Shadowchasers: Twice-Told Tales
By 7th Librarian
A/N: Hello and welcome to my little group of short stories for the Shadowchasers. These stories center around a particular Shadowchaser who is assigned to the town of Backwater, Nebraska, though the stories can be from any point in their histories.
The goal of this fic to introduce people to the eight members of the team without having to churn through it all in the proper story that the team will have soon. As well as to expand on some of the mythos and use a few lesser-known elements from the Shadowchaser Files and everything. Not to mention it's a good chance write more creatively and do some things that one wouldn't able to write with a linear story. And of course, some foreshadowing here and there doesn't hurt, either...
So kindly read and review and I hope you enjoy these little samples of my characters.
Fair warning, though, this one is rather dark.
It was nice, Jalal Stormbringer decided, to indulge yourself once in a while.
True, being leader of the Shadowchasers did not leave him with much free time, but there were rare days that there nothing pressing for him to attend to and anything else could be delegated out to his many capable assistants. When said days rolled around, it was best to take advantage of them. So after making sure he could be contacted in case of a true emergency, he excused himself from his office for the day.
Granted, he was currently in Paris to meet someone and discuss Shadowchaser business, but all signs pointed it to be a simple and enjoyable meeting.
He was currently seated outdoors at corner table a lovely sidewalk cafe that wasn't very crowded, despite it being the lunch hour. In fact, it was out of the way enough that there was hardly any traffic whatsoever despite the time of day. Nodding his thanks to the waiter as his coffee cup was refilled, he flipped the page on the paper and skimmed over an article.
"Anything good in the paper?" The speaker's voice as accented English, though it was impossible to nail down what exactly the accent was. "Or is it the usual drivel of you're a tyrant, the Shadowchasers are a bigoted group consisting of human oppressors and their lackeys while allowing evil such as ophidia, dark elves and rock'n'roll to exist and harm the good Shadowkind citizens of the world?"
"Just the usual drivel, I'm afraid." Jalal folded up the paper and set it aside, a bemused smile tugging at his lips. "Given half of your exploits, my friend, I'm honestly surprised that you never appear in this rag."
"That paper would never print anything about it me- it's all true and the truth leaves such a horrible taste in the mouths of the paparazzi." The man sat down across from Jalal. He was bit of a memorable figure. He was dressed in a violently purple trenchcoat, with gold and black detailing on the lapels and a red interior. His shirt was ruffled and so were his sleeves, while light glinted over his silver-white hair. To complete the oddity of a man, a pair of similarly colored cat ears flicked atop his head.
"At the very least, you would make an interesting front page picture." Jalal noted dryly as he gestured with a croissant to the man's appearance. "You could break the masquerade walking around like that, Adrian. Or blind someone."
"Of course." Adrian grinned. "I hide from detection by dressing so haughtily and gaudily that I offend everyone who sees me with my horrible fashion sense and thus they automatically delete my presence in their minds in order to salvage their sanity."
Jalal chuckled. "Had anyone but you said that, I wouldn't have believed it. With you, however, I feel that comes naturally."
"That's why I got married, old friend." Adrian grabbed a croissant and began to butter it. "Somebody else to take care of that kind of thing for me."
"And how is that lovely wife of yours?" The head Shadowchaser asked, taking a drink of his coffee. "It was a beautiful ceremony, by the way."
"Thank you. I'm still surprised we threw the whole thing together in a week myself." The other man smiled a it the memory. "And Mei is doing wonderful. Currently out retrieving a book for me, though. Little trinket that's hardly dangerous, but could lead to something even more dangerous if left in the wrong hands." Taking a bite of his croissant, he swallowed and used the half-eaten pastry to gesture at the half-dragon. "So, what about you? Ever think about settling down?"
"Hard to find another immortal that's on my plane of existence and willing to do so, Adrian." Jalal said dryly. "Not to mention I don't need my love life dissected by the media and papers. Half of the tabloids already seem to think I summon a new succubus every other month to use a sex toy and the other half think the succubi are secretly controlling me for Lucifer."
"Speaking of succubi..." Adrian smiled as a shadow fell across the table. "I'm glad you make it, Tsukihime."
"I came with you, remember?" The woman's voice seemed to a perfect mix of every accent, ever. She settled into the table's third chair. "I was placing our order, since your French accent is utterly horrible. I have never seen a taxicab driver swear so much."
"Yes, well, I can't be good at everything. And languages were never my strong suit."
She gave him a snort, her very nature making the sound delicate and attractive. "Says a man who speaks Supernal."
