“You’re the one stalking me?” she exclaimed, not knowing what to believe anymore.
“Stalking? You really are quick to judge people.” He mused. “But without me you’d be halfway to hell by now.”
The woman whom he had called sister glared at him, crossing her arms. “Brother,” she scowled. “did you approach her before the appointed time?”
The woman was beautiful in a mysterious and sophisticated way. She had olive skin and Katie could see hints of similar tattoos to those her brother had. Her black hair was straight and long, seemingly reaching her waist and her eyes were blue and intense. The woman was shorter than Katie, maybe around 5ft4″ but she had an aura that made her seem both taller and more intimidating.
“What of it?” He replied with a shrug. “She noticed me at the cemetary, even though I was shadow walking. I thought I could at least drop a hint.”
“Wait a minute!” Katie cut in. “You were there?” She glared at him. “You were following me at the cemetary?”
The man looked down at her, his eyes studying her closely. “I was.” he replied evenly. “It was a nice speech you had for your parent’s tombstone.”
Katie felt the anger raise inside her and she was about to punch him when she felt a hand on her shoulder. “We can talk about that when we arrive at the Sanctuary.” The woman in the dress replied, turning to leave.
“No!” Katie growled. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what the hell is going on! Who are you? What were those creatures? What war was he talking about and why the hell does he need me?!”
The woman in the coat sighed and turned to her, her blue eyes seizing her up. “I’m Isobel Winter, and I’m a Seeker and Protector.” She said, her voice cold.
“I’m Gabriel Winter, also a Seeker.” The man replied, his dark eyes had an amused glimpse to them. “And this is Lila, our house-witch.”
The woman cast an angry glare at him. “Enchantress, thank you very much.”
Katie studied the woman closely. She was petite, barely reaching 5ft2″, with skin that was so spotless that it looked like porslin. Her hair was fiery red and it was made into an elegant bun that showed of her long, elegant neck. Her eyes were dark blue with a hint of green.
“Enchantress?” Katie asked, “And what are you?”
“My brother and I.. are members of the Shadow Order.” Isobel replied. “We’re advanced demon hunters, if you will. As well as Seekers and Protectors of the Golden Queen.” Then she glanced over her shoulder, “Can we leave now?”
Katie gaped at them. The things they were talking about sounded like something out of a book and she took a step back, shaking her head slowly.
“I’m not going anywhere with you freaks.” There were a hint of desperation in her voice.
“They know you’re.. a hunter.” Isobel stated. “Stay with us, and you’re safe!”
“Besides,” Gabriel cut in, “new hunters are always welcome.”
Katie just stared at them, slowly realizing that she wouldn’t get any answers any time soon. Besides, if they actually could train her, it could be worth it. After a moment she shrugged and nodded slowly, gesturing to them to lead the way.
They passed the cemetery and after several blocks, Katie realized no one had said anything. She wondered who they really were. They called themselves demon hunters, but demons were just a myth, weren’t they? And the enchantress – wasn’t magic something that just existed in children’s tales?
And what had the creature meant when it said that they needed her? And what war was he speaking of? She was no one. She had no friends to speak of and she had never had a boyfriend longer than a week. Barely anyone knew she existed, and yet she had met more people in the last few days that knew her name than she had ever done.
Suddenly Isobel came to a halt, gesturing to the others to do the same. Katie glanced at the building they were standing in front of, frowning slightly.
They were standing outside of a old, gothic castle that had once housed the city’s ruling family. But since the last heir had died during mysterious circumstances, no one had lived there and it had been empty ever since. She couldn’t understand why they were here.
“Here?” She asked. “The castle has been here for centuries, and no one has lived there for almost as long.”
Gabriel chuckled lightly and gestured to Lila, whom even though reluctantly, waved her wand and the gate opened. As they stepped inside, the scenery changed. Instead of a abandoned castle, there stood a white, five story, gothic stone building. And if the castle had had broken windows and ivy climbing everywhere, this building had inviting light in every window and well-kept rose gardens.
“How about now?” Gabriel smiled and turned to her, his eyes glistened with amusement.
“Well..” she stuttered and avoided to look at him. There were something about him that made her heart beat faster. “it certainly is impressive.”
“Great!” Isobel muttered, “All we needed to do was some magic trick. Why didn’t we think of that from the beginning?”
“Come now, Isobel.” Lila said, her voice carried a strangely soft and gentle tone. “We need her.”
Isobel nodded and walked ahead of them towards the building. “Welcome to the Sanctuary.”
