The End Of The Journey
The Hidden War #1
Published by Wittegen Press
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Copyright © 2012 by Sophie Duncan
Artwork by Sophie Duncan
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
This story is young adult contemporary fantasy, including a male/male romance.
The End Of The Journey was published in two parts 16th and 17th July 2012.
I'm a big Harry Potter fan and The End Of The Journey started in my head as a Harry-Draco fanfiction. However, about the only thing remaining of that universe in this story is the hair colour, since I never made it more than a few paragraphs into the fanfic. I conceived it before the last Harry Potter book was published and it just didn't work in my head after that was released. However, I still liked the premise of one-time enemies working together for a reason that, because of his vulnerable and suppressed position, eludes the character from whose point of view the story is written, i.e. Zac.
I was considering making this a non-magical universe, but who was I kidding? I like writing contemporary fantasy and I was far too tempted by the edge of surrealism that comes to a world with fantasy edges. Thus, the world of demon-raisers and their enemies was born in my head – funnily enough, I realised as I proofread the draft that I never gave the good guys a group name.
I sank into this universe easily and ideas for it popped up without difficulty. However, I was surprised when a second story came to me so quickly after I'd finished the first one, but Damon wouldn't leave me alone and I had to give him some space. That story, A New Path, was also published as part of the games.
On a side note, I'm not sure why I made the third shadow-hunter anonymous, but I think it'll turn out to be important in later stories.
Damon Wulfres pacing in front of him chanting ancient magicks at him was nothing new to Zac, they had been on opposite sides of the demon war since they were children. Yet, the nerves making his stomach turn added a spice he had not experienced before. He wasn't scared of Wulfres, not since he'd seen his enemy fold and run when the evil they had unleashed had turned and attacked its creator, Harold Wulfres, Damon's father.
Yet, it was never prudent to ignore a Wulfres, they were devious at the best of times and downright treacherous the rest, so he watched the youth pace at the edge of the circle in which Zac was standing. Grey eyes glanced up at him with resentment, nothing unusual there, but Zac defied that hostility and, for reasons unknown to the part of him that thought running would be a very good idea, he remained standing submissively in the centre of the power nexus, the place where demons were raised. Zac watched from inside his own body, his efforts to incite some kind of reaction in himself countered by a confusing instinct to take whatever was coming to him.
Was he mad?
Nothing made sense to Zac as he looked back at Wulfres, and what made even less sense was when his adversary, the man he had fought so hard against all his demon-seer life, the man who was determined to kill him before either of them reached twenty, came to a halt in front of him and fell silent, a look of consternation on his sharp features.
"Do it," he spoke then, but it was like listening to someone else.
Zac heard his own tone, it was commanding, nothing like the jitters he was feeling inside. Despite a large well of panic that pushed up from his stomach, Zac did not flinch as Wulfres raised his hands towards the circle and finished the invocation.
Everything slowed down as Zac followed the movement of Wulfres' lips with minute attention. He stepped backwards, or at least he tried to, but the contradictory movement from his body was merely to root himself to the spot. He couldn't believe it, he was about to let Wulfres cast at him without even a flicker of defence. Yet what was even stranger was, despite his internal panic, something nagged at Zac which told him this was meant to be.
Zac's confusion grew as he continued to stay poised, but unmoving in front of what appeared to be a complex spell. He could see Wulfres' lips moving, but all he heard was the wave-like sound of blood rushing through his ears. Then, in his head, at least, Zac did move, but his body standing in front of Wulfres remained stock still. That wish to move threw him away from the image in his head and Zac's muscles worked this time; he pushed away the dream at the same time as he pushed himself away from the mattress under his shoulders. He sat up rapidly with the cry of denial on his lips that had not been allowed in his mind.
Zac's sound barely made it out of his mouth before a shadow of a figure came flying at him out of the blur of his senses. He cringed away, but one arm came round his shoulders, while a hand smothered his yell. He struggled, but his muscles had used up all their energy, and he was pulled close to another body.
"Hush," a voice told him, a whisper itself, urgent and sharp.
Zac wriggled, but he had no strength, in body or mind, and he was merely pulled closer into the torso that held him.
"Hush, it's alright," the tone grew softer, and Zac barely recognised the speaker, but part of him knew it was Damon.
The gentleness in the voice close to his ear brought Zac all the way from sleep, and the hostilities of his dream faded. The world remained in a haze, but it was a miasma in which his instincts now told him to trust the hold which offered him much needed support. He relaxed, any sound dying in his throat and, as Damon removed his hand from his mouth in response, Zac leant his head down onto his companion's shoulder.
"It's alright," Damon repeated, both arms encircling Zac in a comfort that chased away his dreams.
