I opened my eyes, panting and out of breath. My group was around me, faces turned outwards on guard duty; except, Pounamu, he was staring at me intently.
"Welcome back," he said with a smile.
I stood up and nodded my head in thanks. "It's time we got moving," I said.
I felt, more than saw, the tension flow out of the Maori women. I sent out psychic trailers and realised with a jolt that this area was chaos free. I had ripped a hole in their dimension while drawing on the chaos around me. I had made the finishing touches when I ripped out the darker presence of my warrior. I could feel the torn dimensional fabric stretching outwards from me, like the opening cracks of an earthquake. The further I walked, the larger the cracks became.
I had an idea, and a smile formed on my lips. I expanded the cracks and pushed them open in front of me. I could feel pure energy emanating from the cracks and sighed. The Ladies must have felt it too, for they seemed to relax and smile at each other. I was happy to see Moana back on her feet. I was grateful that my healing had held long enough to remove her more serious injuries. Aroha had probably healed the rest.
I decided to experiment with this energy. I pulled the reverse barrier away from Maria. "How are your abilities ladies?"
Maria hesitantly created a flame in her hand. The centre of her palm burst into an almost magnesic white flame. We all looked at each other. Things had definitely tilted in our favour.
We ran towards the Big Ben monolith. Buildings crumbled at our approach, and denizens fled in fear of us. Some of the older and stronger denizens had disintegrated before they got within ten feet of us. None of the lesser denizens had approached after that.
We stood outside Big Ben. It was a singular structure. A four-sided tower that looked about 500 feet high, and 200 feet wide. The walls seemed to shimmer with a purple haze, like an oil slick. And the rock material of the walls looked porous. There was no door to be seen.
From the walls, soldiers made up of the same purple porous rock, oozed out to intercept us. I ripped the fabric of their dimension open, beneath their feet, and watched them turn to dust. In my minds eye, I saw pure energy burst out of the crack. I made it light up the gloom that pervaded this place.
The walls of Big Ben shuddered. Mortar crumbled and the entire area began to shake, like a real earthquake was about to happen. I drew a circle around Big Ben, and beams of light shot up.
I wrapped everyone in a telekinetic bubble and lifted us off the ground. Pounamu pointed two hundred feet up, where Leila's signature scent was located. I opened my palm and a ball of energy grew. It floated outwards. The ball grew larger until it was as big as our group. I threw it at the wall. It impacted and the building shook under the pressure. We flew in and Pounamu led the way.
The same warriors that had come out of the wall attacked us inside a large corridor. We made short work of them and headed towards our left. The corridor shifted and altered as it tried to prevent us from reaching our destination. I wrapped the hall in a telekinetic hold and threw pure energy into it. I hadn't realised, until I had drawn on chaos energy earlier, how much my empathy had integrated my talents. Mum's memories informed me that creating Molotov cocktails of talents, was something she had never seen. Even with Simon and his empathic skills, the only reason he could combine two talents into one whole, was because of his link to his twin. Generally, we could use talents simultaneously, but I was combining them together. That was unique.
The hall shuddered as it felt my energy surge along it. The walls remained where they were and we rushed forward. Pounamu stopped and pointed at a wall.
"She's behind here."
I touched the wall and trickled energy into it. It melted at my touch. I didn't want any rubble to hit anything beyond, in case I hurt Leila. The room was dark, and I wrinkled my nose at the smell of faeces and urine. Maria raised her hand, and light shone brightly into the room.
Huddled in a corner was a dirty, naked Leila. She was grunting and fingering herself, and I looked away quickly. Aroha rushed over to her, healing hands out. Leila screamed and looked at Aroha in fear. I braced myself, and moved to join Aroha.
"Let me," I said to Aroha.
I knew how it felt to be in Leila's position. She had the same enzyme flowing through her that I had, once. When the Lord of Darkness had consumed me, I would have done anything for the pleasure to continue...anything. Although he was dead, there were probably others here that had the same enzyme in their bodies as he did.
I sent my healing colours out, this time with empathy flowing through them. They shone, luminescent, and flowed in and out of Leila. She rolled on the floor, squirming, as her skin flushed a pearlescent colour from my power.
"It hurts," she screamed.
"I know," I said in sympathy.
"Make it stop," she pleaded.
I looked at her with compassion, and continued. I couldn't dull her pain, but I could erase the enzyme and the foulness in her body as quickly as possible. Judging by her symptoms, she had been couped up for four days, without food or water, and the enzyme flowing through her body all that time. She was dehydrated, and living in her own foulness had poisoned her body. With one last pulse of power, I cleansed her of the enzyme, cleared the poison out of her system, and hydrated her body cells. Yet, there was something growing within her which scared me. It was developing at a fast pace but, if I removed it I could kill her.
She sank deeper to the floor and sighed. Her eyes fluttered closed, and I put her deeper into slumber. I took my shirt off and placed it around Leila's nakedness.
"Can you teleport us from here?" I asked Pounamu.
He concentrated for a second and frowned. "There is still something clouding me."
I opened up rips in the dimensional fabric beneath and around us. "Try now."
