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He approached her from behind – as he had done every night since he started to visit her. He came closer to her slowly so that the tiny hairs on her neck bristled with his nearness before he touched her and her body shuddered deliciously. She was tense with excitement and shaking as he got close enough to touch her with the tips of his fingers. The first touch from him was electric and her skin tingled wherever his feather-light touch stroked. His lips brushed her neck and she closed her eyes and leaned her head back on his broad shoulder. His arms snaked around her and folded her into his embrace. His lips were replaced by his teeth on her tender and sensitive neck and again she shuddered, the nips were gentle yet insistent.
His breathing was becoming laboured as his passion rose to match hers and he pressed himself against her. She could feel his excitement and her mouth opened to allow her panting breath an escape route. He stopped nibbling but held his teeth close to her neck and his tongue flicked out between them to tease her earlobe and he listened to her. She was impatient for him to restart his seduction but he knew that he was in complete control and he made her wait.
His hand went up to her throat and with his fingernails he gently traced from her chin down... the tension was excruciating and almost beyond her endurance. She wanted to take his hands and place one on her breast and the other between her legs but she seemed unable to control her limbs. Her hands and arms were immobile and a fleeting thought crossed her mind “Oh no, not again!”
With that thought embedded in her mind and her body unwilling to respond to her commands, his caresses and strokes were perceived differently and they became more invasive and she still could do nothing. Her mind was screaming her protest but her body, her treacherous and lustful body was urging him on!
As he laid her down she closed her eyes because she did not wish to see the person that was pleasuring her and yet violating her night after night in her dreams. She knew that he was aware that she was protesting inside her mind. He knew that her free will was locked away in the dream-state. He knew and he took full advantage of her instincts to mate and he laughed. It was a sinister and dark laugh and she cringed from it.
As he lowered his body onto her, she gasped for his flesh was ice cold, almost painfully so. She could not move her arms to stop him but it seemed that her legs were under no such restrictions; they wrapped themselves around him. He was the consummate expert in seduction and he controlled himself perfectly. He continued to work his magic upon her and she had no choice in the matter as she was compelled to wrap her suddenly movable arms around his neck to pull her up close to his body.
The cold of his skin was still disturbing to her inner mind, she thought that he would have warmed up a little, but no, he was still unnaturally cold and she was still so very hot and she wanted his coldness to douse the fire between her legs and yet she didn’t!
She hung onto him with arms and legs squeezing his body until her muscles ached. Her head hung down back toward her pillow but still she did not let go, her arms couldn’t let go, they were not hers to command yet.
She was still aching for more of him and she did not want it to end. Her mating instinct had swamped her free will and it was all but silent as her legs pulled her yet closer to his deathly-cold body, her arms crushing her breasts into his chest and her fingers entwining themselves in his hair. The difference in temperature between the two was making condensation on her perspiring body and where they were touching, flesh to flesh began to feel slimy and clammy.
As he approached his own end, his body began to change. His skin became coarser, as did his hair. She felt as though she had hold of hanks of horse tail rather than the silky smooth hair of her lover.
His skin became scaled and the part of her that was based in reality was repulsed but the dreaming part was striving for more before he released her and left.
She was unsatisfied, she felt dirty and defiled even as her body was shuddering with ecstasy. Her body was over the throes of passion as she felt the beginning of his. Her arms became weakened and she flopped back onto the bed. Her legs weakened a moment after but he maintained the connection between them as he did indeed let loose his final shout of passion. She shuddered anew as he grunted his pleasure, and she was more determined than ever to keep her eyes closed tight against the vision of horror that she knew her dream lover had turned into.
She turned her head as he planted a kiss on her cheek, his lips were no longer inviting and warm, they were scabbed and cold. He laughed at her grimace and then she knew that he had gone.
Her bed was saturated with sweat and something cold and sticky that was the residue of the night’s exertions.
She was repulsed and disgusted and she stripped her bed for the third time that week.
After a fifty minute shower that left her feeling scrubbed but not cleansed, she phoned her best friend, Dusty.
“I can’t take it anymore, I’m exhausted. I’ve rung work to say I’m ill three times this week already and they are starting to ask questions. I can’t tell them I’m having nightmares, not at my age, but what can I do?”
“I’m coming over; I think this is something I have to see for myself.”
“Don’t be daft, there’s nothing to see...”
“Have you washed the sheets from your bed?”
“What? No, not yet, how did you know about the sheets?”
“I’ll be there in a few minutes, get the kettle on.”
True to her word, Dusty arrived in a little under ten minutes, the roar of her motorcycle announcing her arrival.
Dusty walked right in through the front door and called out for her friend. “Ange! Where are you?”
Dusty went into the kitchen and put her hand on the kettle, it was warm, so Ange had done as she’d been told, but where to find her?
It didn’t take long, she was in the living room, slumped on the sofa in front of the TV, her mug of coffee balanced upon her knee but tipping precariously. Dusty took hold of the mug gently and pulled it out of Ange’s grip. Ange woke up at the disturbance and startled herself. She jumped in her shock and Dusty saw the dark smudges under her eyes that told of nights without sleep.
When Ange had got a grip of herself again and Dusty had made them both a fresh mug of coffee, Dusty insisted that Ange tell her everything.
“I’m embarrassed though,” Ange complained.