To the ordinary humans around them, Tsukihime appeared to the most gorgeous woman within a hundred miles. Even dressed in a sweater and jeans, they seemed to accent curves that a porn star would be jealous of and most women would suffer backaches from. Her face was soft and skin was perfectly smooth. It was pale enough that it made her ruby lips and sharp green eyes pop out, while her red and white hair framed her face enough to blend the entire thing together.
To Jalal, Tsukihime appeared to be the most gorgeous woman within a hundred miles...and that wasn't how a succubus should appear to someone who could see through the masquerade. Nor could he feel the tug of the natural aura of seduction and lust her species naturally generated and used as naturally as breathing.
For his credit, Jalal merely took a drink of his coffee. "Given how long I've known you and how much I trust you, Adrian, I'm not going to question why there is a denizen of the Lower Planes here, just why her powers don't seem to be working. I take you're using some kind of sealing charm?"
"A Rosario, Mr. Stormbringer." Tsukihime said and tapped a slender collar around her neck to draw his attention towards it. Attached to the collar was a symbol he never seen before- a cross inside the pentacle made by a six-pointed star and then a circle around the star and touching all six points. "Mostly for my protection rather than sealing my true nature."
"And what does she need protection from, precisely?"
"Well, for the moment, the world in general." Adrian gratefully took a teacup from the waiter as Tsukihime handed a bottle of wine and a glass. "Being a succubus without any summoner means that a lot of people, good and evil would like to have her in their hands or see her dead or worse."
He pulled the sugar over to him and dumped a few scoops into it before stirring it in. "And as a sign of good faith, Jalal. I did not put that rosario around her neck because I felt it was necessary. She asked me to do so specifically for this meeting."
Jalal looked at Tsukihime in surprise, but the woman merely smiled gently. "You have lived a long time, Mr. Stormbringer and your experiences with demons and devils have certainly left you with a poor view of them and rightfully so. However, this meeting is important for me and by willingly suppressing my natural abilities, you could be certain that you were never going to be unduly influenced or coerced into a decision that would favor me."
"That is...most considerate of you." Jalal said graciously. "And I am honored you are willing to make such a step. It speaks highly of your character." He gestured at the choker. "But that kind of sealing spell is holy magic. Aren't you in pain?"
"Ordinarily, yes. But this rosario is a symbol of my faith, so there is no pain whatsoever." Tsukihime poured herself a half-glass of wine and took a sip.
At this, Jalal couldn't keep himself from raising an eyebrow. A succubus finding a good-aligned faith and being devout enough that holy magic no longer hurt her was absolutely unheard of. "This is all very interesting and certainly more stimulating than any day the office. But what precisely is this meeting about, Adrian? This doesn't exactly seem like my area of expertise."
Adrian smiled over his cup of tea serenely. "It is when she wants to join the Shadowchasers."
Jalal nearly spat out the swallow of coffee he had just taken, his cup clattering to the table and spilling a bit on the tablecloth. After a moment, he composed himself and wiped his mouth clean. "That...this is...rather unprecedented."
He shifted his gaze to Tsukihime, who was regarding him calmly. "And you are serious about this?"
The half-dragon let out a breath. "There quite a few questions that have to be answered before I can even consider this possibility...but the one that has to be answered first is why?"
Tsukihime took a drink of her wine before swirling the liquid and watching her reflection in glass, her eyes briefly very distant. "It is a very long story, Mr. Stormbringer."
"To listen to is why I am here."
"Very well." Taking another drink, the succubus settled back in her chair. "I will tell you my story...it began nearly two hundred years ago..."
The Succubus' Tale
The 1st year.
Smoke billowed in impossible amounts from the small candles as all other light in the room dimmed before the lines carved into the floor flared with unearthly light. A powerful wind from an unseen source whipped the smoke into a cloud where a pair of glowing red eyes were suddenly visible. "What mortal has dared to summon me?"
Standing in a separate pentacle stood a lean man, with a pale face and unkempt hair. "I have."
"And for what purpose do you summon me, mortal?" Inside the smoke, she sneered to herself. He was hardly anything of a worthy specimen. His hair was greasy and his robes were torn and stained with various potions . He smelled of them, too. He was bony and gaunt, almost to the point of being sickly.
But alchemists and demonologists were hardly the sort to be wealthy and handsome and clean. The foolish mortals, craving secrets to plunder form the world and beings who found those secrets to be nothing trivia to them were almost all single-mindedness obsessed with it, to exclusion of all else. Save for hunger, sleep and thirst.
