CHAPTER 5B: Dancing with Shadows
Hiding amongst the crowd, crouching low, William watched the massacre in awe. He watched a man’s soul leave his body through his nostrils and mouth, an old lady’s life slip past her through her leg down to a shadow’s mouth, and a young boy’s body hurled to a wall after being emptied. It was a sight that somehow William felt fascinated about like it was one of the shows the travelling performers did. But his admiration abruptly halted when a shadow purposely strode over where Elise was lying.
His head cocked from left to right. When he found a sword of the dead soldier lying on the ground, he immediately found his strength back and crossed the distance, throwing caution to the wind.
As soon as the shadow was in a lunging distance of Elise, William interjected and swung the sword clumsily on the shadow. The shadow reformed its limb into a double sided axe and blocked it. A mouth with fangs formed from the head of the shadow and then howled. It pressed its axe onto him and swung it across as William dodged back and stumbled on his butt; his sword was thrown off of his hands, swirling down the ground a feet off. The shadow towered over William and reshaped its axe into a sword. It lifted its sword up and plunged it down toward him.
Before it could reach him, he rolled to his back and staggered up. But the sword bit into his calf and pressed itself forcefully. William screamed from the pain. The shadow pressed the sword through the open wound as it profusely bled and he yelled even louder. Then, William felt numb. First from the wounded leg and then it reached up to his waist. He felt lighter and queasy. His strength fleeted from him slowly and cold took its place.
The shadow pinning William down, immediately stopped from devouring William’s soul as a rapier punctured through its chest from the back. It then blasted into ashes.
As William lay on his back, Isabelle stepped forward and offered her hand. “Next time you hit a damonen, strike it at the heart or the head. Or gut it. Whatever strikes your fancy.”
He pulled himself up slowly with her help. “Damonen?”
She raised a brow. “Yes. Damonen. The black thing that was just devouring your soul.”
“You mean that?” He pointed to Isabelle’s back.
She swiftly spun to her back, arching her rapier and slashing the damonen behind her across the chest. As it blasted into ashes, she mocked, “Yes. That was a damonen. A demon who devours souls. Fun, aren’t they?”
“Fun? They eat souls. And that’s fun?” He stared at Isabelle weirdly.
“Mhmm. Come on. Before more come.” She clasped his hand and dragged him forward, away from the demons’ feast.
Limping hastily, William veered from his front then back. “Wait. What about them?”
Striding fast, she badgered, “We can’t help them. They are too many. We’re only here to save Joan and you and that’s it.”
William snapped his hand back from her. “No. We have to save Elise. We have to save my friends.”
“Friends?” she asked incredulously. “Mortals aren’t your friends. As far as our race is concerned, they are only of use when we need something from them. Other than that, they are nothing.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying. But regardless, they need my help. And I won’t sit by and watch them die. Help me or not. I don’t care.” He showed his back to her and limped on.
Jogging from the alley, Paolo stopped beside Isabelle. “Joan is with Mikael in the caravan. Where is he going?”
“Getting himself killed,” scowled Isabelle. “Do me a favor and get the other witch aboard the caravan.”
“Sure. But don’t tell me you’re going to do something stupid again?”
“Stupid? Maybe if I had my—“
Paolo handed her a tambourine. “Thought you’d need this.”
“And Mikael said I was reckless.” Her lips pursed into a grin.
“Just helping out my dear cousin.”
She sheathed her rapier and grabbed her tambourine.
“No need for thanks.” A smug appeared on his beatific face.
She smiled appreciatively and went after William. The moment she reached him she shoved her rapier at his chest and said, “Hold that for me will you.”
“What do I do with this?” asked William.
She continued down to where the damonens gathered. “When a damonen comes you strike with it.”
“But what about you?” he shouted.
“I’ll be fine. I have this.” She rang her tambourine.
“You’re going to play them a song?” he asked aloud.
She stepped up on the platform, leveled her focus on all the swarms of damonens and breathed deeply. Shaking her tambourine, she reached her hands up in the air and clapped the head when it was on top of her. When the jingling stopped, the damonens stopped their devouring and descent on hopeless humans and stared at her.
Taking another breath, Isabelle then leaped forward shaking the tambourine and clapped, she returned back and clapped again. She then pranced to the right and left, jingling the tambourine in her hands and clapping every time her foot stepped on the platform. Her lips swayed left and right as her shoulders and back swayed against its movements. Her long curly black hair danced and swirled with every jump and glide she made with her legs and feet. The jingling never stopped with her rhythm and sway. It bounced and clanged as her bottom palm and fingertips hit the head of the instrument. She swirled the tambourine over her and around her, keeping the beats of her feet intertwined with the jingling sounds.
