Hidden Wiccans

It was dark, just as it always was in The City; the sunlight, only seen by the Demons who lived high above the slums. The skyscrapers towered so high it was impossible to see the light, they stacked and clashed against one another, creating layers of residency that which is envied with each rising status. Though some humans lived better than others they were all but cattle to the Demons. Those who had wealth used it for protection against the demons by paying a tax. From my home-the slums, all that could be seen was cracked buildings and rusted metal. I live with my sister Barbara and her two children; Matthew and Roselynne, Rose for short. Lately Matthew has been very sick, so most of the coin I make go towards his health. As for me? Well, I'm what you would call a Scavenger; gathering supplies and artifacts for those with the coin to hire my services. Although I try to keep my business low key, it seems more and more people request my services by the day. It's getting tough out there, and I supply the help they need.

My name is Ryft, I'm a Wiccan in a world where Magick is but a shadow of itself, a scavenger in a world running out of supplies, and as of late? An errand boy for the local traders. Magick, still practiced by humans; often aid me in my journeys. Though it has been outlawed by Demons, I remain careful and vigilant in my craft. Procuring anything that will help me master my skills under the guise of a simple slum rat.

Chapter 1: The Librarian

Putrid air rose above the hollowed outer shell of the city. Crumbling buildings patched with scrap, random fires dotted the area below him. The starving, hopeless inhabitants huddled around the fire bins; their tattered, dusty clothes hung loosely about their malnourished bodies. In ramshackle buildings the sick lay in quarantine, their phlegm coughs and raspy breathing, a sickening clock to their final end. On ground level, the scum of the city, guards stood about beating a man who had just raped and murdered a woman, his bloody beaten face a sign that he soon would join her. Down an alley and behind a dumpster so full it spilled over; stood Ryft.

"Hmm...crap...crap...crap" He said tossing bits of metal and plastic behind him. "Hmm?" He said and picked up a small dried leaf, sticking his tongue to it he scoffed, "Feh...basil." He said and tossed it behind him. "Crap...crap" muttered Ryft as he continued searching through the garbage. "C'mon people, since when is there nothing good to find in the trash?" He asked himself and stood, crossing his arms. The sound of a tin can falling echoed behind Ryft, followed by the sound of a throat clearing, there among the rubble stood an elderly man. He was stooped at the waist, under his right hand was a twisted piece of scrap, serving as a makeshift cane. On top of his bulbous nose were a cracked pair of spectacles, a large singed mustache, hiding most of his wrinkled face. A smile poking out at the edges. As he bent to pick up the sprig of basil, a faint bit of light caught his shined balding head, causing a bit of reflection. He reached to his waist, to an old tattered pack; popping it open he deposited the basil. "Alas the wastefulness of the young, and you must be Ryft, I am Matheius," snapping the pack he turned his attention to Ryft, smiling big enough to shift the wrinkles on his face.

"Look old timer, whoever said I have rations to sell-they lied." He said without even a glance to the man and continued going through the metal bin, muttering and grumbling as he tossed anything he felt unusable behind him, it all quickly flew past the man's head. "Oh ho ho, such spirit-actually Ryft, I had a job that may interest you" the old man said, opening his pack again, he pulled a large dusty book from it. Mischief shone behind his widened old eyes, hinting at an intelligence built upon a life of hardship and struggle. Ryft turned only to be halted when he laid eyes on the leather bound glory. "Where did?! How did?!" He stammered as he walked forward. He stopped, and placed his hands on his belted hips. His clothing consisted of dirty cargo pants with belts and straps of numerous lengths that wrapped around him. His muscle shirt tight against his skin under his flannel button-up shirt. He had straps going across his chest; as well as packs and pockets all around his body of various sizes and depths for anything he may encounter in his journeys. Wrapped around his head were goggles, unique ones at that. Up close they adjusted to work as magnifying glasses-but at a distance; they doubled as binoculars. Ryft often called them Binocugles, he admitted it wasn't clever; but liked it just the same. Around his neck wrapped a dirty worn out rag, used to hide his mouth and nose from the sanded winds that lie above-in the open air.

Ryft looked to the old man, curious as to how he acquired a book. "...What about it?...You know books are illegal." He said and stared at it wantingly. "There is a large store of these that my associates and I would like to obtain, if you gather these for us you will be paid handsomely." He locked the book back into his pack and turned, one eye still locked onto Ryft, "but if you do not think you are the man for this...then perhaps we will have to look elsewhere" he turned as if to leave, awaiting if anything clarification on Ryft's decision. "W-Wait! I just...I could use some paper for fires...What exactly is it that you need?" He said cautiously and crossed his arms awaiting for the old man to give his proposal.

"Ahh, I am pleased you will accept" The old man said rummaging through that dusty pack yet again, this time he pulled out a plastic box, inside were a can of tuna, a half pack of crackers, two bottles of water, and a couple cans of beans. "These are your provisions, as for what we need you to do...we need you to go to The Demon's Loft. It will be a large chamber with dazzling windows exposing the shipment of books. You can't miss it." Ryft bent over to pick up the box of supplies, "The Demon Loft?!" He asked startled as he stood up-the old man was gone and Ryft sighed out. Looking into the box he blinked "Wow...there's enough rations in here to last 3 days..." He said and began to walk, "These books must be pretty important." He muttered as he made his way down the dark and gritty street.

The smell of the food spread through the sewer, bringing the vermin, rats, dozens of them scurried from their filthy holes, most starved and rabid. They sniffed around, hissing at Ryft and themselves, some fought as they made a run for his food. "Tsst!" He said with anger, kicking and shuffling at them, he then hopped up on a dumpster, shoving the box into his back pack he began climbing up a gutter pipe making his way upward, he leapt to a ledge and breathed out as he pulled himself up to the second level of the slums. He continued his way down the town, making his way through the local families and residents. He felt sorrow and pity as he walked through the town, noticing many faces and avoiding others for fear of request of service without coin. He grew up in the slums, fighting day by day just to survive. Sad as it seemed, it was his home, these were his people-and he couldn't stand to look at any of them. The disparity, depravity, and disastrous affect of a single man's gaze still crippled his helpful spirit to this day.

Higher up, on the guarded platform, we're the elderly and families, women and children without fathers. Here a woman split a slice of bread between her five children, a pot of water boiling over the fire so it would be safe enough to drink. Along the right of the platform a small curly haired girl was dancing around and playing, her laughter was alien to the decayed city around her. Turning she ran up to Ryft, her rosy soot covered cheeks, a stark contrast to her bright twinkling green eyes. A locker bearing the name Roselynne; hung around her neck, made of wax, and painted gold. Smiling she pulled a half dead flower from the front pocket of her patchwork dress, holding it toward him. " Wyft wook I found my firstht savage." she said with a lisp, a faint whistle caused by the missing two front teeth, and her tongue pressed against them.

