“Morgan, I don’t know about this,” Elliot Ward muttered. “Eliza has been in there too long.”
“Your sister is more experienced with these abominations than you, Elliot,” I replied, resting myself against the car seat. “I only hope that she will get the etchings and banish the demon before the Gestapo arrives. I’m sure one of the patrons decided to inform Paris’s new occupants of what occurred.”
Pin for Later!
“It’s a shame Julien didn’t stick with us,” Riley O’Dunn interrupted.
Everyone in the car fell silent. Julien Wright was always kicked around for being a black man at home, but the army did him and everyone with his pigment a worse disservice. A division of black soldiers was treated like cannon fodder, to be sent into the most dangerous situations or simply to test the strength of the enemy before deciding whether to send white troops in.
Despite this situation, Julien refused to be ‘abducted’ by his friends. Many soldiers needed his leadership. I could see how much they already suffered when we arrived in the trenches. Their eyes told the story of shock and trauma. Something I’m sure everyone will soon come to understand, whether they be white or black, female or male.
“He is fighting an evil comparable to our own,” I told Riley. “If these creatures and dark gods weren’t so restless, we would be there with him. Besides, we are doing our part in the war anyway. Any information we learn about enemy forces and their movements we relay back to allied forces, or even the resistance here in France.”
“Tell me again, how did you get us out of the infantry and into this new ‘special commando’ division?”
“I made a convincing argument with some higher-ups. A few magic tricks and a taste of what evil lurks in the darkness was enough to get their attention...and I might have also given them a reason to believe the Germans plan on using Remilotka’s power to their advantage.”
“In other words, you lied.”
“Come now, Riley, I wouldn’t lie about something so serious. I do have reason to believe there is a ‘supernatural division’ looking into the cult rituals and summoning sights.”
“How big is this division?”
“Not much bigger than our own, but-”
“Shut it! There she is!” Elliot interrupted.
Sure enough, the occupants of the truck could see the door to the bar open in the shadows. Moonlight didn’t reach far enough to give them a better look at what was happening, but then the familiar figure of Eliza came into view. She trotted over to the truck, checking both ways to make sure the street was empty of any patrols or Parisians.
Eliza climbed into the backseat with her brother, a suitcase held against her chest. I could see she wasn’t particularly panicked; which meant everything went according to plan. Yet, I still found myself joining her brother in asking questions to confirm this and crush our worries.
“Is the demon banished?” I asked.
“It didn’t hurt you?”
“Talk to you?”
“Everything is fine, boys,” Eliza replied coolly. “The ‘demon’ was no more than a scout, not a soldier. It took a few seconds to deal with it. The biggest trouble was the portal it came through; it’s still open.”
I felt my blood drain from my face.
“Don’t worry, not for long. It’s set to explode right about-”
“What?” Elliot and I said together.
“Oh, explosives, just what we need,” Riley muttered, starting the truck.”
We were already off before the explosion reverberated through the streets. I could see the windows shatter with the concussive force, flames leaking out from underneath the ceiling.
“How much did you use, ‘liza?” Riley laughed. “I’m sure every goose-stepper from here to Le Havre heard that!”
“I had to make sure it was properly destroyed,” Eliza replied simply, a playful smile appearing on her lips. She was quite pleased with the results of her handiwork. “Let’s not linger in this district.”
“Right, Riley, the nearest safe house, we can return to HQ when the heat blows over,” I murmured. Something didn’t feel right about the portal being open for so long. If it were, there would be more than a scout in the bar. “Don’t spare the horses either. I don’t care if this truck arrives in several pieces.”
“Roger that, sir,” Riley grinned.
Riley didn’t spare the horses. The truck was knackered by the time it pulled into the safehouse. Resistance members came out to greet us and from the look in their eyes, they were worried too. However, I knew they were worried about something earthly.
“What was that explosion?” the leader of the group asked in French. “Was anyone hurt?”
“Nobody French,” Eliza replied, which in all honesty, was true.
It seemed the answer was good enough for the resistance leader. A smile spread across his unshaven face and he looked at his brothers-in-arms.
“This is the attitude we should all have,” he stated clearly. “If we don’t treat them all this way, there won’t be an end to this occupation, this oppression.”
The leader then began to spew French verbiage faster than I could understand. He was riling up his troops and I didn’t care much for it. Still, I could only understand the hell they endured before some of them started standing up to the enemy. I nodded to my team and decided to leave them be.
We left the truck and entered a block of buildings. Abandoned now, but not too long ago there were families living in the apartments. There was plenty of evidence that told us they had no idea they wouldn’t be coming back. So much left behind, so many memories.
It was a suitable distraction for the others while I set the trap.
While they followed me into the apartment we made our briefing room, I carefully moved around the room, positioning vases and straightening pencils.
