Deacon Marino sat in his office at the back part of the church, he was finishing up on his books making sure all utilities had been paid. In the morning he’d start set off on his trip up to sanctuary to visit Tarik his heart longed to see his boy, and he knew that Tarik always longed to see him. He was proud of how strong Tarik had become but was concerned with what Judge Moses had said in regards to his attitude. An instinctive warrior, wise in the ways of combat yet unpredictable in emotion. That would make Tarik dangerous to the Shroud, but he could possibly become just as dangerous to the gifted. The outcome was unsure. Deacon Marino was sure that his close bond with Tarik would help him heal, it hadn’t happened yet but he was sure it would at the right time. Judge Moses on the other hand wasn’t so sure. Ah but there was time to argue with Judge Moses once Deacon Marino arrived at sanctuary. In the morning he would leave and set off to see Tarik and Judge Moses. There was creaking noise in the main hall coming from the back door, he stood up listening. He always left the back door open so that the gifted could come in whenever they needed too, he would tell those who visited to let others know that the door was always open so really this was no surprise. He didn’t hear anyone walking around but he was sure that someone had come in. Opening the office door fully he looked out into the dimly lit church hall. The candle lights flickered off the walls and ceiling, other than the dancing of candle light there was no one, but his instincts told him someone was there. “Hello?” Deacon Marino called out, he waited a few seconds yet no response came back. His brow lowered, he started to become suspicious of the silence.
“You’re a good one ay? Ta be hidin in plain site this long” Said a mans voice, it was a distinct Australian accent. Deacon Marino tracked the voice seeing a man sitting on the shoulder of the large statue of Jesus that stood at the back center part of the stage. Deacon Marino was sure that he didn’t see someone sitting there when he looked seconds ago, maybe he just overlooked. The man slipped down from the statue landing softly on the stage in a cat like fashion, Deacon Marino saw that the man wore a black military uniform. He maintained his calm.
“You are alone my son?” The Deacon asked, he wasn’t about to divulge that he one of the gifted. As the soldier stepped into the light Deacon Marino could see that his skin was very dark, his hair was black and wavy and short. The man was of an Aborigine tribe from Australia. He found it odd that the soldier wore a pair of sun glasses that covered the entirety of his eyes.
“Yea I ain’t brought none of me mates, I prefer to work alone” the soldier said smiling showing a pair of straight white teeth. He rested his hand on the top of a silver handle of a long survival knife that rested in its sheath at his side. Deacon Marino remained calm looking about the church for others.
“Work you say? What type of work do you do? What has brought you to trespass on Gods property so late at night?” The Deacon asked.
“Well boyo, my work pertains ta huntin down things, in fact that’s what my people even call my gift the hunter. I’m the only one me thinks that is a carrier for it though, a rare one indeed I’ve been told” he slowly started walking toward Deacon Marino.
“Gift? I’m not sure I understand you” Deacon Marino said, the soldier laughed.
“If you wanna play that game it don’t change the outcome here. By the way my names Gryphon, and yours?” He pointed at the Deacon.
Deacon Marino studied how smooth Gryphon walked, for the first time he was concerned about fighting a Shroud agent. He could tell that Gryphon was going to be a tough battle. Deacon Marino stepped out of the office his eyes focused.
“You don’t need to know my name Shroud soldier!” he said defiantly. Gryphon’s brow raised in surprise.
“Ahh, that’s the spirit mate, keep it honest ya know?” He then frowned. “I ain’t no stinkin low rank mate, and I ain’t no commander either, let’s get that straight boyo!” He paused a moment letting what he just said sink in. “I’m a master…” He stopped just a few feet away from the Deacon. Deacon Marino was now the one surprised.
