cold, numb, surrounded by darkness just like every other night, the smell of blood was prominent over sweat, mildewed walls, and decay but somehow something was different this time. Far away a distant voice yelled, screaming profanities as what sounded like rattling chains echoed off stone walls.
? What's going on? Who's there?" James's eyes slowly slid open, immediately forcing his heart to a rapid tempo. His head was pounding, his glasses were gone, and a zingy metallic taste filled his mouth.
"Oi!! I know you're there wake up already!!" the voice yelled again, James grunted and rolled over, yelping as the ground disappeared for a half second and then came up to greet him with a painful jolt. "About damn time you woke up, I was starting to wonder if you were dead!"
"What the hell?" James hissed, his English accented voice echoing lightly in the darkness as he clutched his stomach and got to his knees, trying to regain the breath that had been knocked from his lungs. As his feline eyes shifted gears to pull in what little light was available, he realized he was in what appeared to be a dilapidated prison cell with stone walls and a rusted cell door. His walking stick was missing, his glasses were missing, in fact, the only things he still owned appeared to be the clothes on his back and only barely that.
"Exactly!" The voice yelled from directly across the hall, but even with his feline eyes James couldn't make out who or what was speaking. "Now hurry up and see if you can't get out of your cell!"
"Wait but, who are you?" James said, trying to stand up, but his foot knocked against something causing him to look down and swear under his breath.
"Does it matter!?" the voice snapped.
"Only if you don't want me calling you something degrading and/or demeaning!" James snapped back.
"Tell me yours I'll tell ya mine!" the voice retaliated, James considered lying and then thought better of it, deciding right then and there that it was probably better to have someone on his side under these circumstances.
"James. James Cardinal." the voice seemed to hesitate for a long moment before replying in a guarded tone.
"James. James Moreaux." Everything went still and quiet at that moment, both parties consumed with wondering if it was a coincidence or if their names served some purpose in their kidnappings.
So what are we going to do about that then? You got a nickname?" James (Cardinal) asked quietly.
"Why would I need a nickname?" James (Moreaux) asked, his tone still guarded.
</b>"Well, we can't very well call each other 'James' that would just be-"</b> James (Cardinal) started but the voice interrupted him.
"Okay so I'll call you Cardinal and you call me Moreaux I don't give a shit, let's just hurry and get the hell out of here!" James (Moreaux) yelled.
"You know how to pick locks or something!? Come on I don't want to be here whenever whoever put us here comes back!" Cardinal grunted as he kicked the remnants of a skeleton off into one corner of his cell, pausing only to grab one of the femurs as he stood up and stepped up to the bars of the cell door.
"Actually, depending on how old these cells are I know a trick that should be able to get us out of here fairly easily, do you have a belt?" Cardinal said, unbuckling his own black leather belt and pulling it from his belt-loops.
Um, yes? Why do you-" Moreaux started, but Cardinal waved the awkward reply away.
"Just throw it over will you, the less you question me the less time we have to get out." There was a moment of silence before Moreaux huffed and the sound of a belt clearing belt-loops echoed through the darkness. When the belt landed just outside Cardinal's cell, he picked it up without a word, looping both belts around two bars, putting the bone through the loops, and beginning to twist. As he did so, he explained.
"It's just like a gear box, if you put a motor on a small cog and use it to twist a big cog, the big cog won't spin quickly but it'll have lots of torque. The same basic equation works here too. When I loop the belts around the bars put the bone through the loops and start twisting, the big loop tightens slowly but powerfully, constricting the bars and pulling them together!"
Cardinal grunted as he twisted the bone, the metal creaking as the bars bent toward each other.
"Shockingly," he muttered as he grabbed the other end of the bone and twisted again. "I saw this trick off a movie." Cardinal, grabbing both the bars and the bone in one hand to stop them from coming undone, laughed again as, with barely a squeeze, he was out of his cell.
"Now give me just a second and I'll have you out of there." Cardinal quickly undid the belts and stepped over to the cage, doing the same thing as before. The light was still very thin, and Cardinal could just make out a doglike outline standing against the back wall as he worked.
"All right then, out you come." Moreaux hesitated for a long moment before stepping forward to pull himself through the widened gap in the bars.
"Let's just get this straight right now. I don't owe you anything
got it?" Cardinal snorted as he handed Moreaux back his belt, the negativism beginning to wear on his nerves.
"Fine by me, Mr. Moreaux I'll be glad to part ways once we're out of this place." now that they were closer, Cardinal could see that his new companion wasn't a dog, but a fox. And that was the only observation he had time to make before Moreaux began moving, all Cardinal could do was put his belt back on and follow.
"What happened?" he asked after a moment.
"How should I know?! One second I'm trying to get out of a museum, the next I'm stuck in this place!" Moreaux hissed angrily. Cardinal looked taken aback for half a second.
"The museum, what were you-how'd you get into the museum? I know everyone that was on the list to get it not including you."
"Oh, I'm sorry," Moreaux said sarcastically as they reached a set of stairs. "I was on the roof and a vent collapsed under me. Bite me. And what were you doing in the museum anyways?" Cardinal snorted.
"I was invited. It was a private function to dedicate a new exhibit." they reached the top of the stairs to find a thick wooden door which Moreaux tested, finding it unlocked and pulling it open a bit. Cardinal immediately seemed to shrink his eyes gaining a touch of fear and his voice shaking.
"Hey Ja-Moreaux, I have a bit of a confession to make
" he whispered as candle-light trickled in through the crack.
"What?!" Moreaux snapped, opening the door the rest of the way as he deemed the coast clear.
