Hell to Raise (Peregrine x Jackalope)

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  1. Hell to Raise


    “Is it another one?”

    There was something nibbling on his toe. All things considered, it was not an unpleasant sensation. Certainly, compared to all the aching in the rest of his body it was positively mild. Had he been in a mood to laugh, it would have tickled. Now, it was just a minor inconvenience, something to be accepted until it left of its own accord.

    That was, of course, until whatever it was bit down sharply, electing a yelp from him. He sat up, opening his eyes blearily, to look around him.

    “Certainly tastes human,” one of the imp-like creatures that had swarmed around him commented, spitting a blob of pale yellow mucus onto the ground before licking its lips.

    There was a moment of relative silence. The imps stopped moving, and the young man seated on the strange earth beneath him had a chance to think.

    The last clear memory that presented itself was him, Daniel Moray, ending another ridiculously stressful day by swallowing a couple of sleeping pills and heading on to bed, his long, light brown hair pony-tailed to keep it from tangling too badly while he slept. Now he could not have told you exactly where he was, but there was a fear building within him, a fear that he knew exactly where he was now.

    Right around him the world was consistent enough. Hard, black earth, tightly packed so that his fingernails could not easily claw into it. Grey plants of various shades growing up from the soil, and a sky the color of raw meat overhead. That,his brain could comprehend. But in the distance the borders of reality began to find together, joining up in ever more complicated patters until Dan felt like he was spinning, even though he knew he was holding still.

    He lifted up a hand, pressing it to his forehead, and the movement seemed to break the spell of quiet that surrounded him. In the distance a loud bang, similar to a crack of thunder. The imps stirred, before quickly turning their attention back to him.

    “Lets eat him,” one spat, hopping towards him on strange,double toed feet. Its mouth fell open, panting hungrily, and a long, ropy tongue fell out between razor sharp teeth. Dan kicked out wildly, desperate to get the thing away from him. The imp dodged the blow with ease, shook itself slightly, blinked at him, and then continued forward.

    The other imps,now completely convinced of Dan's inability to protect itself, closed in. They had hesitated before only briefly because they never knew what strange pranks one of the greater demons might want to pull on their wonderful selves, but their desire for human flesh was far too great for them to willingly resist the temptation for long.

    Dan kicked out again, scrabbling his way desperately onto his feet. He looked around, trying to find something, anything on which he could orient himself, but the swirls of eternity at the horizons were all that greeted him. But he could not stay here. The imps were closing in ever faster, tickled pink by his continued inability to resist. He aimed one last kick, this one barely clipping the edge of one imp's shoulder, before turning around and running at random towards the horizon.

    If it wasn't for the coming and going of the plant-like things that surrounded him, Dan would never have known that he was making any progress. The horizon did not change, and nothing seemed to be drawing any closer. The imps chased happily at his heels, snapping and yapping like dogs, more than willing to play with their food a little bit before devouring it.

    His breath was starting to come in gasps, he didn't know how much longer he could keep running before he was forced by his own body to come to a halt. Even the adrenalin and fear of the situation was not enough to keep him moving forever, and the imps hung behind him, seemingly untiring.

    Dan was saved, in the end, by pure luck. Something began to grow on the horizon. Whatever it was, it was moving. It was lean and thin and tall, with something long clasped firmly in one hand. He didn' tknow whether to shout at the figure or not. It was doubtful that anything in this place was particularly helpful, but if he turned aside he would never know what he might have missed.

    Ultimately, he decided it was better to die quickly at the hands of some cruel beast, than be nicked and torn apart by the imps.

    “Help!” he screamed louldly, lifting his hands over his head and waving them wildly, even as he continued running, trying desperately not to trip over the plants that seemed to rise up from nowhere. The figure turned to face him ans was still for only a moment, before it began to run as quickly in Dan's direction as he was in its.

    Finally, the figure resolved itself before his eyes, and Dan nearly cried out with relief. Human. The figure was human. There was a fierce look on the man's face, but his eyes were darting about, clearly trying to see whatever it was from which Dan was fleeing.

    The imps slowed a bit, threw glances at each other, before turning aside and leaving Dan to complete the rest of the journey to the stranger unhindered. Dealing with a new human was all well and good, but those who had lived here for a time were an entirely different species. Even three imps might not be enough to take one of them down.

    “Th... thank you,” Dan managed, bent nearly double as he heaved in massive gasps of air. The stranger eyed him cautiously, before planting the butt of his spear on the black earth.

    “Well,” he said harshly. “Who did you piss off?”

    “I don't...”

    “Don't play games. Everyone knows that the only way for a person to wind up in the Demon Realms is to be sent here by another person. I don't care how innocent you think you are. If you are a murderer, rapist, or stalker, we don't want to have anything to do with you.”

    “I'm not”

    “Then what did you do?”

