Author note: This is the last chapter I have written and finishes the story. I had possible plans for one more chapter that is set the day-after the events of the story, so let me know if you think it's needed and I'll get to it as soon as I can. Suggestion, comments, reviews and constructive criticism are all welcome. Thank you for reading. ~ SL :)
And now back to your regularly scheduled chapter...
Blood that Binds Us
Supernatural: Teen, some swearing, Gen
Sam stared at the gathering of black-cloaked crazies through a metal grate, Katie pressed close beside him. After following Dean and Shelly's entourage downward for close to an hour, they'd finally come to a guarded entrance and been forced to look for an alternative vantage point. Their task now was recon and then they needed a plan. If they were to assume they'd all gathered for… whatever the hell this was, then the – sect, cult, coven? – was relatively small. It must have just been the fact of them all dressing the same that made Sam assume larger numbers back in the tunnels.
As Dean and Shelly's bodies walked themselves into a chamber - with a ceiling high enough he couldn't see it in the ominous flame-lit glow – Sam noted a few stragglers joining the main group, but there were still only twenty warlocks (maybe a witch or two, but it was hard to tell with the masks in place) present. Assuming there were still a few more guarding the entrance below, Sam made figured there to be a total of twenty-five at most.
They could take twenty-five craggy old warlocks out, right? Oh God did they ever need a plan. Sam closed his eyes, briefly lost in his thoughts.
"Sam, what are we going to do?" Katie's breath was warm against Sam's neck and when he turned to face her, he found himself staring directly into her big brown eyes.
"We need a plan," Sam said, not really answering her question, but damned if he had a better answer right at that moment. "We need a plan and we need it quickly."
"Is this what you do? You and your brother? I mean you never really said and I just assumed you were private detectives or something, but-" Katie looked back down through the grate. "I mean, you don't seem thrown by the creepy masks and the people in capes, and your brother… he said blood magic as if it would mean something to you."
"Sort of." Sam shrugged, having learned the hard way that the truth was very rarely the best option when it came to civillians. Most civillians didn't want to know the whole truth, they'd come to their own conclusions, find their own comfort level.
"Sort of, how?" Katie asked quietly.
"As in, yes; this is sort of what we do." Sam watched her expression closely as Katie faced him again, a wrinkle creasing her brow. "We hunt down things, save lives where we can." Sam shrugged once more, hoping Katie would fill in the blanks for him.
"You hunt down cults and stuff?"
"Yep." Sam nodded, deliberately not explaining any further than that, although something told him Katie might be more open than most.
"Okay?" Sam asked, confused; most people didn't take this kind of thing so well.
"Okay, I don't claim to understand why or how, but I trust you Sam and you're the expert here and that's good because I'm going to ask you a lot more questions when we get out of here, but for now …we need to rescue them. So what's the plan? And what's blood magic?"
Sam answered the second question first; the one he had an answer for already. "Basically, magic that involves blood. Blood represents the essence of life, the physical manifestation of the spirit and so it's been used in various cultural, magical and religious traditions for - well for as long as we have a recorded history at least. Blood sacrifice, blood letting, sharing of blood, blood ties… It's not good or evil in itself, but it is powerful, since it's all about life and death."
"And here?" Katie asked.
"I'd say they've bound Dean and Shelly to one of the Warlocks and it more than likely has something to do with the symbol I noticed painted on their foreheads. Dean would never be that pliant, not even if you drugged him, but blood magic can be strong enough to overcome free will… at least to a certain extent. But more to the point, the use of blood in their rituals tells us these guys are into hard core magic. We're going to need a pretty good distraction to get past the chanting crazies." Sam ducked his head, indicating the scene below, where the warlocks had spread out and begun to chant.
Katie's forehead creased in a pensive frown and, though she opened her mouth to speak again, turning toward Sam, she stopped suddenly and turned to face behind them instead. "Sam, behind you!" she warned.
Sam spun around, still crouched in a squat position. He dove to the side as something resembling a ball of lightning dissipated into the spot where he'd been just a moment before; it did so without a sound. The masked warlock, who had just thrown the ball of energy, huffed as if he couldn't believe he'd missed and then raised his hand again.
