Chapter One: Solid Brigade
Lonesome, this night of early autumn bloom—
The young kept to their precarious lifestyle, where he would find his dine among sweat and sin. He made his way down the dancefloor, snaking pass potential prey—head high, fangs down low. The cult in him continued biting at his hunger, but he wanted not to rouse a herd of sheep among a pack of disguised wolves in this… ballroom bliss.
The chants and chatter intertwined with vibrant dancing lights and booming electric tunes. His nose burned at her scent, following her call down a stream of warm bodies. Such a boundless selection, enough to break his carnal craving to revelation, but his senses surrendered to one sheep in particular. And there she was, graceful and slender, a true show of entertainment from behind the haze. The vixen would seduce him too with dance, leaving his hanging lips parched. It hadn't taken much to lure her from a huddle of hungry men. After all, he dressed the profile of handsome quite flawlessly; long black, framing hair, straight nose, gentle eyes, muscular undertones—such intrinsic, yet dangerous assets.
He escorted her thereafter, his noble charm a devil man's ordnance.
His loft was no stranger to his nightly guests, catering to young and old women alike. There was no bias, except for a certain liking to the elfin race. Mounted as a centerpiece to his draped chamber, his prize continued to thrash within suspension, persistent in her hopes of leaving this place. Persistent yes, wrists chafing from her writhing desperation of breaking free from chains. Persistence, her ceaseless screams behind taped lips, and begging gaze of mercy.
Her skin, dressed in a veil of sleek red, glistened under the peeping moonlight. And he would drink in her despair, roused by her selfish innocence,
"Why do you fight?" His cynical words quelled her screams, trading them for a frightened look. He stared at her tearing, blood-shot eyes, her torn naked body tied against the bolted metal shaft. The demon leaned in, her breaths shallow as he bared his blood-tinted fangs.
What an appetite, not like any other. His deception poured over her face mixed with sweat, blood, and a dash of purity. Almost instantly, her body jerked once more, the silence between them shattering with a gargling plea for mercy. There was no better feeling to tailor to.
"At this rate, my dear, you should be begging for death." He fixed himself erect, facing the innards of the bedroom.
"Well, we all have our weaknesses, don't we? You, the lust of a teenage girl, and I, a vital need to feed on human flesh. Well, a weakness much welcomed," he scoffed, folding his arms behind him. "Victimized by ill-bred vengeance... See, she birthed me, and just as quickly, killed me. I want to return the favor. Because of her, I am what you see here before you—damned, a mere shadow of a soul. Don't get me wrong, there is pleasure to be had in this lifestyle; my only sorrow is that this wasn't my decision... " The goth-like chamber had a pungent odor, the near taste of decay. He bent over her, sanguine eyes staring down at her dangling head. "Such a feeble child. So fragile in the face of death. Dearest… why not I give you the choice I was never given?"
At last, a minute to relax, a minute much appreciated. The warm afternoon welcomed him with a soft breeze, and above, a mesh of oranges, browns, and burgundy shaded his head from the hot sun. He could hear children scurrying down the green, the echo of dogs barking from beyond the park entry arches. A mellow grin strung between his cheeks, the vapor from his lit keshuess bud rolling down his nostrils—exhale toxic torment, inhale toxic bliss. He needed to lose himself in the rise, and he did. But he'd then notice the red-head storming at him, an elfin known to break his leisure. Craning his head atilt, her stomping steps closed into his slump posture.
Click—black polished low pumps stopped firmly between his sitting legs. She twisted her face in grimace, a short caramel girl glaring at him with gold angry eyes. Routine, how could he break this routine of hers?
"What's wrong with you?!" She spat, crossing her arms over her plaid school attire.
In return, he flashed her a heavy dose of irritation, grunting, "Ugh, Syreene, one day… just one day without you feeding me this bullshit lecture."