The damonens lurched as they stood; their heads careened left and right, seemingly allured by the jingling sounds and the graceful dancing. From weapons of blades, pitchforks and axes, their limbs reformed back to regular hands and arms as their solid black form waved in tendrils of clouds.
Isabelle continued her dance and chimes, performing it more aggressively and ferociously. The beats were stronger, faster like a tornade rampaging houses at its path. The more her performance continued, the more the shapes of the damonens seemed to collapse and dissipate, like smoke vanishing through air. They kept swaying back and forth, losing a chunk of their black flesh to air as the song kept going. She then stood on her tip toes and started rotating, shaking her tambourine around her, twirling over and over. In the same motions, the damonens’ cloudy bodies swirled over and slowly disappeared, eaten by the air through they were made of. And in one final stroke, bringing her hands in a clap against the head of the tambourine, the shadows were no more than specs of dust evaporating in thin air.
In a thump, Isabelle fell on her knees and hands, breathing heavily as sweat shone all over her face and body.
Snapping from awe, William rushed over the platform and knelt next to the alluring dancer. “Are you fine? That was amazing,” he said.
Isabelle nodded to him and gave a soft smile, leaning close to his shoulders, out of breath and out of strength.
“Truly amazing indeed,” a rough voice said.
“Who said that?” asked William aloud.
A man in full red robes, spectacles and piercing grey eyes came forward from the frozen crowd and bowed his head in greeting. “It is I Cardinal Lawce. One of God’s most loyal servant.” A thin smile spread through his lips.
“A Cardinal what?”
“William, run,” breathed out Isabelle.
“I said go.” She tried to stand up, but she fell sideways as William caught her.
“And as God’s loyal servant, I shall enact what is lawful and righteous. By sin of calling upon the demons through which you were born from, you shall be exorcised as they have been countless of times.” He pressed a hand on the crucifix on his neck and stretched his other hand straight at the two.
“I can’t leave you alone,” William said to Isabelle.
“You have to leave. NOW,” she shot back.
Lawce closed his eyes and breathed in a prayer. “Lumen Dei ante me.” A sword of light dropped from the heavens and struck the platform floor behind William and Isabelle. “Lumen Dei post me.” And then another sword hit beside the first. “Lumen Dei super me.” A third crashed on their left. “Lumen ad Deum praeter me.” A forth on their right. “Lumen Dei in me.” And one last swooped down on their front.
Five swords of light stood in a pentagram surrounding the two, trapping them in a radiant cage.
“What’s going on? What are these? What’s he going to do?” A touch of alarm coated his words.
Isabelle clutched her tambourine in her hand and stood straight. She jingled it to her side and ended in a clap. The swords vibrated slightly and then she fell to her side again; and again William caught and steadied her.
“Petty resistance is prohibited,” sounded Lawce. “And now your due punishment.” He concentrated again and opened his mouth to start a prayer. But his concentration broke as an arrow cut the air and shot one sword of light, shattering it into lit glass pieces.
“And another rat joins the fray,” mutters Lawce.
From the side, three more consecutive arrows shot the swords, each taking one out. “Not a rat, Your Eminence, but an angel with the prettiest face of them all. Not like you can relate with being handsome. I mean what can a priest do with it when he can’t even use his mandhood.” Paolo fired another arrow at the last sword and broke it again into pieces.
“Demonic inbreeds should learn to curb their tongue,” uttered Lawce as he shifted his hand straight to Paolo.
“Before you continue your…holy limp rites,” a sly smile crossed Paolo, “I should warn you that the Cloak is fading already. And pretty soon people will see our demonic ways and your holy enactment of judgment, Your Eminence.”
Above, the tender scarlet skies withered from its bloody hold as the skies shifted to its normal hue. And the moon retreated to its white reflective glow.
Lawce fixed his spectacles and smiled maliciously. “’Til next time then. I’m sure there would be lots of opportunities.” He spun around and disappeared into the crowd again.
Paolo rushed over to the platform as he held Isabelle by the arm as William had the other. “Quickly, before people come to,” he shrilled, helping her walk away.
As the people started to move again, William chattered, “I don’t understand any of this. What is going on? Who is he? Why are people frozen? What are those black things?”
Paolo gave Isabelle a tired deadpan face.
“He’s new. Probably even thinks he’s human,” Isabelle said to him.
“Of all the men you pick up, you save the stupid and weird ones. A real nugget-head,” he blubbered.