    “I... I don't know.”

    “Nonsense. The person who sent you down here had to give his or her soul to the Portalmasters for all eternity to get you here. People don't go doing that kind of thing for no reason.”

    Dan shook his head, still gasping. His worst fear was confirmed. He was in the Demon Realm, a place from which there was no return. He was trapped here for the rest of his life, which was almost certain to be abysmally short. There were rules to keep demons in check on earth, but down here all bets were off. Who could he have possibly angered enough to have them send him down here? His boss was far too selfish to ever trade his own soul for anything, no matter how much he might be mad at Dan. He and his ex-wife had parted on mostly agreeable terms,both of them acknowledging that they had rushed into getting married, and were hardly ready for the commitments that came along with it. He'd only had sex with the woman at the bar for one night. There had been no missed signals there, he was certain.

    “I don't know...” he was forced to repeat, this one far more lost and broken than his last, gasping reply.

    “...Fine,” the stranger was forced to acknowledge. “But one false move and you are back out here on your own, understood?”

    Dan nodded, straightening up.

    “Fine. I'm Brian. Good enough to meet you, I suppose.”

    “Dan,” Dan replied, a small smile spreading over his face despite the uncertainty of the situation. “And thank you again.
  2. For most the nauseating twist of hell's horizon--that mangled mixture of greys and reds--was a sign of horrors to come and nightmares behind. For the demons that lived there it was mostly neutral ground--it was home and a breeding ground, a place for beginnings and endings where the only thing that really mattered was how big and strong you got and where your place in the hierarchy laid. Sometimes, however, the set laws of how Hell was perceived were warped, changed with time or with experience into something deeper and occasionally meaningful. Xiuhcoatl had lived in hell for many thousands of years. He was one of hundreds of demons spawned in the time of the Aztec, bred and raised to serve as gods and hellions to that people, but unlike many of his kind who had dipped and died, Xiuhcoatl had thrived in the fall of the his mother culture.

    Male was his general gender--the gender he had been perceived as in the mortal world when he was young and feral, a streak of dark flesh and flaming hide that had haunted the jungles at the dip of the day when the sky turned red--and it was as a male that he had strode confidently into the top leagues of hell's hierarchy, blazing eyes glowing with the strength of a bleeding sun and his shoulders back with confidence and pride. He had taken hell by storm after dropping purposeless into its cavern when the life blood of his mother had lessened to a drip, his fearless nature and bold voice taking him higher and higher along Hell's social ladders. Eventually--after many centuries--he was in place of power and strength, one of many (and yet few) demons who served as dignitaries and advisers to the devil himself.

    Admittedly the job of an adviser to Hell was...a less than necessary job and therefore in congruence with the nature of hell, a completely lucrative and very luxurious position to be in. It was just about as high as any demon could get without overtaking the King of Hell, but Xiuhcoatl's nature was to be unsatisfied and he broiled, hungry for more. In fact, he was on the very breach of getting all he ever wanted, locked in as one of few heirs to the King at the time when a slippery snake of a devil--a princeling barely by blood (a concubine's illegitimate child that had been supposedly by the past King)--stepped up and publicly murdered the King, ripping out his heart moments before Xiuhcoatl planned to do the deed himself, and without hesitation, Xihucoatl was out and Steve was in. STEVE: King of Hell.

    To say that Xiuhcoatl was infuriated was putting it nicely. He was, in fact, so completely engulfed by his own fury that he lost his chance to turn the tables and, as apparently Steve was not as fucking dumb as he looked, Xiuhcoatl was jumped by the entirety of the "royal guard", forced into a collar and manacles to restrict his powers, and for the next thousand years he was dragged to the very outskirts of hell and left there. Of course the moment he was given the slightest chance he killed his escorts and devoured their flesh--as was only proper--and then stewed like a petulant child at brink to the mortal world for a couple decades. Eventually he got over it--and raiding the mortal world helped; virgin blood soothed the soul very nicely--and as his powers began to build again, he started out on his journey.

    That was roughly 999 years ago and Xiuhcoatl has grown. His power level is almost to what it was before he was manacled, and while the heavy metals remain upon his wrists and neck, he will be at full strength upon reaching the castle and if he's lucky enough to weasel his way out of his restraints, hell will be his for the taking. There are, of course, a few complications to overcome. King Steve, the King of Will-Have-A-Smashed-Face-So-Much-Smashed-Face is perhaps--and Xiuhcoatl is loathe to admit it--the cleverest royal that Hell has had since the first ruled and, subsequently, called everyone idiotic pieces of shit and ironically went back to Heaven. This King has put in new laws, using his traditional right to change the way the next King is chosen to one-up all of predecessors. Most of the time they simply up the ante of how difficult (or ridiculous) it will be in order to lengthen their reign, often going to extremely insane measures to create an overly complicated or outright silly scenario: "Must unicycle up the castle walls and cut off the King's head with a rusted band saw." "Must seek out and carry every half-demon in the registry to the throne room and balance upon a stairwell while shooting the King to death with a potato gun." "Must be intricately involved in the social life and etiquette of the Hellion elite and be chosen as one of five worthwhile candidates by a jury of your peers and then kill the King in a public setting by ripping out his heart or be a blood relative to a proven Royal and kill the King in a public setting by ripping out his heart" Etc and so forth.

