I spun around, dodging the strike from his wooden sword and falling to my knee. Then, I turned the fall into a roll, trying to bring myself back up to block. I pulled my wooden sword up, but it didn’t make it in time. His sword came crashing down, and I closed my eyes and winced, waiting for the strike to happen. When it didn’t, I opened one eye. Andrew was standing there, holding the sword an inch or two above my head. He casually pulled it away.
“Jane, are you sure you want to keep this up? I don’t want you to be hurt.” He offered me his hand.
I took his offer and rose to my feet, dusting myself off a bit. “That’s exactly why I want to do this. I want to keep myself from getting hurt.”
Andrew grimaced, taking several steps back and moving back into position. I sighed, moving to my respective starting position. We had been at this for an hour now. For some reason, I had thought that starting to practice using the sword with him wouldn’t have been so humiliating. At first, he hadn’t even wanted to help me. It had taken a great deal of groveling to get him to show me anything, so I couldn’t back down.
We were in the art room. All the seating had been pushed to the sides to make room for us. I would have preferred to do it in some kind of dojo or gym room, perhaps something with soft flooring, but that wasn’t available for just the two of us. We didn’t want to risk doing something as odd as sword fighting in a public area.
Andrew surged at me again. This time I was going to land a hit. I would do it. In the past, I kept worrying about blocking his attacks. Maybe if I just went all out offense, he wouldn’t expect it. I lunged forward, determined to knock him down with sheer ferocity.
“Hey, guys!” Alex chimed as he walked in, “Time for a snack.”
Andrew stopped, pulling the sword to his side. However, I had already leaped forward and I couldn’t stop my momentum. I barely pulled the sword away before Andrew realized I was coming at him. He tried to move to catch me but wasn’t quick enough. I ended up plowing into him, my face slamming into his chest. The two of us went down, our swords falling to either side. Before I knew it, we were on the ground. I looked up. His piercingly beautiful eyes stared at mine with a look of concern.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
I could smell the faint scent of sweat and vanilla on his skin. Why did he always have to smell good, even when he was sweaty? I knew I probably smelled like a zoo.
“Yeah…” I said.
“Get a room you two,” Rune snickered, following behind Alex.
Daniel, Ryan, Daltom, and Stephan all filed in behind him, turning the open art room into a crowded space. I sighed and got off of Andrew, moving up to my feet. I offered Andrew a hand. He looked up at it with amusement, but took it. As I picked him up to his feet, Alex began pulling out food from a basket as he laid out on the floor. I realized it was far more food than a simple snack.
“It’s near dinner, I thought it would be nice to have a kind of picnic here at school,” Alex explained.
“That’s fine with me,” Daniel confessed, “I am starving.”
Alex pulled out a bunch of plates, handing them to each of us. When I received mine, I looked it up and down. It was far thicker than a plate should be and had several buttons on the side.
“What is this?”
Alex shrugged, “It’s a plate, I think. I don’t know. Samantha gave it to me. She said it was useless.”
“I think I remember Samantha looking at it while we were at the beach. She said she got it from Allan’s bag. I told her to put it back.”
Alex shrugged, “Well, it’s a plate. It probably just warms food or something. You know how Allan is always inventing stupid stuff. Just give it back to him when he comes. He said he’d be a few minutes late.”
I sighed, glancing around to find no extra plates. I suppose using it couldn’t hurt me. I reached down and picked it up. What’s the worst that could happen?
A sudden explosion knocked me back. The plate fell to the floor and a blinding light pierced my vision. When my eyes adjusted to the light, I looked up and had to gasp. A massive ball of fire had erupted in the middle of the room. It glowed with a green shimmer, completely free of the walls and floor.
“What did you do, Alex? Just a plate, my ass.” I snapped, turning to him.
Alex was staring at the light and didn’t seem to be paying attention to me. Neither did Andrew nor Rune, whom watched the glowing light with intensity. Rune seemed surprised and agitated. Andrew seemed openly angry and hostile. His sword shown at his side, although I knew from experience he wouldn’t be able to swing the thing without first making it disappear.
“What’s going on?” I finally asked.
