “He made you part of his when you took on the Rook title. Why would you think you wouldn't be welcomed.'

    “His middle daughter still calls me the usurper,” Carter informed him. “And I'm not exactly sure how his oldest daughter thinks about me. The only one who didn't seemed to tolerate me was his youngest.”

    Vincent understood where he was coming from. “Well you were a very, very rare example of a title changing hands. A bit natural I suppose, especially since Rook had been part of that line for as long as anyone can remember. But I know you are doing a fine job upholding this particular legacy,” he assured him. “And I'm sure he feels the same way.

    “I hope I am,” Carter told him. “some days I'm not too sure. I mean last night...”

    “Trust me son,” Vincent said, a glint in his eye, “I've seen him in similar situations. You went easier on them than he did. Now eat your soup before it gets cold. It's not quite as good then. And no crackers. Use the bread to soak up the soup.”

    ***
    Night was starting to fall and those of the Makai order that actively hunted Horrors begun to do so. Jules, foe example, had just finished marking a potential gate for Carter or another Knight to check out if they came across it. And she'd probably would tell Carter about it as soon as she saw him. Honestly she would have told another Knight if she came across one but more than likely it was going to be Carter. But right now she walked the streets just watching those around her. Mainly she as looking for any signs of a Horror that might have taken over a human. But partially she was looking at how happy everybody seemed to be, remembering Vincent's words about remembering the there was good in humanity too.

    Not that she thought humanity was inherently evil, no far from it. But like every one else she knew she realized how easy it was for them to fall. And their order was just as vulnerable too so it's not like they had some sort of special immunity.

    “Jules,” a voice called out. She looked around, knowing it was one of their order. She found him soon enough, and it was another Makai Priest. She recognized the man with the white shirt and vest with the various magical trinkets on it and the black headband. But only because he and Reks teamed up a lot . As it was she had to think a moment to even remember his name.

    “Terrance,” she said cordially. Reks didn't have a lot of friends, and she really didn't care for most of them. Like this one. Only because he was about as smug as Reks was. And it was bad enough she had to deal with it with her partner, wasn't no way in hell she was going to be around for a double dose.

    “Reks said you ditched him tonight,” he said. Not a hello, not a how are you. Just straight to that.

    “Have to had plans to begin with in order to considered ditched,” she told him as she kept walking. A small part of her hoped he get the hint. But Jules knew that wasn't going to be the case.

    Terrance followed her just like she thought, “Reks thought you did.”

    “Well he thought wrong,” she shot back. “We're not tied at the hip you know. I can go out all by my lonesome.”

    “Going to see your Knight,” he spat.

    Jules stopped, mainly to suppress the urge to punch him in the face. Again it was bad enough to get this from Reks. “I didn't have plans to no. But if I happened to come across him I'd a least say hello like a civilized person.

    “He's an emotionless prick,” Terrance told her. Word for that was Reks' favorite argument to use against Carter and she was pretty sure where Terrance got that from. .Jules forced her fist down before facing him.

    “He has emotions,” she told him as calmly as she could. “But like every Knight out there he has to keep them under control. If you and Reks paid any sort of attention while we were learning you'd know that.”

    “Look,” he said, obviously trying to back track and think of something else. “I know Reks can be trying. especially lately,” he had a look on his face that she could figure out. But it was gone as soon as fast as it appeared. “But he's a good man.”

    “So is William,” she told mentioning another Priest in the area. “And James and Hector. I heard good thing about a guy named Zach a few towns away. There are a lot of good men out there. And probably a few good women if I swung that way..”

    “You and Reks have known each other since training,” Terrance kept going. “Even before Vincent took both of you on.”

    “And that doesn't mean anything if only one person feels that way,” she shot back. It wasn't Reks but maybe it was time to get this started somewhere. “I don't know when you decided to become Reks' wingman or what ever the term in no for what your doing is now. But I have never seen Reks in that way. And I'm not going to start now you and him want me too.”

    “But you feel that way about Greystone don't you?”, he demanded while getting in her face. If he expected her to back down he as in for one hell of a disappointment.

    “Carter is my friend,” she told him, getting close enough the he took a step back. “A friend I care about deeply. If something else happens between him and me that's between him and me and no one else. As of right now I don't care you or Reks or anybody else thinks about it. Am I clear.”

    “Perfectly,” he spat before leaving.

    “Oh this is a bad sign for tonight,” Jules muttered after he was gone.

    “Help me,” a different voice called out. Jules looked around.. The voice called for help again, it was coming from the alley next to her.

    “A really bad sign,” she muttered. Hand wrapping around her brush just in case she entered the alley trying to find whomever called out.

    ***
    Not that far away Carter stood in front of an old, abandoned grandfather clock that someone threw out. He studied it for a long time before looking around to see if anybody was around. Seeing that it was only him on the street for the moment he reached int his coat and pulled out the staff. Separating it into two swords he pointed one at the clock. Studying more closely as he slowly hovered the point over the surface . Finding what he was looking for he jammed the blade into the clock. But it didn't penetrate the wood, instead it entered some sort of energy wave. The gate this particular Horroer would have used to trap a human. Removing the blade a dark glob floated in the air in front of him.

    “Good eye as usual Carter,” Xypher told him.

    “Are you trying get back in my good graces after almost getting me in trouble with the Watchdogs earlier?”, he asked. Before the pin could answer he slashed though the globe, once with one blade than the other. It quickly dissipated.

    “I swear I keep hearing a tiny scream when you do that,” Xypher said. “An no I'm not trying to get back in your good graces. Probably. Okay maybe a little.”

    He looked down at the pin with a light smile, “It's fine. What happened had to come out no matter what. Better to get it out then instead of them finding out later.”

    “I've heard what happens when they find things out after the fact,” the pin went on. “It's not pretty according to rumor.” Carter was positive that if it could the pin would have shivered a bit just for effect.

    “Help!” Carter turned around to see a shirtless man run at him. Being prepared for an attack he was stunned a bit when the person quickly got behind him and tried to hide. “You gotta help me man,” he said in a quivery voice. “Some crazy bitch is trying to kill me.”

    Before he could inquire about this “crazy bitch” in order to see if it could have been a Horror he heard another set of footfalls coming toward him. Looking up he saw Jules come up short with her brush in hand. She looked at him briefly before returning her attention to the quaking man behind Not saying anything Carter reached into a pocket and pulled out his Madou lighter. Holding in front of the man's face he ignited the flame. Transfixed his eyes gave him away as a Horror. “Makai Knight,”he spat after the flame went away, quickly growing angry than afraid and tried to grab him. Carter was faster grabbing his wrists and throwing him down a side street.

    The Horror scrambled to his feet and hissed at the two of them before running away. Jules looked at him. Carter stepped back and with a arm gestured for her her to chase after him. She shot him an annoyed look before racing after him.

    “You didn't sense that one Carter?” Xypher asked as he started after them. “I got him about a mile away.”

    “Just making sure,” he said. Hearing a battle he quickened his pace a bit until he found them. The only light was a barrel that was on fire he say Jules fight the Horror. After va bit the man crossed his arms and screamed, transforming into hid true Horror form. Jet black leathery skin, two horns on his head and a small set of wings on it's back as well as a pointed tail. Jules was undeterred as she attacked him again.

    While this was happening Carter leaned against the wall and watched her fight. “Um, Carter,” Xypher started to say. He held a finger in front of the pin to keep it quiet.

    Jules kept the Horror at a distance with various kicks. Much like her mentor and Reks her style was more fluid, almost dance like. Every so often she get in a backhand. That just seemed to infuriate the Horror more and more. It went on for a overhead strike. Jules easily blocked it. The horror looked down to see her brush againt it;s stomach. She didn't even smile when it looked back at her and unleashed an energy blast that knocked it back. She ran in with a jumping kick the horror easily dodged. When she turned around it's hand was around her throat in the next instant. Here Carter started to react but she got her brush in between them and closed her eyes. A bright light was emitted from the brush momentarily that blinded the Horror and it let her go to clutch at it eyes.

    She kicked it back then backed flip out of the way. Near the flaming barrel she stood up straight and held the brush close to her body. A couple of quick gestures with her hand she placed herself in a fighting stance with the brush behind her. The flames in the barrel seemed to flow toward the brush. Once in contact she she brought the brush back around and spun doing a pirouette. The flames spiraling around her as she did so.. Stopping with her hands above her head gripping the brush, her feet together and facing the horror. With a shout she brought the brush down released the fireball that was attached to the tip at it. The Horror couldn't react in time as the fireball hit it. Screams of agony were silenced quickly Horror disappeared inside the fire.

    Cracking her neck Jules looked down at her brush, it was smoking a little. In a panic she started blowing on it and shaking it. “Damn it it hasn't done that in months. How does Vincent to this all the time and not have his brush look singed.”

