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1st September: 2002 Arianna Arianna Arianna The ringing of a six year olds screams broke the nights silence. Arianna sat bolt upright in bed and screamed again. The young girl could hear her parents hurrying down the hallway, but it did nothing to lessen the mind-numbing fear that paralysed her. Arianna s pale green eyes were transfixed on an ominous, shadow clad figure with her sister s face. The shadow thing smiled, a twisted, sickening leer so unlike her Laura that the girl wanted to vomit. Then, slowly, it winked. The room went dark as the power went out. Arianna s night light shattered, spewing glass in an arc across the floor. Arianna screamed again. Something in the hallway hit the ground with a series of thumps, as if something had fallen down the steps that led to the kitchen. The anti-Laura turned its head towards the door, its dark hair leaking shadows, as Arianna s mother stumbled into the pitch black room. What s wrong, Ari? her mother tried to sooth the fear-ridden girl, but she remained paralysed, gazing intensely at the shadow figure. Slowly, Arianna raised her hand and pointed to the corner of her room where the darker than night anti-Laura stood statue like. The shadow s eyes began to glow crimson with excitement and hunger. Arianna, there s nothing there. Her mother looked around. Wait, where s your father? Arianna broke free of her fear induced freeze and searched the blackness for her father. Then she remembered the thumping of something falling down the stairs. Apparently her mother remembered this too, as she put her hand over her mouth and rushed out the room. Alexander sat at his oak desk examining a thick book filled with Alchemical formulas. He took a sip from the glass of red wine he had poured himself and opened the cover. His violet eyes skimmed over the opening paragraph with disinterest. Over a century ago, he had yearned to learn the secrets of Alchemy, but now it was only a hobby, something to keep himself with plenty of money. He was much more interested in his grandmother s study of sorcery and Auric manipulation. After 60 years of research and practice, Alexander had turned himself into a reasonably powerful magician. Although he was over two hundred years old, he only looked about thirty, thanks to his grandfather s discovery of the elixir of life. He had inherited the title of the Alchemist, despite his lack of interest. Of course, the was little to discover in the field now, his late father and grandfather having uncovered the majority, if not all, of Alchemy s secrets. Bored, Alex stood up, took a revolver from the desk drawer, put on his long trench coat, and left his apartment. There had to be something to do in this city. Something to fight, someone to meet, anything. He closed the apartment door, locked it, and headed down the hall. The rain made London s streets sparkle in the moonlight. Alexander strode slowly through its simultaneously mundane and majestic roads. London was just the latest in a string of cities and locations he had lived, although he had been born here two centuries earlier. This, of all the cities in the world, was his city. His Grandfather, Nicholas, had died here three months earlier, and his Grandmother Perrenelle lived in a small apartment near the Thames. He recalled with a rare smile his youth, when he spent his second decade helping the fictional Sherlock Holmes. Alexander found it rather amusing that many of the people from his life had been labelled as fictional, including his own grandfather. Alchemist. A voice whispered from the shadows of a nearby alleyway. Alexander turned his head in the direction of the speaker. Two figures stood in the slowly flooding ally between to buildings. One was significantly taller than the other. They both wore black hooded jumpers and blue jeans. The tall one spoke. Alchemist. A word? Alexander tried to see the man s face, but it was concealed under his hood. If you explain who you and your companion are. He challenged.
