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The Demon Within (A PeaceKeeper Novel Book 1)(6)

By:Stacey Brutger



She needed to focus on something else, anything before the thin thread that bound her emotions snapped and released all the rage burning deep in her gut. If Caly let loose the demon side of herself, she feared something fragile would break and she'd never gain control again. Never want to.

The plan. She had to figure out the demons' plan. She shoved away from the wall, noticing a disturbing tremor in her hands. Time was growing short if she had any hope to walk out of here as human.

The altars and their gruesome offering rested between her and the battle. Seven skeletons, all but one intact. Something important was slipping through her fingers as easily as the powder did in the gap between the blocks.

"Oscar, I need another look at the glyphs. I think the answers are hidden in plain sight."

"Do what you must, but hurry. We can't allow them to surround us."

Caly moved swiftly, weaving between the altars. Her heartbeat echoed in her skull, pounding in a cadence that urged her to push herself harder. She winced in sympathy under the heavy blows the men received. Three against two. "Henry, guard your left."

In a twist of amazing dexterity, Henry swung out and connected. Another one down. "I don't need your backseat fighting. Hurry it up and do what you have to and get back to your station."

The rebuke emerged with less than his normal vehemence, and her steps faltered. The sense of urgency mounted as the seconds trickled away. Caly scanned the wall, her eyes flicking from one glyph to the next. With the impression that humans had created the wall, she'd missed the importance of the temple. She traced her hands over the stone, viewing the images with new understanding.                       
       
           



       

Apprehension and a sick kind of excitement surged through her. Demons had written their own history. If she could find more clues, she might be able to find a way to suppress the demon in her and find a cure. "Oscar, I think the walls are lined with a kind of demon ritual."

"What type?"

She peered at the second to the last etching. The sacrifices. Everything clicked into place. "They were using humans as test subjects." She paused, and a sick sort of dread built in her gut. "There's an old myth about human blood containing the power to raise demons from the darkness." It was on this basis she hung her hopes. If human blood could raise demons, demon blood should be able to repress her side effects.

A grunt escaped, and Caly turned to see a creature attack Oscar with unusual ferociousness. The dim witted, slow demons that came first were used as fodder to wear them out. Now they were sending in the true soldiers, their appearance so close to human it was unnerving.

Oscar spoke between blows. "A myth?"

All moisture was stripped from her mouth as understanding dawned in fits and starts. She swiveled, her eyes drawn to the hidden wall. The words came slowly, her voice scarcely louder than a whisper. "We were sent to revive the guards. They're behind the walls. They need their bodies to rise."

The shape of the skeleton, the battle paraphernalia they wore, froze her down to the bone. She couldn't believe she didn't see it sooner. She'd been too distracted to notice the truth. "They're Fallen Ones."

"Angels?" Incredulous, Oscar faltered and took a blow to his leg. The demon chuckled in delight at the bright splash of blood seconds before Oscar struck back, beheading him. "You're sure?"

"Yes." Lightheaded, her muscles quivered under the strain to hold her weight as the horror of their mistake struck home. "I'm not sure if we woke them, or were just sent here in time to see it happen, but I can guarantee we weren't meant to survive. My guess would be we're an offering for them."

"Offerings for what?"

Caly lurched toward her station, giving the altars wide berth as if the skeletons would reach out and drag her close. "It can't be a blood type. The depictions show everyone in the village perished. They must be searching for something in the blood." She knelt, her mind jumped from one explanation to another, scrambling to discover even the smallest clue.

With a deep breath, Caly sent another plume of dust into the abyss behind the stone. The last of the metal scattered, but they were ready for her, blocked the stream of metal somehow. Instead of screams, growls of fury rippled across the base of her neck.

Great, she'd pissed off the Fallen.

Not able to physically hold back the stone, Caly pulled out two knives. One in each hand, she moved to stand at Oscar's side. "We have to leave. The only exit is through the demons. Three of us are no match for even one Fallen, not to mention seven."

