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At the hospital, Nick was doodling on the plaster cast encasing his wrist. The bloody thing itched like hell, and he was doing anything to take his mind off the maddening feeling. Philip, Alex and Rachel had written some stuff on there too, to keep him happy, but now he was bored. Nick was calmer than before; Philip seemed to have that effect on people, and Nick's childlike trust in the young priest, and Alex and Rachel, had helped no end. Nick put the pen down as his vision blurred slightly. He was completely exhausted. The others had gone for some lunch at a café down the street, leaving Nick to the horrors of hospital food. Philip had promised to sneak Nick some 'real food', but Rachel had told them off, refusing to allow Nick any solid food for another two days. Just as they left, Philip quietly told Nick that he'd bring him something back, anyway. Nick wasn't sure what was worse- the exhaustion or the hunger. The nurse had left him a bowl of watery soup that was a suspicious brown colour. Nick wodered if she had left him a bedpan by mistake.
Nick was just beginning to ignore the grumbling in his stomach, and was starting to drop off to sleep, when a shrill ringing interrupted him. Nick looked around the room, and finally traced the sound to under one of the chairs. Nick clambered out of bed, but felt kinda cold, so he delved into Philip's bag and brought out one of the priest's jumpers. Nick put it on; it was slightly too big, as Philip was both taller and slightly wider than Nick, but he immediately felt better. The young man peered under the chair, and saw Rachel's cell phone.
'It musta fallen outta her bag' mused Nick. He picked up the small black object, which continued to ring. He flipped open the phone, and was about to say something, when a voice on the other end stopped him cold.
'Rachel?' A male Dutch voice questioned. Nick was too shocked to answer, he just stood there, the phone pressed to his ear.
'Rachel?' Derek repeated. 'Are you there?'
The phone slipped from nerveless fingers as Nick stepped back, terrified. A silent scream forced it's way to his lips as the phone fell to the floor. To Nick, it happened in slow motion. The phone, slowly twisting in the air; remembering himself falling in much the same way after his flight from Derek. The phone struck the floor, shattering, sending hundreds of little plastic shrapnel dancing through the air. Still trying to make a noise, Nick's hand shot to his mouth, fighting the rising bile he felt there. Nick continued to retreat until the back of his legs struck the bed and he collapsed backwards onto the bed, still staring at the phone, hearing that voice. Nick scrambled back under the covers, squeezing his eyes tight shut, covering his head with his arms, and whimpered softly. He wanted the others back. Why didn't they come?
Up at the castle, Derek was looking at the phone in confusion. Did everything hate him today? Derek sighed. He decided to take a shower (if the water was still on) then get down to the hospital (if the ferry didn't sink). It was gonna be one of those days, and it was about to get much worse.
Meanwhile, Alex, Rachel and Philip had arrived back at the hospital in high spirits. With Nick awake and calmed down, the three were feeling happier than they had in ages. However, their good mood vanished as soon as they entered Nick's room. The young man sat on the bed, his knees drawn up to his chest. His elbows rested on the raised joints, his arms covering his bent head. The others rushed into the room.
'Nick! Are you okay?' Philip asked, concerned.
Nick softly rocked himself, whispering inaudibly. Rachel looked down at the remains of her phone.
'Nick? What the hell'd you do to my phone?!'
Nick didn't answer her, just continued rocking. Alex approached Nick, and gently placed her hands on his shoulders, stopping his movement. Nick looked up into her eyes, and a flood of emotions assaulted her psychic mind. She turned to the others.
'It was Derek' Alex said quickly.
Philip looked horrified. 'What if he comes here?' he asked, hoarsely. Rachel walked over to Nick and put her arms round him, holding him close like a mother does a frightened child. Nick was visibly trembling, and Rachel's maternal instincts quickly kicked in. Rachel was very fond of the sarcastic, insolent young man, and to see him like this upset her terribly.
'If Derek didn't get through on the phone, he'll almost certainly come here.' she said, thoughtfully. 'Maybe we should get Nick transferred to a different hospital.'
Nick pulled away from her.
'No!' he said. 'He knows I'm here, he'll just find me again. We have to do something! Soon!' Nick shook his head, thinking. 'I'm meant to be the one protecting you!' he explained. 'I'm not the one who should be here!'
'Yes, but you're the one who's hurt!' Alex retorted.
'I'm the one with the guns!'
