Magical Security Taskforce




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Chapter 52: Sacred Ground

Session One

Molly sped down the highway as fast as she could, but it was still a long drive from the academy back to L. B. Gould that would last into the night. It was also a crummy van that protested her abuse, grinding loudly and sputtering often. Troy felt sorry for it and patted the frame.

He wanted to say something, but Yuki beat him to it: “I hope this baby holds out. It's getting pretty shaky.”

“It should get us there.” A loud thunk later, Molly added, “Or at least within teleportation range.”

“Should we go through Cincinnati and get Uriel's help just in case?”

“Knowing Marlowe, Uriel probably doesn't know about this. I'm fine keeping it that way.”

“So how are we supposed to help Donovan regain control anyway?”

“First we talk some sense into him. Then, regardless of our success, we knock some sense into him.”

Yuki nodded solemnly from her front seat and Molly continued driving. Troy looked around the van, surprised at everyone's intensity. It wasn't only Yuki. Kathryn was stretched out in the back, but looked like she was conserving energy more than lazily napping. Even Renee kept a firm stare out the window. This was somehow important to her too.

Honestly, Troy wouldn't have minded taking this a little more leisurely. He wasn't sure of the difference between regular Donovan and demonic Donovan. Troy found it amusing that Molly couldn't really tell either but was intent on fixing it. Nothing else about the trip was enjoyable, however. He was on his way back home from what had been a productive and fun academy trip. Troy wanted to enjoy the last couple days, particularly one that involved more time in the FUP with Renee.

“I don't suppose we're going back when we're done?” he asked.

Kathryn grunted, eyes still closed. “Please say no.”

“No,” Molly replied. “The only reason they brought us over was to investigate the library incident, and that was resolved. I don't care to return for another day of busy work.”

“Great, let's clobber him and go bowling. Hey Yuki, care to extend break another week?”

“Can I?!” Yuki turned to Molly eagerly.

“No,” said Molly. “Although you may want to find a couple trusted underlings in case Vincent calls us up for his mission.”

Renee groaned. “I forgot about that. You really think they'd ask for our help with all this going on?”

“They have to. Officially, the MST is pretending this isn't happening and Marlowe won't make it an issue unless it became unavoidable.”

“If it gets Marlowe fired, can we let Donovan roam free?”

“Ooh, good idea,” Troy said.

Molly considered it, but shook her head. “Noble intentions, but there's probably a downside to leaving Donovan unchecked.”

That was enough for Renee to let it slide. Not that her new subject was any rosier. “Any idea how Vincent's doing with that mission?”

“Haven't heard. But we need to be prepared. I don't know what he planned to do but it probably won't end well.”

“Honestly, I'd rather be doing that than this,” Troy muttered.

Yuki nodded. “I know it's hard to see Donovan as the enemy, but he's-”

“To hell with Donovan!” he blurted. “I'll knock him from here to Cleveland. Who cares? It's just stupid that we have to drive all the way home to take care of someone who's supposed to on our team. At least helping Vincent gets something done.”

“It's also more dangerous,” Molly said. “We know Donovan well enough that we should be able to help him. Or beat him... whichever's faster.”

“So? Didn't you say the Yovoni were trying to revive that one really evil faction? Isn't stopping them more important?”

From behind, Kathryn said, “Shut up, Troy.” It was clear and loud and jarring. It didn't just silence Troy; everybody in the van was quiet until they hit the next county.

After the first couple minutes, Troy peaked over the edge of his seat. Kathryn was on her back, but staring at him.

“Still?” he mouthed to her. Kathryn sneered and looked at the upholstery on Renee's seat.

Troy rolled his eyes and faced forward again. He felt a sharp smack as Kathryn's staff slammed the back of his seat, but he ignored it.


Session Two

It was dark by the time they arrived at the school. They piled out and slowly approached the front door. This cautious approach was probably unnecessary as even if Donovan were still hostile, he wouldn't be expecting them. Nor would he lace the entire school with traps. Probably.

“Can't we come back tomorrow morning?” Troy asked.

“Scared of the dark?” Molly asked.

“I'd just rather be able to see what we're attacking.”

“The sooner we can settle this, the better. Yuki, once we get inside, turn the lights on and meet us there.”

Yuki nodded. “Right.”

Molly took a deep breath and used her key to unlock the door.

