They were running. Jerral was completely lost as to why they were running but the pretty brunette was fun to watch in heels. He had been sitting at his desk, reading over court documents for a settlement he was handling , when the brunette, Jerral thought was named Christine, walked in the door of his office and hauled him out of his chair. She was a slender thing so it was a surprise to Jerral that she could lift him out of his seat. And she did it in a pencil skirt.
“We need to get out of here.” She had said in her crisp British accent. She then proceeded to pull him along behind her through the building while the other associates stared.
"Whoa," Jerral said with a smile, "What's the hurry?"
Christine didn't answer him. Once they hit the stairwell, she started to run.
Now they were running across the parking garage. Jerral sensed that she was afraid of something, so he continued to run with her, shortening his strides so that he didn't step on her heels.
As he watched her, something happened. It was like a blur and the blouse and the skirt she wore changed. Now she was running in a tank top and skin tight pants. Her dark brown hair fell from her neat bun into bouncing blonde curls. And as she looked over her shoulder he noticed her once brown eyes were now a brilliant green.
He pulled his hand free of hers and stopped dead in his tracks.
"What the hell?" he exclaimed.
Christine stopped and looked back at him. "Jerral, we don't have time for this."
"Who the hell are you? What are you?" he breathed heavily but it wasn't from running.
Christine, if that was her name, tilted her head. "You don't know anything do you?" Jerral shrugged and she shook her head. "My name is Avani Pierce. Someone, something is trying to kill you. I will explain more later. Right now, I need to get you out of here."
As she finished talking there was a loud crashing sound from the stairwell. Jerral looked behind him and saw a huge shadow against the wall.
Avani grabbed his hand again, this time Jerral took off, dragging her behind him to his car. He hit the door button then the ignition. The tires squealed as he whipped the Mustang out of the parking spot and toward the exit gate.
Avani stared behind them as the gate rose slowly. Jerral floored it onto the street when the gate was just high enough to clear his car. Avani turned around and slumped into her seat.
"That will slow him down a bit," she said. "He'll probably have to get a car."
"Who is it? What is it?" Jerral asked glancing between her and the road.
"A Daeva, a demon."
"Demons can drive?"
Avani huffed a laugh, "When necessary. Take all the back roads to your mom's house. She can explain everything to you."
"God I hope she has beer," Jerral said as he checked his mirrors for the fifth time, looking for signs that they were being followed. "You know my mom?" he added as an afterthought.
Avani leaned her forehead against the window and sighed in relief. "I've known Shawna Vea a long time."
He didn't press anymore questions and Avani closed her eyes.
When he pulled up to the curb in front of his mom's old rowhouse, Avani hopped out of the car and strutted up the walk without waiting for Jerral. He jogged to catch up to her. She opened the door and he followed.
Shawna Vea Hollandsby was a small woman, topping out at five foot two inches and weighing in at just over a hundred pounds. As Jerral walked in behind Avani he was reminded of teenagers lounging at the library as his mom sat with her feet folded up under in a big burgundy arm chair. She was writing in one of her journals and didn't spare them a glance.
“Avani, I've been expecting you," she looked up, smile fading as she took in the sight of Jerral behind Avani. “Although, not under these circumstances.”
Avani walked to the matching burgundy sofa and sat. "There were multiple daevas this time. The Hemming smelled me. He took on an aggressive posture. None of the others followed us out but he, he must have decided at the last minute to kill Jerral no matter what. He was going off impulse."
Shawna pinched the bridge of her nose. "I tried so hard to avoid this path."
Jerral gave his mom a confused look. "'Avoid this path.' What do you mean, Mom? What's going on?"
She looked up at her son. "The world is not as you have been taught to believe. We have.... abilities beyond what is conceived to be normal."
He put his hands on his hips. "I would say re-weaving your clothes while running is a bit out of the ordinary, yeah. So, she's a.. wizard? Are you a vampire? I mean what's going on?"
Avani rolled her eyes and leaned forward on the sofa. "We're not wizards, Jerral. We are humans as we were originally made to be."
