Daywalker: Demons of Sedona 4
THE EPIC CONCLUSION TO THE DEMONS OF SEDONA SERIES
Everything has led to this.
After months on the run, Tobin North now stands in the middle of two threats that endanger all he holds dear. On one side is the bloody civil war that is responsible his father’s death. On the other are the demons of Sedona, strengthened and ready to do battle in the daylight.
To survive, Tobin will have to search both life and Death to find the king and discover the demons’ weaknesses. Because unless both sides are defeated, all that remains will be a kingdom of corpses.
“Hey, get a look at this one.”
The imperial soldier yawned and lifted his head. He’d been resting, lulled to sleep by the lack of action during the quiet night. He turned a half-opened eye in his comrade’s direction before picking himself up from his crouch.
“Well,” he muttered to his partner, “it looks like our evening’s entertainment has arrived.”
The two men stood in front of a large wooden gate that marked the only visible entrance through an even larger brick wall. Several lengths in front of them, a single demon appeared from out of the forest. It shambled toward them with slow steps that indicated a long-decayed ghoul. It trained its eye on the formerly sleeping soldier, a young man whose dirty brown locks fell from his helmet, and let out a long hiss.
The sleeping soldier’s partner laughed. “I think it likes you, Bixby.”
“Stow it, Row,” Bixby replied, drawing his sword. He stepped forward, moving out of the protective cone of light that kept them safe from the undead and approached the demon. The ghoul continued toward him, raising its arms as it drew nearer. Bixby slashed at the demon before it made contact, severing its left leg and dropping it to the floor. The ghoul landed on its stomach and continued crawling forward.
“Hey! Save some for me,” Row said, jogging forward and unsheathing his blade. He hacked at the demon’s right hand, cutting it off at the fingers.
“Now what’s the point of that?” Bixby huffed. “At least I stopped it from walking.”
Row pointed to the monster’s severed hand. “Yeah well now it can’t grab anyone with that hand, either.” He hacked off the remaining fingers. “And now it can’t grab anyone at all.”
The demon continued to crawl toward Bixby, who stepped on its skull, pinning it to the ground. “Do you want the honors or shall I?”
Row reached into his pocket and produced a silver coin. “I’ll flip you for it.”
Row tossed the coin in the air, watching as it reached it apex and descended, spinning the whole way until it landed in the palm of his hand.
His face fell. “You win.”
Bixby grinned as he raised his sword. “All right then. Take notes, I’ll get this off in one swipe.”
A woman appeared behind the two soldiers as the sword came down. Everything went black.
Tobin North opened his eyes and shook his head. He hated being inside a demon’s head when it died. It left him feeling disoriented.
“Come on,” Lorraine Norcross whispered from behind him. “She’s already in action.”
Tobin nodded and the two of them raced out from the forest. He still felt a little unsteady as he ran, but he pressed on, trusting both his reconnaissance and his partners.
They tore through the forest and emerged at the gate to find the two soldiers on the floor. Talia stood between them, sheathing her short sword. Tobin took in the bodies. “Did you kill them?”
“No, Talia replied. “But they will be out for hours.”
Tobin arched his eyebrows. “Look at that, you’re learning restraint.”
“We need to move,” Lorraine interrupted as she marched past them toward the gate. “Are you sure we’ll be clear?”
Tobin eyed the gate. Two torches lit it on either side. “Yes. The internal patrol should have just checked this area. We’ve got about three minutes to get through.”
He moved forward and placed his hands on the levers. Taking a deep breath, he pulled them open slightly and peered through. A row of dark brick buildings lit by encircling crystals lay on the other side, but the streets were devoid of people. He exhaled and slipped through, Lorraine and Talia right behind him. He closed the gate once they were in and they darted into the shadows between the buildings.
He wiped a bead of sweat from his head. The plan worked; they had successfully entered Eldryn. So far, so good. But that was the easy part. Now they would have to find a way to get an audience with King Corwan in order to warn him of the acts of treason being committed by one of his captains, Grayson Sefton. This would have to be done quietly, as they were still unsure of who was loyal to Corwan and who was part of the rebellion.
“Come on,” Tobin said as he marched deeper into the shadows “This way.”
Lorraine and Talia followed without hesitation. Tobin expected as much. The three of them had become a cohesive unit during the two-week trek from Farmer’s Crescent to Eldryn. They worked together to evade imperial soldiers at Trader’s Junction and at forest stops along the way. He only hoped that Vera, Quinby, and Arli were having as much luck over in Seaman’s Landing. Had they even made it yet? He had no way to contact them, and that only made him worry more.
He also worried about the silence from the Demon King, the one the dead referred to as The First. Tobin had traveled into the spirit realm dozens of times since the battle at Farmer’s Crescent, but not once had he felt the presence of the demon. It was as if he had simply vanished. Of course, Tobin hoped he was dead; so badly weakened by their fight that he became easy prey for some lucky hunter or soldier. But he knew that wasn’t the case. The beast was out there somewhere, and it would likely resurface at the worst possible time.
The group continued moving through the winding path of buildings until they reached a large, dark alley. Hisses sounded from the shadows. He held up his hand to get Talia and Lorraine to stop. Then he moved forward alone, his hand on the knife at his waist.
He reached the rear of the alley and turned a corner. There, he found six demons all huddled around the bloodied remains of someone who had died very recently and very painfully. He took a deep breath, still stunned that the Capital Cities had unguarded sections where the homeless were left to fend for themselves, without homes or light to keep them safe.
