“The Damned, Blood on the Snow” is the previous installment of Chloe Bradshaw’s saga.
“I’m not dead,” my brother says. “Though you did injure me on Vinson Massif.”
He shows me a scar on his shoulder. I remember the dagger I threw.
“I do admire your handywork, Lilly.”
“I could have killed you,” I say.
“Yes. I am, after all, a Hunter.”
“I thought all the Hunters died.”
“Only a few survived. I told them – if you fall down, stay down. The Demons will think you are dead.”
“A clever plan.”
“A plan that worked.”
“Why haven’t the Hunters been killing us lately?” I ask him.
“I didn’t want you to know that any of us are still alive. I am curious what you want to do know, though.”
“Why would I want to tell you that? You are nothing to me.”
“Kill me. If don’t mean anything to you.”
I put my hand on the hilt of my sword and look him in the eyes. It’s as though he knows I won’t do anything. I let my hand fall to my side.
“You are still my brother,” I tell him.
“That doesn’t matter anymore.”
“No? Then why did you send your ‘minions’ to come warn me?”
“I thought you would surrender, making the battle shorter. Humans are also suffering because of this, you know.”
“Then why don’t you just let the Demons live, instead of dragging the humans into this? After all, you too are entwined with The Damned.”
“I would rather destroy you now. Humans don’t deserve your presence.”
“You are more of a fool then I thought you were. If you destroy the Demons’ race, the universe will just cough up something else to keep the numbers of the humans down.”
“Then I shall just destroy the next thing.”
“What happens if the human race is its own failure? Do you not know how many genocides there have been, how many people slaughtered by other people? Adolf Hitler? Mao Zedong? Joseph Stalin? Shall I carry on?”
“I don’t care. What is inhuman has no business being among humans.”
“Lilith!” I look over my shoulder and see that Marius is waiting for me. I turn around only to see that Seth has disappeared.
“Who was that?” My friend asks.
“That? That was my brother.”
“He didn’t die? We didn’t kill every Hunter?”
“No. They have kept their heads low.”
“What are we going to do?”
I look up, but the sky holds no answers. I know we can’t win this war simply by turning humans. Dejected, we walk back to the run-down house to join our neighbours, the bats.
Marius doesn’t hear me leave in the night.
I know that my friends spend the next day searching for me.
When I open the door of our den again, guilt flares inside. I know I shouldn’t have gone without telling them, but I had to. I grab hold of the skull pendant that was given to me and look into the black holes which are it eyes. I see the drops of blood from the one who gave it to me. I make sure to make no noise as I slip inside and fall asleep.
“Lilith.” I open my eyes slowly, my vision blurred. I look up into the worried face of Marius. I remember that he is my oldest friend in the world.
“Are you alright?”.
“I’m fine, just a little tired.”
“Where did you go?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“I don’t like it when you keep secrets from me. And what is that?” He points to the skull hanging around my neck.
“I went to save us all. And this will make me successful.”
“How?” Travis asks.
“It isn’t for you to worry about. Just don’t let me lose it.”
“I really don’t like this secrecy,” Marius shakes his head.
“I don’t care. You will find out out in due course. I promise you that the race of Demons will never fall.”
“Will you at least tell us where you went?” Travis whines.
“Stonehenge,” I hold my hand up quickly. “And don’t ask me another questions about it.” I won’t break. There is no way on earth that I will tell them, they will only try to change my mind. The pendant drops from my hand.
“Are you going to tell others what is going on?” Now it’s Viviette’s turn to annoy me.
“This is the last thing I am answering, and I mean it. No, I shall not be informing any demons. And before you ask, the reason is that there is no need to do so. I’m going out quickly to feed – I had a long night – I will be back shortly.”
I walk out the door, lean back against the concrete wall of the house and knock my head against it. I hate lying to them.
None of us sleep that night. I know the time is coming. I can feel it.
“We are all staying here.” I tell my allies the next day. “No one leaves.”
“Why do are we all staying here? Why are you keeping us here?”
“Because Hunters are coming.” Inwardly, I curse myself the minute it slips out. I know how bad that just sounded.
“I knew it!” Travis explodes. “You went to see your brother! You must be on the side of the Hunters now!”
With lightning speed, I thrust my sword against Travis’s neck.
“You see this blade? See how sharp it is?” A trickle of blood opens up on his throat. Viviette and Marius watch, unable to tell whose side to take. “I can easily kill you. Would you stake your life on insisting that I am in allegiance with the Hunters? Well! Would you?”
I withdraw my sword. That night, I sleep with my hand on its hilt and one eye open at all times. It is almost morning, when the door to our den is kicked in.
“How did you know where to find me?” I ask my brother when he enters.
“You knew that I was coming.”
“I didn’t know you were coming, I just had a feeling.”
“I also have a feeling. I know that I will not be able to destroy the Demon race without destroying you first.”
As he stares at me, confused, I take the pendant from the chain and hold it out in front me. I take a dagger and run it across the palm of my hand. I close my blooded hand over the skull. I see Seth’s bewilderment clear as he realises what I am doing,
“I would. I am already halfway there.”
