The Order Ch. 00bypurefire©
It was imperative that she find much information as she could before the night was out. This wasn't simply research for a paper; no, it was research that would reveal the truth about a great many things in her life. Once she had everything she needed, she could unveil the truth, take the bastards down. Yes, once she was able to find the evidence that proved everything she knew, she would avenge the vast discretion done to her.
Everything started with a simple story her Uncle Bernard always told her. The Order of Zebulon, one of the most notorious leagues of demons, was responsible for the death of her parents. As a young girl, she listened closely to every detail her uncle remembered; Elizabeth and Michael Stevens weren't killed by a drunken truck driver as the police reports stated. No, they were murdered, the command given by the Order. "They knew too much", Uncle Bernie said, "They couldn't leave well alone. They just had to know what The Order was about, had to expose them." As a result, The Order took care of the complication threatening to reveal their underground community. Elizabeth and Michael Stevens were murdered before their car was pushed off the road, an innocent truck driver framed for their deaths.
"How do you know all of this, Uncle Bernie?" She would ask.
"Because I used to work for them." Was all he said.
It was incredibly easy for her to believe when she was seven years old, especially after seeing the coin he kept in his room. It was a special coin owned exclusively by those who worked for The Order, used as a form of identification. Uncle Bernie was the only family she'd ever known. After her parents were taken from her, she was given to him, a fate she would always be grateful for; she was never left wanting but at the same time, was brought up with the knowledge that earning everything she had was more rewarding than simply receiving it. Though his bedtime stories were often filled with demons and very scary beings, they always ended happily while at the same time informing her of what he deemed very important. At seven years old, Bernie's scary stories and odd behaviors were funny but as soon as she turned thirteen, she began to understand that his actions were more abnormal than she was comfortable with.
Soon after her fourteenth birthday, Bernie stopped leaving the house. If groceries were needed or errands had to be run, he would have one of the neighbors' older sons do the work for him. Because he worked from home to take care of her, there was always a steady flow of income to support them. She didn't care; if her Uncle Bernie did not want to leave the house, then he did not have to. It was his right. Though it often made her uncomfortable to watch him pace the length of the living room for hours, she said nothing, figuring that his work had him anxious.
When she was fifteen, she was no longer able to ignore the fact that he spoke to people who weren't there. In the shadows, she watched as Bernie had full blown arguments with no one and once went as far as to hold an obscure looking crossbow to the mantle. As much as it worried her, she remained silent, even after a very strange looking woman in blue robes came to the house. She was sent to her room for three full hours, the entire time wondering what could possibly occurred downstairs that she had to be sent to her room. She never asked however; her uncle was always on edge and it seemed as if at any moment he would take his frustrations out on her. She cried herself to sleep that night, and many nights afterward, praying that things would work out; Uncle Bernie simply had a rough time and would eventually be the carefree man she once knew him to be.
As time went on, Bernie became progressively worse. The day before she was to turn eighteen, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She wondered how he could have been diagnosed when he never left the house. She later learned that Bernie neglected to end a call to one of his superiors and was overheard having another argument with one of his imaginary adversaries. Concerned, a psychologist was sent to see him and within only a few minutes he was committed. He fought to stay in the house, screaming that he had to stay, to protect her from those who wished nothing more than to harm her the way they did her parents. The doctors didn't listen.
"Remember the stories, girl!" he shouted as they dragged him out of the house, "Never let your guard down!" That was the last time she ever saw him.
Within a week, Bernie had committed suicide.
She was now twenty-two, a senior in college, desperate to start her life outside of the college/town she'd called home for four years. Yes, she lived in an apartment complex a town away, but her life was in the university library. As a pre-medical major, there was little room for anything else.
There she sat in the library, furiously working on gaining any information she could on The Order of Zebulon. Not only was it the main topic of her final paper, but it was the only clue she had to learning whether or not any of the stories Bernie told her were true. Once he was committed, she turned her back on any belief of his stories. How could she believe a diagnosed schizophrenic? There was no reason for her to believe someone who spoke to people who were not in the room.
That was of course, until she encountered the Myths and Legends of the Supernatural course she was enrolled in. It was coincidence which brought her to the class; she needed one more elective to graduate. Looking through the list of electives being offered during the semester, she stumbled upon the extraordinary course and would have looked passed it - had she not glanced at the course description which named a few mythical demonic avenues, one of which was The Order of Zebulon. It was the first time she'd ever seen or heard of the name since her uncle died. On a whim, she enrolled and soon became obsessed with learning everything she could about The Order. In the few short weeks she'd been in class, she'd learned more than enough to believe her uncle's words once more. The Order of Zebulon was real and they had something to do with the death of her parents.
If she was right, they had something to do with the death of her uncle as well.
The Order was the basis of her final paper, a paper which would unveil everything about them. She would bring them out of hiding and would find a way to not only bring them to justice, but find the man hired to murder her parents. Their lives were not worth the protection of The Order's existence. Once she was done with the task, she could move past the obsession.
"Nadia, are you working on that paper again?"