Damon rocked him gently, and Zac's thoughts drifted away from their pique without his consent. All he could hang on to was the calm and closeness he felt from his holder and he let a familiar weariness overtake him in the presence of such support.
"Another dream?" Damon asked what felt like an old question.
Zac didn't reply, he couldn't find any words, but he pressed closer to the strong body in front of him. Damon sighed, not a sound that completely made sense to Zac's confusion, but he accepted its intonation of sympathy.
"Try to forget it," Damon advised and placed a kiss on the top of Zac's head.
The affection chased away a little more of Zac's dream and he was feeling much calmer, if not clearer when he was released and Damon stood back from the bed. A hand remained on his shoulder and Zac followed the arm back up to its owner. He squinted up at the blur of white-blond which was all his particularly fogged senses could make out, still trying to release the last vestiges of the nightmare, but they would not go.
He had to blink several times before the world came into focus and then looked at his companion properly. The dream image seemed even further away. Damon's pale features were drawn and grey, his eyes ringed with shadows. Bangs of wispy white hair fell around his face, barely brushed, the majority held back in a loose ponytail. Yet his friend smiled at him, and the sentiment made Zac feel safe.
"Are you okay?" Damon checked, the curl at the edge of his mouth turning a little sad.
Zac nodded, trying to take the advice his impeded thoughts were already forgetting.
"I'm sorry," Damon continued, brushing fingers against Zac's face as he finally stepped away, "I was hoping you would rest through until tonight."
The fatigue in Zac agreed with that sentiment, but the nerves that had not quite settled from the dream did not and so he just stayed where he was, sitting up on a modest double bed in what his eyes now told him was a plain hotel room. He didn't remember lying down, he didn't recognise the place, all Zac could relate to was the rough-around-the-edges figure who walked away from him over to a set of cups and a kettle.
"Do you want a drink?" Damon asked, picking up the small jug and walking to the bathroom.
"Yes...please," Zac returned slowly, finding the words difficult.
He was still watching the place where Damon had been when his companion returned, so he just continued to watch Damon preparing their drinks, no other thoughts making it past the mist in his head. When the kettle began to boil, Zac pushed off the blanket that was covering his legs and slid so that he was sitting on the edge of the bed.
He was almost fully dressed, and his clothes felt like he'd been in them for a while. He shifted a little with the scratchy feeling on his skin, but his mind quickly wandered away from that idea and he found himself watching the way Damon poured boiling water. It wasn't so much the domestic act that was being performed, it was the performer, and Zac hung on to the thought that he liked what he was seeing.
Zac knew he was smiling with the nice feeling in his chest when Damon turned round, cups in hand, and he let the curl on his lips grow at the attractive way his companion's eyes widened in response. The look he was being given quickly turned to a narrow-eyed grin of knowing and he was teased, "Feeling happier now?"
Zac didn't reply, the words were confused in his head, so he just continued to smile and reached up for the drink that was being held out to him. His fingers never touched the pale green saucer, because a loud crack from the bedside table distracted both men. Zac looked towards the sound as the cups of tea hit the floor. Damon moved faster than Zac could turn his head, and had picked up a small, glowing crystal from the fake-wood surface before his senses caught up.
His own emotions were as slow as his wits, but Zac recognised the alert concern Damon was showing and let it lead his own dull feelings. As much as he could, he focused on the taught figure his companion had become and waited for enlightenment as to what was going on.
"They've found us again," Damon informed Zac, a glance telling him he should be alarmed. "They're in the hotel."
Who 'they' were was a mystery, but they were clearly a threat. Still, Zac did not know what to do to make the concern on Damon's features go away. He sat dumbly as Damon dived past him and grabbed for a small pile of possessions on a chair at the other end of the room. Shortly, a ratty pair of trainers was chucked at his feet and Damon, his back turned while he urgently stuffed a mixture of clothes and other items into a back pack, instructed Zac, "Put them on."
Zac had no problem pulling the shoes onto his feet, albeit slowly, but when he looked down at the laces, which were hanging loose, half of the thoughts involved in tying them were absent. He struggled with the gaps, knowing the end point he needed to reach, but being unable to find the way.
"Merda," Damon swore, in Latin, when he noticed that Zac was failing in the basic task and he dived down to start tying Zac's shoes
It was only a profanity, but the Latin cast Zac back to the dream he had almost forgotten. Shoe laces tied, Damon turned away, gathering up their possessions hastily once more, but Zac dwelt on the dream. He pushed again at his lack of thoughts, forcing himself to focus and using the vestiges of the dream to search for a path to the rest of his mind. There was so much missing, ideas and will that he knew he had lost somehow, and there was a barrier between his present condition and what had been.