And it, as it all too often seemed, pleasures of the flesh. Though for the likes of mortals like this one, no woman would have them and she supposed that it made them feel more like men to call a succubus out of hell and partake of a forbidden fruit.
Her current summoner regarded her flatly, not emotion on his face for what she could only classify as 'professional intellectualism'. "Your purpose is to remain here." With that, he turned from the room and left.
"What?" She was so surprised that she dropped the theatrics, the smoke vanishing to reveal her full-figured dressed in a scanty version of a nun's robes. It was one of her favorite tactics, adding to the forbidden fruit aspect of her existence and making it all too easy to entice men.
Except, it seemed, for this one. She opened her mouth to call after him, but he was already gone and she closed it with a huff. Regardless of this one's peculiarities, he'd be putty in her hands soon enough and she could be gone from this plane with hopefully one more soul in her possession.
With nothing else to do, she studied her new surroundings in attempt to find something she could use to further her seduction. To her amazement, the room she was in possessed no windows, but was still well-lit due to the three candle chandeliers. It was much bigger than she had anticipated. Most of her summoners preferred to summon her straight into a bedroom.
But this room was massive, large enough that she guessed it had been a dining hall or gathering place of some sort or another. Now it was made to seem even larger than it was due to being empty of all the normal furnishings. The entire structure was wood, which was another surprise. Mortals generally used stone dwellings, particularly those dabbling in the forbidden in order to ensure less chance of discovery and whatever they did did not escape or damage anything.
She felt her tail brush against something and turned, finding yet another surprise. It was a bed. A simple straw mattress bed, but big enough that she could probably lay on it on her back and she'd fit there from the tip of her tail to the top of her head.
To further her surprise, she got a good indication of how big her summoning circle was. Most were just big enough to serve their purpose, but this one quite a bit larger if it was able to fit a bed inside it. And it incredibly intricate, far more than even advanced summoners used. A moment of study left her frustrated, as she found that even her extensive knowledge of demonic magic and arts failed her. The markings were untranslatable and she suspected that her summoner was using original creations.
That was his fault. Such things might work, but were hardly foolproof. She made her way to the edge of the circle and reached out with a finger. The magic sparked as her finger slid past the interior edge of the seal, but it wasn't painful. She grinned. These original creations were weak. Well, if the mortal had the audacity to summon her and do a sloppy job of it, then it was his own fault that she escaped and broke his body for her pleasures before stealing his soul away.
Confident, she took a bold step over the seal...
And found herself blasted back into the circle, singed and smoking as she uttered a curse in a language not found on Earth. The homemade runes weren't there to trap her. A closer inspection saw that the summoning circle was double-layered and the ones on the outside were powerful runes of a standard variety, but she hadn't recognized them at first because they were placed so close together that they nearly became one whole symbol. Clearly, he was not stupid or over-cautious, if he was going to these lengths to keep her here.
She bristled, her wings and tail twitching. Well, they'd see who had the last laugh...
But that ire and frustration faded into boredom as the hours wore on. At least she assumed it was hours, judging by how the low the candles were burning. It had never taken her this long to seduce a mortal or bargain for their soul before. And no one who had summoned had simply left as soon as it was complete before.
As the candles burned down to their stumps, he returned and she smiled. "Finally, master. I was wondering when I would be able to show you the pleasures for which you have summoned me."
He ignored her, instead stepping way from the door and gesturing at her. "There you are. Do not speak with it or do anything other than satiate your lusts."
"I can handle that." Another man entered the room, big and burly. Obviously a laborer of some sort, given his poor manner of dress. He grinned when he caught sight of her, revealing crooked teeth.
She raised an eyebrow and turned towards her summoner. "Master, while I do enjoy the company of mortals, yours is what I would prefer to-"
The sentence was never finished as the burly man grabbed her and pushed her onto the bed, kissing her. His breath reeked of ale and meat while his hands clumsily pawed at her clothes. He was utterly disgusting, but she had handled worse. She worked her body how he knew he would like as he squeezed her breasts and kissed him with a passion that she knew would make him feel like she was burning with lust as hot as the fires of hell.
The bed creaked and rocked with their coupling and not fast enough was it over. The laborer staggered out of the seal and it was only that he was able to do made her realize that the original work seals were suppressing her demonic powers. The kisses he and that man had exchanged should have made him her willingly slave utterly. And the lust she had been bleeding off would have made the most stoic of men blazing with desire for her.
She regarded her summoner with a new wariness, masked under her typical mask of seduction and lust. He was not an ordinary person. Putting her best effort into her voice, she smiled. "Tell me, mortal, how did you come by the knowledge to-"
Her question would have to be unanswered, as the summoner simply left as soon as the laborer did.