“Yeah, you’re also exhausted. This is a new thing, it’s not like you’ve just had one bad night; you’ve not slept properly for a week if the coal sacks under your eyes are anything to go by. It’s about time you either told me about it or you went to see the doctor.”
Ange looked at her friend and sighed. She knew that Dusty was right; the sleepless nights were killing her and would cost her the job she had strived so hard to get. She knew she was lucky to get her dream job right from leaving college and she would do anything to keep it.
So Ange bit the bullet and told Dusty everything.
“Don’t be mad at me, I know you don’t like them, but I went to Bella’s house last weekend, it was supposed to be an erotic lingerie and toy party but the girl that was supposed to come didn’t show up and we’d got all the wine and everything and we didn’t want to give it up as a wasted night so Bella...” Angie paused.
“Go on, what did Bella do?” Dusty prompted.
“She fetched her Ouija board out.” Angie didn’t say any more, she waited for Dusty’s reaction, which didn’t arrive.
Angie waited for the outburst but Dusty sat in the chair across from her, sipping her coffee and waiting for her to continue, so she continued.
“Well, it was all very funny to start with, only one girl refused to play with it but we called her chicken until she gave in. I’m not sure we should have goaded her like that because as soon as she touched the plant... the plan... whatchamacallit?”
“The planchette.” Dusty helped.
“Yeah that. As soon as she touched it, it started to move.”
“You were touching it too?”
“Yes. There was only me and her touching it, the others put their fingers back on it as soon as it started moving.”
“Then what happened?” Dusty prompted again.
Ange looked at her friend and tears welled in her eyes. “What have we done, Dusty? Have we released something?”
“I don’t know yet. Tell me when your nightmares began.” Dusty put her mug on the table and went to sit at the side of her friend. She didn’t sit too near because she could sense that Ange wasn’t feeling comfortable with the closeness of her. Dusty could wait until Ange did feel comfortable but for the time being, she sat where she was, next to her on the sofa, but not touching.
Ange looked into her own mug and sighed again. “The planchette was going crazy, it was whizzing all over the board and we couldn’t tell which letters it was pointing to. Bella was laughing for a bit until the planchette flew off the board and hit her mum’s photo. She got mad at us then and said we’d gone too far. The girl that started it grabbed her coat and left the house. She didn’t take her wine or anything, she just went. I think she ran down the path after she slammed the door. I was a bit scared then. We didn’t throw the planchette, well at least I know I didn’t.”
“OK, I’ve got that bit, now, did anything happen that night?”
“Well yeah, as a matter of fact, I think something did. I had a fabulous dream but I can’t remember what it was about. There was a really gorgeous bloke in it and...” Ange stopped speaking because Dusty’s face had taken on an expression that she didn’t like. It scared her because Dusty’s face had gone pale enough to make her dark eyes stand out in sharp contrast and it was quite weird how her eyes seemed to glow in her face. Ange thought that the irises had a red ring around them but Dusty blinked and the effect was gone. Dusty looked pale and worried but Ange assumed that was because she was concerned for her own health.
“Did you dream that you had sex with this gorgeous bloke?” Dusty asked in a quiet voice.
Ange’s cheeks grew hot as she blushed. “Dusty! What sort of question is that?”
“It’s an honest one. Did you dream that you had fantastic sex with him?”
“Are you on the Pill?”
Ange’s cheeks had not had time to cool from the previous embarrassing question and they coloured up hotter and redder than before but this time she answered truthfully and immediately.
“Yes I am.”
“Well that’s some good news at least.” Dusty said almost under her breath but Ange heard her.
“Really, Dusty? I mean, really? You’re happy because I can’t get pregnant by a dream lover?”
“Yes Ange, really. That’s not a dream lover, it’s a nightmare one. You’re being attacked by an Incubus. I don’t know if the Pill will be enough to stop your body from becoming pregnant by the Incubus. My thoughts would suggest that if you can remember to take it, you’ll be ok but if your subconscious takes over and makes you forget to, well then you could be in trouble.”
“What the hell, Dusty? What are you telling me?”
“I’m telling you that you’re being attacked by a demon and he wants nothing more than to make you pregnant because if you survive that experience, he’ll have the chance of a semi-demon offspring and that will be no good for you, not at all.”
“How do you know all of this?” Ange was Dusty’s very best friend, the closest she had and because of that fact, Dusty decided to tell her.
“I know all of this because my mother was attacked by an Incubus. She was a virgin when it attacked her and she eventually became pregnant. My grandparents were religious and at first wouldn’t believe that she was pregnant but when she started to get a little bump, they realised that it was true. They didn’t believe her that she was a virgin though, not until they had her examined, thoroughly.” Dusty watched Ange’s expression as she took in what Dusty was telling her and the realisation of the type of examination Dusty’s mother had been put through at first shocked and then disgusted her.
“So what did your grandparents do then?”
“Well, they tried, I suppose. They took her to see their minister who offered to bless the pregnancy. Some hope that was. Then they decided to get a proper priest in to do an exorcism and the Incubus showed up for that one. It threw things at them all, it laughed at the ceremony and it assaulted my mum, in front of her parents and that priest. They could all see her clothes being moved around as its hands were all over her. It was very bizarre of course and mum was nearly hysterical. I think that when it pulled her dress up and it became obvious that it was trying to have sex with her on the table that she was lying on, the priest threw holy water on it. I don’t think it did anything really, from what mum told me, but it made it angry enough to slash at the priest’s face before it left.”
