Rss

Archives for : Volume VII

image_pdfimage_print

19. Exiled – Click. Bang.

19 chap

It was gone. The Dragon burned down to nothing more than a frame of ash. Eventually, that too would collapse. And there would be nothing but the memory. Nothing else would remain. The dust and ash would blow away into the wind and be lost from us. Just the memory – preserved in the minds of those who were there.

The Trio.

We would remember because we’d seen it. We would always know, until the end of time, that we had been the Dragon’s downfall. Nobody else was there. Nobody else had seen the truth. Only from our lips could flow honesty. And it would never happen. We didn’t know the meaning of the word “truth” and it wasn’t humanly possible for us to live through honesty. We were liars, cheats, thieves…we were demons.

Angyl had gone. Maven took off. I started home, thinking things over. The question that we were all stuck on was what to do next. I wasn’t entirely sure. I figured I’d go home, sleep it off, and attack things the next day. Start new.

The only thing that kept going through my mind was Angyl. She was something else. She was a force of nature and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get her out of my head. She had singlehandedly destroyed our history. She had accomplished something in a matter of days that I could never do. I could never have done something of that caliber…ever. She was a girl. She was older. Theoretically wiser. The bottom line remained – she was better. She was better than I could ever be. She beat me at my own game. I prided myself on running the streets, on having complete control. In the end, she had more control than I ever had.

I debated calling Irish over. She was a great comfort, but it had been a long night. We’d have a lot of talking to do. I decided to save that for tomorrow. Right now, my mind was on overload. I wanted nothing more than to just sleep.

The streets seemed emptier, or maybe they were just darker. I had no idea what time it was. Sometime in the morning I’d assume, or late night. I felt like I’d been awake for years. I got to my place after an eternity’s walk, trudging up the steps. I had to go up a few flights to get to mine. I could feel the dirt and ash on my skin; the smell filled my lungs. I put the key in the lock and pushed the door open, my eyes to the ground. Sleep never seemed so welcoming.

Everything was where it should have been. I listened to the quiet tick of clocks in the place, the sound that never ended and would drive me crazy at night. I shrugged and moved off to the bedroom, sliding my jacket off to throw it on a chair. Something stirred and I pulled my gun from the back of my pants, where it’d been tucked into the waistband. Wheeling around, I found I had my gun leveled at Angyl.

“Can I help you?” I demanded.

“I’m glad you don’t shoot first and ask questions later,” she replied simply.

“What are you doing here?” I tried to calm down, but her presence didn’t make sense. It just didn’t sit well with me.

“I just dropped in to talk to you…and you weren’t here, so I figured I’d just let myself in.”

Hearing that she had no particular purpose, I decided to ease up, putting the gun down on the dresser, emptying out my pockets as I spoke:

“What’s so important that you had to “drop” in?”

“We have debts to settle. You still owe me something.”

This made absolutely no sense. I turned around again, walking a few steps while we spoke. I was pacing involuntarily. I needed to keep moving to keep my mind working. If I sat still, if I stopped, I’d lose focus. I was falling asleep standing up, and now was not the time to doze off.

“What are you talking about? I did everything you asked.”

 

“I set this whole thing up. I know you didn’t get Harley’s story.”

She knew the truth. I tried to play it cool, I would have to. To make this work, to get away with my screw up, I would have to pretend like I had no idea what she was talking about. She had me figured out. She knew the truth. But I couldn’t let her win. I was bigger, I was better. This was my home. This was my safe haven. She was in restricted territory as it was. I came up with the best defense I could –

“It burned, I did just as you asked, I kept up my end.”

“This is Harley we’re talking about. She doesn’t like you, and for that matter, she doesn’t like anyone. She’s been through this all already and she’s not going to give some punk street demon her story. And you might be really good at what you do, but I don’t quite think you’re talented enough to steal it from her. I knew you weren’t going to get her story.”

This conversation was going in circles. But it was going in circles around me. We’d switched places in the room – I stood near the bed while she stood near the dresser I had started at. The door was out of reach. And besides, what kind of reputation would I have if I ran now? I couldn’t be beaten by a girl. By a stranger. Who the hell did she think she was anyway? No. I couldn’t let it come to this.

“So you go through all this trouble, break into my apartment, just to kill me? Aw, I’m flattered,” I replied to her, mockingly. I felt the false smile spread across my lips, as I strained to make it look more…accurate. I tried to mimic her familiar gestures of confidence.

“Yeah babe, I kind of thought you would be.”

I laughed. I was losing my calm, but I had to make it look like I knew what I was doing. I looked her dead in the eye, trying to stare her down before saying: “I’m every bad name you could think of, and then some. But nobody ever saw me coming.”

I looked around the room, scanning the top of the dresser – the gun was missing. I had left it there when I emptied my pockets. I tried to run the conversation back in my mind, thinking, desperate to figure out what happened, where it had gone. I came up empty. I looked around the room in a bored type of way, trying to intimidate her. I wanted her to see that I wasn’t amused. I wasn’t impressed. I had other weapons stashed, but for the life of me, I couldn’t think of where I’d put them. Of all times, of all days…this couldn’t be real. A girl, a fucking female…my downfall. No. It wouldn’t happen, it couldn’t. I returned my sight to her.

“Actually, I believe it’s – I’m every bad name you could come up with, and then some. But nobody ever saw me coming. And I’m the best you’ve ever seen. And darling, I saw you coming a mile off. Sorry to break it to you.”

I took this cue to make a dash for the bed. There would have been a gun under the pillow. I keep it there for safety reasons, it was just…convenient. It had been a wise decision that had worked out for the better in more ways than one over time. I had barely gone to motion for it when the pain tore through my stomach and I hit the ground with the all-too-familiar thud.

