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~:: A Proper Schooling - Chapter II ::~

Now it was morning and Cale was still sleeping soundly as Az slid silently from the bed and shuffled to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. Once it was well under way, she had awakened Adara, who dogged her every footstep as she insisted on helping her mother with the morning routine.

As they made the final preparations, Azazela called to Zakai. “Wake up, sleepy head.”

His eyes glowed white for a moment, as he stirred awake. Adara knew better than to take it upon herself to awaken him, but now that someone else had, she was prepared to take full advantage of the situation. She fairly pounced on him as he sat rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Good morning, Aunt Az. Good morning, Miss Adara. I see you are wide awake already.”

Adara bounced excitedly next to him on the old sofa. “Mommy is taking me to enroll in school today!” she beamed. “I am going to be a student, just like you!”

Zakai laughed as he pulled the girl onto his lap and hugged her tight. “And I just know you are going to excel at your studies. You will love school.”

“Just like you!” she echoed, with a huge grin.

“Just like me,” he answered, laughing. “But,” he lowered his voice to a whisper, “if we don't be quiet we will wake your father up. I think he is still sleeping.”

“He needs to wake up,” Az answered. “Adara, please go tell your father that breakfast is ready.”

She did not have to be told twice. She leapt from the couch and flew down the hallway, her feet barely touching the floor.

Zakai shook his head with a chuckle as he helped his aunt set the table. “She will be flying before you know it. She's very advanced for her age.”

Azazela nodded quietly. “Sometimes I can barely keep up with her.”

A few minutes later, a disheveled looking Warshade arrived at the table, being towed by the enthusiastic child. Azazela poured him a cup of tea and set the plate of pancakes in the center of the table. Adara dragged a chair nearly on top of her father. Her mother shot her a look of disapproval.

“Adara, your father needs a little room to breathe. You cannot have your breakfast sitting in his lap.”

“Of course she can,” he laughed, pushing his hair back out of his glowing blue eyes. He patted his lap. The girl needed no further encouragement as she leapt from her chair into his arms.

He smiled as Azazela shook her head with a sigh. She finished putting breakfast on the table and poured her daughter a tall glass of icy milk. Lifting it in both her tiny hands, the child took a huge draught, wiped her lips with the sleeve of her pajamas, and looked up into her father's eyes. “Daddy, are you going to the school with us?”

“Of course I am, sweetheart,” he answered between bites of pancake.

She cocked her head to one side and scowled. “What if they don't let me in?”

“Trust me, they will let you in. I know they will,” he answered, confidently.

Azazela looked at him curiously. Adara was a bit younger than they usually required children to be for admission, but she was very advanced for her age. The headmistress had suggested that Azazela bring the child along to be tested, and said they would base the decision to enroll her upon the results.

She returned to quiet contemplation as she fixed Adara's plate. She was not about to question him in front of their daughter. She would save her query until Adara was safely ensconced in the bathtub.

Zakai looked up from his plate to smile at Cale across the table. Cale found the boy slightly unnerving. The part of him that had once been Balregu held no lost love for the self-righteous hunters known as Peacebringers. Azazela herself had once held reservations about the strange being that shared the human shell that had been born as the first son of her sister. However, Zakai had grown up to become a wonderful young man who harbored no ill will towards the Warshade. The child was kind and intelligent, with a insatiable appetite for knowledge. He spent most of his time with his nose buried in either some scientific textbook, or an ancient mystical tome. Az was not sure how much of his personality was part of his human development, and how much was that of the alien being he hosted. Since Zakai had not yet taken his first breath when the fusion took place, that was a question even he might not be able to answer.

“Mr. Westmarch,” Zakai bowed his head slightly in respectful deference to the more experienced hero, “did you ever attend a university?”

Cale looked up at the boy with a hard swallow that almost caused him to choke on the piece of bacon he had been masticating. “No. My father was a world-class Necromancer. I studied the arcane arts at his hand.”

