As Rowan followed Keira out, Hawkins stared after them for a moment, frozen in shock that two of the people she’s long written about, visualized in her mind were actually there, she spoke to them, touched Rowan and they were so real, questions buzzed around in her mind most asking how? Shaking herself out of it, Hawkins grabbed her hammer and followed the two out smiling as she noticed Rowan waiting for her to catch up. As the trio walked about the city, Hawkins noted it was almost like being in Los Angeles or even Las Vegas, Sin City in its glory, the neon lights, rundown buildings, huge structures and people, creatures and souls of all walks of life or is it death? Wandering about.
Hawkins clutched her hammer closer to her body as she walked with Rowan and Keira through the streets of Nothing. Keira analyzed every building, every person they passed, noting possible dangers and assessing if there were any immediate threats. “So Hawkins was it?” she glanced to the younger woman, “You said something about knowin’ us...start explaining.” Hawkins gulped, knowing that Keira wasn’t asking but demanding answers and knew there was a subtle ‘or else’ in her words.
“W-well you see Keira it’s uh….kinda complicated?” She glanced nervously at the raven haired woman who growled in impatience. “Okay, okay…” Hawkins held up her hands in surrender and sighed “Look I know about you because…there’s stories about you guys alright?” Rowan tilted his head curiously to Hawkins. “Stories? What kind of stories Hawkins?” He asked placing a hand on her shoulder encouragingly.
Before she could answer the three were stopped by a man dressed in torn and tattered robes, chains bound to the man’s ankles. “Ah do we have lost souls here?” he rasped out, smiling kindly at the three, well as kind as a smile could look when several teeth were missing. “If you three are lost why not join us in an hour, maybe Something will find you and save you as well.” He handed Rowan a pamphlet, the title reading Something is Better Than Nothing. “We’re holding a sermon of sorts within the hour, please feel free to stop by, we enjoy finding new members.”
“Members? You’re a church here in the Underworld?” Rowan asked in slight amazement as Hawkins glanced over the pamphlet. “That we are young sir, our cathedral is just up ahead.” The man pointed down the road to a structure that defied all laws of physics. The cathedral itself appeared to be a mix of Roman and Gothic style architecture, towering impossibly high in its state of disrepair. Before Rowan could further ask any questions, the man was gone, down the road speaking to another group of souls wandering by. “A church here? Gran is this possible?” Rowan turned to Keira.
“It would appear so Ro… Though how is almost as burning as why. What’s the paper say then?” She nodded to Hawkins. “Oh uh, it says a lot about believing in Something and being saved from Nothing. Going on and on about finding a way out of Nothing with this Something.” She handed Keira the paper, glancing at the cathedral. “Don’t like churches Miss Hawkins?” Rowan asked in a teasing manner. Hawkins smiled and poked his side gently with her hammer “Wouldn’t say that…just never been to religious ya know? Plus I’m Bi so me liking the same gender tends to rub people the wrong way.” She shrugged.
“If you two are done flirting, let’s get to the church. I want to see what this is about.” Keira rose a brow and gestured for the two to walk ahead. Rowan chuckled, smiling at Hawkins “People can be ignorant, don’t let ‘em bother you. And gran you know I’m not flirting.” Keira smirked and shoved her grandson playfully, “I know~ You’ve got yourself a fine girl back home, now hurry. The quicker we get this over with the sooner we can get back. Oh and Hawkins” She faced the younger girl, “I will get that answer from ya.” Hawkins gulped and nodded, knowing the older woman wouldn’t let the matter go and dreading the conversation that’d lead to.
As they approached the run down looking cathedral, Keira spotted two men standing by the door, appearing to be having an argument of some kind. She also noticed that neither appeared to be chained in any way, possibly more people like herself, Rowan and Hawkins. As they grew closer she could definitely hear the two arguing, the one in the bright pants and lime green shoes appeared to have read the other’s soul from what she could hear and had used some sort of illusion earlier. “Ro… greet them.” She gestured to the two men, unsure if she should consider them friend or foe.
