The archers stood in the doorway, already nocking arrows to their bows for another volley. Igor, with a practiced aim, threw his ax in a powerful arc that struck one of the archers in the skull, bisecting the bone and tissue, dropping the lost soul like a puppet with its strings suddenly cut. The other archer stared at the ax for a moment, granting Ivan enough time to pull one of the arrows from his chest and charge the archer with a bellow, tackling it to the floor, forcing the spiked shaft into the lost soul’s skull through its left eye socket. The creature fell still after struggling for several seconds, leaving Igor straddling the corpse breathing heavily, a thin line of blood trickling from the corner of his mouth from his injuries.
“Yeah… got you sons of bitches!” Igor growled, reaching over with a wince to yank his ax free from the splintered skull of the lost soul sprawled out on the church floor. Igor’s hair seemed to stand up on end as he felt the very air around him heat up. Cursing, he rolled to the side, behind the flimsy wall of the church near the entryway.
Not a second passed before a blast of flame rained down on the two bodies, splashing about as if it were water. The church lit up like a thousand candles in moments, the fire catching on the dry wood, the roar of the flames rising in tenor. Igor grunted as he stood up and got up, walking down the wall away from the fire, leaning against the flimsy wooden wall. Igor could hear the Witch cackling.
“Come on little Raven, there’s nowhere to run!” The Witch called out with a few remaining lost souls lingering by him, giggling in their high-pitched raspy voices. “Just give into the flames!”
The wall near Igor buckled and grew hot, obviously from another blast of fire sent by the Witch. Backing away from the scorched wall, Igor stumbled down the hall towards the back of the church, turning to try and find an exit that, perhaps, the Witch wasn’t covering. The madman was obviously going to bring the church down with infernal fire atop Igor unless he did something about it, and he was too injured to take the potent spell caster on head-to-head. The Witch still had two or three lost souls with him, all armed with bows and knives; they’d pepper Igor if given the chance.
Igor wasn’t going to allow that.
Stumbling into the small kitchen of the church, two doors leading out of the room if one didn’t count the one Igor had just used. A high table with stools sitting around it, covered with a layer of dust and grime that could only form from years of neglect. Gripping the handle of his axe, Igor coughed as smoke trickled into the room.
“Have to find an exit,” Igor said, stumbling past the kitchen table and towards the door leading deeper into the church. “Just need a door or window in the back.”
The halls were in horrible disrepair, wooden boards rotted away from the floor and parts of the ceiling having caved in from heavy snowfall over the years. Bleeding from his multiple wounds, Igor pressed a hand tightly over his belly, hoping to staunch the bleeding coming from around the shaft of the arrow. He didn’t dare pull them out, not yet at least. He’d bleed out in minutes if he left open two wounds like the ones in his chest and stomach for very long. He just needed to escape the burning church and slink away into the shadows. He’d set up a base camp in a cave far back in the woods; there he had a spare crossbow, more holy water, and a fully stocked medical kit.
Another fireball rocked the front of the house, the sound of shattering glass and snapping timber echoing down the hall Igor was shuffling down. The house was growing warmer by the second, the flames from the fiery blasts spreading quickly along the dry wood of the ancient church.
Stumbling into a room that was obviously an antechamber to the church hall, Igor gave a weak chuckle when he spied the double doors that would lead to the snowy graveyard in the back. Odd that a church was built directly in the middle of a graveyard, Igor thought, but this was an odd place to be certain. He pushed those thoughts away, pushing onward towards the doors, pulling one open to face a blast of cold air.
The back of the church was a field perhaps fifty feet long and thirty feet wide, small headstones marking the graves of those long since forgotten. The whole area was under a pure blanket of snow, a few frost covered statues of angels with their hands folded in prayer dotting the area. Smiling, Igor limped out into the graveyard, his blood blotting the snow as he struggled to stay upright.
The wound in his side was throbbing and wet, the cold air making the slicked area frigid as he tried his best to hurry. Stopping to turn and look back, he saw the smoke rising from the church, and flames spreading through the halls as if racing to consume his path to freedom.
A crunch in the snow was all the warning Igor got as a figure in front of him lashed out with hooked fingers, clawing at his chest piece and breaking the shaft of the arrow embedded in his armor and skin. Crying out, Igor turned back and glared at the lost soul that had emerged from nowhere, gasping as he recognized it.