It didn't budge. Her eyebrows narrowed.

“Oh, sorry! I'll get it,” Yuki said. She pulled out her own set of keys and got the door open. “I forgot. They were going to change the locks over break.”

Despite Molly's grumbling, they got inside. Yuki ran off to find the lights.

In the meantime, Molly cast a light ball and led them down the hallway. “Renee, as soon as you see Donovan, make sure to use an anti-teleportation spell. However he got here from Indiana, I don't want him making a return trip.”

“So it's basically three-on-one?” Kathryn asked.

“Potentially two-on-one,” Molly replied coldly. “If he uses anything dangerous on us, I'll throw a shield up for you and Monroe.”

“So basically, we're doing the hard part.”

“If he leaves an opening for me to use a binding or incapacitation spell, I'll do it. Otherwise... yes, you're doing the hard part.”

They reached the dark room before Yuki had found the lights. Molly eased her key into the dark room lock, turned to Troy and mouthed 'water,' gesturing to the door. Troy nodded and prepped a spell.

Molly yanked the door open and hid behind it while Troy hosed the room down. Molly cut him off, threw a shield up and barged in. Troy and Kathryn followed, flanking her.

It was silent. They heard nothing but the water dripping off the wall onto the puddle Troy had created.

Somewhere down the hall, Yuki had done her part as the lights flickered on in the hallway. The dark room was empty.

“Well, crap,” Molly muttered. She lowered her shield.

“Where do you think he went?” Kathryn asked.

“I have no idea. He could be anywhere now.”

Troy sighed. “Great. So what now?”

Kathryn stepped out of the room and checked the halls. “Do we keep looking for him?”

Molly followed. “We can't. If he's trying to clear his head, there's nowhere else I can think of.”

Renee checked inside the room. Concerned, she asked, “What if he's not trying to recover? What if he's going along with this?”

“Then he wouldn't have come here in the first place.”

“Maybe he'll come back tomorrow.”

Pausing to consider it, Molly shrugged. “Worth preparing for, just in case. I just drove five hours. I'm done for the night.”

“So should we meet back here tomorrow morning?” Kathryn asked.

“I have a better idea.” Whipping out her magic marker and shooing everybody away from the dark room entrance, Molly shut the door and drew a large circle directly in front of it. Then she enchanted it.

“Barrier circle?” Troy asked.

“If it activates while I'm at home sleeping, a barrier circle would be useless. It's an alarm circle.”

“But that won't work all the way from home,” Renee said. Normally those circles had a limited range, but Renee hoped Molly would prove her wrong.

“No... but I can set it so it goes off downstairs.”

“You're spending the night here?” Troy asked, eyebrow raised.

“No, you are.”

Troy stared at her for a moment, then slumped his shoulders. He should have seen that coming.

“If you do it, I'll join you,” Renee said, flashing a smile. Now Molly stared at her sister. She should have seen that coming.

Clearing her throat, Molly said, “Perhaps we can draw straws.”

“Straws? Nuts to that. I have dice in my purse.”

With the spell active and no reason to remain in the building, Molly activated the alarm in the student council lounge, Yuki killed the lights and they locked up. Whoever ended up staying behind could teleport downstairs just as easily from the parking lot. Molly desperately wanted to know why Renee kept dice in her purse, but knew better than to ask. Even when the dice Renee had were far more diverse than the six-sided Vegas standard.

Renee popped out a little pyramid with numbers on it. “A D-4 outta do it.”

“There's five of us,” said Molly.

“We've already established that Troy's safe.”

Molly grumbled, assigned numbers and Renee gave it a throw.

Then she frowned. “Wow, that backfired.”

“Thanks for volunteering, Renee, can we go home now?” Kathryn asked.

Patting her sister's shoulder, Molly said, “I'll teleport back with a change of clothes and a snack.”

Forlorn, Renee nodded. “Thanks, Molly.”

“Oh, and try not to sleep too hard. That alarm isn't terribly loud and may not be enough to wake you up.”

“At least you have plenty of dice to play with!” Yuki said, climbing into the van.

“Thanks,” Renee mumbled, returning the D-4 to her dice bag. “What happens if the alarm goes off?”

Inside the car, Molly buckled her seatbelt. She yawned, then said, “Call me. Spy on him. Don't get killed.”

“Have fun!” Kathryn shouted as she slid the door shut and they drove off.


