The four of them crouched in the shadows behind a tour bus. One of them held a small metal box with a black switch. "We have to hurry."
One of the others sighed and covered the box with a gloved, feminine hand. "Isn't there any way to wait? We want the vampire, not some useless man." Her voice was angry, brooding as it echoed out from under her hood.
"No. She's got security and there's no way to be sure we won't get caught. We have our orders, Lika. You know what we're here to do. We send a message here and now." The one with the box moved Lika's hand apologetically. "Besides, this will do better than kill the fanged bitch. This is going to hit her right where it hurts."
"I doubt it. What's one man to a woman like her? If we want to hurt her, we should be doing this to that motor home of hers."
That got everyone else in the group to stare at Lika in mute surprise. One of them, the one in the back, managed to say what they were all thinking. "But that has kids in it. Children are sacred…"
"She declared war on us, Carol!" Lika hissed. "Do I need to remind you what she did to our High Priestess? Do you want me to describe what 'Ganna looks like now? Her face? What's left of her body?" Her eyes narrowed, threatening to recall something none of them wanted to think about. Just mentioning the image of their horrifically burned leader was enough to turn them all pale.
"Besides," Lika returned to a calmer voice, "this bitch killed Morganna's magic. There is no greater crime. No punishment too severe."
That slowly got the gathering of dark clad women to nod. "True… but no. No harming the children unless we get a direct order. The bus is our target. We're just lucky to be able to take one of her consorts with it." The one speaking was the one with the box – Rina.
Lika growled softly, noting Rina's face and this moment. She would make the acolyte pay for this someday. Everyone knew Morganna's moons were numbered now. Soon, leadership of the coven would pass and when it did, she would make sure Rina met with a terrible 'martyrdom'. Poor girl, having to die for the cause…
Lika did her best to hide her dark smile at that thought.
"Fine," she said at last. "You're right. Blow the bus."
From several lots away, there was another set of eyes watching. They watched the bus. They had been watching the Winnebago. Right now, they were watching the watchers. Who were these people? What were they doing?
And did one of them just say, "Blow the bus"?!?
Rina's hand closed over the top of the box, one finger touching the button. "Rot in oblivion, male."
Her next word was something unintelligible, a soft "gukk" of mingled pain and confusion. The box fell from her suddenly limp hand and she twitched forward before falling backwards. Blood trickled from the corner of her lips, a faint echo to the river pouring out of the hole around an iron spike in her back.
"What the?!" Lika and the others spun to face whatever had struck the woman down from behind. At first, there was nothing, just shadows and a dark parking lot. Cars, motorcycles and trucks galore; it was a vacant landscape of nature-ruining steel. No sign of the attacker. Where was he?
Where was he?
The answer came in the form of Carol dropping like a stone, someone landing hard on her shoulders from above. Power diving her to the asphalt, the blurring shape twisted to the left and brought a dark blade at torso height across the other two. As it shadowflashed through the air, a terrible song of ruin followed in its wake.
Lika ducked low, riding her surprise and evading the sweep of the deadly sword. Maggie, always a little slow, was catch full in the chest. The edge of the curved, black blade cut through coat and flesh with vicious ease, ripping jagged steel from one side of her to the other. She dropped in two pieces, a gore spray that plummeted like rain all around. Lika scrambled across the ground, desperate to get clear of the red reaping.
"Mother Lilith! What are you?!" She came up shouting, both hands clutching at the ether to draw forth a burst of spiritfire. Hurling it forward, she succeeded in catching the nearly invisible shape of her assailant by surprise. Ephemeral grey flames flared over the sword wielder, forcing it back off Carol's broken body.
From the sound the young witch made as she burned from the splashing spiritfire, Carol had not quite been killed. Unfortunate for her, Lika thought briefly. Still, it was one more weakling culled from the coven. Morganna would be told Carol was killed by the vampire and her protectors. That would make Lika's survival seem all the more impressive.
Of course, that assumed she survived. The shimmering figure was gone, disappearing around the side of the fire blast and blurred away. Lika reached for her athame, drawing it and charging it with a Warden spell. Letting go of its hilt, she smiled to herself as the dagger began to fly beside her.
