The 4th Paladin Chapter 7

The 4th Paladin Chapter 7

A Chapter by Maria Mercurio

A teen girl is chosen to fight against a demon invasion.


Chapter 7

"Why didn't anyone tell me?"



     Dee drove the car up a long winding driveway to a Tuscan inspired villa somewhere in the hills off of Coldwater Canyon.  I did not know the area well, but was glad the drive was over.  The road had been windy and my stomach unsettled from the events of the night.  I was sweating and a bit dizzy. 

     "Leave your things in the car."  Instructs Dee.  "I am trying to arrange an early flight."

     "I would like to change my clothes."  I plead.  I am still wearing Naomi's dress.  I hope it isn’t a favorite of hers.

     "They will have plenty here for you."  Dee starts walking towards the door but I linger by the car.  "Nothing to worry about Maya.  Tooth brush, change of clothes, something to sleep in, all inside.  Better not to have to repack incase we need to leave quickly."

     "OK," I nod and shut the car door.

     The house is enormous.  Dee made a few calls on the way here, so I knew we were expected.  The house was fully lit and it was past 1:00 am.  Dee strides purposefully to the door and knocks rather than rings.  I wait back a bit feeling strange about standing beside her.

     An older gentleman opens the door.  He's impeccably dressed in a suit with a bow tie.  I notice he's even wearing spotless white gloves.  "Good Evening Mrs. Miller.  Mr. Tillman will see you in the study."  He opens the door wide for us to walk past.  "May I get you any refreshments?"

     "No thank you, Raymond."  Dee answers politely and heads back to the study. She has clearly been here before.  I assume Raymond is the butler or what ever they call a personal servant.  He called her Mrs.  I thought that was strange.  I manage to catch a glimpse of Dee's left hand.  I am shocked to see a wedding band there.  I am dying to ask her about it, but assume it's just a cover of sorts.  What else could it be?

     We walk into a room filled with lovely leather bound books stacked into built-in book cases around each wall.  There is a pair of plump dark red leather couches facing each other with a long rectangular table between them.  At the end of the room is a huge mahogany desk, where I presume Mr. Tillman sits.  The man stands, and I notice he looks to be around fifty.  He has a full head of hair but it's gray.  He has wrinkle lines by the sides of his pretty light green eyes. You can tell in his prime he must have had quite an athletic build.

     "Mr. Tillman, thank you for taking us in on such short notice."  Dee extends her hand in greeting and Mr. Tillman uses both of his to grasp hers. 

     "It is an honor to have you here.  Is this our new Paladin?"  His eyes are kind but searching as he takes me in.

     "Well not quite yet," the corners of Dee's mouth turn up slightly.  "But I believe she will be.  Her name is Maya."

     Mr. Tillman then takes my hand in both of his and squeezes it.  "Thank you Maya for taking up the cause."

     I find it difficult to meet his gaze.  "Sure thing."  I say lamely.

     "What time can they have the jet ready?"  Dee interrupts.

     "I couldn't get you a flight plan from Los Angeles, but I was able to get a route from Burbank.  They can take off as early as 7:00 am."  Mr. Tillman hands Dee a stack of papers.

     "Thank you.  Your efficiency as always is much appreciated.  Maya will need to get some sleep before we head out."  Dee looks at him expectantly.

     "Of course, of course.  Your wing is ready for you."  Mr. Tillman smiles at me.  Why do we need a whole wing of the house if we are leaving in less than 6 hours?  I'm not sure I can sleep, I'm so wound up, but I know I will be beyond tired once the sun pops up.

     I follow Dee up two flights of stairs and into a room.  It has a massive four post bed and a leather chaise lounge.  Both look good enough to sleep on for a week.  She shows me the bathroom, where the toiletries are, and then the walk in closet.  It's filled with clothes for all seasons and all purposes, from jeans to evening gowns.  They are all brand new with tags still on.  "Pick out something comfortable for tomorrow.  Dress in layers it could get cold."

     "Where are we flying to?"  I move items in the closet to the side admiring the selection.

     "New York," she is watching me when I turn and face her.  "Do you need something to help you sleep?"

     "Is this a test?"  I ask baffled.  "I don't take drugs."

     "I didn't mean to imply that you have.  Why would you when you have never been sick a day in your life?"  Dee smirks as my eyes widen at her knowledge.  "You look ready to drop, but I can tell that the adrenaline is still steadily pounding through you.  I was thinking more in line with warm milk or herbal tea."

     "No thank you.  I just need to try and stop my brain for a bit.  Anything for that?"  I ask glumly.

     "Meditation?  Maybe a little yoga?"  Dee replies helpfully.

     Sounds like too much work.  My face betrays my thoughts and Dee laughs and pats my back in sympathy.  "Here," Dee riffles through a dresser drawer and pulls out sweat pants and a tee shirt.  "Go brush your teeth and get changed.  I’ll wait for you here.  I have a sure fire sleep inducer."

     I take the bundle she hands me and head to the restroom.  I wash my face free of Khloe's wonderful make up job, brush my teeth, use the bathroom and change in record time.  I don't want her to have to wait long. 

