Okay... here I am, back again with yet another wip. Don't kill me Julie! But I do Need (with a capital N if you noticed) more feedback in order to determine just what details need clarification or closure. I have the idea in my head of where I want the fic to go, however I do have trouble getting there because I sometimes get tangled in sub-plot and peripheral characters. Basically, within your comments and queries, please indicate what and who you want to know more about. Your interest will guide me to decide what to describe or explain next.
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Thanks again, do enjoy this newest drama...
Chapter 1 – Winged Devils
Sarah put the car in third gear, speeding up again after deciding the driveway to her immediate left could not be the correct one.
"Oh, I'm never going to find it!" she whispered harshly. "Why didn't you give me more information?" she added, her tone almost whiny.
She slipped the gearstick into fourth and grimaced.
"Because it was meant to be a one night stand, of course, idiot!" she admonished herself, and gave a small, disheartened sigh.
Sarah wasn't usually the 'one night stand' type… in fact she'd never done that before. But she had been oddly compelled that night, almost not in her right mind she decided a week or two later. It had been strange.
The young man, obviously well dressed (if a little oddly), had charmed her with polite, intelligent conversation and before she knew it he was leading her into one of the upstairs, overnight rooms and she had not hesitated a moment, despite not really being comfortable with his intentions in the recesses of her mind.
Moments after he had come to his completion, he had hissed as if in pain and clutched at his forearm. Sarah wondered if he had gotten a cramp in his arm.
'He'd been quite strained near the end,' she thought back with a detached sense of mockery.
Then they had been suddenly interrupted by furious and urgent calls and a pounding fist on the door. He had leapt from on top of her, refastened his pants, scrambled for his very few discarded clothes (really it had only been his strange cloak-like garment) and with barely a backwards glance at her, he'd left.
She'd been too dazed, and her mind too hazy to react appropriately outraged at the time, so she'd merely rolled over in the bed and fallen asleep. She'd not felt like 'herself' for days afterwards, she remembered; feeling confused and at odds with the world and her normal self. A number of her friends had commented and she had brushed their concern away with an excuse about being tired…
'Yes, perhaps that had merely been it all along…'
But now, well, she had a reason to try to find him, despite his not so gentlemanly conduct.
She took her foot off the accelerator as another driveway came into view. Her eyes strained through the lack of light and saw that this driveway did not have a large wrought iron gate flanked by concrete pillars, topped with winged devils on either side. For that was what she was searching for.
He'd mentioned the gates that night… was bragging about them, trying ridiculously hard to impress; though at the time she'd found it endearing. Goodness knows why?
Anyway, he'd also mentioned the name of his village… a lovely quaint little place in the south. There weren't so many roads to search that held large estates of the kind she sought… but still, she'd been at it for half the day, ever since she had arrived.
She accelerated again, feeling disheartened and tired.
"Bugger it!" she said with a huffed sigh. "I'll just do the rest of this road… then I'm going to find a place to stay the night."
Several miles down the road the car lurched and spluttered. Unsure of what the problem was Sarah glanced down at her dashboard gauges. The fuel gauge read "E".
"Oh, bugger damn!" she swore aloud. She'd not been paying attention to her fuel levels and now the car was almost empty.
"Shit!" she yelled out again, hitting the steering wheel in frustration. She was miles from the village now; it would take her all night to walk back!
Thinking logically, she turned the car around and began to drive back the way she had come; then at least she'd have less distance to walk when it finally did give up the ghost.
After another cough and splutter from the car Sarah noticed she passed the last driveway she had seen. She eased up on the accelerator a smidgeon to try to make her fuel last as long as possible.
Another few minutes went by before the car lurched again after Sarah was feeling as though she might just make it much closer to the village than she first imagined, but after a further series of coughs, splutters and jerks she had only travelled a further mile or two when it finally died for good and she disappointedly steered it safely off the edge of the road.
"God… where the hell am I?" she asked rhetorically, squinting out the windscreen into the dark. Suddenly a heavy fog started to roll in. Bemused and a little astonished she watched the phenomenon escalate until she realised she could not see anything beyond the end of the bonnet of the car. The mist seemed to swirl and heave in an unnatural way, targeting Sarah's car with a strange deliberateness. An anxious uneasiness began to swell in her gut.
