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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61. Chapter 60

Alestor

By sheer will, Alestor had come undone from that rancor of the river Styx. By tenacity, by strength, he had grasped the rocks leading up to the hill cliff above the waters. He had stripped himself from those phantom claws that grasped his skin. And he climbed, higher and higher. With his clothes ripped, his skin torn and scraped, his body bleeding and battered, he had climbed two hundred meters high up to the hill by the shoreline he had spawned from. It had taken him hours, half the time to moan and shout and hold himself anxiously. And the other half to do the effort of the slippery climb. 

Periodically he had looked up to the birds above with the long beaks that waited and squawked for his demise, he had seen them eat the snakes and other rats and bugs that burrowed and walked through the land. He had seen them spill the carcasses down to the waters below and had seen those phantoms of the river Styx gobble the giblets like starved piranhas. It made him turn when he saw it and it made the climb rougher. But he managed. He always did, he had too much on his mind not too. Too much fear, too much anger, too much curiosity. And when he was done, when he could finally put his body breast first upon the ground to breath, when he could take a calm breath and think, he looked and asked: Where is my family? The whole point of it, the drive that moved him. Where were they? He wondered.

There were two demons, conveniently, to answer them. They stood away, almost patient with their hands folded on their chests. One of them had their spear through the floor and the other moved up to meet the tired man, it was all convenient. Expected. He grabbed Alestor by the hair, brought his face up and narrowed his eyes as he inspected the shorelined man.  

“It’s time to meet the king.” The demon said and they went at it, headlong north, dragging and pushing Alestor him all the way there.

Where is my family? He asked himself throughout the miles of broken stones and hot sands. Where is my family? He tried looking for an answer above the high mountains. He tried hearing it through the heavy-blown winds. He tried to feel it through the intensely heated sand on his naked feet. No answer. And after a while, he stopped thinking altogether. He did not care what he was, honored guest or slave or walking dead man.

He figured he couldn’t have been anything special. There were no bells to greet him. No carpets, no trumpets. No family. There was nothing but the stiff, cold, mechanical movement of the soldiers and how they pulled him through a dark cave, into a dome-shaped mountain and through fields of flowered grass. He couldn’t even appreciate the landscape, for his head was down the whole way through. 

At some point, he made it into a building. At another point, he was pulled through a hallway. Then, finally, somewhere along his travels he was let go. The two soldiers that had accompanied him now set by the side of a hall entrance. 

“Is he here?” Alestor asked. They said nothing and Alestor looked down the bleak tunnel. No light showed save for the mild glow of torches that sat in even spaces down the path. The air was filled with the slow rolling yellow dust as if something far below was blowing back at him back. He went down anyways. The floor was cold and sleek, the walls coarse. He pushed most of his weight upon the walls as he descended and as he neared he could hear a faint sound. It was the noise of clanking, of screaming, of steel hitting stone. A terrible discord. Then silence. Cold again. A saw? Cutting? Slicing? It must have been a butchery considering all the surgical work he was hearing. Like flesh was being stabbed through, cut open, flayed.

He stopped at last. Alestor scanned the room, his body felt cold. His rags of clothes flew gently through and he could see the cracks in the walls of the room, the wind blew through the small interstices and it sounded like a whisper, gentle-like. There were roman pillars on the floor, burst open and wounded on the shaft. They lay docile and in shards, like torn stems left to decay. Alestor scanned the lengthy room and found bodies all around. Some of them ancient, some of them new. They converged to some spot, away, beyond what Alestor could view and as Alestor stepped forward, he couldn’t help but think, I have come here in hope of wife and child, only to stand witness to this garden of war. 

This was not the promised land.

Round leather shields laid face down, raised at a bevel by stricken iron-beaked arrows. The swords were many and most were broken. They lay stabbed through the dirt or at a length on the floor. And Alestor got closer. He could feel grass beneath his feet, he saw the pillars and the bodies and the weapons victim to overgrowth. The very blood of the fallen fueling the invasion of nature, the roots and ivy and vines all strapping themselves and devouring the building. It was more violent the closer Alestor got to the end of the room. 

