lacewood: (scooby gang!)
Pei Yi ([personal profile] lacewood) wrote in [community profile] toxicskyremix2004-05-16 04:00 pm
Entry tags:

inuyasha - blood I

Inuyasha/Buffy AU. Nanowrimo 2003 project (incomplete).

Day had long since faded to night when the taxi finally pulled to a stop before its destination. Legs stiff and aching from the long journey, the old woman waited a moment before swinging the door open and slowly pulling herself out of the cab. Standing on the pavement, she looked up the shadowed steps leading to the shrine above.

Watching Tokyo flash past the taxicab’s tinted windows, all glass and concrete and unfamiliar streets, she’d realised - four years since her last visit, and even that had only been a two-week stay during the New Year. The Tokyo she remembered was that of her childhood, a city that didn’t exist anymore.

She really should have visited more, she admitted. True, her line of work was… troublesome and secretive and a fair number of her colleagues had inconvenient, uptight attitudes about their profession and encouraged the cutting of old ties once you joined the Council, but still. She could have come back more.

Now, standing before the shrine she’d grown up in, she could almost believe that she was young again, that forty odd years had never passed. The shrine hadn’t changed at all, she thought. But time was a weight; she could feel it in her bones.

Not to mention, she had to climb those steps after a day spent cramped in taxicabs and economy class plane seats. Oh, she could feel her age, all right.

The driver, young and cowed by his passenger’s strange stare – right eye glaring, sharp and all seeing, through the rear view mirror, left eye blank and unmoving, dead – helpfully took her suitcases from the boot. Eyed the stairs to the shrine with horror, then sighed, and followed as she started climbing without a second glance.

Finally reaching the top, she studied what she could see of the temple grounds. In the dark, memory filled in what her eyes could not see. Her lips thinned.

In the dark, she remembered again why she hadn’t come back.

Not all memory is a blessing.

A thump and a gasp as a heavy suitcase banged noisily into a step brought her back to the present. Her hand reached her pocket to close around the soft velvet bag in it. She didn’t draw it out – risky enough for her, an unguarded old woman, to be carrying the shards with her; she did not need to draw them into the open to attract even more… attention.

Some things had changed. Others had not. The circle rolls on but… things were changing. Everywhere. And she was not the hapless child she had been when she’d watched her sister die. Maybe it would be enough to make a difference.

The cab driver heaved the suitcase up the last step, across the courtyard, in front of the door. She paid the fare, relented enough to add a generous tip, and finally rang the bell. Light gleamed under the door, and far away, she could hear the rumble of some television drama.

Minutes passed. She rang again.

“Coming! Coming!” A girl called. The thump of hurried feet and an argument: “Souta! You’re sitting right here watching TV! Why didn’t you open the door?!” “But Mom says I’m not allowed to open the door!” “That’s only when you’re home alone!”

The door swung open. And she felt her breath catch in her throat.


The girl blinked, not quite recognising her. “Ah…” Dark, wavy hair; wide, clear eyes; the smooth, familiar lines of her features. God, Kikyou…

“Great-aunt Kaede…?”

“Sister!” She startled, and the moment’s vision shattered as Tetsu came up behind her grand niece. “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming today? We could have met you at the airport! Did you take a cab? Kagome! Help her bring her bags in.”

Then Tetsu’s daughter-in-law came bustling in, and her grand nephew left his television to stare at the chaos of her arrival and be chivvied into a properly respectful greeting.

Stepping into the bright light of the hall, she stared at her grand niece again. Kagome had been only… twelve when she’d last seen her. The difference four years could make…

“You see it too.” Tetsu said mildly from beside her.

She spared him a wry look. He’d seen it, but not thought to tell her? “I thought I was seeing a ghost. But… she is also very… different.”

“I know. Sometimes I wonder if… What does your Council say about reincarnation?”

“Nothing. Let it drop, Tetsu, we’ve been through this.”

A sigh. “I know. And I know why you came back.”

“… Things are different this time. There have been… complications. That’s why they sent me back to Tokyo.” She said.

“You really think things will be different?” he asked quietly. The past hung between them, drowned their words in its silence.

“I don’t know.”

She could only hope that it was.