“You wouldn’t what?” Marius asks, as bewildered as my brother and his Hunters.
“Summon Lucifer.” I answer him. “The one and only. That was why I went to Stonehenge.”
I follow the signs to Stonehenge. It is the only way I can save the race of the Demons, I know that now. If I get the words wrong then the whole world will fall. But I won’t get the words wrong.
I stand in the middle of the circle. The Hunters trapped Lucifer here years ago. Because of my history as a Hunter, I know the ceremony of unleashing.
I take three red candles out of the bag and place them onto the grass. I take out a grey goblet and fill it with my blood. I mix rabbit’s blood with mine and stir it in. I light the candles and set the goblet in the middle. The candles’ flame flickers in the red liquid. I kneel down next to the goblet and the candles and close my eyes. I place one finger in the blood and stir whilst I chant. Once I finish, I take the goblet into my hand and drink. A gust of wind blows out the candles, and I am in darkness.
I see a figure appear in front of me.
“Are you…?” I leave the question hanging.
“But you look just like any other Demon I have ever met.”
“Looks can be deceiving. Tell me, Hunter, why you have summoned me now.”
“Firstly, I am not a Hunter. I am a Demon, like you. And I know that this is just a half-summoning. What else must I do?”
“Clever girl.” Lucifer hands me a skull on the end of a chain. “Take this. It has my blood in its eyes. All you have to do is cut feed the skull with your blood. Then utter my name and I will be summoned to kill any Hunter who stands before me. Don’t forget to have a sacrifice ready.”
“What sort of sacrifice?”
I look at Seth with a sly smile.
“You didn’t think I had it in me did you?” I say.
“To tell you the truth, no, I didn’t think you did.”
“You should never underestimate me, dear brother.”
“Why didn’t you tell us your plan?” Marius cuts in.
“Because you might have stopped me,”
“To complete the summoning, there has to be a sacrifice.” Seth tells him.
“Who is being sacrificed?”
“It has to be a Demon,” I say. “Me.”
“Don’t. I would rather be the sacrifice,” my oldest friend in all the world tells me now.
“No. I knew you would try to change my mind, Marius. It’s why I didn’t tell you before. And I’m sorry about lashing out at you, Travis.”
Travis and Marius nod. They know my will is absolute.
“It seems like all of your hard work will be ruined by the uttering of a name.” I tell my brother.
“So it does. I am sorry that you ended up this way, Lilly.”
“For the last time, my name is Lilith!”
“Not to me it isn’t.”
The argument is pointless, and yet we keep repeating it. Why? Siblings will always be siblings, I guess.
“Say your goodbyes to the world.” I tell him.
“I think you should be doing the same as well.”
“I already have.”
Looking at Seth, I re-open the cut on the palm of my hand. I don’t flinch as the blade cuts the already sore surface. I close my palm around the skull. I smile slyly at Seth, knowing that I have beaten him. My brother doesn’t do the sensible thing of running out of the door. He stays where he is.
The world is in my hands. I think about how the human race will probably fall in time. Demons will have to adapt to find something else to eat. But that is none of my concern. All I know is that I can end the Hunters.
Half of me doesn’t want to die, and so I struggle when I say the name:
Seth freezes up. Until the very last minute, he thought I wouldn’t do it.
“Lucifer.” The air seems to go still. I feel a hand clasp the back of my neck. I don’t try to get away.
“I thought the Devil was supposed to be different?” Travis breaks the silence. I give a stifled laugh.
“I don’t know what ridiculous human made that rumour up, but it isn’t true.” Lucifer says, and turns his face to Seth. “Thank you for taking me out of that hell hole.” He says to me without taking his hungry eyes off Seth. “But you do realise I am only half here?”
“I need all your blood.”
“Kill me with this,” I hand him my old dagger, the one that’s been with me for years. “Just give it to Marius, my friend, when you are done.”
I know he will keep his word.
“Goodbye,” I tell my allies, those for whom the war was waged.
Lucifer takes the skull from around my neck and tugs it off. I feel the cool blade against my flesh. I feel it run across my throat. My neck starts to tickle as my blood runs down. Coldness fills me and my mouth turns dry. I look down and see Lucifer’s hand – the one holding the skull – covered in blood.
I feel my blood being drained out of me, most of it now falling to the floor. Dizziness comes over me and pain flares through my body. The room fades in and out; nothing stays sharp, except for the pain. Soon I cannot breathe. I don’t try to fight it. The pain becomes so unbearable that I can no longer feel my body. I close my eyes and sink into unconsciousness. I slump to the floor and feel the blade, at last, being taken from my throat.
I don’t care what happens next. It hasn’t got anything to do with me, I have done my part and I am dying. Humans can live or be killed; I have no attachment to them. And Hunters will not have an easy time of it now, though I will not live to see their defeat.
As I go to my death, my comfort is knowing that my allies will prosper in the capable hands of the one I have summoned. The Demon king, Lucifer, has risen again.