Author Topic: Church of Secrets  (Read 1361 times)

Kingsley OConnor

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Church of Secrets
« on: December 07, 2012, 03:09:57 PM »
Kingsley stared up at the large ominous steeple, towering over her even though half of it was crumbled to less than dust. The large bell housed within was darkened with age, its outer shell pitted and the unused clapper encased in rust. The ropes below dangled short, long ago rotted away, and the stone encompassing the once beloved talisman of faith seemed more the result of stubborn defiance than any act of a miracle meant to keep it safe.

She should have remembered this church. She should have recalled what it looked like, who she had brought there, what dangers lied within. She should have remembered when she had once fled from it, terror rising in her throat, clinging to someone else?s neck as they ran from the fear that had manifested inside. She should have remembered it all.

But she didn?t.

It was the only reason she was standing at its entrance once again.

"I wonder what?s in there," she whispered to absolutely no one, for she stood alone atop of the wind-battered cliffside, a tiny dot of color amidst a backdrop of grayscale sky. Her hands fidgeted, both tucked safely into the singular pocket of her hoodie, fingernails click-flicking against one another while radiant eyes stared wide at the foreboding structure.

Should she go in? Should she turn away? Should she stand there for another fifteen minutes just staring at the abandoned building? How had she gotten there anyway? Why had she come? She honestly didn?t know.

Something about the place called to her. Something... inside that she couldn?t quite place. Was it a memory? Had she been there before but just didn't remember? Or was it one of those funny feelings you get sometimes, like when you meet someone you've never seen before but it feels like you?ve known them for forever? It bothered her, that funny feeling curling up and around and over itself in her stomach, twisting like an angry snake. But it unsettled her more because she couldn?t place it. The actual sensation was enticing. It was tempting her, making her want to go inside, to see what all the fuss was about. Easily convinced, she started to walk toward the broken door.

"Come."

She stopped. Was that... Did she... A voice had called out to her, the softest of whispers across the cusp of her ear. It had come from the church -- that much was for certain -- but there was no one else there.

Was there?

Receding a couple of steps, she looked around. The hairs along the back of her neck and her arms began to prickle and a sudden night wind cut up the face of the cliff, lashing at her and washing her over with a flood of cold. Loosing all conviction, she turned and started away. If the church was talking to her, maybe she shouldn?t be there. Not now. Not alone.

The thing was, she hadn?t been from the start.
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Kingsley OConnor

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Re: Church of Secrets
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2012, 09:22:12 AM »
[size=9]((Written with Elijah with much thanks!))[/size]

"How is he doing for you?" she asked over her shoulder. The two of them had started out early that morning, before the sun could seep any warmth into the frosted ground. But that had been about an hour ago, the young Irish girl leading them first through the barren streets of Rhydin before taking them to head north out of the city. What had started as a broad dirt road had eventually turned into a simple path, too narrow to allow them to rid side-by-side and so Kingsley had taken the lead. With a gentle pat along her mare's neck and the shift of a leg, she turned them to the right, taking what appeared to perhaps have once been a well-traveled trail but was now little more than the overgrown remnants of a deer path.

"Fine," Elijah replied. He seemed distracted, he kept looking over his shoulder like they were being followed but never said anything as to why. When she questioned him about the horse he patted the beast's neck and leaned forward in an attempt to keep his attention on her and the path ahead. "He's a good sort, I think. Ain't gonna be throwin' me off anytime soon, at least," a small grin cracked at his words. "How far off is the church now?"

"It's not too much further," she said, weaving her mount around the fallen trunk of a tree. They were going uphill now, a gradual but steep incline. "Didn't you say you haven't ridden since you were young? You're not doing so bad, being out of practice." He'd see a grin slip over her shoulder as she maneuvered the mare through some low brush.

"Yeah," he replied with a smirk. "But that's 'cause there's nothin' I do bad," ever confident, he clucked his tongue at Aries who paused a moment, picking up the signal to keep going. "Now listen. When we get to the church, I'm gonna have m'self a look inside. You should stay out here 'til I give you the all clear."

She turned her head but didn't look over her shoulder. She was quiet for awhile before responding. "What sorts of things happen to let you know there's a demon around?" She took a sharp right, swinging them around a downed jumble of rocks. By the time they were on the correct track again, it almost seemed like there was no path at all. And there wasn't. She was finding the place without sight.

"Anythin'. Some just sit around waitin' to be found, got rituals for that. Some announce themselves like they're stars at a Vegas show or somethin'," he shrugged, not doing much to guide Aries who seemed to understand that they needed to follow Kingsley. "Either by poppin' up to say hello or hurlin' somethin' nasty at you."

"What about before you go in there? Is there anything that they do or some way you can tell?" Curious little thing, wasn't she? Might as well ask all the questions she could. Nobody else tended to like to give her information, or sometimes even answers at all.

"Sometimes," he scratched his jaw. "Sometimes there are signs posted out front. Subtle things, you know? Somethin' other demons can pick up on, or people who know enough 'bout 'em."

Again, she went quiet. Then, "What about voices?" A twig snapped and her mare's ears perked. Kingsley looked off to the side and around them but didn't see anything. She guessed that it was just a squirrel or a deer and spurred her mount onward.

He heard it too and was silent for a moment after her question. His fingers tightened around the reins of his horse, his eyes slanting off to the side. He wondered briefly if Anson was getting sloppy..."Voices. Could be a sign, yeah. Could be anythin', though. Lots of things make voices. Ghosts, demons, an' so on."

"Ghosts?" She sounded more surprised than she should have been. Then again, she was still relatively sheltered from all those sorts of things even given her... situation. "Hm." Turning her horse sharply to the left, they seemed to have all of a sudden come upon the upward ascent of an ancient road still covered in gravel. "I've heard things. Before. When I've been up here." She felt ridiculous, telling him, but if she didn't think anyone was going to laugh at her, it was him.

He'd guessed as much when she brought up voices and only nodded slowly his understanding. "Like I said. Wait outside 'til I give you the all clear. By the horses, just in case," his eyes went down to the gravel under the horse's hooves. "Just up the way now, huh?"

She didn't like it, but she understood. And, quite frankly, she was used to it. "Mhm." Clucking her tongue quietly, she nudged her horse into a more spurred walk. The climb of up the cliff was impressive, leaving one side of them open to nothing but air and a nasty looking drop down a wall that looked to bear more spikes than rocks. On the other side was a thick forest, overgrown and ancient, more foreboding than inviting. As lovely as Kingsley may had made this place out to be, it wasn't looking very promising. And it wasn't. Finally, cresting over the far side of the hill and standing like a crumpled giant on the very edge of a jut stood the monstrous building, its stone damp and dark with age and crumbling beneath the weight of the ages. Quietly, "That's it."

Even before Aries came to a halt Elijah was sliding from the saddle. He led the horse up and tossed the reins at Kingsley and continued walking. "Wait here," he said, eyeing the old, crumbling architecture warily. It wasn't just demons he was concerned about, a place as old as this could easily come crumbling down without a moment's notice and he wasn't going to let Kingsley into a death trap like that.

She caught the reins as she pulled her own mount to a stop, already nibbling at her plump lower lip. "Wait," she said suddenly, swinging herself down from her saddle. Taking a few steps forward, she paused. Her eyes were like fickle embers, bouncing this way and that across the towering face of the abandoned building. "They're quiet," she whispered before looking directly at him. "Be careful." It sounded silly, she was sure, but she needed to say it anyway.

He tipped an invisible hat at her, since she still had his, and turned to keep walking. He climbed the steep steps leading into the church and tilted his head thoughtfully out in front as he stood before the doors. Both hands rose and shoved to push the old portals open with a loud groan that echoed off the cliffside and the dangerous rocks below. "Yell if you see anythin' out here."

"You too," she called out. She couldn't name it, but fear was crawling around in her stomach. She had never brought anyone there before (not that she could remember, anyway) and something inside of her was telling her that it wasn't right that he go in there. Not alone. Not without her. But he had told her to stay there, and so she would listen. Or at least try her hardest to. The two horses seemed jittery, like they wanted to leave. Patting each one on the nose, she kept her gaze trained on the church doors to watch Elijah vanish within.

He stepped into the church and paused just inside, letting his eyes adjust to the gloom. What little light there was didn't offer him much in the way of vision, so he left the doors open in hopes that some more sun might trickle in and let him pick a path across the dusty floor safely. His eyes swept here and there, searching for signs of life, for signs that something might be inhabiting this place other than a few rats and a bird in the rafters.

It was old and rank inside, its steeple less than supportive and the crisscrossing beams decorating the ceiling broken where they were not missing entirely. Crumbling mosaics that might have once been beautiful now were in ruin, leaving the floor beneath them scattered with bits of precious stone and color. Wall paintings were much the same, their images peeling and more than one had its artist's original intent wholly gone. The pews were many and staggered, some broken while others remained strangely intact. Various halls and hollows spurted out from the main worship place, although most of them had been partly caved in or, worse, destroyed entirely. But despite the looks that this church had been entirely abandoned, there were still items of faith to be found. A large cross stood like a weary old man by the front of the chapel, in front of a large stone slab that one could only guess was an alter.

"Hello?" he called, his voice echoing off the cavernous walls to toss the questioning greeting back at him. Nothing was moving that he could see, and instinctively he felt no demonic presence nearby. Slowly, he stepped back and turned around to approach the doors again, calling to Kingsley. "Go ahead an' hitch the horses, think it's safe enough right now."

The echo was like casting ones voice down into the sullen pit of a cave, low and thunderous yet lacking a certain amount of depth. Kingsley, outside, heard him and nodded, making quick work of tying the two horses to a scraggly tree before making her way toward the entrance. Strangely, she paused for a moment, abusing that lower lip while her eyes skipped over the face of the church. But he was inside and she trusted him. "You didn't find anything?" she asked, taking the stairs and stepping inside.

"Nothin makes me think this place is dangerous," he replied with a small shrug. "Stay close, though. Just in case. An' keep a clear path between you an' the door at all times."