When the engine of her car had cut out so too had the heating and she began to feel the cold creep through the cabin; as if the fog's probing fingers were slinking malevolently into any crack it could find, even reaching out to worm itself into the fabric of her clothing.
"This is creepy," she whispered to herself with a shiver, feeling uncertain about whether she wanted to remain within the supposed security of the car, or whether to flee through the strange fog and try to find someone to help her.
Sarah tried turning the key once more for good measure, just in case; but the engine did not fire. She dearly wished she could just drive away from the bizarre scene… feeling almost as compelled as that night, but what could she do? The car was out of petrol – and it was not like she could magically fill up the fuel tank!
Sighing in defeat, she reached for the handle to open the car door, dragging her coat off the passenger seat with her as she pushed open the door and levered herself out and to her feet. There really was no point in sitting there waiting; it was cold and the car would be just as empty of fuel when morning came anyway, so she decided to seek assistance as soon as possible.
'At least if I'm walking I might be able to stay warmer than just sitting and twiddling my thumbs,' she thought with a sigh.
After she pulled on the heavy coat she flicked the door shut and took a few paces until she was standing in front of the car and glanced around her. Oddly, the mist was not so thick any more, and she was able to see as far as her car lights would extend.
Ahead of her she noticed a driveway that she definitely had not been apparent before. She trotted the thirty or so feet to the entrance and spied with surprise the tall iron gates guarding her passage.
The strange mist abruptly and rapidly rolled in around her again causing her to shiver. Odd, muffled, distant noises echoed off in the darkness… the whole scene was eerie. She took a step back, getting a distinct feeling that she shouldn't be here, and had just decided to go and get back in the car when the gates groaned and squeaked and suddenly began to open inwardly in a peculiarly welcoming fashion… giving the impression that they were inviting her in. Her perceptions could not distinguish whether she ought to be reacting with profound relief that she had likely found help so quickly or an ominous sense of foreboding that her world was about to go pear-shaped.
She looked back at the useless car pulled up on the shoulder of the lane and gathered her courage. She did not want to spend the night in the tiny, cold vehicle… and nor did she relish the thought of walking hours on end back to the village. No… she would go up to this house and ask for help despite her lingering instincts that she ought to flee. She turned back to the gates and took a step – the mist billowed again.
And then the oddest sensation welled up in her halting her momentum again, and suddenly Sarah felt as though she needed to go home and check to see if she'd left the stove on. She turned toward the car, but as soon as she took a step toward the disabled vehicle she remembered she couldn't go anywhere anyway. And the stove… really? What was going on with her?
Weird! She shook herself, turning back to the open gates and setting her determination to step into the foggy abyss.
"What's the worst that could happen, anyway?" she muttered encouragingly to herself; though perhaps the sentiment was a little naive.
'Maybe…' Sarah thought, shrugging optimistically as she leaned into forward motion, '… this is 'his' house after all, despite the lack of 'winged devils'.'
Sarah took several steps forward, hoping the fog would lift as it had before, but unfortunately that was not to be the case. Currently she could barely see more than four or five feet in front of her. Another few steps took her over the property threshold and with a deep fortifying breath she coaxed herself to continue on until… abruptly a dark form came hurtling out of the fog right in front of Sarah and smacked straight into her, knocking her flying backwards to the ground. Sarah yelped in shock as she plummeted; crashing nastily to the hard, rough stones, merely fortunate not to hit the back of her head upon the ground on impact.
The body that had knocked into her crashed down on top of her, sprawling across her midsection, hollering in surprise and grunting as it fell heavily onto her. Pale hands were spread wide on the gravelly driveway either side of her; preventing the person nosediving onto rough surface and they skidded brutally in the loose, sharp pebbles.
"Bloody Merlin!" the deep man's voice swore when they had finally come to a standstill and he began to scramble backwards off Sarah up to his knees, fumbling about all over the 'obstruction' that had dared knock him to the ground. As he determined that the offending object was actually a 'person', and notably a female person at that, he hastily withdrew his hands with an astonished gasp.
