Changing of Halos

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Changing of Halos

Post by Raven Deschain on Tue Sep 02, 2014 10:03 pm

New York City - Manhattan
Very early morning, Sunday 5 February, 2012

It was one o'clock in the morning on a cold Manhattan night in February when Raven got the message. It was always the same. A text, sometimes a call, once even a carrier pigeon. Cami always got in touch with her at short notice. Cami was a crusader-knight, a swordswoman in the employ of the church. Tonight, it was a text, just an address.

"45th & Lexington. Subbasement. Hurry. Please." -Cami

Raven had been relaxing at a local bar before she had to go back to base. They were already discussing her next and possibly last transfer before her term was up. Raven hadn't decided yet if she was going to continue pass the term and had been at the bar to gather her thoughts about it when she got the text. Looking it over Raven paid for a drink, glad she hadn't hit anything that was heavy before getting the message- heck, she'd barely got through one.

Raven made her way over to her car while teasingly replying back. "What did you get into this time?"

The reply was slow in coming. Raven had time to get to the car park down the block, get in, and start the engine before it came, and when it did it was even more sparing:

"N tme. Pls hry."

The text had a map file attached, pinpointing the building, a forty story not far from Times Square.

Raven grimaced and looked over at a duffel bag she kept in the back seat. "Well, I was hoping for a chance to think things over...guess this is one way to do it," she muttered to herself before she replied back. "ok im omw" as she pulled out and made her to a spot that was as close as she could get to the building in question. Once Raven got there she parked and quickly slid into the back seat and did her best to get ready for whatever mess Cami had gotten into.

Armor, sword, TMPs and pistols all went where they were supposed to. The guns were loaded, scabbard was oiled and everything in its proper place. When Raven got out of the parking garage and started heading down the street, she realized very quickly where the building was. It wasn't hard to find.

It was the high rise that was on fire.

The first four floors of the building flickered behind the smoked-glass windows, and fire was licking out of a number of holes in the superstructure. There was a police cordon and fire trucks set up, but it was strangely quiet on the streetcorner. Light were on but there was nobody home. No firefighters, no cops.

Nothing.

"oh he-da-...uhg frig, Cami… What have you gotten yourself into?" Raven quickly locked up the vehicle and rushed off towards the building and only stopped when she was at the edge of the police cordon.

"What the heck? A skyscraper's on fire and no one's here? At least they bothered to show up... but where the heck are they?"

Raven moved cautiously past the line trying to stay out of sight. If any cop in their right mind saw her dressed the way she was while trying to cross the line, she'd probably end up locked up trying to explain herself for too long- and seeing the situation she knew Cami didn't have that time.

Raven tried to choose a path that would get her close to one of the emergency vehicles but still be hard to spot. She was hoping to over hear something on one of the radios in the vehicles if nothing else to try and get a idea of what happen. But she knew her main priority was getting inside the structure and finding her friend.

There was no one around. Any path to the emergency vehicles wouldn't let her be seen. But as she closed, she realized that the radios were all out. As were half the headlights and several of the warning lights on ambulances and police cars. As Raven got closer, she could also see that the building looked like it has sustained several large impacts and at least one major strike from something very, very hot. To Raven's practiced eye, it looked like the building had gotten hit by a HEAP barrage from something like an AH-3 Cobra.

As she drew up to the building, she could see that the doors had been either blasted or kicked off their hinges. Fire was dotted throughout the atrium and she could see at least one corpse inside.

"What happen?"Raven looked at the structure briefly amazed at the damage it had to have taken before continuing inside. Once Raven saw the body she rushed over to quickly and check to see if there was any way to identify it before she crossed herself in respect and gaze around the floor. Once she was done there she paused to recall where Cami needed her. "Sub basement?" Raven's gaze then darted around looking for a easy access route to the lower levels.

There was a staircase that led down, over in the corner. The fire door was missing, and the bolts looked as though they'd simply been sheared away, as if by a gigantic razor. Between Raven and the doorway to the stairs were another half-dozen bodies, all human. Four of them were in office wear, one was in jeans and a t-shirt, and the last, a slender little thing with ratty blonde hair that couldn't have been more than sixteen, was wearing a stretchy skirt and a tanktop despite the snow. All of them were dead, laden with ragged wounds and covered in blood. The fires burned too, three or four of them, with some kind of fuel inside. They burned hotter than magnesium flares, too.

Raven passed a directory on her way over to the staircase and saw that the building was segregated into companies by floor, all upscale office space. Upstairs were the highest fliers, the sixteen hour a day, coked-out executives and the like. Down here it was just drones. What were these people even doing here after midnight on a Sunday?