“Did it come back?”
“Not before I was born but after that, yeah, it came back and it wanted to take me but my mum fought hard for me.” Dusty became solemn then and Ange waited in silence. Dusty’s eyes welled with tears and they appeared to be a lighter shade than they had a few minutes before. “It killed my mum on my eleventh birthday. It came for me and mum wouldn’t let it have me and instead of being invisible, it appeared to her as it had when it first seduced her. I saw it too. He was so handsome, he was almost beautiful. He had long blonde and wavy hair, his eyes were bright blue and his mouth just asked to be kissed.” Dusty saw Ange’s expression of shock. “Yeah, I know but even at eleven I knew that he was gorgeous, but it was a ‘Glamour’. It wasn’t its real image and mum saw it reflected in the mirror over the fireplace and she threw salt at it.”
“Does salt work then?”
“No, it may have burned it a bit but it made it angry again. It snapped her neck and then snapped her back and left me alone. I don’t know why it didn’t take me with it when it had the chance but my grandparents came round for my birthday party and found me crying over her body. I went to live with them after that.”
“Oh my God Dusty, is it going to kill me?” Ange started to shake but Dusty still didn’t reach out to her.
“No, you’re not going to die. I won’t let it kill you. I’m going to get rid of it.”
“No, I can’t kill it, it’s a demon but I can make it wish it had never thought of choosing my best friend to seduce.” Dusty’s eyes had the red ring around the irises again and this time, Ange didn’t mistake it for her imagination. She saw the sparks dancing in the irises and she knew that her friend was going to kick some Incubus ass! “Now, show me the sheets.”
They went up the stairs, Dusty following her friend into her bedroom. “Woah! It stinks in here, Ange.”
“What do you mean?” Ange turned to her friend and was very puzzled.
“I mean it’s a mixture of tom-cat pee and...” Dusty paused, she didn’t know if she should go so far as to describe exactly what she could smell, but then she decided, in for a penny... “Well, you know when someone’s had sex and they’re not exactly hygienic to begin with?” Dusty asked carefully and waited for Ange’s nod. “That horrible sharp, fishy smell?” Dusty left it at that and allowed Ange to catch her meaning.
“Oh God, no! My bedroom doesn’t smell that bad does it?”
“Yeah, it does, but it won’t in a while, don’t worry.” Dusty bent to pick up the sheets and saw the sticky mess that Ange had begun to clean up. It had soaked through the bottom sheet, onto the bed and left a large stain like an old bloodstain that someone had made a half-hearted attempt at cleaning. The sheet was in much the same state but the stain was still wet, and cold was emanating from the centre of the bundled sheets.
Dusty held the sheet out to Ange and against her better judgement, she bent forward and took a sniff.
Dusty threw the bundle out onto the landing as Ange recovered from the overpowering stench that had assailed her nostrils.
“Come on, we’ve got to clear the room.” Dusty told Ange.
They worked together for the rest of the morning, taking out the mattress together and leaning it up against the banister and then moving the bed and standing it up against the wall. They were fortunate in the fact that the bed was one of those low, modern ones that didn’t take much shifting or hefting. Then Dusty began to lift the carpet at the corner of the room. Ange asked what she was doing and Dusty explained.
“I’ve got to draw a pentagram on the floor. I have to make sure that the floor is perfectly clean because if there’s any chance of dirt in the pentagram, you’ll be in a lot of danger, and so will I. Fetch the hoover will you? Don’t take the sheets please,” Dusty called as Ange went to do as she was asked.
Once the floor was cleared of the carpet and vacuumed thoroughly, Dusty fetched her tankbag from her motorcycle. Inside it was a large black sheet, larger than a double bedsheet, a large container of salt and two candlesticks with candles. She was careful to lay the sheet down on the floor without wrinkles or folds and then she took off her clothes and placed them in a pile in the corner of the room. Ange was a little embarrassed but was becoming far too tired to worry about her best friend’s strange behaviour. Dusty went into the bathroom and took a very quick but thorough shower and came back all clean but with damp hair.
The sheet had a very faint outline of a circle and a star in the centre of it and Dusty traced the outline in salt. She opened the container and allowed the salt to fall in a steady stream onto the sheet in a perfect circle. Just before the circle was completed, she beckoned Ange to step forward and only completed the circle once she was inside it. Then she drew the star-shape to complete the pentagram. Dusty told Ange to sit down in the middle of the star where there was a large clear patch, free of salt. Then Dusty placed the two candlesticks on either side of Ange and lit the candles. When Ange was comfortable, Dusty stepped out of the pentagram and muttered a lot of words that Ange didn’t recognise. After a short time, Ange didn’t notice that Dusty was speaking words she didn’t understand, she drifted into a very deep and restful sleep, still in the sitting position.
When Ange had dropped to sleep, Dusty picked up her tankbag again and removed a very sharp-looking knife. It would seem to be a ceremonial dagger except that the edge was glinting as it was moved. There was nothing ceremonial about the dagger; it was a weapon and an effective one at that. Dusty was still naked and she opened out the sheets that Ange had stripped from her bed only a few hours before. She folded them so that the majority of the sticky wet mess was on the inside and then sat upon the pile of bedding, she was still naked and she was exceptionally calm. She watched her friend recharge her batteries in a deep and enchanted sleep and she waited.
