FoF 3

Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate

Season I: The Veil of Reality

Chapter III: Ace’s Empousai Encounter

By ACI100

Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the PJO universe. All recognizable characters, plots and settings are the exclusive property of Rick Riordan. I make no claim to ownership.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to my mythical betas Umar, Luq707, Yoshi89 and Fezzik for their legendary work on this story.

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November 11, 2004

Somewhere Above the Western United States

11:01 AM

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, all members of Ace’s hockey team, as well as most other passengers onboard the aircraft gliding some thirty-thousand feet above the United States, took a moment of silence. 

It was a mixed bunch onboard the flight from Toronto to Los Angeles but as one would expect, many of the people onboard were either American or Canadian. For the Americans onboard, that symbolic moment in time was one they took to celebrate Memorial Day and those brave men and women who had died for the nation’s freedom over the decades and centuries past. For Ace and the other Canadians onboard, they took the time to do the same, but for their Canadian counterparts — if one wanted to be technical, they were celebrating what Canada referred to as Remembrance Day.

Ace was grateful for the moment of silence. He was currently just barely staying awake. His best friend and teammate, Caleb Robinson, had been asleep beside him for quite some time before Ace had woken him up to partake in the moment of silence. It wasn’t that Ace was bored. He had been nose-deep in his copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ever since Caleb had fallen asleep. He’d read the book so many times now, he could no longer count, but it didn’t detract from his enjoyment of the book, nor the world-famous series it was a part of.

His eyes felt extremely heavy and as much as he enjoyed the book, Ace doubted it would keep him awake for a whole lot longer. Caleb, on the other hand, might be able to manage that seemingly insurmountable feat.

“How long have I been out?” Caleb asked as he stretched his long arms and legs as far as the confined seating would allow.

Ace shrugged. “Few hours, maybe? Can’t honestly say I’ve paid much attention.”

“Terrible human being for it, too.”

“I think I’m a decent person when I want to be.”

“Maybe, but you sure look like hell,” his friend observed with a smirk.

That was probably true. The team had been awake since about 4:00 that morning. They had needed to catch a flight at 7:00 from Toronto and unlike Caleb, Ace hadn’t managed any sleep on the plane; not that he hadn’t tried, mind you. ADHD was a pain in the ass. Among other things, it meant that sitting still was damn near impossible for him. 

This didn’t blend particularly well with the confined nature of airplanes. Ace always loved planes, for the most part. The view was marvellous and the feeling of takeoff was up there among his favourite sensations in the world. Yet sleeping on them wasn’t fun. He didn’t do confined areas super well. Not being able to move was something he was distinctly not fond of.

He tried to roll his eyes, but the effect was somewhat ruined by the yawn the younger boy had to hide behind his hand. Seeing as he was thirteen and playing on a team of those between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, Ace was the youngest one there. Still, Caleb was his best friend, and Ace always hung out with his group of friends when able, so dry, sarcastic jabs exchanged between the two of them was hardly a rarity. 

“Thanks buddy. I always appreciate your never-ending support.”

“Hey, that’s what I’m here for.”

“That and to pass me the puck, I guess.”

Now, it was Caleb’s turn to roll his eyes. “I’d put you through the boards in practice tonight if we didn’t have a tournament to win this weekend.”

“Correction, you would try and fail to do that, making yourself look like a complete idiot along the way.” Ace paused to consider that statement. “Make yourself look like a bigger idiot, that is,” he amended.

“So sorry some of us have lives. I’m perfectly happy chilling with my girl and enjoying life while you’re freezing your ass off in the rink. Who’s really winning here?”

“Ask me that question again in ten years.”

“Ah, but I’ll be playing with you in the league in ten years. You just make me look good enough to get drafted, and we’ll go from there.”

Ace raised an eyebrow. “And why would I do that?”

“Because that way we can both retire nice and early and just enjoy life after that.” Caleb smiled an enigmatic smile. “And so I can keep you entertained, of course.”