    Steve, however, did something completely unexpected. The only thing he wrote, his long nails dipped in his own blood and his script flowing and clear, were these three words:

    Must be Human."

    Xiuhcoatl had no misgivings at the brilliance of this move--no human had ever survived long enough in Hell to even
    reach the castle, and the ones who survived at all did so by clustering close together. Too close to be able to get to the King without going unnoticed. Even if they did reach a close enough proximity they would be slaughtered by any demon or hellion near. For a mortal to reach the King and claim their right to the royal role they would have to be escorted by a damn near powerful demon themselves, and even then any that had been in hell for very long would have been informed of the laws--even the royal one. They would know off the bat that, almost as soon as they took rule that a demon would be itching to fulfill whatever law they put in place for their replacement. This had been a problem for Xiuhcoatl for many many years, and it remained one even currently as he strode across the endless desert of Hell, set into the shape of a four-limbed monstrosity for better ease while travelling.

    Seven sets of eyes studied the horizon as the creature walked, its long forelegs pulling it effortlessly along while it shorter back end gave it a continuous, powerful push. Its jaws were short for the size of the animal, almost all of its teeth on the outside of its mouth and its slim, angular ears dipped backwards against its neck. Heavy, thoughtful breaths echoed from between two sets of nostrils in tandem and while Xiuhcoatl was lost in his own mind, the continuous clinging of his manacles keeping his subconscious aware of his steady pace, the scent of humanity made him pause automatically, all fourteen of his eyes snapping to attention from their various places along his skull, neck, and shoulders. His ears twitched as he straightened up, opening his heavy maw wide enough to allow the electrical sensors on the top of his mouth to get a register on what he was smelling, and his striped tongue fell out for better clarity, the black and white colors of it standing stark and bright against his deeply rusted color.

    He shut his mouth with a thoughtful slurp of his tongue, snuffling to himself as he cataloged the scents, and he had just started to move again when the buzzing shapes of the imps came into view, their scattered talking and animated vocalizations drawing him to them with a snap of his neck. He was on them in an instant, barreling towards them at a speed they would never possess, and after knocking one of them to the side in a powerful bat of one clawed foreleg in a motion that snapped the creature's neck immediately, he leaped to the side and landed on another, a heavy paw capturing the last by its greasy tail. It chattered terrified nonsense at him but Xiuhcoatl ignored it, purring out a low rumble that rattled in his chest and made the thin membranes over his lungs shiver and glow a deep, sunset red. He rested more of his weight onto the demon's tail as he hummed to himself, thoughtfully inspecting the claws of his free paw as he finally spoke in that easy, calm, volcanic rumbling voice.

    "Oh don't wiggle so much, hmm? I only want to chat." Three of his eyes rolled lazily to the imp who, hearing his voice and finally taking note of his manacles, had frozen in place with recognition. Wisely it kept its mouth shut tight, eyes as wide as they would go in its ugly skull and ears dipped as low as they could. "Ah, there we are. Much nicer when you are still, isn't it?" He gave a shadow of a grin, difficult when all his teeth were permanently on display, and his eyes wandered away back to the horizon, "Now. Why don't you tell me a little bit about what you're so upset about."


    The imp was dead--he and his fellows' skulls crushed and destroyed to a point where not even demons gifted with touch-know would be able to pick memories from their brains--by the time that Xiuhcoatl was heading to the human village. There was a bounce in his step now, a sort of rattling eagerness that vibrated in his bones and made him hurry his pace. A new human--untaught and untouched--had come into their world. This was his chance--this was his opportunity to overtake Steve and he could have it all in less than a year if he played his cards right. But first, he had to get rid of those other humans. There would be no manipulating the new one if the old ones got a word in edgewise, and Xiuhcoatl had no intention of allowing that.

    He was blazing by the time he reached the village, the splendor of his Aztecan form in full force and he set the horizon aflame before he began his assault, marking the sky with a signature none of these mortals would be old enough to recognize but that would warn off others--warn them that this was now his territory and he would devour any who came too close. The rich reds of Hell danced with the blood of his sunset and he grinned, all of his teeth black as pitch against the fires of his mantle, as he howled his war song before he leaped into the charge and fell upon the village.

