The previous day:441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ1H3GxzEDwx
“They go by many names, as they have throughout all history: Gods, Spirits, Demons, Dalkhu. Most people today call them Watchers, while some witches prefer to call them by what is believed to be their original names: Dayyani, meaning Underworld Judges… or, you know, just Judges.” Liam swallowed, his throat dry. He reached for the glass of water sitting on a small, rounded tall table beside him, on the stage. He was unused to the microphone curling around his ear and sliding across his cheek and therefore all too aware of the small contraption. The lights shining on him were uncomfortable as well. He was sweating a little and his hands were shaking. The spotlight was not where he wanted to be.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRYtX7JK4Fs
The rush of cold water through his throat felt refreshing. He wet his lips looking over the crowd. He distinguished no faces as the light was on him and it made it hard to see his audience clearly. The tickets to his lecture had sold out in just a couple of days and he was speaking in front of two hundred souls. Never, in his wildest dreams, would he have imagined his book to become a bestseller. It was the very first time he was speaking in public.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡT9c5KfpXQI
The book was not set on bringing to light all the secrets witches possessed about their own kind and their talents, for they were a very secretive bunch. Instead it was filled with historical facts, theories and interviews Liam had gathered over the past six years of his life. The novelty it presented however was a more personal view - that of someone who had been born into a family of witches and raised among them. Never having known his father, Liam had been raised by his mother and his maternal grandmother, both of them very capable witches.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡYLT6qk71R4
Liam dared speak about everything he had learned from them and had even published pictures of their Grimoirs, something no one had ever done before. Grimoirs were rare since only powerful witches created and passed them on and many chose to burn them rather than risk having them fall into foreign hands, but Liam had inherited his family’s and had shared parts of it. Naturally only those pages that he was certain would prove to be useless and harmless for the most part. His book was well written and well documented and, therefore, it proved to be a huge success. 441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡd2QrpQsTDo
“Ancient civilizations sometimes divided them into separate categories, believing some to be gods and others demons, but there is a consensus now about the Watchers not being a part of any of those categories, instead pertaining to the same type of beings. We still do not know what they are or why and how they are able to touch this world through the people we call witches. We do not even know if they are entirely a part of this world or not. In my book I do enumerate and explain in detail those hypotheses that have been proposed over time and that remain standing in the face of scrutiny. Any one of them could be true, or none.”
364 BC:441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡHxJybr5HCS
Kishargal's beautiful features were distorted by horror and disbelief. Wide mahogany eyes were fixed on the lifeless body of her beloved Gibil as he was being carried inside the house by the monster she knew only by the name he himself had given her - Anshar. The scenery in front of the woman changed as the strength in her knees disappeared and she collapsed on the ground. The pain caused by the impact on her knees and palms didn't register above the shock of what she was witnessing. Her Gibil was no more. She breathed in the air coming from him to confirm it. No words were uttered for such a spell and no doubt remained that there was no more life in her husband's body. Her eyes welled with salty tears that trickled down her cheeks with abandon. 441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡwTkv4uPauD
Anshar had her precisely where and how he wanted her: scared, vulnerable and aware of the lengths he was willing to go to to get his way. No respect for life or for what she wanted or loved. He wanted the woman to fear him and to understand there was no way to escape his grasp. He saw the horror in her eyes, the sadness and despair, but sought to see resignation and surrender shining through. The vampire had yet to witness them in those precious brown eyes that he liked to gaze into. 441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡP6hzfemSdc
Anshar relaxed his arms and Gibil's corpse fell to the ground with a horrendous thud. Kishargal gasped and her nails scratched the ground, causing blood to erupt from the tips of her fingers as her fists clenched and she released a guttural moan filled with anguish. She shut her eyes tightly causing more tears to flow onto her flushed cheeks. So much pain was building on top of more pain and despair and she could almost see it catching fire as it transitioned to an anger like nothing she had felt before. Anshar was seeing it too and, although it was not what he was expecting and hoping for, it intrigued him. Every small distortion in her face he swallowed with lusting eyes. He wasn't smiling nor taunting. His expression was firm and cold as if to make her understand that it was the end of the line. She had put up a fair struggle, but he always won. Always.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡbu7KKhYAo2
Inside Kishargal there was no battle. No longer could she hear the voices of her mother and grandmother or those of the older witches - all of them warning her against abusing her powers or surrendering to the urge to use them. Kishargal was a Kashaptu, a frighteningly powerful witch. She had always been much more capable than the others and held enough raw power to overshadow the rest of the witches she knew effortlessly. Always haunted by the Gods - Anunnaki - and lured by the irresistible chants of magic, she had learned to fight against it and even went as far as to shun magic away from her life. From the moment she had fallen in love with Gibil, magic had been completely repressed in her and she had never regretted that decision. There was no escaping the Anunnaki's voices, the nightmares and the terrible headaches, but she had learned to accept them as part of her life. Each person had their own torment and that had to be hers.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ0qdedYjS2g
