Chapter Forty-four

*** *** ***

I am alive with the heartbeat of the distant shore
I am running through the forests of your dreams
I am walking in the shadows, I am dancing in the sun.
I’m everywhere, I’m nowhere, I’m within

“Incoming!” Tracker stiffened as he heard Rabbit’s warning on the Comm-link. A second later three explosions lit up the night.

“Rabbit?” he called worriedly.

“That was Boomer. We got un-dead approaching from the south,” Rabbit’s report was punctuated with the sound of gunfire. “Heavy hitters are coming in from the East and Southeast. Not all their mages are in their circle.”

Tracker took a deep breath. “Okay, contact Gris and Jade, see what they can do. I’ll see about getting the others active.”


One word, spoken softly told him all he needed to know. Things did not look good from where Rabbit sat.

*** *** ***

I am singing in the sunset of a vast forgotten sun
I am calling to the children who’ve been waiting for their time
I am dancing in the shadows, I am walking in the sun
I’m nowhere, I’m within, I’m everywhere.

Bear stood as he felt Gran’s power slipping. It was the first stirring of the power within him he had since he had fought to keep the walls from closing in on Joey and the others. But now it wasn’t the power that he sensed, but its absence. Everything was inside out and it made no sense.

‘Please,’ he called with all his heart. ‘Please do not let this be the end.’ As he concentrated, on the thought, the woman appeared again. This time she hovered near him, a look of confusion crossed her face. Again she smiled at him, then nodded encouragingly. The flames danced in her eyes as she met Bear’s gaze. He recognized her for what she was, a fire elemental.

As his eyes met hers, he finally understood the offer she held. As he looked around the circle and saw the toll the fight was taking on his family. He nodded. The woman smiled and passed through him.

Fire flowed through his veins. It burned through him: searing and purifying as it flowed. The pain drove him to his knees until it was all he could do to keep breathing.

Agony. Fire. Pain. It filled his mind. It filled his spirit. It filled his heart until nothing else existed. It washed over him, it washed through him. It became him.

Bear screamed, yet no sound escaped his lips. It was as if he was on fire. The fire poured through him until he was fire.

‘Welcome brother of the sun,’ the woman greeted him. ‘You have aided our brothers. We now aid you. Go to your family, protect them as you must. Free our brethren as you did before and all debts are even.’

He tried to acknowledge the greeting but the fire still raged through him. He forced himself to act, accepting the pain was the only way he would be able to do what needed to be done.

‘I am sorry,’ she told him. ‘It is the only way. In time, it will be easier to deal with, but now you must go. You are our hope.’

Bear nodded as he rode the flames into the astral realm.

*** *** ***

I am traveling through the memories of a long forgotten race
I am following the footsteps that never leave a trace
I am walking the in shadows, I am dancing in the sun
I’m within, I’m everywhere, I’m nowhere...

The cone had shattered the barrier, leaving nothing between the circle and the elementals. It was only a matter of time now. Gran forced herself to stand as the effects of the attack finally crested. She drew the others to her as the flames closed in. She inhaled sharply as she began weaving the web around them again.

As she started to close the new barrier she felt the arrival of another elemental. She looked and saw it forming in front of her. She was preparing to banish it, when she realized it was unlike any elemental she had ever seen before. It looked and felt like Daniel.

He stood before her and bowed to the rest of the clan, then turning his back on the clan, he faced the approaching elementals. As she watched, the fire that surrounded her grandson flared and spread forming a wall of fire that protected them. As she tested the walls she realized that he was the fire.

‘What have you done?’ she gasped as she felt his pain for the briefest of moments. She tried to ease his pain, but as she did, she felt the presence of Bear.

The spirit looked at her and told her softly, ‘it is the price he must pay. The fire is what protects him now.’

Then he turned towards Daniel and smiled. ‘I knew you’d find a way cub,’ he sighed.

*** *** ***

in between

Minh stared as the wall of fire washed over the circle. She felt her breath catch as she rode the currents over the fires. Suddenly she felt the presence. The heart of the fire. ‘Bear?’ she thought in disbelief. Daniel TwoBears had claimed the power as his own. Joyfully, she caught the current and started to ride it down, only to find Rahalleth colliding with her bodily.