Henry gave her a nod. "Agreed."

"No. They can't be allowed to gain access to the outside world." A thrust of Oscar's spear sent another demon to its maker. A bright flare appeared. A burned shape splashed on the stones, staining them like a flash fire. "We need to bring the temple down before they revive completely."

Henry gave her a startled look at Oscar's command. The demon used the distraction, and Henry staggered under a heavy blow. Caly stepped forward, slashing a deep groove across the creatures back. In a slow burn, the metal in her weapons ate away at the flesh. The creature spun, scratching frantically at the wound, ripping into its own flesh as the injury burned through its body.

The skin turned gray. The metal poisoning spread, drying out the flesh until only powder remained. With another thrust to its throat, Caly put the beast out of its misery, unable to stand for any creature to be tortured.

"We have to incinerate the bodies. They can't reach their skeletons and take physical form."

Three more demons rushed out of the darkness. Placing pressure on the heel of her boot, Caly twisted and a blade snapped out from the tip. She ran, spun mid-air and kicked out, laying open the scalp and half of the demon's face. The blade retracted when she landed. A howl rang out, echoing along sharply against the stones. Caly threw her knife, and the steel caught him high in the chest.

A killing blow. The caustic sound ended in a gurgle.

Not as strong as her opponents without tapping into her darker side, the most danger for her came from getting too close to the creatures. She was an equal to most humans in strength. Unfortunately, demons did not have the same weaknesses as humans.                       
       
           



       

It would be so easy to win if she gave into the urgings, the ugly need in her gut to lay waste to them. She refused to access that part of herself, the part that thrilled at the hunt and kill, compliments of the infection that had ravaged her body since she'd been a child. There would be no guarantee she could come back from the edge if she stepped over the line.

The last two demons disappeared in two bright flares, reduced to stains.

"Keep them busy. I'll set the charges. We'll have fifteen minutes to fight our way past the demons." The old man hurried to the right side of the entrance, his limp more pronounced.

"Set. Caly!"

"Got it." She moved on the other side of the entryway and deftly caught the bag he tossed. The device she pulled out was small, able to be worked by an idiot. It had only a digital readout, three buttons and two wires. With sweaty palms, she set the timer and nestled the bomb near the base of the temple. "Ready."

Standing, she turned, taking a blow to her right arm meant to separate her head from her body. The strength behind it instantly numbed her hand. Her blade clattered to the ground. Crouched to dodge a fist, she slipped free a long-handled knife she carried in the sheath along her spine. Four more demons entered. Henry fought two others, Oscar battled three.

Too many.

The clock counted down at the back of her mind, slowly growing louder as time elapsed. The greater the distance between them and the blast, the better the chance for their survival. A small voice inside her wailed at the loss of the temple, the loss of a possible cure.

Oscar took a blow to his weak leg and stumbled. Another demon swarmed forward. The snap of his arm, his grunt of pain reverberated through her.

"Oscar!"

He was unstoppable.

Indestructible.

Instinct took over, and Caly sent her blade tumbling through the air. It clipped one demon and landed solidly in the throat of another. The creature dropped Oscar's arm, giving him time to retreat.

It also gave her demon time to advance.

Clammy fingers crushed her throat. Unable to breathe or swallow, Caly tried to pry the creature's claws from her windpipe.

Only to find his grip too firm to break. She kicked him in the balls then went for his eyes.

Nothing worked.

A tinge of panic raced through her before she could clamp it down. Everything narrowed to the two of them.

Excitement burned like pure moonshine through her veins, the demon she harbored eager to join the fray.

A burnt smell clogged her nose as her metal wrist guards sizzled against the demon's flesh. The vicious grip lessened, and Caly snatched one of the last small blades. With a quick thrust to his solar plexus, the beast dissolved in a bright burst of light. The heat generated by the reaction singed the exposed skin of her throat, cooling only when the beast disappeared. A fine stain of black soot sifted over her.

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