The incident was the beginning of a pattern, she found. He would magically restore the candles every morning, provide her with food and leave, ignoring her questions and seductions.
And every few days, he would bring in one or more new people, instructing them not to talk and she would bed them and they would leave drunkenly and pleased with themselves. And they were not always the class of people, either. Some wore robes of alchemy and others seemed to be merchants or well to-do peasants. Sometimes one, sometimes two a time, but it was a steady flow of bedmates every few days.
After what felt a few weeks of this, she was growing incredibly frustrated and furious. It was rare for her to be away from the demonic plane for so long and it had never happened in such a manner that she was treated a whore. At first, she had thought he was using her to repay debts or favors from those he brought to her, but their mix of status and race dissuaded her of that notion.
But she was helpless. His original runes suppressed her power and the one time she had actually tried to harm someone he brought to her, he had simply watched as she gutted the man and broke his neck. He had regarded the situation for a moment and then gestured, a pair of imps appearing to cart the body away and clean the mess up. It was if the gruesome death of another mortal was nothing more than part of their routine.
She would later estimate that it had been about two months since she had been summoned when she awoke to find two more beds and summoning pentacles alongside her own, one of the summons already in progress.
Was he a fool? A madman, to think that he could run a demonic brothel or something?
But that wasn't it...something cold twisted in her gut as she watched the summoning and another of her brethren. This summoner, he was too cold, too calculating to be after something as simple as money and if he wanted it, there were other demons he could summon that would spill forth the secrets to satiate any kind of greed.
The cold twist in her gut knotted as she remembered something she had glimpsed through the couplings he had forced upon her. A roll of parchment floating nearby, a quill magically scribbling out the words that he was mouthing and she could not hear. But one word that he had said stuck out in her mind.
He was trying to breed them.
The 5th Year.
They had moved twice, the first time shortly after the summoning of the two other succubi and the second after what she had guessed was a riot outside the summoner's home. Both times, they had been sealed in Iron Flasks and then shattered open inside a new set of seals.
Her current location was in a castle of some kind, judging by the masonry around her. It was an actual bedroom, but the seal was only large enough to just reach the walls' edge. She wasn't sure how the summoner had gotten this location, but he had to be working or doing something important.
The pattern hadn't changed, regardless of where they were. Every few days, someone would be brought in and she would have to copulate with them. She and the others has tried to resist after a point, but the seals he had created could be used to create pain and even demons had their limits. Without access to their full range of powers, resisting was utterly useless. Even refusing to do something had done nothing for them- the power of the seals would merely force their legs open.
But she was patient. What this man was inflicting upon her was nothing compared to the worst Hell had to offer. And while he had the advantage, there would be a point he would slip up and she or one of the others would get free and show him that not even his cleverness would save them from their wrath.
As she paged through a book idly, scoffing at the supposed 'brilliant' works of mortal minds, she cocked her head as the sound of voices reached her.
"...my tests have shown ordinary men do not seem to be able to achieve the desired result."
"It is good that you come to mother church, then, sir. For through God's grace can we find answers to the questions posed before us."
"Yes. If my research is proven correct, you will show that the grace and power of the Church can tame even hell, that Christ's blessing and salvation will have be rightfully given to us."
She snorted. Once voice was the summoner and she had heard him talk enough to recognize his flattery. But the new one was interesting. Some kind of holy man. It brought a wicked grin to her face. To corrupt and seduce the men of God was always rewarding.
The door opened and she saw she was indeed correct that her new partner was a religious figure. But her eyes widened slightly at the fact it was a bishop and the items he were wearing were indeed holy artifacts-she could feel the power radiating from them.
He disrobed and approached her. "In the name of our Father, Lord and Savior, Blessed be thy name..."
The cross ring he wore burned her flesh as he grabbed her arm and tossed her onto the bed. It didn't stop has he threw himself atop her, the cross on his neck searing soft flesh as it swept and slid over her bare body. "For the meek shall inherit the earth. The power of Satan need not be feared by a righteous man..."
The only thing louder than his prayers that night where her screams.
The 15th year.
"Subject's offspring is interesting. It is not a typical cambion, nor is the birthing process as easy as it has been before. Theorizing that this may be a result of mixed human and demonic coupling performed on subject. If theory could be verified, must remember to...
How could she hear that droning voice taking notes of the screams?
She wasn't sure what he had done to them. Chemicals and spells had been injected and cast on their bodies, but either absorbed or ignored by their demonic heritage. But that succubus...they had only discovered her pregnancy just a few short months ago...and now she was giving birth.