    “I didn't think spirit animal pelt could catch fire,” Carter said from the wall, a bit of teasing in his voice. She shot him an annoyed look as the smoke finally stopped. “Come to think of it I've never seen Reks do that spell.”

    Xypher spoke up before she did, “That would require you to hang around him more than you do now.”

    “Reks doesn't do this particular spell,” Jules informed the two of them. “Each time he does it he nearly sets himself on fire. Vincent says he lets his emotions overwhelm him bit when he does it.” She looked back ar her brush apparently answering her previous question seeing how aggravated she still was after that meeting with Terrance. Still she shot him another annoyed look, “And a gentleman would have helped a lady.”

    Getting off the wall and walking toward her Carter said, “I knew you had this one.”

    “Oh, because it was a low level Horror and beneath your notice,” she said in annoyance before walking away.

    Now Carter was confused buy this change in attitude, “No because I knew you were good enough to take it. Did I make you angry somewhere because I'm not sure where this is coming from.”

    She stopped and looked up at the sky before blowing out a breath. “No, I was already riled up before you came along.” She looked back at carter and gave him a small smile, “Sorry I was taking it out on you.”

    “Already forgotten.” He walked up to her. Hr tilted his head a bit to examine her neck. That annoyed her but she tried not to let it show too much. He still saw it. “I know you can take care of yourself I'm just checking.”

    “That's sweet and you better remember that first part,” she told him. “Oh I marked a potential gate before I ran into that one. It's in that direction I think,” she pointed where she thought they came from.

    “I'll check it out,” He told her. Debating to himself for a couple of moments while Jules watched him he said, “Can I ask you a favor?”

    “Depends on what you had in mind,” she told him.

    “The Watchdogs gave me an assignment,” he explained. “They think someone might be planning to cause trouble between the Knights and Priests again.” Jules let out an exasperated sound. “It's nothing concrete but if you hear anything let me know.”

    “Oh I could probably direct you to a couple of people right now,” she told him. “But it would be more with how much they're annoying me at the moment than anything else. I'll keep an ear and eye open. But if I do find something you're going to owe me.”

    “Fair enough,” he readily agreed.

    “Carter,” Xtpher said getting their attention. “It took me a second but I'm still getting a small Horror presence.” Both of the looked around and saw nothing right away. Reaching into her coat Jules pulled out a small palm sized disk and ran her brush over it. Magical energies reacted as several green rings appeared in the air. A red pointer spun slightly until it stopped in a particular direction. They both looked to see a dumpster in the spot.

    Surrounding the dumpster Carter drew his swords as Jules grabbed hold of the lid's lip. Carter nodded once and she lifted as fast as she could. Both of hem looked into it and saw nothing. “I got a reading,” Jules said as Carter started using the tip of a sword to move the garbage around. “It has to be here.”

    Still finding nothing Carter looked at the wall in front of them. “It might be inside the building. Come on let's find away in.”

    As they hurried to find a way into the building they missed it. Behind the dumpster, almost completely hidden was a faint spot on the wall. A spot that pulsated slightly like it was alive.


    ED- Shaman's Harvest – Broken Dreams

  2. #2
    science experiment gone wrong
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    Feb 2005
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    Rook: Knight of the Double Blade


    OP – CFO$ - Catch Your Breath


    A man grunted as he fell to the ground. The overhead light and the sweat on his body making him seem to glisten as he panted hard. Looking over at the man who knocked him down, the much younger man, he tried not to look as annoyed as he felt over the fact he wasn't even breathing that hard. Not nearly as hard as he was. He remembered being that young and making it look so easy. With another grunt he hauled himself back up to his feet and faced his opponent, the crowd around them egging him on, they weren't done with the violence just yet.

    “Come on old man,” the younger one said. “just back down already. No shame in admitting defeat to the better man.”

    At that moment he felt all of his fifty plus years and then some. There was part of his brain that was down right pleading with him to listen and throw in the towel. That part had been getting louder and louder over the years. As always he pushed it aside, he didn't get to where he was at now because he admitted defeat. “When the better man comes along I might think about it.” A good section of the crowd cheered. His opponent shot them a nasty look, no it was a disgusted look. Almost like he was offended that they were cheering for him and not the young buck. At least that was what he was telling himself.

    “Sick fucks,” the younger man muttered. “Alright Grandpa, it's your funeral.” The older man charged at him trying to catch him off guard. The younger man wasn't fazed at all as he easily pushed him to the side. Damn it when did he get so slow and sloppy? Going at him again the younger man took advantage of the opening in his defenses, the one he'd been taking advantage of all night, and pounded him again. He felt his legs start to wobble but forced himself to stay upright. A right cross made his vision go blurry but he fought through it. He was practically dead on his feet, he knew it. His younger opponent knew it, the crowd knew it. His much younger girl knew it as well as she watched from the crowd. That pissed him off more than anything. Damn it he wasn't going to lose to this bastard. This much younger and in much better shape bastard. But the blow to finish him off didn't come like he expected. No the other guy just stood there looking at him with pity etched all over his face.

    “Come on you fucking prick!”, he bellowed, almost losing what breath he had left in doing so.

    “Dude this shit ain't even worth it anymore,” he said. Looking at the crowd he asked, “One of you get a doctor or something.”

    There was a couple of laughs coming from the crowd. Breathing harder than he had ever had in his life he grabbed the younger man. With what was left of his strength he tossed him to the ground. Keeping a hold of an arm he wrapped his legs around it as he fell backwards to the concrete. With every fiber of his being that was still functional he reared back on the arm and pulled. He heard the younger man cry out as his arm was being bent in an unnatural direction. The crowd cheered him on. The scream became louder as he felt the younger man arm finally break under the pressure. Some of those cheers quieted as the crowd realized what just happened.

    Letting go he laid there waiting for his body to stop screaming at him and for his heart to stop feeling like it was about to burst out of his chest as the younger man rolled away clutching at his arm. Slowly, painfully he got to his feet. He looked at the younger man then at the crowd. “You heard him,” he got out between heavy breaths, “get a doctor.” Stumbling more than walking away the crowd parted for him. Convincing himself it was out of respect for his skills and not the abhorrence he was seeing he went to his car. Behind him a couple of the younger man's friends rushed to his aid. God it never used to be this hard before.

    “Yo Tony,” his girl came up to him. He expected her to be proud of him, to be impressed that he was still the man in this underground fight ring. When they first got together a couple of years ago she was. Lately she wasn't as impressed, in fact right now she looked down right bored. Staying back a bit she just looked at him as he grabbed his shirt off the hood. Finally saying, “You alright?”

    He felt like he was about to drop dead if anybody breathed on him hard. “Never better,” he said while trying to get his breath under control. “Had the little shit exactly where I wanted him the entire time.”

    “Uh huh,” she stated. “You never had to break an arm to win before either.”

    “Got to remind the young bucks who the man still is every so often.” And he still was too, for thirty years now nobody had been able to stop him. In fact he was insulted when those challenges started happening more frequently the past decade or so. The little fucks think just because he was older that he still wasn't the ass kicking machine he had always been.

    That part of his head that was telling him to quit earlier started up again. Telling him that he was older and his useless pride was the only thing keeping him going well past the time he should have quit. Again he ignored it. That punk got lucky this time, caught him on an off day. That was happening more frequently now that voice spoke up again. Shut up. He was one of the lucky ones, found what he was good at early on in life and stuck to it. Too violent to make it as a professional fighter they told him, to out of control, to willing to hurt the other man. Well fuck them all he was the god damned king around here and nobody was going to take it from him.

    “Go get my money,” he ordered his girl. She looked pissed but still did as he said. Yeah he was about done with her any way. He'll get a a couple of more fucks out of her then drop her like trash for some one better, someone who appreciated who he was. Like she used to, or he thought she did.

    From where he was he watched her go to the guy taking the bets. Instead of just getting his money they started talking. Fine, whatever, butter the bastard up to make sure he gave her his full cut. Last time wasn't the first time somebody tried to short him of his proper winnings when he sent somebody else to collect it. Then he saw her smiles and him smile back. Not in the friendly way, no she smiled liked she did when she first started talking to him. Do little things he recognized that she did to show she was interested. Things she stopped doing at him he soon came to realize.

    “Fucking bitch,” he muttered as he got off the car. He took exactly one step forward when a strange pain in his chest stopped him in his tracks. Apparently none of the crowd that was still dispersing even seemed to noticed as he stumbled to the side, hidden from sight by a van. Fighter instincts kicked in as he refused to let his legs give out on him. He leaned a heavy hand on the van as his other one clutched at his chest. No, he was not that weak he wasn't going to go down like this here or ever. He was the toughest mother fucker in this garage and he wasn't going out like an old worn out bastard. Eventually the pain passed and still nobody came to check on him. He wouldn't be surprised if the bitch and the fucker with the money started making out right then and there. He'll show both of them that he was still the fucking king around here.

