"This is ridiculous." Ellie complained as I helped her off the mat and back up to her feet. "Why are we even still doing this?"
"It's all part of your training." I told her, bored of repeating the phrase yet again. "I've told you more than once, powers aren't everything. They are just one weapon in your arsenal…"
"Yeah, yeah," she huffed. "And if I always rely on just the one tool then I'm easily defeated." Ellie responded trying to mimic my tone like a grumpy teenager.
"See you are paying attention. This is good, now again."
And so continued another in a long line of training sessions.
Anyone who looked at Ellie would tell you that she's just your average twenty-eight-year-old redhead. Those people would be wrong. Ellie is a Nephilim; a child born from the union of angels and demons. She also happens to be the Horseman War, as in one of the Four Horsemen usually associated with the Apocalypse.
I'll just let that sink in for a moment.
Scriptures and stories all have different accountings about The Four but they all have a common theme; they all start to appear when something known as The Great Balance is at risk. Last year Ellie helped me prevent the Gates of Hell from being opened; had we failed it would have literally been Hell on earth. But as tough as that ordeal was I can't help but feel it was merely the start of something bigger. To my knowledge the remaining three Horsemen have yet to make their presence known to the wider world but I'm sure it is only a matter of time.
But in the meanwhile the White Council, in their great wisdom, have charged me with Ellie's training. They have effectively made me responsible for her and her actions and if she steps out of line it'll be both our heads. Literally.
It also means they have a legit reason for monitoring her and her abilities. A Nephilim is an extremely rare being so naturally the Council would not let a chance like this pass them by. However, I have set pretty strict house rules; firstly, no one from the Council is allowed to observe Ellie without prior permission from me first. She's a living person not some test subject or performing monkey for a bunch of pencil-pushers with clipboards. Secondly the Council is in no way allowed to interfere with my training methods or enforce expectations for her progress. I didn't give the Council a lot of wiggle room with my stipulations and considering they left me out to dry during the Hell Gate incident, they reluctantly conceded. I did agree to report in on a weekly basis so they didn't feel completely cut out but it's never usually anything useful.
Ellie had already had two groups try to treat her like some sort of object to be used, I wasn't going to let it happen by the 'good guys' too.
Which brings us to this sparring room in Mac's Gym, located about ten minutes away from my flat in London. Mac is sweet at heart, even if he does look like an over muscled gym-enthusiast. When he bought the place a few years back it turned out to be haunted, nothing too serious, just a really confused spirit who needed help passing on. As thanks for helping he lets me use the facilities for a fraction of the price and I have my own set of keys, so I can come and go as I please.
Which comes in handy when you have to secretly train a Nephilim.
Using a pair of training eskrima fighting sticks, we began following our routine. The last few months I had been teaching Ellie hand to hand combat, getting her through the basics of posture and techniques building our way up to trying to commit it all to muscle memory. Fighting is as much about trusting your instincts as it is knowing the moves. You can't know one without the other.
The reason behind getting her to learn two-handed combat is that it is also a lesson in balance. You see a lot of people believe that by having a weapon in each hand means you can face numerous attackers simultaneously, with each hand acting separate from the other. Not true. You ever try patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time? The brain can't cope very well trying to split its attention especially during a highly stressful situation, such as fighting. This style helps your whole body get on the same page, to learn how to sync your movements for maximum effect. It teaches you how to not trip over yourself should you be faced with one or more attackers.
The routine I taught Ellie was a simple repetitive set of movements with a mixture of high and low strikes. After each set I would increase the pace, making Ellie have to respond quicker to each strike. As always we started slow, making sure she remembered the routine and after the third set I upped the tempo.
"That's it." I commended her. "Good job adapting to the pace. Now let's kick up another gear."
I sped up my movements once again, now striking twice very second and Ellie did her best to keep up. When doing a routine this quickly and this many times it is easy to switch off and get stuck in the repetitive motion. I could see Ellie was focused on matching my attacks so I decided to throw in a little curveball.
Our weapons collided and instead of resisting her strike, I withdrew at the last second hoping to catch her off balance. My actions caused Ellie to overextend, leaving her side exposed to a thrust of my free weapon. Ellie was able to pivot on the spot and parry my attack with her second eskrima. She then tried to catch me with a downward strike but I mirrored her previous movements, pivoting on the spot only with a lot more vigour. My counter batted away her strike, the force causing Ellie to drop her weapon, once again leaving her side open and I seized the opportunity. I brought my eskrima down stopping mere centimetres away from her head.
We froze in place, our laboured breathing the only sound that could be heard. Ellie's emerald eyes were wide and flicking back and forth between the weapon and me. I let the moment go on for a few seconds, letting it all sink in, before I withdrew my weapon and took a step back.
"You did well keeping up." I told her, breaking the silence. "You anticipated my movements when I changed things up but can you tell me where it went wrong?"
Ellie slumps down onto the mat trying to catch her breath. "When you nearly took my head off?"