     Dee is sitting on the giant four poster.  She has pulled down the covers and neatly stacked the throw pillows on top of a chest at the foot of the bed.  She pats the bed indicating I should come.  I feel like a little child as I climb in and she tucks the covers around me.  "Poor Maya, you have had quite the evening."  She strokes my hair in such a motherly way, which is funny since she cannot be more than a few years older than me.  Her touch is gentle and comforting.  I feel the drowsiness settle in.  I start to ask her a question but she stalls me.

     "We can talk during the flight.  We have 5 uninterrupted hours tomorrow for you to ask what ever you like. Sleep now."  She croons as she talks, her voice taking on a musical quality.  Suddenly Dee flares up brightly like when I first saw her at the party.  I close my eyes instinctively from the glare. 

     When I open them again, it's morning.  I feel incredibly well rested.  I sense that someone was just in my room.  I sit up and see a tray of food on the table by the chaise lounge.  It looks like oatmeal and it’s still steaming.  I guess this is my clue to get up and get ready.  I’m hungry, even though my stomach is still in knots.  I wolf down my breakfast, take a quick shower and do as Dee advised.  I dress in layers and happily discover a water proof puffer jacket that doesn't make me look like a giant marshmallow.  I didn't pack my things from home thinking we were gong back east.  Spring is mild in southern California, but I know spring on the east coast can vary between a snow storm to a hot muggy day.  I no longer have my phone to be able to check the temperature for the week.  I wonder how long until I'm able to be near a computer or another smart phone.  I saw Dee had one.  I feel completely out of touch.

     I gaze at my reflection in the mirror while I try to build up my resolve to head down the stairs.  I feel ill prepared to do this. I'm not even sure exactly what I will be doing.  My mother was always vague.  I don’t think she really knew all the details.  I need to muster up the courage and ask Dee some questions today.  Maybe I have this thing worse in my head than it will really be?  Or, maybe it’s even worse, and I should be prepared for that too.  



      Dee seems very agitated this morning.  I don't think she slept at all since she's still wearing her outfit from yesterday.  We say a very brisk good bye to Mr. Tillman and head straight for the car.  Her mood keeps me quiet and destroys all of my preparation to pepper her with questions.  She avoids taking any freeways and gets us to the Burbank airport in less than twenty minutes.  It dawns on me as we pass what I assumed was the airport and head to a smaller landing field that we are not flying commercial.  Flying does not make me nervous, but being in such a little plane for such a long flight makes the butterflies in my stomach start fluttering again.

     Dee parks the car and removes my suitcase from the trunk.  She doesn't pull out the handle to roll the bag, instead she carries it with one hand and swings it slightly while she walks, as if it's empty and not filled with my life's possession.  I imagine she must be very strong.  I trail after her feeling subdued.  She has barely spoken more than a few words to me.  Maybe she's afraid to fly?

     I don't know anything about jets, but this one looks very new.  We have a pilot, a co-pilot and one flight attendant, they are all men.  Dee hands one of them my bag to stow away.  "We are ready when you are gentlemen."  Her tone is clipped and she doesn't pause before getting on board and sitting down.

     "Yes Ma’am," the pilot answers to her retreating figure.

     I take the steps on shaky legs.  The inside of the jet has twelve seats, but they are big and plush with lots of individual leg room.  I never imagined I would fly on an airplane with just myself and one other person.  It was pretty cool.

     We’re both silent during takeoff.  I’m too afraid to strike up a conversation and Dee looks pale. I can’t stop my tentative glances at her over the next thirty minutes.  She's taking long deep breaths and pinching the bridge of her nose.

     "Okay, Maya," she breathes out heavily one last time and gazes at me.  "I can see you are on the verge of bursting.  What would you like to know?"

     Now that she has given me the green light, I stall.  I chew on my finger nails not knowing where to start.  Dee is patient, she just lets my brain percolate its’ thoughts.  "You are a Paladin, right?"  I feel I need to blurt this out as fast as I can.

     She looks shocked and then chuckles deeply.  "Yes, Maya.  You could definitely say that."   

     "Where is your angel then?" I exclaim.

     Her full pouty lips grimace at the question.  "My angel?"  She says the word as if annoyed.  "Is that what you were told they are?"

     My heart drops to my toes.  "Yes!"  I start to fret and can feel beads of sweat descending down my neck.  "Since I was thirteen I have lived this life because of just that one thing."  My voice is too loud and my breath hitches.

     "Calm down Maya," Dee gets up and brings me over a water bottle.  She rubs my back as I unscrew the top and take sip.  "I didn't mean to upset you.  Maybe they are angels.  You could very well be right."

     "You mean you don't know!"  Tears form in my eyes.  Why am I here?  "But I have seen the demons.  They're real."

     "There is darkness in this world."  Dee's lovely golden eyes fill with worry at my hysterics.  "And there is light to battle against it.  We need you to bring that light here.  Angel is just a word, but if you find comfort in it, then continue to use it.  My other half is in New York.  You will meet him soon and you can decide if you still think he's an angel."  She smiles like it's all so funny.

