Note: I will be posting a chapter from The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle each day until the book has been fully posted. I am doing this as a way to entertain those who have been coping with the new life of social distancing, social isolation, and quarantine in the world right now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once complete, I will hold the book on in full on my site until 1/1/2021. On that day, it’ll no longer be accessible for free.
I ask people to share links freely while the book is available, but please do not copy or do anything else without expressed permission from me, the copyright holder.
If you would like to skip ahead, you are always welcome to purchase a copy, just click the link HERE (or click up top at the menu bar) to go to the book’s page where there are links to where it is available in both print and ebook. Enjoy and I hope that you and your family are doing well!
The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle
by Jeremy C Kester
(c) Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved
Agnes felt herself beginning to doze off into sleep. She was tired. Her eyes had weighed heavy for much of the day. Sleep wasn’t a friend of late though.
While guests were still down in the home, she had packed some of her belongings to go with her over to Brandt’s home. It was done with the same enthusiasm that she had for going to his home in the first place: none. But the act of doing so at least gave her something to occupy her mind.
Soon after Brandt had left, Agnes snuck down to grab some food to eat. Gael was kind enough to leave her a variety of treats. It was strange walking through the house as she had done so many times with her parents gone, but knowing that this time they weren’t coming back. She wanted to just continue crying, but she hadn’t the energy to do so.
Slowly, Agnes drifted asleep. As she was hanging on the last bit of consciousness, she heard a strange scratching coming from the bedroom door. It was unusual enough that it shook her from bed. With as little sound as she could manage, she crawled off the bed and reached underneath pulling out two kodachi.
The scabbards were a deep green barely edging on a black that swallowed the light that touched it. Along the edge near the tsuba, or hand-guard, was a dark silver crafted into a dragon snaking around the sword. Each hand-guard was decorated with an intertwined collection of bones wrapping the handle with fabric matching the color of the scabbard leading up to a blackened metal skull at the pommel.
They were supposed to be gifts to her. She was to get them when she entered her apprenticeship, but after learning of her parents’ deaths, she had taken them from their hiding place. She was well trained on their use given the normal martial arts training that her parents had given her, but if this were a spiritual threat that training would not suffice.
Her fingers grasped the short swords as her ears tingled with each scratch. There was something odd about what she was feeling. Tingles surged through her ears down to her core. Something sinister was out there. All Agnes could imagine was that it was a dream despite the urges to run and scream. Food was to blame; or rather it had to be the lack of it that she had earlier followed by her gorging. Getting sleep was her best option. She shoved her head down and placed a pillow as a barrier between her hands, the swords, and her weary head.
The scratching continued rhythmically.
Memories shoved their ways into her mind of her father scratching the door to grab her attention. She was in a trance. Without noticing it, her knuckles were white as the life was choked from the blades. Despite the urge to stand and run to the door, her body stayed motionless for the terror that was sure to be on the other side. Something horrible was on the other side.
Before sleep or exhaustion found their place, the scratching subsided to the sounds of clanging blades and shouting. She could her Brandt shouting to Cadence in the hall. A dream. It was certainly a dream.
Wood shattered everywhere. Where the door was now a young woman stood, flames encircling her. Cadence ran in towards Agnes. Everything felt like a horrid dream.
“We have to get out of here! Now! It’s a fire demon! Where’s your stuff?” Cadence demanded as she grabbed the young girl’s wrist, swords still in hand. The ruckus snapped Agnes awake. Her heart immediately reached through her throat choking out her thoughts.
“What’s happening?!” Agnes yelled. Shivers raced up her bones. There was a slow roar flooding her ears. The house was on fire.
“Fire demon! We need to leave now!”
Releasing Agnes, Cadence ran over to the small pile of cases that Agnes had packed. Clothing and a few small items that Agnes had pilfered from her parents’ room and their weapons store was all she had taken as important. Seemingly without effort, Cadence dragged them over to the window and broke it. Each case was then tossed out to the ground.
“We’ve gotta go the same way,” Cadence instructed.