So much for the element of surprise, Sam thought, as he scrabbled for the gun at his back, realizing full well there wasn't any time. Their masked assailant suddenly collapsed forward with a grunt; Katie stood on the other side of the collapsed warlock clutching a rusty piece of pipe. The surprised look on her face told Sam she hadn't expected it to be that simple. She grinned, wiping her hands against her jeans before bringing one hand up to muffle a manic giggle.
"Wow, I cannot believe that worked," she whispered; Sam nodded and grinned back at her, just as shocked at how easy these guys were to take out, but probably twice as relieved.
"Thank you," he said.
Sam turned around to peer out the metal grate again. The warlocks below were still chanting and Dean and Shelly were now standing in front of something that looked like a large well. No one was running their way and it would appear the alarm had yet to be raised. Katie peered around the exits to their hidey-hole, shaking her head with a relieved smile. No bad guys following that way either. The warlock they'd taken out must have been pretty confident of his success.
But they still needed a plan.
Turning back to the prone warlock, Sam reached down toward the ugly mask, thought better of it and instead nudged at the thing with his boot. The surface rippled, black and oily and Sam suddenly thought he had some idea of what was going on here; what was possibly a very bad idea was forming his mind.
"I may have a plan," Sam said. He smiled at Katie, picking up the weapons bag as he went. "How are you with a shot gun?"
Katie frowned, but smiled at Sam's sudden, earnest look of interest, his flash of a grin.
"I'm a top shot at Wild West Shootout," she replied, and at Sam's confused look, she added: "The shooting gallery at the fair. You know, shoot the metal ducks, win a stuffed elephant." Sam nodded, seeming not at all reassured. "And I've been plinking now and then since I was a kid," she continued, "- with Alfred and some of the other guys. Not like there's much to do between towns. Shooting bottles is like a pastime for carnie folk."
"Okay, great." Sam pawed through the weapons duffle he'd carried unopened so far and handed Katie a shotgun and some extra rounds. "Think you'll be okay with this? They're salt rounds, so just aim in the general direction of bad guys, make some loud bangs and hopefully we'll create a bit of havoc."
Katie frowned, as Sam dug further into the duffle, taking out a small leather bound book, before moving over to strip the warlock of his cape. She checked the shotgun was loaded, felt around to check the safety and tried out the feel of it – sighting down the weapon briefly. She resisted cocking the gun for fear of making too much noise. To be honest, she'd never handled a shotgun. Alfred had always set her up with smaller lighter weapons, 9mm handguns and the like, but she figured if she lay down a little and propped the shotgun through the bars of the grate, then maybe the kickback might not be so bad. It would certainly help her aim.
"What are you going to be doing while I create this havoc?" she asked, turning back to take in Sam's actions.
"Oh, you'll see," Sam answered, enigmatic at a time she really just wanted a straight answer. Katie rolled her eyes in exasperation.
Sam had bound the warlock's hands and feet, just in case he came to while Katie was preoccupied with loud firearms. He then used the cape he'd stolen to pick up the ugly mask.
"If it works, start shooting when you see the smoke," he told her cryptically. "Otherwise, I'll find another way to signal to you." With that, he headed out into the tunnels again.
"Sam?" Katie whispered harshly.
Sam turned back a moment, a frown on his face.
"Just be careful, okay?"
"You too. Keep your eyes open." With a determined look, jaw clenched, Sam strode back into the tunnels.
Dean stood, looking down into the writhing darkness at the bottom of the well and felt a cold dread form in the pit of his stomach. With sudden clarity, he knew exactly what he was looking at. The shifting mass of hazy black shapes moved too smoothly to be smoke and too lightly to be oil; individual entities moving purposely within a seething whole – Demons.
At that moment, Dean would have done anything to be able to pull out the holy water and an exorcism ritual or just run like Satan himself was after him. Hell, he'd even settle for being able to look away, but all he could do was stare down in horror, and hope that somehow, somewhere nearby, his brother had a plan to get him out of here.
Sam knelt down close to the entrance of the large chamber, just out of earshot of the guards. It appeared the entrance was only guarded by two cloaked figures, both of whom were paying little attention to their duty as they looked instead toward the main event inside the room.
Sam huffed a silent laugh at finding the guards even less observant than usual. A small piece of luck coming his way this late in the game was more than he'd hoped for. He placed the mask he'd taken from the warlock earlier down on the floor beside him, noticing as he did so that his hands were shaking with adrenaline and fatigue and he clenched them into fists until it stopped. There wasn't time for a better plan, Dean and Shelly needed him now. He placed his shotgun and a flask of holy water within easy reach, opened up the journal, flipped through it to find the correct page and started to recite the exorcism.