An old friend The stranger lowered his hood to reveal a man in his late eighties, with a mane of silver hair. Alexander s hand moved away from his coats interior pocket and the revolver housed within. Ryan Alexander said without emotion. He and Ryan had served in the American military together in a secret group dedicated to countering the Nazi s occult experiments, but it had been over sixty years since they had last seen each other. Why are you here? The tall muscled American gestured at the shorter figure. This is my Apprentice, Raydon Gray. His Trials are coming up and I m taking him on a hunt to prepare him. Alexander looked at the boy. Raydon removed his hood, revealing a youthful, energetic face curtained by shoulder length black hair. Three long scars ran across one side of his face, and he wore a face o rigid determination. He bowed his head in respect, but said nothing. What s the mark? Alexander asked. Ryan stared up at the stars, rain flowing off his bearded face. An Oni haunting Devon. Alexander cocked his head to one side. An Oni? Isn t it the wrong side of the world for them? Ryan began to reply, but Alexander cut him short. You haven t spoken to me for sixty years, why do you want to talk now? Say what you want to say and leave. Ryan gazed at his feet. As well as the hunt, the Organisation was hoping I d run into you. Alexander reached into his pocket and drew his revolver. He thumbed back the hammer and pointed the loaded pistol at the elderly demon Hunter. You mean the Shadow Bane Organisation ordered you to hunt me down. This Oni in Devon crap was all a ruse to take out your biggest threat! He snarled. Al The American Shadow Bane operative said, trying to calm the angered alchemist. We re not here to assassinate you. Command asked me to offer you a job. Commands running out of materials for our ammunition and weapons, and wanted you to create some more. The pays not bNot interested. Alexander replied, replacing the safety of his revolver and putting it back in his pocket. AlexaNot interested. The alchemist countered firmly. He turned to leave. alchemist. Alexander pivoted back. The boy, Raydon, stepped forwards and pulled a black object from his jumper pocket. He tossed it, and Alexander caught it. It was a sheathed dagger. He pulled the weapon from its sheath and was rewarded by a glittering golden glow as the street light reflected from the blade. The knife s blade was sixteen inches long, two centimetres wide at the guard, and crafted from a mixture of iron, gold and silver metals, the colours swirling into one another. The guard was carved out of gold, with a silver disk inlaid bearing the Shadow Bane crest. The hilt was eight centimetres long and crafted from polished black wood, caged in gold wire to create a grip. This is our currant demon killing technology. Raydon explained. A mixture of Iron, silver and gold, all of which are toxic to demons. All weaponry, ammunition, and equipment is crafted from this formula. But the Organisation is quickly depleting their reserves of pure gold and silver. The corners of Alexander s mouth twitched. Impresive. The strength of one metal counteracts the weaknesses of the others. An ingenious combination. Alexander sheathed the weapon and looked up. Surely there must be other Alchemists who could do this, who have more need of the money? Ryan shrugged. Command s hired several alchemists, but they haven t been powerful enough. They know of your family s history, and sent several teams out to try and recruit you. You ve proved quite elusive though. You re still not interested? No. If I help them once, they ll keep pressuring me to hand over the Elixir s recipe. The Organisation doesn t need immortality to hold back demons. He held the dagger back to Raydon. The boy shok his head. Keep it, alchemist, you might need it one day. Shrugging, Alexander placed the weapon in a pocket, then turned, and walked away without another word. What did you do that for Raydon? Ryan asked. The boy said nothing, only pulled his hood back up over his head. 10th September: 2002 Arianna stood beside her mother as her father s mahogany coffin was lowered into the earth. Tears flowed freely from her mother s face, but Arianna couldn t find them. Her father had regularly
abused the child, and was prone to fits of drunken rage. The girl unconsciously rubbed her left arm, the limb he had viciously broken, twisted and fractured one night when she had refused to clean her room. No, she wasn t upset that he was gone. The man in the black suit finished talking and her mother took Arianna by the hand. Now that her father was gone, maybe things would start to change. Arianna thought back to the night when the Shadow-Laura had shown up in her bedroom, whispering in its incomprehensible babble. Its twisted smile still haunted her. A man in a full length black jacket, a white formal shirt and black pants passed her, his head bowed low hiding his face. It wasn t one of her parent s friends, certainly not one of her father s colleagues; he hadn t worked. Excuse me? Arianna s mother asked the man. He turned around. His caramel hair was closely