Ryft's smile was warm as he knelt down and grabbed the flower, reaching up he placed it in her hair. "A pretty flower for a pretty girl." He said and licked his thumb, wiping the burnt dirt from her face he smiled. He held up a finger in a 'one moment' gesture. And reached behind him, sliding his hand into his pocket he pulled out a hard candy and held it out to her. She jumped with excitement as she took the candy, putting it into her pocket as she had learned to save what little she acquired. Rose beamed at the flower in her hair, giggling she grabbed Ryft's hand pulling him to the edge of the platform. She pointed upward to a large hole in the ceiling of the upper plate, a large abandoned metal tower reaching its pointed hand toward the crimson heavens, a large red crescent moon bathing the night a pale pink. Down here it was always night time, the towers they blocked the light so fierce, that the stars were all that is visible. For those lucky enough to witness it, the Sun is an oddity that many have died to witness. "Mommy said that the stars gwants wishes, so I pray before bed that God will bring daddy back, and make Bubby no wonger sick. Do you think God will hear me?" Her bright green eyes shone in the light of the fires that burned in each barrel, unshed tears bringing with them a child's hope, something that seemed to cruel to exist in the world they knew.

Ryft's looked to her with saddened eyes, as he looked to her and said "I think...he's doing the best he can right now..." He said and patted her head. "But I have to go now...go back home and enjoy that candy." He said with a wink and hopped up grabbing a pipe he slowly climbed his way up, he looked back at the little girl as she walked away. He sighed and continued his way up through the metal and debris of the crumbling structures. He eventually made his way to a large pile of rusted metal. He stopped for a moment only to take a small drink-just enough to wet his mouth. He breathed and leapt up, grabbing onto the metal he pulled himself through, climbing his way up he emerged on the other side. He could feel the shift of environment as he ascended, the cold wet darkness of The City being replaced by the warm glow of the wasteland. As he emerged, the sunlight blinded him, it was as if he was being washed in fire it had been so long since his last Higher Scavenge. He pressed himself against smooth building surfaces, he was no longer in human territory. He turned and lowered his goggles, pulling up his neck rag he began to look around, checking to make sure there was nothing to see him.

All around him blew the harsh flaming wind of the desert world they now inhabited, dunes rising to the size of mountains in the distance. Off to his right, a pack of hell hounds fought over the scraps of a decaying body, a scavenger that was unlucky in his search. Two hounds ripping his arm down the middle from his fingers, munching on his long cold bones, one turned growling at Ryft and then continued back to feed on its catch. Overhead large undead birds flew about, their black hair covered bodies, breaking under jutting bones. They circled waiting for the chance to swoop in for food. In the distance the Black City rose, a testament of demonic might and ingenuity. Large airships flying back and forth between the city and the demons site for justice. Mt. Golgotha, named crudely after the place of Christ's crucifixion. Demonic humor, no doubt. There though, at the base of Golgotha lay a large Parthenon, no doubt the building Ryft must get to, the mountain rising around it and the large domed buidling the demons held their trials at. It was there amid the spiraling rocks and sharp precipice he would find the target of his search, the books that Matheius sent him for. A large airship flew over him, the echoing screams of tortured mortals inside, the vultures turned and flew toward it, picking at those close to the bars of the cage.

Chapter 2: On The Clock

Ryft crouched down against the ledge of the building, he sighed out and looked around. "Well...there it is..." He muttered as he turned the lever on his goggles, seeing the Demon Loft. He stood up and faced the building he was leaning against, he jumped, using his hands and feet to push himself up to grab a ledge, breathing out he pulled himself up and made his way over along the building's siding. When he heard the vultures begin to screech he realized he was at risk of being found. He twirled his finger against the dirty building, writing scriptures of earth and protection. He quietly chanted, "Terra circumdabit corpus, operiet ut ascendere." (Earth surround my body, cover as I ascend.) and then slapped the side of the building and a shock wave of air blasted the sand from the building. It soon surrounded him, swirling around his body. He was now part of the wind, the vultures silenced as he continued his travels across the building.

As soon as the sand covered him another airship flew over, blood dripping from the carrier above, landing on the sand swirling around Ryft, a small flock of the vultures circled above him, smelling the blood, their lifeless blackened out eyes not seeing what their noses picked up, they followed as he made his way near the Demon's Loft, a larger species of these vultures were perched around the roof of the Loft, a large chasm separating it from the sands, making sure that none could enter, the large columns had sustained some damage since the Occurrence, the cracks running along them, and up along the farthermost wall of Parthenon. The stone lions that were once there for decoration were sitting beheaded, stains of blood as some tried to take cover among their size.

Ryft slid along side the building, climbing his way up, his hands and feet sliding into the cracks as leverage, oblivious to the blood stained sand as it circled him. Once he was high enough he looked behind him, seeing a ledge on the building across from him he thought for a moment. 'The gap isn't that far...if I send the sand ahead of me, I'll only be out of cover for just a moment before I jump back into it...' he thought to himself. Adjusting his body he breathed, "iter" (travel) he muttered and the sand rushed forward to the other building. At that moment he quickly jumped backwards, turning his body to face his target; he leapt for the ledge of the next building, he faded back into the sand and stood still on the ledge to regain his balance.

As he vanished a vulture dived to where he was standing just moments before, smashing into the wall it fluttered and turned toward where he was, snapping at the air, trying to find its meal, the blood stained sand giving it a target to follow, it landed on the ledge after snapping toward Ryft's face, the others hovered watching in their own dead way, the vibrations giving their blind eyes sight. Ryft moved and dodged at each vultures snap, slipping for moments only to catch himself. He pulled a knife from his leg holster and swiped at the vulture as it neared closer. A glimmer of light shone in the corner of his eye, he saw the blood that was attracting it. He slid along the wall, moving and shifting to avoid each vicious snap of the vultures maw. The vulture screeched and struck; the others were sure it had lost its mind-they attacked, pecking and stabbing at what little flesh was left on the attacking vulture, devouring the mad beast. Ryft grimaced at the fierce birds and continued onward as just then, yet another airship flew over head and the building below it shook, testament to its unsteady foundation, it scared the vultures away as they flew off the platform he had been standing on when it began to crumble into dust below his feet.

He panicked and began to run, quicker than the sand could keep up, the ledge crumbling under him with each step as he neared the edge. He leapt- emerging from what little cover he had left, the sand slowly peeling off of his body as he became exposed to the world. First his hands, then knees. Soon his torso, face and back-the sand could not keep up as he lunged forward; not knowing where he may land. He looked below and saw the window he was aiming for, it was more far down than he anticipated. His body slammed against the building and he slid down quickly, pressing himself as close to the wall as he could to slow his decent as he braced for impact of the ledge; it slammed against his feet and kicked his knees up quickly as he slipped off. Sliding further down the building he landed on a window sill, grabbing onto the sides of the window with his hands he tightened his grip and quickly thrusted his body into the building before anyone could noticed him. He stood up and dusted himself off, adjusting his belts, straps, and packs he knelt over and breathed deeply. Once he regained his composure he stood once more, small wisps of sand continued to swirl around his body as he turned to look out the window. "Damn...there's no way to climb back up...looks like I'll have to go the hard way." He said and lifted up his goggles as he turned to face the room he had entered. His stomach dropped and his body cringed. Turning to the window once more he stuck his head out, vomiting what little food his stomach had. He pulled up the his bandana to cover his mouth. His breathing stopped and he quickly brought his hand to his head. Dropping his hand to his chest he then tapped each shoulder forming a cross over his body. He was taken back and prayed for what he had just witnessed. Ryft wasn't a religious man; nor could he gaze upon such heinous acts without proper atonement.