    [[ Way I figure it is you can either assume that the village is destroyed or I can destroy it in the next post if you'd prefer. =] Either way works well for me, but with this getting as long as it has I figured it would be better to stop before it became a novel. xD

    Sorry it took so long, also. Xiuhcoatl was not a cooperative fellow and it took a good five different versions of him before he came to life. ]]
  3. The walk with Brian was remarkably awkward. It shouldn’t have been possible, given the situation, but it still was. It was clear that Brian had no desire to talk, and Dan was not about to break the silence with any form of conversation. No matter how many questions he might have.

    Everything about Brian spoke of a long-term survivor. His clothes from earth had fallen away long ago, to be replaced with some indefinable leather-like substance that Dan didn’t really want to think about. Scars covered his body, many of them faint silver lines, but some were masses that raced along his skin, horribly disfiguring it. His hair was silver, and hacked away unevenly, while his beard was mostly untended. The only part of him that still retained a hint of beauty was his eyes, which were a startling shade of blue. But even they were cold and distant, flicking constantly from point to point as he looked for any threat on the horizon.

    As he studied himself in contrast, Dan felt a small shiver race up his back. He wasn’t fit, even if he wasn’t fat. He lacked coordination, and had to keep his eyes almost constantly trained on the ground to keep from tripping up on the strange plants and rocks that littered the ground. Even if the imps hadn’t found him, it was doubtful that he would have survived alone in this waste for very long. But he was not one to spit in the hand of lady luck.

    The village arrived suddenly and unexpectedly on the horizon, so much so that, when Dan finally spotted it, he stopped immediately and almost took a step back. It was as though there was some kind of veil that had separated him from the walls of the strange little village, until he stepped past the curtain and it jumped out at him. Brian continued moving, not even the smallest bit of hesitation in his step, and Dan was forced to jog to catch back up.

    They passed through the walls of the city, and Dan felt his gut churn slowly. The wall was a strange concoction, but it didn’t take him much to recognize that the mud had been wetted by blood, and reinforced by bone. He gagged slightly, just as Brian turned around.

    “Welcome to Hell,” was all he said, his face fierce. “If you can’t handle that, you won’t last long.”

    It was like walking into a village made of ghosts that had been turned back to flesh. Every single one of the people Dan looked at appeared to be missing something. Some indefinable something that made living people feel alive. These were the survivors, the people who had managed to last in hell. They were those who came the closest to the demons, was all he could think.

    They eyed Dan carefully, subtly, hungrily. Bodies in their village were in short supply, and this was a place in which it would be impossible to raise a child. They could only ever rely on those who were dropped in from the upper world, and many of those people were ones who were far, far better suited to hell than to earth. Murderers, rapists, torturers, abusers, they were the ones who got sent to hell. Or those people who were falsely suspected.

    A woman stood up from where she was working and walked over towards Dan and Brian. In many ways it was nearly impossible to tell the women from the men. All of them were harsh and scarred. They were not taken care of any more than anyone else was cared for. They had to do their work, or they would starve or die. That made them hard. Hard and scarred. If it wasn’t for the lack of a beard on her face, and the slight swell beneath her shoulders and on her hips Dan would never have guessed she was a girl.

    Was this the fate to which he was destined? Was he going to become one of these hard people, forever fighting for even the smallest scrap of what this strange, impossible life had to offer them? Or was he going to die? Was there any other solution?

    The woman hardly seemed to acknowledge Brian, but latched onto Dan’s forearm with a grasp like iron. He didn’t even try to resist as she pulled him away, as he had no doubt that she could drag him to wherever she was going whether he wanted to go or not.

    She settled him in one of the small huts. The place reeked of sweat, urine, blood and feces, and Dan nearly gagged again. When he felt the gorge in the back of his throat he forced himself to swallow. Looking at these people was more than enough of a reason to save whatever small bits of nutrients were still in his body. He would regret puking later.

    It seemed that there was no way to tell time in hell, for the sky changed undefinably, and hardly seemed to cycle in any logical pattern. And it always maintained the bright half-light to which Dan had awoken. Nonetheless, the village had a definite rhythm, measured off the internal clocks of the people within the village who had not forgotten what it meant to have a sun in the sky. The people from all over the world rose and set with their own minds, ensuring that the place was never left unguarded.

    The whole village was centered around a fire, over which hung a massive pot that Dan eventually realized was the cranium of some ancient beast. Within it a small quantity of broth was kept continually bubbling, and anyone who brought back anything that could possibly be considered edible or potable added it to the broth. It rose and fell as the people came back and ate, but it was always a strange mess of liquid. It was disgusting, but it was the only form of nutrients in the place. There was no water, no other food. It was the heart of the village, because it was the only thing that kept them alive.