Her watch, when she glanced at it, read 7.16. Stopping in the middle of the empty pavement, propping her bicycle against her hip, she stared up at the dusky morning sky, stained gold by the coming day. She really was too early, never mind that she’d walked instead of cycling. Kagome was probably still asleep…

Well, it’d been either this or hang around the house until Father changed his mind and roped her back into training – at worst, she could always wait. Reaching the shrine, she dragged her bicycle up the steps (and some of the students at the dojo wondered why she was so strong. They could always try dragging a heavy, awkward bicycle up and down a flight of stairs every morning, she could have told them. She was fairly sure even Kagome could pack a good punch, if she ever put her mind to it).

Leaving the bicycle at the gate, she crossed the courtyard – paused before the shrine. She passed it every morning without a second thought; now, she stopped before the wooden building, smiled wryly. Maybe she should pray, ask for something today. This was supposed to be a special day, after all.

And what would she ask for? Good grades, good health, first place in the coming competitions? She smiled, chuckled to herself. A boyfriend?

“Sixteen and not even one boyfriend yet?” “San~go! Don’t tease, Ayumi and the others and bad enough! And you don’t have one either!” “Ah, but I don’t have Houjo asking me to the movies and bringing me flowers every day. And I’m not sixteen yet…”

That had only been a month ago. Now that it was her turn, Kagome was not going to let her hear the last of it today, she thought ruefully. Turning from the shrine, she strolled past it, around the house to the back door. When she peered in, Kagome’s mother was standing at the stove, just lifting the cover from a steaming pot of soup.

“Good morning, Mrs Higurashi…?”

Mrs Higurashi looked up at the opening of the door, and beamed at the girl, waving her in. “Sango! You’re early today! I’m afraid Kagome isn’t up yet, but she should be in a few minutes…” She turned to the small boy rubbing blearily at his eyes as he wandered into the kitchen. “Souta! Go wake your sister and tell her Sango’s early today.”

“Ah! There’s no need to wake her, Mrs Higurashi!” but Souta was already shuffling back out of the kitchen. “I’m sorry, I’m way too early today…”

“Rubbish, Sango. You can join us for breakfast! Can you help me get some bowls for the soup? They’re in that cupboard over there… Six, Father should be down soon enough...”

The girl counted the numbers in her head and blinked. Six? She was just taking the bowls out of the cupboard, bent double, when -

“WHAAAAAAT?! WHY DIDN’T YOU WAKE ME EARLIER?!” sailed down the stairs.

Jumping, she hit her head on the door with a painful thump; winced, drew back and looked up even as footsteps thundered above and a door somewhere crashed. Mrs Higurashi looked up as well and tsked.

“Oh my. I told Souta to tell her you were early…”

Sango sighed and chuckled. Nudging the cupboard door shut with a foot, she handed the bowls to the older woman, even as above, the continued racket of Kagome’s whirlwind progress raged on.

“Does this happen every morning?” An unfamiliar voice, rough with age, asked dryly from the kitchen door. “I see I needn’t have worried about not bringing an alarm clock after all.”

“Ah! Aunt, you’re up early…” Mrs Higurashi said. “And right after your long flight yesterday too…”

The old woman standing in the door, white hair tied in a neat bun at the back of her neck, studied Sango, who blinked, startled, as she met the sharp gaze, saw the unmoving glass eye.

“And this is…?”

“Oh, this is Sango, Kagome’s friend. They’ve known each other since middle school – Sango’s father owns the dojo just down the road.” Mrs Higurashi explained. “Sango, this is Kagome’s Great Aunt Kaede – she just flew back from Hong Kong yesterday…”

“Ah… Good morning, Aunt.” Sango greeted, polite.

She nodded back. “Good morning… Your father owns a dojo? My bother was telling me about it… He tells me your family comes from a very old line of demon hunters.”

“Oh…” Oh no, not that, Sango thought in a mixture of exasperation and resignation. She should have never let Father meet Kagome’s grandfather – the two of them had far too much fun swapping stories with each other. It wasn’t like she’d ever seen a demon, never mind Father’s stories about his youth and all that training he insisted on dragging her and Kohaku through. “Well, that’s just what Father says…”

“You don’t believe it?” The old woman asked, eyebrows rising.

Sango, in the midst of setting the bowls of rice Kagome’s mother was handing her, turned and stared. The old woman met her eyes and smiled.

“I take it you’ve never seen a demon before, then.”

“No, of course…”

Never seen a demon before, with all the matter-of-factness of someone who saw demons everyday or at least, wouldn’t be very impressed if a demon decided to pay the Higurashis a visit right now.

“… not…” she trailed off, then stopped.

