Battle For The Chronicle
rating: +6+x

Chapter 4: Battle For The Chronicle

An ice-cold wind blew off the Hudson and stabbed into Cedar’s heart. They pulled their flight jacket closed and tried their best to ignore the sensation of their ears going numb. They and Ben had been crouched behind a stack of crates on the docks for nearly two hours. The Manhattan Shipping Company warehouse stood silent and still. No one had entered, and no one had left. It was getting close to midnight. Ben was silent, but Cedar could feel the contempt emanating from him. Cedar was searching for words to break the silence when a convoy of five black SUVs parked outside of the warehouse. Cedar and Ben watched as people in fine clothes exited the cars and convened for idle chat. Two men dressed in black suits and dark purple ties, the now iconic Marshall, Carter & Dark color scheme, got out of each car, one from the driver's seat and one from the passenger’s seat. None of them talked to the people in expensive clothes, or even to each other, they just stood next to the cars or at the warehouse entrance with their hands crossed in front of them.

“Must be bodyguards,” Cedar murmured. Ben hummed in the affirmative. The two watched the crowd, picking up only bits and pieces of conversation as the peoples’ voices just barely carried down the dock.

“Oh, how would I know anything about the Hoboken art scene?” Cedar heard a low voice say snidely.

“I hope not, my living room is its own spatial anomaly at this point,” Another one complained. One of the guards approached the dock. Cedar feared that he had spotted them for a moment, but their heart started again as he walked past Cedar and Bens’ crates and all the way to the end of the dock. The sound of a zipper was followed by piss hitting the surface of the water as the man relived himself into the Hudson River. Ben was starting to look for a new hiding place, but Cedar was already jumping into action.

Slowly, Cedar crept up behind the man. Each creak from the dock wood sounded like an orchestra to Cedar, but the guard was too preoccupied to notice. Reaching up, they grabbed the back of the man’s collar and put all of their strength into a blow to the back of his head.

He was out like a light. Cedar pulled him back from falling into the water and carefully laid him down on the dock. Cedar was by no means tall. If they’d ever fix their posture they’d stand at about five feet and five inches, and being that Cedar had no intention to do so, they were stuck at the towering height of five feet and four inches, which was great for sneaking around, but not so great for when you have to disguise yourself as a guy who’s at least six foot. Luckily for Cedar, they’d just acquired a ginger that was about six feet tall. Cedar waved Ben over, who hesitantly followed, making sure that no one by the warehouse could see him.

“Alright, genius, what’s the plan now?” Ben asked aggressively.

“You’re gonna wear this guy’s clothes and pose as a guard,” Cedar said, searching for the guard’s gun.
“Don’t you think his buddies will notice that he’s not him?”

“With MC&D? Nah, I bet these guys only met an hour or two ago,” Cedar said confidently as they pulled out the gun and handed it to Ben.

Ben took the gun without thinking. “And what about the people who hired him?”

“You know, if you didn't fight me on everything we probably would have found this cat by now. My methods have worked out so far. Now, put on the suit and try to act confident for once in your life. I’m going to try and find another way in.” Cedar went off up the dock, leaving Ben to undress the man.

Cedar cast a wide berth around the crowd and SUVs until they were at the side of the warehouse. They peeked around the corner at the group of people one last time.

“Personally, I think AWCY has become rather dull. You can only make a time loop piece so many times before it gets tiresome,” Cedar heard a man in a fur coat say as he polished his fingernails with his shirt.

“Oh, this is only my second auction. I do hope it’s not my last though. Last time I got a stone with a soul trapped inside it. It makes a wonderful conversation piece,” said a woman that was wearing a dress that Cedar was sure could be traded for a hundred acres of land. Silently, Cedar fell back into the shadows and walked down the length of the warehouse. There was a ladder on the side of the building. After checking to make sure there wasn’t a guard at the top, Cedar climbed the ladder and hopped onto the roof.

