I heard The Jeweler give everyone in the room a command in that ancient 'language' of his when he saw the darkness coil around me in defense. It swirled and it whispered and I could feel its icy grip taking hold of me. Firing me up to dangerous levels. The strange thing is...it still felt like 'me', you know? You would think that preparing for some serious acts of hardcore violence would require a complete and total disconnect from your civil idea of your own personal humanity...but it didn't.
If anything...it felt like one of the more honest moments of my life. A release comparable to my first kiss with Taryn on that overpass...or the moment I felt the satisfaction of smashing my fist against the ugly mug of that fucking bully in that classroom that day...feeling my knuckles wet with warm blood as his nose and lips gushed from my fury...becoming the hand of the bad karma that he so rightfully deserved!
The room became still as I turned towards the men holding Taryn.
The shadows told me not to hesitate. It told me to rip them apart. Them and anyone else who got in our way. My eyes, once a dark shade of crimson...were now turning pitch black. I could feel it. My entire face had become shrouded in darkness, and that familiar sound of war drums began to pound in my ears. I balled up both fists until my knuckles cracked, and with a few heaving breaths, I took my first determined step forward.
Another order was shouted...with a certain sense of panic in its tone...and all of his human fighters rushed at me all at once. The circle had begun.
I barely had to raise my hands for the first few seconds of their attack. I could see how they were balanced and was able to predict their moves and simply step out of the way before their attacks were able to connect. The shadows reached out for them...swirling around their arms and legs, tossing them aside. Spinning them to the floor. And soon began to grab them around the throat. The darkness told me to strangle them to death. Do it. Constrict your dark tendrils around their necks until their vertebrae cracks under the pressure. DO IT!!!
Instead, I ordered the shadows to release them, letting them drop to their knees to gasp for air. Stay down. I won't allow my 'mercy' to continue for much longer.
Others grabbed weapons, loyal to the Jeweler's commands...but it would do them no good. I'm comng, Taryn. I'm coming.
This time, I raised my fists, took a powerful stance, and let my mind give itself over to the fury. I could feel a giant part of me falling into the abyss, deeper than it had ever gone before...and I don't think I missed it when it was gone. It felt like...'freedom'.
I released an unnatural roar from the back of my throat and charged at them without hesitation. They all attacked at once. Well coordinated attacks that probably would have overpowered any normal opponent. But I've never been 'normal'. Not before I crossed over, and certainly not after. All I felt was an orgasmic release of emotion. An obliteration of my inner pain as I forced all of my aggression onto them. Finally, a way to keep from from facing my demons all on my own. They were the demons now! I could hurt them the way they've been hurting me. Cause them to suffer the way I suffered. And as my thoughts began to darken...my tactics becoming more brutal with every blow...I began to feel a certain level of satisfaction that I had never experienced before. A superiority to an entire army of trained warriors that made me feel arrogant in the knowledge that I could break them any time I felt like it...and even more godlike in the knowledge that I was currently choosing not to. Am I not a benevolent soul?
They fought furiously, but their circles were weak. Predicatble and pre-rehearsed. An incoming punch was too slow to touch me. To simply shift my shoulders to the side would cause them to miss their target completely, leaving their entire body open to attack. I could deliver a flurry of strikes before they were able to recover, causing the to drop at my feet.
The circles were everything. He'll strike from behind. Over my left shoulder. Dodge. STRIKE! The next will come at me from the right, the one on the left will use the momentary distraction to sweepmy leg. Counter. Dodge. Lift. STRIKE! I caught an arm by the wrist, squeezing it tightly and jamming my other hand into the elbow joint, folding his arm back until he was literally hitting himself. I ducked a wild kick that landed on one of the other attackers and grabbed his ankle, lifting him up to toss him on his backside...bringing my heel down on the center of his chest. I made sure that it hurt! STAY DOWN!