Ace nodded slowly, seeming to ponder the thought. “Good enough reason, I suppose.”

As they flew ever closer to their final destination, Los Angeles International Airport, Ace alternated between keeping up a casual flow of conversation with Caleb and thinking about the upcoming tournament that would begin in less than thirty-six hours’ time.

It wasn’t the first time Ace had played in a tournament similar to this one. Granted, he had never played in this exact tournament. This was his first year in midget hockey, after all, even though he technically should have only been playing bantam. He knew how these tournaments went, but he always enjoyed them. Not just for the game itself, but for the opportunity to travel. He’d never done much of it as a kid, and he was a naturally curious person. That and his enjoyment of things pertaining to history made him a natural traveller.

Oh, and the fact that the team usually got up to all kinds of amusing things they weren’t supposed to. That didn’t hurt, either.

There was an annual tournament in Rochester later in the year. Last year, they had gotten up to all sorts of things. The coaches mercifully hadn’t found out. Ace practically shivered at the thought. He actually thought his stepfather might have been amused if he knew, but Terry, his coach, most certainly would not have been.

Ace wasn’t sure if the expression “hard ass” was in the Urban Dictionary but if it was, he thought that a picture of his coach should be prominently displayed alongside it. The man was brilliant at his job, but he was brutal to play for on a good day. If you got on his bad side or, God forbid, caught him on a bad day…

Well, it was better left unsaid.

Ace wondered what antics they would get up to in Los Angeles. He had played in New York a great number of times, as well as in Boston and Michigan, but California was new to him. Some of the older members of the team had been here for this annual tournament before, and Ace was sure they had plans. They almost always waited until after the tournament concluded. They were set to play tomorrow, which was a Friday, as well as on Saturday. Then, they would have the entirety of Sunday and Monday at their disposal. They were set to fly home early on Tuesday morning.

Eventually, the plane touched down on the runway and was maneuvered where it needed to be by the pilot. Caleb sighed as he stood. “I am not built for these damned seats,” he grumbled, reaching up to the baggage compartment and handing Ace his bag before extracting his own. Caleb was the much taller of the two, so it was easier for him to do it. He was also almost three years older than Ace, but the younger boy doubted he would ever match his friend’s 6’3 frame. His mother wasn’t tall at all. His father might have been; he had never met him. His stepfather certainly wasn’t, even though he of course knew that had no bearing on his genetic makeup.

“No idea what you’re on about,” Ace said as his back cracked in a most satisfying manner. “I’m alright.”

“Yeah, it helps when you’re five-foot-fuck-all.”

Ace rolled his eyes but didn’t dignify him with a reply. The way he was tracking now, he would be roughly average in height. He didn’t frankly want to be a whole lot taller than that. He had learned to exploit his larger competitors in everything he had ever partaken in. It would be a pain if he had to adjust his style so drastically.

The airport was a cluster of bodies, all of which seemed to try and impede them at every step of the way. Ace idly thought the two of them may have had more luck navigating through the Amazon Rainforest. Neither of them had planned to stop, but now that the journey was beginning to take far longer than they had originally expected, Caleb bowed into a restroom. Ace — now joined by his other friend, Cadmus — waited for him outside.

“Fuck, I hate planes,” Cadmus complained.

Ace shrugged. “I hate how cramped they are, but I don’t really mind the planes themselves. I actually like flying quite a bit.”

“Oh, I’m fine with the flying. It’s not worth the seats though and the people right on top of me. Seriously, the guy beside me wouldn’t give me two feet of room.”

“Yeah, those people unfortunately exist.”

Ace fingered the golden chain around his neck. He had been asked a great number of questions regarding how he’d gotten his hands on the bit of jewelry when he had started wearing it back in September. He was good enough at deflecting questions to fend most of them off. His stepfather had asked many questions, but relented easily. He’d just wanted to be sure Ace hadn’t stolen it. Personally, Ace thought that assumption had been a bit harsh. He wasn’t the best kid in the world, nor would he ever pretend to be, but he wasn’t a thief. Out of the number of things he had gotten in trouble for over the years, stealing was not one of them.

