It was only that morning that three criminal adepts sat in three prison cells in three different parts of the country. Not even they could believe in the dark magics that brought them back into the world, thus reuniting the Society of Sin.
Mr. Fahrenheit, Punching Judy and the Carbon Man advanced toward the castle which, by their reckoning, had no business existing outside of medieval England. It appeared ominous, and only became more so with the dust and wind the Carbon Man blew against it. A dark presence loomed there, which set the hairs on edge.
Punching Judy smashed her fists together. “You ready to knock some doors down?”
“I’d rather smoke them out,” said Mr. Fahrenheit. He summoned pillars of fire to leap from his palms.
“Looks like the fight’s coming to you,” said another.
A trio with blazing red capes emerged from the treeline. Each wore a uniform of a different color; yellow, pink, and green. With pride and purpose they marched toward the villains, never once wavering.
Punching Judy narrowed her gaze. “I thought we were fighting vampires,” she said.
The Carbon Man shrugged. “Maybe they’re gay,” he murmured through the gravel.
Such a curious statement gave Yellow Fang pause. “‘Gay’? What on earth…“
“He believes we have a romantic preference for members of our own sex,” Green Fang explained.
Pink Fang huffed. “A liberated sexual identity often lends itself to other liberated forms of expression, but one must never assume.”
“Agreed,” said Yellow Fang, and threw himself at the first enemy.
Little more than a hundred yards above, the little bat called Spike set to work. She scraped the floorboards with the chalk in her tiny hands. Eventually she’d drawn the five points of a pentagram and placed a candle at each. She flew to Tanya, and offered her a box of matches.
“Could you be a dear and light those for me?” she asked.
Tanya did so, happily.
“Bless you. Now, what else did I need?” The little bat searched her surroundings. “Of course! Salt! Don’t need any nasty spirits giving us trouble!”
Meanwhile, Cassius hung his head from the open panel and watched the battle unfold. Yellow Fang dodged flames, Pink Fang ducked boulders, and Green Fang danced around the gargantuan arms swinging at his head. The vampire tensed, but not out of fear for his brood.
“I should be down there,” Cassius said.
Tanya lit the last candle, and stood for Spike to pour a ring of salt. “Your job up here is just as important,” she said. “You get Lindsay back, and I get Kaira back. There’ll be enough fighting to go around.”
He took her point, but failed to ease.
Spike landed in the heart of the circle and beckoned the others to come. Her preparations were complete. “We all take hands,” she said, offering diminutive digits to both companions.
Tanya and Cassius sat on their knees, and pressed through the awkwardness of the act. It was more intimate than either would welcome from a stranger, but necessity demanded it.
“Close your eyes,” the little bat instructed. “Breathe slowly; in through the nose, into the diaphragm, and out through the mouth.” And they did. “Cleanse your mind of all other thoughts, and focus on the one you love.” And they did – for Tanya, her best friend from grade school; for Cassius, his friend and would-be Master.
Spike tilted her head back, and recited the words of the ritual.
“We place this call to the old powers and new/ Please hear us! In the name of the four winds – North, South, East and West – and of the elements – Earth, Fire, Water, Wood and Metal – we beseech you; return to us our friends. Extend your hand to the Abyssal Realm and free them from torment; in the name of your servant, the Great Vampire King and those beneath him, and for Tanya, daughter of the house of Truman-”
“‘House of Truman’?” Tanya chided under her breath, but was quick to refocus her thoughts.
Spike’s tiny hands clung tighter as she started to chant, “Ew kas tath uyo viledre oru dresnif isyndal nad arika morf het salabsy emarl nad alysef niot oru sarm! Ew kas tath uyo viledre oru dresnif isyndal nad arika morf het salabsy emarl nad alysef niot oru sarm!”
The conflict outside faded away, but was replaced by another storm in the confines of the clock tower. All three participants held fast to one another, and to the thoughts of their lost companions.
Cassius laughed, despite himself. “It’s working!”
“Ew kas tath uyo viledre oru dresnif isyndal nad arika morf het salabsy emarl nad alysef niot oru sarm! Ew kas tath uyo viledre oru dresnif isyndal nad arika morf het salabsy emarl nad alysef niot oru sarm!”
Just then, though none saw it, a crack opened in the face of the world. It yawned to unleash a wave of cold, while also drawing the air from the room, along with those in it. None buckled in the face of this terror, and nor did they still as something emerged from the darkness.
Red Fang was relentless. Twisting through the abstract halls of the ‘Great Vortex King’s’ castle was an equal challenge to keeping Fantom at bay. Her claws scraped against steel, driving the monster back.
All I could do was watch, powerless, nursing a great black gash that sucked the life out of me. The light began to fade, and with it our protection from the true horrors of the Abyssal Realm. Maybe, with some luck, I’d be gone before it came to that.