Inside the room was a faint yellow glow, the room was large and circular, paintings of Angels and God on the walls, one painting of the Virgin Mary had breasts drawn; and a phallus. Above it the words written in blood "I suck cock in hell" and below the mural, her sad face looked upon the violated corpse of a nun, her habit torn to reveal her genitalia, her throat slit, the ink for the modifications no doubt coming from her and her sisters blood. God's head removed, Angels defaced, truly a sight that would unnerve any who witnessed it. On the floor scattered about we're bloody pages of the Bible, defecation smeared along the face of Jesus, hell had been here, and hell reigned. The smell of feces hung strongly throughout the room. To the far left bore a large metal staircase, on which a priest was impaled and strung up by his own rosary. Ryft needed to leave this room, the foul putrid stench pushed through his rag covered face and he felt bile stir once more in his throat. He ran for the staircase and quietly made his way up it; the nightmare fueled room had not deterred him from the knowledge of his location. This was demon territory, and he can not be discovered. This was a job-get in, get out, get paid. That's how it worked in The City and he was on the clock.

As he busted through the top door and found himself in a large stone hallway, on the left and right of him were books, from the floor up into the ceiling. None of them were leather bound, several of them didn't even look to be more than a few pages long. The hallway was lined with doors, with two large double doors at the end. Opposite of where Ryft stood, there lied slumbering in front of the large steel doors, was a large three headed dog. Around its center neck was a golden key, no doubt the key to that large door. Ryft huffed angrily, "It's never easy..." He muttered to himself as he looked around. "Were these the books they wanted?...Or are they behind those doors..." he said as he lowered the bandana and picked up a few books. Looking at their titles they didn't seem like anything important. "..everybody poops...a classic" he chuckled to himself and tossed the book into the pile. "computers for dummies...like we'd need to work computers anytime soon." He said and sighed "I don't think these are it..."

The Cerberus at the end of the hall snarled in its sleep, kicking and waking briefly, it sniffed the air, all six eyes opening up and gazed at Ryft. Raising on its hunches it started to slowly make its way toward him, saliva hanging from its long curved fangs, the soft padding becoming a trot as it got ready to break into a run at Ryft. He turned to see the beast charging towards him. Ryft tossed the book he had in his hand and grinned as he began to sprint, running full speed to the ferocious monster as it flopped its massive heads in its charge. As it neared closer he dropped to his knees, sliding fast; he fell flat to the floor just barely missing Cerberus' snapping maws. As he slid under the beast he reached up, grabbing the key he pulled it down forcefully, it was difficult but he snapped it off-the force necessary had stopped his slide. Cerberus slid and flailed as it turned, its claws gashing into the floor. Ryft shoved the key into his side pack and stood up. Facing Cerberus he pulled his knife from the leg holster and held it in front of him, readying the knife for combat. "Think fast Ryft..." He muttered to himself frightfully.

Cerberus turned, its jaws snapping, licking its maw it took off toward Ryft again, using its strong legs the beast jumped from the floor to the left wall lunging at Ryft, its head took a bite out of his right shoulder his fangs gashing into him as it jumped past him, before sliding; it turned around facing Ryft again. Ryft let out a loud grunt as he gripped his shoulder tightly. The wound was deep, the blood flowed as he rose his left hand up, pressing on the wound he groaned and muttered "concrescat" (Clot) his hand glowed a quick yellow and the bleeding subsided. He had not the time to mend his wound as he searched around the room for anything that may aid him-he feared his knife would not cut it. (Haha) Just then an idea emerged, if he could stall for enough time to compose his ingredients, maybe he can create a smog cloud thick enough to get by Cerberus and make it through the doors. Surely they were strong enough to hold it back but he would not have long before the beast would attract attention; he needed to act fast. Cerberus was blocking his path to the door, hunkering closer to the floor so Ryft can no longer slide beyond it. It waited for his next move, ready to strike.

Ryft tossed his knife up, grabbing the blade he pulled back and threw it. It soared across the room and maintained speed and direction; Ryft was giving it a little extra guidance with his magick. Before Cerberus could react it stuck direct in the center head's right eye, his body clashed and his heads thrashed as it tried to knock loose the knife. Ryft dashed to the left of the room, hiding behind a pillar he put his back pack in front of him. He began to dig through it, pulling out a tennis ball he used a razor blade to cut open a hole. He pulled out a bag of plastic strands and shoved them into the ball, followed by a pouch of flour that was in the bag of strands. He reached into his bag and pulled out a white cloth ball of gunpowder, shoving it into the ball he reached for his satchel. He heard his knife hit the floor, Cerberus had removed it and Ryft was nearly out of time. He stuck his hand into the herb satchel and began to feel around until he finally pulled out the final ingredient-Bloodroot. "Heh...Even better" He said and crushed the herb, dripping the red liquid into the bomb, he stuffed the rest of the herb into the ball and with this; his harmless smoke bomb would become a paralysis smog. He taped the ball shut and he put his back pack on, wincing as the strap grazed his gashed shoulder. He rolled out from behind the pillar and Cerberus stood viciously ready to charge. Ryft tossed the ball up and said, "Here boy, wanna play fetch?" and with a chuckle he threw it. Holding his hand up he spoke "ignire!" and the ball caught flame, the gunpowder exploded and a red mist soon filled the far end of the room where Cerberus stood. Ryft pulled his rag over his face and lowered his goggles; awaiting the bomb's affect to take place as Cerberus thrashed amongst the smog.

Cerberus shook its head, clearing its senses, growling and snarling it took off toward Ryft, its claws digging grooves into the stone floor below it. At a full charge it bolted, Ryft stood there with his arms crossed, he watched as the beast charged when the Bloodroot took effect, the central head fell over, a struggle between the heads occurred as the left head collapsed and then the right. The beast lay at Ryft's feet snoring loudly, no longer a threat, but a harmless pup. Ryft smiled and patted its head, "good boy" he said with a chuckle and made his way for the door. Quickly walking through the smog he approached the massive entrance, pulling out the key he opened the large doors.

The room opened up into the large dome atop the Parthenon, it was a library, the greatest library of the time; Dickens, Aristotle, Plato, all the greats works. There were even shelves based on the occult, this was the storehouse of all the worlds books that the demons tried so hard to hide. In the center was a large glass floor, shaped like a diamond, the dome was lined with thousands of gems, from emeralds to rubies, to sapphires, and diamonds as well, the stones glowed reflecting colors about the room. The full spectrum of the color wheel circling Ryft. This added to the splendor, but certain onyx stones made symbols across the rooms, each a symbol of one of the four princes of Hell, the half-human Balthazar, Razael, Nergel, and Lucifer, this was a sign of their territory. On the walls surrounding them, taken wonderfully care of was a reproduction of The Creation of Adam, yet Adam had been replaced, in his Vanity Lucifer had painted himself, his heart still yearning for his Father's love over the monkeys he so despised. Shelves lined each wall, stacked upwards to the dome, and in the farthest corner was a simple opening, above it written "To the Trash we Send"

Ryft shut and locked the large doors. He was in awe as he walked around, looking at the books he was filled with an unbelievable amount of joy unlike any he had felt in years. He walked around, looking for the Client's books first and foremost. He took off his pack, wincing once more at the large gashes on his shoulder. He sighed and knelt down, feeling this was a good time to mend his wounded shoulder. He breathed deep and placed his left hand on his shoulder. Breathing deeper he began to chant, "Conglutinata...carnem et emendandum...ossa." (Knit The Flesh and Mend The Bones) He groaned as his shoulder cracked and the skin slowly melded back together, the clotting disrupted by the moving flesh, more blood pooled out before the skin sealed. He felt his ribs cracking too-he had not noticed it but he had apparently broken a rib; most likely during his impact with the building after his leap. Once he had finished his breathing picked up, the spell had put far more strain on his body than he imagined it would. This business was a dangerous one, his body in constant injury. Blood slowly fell from his nose as he stood up and ran his sleeve across it to wipe the blood. He breathed out. "Well...let's find those books" he muttered and continued his search, holding his backpack in hand.