     I take another long swig of water.  How can she be a Paladin and not be a believer?  It confuses me.  "Why are you not together?  My mother said a bonded pair are rarely apart."  This is a topic I am extremely interested in.  Did Dee have a life independent of being a Paladin?  Did she have a husband and a job somewhere else?  Is this only a sometimes duty and I could try for some semblance of life?  Did we really need to stage my death then?

     "That's true.  You will find it very hard to be away from each other.  It's rather painful to endure.  I'm alone based on need.  The world is two Paladins short and the usefulness of being apart made the separation necessary."

     Oh, so much for a life on the side.  Is she speaking metaphorically about the separation being painful or did she mean it physically?  "I noticed they called you Mrs. Miller and you wear a wedding band."

     Dee holds up her hand to reveal the plain gold ring encircling her finger.  "Miller is a fake name.  It's just the one I am using currently."  She doesn't elaborate any further and I feel it's more a personal topic, so I don’t press. 

     "How many Paladins are there?"

     "Wow, you really don’t know much about the life you are walking into, do you?"  She says softly and I shake my head forlornly.

     "Well, there are usually four of us, or eight counting those other halves that is.  We have had more in the past during trying times, but we find that four is a more sustainable number.  It's a hard burden to bear.  We split the world into North, South, East, and West.  Sosanna and Hannu have the south.  That is South America, Africa, Australia, and although no problems yet, Antarctica too.  Yakira and Mika have the east, which includes Asia, the Hawaiian islands - well all the Polynesian islands, the Philippines, and New Zealand.  I usually watch over Europe, Russia, and occasional trips to the Arctic.  You will have the west.  That covers North America, Central America all the way to Panama, and we throw in Jamaica.  Sometimes when we are handling something really ugly we team up.  Who with, depends on the geography of the event.  I will help you with anything in North America, Sosanna will aid in Central American issues."  Dee rubs her lip as she thinks.  "You will not see much of Yakira though, unless all hell breaks loose and we need all of us to handle something."

     My head is spinning.  "But that's so big?  Don't you just spend every day flying from place to place then?"

     "When we are with our partners we can skip to a place.  It's only separated that we need to use airplanes."

     My eyes go as round as saucers.  "Skip?  Do you mean you can teleport?"

     "It takes practice, the first year is the roughest, but yes.  Teleportation is a newer word, I just call it skipping."  She shrugs as if this is all so normal. 

     What does she mean a newer word?  I am pretty sure it has been around for awhile.  I don't correct her though.  I move on to the question I’m dreading the most.  "So if you usually have four, what happened to the one that was here?"

     Her features settle into a mournful expression and I know my answer before she speaks.  "Rona and Ben died three months ago.  They were facing a rather large and powerful demon.  You might even have heard about it on TV.  Humans can't see them of course, but they did take some footage of semi trucks spinning through the air like paper airplanes.  They reported it as a tornado, but it wasn't.  The big demons like that are rare and don't come here often.  I’m not sure why they did not call for help, maybe they thought they had this one."

     "They both died?"  A lump forms in my throat.  I remembered the demons eating that man alive.  How big did they have to be to pick up trucks and throw them in the air?  How could anyone be expected to fight something that size? 

     "Once the bond is created, it can not be broken.  If one dies, so does the other." 

     I feel sick as the reality of my situation crashes in on me.  I would have to fight these things soon.  I didn't like even connecting my punches when I sparred fully padded.  How could I fight and kill anything?  I sincerely hope Dee didn't plan to leave any time soon.

     Something about what she says rings an alarm bell to me.  "Hold up.  Her name was Rona?  My mother told me my great aunt Rona was a Paladin.  I didn't think it was that  popular of a name."

     "You look a little like your great aunt.  She had that same honey blond hair."  Her voice was laced with melancholy.

     "Wait a minute!  It can’t be the same person.  She would have been like over a hundred years old!  Even if that was possible it seems incredibly cruel to make an old woman fight.  Don't you have some sort of retirement plan, you know, if they live long enough for the arthritis to kick in?"  I sputter.

     Dee laughs loudly at my outburst.  She grips her stomach and tears spring to her eyes.  I stare at her incredulous till she calms.  She wipes the escaped tears and sniffs.  "I am sorry Maya.  That was just too funny.  I guess I thought it was obvious, but it makes sense now.  Honey, once the bond happens you pretty much stop aging.  It freezes you at your physical prime.  Rona was 105 when she died, but she still looked 17."

     "No one told me that."  I manage a whisper.

     The mirth is gone on Dee's face, and it is replaced with sympathy.  I know I should compose my thoughts.  I have so many more questions for her.  All I can think about, though, is staying almost 19 until the day I die and that day will most likely come in a painful and scary end.  When I was thirteen this seemed way cooler.  The reality was terrifying and gut wrenching.         

© 2013 Maria Mercurio

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Added on April 27, 2013
Last Updated on May 5, 2013
Tags: young adult, paranormal, angel, demon