"Well maybe if you weren't always bumming around, completely plastered, sulking in your own pitiful, depressing excuse for a life, I wouldn't have to hear myself—"
"—Degrade me every chance you get? Hmph, well, that would definitely be a nice change of pace," he interjected with a softened baritone voice as he stood, his shadow towering over the heated miss. "Listen sis, I'm off right now, so how about you do me a solid and let big brother take a break, 'mkay?" The hat of dominance; that should fix her fancy. Why not top it off with a taunting pat on her shoulder? He could already feel her blood boiling as he flung his palm over her collar.
In an instant, she plunged forward to him with her snap finger prompt. "Now you listen, Cabil! I am not going to stand for your bitter, I hate my life attitude anymore, got that?! I am your sister! And I'm the one who needs to take care of you and make sure you are safe, or at least mentally healthy! Give me that!" A quick snatch at his lips and the bud flattened beneath her shoe. "No more of that kesh! It's slowly rotting your brain!"
"Well, excuse me, countess, but the last time I checked, I was the older sibling. And," the dark-haired deviant shrugged, "that means those little elf ears of yours gotta' listen to these lips."
"Oh, is that so?" She tweeted, giving him her back and a rather perplexed, sly cocked look. "Well, if that's the case, then I guess I have no choice but to go back to our old city. I can live on my own."
"Ugh, come on Sy, stop acting so childish."
She turned to him, "You know I worry about you, right? I just want you to be safe." A smile finally found its way to her, and with it she coaxed, "Don't forget you have an appointment with Father Benoventeg in Dovve. He can really counsel you, Cabil."
The handheld in his pocket rung, "Hargann." His voice deepened, "I'm in Louxven, Dyonegar. I'll be there."
"W-what's wrong?" She asked.
"Cappeh. At least nine of them sited in Amervaul by Bevoin Square."
"Cappehs? Those demons haven't been anywhere near Dyonegar for years, and out… in broad daylight?"
"Well, they are tunneling their way in from somewhere." Cabil locked his eyes sternly to his sibling. "Stay in the apartment. Find something to mask your scent. Keep the shades down, lights out. Got that?"
Cabil flame-blasted out of the park, flying skyward. Mere playthings for the damned, she thought; the young elfin wanted to be more than just a casualty ready to happen. She wanted to become a weapon, like her brother—fight in the militia for peace, protection, and more importantly, vengeance. As she gazed at the flashing spark of heat and energy ablaze beneath his feet, she began to wonder if she could ever reach his level of pyrokenetic prowess. "Be careful, Cabil."
Massacre, and a fleet of the undead. From beyond the street corridors, the struggle carried. Blood traced down her leg begging her to run with haste. Before her, among the trash and debris down the alleyway, the silhouette of her young daughter and a beaming light of further chaos. Sweat, she could feel her grip slipping away from the little girl's hand as frightened eyes looked back to her. "Come on Mom, run faster!" Defeat cried out from her grim, exhausted face, but she needed to push through for her beloved child. The murmur of death ricocheted against the narrowing aisle—its rancid, skeletal demonic form hunting them down mercilessly. She dared not glance behind her; the horror of witnessing the closing gap between them too baleful to bare.
Its gargling grew louder and louder, the air, suffocating.
Her body slammed against the pavement, her head bouncing beneath black disheveled tresses. The clammy grip of its long slender fingers around her ankle peeled her eyes wide open. She froze, paralyzed by the demon towering over her trembling body. In one swift motion, it clenched her neck, the other hand savagely twisting at her leg. She clutched its tightening fingers around her throat, screaming, "RUN MYA!" Her raspy distraught holler angered the grey flesh eater, squeezing out her very essence as it snapped her head right off her shoulders. Chords of crimson dangled over its open fanged mouth, the nectar dripping from the decapitated head.
Dread dropped Mya's knees against the floor. She watched the feast upon her own mother's flesh, watching as its split blackened tongue coiled around her eye sockets.
The juices teemed down grinning fangs as the beast gulped and moaned in satisfaction. Its gold serpent-like eyes rolled back in delight, a hollow grunt echoing the alleyway as if to call the pack to the dinner table.