I can't see without my glasses unless it's dark, so you're going to have to lead me out of here." Moreaux's head swiveled, one eyebrow raised in total exasperation before he sighed and shook his head.
"Fine, just try not to slow me down."
"Not like I have much of a choice
" Cardinal mumbled to himself as his world became one big blur. He stayed low to the ground, following the clashing colors and erratic movements of the blur that was Moreaux's tail, both of them entering what looked like the hallway of a castle. Candlestick holders and suits of armor lined the walls, flags bearing a strange coat of arms hung from the ceiling, and the hallway ended in a corner to either side.
"What is it? Is there someone there?" Cardinal fretted.
"No, it looks like a castle out of the movies." Moreaux explained their surroundings almost grudgingly before moving into the hallway, deciding to go left and doing so warily as his eyes flicked from suited figure to suited figure trying to determine if any of them were occupied. But nothing else moved as the two teens reached the corner, turning it to find a set of heavy double-doors from under which light streamed. Moreaux paused just long enough to make Cardinal's heart rate climb before moving forward and opening the door a crack. The room was void of life so he pushed the doors open all the way and walked in to look around, Cardinal following and attempting to see anything but a giant splotch of melding colors. Moreaux, leaving his odd companion stepped towards a desk at the side of the room. The top of the desk was very organized if not dusty and old looking. Parchment sat in two stacks on the desk, one unused, the other covered in handwriting that was so thin and slanted he wouldn't have been able to read it even if he wanted to. What caught his eyes however, was a large black book in the center of the desk upon which sat what looked like a pair of reading glasses. The book's cover was inscribed with symbols and a large eight pointed star, but Moreaux didn't even bother to look to hard at it as he picked up the glasses and turned back to Cardinal.
"I found some glasses." he said, spinning them around his finger as he walked over.
"Glasses aren't going to work unless they're my prescription." Cardinal replied to the wall, Moreaux sighed and stepped in front him.
"Maybe we got lucky and whoever put us here wears your prescription"
"Not bloody like-" Cardinal started but Moreaux interrupted him.
"Would you just try on the damn glasses!?" Cardinal paused for a moment before huffing and holding out his hand.
"Fine but when they don't work don't say I didn't tell you so." But, when Cardinal flipped the glasses open and slid them onto his nose, he was shocked to see the world jump into focus.
"See?" Moreaux said, stepping back and folding his arms. "Just as good as your old glasses I bet."
" Cardinal mumbled to both of their surprise. "These are my old glasses. Where'd you find them?"
On the desk over there, this must be his office." Moreaux replied. Cardinal nodded and stepped over to the desk, sitting down lightly in the chair after a second's hesitation and scooting in to look at the big black book.
Good lord," He whispered running a hand down the cover before flipping to the first page which was covered in jagged, wicked looking runes. "Whoever owns this place is an avid Satanist, and very into Demonological studies."
"You can read that?" Moreaux asked raising an eyebrow as he stepped up behind Cardinal.
"Uh, most of it yes, it's very similar to Anglo Saxon." Cardinal looked around and explained.
"I've been studying linguistics for a long time, languages come pretty easy for me, hence my position in the museum." Cardinal turned back to the desk and closed the book in favor of looking at the other things on the desk, flipping through several stacks of paper and finding nothing before moving on to the drawers. As he opened the first one, both their eyes widened. Sitting neatly next to a box of shells was a Le Matte revolver. Both James's glanced at each other and then back to the gun Before Cardinal scooted back slightly.
"Go on then," he said, holding up his hands as if in surrender. "Firearms and I don't quite get along, blades are more my forte." So as Cardinal moved to the other side of the desk to search through those drawers, Moreaux reached in and picked up the revolver, weighing it in his hands before cracking it open to check if it was loaded.
"Now these I can use." Cardinal mumbled, pulling out a pair of wicked looking letter openers. Moreaux snorted inwardly and picked up the box of shells, emptying it into his pocket as Cardinal stood and, after a second's hesitation, grabbed the large black book.
"It might help." he said with a shrug at Moreaux's questioning glance. "Now let's get out of here before someone finds us."
"I thought you'd never ask." Was Moreaux's only response. Getting out was much easier than either of them expected, them having only to go down the other side of the hall, descend a set of stairs, and walk out the front doors. However, far from being what either of them had expected, outside was seemingly no less confusing. The sky was filled with yellow orange clouds and desert surrounded them on all sides save one where the remnants of a dilapidated city stood.
"Where in the hell are we?" was all Cardinal could get out as he looked around. The building they had just exited was more of a manor than a castle, and it and the city seemed to be the only things around as far as the eye could see.
"I don't know Cardinal, but wherever we are I don't like it
come on let's see if any of these run." Cardinal looked over to where Moreaux was moving and for the first time got an actual picture of who he was. The fox was wearing a pair of Jeans and a grey hooded jacket which had been left undone despite his not having a shirt, both of which were dirty and worn.
"A street kid? How did we end up together? We're nothing alike." but even as he thought it and looked down at himself, he pushed it away. At moment he looked like a street-kid himself. His white dress-shirt was covered in grime, the top four buttons were missing, and his pants were wrinkled horribly. He sighed after a long moment and shook his head, hiking the large book up to a better position under his arm and running to catch up to Moreaux who was fiddling with something under the dashboard of an old rust-bucket truck.
"Aha!!" he yelled triumphantly as the engine turned over and rumbled to life. "Now let's see just how long it'll last us." Cardinal couldn't hold back a light smile as he reached for the door to pull it open, the entire thing falling completely off the car. But he disregarded the fact and hopped into the vehicle, pulling the seatbelt across him and buckling it. Moreaux after a second's hesitation did the same before turning away from the sidewalk and pushing the gas.
