Sorry about the long delay. Life kinda caught up to me.


The creature on the cross-guard wasn't doing anything threatening, and yet Eddie couldn't shake the strange bloodlust that was building up in him. His 'run away' mechanism having never fully developed, he wanted to fly up there and rip that thing apart with his bare hands.

Disturbed by this new instinct, he forcibly pushed it deep within him and turned to Ophelia as though nothing was wrong. "So, do you think that's one of..."

What he didn't expect was for something to be terribly wrong with her too. In the couple of seconds he wasn't paying attention to her, she had gone pale and was trembling uncontrollably.

Eddie knowingly placed a hand on her shoulder and said, "Hey, it's okay. That noise is doing freaky shit to me too."

She drew closer to him, but shook her head. "I don't hear anything, but..." she swallowed thickly, "I want to kill you. It's just come over me all of a sudden."

Worried, he squeezed her tighter and glared up at the creature. "Just hang in there, babe. I think I know what's causing this." Now his desire to kick its ass was purely personal. He would have done so immediately, but Lita and Mangus were running up and he figured he should at least let the Queen of Bladehenge in on the situation before fighting a monster in her town.

"Hey Lita, guess what. I think the Black Host finally decided to show." he jabbed a thumb towards the offending monster.

To his surprise she merely glanced at it and said, "I know. Your friend told me."

"He's awake? That's great!"

Lita immediately squashed his happy expression with her next words. "He also said not to fight them."

"Awe fuck!" he whined. "But it's doing weird shit to Ophelia." He indicated his panicking girlfriend.

Lita stared at Ophelia with concern, and maybe a little bit of fear. "I... I see. I still don't think you should fight them." He groaned, but before he could speak, she added, "That Ozzrael... he said he'd deal with this."

"Well he sure is taking his fucking time," he practically growled.

Shocked, Lita looked him over as he scowled back at her. His demonic eyes burned with barely suppressed rage, something she had seen plenty of times in her people, and in herself. On the ever amiable Eddie it was just plain wrong. Then it hit her. "It's effecting you too, isn't it?"

He looked away and took a deep, calming breath. Almost against his will his wings unfurled. He pushed Ophelia towards the blond and said, "Take care of her for me?"

"What do you think you're doing?" she asked angrily as she put an arm around the shoulders of her shaking friend.

Eddie put a hand out. "Relax. I'm not gonna fight it, but I can't stand sitting here and waiting. I'm just going to go... ask it to leave."

Ophelia Frowned up at him, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears. "Eddie... don't..." But it was no use.

As he took to the air Lita shouted, "Hey! Get back here!"

To which he responded, "I said relax!"

"And I said get back down here before I cram my Halberd so far up your ass you'll be tasting metal!"

Mangus watched her shake her fist at his fellow roadie and said, "That's not gonna make him want to come back, you know."

Lita sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I just... I feel strange. I think it must be effecting me too."

Meanwhile Eddie landed on the sword and finally got a good look at the creature. It was hunkered down against the cross-guard, all black feathers and wispy shadows that brought to mind Ophelia's power back when she was Drowned. One arm protruded from the cocoon of darkness. The dead, white skin sagged off thin bones, and sharp, cracked black nails tapped against the mossy stone with an impatient rhythm.

And that sound...

When Eddie was in the Third Grade his class had gone on a field trip to the local aquarium. It was fun at first, pointing out the different sea creatures he had learned about in class and sneaking away to fawn over the sharks with the other boys. Then they entered the whale exhibit.

It was the humpback whales. He remembered that there had only been pictures of them, and the guide explained they were too big to survive in captivity. There were speakers playing a high quality recording of their vocalizations, but while the rest of the students oohed and awed at the beautiful 'song,' Eddie clapped his hands over his ears and broke into tears. Sure, the main sounds were okay, but there was another, impossibly deep noise that thrummed through his mind like a giant jackhammer and filled him with an inexplicable panic. The teacher didn't believed him until he threw up. After that, his Dad had been called to take him home.

This was the same kind of sound, but without the beautiful upper tones.

The creature didn't acknowledge his presence, so he took out his axe and said, "Sorry, but you can't perch here. This is Ironheade territory."

