When I came around again, my entire body throbbed as if I had been through a power surge. Fleeting memories were quickly banished from my mind, giving me no recollections what so ever of what had happened since I had been knocked out. Looking around, I realised I was in the hospital room of our house. Amarath, Vrael and Alba were watching me with worried expressions. However, their expressions weren't the things concerning me. I was more concerned at the fact that Vrael had his arms around Alba protectively and was holding her close. Vrael and Alba? Ok, weird pairing there. I wondered how that had happened.
"Shad?" Amarath asked. "You back with us?"
"Yeah," I grumbled, trying to sit up despite having the mother of all headaches. "Anyone care to enlighten me as to what the hell happened to make me feel like someone ran over me with a bus and then reversed again to make sure they did it right?"
The trio glanced at each other. Amarath sighed irritably. "You're such a coward, Vrael. How come I always get stuck with the task of explaining things?" She turned back to me with her best 'you're really not going to like this' face on. I cringed. Whatever had happened, it wasn't likely to be good.
"Long story short, you had a run in with the Milita."
"The Milita?" I asked.
"A group of soldiers-come-scientists who study mythological creatures. We're prime targets for them, since they don't wait for people to volunteer..." Alba answered quietly, her head resting on Vrael's chest. I tried not to let the images of them getting together into my head. I'd never get rid of them if I did.
"The milita tried to split your demonic side from your human," Amarath said bluntly.
"I'm guessing it didn't work..."
"No, duh," Amarath snorted, "if they had managed, you'd be dead. We're parts, more specifically, halves. Every single part demon ever born has been a half, regardless of parentage. The non demonic and demonic sides can then exist in a vaguely harmonious state. If we weren't halves, our bodies would tear themselves apart in the battle between our sides."
"Bloody hell, you demons are complicated," Alba muttered. A slight smile grew on Vrael's face as he ruffled her hair affectionately. I averted my eyes. Yeesh, lovebirds.
"Anyway," Amarath's voice broke me out of my thoughts. "Since you're obviously so uncultured in the ways of demons, I've written down everything I know for you to read." She dumped a pile of papers at least two inches thick next to me. "Enjoy."
Left alone to recuperate, I began to read. There were so many things about part demons that I hadn't read in the Scriptures. Then again, there had been no way of telling if the Scriptures had been intact. I learnt about our two hearts, the primary and a second, smaller one in the right side of a demon's chest. Demons didn't get the normal, human 'time of the month', but were constantly ready to procreate and always bore twins. I read about the politics of Aspheri, the demonic dimension, how it was ruled over by a single individual known as the Prince of Darkness, who happened to be Karthragan. I cursed in the back of my mind. What fun. Another interesting titbit of information was that the behaviour of the demons was modelled on their ruler. If the ruler was an evil bugger, the demons would all be evil buggers. If the ruler was compassionate, the demons would be compassionate, (scary thought). In addition to our magic, we have the ability to teleport (obviously) and to heal others if we are properly trained.
Time passed slowly, lazily. Alba and I still worked in the flower shop and Shaeman and Vrael had found out how to play the stock markets and investments to keep our income growing and taught me more about magic in our spare time. Amarath had wandered off somewhere, no one really knew where, but nor were we particularly bothered. Amarath could handle herself perfectly well. Unfortunately, Karthragan was moving on the offensive again. He often tried to break into my mind, to kill me from the inside out. This often led to my demonic side taking the chance to break free and take over. Slowly, over the course of three weeks, the attacks became less and less frequent. I started venturing in back into the city again, although under the constant escort of either Vrael or Shaeman.
I wandered around the city one night in wolf form, closely followed by Vrael's sleek panther form. He was seriously getting on my nerves though. I trotted into a square lit only by a couple of streetlamps nearing the end of their life. Morphing back into human form, I put my hands on my hips, glaring at him.
"Vrael, if you keep watching me like that, I swear I'm going to spontaneously combust!"
From the other side of a broken fountain, a voice called out. "Vrael, is that you? What are you doing here?" I whipped my head round to glare at a teenage boy, younger than me. He looked a little scruffy, but smelled a little odd, sort of like a shape-shifter, but not quite.
"Shadow wished to leave the house for a few moments, and I volunteered for the guard duty. It was only chance that lead us here." Vrael replied calmly. He obviously knew this boy. I relaxed fractionally.
"Who are you?" I asked. He narrowed his eyes at me. I sensed apprehension radiating off him.
"Name's Bart. That's all you need to know." I raised an eyebrow at his abrupt answer. "I met Vrael by pure coincidence a couple of weeks ago." He pulled a dog-eared piece of paper from a pocket of his baggy white trousers, studying it closely. He glanced at his watch, apparently waiting for something. I rounded on Vrael, arms folded. He raised his hands in a gesture of surrender.
"I was with Alba, there is no harm in that I presume? Bart met she and I there, when you were... not quite with us."
"You mean when I was going mad?"
"Yes." I rolled my eyes, turning back to Bart.
"So what are you doing here? You're waiting for something, that much if obvious."