With a mouth from her throat down to her groin, splitting open to reveal jagged teeth, eyes popping out of the ragged lips like ripe zits, the barmaid stood there, her head rolled to the side, useless in death. What she was now, Igor feared that he was no longer facing a risen human, but a fallen angel.
“Raven,” it hissed, the mouth moving awkwardly as it spoke, blood spittle flying from the wound-turned-orifice. “I’ll dine on your flesh and suck the marrow from your bones!”
Igor stepped back, pulling a vial of holy water. “Demon! By Elohim’s might, I command you to leave this body in peace and return to the pit!”
The girls head rolled to where her dead eyes could stare at Igor, fluttering open. She trembled, her arms held at her side with her hands curled into claws. “I-Igor? Is that you?” She said, her voice that of the barmaid he’d befriended in town.
“It is Alice, just a little roughed up,” Igor said, never taking his eyes off of the unblinking yellow orbs that pockmarked her body.
“It hurts Igor, and I can feel it inside me, wriggling about like a maggot in my soul,” Alice sobbed, her voice breaking as tears began to leak from her eyes. “Please! Kill m,e so that I can be freed from this prison!”
Igor popped the top of the holy water off before splashing it at Alice’s midsection, where the demon seemed to have infested her. The water struck her bloodied flesh and sizzled, causing her to cry out in agony. Her body lunged forward, a hand scratching at Igor’s face, her nails digging bloody red grooves in his cheeks and over his eyes.
Reaching up to grab her wrist, he bellowed in pain as her body pressed flush with his, allowing the maw to open wide, splitting her ribs like teeth before clamping down on him in a vice-like gripe of pain, his cracking under the might of the demon’s unholy bite. Igor pushed her back, wincing as the chest piece was torn away from him, leaving Igor bare-chested in the cold of the graveyard, the arrows ripped free of his two wounds, blood freely dribbling now that the wounds were open. The demon spat out the ruined jerkin and armor, cackling in its hollow baritone.
“Hmm… I smell blood!” The demon said, a slippery bit of intestine sliding out of the mouth to lick the “lips” of the vertical mouth like some obscene tongue. “I think I’ll eat you slowly Raven, seeing as you only have a few minutes of life left within you.”
Igor roared, pulling his ax from his belt and rushing forward, hoping to catch the demon unaware. He hacked into Alice’s side, breaking a few ribs and opening a wound that coagulated blood flowed from. Her head straightened up, eyes going wide as she screamed like a banshee, specks of blood flying from her mouth and onto Igor’s face. He backed away as the demon attempted to scratch him again, staring as Alice sobbed, crying out for her mother.
“You see now Raven? I’ve taken this body as a host, allowing me to attack you with impunity. I feel no pain, allowing all of that to be felt by dear Alice here,” the Demon said with a snicker. “Now come Raven, do your duty put me down. That silver ax you have should do a number on Alice while I tear you apart slowly, limb by limb.”
“You leave that girl at once Demon!” Igor growled, eyes wavering as he struggled to stand.
“Oh no, I plan on dragging this bitch back to Hell once the sorcerer who called me here releases me from his service. Her suffering will be legendary… it’s not often a virgin gets sent to Hell, you know?”
Igor coughed, a dribble of blood spattering past his teeth and down his chin into his beard. He lunged forward and swung overhead, axe aimed at the young girl’s neck. The blade connected, separating flesh and bone from each other as the head flew from the torso and landed in the red slush that had formed between the two combatants.
The Demon laughed, a dry noise like the bark of two rough trees rubbing together. “You think you’ve saved the pig from eternal torment? I can feel her inside me Raven, squirming like a speared toad. She tastes delicious, her fear saturating her entire being. Like honeyed mead… what are you doing?”
Igor dropped to his knees, pulling a small chain from around his wrist and holding a silver symbol of Elohim before him. Whispering a fervent prayer to the Raven Goddess, Igor allowed his vision to fade and his arms to weaken.
He knew that he’d be with Elohim soon.
“Giving up so soon? Well, who am I to let you die of blood loss? I’ll tear out your eyes and tongue before you pass out, just you watch!” The Demon crowed, shuffling up to Igor’s bleeding frame, hands outstretched to grab onto his head, thumbs ready to press into his eyes.