Raven paused to mesmerize the directory as to try and piece together why these people were here? Surely not all of them were trying to work in overtime. Raven sighed and crossed herself for the dead in the staircase before trying to navigate down the stairs. What also boggled Raven was how they appeared to have died. Sure the fire was intense but it couldn't been hot enough to cause the burns she was seeing or could it? Raven had this and many other questions on her mind as she traversed down the stairwell. She was hoping that once she found Cami she would get some answers as to what the heck had happened and where everyone was though she admitted that she might be able to wager a guess as to their fates at this point.

As Raven headed down the stairs, the lights went out. There was a snapping pop, felt as much as heard, and a bang far off in the distance. Transformer, she knew immediately. A second later, lights flickered in the staircase, letting off a dim, sullen red light. Raven followed the destruction down, having to step over another two corpses, these both men in suits. Unlike the others, they weren't burning or raggedly torn apart. On had a long slash from left shoulder to right hip, and the other had three gunshot wounds in a neat grouping in the center of his chest. Raven recognized the wounds as .357, the caliber of the Colt Single Action Army she knew Cami carried. Blood was on the wall behind the body.

Raven continued down, looking like she was descending into a particularly pedestrian hell. She passed the first basement door, then the second, then reached the subbasement. There was no fire here, just another corpse with a sword wound, and down the hall another two bodies with half their skulls shot away. Cami was...thorough, it seemed. As Raven observed all this there was a crack from down the hall, the hollow, spiteful sound of a pistol, then a hissing shriek and a much more human-sounding scream. Finally, there was a silvery flash, bouncing off the cheap linoleum and exposed pipes. Then silence again.

Raven looked shocked as she was starting to see who was responsible for killing these people she just was completely sure why? Raven waited on briefly for her eyes to adjust to the changes in lighting as she looked over the bodies. "Cami...I hope you have a good reason..." she sighed, then shook her head. "Heck, you probably do- I'm just not seeing it... I hope." she muttered to herself.

Once she had gotten to the bottom floor she paused to get her surroundings. Spotting the bodies Raven approached cautiously before hearing and then seeing the flash. Raven darted towards where she saw the flash hands at her pistols ready to draw.

Raven's boots echoed along the industrial corridor as she ran forward, toward the hissing and the screaming. She hadn't quite figured why there were vanilla humans with gunshot wounds all around, but she had a few ideas. She had no time for consideration now, though. Cami needed her, and Raven would be damned if she'd leave a friend when they were as deep in the drek as Cami seemed to be.

Rounding the corner, she came across some kind of large utility room. At least, it had been a utility room. There were breaker boxes, some sort of squat, grey cubes that hummed and whirred, exposed piping, a workbench, all the usual trappings of a maintenance annex.

The chains, hooks, ropes, and bars had obviously been put in later.

There were eight people in the room. The first one Raven saw was Cami herself. Tall and blonde, she was clad as always in white, jeans, practical boots, and a white blouse under a hunter green leather jacket with wings picked out on the back in golden thread. Her angular, pretty face was dominated by intense blue eyes, but they were tight with pain and her generous mouth was drawn back in a snarl or grimace. One hand was clamped to her side, and blood leaked out from under it, the most grievous but not the only wound she suffered. Her long legs and stomach and the right side of her neck were all slicked with blood, and she was very pale. In her free hand she carried a sword, a longer, finer example of the swordsmith's art than Raven's purely practical blade. Raven had seen it before, but she'd never seen it glow, the inscription along the blade blazing with white light.

Behind Cami was a handful of people, two boys and three girls, ages twelve to eighteen. They were street kids, hungry, lean, and dirty, dressed in little better than rags, and they were huddled back behind Cami as if she were a shield. They were all ashen and all terrified, and Raven could see even at a glance that they had wounds to neck, wrist, and in one case the thigh, paired punctures all.

Ahead of Cami was a pair of hunched, feral-looking creatures, corpse-pale and tensed. They wore tattered black clothing and moved with furtive, too-quick motions. As Raven came to a halt, taking in the bloodied floor, glowing crusader, huddled children, and worn restraints and tools of torture, one of the creatures turned its head in a slow, deliberate motion. Its eyes were cataract-white and its lips were grey as they pulled back from long, yellowed fangs.

Ravens eyes shot wide as the gazed upon the scene unsure of what to make of it exactly. With what she saw so far she knew Cami was seriously wounded and needed to be checked if not be her a real doctor. The children also raised concerns in Ravens mind. Why were they here and what were they afraid of?

Raven cautiously started to enter the room intending to make her way towards them. "Cami? A-are you alright? What happened?" Raven spoke though trying to keep her voice low enough in hoping not to draw unwanted attention.