"Subject seems to be suffering from shock despite demonic regenerative abilities. Damage from offspring cutting its way free seems to be cause, though other subjects do not seem concerned with what they bear. Suspect is is trait breed into them in order to preserve their species numbers. Offspring will need time to mature before they exhibit this or are a new species entirely. In the meantime, more samples must be collected..."
She clamped her hands over her ears, trying to block out the screams that would have made Hell itself flinch from their intensity and depravity.
"Demon subjects do not seem to suffer from inbreeding in the same manner as terrestrial magical species. Confirmation of this is needed and offspring from subject are male. Reminder of possibilities of tests in the future..."
The droning notes and the screams continued, with the sounds of something unearthly drawing its first horrendous breaths of air...
The 25th Year
"-your creations are dangerous."
"They preformed the services that you desired, did they not?"
"Oh, they're powerful and took care of that blasted guard captain and his cronies that have bothering me, but I'm having trouble killing them to keep the town rallied behind me. And they keep going after the women. If things get too bad, then they'll start asking the local lord for help! And then where will I be? Or you? Do you think you could keep this hidden if I was caught?"
She wasn't surprised that he was selling off the creatures that his experiments had created. They had moved a dozen times since the first generation had been born. Often torching their previous location to both hide what was going on there and to destroy the creatures he could not tame or take with them.
She had been lucky. She had not gotten pregnant. The creatures that he was harvesting from them were devastating things to whatever carried them...
Beyond breeding them, he had started messing with the offspring, twisting them and warping them with science and magic. And even in this day and age, the average mortal was still frightened of anything they did not know or understand. And these monstrosities would have been right at home in hell
"Very well. I will develop a method to lower this and next generations desire to procreate or at least find them a proper outlet."
"See that you do! Or I'll gut you myself!" The speaker stormed out of the building.
"You. Take this generation to the subjects. Let them rut and see if that will eliminate their libidos. And we need to see if they are fertile."
Her eyes widened at those words and the door to her room burst down, three of the massive creatures shouldering their way in. Half again as tall as a human, their faces lopsided parodies of their parents, too-long tongues liked at razor sharp teeth. Corded muscles bulge and flexed grotesquely as they advanced on her. They were nightmares given flesh, nightmares that were going to be given her flesh and nightmares that were going to give her their flesh...
The blackout came mercifully quick.
The 50th year.
The summoner had a name now.
It was a dull surprise.
He had changed since the first year. His figure was fuller now, stronger and deadly. His face was still long and gaunt, but his hair was no longer unkempt and clothing was fashionable for the period.
And as she watched, the mass of tentacles that had replaced his left arm calmly ripped one of the creatures off another succubus. He studied the straining monster in his grasp, studying it calmly as it roared and tore at it's restraints. "Fourth or fifth generation, I believe...a new angle is needed. This species is becoming a evolutionary dead-end." As he spoke, his tentacles crushed the creatures into a mass of blood and gore.
He was speaking to half a dozen men that looked exactly like him, minus the tentacles. She recognized them as his own special brand of homunculus, ones that seemed to be able to exchange information and memories with one another via some kind of mental link. They rarely spoke, instead moving in a perfect eerie unison.
His experiments had taken an incredible turn in the last few decades. Despite the constant moving, never staying in one place for a month or tow, he seemed to be gaining ground at a rapid rate. More variations of his breed monstrosities were visible now and again, several even being able to pass for humans if they wore heavy clothing. And whatever he had researched had been applicable for himself, for aging no long seemed to be a worry for him.
As she watched, the original's tentacles wound themselves together and flowed together, transforming back into a standard human arm. He studied the corpse of what had been a succubus, nudging it with a boot and then strode from the room, his duplicates following. As they left, a swarm of smaller demons seemingly flowed out of nowhere and set upon the corpse.
It didn't bother her. It was almost routine now. She had considered herself lucky that the monsters did not impregnate her, but now she was wondering if death would not be preferable to the life she had now. If she died, then at least she would be back in Hell and whatever punishment awaited her there would be better.
As his new species grew, he had summoned more variety of demons and used them to breed or battle with his monsters to test their strength. And as the species grew, so did his clientele. Dwarves, dark elves, ophidia and more, she had seen passing through the hall and doors of his homes, even a demon or two.
But there was a caution to these meetings. She had overhead someone talking about a group called the 'Shadowchasers' that were cracking down on anything like the summoner's work. And because of this need for secrecy, he had adopted a name that would not be traced to him and at the same, identify to any who might need his services.