The clock on the bedside table that had been taken out to the top of the landing ticked and Dusty could see it from where she sat. The hands were crawling their way towards three a.m. and the Witching Hour. Dusty made herself ready. From the ceiling in one corner a dark patch spread. It looked very much like damp or mould, dark grey with patches of black. From that patch a figure appeared and dropped to the bedroom floor. Dusty recognised it at once.
“Impundulu, we meet again.”
The figure wore his seducing image but Dusty was not fooled by his Glamour. Her eyes were demon’s eyes and she had performed the correct rituals to enable her to see past his enchantment and she saw him in his true form, repulsive and grotesque.
“Dusty the demon hunter, what are you doing here? I do hope that you’ve come to offer me a threesome?” His words dripped honey and were meant to antagonise her but he tried only in a flippant manner because he realised that she was not going to fall into his traps designed to make her angry and mentally off-balance.
“I suppose I should have realised that it was you that had come for her. You are by far the most powerful Incubus and I should have guessed that only one so powerful as you could bewitch her and toy with her for so long without killing her.” Dusty played her own game and she was far better at it than Impundulu was. He did not realise that she was flattering him and making him preen and prance in his vanity. He did not realise that she had his scent on her from sitting on the bedsheets and therefore he was attracted to her by the smell. He also did not realise that she had stood for a reason and that reason was not to give him the full view of her trim and supple body but it was to entice him into the bathroom.
Impundulu followed Dusty without a glance at Ange and he sniffed the air as he went across the landing. He was entranced by her swaying hips as she walked slowly and seductively before him. When he had followed her through the bathroom door into the dark room, she pushed it closed and turned to face the Incubus. “Now, Impundulu; watch.” Dusty pulled the light cord and the fluorescent lights illuminated the bathroom. Impundulu did not understand for a moment and his demon eyes were dazzled by the bright light reflecting off the gleaming tiles and the mirror facing him... and the mirror behind him on the back of the bathroom door. He was caught between two mirrors and in them; he could see his image from the front and the back views. He could also see his Glamour image and his true image and he screeched in fury.
“You have tricked me you traitorous bitch! You have trapped me!”
“Yes I have and now, I intend to send you back to the hell-hole that spawned you.” She pushed the demon hard in the middle of what passed for a chest and he stumbled backwards towards the mirror on the bathroom door. As he passed through the glass and into the world beyond, his claw reached out and grabbed for Dusty. He could not get a proper grip on her because she had no clothes on but he had grasped for the hand that held the knife and he managed to get purchase on her fist and he desperately clung on, dragging her with him through the mirror and into his world.
He let her go as he landed on the ash floor, because she had twisted her wrist and the lethal blade had gashed his arm to the bone. As she landed gracefully, she instantly clothed herself in her usual black jeans, black boots, black t-shirt and black leather bike jacket. He was again furious when he realised that she was not a stranger to his world, she was used to the Astral Plane and knew very well how her powers of self-perception worked.
Instead of attacking her, Impundulu took to his heels and fled deeper into the ravaged lands that he called home, holding his arm and dripping black blood on the surface of the pathway.
She could see into the distance where Impundulu was heading and she was in no particular hurry to follow him there. Ange would be safe for a good few hours yet and so Dusty took a look around and got her bearings before making a move.
She saw the Ash Desert stretching out interminably to her left and she would rather have followed Impundulu through that harsh and unforgiving landscape than to the Wraith Mountains where he had taken off to.
Sighing, Dusty took to the air and moved upward. Impundulu was visible against the dark red of the ash road; he was a pale and bright thing against the background. She did not understand why he had decided to run rather than fly until she heard the caw of a massive vulture above her. Impundulu had set his familiar on her and it had brought some friends! Dusty looked above her and saw that the vulture was accompanied by hundreds, if not thousands of smaller birds. There was a variation of all shapes and sizes following her but as she watched, her fear melted away because the smaller birds were flying lower than the vulture and they were obscuring the vulture’s view of her. As soon as Dusty was certain that the vulture could not see her for the mass of birds between it and her, she slowed in her flight path and hovered for a while until the birds had all gone past.
To be on the safe side, Dusty dropped to the ground and changed the colour of her clothing to a more camouflaged red. Not only would the vulture not be able to spot her from a great distance, neither would Impundulu or any other demons.
As she walked, she had time to think on Impundulu and his motives, not to mention his familiar that Dusty had just avoided.
Impundulu was one of the more nasty Incubi of his genre. It was said that when he seduced a woman and she gave birth to one of his offspring, it would sooner or later, become a vampire. To most people that Dusty knew, that piece of mythology would have been laughed at but she knew it to be very true and had had the misfortune to meet up with more than a few of Impundulu’s wretched progeny. Fortunately, the legends of vampiric beings were also true and there were a number of ways to kill the vampire offspring. They seemed to be not as powerful as their sire nor as powerful as they could have been for though they were immortal, they could also be slain – and often were, sometimes accidentally.
The vulture familiar was a nasty piece of work though; it attacked and killed any lover of the one that the Incubus seduced whether by instruction from its master or for the sheer joy of it. Dusty knew that she’d have to watch out for that if she were to make it back to Ange in her bedroom. If she didn’t make it back, she presumed that Ange would eventually wake up on her own, but that could take days – or she may never wake up, not without the proper incantations.
Ooh bad idea, giving herself bad thoughts in a bad place. Dusty focussed on her destination. The Wraith Mountains were dead ahead and she could still see Impundulu running towards them.