    Brian disappeared long before Dan would have gotten a chance to talk to him again, but there was hardly any difference between him and the rest of the people in the village. They were all the silent, brooding type, and they quickly put Dan to work doing whatever they could find for him around the village. It quickly became clear that they were going to keep him securely in the walls just long enough to teach him a little bit about what was edible and what was deadly, and, perhaps most importantly, how he could protect himself from all of the things out there that were deadly.

    As soon as they had ascertained that he had a satisfactory knowledge, he would be released. If he didn’t come back, no one would mourn his passing. That wasn’t the way this place would work. he would not be mourned until he proved himself a valuable contributor, and if he did not come back at that point they would be mourning the loss of resources far more than they would be mourning the loss of him as a person.

    It was a cold, harsh reality, and one that hardly seemed worth living. Yet everyone here clung to life because it burned within them still. That brightness was tempting, alluring, and entirely impossible to give up.

    Dan would fight, just like everyone here. He would turn into one of these hard people, and live for as long as he could possibly cling to life. Because that was the path down which they were going to guide him. That was what life demanded.

    Dan knew something was wrong only moments after everyone else in the village did, but it wasn’t because of any sixth sense he had for danger. The village was always moving, for there was always something to be done. First the movement on the walls stopped, and then everyone else was looking, every muscle in their bodies frozen. Dan followed their gazes to the horizon, and he felt his heart skip a beat. It was stained the color of blood, as though something coming from the distance was throwing up its own sky to block out the swirling fractals of the horizon. And then came the howl, and Dan’s heart no longer needed to skip a beat, for it must have stopped entirely.

    The villagers moved with a quiet, certain efficiency, every single one of them reaching to the makeshift weapons that were never far. They had repulsed attacks before; no demon was ever content to leave a gathering of humans such as this alone. They would repulse this one as well.Their lives depended upon it. Some would be lost, it was an inevitable conclusion of combat. They would be added to the stew, even their deaths finding some way to serve the village.

    The man who had been tending the stew turned to Dan, nodding his head towards the back of the village. He was new. He would not be expected to fight. Not this time.

    Dan was not ashamed to say that he fled as the rest of the villagers approached the wall. He was not a fighter. Fleeing was all that would be expected of him.
  4. There was something striking about the ingenuity of humans, about the way they would wheedle their way through tiny cracks in their fates to carve a living for themselves out of death itself. Dimly he recognized this strength even as his legs powered him along, each of his eight limbs cycling in a smooth motion that paused only for him to lean onto four haunches and leap onto the wall. He perched here for a long moment, arching his long neck and digging his heavy claws into the clay and biological material beneath him as he reflected on the deed he was the commit and the ferocity of the mortals below him. Centuries only made humans scrappier, he thought to himself, his teeth glistening sharp and pleased in a grin that stretched his maw, but it would never be enough. Fate would allow them to scrape along for only so long before she caught up with them...and today it was his luck to strike a final blow on the skulls of the men and women who had cast sin upon themselves...if only by wandering too far.

    The metal of his shackles gleamed as the demon leaned back and cackled, shaking his mantle and raising his hackles in a burst of fire as he spread the first of his legs, stretching his paws wide and letting their talons glow with his fire--a last consideration for those he set to kill, to see that which would bring their deaths--before with a snap of motion he descended into the village and the battle commenced.


    The first fell quickly--easily. His speed was unexpected for his size, his long form stretching and squashing at will as he weaved through the front line and fell upon those not so quick to arrive, and it allowed him to spill the first blood, dragging one corpse along with him with her throat opened raw between his teeth. The second was unlucky, caught in the trample of bodies moving out of Xiuhcoatl's immediate reach and crushed by the weight of the demon as he pursued, the crunch of ribs and skull barely even registering in Xiuhcoatl's mind as he dropped the first corpse and dove towards the mass of clustered humans. The others were not so easily caught, fighting back with the skill of those who have survived on the grit of Hell, and Xiuhcoatl's velvet hide was split by the time he barreled into a third, catching him by the ankle with one long talon and breaking his spine with the impact of the demon's rock hard skull.

    His blood flowed slowly as he turned on the group again, his tail lashing behind him in amusement and all teeth on display as his mantle twitched with birdlike amusement, the fiery hairs contorting to a more feather-like arrangement as he trilled at the humans. The sound was awkwardly between an equine's bugle and a leopard's scream, loud enough to make some of the more sensitive of the group wince or clap a hand to their ears, and it was to those that he charged, nostrils flaring wide to show the inferno of his interior and a second set of eyes opening between the two glowing orifices. Just as he reached the group, however, hide littered with a volley of makeshift arrows and a spear inches from his head, the demon changed his direction and crashed into a different cluster of people, his howling laughter echoing as he slashed and crushed everything in reach.