"Yes," Shawna chimed in. "All humans have an affinity for something. The outdoors, animals, or empathy. Most have just forgotten how to grasp that affinity and make it into an ability. Those of us who do know how typically use it for good, for saving lives."
"But there are those who were consumed by the darkness of the ability, the power." Avani met Jerral's gaze. "That's who we call the daevas. The dark ones. The demons."
Jerral sank into another chair by the door. "You're telling me there are people all over the world that can do things like she can do?" He pointed to Avani. "What can you do?" he asked his mom.
But it was Avani who answered. “It’s spelled out in her name. Shawna Vea. The present seer. An old tradition to name your child after the Power they presented.”
Jerral raised an eyebrow. “Seer? As in you can see the future? Tell fortunes and what not?”
She nodded. "Sort of. But I can see glimpses of the present, past and future. It's a type of mind ability obviously, but it usually surfaces earlier than other abilities."
Jerral looked at Avani. "What is your... ability?"
"Powers. We are Powers. We have power," she replied a little annoyed.
Jerral raised an eyebrow. "You couldn't come up with a better superhero name?"
Avani glowered at him. "It is translated from a very old language. As for my power, I am able to manipulate the earth and those natural things that come from it. I have a dash of Hemming, shape shifter, in me which allows me to control my skin, my hair, my eyes."
"We call those like Avani Tahras. People like me are called Nuhas," Shawna added.
Jerral rubbed his hands over his face. "Are there books I can read on this?"
Shawna let out a breath of relief, assuming her son had accepted this new information. "Yes, Avani can show you how to find them in the study."
Laughter erupted from Jerral. "Of course. Just a few more questions. Why am I being targeted? Why was Avani playing secret agent at my firm? Why the hell did you keep this all a secret from me?"
"There has always been a fight between us and the daevas. A while back they were hunting me. I just proved I was too formidable for them to handle. When their efforts turned from me, I went searching for them. They lead me to you. At law school. That's when I reached out to your mother."
Jerral looked to his mom. She worried at the hem of her shirt. "I can't tell you everything. It's a law but what I can tell you is that the Creators, the beings that created the universe, will return. And the daevas believe that certain people will be a part of that return."
Silence hung in the air as Jerral waited for more. Then he asked, "Am I to be a part of it?"
"That is for you to decide," Shawna said spreading her hands out in front of her.
Jerral rubbed his face. "I'm getting a beer." He stood and stalked to the kitchen at the back of the house.
Shawna started to rise and follow him. Avani put a hand up to stop her.
"I'll go talk to him." She rose and walked back to the kitchen.
There she found Jerral standing in front of the sink staring out the window with a beer in his hand. His tie lay on the counter next to the sink and by the looks of his collar he had undone the top buttons on his shirt. Avani didn't blame him. Her clothes were starting to irritate her as well. But they didn't have time for comfort.
Avani leaned against the door frame. The old house creaked. Jerral looked over his shoulder at her. He scoffed and turned back to the window.
"You shouldn't be so hard your mother, Jerral." She pushed off the wall and walked to the table. "She was just trying to protect you."
Jerral looked down at the sink. He knew why his mom had never told him but it still pissed him off. What had he missed because of it? He turned around to face her, glad it was her and not his mom. "I don't know what you want me to say."
Avani took a seat at the table and gestured for Jerral to take the seat across from her. Jerral just stared at her for a minute. He hadn't had a chance to really look at her. She didn't look like an ancient warrior. Taking a quick study of what was above the table he realized she was more stunning than he had thought before. Her hair was the color of wheat and fell in soft curls to her shoulders. Those green eyes that had been so vibrant were now as calm as a green meadow. Part of him delighted that her nose was slightly crooked, probably from being broken at some point. It set prettily over a top lip with a cupid's bow with a full bottom lip for pouting. All of that encompassed in an oval face with high cheekbones.
Drawing back from his wondering mind he decided to stay standing and just stared at Avani. Waiting.
Avani tapped her fingers on the table. "Fine. Don't sit down, whatever. But listen, it's not a bad thing to grow up not knowing what this world really is."
He point his beer at her. "That's bullshit."
Avani's eyes fired a bright green. "I know what it's like to grow up knowing about this world."