“Why is he running and not flying? It can’t be because of his familiar, it would protect him, wouldn’t it?” She said out loud, if for no other reason than just to break the deathly and ancient silence.
Dusty picked up her pace too and ran. Her Demon side took over on the Astral Plane and she was thankful for that. Her human lungs would not have coped well with the sulphurous air and the constant ash clouds wafting across her path. Sometimes the ash was so thick that she lost sight of Impundulu.
Dusty was gaining on the Incubus as he reached the foothills of the Wraith Mountains but she could still see him from time to time as he struggled over the loose rocks and boulders. Again Dusty wondered why on earth he wasn’t using his ability to fly.
She reached the foothills minutes after Impundulu and followed the path that he had taken. She didn’t take to the air again because she was worried about the vulture familiar but she did take huge leaps over rocks when she could see clearly enough to choose her landing place.
She looked up and saw Impundulu disappearing into a cave in the side of the mountain only a few hundred feet above her and she took one more huge leap which bordered on flight and landed at the cave entrance only moments after Impundulu had gone in.
She rushed in and realised her mistake because Impundulu was waiting for her on the other side of the entrance. He struck her across the shoulders with the full weight of his forearm and knocked the breath out of her. She staggered forward and dropped to her hands and knees but she moved fast enough to avoid the vicious kick from Impundulu’s clawed foot and it swung past her nose as she pulled back her head. Then she was on her feet and facing him. Her knife was in its sheath and she didn’t have the time to take it out so she had to rely on her unarmed fighting skills, such as they were. She also had the knowledge of her demonic powers on the Astral Plane but so did Impundulu and he was full-demon, not half, like her.
The fight was not going so well for Dusty and she caught Impundulu’s fist to the side of her head and as she saw stars and blackness closing in on her vision, her last thought was that she had let Ange, her best friend in the whole world, down – terminally.
When Dusty woke up she was sitting against a large rock and her head was throbbing. She looked around for Impundulu but didn’t see him and wondered why he had left her alive.
Then she panicked and thought about Ange who was still sitting in the middle of a bedsheet, surrounded by salt and burnt-out candles and she stood up. Her head thumped and her vision swam and she realised that Impundulu had whacked her a fair one but she had to get back to Ange.
Again her sight went from normal to tunnel vision and the blackness closed in and she knew she was going to pass out. Shaking her head wouldn’t help but she tried it anyway and stumbled to one side, landing on one knee with a hand to the ground to steady herself. Then she felt a hand under her arm, helping her up. She looked around but couldn’t quite see who or what was helping her but she mentally prepared herself in case it was Impundulu lulling her into a false sense of security.
When she was standing upright again, she feigned dizziness more than was necessary in order to put Impundulu off his guard.
“The deception is not necessary. I know that you are not so badly injured as you are making out to be. You can stand up straight without fear of further injury. If I had wanted to kill you, I would have done it when you were unconscious.” The voice was deep and calming and she looked up in surprise. It was not Impundulu. It was certainly not Impundulu.
The young man that stood before her was taller than she was with jet black hair and violet eyes. The eyes danced with a humour that she could almost feel and his smile was kind. His clothing was contemporary but other-worldly, he had clothed himself as she had, once he had arrived in this world. The chances were, then, that he was human or at least half-human as she was.
Suddenly Dusty was very interested.
“Oh, hi.” She had become suddenly tongue-tied. “I’m Dusty,” she managed.
“Yes you are, but a quick brush down will sort that out.” He looked at her a little strangely and she wondered why for a moment and then it occurred to her that he thought she was describing her state rather than introducing herself.
”Oh no, I mean, my name is Dusty.”
He nodded that he understood and his smile widened. “Is that a nickname of some sort? I mean, are you always dishevelled and that’s why you acquired the name?”
“No, it’s my given name. It means valiant fighter. My mum knew what I was, you see.”
Again he nodded. “Half-demon you mean?”
It was Dusty’s turn to nod. “And you are?” She prompted him to make his introduction.
His brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed as a result and she was taken aback at how very gorgeous he was and suddenly she was on the alert again because she remembered how her mother had been Glamoured and where that had led her.
“I mean, what do you hunt?” She explained.
“No, I am a hunter yes, obviously, but my name is Hunter. My parents knew what I was too. I hunt for bounties though, people and other – ah, beings – pay me to hunt things.” He finished with a weak explanation but Dusty knew that he probably didn’t want to mention demons as his quarry because of her heritage. ‘Hmm, gorgeous and thoughtful... I like that,’ she thought.
“What happened to Impundulu? I have to catch him and bind him so that he forgets about my friend Ange.”
“I have already performed that ceremony on the Incubus; I doubt it will be bothering your friend again.”
“You do understand that I can’t just take your word for that? I don’t know why you had anything to do with this but my duty is not being paid for, it’s personal. My friend is in danger and I’m the only one she can turn to. I need to make certain if you don’t mind, now, which way did Impundulu go?”
“I can take you to it, him if you like.”
They exited the cave, Dusty following Hunter; taking note of the clothes he had adorned himself with on entering the Demon-side of the Astral Plane. His tastes ran very similar to hers. Mainly black and casual-functional, sturdy boots, knife sheath, jeans, t-shirt and leather jacket, although hers were still the dull red colour for camouflage on the ash road. Hunter also had something very interesting hanging from his belt. It was a long silver thread but it swayed as though it was exceptionally heavy.