On the list were names; Aristotle-Philosophy, Dickens-Fiction, on and on down the list they went, as Ryft looked around he noticed small cards above the shelves, dictating their genre, it was set up like libraries used to be. As he searched, the large doors shook, Cerberus was no doubt awake now, and trying his hardest to get into the room that Ryft had now occupied himself, dust flew off the edges of the door as he slammed into them, the frame shaking with each large heave into the solid structure, voices could be heard in the distance, guards alerted by all the commotion no doubt. Ryft panicked, running around the library until he saw shelves full of similar leather-bound books that Matheius had requested. "I hope these are it." He said to himself and he knelt to the ground and quickly drew on the floor in white chalk, a white circle with scriptures and characters written around it. He placed his backpack atop the circle and chanted, "magna continentiam in minoribus spatium." (Large containment in small space)

The circle disappeared, fading into the pack and Ryft groaned, a few more drops of blood fell from his nose as he began to shove books into his backpack. He packed it until he could carry it no longer. The spell provided a larger space, but did not alter the weight of the items. He turned to the door which was ready to fall at any moment. He looked around and saw the chute. "To the trash we send...I hope it's not a furnace!" He said and opened it, tossing the backpack first it flew down the shoot due to its weight and Ryft turned looking one last chance before he had to leave the glorious haven. He ran over to the occult section, grabbing the first book he could before the doors burst open. He ran full speed for the chute and dove in as the dust cleared from the door.

The tunnel wound, slamming his body left and right, dust flying up from the holes left open, as he fell he noticed it changing from day to night. The tunnel ended giving him an eight foot drop before landing him in a pile of garbage. Up above a higher class demon entered the room, scanning it he noticed a few books missing from the classic literature section, he surveyed the area around, smiling when he noticed one of the spell books missing, "Send word, we are looking for a Wiccan, go below, all of you, and begin searching for my books!" his cold voice carried authority...and power. His warriors turned leaving, Cerberus whined at his master, he patted on its head, pleased that he had caught something in his web at long last.

Chapter 3: The Raid

Ryft laid there for a moment, he was relieved the tunnel ended not far from his home instead of a burning furnace. Then he realized-someone might follow him down. He quickly stood up, shoving the occult book into his side pack and left with his backpack strap in hand, as he rose to lift the backpack onto his shoulder he realized what was in it, the weight pulled him back onto the trash pile once more. He groaned and breathed out in annoyance as he pulled the pack full of books onto a shoulder. He made his way down the street, going to the place where Matheius first asked him for the job for it was the only place he could think to find him. There, sitting atop the rubble was a young woman, she was knitting a small scarf, she smiled up at him, "you must be Ryft, I am Angela, assistant to professor Matheius." She placed her knitting needles into her hair and rose, walking over to Ryft she furrowed her brow, "I do not see any books, and you're injured" she frowned as she pulled out a handkerchief and wrapped it around his right shoulder. Ryft had cut it in the trash chute on his way down.

"Oh, thanks miss." He said and he heaved as he lifted his backpack to show her where the books were. "Got 'em in here, just point me to the man and he'll get them." He said and put the pack back on. She eyes him suspiciously, "I can assure you they'll make it to him, sir." she said encouragingly. "I know they will" Ryft responded, "Because I'm giving them to him." He said sternly. She nodded slightly then handed him the scarf, "Take that to the entrance of Jacobs Ladder, the guard at the bottom will do the rest" she turned and walked away her high heels staggering over the trash. Ryft shoved the scarf into the side pocket on his right leg. He began to make his way back to his shack to let Barbara know he was okay.

Ryft walked as fast as he could with the backpack weighing him down. He quickly approached the little town where the woman and children are kept, he made his way straight to his shack, keeping his head down and his backpack close to him. He ran up to the tin house and knocked on the makeshift door. The door opened and Barbara was there, she smiled and hugged Ryft then moved aside, allowing him entrance, after he entered she slid the panel back closed, hiding the house from any that did not know it was there. She was relieved Ryft was okay. Their home was small three room makeshift hut, separated by sheets hung from the ceilings, candle's lit throughout the shack gave a steady warm glow to the rooms. Barbara leaned against the paneling and looked there in the back of the home, where Matthew spent most of his time. He had been very sick for a few weeks now, having no luck in finding medicine, Ryft had taken it upon himself to strike a deal with the more shady characters of The City, in hopes to find something to help poor Matthew. His skin was pale, his curly blonde hair was tangled and wild, and he had been sweating from the fever, yet he remained strong.

Ryft grabbed his backpack and he took it to the back of the room just above Matthew's bed, opening a hole in the side walling he slid the backpack in, looking to Barbara, showing her its a job package. He then pulled out the mysterious book that he grabbed from the occult section and slid it into the side wall of the hole. It seemed to phase right through the concrete of the wall. This was where Ryft kept everything he found that would aid him in his craft. He stepped back and spoke, "...evanescant" (Vanish) He waved his hand over the backpack and it slowly faded into translucency. Giving it the appearance of an empty hole. Ryft moved the wall panel back into place and sighed. Barbara went over to the door, she then drew in chalk a symbol over the door, it glowed and soon the panel was sealed, only Ryft could find it now. She rose and pulled a pot out, she began gathering ingredients for dinner and began cooking a chicken stew, her sons favorite dish. She bowed her head and her eyes welled up with tears, praying that soon their troubles would end. Ryft watched her from across the room, holding his composure as he just stared at Matthew's fevered body. Looking over to Rose he smiled, no matter the troubles she was always his light.

Barbara turned, walking up to Ryft she looked at him, her eyes saddened, then she drew her hand into a fist, and punched Ryft in the jaw, from where he was leaning against the couch it caused him to fall to the floor. Putting her arms on her hips she glared at him, "Do you wanna tell me why it is you're bleeding!?" her long blonde curls framed her round plump face, her patchwork dress hanging to about the middle of her lower legs, her green eyes glowed in intensity, she was angry, very angry, and that normally ended in a tantrum and Ryft fruitlessly attempting to explain why he did what he had did. He sat up from the ground and groaned, holding his mouth he said "You just punched me that's why!" He said and wiped the blood from his lip. She almost growled as she crossed her arms and glared. Ryft sighed out, "It's nothing...I did the healing spell...Problem solved" He said with a bit of caution and pride in his voice. Healing spells, regardless of the wound, are very advanced and dangerous spells and are often more dangerous than curing the actual ailment. He's tried several higher level spells that have made him catatonic for a few days. "I just got a nose bleed this time..." He said smiling. "I'm growing Barb, I'm getting stronger." He grinned.