"And you look fine to me," he said taking a swig of beer.
"Jerral," she said sharply, "once you know and see the world for what it is you can't un-know or un-see it. I have seen a man burned alive from fire born of his wife's hands. I've seen a woman raped in an alley by something that was only half human at the time. I could handle a sword and had to defend myself several times and all of that before I turned thirteen. Trust me, it's better growing up not knowing."
Jerral opened his mouth to say something then closed it when he realized he didn't know what to say to that. He felt anger and sorrow for the little blonde girl growing up with those horrors.
"How old were you when you..." he searched for the right wording, "obtained your Power?"
Avani held his gaze. "Eighteen. The day after my eighteenth birthday."
Jerral starred, waiting for her to continue but from the emotion stirring in her eyes he figured it was a bad time to ask her about it. He walked to the table and finally took a seat.
"If we really are being hunted because we're supposed to be the end of all evil, what do we do about it?"
Avani folded her hands on the table. "Well, to put an end to the hunting we would have to end the one behind it all. His name is Samael. He happens to be my cousin and one of the most powerful people in the world. But until you have your Power we can hardly take on a century old fire bender."
"If he's your cousin and he's a century old, do I dare ask how old you are?"
Avani smiled. "It's never safe to ask a woman what her age is. Or her weight."
Jerral returned the smile and took a swig of his beer. "So if we can't take on Samael, yet, then what are we to do?"
"We prepare. I know you were being a smartass about the book thing earlier but I have seen in temples where people studied what they assume will be their element and it unlocks something. So you start reading books. And to keep you from getting too bored we can do hand to hand combat or throwing knives. Your mother is actually very good at throwing knives," Avani looked wistful as she finished speaking.
Jerral finished his beer. "So we train and I read and I obtain this Power. Then we take on this Samael and save the world?"
Avani leaned forward on the table. "I have a plan. Samael isn't wreaking all this havoc by himself. He's building an army or at least that's what it looks like. He has somehow managed to get groups of daevas to work together and they've taken out several small lux communities."
"Lux?" Jerral asked confused by the term.
"It's what we call the good ones. Daeva translates into demon. Lux translates into light."
Jerral stood and walked to the trash to throw his beer bottle away. He stood with his back to Avani going over all the information in his head. It was a lot. Demons, powers, destinies.
He turned back to ask her more questions but Avani was looking out the back door. She looked wistful, like she would rather be out there than in the house. He realized it must have been just as stressful of a day for her as it had been for him. Then he thought of dinner.
"Do you want to stay for dinner?" he asked.
Avani turned, met his gaze, it was still a little glazed over from looking outside. "I don't want to impose on your mother. We can start again tomorrow."
Jerral didn't know why and figured he would regret it later but he pushed. "Shouldn't we all stick together? They, the daevas, know that I know now. Doesn't that make things more dangerous?"
Avani smirked. "Now you're asking me to stay the night?"
Jerral shrugged, tried to keep it light. Why he cared he didn't know. "Honestly, I know nothing about our situation." He locked eyes with her. "But I was going to ask you to dinner in the parking garage after I figured out what you were so spooked about. Then you did the magic trick." He shrugged again. "Dinner might have led to staying."
Avani's eyes brighten and she laughed gently. "That's a lot of confidence. I like it. And you're right. Leaving and returning a lot could cause trouble, give away our location. I'll stay. In the guest room and we can start again tomorrow morning."
Jerral smiled. "Alright. I'll go see what Mom had in mind for dinner." He pushed away from the table and headed for the living room. At the doorway he stopped and looked back at her. She had gone back to looking out the back door. He shook his head against his thoughts of her. He turned and walked down the hallway. Apparently he had a war to prepare for.
While his mom prepared dinner, Jerral prepared the guest room for Avani. He was still unsure about everything they had told him.
He heard voices from outside. He walked to the window to see Avani and his mom out in the yard. Shawna stood on the porch drinking a glass of wine. Avani ventured out to the fence where the ivy flowers grew up it. A few of the blooms were late and hadn't opened yet.
Jerral watched as a soft green glow came from Avani and she caressed the air near the flowers. Slowly the blooms opened and the vines crept a little further up the fence.
