Something felt wrong. Noman lay on his cot, staring up at the ceiling, and suddenly the hair on his arms and the back of his neck stood on end. A chill ran down his spine as he sat up. He looked around curiously, wondering what the cause of the feeling was. He put his feet on the floor, and his eyes widened in surprise. The stone of the Tower's foundation was vibrating. He put his hand against the nearest wall and found that it too was vibrating, his fingers tingling against the stone. The entire Tower was trembling as a magical energy passed through it's bones. "What are you up to, Airea?" he asked quietly.
As if in response a low, clicking hiss echoed through the cell. He rose to his feet and looked for any sign of a living shadow. Seeing none he realized it must have come from the hallway. He went to the cell door and pressed his face against the bars of the small window. Though it didn't afford him much of a view he could see two of his guards. They looked nervous, handling their weapons as if they expected to be attacked at any moment. They were right to expect it. What they didn't expect was where the attack would come from.
As Noman watched a shadow dropped from the ceiling onto one of the guards. It's claws savaged his head and neck as he screamed, trying to fend the demon off with his bare hands. The other guard stepped back in surprise. Noman heard curses from the other two, and a shot from a rifle echoed loudly in the tight confines of the corridor. The demon jerked in surprise or pain, and it hissed menacingly at the guard who'd fired. It's claws found the throat of it's current victim, ending his screams. Another shot echoed through the hallway. The demon launched itself from the corpse of the first guard and disappeared from view. After that, Noman could only listen as the remaining three fought for their lives and failed.
There was a moment of unnerving silence as the last sounds of battle faded. Noman strained to see through the bars of the door. At last the shadow crept back into view, emerald eyes fixing on him. It snarled and hissed, the flickering torchlight of the hallway giving it momentary form. Wickedly curved mandibles snapped together as it stalked forward towards the door.
"Bad demon," Noman growled at it. If he'd had the stone he could have actually done something more than scold it, but lacking that it was all he could do. The shadow tilted it's grotesque head to one side at his words. He wondered if the thing remembered him, or the power he'd once held over it. Before he could say anything else it looked back over it's shoulder and hissed, then leaped out of sight. Noman frowned, wondering what the creature was up to.
Footsteps echoed down the hallway. "Good gods," Noman heard a familiar voice. It was one of the men who's questioned him earlier... Hatchet, he recalled the man's name.
"Hey!" Noman shouted out into the hallway. "Hatchet!"
"You," Hatchet growled, coming into view. "What have you done?!" he demanded, advancing angrily towards the door. "Tell me, gods damn you!"
"I-" Noman started, but cut short when he saw movement behind the other man. "Watch out!" he warned.
Something in Noman's eyes told Hatchet he'd better listen. The Watchman dodged to one side and turned to look behind him. He moved just fast enough - the demon slammed into the cell door, missing him by a hair, it's claws digging deep furrows into the wood. The space between the bars were just big enough to accommodate Noman's arm. As the demon tensed to launch itself at Hatchet again he darted his hand out, grabbing hold of it and clenching as hard as it could. It felt cold and wet against his fingers, every inch of it constantly writhing against his grasp.
"The torch!" Noman shouted, unable to see what Hatchet was doing. "Use the torch!" The demon struggled, claws slashing at his exposed arm as other appendages pushed against the door. Pain nearly blinded Noman, but he held on with all his strength. "No you don't," he snarled at the demon.
The creature's head swiveled to look over it's shoulder, and it let out a terrified shriek. The entire thing burst into flame, burning Noman's hand along with it. He kept his fingers clenched firmly as it jerked and twisted and spasmed, and was finally unable to take the searing heat. He let go and pulled his arm back, using his free hand to kill the flames that were clinging to the edge of his sleeve. The smell of burnt flesh filled the air. Noman wasn't sure if it was him, the demon, or both.
He stood examining his arm as the demons dying cries finally ended. Deep lacerations lined his arm, many going down to the bone, and the flesh of his hand was blistered and charred. But for all that, there wasn't a single drop of blood.