"A little slower if you don't mind!" Cardinal called over the wind coming through the (or more accurately, lack of) windshield, opening the book and holding the pages down so he could read a bit more.
"So what does it say?" Moreaux called. Cardinal continued to scan the pages for a long moment before replying.
"This book is called the Demonomicon, from what I can tell it's a book of demonic magic, summoning, enchantments, etcetera. Basically just an all around evil thing."</b> Moreaux Raised his eyebrows as he entered the city, looking around at the dilapidated buildings and vehicles.
"Demons and Magic? Do you seriously believe in stuff like that?" Cardinal chuckled as he flipped the page.
"How can you possibly say that looking around right now? And I'm as shocked as you are at all this but if magic is our only way back then I hope it does exist. I think I found something though, it's written in a different style than the rest." Moreaux glanced over at the book but could see no difference, rolling his eyes and turning back to the road as he took a corner sharply.
"Does it say how to get out?"
"Maybe, its talking a lot about two brothers and the passage of time in a place of fear."
"They can't possibly think we're brothers can they?" Moreaux asked looking disgusted.
"Well, 'brothers' isn't necessarily a direct translation rather a basic conversion into English. The word for brother can also mean sister, sibling, parent, child, aunt, uncle, family, basically a strong bond or similarity between two people." that made Moreaux laugh darkly.
"You're nothing like me."
"You think I don't know that?" Cardinal snorted, going back to the book as Moreaux looked back to the road, giving a sharp intake of air as his eyes widened. Cardinal looked up just in time to see a man standing in the road directly in front of them before Moreaux was slamming on the brakes and spinning the wheel. The small truck skidded, riding on two wheels before the rubber caught traction and flipped the vehicle which began rolling, skidding to a halt upside down nearly three hundred yards down the road. The man, a crow wearing a robe that flared out at the base, turned slowly around and laughed, striding towards the totaled vehicle to claim his prize, two shadows forming out at either side of him and rising into the air as solid manifestations.
"Blood?" the one to the right asked quietly.
"Perhaps Nelith, perhaps, I'm surprised they got out of their cells, maybe they'll put up a fight and you can taste their blood then." the Crow replied almost sweetly as the shadows laughed and began rippling. In the truck, Cardinal groaned, pushing his glasses back up to his nose as he looked around.
"Moreaux you alright?" he mumbled searching for the big book which had disappeared.
"D-did I hit him?" Moreaux whispered hoarsely, his eyes were still wide in shock and fear and under his fur he was holding the steering wheel in a white knuckled grip.
"No, you didn't hit him, if you had he'd be sitting up here with us. Now come on we've got to go." Cardinal responded, removing one of his letter openers and slicing through his seatbelt, gasping as he dropped to the ceiling where several flanges of torn metal cut into his back. He pulled himself into a sitting position and shook his head to try and clear it, reaching up to cut through Moreaux's seatbelt. The fox didn't even try to stop his fall as Cardinal grunted, catching his shoulders so his legs hit the ground first as he fell.
"Come one man, you're going to be all right, that was probably the bastard that put us here anyways, and I'm not going to carry you out of this place so get your bloody feet under you." Cardinal dragged him out of the vehicle through the windshield where they both pulled themselves to their feet. However before either of them could even consider which way to run, a low, cold, wickedly humorous laugh rang out, seeming to come from everywhere even as the crow stepped up making their eyes widen in total shock. The shadows on either side of him finished their transformations into perfect doppelgangers, one of Cardinal, one of Moreaux, only they seemed to be the more realistic of the two which was absolutely frightening. Moreaux's copy lashed his tail and cracked his knuckles, smiling wickedly as Cardinal's copy straightened his newly pressed tux, pulling the walking stick out from under his arm and smacking it into his hand threateningly yet at the same time studiously.
"You survived? I almost wondered there for a second." the crow laughed again as the copies stepped forward, Cardinal completely disregarding the fact that he was talking to 'himself' reared back in shock and then yelled.
"Hey that's my walking stick!" but then something else caught his eye making them widen and then narrow in anger. Wrapped loosely around its wrist was a thin silver chain, hanging from which were two gold rings. "Oh you are so not going to survive this encounter
"Think so do ya, but how will you fare when you fight someone who knows all your moves and abilities
" the copy smiled wickedly as he tapped his right leg with the walking stick. "And weaknesses." Cardinal's eyes widened again and he just barely managed to raise his arm before the doppelganger moved, whipping the cane towards Cardinal's head with a nasty sounding crack.
Moreaux jumped for the creature on instinct but a hand caught him by the hood yanking him back hard, but, even as he felt a blow land across his ribs he was spinning with his own fist extended. The Moreaux doppelganger stumbled back as the real one's fist cracked its nose followed by a wicked uppercut.
"Hah," it chuckled wiping its nose as it began to bleed. "Been quite a while since I got someone with a little fight in him." Moreaux put up his fists in a boxer-like fashion dropped down a little, fury showing in his eyes.
"You may look like me, but you've got no idea who I am." and with that he struck out hard with a one-two punch.
Cardinal ducked under the cane as it was swung again, but was unable to dodge the second swipe which caught in the lower back. Then, before he even had time to react to the pain, he took a fist to the gut and an elbow to the underside of the chin making him stumble backwards dazed.
