Joseph sat down on his Zafu and began his nightly meditation letting all the worries of the day drift away. Keeping the experiences that will strengthen and happily putting aside the ones that would not. Joseph was in his late seventies his life was spent in the study and mastery of his self and the betterment of his community his head was clean shaven and he grew a very thick well maintained beard. His eyes were a soft grey and even in his later years he was still a powerfully built man. He smiled easy and always preferred a smile to a frown all his students loved him and his disciples treated him as a father. One of only a small handful with the authority to take the ancient teaching of Ninjutsu and changing them for a more modern and practical use in the united states he had grown a whole new style and breed of martial artist. One that put both its family and community before itself. His schools where symbols in the cities where they were built, each was clean and orderly, extensions of family for each of the warriors that trained there. But he was not a prideful man. He thought on a small boy who had just started at his school the smile on the boy’s face as things started to make since to him, the light in his eyes when he did something that only the day before he could not. After many minutes of reflecting on his day he took his meditation to a deeper level one where he willed his consciousness out beyond his mortal body to encompass his community as he did he willed love and compassion over it soon he allowed his mind to expand further to cover the entire eastern seaboard as he did he felt something wrong something wicked he did not fear it but he did acknowledge that it was not in balance with the natural order.
He allowed his mind to dwell on the wrongness as he did he began to see his minds representation of what the wrongness was. He saw a tree in a forest beneath a crimson red sky the dark clouds swirled over head as if in a rage. The tree he could see now had many white flowers on it the branches and leaves were blown back in forth as if a powerful storm were approaching. He could see footsteps in the earth around the tree but no people to make them. The steps were making a circle around the tree and once it was completely encircled the tree the steps all stopped moving all facing the tree he could now see that the tree was a dogwood the white flower could no longer hold onto their tree and began to blow away. There was a since of sadness as the last flower was taken then all at once the tracks in the ground all turned to face away from the tree and it was engulfed in flames.
Joseph opened his eyes it was a troubling vision one he did not intend to ignore. The dogwood he knew was the state flower of North Carolina. He also knew that he did have people in North Carolina that he should warn. After a few moments to gather his thoughts he decided to make a phone call.
Danny sat back on his couch he had his house phone turned back on after some prodding from Algie a constant stream of “I’m not going to negotiate with and for you through Email for six months.” Finally beat him into submission. His mouth just kind of hung open his breathing was almost none existent he was too busy playing the words of the last conversation over and over in his mind Algie had been off the phone for close to ten minutes now but Danny never sat it down he just held it next to his ear as if he were still talking to someone as he stared at the wall. He just kept going over it again and again.
“Well Danny you see your call center had paid someone to repair the spot on the stairs a few months before your accident but as they seemed to fix everything in the stairwell but the loose portion that you slipped on. We were able to go after both of them the credit union and the construction company. Neither wants to go to court so they have agreed to a joint settlement of just a little short of five hundred thousand dollars it will take a month for all the money to come together but they will deliver the checks to our firm when it’s ready… Danny are you there? Hello Danny?”
“Huh.. yeah I’m here ok five hundred thousand uh ok.“ Danny sounded a lot dumber than he actually was and Algie could tell.
“Ok then well I have some other things to deal with at the moment we will be in touch. Next time you fall down do it at a commercial bank they have more to go after and they have legal teams that are worth fighting with.” Algie hung up without waiting for any response he was pretty sure that he wasn’t going to get one anyways at least not one that formed a complete sentence or sounded anywhere near intelligent.
Danny just sat there thinking the estimate over and over again he never had that much money before he had never had a plan about what he would do with it if he ever did get it and for most of the last six months he just humored Algie when he called or on the rare occasion that he visited. What was he going to do with all that money? As he started going over it again for what would have been close to the hundredth time he started to grin not because of the money or because of the fact that he wouldn’t have to worry about any money for a while, but because he felt something, something deep in the center of his mind and it spread like warm water rushing just below his skin from the top of his head down to his fingers and toes. He put the phone down and stood in the center of his living room. It was clean well much cleaner than it had been. He looked to his kitchen the table had been moved back into the room with his computer in it and the chairs had been pilled on his back deck. The whole dining area of the kitchen was clear now and scrubbed clean there were nine small Braziers all with small amounts of burning incense in them they smelled faintly of sulfur and strongly of cinnamon and cloves. There were two yellow eyes there staring up at him. They were crinkled down thin slits if there were a face attached to them it would be wrinkled into an annoyed frown, small sharp teeth visible.
“Well?” the voice was small and sharp just a hint of a lisp due to the lack of the proper mouth to speak the language correctly.
Danny considered leaving the Imp in his circle a little longer but he knew that the imp didn’t need the circle to get manifest and that using it was just a courtesy offered as part of their new arrangement. He raised his hand and dropped it passing it through the outside edge of the circle he felt a sudden burn through the tips of his fingers but it was gone as quick as it had appeared. With the circle now open there was nothing slowing his progress into the material world. The Imp walked out of the kitchen and over to an old ripped up recliner and made himself comfortable. Danny just watched him the fact that the little demon was real was something that he had accepted but was still getting used to.