    “Think you're pretty tough don't you?”

    His head snapped around. “Who said that?”

    “I've seen it a million times,” the mysterious voice continued. “Big man, rule the streets with the fist. A dime a dozen really.”

    “Come out of hiding and say that to my face you bastard.” He looked all around, under cars, inside any open window he could find. So far this voice that was pissing him off didn't have a body. But once he found it.

    “But the they get older,” the voice went on, it's choice of words making him pause for a moment.. “The body starts to give out before they're ready. Either from years of abuse the man put it through or was too weak to begin with and he didn't notice before it was too late. Seen it a million times.”

    His curiosity won out over the voice he usually ignored that was telling him to run. “And what does that fairy tale have to do with me?”

    The voice laughed, “It's only a fairy tale if it isn't true. And right now I'm looking at a man who's denying the truth right before me.” Bastard made a mistake, he let him know that he was close by. But where the fuck was he hiding? “But,” it went on, “what if I told you I can make it like you were young again?”

    “That's not possible,” he said.

    “I didn't say I'd make you younger, I just said it would be like you were young again. Think about it, the knowledge you have now with the skills you had back then. You wouldn't just be king of this puny event.”

    “I'd could be the king of the city,” he said. Temptation overrode his common sense as that pain in his chest returned. What the hell, what did he have to lose. “So what to I got to do?”

    “Just turn around.”

    He whipped around but still didn't see anybody there. What kind of game was this fucker playing. Then he looked down. Up against the wall was an abandoned, dirty baby doll. It was so out of place he almost felt compelled to take a step toward it to pick it up. Then it's plastic eyes seem to glow and before he could react some sort of ring opened up and he thought he say some... thing inside it before these weird things came at him, going into his mouth, eyes and ears. He tried to scream but nothing came out. Although it seemed like an eternity it was over less than a minute after it started.

    Oblivious to what just happened his girl and the bookie were still talking. “Just leave his ass already,” he told her. “You know he's going to kick it one of these days and your not going to get a damn thing.”

    “Tony's got some life in him still,” she said, more or less automatically. Too bad she still had to admit to herself that the thing that made her attracted to him to begin faded away a long time ago, way faster than his body. Still she tried to defend him, “He just needs to lay of the fights for a couple of weeks and get his stamina back up.”

    “Love to show you how much stamina you're actually missing,” he said. She smiled in a away she probably shouldn't have had. But Tony wasn't just losing it in the fight circle. He was starting to lack in other areas too.

    “Maybe you can show me when I'm bored eventually.” he smiled at her in a way that said he understood completely, and was looking forward to it. Then a hand gripped his shoulder. Before she could react he was wrenched off his feet and sent flying backwards into the van Tony's car was parked by. It took her a second to realize that it was Tony who just did that. So dumbstruck all she could do was stare like the few that remained. Then he looked at her. A small spike of fear ran up her spin but there something about his eyes. There was a confidence, a hunger that originally attracted her to him that had been missing for a while. “T... Tony.”

    “He was bothering you,” he said in a cocky tone she almost forgot he was capable of. In return that old spark she had for him seemingly came back to life.

    “Nothing I couldn't handle baby but I'm glad you did,” she smiled seductively at him. He gave her one that was just as hungry as the look in his eyes as she rubbed her hands over his chest. “Can I do anything special for you since you won daddy?”

    “I want you now,” he said. She started for the car but he stopped her. “No, Here.”

    “In front of everybody?” She quickly removed her top exposing herself to those who remained, “I like this new side of you.”

    Tony looked her over, licking his lips. A hand reached out and started fondling her, “You look,” that hand went for her throat and held tight, his eyes glowed in a way that froze her in place, “delicious.” Grabbing her leg with his other hand he picked her up over his head. Finding her voice she screamed for all she was worth. Those that were still stunned by the previous act of violence were struck even more so at the sight. A few found the will to run when Tony flexed and seemingly broke the woman in half. Those that stayed were transfixed by the horrible realization that instead of bleeding buckets she seemed to break down and fall into his open mouth. She didn't stop screaming until her mouth was gone.

    Swallowing Tony looked around at who was left. The bookie, the punk he just beat and his friends and a few others. They all stood transfixed by the sight of him. “Buffet time.”

    ***
    Hours later, outside that same garage a blond haired woman with leather bracers stood and waited. Jules paced back and forth a bit by one of the entrances just waiting. It wasn't that long ago that somebody came running out of there and nearly ran her over. Just based on how scared he looked and what she could get from his babbling told her all she needed to know, there was a Horror in there somewhere. And from what few bits she could get before he ran off like his life depended on it, and to be honest it probably did, this sounded like a powerful one. And she wasn't so proud in her abilities to fight Horrors directly to realize that this one might be a bit out of her league. So she contacted the person she figured was closest, Vincent. Fortunately her guess was right and he was nearby, So why was he taking so long to get here?

    “Jules!” She looked around and saw the familiar turban he wore since she was a little girl. Still didn't stop her from being annoyed at him being so late to her call.

    “What took you so long.?”, she asked.

    “Since we don't exactly know what's we're dealing with. Outside of an extremely frightened man's ramblings that is,' he added when she was about to say something. “I figured it would be best if I called for some extra help.” She was about to ask who when she looked behind him. Hurrying up was a blond haired man in a dark trench coat. With a bit of a Twinkle in his eye Vincent asked, “I hope you don't mind the person I decided to ask?”

    “Do I look like Reks?”, she told him. “Carter,” she greeted him in a friendly way. He nodded in response and looked up at the garage. “Xypher,” she said to the Madou pin on the left side of his coat.

    “Hey Jules,” he replied in it's tinny voice.

    Barely taking his eyes off the multi-level garage Carter went, “Vincent didn't give much in the way of details. Any idea on what's in there?”

    She shock her head in the negative. “All I know that it's strong and hungry. I haven't seen any one else come out but it's a big place. Plenty of places to leave and I'm only one person.”

    “Plenty of places to hide as well I would imagine,” Vincent commented. As he studied the building.

    “I'm sure you did what you could,” Carter told her. “And I got here as fast as I could.” Nobody was saying it but they all had the same worry right then. It had already feasted and gotten out. “Xypher.”

    “I'm not detecting anything,” the pin replied. “Not even a trace.”

    “It's very possible that it's not strong enough to be detectable from this particular range,” Vincent offered. Jules looked at the older man she'd known for years. He didn't really seem to believe it either.

    “We're still going inside to check,” Carter told them. As he started inside the two Makai Priests wielded their Madou brushes and followed him in. Looking around and not seeing any immediate signs of a struggle they headed further in. Jules pointed out the nearest staircase heading to an upper level. With the slightest nod of agreement Carter headed in that direction. Then he stopped after a few yards, head tilted to the side a bit. Both Priest took up a loose defensive position although neither saw anything in their immediate view. Without warning Carter lunged in between two vehicle. Coming back into view he had a man by the shirt and slammed him into the side of a truck

    “Don't hurt me!”, he begged, everything about him said he was scared out of his wits. Unmoved by the display in front of him Carter held his Lighter between them and flick the blue flame to life. Whomever this man was his eyes didn't react, he wasn't the Horror they were looking for.

    Carter let him go and took a step back but his gaze held the man in place and demanded, “What are you running from?”

    Slightly oblivious that he was scaring the man even more Vincent came foreword and gently stepped between them. “If I may have a moment or two with the gentleman?” Realizing his current approach wasn't working Carter backed off. Turning to the scared man and gracing him with a warm smile Vincent said, “Forgive my young friend. He get's rather... testy shall we say when he's on the job.”

    “In other words dial it back in these situations,” Jules muttered to the Makai Knight.

    Xypher responded, “I'm pretty sure the dial's broken.” Around the time the scared man was looking for the new voice Carter reached up and flicked the pin. “Ow”

    “Quiet,” Carter hissed through his teeth. Jules was pretty sure if the pin was capable of it he would be looking at her for some sympathy. While she was generally against him flicking the pin Xypher kind of deserved that one talking in front of the uninitiated like that.

    Helping the frighten man sit on the concrete Vincent knelt down and waited for him to calm down a bit. Even though it wasn't necessary Jules reached out and grabbed Carter's sleeve to keep him place. He obviously wanted to hunt this Horror down, at least to her, but this was their best shot on getting any information.“Now my friend, what exactly happened to get you in such a state?”

    “The old man Tony,” he said in a quick breath. “He just... I don't know what the fuck happened. He just barely won his fight. Then he... Oh God that couldn't have happened.”

    Gripping him firmly by the shoulder Vincent waited until he looked at him. “I know it's hard to process but what you saw really did happened. We need to know what this Tony did.”