Session Three

Renee did not feel at all comfortable being alone in the student council lounge late at night. Molly must have intended for the room to be homey and livable, with the fancy rugs, furniture and seating, but the cement along the floor and walls and the sparse lighting made it very creepy. It looked like a Victorian-era living room had been dropped into an empty bomb shelter, and the dissonance didn't help matters much.

Molly showed up eventually to deliver some food and clothes, but she had no intention of staying against the promise of a decent night's sleep. Renee, meanwhile, tried to occupy herself, knowing that she'd sleep right through the alarm if she even attempted to lay down.

She threw on a camisole and pajama pants and fired up the Nintendo DS in her purse, hoping it had enough battery life to survive the night. Molly had thrown in one of Yuki's 'stay awake' potions to make sure Renee did.

Renee played for an hour or so, pausing every so often when she thought she heard something. She probably did, but they were creaks from the nearby boiler room and nothing for her to be concerned with.

As the battery died on her video game system, Renee found a new adventure- finding the bathroom. While she had no concrete proof that one existed in the basement, she had faith that Claude had installed one, so she started hunting. After several minutes of wandering what may have been a labyrinth prototype, she finally struck gold.

While she was inside, she felt something click in her mind. Something either had happened, was happening, or was about to happen. Renee wasn't sure if this was magical aptitude, woman's intuition or the fleeting moment of clarity one gets on the toilet. Either way, she was very careful returning to the lounge.

Nobody was there. Not yet at least. “Hello?” she shouted, hand at the ready. Her mind raced through the list of spells that would come in handy, including several that she had never heard of but were somehow available anyway. Then she stepped out into the open area cautiously.

She looked around and saw nothing. Eventually, she lowered her hand, not completely convinced that it was her imagination, but not willing to spend the rest of the night in paranoia.

He came from behind, and suddenly had her in his grasp. Before she could scream, Troy said, “Hey there. Where were you?”

Renee sighed and caught her breath. “What are you doing here?”

Troy spun her around and kissed her. “You were talking about staying with me on my watch. Seemed like a fun idea.”

She smiled, pulled away and walked over to the couch. “Well, you scared me. I've only been here an hour and I'm already going nuts.”

“That's why I'm here.” He sat down next to her and stroked her leg. “Besides, why would Donovan think to come down here?”

“I don't know, but something's not right about all this.” She put her hand on his and looked down. “Molly says he came here to get control over the demon, but I'm not as sure.”

“Uh huh.” Troy was barely interested.

“I mean, she said he's going to his personal sanctuary... but the room is empty.”

“So? I thought there was a fire in there when the Hageshoni attacked.”

“Then what kind of sanctuary is that? I don't know if Donovan is using that to regain control or if the demon is using it for something else.”

Troy sighed. “Do you want to go up there and take another look?”

Renee shook her head. “I don't know what's going on, but for some reason I don't expect Donovan to be all that friendly to us, even if he won't attack.”

“That's nothing new.”

Chuckling, Renee said, “Yeah, I guess. I just feel like Molly's overlooking something about all this.”

He knew what she meant, but he couldn't help but grin. “Like me dropping in to visit?”

Renee blushed. “Yeah, that too.” Her head slipped into his shoulder. “Guess we've got the place to ourselves, don't we?”

“Molly's little hiding place. And it's all ours.”

She closed her eyes, breathing in that little revelation. It was viciously appropriate. “I really do love you, Troy. I just know that no matter what we end up doing, you'll always be there for me. And one day, I think Molly will see that you're a good person that will do everything he can to protect me.”

“So what do we do until then?”

“Well, we're in Molly's little hiding place, together, with no sign of Molly... and strict orders not to fall asleep.” She looked up at him, staring into his eyes, both of them awed by the moment and how it was not a fantasy. “I have a couple ideas on how to pass the time.”

Troy nodded slowly and moved in to kiss her.

Without getting into all the scandalous details, they were not only able to occupy the night, but make it the best one of their lives. For all the obstacles, distractions and attacks keeping them apart, they had finally made it. The symbolism of their location was not lost on either of them, as they were together under the student council's nose, light years beyond merely looking at each other. Indeed, they looked at each other in a whole new way that night. Only the most imaginative and obsessed fanfiction writers could do it justice.

