SPG: September, Part 2/4

CeceliaIsaac_StPaulGrimoire

St. Paul Grimoire is a weekly serial that updates on Mondays. Each month will cover a self-contained story told over four parts.
It will not be overly edited, and character arcs and plotlines could be adjusted with your feedback! PLEASE let me know what you think!

Valene wasn’t sure if the silence was because everyone was shocked or because everyone was considering whether or not to give Dakotah up.

“I’m Dakotah,” he said, pretty stupidly, she thought.

“You are Icarus’s Heir Apparent?” the man said. “He has given you the keys?”

“…Yeah. He did.”

Dakotah sounded uncertain, which was probably a normal reaction. There was something strange about the man. Val couldn’t get a fix on his looks. He didn’t look black or white or Hmong. His skin looked sometimes tan and sometimes gray. His head was shaved but then she blinked and it was covered in short dark curls. She blinked again and saw the outline of gargoyle wings behind him. Val shook her head.

“Then we have bigger problems than what I came here to tell you.”

He’s in pain, Phin thought. The man—or whatever—breathed heavily and leaned on the shelf.

“What are you talking about?” Dakotah asked. Phin’s question exactly.

“We must go to the treasure room and lock down the House until you Ascend and can protect it properly.”

A pause.

“Uh, what?” asked Dakotah.

The man ignored the question. “Do you have the key?”

Dakotah held up his key ring, limply.

“Not those,” said the man. “The one to unlock the treasure room. The three stones.”

Phin saw in Dakotah’s face that he did not have the three stones.

“I left them in my room. So I wouldn’t lose them.”

He sounded almost apologetic and Phin realized the man’s urgent tone was getting to all of them. But they didn’t even know who he was or what his deal was.

“How did you even get in here?” he demanded.

The man’s gray eyes met Phin’s. “The House allows all who need it to enter. It will also keep out the darkness. But not now that Icarus has passed.” He turned to Dakotah. “I am the gargoyle Michael. I will protect you while you retrieve the stones. But we must go tonight.”

Dakotah stood quietly for a minute. He seemed to be considering. Phin wondered what he had seen to make him believe, but whatever it was worked.

“Let’s go,” said Dakotah.

~*~

Michael led the way.

He’s not a gargoyle, he’s not a gargoyle, he’s not a gargoyle, Dakotah kept saying to himself. You hang out with Ike too much, he’s in your head.

Then why follow Michael? Are you going to lead him straight to your home?

Night had fallen and with only half a moon in the sky the block felt dark. They walked down the front steps and crossed to the gate. The two cat statues watched Dakotah leave with alert looks.

No, they didn’t, Dakotah thought.

A cat yowled a warning not a moment too soon.

As soon as they crossed through the gate a winged beast swooped at them, screeching a terrible sound. Everyone yelled and scattered except for Michael, who swung his arms and met the beast with an inhuman growl. Dakotah stumbled back into the street. Michael didn’t have a weapon but he didn’t seem to need one. “Run!” he called, and Dakotah was the first to get his head together.

“Run!” he said, pushing Phin and grabbing Valene’s arm. “RUN!”

A second beast flew at them and he was forced to let Valene go so they could avoid it. It screeched, swinging low so its taloned feet could latch onto Valene’s arm. Dakotah could barely get a good look at the thing. It was some cross between a vulture and a—a what? Like Michael, he couldn’t really get a fix on its appearance.

Michael was there, wrenching it off Valene’s arm and lunging for the beast. She staggered away. Michael winced and grabbed his side and the beast took the chance to tear at him with its talons.

“I can handle it, go!” Michael shouted at Dakotah. “Get the stones!”

“Come on,” Valene said shrilly.

Dakotah turned, and then they were all running down the block, faster than they’d ever run before.

They had barely left the sounds of the screeching harpies when new shapes melted from the shadows on the sides of the street.

Where are the streetlights? thought Phin, as the shadows took human form. He saw them with a strange double vision, as human adults with leering smiles, and as shadowy human forms whose mouths stretched from ear to ear and were filled with gnashing teeth.

One ghoul swung a club at his ribs. He leaped aside and kept running. Sharp, cackling laughter followed him as the ghouls hopped from shadow to shadow, keeping pace.

Valene and Dakotah were flagging, they weren’t runners like him and Pete. He shouted encouragement, falling back to keep them going while Pete took the lead. The ghouls lurched in again, their clubs scattering the kids. Phin ran for the sidewalk, using the row of trees and garbage cans and dark streetlights as a barrier.

Dakotah went to the sidewalk across the street. The club-wielding things screamed battle cries. Where’s Michael? he thought desperately.

He looked back as he ran and almost fell flat as his shoe caught a broken edge of sidewalk. He stumbled and caught himself and then whirled at the sound of a low growl.

A dog with the strong square face of a pit bull and the wings of an eagle barked its warning. Dakotah didn’t have double vision now, he saw the monster clearly.

The dog jumped for him—and Pete came out of nowhere and brained it with a wooden spar.

Dakotah gaped as the dog monster dropped like a stone. “Pete!”

“They’re after you,” she said. Her breath came fast. “Not us. You.”

“Who cares?” he half-gasped. “We’re all screwed if—f”

Another bark cut him off. They turned, seeing two more dog monsters close in. Pete raised her spar but Dakotah knew she couldn’t be fast enough.

The screech warned them of the impending harpy and he and Pete ducked—and the harpy flew right over and went for the dogs.

The monsters barked and screamed at each other as they fought.

“What—?” asked Dakotah, but Pete was already taking his arm and pulling him up the berm and into someone’s backyard.

The shadows fell even darker there and they could slow their pace and creep around corners.

Dakotah struggled to control his breathing. “They—they fought each other.”

Pete carried her wooden beam awkwardly in two hands. Her ponytail had been wrenched to the side so that her black hair fell loose on the side of her face. “They must not want to share you.”

Dakotah shuddered at her certainty.

It was probably only five minutes, but it felt like a lifetime by the time they reached Dakotah’s house. Pete put up her hand before Dakotah tried to cross the street, searching the sky and the sidewalks for any movement.

She almost jumped out of her skin when Phin and Valene appeared and beckoned to them.

They ran across the street, up the steps, and into the duplex foyer.

Pete threw her arms around her brother.

“I’m good,” he said. “You good?”

She released him and nodded.

“Phin figured out how to confuse the ghouls!” Val half-shouted. Her wild eyes roved the foyer.

“Shh!” said Dakotah. “Just…wait here. Everyone. I’ll get the stones.”

Pete’s knuckles were white as she clenched her beam. “We still have to get back, don’t we?”

“I’m sure Michael will come,” Val said uncertainly.

Phin pointed out, “Michael said bringing the stones back would make the shop a safe zone.”

“Once we get there.”

Pete took a breath. “We’ll split up again.”

“Fuck that,” said Dakotah.

“Seriously! We’ll make another distraction while you get back to the shop.”

“I don’t even know what to do when I do get back to the shop!”

“Well, we’ll just…” Pete faltered. “Figure that out. Ike can’t have just thrown you into this, can he? There must be…be instructions, or something.”

“I had no clue this was going to happen, if that’s what you mean. Ike never mentioned fucking trolls, or monsters, or basically anything about me dying.”

Shouts outside pulled all of their gazes back to the door. Val started in fear.

“Get the stones,” Pete ordered. She threw the door open.

“Hey!” yelled Phin as she went out, and he followed without hesitation.

Valene took a deep breath, meeting Dakotah’s eyes. “I guess…we’ll distract them. Go.”

 

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