“Why is it called Sanctuary?” Katie asked, looking at the building in amazement.
“Because it sounds better than ‘Headquarter of the Shadow Order’.” Gabriel replied as he held the large door for Isobel, Lila and Katie. “And hey, welcome home.”
The entrance hall was enormous and at its center stood a magnificent marble staircase, decorated with burning candles. To her right was a corridor that seemed to lead to nowhere and to her left was a large wooden door. The walls were decorated with paintings of Adam and Eve, angels and demons and other motifs she didn’t know. A quiet sound of amazement flew over her lips and she barely heard Gabriel chuckle behind her.
Suddenly footsteps could be heard running down the stairs and a young man appeared at the base of it. “Where have you been?” He crossed his arms and when he reached them he stopped and looked at Lila, eyeing her suspiciously. “And why is she here?”
“We’ve been doing our job.” Isobel replied and crossed her arms. “And she’s here because she helped. Which you didn’t!”
Katie looked at the man. He was about 175 centimeters and had short, sweptback hair that showed off elegant yet masculine features with a defined jawline and cheekbones. He was clean-shaved and wore black jeans and shirt and his body seemed to be covered by the same type of tattoos that both Isobel and Gabriel had. Katie then looked at Isobel and Gabriel. All three of them had black hair and the way they all crossed their arms made her guess they were siblings.
“Your job is to watch for the signs of the Queen!” He growled, “And I had meetings with John.” The anger was apparent. “Speaking of which, Vanessa and Jonathan aren’t pleased with your adventures.”
“Zak,” Gabriel muttered and glared at him through narrowed eyes. “I can care less about what Jonathan has to say right now. Lila is here because we asked her to and besides,” he turned to Katie, placed a hand on her arm and nudged her forward. “we did do our jobs.”
The man flinched and and looked at her. “That’s her? Are you absolutely sure?”
Lila nodded and stepped forward, her footsteps so light you couldn’t hear them. “They have found her, Zachary.”
Zachary nodded slowly. “She should see Alaric.” Then he looked at Gabriel, “Brother, take her to the Master!”
Gabriel nodded and bowed mockingly. “Yes, brother.” He then grabbed Katie’s arm again and led her towards the stairs. “This way, if you please.”
Katie glanced over her shoulder as they ascended the stairs, noticing that the other three were talking in hushed voices and looking at her suspiciously. Almost as if they saved her life only to be able to keep an eye on her.
“Who is Alaric?” She asked when they were out of hearing distance.
“He’s the Grand Master of our Order.” Gabriel replied. “He’s Grand Seeker as well as Keeper.” He glanced at her, smiling wryly. “Or you could just say he’s our leader.”
Katie was quiet for a moment as she was lead up the stairs, through a corridor and up another flight of stairs.
“You all seem to wield very fancy titles.” She pondered. “How do you get them?”
Gabriel wet his lips and shrugged slightly. “Our Order works like any structure,” he explained. “you begin at the bottom and work your way up.”
They rounded a corner and headed down a long, dimly lit corridor. “Isobel earned the title of Protector when she saved Alaric’s life and Zak carries the title of Head Procurator and Grand Scribe and manages the archives.”
“And how did he earn those fancy titles?” Katie didn’t hide the amused smile nor the mocking tone her voice carried.
“He has an IQ of about a hundred and ninty six, he can read a whole book in five minutes and he is fluent in latin, ancient greek, hieroglyphs and almost all other dead languages.. You take a guess.”
“I see..” Katie answered quietly, feeling a burn spread across her cheeks. “And you?” She asked. “How did you earn your title?”
Gabriel didn’t answer her, instead he stopped outside a large wooden door, decorated with something that looked like scenes from a book.
“This is Alaric’s office.” He said and turned to her. “He can seem quite odd and slightly harsh before you get to know him, so don’t let him get to you.”
He then knocked on the door, opened it and gently, but determinedly, pushed her inside.
The large room made her gasp. It was covered by bookcases, cabinets and statues and in the middle of it all was a old, large wooden desk. She walked down the small staircase that led into the room and looked inside a cabinet.
It was filled with strange objects and artifacts and she had a hard time taking her eyes off them. She finally managed to pull herself away and turned around, facing the desk.
A large, leather covered tome with a strange symbol on the cover caught her interest and she carefully picked it up. She couldn’t make out the title, but a piece of paper tucked between the pages caught her attention and she opened the book, eyeing the page that was marked.