She nodded, looking around at the decrepit ruins as she followed him further into the church?s belly. "I didn't think it'd be so... open." She was right; aside from the foyer that lead into the main center and the halls and alcoves that spread out there from, the church itself was huge. One felt that they could breathe there, but all the while still feeling that the air was thick and heavy and moist. Tilting her head back as far as it could go, Kingsley stepped through the threshold and into the worshipping hall. "Why do you think they left it?"

"Ain't exactly an easy place to get to," he replied, turning to look over the church again. "An' I didn' see no towns nearby. Yeah, you got Rhy'Din, but they ain't exactly the god fearin' type there. I think the congregation just got smaller. Older folk couldn' make the trip and younger folk didn' care to."

"It seems a pity," she said as she continued on into the room, "for a place that obviously took so much work to make to fall into such useless ruin. What?" She turned to face him, her brow furrowed as if confused by a question. But she didn't give him time to answer. "Elijah!" The sudden intake of breath had seared her lungs but the nerves that made her jump had her saying his name. She was looking next to and behind him, her eyes wide, the green of them drenching themselves with whatever light they could capture in that dreary place.

"Ain't the first grand structure to fall to disrepair," he observed thoughtfully. "Hmm?" he turned to look at her, frowning, then twisted to follow her line of sight to what he assumed was the empty space behind him.

When the demon hunter turned to see, he would be greeted by a statue that hadn't been there before. But it must have been. There was no way a relic of that size could just... appear. It was the figure of an angel, its human body lean and muscular and masculine while its feathered wings remained folded, clipped against his back. One hand hung listlessly while the other sat stoic around the rounded pommel of a sheathed sword. The entire structure was white, too white to believe that it had sat in this forsaken building for as long as it had been in disuse, and the amount of detail was staggering even to such untrained eyes. "It's beautiful," she said softly, her head tilting in admiration. Evidently the idea that they hadn't seen it before didn't bother her one bit.

"Kingsley, step back," Elijah put a hand out behind him to guide her away as he backed off from the statue. His fingers curled into a fist as if he meant to punch the solid stone, and the thought did creep into his mind. He didn't like this one bit. "See any others?" he asked, glancing around the church for any more statues that might have popped up unexpectedly.

And there were. Far off in the distant corners, easily mistaken to hold only shadows, sat two more similar and yet unmistakably different statues, each one of an angel. The first, to the left, was in some kind of prayer. His hands were before him, placed palm to palm, while his head was bowed, lips just barely touching to fingertips. He had no hair but instead housed a series of stones surrounding his head. A trickery of wire, no doubt, to have them hovering so. He wore no weapons but only robes that garbed him shoulder to foot.

The one to the right, though, was not so kind of a sight. Where as the other two seemed relatively passive, this one was aggressive even in his motionless life. Appearing to be striding forward, this angel wore what many would call the garb of an ancient warrior. A fighter's skirt was cinched by a thick belt, blending the seam between the one and the armored chest piece he wore strapped to his torso. A lance was in hand, its butt lending aid in his powerful, motionless strut. Upon his head sat a circlet, pure white as the rest of the statue but seemingly apart from the carving as a whole. "There's two," she said softly. "Off in the corners, towards the back." By the time she looked back to the first, she swore the statue had moved. Closer to them, more in the center. "Elijah, what's happening?" Fear was already beginning to crawl up her throat.

"Get out," he said calmly. He started backing toward the door. "Nice and easy, start backin' up," he was eying the nearest statue with suspicion, his hand still balled up in that tight fist. He was just waiting for it to spring to life. "Don' turn your back until you're past the doors, then run for the horses. Understand?"

She was a right good girl and did as she was told, walking backwards and never turning her back to him or the statues. She did, however, glance behind her, if only to secure how far she had to go and warn herself of any debris that may lay scattered along the way. That was when she paused. "There's another," she breathed, frozen in place and not daring to move an inch. "Behind us. He's standing in the way."

He lunged forward first. His fist connected, slammed into the statue with explosive force, the resulting echo sounded more like the blast of a bomb than the crack of bone hitting stone. A harsh wind seemed to follow after him, kicking up rocks and debris and knocking the pews near the end of the grand hall over like they were light as paper. He didn't stop to assess the damage done, either to the statue or his bruised fist, but instead whirled around to do the same to the statue that had put itself in their path. Again he struck out, barely noticing the statue itself as he looked for a way around it. A cacophony of sound echoed off the walls, as though the church was containing a furious storm. The doors shuddered, slamming shut and then open again from the wind that flowed with his punch.

Kingsley jumped as the first hit connected, the sound terrifying her and the wind resulting in her hair blasting up and around her head. She had looked away from the forth statue out of fear, letting it advance forward a foot before Elijah slammed his fist into its torso. Bringing both arms up, she retreated, stopped only when she felt the bite of a broken wall against her back. And it was then that the voices began. First, they were foreign; unearthly, otherworldly and unpronounceable to even the most talented of tongues. Then a single word: "Sacred." And another, after a moment: "Mongrel." The first was elegant, almost kind and undeniably soothing. The second was more of a growl, a feral sound the rumbled from the very air that surrounded them. Despite the violence, Kingsley's arms began to lower.

They survived his strikes, but cracks were splitting where his fist had impacted with the stone. Elijah frantically looked around, past the forth statue and out the door where their horses waited. "Kingsley!" he reached out to grab one of her lowering hands and tugged to pull her away from the wall before the statues could begin closing in around her. "Move! Now!" he didn't give her time to respond, but pulled and turned to twist around the forth statue, who, having stepped forward, provided them with a sliver of space to squeeze through.

It was something she should have mentioned, her abhorrence of violence. Be it by weapon or by bodily force, it frightened her to the very bone. It made her freeze, unable to move. It was a miracle at all that she had begun to lower her arms of her own violation. It was another that she moved when Elijah told her to. She darted out behind him, slithering her body as best she could to avoid touching the forth statue at all costs. A glance behind told her that it could quite possibly have been in vain, for where the furthest two statues had been thought too far for harm, they no longer were.

While the one in prayer had simply lifted its head and turned, the third, the most aggressive of them all, had gained the entire length of the chapel in the span of a few seconds. He now stood in front of the first they had spotted, just a few feet away from where they were attempting their escape, his lance drawn up and back. In one more glance it could be assured that it would be thrusting forward, its aim for one of their throats.

Even as they ran past the doors and that lance was brought up to aim, he skidded to a halt and let go of her hand. "Keep running," he said, waiting for her to scurry past him. His fingers closed around the door, just waiting for when she was out of the way and he could slam it shut. By now he discovered that they didn't move while being watched, so he waited with his eyes darting between the nearest statues, including the warrior, and readied himself for the worst should something happen.

She listened, the trusting fool, and kept on moving through the door. It wasn't until his hand was no longer in hers and the doors were slamming shut that she realized he wasn't outside with her. "Elijah!" she cried out, scrambling to a halt only to run right back for the door. "Elijah, get out of there!" She wanted to bang on the door, to try pulling it free, but knew it wouldn't work and she was scared that she'd only make matters worse or he'd get stuck inside.

As for the angels, he was right. Mostly right. During the brief time it had taken him to remove the Astral from the confines of the building, they had lashed forward as quickly as they could. The forth statue, the blind scholar, had turned, the book  resting in his arms drawn up, covering the hole that Elijah had left in its stomach. The first statue, the regal paladin, was missing a leg entirely but still somehow managed to stand, having turned and advanced down the side of the corridor. The praying angel had come up behind them all, his eyes, while naked, seemingly whiter than they had been before. The general, however, hadn't been so mild in action. His lance had begun to strike out, his face contorting into what one could only imagine was a heinous battle cry. But he hadn't been given the chance to finalize the strike, the deadly tip merely a foot from Elijah's vulnerable neck. So instead of physically, they attacked through the mind. "Halfbreed." That single word was an assault, like grating rock against the very surface of the brain. "Give us the Astral."

Mental attacks, while wholly unpleasant, were not a new experience for him. He winced at the voice that rang in his ears but not off the walls, and he grit his teeth against the sharp pain that invaded his mind. Rather than back away, he reached up. His bruised knuckles closed around the jutting lance that was suspended in the air, just short of his neck. Fingers closed around the tip of the lance and he squeezed, twisting but making sure to keep his eyes peeled and on the angels that closed in. The stone cracked, dust sprinkled to the floor in tiny white lines, and then with a loud crack he broke the tip of the lance free with inhuman strength and twisted it around in his hand to hurl it back at the stone. In the same motion he slammed back, throwing one of the doors open with his shoulder and catching it to slam it shut again. He didn't see if the lance had struck or not, but turned to Kingsley and grabbed hold of her hand again as he rushed down the stairs leading away from the church, slowing only at the foot of the stairs to catch his breath and wait for the sharp pain to ebb away from his mind.

She screamed, a wholly mortal sound, as Elijah came crashing through the doors, lucky to have been standing in front of the other and not plowed into as the demon hunter fled from the church. She managed to cast a look back inside, at the angel who, in that moment of being unwatched, had clutched at his one shoulder and the jut of the lance tip the protruded out of it, his face twisted into a hateful snarl. But in front of him, and off to one side, had approached the angel no longer in prayer. His hands had separated, palms turning outward to face away, and his mouth had begun to open. Then the door was shut.

"Are you alright?" She was honestly concerned. Reaching up to touch at one of his temples, she looked amazed by whatever it was she saw. Then came a shriek. It was born from within the ruined building but clawed its way out like a banshee searching for its next soul. It was horrific and agonizing, burning into the mind like a blaze of white hot sun; for everyone that wasn't Kingsley, that is. Blinking, she looked up, to those twin doors nearly broken off their hinges, the shadow in her eyes that of rapture. "I need to go inside," she said simply, already starting to retake the steps.

The shriek made him fall to a knee and cry out in surprised pain. But as soon as she turned and stated that, he rose and reached out to catch her by the wrist again. "Kingsley, it's not safe," he breathed out, his chest heaving as though he'd just run several miles without taking a break. "You don't need to go in there. You need to leave. Now." He was pulling her away, trying to get her to follow him toward their uneasy horses.

