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~:: To Cross Dark Lines (Chapter IV)::~

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Marcus felt the whoosh of the ground rushing up to meet him, then a faint stinging sensation as his body was transformed into a flash of light by virtue of Adara's arcane energies. The light bolted up the side of the building to coalesce once again into his physical form at the edge of the narrow sill. He teetered precariously as he looked into Adara's eyes.

A premonition hit him that something terribly bad was about to happen. Looking up, they saw a sneering Naimah with Sheken held high above her head. Laughing demonically, she pitched the unconscious girl headlong towards the two who were balanced on the window ledge. As Sheken tumbled like a rag doll, Adara took flight, leaving Marcus to cling desperately to the narrow ledge. She managed to snag a horn, but the force with which the demoness had thrown the unconscious girl sent both of them into a spin that slammed them both into the side of the building. Winded, Adara sucked in a great gulp of air and managed to hover there, despite the pain that shot through her body from the impact.

A flash of white hot light below them caught their attention, as she saw Marcus teetering at the edge of the ledge, finishing the incantation as the ring exploded with a burst of raw power that lashed upward and threw the sneering demoness back against the wall. They could no longer see her, but from the keening wail as she screeched, "UUUuhhhnnnn..." they knew that the ring had done its job.

As the last word of the incantation left his lips, the backlash of energy that recoiled within the glowing ring caused him to teeter over the edge and fell backwards. With his last breath, his mouth spoke in a language only the dark demoness understood. "Tavect unthor beseg umant ADARA," he screamed, as he bound Naimah to serve Adara until the end of time. Adara turned and dove towards him, still holding Sheken tight. With the bigger girl in her grasp there was no way she could possibly manage another balancing feat on a windowsill. Her heart sank as she realized that she was not going to be able to save both of them. A dull thud echoed upwards as Marcus landed hard on the cold unforgiving pavement many stories below.

Hot tears stung her eyes as she turned and flew upward. Reaching the rim, Naimah stood with her black eyes glittering hatred as she bowed obediently. Adara alit on the cold concrete and gently lowered Sheken to the cold stone. Suddenly, she felt the hair on her neck rise. As she whipped her head around, she caught sight of Maritus moving towards them. Evidently prior to being bound, Naimah had the foresight to summon him back from the brink of a tragic death, just as she herself had tried to do with Marcus. She eyed him suspiciously as he crept towards her.

"What have we here?" he purred. "A mere child, and it looks as though she's all alone." He stepped menacingly towards the girl, who lifted her chin and looked fearlessly into his eyes. Summoning his unholy power, he projected pain towards her mind, hoping to incapacitate her. She gripped her temples and tried to steel herself against the agony. I must protect Sheken, she told herself.

She felt a sudden burst of clarity, and the pain was gone. Instantly she felt a surge of pure adrenaline. She smiled an enigmatic smile at the confused doctor.

"She is not quite alone," a soft voice echoed from nearby.

The doctor shrank back, looking furtively around for the source of the disembodied voice. Suddenly, just above him, in a flash of light he saw a brilliant form materialize. Her massive wings were beating the air as she hovered above her daughter. Her robe was glowing white as she stared down at him with a determined gaze in her steely blue eyes.

Adara let out a small laugh. Her mother bathed her in fortifying power. She once again spun the energies around the doctor to drain him of his momentum. As his ability to move slowed, he knew he was now seriously outmatched, and turned to flee. He realized he was living a nightmare. It was as though his legs had turned to lead. She'd robbed his very cells of their kinetic forces. Even his heart felt as though it had gone sluggish in his chest as he recognized, with a sinking feeling that he was suddenly on the losing end of the equation.

"Lady Naimah," he cried desperately. "Help me."

Adara smirked as the demoness raised her gaze to look at the doctor with fear and confusion.

"Yes, Naimah, help him," she said in a commanding tone. "Help him to return to where he belongs. The Zig."

Naimah nodded with a grimace of pain, and turned to entangle the doctor in writhing bands of demonic darkness.

"What are you doing? Stop this, you fool! We had a deal!" he screeched.

Azazela smiled as she disappeared. A moment later Maritus, dark bonds and all, vanished from their sight in a flash of light.

A rasping cough behind her caused Adara's head to whip around, to see Sheken trying to stand. She was shivering as the lofty winds whipped her hair around her face. "Marcus," she cried, as Adara's heart leapt in her chest. How would she tell her cousin that her beloved had given his life to save her own?

Adara removed her own cape and draped it around her cousin. Sheken met her eyes with a look of pain and confusion. "Where is he?"