'You're the one that nearly died!' No sooner than the words were out of her mouth did Alex regret them. Nick turned pale and went silent.
'Knock it off, you two.' Philip told them. 'If Nick's feeling up to arguing with Alex, then I'm sure he'll be able to face anything.' The priest turned to Rachel.
'What d'you think?' he asked her.
Rachel was silent a moment, then,
'Has Derek been behaving strangely recently? Apart from the obvious, of course.'
'Yeah. He had this big headache for about a week before I went away.'
'That's right,' agreed Nick. 'He's been behaving strangely since the evening I had that nightmare about my father.'
'Because I'm wondering..' Rachel said slowly 'If that really is Derek.'
Philip stared at her.
'What d'you mean?!'
'She means possession.' Nick spoke up. 'Don't you, Rachel?'
'Well, that's not exactly a medical term.' Rachel said 'But that's what I meant. I mean, we've all seen it. It can happen.'
'But how can we be sure?' asked Alex. Rachel shrugged, and said,
'Just wait for him to turn up, I suppose.'
So they did.
The nurse was just about to go off duty at reception, when a tall, middle-aged man walked in. He looked untidy and unkempt.
'Oh, my God, not another one.' she thought, remembering Philip's arrival that morning.
'Let me guess,' she said, as Derek approached her, 'You want Doctor Corrigan.'
Derek looked surprised. 'How did you know?'
The nurse smiled grimly. 'You look the type. Room 239. And give her those whilst you're there.' She handed Derek a medical file. Derek stared at the name on it.
'Nick Boyle?! Is he here?!'
The nurse just pointed down the corridor. Derek took off in that direction. He came to room 239, and opened the door.
Nick looked up as the precept entered, and he began to panic. Alex and Rachel had commenced the female ritual of going to the lavatories in pairs, and Philip was searching for the coffee machine. He was alone. He tried to remain calm.
'Nick!' Derek cried. 'Are you okay?'
'Oh, yeah. Just peachy.' Nick replied coldly. 'I mean, I've only got a broken wrist and ribs, internal bleeding, and severe concussion. Nothing to worry about.'
Derek stared at him. Okay, wrong question. 'Why are you being so cold towards me?' he asked.
'Why?' Nick echoed. 'Oh, because you did this, that's all!'
'I di....Nick! I could never hurt you!' Derek was shocked.
'Oh, no?' Nick's fear had been overtaken by anger. 'Well, you've been doing it all week, buddy!!!'
Confused, Derek started to ask Nick what he meant, but sudden pain shot through his skull, and he felt another consciousness surface in his mind.
'What the hell.....' was all Nick had time to say before a dark shadow pulled itself out of Derek and hovered above him for a moment to re-assert itself into a form. Nick was aware of huge fangs and hot, damp breath, but he was mesmerised by the creatures eyes, huge, red-pupilled, totally evil. The creature hovered in the air, beating huge, leathery wings. It held out a long, taloned finger, and a beam of energy shot through the space between it and Nick, hurling the young man out of bed, slamming him against the wall five feet above the ground. Nick hung there, suspended by the energy stream attacking his abdomen. Nick shrieked in agony as white-hot pain lanced through him. Trickles of blood ran from the corner of his mouth and from his nose.
'....Derek.....' Nick forced out. '.........Derek......help me....'
Derek stared, transfixed at the scene. Nick cried out again, tears of pain falling down his cheeks. At the sound, the spell was broken on Derek, and he yelled out,
'Stop it! Leave him alone!!' The demon turned on Derek, who suddenly realised that shouting at a ten foot demon was not the wisest decision he'd made in his life.
'You want him?' The demon growled. It's voice was thick, guttural and raspy. 'Then you find him! You have until All Hallow's Eve! Then his soul is mine, and I will hunt you down, and kill everyone who means something to you! I'll make you suffer, Derek Rayne!'
With that, the demon released Nick from the beam's grasp, then bent and picked up the semi-conscious young man. Nick, petrified, turned to Derek, struggling in vain against the demon's grasp.
'Derek......!!!!!! he screamed. Derek lunged forward, but his hands closed on empty air as the demon disappeared before his eyes, taking Nick with him. Derek fell to his knees.
'No.....' he whispered. 'No.....'