Staring at Kagome’s unsettling great aunt, she found herself wondering just how the old woman had lost her eye. It wasn’t like that scar Father had on his arm – from when he’d rescued Mother from a rather rude kitsune, he’d say, grinning, while she laughed, so that Sango and Kohaku never really believed his story. This was… how do you lose an eye? Maybe she didn’t want to know, she thought uneasily.

Then, realising that she was staring, she ducked her head and returned to setting the last bowl on the table, turned away. She was being ridiculous. The false eye was strange, but that was no reason to start looking for shadows that weren’t, she told herself firmly, there at all. After all, this was a shrine and Kagome’s grandfather told them the weirdest ghost stories all the time.

An apologetic “Sango! I’m so sorry! I don’t know what happened to my alarm clock, are we going to be-” snapped her out her thoughts even as her friend shot into the kitchen.


Kagome stopped. Blinked, even as her mother began calmly setting the table to the distant shrill of her alarm clock. Sango smiled, sheepish.

“I’m early today…”

It had lived long in the shadows, so that shadows were all it remembered now, shadow and dim barred patches of light and the rushing of wastewater around it, dripping on its shell, where it could hardly feel the cold of the slime.

It did not smell the stink of the filthy water it crawled in, not filth to it, no, only another part of its world, all it had ever known. Sometimes it flooded, here. Then, it would cling to the cracks in the concrete tunnels, hundred scittering legs clawing their way into the mildewed walls around it, while water rushed all around, until there was scarcely any air to breathe. But it could survive these brief floods, the water would drain away soon enough, and even if it got swept away, it was hard to kill. Very hard to kill.

It ate rats, and cockroaches, and anything living it could find here, which was quite a lot, actually. Once, as a rare treat, after one of the floods, it had found a far bigger prize, a human, dead and drowned and waterlogged. Its flesh was tender, oh so tender, sweet and soft and it had gorged for a week afterwards, growing large and bloated and strong, stronger than ever. It had never found another such prize again, but it hoped.

There was a place outside, it knew. Outside, where the light came from. It saw sometimes, movement outside those opening – more humans, it thought greedily, but there was too much light, and light was bad, it remembered. Too many humans were bad, it thought dimly, from instinct. There were a lot of them out there, that it could see. That would make them strong, wouldn’t it?

If it were stronger, it could go out, it dimly began to think, but it was hard to see how it was going to become stronger. It needed… more food, maybe. There were others like itself; if there were more of them, it would be stronger than the humans, it thought. But there so few of them, it met them so rarely, and often, those were fights, wars, battles over good hunting grounds and dry places. There was only one other like it that it truly knew, its twin, sibling, that it had known all its life. They hunted together, moved together, twined into each other until it did not know where one began and the other ended. Its twin hungered too; they hungered together.

But they did not know what they hungered, did not know how to seek it.

But now… it could taste… something. There was light, bright, strong, very strong, and it was calling, calling. If it could have that light, it would become stronger, it thought. It could taste its power, even down here in the dark, the wet, taste it, sweet and terrible. It needed it, it wanted it, if it had it, if it could have this light, it need never be afraid of the light again, for they would have the light most terrible of all.

It hungered. It sought. It found. And now, it began to move.

“Souta! Why didn’t you tell me Sango was early?!” Kagome demanded, stalking back into the kitchen for the second time after going up to switch her alarm clock off. The seven-year-old looked up from his rice.

“I tried! But you ran off so fast, I never got to say a thing!” He said in protest.

She huffed and settled into her chair. “Oh, fine…” Saw the apologetic look Sango gave her from across the table and smiled. “Since it’s your birthday, I’ll let you off. Why so early anyway? Don’t you have training?”

“Father let me off training this morning, since it’s my birthday.”

Kagome gave her a horrified look. “This isn’t supposed to be your birthday present, is it?”

Sango choked on a mouthful of grilled eel. “Of course not! He’s not that bad!” She said, gulping down a large mouthful of soup and taking a deep breath, before adding, “that’s why I’m so early – Mother told me to get out quickly before he changed his mind and dragged me back in.”

Kagome bit back a yawn and chuckled. “Getting ready for the competitions again…?”

“What else? And the rumours say that some of the other schools have really strong teams this year… He’s worried.”

“Did he let you off practice this afternoon too?”

“No, that’s different…”

“Okay, I’ll give you your present after practice, then you won’t have to carry it around school all day.”

“What is it anyway?”

“That’s a seeecret.”

“Oh, come on, Kagome, it’s my birthday already, isn’t it?”

“No, you have to wait until you see it!”