She grabbed his shirt and pulled him to her angrily, "Screw your accomplishment, where the hell did you go that required such a spell!?" Her voice rose in anger. Roselynne turned in her sleep, her thumb shoved in her mouth, a feint snore coming from her chest, Barbara glared at Ryft, challenging him to avoid her earlier question. Ryft's face went straight and he said "...It was a job." Looking to her eyes, he grabbed her hand and she released him, he straightened his clothes and sighed. "I got a big job this time...if the payment goes through, it can help a lot." He said and looked to her with a faint smile. "Do not worry...Cerberus demons aren't as tough as they look." He said and jumped backward and laughed as she swung at him once more having found out he faced a Cerberus.

She groaned out, "You moron!...Be careful okay? I don't want Rose to have to go through losing you too." She turned going back to the stew as Ryft walked into Rose's room to check on her. Meanwhile in The City, large gates opened that separated the elevator from above the upper levels of the demon's living quarters, two large groups of demons walked forward, breaking their way into the small already crumbling houses, dragging the occupants outside, some tried to resist but were beaten. Among them were two higher level demons, one; a man with long straight black hair, and cruel onyx eyes, his horns wrapped forward framing his unmarked face, his perfect skin, glowing with its own light, on his back, furled together were two large, black feathered wings, no doubt a fallen from the wars. Next to him was a younger demon, his pale blue eyes rare among the clans, he had long silver hair, and flawless silver skin. Each of the demons wore the traditional robes of their station, with a flag draped over the right arm bearing the symbol of their demon master they turned their noses up as the brutish soldiers made a mess wherever they went. "filth" the fallen one said, the other remained quiet with his head bowed.

Screams of women and children soon echoed into the shack, the small house shook making the pots and other objects fall from the wall, "the hell is going on out there!?" She turned ready to make her way outside when the door crashed open knocking her back into the pot of stew, making it spill over onto the floor. A large demon stumbled in. He swung his grotesque head around scanning the room, his hot breath blowing in Ryft's face, "well well we have some hideaways, if I hadn't been pushed I never would of found you, why are you monkeys hiding?" His breath was rancid, smelling heavily of rotten eggs and curdled milk, his voice like that of gravel grating glass. Ryft coughed and waved his hand over his face. "Whoa there buddy, it's called a breath mint. Believe it or not, they aren't hard to find." The demon moved about the house slamming things against the wall, "Funny. Now I asked a question, what are you little monkeys hiding in here?" he moved around staring at them. "Well if you don't wanna talk, how about I ask the little one huh!?" he reached his large scarred red arms to grab Rose.

Ryft quickly dashed across the room and stepped in front of her. "Hold it! These people are under protection, it's against the law to even think about touching them." He said fiercely, his arms crossed as he stood before the demon. "We aren't hiding anything, search the room. But you are not to touch them." The demon roared, "you think you can stop me?!" The demon bellowed while swinging one of his massive arms he bashed into Ryft and he flew from the house, his body flying into the street. Charging out, the demon busted the door frame down, bringing one of his massive fists down, aiming to crush Ryft's head, bellowing in rage as he did. The other demons stopped when they saw Ryft's body fly out of a wall. They approached and as the demon's fist fell towards his head he rolled to the right and stood up quickly. The guards approaching, "What is this, a human is fighting one of our guards?!" Ryft turned to the guard with one fist up and the other bore a knife he had pulled out in his roll. The blade faced downward and he said, "Your lackey tried to attack a protected human. By law I have the right to defend us." He said bravely.

The demon soldiers just laughed, "Law!? We make the law boy!" the demon guard flung his massive arm again, knocking Ryft onto the platform and into the center of the slums, as he fell his left side was cut by a piece of loose scrap. The rest of the guards circling him, chanting "Kill" over and over, the demons circled Ryft, discussing who would get to eat which body part, they bellowed their war cry, intent on murder. Ryft crippled over in pain, he was holding his side covering the wound as he knelt over on his hand and knees. He staggered to his feet and as a demon approached it swung it foot in a kick, Ryft held up his arm and wrapped it around the demon guard's leg, he clenched his knife and stabbed it down with great force. Going into the demon's shin, shattering his bone; he pulled out the knife and kicked the demon back into the circling crowd. Another approached and swung its fist, Ryft ducked and stabbed the demon in its shoulder, kicking that one out of the way too. He turned to a fist plowing into the side of his face, he fell to the ground and a foot charged down to his head, he rolled and swung his legs up, launching them out he flipped up and stood once more, ducking a punch he swiped his knife upward cutting the demon's arm. Three of them tackled him and began to beat him; face, gut, side. They wailed on him as he lied there defenseless.

"What exactly is the meaning of this?" A cold emotionless voice echoed through them, the demons stopped instantly and turned, there stood the white haired demon, his eyes grown cold, the whites singed in red, the lower demons cowered backwards, the guard that had instigated the fight bowed lowly stammering at the greater demon, "Lord Balthazar, this...monkey interfered with me when I tried to question-"Attack!" *Ryft shouted from the ground.* a woman and a little girl about why they were hidden." Fear caused his voice to tremble. Balthazar's blue eyes narrowed, more red seeping into them, "Did you say woman and child?" Never raising his voice but menace seeping through. He jumped from the platform, slowly sinking down toward Ryft, his shadow on the wall equipped with wings none could see, walking over toward Ryft he simply muttered something under his breath, Ryft's injuries healing over. Ryft winced as his bones and flesh mended back to health. From Balthazar's side he pulled a long silver whip, blades shaped along the edges, grooved to dig into whatever they grasp onto. "Stand human; and take my Despair." Balthazar said holding the whip to him and Ryft rose from the ground and grasped the whip. Looking at it he was set back as to why a demon would provide him with a weapon. Balthazar turned back toward the demon guard, " You have broken my law and attacked a woman and child-And you." He said facing Ryft, "As their guardian, you and this demon will fight to the death, with no interference, is that clear?" he looked at the spectators before returning to his perch above, watching the scene that would unfurl.

Ryft faced the guard and slightly struck the whip, it sliced along the ground and Ryft flicked his wrist, the whip shortened into a dagger, the blades connecting to one another forming a single solid blade and Ryft gasped. He smiled and readied his pose for combat, holding the dagger up with the blade facing down. Balthazar turned facing Ryft, "Human, what is your name?" He gazed down, a small smile on his stoic features changed the air about him, made him seem almost...mortal. Ryft frowned a little, and stood out of combat pose. "Uhm...Ryft..." He said hesitantly. "Ryft remember, if you die. They die." he said and pointed up to Barbara, who was watching from up on the second level holding Rose close to her side as Rose grabbed Barbara's legs tightly. "Begin." Balthazar spoke, his subtle voice echoed. The demon guard immediately struck the ground and it began crumbling under the blow, and a large crack spread across the ground under Ryft's feet, he chuckled darkly at Ryft and charged, his shoulder aiming at him. Ryft turned around and ran, hopping up on a dumpster he turned and leaped, doing an aerial twist he landed behind the demon. Ryft swiped the dagger twice cutting at the demon's back. He jumped backward and flicked his wrist again, the whip hadn't extended, he blinked and held up the dagger, hitting it with the palm of his hand trying to extend the whip.