The thing shuffled and turned towards him, letting out a long, rattling breath.

Eddie felt a chill race up his spine and heard a blood curdling scream coming from the ground. He looked down in time to see Ophelia collapse to her knees and sob as both Lita and Mangus trying to comfort her. It was very hard not to kill the thing right there, but he held fast and said, "Seriously, asshole. Beat it."

"Insolent abomination!" it hissed in a voice like poison dripping off a viper's fangs.

Suddenly Eddie felt cold and feverish and sick to his stomach all at once.

"Disgusting," it went on. "It's disgusting... foul... Let me kill it. Let me rend its flesh. Let me tear its soul to shreds."

"Oh shit..." said a breathless Eddie as he pressed a shaking hand to his forehead. "Your voice is all fucked up, buddy."

With a screech like a thousand murderous birds, it dove at him. It wasn't heavy at all, and didn't connect very hard, but it moved so fast, and Eddie was so shaken that they both fell backwards off the sword.

As she watched them land with a dull thud, Lita screamed, "Eddie!"

Luckily the fall wasn't enough to phase him, and he got back up saying, "I'm okay, and don't start about the whole 'no fighting' thing. It attacked me." The creature on the other hand, was lying motionless on the ground. After nudging the black mass with his foot, he turned to his friends. "I think I killed it..."

The moment his back was turned, the thing jumped on him.

Wha ever was in there was big; almost as big as he was, and he could feel it digging its nails into his leather vest. Eddie's first instinct was to axe it in the head, but he realized that hitting it with a sharp object and not getting himself would be nearly impossible. So he settled for jumping back and slamming it into the ground.

This did nothing. When he rolled over and got back up, it was still there chuckling in his ear. Suddenly its dark veil of power engulfed his head, and, with his eyesight gone, he panicked. "Get it off! Get it off!" he screamed as he blindly flailed about.

Lita would have attacked it with her halberd, but again, it would too easy to hit Eddie as well. Besides, Ophelia was still clinging to her with a death grip. All she, and everyone else who was watching could do was try to stay out of range of his axe.

For lack of a better solution, he started ramming himself backwards into any sturdy surface he could find: the wall, speakers, a porta-potty. Only when he backed into a floodlight did the creature scream in pain and let go.

For a second, its dark aura faded and Eddie could see the white skinned being clawing at its eyes. It recovered quickly, but Eddie already knew what to do.

"Mangus! I need you to-" but the thing jumped at him before he could finish.

Eddie rolled out of the way and it took to the air, diving in and out at him with all the agility of an angry swallow. He kept his eyes on it, and when it came in for the third pass, he managed to get it with his axe... only instead of loosing a limp and squirting blood everywhere, it split in two and passed neatly around the weapon and its wielder.

It came back together just as it hit the ground, then sprang at Eddie once more from behind.

This time he was ready for it. He plunged his hand into the darkness and, finding the purchase he knew was there, swung it around into a stand full of lights.

As it screamed Eddie took that moment to yell, "Seriously Mangus! Go and... woah!"

He he moved his head as the creature tried to rake it's nails across his face, catching and tearing the shoulder of his vest instead.

"Go and do what?" Mangus yelled back.

But Eddie didn't answer. He was glaring at his ripped clothes, and then up at the creature. "That was my lucky vest you mother-fucking shit stain!" and with that he was in the air.

"Eddie wait! I don't know what you want me to do!" Mangus went running after them.

Lita, her arms still around her friend, could only watch them swirl around above the town and mutter, "What is going on?"

What she didn't expect was an answer.

"That stubborn son-of-a-bitch is gonna get himself killed, that's what."

She looked over her shoulder to see the Guardian had seemingly appeared out of thin air right behind her.

"Quickly now," he said. "How do you turn up the lights?"


Eddie quickly caught up to the creature and, knowing his weapon wouldn't do anything, punched it hard enough that it crashed to the side of one of the newer stone buildings. He then landed right next to it and started pummeling at it so hard he didn't notice that it's black aura was swallowing him whole. By the time he did it was too late.

He was completely trapped within the creature's dark powers.

Mangus, and a bunch of other people who were watching stood staring in horror at the pulsating, inky glob that seemingly ate their hero.