Heathens

Apollo and Dion, a dysfunctional rag-tag pair of demon hunters have been sent to investigate the city of Havenbrook and its inhabitants.

The mission is simple: to find the cultists responsible for a recent string of murders and to bring them to justice. Even if it takes killing dozens of demons on the way there.

But things are never that simple when you deal with the dark arts. Cultists, demon pacts, sacrificial murders all stand in the demon hunters' way as they search for the truth. A truth that will force them to question their own identities, a truth about the absolute evil lurking beyond heaven and earth. The question is, if they find the truth, will they be strong enough to handle it?

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76. Chapter 74

Apollo

 


Am I late? Apollo thought, a many far yards away from the centipede. He was following the tracks, his head close to the ground, feeling the dirt crumble in his hands and adjusting himself to the shaking of the earth. He was just coming out of those dunes, into the flatlands of scorched, cracked earth. He saw the beast rise high and watched the earth encroached upon and the mounds of dirt and sand exploding into swells of desert. It made him trip and fall from the high spot on the dune. The Hyena lowered his head and smirked. Apollo slid down. He was afraid, knew it, from the shake of his blade. He felt his sweat stick his helmet to his flesh and pull it with his bobbing head. The air bellowed, groaned almost. He landed on the ground and broke into a sprint. 

A scream from across the field flared his face with blood. His eyes shrunk. Still, too far, he thought. He looked around to see what he could do, there was nothing, few trees were here. There were pebbles, small stones, twigs stuck in between the interstices of the hexagon-shaped cracked floor. It’s not like they would have penetrated the armor of the creature anyways. His eyes glanced at his sword, he saw it glean back as if smiling. Apollo raised the sword to his chest and pointed out.

He spun. He felt his blood pushing out to the outer parts of his fingers like small centrifuged vials. His nose and lips turned red, his eyes followed. His hair pulled through from inside the gaps of his helmet. He spun five times, five full circles of confused dance, until the blade slipped out of his hands.

It flew high into the air, the half-sword with its tiny shadow, a kind of toothpick. And only by sheer luck it seemed, did it hit its target. Hard through the mouth. Apollo watched a pincer fly off trajectory, plunging into the tough earth with a swift swish.

The wound spurted out blood. Green, and thickly vile. The animal spun, like Apollo, writhed, like Jeremiah. A natural response to having its teeth and bones ripped from its person. Apollo ran to it at this time, with his head forward and his arms outreached to grab a hold of the creature. He found one of the many hands and climbed, digging his fingers deep into the little gaps separating the armored slots of the animal trunk. Ladders, he thought. Ladders leading to the face and the blade interred into the side of the creature's mouth. It siphoned the green blood, freshly warmed by the red ring in the sky.

A shake. All of his armor brushed and clanked. He tightened his grip. Both the creatures outraged thrashing and Apollo’s fear wanted him off. He clung anyways.

He climbed and felt for the little sword of his. He dug it out and felt the pieces of the exoskeleton brush his shoulder. It looked like a spilling dam with all the spilled blood leaking out. He raised it again, cut again. A set of eyes, an antenna fell off the monster. The animal shook again, Apollo lost most of his balance. He hung by a single arm only, his whole body felt the force yanking him away. It was made worse with the blood right above him, like a fire hydrant with the kind of pressure that could rip flesh from bone. He maneuvered beneath the spillage and felt only the mist of blood and small sprinkled wet taps. He was looking for a good spot, a gap of armor to dig his blade in. He found one, near the top where the neck (assuming there was a neck) would have been. Like a chisel, he fixed his blade in there and began tapping it inside flesh. He worked it with that same artisan intensity, his eyes focused, his palms sweaty, worked it inside the armor and inside the flesh. He felt the squishy body, the flimsy, gelatin-like pink mush for a body. Pushing, pushing, pushed. The injected blade came out another end. A piece of armor fell and a giant swelled wound burst into a shower of blood. Apollo kept his blade in. He was screaming, not louder than the shower, but loud enough to remind himself he was still alive. Like mad surgery, he pulled down on the sword and let go of the body. He let the blade guide him down like a monorail and watched as the wound widened with the stroke of the blade, length-wise through the centipede. It was an autopsy, a filleting of the creature. Apollo hit the floor and his blade followed near him, it whistled against the wind and stabbed its broken edge into the dirt.

The creature fell, with a cringing convulsion and seizure. The rest of the body still laid in a circle, piled up like a giant green and black rope. The wound poured blood out, that thick, viscous goo as if Apollo had struck an oil vein. It filled the pool green.

But it was somewhat comfortable, to be sitting in a pool of your enemies life force. To stay there, listening to the death throes of a behemoth disappear into the wind. It was good knowing even monsters bleed, that they die too. 

Apollo’s breathing calmed into a set interval of proper deep gasps. He stretched out his armor and his clothes. It was suctioned on to his flesh and opening the little gap, a small puddle of green good fell out.

Apollo wiped his forehead, he was watching the flow of the blood, following it as it extended out to the other end of the arena. 

There he saw a boy, still untainted with the green-stuff. He took a step towards him but stopped. He wanted to say something, to offer a hand, but watched closely with tired eyes. 

He was a peculiar boy who did not cry (not yet at least). Who rubbed his eyes and looked around with wide-eyed curiosity. Who looked at Apollo, then adjacent to him. The boy screamed. Not at the monster or to the red-eyed half-devil in front of him. He screamed at Jeremiah. He scrambled for the body on scraped knees. Then his head fell and his body drooped and he sat on his knees, with his nails digging into the dirty earth.

He was prostrated in front of the corpse of Jeremiah. 

Apollo couldn’t speak. There was a strange quietness about this all. The sound of rushing water was still coming from the body of the giant arthropod. It lent a calmness to the ceremony. There was wind, though it seemed to circumvent the coiled corpse. Apollo let his helmet fall, wind brushed his sweat-grossed hair past his face. It was greasy, wet, tacky. It couldn’t compare to the feeling in his heart though.

Bartholomew crawled over to Jeremiah. Tear-dry, red-cheeked. He shook the body and prodded the pale face. He looked back to Apollo, Apollo who had nothing to say or do and offer solemn rejection. His tired eyes looked dismally into Jeremiah, the boy knew what this meant, almost instantly. Why wouldn’t he? This wasn’t the first corpse. 

It didn’t hurt any less.

Bartholomew frowned. His face, undecided in emotional outrage. He grit his teeth, his cheeks swelled. 

He massaged the body again. He put his hands on his chest, pushed down. CPR like he had seen in the movies. Nothing. He slapped Jeremiah’s face. Nothing. 

He grabbed small piles of sand from the dug earth, compressed them as much as his little hands would and pushed them down on the holes of the corpse. Maybe, Apollo thought, maybe he thinks he could fill the holes. 

A small draft blew the dirt aside and left the wounds blood-blackened and exposed.

Nothing.

The boy slumped over, his dirty hands in front of his face to cover a new outbreak of tears. Apollo looked up into the sky. He saw birds. He rubbed his nose and looked around and tried to strangle the feeling in his chest. But it popped up, like a hiccup, like a diseased cough. That small uncontrollable tick. When the boy started to scream unintelligibly, when the sound of outraged sadness struck Apollo’s ears, he stopped thinking about suppressing anything. His body stopped shaking, his chest stopped stretching. His body let go.

It must have been the first time in eight years since Apollo cried. And now he remembered how bad it felt. 

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