Of Demons and Slayers - Part 1

by Sharmini

Main Characters: Seven

Alternate Universe

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, the Magnificent Seven do not belong to me. Not making any money from this either. But, for the love of the boys, I persevere.

A lil' note from the author: The idea for this story came after reading 'The Circle Trilogy' by Nora Roberts. There was a vampire in it and by the time I finished the book, I was imagining Ezra as the vampire. After that, everything else just fell into place. This fiction is based on Ms. Roberts' story, but I have taken a lot of liberties with it (not sure now if I should have). This particular fan fiction is kinda special because IT'S MY SEVENTH STORY...yay! Thank you for all who have read and enjoyed my other six 'babies'. The stories were fun to write and even more wonderful to be shared with others. As usual, please send in your feedback; it makes my day. And yes, the title is a bit dodgy...never was any good at giving names for my 'babies'.


Castle Dara

Queen Dara was supposed to be entertaining her ladies-in-waiting; the truth was she was not really paying attention to the compliments about choosing gold tapestries to hang in the Throne Room. The reigning monarch of Dara was waiting for her nephew to return from the village of Kells; John of Dara had been sent to settle a dispute between two merchants. It was almost dusk now and there was no sign of the young prince or his party.

Queen Dara was not worried for her nephew safety. John of Dara was the best horse rider and swordsman in the capital; a fact made known just his summer when he emerged the champion in the jousting tournament. The prince could look after himself well, not at all dependant on his bodyguards who shadow him everywhere. He was nearing his twentieth winter and the sense of excitement in him still prevailed over simple common safety sense. It was not considered a complete day if the prince does not return to the castle with an injury or two; if not on his person, then on those around him. The queen smiled at the thought. She really loves her nephew, who came under her care when his mother died when he was but five summers old. The prince's father was the queen's brother, who had been much occupied with expanding the borders of Dara than his young wife and their son. He died during battle and the prince barely remembers him. He regards Queen Dara as his mother. The queen, widowed in her first year of marriage after a hunting accident, poured all her love to the prince and was equally loved by him. Though he was the Crown Prince of Dara, he had been raised as any other boy in Dara. He was full of mischief and an unquenchable sense of adventure and a penchant for trouble, but he was also loyal, compassionate and loving. He would make a fine king one day...

But for now, the queen only wanted her nephew home. She looked beyond the castle gate from the windows of her sitting room; her ladies - in - waiting having their evening tea with her. Dusk was already upon them, but this evening's sunset was marred by the dark clouds gathering in the sky. There was a storm brewing. The queen hugged herself, feeling cold, though there was hardly any breeze blowing.

Hurry home, John, the queen thought to herself. And then she smiled.

It was as if John of Dara had heard her wishes. Queen Dara saw her nephew appearing at the pathway that led to the castle gates. He was riding his horse, accompanied by three advisors from the court. Even from thirty paces out, Queen Dara was amused to see that the advisors looked almost murderous and smeared with mud. She wondered what mischief John of Dara had been up to that day. The last time the prince went out with the three advisors, all of them had returned to the castle soaking wet and smelling like a horse trough. The prince claimed it was an accident and that the advisors were in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was a twinkle in his eyes spoke otherwise. And Vincent, John of Dara's best friend and partner in crime was nowhere in sight. Vincent, or as the prince addresses him, Vin, was a regular at the castle; a gypsy lad out of his place amongst finely - dressed and perfumed courtiers. John of Dara and Vin were the best of friends, having acquainted with each other during a brawl at the village tavern. The prince had been looking to break up a fight between two inebriated farmers, who threw punches wildly without realizing that one of their fists connected with the royal jaw. It was the gypsy lad that pulled John of Dara out of the brawl. And it was John of Dara who watched the gypsy's back when the farmers decided to focus their wrath on the 'unwanted kind'. A friendship was struck that day, much to the courtiers' chagrin. The queen approved; Vin might be a gypsy, but John of Dara had chosen his friend and the queen knew the prince would not choose the wrong kinds of friends. She had also met with Vin a few times and knows the gypsy had excellent manners, does not care about castle protocols and absolutely loyal to John of Dara. he was unexpectedly shy, blushing deeply when he presented the queen with wildflowers he picked from the meadows just outside the village. When Queen Dara kissed him for it, Vin looked as if he was going to collapse. Queen Dara found him endearing and was secretly pleased that John of Dara chose someone like Vin for a friend. She knew without a doubt Vin would rather die than let any harm fall on his friend.

The prince's entourage entered through the gates. Queen Dara left her chamber and went down to greet her nephew. Somehow she felt she needed to see him for herself to assure himself that he was safe. Queen Dara could not shake off the sense of foreboding knotting in her stomach. Maybe it was impending storm.

By the time the queen arrived at the inner courtyard of the castle, John of Dara had already dismounted and out of his riding robes. He gave the reins of his horse to one of the stable boys waiting for him and looked around. Immediately, a falcon flew down from above and landed of his shoulder.

"John," Queen Dara called, approaching her nephew.

"Nanna." The smile on John of Dara's face was infectious. The falcon too eyed her, bobbing its head once or twice as it did.

"How was your trip to the village?" Queen Dara asked.

Before John of Dara could answer, one of the advisors, a short, balding man spoke. "Delightful," he said, though his expression and the tone of his voice indicated anything but. "I have had the pleasure of witnessing mud wrestling in a pig sty!"

The queen turned to John of Dara, who merely shrugged. "The merchants did not want to talk..."

"Not after your gypsy 'friend' called him the lying son of a two-legged ..." the advisor remembered that he was in the presence of the queen, so he left the rest of the colorful statement hang in the air.

John of Dara turned to look at the advisor with a glare so ferocious that the advisor almost cowered back. "That merchant insulted Vin!" the young prince was livid. He turned to his aunt. "He ... he called Vin a ..." His words were interrupted as the falcon on his shoulder bristled. John of Dara remained silent.

"And Vin challenged him for a wrestling match?" the queen hazarded a guess, a small smile on her lips.

"No. The merchants started talking with their fists and soon, things got out of hand," John of Dara summarized. The advisor snorted, quite forgetting he was in the royal presence. There must be more to the story that what John of Dara had told her. much to her amusement, the three advisors did not open their mouth to protest the summarized version of it. perhaps, despite their disapproval of the prince methods of handling local disputes, they were still willing to give leeway for youthful indiscretion. The advisors excused themselves from the courtyard, muttering something about burning the clothes they were wearing.

The queen turned to her nephew. "Are you sure it is not your fault, John?" she asked, eyeing him with mock seriousness. "And where is Vincent? What is he hiding from?"

"He is around here," John of Dara said somewhat cryptically. "I will tell him you inquired about him, Nanna."

The queen eyed him carefully, but John of Dara looked innocent enough. the falcon too looked at her, its sharp gaze curious. Finally, the queen relented. "Fine, John," she said. "Keep you secrets." She turned back into the castle. "Come inside and wash up. I am sure you have worked up an appetite from your adventures."

John of Dara grinned. "Can I ask Vin to join us?" he called out to his aunt's retreating back.

"If you can find him!" was the queen's reply.

John of Dara watched the queen disappear into the castle. Twilight was upon them and the castle attendants were hurrying to light the torches in the castle pathways and the chandeliers in the chambers. No one was in the courtyard.

"Well?" John of Dara spoke to the falcon on his shoulder. The bird bobbed his head once and took off from his shoulder. It gave two flaps of its wings, before a shimmering, golden light engulfed it. seconds later, Vin, the gypsy, clad in his buckskin breeches and rough woolen shirt stood before John of Dara.