The roof was surprisingly dark, with no light directly illuminating it. It took Cedar’s eyes a few moments to adjust and find a skylight they could look through. The warehouse floor was empty, apart from a semi-truck that was directly under the skylight. There were two more guards standing next to the door and another man who leisurely paced around. This man in particular caught Cedar’s eye. They couldn’t quite tell who he was meant to be, smoke from a cigarette dangling from his mouth swirled around his face, blocking Cedar's view of it. He wasn’t dressed like any of the guards, wearing a grey fedora and matching overcoat instead of the black suit and purple tie outfit. He looked like a cliche noir character. After a few laps of pacing, he checked his watch and nodded to the guards at the door, who promptly opened it, letting the crowd of yuppies inside.

Cedar did a head count of the guards as they walked inside. After the eighth guard, Ben finally walked in looking somewhat uncomfortable in the suit, but he wore it well enough and wasn’t calling attention to himself. The man in the fedora walked over to the wall and pressed a button. A few seconds later, the middle of the floor slid open, revealing a hidden staircase beneath it. The man led the crowd down the stairs. The guards, along with Ben, followed after them. The floor slid closed behind them, leaving one guard on the warehouse floor.

Cedar took a deep breath. They grabbed a crank on the skylight and twisted it until the glass slid open just enough for them to squeeze their body through. A thud echoed through the warehouse as Cedar landed on top of the semi-truck. Not wasting a second, they jumped down onto the warehouse floor and dove under the truck before the guard could start investigating the noise. They watched his shoes as he walked around the truck, black leather dress shoes. They looked expensive and like they weren’t the most comfortable thing to stand in for long hours. That, along with the equally expensive-looking and movement-restricting suit seemed like a tactical error to Cedar, who was struggling not to rustle around too much as they reached into their jacket to draw their gun. The guard finally reached the other side of the truck and Cedar slithered out behind him like a serpent. After carefully raising to their feet, Cedar pressed the cold steel of their Colt 1911 to the back of the guard's head as he reached inside his suit jacket.

“Don’t try it,” Cedar stopped him. “I can squeeze my finger a lot faster than you can draw and turn around. And I doubt they’re paying you enough to get your brains blown out.”

He hesitated for a moment, but the guard realized he couldn’t get paid if he was dead and raised his hands. Cedar could smell his cologne, it was cheap compared to the rest of his outfit, showing which parts of the MC&D brand were essential to them. They heard him gulp softly, that was the only thing that betrayed his anxiety, “Who are you?”

“You’re not in a position to ask questions,” Cedar said before pushing him forward with the gun. “Now I want you to open up that door in the ground.”

The two marched to the wall on the opposite side of the warehouse. The guard lifted a hidden panel in the wall and pressed the button underneath it. Cedar heard the sound of grinding gears from the floor behind them. The guard was about to say something, maybe a warning, or a threat. Cedar didn’t care.


A pistol whip into the back of the head and the guard slumped onto the floor. Cedar took the pistol from his coat and tore its slide from its rail before throwing them in opposite directions across the warehouse. Shoving their own pistol back into its holster, Cedar descended the stairs into the darkness. And it was dark. It became even darker when the floor slid shut behind them. For a moment, they stood in the void, eyes scanning for any spec of light, ears humming as they searched for a sound from any direction. They were about to reach out and feel around for a wall when they blinked and suddenly everything changed. They were now in the lobby of a nice auction house, with small statues and abstract paintings decorating the space. Cedar approached a booth that was inside the wall next to a large door with black upholstery. Inside it, a chubby bald man with a thick mustache, dressed in a tuxedo with purple gloves was flipping through a magazine. Cedar startled him as they approached, “Ah, I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware we had any more guests this evening.”

“Yeah, forgot my checkbook in the car,” Cedar said pointing a thumb over their shoulder. “Can I still get in?”

“Er, of course!” The man exclaimed as he started searching around the booth for something. “And I know it’s not my place to judge, but don’t you feel a little underdressed for this evening?”

Cedar looked down at their black tank top whose sleevlessness was being covered by a flight jacket. They looked at their brown slacks that lead down to a pair of black sneakers. Indeed, they did not look like they’d fit in this scene. “Oh, this?” they said, grabbing their tank top. “This entire outfit is Brunello Cucinelli. I was going for a stealth wealth look.”

“Oh, I see,” the man said as he handed Cedar a placard with the number twenty-six on it. “Well, you’ve pulled it off quite well. Enjoy the auction.”