    Humans, Xiuhcoatl admitted with heavy breaths as he stood in the middle of the destruction, legs spread out to better support him and tongue lolling heavily out of his mouth, were surprisingly difficult prey when they were experienced. He had won--as far as he could tell, anyways, the only living scent in his nostril was the one that still smelled of Earth--but he had had a much more trying time of it than he had originally believed and was far more injured than he would willingly admit. Thick, glowing lines of blood trailed from various parts of his body, the lava-like substance flowing steadily to pool around his ankles and puddle at his feet, fueled by several large gashes that could prove fatal if he weren't careful. Absently he began to make note of his various injuries, marking off an entirely missing ear, a punctured lung, at least three broken bones, and a cut tendon in one leg as his most dramatic, but blood loss as his most threatening.

    The demon hissed at the thought, his face scrunching up and a particularly nasty cut making itself better known from across one glazed eye. He swiped at it with the cleanest of his paws, trying to wipe the blood away from his useless eye, but it wasn't much of a success and he gave up with a harrumph a moment later, shaking his entire body and sending hissing droplets of molten goo flying. Well there was nothing for it, he mused with distaste as he finally set himself to moving, his shaking steps belittling the triumph he should be feeling. He would heal quickly with the abundance of corpses to feed off of, and if it meant making his job of procuring his little human pet a bit slower, well...he would have to manage. He nodded to himself, the fire of his mantle dimming as he began to recycle the release of his power to maintain his remaining stamina, and began to head towards the gate to the wall where one of the first bodies lay. It was only a few steps in that direction, however, that he actually found himself destabilized, the extra sets of legs the only thing that kept him upright as three of his limbs gave out.

    Xiuhcoatl trembled, eyes closing against an unfamiliar pain, and he gave a long sigh of displeasure, realizing suddenly and unhappily that he might be in more trouble than he thought. He swallowed thickly, and his remaining ear twitched, swinging backwards to where he could still barely hear the heartbeat of his prize. He listened for a moment, and an idea began to form. Absently his tongue swiped over his chops and he gave the shadow of a grin as he sidetracked towards where the majority of the bodies had fallen, gingerly moving with as much haste as he could manage. It would not be long before the human ventured out of his hiding place and Xiuhcoatl could not risk being seen in this.

    There was still enough power in his muscles to roll the bodies off of one of the ones near the bottom, an older man who had fought hard and whose death had been the turning point in Xihucoatl's favor. Wasting no time, the demon sat back onto his haunches, careful to favor his injured legs as his middle legs moved forwards, talons digging into the body and cracking the chest cavity. He leaned down and devoured the heart with no premise, swallowing the thick organ in one smooth motion and closing his eyes to concentrate on the lump of flesh as it moved visibly down his throat. Once it was secure and he was no longer in a threat of being choked, Xiuhcoatl rose to his feet and limped to a completely different part of the village, still remaining with the bodies but not close enough to be compared to the opened corpse. There he dropped into an unceremonious heap, breathing steadily (if a bit hastily) as he closed his eyes and concentrated on the change.


    By the time Dan ventured out of his hide away, there would be no demon to be seen, only a village full of bodies with only one, shaky survivor. She laid on her side, breathing heavily with her heart thundering away in its attempts to keep her alive, her body trembling with a broken leg awkwardly tucked beneath her and a bright, bloody patch standing stark against her pale hair where her left ear should have been.

    Xiuhcoatl grinned to himself as he fit into the role, the fire in his eyes the last thing to fade away, replaced with one panicked grey iris, and he gave a quiet sob, biting her lip as though the sound had escaped her unbidden, before she curled her fingers, grasping at dirt that stood stark against the miniaturized manacles on her wrists.
  5. Daniel barely made it to the hut where the woman had taken him before the massacre began. He practically dove into the shelter, landing heavily on the ground. The place was bare and empty except for a sleeping roll and an empty rack for weapons.

    Out by the gate there was a scream, something that seemed to tear through his skull and sent a shiver down his back. Someone was dead. Someone had succumbed to whatever monster was out there. Someone like Brian, who had seemed so strong to him moments ago, snuffed out in an instant.

    He scrambled towards the back of the shelter, shaking violently. He couldn’t think of anything, nothing except ‘make it stop, make it stop,’ over and over in his head, on loop, almost as though the thought alone would be enough to drive out the noise of the fight that tore through the air as their spears would tear through flesh.

    He managed to back himself into the corner, and a scream escaped his lips when his back ran into the wall. He looked behind him, his heart loud enough to briefly drive out the sound of the fight, but the moment he realized what exactly he had run into his mind went back to the battle, to the horrible images that the cry of the battle created in his mind.

    His knees curled in close to his chest, his elbows squeezing tight against them as his palms pressed against the side of his head. In an instant his arms began to ache from the pressure, but he only squeezed all the harder. Unconsciously he began to rock as he tried to focus on the sound of his own body humming within his ears, but it seemed the more he paid attention to what he was hearing, the more he heard what he was trying not to hear.