"Let's eat!" the gypsy grinned, his blue eyes twinkling. "I am hungry." He spoke in a rougher accent than John of Dara's more refined speech.

"When are you not?" John of Dara grinned. "Race you to the dining chambers..."

Before the John of Dara managed to finish his challenge, Vin had transformed himself into a black cat and shot into the castle. The prince of Dara gave a shout of protest before running in after his friend.

Rain fell with the twilight. And the creature perched on the roof of the highest tower of Castle Dara watched with much interest the antics of the young prince...and his shape-shifting friend.


Temple of Miranda
Late evening...

The rain clouds obstructed what was supposed to be a full moon that night. The night too was unusually cold for a summer's evening. Many thought it was because of the rain, but the High Priest at the temple of Miranda could not shake off the feeling that something more...sinister...than mere rainfall was afoot. The population of Kells, the capital of kingdom of Kells, must have sensed it too; the congregation for evening services was significantly more than what is usually expected during the week.

When rain finally fell, it did not have the calming effects Josiah has come to associate even with the bitterest of storms. It was as if the rain was falling with a vengeance; there was no lightning or thunder accompanying it. It was as if the rain itself was unnatural, trying to hide something behind the dark skies. Josiah abandoned his effort of trying to meditate and decided to compose his sermon for the morning service. It was an effort he knew to be futile, for no good thoughts, save that of foreboding malevolence, kept ruminating through Josiah's mind. But he kept to his task, more of distraction from the storm, rather than to have actual work done.

The fire in his chambers, the biggest of the private chambers in the complex of Temple Miranda, was reduced to its embers when a knock disturbed Josiah's solitude. Josiah was startled when he heard the noise, something which surprised the big man, for he is known not to be so easily startled or swayed. The sound rang loud in his chambers, echoing ominously. Josiah got up from his writing table and went to open the door, knowing very well that whatever news awaited him on the other side was not going to be a pleasant one.

"My Lord," the attendant bowed, once the door was opened. Josiah waited, his patience running excruciatingly thin. Protocols be damned; the fool would bow and get his titles correctly even if rained sulphur and brimstone, Josiah thought, mentally making up his mind to issue a decree to do away with protocols in the event of impending doom.

"Am I to wait a few more hours before you could speak again, Thomas?" Josiah said. The attendant was surprised. The High Priest was known for his infinite patience and tolerance. It was the first time...Thomas astutely stopped his thoughts from wandering too far away and spoke, as calmly as he could, considering the consequences.

"A wolf, My Lord," Thomas said. "The sentinels at the gate spotted the creature twenty paces from our gates."

The Temple of Miranda was situated near the edge of a thick forest, known to be inhabited by many creatures, both common and those derived from myths and legends. These creatures were usually peaceable; humans and animals alike have learnt to respect the boundaries between themselves. Animals have been known to wander into the temple complex, but nothing out of the ordinary has ever occurred. A wolf near the temple is nothing out of the ordinary. There was a pack living in the forest, a group of almost forty beautiful creatures that often visits the spring near the temple. Josiah knew the pack well, he has handfed a few of them, much to the chagrin of temple attendants who were sure he was going to be mauled. Nothing of the sort happened and the pack is known to recognize Josiah whenever he goes for a walk in the forest.

But a single wolf at the gates? Josiah knew these creatures do not stray far from the packs...Unless something has happened to the pack and this one has managed to escape...

"Tell the sentinels to open the gates, Thomas," Josiah said, moving back into his chambers to collect his robes. He was wearing his breeches and a woolen shirt. Thomas saw that the High Priest was reaching for his outdoor robes rather than his temple robes. Sometimes the High Priest took unnecessary risks not fitting a man of his...position.

"Perhaps someone else can fetch the creature, my lord," Thomas suggested, as Josiah stepped into the hallway and started walking towards the main complex of the temple building.

"Would you, Thomas?" Josiah asked, half in jest. He knew Thomas as a man of a fastidious nature. Thomas was a pious man, excellent preacher, but he left the unpleasant aspects of his duty as a preacher of the temple to others. Josiah did not hold it against the man. Not many sons of farmers actually become the High Priest of Miranda, as Josiah had.

"The guards can do it, my lord," Thomas pointed out. They were both at the gatehouse of the temple, a stone structure resembling a tower between the gates. Josiah climbed up the stairs and into the sentinels' watch chamber. Josiah ignored Thomas, who was close behind.

The sentinels stumbled between themselves when Josiah walked into the chamber. The small chamber was lit by a roaring fire in the iron stove; which did nothing much for warmth as wind was blowing into the room through the open windows, that were had been cut into the stone walls of the tower. One of the sentinels pointed towards the general direction outwards the temple complex. All Josiah saw was slick darkness.

And then, he saw a dark, hulking form limping closer towards the gates. it was a wolf, and from what little Josiah could discern, the creature was hurt.

"Open the gates," Josiah ordered, already on his way down the stairs.

"My lord..." Thomas raised the token protest, which, of course, he knew, will be ignored.

The sentinels, somehow used to the sometimes eccentric behavior of the High Priest, obeyed his orders. The gates were raised. Josiah, High Priest of Kells, stepped out of the temple complex and into the dark night. Perhaps it was a shock to his body, but Josiah swore the evening turned even chillier as he walked in the rain towards the creature waiting for him.


St. Anthony's Church
Late evening...

As it had for so long, the man willed himself and stepped into the church. He steered clear of the holy water, but went straight to the pews. Anybody bothered looking at him would have noticed that he did not cross himself when entered the church, nor did he turn to look at the wooden crucifix with the image of the Christ on it. He kept his head bowed, fighting pain, misery and desolation in this place that healed and gave hope.

He did not have a place here. Not in this building nor in this city. He was in the city on a mission. He was in the church because that was what he does every evening for the last five decades. His mission is for the sake of others; his visit to the church for the sake of himself, though he was convinced that there was nothing in him worth saving.

The church was empty, except priests preparing for evening mass. There was an old couple, lighting candles and talking in whispers to a priest. The church was serene; beautiful in its starkness. The man has seen many churches in his lifetime. All of them never failed to amaze him and all of them gave him a momentary sense peace he really craved.

He sat in his pew; his hands clasped as if in prayer. He was not sure if he was praying; he merely let his thoughts run, hoping that God or whoever it was that bothered would understand. He believed in God, but he was not sure if God acknowledges him. He was a travesty. He was not supposed to be.

His resolve against pain gave up after fifteen minutes. It was not as if he could not stand pain; he has endured worse in his lifetime. But these fifteen minutes in church was all he could give on a daily basis. He endures this pain because as he continues to live as none created by Him, these fifteen minutes of punishment brings a convoluted sense of peace to him. It was as if he was making a payment for his existence. The time he spends in church has increased over the years. There was time when he could not even walk pass this holy building without suffering from excruciating pain. He trained himself to endure the pain because it gave him, strangely enough, a sense of peace, which he has craved for two centuries.

It was already dark when he stepped out of the church. His head was still bowed. He steeled himself and turned to look at the crucifix. His vision was blurred; he had been denied again. he has been allowed to sit in the church, or at least, he allowed himself. But the sigil was denied from his unholy eyes. He nodded, as if he understood why it was happening. It has happened for the last two - hundred years. But he was not going to give up. He will be back tomorrow. And the day after that.

Ezra Standish lifted his head to the sky. The pain subsided to a dull throb and then it simply vanished. Slowly, his vision returned. But the blood that substituted tears in his eyes ran down his face. Unholy tears fell on the footsteps leading to the church. Even before the blood landed on the stone, he was gone. The blood hit the stone steps; dissolving into ash.