cropped, almost military length, and his eyes glittered violet. Yes, ma am? he answered. His voice was hard, but velvety, with the slightest hint of a French accent. You weren t a friend of my husband Sam s, were you? The man shook his head. I m sorry, I can t say I ve ever had the pleasure of meeting your husband. The stranger spoke very formally. Arianna looked at her mother. Alice shook her head, trying to rid herself of the tears forming at the corner s of her eyes. The man looked at the pair with sympathy in those odd violet eyes. Arianna stared at him for a moment, as his eyes bored into hers. Violet into green. Then he blinked and turned away. I m sorry for your loss. He said, and walked away. Arianna squeezed her mother s hand. Alice cleared her head and led her daughter through the maze of headstones towards the car. Alexander stepped towards the grave of his father and knelt in respect. It as the third anniversary of his death, and Alexander had received a note requesting him to be here. He knew the slanting hand writing intimately. But he hadn t expected to find someone with such a strong aura, especially someone so young. But that whole episode with the mourning widow and her child could wait for the foreseeable future. Alexander? The alchemist turned his head. Jonathan. Alexander took in his brother s appearance. Jonathan wore a black business suit, shining black leather shoes, and a white tie. His hair was of middling length, combed to perfection; not a strand out of place. Started any wars lately, brother? Alexander asked curtly. Jonathan occupied a major place in the British government, in charge of military intelligence and espionage. Jonathan glared at his older brother. None that I can tell you about he snapped. Then why did you ask me here? I had better things I could have been doing than visiting a dead man. I want to know why Shadow Bane approached you nine days ago. What they wanted from you. Alexander laughed. Jonathan wanted nothing more than to have Shadow ban under his direct e control. Despite it being a primarily British organisation, Shadow bane had offices all over the world, and was fiercely independent. Jonathan, the operative in question was an old war-friend who wanted me to procure some raw materials for their ordinance. Jonathan wasn t convinced. One of them gave you something, what was it? Alexander shook his head and turned to leave. There was a hiss of steel on wood and Alexander felt the point of a blade on the back of his neck. He glanced around without moving his head. The cemetery was empty. Don t be a fool, Jonathan. The Alchemist spun and whipped out his revolver, thumbing back the hammer and pointing the weapon at his brother s face. The pair stood there, waiting for the other to make the first move. Who s faster, do you think? Alexander whispered mockingly. Jonathan panicked and glanced down at the gleaming black metal of the revolvers barrel. Alexander s left hand came up and slammed across his brother s jaw. The younger man stumbled back and tripped over a headstone, sprawling face first in the dust. The slender silver blade He had used to threaten Alexander landed on their father s grave. A dull moan filled he air. now look what you ve done Jon. Alexander said. You ve upset father. Alexander left his brother where he laid and headed back to where he had left his car.
Arianna lay in bed. Her mother had retired to her room within the hour of their returning home from the funeral reception. Naturally, the six year old was bored stupid. Too many grown ups standing around in suits saying how it was a tragic circumstance. Arianna didn t agree. Her thoughts strayed to the shadow figure with Laura s face that hadn t appeared since her father s death. Could it have been some kind of guardian angel that had gone to far to protect her? As if on cue, the temperature dropped several degrees and a feeling of bone chilling terror set in. In the same corner of the room as last time, a shadowy figure materialised. Arianna gazed up at its shrouded face. Its head turned, its featureless face staring intently at the paralysed girl in the bed. Whatever it was, it wasn t the same entity as the one that had been here before. From its body language, it seemed almost curious. She wanted to scream, but couldn t. The Shadow stepped towards her, tendrils of darkness billowing from the floor where its feet touched the floor. Its blank face never moved from Arianna s eyes. It stopped at the end of the bed. Its face began to twist and distort, and a violent shriek echoed through the house. Arianna snapped out of fear induced paralysis and screamed. No hurried footsteps answered her. Your Mother Will Not Answer You This Time, a multitude of voices rasped inside her head. You Will Be Ours One Day, Arianna, One Day You Will Join Us. The dark presence shuddered and the shriek intensified. Arianna held her hands over her ears. There was a sudden buzzing, like static on a TV, and then silence. Arianna pulled her doona over head and tried to go to sleep, but knew it was going to be another sleepless night.
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