Sango was still trying to pry an answer out of a giggling Kagome when they finished breakfast, dumping their dishes in the sink with a clatter. There was still plenty of time for them to walk to school – the journey didn’t take more than ten minutes from the shrine. Kagome’s grandfather looked up as Sango reached for her backpack.

“Kaede, didn’t you say you’d gotten a job at Mamshiba High? That’s Kagome’s school. Do you need her to show you around?”

“Ah?” Still in the midst of picking up her bag, Kagome stopped, mid motion, to turn and stare. “Aunt Kaede, you got a job at my school?”

The older woman nodded. “At the school library. They seem short handed,” she added, eyebrows rising, voice dry. “The lady I spoke to didn’t even ask for my qualifications, she was so stunned that someone was applying for the position.”

Sango opened her mouth, clamped it shut, as horror stories of what had happened to the previous librarian came to mind… They were probably exaggerated anyway, she told herself – and Kagome’s great aunt seemed more than equal to anything the school’s boys could come up with.

Her friend was probably thinking the same thing. “Is that a good idea…?” She said weakly.

“Why, is something wrong?” Kagome’s grandfather asked.

“Er, no, not exactly… it’s just that some of the boys in school can be pretty… er, unruly… and er…” The last librarian had quit from a nervous breakdown…

The old woman seemed to understand what Kagome was… trying to say. She looked amused. “Really? Thank you for the warning, then. The two of you can go first. I only start next week, and I still need to finish unpacking.”

“Oh... okay… We better make a move then, or we’ll be late!”

They weren’t, and made it to class with ten minutes to spare, time largely spent on Ayumi begging Kagome’s Chemistry assignment off her so that she could check the answers, while Kagome groaned about yesterday’s Maths. Sango, who was a steady, just-above-average student without Kagome’s top student reputation to uphold, and as such, worried much less about grades, listened with one ear, nudging the other girl into silence as the teacher walked in.

The rest of the morning slid slowly, slowly past, monotonous and familiar. Classes, lunch, more classes, the ringing of the bell, aikido club training. Kagome still wouldn’t tell Sango what her present was, only “just be glad I didn’t make you carry it around all day. I’ll give it to you after practice, then the club can see it too!”

That didn’t bode too well, did it? Sango gave up and headed for the gym, where the club practiced on Wednesdays. She hadn’t even meant to join the team, she remembered, but once word got around that her father was coach, Takeda (and the whole damned club!) had been so insistent – there was no escaping it.

It wasn’t until practice was over that she realised that the team had an audience today – an audience of one. Wiping the sweat out of her eyes, she blinked, curious, at the figure standing silhouetted in the door, stout and straight-backed – froze.

Kagome’s great aunt stared back at her. Had she been staring at Sango all practice? The girl wondered, uneasy. She could just turn around, walk away, follow the others into the locker room. Maybe she was just passing by; it didn’t mean anything, didn’t mean that she wanted to talk to her, specifically…

Her bare feet squeaked against the gym’s polished wooden floors, her hands instinctively rising to straighten her hair, coming loose from the ponytail she’d pulled it into, her gi, rumpled and sweaty – a perfunctory brush and she made them fall again to hang loosely at her sides.

“… Ah… Aunt? Did you need anything…?” She asked, awkward. There was no escaping it, in the end.

The old woman met her wary, curious eyes; nodded. “I believe we need to talk.”

Kagome skipped up the steps, past Sango’s bicycle, left behind when they decided to walk from the shrine this morning. The mid-May weather was fine and hot, the sky azure and almost cloudless. Humming to herself, she only paused as she passed the shrine, where her grandfather was holding forth before a pair of middle aged women as he gestured dramatically at the enormous tree in the courtyard.

“… the Goshinboku has been standing since long before the shrine was built in the Tokugawa era. It’s survived wars, fires, four attempts to destroy it and legend says that an evil Buddhist monk who tried to steal its wood was struck down even before he could touch the tree. These lovely charms you see here are hand carved from the wood of that same tree. Guaranteed to provide protection from all evils and harm, such as…”

Kagome turned her gaze to the sky above and sighed. Strange how no one ever asked how, if the tree struck down evil monks trying to steal its wood, her grandfather got hold of enough wood to make so many charms. She only hoped he remembered to remove the “Made in China” labels this time – some visitors had kicked up quite a fuss over the last batch.

You could also buy Shikon no Tama key chains (glass), mummified kappa claws (plastic, Kagome suspected. If she was wrong, then she didn’t want to know what those were really made of), scrolls of auspicious sayings (factory printed)… And Grandfather wondered why she didn’t believe a word of the stories he told them all the time.

