Ethan swallowed his pride, ignored his instincts for self-preservation and asked the creature what it command of him. Again, Enmerkar demanded that Ethan select a third to join them.
“Will you at least tell me what the point of this bloody mission is? I hope it doesn’t involve sacrificing virgins.”
“Your master has broken his pact with Ash Shaitan.”
“Who is Ash Shaitan?”
“The prince of darkness.”
“Are you talking about the devil? I had no idea that Charles was in league with the devil! I just thought he was a little twisted. No wonder he’s so powerful.”
“What he is, is a warlock who has forgotten his place and seeks to overstep his bounds.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He must not be allowed to get his hands on the talisman.”
“Why? From what I’ve seen, that thing is useless. It sure as hell didn’t keep me from getting bitten!”
“Your friend is a novice. An experienced warlock can unleash the destructive power laying dormant in the Eye of RA.”
“What do you need me for? You said it yourself, Janet doesn’t know what she’s doing. Just take the talisman off her.”
“She may not have any powers but your other friend is quite…skilled. He has formed a trinity with your companions, which makes his white magic more powerful. We must form our own trinity.”
“Where would I get a third person?”
“I think you know.”
“What? You mean…Dorian? Last time I saw that sad sack, he had one foot in the grave.”
“Looks can be deceiving. If he is willing to switch his allegiance, then he will be restored.”
Ethan felt a surge of hope. If the demon could bring Dorian back from the brink of death then he would owe Ethan and be obligated to get him out of this bind. He save Dorian and be free to join Andrea.
That ought to be worth one hell of a favor from that bloke. Ethan selfishly imagined the gratitude and indebtedness that Dorian would feel towards him. Besides, it’ll be good to have someone watch my back. And if this is some sort of trick, I could use Dorian to shield myself when this creature turns on me. The man is half dead anyway. Ethan made his mind up to go along with the creature, at least as long as it benefitted him.
“Alright…say, what do I call you?”
“You need not know my true name. Just call me Nadya.”
“Okay…Nadya, how do you propose that we get to Dorian? I don’t have my car.”
“First, get us out of this compound.”
Ethan lead Enmerkar to the door at the top of the steps and recited the incantation to release the lock. Out on the street, the demon took the lead. Ethan followed, at a distance. They walked, until they crossed paths with an Armani suited man. He aggressively brushed past them, barking orders into his cell phone. Ethan watched him stride to a sports car parked at the curb.
To Ethan’s amazement, Enmerkar dressed in Nadya’s curvy body glided over to the man speaking softly and smiling up into his face. The man reacted first with irritation which quickly subsided. He smiled back and gazed into her smoldering eyes. His face suddenly went slack with shock and dismay. Ethan was glad he couldn’t hear the exchange between them. He had no desire to listen to any more of the demon’s poisonous thoughts.
The man suddenly handed over his car keys and walked away. Ethan noticed the resigned sag in his shoulders. A van came speeding up the street and the man quickly stepped into its path. The screech of tires was deafening. Ethan averted his eyes as the van slammed into the man with a sickening crunch.
The body was launched into the air by the impact of the speeding van. Ethan started running towards the man. Enmerkar stopped him with a hand on his chest, motioning for him to take the keys and get into the car.
“We can’t just leave him here,” shouted Ethan.
“The driver will call an ambulance. There is nothing you can do.”
“But I…what the hell did you say to him?”
“I told him to give us the keys because we needed his keys.”
“You had to have said something else. The man just committed suicide!”
Nadya’s shoulders shrugged, “I am merely a mirror to the soul. If he saw something that convicted his, then that is between him and his god.”
Ethan distracted himself from second thoughts about teaming up with a demon by concentrating on navigating his way back to Dorian’s shop. He tried not to think about the fact that Dorian in all probability was a rotting corpse.
Twenty minutes later, they pulled up in front of the shop. Ethan used the car keys to tap loudly on the glass door. He peered inside and saw nothing more than dusty display cases.
The place looked abandoned. Ethan was about to suggest as much, when movement past the doorway to the back room caught his eye. A shadowy figure peered around the door jamb before moving towards the front door with painstaking slowness. Ethan was unprepared for the animated corpse that opened the door.
His eyes had barely recovered from the shocking sight when his nostrils were brutally assaulted by the noxious odor of decaying flesh. His already queasy stomach rolled and he swallowed repeatedly to stem the tide of nausea rippling up from his gut. Dorian’s lipless leer of a smile was ghastly. Ethan forced himself to smile back. Dorian stepped aside so they could enter. His voice was a gravelly rasp.
“What’s the good news friend?”
“I’ve brought someone who can help you.”
“She’s very pretty, but I’m afraid I no longer require any of the services that she has to offer.”
“Look closer mate.”
Dorian moved closer to Nadya, squinting at her with his filmy eyes. He sensed more so than saw the evil presence occupying her body. Ethan expected him to react with terror or the same dismay he had witnessed overtake the suicidal stranger. Dorian merely nodded to himself.
“Nadya here says if you are willing to switch your allegiance, then you can be saved.”
“Switch my allegiance to who?”
“The prince of darkness.”
“You mean the devil? I’ve been feeling as though I was in league with the devil this whole time. I suppose it won’t hurt to make it official. Alright, I pledge my allegiance to him.”
Ethan was still nodding encouragingly when Enmerkar placed a hand on Dorian’s misshapen head. He murmured something unintelligible. Ethan looked on with horrified fascination as Dorian’s eyes rolled back in his head and his body began to tremble and then quake.
His decaying flesh gradually regained its vitality and began knitting back together. Eventually, he was whole again. When the convulsing had stopped, Dorian gave Ethan a dazed look. Dorian turned and snatched up a mirror from the counter behind him. He held it up to the light. Dorian peered at himself for a few amazed moments and let out a delighted shout.
Across town, Marko was jarred out of a deep sleep by the sound of Janet’s screams inside his head. For one panicked moment, he didn’t know where he was. Fully awake, Marko leapt out of the car and ran towards the fading sound of her screams.
Their connection was abruptly broken and he stood still, trying to clear his mind in order to reconnect with her. All was silent. Marko decided to continue walking in the direction in which he had began running. Getting closer to their location might enable him to suss out the house the sisters had entered.
After a block, he began to despair of getting to them in time. His footsteps faltered as he debated on an alternative course of action. He was preoccupied, as he stepped in front of the antebellum boarding house. Marko’s attention immediately was seized, by the thrum of power emanating from the old building.
Marko stopped in his tracks and turned towards the porch, feeling the energy pulse towards him and vibrate against his chest. What have they gotten themselves into? I may already be too late to save them. There is century old magic here! Marko was greeted by the same quavering voice that had called out to Janet, as he climbed stone steps up from the sidewalk and advanced closer to the house.
He paused at the bottom step leading up to the porch, sizing up the shadowy figure of what he took to be a woman in a wheelchair. Despite the fact that the porch was moonlit, nearness did not make her features, body or clothing any clearer, than they had been from the sidewalk.
She was cloaked by darkness. Marko could only slightly make out her silhouette. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. He wondered if she was a shadow being.
Before Marko could set one foot upon the porch, the black kitten came bounding towards him. His eyes widened as the feline suddenly grew into a cat. The creature decided him that he was dealing with shadow beings. Apparently, they were feeding off of the negative emotions being wrung from Janet and Andrea. The woman on the porch misread his pause as fear and chuckled.