"What the…? Who…who are you? What the hell are you doing here… what is your business?" he blurted out, fairly short of breath.
'Bloody Merlin? What?' Sarah thought momentarily bemused despite her recent nasty fall and fortunately too stunned by the sudden appearance of the man to react to the potentially mortifying grope he had just performed. The man suddenly thrust his hand into the depths of his coat; and alarmingly Sarah perceived he was delving for a weapon of some kind and she skidded herself a couple of feet backwards away from him immediately. The stones scraped viciously at her back, and her stomach and ribs twinged painfully at the effort.
"Ouch," she said automatically, but then her brain kicked into gear determining the urgent need for some kind of explanation.
"Wait… wait," she said urgently, putting up a surrendering hand in the hopes to dissuade this man from hurting her or whatever he intended to do with the 'weapon'. "Um… I-I just got here… m-my car… it ran out of fuel…" she tried to explain, discovering that she was badly winded by his weight crashing on to her when she attempted to sit up. She wrapped an arm gingerly around her midsection with a gasp.
"Car?" he snapped with a frown, finally finding what he must have been rummaging in his robes for (apparently a torch) and shining the bright light in Sarah's face. She shielded her eyes immediately, but she could just barely make out the man looking her up and down in quite a disturbing, assessing manner.
The light was than extinguished quite abruptly after the man's hissed, "Nox."
'Nox?' Sarah wondered briefly, but she was distracted from the thought by the man fiddling oddly with his coat. The man must have returned the torch into his clothing's inner pockets for Sarah did not see it in his hand after that.
"You're merely here by chance… you're just a Muggle, aren't you…" he went on to mutter cryptically, seeming to verbalise the point merely for his own benefit rather than to question Sarah or anyone else, tensely running a hand across his own eyes.
"What?" Sarah asked, confused yet again by the man's strange vocabulary; still trying to catch her breath.
"Never mind, get up! I am currently being pursued… they will catch up with me imminently." He jumped nimbly to his feet. "Up, now!" he snapped, nervously looking back the way he had come, though there was no possibility of seeing very far through the mist.
'It would be nice if he offered to help me up…' Sarah thought, scornfully; still struggling to lever herself upright, '… seeing as he was the one who knocked me down!'
Sarah eventually pushed herself up to a sitting position and twisted herself a little to try to gather her feet under her, but evidently she was not doing this as fast as the man wished, for he soon reached down and clasped one of his hands her under her armpit and yanked her quite sharply to her feet.
"Ahh…" she complained.
"Come on… move!"
"Okay, okay… ow," she snapped back, a little put out that he was now shoving her backwards toward the road quite roughly.
"Did you say your vehicle was out of fuel?" he questioned, his tone urgent and demanding.
"Um, yeah…" she stammered, only now processing that what he'd said a few moments ago, "… did… did you just say you were being pursued?" she stuttered, squinting into the mist behind him with anxious wariness. But he must have ignored her question for she did not receive an answer.
He'd pushed Sarah beyond the gates by this stage and her mouth dropped open when she could see by the light of her car that he had abruptly reached into his heavy, dark coat again. She assumed – or perhaps 'hoped' was a more accurate term – that he must be hunting for a weapon to hold off his supposed attackers, but this time withdrew, not a gun or a knife as she had imagined he concealed earlier, and not the torch again either, but… a foot-long stick?
He aimed it toward the inoperative vehicle forsaken off to his right; Sarah's eyebrows shot up in stunned bemusement.
After a complicated gesture of the man's outstretched arm holding the rod, the engine in Sarah's car unexpectedly roared to life.
She gasped; startled, confused and amazed all at once. "What the… what…? How-" she stammered, staring at her now perfectly functioning car.
"Go," he said to her, surprisingly gently considering his previous impatient snaps. He stepped up close to her and nudged her in the direction of the car. She snapped her eyes up to his and instantly gleaned a desperate urgency from them. The intensity in the dark orbs caused her to take a step backwards away from him in fear… or perhaps it was a sense of overwhelming… she couldn't have said, really.
