Barrett knew who we were long before Jackie found her way into his dealings. He had been watching Lask and the alkesh for some time. One night, Jackie dreamed her way into a place where there was a gathering of Demons. She listened as bearded green Demon spoke of insidious plans, and warned about one called Moloch, until she was outed by a barking black dog. She managed to flee and wake before she was caught.
Several days later, Lask received a rather cross message from a Demon named Barezo, who asked that we kindly stay out of his business. The brief messaged closed with, “You have access to all the information you need about me.” Cryptic, perhaps, but Lask was quick to ask the Library about this strangely articulate and diplomatic Demon.
Barezo was not a Demon at all.
The Library offered a modest book on the man. His name was Barrett, and he was far closer to Lask than he was to a Demon. Barrett was a shapeshifter, and shady by trade. It wasn’t until later we learned exactly what he was. At first, we assumed he was a Luminor, an assumption he was content to let us keep for a while. We later learned he was only impersonating one, and it was for the sake of the Heart and a man named Scott.
The Heart is a powerful force of Light– the Heart of the Light itself. The Light thought it too dangerous to place in the world in one piece, so the Heart was split in two. The Light’s plan was for an alkesh to form: four Luminari, four shadows, four humans. This would be the right combination to support and protect the Heart. The Dark wasn’t about to let that happen.
Melinda was a Luminara drawn down to a human named Scott, who was born in Kansas, and Barrett formed as their Shadow. Barrett and Melinda both had the ability to shapeshift. They quarreled often in the early days, since Barrett would shift into Melinda’s shape in order to interact with Scott, but when Scott was five, Barrett appeared to the boy as himself. Melinda tried to tell Scott not to talk to him, tried to tell the boy he was a Bad Man, but Scott said no, he wanted him to stay, and no matter how Melinda protested, Scott wouldn’t let her send Barrett away. Scott’s innate love and kindness toward him was enough to make Barrett want to stay on the path of good for the boy.
He stayed close to Scott, and came to love the boy dearly. His bond with the boy helped him grow close to Melinda as well, and when Scott was six, Barrett officially took the Light, and came to live with Melinda at Westedge. The two of them were both close to Scott when he was a child. Barrett studied the ways of the Light, and Melinda allowed him access to the Library. Barrett spent a great deal of time researching in the Library, where he learned about the piece of the Heart, which Melinda carried. As Scott grew older, he began to favor closeness with Barrett more and more. By the time he was a preteen, Barrett was Scott’s spirit companion of choice, and this made Melinda jealous.
Scott’s teens were a rocky time for Barrett and Melinda. Scott looked to Barrett for guidance (and eventually for love), and Melinda resented Barrett, feeling as though he had usurped her place with her vessel. This resentment would eventually lead Melinda to begin conspiring to kill Barrett. Melinda’s hatred for him attracted Dark attention, until she was approached by the Demon Barezo, who hoped to corrupt her in 1994. Barrett got wind of the plan, and tried to bring Melinda back to the Light, but by then Barezo had begun corrupting her, and she was too far gone to want to return. Barrett feared what would happen to Scott if Melinda were to go fully Dark– by then, Scott was 22 and beginning a promising career in espionage, already having high security clearance– and what would happen to the Heart. In order to protect Scott and the Heart, Barrett was forced to kill her, and did so with Scott’s knowledge and agreement.
Barrett was smart about how he killed Melinda, and was able to separate the Heart from her as she died, along with a large quantity of her blood. Barrett killed her in Westedge, and because he was a Light spirit within the territory, with access to Melinda’s key, the territory did not pass on when Melinda died. The Light allowed Barrett to inherit Melinda’s estate, and provided him with a door to the Library, which Barrett used to learn how to care for the rescued half of the Heart.
Melinda’s dealings with the Dark had tarnished the piece of the Heart she carried, but Barrett used his magic as a Shadow to cleanse the Heart, and Melinda’s blood. When they were purified and fully Light once more, Barrett created an environment in which to sustain the Heart by Melinda’s stored blood. Barrett kept the Heart alive this way for years.
Within days of Melinda’s death, Barrett hunted down and killed the Demon who had corrupted her. Barezo was a mid-level Demon, and fairly mediocre as Demons go, so Barrett saw a prime opportunity. After talking it over with Scott, they agreed Barrett would begin impersonating Barezo in order infiltrate the Dark side. Barrett took over Barezo’s meager holdings and began expanding his “career” as a Demon. However, Barrett was not strong enough to hold the Demon’s shape indefinitely. His magic could sustain the shape for a few days, but he would have to return to Westedge to rest several times a week.