Molly's alarm never went off. At least not the one set to detect Donovan upstairs.


Session Four

The next morning, Troy vanished. He figured Molly would return to check up on Renee and didn't want to create a scene. He gave Renee one last kiss and took off.

Good thing he did, as not only did Molly drop in, she brought Kathryn and Yuki with her.

“Sorry to put you through all that,” Molly said. As it was her sister, she was trying to be sincere.

“Have fun?” Yuki asked.

Renee acted the part, lazily playing solitaire as they arrived. “I got by. No Donovan.”

“Damn,” Molly spat.

“Going to try something else or should we stay put?”

“We'll stay put. Yuki can take over.”

“Thank you!” Renee teleported away instantly, without another word.

“Hm.” Molly probably shouldn't have been so surprised at the sudden disappearing act. She turned to Kathryn, eying the room curiously.

Maybe it was Renee's somewhat disheveled hair. Or her entirely innocent act (really, Renee surviving an entire night playing solitaire?). Or even the smell of love in the air. Either way, Kathryn pieced it together. She knew. And she let a slight chuckle escape.

“What?” Molly was oblivious to such things.

Kathryn looked away. “Nothing. Did you want me to stick around too?”

“No, we're going to take a different approach to this.”

“Does it involve clobbering something?”


With a shrug, Kathryn put her hand on Molly's shoulder. “Lead the way.”

“Uh, Molly?” Yuki raised a hand. “What happens if he shows up? I can't teleport.”

Molly stared back, bored by the question. “You have a cell phone. And if you feel like attacking him alone, and I don't know why you would, you have elevator access.”

“Oh yeah. This place is mine now, isn't it?”

“May we go now?”

Yuki looked around. “Why don't we have a TV down here?”

Molly took that as a yes and teleported away with Kathryn.

They ended up outside on a neighborhood street, in front of a rather ordinary white house that Kathryn didn't recognize.

“This Donovan's house?” she asked.

Molly walked up to the porch. “He's not at his house. I'm trying the indirect approach.” She knocked on the front door. It flew open moments later.

In the living room, Blaine and Bryce were playing Battleship.

“Why are you two here?” Bryce only took a quick glance at them, before returning to the more important task of triangulating the location of Blaine's carrier. “B7,” he called.

“Where's Donovan?” Molly asked with a harsher tone than she had intended.

“Isn't he at school?” Blaine replied, adding, “Miss.”

“No. If he were at school, why would you two be here?”

“Because he hadn't called for us. G8.”

Bryce nodded. “Miss. We don't have any place to crash over there. It's not like we're enrolled or anything. H5.”


Tempted as Molly was to use a spell to not only sink their battleships, but their entire war zone, she resisted and asked, “Have you heard anything from him in the last couple days?”

“No,” Blaine said, adding, “I4.”

Shaking his head, Bryce said, “Hit.” He scanned his radar. “But it's not like he calls us every day. Which isn't so bad. We can get other important stuff done for a change. Why, something wrong? B7.”

“His demon took control of his body and attacked Giles and Meg,” Molly replied. “Last we checked, he was here, possibly trying to subdue it again.”

Both minions stared at each other, fretting over the announcement. It just wasn't the one Molly expected. “You already called B7,” Blaine said.

Bryce looked over his fleet. “Shoot, I did?”

Kathryn pushed his board away with the tip of her staff. “Hey, we've got a demon running around town controlling Donovan! Show some concern here!”

Borderline flippant, Bryce replied, “Well, what do you want us to do? We don't know where he is and we sure as hell aren't going to fight him. If we see him, we'll give you a call.”

Molly wanted to tear into him, but her phone rang. As Molly answered, Bryce attempted to remember where all of the fallen pegs belonged.

Yuki was on the other end: “Molly, your alarm just went off. I checked the cameras... it's him.”

Sighing in relief, Molly flashed a thumb's up to Kathryn. “Thank you. Hopefully Troy's awake and Renee hasn't gone to sleep yet. We'll meet you there.”

As Molly disconnected, Kathryn said, “So who wants to get who?”

“I want to get over there immediately.” Kathryn nodded, but glanced away, a little annoyed at her inevitable fetch quest. “But I'd rather have some backup.”

“So who...” Kathryn stopped. Molly had turned to the minions.

Bryce was back to the game. “Did I call G2 or G3?”

