Chilly rain splattered the cobble stones outside of The Temple Bar, creating dirty streaks upon the windows. Within, the bar was stuffy and hot as a large fire blazed in the bar's fireplace. A silver cloud of smoke drifted lazily towards the ceiling, adding to the suffocating feel of the place. In an attempt to get out of the cold, Irishmen in rain soaked suits packed the tavern, their voices tumbling over each other until they sounded like an angry bee hive.
Oblivious to the noise and smoke around him, Theophilus nursed the small glass of Jameson whiskey between his large hands. Light from the flickering gas lamps shone in the young man's eyes, causing them to glow like twin emeralds in his chiseled face.
Releasing a world-weary sigh, Theo, as he preferred to be called, lifted the glass to his lips and downed half the liquor before setting it down on the worn counter with a soft thud. Memories assaulted him, flowing over him like the flow of the whiskey through his veins. His mother's face floated before him, despite Theo's efforts to block her out by scrunching his eyes shut. The sights and sounds of Temple Bar faded, replaced by flickering orange flames and the screams of his parents.
Theo bit his lip to keep from giving in to the emotions that threatened to drown him. Instead, he grabbed his glass with a shaking hand and downed the last of the whiskey, hoping the smooth, smoky taste would help him forget. If anything, the whiskey was making his head feel fuzzy and leaden, and he was becoming increasingly drunk.
Theo blinked, rubbing a hand over his eyes as he started to feel the throbbing in his head intensify. He reached for the glass again, only to find it empty. Muttering, he raised his head, seeking out the bar keep.
"Patrruk," he called, his voice sounding sloppy. "P-poor me annuder."
Patrick moved to stand in front of Theo, his eyes narrowed. "This is the only time of year I see you in here, Theo," the older man began, "yet you still manage to drink more than some of my regulars."
"I . .mm not en de mo-mood fer yer lecturs, ol' man," Theo growled, his speech slurred. The pounding had moved to his eyes now and he felt feverish beneath his clothes.
"Go home, Theo," Patrick insisted, his voice gentling as he took the glass away. "This is not the place to honor your Mum and Da'."
Across the bar, silver smoke curled elegantly around the brim of a black homburg hat that shadowed a strikingly feminine face. The figure was dressed entirely in black, allowing her to blend in neatly with the shadows.
As she watched the exchange between Patrick and Theo, a frown tugged on the corners of her blood red lips. Though she couldn't hear what was being said, she could feel the sorrow and despair rolling off the shoulders of the younger man. Despite her best efforts, she ached for him. Human sorrow always made her insides burn with a desire to help.
Shifting, she crossed one black boot over the other, lifting her face a little to get a better look at the man at the bar. As she moved, the bright green emeralds of the silver cross at her throat flashed in the dim light.
Taking another draw of her cigarette, she blew the smoke out between her lips slowly, watching the silver curls of smoke spiral upwards to join the rest of the general haze. Despite what she felt for the man at the bar, she had more important things to do than offer a shoulder to cry on for a man trying to drown his sorrows in a liquor bottle.
Theo was angry now, his voice rising high enough that the shadowy woman could hear him despite the chatter around her.
"Just give me another drink, man!"
The barkeep raised a hand in a placating gesture. "Theo, please. I really think you should go home."
Theo threw a handful of coins on the counter before him. "I've paid ye, ye ol' fool. Now, git me my drink!"
The woman in the shadows tensed, her back going rigid at Theo's harsh tone. To her, he sounded colder and angrier than the situation warranted. Something wasn't quite right about him, something that went far beyond the effects of too much alcohol.
"Go home, Theo!" The barkeep was shouting now, gesturing angrily at the door as other patrons began to take notice.
Theo moved so fast all most of the patrons saw was a quick blur of brown and black. The next moment, Theo was halfway over the counter, Patrick's lapels gripped firmly in his hand. His eyes blazed an unnatural, eerie red as he glared daggers at the barkeep cowering in his grip. He curled his fingers of his free hand into a fist, but before he could strike the older man, he felt iron fingers grip his wrist like a vice.
Expecting to see a well-intentioned gentleman, Theo let go of the barkeep and whirled around, letting out a startled squeak of surprised when he found himself face to face with the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. His heart constricted painfully at the intensity of such beauty.
