The Offer I Had To Refuse
The sun was going to rise in about an hour or so. I could feel it in my bones. My eyes ached and every muscle in my body screamed at me as I stretched against the soft cotton sheets of the bed, inadvertently kicking Jasper off the end of the bed where he had been sleeping on my feet. I realized that I was making a habit out of waking up in this bed without falling asleep in it, and I groaned. He meowed at me for attention, and I reluctantly opened my eyes to look at him. I immediately regretted it. The world swam around me, and even in the twilight before morning, I could tell that I was still seeing a bit of the otherworld. I was seeing Jasper in double, and everything had an otherworld overlay on top of it. I looked out the open bedroom door and it was like seeing the living room and the ghost of living rooms past at the same time. Dull swirls of that otherworld mist hung in the air like the phantom remnant of whatever had passed through. Jasper gave up on me and scampered out of the room, leaving a fading trail behind him.
I rubbed my eyes and sat up in the bed, resting my forehead on the heals of my hands. I didn’t look up to see him, but I knew when Phil entered the room. It wasn’t the sound of his footsteps that made me aware of him. I felt the caress of power, and it was unlike anything I had ever felt before. It danced across my skin and had a taste like warm honey. It felt good.
I looked up at Phil and it took me a moment to distinguish between him and the smoky aura around him. He handed me a couple of pills and a glass of water. “How are you feeling?” He asked, sitting down beside me.
“Mm,” I replied noncommittally and took the pills. I finished the glass of water and then set it on the side table. “How long was I asleep?” My voice sounded groggy so I cleared my throat.
“A few hours.”
I looked at him, past the aura. There was a pinch to his eyes, evidence that he might be feeling a bit like I did before he came in. “I appreciate the gesture, but you can stop doing whatever it is that you are doing now. I feel a lot better, and you probably need rest too.”
He gave me a small grin. “I’d like to claim credit, but it isn’t me. Your natural defenses are getting help wherever they can. You are getting energy from me to heal the psychic damage that you took.”
I frowned at him. “I’m draining you like a battery?”
He shrugged at me with a smile. “I’ll be okay.”
My frown only grew. That wasn’t a denial. I didn’t like the idea that I was using him without even trying to. He seemed to have no issue with it, but I definitely did not care for it at all.
“This is all my fault. If I hadn’t been so stupid, I never would have dragged you into all of this, I’d never have lost my memories, and this whole situation with Bael would never have happened.”
"Don't think that," He said sternly. "What happened started with Toliver. If you need to point a finger, it should ultimately go to him." I looked back up at him, and noticed that the smoky aura around him was fading along with all the rest. It was still clearest around him, but almost all of the other remnant traces of mist had faded.
I took a deep breath and cleared my head. "Yeah, I guess you might be right about that.” I fell backwards on the bed, letting my legs dangle off the side while I thought. “He is still alive somewhere, or at the very least is not dead, whatever that may mean. If we could find him, we could ask him what Uroth meant about me being Nephilim, and about what Greg needs me for..." I let out a heavy sigh of frustration.
"We have less than twenty four hours before we are supposed to meet up with Bael at the crossroads, and the same deadline before Uroth comes back.” He sounded disheartened. “Unless a miracle occurs, we aren't going to find Toliver in time, if ever. We need to come up with a plan B."
“Yeah, I know,” I responded with a groan.
He stood up and held out his hand. “Why don’t you get out of bed, I’ll make you some coffee or something and we can think about it.”
I looked up at his hand and after a moment, held mine up. It wouldn’t do me any good to lounge around in bed all day, anyway.
Phil grabbed my hand and pulled me up. I sucked in a breath as the auras that I had been seeing seemed to explode into new meanings of color. If he noticed, I couldn’t tell.
I was now standing at the edge of the bed, looking at him studying his face. He had an inquisitive look on his face. I took the hand that he was not holding and ran it over his face, stroking the aura. The power that I felt radiating from him was intoxicating, and as smooth as a fine wine. I wanted to wrap myself in it and keep it all for myself.