Releasing its long fingers from her drenched hair, it stood erect. A hungry lingering stare stunned the girl- a standstill before it bolted towards her on all fours. Plunging her teary eyes to the pooled pavement, her mother's lifeless body forced her to resume the chase.
In this very moment, a wash of serenity quieted her mind, focusing on the light beyond the path. Her, mother? She welcomed death wholeheartedly, noticing a figure foreground. In one quivering breath, her feet lifted, her body swinging in a half circle, almost like a ballet—and in brave elegant grace, an aura of heat magnified around her dangling person. She gasped, hearing the voice to shatter her fright into fragments.
A burst of red engulfed the alleyway before her, the hot flames dancing like a light show in her swollen eyes. She finally looked up to her savior as demon ashes flurried around them. Tears rolled down her reddened cheeks. "Cabil… " she sobbed as he gently released her, but the girl quickly found herself against him once more with a thankful embrace around his thigh. "He, he killed mommy… "
Surrounded by the erosion of humanity, he sought refuge for her down the square. She held on tight, arms around his neck as she hitched a ride on his back to Bevoin Public Library. Then all too suddenly, Cabil stopped, a comrade defending the angle of his retreat as the weapon wielding hunter blocked a direct blow against him.
Clank— the sharp noise of a grazing metal blade against claw echoed in Cabil's ears as his knee dropped to the concrete step.
"Aye, are ya' just gonna' stand there or bring her in?" The armored fur-crowned brunette questioned his comrade with a sneer. It was a quick death sentence— a bilateral cleave with his elbow blades showered the steps in blood. "Can't have one of Aegelleon's finest slaughtered," he jested.
"Flattering, Brenius." Cabil escorted the girl to the front door, and upon sliding a key card to the reader, a confirming beep allowed them both passage to the foyer. But before he could step into the vicinity, a candid elder citizen guarded the ajar of the door. "Your name, young sir?" He interrogated with a raspy undertone.
Cabil sharpened his gaze at him furrow browed, surveying his fragile contour and burlesque attire. "Cabil Hargann, of the Aegelleon forces." He gently aided her dismount, erecting himself over the short, balding man.
"Hargann?" He questioned, adjusting his bold-framed specs over his pale wrinkled concave eyes, seeing a man dressed to fight. "My, I almost didn't recognize you. You can never be too careful with these demons. They take all forms." His eyes fell upon the little girl, "Oh, you are quite lucky." He tilted his head up to Cabil with a smile, "She's in good hands."
As the two vanished inside the womb of salvation, Cabil studied the adjacent residential building's rooftop. A shadow, a casting shadow… so quick to disburse that he may have just been seeing things? "Cabe, we need your fire in the battlefield." Brenius approached, offering him weapons.
"You know I'm a hands-on type of guy," he rejected.
"These bad boys were custom made by Wiver Shop; given to me as a token of my great customer service, but I rather stick with my halberd, arrow combo." Cabil's involuntary opened hand grabbed the grip most sternly as he scowled impishly at Brenius. "They say these things somehow unlock your inner power as you wield them. Come on," he buoyantly hustled down the steps and into the battlefield. "let's hurry up and clean this mess before sun fall."
As Cabil confidently stood in survey upon the steps, he drew his newly gifted blades and inhaled the pungent taste of the wild austere affair.
The warrior bolted, utilizing the blades as an extension of his combustions. While he sliced through the demonic masses, a foreign entity surged through his veins. Quicker his movements became, rippling through thin air while the ocular oxygen ducts mounted on his back whistled hot steam. A light flickered in his eyes in an instant, his hate showering him in blood. Slash after slash the blows deepened, snuffing out every last drop of revulsion dripping out of their callus revolting bodies. An amorphous abhorrence doused his path and crippled the walls of pain encompassing him, weakening his spirit, but fueling his strength.
'How much longer should I fight to protect her?'
