Moloch landed gently on the eastern balcony, using a simple spell to unlock the so-called French doors. It was a room not often used, but her servants made sure it was well kept for her few ‘guests’- those she wished to break to her will, but not destroy. The room itself was quite comfortable- a large canopied bed done in varying shades of blue, with sky blue painted walls and a midnight plush carpet. A small stand stood next to the bed, as well as a wardrobe with men’s clothing. Women stayed in another room. A washstand stood in one corner, and a table with two chairs and a desk occupied the rest of the space. A private bathing chamber opened up from the south wall, and the west wall led into the manor itself. A golden tassel hung from the ceiling, allowing one to ‘ring’ for servants.

Moloch placed Morris, who was still unconscious and would be for quite a while, on the bed. Taking her human guise once more, she sent out a mental call for servants, whom responded immediately and began to take care of the matters of dressing him and his wounds. She walked out of the room, confident in the knowledge that anything she desired would be done, and anything she wanted she would have.

She sojourned to her room, where she began the task of triggering the spell to mask all traces of magick in her and her household, including her servants. It was a pert spell, sadly she rarely had cause to use it. With a final touch, the whole house seemed amazingly less-less… It even felt void to herself. Moloch rarely slept; and since she could draw enough energy from London tonight to fill her magical reservoirs in the manor, that is what she decided to do until a servant should come and tell her new toy had awoken.

The dry, withered ground exploded in a shower of rock and magma at Johnathon’s feet as the archdemon burst from the earth, riding a tower of fire and brimstone. All around him, he could see the angels, servants of God, engaged in mortal combat with the legions of the damned. Demons and unholy spirits of every type he could name came pouring from the split earth, seething in great, hellish waves.

“Our time is at hand!” the archdemon howled into the night, as his thousands of millions of servants overwhelmed the angels. “The earth will be plunged into a thousand years of bloodlust, fire, and death! Feast on the divine flesh, my children! The coming of the Apocalypse is finally upon us!

Johnathon’s mind reeled as he snapped open his eyes. For only a brief moment, he swore he could see and hear swordplay and infernal laughter in his… room? This wasn’t the inn. His head was still swimming, but he tried to remember everything that had happened.

First, the demon had come, and said he was after Autumn. Then he unleashed the smaller servitor demon he had captured that night to battle the other summoned monster. After that, he had cut himself for some reason, and everything after that was a blur. All he could really make out was a warm, inviting voice, calling to him from afar.

Johnathon slowly sat up in bed. His wounds had been dressed, and by somebody who knew very well what they were doing. He looked to the chairs across the room, where he saw his gear piled onto the seat.
“Hello?” he called out, pushing the blankets away. “Is anyone there?”

One of the servants heard his mistress’s guest call. He walked swiftly and quietly in my room. “Good… eve, my lord. We will be having an early supper this evening, in half an hour. Shall I call others to draw you a bath and dress you?” he asked, with the offhand politeness of a servant used to giving those he served orders. The servant was a thin, older man, with a definite presence.
Hmm… It seems our guest has awoken! Indeed… We will have company soon, and it has been long since anyone civilized has graced our table. Moloch awoke from her reverie, and called her servants to dress her.

Johnathon blinked, and leaned back against the elegantly carved headboard on the bed. Was it so late in the day already? He felt like he had slept forever! As worried as he was about everything, though, a bath and a fresh change of clothes sounded marvelous. Besides, he didn’t “feel” any dark magic in this house. Perhaps he had just stumbled outside, and had been taken in by a concerned citizen.
Right. And maybe he’d be knighted by the Queen of England.

“That…sounds very lovely, thank you,” Johnathon said, cracking every aching joint in his body as he stretched out. After a bit of real rest, maybe he’d be coherent enough to figure out what was going on around here.

The servant knew exactly what to do. He smiled and bowed slightly to his Mistress’s guest and turned to fetch more servants. It was no time at all before he returned with two others, one of whom began to draw a bath, and the other to help the man undress, like any nobility required.

The head servant, for that is what he was, bowed slightly and stole into the bathroom, ostentatiously to assist with the bath. He removed several herbs and scents from the cabinet; all specially blended to cause relaxation and a small amount of mental… fuzziness. No scent would be recognizable in the soft chaos of perfume, and all of the bottles appeared to be bath herbs, and tightly capped in a cabinet. Anyone with manners wouldn’t open it, and probably wouldn’t recognize what they were. And they were considered ‘harmless’ herbs anyway.

Moloch smiled and admired herself in the mirror. Dark, almost red hair coiffed elegantly and laced with tiny seed pearls; a long, prim gown with white lace and dark, not quite black, red fabric, and black gloves. Her face had no need of enhancing cosmetics. She was more than beautiful on her own. She smiled again, showing a bit of tooth this time.

His extra senses weren’t going off, but something about this entire situation seemed a bit… off to Johnathon. A strange feeling he had, as if someone was constantly watching him, or looking over his shoulder. The cloud of perfume that was wafting from the bathroom was almost overpowering as it hung in the air like a heavy blanket, clinging to his skin as he approached the elegant tub.

The bathroom was almost crowded with bath oils, crushed flower petals, and perfume bottles. It was difficult to turn around without bumping into one. Still, despite his misgivings about the whole situation, that water looked extremely inviting. Johnathon stuck his hand into the water, followed by his arm, up to the elbow, and practically melted at the relief that flooded up to his shoulder.
Suddenly not giving a whit about the rest of the world, Johnathon eased into the water, and let out a quiet sigh as his whole body seemed to unknot. Maybe he was wrong about everything. He’d have to thank his host, when, and if, he ever showed up.

Moloch smiled happily. He was a truly divine piece of man-flesh. She warded the spell mirror and exited her room, sweeping through the halls to direct servants and pass out orders for the meal and for the preparations.
The head servant chose an outfit out of the wardrobe, a comfortable selection not meant for public usage. It was mainly of soft ramie and silk, in a dark and light blue ensemble of colors. Slacks, an undershirt, and an overcoat. He would have to oversee the tending of the man’s wounds again when he exited the bath. His Mistress hadn’t wanted to reveal her hand by healing him so soon. The servant placed a kerchief of linen over his nose and mouth once the scents from the guest bath began to seep out; he couldn’t be muzzy like the guest would most assuredly be. He hurried out for a moment until Morris finished his bath.

Johnathon lost himself in the relaxing water and clouds of steam, going over everything that had happened since last night. First, he had run into that angel posing as a human, and the Baroness Autumn Riktophen. What did he know about them? He had heard rumors that the baron had passed away some time ago, leaving behind his wife and mother. That “mother” must have been the witch he had met in the manor house last night.

