Saturday, September 10, 2016
Glass and Roses, Chapter 10
“Mom?” Berit said.
Rebekka smiled. “Hello, Berry. Nice to see you again.”
Dror drew his weapon, but hesitated. “I thought we were chasing a mad demon summoner. She seems...sane.”
“Perhaps her calmness in the face of the danger she has caused is proof of her insanity,” Valdimer said. He drew his rod as well, and pointed it at Rebekka. “I wish I could say it's nice to see you, mother, but you have caused too much death for me to forgive you. We are here to stop you.”
The girl with Rebekka looked at her worriedly, but Rebekka stood her ground. “I have never intentionally caused death. I grieve for those who died because of my actions, but I did not summon the demons that now stalk me. I am cursed, Val. You have to believe me.”
Valdimer did not lower his rod. “I can't take that risk.” He charged a spell.
“Killing me will only make this problem worse!” Rebekka said. “If I die, Mephutozim claims my soul and gains a foothold in this world.” Zhihao gasped and moved forward at the name of the demon lord she was chosen to oppose.
“Aren't you already his foothold?” Valdimer said. Berit stepped up next to him and pushed down his arm. He looked at her angrily, but Rebekka made no move to take advantage of the situation.
Berit and Valdimer stared at each other. “She is our mother,” Berit said. “And I can tell she's telling the truth.”
“That doesn't make sense,” Valdimer said. “Why would she have come out all this way if she is being pursued by demons? How could she have escaped them so long if they are faster than she is? Her intentionally summoning them is the only conclusion.”
“You and your conclusions!” Berit shouted. “It doesn't matter what logic dictates, I know she is telling the truth by the sound of her voice and the look on her face. If you can't come to that conclusion, then there must be something you don't know, that you're not factoring in.”
“It was supposed to be just once,” Rebekka said. The twins turned to look at her. She wrung her hands, scratching at a scar on her right hand. “I called upon Mephutozim, without bringing him to this realm, and I made a foolish deal. I thought I could fulfill my end of the bargain and that would be that, but it got out of hand.”
“Why on earth would you resort to demons to cure your illness? We would have found the right medicine...eventually,” Valdimer said, although he didn't sound too convinced.
“It wasn't about my health,” Rebekka said. “It was for a much more important reason. I was never sick. The medicine didn't work because I spat it out when you weren't looking. That was one of the many lies I had to use to hide my activities, and I truly am sorry for it.”
“Then why?” Berit said. “Tell us!”
Rebekka laughed dryly. “If I tell you now, you might go back to wanting to kill me.”
“Would you deserve it?” Valdimer said. Rebekka simply shrugged, but her face was heavy with guilt. Then she looked up again, her eyes glistening with ardor.
“I have found a way to break the curse, though,” she said. She indicated the girl standing next to her. She looked to be only thirteen years old. “Hannah has the ability to help me. There's a loophole in my contract, and that is why I have evaded the demons. They cannot harm me, only chase me and wait until I make a mistake. And along the way, they will cause havoc to everyone around me. But I want to make it stop!”
Valdimer looked at Hannah. “What sort of ability is this?”
Hannah looked worried again. “I don't quite know,” she said. “But I saw the demons. Rebekka protected me from them. She wrapped herself around me, so that they would have to touch her in order to harm me, and they couldn't do that. She stayed with me until they left, and then we fled. She saved my life. If she says I can break her curse, I believe her.”
Berit nodded. “What are you waiting for then, Mom?” she said. “What needs to be done?”
“There is a sacred spot where Mephutozim was last banished by the demon hunter Folami,” Rebekka said. “That is where we need to go.” She smiled. “I don't think it is a coincidence that you found me as I was about to reach the end of my journey. I am glad you could be with me for it, children. Will you join me, or do you still not trust that I am telling the truth?”