As she plummeted towards the ground, she felt the laughter in her mind. Below, she saw Kai laid flat on the ground.

‘Dragon Blood and Dragon Pain,’ IT told her. Then she felt his teeth tearing at her shoulder and neck. Reaching back in blind instinct she writhed. Pulling free of his grasp she then lashed out, her teeth biting into his neck and clamped down.

As Minh locked her jaws on Rahalleth’s neck, Kai screamed in pain.

*** *** ***

I am nothing in a heartbeat
I am nothing in the wind
I am nothing you can hold onto
I am everything you want

Kai screamed as he felt something tearing at his throat. He tried to fight it off, but nothing he did seemed to stop the pain. Inside of him Rahalleth raged. ‘Fight it,’ he pleaded. ‘It is not you, it is not us.’

‘It is nothing... nothing...’ Rahalleth continued as Kai tried to fight and found he couldn’t. ‘IT... IS... NOT... OF... US...” He growled as he forced Kai to look skyward.

There, plummeting from above, was Minh jaws locked round Rahalleth’s neck.

“We must help her,’ Rahalleth and Kai roared in unison. Finally they were of one thought. “I AM COMING!”

*** *** ***

in between

Mercury felt the influence of Briar as the enemy closed in and blanched. This was what Briar wanted, what he had planned. And they had played into his hand.

‘No,’ he told himself. ‘This is as we planned.’

He stiffened as he felt Jade prepare the banishing spell. As he looked at the TwoBear’s circle he realized that the were still engaged. He watched as Wulf signaled Ni to hide and protect the others. There was nothing he could do but watch as Wulf stepped forward to distract Briar.

He was buying Jade and Gris the time they needed to prepare their spells. Mercury wished there was another way, but from the looks of things, there was no other alternative.

*** *** ***

Between the darkness and the shadows, I am the brightest light
Between the purest and the corrupt, I am the solid wall
Between the hopeless and the Damned, I am the ray of light
Between the fires and the water I am the guiding hand

Wulf stepped into the open as Briar and the Doctor advanced on the others. “Looking for something? “ he asked nonchalantly.

Briar nodded towards him as a predatory smile played across his lips. “Wulf.” he called. “I’ve so been looking forward to meeting you.”

Wulf smiled, ignoring the tenseness that was starting to build up in his neck. “Funny, I’ve been looking forward to killing you.”

Briar merely smiled again. “You will make a nice addition to my collection.”

“I don’t think so,” Wulf answered as he closed his eyes. Images came to mind. Three of Briar’s soldiers were trying to flank him, he could feel the earth move as something tunneled underneath him. They were closing the net on him, but he knew he had to keep Briar and the Doctor where they were until the others were ready.

“Then you will make an amusing toy,” Briar answered as he unleashed a ball of energy.

Wulf tried to duck but there was no avoiding it. As the attack knocked the breath out of him, he felt the soldiers closing in.

‘Any time Jade,’ he thought as consciousness faded. ‘Any time now.’

*** *** ***

In between

Ellingsworth laughed as he watched the battle unfold. They had prepared well considering what they had to work with. Even so, there was no way they could have prepared for everything. He had planned it too well. Even if they did succeed in banishing ‘Briar’ and the doctor, he was still free in the world.

They would try to kill him, but that too would work to his advantage. Ellingsworth had died long before his assistant, but they had no way of knowing. Still, it was amusing to watch.

*** *** ***

I am nothing in a heartbeat
I am nothing in the wind
I am nothing you can hold onto
I am everything you want

Kenny fought to reach Kai through the pain, but he could tell that something was still hurting him. He knew the music had to reach him somehow. His skills could heal the body, but the damage was not physical.

‘As above, so below, as below, so above child!’ Serpent’s voice echoed throughout his body. They were the hermetic axioms from ages past. They were from a time long before the awakening, when man was still forced to imagine the power and claim it with sheer will power.

Everything passes through the different levels. Heal the body and the mind will follow, heal the mind and the body would heal. Kenny reached out and began soothing the body as if it was what was truly injured.

*** *** ***

...In between...

