All Legends Die
By D. Randall
Chapter One: The Request
All of House Cabal's residents were into the evening's routine when the call chimed across the public line. Mikayla, on duty in the kitchen, was the one to answer the sound. Her reaction was enough to garner the attention of the crowd – albeit thin – in the commons. She bolted for the nearest intercom, bellowing that Cabal had to pick up the line. To say it was enough to interrupt things was a vast understatement.
Nathan had heard about it shortly after the initial brouhaha, but didn't get details immediately. So like many of the other residents, he was left to wonder over the contents of that conversation.
The call could have nothing to do with normal operations at the factory. Those were handled through the managers and wouldn't come directly to the house. If they did contact the facility about a happening, it meant that the place was on fire or under attack or another emergency that would require Cabal's attention.
The conjecture about the possible subject matter quickly swept the halls of House Cabal and brought all operations – at least those needing humanoid guidance – to a complete standstill.
Nathan had been quick to find his father to get a jump on the rumors before they got out of control. Cabal immediately handed him the printout of the conversation. Nathan's brow rose above his eyes at the sender.
"It's got to be a trap," Nathan put in almost immediately.
"Are you so sure of that?" Cabal muttered, looking at him sidelong.
"Victor Sierra is asking for our help? Yeah, that sounds like a trap to me. You know they'd love to shut this place down."
"Not they, Nate. Garrett Kelly is requesting our help directly."
"And he's in charge of the Denver chapter of our 'friendly,' local vampire slayers. I don't need to tell you that. He is they."
Cabal frowned, seemingly in disagreement. "He and I may have had our differences in the past, but he's more than made up for it. I really don't think that this is some kind of ploy to get us to stick our necks in a chopping block."
Nathan echoed his father's facial expression, for a completely different reason. Twisting his upper body to avoid impacting one of the residents heading the other direction, he answered, "How do you figure?"
"It's not like he doesn't know where we live. If he was trying to root us out and kill us – he'd bring Victor Sierra to our doorstep. Yet, he hasn't. Garrett made good on his promise to drop me out of the system. I've checked – he erased my file from the Victor Sierra database; he struck all records of my existence. And…" Cabal's face pinched, exacerbating the wrinkles gathering around his eyes. "…he's kept 'Gira safe all these decades."
Nathan went silent for a moment. His sister had begun dating the Wanderer well before he was even conceived. They had been a couple now for just over a century. Never had her name even blipped the radar for the very public list posted of VS's most wanted supernaturals. So Garrett must be doing something right by her.
That didn't mean Nathan was comfortable with the turn of events – it was still fishy. "Why would a powerhouse like Victor Sierra need the help of a couple Hunters? They've got an army! They've got Wanderers and Troubleshooters and Morlocks…I mean really, why would he even think to contact us about this?"
Cabal shrugged. "From the way this reads? They're trying to keep the situation under the radar. Seems Garrett's changing things up since taking on the role as Keeper. A little less 'kill them all and let the devil sort it out,' and more focus on surgically removing the problem spots, I guess."
"I don't like it."
Cabal tilted his head towards Nathan and grinned. "You're not supposed to. I've taught you not to blindly trust anything. But, there's an opportunity here."
"To build cooperation – yeah. I understand that…"
"Nate, I haven't accepted yet, calm down. Garrett didn't give me all the details here, but I would like to meet with him and discuss the matter."
"I'm coming along."
"I wouldn't have it another way." Cabal smiled up at him. "Get your things together and meet me at the garage in fifteen."
"Right." Nathan turned and trotted down the ramp heading for his residence.
The vadaryne managed his preparation in less than seven minutes, pulling his hair into a loose braid that met the apex between his shoulder blades even as he was striding up the ramp towards hallway which led to the garage.
Cabal was already there, doing a pre-flight walk-around on the Mandalay. Despite being ancient, the hovercar was just as trustworthy now as it must have been for its first owner. That was in no small part due to his father's preternatural ability to troubleshoot and maintain mechanical items.
"Anything you need me to do?"
"Cockpit checks – warm her up." Cabal didn't even glance up from his inspection of the front skid. Nathan nodded, even when his dad wouldn't see it, and opened the driver's door.
Hopping in, Nathan inspected the switches, buttons, toggles, and instrumentation, ensuring they were in their "off, safe, or normal" positions. He pulled the yoke back, pushed it forward and then moved it side to side, checking for any binding in the stick. He did the same for the pedals and then applied power to the vehicle. Another set of instrument and on-board checks later, the Mandalay was humming – seeming to anticipate the upcoming flight.
