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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84. Chapter 82

Dion

Alestor shuffled back and forth in front of Dion’s cell. 

“You idiot.” He said.

“Why are you here?” Dion stood amongst the pile of thrown hay, the rags of his slave life thrown to the side. He was fitting clothes. A suit. “Child killing bastard, don’t you have somewhere else to be, somewhere else to be ordered to?”

“This isn’t about me anymore,” Alestor said. “This is about you choosing the worst way to handle the situation.”

“I’m fighting him. Everyone’s wanted it for a while now.”

“You’re fighting him on his terms. Do you understand what that means?”

“It means nothing,” Dion said. “So long that I win, and I will win.”

“And how do you know that? The man is a liar, he’ll do everything in his power to win. He’s already done it once.”

“You would know, wouldn’t you?” Dion tied his shoes. He lifted them, the shiny black and scraped his heels off a bench.

“I do know what it means to be fooled.” Alestor hit the bars. “And that’s why I’m warning you.”

Dion laughed.

“You’ve been awfully helpful, haven’t you?” Dion asked. “Do you know? Somewhere deep down inside, I want to kill you. Are you aware of that?”

“Yeah, I am,” Alestor said. “And I hate you too. But I hate Astyanax more. Much, much more.” 

“Right.” Dion looked down. He flexed himself in his clothes and let them wrap tightly around him. His coat covered him snug and for a moment, he felt relief. There was silence as Alestor watched the Vicar. The man who had hunted him down, and for a moment, it seemed like he admired him. There was an intensity to Dion, a hunger for the fight. He could see it in the edges of his half-smiling mouth, in his tall pose. It was venerable, that kind of hunger. Not as degenerate as Astyanax’s was. A naive, honorable, fighting spirit.

“What do you think he’ll do?” Dion wiped his sleeves. 

“He has a legion of demons waiting for you. My guess is you won’t even fight fairly. They’ll all group up on you and kill you, whether you win or lose. They love their king, after all. Zealots, all of were. Are. I don’t know.” Alestor looked down at his naked feet. 

“Do you still love him?” Dion asked.

“No. Maybe I never did, maybe I just confused being afraid with being in love.”

“Stockholm syndrome,” Dion said. “That’s what my partner would say.”

“Maybe.” Alestor tapped the bars with his toes. “I’m telling you, this is a trap.”

“Someone like you would never understand him,” Dion said. “Astyanax is many things, but he’s no coward. He’ll fight me.”

“How can you be sure?”

“It’s just a feeling, from one warrior to another,” Dion said. “You can’t see how we see the world. You, who have lived your whole life running and chasing and taking and stealing. You, who have betrayed your own family.”

“I just thought.” Alestor’s voice fizzled, he mumbled something incoherent. 

“Stop projecting,” Dion said. “You’re supposed to be the psychologist, aren’t you?”

Footsteps approached them, loud bodies and deep voices. 

“Fine then,” Alestor hissed. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” 

Be backed away, down towards the end of the hall as two brutes opened the cell. They did not touch Dion, did not so much as even look at him. They looked past them, with their shields to their sides and their spears pointing towards the hall, and the direction of the king.

“I’ll see you later,” Dion said. “And then we’ll settle everything. Retribution is coming for you too, buddy.”

He made his tie around his neck like a noose and walked down the hall, up the building, through the small halls until he was outside. There were guards still, though fewer in numbers, leading him out the villa and towards a bustling roar of voices. 

They came to a stop in front of the loud source of noise, in front of a cathedral and in front of that, a pillar. A guardian, atop the roman pillar, eyed him. Dion said nothing, rather shared a solemn respect before making his way through the fields of grass and into a different kind of field. This new, stranger field, had swords laid all about, stabbed through the floor with the grime collecting on their handles. They surrounded the cathedral and made an awful tune as the wind blew past them. 

He didn’t touch one, didn’t even think about grabbing any of them. 

He walked past the grave sites and the swords and towards the giant cathedral whose dark walls and shadows hid the myriad yellow and white eyes, whose eyes themselves hid the myriad intentions of the demons. The loud, frightened and angry and sad and excited demons. The guests, the crowd, gawked at him and howled as they opened a line for him to enter. He felt spit hit his face, insults thrown at his ears, mockery after mockery as he came up the steps. The animals, the monstrosities, all cajoled into bedlam.