Minh was plummeting now. It didn’t matter as long as she took her enemy with her. She could see the pain she was causing Kai with her attack, but she knew she had to hold on. The Dark Singer’s power was too strong here. If she did not destroy ‘Rahalleth’ then all was lost.

She thought of her office and smiled inwardly. They would be able to continue without her, provided they did not let pride deny her chosen successor as Keeper of the Lore. Ian was human, but the song was fresh in his heart.

She drew a deep breath as the ground seemed to come rushing up to greet them. She tightened her grip on Rahalleth’s throat only to find smoke in its place. His laughter was the last thing she heard before she hit the ground.

She lay there in a crumpled heap, pain radiating through her till nothing else existed. ‘We have been fools,’ she thought. ‘We have let him control the battle.’

She barely noticed as Kai landed at her side and reached out for her. ‘We are here,’ he told her gently.

She tried to tell him to leave, but the thoughts wouldn’t form. ‘We are here,’ he repeated as he lifted her. ‘We will not leave you Maguin.’

Kai roared in anger and frustration as he felt the pain and despair in Minh’s mind. There were no thoughts only pain, despair and fear. It did not make sense to him, the Maguin was afraid.

*** *** ***

I am the keeper of the flame that never truly dies
I am the singer of the song that fills your heart
I am the whisper of a promise, I am the promise of the dream
I’m everywhere, I’m nowhere, I’m within.

As the wall of fire surged around them Gran smiled. ‘Daniel,’ she thought with pride and relief. His fire and power surrounded them, protected them. She turned her attention to the storm cloud that had now settled above the opposing lodge.

They had raised a barrier against the power the cloud discharged, but it was obvious to her that none of the mages had ever lived on the planes. Otherwise they’d have recognized the cloud formations, and they would have realized that the true threat of the cloud was not the lightning.

As she directed the power around her, the cloud began shifting. As part of it started spinning, she smiled to herself. They fight with that which they can imagine: we fight with everything we’ve got. She nodded in satisfaction as the funnel cloud formed over the circle.

‘Your power comes from control and manipulations, ours from setting the powers free,’ she thought with a smile. That is the difference between us. ‘You fight with power, we fight with our hearts. You have awakened the sleeping Bear. And that was your greatest mistake!’

*** *** ***

I am the voyager that fills his sails with dreams
I am the warrior who calls the dogs of war
I am the promise of a promise, I am the whisper of a dream
I’m nowhere, I’m within, I’m everywhere.

Wulf groaned as he tried to roll over and found himself tied to the ground. Ellingsworth stood over him as Jade and Gris drained themselves trying to hold Briar and the Doc. As he tried to move, he felt something pierce his chest.

As a gasp escaped his lips, Ellingsworth smiled down at him. “Don’t move; don’t say a word. Just watch,” he growled as Wulf felt the pain in his chest increase. He forced himself to focus on Ellingsworth for a minute. ‘Pole arm,’ his mind told him as he identified the source of the pain.

Ellingsworth rewarded his effort by leaning on the shaft of the weapon, driving its point deeper into his flesh. “I said watch,” he hissed.

Wulf turned as Jade fell to her knees. “No!” he cried. “Jade!”

“Like lambs to the slaughter,” Ellingsworth smiled. Wulf closed his eyes as Gris fell into an exhausted heap. “Like lambs to the slaughter.”

*** *** ***

I am the music that fills your heart with untold dreams
I am the silence of the forest after the rains have ceased
I am the whisper of a promise, I am the promise of the dream
I’m within, I’m everywhere, I’m nowhere...

For the first time in his life, the music was failing him. As Ian looked around he could feel the tide turning, but it was not as he had hoped. The music was being drowned out by pain and loss. There had to be more. There had to be something he had missed.

He tried to reach deeper inside, but there seemed to be nothing left. He tried to reach the others, but the only music he heard was the drumming from the TwoBears circle.

*** *** ***

...I am between...

Sable tensed as he watched the screens. Things were not going well for the others. The images were sketchy at best, but the picture they painted was one of disaster. One by one, they were falling to his ‘brother.’

