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Chapter Two: The Guardians

Screaming, Screaming, Screaming.

And yet she was beautiful. Beautiful even with all the blood. Blood from slashing, ripping, tearing. The fiend made no sound, but would only sigh, while the beautiful girl was - screaming, screaming, screaming.

Liam Warden awoke with a start. That dream - again. He had not had that dream for more than ten years, and now, it had come to him again; every night for a week.

He swung his feet over the edge of the bed and stiff armed the sagging mattress to prop himself in a sitting position. He could hear his dad in the kitchen of the small apartment. Liam glanced at the clock on the nightstand next to his bed: eleven o'clock at night. Had to be at work in an hour.

He rose from the bed and made his way to the bathroom before stepping into the kitchen.

"Had that dream again didn't you." It was a statement not a question.

"Yeah." Liam flopped into a chair at one end of a small table pushed against the wall. The dinning room was really part of the kitchen. There was barely room for a table and two chairs. "Just wish I knew what it was about. I can't even really see what eh girl looks like."

Liam's father, Xavier Warden, nodded. He was beating milk into a dozen eggs, getting ready to scramble their breakfast. Father and son worked graveyard shift together cleaning a large office building downtown. It wasn't the only work they shared.

Fifteen years before when the dream had first come to Liam, he had run crying to his father's bedroom. Xavier had comforted his ten year old son and put him back to bed. But when the same dream had plagued his son every night for a week, he realized it was time to tell him the truth.

"You're a Guardian, Lee."

"What's a Guardian?"

A wry smile had crossed his father's face as he answered. "I suppose most people would say it's a curse." He shook his head and paused a moment before he continued. "But the fact is, being a Guardian is a very important job. I started my training as a Guardian when I was eleven, almost twelve. You're a little young, but it isn't me - or any other man - who decides when a Guardian begins his work."

Liam's father fell silent and the two of them sat motionless for a full minute before Liam spoke. "What kind of training does a Guardian do, dad?"

That question was answered in great detail over the next ten years. The first thing Liam learned was that a Guardian began the actual work of his calling once he reached twenty years of age. However, the time leading up to that day was filled with physical, mental and spiritual exercise designed to produce someone capable of great acts of violence while possessing the heart of a saint.

The day after their conversation, Liam's father took him to a gym where he joined a boxing club. He found he had a natural aptitude, quick hands and a solid punch. He also learned to wrestle, his athleticism enabling him to place third in state in his weight class during an unusually long stay in one town during his high school years. Later it was mixed martial arts that filled his free time. At one point it seemed to Liam that all he did was run, jump rope, do push ups, sit ups and chin ups and compete in some form of organized combat. And that is all he did - except read and memorize.

Liam learned that the mental aspect of his preparation was designed to do three things; impress upon him who he worked for, develop a foundational philosophy of life and teach him about his enemies. His textbooks were the Holy Bible and the Warden Guardian Bible. The first was easily had, since it was the best selling book of all time. The second was a limited edition, with only one copy in existence.

The Warden Guardian Bible was not really a bible. It was a journal kept by the Warden family Guardians. It was started by one Mordecai Warden in 1692 and included information that had been gathered for hundreds of years before that. It had been handed down from father to son for over three hundred years. By the time Liam began to study the Guardian bible, it had grown to three thick volumes. It contained detailed descriptions of enemy behavior, notes on successful tactics and descriptions of all the known enemies, often with a sketch, or, by the mid twentieth century, occasional photographs.

"Is this stuff true, dad?" Liam had asked not long after his training had begun.

"Is what true, Lee? The Warden Guardian books?"

"Yeah. I mean" he hesitated, apparently reluctant to actually say the words, "I mean - monsters and demons and all that stuff - that's not true is it?"

Xavier looked at his son a long time before answering. He took a deep breath and puffed out his cheeks as he exhaled.

"I really wish it wasn't true Lee." He sat down and patted his knees. His son slipped onto his lap and waited for hm to continue. "But it is. And the Warden family has been fighting against all that - that evil - for many, many years."