    The snap of bone, a wet, meaty thud, screams, shrieks, battle cries, sobs from the fallen. The only thing that was missing was the silence of the dead, but that pitiful cry could not yet be noticed.

    Slowly Dan lost all track of time. He sat there, shivering and shuddering, lost as he waited for things to come to an end.

    And, finally, silence came to reign. It took him nearly five minutes before he was able to acknowledge it, and another five before he was finally able to uncurl from his fetal position. But, once he moved, he was seized by the need to do something. He could not fight, but the battle was over. He was terrified to go out there, but he could not stay here cowering any longer.

    He stood shakily, his legs quivering underneath him, breath coming in short, spasmodic bursts. Slowly he worked his way over to the doorway and peered carefully up and down the street of the village.

    He had thought there would be some sort of noise, crying or moaning, or whispered promises of survival, but the whole place was as silent as the grave. Even after a battle these people were not wont to make unnecessary noise.

    When he finally rounded the corner to see the gate, the sight hit him like a wall. He dropped to his knees, only to notice that he was sitting in a pool of someone else’s blood. Just to his left a man lay crumpled, his head two feet away from the body. The eyes were nothing but a massive ball of goo sitting in a small crevice. His tongue hung listlessly out of his mouth. Now Dan could no longer keep his gorge under control, and he bent forward, heaving violently.

    Where were the survivors? He glanced over towards the stew, the giant pot miraculously untouched even after the fight. Everyone in the field was as still as death.

    No. Not everyone. Dan scrambled to his feet again, trying to ignore the blood and bile that now covered his clothes and shoes. Someone was still breathing. One person, a young woman with hair that, even through the layers of dirt, shone with the color of honey. Her leg was twisted at an odd angle, and her whole body was covered with smaller wounds.

    Dan collapsed next to her, still quivering. He stared at her limp form, desperately trying to assess the damage done to her. What was he thinking? He had no medical training, had not even been a member of boy scouts. There was no clean water here with which he could clean her wounds, no form of antiseptic, probably not even a clean towel with which he could remove the dirt from her wounds. She was going to die, and there was nothing he could do about it.

    All the same, after another couple minutes of panic, Dan began to move, almost unconsciously. He took a hold on her shoulders, wrapping his arms around her chest, before hauling her up over his shoulders in something unconsciously similar to a fireman’s carry. He stumbled his way over to the hut near the stew pot, where all of the supplies were kept, panting under his weight but completely determined not to drop her. He placed his feet carefully, stepping over the stray limbs and bodies as though they were nothing more than logs or rocks.

    Finally he was able to lay her out on the rock-like surface that made up the bottom of the small hut. Once he ascertained that she was still breathing he raced away, checking hut after hut for anything that could be of any use. He carried three different sleeping rolls back towards her, as well as a pair of tattered clothes that looked cleaner than anything else he had seen so far.

    After he settled her on the three beds, the closest thing he could think of to comfort, he ripped up the clothes into long strips. Breathing faintly he stared at her wounds, at the dark, crust like dirt that coated each wound, before letting out a small moan.

    Outside the hut, he relieved himself on one of the pieces of fabric, before going back in and washing them clean as carefully as he could. Once that was done he bandaged them with the remaining scraps, and then fetched a bowl of stew from the vile pot.

    His eyes kept flicking towards her leg, but he did not know what to do for that. He would have to wait for her to wake up, and pray that she would be in a condition to tell him what to do.
  6. Xiuhcoatl wasn't aware she had fallen unconscious until she woke up, her body filled with the deep ache of internal wounds, and she hissed at the stinging burn of the hundreds of open cuts on her skin, rolling onto her back with a muffled curse. She had forgotten how much pain hurt when the adrenaline wore off and the rich meat of a stolen heart ceased to feed her body's attempts to heal, and it was not something she was eager to be reminded of. A pretty face scrunched up as she muttered insults and curses to the high winds, unconsciously keeping her mutters quiet enough to be unintelligible (and at least somewhat human sounding), until her conscious brain caught up and she snapped her mouth shut entirely, letting out a breath of hot air through her nose.

    It would serve her right to break her cover by cursing like some sailor-mouthed phantasm.
    How unprofessional.

    The demon took a long breath, forcing herself to prioritize and casually shuffling away "mortal pain" under "things I don't care about" as soon as she was sure she wasn't in any actual danger anymore. Perhaps the impromptu nap was the better option anyways--her target had clearly taken to lugging her around and dressing her worst injuries; that much she could tell from the scent in the air (humans are so gross; ew). The ground beneath her was different as well--cooler and somewhat cleaner, so she was betting on the inside of a hut--and...hmm she wasn't alone.
    Quietly, Xiuhcoatl lifted an arm, rubbing a hand over her face and resting her forearm over her eyes for a moment, full lips pursed as she thought before she let the limb flop to the side, opening her eyes slowly. Bright yellow irises stared up at the hut's roof for a moment, but by the time she slid her gaze towards Dan, the color was a much more natural golden hazel. She frowned slightly, eyes subtly narrowing as she looked him over, mocking confusion at seeing him before she let out a quiet huff of a sound and turned her head fully to face him.