Agnes nodded, her face illuminated by the lights still flickering in their strange patterns. Quickly, she placed the kodachis in their sheaths and strapped them to her back. With some help from Cadence, she climbed into the window and leapt to the ground.
The cold damn moisture of the grass leached through her clothes to her skin as her weight rested upon the ground. She stood up as quickly as she could when she heard Cadence land as well. Cadence landed with far more grace. Agnes felt a pang of jealousy of the older girl. Though Cadence was still an apprentice like Agnes was to be, Cadence carried herself with a confidence and determination that Agnes didn’t feel. Agnes was the opposite: scared and wanted nothing of this life.
The cool smell of dew on grass filled their lungs as the silence of evening took over from the blazing inferno inside. Agnes peered back at the house. Nothing looked out of sorts. Peaceful. It fit inside perfectly to this small, quiet neighborhood.
“Did your parents ever tell you about fire demons?” Cadence asked opening the trunk of the car and throwing the first case in.
Agnes shook her head, still watching the house.
“The house will never look like it’s on fire,” Cadence explained, taking each case and placing it in until the car’s trunk was full. “They burn things out from the inside, destroying everything. Then when everything is gone, the house will then become engulfed in flames on the outside, much too late for anyone to do anything about it, but all the while just making it appear to be a normal fire.”
Agnes didn’t understand that it was going to be the last time that she saw that house. It felt as though she could simply walk back in through the front door and crawl back into her own bed. It was all lost though, and she couldn’t wrap her emotions around it. Her entire life was lived in that house. It was the same house that her great-grandfather built nearly a century before.
“Where’s Brandt?” Agnes asked.
“He should be out soon,” Cadence tried saying nonchalantly. Agnes could see that Cadence was a little worried that her master had not made it out of the house yet. “The demon was right at your door when Brandt attacked it and pushed it away.” A pause reached Cadence’s thoughts as she realized that the demon appeared as though it couldn’t enter. Also amazingly so little was on fire before they interrupted. Her head shook the sight off as an illusion. “After I got into your room, I didn’t see where he went. I am sure he tried pulling it to the spirit world.”
Successive thuds and cracks echoed through the quiet before Brandt finally came crashing through the door. Worry showed in his face. Cadence ran to him.
Confused, Agnes kept back. Her mind was not yet used to the dichotomy of what was occurring before her. She shut her eyes to cut the light from all of her vision and tried to concentrate to wake up. She wished that it was a dream. It had to be a dream.
“I could not stop it,” he said to Cadence as she knelt to help him from the ground.
“What do you mean?” she asked. She turned to watch the young girl they had come to protect. Red, orange, and yellow light reflected off of Agnes pale skin. Squinting, Cadence tried to watch the girl closer. Through the reflected light, she swore that Agnes’ pupils had given way to pure white.
“I couldn’t send it back through. Something was holding it here, fighting against my abilities. If I didn’t get out of there, it would’ve killed me.” He stood looking back towards the house and then at Agnes. “Something really dark is out to kill her,” he continued, nodding towards Agnes.
None of the words he said reached Cadence’s ears. Brandt was watching the house burn, flames reaching now to the outside, and did not notice his apprentice start to motion back to the girl.
“We need to get out of here, master!” Cadence yelled as she ran towards the girl. “She needs the shelter!”
Tears flowed steadily from Agnes’ eyes as she watched the flames consume all that she had left. Anger raged inside her. Losing her parents was enough pain. Memories would be all that would remain, and it was unfair.
A force knocked them backwards. Before them, Agnes pulsed with light. Curios disbelief took Cadence’s attention, and she turned to see the flames appear to be pushed back.
“That’s impossible,” Cadence said mouth agape.
As she said it, motions of the flames appeared as though they wanted to consume the house, but something pushed them back. Before her, a young girl pulsed with an energy she had never seen.
Running past Cadence, Brandt tried to grab the girl. The power was immense. He struggled. Not able to restrain Agnes, he hit her across the back of the head and it stopped. The flames on the house appeared to resume their prior form. Cadence looked back at Agnes being put in the car. She didn’t want to follow, but she knew she had to.
