The snow had finally stopped, covering up the evidence of the pitched battle that had taken place not an hour before. Dawn was rapidly approaching, and with it would come the peace that the light brought.
“Demons, be they formerly man or fallen from God’s grace, cannot stand the light of day. The weaker ones will die, their bodies imploding in a show of fire and gore I’ve yet to see matched,” Ivan explained to Father Donovan, who led Ivan while holding up a glowing lantern, a single ember in the pitch darkness threatening to consume them. “The stronger ones will merely be weakened by it.”
“And the one you fought, which do you think it was?” Father Donovan asked, turning his head as he walked pushed through the snow.
Ivan shrugged his shoulders before wincing. “Hard to say; they all behave differently so one can only tell by wading into combat with the demon in question, something they all avoid barring they can set up the circumstances.”
“You mean an ambush?”
“That, or someplace far from civilization. Deep in the woods or high in the mountains, where one would be hard pressed to find help,” Ivan clarified, eyes scanning the night sky. Without the snowstorm, it was easy enough to see if something was following them by air. “They generally make nests in hard-to-reach places, where they can sleep away the days after a good night’s hunt.”
The good Father fell silent as he thought on the matter, instead opting to lead on with only the sounds of the night to accompany them, along with the crunching of snow beneath their feet. It didn’t take much longer to reach the sloped roof home where Ivan had first encountered the Beast. The door to the home was marked by a red X, obviously done in blood. Ivan walked up to the marker and peered at it before sniffing once.
Beyond the door was the scent of putrefaction, but here where the blood was, only the scent of the night lingered. “Lamb’s blood,” Ivan said, looking back at the Father. “You did this?”
Father Donovan huffed, frowning slightly. “I may not be a Hunter of the Damned like you are, but I know my old blessings and how to use them. This should have prevented anyone with ill-intent from crossing the threshold, correct?”
“Or leaving it…” Ivan muttered, turning back to regard the door. He pulled his short sword, looking at the burned iron for any sign of the green fire to flare to life.
Sheathing his sword, he pulled one of his favored daggers and opened the door, crossing the threshold into the foul-smelling living room of the Cavey family. Motioning for Donovan to follow, the old priest made a quick cross over his chest before following Ivan inside, closing the door behind him.
The light cast over the icy tomb showed that without heat, icicles had formed all over the room, with a shimmer of frost covering the wooden floors. Seated on a long couch were three bodies, all pulled back as if they’d willingly allowed themselves to be handled one by one, their frozen bodies each bearing a long, deep gash across their throats. In a fur-lined seat next to the burnt-out fireplace was another body in a similar state, all of them gray and lifeless from their long exposure to the cold.
Ivan frowned before turning to Father Donovan. “Five bodies…”
“Yes?” Father Donovan replied as if he hadn’t heard Ivan, his eyes glued to the unfortunate fate of the family.
“There are only four here, you told me there were five; three daughters, a mother, and a father. But I only see the father and daughters.”
“That would be because I’ve been trapped in here without means of escape, little Raven.” A cooing voice issued forth from beyond a darkened doorway.
Ivan’s grip tightened on his dagger while Donovan pulled out his Rosary. The voice clucked disapprovingly. “Now, there’s no need for that gentlemen! What kind of hostess would I be if I were to force you to fight me?”
“Mrs. Cavey?” Father Donovan asked aloud before clearing his throat. “Rebecca?”
Walking out of the darkness as if she were composed of nothing but sheer silk, the pale body of a young woman walked into the flickering light. Her hair hung limply around her face, her eyes solid black orbs set against opal skin, tinged with blue veins like the marble floors in the Vatican. Ivan cursed beneath his breath as he caught sight of Rebecca’s nude form, a chittering noise accompanying her movements.
“So you were the one to cause this Rebecca? How could you?” Father Donovan growled, his jowls shaking as he grew angrier. “They were your family, your daughters!”
“She didn’t do this Donovan,” Ivan said, cutting Rebecca’s remark short by pointing at her with his dagger. “Check the throat, it was slashed as well.”
“Oh drat,” Rebecca pouted, cracked blue lips splitting even further from the movement. “And here I was told to try and keep your attention as long as possible.”
“Told by whom?” Father Donovan shouted, bearing his Rosary in front of him. “Tell me in the name of the Son, abomination!”
Rebecca stared at the Rosary with contempt, cocking her hand on her naked hip. “And why should I do that?”
Father Donovan fell silent, shaking with impotent fury. Ivan shook his head. “It won’t work Father, she doesn’t have a soul to punish; this is a mere creation by the Witch, left here to taunt us.”
“Got it in one!” Rebecca cried, clapping her hands together merrily. Her body was rigid from the cold and creaked, popping from her rapid movements. “Now I have a message for you from my Master, and then I’ve been instructed to kill you.”
“And what is your message?” Ivan asked genially, surprising Donovan, who looked back at him with a strange glance.
Rebecca cleared her throat before folding her hands behind her back, thrusting forward her once proud chest. “I’ve been told that should you remain here beyond three days Raven, that my Master will be forced to slay the townsfolk and use their spirits to call upon reinforcements.”
Father Donovan was about to say something but Rebecca lunged forward once her words had left her lips, slamming her fist into the older man’s gut with a solid slam, throwing him across the room and into the far wall.
Ivan stepped to the side to avoid the Priests form flying into him, bringing his dagger into play as he slashed across Rebecca’s face. The blessed iron caused her flesh to sizzle and tear, revealing a writhing mass beneath her cheek and nose.
Wood roaches, fat and wet from feasting on the corpses innards, hissed angrily at being disturbed, the light from the fallen lantern casting stark shadows over Rebecca’s mutilated features. She smiled sadistically, her dark eyes glinting with malice.
“Oh, this will be fun!” She growled, reaching up to tear away a burning strand of skin that hung from her new wound.
Ivan merely smiled back at her before lunging once more, swiping silently as the creature that had once been Rebecca Cavey cackled, Father Donovan’s groans marking the beginnings of a pitched battle.