Reily's Paranormal Romance Snppets

Unholy Alliance
Despite Lukas’ studies and commitment to humanity’s protection,
a void had rooted in the darkest corners of his mind. Each rising, it surfaced to extort any novelty or anticipation in his automated reality. Duty had always come first, after which he studied whatever snared his attention at the time. Still, he hungered for more-something to chase away the shadows and blisters cauterizing his soul.
Centuries of experience honed him into an expert assassin and tracker for evil’s myriad and divergent forms. Yet each kill left a new stain on his spirit that darkened his aura and took him further from the light of man. Since defeat had never left its toxic breath in his extended history, this mission would prove one more in a long series of significant encounters.
   Minutes later, the scent of demon filled his nostrils. Descending to skim the void above the treetops rewarded him with a stronger stench. Whether this demon held the precious artifact or proved another dead end didn’t matter. Its removal fell among his duties as an ancient vampire and benefactor to humans, a win-win situation in the grand scheme of things.   Dark hues of maroon and purple bruised the evening sky. The sunset’s colorful merging with the distant horizon lent him barbarous satisfaction. Those same colors would soon spill from this prick’s skull. Its gray matter, if demons possessed such a thing, would pour to the ground, obliterating all vegetation in its path. At least the creature couldn’t wreak havoc on society until his master resurrected and sent it back. Fortunately, that took time.
   “Demon, face me. What do you have to lose? You know I can’t kill you...Perhaps facing your boss, defeated, frightens you?” Rare was the demon that could resist a taunt. The thunder in Lukas’ voice scattered a small herd of deer grazing beside the fast-moving river nearby. A meticulous search below yielded no visual of anything in demonic form.
   The hunter in him was determined and ready to finish this task and knew the evil nearby would sense his presence. Why can’t I get a lock on its position?
   Shadows lengthened and crawled over the earth below, denoting rise and shine for the creatures of the night while daylight critters scurried to find comfort and cover in the obscure niches of darkness. In counterpoint, the soothing sounds of the nocturnal forest punctuated by the lonely call of a wolf reminded him of his goal.
   With a slight shift of the wind, he sensed movement in the forest below. Off to his right and just ahead, the demon’s obvious attempt at a stealthy passage failed to camouflage the swish and slap of branches flung back in its wake.
   “Ugh. I don’t fear you, vampire. However, I do fear my master if I fail to deliver this objet d’art.” Like most of its kind, the harsh guttural voice grated Lukas’ nerves.
   Altering his course delivered a stronger hellish stench, searing a path to his nostrils as the repetitive crunch of dead leaves and snapping twigs guided him. Maybe the assignment would end this night, allowing him to revisit and re-evaluate his current path in life.
   Now, with no apparent concern over the noise made or the swath it cut, the fleeing pestilence would’ve attracted the youngest of vampires with the snapping and shuddering of branches even without its odor and aura.
   “You’re kidding me, a demon with intelligence? Your boss educates you clowns now?” Dropping through the web of interlocking limbs, Lukas used his telekinesis to clear a path, providing a fleeting visual of his prey. The clicking and swishing of branches and leaves muted the demon’s heavy grunts.
Damn shame my psychic talents don’t work on these deviants. He hit the ground running, his adversary near.
   “You’d be surprised, bloodsucker. You’d be surprised. Once upon a time, I attended an ivy-league school. Why do you think master chose me to find and return this treasure?”
Broken and bowed branches whipped back along the path to provide a stroboscopic view. A second passed, then another, followed by the sounds of accelerated movement and the demon’s occasional growl punctuating its hoarse breathing.
   “Huh, and now you’re just a flunky. Is that where you became a demon?” A burst of speed increased the terminal case of sulfuric fetor blazing a trail through Lukas’ senses but yielded more frequent flashes of his objective. Footprint-sized patches of wilting vegetation betrayed the demon’s exact steps. Few living things could survive evil’s deadly contact.
   Large exposed roots and mid-size saplings necessitated agile footwork at breakneck speed to avoid losing ground. Skirting these obstacles with flight would drain even an ancient vampire’s energy reserves. He’d need them all to fight a demon possessing such unusual speed.
A steep incline presented more slags and escarpments to negotiate, some snagging his leather vest in passing. Vaulting over the next two outcroppings demanded even more of his strength.
   He didn’t break stride.
   “If you have no fear, why run away like a schoolgirl?”
   Budding underbrush foiled a good visual, though this thing’s odor and noise rivaled that of a trumpeting elephant. He’d never tracked such a swift and agile creature. With practiced ease, he gripped the pommel of his Falchion. The slide from its fur-lined scabbard muffled the blade’s draw even as the material kept the steel oiled.
   “Ah ... just want you to have a clear view of approaching death.”  The demon’s chuckle boded ill.
A moment of uncertainty flashed in his mind when the crashing noise ahead stopped. Thinning trees gave way to tall grasses on the rock-strewn promontory, reminiscent of a shelf tucked in the side of the mountain.
   Silvery moonlight gilded a small open plain as he left the forest behind, the sudden rush of air focusing his thoughts. Why would a demon give me the advantage of open ground?