“Mom! I’m home!” She called, dropping her bag on the floor with a thump. Then she remembered, Souta had to visit a dentist today – one of his teeth were coming loose.

“… Aunt Kaede?” No reply. Maybe she was still in school, talking to the people in the general office.

Stretching lazily, Kagome glanced at the clock – more than an hour to go before Sango finished practice. Just enough time for a short nap - she hadn’t slept very well last night, she remembered with a grimace. All those funny dreams about… she could even remember what she’d been dreaming about! Grocery shopping? But what was so scary about grocery shopping?

She climbed the stairs to her room, dropped her bag on her desk, before flopping on her bed to stare at the ceiling – it was days like this she was glad she hadn’t let Houjo talk her into joining the Student Council, she thought, sinking into the softness of her pillows. He’d been scarily keen about it but schoolwork took up enough of her time… as it…

… what kind of shopping list asks for blood of demon anyway…?

Kagome woke with a start; was sitting up before she even remembered where she was. Fumbling for her alarm clock, she rubbed at her eyes, yawned – she’d been asleep for over an hour already? She’d better hurry – Sango would probably be waiting for her now.

She swung out of bed, smoothed her rumpled school uniform, reached for Sango’s present – and then it struck her. What woke her? Around her, the house was quiet. Too quiet; still, frozen, as if the air itself was holding its breath, knife pressed to its throat cold and – She blinked, rubbed her eyes again. Where had that thought come from?

Forgetting Sango’s present, she ran from her room, down the stairs, through the front door. Where was grandfather? He wasn’t still talking to visitors, was he? The doors to the now-deserted shrine were open; she skid to a stop, fingers reaching to grip the doorframe.

What had she been expecting? Where was everyone? Why was something in her screaming that something was wrong, wrong, wrong?

Well, the shrine was quite definitely empty, and everything looked perfectly fine. The girl let herself heave a small sigh of relief – those strange dreams must be getting to her. Even Grandfather’s ghost stories had never spooked her this badly! She made herself let go of the door, turned to go back to the house –

- behind her, a hiss, a flicker of movement in the shadows that hadn’t been there minutes ago, she’d looked -

Kagome turned, startled, and froze.

It spilled from the shadows, a confusion of scrabbling legs, long, gleaming body, red-brown and huge so that all she could do was stare and think, this was a nightmare, she hadn’t woken up yet, things like this… giant centipede… could not exist and it opened its jaws, long feelers reaching for her, across the space and she leapt back with a shriek.

The sound of her own scream seemed to snap her from her daze – she scrambled to get away even as the monster drew itself over the counter in the shrine selling charms, knocking it over so that small glass balls shattered on the floor beneath its length, its careless, always moving feet.

Give it to me.” It hissed at her with something that wasn’t quite voice, wind rustling through a hollow throat that made sense only in her head.

“Give what?” She yelled, stumbling down the steps, out of the shrine. She didn’t know, didn’t want to know, only wanted to get away, wanted to wake up.

Give it to me.” It lunged, and she threw herself to the side. Oh God, maybe she should have listened to Grandfather’s stories more carefully, what were you supposed to do when you woke up and found a demon in your house? Run and scream and get rescued by a passing warrior monk or beautiful miko, or… but there weren’t any of those wandering around modern day Tokyo!

If she could just get to the street, to the road, maybe she could get help. There’d be people there, and cars – maybe a car could run it over. She sprinted past the shrine, past the old well house, she just had to get across the courtyard and down the stairs and –

A scream, shriller, louder than any human voice, made her wince, clap her hands over her ears; an angry chittering made her turn, just as the demon’s tail crashed into her, threw her through the wooden doors of the well house…

When she opened her eyes again, it was to darkness. God, she hurt. Her head, her arm, her shoulder, her leg, down to her bones, pain; her hand rose to wipe something from her eye and felt something warm, wet, sticky, and it stung where her fingers had barely brushed the skin. Blood?

Pushing herself off the floor, she tried to think through the pain. Monster… in shrine… she’d been running and then it’d hit her until she’d hit the well house – she must have gone right through the door and fainted, no wonder she hurt, where was it now, she had to get out – She reached for the wall to steady herself and got a second shock. It was rough – earth and stone, the well house was made of wood, where was she?