Brandt acted as though he noticed none of it. He grabbed Cadence nearly dragging her to the car. Mortal authorities would be there soon. They could not be there when they did. That preoccupation was strong in his mind. Though there were certainly numerous allies within the mortal world in key places, a Sentry did all that they could to resist being uncovered for any deed. When all three of them were finally in, he sped off, the sound of sirens starting to appear behind him.
“That was too close,” Brandt finally said when they had gotten far enough away. Cadence remained quiet. She was still trying to sort through what she had seen. “Are you alright?” Brandt asked his apprentice.
“Yeah, I guess,” Cadence replied sounding stoic and detached. She was just preoccupied. Her thoughts circled around the fire and the power that pulsed from the young girl.
Brant was not interested in digging any further into his apprentice’s emotions. His concern was to get both the girls back to the safety of his home. No spirit would be able to harm them there.
The drive proved an inadequate distraction from the memories of the fight. Although he made it out unscathed, something about that demon troubled him. One of the first defenses one would choose to use was to push any demon or spirit back through the barrier to the other realm. This particular demon seemed impervious to this as though something else were keeping it locked in the mortal world. Fire demons were notoriously tough to fight, but Brandt just struggled to even stay in the fight. It was like nothing he had ever encountered.
What was it about that demon made it so damn resilient to the attacks? The only logical explanation was something that he did not want to even consider.
Memories flooded through his mind until he could smell the burnt leather of his former master’s coat. The coat was much like the one that Brandt chose to wear to this day. Much of it was scarred from the many years of fights with demons. Over time it had adopted an odor that Brandt remembered distinctly. It was an odor that was caused by a fire demon.
“Fire demons are tricky bastards,” Brandt’s master Saidi had often said. “They are not the strongest or swiftest fighter, but damn blaze could easily kill the most skilled of us.”
Brandt would have already drifted off. He rarely paid much attention to his master. A hand would arrive against Brandt’s cheek shortly after knocking the youth to the ground. The curved blade of Saidi’s scimitar would have then met the young boy’s neck. A small trickle of blood followed the edge of the blade. “You will listen, boy!” the deep, sinister tone of Saidi yelled. “I cannot tolerate your insolence! If you do not listen to me, you will find yourself unable to fight this demon like the rest of the things you seem unable to comprehend!”
“Yessir,” Brandt meekly responded both angry and embarrassed. His face felt as hot as he imagined a fire demon would be. He got up to continue the lesson. Several more times that day he would find himself on the ground cursing at his master.
Months after those lessons he indeed found himself face to flame with his first fire demon.
They were summoned to investigate a rift that was used by dark spirits to invade the mortal realm. Saidi was calm as usual. The only emotion he ever used was akin to anger. It was reserved strictly for Brandt. The remainder of the time Saidi was sterile. Each syllable was dry and bland only pointing out matter-of-fact bits of whatever the man was thinking or what information he decided to impart onto his pupil.
Saidi was large, imposing. Far beyond anything like the Brandt of the present. He was a solid foot taller than Brandt and layered with muscle. He was over 200 years old, a former slave in America after being taken from Africa during the slave trades. During his capture his mother, a Sentry herself, was murdered in front of his eyes. His father was also brutally beaten after trying to save the young boy and left for dead.
That moment destroyed his desire to feel.
Back in America the slave owners often had trouble keeping him contained. Though they debated on amputating the young boy’s legs, they decided it best to sell him off. A fellow Sentry posed as a trader buying him out of slavery. A few slave traders lost their souls mysteriously a few weeks following his freedom.
Brandt was excited to be on the mission. Although missions were regarded as extended training exercises, he saw them as an opportunity to be relieved of his master’s threats. At least for a short while. Saidi would certainly be paying far more attention to completing any task than to his apprentice.
This was no different.