Left side attack...block! He'll throw two more punches, mid level, finish the combo with a high kick. Vulnerable, standing on one leg. Block. STRIKE! Spin left, strike to the kidneys. Roll underneath the jump kick, attack front! Attack in back! Dodge! Lean! Sweep! Block! Shift....STRIKE!
One by one, I watched them fall. And the whole time, there was this tingle in my bones trying to get me to hit them harder. To let loose in a frenzy that would put Alec's to SHAME if he were here to witness it. The shadows cheered me on. Their pain...their misery...their anger...giving me more fuel than I knew what to do with. I began to see my enemies flying backwards, five to ten feet away from me with every well-connected blow. My eyes were burning, my muscles reaching the point of fatigue and cramping up, but numbing themselves from the pain so they could keep going. They couldn't stop me. They simply weren't strong enough.
Suddenly, I was surrounded by a thick cloud of Haze's self generated fog, blinding me from my targets. However, it surrounded my human adversaries as well. They couldn't see any better than I could. But, Haze was much better at this than I was. I definitely took a few hits from his swift attacks and expert dodging tactics without having to see anything at all. But I wasn't going to be beaten so easily. Going through Doc's hexagon-type memory process, I called up Michael's minor possession extra and began placing my hands on all of the humans lost in the fog with me. Two...four...six...ten...and I was somehow able to have all of them swing wildly in all different directions in unison with my movements. Suddenly, Haze was trying to fight off an entire army of soldiers, ALL under my control! He began to take heavy damage, and the mist dissipated as he lost his focus.
Once I laid eyes on Taryn again, I flipped over the heads of everyone in front of me to get closer to him. Brooklyn was quick to block my progression, and we traded some swift blows with one another, my hands being too fast for his eyes to follow. I was beginning to wear him down, when he used his extra to swell up to amassive size...preventing my punches and kicks from doing any damage at all. They simply couldn't penetrate. It was like hitting a frozen slab of meat! But...as thick and impenetrable as his body was at that moment...it was still just flesh. Skin. And that gave me an idea.
'Maintain the fire, Justin...'
I conjured a rather large fireball in each hand...and held it steady in my palms as I rushed back in. Brooklyn was HUGE in stature, but DAMN was he ever fast for his size! I had to stay low and slide under his punches and kicks, raising my hands up to burn his skin with the flame. There was no way for me to bruise or break him...but he FELT that fire! The heated blaze turned his limbs black within seconds, and I roasted him to the point where he began to back off with his attacks. Lucky foor me...because the way he was swinging those 'frozen turkey' sized fists at me...just ONE blow could put me to sleep if he hit me, full force.
Haze attempted to sneak up behind me, but I spun around him and twisted his arm behind his back, using my foot to hook around his ankle and send him spinning to the floor. I flipped backwards to get some distance between us and was rushing to finally make contact with Taryn when I felt something wrapping itself around my leg. A string. A yo-yo...
Strings had lashed out and caught my ankle with one of his precious toys, rolling into the fight to prevent me from getting any closer. I tried to get free from his tangled wire, but he was much faster than Brooklyn and Haze combined. He was operating at vampire Hunter speed, and it was something that I hadn't experienced in a long time.
We both pulled back and forth on the line as I tried to wriggle myself free, but Strings kept moving with me. Keeping me tangled. Pulling my foot from under me to keep me off balance. I rolled forward to see if I could take him in close combat, but I began to wonder if he could see the circles in my fighting strategy the way that I could see his. No vampire could possibly be this fast on instinct alone.
The shadows crept further into my heart and mind, speeding me up, giving me power. And soon, I was beginning to overpower Strings with the fury of my attacks. He had to back off slightly, and then sent a surge of electricity through his string to shock me until my leg, temporarily, went numb from it. I yanked my foot free from his grasp, but he yanked the yo-yo back to his hand and began spinning them around him so fast that my eyes couldn't see them at all. My instincts told me to lean and sway and dodge what I could, but his attacks were so swift, so varied and unpredictable, that it was hard to keep up. The tide had turned once again...and I would have to dive even deeper into the abyss to come out the victor in all this.