"You didn't account for your opponent's strength and speed advantage." I corrected her. "Now you can use your abilities can help bridge that gap but there are two things you need to learn from this. You can learn how to draw on enough of your power without letting it take over and do the heavy lifting for you…"
"Or?" Ellie interrupts.
"Or you can learn to take your attacker's advantages and turn them to work in your favour. As I've told you before, martial arts are about more than just knowing the moves or which posture to take. It's about finding the balance between knowing the moves and knowing when to use them."
"You keep telling me that," Ellie shoots back as he rises to her feet, frustration heavy in her voice. "But it doesn't make any difference. I have these abilities, abilities that make me stronger and faster than anyone else but you're not teaching me how to use them." She started to pace back and forth and I could sense a subtle stirring of power begin to build.
She was getting impatient, irritated by what she thought was a lack of progress. I've lost count the number of times we've had this same argument; she makes a wrong move, I try to get her to learn from it, she gets angry and I try to calm her down.
Time I to break the cycle.
"You want to use your power? Go head. Come at me." I tell her.
"What?" Ellie said looking confused and shocked.
"You heard me. Use your powers, attack me."
"No." She objected. "I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't. Now, come at me."
She was a little hesitant for a brief moment but I saw the change in her the second she accessed her powers. Her pupils faded until her eyes were a solid white. Markings formed all over her skin shinning with blue-white angelic light, illuminating the pale skin of her exposed abdomen, arms and face. Ellie discarded her fighting sticks as the light began congeal around her hands. Within seconds the light elongated into whips that snaked down to the floor. The power coming from her was staggering; you didn't need to be sensitive to feel the magic flowing from Ellie.
With no warning Ellie flicked her right wrist, sending a whip of angelic light straight at me. I leaned to the left and the whip missed my face by inches, the power cracking in the empty space. Ellie didn't waste any time trying to rebalance herself as she brought the other whip down in an overhead swing. I sidestepped to the right and as I did I tossed one of my eskrimas at her, aiming for her head.
It wasn't a hard throw as I had no intension of attacking her, it was simply a distraction.
Ellie reacted quickly, as I knew she would, by using the left whip to deflect the weapon, which left her wide open. I rushed in as Ellie tried to bring the other whip into play but I was already too close; I grabbed hold for her right wrist and stepped in close, leading with my hip and caught her off balance. Then with a simple twist of my waist I took Ellie off her feet, throwing her down to the mat. She landed with a thud and I quickly took a few steps back; just because you've knocked someone to the ground, doesn't mean they can't retaliate.
Ellie lets out a ragged and infuriated breath before rushing back to her feet. Her white eyes were wild and angry, the sigils on her skin flared and a short sword appeared in each hand. She was going to attack again.
"Ellie power down." I told her but my words weren't getting through. She snarled and took a step towards me. "Ellie you're losing control. Come back to me." She took another step. I had seen what Ellie was capable of when she used her powers, I knew the damage she could cause if she lost control. I began to draw on my will and raise my right hand. "Come on Ellie, don't make me do this." I pleaded.
Suddenly there was a shift in her stance; her white eyes softened and the sigils began to dim. Within seconds they were gone completely and her eyes returned to their natural emerald colour. Ellie looked lost for a moment, her mouth quivered ever so slightly and then she dropped to her knees, shaking and exhausted. I crouched down next to her and waited for her to collect her thoughts.
"W…what just happened?" She asked, her voice shaking.
"An example of why we're training." I answered softly. Ellie looked at me confused. "Ellie I've been teaching you how to look after yourself without powers because, like how we met, you might find yourself in a situation where you can't use them. I'm also trying to show you what you're capable of without your abilities so you can be more effective in controlling them when you do use them.
"Magic can do some remarkable things, I grant you, but it's not a cure-all. Like any form of power, if you misuse it, it could be disastrous. Especially a power like yours."
What's that supposed to mean?" Ellie demands half-heartedly.
"You know what I mean Ellie." I replied, my tone equal parts comforting and heated. "When we started training I told you what I saw during our soulgaze. I told you because I thought you needed to know the choices you'd be facing. Your abilities have you on a wire. Every time you use your powers you have to choose how you use them; heal or harm, that's your choice.
"My fear is that if you rely on one aspect more heavily than the other, that it'll create an imbalance in you. What have I been teaching you? I've been trying to help you find that balance inside yourself. You, Ellie Fitzpatrick, not the Nephilim. When the time comes for you to make the choice that I no doubt know you will have to make, you will have faith in yourself to know what you need to do."
We were silent for a moment and I didn't make any attempt to rush a response. When you have great power, the ability to create something from nothing and change the world, it can be very humbling when you realise that there are some things out of even your control. It can knock your confidence and, if you're not careful, hinder any personal growth but it is something you can learn from.
"I…" Ellie stuttered. "I think I finally understand." She said looking into my eyes.
