Bonus Story: Devil Children

on December 15, 2007 in Other Tales

Despite the myriad sounds of the wind and rain, despite being upstairs in her bed and mostly asleep, the old woman distinctly recognized the sound of the knock on her door, and she hurried to answer it. She opened the door to find a young man, face lined with anguish and worry. His pretty young wife stood behind him, carrying a figure wrapped in a blanket. They were doing their best to crowd onto the tiny front porch of the quaint little house on the hilly street.

“What’s happened?” she asked.

“He’s gotten worse,” the man said. “We made him take the potion you gave us last time, and he fell asleep.”

“I thought… I thought he’d get better,” the young woman said, blinking away tears mingled with rain. “He seemed to be getting better.”

“You were deceived,” the old woman said sternly. “It is a game it plays with you, to prolong its liberty. Let me see it.”

The man drew back. His wife started to turn away, shielding the blanket-wrapped bundle from the old woman with her body.

“Let me see,” she repeated.

The man gave his wife a look and, anguished, she obeyed, turning back and letting her husband shift the blanket to uncover the face of a young boy, six years old. His skin was waxy, and though he slept, his eyes were wide open… and the whites stained an inky black.

“Give him to John,” the old woman said, and after some hesitation, the mother complied, handing her burden to her husband. “Bring him inside,” she said. “Judith, you wait out here.”

“But the rain…” her husband protested.

“Will do her no harm. Perhaps it will have a purifying effect on her soul,” the old woman said. “Come.”

She led the way into the house, which was cluttered in an orderly sort of way with the knickknacks and bric-a-brac of an old woman’s life. The house was quaint, but maze-like and larger than it had first seemed, being set into the hill. They passed many closed doors, but stopped outside an open one.

“Kenzie! Basement!” the woman hissed, and the child threw off her bed clothes and jumped to her feet, skittering fearfully around the edges of three large wooden tubs of water. Mrs. Blaise held out a hand to pull John out of the way as the child Kenzie ran out of the bedroom and into another open door down the hall. Her grandmother hurried behind her, shutting the door and locking it.

“Is that necessary, Martha?” John asked.

“One bedeviled child under a roof is more than enough,” the old woman said. “Bring two demons together and they will join and do four times the evil.”

The man blanched.

“You mean… that was…”

“If I could exorcise the taint from her, I would,” the old woman muttered. “But there is only one way to remove a blood taint… and though the Dark Herald may drag me down for my selfishness, I cannot see my wicked daughter die a second time. Come. Enough of wasting time with foolishness.”

She brought John to another bedroom, bare except for a bed and the objects decorating its walls: holy symbols, the Egg of Khersis both alone and encircled by the Great Star Drake, the figure of Lord Khersis with outstretched Arms, the glowing, crown-like glyph of Khersis Dei. There was no carpet on the old, warped wooden floor, which was covered in old, rather more abstract symbols drawn in melted wax.

“Set it down there,” Martha Blaise said, pointing to the bed. “And bind it. Bind it well.”

“I don’t want to hurt him,” John protested, seeing the heavy metal cuffs chained to the bed’s metal frame.

“It is so we will not hurt him that you must bind the abomination,” Martha said. “I’ll go gather the necessary supplies.”

She returned in a minute, carrying an old, leather-bound Librum with a cracked spine, a temple bell, an arm full of candles, a censer, and several packets of dried herbs. John had just finished shackling the body of his only son.

“You can go now,” she said to John. “Take Judith home.”

“I’d like to stay… to help.”

“I have everything I need,” Martha said, holding up her tools. “Stay and you will be a weapon for the fiend to use against me.”

“How long will it take?” John said.

She considered.

“Come back in the morning,” she said. “At sun up. I’m not as young as I was. One way or another, it will be done.”

“You… you can save him?” the man asked. “Can’t you?”

“Your son is already saved,” Martha said. “Lord Khersis has already done the difficult part before you or I were ever dreamed of. All that I must do for your son is separate him from his tormentor before he is driven from that salvation.”

“Well… alright… if you’re sure,” John said, having taken the comfort he needed from the words.

“Take Judith home,” Martha Blaise said. “She needs you. It is her error that has let this evil into your lives and the world, but do not scorn her or judge her too harshly. It is written that to be a woman is to be a gateway for sin. It is so, even for myself.”

“No disrespect meant, Martha, but I think you read a different Librum than…”

“And so you become complicit in her evil,” Martha said, though she said this calmly as if she expected nothing else. “Go to her, John… and close the door behind you. You’ll be no help to me.”

He left without another word, closing the door as she had asked. When Martha heard the ancient front door of the house creaking open and then slamming shut, she threw the candle and other equipment into the corner as if it were nothing more than useless junk. The figure on the bed jerked awake at the sound. The black, bleak eyes swam about the room, rolling around in their sockets independently of each other, before coming to more or less fix–though still with a certain amount of unnatural movement–upon the figure of the old woman.

“Well, if it isn’t Old Nana Blaise,” the beast said, in a voice that was rheumy and scratched. “I had no idea I’d landed in this mortal shithole.”