I had to wonder...
How much unrestricted madness could I actually absorb and embrace...before I was too far gone to return to normal once the fight was over?
The shadows began to swirl even more tightly around my arms, speeding up my strikes while making them twice as strong. I could hear their screams. I could feel the ice cold pain filling me with desperation and rage. But it made me powerful. SO powerful! Strings was being pushed back now, changing his styles up in order to compete. His yo-yo's buzzed all around me as I dodged them to the best of my ability. Occasionally he would string up one of my arms and legs and pull me forward into one of his kicks or drag me down to the floor, but I would get up again before he was able to take advantage. I was actually a match for him, I had no doubt about that.
All the while, the darkness kept telling me, 'snatch his eyes out', 'crush his ribs', 'shatter his kneecap'! My instincts were all over the place, causing me to believe that I was beginning to take things too far. 'Puncture his heart'! 'Break his collar bone'! 'Burn the SKIN off of him! We have the power! Do it! DO IT!!!'
I kept what little sanity I had left, but i couldn't fight Strings and my own thoughts at the same time. I would have to focus on one or the other.
Just then, my senses alerted me to another circle. And I was JUST fast enough to duck down and roll backwards as Brooklyn's giant fist came swinging at me from behind, nearly taking my head clean off of my shoulders! The momentum of his attack nearly connected with Strings, who cartwheeled to the side and regained his footing.
"WATCH IT, ya big ox! I'm working here!" Strings shouted, and he came after me again, the angry 'whizzz' of his yo-yo's spinning faster than my eye could track. But after flipping out of the way, avoiding his double speed attack, I jumped back to walk on the wall behind me...standing there without any effort at all. And when his yo-yo reached out to strike...I caught it. I held it in the palm of my hand, and I sent him back an electric shock that was MUCH stronger than the one he sent me earlier. Mine was more like a bolt of lightning, and Strings cried out in agony as the heat weakened the string itself and I pulled the yo-yo off of the end as he went sliding backwards across the floor, shivering and twitching as thick wisps of smoke rose from his back and shoulders.
Fuck you too!
It was at this point that I had almost reached my love, and I fought my hardest to get past the last few humans defending him. I dislocated shoulders, broke arms, and knocked a few unconscious with a single kick. And when I got to Taryn, I put him behind me...spreading my arms out to keep him safe as I backed us into a corner. I saw some of the others getting back up on their feet, walking closer...and that's when I gave them their FINAL warning!
The shadows consumed me, from head to toe...but they didn't stop there. I could feel my body growing in size, a set of horns growing out of the top of my head...a long tail reaching out behind me...and the obsidian wings of The Beast flared outward in both directions as I roared loudly enough to cause the whole room to tremble, and plaster to fall from the newly formed cracks in the ceiling! They will never lay a hand on my Taryn again! NOT EVER!!!
"STOP!!!" The Jeweler shouted. And, despite their previous determination and the anger in their eyes...all of his soldiers, human and vampire alike, stopped advancing on us.
The Jeweler stepped forward. Slowly. Calmly. But I kept Taryn behind me, protected by my monstrous wingspan, giant fangs dripping with saliva, ready to tear into him too if he so much as thought about laying a finger on my boy. I looked over my shoulder, attempting to get my voice back to normal, "Taryn? Are you ok?" I asked.
But I got no answer.
Taryn's eyes looked down at the floor, almost as if he was ashamed for what had just taken place. And...wait...where were his bruises? There's no way he could have healed that fast.
The Jeweler sighed to himself with disappointment, then he looked over at Taryn, giving him a nod. He said, "...Thank you, Suraj. That will be all."