"Nnnnnot your fiiiiight, mmmmmortalllll sssssslayerrrrrr!" The creature looking at Raven hissed. It sounded like wind through a graveyard, a dead, cold thing. Raven had heard stories once or twice, of things like this, things with grey eyes and dead flesh and blood on their dirty fangs. Anyone who had read Dracula could recognize them for what they were.

The other creature kept its eyes on Cami, but it hissed something in a sibilant language that Raven didn't speak, and the first vampire bobbed its head. "Goooo from thisssss place, sssslayer," Its threatened, "or we willll crrrrack your bonessssss and drink your marrrrrow."

Behind the vampires, Cami's face was pained and scared, but she drew herself up painfully and whispered, "They tried to take the children, 'Ven." Her voice was thready. It was clear that she was badly hurt or maybe worse, maybe dying. She continued, "I couldn't let them, even though my mission forbid interference." She gestured. "Look around you and think of what would have happened." The vampires hissed loudly and the children all drew back in fear. "

Raven stopped in her tracks looking back and forth between Cami and her two attackers. Rave felt her hands around her side arms tighten as they spoke though she wasn't shaking fear was defiantly on her mind. With how Cami was looking she was most certainly going to need to get her to hospital and Raven wasn't one to leave her friends behind.

With both Cami and the addition of children in peril Raven only really had one option. Raven took a couple steps forward before taking her ground once she had it she spoke. "You attack my friend and intend on harming innocent children and you think telling me to leave will get me to comply? Well now." Raven didn't give it a chance to respond as she quickly drew her firearms and fired off several rounds at the one who was speaking.

The custom "Edge" 9mm's cracked and bucked in Raven's hands. She was a competent marksman and at a distance of maybe five meters, it should have been almost impossible to miss a human target.

The vampires, however, were not human. They blurred into motion, and most of Raven's shots only cut through empty air. She did tag the trailing vampire with two bullets, and it screamed in pain as the silver-jacketed WInchester X rounds cut through its right thigh and left shoulder. The other came at Raven in a rush, its claws up and out, but Raven's next series of shots caught it in the chest only an arm's length away from tearing out her through.

Strong and fast though it might be, it was a dead thing and almost weightless, and four high caliber impacts simply stopped it in midair, throwing it back and down. When it hit the floor it vanished in a puff of mist that elongated unnaturally and speed into the darkness.

The trailing vampire went to spring, but Raven must have hit a bone with one of her bullets because there was an awful snapping and the spring turned into a tumble as the vampire's leg went out from under it. Before it could rise, there was a silvery flash in the air, and the vampire was suddenly nothing more than a grease spot in the vague shape of a person, with bits of flaming detritus in the middle. Behind it, Cami, her hand now empty and her sword lying on the concrete, lowered her arm. Smoke still curled around her fingertips. She smiled weakly at Raven.

Then she collapsed.

Raven's eyes went wide as she rushed over to Cami's side. Raven immediately started to look over Cami's wounds while glancing up at the children giving them a quick scan over to see if any of them were hurt. Raven then turned her attention back to Cami. "You know how to get yourself into trouble, don't ya?" she chuckled trying to lighten a dismal mood.

Raven although trying to put on a brave face had fear gripping at her. Fear that she may have come to Cami's aid minutes to late. Raven was already getting herself ready to help Cami up if not end up carrying her to get her to a hospital being sure to grab the sword as well knowing its importance.

Raven looked over at the children and gestured them to follow her once she had gotten ready to move Cami.

Cami raised up a hand and laid it on Raven's arm, shaking her head gently. "No, Raven." She said softly, her voice no longer pained. She sounded...serene. Peaceful. Dying. "Don't. It's too late. I knew what I was doing, abandoning the tenets of my faith." Her lips curved up in a small smile. "I'm dying, Raven. Don't waste the effort. You can't fight and carry me at the same time, and more vampires are coming."

As Cami spoke, her skin had lightened and her hair began to shine, as though she were standing in the setting sun. Black and red shadows crowded in at the edges of Raven's vision, and her skin began to crawl. She knew, suddenly and completely, that Cami was not a crusader. As she reached the lightning-bolt conclusion, working all the angles, Cami smiled again and said, "Good, you've figured it out." A sigil appeared on her forehead, glowing in silver white.

Raven shook her mind failing to process what was happening. No more like refusing to believe what was happening. "Wh-what are you saying?...N-no, no we're gonna get you out of here. I-I will get you and them out of here." Raven stammered looking at the truth in front of her in disbelief. She had accepted that vampires, werewolves, and zombies existed but this...this she didn't want to except.