Click. Bang.

“You fucking bitch,” I muttered.

“Rev, do you really think I would let you miss out on this? That I’d just let you die? This is pain you’ll never get to feel again. This is being able to feel the difference between living and dying. You’ll know what it’s like to slowly die. To watch your own life end. I would never let you miss out on something as memorable as this.”

 

“I’ll save you a seat, Angyl,” I swore. This was the end – this was my downfall. I was going to just lie here and bleed out. She wouldn’t end it quickly; she couldn’t do me that simple favor. I could expect no mercy. Part of me knew better, but it was worth trying. Getting help was out of the question, but I’d make an effort in attempting to stop the wheel from turning again.

“Revere, darling, how does it feel to be endless? Please, give Toryn my regards.”

And she stepped out of the room. I looked past her, watching the shadow disappear, hearing the steps die. Digging through my pockets, I found my cell phone. I hit as few keys as was necessary to get the phone to ring Maven. I prayed desperately that she’d be home, that she’d trust me – that she’d listen.

She picked up and I told her not to talk. I told her to listen. I told her to run. I told her to trust me. I told her that Angyl was the enemy. I told her that I was sorry. I told her that I loved her and no matter what, I’d be there for her. I told her that we were in this together. I told her I was sorry until the words hurt in my throat. I kept telling her the same things, over and over, as the steps came back into the room. As I felt the shadow looming over me. As I considered, for a moment, how it felt to be on the receiving end.

The last thing I ever heard, the note that I died on, echoing in my ears with the sound of the shot, right after I had nearly finished repeating my warnings for the third time, was a solitary word that Angyl said to me. Maven was still holding.

“Break the cycle. To the last, kid,” I whispered.

“Smile.”

Bang.

18. Damned – Forgive Me, Father

18 - Angyl

17. Torn – Division of Assets

vXY3s

I woke up at the circus, in the sewers, in my own little den. It was dark. I couldn’t remember how I got here, how, why. I got up carefully, staggering around in the darkness. There was a note from Rev. A really long note. It explained what had happened. It explained that the Drakes were dead. That Angyl had killed them. And that there was more to be done. As I read it, I could feel a tear slipping down my cheek.

Who would carry them away?

The note continued to explain that I’d go back to my mother. And I’d take all her negatives, the pictures, everything, all proof of the past. And I’d bring it to the Dragon. I’d put together all the pieces. Anything she had that proved the existence of anyone I would take with me. This was my assignment. I was to get everything to the Dragon as soon as possible. And I wasn’t allowed to screw up. I would make it work. I got my bearings and started home, the letter stuffed into a pocket. It listed things that we would have to assemble, most of which Angyl would procure. I was responsible for everything in my mother’s possession. Listed were a few things that they weren’t sure of, so I was to search the place, see if we had them. I repeated the instructions to myself, over and over again. Just in case. Just in case. Leave nothing. Nothing.

The point was this – to completely destroy all evidence. The stories that were going through the streets would be reduced to mere fairy tales. There would be no proof that could be procured. The survivors were dead. The documents – burned. There was nothing. But this. We would end it. Once and for all. We would wipe the slate clean. And it wouldn’t matter anymore. We’d put all the old dogs to sleep. And there would be nothing. If anyone came looking for it, it would be gone. Done. For always. It was just that simple. I made my way home.

I cleared my mind of guilt by the time I got to the door. It was dark. It was late. My mother should be sleeping. Hopefully. I opened the door, closing it behind myself as best as I could without making a sound. I crept to the bedroom, peering in. My mother’s back was to me, her body heaving peacefully as she slept. I let out a sigh of relief, and started searching the apartment.

It took me about an hour to assemble everything listed. And I found some extra stuff too, stuff that I didn’t even think my mother realized was there. I left everything out in the hall, quietly moving through the place. I had a series of boxes sitting out in the hall. How was I supposed to get this where it needed to go?

Seems that Angyl and Rev thought of that. I looked down the hall and found one of Rev’s closer lackeys. He trotted over simply.

 

“Need a hand?” he said. I recognized Colt. He was Rev’s second in command. I nodded and he picked up the larger of the boxes, while I picked up another. Between the two of us, we managed. We crept down the stairs and out of the building, sweat pouring down my forehead. I could only imagine my mother’s reaction if she woke up to this. She’d want answers. And sadly, I had none. I was merely following orders. I didn’t know what they were up to now, or why. But I did as I was told. I collected pieces of the puzzle, picture evidence. I kept the one picture that I had tucked in my pocket. It was mine and handing it over was never part of the deal. Colt helped me get to the shop and quickly took leave. He was gone before I could begin to ask where he was going. I looked around.

The lights were on in the Dragon, even though it was late, or early. It was uncertain if the place ever closed, but this was different. This just felt…out of place. I looked around. Nobody around. I started dragging the boxes inside.

Rev was sitting behind the counter aimlessly when I got inside. He was leafing through papers, skimming information. He seemed interested in a very dull sense of the word. He looked up as I came in. I dropped the box I was carrying in the middle of the floor and went outside for the other one. He hadn’t moved from where he sat, feet up, relaxing.

Angyl was floating around, busily moving around the place. I couldn’t understand what she was up to. Until I smelt the air, until I heard the splash of the gasoline on the tile floors. I turned my eyes from one to the other, searching for answers of some kind. There were none to be had, just the overwhelming silence. I could feel a scream welling up in my chest; when it got too hard to contain I went outside. I collapsed onto my hands and knees, heaving gasping breathes. I couldn’t breathe that well – I could feel tears streaming down my cheeks. And I couldn’t begin to understand what was wrong. Like a part of me was dying here. Like this had gotten out of control, too fast. I heard steps and found Rev next to me. He put out a hand to help me. I stood next to him.

