Part I: On the Run
The horrid smell of brimstone mixed with that of burnt flesh lingered in the air as the corpses of the oni vanished into smoke.
I didn’t keep my lunch down.
A few hours ago, I was a normal student about to start my senior year of high school. Now I was fighting for my life against monsters that weren’t supposed to exist and using powers I’d never believed existed.
“You know you can’t stay here.” Abraxas said, still holding one of his talisman ready to attack any enemy. It didn’t matter what he said, he seemed to always speak in a calm and collected way. He was tall and thin, with a leather trench coat wrapped around his body and his face obscured by an iron helm that only let his glowing eyes visible. “You need to get out of San Francisco.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Of course you do, we always have a choice. But if you stay, I can’t guarantee your safety; they’ll keep coming for you. But you’ll be safe on priest island. I can sponsor you and just like that, you’ll be in.”
“What’s so special about that place? Beside the obvious.” Priest island held the world’s most prestigious superhero school, but I doubted that was the only reason he wanted me there.
“The fact Ravenhold was built there is just a coincidence; Priest island has always been a nexus of occult energies, in a way it exist in its own dimension which will make it impossible for them to get to you. The demons are only the beginning, it’s only a matter of time before they just resort to cursing you dead.”
“And I’ll be safe there?”
“For a time, yes. The Shigeo-kai will find you one day, but when they do, you’ll be ready for them and you won’t be alone.”
“Alright.” The realization I was living on borrowed time didn’t really help the noose in my stomach.
“But Priest Island has it’s own risks so listen to me carefully; Don’t listen to the dreams. Don’t accept anything it offers, don’t even speak to it.”
“There’s something old buried under blue mountain and it wants out. It will feel your presence, it will try to get you to unleash it and that cannot happen. But all it can do is tempt you; it will offer you power and everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Stay strong and it cannot touch you.”
His head suddenly turned to one side.
“Come on, we have to get a move on.”
I didn’t hesitate and followed him.
“I still can’t believe magic exist… I mean, I know we have aliens and mutants but those are science, they make sense. This… doesn’t… I mean, where was magic before all this?”
“Magic wax and wane through the ages and depending on the locale. The rise of superheroes changed magic, making it stronger than ever before.”
He opened his coat and took out a leather bag, putting his hand inside before tossing a cloud of powder.
“That’ll keep them off our track. For now.”
He whispered an incantation and his appearance visibly changed before me; gone was the helm and the trench coat. Instead he became just average; fitted slacks, a gray turtleneck, brown hair and glasses. He looked like a dorky college professor rather than the superhero he really was.
“Pull your hoodie up. Look away from reflective surfaces.”
I did as he said and he took me across town, I gave him my address and we went that way.
“Pack a bag, just the bare minimum. I’ll talk to your parents.”
My mom wasn’t home this time of day, only my dad but I let him. I practically ran to my room and picked my twin sister’s sport bag, tossing a few clothes and important doodads inside.
“What are you doing?” Emma asked, coming in. “What’s going on, why is there a freaking superhero in our dining room?”
Despite our names being western, the two of us were actually Korean, at least genetically; after six generation in the united states, there wasn’t a whole lot of our culture left.
“I don’t really have time to explain.”
I stopped what I was doing. She had a right to know, she’d always been there for me when I needed her; when my messed up brain wasn’t working normally. I spread out my fingers and called the magic down; I could feel it inside of me; like a gateway to a distant power asking me to give it shape. And so I did; Lightning danced between my fingers.
“Holy shit!” Her eyes went wide.
“I know. It just happened and now the yakuza want to kill me because I fucked one of their guy up.”
Emma came forward and embraced me tightly.
“What are you going to do?”
“Run away, at least until I know to defend myself. Abraxas say Ravenhold is safe and right now he’s my only bet.”
“What can I do?”
“Annabelle.” Abraxas called. “Are you ready?”
“Almost.” I answered. I picked the few things I still hadn’t and went for the door.
“Wait.” Emma said, taking me by the hand. I stopped and she removed her norigae pendent. “Take it.”
“I can’t that’s gram’s gift. I can’t take it away from you.”
When we were younger we’d been babysit by our great grandmother often. We’d grown up hearing her stories passed on from her own grandmother about our culture. When she’d passed away, she’d given us some of her traditional jewelry to hold onto; I’d received a Cheopji from her.
“Then I’m just loaning it to you. You’re going to have to make it out okay so you can return it to me.”
“I’ll take good care of it.”
I gave her a brief hug and then did the same to my dad, who wished me safe travel and promised to pray for me. I didn’t know what Abraxas had said, but my dad seemed convinced enough of the gravity of the situation.
Abraxas and I went out and found our way to the airport. He booked a ticket for me while I stood around, watching for any potential aggressors.
“Before you go, you’ll need this.” He said, taking a necklace with three hanging charms from it. “It’ll protect you. Don’t remove it under any circumstance.”
I didn’t question. I took it and passed it around my neck before joining the line to board the plane.
It was a five hours flight to New York. And somehow despite the situation I managed to fall asleep in my seat.
Midway through the flight however, I was awaken by Abraxas’ necklace. It burned white hot and pressed against me like it weighed a ton.
I had to stop myself from removing it. I shuddered to think what would have happened had I done do. After a minute the burning stopped and one of the three charm attached to the necklace crumbled to dust.
“Are you alright?” The woman beside me asked.
“Yeah, I just had bit of a panic attack.” I lied.
I didn’t fall back asleep, instead I just held the charms in between my fingers; It still had two charges. I didn’t dare imagine what would happen if they ran out prematurely. To my relief, the rest of the flight went quietly and we arrived in the big apple.
Once I set foot down in the New York terminal, a man in a non-descript suit came and found me, claiming to work for the Legion before giving me a bus ticket and a ride to the bus station.
The bus terminal allowed me to breath a sigh of relief. I was still vulnerable to curses but there was no way the Shigeo-kai could send anyone after me now; there had to be nearly a hundred parahumans about.
Along with the others I boarded one of two busses.
It was another nine hours to reach priest island. Hopefully Abraxas’ charm would last that long…