Chapter 7. (Thorns of the Shadow: Blood, Blades, and Bacon)

The two teens walked briskly through the early morning streets toward the city centre. They had no real destination in mind but the shops seemed like a sensible start. Their breath misted in the air and their footsteps sounded unnaturally loud in the near silence of the sleeping city. The occasional car drove past while a few windows were lit but on the whole the place felt deserted.

They walked without speaking for what felt like hours. Their pace was brisk to ward off the cold and they lost track of the amount of times they had to backtrack. The sky slowly began to brighten and signs of humanity started to appear more frequently. The shadows around them resolved themselves into brown and grey stone buildings. By the time they reached the city centre, dawn had broken and people were increasingly populating the streets.

It was still a wait until shops opened but before too long had passed they were seated in a small café over a cup of coffee and a bacon butty. Neither were overly fond of the bitter drink but the idea of more tea was off-putting. It was just lucky that both of them still had their wallets on them.

“What’s the plan then?” Kai asked. “We can’t exactly just wander the city and hope that we find out something useful.”

KT chewed thoughtfully at a string of rubbery fat. “We’ll buy some supplies then get a ride as close to the lodge as we can. From there we can see if we can track where dad and the others were taken. Moving that many unwilling people must have left a mark. Even with the snow there has to be something.”

“You think we could buy weapons anywhere?” His tone told that he was sceptical of that. 

“I doubt it. We’ll need warmer clothes, some extra food and water, some camping gear and as much information as we can gather.” She finished off the butty and washed it down with the still steaming coffee. Kai had already finished. “Come on.”

They left the café and it wasn’t long until they found a store selling thick winter clothing. Thermals and coats were heaped into Kai’s arms along with two sets of sturdy boots. KT paid, wincing as the man behind the till told her the total price. They changed into these new clothes in a nearby pub’s toilets then ventured back out to find a place to buy camping equipment. After another hour, both teens were laden down with bags strapped to their backs containing a tent, sleeping bags and a small stove.

Next they asked around the locals, their questions varying from transport north, the wilds and local myths. Most brushed them off but they did manage to learn of a man who taxied people across Scotland for a cheap price. They followed the directions they were given and found themselves in a shady looking estate. The streets were almost empty except for smoking youths and dark figures in huddled conversations who fell silent as they passed.

The building in question was in sight now, a small, single story structure with an attached garage. Kai came to a halt sniffing the air. He looked around then pointed out a different building across the street. It had a grubby looking exterior but a glass counter decorated with cuts of meat was visible through the window. A sign above the door read ‘The Bean and Crook Butcher’.

“You said we need food, right?” Kai began.

“Food that will last and can be easily stored,” KT countered. 

Kai grinned. “Yes, but think about what Déaþscúa told us. Bacon is resistant to magic. We’re heading into dangerous territory and might be facing off against all manner of magical foes. A shield against their powers would be pretty damn useful. Imagine it: marching into Annis’ lair without fear as she hurls fire at us. We hold out our arms and it burns our sleeves away revealing bacon wrapped around our arms like bandages in an anime. It would be badass as hell.”

“I seriously doubt that it would ever play out like that. It’s not like we can trust what Déaþscúa tells us. I’m not sure when he was being honest, openly lying or just screwing with us for his own amusement.”

“But bacon…”

KT relented under Kai’s puppy eyed look. “Fine. Just don’t go crazy. I don’t have much money left and I doubt you have anything.”

“I actually earn more than you,” he commented airily as they veered toward the butcher’s shop. “I’m a private tutor. All the girls who need some help with their studies come to me. My brains, looks and charm are a winning combination.”

“You disgust me at times, you know that?”

They stepped into the shop and were met by the thick scent of fresh meat. Carcases hung from hooks around the walls. Kai eyed the meat like a child would with sweets. The decor was simple and dull, all of the room’s focus being diverted to the brightly lit cuts of animal. The main room was devoid of life other than them but a bell had rung above the door upon their entry and now footsteps could be heard from the room beyond.