After the battle with the Dire wolves, Johnathon had finally gotten to meet the angels, the servants of God themselves. The thrill quickly wore off, though, once he remembered what they had acted like. Stuffy, self-important, conceited… well, except for two of them–the one that had accompanied Autumn, and the one that had left them at the inn. After that, things started to get a bit hazy. He remembered being assaulted by a demon of monstrous power, and then, the voice… that had told him to…

Johnathon jerked upright once he realized he had slumped further down into the tub, and was inhaling scented water. Looking around, he noticed that the steam had settled, and the water had lost its soothing warmth. Resisting the urge to sigh with disappointment, Johnathon crawled out of the tub, and hastily dried himself, still having that feeling that he was being stared at. Suitably dry, Johnathon looked over the clothes that had been laid out for him. His old things were nowhere in sight, meaning they had been lost, or were being washed.
Moments later, Johnathon emerged from his chambers fully dressed. Fixing his hair in a hall mirror, he slowly started off down the hall, now determined to find his mystery host, and pry some answers from him.

The head servant was just coming back to the guest room when he saw the guest walking down the hall in search of his Mistress. “Ahem.” He cleared his throat. “Milady is waiting for you at the Hall. If you will follow me?” He stood and waited for the man to turn back and follow him.

Moloch chuckled slightly, standing with hands demurely clasped behind her back as she waited for her new toy. She assumed her stance, her posture was straight with proprietary pride and power. After all, she was a strong noble in her own right. She allowed her role as ‘Lady Essendre’, a noblewoman rising quickly to political power in Victorian England through careful use of the noble houses beneath her wing. Her flawless, pale face was serene, and her thin figure healthy but not robust. And of course, the aura of a strong willed personality. A large, beautiful dark red ruby hung around her neck, clasped on a golden chain. It was worth enough to literally buy an entire House.

“Lady? So, my most gracious host is, in fact, a hostess,” Johnathon mused with a smile. “That’s interesting. Tell me, why has the lady of the house deemed it necessary to pick me up off the streets and bring me in?”

“I’m sure I couldn’t say,” the manservant replied with a bit of an edge to his voice that made Johnathon’s hackles rise. That cold feeling that he got when he first woke up had come back. Still, there was no magic in this house… none that he could feel, anyway. And he relied rather heavily on his extra senses. If they could be dulled by anything here, he was as good as blind.

Moving down the stairs and past the parlor, Johnathon was led to the dining room, at which point the servant stepped aside, and allowed him to enter first. Johnathon tugged on his shirt, took a deep breath, and opened the double doors leading inside. Greystone Manor, his ancestral home, was certainly marvelous, but even it paled in comparison to the elegance of this house. Fine art, impeccable decorating sense, antique cutlery and china…

And then, his eyes drifted to his host. She looked even more impressive than the rest of the house. Especially that large gemstone she was wearing. Johnathon didn’t want to stare, but he found it rather difficult not to. She was beautiful, to be certain, but there was also something else about her… something mysterious that Johnathon couldn’t pinpoint. Then again, it may have just been his own personal paranoia. Best to just play it by ear until he knew what was going on.

“My Lady,” he said, approaching his host and bowing deeply. “I must thank you, for whatever assistance you gave to me the previous evening. Such acts of selflessness are a rare and beautiful thing in these troubled times.”

‘Lady Essendre’ declined her head slightly in greeting. “Good evening, dear sir. I believe you are one of the Morrises, am I correct? I am the Lady Essendre.” She smiled warmly, offering her arm. She had noted his slight confusion, and the effects of the drugs in his bath. While they hadn’t affected him as strongly as she had hoped, they had still done an admirable job.
“You are quite welcome. You reminded me of a cousin of mine; one of my man servants heard that you had been left in a quite ransacked inn room when he went to pick up some goods from the Innkeeper. He sent word, and I decided it would not be safe to leave you there… You know how commoners are. They tend to strip anything of worth and leave the body in a gutter.” She shuddered slightly in disgust.
“This is our private dining hall,” she gestured with her free arm as she led him into a spacious room, modeled after the arching style of the Romans.

“Truly remarkable,” Johnathon commented, looking up at the grand ceiling. “Your home is simply breathtaking, Lady Essendre. I must admit, even my own spacious home is like the common room of an inn, when compared to all this.” Looking over the expansive table in the dining hall, Johnathon ran his fingers across the tablecloth. Soft, light linen. It felt like the same thing his shirt was made of. “I am, indeed, from the Morris’ Greystone Manor,” he said, only half-paying attention to his words. “I am Johnathon Roger Morris, student of… ah… religion, and cultural history. Please, if there is anything I can do to repay my debt to you, do not hesitate to ask.”

A student of cultural history and religion? Essendre allowed herself a small smile of mirth. “Of course I will, Lord Morris. A true gentleman, at last.” She gestured to a seat on the opposite end of the table.
“The servants will enter with food so that we may sup shortly. Meanwhile, would you mind telling me how you arrived in such poor condition?” It seemed that he had not given the servants a chance to rebind his wounds once more.

Johnathon flushed as his eyes wandered down to the ugly scar spreading across his palm. A high price to pay, for the chance to resist a demon’s coercion. But what was he going to tell her? That he had fought alongside angels in a house of the devil, then confronted demons for the life of a young noblewoman? She’d think he had lost his mind! “I was…simply helping a friend,” Johnathon said, gently closing his hand.

“She had been the target of ruffians last evening, and they followed us to the inn we were staying at. I assume she is safe, though, because of some timely intervention on the part of her… ah… private guard.”
Johnathon caught a whiff of the food being prepared, and cleared his throat to mask his growling stomach. “But I can’t seem to remember how I got outside… perhaps I had been thrown through a window. It wouldn’t be the first time that had happened.”

Soon, servants came out and set the table with fine china and crystal, and began bringing silver platters of food. It was an overlarge amount, but her household would eat it after they ate, as there was no human around who could hope of denting that pile by themselves or in a pair.

“I see.” She smiled and took her seat at the table’s head, a servant pulling out the high-backed chair that was far taller than she. Gesturing, a servant pulled out another chair for Morris.
The food itself was pure and fresh; Moloch would not allow a hint of impurity to food she might eat, not even to assist in breaking someone. And as always, it was quite good.

Johnathon was practically ravenous, but he held back on the food as much as he dared. If his feelings were right, and things turned ugly, the last thing he wanted to be was sleepy and sluggish from eating so much. “At the risk of being nosy,” Johnathon said after finishing, “Where are my things being kept?”

