The 4th Paladin - Chapter 11

The 4th Paladin - Chapter 11

A Chapter by Maria Mercurio

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


Chapter 11

"Please not again!"




     "The kid is good," Dee says with a warm smile as she spears a bagel off the buffet and sits down at the table besides Sam.

     I flush a bit at her praise.  I figure it must mean something coming from her.

     "Well no surprise there," Sam winks at me.  "It's in the blood."  Sam seems different today, much more relaxed, even jovial.  I wonder if he is still mad at Dee or if his kind is quick to forgive.

     Dee looks at me thoughtfully.  "I’ve never had a Paladin know martial arts while she was still human.  You might be a surprise.  You have good instincts and your skill level is high in more than one school of fighting.  I look forward to seeing your current skill augmented with speed and strength."  She liberally spreads cream cheese on her bagel and takes a big bite.  "Of course," she pauses to swallow.  "You will have to overcome your aversion to actually hitting your opponent."

     "Ha," Sam laughs loudly.  "You pulling your punches on Dee, baby girl?  No need.  She can take whatever you dish out."

     "I make the hits."  I protest.

     "You're not trying to score points now Maya."  Dee looks stern.  "I’ll have you train with Sam today.  I want you to try to actually hurt him."

     I gulp my orange juice feeling concerned.  The idea of fighting against an angel and trying to hurt him feels both ridiculously crazy and wrong. 

     Sam leans his elbows on the table across from me and raises his eyebrows up and down.  "Dee likes training on the defensive.  Gives you a boost of confidence when you are the attacker.  I like doing the reverse.  Today you better work hard at hitting me or you will be getting a walloping."

     "Are you serious?  I don't stand a chance."  My eyes ogle his large forearms and boulder shaped biceps. 

     "Ah don't worry peanut.  I'll be holding back.  I just don't want you to."  There’s a smile on his face but something dangerous flickers in his eyes.  "No rule book anymore.  Fight dirty and stay alive.  You do what it takes, you hear?"

     An icy chill floated down my spine.  "I will." I say through numb lips.

     Libby's father Eri comes bustling in the room.  I had met him last night at dinner.  He is the polar opposite of his talkative, highly energized daughter.  He is just slightly over six feet tall with dirty blond hair he keeps slicked back aided by lots of gel. He is stern, quiet, and incredibly courteous to me.  It’s a surprise to see him looking as incredibly frazzled.

     Sam notices his expression first.  He stands as if ready to spring into action.  "What is it?"

    Eri's face looks grave.  "News from Greece.  The next portal has been compromised.  It was forced closed."  I understand quickly this must have something to do with me.   

     Dee hits her fist on the table, upset with the news.  "How could this have happened?  We’ve had that place heavily guarded for at least fifty years!"  She crinkles her mouth as she regards Sam.  "You said there was no chance they could get to it."

     Sam folds his arms and his expression grows frosty.  "If you had not taken so long on your holiday away perhaps it wouldn't have been detected."  Okay, so he doesn't forgive too easily.

     Dee glares.  "It wasn't a holiday, as if I have ever have one.  Picking the next Paladin is no small task.  I can't make the wrong choice."  Her tone catches as if she's trying to suppress a powerful emotion.

     Sam's demeanor changes instantly when he sees Dee is distressed.  He rests his hand over hers and strokes her knuckles with his fingers.  "I know, my love."  He speaks so gently.  They share a meaningful glance that makes me wonder if she has picked the wrong choice before, and what it would mean if she has again.

     "When will a new portal open?"  I ask assuming one will.

     "The when is never the problem," Sam replies musing.  "A new one opens as soon as the last one closes.  There is always one open between realms.  It's the where that is the problem.  We usually don't need to know instantly where the next one opens up.  We have only lost a portal once before, but that was before cell phones and computers.  We might be able to hunt this one down fairly quickly."

     "Quickly is the key.  We need to get Maya to the next portal before the demons find it."  Dee stands, clearly impatient to get started. 

     "Well it's nowhere close by.  I can't feel it.  I will call Hannu and Mika to see if they sense anything.  We will just have to skip from territory to territory till it's found."  Sam pulls a phone from his pocket and starts dialing.

     "We can't leave Maya here unprotected."  Dee warns.

     "No, she'll have to come with us."  Sam agrees.  The phone answers and I can hear the voice on the other end talking in rapid greeting.  Sam answers in what I think is Japanese, firing off quick sentences.