Not a moment too soon. There was a flash of motion beside her and the attacker was there, sword cleaving overhead to tear through her skull. The athame moved like a bolt of lightning, blocking the blade in a shower of power and sparking metal. A keening wail of failing enchantment ripped through the air and as the black sword turned aside, the athame shattered violently!
Its loss hammered Lika back, a ragged wound in her soul. "Damn you!" she shouted, staggering to stay on her feet. Unleashing the fires she had called up before, a swath of ravening grey erupted all around her. There were two cries of pain. One was from the unknown foe; the other was the last scream of the burned witch on the ground. Little Carol had always been so enduring, so full of life.
There was no time to pretend to grieve. She could see the attacker still moving even though it was clearly ablaze. The fires were raging around it but that was all they were doing, just burning around the figure. The smell of acrid, roasted flesh was coming from the charred witch at her feet. The stranger was aflame but not actually on fire. There was an aura protecting it. Damn it!
Her coven sisters were down, her athame was broken and her magics were not working. She thought briefly about the gun under her jacket but knew she'd never get it out in time. The lethal shape was already lunging forward.
It infuriated her to do this but she had to run. One more blast. That was all the flame left in her. It would hurt, especially considering the hole in her soul, but she had no choice. It would not burn this bastard but it might buy her the seconds she needed. Both hands forward, she forced a burst of spiritfire to rage forth!
As she expected, the figure dodged. There were cars to either side so it took the only out it had; wings spread and it surged upwards in a lethal arc. The sword was shifted into a two hand grip. When the mysterious attacker landed, she would be a dead woman…
….assuming she was there to kill. Once the shape blurred into the sky, Lika shouted the words to a spell she absolutely hated to cast. It pledged her soul and service to the Great Lilith, arcane words surrounding a servile oath. She loathed this so much. She served no one. Others existed to serve her. Using this spell was humiliating.
But so be it. As the figure came down in a slash of dark steel that tore the asphalt apart, she was gone. Fading from existence, Lika avoided the stroke that would surely have ended her.
For a few moments, the stranger stood there, wings widespread, sword in both hands and tensed for anything. If this was a trick, an evasion before a counterattack, it was ready to launch into a final riposte. The hellish, rune-laden blade moaned in anticipation of another kill.
Three minutes passed. Then another and another crawled past. She was gone. The witch had escaped. She would be back, no doubt, but as hurt as she was it would not be soon. Tonight would be safe for everyone here. Destroying the detonator solved the immediate threat but to make sure this people could rest, one more thing had to happen.
He had overheard the witches talking. They were blaming someone he loved for what he had done to keep her safe. That had to stop. The lady had enough troubles to deal with right now. He was not going to make things harder on her. No way in Hell.
There was a spell, he thought to himself as he raised his sword over the burned girl's throat. He knew a spell that would send a message for him. In an hour or so, far away from here, he would let the Lilin coven know who was really responsible for all this.
All he needed was a very grisly component…
Stay woke up to the heel of a hand on her little shoulder. She had been having such a wonderful dream. Playgrounds and ice cream and a bed made of stuffed aminals. The bestest part of the dream was that she was home, a big home with other kids and a mommy and lots of people needing lots of hugs with faces that needed lots of marker drawings.
Her Matt-Matt was over her, one finger to his lips. "Shhhh… we have to go."
There was instant disappointment. "But you said we could stay." She knew she should not complain. He was obviously hurt again. There had been another fight. Stay knew he fought like this to keep her safe too. If Matt-Matt said they had to go, they had to go. Still, it was not fair.
"I'm sorry, little. I wanted to stay too. But we can't risk their lives. You really want to get your new friends hurt, kiddo?"
He thought she was too young to understand it but she knew pain when she heard it. He really did want to stay here with everyone but someone bad had found them again. That had to be it. Why else would he leave in the middle of the night?
With a sad sigh and a big yawn, she offered up her little arms. He needed a hug. Matt-Matt obviously needed loves. She would hold him all the way to wherever they ended up next. That would make him feel better and if that did not work, she would ask for Waffle House again. She pretended to like that greasy food stuff because she knew he loved their chocolate chip waffles.
It would be okay. The bike was not so bad. Maybe someday she and Matt-Matt could have a home with the pretty lady and all her friends.
Maybe someday she could have her dream…