As he ran his fingers over the chain, the light caught its golden surface, and Ace could somewhat make out his and Cadmus’s reflection mirrored back up at him. Gold wasn’t exactly the best reflector, but it was close enough.

Ace himself was of average height for his age. He was on the leaner side, but what he lacked in bulk he made up for in body composition. He had brown hair that was a bit longer on the top than it was on the sides and was parted neatly to the left. He had a pale, well carved face with blue eyes that stood out noticeably. Cadmus, being the older of the two, was a couple of inches taller. He had a similar build, but his limbs were shorter than his torso in comparison to Ace, who definitely had a lankier sort of build to him. Cadmus’s skin was more tanned, his face was a bit less chiselled, and his eyes were brown. 

“Did you actually just find that?” Cadmus asked. “I don’t think I’ve ever actually asked.”

“Yeah, on the way back from school one day. It was in one of the nicer neighborhoods. I waited there for a few minutes but nobody showed. I decided if a stranger was gonna get it anyway, it might as well be me.”

Cadmus sniffed, clearly amused. “It’s about what I would have done.” Ace nodded, but he did so a bit distractedly. 

He suddenly had the intense feeling of being watched. Turning in the direction of the stare, he saw a tall, tanned girl with ocean blue eyes and platinum blonde hair. She appeared to be several years older than him, maybe seventeen, and every inch of her practically screamed stereotypical California girl. 

Ace met her gaze unabashedly. He was used to being looked at. It wasn’t even particularly out of the ordinary for the person looking at him to be an older, aesthetically pleasing girl. Such was the privilege of reputation. What was so off-putting to Ace wasn’t any of that — it was the actual look in her eye. It wasn’t curious, or admiring, or hateful, or any such emotion that he was familiar with. It looked almost… hungry, and it sent a shiver up his spine, even though Ace made sure not to let his facial expression shift. 

He was spared the interaction a moment later when Caleb, tall, lean, lanky and with a military-style haircut stepped out of the restroom and announced he was ready to move once more. Ace shot the girl one last, trademarked smile before departing with his two friends. 

None of them saw the odd reddish glint in the girl’s eyes, nor the way said eyes practically devoured the youngest member of the retreating trio.

Later that day, in a hotel parking lot…

Cato pulled his truck into the hotel parking lot with an audible sigh. He had waited long enough and he was starving — it was time to bear down on the mountain of food he had purchased at  In–‘N–Out. His order consisted of 5 4×4 patty cheeseburgers, 3 orders of fries, a sprite and a chocolate, vanilla and strawberry milkshake. 

An absurd order for most, but not too far off the norm for Cato. How he was of average weight and build for a man his height, he would never know. Before his passing, his father had always joked about it. According to him, Cato, unlike most humans, used about twenty percent of his brain. In Steve Anders’s estimation, this was why his body required more fuel —  Cato’s brain just worked that hard and burned off the calories as a result.

Of course, Cato knew that wasn’t logical, but it was a fun justification to give people, just to watch their bemused reactions.

Needless to say, Cato hadn’t taken the job at UCLA. Not after Thorne had turned out to be a rampaging fucking manticore that had been intent on murdering him. Seriously, he was more fond of Greek mythology than just about anybody, but that didn’t mean he wanted to be killed by some warped monstrosity straight out of Greek myths.

By now, Cato was basically just killing time. He may have despised California, but he had booked the hotel room until Wednesday. He could cancel the booking, but he saw no real point in doing so. He was so far ahead in his schoolwork that realistically, he would just be going back to Georgia to spend most of the week letting his peers catch up.

At least here, he could do things that were interesting.

And they had In–‘N–Out… that was also fantastic.

He supposed even Tartarus had its benefits.

His attention was drawn to a large bus pulling into the parking lot just as he was finishing his meal. It appeared to be jam-packed with teenagers, and Cato would have estimated most of them to be sixteen or seventeen. It was Los Angeles, they could be here for any number of reasons, but that didn’t stop Cato from feeling an odd sense of… something. 