Philip had finally found the coffee machine, and was making his way back to the room. He stopped, startled, when he saw a crowd gathered outside. Philip hurried forward, and was shocked to see Derek, cuffed between two police officers, heading towards him.
'Derek!' Philip stepped out in front of the trio.
'You know this man, sir?' one of the officers asked Philip.
'Yes, sure, he's a friend of mine.' Philip replied. 'What's happened?'
'Nurse on duty heard screaming coming from this room.' The officer explained. 'Security went in, kid that was supposed to be in there is missing, this guy won't tell us what happened.'
Derek looked at Philip pleadingly.
'I promise you Philip, I didn't do anything to him!'
Philip sighed heavily.
'Do you know where Nick went?'
Fear flashed across Derek's face, but he quickly concealed it. However, a haunted look appeared in his eyes.
'I don't know.' he said, hoarsely.
'Look,' said Philip, running his hands through his hair in frustration. 'I'll find Alex and Rachel, and then we'll come bail you out.'
'Hold on,' the second officer spoke out. 'We haven't even questioned him yet! We need to do that before he's bailed!'
Philip looked straight at Derek
'I've got a few questions for him, too.'
Five hours later, the officers decided that they were getting nowhere. They released Derek without charge, but with the promise that they were going to keep a very close eye on him. Derek walked numbly down the steps from the police station, where he was greeted coldly by Philip, who sat waiting for him in Nick's Mustang. Derek got in, and was about to speak, when he saw Philip's expression, It was of pure hate.
The journey to Angel Island was made in complete silence, Philip refusing to even look at Derek. The older man flicked on the radio, barely listening. Earthquake in India; avalanche in Switzerland; bombing in Salt Lake City. Then,
'In the local news, a member of San Francisco's Luna Foundation has disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Twenty-three year old Nicholas Boyle, an ex-SEAL, was in hospital after a fall at the Luna Foundation's base on Angel Island. A nurse reported screaming coming from his room, but on investigation, he had disappeared. Police have questioned a man, believed to be the head of the Foundation, Derek Rayne, a former university lecturer. So far, there have been no solid leads, but..'
Suddenly, Philip reached out and snapped off the radio. He glared at Derek, who turned to look out the window at the darkening sky, never feeling so helpless or desperate in his whole life.
Having reached the castle, Philip led Derek to the library, where Alex and Rachel waited. Philip sat at the table beside Rachel, and Derek took his normal place. There was silence for a few minutes, until Alex finally asked,
'So where is he?'
Derek closed his eyes, 'I don't know.' he said quietly
'You don't know?!' Philip exploded. Rachel put a warning hand on his arm, but he shrugged her off. 'How the hell can you not know?! He was there, you came, he's not there anymore! How do you explain that?!'
Shakily, Derek drew a breath, and told them. He told them everything from the moment he had woken on the floor to when the demon had disappeared.
'All Hallow's Eve?' Rachel repeated. 'That's four days away.'
Philip looked at Derek.
'How do we know that you aren't still possessed?' he questioned. 'How do we know that you're the real Derek?'
Derek thought a minute, then,
'The hologram! When that thing was in me, it wouldn't let me through!' Derek got up, and headed for the hologram. He paused, then passed through. He emerged a few seconds later.
'See?' he called, triumphantly, 'It is me!'
Philip still wasn't convinced, and said so.
'Come on, Philip!' Alex said, 'Look, we have to go with Derek on this!'
'Why?' asked Philip. 'So that we can all be killed by this demon too?!'
'Philip!' Rachel admonished. 'This is the only chance we have of finding Nick! We have to do this!'
'The first thing we must do,' said Derek, 'Is to find out about this demon.'
'How do we do that?' Alex asked. 'The library's books are everywhere, the computers are fried..'
'Well,' said Derek, looking at the mess surrounding them, 'We'd better get started then, hadn't we?'
Nick was falling. He had no sense of time or where he was; he just knew that he had been falling for a very long time through an inky blackness. No light shone anywhere to keep Nick company on his descent. But he was cold; so cold. His black sweatpants and socks, and Philip's green woollen jumper did nothing to keep him warm.
Then Nick saw a light. Very far away, very small. A tiny pinprick of light that was soon joined by many others; small, burning dots of light. Stars. Nick fell, slowly twisting, as he passed through galaxies millions of light years from Earth. He saw constellations never seen before; watched entire histories of alien civilisations rise and crumble in a second. He passed by huge stars that were impossibly bright and hot. Nick flung up his arms to protect his face from the heat and the light. All around was a terrible silence; the quiet of space. Nick stared at the stars, which slowly began to elongate, twisting themselves into parallel lines. The stars became flame torches, the black sky solidifying and turning to rock.....