We stood together, side by side. Angyl came out last. She produced a lighter, flipped the top back, and threw it back in. A small trail of flame crept up at first, and before we knew it, the place was engulfed.

The end of the Black Dragon was here before us. The flames danced in the early morning, escaping only to the air. They seemed constrained, only dangerous to the Dragon. They didn’t move on to other buildings. This catastrophe was reserved for the Dragon only. Lucid would have nothing. This would be the last straw – he’d go insane. But that didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Except the flames.

We were burning down all proof of anything. We were burning down thirty years of pain. Thirty years of madness. Burning the obituaries of the lost. Burning their written words. Burning everything that screamed their existence. It was the end of all debate. The stories that remained were nothing more than fairy tales now. There was no proof to be had. None. I had one picture. That was the only reminder I had. That was the only remnant of the past that I had. As I stood there, I wondered if the others had pieces that we didn’t know about. Wouldn’t matter.

This was the end of it. She wouldn’t need us anymore – I could feel it. She finished what she set out to do. And that would be the end of that. From here on out, we were individuals. There would be no trust, no unity. I stayed a step away from them as the place burned, desperate to be out of reach. I was beyond this, ages away. My mind was falling apart – I could feel it. I wanted to scream. But I couldn’t. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I took off running. And I ran until my legs couldn’t hold me anymore.

 

I ran and I tripped and fell and I got up and kept going. I ran all night. I ran until the morning came. And when there was nothing left, no thoughts, no actions…I stopped. I stopped. I took a breath and looked around. And there was nothing. There was the fog, the mist that made all else uncertain. I couldn’t believe it. But here I was. I looked around. And I collected my thoughts. There were no thoughts to be had. I felt the still wet tears. And I looked up.

And the remains of the Dragon were before me. I couldn’t stop crying. I collapsed to my knees again, alone, in this desolate place. There was nothing left. Just a dismal frame and ash. That was the end. There was nothing to withstand the shift and the madness. All that would remain was the feeble reminder of what was, and the sifting ash, floating through the air listlessly. This was it. I couldn’t stop crying. And I stayed there until a hand took hold of my shoulder. I could feel the fingers dig in. I took a feeble glance over my shoulder.

“Let’s go home.”

And I got up. I shook my head. And I turned away. There was nothing left here. As in my mind, there was nothing of substance. And I fell in step. I avoided her eyes.

“Yes, Mother.”

And we went home.

16. Exiled – Trimming Loose Ends

ANfUt

I came full circle, back to Maven’s in record time. From there, the bar was just a trip upstairs. Harley was still there. I swear, that place never closes. Lucid wasn’t around. Neither was Harley’s daughter. She was alone. There was a lot of that going around lately. I came in as she was cleaning tables.

“Hey, look what the cat dragged in,” she said, smiling up at me.

“Hey Harl, got a minute?”

She looked at her watch. “A couple. What’s the trouble?”

I sat myself down at a table that she’d already been to. I looked at myself in its shining surface. I looked terrible. I looked like a liar. I looked like I hadn’t slept. Like I was dying. I put my hands over my face, trying to rub my eyes and make it go away, I reopened them to find the same sight awaiting me. I shook it off and looked at her. She was sitting on a table, waiting. I was wasting time.

“Um, you wrote down stuff, right?”

“What do you mean?”

I was being too obvious. I took a breath and tried to compose myself.

“You wrote, you know, what happened. You were one of the narrators. You were the ringleader of the circus, once upon a time. You wrote down how you got there. Right?”

She shrugged. “Maybe. What is it to you?”

I shrugged, sitting back, trying to look comfortable. “Oh, nothing. Just curious. You know. Being there’s so many stories going around, and being you saw so much, it would have been a good idea for someone to write it all down. You know?”

She shrugged. “I suppose it would have been.”

 

I wasn’t getting anywhere. If anything, I was losing ground, and fast. I looked around desperately for something, anything to play off of. I was going to lose. And I knew it. Angyl would kill me for this. I needed that story. She knew it existed. It was known. But Harley wouldn’t give it up. She was denying ever writing it. This was going nowhere. Losing time. Think, think…what am I going to do?

“Come on Harley, everyone knows you wrote it down. You had to get it out.”

“Get what out?”

“The pain, the madness. All those people, dying. You had to write it down.”

She got up. “Some things are better left unsaid.”

“Like what?”

She narrowed her eyes at me. “Like why you’re an orphan. Why Maven’s father is dead. Why the great family we have is down to the very few of us.”

And I dropped the chair back to four feet, from the two I was leaning back on. They’d never explained my parents’ unfortunate deaths to me. They said it was gang related. An “incident” – as they called it. No names. Nothing. Harley choked on her words and went back to cleaning. I got up.

“You know what happened, don’t you?”

She stopped cleaning and turned back to me. “You’re not getting it. Understand me? Nobody is. I know that something’s up. And I won’t allow it to get destroyed with the lives that are already going downhill. Maven’s too far gone to be saved, and so are you. I’m not giving you cause for vengeance now. I’m not creating another war. You have enough to handle. Just remember. The family takes care of itself. Of its own.”

And she walked away. She went into the back and continued cleaning. I stopped breathing for a moment, unsure of what to do. I had failed. I wouldn’t get it. She wouldn’t help me. I didn’t expect her to, but the truth still had me shocked. She wouldn’t bend. She wouldn’t yield. What now? What do I do? I needed that story. I needed it like I needed oxygen. I had failed. I was screwed. I got up, looking around nervously. And I ran home.