The door opened and a man stepped into the shop from a gloomy corridor. He was a strange looking man with a small head and tall, gangly body. His eyes were beady and dark while his nose was tiny and pointed. A matted mane of long black hair draped down his hollow cheeks and across his shoulders. His mouth was wide and his lips a vivid red, its size looking unnatural on such a small head. Despite the spindly body and legs, his arms were thick and powerful. He watched them wearily as he made his way behind the counter. Once there he simply stood staring at them as they examined the cuts of meat available.

The KT and Kai continued their conversation, trying their best to ignore the man. “Should we really go looking for him?” Kai asked with a frown. He cast a glance at the man then lowered his voice. “He did give us to the witch and told us not to follow. I mean, we don’t actually know anything about the man. Maybe we should look for Dad ourselves.”

“We don’t actually know anything about everything at the moment. All we can work from is that we’re in a completely different world that is alien to us and that Déaþscúa is our key to understanding and fighting against it. He saved us and taught us what bits we know. He may not want us to be involved in all of this but I don’t think he wants us to come to harm either. We just need to prove to him that we can help.”

“Did ye say Déaþscúa?” A thick highland voice cut in. It was the butcher. “As in the hunter?”

Both teens turned their full attention upon the man. He looked nervous but also now paid the two more notice than the near annoyance that had shown on his face before. 

“You know him?” KT asked the man.

“Aye. I ken ‘im,” the man answered. He licked his lips constantly between speaking. “I’d heard rumblings he wa back in the area. What do two runts like ye have to do wi’ him?”

KT and Kai gave each other a quick look. Kai gave the slightest shake of his head. He addressed the man.

“What does a back-alley butcher have to do with him either?”

The man offered them a toothy grin. His teeth were sharp and yellow. “The world is a small place for men like ‘im. Everybody who is nae…normal kens Déaþscúa the death bringer. Ye are nae one of us are ye?”

Kai still looked suspicious. Anyone who knew of Déaþscúa could easily be a threat to them as Elizabeth had proven.

“We have business with him,” Kai told him simply. 

The butcher nodded knowingly. “A hard man to keep track of,” he said quietly. “Ye two are nae the first to want to find ‘im. I may be able to help ye.”

“Go on.”

“The hunter always has his wee phone on ‘im, ye see. He has to be easy to contact or he’d never get jobs, would he? I have his number in a book somewhere in the back. Come on through and I’ll see if I can find it.”

He moved to usher them into the corridor that he had come from but neither of the twins complied. He looked at them sourly. 

“The offer is there if ye want it. If nae then ye can buy me goods and be gone. I do nae care which so long as ye no wasting me time.”

Kai frowned but nodded. “Fine. Lead the way.”

The butcher stepped into the corridor and the twins followed. The narrow passageway was poorly lit and the wallpaper was shabby and worn. There was no ornamentation at all, the faded yellow walls only broken by plain wooden doors and a staircase leading up. He opened one door which revealed a small room with an armchair, a few shelves and a table with an old fashioned telephone on it. Beside it was a leather cased book. 

“The hunter’s number should be in that book,” the man told them as he held the door open. He offered them a toothy smile as they passed him.

KT entered the room first. There was a sharp click sound then she was gone. Kai jolted to a halt and stared dumbstruck at the black square that had opened up in the ground where his sister had been a second ago.

He span, fists clenched. “You bastard! I’ll-”

The butcher slammed a wooden bat into Kai’s face and the room flashed white then spiralled into darkness. 

*     *     *

KT hit the ground hard. All of the air was driven from her body and her every muscle felt jarred. She groaned and tried to open her eyes. It was dark but faint light spilled down from above through the hole that she had fallen through. She struggled to her feet and stared up at the square of light. A shadow fell across the gap, outlining the figure of a man.

“Kai?” she shouted.

Laughter met her words, high and unhinged in tone. Then a voice spoke, his words echoing through the darkness. “Your brother cannae hear ye. The poor wee bonny lass fell intae the dark wi’ no one near to hear her scream. I wouldnae want to be ye right now, girl. I am however very glad to be me. I do so love it when they scream.” More laughter followed but it was abruptly cut off when the trapdoor was slammed shut once more.