Nick was standing in a passageway, underground, which was roughly hewn out of rock. The torches were mounted on the walls, the tunnel stretching endlessly forward. Nick slowly began to walk along the passage, a limping ball of hurt, just wanting to go home.
Back on Angel Island, there was complete silence as the four remaining Legacy members poured over the library's books. They had been at it for hours, never stopping except to get some fresh coffee.
Suddenly, at about 4am, Rachel let out a triumphant yell.
'Here it is!' she yelped excitedly. The others crowded round the faded, leather-bound book she held.
'That's it.' said Derek, pointing to a pen and ink drawing of a vicious-looking demon. 'That's what I saw! My Got, that thing was in me?!'
'It's called Dionysus.' Rachel explained, reading from the book. 'Apparently, it lives inside someone, turning everyone around them against each other. Then it feeds off the negative emotions- pain, fear, sadness, desperation.'
'And that's just what it did..' said Derek, shakily. 'My Got, I can't believe what it made me do.'
Alex put a comforting arm around Derek.
'It wasn't your fault.' she said, kindly. 'Don't think about what happened. We have to focus on what we're going to do.'
'That's right.' Philip chimed in. His previous hate for the precept had dissipated once he knew the whole situation, and now all he felt was worry. 'We have to find some way of finding Nick and getting him back.'
Rachel was still reading the book.
'It says here that the only way to be rid of the demon is to confront it in it's own temple, and deny it the emotions it feeds off.'
'Someone built a temple for this guy?!' Alex asked, incredulously.
'Apparently so. He was worshipped by a satanic cult about a hundred years ago- he was into all the ritual slaughters and abuse. When the cult sacrificed the daughter of one of the town's most prominent citizens, they had to go underground. Literally. They supposedly reconstructed their temple, but no one's been able to find it.'
'That's where Nick'll be.' Derek said. 'What town was it?'
Rachel scanned the page. 'Uh.....' her eyes widened in surprise. 'Right here in San Francisco!'
Derek hurried to a huge wooden chest in the corner of the library. Opening it, he pulled out dozens of maps, some of them looking at least two hundred years old, if not more.
'Rachel and I will go over every map we have.' he instructed. Alex, Philip, get those computers working! We have three days left to find that temple. Get to work!'
Nick felt like he'd been walking forever. The tunnel had opened up onto a huge cave, hung with stalactites and forested by stalagmites. That cave had opened up onto more tunnels, and Nick had wandered down one. Now, he was lost in a maze of passages and caves. He could hear the ocean waves crashing high above him, and Nick guessed that he was someplace below San Francisco Bay. The flames on the walls cast a menacing red glow over parts of the catacombs, whilst other areas were bathed in a deep, cool blue from small pools of water formed by water running down the walls.
Nick found himself in a bigger cave. In the centre was a huge, deep pool, with blue-green water. It seemed to be lit from deep inside, but Nick could see no light source. The pool cast small rainbows over the sparkling walls. The whole cave held an aura of peace and, for the first time in a long time, Nick felt safe. He sat down at the water's edge, leaning back against a huge rock. Nick stared into the water, hearing the soft crash of waves far above him. The pain of his wounds slipped away, and Nick found his eyelids becoming heavy. His breathing slowed as he drifted off to sleep.....
.....then quickened again as the water suddenly turned from the calm blue-green to a menacing red. The water began to boil, steam rising off the surface. Maniacal laughter filled the cave, echoing and bouncing off the walls. Nick leapt up, and moved as quickly to the other end of the cave as he could. The calm atmosphere was destroyed, replaced by one of fear and dread. Nick half-ran, half-limped towards three tunnels leading off from the cave. Nick paused, unsure of which to take. All stretched endlessly forward, all looking identical. Abruptly, the fires lighting the two outer tunnels winked off, as if blown out by an invisible breath. The demon's laughter echoing in his ears, Nick took off down the still-lit tunnel, his heart pounding, as he screamed mentally to whichever kind deity might be listening,
'Help me! Please, somebody help!'