They called him Mister Monster.
She decided that it fit him.
The 138th year
She was so tired.
Too tired to eat, so they shoved food down her throat and forced her to swallow.
Too tired to move, so they hurled her into cold water and fished her out again to clean her.
Too tired to be good in bed, so they let the creatures use her as a vent for their frustrations. Her body had been used and abused in every way possible.
Flesh that had been soft and supple, the envy of women everywhere, was dark and bruised and dirtied.
Curves that had been full and strong and seductive hung loose and worn.
Her wings were crumpled and bent, tail limp and weak.
The fires of lust and demonic fury that burned in her eyes had not even embers now.
Words like 'wrath' or 'vengeance' and 'life' had no meaning now.
She had no use left for Mister Monster. His work had expanded, Now golems of stone and steel and flesh roamed the halls, accompanied by stitched together nightmares of the dead and living. The generations of creatures that the succubi had given birth to had been refined and experimented on, made better and spawned from any female of any species rather than ones from Hell.
There was shouting...
"You are insane! And inhuman!"
A scoff of derision. "My work is of importance beyond something as simple as 'humane'. There are creatures from other words and yet so similar to ours. To find out the potential, the possibilities of all interactions is a goal worthy of study, of achieving."
"You're a demon and a monster!"
"Hardly." A sneer entered the voice of Mister Monster. "If God created the humans of this world in his own image, how can it be wrong for me to create that is which my image? Your logic and foolish faith in religion defeats you. Not that I need my work justified by the likes of a fool as yourself. Leave me, now. You are interrupting my experiment."
"This ends here, you amoral bastard!"
"Morality is the delusion of the weak and fearful who refuse to understand that creation is an act that requires all possibilities to explored." Mister Monster said coldly.
A strangled scream of inarticulate rage and the roar of monsters or a man who was close to being a monster because of his anger and fear.
There were sounds of fighting...
A loud rumble began to build and she vaguely felt the magic surge through the air and there was roaring inferno of heat and light and she closed her eyes and let darkness overtake her...
There was water dripping on her...
She opened her eyes, the effort taking a supreme effort. There was no pain, just the feel of cold water and cold brick and cold metal on her body and she realized that she was in some kind alleyway.
And standing over her in the pouring rain was a young woman, holding a newspaper over head in a vain attempt to ward the rain off of them and bearing the biggest, kindest smile she had ever seen.
"Would you like something to eat?"
The 139th year.
The woman's name was Teresa.
Teresa was a struggling artist.
But she made the best potato soup.
Even now, one year after when they met eyes in that rainstorm, that was thought that ran through her head as she sniffed the boiling pot of said soup.
The apartment was small, with barely enough space for both of them. But it had hardly seemed to inconvenience Teresa and to her, the small space was comforting.
Time had been kind to her. The bruises were gone and her wings could carry her again if she tried. It no longer ached when she moved, no longer felt so hollow when she opened her eyes every morning.
She had learned much about the world, so unlike Hell and so unlike the time she had been summoned into.
But the world held little interest to her. For now, this apartment and Teresa were good enough.
Letting the soup sit as it boiled, she turned and slid into the living room where one entire wall was covered in Teresa's paintings. They were quite possibly the most incredible pieces of art she had ever seen a mortal produce.
They were of great majestic beings standing regally in a cloud-laden heaven, bearing resemblance to this plane's dragons and elves and phoenixes and griffons. And down below them, were twisted parodies of demons and other creatures of the dark and night, blazing with power and raw fury in the dark background of their frozen wasteland.
There was a total of twelve in all, six for each side. Teresa had said that their images had come to her in dreams, where she had seen them tend to the races on their world not unlike Earth and wage war against the threats against their world.
And each other, for the artist spoke of the dreams had seen where the six in dark had defeated the six in the light and then turned upon one another, devouring each other until death was all that was left. Death and a darkness that swallowed their world.
One of them always drew her attention. It was of a beautiful dragon goddess, greatly resembling Eastern Dragons. Long and flowing, her coils were almost endless and her scales were of white and gold, the spines running along her back varying shades of blue. And her silver eyes always seemed so soft and kind and if she stared long enough, the picture seemed to move...
Teresa had said that one particular was the goddess Erestrial, a goddess of love and hope and that in her dreams, she could hear the beautiful song the goddess sang. One that could make creation itself weep with joy and fill the heart with peace and strength. And then a bitterness would come over the artist, as she would gaze out at nothing and relate how that song was silenced when the six in the dark had sealed Erestrial away, that her song had made them unable to kill her. So they removed the goddess that loved them all even as they dragged her to an empty void and chained her to it, ignoring her song and her forgiveness and her tears.