And then he saw the source of the sound of flesh-cutting. It was a man getting a spear removed from his cut open belly. It was that very same man giving his last pneumatic sigh, tottering off a hill of corpses. He fell, rolled, and lay by Alestor’s feet, with his heels twitching and broken on the floor. On his chest, four bleeding wide cuts. Alestor looked up, his eyes catching glimpses of the sullen faces of the dead piling the mound. And there at the top, with his spear drooling blood, there stood Astyanax. Smiling.

Nude, body completely pale, well-built. His face, gentle. Like a cherub. His hair flowed shoulder length, curly and snow-white. His lips and cheeks and nose and eyes, all gentle. And Alestor was overwhelmed for a moment, this androgynous nude beauty. 

Astyanax faced Alestor. His full member came to view, everything of him came to view. And Alestor noticed his arms, his legs, stained red. Not paint, not blood, a complete dyeing of the skin. He looked like a backward fox, this hound of war. The warrior laid down his spear and stood tall. And Alestor’s lips twitched, his face contorted as if all the many grievances were finally overcapacity in his patient mind, so much so that they burst out of him in one loud sonorous shout.

“Where is my family? Where is my heaven?” Alestor stomped the floor. His feet bled out. “There is nothing here. Nothing but desert, desert and time.”

The man stayed silent.

“You’re Astyanax, aren’t you?” He asked. 

Silence.

“Keep your promise, demon! I want my child and my son, I want my good heaven. I want what is deserved to be mine. I want what was taken.” The saliva was spitting out of his long-winded shouts. 

Astyanax studied him. He sniffed the air, looked to the two guards now coming closer with ready arms. He waved at them, they stopped and put their spears back to their side. Astyanax walked over to Alestor, stepping over the broken tangle of bodies. 

He put his hand on Alestor’s shoulder. His matched his nubile yellow eyes to Alestor's.

“I pity. What a terrible fate, to love so much, to lose so much. To live and die a pauper. I’m sorry,” Astyanax said. “But you have me confused.” 

“C-confused? Where is my wife-” Alestor stopped midway. He groaned and opened his mouth to scream. There was a sharp pain in his shoulder and he looked over. Astyanax was clasping it, biting deep with his hand, crushing his right shoulder blade into compressed bone dust. It made Alestor bend over. At that, Astyanax swept him across the legs with a kick. He fell on his side, face first and felt the blood leak down to his eye.

“Look at what you’ve done. You’ve forced me to rectify this behavior of yours.” Astyanax said. His face was dull, cold.“Who are you to speak to me? Who are you to stand equal to me? Who are you to demand? Who are you, son of man, for I am a monarch.”

Alestor sat curled and wincing.

“I am King Astyanax. Son of Hector, breaker of horses. Prince-heir to long-lost Troy. I am king and this is my domain. And who are you?” He kicked Alestor away, into a pillar. “You are just trash.”

He looked at the writhing man who twitched at the touch of the king.

“You’ve brought two Vicars here. Hunters of men like me, and for that, you have my thanks. This whole meeting stands as testimony to thanks and to the pity I have for you. So I give a piece of my abode, to hopefully give you peace in this land.” He put his red foot over Alestor’s abdomen. “But spit in my hand again and you will be fed to the dogs. That is my right and mine alone.” 

“M-my wife?” Alestor managed in between puking.

“You still persist? Then let me alleviate your suffering.” He smiled. “Your family is not here. You forfeited them long ago. Even I can’t save them.”

“Betrayer.” Alestor spat.

“Sure. This can be a conspiracy if you so desire, or a practical joke if it humors you. Either or can satiate that animosity in you. But make no mistake in your sad story, this is no tragedy. Tragedy belongs only to the noble and the strong, of which you are, neither.”

He walked past Alestor who cried and bemoaned and coughed dust. 

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