Cedar took the placard and smiled, proud of their ability to lie faster than they could think. They pulled open the upholstered door and were struck by the sour-sweet smell of shampooed velvet carpet. The room before them was a dark auditorium. The dark blue velvet carpet felt awkward to walk on, somehow being softer and firmer than expected. Cedar scanned the room as they entered. The stage was on the other end of the room, there was a small table and a podium on it, the guards stood against the walls at the edges of the room, keeping their stoic expressions and rigid posture. Cedar spotted Ben standing next to the stage, he met their gaze and gave them the slightest nod. Then, at the very back of the stage, just barely peaking out from the wings, Cedar saw that man again. The one in the fedora and trench coat. He was lighting a new cigarette with the remnants of the last one. He was still hard to make out from this distance, but Cedar could see the sharpness of the bottom of his face and the raven-black hair that he revealed when he pushed his hat up.

Cedar took a seat that was about halfway to the stage. “I forgot to ask, your fishing business, the one off the coast of Alaska, how’s that going?” the woman in front of Cedar asked the older lady next to her. The old woman sighed.

“It was going well for a while, but between the local protests and my fishers unionizing, I’m not sure how profitable it will be for much longer.”

“Oh, don’t be such a defeatest,” said the younger woman. “You just need to do some union busting. And the locals will give up eventually. They always do.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” the old woman replied, “I still prefer investing in real estate, though. Much more stable.”

Cedar felt a knot of disgust forming in their stomach when the auctioneer appeared behind the podium.

“Good evening, good evening,” the crowd became silent as the man on stage spoke. “We hope that the ride here was comfortable. We have some very rare items up for auction tonight. So let’s bring out our first piece.”

Three women came out on stage, one carrying an easel, the other two carrying a large painting. It was as if the painting itself was alive. Its colors swirled and changed, sometimes forming the shape of something. Cedar saw faces, screaming and tortured, straight out of a Francis Bacon painting, they saw vast and detailed landscapes with the craftsmanship of Albert Bierstadt. Each appeared only for a moment before fading back into the swirl of color. The first woman placed the easel on the small table, then the other two placed the painting on it.

“That Which I Am. Artist unknown,” the auctioneer said as the women disappeared back into the wings. “It is believed that the maker of this piece wanted to craft a painting that could encapsulate any and every emotion. It was found in an abandoned Berlin hotel room in 1937 and became part of Hitler’s personal collection. It is even said to occasionally depict future events, but we don’t wish to spread rumors here. We’ll start the bidding at two-hundred and fifty-thousand dollars.”

And so the bidding war started. Placards shot up into the air and the price of the painting grew higher and higher and stopped just a little below a million dollars. Cedar stared at the painting as it was carried away. The paints formed into some dark figure in a doorway, their arms were stretched out forward, and something evil shot from their hands.

These bastards, Cedar thought as the women brought out a CRTV monitor that received a broadcast from a drone in a parallel universe. These bastards are given marvels of art and science and history and magic and they seek only to divide it between themselves like they do everything else. This is what killed the soul of the mundane world. Cedar sat quietly and stared through the monitor on stage as the things that surrounded them started fighting over it. This is what will kill- is killing the soul of the Library.

A mask that allowed the wearer to change their face, a movie that stared the watcher(s), a compass that led its holder to their soulmate. Item after item was brought out and sold. Ben started to look worried. Cedar could tell from his face he thought they were wasting time. But then it was brought out: a hardback with red binding.

“Our final item this evening is quite an illustrious one,” the auctioneer announced. “A Chronicle of The Daevas. This is quite a difficult volume to acquire. It contains the history of an ancient anomalous society. It is debated if this society really existed, however, it is said that there is archeological evidence of the Daeviets originating in Siberia and spreading as far as the Indian peninsula. We’ll start the bidding at fifty-thousand dollars.”

Cedar raised their placard. Their plan was simple, keep bidding no matter how high the price gets, give them a fake address to send the check to, and take the chronicle back to the Library. Cedar was almost disappointed with how boringly this adventure would end. However, the life of a Wanderer was never boring.

