Hello Reader, please visit my home page for chapters 1 – 14. This is the final chapter, it’s longer than the others so I’ve subtitled Part 1 and Part 2. Thank you for reading.
Chapter Fifteen – Part 1:
“Seriously, all this has been happening and you guys never told me?” Baxter paced the room, “I could have protected Paula, if you had told me what was happening, that she was in danger I could have protected her!”
“Baxter, we didn’t know until tonight who Paula was, if we’d known earlier of course we would have tried to protect her.”
“Baxter, I’m so sorry, I should have known earlier, I’m sorry.”
“Rose it’s not your fault, or yours Baxter, let’s stop worrying about what we shoulda coulda done and let’s focus on finding her, and these Imps, quickly.”
“Okay, what do we know for sure? The Imps are connected to Mollusk Beach, they have at least four of the binding rings, Lucinda might be alive, and involved, and Paula is probably her daughter,” ticking items off on each finger, “what else?”
“We know what the Imps want, to gain demon power, and assuming they’ve destroyed the rings the bindings are broken.” Rose responded, “but if we can find Paula maybe between the two of us we can re-bind the Imps, stop them before they become full demons.”
“Paula disappeared into a stone pillar, we don’t know where she went, or where to start looking, and all you’re doing is yammering on!” Baxter snapped, banging his hand on the nearest desk.
“Not helpful Baxter. I say we go back to the pond, maybe we missed something that will tell us where the Imps are holed up. Rose what do you know about this ability to disappear into stone?” gathering up coats, keys and flashlights, “tell us on the way.”
They drove through the darkened streets, snow softly falling, each wondering where this night would take them. Baxter struggling to accept what he had been told, Rose worried that even if they found the Imps she wouldn’t be strong enough to re-bind them, with-or-without Paula.
“Rose, the stone, what’s the story there?”
“There isn’t one, as far as I know Imps don’t have that kind of power, they are lessor creatures, like pets, troublesome pets. The only way an Imp could do something like use stone as a portal would be if a someone, or something, stronger gave them the power and taught them how to use it….like their ability to make the shadows bigger, they shouldn’t be able to do that… they have help.” Rose stopped, dismay clearly evident on her face, “they have help. Why didn’t we think of this before? Okay… Lucinda hates Heritage, Imps want power. Heritages mandate is to keep the Imps bound, but the bindings are failing, and being broken. An Imp isn’t strong enough by itself to break a binding, even if they have the ring. I think Lucinda is helping the Imps, it gives her what she wants, Heritage will fall, and she is strong enough to complete the ritual that will elevate the Imps. But why now, why is this happening now?”
“It’s Paula, it has to be. She showed up right around the time everything started. Could she be working with her mother?”
The conversation stopped as they pulled into the small parking lot near the pond. For a moment no one moved to exit the vehicle, the area was dark, the moonlight struggling to penetrate the clouds.
“Okay come on, let’s do this, in pairs, stick together. Rose you come with me. Everyone grab a flashlight, we don’t know what we’re looking for so look for anything…anything ‘impy’.”
“Impy. Got it. Baxter let’s go.”
“Hold on, it’s the hospital,” pulling the cell phone from a pocket, “hello?”
“Well that’s good news…can you repeat that…word for word that’s what she said? Okay thank you, thank you.”
Replacing the phone, and looking at each of them in turn, “Sara woke up, she’s disoriented but insisted the nurse call me, apparently we are supposed to look for an old stone turret, with a winding staircase inside. She dreamt it.”
“I’ve been there!” Rose said excitedly, “my grandmother took me when I was younger, it’s where I cast my first binding.” Turning around and back again, getting her bearings, walking away from the car toward the woods. “It’s not far, the pond is there,” pointing left into the darkness, “and there should be an old sign, maybe this way.”
Rose stepped into the woods and was immediately swallowed by the dark, quickly turning on her flashlight she pointed it into the underbrush, sweeping the light from side to side, “here! Over here!”
The small wooden sign in the shape of an arrow was hardly noticeable, the silhouette carving of a round stone building with a pointy roof was faded from age and the elements.
