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~:: Out of the Ashes
Chapter V ::~

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Meanwhile Syn was trying to find a gentle way to dissuade Xandra from maintaining a vigil in the lobby until the doctor returned. "Perhaps I can help you," she suggested gently.

Xandra shot her an uneasy glance then focused intently on her hands as she wrung them nervously in her lap. "I am...not sure."

Syn cocked her head to one side. "What was it you were supposed to see the doctor about?"

"I...don't know, exactly. When I called to check in with him today, he told me to be at the clinic tonight after closing. He seemed upset and he said he had some work for me. Something about helping him find someone, but he wouldn't say who. He told me he'd give me the details when I met with him."

Syn realized he probably meant to send Xandra to assist with the manhunt for the missing pair she now had concealed in the hidden room. Although she felt an intense pity for the mistreated young orphan, she had no intentions of trusting her. At her tender young age, Maritus was able to bury his mental hooks deep in the girls mind. The succubus knew any information passed on to the girl would eventually find its way to the doctor whether Xandra consciously wanted it to or not.

The child shifted nervously in the chair. "I hope he isn't mad at me. I was a few minutes late arriving at the clinic. Perhaps that is why I missed catching him there."

"I am sure he will understand," Syn purred. "I will be sure to let him know that you came straight here when you didn't find him at the clinic. I am fairly certain he left long before you arrived, however. He left with Naimah quite early in the afternoon."

This seemed to calm the child somewhat. Her shoulders drooped as she slumped backwards against the soft leather. Gently the little succubus pressed her way into the girl's thoughts. Suddenly, Xandra felt an overwhelming tiredness flooding her body. It was as if her limbs had suddenly turned to lead.

"You look tired, Xandra." The words dripped from Syn's lips like honey as she moved behind the girl to gently rub her shoulders. The child bristled at first, but under the skilled touch of the succubus, she soon felt her flesh turn to putty in the Syn's soft fingers. "Perhaps you'd like to lie down on the sofa until the doctor returns."

The suggestion echoed strongly in the girl's subconscious. She nodded weakly and closed her eyes. "Mmm..." she murmured softly, as the succubus ran her fingers over her milky skin. She felt Syn take her by the hand and lead her down the corridor to a small room furnished with a divan, a low table and a couple of chairs. She opened her eyes just enough to settle onto the couch before closing them again with a deep sigh.

She felt Syn gently urging her onto her side as she took a seat beside her. Xandra sleepily rolled to face the wall as the succubus gently raked her talons lightly over her back. You are very tired, you should sleep. Xandra nodded her head weakly in response to the unspoken command echoing in her mind. Syn stroked her hair softly as her breathing began to slow and deepen.

She could feel the girl relax under her expert ministrations. Tenderly, she kneaded the exposed skin on the girl's shoulders. She gently massaged her soft neck then slowly worked her way down to rub gentle circles in the smooth hollow of the small of her back. Xandra let out a muffled moan and instinctively parted her legs. Not now, young one. Perhaps another day I will reveal to you the pleasures you might find at my hand. However now is not the time. Sleep, little one. A few moments later, Syn was rewarded with a soft snore. Smiling to herself, she slowly raised herself from the soft divan and backed silently out of the room. If she were only a bit older… With a small sigh she chided herself. There was no time for pleasures of the flesh. She knew they needed to concentrate on getting Sheken to safety before they were discovered.

As the wall dissolved once more, her mind briefly struggled to make sense with what she was seeing. Where two figures had been, there was now only one form beneath the blankets on the bed. It only took a few seconds of observation to enlighten her to the nature of this apparently singular entity.

She blinked so hard with shock she was certain that they might have heard her had their attentions not been so completely focused. She watched the blankets writhe rhythmically. She felt a familiar urge course through her as she stood transfixed by the actions of the pair that lay grappling before her.

Closing her eyes, she slipped gently into the small redhead's mind and let herself enjoy the surge of endorphins as the girl writhed beneath the stalker in exquisite bliss. She was panting hard as the moment she was anticipating drew near. Syn used her own lust to fuel the girl's urgings and push her over the edge. A quiet cry struggled to escape Sheken's satin lips, muffled by the fact that Marcus had his probing tongue entwined with her own.

Moments later, all three of them were panting hard as Sheken opened her eyes to see Syn standing over them. She blushed lightly as she pulled the covers up to hide the bare curves of her exposed breasts and raised herself to sit up in the bed.

Syn looked deeply into her eyes and smiled. There is no need for shame. I am the one who should be ashamed for intruding upon...