"Command it in Latin." Balthazar said, the demon onlookers turned and faced him in confusion, "I mean, atchoo...my isn't it dusty down here, my allergies are running wild, sniff sniff" he held his hand up covering his nose, not realizing he had actually said sniff sniff. The demon guard howled in pain, grabbing the dumpster he flung it at Ryft, "Die worm!" Ryft nodded and straightened his arm quickly saying, "Praetende" (Extend) And the blade broke apart and shot out, each one linked to another. Ryft drew back his arm and swung it down, slicing the dumpster in half each side flew past him quickly, and each side crushed a demon against the wall behind Ryft. Balthazar widened his eyes, pretending surprise, "I call fifty, on the little guy, quick someone bring me some popcorn...wait, do you mortals even have popcorn anymore?" he said, entertained. The demon guard stomped after Ryft again, breaking into a charge. "Toro!" shouted Balthazar as he watched in glee. Ryft sprinted forward and as the demon lunged for him, Ryft dropped to the ground, sliding past the guard he whipped the chain and it wrapped around the demon's legs, cutting into them deeply Ryft pulled hard and the demon's legs tightened together causing him to fall forward heavily to the ground. Ryft spoke, "Revocare" (Recall) and the whip quickly pulled back, sliding into the handle, the chain wrapped around the demons legs and tightened, gashing brutally as it pulled back, completely destroying one of the demon's legs.

"Enough!" A voice shouted, the black haired demon dropped from the sky, his eyes darting back and forth, "Little Brother would you mind explaining what's going on here?" He scowled at Balthazar and waited for an explanation, "Well look here, not much Lucy, just having some fun, that demon needed to be punished so I thought this human would be able to do it, which reminds me I won the bet." Lucifer scowled at the other demon prince, hating the pet name the jovial one gave him, "You monkey!" he shouted toward Ryft, "Kill the guard, he is a disgrace to our kind, to fall to a primate is worse than death." Ryft stood there and lowered the knife to end his combat. He put his new knife in the holster on his shoulder; it fit well and would perfectly replace his old knife. He crossed his arms, "I will not. He has been disabled, no longer a threat." He said and stood firm, facing the Demon.

"Hmph a defiant monkey at that." Lucifer said, a black haze covered Lucifer and he phased in front of Ryft, "Remember your place, slave." He growled, turning he looked down at the guard; he held out his hand and clenched his fist, "master please...hel-AHHHHH" the demon shouted as it erupted in flames. Lucifer turned and took back to the air, looking below he narrowed his eyes at Ryft, "I will be watching you very closely from now on, let us go, we have the sacrifice and we found no evidence of the thief. Brother, retrieve your weapon, we are leaving." With that he turned and flew back off toward the gate. Balthazar turned tilted his head side ways at Ryft and placed a finger on his chin, "Well unfortunately my hands are so full, I guess I will have to come back for it, you heard Lucifer; we are leaving." He said with a chuckle and followed his brother. The demons followed suit, two of them lifting the injured demons, and others carried the bodies of the guards that were injured and the killed demons were left to rot in the streets. Herding between them, twenty residents of the slums. Barbara jumped down from the upper level and walked over to stand by Ryft, " I don't know what's stranger, a human giving mercy to a demon, or a demon helping a human." Ryft frowned and looked to her. "We are not demons...we show mercy to those who cannot defend themselves." He muttered and began walking, going over to the rubble that had collapsed earlier, Rift jumped and climbed up to their shattered home. He sighed and rubbed the back of his head, thinking of how they could repair the damages before going to Matheius with the books.

Chapter 4: The Priory

Barbara smiled at him, knowing what he had planned, "Don't worry I'll fix that later." She went into the house, before Ryft could step through a small blur flew at him clinging to him, she was crying, her words not making any coherent sense, she buried her little curly head against his leg bawling at the top of her lungs, "W...W...Wyft! Boo...Booo...Boogerman..." were the only things that could be understood. Ryft knelt down and hugged her, "Shh, the Boogerman's gone." He said and pushed the hair out of her face. He lifted her up, carrying her back into the shack he smiled, "Your mom's gonna clean up the mess while I go get some food, okay? Help her out, but don't touch anything sharp, avoid all glass. And listen to your mother." He said warmly and sat her back down on the bed. He walked over to the panel in the wall, grabbing the backpack it faded into vision as he lugged it over his shoulder. He walked towards the massive hole in the shack, looking to Barbara he said, "I'll be back with some supplies." He said with a smile and began walking to Jacob's Ladder.

He made his way through several worse neighborhoods, until he approached a large field set by a massive tower. A guard stood by the front of the large tower, he circled one small spot, nervously looking left and right, he kept flipping a coin in the air and calling it, never getting it right it seemed, the tower was gargantuan up close, like a sky scraper from the old world. It had an odd bit of graffiti around it, but the most noticeable was a large 02 on each side of the structure, Jacobs Ladder, no one even knew what it was for, there were no doors, no window, no noticeable entrances at all. Ryft walked up and stood there, awaiting the guard to make his round towards Ryft. When he did, Ryft pulled out the scarf from the pack on his leg, and just showed the guard.

The guard took the scarf, ran his hand under the giant 0 and pressed, a keypad appeared, he punched in a code and a door opened up ahead of them, leading up them were a set of long stairs, as Ryft walked through, he was instantly assaulted by light, the tower had electricity! The room opened up into a large square chamber, here there were dozens of older people and just as many younger people. They were seated around desks and were studying books, a man stood at the front of the room, giving lectures on physics, mathematics, even literature. He had walked into a school, and lining the farthest was was a giant bookshelf, stocked to the brim with books. His face was bright with excitement as he saw all of the books. He could feel the knowledge traveling around the building, or perhaps that was the electricity surging through the air. He had not known electricity since his childhood in the bunkers. At any rate it was unlike any energy he had felt before, and he liked it. He wanted to be in this building more with each passing second. Agatha walked toward Ryft, smiling at him in her usual way, "We were beginning to wonder about you Mr. Ryft." Ryft smiled and let out a chuckle, "Yeah I uh...had some things I had to take care of before I made my way over here." He said and rubbed the back of his head. She scoffed, "I'd say so, taking on the guards. That's pretty risky of you, considering what you possess." She said and he nodded, "Yeah well, I've fought worse, now if you can just point me to the Matheius, I can unload these heavy books, get my payment and be on my way." He said respectively and grinned.

She raised an eyebrow at him, curious to what he was talking about, but turned on her heel and started walking, the snapping sound of her shoes echoing, she took him up two more flights of stairs, through a lush carpeted hallway, where some of the worlds most amazing paintings hung, and finally to a large oak door, on it were the letters M.W, she knocked three times before opening the door and walking in, "He is finally here professor." She told Matheius, he sat behind a large wooden desk, a globe, various maps and books, and even a few strange devices were scattered on its grand surface, behind him were bookshelves crammed full of great works, he looked over his nose and glasses and smiled at Ryft, "Ahh Ryft...So good of you to grace us with your presence, I'm sure you had a fair journey?" His tone indicated that he knew far to well how Ryft's travels had been. Ryft scoffed, "I'll say...your little book hunt pit me up against vulture demons, a Cerberus, and as a result of the theft, I had to fight Demon Guards. Killed two and a half. Injured three more. So yeah...my journey was difficult. And I hope the payment is worth it." He said and held out the back pack, "They're in her-" Suddenly RRIIIPPPP his backpack expanded and twenty books came bursting from the seams and fell to the floor. Ryft's eye twitched and he held up the ripped cloth that was his back pack. He groaned and dropped the backpack, thinking to himself, 'Why did the spell wear off?' He sighed and knelt over, stacking up the collapsed books. "You know these terrible sown up backpacks...never last long..." He chuckled slightly looking up to Matheius.