Lady Essendre looked up at him, surprise in her eyes. She knew the true arts of dissembling; it would take no Coercion to convince this man. “You mean your poor, torn clothes? Why, they were in such bad state none could repair them, and were not even fit for rags, milord Morris.” She smiled kindly at him, and ordered to servants to clear the table in her soft, concise voice.
“May we?” She gestured gracefully with her pale, delicate hand after standing, indicating the parlor room not too far from the Private Hall.

“With all due respect, Lady Essendre,” Johnathon continued, rising from his seat, “I had some very valuable things with me.” Two silver knives, an axe, and a holy ward with charred demon flesh on it. Yes, lovely. She’ll have you thrown into an institution for sure.
“Evidence, that would help me throw the thugs who attacked the girl and myself last night.” Johnathon hid his clever smile. A nice save, he thought. “May I ask for my bag, my lady?”

Lady Essendre blinked slightly. “A bag? Milord, we found no such thing on your person.” She offered her arm silently. “I can have the servants go to the Inn and conduct a search, if you wish.”
Moloch chuckled mentally, in the deep crevasse where her essence had withdrawn. Dear little occultist… You have no idea what you have walked into with eyes wide open! Her persona continued onward.

“I am truly sorry for any loss… I might be able to recompense you, somehow, if they do not find your things.” She gestured with her free hand, and a servant appeared quickly at her side. Lady Essendre issued orders, and the servant went off quickly to collect his fellows. They would indeed conduct a quick and thorough search, although all knew there was nothing to find.
Because Morris’s little trinkets were harmlessly locked away in a pantry, wrapped in shielding silk and encased in a lead casket. After all, what was the point of ruining the game? Moloch chuckled again, and Lady Essendre gave Morris a small, self-berating smile. “I do so apologize,” she said sincerely.

Johnathon tried to come back with a retort of some kind, but all of a sudden, he started to smell rose petals, and his mind started to wander. Soon, he had completely forgotten what he had asked about in the first place. He hated it when he lost his train of thought like that. Oh, well… it’d come back to him, in time.

Taking Lady Essendre’s hand, Johnathon allowed himself to be taken into the adjoining room, where a comfortable fire and large, soft chairs were waiting. Johnathon’s hackles rose again, his unchecked paranoia sniffing out the situation. This was all very nice, but why would a total stranger be so kind to him? Especially in the condition he had been in. And then, all the hospitality… the elegant food, the soothing bath and welcoming atmosphere… Johnathon had the unnerving feeling that he was being lured into a false sense of security. No, that was ridiculous. He was being too edgy. But…
“Lady Essendre, that was excellent,” he said, running his hand along the back of a chair. It certainly did feel comfortable. “Shall we have a drink, to settle our meal?”

Lady Essendre smiled. “Of course. We have a lovely cordial…?” She motioned to a servant to go lift a cask from the cool storage. “And a well aged cognac, or liquor?” As she waited for the servants, she turned back to Morris. “You are probably wondering why I am being so hospitable? I assure you, this is no… ransom.” She chuckled, of course, at the ridiculous thought. Not for ransom. The Lady was quite wealthy, and had no need to turn to such methods. “I once knew on of the ladies of your venerable household, and she performed such a service for me, in my younger days.” She smiled. It was true, in a way. A young lady of such a household, perhaps even of the Morris household, had rescued Moloch from the streets. It had been a shameful incident- a few street toughs managed to come upon her –confidant, cocky, lazy, dead– and knocked her shell quite unconscious. A young lady of one of the semi-royalty or wealthy households had gotten to her in time before the body of her host was killed, or worse. “And now I return the favor.”

She leaned in closer, with a slight, secret smile, and placed one of her pale, cool hands on his own. It had been an honor many would have died for, to be touched by a Lady. It was an honor many had, in these Victorian days. “It is only the right thing to do, yes?”

A sharp, sudden tingle shot up Johnathon’s arm. He quelled the shiver that was running up his back, and gave Lady Essendre a winning, yet hollow smile. Surely, his mother would have told him, had she ever run into somebody from the wealthy and elegant Essendre household. Then again, maybe she didn’t think it was terribly important. Something about the lady’s story wasn’t clicking with Johnathon, but he couldn’t quite place it.

“Thank you,” he said to the servant as the cognac was carried in. Taking up two small glasses, Johnathon poured only a single mouthful into both, and carefully handed his to the Lady Essendre. Their hands brushed again, and another tingle went into Johnathon’s shoulder. Hopefully, the alcohol would clear his head, and let him think without all the fog.
“It would seem, then, that our households seem to have a fated relationship,” Johnathon said, smiling coyly as he raised his glass to her. “To our blossoming friendship… may it endure throughout the ages.”

Moloch mentally growled in frustration; the boy could tell she wasn’t what she appeared. Her shell was flawed. She tore control away from Essendre, filling in seamlessly and expansively. Without thought, she wove a small spell of compulsion upon herself not to reveal anything of her demonic past. No more slips of the tongue. Again, within her nulling shields, she wove another compulsion- but this time laid it on Morris. The drugs had begun to wear off from earlier. The spell would quietly push any questions about her origins and her story to the back of his mind.

She raised her glass in a return salute, taking the requisite sip before cradling it with her hands in her lap. “Indeed.” Moloch-as-Essendre’s coy smile returned, slightly shy this time. “What do you think of my home, my dear lord?”

Johnathon flinched, and nearly lost the grip on his glass. The smell of roses was almost overpowering this time, but after only a moment, it had passed, leaving only the faint traces of aged cognac and burning wood in the fireplace. What had he been talking about…? “It’s…ah…it’s lovely,” he replied, only half-paying attention to what he was saying. He hated it when he lost his train of thought. “Filled with stories and histories, I’m sure. My own Greystone has been painfully empty for years now, ever since my parents passed away.”

Reflexively, Johnathon’s hand went to the silver cross around his neck. He always wished his parents were still around whenever he mentioned them, and although his faith in God was a bit shaky after last night’s events, he never had cause to doubt. Again, he owed it to the previous evening. How blissfully ironic, he thought to himself. As his fingers slipped over the metal, however, something was amiss. Something was missing, so tiny and unnoticeable, that he might have missed it completely, had he dropped his guard a bit further.
“Ah… tell me, Lady Essendre… how long has this house been in your family?” Johnathon asked after a quiet moment.

