Deliver Us From Evil
A Newton's Gate Series
Series: The Delivery Mage
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The baying and howls of the hounds echoed off the canyon walls behind her as Marci scrambled over the cracked and barren landscape. There was no place to hide. The broken, rocky path stretched out before her with no end in sight.
Marci checked over her shoulder. She still couldn’t see her pursuers. She knew they were back there though.
Scanning the canyon walls to either side, Marci looked for a way to climb to the top. That, at least, would put off the six-legged hounds on her trail. She could deal with the rest of the demons following her differently.
She saw no way to reach the top though. Picking her way over the broken ground, Marci moved forward through the canyon. She couldn’t afford to stay in one place for too long. It would allow the hunters to catch up with her.
A horrifying thought occurred to Marci. What if this was a box canyon, a dead end with no way out?
She shook her head. She wouldn’t let Harshad get away with catching her as easy as that.
The cracks and small stones that made up the canyon floor soon became littered with boulders, making Marci have to scramble over and around the new obstacles. It slowed her down even more.
As she climbed over a large boulder in her way, she gasped in pain and pulled her hand away from a razor-sharp edge. The stone had gashed her palm open.
Marci had no time to worry about minor wounds. She scrambled over the top, leaving a dripping trail of blood on the boulder behind her. Forcing herself forward, Marci slid down the far side to the canyon floor.
“Shit,” she said to herself looking back at the boulder. She couldn’t afford to leave a blood trail but she had no way to clean it up, either.
A fresh chorus of howls from the hounds behind her grew louder. The hunting pursuers must have reached the mouth of the canyon.
Fear gripped Marci for the first time since she began running from the demons hunting her. Until now, Marci believed she might escape, despite what Harshad told her about her chances. The demon had given her an opportunity to escape in his devil’s bargain.
He had offered her the option of becoming prey for his demons to hunt. Now those hunters we’re gaining on her and she wasn’t sure at this point if she’d be able to get away.
Picking herself up, Marci dashed forward across the uneven ground. She had to get out of this canyon. Looking ahead, Marci hoped the far side of the walled passage wasn’t too far away. She still had to reach the caves that were her objective.
In the back of her mind, Marci wondered if Harshad would even keep his word. He told her the crystal belonged to him. He couldn’t take it away from her though. According to a condition of the crystal, he had to win it in a contest of some sort.
Now Marci raced for her life trying to get away, trying, against all odds, to escape.
Marci ran through a narrowing passage as the canyon walls closed in around her. She squeezed through one gap she wasn’t sure was wide enough for her to pass through, even sideways. As she emerged from the far side of the pinch point, she hoped it would be too narrow for at least some of the hunters to get past.
She could always hope.
Marci pushed herself to pick up speed running through the gap on the other side. She raced around the corner then stopped and sank to her knees. The canyon ended in a small pocket cul-de-sac. Stone walls rose all around her. The only way out was the way she’d come.
The canyon had Marci trapped.
The renewed crescendo of baying hounds behind her told Marci they’d found the blood trail on the boulder.
She turned and struggled to gather the strength of will to face what was coming. The hunt was over, and the demons caught up to her.
The pack leader of the six-legged hell hounds squeezed through the narrow canyon opening and raced towards her. Four more followed close behind. Marci Drew the only weapon they’d allowed her, a single tomahawk, and readied herself for the end.
The demon hound leaped at her, fangs dripping at the prospect of finally catching its prey. Marci winced as the creature landed on her. She felt its jaws closing on her throat, crushing the life out of her.
Marci sat up straight in her bed. Her fevered dream had drenched the sheets with sweat. For almost a minute, she sat there gasping for breath. It all felt so real and she trembled with fear of something that wasn’t there. Relief flooded her mind as the realization it was all a dream dawned on her.
Marci turned and climbed out of bed, her night shirt plastered to her sweat soaked body. She stumbled to the bathroom and leaned on the sink, staring down as the cool water flowed through her fingers into the drain.
Cupping her hands under the flow, Marci bent down and drank the cool water flowing from the faucet. Then she splashed some on her face and grabbed a towel from the rack. As she dried off, she tried to recall how the dream started. Details were slipping away with every passing second. For some reason, Marci thought she needed to remember as much as possible. It was important though she didn’t know why.
Overwhelming dread filled her. She remembered the demon, Harshad, demanding she run for her life in a contest to regain the crystal.
Marci returned to her bedroom, stripping out of her damp night shirt. She pulled a fresh T-shirt out of the pile of clean laundry still folded in the basket beside her bed. Flipping the shirt over her head, Marci padded in her bare feet out into her living room. She moved across to the ornate wooden chest sitting next to her sofa.
Sitting down on the cushions, Marci faced what most of her friends thought was a decorative furniture item. She used it as a coffee table most of the time. While it served that purpose, it was much more important as a safe, hidden place to keep things she didn’t want others to find.
Marci closed her eyes and drew in magical energy from around her. As the flows of energy filled her, she reached out with her hands, hovering them over the chest.
She opened her eyes. Glowing runes replaced the drawings and carvings on the chest, runes only she could see.
Watching through eyes tuned to this specific magical energy, Marci began the process of opening the localized gateway that led to a pocket dimension she’d created as part of her second doctoral thesis a few years before.
Marci wasn’t sure if anyone else had discovered how to do this trick. It had impressed her Ph.D. panel enough to award her the first of her two doctorates.
During her endeavors and studies on how the portal magic worked since the Newton’s Gate incident years before, Marci had discovered a way to create a small localized gateway. That portal led to a finite pocket of real space on the other side.
With practice, she learned how to tune the gate access until only she could perceive the signs of its location. She also found a way to limit the size of the pocket on the far side.
With that discovery, Marci found the perfect place to hide anything she wanted to keep away from prying eyes.
Now she manipulated the runes with her magic until she activated the small portal inside the chest. Reaching forward and opening the lid, she saw the swirling blue glow of the gateway inside the bottom of the wooden box.
Standing, Marci stepped over the side and into the chest. Taking her time, she climbed down through the gateway into the tiny pocket of reality on the far side.
The small spherical room glowed with the blue light of the gateway but the walls were an amorphous, smoky gray all around her. The room was an artificial bubble in the nothing that existed between atoms.
Crossing to the center of the open space, Marci bent down and picked up the large, translucent white crystal she’d placed there weeks before. It was the size of her head and glowed with its own inner light.
She held it before her in two hands, feeling the smooth, faceted surface beneath her fingers. It was safe.
That meant her dream had been just that, nothing more than a dream.
Harshad had not found her or the crystal. The winged demon, or whatever the hell he was, would have to wait and catch her another day.
Smiling, Marci set the crystal back down on the floor and walked back up the slope towards the portal opening. As long as the crystal remained here, she was sure Harshad could not sense its location.
Only she could find the gateway to this place and only she knew the specific magical combination which revealed and opened it.
Marci climbed out of the box, returning to her living room. She turned and waived her hand over the chest, closing the gateway. As it winked out of existence, it left behind nothing but the clean interior of the ornate wooden chest.
Anyone who looked here would see nothing but an empty box. Sighing with relief, Marci went back to her room and climbed back into bed.
It was still only 3:30 in the morning. She could get more sleep if she could put the dream out of her mind. There was a lot she had to do in the morning.