She had told Teresa that she had never heard of that goddess or seen anything like the others, that they had never been mentioned in Hell before. Teresa just smiled and said that she had never said they were gods from here, now did she?
And when she had explained that Hell was a Hell for everywhere and not just Earth, she had just smiled some more and asked how she could know so much about this.
Teresa had simply laughed and gave her a hug when she had told Teresa she was a a succubus, saying that "you're too cute to steal my soul."
The lid on the pot began to clatter and she darted into in the kitchen, desperate to keep the soup from spilling as the thoughts of six in light and six in dark fled her mind...
The 145th year
"How did you get this money?"
The mortals called it the Great Depression. But they didn't know depression like she did, didn't know that there was a place beyond that, a place that simply left you living without a care of yourself because you ultimate realized that you, yourself, was pointless. That being sad was a luxury for those who had a value and value was a foolish notion that people fooled themselves into having so that they could be sad.
But the Great Depression was hard even without this understanding and loss of money and interest a non-necessity like art had left Teresa even more struggling than she was.
So she had taken steps to fix that.
But the artist was staring at the small pile of money on the table like it was someone's dead cat. "Where did you get this money?"
"I am a succubus. It wasn't that hard."
Teresa pushed the money away. "No."
"You need that-"
"Not like this."
"No." The artist looked at her and she saw, not anger or fear or frustration, but a sad, heartwarming love that was so intense it made her take a step back. "I won't take anything that came from devaluing you."
That was not the response she had expected. She stared dumbly for a moment, before shaking her head. "Human morality doesn't apply to me. We don't see sex the same way you do. This isn't anything to me."
"It's something to me." Teresa replied firmly.
"Because I love and value you."
She stared again, almost disbelieving. "I am a demon. I haven't given you anything in the last six years. I'm a torturer of souls and men and tempt mortals to sin and I've been doing so since before your species could scratch rocks together to create fire. I haven't even told you my name."
"You don't owe me anything."
"I don't. I'm giving it freely."
"Love and respect, for you don't seem to have any to spare for yourself."
She sat down, trying to comprehend what was going on. "...why?"
"Just because you're a demon doesn't mean you aren't deserving of love and respect."
A bitter laugh. "I was born evil. All demons are born evil."
"But are you evil right now?"
A pause. "I...don't know..."
"No one, not a god, demon, devil, angel or mortal chooses how they are born or what they are born as in this world. And because of that, hardships can come to any living being Consequences that they have no control over." Teresa smiled quietly. "But in exchange for this choice being taken away from us, we were given the opportunity to make all other choices for ourselves."
"Demons don't get to choose to be evil. We don't get to choose to be summoned. Don't get to choose to be a terror or degraded or hated or hunted by humans and elves and we don't get to choose that all things good and holy want to kill us."
"But if you are born evil, then how do you understand good?"
"Good is opposite of evil..." She said slowly in confusion, feeling something was coming loose inside her.
"So you have to know what good is order to know that it is the antithesis of evil, yes? Doesn't that mean that, if you are capable of understanding the difference between the two, you are capable of choosing one or the other?"
"...it's not that simple. "She said lamely. But whatever was coming loose inside her rattled.
"No, it's not. If choices were simple, angels and demons would not be needed in this world to tempt and guide, for the mortals not be so indecisive and divided. But...we all have choices and they are always difficult. Even if we ignore them because we are afraid of them, for inaction itself is a choice."
Teresa moved and she looked at the woman in the eyes and felt the rattling thing lurch in her chest at the kindness and soft hope in the mortal's eyes. "I choose to love and respect you, for what you are. For the person I know you can be."
"I...I..." It wasn't until Teresa caught her that she realized she had fallen out of her chair and she was shaking and crying. "What do I do?"
"Choose..." She stroked her hair and rocked gently.
"I don't know what to choose! How do I choose!"
The smile was the most beautiful thing that she had ever seen. "Is choosing love, especially for one's self, ever wrong?'
She sniffled and curled, clutching at the artist's shirt. "I don't know how to love myself..."
"You will learn." Teresa kissed her head gently and she suddenly felt her heart swell, something coming from the artist that felt like the human was something more beyond what the eyes saw. "Because I love you, child..."
The 157th year.
"I can't remember my name."
Teresa looked up from her easel, paint splattered across her face. "Beg your pardon?"
