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Burning it Down

Burning it Down The cultists had no idea what hit them. The evening was dark and quiet, and for the guards at the fence line of the compound, rather boring. One mock aimed his gun at the birds in the trees, making ‘pew-pew’ noises, while the other leaned back in a hard, wood chair and closed her eyes. In the distance, they could hear the crowd at the arena. “Man, guard duty sucks,” said the aiming one. “I wish I was in there. Aw man, I wonder if that vampire is going to kill anyone tonight. Did you see it yesterday? He just ripped those fuckers apart like they were nothing!” “You wanna tell the whole forest that you’re an idiot? Hush up,” the sitting one mumbled. The aiming one laughed. “Like there’s anyone out there. Hey, who’s the bigger idiot, forest?” he shouted out towards the darkness. “Me? Or Sleepy over here?” “Both of you.” “Hey, don’t fuck with me, man,” the aiming one turned towards the sitting one. The voice had come from right beside him. “That wasn’t me.” Swinging his gun around wildly, the aiming one began to sweat. “Well, who the fuck else could it have been?” “Hold on...” the sitting one leaned forward, gazing out into the woods, where a light was glowing, and getting brighter. “What’s that?” “Shit dude. It’s the aliens! The aliens are coming for us!” “Dude, are you high?” “Maybe? I don’t know probably oh god oh god.” The sitting one glared at him. “Shut up, and be ready.” Silently, they watched as the light, bright yellow, came closer. As soon as the glow was recognizable as a person, the sitting one called out: “who goes there?” “It doesn’t matter,” said the figure, her voice now a natural distance away. “Just let me pass, or I will kill you.” “I didn’t sign up for this man, what the fuck.” The aiming one was nearly hyperventilating. And still the girl was walking towards them. As far as they could tell she was an ordinary girl, but there was something about her, something... “Wait a second,” the sitting one narrowed her eyes. “You’re that girl who escaped. Uh... Sydney? We’re supposed to take you to Raz if we see you.” A small smile crossed Cindy’s face. “You won’t do that. You’re going to get out of my way.” “Or what?” asked the aiming one, gaining back a bit of confidence. That quickly dissipated, however, as Cindy’s smile grew larger. She snapped her fingers, and a halo of nearly blue fire appeared around her body. The flames singed the vegetation under her feet. The air itself cooked and bubbled. The aiming one fell backwards to the ground. “Jesus Christ on a cracker!” He scrambled quickly back to his feet and scurried off into the woods. Turning back to the sitting one, Cindy took a step forward, reaching her arm outwards. The sitting one simply shook her head. “Fuck this,” she muttered, and ran after her partner. Cindy faced the lock on the chain-link gate, clenched it in her fist, and it melted. “Showtime,” she whispered to herself, taking in a calming breath, before pushing open the gate and heading towards the lights of the arena beyond. She’d be brighter than those artificial spotlights. It was easy. She felt the magic infused with her every step, every beat of her heart. It was alive, and so was she. Cindy called to it, and it came immediately, exploding out of her into a pure arc of light. This was what it felt like to be powerful. No one was going to take their eyes off of her. She called to the wind, and felt it ripple around her, lift her off her feet. Higher and higher she flew, over the side of the arena and into the light and noise waiting below. She was going to look like Jesus, but maybe that’s what she needed to be to these people, a new messiah. Below her, the arena was bathed in harsh, white light. The crowd was there, as usual, but now Raz stood alone in the box, his sunglasses rendered it impossible to gage his expression. Cindy hovered for a minute, lowering the light surrounding herself, and watched. Down on the ground, two indistinct figures were in the middle of a fight, and one was clearly winning. Distantly, Cindy heard Raz’s voice echoing through the forest. “This scum has consorted with daemons. You can see that she has given up her voice. She can’t even scream for help. She has become less than human, and so must be purged.” Yes, Cindy could see now. One of the figures was a young woman, running frantically across the arena, while the second figure walked towards her slowly. She glanced back and forth for help, but she would garner no sympathy from this crowd. The figure came closer to her, closer, and with a gasp Cindy hurtled downwards in a controlled fall towards the arena. That predator was Marcell. So Raz had finally done it, he’d finally broken him. Cindy had been too late. All she could do now was minimize the damage. “Stop this now!” Cindy bellowed, and for a moment, the crowd looked confused. They glanced towards the mute girl, most likely thinking she had somehow spoken. But then Cindy touched down between them, just as Marcell was about to reach her. She glowed as bright as the sun, and Marcell shrank back, hissing as his skin began to smoke. “What in the....” Raz began, but Cindy ignored him as she turned towards Marcell. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled under her breath. She dimmed, but still not enough for him to get too close. He looked at her, growling, and she saw that now there was nothing human in his face. None of the gentleness, or that thoughtful demeanor that she was used to. Now he was something different, alien and predatory. Yet then, as he continued to stare at her, something in that look changed. He titled his head, recognizing her, like she was someone he’d known long ago. His attention was on her. Good. That gave the girl time. “Run,” Cindy instructed her, and raised her hand to a stretch of the sheet metal walls under the bleachers. In an instant they froze, and then shattered. The girl smiled, and though she was unable to talk, she mouthed the words ‘thank you’, before turning and running. “And just what do you think you’re doing?” Raz demanded from the box. “Guards, nab her!” There was a pause, but nobody moved. They had seen what she could do. Raz recovered quickly, as she expected. “Uhh, it looks like we have a new challenger to the arena. Shall we see if witch blood tastes better than ours?” The crowd, for once, didn’t know how to react. Some people cheered, some booed, but mostly they just stayed silent, watching in awe to see what would happen next. Meanwhile, Marcell had been creeping closer to Cindy, half-curious, half scared, like a toddler wanting to ask someone they didn’t know about their tattoos. But behind that, there was still that hunger. She knew that right now, the only thing he truly wanted was her blood. She wasn’t in denial or anything. There was no ‘Power of Love’ to overcome primal instinct. But maybe, maybe there would be some respect. “Lucius,” she frowned, “are you really going to hurt me?” “D-don’t,” he stuttered out, as she took a step closer. “I want... to... hurt you... want to taste you. It’s even worse than before. Your blood has... power in it.” His breath shook, a small line of drool ran from the corner of his mouth. For a split second, she happened to see something, and quickly decided that she was going to avoid looking down at his pants. “I know,” she nodded. “But I also know that if I let you bite me, you’re going to kill me. And that is the last thing you want, isn’t it?” He didn’t respond to that, just kept eyeing the vein pulsing in her neck. “So I’m going to restrain you now, because I know that’s what you’d wan—” But before she could get the rest of the words out he lunged towards her in desperation, his eyes flashing bright red. Though her heart leapt up to her eyeballs Cindy kept her face still as a stone and swept her hand between them. Though no one could see it, the sound of the wind sweeping up around him and holding him in place was near deafening. “Cindy!” he screamed her name. “Cindy please, I’ll die without it!” “Oh no you won’t, you big baby,” Cindy rolled her eyes. “Now hang tight for a second. I’ve got a little unfinished business to take care of.” On another breeze, she blew herself up past the stands until she was even with the box. Inside, Raz looked calm, but Cindy could see his eyes darting feverishly back and forth behind his sunglasses, looking for a way out. But he straightened up as Cindy stared him down. “Well, Cynthia,” he chuckled. “I have to say that I am impressed, and more than a little disappointed. I can’t believe that a whore of Satan could worm her way into my graces so easily. But now that you have shown your true colors, I’m afraid you’ll have to be purged just like the others, despite your pretty face.” “Oh please,” she rolled her eyes. “Quit talking like you’re some bigshot mastermind. I’ve met a real evil genius, and if you were actually able to get in her way she’d laugh in your face and squash you like the annoying bug you are. Lucky you you’re so ineffectual. You don’t know how close you were. Now, I’m going to lay out my terms of surrender, and you’re going to follow them. First of all—” “No, you listen here, little missy,” he said, finally untangling his tongue. “I don’t negotiate with Satan worshipers. I’m the one calling the shots around here, so—” Cindy just laughed. “And uh...” she glanced around at the stunned cultists. “Who here is gonna enforce that proclamation?” “I—” “Because if you don’t do what I tell you, I will burn you to cinders.” In her left palm, a small fire bloomed. “Or I could electrocute you, if you prefer.” Electricity crackled in her right. All he could do was stare at her, mouth agape like some sort of fish. “Playtime’s over,” she