Igor moved with a flash, bringing his ax up into the side of the demon’s body, cutting deep into the spin and through the rib cage, slicing through deflated black lungs and into the tarry black heart, the nest of corruption where the Demon housed itself. The silver grew bright as it touched the black veins, cutting through them like a butcher’s cleaver through freshly caught fish. The ax came to a halt as it cleaved through the heart, the edge of the blade bisecting the upper half of the rotten heart from the lower half. Purple ooze spurted out from the wound, the veins disgorging the fluid uncontrollably as Alice’s headless body began to convulse. The Demon was crying out now, a keening wail that seemed to rise from the stomach and up through the gigantic maw. The eyes all bulged in their sockets, the pulsing orbs looking like ripe boils ready to be lanced. The body stumbled back on unsteady feet, Igor allowing the ax to leave his grasp as he fell over onto his side, a silent splat into the bloody snow ringing throughout the graveyard.
“C-Clever little Raven…” The Demon said as the purple blood continued discharging from the veins. “Didn’t r-realize you had k-knowledge of h-how we worked.”
Igor smiled at the Demon, “Learned it from an Exorcist from India. He dissected a possessed child to see how the experience changed the human physically. I helped him put the boy down when the procedure was over.”
The Demon fell back, arms and legs falling limp as the eyes rolled back in their sockets. The Demon hadn’t the energy to make a grand speech of how it would slay Igor, or how it was taking Alice’s spirit to Hell. Igor knew that the Demon would do that as he was never properly exorcised; it was a shame really, but such things happened.
Coughing up a fistful of blood and spittle, Igor blearily looked around the graveyard as shadows stretched out from behind him, the burning church crackling in the chilly night air. Igor didn’t need to look to know who was behind him. Coughing, Igor tilted his head to where he could look at the Witch, meeting the calculating eyes with a toothy smile.
“For a dying man you seem rather pleased,” the Witch observed. Looking around the graveyard, he waved a ring-laden hand dramatically. “With this graveyard, I’ll have fifty lost souls under my control by sunrise, one of them a former Raven. I destroyed the sanctity of a church and killed one of the so-called slayers of the damned; yet I feel as if I lost something by the way you’re smiling.”
Igor pushed himself up onto his elbows, looking at the Witch as he walked around Igor, several feet from him. “That spell you used, the one to heal your wound. Tell me, does it cure poisons?”
The Witch’s face scrunched up. “No, but all I’ve felt from the arrow is a mild itch, nothing more.” He looked down at the bolt still stuck halfway in his chest.
“I load my bolts with enough opium to kill a raging bull,” Igor said with a smile. “The only explanation is that your little healing spell is keeping the opium from reaching your heart. But after the spell wears off, once you want to remove the arrow from your chest, you’ll die. Just like me and just like Alice, you’ll die.”
“No,” the Witch muttered, casting several diagnostic spells over him. His eyes grew wide as he studied the results of the smoky Aramaic that formed, detailing his current health. “You dog!”
The Witch screeched, moving forward to kick Igor in the chest, his robes billowing around him as his booted foot flew at Igor’s ribs.
Igor slid down onto his side, whipping his ax out to cut the extended limb. The sharpened blade severed the foot at an angle, the boot-clad foot sailing over Igor’s prone form as he pulled his blade back. The Witch clutched his injured leg and fell back, howling in pain as blood erupted from the ruined ankle. Hands clutched his calf, the Witch stuttered out the words in Latin to try and heal the wound, but his healing spells were obviously not up to par for anything like this.
The Witch was going to bleed out or succumb to opium overdose within minutes, dying right alongside the Raven that’d been sent to take him out. Igor smiled at the irony, knowing the lost souls that were under the Witch’s control would simply disintegrate, the rot claiming them in a matter of seconds. The trouble in the small town in Spain, with its now ruined church and Vatican-sponsored mortician, was now finally over.
Igor’s last thoughts, his ears filled with the pain-addled whimpers of the Witch, were that he hoped he would join Elohim soon. It was time for him to be called home to the lands of milk and honey, to where he could reunite with his fallen comrades. He’d served Elohim all his life… it was the least she could do for him.
And with that thought, Igor allowed the chill of the night to overtake him, snuffing out his life while the chill of winter battled with the blazing heat of the flaming building. The Witch died moments later, the blood loss proving too much for his concentration, the healing spell cast over his chest finally letting the opium into his system. The Witch died peacefully as the opium numbed his body.
All that was left was a graveyard filled with red snow, a headless woman with a ragged gash down her torso, a robed man with an arrow in his chest and one foot cleanly cut from his body, and a bear of a man with three holes in his body and a scratched up face, a smile gracing his features. He was clutching a small silver raven in his fist as if it were a lifeline that he couldn’t be without.