Akumu

Akumu

by Ryuu-sama(karma_aster@yahoo.com)

Rating: PG for violence, language, & scary stuff.

Summary: The rest of the Manhattan Clan gets to meet and greet our little witch. A new evil stalks the streets of New York and Mari may be its next target.

Disclaimer: The Manhattan Clan, Elisa Maza, Officer Morgan, and all related characters are the property of Disney/Buena Vista Pictures and the ever-brilliant Greg Weisman. I don't own any of them. Trust me, if I did, would I be writing fanfiction? Mariana Wyverie, Wyvern, and other original characters are my creations. If you would like to use them, although I'm not sure why, send me an e-mail to ask permission.

Feedback: As always, your comments and criticism are more than welcome! Just send them to the addy above. Please send feedback. I love this stuff.

Distribution: As long as my name stays attached and you send me a URL so I can go visit, feel free to archive this one anywhere!

Notes & whatever: Wow…who'd have thought that "Here There Be Monsters" would get the reception that it did? I'm somewhat overwhelmed at the people who liked Mari and Wyvern enough to write and ask me if I planned on telling more stories with them. Well, you guys asked for it, you got it! I hope you like this fic. I've had loads of fun writing it and seeing how my style has developed and matured.

Thank you to all the people who sent feedback on the last story. Special thanks go to Morning Cereal and Norcumi, who nagged me incessantly for a new adventure, and listened to me wailing on IM and e-mail about how "I CAN'T WRITE!" for their inhuman patience, understanding, and friendship. You two are irreplaceable! Thank you!

"Thank yous" and virtual cookies also go to Drem-chan, my pals on the ReBoot LiST, Haru, Amber, Charisma (my fellow MAS and OBLA member), and the wonderful folks on Fanfiction.Net. You guys are amazing!

This fic is dedicated with great affection and friendship, to Haru. She knows why.

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Chapter One: "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?"

Elisa Maza had become rather accustomed to odd occurrences in the past couple of years. Long before she had met up with Goliath and his clan, working the night beat in Manhattan had given her a front-row seat to all sorts of weird happenings. So, while seeing her new downstairs neighbor appear at her door with her cat in her arms at five in the morning was unexpected, it certainly wasn't cause for alarm. At least, not until the first words came out of Mari's mouth.

"I've met one of your friends," she said flatly.

Elisa blinked. "You did? Uh…I mean-"

"Nice guy. Called himself Brooklyn. I especially like how he, well…um, saved my life," she continued.

"Saved your life?" Elisa echoed dazedly. She looked around the empty hallway. "Um, maybe this isn't the best place to have this conversation? You want to come in or something?"

Mari nodded. "Good idea. I think we might have one or two things to talk about…and I have a couple of, uh, confessions to make."

"Right. I'll brew some coffee." Elisa turned around and walked into her apartment, followed by Mari and Wyvern. The girl turned around and shut the door behind her. She put Wyvern down and plopped down onto the sofa.

The detective filled the basket of the coffeemaker and turned it on. She sighed as the comforting gurgle of the machine filled the apartment.

"All right. When and how did you meet Brooklyn?" she asked.

Mari looked down and twisted her hands together nervously. "Uh, you remember that Quarrymen rally yesterday?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Well, I, er, kind of got one of them mad and he tracked down my address."

"Oh no!" Elisa groaned and buried her head in her hands. "I knew that was going to be trouble."

"No, it's okay! Brooklyn and I chased him off. He's not coming back."

Elisa raised a skeptical eyebrow. "And just how do you know that?"

Mari sighed. "Oh, well, that's the other thing I needed to tell you." She flushed. "Uh…I'm not really sure how to say this, but…er…"

Mari is a witch, Elisa, said Wyvern.

Elisa spun around and stared at the cat in utter disbelief. "You…you talked…" She looked up at Mari, her eyes wide. "Your cat can talk!"

Wyvern rolled her eyes. Why is everyone so surprised that I can talk? she asked, irritably.

"Wyv…"

Well, it's not like she hasn't come across stranger things! the cat retorted.

"Wyvern, please let it go!" Mari snapped.

"Wait." Elisa held up her hands. "You're a witch?"

"Uh, yeah."

"Since…when?"

The girl gave a sheepish grin. "It's a long story."

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The late afternoon sunlight fell over the city, washing everything in a warm, antique-gold light. At the old Scottish keep atop the Eyrie building, it gilded eight stone figures and stretched their shadows across the ancient stonework. The sun touched the horizon and slowly sank beneath it. The air went still for a moment and then a maze of cracks appeared over the statues as Goliath and his clan burst into life. They greeted each other and proceeded to their usual nightly pursuits.