I ran home with every ounce of strength I could muster. I tore the place apart, compiling every sheet I could find. I put them in a box and put the lid on it and tied it shut. I made it look like it had contents of some importance. It was a lie. It was just so that Angyl wouldn’t kill me. So I wouldn’t look bad. I would keep my honor intact. I had achieved my purpose. I would keep it close to me, throwing it wherever it needed to be exactly when it was needed. And if Angyl opened it, I’d take off running. And never stop. Never.

I put the box under my arm and trotted back to the Dragon. Angyl was there. I could smell gasoline. I went to help her, dropping the box on the floor, in a corner far away from anything. Nothing was said between the two of us. She wanted to ask if I’d achieved what I set out to do. But she looked at me, I nodded, and that was it. Conversation wasn’t necessary. After a few minutes, I decided to leaf through everything, before we burned it. Or parts of it. I went through some of the boxes, reading selections here and there. I read some of them several times, trying to memorize them in the few moments I had. I had to hold on to as much as I could. It would all be gone soon. I had to try and remember. I had no other choice.

Colt would help Maven get here. I looked up from my page when she came in. I nodded and continued leafing through the pages. She looked worse than I did. But we felt the same. This was wrong. And yet, we were here. Ending the chain. Starting fresh. We would make it stop. Forever. Angyl came out of the back, trailing gasoline. We both moved outside. I had left my box at the bottom of the pile, covered by other material. She never knew.

 

And she lit it up. The Black Dragon burned. It burned for ages. As it would always burn. It took with it memories, ideas, years of madness. All the pain and misery that was left in there. It had everything. Angyl had arranged the bodies, collected her pieces, and we’d set the place ablaze. This was the end. This was where everything started. And this was how and where it would end. With us. Here and now.

We had burned the place down. Soon, only a frail frame would remain. And ashes. Nothing more than that. No words. No pictures. Nothing to prove that the blood spilt here was real. And it would all fade out, become a bedtime story, a fancy fairy tale. Nothing more than fiction. And so, we come full circle. As it started, it has ended.

Brought to you by the Trio of Treason.

Always and Forever.

And Never.

15. Damned – No Gods – Only Man

15 - Angyl

14. Torn – End of Absolutism

wFlCD

My assignment was simple:

Get Set to the alley. Employ any means necessary. Don’t get killed.

Where would I find him? The bar. He had business to tend to with Harley. So I headed there early, so I could be there first. Rev would take care of getting Payge where she needed to be. And Angyl was waiting for us in the alley.

There was one alley where all-important events took place. My grandfather died in it. Angyl’s aunt died in it. I think Rev’s cousin died there. It was a center of tragedies. It was just that simple. All things came back to it. You could feel the pain there, blood permanently soaked into the walls. It wouldn’t fade – it would never die. If you listened, you could hear the screams and the cries for help or mercy. Listen well. It’s there. Trust me.

I went to the bar early, sitting idly. Harley was busy helping people. My mother was home tonight, working on her latest project. I was glad for that, I didn’t want her to know about this. She’d be suspicious if she saw me talking to Set. Gin was here tonight, cleaning things idly. She had a job. Harley was looking after her. Harley’s own daughter was floating around tonight as well. She was younger; she sat in a corner and drew mostly. She just liked to be with her parents, and the people. They inspired her.

 

I sat at the bar, sipping at a drink idly. They let us drink, “us” being Rev and I. And “they” being the family. But only as long as they monitored our progress. We weren’t allowed to get totally smashed. Which made sense. And worked out well for us. We needed to have our senses about us at all times.

Harley was watching me, I could feel her eyes shift to my end of the bar every so often, but she kept at her pace anyways. I was sitting there, minding my own business. My mind was racing; I was trying desperately to calm it down, slow the pace. I had made my decision. And I would stick with it. This would be it. We would help kill the Drakes. She needed help. She needed us. And we would do as we were asked. I was told to simply deliver a message. And go with him. And that was it. I had the simplest job of all. Barely hands on. Rev had the tough part. And Angyl. She would do the actual deed. I just had to lead the lamb to the slaughter. That’s all.

Every time I heard the door close, I wheeled around on the stool. And every time, it wasn’t whom I wanted. I saw strangers come in that I’d recognized from the funeral. They must have been in town for a while. Their features were indiscernible. I didn’t think about them, continuing to sip my drink, thinking to myself. I heard the door open yet again. I wheeled around involuntarily. No.

Another few minutes went by before the one slam I was waiting for. I could feel it. The door open and close, the sudden rush of wind, sweeping in dirt, a person in the cloud. I wheeled around, seeing him in the doorway. He took a quick glance around, moving steadily to the bar. He sat down at a stool a few away from me, running a hand through his hair. Harley came over to him. They had a few words, they smiled back and forth, and she moved away to get him a drink. I decided I’d let him get through most of it before I broke the news. He seemed nice enough. I sat there, watching him.

He was smooth in his movements, nothing out of place or clumsy about him. At all. He spoke beautifully, most of his sentences short and to the point. He seemed like speaking was unfamiliar. It made sense. But he also had warmth to him though mostly vague warmth. It was only present in the rare genuine smile, the gleam of the eye. Mostly, he was indifferent. He simply was. This was whom I was waiting for. This was Set Drake. His true name was Dante, but it was deemed too formal. So, he was referred to by Set, his middle name. He was one of a pair of twins. The only son of the long dead legends. I could feel his eyes sweep over the place, resting on me for a moment. I’d turn – take a few more sips. Ignore him. I’m not here. Not now. Don’t figure it out – don’t be obvious.

“Aren’t you a little young to be drinking?” I heard. I looked next to me, finding that he’d gotten up, shifted down the bar, and sat next to me, without so much as a sound. Or maybe I was just that oblivious. I shrugged.