Keira held Hawkins back with her keeping a hand almost protectively on the girls shoulder, staying a few feet behind Rowan as he approached the two at the door. She may not know the girl but she’s important to their returning home, and something about this young woman seems familiar to her somehow. After a few moments, Rowan signaled for them to approach. “Gran, Hawkins meet Matt and Cernun. Gentleman may I introduce my grandmother Keira and our friend Miss Hawkins.” He gestured to the women, smiling kindly.
Cernun bowed graciously and smiled charmingly “Well I never! Such beautiful women before me. It is my honor to meet such lovely ladies in such a place. I am Cernun a Prince waiting to aid those out of this most desolate of places.” Keira rose a brow at the man’s actions an uneasy feeling settling in the pit of her stomach. “Charmed…..and you?” she turned her attention to the normal dressed one, sensing him to be more truthful.
“Sorry, I’m Matt.” He smiled, “Cernun and I were just discussing why he shouldn’t read people’s souls without permission.” He shot a glare at his brightly clothed companion who simply shrugged in response. “Well my author and I tend to disagree on what’s necessary and for what reasons.” Cernun grinned. “Author?” Rowan looked at him curiously. Hawkins waved her hands frantically, gesturing for them to stop talking. She really did not want to start that conversation knowing the potential for Keira to lose her cool.
“Well yeah, author we’re all-“ The church doors opening silenced the conversation further as a woman gestured for them to come in. “Welcome friends to the Church of Something. Please hold any questions until after the sermons and I promise we will answer what we can. Our ceremonies are about to begin shortly so please take your seats, the Engel brothers will be closing today’s sermon and gladly invites any newcomers.” She spoke airily, leading the group inside.
Keira watched as Cernun suddenly vanished as though he was never there and groaned silently. “Hawkins you stay here and listen… I’m going to have a look around….” She looked pointedly at Rowan before walking through the aisles and into the shadows. Rowan sighed and smiled apologetically “We’ll be back shortly. Hawkins if you need anything… call for us, I’ll be there the instant you feel threatened okay?” he looked at the younger girl. “I will protect you Miss…. You can count on that.” He smiled before following after his grandmother. Hawkins turned to Matt and smiled nervously. “I don’t think I introduced myself. I’m Hawkins.” Matt smiled in return and gestured for her to sit with him, “SO you are one of us. It’s great to see someone else that’s not from here.”
“Yeah I hear ya…. This has been crazy. So uh…. Where do you think they went?” She asked, keeping her hammer clutched in her right hand, pressed against her leg. “Who knows, but knowing Cernun…he’s up to no good.” He turned to her, “You didn’t tell them you wrote them did you?” Hawkins shook her head. “Uh no. One I am not that stupid…Keira would go ballistic and two she said something about a theory of her own earlier…. I don’t know about you but somehow the beings we wrote about coming to life just doesn’t make sense….it’s like they exist but in some sort of other dimension or plane and were pulled here.” She shrugged.
As the ceremonies began, Keira continued to walk in the shadows of the pillars keeping an eye and ear out for any sign of danger or any possible explanations as to a way out. Rowan trailed behind Cernun having picked up his scent and followed the strange man through the halls of the church. “Ladies and gentleman please bow your heads with me as we pray. Pray to the gods to hear us, to remind them we are here and we repent for our lack of faith. We’re here to serve them and will do so faithfully in return we only ask for salvation from Nothing.” A voice called from the alter, a figure hooded in gray robes stood tall, illuminated by the candles.
Growling Keira interrupted the hooded figure, stepping from the shadows, “You pray for something, for anything, for deliverance from anywhere but here when you believed in nothing in life?! And now you think begging, praying in a church in the underworld will what? Bring you salvation? You are fools, no idiots if you think for one second the gods will hear you let alone help you.” She sneered facing the small crowd gathered in the church. Hawkins sighed and sunk further into her seat earning a funny look from Matt “Oh no……She’s…not keen on liars….and worse yet…. She’s got a beef with the gods….” She explained sheepishly.