KT was in complete darkness now. Even her own hands were hidden from her as though she had been fully robbed of her sight. The only sound was that of her own panic tinged breathing. She started forward slowly, her arms out before her searching through the darkness for objects and walls. After a few moments she was already disoriented beyond recovery. From what she could tell, she was in a small room that had several passageways that led off in every direction. Her mind instantly crafted the place as an underground labyrinth that could span for miles of total dark.

She crouched in a corner, her body shaking too much for her to control. She desperately tried shouting again but got no reply beyond the repeated echoes of her own voice. That sound alone filled her heart with dread. The place had to be big to throw back her voice in such a way.

There was a sudden sharp metallic clang somewhere in the distance that filled the tunnels with its unnaturally loud noise. Cold laughter chased the clang. The laughter subsided then changed into a guttural singing that sounded as though it came from every direction at once.

“The meat is fresh, the blood is warm, the flesh is sweet, the bones I’ll gnaw, the tender skin I’ll peel away and revel in the screams galore. She’ll cry, she’ll shout, she’ll scream, I’ll sing, the rape and death fresh joy will bring, until her body fades away, forgotten underground.”

Terror rolled over KT unlike anything she’d ever known. For the first time in her life her senses had become useless to her. She couldn’t see anything while sound was deceptive and unreliable. Everything smelt stale, musty and slightly rotten, and the air was still and undisturbed by breeze. Only her touch was intact but that would be useless in detecting her psychotic hunter until it was too late.

Knowing that she couldn’t stay where the man knew her to be, KT made the snap decision to pick a path and run. She stood and staggered through one of the passages, bouncing off of walls constantly as she tried to walk straight. Her left hand brushed against the rough stone of the wall with the logic that any maze was conquerable by simply picking a direction and following a single wall. 

She stumbled blindly along, following the seemingly random twists and turns of the wall, all the time hearing nothing but her own echoed footsteps and laboured breathing. Time seemed to loop, losing all meaning beyond an overwhelming sense of fear-laced urgency.

A slight stirring of the air behind her made KT spin. All was dark. She felt it again, a stroke of cold across her back that caused all of her already tense muscles to go into overdrive. She turned again, lashing her arms out but they didn’t connect with anything.

“Do ye fear the dark?” came a whispered voice in her ear. 

KT yelped and tried to run but barrelled straight into a wall. She staggered back only to feel icy fingers brush across her face. She struck out again but still failed to hit anything. Her arms whipped around in every direction seeking her pursuer.

“So yer a fighter, are ye? I love it when they struggle.”

The voice seemed to come from directly beneath KT. She kicked out frantically as her arms flailed around her. 

“I’m going to enjoy ye. Slowly…”

The voice was above her now. Panic overtook her senses. She ran, slamming and sliding from wall to wall, no longer paying attention to which directions she took. All the while harsh laughter surrounded her and seemed to fill the entire tunnel network. Tears streamed down her face.

Her foot clipped the corner of a wall and she fell. What little breath she had left was torn from her lungs, leaving her gasping for air. Silence hung heavily once again. After the maniacal laughter it seemed even more surreal and empty. Slowly she stood and tried to regain her bearings. It was a hopeless task.

As though in a dream she wandered through the dark. Her stomach rumbled and her body ached. She needed to find a way out of there soon or her hope would fail and the heavy weight of despair would sink through her system. She stopped, leaning her head against the cold stone as she tried to think.

“Giving up already?”

The voice was right beside her. KT expected to feel a fresh wave of terror but anger rose up within her instead. She was no helpless little girl. She wouldn’t let herself die like this.

“Get the hell away from me!” she screamed. “You sick basta…” Her insult became a stifled cry of pain as something slid across her arm. Pain flared through the limb. She grabbed it with her other arm and felt her skin was slick with blood.