The text seemed to be a verse of some kind, and it didn’t make any sense.
“Reborn by the hand of God..?” She muttered, “When the signs can be seen..? The One to stand -“
“Between Heaven and Hell.” A man’s voice cut in and finished the sentence. Katie gasped and nearly dropped the tome. “I see you’ve found the Book.”
Katie carefully placed the book back on the desk and turned around. Down the stairs walked a middle-aged man with short greying brown hair, impeccably dressed in a black suit. His brown eyes shifted to red and he seemed to see right through her.
“Can the rumors be true?” He said, more to himself than to Katie. “I’m sorry, where’s my manners,” he extended a hand and flashed a smile. “I’m Alaric Black, leader of this little band of misfits.”
She hesitated for a brief moment before accepting his hand. “Katrina Wilde, the clueless one.”
A soft laughter erupted from Alaric and he walked over to the desk, gently placing his hand on the tome. “Don’t worry, Katie, you will know the truth soon enough.”
Katie looked at him, frowning slightly. “How is it that no one knows your Order exists?”
“It is to protect mankind.” Alaric answered and turned to her. “If the humans would find out what we know, there would be uproar and chaos.”
“And what do you know?” Katie prodded.
Alaric was quiet for a long time, as if he pondered what to tell her. Then he sighed and walked behind the desk, placing himself in the chair. “Tell me, Katrina, have you ever seen things no one else has or believed that the stories of monsters under the bed could actually hold a grain of truth?”
Katie looked at him, her eyes narrowing in suspicion. How did he know that? There were only two people in the world whom she had told, and they had deemed her insane. So why did this stranger put so much weight on it? Why did he want to know about her deepest secret?
“Yes.” she found herself respond and she swallowed heavily as he studied her closely.
Alaric nodded slowly and folded his hands in front of him. “It seems you hold powers beyond your own knowledge, Katrina.” he pondered quietly. “Because the truth, as normal people know it, is a fable.” He explained then. “A story, a fairy tale if you wish, created by the church to keep the peace and keep mankind safe. Our truth,” he continued, “the truth as we know it, is that demons and angels roam this world freely, mingling with us. These are called Nephalem, and they are ‘neutral’ in the divine conflict, but then there are those, on both sides, that wishes to either enslave mankind, or destroy it.”
“Wait a minute!” Katie raised a hand and looked at him in disbelief. “Are you trying to tell me that what I encountered today were demons?”
“Yes.” Alaric stated. “But you have seen them all your life, haven’t you? Noticed black eyes peer at you from a shadowed corner, felt claws risp your skin as you were sleeping, heard noises from under your bed..? You have known demons exist all along, but the demons you met today call themselves true demons. Those who wish to free Lilith and enslave mankind.”
Katie was quiet for a long time. The things he said was frightingly accurate and she couldn’t help but wonder how he knew all these things about her. How did he know that she used to see things in shadowy corners even though nothing was there. How did he know that she used to wake up with scratches on her arms when she had dreamt about monsters? How did he know that she was still terrified of placing her feet on the floor at night because she could hear noises come from underneath her bed? No one knew about this. No one.
“How did..?” the words escaped her and she sighed, placing herself in a chair in front of the desk.
“How I know?” Alaric pondered his respons for a moment, then he looked her straight in the eyes. “Ever since we heard rumors about a young girl seeing monsters have we kept tabs on you. We have kept to the shadows, watching and waiting, knowing that you one day would learn the truth.”
“And what truth is that?”
“That demons are real and that the war for freeing Lilith has begun.” Alaric’s voice was plain, but she could see the pain in his eyes and she wondered what this war had cost him.
“Lilith?” Katie asked quietly. “As in Adam’s first wife?”
“The same.” He nodded and leaned forth in his chair. “But I guess you want to begin at the very beginning. As you seem to know, before Eve was created, Adam had a wife called Lilith. But due to her being shaped from the same clay as him, she refused to submit to her husband and obey him. This made God banish her from Paradise and she fled to beaches of the Red Sea, where she began plotting her revenge against Adam and his descendants. God sent three angels after her, Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelaf in the hopes of putting an end to her scheming, but his plan backfired. Semangelaf betrayed his brothers and joined Lilith, agreeing to her killing every eigth son and twentysecond daughter of Adam’s descendants.”
Katie had heard this before. Ellen had told her this as a bedtime story when she was a child. How did she know about this? How could she tell a story that only these people knew? Was it possible that there were more to Ellen and James than Kaite had ever thought?