Something about this didn’t feel normal. After the manticore incident, he was on high alert. 

As he got out of his truck and made his way towards the front entrance of the hotel, he saw the gaggle of teens and a few older males doing the same. Cato couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the attention seemed to be fixated upon the smallest of the contingent.

He definitely looked younger than the rest of them. He was pale and lean, short compared to his companions — but not for his age — and his eyes were a rather vivid, sky blue colour. Cato only met the boy’s face for half a second, but it seemed to send a shock through his brain. He wondered if the boy felt something too. His eye seemed to twitch and he nodded once, offering Cato a polite smile before being absorbed back into his conversation as he was led into the hotel ahead of the would-be history professor.

Cato frowned. Something about that boy wasn’t normal. He didn’t know how he knew that, but he just did. Cato wasn’t arrogant, but he also wasn’t stupid enough to deny the truth. He was a genius. His IQ tests said as much, as did every academic paper he had ever written.

Cato’s assumptions were almost never wrong, and he had a feeling that something important was linked to that boy.

Something that was, once again, going to make his California crusade go catastrophically wrong.

Ace had to resist the urge to look over his shoulder as he entered the hotel’s lobby alongside his fellow teammates. Something about the man that had followed him inside was ominous.

It wasn’t as if he felt like he were in danger like he had in the presence of the cyclops, or whatever the hell the thing had been which had tried to kill Ace back in September. He’d had no similarly life-threatening encounters since, but he wasn’t soon to forget that one. The golden chain around his neck served not only as a trinket, but as a vivid and ever-present reminder.

No, this man was different.

Ace felt as if he had seen this person before but instinctively knew the two of them had never met. There was just… an odd sense of familiarity? It was hard to explain. 

Upon reflection much later in life, he would come to realize that his ominous and familiar feelings were connected, and he would theorize that the two feelings were deeply intertwined. He had immediately realized the two of them would be in significant situations later in life, he just hadn’t realized how at the time.

And even if he had, he could have never predicted the complete and total chaos that was about to become his reality in less than thirty-six hours.

November 12, 2004

The Staples Center

9:24 PM

As Ace leapt over the boards with steely determination in his sky blue eyes, he could not help but feel a tremendous amount of tension mounting in the arena. The Staples Center wasn’t packed to capacity. That just wouldn’t happen for a minor hockey game in California, even if it featured some of the best young talent in North America.

But this didn’t take away from the atmosphere.

If anything, it added to it, as smaller crowds tended to be more passionate crowds. One of the members of said crowd was Cato Anders — even though Ace, wearing his notorious number twenty-seven, didn’t know that. Cato had been an avid fan of the sport for many years. He supported both the Nashville Predators and the Atlanta Thrashers. 

Cato couldn’t shake the feeling that something important was going to happen. He hadn’t been able to shake that feeling ever since he had first laid eyes on the youngest member of this team the previous day in the hotel’s parking lot. Naturally, as Cato was probably the most curious person he had ever met, he had obsessively observed the group, figured out exactly why they were in town and where they would be playing, and made sure he got front row seats.

Whatever was going to happen today, for he was sure something would, he was going to be ready.

And if he got to watch a decent game in the meantime, that was only a bonus.

Meanwhile, back down on the ice, Ace neatly intercepted a poorly placed pass in his own end and began the breakout. The game was tied in overtime and Ace knew that he had to end it here and now. They were the more skilled team, but their opponents played a rather brutal style which had left many of their players battered. This game would push them through to the finals the next afternoon. The sooner it ended, the better. The more time they would have to recover.

Oh, and Ace also didn’t mind scoring the game-winning goal in overtime.

That was also quite the bonus.

Realizing he was about to have nowhere to go, he slid the puck through his legs and behind him, exactly to where he knew his friend, Caleb, would be waiting for the pass. Sure enough, Caleb took the pass and lined up a shot. Before he could take it, Ace was blindsided from behind, sent sprawling by a larger body slamming into him while he was unprepared.