As he read, a black cloud started to form above the mask, seeping and then billowing out from its surface, seemingly expelled by Sam's steady, quiet chanting. The dark oily cloud hung ominously above the simple wooden mask that it had previously occupied. It stayed there for a moment before, with a loud screech, it shot toward the main entrance of the cavern like one magnet drawn to another.
A moment later the sound of shotgun fire reverberated around the enclosed space of the chamber as Katie took her cue.
His position now compromised anyway, Sam quickly moved closer to the guards, whose attention was now split between the demon and gunfire, and finding where the demon had come from. Sam all but stepped out of hiding and began to chant a little louder, watching as the guards' masks also began to morph and slip, black demon smoke bubbling and flowing away from the surface. The guards reached up, clawing in horror at their faces and crying out as the black demon substance burnt their hands.
Sam smacked the nearest guard out with a clean right hook, watching as the second guard stumbled backwards and into the chamber, still yelling and screaming in pained confusion.
Sam concentrated on keeping up a running litany of Latin chanting as he backtracked a short way into the tunnels to retrieve the stolen robes and the now plain wooden mask. He quickly donned his warlock disguise and walked confidently into the main chamber, keeping close to the walls and out of action, Latin still falling from his lips. Between the disruption of the screaming warlock and the steady shotgun fire Sam hoped he had a chance of getting to Dean and Shelly.
The room was hot and sweaty, making Dean feel claustrophobic, like the air had become thick and hard to breath. Smoke and flames, chanting that was almost hypnotic in its repetitive low drone, and then silence. All eyes once again turned expectantly to the robed man leading the proceedings and to Shelly and Dean. This was it. Dean's mouth felt dry, eyes watering against the smoke and heat. Unable to move or speak or run, the panic began to swell up inside him. He was helpless. He couldn't save himself. He couldn't save Shelly. The screeching from the well seemed to swell as if the demons below could sense the sacrifice about to take place. A trail of demon smoke streamed in from somewhere outside the room.
And all hell broke loose.
Repeated shotgun fire reverberated around the room. Dean tried instinctively to duck and run, only to find his body still calmly standing in place. He settled instead on trying to figure out what was happening, to be ready to help in any way possible. The warlocks were scattering; one of them had entered screaming and clutching at his face. The shotgun blasts were apparently coming from a grate overlooking the chamber and were seemingly targeting any warlock who looked to be preparing to fight back or who just happened to be an easy target. The white marks the successful shots left on the black robes told Dean all he needed to know about the shooter and the weapon – salt rounds. The shooter was aiming for a distraction, not destruction, and so far it was working.
Scouting around the chamber at eye level, Dean caught sight of a particularly large robed figure moving quietly around the edges of the chamber. The shaggy brown hair, calmly calculated movements and the shotgun clutched in the figure's hand gave Dean all the clues he needed to know about what was going on. This didn't seem like a particularly well-thought-out, Sam-like plan, but Dean wasn't about to complain. Just the sight of that shaggy mop of hair was cause for a warm spark of hope to erase the previous moment of despair.
'Come on, Sammy! Shit move!' Dean willed Sam on, eyes widening in apprehension as a warlock cupped his hands to produce a glowing ball of energy and promptly aimed it Sam's way. Sam ducked just in time, losing the mask as he did so and revealing his game as more warlocks began taking pot-shots at the intruder. Sam gave up sneaking and ran instead, shooting where he could and relying on his ally above when he couldn't. It was not a sane game plan, but so far it was working. The next shot from Sam was aimed squarely at the leading robed figure, and Dean knew the moment it hit its target as feeling began flooding back into his body in welcome waves of pins and needles.
Dean raised a heavy arm and quickly did away with the bloody symbols etched upon his body using spit and the white fabric of his robes.
"Sammy!" Dean's voice came out sounding hoarse, but it was his own again.
"Dean! Can you move; we have to get out of here. Katie's going to run out of ammo soon."
Dean nodded, reaching to relieve Sam of the hand gun that was thrust toward him. The absolute relief at being armed and able to act of his own free will filled him with a rush of energy. He grabbed Shelly's hand and pulled her toward him, trying to shield her and run at the same time. Sam's footsteps echoed close behind them and Dean thought he heard his brother mumbling something in Latin as he ran.
