“Smells good Raven. Doesn’t it?”
Raven stared back with her ethereal green eyes. The cat blinked, as if she was bored.
Koa shrugged and blew her bangs out of her eyes. “Fine.” She rolled her eyes. “I know you’re still mad at me for coming home late last night. I said I was sorry. But I’m a big girl now.”
Raven blinked again.
Koa scoffed. “Be that way. This popcorn is all mine and you’re just jealous.” She made a teasing face. She poured the popcorn into a large bowl and carried it out of the massive kitchen that had once been filled with kitchen staff and a private chef.
Through the archway and into the grand hall, Koa shuddered at the chill in the air. The sound of her soft footsteps echoed through the empty manor and she found herself humming as she always did.
She didn’t pay any mind to the gothic statues that glared down at her on either side of the wide corridor. There was a time when Koa had been frightened by her father’s relics. As a girl she would avoid walking down the hallways at night for fear that they would awaken and grab her with their cold, stone, hands.
Now, Koa was used to the statues of angels and demons. She barely glanced at them anymore. Such things were a part of her daily life and she no longer feared their artistic replicas.
It took her a few moments to cross the cold marble floors to the large den she had converted into an entertainment room. Koa used a remote to turn off all of the lights. She lit a scented candle just as Raven brushed past her leg. She rubbed her soft fur onto Koa’s bare flesh.
The scent of vanilla made her smile.
Koa flopped onto the plush sofa and put her feet up on the ottoman. She sank into the cushions and closed her eyes in bliss. “Halston has given me a few nights off.” She turned on her television. “Finally, I get to catch up on some reality TV!”
Raven seemed to roll her eyes and Koa grinned. “I know,” she said as she relaxed her back on the orange pillows and popped a handful of popcorn into her mouth. “I can be such a girl sometimes.” She laughed to herself. She was happy. Life had been so busy lately with the rise of supernatural crime, that a single moment of solitude was a rare.
Koa glanced at Raven and held her arms out. “Come sit with me. Pretty please?”
Raven snuggled next to her and rested her head on Koa’s lap. Koa smiled and stroked her black fur. Sometimes it seemed as if Raven was all she had left in the world, besides Halston. “Maybe I’ll order you some Chinese. How does that sound? You always loved it. How about some roasted duck?”
Koa had just started to crunch on a kernel when she heard the faintest creak in her hallway. It was so faint that she almost didn’t catch it. She didn’t want to catch it. She wanted the night to go smoothly, but it was the way Raven’s ears perked up that confirmed that Koa had indeed heard something.
Koa grumbled and put her bowl of popcorn down on her glass coffee table. She held her breath. All of her senses were heightened. There was a definite warning deep in the pit of her stomach. She sniffed the air. There was the faint stench of coal and something rancid.
Odd, she thought with a frown. She had smelled that distinct odor before. It was not from this world. Very odd.
Raven looked down the dark hallway and made a low sound of warning deep in her throat. Her black fur stood on end. Koa shushed her with a hand.
She came to her feet and headed towards the sound. She could feel that someone was there. Like the telling smell of oncoming rain, Koa had an uncanny sense of knowing when something bad was about to happen. She hoped that this time she was wrong.
Her heart began to thump in her chest. Her one day off, and someone decided to bother her. Raven lowered her head and waited back on the sofa.
Scaredy-cat, Koa thought with a frown.
Koa softly tiptoed into the darkness. She now wished that she was properly dressed. She didn’t want someone catching her in her underwear. She sighed. She was probably overthinking things. Two-hundred-year-old French manors tended to creak in the night. Koa should have been used to the sounds after all these years of living there.
Truth was, Koa was still afraid of the dark and with good reason. She froze when something crashed to the floor. She quickly pressed her back against the wall and waited. One of the statues had broken.
Koa cursed in her head. Someone was definitely in her house. Her breath quickened. Koa could hear Halston’s voice in her head, telling her that it wasn’t worth it…that she should run. She didn’t run.
Instead, she peeked around the corner of the wall and saw flashlights. The harsh, fluorescent light pointed in her direction. Two men. Bald and big. They were dressed in black with tattoos all over their pale white faces and scalps. They clutched silver barreled crossbows.
Koa’s face paled. Their black eyes searched her hallway.
No, Koa thought with cold realization. Her skin crawled with dread. It’s not possible. “Syths,” she whispered in a hiss. They heard her. Four black eyes looked up and met hers.
Koa pulled back. Her pulse raced. These were creatures of folklore and mythology, but Koa knew the truth. Such creatures did exist. It was just that they shouldn’t be in the human world. She gulped. Something was definitely wrong. They should not be here.
“Shit!” No time to run now. Boots stomped down the marble floors. Dread washed over her, making her skin feel prickly.
Two Syths, equipped with crossbows. Koa knew what those arrows were laced with. Her stomach pumped with anxiety. Why were they in her house?
Koa saw Raven come around the corner and leisurely sit in the middle of the hall. Koa’s anxiety began to be replaced with fury. No one had ever invaded her home.
Koa glared over at Raven.
“Fine. Just sit there and let me do all of the work,” she said to the black cat. Koa yelped as a large hand reached for her long black and blue hair. She grabbed the hand and with a push off the ground, she leapt into the air.