Brooklyn caught Goliath before he left to visit Elisa.

"Goliath? I need to talk to you."

The clan's leader lifted an eyebrow ridge at his second-in-command. "Oh?" he asked, simply, "What about?"

"Did Elisa mention to you about the idea of keeping an eye on her new neighbor?"

Goliath was somewhat mystified by the question but merely answered, "Yes. It seems like an excellent idea."

Brooklyn sighed. "It does," he agreed, "except for one slight problem."

"And that is?" Goliath asked, cringing.

"The 'discrete watch' is no longer so discrete. I met Mari last night."

"What?"

"Well, I really didn't have a choice. A couple of Quarrymen broke into her apartment to give her a lesson on the drawbacks of interspecies tolerance," said Brooklyn, wryly. "I helped her kick them out."

"The Quarrymen again!" Goliath uttered the words as a low growl, clenching his talons. "Why did they attack her?"

"She said a few things they didn't agree with at one of their rallies." The red gargoyle grinned suddenly. "Actually, she's pretty impressive. She managed to knock one of them out before I even got there."

"So, there's more to her than meets the eye?"

Brooklyn chuckled. "You could say that, " he answered mysteriously.

"What aren't you telling me, Brooklyn?"

"I think you really need to meet her. There are things about her that are better explained in person."

"Perhaps I should, " Goliath mused, "she seems…intriguing."

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Mari rummaged through a box buried in her closet. "Patchouli oil…patchouli oil…where is- Oh! Found it!"

She held up a small glass vial with a hand-written label, filled with an amber liquid. She popped off the cork and smelled it. "Mmm…good stuff! Okay, now I just need some candles."

What did you want that for? asked Wyvern.

"A spell to ward off unwanted visitors," she answered, picking up her Book of Shadows. She dropped her tools into a box and carried them into her living room.

Oh. Good idea, said Wyvern, following her.

"I do have them, sometimes," the witch replied, smiling. "We certainly don't need any more late-night visits from our Quarrymen friends, do we?"

I don't know…I think you could do with a more bigoted worldview.

Mari began setting up the altar, her only reply a grin.

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"There's Mari's place," Brooklyn said, pointing. He back-winged to land on her small balcony, followed by Goliath. The two gargoyles cloaked their wings around their shoulders as Brooklyn tapped on the sliding door.

"Mari? It's Brooklyn. Can I come in?"

"Oh, Brooklyn! Yeah, it's unlocked," called a voice from inside the apartment.

The brick-red gargoyle pulled the door open and stepped inside. "I'd have thought you'd know better than that, Mari, especially after last night," he scolded gently.

"Ah, but I knew you were coming tonight, and you'd be more than a match for any thieves!" she replied with a welcoming smile. "It's good to see you, Brooklyn." She was clad in a loose, silken robe of blue that was tied at the waist with green, white, and silver cords. She was barefoot and her brown hair was left to stream down past her waist.

"Likewise. Uh, nice outfit. It's really…you."

She chuckled. "Thanks. This is a ritual robe. You caught me in spell-casting mode."

"Oh, well, if this is a bad time-"

"No, it's fine. I've just finished, anyway." She raised an eyebrow. "And tell your friend to get in here! That balcony cannot be the most comfortable place to wait."

"How did you…" He shook his head, "Never mind." He turned back to the open door. "You can come in, Goliath."

The big, lavender gargoyle stepped into the apartment. "Thank you, my lady-" he began, stopping short as he saw her face. He blinked. Mari stared right back.

"It's you…" she said softly, "you're the one I saw!"

"You can't be…who you appear to be," he said at the same time. Her words registered. "The one you saw?"

"You're the gargoyle Elisa was thinking of. The one I saw in her mind," Mari explained, without thinking. She suddenly realized her mistake as Brooklyn winced and the big gargoyle's expression darkened.

"In her mind? What sorcery is this?" Goliath growled.

Mari recoiled. "Um…I mean…er…" she stammered, backing away slowly.

Brooklyn came to her defense. "She didn't mean anything, Goliath. Like I said, Mari here has some…unusual skills." He placed a reassuring hand on the girl's shoulder and felt the tense muscles under the thin fabric of her robe. "It's all right, Mari." She took a deep breath and relaxed marginally.

"I'm sorry. I meant no disrespect," she said, quietly. "You see…I'm psychic. Sometimes, like with Elisa, I see things without meaning to. I mean no harm to you or anyone."

