BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL

Chapter 16: The Final Skirmish

A roar of fury sent hellkats and gremlins scurrying for cover. Lord Nightstalker was in a state of fiery anger. All his plans were failing. His son continued to successfully elude him and now his circle of protectors was complete.

When that protective amulet was completed, he would have to wait a very long time and be watchful to catch his son without it's protection. He sent another volley of fire across the room in his pique nearly singeing his second in command, Damian.

Damian scowled and wished, not for the first time, that he was still on the battlefield. Lord Nightstalker had been more than a little unhappy when he arrived back from the skirmish, to inform his master that the 'distraction maneuver' was going badly. The angelic defenders were getting the upper hand against the uprising Nightstalker had caused. Since then, his master had been storming around his palace in a savage fury.

"Shrader!" Lord Nightstalker bellowed for his minion, he turned to his second and snarled, "There is only one chance left before that fool of a demon hunter succeeds in finishing the amulet. They think themselves safe behind the walls of the church in many ways they are correct. But there is one way and it is very dark magic but it will allow one of my hellkats to stand on holy ground without harm and do what must be done." He snarled tautly.

Damian brows lifted and his wings shifted uneasily. "That is a dangerous path to take sire! The punishment if caught..." he said shuddering unable to finish the warning. Just the thought of the Dark Prince getting wind of what Lord Nightstalker intended to do was too horrific to imagine.

Nightstalker's eyes glittered with madness, "I will have my son!" He hissed. Damian wisely made no further comment as the hellkat, Shrader, rushed into the room.

"I have a mission for you, Shrader. You will not fail me!" Nightstalker said coldly staring down at his submissive minion kneeling before him.

Shrader shuddered in fear. Whatever his lord had planned, it would be he who would suffer horribly when it failed. His cold heart shrank with terror because he just knew this mission was going to fail spectacularly. He said nothing of his certainty as his lord gave him his instructions.

In St. Michaels, Katzmer was placing the first of many protective spells on the amulet. Finished, he carefully wrapped the crystal in its silk covering then placed it in its carrying box. Picking it up he went to find Father Sebastian.

He located the priest just finishing evening devotions.

"Ahh...good evening Lorimer!" Father Sebastian greeted him warmly.

"It's done Father! Time to call in the protectors." Katzmer told him briskly.

The priest nodded and led the way to his office. Katzmer pulled out his cell phone to call his granddaughter while Father Sebastian put in a call to Ms. Briggs. Next he called Dr. Sinian while Katzmer signaled the SWAT Kats. He already knew Rowena was with Feral so they would be coming together.

Some thirty minutes later, Dr. Sinian was the first to appear. Katzmer told the priest that he needed to do each person individually. So he waited in the room where he had worked on the amulet, for each protector to come to him.

Dr. Sinian stepped into the room and Father Sebastian closed the door behind her. She walked over to Katzmer who was unwrapping the crystal.

"Oh, it's beautiful!" She exclaimed as she looked down at the exquisitely shaped amber crystal with it's strong gold chain.

"Thank you. It's the most difficult piece I've ever done. I'm quite proud of how it came out." Katzmer said in pleasure. "Now, if you would please hold this in your paws so I may initiate the spell to infuse a bit of your life energy into it," he instructed.

Abby nodded and carefully cradled the crystal amulet in her palms. She listened attentively while Katzmer began to chant. Within minutes she felt the crystal get warm and begin to glow softly. Less than three minutes later, it stopped and Katzmer held out the silk for her to place it on.

"Interesting spell," she complimented him. He nodded his thanks and opened the door. Ms. Briggs was waiting outside. She smiled at Abby as they passed each other. Abby walked into the sacristy and found the SWAT Kats waiting a bit nervously.

"Hi Dr. Sinian, how'd it go?" T-Bone asked.

"No problem. The amulet is very beautifully crafted. Mr. Katzmer does fine work. The spell is interesting too. It causes the crystal to glow and warm your palm a moment then its over." She told him to ease his fears. T-Bone sighed in relief. He hated magic but knew this was important.

Callie walked toward them. "One of you go on in," she told them. Razor shrugged and went first. Only ten minutes later, he returned smiling and T-Bone sighed and took his turn. Before he returned to the sacristy, Feral and Rowena arrived.