Then one of the screens attracted his attention. It was a visual feed from Mercury. He had his sights on Ellingsworth. The view showed him standing over Wulf, gloating as he leaned into what looked like a spear. He saw the puff from the gun as Mercury’s fired on the man.

He was shocked by how easily Ellingsworth blocked the shot using some sort of barrier spell. Then he saw the glow in Ellingsworth’s eyes as he unleashed an answering attack. Sable hissed as he recognized the look. Ellingsworth had joined the Dark Song, he was one of Briar.

As he watched the visual feed flashed and was replaced with static.

*** *** ***

Gris stirred as they passed by him. He had nearly exhausted himself trying to activate the banishment spell. He prayed Gran’s people would be up to the task. The way it looked now, he and Jade were out of the running.

Briar and his cronies didn’t even seem interested in him or Jade now, they were moving to the center of the yard. As he looked up he recognized the shambling figures approaching: more undead, just what he didn’t need. He tried to force himself up but he just didn’t have the strength. He heard a groan nearby and as he focused he saw Ellingsworth standing over Wulf.

He shook his head as he stared at the images before him. He could have sworn he saw a devil shoving a pitch fork into his friend. He knew it wasn’t right, but something told him it was metaphorically correct.

The real problem was a spear. He knew Wulf wouldn’t last much longer if he didn’t do something soon. There was no more Conja, no power within except that which was in his hands.

He moved carefully, first to his knees, then he pulled himself up until he was standing. He looked at Jade and knew that if she didn’t wake soon, she never would. If he could save Wulf, then maybe Wulf could save them. It wasn’t much of a plan, but at least it was a plan.

Pulling together the last of his reserves, Gris lunged at Ellingsworth.

*** *** ***

Wulf gasped in pain as Ellingsworth leaned into the spear. “Your friend almost had me,” he told Wulf. “But I’m not quite ready to lose this body.”

Wulf felt a sudden chill as he realized that Briar and Ellingsworth were one and the same.

“That’s right,” he gloated. “And very soon, we will switch places you and I. You will be mine, and this body will be dead. They’ll be so relieved, that you survived that they will not see until it is too late...”

Wulf shook his head as he tried to move, but the ropes kept him bound.

“You cannot win,” Ellingsworth told him. “You are so predictable, so structured.”

Wulf smiled as Ellingsworth’s gloating was cut short by Gris,. He felt a sense of relief as Ellingsworth collapsed under Gris’ blind side tackle. The feeling was short-lived as he felt the presence of the approaching zombies.

“Gris, get Jade out of here!” he growled as he struggled against his bonds.

“Can’t boss,” Gris told him as he fell to his knees next to his friend and leader. “Ain’t strong enough. You gonna have to do it,” he added as he cut the ropes from their stakes. “Go,” he added as he fell back in an exhausted heap.

They were nearer now, nearer than he ever wanted to be to the undead. Their presence made him shudder as he tried not to think about what he had almost become. He was having trouble breathing, but that would have to wait, right now he had to get Jade and Gris to safety. As he struggled to get to Jade, he saw a shadow towering over him.

“No,” he growled as he turned to face his newest problem. Instead of trouble he found Ni towering over him. Wulf fell with a relieved look on his face. Ni caught him before he hit the ground and looked at the others.

“Meri: get Jade,” he ordered. “Daff: you give her as much cover as you can. I got the boss and Gris,” Ni added as he pulled Wulf into a fireman’s carry. “Let’s move.”

*** *** ***

Boomer fired off the last of the preset demo and looked at Lightning. “Looks like that’s it,” he told her. “Everybody else clear?”

Lightning nodded. “They’re at their secondary positions now.”

“You ready to fall back?”

“Only if you’re falling with me,” she answered.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he told her with a smile. “Just let me activate the claymores and we’re out of here.”

Lightning nodded as she watched the approaching zombies. It was going to be close. She shook her head. Throughout the battle, no mater how bad the fighting got, Boomer always managed to keep a calm air about him as he concentrated on his equipment.

“Can’t rush good Demo,” he told her with a smile as he finished hooking things up. When he was done he looked at her and nodded “Let’s book.”

*** *** ***

Duck watched as Rico and Tommy struggled to get the last of the connections made and verified. She wanted to help but it was a two man job, and right now they were in a lot better shape to handle it. The turmoil in her mind had become an almost constant thing.