With a flick of her finger, Molly lifted his game and sent it crashing through the window. “Bryce, get Renee. Blaine, get Troy. Meet us at the school.”


Now Molly levitated Blaine's board. “This one's at your head.”

“Bryce, let's go,” said Blaine. “He needs our help.” He looked at the window. “And I want to get out of here before my dad finds this.”

“Glad we have an understanding. Let's go, Kathryn.” Molly grabbed Kathryn's shoulder and teleported them back.

They arrived at the student council office, just as Yuki was ascending the elevator. “Should we wait for Troy and Renee?”

Molly huffed. “We should. But let's go in anyway. I want to talk to him.”

She took a deep breath and marched out, followed closely by both Kathryn and Yuki. They didn't say a word until they arrived outside the dark room door. Then, Molly paused and whispered, “Let me talk to him first. See what happens before we start attacking.”

Kathryn nodded, but raised her staff anyway. Yuki bent down and pulled out her chemicals. It wasn't a sign of encouragement, but Molly didn't care. She summoned a light ball and threw the door open.

Donovan was inside, silent even as the intruder entered the room. At first glance, he appeared to be seated on the floor, meditating.

“Donovan?” she said, very quietly, getting no response. She stepped in closer. “Who is controlling you right now? I know you're losing yourself.”

“I am always in control,” he muttered. It sounded like his usual voice.

It calmed her down. “Good. Do you need to remain here for a while to make sure? Or can we go back to fix this? You'll never have to worry about that demon again.”

“I wish to remain here.”

“All right.” Molly took a step back. “When you are ready, step outside. We'll be waiting for you.”

With no response, she turned around. That was sufficient for her. If he was determined to do the dirty work of fending off the demon, she could wait for him.

She started to open the door, but stopped when she heard a low chuckle. Glancing back, Molly saw that Donovan had stood up. “Yes?” she asked.

The attack came suddenly. Due to the room's darkness, it caught her by surprise and suddenly she crashed through the door and against the far wall outside.

As Kathryn rushed to help her, Donovan stepped in the doorway. “How dare you enter my sacred place and claim I must be fixed?” It was still his voice, but more wild than ever. “He and I are one body and we will destroy all that come between us!”


Session Five

As Molly clutched her stomach in pain, Kathryn stared back at Donovan. He didn't move at first, instead glaring at the girls for several seconds. And then firing another shot. Kathryn got her staff up in time to swat it away. It blasted the wall next to Donovan, putting a charred dent in the cement. That was an eye-opener.

“Why are you doing this?” Molly spat between winces.

Still inside the dark room, he shouted, “You have entered my sanctuary! I will no longer stand for such abuse.”

“Too bad!” Kathryn dove in, trying to take out his legs. Donovan stepped backward and into the room. He charged another shot as she somersaulted in, getting her staff up in time to swat his attack into the bare floor. Instantly, a large glowing circle appeared underneath them, consuming almost the entire room. It crackled loudly and darkened just as quickly.

Whatever had happened, Donovan was now even more livid. “You! How could you!?”

Kneeling on the floor, Kathryn wanted to make a move, but she was stunned by the commotion and Donovan was already charging something up. She had to be ready to block it. Whatever magic he was using, it was doing serious damage.

“Perhaps you need to see where our true power lies!” Donovan fired off a spell while Kathryn held up her staff and braced herself.

Nothing appeared to happen, at least to Kathryn anyway. Yet Donovan grinned. “Let's see how well you fare in this realm!”

This realm? Kathryn stole a glance out the door. No, it was still the hallway of L. B. Gould High School. Molly was still against the wall, clutching her injury. Only now she was holding up a spell.

“That's right. Here, my fellow demons are eager to tear you apart,” Donovan hissed.

Kathryn turned back to him. “Guess again.”

Donovan frowned, cast another spell and walked through the wall. On the other side, he tripped over Yuki as she was finishing up her healing potion. Now on the ground, he saw Molly shaking, bleeding... and maintaining an anti-teleportation spell.

“We're not going anywhere,” she muttered.

Narrowing his eyes, Donovan stomped on Yuki's healing potion, and walked back through the wall into the dark room. Kathryn scampered out.

“Oh no!” Yuki cried.

“Start over! Quickly!” Molly barked. Yuki wisely chose the opposite wall.

Kathryn slid up next to Molly. “How bad is it?”

