Ethan wasn’t sure he liked the worshipful way that Dorian was gazing at Enmerkar. Dorian owed Ethan just as much gratitude, if not more. After all, he never would have met the demon if Ethan hadn’t brought them together.
It was important that Dorian remember that, because he was going to be Ethan’s Plan B, if things went south. People were always more loyal and malleable, if they felt indebted. That’s why the adoring looks that Dorian kept casting at Enmerkar were so troubling. Ethan pushed away those thoughts for the moment, vowing to keep an eye on him.
“So what do we do now,” he asked.
“Now, I show the two of you how the power of three works. Join hands,” ordered Enmerkar.
Ethan and Dorian looked doubtfully at one another, each uncomfortable with the idea of holding hands. They looked away from one another and clumsily joined hands. Enmerkar put a hand on each of their shoulders and began to chant in a language that neither of them understood. After a few moments of listening intently, Ethan’s mind began to wander. Exhaustion was robbing him of focus.
By degrees, Ethan became aware of a strange tingling sensation in his hands that quickly became an unpleasant tugging sensation. He wanted to open his hands and relieve the building pressure, but they appeared to be welded to Dorian’s. Ethan was alarmed by the realization that his strength was draining away. Enmerkar released their shoulders and they stumbled slightly, having to balance on weakened legs.
He turned away from them and began waving his left hand in a tight circular motion which began slowly and then increased in speed until the hand became a blur to them. Golden light began trailing from his hand, forming an ever-expanding swirl which became a vortex. It grew as tall and wide as a doorway and Enmerkar suddenly urged them through, pushing them into it, one after the other.
Ethan reflexively closed his eyes against the blinding light which engulfed him. He suddenly felt warm and weightless. The ground dropped away. In another moment, he found himself stumbling onto solid ground once more. Ethan’s eyes flew open. He put his hands out, bracing for a fall.
It took a moment for his eyesight to readjust to the absence of brilliant light. He blinked against the dark spots dancing in his field of vision. Gradually, his eyesight returned to normal. Ethan found himself face-to-face with Janet, Patricia and Marko. Shock temporarily paralyzed him. They appeared to be in the balcony of a darkened theater. Before he could say a word, Dorian shoved past him and Enmerkar shouting.
“You bitch! Now, I’m going to kill you!”
Andrea reflexively blocked his tackle, easily pushing him to the side once he was off balance. He toppled backwards over the balcony railing. Marko grabbed the sisters by the arms. One shouted word from him and a portal opened. They were gone in the blink of an eye. Ethan gasped, staring dumbly at the empty space they had just occupied. Enmerkar’s splayed fingers closed on thin air. He had rushed forward and almost succeeded in grasping the amulet around Janet’s neck. Ethan ran to the balcony railing and stared down at Dorian’s crumpled body on the concrete floor below.
Enmerkar let out an enraged roar, before vaulting up and over the side of the balcony. Ethan watched him descend down towards Doran, landing with both feet on Dorian’s head. From the balcony, Ethan heard the sickening crunch of Dorian’s skull crushing. He ran to the hall and stumbled down the stairs, in his haste to confirm what his disbelieving eyes had just seen. Dorian lay were he had landed, his head shattered open like an exploded watermelon. Enmerkar was still grinding one foot into the pulpy mess.
“What the hell are you doing? Show some respect. The man is dead,” yelled Ethan.
“He deserves to die for his stupidity, but he is not dead. I should let him walk around like this to teach him a lesson,” spat Enmerkar.
Ethan glared incredulously at Enmerkar. He was about to accuse him of being insane, when Dorian’s body began to twitch. His limbs moved as spastically as those of a dying cockroach. Ethan waited for death to still Dorian’s limbs. They gradually slowed and stilled, until he was motionless. Ethan was heaving a sigh of sickly relief when Dorian suddenly sat up, gazing up at them with his lidless left eye rolling loosely in his shattered eye socket. The other had burst open and glistened on his right cheek, like the runny contents of a poached egg. Ethan felt a prickling sensation on his scalp and his eyes swam out of focus.
He was dimly aware that he was about to pass out. A wave of nausea brought him around. Enmerkar put a foot on Dorian’s chest, forcing him to lay back down and angrily shouted a violent sounding spell. Ethan stumbled backwards as Dorian’s ruined bones and flesh noisily knitted themselves back together. Dorian began screaming, even before his mouth had completely reformed. It was the most gut-wrenching thing that Ethan had ever heard. After a seeming eternity, Dorian’s cries quieted and trailed off. The ensuing silence seemed to ring with echoes of those agonized screams bouncing around the abandoned theatre’s vaulted ceiling.
Dorian regained the use of his legs and crab-walked backwards, awkwardly attempting to distance himself from Enmerkar. Fear bordering on hysteria was evident in Dorian’s wide eyes. Ethan was too curious to be fearful. Falling from the balcony should have killed Dorian. Even if by some miracle he had managed to cling to life, then having his skull completely crushed under Enmerkar’s feet certainly would have done him in.
“What just happened? How is he not dead?”
“As long as his soul is tethered to that of his master, his body will not die.”
“What do you mean tethered to….oh, the devil’s mark? Then the same is true for me? So, what happens if Charles is killed?”
“If your body experiences death in the natural world, then as long as you bear the mark, you will share his fate,” said Enmerkar in a matter-of-fact tone.
Ethan felt his legs about to give out and moved to drop into the nearest dusty theatre seat. Up until that moment, his plan had been to destroy Charles. His heart beat faster. Had he died in that abandoned house? Ethan had tried so hard to forget that horrible night that it seemed like a distant memory. Everything that happened was blurred in his mind. Ethan recalled only the horror of those shadow creatures and the searing pain of them reaching inside of him. The rest was all sense memories of pain, fear and confusion. He awakened in that narrow hospital bed feeling reborn. Perhaps he had been.