Forcing her eyes open, she looked around, frantic. Walls closed in on every side, as she stared, half-crouched against the wall. Dim, pale light fell from above – she looked up, saw broken wood and sunlight. She was in the well? She must have hit the cover boarding it up and fallen through the old, rotten wood; Grandfather had been saying something about changing the cover, hadn’t he? He’d also warned her and Souta from ever going in – it wasn’t safe, he’d say, but if the well house had a story, he never told them.

So… so now she had to climb out of the well, get out of the well house, then run for help. And where was the demon? She stood slowly, tried not to think about how much she hurt and that she was bleeding – it was easier than she thought; already her head was clearing. Stood and turned, looking for the ladder, there had to be one right – her foot caught on something and she felt back again on something –

Soft. Or not soft, exactly, but definitely not hard earth floor. Kagome turned to stare over her shoulder – and nearly screamed again as she leapt to her feet.

Oh God there’s a DEAD BODY in the well no WONDER Grandfather didn’t want us in here what the…

A pale-haired figure was sprawled against the wall, pinned to it by an arrow through the left shoulder. Long, tangled hair covered the – boy, girl’s face? The hair was too long for a boy’s, surely… but the hand wrapped around the arrow, this close to pulling it out – was large, bony, a man’s hand.

A shriek from above reminded her that dead bodies in the well were the least of her problems – the demon had found her. She looked up and saw the tiny, dark head hovering over the broken hole, jaws opening and closing as it looked down at her.

Give me the light. Give me the light. Give it to…

“I don’t even know what you want! I don’t have it!” She yelled back. She was getting angry now – what right did this monster have to barge into her home and hurt her and then demand things?

It lunged at her through the hole, poisonous jaws coming much too close. She jumped back again even as bits of splintered wood rained down around her. Oh. Right. All the right that the ability to kill her quite easily, quite soon, gave it, which was probably a lot. She needed a weapon… there were broken bits of wood all around her, a lot of it sharp – she looked around, picked up the biggest, sharpest-looking piece she could find by the dim light. Maybe if she was lucky, she could keep it off long enough climb out…

A laugh interrupted her frantic thoughts, mocking, sneering, oh-so-amused. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, bitch?” A voice asked, a voice that rang in her head the way the centipede monster’s did, but… different - clearer, bell-like.

Kagome started, glanced around her, at the body – and froze. The eyes, what she could see of them under the tangled hair, still seemed shut but… she could have sworn she saw the fingers wrapped around the arrow move.

What’s with that look? You look like a twit.” The scornful voice said. “And what are you doing with that demon? Kill it already. Or do you want it to kill you?”

Her already frayed nerves snapped. “Easy for you to say… whoever you are!” She snapped, glaring around her. “What do you expect me to do? Kill it? I don’t know how! I don’t even have anything to attack it with!”

Feh. Fine. Got a weapon sitting right in front of you and you don’t even see it? You put it there yourself, remember, Kikyou? You want to live, you want to die here, it’s up to you. See if I care.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about! And I’m not – KYAAAA!” She hit the ground with a thump. The demon was climbing into the well, ripping the wooden cover to shreds even as it filled the opening, blocking the light. Thrown into darkness, Kagome could barely see the wriggling, never ending legs as they clung to the wall, getting closer and closer, and even if she couldn’t, she could hear its chittering voice.

Give it to me give it to me give it to me…

You want to live, you want to die, it’s up to you. What kind of stupid… Of course she wanted to live! She couldn’t die here, she wouldn’t, if it killed her then who would warn Mom and Souta and Grandfather, they would come home and it would hurt them TOO, she couldn’t let that happen, she had to live…

Light caught the edge of her vision then, a pale glow. She turned and blinked. The arrow pinning the boy to the well was glowing, the light weak but clear in the darkness of the well shaft.

A weapon. She didn’t have time to stop to wonder if it would break in her hand, if it would be any better than splintered, rotten wood, think about the way it pinned the boy against the wall behind him, wonder if he was alive or dead.

Reaching over, she yanked at it, hard. It gave, stuck; she yanked harder (didn’t think about when the fingers wrapped around it had fallen away, didn’t stop to think the shoulder she was leaning on didn’t feel cold or stiff enough to be dead) and it came, smoothly, whole and unbroken even as the demon shrieked in her ear –

Arrow in hand, she spun and stabbed at the awful head with its gaping, deadly jaws – felt it strike and stick – it reared back and now the arrow had barely slid between its armoured plates – the faint light tracing the long slim shaft glowed, sparked at its head -

Light filled her, white and blinding and so brilliant it hurt. Far away, she could hear a furious, dying shriek, but there was only the light, only the light. And then it exploded.


November 2004