There are not many people who can look into a Wizard's eyes. Staring for too long can open a two-way connection allowing you each see the others soul. A soulgaze gives you a permanent glimpse into the truth of someone, who they are and what they could be. It is permanent because once you have seen it, that memory is yours for life.
Thankfully you can only soulgaze with someone once. After that you can look into each other's eyes for as long as you want. Or at least for as long as you're comfortable with.
"Then I think that's a good time to call it a night." I said breaking eye contact and rising to my feet. "Come on. Let's pack it up."
I offered Ellie my hand and she took it. We then spent the next fifteen minutes clearing up in silence. We kind of had a breakthrough and Ellie had a lot to think about so I didn't mind the quietness. We locked up and said our goodbyes and she went on her way. I wasn't worried about Ellie going off on her own after our training sessions anymore; the ones who are after her know what Ellie is capable of, that she is only getting stronger, so getting the drop on her would be a lot harder now. And as for the not-so-supernatural threats people in a city late at night might face, such as muggers and the like, well I've trained her well enough for her to look after herself against such mundane problems.
I slung my gym bag over my shoulder and slowly walked towards my nineteen forty-eight Harley Davidson Shovel motorcycle. I say mine, it was passed on to me by my former mentor during the Hell Gate incident. He got injured during the ordeal so lent it to me while he healed up. I still have it because his wife insisted that he was getting too old to be riding around on a motorcycle anymore, so begrudgingly he agreed that I could keep it.
Just as I pulled the keys out of my pocket the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention and my spine straightened. My instincts screamed at me, telling me that I wasn't alone. I reached into my bag and pulled out two six inch, wooden eskrima fighting sticks of pure white. They used to be part of a single staff given to me by a very powerful being but as I prefer using two weapons, the being helped me reshape it.
I discarded the bag and began searching my surroundings, all the while feeding my will into the two silver shield rings on my left hand. The streets were empty. Street lights illuminated the barren roads and vacant pavements, there was no visible presence of any danger close by. But then again, not all dangers can be seen by the naked eye.
I reached out with my will, trying to sense the presence of any magic or spells being worked in the immediate area. I felt something nearby and the second I did, something came spinning towards my head. My shield deflected the projectile, a silver looking throwing star, and it went tumbling off into the road. A veil dropped as someone came running at me. He was wearing shoulder to toe leather armour coloured in greens and browns with golden inlays intricately fashioned on the chest. Long white hair flowed behind his pale complexion as he ran towards me brandishing two curved long swords. It was as if someone had taken him right out of a Tolkien novel. The only difference were the eyes; they had vertical slits very much like a cat's eye.
He was one of the Sidhe.
The warrior Fae swung a sword at me and by pure instinct, I raised an eskrima to defend myself. Whatever had gone into creating my weapons made them more than a match against the sword as I deflected the blow in a shower of sparks. He attempted a thrust with his other blade but I was able to parry the attack, more sparks lighting the darkness upon impact of our weapons. The Fae withdrew as quickly as he advanced and vanished from sight in the time it took me to blink.
I searched my surroundings, keeping my shield held firmly in place. Everything once again held an eerie silence; nothing stirred or moved, there was no sound other than my ragged breathing and thumping heartbeat. Adrenaline surged through my body and I had to fight to keep my hands from shaking. Something in my peripheral vision caught my eye and I raised my weapons just in time to catch a blade coming down towards me. Through the sparks I saw a feminine figure, mid-leap, with long white hair and wearing identical leather armour.
Christ there was two of them.
The strength of the blow drove me back across the floor a couple of inches. I managed to regain my footing, twisting my hips slightly to redirect most of the force from the blow. This meant that the Fae had to adjust her direction mid-leap and disengage her attack. She landed a couple of feet away in a crouch but barely took a second to compose herself before springing back towards me to strike again with the long curved blade.
She was supernaturally fast and strong and I was only just able to bring my eskrima up to defend myself in time.
"Why are you attacking me?" I called as I desperately tried to defend myself, each blow sending a stream of sparks flying off into the night.
"Return what you stole!" Ordered a male voice. Once again the male Fae dropped his veil and seemingly reappeared out of thin air, his two blades shining the in light of our battle. I ducked and only narrowly avoided having my head removed from my shoulders.
With all three blades now coming at me, it was taking everything I had just to try and keep up but I wasn't going to be able to keep it up for long.
"What the hell are you talk…" I started to respond but was cut off as I felt a boot hit the back of my right leg, causing me to drop down to one knee. Another boot came towards my face; I was able to get my forearms in place to block the blow but the sheer force of it still sent me rolling back, sending me off balance.
Before I could gather my bearings I felt the butt of one of the blades strike me across the jaw. Stars exploded in my vision as I fell to the ground, unable to get my limps to respond to my commands. Through the haze of pain, I could see the two Fae standing over me; the female sheathed her sword and then held out her hand, her palm facing me. There was a bright light and then suddenly everything went black.
My last thought?
What the hell am I involved in now?