“My dear Adam, I assumed you were told when you came here, that you would be surrendering the Equinox to me in return for being allowed to go back to your normal, if dull existence.”
Heberon sat there looking at me. I could feel her eyes on me in the unnatural darkness. Until ten seconds ago, I didn’t even know my Hat had a name. Now, it is staring at me with glowing eyes in a shapely face, I can barely see, in a room filled with an eldritch darkness born from a time before Man walked the Earth and threatening me with my total surrender? What am I doing here?
“Mayor Black? Is it okay if I call you that?” I tried to keep the quavering out of my voice. I took a deep breath and continued. “My Father died to transfer the Equinox to me. I could not trade it to you or anyone.”
“So your opening negotiation point is one of nostalgia and filial duty.” The voice in the darkness seemed to resonate around the room, snapping quickly from one side of the room to the other. “I find that an acceptable opening point to our negotiations. What would make your father’s sacrifice worth the effort of transferring the Equinox to me? I am certain I would be able to do something you would find equitable.”
I could see her shaking her head, her slightly less dark female form drawing my eyes, as I adjust to the darkness. “What could you offer me equal to the life of my Father?”
His laughter radiated from the center of the room and echoed off the walls. “What could I offer? I could offer you your father back from the halls of Death itself. Would you like that Adam? It is still possible.”
Was it possible? It wasn’t that long ago, just a few days. I had seen magic do amazing things, even with my limited exposure. But I also remember Ms. Hart’s early lessons. Hard lessons. “You can’t do that. No one can.”
“You paid attention in class. My complements to your teachers. Zombification is such an elegant but imperfect science. You would have barely noticed the difference in him. My opening bid has been rejected.”
Her head was dipped forward so I could not see it. But I could sense a smile in her posture, her energy was amused.
“Something amused you, my servant?”
“No, my Dark Master. I am simply pleased by the young Adam’s scholarship. Please continue the negotiations.”
“Adam, Scion of the Equinox, I await your next negotiation for the exchange of the Equinox from your hand to mine. What would you bid for that? Know that you will not leave this room with that Power, no matter what you may wish. It simply cannot be, there is more at stake than you know.”
“And like everyone else who deems themselves in the know, you refuse to tell me why it is so important for you to have the Equinox in your possession, only that you must have it, and have it now.” I was beginning to be a bit more than annoyed.
“Ah, a bid for exchange of knowledge. This I can respect. Knowledge is power.”
Her eyes flash at me, tiny slits of green fire. Danger.
“I did not say that. I am not willing to exchange the Power for an answer to why its necessary. I simply want you to tell me why I should do this. It might change my answer and it might not.”
“A clarification is requested.” Mayor Black’s voice seemed to come from right over my shoulder. It made me jump just a bit. “I do not have time for a history lesson. There are others who are here for your Power, and they unlike me will not negotiate for it. They will tear it from your cooling corpse.”
“I am not sure what you were expecting, but I am certain of one thing. My father died to make sure the Light did not get the Equinox. I am sure that I will not be giving it up to anyone without a fight.”
With that pronouncement, a crack of thunder rattled the building like an earthquake. “Our guests have arrived. You may have to do just that. Hyperion’s lapdogs are here.”
Hyperion. I know that name. From Greek legends, a sun deity who preceded Apollo. There was more, but I think I was sleeping in class that day. Oh. Wait. Hyperion is a god or being associated with the Light. The people or things that killed my Father.
“Our negotiations are done, Mayor Black. I have a score to settle.” I stood up but I felt like I was floating in space. There were no references besides the solidness of the ground beneath my feet.
“You plan to go down there and fight, Lightning and Thunder?”
“Yep, that’s the plan.”
“You realize, this will not be like fighting those puny Cherubim you and your friends handled.”
“How do you know that?”
“Where there is darkness, I am. Where a heart is black. I exist. Where there is light, there is shadow, and I am again. I am the Keeper and Stealer of secrets. I am the Whisperer in the woods. I am the blackness between the stars.”
“They why do you crave the Power of the Equinox? You seem pretty complete to me.” That was the first time I felt Black had been honest in this entire conversation.