"So this is where you have been hiding," the woman whispered, releasing her iron grip on his wrist. She made a soft tsking sound as she shook her head, her inky black hair sliding over her shoulders.
Theo blinked, momentarily confused by the woman's words, but before he could make sense of the situation, he found himself speaking back to her in a voice he didn't recognize.
"Took you long enough to find me, you self-righteous bitch." He coked his head at her, his once green eyes now glowing red as they travelling slowly up her body, staring with her thigh high black boots and travelling upwards past her black corset and taking in the butts of the dual pistols at her hips before stopping at her piercing emerald eyes.
"You always did have a taste for a man in despair," the woman replied, ignoring his name calling.
"You aren't going to bring me down here, are you?" He waved a hand at the gaping crowd. "Not in front of all these innocent souls, surely."
She put her hands on her shapely hips, pushing back the fabric of her black trench coat to fully reveal two silver pistols and a coiled black whip. Her eyes flickered over the crowd before settling on him again. "You know me better than that," she whispered, her voice as hard as steel. "You know I will win either way."
Theo found himself scowling bitterly. "You always were so arrogant." To his utter horror, Theo followed this comment with a purely disgusting word that made his soul cower within him.
What is wrong with me?
The woman hissed through her teeth, her black brows knitting together. Her right hand went to her pistol. "We can either stand here all day while you attempt to whither me away with empty insults, or we can go outside and finish this properly."
"Fine," Theo huffed. "We'll finish this outside, but only because I don't want to destroy my favorite bar." He flashed her a feral grin as he headed out the back door and into the moonlit alley.
The woman rolled her eyes and followed him, her boot heels clicking pointedly on the wooden bar floor. Moonlight filled the alley, shinning brilliantly from the single silver feather in her hat. Despite the darkness, her skin seemed to glow from within as she rested her hands lightly on her pistols. Her eyes darted back and forth, at first seeing nothing but shadows.
A cold shiver snaked up her spine, her only warning before something slammed into her stomach, propelling her backwards into the brick wall behind her with such force that the wall cracked. Gasping and momentarily stunned, the woman struggled to stand, searching frantically for the demon.
Catching sight of him, she had but a moment to react before he lunged at her again, intending to strangle her. She evaded him easily, bringing her knee up into his groin and tossing him to the ground.
Theo let out a groan as the air whoosed out of his lungs. Unbelievable pain exploded from his groin and radiated throughout his body. For a moment, he couldn't move, but the moment passed as anger took over, forcing him to his feet. The woman was ready for him though. The force of her blow snapped his head back. A crack told him she had broken several of his teeth.
As she prepared to strike him again, he grabbed her fist and twisted violently, forcing the woman to her knees. He heard her bones snap, but instead of screaming in pain, she merely growled at him like an animal. Though she did a good job appearing tough and calm, he saw a flicker of fear dance across her stunning eyes.
Knowing he had her, Theo stepped over her so his legs straddled her hips. He still held her arm twisted back, a move that would have most people screaming in pain. Reveling in the power he had over her, he shoved her roughly to the ground with his foot, pressing her face into the dirty cobble stones. Locking both of her arms behind her back, Theo leaned over her and whispered in her ear.
"Not so tough now, are you, Filotea? Honestly, I'm disappointed. I've heard so much about you; I expected much more of a fight."
His breath, sour from whiskey and reeking of brimstone and ash, tickled her ear as he leaned over her. The stink of the cobble stones assaulted her nose and the harsh stones cut deep into her cheek. If she had been human, she would be blinded by pain from her broken arm and now dislocated shoulders.
But she wasn't human.
This demon was proving to be a challenge for her, in this form at least. That was unexpected, and this form would surely have scars if she survived this. In her current position, she was powerless to defeat him. He had complete control over her, and he intended to enjoy it.
I am done with this game.
Brilliant white light exploded outwards from her form, filling the entire alley and chasing away every speck of darkness. The demon screamed and threw his hands over his face to protect himself, but the divine light was too much for him. Howling in agony, the demon abandoned Theo.
Once free of Theo's body, he attempted to flee. He made it two steps before the being decapitated him with a quick swipe of a sword. In seconds, the demon's body caught fire and dissolved into ash.
It took several minutes for Theo's eyes to clear and for him to get his bearings. When he could finally see, he found himself gazing upon an impossibility. Standing before him was what Theo could only describe as an angel, but she was unlike any angel he had ever seen in books or paintings.