Nick ran until he could run no more, and he could no longer breathe. Nick collapsed on the cold stone floor, sobs hitching in his chest, wishing the nightmare to be over, wanting to go home.
'Please,' he whispered, just before passing out. 'Somebody help me.'
Then the red lights of the flames dissolved into blackness as Nick felt his mind slip into oblivion.
Two days later, Derek and Rachel were still studying the maps. The two were completely disheartened; they were getting nowhere quickly. The maps were mostly faded and dusty, but still readable. They looked up as one of the windows blew open, letting in the early morning sea breeze. The sun was just coming up, sending golden light spiralling into every crevice in the room. Philip and Alex were still trying to fix the computers, to no avail. Some of the ocean mist gently blew into the library. Derek stretched and yawned. Rachel slammed her hand down on the table angrily.
'Dammit, this is useless!! We only have eighteen hours left!!'
Derek was about to respond, when they both heard a whisper. It was quiet, as if carried on the breeze, but it soon increased in volume until it was just audible.
'Please...' the voice murmured 'Somebody help me.......'
'It's Nick!' cried Rachel.
Derek stood still, listening, feeling. A look of surprise crossed his face.
'He's below us......' his voice tailed off, just as Alex and Philip rushed out from behind the hologram.
'Did you hear that?' Alex asked, excitedly.
'Yes!' called Derek. 'Are those computers running yet?'
'Only just.' Philip answered. 'We were about to tell you when we heard the voice.'
Derek hurried into the computer room. The others followed behind as Derek sat at a monitor, and began to type furiously.
'Uh, Derek?' asked Alex. 'What are you doing?'
'We've been looking in the wrong place!' Derek exclaimed. 'The temple isn't under the city, it's under the bay!'
The computer scan completed, a view of San Francisco Bay appeared on the large viewscreen mounted on the wall. It was cris-crossed by red lines and dots.
'Look at this!' Derek pointed, almost shouting. 'There's a whole catacomb down there!' He jabbed a finger at passageway that led from just inland.
'And that's where we shall enter!'
Nick awoke, slowly. He had no idea how long he had been out, but from the stiffness and numbness of his body, he guessed that it had been a long time. His head hurt, and he tried to move his hand to rub at the pain, but his hand wouldn't move. Startled, Nick's eyes shot open, and he saw that he wasn't in the passageway he had collapsed in. He was in a cave, which was decorated in sinister red and black hangings and icons. Nick lay in the centre of the cave, on a high stone altar. His wrists were bound together, tethered to an iron ring sunk in the stone just above his head. His ankles were bound in the same way to a lower ring. Nick squirmed, but that just set off fresh agony through his hurt body. The thick ropes that held him had no give in them, and were tied too tight, drawing blood when he tried to move. Nick bit his lip against this new pain, stifling a whimper.
Then Nick became aware that he was not alone. Craning his neck, he could just see a vast ring of people, dressed alternately in black and red robes, with hoods that hid their features. To his right, the ring was interrupted by a huge black and gold throne on a raised slab of rock. A figure sat there, clad in a robe of the deepest black Nick had ever seen. He had the feeling that if he stared at the robe long enough, he would be sucked into the dark and lost forever. Nick dragged his gaze away from the terrible drapes, and focused on the hooded face.
'Who....' Nick's voice cracked and he had to swallow, but his throat was dry and parched. He tried again.
'Who are you?' Nick's voice dissolved into harsh coughs. The seated figure leaned forward, it's hood falling from it's face. It lazily stretched it's huge wings, hidden before from Nick's view. Nick stared in horror at the being.
'Who are you? What do you want?' he tried to raise his voice, but the words came out sounding tired, as if his vocal cords really didn't want to work.
'Oh, I think you know me, Nick.' the demon's voice began to morph into something more human sounding. 'Don't you remember me....son?' Nick gasped as he recognised his father's voice. The demon smiled.
'Maybe this will help jog you memory.' The demon's face changed, sifting into familiar lines and colours. The being slowly got up, and approached the altar. Nick squeezed his eyes shut, wishing he were anyplace but here. Nick felt a hand on his forehead, which gently traced his jawline down to his chin, down his neck. His breath came faster as he knew what was about to happen, knew he couldn't do anything about it. Nick felt the hand touching his skin morph back to the leathery talons of the demons natural form. He felt one of the long claws rip open Philip's jumper, tracing a thin line of fire down his chest as it just penetrated the skin. The demon grinned.