High above the church spire, the night sky swirled and Denver's already chilly evening descended into an ominous cold.


Larabee Ranch
Late evening...

Buck Wilmington felt the presence of the unholy being as he stepped out of the shower. Chris Larabee, who was pouring himself a drink, in the next room, dropped the bottle when he heard the crash from the bathroom.

"Buck," he admonished to himself as he ran out of the room, wondering how badly Buck had hurt himself this time. He also wondered if it was worth the hurt Buck was going through and knew the immediate answer for it. Yes, Buck had told him when they talked about it years ago. Every vision might physically hurt him, but they saved more lives than they could count thanks to these visions. A small price, Buck had added, smiling.

Buck was trying to get up from the tub, where he had fallen into. He had pulled the shower curtains when he fell and it was now hampering his movement.

"I got you," Chris said, pulling the plastic curtains away from Buck. He also removed the iron railings that had fallen into the tub. He held out his hand for Buck and tried not to get too pissed when he saw a gash on Buck's forehead. It was a small cut, no stitches necessary. Nathan's ointment could heal it in no time, minimizing the scar.

"Thanks, Chris," Buck said, getting up from the tub.

"Is it bad?" Chris asked.

"It's gotta be," Buck said, his fingers touching the cut. He winced when his finger made contact with the wound. "The thing was near a church. And not hurting from the experience!"

Chris frowned. "I was talking about your head," he said.

Buck waved his hand, dismissing what he thought to be inconsequence. "I'm okay." Buck turned his gaze on Chris. "But there's a vampire in town and it's ready to hunt."

Chris shook his head, trying not to get angry with Buck's disregard for his injury. But there were pressing matters to attend to and Buck's injury, once again, has to be put in the back burner for the time being. "The creature was near a church?"

Buck frowned, trying to remember. "The vision came suddenly." No surprises there, both Chris and Buck thought simultaneously. "I just caught a glimpse of it outside the church."

"Hunting?" Chris asked.

Buck thought for a while. "Not yet," he said

"It won't be long now," Chris said, leaving the room. "I'll call Nathan."

Buck nodded to anyone in particular and stood in his room, trying to regain his composure. the wound on his head forgotten. there were more pressing matters to attend, like hunting down creatures from a nightmare than superficial wounds. It was the same thing he has told himself time and time again for the last seven years.

But this evening, he wondered how he was going to tell Chris that after seven years of searching, the creature responsible for killing Chris's family was back.

He also wondered how he was going to tell the slayer that the creature promised to kill Buck all by itself.

Damn vampire can try. But Buck Wilmington ain't goin' down without a fight.

The thoughts did nothing to quell the uneasiness that had settled in the pit of his stomach. In his mind's eyes, he saw quite vividly what the creature had planned for him.


Temple of Miranda...

As the High Priest of Miranda, Josiah thought he has seen it all. Every kind of disease and madness; even those that required spiritual balm than actual poultices. He sees miracles everyday, the very fact he is blessed with a life is a miracle for him. But that evening, when he bent down to pick up the wolf that had came to a fall in front of the temple gates, everything Josiah knew of magic, both pure or otherwise, and miracles was rewritten. For once what he thought to be a myth occurred right in front of his eyes. When his hand touched the creature's body, a shimmer passed through it, made brighter still for the darkness of the night. And where just mere moments ago the wolf had lain, a young man was curled up on his sides, unmoving.

"Gods," the word stumbled out of Josiah's mouth. He closed his eyes and opened them again, praying to see the wolf. When he opened them again, a pair of blue eyes was looking up at him.

A wolf changing into a human? Was it a demon? Josiah has heard of shape - shifting humans but it was supposed to be a myth. One of the lore spun by the gypsies...

"Castle...attack...John of Dara..." was all the young man said before he fell unconscious again.

Josiah's heart began to beat faster when he heard the words from the young man. For a moment, he found himself unable to move. He wondered if the young man...if it really was human...was speaking the truth. Was he a demon sent to test the High Priest? It would not be he first one, for the High Priest has fought both demons seen and unseen in his lifetime. But why use the prince's name? Was it setting a trap? Was the royal family in danger?

Josiah looked down at the young man again, and saw that he was bleeding from a wound on his side. Josiah immediately began to pick him up. Demons don't bleed. The young man was human. And that was when he saw the medallion the young man was clutching. It was the medallion of Miranda, worn by the namesake of the goddess who was the queen of the kingdom. The medallion was a call for help. The unthinkable has occurred...

Josiah was already bellowing orders before he got into the temple complex. The young man lay unconscious in his arms.

"All the sentinels, my lord?" Thomas was bewildered, as Josiah ordered the sentinels to get ready to ride to Castle Dara. "The temple will be unprotected!"

Josiah turned away from the temple physician who had surprised to have a young man thrust into his arms. The physician would have collapsed if a sentinel standing nearby had not rushed forward to receive the prone form of the young man.

"The temple is not in danger, Thomas," Josiah said, striding towards his chambers. "Castle Dara has been breached..."

"The castle has its own sentinels, my lord. The queen has soldiers," None of it made sense to Thomas. "And who is that young man? How did he get past the sentinels?"

Josiah turned to Thomas. "Castle Dara is enchanted, Thomas. Nothing can breach its walls," Josiah said, as he opened a large cupboard. "Nothing human, that is." Josiah reached into the cupboard and took out a battle axe. He also took out two swords. Thomas's eyes widened. He looked as if he needed a drink. "Stay in the temple, Thomas," Josiah told him as he made his way out of the chambers again. "Do not let anything nearer than thirty paces to the temple walls, though I am sure that the temple is not the target. Keep an eye on the young man. Tend to his wounds and give him food. But never take your eyes off him." Josiah turned to look at Thomas again. "Should he prove to be...not a human...the ash of oak should be able to stop him."

"My lord," Thomas began, but Josiah shrugged it off.

"Pray to Miranda, Thomas. Only she can help us now."

Thomas watched the High Priest walk determinedly to the temple courtyard, where a stable hand was standing with his horse. "Miranda keep you, Thomas," Josiah said, before mounting his steed.

Thomas opened his mouth to say the same, but Josiah had already pulled the reins of his horse. Josiah was the first to ride out of the temple complex, followed by fifty sentinels, all of them horseback and in full battle regalia. Thomas was turning away as the last sentinel rode out of the courtyard when he saw a horse without a rider galloping to join the others. He frowned, wondering if one of the horses in the stable had escaped.

"Thomas!" the temple physician was running towards him. "Did you see him?"

Thomas shook his head, wondering if everyone has developed the habit of talking in riddles.

The physician came to stop next to Thomas. He paused momentarily, panting to get his breath back. "The young man Lord Josiah brought in is missing!" the physician said, looking worried. "along with the fruit basket in my chambers!"


City center...

Rain fell with an insistent force that evening; as if covering for something malevolent that evening. There was no wind, no lightning or thunder, just the sky opening up and rain fall blanketing the whole city.

Nathan was at the back of his shop, packing wooden stakes and extra clips of silver bullets into a sack. He also reached out for bottles of holy water, crosses and shavings from a wooden cross said to be blessed by St. Peter himself. He got that from a friend of a friend who is a demon dealing with supernatural artifacts. The demon could not handle the 'hot' item and offloaded it as quickly as it could. Price? Two hours headstart before Larabee hunted him down. Chris gave it forty-five minutes and found it at an abandoned building in downtown Denver and unleashed his own version of hell. Nathan never thought he had ever seen a demon cry before that day.