She smiled kindly, as if reading his sorrow and doubt. She slipped her hands over his, pulling them oh-so-gently away from the pendant around his neck.
“It has been with the family so many years that I can no longer remember… Quite rich with history.” She sighed, self-deprecatingly, as if somewhat depressed at the slip of memory. Meanwhile, she strengthened her threads of coercion, slipping something new in… want, and need. For comfort, for a woman, for love and beauty. Moloch-as-Essendre’s expression was fairly open, as if her lady’s mask had slipped, revealing shy attraction and reserve. She blinked and started, and up went the mask once more.

Maybe it was the cognac finally getting to his head. Maybe it was the relaxing atmosphere, and the sweet smell of roses. Whatever the reason, Johnathon suddenly did not want to let go of Lady Essendre’s hand. Letting go would be like snuffing out all the world’s light; like plunging into a dark, endless pit of nothingness. She was everything, his entire world. He wanted to stay with her.


“I can’t stay!” Johnathon shouted, tearing himself away from Lady Essendre. It felt as if he had just torn his own heart out from his chest and threw it into the fire. “Please, in the name of God, tempt me no more! Had I the opportunity, I would be at your side for all of eternity! But Autumn… Lady Riktophen… she… Lady Essendre, she is the target of a wicked cult who has summoned up the most horrifying demons imaginable. As a Morris, and a slayer of evil, I am bound by divine law and personal morals to protect her from them!”

Johnathon’s entire body felt cold and empty. His heart didn’t believe what his head was saying. Speaking against Lady Essendre was like meeting the angels all over again!
“Please… I am in your debt, but I must find Lady Riktophen again,” he continued. “You have no idea what kind of evil is after her!”

Moloch watched, a shocked expression on her delicate, paling face, as he violently tore himself away, and started raving about demons and angels and cultists. She listened gravely, hands now folded in her lap. “It sounds… You would leave the rest of us to suffer the same fate? Your Lady Riktophen is in all probability dead or taken to the depths of… Hell, by now,” she said softly, seriously. “If what you say is true, and not a fancy from hitting your head. Or even a dream,” she added.
Now. While he is at his weakest… I will not have this chance twice! Moloch’s threads of Compulsion twisted and expanded, no longer strings but ropes. Desire. Want. Pain. Love.

Johnathon’s head suddenly felt like it was splitting open. A deep, intense cold flowed over his awareness, stabbing at his heart like a poisoned icicle. He wanted to stand up, but his legs refused to follow his orders. He wanted to run away, to find someplace to hide… anywhere that the terrific pain wouldn’t be able to find him! Anything… any…


.”..Autumn… can wait,” Johnathon said though his teeth. “A few hours… a few days… she’ll be all right. I can stay here,” he mused to himself, righting himself in his chair and smiling at Lady Essendre, “with your permission, of course.”

Moloch smiled. “Of course.”
The Compulsion had indeed taken effect; it would take some time for it to straighten its coils around the occultist’s mind and run as an efficient, cohesive whole- until then, he might shift between one thread of the Compulsion and another.
So… The Lady’s husband has come back. And from the sounds of it, Lilith must be having fits by now.
She would have to wait until the Compulsion was in order to complete her Marking; it ought not take long, though.
“Milord,” she said. “Might we take a walk through the gardens?”

A strange, unreal panorama unfurled before Belial’s eyes: strange and untold, of unspeakable despair. This was of all places, a place to which he would have never returned, if he had the choice.
A bright red space in a foul resemblance of the Mortal World skies extended above, limitless. A crimson storm rolled about, blue and silver lightning cracking in the heavy clouds thick as blood. A light drizzle began to fall, but it was fire what it rained: acid and sparks. Angel led the gargoyle like a common horse through a tight path in the edge of a cliff where they had appeared. Sitting next to him, Aramis held his knees getting very quiet.

Angel watched him with a frown. The layer of darkness on Aramis’ nature was ripped in various points; now that they were in the outer lands of the Abyss, Light shone annoyingly bright through the various tiny cracks. Angel was grateful Azazel was knocked out.
//Get rid of those rips, brother.//

Aramis nodded slowly. He weaved the Dark together on him. It took him some time to complete the task. Meanwhile, Angel took a trail into a tight gorge in the mountain, which sheltered them from the rain. Azazel was bleeding profusely, but Belial had managed to suspend the bleeding for brief moments.
Angel finally found what they were looking for: a small node that’d allow them to open a portal to London. Angel traced the key spell.

Aramis already knew where they were going to, but he said anyway, “We ought to send her a message first.”

“I know.”

A terrible heat fell upon them all of a sudden. Aramis held his knees again. “Let us go now.”

“It doesn’t thrill me either to be here!” Angel opened the portal, “but at least… we don’t have to stay.” They crossed the portal.
Once out, Belial closed the portal from the Abyss. They were in a dark alley. Angel slid off the gargoyle’s back. He insisted he didn’t want Aramis near Azazel – no strange clues for this Beast! Aramis jumped off the gargoyle’s back. Then they fused into one once more.

Belial picked up Azazel from the gargoyle’s back. He spoke a word of infernal magicks removed his Seal: the gargoyle crumbled to dust. Belial sent a mental message to Moloch. //A small trifle for your Art, if you wish. Azazel is wounded. I’ll take him to you if you’d like.// He waited for a response. Of course Belial knew about Moloch’s heal toll.

//Very well. Who is prepared to accept the price?// Moloch replied mentally from her place in her mansion. //Bring him to me. I am sure you can trace where I live; mask yourself, please, for I am entertaining a guest right now, and I do not want him confused by our natures.// Moloch smiled to Morris as they strolled through the gardens.

//Azazel will pay his own expenses//, Belial replied. //We’re on our way. I’ll do as you request, ever so kind Moloch…//
Belial shook with evil, mocking laughter after replying. //Would I ever pay for him? Jamás en la vida lo haría, si puedo evitarlo! (1)//, he thought to himself with a smirk.

Now that he was again whole, the whip from Hell had loosened its tight grip around his wrist; Belial unwound it from his wrist with a frown. His hand had bled from a burn because of it when Aramis held the handle; he still had the wound in his side from Gabriel’s arrow, but these were minor things compared to other stabs he had endured. Plus Aramis’ nature had canalized a great deal of the Holy energies. Belial cast a chilling glance at unconscious Azazel. With subtle spells he put a temporary relief to his own wounds.
Belial proceeded to mask themselves. He took his human form and pulled Azazel’s human form onto him; once again looking like noblemen and with a exquisitely woven web of mask spells on them, even a demon would have trouble to tell their true nature, despite their rank and power. Belial held Azazel carefully and used a portal to transport themselves to Moloch’s gates, just out of her magic wards.

