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Chapter 30

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Chapter XXX

The Fallen Wolf

 

Echo ran for it as fast as his four legs would allow, the reason for the panic soon became clear as they saw they huge fireball towards them from the sky. Alan had a vague sense of someone shouting him, but he didn’t hear what was being said. he turned and saw the fireball, crash into the manor, causing a massive explosion to come from the building. He felt himself being flung forward by the force of the explosion.

He smelled the flames before he ever saw them, as Alan gathered himself up, helped by Dmitri and Vernon who had landed near him, he turned to see his house on fire.

“Gods.” Alan said, looking at the burning hulk. Before dawning, realisation hit him like an anvil. He limped forward hurriedly, much to the amazement of Vernon. The old butler tried to steady Alan, but he was having none of it. “My kids are in there!” Alan shouted trying to make people understand. As he spoke Charlie seemed to be first to hear this cry, and she rushed forward towards the manor.

 

As the building continues to burn, Charlie observes the devastation with horror, which immediately worsens when she heard that there were people still inside the burning building. She began to run towards the manor when Blane held out an arm.

“You can’t go in there; the place will collapse in a few minutes!” Blane shouted over the fire, but Charlie was having none of it, especially from the likes of this man.

“There are people still inside!” Charlie yelled back. All four of Alan’s sons were somewhere inside the burning manor, along with Deryn and Jimmy, both having ruled themselves out of fighting.

“Very well.” Blane said sighing and followed Charlie inside rapidly falling manor.

The heat hit them both like a sledgehammer, so much so that they almost retreated back outside. But they pushed on, trying to find any sign of survivors.

As they searched, they found the remains of a couple of Dmitri’s Bots, all charred and burnt into grotesque shapes by the heat. It made Charlie sick to look at them, for the sole reason that if the heat was strong enough to bend metal, what would it so to human skin.

They continued up the charred stairway, they found Jimmy, covered in soot and struggling to breath leaning up against a wall. They had in fact almost missed him, only being alerted of his presence when the lad had coughed as they passed. As he continued to sputter out the soot from his airways, Blane knelt down next to him.

“Have you seen anyone lad?” Blane asked.

“No. You’re the first.” Jimmy managed coughing between each word. Charlie sighed and helped her fellow scientist onto his feet. It was at that moment however, when the worst happened. Part of the ceiling gave way and fell towards the three of them. The businessman looked up at the sound.

“Look out!” Blane yelled and pushed the two scientists out of the way, they fell down a couple of the steps before Charlie was able to get her balance and turned to face the damage.

Blane lay still. His body broken underneath a pile of rubble, exactly where Charlie had been standing a few seconds before. He was dead, a faint trickle of blood ran down from his forehead indicating that a piece of the rubble had cracked his head open. Charlie looked on in horror. She had never liked the businessman; she had made her thoughts clear on that count. But she never wanted him dead. And the fact that the man had in his last act tried to save their lives, proved that she may have been wrong about him. There would be time to mourn later however, by her count there were still at least five others in this charred hell. And so, carrying Jimmy on her shoulder she continued up towards the second floor.

 

Nick woke up out of his stupor and looked around, he couldn’t see anything until he had wiped the majority of the soot out of his eyes. The room around him was ablaze and looked to be falling apart, he tried to stand up, but sat back down again when he heard the creaking from beneath his feet, as if the floor was about to give way. He knew he couldn’t stay here; he would die from the smoke even if he didn’t fall through the floor, but he was scared of moving in case the floor did give way.

He blinked, trying to remember how they had gotten into this situation, but couldn’t. Fearing a concussion, he looked around trying to locate his brothers and Deryn, he was certain that the elderly scientist had been with them at the time of, well whatever had happened.

It didn’t take long. He found Martin huddled against a wall, the trouble came in trying to get his younger brother to move as, like he had been. Martin was terrified that the floor would collapse underneath him if he moved a muscle.

“Martin, we know where Echo is.” Nick lied looking at his younger brother’s tear-streaked face. This seemed to work as it at least got him to move, he felt slightly ashamed about lying to his younger brother. But if it got him out of danger, he thought it would be worth it. He half carried, half dragged Martin through the burning house until he stopped, and his heart sank. The door that led out of the room where were was blocked by rubble. Even if they could shift the debris, it would take too long, and they would die from the smoke. They were then distracted from their fear by a small voice from behind them.

“You boys need to get out.” Deryn said, and as the brothers looked around, they saw the old man lying against a wall, clearly disoriented by the force of the blast that had knocked them backwards.