Fuck, these guys hit hard!

Seriously though, that hit had sent him sliding across the ice far further than what he thought to be natural.

Not that it mattered.

He was uninjured and the illegal hit allowed them time with a man advantage. Less than a minute later, Ace had darted daringly between two opposing players, taken a magnificent pass from Cadmus, and scored the perfect goal to end the game.

Unfortunately, Ace’s elation wouldn’t last much longer.

Nor would it have existed at all had he known that his life was about to change forever. Indeed, the prospect of ever playing in a game of actual hockey again was about to become extremely slim.

As he would later think, with no small amount of regret, at least he had gone out on top and with a bang.

Some time later, in one of the changing rooms…

It was a high-energy celebration that took place in the changing room after what most of the team deemed to be an early favourite for goal of the year. Ace just soaked it all in, as he had been told to do many times. It was something that his grandfather in particular had always told him quite persistently. Talent and obsession may lead to success, but it doesn’t always lead to happiness. Happiness comes from enjoying the moments that your obsession and talent bring you.

That was something Ace was working on.

He was too naturally competitive, always moving onto the next challenge. He never quite managed to live in the moment.

But tonight, he was giving it one hell of a try.

It took some time before the players even showered, despite the fact they had all desperately needed it. Even Coach Terry didn’t interrupt their postgame celebrations. He was as excited as anybody. Winning a tournament like this would be a major deal for the team and its players; it would get all of them noticed and inevitably further their careers.

None of them were talking about that. They were all talking about the high points of the game, all giving frankly exaggerated commentaries of what had actually happened. Ace partook in this mainly with his two best friends, Cadmus and Caleb.

“That was insanity!” Cadmus was saying excitedly. “When they tied it in the third… I thought we were done.”

“How pissed off would you have been if you scored two goals and we still lost?” Caleb asked Ace.

“I don’t care how many goals I scored or didn’t score. I’d be pissed either way. You know how miserable I am to be around after I lose anything.”

“You are a terrible loser,” Caleb agreed. “Absolutely terrible.”

“As long as I’m a good winner, I’ll just have to make sure it doesn’t matter.”

Cadmus snorted. “I doubt it’ll matter when you go pro. Most of them don’t shut up with their whining to the media.”

“I’d like to think I wouldn’t do that.”

“You wouldn’t,” Caleb agreed with a smirk. “You’d just vent on your teammates.”

“Or just not say anything at all,” Terry said from nearby, eyeing them all intently. “That’s even worse. When he’s all quiet, that’s how you know he’s really stuck inside his head. Never a good thing for anybody’s health.”

“Noted, coach,” Ace said with a small smirk. 

“I wanted to talk to you, if you don’t mind?” Terry asked. “Just about some ideas for tomorrow.”


“You want us to wait for you?” asked Caleb.

“Don’t bother, I have no clue how long this will take. Just wait for me back at the hotel, would you?”

“Yeah, sure. We’ll be in our room,” Caleb told him, indicating that they would be in Ace’s room — Ace and Caleb were roommates. Ace shot them both a quick smile before getting a preposterously long lecture on tomorrow’s proposed strategic approaches. 

He couldn’t lie, he enjoyed it. 

Granted, he would have enjoyed it a lot less had he known he wouldn’t be seeing Caleb and Cadmus at the hotel that night.

In fact, he wouldn’t see either of them again for a very long time.

Minutes later, Terry left him alone, and Ace finally began to change into his more casual set of clothes. Before he could finish the process, Ace heard a soft knocking on the door. He paused. That was odd. Only staff members and teammates were supposed to be down here, near the dressing rooms.

That wasn’t the thing that made it particularly strange.

There was supposed to be security that maintained that arrangement and he was quite certain none of his teammates nor coaches would have bothered to knock.

Ace quickly pulled his shirt on and patted down his hair, which had been jostled when he had frantically gotten dressed. Slowly, hesitantly, he walked to the door and opened it 

Whoever he had expected, a tanned, blonde girl with ocean blue eyes wasn’t it.