"Whatever happened to 'You're not going to survive this encounter' eh?! I thought you were angry at me for taking your stuff! Your watch!" a fist to the side of the face. "Your cane!" walking stick to the gut. "You're pathetic attempt to keep them close by wearing their rings around your wrist!!" at that something snapped inside Cardinal and smacked away the kick that was coming for him, pulling back a fist and letting loose with a devastating blow that shattered his doppelganger's jaw making it stumble back a couple steps. It reached up and, shockingly, set its own jaw, the bones crackling as they reformed and healed.
Hmm, almost shocking that was, however I still hold the upper hand." and then it came at Cardinal with a flurry of blows he had no chance of defending himself from.
Moreaux roared as he planted a wicked kick to his doppelganger's midsection before drawing in close and, for the fifth time, breaking its nose. The doppelganger barley even reacted as it caught Moreaux by the shoulders and jerked him round, putting him in a headlock.
"Let's see, how many times have you fought before? With your parents, your neighbors, the other rats on the street, how about you take a little nap and think about all the times you've lost huh?" but Moreaux had no intention of letting himself get dropped there, or anywhere else. He reached up, wrapped his arms around the doppelganger's head, and with a wicked jerk, threw the creature over his head and to the ground.
"You don't know anything about me!!" he yelled, caving in the ribs on the doppelganger's left side with a kick. The creature just laughed, trapping his foot between its side and arm and bringing him to the ground before climbing on top of him.
"You'd like to believe that know wouldn't you?" it hissed, throwing punch after punch at Moreaux's head which he was trying unsuccessfully to guard, but even as the blows landed, he just managed to catch a glimpse of Cardinal who was faring no better.
"Did you really think you had a chance?!" the Cardinal doppelganger yelled as he swiped the real one's legs out from under him, Cardinal tried to roll to his feet, but the copy put the cane's handle to his throat and slammed him back down
"You've never fought a day in your pathetic four-eyed life, how could you possibly think you could beat me?!" Cardinal's eyes narrowed as he reached up and grabbed the handle of his walking stick, pushing it off his throat so he could speak, anger and pain sharpening both his mind and his tongue.
"Number one, you know nothing about me other than my physical appearance, number two, you're a cowardly little prick under all that power, and number three before you argue my first statement, if you were me you'd have used my blade long before this." and then before the doppelganger could do more than chuckle unbelievingly Cardinal struck out hard, snapping the creature's knee backwards with a loud crack. The copy roared in pain and released its end of the walking-stick, hopping backwards as Cardinal growled and rolled over pushing himself unsteadily to his feet.
"You're blood is mine!" the creature yelled as it snapped its leg back into place and ran at him, but Cardinal was just a hair faster, twisting the handle of his walking-stick and yanking. A blur of silver flashed through the air as Cardinal stepped to the side with a flourish of his sword, the doppelganger's momentum taking it a couple of steps past him before stopping, eyes widening in shock. There was a pause in the fighting as both Moreaux and his doppelganger looked over, the crow stopped laughing and looked down in shock, then, the creature dropped to its knees and fell to pieces. Cardinal stepped forward after a moment and reached down, pulling apart the clothes to get at the chains, the one with the rings, and the other one connected to a pocket watch, both of which he pocketed before straightening up and turning around.
"Never fought a day in my life?" he said quietly, turning around and tapping his blade once against the ground before leveling it with the crow's chest. "You'll wish you were so lucky." for a long moment there was no sound, no movement, not even in the world around them, and then there was a scream of rage as Moreaux's doppelganger jumped up, its hands and fingers elongating into solid shadowy spears as it bolted. But now that Cardinal wielded a weapon he seemed a completely different person, planting his feet and parrying in quick succession the multitude of the creature's shadows.
Moreaux groaned and went to sit up to help when a sharp pain shot up his back bringing him down again, his eyes widening as he suddenly remembered something that, under any other circumstances, would have received a palm to the forehead. So, rolling over quickly and pushing himself to his feet, he reached into the back of his pants and drew the revolver he had taken from the desk, cocking back the hammer and aiming down the sights towards the creature as Cardinal pushed it back another step. It screamed as the bullets impacted it, but other than that hardly reacted as it came at Cardinal with a renewed vigor, stopping his progress and pushing him back a step.
"The Crow aim at the Crow!!" he yelled as Moreaux pulled the trigger yet again, but the gun just clicked.
"It's empty!!" he yelled back, getting to his feet and waiting for a chance to jump into the fight, but even as he prepared to bolt, Cardinal roared back.
"There's a switch on the hammer dammit!! Now shoot him!!!" Moreaux didn't hesitate as he pulled back on the hammer and, like Cardinal said, pushed up on the switch, aiming downrange at the crow rather than the demon and pulling the trigger. This time however, the recoil slammed straight back into his wrist, bucking like a kicking mule nearly tearing the gun from his grasp as the crow screamed, clutching his shoulder and vanishing in a cloud of spiraling black smoke. The doppelganger looked around in shock for a half second and, taking advantage of the distraction, Cardinal lunged, sticking the demon through the throat, recoiling as it choked and dropped to the ground, going still after a moment of struggling. This time the only sounds were of the two panting as Cardinal and Moreaux held their positions, unsure whether or not to move in case the nightmare they were both experiencing took a turn for the worse. It was unnerving, the lack of wind or any earthly phenomenon really, the clouds covering the sky didn't even seem to shift from their places. Moreaux was the first to move, lowering his gun slowly and glancing around in the stillness.
So what happens now?" he asked quietly seeming to pull Cardinal out of his trance.
Well, we need to find the book and a hiding place so I vote we go back down the street and hit one of these alleyways."
"You want to go back towards the guy who tried to kill us?" Moreaux asked incredulously, Cardinal shrugged and sheathed his blade, spinning the reconstituted walking stick through his fingers before bouncing it off the ground and slipping it under his arm.
