Into the Dark
Shadow Hunters

"We should have inherited just the land, titles and wealth. What the blazes were they thinking, passing down this knowledge to children, anyway? Tch! We didn't need to know this stuff. It's what the blazing Nekrómanteír is for, that useless git."

Warnings
Nekrómanteía Arc. Theological debate, settings and discussions on the realms beyond death, implications of sexual situations, and various other adult circumstances. Also, use of Latin words (translations provided).


"Yes, of course," Benedict said charmingly as he made his goodbyes, politely bowing over Lady Charlotte Ramsay's hand. "I wouldn't miss your coming soiree for anything. But tell me, my dear, for we have met at a masque," He tapped the ornament obscuring his face with one finger, "How do you intend to identify me next week?"

"Why, I would recognise you anywhere," Lady Charlotte said confidently with a high-pitched laugh she probably thought rang fashionably 'girlish'. She stage-whispered in a conspiratorial manner, "Did you think I would not recognise you tonight?"

Benedict thanked the Gods his mask covered his grimace. He only had to work half as hard to conceal himself and his distaste at events such as these… and he would not have to clearly see Lady Charlotte's eat-you-up expression either. How the lady always managed to know him in a crowd simply confounded him.

"And that," Benedict murmured in a low and feigned husky tone, leaning in closer, his hand still clasping Charlotte's own, "Is why I shall attend. Fare thee well, my lady." He pressed a soft kiss to the back of her hand and, nodding to her two friends beside her, he turned away. As he politely nodded at those who met his eyes, smiling as warmly as he could, he reached to press a finger gently to the prominent diamond in his left ear. "Andrew, you rogue, this had better be it," he muttered, making his inconspicuous way to the balcony doorway. "I've just about had enough of making nice with the pretties."

'Tch!' Andrew voice echoed softly in his ear, 'Would it that I was as good-looking as you, then I would be the one down there and 'making nice with the pretties' instead of you who obviously has no appreciation for--'

"Stuff it," Benedict hissed through the plastic smile on his face as he paused to let a couple pass him on their way to the dance floor. "If there was any damnable way of giving you this part of the job, you know I would have done so long ago," he growled, "Surely neither of us is under delusions I enjoy this." His tone changed when he said, "I would give anything to let you have this part of the workload."

There was a pained undertone to his words, but it showed nowhere on Benedict's face as he passed through the final stretch of crowd, nodding politely, and out into the night. Yet even there, he maintained his façade in case others' eyes were upon him. He carefully waited for his eyes to adjust before moving further into the darkness, ears perking and Spirit aware of others his mortal eyes could not yet discern.

'Aye, I know well,' Andrew murmured. 'I know well. I wasn't expecting you to take my words so seriously, as it was but a jest.' He chuckled, his tone lightening, 'But it is naught but truth the pretties are indeed wasted on you when you--'

"Shut up," Benedict growled as he trotted down the gracefully curved steps toward the gardens below, following the soft echoing guidance provided by the diamond in his ear, the gentle gravitation it gave to move toward the source of the diamond's attraction. "We have more important things at hand that require our atten--"

There was a muted scream from the gardens ahead of him, a horrible and purely frightened sound. Benedict dashed toward it, still in perfect control so that his steps made no sound and he ruffled no foliage. Behind him, toward the lighted and canopied areas of the outdoors, he heard the sudden hush of the few people gathered there. Thankfully, he had kept to the shadows and none would see him approaching the scene. In any case, someone would be sent soon to investigate; he would have to hurry.

The diamond in his ear, through which he was linked to Andrew's 'voice' and senses, began to grow warm and almost hum in his lobe. It did not move from its perch within his piercing, but it did draw him with even stronger impressions toward the source of the scream, into the bushes and the maze it formed. There was the sound of muted struggling from the centre of the maze and, not having the time to navigate his way through, Benedict snapped,

"Ventus."

At the words and a smooth gesture, a gust of wind suddenly gathered, spinning forcefully about his legs and lifted Benedict up into the air. His hair came loose from its restraining ribbon and his mask threatened to be blown away, his clothing fluttered madly, but he ignored it all in favour of making for his target. The spell made it seem that he had made a giant leap from the maze into its centre, to where a beautiful fountain burbled cheerily, and at the foot of which a tall and dark-skinned, dark-dressed man struggled with a young woman.