“What’s that?” She asked once they were down at the bottom of the Wraith Mountains and on level ground again.
Hunter looked to where she was pointing and shrugged. “It’s a rope.”
“Yes, but what kind of rope? There’s something special about it, please tell me.”
Hunter sighed and Dusty wanted to listen to him sigh again and again. She shook herself and brought her mind back to the matter in hand.
“It’s a rope made from Unicorn mane and it makes demons forget.”
Dusty saw a look pass across his eyes and stopped in her path. “Oh, so you’re thinking that if you had used that on me back up in the cave, I would have forgotten about my mission and you wouldn’t be taking me to find that Incubus. You could have saved yourself a lot of trouble if you’d have thought of that,” she said, smiling at his obvious neglect in his duties.
“It obviously didn’t work, did it?” He asked pointedly.
“What? You mean you used that thing on me? How dare you?” Dusty became angry and yet her mind was working overtime. “So you rescued me from the Incubus, wiped his memory and then tried to wipe mine? Did you also try putting a Glamour on me too?” She saw the look on his face and stopped walking again. “You did! Oh I can’t believe this! So, what do you really look like? Show me or I’ll perform the incantations myself.”
The sulphurous air shimmered as he dropped his Glamour. He still looked the same but he wasn’t as irresistibly attractive as he had been. Instead, the young man before her looked like a young man rather than a demi-god.
“Yeah, that’s better. I should have known,” she muttered and walked past him.
“You can’t blame me for trying, Dusty,” he said to her back. Then he ran a little to catch her up. “You took on that Incubus on your own, without your weapon even and I thought you were so brave and I figured that if I helped you, you’d just look on me as a kid and wouldn’t want to know me, so I made you think I was cool before you got to know me.”
“Actually, idiot, I thought you were cool for helping me anyway. How old are you then?”
“I’m almost two centuries old, you see, I’m still very young in all of this...”
“You think you’re...” She stopped talking and walking at the same moment. “Just how old do you think I am, Hunter?”
He did not seem to catch the hint in her voice and he went on and answered the question. “Well, you’re able to fly on the Astral Plane, you can clothe yourself and alter the colour of your clothing to camouflage yourself and the birds came to protect you and I know you’re part demon so I figure you must be easily a millennium...?”
“Really? No, I actually mean it, really?”
“I’m eighteen years old.” She said it in such a cold tone that there could have been ice forming on the words.
“Oh,” was all that Hunter could manage.
“And the birds, that wasn’t my doing. As for the rest, my mother went to great efforts to learn everything she could about my... about the Incubus that spawned me and she studied and taught me for the eleven years that she lived after my birth. Then my grandparents took it upon themselves to continue my studies because they felt that they owed it to my mother to protect me in every way they could. They made me practice my Astral Planing and everything to do with Daemonology. My grandfather is now so knowledgeable about the subject that he gives talks and seminars on the subject and they travel the world giving the talks.”
“Yes, I have heard of your grandparents. I have even been to a few of their seminars, which was another reason for thinking you were so cool. I didn’t realise that you were their granddaughter though. I thought they knew so much because you had been teaching them for their whole lives.”
“Yeah, apology accepted,” Dusty said sarcastically and began walking again.
After a while she could see Impundulu’s tracks for herself so she realised that they were catching up to the Incubus.
“So, where would I get a Unicorn rope then?” She asked.
“I can get you one but it doesn’t work in the human world.”
“That’s ok; I’d only need it for the Astral Plane.”
“Oh, I thought you were thinking of wiping your friend’s bad memories for her.”
“Even if I could, I’m not sure that I should, maybe this episode will teach her a lesson on not playing with Ouija boards in future.”
“Here it is - Impundulu’s lair.” Hunter pointed at a hole in the side of a large rock. It looked nothing like a lair to Dusty but she didn’t say so and she waited while Hunter summoned the Incubus.
Impundulu emerged from his hole with a bit of a struggle, the hole was very small and his body had to be manipulated in all sorts of unnatural ways in order to get out. Dusty could hear bones snapping and then creaking as they rearranged themselves and she thought it may have been because of the bump on her head, but she felt a little nauseous at the sounds.
Impundulu was petulant and did not seem to recognise Dusty, but he did recognise Hunter.
“What do you want, mercenary?” Impundulu asked.
“Now, Impundulu, please keep a civil tongue in your head or I’ll be forced to make sure it’s no longer in your head.” Hunter sounded a lot more mature than he had as they were walking. He was more self-assured than he had been. This was his comfort zone and no mistake.
“What are your plans for the coming Witching Hour?” Hunter asked.
“I have no plans. You know I have no plans. You took all my plans away and now I can’t remember where I was going, but I do remember that I was enjoying it and you took that away from me!” The last of Impundulu’s speech was yelled, in much the same way as a spoiled child would make their demands upon an indulgent adult. “Go away, mercenary. Leave me alone.” And the Incubus crawled back into its hole, snapping bones and twisting limbs in the same way as before and again it made Dusty feel nauseous.
“There, are you happy now?” Hunter asked.
“Yes, I’m satisfied that Impundulu will not be coming for my friend.” Dusty was extra-careful to not mention Ange’s name within earshot of Impundulu because if the Incubus heard her name, his memory may return and he may remember what he was doing to her before Dusty and Hunter intervened.