    “His girl man,” he started. “I swear to God he picked her up like it was nothing and snapped her in two. Then she just poured into his mouth. Oh God It's even sounds crazier saying it out loud.” The three members of the Makai Order just looked at each other.

    “All right my friend, we're almost done here,” Vincent started. “Where in this building did this happen. It's important that we know.”

    “The fourth level,” he said. “I ran down here as soon as that shit started happening.”

    Without waiting Carter and Jules ran for the stairs leaving Vincent with the scared man. Racing up the stairs they burst through the doors at the fourth level, Carter having the black staff with the gold inlay in hand while the bristles on Jules' brush glowing ready to attack. The carefully walked foreword noticing that a few of the cars were parked in such a way that you could see something was going on here. Both hands on the staff, prepared to pull and reveal the blades inside he entered the loose “ring” stopping at the center and looked around. “Xypher?”

    “A horror was here alright,” the pin replied. “But it's long gone now.” Uttering a silent curse Carter replaced the staff into his coat. Not seeing Jules immediately he looked around until he saw her squatting down and looking at a beat up doll against the wall. “I think that's the Gate it used to get into this world. I can feel the negative energy coming from it.” Jules lowered her head and sighed heavily.

    This was outside her usual behavior in these situations. Soften his stance a bit Carter but a hand on her shoulder and went, “Jules?”

    “I'm fine,”she answered. “It's just... I know how gates are made. But every time I see one attached to something like this... I start getting angry at whatever life threw at it's owner to get that much negative energy built up enough to form a gate.” She stood up and with a quick flash of magic set the doll on fire. “No one deserves that sort of life.” She glanced at Carter then back at the doll. “Yes I know that was pointless since the gate was already used. And no it didn't make me feel any better.”

    “It just makes you human,” Carter told her. She looked at him. Anybody else she might have thought that was condescending. In her mood she might have even have accused him of it too. But she knew this particular Makai Knight a little too well.

    She smiled at him, “Foibles and all.” Walking away from the doll she looked around the garage. “I think I've been around humanity's darkness a little too long. I think I'll stop by that restaurant Vincent loves later. Remind myself of humanity's goodness as he likes to say.”

    Looking around a bit himself Carter asked, “Want some company?”

    Admittedly that took her a bit by surprise, normally she would be the one to ask him along. Generally he would decline. But if he was reaching out, trying to advanced whatever they had right now who was she to argue. “I think I'd like...”

    “Ahem,” Both of them looked behind them to see Vincent standing there looking a bit chagrined. “Now normally I wouldn't interrupt like this but weren't you going to the Temple of Rook tomorrow Carter? To purify your armor?”

    Jules looked at Carter, not looking for a confirmation. She knew Vincent wouldn't make a lie about that. All Knights had to purify their armor every so often. If the negative energy absorbed from fighting and sealing Horrors became too much they would start attracting Horrors themselves or start affecting them and their devices. The knight remained stoic, Xypher on the other hand, “It's not like he has to go tomorrow or be there all day.”

    “No,” Jules said. “Purifying his armor is more important. He should do it as soon as possible. Besides don't you have a friend up there? You can say hi.”

    “Believe me,” Vincent added, “I wouldn't have called him to join us if I didn't think we might have needed his skills.”

    “It's fine,” Jules told him. Actually it wasn't but she wasn't going to throw a tantrum like a child because she isn't getting what she wants. Being a responsible adult really blew sometimes. “Maybe we can do the restaurant some other time.”

    “I'd like that,” he told her. Then his gaze hardened as he went all business as he looked at Vincent. “What about the guy we found?”

    “Sleeping comfortably,” the older Makai Priest answered. “He shouldn't remember anything when he does awaken. I was able to get a little more about the Horror's initial victim before then though. Mainly a full name, Tony McKay. A life long underground fighter, the champ, for lack of a better proper word, for a long time apparently. I'm going to see if my usual sources can come up with anything on this McKay, where he lived and the like. Try to narrow down on where the Horror might strike next. I'll do some research into the Horror myself, see exactly who we're dealing with. I'll get you that information as soon as I can.”

    “That would be much appreciated,” Carter told him. “I'll look around here for a bit longer. Try and see if I can get a clue on where he went. “ Before leaving he hesitated for a moment. “An extra set of eyes would be useful.”

    She didn't have to look at Vincent to know he was grinning at them. Still she didn't hesitate in answering, “Lead on Mr. Makai Knight.”

    ***
    It was near dawn when Terrance made his way back to the, well hide out was a tad cliche but it fit what they were using it for. Making his way down to the basement he found Reks already down there working on something at the makeshift table. He stopped suddenly when he thought he heard a scream. It ended rather quickly but it was a scream never the less. Looking annoyed he said point blank, “Feeding the pet again?”

    “Just keeping it's strength up,” he said, never taking his eyes off of working he on whatever it was. The idea he never seemed unnerved by the fact he just basically sacrificed some other poor soul to the Horror they had trapped in there was upsetting Terrance more and more each time he'd done it. Almost like he was reading his thoughts Reks said, “I caught that one robbing an elderly couple, pretty sure he was racist too based on some of the derogatory things he was saying to them.” Holding up the thing to inspect it from a different angle he added, “So no one to lose any sleep over.”

    “It still goes against everything we were trained for,' Terrance argued. “We protect the regular human. We're not supposed to feed them to the Horrors. Much less getting involved in their affairs and act like judge, jury and executioner.”

    Seemingly satisfied with the work he had down he finally looked at the other man. “A necessary evil that had to go long with the plan. We don't know if a Horror can die of starvation and at this stage of the plan we don't need to find out.” he walked over to the wall and put a hand on the secret opening. The Horror locked on the other side seemed to sense him and they could hear it start to scream at him through the wall. “It took us months to track and capture one of them. We lost a man in doing so and can't trust any one else to replace her in fear they'll report what we're doing.” Talking his hand off the wall he walked away and looked at him. “We need to keep this one fed just long enough to enact the plan. After the Knights are gone I'll dispose of it myself.”

    Terrance was with him about getting rid of the Makai Knights, there was no question in that. It was the one thing that drew them closer as friends once they realized that had that in common. But still he had his doubts. “I still don't understand how doing whatever the hell we're doing with that is supposed to get rid of the Knights.”

    “Just trust the plan Terrance,” Reks told him. “I have faith in it and the man who thought it up. It will work. We just need to have a little faith.”

    Terrance might have had a little more faith in things if they were doing the exact opposite of what they were trained to do by feeding the damn thing. Still he trusted Reks with his life so he let it go for now. But, “There still one more thing we haven't really discussed about the plan.”

    Having started to equip the device he was working to his wrist he glanced back at him. “And what would that be?”

    “What's going to happen after the Knights are gone.”

    Reks was confused by the question. “We'll protect humanity,” he said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. In a way it was, once the Knights were gone they would have to be the ones to protect the regular humans. Still there were certain facts Terrance didn't think he was considering at the moment.

    “As much as it leaves a sour taste in my mouth to admit but our predecessors created the Makai Knights because there were Horrors too powerful for them to defeat.” Reks looked dismissive of the idea as he went back to attaching the device to his wrist. “Even now there's are a relative handful of Makai Priests who can defeat and seal Horrors on their own. And no offense my friend, but you and I are not one of them. So how exactly are we going to accomplish what they couldn't?”

    “Our predecessors,” Reks began as he made a few final adjustments to the device now firmly clamped to his wrist, “may have seen a wall they couldn't over come with those more powerful Horrors. Some may have even called the cowards, other smart in their ability to realize their own short coming. I on the other hand have a different interpretation.” With a quick flick of his arm a bar extended out. Terrance watched as the end unfolded into a circular blade that started spinning very rapidly as soon as it connected to the other end. He silently marveled as after a few test swings the blade increased in size with one. Stopping when it reached a radius of about a foot and a half Reks finished his thought, “They lacked the proper imagination.”

    Clearly impressed with what he was seeing Terrance said, “That is truly some of you best design work. But have you really thought all this threw because I'm seeing a flaw just looking at that blade spin.”

    “What do you see?”, Reks said in a challenging way.

    “It's what I potentially see,” he corrected him. “And that is horror blood infecting everything around it as soon as you start cutting.” Reks slowly turn his arm, and therefore the blade, like he was contemplating it. Without a word he held his brush near the base of the extended arm. A quick flash and Terrance stepped back as the spinning edges of the blade burst into a blaze of green fire. “Madou fire,” Terrance said as it dawned on him.

    Grinning Reks said, “The knights aren't the only one with access to it. They can use it as an a offensive weapon, why not us? Not only should the flame burn the Horror it should also take care of the Horror blood before it can become a danger.” That grin turning into an arrogant smirk he looked at Terrance over the wheel of green fire, “Do you see any other potential flaws in my design?”

