"Never fear shadows. They simply mean there's a light shining somewhere nearby." - Ruth E Renkel
October 31st 1940
I was racing a comet near Jupiter when I got the call, a mystic call that returns me to my duty.
It was the thirty first day of October, a day of horror to most, but to me, September Mourning, War-Lock of Clan Cluster, it was just another day on the job. Another pleasant day to battle those that live in the shadows and belch out darkness like a baby belching vomit. If it were possible to hear sound in space, I would have heard myself chuckle at the prospect of some action, and as I gripped my mighty war axe and turned to the blue, sparkling planetoid below, a tremendous grin spread across my face and the very heavens rumbled as I propelled myself towards Earth. The stars smiled upon me as I moved, sending forth their light as a sign of good faith as I fell through the spaceways, golden armor making me look like a burning meteorite as I began to descend.
Cutting through the planet's atmosphere, I was met by flames that tickled my hide as they gasped for breath before quickly dying, I saw the mystic energies of the world drifting quietly through the air, arching and flowing as they began to lead me towards my destination. A brown, rusted spell washed over my body, cleansing me of any other worldly radiation I may have picked up on my travels and restoring my full body battle armor to the glowing condition it normally maintained. Passing over buildings and towers I don't recognize, the trail of mysticism leading my way proves faithful as it draws to a halt over a building below. Hovering over my destination, I dropped to the ground like a stone, while nearby a handful of wandering destinies began to intersect.
The concrete rises to meet me, a tapestry of the thousands of different souls that have walked it since its inception, and provides a soft landing area for one such as myself. There's the cracking of nearby thunder that accompanies the freshly laid cracks in the street, and I take a few moments to catch my breath having traveled 365 million miles in less time than it takes a man to visit the corner drug store. I straighten my back, grow a smile, and return to standing, axe shaking in my hand as I find myself face to face with a walking, talking pumpkin.
"Mister." The creature says, voice covered in a thick, lazy accent that I can't quite place. "Are you alright?" There's the dinging of a clock somewhere in the background, striking just shy of 13 times, and I am reminded of Halloween, a peculiar human celebration on the most hectic night of the year, when all manner of creatures lurk. As a War-Lock of the microverse, it's my job to protect the innocent from that which lies beyond, something that I will most certainly be doing tonight. The world shudders with agreement, purple light belching from the nearby building that is my target, before drifting off into the night sky. A smile, briefly replaced by confusion, returns to my face and I turn back to the young pumpkin that was kind enough to check upon a stranger.
"Yes, lad." I say, patting him on the back with a giant hand several times larger than the boy's head. My friendly gesture pushes him slightly, revealing the seams of his home crafted Halloween costume. "My thanks for asking. Now! I suggest that you return home..." I rise to my feet, ever ready, and turn to the building from which screams have started flowing from. "It's about to get a bit violent." The boy does as I ask, running to his friends, also dressed in colorful outfits, who snicker at him as he arrives before hearing what he has to say and quickly running around the corner.
Indeed. There was violence, along with the screams that were already filling the air... but there was also friendship, forged by the fires of conflict resulting in a bond that would not be easily broken. Not bothering to find the entrance to the establishment, I leap to the roof and tear it from its hinges with a fair display of strength before casting it aside with a thundering crack. Within the building I find exactly what I expected, chaos complete and uncontrolled. There are three people looking up at me very confused, one of them I know, the other two I don't. The strangers are both wearing colorful costumes like adult trick or treaters and kneeling upon the ground like they're about to vomit, surrounded by unconscious gangsters from an earlier conflict. I see their throats, gasping and wheezing for air against the dark force controlling them, not wishing them any harm I wave my hand and mutter an incantation, removing whatever dark effect was upon them.
One of them stands up quicker than the other, burning wings sprouted from his back that curiously produce no heat. The other fellow gets up too, oddly dressed completely in white, he looks at me with a million questions in his eyes and draws a large, clunky revolver. Slamming into the ground between the two costumed gentlemen, I turn to face our foe, and conjure a mystic energy shield over my free wrist.
"You two idiots had better stay back." I warn them, noticing the confused look that they give each other. "This is far beyond you."
"I'm confused. What's happening?" One of them asks, I'm not sure who.