Goliath opened his mouth to reply when a knock sounded at the door.

Brooklyn glanced over at it. "Perhaps we should hide?"

"Good idea," answered Mari. "Um…could you wait on the balcony?"

"But this magic of yours-" Goliath began.

"I promise, I'll tell you everything. Just…not right now, please?"

Goliath nodded. "I will hold you to that."

Mari hesitantly nodded back. "All right."

The two gargoyles stepped out onto the balcony. Mari made sure the curtains covered the sliding door and went to see whom her unexpected visitor was. She opened the door to see a girl who looked to be two or three years younger then herself. She had short-cropped, blonde hair, bright brown eyes, and a stocky build. She was clad simply in jeans, sneakers, and a Sailormoon t-shirt. She shifted slightly from foot to foot, giving the impression of constant energy.

"Can I help you?"

"Yeah. I noticed you the other day and I just wanted to ask, are you really Mariana Wyverie?"

"Er…yes."

"I mean, like, the writer, Mariana Wyverie?"

"Yeah, I am," Mari answered, nodding slowly.

The girl's face broke into a huge, excited grin. "Really? Oh wow! I saw your name on the mailbox downstairs but I wasn't sure if it was really you!" She actually bounced up and down a couple of times. "This is so cool! I live in the same building as a celebrity!"

Mari raised an eyebrow. "Well, that's nice. Uh…no offense, but you're kind of creeping me out. Who are you?"

"Oh!" The girl giggled. "Sorry. I get kind of carried away sometimes. My name is Autumn Myers. I live about two doors down."

"Well, it's nice to meet you, Autumn. What can I do for you?"

"No, I just wanted to say hi and, you know, see if you were famous," Autumn giggled again.

Mari grinned. "I don't think I'm exactly famous yet. I haven't even made the New York Times Bestseller List." She laughed. "But thank you, anyway. It's a definite ego boost."

"Oh yeah!" Autumn waved. "I've gotta go. Bye!"

"Good night." Mari closed the door behind Autumn and then leaned against it, laughing softly and commenting to Wyvern, "Some of the people that live in this building…I swear…"

Wyvern smirked. Please…like you've cornered the market on sanity?

The witch opened her mouth to deliver a retort, then closed it, shaking her head. "Never mind. I had that coming, I suppose."

She walked over to the sliding door and opened it. "Uh, you can come back in now. The coast is clear," she called out, tentatively. Goliath stepped into the room. Mari involuntarily moved back and swallowed nervously.

He's so…tall. And I don't think he likes me much. Oh gods…what have I gotten myself into?

Brooklyn walked in after his clan leader and gave Mari a quick, reassuring smile. So, he's on my side at least. Then she mentally shook her head. Be reasonable! Brooklyn wouldn't have brought him here if he were going to hurt you! At least…I don't think he would have…

Of course he wouldn't, said Wyvern privately, don't be silly. The cat walked over and, in a show of supreme unconcern, twined herself around Brooklyn's ankles.

The gargoyle looked down and grinned. "Hey, Wyvern."

Goliath glanced at the cat sharply. "Wyvern?" he exclaimed. Then he glanced over at Mari. "And you so strongly resemble Princess Kathrine…I think you have a long story to tell me and I don't intend to leave until I've heard it."

With that, he settled himself on her couch. Mari gave an internal sigh of relief as he ceased to tower over her. She perched onto a chair across from his and gave him a nervous smile.

"Where should I start?"

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Donnell Gregison stepped out of the corner grocery store, with a laden bag in each arm. He looked over the dark streets and shivered. He really hated walking home this late, but there wasn't much choice. With half the restaurant employees out with a nasty little flu bug that had been going around, he'd had to work later hours then usual. At least his building wasn't more then a few blocks away.

A chill wind swept over him, ruffling his dark, curly mane and causing him to huddle deeper into his coat. God, he hated New York in the winter. Almost seven years away from North Carolina and he still wasn't used to the cold. He sighed. There was a time that he'd thought everything about the city, including the bone-chilling winters, was romantic. Of course, that was back when I was still going to make it big in the theatre world and be a star, he mused, with a trace of self-mockery.

Reality had intruded quickly. The acting talent that had been a big deal in the little community theatre in Raleigh was nothing compared to the horde of talent that came to the city daily. Donnell soon discovered just how expensive it was to live in New York and was forced to spend most of his time waiting tables, just so he could afford food, clothing, and rent on the little rathole apartment that he now inhabited.

