Marrissa opened the door and exited the warm and comfortable house which manifested inside an old abandoned mill not far from town. She had spent a considerable time conjuring the living space with brightly colored walls and spacious rooms within the deserted building. She paid as much attention to the comforts of the dwelling as she did towards fortifying its walls with spells of protection and concealment. Layers and layers of defensive hexes littered the outside of the mill giving Marrissa some sense of peace knowing that Tabitha was safe in her absence.
With the windows rolled down and the crisp breeze blowing through her curly auburn hair, Marrissa came to the end of the dirt road. With a sudden swoosh of air, the daylight vanished and before her rose the three pillars. Marrissa looked around, and the dream-like haziness of the trance seemed slightly less murky this time. She looked at the three structures and realized they were not pillars. They were something far more than that. They stood, three in a row within the depths of this foreign cavern. Jetting upward and tips barely visible stood three obsidian obelisks. These were ancient symbols from myths told long ago. In the distance, just beyond the monoliths, a lone figure emerged from a bright, white glow. She stood before Marrissa masked in the light.
“The time approaches with quickening speed, my child,” the figure said.
Marrissa could already feel herself being pulled back to her physical body. She shouted, “Wait! Please tell me what this means! Who are you?” The only response she received was the fading echoes of five faint words.
Marrissa’s thoughts slowly cleared. The car had run off the road and was smoothly idling on the edge of a grassy field. Marrissa laughed to herself thinking it was a miracle the visions hadn’t killed her yet. Dread crept into Marrissa’s heart when she detected another sound emerging under the car’s running motor. A faint rumbling caught her attention. She leaned forward and scanned the heavens. Fear stabbed at her chest like a dagger with such intensity; it almost took her breath away. Low in the sky, coming over the horizon, a massive storm cloud consumed the atmosphere. Plumes of clouds spindled and twisted out of the massive storm and stretched out like long and pointed fingers that scratched at the blue sky. The clouds were bulbous and pulsating to a low and menacing roll of thunder. Illuminations of blue and white light flashed from within the green and black clouds.
Marrissa stepped out of the car as the wind rose and whipped at her body with a cold and bitter sting. She stared at the atmospheric chaos bubbling and churning in the sky and knew what hovered above her. She mouthed its name, careful not to speak it aloud out of fear it may hear her.
The storm slowly moved across the sky. The shadow it cast was oppressive and darkened the ground below. Marrissa instantly knew its destination. She knew where its present course would take it. It had one goal. It had one purpose. It desired only one thing.
“Tabitha,” Marrissa said.
Jumping back into the car and stepping hard on the gas pedal, Marrissa turned the car around back the way she came. She took quick glances to her right at the disturbance of clouds spilling out over the trees and advancing toward the old mill. She cursed herself for being so foolish. The incident at the park had been enough to create a magical wake that rippled out into the beyond. She wondered who had found them this time. Whomever or whatever it was, they were incredibly powerful. Evoking a Maelstrom is no simple matter for your run of the mill warlock or typical demon warlord. In fact, she recalled the knowledge to summon such a force had been lost to all others, except to possibly four entities. The thought of this chilled her bones, but Marrissa knew the Four could not appear. It was not their time. The prophecies are precise, and they were binding. If violations prophetic mandates were occurring, chaos would bleed into reality, and fate would have no more purpose.
The Maelstrom came to a stop, and its clouds slowly circled the lone building like a massive whirlpool. The thunder intensified and became explosive roars that shook the ground. Reaching the mill seconds before the Maelstrom, Marrissa burst through the front door. The wind from the storm blew with such force; she needed all her strength to close the door. With one final push, the door slammed shut. Marrissa desperately scanned the room. She let out a gasp of relief at seeing Tabitha still seated in front of the open closet and deep in thought. She rushed over to the little girl and embraced her with all her love.
“Mommy! I did it! I did it! I talked to the bones, and they talked back,” Tabitha exclaimed in excitement.
Marrissa was nervously scanning the walls and quickly making plans of escape in her mind when her daughter’s words caught her attention. “What did you say, sweetheart?” She asked.
“They spoke to me,” the girl hesitated for a moment. “Mommy, who are the Four Horsemen?”
Marrissa looked down at Tabitha and said nothing. The shock of her daughter’s revelation had left her with no words. Before she was able to answer, a low hiss filled the air. It grew in intensity, then suddenly every light within the house was extinguished with a loud pop. In the darkness, they stood in complete stillness, waiting for what was next to come. Loud booms broke the silence and echoed from all directions. Something was slamming against the walls of their tiny sanctuary.
Grasping Tabitha in one arm, Marrissa raised her free hand high and shouted, “Ochráň ma!” The sound from the massive impacts vanished from the raising of every spell of protection and mystical barriers Marrissa had conjured in preparation for such an assault. She turned to the open closet and said, “Buddy, get us out of here!”
Yo’Gitja demons are one of the more mysterious demons and only summoned by one who has achieved the highest levels of skill in the practice of evocation. They are known for three things: their brutality, their talents as hunters and abilities in infiltration. One of the rarest and most useful skills of this breed of demon is their abilities to travel between the spaces that separate the real world and that of the spirit world. They created “pockets.” The Yo’Gitja possessed the ability to create small tears in reality that allowed them to slip into and out any location with the flick of the hand. These pockets also could stretch out and connect to other pockets, forming a passageway to far away places. No barrier, mystical or man-made could keep a Yo’Gitja demon from entering or exiting any location if it so desired.