Barrett worked in disguise until 2001, simultaneously working with Scott to further his espionage career and coordinate with Scott’s assignments. In 1999, Scott met Steve McRoy, and Barrett met Steve’s Luminara, Julia. Julia was a very different sort of Luminara from Melinda, and liked Barrett right away. The two became good friends (and eventually lovers), and Julia helped Barrett defend and maintain Westedge, adding her own magic to help guard and sustain the Heart. She also helped Barrett in his work impersonating Barezo, helping him gather intelligence, coordinate attacks, and bringing him supplies when needed. Barrett tried to convince Julia to carry the Heart, because the Heart (according to the Library) needs to be carried by a living soul in order to survive. Barrett’s means of preserving it would keep it alive for a while, but every year spent outside of a living spirit weakened the Heart. Julia always refused, for reasons she would not tell Barrett.
On 9/11, Scott and Barrett were deeply shaken by the terrorist attacks on the United States, and agreed they should use their respective talents to ensure such Darkness could not strike again. Barrett entered the Library and asked how he might be able to hold Barezo’s shape on a more permanent basis. The Library told Barrett he would need the power of the Heart in order to do so. The Library said he would need to make himself a Luminor, in a manner of speaking. The Light gave Barrett detailed instructions about how to transfer Melinda’s blood into himself, while draining his own, transforming himself into a being capable of carrying the Heart. Because he was formed from Melinda, Barrett was able to use her blood on himself with no ill effects. Filling himself with Melinda’s blood overpowered his Shadow blood, turning him to something of a Luminor with the ability to self-Shadow. When he absorbed Melinda’s blood, he inherited all of her memories– things she had learned in life, and her memories of the time before she was drawn down. This alone, however, was not enough support wearing another shape 24/7 indefinitely. For that kind of magic, Barrett would need the Heart.
At first, Barrett resisted the idea of carrying the Heart. He feared his life would be too dangerous, and he had worked diligently to keep the Heart safe until he could give it to Lask. The Library told him he could not connect Lask with the other half of the Heart until after Lask bloomed. Barrett disliked the risk to the Heart, and did not think himself strong enough or worthy to carry it, but the Library insisted he become the next bearer of the Heart. Not only would it enable to Barrett to do important work for the Light, the Light did not want to risk the Heart losing its potency for good by going too long outside of a living soul. The Light told Barrett it wanted him to carry the Heart. Barrett did not know why the Light had chosen him for it, and not Julia or another of the Luminari.
Barrett agreed to carry it, but in order to do so, he would have to bind himself to it– and to do that, he must give up his own heart. So, on the night of September 11th, Barrett and Scott cut out Barrett’s heart, and placed the half of the Heart in his chest instead. Once it was placed, Barrett destroyed his own heart, cleaving him fully from his connection to the Dark as a Shadow, and binding himself instead to the Light as a Heart Bearer. This act resulted in Barrett’s blooming, making him the first Shadow to bloom in history.
Barrett then “went under” and lived as the Demon Barezo for over a decade until the Reader crept into his stronghold one night and told Lask what she overheard. When Lask learned of Barrett’s identity, he wanted to help, but there was little to be done that would not compromise Barrett’s position. For a year, they exchanged secret correspondence; Barrett’s familiar, a black dog named Ranger, would travel out to meet with Lask’s hawk Aleva, where the two exchange messages for their masters. Barrett would send Lask intel about Demon alliances, maneuvers, and other plans, so the alkesh could work their Darkslaying magic while Barrett remained undetected.
At the beginning of September in 2014, though, Barrett got a message that changed everything.
Barrett (as the Demon Barezo) was busy in his war room one night when the Runner Borneo disturbed him. Borneo was crippled; the Reader, Jackie, had dealt him a blow to the leg, which left him lame. Barrett had since made him a messenger, taking a twisted pleasure in his slow pace, and enjoying the fact his messenger could not sneak up on him. He could hear Borneo shuffling up to the door before he knocked, so called,
The Runner hobbled into the room, his rear leg dragging behind him. “Message, sir,” Borneo growled “From one of Leska’s.”
“Leska?” Barrett’s brow furrowed. “She usually only works on commission. What’s she soliciting for?”
The Runner shrugged, and offered the envelope. Barrett took it, tearing it open, and scanning the runes inside.
For Sale or Barter, the message read, Blood and Ichor stock of Lask Corilius, Alcanoren and Darkslayer. Skillfully harvested, well-preserved, ready for magic or breeding use. Send best offer by end of week.
Barrett stared at the paper.
“Sir?” asked Borneo.
“Where is Leska now?” asked Barrett.
“Sources say she is currently at home, having recently completed the job for Coramell.”
“Send for her,” Barrett said. “Tell her I will buy what she has, whatever she asks. Whatever offers she has already, tell her I will top them.”
“Sir?” The Runner cocked his head.
“Do it, you shuffling jackass!” snapped Barrett, baring his pointed Demon teeth.
Borneo yelped and scrambled off to deliver the message. When he had gone, Barrett went to the window, and surveyed the west end of his stronghold. He crumpled the paper in his hand. It would cost him, he knew, perhaps everything, but the ichor of Lask was last thing the Dark needed in its arsenal. Barrett looked out at the horizon. Mustering enough to pay Leska would be one thing, but Barrett would need a plan for what to do with the stock when he had it, for Demon would never pay so dearly for something without plans to use it.