Phil tried to remove his hand, but I grabbed it and held on. I felt and saw the energy in his hand flare. He started to say something, but I shushed him, following the aura of power. I realized that it wasn't just smoky. It had a red glow to the edges of the gray that seemed to burn like embers. I traced it with my hand and my eyes over the spot where he held my hand. Our auras were mixing together in swirls of lavender and gray. It was lovely to see.
"Riesa, what is it?" he asked quietly, the worry in his voice quite evident. “It isn’t Gamori again, is it?”
I shook my head. “No. Its nothing like that.” I looked away from his aura and followed mine with my hand. Our hands weren’t the only places where my aura seemed to be mixed with Phil’s. There was a patch over my heard that felt warm and comforting. There was another spot over my stomach, but it did not look the same. The auras didn’t mix there. It was a solid red mass, or as solid as an aura could be, and it stayed separated from my aura like oil and water. "Its like I'm still seeing the other-world. When I woke up, everything had an aura to it, but it was almost gone. When you grabbed my hand, we lit up like the Fourth of July," I answered in a near whisper. "Do you know what this is exactly? Is this going to be a permanent thing?"
"I think that what you are seeing right now is psychic auras. Its what our souls, or power sources, look like," he replied. He looked at me appraisingly for a moment. “I don’t think that it is going to be permanent, if it was fading before. It’s probably just a side effect of being in the Otherworld so long.”
"Why is it stronger when we touch?" I asked.
He shrugged. "I'm your familiar. It makes sense that your abilities would be amplified when we touch."
"Yeah, that does makes sense," I replied absentmindedly. "Part of my aura seem to be mixed with yours." I decided not to mention that it was over my heart. I didn’t want him getting the wrong idea.
“That is probably where your energy is using mine to repair itself,” he explained simply.
I curiously ran my hand over my heart, and the mists moved like ripples in a pond. I noticed that the tendrils of his aura seemed to follow my hand for a moment before returning. I looked back up at Phil. He was still standing close to me, letting me hold his hand. I experimentally “pulled” on that red tendril, focusing on having it in my hand.
“What did you just do?” he asked nervously. He looked tired.
I let the auras return to its original space. “Sorry, you felt that?”
He nodded. “Yes.” He thoughtfully stared at my face for a moment. “It felt like you were gathering my power. It felt odd.”
I stored that interesting piece of information away and ran my hand over my midsection. It felt like sticking my finger in a metaphysical light socket. I yelped and removed my hand. I recognized the anomaly. "Oh my god," I whispered.
"What's the matter," Phil asked, squeezing my hand a bit in worry.
I looked up into his blue eyes, "Its still there," I said. "Whatever Bael put in me eight years ago, its still there and it's like a live wire," I said, suitably horrified. I let go of his hand and the auras faded away. I let out a heavy breath that I hadn't even known I had been holding. I was starting to feel a bit sick, again, but I was afraid of reaching out to Phil to feel better. Wrapping his aura around me felt better than I cared to admit in polite company, and I didn’t want to put anymore strain on him. "I don't think that it would be a good idea for you to touch me for a while.”
He did the smart thing and nodded. “Okay.”
I sat back down on the bed, now feeling a bit light headed again. “Forget coffee. Plan B. So far, my options are surrendering to the Watchers, being killed by the Watchers, or being used as a vessel for Bael. I need an option four.”
He remained standing this time, crossing his arms over his chest. “I can think of two solutions,” he said a bit reluctantly. I could tell by the look on his face that he either didn’t like his own idea, or he didn’t think that I would.
“What is your first solution?” I asked.
He shifted a bit. “Complete your bond with me. I could protect you, and no other demon’s powers would work on you anymore. Bael couldn’t use you anymore, which is what the Watchers want to prevent. We might be able to persuade them to let you go free.”
I frowned at him. “And if it doesn’t? What then?”