"Good evening, Commander!" Father Sebastian called to him. Feral nodded grimly.

"Not to put a damper on things..." he began when T-Bone walked back into the room. Rowena smiled understandingly at her lover then went to see her grandfather. The others turned their attention on Feral. "I've had a premonition that things are going to get very dangerous very soon. We need to be on our guard."

"Did you get a feel for what we may be looking for?" Razor asked seriously as he looked around the church, checking to see how they could best defend themselves here. He had made sure he and T-Bone were armed with holy water, crosses, tarpedoes, and anything else he thought would help them.

"I can only guess that my father may use some ancient method or spell to breach holy ground. I know he can only send one thing through the breach and if I had to guess, it would be the hellkat, Shrader." Feral said thoughtfully.

"With all of us prepared and armed, I don't see how he expected to take you?" T-Bone said scowling in puzzlement.

"Neither do I, actually, but my father is determined to have me," Feral said shrugging his shoulders in resignation.

At that moment, Katzmer and his granddaughter reentered the sacristy. "We should do this quickly. Please gather in a circle with the Commander and Father Sebastian in the center." Katzmer instructed. Before they complied, Father Sebastian handed out small vials of holy water on a chain to wear. They each put it around their neck except Feral.

Feral nervously took his position in the circle facing Father Sebastian. Katzmer held the silk covered amulet out to the priest and bade him take it. Father Sebastian carefully took the amulet from the silk cloth and waited. Around them, the protectors clasped paws.

"Hold your palms upward with the amulet cradled in them, Father. Now, Commander, place your palms down on his. Do not let go no matter what happens or the spell will be broken and we will have to start again. Understood?" Katzmer asked the pair. Both nodded their heads.

Taking a deep breath, Katzmer began the spell. He had barely spoken three words before there was a loud crack and a spew of sulfurous fumes filled the air near them. It burned eyes and lungs, causing them to cough and gasp. Out of the fumes burst Shrader. He snatched Feral in his arms.

Reacting swiftly, the SWAT Kats fired holy water on the hellkat. Both Shrader and Feral screamed in pain but the hellkat did not let go of Feral. He began to drag the Commander back toward the doors leading outside.

It was apparent to all, that the hellkat could not return the way it had come so it was heading for outside where its master could snatch it back.

Callie had managed to get free of the gas cloud and into free air, she saw Feral struggling furiously to free himself as he was being dragged quickly to the front doors. Being the closest, she stuck out a foot and tripped the hellkat sending it and it's prisoner sprawling on the floor.

Shrader screamed as it came in contact with holy ground. It was bad enough to be surrounded by it and running on it but to be completely laying on it was agony. Hissing and belching flames at the interfering female, Shrader struggled to its feet. Callie had ducked down behind a pew as Feral used the opportunity to roll away then jumped to his feet, fleeing back down the aisle toward his protectors. The SWAT Kats caught up to him the same time Shrader snatched his prize once more by the coat.

Feral was jerked backward off his feet. Snarling furiously, the Commander used a pew to kick himself backward harder flattening the hellkat back to the floor again.

Shrader was wild with pain but knew it couldn't fail. It's pain now wouldn't compare with what it'd suffer from Lord Nightstalker. Though it hurt terribly it stayed on its knees and lunged again for Feral who was just regaining his feet.

It was too late, the SWAT Kats had managed to get close. T-Bone grabbed Feral and yanked him forward while Razor leaped the pews on the side near them and shot a tarpedo at the hellkat pinning it screaming to the floor.

The hellkat was beside itself in terror. It glowed hotly to melt the tar and despite the stickiness opened its wings and hurled itself skyward. Hovering out of reach, it took a precious second to study the scene.

Feral and the SWAT Kats were just below it with the others standing clustered out of the battle area near the alter. Two others were guarding the doors to the outside and they were holding those damnable jade amulets.

The protection Shrader wore was beginning to wear off and it could feel the pressure of this holy place trying to force him to leave. It could not fail. Once more sending flames toward the protectors, scattering them especially the pair near the doors before they could chant a banishment spell, it created chaos so that it could swoop down and snatch Feral.