“What’s wrong, Morgan?” Elliot asked, making himself comfortable with a cigarette while Riley walked off to prepare food.
“Eliza said there was a scout, Elliot,” I reminded him, moving a desk lamp a centimetre to the left. “That makes me very worried.”
“We’ve dealt with scouts before, they are nothing to worry about,” Eliza shrugged. “And the portal is destroyed now, nothing’s coming through it.”
“More importantly, you mean, nothing’s going back,” I grunted, moving the last item, a matchbox.
All at once the engravings I cut into each object connected, their alignment glowing with ancient power. Nobody dared move, knowing that such lines meant death if they were at the centre. It took them a moment to realize that it was Eliza who was caught in the trap.
She didn’t seem surprised, but her expression was not innocent either.
“What gave it away?” she asked.
“Subtle hints, clues, it was all there for me to piece together,” I replied, showing professionalism, not letting any emotion slip into my speech. “You underestimated us, Remilotka.”
Everyone in the room understood. The puppet caught in the trap was not Eliza, but a face worn by Remilotka. An old god, caged in a crumbling French apartment, in Elliot’s sister. To have one of our greatest enemies in our presence, but try to contain all that fear and emotion, it was surreal.
What light there was in the apartment was slowly fading. Riley came in with a candle a moment later while we all stared at the monster within Eliza. I knew it was Elliot that was feeling the most distress, which would serve to weaken his mind in the god’s presence. Yet, from what I could see, he remembered his training.
The lights went from faded to flickering, it changed every second. In the darkness I couldn’t see much of anything. The darkness of the apartments and the night didn’t help, but when they came back, I could see Remilotka was looking around the room. Finding something to manipulate, to control. It would take time before his line of power was finally severed and like all immortal beings, he would shift back to his plain of existence.
It seemed he realised this and fixed me with a furious stare. Like the light, it seemed to flicker out of existence and his face was neutral once more.
“You have trained them well,” Remilotka said. “But I remind you, your world is too large for a group so small to protect. My followers are many and they can be found everywhere. When the time comes, my release will change this world. It will crush the weakest of you, leaving the rest for me to toy with.”
There was now a pulsing with the beams that caged him. His power was being cut off.
“When that day comes, I will find you, all of you.”
These parting words signalled his exit. The beams gave one last pulse before Remilotka was removed from Eliza’s body. Unconscious, she slumped over in the chair, the beams now faded. I moved the matchbox, breaking the connection, just in time for Elliot to step forward and stop his sister from falling to the ground.
“To the infirmary,” Riley said, helping Elliot lift her.
It was the next day when Eliza awoke.
She was laying in a white bed, among many injured Parisians. Unlike them, there was not a scratch on her. Surrounded by pained moans, death rattles and blood must have terrified her when she woke up. When we came to see her, she was shaking like a leaf, looking all around.
We did our best to comfort her, but it wasn’t until we helped her out of the room did she stop shaking. She was sat down by a balcony bathed in warm, morning sunlight. Riley offered her a cigarette to calm her nerves, but she shook her head, trying to control her breathing.
When she was settled, Eliza stared down the street towards the horizon, lost in thought.
It was around noon that I eventually coaxed her into speaking.
“What did you see? What did he tell you?” I asked. “Is there anything about his plans, where he will strike next?”
“There was nothing,” Eliza finally replied. “I saw nothing. I felt nothing, heard nothing, I was nothing.Yet...I remembered it all. Suffocating, but not suffocating.”
I closed my mouth, realising it was still half open to ask another question. She looked at me with wet eyes.
“Oblivion, Morgan,” Eliza told me. “That’s all there is. I don't know if it’s death, or what happens if he wins...but I can’t do this anymore.”
She raised her hand and tapped the side of her head, her lips quivering with despair.
“I’m too weak to handle it anymore.”
I swallowed painfully, my throat suddenly dry. I thought that she was merely a puppet to him, able to see everything, but unable to control herself. Remilotka had taken everything from her and when he was expelled, she was wrenched back from the void, returned to her body.
I immediately understood why sitting on the balcony calmed her. She could see the sun, the clouds, the sky. The many people, the many sights. The colours, the smells...everything she lost for what must have felt like an eternity.
I looked down at the streets, seeing the locals try to get by, others tormented by the occupation. It worried me, it sickened me. I wanted to get her back home, someplace safe from all of this, but that wasn’t going to happen. I started going through solutions, crossing them out as I went.
There was only one.
“Eliza, you can’t go home,” I told her. “But I know somewhere safe you can go, people who can help you.”
People experiencing grief or trauma rarely accepted help, they just wanted to be left alone. However, in Eliza’s unique situation, she simply nodded.
“Morgan, he is back. If not through me, through someone else.”
I left her on the balcony to inform Elliot and the others. Eliza was going someplace else and we were to continue our mission. After what happened to one of our own, everyone was eager to fight.