Swallowing thickly Sarah got a good look at the man now standing in front of her, bathed in the beam of light from the car's headlights; he was tall, his pallor pale with dark, shoulder length hair framing his face. The man's attire was all black, or very dark in colour at least, and each article was cut in a style that appeared both gothic or medieval, yet oddly regal and aristocratic at the same time. Sarah had never seen anything like them before.
His facial features, she noticed, were not typically handsome and were currently shaped in quite an unpleasant manner by the crease of an anxious and impatient frown that was perceptibly growing darker with ire by the second. He abruptly took a slightly menacing step toward her and jolted her from her musings; she swiftly decided she had no more time to regard his appearance.
"Go… now, before they get here!" he bit out, his tone laced with both anger and frustration.
Feeling both intimidated and even a little fearful of him, and what's more the mysterious and potentially menacing 'they' he referred to, she nodded obediently, took another step backwards, then spun on her heel and bolted for the car. As she reached the driver's side door, she wrenched it open clumsily yet halted on the threshold. Was he coming too or not?
She glanced up toward him, the unusual mist now only sparsely gathered between him and the car. He had turned away from her and was now facing the direction of the driveway. She could hear faint yelling through the fog and she could see the dark man had his head gently tilted; listening.
Abruptly he lifted the hand with the stick once more and with another flourish of his wrist the large iron gates began to squeak and grind their way closed again.
Sarah's mouth again dropped open in amazement… she'd forgotten, with the intensity of the situation and the adrenalin now rushing through her bloodstream, just what he had appeared to have done with the instrument only minutes before.
Over the whining and groaning of the gates she distinctly heard someone shout, "The gates! He's at the gates!"
"Shit," she whispered, alarmed.
The dark man appeared to have heard her and snapped his head around. With a sudden flurry of the stick again, her car's engine cut out. She stared at it; stricken.
"What… what are you doing!" she blurted accusingly, glaring at him.
"Your vehicle's engine is still running… it is merely rendered silent. Get in and go now!" he ordered sternly. Sarah's mind, while registering the information, found the concept so unbelievable that it refused to contemplate his claim – for the moment, at least.
"You aren't coming?" she queried instead.
"I have other transport… go!" he informed her in a tight, sharpened tone; only his jaw gritted in aggravation prevented him from roaring his directive at her. But still Sarah did not climb into the vehicle.
"Other trans-" she began to query, her eyes darting around the area in search of the elusive method.
"Suit yourself! If you'd rather stay and find out exactly what atrocities they are capable of…?" he growled angrily with a sneer, seeming to gather his garments around him in preparation… for something…
But before she even had time to fully register his nasty retort a large streak of red light unexpectedly flew out of the mist, slipping between the not quite shut gates, striking the man forcefully in the chest. He grunted loudly at the brutal impact that lifted him off his feet and threw him several feet backwards where he crashed heavily onto the driveway, skidding harshly over the hard, gravelly road. He hollered out in pain, his whole body writhing and jerking ferociously on the spot, clawing at his chest, the erratic movement punctuated by several more coarse cries, moans and groans.
Sarah gasped; horrified at the sight, and for a moment was frozen in shock, but was quickly coaxed into action when she heard the dark man groan roughly again and hiss with a laboured, breathy almost sob, "Not yet… no…"
She ran around her open door and over to the crumpled form and found him trying to drag himself to his feet; moaning and muttering incomprehensibly. Immediately she hooked him under his arm and hauled him upwards to his knees. He was clasping his hands feverishly to his chest, breathing erratically.
"Hey… up… come on. Are you alright… what the hell was that?" she blurted, not quite sure which question she wanted an answer for most.
The dark man snapped his head up to her and looked at her sharply. Abruptly he appeared to consider her in a calculating manner and nodded; then grimaced in pain, dipping his head once more while again trying to push himself up from the ground.
With another tug, along with the man's own efforts, Sarah had him upright and once he seemed somewhat secure on his feet she gently pushed him in the direction of her vehicle.
"Go get in the car," she directed gently, mildly surprised when he did not argue. Instead, hunching over himself and still clutching at his chest, he limped unsteadily toward the vehicle making small hisses and moans of pain as he went.