Surprisingly, his father didn't kick him out of the driver's seat now that he had all the hard work completed. After all, his father loved to fly and rarely allowed another to be behind the yoke if he was in the vehicle too. This time, however, the dhampir settled his frame into the passenger's seat and looked at Nathan expectantly.
"Uh, okay. What's our destination?" Already Nathan's hands were busying themselves with strapping into the five point harness.
"The parking lot outside of Jasper."
"Why Jasper? Why does the Keeper want to meet you there?"
A short tilt of the head, immediately righted again, was Cabal's initial answer. "The town has significance for the two of us."
Nathan shot a perplexed expression towards the passenger's seat.
"We both met your mother there."
Cabal actually laughed. "Yeah, ironic really. Neither experience was pleasant for her."
"I know what he did to mom…what did you do?"
Glancing at Nathan and then away, Cabal lifted one dark brow over unfocused eyes. "She got too close on a day I was hungry." He didn't have to elucidate further, so Nathan was surprised when his father continued. "She paid me back with a bullet to the spine."
That startled a laugh out of the vadaryne. "Such romantic beginnings, Dad."
"You don't know the half of it."
Nathan shook his head and turned his attention to getting them underway, curling his hands around the yoke and the throttle at the same time. Shortly, the Mandalay slipped between the frame of the garage door and into the night.
Nathan found he possessed a penchant for flying, even when he'd been frightened of the prospect earlier in his life. Wanting to impress his father, wanting Cabal to be proud of him, Nathan had fought that fear and had forced himself to learn yet another of the skills that he admired in his dad.
Heading the relatively short distance to Jasper, Nathan circled the visitor's lot twice. The brightly polished, silver skin of the Holocaust was easy to pick out under the bright halogen floodlights washing the parking area. The vehicle was one his sister, Sagira, inherited from Garrett. Story had it; the AI residing in the on-board computer liked her better than him anyway, so the warlock had just gifted it to her. Less easy to pick out against the glare were the two small figures standing on the driver's side of that very expensive vehicle. One, the shorter of the two, was waving enthusiastically up at them.
These days, Sagira was always happy to see them. She felt somehow guilty that she couldn't stay with the family. Dad said it was because she still hadn't come to grips with her need to hunt. She could mind her manners for a while, drink Salvation with the rest of the residents, but she never lasted more than about three weeks and would excuse herself to pursue her more hedonistic ways. Cabal would have been more upset, Nathan thought, if she was one of the vampires who killed their meals. Luckily her violent streak didn't extend to murder – she just enjoyed playing with her food.
Sagira stood next to a pale, burly man with reddish orance hair. Though Nathan had never seen him before, he knew the man's identity. Garrett Kelly, former Victor Sierra Wanderer, more recently selected as Keeper – the man his sister had run off with just after Cabal's near death experience at the hands of Meirakat.
Nathan had heard a lot about him, however. Even the times that Sagira would come back to visit, Garrett wouldn't be with her. She had mentioned the Wanderer had to return to base occasionally because of a degenerative nerve problem, and he would send her home to ensure her safety while he was getting treated.
He felt himself tensing, wondering how this meeting was going to go.
Nathan circled the lot once more, his eyes roving to the horizon – to the city – back the way they'd come. Despite the claim Cabal trusted the Keeper, the vadaryne was still suspicious. When he was satisfied no one else lay in wait, Nathan twisted the flying car around and settled onto the tarmac across from the larger and more expensive Holocaust.
Nathan released his harness, opening his door and stooping to get out without clocking himself on the gull wing. As he came around the front of the Mandalay, Sagira broke free from the Keeper's side and latched her arms around Nathan's waist.
Until Nathan was eight, Sagira had been a story his parents told him. He'd met her for the first time on her return that day – her first visit since she left House Cabal at eighteen. Sagira had always showed him unadulterated affection since discovering his existence. There was no sibling rivalry between them – not that he saw her often enough for anything like that to develop.
"How you doing, sis?" Nathan asked as she leaned away once more.
She nodded, her lips pressing together. Her eyes strayed over him once again. "Doing all right. How about you? I swear you've gotten taller."
A grin broke out on Nathan's face. She'd been absent from their lives for the past 45 years. It was no wonder she might think he'd grown again. "It's an illusion. Still the same height as the last time we saw each other. Or maybe you're shrinking?"
