AP Productions: Winghaven #9

Alysa ran to Creed’s side, “Hold on, Creed. I got this.” He remained on the floor, blood pooling around his body as he coughed and choked. “Just… go after Torres,” Creed’s voice was pained but sure, “I can… tell you where he is.” She didn’t even look at him as she went to work, “Tell me after.”

She knew a few minor healing spells; they were suitable for small cuts and bruises. The spell included the Iseda Zodiac. To make a spell more powerful, the blood of chickens or other small animals could be used. A stronger spell would require human blood, which could turn a minor healing spell into one that could save a person from certain death. She didn’t know if the blood could be that of the recipient but she was willing to find out. She dipped a finger in the pool of blood forming under Creed and began writing the Zodiac on the floor. “Just lay still,” she wrote hastily but accurately, then when she was finished, she clapped her palms together, closed her eyes, and laid them on his wounds. A bright blue light emerged from under her palms and Creed could feel his body stitching itself from the inside. Since they were all exit wounds, the healing process spread in two directions. He gasped as he felt a sudden surge rushing through his body as if he had just woken up from a long nap. He sat up and coughed one last time, releasing some saliva mixed with blood. Alysa sat back and caught her breath, not fully believing she succeeded in the healing spell.

“Appreciate the save, but you didn’t have to,” he told her as he stood up and checked the holes in his jacket and shirt.

“Yeah, I did,” there was a detectable maturity in her voice.

“Careful. Almost sounds like you care,” Creed smiled wryly, “Now let’s go get Torres.”

They drove out of town, making their way to a large property near the woods. “Remember, this whole thing started with King Josiah ten years ago,” Creed explained as he drove, “Josiah died in the woods and I think Torres might be out this way.”

“But why?”

“It goes back to those missing teens. They killed them, drained their blood and did the ritual, right? When you told me Zodiac rituals can be used for healing and that human blood makes a spell more powerful, it made me realize they’re doing something similar.”

“So, like, they’re not just using it to heal, they’re using it to…,” she gasped suddenly as she realized what Creed was getting at, “… Resurrect.”

“Papa Torres might not have come back from the dead, but King Josiah will if we don’t get there in time.”

Deep in the woods, Iseda followers stood in a circle with torches stabbed into the ground. Within the circle was a patch of discolored grass where King Josiah once attacked Mama Saraki and Creed. Queen Faith and Papa Torres sat on the patch, praying silently with the ebony bottle between them. After they finished praying, Torres and Faith rose to their feet. Torres removed his white button shirt, exposing his chiseled muscles. Queen Faith held a knife with both hands and presented it. He took the blade and ran it across his chest, drawing a line of blood then dropped the knife into the patch of grass with the blade plunged deep in the dirt. He pulled the cork out of the bottle and titled it, ready to pour the blood on the ground.

A swift wind blew through the crowd, blowing out the torches and casting them in darkness. Queen Faith turned angrily toward Torres, “I told you hiring those hitmen was a mistake.” Papa Torres sat the bottle on the ground and raised a hand, drawing flames to the torches around the group. At once, the area was lit up again and the crowd could clearly see Alysa and Creed standing at the edge of the clearing.

“I’m impressed,” Torres almost seemed amused, “You knew where to find us.”

“Pretty obvious,” Creed sneered, “You wanna bring King Josiah back to life. Mama Saraki was sure he was tapping into something he shouldn’t have been screwing with. If we didn’t show up that night, the whole damn world could’ve gone up in flames. You bring him back, he might be bringing something back along with him.”

“If there’s a threat to us, True Nature will ensure our safety,” Torres assured him.

“Or maybe ‘True Nature’ wants you to leave shit alone.”

“You know nothing about the ways of Iseda,” Queen Faith growled, “You side with the Reformers and wage war against Iconoclasts but you don’t even understand why.”

“I understand one side kills people and the other doesn’t. Pretty cut and dry to me.”