“I never knew this was here, and I’ve lived here my whole life, wow.”
They walked single file following Rose into the woods, flashlights directed down, watching for tree roots and other tripping hazards.
Stepping into a clearing the turret loomed above them looking oddly lonely without the usual accompaniment of castle walls.
There were no lights and no sound, nothing to indicate the presence of the Imps, or Paula. They moved slowly towards the building, Rose focused her gaze on the small windows towards the top of the structure, the others spreading out slightly behind her and shining the flashlights into the darkness.
A light flickered in the woods behind the turret, quickly turning off their flashlights the group waited a moment for their eyes to adjust to the dark.
“I think it’s a bonfire,” whispered Baxter, “want me to check it out?”
“Wait, can you hear that?”
“Chanting, someone’s chanting, we have to hurry, if they complete the ritual before I can bind them….” Rose didn’t need to finish her sentence, “I need Paula, we have to find her.”
“Rose can you chant something back at them, delay them while we check for Paula in the turret? Baxter you go with her.”
“I can try, but please hurry.” Grabbing Baxter by the arm and running toward the bonfire.
Chapter Fifteen – Part 2:
Moving carefully towards the turret door, the two detectives silently coordinated their entry, weapons drawn as they stepped into the building.
The main level was empty, a bare stone room with a spiral staircase, no furnishings or signs of life. Moving to the stairs, back to back they climbed to the next level and entered the upper room.
“Hello, and welcome,” the voice purred as Lucinda manifested from the stone wall. Dressed in a cloak of dark green velvet, red hair tumbling over one shoulder, green eyes flashing with merriment, “I wasn’t sure if you’d make it, sending dreams to people of weak constitution is always a risk.”
“You sent the dream to Sara how did you know we’d think it meant something?”
“Well I didn’t, not really, but it was the only ‘lead’ you had so it was a pretty safe bet,” Lucinda smiled “and it didn’t actually matter if you showed up, but I did think the Imps might like a treat after the ritual.”
“There’s not going to be a ritual, we know what you intend, and we aren’t going to let it happen,” pointing her gun at Lucinda, “put your hands on your head and turn around.”
“Really? You disappoint me. I thought you had more imagination,” Lucinda turned her back to them and walked to top of the stairs, “put that silly thing away and either come with me or go home, there’s nothing you can do.”
“Lucinda, stop, put your hands on your head!”
A flash of green light spiralled from the ceiling and coiled around the gun, the heat was immediate and the damaged gun fell to the ground, “come with me, or go home.”
She touched the stone doorway and faded from view, reappearing almost immediately at the bottom of the stairs. Looking at one another they hurried down the stairs and followed Lucinda toward the bonfire. The heat was searing, the Imps with their hairless thin skin hovered close, each of them chanting the same words:
It is now, it is forever, it is now, it is forever,
Darkness flowing like a river,
It is now, it is forever, it is now, it is forever,
Blood for blood, we are here,
Time for all time, they will fear,
It is now, it is forever, it is now, it is forever.
“What is that, what are they doing?”
Lucinda laughed, “they think they’re calling their demon power,” she moved to the Imps, patting one on the head.
“So, they aren’t calling a demon, nothing is going to happen?” a sigh of relief.
“Oh, they’re calling a demon, it just might not be quite what they’ve been expecting. Ah, there you are, just in time,” Lucinda waved at someone in the distance, “Rose, such a long time since I’ve seen you.”
Rose and Baxter struggled against the creatures that were dragging them towards Lucinda and the detectives.
“Let me go! Get off me! Lucinda you can’t do this, you have to stop!” Rose was panicked, they had found Paula, trapped in a small metal cage behind the bonfire, she was alive but bleeding from several pinprick wounds.
“Rose! What are you doing, let her go!” pushing forward to grab one of the creatures, her hands slid off the flesh, it was covered in a slick mucus, small bumps covered the pale skin, teeth protruded from an opening in the centre of its head, heavy-lidded green eyes stared unblinking.
“What the hell is that?”
“Just a little something I made from leftovers, adorable don’t you think?” Lucinda blew a kiss at the creature, “you can let them go baby, but stay close. Now! Imps, bring me the donation!”