Belial walked through the first stages of the protection wards; Moloch was awaiting them.
“Inform Lady Essendre, lord Niemeyer and lord Riktophen are here”, he ordered the butler. Servants led them to a private reception chamber in the ground floor. Belial laid Azazel in a divan. The demon’s lips trembled, but he was still unconscious. “Our best Healer will take care… milord“, he murmured.

Moloch felt Belial’s entry into her small domain before he walked through the House wards; little did he know that most of this district of London was hers. They were of equal level, after all.
However, she awaited the messenger before going to ‘greet’ them, taking Morris with her slowly, arm in arm.

She released him and rushed over to the two ‘noblemen’, feigning surprise and agitation. “Oh Lord! How could this have come to pass?” She waved Lord Niemeyer off before he could reply. “Never mind! Take him into the Red Suite immediately!” She ordered, and two servants relieved Belial of his burden. The servants exchanged wide-eyed glances but obeyed without delay; these two were lower demons in her service, and obviously could feel some tingle of energy, but were unaware of what it was. She mentally lauded Belial on the deft hand of his spells.

She followed them swiftly, skirts and petticoats swishing around her feet, which clicked on the stone walk into the manor halls. Moloch-as-Essendre didn’t wait for the two men to catch up; she had, as any ranking woman would, assumed that they would follow her. “How did this occur? And I apologize, milord Morris. This does not usually occur… They favor bringing wounded to me rather than the surgeons, however, due to what they call ‘a lady’s healing touch’. Poor fools,” she finished with a whisper.

Belial or better, Silvanus Niemeyer let room for lady Essendre to see about the wounded as she waved him away; he had a polite bow to her and a nod to her companion, in greeting; it was not a moment for excessive talking. Belial’s ever vigilant eye recognized the man he had seen in Azazel’s wife’s room when he fought Azrael at the Inn; he however did not show any recognition. He had seen Moloch taking him away. Lord Niemeyer promptly followed Lady Essendre; in his face you could read the supreme confidence he had on the lady’s healing skills. This could be a mask on Belial’s part or the very truth.

“Lady Essendre is too kind and modest”, he gravely said. “The Lady’s hands can work marvels; she is one to whom we’d turn to above all the surgeons in the land.” A soft smile briefly slid on his lips when he pronounced the last phrase.

“It was an unfortunate incident, milady. Seems like a Londoner gang charged on our… friend; I believe they robbed him. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I affirm their intent was to take his life as well. Fortunately, I found them on time.” Lord Niemeyer’s beautiful silver eyes were half closed as if in concern and sorrow. “They must have taken him for a foreigner lost in the city.”

Moloch smiled and shook her head. “As foreign as you, my dear sir?” She chuckled, for the Spanish accent was plain on his tongue and his face. It was amazing how Belial chose his forms.
Finally, they reached the suite. The servant placed the prone man on the bed; the whole suite was decorated in rich shades of crimson varying in degrees of darkness. Another servant entered with dressings, soap, and warm water; a third stripped the lord down to his breeches.
“You may stay or leave.” Moloch then turned all of her concentration to her patient, to leave the boys to converse as they wished.

“Oh yes. Just like me, I guess”, Lord Niemeyer softly replied to Lady Essendre’s words. He had a charming yet kind of shy smile as he did, as if he were a little embarrassed at her remark yet pleased for bringing a smile upon her lips. He stayed out of the way of Moloch and her servants, who tended to Lord Riktophen.

Belial did want to stay and watch Moloch work due to a dark personal reason, therefore he stayed in the room. However, he turned to Morris out of politeness and introduced himself. He expected to get some information by doing this; he had checked while they followed the Lady to the suite and no, Morris did not bear Moloch’s Seal just yet. Belial carefully added subtle touches to his mask spell to provide an extra veil for Moloch’s doings. He did want to help this time. Belial also wondered if Morris would remember Lord Riktophen… and his particular way to socialize.

“Excuse me, if in this rush I have forgotten to introduce myself”, he told Morris. “I am Lord Silvanus Niemeyer. I see we share the joy of meeting Lady Essendre. I present my excuses for this untimely visit…”
He waited for Morris to reply, despite he had caught the name from Lady Essendre’s lips – and despite he had other means to get such information.

“My Lord is most gracious with his apologies,” Johnathon replied, bowing to Silvanus gracefully. “However, given the current situation of your companion, the abrupt dismissal of social graces is, I believe, acceptable.” Johnathon smiled honestly at Silvanus, showing he meant no slight by his words. Pausing for a moment, Johnathon glanced at the man lying on the bed. There was something oddly familiar about him, as if Johnathon had met him before. And very recently, too. But for some reason, his memory was fogged, and trying to remember anything outside of this afternoon’s meal was painfully difficult. It was probably just the cognac getting to him, he reasoned.

“I truly wish we could have met under less informal conditions, my Lord,” he continued, turning back to face Silvanus. “I haven’t–”

Wake up!

Johnathon blinked, and looked over Silvanus’ shoulder with a puzzled look on his face. Who was talking to him? Lady Essendre was busy with her charge, and Lord Niemeyer hadn’t flinched since he stopped speaking. “Ah… that is… my name is Johnathon Roger Morris, of Greystone Manor. It is an honest pleasure to be in the company of such elegant aristocracy. Perhaps my recent foul luck is turning around.” He was certain he heard somebody speaking.

Belial was delighted with Moloch’s art display upon this human. He watched Johnathon with interest – every gesture, every inflection of his voice; all spoke of the subtle web Moloch had laid on him, veiling his memories, fogging his mind. In Belial, a childlike curiosity that could come from Aramis and a scientific curiosity derived from Angel came together in his interest towards Morris. All this he kept beneath his masks; on the surface, he was just a charming, somewhat withdrawn nobleman thankful for the attentions dispensed to a friend in need.

Belial noticed Johnathon’s pause and slight surprise, as if he had expected another presence next to him. Quite strange, but it suggested a strong will inhabiting this man called Johnathon Morris. He could see the trace of an occultist on him; the man ought to know the Dark Arts… The Necromancer got even more curious. He decided to try and see if the man would speak about these.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, mister Johnathon Roger Morris of Greystone Manor.” He pronounced the whole name slowly, as if to compliment the man by fixing his name in his memory. “Even foul turns of luck might bring some good fortune encounters around the corner”, he said. His silver gaze turned to Lady Essendre and her patient for a brief instant.
“These days good will and safety are hard to find. Specially now. It might sound foolish, but it’s almost like if unleashed evil roamed about… Excuse me for such a comment”, he had a small, almost shy smile yet the smile was fascinating. “My people is said to be superstitious. Both German and Spaniard – I guess I cannot escape to believe in certain things.”