The broad grin and large eyes emerged from the closet, and the demon began to wave its hands in circular motion. The slams and blows were increasing in intensity again as the rogue-demon frantically continued to conjure their escape route. It looked up from its work and let out a series of nervous giggles.
“Mommy! Buddy says something’s stopping him from opening a door. He says he’s not sure if he can do it!”
Marrissa closed her eyes to think. Each massive strike sent tremors through her body, making it harder to concentrate. She could feel the beginnings of panic build in her chest as hope slowly bled from her body. She opened her eyes wide when the voices arose from the darkness and spoke.
“The girl. Give us the girl,” four voices in unison whispered from outside the walls.
Marrissa turned towards Tabitha and said, “Baby, I need you to listen to me. I want you to go upstairs and stay there. No matter what happens, do not come back down here. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, Mommy.” Tabitha whimpered.
“I need you to keep watch. If you see anything trying to get in, I want you to push it back out. Remember, use short, controlled bursts; just like we practiced. Can you do that for mommy?”
“Good girl. Now get up there,” Marrissa smiled as Tabitha sprinted upstairs. The four voices whispered once again, this time with more malice and coldness in their words.
“Give us the girl, witch. Give her to us, and your suffering will be tolerable. We will be merciful and promise your soul will be salvageable once we finish with you.”
She turned to face the grinning demon and said, “Keep working on that doorway.”
Marrissa leaned closer to the demon and whispered into its ear.
“We can’t let even one of those things in here. Do whatever needs to be done to protect Tabitha.”
The demon bowed its head and turned to leave.
“Buddy,” Marrissa reached out and placed its large hand within hers. Trying to sound strong and determined, she looked Buddy in the eyes and said, “You do understand that under no circumstance can we be taken alive, right? If we fail, you’ll take care of that, won’t you?”
The creature hesitated for a moment. Its broad grin took on a tenderness Marrissa had never seen before. In fact, to be honest, she never thought these animals were capable of such emotions other than violence and cruelty. With sad and mournful eyes, Buddy nodded. He quickly turned and leaped upward toward the rafters and disappeared.
“GIVE US THE GIRL, WITCH! WE COME TO DINE UPON THEE AND TASTE THE WOMB THAT BEGOT THIS CHILD OF PROPHESY. WE WILL KEEP THEE ALIVE, SO YOU MAY SEE US LICK THE TEARS FROM YOUR CHILD’S FACE AS SHE WATCHES US TEAR THROUGH YOUR FLESH AND DEVOUR YOUR INNARDS!”
Marrissa closed her eyes once again and took a deep breath. She was now ready to commit herself to a path of war. Marrissa knew this was the moment her destiny had been leading her towards. She opened her eyes and stood tall in defiance and shouted into the darkness.
“If you want her, try and take her if you dare! Come, unclean spirits of filth, fight with me! The rubbish heap calls thy name! It waits for thee, for by day’s end will thy corpse be tossed upon its mound and left for the crows and worms to feast upon! Your future ends today! Fight with me, servants of s**t, fight!”
The slamming of strikes against metal echoed louder and louder. Marrissa lowered her head and closed her eyes. She slowly began to calm herself, and her breathing slowed. Marrissa focused her mind on the elements that surrounded her: Earth, wind, fire, and water. She reached out and took command of the dormant energies that lay hidden within nature. They permeated her skin and saturated her senses. At first, they were chaotic but soon balanced themselves and flowed through her in harmony. From behind, a black slit emerged in mid-air, and a globulous shape spilled onto the floor through the fissure. It towered over Marrissa, and a tube-shaped appendage arose and reared back to strike.
In a single graceful movement, Marrissa took hold of her wand in one hand and unsheathed a curved dagger in the other and shouted, “de ulla mort’ te!” In a burst of light, the tip of her wand glowed brighter than an exploding star, and her dagger ignited in a blazing blue flame. She spun, arching her back, avoiding the stab from the pointed tip of the slimy monstrosity masked in shadows. In a single swipe from her burning dagger, she took the head of her unsuspecting attacker. Standing over the corpse, she spat at the twitching body now lying dead at her feet.
Marrisa looked around, ensuring all was safe. When she felt no danger was present at the moment, she ran to the nearest window and lifted the mystical barrier to gain a view of their current predicament. She couldn’t help herself, but she gasped at the scene that lay before her.
The Four Horsemen stood at the forefront of the horde they commanded. At first glimpse, it could be easily mistaken to believe the four warriors mounted a grotesque and deformed horse of similar skin tone and texture, but in fact, they were not separate, but one creature. They stood ten feet tall with pale, white skin. Penetrating and mutilating their body were black thorns that wrapped around their bodies. The thick spines spiraled around their heads and came to a sharp point forming a crown of thorns.
The Horsemen’s servants were slightly shorter with wet and sleek bodies of white flesh that had never seen the rays of daylight. They stood upright, but not like that of a man. They stood on their hands with legs held high above their heads. The legs were short and stubby limbs that came to a point at a sharp and curved claw. Their torsos were segmented and long appendages that curved forward and had the likeness to a decayed scorpion’s tail with an ebony black stinger upon its tip.
Two creatures caught Marrissa’s attention. The were multi-armed beasts with the lower body of a serpent. They waved their arms in the air as if engaged in the act of worship. She guessed immediately they were high priests to the Horsemen and the source of Buddy’s inability to produce a portal for their escape. Their incantations of suppression were powerful and not likely to be overcome. Marrissa sealed her viewport as the loud bangs and booms grew in intensity from all around her.