Her breath caught as if she were truly taken by surprise. She looked back at him with a look to match, stopping with one foot already perched to take the next step. "But they're asking for us to go inside." As if it were the most simple of things. But what wasn't simple were her eyes. They had shattered, the irises, exploding into a multitude of radiant colors, each a different shade of green with one more brilliant than the last. But between them all, like tiny veins of spiders silk, were threads of gold, slipping and weaving and lacing themselves like the finest of latticework. "Don't you hear them?" Indeed he did, those snarling, snapping, lashing words that only so few of a holy line can understand. Another shriek soon followed, worse than any cry of a hell-raised spawn. "Come on," she said, starting away again.

The way her eyes changed made him pause and stare in wonderment, but there she went moving toward the church again as though it made perfect sense. He tugged, pulling away while she walked forward. "Kingsley, listen to me. They tried to kill us just now, no good can come of going in there. It's dangerous," he pulled, perhaps harder than he'd intended to, in hopes that she'd twist around to face him long enough that she might actually heed his warning.

She did indeed turn, her body yanked back hard by his hand. "What are you doing?!" she nearly cried, coming to face him and losing a step or two in the process. Her hand was halfhearted near his, as if at any second she'd take it away, and her eyes continued to work their otherworldly magic, webbing themselves with the purest of gold. To her this all seemed quite simple; they asked for them to go inside and so they would go. To her it were as if nothing had just happened, that there was no just cause for them to deny those who now called to them.

He didn't bother arguing with her any longer. Instead, he grit his teeth and bit back his answer and ducked down to heave her up and over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes. He twisted, sure that she would demand to be let down, that she would struggle, that the voices of the angels inside would outweigh any sense of logic she might have left and ran toward the horses as fast as he could. "Savin' your life!" he replied as he untied the reins looped around that scraggly tree to free the horses up. He turned toward Aries, who was pawing nervously at the ground and flicking his head down the road as though demanding that they be off.

She did argue and she did fight, the small amount of good it would do her. But despite her being so small, so delicate and seemingly fragile, she now had the strength of something demanding her to put behind her struggle and, lithe as she was, it would be hard for the demon hunter to keep a good hold on her -- but she wasn't dexterous enough to break free. "Put me down!" was among the things she was yelling, one or two words being strangers to her tongue before then. It wasn't until they were at the horses, the mare nervous as a young filly and fighting Elijah to break free and run the instant he would let her, that the church bell began to toll. Kingsley froze, lifting her head to look at the broken tower, her hair tumbled all about her face. "Oh God," she said, her skin loosing all luster of color and her blood turning cold. "Run."
[img:ba1638b0f5]http://66.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lbcdrnkYan1qa7k7a.gif[/img:ba1638b0f5]

Kingsley OConnor

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Re: Church of Secrets
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2012, 07:10:52 AM »
[size=9]((Written with, and with much thanks to, Elijah!))[/size]

Thankful at last that she had stopped her kicking and screaming, Elijah hefted Kingsley up onto Aries' saddle and jumped up behind her. He gripped the reins of her horse tight in one hand and took Aries' in the other, snapping his wrist and giving the beast a good prodding to send it off in a gallop away from the church, a command the horses were all too happy to oblige. He didn't look over his shoulder, but rather hoped the angels inside would be trapped in the church and unable to leave for whatever reason.

He was right in that assumption; the angels failed to be able to pursue them outside of the confines of the church. However, the bell tolling high in its crumbling tower wasn't just to announce their displeasure. Kingsley looked back just in time to see the forest closest to the church begin to rustle, the beginning of a wave-like ripple that was rapid to chase them down the steep degrade of the hill. "There's something else coming!" she managed to say, hair whipping into her face while the blast of cold air stung her eyes. "It's in the forest. Take the right!" She pointed to the base of the cliff.

Angels, he thought disdainfully. They were a whole different breed of monster in his book. Her warning had him urging Aries to move faster while he guided the beast to the right at Kings' instruction, sparing a brief glance over his shoulder to watch the whipping effect the cold wind seemed to be having on the forest as it rushed like a wave after them. It would have been pointless to say they shouldn't have gone into the church, but that didn't stop him from thinking it.

The outburst of forest was gaining on them, and with it came an unfamiliar sound. Chittering, like the clacking of naked teeth mixed with a sharp hissing noise, growing louder and louder as the dark woods billowed toward them. Kingsley winced, instinctively, and hunched her shoulders inward, making herself even smaller than she already was, and tucked herself tightly against Elijah's chest. It was when they turned and were able to see the abandoned church once again that she peered up at it. He wouldn't see but her irises shattered once more, splintering with golden threads. She wanted to grab the reins, steer them back up the hill, but instead something within her chest fought the silent command and, squeezing her eyes tight, she turned her face away and into the man behind her trying to race them to safety.

The second horse was slowing them down. For a moment he considered leaving it behind, wondering perhaps if whatever was chasing them would take the bait. He doubted it, these things usually had a very singular purpose and were not easily distracted. He tightened his hold on the reins and pulled, guiding the second horse to turn with Aries as the beast sped away from the forest and the church as fast as its legs could carry them. With his hands full there was little else he could do but kick the horse's to move faster and hope that they would outrun whatever danger rushed behind them.

As they turned, leaving the tainted forest behind, whatever was dwelling within lashed out at them. Pure shadows, thick as pitch and sinuous like whips, frayed out of the ancient darkness, tentacles from deep within the bowels of Hell. The sound that accompanied them was deep and horrific, a bellowing roar that couldn't have belonged to anything of this realm and made the ears ache and the head pound. As the streaks slashed out, Kingsley suddenly grabbed hold of the reins. With eyes still closed, she yanked them hard to the left, using her right leg in unison to drive them straight into a thick settling of trees and brush. It was an attempt to protect them from the seeking weapons, those of which howled with displeasure as they dove after them, licking at the horses' rumps while two drove straight for Elijah's back.

They cracked like whips, trees splintering and exploding under the impact as she drove them through the forest for shelter. It was all Elijah could do to relinquish his hold on the reins and turn around, swinging his arm wildly to bat away one of the dark tentacles, the other narrowly avoiding him as they slipped past a tree. The impact on his arm made it go numb, he felt his bones shudder and groan and felt as though he'd just tried to stop a car from crashing into him with one hand.

The horses were already covered in sweat, their nostrils flaring with panic and their ears flat atop their heads. While Aries was determined to run his riders free, Kingsley's mare was not so linked and so when she yanked hard to dart to the left, there was nothing to do aside from release her reins and wish her the best, unless the demon hunter wanted to fall. Kingsley herself had taken most of the control over their path, finally trusting herself to open her eyes only to find them deep within the belly of underbrush and thick cropping of trees. Not hesitating, feeling Elijah flailing behind her and an almost unmistakable hum vibrating the very air around them, she dove Aries off to the right, looping around a particularly thick tree -- and right toward a down one. "Hold on!" she cried, gripping tight to the horse with her thighs while reaching back with one hand, grabbing onto a fistful of Elijah's shirt, just in time before the beast soared over the obstacle.

As they went leaping over the fallen tree he released the mare's reins and turned to throw an arm around Kingsley while she took hold of his shirt. They landed with a hard jolt and just seconds after, the trunk of that tree was split in two as an inky black line shot out like a needle straight for them. Again, it was a narrow miss and struck a nearby tree that they darted by, impaling it as though it were made of cloth rather than thick wood. His arm hung limply at his side, still quite numb from the recent block, but his fingers twitched lazily in an attempt to form a fist.

She trusted him to hold onto her as long as he needed, which would probably be for quite awhile. Various downed trees and large gatherings of rocks stood in their way and each one Kingsley and Aries skillfully darted around, trying to avoid any more jumps while also trying to provide them with cover from the vicious black shadows. One of these shadows, however, was smarter than the rest. Swinging around in a large loop, it thrusted itself straight for the sides of the riding pair. Kingsley turned her head, staring straight into dark abyss. At the last second it veered, as if struck with an unseen force. She turned, accepting the brunt of the blow upon her left shoulder before the inky lance dissipated in a shrieking puff of smoke. A swift intake of breath between gritted teeth told of how it felt, that arm going slack in her lap, but the other was all she needed to steer them through the trees. Not far off, between the towering sentinels, she could see a well-word dirt road. Spurring Aries, she headed them straight for it.

His seemingly limp arm rose up slowly, falling just in time to slap away another of the dark tendrils that whirled after them. It collided with a tree and retreated as they neared the dirt road. When the trees began to thin around them he bit back a sliver of hope that on the road the chase would end, perhaps they were too far from the church now for these things to continue as they were.

Her shoulder tingled, that numb feeling spreading all the way down to her elbow and halfway up her neck. She ignored it though, intent on getting them all to safety. By some string of luck, she knew where they were when they were finally spit from the forest and took a sharp left to drive them hard at a full gallop down the dirt street. She didn't risk a glance over her shoulder, leaving that to Elijah, but they both would be relieved to find that the shadows would only follow them as far as the edge of the wood. Behind them, swirling viciously, they would hear them scream, and even though they were miles away from the church itself, they would hear the last three tolls before the rusted bell went silent.

As the bell tolled he spared a glance over his shoulder to see the darkness held at bay behind the line of the trees. He blew out a sigh of relief and turned forward, letting the dead weight of his arm hang at his side. "How far are we from the city?" he asked as he leaned forward, doing his best to ignore the ringing the bell had left echoing in his ears.

"Not far," she replied, surprisingly calm despite what they had just been through. Aries seemed content in not stopping until they reached somewhere safe, which wasn't all that far from where they were. "I'll take us to the stables, unless you have somewhere better to go." She almost hoped he did, a barricaded safe-house or a sanctioned chapel or something like that. She would have taken them back to her house but... that probably wasn't the best of ideas. Not unless they desperately needed to. Coming upon a paved stretch of roadway, she slowed them down to a trot and then a walk, giving the animal his head to hang it low, feeling his lungs heaving between their legs.

"Small, cramped, but safe. The inn. My room," like any good demon hunter, he'd taken precautions when moving into town. His room was a veritable fortress against anything that wasn't mundane, all manners of sigils painted along his walls and the door kept everything out that didn't belong and then some. "The stables are too... open," it felt like walking up onto the cliff again, a dangerous move he wasn't willing to risk taking until he had the use of his arm again.