Johnathon chuckled under his breath, but it sounded forced, and mechanical. “I wouldn’t dismiss your beliefs so quickly, my Lord. These are, indeed, troubled times. Men turn to God in times of crisis, but many more find the personal attention of the Devil to be much more inviting.”
Pausing for a moment, Johnathon grasped at the silver cross that hung around his neck, and rubbed it thoughtfully. That same, unusual feeling of emptiness was back again. No, not emptiness… more like, a hollow sensation. He could feel the edge of something important, but nothing beyond it.

“Ah…please forgive me,” he continued, releasing his cross. “I’m afraid that the excitement of the past few days has been a bit much.” He only wished he could remember exactly what all the excitement was about! He had a feeling it was linked to his memory somehow, but thinking about it hurt, and only caused him to run around in circles.

When Johnathon mentioned God, Belial’s wound by Gabriel’s arrow pounded lightly but enough to be annoying. He strengthened the spell on it further. Inside Belial, Aramis had one of his hopeless sighs and Angel had a mocking smirk in typical opposite reactions. If I could tell you, my friend… that there is no such thing as someone you could call God, you’d be surprised. I must admit there’s something to this I’ve not fully understood myself; but that’s another question. The silver cross summoned holy energies that tingled on the demon’s skin. Belial watched Johnathon, reading his confusion between the lines.

“You are too kind”, he murmured, as not to disturb the Lady’s work. “Among my humble activities, I’ve conducted studies on the Egyptian death rituals; I have – to say it in a way – peered into the mysteries of the dead…” Belial had an inward snicker. “I have read about strange enigmas and rituals, but still the science claims there is a rational explanation to all this. I’ve strived to find those, but again”, he smiled apologetically, “there are things out there that have not been explained. I see you are a religious man… and I also see you believe in the Devil. Maybe such devil is only the passions within the Man.” Belial’s eyes shimmered slightly.

Johnathon held back the urge to laugh, but a bit of it slipped out, in the form of a sly grin. No such thing as the devil, was there? If that was the case, he thought to himself, he’d be out of a job!
“Most people would find it somewhat difficult to take your ideas to hear,” Johnathon replied, letting his grin slip a bit. “The idea that humans go through their entire lives alone and unprotected is a cold and bitter reasoning. Could you imagine what it would be like, growing up without the support of your parents? People need somebody, or something, to look up to, and to come to for understanding. Religion is a crutch that I don’t suppose we’ll ever get off of.”

Inside, Belial gloated at Johnathon’s reaction. He poured some more words. “Oh, I suppose you take religions as a whole”, Silvanus said as if he were surprised at Johnathon’s words. “On the risk of being misunderstood, may I insist. On my part, I do have my beliefs as you’ve said. However, science is up to cold reasoning that some might find bitter – but it’s a man’s vision of the world. On one hand I have my beliefs. On the other hand…” Silvanus’s eyes shimmered strangely again, “I have no proof of the Devil’s existence but very subjective traits. If there were a science or a discipline that would face these dark forces with a cold mind… Mister Morris, when I came back to London I’ve found myself with a sudden tide of médiums and people who claim they can talk to the dead – for money, of course. All that are nothing but impostures. Many of them use egyptian trifles to appear ‘exotic’ to their victims. Where’s the seriousness of all this?” Silvanus bit his lip slightly in disbelief.

“Could occultism or necromancy really be an exact or at least reliable science?” Inside Belial, Aramis lingered on Johnathon’s words. Alone, unprotected… isn’t that a way of life? The way of life I know, at least. Who would ever care?

I cannot trust anyone, Angel replied. Alone is enough; I myself can face my existence and continue to survive. I, alone.

Moloch sighed and delved with her mind into Azazel’s wounds. What have you gotten yourself into, boy…? For all that he was more powerful than she, Moloch was still his elder and as such more knowledgeable than he… And obviously more in control of herself, as well, though no one would imagine it with what the other Fallen deemed her ‘excesses’. Moloch’s physical hands tended to the visible damage; her mental hands dealt with the metaphysical. She first pushed his mind into a deeper state of sleep; oblivion, in fact, for what she would do would cause his body pain and she refused to lay the blocking spells.

She drew the holy energies out carefully, and noting Belial’s own pain, canalized them into something darker using Azazel’s shell’s pain and fed them into him. She was in no need of the energies; there was latent power in her territory that was accessible to her and her alone. She drew of this power now. Muscle knitted itself together beneath her fingers and blood clotted and slowed; she would not heal the flesh before the mortal’s eyes, indeed, it was difficult enough to shield her works simultaneously as it was; she would have to hope her Coercion set in quickly so she could end the charade; while she thought of it, she sent a fresh surge of strength to hasten it.

Finally, she had the holy energies removed from Azazel’s body and the worst of the injuries, including those internal, healed. While keeping a careful eye on Azazel’s mind, she set about exacting her Price. She laid a delicate web of Coercion on Azazel’s mind, one that even Lilith would have difficulties sensing. She would not make him unable to harm her; that was noticeable and could be worked around easily. However, she could make him disinclined to do so… Whenever he felt anger towards her, a memory of her uses would surface, and even future contingencies where her skills would be needed. The protection was all she needed; it would settle her price nicely. She finished without flourish; the threads settled into place, finer and stronger than spider’s silk.

Her hands bound dressing around his wounds quickly and skillfully, and she walked slowly, deliberately, and sat in a chair. That had taken more out of her than she wanted to admit; her reservoirs were still not full from the Awakening ceremony. She released the sleeping Azazel’s mind; he would probably be out for a day or so in recovery. She would make sure she could tend to him once more to complete the healing and make sure there was no other damage.

Still waiting for Johnathon’s reply, Belial noticed that the price Moloch had claimed for herself from Azazel had been of a different sort from what he had expected. Belial was disappointed; he’d have to wait for another time. Little had been in his opinion the pain Azazel had endured compared to what he had wished for him. Indeed, he had expected Moloch to torture him further… but she had had other plans. Belial’s shoulders relaxed slightly. After all, all in Life was subject to Trial and Error. Researcher and discoverer, master of his Art, he knew that well.