Keira approached the Alter, almost seething. “And pray tell ‘preacher’ what is it YOU believe in?” she demanded, her eyes flashing a dangerous yellow as she now stood in front of the figure. The robbed man tripped over his robes in his hurry to scoot away from the enraged woman. “That’s what I thought you fool.” She hissed. “Nothing. Fitting ain’t it? You’re in Nothing and you believe in Nothing. And you!” She rounded on the gathered audience, “You idiots think this will save you?! Ha! You had a lifetime to find faith, to believe in ANYTHING, you’ll never leave here.”
The sound of clapping broke the stunned silence, all heads turning to the entrance of the church. Two men stood in the doorway, one clapping the other holding Rowan by the collar of his shirt, Cernun at their side. “Well said Miss! I do say Well said, what do you say brother?”
“I say well said indeed!” the other boomed, grinning. “Not here even ten minutes and already have us figured out, I think we’ve been outwitted brother~” He replied. Keira glared and Hawkins stared stunned at the exchange. “Now then, seeing as though you caught onto our game Miss, I believe this.” He pushed Rowan forward “Belongs to you and this one.” He pushed Cernun forward “Belongs to another fleshie now doesn’t he~” Cernun rolled his eyes and brushed himself off, appearing slightly insulted. “Well I never, I offer you idiots an amazing opportunity yet you’re letting some chick and her ranting take down your operation? Such a shame really.” Rowan growled, glaring at Cernun “You were making a deal to keep us here while YOU got to leave AND become a god again.” Cernun shrugged, unfazed by the tone of Rowan’s voice. “Yeah and? It would have been a sweet deal too.”
“Oh enough bickering! Now either you can leave quietly now….or we’ll make you.” One of the brothers spoke, his smile vanishing in an instant. “Is that a challenge?” Keira smirked, a sword forming in her right hand. “Because I do like a challenge….I do however enjoy taking down a bunch of low lives such as yourselves much more.” She pointed her blade as she advanced upon them. “Ladies and gentleman please let me introduce your precious Engel brothers. Scamming you for their profit since the moment you set foot in this so called church, and using you and your funds for their gain of power and only THEIR freedom.” She grinned evily as she stood before the two, Rowan now by her side, blades pointed.
“Now now, d-don’t be hasty Miss.” One spoke, holding his hands up. “There’s no need for such accusations now is there?” the other imitating his brother’s gesture. “Not that you can prove anyt-“ “Well now see actually we can prove it.” Cernun grinned triumphantly, holding several documents in his hands. “You see gentleman while you decided roughing us up a bit was a good idea, I took the liberty of obtaining the truth of this operation. See I knew you wouldn’t take my advice and just make a deal with me so I need insurance. And these documents are the proof anyone would need to show that this church will NOT save any of these poor souls.”
An angry and outraged murmur broke out through the audience. Soon many where on their feet swarming the Engle brothers as Rowan grabbed Hawkins and Matt and made their escape. Outside Keira smirked, her sword once again sheathed. “Well played Cernun.” She complimented begrudgingly. “Oh why thank you Miss, it was certainly a pleasure~ You see I knew something was let’s say unsavory about this from the start, I just wanted to make sure it ended in a worthy spectacle.” He grinned.
Hawkins looked at Matt,”You have any idea what’s goin’ on?” The taller man shook his head in the negative, “Not a clue…but it looks like Cernun, Keira and Rowan worked together?” He looked at Cernun in disbelief. “Why so hard to believe oh great writer?~ The brightly clothed man smirked. “Because that’s hard to believe.” Matt deadpanned. "Sometimes all we have is faith and those two brothers extorted that... preying on those people's want for redemption and a way out of Nothing." Rowan explained.
Keira rolled her eyes, “Well it’s been fun. But this has been a dead end….and no offence Matt but being near you associate any longer will tempt me to commit murder.” Hawkins shook Matt’s hand “It’s been cool meeting you…..under different circumstances this would have been awesome. No offence but Cernun gives me the creeps.” She smiled.
“Yeah I hear you. It’s been nice to meet you as well. Good luck guys.” He called out as the three walked down the road. The church once standing impossibly high now being torn apart brick by brick and plank by rotten plank by the angry and outraged souls. As soon as Keira was sure they had plenty of distance between them and where the church once stood she turned to Hawkins. “Now about this writer business.” She stared at the younger girl, inches away from her.