He sighed. “Then I do what I do best and protect you with sword and fire.”
I shook my head. “And not only do you lose your chance to be a Free Agent, but so do I. Sorry, but I don’t much care for that idea. Next.” Sunlight was starting to pour in through the windows, dimmed by the heavy curtains. Time was moving forward.
“Tactical retreat,” he said disdainfully.
“You mean run away,” I clarified.
He shook his head. “No. I mean, yes. We fall back and try to find Toliver, or some other solution which may or may not be out there.”
“You don’t like the idea of running.”
He shook his head. “No. It screams against everything I am. It doesn’t feel like a real solution, but a prolonging of the inevitable.”
I let him see the seriousness in my face. “I can’t just give myself up, to you or to anyone else. Not without a fight.”
He nodded. “And that is something that we have in common. I don’t really plan on giving you up, either.”
I let out a depreciating laugh. “Probably wouldn’t hurt to just up and run, though. I’m most likely not going to live past thirty anyway.”
Phil brought his hands together and materialized his sword. He stepped towards me and held it out like an offering. I let him place it in my hands, the blade resting across my palms. Now that I was seeing it up close, I could tell the the blade was not straight, but waved on the edges, and the silver glowed pale red. I could feel heat coming from the blade.
He knelt down in front of me, and a shiver ran down my spine. I really hated it when he reminded me that he was far older than he seemed. “I, Azaraphel, pledge my sword and service to the protection of Theresa Marie Grimshaw, that her enemies be my enemies, her victories be my victories, her defeat be my defeat.” He raised his eyes to look into mine, and I saw nothing but sheer determination there. “This is a serious vow, Riesa, and not one that I make lightly. I’m not as powerful as I could be, but I’m strong enough. All I know of nephilim is myth and legend, but I know that you are one of the most naturally powerful casters that I’ve ever met. In three days you have accomplished more than most casters do in three years.”
I looked at him dumbfounded. “What are you trying to say here?”
He smiled at me. “I’m saying that I have full faith in us both, together, even if you won’t have me in the way I’d like. We will win today, or die trying. In either case, I’m with you all the way.”
I looked at the sword in my hands and at the face smiling at me, and felt nothing but apprehension and fear. I didn’t want him to follow me into my early grave. I had done nothing but wrong to him, and here he was, offering to follow me like a well-armed puppy of flaming chaos. It wasn’t right, and I had no right to let him do this. I handed the sword back to him. “No.” I said.
He frowned at me and stood, taking the sword. “Why not?”
I shook my head. “I can’t agree with it. I don’t want you dying for me, or pledged to me, or anything else. I’ve done enough to you as it is. I’ll surrender to the Watchers first.”
He cursed. “You are one of the most difficult women that I’ve ever met.” He leaned the sword against the dresser and grabbed my hand, pulling me off the bed and against him in one swift movement. Being this close to him, I could not see the auras, but I could feel the power radiating from him. It danced across my skin and I could feel the emotions that sparked it. It was determined, a little angry, and very sad. He held me with one arm around my waist, and lifted my face with a hand gently under my chin. “Riesa, you don’t have to agree with it. I’m a demon and nothing is ever going to change that. I can’t help but want to be human around you, but in this, I will be every bit the demon that I am. I am going to protect you, whether you like it or not.”
He released me, snatched up his sword, and stormed out of the room.
I sat back down on the bed and let a tear run down my cheek when I heard the front door slam shut.
* * *
It was getting late. I hadn't seen Phil all day. I don't know what he was doing, but I think he was avoiding me. I didn't blame him. I remembered the look on his face when I had first summoned him. How would I feel if someone had pulled me away and locked me in a journal for something I didn't do? I didn't think I'd be in love with that person. Especially if that person were me. And then I had completely rejected him. Despite his last words, I halfway expected that he had given up on me and left. It would serve me right, and in a way I hoped that was the case.