    “I submit to your superior imagination,” Terrance told him. Satisfied the flame disappeared and the blade shrunk back down to it's original size before undoing itself and retracting back into the device. “I know that couldn't have been a recent idea. How long have you been holding on to that one?”

    “Since Vincent first took on me and Jules,” he answered. “He told me it wasn't practical and that I should forget about it. In hindsight he might have been correct about my original idea. But I never let it go, I knew it was plausible I knew I could, and did, perfect it. Those relative handfuls as you put it soon won't be the only ones who can defeat Horrors.”

    “The Makai Knights days are truly over then,” Terrance said, starting to believe in it again. Reks looked over the device again, checking various things. He may have been confident in his design but even he wasn't fool enough to believe there still wasn't any tweaks to be made. While his back was turned Terrance glanced over to the wall that had the hidden room, and the Horror inside it. How did that thing play into the over all plan?

    ***
    In a deep forest area well outside the city was a structure that was mostly obscured by the foliage. But in the middle of sea a vines a white marble door stood defiant of the life around it. It slowly opened up as Carter walked out. He looked back as it closed and sealed itself. The Temple of Rook, which housed all of those who have held the Title of the Double Bladed Knight and his eventual resting place as well. He glanced down at the thin gold pin on his right label. He may have been accepted into the previous Rook's family but part of him still felt like he didn't belong in there. Even the spirits of the previous Rooks felt his inner turmoil, but they neither confirmed or denied his thoughts on the matter.

    Walking forward he slowed his usual stride as he reached a particular spot. A spot where the previous title holder finally deemed him worthy of it after all his training. As always when he came here he stopped in this very spot and mulled over it. He was already a trained Makai Knight when he was ordered to report to the previous one, to be his successor. “Seems like forever ago doesn't it?”, Xypher spoke up, breaking him out of the memory.

    “Sometimes,” Carter agreed. “And sometimes it feels like yesterday.”

    The pin chuckled, “That too. But that's life as they say. You have to face it looking foreword and taking it one step at a time. I know you humans like to dwell on the past a little too much. I've been attached to a couple of Rooks that seemed to live in the past.”

    “They also say those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it,” Carter countered.

    “And in general that's true,” Xypher said. “But there's remembering the past and living in it like I said.”

    “Where am I on that particular scale?”

    “You're just remembering it at this point,” the pin told him. “But even just remembering the past can overwhelm you if you're not careful. Especially if you start wonder what might have been if particular decisions were made differently. Especially where those orders that sent you to us are concerned.”

    Carter just smiled sadly, he had thought about that on occasion. “You seem to know me pretty well in the short time we've been together.”

    “Eh, you always get like this after we visit the temple,” Xypher told him. “Or we run into his two oldest daughters.”

    “Just the middle one,” Carter corrected him. Taking one last glance at that particular spot he headed off, back toward the Makai Path that would take him back to the city.

    After a bit Xypher spoke back up, “Hey Carter, do you mind if I asked you a question? Do you feel any different after going through the purification process?”

    “In what way?”

    “I don't know, I guess coming out of it feeling a little purer or something.”

    “You asked that of all the Rooks?”, Carter asked him with a slight smirk.

    “I've tried,” Xypher said. “The closet I've ever gotten to an answer was the old man telling me not to waste his time with pointless questions.” His smirk grew a little bigger, that sounded like him alright.

    “To answer you're question no, I don't feel any different after. The process cleanses the armor of negative energy and any I happened to absorb but I don't feel any different.” Xypher grunted in understanding as the continued walking. He got to part of the path that branched off into two directions. The one to the left would take him to the opening of the Makai Path. However his gaze went off to the one leading to the right.

    “Why are we stopping?”, Xypher asked.

    “Besides don't you have a friend up there? You can say hi.” Those words came to him as he continued to look down the path.

    Eventually he told Xypher, “Something Jules suggested last night.”

    “Right,” Xypher said as he began to understand, “Morgan and his family lives up here as well. You're actually going to stop in and say hi like she said? You should, you don't have that many friends as it is.” He looked down at the pin, debating if that was a flickable statement or not. “I mean you're rarely up here and the last time you two met up you seemed pretty close.”

    “I guess it wouldn't hurt, to touch base,” Carter said after a bit. “He goes into the city as well, I can let him know about that Horror we missed last night.” Mind made up he took the right path.

    “And you can just say hi,” Xypher added. “No need to add any unnecessary reasoning for it. Like I told Jules, you humans make things more complicated than they need to be. Oh, have I mentioned how much I like her? She's a good influence on you.”

    ***
    “Hey man,” a rough looking character said to somebody inside the door he was by. “Some guy says he wants a meeting with the boss.”

    “Anybody important?”, came the response.

    “Don't think so,” he looked at the guy wanting the meeting. “Just some old dude, what was your name again?”

    “Tony,” he said with a grin, “Tony McKay.”

    “Boss don't know anybody by that name send him away.”

    “You heard the man Gramps,” the door man said. “you ain't seeing anybody today or ever.” Tony just grinned and grabbed the man by the throat before slamming him into the wall behind him.

    ***
    It didn't seem long before he started seeing landmarks that were familiar as he spotted them. Carter paused for a moment, an instinct honed from fighting Horrors told him he was being watched. It was still mid afternoon and he knew Horrors generally tracked down their prey at night. Still it didn't mean one couldn't be tracking a potential target, or that it could be something equally as dangerous. Keeping a closer eye on his surroundings After about ten minutes of this he stopped and and looked to his left. “Stop this game and come out now.”

    A bush started to rustle and he focused in on that, but he didn't react right away. In the next instant his wtalker stormed out screaming and got right into his path. Before him was a child, a boy who couldn't be older than eight. Coming up to his waist, if that, he held a wooden stick shaped like a sword and tried to look threatening. The lack of reaction on Carter's part seemed to make him angrier and confused at the same time. “Go away Stranger!,” he ordered. “I, the Great Leonard, protect this forest!”

    “These forest protectors are getting smaller all the time,”Xypher quipped.

    “How did you talk without moving your mouth?” The Great Leonard said softly. Then he threw up his sword and ran down the path yelling, “HORROR!” Carter, picked up the wooden sword and followed him looking further down the path to see a small cabin in the middle of a field. A woman came out quickly followed by another boy, older than the “Great One”. The youth looked ready to fight as the woman looked concerned but ready to defend herself. Than a man who was obviously the boy's father came out, sheathed sword in hand. As the small one ran to the woman and tried to hid behind her skirt. All of them wore plain and simple clothes, not rags as one migh expect from the house but nothing those on the streets would wear either.

    The man came out and walked a few steps in front of the others. Carter continued to walk toward him, tossing him the toy sword once he was close enough. “Sorry for the unannounced visit Morgan. If I knew this area was protected I would have sent word.”

    “That's ain't his real voice!,” Leonard called out.

    “It's daytime stupid,” the older one chided him.

    “Nathaniel,” his mother quickly said. “My apologies for our two sons Carter,” she said to him. “They have forgotten their manners from the look of things.”

    “Which would make them my sons,” Morgan said with some amusement. Holding out his hand the clasp each other around the forearms in greeting. “What are you doing out around these part Carter.”

    “Purifying myself at the temple,” he said as the headed for the house. Morgan nodded in understanding. “Lyndsy,” Carter said as they got close. He held out a hand for her but she hugged him much to the shock of their two sons.

    She pulled back and looked him over, “Well no Horror gotten to you from the look of things.”

    “But that's not his real voice,” Leonard insisted. “I heard it! His mouth didn't even move.”

    “You heard me oh Leonard the Great.” His eyes went wide as he looked at Carter, too scared to move. Carter held the left lapel if his coat so Leonard could see the pin on it clearly. He nearly jumped out of his skin when the eyes blink. “I'm not that scary now, jeez.”

    “And it's The Great Leonard,” he said in a small protest.

    “Pfft, same thing.” Carter flicked him. “I hate it when you do that, seriously.” The older boy, Nathaniel got up real close to the pin in stared at him. “Do you mind,” Xypher protested, “I can smell what you had for breakfast.”

    He backed up a bit, realization dawning on him, “You're a Makai Knight.”

    Leonard look back and forth between his brother and Carter, “Like Daddy?”

    “Yes like your father,” Morgan told them. “Boys, this is Carter Greystone, or Knight of the Double Blade Rook.”

    “You're a titled knight,” Nathaniel said with a bit of awe that wasn't there before. “I bet you live in a huge house with servants and everything.”

    Xypher snorted, “Boy do you got the wrong Makai Knight.” Carter gave the pin a slight grimice.

    “But you have a title...”, he protested. “My father doesn't even have a title and look at where we live.”

    Carter looked at him, “Just because I have a title doesn't mean your father's a lesser Makai Knight than I am. We both have the same job.”