"It's okay," Sheken interrupted aloud. "I don't know what happened. We just...got carried away, I guess you'd call it." She looked over at Marcus with her cheeks aflame. Marcus smiled sheepishly and shook his head.

Syn laughed softly, "Okay, play time is over. If we don't make a break for it now, we risk being found here."

"Was that Naimah?" Sheken asked with a look of worry.

The succubus shook her head. "No, it was the little girl Maritus is preening as his next victim. She's an orphan Naimah somehow 'acquired'. Don't ask me how, but she managed to steal her away from the orphanage. The girl was very young, and terrified. When she tried to escape, Naimah cursed her with the powers of Hell, giving her unusual control over fire and bitter cold. Naimah has given her to Maritus to look after until she reaches her age of awareness."

"I didn't think humans had an age of awareness," Sheken murmured.

"Normally, they do not," Syn explained. "However, the curse upon this child and the resulting powers she carries will culminate at her age of awareness. Just as yours will."

Sheken nodded. "That's why Naimah wants to kill me now."

Syn nodded glumly. "Yes. For you know it is said that on the day of your awareness you will strike out at your brother and defeat him, and wound the one who would come to save him with a mortal blow." She gave Sheken a knowing glance. "Naimah."

Sheken blinked and bowed her head. "This prophecy has haunted me since the day I was born. Deathwynd was able to give rise to the prophecy by stealing my brother, and turning him to the ways of evil."

Syn looked at her with a mask of deep sorrow. "You know of course, the prophecy has now shifted, and in the favor of those who would do you harm. With Azazela gone..." her voice cracked as her eyes begin to mist.

Sheken's eyes watered hard as she fought to keep from crying. Marcus blushed hard out of an immense wave of guilt over his part in her aunt's demise.

"My mother...she's okay?" Sheken asked, looking into Syn's dark eyes.

"From what I could determine, she has not come under attack yet. However, knowing Xandaros, I am certain that he and his minions have something planned."

Sheken shuddered. A distant memory of waking in her childhood bed came crashing back to her consciousness....

She slipped from the warmth of the down coverlet, and silently made her way down the kitchen. Her little stomach rumbled softly. Her mother had made a spinach and ham soufflé for dinner and Sheken held both prime ingredients in great disdain. She'd abstained from all but a few mouthfuls of egg picked from around the offending contaminants. As she crept in to the kitchen, she heard soft hushed voices coming from the direction of the den. After assuring herself that no one was in visual range, she quietly opened the refrigerator and drank a huge draught from the carton of icy milk. Replacing the carton with a muffled giggle, she climbed up on the counter and stood on tiptoes, reaching the top of the refrigerator where the holy grail of midnight snacks could be found. Silently lifting the lid, she clutched as many cookies as her tiny fist could hold, and eased the ceramic lid back onto the jar without a sound. She lithely climbed from the counter without shedding so much as a crumb of her precious commodity. She wolfed down the first cookie, then nibbled at the next for a moment, savoring the meaty walnuts and the dark chocolate. Her mother had many talents and one of them was baking divine chocolate chip cookies.

Her grumbling tummy now sated, she found herself drawn to the hushed sounds of conversation coming from the dimly lit den.

She stood just outside the door and tuned her ears to the sounds within. Her mother's voice was a bit louder and fairly easy to hear. Azazela's voice was soft and required intense focus to catch what she was saying..

"...but I still feel as though I failed her somehow." Azazela's voice was tainted with sorrow.

"You did what you had to do, Az," Dawl answered her sister gently.

"Perhaps if I'd have..." Azazela's voice trailed.

"Nothing you could have done would have changed that child. Az, you don't need to feel guilty over this. Stop blaming yourself. The child was conceived of evil, born of evil, and destined to be evil."

"But she is my child."

"Azazela, listen to me. You had nothing to do with her creation. Xandaros forced himself on you. You were the victim here. That is HIS child, and she is destined to serve him. She is more demon than human, and that cannot be changed. There is no chance for her redemption. That is why you had to send her away. She would have changed you, not the other way around."

Sheken knew her aunt had a child some time ago. She'd heard hushed whispers within the family on a few occasions. She only knew that the child had been sent away at a very young age. This puzzled her greatly as she could never understand how her dear loving aunt could have done such a thing. All of a sudden she realized the truth. Even at her young age, she knew where babies came from and she understood the implications behind her mother's scathing indictment against Xandaros.

Az sighed deeply. "I know that Xandaros has sworn vengeance upon both of us for his defeat on that awful night. I am sorry that I got you involved."