Without knowing why, she paused momentarily to scoop up the stick that had been flung from his hand onto the grassed edge when he was struck. She scrambled up behind him and after he practically toppled into the front passenger seat with an agonised groan, she shoved the door shut for him and clambered around to the driver's side again.
She climbed into her seat, flung the slim rod of timber to the floor between the seats and reached for the handle. As soon as she had pulled her door closed she heard the welcoming and reassuring purr of the engine. A paranoid glance at the gates had her witness another streak of red surge out of the more dense mist within the grounds in her vague direction. She gasped, flinched and ducked out of the way reflexively, but this time the fiery streak of light appeared to bounce off the inside of the fence instead. It was followed by a purple flash and a blaze of sickly green that impacted much closer to the gates.
"Their magic cannot penetrate the wards… and we have a minute or so before they get the gates open again… but we have to go now," the dark man suddenly uttered with some difficulty, the sound of his voice startling Sarah. However, without really understanding all he had explained, she felt reassured that she still had enough time to get away… just!... and also a new urgency to get this vehicle moving!
She nodded her understanding and hurriedly grasped the gearstick; brutally shoving it into reverse. In her haste and anxiousness to get away though, she lifted her foot from the clutch a little too quickly and stalled the engine.
"Shit," she said, but turned the key and the engine fired immediately. She tried again to lift her foot from the clutch, but the engine choked again and died. Starting to panic, she gasped a desperate sob.
She thrust the car out of gear and pumped the pedal twice quickly in hopes of losing a little of the tension in her legs. Depressing the pedal again, she again thrust the gearstick back into reverse.
Sarah again lifted her foot, but almost screamed out in hysterics when the engine cut out once more. Then suddenly his hand was covering hers on the gearstick and his deep voice crooned to her. "Easy… slow down, deep breaths… don't panic. Do it again."
Concentrating hard on his commands, his voice, and the cool hand enfolded over hers, she depressed the clutch, turned the key in the ignition and this time slowly lifted her foot from the pedal, alternately applying gentle pressure to the accelerator.
"Slow… smooth," he reminded her again, and she felt grateful for his coaching. Even though she had done this literally thousands of times before she had never had such pressure to get it right and had found herself unexpectedly and inconveniently uncoordinated. In her moment of panic his calm tone and composed advice made all the difference.
When this time the vehicle surged into rearward motion, she practically sobbed with happiness. She steered the car backwards onto the road and her passenger's hand dropped away almost unnoticed. Only when she was a good two hundred meters or so down the road (and out of the strange mist that had plagued her since she had pulled up) did she dare to stop and repeat the careful, measured steps to get the car into forward motion and turn around.
She delightedly sped away, chased onwards by a fresh surge of rolling, ominous fog, but found herself sobbing quietly as the tension and fear of this recent terror ebbed away. She let the tears fall freely for a time, concentrating on nothing but the road though blurry eyes, but when they had run their course she ran her hands over her cheeks to wipe away the remnant dampness. Sarah flipped down the visor above her head and flicked on the small map reading light in the centre of the car's ceiling so she could see her reflection in the small mirror. Checking herself out between necessary glances at the road she noticed she looked terrible… a pale, sickly, tear streaked face peered back at her. However apart from a few aches and pains from her fall she was okay; she took a deep breath.
As satisfied with her appearance as she was going to get she flipped up the visor again and replaced her left hand on the steering wheel. In the dim glow cast by the remaining map light she suddenly noticed the copious amount of blood that stained the back of that hand.
'Blood?' she thought, perplexed momentarily; reaching her other hand over briefly to the touch and rub at the stains. 'But how… where…?' But then an abrupt realisation hit her.
Blood… the dark man… he had been hurt… "Oh, Christ!" she whispered, reluctant to confirm her suspicion, but knowing she was going to do it anyway.
She turned her eyes on her silent passenger. He appeared to be uncomfortably scrunched in the seat, but his eyes were shut, and Sarah might have just assumed he was merely asleep, except that he was covered in blood, and the seat in which he was sitting was also smeared with dark red. It didn't look good for him at all!
"Jesus…" she uttered in shock, grimacing at the sight.