Nathan smiled, despite the grimness that engulfed him. His was not an ordinary job and he doubted if anyone who asked for his job description would stay sane after hearing it.

There was also the likelihood that whoever listened to it would be inclined to personally send Nathan to the nearest psychiatric treatment facility...but then again, who would be protecting them against the things that go bump in the night?

Nathan checked his sack one last time and closed the storage cupboard; he did the three locks and bolts and touched the runic lettering on the hinges. The letters glowed and faded. Nathan was the only one who could open the cupboard. the enchanted runes that protected not only the cupboards, but the front doors of both his shop and home. he knew he would have no trouble with vandals in his shop, supernatural or otherwise, but there is no such thing as being too careful.

Satisfied with his choice of weapons, Nathan made his way out of the backroom; his hand instinctively taking the first-aid box on the table. He knew for a certainty he would need it before the night ended. He knew Buck would need it sooner when Chris called him to get ready 'for a night out'. Chris's phone calls usually meant Buck had a vision and these visions, usually followed by a night of hunting the creatures that existed only in the nightmares of most people, was preceded by basic first aid for Buck.

Nathan sighed as he put his gear on the counter of his shop. Sometimes he wondered the irony of it. here they were, Chris, Buck and Nathan fighting demons and vampires and God only knows what else that decides to make an unscheduled appearance in the city. As far as he knew, they were the only ones doing it. there could be others, but Nathan seriously doubted they would be advertising their line of work. Secrecy is part of their work and life. It kept the rest of the world safe....ignorance is bliss. And he knew they did a good job at it. Larabee was a third-generation slayer who never backed down even from the most foulest demons. Buck was a Seer and Nathan was the Shaman who was also the designated healer. Demons could hardly step into the city without Chris and the rest of them throwing it a 'welcoming' party. Vampires feared them and had never been known to venture into Denver intentionally. demons feared them too, of course, but lacked the mental capacity to manifest the fear into something a simple as not showing up in Denver...Larabee's town.

We did all the things right.

But why was it they we got nothing in return for it?

Sure, they were saving countless lives...but demons slayers, unfortunately, had to eat and had bills to pay. Chris's inheritance was almost gone and his ranch was in the verge of being taken over...after being mortgaged for the third time. Nathan's own business was a joke. The store was just a front. 'Apothecary' it said on signboard. His only customers were the so-called Goth types that came for black candles and instruments for summoning the devil. Nathan wondered why they would want to do that, but humored them nonetheless with the things he bought retail at the mall. They could have never guessed its difference.

And what about Buck's 'gift'? Every vision comes with a bloody price tag and for the three years Nathan had known them, Buck had never had a vision without him sustaining any physical injury. The injuries depended on the intensity of the vision; Buck was once thrown right across the room when a vision quite literally hit him. it was an Irnalla demon hiding in the sewers of Denver. Took them three days to bring it down. Nathan has a teeth from it; a twelve - inch thing often mistaken for ivory.

Nathan's musings were interrupted by the front door of his shop being opened. the bell above the door chimed, but its sound was drowned by the rain. Chris Larabee, clad in his usual black, strode in, his leather coat flapping around his calves. His mood seemed fouler than the weather outside. Buck followed close behind, his usual grin in place and a plaster on his forehead that was much too small for the wound it was supposed to be covering. He wore a Hawaiian shirt that was way too cheerful for the evening's work.

"Hey, Nathan!" Buck called, displaying no discomfort despite the wound. "Ready for some action?"

"In this weather?" Nathan replied, picking up the sack and the first-aid box. "Why does it always have to rain when these creatures make an appearance? Why can't we fight a demon in Aruba for once!"

Chris and Buck smirked; Chris took the sack from Nathan. "Buck got injured," he told Nathan unnecessarily. Buck told them both he was perfectly fine.

Chris and Nathan shook their heads as they followed Buck out of the shop. Nathan did not bother locking behind him. Nobody breaks into his shop, and even if they did, they would not be stealing anything worth more than a dollar ninety-nine...give or take. As Nathan fell in step behind Chris and Buck, he suddenly felt as if someone...something was watching them. He turned towards the building across the road.

Nothing. Shadows shifted. Nathan turned back, walking towards Chris's Ram.

"Something wrong?" Chris asked, eyeing the Shaman.

Nathan's gut feeling has never let him down before. "Building across the street," he told Chris. Chris turned to Buck, who was getting into the driver's seat.

"That's not the target," Buck said simply. "A late customer of yours..." The words barely left his mouth when Buck's body jerked. He slammed unto the steering wheel.

"Buck!" Chris yelled, getting into the passenger side, while Nathan rushed around the car to the driver's seat.

Buck's head was on the steering wheel, his hands hanging by his side. Chris touched his shoulder, gently moving him back, while Nathan checked the extent of his injuries this time.

Buck opened his mouth to speak, but could form no words. Nathan suspected his ribs were busted. "..church..." he finally managed. "St. Anne's, across town...I'll drive..."

"The hell you will!" Chris said, as Nathan helped Buck out of the driver's seat. Chris maneuvered himself into the seat Buck had reluctantly vacated. Nathan got Buck into the passenger and got in next to him.

"Second vision in one evening?" Nathan finally spoke his doubts after ensuring Buck was going to be all right. A few bruised ribs. he knew the fool would not listen to him when he asked him to take it easy.

"Is it the same demon?" Chris asked as he gunned the engine. Powerful headlight cut through the darkness ahead.

"No," Buck said, shaking his head. He hesitated. Chris saw the apprehension Buck's eyes through the rear view mirror. He did not ask the question, for Buck spoke moments later. "Seven demons. Crossing over from another dimension. The demon for my first vision should also be there."

The Ram increased speed as its driver foot instinctively pressed down the gas. Buck and Nathan saw the grim set of Chris's jaw and vice-like grip in which he held the steering wheel.

Demons were in for a bad night.

Ezra Standish heard the name of the place the slayers were headed too. He had been watching Shaman's shop since it started raining. He never expected the Shaman to feel his presence...he will not underestimate the man again. The black clad Larabee had slain countless demons and vampires, but anger still raged within him; Ezra felt it right all the way to the rooftop where he had stood one with the shadows. And the Seer...an unfortunate blessing. They certainly made a wonderful exhibition to observe, but there was pressing matters to attend to. Ezra moved away from his post, the smell of the Seer's blood invading his senses. Sweet...succulent...the very elixir of life itself....

Ezra closed his eyes and willed himself not to think of the blood, not to smack his lips in anticipation. There was a battle looming ahead. Perhaps later he would indulge himself. But now, he must finish what he came here for.

Ezra arrived at the building across the church the same time Larabee was pulling the Ram unto its curb. It was supposed to be a fifteen-minutes drive, but Larabee made it in seven. Ezra smiled to himself. The slayer was determined...but determination alone cannot win battles. Chance and luck are always a factor in any battle.

Ezra stood on the ledge of the building opposite the abandoned church. rain fell with ferocious insistence, bringing with it an intense darkness that was no longer natural. But Ezra had the three of them in his vision; despite them being in the building.

The sky above swirled. It would not be long now.


St. Anne's Church...

The church has been abandoned for three years now, having lost most of its congregation to gang wars and other crimes that littered this part of the city. The church had fought valiantly to remain open, but too many casualties on the diocese and no priest wanted to endure Hell on earth on a daily basis. The church was shut down; derelicts and junkies moved in immediately. It was the hottest real estate in Purgatorio; a serviceable roof and pews that could be burned for fire. With the neighborhood's reputation, Chris was not surprised demons chose this place for hiding or coming in. Nobody would notice anyone missing and mauled or defiled corpses were such norm when it found that no one would bother asking questions. Chris has hunted here before. and knew the place very well. He got down from the Ram and stood at the stone steps leading up to the church's front door.