No. I couldn’t think like that. We had to make it, or Lindsay’s efforts would be for nothing.
She clapped her hands around Fantom’s blade and wrestled with it. He had the power, but by the gods did she have heart. Even with the odds stacked against her, she fought like she could win.
Fantom pressed down until the edge kissed her visor. “Your friend is wounded,” he jeered, “and nothing you can do will save her.”
Real confidence booster, there. The void coursed through my veins like a sickness. I was cold and empty.
Red Fang delivered a kick between the monster’s legs. It was the kind of blow felt by everyone with a certain anatomy, but just the opening needed to roll from his path.
“Even if it comes to that, I’ll still keep fighting,” she said.
Without any warning the air split open. Blazing tendrils of crimson shot down and snatched Red Fang. Fantom appeared equally surprised, and failed to land a strike before they stole her away, piece by piece.
Another set of tendrils took my feet, hands and other parts into a crack in the world. What was happening? Where was it taking us? I braced myself. Wherever it was, it was better than this place.
Yellow Fang danced, jumping from left to right to avoid licks of flame. Every move was halted by a fiery wall he could only charge through at great cost to himself. The pyrokinetic almost wiped him out more than a few times, until the hero’s cape caught ablaze.
Luther threw himself to the ground. “Stop, drop, roll! Stop, drop, roll!” He twisted in the grass, drowning the fire until it made ash of the fabric.
He was not the only one to struggle, for Pink Fang proved ineffective against the Carbon Man’s rocky shell, and the overgrown clown more than overwhelmed Green Fang with her brawn.
His own enemy moved for the finish, charming snakes of fire to intertwine around the hero. Mr. Fahrenheit lifted his chin high. “You can’t stop me now,” he said.
For Yellow Fang there was only one course of action. “Change places!”
Pink Fang doubled back. “Pardon?”
“You can’t tell me what to do,” Green Fang rasped with a boxing glove wrapped around his neck.
Yellow Fang charged, and veered off course at the last moment. Instead of plowing through fire he threw a fist into the jaw of Punching Judy, knocking teeth from her mouth. She lifted from her feet, and landed face first in the dirt. The hero collected himself, and pulled Green Fang from the ground.
“Then take it as a suggestion,” he said.
A fireball rolled toward them with a heat threatening to sear through their uniforms, but Before it landed the stream of fire was stifled. It evaporated to reveal the shirtless – and also unconscious – foe laid out in the dirt. Standing over him was Pink Fang.
“I recommend taking him up on it,” he told Green Fang.
Now that he was the last one standing, the Carbon Man summoned a storm of rocks and dust, to bear down on the heroes. Yellow Fang planted his feet to hold fast against the gale, and lowered himself to shield the others. Green Fang took refuge behind him, and stole a peek at the monster.
“Can you get me closer?” he called over the deafening wind.
Yellow Fang pressed for all his might, taking one uneven step after the other toward the Carbon Man. Sharp stones cutting through his uniform, it’s thickness his salvation. He was several steps away when he could press no further.
“Whatever you’re planning, it won’t work,” roared the Carbon Man. His voice carried like thunder, shaking in the heroes’ bones.
Green Fang clutched to his teammate’s arm. “Now throw me!”
With all his might, Yellow Fang did just that; he grabbed Green Fang by the collar of his vest and tossed him into the squall. The dust was so thick that neither hero nor villain saw claws sharper than all the others cut through the Carbon Man’s thick shell. In an instant the storm settled.
The stony shell of the Carbon Man crumbled, revealing the villain’s true face. The brute scowled at Green Fang, and went down with a single punch.
The three heroes gathered to catch their breath. They laughed.
“So much for the Society of Sin,” Yellow Fang said.
What little celebration they shared ended when lightning erupted from the clock tower. Crimson tendrils stretched into the sky, though to what effect was yet to be seen.
Next I knew it was daytime. I was laid out on a wooden floor, staring at the insides of an iron bell. Sunlight shone from the window, thank the gods. You never know how much you miss the sun until you live without it.
It must have been a dream, because Tanya was there, along with a furry purple bat sitting on her head. Too crazy to be real, right? She propped me up in her arms and slapped my cheek.
“Kaira? Kaira, can you hear me? Kaira!” I could, sort of, but she didn’t have to yell.
Lindsay was there, and so was her friend in blue. The other three stormed into the room and turned pale. It took a moment to realize that I was the cause of alarm; that I was the one teetering in and out of consciousness.
One of them pulled a blanket over my legs. The little bat crawled onto my shoulder and inspected my wound.
“S-s-still c-cold,” I said.
There was a lot of chatter and noise; more than I could keep up with. Gods, my eyes were so heavy. Tanya and the others erupted when I closed them, but I couldn’t help myself. All I wanted was to rest.
To be continued…