There was nothing holding her back anymore and the only person she had loved with all her being was laying on the ground in front of her, never to whisper sweet words or caress her hair again. In that moment she realized that Gibil had been nothing less than her anchor to sanity. Kishargal’s breathing was shallow, soft sobs escaping her - instead of the expected pleas for mercy or shouts of pain. They were still loud, being the only source of noise disturbing the air inside the house. Eyes snapped open and she found the blue eyes of the monster who was the cause of the pain clouding every bit of reason inside her. “Edimmu.” - A word used by Sumerians for an evil spirit, a demon. It was all she managed to whisper through gritted teeth. The air seemed to catch fire around the witch as it filled with energy. The voices of the Anunnaki were easily drowning every other noise, even Anshar’s blasphemous laugh in front of her pain, and their chant was only growing louder with each second. Be they the Gods they were believed to be, spirits or demons themselves, the witch surrendered to their greedy chants. Kishargal’s skin began to tingle until it too seemed to burn as if flames were dancing on it with fury. She saw Anshar for what he was. She had always known he wasn't human, but now she was seeing why. The foreign energy inside of him called out to her as familiar and unpleasant as all the others: man and demon in one body. That wasn't all - the young witch saw no edge, no separation at all. Possession by demons was extremely rare, but not unheard of and it lasted a short time before the human eventually died.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ67fGIHdcTM
It wasn't logic or reason driving her, so none of it made any difference anyway. She only had one thought: drawing out the evil spirit, claiming it into her own body. It was going to kill Anshar and kill her as well. It didn’t feel like a sacrifice, giving up her life. It was an opportunity to escape an existence without Gibil and exact revenge upon his killer. Her Gods were all too willing to cooperate with her, although she had never cared nor really knew whether they had any choice in the matter. The witch screamed on the inside. She thought she was screaming out loud as well, but her own voice didn’t reach her ears. It drowned among the screams of the other Gods and demons.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡTxGS1aEpzi
Anshar did hear Kishargal's scream. Even he could feel the air stirring with something he had never before experienced. His eyes revelled in the sight of Kishargal's pain that transformed into raw, untameable anger right before him.. Why was it that she looked beautiful to him even knowing that every fiber of her being wanted him to suffer and die? The power in those eyes, the passion and determination to not give into him only made him lust more. The scent of her blood filled the air more with every second as the adrenaline coursing through her veins only added to her flavor. His tongue danced behind his lips, against the sharp tips of his fangs. He had tasted her before and was going to taste her again until she had no more drops of blood to spill. It wasn't love, he knew that much. It had never been love with him, but desire was so much more empowering and intoxicating. 441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡRTvgJEeKGw
The muscles in his legs tensed and he was prepared to move towards the woman. He knew she was a witch, but she had faced their troublesome kind before without any lasting or particularly memorable damage. He was immortal and was no stranger to pain and that meant no witch had any weapons to use against him. Slow him down temporarily, perhaps, but their necks snapped just as easily as that of any other human. Anshar didn't get the chance to move from his spot however. The pain wasn't gradual, instead it hit him like a stone wall, from all directions, from outside as well as from inside. It it felt like being pulled apart in all directions at once. It burned and tore at the very core of his being. He had never experienced anything even remotely resembling such physical torment and there was no coherent thought forming. He felt his back colliding with the ground. The pain turned from burning hot to ice. Cold he didn't mind, but this was different, as if his very soul, if there was such a thing, was being frozen and stabbed at the same time. Panic, for the first time in his nine hundred years of being alive. The witch was doing it and the only thought he was able to form before it all went dark was that it was going to be over soon and, despite the pain, he was going to be alive to get his own revenge.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡIhN0XZOoIA
That wasn’t going to be the case. Kishargal felt the spell end, the noises died down. She felt the energy entering her body unwillingly, causing pain and chaos inside of her, her own energy colliding with the invader. She was weak as she collapsed on her elbows, barely holding her head up, looking at Gibil's body no more than a foot in front of her. She gathered whatever strength she had and crawled closer to him. Leaning her back against the cold wall, Kishargal pulled Gibil's head onto her lap. Her left hand fell gingerly on his light brown hair. The feeling was blissfully familiar. She gently closed his eyes, brushed her index finger over his lips and then allowed the hand to fall limply by her side. It wouldn't be long. She knew she hadn't been able to completely pull the demon out of Anshar, but a part of it was inside of her and it was probably killing her with each passing second. She just had to close her eyes and surrender to the weakness. It was going to be a short sleep that would transition into a painless death. It didn’t come to pass like that.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡNjdcuSEs8X
