Matt was not sure how to take Morgan’s proclamation that her phone was dead, and she needed time to think.
The drive to Portland would be the time she needed he assumed, and he had planned to ride with her, until he heard the scream.
The mage had jumped out a moving car to fly before, but it was tricky every time.
After what he heard, slowing down just was not an option. The road was close, but he pushed the thoughts down. Higher took time, so he just went the minimal, burning magic for Portland.
The Murphy house was on the outskirts, technically outside city limits. He followed the river for the last part, slowing as he saw the mass of people gather around the two story building. The attached garage was swarmed too. A subtle spell had emptied the bodies of their souls, but left the bodies mobile. Wights now, but young ones. Not quite sentient their will was easily superseded.
Matt knew the theory, of course, and he had even seen it performed on lab rats at Caline. Mostly by his brother, but even as twisted as Chark had become he would be sickened by this.
This was perversion beyond even a man titled Necromancer.
Wholesale magical slaughter, followed by slavery even after death.
His phone began ringing, and he answered it quick. Still a few of the former people turned to him, grasping upward.
“Matt’s Mail-Order,” he said quietly.
“I think I’d like to explore the product list, but another time. We got some issues,” Nicole said.
“I’m fifty-feet above the garage,” he said still whispering, even though a few of the thralls jumped ineffectively.
“Cowell tried to read the angel…”
“Good idea, ignore the trained mage,” Matt hissed.
“You were expelled.”
“For drugs, doesn’t mean I’m not a good mage,” he said.
“We would call you ‘wizard’, for the record, babe.”
‘Not after Morgan get’s here.’ He said aloud, “I’m flattered, but how is the popsicle?”
“Uhh, breathing. Did you feel a pulse on the angel earlier?”
“No,” he said. “Did you?”
“That’s probably not that great.”
“Yeah. Fuck babe, I think I killed an angel.”
“‘We’,” he said. “In this together, honey.”
“What were you saying earlier?”
“Lots of stuff. Watch out for a douchebag angel mostly. I’m going to try to clear these wights.”
“Any saving them?”
“If there was, I would, honey.”
“You got fire insurance?”
“No, and no.”
The voice was right behind him, air pushing into his ear, as he spoke, “Always with you.”
Matt tossed the phone up, kicking back, catching the angel in the knee. They grappled, the mage calling his aura, just before they hit the ground. A pile of crushed cars wobbled, tipping over. Matt dodged back, the angel stood up, only to get hammered down again by the falling vehicles.
Flying backwards, Matt reinforced his aura, adding words to it. Dust covered the pile, his view blocked. A creak of metal, and the angel exploded out of the cloud. One punch he barely dodged, but the second connected. The mage tumbled backward bouncing off the garage’s stucco wall, and onto the ground. The aura saved his skin, literally, but the impact left him spitting blood into the dirt.
“Not playing anymore, son.”
“You call that lovetap a punch?” Matt muttered. A tooth moved as he spoke, but a kick to the ribs sent him flying again before he could remove it.
Upside down, and flying through the air, instinct saved him, his hands crossed above his head. The angels foot crushed into them a second later. Matt gained leverage, kicking upward, as he pulled down. A crunch, as his sneaker crushed nose.
They both hit ground again, Matt rolling into the river, the angel catching on a tree.
Underwater, the mage spun touching bottom, then firing a blast of energy upward. A golden flash leveled the trees. He used magic to shoot away, shard of wood piercing the water around him. One hit his aura, bouncing off his leg, but still slowing him down.
The sound hit him a second after the stomp to his back. He touched bottom, a large rock catching him in the stomach. Breath rushed out, and he sucked in water. Bubbles, and silt filled the water, desperation rising he pushed air out of his hand. Water parted, a glimpse of the angel moving toward him, and he fired again. Feet away when it connected the blast hurled them both out of the water.
On his back, Matt coughed water onto his face. Cracks in his bones, as he rolled over. A distinct click of his knee. Blood mixed with the liquid he coughed next.
Shots from the house, either they were trying to get out, or something had gotten in. Matt hoped it was just his imagination, but he thought he heard screaming too.
A definite whistle, in the air.
Moving was too much, and he ended up bouncing off a pile of cars. In the junkyard again, he heard the angel land next to him.
“All this? For what? A few books?”
“Those books are mine,” Matt said, coughing into the dirt.
“Just want to see my son.”
The mage laughed, low, and cruel.
“You don’t want that,” Matt told him. “He’s got issues, old man.”
“Wait until he sees what I’ve done. A new staff. A new body,” he said, gesturing to Matt. “And his books. Perfect birthday present.”
Definitely a few screams, from the garage. Shots were slowing too.
“You really think so?” Matt asked, laughter breaking into his voice.
The mage called air, and magic into his lungs. The call broke his voice, magic bleeding dry. Time, as he poured his all into the spell. He broke, and death was cold on him again.
Matt floated above his own body, time stopped around him.
The world was gray, and everything was pure cold. Familiar too, more so than when he had been here alive, just moments before.
He remembered now though, where his soul had rested. Here, with her.
No other home.
“Oh, Jesus, are you crying?” Chark had his dad’s voice. Matt was surprised he had not recognized it. No body, just a shapeless patch of darker gray.
Matt wiped his eyes, trying to pull a smile from nothing. “This close, always just so damn close.”
“What’s going on?”
Matt looked around.
“Everything. I made a move for the books. I lost again. He’s going to kill Nice, if she’s still alive.”
“Sounds like a personal problem, brother. Why did you call me?”