They were almost to the exit when there was a crackle of energy, enough to raise the hairs on Dean's neck, and a smell of burnt flesh. Dean pushed Shelly out into the tunnels and spun around. Sam was doubled over in pain, his free hand clutched at his side. Dean was in motion immediately, shooting the old warlock three times in quick succession, the movements so well trained into him that he didn't hesitate for a moment. He couldn't believe he'd turned his back on the robed mother fucker without making sure he was dead. The shots sent the warlock tumbling backward, as he tripped, toppled and fell silently down into the pit of demons.
And with the demise of their leader, the failure of their sacrifice, something started to happen. Whatever had been holding the demons was broken. Hungry black forms flew from the well, circling and screeching as the robed figures clutched at their faces, scratching, howling and screaming as the masks melted in to their skin. The demons cut a hissing black path between the brothers and their exit and Dean realised he wasn't carrying anything with which to ward them off.
"Sam? We gotta move. Come on."
Dean heaved his brother to his feet, holding him to his side as they stumbled through the demon clouds and howling warlocks toward the tunnels beyond the chamber. The demons swept down near to the brothers, but kept turning away at the last moment. It was only when they'd reached the relative safety of the adjoining tunnels – finding Shelly still standing exactly where Dean had left her - that Dean realised Sam was still mumbling in Latin. Dean recognised enough of the exorcism ritual to realise that the continued incantation was probably the reason the demons had let them be so far, going instead for the warlocks that had trapped them.
"There's salt in the bag." Sam dropped the weapons duffel at their feet and waved his free hand at Dean, pushing him on. Dean made sure his brother was propped up against the tunnel wall before digging out the salt canister and back-tracking down the tunnel to the chamber. He made quick work of marking out a thick white line in front of the entrance, trying not to concentrate on the inhuman sight and sounds of the warlocks dying inside. He turned his back and retracing his steps to his brother.
Sam's pained frown quickly morphed into an attempt at blankness on Dean's return. Dean noted how Sam's hand was still pressed to his side and his breathing was deliberately careful and even, his skin sweaty and pale.
"How're you doing, Sammy?" Dean moved to his brother's side, gently lifting Sam's hand from the wound in order to get a look at the site. Parts of Sam's clothes, including the black robes he still wore, were stuck to the burns, making it impossible to gauge how bad they might be and Sam hissed, batting Dean's hands aside. "Sam?"
"I'm alright, Dean. Hurts like a sonofabitch, but it's not gonna kill me. We need to find Katie and get to the surface."
"Alright." Dean backed off, holding his hands up in mock surrender, his frown ensuring that Sam knew he would be getting the full Winchester first-aid experience as soon as possible. "Where to?"
"Katie's here?" Shelly's quiet voice surprised both men. The teenager hadn't said a word since regaining the ability to speak.
"Yeah; who do you think was doing the fancy shooting back there. You must be Shelly." Sam gave a tense smile that didn't manage to reach his eyes, pain evident in his movements as he reached out to pat Shelly's shoulder in a comforting gesture. "I'm Sam."
"It was fancy? Why, thank you."
Katie's voice carried, quiet but sure, from further up the corridor. She had emerged quietly from the cross-tunnel that lead to their earlier vantage point and shooting position. She smiled, speeding up her steps to take her to Shelly and envelop her in a huge hug. In response, Shelly teared up, pressing her face into her big sister's shoulder and sniffling quietly.
"God, I was so worried, Shell. You're okay. We're going home." Katie ran her hands in a soothing motion down Shelly's back, her eyes seeking out first Sam and then Dean. "Thank you."
"Thank you." Dean smiled, moving close enough to Sam that their shoulders touched. He slung an arm over Sam's shoulders. "Come on. How 'bout we blow this joint."
"Fuck yeah," Shelly agreed, voice muffled by her sister's shoulder. She sniffled and straightened enough to lean into her sister's side. "Best idea ever!" Slightly hysterical laughter bubbled up from her lips and caught in a contagious fashion until they were all grinning stupidly, leaning on each other in an effort to get enough air.
And with that, two sets of siblings made their way up and out of the tunnel systems into the first rays of morning sunlight.
That's it... or possibly a coda to come if I get my act together. Thanks for reading. :)