said. “Say hi to a real god.” The whole arena was deadly silent. “Now, if there’ll be no more interruptions, my demands,” she continued. “First of all, you’re going to let every last thing down in those cages out. You will vow never to hurt another living thing again. Then, you’re going to shut down this whole congregation. No one will stay, and you will go back to drifting for your next cigarette or whatever it was you were doing before you went mental and started a cult. Is that clear enough for you?” “Those are some real high and mighty words,” he scoffed. “But remember missy, there’s only one of you, and a whole ton of us. You can kill me if you want, but you’ll never get all of them to listen to you. So I’ll turn your question against you. If we don’t do what you say, what are you gonna do to stop us? Kill everyone? That’s against you nature, I know it. Simply put, sweetheart: you and what army?” “This one.” Cindy turned her head and broke into a massive grin. Ruby was leading a huge group of Viola’s thralls, and some of the intelligent folk that they had helped escape just a few days ago directly into the arena. They streamed through the hole that Cindy herself had just made, and when the cultists in the stands saw them: Ruby looking exceptionally hairy by the light of the waxing moon, the marks on the thralls’ bodies, and all of the other wings and claws and scales besides, they panicked. Leather-clad hoodlums and riff-raff ran this way and that, falling over each other to escape the quickly filling arena. The noise was deafening. Raz just stood there are his empire crumbled around him, utterly dumbfounded. “So,” Cindy prodded, sitting herself primly on the side of the box. “Do you accept my terms?” Slowly, Raz nodded. “Good,” she smiled. “I’m going to let you live, because unlike you, I’m not a scumbag. But uh, just a heads-up: you try anything like this again, and I will find you, capeesh?” This time, she didn’t wait for a response. “Oh, and by the way, those sunglasses look really stupid.” Cindy plucked the offending aviators off his thin nose and breathed on them, freezing them instantly. Then she crushed them with one hand. “Adios!” Cindy took off from the box and drifted back to the ground, landing gently in front of Ruby. “That was some impeccable timing.” “I’m known for it,” Ruby’s grin spread so widely across her face that Cindy was pretty sure she was being sarcastic. “Viola sends her regrets,” she added. “But someone had to watch the house, and you know I wouldn’t miss this for the world. Now listen, you take care of your man, alright? We’ve got everything covered here.” They both turned to Marcell, still trapped in his invisible restraints, looking pained. “Thank you,” Cindy ducked her head a little. “You just make sure he doesn’t kill you, ya hear?” Smiling, Cindy nodded. “I hear.” “Good. We’ll expect you back at the house by sunrise.” She turned to go lead the people down to the prison, and Cindy fixed her attention back on Marcell. “Come on, you lump,” she sighed. “Let’s get you out of here.” Though she was beginning to feel a strain in the center of her very bones, Cindy managed to lift herself and Marcell out of the arena, and into the dark forest beyond. It was blissfully quiet out here, and shrouding herself in darkness, Cindy managed to approach a deer. Placing her hand on its head, she cooked its brain in what she hoped was a fairly painless manner, and dragged it back to where she’d left Marcell. “Eat,” she told him, dropping it in front of him and releasing his restraints, though she prepared to summon them back if he thought that her blood was more appealing. But in his current state, it seemed that he could only focus on whatever was in front of him, and he bit into the animal’s large neck without hesitation. Cindy hoped that animal blood would sober him up a little, though she confessed that she had very limited knowledge of how any of this actually worked. It seemed to help, because a few minutes later, the dried blood still caked to his chin and chest, Marcell lost that manic look in his eyes and sat on the forest floor, looking a little cowed. Which was good, because no matter how much air she took in, Cindy was finding it impossible to catch her breath. “Are you...” she asked. “A little better now?” “For a few minutes, yes,” he said quietly, his words still slurring a little. “Good.” Cindy nodded, which she shouldn’t have done. The world began to spin around her. Had she overdone it with the magic? Since she was no longer channeling the magic from somewhere else, there was probably a limit to how much her body could take. “Because Viola’s house is that way,” she continued, “and I think I... I...” Oh yeah, she had definitely overdone it. The world was starting to grow a little dim. “I might...” And then she passed out.

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