Martha Blaise ignored the voice but began to pray in a quiet, confident voice. It was a prayer for strength and guidance, not a ritual of power.

“Pray for the good sense to walk away,” the demon said. “Pray I’ll be merciful if you let me go. Pray I’ll reward you if you release me from this body into my own form.”

She ignored it and finished her simple, straightforward prayer. She looked up, meeting those awful, unnaturally animated eyes.

“Look at you, Nana Blaise,” it said.

“Have we met before?” she asked.

“Maybe once or twice,” it said. “It must frustrate you to know that nothing you exorcise stays away forever.”

She smiled.

“Liar,” she said. “Deceiver. Yes, you know my name… you know it from your cohorts I’ve dealt with in the past. I have been exorcising demons for a decade now and I remember the aura of every one of your black kin I’ve dispatched.”

“You were past your prime a decade ago. You are old, Nana Blaise” the demon taunted. “Ever so much younger than me, but old in the way of a human. Your eyes are failing. Your knees are weak. It may be that you can drive me off my perch in this boy’s soul, but your will cannot take the strain.”

“My will?” the old woman said. She took a single step forward, staring unblinkingly into those terrible black eyes. “My will? My heart, the puny thing of fleshy strings which beats within my treacherous flesh just might give out… but my will is of the part of me which is everlasting. It shall not flag. It shall not fail.”

The demon laughed.

“What happens to you, if your host dies while you are within?” she asked.

The thing that was not a child laughed a sour, sickly laugh.

“Do not worry for my health, Nana Blaise,” it said. Rips began to appear in the visible skin… ugly, bloodless wounds exposing a sick black ichor beneath it in the moments before they healed. An unnatural rippling of the boy’s clothes showed the effect continued throughout his body. “Though I may test this poor body to the limits, I will not let this life or the purchase it gives me upon your world slip away from me so easily.”

What happens to you,” the old woman said as she stalked towards the bed, measuring each word slowly and carefully, “if your host dies while you are within?”

“If you are half the exorcist you pretend to be, you would know that I would be utterly destroyed,” the demon said. “But if it came to that, you would lose the child.”

With a speed surprising for one her age, Martha Blaise bent down and grabbed the possessed child’s hair with one hand while her other hand seized a knife from beneath the bed, which she pressed against the neck of the tormented child.

“In my time, I have released some poor souls to the joyous reunion within the All-Encompassing Arms,” she said, her breath surprisingly wet on the demon’s borrowed cheek for how dry her voice was. “But I’ve never once lost one.”

A stain spread across the front of the boy’s pajamas. The borrowed bladder had emptied itself. The demon-stained eyes stared–motionless–down at that site, as if that simple, all too human reaction terrified it beyond words.

“I am continuing the work of Lord Khersis, called Dei,” she said. “I can send you back–alive–to the black pit into which he banished your kind long ago, or I could end you utterly for the paltry cost of this boy’s finite mortal existence. It’s your choice, abomination. If I feel you fighting me, resisting the exorcism, I will end it, and then I… will… end it.”

John returned to the house alone the next morning, knocking on the door shortly before sun up. Martha brought his son to the door, naked and wrapped in the same blanket he’d been carried in.

“I’m sorry about that, John,” she said. “His jammies are in the wash, and I didn’t have anything suitable for a boy. If you’ll just wait…”

“I’ll take him now, thanks,” he said quickly, pulling his son to him. “We’ll send somebody back with the blanket.”

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9 Responses to “Bonus Story: Devil Children”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Coming from a long line of bloody minded religious fanatics and I find myself torn by the revulsion felt my humanist rationalism versus the smug righteous triumphalism of my instinctive tribalism.

    As the old Irish saying that still stirs my materialistic ego:
    “Where a Presbyterian Army marches, not a blade of grass will grow”

    Current score: 3
  2. MackSffrs says:

    A warrior in her own way.

    Current score: 0
  3. Erm says:

    And a warrior in the regular way, if the tales are true.

    Current score: 1
  4. Mugasofer says:

    Awesome. I assumed she was just some small-minded fundie, but no, she’s a granny-weatherwax-like baddass.

    Current score: 5
  5. Krey says:

    While she’s an AWFUL excuse for a parent, ESPECIALLY a grandparent, and a close minded fanatic; the fact remains that she is a TOTAL BADASS Demon Hunter.

    Current score: 8
  6. Anon says:

    The reverse side to a completely closed mind, to total certainty that your own flawed doctrine is absolute Truth, is that whenever you are actually working for good you are damned near unstoppable.

    This is a woman who is extraordinarily good at what she does.

    Educating or comforting children is not what she does.

    Current score: 11
  7. Laural H says:

    After reading more about Dragons and Will, this is even better. Blaise ain’t boasting.

    Current score: 0
  8. fedback says:

    Finaly de get to ser some of brimstone’s badassnes

    Current score: 0
  9. Lara says:

    That was awesome, in the true sense of the word.

    Current score: 0