“The doors jammed though.” Nick said rushing over to help the old man up to his feet, Deryn looked around the room that they seemed to be trapped in, before noticing a small hole in the wall a few meters away from them.

“There.” Deryn said point and hurried over along with the two boys. Nick looked through the gap, it didn’t look very big, he doubted that even Martin would be able to get through it.

“Did you see our brothers?” Nick asked, he couldn’t remember if they were in the room with them when the explosion hit.

“I saw them leave moments before. Odds are they are out of this place by now.” Deryn said nodding, before he turned his gaze to the room, evidently looking for something.

 

Alan observed the burning manor with horror, he hoped that Charlie would be able to get his kids out of there. he realised that it had only been five minutes since the young scientist had entered, but every fibre of his being told him to go in after them. He decided to follow his gut instinct and was halfway up the steps, when he suddenly began to feel cold, much colder that when he had been talking to Eugene. So cold in fact, that his burning house did little to fight it. He turned around, which was when his heart plummeted.

Standing about a hundred meters down the front lawn, stood a tall dark figure, in black armour. Almost seven feet tall, and with red glints coming out of his helmet. The Shadow stood facing them. Alan stood frozen by the demigod, as it raised one gauntlet up and pointed at him. He sighed and walked down the steps.

“Master Wolfrick.” Vernon said, but Alan didn’t hear him, everything was blurred out, the only thing that mattered was the demigod standing right in front of him. He began to run towards The Shadow, or at least limp forward as quickly as possible, both his staff and gun drawn out, ready to attack. He knew that he couldn’t win, but it wasn’t about that anymore. This was about buying as much time as possible for the people stuck in the manor behind him.

He continued to limp forward as he saw his opponent mockingly brace for the impact, he lunged, driving the staff in front of him, aiming for the chest. He also fired a few rounds from the gun aiming for the head, which was about as successful as he would have expected, but it drew The Shadow’s attention away from the staff, which pierced the black armour, and tore into the chest.

The Shadow screamed and aimed a blow at Alan’s head with his fist. Alan noted that whilst he missed, the demigod felt comfortable enough fighting with his bear fists. Which unnerved him. The second strike by The Shadow however was not so lucky for him, the metal collided with his chest and flung him to the side, dangerously close to the minefield, which gave Alan and idea.

Allowing The Shadow to charge towards him, he dodged out of the way at the last second, and the demigod charged into the mine field like an angered bull. Explosions ripped the air around him. He turned to see the damage, seeing that it had not even made a dent, although his garden now looked more like a battlefield than before.

“Right then.” Alan said to himself, he took the staff, and began driving the ground upwards, boxing The Shadow inside. Until it fully encased him. He sighed, and backed up, hoping that the combination of the earthen box and the magic that had been used to conjure it would hold. For a few seconds it seemed to, until red hot fire spewed out of the prison, causing Alan to duck as earth flew everywhere, setting off more of the landmines as the chunks came crashing down around him. But it wasn’t the worse of it, as The Shadow once, more came charging towards him, this time looking properly angered.

 

Back inside the room, Deryn picked up a wooden beam that had previously been part of the roof, and placed it under the fallen wall, and began to pry it open. Much to Nick’s surprise the scientist was a lot stronger than his age and stature gave away. Even so, it took a bit of time, but eventually a whole big enough for both Nick and Martin was created.

Martin was the first to go through and, being the smallest was able to fit through easily, as his younger brother disappeared from view, Nick turned to Deryn, who only nodded before speaking.

“Get going lad. I don’t know how much longer I can hold.” Deryn said, and with that Nick turned and headed through the hole. Martin had made it look easy, gliding through with ease as he had done. Nick found out though that the few years in difference was more than enough to make it a lot more difficult for him. Rebars and sharp pieces of concrete cut at his already burnt skin, drawing nasty red lines down his arms, legs and back. But he eventually made it to the end of the small tunnel, where he saw a hand waiting for him, looking up he saw Charlie knelt down with her hand outstretched. Taking it the scientist pulled him out from the tunnel, he saw that all his brothers were there, both Jack and Dave, were also covered in soot, but seemed to have no serious injuries. His feelings of joy at seeing his older brothers, was not to last long however. As he turned back around to see the wall collapse back down.

“Deryn.” Nick said and was able to find a small hole at the bottom of the wall and looked through to see the elderly man lying down on the ground, covered in sweat. He was about to shout that they could make the hole bigger for him. When the floor in the room that he and Martin and Deryn had been in, gave way. And Deryn plummeted down towards the ground.

A thud sounded a few seconds later, followed by a howl of agony.

