O, Death: Part XXI

by Matt P.

Antigone had never felt anything like it in her entire life. It was like every part of her, every skin cell and every nerve ending, was suddenly firing a thousand times harder than they ever had before. She could feel that the ventilation was still on in the room at least a little bit, because air moved across her skin. She could feel the blood trickling down her forehead even as she felt the energy from the Oberon shard knitting the wound back together. And she could smell the fear on the demoness as the green energy infused every part of her.

“Kill her,” Antigone said simply, pointing to the demoness. She had stolen the power of the altar, and she could feel the energy was finite now and burning away much more quickly, but the magic had still tied the reaper to the shard somehow. She knew, in a way that was beyond her actual knowing, that as long as the remnants of Oberon’s energy remained she was in control. And she didn’t need very much.

The reaper turned with that smoky smoothness to lash out with his sword at the demoness. The needle-toothed woman lashed out with a hand—now more like a claw—and swatted his blow away—but her hand sparked as it touched the reaper and she hissed in pain. Antigone remembered Morgan’s lecture about like destroying like; just as it had been Oberon’s own power that could defeat his defenses, the two were both bound to the demon’s energy and could lay each other’s defenses wide open.

But Antigone also knew she would have to do something about it. Infused with the fey energy she vaulted over the altar, hitting the ground in a roll and grabbing Siobhan’s sword as she did. That drew another gasp from the demoness, as apparently she wasn’t supposed to be able to do that. Antigone pushed some of the energy burning inside of her in to her sister, and watched in satisfaction as Siobhan’s wounds began to knit as well. Then Antigone was rolling past, bringing the sword up and throwing herself at the demoness.

Siobhan had spent years studying martial arts, and Antigone hadn’t. She had spent years studying dancing, but in the last couple of years she had taken to supplementing it with Tai Chi; and while Tai Chi didn’t have the destructive potential of the forms that Bonnie studied, it wasn’t fully a stranger to sword work either. Even as she thought that the sword in her hands melted in to green smoke and reformed in to one the size and shape of a jian, the straight bladed sword of Tai Chi. It was still Bonnie’s, she could still almost feel her sister on it, but it was now something she was more familiar with.

She threw more energy at the Eisenhund, and in a few seconds it was struggling back up to its feet and loping over to join the fight. Now she had all of her allies except Bonnie—and she would have to save her sister this time. They could be strong for each other, and Antigone—the one who always wanted to stay in the back, the one who didn’t fight but opened doors—could try to be a warrior.

The demoness cried out as the reaper landed a blow to her shoulder that sent boiling blood in to the air and splattering across the wall. The cadaverous woman howled in pain and danced back, her eyes glowing red with power and burning with anger. She held up a hand to face the reaper and the Eisenhund, obviously trying to bring up some way to escape. To leave, and to find some way to fight another day. And hurt more people.

Antigone couldn’t allow that. She had never wanted to fight, or hurt, let alone kill—but this was evil, and it was going to get away and destroy someone else’s life like she had Matthew and Natalie’s. So Antigone leapt forward, burning the last of her energy and power as the demoness was distracted. Her movements were fluid and quick, perfect form for the dance hall—and perfect form for a sword fight as well, at least that one time.

Her blow was perfect. The strange, slender steel of the Faerie sword came in just over the demoness’ hand, as the terrifying woman was distracted by a blow from the reaper that crackled demonic energy against demonic energy, destroying whatever defenses she had left. Wreathed in the last bits of emerald energy it buried itself in the woman’s throat, causing her eyes to go wide with horror and sudden agony.

Fire licked from the woman’s eyes, and in a horrifying moment the demoness was enveloped in flame. The fire was the brightest yellow and deepest red, with hints of almost ethereal blue at the edges, and it was like no mortal fire that Antigone had ever seen. As the flame boiled away the last of her own energy fled, and left her feeling hollow and empty. She dropped the sword and it disappeared in a burst of energy, back to wherever it was when Siobhan didn’t need it. By the time it was gone the demoness had burned away in to only an oily and smoky stain on the floor.

The reaper stared at the deceased demon, and then turned to Antigone. For a moment she thought she was going to die, and she was just too tired to care. But the reaper gave a nod. “Thank you.”

Antigone nodded, as Siobhan limped over to her. A moment later Matthew and Natalie came over, apparently having squirmed out of whatever tied them to it.

“The little ones,” the reaper intoned. “They came to stop me again as before, but this time the Zenunim was here to stop them. The Zenunim made the altar to control me, and reactivated it with the power of the dead King. All to harvest souls for her to consume, and for her masters to enslave.” The reaper’s basso rumble was sorrowful, deep with regret. “It was a perversion.”

“Is it over?” Antigone asked softly. The reaper nodded.

“I am returned to my duty, and I will depart. The shadows have fallen…and the outside world will come in now. You…have done me a great service, and saved many.” He—Antigone thought it was a he—turned to Antigone and bowed. “I thank you both, great warriors. I cannot offer favors, for I must be impartial. But I may speak or lend small aid—speak to the city dweller, and he will know how to find me.”

And with that he was gone. The room was empty and bloodstained and terrible, and Matty and Natty clutched against them tightly as they both began to cry softly. Soon footsteps pounded down the stairs outside and in to the room, and Walter and Ryan stormed in. Their father and their uncle looked terrified, which gave way to confused, which finally became relieved as they realized the girls were alright. In the moment they came over and wrapped all four of them, the three girls and one boy, in to the tightest hug imaginable, light streamed in through the window. It was just a spotlight from outside, but it seemed to have all the warmth and hope of a summer day at high noon, and the nightmares slowly fled the hospital before it.