"September Mourning."G'asp, Warden of Breath from the realm infernal stares at me from across the bar with a fair dose of frustration, arms folded across his robed chest and feet tapping against the ground like an agitated teacher resisting the urge to beat me to a pulp. "Come to die?"He asks, sounding sarcastic as the darkness of his body begins to shift and grow ever so slightly wider.
"Come to kill you, Warden of Defeat." I answer, fearless as I grip my weapon and prepare to charge. All sound in the room seems to halt, as if being held still by G'asp who stands motionless like a statue.
"You'll be disappointed."
Hot, crackling energy fires from the Dark Warden's hands, zigging and zagging across the room but ultimately coming for me. I race to meet them, raising my axe into the air and letting loose a war cry before leaping into the sky. Behind me, the angel and the man in white duck for cover behind a table, and the blackness finds me, I ignore it, tearing through the spell towards its caster who quickly conjures an invisible shield around himself as my axe stops a millimeter from the creature's skull.
"Unremarkable."The Warden sighs, sounding bored before gripping me with his mind and casting me through a wall, back to the streets where I had landed. Shadows ripple and the creature materializes above me before I can stand.
"Funny." I say, grasping the little fool by the neck and pulling him down to the ground. "I could say the same thing about you." There are sirens in the background, people are screaming... and it slowly dawns on me that G'asp's mere presence in this reality is affecting everything. The Warden places a hand on my wrist and I see what he wants me to see.
In Manhattan, George Owens places a gun to his wife's head and pulls the trigger, promising his children, shivering in the corner, that they'll be next.
Not five blocks away, a local butcher impales his assistant on a meat hook and gets to work preparing him for the customers who watch ravenously.
In the sewers, a group of hobos engage in a mass suicide, enticed by the monsters speaking in their minds.
"You see..."G'asp says with a cruel cackle, bringing me back to reality. "This is happening everywhere."Despair grips me briefly and refuses to let go. My grip loosens, and I look to the skies and see the distant smoke of flames in New York.
"You @£$%&#*." I grumble, lowering my head as the Warden turns to smoke and passes through my hand briefly before standing back on the street. "Utter @£$%&#*."
An ugly smile passes across G'asp's face, revealing the darker side harbored within the beast. "It comes with the territory."He answers.
The realm gives an answer of its own, an orange blur slams into G'asp's side, knocking him into a nearby bus stop along with a shower of dust and the sound of shattered glass, when I blink, I see the man with the burning wings standing above me looking very angry.
"The name's Icarus." He says quickly, gripping me by the wrist with his tiny hand. "I don't know who YOU are, or what's happening..." Effortlessly the man pulls me up off the ground and returns me to the fight. "But I really don't like it."
"Then let's put a stop to it." I say.
Behind us, the man in white steps from a hole in the building looking flustered, trench coat flapping in the wind as he moves to join us.
"Can you feel it?" He asks, sounding tired under his mask. "There's chaos in the air." I look at the two men, both professional and experts in their fields. and a quick strategy comes to my mind.
"He's polluting this world just by being here." I explain, shaken by the visions I've seen. "People... everywhere, they're hurting each other." The two heroes quickly glance at each other, and though they say nothing, a plan is quickly formed. Icarus, the winged man, drifts casually up into the sky, looking down at us as he rises ever higher, red streaks of mysticism covering the landscape of black that is the night sky.
"I'll see if I can help." He says, screams from all around growing steadily louder. "You and Ghoul deal with that @£$%&#*." Rubble shifts behind me, and I see G'asp emerging from his crater in the wall looking agitated.
"Whoever just did that..."He mumbles while clicking his jaw back into place with a sickening crack. "I'm going to f@*&ing murder."
The man in white stood by my side doesn't seem impressed, looking to me calmly as our quarry takes a moment to collect himself.
"Is he supposed to be the devil?" The Ghoul asks just as G'asp teleports towards us, growing steadily in height as his legs turn to mist and his robes begin to flow revealing the mist where his body once was.
"Little ghoul..."He hisses, reaching towards my companion with a clawed hand and gripping him by the scruff of his neck. "I've heard stories of you, detective... and while you may not have heard of me, believe me when I say,,, I am NO angel. Fallen or otherwise." Rather than panic, the Ghoul simply places a hand upon the creature's wrist, and somehow manages to twist the Dark Warden's grip away from him! G'asp is as surprised as I am, and for a moment the two of us lock eyes. Granted, it's entirely possible for a Warden's will to be denied by a mere mortal... but only by those with an unbreakable force of will. I look to my companion, who I've only just met, with a new found respect in my eyes.