I walked outside and called for him just in case he was still somewhere nearby. The sun was setting, and the crickets were getting louder as the evening progressed. A cool breeze blew across the porch and sent a chill up my spine. He didn’t answer and I felt extremely alone. I had talked to Clarice after Phil had left, and I told her that I was going to stay home, and I told her most about what had happened during the ritual. I left out everything about the Watcher, Uroth. I had made my choice, and I didn’t want to worry her. My choices being slow death by curse, quick death by Watcher, or wishing for death by demon, I decided to go with the option that kept me alive enough to possibly be able to fight another day. I was going to wait for Uroth to show back up and surrender. It was my only viable option. I couldn’t solve any of my problems if I were dead.
I looked for Phil one last time. I sighed and headed back in, just in time to hear my phone ringing in the kitchen. I almost ran to my purse, just in time to see “unknown number” on the caller ID and answer it.
"Hello?" I answered.
"Riesa," It was Holly. She sounded frantic and scared. My blood ran cold. For her to be calling on a night like tonight, I knew that things were about to get worse.
"Holly, what's wrong?" I asked. My voice was shaky.
It wasn’t Holly’s voice that answered, “Hello, babe,” Greg’s voice purred over the line. I heard Holly scream in the background. “Holly is a bit preoccupied at the moment, but the party is starting and we are missing our guest of honor.”
My blood was boiling. “You bastard! What did you do?”
He laughed. “You were going to stand me up. I just invited Holly along to give you an incentive to come. Meet me at the crossroads where you had your chat with Gamori. You have thirty minutes.” The line went dead.
I cursed and threw the phone in my purse. All hope of surrendering quietly was gone now. I had to go. I grabbed my grandfather's athame from the ritual room and slipped it into the waistband of my jeans. It was the only weapon that I had.
I opened the front door and Phil was standing right there, his hand held out as if he was just about to grab the knob. I prayed a quiet “thank you”, and resisted the urge to give him a hug. “We need to go. Now.”
I answered him while I ran to the car. “Bael has Holly.”
As I drove I invoked the spirits. I don't know why, but I wanted them with me and at the ready for when things went pear-shaped, like I knew they were going to. I had no spells ready. Holly, and possibly Tommy, were in danger. Uroth was not going be happy when he finally found me. This was not going to be a good night for me. At least Phil was with me.
I pulled up to the four way stop, and pulled in to the little dirt parking space next to the brick building. I got out of my car, looking up to the sky. The moon was full and rising, shedding plenty of light all around, and making fantastic shadows behind the building and trees. I didn't see any other cars or any sign of life. I had a moment of panic where I entertained the idea that I had been too late.
I looked around again and Phil stepped beside me. I took his hand and tried to use my lingering other-world senses. The double vision wasn't as bad at night, but I could still feel the waves of energy. It seemed strongest over by the brick building.
I looked at Phil, and he gave me the sign for quiet. I nodded and we walked closer to the shed. The hair on my arms stood up in response. The entrances were boarded up, as were the windows. Then we heard the scream, coming from inside.
“Holly!” I screamed and let go of Phil’s hand, running toward the door.
He materialized his sword. He swung the blade at the door, and the boards fell away as if they had been rotting for decades. He ran a hand up the blade and it erupted into flame.
“Riesa, I’m so glad you made it,” Bael said from behind me. I jumped and Phil diverted his attention.
“Like you gave her a choice, Bael,” he said with contempt.
I looked at Phil. “Go get Holly. Please,” I begged him. “She’s another person who was dragged into this mess because of me. If anything happens to her…”
“I’m not leaving you here,” he said back to me, keeping his eyes on Bael.
I put my hand on his arm. “I can handle this, but not if I think Holly is still in danger.”
He looked back at me and then at Bael again, who gave him a smug smile. “Shit,” he said emphatically, and then ran into the building.
“Wise choice, Riesa. Always look out for your friends,” he smiled at me.
“Shut up, Bael. I’m here, now what do you want?”
He stepped closer to me and put a finger under my chin. I lifted my face away from him. “I want what any man wants, Riesa. A good mother for my children.”