He let out a low whistle, and the demons slowly turned toward him. “That’s right,” he taunted. “Fresh meat.”
Almost in unison, the beasts began to charge at him with something resembling a slow jog. These were newer dead. All the better. He held his ground as the demons closed the distance between them. Soon they were just a few paces in front. Still he waited. Then they were an arm’s length’s away.
He held out his hand. “Stop.”
Instantly the demons froze in place, their progress halted by his will. It was getting easier to control them. He still felt them pushing back in his mind, their screams and howls, but he tuned them out and focused on the job ahead.
He walked up to the demon closest to him, a former woman with putrid yellow skin that sagged in the face. Without wasting a moment, he drew his knife and sliced into the demon’s neck, drawing thick, black demon blood from the wound. His next move was to his pocket, from where he drew a small brown canteen, no bigger than an orange. He held the opening to demon’s neck and watched the blood flow into the container.
He pulled away when it was full and took a swig of the liquid. He held back the urge the vomit—he’d had enough practice during the trip up—and savored the quiet that came over his mind as the blood made its way to his stomach.
He looked back at the demon. “You can go.”
The demon fell to the ground, dead. Tobin let out another whistle, this one higher in pitch, before turning his attention to the other five demons. “Gather round,” he told them, and they stood shoulder-to-shoulder, forming a line. It would do; anyone that passed through the alley during the night would see the dead and flee.
He took another sip from the canteen before returning it to his pocket and wiping his lips just before Talia and Lorraine appeared from around the corner. Lorraine eyed the demons. “Five this time,” she noted as she tossed Tobin a small bag. “Anyone that stumbles around here is going to have the fright of their life.”
Tobin smirked and opened the bag, pulling out bedding. He began to set up camp as Talia crouched next to him.
“Your plan worked,” she admitted.
“It did,” Tobin replied. “But we’re only part of the way there.”
“What is next?”
He pointed north. “Next we find a way into the palace and warn Corwan. But we can’t do that tonight. There’s no way anyone’s getting in during the middle of the night.”
Lorraine dumped a stack of wood in between them and sat down to build a fire. “So how do you propose we get in?”
“I’ll find a way,” Tobin answered. “I just need to canvass the area.”
Talia frowned. “You will need to find more demons, then.”
“Yes. Thankfully it doesn’t seem like they’re in short supply here.” He finished setting his bedding and rose. “I’m going to see what I can find. You two stay here. If anything goes wrong, I’ll lead the demons to me. Just follow them.”
He stepped away from the group and made his way back out to the street. After carefully peeking around to make sure he was alone, he darted across to another alley. There, predictably, he found two more demons. They opened their mouths to hiss, but Tobin held up his hand.
“I don’t have time for this, get out there and find me a way in.”
Without incident, the demons obeyed and marched out into the street. Tobin backed into the shadows and closed his eyes. Ignoring everything around him, he focused on the demons he just saw.
Seeing had given him such trouble a few weeks ago. It was easy now, ever since he drained that first demon after the battle for the Crescent. Arli would be impressed with how far he’d come in just a matter of weeks. Then again, the Eorisham would be disgusted that he was drinking demon blood.
Tobin pushed the thought from his head and opened his eyes. Except this time, he wasn’t looking into an alley, he was in the head of one of the demons he’d just possessed, seeing the city through its eyes. He watched as the ghoul marched and made it strain its dead ears to pick up the slightest sound. It wasn’t easy, as demons had pretty bad hearing.
One of the demons caught sight of movement in another alley, and Tobin sent it to investigate. There, it found three more beasts milling in the darkness. “Gotcha,” he said as he grabbed control of the ghouls and sent them out. He continued in this manner until he had around twenty demons under his command. With this many extra sets of eyes, he was bound to find a weak spot in the palace security.
The sound of hooves caught the attention of one demon, and Tobin switched to its sight just in time to see horseman with a blade ride past. The demon caught just the smallest glimpse of the rider’s face before the blade came down, severing its head and ending the sight.
Immediately he dove into the sight of another nearby ghoul and looked up. The man on horseback was an imperial soldier, and one of much decoration, based on his gold cloak. The realization was accompanied by rage so pure and hot that Tobin began breathing heavily. He recalled the wrongs visited upon him by the army, from his father’s death to his own exile from Farmer’s Crescent. The imperial army had caused him tremendous suffering.
But that was before; back when he was weak. Now he was stronger than ever before. He was more powerful than anyone Sefton could throw at him. He could destroy them all, beginning with the man on horseback.
He took a deep breath, clearing the thoughts from his mind and momentarily returning to his own sight. Another bout of rage. He’d suffered several since Farmer’s Crescent, random episodes of strong anger that threatened to make him do something he would regret. But now was not the time for rage, not while there was still a mission to accomplish.
His mind now calm, Tobin returned to the demon’s sight just as the rider turned a corner. Tobin switched to another nearby demon and resumed his surveillance as the rider made the trek through the city.
Eventually, near the city’s northern edge, they arrived at what could only be the royal palace. It was a large, black stone building that sat up against the northern wall. The entire complex was housed inside a second, smaller wall. Sentries patrolled the tops of the walls, arrows and swords visible. The rider pulled up at a large wooden gate, which groaned loudly as it cranked upward. Two guards stepped out from behind the gate to inspect the visitor before allowing him through. The gate creaked again and closed.
Tobin returned to his own vision and grit his teeth as he struggled to keep the rage from consuming him. King Corwan was inside the palace. Perhaps Sefton was there, too. Everything hinged on getting inside those walls. It wouldn’t be easy, but they had to find a way in.