     "Maya, go to your room and pack a small backpack with a change of clothes for three days.  Hopefully we will have this wrapped up much sooner.  Leave everything else here."  Dee stops speaking to me as she listens to Sam on the phone. 

     He gets off and frowns.  "They are hunting a particularly nasty herd in Yulin, China.  Mika says they will do some quick jumps, but he needs to put these things down.  The beasts attacked an orphanage and killed four last night."

     Dee cringes at the news and my stomach feels sour.  "Call Hannu.  See where they are.  That will give us a place to start."  Sam starts dialing and Dee gives me a significant glance.  "Go pack.  We’ll go when you get back." I nod and leave the room on weak legs.          



     I stuff my school backpack with jeans, sweats, and tees in under ten minutes and return to find everyone set up in the library.  It looks more like a war room now.  Guards sit monitoring several TV screens, showing the outside and inside of our building.  Rows of laptops are being frantically key punched by people I still have not met.  There’s a large map of the globe hung on a rolling chalk board with red pins sporadically placed on it.  The room is tense and loud with activity.  No one notices me standing there taking it all in.  I understand that what has happened is bad, but I’m not really sure how bad.

     "Good, you’re back."  Dee sneaks up next to me and I jump at the sound of her voice so close.  I’m on edge, reflecting the tension from the room.

     "I'm ready," I squeak shouldering my pack.  "Should I be taking anything else?"

     Dee signals one of the armed guards over.  "Do you know how to shoot?"

     I gulp.  "My mom takes me to the shooting range once a month.  I’m just an average shot though."

     "Good enough."  Dee takes a belt and holster from the guard and fastens it onto me.  "This is a Glock 17 semi automatic.  Wear it on your left side so you can draw it with your right hand.  The extra ammunition is stored in the belt.  The bullets are a special make and they will slow a demon down.  Only a direct shot to the heart can kill them.  I want you to have this in case we get separated.  Do not try to engage, this is just for self defense.  Your best bet for survival is simply to run.  Get to a safe place and call this number.  She hands me a cell phone.  Only one number is programmed in it."  She hands me a slip of paper.  "That will link you with another Paladin and they will come for you."

     All the blood leaves my face and I shake a little as I holster the gun.  "How likely is it that I’ll need to use it?"

     Dee places both her hands on my shoulders.  "Maya, you are going to be fine.  This is just a precaution.  I want you to keep a level head and stay sharp.  Can you do that for me?"

     I’m not sure I can, my brain is buzzing from the adrenalin pumping through me.  I nod anyway, knowing she will expect it.

    "That's my girl."  She squeezes my shoulders in approval.  "Sam!"  She calls out.  "Let's do this."

     Sam is studying the map intently, but whips around at Dee's call.  He takes a few large strides and is standing next to us.  "Clear a space!"  He shouts and everyone takes  large steps away from us.  Dee stays standing before me with her hands on my shoulders and Sam moves behind me.  I can feel him pressed against my back.  There is no softness to him, all sharp planes and hard muscles.  His long arms reach over me to clasp Dee.  I feel awkward wedged between them, but I’m so scared I barely register our strange group hug.

     His voice rumbles behind me, and I can feel the vibrations shoot through my body.  "This is not going to feel pleasant the first time, but once you’re a Paladin it will become as easy as jumping in the air.  Just keep breathing evenly and don't panic.  It may not feel like it, but we’ve got you."

     "Okay," I manage to say and try to do as he tells me and breathe.  

     Dee's eyes travel away from my face up to Sam's behind me.  "Where to first?"

     "Let's go small.  Keep the first few in North America.  It just opened, but since the other well was forced closed, the energy radiating from the new one will be huge.  We should be able to feel it up to 500 miles.  So that means it's not in New England.  Want to try Texas?"  Sam suggests while I try to get my heart to stop leaping from my chest.  We are really going to teleport!                                

     "Dallas?"  Dee asks.

     "I am partial to Austin myself."  I can hear the smile in Sam's response.

     Dee rolls her eyes.  "Fine, Austin it is.  The park by the court house." 