“It wasn’t that plate,” Alex finally spoke up, “That’s hellfire. It’s a portal to our dimension. It’s-”
Alex’s words was cut off by a deep dark laughter coming from within the depths of the fire. The fire flickered as if responding to the voice.
“Hello, son. It’s been a while.”
Rune snarled and fire sprouted from his hand. He shot a purple fireball into the fire. The fire seemed to absorb Rune’s fire with grace, not altering a hair. Laughter began to sound from within again.
“I see you still shoot like a girl, Rune!”
“Shut up, old man!” Rune shouted, his face twisted in anger, “Why don’t you come over to this side and tell me that!”
“That… is the plan.” The voice from the other side chuckled.
“You… wait, what?” Rune’s facial features went from anger to shock in a second.
“It’s been a while,” the voice boomed, “I wanted to check up on my son and see how you’re doing. Plus your mom said you met a girl, and I’d like to meet her.”
This was Rune’s dad? I supposed he had to have one. The fire seemed to throw a menacing light across the entire room. I swallowed a lump in my throat. He wasn’t that intimidating. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.
Rune’s cheeks became as red as his hair as he glowered at the fire, “I told mom not to tell you anything! What did you do to her?”
“Oh, yes… she didn’t talk easily. Let’s just say there were chains, and whips, and excessive rope involved.”
“You bastard, if you hurt mom-”
“Hurt her? She was the one using them!” the voice began to laugh again.
Rune seemed to shake visibly, his eyes lowered and his face darkened.
Before he could say anything, his dad continued, “So I’ll be stopping by Tomorrow night. For dinner. Let’s say sevenish. Bring the girl along. Also, I’m bringing your uncle with me. He’s been kind of stressed lately and could use some family time.”
“What! Don’t you-” Rune shouted.
“See you then! Chow!” The fire winked out as quickly as it had arrived.
Spots sparkled in my eyes from the after image. I shook my head. That was interesting to watch. So Rune’s father was coming to town? That didn’t seem like the worst thing ever. I’m sure he was far less ominous in person. Rune just stood there, his mouth open, his fist tight with anger.
“This meeting is not going to happen,” Andrew snapped, grabbing Rune’s arm.
Rune turned back with an equally angry look, “I agree with you, but once my father has his mind set on something, he never lets up.”
“Is Rune’s dad that bad?” I spoke up.
Stephan, Daniel, and Ryan glanced at the other three curiously. They had all remained quiet for the exchange. Daltom was hiding himself behind the door, peaking out the side. Alex, Rune, and Andrew all shared a look.
Alex spoke first, “Baal Adramelech, that is Rune’s father, isn’t all that bad. I am more concerned about Rune’s uncle.”
Andrew and Rune looked down, not quite wanting to meet my eyes.
“Why, what’s wrong with his uncle?”
Alex went to speak but Rune raised his hand, “Wait Alex, sorry, I think I should tell her. You probably know that Andreatis’ dad is the supreme archangel. He is currently the leader in heaven. Should he pass, Andreatis is next in line to be leader.”
I let out a noise of surprise. I kind of felt stupid that I hadn’t put two and two together. The leader of heaven? Does that make Andrew some kind of royalty?
“Well…” Rune continued, “I’m not so far up in the hierarchy of hell. I’m actually thirty-seventh in line for the throne. So suffice it to say, a long way away. My father would be thirty-sixth since I’m his only son of three. This isn’t because my father is far removed from the line. It’s just that Abaddon has so many children. You see, my uncle is the lord of hell.”
“The lord of hell?” I worked the words in my mouth.
“I suppose you’d call him the Demon King, the devil, or Satan. There are a lot of names for him.” Alex spoke up.
“Are you trying to tell me that the devil himself is going to come to Fairmont Tomorrow night for dinner?” my voice was a tad shriller than I would have liked it to be.
“Technically, but it’s going to be fine. He’s really mellowed out in the last decade or so. It won’t be another Mt. Saint Helen.”
“Mt. St. Helen?” Daniel asked.
Rune sighed. “My older sister started dating a guy in Washington, right after going to college. It was this big thing. Abaddon and my dad ended up erupting a volcano.”