He nodded his head. With a pop, he wrapped a barrier around us and shifted. I did something unexpected. I used my telekinesis and held onto this side of the dimension, just as everyone flickered out. I saw his look of shock as Pounamu disappeared. I had one last thing to do here.
Even as I felt the walls falling around me, from the destruction I had caused, I knew that a pit of darkness had opened in the centre of the building, undisturbed. I had to go down into it and I had to act fast; Pounamu would be back.
I wrapped myself in a telekinetic bubble and blasted the floor. A hole opened, and I floated down. I could see my energy ball crashing through level after level beneath me. I dropped quickly. I saw denizens scatter as they saw me. Any brave enough to attack, were disintegrated.
I felt the pressure of chaos as I sank through the first floor to the basement level. It seemed I had developed a hyper sensitivity to a large concentration of it. I drew on my power source, and pushed it out around me. The darkness seemed to pull in on itself as my power flowed like water. It attacked, but my power was unstoppable and, for the first time, I felt something in the core growl its anger. I pushed out with my power and sank even further. I was going to the source of the chaos that resided in this dimension. He was approaching me. Before I could blink he was beside me.
"Hello Melchezadek. Or is it Lucifvar now?" I said.
A cloak of shadows was covering him. Now that I knew his true identity, he pulled it off and stared at me. The same long black hair and dark impenetrable eyes looked intently back at me. There was a smirk on his face. He was handsome, with his square jaw. But I no longer saw his beauty.
"That was a doppelganger that you sent out, wasn't it?" I asked. He folded his hands over his chest, and gave me his smug smile. "Your doppelganger destroyed Simon, Kate, Grams, probably Leila and, very nearly, me."
"But it didn't destroy you, James. It made you stronger, made you dig deeper and brought out strengths you never thought you possessed."
"So this was all a test?" I asked.
"And you passed with flying colours." He tilted his head and looked up. "Your friend has arrived." He waved his hand and the darkness drew over us like a shield. "We won't be discovered."
Sudden inspiration hit me. "Where is Sam?" I asked. "You took him on the day I saved Kevin. He has no part in this."
Lucifvar gave his infuriating smile. "Is this gut instinct, or do you feel it within your talents?"
I was not in the mood. "Don't play games with me you arsehole!" I shouted.
His face turned serious and he gave me a hard, cold stare. "You may be the spitting image of my beloved, but you will respect me."
Words were not going to get me anywhere. I lashed out. Lucifvar thew a shadow cloak in my way, but my energy ploughed through it. It hit his body and he went flying.
"How does this feel!" I shouted.
I threw more energy balls in his direction. The building rumbled, but I paid no attention to it. I rushed forward, and kept up the attack. The warrior within me came to life, and I blurred. Lucifvar tried to avoid me, but I was ready. He wanted to see me in action; I was going to give it to him. He tried to teleport, but I gripped him in a telekinetic hold. I wasn't strong enough to keep him from moving around the room, but I was strong enough to prevent his escape. We fought hand to hand. His speed and fighting skills were exceptional, my warrior noted, but I was no light weight either. Lucifvar had made sure of it.
It was time to put everything I had learned into play. I drew from the energy coming out of the ripped dimensional fabric. I channelled it into my warrior, and let him loose. But I wasn't done there; I was going all out. I created a Molotov mixture and wrapped it around my body. It held pure energy, with telekinesis and an empathic bite to it. Lucifvar roared in pain as his skin blistered. Faster than the eye could see, I was inside his guard. I threw telekinetic knives, with the positive energy from our world on the blade tips, into his body.
He jerked and shuddered and I sensed, more than saw, his body being eaten from the inside out. "Obviously, you've been complacent during your ageless years," I said with a snarl.
He coughed up blood, and looked at me. "K-kill me, and you will never find Sam."
I laughed, and gave him a triumphant look. I delved into his mind. I pushed pure energy in front and behind me. He screamed, and mentally, tried to scrabble away from me. I wasn't having any of it. I stormed his memories the way I had stormed his building. The doors of his memory opened all around me, and I found the door that held the knowledge of Sam. I ripped it open and felt Lucifvar shudder in my grasp.
I saw an image of Sam. Lucifvar had sold him to the Fairy Queen of Summer. He was in another dimension, but I was going to get him out. It was my responsibility. Sam was alive and, for a brief moment, my hopes lifted. But they were nearly dashed when I realised that standing up against a Fairy Queen would be deadly. Her lands weren't derived from Chaos or Matter energy. I wouldn't be able to draw from it the way I could in this world. Even so, Sam was alive; I had that to ease my conscience a little.
The shadow shield died away. Pounamu flashed into the room . He was in battle mode, and staring down at Lucifvar with fear and amazement. I had Lucifvar prone on his back, and was shuddering as the pain in his body and mind pushed him into delirium.
I stood up and looked down at the pitiful sight. Here was the lord of lies, and I had walked all over him like he was a door mat. "Let's go," I said to Pounamu.
He looked at Lucifvar and then at me. "Don't judge me," I said warningly.