    “But you always had the good life,” Nathaniel continued.

    “That's enough,” Lyndsy told him sternly. “I'm sorry for my oldest. He's at the point where he wants a better station in life. There's nothing wrong with our life here.” Nathaniel said nothing, but it was obvious to everybody he still didn't think it was fair. Carter looked around their home. This could have been him if things turned out differently.

    “No I haven't always had it good,” Carter said out loud but not really meaning too. The boys looked at him with some confusion. He looked Nathaniel right in the eyes, “My father was like yours, fate had a different calling for me than directly following his footsteps.”

    “You're the fake,” Nathaniel blurted out after studying him for a bit. Both of his parents started to scold him but he kept going. “Other Knights have visited and I've heard then talk. The fake titled knight who was just given it out of nowhere. The one who didn't deserve it...”

    “That's enough Nathaniel!”, Morgan ordered. He opened his mouth again but was cut off, “I said enough!”

    Realizing he should let this go and not fan these particular flames anymore Carter still wanted this boy to understand. “I wasn't just given this,” he began. “The previous Rook didn't just hand me what he had. He made me earn the right to take Rook from him every step of the way.”

    “I knew the previous Rook,” Morgan added. “Trust me son he didn't just hand anything to anybody. Carter more than earned the right to bear the title of The Double Bladed Knight.”

    “I'm still surprised he hung around to do it,” Xypher said.

    “He's still a fake,' Nathaniel insisted. His mother started to pull him back while his father pinched his nose and mumbled something. Unconcerned of his parent obvious disapproval of his current attitude he kept on. “No fake can beat a truly trained Makai Knight. I beat I can even beat you.

    “Now you listen...' Morgan began but Carter put a hand on his arm. He looked at him and one look from Carter was all it took for him to nod and back away. Looking at the defiant young man, and remembering when he had that particular mindset once he first hit the teens.

    “Let's test that theory,” he said, much to the shock of of the two boys. His mother not so much but she still seen to be taken a back a bit. Taking the staff out of it'd holder he took off his coat and handed it to Morgan.

    “Can I not be upside down please,” Xypher called out. Looking around the area near the house he found a couple of rocks that were the same height that where close enough to set the staff on top of them. Walking forward a bit he waited. Nathaniel was still dumbstruck, only moving when his mother gave him a slight push. He walked until he was a few yards in front of Carter.

    “We'll keep this simple,” Carter began. “You try to grab the Rook Sword. I'll try and stop you from doing so. Do you understand?”

    “Of course I do. What do you think I am, stupid?” Morgan sighed loudly.

    Carter said nothing, which made the young man even angrier and charged at him. With little effort he stepped to the side enough to grab the kid and throw him back. Getting back to his feet Nathaniel went at him again and again the same results. Again he got back up but didn't charge this time, Morgan looking a bit proud that his son could figure out that his strategy wasn't working. This time he tried to attacking him like a regular fight throwing punches and kicks. All of which were easily blocked or deflected given his age and current skill level, which made the young man even angrier, just where he wanted him. Changing his defensive a bit he slowly backed up, not much just enough for the younger man to charge in harder. Then he hurled himself past Carter as he took a step to the right, hand outstretched for the staff. His eyes only left his prize when Carter jumped over him, twisting in the air as he grabbed the staff right before Nathaniel could even touch it and yank it out of reach before his feet touched the ground.

    Nathaniel landed hard, looked up and made one last grab at the staff as Carter lifted it out of reach. Turning to make one more go at it it was stopped abruptly as Carter put a foot on his chest, pushing him down and pinning him there. “I like your determination,' he said evenly, “but I win.” Removing his foot he walked back toward Morgan as Lyndsy stopped Leonard from making fun of his older brother before he had a chance to.

    “I almost had it,' Nathaniel called out. “I got by you!”

    “He let you,” Morgan informed him. After the expected protest from the young man he went on. “I was watching both of you. He gave you that opening to win and you fell for his trap. He was just a superior opponent son, there's no shame in losing to one in a sparring math.”

    Retrieving his coat Carter put it on letting the father handle the son in this situation. Then the kid, who was still sitting on the ground, called out, “He cheated!”

    “Nathaniel!”, Morgan barked. Carter turned to face the young man and held up a hand, letting Morgan know to let him take this one. He walked toward him and looked at him. He stared back all with all the defiance of youth.

    “How?”, Carter simply asked. When no answer was immediately forthcoming he went, “You said I cheated. How did I cheat? I do deserve a chance to defend myself form that sort of accusation.”

    Nathaniel got up and got in Carter's face as best as he could. “You grabbed the staff!”

    “And?”, he asked looking for some further detail.

    “You said...”, then he faltered.

    “”I said,” Carter finished for him, “that you were to grab the staff and I'd would try and stop you. At no point did I say I wouldn't grab it myself to accomplish my goal.”

    “But you never said....”

    “Do you think a Horror is going to tell you exactly what he's going to do?”, Carter demanded. “Do you think it's going to give you a chance to point that out?” He looked away but he still looked angry. “Titled or not, a Makai Knight knows he has to pay attention, fight on what he see and on his instinct. Your father is not a titled Knight but he knew my what plan ended up being just by watching me, like I knew you were going to fall for by the way you were acting during that test.” Nathaniel ran back into the house, again his mother kept his younger brother from going after him ot make fun of him. To her and Morgan he said, “I'm sorry I've angered him.”

    “Don't be,” Lyndsy told him, “he needed the reality check.”

    “And since I've been trying to give it to him for the past couple of months, he obviously wasn't listening to his old man,” Morgan added.

    “Still I think me being here is going to aggravate him for a while,” Carter said.”

    “You don't have to leave,” Morgan told him.

    “I know,” Carter looked back at the house trying to see if Nathaniel was any where near the doorway. “He'll probably cool down faster if I'm not around.”

    “Not that boy,” Lyndsy said.

    “Unfortunately,” Morgan agreed. Trying to change the mood a bit he told Carter, “But you are always welcomed her despite what my son currently thinks.”

    “I appreciate that,” and he meant it. “Before I go there's a new Horror out there, likes to break people in two before devouring them.” Leonard stepped a bit closer to his mother upon hearing that.

    “Sound like a nasty one,” Morgan said. “I'll keep an eye out when I'm on patrol. Anything else I should know about?”

    Carter glanced back at Lyndsy, who was a Makai Priestess in her own right. “I have an assignment from the Watchdogs. They think somebody might be taking up where Sigma left off.” Morgan grimaced and held his wife close as she walked up to them. Most of that particular action might have primarily taken place in Japan but it's effects were felt worldwide. “Let me know if you see anything strange.”

    “In our line of work,” Morgan said, just to try and lighten the mood. “If I see anything I'll let you know.”

    “That would be appreciated as well,” saying their goodbyes Carter headed back toward the path. Once they were out of sight Xypher snorted a bit in an amused way. “What?”

    “What you did with the kid,” he answered. “I seem to recall the old man doing the same thing to teach you a similar lesson.” Carter said nothing in response, but his lip curled up a bit as he thought about it again. It was an effective way to get the point across after all.

    ***
    “Now,” Tony said as he sat down and put his feet up on the desk ion the room. It's previous occupant was kneeling in the floor battered and bloody, his guards sporting various broken limbs around the room. All ripe for the picking but it wasn't feeding time yet. “I like this area, particularly that park across the way. It seems to draw me in for some reason. Therefore I think it's high times these particular streets had a new king, wouldn't you agree?”

    The man spat some blood onto the floor, “Go to hell you fuck.”

    Tony started to grin as his eyes started to glow causing the other man to lose control of his bodily functions, “I was hoping you would make this a little harder.”

    ***
    Jules crossed the street, giving a friendly wave to a car that let her do so. She had grown up in this particular city and knew it inside and out. Which made he job as a Makai Priestess a lot easier. She knew a couple of Priests that would wander from city to city from her own experience or from what Vincent had told her over the years. While she knew they had some specialized skill that required them to do so but with the near constant moving they had to do she often wondered if they found any time to make even the tiniest connection with anybody. Granted the couple she knew of seemed friendly enough but they also seemed a bit lonely, at least to her. She guessed she was too much of a stay in one place type of person to see it as anything else.

    Thoughts for another time as she quickly came up to her destination, an old odd and ends store. Makai Knights may have their needs taken care of by the Watchdogs and the Senate, and the Priests as well, but a few of them had “day jobs”. Little places like this, partially so they could work on, or get, the various items their Order needed to hunt Horrors. It was also the ideal place to hear some idle gossip form the patrons about anything weird going on that might require their attention. Entering the nearly empty store she looked over at the counter and waved. The woman behind it smiled and waved back with one hand as she pressed a hidden button under that counter with the other. Walking toward the back Jules looked around and put a hand on a bare piece of wall and pushed revealing a hidden staircase leading down. The secret door closing behind her she took the flight down and found herself in Vincent's workshop. A familiar sight of her teacher hunched over his work station greeted her as she turned the corner. A quick raising of his hand was the only indication that he knew she was here. “How are you doing Vincent?”, the need of formality had long since disappeared between them as they were so close.

