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Chapter Fourteen: Attack On A Guardian

Liam stood in the shadows of the alley that ran behind the tavern where the second young woman and her child had been murdered. He had heard about the killing Sunday morning but had elected to stay away from the crime scene for a couple days so as not to be spotted by law enforcement. He had learned from Lily that there was one detective employed by the County sheriff's office. Although he would have liked to get a look at the man, he decided it would have to wait. Thus his reason for waiting until the very early hours of Wednesday morning to come to the scene of the second murder.

Countless times in the past, he and his father had visited the site of some supernatural event. The purpose in doing so was not just in conducting simple detective work but to get a feel for the situation. Often times a Guardian would get an awareness of the type of adversary he was facing just by spending time in a place where that hostile had been seen or where the fiend had done some terrible deed as was the case here. Unfortunately Liam found this typical response was missing. He closed his eyes and tried to relax so he could pick up on any intuition or impression but every time he tried, he began to think of Lily.

His father had warned him it was not a good time to think about starting a relationship. His father reminded him that the first duty of a Guardian was to seek and destroy the enemy. It was only when there was a pause in the battle that a Guardian could afford the luxury of romance. Liam understood this. He was well schooled in the ways of the Guild. Yet, he could not help but think his budding relationship with Lily had been planned in order to help him in this particular charge. He smiled at the memory of the hours he had spent with her both Sunday and Monday. It had not been his plan, but on both occasions he had been lost in conversation with her. Then, just a few hours ago when they had met at the end of Lily's work day, they had again talked for hours and Liam had been able to tell her things he had never said to anyone else. Of course he and his father often discussed the Guardians and the job they were called to do but there was something special about sharing that knowledge with Lily. He was becoming more and more convinced they had been brought together for a purpose.

As much joy as this brought him, it also caused him a great deal of concern. Just that night, Liam had felt comfortable enough to ask Lily if she were pregnant. She had initially acted offended but when Liam explained to her that the monster he he was tracking was apparently searching for a new Guardian in order to eliminate it before birth she seemed more understanding. Her understanding turned to fear when Liam went on to explain that he believed the creature might target her because it believed she was the future wife of a Guardian - or that someday she would be the mother of a Guardian. Those words sunk in for Lily as she and Liam had gazed into each other's eyes. Just before they parted she had hugged him tight and told him in a whisper that she was glad they had met and hoped he would not forget her once all this was over. Liam smiled again as he recalled her words. Regardless of what happened he knew he would never forget Lily.

The car that had belonged to the second murder victim had inexplicably been left in the parking lot. Liam did not know if this was an oversight on the part of the sheriffs department or if the husband of the young woman had specifically told the authorities to leave the car where it was. In any case, it gave Liam an opportunity to do more detective work than he had expected.

The first thing Liam did was to circle the crime scene several times looking for something to indicate the coming and going of the creature. He was not surprised to find claw marks much like those he and his father had discovered at the scene of the first murder. However, just as it was in the first situation, there were no tracks or other evidence indicating where the monster may have waited before attacking the young woman. Remembering the course of events a few nights before, Liam looked upward, searching the roof line of the building nearest the murder scene. He saw nothing, but felt a shiver run down his spine and touched the hard outline of the blade tucked inside his jacket for reassurance.

He moved toward the car to examine the puncture hole in the glass. The window and door of the vehicle were stained with the blood of the young woman and Liam stood away from the car, hands on his hips as he studied the hole in the safety glass. He straightened and pivoted away from the car, not really sure what to do next. He was still hoping for some sense of direction, the kind of thing he had experienced in the past and he found himself wishing his father were able to be with him.

There are a number of things different about this campaign. One thing that was different was the way the injury his father had received had affected him. Normally Xavier Warden would have bounced back quickly. He - and Liam as well - had received many wounds in the course of their calling and rarely did they take time to convalesce. But this time Liam's father found himself strangely weakened by his encounter with the fiend. Xavier had concluded this was so because the creature had the specific mission of eliminating Guardians. Perhaps the creature was actually toxic to Guardians. In any case, Xavier Warden was down for the count and Liam found himself in the unusual position of pursuing their quarry alone.

Liam paused a moment longer near the abandoned car before walking into the shadows of the alleyway. Hidden in the darkness he stood still for several minutes, watching and listening. Arriving at the conclusion that there was nothing else for him to do that evening, he decided to walk back to the apartment. He hoped his father would be awake so they could talk. He thought about this for a few seconds as he made his way down the alley but it wasn't long before his mind was back on Lily.

All at once he heard the sound of light feet swiftly moving up behind him. He reached for the blade and spun to meet the attack in one easy motion, making a lunging thrust with the 18 inches of razor-sharp steel, but the monster knocked the weapon aside with apparent ease. He heard the creature emit the same soft sigh as in in their first encounter and felt a strange weakness as he struggled to bring his blade back in line to parry a thrust of the demon's claws. The creature reached with a splayed hand, long knobby fingers tipped with ragged talons and Liam hacked at one hand while reaching to grasp the wrist of the other.

Normally the strength of a Guardian matches or exceeds the might of a hostile but in this case Liam felt weak and sluggish. A hint of fear crept into his mind as he realized he might actually be over-matched. Hanging on to the creature's arm with a vise like grip, Liam threw himself backward, and, using his legs to thrust upward, he propelled the monster over and slammed it into the pavement. He spun erect, yanked the arm of the creature to bring it near and thrust toward its head with his sword. He was gratified to feel the blade bite home.

Yet the monster seemed unaffected as it broke free of his grip, quickly rolled to a crouching position and launched itself at his throat. Liam raised an arm to block the charge and swung his short sword in a low arc at the monster's belly. He felt the blade make contact but knew it was a superficial wound at best. The monster stood partially erect to avoid the sweep of the blade and Liam lunged at it struggling to regain his hold on the monster's wrist while he used his weight and strength to drive the creature backward he brought the sword upward trying to plunge it into the chest cavity but the demon mirrored Liam's tactic and held his wrist in an iron grasp. The two of them struggled, first one and then the other smashing his opponents into the building. Try as he might Liam could do no more than cause surface damage to his foe until he was able to slam the monster to the pavement with a hip throw. Yet, the moment he released his hold the demon leap up and ran, quickly disappearing into the darkness.

Liam knew he should try and follow but he was completely spent. He stumbled as he made his way to the steps at the back door of the building and sat down, trying to catch his breath. The encounter had lasted only a few seconds but to Liam it seemed much longer. This was nothing like the kind of thing he had experienced in the past. Certainly the task of a Guardian was difficult but this monster seemed to be more than a match for Liam and he knew it was only luck that had allowed him to win this round. He was sure that if he had been wounded he would find himself in the same weakened condition as his father.

Liam remained sitting on the steps for several minutes before he finally got up and started walking home. He had decided the best course of action was to peruse the Guardian bible in hopes of finding something that would give him the upper hand against this particular adversary. For the first time in his life, Liam doubted his ability to overcome a foe.

Chapter One: Slaughter In The Churchyard
Chapter Two: The Guardians
Chapter Three: The Detective
Chapter Four: Checking Out The Church
Chapter Five: Lunch With Connie
Chapter Six: Back To The Scene Of The Slaughter
Chapter Seven: Suspects In View
Chapter Eight: An Unbelievable Story
Chapter Nine: The Suspects Disappear
Chapter Ten: A Plan Of Action
Chapter Eleven: Lily's Help
Chapter Twelve: Another Victim
Chapter Thirteen: The Briefing
Chapter Fourteen: Attack On A Guardian
Chapter Fifteen: The Fury Of The Fiend

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