Bart looked as if he wasn't going to talk, but ceded. "I'm a sort of chosen one from a race called the Kraferrs. I doubt you've heard of them. Well, we've got this kind of relic, a necklace, the All-Teller necklace. There are thirteen 'One' Kraferrs, humans given the powers of a Kraferr so they can try and find it. I'm one of them, but I have to wait for a shaman Kraferr to create a replica of me so my parents don't panic." Understanding I nodded and watched from a distance as what looked like a further evolved monkey appeared. I guessed that he was the shaman Bart was looking for since the boy walked over to greet him. Vrael and I stayed at a distance, feeling that this was perhaps not something to be observed closely. I could hear them talking, but couldn't make out any individual words. I felt Vrael stiffen beside me, putting a hand on my shoulder and clenching it hard. Glancing up at him, I saw his gaze riveted on the proceedings between Bart and the shaman. A split second later, I realised why. There was blood involved. I could smell it. I guessed that the bloodlust was starting to descend on Vrael, but he was making a valiant effort to fight it. I put one hand on his, squeezing it slightly. He looked down at me, his features rigid, but managed a tense smile. Looking back over at the Kraferrs, the shaman had vanished, leaving Bart standing over his clone. Bart lifted his wrist to his face, his features bathed in a blue light as I guessed he checked his watch. Surreptitiously, I slid a vial of blood from my belt and pulled out a windup mouse I had enchanted to never stop once started. I had to spend some time alone before I went nuts. Making sure Vrael's eyes were still fixed on Bart, I tipped a few drops of blood on the mouse, enough to give it the scent. Vrael's head whipped round, the hunger clear in his eyes. I felt a little ashamed about using his weakness against him, but turned the key on the mouse, sending it scurrying away into the night. Vrael shot after it in a heartbeat. Breathing a sigh of relief, I walked over to Bart.
"I should be able to disappear for a couple of months with this replica," he said, his mind obviously a long way away.
"Why isn't it moving?" I asked. I couldn't fathom how this replica thing worked if the clone didn't move. Was it supposed to make his appear to be dead or something? In a coma?
"Won't activate until 10." He pressed the light button on his watch again, the faint blue light illuminating the planes of his face. I tilted my head to one side. He didn't look particularly comfortable in the presence of his clone. I dismissed those thoughts. Of course it was strange if you didn't happen to have an identical twin. I still got a bit unnerved when I looked at Amarath and realised that I wasn't looking into a mirror. Lost in my thoughts, I jumped when the replica sat up. It nodded at Bart before calmly sauntering off to do whatever it is that clones do when they're impersonating their originals. He looked a little lost, as if he was watching a large part of his life walking away with his clone. I felt quite sorry for him, standing in the cold winter winds, now homeless while another person took his place in his family.
"Need any help chasing that relic of yours?" I asked quietly. He glanced at me before looking up at the moon.
"I dunno," he said, looking a little guilty. "Someone said that you were kinda dangerous right now. I just don't know if I can trust you..."
I won't say that didn't hurt, because it did. I bit the inside of my cheek, trying not to come back with a Holly-worth sarcastic quip. "Well, I guess you met my family before you met me then, huh." I pulled the hood of my cloak over my head, hiding my expression in shadow so that he couldn't read my thoughts on my face.
"Sorry," he said quickly, his emotions telling me that he was aware that he had made a mistake. "I don't really want people I don't know joining me on this. It's too dangerous. It's too easy to get hurt, and I don't know what to do if anyone does get hurt."
"Fair enough," I answered neutrally, walking over to the fountain and dipping my hand into its frigid waters, the cold searing my skin as I flicked the drops from my fingers. I could sense his confusion.
"Where are you going?"
"Nowhere in particular," I murmured, "I just need to get away from my family."
"I need to get away from mine too, but I guess for different reasons than yours." I turned to look at him. Instead of the human I had seen before, this humanoid was covered in brown fur, his eyes turned red, his hands clawed and a monkey's tail slicing at the air. He tilted his head to the side as he watched me. "You're leaving your family to save yourself, but I'm guessing that there's another reason behind that one."
I turned back to the fountain, looking down at my reflection, at the damning evidence of the prophecy in the scar around my eye. "They're trying to protect me, to keep me away from something very dangerous, but it won't work for long. I just don't want to see them hurt..."
"I like that. You're trying to protect your loved ones even though it puts you in danger." I felt his hand gingerly touch my shoulder, as if he was unsure of what to do. "I guess you could come with me, if you still want to. I'll try to protect you too, but I'm not really good at medical things. I know the basic human anatomy and that's about it, and even then it's only approximately."
"Don't worry about healing," I replied, turning to him. "Vrael's taught me everything he knows about medicine. So, where do we start?"
"The relic's last known position was in a mountain range North- West from here, so I guess we start moving. There's something you should know about where it's kept though." I glanced at him, wondering what it was as he took a deep breath. "They say that the walls move. No one's ever come back from trying to find it."
I smiled slightly. "Sounds like a challenge."