“Maybe. What’s it to you?”

He shrugged. “Curious.”

“Curiosity killed the cat.”

“You don’t say, huh?” He smiled a little grin. “Guess what then?”

“What?”

“Meow.”

And he went back to his drink. And I went to mine. We just sat there, staring straight ahead. When he got bored of that, he turned his eyes back to me. I kept drinking.

“Do I know you?” he questioned. I nodded.

“My mother introduced us the other day. My name is Maven Merrick.”

He nodded his head a few times. “That’s right. You’re Pan’s kid.”

“Pandora,” I corrected him. He laughed.

 

“Yeah. Her.”

And the silence settled back in. For a few minutes more.

“What brings you here?” I asked him. He shrugged.

“Business.”

“Oh.”

And silence. Another few minutes passed. I decided it was time, before he moved off. He was zoning out a little.

“I have something to tell you,” I coughed out. The sentence seemed to get stuck in my throat. He looked over.

“Like what?”

“They’ve taken Elysium.”

He coughed on his drink, narrowing his eyes. “Excuse me?”

I realized for a moment that he didn’t know that he was found out. He didn’t know that his cover was blown. That I knew who he was. That he was really Entropy. That he was part of a very important pair. That he was a living legend. He was found out. He carried away the bodies in the shadows. With his sister. Elysium. But in the real world, they were born Payge and Set Drake. But out there, on the streets, in the world that matters to us, they were the Endless. Entropy and Elysium. Chaos and Heaven.

“Elysium’s been stolen.”

He smiled. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, do you, child?” His eyes were burning through me, a human lie detector, searching, searching…coming up empty.

“The streets took her. The demons will damn her. Do you trust me?”

He smiled. “You’re insane. And no, I don’t trust you. How much do you think you know?”

“I know enough.”

“Did you know that your grandfather, Cicero, killed your grandmother, Madison? Did you know that our parents were almost victims of your grandfather’s? That he was a madman? He too had problems seeing what was real and what wasn’t. I know more about your family than you can ever pretend to know about mine.”

I nodded. “Are you willing to bet her life that I’m lying?”

And he stopped. He looked around and he thought about it. And he got off the stool. He took a step away, and he grabbed me. I fell off mine.

“For your sake, you better be lying. Because I’m more prone to forgive a silly little girl than I am to forgive a group of suicidal street demons.”

And I was forced out of the bar. He had a firm hold on me, pushing me ahead of him. I didn’t fight and kick and scream. I knew that Harley had seen what happened. And she’d let it come to pass. We would have to learn on our own. I knew that. He shoved me along. I kept pace.

“Why would I lie to you?” I asked along the way. He tightened his hold on me.

“Because you’re a fool. Like your dear grandfather.”

I shoved away from him. “I can walk on my own you know. You’re hurting me.”

And he held on tighter. “This is nothing compared to what I’ll do to you if you’re lying to me. Do you understand?”

“I’m just the messenger.”

He laughed. “Kill the messenger, no more messages.”

And we were silent until we got the alley.

 

Rev was there, with his lackeys at his sides. They had Payge on the ground in front of them, on her knees, facing us. She was bleeding here and there, nothing major. She looked disoriented, roughed up. There was a gun pressed to the back of her head.

Set shoved me ahead of him. “An eye for an eye,” he demanded. He had a weapon on him somewhere. He was a clever guy, he’d know to be armed at all times. I trusted Rev. I couldn’t completely say the same about Angyl. But nonetheless. Here we stood.

I was about to lose faith when Angyl crept out of the shadows. And everything after that fades to black. The memories are too confusing to understand. Where she came from, I’m not sure. She might have come from behind.

The ground was hard, and wet. And that’s all I remember. Fade to black. The world went away and I wept in my dreams for I wanted stable ground to hold onto but could only find shattered dreams and lost ambitions instead. Fade to black. To black. To nothing. Now. The now is nothing. The nothing is now. And I’m here. I’m there. I’m alive. I’m dying. I’m waking.

“I’ll teach you some good bad habits,” she told me.

And I believed her.

13. Exiled – Only Human

LLCtt

Naturally, I had an important part in the plan that Angyl laid out. It was my job to kidnap Payge from the Dragon. And make sure the place got closed and locked up all right. It was a heavy responsibility. No room for failure. This had to be executed perfectly. And it would be.

I would have Colt and Irish help me. They’d leave when everything was set up. This had to be done perfectly. I trusted them. And right now, that was most important. That would get us through.

I was following orders. It was just that simple.

I would go into the Dragon and talk to her. I would receive the last words of the condemned. This was history. And I was a part of it. The way we were going about this, all cloak and dagger, would ensure that nobody knew the truth. Maybe it was better off that way. Maybe nobody should know. For security reasons.

Anything that needed to be done was postponed or reassigned. My entire evening was cleared out. I got to the Dragon exceedingly early. It was late for the place, leaving Payge alone. She was sitting in the back doing paperwork when I came in.

“I’ll be right with you,” she called.

“No rush,” I replied. There was no reason to rush into this. To rush the guillotine. She came out eventually, looking around.

“What do you need?”

“To talk.”

She quirked a brow. “Why? About what?”

I found myself a place to sit down. She sat next to me. I cleared my throat.

“Tell me – how does it feel?”

“What?” She looked bewildered.

“To be Endless.”

She jumped up, looking around. I just smiled back at her. I let nothing show.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

I got up. “The truth. I know who and what you are.”

She laughed, backing away from me. “You think you know.”

“Think? Your predecessors were murdered by my cousin, Toryn. They are Angyl’s parents.”