Berit took a step towards her, then broke into a run and hugged her. Valdimer smiled, but his brow was still furrowed. He believed she was telling the truth, but thought there was still something missing. He looked over his shoulder to Dror, Zhihao, and Catarina. “I'm sure you must feel a little awkward at our family reunion, but please join us, in case there are any surprises.” They nodded and the group followed Rebekka as she led them up a tall hill.
“It is not much further,” Rebekka said as the path became steep.
“Do you care to share the details of your contract while we climb?” Valdimer said.
Rebekka shook her head. “I needed a spell that only a demon could provide on such short notice. Of course, not anyone can summon a demon at will, but my background in arcane rituals had already taught me what I needed to know to get started. Another secret I regret keeping from both of you.” She sighed. “I drew the circle, I wrote the runes, I chanted the incantation. Mephutozim appeared before me, but he could affect nothing. I asked for the spell without demanding it, as you are supposed to do, and all he asked in return was that if I were to die before casting the spell, he would be allowed access to our world, through my soul.”
“Then how did all these demons get here?” Berit asked. “Why have they been spreading chaos in your wake?”
Rebekka clenched her jaw. “I got greedy. I should have left it at that, but he offered more than I asked for, and I took his offer. In return, he requested a simple task of me that I thought would be harmless. Of course, it began a chain reaction that led to the breaking of a seal on a demonic prison, unleashing the first attack on Thaeril.”
“I thought you died in that attack,” Berit said.
“I thought I would too,” Rebekka said. “But Mephutozim had given the demons clear instructions not to harm me. I didn't know it at the time. I thought I had gotten lucky. And to try and fix my mistake, I made it worse by summoning him again. I asked to be protected from the touch of any demon. He agreed, at the cost that demons would always be able to find me wherever I was. I thought it was the perfect deal. They can find me as much as they want, I thought, since they can never touch me! I didn't realize the sheer number of demons that would seek me out and follow me, hurting everyone I got near.”
“You summoned him again, didn't you,” Valdimer said.
“Yes. Once more, months later, trying to break the curse. I made him promise that he would revoke every deal we once made and call the demons that run free back to his realm, if I would ensure he could not be banished again if he were to gain entrance to ours.”
“Wait,” Valdimer said. “You said he would only enter our world if you died before casting the spell he gave you. You haven't cast it yet?” She nodded. “Why?” he asked.
“It is too late,” she said, staring at the ground as she walked. “It is a story I will tell you one day. But if I cast that spell now, I am terrified of what will happen.” Valdimer and Berit both wondered what she could possibly fear more than the hordes of demons that stalked her and the demon lord that held her soul in the palm of his hand.
The group reached the top of the hill, where there was a large white stone. The sky was gray, the clouds heavy with the threat of rain. Warm wind tugged at the grass and caught Rebekka's hair as she brought Hannah to the stone. As they got close, they could see the symbol of Folami etched into the stone's surface. Rebekka stared at it, scowling in silence for a moment before she spoke. “This is the seal that guards Mephutozim's prison. This is where you come in, Hannah. I don't know if you are aware, but I found out that you are the last living descendant of Folami, the demon hunter who banished Mephutozim.” Hannah gasped.
“That explains why you were in Nangarth,” Valdimer said.
Rebekka nodded. “That is where Folami was buried, and where I could find information about his family tree. They wouldn't allow me to enter the mausoleum, but when the demons attacked, nobody noticed an old woman sneaking in to read some old scrolls.”
Zhihao spoke up. “You utilized the demons for your own gain? People died in that attack. If you had avoided the town, the demons would have followed you and they would still be alive.”
“I know that!” Rebekka snapped. “I did what I could to get to this point! And now we're here. Hannah, Folami made sure that if Mephutozim were to escape after his death, he could still be banished without the need for another demon hunter as powerful as himself. He branded Mephutozim with a powerful rune, that if activated, would send it back to Hell. Did your father teach you a chant before he passed?”