    "Everybody else dead?" She rasped, immediately licking her lips and scrunching her face at the dry texture of her tongue. Like ash in her mouth. "Actually, don't answer that." Eyes closed as she pretended to suffer a brief moment of loss, a quiet acceptance of the death she knew was just outside the door (because she had caused it, har har) that only lasted just long enough to be acceptable for such a hardy folk before she breathed out her mouth and moved to sit up, face scrunching in pain at the action. Some jackass had definitely collapsed one of her lungs. If she didn't know for a fact that every possible culprit was splattered around outside, she would definitely splatter him now.

    Unfortunately for dear old Dan, collapsed lungs didn't really mean a whole lot to a creature that could heal a lost head if it had enough energy, and so as soon as she felt stable enough to be sitting up, she wheeled on him again, looking much more under control as she stared at him with faint accusation. He had lived. They had died. Although let's face it, in reality Xiuhcoatl was bouncing with glee at how this was going--the little human was fairly sturdy looking and clearly no demon had laid so much as a scratch on him first. Demon Throne, here Xiuh comes. Xiuhcoatl opened her mouth, about to ask how the newcomer hadn't become canned food for the devil dog, but the rude comment was stopped with a curt snap of her jaw and a purse of lips and she turned instead, closing her eyes in a steadying motion. "...thank you."

    She finally muttered, glancing away as though being grateful hurt ( which, she would assure, it hurt to even pretend ) more than near death, before she adjusted her position again and glanced towards her leg with a scrunched face and a wince. "Can you uhm...." A swallow and she gestured loosely to her leg, "Grab my ankle and hold on, please. I need to straighten it."
  7. Dan had nearly fallen asleep as his own adrenalin faded, leaving him far more weary than he could ever remember being before this moment. His eyes kept drifting closed, and he would force them open, shaking his head from side to side, hoping that the motion would get his heart pumping and bring a little bit of energy back into his limbs. Fear kept him from ever truly falling asleep. The images of the dead littering the field would not leave his mind, nor would the imaginings of what could possibly have done that to so many trained warriors, and then just walk away from the battle. But somewhere along the line his brain stopped processing the passage of time, and he remained, vacant but aware.

    A sudden bout of unintelligible swearing rocketed him from his state of oblivion. Dan sat up suddenly, his hair flying into his face. He pushed it out of the way rapidly, briefly longed for a ponytail holder, before every thought other than concern for the woman faded from his mind. He moved towards her hesitantly, uncertain how she was going to react when she realized what exactly had happened.

    In some ways, her cold pragmatism shocked him as much as anything he had seen so far in hell. The woman had just lost everything she had known, the only form of security that could be found in this absurd world, every person who had even a shred of concern for her well-being. He had expected tears, panic, confusion, any of the signs of someone suffering from a massive trauma. Instead he got a cold, straight-faced... demon. Suddenly Dan remembered that every person who was in hell had been sent here by someone else, and that most of them were abhorrent criminals, demons in human forms that were practically just coming home.

    But Brian had watched him with a careful eye from the moment they had met, and he couldn't believe that someone who truly didn't care for the well-being of anyone other than themselves would not be able to remain in this village for very long. She was in shock, and more than likely she had faced an unbelievable number of tragedies in the past. Maybe this was just one more on the list.

    "You are welcome," he replied, his voice stained with sympathy. Did she forgive him for not dying with the rest of the village, trying to fight whatever abhorrent monster had massacred so many people. No one among them could be called innocent; Dan fully understood that. But their lives had already been ripped away from them once when they were sent to hell, and now they had truly been taken from them. Who knew if they were free and safe now. Maybe all souls went to heaven. Maybe there was only oblivion waiting for them.

    Her second comment drove him out of his musings, out of the comfort of his own brain and back into the pains of the real world. Most notably, her pain. Dan's eyes flitted to her leg, and he bit his lip unconsciously. He could feel the pressure of his gorge in the back of his throat, but there was nothing left for him to puke anymore. Slowly he nodded, before moving towards her. His hand was shaking as he tried to reach out, and he recoiled for a moment, his hand balling into a fist. There was no way she was going anywhere with her leg in that state, and Dan certainly wasn't going to be able to care for her. At the very least, his own survival was now perfectly bonded to hers. With that not particularly reassuring thought and a hasty swallow, he reached out, fingers closing tightly around her ankle. He tried to steel his heart and mind, knowing that whatever was to come now, it would not be pretty.
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