The boy nodded as his voice took on a tone of almost reverential awe. “How fortunate that must have been for you. It must have been wonderful being personally tutored by someone with so much knowledge.” He let out a wistful sigh. “While our professors are skilled, I would not presume to refer to any of them as 'world-class'. I recently came across an apocryphal book that was penned by what some people believe might be a pseudonym of Aleister Crowley. The book departs from the traditional types of magic that he was reputed to have practiced. In fact, so much so, that many authorities dismiss it as a fake. However, this book was rumored to have been written under the direct influence of Lam, an entity that he was known for summoning during his bizarre rituals. The interesting thing about this particular volume is that according to this, the manifestations of the Lam are invoked visitations of the Watchers, or the Fallen Ones.”

Cale nodded politely. The boy continued, “The really unusual thing is that the book details rituals that have never been documented before. They are said to be a gift to humankind to herald the Last Age.”

Azazela raised her head ever so slightly to look Zakai in the eye. “And as such, I do not recommend using them.” With a visible shudder, she stood and quietly left the room.

Zakai and Cale met each other with equally startled glances. “I wonder what got her panties in a bunch?” Cale whispered quietly.

The gentle Peacebringer shook his head. “I feel I must apologize for whatever I said that seems to have upset her.”

Adara, who had been blissfully munching on her pancakes, looked up with an enigmatic smile. “Don't you know? She does not want to see the end of this age. They stopped it once. This time things will not go so well for them.”

Threads of ice were coursing through his veins, as he gripped his child gently by the shoulders. In a voice that was probably more forceful than he meant it to be, he asked, “What did you just say, Adara?”

Suddenly the smile evaporated, leaving the child with a glazed expression. “I didn't say anything, daddy.”

A terrified look passed between the Warshade and Peacebringer. Totally unrelated to any inherent tensions between their opposing origins, they simultaneously felt a surge of bile leap into their throats.

Cale lifted the child from his lap, and gently sat her on her own chair. “Finish your breakfast, sweetheart. I'll be right back.”

Az was kneeling over the ancient claw-footed tub as she prepared Adara's bath water. She heard him come in and stood to face him. He struggled to find the proper way to relate the incident that just occurred at the table. “Cale, what is wrong?” she asked upon seeing his ashen countenance.

“Something… happened… a few minutes ago. In the kitchen…”

“What do you mean?” A tone of worry crept into her voice.

“I don't know how to explain it. It was Adara. One minute she was fine…and then…” He paused as his mind sought for some logical syntax to relate a totally illogical event. “It was almost as if something else took over her for a moment.”

Az nearly knocked him down as she flew through the narrow doorway and down the hall towards the kitchen. She grabbed Adara and lifted her into the air. She turned to Zakai and yelled, “Summon your mother.”

Zakai started to pull his cell phone from his pocket, catching himself at the last moment. Closing his eyes, he focused his energies towards his mother's highly tuned psyche. One message. Come now!

Fifteen long minutes later the family was sitting in a circle in the living room of the small flat. Dawl explained that her mother reassured her that the incident had been what is called a 'projection'. Some entity had used Adara as a channel. As creepy as it might sound, no real harm had been done. It was a simple trick that demons often used to relay messages into the human realms without actually having to manifest themselves personally. Adara was used because as a child she had no real defenses in place to prevent this channeling.

“That,” Dawl said softly, “is about to change. It is time.”

Cale looked at her with an uneasy glance. It was very seldom that Dawl could be taken seriously. When she became gravely somber, it meant that the situation were dire enough to warrant such attention. This could not possibly be a portent of anything but evil.

Adara sat on her mother's lap as Azazela gripped her tightly. Cale sat beside them, idly stroking his daughter's baby fine hair out of her face as she looked up at him with an expression of pure worship and adoration.

A rumbling peal of thunder shook the tenement as Dawl produced a small, very ornate lockbox. The sigils engraved on its surface were obvious to any arcane practitioner. The box was protected from being opened by anyone but the owner.