She nodded, keeping their mount moving toward the South. "Are you okay?" she asked quietly, turning as best she could to look at him, instantly eyeing that limp arm of his. Her irises had begun their slow return to normal, or what passed as normal in her case, loosing their web-like design of golden threads. Her own half-useless arm moved, scooping closer to her belly to lay a hand atop of the arm he had slung around her. "We're close. It won't take long."

"I'll be fine, just numb," and surely bruised, but that would heal with time. "Do you know what that was? What attacked us and why?"

Disappointedly, she shook her head. "I've never seen anything like that before." Sometimes not having all of her memories was a disadvantage, something Sai hadn't quite counted on. "Or the angels. I didn't think they'd do something like that." Not to me. Confusion was plain upon her features. Turning them down one road and another then another, they were only a few hundred feet from the Inn.

"Something is terribly wrong with that church, then," he said, though it didn't need saying. As they approached the end his arm tightened in a small squeeze before he twisted and slid from the saddle to land in a walk beside the horse. He reached up to guide Aries around back toward the inn's stables. "Are you alright?" he asked, looking up at her.

She gave him a small nod. "I'm alright. More shaken than anything. I'm sorry though," she looked down at him, "for putting you into trouble. That's not exactly what I wanted to do." A faint smile touched her lips, true apology darkening her eyes.

"Don't be," outside the stables he reached up, offering his hand to help her down. "Asked you to take me there, remember?"

"Still," she said, taking his hand with her half-useless one while the other gripped the saddle. Swinging her leg over and down, she gave Aries' neck a gentle pat once both feet were firmly on the ground. "I feel like I should have known better." Giving him a wry smirk. "Told you hanging around me wasn't easy."

He clucked his tongue and offered her a smile before turning to take Aries' reins and guided him toward the stables, where a stablehand was working and waiting to see to any new patrons. "Nothin' a good drink ain't able to fix."

She actually laughed. "You know, I think I could actually go for something like that." It was surprising that Hell itself didn't freeze over at that confession. Grabbing onto her numbed shoulder and forcibly rotating it, she gave him a lopsided grin. "I'll take a look at our battle wounds too. Learned a thing or two from before. Then again, I'm sure you know more than me." She turned for the back door and waited for him. Maybe it was a little apprehension from their recent ordeal, but she kind of wanted to stay close by him.

"Mostly just know how to stitch up cuts and the like," he said, handing the reins over to the stablehand. He fished through his pocket for money to pay the boy with, then turned and nodded toward the inn. "Ain't sure there's much wrong here, just numb and bruised more like than not."

"Better to be safe than sorry." Because, when dealing with angels and demons, she had found, very little was ever quite as simple as it first seemed. Shouldering her way in through the back door, she held it long enough for Elijah to follow her.
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Kingsley OConnor

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Re: Church of Secrets
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2012, 07:12:47 AM »
[size=9]((Written with, and with much thanks to, Elijah!))[/size]

The lock slid out of place. Elijah pushed the door open with his shoulder and stepped aside for Kingsley to enter ahead of him. His room would have been quite small and plain were it not for the myriad of sigils, runes, symbols and various other markings scattered over his walls and ceiling. Even the floor directly in front of the door depicted an enormous symbol that seemed to be charred into the wood. "It's a bit messy," shrugging dismissively. "Ain't exactly nice, either. But it's safe enough."

Her eyes were fickle as they opened wide to observe the room, the sigil at her feet caught in sight just before they touched it, earning itself a moment of hesitation before she stepped clear over it. "It's incredible," she said, almost to herself, making way a few steps further into the quaint room before turning herself around, gazing at the littering of markings and runes. "You did these all yourself?"

"Just a bunch of drawin's," he said, tucking his key into his pocket as he waved dismissively. He stepped in behind her and closed the door, the lock clicked into place. "Ain't nothin' no one else couldn' do."

"I doubt that." Finding one spot on the wall in particular that struck her fancy, she stepped closer to it, fingers tucked safely into the shells of her pockets. Just in case. "They're all for protection?" she questioned, leaning forward and squinting to study the work and detail of the intricate scrawl. She didn't say anything but her shoulder was tingling. An after-effect of the shadows, no doubt.

"In some form or another," he replied absently, studying her with a thoughtful tilt of his head. "Some are alarms," his hand lifted, gesturing toward the bathroom. "Bathroom's there if you want to wash up or somethin'," he trudged across the room, his arm still hanging uselessly by his side. The blow he'd deflected took a toll, it seemed, and it would be some time before he regained any use of that arm.

"Thanks," she said, glancing over at him and throwing a half-smile in for good measure. Moving away from the decorative sigil, she moved for the bathroom, closing the door behind her with a quiet click. Once inside, the hoodie she was wear was finally unzipped and tossed onto the closed toilet cover. She ran some water to rinse her face, only risking looking at herself in the mirror once she was patting it dry. The tingling along her shoulder was persistent, like an annoying itch you were trying not to scratch. Tentatively, she rolled up the sleeve of her white t-shirt. She didn't like what she saw. "How's your hand doing?" she asked through the bathroom door.

"Hand's fine," he fell back onto his bed, catching his hat before it was crushed beneath him to rest over his eyes. His fingers came up to prod his shoulder in hopes that he might have a small amount of feeling there, but from the shoulder down that arm was mostly just a vague tingling. It made him frown. "Shouldn' last much longer."

"You think?" On the other side of the door, she was wincing. Where once had been plain pale skin it was now the color of a dark bruise, the only thing telling her that it wasn't being the tentacle-like spread at the edges, stretching like fingers down the rest of her arm and up toward her neck. "Have you ever seen things like that before? The shadows?"

"Similar," he said. "But not exactly that, no. Never got hit by 'em, either," he sat up and reached to tug at the collar of his shirt so he could peer at his shoulder and see a similar dark bruise with webbing lines that seemed to be spreading through his veins. "Might be somethin' to see a doctor about."

She gave a soft laugh, her nervousness making it too light, before she tugged down the sleeve and snatched up her hoodie to push her way out of the bathroom. "You've got it too, don't you?" she asked quietly before biting her lip. Her one hand was on the other shoulder, as if that alone could make the mark go away.

He was still peering at his shoulder when she walked out. "Guess so," he said before letting his shirt go so it could fall back into place. He glanced down at his hand and stared hard at the tips of his unmoving fingers, willing them to twitch just slightly for the reassurance that he hadn't completely lost control of his arm. "Ain't seen somethin' like it before."

"That's not reassuring. You can't move it?" she asked, suddenly more concerned than she had just been and moving over to him, perching herself on the edge of the bed. Her own arm rested in her lap, the tips of dark fingers starting to peek out from beneath her short sleeve.

"I can move my fingers," he said. "Ain't got much yet, sorta punched one of those things earlier. Guess that wasn't my best idea," he smirked and waved with his working hand. "It'll be fine. Feelin' will come back eventually."

She winced even with his dismissal. "Don't you need those?" Without thought, she reached out and took his injured hand, turning it over in her own and bringing it close up to get a good look at his battered knuckles. "God, I feel awful. I shouldn't have taken you up there."

"Yeah," he shrugged and turned to watch her. "But it'll come back," her guilt made him frown. "Don' be that way. I asked you to take me there, remember? Ain't like you knew what would happen."

"Still," she said, glancing up at him for only a moment before going back to her study, tilting her head. "I should know better from past experiences. Not that anything quite like that has ever happened, but..." She gave a small shrug, touching a dark red mound on one of his knuckles and wincing when it didn't move. "Regardless, I'm sorry."

"Ain't nothin' to be sorry for," he flashed her a smile, then stared down at his hand again to will his fingers to life. They closed and opened again. "See? I can move. Just takes some time. Gonna get better."

"That's pretty quick," she said with the flash of a grin. "I was told that I used to be able to heal people once." Gently, she stroked her thumb over swollen knuckles then laid his hand down. "I don't remember how though, or even really doing it." With a small grin and a matching shrug, her hand went back to rubbing at the other shoulder. "What about you? Can you write any of those sigils on yourself and make injuries vanish?" She was half joking, since nothing should really surprise her. If only.

He laughed. "That's my writin' hand," he said as it fell. "An' those just keep things away, ain't good for much else," he pushed to stand and tried to roll his shoulder to no avail. "Anyone say what happened that made you lose your memory?"

Her cheeks were going pink from his comment about his hand, more because she felt bad than he gave her any flattering reason to blush. But his last remark made her blink. "Lose my memory?" She had never heard of such a thing. Not in regards to herself. Her brow began to furrow. "I... never thought of it that way. I always just thought I didn't recall it, or that everyone else was wrong."

"Everyone can't all be wrong," he said. "An' if somethin' happened an' you don't remember it, means you lost your memory," he replied simply, shrugging one shoulder as he turned to face her again. "Guess that answers my question though. Huh. You're a strange one, you know that?"

Now that had her almost flustered, and not in the usual good way. It was one thing to go through a church with living statues, even ones of angels that you thought were supposed to be good toward you but end up attacking you instead. Even the shadows following and chasing them she could handle. The bruises? Well, maybe not that. But this? Losing her memory? How could that be possible? And why wouldn't anyone tell her in the first place? Her family would... wouldn't they? And what about Sai? The Gunslinger wouldn't leave her in the dark. ...Right? Her hand had left her shoulder to instead run lithe fingers back through her wealthy mane of hair. He caught her with his look when it wasn't even halfway through so it simply paused, falling away without finishing the job and leaving a tumble of waves hanging over just one shoulder. Surprisingly, she gave a small huff of laughter. "I don't think I've ever been called that before."

"Strange?" that made him laugh. "Ain't you the lucky little bird then, huh? Been called that and worse, more often than not," he turned toward his dresser upon which sat two things: a bottle of whiskey and an empty glass. He decided this was the medicine he needed. It was a trick, getting the bottle open with just one hand, but it worked out in the end and he poured a glass, glancing over his numbed shoulder at her. "You want a drink?"