"Just until we find the book, it's the key to getting out of this hell hole, I'm sure of it." Moreaux hesitated before nodding, cracking open his revolver and ejecting the spent shells, one of which turned out to be 16 bore shotgun shell explaining the heightened recoil on the last shot.
"Fine, just get me the hell out of here." Cardinal snorted as he began walking, taking one last look at the bodies of their copies and shivering.
"You said it." it didn't actually take all that long to find the book, and soon enough they back were they started albeit this time in an alley way and with much less light.
"Why an alley?" Moreaux thought as he paced, glancing over at Cardinal every few moments to check the progress, but he must have had sphinx blood in him because he was impossible to read
just like the book.
"Who in the hell is this kid anyways? Snobby Brit, probably grew up sucking on a silver spoon." he paused for a half second to look over again and called.
"Will you hurry up?" Cardinal sighed and flipped the page, looking over his glasses at Moreaux.
"This is highly strenuous mental work and I am doing the best I can, I want to get out of here just as much as you do."
"Yeah sure, if you wanted to get out of here as bad as I do we'd be gone already." Cardinal snorted and shook his head, looking back to his book.
"You wanna have a go at this? Because I doubt that even if you could read this hand you still wouldn't be able to understand what was going on." Moreaux's eyes widened and then narrowed as he turned to stare Cardinal down.
"You calling me stupid?" at that Cardinal actually laughed.
"Hardly, you are however less intelligent than I am and therefore could take it that way, but no I am not calling you stupid." Moreaux chuckled darkly, rubbing the slightly rusted hammer of his revolver with a thumb.
"You don't hurry up, you won't leave this hell hole alive."
"What are you going to do? Shoot me?" Cardinal smiled to himself and shook his head.
"You don't think I could do it!?" Moreaux nearly yelled.
"Mr. Moreaux there are two things you are not," Cardinal replied, looking up and removing his glasses.
"A killer, and a dead man, and let me just tell you that if one of those changes the other will as well. Also, I am your only hope of getting out of here so perhaps you'd like to continue your abhorrent pacing, quiet your incorrigible tongue, and allow me to work without distraction." Cardinal immediately, before Moreaux had time to reply, began yapping about what he was reading, about how dark and evil the whole thing was, and yet the way he held the book, turning each page gently as a light breeze, told of awe and reverence. Moreaux thought very hard about perhaps making Cardinal hurry, but before he could decide, something caught his eye.
"That's it! I found our way out!" Cardinal hissed, looking up from the book and jumping to his feet, but instead of a smile or any indication that he was happy to hear the news, a look of fear and shock filled the fox's face as his eyes dropped down to Cardinal's stomach. Cardinal's eyebrows came together in confusion before he looked down again, spreading his arms as his eyes widened, a black point was protruding from his stomach and a blood stain was already beginning to spread into his shirt. Barely a second passed before Moreaux's copy leaned its chin on his shoulder and smiled wickedly.
"Silly kitty, thinking you could kill us and then hide from our master, you know so little of our operations yet you try so hard to foil them, but in the end your attempts won't mean anything." Cardinal gasped as the copy ripped its shadow from his gut and spun, throwing him to the road outside the alley, Moreaux, snapping out of his shock yelled and tried to raise his gun but the building to his left exploding showering him with bricks.
"My goodness they go down easily, don't they Rognak." the Cardinal doppelganger said, pulling Moreaux from the pile of debris and dragging him from the alley as he struggled.
"Not as easily as I would have hoped Nelith." the Moreaux doppelganger stated as he licked his bloody shadow blade and shivered. "That's odd, no fear
"I noticed that with the other one as well, anger, adrenaline, a bit of shock, but no fear. These two are definitely very odd."
"Silence!" a new voice hissed as, with a swirl of dark mist, the crow reappeared looking, for lack of a better describing word, very extremely pissed.
"You two are useless! If you had any brains you would have killed the mortals hours ago!" Moreaux tried to stand but the crow pulled back a fist and threw a punch into the air, dropping him back to the ground from almost thirty feet away.
"If you got any tricks up your sleeves, you'd better use 'em now." Moreaux said hoarsely as he pushed himself to his knees, Cardinal gasped a couple of times before rolling over, one hand clutching his gut as blood dripped through his fingers. A quick glance around gave him all the information about their predicament he needed, Rognak, the Moreaux doppelganger, strafing around their left with his jagged shadow-blades, Nelith, the Cardinal doppelganger, stepping from the alley and drawing Cardinal's blade to look it over, and the crow, arms folded, face contorted in fury, shoulder completely healed, blocking the road in front of them.
I may have one idea, but you'd better be ready for it." Cardinal whispered, pushing himself painfully to his feet and raising his voice.
"If you're going to kill us, I think we at least deserve to be on our feet." the Crow seemed to think it over for a moment and then nodded once stiffly as his demons stepped forward toward their counterparts.
"So glad you see it from my perspective." Nelith replied with a smile and a nod before swinging the blade, but Cardinal was already moving whipping the other letter opener from the back of his pants and slamming it up under the demon's chin. Moreaux jumped back to avoid Rognak's shadow-blades as Cardinal ripped his sword from Nelith's unresponsive hand and tossed it over. Rognak roared but even he wasn't fast enough to avoid the blade as it severed his head. Then, with just a couple of seconds to spare, Cardinal released his wound, planted his feet, closed his eyes, and spoke.