"Let go of me!" She shrieked bravely, momentarily loosening the man's hold on her mouth, which unfortunately annoyed him enough to transfer his grip to her neck and throat. Neither noticed Benedict's arrival.

"Insciens," he muttered, waving to the girl and she slumped in her attacker's arms in a deep faint. Suddenly the focus of her captor's attention, Benedict casually twiddled his fingers at the attacker, "Hullo there."

"Venator," the shadowed figure hissed at him, releasing his prey. The figure seemed to quickly lose shape in the lower half of his body, clothing and shadow lengthening and merging. He rose a little off the ground, the lower portion of his form appearing like rustling fabric below and behind him as he attempted to make his escape.

Benedict moved faster, dashing forward into range and making a sharp gesture with his hand, ordering, "Impedio." The fleeing figure suddenly toppled over onto the ground, writhing and hissing as its shadow and clothing seemed to wrap liquidly in upon itself, unable to move. Stepping up to it, Benedict pulled a covered mirror from his coat, a beautiful and obviously ancient heirloom with silk tassels and fine etching. With one hand, he flipped open the cover and exposed the mirror to the prostrate figure, which gave a muted scream. Benedict whispered, "Cohibeo."

At once, the figure began to stretch and slip through the air, its very form losing the rest of its shape as it seemed to be sucked into the mirror face. It spat and cursed at Benedict but he gave the thing no mind. However, when it gave a short sound, Benedict's earring giving a warm thrum, Benedict threw himself to one side and rolled away. Dust and pebbles flew into the air, the dust settling to reveal a rather large crater of scorched ground precisely where he had been standing moments earlier.

"Thrice damned hell-shadow!" Benedict swore, rolling quickly to his feet and preparing for his next move, eyes searching for his captive's companion. "Andrew, you scorcher! There's another!"

'I honestly didn't realise,' Andrew cried into his ear, 'The more, the merrier, as they say I suppose. But be careful, they would have to be strong for them to hide from me and I really didn't sense the second at all.'

"You are going to get me blazing killed!" Benedict accused insincerely, moving in a slow circle toward the fallen girl. He could hear worried voices and a group's worth of footfalls approaching, and cursed, "If they come upon me, I will be held accountable." He quickly checked her over, alert and on guard for both their safety. "If I have to abandon these bastards here, they will only flee and I'll have to scorching hunt them down again. Damn it!" He thrust his hand into his coat again and pulled out a small pouch, loosening the laces and scattering a faint white powder into the wind, "Ventus." A breath of wind gathered the particles and scattered them about the garden and beyond. Benedict gestured and commanded, "Abscondo."

Immediately, a heavy mist blanketed over them and from the hedges beyond there rose up anxious voices. The approaching crowd were so close that Benedict could hear the men ordering the ladies back, some arguing as to who should escort the ladies away to safety and who should continue. Time was running much too short.

Cloaked in mist, Benedict dashed back to where he had left his prey to find another figure crouched by it, struggling with the invisible bonds and trying to release the fallen hellshadow. Both hissed at his approach, but Benedict grinned, gestured and said, "Impedio. Thanks for making that easy," he told his second captive. Pulling out the mirror, he turned the face of it to them and repeated, "Cohibeo."

The two figures gave an outraged hiss but the spell had taken effect. They stretched and disfigured, were swept quickly away into the mirror and disappeared.

By the time the gathered throng of investigators arrived, Lady Ellen was coming to, draped in a black cloak which none could identify. Some of the men fussed over the young lady, who politely accepted their help despite how pale and shaken she was, while the rest plunged into the gardens and surrounding area to try to find a trail by which they might follow Lady Ellen's attacker.

Benedict watched from the shadows, stepping backward deeper into them, guided by the impressions from his earring. Quickly, he melted away, mission completed.

And from the shadows opposite from where Benedict had disappeared there stepped another figure, quietly fetching the ribbon which had fallen from Benedict's hair before making his way around the gathered people, circling behind them all and stepping back toward the Manor.


Translations:

Ventus – Wind
Insciens – Unaware
Venator – Hunter
Impedio – Impede / Ensnare
Cohibeo – Confine
Abscondo – Conceal