Sheken heard the pitch of her mother's voice raising exponentially. "How can you say that? If I had not GOTTEN INVOLVED, who knows what else he may have done to you? If he wants vengeance, then let him try. I don't fear him nor his bumbling masses. They can all go straight to hell, and this time, they can stay there."

Az choked on a small sob. "But if it were not for me..."

"If it were not for you, countless people would have died over the years that you've been doing your work here in Paragon City. My coming to help you that night made that a reality. I am more than willing to take the risks along with the reward of still having my sister around."

Sheken heard the sound of light footsteps and the soft creak that the sofa in the den made when someone perched themselves upon the arm. Though she could not see around the corner, in her mind she pictured her mother sitting next to her statuesque aunt and wrapping her small arms around her.

"Az, I love you. I did what I had to do. Don't let Xandaros use the past to make you doubt yourself. Together, we can beat him. We have many friends here who are willing to fight at our side. We've beaten him twice now. He may just be a slow learner but eventually he will figure out that he cannot win. Trust me."

Az stood up from the sofa and looked around the room for a tissue. Hearing the footsteps, Sheken shrank back into the shadows and quickly retreated to her room with the remainder of her loot from the midnight raid on the cookie jar. But the cookies now turned to dust on her tongue as she choked on feelings of the deep sorrow that she felt for her beautiful aunt weighing heavily on her young heart.

A quiet rage built up within the girl. "I swear, someday I will make Naimah and Xandaros pay for what they have done."

Syn met her eyes with a worried look. Inwardly she hoped the girl would not try something foolish and risk her own life out of anger and grief. She patted the girl's shoulder tenderly. "I, too, have a score to settle with Xandaros and Naimah. Now is not the time, but may it be that on that day when vengeance comes to pass, I pray that I may stand at your side."

Sheken met Syn's eyes with a silent nod. Marcus reached around her to encircle her in his arms. Syn smiled and stood up, turning her back to them. "You both need to retrieve your clothing," she said with a soft chuckle.

Sheken blushed once again, and fished around on the floor for the crumpled pile of flannel. She slipped into the shirt, inhaling the scent of Marcus that was embedded deeply in its soft fibers. He tenderly reached over to deftly button the buttons, this time starting with the one between her breasts as he tenderly planted a light kiss in the silken vale of her cleavage. As he worked his way to the bottom button, he ran the tip of one finger playfully along the inside of her warm thigh. She giggled softly at the tickle of his feathery touch.

Now it was his turn to blush as he slid to the edge of the bed and looked around for his pants. Sheken stood and retrieved them from several feet beyond the foot of the bed, where he'd flung them in the heat of passion. With a murmured "Thank you," he slid them on as she averted her gaze to try to avoid staring.

She found the sweatpants, and padded slowly off in the direction of the base facilities. Syn slipped down the opposite hall to insure that Xandra was indeed still fast asleep. Marcus donned his clothing and sat back on the bed to contemplate his fate while he waited for his turn to clean up.

Maritus was going to be furious. Naimah would likely be beyond furious. He knew his chances for survival at this point were slim. If one of them did not kill him, the other surely would. He hoped they did not discover that the succubus had a part in helping them escape. He was beginning to see her in a whole new light, and he found himself liking what he saw. She was right.

She wasn't at all what he'd first assumed her to be.

As he quietly ruminated upon their possible future, Sheken stole silently back into the room. She'd instinctively woven the threads of darkness around her. He smiled at her as she approached.

"Your turn," she said, in a hushed voice, as she pointed towards the hallway leading to the bathroom. He nodded and planted a small kiss on her cheek as he passed her on his way to refresh himself.

Suddenly a crackle of energy signaled a new breach of the portal. Syn spun around, half afraid to see who might have invaded their lair this time. Her heart pounded hard in her chest as she realized Sheken was alone in the open chamber, and Marcus was down the corridor in the bathroom.

She swallowed hard as she moved closer to the entryway. As she looked around the corner, she was blinded by an astounding golden glow. She shrank back from the searing warmth of the aura and tried to determine what manner of creature had found them.

"Be not afraid," a soft voice echoed throughout the chamber.

The little succubus gasped in shock as her eyes flew open wide. "Azazela? Is it really you?"

Az stepped down from the platform and approached Syn. "Yes. It really is." She smiled warmly.

"I am so sorry I was not there to help you."

"There would have been nothing you could have done. Even the both of us could not have prevailed in the face of such an onslaught. It would have only meant your demise as well. I was the one who was foolish. I was the one who deserved to pay for that foolishness."

Syn shook her head. "Oh Az. What happened?"

"Xandaros, Naimah, and a few thousand of their minions showed up to welcome me. It appears our friend, the thief, betrayed me."