"Raven, I'm an angel who abandoned my duty to God." Cami said gently. "I'm the angel of selfless love, a creature of mercy and grace, not war." She glanced around the room. "I killed thirteen people today." She said pointedly. "Under the thrall of the vampires, maybe, but still people. I gunned them down like a common mortal murderess, because being here for so long has made me too human."

She sighed and her mouth tightened for a second, then she coughed, leaving little ruby spots on her lips. "And I knew what I was doing when I did it. What else could I expect to happen?" She turned her head in Raven's lap to look at the huddled, frightened kids and whispered, "What else could I be expected to do?"

"Cami....I understand and...you're right, but...but...I...y-you can't just expect me to...I...I just can't leave you to die here...like this..." Raven stammered her mind, body, and now soul accepting what was happening no matter how much she didn't want it to be true. "I...i-if I get you to a h-hospital may-maybe they can..." She stammered the last bits of her trying to find a way to somehow pull some shred of hope for her out of this.

"No, Raven." Cami said. "I'm done, damned. I went against the Almighty, and in my hubris I thought I could get away with it." She shook her head. "Stupid, stupid, stupid." Her eyes were pleading as they met Raven's. "I couldn't just let them die, Raven. I couldn't." She shuddered in pain. "Not long now..." she whispered. She looked up at the ceiling, shivering as her blood kept leaking.

Softly, almost absently, Cami said, "Raven, there are more vampires coming. Do you-" she coughed painfully, wetly, and fastened her gaze on Raven, "Do you trust me?"

Raven shook her head in disbelief again, not wanting to face the truth she was presented with. "C-cami, I..." Raven found it hard to keep her voice from breaking. "Cami, I...I'm so sorry I didn't get here sooner...m-maybe if I had...maybe..." Raven stopped as she moved her gaze so her eyes locked with hers. "...I do...I always trusted you...and I...I'm sure you find some form of forgivness..." Raven answered trying to stiffle a sob though her eyes were running wet with tears.

"Hush, little Raven." Cami murmured, almost maternally. "If you'd come sooner, we'd both be dying." With great effort, she lifted her arms to embrace Raven gently, letting her arms fall a moment later. "Don't blame yourself, love." She shook her head. "Forgiveness is not mine to find. I turned away." Her smile was sad. "It's up to you to live for us both now, to redeem my light in the eyes of the Most High".

Raven shook at the embrace not wanting to believe this was happening...that she was losing her friend. "I...guess but..." Raven shuttered again but remained quiet to hear what Cami had to say. As Cami spoke, Raven listened her mind trying to comprend what was happening. "Cami...I...I don't understand what do you mean? How am I suppose-"

Cami took a deep breath. "Raven Deschain, I entreat thee." Her eyes suddenly burned silver, and her voice took on a hollow timbre. "I, Camael, Angel of Love and-" her voice caught for a moment, "-War, have fallen from the light. As I die, I have one request. Wouldst thou hear it?"

"I...yes...yes, of course, wh-what is it?"

Her voice still hollow and strange, Cami responded, "I would ask that you assume my mantle. My grace is tarnished by mine own actions, by mine own hubris. I can find no redemption as long as it remains so."

Her strange, silver-glowing eyes locked with Raven's. "Take up my Grace, Raven Deschain. Take my power and my love and my strength and use it to do good."

Her voice dropped back to normal and her eyes dimmed slightly. "You're my best friend, Raven. I trust you, and maybe this little bit of light will help you fight your own darkness." She bit her lip and a tear rolled down her cheek. "Will...will you take it? Will you save me?"

Raven felt her heart skip a beat. "I...you...Cami..." Raven felt lost for words. Raven felt stunned by the request as she felt the weight of what was being asked. "Cami I...I...I'm not sure I'm..." Raven started but paused as she looked deep into her eyes. "Yes...yes. If it means saving...saving you, I will." She stammered as she spoke her words true and honest. "Y-you're my best friend...I...care for what happens to you...we were there for each other...I...I don't want to lose you..." as Raven started to have her feelings begin to bubble to the surface.

Cami's glow suddenly vanished with Raven's acceptance of the terrible, incredible burden. "Th...thank you..." Cami whispered, almost inaudibly. With a terrible effort, She lifted one bloodstained hand and time suddenly seemed to stop. The children weren't moving, the flames didn't crackle, nothing. They were in a frozen instant, and Cami began to speak, quietly but steadily, pouring the last of her fading strength into the words.