“Screw you,” I replied, stepping back.
He laughed. “That is the general idea. You once were very willing to be by my side for an eternity, Riesa. Come to me willingly again. I can make it very worth your while.”
He nodded. “Very well then,” he said. I heard an explosion from behind me, and turned in horror to see the building collapsing in fire.
I screamed. I tried to run to the burning building, but Bael stopped me, holding both of my arms in his hands. Tears poured down my face.
“Don’t worry, love. Your friend, Holly, was never really in that building. I just needed to get rid of Azaraphel. You won’t miss him long. He’ll probably be reborn in about five years or so. Not that he’ll remember you when he is, though. And then he can be my loyal servant again. We can be one big happy family.”
“Go to hell,” I said through my tears. No matter what happened, I was going to make sure I ruined his day, and every other day after that.
He laughed again. I wanted to crush his windpipe with my heels. “Been there, babe.” He signaled to the shadows and a large man stepped forward. There was no questioning that he was a demon. His eyes glowed red, and he actually had two small horns rising up through his black hair. His skin was bronzed. “Make sure Azaraphel has met his final death. Bring me his head. I’d like to see it before it turns to dust,” Bael ordered the new demon, who bowed and took off for the building.
“No!” I screamed.
“You shouldn’t see this, babe,” Bael said. I felt his energy flow over me. I fought it and failed. Everything went dark.
* * *
I had trouble waking back up. The first thing that caught my attention was the acrid smell of smoke. I forced my eyes to open and they were not happy about it. Whereever I was, it was lit by flickering candlelight, and the migraine behind my eyes did not think kindly of the light. I managed to focus long enough to see that I was in a wooded clearing. It may have been in the woods around the cross roads, or it might have been somewhere else, I had no way of knowing. From the fact that I was tied up on what seemed to be a stone altar, and that people were walking around me in black robes, I knew that I was in trouble.
I wanted to cry. I knew that I had messed up. It was quite possible that Azaraphel was actually dead, and I had no idea how I was going to save myself. My hands were bound above my head, tied to a metal spike stuck in the stone, and my feet were similarly done, though my feet were apart. Someone had changed my clothing as well. I was wearing a plain white dress, ankle length, that was laced completely from the navel to the breast. I really did not like the look of things. I craned my head around as much as I could and caught sight of Holly. She was tied against a post too far away for me to speak to her. Her head was down and she was sitting is as much of a ball as she could manage.
"Riesa! I'm surprised you awoke so soon. You must be more powerful than I first suspected." Greg stepped closer to the altar, pushing back his hood so that I could distinguish him from the rest of the figures in black robes.
I turned my head as much as I could to look at him. "Let me go and I’ll show you just how powerful I can be," I replied. "You know, I once said that the next time I saw you, I was going to cut off your balls and make you eat them."
He laughed. "Now, baby, I don't think you have that ability right now," he said, checking the tightness of the ropes. "I hope you aren't too uncomfortable. We are going to continue the ritual as soon as the blood moon hits peak at full midnight. Its not too much farther away, I promise," he said, his voice sweet and sincere. It was a voice I was used to, and now thoroughly despised.
"What are you up to," I asked. "Why are you doing this at all?" Since I was the one on the altar, I figured that I had a right to know.
He smiled. "We have time. Let me tell you a little story," he said, running his finger tips down my arm. "Once upon a time, the Sons of God, a.k.a. Angels, saw that the daughters of man were beautiful and slept with them. The women became pregnant, and the children that they gave birth to were called the Nephilim. They were the heroes of old, mighty beings more powerful than anything else on this earth, or so legend goes. Their angelic fathers, however, had defiled themselves in the Lord's eyes were cast from heaven, just like me and my brethren.” He paused and stroked my face. I flinched. I did not want him to touch me, in any shape, form, or fashion. His voice continued, cold and spiteful. “They weren’t cast all the way down, though. No, those angels were given the title of Watchers, and they were charged with a sacred duty to secure their offspring, one way or another.”