"But why can't we just shoot 'em, or blow 'em up with a bomb or something? Why do we have to, to fight up close?"

"Because bombs and guns don't work." He gently roughed up his son's hair before hugging him close. "We have to actually make contact. That's why you're learning to box and later you'll learn how to manage hand weapons like swords and knives."

Liam squirmed away from his father and stood facing him. "But Dad, I don't want to do that:; I'm, I'm - I'm scared of - scared of that stuff. Why do I have to do it"

His Father nodded. "I understand Liam. I guess I'm scared too sometimes, but we've been called to do this." His father turned his gaze to the picture on the mantle. "If we don't do this, no one will. And if no one does it, then a lot of people will be hurt." He turned back to his son. "Too many people have been hurt already, Lee. Too many."

So the training had continued. Liam coped by pretending that everything he was doing was just the natural activity of someone who loved rough sport. Of course, that was it. His dad was a big strong man. It was only natural for Xavier Warden to want his son to be able to rough it up. Boxing, wrestling, mixed martial arts - nothing unusual there. The training with claymores, battle axes, knives and the like - well that was an eccentricity. But the tricks he used to calm his fears would fail him each time he opened one of the Guardian books for his nightly lesson. The notes written by long dead ancestors, the sketches, the grainy photographs - it made sickening sense. The ancient fables, the folklore, the urban legends - all of it fell into place as he labored to memorize the words of the Guardian's books.

And now the dreams that had played a part in launching this part of his life were back. His father had told him Guardians often encountered dreams and visions that helped them find and destroy their enemies. But this dream made no sense. All it told him was that there was someone - a beautiful girl - in trouble. But who, when and where, he had no idea.

"Don't worry, Lee; if this is something you're supposed to take care of, you'll get more at some point."

Liam nodded as he dug into the scrambled eggs. It had been five years since he had begun to join his father in the work of a Guardian. Theirs had been a wandering life. Moving from town to town and from menial job to menial job, as Liam and his father pursued their true calling of finding and destroying evil.

"We need to hurry and finish eating" said his father. "I want to swing by a place on the way to work."

"Got something?" Liam spoke around a mouthful of eggs.

"I think so. Just an impression." He shrugged into his coat. "It's not too far out of the way but I don't want to be late - we've got to strip and wax the lunch room on the third floor."

Liam nodded and gulped down a last swallow of orange juice.

The heater in the old Toyota pickup took forever to warm up and Liam shivered as his father navigated the side roads leading to the edge of town. "Cold" he said, hoping his dad wouldn't think he was shaking from nervousness or fear.

Xavier didn't answer. Up ahead he could see the flashing lights of a police car - two police cars. Curiosity might cause anyone to keep driving toward the lights but it wasn't curiosity that kept him from turning around and making his way to the office building where he and his son had a cleaning contract. Instead, it was a growing awareness of evil. There was evil here, wickedness of a kind most people never encountered. Malevolence so strong that it seemed the car was laboring through deep snow as it rolled toward the bloody scene. As they drew near, one of the officers detached himself form the other and moved toward their car. His flashlight shone in their faces as he waved them off. Xavier rolled his window down as he came to a stop a hundred feet from the two patrol cars. He could see a woman's body lying in the center of what appeared to be a great pool of blood.

"You need to get out of here - right now." His voice was pitched high and sounded tight.

"Okay officer - uh - what's going on anyway?"

"Just get the hell out of here - now!" He moved stiffly, his eyes wide and frightened.

"Maybe there's - well - is there anything I can do to help officer?"

"Get - the - hell - out of here! " he screamed. "Just get away, now!" He began to fumble for his pepper spray. "Go - go - go - I'm not telling you again!"

Xavier quickly turned the truck around and drove away. For several minutes neither of them spoke. Liam finally broke the silence. "We better come back in the morning after things have calmed down." He glanced at his dad. "Looks like have work to do."

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


THE END WAS NEAR
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