The shadows of his distraught hysteria cloaked his vision. His swinging arms maliciously fell between her eyes as the whizzing sound of his blades brought her to an abrupt halt. She gasped, her peering stunned gaze finding passion in his chestnut eyes. Hanging mere inches above her upturned nose, he felt her breath bathe his blades as his own cascaded heavily upon her. Sweat, blood, the stench of madness—bewildered, he felt the back of her hand grazing his cheek as the other took his grip, "Cabil… " The look of concern churned her face, and Cabil answered to it unconcernedly, withdrawing from what could have been a friendly fire. "Hey! Cabil, are you ok?" The bob-haired blond called out to him as he exited, leaving behind him a trail of corpses.
Brenius cupped her shoulder, "Ah, let him be, Cam."
"Let him be? He almost sliced me open!" She scoffed, disengaging her dual rapid fire pistols before tailing him. "An apology would have been nice, or was that your way of flirting with me?" She folded her arms behind her head, playful, "Come on, Cabil. Stop being such a closed book. You have to let someone in eventually. Why not talk to me?"
He sighed indefinitely, "I'm going home."
Banished from his own home, exiled into the abyss of the divine order—Syreene made it clear her dear brother wouldn't be welcomed for dinner until he satisfied the appointment she made with the dignitary priest of Dovve. Cabil stood hands in his pockets, dressed casual before the glorious goth-like exostructure. Its façade shone a soft beige as the warm sunset cascaded upon the horizon. Spade tipped spires crowned the ancient edifice, pointed arches, glossy colorful mirrors trimming stone; it was all so foreign to him, yet, beautiful.
A soft chime echoed in his ears, calling to him, beckoning a glance to the woman sitting on a bench adjacent. He choked, a swarm of butterflies sashaying in his stomach. Her long brunette tresses fell upon her shoulder elegantly in a single loose ponytail—an earthly, motherly aura roamed her compass as she mended nylon ties to a mounting bar. So graceful her posture, dressed in a cornflower blue frilly gown to compliment her radiant copper eyes. His fixation bewildered her, braking the odd air between them with a wave and smile. He regained composure, and answered with a mirroring gesture. As he veered back and entered the nave, he clasped a palm over his head, shutting his eyes only briefly to erase a familiar face from his memories before absorbing the magnificent organs of the temple.
The depth floating down the dark mosaic floor resonated a calm monastic chant; between the stone pillars, the polished mahogany pews, and against the translucent curvilinear windows of Khorgathe's goddess sisters it wafted. The contour wore a variegation of oranges and violets, and as he continued to survey across the motif radial design above him, his eyes fell to the sunlight-inviting apse. Vibrant, transparent hues of cool blues teemed onto the altar. And there, sweeping the chancel, a man garbed in a crimson tassel-topped ivory robe humming a tune.
Cabil noticed the priest engrossed, leisurely approached him.
"Evening, may I help you?" The clergyman questioned as he brought his sweeping to a pause, pushing the bridge of his rectangular framed glasses over his snub pointed nose.
"Cabil. I'm here for my appointment to see Father Ben… Beno—"
"Ahh! Mr. Hargann! Your appointment was for a couple hours prior. I was sure you wouldn't have made it today. Better late than never, yes?" He settled his broom aside, eagerly taking Cabil by the shoulder and sitting him down on a pew. "Yes, yes, I am Father Narus-Sierafin Benoventeg, but the congregation calls me Father Narus for short." He sat aside Cabil with the most dulcet smile etched on his friendly face. "I am most pleased you decided to pay me a visit today. Not many are willing to express their deep need for assistance, guidance, or even prayer. Many have lost all faith in our deities. This is truly a vital step in clarity, peace with one's self, and starting anew."
As he jabbered on, Cabil couldn't help but notice an odd air around him. This priest was very peculiar. Although he hadn't encountered many religious men in his short years of living, he was certain of their vibe. Pretentious, perhaps wearing a mask to conceal something hostile? A monster in plain sight, hiding behind the highly respected title known as priest. And to add onto the charade, he's a pretty boy—long sand pebble blond hair framing his oval silhouette, strong jawline, crystalline sapphire eyes tinted sage. He shouldn't jump to conclusions just yet, but the muttering of awaiting disaster pounded in his head anxiously. Could be the recent brawl in the square rattling his jitters, could be a gut feeling—
"Cabil? … Cabil?"