“Satan erupted Mt. St. Helen?” Stephan spoke up in surprise.
“Look, I’m not going to have your uncle level this city because he had a bad day,” Andrew spoke up. “If I had to fight him-”
Rune snorted, “If you had to fight him? You’d die. My family are demons. Literally. Besides, that wasn’t really their fault. The guy she was dating was a loser. Tattoos, piercings, and a snarky attitude to boot. He deserved what happened to him. But that’s not important. There is nothing we can do about it now. My dad and uncle are coming to town whether we like it or not. Let’s hope we can appease them and they don’t wreck too much while they are here.”
“I will fight them to death!”
Rune sighed, “Look, it’s just a dinner. We feed them, don’t let them get into any alcohol. They’ll see that I am in perfect shape. They go home. Nothing bad will happen.”
“Is there anything I can do?” I asked.
“Well…” Rune rubbed the back of his neck, “They are looking to meet you.”
Andrew coughed and the other guys suddenly averted their eyes from the pair of us. Rune seemed to be deep in thought. Then he snapped his fingers with an excited look on his face.
“You know what? They know they are not supposed to act bad in front of humans. If we have it at your house with your mom around, they’d be more likely to behave themselves.”
“What! My house?”
“Absolutely not!” Andrew stated.
“Look, it’s the only way we can minimize the damage.”
“By putting my mom in danger?”
“She won’t be in danger, I promise. If the old man gets any ideas, I’ll put him in his place.”
I glanced over at Rune. He seemed to have a look of pleading in his eyes. I had never seen him this desperate before. It was kind of cute in a way. It would be cuter if he wasn’t talking about screwing with my life. Although, it would just be a dinner. Mom already kind of thought he was my boyfriend from that time he came over, despite my protests. This wouldn’t be that bad, would it?
“Jane!” Andrew moved up to me, “This could be very dangerous you could…”
“I’ve decided!” I snapped.
Andrew blinked, a look of surprise on his face. After a second his shoulders relaxed, and he gave me a wooden nod. He didn’t have to like it. It was still a better option than attacking the Demon King and dying in a fiery glory like Andrew seemed to want to do.
“Um… guys?” Daltom spoke up, moving over to me and pulling on the back of my shirt.
Everyone turned to him at once and he shrunk back at the look.
“What is it?” Stephan asked, trying to keep his voice polite.
“The plate thingy is glowing.”
I frowned, but as my eyes followed Daltom’s vision they froze. The plate that I had been holding had fallen on the ground. Now it glowed a red color that flashed in rhythm. That wasn’t making me feel very confident. The light seemed to be flashing faster and faster with each revolution.
“Oh god, it’s a bomb, isn’t it?” Alex spoke up.
“What do we do?” Daniel asked.
“Run, let’s just get out of here,” Rune answered.
“If we did that, this thing could hurt someone else in the building. Do you want that on your conscious?” Andrew broke in.
“Okay, that’s fine… so we just turn it off…” I spoke up.
“Turn it off?” Rune asked.
“Yeah… it’s got buttons on the side. Just flick them until the thing stops making noise.”
“Sure, sounds good. Go for it.” Rune snorted.
“Fine, I will.”
“You’re not moving.”
“I’m working on it!”
Alex sighed, “I’ll do it.”
He leaned down over the machine and my breath caught. My life was flashing before my eyes. I had too many regrets in my life to die now. I couldn’t die a virgin. That fate almost seemed too cruel, given the circumstances. Alex picked up the plate and everyone tensed. The device was now flashing multiple times a second. The door opened and Allan glanced around the room until his eyes landed on the plate and went wide.
“No! Don’t touch that!” He raced forward, grabbing at the plate. Alex shrieked in surprise, dropping the plate like it was a snake. It struck the ground hard and then light exploded. I leapt for Daltom, shielding his terrified body with my own. Once again, light ripped through my vision. I felt like I was being torn apart by forces I couldn’t see or hear. It felt a bit like the transportation that Allan had used on us a few times, but also different at the same time. Just what was going to happen now?