Belial bit his lip slightly. There was plenty of room for hatred in his tormented soul and he was strongly inclined to hate Azazel: let it be because of Azazel’s natural talent to be an object of hatred, or because of what he represented for Belial. Maybe it hadn’t been like this while Lucifer lived – but that was another story.

He took a light bow to Johnathon to excuse himself and turned to Lady Essendre in her chair. It had been difficult, even to Moloch… She had pulled energies out of his pain. Belial did not bat an eye at this last notice. “Milady, may I ask for the state of the patient?”, he softly asked, like a concerned friend would. “Once again, thanks for your ever so generous attention to us, Lady Essendre.”

Moloch didn’t bat an eye at using Belial’s pain; it wasn’t doing him any good, now was it. “He should be fine; he’ll sleep for at least a day or so, but it is a natural one, not brought on by shock.”
She sighed and leaned back into the chair, allowing her reservoirs to fill quickly. Sometimes exhaustion was pleasant, but she knew she had no time for such trivialities now.

Silvanus smiled as in relief.
“That’s excellent news, milady. May I beg your indulgence once more… I’ll have his family notified, but perhaps it’d be convenient if he stays under your care till he wakes up.” Silvanus took a polite bow at Lady Essendre.
Pain was seeping into his conscience, but it was not worse than it had been countless times. The soft smile never left his lips as he addressed Lady Essendre. Belial’s human form had slight, tiny sweat drops bordering his hairline, but he kept his movements fluid and courteous. He was not eager to take the risk of Moloch seeing that something within him that was Aramis’ nature.

Moloch nodded and smiled. “It will be no difficulty… The lord is not an imposing guest,” she replied, with a subtle hint of sarcasm. Noting the sweat at Belial’s brow, she frowned. Perhaps the wound was more serious than she had believed…
She covertly brushed his hand; the action was concealed by the fact that Belial stood beside her chair, with Morris on the other side. She gave him a brief jolt of healing energies; that would have to do for now.

Caught by surprise by the healing energies Moloch infused into him, Belial didn’t move but his lip trembled slightly. Her power touched his wound on his side and the burn in his hand, healing them to some extent. Belial did not know how to accept the relief in that second. A part of him resented the intrusion, but the other part of him was thankful. Both were however, wary. He always was; but this time an ever so faint blush touched his cheeks as Aramis achieved a momentaneous victory. “The Lady is gracious beyond words”, he gently said. “Once again I must say, the Lady’s hands can work marvels.” His sliver gaze fell on Azazel. Belial half closed his eyes as in concern, but within he felt like letting out the most utmost and sincere scowl.

Johnathon flinched when Lady Essendre touched Silvanus. There was that hollow feeling in the back of his mind again. Like there was something important he should be catching on to, but couldn’t, for some reason.
He shifted his gaze away from Silvanus, and looked over the sleeping lord that had been brought in. Johnathon got the same feeling from him that he did from the other two in the room. Only this time, it was a far greater emptiness. He was sure he had seen that man somewhere before, and quite recently, at that. Where was it…?

“Excuse me, milord,” Johnathon said, turning back to Silvanus, “but something about your companion over there seems strangely familiar. Does he live here, in London? Because I could swear that I’ve seen him before…”

Silvanus smiled almost apologetically.
“Oh, Mister Morris. My friend is not a Londoner nor British; he has just arrived from a long journey to distant lands. Perhaps he reminds you of someone else… He’s Hungarian.”

Hungarian? Why did that thought jog his memory again? He hadn’t met anybody from any farther east than France in years.

…was a Hungarian name…

Johnathon’s head was spinning as his memory fought to pierce the veil of fog in his brain. He had met somebody just the other day that was also from the same area! He remembered the unusual name, but the face still escaped him.
More and more flashes of memories were returning to him. A house. A woman, and her pets. Dead dogs.

Tell me your name…

“Uh? Name…my name is…” Johnathon whispered under his breath.

…before I kill you.

Images of blood and blades fluttered temptingly on the very edge of his awareness. He flinched as a sharp, sudden pain struck his hand. Looking down, he saw his fresh scar, throbbing painfully in his tightened fist. It had all happened in a room, much like this…and that man…that man was…

My will and resolve is great! And I will not stop until you have been banished!

Johnathon blinked. There had been a battle last night, between himself, and several powerful demons. One of them had Autumn. The other had taken him–the “Lady Essendre” no doubt. That would explain why he had awakened in bed, instead of on the Baroness’ hotel floor. And the man on the bed, the Hungarian native, could only have been one person.

“Baron Lorant Riktophen, I presume,” Johnathon announced triumphantly. “Husband to one Autumn Riktophen, if I’m not mistaken. It would seem that the news of his death was somewhat exaggerated.” He turned to Silvanus, and made no attempt to hide his wry grin. “There is no God I know if that is so forgiving with life. Only one presence could be so inclined as to stop the relentless march of death, but only for the price of a human soul. Am I correct, ‘Lord Silvanus’?”

Moloch scowled terribly and stood, wrath flashing in her eyes. She stalked to where Morris sat, and seizing his head in both hands, relentlessly impaled his mind with threads of Coercion for him to do her bidding. She would bind him to her will and Seal him if she had to re-write his puny mind to do it. At least he showed some promise; the threads of her former, weaker Coercion had been melted away… Though she was unsure as to whether it was him, or his relic. Very well… She smiled at Belial before turning back to Morris, whom she still held. Perhaps, if she gave the right price, Belial would desanctify the holy artifact.

She paid no heed to what he had seen or knew or remembered. He would obey her; he would desire to do so, and still beyond death. All of his resistance up ’til then would seem folly; he would remember and be ashamed, and wish to prove himself better. Moloch’s crimson eyes bored into Morris’s; she needed just an extra bit of power… She dragged a single nail across his cheek, drawing a thin line of blood. He filched. It was all she needed.

“You are MINE, Jonathon Morris. Of that, there can be no mistake.” She smiled at him, some how horribly compassionate. She understood his crossroads- should he take the way of power, with her, where he could conceivably one day gain enough power from her to break away? Or should he struggle and break free; perhaps die, but gain nothing, not even warning for the Lady Riktophen? “But you may choose if you wish to live to fight another day, or die here and futilely, with no achievement to mark your passing? A miserable, wasted life?” A proud man would want to leave a mark on his world. A weak man would die in his chicken-scratch existence.