    Gus's sudden awkward shuffle-step sideways kicked sand and rotting leaves in her face, stinging her eyes and obstructing her airway. His panic became contagious amid her coughing and attempting to identify what spooked someone at home in the jungle. 
    Directly ahead, drooping leaves from large Durian, sub-canopy trees, further blocked her view from ground level.
     “Holy shit!”
     When Gus turned to her, she expected his smug, superior, visage—at the very least, a sneer followed by the bite of bullets tearing through her taut muscle and bone.
Shock and confusion radiated from him in waves.
     “Time for me to run, sweetie. Sorry, but you’re on your own. I don’t do… ants.” The ribbon of fear grew to make his voice shrill and trembling as he glanced over his shoulder at whatever approached. "Thanks for the crystal. I’ll figure out what this key opens on my own."
     Sliding the tent flap farther open, he reached in and grabbed his backpack before leaning down to leer in her face. “There’s a swarm of army ants coming, Brielle. Sorry I can’t waste a bullet to spare you the agony of them eating you alive. I may not have you, but at least I'll live in style, away from the jungle.” Gus’s laughter disrupted his gloating as he backed out and released the canvas.
“Damned convenient I don’t even have to dispose of your body, sweetie. What the horde leaves behind, their following of scavengers will finish.” The soft crunch of dead leaves from his retreating steps drifted back to mock her.
     With nothing nearby to cut her bonds, she had no hope of escape. Naked, in pain, numb hands, cold and damp in spite of the heat—all factors combined to overload her senses. In defeat, she lay her head on outstretched arms. A deep breath of courage would help right now, but her lungs constricted with a ferocious pressure, built on fear of the unknown.
     A second later, Gus was gone, leaving an eerie silence filling the atmosphere. The flap he'd released had brushed her forehead as it came to rest, denying her the sight of what her mind conjured. A sour sample of what her stomach wanted to heave burned the back of her throat.
     Even if she had the ability and strength to run, she wouldn’t get far before one predator or another claimed her. Bleeding from her wrists and ankles issued an open invitation to one and all carnivores.
     In her mind’s eye, she could see the elongated mandibles of the soldier ants chomping through anything in their path, the formic acid venom they emitted dissolving the flesh of its prey. Though blind, they were sensitive to movement. Even if they only moved forward at a rate of an inch in several seconds, she didn’t stand a chance with the drugs lingering in her system and other predators nearby.
     Her mom had once told her you could actually hear them coming through the forest—and she did. Though the gentle mist falling was near silent, the sound of the swarm of ants chomping through decaying leaves gained volume with each tick of an imagined clock.
   As she awaited death to come in the form of millions of stings and dissolving flesh, she thought of her mom, who’d wanted her to live and find contentment in the Amazon. Now, she would die here, alone and afraid.
     Off to her left, the hisses of many leopards morphed into growls and snarls. The staccato spitting of rapid gunfire followed angry curses, which then morphed into pathetic screams. Perhaps Gus wouldn't survive this, after all.
     To hear the guide beg from the very creatures that he’d endeavored to kill lent a primal satisfaction, even if it was the last she’d ever enjoy. At least, the residents of the jungle and women in the nearby villages would remain safer.
     Digging her elbows and toes into the tent’s canvas floor, she inched forward, compelled to watch death approach.
     Swishing and slapping leaves opposite the last tent brought her attention to her final threat. Only minutes existed between this life and feeling her mom’s arms around her again. Yet fear wouldn’t give her strength to flee.
     She was too tired, too overcome with grief from so much loss.
     Acid released from the ants’ mouths would be painful beyond anything she’d ever endured, yet a calm and peaceful mantle settled about her shoulders. Nothing lasted forever, despite what her mom’s journal declared. “One day, you’ll join with an incredible man who’ll stand by your side for eternity. From that point on, you’ll know peace as you never have.” How could her mom spout such nonsense? How could she have believed it all these years?

   Deeper in the jungle, Gus’s strident voice echoed in the morning stillness. His gun remained silent except for the low clicks from lack of ammunition. “Move, damn it! They’re coming. You’ll die, too, if we don’t leave. Why are you surrounding me and not attacking?”
Confusion bore down faster than the oncoming ant swarm, dulled by her inability to sort out her situation. Perhaps the mind couldn't comprehend some terrors, so it instead exuded a sense of euphoric peace in its place.
     In the distance, a warm glow bathed the drooping Durian leaves, not from above but seemingly from within. A glow she associated with Tiago.
     Then, in the midst of all the chaos, a chestnut-colored arm brushed the small branches aside, revealing Tiago’s form.
     “Run! For God’s sake, run. There’s a swarm of army ants…”
     After a quick inhale, she struggled through the tent opening on bruised hands and skinned knees, hands and feet still bound.
     Another fast breath and she stood, naked, on shaky legs.

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