Syn shook her head. "I am so sorry."

"It was my fault," Az said soothingly. "I was so blinded by emotion that I did not think rationally. I ignored my own instincts, and Cale's dire warnings. He was right. I was a fool. But enough of that. It is finished. I have been sent here by the Creator."

Syn trembled. "I knew this day would come." Her eyes misted as she related to Azazela the details of the whole sordid plot that had unfolded around the unsuspecting Sheken in order to divert attention from Azazela's untimely fate. Her voice faltered as she explained Marcus's role in the saga.

"I understand," Azazela said with a solemn nod. "But by his brave actions he will redeem himself." She looked down at the floor as she remembered her own assault at the hands of the cruel Xandaros. She felt a wave of empathic pain for what Sheken must have endured.

"I have stolen those memories," Syn added as she read Az's thoughts, "with Sheken's permission, of course. She will remember the ordeal no longer."

"You must leave this place." Az's voice took on a somber tone. "Naimah will come here soon, seeking you. You must take Sheken, and the assassin, and flee to the only place where they cannot touch you. The nightclub known as Pocket D."

Syn shook her head. "I cannot stay with them. I must return to my service with the doctor, as much as I do not want to."

Az nodded. "It is the girl they want. Sheken is destined to do great things, someday, if she is allowed to live to see that day."

Syn nodded. "The prophecy. I know. Azazela, I give you my word not as a lesser demon, but as a friend. I will protect the girl with even my own existence."

"May it be that it will not come to that point." Az reached her arms out and embraced the small, dark haired beauty. "Tell Sheken that I love her and I will come to her soon. For now, I must go. Peace be with you, Syndi, and be well."

Syn nodded with tears flooding her eyes as she hugged Azazela tightly.

As Marcus returned from cleaning himself up, he peered down the hall to see Syn in the sitting room, hovering over a soundly sleeping Xandra. She pressed herself deep into the young girl's dreams. She used her sway to calm the child and induce a deep, lasting slumber. Once she was sure that Xandra would remain asleep for some time, she returned to the small chamber to find Marcus and Sheken fully clothed and sharing a rather torrid embrace. She coughed softly as she approached and watched Marcus jerk his head up with a look of guilty surprise.

She gave him a knowing wink. "Follow me," she commanded.

The petite redhead and the silent stalker both cloaked themselves in the shadows and fell into step behind the little succubus. She, too, invoked the powers of darkness to hide herself as they approached the portal back to Port Oakes.

Sheken arched her back as she felt the familiar surge of energy as the portal's arcane powers absorbed her essence and transferred it to the exact spot where she'd entered the hidden lair. Syn and Marcus materialized at her side. With a finger to her lips, Syn motioned them into the dark shadows along the side of a tall building. The alley way was littered with refuse and an occasional unconscious vagrant that the trio had to carefully step around. Picking their way through the darkness and debris, they finally made their way to the shore, where the building stood that housed the entrance to the interdimensional night club.

Marcus grasped the door handle and motioned the ladies ahead of him. Syn shook her head. "This is where we part company, my dear." Sheken turned and gave her a disappointed frown. "You can't come with us?"

The succubus shook her head. "No. As it stands right now, no one knows that I am involved. Naimah may have her suspicions, but she dare not accuse me outright. Besides, with me here, I can continue to exert my influence over the bumbling doctor. He only thinks he runs the Betrothed, and I'd like to keep it that way, at least for a while. I will bide my time. The day will come, I am certain, when I will fight at your side, and all of us, including Lady Azazela, will be avenged."

Tears stung her eyes as she reached for Sheken and embraced her in a bone-crushing hug. "Be careful, little one. And I might suggest you take the time to invest in some method of preventing any unwanted little surprises, if you know what I mean. It is near your time to be fertile."

"How...?" Sheken began as the succubus gave her a sly wink.

"You'd be surprised what I can see." She turned to Marcus, "You must take care also. You are in grave danger now. I shall do what I can to mitigate the situation, but I have no control over Naimah. She will pose an incredible danger to both of you."

Marcus nodded. He reached out to Syn and gave her a gentle hug. "Thanks for your help. Fertile?" he whispered into her ear. Syn grasped his hand firmly, and when she pulled her delicate fingers from his grasp a tiny foil packet remained. He laughed softly. "Okay, okay, I get the picture."

Sheken blushed as he took her hand. "Thank you, Syn."

They stepped inside the doorway. Sheken remained enveloped in threads of darkness as they slipped down the corridor to the elevator, still gripping his hand as they entered the noisy club.

To Chapter VI