Still, some stubborn determination remained in Zac Kithrall, and he pushed at the mess of his thoughts: the response made him scream. As he tested the blank barrier, something broke: what little reason Zac had left was swamped with images and emotions. They were too many and too horrible to make sense, but they cut through the bland protection of Zac's thoughtless world with pain and terror. Zac reared and threw his hands over his head, a cry of regretful fear the only coherence he could manage.
Anger scratched at his brain, pushing out and dominating Zac's thoughts, grasping for control and clarity. He heard his own voice deepen with that rage, a possession forcing aside his fear. He fought the alien feeling, his instincts at war, and his cry died in his confusion.
"Not now," Damon's words filled the gap where Zac's scream had been.
Zac shied away from the shape that came at him, but he was in no state to avoid the attack as Damon's body barrelled into him and forced him back onto the bed. He struggled and screamed again as the rage inside him wanted to hurt Damon, but his companion's body pinned him down, and the anger became a growl as Damon proved much stronger and faster than him. Damon pushed Zac's arms, which were hiding his face, out of the way and something metal smashed into his teeth through the snarl that expressed his conflict.
Zac tried to turn his face away from the touch, but Damon pushed on his forehead, forcing his skull into the mattress, and continued to apply the small metal mouth-piece to Zac's lips. Both hands engaged in trying to tip something down Zac's throat, Damon was defenceless, and Zac hit out. Damon ignored the feeble fists, a look of determination on his features, and he spoke with amazing calmness, "Come on, Zac, drink."
The liquid that ran through Zac's teeth made him cough with its astringency and he tried not to swallow it, but Damon kept pouring. A large quantity spilled out of the sides of his mouth, but enough hit the back of his throat, and reflex made Zac swallow. It was only seconds after the first mouthful of what had to be a potion that Zac felt the effects. A wave of disorientation ran through him, wiping out what little strength he had and forcing back the rage. This was not a discriminatory effect, however, and it also drowned the small amount of sentience that had been in front of the barrier as well.
The anger retreated back behind the wall of thoughtlessness from whence it had come, and that in itself was a great relief to its frightened victim, but without that power, his will crumpled under the touch of the potion and Zac swooned.
"No, no, stay with me," Damon's desperate voice reached Zac as darkness threatened, and a harsh slap on his cheek held unconsciousness back for a second. "I can't get us out of here if you pass out on me."
His companion's plea was far too logical for Zac to really understand, but the anxiety he could hear reached him. He trusted Damon, he needed Damon, and he did not want to let him down. Zac gritted his teeth and fought what would have been a welcome release.
It wasn't much of a victory, his senses were swimming and his vacant thoughts were now drifting in a fog, but Zac managed to open his eyes and peer up at Damon.
"Thank you," Damon told him, stroking the cheek he had just slapped, and there was a gratitude in Damon's manner that told Zac his companion was proud of his efforts.
The look lasted only a few seconds, however, and then Damon moved off of Zac and finished gathering the items that were spread around the room. Zac, once again, could do no more than watch and fight the fatigue in his body and mind. The potion wanted him incapacitated, Damon wanted him at least conscious, and so he kept the heavy weariness back. Damon pulled on the back pack and a second, cloth bag which went over his head and then he looked back at Zac. Zac gritted his teeth: he was going to have to move.
Zac's muscles were like water, and his senses were swimming, but when Damon took his arm and pulled, he did his best to comply with the haul. Zac made it to standing, but it was only Damon's strength that stopped him from collapsing again. Damon wavered and Zac knew he had to find more resolve if they were to be able to walk out of the hotel.
He took several rapid, but deep breaths, and then growled at himself. His sentiment was a ghost of the anger the potion had beaten, but it brought every ounce of resistance he had to the surface. Spots danced in front of his eyes, and the world flashed bright colours at him, but Zac took his own weight and prevented them from toppling back on to the bed.
The respite was enough for Damon to shift position and he adjusted his hold around Zac. Zac was glad when the support came back, and he was almost hanging from Damon's side, because it meant he could then focus on putting one foot in front of the other. As soon as they were balanced, Damon headed for the door.
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Sophie was born with the writing bug in her blood, boring her primary school teachers with pages of creative writing and killing her first typewriter from over use when she was thirteen. She began publishing her work on line while at university where she discovered the internet and fanfiction. It took another decade for Sophie to realise her long-time dream of releasing her own original fiction.
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Realising his memories are his only hope of controlling his awakening instincts, Tom returns to, Coombedown, the sleepy, Cornish village in which he was born, unknowing that the night-breed in his veins will lead him into danger.
"Death In The Family" is a young adult, paranormal novel.
This is the first story in the "Heritage is Deadly" Series.
You can find a full listing of books from Wittegen Press at: