Alma and I hurried back into the fog once more. Why couldn’t my body just dispel this? This was proof enough of why I needed to continue my studies in magic. Even if I figure out what was causing this illusion of fog, I doubted I could dispel it. I…
“James? Slow down.” stated Alma.
“What? We need to find him, Alma, and…” I started to tell her.
She interrupted me, grabbing my arm saying, “Stop. Breathe.”
I met the cool, violet stare of her eyes. Even now she was breathtakingly beautiful.
“James, you need to relax. Think. Listen. We’ll find him.” she assured me.
“It’s just… We let the others get hurt. We shouldn’t have brought them here.” I admitted.
Several zombies turned to ash as they approached us, but Alma’s eyes never left mine.
“James, Brenna’s broken arm will heal. The others are just a little banged up. Relax.” she told me.
I took a deep breath before saying, “There’s more than that… I’m… I just feel so unprepared. I can’t do anything about this fog and doubt I could even if I found its source. I’m worried about how many people the man killed, considering zombies came out of houses back there. I…”
“Just a few hundred. I almost made them useful.” stated a voice from behind me.
I whirled around. The heavyset man from my hotel was there, smiling his disconcertingly friendly smile made odder by how the fog made him seem slightly discolored.
“Surrendering?” inquired Alma, sounding almost disappointed.
“I thought we might have a little chat.” he replied. “You’re obviously not human, and I have a guess what family you come from.”
“Yes, the Slayers. Since you’ve heard of them, you surely know this illusion of yours won’t deter us.” she replied.
I studied the man. How could she tell… Oh. Grass could be seen through the man’s feet. The dull grey background of fog had given him a more solid look to me at first glance.
“Hardly my finest work, I’ll admit. Why are you…” he started asking.
Alma had casted a spell, grabbed my hand, and ran. When we stopped, we were standing in front of a mausoleum.
“Unfortunately for you, I was recently examining that spell and learned how to trace it.” claimed Alma with a smile as she gazed at the man in the flesh.
“Clever girl. Or are you?” he asked.
The man snapped his fingers and fire surrounded us.
“Fire against a Slayer’s child? You have heard of us, correct?” asked Alma, sounding bored.
“Just verifying things, my dear. Please, don’t take offense. You can hardly blame an old man for wanting to live a little longer.” replied the man.
“May I at least have your…” started Alma, stopping a moment later. “Wait. Really?” she asked as she suddenly grabbed the man, yanked him forward, and sniffed the air.
Insects suddenly swarmed out of his mouth, but they were incinerated along with the body within a second.
“He is somewhat clever.” stated Alma with a smile. Then she created that same tracing spell again, before running with me in tow.
We stopped three more times with Alma sniffing the air before incinerating another zombie covered in illusion. She’d recreate her tracing spell, and we ran again after each one. Then we arrived to find an unpleasant sight. The man was sitting with a frightened little girl on his lap and three zombies between us and them..
Alma sneered in disgust as she said, “A hostage? Really? And I had even complimented your skill. You know I can kill you without harming the girl, so why bother.”
“You think I’m being unpleasant? I was quite content having a chat with you, and you attack my creations to chase me down. Who wouldn’t take some precautions with your family’s reputation.” spat the man.
Alma opened her mouth to speak, and then there was a flash of light followed by a dull thud. My body reacted, protecting me. I saw Alma flying through the air for a brief moment before another flash and thud.
“Oh, neat. Lightning.” stated Alma dryly as she walked back to my side while brushing herself off. “Ah, it burns. It burns.” she said flatly. “How long have you been preparing this area? I’ll admit that I’m a bit disappointed if that’s all you have for me.”
I stared at her, feeling more than a little befuddled by her response. She had been struck twice by lightning and was merely annoyed.
“Grab them.” commanded the man.
Two of the creatures lurched forward with surprising speed, though not nearly quick enough to grab Alma or me. I easily threw mine to the ground and created a spell to burn it. Alma didn’t bother even touching the thing.
Then the light was gone, save for a few points of residual energy in the air, though they, of course, weren’t of any use in seeing. I sensed magic around us. Spells were coming. I gaped as Alma did something to return the light, because several daggers were flying point-first into my stomach as other spells came at me from different directions. I was too late to stop the daggers but relieved when they merely bounced off. Not knowing how to counter the spells, I watched as they neared me. Several hit to no avail while my body dispelled two more.
I turned to see Alma countering all of the spells. She was so quick that I was having difficulty following what she did to counter. Where the man, zombie, and little girl had been, there was nothing but ash carried in the light breeze.
“Alma, did you kill her?” I asked in shock.
Equally shocked, Alma yelled “JAMES! I would never hurt an innocent child. This is hardly the time for this, but she turned out to be a zo-”
Darkness, like a shaft that absorbed all light, shot through her and passed around me harmlessly. Alma dropped to the ground. A large part of her side was missing, and I could see her injured heart squirting out blood as it tried to beat.
I’d kill him. I turned, finding a gaunt man gaping at me. I lunged toward him and plunged through a stone wall. I wasted a moment wondering how it had simply appeared there and lost sight of the man as another wall appeared. I jumped on top of it, but the man was gone. I scanned the area futilely with my eyes. I needed to think. He was probably using some spell to conceal himself, but what?
“COME OUT!” I yelled.
“James.. James…” gasped Alma. She was reaching toward me.
I rushed over to her but kept my eyes on our surroundings.
“James, he’s coming. You must stop him.” begged Alma.
That pleading, gasping voice was so… wrong. My vision blurred. I was crying.
“I don’t see him. How can I find him?” I asked. I was angry that I couldn’t stop the man, but something worse was tearing through me as I looked at her with my blurred vision.
“I’m sorry.. so sorry.” she told me.
“You don’t have to be sorry.” I told her, making the mistake of looking at the wound. There was so much blood, and I didn’t know anything I could do.
She weakly squeezed my hand. “Yes… I do. Please, James… You must… stop Adelmar. He’s coming. Calm…” She wheezed and coughed up blood. “Calm him. Fight… if you must. Stop… stop him.” The strength left her hand.
No. No. NO! “Alma? Alma!? Please hang on… Please. I’ll…” I started saying, but I was hopeless. Helpless. “AALIYAH!” I yelled.
A tiny foot nudged Alma, and I turned to see the reaper. Death was here. “She’s not dead yet.” she told me.
“Save her.” I told her.
The hood of that ominous figure fell back, and I saw my tiny friend.
“Boss-man, sir, that’s really not my thing.” she told me. “She’ll be fine with me.”
“No. Save her. Please…” I begged, barely able to speak past the knot in my throat. “Please, save her.”
Aaliyah sighed and said, “If you really want to use up your wish for something like this, sure, but Alma’s got a good second left in her.”
I glanced over to see Alma was perfectly still. Everything around us was still, even the ash still in the air. There was hope.
“My wish?” I asked.
“Birthday wish. Duh.” stated the little girl.
“I thought I…” I started saying, but found Aaliyah’s finger over my mount.
“Silly, boss-man. I was going to be your friend forever anyways. That can’t count.” she replied with a small smile, like one you might give a small child found in the middle of a foolish act.
“I wish for you to save her then.” I told her.
Aaliyah let out a big sigh, started rummage through her robe, and said, “Lemme see… I have the perfect thing for this somewhere. Ah! Here we go. Give her this.”
I took the little vial from Aaliyah’s hand, uncorked it, and quickly poured it into Alma’s mouth.
“Now to cure her… umm… where did I put… Oh! Found ya!” she exclaimed.
As I worried over what I gave Alma not being some sort of cure, my brain struggled with what I was witnessing. Aaliyah had reached into her robe and pulled out… herself? No. The girl was larger than her by a fair margin, and her eyes were green instead of blue. Why was she in pajamas… and… holding a toothbrush? The girl looked around in confusion, shivering when she saw Aaliyah’s scythe.
“Put that away this instant, young lady.” commanded the girl as she pointed her toothbrush at Aaliyah.
“Oops. Sorry, auntie.” replied Aaliyah. The scythe was already gone.
“What!?” I asked.
The girl turned toward me and looked me over as she said, “Hmm? Sorry for my state. My niece likes messing with me at times. I suppose you can’t say much with your shirt half torn off. I’ll never understand fashion these days.” Nodding, she then turned to Aaliyah and said, “You do know how to pick them though.”
“AUNTIE!” cried Aaliyah. “He’s interested in that one.”
She was right. I couldn’t let Alma die because… I loved her.
“Oh my. You should have said something.” stated Aaliyah’s aunt as she knelt down by Alma.
Aaliyah then informed me “Her name’s Ariadne.”
“Ugh… This is a Slayer’s brat. Are you sure she’s worth saving, young man?” asked Ariadne.
I nodded and said, “Absolutely. I’m James, by the way.”
Smiling, she said, “Good. I would have saved her in any case, but I prefer saving the worthwhile ones.”
There was a bright light suffusing Alma’s wounds, and I saw her eyes move. They went wide when she caught sight of Ariadne.
“YOU!” she screamed.
Feeling her magic forming, I yelled “ALMA STOP! She’s saving you.”
“Don’t worry, James. This little one can’t harm me.” stated Ariadne with a small smile.
Alma looked… scared.
“You know each other?” I asked.
“She killed a Slayer along with his entire army thousands of years ago.” claimed Alma.
“Pht… I’m not that old. Only was two thousand years ago. He had killed my brother, mind you, but I still didn’t kill him. Didn’t kill any of them. If you want to call someone old, look to my niece.” explained Ariadne small smile.
The light vanished, and my eyes traced the unblemished skin where Alma’s wound had been.
“James, why are you blushing… Oh!” exclaimed Alma, covering herself.
“Here you are. Put this on.” stated Ariadne. There was a flash of light and a black t-shirt fell over Alma.
Clutching the shirt, Alma stared at Ariadne with obvious disbelief. “How did you do that?” she asked.
“Magic, child. Don’t worry. You’ll be fine. Aaliyah, take me home. I want to finish brushing my teeth.” stated Ariadne.
“But auntie… wouldn’t you like to visit the hospital first? I know some kids who would like to meet you.” replied Aaliyah, now wearing one of her mismatched outfits instead of the black robe I associated with Death.
Ariadne smiled, and they both vanished.
“No… what did she do to me!?” exclaimed Alma.
I hugged her, just glad that she was alive. She was tense at first, but she hugged me back, almost sagging against me. Whatever had happened, things would be okay.