Adara dropped her gaze, and then turned to look over the ledge.

Immediately Sheken began to wail. "Noooooo."

She spun towards Naimah. "YOU did this." A blast of pure mental force hit the demoness, knocking her back into the unforgiving brick behind her. She made no move to retaliate.

"Wha...?" Sheken was stunned.

"Naimah, come here," Adara ordered. The statuesque demoness stood and unfurled her wings, and flew to Adara's side. "Kneel." Naimah instantly complied.


"Bound. Bound to obey me it appears. Marcus succeeded," Adara said, gravely. "even though it cost him his life."

Sheken began to cry. "I want to see him!" she screamed. Adara nodded, and flew off over the edge. Sheken wrapped the cape tighter around her shuddering body and sobbed as Adara summoned her to her side.

Except for a widening pool of blood oozing from his slightly parted lips, Marcus looked as if he might have simply been sleeping. Sheken desperately looked around for some foe to siphon life force from, but there were none to be found. The street was deserted except for a complement of Longbow walking towards them, about a block away.

"His mediport transponder failed?" Sheken asked.

Adara nodded gravely. "It must have been broken in the fall."

"We aren't that far from the hospital. We can carry him," Sheken said as she tried to lift her lover's body. Adara knew it was too late for the hospital to do anything but drape a sheet over him. She swallowed hard.

"Sheken!" a shrill voice cut through the air. Sheken turned to see her mother running towards her. She took one look at her daughter and began bathing her in a burst of warmth to heal her wounds.

"Not me, mom," Sheken cried. "Save Marcus."

The empath stopped and looked down at the broken body lying on the pavement. She shook her head.

"What?" Sheken screamed. "You are a healer! Can't you help him?"

Dawl stared at her daughter with a mixture of frustration and contempt wavering over her features.

Suddenly a warm glow surrounded them. A soft, melodic voice emanated from the light. "Do not grieve. Things are not always as bad as they might seem."

Azazela materialized just above Marcus, and lifting her hands to the heavens, she brought forth a pillar of light that engulfed his lifeless body. The corpse lifted from the pavement and joined with the coalescing force of spirit that streamed downwards to re-enter his broken form.

A few seconds later, Marcus stood weakly, and rubbed his chest. "I...hurt..." he began, "all...over."

"Of course you do," Adara said soothingly. "You just fell from the top of a skyscraper."

Azazela surrounded the small group with an aura of healing energy. She turned to her sister.

"I know what you have done." Although her voice was a barely audible whisper, her sister could plainly hear the firm tone of indictment. "Your treacherous attempt to end Marcus' life very nearly cost the life of your only daughter as well. Out of love for her cousin, it also placed the life of my own daughter in jeopardy. I have been given a message for you from the Creator. If you do not repent of this hatred, it will soon destroy you and all those around you."

Dawl's head dropped as she felt tears welling up behind her eyes.

"He loves her, DeLara. His love was so great that he sacrificed his own life to save her." The angel held forth her palm, summoning a small orb of light that coalesced into a miniature view of the recently unfolded events. Dawl watched the scene play out in agonizing detail. She turned her face away as she watched Marcus hit the hard ground with a dull thud.

"What have I done?" she began to cry.

"You let your love for your child cross a line that should never be crossed. Hatred is an embodiment of evil, and consumes the soul of the one who harbors it within them."

Dawl dropped to her knees and wept.

"Sheken," she wailed. Their offspring both turned simultaneously, and beheld the sisters.

"I am so sorry," Dawl cried as she reached up to embrace her daughter.

"Sorry? For w..." the word "what" never made it forth from Sheken's lips as the reality hit her. The question of how Naimah and Maritus knew they would be in Siren's Call that day had just been answered.

"It was you. You...you...betrayed us?"

"Not you!" Dawl cried. "Or, I didn't mean to. I only wanted...to...get rid of...Marcus."

The pain that coursed through Sheken was unlike any she'd ever felt, and something no healer could ever take from her.

Marcus stood beside Sheken, momentarily stunned. As he recovered his senses, he extended his hand towards the tiny demoness. "I don't hold this against you," he said quietly. "You did what you thought you needed to do to protect your child. Really, ma'am, I understand. I've never been a parent. The only things I know of being a parent is what I saw from my own mother, but know that she probably would have done the same thing had she felt I was threatened. And I might have done the same thing if I were in your shoes." The small demoness dropped her gaze to the ground and wept bitterly.

A quiet rage was building in Sheken as she stepped back away from her crying mother. Her eyes glittered as she wrapped Adara's cape tighter around her shivering form.

To Chapter V