"Let's rock and roll," Buck said, standing next to Chris, rolling a battle axe in his hands.

Nathan rolled his eyes. Buck was always comes up with tacky lines like that.

He must have hit his head harder than I thought.

"What?" Buck said, looking at Nathan and Chris who had turned to look at him. "That's a lot better than 'hey, hope you guys don't get eaten,'!"

Chris and Nathan would have laughed; if a four-handed Piraka, nasty things that lived in caves and ate liver for breakfast, did not come crashing through the door. The seven-foot creature landed near the three of them, unmoving.

"Party started without us?" Buck asked, raising his eyebrow. Chris shrugged, indicating he had no idea. He gestured for Buck to follow him, while Nathan took care of the Piraka. They would not have left him if the thing was conscious, but even then, Nathan could have taken of it himself. Piraka was the Backstreet Boy of the demon universe. There were things a lot worse than a pit creature with liver breath.

Nathan lifted his axe to sever the creatures head when he realized it was already dead. Half of its body was singed and smoke was wafting of it. Nathan bent down and touched the Piraka's scaly body. He examined the burn.


Nathan started running up the stone stairs.

"Chris! Buck! Don't..." he yelled.

Chris and Buck had already entered the church and stood stunned at the broken down door; staring at the altar directly in front of them. Nathan came to a stop next to Chris. "There's a..." he followed their line of vision and his eyes widened.

"Dragon," Chris and Buck answered, their eyes fixed on the gold-scaled creature currently battling three demons. The creature had to be at least twenty feet long, with leonine features. Its serpentine body glowed, illuminating the dark room. Smoke wafted from its nostrils. Two demons jumped on its back, but it rolled over, pinning them on the floor, while its claws slashed out at the other one which were already coming for it.

"We've got to help the dragon," Buck said, already moving towards it, when a body came crashing through the pews, landing at Buck's foot.

It was a human. Buck turned the prone figure over and saw that it was boy, dark-haired and looking no older than eighteen. He bent down to examine the boy. still alive but the wound on his shoulder was a bite mark.

"Demon?" Chris asked, drawing his special-caliber gun from his shoulder holster. He preferred the non-messy, fuss-free convenience of using a gun rather than a sword or an axe.

Buck shook his head. Chris acknowledged this and took his position in front of Buck, who was already of the target of a Nuirama; the demon most probably had tried to take a bite out of the boy. Chris raised his gun and was about to fire when the demon screamed, eyes widening. Moments later, the demon was bleeding from a wound in its abdomen. The creature fell down as a man standing behind it pulled his of sword of its back.

He was a large man, barrel - chested and silver-haired. He looked older than Chris, but there was no doubting the strength emanating from the man. When his eyes caught Chris's he nodded, almost as if recognizing him.

Chris replied by raising his gun again and taking aim. He squeezed the trigger and shot the Jahada demon, which was about to pounce on the man. The demon fell a few inches behind his back.

"thank you, brother," the man's baritone cut through the roars and screams of the battle at the altar. Chris gave a faint nod. He glanced at the dragon, overwhelming two demons, while ripping a part a third.

"The dragon yours? Chris asked, turning back to the man.

"What dragon?" there was laughter in his voice as the man turned to the altar.

Chris frowned. How could someone miss a twenty-foot dragon fighting three demons?

But when he turned to altar, there was no dragon there. Where the dragon once was, a lion stood in its place, roaring to sound a warning against demons that were waiting to overpower it.

The boy Buck and Nathan had been examining woke suddenly when he heard the roar. "No! Vin!" he cried, scrambling to get himself.

"Whoa, easy there, Kid," Buck said, laying a restraining hand on the boy's shoulder.

"I have to help Vin," the boy said, shrugging away Nathan and Buck.

"You stay put," Buck said. "I'll help your friend."

The boy turned to face Buck. "Who are you?" he asked, realizing that he was surrounded by people who were not trying to gut him alive.

"A friend," Buck said, smiling. "Unless you're a demon, of course..."

"I am not a demon!" the boy cried, angrily, unaware the two men had already figured he was not. "Maybe you are!" His hands instinctively went towards his belt, probably looking for his weapon.

"Do I look like I'm trying to eat you!" Buck yelled back; Nathan tried to hide his smile.

The boy looked at Buck and then, without any warning, he pushed Buck aside. Buck, surprised at first and then pissed, scrambled back to his feet, ready to whup the Kid...

The Kid was lying on top of Scarpy, a demon which is a cross between a harpy and a scorpion. Ugliest things in the world, made more vile by the poisonous sting of its tail. It had a face even a mother could not love. The Kid was battling it with his bare - hands, escaping being stung by mere reflexes.

Buck smiled, standing up. Kid's got guts...and the Scarpy was about to spill it open. Buck gave a yell and launched himself to tackle the Scarpy of the Kid. It's about time the ugly sucker picked on somebody its own size.

Nathan saw that Chris and Buck were holding out on their own. He got up to his feet and started looking around, battle axe in his hand. Seven demons emerged from a portal; one was dead outside, Chris took one down, as did the other man. The dragon...

What the hell?

The dragon was no longer there. A lion was pouncing on a demon, trying to shake off another two which was clinging on its back. Chris and the other man made tentative steps towards helping the lion.

A shapeshifting dragon?

Or was it a shapeshifting lion?

Nathan shook his head. mysteries can be solved after the demons are killed. Nathan made a mental calculation...all the seven demons were accounted for and already having a really bad night. but, Nathan could not shake off the feeling that something has been overlooked. Though he did not have the precognition powers that Buck had, he has been raised to be well-tuned to his environment. He KNOWS that something was not right.

Buck had two visions this evening.

The seven demons his friends, the other humans and the shapeshifting dragon (lion?) were fighting was not the actual threat. Those demons were mindless pit - creatures...minions. They could not be this organized...this persistent. A whiff of Larabee should have sent most of them fleeing into the nearest sewer, not put up a fight.

Where is demon that came before all these?

Nathan took the stairs near the door to the upper gallery. It once where the choir would have stood. Now it was littered with cardboard boxes, mattresses and an assortment of thrash. The only light here came from the streetlights; faint as if almost reluctant to shine in a truly God forsaken place.

"Come here, ugly! I ain't done withcha yet!" Buck's voice carried towards Nathan. Nathan could not help looking down to the main hall, where the battle was taking place. The Scarpy was trying to run away from Buck; who had caught hold of its ankles. The Kid stood nearby, enthralled and disgusted. It was probably his first experience with a demon.

Further up the altar, Chris had already brought down one of the demons on the lion's back. This only pissed of its friend, who decided it wanted to take on Larabee. With a scream, the Lathian demon jumped towards Chris, knocking his gun from his hands. It gave a cackle as it took the gun using its prehensile tail and broke in two.

Well, no one ever said demons were supposed to be smart, Nathan thought. Chris had already been pissed this evening. And now this demon broke his gun.

Larabee made a move towards the demons and grabbed its throat, ignoring the sharp claws and snapping mouth filled with sharp teeth. He threw the demon against the pillar, knocking it unconscious. He could have used his other gun, but this time, the demon had made it personal.

The silver - haired man had taken on the last of the two demons. The Irnakk demon had a bull's head and humanoid body, standing eight feet tall. The man did not even flinch when the demon knocked his sword down. Instead, he stood his ground and started to chant something.