“A master? But how…?” The Deacon uttered without even thinking. Masters never went out with soldiers, but Gryphon was different. He had over four hundred kills and greatly enjoyed the hunt. He was called in for this specific job, too many soldiers had died in Hillside over the past decade and it couldn’t be humans doing it. The Shroud suspected one of the gifted for some time, they just never had a soldier come back alive to verify this. Gryphon had been called in several times by Lord Apex to investigate Hillside, but he was not aware that the Sovereign had called Gryphon in for a special task. It wasn’t until Lord Apex became aggressive in finding out why Gryphon had not yet left did Gryphon travel to Colorado coming to the slums of Hillside looking for the culprits under the release of Illusate. Gryphon had made it to the rank of master quickly. And what he said was true, his gift was extremely rare. No one for thousands of years had it, and after Gryphon the gift might not surface for another few thousand years, Shroud scientists had felt this to be so. What Deacon Marino didn’t know was that Gryphon was a perfect hunter and killer. He wore the specially made glasses because they shielded his eyes from any possible light. Gryphons eyes could not handle bright lights. He was blind by human standards but could see far better than anyone, human or gifted. Instead of how regular eyes see, Gryphons eyes would take heat, and transfer them into energy signals, kind of like thermal glasses but on a much higher scale. Mixed with body chemicals each individual would leave behind a unique trail that would last for days if the person stayed in one area for too long. For the gifted they would leave even stronger energy trails but their trails would dissipate quicker due to the fact they lived a more nomadic life. Gryphon had incredible speed and agility that many did not possess, gifted or Shroud. And although he may not have been as strong as Lord Apex, he was still pretty strong. But really he didn’t need his strength. He was so damn fast and agile, that with his vision and incredible sense of smell and hearing made him one of the most dangerous of the Shroud ranks. Lord Apex was even envious of how the Sovereign looked at Gryphon with great pride and it made him feel threatened. Gryphon had single handedly killed more of the gifted than any among the Shroud ranks, even Lord Apex. He planned on adding Deacon Marino to his number of victims this night. Gryphon unsheathed his dagger the long curved blade looked like the tooth of an ancient predator, the candle flames flickered off of the shiny silver blade.
“So you fight cowardly?” Deacon Marino said glancing down at the dagger.
“I aim to end it quickly, this slum smells of poverty trash!” Gryphon said. Deacon Marino walked back into his office then reappeared with a staff in his hands.
“You aren’t the only one who knows how to use a weapon!” Deacon Marino said.
“Good, then maybe this’ll be a good one” Gryphon replied. “But I bloody doubt it” He smiled a crooked smile, his face looking devious. He stood at an angle the tip of his dagger lowered facing Deacon Marino. “Tell me when, that way it’ll be fair” Gryphon seemed to really feel that the Deacon was no threat.
“Now if you’d like…” Deacon Marino said bringing up his staff. Gryphon laughed.
“Ok, at the count of three.”He replied. “One…” He counted slow holding each number. “Two..” He paused with a wicked smile. “Three…” Gryphon moved so quickly Deacon Marino barely brought up his defense in time, his staff was struck by Gryphon’s dagger, the force from the strike made he stagger back a few feet. His arms throbbed from the impact but instantly healed. Gryphon was truly skilled. He turned looking at Deacon Marino forcing down his surprise. “So you blocked the first strike eh?” He turned revealing another sheathed dagger on the other hip, he quickly unsheathed it. He held both daggers low. “Methinks this time ya won’t be standin, a promise that is”
Deacon Marino glanced down seeing a deep gash in his staff, Gryphon had almost cut through the entire weapon, it was thick oak wood. Deacon Marino rose his knee up bringing the staff down splitting it in two. He readied himself the two sticks in front of him protectively. Gryphon shrugged. “A bloke with game ta be sure, any of your brothers would already be runnin. But you face your death like a man, cheers!” Gryphon rushed Deacon Marino with such ferocity that the Deacon dropped one of his sticks, Gryphon took full advantage slicing at the Deacons arm before stabbing him in the stomach. Deacon Marino fell back, blood flowing freely from his stomach before he even hit the ground. Gryphon smiled at his handy work, then turned and began walking away when his incredible sense of hearing detected the Deacon breathing. He turned seeing Deacon Marino slowly standing. Before Gryphons eyes the wounds that should’ve killed the Deacon healed up.
“Rafferty’s rules, you’re a bloomin healer!” Gryphon pronounced annoyed. Deacon Marino smiled knowing that he made Gryphon a tad uneasy. “Well mate, it changes nothin. It ends now!” Gryphon said before leaping at Deacon Marino. He slashed his dagger at Deacon Marino who brought up the other stick to block Gryphons attack. The knife went through the stick then through Deacon Marino’s neck. Gryphon quickly sheathed his daggers then spun around grabbing Deacon Marino’s head from his body with both hands. He held the Deacons head making sure his eyes faced his own as Deacon Marino’s body fell to the floor. “Either by cuttin of the head, or stabbin the heart then rippin it out, that’s the only way you can kill a healer, I’ve done it before ya know…” Gryphon smiled widely showing his teeth. Deacon Marino’s eyes were wide with disbelief. His vision began to slowly fade. All he could think of was that he wasn’t going to be able to see Tarik after all. In his last moments he prayed that this would not send Tarik over the edge. “Told ya it’d be easy mate…” Gryphon said laughing. He then tossed Deacon Marino’s head into an aisle before causally walking away.

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