Her feet climbed up the air as if by invisible stairs. With a surge of energy, she took flight. She grunted as she lifted the large man’s weight off the ground and flew upwards. He used his other arm to direct the point of his crossbow at her.
Koa’s eyes widened and she pursed her lips. She saw the red poisonous arrow ready to be released. The second Syth waited below as Koa went higher and higher up the tall vaulted ceiling. It was cold up there, and pitch black, but Koa could still see the Syth’s illuminated face.
An arrow zipped past her and she gasped. “Come quietly, Koa, and we won’t have to hurt you,” the Syth below shouted. “Our master doesn’t want you dead. He just wants us to bring you in.”
She snorted. “No thanks. I like my world just fine.” Koa looked down at the Syth whose hand she held. It was rare that she saw one of his kind.
His lips curled into a malicious grin. “Yes, come quietly, my pretty,” he whispered. His voice was like nails on gravel. “You know you don’t belong here with the humans…”
Koa gazed into those soulless black eyes and felt her stomach churn with dread. They were like small, black, beads. The tattoos around his eyes were inscriptions of a dialect that didn’t exist in this world. Someone was letting rogue nephilim out of the Netherworld.
“And neither do you,” she said and with an evil grin, she let go of his hand.
He cried out and fell nearly fifty feet. Koa heard a satisfying crunch of bones. She smirked. Still, it wasn’t enough to kill a Syth. Those bones were probably regenerating already. Koa hadn’t encountered many since she’d become a Netherworld agent, but Netherworld beings were extremely hard to kill.
Koa darted away from another arrow and into the darkness of her empty manor. She stood on the ceiling, upside down, yet defying gravity as she looked down at the two shadows below. She considered all of her options. She could fly out of that window ahead or she could go back and kill them.
Syths were dangerous. She couldn’t let them get away. But her weapons were in her vault. In order to reach her vault, she would need to go past the Syths. How silly of her to think that she was safe. Not even her home was sacred anymore.
Nearly five years as an agent in Halston’s Netherworld division, and Koa was still caught off guard.
Koa frowned. Halston was right. She should have moved a long time ago. She could already see Halston’s self-satisfied smile. She hoped she’d make it out alive to see that smile again.
Something caught her attention. A glittering light below. She saw Raven’s green eyes glow, and then she saw something else. Like a bolt of lightning, Koa shot through the darkness to Raven. Koa had a determined look on her face. She could make it. She had to.
Arrows flew all around her. The arrows bounced off the walls and sparked along the floors. Her heart pumped, but her face was set with purpose. She smiled when she saw her Lyrinian sword lying on the floor, like a beacon of hope in the darkness.
Raven stepped away from it. Koa grabbed it by its hilt. A jolt of power slammed into her palm and flooded her body. She gritted her teeth and embraced the euphoric pain the sword caused her. The blade shot out, lengthening from the size of a small dagger to that of a full sized sword. The jagged blade was a dark metal that was rippled with black engravings. Netherworld dialect.
Koa grinned. Once the initial pain subsided, the power made her feel invincible. The Lyrinian sword had been her father’s. He had trained her to use it when she was only a little girl. This weapon, was not of this world…and would not be put away until all evil was vanquished.
The cat seemed to nod.
Koa cried out as an arrow nipped her right cheek. The pain was surprising. It sizzled. Blood dripped from her face as her hand shot to cover the wound.
Her green eyes went dark. She balled up her fist and tightened her grasp around the sword. She narrowed her eyes and turned around. They pulled the triggers on their bows and heard an empty snip.
Koa gave them a cold grin and yet there was no amusement in her voice. “You’re mine, now.”
They were out of arrows. Both Syths skidded to a stop. Almost frantically, they reached behind them and into their quivers to reload.
Koa took a step forward and their eyes went wild…with fear of the small girl before them.
Koa held her sword’s black blade at her side. It pulsed with craving for blood. The blood of the evil ones would increase its power.
Koa charged at them. She was lifted to her toes and with a swirl of colors she slashed one of the Syths across his side. Her white teeth flashed as the blade burned an iridescent red at the first taste of blood.
The blade craved blood and she would sate it.
It didn’t stop at the bone. It didn’t even pause. It sliced through his spine with ease until the man was cut in half. It sped up only when it came through his other side and to the cold air of the manor.
The Lyrinian sword’s red light encased the black blade and she could feel its heat.
Koa didn’t stop there. She couldn’t stop even if she wanted to. Evil had to be vanquished. She clenched her jaw as the blade went cleanly though the other man, separating him at his waist. Their cries filled the entire manor as she sliced them to bits.
Both Syths lay on the floor in pieces. Koa kicked their crossbows away, not that they had hands connected to their arms anymore. Her chest heaved as she stood over them. Smoke rose from the blade of her Lyrinian sword. Koa watched their pale white faces, waiting. Blood pooled onto her floor. She watched it gather around her bare feet.
Raven sauntered over. She sat down and licked her front paw. Her green eyes looked up innocently into Koa’s matching green eyes. “Shall we leave now?” she asked, in her mother’s voice.
Koa’s shoulders slumped. She looked over at the cat. “Yes.” She nodded and looked down at the blood pooling between her white toes. “But first, I must clean up this mess.”
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