Far away, at the other end of the catacombs, Derek and the others had found the way in through a tunnel in the sewers. The only light came from the flashlights that Philip and Rachel held. Alex held a printout of the catacombs, whilst Derek carried the book Rachel had discovered. Alex looked at the map, squinting in the poor light.
'Just how am I meant to work out where we're going?' she asked.
'Easy.' Philip replied. 'You see that big dot in the centre? That's some sort of cave. That's gotta be it.'
Derek placed his watch under Rachel's flashlight, checking the time.
'Damn!' he cursed. 'Six hours!' he took off down a passageway that Alex had designated to be going in the right direction. He called over his shoulder to the others.
The others followed at a light jog. Alex leaned close to Rachel.
'He's giving orders again.'
Rachel grinned. 'Yup. That's definitely Derek!'
Back in the cavern, the flames had been blown out, plunging most of the place into darkness. Only four torches remained, one at each corner of the altar. The robed figures were praying in sinister whispers that were bounced off and amplified by the high ceiling. Dionysus was chanting softly, dousing the altar in blood he'd drawn from Nick. The young man lay still on the altar, drifting in and out of consciousness. The pain had let him replaced by a shocked numbness. He knew that he was going to die; he could only wish that it would be over quickly.
Presently, in one of the passageways, Derek and Alex were arguing.
'You said it was this way!!' Derek yelled.
'I thought it was!!' Alex yelled right back.
'We only have three hours left! And we're completely lost!'
'Well, if you didn't yell so much, I could figure out where we are....!'
Philip and Rachel stood, watching the two argue. Rachel leaned close to Philip.
'This is hopeless!' she whispered. 'We're never gonna get there in time!'
'I know!' Philip whispered back.
'Can't you do something? Like splash holy water on them or something?'
Philip tugged at the collar he'd put on before they'd left.
'No, I might need all of it later.'
'Well, we can't just stand here all day!'
Philip thought a minute.
'I've got it!' he whispered to Rachel. 'I was able to 'see' Nick when he needed help before, and we both heard him earlier. Maybe if we concentrated, we could find him!'
Rachel shrugged. 'Right now, I'd go for anything.'
They took hands and closed their eyes, concentrating, ignoring the sounds of Alex and Derek's argument. Nothing happened. Rachel sighed.
'We can't be doing this right.'
Philip frowned. 'We're just not trying hard enough! Try again, concentrate on Nick.'
Again they tried. Alex and Derek paused in their arguing.
'What the heck are they doing?' Alex asked.
'I have no idea.' Derek replied.
In the cavern, Nick heard someone call his name. He ignored it, thinking it to be Dionysus again. The voice, no two voices, called again, more urgent.
'Nick? Where are you?'
Looking around, Nick could see that no one else had heard the voices.
'Philip? Rachel?' he thought back. He heard Rachel laugh in delight.
' Nick! Are you okay?'
'Not really.' Nick replied. 'I think they're going to kill me.'
'Don't worry, Nick.' Philip assured him. 'We're on our way.'
Nick was quiet a moment, then,
'Is Derek with you?'
'Yes, sure he is.' Rachel told him. 'Couldn't keep him away!'
'If you don't get here on time..' Nick paused, 'Just....just tell him that it wasn't his fault, okay?'
'You can tell him yourself, later.' Philip told Nick. 'Just hang in there, okay?'
They broke connection, Philip and Rachel opening their eyes to see Alex and Derek staring at them.
'Come on!' Philip told them. 'It's this way!'
'But the map...' Alex began to protest.
'Forget the map!' Rachel grabbed Alex's hand, and pulled her in the right direction. Philip and Derek followed, and the four ran down the passageway.
In the cavern, Nick opened his eyes to see Dionysus standing over him.
'What were you doing?' it asked, disinterestedly.
'Nothing, I...' Nick began, but Dionysus placed his hand on Nick's head and sent a shockwave of pain rippling through the young man. Nick gasped, his mind reeling.
'I asked you a question, boy!' the demon roared.
'And I answered it!' Nick cried out. 'Why don't you just leave me alone?!'
'Oh, I will. When I've finished with you. And you are in eternal torment, your soul in neither this world or the beyond! You are my child, and I shall do with you what I wish!'
'I'm not your child!' Nick screamed. Dionysus laughed again.