"Hmm?" Startled, he jerked his head up, arms crossed as he sat up from his slouching.
"Was the website easy to maneuver?"
"Ugh, yeah… my sister actually signed me up for this counseling session."
"Ah, good to hear siblings looking out for each other."
"I take refuge from this forsaken country by knowing she's safe."
"You two must be close. I can sense she means everything to you."
"She does, but all the same, she could be a real pain in my ass." Arms stretching out with a yawn, he flashed Narus a cheeky smirk, "Look, while I do appreciate your unbent, tact ideology, I don't need you to talk to me about how I can better myself, lose the gloom and doom attitude, and see the world from the other side of the spectrum; because let's face it—this piece of shit world we live in isn't the result of some fallen protégé, or a bitchy goddess who went rogue, or a punishment for our sins against deities; it's fucking life. We deal with it anyway we can, fight to survive, and at the very least, die with smiles on our faces. Cause at least we tried, right?" He paused. "Those demons aren't going to stop until they starve themselves by exhausting their food supply—us. Every last one of us. But I have a reason to fight, aside from survival, aside from that fat ass' protection."
"And what reason would that be?"
"To protect her. She's all I have now. And I would die fighting before those mother fuckers lay a hand on her." He clenched his fist, the elevation in his voice perking Narus' curiosity. "You can count on it!"
"Oh, a lover?"
"My adopted sister. She was young when she joined the family. Along with the heaps of corpses, The Falling left cities with orphans to spare. My father took her in; she was in pretty bad shape. He ran a couple of safe houses around the town I grew up in for kids, but there was something about her that intrigued my father, so he brought her in as his own. Hmph, he was always trying to look out for everyone. Especially the little ones… just didn't know when some things weren't worth the risk."
He read his stirred tone. "Did something unfortunate transpire?"
"So how about that token?!" Cabil bolted off his seat, fixing his attention to the rather baffled priest turned by Cabil's sudden chipper front. "Dinner's waiting, and apparently I need that token to prove we had our little chat."
A brief silence lingered between them before he got up and reached into his robe's deep side pocket revealing a small quarter sized double sided sticker piece with an emblem on it. "This should suffice. No doubt your sister will motion you to visit me again. I too would like to speak to you further, when you have time to spare. I sense a lot of stoical repression in you. A lot of rage. Talking about your feelings doesn't make you weak, it awakens you to the real issues at hand. And I can help you with that." He shook Cabil's hands, looking to him potently. "So next time how about we break that tough exterior of yours and get cleansed!"
"Pass," he replied, unfazed by the father's defeated expression. "You have a good night there, clergyman." He left with a salute goodbye, exiting the walls of the temple to note the darkness that quickly encompassed the city.
The streets tonight were vacant. Dim lights flickered at intervals parallel to each other down the sidewalk, and not a peep echoed through the borders of buildings. An early curfew town—Cabil forgot about the strict nighttime regulations of keeping Dovve citizens locked up in boarded homes protected by 'fortification spells.' No wonder business lights were out, public grounds were closed, and not a soul ventured out at this time. He certainly didn't hear the curfew siren go off from the temple.
"Hmph, all of this for a lousy church sticker." He paced himself, the token at eye-level. "The print shop should be able to—" Cabil jerked, the rattling of chains sending a rushed impulse. He veered sharply behind him, fists already igniting a flame. A pair of metal hooks greeted him, lodged below his collar bones.
A tessellated wash of blood red blurred his vision as his body absorbed the shock from the sudden assault. His head staggered back, his shaking hand snatching the chain tailing the hooked weapon. Gritting his teeth, still unable to register the pain, he glared at the woman atop the streetlight as she shouted,
"Class A soldier Cabil Hargann! By the order of Mhalfoynt, You are under arrest for treason!"