Airea certainly hasn't forgotten you, he remembered Esme's words, You still bear her gifts...
"Hey," Hatchet called from outside the cell, "You all right in there?"
"I'll live," he replied, returning to the window. Hatchet stood outside, torch in hand. "So," he asked, "You going to let me out?" Hatchet pursed his lips. He looked down at what was left of the demon, then back at the dead guards.
"Tell me what's happening," Hatchet demanded.
"All I know is Airea's at work," Noman replied. "She's here, I can feel it in the Tower's walls."
"The guards?" Hatchet asked, "The demon?"
"I think it was here for me," Noman admitted. "To kill me or free me, I'm not sure which. Probably the first, though, since there's no way I'd ever let that bitch control me again. It killed them right before you arrived. It would have killed you, too," he pointed out.
"Probably," Hatchet agreed. "Look," he said, "Somebody's attacking the Tower, and I need to know who. Did you have any accomplices? Did you work with anybody?"
"I worked alone," Noman said. "But I lost the stone... Airea must have chosen another champion, somebody else to use it for her. Whoever it is must have picked up where I left off. And now they're here."
"Then can you stop them?" Hatchet asked. "You were her champion, right? You know what they're capable of." He took a breath and looked Noman in the eyes. "If I let you out will you promise you'll help me stop them?"
No, Noman thought, I don't want to have anything to do with this. I washed my hands of it! But what choice did he have? Sit here in his cell until the demons came for him, or he starved to death? Besides, the thought of hitting back at Airea by killing her new champion held a certain allure.
"Yes," he said. "Let me out and I promise I'll cut her new champion's throat myself. Or, if I'm lucky, I'll die trying."
The pair armed themselves with weapons from the dead guards. Hatchet took a sword and rifle, Noman a just a sword. He'd never used a rifle before, and felt it was safer to stick to what he knew. Of course, he could have wished for a cold iron sword. The steel blade he'd appropriated probably wouldn't do a whole lot of good unless they could get the demons solid, which meant getting them into the light. To that end he'd also brought a torch, though he knew that wouldn't last forever.
They raced up the stairs and out into the courtyard. For the first time Noman saw the full effect of Airea's assault on the Tower. Green energy wrapped around it and poured into the sky above, where a roiling mass of clouds spat lightning onto the city below.
A group of Watchmen had gathered in the courtyard, rifles at the ready. "You two!" One of them shouted as he caught sight of Hatchet and Noman, "Over here, quickly! The Captain's ordered a withdrawal to Red Manor!" Hatchet recognized the man as Galin.
"What?" Hatchet demanded. "No, we have to get to the top!"
"Hatchet?" a familiar voice asked from amid the group. To Hatchet's surprise, Byrd limped forward, another Watchman supporting him. He shook his head. "It's not use, Hatch. The Tower's lost; there are demons on every floor. I only got out of the infirmary because one of the healers knew how to put up a ward. It bought us some time, but it wasn't going to hold long, though."
"We're all that's left here," Galin told him. "Everybody else was out on patrol or headed for the fireworks. They're headed for Red Manor now. Last we heard the army is gathering for an assault to retake the Tower."
"The army?" Hatchet asked.
"You've got to call off the attack," Noman warned. "They'll just die uselessly."
"Who are you?" Galin demanded. "Wait, you're the Summoner!"
"Hold it!" Hatchet intervened as the gathered Watchmen pointed their weapons towards Noman. "He's on our side," he assured them.
"Demons!" somebody shouted. Everybody looked towards the entrance to the Tower's main hall. The doors were open wide, and indistinct black shapes were pouring out, constellations of green eyes fixing on their intended victims.
"Move!" Galin ordered amid the crack of rifle shots, "Fall back to Red Manor!" Hatchet and Noman followed, a sick feeling turning the Watchman's stomach. For the first time in it's history the Watch was running, the Ivory Tower lost to hostile forces.