"As darkness spreads so too does light, a halo joins this horn headed fight, to live or die is not your choice, so hear you now my chanting voice, as all your evil goes away, and night reverts to shining day, your demons all go back to hell, as I command you all dispel!!" as a power not his own filled the air, the crow's eyes widened, but before he could do more than yell in absolute fury, the power seemed to suck inward for half a second, surrounding Cardinal and Moreaux like a dome before exploding outward with an perpetually bright flash of light
Museums, maps, and MG-42's
Moreaux's eyes snapped open and he sat bolt upright off a hardwood floor, looking around quickly. All he could see were candles and cobwebs until a yell brought his head around. Cardinal, mimicking Moreaux's actions almost to the dot before looking down at his shredded clothing.
"What the bloody hell was that all about then?" he asked, still panting. Moreaux was too busy looking around to answer. They were both sitting in the middle of a giant five pointed star made of either runes of blood or red paint and lined with candles. They were both wearing their full attire now as well, Moreaux wearing his jeans, hoodie, and now a chain holding a gothic crucifix, he could also feel the revolver pressing into his back from where it had been slipped into his pants. Cardinal was now wearing a full three piece tuxedo complete with bowtie, watch, chain and rings, walking stick, and now the big black book.
"So it's over then?" Moreaux asked quietly as Cardinal grabbed his stick and, after a moment of hesitation the book.
"No, I'm afraid it's not, that
man, for lack of a better word, is sure to come back for his book and probably vengeance, we did kind of screw up his plans yeah?" Cardinal looked around for a moment and then, switching his cane to the hand holding the book, he reached into his jacket and shuffled around a bit before removing an IPhone.
Bastard was so sure of himself he didn't even take my phone
" after a quick functions check he snapped a couple pictures of their surroundings and several of the star before a thought struck Moreaux
"Wait, can he come back through?" Moreaux asked glancing around, Cardinal checked over his shoulder once before replying and heading for, what he assumed was the exit, taking a candle in his unoccupied hand to keep the darkness at bay.
"I truly don't care to find out Mr. Moreaux." after a bit of searching, they did manage to find the exit, a large set of double sliding doors that had been chained shut. The chain was old and rusted however and, using Cardinal's cane as a lever, was easily broken giving the two access to a deserted streetlight lit road. After a pause to get his bearings Moreaux immediately headed off down the street leaving Cardinal spluttering.
"Hey! Where are you going!?" he called making Moreaux turn around.
"I thought you said you'd be happy to part ways once we got out of there."
"You kidding me? If he can come through I don't want to face him alone! Besides that do you even have anywhere to go? Come on man, you stood up for me back there
you can't be all bad
a-and I have plenty of room back home, it's not like you have to be in the same room as me." Moreaux pulled in a breath to retort but suddenly couldn't think of anything to say, but Cardinal, taking this pause as a 'no', sighed and shrugged, tuning to walk away.
"I just figured since we kind of saved each other's lives back there we might want to stick together, if we beat him once we could probably do it again if he ever does show up, but I know I wouldn't be able to do it alone." for a long moment Moreaux just stood there, watching Cardinal walk off towards the end of the street before huffing and shaking his head.
"I must be out of my freaking mind
" he mumbled, shaking his head and calling out, running after Cardinal.
"Hey! So where exactly do you live Birdy?" Cardinal looked back and slowed down so Moreaux could catch up before nodding over into the city.
"My parents owned a suit in the Gregerson Towers cause we came here for business a lot, when they died and the government took my house the owner of the Towers contacted my legal keeper and said I could live there because it's paid off andwell, he knew I was responsible enough not to cause him any undue trouble." at this Moreaux looked taken aback.
"You live in a Gregerson Towers suit?! That place is one of the most expensive hotels in New York!" Birdy shrugged and sighed.
"My mum knew a lot people in high places, I guess she dated the owner of the Towers and got a discount or something for the room
say, did you just call me Birdy?" Cardinal seemed to mull this over for a moment as the exited the road through an alley and found themselves on a bustling New York road, they both immediately checked the sky for the Empire State Building to orient themselves and then headed for the well known Gregerson Towers hotel.
You know, I think I like that, Birdy
I think you should start calling me that, it fits, we'll have to find another one for too eh?" Moreaux nodded and looked over, slightly surprised to see Birdy limping and using his cane as if he needed it.
"You get nicked back there?" Moreaux asked just above the noise of the city. Birdy looked over with a questioning 'hmm?' before realizing what his companion was talking about and stepping closer so he wouldn't have to raise his voice.
"I'll talk to you when we get to my place, it's a bit of a personal matter." Moreaux raised an eyebrow but gave a mental shrug, deciding to walk in silence the rest of the long way to the Towers, a prestigious hotel like no other consisting of three ten story buildings creating a partial circle around the main 'tower', the forty story deluxe. Moreaux had seen the Towers from afar every so often in his adventures to the rooftops of New York, but actually heading towards the massive concrete gates and planning to enter the establishment? Well that was a different story entirely. Birdy looked over and smiled to himself as he reached a keypad next to the massive wrought iron gates in the concrete wall that encircled the entire establishment, tapping in his personal code and hitting enter.
"You ever been in here before?" he asked quietly as the huge gates began to slide slowly inward, Moreaux laughed out loud at that.
"Do I look like I've ever been in there?" he retorted though with a smile. Birdy just shrugged lightly nodded towards the gate.
"Just wondrin', I suppose for you this going to be like Disneyland except a whole lot cooler
no offense by the way." Birdy added the last part to avoid a problem but Moreaux just huffed good naturedly. Then, with hardly contained excitement despite the fact that he had just survived a magical demonic attempt on his life, Moreaux entered the Gregerson Towers Hotel. Birdy glanced over at his companion and laughed as he stared around, the sounds of New York fading away in the layers and layers of exotic foliage. Even the humidity seemed to change as they passed a small river with people floating by on tubes and water mattresses.