Sagira herself looked exactly as he remembered her, with a few minor cosmetic differences. She'd cut her dark brown hair back severely, the length barely brushing her shoulders now. She'd foregone the bangs he could remember, allowing the front and the back to reach approximately the same length. She'd also taken the time to straighten it. He frowned a little; straight hair didn't suit her at all. The length shaded her pale blue eyes – making her look even more dangerous than she already was.
It didn't escape Nathan's attention that Sagira was wearing body armor and guns. The black duster brushing her knees did nothing to hide the weapons from his view. Blinking he reconsidered what her purpose in coming was.
Sagira seemed to miss or ignore the misgivings in his face. Instead she smiled and turned her attention to their father. "Dad!" She rushed over to him with just as much enthusiasm as she showed for seeing Nathan. He smiled as he watched her latch onto their father.
Cabal cupped the back of Sagira's head, kissed her crown and then released her.
"I was hoping you'd come along."
"She insisted," Garrett offered from nearer the Holocaust.
"How could I not?" Nathan watched silently as Sagira smiled up at Cabal in that overly adoring way once more. "I haven't seen any of you in forever!"
As she got a really good look at Cabal, her expression crumpled.
"Dad…your hair!" She pinched several strands of graying hair that littered the dhampir's temples, allowing it to run lightly through her fingers before falling away completely. Her fingers strayed to his face, to the evidence of his age finally showing through that seemingly eternal youth. "Your face!"
The dhampir grabbed Sagira's hand gently a moment later, and held it. "I never claimed immortality, 'Gira. Senescence catches up with dhampirs, it seems, but it's taken a very long time."
Fear slipped into her face.
"Don't look so worried!" Cabal laughed. "If this is mid-life, I've got a long way to go before you'll have to do without me."
Nathan frowned, knowing his father was being dishonest with her. Cabal had realized a long time ago that old age would never claim him – always understood that his would be a violent death. And violence had nearly claimed him twice now.
Cabal hugged Sagira once again, and then turned towards the Keeper. He strode across the space, extending a hand out to Garrett – a fact that rankled Nathan.
"Cabal." Garrett shifted some, an expression that screamed he was trying for a reaction plastered to his pale, scarred, and freckled face. "You look old."
Reluctantly Nathan followed Sagira over to where Cabal and Garrett were chatting.
Cabal glanced over as Nathan came even, his eyes straying to Sagira as she resumed her place next to Garrett's side.
"You don't look so good yourself."
"Well your dad didn't have a reputation of doing things halfway, did he?"
Nathan barely caught the superior grin that slipped over his father's lips. A more serious expression took its place. "They been able to stop the progression?"
The grin on Garrett's face crumpled. "No. They've slowed it considerably, but they still estimate I've only got a couple decades before it cripples me completely. Might as well shoot my ass then."
Nathan scoured the three of them with his gaze. Sagira looked stricken, latching onto Garrett's left arm. Cabal dropped his gaze. Garrett affected a stoic face.
As if to step back from the touchy subject suddenly between them, Cabal glanced over once again.
"I don't think you two have met." Cabal waved towards where Nathan was standing. "This is Nathan."
The Keeper extended his hand towards Nathan. "'Gira's told me a lot about you. It's good to meet you."
Nathan couldn't help it; he stared for longer than was polite at the hand the Keeper offered. How could he not? It wasn't flesh – not even a real hand encased in a glove. Silver shaded plating, polished to the same finish as the hovercar, gleamed under the lights. Black fairing material made a void of counterpoint, swallowing the light whole as it shifted between the plates. The whole thing from just below his elbow to his fingertips had been expertly fashioned to resemble a real hand and arm – at least in function. Above the joint, a dense latticework of wires burrowed under the skin beginning at the transition between tech and flesh. His eyes traced those until they were lost beneath the ring mail that dangled down from his shoulder to his bicep.
"It's calibrated, son. I'm not going to crush your fingers." The laughing undertone caused Nathan to start, grasp his hand, and look up all in the same few seconds. Garrett's green eyes sparkled with mirth as he firmly shook and then released Nathan's hand. "Don't worry; I get it all the time."
Now that he was focused on that square face, Nathan studied its details. Much of the right side of the Keeper's head was scarred, a tangle of smooth even paler skin stood out, lacking the thick freckling that dominated the rest of his face. The right ear was stunted and misshapen. Even the right eye showed some clouding.
The cybernetic sensors he noted overtaking the flesh of Garrett's upper arm peeked out from under his collar, caressing the man's neck and beginning to curl across his jaw and cheek.