“So what’s on the Agenda for the day?” Although he wasn’t used to the Imps Presence he did very much enjoy the lessons. Most of them anyways, some things had to be learned through pain he had realized.“We are going outside today you are too weak you body small and on the verge of breaking it is not powerful enough to handle the stresses of what you are to become.” The small Hairless fox man sat staring waiting for what he knew would be some absurd comparison of the vicious realities of the Void to some human fantasy games made for the weak to play the strong, for the dim to play the cunning he waited for it and as always it came.
“I thought magic users were wasted little men with their noses in books and no time to work on a six pack?” Danny knew that his guest hated these analogies, which was why he usually made them.
“I don’t care about human drinking rituals come with me.” He got up and headed for the back door. His clawed feet made clicking noises on the wooden floor as he went. Danny noticed how whenever Volnam led the way anywhere he always had one ear swiveled back to listen for Danny following him. Once outside dark clouds started to gather and a freak fog began to rise up from the stream bed further out in the small wooded area behind the neighborhood. Another thing that always seemed to happen whenever they were outside.
“So does the sun hurt you or is it just hard on your eyes?” this time there was no harassment fueling the question just a desire to learn more than just the lessons chosen for him.
“No. no pains no weaknesses.” The imp made a disgusted spitting noise as he considered the question.
“Your home... Earth is in the natural world and we are not. It is ashamed to have us here so it tries to hide us from view we don’t like it either.” As he finished he started urinating on the lawn apparently to show the earth his mutual dislike. Where the liquid struck the ground the grass blacked and shriveled until only smoking burned earth remained.
“Neat trick gotta watch you at parties.”
“When did your kind stop fearing my kind, how all this jokes?”
“I played to many computer games.” His answer was quick and he had a cool smile on his face but he remembered what he saw climbing out of the pit in his nightmare in the hospital he did fear them he was just used to this one.
He was still stare daggers at the ground and looking intently at one of the centennial oaks in Danny’s Backyard he raised a hand and a small sphere of compressed fire began to spiral around his fingers he went to reach his hand towards the tree when there was a crack of thunder in the skies above them. The imp lowered his hand and the fire winked out. Cursing the sky in his own tongue he pointed at the ground at Danny’s feet.“Lift the stone.”
Danny looked down as he felt a rumbling at his feet. There he saw the ground separating and churning the tip of a large rock was being forced up to the surface as he watch he decided that the large rock was actually a small bolder he stared mouth wide open.“That thing has got to weigh three hundred pounds I can’t lift that.”
The red slit pupils in the imps eyes began to glow giving off visible light smoke that trailed up and past its hairless eyebrows.
“Good we like to motivate your kind. We have a bargain I command and you obey.” He began to walk towards the scrawny close to panicking human. Danny finally remembered himself though and stood straight.
“No you little dink that wasn’t the Deal and don’t try any mind games with me no word play our deal was you teach I learn and be careful I learn to much and you won’t have such a stable position!” As he spoke he felt that power begin to build in him again and he loved it. It was a high unlike anything he ever scored from a doctor’s office or found online. As it built the Imp froze in place obvious glee in his eyes he seemed to love it when Danny got mad. He flicked his fingers and the rock at Danny’s Feet split in half.
“You lift… and you lift and you lift and you lift. I Teaching… I teaching your body, now lift up over head!”
They argued for close to fifteen more minutes and Danny finally broke down and began his days training he was pushed and pushed further by the time the sun had started to set he found that lifting the rock was getting easer instead of harder. Which was the opposite of what is supposed to happen after a day of intense physical labor, Danny didn’t work out on any level on his own but he remembered from classes in school and he had a crash course today it only got harder. Not now as he hefted the agreed upon third of the rock over his head it was easier than the time before as he sat it down he attempted to do it again and it was a little easier than before. He attempted to do it again and something hard blasted him in the chest, he dropped the rock and landed four feet from where he was standing. Standing on the only rail of the deck that was still standing after years of neglect was Volnam. He was hopping up and down, hands balled up into little fists sputtering with rage at something.