A dream. Kishargal knew it was a dream. She was seeing herself looking back at her. Her eyes were sad, but they also held a glimmer of hope. She was telling herself the spell had neither failed nor succeeded in killing Anshar. A hand was resting on her belly. She was going to have to carry the weight of it all. Who was she talking about? The baby, of course. The Kishargal she was staring at was pregnant. "Shi"... the breath of life. The child had saved Kishargal's life taking the demon into herself. A little girl - Gibil’s and hers. Anshar was not dead, simply unable to wake up - not without the missing part of Alla Xul that had taken refuge inside her unborn child whose energy hadn’t conflicted with the demon.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡxVApnJdN4B
Then Kishargal’s reflection disappeared and all that was left was knowledge. The line of the Shi was born that very moment. Every first child of the Shi was going to, upon birth, become the next Shi, the symbol for it etched on her skin as a birthmark. What that child meant, the risk of her being born, was something Kishargal chose to embrace. No power on Earth was going to make the witch endanger her unborn child and the last remaining connection she had with the love of her life. Tho whole world be damned.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡYHqFPWPyjs
Her eyes opened with all the knowledge of the dream and salty tears overflowed onto her cheeks, replacing the ones that had already dried up. She was numb and yet determined at the same time as she placed Gibil's head back onto the ground as gently as if she didn't want to wake him from his sleep. No one had come. No one had heard the commotion. Kishargal realized she needed help. The young Kashaptu stumbled outside her house with her left hand protectively resting on her belly as if expecting some unseen threat. Her eyes were met with a horrible sight: bodies strewn everywhere. Every home and alley was the same: dead villagers who seemed to have collapsed without warning or even signs of physical distress on their faces. There was no animal or human alive as far as Kishargal could see and she instantly realized what was the cause of it all. Consumed by anger and despair, in order to exact her revenge on Anshar, she had fed on the life force of every living organism around her. That was where all the power for the spell had come from.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡtTCS9STFJg
Present day:441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡDWtoIhfnUr
Amelia wasn’t used to being afraid. Life in New York was not boring and crime was not at a negligible level, but it was something that had been bound to the news on the television and in the papers. That had changed the night of her attack. The brunette had an extra hint of nervousness to every step. It was dark when she usually left work and the apartment she lived in was close enough that there was no need for a car or any other type of transportation.
Lexi had acted as a bodyguard for the last week ever since the attack, but she did have her own job and it called for her to be elsewhere sometimes, not babysitting her friend. Besides, it had been an attack, probably an unfortunate accident and no permanent damage had resulted from it. That was Cats’ influence right there. Her friend, even though she had received a big scare with Amelia having been attacked, still somehow managed to see the good parts about a situation, as opposed to Lexi who had simply become overbearingly protective. It was lucky that Cats’ aunt, Angela, didn’t know about the attack, otherwise the witch would have joined hands with Lexi in this.
The walk home was nice, even with the cold of late autumn in the air. The neighborhood was quiet and not a lot of crime happened. She looked down at her wristwatch for a second but didn’t get the chance to read the hour as someone slightly bumped into her while rushing past her. The sidewalk was not only not crowded, but it was almost deserted, so Amelia had half a mind to say something, but looking up at the man she realized he was kind of wobbling and holding his head between his hands. She said nothing, instead slowed her pace a little. He passed the entrance to the alley between buildings that Amelia was supposed to cross to get home. He seemed to have slowed down his pace as well, but was quite a distance away. She was just being paranoid, but completely justified seeing as how her attack was rather recent in her memory still.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡAOm0qd2xsP
The brunette rounded to corner. It was a long walk between buildings, so she sped up a little, even though it was deserted. A noise coming from behind caused her heart to start racing. She didn’t turn around right away, nor did she have time to decide to give into her paranoia and turn to look. She was grabbed by the hand and whipped around, her body suddenly pressed against one of the cold walls, a pair of hands pinning her back by the shoulders with enough force to cause pain. She tried to scream, but no sound came out. Her eyes widened in surprise, mouth open still. The blonde, curly hair she recognized as belonging to the one who had bumped into her minutes earlier. His forehead was glistening with sweat, his expression betraying pain. He was tall, hunching to keep his face almost to her own height. “What are you?” He spoke through gritted teeth.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡrodKxvCrQd
The previous day:441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡfI8iUhgUGL