“What?” She looked genuinely shocked.

“I repeat – how does it feel to be Endless?”

And she was silent. I smiled wider.

“What really scares you? That I know who and what you are, or the fact that you’re just as mortal as the rest of us? You bleed too.”

And we stood. Daring each other.

“You don’t scare me,” she responded. Her body was straight – proud.

 

“I don’t, huh?”

“You and your games serve no other purpose than to annoy me. You have no idea what you’re talking about, or what you’re involved in. Get out.”

I stood there, listening silently. I nodded to her points. I pretended to be interested. I was still fairly close to her. A bead of sweat slipped down her forehead. I smiled.

“This is the true end of ends, my dear. After this, nothing will remain to piece together. You are a very important part of this. I’m the only confessor you’re going to get. If you’ve got anything to say, now is your chance. Your last chance.”

“If love proves real,” she told me.

I smiled, nodding.

“To the last,” she concluded.

And she swung at me; I went reeling to the floor. I saw her feet move toward the door, only to be met by two familiar pairs. Colt and Irish. I was on my feet to see them standing before the door, arms folded. Payge was wheeling around between us, looking for a break. She couldn’t take on the three of us. But she’d try like hell.

We had orders not to do serious damage – to merely get her where she was needed to be. Between the three of us, we managed to hold her still enough for me to get a grip on her arm. To drug her up. To put her on a chemical cloud. There was hate in her eyes, even when they softened and the fighting stopped. She was awake, but seemingly mentally paralyzed. We got her up, binding her arms behind her. I moved around, patting her on the head.

“Say hello to them for me,” I whispered. “The lost.”

And we set out for the alley. Payge in front of me, pressed close so as not to look too suspicious. Colt and Irish moved behind me, silently. They would stay until everyone was in place. When we got there, we were alone in the shadows. We got Payge on her knees, holding a gun to the back of her head. Even in her chemical stupor, she had common sense. She silently waited with us. Pride wounded, honor in tact – this was her just reward. Or so Angyl made it seem.

The night was passing slowly, seconds dripping by.

There was another drip, from Payge. Blood was seeping from God only knows where. It had been a rough fight to get her down. She just wouldn’t quit.

Maven and Set showed up, he held her firmly in front of him. She didn’t seem uncomfortable. She just stood there, watching silently. She had done her job. And now she was in the line of fire. She’d be all right through. Angyl was missing. We waited in the stand off like that for a while. Set demanded a trade. I cocked the gun. He stopped moving.

I watched as his body was heaved backwards. Angyl had him from behind. Colt and Irish look the hint from my glance and took off. I hit Payge with the gun, leaving her to collapse to the ground. Maven had passed out; I went to her aid. Angyl was doing just fine on her own anyway. She had him with something by the throat – I couldn’t see what was going on. But she seemed competent enough. So I picked up Maven and brought her home. And I’d come back and check on things when I was done.

 

Maven was limp, her body cold. I don’t know what happened to her, but she wasn’t all right. I carried her home, holding her close, wrapped in my coat, even though she had her own. She was still cold. I wouldn’t bring her to her mother, no, she was going through a lot. I decided to take her to her little nook in the sewers. Her home underground. Her true home. Where she truly belonged. I moved quickly, attracting no attention. I was the street boss. My life was my own business. As were the girls I carried.

I got her there in record time. And I put her down carefully, covering her. I left my coat there. So she’d know how she got home. If it dawned on her to realize. I kissed her on the forehead and went back, back to the alley. To learn the outcome. I moved faster, my steady steps turning into a disoriented run. I got back out of breath, coughing, gasping for air. For life. For salvation. And she just stood there. The two bodies were on the ground. Bloody. Broken. Bodies. They were dead. I knew it just by seeing them. How she’d killed them…I wasn’t sure. But she had, in fact, killed them. I turned my back to walk away when she called me back. I turned around and went to her, staying a safe distance away. She was covered in blood.

I was told to go to the bar. Find Harley. And talk to her. I was told to write instructions for Maven. They were dictated directly from Angyl. I took them down, stuffing them into a pocket. I was supposed to find Harley. And I was supposed to get her piece of the story from her. She had the history of the circus. The spread of the other stories. She was a narrator. She was an onlooker. It had to be taken. It had to be destroyed. Everything would go tonight. The history, the proof. Everything. And I would help in the compilation of it. I did as I was told. As I was told.

For once in my life, I was following someone else’s orders. I wasn’t calling the shots. And it didn’t bother me. In the least. To not have to think. To consider the consequences. It was nice to be secure. To feel protected. Safe.

I left the note with Maven detailing her next job and our next meeting. And I went to the bar. To talk to Harley. To make everything end. To do as I was told.

The Drakes were dead. Angyl had made sure of that.

This is the really real world, ladies and gentlemen.

There’s no coming back.

Here’s to being Endless.

To the last, right?

12. Damned –Acceptable Chaos

12 - Angyl

11. Torn – Eternal Damnation

2CAIN

You ever meet someone, and upon looking at them, or talking to them, you know you shouldn’t have taken the chance? You stand around and make idle chitchat, but you know that you should have taken off running at the first chance you got. That’s what it felt like dealing with Angyl. Like I should have kept going, started running. And never stopped. But even so, I felt like I could have run for the rest of my life, and even then, she would have been waiting for me when I stopped, wherever I stopped.