“Okay, that’s enough talk’n,” Alysa thrust her hands into the grass; the foliage on the forest floor rose, wrapping itself around the Iconoclast members gathered. Before the weeds could snatch the ebony bottle, Torres lifted it off the ground but Creed pulled the gun from his jacket and quickly fired. The bullet sailed past the crowd, making its way to the bottle. Queen Faith, having seen the gun, gave herself a slowed perception of time in preparation. She threw herself through the air, appearing as a blur as she used an animalistic spell to give herself a falcon’s flight speed in hopes of protecting the bottle. A scream erupted through the night as flesh was torn from her face. The crowd, meanwhile, began using their weapons to cut and smash their way through the thick vines wrapped around their legs and torsos. Torres glanced down at Faith who continued to scream and writhe on the forest floor, then turned his attention to Creed, raising a single finger. As Creed prepared another shot, his gun suddenly became hot, forcing him to drop it, “Damn!” The gun soon turned bright red and began to melt.

At this point, the Iconoclast members had freed themselves and rushed the two of them. Alysa placed both hands on a tree, then flung them forward, sending long, sharp splinters into the crowd. Several of the men and women fell as the rest came at them with machetes and other weapons. Alysa raised a hand, sending two men into the air, past the tree tops and let them hit the ground somewhere behind them. A man came at Creed with a sledgehammer, which he caught in his hands, then brought his heel into the side of the man’s knee, snapping it. Once he had the hammer in his hands, he swung it into another man’s face, caving in his skull. As they dealt with the minions, Torres began pouring the contents of the bottle on the ground. A steady, crimson stream dribbled onto the soft grass.

Creed used the hammer to remove a machete from an Iconoclast’s grip, “We gotta get to Torres.” Alysa used an animalistic spell, the image of a cheetah briefly appearing behind her, “I got it.” She darted past a female cult member, ran on the outside of the crowd and rushed Torres. He raised a palm, igniting a mystic shield which she bounced off of and hit the dirt. The last drop spilled into the center of the discolored grass and Torres quickly placed both palms on the spot; soon, blue energy emerged. Creed charged through the crowd, swinging the sledgehammer in every direction while Alysa released a concussive blast to remove a few members out of her way. Once he had a clear shot, Creed launched himself at Torres, hammer raised above his head. The priest spun around, the image of a clawed hand briefly shimmering in the air just as the hammer’s handle was sliced apart.

Undaunted, Creed punched Torres across the face, forcing him to drop the now-empty bottle. Torres spat blood from his mouth as he regained his balance, then looked at Creed with a psychotic smile. Creed returned the smile, “Always knew you could take a punch, Torres.” Torres placed his hand on the ground and spun into a capoeira stance, kicking Creed in the chest before landing on his feet, “Let’s make this interesting.”

Alysa placed the palm of her hand on the final cult member’s forehead, “Sleep.” The man dropped to her feet and she surveyed the area: Creed and Torres were fighting, Queen Faith was still moaning on the ground, and the spot on the ground was glowing brighter. She concentrated for the moment, opening her senses to the most immediate danger: there was something crossing over to their realm and it used to be human.

Not far away, Torres kicked Creed in the gut, forcing him back, then spun around in a flying punch which was blocked. Creed gave him a punch to the ribs and followed it up with a left-hook to his jaw. Torres rode the momentum, spinning into a wild kick that struck Creed across the temple.

A yellow beam of light shot out of the ground and due to the blue energies emitting from the resurrection spell, it created a sickly green glow that illuminated a large portion of the woods. A moment later, Alysa saw the torso figure emerging from the light in the ground: a nude man with hollow eyes (presumably, King Josiah) rose up like a weed from the ground. She remembered her mother’s spell the night of the exorcism, how she trapped the demon and sent it back where it came from. She recalled that spell, raising her hands and trapping Josiah in a field of energy before he fully formed. As she did this, she heard a voice in her head, speaking in a language she did not recognize. Josiah’s mouth remained hanging open as if his reformed body was now without a soul but was acting as a bridge of some sort. Alysa didn’t know what was coming through but she knew it couldn’t be allowed to enter their world.

“It’s too late,” Torres told Creed as they circled, bloody and bruised, “We’ve won.” “Little presumptuous of ya,” Creed ducked down, tackling Torres at the waist, then carried him to a tree. Torres threw one more punch across his jaw but Creed wrapped his hands around his face and slammed the back of his head against the tree, stunning him.