She turned to her left and nodded at Spencer, her Comparative Anatomy laboratory partner. He was a pleasant boy with cropped copper hair, brown eyes, and a warm smile. But he was too nosy for her comfort. For three weeks he continually questioned her on what she knew about The Order, often asking if she could name anyone as a member. She lied, saying that she did not know much, when in fact she knew that there were members everywhere. She knew that The Order was capable of terrible things, all through the guise of humanity. They possessed humans, devoured their souls for energy and life, then used the bodies to carry out their demonic missions. In the beginning, their simple purpose was to devour souls, to increase their power enough to fight those who hunted them but in recent years, they'd began walking the earth in possessed bodies, learning the ways of the human world. Through their knowledge, they'd become thirsty for power, manipulating humanity by taking over the bodies of the most powerful people they knew. There were also regular humans under their employ, humans so desperate for power that they would do anything they were told. There were probably members at the university - a legitimate reason for her to remain as quiet as possible about the subject. It wasn't safe to share her secrets until she knew everything.
"Yes, Spence, I am." Nadia turned back to the mountain of books before her and began to flip through pages. She'd skimmed through those very books every day for nearly two months and could recite many passages by memory. Still, she continued to look through them, each time hoping that she'd overlooked something important. "If I want to get an A on this paper, I have to work on it everyday." She did not look toward Spencer and did not catch the skeptical look he gave her.
"You work too hard on that stuff, you know." Spencer shook his head and looked at Nadia closely. Her long hair was put up in one of the messiest buns he's ever seen. The long ebony locks laced with touches of burgundy still looked soft and silky, however, forcing him to gaze at them for the slightest of moments. Looking at her face once more, he frowned at the intense concentration in her gaze. Her dark brown eyes were fixed on the pages of the books in front of her. He was sure that she didn't notice that she scrunched her straight but small and slightly upturned nose when she read something she did not like. Through the rich milk chocolate color of her skin, he saw the flush on her cheeks. Was she hot or frustrated?
Without looking at Spencer, Nadia shrugged. "It's the only thing in my live I've been truly obsessed with."
Saying nothing for a moment, Spencer eyed Nadia closely. Her stubborn chin was set; she wasn't planning on going anywhere anytime soon. "Be careful. Sometimes obsessions can become deadly."
* * * * *
The room reeked of evil. Upon close inspection, it could not be called a room; the cave-like walls were rough and protruded in many places. The murky brown of the makeshift walls coupled with the dirt covered ground was enough to make the skin of the most unclean of people crawl.
Five figures sat within those walls, each seated at the large table positioned at the center of the room. They watched as a sixth walked into the room and braced themselves for what they were to hear.
"She knows more than we anticipated. It is suspected that it will be a matter of days before she realizes that she's being watched. The recommended course of action is elimination."
Nodding in unison, the five figures dismissed the sixth before turning to each other.
"Why were we not informed that there was another set to expose The Order?" It was Astaroth who spoke, the leader and creator of The Order of Zebulon. It was his duty to ensure the survival of his organization and to keep the identities of all of his informants veiled. Exposure would ruin everything he worked for. The fact that one lowly human woman, a college student stood in the way of the plans he was more than enough to anger him.
"We did not know of her plans or existence until a few weeks ago."
Astaroth looked to his confidant, Nebiros and resisted the urge to strike him. Nebiros was his trusted associate, one who worked with him for over a century. The tan colored skin riddled with boil-like protrusions reminded him of what he was to protect. The Order of Zebulon was an order of demons, created by demons. His four trusted confidants would no doubt come to an acceptable conclusion. "Why wasn't she eliminated in the beginning?"
"She was deemed unimportant, my liege." Botis, the first commander, placed a hand on his large stomach, prepared to feel the wrath of his leader. Astaroth was a powerful demon, something that was seen by his presence; he was tall with thin, green scaly skin coupled with powerful lizard-like hands. He commanded respect with his presence and received nothing less.
Astaroth looked at his second in command and wondered why he was in league with idiots. The situation should not have gotten to this extreme. Botis looked extremely calm. It wasn't easy to tell if he was distressed; Botis was red, riddled with yellow markings all over his short and stout body. Because he was so large, it was hard to read the emotions on his face. "The human should not be this much of a problem." He looked to Moloch, his second commander, in charge of the members of The Order who inhabited the surface. The main reason for his job title was that he was the only one of the five of them to most resemble a human; aside from being tall, Moloch had pale skin. Though he had red eyes, they were easily concealed. His hands, however, were not. Moloch's hands were webbed, a distinct feature of his breed of demon. "Moloch, How much do our informants have on her?"
Moloch took a breath before speaking. "She was raised by the one we called Bernard."
Astaroth took a breath before he spoke again. The situation was worse than he thought. "Why wasn't she removed when we took care of him?"
"He was committed before removal. She thought he was crazy, just as all other humans did. We did not think it was necessary to have her eliminated."
"Well, that's just nice." Botis shook his head slowly. "Had you had the informants take care of her then, we wouldn't be in this predicament."