He blinked. “Um… can I help you, Miss…”

“Sofia is fine,” the girl told him, smiling softly as she stepped into the room. A part of Ace realized that protesting that motion was the correct thing to do, but an equally as large part of him thought it best to just observe the situation. Despite the fact the girl was several years older and a couple of inches taller than him, Ace had no doubts he could handle her easily enough if things got out of hand. 

As she stepped past him, he felt an air of… something, pass over him. It was ominous. Not ominously familiar in the way seeing the man had been yesterday in the hotel. Just plain ominous. 

Suddenly, he realized that he’d seen her before. She was the same blonde who had been intently studying him at LAX.

“What’s your name?” she asked, snapping his thoughts back to the present as he glanced up into those sparkling eyes of hers. He went to answer ‘Ace’, but thought better of it. Whatever was about to happen, he wasn’t going to be associated with it.

“Tom,” he answered, mind flashing back to the series he’d been rereading on the plane ride here, “Tom Riddle.”

Something in the girl’s eyes danced. It was an odd sort of light, but Ace thought its motions were somewhat indicative of amusement.

“Nice to meet you, Tom. I was wondering if you wanted to come back to my place tonight? You played great today, but I know you have a game tomorrow and thought it might be relaxing.” 

Ace could feel… something washing over him. Some odd, invisible force seemed to draw him towards her as if he were a school of moths near an open flame. 

“I’m sure I could help,” she added. 

She was standing right in front of him now. Ace didn’t remember stepping forward, but he didn’t remember her coming to him either. Judging by whatever the hell was playing tricks with his mind, he somehow suspected that the former was true in spite of his memory saying otherwise. He clamped down hard on whatever mental control he had left and tensed. 

Sofia reached out a hand and before Ace could pull away, she rested it gently on his right shoulder. The same shoulder that had been slammed into near the end of the game by that Herculean hit that had hardly seemed human. Ace winced, even at the gentle touch and tried to pull away but before he could, her arm had snaked around him, and he suddenly felt himself pulled in close against her body. Ace made to pull away but found himself shocked at the girl’s strength.

That was not natural.

Nor was the solidity of one of her legs. That was certainly not natural.

Ace and Sofia seemed to realize everything was going to go downhill at precisely the same moment. 

When Ace’s leg had bumped against Sofia’s, he realized something was even more wrong than he had anticipated. Sofia, on the other hand, knew that Ace had come to this realization and sought to end things here. 

She had tensed when Ace’s knee had bumped hers, which gave the younger boy an opening.

Right as Sofia tensed, Ace slammed his leg into hers as hard as he could, a perfectly placed inside low kick from short range. Ace gritted his teeth as he felt something in his leg shift unnaturally. That had hurt like hell and he suddenly found himself limping backwards, but it had got the desired effect. 

The girl’s vice–like grip had been broken.

Ace dove for his equipment bag, withdrawing one of his skates and turning to Sofia. He knew that whatever she was, she couldn’t be human. That’s how he was going to justify throwing a skate blade at her head. 

He paused before he could do that.

She most certainly wasn’t human. Whatever glamour she had been wearing had faded, and what stood before Ace was something to be feared, certainly not something to lust after. As he had suspected, her legs weren’t human at all. One somehow resembles that of an animal. A donkey, perhaps? Or maybe a goat? The other — the one he’d kicked — was made from pure bronze and Ace wondered why the hell it was so sensitive if it was metal. Her hair was what drew his attention though. It coiled off of her head in plumes of fire, swirling dangerously around her in an enchanting inferno poised to consume all that opposed it.

Ace could hardly help but wonder whether he had suddenly become the protagonist of some over the top adventure series. If he had, this was about the part where the villainous beast stood before him would start monotonously monologuing and then inevitably be defeated.

He had no interest in hearing said monologue.

He threw his first skate right at her head. 