“Nick we’ve got to get moving. Now!” Charlie shouted at the boy, hoping that he would follow orders on this occasion. But on this occasion, he decided to obey the order and followed Charlie, Jimmy and his brothers in their attempt to escape his burning home.

 

As Alan continued to try and hold off The Shadow, he heard a howl of agony was heard from the burning manor, sensing his fear, the pale figure in front of him began to laugh.

“If only you had given me what I wanted, then nobody would have had to die.” The Shadow said, striking a chord with Alan. It hurt not, because of the coldness of which it was stated. But because he knew deep down that it was the truth. He had no idea who had shouted out in pain, hoping to whatever gods there were, that it wasn’t any of his kids.

The attacks started to come harder and harder, as if his advisory had gotten bored with this duel and was no longer wanting to play at this little game. Which was soon made apparent when The Shadow grabbed both the hand that was clutching the staff and his neck and began lifting Alan of the floor.

Alan felt the cold metal, squeeze his right wrist before the sound of the bones in his wrist snapping could be heard. It was now his turn to howl in pain as the staff and gemstone fell to the ground. The Shadow, still grasping Alan’s neck. Picked up the staff and broke off the green stone, dropping the piece of wood to the ground. Alan heard the sound of victory in The Shadow’s breathing, as he held the green gemstone aloft. Green light began to engulf the demigod for a few seconds, almost blinding Alan, before it suddenly stopped, and The Shadow could turn his full attention to the mortal he had by the neck.

“You… Will… Not… Win.” Alan sputtered, trying to speak whilst his lungs drained of oxygen. This only seemed to amuse The Shadow, who tilted his head, and began to squeeze. It was over in a matter of seconds, the demigod as focussed as before, began to crushed Alan’s neck, until the sound of more bones cracking snapped through the air and the man in his grasp fell limp. The Shadow, now done with his plaything, carried his body by the now broken neck, and flung it towards the onlookers back at the manor steps.

 

Alan’s body collapses to the ground, limp as a rag doll, his now empty eyes looking at his burning home. Vernon stood still not wanting to believe what he had just seen happen right in front of him.

“Noooo!” Dmitri shouted and fired his gun at the demigod, for all the good it would do. And as expected the bullets only ricocheted of the black armour. The Shadow looked up and pointed one hand up at Dmitri, before speaking.

“You’re… Next… You’re… Gem.” The Shadow said, as he began to advance towards the manor steps. As Dmitri continued to empty his gun into the demigod, he suddenly stopped. The cold that had arrived when the demigod had, was gone. About fifty meters from their position The Shadow also stopped, as he saw the new arrival that had appeared.

Infront of the manor, a dark figure walks to stand between the manor and The Shadow, who stands still examining his new target. The god also looked at her enemy with utter contempt, but also a little fear.

“You!” The Shadow said, there was no longer triumph in his voice, but anger. A real and pure hatred of his equal like the group had never seen was on display right in front of them.

“Me.” Xyla said, standing between the predator and its prey. Ready for the fight.

“The world will fall. The east is mine. The time of the west is over. The age of darkness is here.” The Shadow said as he began to advance once more, as Codsworth and Barca also raised their guns, to do what, they didn’t know. But if it was to be their end. Then they were going to go down fighting. The ground on which The Shadow walks begins to crack, and fire begins to come out. Vernon raised his gun, ready for the end. When Xyla walks forward to meet her enemy and flings her arm out in front of her, causing The Shadow to stop in his tracks.

“You have no power here, servant of evil. You are nameless, faceless, formless!” Xyla shouts, which infuriates The Shadow, who screams curses out, but to no effect as his rival continues. “Leave this place and do not return!” Xyla shouts and the fiery figure is flung backwards, away from the manor. As Xyla walks forward to where The Shadow had been standing, the ground heals and returns to its previously grassy state. The old butler walks up to Xyla, a look of trepidation on his face.

“Who are you?” Vernon asked, and Xyla turns around to face him, her golden eyes staring at the man, sizing him up, before she responds.

“You know me Vernon Turnip. You know who I am.” Xyla replied, smiling at the old butler, as a show of encouragement.

“H-How?” Vernon stuttered.

“I forced him away from this place. He and his servants will not be able to enter this place.” Xyla stated, before continuing. “For a time, at least. Which is why you must leave.” She finished and walked over to the crumpled figure in front of them.