Then Dusty smiled a warm and genuine smile at Hunter and said: “I’d like to see you again sometime if you’d like to. I still think you’re cool, even though you did think I was like, a thousand years old.”
Hunter smiled at her first few words and then his smile changed to a grimace because of his acute error but because she was still grinning at him, he smiled again and had the decency to blush a little. “Yeah, I’d like that too. Where are you based?”
“Based? Do you mean where do I live?” she grinned again. “I live in the heart of Sherwood Forest, in the middle of the woods, where there are lots of magical beings still. I’ll expect you when I see you then, please feel free to drop in any time, but make sure you drop in at least a hundred yards from my house because I have it protected and I don’t know if it would harm you. You’ll be ok if you’re not using magic to arrive by but otherwise, I think we’re pretty well protected.”
“Ok, I’ll remember to walk in then.” Hunter held out his hand for Dusty to shake and their friendship was sealed. The warmth of his skin was pleasant and she thought that he wasn’t such an ordinary-looking guy, in fact he was very cute and she knew that she’d be thinking about him a lot more in the near future. She hoped that he didn’t leave it too long before he visited.
Then Dusty crouched down and sprang upwards, soaring up higher and higher until the dark, dirty red of the Demon-side of the Astral Plane gave way to the more peaceful side and she saw fleeting glimpses of Cherubs (horrid, spoiled creatures) and Angels (sometimes nice, sometimes arrogant, always beautiful) and a flash of a Griffon as the sunlight struck his wing tips. Dusty felt extraordinarily lucky to have gotten out of that situation in one piece. Thank goodness for Hunter.
Dusty arrived back at Ange’s bedroom just as the sun was breaking and she showered to remove the Demon-side dust from her body. Then she put her clothes back on and muttered the incantations to bring Ange back out of her enchanted sleep.
Ange’s eyes looked so much better without the dark circles under them and though she’d had just eight hours sleep, she felt as rested as though she’d slept for a hundred years, or so she said. Dusty smiled because she knew for a fact that Sleeping Beauty had been grumpy when she’d been woken after her century-long sleep. A Dryad had told her on good authority, having seen first-hand from the hedge that had grown around the castle over the hundred-year-long imposed slumber.
“So what happened then?” Ange asked when she’d been in the shower and got dressed.
Dusty handed her friend a coffee and settled down to tell Ange about Impundulu and Hunter.
Dusty parked her bike in the shed-cum-garage that was reserved just for the Ducati. It was untidy but dry and a workspace all her own. Her grandad had always tried to instil in her the importance of ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ and she knew that the advice was sound but she just couldn’t get to grips with keeping the workshop tidy enough to pass his rigorous inspections.
The bike was making little ‘ting ting’ sounds as it cooled because right after leaving Ange’s house, she’d gone for a good long ride to clear her head. Because finally everything was filed in her mental compartments, she knew she would be able to sleep.
It was only about 10:30 am but she’d been up for well over twenty four hours and a satisfied exhaustion was starting to creep up on her. She knew that she’d sleep well enough, even through the day.
Dusty walked through the open back door and greeted her grandmother who was cleaning and tidying the immaculate kitchen.
“Hi Gran,” Dusty said.
“Morning sweetheart. What have you been up to?” She looked at Dusty and made reference to the dark circles under her eyes. It seemed that Dusty had cured Ange’s sleep-deprived circles and acquired some of her own in return.
“I was called out to a bit of a Ouija board emergency. Ange had got a case of Incubus infestation and it was a nasty one. Have you heard of Impundulu by any chance?”
“Yes we have and he’s a nasty one. Did you manage to sort it out dear?” Dusty’s grandfather appeared at the door leading from the hall. He had heard his granddaughter arrive home and had come to chat with her.
“Yes he’s sorted now, Grandad. I got into a bit of a scrape though, he pulled me Demon-side and I had to follow him to the Wraith Mountains.” Dusty didn’t keep anything from her grandparents, they would worry about her, of course, but if she left anything out, they would worry more and so instead of going right up to bed, Dusty told them the whole story of Impundulu, Ange and Hunter.
As she was telling them about Hunter’s failed attempt at Glamouring her, Dusty sipped the hot chocolate that her grandmother had made in order to help relax her so that she’d be able to sleep better.
They smiled or frowned in the right places but didn’t interrupt and soon Dusty had finished telling them her adventure. They were worried that she had needed help but grateful that Hunter had been there. Dusty could tell that her grandfather was not too impressed at Hunter’s gallantry when he’d tried to Glamour her but Dusty explained that if it had been her rescuing him, she’d have probably tried to do the same – if she had a Unicorn rope of course. Anyway, she reasoned, it didn’t work, so no harm done and if Hunter did come through with his promise to bring her an enchanted rope, she’d be very happy about it.
Dusty went off to bed, a very weary young woman. Her grandparents were concerned about the lost sleep but knew that she was young and healthy, not to mention half-demon, and she’d catch up on that sleep soon enough.
Dusty still had a little more work to do regarding Impundulu and she prepared herself for travelling on the Astral Plane again.
Instead of going into her bedroom, she went into her study, the one that her grandmother only went in to clean – thoroughly. Dusty didn’t rest on those laurels though, she made absolutely certain that the area she was about to use was scrupulously clean, without the chance of even a speck of dirt within the area she was going to use for her ritual. Her grandparents heard her vacuuming and they knew what she was doing. They would keep an eye on her of course, because she was their darling granddaughter but she was also perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Then Dusty took another shower and returned to the study.