"That's the lazy-river, it connects to the pool which is actually quite a wonder, anyways come on, I've got the elevator waiting for us."
"What do you mean you've got the elevator waiting for us?" Moreaux mumbled as he pried his eyes away from the river to look over. Birdy was holding the book under his left arm and his phone in the same hand which he turned so Moreaux could see.
"As a ah
special patron of the Towers I get several benefits. One of those is a private elevator that only visits the four suits in the Deluxe, another is that I can do quite a bit with my phone like hold the elevator, start the shower so it's warm when I get up, turn on my lights, order room service, stuff like that."
"My hell you're spoiled." Moreaux mumbled as they continued up the cobblestone path past the outer towers and towards the Deluxe, but Birdy just shrugged.
"I'm not actually here a lot, my work takes away for weeks at time and sometimes I just sleep in the museum. I prefer to do things myself anyways so other than holding the elevator I don't really use the mobile interface." upon entering the Deluxe, Birdy waved to an old mustached schnauzer in a manager's uniform who waved back.
"Glad to see you again my boy! Elsa will be bringing up your dry-cleaning and mail and I took the liberty of getting you a new key." Birdy nodded and caught the key as the old man threw it.
"Thank you Mr. Torin, and it is good to see you as well. Did my package come by any chance?" Birdy asked as he pocket the key and stepped toward a thin artistic elevator door.
"I think it might have, Elsa would know better than I would though." Moreaux looked around at all the people dressed up in their fancy clothing and suddenly felt very self conscious, pulling his hoodie closed and folding his arms as eyes began to turn on him, but Birdy, despite his shredded Tux and basically grimy appearance seemed not to even notice the looks he was getting as he stepped into the elevator.
"To answer your question from the street," Birdy said as soon as the doors closed.
"Not a lot of people like me, it's kind of a taboo. They think I killed my family so I pretend I'm a cripple, their images would be hurt if they ever attacked a cripple verbally or physically so they leave me alone."
"Did you?" Moreaux asked looking over.
"Kill your family." Moreaux replied, Birdy hesitated for a moment before sighing.
"No, but I was the only survivor and as you'll soon see I'm pretty well off in terms of money because of their deaths. My family was always very active, had three younger brothers that did soccer, baseball, and football, I was never into that kind of thing so I took on fencing. But the one thing we all liked was water, had a boat, tubes, jet-skis
" for a moment Birdy paused in nostalgia, before going back to his story.
"Earlier in the day I guess someone had sunk their boat, when we went out that night we were unaware of it. Hit the damn thing like a ramp flipping our boat. I woke up on the beach next morning, they found the bodies two weeks later."
That what happened to your leg?" Moreaux asked tentatively, Birdy raised an eyebrow and looked down, laughing once humorlessly as he realized the tears in his right pant leg let his deep and ugly scars show through.
"No. A street-gang rampaged through my home back before I lived here, decided it would be fun to throw me out a third story window and see what happened. Glass shrapnel, three compound fractures in the same leg, they pretty well screwed me over. But I was assured that the surgeon who was going to repair me was the best in the world. And he was, put my muscles and tendons and bones back together one sliver at a time. But I guess he'd been drinking beforehand and when the time came to close me up it hit him hard so he had a nurse do it, she didn't do a very good job. First week post-op infection set in and I had to go back in so they could remove the necrotic tissue, it looks a lot worse than it is. What about you? What's your life's story?" for a moment Moreaux said nothing, then he shrugged.
Not much to tell really, I grew up in a broken home, my dad was drunk, my mom was depressed, I've been living on my own for a while now." Birdy nodded but decided not to pursue his train of questions, instead removing the key he had just been given and inserting it into the designated slot as the elevator stopped.
"Allow me to be the first and only to welcome you to my not so humble abode." and with that and click of the key, the elevator doors slid open to reveal a hallway.
"Whoa," Moreaux whispered, his eyes widening at the amount of odd and out of the way items filling the suite. Sports trophies, crystal sculptures, ancient looking pottery, display cases sporting anything from rock and spoon collections to sets of teacups and magnifying glasses. And there were books everywhere.
"You hungry?" Birdy asked completely oblivious to his companion's awe.
"I can whip something up real quick as long as you don't mind oriental cooking. Also if you use the shower, turn the knob all the way to red for about three minutes before you get in or else all you'll get is ice or lava. And we're about the same height, you're a bit more built than I am but that shouldn't matter too much, I'm sure you can find something that'll fit you from my closet if you'd like just be sure to throw away what you're already wearing it's worn past what a few stitches could fix. And don't touch my wardrobe! Bathroom's down the hall farthest door on the left, my room is directly across the hall, food'll be done in about a half hour, and then we can start discussing perhaps why we were sent to a demon's lair and why on earth it was trying to kill us." and with that and a flick of his tail, Birdy headed for the master bedroom which had its own shower. For a good long moment Moreaux stood there, still looking around, even after he heard the shower come on.
This is insane
" Moreaux whispered, shaking his head slightly and stepping forward, right now, a shower sounded like an unorthodox but extremely pleasant course of action.
"HOW COULD YOU LET THEM ESCAPE!!!" the crow roared, sending a body laden table flying through the air before massaging his temples and sitting down in a thickly padded chair.
"Calm yourself Charles, eighteen out of twenty isn't bad for a night's reaping."
