The hammer cratered the cement-and-rock floor of the Farmer Building courtyard, shook the very earth and toppled the cinderblocks as the ground
gave way beneath its mighty blow. Vex stared at the hole for a moment in
confusion and anger before she realized what must have happened. She spun to
meet Jed and found him standing stock still, eyes gazing hollowly, chest puffed
up, and the staff ramrod vertical at his side.
“Oh, fuck,” Vex muttered under her breath as she
straightened and turned her body in a fighting pose to show the smallest
silhouette to her opponent, hammer gripped behind her in strike position.
“Watch your language, Hellbound child,” he said to her in
a double-voice, one his own, the other almost an octave higher. As his lips
moved, she noticed those of the Christ-figure on the crucifix mirrored his, as
did its gaze and expression. He lifted the staff and slammed it into the
ground, a blast-wave of passion—love, hate, zealotry, desire, anger, and
fear—rushed across the ground towards her and slammed into her wards. She
leaned into it like facing a stiff hurricane wind as it blew around her, but
the shield held.
Jed hmphed and turned his back to her to walk out
of the shaded courtyard and back onto campus. He took three steps and slammed
into an invisible wall at the opening to the short hallway—so close to the
outside world, so close to the students and a possible food source, but he
couldn’t leave the building. Looking down, he would see the rosaries wrapped
together in an unending chain crossing the threshold. Every exit threshold.
Even if she couldn’t destroy it in one go, Vex knew well enough not to unleash
this thing on the campus.
The parasite and Jed turned around again and faced
Vex—both he and the crucifix cocked their heads to one side.
“Unclean thing, you interfere with my hunting grounds,” he
continued. “I will erase your memory as surely as I crush a leaf beneath my
feet. First, you shall tell me how you uncovered my blind—surely you are proud
of your work. Brag for me.”
“When is the last time you ever saw a picture of Jesus
giving us his O-face?” Vex said. “Talk about a dead giveaway.”
She could feel it testing her defenses as the figure’s
eyes scanned the room, looking for a weakness. Vex hoped that Nathan had hidden
himself well; she couldn’t take her eyes of Brother Jed for even a moment to
check. He’d become a veteran of many situations like this, so he should know
better by now.
“I have taken many wizards before you, child,” Brother Jed
said in the uncanny dual-voice. “Like the one I took this form from. Even
priests are not immune to my seduction. Perhaps even you will learn to serve
“This is why I have a problem with people like you,” Vex
said addressing the host, not even knowing if he could hear her. “You become
the focal point of so much human disdain that you attract things like this.
Trapped in your own delusion, you only bring strife with you. You’re like the
light inside of a bug zapper.” She shifted her attention to the bronze figure.
“Except this time, you’re the bug. I’m the zapper.”
“All of your kind are just meat for my grinder,” the
dual-voice grated, dripping condescension. “Your enthusiasm too I will subvert
to my own ends. You’re no different then they shouting at this one as he belts
out his human elegy and I absorb their mockery, their rebellion, and their
“Today we end this. Are you going to talk to me to death
or shall I get on with kicking your ass back to the interregnum?”
Brother Jed and the Christ-figure mirrored the same ugly
sneer. “Do you value your life so little? So be it. I will break your will and
ride your hollow body as my newest trophy.”
Brother Jed lowered the crucifix-cum-staff like a spear
and charged at her and she advanced at him. Her muscles bunched in anticipation
as the hammer sang in her hand, calling out for shattered bones and broken
bodies. She indulged it, feeling her adrenaline soar and time slow as she
pivoted around the middle and swung.
As she swung, she pulled all of her strength into the
blow—expecting her aim to hit something, either Jed or the parasite, at this
point it didn’t matter. Instead she struck nothing. Brother Jed turned away
from her on one side, ducking the swing; he released the staff, which slid past
on her other side and avoided the hammer by leaning away. They rejoined one
another after letting her pass between them like a couple holding hands passing