 

I was raised with Rev. He’s like a brother to me. His parents died right when he was born, so he’s been raised by his Aunt Serkis and Uncle Layne. They happen to be the top of the ladder of drugs and all else that goes on. Under them, and primarily in control these days, is Lucidius. Harley married him and they have a kid too. Everyone got married, for the symbolic value of passing on names, and the irony of the legality in it. So they raised him. They did a lot of helping in raising me. Just as my mother did a lot of help in raising him. We were like siblings, due to our upbringing together. It was logical. We were kept apart at times; there were parts of growing up that pushed us apart. But being we didn’t go to public school until the later years of our childhood, when most of the important lessons had been integrated, we relied on each other a lot for companionship. We kept each other occupied, teaching each other whatever we happened to learn along the way.

We all came together under the direst circumstances, but we shook hands and we decided to meet up again. And that’s how the Trio was reestablished. We kept in touch. Rev and I were in and out of the tattoo shop all the time. We tried to talk to the family about Angyl. They merely warned us to be careful, stay away if we could. Instead, we went to see her more often. There was just something about her. She looked like she was having the time of her life, and she was always scheming. And no matter what she was scheming about, she just had this…feel to her that made you want to be a part of it. We met up with her at night usually, when everything was shut down or self-sufficient.

We met and we traded tragedies, sharing sob stories and bonding. Rev and I did most of the talking. We didn’t find out all that much about Angyl’s upbringing, except that her parents were both murdered. We took the knowledge we had of one another into question, always careful not to let the others get the upper hand. Don’t let anyone know too much. As much as I loved Rev, growing up with him and all, there’s still a lot I wouldn’t trust him with either. There’s a delicate line that can’t be crossed. Between family and business. And when your family is the business, well then, that’s trouble.

We were all some form of trouble. And together, we were something fierce. In public, ways cleared immediately for us. Rev and I spoke to our family less and less, stayed out more, shunning responsibilities in school. We spent a lot of time with Angyl, taking in as much as we could. She was an endless source of knowledge. And she was an expert on the legends. Which was logical…being one of them.

Angyl Hunter. Check your history books. She was the niece to Harvey Hunter. As hard as we tried to push her to tell us how it was possible, she never would. Until we pushed hard enough one day, and she snapped. I’m not going to explain everything; you’ll have to consult previous stories and accounts to get the full story of Harvey. I’ll say this much, to sum her up, in short – Harvey and Magus were made for each other. After Magus died, Harvey killed his father, who was responsible for his death, and then turned the gun on herself. She’s one of the oldest legends we’ve got.

Angyl is the child of the Endless – Entropy and Elysium, a tradition that’s been going on for generations. The two black clad ghosts that loom at the scene, hidden from view, disappearing from sight and back again with the wind. Every time a set died, a new one was chosen. That was the responsibility of Syn’s family. To pick the new pair to replace the last. The current pair were the Drake kids. And the pair before that were Angyl’s parents.

And everyone knew who killed the most famous pair of all.

Toryn Ransom.

Rev’s distant cousin. Long since dead.

 

Angyl’s revenge was stolen from her ages ago. But she swore to Rev that she bore him no ill will for the misfortune of the name he was born with. No, it was a different idea that she had brewing in her mind, a different task that she wanted us to help her with.

She wanted to kill the Drakes. The current Endless. And end the cycle, permanently.

As insane as it sounded, we sat down and heard her out, listened to her points. And believe it or not, they were all valid arguments. This madness had been going on for generations. Syn’s family was in control of it. Syn was the last surviving member of her family, and she was dead. Pike, her significant other, bolted after she died. Nobody knew where he went, but nobody really expected him to stick around either.

She wanted to kill Payge and Set Drake. End the madness. Destroy the proof. End the cycle so that it could never be restarted again. Finish it. For always. It wasn’t a bad idea. But it was still murder, cold-blooded murder. She had purpose, but that was the point. Angyl had purpose. What the hell did she need us for? That was the major hitch – the piece that didn’t fit. That was what made the formula turn out inaccurate. It was just…suspicious. Why hire someone to do for you what you can do yourself?

I don’t know if Rev was as suspicious as I was. Every so often he’s too trusting, then again, with her, I might not have been able to blame him. And not for nothing, he’s a guy. Of course he’s going to want to trust her. Guys are jerks every so often. She had his attention without even trying. You had to work to get me to keep up. I got bored easily. Or distracted.

As I was saying…

Angyl Hunter is like a puppy from far away, cute and fluffy – you want to hang around her. But you get close, you’ll realize she’s more of a wolf than anything else – and she might be rabid as well. The mysteries of that girl never ended.

It still didn’t make sense, why she couldn’t do this alone. Why it took three people to kill two, I couldn’t understand. She tried to explain:

The Drakes are legendary. Their job was to carry away the bodies over time. That’s all that they were supposed to do. They’ve been surrounded by death for years. They bear no fear of it – and they can probably feel it coming a few miles away. They’re not all that close with her as it is. She needed support. She needed a distraction; she needed security. Hence, she came to us.

The street demon.

And the ringleader.

She wasn’t directly saying that she needed help. No. I don’t think any of us had ever uttered those three words in our lifetimes. She would have hacked it alone if she had to. But she wanted us to be part of something great, momentous. She wanted to include us. As the last surviving members of three of the greatest families that ever were, she felt that we should all do something together; to solidify the greatness that once was, that continues through us, and the reformation of the Trio. If we could pull this off. “If” being the operative term.

So we were planning on killing the Drakes. The current owners of the tattoo shop, the Black Dragon, one of the few great centers of all things. It had survived generations, as very few things did anymore. And even after them, it would continue to stand and function. As long as we pulled this off right. If we got away with it, everything would keep spinning. If. That was the major screw in the works. We had to pull this off correctly. There was no room for failure. This would possibly be the biggest thing we’d ever done in our lives. No room for failure.