Belial was as much surprised as he would be if one of his retorts would have exploded during a peak phase of an experiment. Morris broke free from Moloch’s web coercion; he recognized the Baron and even hinted he knew who Lord Silvanus really was.
He hadn’t finished his discourse when Moloch moved fast from her chair and took hold of Johnathon. Belial stayed where he was – he was annoyed at the man’s impertinence but he was also curious to see Moloch’s work and flattered in a strange and twisted way for being recognized due to his work.

Mi fama me persigue(2), he thought in sarcasm. Moloch smiled at him as she bound Johnathon with invisible chains of coercion. The holy artifact Johnathon had flashed; Belial knew it’d be quite convenient for her to have him desanctify it.
He smiled back at Moloch in reply. She was using her power on the man; they were in her territory and she was an archdemon – Belial had a sort of trust in her for he in his own fashion appreciated her, despite he knew he didn’t trust anybody. However, she had helped him heal. He could help her with this task – a demon has his caprices. He waited for her signal to interfere as she secured her magic grip on Johnathon.

Johnathon bit his lip to keep from howling at the terrific pain. Essendre was cutting through his new-found mental defenses like they weren’t even there. He could feel each barrier breaking down, and the resounding ache in his head was almost maddening. Part of him wanted to submit, and give in to her coercion. That small anchor was what she was drawing on. He trusted his willpower, but Essendre’s spells were beyond anything Johnathon had ever seen in a human. Perhaps she wasn’t human? That would explain the reason why she set off his extra senses whenever he looked at her. He made a mental note to reward his paranoia later with a few stiff drinks.

“I would… sooner… die!” Johnathon shouted, grasping his silver cross. “You may kill me… demon… but I will die…with a free soul!” Tearing his holy ward from around his neck, Johnathon pressed it to his palm, and shoved his hand up against Essendre’s face. It had worked against the demon last night, and with any luck, it would help him here, as well.

Belial furrowed his brow at this development. When Johnathon revealed his holy ward, a gust of a cold wind blew on his face, despite the air in the room was still; almost instinctively, Belial held his hand out and summoned the Staff of Simara; he pointed the Staff at them inches close to the holy ward, standing near Moloch but leaving room for her to maneuver.

Belial chanted a shield spell to counteract the energies from the holy ward; a black sphere exploded, shielding Moloch and he – a sudden Darkness fell on the room. The energies battled, each trying to overcome the other; the demonic energies clashed against the holy energies, pushing the Light back.

Johnathon suddenly wasn’t quite sure exactly what surprised him more–the sudden blackness that had flown from Silvanus’ staff, the fact that he wasn’t dead yet, or that his mundane little silver cross was holding it back! He had thought this was just a trinket he used for confidence! And now, it was holding back the spells of demons?

Just by wishing for more power to hold back the darkness, Johnathon’s cross complied, and his tiny pocket of silver-blue light began to swell. The power was almost overwhelming, but he somehow knew he was about to hit his limit. Glancing back behind him, he noticed that the demon’s darkness had crawled back away from the door. That was his ticket out of here, but how was he going to hold off the spell, and make a run for it at the same time?
It was obviously time for another miracle. Giving one last push from his cross, Johnathon spun around on his heel, and shot out the door as the blackness covered the entire chamber. Johnathon grabbed hold of the door frame for balance as he turned down the hallway, still clutching his cross, and started through the huge house for the front door.

Moloch shrieked in pain as Morris pressed the crucifix against her cheek; she was so shocked she didn’t retaliate until Morris attempted his escape.
With an enraged howl, she ripped into her demonic form and shot through the window into the gardens, landing before the gates to block Morris’s path. “There are fates worse than death, my dear magus!”

Belial watched the scene from the window, still in human form. Behind him on the bed, Azazel hadn’t moved. Belial cast a spell that was mainly a subtle call on Moloch’s wards, pulling a veil of invisibility on the demoness and her prey. Silvanus tapped his chin, thoughtful.
//This man charged energies from the angels auras//, he prevented Moloch. //His holy item is infused with holy energies from them – he was in that battle we found the traces of, at Riktophen Manor – those energies have a limit, though//, he informed Moloch.

Moloch growled deep in her throat; a faint rumble echoed from the skies, as clouds began to gather in reaction to the unshielded power being flung about. She listened to Belial’s message without much surprise; of course the little occult chit would charge his toy… But it remained to be seen if he knew the use of the pendant or was ignorant of its abilities.
The angry demoness cast a binding spell around Morris’s ankles to trip him up. //I trust you can defile the relic from there, Belial.// She stood over Morris’s prone body and sneered, her demonic visage both repulsive and oddly beautiful.

//As you wish//, Belial gently replied. Turning himself invisible to human eyes but not taking his angelic or demonic form yet, he rose the Staff of Simara and chanted a spell. A sigil projected from the end of the staff – a graceful and wriggling tendril of fire which formed a rune of power, then changed into another. Belial touched it with the Staff. The sigil flashed and vanished, reappearing on Johnathon’s holy object: the sigil embraced the object with the hushed sound of an unearthly voice murmuring a words of power. The holy energies were seemingly absorbed by the sigil, which remained fast bound to the surface, like engraved lines on it. The object turned the dark gray of rusted silver, the sigil shining darkly on it.

Tendrils of steam emerged from the desanctified ward, floating and twisting, attracted by the Staff of Simara. Belial tilted the staff lightly. The steam floated to the window, circled the staff and seemingly vanished.
/Done//, he informed with an elegant shrug of his shoulders. He had drained the holy energies, used a catalyzed spell to transform them and then absorbed them into the Staff. He could easily revert them to either Light or Dark according to future purposes, and it was not a complicated thing for him to do – maybe only natural.

Johnathon dropped the now-useless holy ward to the ground, watching it shrivel up and turn into ash, taking his best hopes of escape along with it.
He did actually have one other idea. But, it would be risky. He didn’t know if she’d even hear him, what with all the magic flying around. There might be a powerful silencing ward on this house. Still… he had to try. He had to get out of here! And there was only one person he knew by name that could help him now.

“Adriel! Adriel!” Johnathon howled at the top of his lungs. He didn’t know where she was, or what she was doing, but she was his last chance to make it home alive!

Moloch glared. Is it worth our time now to bind this pitiful mortal, or should we just exterminate him? “We will destroy you as we should have before, when we discovered your little… trinket.” She gestured to the smoking ash near his feet. “Ungrateful wretch.” Her heartstone glowed luridly, releasing the binding spell and forcing Morris to lurch to his feet.
“After all… No man should die on his belly like a worm.” She summoned the Scorpion, lighting it with infernal fire in preparation to scorch his body slowly.

(1) Never in the life I’d do that, if I can help it!
(2) My fame pursues me.

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