The doors at the back of the auditorium blew open. Sending the audience ducking under their seats just as canisters of tear gas were launched into them. Cedar’s sight began to blur and their lungs started to sting as they heard demands for everyone to lay down and put their hands behind their head. Through the gas, they could barely make out eight, or ten, or maybe twelve figures adorned in tactical gear, wielding rifles and shotguns. Even through their blurred vision, they could see shades of blue with the letters G.O.C. written on them. Cedar was covering their nose and mouth with their jacket and searching for a pocket of air to breathe in without setting their respiratory system ablaze when the first gunshot was fired.

They couldn’t tell if it came from one of the guards or one of the intruders. Either way, the auction house was lit up in an instant. Bullets sailed over Cedar’s head as they crawled under the chairs to the stage, pushing past the screaming yuppies and swearing at them through their teeth. They saw the man in the fur coat clutching a wound in his side where a stray bullet hit him. Reaching the front row, Cedar looked up at the stage. The auctioneer was cowering behind the podium, his knees were pinned to his chest and he was covering his ears. Ben was at the other side of the stage, taking cover in the wings and occasionally firing into the gas with his stolen pistol. And then there was the chronicle, sitting alone on the table next to the podium, protected by nothing except for the storm of lead surrounding it. Cedar caught Ben’s line of sight and mouthed to him, ‘Cover me.’

Ben nodded, and proceed to unload his pistol into the gas. Wasting no time, Cedar sprinted onto the stage and, hurtling past the auctioneer, scooped the chronicle into their arms. They could hear bullets hit the floors and walls around them, they heard them cut through atoms as they whizzed passed their head. Putting all of their strength into their legs, Cedar dove into the wings and landed next to Ben.

“You hit?” Ben asked as he ducked back into cover.


“Are you hit?” Cedar could just barely hear him over the cacophony of gunfire.

“No,” Cedar answered as they sat themself up, coughing and rubbing the blurriness out of their eyes. “You?”

“No. Out of ammo though,” Ben said as he put the gun back in his jacket. Cedar reached into their own jacket and grabbed the 1911. It was then Cedar realized just how effective tear gas was. The gun looked like little more than a silver smear, and they could only really identify Ben by his general shape and the sound of his voice.

“Dammit, I can hardly see. Here,” Cedar handed the gun to Ben, who checked to make sure there was a round in the chamber.

“Alright,” Ben said, helping Cedar up. “There’s gotta be some kind of back entrance. Let’s go.” Ben guided Cedar further backstage, making sure to stay deep in the wings. The backstage was dark, but Ben could see light coming from behind a door. He moved forward and kicked it open. Scanning the room with the gun, he found a large storage room filled with various artifacts and items, things that were supposed to be sold later in the night. It was clear. He pulled Cedar in and shut the door.

“We in a storage room?” Cedar asked.

“Looks like it,” Ben answered as they started walking deeper into the room. He looked around at all of the artifacts and technology. Kane had taught him to never be too idealistic in the field. He understood that stopping to comment on every sin that you see would only slow you down. But it was hard not to when it stared you in the face like this. “What a bunch of assholes. Hoarding all of this for themselves.”

Cedar chuckled, “I had a similar thought earlier.”

The two of them made it a few more feet before they heard a thick French accent come from behind them, “Assholes or not, there’s no denying their profit margin.”

A cigarette butt still hung from his mouth, either he ran out or hadn’t had time to light a new one. Cedar rubbed their eyes with a free hand. Yes, it was him, fedora, overcoat, and all. This time, along with the black hair, Cedar saw a pair of emerald green eyes shining through the shadow cast by his hat. The most striking thing about his appearance, however, was the fact that he had a gun aimed right at the two of them. It looked like it had a silencer on it.

“I must admit, this is unexpected.” The man spoke with genuine surprise. “But, you’ve yet to do something that cannot be repaired. So, if you’d be so kind as to hand over that book, I doubt my employers would seek retribution.”

Ben was already aiming the 1911 back at him, “Do you not hear what’s happening out there? I really feel like this shouldn’t be your main concern right now.”

“Ah, you’re trying to negotiate without seeing the whole picture. Please, just hand over the book and I’ll let you go free. There’s an entrance to a service hallway that leads to the subway line behind you. Hand it over now and you can probably get out before they get here.”