She lurched forward, her teeth gritted. She was jerked back by a hand that clutched at her coat’s collar. She struggled then felt another sharp pain at the base of her neck. There was the sound of ripping fabric and more pain bloomed the entire length of her spine. 

Suddenly she was able to pull away and fell flat on her face. Her back was exposed, her coat and shirt having been sliced open. Blood ran freely across the pale flesh from a shallow wound that followed the path of the knife.

A weight lowered onto KT. With every ounce of her strength she thrashed and bucked until she was able to break free. She stood there panting. Waiting.

“The wee lass still has some energy. Good.”

There was the faintest of rustles before a cut opened up upon KT’s cheek. She held her breath. There was the rustling again. In a blur of movement she reached out and managed to grab hold of the man’s thick arm, the knife opening a deep gash across her forearm in the process. With the man locked momentarily in place, KT kicked out and scored a hit in his gut. He groaned and loosened his grip on the weapon. KT lunged blindly for it, grabbing it by the blade. She hissed with pain but didn’t slow as her other hand tore at the man’s fingers. She managed to pry the knife free then stabbed forward with it but the man was already gone.

KT clutched the knife firmly. She peered through the darkness, ready to strike at the slightest of noises. She felt a pressure on her shoulder and span, the blade slashing through the abyss. Instantly a fist drove into her stomach, lifting her from the floor. She dropped the knife and flopped to the ground like a rag doll. 

“We’ve had the hunt and now it’s time for the feast. It would be rude to eat without some pre-meal entertainment.”

Fingers closed around the ragged coat and tugged at it. KT slid out of the coat and fled on her hands and knees. The butcher kicked at her, his toes smashing into her ribs. Her hand brushed against the knife. He kicked again and she drove the blade into his calf. He swore savagely and jolted away, the knife still embedded in his leg. KT took the opportunity to scurry away again.

She couldn’t breathe but she didn’t slow her frantic pace. Her sobs weren’t silent any longer. She couldn’t keep control of her emotions. The darkness pulled her down, seeping at her will. Frantic desperation and loss of hope warred violently inside of her head.

She was becoming delusional too. She could swear that there was a slight crimson glow to the darkness ahead. Maybe the red tint was due to fatigue or blood-loss, she thought wearily. Despite these thoughts, she started toward it almost mechanically.

The light grew as KT shambled closer. Fresh hope sparked in her heart and her walk changed into an unsteady half-run. Her eyes stung after spending so much time in complete darkness but she didn’t care. The glow was all around her now. She could see the rough hewn walls for the first time, noting that they seemed to be carved from solid rock. The source of the light seemed to be around the next turn.

KT turned the corner with a half-laugh that died on her lips. She stood swaying on the spot, her blue eyes glassy.

She stood at the entrance of a large chamber. The light was emanating from red flamed candles that dotted the room, giving everything within a hellish sheen. No other passageways led away. Inside were several stone tables. On the tables were corpses. Mostly those of women. They were all in differing states of carnage ranging from whole bodies to severed limbs or completely flayed carcasses. Other bodies hung from hooks in the ceiling. The entire room smelt of blood and death. Organs and cuts of meat were littered everywhere.

“Ye found me sanctuary then, lass? Is nae it a place of beauty?”

The voice was directly behind her. She turned and staggered into the room. The butcher stood facing her, visible for the first time since she had fallen. Blood stained his clothes from the few wounds KT had dealt him but they didn’t seem to bother him at all. His small eyes gleamed with joyous malice. The features that she had at first viewed as strange now took on a sinister edge that painted him as a monster more than a man. 

“What are you?” she shouted. KT tried to make her voice sound strong and demanding but the words fell out as a cracked whimper. 

The butcher flashed her his pointed teeth. “I am but a man gifted by the gods,” he answered as he licked his lips hungrily. “I’ve had many names over the years. Bean and Christie were the most known. For what time of ye life remains, ye can call me whatever pleases ye.”

His oversized arm shot out and grabbed KT by the throat. Without showing any sign of strain he lifted her a foot from the ground. The pressure on her windpipe cut off her breath and strained the muscles to near breaking point. He leaned in, sniffing deeply with a warped smile. His free hand reached over to pull at her shirt.