Molly winced again. “I can make it until Yuki's done.” She still held her spell up. If Donovan really believed that he had the power to teleport the entire room at once to a demon realm, it was now extremely imperative that he not get away. “We can't let him teleport.”

Donovan appeared in the doorway again. He must have heard that, as he was staring at Yuki as he charged another spell. Kathryn dove in front of the girl to block the impending shot, but Donovan simply turned and fired it at the defenseless Molly. It struck her hard in the shoulder and tore off a bit of flesh. She slumped over and dropped her spell.

“Molly!” Renee and Bryce had arrived, the former charging down the length of the hallway. She rushed forward and slid along the floor to her sister. “Oh God...”

“Do you know how to do that anti-teleporting spell thingy?” Kathryn asked her, watching Donovan's eyes carefully to anticipate his next target. He was already going into another spell.

“Yeah,” Renee replied, firing it off. Donovan's next spell failed.

“Great.” Without another word, Kathryn charged in again.

While Kathryn and Donovan evaded each other's spells and staff swipes, Renee stayed with Molly. She held her spell up, assuming it was important, but it left her unable to do anything besides sit and attend to her sister. If Molly was conscious, she was only barely so. Yuki was still at work with her potion, slowed considerably by her previous disruption.

At least Troy and Blaine arrived to round out the cavalry. Troy looked Molly over and said, “Well, that didn't take long.”

Renee pointed to the dark room with her free hand. “Help Kathryn.”

Troy nodded and headed in... just as Kathryn tried to dive out to avoid a shot. She crashed into him and Donovan's attack nailed her in the shin.

“Ow... dammit Troy!”

Letting her get up from on top of him, he shouted, “I'm just trying to help!”

“Then get out of my way!” Back on her feet, she lunged (or rather limped) after him. This made her an easier target.

Blaine just stood next to Yuki watching the action. This was a step above Bryce, who was still halfway down the hallway. As Donovan started to land more hits on Kathryn and Troy could do nothing but stand in the doorway, Blaine observed, “Um, I'm not really in a position to fight, but just throwing this out there... why did Molly think he came here to try to get control over the demon?”

“I don't know, something about the dark room being a place of personal strength for him,” Yuki replied.

“I don't mean to tell you guys how to handle this, but maybe you should get him out of there then.”

“Wish we could,” Renee said. “But I don't think Kathryn can do it herself.”

Blaine nodded. “Somebody should really get a shield up.”

“Love to. Can't. Busy.”

Meanwhile, things weren't going so well inside. Kathryn was pinned in the far corner of the wall swatting down bullets. Finally, a blast knocked her staff away. Donovan grinned and charged up a finishing blow. Kathryn huddled down, but had no real defense for an attack that he seemed to delight in putting extra gusto into.

At least her position was far enough from the door to let Troy in to land an ice attack. Shame it didn't seem to damage Donovan much. In fact, he didn't even lose focus on the spell he was charging. It only changed his target: he fired it at Troy immediately.

The shield absorbed it. Troy turned and smiled at Renee, who kept it up.

Donovan fired another shot at Troy, again seeing it absorbed against the magic barrier. Troy kicked the staff back to Kathryn. And Donovan grinned.

“Now let's see how you like my new home.” With no other warning, he fired off a teleportation spell.

Once again, they went nowhere.

Outside, Blaine kept Molly secure and turned to Bryce. “It's probably the right thing to do.”

Bryce grimaced and kept swinging his crystal around. “Yeah, yeah...”


Session Six

With the minions handling support from the sidelines, Troy and Kathryn thought they had an advantage. Renee's shield was designed to allow Troy to make regular attacks on Donovan. While Kathryn was recovering, he took full advantage, launching a wave of strong ice attacks. Donovan had to put up a shield to block them. For once, they seemed to have an advantage.

Between ice blasts, Renee managed to shout to Kathryn, “Try to get him out of the room!”

Kathryn was already working on it, in her own special way as she was a special kind of pissed off. She picked up her staff and held it in the air, focusing for a moment and thinking all sorts of angry thoughts. When she opened her eyes, she saw an immense flame emerging from the end of her staff. She launched it at Donovan.

