Areé's left hand shot out to her fast approaching, unseen target, her fingers clutching a man's wrist at the precise moment he passed her. He jolted to a halt, carefully turning his eerie ice blue eyes on her without actually dragging her with and snarled. Where her fingers brushed his palm, the skin was surprisingly smooth. Areé swallowed, realizing prey caught predator. The man was a Lupus(1), and in his rage, he couldn't tell she was a Cerva(2), but he knew she was an Erant(3), like him.
"What." He said, rather than asked, breaths ragged with adrenaline. Areé was surprised he didn't jerk away, but pivoted to face her. His handsome face had stubble brushing the hollows of his cheeks, reddish-blonde hair disheveled. Her heart crept into her throat.
"It's a trap," she finally spat.
He made a face, freeing his wrist from her grip. She was on the way to Sew the Scab before he showed up, unscented and uninvited. What could have him so eager?
"Isn't that the point?" he asked, and started running again. Full on sprinting, over the concrete path and into a thin line of trees that signified the City's western park border. Areé bounded after him.
"Stop!" she called at the man's gray t-shirt. He slid out his left leg and backslid on a dime to stand at his full height facing her. She stopped.
"What the fuck is your problem?" his brows were drawn in a tight frown, canines bared.
Areé's face got hot. "What the fuck is your problem? This is my Regio(4)." She pointed viciously past him in the trees.
He pushed himself towards her, cocked his head and jammed a thumb over his shoulder. "And that's my kill. Go ahead and stop me." Areé tried to hold back the disgust that tightened her features. She clenched her jaw.
"Present yourself," she said in Latin. The Laws that bound the Spirit Walkers together worked in his brain, and he had to obey.
He let his arm fall. "Azruth Azurai, Pacem Custos(5)."
She raised a brow. A Peace Keeper? "You follow me, Azruth. The Scab is much too strong for you." Areé started jogging, leaping over branches and underbrush.
"But it's a Caedere(6)!" Azruth growled.
She spun to face the Lupus. He almost crashed into her. "There are no Slayers out here, Wolf. This is my forest."
Azruth felt a knot in his gut snap anger into his triceps, so he flexed to keep from mauling her. Fucking Eranti(7) and their territory. He held her silvery gaze until he felt it stir the need to challenge such a direct look. But she was good at hiding her energy, and he had no idea what species she belonged to, let alone how many Laws attacking her would break.
"Fine," he barked. "Lead."
Areé hesitated for a moment, gathering his smell, his powers. She turned without a word and continued weaving through the greenery. All of her body begged to hold the form of a deer right now, but with a mad wolf on her tail, the transformation would best be kept secret. So she remained Human. As did he.
She could hear Azruth growling, anticipating a Caedere that wasn't here. It was just the tear in the Spirit Barrier, oozing energy and luring low class demons to the spot in hopes that they might be able to leech enough from the wound to take down a Human or pull acquaintances through the temporary lapse in the border, a Scab.
The pair crashed through thick bushes and into rancid, turbid air. Azruth almost fell behind her, but steadied his footing and gazed at the undulating dark purple rip about twenty feet away.
Areé almost forgot how bitter the stink of the Shade was until the glistening wound poured the fetor right from the heart of its glow into the heart of her forest. She scrunched her nose against it.
"Holy" Azruth wiped at his eyes.
"Be glad you're in Human form. This would be murder on your senses." Areé turned to him.
"It already is."
"Then do you see there is no Slayer here?" her hand swept around the trees. "Help me."
"Help you what?"
"Scabs always draw low level demons. Can you find them for me?"
Azruth held her eyes again, but this time did not feel the urge to bat her face away.
"Amabo(8)?" she pleaded in Latin.
He sighed. "As long as it gets me away from here."
Areé smiled. "It will. Since you did nothing to hide your Presence, they fled, but are peppered here just in case we fail."
Azruth tilted his head. "Do you fail?"
Disconcerted, Areé stood up straight. "No."
"And neither shall I." He left the way they'd come, energy fading. He was hunting.
"Hm. Something about you
" she said aloud, and pushed herself towards the Scab. She calmed her breathing for the Sewing Ritual, a delicate process that had been handed down through generations of Tueri(9) since the First Protector's creation almost seven thousand years ago. Only a select few within each species were strong enough to handle the task. Areé's been a Protector for five hundred years.
The stench assaulted her again, and even after all the time she's spent ensuring the Shade stays separate from the Human Realm, the pungent texture hasn't lessened on her nose. The Cerva linked her fingers and concentrated on the bright speck of energy at her center, the Angelus Oculus(10), and projected herself onto the wound. If she didn't complete the Ritual soon, the Scab could draw more powerful spirits to the hole and release them on Man. Failing would mean she'd be reduced to just an animal. Failing was never an option.
Areé's neck tingled as the energy boiled up into her throat, choking her like a giggle as the sudden surge of happiness pressed on her lips. The pleasure was a Tueri's reward. She swung her arms towards the Scab, spreading her fingers wide. Areé couldn't help but let her head fall back and mouth open as a moan escaped her. The bottom of the Scab turned blue, then slowly began pressing together and fading away. The stink receded.
It only took a few minutes, and in the distance, Areé could hear Azruth howl as the smell dispersed, and the lesser demons were extinguished. With a crack like a lightning bolt, the wound sealed, and Areé sunk to her knees in the dirt, weak, but alert and satisfied.