She moved towards the monitors, and let out a gasp as she noticed Mercury’s go blank. The man who’d been watching looked at her with a start. Duck froze as she felt his presence.

*** *** ***

Sable turned with a start. No one had ever surprised him like that before. When he saw the horror on the woman’s face he realized that she had been victimized by Briar and that she could feel the similarities between them. As he tried to reassure her mentally he found he couldn’t even sense her.

“Easy,” he stated softly. Unable to rely on his empathetic abilities, he was limited to words and body language. “I am Sable,” he told her. “You’ve heard of me, no?”

He saw her back up slightly, then force herself to nod.

“But I still make you uncomfortable don’t I?” he asked.

Again she nodded. He could see that she was fighting herself. Forcing herself to remain there and to remain in control. He found his anger with his ‘brother’ multiplying exponentially.

“It’s all right,” he told her. “Sometimes, I scare me too.”

She rewarded him with a slight smile, then turned her attention back to the screens.

*** *** ***

Ian stood in the remains of the circle looking out at Briar and the Doctor. ‘How had it gotten this wrong?’ he demanded as one by one the defenders fell.

“You cannot win,” Briar told him.

“You never stood a chance,” the Doctor added.

“You shouldn’t have tried,” Briar scolded him as he moved in. “Listen, can’t you hear the music calling.”

As Ian stretched out his senses, he felt it long before he heard it. The Dark Song was playing: playing for him. As he tried to pull away, it grabbed hold of him, filling him with its wrongness.

In desperation he reached out and felt the beat. The drums from the TwoBears’ circle became his heartbeat. The beat pulsed through him until there was room for nothing but the song. The true song played in his veins accompanied by the beating that brought him ...back...

The illusion faded. Shaking his head, Ian saw things as they really were. Many had fallen, but most had fallen back, defending the mages as they fought on the astral plane against Briar and his mages.

“They’re still playing mind games,” he told whoever was listening as he placed a capo on his guitar and checked the tuning. Then he let the drum beat carry him away, carry him into battle against the Dark Song...

There is fire under the mountains,
Truth beyond the lies.
Where you lead I will follow,
And surrender all you know?

There is water flowing freely
There is water laying chained
Where I dance, will you follow?
And promise me this...

The water will always fall
the mountains will always rise.
Reaching for the dream inside
seeing laughter in your eyes..

There is calm within the raging storm
That which is open is obscured
Where I lead, will you follow,
and surrender to the fire?

There is a path that leads to your soul
will you keep it safe for me
Where you dance, I will follow,
and promise you this

The sun will always shine
the winds will always blow
reaching for the dream inside
feel the laughter in me now

There is fire under the mountains
There is water flowing freely
There is calm within the raging storm
The path that leads to your soul

Promise me...

That the water will always fall
the mountains will always rise,
the sun will always shine
the winds will always blow
See the laughter in your eyes
feel the joy within my soul.

Even in the stillest mountain,
the fire burns.
My heart is unleashed
and the music flows....

His music joined with the drum beats, the two songs became one. The chant that was the focus of the drumming became a descant, with his guitar its accompaniment, filling in underneath the voices. Then he joined his voice to theirs, finally understanding the song as the sang it: a call to war, a prayer for guidance, a prayer for deliverance.

*** *** ***

Tommy let out and exhausted sigh as he finished the connections and waited for Rico’s okay.

“That’s got it,” Rico told him with a nod.

“Transpo’s online,” Tommy stated as he checked the monitors. They were getting beaten out there. It was time to try and change that. “How much juice do we have stocked?”

“We’re at about half capacity,” Rico answered. “Any more than that and we’re drawing directly from the city’s power grid.”

Tommy nodded. He wanted to avoid having to pull from the city as long as possible. A surge would plunge the area into darkness and leave a trail that would lead right back to their new base. Still there was no time anything else, and it was better to lose the new base than to lose somebody.

As Rico hooked himself into the main control unit. Tommy looked at the others nodded. “Now we see what we can do to even the odds.”

*** *** ***

Copyright 1998 - M.T. Decker

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