The snarling hellhounds couldn’t cross the protective circle, but that didn’t make it any less scary to have them surrounding us. There were probably half a dozen of them, though it was hard to tell because they were moving around so much and so fast. They were all as black as the void with blood red eyes that burned with the hatred that emanated from them. It hurt my head so much I could barely think clearly. Their wide, toothy grins split their elongated muzzles, each mouth filled with razor sharp teeth made for shredding flesh.
The circle we had hastily drawn on the cement was about ten feet in diameter with plenty of room for the four of us. There were protective symbols all around the edge, laying down what could and could not enter. Jared sat in the center, searching frantically through his book for some way to send the hounds back to where they came from. Because if we didn’t, we were trapped in this circle of white chalk until we all died.
Jensen held his sawed-off shotgun ready, aiming it at as many hounds as he could keep in his sights. He was tense, holding the gun so tight his knuckles were white. Cassandra stood near the edge, searching for Seymour, who still hadn’t made it.
I shifted, holding my own gun, a .40mm P07 pistol, and wished that I could see a way out of the situation. Seymour was supposed to be with us, but he had gotten delayed some how. It was nerve wracking, wondering what had happened to him, whether he was actually on his way or not.
“There he is!” Cassandra shouted, pointing in the direction of the street at the other end of the alley. I turned, just now hearing the loud rumble of the truck Seymour was borrowing from a friend. I let out a sigh of relief. If he was here then that meant he’d found the Hunter’s Trumpet. As soon as he used it to get rid of the hounds, we’d be free and clear. He just had to reach us and use it.
As soon as he stepped out of the truck’s cab two things happened; I noticed that he didn’t have the Trumpet, and the hounds notice he was unprotected. The entire pack of hounds turned and sprinted towards Seymour, their baying howls blood-chilling and full of hateful anticipation.
Before anyone could do anything they were upon him, sharp claws and deadly teeth ripping and tearing at him. Behind the mass of attacking hounds, a black circular portal snapped open, revealing a swirling darkness, and the hounds began dragging him towards it.
The instant the portal was opened I was assaulted by an avalanche of rage and hatred, and I shouted, bending over and clutching my head against the pain. I had never felt any emotion so strongly before, and it was all I could do to stay awake and sane. I felt a hand on my shoulder, but I didn’t have enough mental capacity left recognize who it was.
“No!” Cassandra screamed, yanking her silver dagger free of its sheath on her hip and running across the circle towards Seymour. Even in my agony I tried to stop her, reaching out to grab her before she exited the protection.
“Cassandra, no!” I shouted hoarsely, but she ignored me. I watched, woozy and horrified, as she sprinted towards her father. I could feel the desperation rolling off her as she tried to reach him before the hounds dragged him through the portal, but it was barely a ripple in the tide of terrible emotions whatever was through the portal was giving off.
It was clear in my mind that the portal led to hell. The strength of the emotions could only come from a Greater Demon, and they never left their home. Instead, they sent their lowly minions or hounds to do their bidding. Why they wanted Seymour I didn’t know. But I knew Cassandra wasn’t going to make it.
Even as I watched Seymour disappeared along with half of the hounds into the dark hole, and it snapped back shut with a thunder crack. He hadn’t even had time to scream.
Cassandra screamed though, and without the mind numbing emotions assailing me, I could stand once again and think clearly. She rushed recklessly at the remaining hounds, single blade raised. The silver would hurt the hounds, but not very effectively.
I instinctively took a step forward, closer to the edge of the circle, watching as Cassandra reached the hounds and began slashing at them. For a moment it looked like she had gotten the jump on them, but mere seconds later the hounds turned on her and attacked, monstrous teeth latching onto her limps and tearing at her.
She screamed, the knife dropping from her hands as she tried to pry deadlock jaws off of her. And a second later her screams stopped as a hellhound latched onto her throat, sending blood spraying everywhere.
I screamed, anger, pain, horror, and loss taking front stage as I moved to run to her rescue. It was completely instinctive; I saw a friend and my surrogate mother dying in front of me and I had to do something.
“No, Katey!” Jensen yelled, grabbing me by my waist and dragging me back into the center of the circle. I struggled, waving my arms wildly as I tried to escape.
“Let me go!” I shouted angrily, “I have to help her!”
Jensen must have dropped his gun because his other arm wrapped around me, this time my shoulders, and I had to struggle harder just to move a little. Jensen had always been taller than me, and even though I was a strong woman, he was still stronger. I couldn’t move, couldn’t escape.
Jared started to stand, an ugly fire in his eyes; probably the same I had in mine. Jensen let go of my shoulders long enough to point at him.
“You keep reading!” he said roughly, and Jared reluctantly sat back down.
Cassandra had stopped moving, though the hounds continued to tear at her. Tears filled my eyes but I blinked them back furiously. This was no time to get that kind of emotional, I had someone to rescue.
“Katey, Katey!” Jensen shouted, trying to keep me from struggling. “Katey, she’s gone, she’s gone! There’s nothing you can do.”
I shook my head so violently some of my red curls pulled out of the clip at the back of my head. I couldn’t believe it, even though I could see it. Cassandra had gone still and there was so much blood pooling around her body under the feet of the hounds that there should have been no doubt in my mind she was dead. But I still couldn’t believe it. I had grown up under her care, she had saved my life so many times, she couldn’t be gone.
But she was. Jensen’s words finally sunk in, and I realized that he was right. There was nothing I could do. If I tried to leave the circle to rescue her, like she had done for her father, I would be dead as well.
Giving up, I sank to my knees, drawing Jensen down with me. I stared at the gruesome scene as it blurred with returned tears.
Jared shouted an exclamation, stood, and began chanting something in Latin. I was so distraught that I couldn’t understand most of it, even though I was the best at the language. The spell, what ever it was, was quick, and soon the hounds’ howls turned from bloodthirsty excitement to pain-filled anger, and they all disappeared in an explosion of dark powder.
There was a collective sigh of relief evident in the air, but I couldn’t feel relieved. Cassandra was dead and Seymour was gone.
So tired and heartbroken, I turned and sobbing into Jensen’s shoulder while he comfortingly rubbed my back and ran strong fingers through my hair.