'Oh, but you are. My child, my son, mine to do with as I wish!'
Nick just closed his eyes, hearing Dionysus walking away, chuckling to himself, whilst his followers began to chant a death knell.
Up ahead, Philip and the others heard voices. They slowed their run to a cautious walk, and stole forward. They peeked round a bend in the tunnel, and were shocked at what they saw. Nick, bruised and bloodstained, was tied to an altar in the middle of the vast cave. The young man was unconscious again, Philip's jumper torn to shreds that hung off Nick's torso like strips of flypaper. The circle of hooded figures chanted in a strange language that none of the watchers could identify. Dionysus, in his natural form, stood at the altar, leaning over Nick. The demon held a large sacrificial knife in it's outstretched talons. The blade glinted evilly in the newly-kindled firelight.
Dionysus pointed at Nick, sending a quick spark of energy through the young man's body, jarring him from the safe oblivion to which he had retreated. The chanting reached a crescendo, as Dionysus lifted the knife up as far as he could reach. He flung his head backward, laughing.
'I have won!'
Dionysus prepared to strike the blade downwards as Nick squeezed his eyes shut tight. Derek could stand it no longer. He ran out into the cavern, pushing past the robed, hooded followers.
'Stop!' he cried.
The figures surrounding him ceased their chants, and Dionysus paused in the ritual. He grinned at Derek.
'Ah, Derek Rayne! So glad you could make it. You're just in time!' It's grin widened as the other three Legacy members dashed into the room to stand with Derek.
'You've brought your friends! How sweet! Now you can all watch the sacrifice!' Dionysus motioned to his followers around the room. They closed in on Derek and the others, who huddled together.
Nick looked on in despair. He wished he could do something to help, as he watched the figures advancing on his friends. Then he noticed something odd. The followers did not move in the smooth way of normal people. Their movements were jerky, almost robotic; like creatures from some horror movie....
'Philip!!!' Nick yelled. 'Use your holy water!!!'
Quickly, Philip dug into his pocket and brought out the vial of holy water. He flung some in the face of the nearest figure, who howled and shrieked as if it were acid, not water. The hood fell away from it's face to reveal a decomposing corpse. Philip gave a triumphant yell.
'They're the undead!' he screamed. He began splashing the water at the followers, chanting in Latin as he did so. With a collective howl that chilled the blood in the Legacy members' bodies, the followers disintegrated, their empty robes falling to the dirt floor like discarded coats. The four turned to face Dionysus.
'Let him go.' Derek ordered. Dionysus sighed.
'You always were a party pooper, Derek. You don't let anyone have any fun!' it complained. 'I was surprised I got away with everything when I was alive!'
Derek looked confused. 'What on Earth are you talking about?'
'He's....he's my father.' Nick gasped out. Dionysus chuckled, and once again morphed back into it's human form.
'Oh, my Got...' Derek whispered. Philip quickly crossed himself. He couldn't believe what was happening, it couldn't be real...
Abruptly, Dionysus swept the knife down, plunging it into Nick's side. Nick screamed as the demon twisted the knife in further, increasing the torment.
Suddenly, Philip had an idea. He grabbed the book from Derek, flipping to the page on Dionysus.
The demon cocked his head.
'Whatcha doing, priest?' it questioned. Philip found what he was looking for.
'Nick!' he called. 'Don't be afraid!'
'That's kinda hard when you got a knife sticking outta you, and a demon for a father, Philip!' Nick called back.
'But he feeds off the emotions! You must....'
'Silence!!' Dionysus roared. He shot out a spark from his hand, sending Philip flying backwards, crashing into the wall. The young priest gave a small groan, then lay still.
'No!!' Nick yelled. 'Philip!!' Dionysus laughed.
'He can't help you anymore!' the demon laughed. 'He is mine, and you're next!'
Nick was crying, the pain of losing Philip greater than the combined pain of his wounds. He felt like his heart would tear in half at any minute. He looked at Derek and the others, then up at Dionysus. The demon pulled the knife from Nick's side, and prepared to make the fatal blow. He struck down....then stopped, a look of surprise on his face. Nick had closed his eyes, and the demon could no longer feel the pain radiating out. What he felt...was love.