Despite the sudden use of magic, she wasn't being subtle about it and Donovan was able to duck in time. The shot slammed against the far wall, but Troy wasn't about to let it go to waste. A well-timed wind spell from him swept it to the floor and engulfed half the room. Whether or not the sudden firestorm was enough to get Donovan out of the room, Troy and Kathryn bolted.

Once clear, they turned and readied themselves for Donovan's exit. Troy stayed at the door, while Kathryn took the wall. Renee dropped her shield for a moment, unsure of whom she was better off protecting.

“How's it going, Yuki?” Kathryn asked

“Got it,” Yuki replied, handing a potion to Blaine. He shoved it down Molly's gullet. Her eyes darted open. Then she winced. The gaping body wounds still stung a bit.

Yuki hovered over her. “You okay, Molly?”

“Yeah. Is he still here?”

“Yes,” Bryce said. “Will someone take over anti-teleport duty now? If the dark room's on fire, I don't want to be here when he comes out.”

Molly nodded. While she was technically healed, she did have quite the headache and didn't mind avoiding direct combat.

“Cool thanks bye.” And Bryce vanished.

Troy was still fixed on the doorway. “Uh... he's not coming out.”

“So go peek inside,” Kathryn said.

“No thank you.”

He didn't need to: he heard something inside. However, it was a series of growling that was definitely not human. Troy used an air spell to clear out some of the smoke. Whatever was inside took offense and pounced at him, clawing at his chest.

It looked canine, but had horns, sharper fangs and grayer fur than the hell hounds they'd encountered before. This was more like a hell wolf. It was also on fire. Renee generated an energy bolt to knock it off of Troy. The wolf shook it off and tried to pounce back on him. He blasted him with a strong dose of water, extinguishing the fire but not the dog.

The creature proved elusive, pacing around Troy and Renee and dodging their spells as they tried to subdue it. Kathryn approached to help them, but a second wolf dove out of the room and tackled her, scratching her shoulder and burning her arm in the process.

She kicked it off and grabbed her staff, holding it up in time to block a second attack. It persisted, and soon she was backed up next to Troy and Renee, still busy with their own puppy.

“Where did these come from?” Renee asked.

“Who cares? Just kill them,” Molly commanded.

Troy darted between both of them, not sure which was going to strike next. He realized he should probably just attack one of them, but couldn't decide between the angrier one staring down Renee or the one that was still flaming. The fiery one dove first, so he took it down with a hard bolt of ice.

The second one followed immediately with an attack on Renee, but she jumped out of the way. The wolf landed and pounced again, backing her up toward the dark room wall. Then it heard the pained cry of its comrade as Kathryn knocked it out with her staff. Turning direction quickly, it tackled her instead. She barely had time to get her hand up to guard her neck from his bite. It got her wrist instead.

Troy took care of this one as well, hitting it with a second ice blast at close range. But the damage had been done and Kathryn couldn't ignore her injuries any more. She stayed on the ground, even handing her staff to Troy to dispatch of the second wolf. He did with a strong blow to the head.

In the brief moment of calm, Renee said, “What was all that about?”

She never got an answer. They all turned to her, only to find Donovan standing right behind her, hitting her point blank with a charged energy blast.

“Renee!” Molly shouted, losing her concentration for just a moment before re-applying her spell to keep Donovan there.

Troy didn't think so much as he reacted. He thrust the staff forward and its power lent itself to the giant block of ice that slammed Donovan into the wall, encasing him inside it. It was an impulse move, but once he realized what he had done, Troy kept his arm forward and kept Donovan frozen.

While Yuki went to check on Renee, Troy stepped towards Donovan, still holding the staff out. “Are you finished yet?” he asked. Up close, he stared down the captive for several moments before finally pulling back. The ice disappeared and Donovan fell to the floor, gasping for air. He was seething, but seemed powerless as he struggled to get to his knees.

“Why do you keep doing this?” Troy asked, standing over him. “How are we supposed to trust you when you keep running off and doing things like this? And why doesn't anyone stop you? Did they think it was a good idea for you to have a demon? Do they still?” Troy shook his head. “I just want to make sure you don't hurt us ever again.”

He lifted the staff back for another spell. Donovan couldn't even cringe.

Before Troy could get the spell off, a bolt of energy struck him from behind, sending him flying off and crashing into the side of a large garbage can. Both he and the staff dropped to the floor.

Amidst her heavy breathing, Molly stood up, lowered her trigger finger and walked up to both of them.





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