“After the creation of man and Lilith’s banishment from Paradise, there were some angels who thought it unfair that they should obey mankind and sought to rebel against God.” Alaric continued, “The rebels were lead by Lucifer, the Lightbringer, and he and he followers were thrown out of Heaven as a result. This was the start of the Divine Conflict and it became a bloody battle between angels and those who later became known as demons.”
“But I thought that Lucifer was the Devil?!” Katie pondered quietly, unaware that she had actually interrupted him.
Alaric chuckled however and an amused glimpse danced in his eyes, “According to the church, he is.” He then wet his lips and sat back in his chair, crossing his arms lightly. “As the Conflict raged on both demons and angels realized that they were tired of it and that they wanted an end. They knew however that there would be no end as long as Lilith and Lucifer existed. A thousand years after the beginning of the conflict, an unlikely pair met each other on the battlefield. Rezekiel was an angel and Astranar was a demoness and they decided to flee and created a sanctuary in what is today Scandinavia. More and more fled the Conflict and joined up with them, and slowly but surely the sanctuary turned into a self-sustained country, shielded from mankind with magic. Astranar and Rezekiel created an order of nephilim, demon hunters, by mixing their blood and having humans drink it so that they can fight Lilith and her ilk. Astranar soon realized that Lilith, Lucifer and Semangelaf couldn’t be killed by conventional means and that they needed someone of mixed pure blood. A child that she herself carried.”
“You mean that she was pregnant? With an angel?” Katie wet her lips, surprisingly interested in the story Alaric was telling her. She didn’t know if he was telling the truth, or if he was joking with her, but she didn’t really care, she was too curious to.
A wry smile spread across Alaric’s lips and he nodded slowly. “She was pregnant, yes, but she wasn’t carrying an angel, nor a demon, it was a child of mixed blood, a child with powers of both Heaven and Hell. The only one who would be able to kill both Lilith, Lucifer and Semangelaf.”
“But..?” Katie didn’t know what to say. It all sounded so strange. “Wasn’t Lilith human?”
A soft laughter erupted from Alaric and he sat back in the chair, looking at her searchingly for a moment before continuing. “Lilith was human, but when God threw her out of the Paradise she turned her back on humanity and became the first demoness, Mother of all demons. Lucifer and Semangelaf however was fallen angels and thus no angel could kill them and no demon would want to.”
Katie was quiet for a moment, frowning mildly. “But wouldn’t destroying Adam’s descendants mean the destruction of mankind?”
“Technically,” Alaric answered. “but Lilith promised to only kill every eigth son and twentysecond daughter, meaning that there would still be a lot of humans to enslave.”
“And what happened to Rezekiel and Astranar? And the child she was carrying?” Katie couldn’t hide the excitement in her voice and she felt silly for prodding so much.
“Astranar gave birth to a baby girl. A healthy child with her fathers blonde hair and her mother’s slightly pointy ears, but instead of wings she got birthmarks on her shoulders that resembled them. From day one they trained her for what she was destined to do and to protect her from angelic and demonic forces they devided their nephilim’s into to factions; Protectors and Runners.”
“Protectors?” Katie mumled quietly and she noticed how he glanced at her curiously. “Just as Isobel..”
“Yes, just like Isobel.”
“But how is it that Gabriel and Zak has different titles then? And what happened to the child? Why is the demons back?” The questions just flooded out of her mouth and she could barely stop herself, blushing violently when she noticed the amused smile the man wore.
“Times change.” was his answer and he folded his hands on the desk. “And as to the child, they named her Israfel, and her story is a rather sad one, unfortunately.”
Alaric didn’t answer, he just looked at his watch and shook his head slowly. “Oh, how time flies. It is almost dinner time, you should get changed. Find Izzy, she’ll lead you to your room. Then it’s time for you to meet the other family members.”
Katie got to her feet, smiled gratefully and headed towards the door when she stopped in the middle of a step.
“Mr Black?” she asked and turned towards him again.
“Who am I? Why did the demon say he needed me?” She wet her lips and looked at him searchingly and she could see that he was thinking hard on what to say.
“You’re one of us, now.” he answered after a while. “And as to your other question, the answer to it will come to you when the time is right.”
Katie wanted so desperately to protest. She knew there were more to the story of Israfel, and she knew that there were something they hid from her. Something they didn’t want her to know, yet. She just couldn’t figure out what.
“I’ll see you at dinner.” she said instead and left the Grand Master’s office without waiting for a response.