He made her grin, which was a feat unto itself at a time like this. Any other time she would have been nervous and confused and wondering if what he said was true, and all the while still being terrified of the church and its angry angels. But instead here she was, laughing and smiling (albeit both lightly), shaking her head and accepting a drink. "Sure," she replied, scooting herself further up onto the bed until her back touched the wall. "Why not? Everyone always says it's good for calming nerves, right?"

"Helps you sleep at night, too," he added with a smirk. He turned, first bringing over the filled glass to hand to her before he went back for the whole bottle, just because he didn't have a second handy. Then he perched on the bed next to her, back against the wall. "An' gets rid of that voice in your head that tells you you're takin' an awful risk or bein' awful dumb."

"Thanks," she said, taking the glass and drawing it close, close enough so that when she laughed it caused ripples to appear on the surface of the whiskey. "Be careful what you tell me. I might just become a regular drinker."

"I doubt that," he replied. "Too much of a good girl in you," he replied with a teasing wink before bringing the bottle to his lips for a taste. He swallowed the drink and savored the fire that burned in his chest and spread, he liked to think it even restored a bit of feeling to his shoulder.

"Just 'cause you're a good girl doesn't mean you never think you're taking a risk or acting dumb," she replied. "But I forgot," she looked at him and grinned, "you're a bad, bad man." Touching the glass to her lips for a first taste. Her initial reaction was a scrunching of her nose followed by her eyes wincing shut. But she swallowed and released the tension from her features. Squishing one side of her mouth, she eyed the glass of whiskey like it was a new-found companion she still wasn't so sure was her friend.

He chuckled at the face she made and arched a brow at her. "Ain't sweet enough for you, huh? Like that fruity drink Minoko made for you that one time," with a smirk he took another swig from the bottle as if to spite her and swallowed it down without any sign of complaint, even going as far as to smack his lips afterwards. "Oh yeah, I'm a bad man. Terrible, if you believe the rumors. King of liars and thieves."

"That things had tasted more like a fruit pop than anything alcoholic," which was neither a confirmation or denial of his guess on her take of Minoko's concoction. This, however, was a completely different story. It was brash and bold and stung as it went down, but the after-feeling of warmth that had spread throughout her entire chest and into her limbs was nearly intoxicating. If it weren't for the sheer impossibility of it, she might have assumed it had already gone to her head. "It's not so bad, really. Though it is strong. Liars and thieves, hm?" Her brows went up in questioning, eyeing him over the rim of her glass as she dared a second sip, this time more bold and trying more than just a drop. "What sorts of terrible things have you done to earn yourself such a mighty title?"

"Stole the Pope's golden crucifix," he replied through a grin, amused by the way she seemed to soldier through the drink. "After convincin' him I was a Cardinal or somethin' like that," he waved the bottle dismissively through the air. "'Course, when I stole the crucifix the jig was up but I was long gone by then, tellin' some officer that that big golden cross I was carryin' around was just a prop from a gift shop an' then I convinced the airline attendant that I couldn' put it away for religious reasons. Truth was I just needed it to stab a demon."

When her mouth opened in earnest shock, the air that touched her tongue felt like pure fire. Or was that the drink? "You did not," she said, green eyes wide as they stared at him. "You seriously did that," it was more statement than question. Despite his claim to fame via being a champion of liars, Kingsley really didn't think that he would lie to her. Funny how things like that work. "Did you give it back? What did your order say?" All rambled out before another sip was taken. Forcing herself or not, she was determined to show him that she could handle the drink, one way or another.

"I lost it," he replied, smirking. "We were in a big rainforest when we fought an' it got lost in the muck. Maybe someone's stumbled on it now an' keeps it as a glorified centerpiece. But my keeper wasn' happy with that at all," he snickered quietly. "So there. King of liars and thieves."

"That doesn't quite make you the king," she said, turning her face away and daring a longer sip. Her head went back, resting nicely against the wall. "Maybe the prince. Would have been better if you had kept it without telling anyone. Unless that's exactly what you did and now I'm a part of the big ploy and you're lying about losing it." Only her eyes went to him, a lazy grin evident on her lips.

"Oh, it makes me the king alright," Elijah countered with a grin as he watched her carefully. He reached over to take her glass, tipping the bottle just enough so more of the liquid would splash into the vessel, then offered it back over. "Wanna know how?"

Her eyes were glittering, a sure sign that the booze was already enthralled with her bloodstream. "How?," she took the glass with a certain look, eyeing him with suspicion that was only partly feigned.

He leaned over to speak with a feigned whisper, as though he were telling her some deep, dark secret. "'Cause I made the whole thing up," he said with a grin. "Never stole nothin' from the Pope. Security's too tight."

Her eyes went wide, as did her mouth, staring at him for a solid few seconds before giving him a shove on the shoulder (hopefully the good one!). "You're awful! That's terrible!" but she was laughing all the same. "So have you lied to me about everything, or only when you're trying to get me drunk?" She eyed him again sipping away at that drink.

"You say that like I try an' get you drunk often," he snickered, leaning away as she shoved him. "I ain't lyin' to you about much. Just the Pope thing," he winked at her and shook the bottle of whiskey in lieu of wiggling his fingers before turning to take a drink.

"Just the Pope thing?" She obviously didn't fully believe him. He was, after all, the king of liars, was he not? Licking her licks after a hefty swallow, she toed off her boots and curled her legs up under herself.

"Yeah, just the Pope thing," he confirmed with a grin and a nod of his head. "Trust me."

"How can I trust you when you're telling me that you're the king of liars and thieves, and you already lied about something else?!" If she weren't smiling so wide, she might have been a hint more convincing. Kingsley obviously wouldn't make a good addition to the liars club.

"Doesn't matter how you can. You already do," he smirked, taking another sip from his bottle before he leaned over to set it down on the nearby nightstand. His fingers twitched again and he looked down, his previously numb arm starting to get a small tingling sensation. "Feelin's comin' back."

Having little to no argument, she simply scrunched her nose in response and sipped her drink. Her brows arched at his confession and she eyed his hand. "Does it still hurt?" she asked, reaching for the appendage to draw it up for a proper inspection.

"Never did hurt," he lied. His hand had indeed hurt like hell when he punched the first angel, but the numbness that spread after that darkness struck had taken care of the pain. "Told you it'd be fine. All's comin' back now."

"You know, now I don't know when to trust you and when to not," she mused, turning his hand one way and then another. Taking a quick sip that drained her cup, she nestled it within her folded legs so that she could gently prod at a welt. "You might want to get this looked at, you know. I don't see how you couldn't have broken something, punching stone like that."

"Yes, doctor Kingsley," he replied with a smirk. "Is there anything else I should do?"

She slid him a look that wasn't supposed to look amused but failed, smirking and shaking her head before tipping it, nudging her thumb against an abrasion. "Can you feel this at all?" she asked, her tone suddenly quieter and softer, as if they were indeed in a hospital or clinic.

"Just barely. Whole arm's all tingly now. Like it's been asleep, you know?" he shrugged a shoulder. "I'm fine."

"You keep saying that but I don't believe you." She made his hand spread by placing hers, digits splayed, beneath it. His dwarfed hers, which wasn't all that surprising. It even made her grin. "Everything seems to be moving okay, but I don't know." She gave a small shrug. "I'd still let someone look at it." Subconsciously, she attempted to roll her own numbed shoulder without much success.

"I will, I will," he waved her concerns away, chuckling. "You're worse than my keeper, you know that? Always tellin' me to get this scrape or that one looked at."

"Well you should!" she argued, dropping his hand down so that it laid on the round of her knee. She had much more important things to look at right now, like his face. "It's only because I care about you, you know." It was the booze talking, or at least letting her talk. "And this," she said, motioning to his shoulder and craning her neck as if she could see what laid beneath his shirt. Give her a second, she'll blush.

"Well ain't you sweet," he grinned, leaning back when she tilted his head. "Tryin' to get a look or somethin', Kingsley? All you gotta do is ask. I ain't shy like some folk 'round here," oh, he could practically see the blush already.

Oh, he could. He certainly could, because by now, all thanks to him, that blush was in full force. She was trying hard to ignore it though! And was failing, miserably. "Well then, let me see it." The glass was moved without looking, placed on the bed stand. That same movement had her shifting positions, bringing her legs up underneath her so that she was kneeling rather than sitting. For a better vantage point of inspecting his shoulder, of course. She paused though, looking at him. The blush deepened. "Please." Even in whatever state she was in, she just couldn't seem to be impolite.

Smirking at her, he sat up to push away from the wall so he could tug his shirt off and overhead. Beneath it was lightly toned muscle sheathed in skin that was just a little too pale, riddled with marks and scars of more than a few scraps. Chief among all that, however, was the dark splotch on his shoulder that started in a bruise and spread out like a spider web through his veins.

And we thought the poor girl had been blushing before. She was froze for a few seconds, one hand reaching out and everything. The only thing moving was her eyes, darting all over him, subconsciously superimposing the image into her fuzzy brain. Then she snapped to, with a literal shake of her head, and continued her hand's travel to touch, lightly, upon his shoulder. "Is it still tingling?" She guessed the answer was 'yes', since hers was.

"Yeah," he said with a shrug of said tingling shoulder, he was managing to get more movement out of it than he had expected. "But that'll pass, too," he couldn't help but grin at her for the way she froze up momentarily.

"You think so?" she asked. The hand that had touched him recoiled out of natural instinct but did eventually return, delicate fingers soft and feathery as they dusted across his skin. It was amazing how gentle she could be when her head felt like it was swimming. "You don't think it's anything bad, do you?"

"Oh, it's somethin' bad. But I don' think it'll last. Maybe if they got us good, we'd be worse off. But just sorta grazed, y'know? So I think we'll be safe," he flashed her a confident smile. "Don't worry. Prolly be gone come morning."

She nodded, the hair past her shoulders swaying with the motion, sitting on her heels and biting her lower lip. Her hand was still on him. It was still moving. Trailing down the mound of his shoulder, it touched to a particularly vibrant scar marring that upper part of his chest. "What's this from?" Somewhere inside she felt like a starry-eyed child.

"Uh..." he looked down thoughtfully and shrugged. "Somethin' stabbed or cut me. Dunno, don't really keep track of most of 'em. Only got a few stories for them," he admitted, arching a brow at her. "Like scars, do you?"