A priest?

Shit. When did the Church find out about us...

Nathan's apprehension was short - lived when he realized that the man was not muttering any of the conventional prayers known to this world.

Great. Inter-dimension travelers. As if we don't have enough to deal with.

The demon was visibly weakening and started screaming as the words hurt it more than any weapon. It covered its...well, it could be considered an ear, whatever the appendage jutting out from the sides of ugly mug was. It began to buckle, as if the man was laying brick after brick on its back. The man did not falter in his chanting. He approached the demon, now on its knees, holding a medallion in front of him. the demon gave one final scream before imploding.


"Josiah, that was amazing!" the kid managed to say, deftly avoiding the Scarpy's tail as Buck held it aloft, standing on the remains of a pew. Josiah shook his head, calmly wiping the purple goo on his robes.

Man, I sure hope this guy's on our side.

Nathan turned to look at the lion, which was pouncing on the Nazlak demon. The battle was over even before the Nazlak demon could react. A bite to the jugular and the demon collapsed. The lion was pinned under the demon. And that was when something really weird, more so than the events of the evening occurred.

The prone body of the lion began to shimmer.

Chris and the Lathian demon stopped hitting each other to see what was going on.

Buck dropped the Scarpy on its head. Again. This time, it was not deliberate.

Everyone was frozen where they were standing, or lying down, watching the lion, as if mesmerized.

Nathan clutched his battle - axe tightly.

The Kid moved towards the shimmering light.

Buck opened his mouth to protest, but then he did not speak anything. The kid looked like he knew what he was doing.

The kid pulled the Nazlak off the lion and looked at the light; waiting.

And then, the lion was gone.

A young man lay on its place, barely conscious.

"A shapeshifter," both Buck and Nathan said, not believing what they saw.

The Kid bent over the young man. "Vin?" he called. The young man, who was previously a dragon and then a lion, moaned, opening his eyes. "Are you all right?" the kid asked.

"I'm hungry!" came the reply. The Kid laughed.

The battle continued, as Chris was flung across the room. He slid on the floor and came to rest on next the large man's discarded sword.

Nathan saw the feral smile on Chris's face as he stood, sword in his hand. The Lathian demon charged. Chris swung his sword.

The Lathian split into two. Yellow pus covered the floor

"Not bad, pard!" Buck said, his Scarpy's head at an unnaturally unnatural angle from its neck. He threw the demon aside and went towards Chris. "You've seen Nathan?"

"Over here," Nathan said, from the gallery, raising his battle-axe in acknowledgement. "I'm just going to look around." He did not wait for their reply. Nathan ventured into the darkness ahead, determined to find something...anything that was unsettling him.

"So, that's seven demons down, three humans alive and ...um..." Buck's voice railed off as he turned towards the other men. And the shape - shifting creature. He knew the creature was not a demon; no internal alarm bells ringing. Besides, demons only have the form they are in. They are not known to be able to shapeshift. Though Buck personally thought they should have been able to do so...how they managed to get by with those ugly mugs, he will never understand.

"We're humans too, brother," the large man answered, as he helped the shape-shifter to his feet. "Including our friend here."

"What is this place?" the kid asked.

Chris and Buck thought for a while. If the kid and his posse were inter - dimensional travelers, the explanation he sought would take a very long time...unless of course they were used to dimension - hopping. But the puzzled and slightly looks they wore told a different story.

"This is Denver," Chris said. "You're in a church."

"This is a place of worship?" the large man frowned, his tone that of disbelief.

"Used to be," Chris replied. And then got straight to business. "Who are you?" His eyes fell on the shape-shifter, now standing on his own. The young man with the shoulder - length hair looked back at him, his gaze never wavering. Buck had to be impressed by that; people usually shrink away from Larabee's stare.

"I am John of Dara," the kid spoke, with an authority that belied his age. "This is my friend, Vincent..."

"Vin," the shape - shifter corrected.

"And I am Josiah, priest of Miranda," the large man spoke for himself. Chris had the distinct feeling that the priest was more than a man of cloth. He had seen the large man...Josiah swing his sword and knew that it came from a lot of battle experience. "You fight like a warrior, brother. Who are you?"

"Chris Larabee."

"Buck Wilmington. He's the designated demon - slayer," Buck explained, jerking his thumb towards Chris. "And Nathan's upstairs. Where you guys from?" he asked.

"Kells, in the kingdom of Dara," John of Dara replied. Suddenly, his calm demeanor disappeared. "I do not understand this! Moments ago we were in Castle Dara, fighting the demons...and now...where..."

Josiah moved to put a hand on John of Dara's shoulder. Chris and Buck watched, not knowing their move. They could not just abandon the three here...or anywhere. As Buck moved towards the kid, Chris realized the decision has already been made.

There are weirder things to take home, I guess.

"John of Dara, the castle holds a very important secret," Josiah explained. "It has a doorway that opens into other worlds..."

John of Dara opened his mouth to say something, but he could not form the words. He shook his head. Josiah continued. "These doorways may open anywhere but it can only be entered through certain places. The portal in Dara is in the castle's Throne Room..."

"Which is why the castle was under siege by those...foul creatures," John of Dara's voice trailed off.

"They were seeking to get out of Dara?" Vin asked, speaking for the first time. Chris noticed that his clothes were not as refined as the other two.

"That's possible," Chris offered. "Though demons usually aren't that smart. Something led them to your...castle."

John of Dara was about to say something when Nathan's scream was heard. Buck and Chris reacted reflexively, grabbing the weapon nearest to them and running towards the stairs that led to the gallery upstairs. Josiah and John of Dara followed close, while Vin shimmered into an eagle and flew up towards Nathan's screams.

The smell of death and evil from the church was overpowering. Humans may have desecrated the holy place but hope always lingers even in the most God - forsaken place. God was always kind to humans, even those in Purgatorio, and has never truly left the place...until this evening when portals between worlds were opened and creatures vile and evil walked through them. God has abandoned this place once and for all.

the creature watched from the shadows the battle between humans and demons. and smiled, despite the fact the demons it brought over through portal were killed one by one. It hardly matters; the demons were lackeys...distractions. The humans will tire soon and that is when, the creature intends to reveal itself.

The Shaman's presence upstairs alerted the creature.

One of the slayer's teammates...friend.

The creature, a thousand-year old vampire, with a thousand names, smiled.

Perfect. First, the Shaman. Then, the Seer. And finally...Larabee.

His mission would be over very soon. And his mistress would be very proud of him.

The Shaman moved cautiously across the shadows, occasionally glancing down at his team mates battling below. The battle was almost over. The creature smiled at the inconsequent death counts; demons were stupid. Not smart like him or his kind. Or his mistress; the one who made him a thousand years ago. And his mistress would be pleased to know that he took out Larabee's team all by himself.

The creature turned itself from its perch on the church's ceiling, directly above the Shaman. It has waited long enough. and it was getting hungry. Inter - dimensional travels do work up an appetite.

The creature vaulted off from the ceiling, fangs bared.

The Shaman looked up just then. He froze, the battle-axe dropping from his hands.

He screamed.

Ezra bounded through the broken windows, pushing the Shaman away from the creature in a series of movements that defied logic and law of gravity. The Shaman slammed against the balcony railings, unhurt.

"Traitor," the creature spoke, landing on its feet, its blood-red eyes fixed on Ezra.

Ezra gave a sardonic smile and charged forward; to kill the creature that has brought him two hundred years of pain and misery.