     Dee takes a long slow breath and I try to emulate her, but before I can expel, we leave the library.  I am in total blackness, there is not a hint of light as my eyes strain to see.  What is around me is not air, it feels like I am encased in tar.  Sam's advice to breathe creates fear as I realize I can’t.  I try to take in a lung full but my mouth fills with ooze, and I have the panicked feeling of drowning.  I start to thrash, trying to free my body from the blackness, but I’m suspended in it and can’t move.  I no longer feel Dee's hands on me or Sam's chest pressed against my back.  I’m alone.  They have skipped and left me in this void and pretty soon I will be out of oxygen.  I scream to try and remove the sludge from my mouth but no sound escapes.  Dizziness kicks in and I flail futilely.  I am dying.

     Light pours in around me, and I blink my eyes rapidly, trying to adjust and stop the tearing.  I take in a large lungful of air and look down.  There is no black ooze covering me.  I am exactly how I was while in the library.  We are in the park and the sun has just crested over the horizon.  The place is deserted for now, but I can hear cars driving down the street.

     "Not picking up anything here."  Sam sighs.  "How about Oregon?"

     "Wait!"  I say, truly scared to jump back into that blackness.  "I don't think I can do that again."

     Dee's lovely golden eyes crinkle with concern.  "The first time is rough, but it does get better.  Just know that it will only be a few seconds and then you are out.  We cannot afford to do this any slower.  There are so few Paladins and thousands of demons.  They can search faster and more effectively than we can with those numbers.  Skipping is our only advantage."

     I start to cry.  I’m terrified to feel that suffocating death again.  "Can't you find it and come back for me?  I can't do this all day.  It’s too much."

     Sam strokes my hair and makes soothing noises while Dee pulls me into a fierce hug.  I’m surprised by the comfort they offer and hope they will change their plans.  "You will make it through this."  Dee says confidently and my heart sinks.  "As soon as we find the portal we need you, there is no time."

     "Crater Lake national park."  Sam directs and I am forming a protest when the blackness claims me again. 

     I wish I had a chance to take one long last breath, but the ooze converges on me.  This time I keep my mouth firmly closed.  I don't like the sensation of drowning, but knowing it’s coming lets me be slightly calmer.  I still feel disoriented and sensory deprived, and that makes it hard to stay clam.  My pulse is erratic, so I start to count the seconds in my head.  Maybe if I know how long I will need to endure, I can make it through with out losing my mind.

     On the count of 22 we return to the world.  I greedily gulp in air.  "Give me more time!" I gasp.  "At least let me take a deep breath.  I feel like I’m drowning."

     Dee has her eyes closed as if she’s concentrating, but she still responds.  "I know it can feel like that, but you will not suffocate.  The sensation is strong, but try to ignore it."

     "Hmph!"  Is the most intelligent comeback I can muster.

     Sam sighs behind me, and I shiver as his breath flows over the skin of my neck.  "Not here either.  How about Winnipeg?"

     Dee opens her eyes, it’s clear she agrees with his assessment.  "Too crowded this time of day.  Maybe a little more north in Stonewall?"

     "That spot by east shoal lake?"  Sam asks and Dee nods.

     "What happens if we’re seen?"  I wonder aloud.

     "We try to avoid it of course.  We don't have the ability to make ourselves unseen like the demons.  But we can use a blinding light that confuses and slightly alters memory. Ready to take a deep breath?" Dee questions gently.

     I close my eyes and take a slow measured intake of air, and when the complete darkness comes I start my count.  Keeping track of the time helps me to feel grounded.  All my senses may be useless, but if my mind can figure the time then I have a constant to anchor to.  This jump takes longer, and as I reach 55 seconds my body tells me it’s time to breathe again, but I can't.  I can’t control the reflex that makes my mouth open, but inhaling offers no relief.  Dee is wrong, there is no air here, this is not a place meant for humans. Blinding white light surrounds me, and I fear that I must be close to passing out, except I don't.  I rapidly blink my eyes and see we are standing beside a snowy lakebed.

     Dee frowns soon after, and I know the portal is not close by.  I break away from her hold and drop to the ground.  "Please," I shudder.  "I need a break.  I feel like I’m being water boarded."