The being before him glowed brightly with a light that seemed to come from within. She was covered from head to toe in silver armor that glowed softly. On her head was a winged helmet from which her eyes blazed like fire. She carried a large kite shaped shield in one hand that was imprinted with a large black tree that matched the tree on her chest. In her other hand was a huge blazing white sword that dripped with black blood.
Most stunning of all was the enormous set of wings that extended from the creature's back. Each feather was a razor sharp blade of silver.
As he stared in awe, Theo felt a bit of the ice around his heart thaw and melt away, and he felt something within him begin to shift into place. A deep, encompassing longing consumed him until he couldn't breathe. Gasping and overcome, he sank to his knees and wept.
"Theo. Hey, Theo!"
Theo groaned and attempted to block out the voices assaulting his dreams, but the voices only become more insistent.
"Theo, wake up!"
Grumbling, Theo cracked an eye open. At first he saw nothing but blurry shapes and colors. He blinked a few times and found himself looking up into Patrick's concerned face.
"Wha . . ." Confused, he attempted to sit up. As he did so, a blast of pain shot through his jaw, nearly blinding him with its intensity and causing him to let out a fowl oath.
"Easy, lad," Patrick said, helping him sit up with a hand on his shoulder. "Seems you took quite a beating."
Rubbing his aching jaw, Theo eyed the barkeep. "What happened? How did I end up in the alley?"
Patrick raised a bushy red brow. "You don't remember?"
Theo's shot his friend a withering glare as pain rippled through his entire body . He felt like he'd been run over by a carriage and all he wanted to do was go home and collapse into bed. "Would I be asking if I remembered?"
"I suppose not. Still, there must be something you remember from last night." Patrick insisted as he helped Theo stand, ignoring the sting in Theo's tone.
Theo groaned as new aches made themselves known. "Last I remember, I was asking for another drink . . ." he paused as he struggled to remember, but all his mind's eye saw was a black haze. " . . .I must've passed out . . ."
The barkeep huffed and shook his head. "You must've been mighty drunk not to remember anything after leaving the bar. You got pretty angry at me when I denied you another drink and insisted you go home. You were about ready to slug me."
"Please tell me I didn't."
Patrick shook his head, an amused gleam in his blue eyes. "Nah, some broad stopped you. Gorgeous thing," he whistled softly under his breath, his eyes going wistful. "Never seen beauty like that before. Saw the two of you head outside. That's the last I saw of you. Figured she followed you home for a nightcap." His grin told Theo exactly what the old man thought happened last night. The thought made Theo's cheeks burn.
"Clearly, you were mistaken," Theo muttered. He ran his tongue experimentally across his teeth, repressing a curse when he found a few missing.
A woman, eh? What was she doing in a bar, and talking to me no less? And more importantly, where did she go?
An image of a woman in black with sticking green eyes nudged its way into his consciousness. Dusting off his coat with his hands, he glanced sidelong at Patrick who was eyeing him with a bemused smirk.
"What did this, erm . . .broad look like exactly?"
Patrick stroked his beard, pretending to be deep in thought. "Didn't see too much of her face. It was mostly hidden beneath that black homburg hat of hers and the rest of her was covered in black. Thought she was a lad at first until she started talking. Caught a brief look at her face. Those eyes . . ." he sighed. "Green like you've never seen. But they weren't kind eyes. Had a chill to 'em." Patrick frowned and shuddered slightly. "Broads shouldn't have eyes like that. And besides, I've never seen a broad so devastatingly beautiful. Made my heart ache. Unnatural it was."
Theo felt like shuddering himself, but he resisted the urge. Memories from last night were a blur, but what he did remember had the clarity of crystal. And there was something else, something he couldn't quite wrap his head around. What he remembered seeing last night wasn't of this world. Of that he was certain. But he knew no one would believe him if he mentioned it, so he kept that particular detail to himself.
"Well, whoever she was, I doubt we'll ever see her again," Theo said.
Patrick shrugged his broad shoulders. "Probably not."
Suppressing a wide yawn, Theo glanced down the alley towards his flat, thoughts of his warm bed beckoning from afar. "I should be getting home," he said, giving his friend a weary smile. "Good day, Patrick."