“No one has yet been able to understand why magic can only be used by women. It’s not always genetically inherited either and no pattern has, to this day, been discovered.” The lies traveled to his audience disguised as factual truth. Even as he spoke those words, he felt them - the Watchers. He heard their foreign whispers and sometimes caught a glimpse of the shining, formless mist of one. Fortunately for him, it was a good day - a quiet day, but most weren’t like that. With all the training in meditation and control his grandmother had taught him, it was getting harder and harder to maintain a stable link to sanity. Liam Howell was a being that wasn’t supposed to exist - a male witch, an Anzillu, an abomination. He had been eighteen when the nightmares had started, much older than it usually happened for female witches. Half a year later the whispers had begun. They had intensified with each passing day until the uncontrolled surges of magic had also started. It had been odd for him to see the look of fear in his mother and grandmother’s eyes looking at him. It had taken some time for the two to get used to the idea. Resigned would be a better choice for it, actually.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡf5hNYGH0tm
Sure, there were myths around about such other Anzillus having existed throughout history. His grandmother had heard stories about them, hushed, timid rumors, but no one seemed to recall the last time anyone had witnessed such a being. There seemed to be a consensus among the few who knew about them: Anzillus grew far too powerful and mentally unstable in a very short amount of time and it always led them to self-destruct, causing disaster around them. In short, Liam knew what he was in for. He wasn’t in denial, neither was he depressively resigned. He just saw it as nothing more or less than the card he had been dealt.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡd1qL84vIBi
A wave of nausea swept over him as the Watchers increased the intensity of their whispers. Three were surrounding him now, their transparent, indistinguishable forms obscuring his view on all sides. He went on with his well practiced speech nevertheless, focusing on nothing else but the sound of his voice. He didn’t realize he had closed his eyes in an unconscious effort to eliminate any visual stimuli that might interfere with his concentration. He went on to talk about how most witches were weak, barely even considered worthy of such a title by those who belonged to covens. It was well-enough known that covens only accepted those very gifted within their midsts. It didn’t mean that all powerful witches belonged to such organizations, but it did mean that all those who did were well above average in magical talent.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡsw3RfG2bLf
As abruptly as the voices had intensified, they died down to the almost rhythmical, subdued volume Liam was more accustomed to. He subtly wiped the beads of sweat above his upper lip with his hand before bringing it up to pass his fingers in his short, blonde curls. He had the habit of doing that whenever he felt nervous.441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡAgkuZRpVxT
By the end of his speech Liam had grown comfortable enough to not dread the signing session that would follow. He still had two more interviews planned for that day so he was far from being able to relax, yet, for the first time in many years, it felt like he was not Liam Howell the abomination, but just another normal human being reaping the fruits of his labor.
Present day:441Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡS0ysu5vsjq
The Watchers weren’t screaming, they were howling and he could feel their excitement, anger, outrage. A flurry of emotions that Liam could barely decipher. He knew he wasn’t losing it the way he was bound to eventually do. It had to be her. Something about her was making all hin inner and outer demons explode with different reactions. The headache had followed him all through the day and it hadn’t been one of the quiet days, yet this was still way out of what he normally went through even in his worst moments. It was terrifyingly similar to losing control completely.
He tried to walk passed her, mind dizzy and holding his head as if that actually helped against the pounding migraine… of sorts. It hadn’t helped. The Watchers were urging him towards her. He felt almost powerless as his steps were diverted. He almost ran after her. He pinned her against the wall and felt new waves of emotion wash over him, none of it belonging to him. Some were outraged, while others approved. He didn’t know how he knew. Perhaps he was going mad. Who said it had to be gradual? For all anyone knew, it could happen suddenly.
Liam didn’t know he was hurting her. He knew she was scared, it made sense. The silencing spell left him effortlessly to wrap around her throat. It almost made him smile with pleasure as that small release of magic caused a glimmer of relief among all the tension. She tried to scream, but nothing came out, of course.
“What are you?” Liam spoke through gritted teeth. His voice came out low because of the pain. He just wanted some of the noise to stop. Just for one second, just enough for him to breathe. He started gasping with renewed tension and he squeezed on her shoulders with even more force. Nothing like that had ever happened to him before.
“I...” Of course the girl would be unable to answer him anyway, not that he had any illusions he was making sense of that there was an actual answer. The words came out instinctively almost, as if spoken through him, not by him. Foreign, low and it sounded like a long “ksaa” to a human’s ears, but there were tones and nuances to it. Liam tried to “see” the girl’s nature through that spoken spell. She was human. Tainted somehow, but human. Why then did the Watchers torment him so?
There was one voice that whispered in his ear, low and angry. How was it that it broke through all the noise and screams of the other voices? Once the word was out, the voices joined in unison, chanting the same word. At first Liam thought they were saying ”she”, but the Watchers didn’t speak English, not any language Liam knew. Sometimes they used ancient and very ancient languages, but seldom. No, they were chanting what sounded like “shi”.
“What is a Shi?” Liam spoke and all the Watchers stopped screaming. A monotonous humming of that one word took the place of all the noise, but the tension was still there. He broke the silencing spell. The girl screamed and again the Watchers went wild. The pain hit him like a brick wall and he collapsed to the ground. Just before losing consciousness he heard her heels clicking rapidly away from him. At least he would finally get some peace and quiet.ns 184.108.40.206da2