"I met the devil once." A solid punch to the jaw sends the surprised G'asp stumbling backward, humiliated as he collapses to the ground. "I wasn't impressed then either." The sound of thunder grabs us, and as we all look up to the sky, we see burning hope as Icarus soars past on his way to more pressing matters. I see G'asp turning back to the Ghoul, muttering a dark spell that matches the darkness of his eyes, and I see the detective flinch.
I'll be having none of it.
My mighty axe tumble from my hand with a mind of its own, embedding itself in the Warden of Breath's hand, causing some form of ancient gas to hiss from his wound and I begin to run, the Ghoul catches sight of my charge and wisely moves out of the way, while G'asp just glares at me with the consuming hatred of only the blackest souls. His mouth shifts to say something, but is interrupted by my fist slamming into his face. Like always, the brute force effort proves to be most effective, resulting in the pitiful creature collapsing to the ground looking very confused. I grip my axe and tear it free from the beast's flesh and then strike him in the skull with the hilt, making him see stars.
"Surrender, scumson." I tell him as the Warden wriggles beneath my boot. "You're beaten." There's a chuckle, but this one doesn't flow from my mouth, nor the Ghoul's, who is busy watching cautiously from afar, instead, the Warden at my feet is the one who finds this whole miserable affair entertaining.
"You mustn't know much about my kind, boy."G'asp spits, I feel an invisible force grip my body, keeping me still as the creature gets back up to his feet and looks me dead in the eyes. "If you did, you'd have killed yourself before daring to fight me."The planet begins to shake violently, decade old concrete crumbling in seconds as I find myself tossed against a nearby car which crumples under my weight... in the road is G'asp, black robes and energy flowing around him like a never ending current, and around his neck rests the blood caked necklace that must have summoned him to this place. I nod to the Ghoul, who's watching from behind a car, and I pray he understands what I mean.
"Darkness."G'asp hisses, hands moving maniacally as he twists the world around him, shifting stones and vehicles out of his path with a simple wave of his hand. "That's all that will be left when I'm done. And those few shadowmen that survive will shake when they hear me draw near and know true, constant f-"
A bullet, fired with the purest of intentions, flashes through the night sky, finding its mark as it slams into the red, booming orb around the Warden's neck. A crack, the faintest crack, appears in the necklace, and G'asp's menacingly calm composure cracks similarly. The force gripping me vanishes, and the Ghoul steps upon the car next to me, wielding a looted pistol. He looks down at me, and faintly smiles under his mask.
"Worth a shot." The mysteryman says. It doesn't occur to me until later that he was making a pun, yet looking up from my makeshift prison, I understand what he meant, with G'asp only looking angrier while checking his slightly damaged talisman.
"That's it."The Warden growled, sounding outright lethal as he simply stared at the two of us. "I'm just going to kill you both."The claws pulled back ready to fire, lips muttering an ungodly incantation to destroy us. I raise my arm in a lazy, tired attempt at a shield, the Ghoul simply places a hand on his hat, ready to die.
Yet of course that was when Icarus returned.
He struck down like lightning, slamming directly upon our dark adversary at a million miles an hour sending rubble and debris flying through the area. The angel regarded us quickly, eyes steaming with orange heat, than he looked back down to G'asp, gripped him by the neck, and tore the necklace from the monster's neck before crushing it to dust in his hand.
There was screaming, there was violence, and even as the Dark Warden began to disintegrate back to his home realm, he struggled like a demon, thrashing and screaming. Icarus took a knock to the face, leaving a bloody scratch on his cheek, so me and the Ghoul quickly joined him, keeping the beast pinned to the ground as he screamed until we all became deaf. We struggled in silence, and after an eternity, the last vestiges of the monster faded to dust just like the necklace that had summoned it, leaving behind little more than the black robes that G'asp had worn. The three of us share a look, exhausted from the evening, before finally slinking down and sitting upon the ground together.
A moment of silence passes, only undercut by the wail of distant sirens, and nobody says anything... until the Ghoul decides to say something. His goggles wobble as he speaks, uprooted by the evening, and I just chuckle.
"Gentlemen." He says, still breathing heavily. "I think we should get a sort of team together."
Icarus gives me a confused, weary look... and the three of us warriors sit together in our huddle, unsure what the day's events mean.