"Isn't bad? Isn't bad!? we were beaten down twice by a pair of snot-nosed kids, more than that, the one who dealt the final blow was the weaker of the two!! How can you say that it isn't bad!!?" Rognak yelled causing Charles's eyes to harden.
"Know your place demon, I brought you here and I can send you back to a deeper level of hell than you came from. You're just feeling the overflow of their emotions." Rognak huffed and threw his arms into the air as Nelith stepped forward.
"Unfortunately, I have to agree with Rognak on this one. And forgive me for saying so master but, you're feeling an overflow of your own emotions right now and it's clouding your judgment. Those kids were something else. No one just picks up the book, no one just uses Trolique, and no one just leaves here with both the book the weapon and their lives." at that Charles's eyes widened a moment before he stormed to his feet.
"They have the book?! And Trolique!? Why the
how in the
" for a moment he just stood there and steamed, but then a thought occurred to him.
"Wait a moment
they have the book, and the Panther boy seemed to be able to read it
" and then a strange smile appeared on his beak.
"What are you thinking master?" Nelith asked quietly as his body began smoking slightly, Rognak had already returned to his shadow form, but even as such, both their eyes widened slightly as Charles spoke.
Moreaux hissed through his teeth as the steaming hot water ran through the fur down his back, apparently the bruises where he had been hit had followed him into reality. But he could hardly complain, living on the streets? Showers were either cold or came with a possibility of lightning. He stood there, leaning against the shower wall letting the water run through his fur washing away the blood and the sweat of daily living, for a good long while before deciding that he had had enough and shutting off the water. He stepped out and wrapped a thick towel around his waist, hesitating once before opening the bathroom door and peeking out, making sure Birdy was nowhere to be seen before stepping to the room across the hall. Immediately he was struck by the wide variety of books, even more than had been in the living room, and everything was ridiculously organized and clean. The second thing that struck him was the massive black wardrobe in the corner.
I wonder what's in there that he doesn't want me to see
?" he thought for a moment before shaking his head to dislodge the query and stepping to the closet. Each item of clothing seemed to have its own section, pants, shorts, short-sleeved shirts, long sleeved shirts, button-ups, casual, dress-wear, highly organized just like everything else in the suit. After a long moment to shake off the strangeness of wearing someone else's clothes, he pulled on a pair of jeans and a plain grey tee-shirt, hesitating before grabbing a plaid red collared short-sleeved button up. For a long moment he looked down at the revolver that he had stowed in another towel before sighing and slipping it into the back of his pants, better to have it just in case something did happen again. As he pulled a pair of socks from a bin in the closet and stepped outside the room, a wonderful scent hit the back of his nose making him look around, the sound of sizzling meat coming from the kitchen.
When you said you were going to whip something up as long as I don't mind Oriental cooking, I thought you were going to heat up some leftovers or a TV dinner or something. I didn't expect you go and make a meal from scratch." Birdy looked over from chopping up a zucchini, chuckling and shrugging as Moreaux made his way into the kitchen.
"I live off leftovers when I'm at work, I think I might die if I didn't make something fresh when I get home." after finishing with the zucchini, he threw it and several other chopped vegetables into a wok where some kind of meat was sizzling away in a black sauce.
"What do you do exactly? You talk about your work but
" Birdy chuckled and shrugged as he grabbed a blue bottle and added a couple shots of its liquid to a pot on the other side of the stove.
"I work in the museum as head of linguistic research and artifact reconstitution and retrieval. Basically I translate the ancient languages from artifacts from all around the world and then reverse engineer the artifacts themselves to create a three dimensional image both of them today and what they would have looked like brand new. I also go out on the archeological sites and digs to oversee the process of actually getting these artifacts which range anywhere from broken pottery and dead bodies all the way up temples and buildings that have been found." Moreaux laughed at that and shook his head as he pulled over a chair from a neatly set table and sat in it backwards.
"So you're like a real life Indiana Jones?" he asked as Birdy jumped the wok several times, effectively mixing everything together before adding another couple shots from the black bottle.
"You could think of it that way," he said without looking up from his cooking as he reached over to stir a pot at his right, still jumping the wok with his other hand.
"But I've never picked up a gun in my life, the only whip I've ever used was when I dressed up as Zoro for Halloween one year, and I can honestly say I find cowboy hat or whatever the heck Indiana Jones wears horribly unwieldy. Lose the stupid thing with the lightest breeze. Anyways this is done if you'd like to get to the table, yes?" Moreaux didn't have to be asked twice as he jumped up and pulled the chair back over to the table, Birdy chuckled to himself as he scooped some stir-fry out of the wok and into a pair of artistically shaped bowls, pouring a ladle full of the thick creamy sauce over each before handing one to Moreaux and sitting down at the opposite end of the table.
"My mother's recipe, a lot of people say it's too wet, gets soggy, personally I like it that way but if you prefer something dryer feel free to get more, and don't feel like you have to be formal around me, you're skin and bones, eat up, take your fill, I can make more if I need to." Moreaux paused mid bite, already having started to eat as a thought popped into his head.
"That's it," he said after swallowing.
"Bones was my nickname way back when I was kid." Birdy nodded as picked up a pair of chopsticks and tapped them on the table to make sure they were even.
"Sounds good to me my friend, and it does fit currently, hopefully not in the future but certainly now
anyways I was thinking now that we're both sitting down, perhaps we should discuss what happened back there?" Bones huffed, chewing his mouthful before he could manage a word.
"The way I see it is either we were kidnapped by a demon summoning freak who sicked our own reflections on us, or we were drugged up by some cultist freak who was going to sacrifice us in the name of his freak gods. Neither of them are very nice to think about."