He started off, walking quickly and wishing that he hadn't forgotten his gloves. It was funny how the walk seemed twice as long now that the streets were dark and nearly deserted. He shuddered again, feeling the back of his neck prickle, as though a malevolent gaze was being leveled at him from somewhere nearby. He shook his head irritably. You're being paranoid, man. Even muggers have more sense than to be out in this weather.

Still, he couldn't shake that creepy feeling of being watched. He risked a quick glance behind him and nearly jumped when he saw a solitary figure a few yards away. He sped up his walk while telling himself that he was being ridiculous. There was no reason to get freaked out. It could just be another person heading home for the evening.

He deliberately turned at the next corner and walked on. A few moments later, he checked behind again. The person was still there. Donnell broke into a cold sweat and started to walk faster. Soon, he heard the footsteps behind him speed up and move closer. An irrational fear gripped at him, causing him to twirl around and shriek, "Leave me alone!" before tossing his bags to one side and running.

His pursuer gave chase. Donnell raced wildly through the streets, turning around corners, blindly stumbling through alleyways, in a desperate attempt to escape. His heart pounded, almost deafening in his ears. His breath tore harshly at his throat. Soon, he turned into an alley and, to his horror, discovered a solid brick wall at the end of it. Dead end.

A set of footfalls made him turn around. His stalker walked into the alley behind him, cutting off his escape. Donnell stumbled backward, hitting the wall. The figure got close enough to reveal an Asian woman dressed all in black with bobbed hair and pale skin. A cruel smile curved her blood red lips.

"You gave me quite a chase, human." She moved closer and looked him over, "It has been so long…you aren't much, but you'll do…for now."

She leaned beside him, putting one cold hand with its scarlet nails to his cheek. "Now," she purred, "tell me what you fear."

Her black eyes caught and held his. Donnell leaned further back to the wall, whimpering as her gaze looked past his face, seeming to reach into his mind. He closed his eyes, trying to escape. Involuntarily, he began to remember the night when he was ten years old and the fire alarm woke him. He was trapped in his bedroom, thick smoke beginning to seep under the door. He heard his mother calling his name and started to scream for her to help him. It was so hot. The air was heavy. He couldn't breathe. So hot…choking…he didn't want to die there!

Donnell screamed, opening his eyes to see flames all around him. He beat at them frantically, trying to put them out, trying to escape. Fear became an iron band constricting his heart and lungs. He fell back, huddling away from the flames, fighting to draw breath. So intent was he on his struggle that he failed to see the woman step back and transform into a cloud of black smoke that flowed over him. He gave a choked gasp and convulsed wildly, brilliant lights flashing before his vision. He gave one final, violent spasm before going completely limp.

The cloud flowed from his still form and away from the alley.

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Police cars blocked the alley an hour later. Sleepy-eyed apartment dwellers peeked from their windows as the city's finest unrolled yellow crime scene tape, questioned witnesses, and gathered evidence.

"What's going on here? You called in a homicide?"

Officer Morgan looked up at the sudden question. He smiled. "Glad you could make it, Detective Maza. We've got a weird one here."

"It's New York, Morgan. When isn't it weird?" Elisa pointed out, dryly humorous.

Morgan nodded. "The body is this way." He led the detective over to the crime scene. "Identification on the body lists him as one Donnell Gregison, age 24, resident of New York." Morgan shook his head sadly. "Poor guy was only three blocks from home."

Donnell was sprawled on his back, his brown eyes wide open, and a look of utter terror crossing his features. Blood smeared over his face where it had had run from his nose.

Elisa turned away, sickened by the expression on the dead man's face. "What the hell happened to him?"

"Witnesses claim he ran past, screaming at someone to leave him alone, but saw no one chasing him. He was found like this about half an hour ago. The paramedics say his heart burst." Morgan scratched his head. "Crazy as it sounds…it looks like he was scared to death."

"How did someone manage that?" Elisa exclaimed.

The other officer shook his head again. "No idea, Detective. Told you this one was weird."

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Kageko Rei, a black-clad woman with blood red lips and bobbed black hair, stood with the rest of the crowd that milled around the police barricades. She started as she caught an unmistakable surge of psionic power from the female detective. She moved in closer to study the woman and gave a small smile.

No, the power didn't emanate from the detective, but from someone that the detective knew. The image of a young woman with vivid green eyes came to Rei's mind. A cruel smile, not unlike the one she had worn when she sucked the life from Donnell, curved her lips. It looked like she'd found her next victim.

Rei chuckled and walked away, unnoticed by any of the bystanders

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