Jerral turned from the window. What kind of world had he missed out on? What skills could he have used to help the world?
Then he thought about the life he had. He would be leaving all his friends behind. Hugh and Kyle, his wing men. He smiled at the memory of their last night out. Would he be able to go back to that? He finished making the bed and went down to dinner with more questions than he knew how to answer.
Dinner was a quiet affair. There was too much of a connection between a few and very little of a connection between the others. When they were done, Jerral cleared the table and washed the dishes before saying goodnight.
Avani sighed as she watched him walk out of the kitchen. She could tell he was still very uneasy about the whole bit. She didn't blame him. They had just possibly destroyed his whole life.
"What troubles you, mon ami?" Shawna asked still sitting at the table.
Avani ran her hands over her face. "Many things trouble me, Shawna Vea."
"Share your troubles. You know you are not meant to carry this burden alone."
Avani looked out the backdoor to the yard beyond. Her walk and release of power earlier had helped but she would have to go out again before she would be able to sleep. She had so much to do to prepare for what was coming.
"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do. I realize that gathering an army to stand between Samael and the humans is the logical step but then what? Kill Samael and all his Daevas? Daevas that he, no doubt, turned himself, playing off their dark secrets. Basically innocent. Will killing them fix the balance? Or will it just create a new rift?"
Shawan considered. "Have you spoken with the Council?"
Avani snorted. "The Usha Quinn. Council of the Dawn. They should be dealing with this, not us. And, yes, I have. They speak in riddles and never give me a clear answer except that I should join them at the Sanctuary and hone my skills." Avani stood and stalked to the back door. "They're stuck on this idea that it will all fix itself. The Three will rise again, is usually the line they feed me." Avani turned back to Shawna. "Any idea what they're talking about?"
Shawna took a deep breath and turned in her chair to look at Avani directly. "When the Creators destroyed themselves they scattered across the earth, leaving their essence in each of the bloodlines. As the generations moved on, it became apparent that certain bloodlines contained a few with more Power than the rest. It was their... safety net for their creations."
Avani's brow furrowed. "Safety net? I thought that was the Usha Quinn. They are supposed to protect the balance and hand out any punishments as necessary."
"They are but no one governs over the Usha Quinn now and very few of us have the gall to challenge them. And your fear is the same as mine where they are concerned. Corruption is taking root." Shawna shuddered at the vision of the hooded figures she'd seen.
"So, the Creators made a back-up plan for the Council?"
Shawna nodded. "It is told that they will return as three Greater Powers. One from each lineage." She walked to stand beside Avani and look out the door.
Avani watched her moves carefully. Then said, "You know who they are, don't you?"
Shawna did not look at Avani but out the window into her little piece of quiet. She held tight to the code of laws the Powers were supposed to follow in fear of punishment from the Council. Especially the one entailing that Darshanas were to never reveal the future to other Powers. The knowledge could cause too many issues. She wouldn't reveal their names but she nodded a yes to Avani all the same.
"But you aren't going to tell me who they are."
Shawna gave her a sad look. "You know I can't. I've probably said too much as it is. Or it would have been deemed too much back when the Usha Quinn was a force to be reckoned with."
Avani ran a hand through her hair. "I know. I know. I hate it. You know that Samael's little pet is feeding him all the information though. Will she be able to tell him who they are?"
Shawna relaxed against the counter. "They have not... found that inner Power yet so it is very unlikely that she knows more than you do. She is young and nowhere near as powerful as I am."
Avani nodded. "At least we have an equal chance of finding them and protecting them."
Shawna smiled, her eyes twinkling, "Oh I think you stand a much better chance of finding them than Samael."
Avani gave her a look. "Do not tease me, Shawna Vea."
Shawna Vea laughed. "You should go get some sleep so that you can start introducing my son to this glorious life we live."
Avani snorted. "Glorious. If being a Seer ever fails you, Shawna, you should try stand-up comedy. I need another walk in your beautiful yard before I can sleep. I'll probably be out here after you go up. Good night, mon ami."
Shawna patted Avani on the shoulder. "Good night, Avani."