"I haven't really seen many," which was true. Her head tilted, her hand continued on. If he didn't stop her, it wasn't liable to do it on its own any time soon. Again, blame the booze. "I haven't seen that many people without their shirt on, you know." It was a quiet admission, accompanied with yet another blush.

"Yeah, you don't seem the type of girl to frequent places where guys are walkin' 'round shirtless much," he snickered. "Must be fun to watch you on a beach durin' summer, then."

He honestly didn't mind her curiosity, it was both endearing and oddly satisfying, as innocent as she appeared to be in that moment, so he made no move to stop her. "How's your shoulder?"

That just made the coloring on her cheeks worse. Evidently drinking didn't solve that problem. Hopefully it was better at solving others. "I haven't gone to a beach in the summer in years. Since I was a kid." She gave him a faint smile, all too enthralled by him and his littering of scars. "It's alright. Still numb." Blinking, as if that was what severed her intrigue, she glanced to her own shoulder. Seeing the spidery fingers of black peeking out of the sleeve, she frowned.

"Lemme see," his arm came up and his hand curled around her wrist, rising while the other followed suit, albeit much more slowly. He was able to push at her sleeve to reveal more of those dark webs spreading through her skin. "How much has it spread, do you know?" he asked, brushing a fingertip to trace one of the many lines that seemed inked into her veins.

She watched him like she had never had anyone move toward her ever before. And, in her mind, she hadn't. Her cheeks were a permanent shade of rose, making her eyes all the more brilliant to observe. She didn't refuse though or impend his intent, instead just letting him mold her however he saw fit. "I don't know," she said quietly, looking at her own shoulder rather than him. "When I saw it earlier in the bathroom, it looked a lot like yours but I didn't look all that hard."

"Well, it doesn' look all that bad. Don' know what we can do tonight but hope that it's gone tomorrow," he shrugged, his tingling hand falling away while the other remained. "Doesn' hurt, does it?"

She swallowed, harder than she would have liked. Her cheeks felt like they were in flames. "Do you need to see any more of it?" Dear god, if she hadn't of had those two glasses of whiskey, she certainly would have been shocked at herself and probably bolted right from the room. She smiled, half sheepishly, half lazily, her eyes full of haze as she looked up at him beneath a wealth of lashes. "No, it's fine. Can't feel a thing, really, other than the tingling."

That question made him arch a brow at her. "See any more of it?" he asked, his mind going to a very, very different place for a moment. Luckily for her, he was ultimately a much better man than he pretended to be. "Well, maybe when ye ain't all numb I wouldn' mind seein' a bit more," he teased, smirking at her. "But I think I know enough as is."

She blushed even harder, feeling altogether foolish for even thinking that she could attempt to be anything but innocent. Nodding, she tucked her chin in a manner that bespoke too much of that trait. "You're sure it will go away?" She looked to her shoulder again, more afraid to touch it than she had been to touch his. Speaking of, he was still shirtless, wasn't he? Oh dear...

His fingers rose to curl beneath her jaw and gently, he guided her to look up at him. "Yeah, m'sure it will, Kings," he leaned close to touch his lips to hers, his fingers spreading out to cradle her jaw. "Ain't nothin' you need to be worried about," he assured her with quiet confidence, seeming perfectly certain that whatever it was that stained their skin was ultimately harmless.

The sudden onslaught of quiet kindness was soothing, making the fire beneath her face not so much of a cruel thing. Her lashes dipped low when he kissed her, her lips soft and pliable and faintly tasting of that whiskey. "I trust you." Her mouth was smiling when his left it, nodding only slightly as to not encourage his hand to move away. She was more than content to believe in his words, whether or not they, in the end, turned out to be true.

"Good," he smiled warmly, pleased to be able to remain so close to her. "Now, lie down," he said. "You need to rest, only way you're gonna get better. Come mornin' I can take you home if that's what you like, but it's safest to stay here for the night."

Her eyes were filled with more than their share of dizziness. It was a good think that she was already sitting, and that he suggested that she stay. Otherwise it wouldn't have been a pretty picture, watching little miss Kingsley stumbling her way home. Smiling lazily, she reached out a hand, touching at another scar that caught her fancy, this one along the hollow curve just below his ribcage. "You sure you won't mind?"

"Got me a pretty girl sleepin' in my bed," he replied with a smirk. "Ain't a man in the world who'd complain about that."

"Well, come on then," she said, her head falling back to let that grin shine. Reaching to grab his non-bruised shoulder while tugging down the blankets, she got herself nestled underneath them and urged him to do the same. "Are you actually going to sleep, or are you going to do what I think you're going to do and stay awake all night to make sure we're safe?" She was facing him, preferring to be able to bury her head against him rather than simply face a wall.

"I'm gonna take pictures of you an' post'em around town," he replied with a grin as she urged him to lie down with her. He did as she wanted, shifting to slip beneath the covers by her side. "Then you'll see how bad of a man I really am."

"You wouldn't dare," she challenged him, peering up with slitted eyes. She looked all too content, nestled there against his chest, tiny in comparison.

"Might be I would," he replied, smirking at her. "If I had me a camera."

"Never got around to gettin' one, though. Think you're safe for the night."

"I'll have to remember to not give you one for your birthday," she answered, shaking her head as she smirked.

"When is your birthday anyway?" she asked just before covering up a yawn. Her lids were threatening at half-mast, her head nudging itself into a hollow in the pillow.

"August," he replied with a quiet laugh. "When's yours?" he asked, arching a brow at her with curious amusement as sleep started to creep up on her.

"August what?" she prodded, giving his stomach, which was where one of her hands had ended up, a gentle nudge. "September," she answered without a fight. "The eighth."

"Seventh," he added, flicking at her hand with a finger. "What are you gonna get me if not a camera? Still owe me some gloves."

"I'm working on them," she said. "It's been hard 'cause I've been having to guess your hand size." It would have been clever of her to have done the finger-sprawling thing while she was still sober. Oh well. "I don't know," she admitted, tired eyes finding another scar along his chest which brought fingers along to touch it. "What do you want?"

"I dunno," he replied with a small shrug. "I ain't ever had a birthday present far as I can remember, not since I was a boy before the order took me in. Not really a place that celebrates much of anythin', even a job well done is just rewarded with a pat on the head an' instructions for the next one."

"So you've never really gotten a gift for your birthday?" Stick with her, Eli, and that would be sure to change. "That's awful." She frowned, obviously not fond of the idea of somebody's birthday going without celebration or, worse, without notice. A moment passed in quiet then, "My brother-in-law died on my birthday. My sweet sixteen."

"That's worse," he replied, turning to frown curiously at her. "What happened?"

"Car accident," she replied, busying herself with watching her fingers trail along that scar rather than look up at him since she was sure that there would be tears rimming her eyes. "Some crazy driver ran him off the road. I saw everything." She frowned harder. "Quill has never gotten over it."

"That's your sister, right?" his frown deepened, his tingling arm slipped under her to wrap around her middle. "M'sorry."

"Mhm," she hummed, nodding a bit. She managed a brief smile. "Thanks. It's been four years but it still hurts, especially for her. I feel bad, you know? It was my birthday, we were out to celebrate." She gave a small shrug. "Ever since it's just been weird."

"Maybe this next year will be different, yeah?" he suggested hopefully. "Might be I can whip somethin' up to keep your mind off of it."

"You're still going to be around by then?" she asked, grinning up at him. Their faces were close, she could feel his breath. It instantly made her cheeks go red and she fought hard to not try and hide it. The change in topic was welcomed, even if it had the potential to be just as bad in the end. "If you are, maybe we can both make these years different for one another."

"I plan to be around as long as I can, Kings," he replied with a shrug, tossing a small grin back down at her when she looked up. "Year's already startin' off different for me, an' this one ain't even over yet."

"I'll take that as a compliment," even if it wasn't directly aimed at her. She gave another soft yawn, just barely managing to put it behind a tiny fist. Her shoulder was tingling and, somewhere beneath it, she thought she could feel some sort of humming sensation, but she tossed that off as a part of the drink. "You know, maybe your order will have some business you can do here and you could stay." It was the musing of a semi-drunken girl who was being courted by comfort and sleep, eyes having already drifted closed and her body nestled nice and snug against his. ...And he was still without a shirt, wasn't he? Realizing this yet again, she blushed.

"Maybe," he doubted he'd be that lucky, but it didn't hurt to entertain a bit of wishful thing. "Get some sleep, Kings. Imagine you'll be sore come mornin'," he would be too, especially that bruised hand of his.

"I'll hope on it," she replied, wearing a warm smile as she inched herself even closer, pressing herself flush against him without any second thought or embarrassment. "If you need me for anything," she murmured, sleep evidently already wrapping its fingers around her mind, "don't be afraid to wake me, okay?"

"I won't," he replied, watching her closely as she started to drift off. "G'night, Kingsley."

"Good night, Elijah," came the soft reply. Ironic as it was, she could appear the perfect angel at times like these, burrowed safely against his chest with her cheek pressed to his naked skin and her hair framing her feminine features all too well despite being candid. She was content and happy, two things that didn't often find our little Kingsley much when she was drifting off to sleep. But tonight was different. For a change, she actually felt safe.
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Kingsley OConnor

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Re: Church of Secrets
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2012, 07:17:49 AM »
((Please ignore this entry))
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Kingsley OConnor

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Re: Church of Secrets
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2013, 09:33:01 AM »
"Why did you go there?" the Gunslinger snarled, staring at the tiny brunette while his hands, clenched into fists, hung at his sides. Try hard as he might, it was nearly impossible not to lose his patience with the girl. It wasn't her fault that she didn?t have memory of the church or what had happened there, but it still grated on his nerves something fierce that she would allow herself to be drawn back to it, memories present or not. Hadn?t he been teaching her better than that? Those would be the exact words Quill would use against him later; hadn?t you been teaching her better than that? That prospect alone had him gritting his teeth, the fact that he had failed making him do so all the harder.