Dusty drew the circle and from inside of it, she also drew the star which made up the rest of the symbol. Then she sat in the centre of the clear space, the same place where she had put Ange earlier, and she meditated.
Very quickly, she was in a deep trance and her Astral body took to the air. She looked down on her body even as she clothed her Astral self.
This was one part of her job that she loved, the utter freedom.
Dusty hovered above her home and saw a figure walking towards the house. It was familiar somehow and she took a closer look. As she floated only fifty feet above the ground, totally invisible to the human inhabitants of planet Earth, she recognised the figure as her new acquaintance, Hunter. He was dressed differently, his clothes were more normal and his hair was combed in a different style – in fact it was shorter too. He had had a haircut before coming to see her! How sweet.
Dusty smiled and wondered if she should go back down to her body and greet her guest but even as she pondered the question, Hunter looked up, right into her eyes and smiled. Dusty was a little bothered by the fact that he could see her until she remembered that he was half-demon too and she could also sometimes see what humans referred to as ‘spirits’ on the Astral Plane. Dusty waved to him and he lifted his arm in a return of the greeting. In his fist he held something that shone with an ethereal glow and she knew that he had brought her the promised rope made from Unicorn hair.
Laughing, she waved again and soared off up into the wide blue yonder, knowing that her grandparents would take the rope and perform the proper cleansing rituals on it and keep it for her for when she returned.
They could have passed it into her circle of protection but they would never do that. Even though they knew what they were doing with regards to the necessary rituals, it still carried an amount of danger and nothing anyone could say or do would persuade or force them to place her in any danger.
Still, on this mission, Dusty wouldn’t need the rope.
Dusty soared and swooped, her energy returned and she felt refreshed and revitalised.
Then Dusty brought her mind back to the matter in hand and she changed direction and turned for the Demon-side.
The air grew warmer but not in the way that a tropical country felt warmer than England, it was a hot, heavy and oppressive heat, worse even than in the hottest desert. The air felt dirty and grubby. It reeked of rotting offal and worse, of sewage and everything sordid. The air itself stank of sin.
Dusty was again thankful for her half-demon lungs as she landed gently on the ash road, not too far from the large rock that Impundulu lived in.
She wanted to know that the Incubus was still sulking in its lair and that it had not been putting on an act for Hunter.
Dusty saw the Incubus a few feet from the rock and she approached with a great deal of caution. She knew that it had beaten her earlier, even if it could not remember.
Dusty drew her dagger and continued forward.
Impundulu saw her and straightened up. It altered its form to that of a handsome man, similar in appearance to Hunter. ‘Hmm, this one is very good. It’s already scanned my preferences,’ she thought with a smile. The Incubus took the smile as an invitation and Dusty allowed it to get closer but then held up her hand. The Incubus dressed in ‘Gorgeous’ stopped, tilted its head and smiled at her. She didn’t instruct it to change to its original form, she preferred to talk to it in the appearance it had chosen.
“Impundulu?” She asked though she knew the answer.
The man frowned, which did nothing to make his features less attractive. He studied her for a moment and asked “What do you want of Impundulu?”
“Only to ask a few questions.”
“Then ask. I shall give your message to Impundulu.”
“Yeah, that’s not quite going to work, you see, I know Impundulu and I know that you are the one I seek.”
“What do you want?” Impundulu’s shoulders sagged a little and to Dusty’s disappointment, he changed to his usual form.
“I need to know if you know who I am.”
She saw the expression on his face alter. It became sly and cunning and she could just tell that he was about to tell her what he thought she wanted to hear.
“Why yes, I do remember you, my sweet. What is it that you want me to do for you?”
Dusty smiled and his smile broadened in response to hers. He thought that he had done well. Dusty crouched down and sprang upwards to leave.
She could hear him shouting after her as she departed. “What did I do? Wait, wait! What’s your name, sweet one?” And then he gave up and began swearing and cursing.
Dusty giggled to herself all the way back to the Astral Plane where she relaxed again and even dressed herself in pastel shades rather than her usual blacker than black.
It was very late when Dusty returned to her earth-bound body and she was exceptionally rested. It was always the same when she had an extended visit to the pure Astral Plane rather than the Demon-side or the Angel-side. Her limbs were revitalised and her eyes felt as though they sparkled.
When she went down to the kitchen where her grandparents usually passed most of their time, she was pleased to see them both there, chatting like old friends – which if Dusty thought about it, they were.
They said that someone had been but they did not see who. All they knew of the visit was the beautiful rope that had been left for her on the porch railing. There was no note but they could see from her smile that Dusty knew who her benefactor was.
“That’s made from Unicorn hair, isn’t it?” Dusty’s grandfather asked, though it was obvious that he knew the answer. “Did Hunter leave it for you?”
“Ben, stop fishing.” Dusty’s grandmother chided him. “You know it was. Dusty told us he’d be calling soon.”
“Yes but he must be really smitten with you if he went to the trouble of bringing it to you so quickly.” Ben winked at his granddaughter and gave her arm a little nudge with his elbow.
“Stop teasing, Grandad, you’re making me blush.” He was too.
Whilst Dusty went outside to practice with her new rope, her grandmother made her supper and her grandad stood on the kitchen step to watch the luminescent rope shining as Dusty looped it over various targets.
Life – and her aim - was good.