This was news to me. I forcefully remember Uroth and shuddered at the idea that he could have been my ancestor. “That still doesn’t explain what you want with me,” I said.
“That, Riesa, is exactly why I need you. You are a Nephilim, albeit several generations removed. When Toliver made his deal with me, I gave his bloodline demonic power, and in exchange, he would give me a demonic Nephilim,” he said, running his fingertips along my jawline.
“Stop touching me,” I bit off at him.
He laughed, circling me like a vulture. “You weren’t complaining much the other day.”
I scowled at him. Hell hath no fury like a woman betrayed, tied up, and mocked. “What the hell do you need me for? If I’m Nephilim, then so was my grandfather, and he was much more powerful than me.”
He gave me scandalized look. “He’s a man. A male won’t work for what I have planned.” He kept talking. "I want the power of Creation, and you are the key." He touched my foot, caressing upward as he circled me, starting with my ankle, and then my inner calf. I struggled against the ties, to no avail. "You promised me your body and soul eight years ago. All this," he caressed up my inner thigh. "belongs to me."
He removed his hand from my skin, thankfully, and placed his open palm on my abdomen. "You have been carrying the seed of my power for about eight years now. At midnight, we will hold a ritual. You and I will join as one flesh, and we will make that seed bloom. You will carry the first of a new race; a modern day, demonic Nephilim. Once it reaches maturity, it will be my body to take over, and then I will have all the power of Heaven and Hell, second only to God almighty himself," he said wistfully. "You should be honored, Riesa."
"Go to Hell," I promptly replied.
He chuckled and ran a finger up my sternum along the laces. "We’ve been over this. Already been there." He laughed as he walked away.
I stared up into the night sky. There wasn’t much that I could other than stay put and feel the anger and terror that fought each other to rip me apart from the inside out. The moon was beautiful and full, in a terrible I’m-going-to-be-ritually-raped-when-its-midnight kind of way. It made me wish I had a watch. On one hand, what did I care? I didn’t have anyone left in the world who would miss me, other than my cat and Clarice. I looked back over at Holly, who had moved slightly. She was awake and alert. I pulled myself out of my pity party. I couldn’t afford to lose it here. I needed to keep myself together if for no other reason than to make sure that she got away, safe and sound. We hadn’t been friends long, but I owed her that much.
My view of her was blocked by another robed figure who walked up to me and spoke. "Hello, love," Gamori said. I should have figured that she would be here. "Draug hasn’t returned yet."
It took me a moment to process what she meant. Draug must have been the large demon with the red eyes. I took the meaning behind what she said to heart. "Why are you telling me this?" I replied skeptically.
She smiled. "I like you. Let me tell you a little secret, love. Bael sent me over to use my particular brand of magic on you, to make you all lusty and more willing to perform his ritual with him. I can't do that because you have some major powers protecting you. Since I can't make you enjoy whats coming up next, let me take a little peek into your future," She leaned over me, brushing my hair back with both of her hands and framing my face. She tried to get me to look into her eyes, and I struggled a bit.
“Why would you want to help me at all?” I asked her.
"Look into my eyes, Riesa. I don't want Bael knowing that I'm disobeying. Just look at me and listen."
Reluctantly, I decided to go with my intuition on this one. I looked at her and stopped struggling. She spoke again, her British accent sounding foreboding and cryptic. “The future is not a straight line. It twists and turns. All beings fear change to some degree, and we demons are not exempt.Suffice to say that there are some futures that I would rather not see.” She took a deep breath. With her so close to my face, I could tell that she had brushed her teeth recently. Her breath was minty fresh. Who’d have thunk that demons brushed their teeth. "You are split between two beings, both who are fighting for you. One wants to keep you, the other wants to use you. By the end of the night, you will belong to only one." She patted my cheek. "Free of charge, love."
I could see why it was free. It wasn't very helpful, since it was obvious which way this situation was going to go. "You know what would be even more helpful? Not being tied up," I replied.
