Chapter 12

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DOMINIC STARED AT THE BACK OF HIS EYELIDS. The falling sensation subsided and he lay there aware of everything around him. Unable to meditate, he couldn't escape his anxiety and improve his outlook or energy. Lena hummed softly to herself, still sitting on the top of the desk. The song was one his wife sang to their children when they refused to settle down and were unmanageable, especially when they'd spent their last bit of energy. He smiled with the warmth of the memory. Dominic would give anything to be back there, when they were just small and new. Longing brought back the memory of his firstborn as if it had happened a moment ago. Ian's infant face gave surprising comfort.

Rhythmic thuds startled Dominic upright. Just he and Lena were in the room. She stared past him to the wall, her eyes growing wider. The wood creaked. Rhythmic pounding followed. Dominic knew without seeing that he must move and he jumped to his feet. Facing the wall, he continued backward as the plaster and wood stretched like rubber. Dust cascaded to the floor with each recoil. The motion continued. Faces and hands he wasn't eager to see rolled against the barrier, seeking a way through the ward. The guardians had protected the farmer's house, but wards were weak and the demons would break it in a few minutes. That was its purpose, to hold while they prepared.

"We're here," a voice said, none too soon.

"You should keep to your assigns," Dominic told the guardian.

"We are. They break our house's ward. This is our fight," the farmer's guardian said.

"They're here for me. I'm tracking a legiona that came down without orders," Dominic said.

The guardians stared warily. They probably doubted him, but they had little reason to believe he was lying either. Their eyes went back to the shade, forcing its sattva through the warding.

"We know. Ready your blade, soul," Birdie's guardian said, wielding his own.

They faced the wall, ready for whatever threatened their home. The barrier rolled and pressed. Three shades pushed their faces against the ward. One finally slipped through, emerging from under the bed. Its gnarled features froze Dominic to the floor boards. Corpses, he thought. He stared as it crept closer.

"Dominic!" Lena hollered, rising onto her tiptoes, trying to get higher than she was on top of the desk.

"I see it," Dominic called back.

The second and third broke the barrier, hissing and snapping their teeth. Their clawed hands wielded ruined weapons. The guardians smirked, hardly intimidated by these three.

"Lightwalkers, stand down. We take this soul, not your assigns," the second corpse growled.

"All souls are our assigns, mudeater," Birdie's guardian replied.

"Shut your lying mouths and try me if you think you can," Dominic said, drawing the sword from his pack.

Not listening to his guide, he left the blade on the opposite wall, an interior wall they were certain not to penetrate. He smirked. Still further proof Lena was too inexperienced to fulfill her calling.

One of the maggots laughed, drawing his attention to the bed Dominic had occupied a moment earlier. The monkey-faced incubus laughed at him and the others looked pleased with the challenge. He wasn't sure which breed he disliked more. Then the shades dashed forward. He and the guardians were faster. They crossed their swords, catching all three of the black weapons aimed at Dominic. Shrieks of anger filled the room. The trio disappeared in a puff of smoke, which dispersed across the room in quick circles to confuse their prey. Windows rattled and the lamp fell over. Frames on the wall jumped off their pins or clattered against the plaster.

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