Matheius began laughing uncontrollably, he walked from behind the desk and over to Ryft, helping him stack the books he spoke, "Let's see how many books you managed to gather... Twenty? How does one-hundred coin sound?" He said and Ryft dropped his torn backpack "One...One-hundred?!" He gasped, this was the biggest job he's procured yet. "Yes-fifty coin for every ten books you bring in. And as for the raid...We heard about your achievements, and we are dreadfully sorry for what has happened to your home. Ryft, I would like to offer you a permanent job here, as my personal scavenger. A...gopher, if you will. I find things we need, and you go for it. It would certainly help you and Barbara take care of Rose. And as for Matthew, we have a medical center here, it's not the best, but surely it's better than what you have now." Ryft's face dropped into a frown and he asked "How do you know of them? Of Barbara?" He said concerned. Matheius smiled and said, "You will soon find out that there is very little that happens in The City, that we do not know about." Ryft crossed his arms, "And who are, 'we' exactly?" he asked. Matheius chuckled and said, "All in good time." He took Ryft's payment from his drawer, a large pouch held the coin and he laid it across from him toward Ryft, "So why is it did you not simply give Agatha the delivery, if I may ask?"

Ryft looked to Matheius and firmly said, "Rules of the job. Only two people touch the package. The Procurer-Me. And the Client-You. I don't talk about the job. I get what they ask for. And I get paid. That's how it's worked, that's how I intend to keep it working. Though the rules are always subject to change by me. It all depends on the job." He said and wrapped his torn backpack back around his shoulders. Matheius smirked, "Ahh so a scavenger with rules...interesting..." Matheius folded his hands and tucked them under his chin, he looked at Ryft, amazed by this young man. It was unusual for Matheius to not know as much as everything about a person, but he hadn't even heard of Ryft until he was brought up in conversation by an old friend. Matheius found that Ryft and his skills were truly remarkable.

"Will that be all?." Ryft said, he shoved his hands to his pockets, "I'd like to be on my way now." He said with disdain; he did not like discussing himself, or his capability. He found that with each person that knew more than his name often times ended badly for himself and his business. He kept his words short, and the knowledge of himself and his life scarce. "I will respect your privacy however Ryft; it is never a bad thing to have friends. Especially in these trying times." Ryft scoffed and grabbed the straps of his backpack. "I'll keep that in mind next time one of my friends are carried off for sacrifice." He said with a small crack in his voice, unwilling to show his saddened eyes he looked to the ground.

Matheius rose and walked over toward Ryft he handed him the sack of coins and a piece of paper, on it were the numbers 43521. "That is the code to enter Jacobs Ladder. Use it to come and go as you please. I would like to for you to be a part of us. We will be in contact and will let you know the details of the work. You are welcome to the Priory; now if you will excuse me I have a class to teach." Matheius turned and made his way out, leaving Ryft to weigh his offer. Ryft stood there, shoving the coins into his side pack he looked down at the piece of paper, staring at it he sighed out; if every job payed this well. He could be out of the slums in a matter of weeks. He shoved the note into his right pocket and turned around, "Hey-wait!...I apologize for my earlier rudeness, I did not mean to stray away from the generosity of your offer...I'll think about it, and get back to you." He said with a hint of cautiousness in his voice. Matheius chuckled and turned, smiling at him, "Worry not, I would think you a fool if you were not careful." He said stoically and turned leaving Ryft to his day. Laughter was heard emanating from the halls as Matheius opened his office doors...there was happiness here; something the world thought was gone.

Chapter 5: The Phantom

As Ryft made his way back to Barbara's, he noticed how much quieter the City seemed after the raid, there were just a few people on the lower levels left, the criminals had been taken, but also some of the younger women, no doubt part of the breeding program now. He saw families as they sat in the streets crying, most of their homes were looted. Barbara was busy nailing a new door, the repairs nearly completed. Their shack had been destroyed countless times in raids, that's why they disguised it as part of the city. Yet it always seemed to get trashed one way or another. She had her hair tied back, her dress was changed with overalls. Ryft looked to the side of the shack, there on the cart normally used for large deliveries, she had laid demon corpses that were left behind. Barbara turned and smiled at Ryft, dirt on her unmarked face, "I take it you got paid? I hate to ask, but we are running low on supplies..." Ryft smiled in return, "I did...one hundred coin!" He said and held up the sack. Her eyes grew wide and she dropped the hammer, walking up she looked at it. "O-One Hundred?!" She stammered and Ryft nodded. "I'll go to the market district first thing tomorrow and buy us enough food and water to last weeks!" He said excitedly. Barbara tilted her head, "...How did the client gather such coin?" She said, Ryft sighed out looking down to her, "Barbara...you know the rules, I don't talk about the client, I get the items and I get paid. Granted this job was unusually fruitful, I did not pry in my clients business." He said with a sense of pride backing up his voice.

She sighed and nodded saying, "You're right Ryft, its a blessing, and we shouldn't second guess those. You just be more careful with what they have you doing, understand?" she poked his chest, wiping the dirt from her face, "I guess we should get these demons to the incinerator...before it gets more dangerous." She covered the sheet over the cart, she turned to Ryft "Would you?" She asked and Ryft nodded, "Of course" he said as he lifted the cart with a gasp of air exhaling out. He then strolled down the street, heading out of the city to the vast Graveyard District. its members ever growing by the day.

As they approached the graveyard district, all around them were tombs, many were walled off to protect from grave robbers. Others just wooden crosses without names, here mothers, brothers, sisters, families lay beneath the cold ground. They were the lucky ones many said, they were the ones who no longer lived in this hell. As they walked past, names began to blur together, families no longer separate, for they all belonged to the earth now. Off in the distance sat a man, he played a sad song on the flute, one that told of pain and longing, one that spoke of loss and reunion. They couldn't make his face out from there, but as they traveled a small hill, his song changed, now the music talked of hope, and faith, of never giving up. Behind him Ryft heard Barbara gasp, the song was one his grandfather used to play them, when he spoke of a world full of magick, a Celtic hymn, he had told them. It was played the day they buried the old man, and now this stranger played it as well. They arrived to the tomb, on its door was carved a large gryphon, the symbol for power and honor. Opening the door, they moved the demons into the tomb. Barbara lit a candle, and used it to light a massive furnace. Ryft sighed as he pushed one demon after another into the large burning incinerator. Barbara sighed out and leaned against the wall, watching the fire. "Why do you burn them?" She asked. "Would you whether they rot in the street?" He groaned as he pushed another into the flame. "Well, no...but we could just drop them somewhere." Ryft shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know...I guess I just like watching the fire turn blue." He joked and she chuckled.