The chanting stopped as the Imps turned and marched toward Paula, picking up the cage they carried it to Lucinda and placed it at her feet. Batibat opened the door and dragged Paula out, jerking her up until she was standing.
“I’ve waited so long for this, they hid you so well I almost gave up. If you hadn’t come back here, I might never have found you,” Lucinda looked at Paula, her face expressionless, “You look like us, but let’s just triple check shall we,” pushing Paulas hair back and looking for the spiral birthmark, “excellent. Stop you!” turning and pointing at Rose, “don’t try it, you’ll just get hurt, face it Rosie, you’re just not strong enough to stop this.”
Lucinda drew the knife from inside her cloak, “Imps, make your call.” The Imps started their chant, a low whispering, and Lucinda stepped toward Paula.
Her arms open wide, face turned to the night sky, the knife in her right hand, she cried:
“I call you, come back to me, I call you, attend to me!
The promises made shall not be broken,
Vows carved in flesh and spoken!
I call you, come back to me, I call you, attend to me!”
“What’s going on,” Baxter whispered, “what should we do?”
“Shhhh..look,” edging closer to Rose.
Paula and Rose were reaching their hands toward each other, a flicker of pale pink light appeared between their hands growing stronger when Rose started a quiet chant, Paula listened intently and repeated the words, quickly getting into the same rhythm as Rose. Their voices grew louder, the pink light began to pulse.
“Ha ha ha, you can’t stop me, Heritage could never stop me,” Lucinda laughed and repeated her chanting. Green light flooded around her, the Imps cowered but continued their whisper. The wind picked up, blowing through the trees, the bonfire flames leapt higher, a low hum started from the woods.
Lucinda plunged the knife deep into her left palm, opening the scar, the blood flowed from her hand, soaking the ground. She wrapped her bloody hand around Paulas neck, tightening her grip, “your little nursery rhyme won’t save you, you were promised before you born, and now it’s time to keep that promise.”
“Paula don’t stop, keep chanting in your mind, as loud as you can…we can do this, together we’re stronger!” Rose shouted above the howling wind and side-stepped the left-overs creature to take Paulas hand, the pink light billowed, bathing them in its pure warm energy, as the power increased the Imps grew quiet and still, “it’s working Paula, it’s working!”
“Imps, make your call! Make your call!” Lucinda screamed, the green light growing darker, she shook Paula, “stop your chanting, stop! You are nothing, nothing, you are a donation, that is all!”
The hum from the woods grew louder, and closer, tree branches snapped and cracked, Lucinda was pulled back, she screamed, “not me, you obey me, not me! I call you, come back to me, I call you, attend to me!” she frantically resumed her chant, being slowly pulled towards the woods by an invisible force.
Hand in hand Rose and Paula threw the pink light across the clearing, Lucinda was gone, the Imps and the left-overs were gone.
“Are you okay?” Rose grasped Paula tightly.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine, what did we do, did we just do that?” Paulas voice shook but she stood straight and looked directly at Rose, “we did that.”
“Holy wow! That was really freaky, wow!” Baxter looked around the clearing, “where are they, all those things?”
“They should be in the turret,” Rose started back to the stone building, still holding tight to Paulas hand.
As they entered the building the energy shifted, the air felt colder and damper, “look,” Rose pointed at the walls but there was nothing there. She continued to stare at the stone, the others looked uncertain but waited, slowly a small face appeared, mouth open in a silent scream, then another and another, a hand, a foot, vague impressions of small bodies locked in the stone.
“What about Lucinda? Where did she go?”
“I think Lucinda ended up paying the price for a promise that took too long to fulfill. She made a deal to exchange her baby, Paula, for power, but when Heritage hid her, Lucinda couldn’t pay. I think the demon grew tired of waiting and took revenge.”
Wandering the circumference of the room, Baxter screamed, “oh jeez…oh man, Rose, Rose, this looks like a person, it’s got blue eyes.”
Deep in the shadows behind the staircase two human eyes flickered in the stone, watching and listening Ambrose blinked.