She pressed the words do ut facias silently into the mind of the child. Though Adara had no understanding of the meaning, she held out her open hands. The parcel levitated and began to spin slowly above her outstretched palm. The top bisected along a scalloped edge in its pattern and lifted open to reveal a magenta glow.

The child's eyes opened wide as she peered into the utter blackness of the box at the glowing gem suspended in its center.

“The amulet,” Az whispered, breathlessly.

Cale turned to her. “What amulet?”

“This stone was a gift to DeLara, err, Dawl from her mother. Her mother is human, but is one who is gifted of the Creator. She remains Ageless and has the Second Sight. The amulet contains mystical powers of protection and also traces of the Second Sight. It was at one time split in two. Dawl had half, and she gave half to me. The power of protection is so strong within this gem that it can be used to free those who are mystically bound. The minions of our father sought to use this in order to free him so that he might once again take the reins of his legions in order to vanquish the humans and the Host of the Creator.”

“So, someone found some really strong Super Glue, I take it?” the Warshade said with a slight edge of sarcasm.

Azazela shook her head. “The stones were fused by the Dark One himself. He was very close to having freed our father, at that time. The results would have been…” she paused as her gaze dropped to the floor, “cataclysmic.”

Dawl fell strangely silent as she remembered that dark day that now seemed like it had been so long ago.

“So now our child has this magic bauble. What is the point?” he asked her.

“It has the power to protect her,” Az said in a sober tone. “And I have a very strong feeling that she is going to need it.”

Cale looked down at the precocious child sitting in her mother's lap. She held the gem as though it were something very delicate as she gazed upon it in unabashed awe.

Azazela left the room quietly and returned moments later with a small buckle that resembled an empty frame. Silently she handed it to her child, who gingerly touched the stone against it. With a crackle of energy and a bright glow, the stone fused itself into the metal housing. “Now, we must find you a suitable belt,” her mother smiled.

Dawl suddenly jerked her head up from where she knelt on the floor to look at Cale. “Mary called me first thing this morning to make sure we hadn't forgotten about today.”

Cale's face went pale as he stole a glance at Az. Her eyebrows raised slightly as she looked from her partner, to her sister, and back again. “Mary?” she asked in a suspicious tone.

Dawl smiled sheepishly. “Well…” she turned to Cale. “You didn't tell her, did you?”

Cale's face burned crimson. “Umm. Not yet. I meant to, I really did.”

Azazela's eyes narrowed as she pinned him with a glare. “What is it that you failed to tell me?”

He felt like an insect must feel when pinned down by its wings under a microscope.

”It was me.” Dawl gave her sister a pleading gaze. “Please don't be upset with him. I wanted to make sure Adara was accepted into the academy, so I pulled a few strings with my friends in the Cabal, who are actually the ones who truly run the place.”

Az rolled her eyes.

“Don't be mad, Az. I just wanted to make sure there were no snags getting her in. I know how important this is to you, and to Cale. I only want the best for my little niece.”

Azazela drew a long, slow breath and shook her head slowly. “It does not matter.”

Adara looked up at her mother. “Who is Mary, mommy?”

“Never you mind, my daughter. You shall meet her soon enough.”

“She's a friend of mine,” Dawl interjected. “You will like her, and I am sure she will love you.”

She stood and reached out to Adara, taking the girl in her arms. “Come with Aunt Dawl, and let's leave Mommy and Daddy to get ready to travel to Salamanca.” She carried the smiling girl down the hallway to the door. “Let's go over to the sand lot and practice taking off and landing,” she grinned.

“Yay! I get FLY!” Adara screamed.

“Hover,” Dawl corrected. “You have to learn to get airborne and stay airborne before we work on actually flying around, okay?” She turned to Zakai. “Come on, baby. You can come along with us and hover behind her to keep an eye on her.”

The gentle Peacebringer smiled and nodded as he followed them out into the bright sunshine.

To Chapter III