“Yes,” Hannah said in amazement. “He always sang this strange nursery rhyme to me. Even after I outgrew them, he insisted that I memorize this chant, and that he would one day tell me what it meant. I always thought it was just in another language, not a spell!”
“On their own, the words are meaningless,” Rebekka said. “But when spoken by a descendant of Folami in the presence of Mephutozim, they would activate his rune. If anyone else were to learn those words, however, it would have no effect. You, Hannah, are the last person that can banish it if he returns.” The wind howled a forlorn song, and the sun began to set somewhere behind the clouds. Hannah blinked, confused as to why Rebekka was looking at her with such sad eyes.
“Your contract,” Berit whispered.
Rebekka's hand that had been gently holding Hannah's arm clenched. Hannah tried to pull away, but Rebekka held fast. “It's you, or the world, Hannah. I have to make it so that Mephutozim cannot be banished.” She drew a dagger from the folds of her tunic. Suddenly, there was growling from behind them. Demons were circling the hill, and some had climbed up the path and were approaching. Dror, Catarina, and Zhihao started trying to fight them off. Valdimer and Berit rushed to their mother.
“What are you saying?” Hannah cried.
“I'm sorry, child,” Rebekka said. “You must die here for this to end.”
Valdimer grabbed her hand. “I can't let you do this. No way.” He glared at her, but was suddenly distracted by a demon that swooped down from the sky. It grabbed at him with its claws, neatly missing Rebekka, and he was forced to throw himself backwards onto the ground in order to keep his head.
Rebekka looked at the chaos that was starting as the battle raged. “This is the only way to stop this!” she shouted over the sounds of demonic roars. “I can't live this life anymore! I don't want to be the source of this horror! More will keep dying, everywhere I go!” She turned back to Hannah. “One innocent life in exchange for hundreds.”
“No!” Valdimer shouted, but more demons surrounded him, preventing him from reaching her. Berit was already firing at them with a crossbow in one hand, and cutting down any that approached her with a short sword in the other. Valdimer unclasped a vial from his jacket and threw it at the demons, sending a shock of electricity arcing between them and giving him time to reach Berit. “We have to stop her!”
“It could be our chance to get her back!” Berit said.
“Not at this cost!” Valdimer shouted back. “It makes us no better than the demons!”
“I...” Berit said, watching the demons surge up from every angle. They stood back to back, Valdimer slinging spells and Berit unleashing iron at any that dared approach. After so many months of fighting these monsters, they had grown into formidable demon hunters. Berit saw that the others were starting to become overwhelmed. She looked back at her mother, pinning Hannah down against the white stone. She saw Hannah's face, streaked with tears. Her mouth was screaming with terror, her eyes wide with fear.
“You're right,” Berit said. The demons were swarming every inch of the hilltop now, except for a tight circle around where Rebekka stood. They were crowded in between her and them.
Valdimer shot off another series of lightning bolts from his rod. “We can't reason with her! We've got to do what we came here to do!” Berit gritted her teeth, but it didn't hold back the tears.
Rebekka finally wrestled Hannah into a position she could hold her in with one hand. The other raised the dagger. “Let this be my repentance for my faults!” she cried. “Let this put an end to the madness! LET THIS BE THE END!”
She gasped as she was struck in the back by two bolts. One of lightning, one from a crossbow. She dropped the dagger and collapsed to the ground. It was another few seconds before she died. Berit and Valdimer could tell, because it was then that the white stone cracked in two, splitting the seal on its surface. The demon horde roiled into a frenzy. Hannah was nearly consumed, but the twins had already slain a path to her and kept the demons at bay.
The horde suddenly backed away. Valdimer and Berit looked at the stone to see a green claw burst from the ground. On the other side of the hill, Zhihao rose from the ground, light spilling from her eyes and hands. A deep voice thrummed through their bones. It said, I AM MEPHUTOZIM. LET MY REIGN ON CALEMOR BEGIN.