She laughed. "That would be cheating! You can do it, love. I believe in you." She walked away.
I was left alone, once more and I have to say I liked it better that way. There were a few people that I wouldn't mind seeing, and Phil was right at the top of my list. I sincerely hoped that he was still alive like Gamori was strongly hinting at.
I couldn’t count on him riding in to my rescue, though. I needed to do something. On a whim, I closed my eyes and meditated, focusing on the other-world vibes, hoping that an idea would come to me. It was about all I could do at moment, anyway. I could feel my own power, like warm honey, even though I could no longer see it. I felt it ebb with the rising moon. It was going to be time for the ritual soon. I ignored that, and examined my power, mentally focusing from my fingers to my toes. I took note of two places that were different from what I recognized as mine, one over my heart, and the other over my abdomen. I knew the one over my abdomen was the seed of power that Bael had given me eight years ago.
I was more interested in the remnant of Azaraphel’s power. We were still connected. I focused on it, reached for it, and felt it build. I imagined it as a ball of energy that I could manipulate and use. I mentally grasped on to it and fed power into it. I had no idea what I was doing, but I fed the energy into my hands, led by some obscure instinct that this would do something. Theoretically, I could use his power, or at least I hoped. I felt the power trickle out my hands and into the ropes above my head. The power was gone, spent. It wasn't enough to completely break the rope, but it was enough to weaken it significantly. I was sure that I could have yanked hard enough to break it, but I had to time things just right, or I'd never make it to Holly and out of the circle, and then there was the issue of my feet still being tied.
I glanced around. I could count four people in black robes that I did not know, and then Bael and Gamori. I caught a glance of the hilt of my Athame and my clothes near the end of the altar on the ground by my feet. If I got the chance, I planned to break the rope at my wrist and grab the athame to free my feet.
It was time. I looked up and the moon had begun to develop a red shadow; the Blood Moon. Bael-Greg called everyone to him to begin the first part of the ritual, the ritual cleansing. Everyone moved to the other side of the clearing, and joined around him. It was probably the only opportunity like this that I was going to get. I snatched my wrists, and the rope broke like I had expected. I said a thank you in prayer while I quickly sat up. I stretched and was just barely able to reach the athame. I cut the first rope and I heard Greg shout. I raced to cut the other leg free before the first person reached me. It snapped, and I rolled off the other side of the altar, just barely evading as one of the black robed people reached to grab me.
I ran towards Holly at the edge of the clearing, invoking the spirits as I did. She looked up and saw me coming, and then stood while she called my name. “Riesa, thank you, thank god,” she sobbed while I quickly cut the ropes. I was very thankful that the athame was sharp.
“No time,” I huffed. “Run!” I grabbed her hand and took off, blindly leading her into the woods. I had no plan past this, but we needed to get away. I was barefoot, and the stones and sticks under my feet stung, but I was not willing to stop for nothing. Luckily, Holly was wearing shoes and seemed to be doing quite well running on her own. Fear is a great motivator. I could hear the ones chasing us. I didn't know if they were human or demon, and I didn't really care. I just did not want to be caught by them. I invoked the last spirit and paused to cast my circle, touching Holly’s arm, but it was too soon. One of the black robed figures grabbed the back of the white robe I was wearing. Holly screamed. I spun around, pulling him off balance as he held my robe. I stabbed with the athame. It caught him in the back, between the shoulder blades. His scream joined Holly’s, and then he dropped to the ground, motionless.
“Holly, please stop screaming,” I asked her as calmly as I cold, tracing the circle around us with the tip of my bloody athame. It came to life, stronger than any circle that I had ever made before. I think Holly felt it also, from the look that she had given me. I had no time to think about it. "Elemental Spirits, Gnome, Sylph, Salamander, Undine, please protect me from evil and guide me in my path," I recited from memory, solidifying the circle. Once I had done that, I sat down beside Holly and waited.