“Alysa?,” Creed called out as he noticed King Josiah’s torso hovering in the air with a wide spectrum of energy swirling around him. “I’m sending this asshole back where he belongs,” she called out as she struggled to bring her hands together. Whatever was clawing its way through was having difficulty and Alysa was sure if she hadn’t acted as quickly as she had, it would have entered completely. As it was, she knew she could not keep this up much longer. She clenched her teeth, sweat pouring from her brow and at the same time, Torres recovered and grabbed Creed from behind. The two men spun around, moving closer and closer to Josiah as they grappled. “Push him in!,” Alysa shouted as her hands got closer. Creed pushed Torres toward the bright lights, finally giving him a kick that sent him into the air. Alysa could hear her mother’s voice in her head, “You got this,” and, with every ounce of mystic energy in her body, finally clapped her hands together. As she did so, Torres was caught up in the mystic energies; he flailed and spun around Josiah as if caught in a vortex. His angry and terrified roar echoed as his body disappeared along with Josiah to parts unknown. Then the lights died down with both priests sucked into the ether.

Alysa collapsed to the ground and Creed quickly ran to her, scooping her up in his arms. “Did it work?,” she groaned. He nodded and helped her to her feet, “Hell yeah, it did.”

Nearby, Queen Faith picked herself off the ground with one hand covering her right eye as blood ran between her fingers. With her other hand, she held Torres’ knife which she took from the patch of grass nearby. “I… am Queen Faith,” he stumbled toward them with the bloody knife, “Know that name… I shall avenge my fallen brothers and sisters… I shall avenge True Nature… the war between our sects is not over.”

“Take your shot, bitch,” Alysa shouted back.

Before anything else could happen., they were alerted to the sound of rustling leaves and branches. From the shadows, they could see two flashlights and soon, a voice called out, “Winghaven police! Get on the ground!” Creed and Alysa looked at one another with humorless expressions, then turned their attention toward Queen Faith who, expectedly, had vanished into the night. A police officer came into the clearing with his gun drawn, “I said on the ground!” Alysa and Creed complied and knelt on the ground with their hands above their heads as more officers came. “Great distraction, fellas,” Creed grumbled.

It was dawn by the time Alysa and Creed left the Winghaven police station. The police had initially been called when the owner of the property had once again complained about strange voices and sounds from the woods. The police found people of interest instead. They spent several hours explaining their story but were eventually let go when there were no serious charges to be brought against them. “You’re lucky we got a mountain of paperwork to deal with already,” the arresting officer told Creed as they made their way to the front door.

“I actually thought it was gonna be worse than that,” Alysa said as she walked down the steps.

“Trust me, they’re gonna keep an eye on you,” Creed took a glance at the building behind them, “Just be glad the Chief of Police wasn’t there today. He’s a real pain in the ass.”

“So… Is that it?,” Alysa asked.

“Queen Faith is out there somewhere but considering the shot she took, I wouldn’t expect her to come back anytime soon,” Creed scratched his beard, “Otherwise, yeah, that wraps `er all up.”

“We won,” Alysa smiled warmly.

“Yeah,” Creed gave her a reassuring smile, “You raised hell back there.”

“Creed,” she looked at him, wide-eyed, her mind processing the past few days, “We saved the world. If King Josiah got free, I don’t think we would’ve made it. Like, literally everyone’s alive right now because of us.”

He nodded, “Seems like it.”

“Damn, that’s really hard to take in right now.”

“Yeah, well, don’t expect a parade or anything. We do what’s right, then we go home. That’s all there is to it.”

“That sounds like something Mom would say.”

“It does, doesn’t it?,” he smiled again, “She’d be real proud of you… She is real proud of you.”

Alysa smiled and ran toward him, wrapping her arms around him tightly. He stood awkwardly, not embracing but not pushing her away, either. “I don’t care if you don’t hug me back,” she said as she held tight, “I’m getting this one in. Don’t get used to it.” He stared at her silently as they stood in the middle of the sidewalk. A single tear rolled down her cheek and eventually, she felt a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

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