They made their way out of the tomb, Barbara heaving the empty cart. Then Ryft noticed something; dirt being tossed up and people gathering around a grave. Something was wrong. He told Barbara to continue to the house and that he'll soon join her to discuss what is going to happen. As Ryft climbed a small mountain of graves, he saw what was happening, four men with shovels. They had dug up an older grave, they were raiding whatever they could find, and taking it for themselves. They ripped jewelry off the bones. Soon the corpse became a disheveled puzzle of who it once was, the poor souls bones were scattered about the grave. The men cursing and breaking them as they pulled all the deceased belongings, a letter was clasped in the bodies hands, one of the scum picked it up, read it and began to laugh, "Oi, listen 'ere, dear mum, hope Heaven is as good as they says it is." Laughing he crumbled the note and threw it over his shoulder, he then unzipped his pants and urinated all over the corpse, "'ere you go mum." He said cackling, his dirty hair and yellow and black teeth evident as he laughed harder.

As Ryft saw the heinous act he clenched his fist, he looked around and grabbed the nearest rock he could find. He tossed it up and caught it, pulling his arm back he threw it to the cackling grave robber, nailing him in the back of the head the man grunted and fell into the grave, wallowing in his own urine he thrashed around and held the back of his head. "You filth, have you no decency for the dead?!" Ryft shouted as he approached the pilfered graves. The man cursed and rose, pulling out a long and crude looking knife he turned to face Ryft, "Jus' who the 'ell are you!?" His buddies lined up behind him, each holding the tools they had been using to dig up the graves, ready to defend this vagrant. "You got a pair on ya boy, might as well take 'em home to the missus" he crouched down moving closer to Ryft, he smelled heavily of filth, booze, and urine; clearly nothing more than trash himself. Ryft pointed to the disgusting men, "You will leave this place and crawl back into the pig pens you slithered out of." He said fiercely, standing there with his arms to his side he stood unnerved by their threats.

Without saying another word the man ran at Ryft, slashing at him with his knife. Charging in hopes of landing a vital blow to Ryft's chest. Ryft swung his right arm up, hitting the side of the man's arm Ryft redirected the man past him. Ryft turned as the man stumbled past him and grabbed the stiff and filthy collar of his shirt, pulling him back hard Ryft kicked the legs out from under the man and he was tossed to the ground. The knife got launched up into the air and as it fell Ryft grabbed it, leaning down he held it to the man's neck. The others watched in shock as it had only taken seconds for Ryft to disarm the man. Ryft's voice was dark and threatening, "Leave this place, and if I ever see you come back, I will do more than take your knife." He said and stood up. Looking to the other men he held up the large bowie knife and pointed to them. They dropped their tools and backed up, their hands in held up in a surrendered gesture. Ryft slid the large, razor sharp and serrated bowie knife into the pack on the side of his back. Pleased that it fit well, he looked over to see the approaching flutist from earlier.

The men began to run away, as they did the man Ryft had disarmed suddenly bumped into someone, standing there was the musician. He wore all black, his face covered by a white porcelain mask; a long black coat covered his body, his long black hair tied into a pony tail. He looked at the man and then at the bag that held the belongings of the corpse, the man raised his hand to punch him, before he could, a whistling sound was heard and the man howled in pain and grabbed his wrist. His left hand and the pouch fell to the ground, the musician held his flute in his right hand; split in half to reveal long blades tucked away inside. "A thief like you does not deserve hands." The man collapsed and cried in pain as he held his bleeding arm. The mysterious man bent; picking up the pouch, the grave robber's hand still twitched on the ground. Walking toward the grave, he set the stolen goods beside the body.

He rose, looking at Ryft, whom had unsheathed his enchanted blade which he had called; Despair for it was what the demon had called it. - Ready to fight if he needed to. "You are Ryft I presume?" It wasn't uncommon for strangers to approach Ryft, speaking to him by name. Ryft had unfortunately made a name for himself as a scavenger, but for a man as this to speak his name, it made Ryft feel cautious. "How do you know me?" He asked sternly, seeing what the flutist had done to the robber, Ryft stood ready to defend if necessary; though he felt he would not need to. The man spoke, "My apologies, I am known as "Phantom," a contact of Matheius, one could say. I am here because he has a job for you, and I was asked to deliver the details personally." Ryft tilted his head and stood straight, sliding Despair back into its sheath. Phantom pulled an envelope from his jacket, and handed it to Ryft. "He requires you to travel to Gomorrah and speak with Claunek. He has requested we arrive and take care of a situation plaguing his city." Ryft rose his hand in objection, "Hold on. Claunek? Isn't that the demon who runs Gomorrah. I wasn't aware The Priory took jobs from demons." Phantom shook his head, "Not all demons are as useless and violent as what you've grown to see. He plays a large part in funding the Priory as well as taking care of any demons who have an interest in Jacob's Ladder. As you will soon see he has becoming somewhat of a valuable ally. In return we keep the troublemakers in check so he can make his money." Ryft scoffed, "So what do you need me for? Why not send someone else to strong arm the problem?" The Phantom held out the envelope to Ryft once more, "Because Matheius asked you to do it. Now, the pass and expenses for getting there are in that envelope, as well as a photo of where to go, you may pick the supplies up at the Priory, you are required to leave tomorrow morning. Also since this is your first mission, and a dangerous one at that, I will be accompanying you to Gomorrah, and you will be paid two-hundred coin for this task." He spoke, very devoid of emotion, his face, at least what was visible below the mask, never changed. Clearly someone who was used to not having contact outside a personal manner.

Ryft grabbed the envelope and looked to the man. "Fine, but I will be taking Barbara, too. If I'm going all the way to that district I'm going to need someone beyond your charming self." He said and slid the envelope into his back pocket. The Phantom's head slightly tilted. "I am unsure if that is wise, Matheius-" "Well Matheius doesn't control me. If he wants my skills, he plays by my rules. If he doesn't like it, he can find someone else to wade through the filth of Gomorrah. I go, I kill, I get paid. That's how it's going to work." Ryft said interrupting Phantom. The Phantom nodded and said, "Very well. I shall inform him that you accepted. And we will be awaiting your arrival of your new gear." Ryft blinked and tilted his head. "Gear? What kind of Gear?" He asked and the man said with a faint chuckle. "If you are to represent the Priory, you need to look more...appropriate. Plus your usual smoke and mirrors gadgets won't work for the kind of jobs Matheius has in store for you. Now, I must be off. Do send my regards to Barbara, won't you?" He asked and nodded giving a halfhearted bow. "Sure...will do" Ryft said suspiciously and turned to walk away. Phantom watched Ryft walk and spoke to himself, "Matheius sees great potential for this man. I see arrogance." He scoffed and turned, walking as he rose the flute to his mouth, once more playing a sad song.

As Ryft walked back through the decaying city his mind raced with excitement and caution. The Phantom was a suspicious man though Ryft felt no danger of him. Despite slicing off the grave robber's hand at the blink of an eye. Ryft felt more caution to Phantom knowing of Barbara, but then again he is under employ of Matheius; surely the man is as well informed as Matheius himself. At any rate Ryft was more then willing to perform the tasks asked of him if it meant he will continue being as well funded as Matheius promises.