“NO NO NO you cannot use power only muscle! Only arms and back blood and sweat. Next time I…”After the second it took to figure out what happened and what was currently happening Danny was Irate he climbed to his feet and did the only thing he could think of at the time he flipped the little demon the bird. His fist out, his middle finger standing alone. But at the same time his arm extended and his finger went up Volnam went flying backwards off the rail and through both the storm door and the solid wooden door behind it he must have hit the washer or drawer beyond the doorway, Danny thought to himself because after the shatter of the Plexiglas in the storm door and the crack and boom of the wooden door it was all finished with a resounding clang from something metal. He stood frozen he didn’t know what happened and he didn’t feel the power that normally came when he got mad lately he felt completely normal and he hated it. “What just happ…” the section of wall to the right of the doorway exploded outward into the yard in a rain of wood and fire sections of beams and a half slaged still dripping molten dryer landed in a fifty foot long trail across the backyard. The explosion was deafening as it happened Danny pulled his hands up to cover his face and ears. The Imp climbed out onto the deck this time the last rail he stood on before just burst into flames and turned to ash in what couldn’t have been more than a few seconds with it clear they locked eyes. Volnam looked at him with complete hate and total contempt which as Danny thought about it was about the same as he looked at everything but this time there was an added feeling of a dog about to bite. In his peripheral vision Danny saw what was left of the dryer cooling into a metallic puddle in the yard, small fires and trails of smoke rising up where metal met grass. For a brief second he thought back to the day he had purchased the dryer he had bought it with his wife for their first house together, this house. She was so happy then everything was fun they were always doing things together he was so happy then. Then in the next instant the happy memory was gone and what remained was the Imp on their deck that had just blown a whole in their house.
They had a deal the stupid human they were all stupid. He would teach and Asmodan would learn not to cheat and not to attack when being corrected. It was ridicules that these humans had the possibility for so much power. So much wasted on such underdeveloped soft curses on the chaos that spawns. But this slap would not go unpunished all the whining and the complaining the stupid analogies about movies and games the distractions from the purpose and the calling. Warlocks were the most powerful beings to be found, to train and control one was a dream. one such as Volnam could never hope to accomplish in the Void. Imps were near the bottom of the chain of dominance in the void not because of lack of intelligence they were some of the most well equipped in that aspect, it was the inherent cowardice that the vast majority of his kind possessed that stopped them from climbing higher. A warlock in his control would change everything. But this was not going to go unattended there would be blood and tears and begging for mercy for this. Volnam had thousands of punishments flying through his mind countless things his kind and those greater than himself did to the mortals in the void when they could catch them. As he thought of the appropriate response to this insolent pink skinned beasts assault he noticed something up in the trees above and behind Asmodan but before he could address it something he would have never have imagined happened, Asmodan attacked him, not as a human with a stick or a blade not even a human with a gun but as a Warlock with a mind bent on murder.
First the deck erupted in flames normally not something an Imp worried about but this flame burned him and that was cause for panic alone normal fire did not hurt an imp or almost any demon for that matter but Hellfire hurt everything it destroyed everything it came to. Volnam instantly unfurled his tightly wrapped wings and bolted into the air once clear of the fire he couldn’t see the human anywhere then something ripped through the tightly pulled skin of his left wing he shrieked and almost fell from the sky He would kill this human and wait to find another though it would not happen he would not find another it did not matter. Then something grabbed him once of the ancient oaks reached out a gnarled branch compacting and wrapping around its self until it resembled a large green and black clawed hand and grabbed his leg and crushed it while throwing him at the ground as it threw Volnam blasted the arm off at the trunk of the tree with a massive blast of fire it did not release however and he was slammed into the ground his leg almost ripped clear of his body in the process then from out of the fog which had become almost black with the addition of the smoke from the explosion and the burning deck Appeared Danny eyes glowing brightly with an evil purple inner light it created halos in the fog between them. He stopped no more than a foot from the trapped Imp and placed a foot on its throat squeezing down he commanded.
“Your name Imp your full and complete name or I will tear it out of you!” his voice seemed to echo out of him it was one of the most menacing things Volnam had ever herd to include anything from his own dark home. Volnam was worried and taken of guard but he knew that power all power had limits and that an untrained human even with a lot of potential would blow out with this much exertion especially in as bad a physical shape as this one was in to begin with.
“You are mad I tell yo… ghhk!” Volnam couldn’t finish Danny laid more pressure on his throat. He raised his hand to blast the human off of him when he felt something horrible something that had never happened to him before but that he knew of something he had done to others but never had it been done to him. It felt like something was skinning him from the tips of his ears down, but it was all in his mind, he was being invaded. He opened his eyes not realizing they were closed he opened them only to see the cold dead look on the warlocks face. Eyes glowing, hand stretched out clutching the air. It did not stop nothing could stop it he tried, Imps had strong minds some of the strongest their telepathy was amazing but this thing that was invading him was god like and as uncaring as the Void. well uncaring as far as the Imp was concerned it was filled with hate and rage and instinct, it was going to get what it wanted it didn’t know how but it did know It was going to get it. Volnam began to build barriers. Walls inside himself to protect him, but whatever he did it was incinerated in the hellfire that was laid against it. Finally in the farthest corner of his mind he gave up and stood and waited. Almost at once he was ringed in Hellfire trapped in his own mind. He saw the face of his pursuer floating above him. The mental image of Asmodan looked down at him with the same face his physical body carried