At the top of the steps waited Horace. His glare was worst of all as he pointed something towards Dion. He had in his hands a bag. Dion felt inside of it, something comfortable touched his fingers. He found his two pistols and nearly sighed relief, amongst the rowdy crowd booing at him.

“I’m surprised you managed to get them out of my coat,” Dion said.

“Amateur arcana,” Horace mumbled. Dion grimaced, he stuck his hands into the bag again and took bullet after bullet, by the handful, back into his coat. He saved twelve bullets, six for each of his pistols (he didn’t need the safety of an empty chamber, he wasn’t planning on having any kind of trigger discipline). 

He opened the unholy doors. The whole building felt more of a mockery than a blessed house and it made him shiver. The very air seemed to make his lungs hollow and his body empty. It was a terrible place to be in, as a Catholic as he was. 

Near him, a dry font. Around him, the broken statues and painted glass of some of his favorite holy figures. All defiled. All aborted. 

He scanned the room, the crowd held their breath for him. His steps left no echo, there were too many people. The monsters piled up on the sides of the walls, some of them hung from the roof with claws and with other appendages. The demons, the men who acted like demons, all hand in hand. Soldier and monster, all vying for the title of most wicked and most loud. 

But someone had won it, long ago, through many fights and many years. And he waited for Dion now, at the very front of the large Cathedral. He approached him. Dion only now figured the large scale of the building. The columns were plentiful, he counted twenty between four sides, making a square, with a little gap for the preacher podium on the upper center. There, Astyanax waited, on the seat of God; a simple wooden chair. The light came off his rusted armor. It must have been silver and brilliant once. It must have been forged by a sensible hand with a sensible heart. Maybe once.

Now it’s wear and its wearer, both, laid rusting. Astyanax stood. His gauntlets, his knee paddings, his leather skirt and his rusted-silver breast-plate. His helmet, plumed and imposing, the gap for his eyes and mouth, sharp to contour shadows around his face. 

Two braided tails of white hair fell down his right face. It seemed like an inherited fashion. Was he dressing up as his uncle, as his father?

It didn’t matter.

He pulled at something at the top of his helmet. A silver mask came over him. 

Dion felt his left leg shake. There were markings on this mask and helmet. Smiles and scars chiseled into the flesh of steel, streaks of painted red leading down from his eyes to give the appearance of streaked tears. This smiling, crying devil. He came forth, grey, like a diseased dove who had long since lost his wings. 

His muscles were pronounced, Dion could tell they could barely fit under all the gear. 

“I thought this would be appropriate,” His hands were wide and his chest exposed. A spear on one hand, a large leather-bound shield on the other. “To die upon your God, to bleed for him on these holy steps. This will be your greatest honor, a proper libation to your lord and savior Jesus Christ.”

I’ll kill him, Dion thought. I won’t give him a chance, I’ll kill him.

His leg shook worse.

“You wanted this.” Astyanax circled and spoke to the audience now. 

“Didn’t he?” He shouted.

The crowd rioted. 

“Trying to kill the king,” Astyanax said. “A travesty worthy of a hard death.”

The crowd clapped and screamed. 

“A heart-eater, a demon hunter. What better man to rip apart and share amongst these love patrons!” 

The clamor shook the building. The walls seemed to breathe from the ecstasy and joy of the crowd. Dion felt sick in the stomach. His leg could not stop tapping on the floor. Rapid still, harsher, louder. Fear and impatience ticking away.

“Hurry it up,” Dion screamed back. The crowd silenced. “I don’t need your theatrics, I need your head.”

There were sneers coming out from the demons now, low laughter and hushing blurbs and laughter again. Astyanax shouted back. 

"Silence!" Astyanax screamed. His voice was dry and hoarse.

“Are you a thespian or a soldier?” Dion put his left leg forward, fingers now on the trigger. “Let them cry or clap, they won’t decide a thing. That right belongs to God. God, and no other.”

Astyanax blew out wind from the small gap in the mouth of his mask. He sounded like a machine, breathing out and in, fueling the engine of rage in him. The crowd stayed silent.

“Then let it be so,” The mask screeched. “Here lived and died Dion, in the house of God.”

And he disappeared under that shield. Only a streak of red and the sandals of his feet showed as he inched closer to Dion, spear overhead.

Dion reached into his coat. He put his mask on, his head slanted down from the weight. He looked down to his guns and wondered, did they always feel this light? Was I always this excited? 

 

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