Chris arrived at the top of the stairs to see Nathan skidding across the floor and coming to a stop at the railings that was thankfully still strong enough to withstand the force of Nathan slamming into it. Buck and the large man went towards Nathan, while Chris scanned the room. And saw the creature that has haunted his nightmares for the last seven years, holding up a man slight of build, with its hand around the man's throat. The man's feet thrashed three feet off the floor.

"Fowler?" Chris's voice was a whisper, but it was loud enough for Buck to turn. The creature too turned and saw Chris. a grotesque parody of a smile stretched across its leathery face.

"Larabee," the creature spoke, its voice the sound of chilled wind. It turned fully towards Chris, no longer interested in the other man, for it threw him across the room.

Chris never saw it, but Josiah saw the man turn, quite gracefully, from the rough shove he was dealt with and land on his feet. On the wall opposite them. He stood vertical against the floor.

Buck did not see it too, for he was now standing next to Chris. The creature they both knew as Fowler smacked its lips. "You came too," it spoke, a gnarled hand with talons for fingers pointed at Buck. the creature only had one hand.

Chris heard Fowler's voice but all he saw were flames of horror from three years ago. And the screams he long thought he had buried rose with the flames. The voices of his wife and son perishing painfully in the fire. And the laughter of the creature that grew with every anguished cry of Chris's.

Seven summers ago, Chris was hunting the creature that had arrived in Denver with the sole purpose of destroying Chris Larabee's life. On their first encounter, Chris was stabbed in the back and Buck had severed the creature's hand. Chris spent a night in the hospital but the vampire was pissed because it cannot grow a new limb. Buck was picking up Chris from the hospital the next evening when a vision struck him. He was flung across Chris's ward and when his body hit the wall, Nathan and Chris heard the sickening crack of bones. Buck slid down, smearing the wall with blood from the back of his head. it was the worst injury Chris had ever seen Buck sustain in thirteen years he has known him. Chris was discharged but stayed on at the hospital, with Nathan. Buck regained consciousness three hours later and Chris right there beside him in the ward. when Buck saw Chris, it was with horror. He was yelling at Chris, to go save Sarah and Adam, all the while tugging the IV lines from his hands, as he got out of bed. Chris was stunned when he heard this, but needed no second prompting. He drove like a madman through the city and arrived at his ranch half an hour later. And saw the flames that engulfed his house. Buck arrived with Nathan just in time to hold Chris back from running into the collapsing house. They were spared the screams of Sarah and Adam, but the Buck was forced to relive the horror of the flames once again, as he had seen in his vision at the hospital earlier. And somewhere in the flames, they heard cackle of laughter that gained much pleasure of the anguish of the men. Chris Larabee's anger never dissipated from that moment on. And Buck has to live with the vision of Sarah and Adam that haunted his dreams from that night onwards.

The flames engulfed the house died down and Chris went back to demon hunting. He also found that the bottoms of whisky bottles silenced the screams he never ceased to hear since that night. he hunted for Fowler, killed many other creatures and finally came face - to - face with the vampire that destroyed his life at an abandoned train station. though he had been drinking, Chris managed to hold out very well against the vampire; his slayer instincts not dulled by the alcohol. But with Fowler taunting him at every step, Chris emotions got the better of him. the vampire seemed to grow stronger, despite the exchanging blows with Chris, Buck and Nathan. Despite fighting with only one hand. Buck had one last chance to dust him when suddenly a portal had opened and Fowler was forcibly taken through it. that was the last they saw Fowler.

"You!" John of Dara's voice cut through the haze of memories and pulled him back to the present. The kid was following close behind them and was now nudging past Chris and Buck. "You were at the castle!"

"And your aunt tasted...wonderful..." the smile on Fowler's face turned into a leer.

When John of Dara heard the words, he yelled and rushed towards the creature.

"No!" Chris and Buck yelled together. But it was too late.

Fowler moved to grab the boy. Even Chris's lightning reflexes could not stop him.

Ezra intercepted Fowler.

The eagle hovering above Fowler shimmered and a bear pounced on the vampire's back.

Fowler threw back his head and screamed as the bear sank its teeth onto his shoulder.

Chris raised his sword and charged, wanting to end right then.

Buck charged with his battle - axe, hoping to inflict some pain on Fowler.

Fowler gave a roar and straightened his back, throwing the bear off his shoulder. The bear landed near Nathan, who was getting up with the help of Josiah. there was a shimmer and Vin lay, groaning.

Ezra found himself being pushed aside, as the young man entered the fray, armed with only his bare hands.

Fowler turned his attention to Buck, and swiped him with the back of his arm. Buck was thrown against the few remaining pews, but quickly got back on his feet.

Chris's charge was halted as Fowler caught his throat and began to lift him up.

"You are mine," Fowler said, bringing Chris closer to his face.

John of Dara charged, tackling Fowler to the ground in a move worthy of the most hardened football players. Fowler went down, releasing Chris.

The vampire lay groaning on the floor, not expecting to be outnumbered...overwhelmed.

Where did all these humans come from?

And why was the blood traitor with them?

Seven men got up to their feet and stood around Fowler. They were strangers still, especially the one who came late into the battle, but they all knew what they wanted to do. Kill Fowler.

"Lackeys, Larabee?" Fowler could not help the taunt. This earned him a nice boot to the side of his face, courtesy of Buck.

"You murdered my aunt," the statement from John of Dara was that of disbelief, almost a question. But he saw the battle that took place in the castle; his aunt was the first to charge when the screams of terror were heard.

"A quick one for the road," Fowler said, smiling to reveal his fangs. "Inter-dimensional hopping can be tiring. I needed the energy..."

"You foul creature!" Vin yelled, shimmering into a cougar.

And all seven charged just then, without a word. They just moved as if in sync with one and another.

There was a blinding flash of light.

The seven men charged at the empty air in front of them.

"Where the hell did it go?" Buck cried. "Son of a bitch always does this!"

"he escaped through a portal," the late - comer commented. And caught the stake that was coming towards his heart, just inches away from its target.

"There's one more vampire we can still dust," Nathan said, readying the stake in is hand for another throw.

"No!" five voices were united.

Nathan was not the only one surprised, for the other man, the other vampire, was stunned as well. Especially when the slayer himself moved in front of the vampire.

"He saved your life," the shape-shifter said, back into his own form.

"Probably for himself," Nathan replied. "You better move before it gets you!"

Ezra had enough. He had a monster to hunt. He took a step backward and was about to bound out of the window, when the slayer turned around.


Ezra was not used to following orders; not from humans, not from anyone. But something in Larabee's voice made him reluctant to take another step. He turned around, already mapping out his escape route.

"What are you called?" Larabee asked, his eyes icy blue and shrewd. Ezra noticed that he was holding the sword which he had charged Fowler with. Perhaps today, he will find out if Chris Larabee really moved with quicksilver reflexes.

Ezra thought of the many different names he had used, or had been called in his two centuries of existence. He could have told any of those names, but he chose the one he was born with. The slayer deserved that much for stepping in front of him. Unnecessary, because he could have escaped the stake anyway, but humans thrived on this sort of trust. And he would be giving just a little bit of it, nothing that would haunt conscience beyond a few minutes.

"Ezra Standish," he said.

"Why did you fight Fowler?" Chris asked. He was genuinely surprised when he saw the vampire squaring it off with Fowler. Vampire did not fight their own kind, knowing their own strengths. "Dominion?"

Ezra laughed. "Over what, Mr. Larabee?" his accent was that of a man with deep Southern origins. Buck, not surprised that Ezra knew Chris's name, wondered if that was who he was before he was turned. "Fowler is a lackey. Nothing more. There's an old score between us. And I was seeking to end it."

"You followed us," Nathan said, accusingly.

"Alas, I had to," Ezra replied. "Though I can sense Fowler, I could not pinpoint his exact location. You have the means to do so, thus it necessitated me to trail you."

Chris eyed Ezra, not as obvious as the rest of them were and not as antagonistic as Nathan was. His slayer instincts were relatively calm; though he did not relinquish the sword he was holding. A quick glance at Buck assured Chris that although his partner seemed relaxed enough, he was still holding a stake in his hand. Ezra too noted this.

The vampire Ezra seemed human enough; though most vampires were. Chris noticed that Ezra did not only talk fancy, but wore designer clothes, not at all suited for battling demons. But then again, vampires are always vain. And Ezra was a peacock of a vampire if Chris has seen one. Ezra must have been turned in his late twenties or early thirties, but it was hard to guess his vampire age. Chris estimated him to be younger than Fowler, for though Ezra was fast, he was not as fast as the other vampire was.

Settling an old score with Fowler?

"If you see Fowler again..." Chris began his question, but Ezra interrupted.

"I will not let him escape."

"Then, I guess you're on our team, pard," Buck said, stepping forward. Chris heard the distinct thunk of wood hitting the floor. Buck was approaching Ezra with every intentions of putting his hands around his shoulder.

If anyone was surprised with that admission, it was Ezra. He actually looked confused momentarily, before his expression became bland again. "Thank you," he said, his mind made up on the route quickest out of this place and away from everyone. He was hungry and these humans were not helping things one bit for Ezra. "But I work alone."

The inter -dimensional shape-shifter was the first to protest. "Who's going to watch your back then?" There was genuine concern on his expression.

"I do not need anyone to watch my back," Ezra remarked. "Gentlemen, a good evening to you..."

"You are one of his kind," John of Dara spoke.

Everyone saw the flicker that passed through Ezra's eyes...pain. "If you are with us, you may be able to help us locate him far quicker than anyone else," John of Dara added.

"You have Mr. Larabee and Mr. Wilmington for that, my young sir," Ezra replied. "I would really love to have a team - building discussion with all of you, but dawn is upon us..." Ezra did not finish what he was going to say, for he had already bounded overhead them and landing lightly on the railings behind them.

That was when Chris threw the stake.

Ezra saw the stake coming for him and caught it; extending his hands lazily for an easy catch. He was about to chide Larabee when he cried out in pain. The shock of holy water on his skin caused him to loose his balance. Ezra fell to the aisle below him. Chris jumped over the railing and landed on his feet next to Ezra, who was sitting up, nursing a burnt hand. And worse still, a wounded pride.

Stake laced with holy water.

Simplest trick in the book.

"Please, Mr. Larabee, do not delay the inevitable," Ezra said, not looking up at Chris.

"Get up," Chris said.

The rest of them had rushed to the railing to see the proceedings below. Vin shimmered into a dove and flew down.

"Show off," John of Dara said, knowing very well Vin could have just jumped over the railings. The shapeshifter was grinning when he was back in his own form again.

Ezra was wondering the possibility of attacking Larabee when he realized something. The slayer was holding out his hand for him. Ezra looked at the hand, and then at Chris, wondering if the slayer had hit his head during battle.

"Get up," Chris said again, his voice bland. There was a hard glint in his eyes that Ezra, despite his two -hundred year existence, could not decipher.

Ezra gave his hand, his good hand, to Chris and was hauled to his feet.

Most ungraciously.

Chris's grip was still tight on his hands when he leaned forwards and whispered in Ezra's ears.

"You're coming with us," Chris told Ezra. Ezra was about to protest when Chris added, "Or you can walk out through that door and I swear you'd be a pile of dust before you put one foot outside of it."

"Chris can be very persuasive when he wants to," Buck said as-a-matter-of-factly to Josiah and John of Dara. They grinned.

Nathan looked as if he would not mind stepping over a pile of vampire dust on his way out.

Ezra knew Chris was speaking the truth. He knew the slayer by reputation and saw how he had battled tonight and came out without a visible scar. Hell, it would have been a personal worse for Larabee, Ezra knew, if he managed to get to door in the first place.

"We might not be able to stop this warrior should he decide to end you," Vin remarked, his serious, though the twinkle in his eyes said otherwise. "Even though we already like you."

A vampire being blackmailed.

Ezra has heard of this, but never actually thought he would be at the receiving end of it.

Never in two - hundred.

"And what happens to me after we find and eliminate Fowler?" Ezra asked, eyeing the men who stood around him. "I cannot see myself riding off happily into the sunset." There was a broad hint of cynicism in his tone.

Josiah spoke for the first time to Ezra. "Brother, it is best that you come with us," he said. "We've been brought together this evening and I think our alliance might have its benefits in the future."

Somehow Ezra knew that no one was going to answer his question.

Well, it's going to lead to Fowler...then, why not.

Never did believe in a happily-ever-after ending.

"I will give it a day or two," Ezra's non-committal shrug did not fool Chris. Ezra could have escaped; Chris left him the route wide open and they both knew that Ezra would be faster than the slayer.

Chris felt that this was a chance he had to take.

"Good," Chris said, releasing Ezra's hand and taking a step back. "You won't run out on me, will you?'"

"I swear upon my grave," Ezra replied, straightening out his jacket.

"You're already dead," Nathan pointed out.

"And you point would be, Mr. Jackson?" They only had to work together. No one told Ezra they were supposed to be friends.

"So, what do we do now?" Buck quickly spoke, realizing the tension escalating between Nathan and Ezra.

Not even five minutes together and the man's looking to get dusted. Maybe this was wrong...

"We find another portal...or try conjuring one up," Nathan said, turning to Chris.

"We can do that?" Buck asked, genuinely surprised. "Can't we just go in through the ones John, Vin and Josiah came out from?"

"Yes. And no," it was Josiah who answered him. "Portals can be conjured, as seen with Fowler. And they only work one-way. The portal here will only allow things to come through it, not go through."

"That does not make any sense," John of Dara said, shaking his head.

"So speaks the one who just walked through a portal and has a shapeshifting friend," Ezra remarked dryly. "After battling seven demons and a one-handed vampire."

"Shut up, Ezra," Chris did not even look at Ezra, as he waited for Josiah to speak again. Ezra opened his mouth, but he could not be sure of what to say. He has not been told to keep quiet by anyone for...well, for as long as he had lived.

"Is there a place called Four Corners in this plane of existence?" Josiah asked, looking thoughtful.

"Yes," Nathan answered. "Six hundred miles south. Dead cowboy town."

"Orrin's there," Chris replied, wondering if his former mentor knew anything about the events occurring now.

"There will be a portal there," Josiah said, sounding very sure.

Chris wanted to ask how the inter-dimensional priest knew this, but then decided against it. Suddenly, he felt tired. Too many weird things in one evening. Even for a slayer.

"Four Corners it is then," he said. "We'll travel in the evening." With that, Chris turned and started walking towards the door. The rest of them looked at each other and fell into step behind him, flanking Chris on either side. They stepped outside the church, standing shoulder to shoulder. Chris could not help feeling that there could be some truth behind Josiah's words.

Fulfilling dest...

"I'm hungry! When do we eat?" the shapeshifter sounded more petulant than he looked.

There was THAT and there is, real life. Should be able to go hand in hand; present company excluded, of course. Chris shook his head, wondering what else was in store for them...for him...before the day ended.

Part Two