Cedar hated this. Not the danger, no, the helplessness. They were half-blind and entrusted their only weapon to a newbie that they weren't even sure knew how to use it. Sure, he used one on the stage, but it’s not like firing into a cloud of gas takes practice. He handled a gun with all the knowledge of its components and their functions, but something seemed off, that nervousness returned to him as he faced off with this man. That's when a thought came to Cedar: Yes, Kane had taught him quite well. He made Ben disassemble and reassemble all kinds of different firearms ad nauseam. He tested Ben on each piece and each gun and when they were made and what kinds of combat situations they were most effective in. He made Ben fire countless rounds into a piece of paper with a man printed on it until he could shoot through the hole that the last bullet had made. But in all of that training, the guns were never pointed back at Ben.

Cedar was forcing themself to think of something, anything. But they were interrupted. The storage room door was breached, and the GOC came rushing in. There was a pause for a moment, a hesitation. Then, the man in the fedora ducked and Ben tackled Cedar into cover as the soldiers started firing.

Crouching behind a stack of crates, Cedar and Ben were silent. The gunfire stopped and everything became deathly still. Cedar kept blinking as hard as they could, their vision only became a little clearer. Ben had the gun at the ready, he was visibly sweating.

“Come out with your hands up, right now!” an authoritative voice yelled. Cedar got the feeling that they didn’t plan on taking prisoners.

“The guns,” they whispered to Ben. “Can’t you make the guns explode?”

“I’d have to have a direct line of sight on them. And making that many explode would probably make me pass out.”

Cedar looked around. Do something. Do something. The stack of crates they were hiding behind was pretty high, at least high enough to block the soldiers long enough for them to escape.

“You have until the count of three, or this won’t end peacefully,” the soldier yelled again. Cedar put their hands on a crate.


They centered themself and made sure that they wouldn’t be thrown off balance. Ben quickly understood the plan and got ready to book it.


Cedar started building strength in their arms. The crates won’t be enough, Ben realized. It’ll need something more. What’s in those crates?


Cedar shoved the crates over and sent the stack toppling toward the soldiers. They knocked down the one furthest into the room and broke open on the concrete floor. Most of them were still standing, though. Still standing and taking aim at their targets. Ben saw something metallic fall out of the broken crate. A skull tumbled out next to it. It stared at Ben with hardly contained excitement, encouraging him to do it. Something bright and red swirled deep within its socket. He focussed on the metal, feeling an energy leave him and go towards it. It started glowing, becoming hotter. And then, there was a flash of white.

Cedar opened their eyes. It didn’t matter that their vision was still blurred, a blind man could have realized what was going on. The storage room was an inferno. They felt their sneakers melting first. Their flight jacket protected them from most of the blast and they used their split second of reaction time to cover their face, but they could feel that their hair and eyebrows were singed. Flames enveloped the walls and climbed to the ceiling. The ceiling…

What was that on the ceiling? Smoke? Well, yes, smoke was everywhere, but this wasn’t smoke. This was solid and red and moving. Moving quickly. What can only be described as a demon leaped from the ceiling and landed on a pile of burning crates. It had six eyes and thick horns that dwarfed its already huge head that was connected to a body that could only be compared in size to a silverback gorilla. It snarled with a set of jagged teeth before the GOC agents shot at it. It lunged at them in retaliation and took to tearing through their armored plating.

Ben grabbed Cedar, “C’mon, time to move!”

“What the hell did you blow up?”

“Dunno, ask that guy!” Ben nodded at the demon before pulling Cedar along.

They bolted for the service hallway, narrowly escaping the flames. They and down the hallway until the sounds of screams and gunfire faded into the echo of their shoes slapping against the floor. Cedar kept the chronicle hugged tightly to their chest until the two of them reached the end of the hallway and came out onto a subway track. It was dark and wet, a stark contrast to the room they just ran from. They continued down the track until they reached a platform.

“Alright,” Ben said after pulling Cedar up onto the platform. “Even if the Bookburners have enough firepower to kill that thing, I’d bet that they have a helicopter or two monitoring the area. We should lay low.”

“You kidding me?” Cedar said as they walked over to a vending machine full of drinks at the end of the platform. “Whether or not they’ve killed the demon, they’ve called for back-up by now. You’re probably right about the choppers, but that’s all the more reason to get the hell out of Dodge.” Cedar kicked in the vending machine’s glass, grabbed a bottle of water, and poured it into their eyes. “Ah, finally.”

