The next morning found Jen and Damien flying over the forest on a soul force disk toward where Lizzy said the demon lived. A pack of supplies sat between them. Damien wouldn’t be able to fly them home until after he finished destroying the demon. He said he’d spent a few hours the night before using sorcery to reinforce the flask to the point he felt confident it would hold the demon long enough for him to banish it. Jen didn’t understand the process, but he seemed satisfied it would work and that was enough for her.
Heaven’s mercy, she wanted badly to slice that monster up for what it had done to her father. Jen leaned forward over the rail, her hands clenching and relaxing. “How much further?”
Another hour or so. We need to walk part of the way since there’s no place to land right next to the cave.
A shiver ran through Jen. How did Damien stand having that voice in his head? Not that it sounded unpleasant, sort of smoky and sultry. Maybe if you were a man it held more appeal, but as for Jen it sent a chill up her spine.
“You okay?” Damien asked. He’d been glancing at her off and on since they left the castle at dawn.
“I’m fine, little brother, just worry about dealing with the demon.”
He nodded and looked away, his frown not lessened in the least. She appreciated that he didn’t call her on the obvious lie she’d just told. Jen hadn’t been okay since they first got word of Dad’s death. She couldn’t concentrate. She wavered from furious to borderline sobbing one minute to the next. Her one slim hope was that putting an end to the creature that killed him would grant her some sort of peace.
In truth she held little faith it would make any difference.
It’s down there.
The demon sword’s voice brought Jen out of her depressed musings. “Where?”
She studied the forest and hills below them, but nothing stood out even to her enhanced senses. Beside her Damien’s gaze locked on one of the hills. “There’s a cave.” He pointed at the base of the hill.
Jen followed his finger and finally saw it, little more than a shadow on the face of the steep hill. The cave didn’t look like much. In fact she could hardly imagine a less remarkable place for such a remarkable man to die. “Is it in there?”
Damien nodded, his face a little pale. “It’s there and it’s way stronger than I expected. Even after Lizzy warned me…Wow. It makes the one we fought look like an angry puppy beside a mastiff.”
Damien brought the platform down in a flat meadow halfway between the tree line and the cave. The transport vanished and Jen started straight for the cave. She hadn’t taken more than a couple steps when Damien’s hand fell on her shoulder.
“Go easy. It may be in the back or it might be just past the opening. It’s putting out so much power I can’t tell its exact position.”
They fell in shoulder to shoulder. Jen wanted to say how much it meant to her that they were doing this together, but when she tried her throat closed up and no words emerged. Maybe she’d tell him after.
The two of them stopped a few feet from the cave entrance. Just inside, two glowing dots hovered in the air at head height. She couldn’t make out any details of the creature. Damien drew his flask out, but he didn’t have a chance to do anything before the creature stepped out into the light.
Jen gasped. This was no creature of smoke and haze. It was Dad, or at least his body.
That thing was using her father’s body. The flesh had a waxy look and brown liquid leaked out of his nose, mouth and ears. The eyes had long since deteriorated. In their place glowed crimson pits, like someone had put burning embers in his skull.
Rotten lips split and spilled stinking fluid down his face as they pulled back from yellow teeth in a mocking smile. A sword of black energy, an exact duplicate of the demon blade he’d carried in life, sprang to life in his right hand.
Jen had her own sword drawn in an instant. Her rage boiled over and a torrent of soul force flowed from her core through her body. Not a moment too soon either. The thing inhabiting her father’s body accelerated to warlord speed and rushed them.
Jen tried to block the black sword, but it passed through her blade like smoke. Only her enhanced speed allowed her to dodge at the last second.
She raced to put some distance between her and the dead thing in front of her. She spun to face the creature.
It leered at her, clearly enjoying her panic. How could she fight if her weapon was useless?
She barely completed the thought when a golden glow surrounded her blade. A safe distance in the air, Damien was pointing at her, his hand glowing. Her sword vibrated as the power he left in the weapon at its forging resonated with the new energy he provided.
The monster wearing her father’s body shifted its expression from a leer to a rage-filled snarl.
That’s right, you ugly son of a bitch. You’re going to pay for using my father’s body.
They accelerated at the same instant. When she went to parry this time her sword hit with a satisfying crash.
Thank you, little brother.
They hacked at each other, making ten passes in as many seconds.
The monster had speed, but lacked both the demon sword to augment its innate power and her father’s natural skill. If it had possessed either she would have been dead already.
As it was Jen stayed even with it. Her anger pushed her to be too aggressive. She needed to calm down and fight like her father had taught her.
Jen didn’t attack.
She didn’t parry.
Her mind calmed. She flowed around her opponent’s blade.
It was so clumsy. How’d she ever imagined this pale fraud retained any of her father’s spirit?
Each time she dodged the monster’s attacks it grew more aggressive. It swung with all its might, giving no thought to defense.
Jen spun away from an overhead slash and countered. Her glowing blade hacked the creature’s arm off at the elbow.
Black mist sprayed from the wound. Jen raised her hands to cover her face.
The mist never reached her. When she lowered her hands the darkness was surging into the air. She looked up to see Damien with the flask in one hand, Lizzy in the other, both pointed at Dad’s corpse.
A golden tornado ripped the darkness out of his body through the wound she’d made. The monster pulled back, trying to stop Damien from tearing out its essence.
Jen knew exactly what she had to do. Her sword flashed and the monster’s limbs fell, one after another, to the ground.
Soon only a stump remained and black mist sprayed from each wound before flowing up into the flask.