     Sam laughs loudly while I huddle on the ground looking pathetic.  His large hand ruffles my hair.  "Take a quick rest Maya.  I will call Eri and tell him what we found or rather what we have not found.  Maybe one of the others got lucky."  Sam waits for his phone to turn on and find a signal, and I am grateful for the delay.  Too soon though I hear his rich voice speaking, but I can’t make the effort to listen.  I’m feeling nauseous and light headed now and wonder how many more of these teleports they expect me to live through.  I remain sitting in the snow, even though I can feel it through my jeans, and know I will have a huge wet spot once I stand.  I crunch the fresh snow absently between my hands, welcoming the icy chill.  I raise my cold hands and touch my face, hoping the snow can chase away my uneasy stomach.  It does make me feel better, until Sam hangs up the phone and my respite is over.

     "Good news," he smiles broadly and it elicits a returning smile from me.  Even though I feel like hell Sam's charisma is hard to ignore.  "Hannu sensed a huge break in energy when they jumped to Ecuador.  He knows it’s further south, probably in Peru.  We can either join them down there and quicken the search or give them a skip or two and see if they can pinpoint the destination further."

     "Where should we start?" Dee challenges while I say at the same time.  "A few more minutes would be great if we can spare them."

     I can see that Dee wants to press on but Sam offers me a look of pity.  "We can spare a few moments."  He smiles at me and offers me his hand to stand.  "You are going to be all wet if you continue to sit there."

     I groan as I get to my feet, but am relieved to feel slightly less dizzy.  I stare at the calm waters of the partly frozen lake and start to shiver.  I’m not exactly dressed for snow, and my hair is still partly damp from my morning shower.  I don't dare complain though.  South America sure sounds warmer, but from here that must be one heck of a jump.  I hug my arms tightly, now I’m shaking out of fear instead of cold.  Sam's cell phone rings breaking the silence and I’m startled.  That was quick.

     "Yes?" Sam answers briskly.  "Meet you there.  Wish we brought a jacket."

      He hangs up at the same time as Dee groans.  Could she hear the other line?  I had no clue what Sam had talked about.

    "They found it.  Peru, Ampato mountains.  They are at base camp now."  Sam looks at me.  "Put everything you can wear from your pack on."

     "Isn't South America hotter then Canada?"  I ask confused.

     Dee helps me off with my pack and is dressing me with extra quick efficiency.  "Ampato has a peak of over 20,000 feet.  It’s a glacier in the Andes and very cold."  She turns to Sam with a frown.  "I should have known, your kind has a thing for volcanoes."

     I pull my head through the second sweatshirt, it feels extra tight on my arms with all the layers.  "It's a volcano!"

     "A dormant stratovolcano," Sam replies while fishing through my bag.  "Pack any gloves?"

     "No," I shake my head.  "What about you two?"  Neither Sam or Dee were wearing much more than tee shirts and pants. 

     Sam flashes his blinding smile.  "We will feel the cold, but it will be fine.  You’re still human though."

     Still human.  It’s weird to think I will no longer be.  This hunting to find the portal sure sped up the time clock on when the change was going to happen.  "Will there be time once we get there to prepare more.  I’m not sure I’m ready."

     Dee is determined to bundle me till I can’t move.  She surveys her work, chewing on her lip.  "You’re going to freeze outside in the elements.  We need to get you close to the portal quickly."  I can see an unhappy thought flicker over her face.  "We may not be able to move as soon as I would like though.  There are always some issues with a new well opening."

     "What do you mean?"  That sounds worrisome. 

     "The portal in Greece closed by force.  The one who was waiting for you there will not be the same as who will be here."  Dee’s voice holds concern.

     "It will be fine."  states Sam.  "If he’s there, he's prepared."

     "We just have never had to do this before," Dee still looks doubtful.

     "What do you mean?" I'm nervous and confused.

     Sam pats my back reassuringly.  "Nothing to fret over."

    Dee stands before me again with her hands on my shoulders.  This time I know it’s not for comfort.  They're going to skip again.  "How long will we be in the dark?"  My voice sounds small.

    Dee's eyebrows rise.  "Dark?"

    "The jump into nothing."  I reply more tersely then intended.

     "Oh," understanding dawns.  "I forgot it’s like that for you.  We can see where we move to.  It feels like no time at all for us."

     "It took 55 seconds to get here!"  My voice rises to a shriek.  "I won't be able to not breathe longer than that."

     "Relax," I hear Sam from behind me as his arms reach over me to Dee.  "We’ve got you."

     Then the suffocating void comes for me.

© 2013 Maria Mercurio

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Added on June 8, 2013
Last Updated on June 8, 2013
Tags: young adult, paranormal, angel, demon