As its claws nearly grabbed its prize, a jade amulet was shoved into its face. It had only seconds to stare at the thing incredulously before it was banished, howling in terror.

The room fell into silence. Here and there a small fire burned. Everyone slowly gathered again, Razor and T-Bone grabbed fire extinguishers and put out the fires. The damage to the inside of the church was terrible. Pews, carpets and a little of the walls, the alter all had suffered some damage.

Feral looked at Rowena with surprise and pleasure. It had been she who had managed to get close enough to use her jade amulet and bark the banishment spell hurriedly in those few precious seconds before Shrader had reached for him.

Smiling joyfully, Feral gathered her in his arms and kissed her soundly. Pulling back a few minutes later, he caressed her cheek with a paw, "Thank you, my love. That was wonderfully played," he said to her gratefully.

"You are welcome, my love," Rowena said pressing closer to him in relief. She had been so afraid she wouldn't make it in time but all was well now.

"Though the hellkat has been sent back we still must complete the ritual. Please take your places again. Father, do you still have the amulet?" Katzmer asked anxiously.

"I do indeed, my son. Thankfully, I was able to slip it in my robes before it could be lost," the priest assured him smiling.

"Wonderful. Places then everyone!" the old kat ordered.

Quickly, everyone retook their places. Katzmer chanted the spell once again. For a few moments everyone within and without the circle glowed then it vanished. Everyone released their paws and Katzmer stepped forward.

"Take the amulet Commander and place it around your neck," he instructed.

Feral reached for the chain and drew the amulet from Father Sebastian's silk covered paws and placed it around his neck. He smiled at all of them.

"Thank you! I'm grateful to all of you for your hard work. I only hope I live up to your expectations," He said humbly.

"Don't worry Commander, we'll make sure you do." T-Bone smirked. There were bursts of laughter and smiles at that comment.

Everyone slapped him on the back and felt a great sense of accomplishment. They had an angel on their side and it felt good.

"I'll allocate some funds toward St. Michaels to repair the damage." Callie told Father Sebastian who smiled gratefully.

"We can do some cleanup now so that it can be used while you are waiting to get it repaired." Razor suggested. The others agreed and got to work sweeping, moping, and clearing away the debris.

Father Sebastian was relieved to receive the help and in very little time the church was as tidy as it was going to get. His priests were a little shocked to see the damage. Father Sebastian had his clergy hiding in safety in the crypts. He had only told them a holy war between good and evil was going to happen and to stay hidden.

They were a bit concerned for their leader's sanity but did as he asked but when they had been asked to help clean up the church they were shocked at the fire damage and the distinct lingering odor of sulfur in the air. With eyes wide, they hurriedly helped these important people clean up.

Seeing the Chief Enforcer working side by side with the SWAT Kats, the Deputy Mayor, Dr. Sinian and two strangers together as they restored the church made them confused and curious as to what had gone on here but they would have to accept that they would never know the answers.

Epilog...

The Dark Prince was furious. He had been told of the fiasco and had been reminded of the breach of a holy covenant between his realm and heaven. He had promised to punish the miscreant. Lord Nightstalker found himself staked out on a barren rock in the bowels of hell naked while he was scourged repeatedly by gremlins for years with only his screams as company.

Feral was enjoying a leisurely morning in bed on a perfectly beautiful sunny weekend. Rowena was curled next to him after an early bout of lovemaking. His fingers caressed the amulet around his neck. He had never been happier in his life than he was right now. As he lay there, his eyes sleepily staring at the sunlight pouring in, the light seemed to intensify. Smiling warmly, his mother appeared floating in the air and not materializing completely.

"It is good to see you are happy my son," she whispered softly.

"Thank you mother, I am very happy. You were right and now I'm as safe as I can be. Do you know what's happened to my father?" He asked curiously.

She sighed, "He has displeased the Dark Prince with his plot and is now suffering for his stupidity."

"Justly deserved," Feral said grimly satisfied.

She smiled sadly a moment, "Yes, he deserved it but it is still a terrible thing to endure. Anyway, I just wanted to see you and your lovely mate. Take care my son and know my love is always there for you."

"Thank you mother, I love you too," he murmured warmly watching her image slowly disappear.

THE END