Angyl had been over the possibilities; this was serious, for real. And it would be forever when we did it. There would be no coming back. This is the real world. Once the trigger’s pulled, once the body falls – game over. That’s it. Always.

 

This would take time, patience, effort – conspiring. We had consideration to put into the event as a whole. This wasn’t something we could just nod to in a moment. Not something that we could ponder for half a second before making an ecstatic reply. No. This was important. This single decision could make or break us. Literally. This could mean life or death. And if we screwed up, if we managed to get caught, we weren’t guaranteed a quick and easy death. No, this wouldn’t be simple. This wouldn’t be a walk in the park. And we would have to treat it as such. We would take it seriously. Treat it with concern and consideration. A decision not made lightly.

When all that separates the living from the damned is a click, a subtle motion of the finger, the slow squeezing that starts the chain reaction, ending in the bang that defines eternity. Something that simple can have such catastrophic after effects. And that was why this decision wouldn’t be made lightly. We had to take everything into account. All parts of the equation had to be discussed and understood. Equally.

The final consensus was this. In three days we would decide our course of action. After that, we’d only have each other to truly depend on. After that it would be flying low, staying below the radar, sneaking by undetected. We would consider all the options, weigh matters of conscience and see how balanced the scales were. Angyl had good reason – she had really good justification for this. It wasn’t about revenge. This was about ending the madness, once and for all. It was a sort of public service. But the fact still remained, our overwhelming suspicion. A voice echoed in my head, warning me otherwise, but was never heard. Never did I adhere to its wise words. At times, I really wish I’d paid more attention. Especially to the details.

I have a final decision to make – possibly the most important one of my life. I plan to consider it from all angles and come to a final conclusion, but not before making effective use of my time, balancing the tables, considering everything. This would be taken as seriously as I could manage. I left the other two to whatever other conspiring they had in mind, wary of their shift of tones and expressions as I made my way out. I walked home, changing my mind along the way. I set out for the show, for my niche in the underground.

The death of the Drakes would be the death of a legend. The final abrupt conclusion to a fairy tale that had been going on for years and had been unable to wind itself down. And so, here we are. We’re faced with the choice of forcing its end, or waiting it out.

If you don’t mind, I have a life or death decision to make. This could be my future.

10. Exiled – Erasing “Always”

chap 10

Maven and I decided to learn as much as we could from Angyl, try and get the upper hand, find out what she was up to. Being she was in such an important part of the neighborhood, with access to some very important people, we’d need to know what, exactly, she was planning. She was very influential and manipulative, this I realized almost immediately. I pushed her as much as I could, to learn the more important facts that Maven was missing.

Angyl knew tons. She was a story in herself, that much we knew. Because of her upbringing, she knew how everything ran. That didn’t sit well with me. At all. I was the street boss and she knew how my operation worked. She knew who was at the top and who took charge when I was absent. She just knew too damn much. I figured that she learned this from careful observation. My crew was loyal and wouldn’t sell me out.

The thing with Angyl was that her parents were murdered by my distant cousin, Toryn Ransom. And that didn’t sit well with me either. Toryn’s been dead for years now, so Angyl couldn’t exactly take revenge. But if you can’t kill the actual murderer, why not settle for the next best thing? And with all of the Ransom family dead, save me, who else was there to target? My point. Thank you.

So, we got closer to Angyl anyways. We gave to her and she gave to us. We learned on all sides. And we shared information. And when it was felt that we could trust each other to a certain degree, Angyl revealed her plan to us. The reason for our union of sorts. For the reestablishment of the Trio.

 

She wanted to kill the Drakes. The Endless. The owners of the Black Dragon. And she wanted us to help her. She explained simply that it would end everything. The madness, the cycle, things would be left to nature, as they should be. And that would be the end of ends. That would be where everything should have ended. And will end. But she needed our help.

In terms of the numbers, it made sense. It was better to have three on your side; three was better than one in this case, especially against two powerful adversaries such as these. We’d want as much on our side as we could get. It was just good planning. Strength in numbers, element of surprise, the home team advantage…strategy. This would take actual thought and planning, we couldn’t just jump on board.

I was skeptical to give Angyl a weapon of any sort, but more so, giving her right or reason to use it. But if she needed to have one, I was sure that she would. She was that kind of a girl, the take charge sort. She knew what needed to be done. And she had a plan as to how. I sat back and quietly took it all in. When the time was right, I would take charge. This kind of operation was part of my line of work. Nobody died around here without someone up top’s say so. Or mine. And I had to have damn good reason. There was no authorization here except from ourselves. And I was kind of sketchy on the plan itself.

Angyl was the kind of girl you wanted to trust. But she was dangerous as well. Irish wasn’t always trustworthy, and I knew her well enough to tell when she was or wasn’t. I wasn’t close enough to Angyl to make such judgments. I would be taking a gamble while participating. But Maven was on board for this. And I would protect her. I would stay by her side for this; I wouldn’t let her go through this alone. In case it backfired, I’d be there to drag her out. Or to take the shot. This just didn’t sit as well with me as it should have.

Angyl wanted to kill two people. But she was good at scheming. She had a plan and an idea. Why did she need us? She had that figured out as well. She had everything taken into account. She knew what needed to be done and how. She needed strength, she needed backing, just in case. She needed people to depend on. She needed help, that’s what she was saying. And we were eager to be at her beck and call. I can’t imagine why.

So we would help her kill the Drakes. Maven was still a bit uncertain, but I knew that she would decide to be involved. This was too big, too important to pass up. It’s like bypassing history. We would be destroying a legend, one of the oldest, possibly the only continuous one. Who would pass up being part of history?

That was the basic idea. To kill the Drakes. Would we take part, would we help her? Yes? Or no? Would we walk away from history?

Of course not.