"You look a lot like your mother, Nathan."
The comment only made Nathan feel a bit of resentment. Still he made himself reply with, "I get that a lot."
Not that he managed to keep the irritation out of his voice.
"Congratulations on the promotion." Cabal mentioned. "Keeper, that's pretty lofty."
Garrett regarded Cabal. "Well, I hate paperwork, but I can't complain about the perks. It's been a lot easier to change the approach to the job. Been easier to protect," the Keeper glanced at Sagira, "my interests."
"Well, I appreciate that most of all." The sincerity in Cabal's statement was obvious. Nathan watched his older sister blush.
"Now that the pleasantries are done," Garrett leaned back against the skin of the Holocaust and folded his thick arms, "let's get down to business. We've got a situation. About 12 hours ago, one of the towns we keep watch over dropped communication – completely. Nothing in and nothing out. The gates are locked down, and from reports on the outside, nothing inside seems to be moving."
"Genocide?" Cabal tilted his head.
Garrett negated that, his eyes slipping closed only a moment before opening to regard the two of them. "Being that there's a coven in that town we've been keeping tabs on, the thought had occurred to us…"
"There's a 'but' coming isn't there?"
"However, the first team on scene also reported that the place looked…well like an earthquake hit it."
Nathan felt the blood leave his face, and out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw Cabal pale as well. "An earthquake?"
Garrett affirmed that. "The strange part is, there's no evidence outside the dome of seismic activity. No fissures, no cracks to the foundation, nothing. All the damage is inside the dome." The Keeper emphasized that statement by making a motion like he was stuffing an envelope. "I've tried to get a team in close to recon, trying to determine if this was a natural occurrence."
"What did they find?" Cabal found his voice again. The stricken expression had yet to leave his features however.
"They didn't." Garrett folded his arms a bit more tightly and sighed. "I've lost three teams trying to get close to an entrance, to see through the plasteel, something. Each time, the ground opened up right below them and swallowed the team whole. Again, it didn't seem to affect the superstructure."
"I'd say that argues in favor of this being perpetuated by magic. There's no way a fissure or a sinkhole would coincidentally open up exactly where each team was trying to penetrate the perimeter." Cabal seemed to be on the same wavelength with the Keeper, but that left Nathan floundering to catch up mentally.
"You mean the town was destroyed by a witch?" Nathan blurted.
"Or a coven of them." Garrett nodded. "There's plenty of natural talents out there still…plenty of witches and warlocks who can manipulate the four elements. Normally it's not this massive however. A spell – a tapping of energy large enough to decimate the entire town would kill a single talent. It's almost as if someone recruited every earth-adept witch and warlock in the United Territories."
"You say that as if you know who might be responsible here, Garrett." It was Cabal's turn to fold his arms over his chest.
"The reason this coven is under surveillance is because their leadership recently changed. Enrique Delgado came up through the ranks fast. Good spell caster – even better at manipulating others – a fanatic. Delgado was being observed by Victor Sierra because his rallies are rather inflammatory. He has some grand scheme going to reassert the covens as the premiere supernatural organization – over the vampire court – over Victor Sierra and her allies – over the Morl…, uh, human populace. Yet, prior to this, he'd never actually done anything violent."
"That's the problem with being reactionary, Garrett." Cabal's answer sounded cold.
"It was against my better judgment. I've been wanting to send an assassination unit in there for about five years. However, even a Keeper answers to the VS council."
"So then the question comes down to – why us?" Nathan straightened, noting he was just about as tall as the Keeper.
Garrett met his stare dead on. "Well large strike forces aren't doing it, obviously. Those patrols we lost held two talents each – that's six supernaturals I couldn't afford to lose in the first place. They're hard to find and expensive to train. I can't keep throwing them at hopeless situations."
"But you can throw us at them." Knowing the possible, personal stakes to the Keeper's request, Nathan's derision shot straight through the words.
"The difference is, it wouldn't be hopeless for a small team of fighters used to being stealthy." Garrett shook his head. "Victor Sierra didn't believe in surgical, behind-the-scene strikes – the Keepers and Council before me didn't feel that those kinds of teams were worth retaining. I'm working on fixing that oversight, but I don't yet have a team prepared for this kind of insertion."
"If the entrances are sealed? It's not going to be stealthy at all if we can't gain entrance." Cabal shifted; his expression analytical.
"Cherlize would be a perfect member of this party," Nathan mused aloud.