"I couldn't help myself, Sai," Kingsley replied. She looked devastated, as if one of the worst things possible had just happened to her. In her opinion, it had. Never before had she experienced the Gunslinger being disappointed in her (well, not that she could remember anyway). As far as she was concerned, this was an absolute first. The anger and frustration in his voice was enough to make her feel guilty for what she had done, but the look in his eyes... Even the clear-cut blue of them couldn?t hide the fact that he held shame for her. In fact, it made it all the worse. "It was like there were voices in my head, telling me to go. I couldn't stop myself. I just... kept ending up there. And when I told Elijah about it--"

"Who's Elijah?" he snapped, narrowing his eyes at her. If there was one thing that could have made things worse, it was a boy. Toby had been bad enough. He wasn't quite sure he was ready to handle another.

"He's a friend," she answered quietly, tucking her chin toward her chest. It was the truth... partially. It was too bad that it was nearly impossible for the Astral to tell a lie.

"What kind of friend?" he asked, arms folding across his chest. If there was one thing he could do, it was tell when the girl was lying, or at least not giving him the full truth. Some times it was a blessing, but others? "You know I'm goin' to find out one way or 'nother, Kingsley. You might s'well just come on out and tell me."

"He's someone I met at the Inn about a month ago," she gave a flustered sigh, turning her face away as soon as she felt the blush beginning to rise. "We talked, spent time together. I took him to the stables. He bought Aries." She attempted to peek him a small smile but it didn't work. Disheartened, it darted away again. "He's like you, you know. Quiet and nice. I like him, Sai." Those final words brought her a strange sort of strength and she finally found herself able to look the Gunslinger straight in the face.

Her words of strength were his words of dread. He could feel his jaw tightening, the muscles along his neck growing stiff. The thing was, no matter how much he didn?t like, the fact stood that his sweet little Kingsley was growing up. And there was nothing in the whole wide world that he could do about it. That fact felt like a deep empty pit wallowing at the bottom of his stomach. Each day, it grew in size. "So what were you doin', bringin' him 'round the church? You know I told you to wait for me to go 'round places like that. What if you had run into demons??

"Well, when I told him about the voices and that they kept bringing me to the church, he asked if I would show him. I said yes." She gave a small shrug. "He?s a demon hunter so, I thought we would be safe."

"Demon hunter?" His dark eyebrows lifted up. Now that was something different. First of all, there weren't many demon hunters around. Not where Sai came from anyway. Secondly, how could he be sure that this one could hold up to the title? Not everybody that made the claim could match up to the name. Then again, at least this one wasn?t an actual demon... so far as they knew. Sai wasn't much of one for optimism. "Where did he come from?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.

"Back on Earth. He said that he ended up here on accident and that he belongs to some sort of society that hunts demons." She gave a small shrug, not really knowing all the details herself. "He really is one though."

"Hmm." He wasn't quite as sure as she seemed to be, but he was willing to let the topic go for now in favor of hearing the rest of her story. "Has anything happened since then? Any voices, seeing things..."

She shook her head. "Not really. There's been some dreams but, nothing out of the ordinary. The black spot went away like Jonas said it would. I don't know about Elijah but he hasn't said anything about it so I assume his is gone too."

"He got hit by the shadows too, and his mark is gone?" That made the cowboy curious.

"I haven't seen it so..." She shrugged. "I guess so."

"Huh." He leaned back against the kitchen counter to think. He didn?t know as much about angelic properties as Jonas did, and for good reason, but it seemed odd that the marking left by the shadows would just disappear. Not from someone that was simply human. The more he learned about this Elijah fellow, the less he felt he really knew. "I want to meet him."

Those were the words she always dreaded, even though she really shouldn't have been so surprised. Sai was always wanting to meet any and every person she spent any amount of time with. The fact that she had admitted feelings for Elijah didn't really win her any points otherwise. Lost without a reason to fight, she simply nodded.

Sai stood there watching her through a few moments of silence, debating something in his own head until. Finally he came to a decision, running a hand over the dark stubble that lined his lower jaw. "Jonas will want to meet him too."

She barely kept back the wince. "Okay. I'll, ah... see what I can do." Offering him a small smile, she took a step away. "Thanks for talking, Sai. And... I'm sorry." Before he could say anything else, she was slipping out the door.
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Champion of Few

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Re: Church of Secrets
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2013, 11:59:07 AM »
Sighing, the Gunslinger ran his hand over the rest of his face, as if rubbing it would make all of the tension go away.

"You know that this isn't going to get any easier."

The sound of the other man?s voice made any hope of tranquility impossible.

"You heard the whole thing, huh?" Sai asked, looking over his shoulder at nothing more than a few cupboards lining a wall.

It wasn't long before the image of a man emerged, at first just an outline of light before condensing, thickening into a more solid mass until, finally, it produced an actual person.

"She's not getting any younger," Jonas said, taking up a lean against the counter he had just materialized from and folding his arms across his chest. "That means that she's going to start seeing the world more and more for what it really is, and be tempted by it."

"You don?t think I already know that?? the cowboy asked, his mouth curving into a frown. "Every day I can see her losin' everything that made her a little girl, turnin' her into--"

"A very lovely young woman."

Again, the cowboy frowned.

"Yeah, that. But she's still innocent. She's still na?ve."

"I don't think anything is ever going to take that away from her, Sai."

"But what if someone could?" The possibility wasn't a new idea to him. Back when Toby was still in the picture and Kingsley was spending almost every waking moment with him, Sai was nearly convinced, and wholeheartedly dreading, that something would happen and her little bubble of unsullied life would pop. What then? What would happen to the Astral aspect of her? More importantly, would she still be the same sweet girl everyone knew her to be?

"That?s a risk we've always had to face," came the reply after a long moment of silence. "Astrals have been in existence for millennia. Longer." His golden mane moved when he shook his head. "I don't even remember when the first one was made, it was so long ago. There was so much being created that it was hard to focus on it all at once. There was just so much to do." When he realized that his topic had drifted, that he was opening up too much to the Gunslinger, he seamlessly steered himself back on course. "Astrals haven't always been born in the safety of the clouds. They've lived, multiple times, in human form just as Kingsley is doing now. They've dealt with the trials and consequences of a human life, and that?s never stopped them from before."

"But what if somethin' were to happen?" Sai asked, looking at the other man while secretly praying that he wouldn't look back. "We all know that her abilities are somehow linked to the things she feels. When she was in love with Toby-? a series of words that made his stomach turn ?-she was more powerful than I had ever seen her 'fore. When he died, she was miserable, and her powers plunged with her. She was dangerous," a word he hoped to never use again to describe sweet little Kingsley.

"Astrals are beings of incredible emotion," Jonas began, feeling the Gunslinger's gaze but not returning it. He was feeling unusually sympathetic today. "Since one of the greatest goods of the world is love, it's not surprising that her powers would escalate when she felt it within herself. The same can be said of the opposite; loss and misery will inevitably breed a darker side of that same force."

"Why would He allow that?" he asked, hating using any of the titles so opting for the lesser of them all. "Why would He make it possible for somethin' so good, so pure, to be able to be twisted into somethin' so dark, and all just 'cause of what can happen durin' a human life?"

"You know it's pointless to ask, Sai," Jonas replied with the smallest of grins. It was then that he chose to look at him, holding back the full brunt of what his gaze could do but letting through just enough so that the he would be reminded of what, exactly, he was inside. "He does as He chooses to do. That's the beauty of not having to answer to anyone."

"I should 'ave guessed as much," he grumbled, the answer making him frown while the burning inside of his head made him look away. "So what are we supposed to do?"

"What we're meant to do," came the answer, turning his head away to give the cowboy some peace. "Be here for Kingsley and help her any way that we can without trying to control her life or turn her into a prisoner. She's meant for something. She wouldn't be here if she wasn't. The best we can do is wait until we find out what and protect her along the way."

The Gunslinger took it all in silence, his jaw tight with tension.

"What do we do 'bout the demon hunter?" he finally asked, knowing full well that he wasn?t the only one with the unknown man uneasily on his mind.

"That," he gave a nod, "we will have to look into." He didn't like the idea of a stranger getting involved any more than Sai did, but he also knew that there was nearly nothing he could do about it. With Kingsley void of all memory of him prior to their meeting here in Rhydin, it hadn't been easy to keep his personal feelings for her in check. Now that there was another man, and one which she clearly favored, it was like having a dagger gouging right through him, straight to the heart. "I'll see what I can find out," he finally said, pushing away from the counter and heading for the door.

"Why do you even bother?" the cowboy asked, lifting his head to show the smallest of smirks as he glanced, pointedly, at the door.

Jonas paused with his hand on the knob, pondering over the question before he, too, gave a tiny smirk.

"The same reason that you do," he said, opening the door and letting himself out.
[size=10:9e91c8f5c5][color=#000033:9e91c8f5c5]"Evil only prevails when good men do nothing."[/color:9e91c8f5c5][/size:9e91c8f5c5]

Kingsley OConnor

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Re: Church of Secrets
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2013, 10:30:09 AM »
[size=9]((Written with Jonas))[/size]

She stood outside of the Red Dragon, staring up at the lumbering giant with eyes too wide and a face full of innocence and fear. He was inside. She could feel him in there. She wanted to go in but, after the brief incident yesterday, she doubted she'd have the courage to make it even a foot through the door. Nerves had her nibbling at her lower lip, apprehension had her stomach doing flips. Worried fingers fumbled with the small piece of paper folded inside one of her coat pockets. She wanted to slip it beneath a certain door upstairs but, was it really worth the risk?

"Kingsley." The name was familiar to the tongue but feigned being foreign. All for good cause, or so a certain gunslinger had told him. For now, he'd play the game. He was walking up alongside of her, quiet as the night followed the sun, hands in his pockets and wild mane left loose as it always was, the plaything of the wind. He stopped somewhere nearby her, shifting his look from her to the object of her scrutiny; the Inn. "What's got you standing out here instead of going in?" He didn't quite remember her being fond of the cold.

She blinked, that brief reprieve of visual contact with the building giving her enough strength to shift it sideways to her friend. He was taller than her, much taller. It always made her feel like the tiniest of things, even when he wasn't all that close to her. "There's someone inside," she said. "Someone that... just doesn't feel right." She didn't know if he would understand. She didn't know if anybody would.

