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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14. 12:24 PM

The fire lapsed around him, it swelled and it grew up on the walls, it licked and ate and spread itself in streaks like tendrils, sporadic and gluttonous. He saw the fire grows and nodded to what he heard. His eyes were open wide and they watched as the fire came and went like a giant surf. Then he felt hot, though not for the fire that did not feel much of anything, he felt the heat of excitement.

“When will you bring her back. Like you promised.” Alestor’s voice broke.

“That’s up to you, isn’t it?” The voice repeated. Alestor nodded and watched as the fire began to turn sickly white, like rot. It turned and regressed. Alestor ran to the table, took out a bag of pink salt and pitched it into the fireplace that spat out like an ill child.

“When can I see my wife back?” Alestor asked.

“When the rapture is brought upon them all."

“But when? When do I do it? How? When? What do I do while we wait for you?” He said.

“Wait?” The voice screeched and the fire rode up to the ceiling where the smog seemed to lash out like a storm-ridden sea, the waves crashing about and foaming. “I’ve never taken you for a passive fool.” The sparks spilled and danced on the floor. “Every ritual needs its servants, every moment of worship needs its faith. And every summoning, you know, needs its proper penance. A human hecatomb. I want it, the highest quality lifeblood you can give me.”

“And the hunters?” Alestor sat on his knees throwing salt into the fire.

“The hunters?”

“They ruined the last pact I made. They’re here now.”

“I didn’t think people like that existed in your world.” The voice said.

“They're Vicars, I've heard rumors about them before. But I thought…with how small a city we are…I thought they wouldn’t bother.”

“Hunters…” The voice hummed at the word, amused. Alestor sat as he heard the voice of the demon chuckle. His eyes were to the floor, his body was prostrate as he waited for an answer. But the voice would not talk back. The demon was mumbling. It seemed distracted for once and Alestor sat with a growing pain in his legs and in his chest.

“What do we do?” He coughed.

“Oh. Yes. Of course.” It hummed again. “Give me proper retribution today. I’ll help you deal with them.”

“I already a killed a man. What more can I do?” Alestor slammed his hand against the floor. It seemed painful for him to say - killed - and it grew in him, a stabbing conscious that felt like it was bulging out of his heart. His chest hurt.

“You killed a criminal. Scum. Shit. And you got shit back. What did you expect? It’s an exchange, did you forget? If you want more, give me more. Give me virgin blood, give me nubile souls. That would be proper, those high quality souls.”

“What do you mean high quality?”

“The price of a man is weighed in his merit and his soul. Give me your best and I'll give you my best. Give me children." It said. There was silence.  "If you want help, if you want your wife and your child and me, there, with you, give me your best.”

 

Alestor thought about the words and they seemed to bounce off the cavern of his skull. There was nothing there but the words and his brain rattled. His hand fell and stiffened. The pink salt in his grips slipped out and drizzled onto the floor.

“Now you know my price. You do want your wife back, don’t you? It’s not like you’re really killing someone anyway. They’re coming home, to me. I’d say you’d be helping them out. I'm sure they’d forgive you when they taste paradise. When the burdens of life are cut and the shackles are thrown.”

Alestor was still. The flame began to die and he did not bother to fuel it, he let it recede and with it a piece of him. There was nothing left for him to hear. He walked back and stumbled onto a stack of books that collapsed on his feet. He held himself against a book cabinet and held it for fear of his legs giving out. Then he heard a knock, the ravenous knock of his students, the hasty knock that demanded of him a certain composure. He breathed. He evened his hair that had split and run from him throughout the conversation and collected all the bits of himself that seemed to escape or break. Some sanity, some confidence, some goodness. He was trying to make sturdy of this failing body. His body snapped into place on the fifth knock.

With his face taken back to a dull, assertive expression, he walked to the door. The men were waiting outside and sweating.

“There. You heard him, didn’t you?” Alestor told them. They were all lucid, drooling and heaving. The mayor was the first to speak. 

“Did you tell him what I wanted? The money, the boat. Did you tell him?” He was shaking Alestor.

“No, but he told me what he wanted.”

“Yes, we heard.” The police commissioner said. “Children.”

They were all silent and huddled together, their shoulders were in tandem as they thought about it. Who would break it first? Who would show his selfishness first?

“I know some routes.” The paper man said. They all swallowed spit, and one man’s courage led to the other, a boulder gaining stride down the incline.

“I know some men who can work it out.” The commissioner added.

“We’d have to do it after curfew, fewer suspects.” The mayor said.

“No, no. We just need to get the right people. The people no one would mind gone. Would that be considered high quality though, Father?” The commissioner said.

Alestor looked at them. He could understand the words. The mayor, a pudgy man with his suit tearing at the seams. The commissioner, tall and proud, thick jawed. The mailman, pious and desperate in his eyes. He could not understand their demeanors or their beings. They wanted this more than him, they loved this more than him and the idea of murder seemed too little a cost for their promised wealth. It was a lottery they felt was too easy to pass up. Alestor could not believe himself. That he ever convinced these men, that they weren’t faking their conceits. 

Was that all it took? Wealth and power and knowledge. Was it because they had finally experienced the demon for themselves? They had never heard the voice of God, though it supposedly lived in all things. But they heard the Djinn, the devils. They knew those to be real now and perhaps that’s what they moved them most, a higher power, regardless of what or where it came from. 

Alestor walked back, he hit the door and felt for the knob.

His wife was important but this was different and he felt the urge to run, but they all held him. The believers grabbed onto his black coat and pulled themselves closer to him.

“What do we do?” The lost lambs said in unity. And Alestor, like a father afraid of his new responsibility, reeled back.

“Do what you need to do, then! You heard him.” He lashed out. They all soaked in the words. Some of them frowned, some of them smiled.

“Alright then, we’ll get on it.” The commissioner said. There was no misinterpretation, no language barrier. They knew clearly what must be done and Alestor ran back inside as he realized it. 

“What have I done?” He asked to no one. He found a seat, opened his drawer and pulled the first drug he could find. A bag cocaine ripped and spilling. Then he pulled something out again, a flask. He ate them like a starved man and rubbed his head with powdered hands. Depressed and awake at the same times, a mind in dissonance with his rapidly beating heart.

Now he knew how Mrs. Breyer felt. Now he knew that he could not take it back.

 

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