"She was a child, Botis." Moloch shook his head. He did not mind having adults assassinated, but not children; it was very rare that they were aware of what went on around them.
"She is still a human!" Botis screamed as he slammed his hand on the table top. "That is more than enough reason for elimination." Botis never liked humans. After the fifth member of the original Order, Forcas, was killed because he felt it necessary to interact with the foul creatures, he made it his personal task of killing as many as he could.
"Enough!" Astaroth looked at his fellow members in disgust. "We are not here to argue, but to come together to find the best assassin for her removal." Taking a breath, he looked at his fellow members. "Any suggestions?"
"Rhotomago, leader of the Rhoto clan." Botis nodded as he stated his suggestion, convinced that his was the best choice. Rhotomago was a vicious killer, hunting until he was sure his task was completed.
Nebiros shook his head as he said, "No, he is not fierce enough. His kills are messy and careless." They needed a strong assassin, one who would not leave any loose ends. "What of Gresil of the Verrin?"
Astaroth nodded in thought. "A good choice. A worthy assassin for what we must have done but he is well known for being fickle and betraying anyone for the right price." The human was too much of a threat for them to hire a demon like Gresil. "We are on the right path."
"Andraemalek." Moloch said the name softly, knowing that the suggestion was risky. Andraemalek was of the Belial, a breed of demons well known for their hunting and killing. He was also a member of The Brethren, a fierce and close knit group of demon hunters. "He is a very independent assassin and may not take the mission."
"He has worked for The Order in the past." Botis knew of Andraemalek's reputation. He was the one to rid The Order of the last threat of discovery. "He will work for us again if we can guarantee a payment he cannot refuse."
There was a tense moment of silence before Astaroth spoke. "I know of a reward he will not be able to refuse. You must not fight me on this; it is imperative that the human is removed." When his fellow members nodded, Astaroth used ancient magic passed down to him from his creators to call forth the demon no one dared ask anything of. The chants took but a few minutes; within seconds of his last words, Andraemalek appeared before the men. He stood on the table, furious at being interrupted.
"Why did you summon me?!?" Andraemalek stared down at the four demons seated at the long rectangular table on which he stood. He knew where he was; The Order of Zebulon was notorious for summoning the demons they needed at their leisure. He'd been in the very same position before; years ago he was hired to kill two demons The Order feared would betray them. He didn't care; he wasn't a member and was simply paid handsomely for his talents. But that was in the past; he had no real interest in hunting anymore. He wanted power, assurance that he would never have to work for anyone else. The fact that The Order summoned him was enraging; he had better things to do with his time.
Astaroth stared at Andraemalek in appreciation. The hunter was a large and menacing demon; the dark blue and black stripes of his skin only seemed to enhance the danger in his presence. It was apparent to all in the room that he was as dark as his eyes, a stark contrast from the fact that he was only half demon. Yes, Andraemalek was a fine choice; being half Brethren, he could change his appearance to blend in with the humans. Coupled with the fact that his abilities as an assassin were only heightened by the humanity in him, Andraemalek was a dangerous weapon, one he intended to use. "I have a mission for you to complete."
"What is this mission and what makes you think that I would accept it?" Andraemalek was in no mood to deal with these demons. They didn't even have what it took to take care of their own problems. What could they possibly offer him for this job?
"We want you to kill a human." Moloch sat back and watched as Andraemalek seethed at being summoned. He figured it would be better if he was angry; he would be more inclined to finish the job that much quicker. "She knows too much about us. We need you to find out what she knows, who knows what she knows, and to kill them all."
It was a simple mission, one that would probably take him a month to complete. The thought was slightly intriguing; it wasn't often that Andraemalek traveled to the realm of humans. He wondered if things changed. He did not want the mission but had to admit it was better than pacing the length of his home. Taking a deep breath, he spoke. "I do not kill humans. You know this."
"Even if she threatens to reveal us all?" Astaroth watched as the demon thought of the consequences of exposure. "What would that mean for your precious Brethren?"
Andraemalek took a breath. As the only half demon that was also part of the Brethren, he was in twice the jeopardy than anyone. Ridding the world of one human was an evil he was ready to commit for the sake of all others. "What do I get for my troubles?"
"You would become the sixth member of our council." Astaroth expected argument from the other members and hid his surprise when there was none. Did they agree with his decision? Of course they did; they would not have to worry about hiring any assassins. With Andraemalek on the council he would be inclined to take care of any complications on his own.
Andraemalek thought for a moment. He'd wanted to become part of The Order, but strictly for his personal reasons. He knew that he was being offered a very high position. His main goal was to gain as much power as possible. If he had to start with the council, so be it. "We have an agreement."
Immensely pleased and surprised, Astaroth nodded. "You must live in her world, blend with her people and become someone she trusts. It is imperative we know everything she knows."
"This is not my first kill, Astaroth. I know what I have to do." Andraemalek balled his hands into fists. He felt the blood rushing through his veins, a sign that the kill would be worth while. "Soon she will face her fate."