    “As well as can be expected my dear child,” he said raising up a bit to stretch his back in his chair. “Never get old Jules, it's not worth it.” Whatever he was working he covered with a small cloth. “It's a surprise I don't want you to spoil it,” he said seeing her reaction.

    “It's nowhere near my birthday,” she told him.

    “I never said it was for you either,” he said with a slight twinkle in his eye.

    “Then this should be interesting then,” she said as she took the offered seat next to him, “Have you found out anything about this McKay guy yet?”

    “My sources are still looking,” he said as he massaged his hand. One glance as the tiny tools he was currently using explained the need to do so. “There are a couple in the city so far, it's trying to pin down the right one that's the tricky part. However,” picking through the various tools and objects on his work station he found a old worn book that he was looking for. Opening it to a marked page he handed it to her, “I may have discovered the name of that Horror we missed last night.”

    “Hurklor,” Jules said out loud as she read the passage. “Well based on what you were able to get out that guy last night this might be it.”

    “It seems to be a particularly nasty one as well,” Vincent commented as he took back the book. “You may want to get word to Carter. If you just happen to run into him that is, it is a rather large city after all.” She just nodded in response as she really didn't have anything to say about it. But her mentor just studied her for a moment. “Jules, I know it;' been a long time since you've been my pupil, but hopefully you won't mind a little unsolicited advice.”

    “I would always take advice from you Vincent, you know that.” He smiled in a way that seemed a bit sad to her for some reason. Then again she was pretty sure she'd notice if something was really off with him so she let it go for the moment.

    “First of all I feel I should be honest and say I have had a small discussion with Carter about the two of you.” Or maybe he was afraid she was going to become an old maid at her young age or some other thing. “He's very fond of you you know.”

    “I'm pretty fond of him too,” she said.

    “Oh I know,” he said with a slight chuckle, “I'm very aware of that. While I wont say exactly what we talked about because that will be up to him on if he decides to follow it or not. I just want to say there is nothing wrong with you making the first move either.”

    “Okay,” she got out because she wasn't sure what else to say to that. There was no way she was going to mention that she had been staying over at his house on occasion. Granted she was upstairs and he was downstairs, but she wasn't sure how Vincent would react to that particular bit of news. And she was pretty sure Carter wouldn't mention that to Vincent either. Or for his sake he better not have mentioned it.

    “I'm just saying that sometimes, if you know what you want in life, you should just go for it,” he continued.

    “I understand what you;re saying Vincent, I really do,” she told him. “But I'm in a really weird place with Reks right now because of my feelings for Carter. I need to get that....”

    “Don't worry about Reks,” Vincent told her. “If you and Reks were a couple then that would be a different story. But any problem you have with him will sort itself out. Another bit of advice my dear, don't worry about what other people are going to think. You'll lose more than one chance at something special that way.” Turning back to his workstation he said, “Now I would hazard a guess that Carter might be back from the Temple by now, and that cafe is still open, if you happen to run across him that is.”

    “I'll keep that in mind,” Jules said as she got off the chair. Given in to an urge she hugged Vincent while he say in the chair, “Thanks for the advice, I'll think it over.” He patted her arm before she let go and made her way out. Maybe she would swing by that cafe after all. And if she saw Carter on the way there, well she did have some information for him after all.

    ***
    “Are you sure about this?”, Xypher said as Carter walked town the street. Night had fallen not so long ago, which meant any Horrors in the area would be on the hunt as well.

    “Fairly sure,” he told the pin as he looked around for anything out of the ordinary. “Based on what Jules told me this Horror doesn't just look for victims it looks for those with a particular mindset. A big fish looking for a bigger pond. This McKay person was the top guy in his fight ring. The next logical step would be to go after something go after someone with a little more power in the city.”

    “You do realize that could be just about anything,” Xypher commented. “He could be looking for another fight ring to dominate.”

    “That's not in this Horror's nature,” he said. “And you were there when she told us.”

    “I know that. But why are we out here in this particular area? He could be just about anywhere.”

    “Because this area is one of the closest areas to that garage,” Carter quieted down just long enough to pass by a couple going in the opposite direction. “Some small time hoods and gangbangers, a logical step up from a fight ring.”

    The pin was quiet for a moment, “All right, I'll give you that one. And I can see why you suggested the two of you to split up to over more ground. But aren't you worried about Jules?”

    “She's more than capable of taking care of herself,” Carter said. “Those hoods shouldn't be a problem if they decide to give her any trouble.”

    “And if she runs into the Horror?”

    Now it was Carter turn to be quiet for a bit. “As I said, she can take care of herself so so there's no need to worry.”

    “Try telling that to someone not directly placed over your heart. Ow.” he uttered after a quick flick. Walking around a bit he noticed something was off, at least to him. Even if this person in charge on this street was small time criminal by most standards there should be some guards walking the street by his estimations. So far he hadn't seen any one that looked like they were paying closer attention to the others on the street than the usual passerby. Did he get the wrong street?

    “Carter!”, somebody called out. He looked around to see Morgan wave at him before jogging over. “What are you doing out here in this part of town? Did you get orders too?”

    “What orders?”. He asked.

    “I'm pretty sure they were about that Horror you were telling me about earlier,” Morgan said. “They even suggested I seek some aid in taking it down. Since you're here and you knew about it first, would you care to join me? It's supposed to be in this area.”

    “Don't you even say anything,” Xypher told Carter. “Not about joining you Morgan, but about him being right.”

    “Do we have anything more specific than 'in the area'?”, Carter asked him as they started down the street. Everything said this Horror was dangerous, more so than usual. Anything they could get to track it down faster the better.

    “I did a little recon earlier,” Morgan answered him. “There's supposed to be a hideout the local crime guys uses close by. Apparently it's been pratically abandoned most of the day. A few people on the street have been avoiding it saying they saw a bunch of guys run out after an older man forced his way in.” An older man, McKay was supposed to be an older man.

    Once they were closes enough Morgan pointed out the suspected building. “Carter,” Xypher called out. “I'm detecting a Horror alright. But it's not coming from that building.”

    “Where is it coming from?”, he demanded.

    “That park over there.”

    Holding the quote unquote made man up against a tree Tony looked around. “I don't know what it is about this park that's just drawing me to it,” he said as the other man clawed at his hand and wrist in an attempt to get away. Tony didn't even register his attempt to escape. “I mean I've been in this city all my life and not once even looked at a place like this longer than I had too. Must be the new me.” Finally looking at the former “king” of this particular street Tony let go long enough to grab him by both arms an pull. Tearing him apart the man quickly dissolved and was devoured in seconds. Using a thumb to wipe the corner of his mouth Tony walked away. “Maybe I'll rule the whole city from here.” He didn't go far, just to a lamp post, as he saw two individuals in his way. One in something a step above rags the other outfit covered by a long coat. Both of them stuck some kind of lighter in his face, each of which emitted a blue flame. His eyes acted on their own immediately as they gave him away as a Horror. Angry he tried to grab both of them, the one in the coat spun out of the way as the other backed up.

    Tony looked at each of them as they took on a fighting stance he wasn't familiar with. But yet he knew exactly who they were. “Makai Knights. I was hoping to run into at least one of you.” In one motion he ripped his jacket and shirt in half as he tore them off his body. “Time to be king of a whole new area.”

    “Not while I'm around,” Carter went at him, with Morgan quickly following suit as they attacked him. He got a pretty quick bead as Carter realized that McKay was basically a brawler and the Horror that took him over didn't seem to be more than that either. But what he liked in skill compared to Carter and Morgan, the strength from the Horror more than made up for it. McKay was more than holding his own as they tried to strike him from any angle they could manage. Morgan upped his attack in order to get his attention in order to give Carter a better chance. McKay quickly batted Morgan away and swung back at Carter. Ducking under the blow as he ran forward Carter jumped up and off the lamp post, twisting his body around with a kick to McKay's head. The blow staggered him back, but not much.

    Rubbing his jaw a bit he stared down the Makai Knight, “I was hoping you Knights would but up this type of a fight. It makes you taste so much better after the juices flow through you.” Morgan ran in clipping McKay at the leg. Carter jumped up and over McKay grabbing him by the arm and used the Horror's unbalanced state and and his own body weight to throw him to the ground. Both Knights came in and kicked him in head as he tried to get up. His head snapped back but Morgan didn't see his hand shoot out and grab him by the ankle until he was feeling the pressure around it. The Knight went flying before Carter could stop him. Moving with a speed that could have only come from the Horror he got his feet and grabbed Carter and threw him into nearby tree. Running at him full force Carter barely had time to realize a bone like jagged spike grew out of McKay's forearm. Moving his head just enough that the spiked missed him Carter got a leg between them and pushed him back with all he had. He looked down at his chest then wiped off any imaginary dirt as he looked straight at Carter, “You are starting to piss me off.”