She dodged easily, but the implement was hurled with such force that the blade embedded on the far stone wall. What she wasn’t prepared for was for Ace, just as he threw the first skate, to snatch the second out of his bag and throw it with equal force and deadly precision to where he knew she would be standing after dodging the first.

It sort of worked.

The blade did absolutely nothing to this demon. It passed straight through her skin as if it was an illusion. The actual skate itself smacked hard into her face, eliciting a pained exclamation as the monster staggered back, not quite dazed but inevitably angry.

That was the moment Ace knew he was fucked.

What he had taken from that exchange was that he could hurt the thing, but any direct attempts that might be lethal would fail. So he had to incapacitate this flaming incarnation before it did… whatever the hell it was going to do with him.

Not great odds, in his opinion.

It lunged at him, now suitably recovered from his earlier attempt to take it out. Ace sprang to the side, easily moving fast enough to evade. With the momentum the thing’s lunge had behind it, Ace thought it would smack headfirst into the wall, but it didn’t. Its agility seemed inhuman, especially considering that its legs were bronze and… something. 

It actually took the time to grin. “You’re fast, Ace Iverson.” Ace froze. It knew his name already. “For a human, at least.” It smirked. “Shame you don’t have the experience to make this game interesting.” Ace dodged once more, but this time, the thing expected it. 

He cried out as one of its tendril–like hairs of fire lashed out, igniting his left sleeve and causing him to hastily throw himself to the floor, trying to roll frantically in an attempt to put out the fire.

By that point, it was too late. 

The demon crashed down upon him, baring fangs directly above his throat as it easily pinned him down with whatever freakish strength it possessed. It smiled tauntingly down at him, clearly exhaling in its victory before it sought the final kill.

At least, it was doing that.

Until the door to the dressing room slammed open with an almighty BANG and the same man from the hotel’s parking lot charged through, snatched a spare hockey stick from the rack of them just to the left of the door, and clubbed the demon over the head with it as hard as he could.

Ace felt the thing’s body go limp and forcefully pushed it off of him, scrambling to his feet and trying to ignore the still throbbing pain of his shin from kicking bronze as hard as he could. The man’s stick was alight with fire now. Evidently, it had ignited upon contact with its flaming hair. 

So ironic that one of the creature’s own weapons — the very same that had almost granted it the kill it had so desired — would be what killed it in the end.

The man kicked the fallen creature hard in the side as it began to stir, causing it to roll over onto its back. Ace winced as the stranger bent over the monster’s prone form and shoved the still blazing hockey stick down its unwilling throat. Ace covered his ears as the man straightened up and a horrible, bloodcurdling scream was torn from the monster’s lungs just before it dissolved into a pool of fine, golden mist.

Ace and the man stared at each other for about five seconds. 

“Who,” Ace started, “what—“

“No time,” the other man answered, hastily looking from Ace to the door. “You probably don’t believe me, but there are about ten… things coming this way that’ll kill both of us if we don’t get out fast. I can’t make you, but you should really come with me.”

“I don’t even know who you are.”

“I saved you from that, didn’t I?”

Ace hesitated, glancing from the pool of golden dust to the man in front of him who still held the blazing stick as if it were a sword. “Fine,” he agreed, wondering if he had just signed away his life to some elaborate kidnapper. If the man was being honest — and Ace had an odd feeling he was — it wasn’t as if he had much of a choice. “At least tell me who you are.”

The man grinned, taking one hand off the stick and holding it out. “The name’s Anders. Cato Anders.”

Author’s Endnote:

I know there’s been a lot of hockey in these first few chapters, which obviously isn’t to everybody’s taste. It’s pretty much over now though. It was a plot device to draw Ace and Cato together and to spark the encounter you just read, as well as a way of setting up Ace’s character.

The initial setup is mostly over, so now, I hope you enjoy Ace and Cato’s coming adventures!

Please read and review.

PS: The next chapter will be posted next Sunday, November 29th, 2020.

Thank you to my lovely Discord Editors Asmoedeus Stahl and Athena Hope for their corrections/contributions this week.

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