“This’ll be such fun. I hope yer a fighter ‘til the end.”

The last of her strength was fading as KT struggled for breath. She tried in vain to punch out at him to no effect. Her arm slumped to her side, her fingers brushing against something solid. She grabbed it and swung at the butcher’s head. Whatever she had picked up shattered on impact, causing the man to stagger back, dropping KT in the process. 

The spots started to clear from her vision. She glanced down at her weapon and dropped it. It hit the floor and rolled slightly so that half rotted eye sockets stared up at her. One side drooped in on itself where the skull beneath had been smashed. 

A sudden anger flared up inside of KT. It was as though her fear changed into rage with every beat of her heart. How many scared young women had been in this same position only to lay dead in this chamber? It was as though their anger flowed through her too.

The butcher was still smiling. He lumbered towards her without any sense of urgency. His grin faltered when KT lunged at him rather than trying to run. He blocked the punch easily only to receive a boot to his gut a moment later. He grabbed her arm firmly so she kicked out again, this time slamming her foot into his knife wound. He grunted, his leg almost buckling beneath him.

A sense of clarity washed over KT. The butcher’s arms were massive but his legs were a weakness. She couldn’t overpower him but he could be beaten. She ducked under a swing of his arms and punched the side of his knee. Pain flared in her hand but she ignored it as she dodged around another blow. 

She jumped back, almost tripping on the skull. It spun slightly until it faced the man. KT kicked it straight at his face then leapt up onto the slab. Jumping up to catch the pipes above where several bodies were hung from, she used the momentum to swing forward, launching herself towards the man. In midair she kicked out as hard as she could, catching him hard across the temple. His head jerked around with a snap.

KT hit the floor on her side hard enough for the breath to be knocked out of her. She scrambled to her feet and spun to face him again. He still stood there, his body rigid and his head looking almost behind himself back into the labyrinth. Silent seconds ticked past as neither moved. 

Slowly, KT edged away from him. She scanned the room but couldn’t see any other exits. There was a butcher’s knife buried into a table beside a half-carved corpse that she wrestled free. The last place that she wanted to be was closer to the man but there seemed no other choice. She wanted to be sure that he wouldn’t hurt anyone again. He blocked the exit so she had no option other than to go through him.

She readied the knife and swung at his throat. His arm twitched and he caught her by the wrist before she could react. His other hand drove into her gut, doubling her over. Before she could recover he had both of her arms locked against her chest. He shoved her into the wall. KT had to look up to stare at his head as it jerked its way back around to face her. His smile hadn’t faded.

“Well, that was fun, wasnae it? An’ they say that foreplay is a dying art.”

He had her pinned. Even her legs couldn’t reach beyond the full length of his arm. He had taken the knife from her and now held it against her ear.

“If it makes ye feel any better, just ken that yer life’ll live on within me. The circle of life and all that crap. The strong eat the weak te become even stronger. That’s how life evolves after all. Through blood and death we transcend the chains of our own meagre mortality. Tis a cruel world but it’s all that we’ve got. Do try and enjoy. It is a once in a lifetime experience.”

There was a flash of light as thunder tore through the tunnels. The butcher staggered as blood erupted from his back. More crashes filled the air, each causing a new explosion of blood. He dropped KT as blood bloomed from his shoulder, spinning him around with the force of the impact.

KT hit the floor like a rag-doll. She couldn’t muster the strength to move but from where she lay she could see the entrance to the chamber. A shadowy figure stood in the doorway with its arm pointed at the butcher. The flash and crash happened again, fully lighting up the figure for a heartbeat. It was Déaþscúa.

The butcher was staring at him too. Amazingly, he was still standing. Without a flicker of emotion, Déaþscúa put two more bullets into his chest then waved his left arm at the man. A wave of fire shot from his hand and slammed into the butcher, knocking him back where the bullets had failed. He staggered and fell back onto one of the stone tables behind him.