“He wants you back. You can have the body, just leave her. Last favor. Please, brother?”
“I don’t even know this man.” Chark looked close, then corrected himself. “ Angel.”
“He’s your dad,” Matt said. “Do whatever, but just leave the Murphy’s alone.”
The shade stared, a long time, although the mage was not sure what application time had to their currently frozen world.
“Please, just save her.”
“I’m thinking. It’s a good hobby,” he said. “I’m going to need a body.”
“Take that one.”
“That’s your body,” Chark said. “I would rather be dead, than ugly.”
“Then die again, just save her!”
Chark looked at the angel. “That’s not a bad look. I like distinguished.”
“Good luck getting him out of it,” Matt said. “Beat me like I owed him money.”
“Oh, you’ll be helping, brother.” Chark looked at the garage. “Spare in there. Well, not really spare, but currently a bit shorted out. Dead really, I doubt anyone here can repair it.”
The shade faded away, leaving Matt to stare at his own corpse.
He touched it, feeling for the space a soul goes. His was probably getting worn out, he realized, as his two parts connected.
Air sucked into his lungs. Getting up was hard, the blood flow starting left his whole body tingling with pins and needles.
“Thought you were dead there for a moment, kid.”
“Not your kid, old man.” An explosion from the house, and the wights flew through the air. Pieces of the garage door flew with them. Matt smiled, his face twisting darkly. “There’s your kid.”
Chark, using Sarihanel, stood in the destroyed door, Matt’s staff in hand. The angel moved forward in a blur. Matt felt a rush of cool magic, a healing spell he had not felt in a long, long time, as the being passed.
She/he spun swinging the staff in circle. Matt saw a ghostly club form on the weapon, as it made contact. Irenail bounced along the ground, leaving a few clouds of dust in his wake.
“Borrowing this,” Chark said wiggling the staff. “Body too.”
“You look pretty.”
“I feel pretty. For the record though,” Chark said. “I’m killing him for his methods, and assumptions. I’ll catch him in hell for the daddy issues.”
“I turned out well,” Matt said. “On reflection.”
“Does Biose Museum of Warfare, and Military Strategy mean a lot to you? Maybe something you need there?”
Matt’s breath caught. “Maybe.”
“You’re gonna want book three, it’s the best.”
“See if you survive the read. Uh-oh, here comes trouble.”
The angel was rushing, but Chark simply crossed his hands, a pyramid of light forming. Matt threw his own spell above it, and the angel was between the two when they exploded.
“Think that got him?” Matt asked.
“This will.” The next spell fired from the staff, like a bolt of bright blue lightening in the evening sky. The angel was still flying when it hit him, and the second blast just increased his speed. A living meteor over portland.
Chark followed, but Matt turned the opposite way. He flew halfway into the garage, twisting to slow into a landing.
She burst out of the kitchen, throwing an assault rifle over her shoulder. Her arms wrapped around him.
“Stay safe, sorry about the door, gotta help Chark.” Matt brushed her lips, taking off as he ran. “CHARK IS THE GIRL ANGEL!” he shouted back at the garage.
“What?!?” Her voice carried after him, but he was in a rush. Air whistled around him, as he flew upward. A pack of wights fought under him, their control spell wearing they turned on each other. Two bright blue spots clashed over the city, and Matt shot toward them.
Matt put on a burst of speed, wanting to return to the garage, but not sure his brother could finish this on his own.
A flash, as he drew closer. The mage ducked low, catching the female angels arms, right before she hit a building.
“Take your time,” Chark said. “We’re having a family moment.”
Wings pumping the angel took off again, the staff spinning behind her.
Matt followed. Irenail appeared at the edge of a building, one hand to steady himself on the wall, and they both hit him at once. Blue, and gold spark tore through the sky, as the three tumbled through the air.
The angel was stronger, and fast, but between Chark’s staff swinging, and Matt’s energy blasts they kept him off balance.
The angel disappeared around the side of a building, and Chark faded. Matt rushed around the corner, seeing Chark appear in front of Irenail. The angel twisted, but Chark struck, a fist of blue fire appearing over her own. Matt rushed in, grabbing the angel from behind.
Charks fist knocked them both backward, and the mage felt a pull, as the angel twisted some magic. Chark did something, Matt missed it, but there was an explosion, and next he knew they were sailing through the air again.
They landed on a building, separating as they rolled across it.
Dizzy the mage stood, scanning for Chark. Across the street gray wings poked out from some bushes, his staff next to them.
The mage had to scan farther, but he could sense Irenail coming. He dived back, the angel landing right where he stood. Matt kicked upward, but he hardly needed to bother. The staff whipped past him again, and Irenail flew into the wall.
As the older angel bounced back, Chark slashed again, the razor touch of magic on the swing. Clear fluid poured from the wound, as one of Irenail’s arms hit the ground.
Another swing, and a single white wing lay on the ground. Chark stepped onto the other spinning the staff overhead. A few hard hits, and the wayward angel was down.
“I’ll finish this, I doubt it will be to your tastes,” Chark said.
“Going to be able to put it back together?”
“I’ll release this one, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“I’m not afraid of death,” Irenail said.
“That’s fantastic,” Chark said. “We’ll start with ‘A’ then, and work our way through the phobias.” It was Sarihanel’s face, but only his brother’s smile could be so far off happy, so lacking in joy. “I’m sure I’ll find your turn on.”
The words chilled the mage, but the alternative was worse. There was no way he was losing again. He would get those books, whatever it took. Matt turned away, thinking of heading home. Possibly for the last time, he realized.
Morgan would be there, by the time he got home.