"Never!" he said emphatically. "But, before you came here, you told me that you wanted to stop the killing. You believed that you needed to stop in order to keep your humanity. Leaving him to die, no matter how vile you claim he is, is not humane. I ask you to think about this, because I don't want it to haunt you later."
"He caused too much pain and misery," I shouted. "He started this. I'm just gonna finish it."
"Maybe so, but... you'll end up being just like him, if you do."
"So much for not judging me," I said bitterly.
"Stating facts is not a judgement; it is merely a truth you need to see."
"If I keep him alive, he is liable to keep on killing. Is that what you want? Having to be continually on my guard in case he decides to take revenge?"
Pounamu sighed. "No, that's not what I want. But, you have to realise, emotionally, that you have had too many traumatic experiences in too short a span of time. No one would blame you for snapping, but what will killing him do to you? Will it tip the scale, and snap something even more precious inside you? Or turn you cold against love?"
I couldn't ignore what he was saying. It rang true within me, and even I, refused to ignore my own instincts. "Just know this," I said, "If he comes back to hurt us once more, your ass is grass." I turned back to Lucifvar and channelled chaos energy into him. My healing talents would not do him any good. I saw him gasp for breath and then breathe normally.
"Take me outside," I said.
Pounamu teleported me outside the Big Ben. I closed my eyes and began to close the rips in the dimensional fabric. Bit by bit, I watched as the light began to fade. Darkness returned with a sigh. I sensed denizens out there, but they were too scared to come near.
"One other thing," I said to Pounamu. "Sam is alive. Not today, but soon, you and I will be going to the Summer Court. Lucifvar sold him into servitude there." Mum's memories of her times dealing with the Queens, on the summer and winter solstices in our universe, told me that time shifted differently there. Sam would not be harmed under the banner of the Summer Queen. In fact, a day could pass in the summer lands, while a year had passed in our world. It was why they lived longer lives.
Pounamu's lips compressed. I looked at him and curled my lip. "And you wanted me to save that bastard, Lucifvar."
"I stand by my decision, James."
He wrapped the barrier around us, and teleported us back to our universe.
Kevin was waiting anxiously when we arrived. He rushed over to me and lifted me in a bear hug. He was pleading and cursing at the same time, distraught in his fear and anger. "Are you okay?" he searched my body with shaking hands. "Why the hell did you stay behind? What were you thinking!!!?"
I touched his face. "Enough, babe. I'm okay."
He stared at me for a few seconds and then buried his face in my neck. "Don't scare me like that, ever again!"
Dad had Leila in his arms. He and Leon came over. Leila clung to dad like a limpet. Dad hugged Kevin and me, while Leon stood on the outside, watching. Dad looked up, beckoned him, and brought him in on the family hug. Our family was back together again. I sighed, and closed my weary eyes.
We were gathered, back in our own house. It was a month after the journey to the nether realms. The four Maori women had left two weeks earlier. They had bowed and said that, if I ever needed them, they would be at my beck and call. I thanked them profusely, and felt a small amount of loss to see them go. Moana bowed and then clicked her fingers; they all disappeared without a sound. I sighed; teleportation would be such a handy tool to have. I smiled as I shook my head; I had Pounamu for that.
Uncle George had had a few quiet words with Aroha before she left. I think there was something in the making there, and I wished both of them luck. Uncle George needed a companion in his life once more.
There were going to be dark days ahead for Leila. She was carrying Lucifvar's child. I had sensed that when I found her. If I destroyed the growing child, it would definitely kill her. There was too much chaos, growing inside her, for my healing talents to work properly. But all things beside, Leila was slowly recovering. She had her own inner strength. Although she was much more subdued, her fire wasn't out entirely. I had stayed in her room for the first two days, acting as a buffer against her own demoralised emotions. It gave us a new bond to work with. Sometimes she would have the same recurring nightmare, but I helped her to look at the situation objectively. As the days grew closer to the birth of her child, she seemed calmer.
Did this make us close? Well...we weren't chummy. I don't think we ever would be, but we respected each other, and that was what counted. Helping Leila also helped me. It helped me focus on the meaning of true compassion. If I could help my sister through her time of trial, without emotions of ANY kind, then I was achieving my goal.
As for the child, we weren't sure what we were going to do. Dad had gone nearly apoplectic. He had shut himself in his room for two days, drinking non stop. I had too many things on my own plate to deal with him, and I told him so. There were a lot of nasty names that were thrown around, and I gave as well as I got. We forgave each other, after the alcohol was mostly out of his system.
As for my own internal stability? I had the same nightmare, over and over, and I would wake in a cold sweat. I was rampaging and devouring raw meat from my defeated enemies. Blood would rain from the sky, and I would be jumping up and down in joy. So, I became a vegetarian.
What does the future hold for us all? I try not to look too far ahead, I have the man of my dreams who is crazy about me, my family are together, and I have support in my guardian duties.
The only dampener...Getting Sam back. I have been planning that too; his rescue will come. I just need to cover all my avenues first. Pounamu is helping me with that one.
Until then, I am going to live life to the utmost fullest. In my line of work, it's far too precious to waste.
End of Book one
Book two will be continuing with Sam's rescue, how James and Kevin are getting on, Leila's child, and much more.