Vernon looked on, he realised that the manor was no longer ablaze, whether it was because of Xyla arrival or The Shadow’s leaving, he neither knew, nor cared. But he thought to himself, as the god knelt down in front of Alan, that he had now outlived four generations of the Wolfrick family, not that it helped in anyway ease his shock at what had happened. Then things became a lot worse, as he heard footsteps behind him, turning he saw Jack walking forward trying to see exactly what was going on.

“Jack…” Vernon started, hoping to try and explain before the lad did anything rash but too late, Jack ran forward towards the body lying on the ground, now realising who it belonged to. Vernon walked forward, as he saw Jack collapse to the ground next to Alan. The old butler walked on, but stopped a few paces short, wanting to give the lad some space, he was already thinking ahead about where to go next, when Jack’s voice brought him out of his thoughts.

“Heal him.” Jack said looking at the god who had invaded his mind for the last year. ‘It was the least she could do.’ He thought, but as usual. The god disappointed him.

“I do not have that power Jack Wolfrick.” Xyla said solemnly.

“Heal him.” Jack said again, he refused to believe that this god who could invade people’s minds with ease, could not bring people back from the dead.

“I wish I could. But as I told your father. I do not bring people back from the dead.” Xyla replied.

“HEAL HIM!” Jack shouted almost to the point of screaming, tears now running freely down the left side of his face, driving clear shrieks through the soot.

“I cannot.” Xyla said calmly, although the god’s mouth didn’t move, and Jack guessed that she was speaking inside his mind, not that it helped. Before he could reply the god disappeared from his side, but he did not get up. After a few moments, although it felt like an age, but eventually he felt a hand rest on his shoulder, he looked up and saw Dmitri looking down at him. He didn’t know why, but anger flew up inside him at the sight of the captain.

“Come on kid.” Dmitri said, a tear running down his own cheek as he looked down at the broken body of his friend.

“Why didn’t you help?” Jack asked, now he knew. This man also had a gem, but instead of going to help his father, he had remained on the manor steps. “Why didn’t you help!?” Jack asked again louder, so much so that he attracted Codsworth’s attention. The commander looked at the two with trepidation, behind him; Dave, Nick and Martin crept closure to their father’s body.

“It was a strategic decision lad. If I had gone, the enemy would possess this gem as well as your dad’s.” Dmitri said. he knew that whilst it made militaristic sense, that it would fly with the kid, and sure enough, it didn’t. Jack looked around, at everyone, Charlie had also come down to observe the scene. Both Barca and Jimmy were waiting back up on the manor steps waiting for them to return. Eventually Jack’s eye found the commander. He was about to unload, before Dmitri stepped in. “I know your upset Jack. But don’t blame anyone else.” Dmitri said.

“I don’t blame them. I blame you. I BLAME YOU!” Jack shouted. Tears starting to well up in his eye again.

“That’s okay kid. That’s okay.” Dmitri said holstering his gun and taking a step closure.

“No. Nothing about this is okay. Nothing about it is okay.” Jack said and began to hurl punches at Dmitri who buckled but remained standing, as the teen continued to throw punches at him. “You disgusting coward! You piece of shit!” Jack shouted hurling himself at Dmitri who backed up slightly as Jack continued to hurl punches at his gut. Dmitri allows him to continue to hurl his fists at him as he continues to yell. “COWARD! COWARD! COWARD!” He continues as Dmitri pulls the teen toward to him to stop the punching, and Jack just folds into his arms and continues to cry. All of his emotion pouring out of him. Dmitri doesn't know even what to do. So, he hugs him back.

“It’s okay kid. It’s okay.” Dmitri said, holding Jack in his arms. He was ready to take this from the lad’s younger brothers, but for the moment at least it seemed that he would at least be spared that. As Dave, Nick and Martin just stare in shock at their father’s broken body. “What’s our next move?” Dmitri asked, still holding onto Jack. He heard Martin say something but couldn’t make it out.

“Take the body inside and regroup.” Charlie said, before Codsworth could respond. Vernon nodded his agreement, as he knelt down next to Alan’s body, and with some help from Codsworth carried it back inside. They were followed by Charlie, leaving Dmitri alone with the four Wolfrick brothers. Nick and Martin walk back in after Vernon, followed by Jack, who detaches himself from Dmitri and walks back towards his ruined home. Leaving Dave watching the horizon ahead of them.

“What’s going to happen now?” Dave asked, choking slightly as he struggled to get the words out.

“I don’t know.” Dmitri said as he tentatively put his arm around the boy. Unlike Jack he didn’t respond with anger, however. Which unnerved the captain even more. “But we’ll be alright. I promise you.” Dmitri finished, and with that, he led Dave back into the manor, for what felt like, the last time.

 

Link to Book 4

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