Garrett looked at him quizzically.
"She could make spatial jumps," Cabal provided. "The problem is she'd have to see the other end of the destination or it was no good."
"Well, she managed it from just an image in my head," Nathan countered.
"Again, a place you had already been. We haven't been beneath any dome's tunnels before. So even if she were here, it would do us little good."
Garrett had watched this exchange impassively.
"They would sense that sort of thing, anyway." The Keeper shifted. "However, the last team did manage to get a scan of the underground passages transmitted back before they were lost. There are five tunnels that lead into the catacombs beneath the town. That's where the Coven is holing up."
"If we know they're there, then surely they do too? They would certainly be defending them."
"Possibly." Garrett glanced at and then smiled widely at Sagira. "But 'Gira can make 'em forget they even saw the door open."
"Wait." Nathan swore he saw Cabal's hackles rise. "Sagira's going in, too?"
Nathan's sister looked offended. "Dad, I'm perfectly capable...I've been in training for years."
If looks could kill, Garrett Kelly would have died right in that moment simply from the acid in Cabal's glance.
Instead of blowing up, like Nathan thought he would, Cabal threw his demand at Sagira, "Victor Sierra knows about you?"
Sagira's eyes widened considerably. "It's okay Dad, really. It wasn't the way you thought it would be. No experiments, no testing…Garrett made sure of it. I got tired of being apart from him, so when he got offered the position as Keeper, he brought me out of hiding."
Cabal wheeled on Garrett now. "You promised me, you son of a bitch!"
"That she wouldn't come to harm." Garrett nodded, his features hardening and making the scars across his face even paler. "I've kept that bargain. She volunteered for training as something to do – she isn't officially a VS. In fact, she doesn't normally go into the field…she just wouldn't let me do this one on my own."
The precedent of what he was suggesting seemed to penetrate his father's growing rage. "What?"
"What you thought I was just going to drop the two of you into the meat grinder?" Garrett actually laughed. "No offense to either of your skill sets, but that would be suicide."
"And how do they feel about their Keeper suddenly eschewing his duties for a romp in the field?"
Garrett shrugged. "Like I ever gave a crap about the rules. They're not happy about it, but they don't have much say in the matter. I'd have come anyway."
Both Cabal and Nathan looked at him quizzically.
Garrett glanced from one to another of them. "Enrique's originally from the Old Chicago Coven. He's the grandson of a man who was my best friend when I still lived with them – a man I know wouldn't approve of the course Delgado's life has taken, if he was still alive."
Cabal took a step back from the two of them and Nathan watched the retreat. His father's expression pinched some and his eyes averted from his audience. The four of them fell to silence, but Nathan caught Sagira leaning into the pale man next to her. Garrett patted her arm and gave a small nod as if to reassure her things were going to be fine.
"I suppose you need us to start this adventure right away?" Cabal had been so still and so quiet that the question made them all start.
Garrett shrugged. "We'd like to get this taken care of before they fortify their position, but I don't really see the situation getting any worse if we take a day or two."
Cabal nodded. "I'm not guaranteeing our help. I need to discuss some things with Miranda before I give you our answer."
While Nathan could guess what those things were; the reason behind Cabal's reluctance to agree and go, Garrett seemed to think Miranda had Cabal a bit whipped – it was clear to read in the Keeper's expression.
"You two are welcome to stay at the House while we make our decision."
With that, Cabal retreated towards the Mandalay, not seeming to care whether the two of them took him up on the offer.
Nathan jogged several steps to catch up. "Dad, are you okay?"
"I feel like I'm staring destiny in the face, Nathan." The gaze Cabal turned on him was spooked and uncertain. It was not an expression he was used to seeing on his father.
A/N: Welcome to the newest tale in the TOHS Universe. I'm a bit nervous about this one (or rather the reaction I'm going to get for this one). It wasn't easy for me to write it. However, I have reasons behind the idea...though I'm not going to divulge them at this early juncture...I have three out of a projected four chapters written on this one already (With some tweaking occurring to the third as we speak.), and I hope not to interrupt any updates at all on this one. Depends upon how difficult it is for me to write the final chapter. It's already showing signs of giving me trouble. X(
Destiny? What destiny? It was something that was mentioned briefly in Nathan's Tale, but specifics weren't given. Those will come out as this moves along.
So for now, please enjoy the tale, and definitely let me know what you think...
NEXT UP: Coming to Grips
Cabal's tries his best to deal with what he knows is coming...