    “No you don't!”, Morgan cried as he tried to catch off guard with a rush, Grabbing him around the neck as he jumped at him he tried to flip the Horror to the ground. McKay bent slightly but he held his position on sheer power alone. Getting a good grip on the Knight hanging off of him he threw him to the ground. Raising the arm with the extended spike up he swung it down like a club. A black staff intercepted it as he looked Carter in the eyes. Grabbing Morgan by the shirt he quickly puled him back as he blocked another blow from that spike. Using his extended reach Carter started striking McKay anywhere he could around his leg and knees trying to topple him at the same time blocking or dodging that spike. Mckay was growing angrier by the second, and more dangerous as he apparently knew how to channel that anger. While jumping over a low swing with that spike he realized too late he left himself open as his other arm battered him to the side. One more time he blocked that spike, but he was off balanced and the blow sent him to a knew. Another spike emerged from his left forearm and McKay had a sick look in his eyes as he could taste victory.

    His confusion quickly turned into rage as he realized the killing blow was stopped by a sword wielded by Morgan. Seeing the Horror's eyes was off of him Carter gripped the other end of the staff with his free hand and pulled it in half, using the motion to use one of the hidden blades to cut into McKay's leg. Roaring more in anger than pain he took his eyes off of Morgan long enough for him to knock on of his arm spikes down to the ground. Getting his feet under him Carter jumped off McKay's leg and jammed his knee into the Horror's chin knocking his head back. Staggered he could barely put up any defense as both Makai Knights came at him with their blades, almost striking him at will with their combined attack. Finally getting a hold on the shabby one he knocked him into the other one. Stepping back more spikes grew from his knees as he hunched over a bit before rearing back and screaming at the knight sky. His skin burst apart as his mass seemed to increase very quickly, a spiked fin growing down his back as two fang like teeth reached up from his upper lip. It slapped his arms a bit before squaring off against the Knights.

    Carter didn't even react to the change as he went after the Horror again. His blades flashing s he swung them around trying to keep the Horror form impaling him with the spikes Morgan ran in from the side and sliced him behind the leg. It reacted giving Carter a window to knock a spike away and stab it in the gut with the same blade. Quickly getting out of it's reach Morgan came up again aiming the point of his sword at his head. Hurklor blocked as Carter jumped on it's back and jammed the points of both blades into a shoulder. The Horror thrashed around trying to reach for him but Carter held on tight, only jumping off as Morgan jammed the point of his sword into a leg. Pulling the sword out and backing away before it could try to reach for him he joined up with Carter as they faced down the Horror. Joining the other end of his sword together to form the double bladed staff Carter held it over his head and spun it before bringing it down to his right side. Morgan raised his sword into the air and with a quick flick of his wrist cut a smaller circle in the sky. Bringing the sword down he held his other hand behind the blade in front of him. Both portals opened as plain, bronze wolf style armor covered Morgan and Carter soon donned the red armor of Rook.

    Both sides ran at the other, Rook jabbing and swinging his weapon where he could as the other Makai Knight used more pin strike attacks to wear the Horror down even further. Still the Horror wasn't going down easy as he was able to hit the knight with one of his spikes as he bashed Rook away with the other. “Wait for my signal,” Carter grunted, not even seeing the other Knight nod in response as he ran at the Horror one more time. Swing his sword back and forth to deflect the spikes he waited for any opening he could see. Then he saw it. Hurklor brought down a spike with all the force it had. This time Rook let him using the armor to brace him this time around.. With a quick moment he held onto the the arm with one hand has he brought the double balded sword inbetween them. Bracing one end of the sword on the Horror's shoulder he was able to use what confusion and surprise he had at the moment to bend the Horror's arm around it. Locking him into that position he put a foot right behind the spike from the horror's knew and jumped up shouting, “Now!” The leverage from the staff as he jumped up and over the Horror caused it's arm to lift up exposing it's side. Morgan ran in yelling as the Horror freed it's arm, but not soon enough the Knight cut him deep. Landing behind him Rook brought the other end of his sword around and slashed him in the back. The Horror stood there for a moment before exploding in a fireball that quickly dissipated.

    Armors returning from where they came from Carter separated his sword before sheathing both end and Morgan did the same.”Another one sealed away,” he told Carter.

    “For now,” he said. The one sad truth about fighting Horrors, you could never truly defeat them. You just sent them back to their home dimension for a bit until they were strong enough to try it again. Still he looked at Morgan and told him, “I'm grateful for the help.”

    “I'm pretty sure you saved me more than once,” Morgan said. “Something I'm sure Lyndsy will be more than grateful for too.”

    “Carter,” Xypher called out, “I'm still sensing a Horror.” Carter and Morgan went back to back fully prepared to face what was coming. “It's behind you!” Both spun around, both of their blades partially drawn. Both Knights looked at the other in confusion.

    Then Morgan glanced down. Carter did the same seeing whatever it was grabbed his attention. Slowly Morgan said, “Is that...”

    ***
    In the chamber of the Watchdogs both Knights lowered a slab of park sidewalk to the floor. Standing Carter looked at them and said, “Horror Blood.” With their usual bored expression the looked upon the slab with a dark stain on it. A stain that pulsated every so often.

    “It would appear to be,” the female named Illumina said. “Obviously from the Horror the two of you defeated tonight.”

    “I respectfully disagree,” Carter told them.

    “And what is your opinion of how it came to be there,?” The male called Nisoka asked.

    Carter looked over at Morgan who nodded. Looking up at the Watchdogs he said, “Someone planted it there to attract Horrors to that location.” Both Watchdogs looked at each other at that statement, apparently communicating silently with each other. Witnessing this it was almost more unnerving then their usual uninterested expression.

    Finally looking back at the two of them Illumina asked, “What proof do you have to back up your claim?”

    “The fact that it's too concentrated a sample for one spot,” he said. “And there was no other splatter in the area the Horror was defeated in.”

    “I can back that up,” Morgan spoke up. “We searched the area and didn't find any other source of contamination.”

    “This is troubling news indeed,” Nisoka stated. Looking at Morgan he continued, “Knight, we task you with finding out who did this.”

    “With all due respect,” Carter spoke up, “I feel this is part of the assignment you originally gave me.”

    “Explain why you feel this way?”, the male Watchdog asked.

    “Because those of us in the order are the only ones who know how their blood will affect the Horrors,” he said. “Only those who can get close enough and survive can collect it. It has to be some one in the order itself doing this.”

    “And yet,” the female one said, “while you're statement is true, we do not see how this situation applies to your original assignment.”

    Carter had already talked this over with Morgan as they traveled here. During that conversation he remembered something Vincent had told him earlier. “A feint,” he said, “to distract us. To keep our focus on an increase of Horror activity in certain areas while they are free to do what ever they're planning in others.”

    The watchdogs communicated with each other silently one more time. Morgan spoke up, “I agree with Carter assessment of the situation. If someone is trying to exploit any rifts between the Knights and Priests again it would be best to attract our attention elsewhere.”

    After a few more moments of silence the Watchdogs turned their attention back toward them. Nisoka was the one who spoke, “We also agree with this assessment. Rook, we add this to your previous assignment. Do so after you have cleansed your blades.”

    “I will fulfill this added duty,” Carter said with a bow.

    :”I will aid him in any way that I can,” Morgan added, bowing as well. Both Watchdogs retreated back to their space behind the balconies.

    Alone Carter turn toward Morgan, “Tell anybody you can trust with this.” Carter didn't want to specify a Makai Priest or Knights in that statement. What Sigma did in Japan exposed cracks between the two sects. But both sides had to remember that they were part of the same Order. And a united front had to be the best way to confront those that would try to divide them again.

    “I'll have Lyndsy spread the word as well,” Morgan told him. “The more eyes we have on this the better. We'll try to keep a handle on any increased Horror activity to free you up to look for the ones behind this.”

    “I would appreciate that,” Carter told him. As Morgan went to cleans his blade Carter looked down at Xtpher, “We need to find Jules, I need her to look into something for me.”

    “You're thinking about that false reading me and her got the other night. You think somebody planted Horror blood there too?”

    “I have to be sure,” he said. “The more we find the more we can see where it's not being spread.”

    “It's a pretty big city Carter,” Xypher reminded him. “Whomever behind this may get their plan up and running before we can eliminate anything.”

    “Then we better hurry,” Carter said.


    ED – Shaman's Harvest – Broken Dreams

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