'What...what are you doing?' it gasped, it's lifeline cut by the switch in emotions. Nick didn't answer. He was going back, searching his childhood, remembering the times he had spent with his father that weren't so back; going to a baseball game; making breakfast on his mother's birthday. When Nick ran out of good memories of his father, he concentrated on the others. He thought of Philip; Derek; Alex; Rachel; Kat; Julia. He filled his mind with them, banishing the hurt and the fear. Nick called out to the others.
'Don't be afraid! He can't hurt us if we don't fear him!'
The others closed their eyes, doing as they were instructed. They remembered everything they could that was good; everything that made them feel safe and warm. Nick heard Dionysus snarl in rage, and he opened his eyes to look at the demon. He wasn't afraid anymore. Nick smiled.
'You have no power over me!'
Dionysus bellowed in rage, then in pain as beams of bright light tore through it's flesh from the inside. Soon, the entire cave was filled with the blinding light, and the sound of the demons screams. With a final roar, the demon exploded in a violent flash of blinding light and heat that sent Derek and the girls crashing backwards, and seared the ropes that held Nick. The young man was hurled off the altar, spiralling into a world of blackness.
Look, he's waking up!
Nick, can you hear me?
Honey, speak to us!
Nick heard the voices, felt hands on him gently lean him against something soft. He slowly opened his eyes, blinking in the harsh artificial glow of flashlights. He gave a small moan.
'Get those things out of my face...'
The lights moved, and Nick was able to squint up at the voices. Rachel gently reached out and pushed a stray hair out of his eyes.
'How do you feel?' she asked him. Nick winced.
'Sore.' he replied. Then he remembered. 'Philip!'
'I'm right here.' Nick heard a voice say from the darkness.
'Yer leanin' on me...' Philip said, amused. Nick struggled to sit up, and Philip leaned around from behind him.
'Philip!' Nick said, joyfully. He surprised everyone by pulling the priest into a huge hug. Philip grinned delightedly, and put his arms round Nick.
'I thought you were dead!' Nick said.
'No.' Philip told him. 'Just knocked out. But I hear you did a pretty nifty job on Dionysus.'
At the mention of the demon, Nick pulled away from Philip. He stared at the others, only now letting the full horror sink in. He began to cry, softly. Nick looked at Derek through his tears.
'Was that my father?'
Derek was silent, not knowing what to say. He felt like he didn't know anything anymore. Derek shook his head.
'I honestly don't know.'
'But what if he was?' Nick asked. 'What if I turn out like him?'
Alex put out her hand, and gently stroked his arm. 'Nick, you could never be like him. You are kind, caring. You're nothing like your father, whether he was Dionysus or not.'
Nick was silent. His eyes grew blank, and he stared out into the darkness. The others watched him for a few minutes, until Philip asked him,
'What are you thinking about.'
Nick looked up at him.
'I'm hungry. I just realised I haven't eaten in five days!'
Philip laughed, and took off his leather jacket, which he wrapped around Nick's bare shoulders.
'Come on then. Let's get back home, find you something to eat.'
'Good idea.' Derek agreed. 'Will the cook be in yet? She won't be pleased if she comes in to find we raided the kitchen.'
'Uh, Derek?' Rachel said. 'You fired everybody.'
'I did?' Derek asked, confused. 'Well, then no one will get annoyed, will they?' Nick laughed, and stood up, leaning on Philip.
'Uh, guys...?' Alex said. They turned to face her.
'What?' asked Derek, not liking the look on her face. Alex stared at the map she held.
'We aren't in the central cave...'
It was ten hours before five bedraggled figures finally made it back home. When they got back to the house, Emily and Kat were sitting on the front doorstep.
'Mom, you promised to collect me!' Kat said, indignantly. She looked surprised as the five burst into sudden laughter.
'I'm sorry, honey!' Rachel said. 'We've been, uh, kinda busy!'
Derek dug out his keys and let everyone in. They rushed in like kids in a toy store, Nick supported by Philip. The younger man stood at the bottom of the stairs, watching Kat and Emily head straight for the Tv; Rachel and Alex run for the bathroom; Derek to the study to find his staff; Philip to the kitchen on a food hunt. Nick heard the squeals and laughter ring through the house, and he suddenly realised that it didn't matter who his parents were; what his past was. This was his family now, and that was the most important thing. Nick smiled, and for the first time in years, he felt like he truly belonged somewhere.
That evening, when Nick went to sleep, he left his guns in the drawer, and he slept without anymore nightmares.