"I don't remember my name." She twisted the cloth of the dress in her hands worryingly. They were standing in the garden. It and the huge house surrounding it had been a reward purchase for the two dozen pieces of work that that gallery in France had bought to replace after the war. "I don't know who I am."
Teresa blinked. "You're you."
"I know I'm me!" She huffed at the woman, folding her arms and causing the buttons on the top part of the dress to threaten to explode off. "But I can't remember my name!"
"Well, you never told me, so I can't help there. And don't fold your arms. I want to paint you, not your boobs. Even if they are a very lovely part of you."
"Sorry." Letting her arms drop, the succubus blew a strand of hair out of her eyes. "A demon's name is what allows one to summon them. But it has to be my real name and I can't remember that!"
"Hmmm..." Teresa made a few brushstrokes. "I'm not a huge person on this true name stuff, but maybe that name no longer applies to you."
"Weellll..." The artist peered around her easel at her subject. "We know that we can choose to change, right? Perhaps with all you have experienced and the choices you have made in the last few years have made that name useless to you."
"Makes sense..." Then she frowned. "But then what am I supposed to call myself?"
"How about Tsukihime? It means 'Moon Princess'."
"And why on earth would I want a name like that?"
"Because I suggested it and I'm perfect?"
The succubus stuck out her tongue.
"Hey! Don't do that! I only have so much pink paint!"
The 200th year
It was rather empty spot for a headstone. A big willow tree out in the middle of a clearing in a forest that Tsukihime realized that she owned because she and Teresa had bought the land so many years ago.
But it was appropriate, to be surrounded by the things that she had painted so steadily for the last few years of her life.
At first, Tsukihime thought that Teresa had been younger than she looked when they had met. Even until the end, she looked like middle-aged woman, graced with soft silver hair and wisdom that ever fiber of her body spoke of.
But then the days had come when she could not get out of bed...could not find the energy to hold a paintbrush. One or two here or there...and then more and more as time pushed onwards...
The succubus turned the rosario in her hand. Teresa given it to her years ago, saying it was the symbol of Erestrial. Again, Tsukihime had tried to explain to her that such a deity simply could not have existed except in her dreams, but...
But the moment she taken that rosario, she felt something suffuse her. Love, warmth and a kindness. It was barely an instant, but it was there. And now as she watched the light play off the polished silver, she recalled all the times that Teresa had seemed to be more than mortal, that her very love and warmth seemed to fill the whole room and all of the dark things in the world fled from that light...
The sound of footsteps caused her to raise her head and she saw a man just a few feet away. He was dressed in a black trenchcoat and outfit, his silver-white hair and kitty ears soft. He studied the headstone for a moment and then bowed slightly to it. "I am sorry for your loss."
"Thank you." Tsukihime stared at him softly. "Do I know you?"
"No. But Teresa did." He smiled a bit and suddenly there was a bouquet of roses in hand. Kneeling, he placed them in front of the headstone. "She was a wonderful woman."
They stood there in a companionable silence for a moment.
"She was both more than you thought she was and less than what she should have been." He said sadly. "An echo of a song that has long since been silenced."
"I see..." The succubus pondered this for a moment. "I have chosen what I would like to do next."
"And what is that?"
"I would like to do some good in the world."
The man smiled. "Tell me, do you know what a Shadowchaser is...?"
Jalal sat back in his chair, letting the weight of the story was over him and closed his eyes to think.
Adrian was busy nibbling the slice of cake he had ordered.
Tsukihime was sitting serenely, sipping some of her wine to refresh her dry throat.
Tsukihime sat serenely.
Finally, the head Shadowchaser's eyes opened. "That is quite the incredible story." Neither of his companions gave a response, for there was no response to give. "I would be honored to have you join the Shadowchasers."
"The honor is mine, Mr. Stormbringer."
"But..." A small frown tugged at the half-dragon's lips. "There are a lot of obstacles and prejudices to overcome...regardless of where you are assigned."
"Put her in Backwater. The town is all Shadowkind and Awares. One more oddball won't make any difference." Adrian swallowed his bite of cake. "And hasn't Rayearth been asking you for a eighth member for the last decade or so?"
"Good point." Jalal stood, gesturing for Tsukihime to do the same. "If you'll come with me, my fair lady, we'll see to getting your red tape sorted and find you someone to apprentice to."
"Thank you." She gracefully accepted his proffered hand and stood. "You are most generous to give me this chance."
He smiled. "It was good choice to make."
A/N: There's the first tale. Like I said, pretty dark. Don't worry, our next Shadowchaser is a lot more lighthearted and the tale will definitely involve a duel.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.
Later Dayz, all