Cedar looked down at their shoes and saw the full extent of the damage. They were little more than bits of fabric barely being held together by what was left of the glue. Cedar frowned. They really liked that pair.

“Alright then,” Ben said, trying to think of some sort of compromise, “How about we take the subway out of here?”

“That’s a lot of waiting around. And from what I hear, they don’t exactly have the habit of running on time. We’re still too close for comfort.”

The echo of a gunshot came down the tunnel. Catching their attention. Ben spoke hesitantly, “Fine, your plan.”

They went up the platform’s stairs and onto the street. It was around four in the morning, meaning there were only a few people left wandering the city and they were mainly drunks and hobos. They heard the distant beat of a propellor followed by a helicopter shining a searchlight into alleys a few blocks down. Cedar hid the chronicle in their jacket as best they could before heading through an alley in the opposite direction. Ben was looking over his shoulder when Cedar stopped him from walking out of the alley. They watched as an unmarked, black van cruised past.

“Shit, I told you we should have stayed low,” Ben whispered.

“Don’t be stupid,” Cedar hissed back. “They’re gonna be searching the subway any minute.” They checked to make sure the van had turned the corner and that there wasn’t another one coming. “C’mon.”

They rushed across the road into another alley. The helicopter was getting closer. They sat low and waited for it to pass.

“You know where the nearest Way is?” Cedar asked.

“No, if I did, I’d be taking us there,” Ben answered with a hint of annoyance. As soon as the last word left his mouth, they saw a GOC strike squad through the alley they had just left. Half of them went down into the subway while the other half searched the surface area along with the drunks and hobos. Cedar gave Ben an I-told-you-so look be for getting up.

“We should keep moving.”

They hung a right and went into a wider part of the alley. Blocked off from most streetlamps, the only thing that illuminated the backstreet was the ambient lights of the city and the moon. They heard a low groaning come from beneath them, a rumble that softly vibrated the pavement. Cedar and Ben looked at each other, sharing an expression of mild confusion. Their expression quickly turned to horror, however, as they slowly realized what the rumbling was. They turned their heads to the manhole cover in the alley as it shifted and was pushed to the side.

Even in the dim light of the alley, the red of the thing’s muscled back shined like diamond. It was wet with a layer of some liquid. Cedar thought it was sweat for a moment. No, demons don’t sweat. It was blood.

The two of them began to back away slowly as if they were in an enclosure with a lion and not an alley with a beast from Hell. It sniffed the air that must have been rich with their sent and turned to them. Its lips curled up and exposed its teeth. If it was just an animal, one might think that this was a simple threat, a predator baring its fangs before a fight. And it was that, partially. But as Cedar looked into the three pairs of yellow-red eyes that stared at them, they realized that it was also a genuine smile. A show that it was aware of the fear it instilled and took a great deal of pleasure in it.

Ben yanked Cedar’s pistol from his pocket.


Three shots to the chest of the thing and it still stood, its horrible smile only growing wider.

“Goddamn it!” Cedar shouted as they grabbed the gun, “Gimme that!”

Between their sweating palms and shaking body, even Cedar began to doubt that they could make their shot, one of those evil, yellow-red orbs that made their skin crawl. So they did what they found to be most reliable in situations like this, they didn’t think about it. Squeezing the gun tight in their fist, Cedar held out their arm and pulled the trigger.


Any thoughts of running out of luck quickly vanished from Cedar’s mind as the demon let out a blood-curdling screech that could be heard for miles around. It clutched its wounded eye and stumbled. Cedar knew they only had a moment before it pounced. They took Ben by the wrist in a reversal from the storage room and booked it out of the alley.

They heard the helicopter come back and saw three or four black vans speed toward the alley as they ran through another street. A deep, guttural roar of pure rage echoed through the city. The GOC must have been closing off roads and isolating the area by now, coming up with some lie about a shooter or terrorists or an escaped zoo lion.

Boxed in with a death squad and a demon, Ceadar thought. They were going to end the thought with grumbling sarcasm, but their true feelings occurred to them. God, I feel so fucking alive.

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