“My power is great for knowing, binding and creating prisons. It is poor for stopping enemies of my House.” His hate was clear in voice. An inability to scratch a maddening itch. “With the Equinox, I would not have to negotiate, I would simply take what I wanted.”
“Our negotiations as you have established them are at an end, Mayor Black. I offer you the opportunity to do something different. Something better. Are you interested?”
“Careful boy, this is no backyard pricking of thumbs for a boyhood pact. This is an Evil that has existed before your race walked upright.” Heberon hissed across the room.
“Heberon, you wound me. I can be fair to those who are fair to me. Name your proposition, Adam.”
“If you could defeat Hyperion, you would have done so already. And you are not sure I can defeat Thunder and Lighting. But they are standing outside your house and that means either Hyperion sent them to kill me, or to try and kill you.”
“Do go on.”
“If they kill me, you get nothing, and they will then kill you. If not now, as soon as they master the power of the Equinox. If I give you the Power, you can fight them but you cannot stop Hyperion, because if you could, you would have tried to kill my Father yourself. How am I doing?”
“Your acumen is astounding.” Sarcasm dripped from his words.
“You gave Umbra, Heberon, years ago to keep an eye on my Father and Ms. Hart because you cannot spy on others who may be Power’s themselves. And as far as I can tell, if you could know what was going on, you would not have made a bid for the Equinox yourself, or exposed yourself to a force that could potentially destroy you.”
“Enough, out with it, boy. What is the game you are playing?”
I got him. “My Father used to tell me, you could tell a person by what they didn’t have just as much by what they had. You have power, but it is limited by something in this place. Hyperion can’t come here, and while Thunder and Lightning can, they can’t force you out because this place is the center of your power. All the people who are here, are people on the fringes of society and their powers are yours. In exchange for someplace they can be truly safe. But I realized something. You are not safe here.”
“If you were truly safe and in no danger, you wouldn’t be trying to scare, coerce, or harass a kid into giving you a weapon that you are not sure you could control. Tell me I am wrong.”
And there was silence in the room for more than a minute. No one said anything. Heberon kept her head down and her glowing green eyes out of my line of sight.
“Damn you, boy. Well played. So how do you plan to escape my clutches? You do know you are in the center of my power right now? I could strip the flesh from your bones, make you writhe in agony for a hundred years, till you beg for death.”
“You could do that. But it would not get you the Equinox. It would release the Power and it would rage once freed, and likely kill you and anyone who tried to bind it, wouldn’t it?” I was going with my gut instincts. I did not know any of this for certain, but it felt right.
“I don’t think I need to escape, Mayor Black. Yes, you are the elder evil that has terrified mankind since the dawn of time, but I am not one of those men. Right now, I embody a power that is your equal and I am beginning to think might be more dangerous than anyone should possess. Since it was given to me to guard, I will deny anyone else claim to it. Instead, I offer you the one thing you cannot force me to do.
“And what foolish boy, would that be?”
“I offer you, my protection, instead. Do I have your attention, now?
Heberon looked up, her eyes flashed and she smiled widely.
A shockwave of thunder rocked the building. I could hear the sounds of wood and metal shearing away under the sonic assault. A flash of lightning exploded and the roof of the building was blown away. Two men stood on the roof near the edge of the damaged timbers. One wore an outfit similar to a samurai of ancient Japan, decorated in orange, yellow and white flowers. In his outstretched hand, he held a lightning bolt, sizzling in the rain, which entered the hole in the roof. The other wore a similar outfit in reversed colors of purple, blue and black. In his hand, he held a bell of a black metal and had a small hammer in his other hand. The bell shown with a ominous darkness.
“Mr. Black, Lord Hyperion sends his regards and apologies. He regrets that he must break his previous negotiations with you, and hopes his apology will comfort you, on your way to your afterlife.” Lightning spoke these words and his mouth crackled with electricity with each word.
“Equinox, Lord Hyperion, requests your presence and will not accept any answer other than acquiescence. We have been sent to ensure your cooperation.” Thunder’s voice was a musical score, it was beautiful and terrible as it rumbled its threat.
The rain continued to fall for a few seconds before Mayor Black spoke again. “Adam, I accept your terms.”
Equinox © Thaddeus Howze 2011. All Rights Reserved [@ebonstorm]