"Oh?" he asked with insincere surprise, eyebrows arching at the Inn. "Not right how?" He looked back to her. "You can try to explain it to me, Kingsley," he said after a short pause, accompanying it with a small smile. "I'm rather good at understanding." Granted he had more of an advantage than most but, she didn't need to know that.

Her cheeks became colored with the faintest dusting of rose and she gently tucked her chin downward. "Like he's the opposite of me. Something dark, and fierce. It... gets angry whenever I'm around. And I can feel something stirring inside of me to match it but... not for a good reason." Her eyes flicked up at him, curious and a little bit hopeful. "Does that make any sense?"

His face harbored no expression as she described what was going on inside of her. He wasn't shocked. Not in the slightest. He would have been more concerned if she wasn't feeling the presence of darker beings. In a way, he was pleased. "It does," he answered, letting their eyes meet and sit when she finally braved looking at him. He stole a piece of her, or rather borrowed it, before taking his gaze away to fixate it back on the front side of the Inn. He could feel it, too, now, smoldering inside like the foulest of taints. For a moment his air took on a more protective role, but as soon as it was there, it was gone again. A figment of the imagination, for sure.

She watched him, failing to catch the shift in his aura. Finally relieving that small piece of paper of the role as her worry stone, she withdrew her hands from her pockets and instead folded her arms snugly beneath her chest. "It bothers me," she continued explaining. "It's like I know that I should stay away but... I can't help but think that I should try talking to him."

"That, dear Kingsley," he said, turning his gaze back onto her, "would probably not be the wisest of things to do." It was intense, whatever demon was lingering inside of the Inn. It wasn't likely to be a simple creature, not something that would be easily scared off, and its aura told distinctly that it was not weak. This was enough to make him believe it best to try and dissuade her of any fantasies of becoming friends with the being, whether or not the possibility was there or not. "Come on," he said, bringing an arm to form a corral behind her shoulders. "I'll walk you home. It's probably best to not leave you on your own if creatures like that are about. At least that's what Sai would say." He'd offer her another small smile. Good old Sai, perfect for the blaming.

She mustered up a smile from somewhere, small and meek as it was. "Thanks, Jonas. Usually Elijah would be around but, I haven't seen him yet today." Which, strangely enough, gave her cause for worry. She moved in the direction in which his arm guided her, keeping hers tucked against her stomach. She blinked, feeling a flare. Glancing at the building, she felt her innards trip and roll. He had sensed her, and her being responded in turn. Ducking her head, her gait quickened, but that didn't keep the holy aura inside of her from flashing to life, bursting around her in an invisible sundisk, a halo of blinding light.

The mention of the other man had his jaw tightening, but otherwise he said nothing about it. It was the growl of the beast inside, the responding shudder of the Astral beside him, that held his immediate concern. He was looking to the Inn, over the top of the young woman's dark head, when her flash of holiness decided to take its turn. It burned his retinas, causing him to wince. If there was a moment in which he couldn't don his mortal mask in full, it was one like this. Turning his face away, he hurried her down the road. "Let's just get you to the house. Wouldn't want you getting cold." Despite the searing pain in his head, his arm instinctively ached to lay down upon the girl's shoulders. With fingers clenched, he refrained, lowering his arm to simply fall by his side.

It wouldn't take much to convince her. She hurried along just as fast as Jonas would lead. She wasn't yet willing to face whatever might just happen should she stay there. The two sides of an eternal scale were reaching out to each other, challenging each other, even if their hosts wanted anything but. Without even a glance back over her shoulder, she hurried along. Today was not the day for angels and demons to fight.
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Jonas Irin

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Re: Church of Secrets
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2013, 11:06:19 AM »
The walk to the church was long and treacherous, especially when the creatures within weren?t waiting for you.

Lucky for Jonas, that wasn?t necessarily the case.

Walking didn?t prove much of an issue either.

Three steps from the kitchen door, he vanished, reappearing moments later just outside the church?s crooked maw. He didn?t bother knocking but instead stepped right through, letting his physical form shift from solid to light to solid again. It was more a safety measure than anything; the creatures lurking inside could use all of the reminders of just what and who he was as they could get.

?Jonas.?

At least they remembered his name.

?Iuvart,? Jonas replied, continuing through the mess and rumble that was the foyer and into the vast open space of the decrepit hall. He turned his gaze to the left, finding the towering statue of the ex-prince of angels hiding in the corner, buried beneath a cloak of shadows. ?How surprising to find you here. And the others.? Scattered about the room to were the other statues. Four in total, one for each angle. Each one received it own blue stare. ?I should have figured you wouldn?t have come alone. What?s brought you here??

?The Astral.? Iuvart, the first statue, spoke again. ?She is here. She is near us.?

?And??

?We want the salvation that she can promise.? The second statue, Kasdeja. The sinful mage. His slightly crazed tone was unmistakable from the rest.

Jonas looked to the sorcerer and tilted his head, eyes narrowing as he spoke.

?Since when have any of you sought salvation??

?We no longer serve Hell,? Iuvart continued. ?We have abandoned our positions there in favor of attempting a chance for redemption.?

?Have you repented?? Jonas asked.

?We were in the right.?

?But have you sought forgiveness?? he asked, looking between each of the statues, even the two sitting silently, brooding in their corners. ?You know there is no re-entering Heaven without being forgiven.?

?Forgiveness is not needed for the path we wish to take.?

?And how you do expect to get past Him??

?The Astral will provide the way.?

?The Astral?? he asked with a huff of laughter, a mockery. ?You think that she can bring you a way in which He can not see? You are all fools.?

?Says the one who is infatuated with her.? Semyaza, the wrathful warrior. His tone was as jagged as the broken tip of his spear. ?Tell us, Jonas, does she not taste as sweet as she looks? Is it not tempting to reach out and touch her, to pierce her aura, to feel the strength of her power rolling over your hand??

Jonas didn?t answer. The angel continued.

?Tell us that you haven?t considered it, using the Astral for your own.?

?Never.? The reply was sharp, quick. The answering laughter was not.

?You lie as poorly as you wear that human skin.?

He could hear Kasdeja?s snicker. Even Meresin, the holiest of them all, couldn?t hold back his amusement in full. Only Iuvart, the regal paladin, kept his collective calm.

?Why don?t you tell us why you are here? We?ve already told you, so it only seems fair.?

?I am here to protect her,? was his initial response. It was the truth, and one he still believed in. Sadly, the other angels could see right through it.

?Maybe not a lie but not the whole truth either, is it? Come now, Jonas. You can tell your brothers.?

?Have you forgotten who I am?? he asked, suddenly filled with rage. Anger was the fuel he needed, required, to bring those too-blue eyes to life. Looking from one statue to the next, he let each of them feel that internal burn, one that, even in their motionless carved forms, he knew they could feel.

It worked, but Meresin was always a glutton for punishment.

?You no longer have His favor,? the monk said quietly. It was enough to hush the anger, to silence the three other statues.

Jonas turned to look upon him, the blind scholar holding his book to his chest.

?You?ve lost it for the sake of a girl. A girl who no longer loves you. A girl who no longer knows who you are.?

It was all true, each statement a fact, and there was no way that Jonas could keep himself from facing them yet again. He sighed, running a hand over his face then up through his thick lion?s mane of gold.

?What do you want?? he asked finally, looking to each of his brothers with eyes that no longer glowed.

?We want the Astral.?

?Other than that.?

?That is all we seek.?

?There has to be another way. She can?t be the only way to get you back into Heaven.?

?You know there is not.?

?I can?t let you have her.?

?She could save you, too.? It was Iuvart again. Once upon a time, he would have been considered the closest to what Jonas was. The fact that those words came from him and no other gave him reason to pause.

The others took advantage.

?The halfbreed,? Kasdeja hissed.

?He stands in the way between you and the girl,? Semyaza continued. ?We get rid of him for you, you give us the Astral.?

?But you?ll destroy her. There would be no point.?

?There?s more than one way to be delivered salvation.?

He couldn?t tell if they were lying. Without His favor, without His full grace, his powers were nearly lost. Their motionless faces gave them the upper hand over him. Dissatisfied, he could only clench his jaw.

?Let me think about it.?

He turned to leave.

?Just remember,? Iuvart began.

Jonas paused, looking back over his shoulder.

?We are all brothers. Even now.?

Slowly, his eyes lowered. Then he was gone.
[color=#000033:fe148e2449][size=10:fe148e2449]Though we're strangers 'til now
We're choosing the path[/size:fe148e2449][/color:fe148e2449]

Champion of Few

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Re: Church of Secrets
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2014, 01:11:12 PM »
Sai stood in the middle of the road, unfinished rubble underfoot and skittering out to an end not fifty feet away. The church sat at beyond its jagged fingers, towering despite its decrepit form, its walls sullen and bleak and a match for the gray sky. It looked nothing like the prison that it was.

The gunslinger knew better.

Approaching the church slowly, he fixed his eyes on the broken doors. The wood appeared to have been blasted, shards splintered out and fragments still littering the ground now beneath his feet. The hinges, or at least the three that still held to their jobs, were twisted and bent, the metal almost seeming to have melted until frozen again, straining outward at painful angles. He reached out to touch them, retracted his hand at the last moment. Clenching his fist, and his jaw, he lifted his eyes to the soaring steeple as his arm lowered.

Something was wrong here, and it wasn?t just that the statues were no longer inside. Something had changed, leaving the place tainted. The fact that he couldn?t step inside didn?t bother him, it was the fact that he still wanted to that did.

Suddenly, he felt movement to his side. Turning his head, it was easy to see that nothing was there, but something at the back of his mind still bothered him. Making his way to the edge of the cliff, he looked out across the display of dark forest and sparkling city lights.

A harsh wind gusted by and he felt a shiver go to his bones. It didn?t bother him - the chill never did - but immediately he knew something else was wrong.

Why else would a man who couldn?t feel anything suddenly feel cold?
[size=10:9e91c8f5c5][color=#000033:9e91c8f5c5]"Evil only prevails when good men do nothing."[/color:9e91c8f5c5][/size:9e91c8f5c5]