Only a few minutes in Brandt had lagged from his master. The pair was checking an old building for remnants of a rift in the barrier. Most mortals would never detect such events besides a brief chill, or the sudden feeling of unease that they couldn’t explain. Those are fleeting and intangible however. A Sentry can see such events as they were: real and very tangible.
Sprites were all that the pair had seen to that point. Sprites were akin to insects in the spirit realms, only a bit larger and generally more malicious by nature. Brandt enjoyed dispensing with them. Rather than sending them back through, sprites were killed. Far too much energy would be wasted otherwise. Their presence was the obvious sign that a rift was near.
Boards creaked as the pair moved through with caution. Underneath the building were massive expanses. Remnants of rituals longs since gone echoed in the halls. It was an obvious choice for demons to enter, but nothing but sprites were there. Layers of dust decorated every inch of each rooms the pair entered. What each room was intended for beyond ritual was undeterminable. Some were likely quarters for those taking part in whatever cults survived there. Some rooms may have been training rooms. Neither man appeared to concern themselves but rather moved forward on their specific task. Hours passed as the pair turned over object after object while searching for the rift that the conduits were so sure of. The area was far greater than either had anticipated. Having grown bored, Brandt soon chose to separate.
“Don’t go far, boy,” Saidi instructed.
Brandt moved on, ignoring his master’s direction. His interest had turned to the old artifacts that were strewn about. He felt nothing from them, but was fascinated in their abandonment. He tried to understand the stories behind them. Parading in the halls had bored him. The sprites only entertained him little, only eliciting a reaction from him when one chose to attack.
It was the third room Brandt entered that he felt the sense of a strong heat. It was the fire demon he had not expected to find. In Brandt’s hand was a rapier that had belonged to his father. Several men were slain with the blade. The attack was quick and Brandt remembered only briefly raising the sword before searing pain took over his memory. What happened after was lost much like the sword of his father.
“Master,” Cadence’s voice rattled Brandt from his reminiscence.
“Sorry,” he said calmly. “I was a bit lost in memory.”
“Something’s not right with her,” she said plainly, ignoring her master’s comment.
He knew that he had seen the same thing. It defied explanation. Until he could figure it out for himself, he chose not to acknowledge that fact. “Tell me what you mean by that,” he said.
She remained silent, chewing on the words as she thought about them. She was trying to put all of the events in a neat order. All of it was so frighteningly strange.
“If there was something you saw, you need to tell me,” he urged. He stretched uncomfortably in his seat as he realized there was a wound he hadn’t noticed before that moment. Telling Cadence of it was the last thing he was to do now. “We have a demon out there we cannot beat,” he continued. “If you know something then tell me.”
“When she was screaming, she was pushing the flames back,” Cadence said not even believing the words that were flowing from her lips. Brandt’s gaze snapped over to her as the car sped forward. It stayed focused until Cadence yelled as she pointed, “LOOK OUT!”
Turning quickly, Brandt depressed the brakes and tightened his grip on the steering. The car’s tires squealed. The car lurched as it came to stop only inches from a large deer standing in the middle of the road. The dear stared at the three before walking slowly off of the road. Brandt kept the car in place.
“You don’t know what you saw,” a whispered tone came from Brandt.
“I know what I saw. The demon was being pushed-”
“You don’t know what you saw!” Brandt interrupted. “That is simply impossible! It’s just impossible. You couldn’t’ve known what you saw. Keep yourself focused and ignored these things.” He didn’t want to believe what she said. It was better that she did not say it.
Cadence watched the sudden inexplicable anger bellow from her master. Though it was more than she was ever accustomed to, she didn’t flinch. She didn’t see anger; she saw fear. She looked back at the young girl lying unconscious in the back seat. Agnes appeared as though she were enjoying a nice rest. “I didn’t know what I saw,” she said quietly watching the young girl’s chest rise and fall with each breath. She knew what she saw. Something was wrong with the world, with this girl. It frightened her too.
If you would like to skip ahead, you are always welcome to purchase a copy, just click the link HERE (or click up top at the menu bar) to go to the book’s page where there are links to where it is available in both print and ebook.