“Ye bastard!” the butcher screamed, blood dribbling from his mouth with each word. His body was riddled with bullet holes that gushed blood and his clothes and flesh were badly burned. He still didn’t appear to be in pain though. “Ye cannae hurt me! I have the Grand Moot’s protection and ye know it, hunter! I am essential to the threads of fate! They’ll have ye head just for comin’ here. Ye’ve been warned by them before!”

“I’m shaking in my boots,” Déaþscúa said dryly. His eyes were locked on the butcher with a flaming intensity but his hands worked slowly at taking a single bullet from a pouch and loading it into the gun’s chamber. 

The butcher seemed to be panicking now. “Ye work for them! Ye cannae disobey their orders! They are the law. Without the law we’re the same, ye see, me and you. Both monsters in men’s clothing. Ye cannae kill me.”

Déaþscúa raised his gun. “Can’t I? Tell me where Annis is.”

“Stay away from my Annis ye bastard! Ye need to move on from her so she can do what needs te be done. Cannae ye see that? She is so close te achieving her dreams. I’ll kill ye if ye lay a finger on her!”

“You’ll find it hard to kill me from the grave.” 

“I AM PROTECTED!” 

“Not very well.” Déaþscúa’s finger clenched on the trigger. The crack of the gunshot was followed by a second bang as the bullet pierced the butcher’s skull then exploded. Brains, blood and fragments of skull splattered across the walls and floor. The man fell limp to the ground.

Silence descended on the room. Neither Déaþscúa or KT moved for several moments. Déaþscúa finally holstered his gun and sighed before entering the room. He walked straight up to KT and knelt down beside her.

“You sure got yourself into a mess this time. You’re reckless and will wind up dead without me. You should have damn well listened to me and done as I said.” Despite his words, his tone was gentle and his eyes filled with concern. “Are you okay?”

KT just lay staring at him with tears building in her eyes. Another few seconds and she could no longer contain herself. She broke down into great heaving sobs as all of the tension and fear drained from her body. Déaþscúa sat her up and rested her head on his broad shoulder. When the initial wave of emotion had faded he helped her to her feet.

“We still need to find your brother. Chances are he won’t be in a good state either.” 

He took a few steps toward the darkness of the tunnel but stopped when KT didn’t follow. He turned back to see her staring into the thick, black air, her eyes wild. Déaþscúa shook his head then held out his hand. It seemed to shake slightly and there was a reluctance in his stance.

“Take my hand so you don’t get lost. The exit isn’t far.”

KT hesitated a moment then grabbed onto his hand. It was huge compared to hers, his skin rough to the touch. Déaþscúa started out again, pulling her reluctantly along behind. At the cusp of the darkness, Déaþscúa took one last look at the girl then pulled a silver lighter out from a pocket and sparked it. The flame was tiny but provided enough light to dimly see the sides of the passageway. 

Déaþscúa walked with confidence, knowing each and every turn without taking a moment to think. He kept his eyes forward, their piercing stare never straying. KT had thought that he had only told her it was a short distance to comfort her but after a few minutes they had stopped beside a set of rusty metal bars that led up to a wooden hatch. Déaþscúa handed her the lighter then climbed the short distance to the roof. He opened the hatch then disappeared beyond leaving KT alone in the vile maze. She quickly followed.

“Tell me what happened,” Déaþscúa said once KT had rejoined him.

“We came here for supplies on the way to find you. He said he knew how to contact you. I fell through a hole into that hell. I…I don’t know what happened to Kai.”

Déaþscúa nodded. “Show me the room where you fell.”

The room they were in looked to be a cramped basement filled with all manner of general clutter. They climbed a narrow staircase into the main building and KT recognised the corridor that the butcher had walked them down. She started down it but stumbled, her head suddenly feeling very light. It took her a moment to recover herself.

“Blood-loss,” commented Déaþscúa. “We should stop and patch you up.”

“No,” KT said resiliently. “We have to find Kai first. That monster could have done anything to him.”

“I think Christie will have stowed him away somewhere while he amused himself with you first. He likes his meat as fresh as possible and would keep his victims alive for as long as his previous stores lasted.”

“What was he?” KT asked with a cold shiver. 

“A human. At least at the start of his life. He has plagued this land for hundreds of years. I suspect that he was living off of the lifeforce of those that he killed. He is the face to almost any Scottish cannibal you could ever think of. He was also the lover of Black Annis for a time, or Black Agnes as she was known then. I would have killed him long ago but a prophecy ties him to the end of the world. Or did anyway.”

They came to the room and pointed to a small rug. “That’s where I fell.” She felt a wave of nerves fill her just by being near to the hole again. 

Déaþscúa looked around the room slowly, his eyes taking in every inch, drinking in the room’s details. He moved his hand slowly as though feeling for something that he couldn’t see. “This way,” he said seconds later.

He left the room and continued to scrutinise everything. To KT, it was almost like he was looking past what was actually there to something deeper. He entered a storage room filled with boxes and tools with a large metal door at the back. He opened it and freezing air spilled out. Inside was a freezer room filled with all manner of meat. Tied up in the corner, his skin a pale blue, was Kai. 

KT rushed to him. He was icy cold to the touch and was barely breathing. Blood matted his hair. She tried to move him but his limbs were stiff. 

“Kai! Wake up!” 

“Move,” Déaþscúa ordered. He cut the teen’s bonds with a knife then lifted him easily over his shoulder. He strode out into a spartan living room with a single table and chair and placed Kai against the back wall. He then turned and began to smash up the table, creating a pile of wood in the middle of the floor. His sword made short work of the larger pieces. Once satisfied, he held the lighter to the wood and waited until the flame had taken hold of the kindling. Warmth quickly spread through the room.

Déaþscúa only checked over Kai briefly before nodding to himself. “His only injury is a nasty lump on the head. Once he has warmed up his biggest problem will be a concussion. You on the other hand need healing now.”

Kai stirred before KT could answer, slowly opening his eyes. It took him a moment to make out any details through his blurred vision but when his eyes focussed in on his sister they suddenly became wide and alert. He struggled to stand but only made it to a sitting position. 

“What the hell happened? You’re hurt.” He stopped as his memories fell back into place. “It was that damn butcher. What did he do to you?”

KT wrapped her arms around Kai in a hug. He was still cold but the contact gave her great comfort. “I’m okay now. It’s just a few scratches.”

This didn’t placate Kai. Fury set into his features. “Where is he? I’ll kill the bastard for hurting you!”

“Then you will have to train as a necromancer. Killing a man already in the grave is redundant,” Déaþscúa told him passively. 

This news did nothing to improve Kai’s mood. “I should have been there. I’m supposed to protect you but didn’t do a damn thing.”

“Don’t beat yourself up about it,” KT said to him as comfortingly as she could. “I can look after myself. I am the older sibling, right. See, I’m totally fi…” Her head drooped and her body slid to the floor.

“KT!” Kai roared.

“Relax,” said Déaþscúa calmly. He moved the younger man to the side then knelt over KT, the blue light appearing around his hands. “She lost too much blood by wasting time talking. She just needs rest. As do you.

Kai glared at him but visibly loosened his muscles. “Why are you even here? There’s no way you could have found where we were so quickly.”

“I just am. It’s a good job I am too. Now let me ease that concussion then you need to get some rest and I’ll fill you both in on details when you wake.”

Kai grumbled something but still let Déaþscúa place a hand on his head. Once the man had finished, Kai laid down and closed his eyes. It wasn’t long until Déaþscúa was the only one in the house still awake. He looked at the twins, his rough face sombre. KT’s shirt was wet with blood and hung from her were Christy had cut it while Kai still shivered. Sighing to himself he quietly took off his coat and draped it across them both.

“What have I gotten you into? The cycle repeats, no matter how hard I try to break it. May the gods guard your souls.”

Previous – Chapter 6.

Next – Chapter 8.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 7. (Thorns of the Shadow: Blood, Blades, and Bacon)

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