"Wha...?" I looked behind me, and right before my eyes, I saw Taryn begin to...change. His hair got shorter, his skin darkening slightly to more of bronze color...his bright green eyes now turning brown. A few short moments later, when the metamorphosis was done, I saw a boy around my age of Middle Eastern descent standing before me. He seemed merely humiliated at first, but when he peeked up and looked into my eyes...he began to tear up, and immediately dropped down to his knees.
"I am sorry, my lord! My deception was unforgivable." He said, lowering his head as the realization of this farce began to settle in to my confused state of mind. "He promised me that it would help you. That it would assist you in finding the Dawn. I'm sorry, my lord. Very, very, sorry."
The Jeweler told him, "You're free to go, Suraj. We'll handle things from here."
At this point, Suraj crawled forward on his knees and took a hold of my hand, pressing his lips to the back of it before letting a tear drip from his eye, and getting back on his feet to leave the room.
With an angry knot in the back of my throat, I turned to The Jeweler and growled, "A shapeshifter..."
"You failed me, Justin. Again." He replied.
"You TRICKED me!!!"
I heard him raise his voice and say, "I gave you an opportunity to PROVE to me that you were ready to take the next step! And you're NOT! You are still holding on to the silly notion that your childish attachments mean more than the grand task at hand!"
"WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?!?!?"
"Because...you can't heal the wounds that have made you what you are. You can't be anything more than the heartless demon that I see standing before me. LOOK at yourself!" He said. I looked down at the shadows swirling around me, my hands...turned into vicious claws. The shadow of horns and wings and a monster's tail. I saw the damage that I had done to the entire room. The people I hurt...some of them still unconscious. It wasn't until that moment that the shadows began to dissipate, and my mind attempted to regain focus again.
I felt weak. I had been fighting so hard that my body, literally, felt as though it was getting ready to collapse in on itself. But...I don't understand. I was in control. I didn't give in. Not all the way. I only used the extra darkness that was needed, but...but...I didn't mean to hurt anybody, right? I was holding back.
My body started to calm down, and I had to fall to my knees in order to recover. Sweating, heaving breaths, weak arms and legs. I didn't go crazy. I DIDN'T! I was in control the entire time. I just...I needed to keep Taryn safe. That's all this was.
The Jeweler walked over to me and put a hand on my shoulder. "You are still a child, Justin. A dreamer. A selfish halflife with NO real vision of the bigger picture. But despite your efforts to challenge me...I will break you, boy. You will come to see that your purpose in our world far outweighs the puppy love you feel for your sire. You cannot sacrifice your destiny for the sake of one person." He said, practically putting a dagger through my heart. "You will lose him, Justin. The scriptures have foreseen it. It is all about how you prepare to deal with that loss that matters now."
Trying to catch my breath, my eyes watering up, I whispered, "He's not going to die. I won't let it happen. I won't."
"You don't have a choice." He said. "It's not up to you. You lost all control tonight. You forgot your purpose in a futile attempt to fight against an inevitable outcome. And what did it cost you? what did it cost all of us?"
"I can't lose him..."
"The Vampire Mimic isn't born into darkness to save one sire. You were born to bring the light to us all. That is your very reason for being. Nothing else." He said, leaning down to speak directly into my ear. "And, frankly...I am stupefied to think that a creature with such power, such unlimited potential...could be so easily compromised! If the Elders could see you right now...they'd have you executed on the spot. You're more of a threat than an asset at this point. And they are searching, Justin. Searching for you, and for your dear Taryn. The display you put on this evening is just the excuse they're looking for to hit you with everything they've got. When they come for you...and they will...you'd better have something more to show them than a childish tantrum, boy. Otherwise...the chess game is over. And they put you in a box." He gave me a little shove, my hands reaching out to balance me on the floor on all fours as he stood up again. His servants circled around him to assist him in walking out of the room. But he made sure to tell me, "Get your priorities in order, boy. You can't sacrifice everything for the love of one person. Some fairy tales...are tragedies for a reason."