"Our father, who art in heaven..." she coughed blood again and skipped the rest of the prayer, "Father, take this woman into thine care. Give her what succor and aid you gave me, for she is a better and more deserving person than I. Give her my grace and my strength and keep this woman close to thine heart, oh Lord, as she keeps her friends close to her own. I go now into this long night seeking not redemption, but comfort, knowing that this good woman will be my strength and my light and my salvation, just as you were, oh Lord, and secure in that knowledge I may go to my deserved end."

Cami finished speaking and gently brushed Raven's forehead with her upraised hand. Her touch was as it always had been, small and soft and warm and caring. For a second, there was nothing. Then, suddenly, the world exploded into light, as the essence of what had made Camael, had made Cami so great poured into Raven, stoking the fires of her soul.

Raven felt power. Awesome, incalculable, but gentle. This was not the primal savagery of the Hunt or the explosive heat of Spring and Summer, or the elemental forces of a mortal wizard. It was more and less than that, a gentler but deeper power. It was strength and surety of purpose and the promise of aid and...love. Camael's love for the fragile mortals of this realm, Cami's love for Raven, The Divine's love for Cami and for all things. It filled Raven up, speeding her heart and strengthening her body and she suddenly knew that she was greater than she had been a moment before.

When the light cleared and time sped up again, Cami was dead.

Raven blinked slowly as time began to roll onward again and made her senses aware of it. Raven slowly looked down at Cami, limp form in her arms, as every ounce of her emotion cried out. Although her heart was now bursting with these new emotions of love, Raven still felt a strong sorrow fester with her. Raven held Cami close for a long moment not wanting to let go as her throat was choked with sobs.

It took Raven a few moments to shake away her sorrow...her pain. She had to focus now the building was burning, they're likely more vampires lurking about, and the children that Cami sacrificed herself to save were still in danger. Raven took a deep breath as she pulled herself together and looked over at them. "O-ok....come let's get you all out of here and to safety." Raven put on a brave smile for them though she was deeply hurt inside. Raven stood up and cringing at the idea of leaving Cami's body here gathered up her things and gave her friend one more look.

As she stood, Raven was aware of a new light in the room, a soft, silver-and-red glow that cast a dim but pervasive illumination, and it took her a moment to realize it was coming from herself. There was a tingling on her arms under her jacket, and her shoulders itched and ached madly. She could see more clearly, more perfectly, and she was filled with explosive power.

The kids stared at her, at her guns and Cami's- no, her sword now- with wide eyes. Following their gaze, Raven could see words blazing in the silvery metal, something in Greek- καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει down one side and καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν down the other. The letters glowed with needle-thin strands of silver fire and as she watched, that fire spread slowly, rolling like oil down the blade until it burned like an argent torch.

There was a hiss from the doorway, and the children jumped. Three black court loped into the room, but they seemed apprehensive, almost fearful of her and her silver-burning sword and drawn pistol.

When Ravens gaze fell upon the Black courts at the doorway Raven's sadness gave way to anger as her first instinct was to see them gutted. But she hesitated as she felt a part of her speak out on the idea before she let herself execute it. "I will give you beasts ten seconds to flee this place with whatever meager existence you call a life before I see you burned." Raven spoke strong as it felt like she was spitting daggers.

Raven then holstered her one of her pistols and replaced it with the blade now glowing strong in her grasp. She waited mentally counting down the seconds thinking of every reason she had to despise these beasts. When she was close to the last few seconds is when she spoke again. "Come on, give me a reason." she said, as Raven took up a defensive stance in front of the children now intent on protecting them.

The creatures waited eight seconds. Then, slowly, one by one, they filed out of the room and she could hear them running down the hall outside. Suddenly, Raven was alone with the sword and the children. She felt a tug on her jacket and looking down she saw the youngest of the kids, a twelve-year old waif looking up at her with huge blue eyes under a mop of sandy-brown hair. "Are you gonna save us from the monsters?" She asked.

Raven sighed as she watched them flee, though part of her felt they didn't deserve her grace of offering them a chance. Raven then turned to look at the kid tugging at her jacket. Raven smiled and after holstering her other pistol rested a hand on the child's shoulder. "Yes, you'll be safe now...come on let's get you all out of this place, ok?" she spoke softly and gently, something Raven wasn't use too.

Raven gestured at them to follow her as she carefully picked up Cami's body not wishing to leave it here and started to escort the children up the building and out to safety hoping all the vampires got the message.

The vampires were nowhere in sight as they left. The kids followed, scared but calm about it now, and as Raven walked, the small, broken form of her friend in her arms, the oldest kids began to sing. It was "Amazing Grace," and the oldest boy, a seventeen year old black kid with a sonorous voice nailed the song to the air, the hymn singing out along the air, a last lament for the dead Angel.
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Raven Deschain

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