Firestarter

Kindling 1.8

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Kindling 1.8

August 16th 2014 – Molly

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The obsidian knife and the promise of tax-free money had gotten me to start talking, but Wrath actually wasn’t a half bad listener. I spoke uninterrupted for almost an hour. The car hummed along, I could feel us take the occasional turn, but for the life of me I couldn’t have told you what direction we were headed. It was actually kinda nice to tell someone about everything that had happened in the past few days. Wrath was still scary, but he really wasn’t actually all that threatening. He radiated confidence and power, and gave orders like he expected them to be followed, but he was almost hard to take seriously. He didn’t have the threatening demeanor and gravitas I’d come to associate with powerful people. He barely interjected until I got to the part where we landed in Atlanta. Then he was all questions. Wrath seemed to want to know everything shy of what color of socks I was wearing.

The incessant questions dragged on until I got to the fight bargain with Ruin. Then the criticisms started.

“Why the hell did you jump out the window? You had to know he’d just follow you onto the tarmac?” Wrath asked.

“I didn’t really have anywhere else to go, the fire escape was blocked by the crowd!”

“You could have just run through security and headed to a corridor with a lower ceiling. Even an iron golem would have been slowed down by needing to continually plow through structural steel. And seriously? Making a spur of the moment bargain with a demon you didn’t bind? I probably should just kill you right now, it’d probably be a kinder fate.”

“I didn’t exactly have a plethora of choices. How about next time you try fighting off the major demon?” I retorted.

“Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I handled it with much more panache than you by the way, no broken bones or idiotic deals.” Wrath replied.

“Really? I find that hard to believe.”

“Yep, I also didn’t accidentally level an airport and get hundreds of people killed. I wonder how you’re going to explain that one to the Association.” Fuck. I hadn’t really thought about that.

“I’m sure there are provisions for self-defense against a demon. It’s not like the association can completely throw me under the bus, I’m the one who was just attacked by a demon.” I said.

“Molly dear, I’m pretty sure those provisions you’re talking about call for you to be given over to the custody of the Holy Church. And you’re not going to be considered a victim, technically you’re a warlock now. After all, you did make a formal bargain with a demon.”

Wrath sat quietly for a moment to let me think about that. Technically, he was right. It’s not like I summoned the demon, or made a true offering or pact, but trading an object for assistance was technically a bargain. Oh dear. If that ever got out, I definitely wouldn’t be making it to my eighteenth birthday. Warlocks and diabolists have a very short life expectancy, and that’s not just because they traffic in primordial evils. Talking to Wrath might not have been the best idea I’d ever had, I’d just handed him incredible blackmail material. And he still held that long obsidian knife, idly flipping it between his fingers. Just looking at it made me shiver. I considered taking a peek with the sight, it would certainly give me a better idea of exactly what I was up against. But that knife… Looking closely at something with an aura that dark could potentially leave me a gibbering wreck. It wasn’t worth the risk yet. Of course, if he actually decided to use it on me, I probably wouldn’t have time to give it a proper examination.

“Do you know where that slavic bozo you made a deal with ranks in the hierarchy of his choir?” Wrath asked.

“Uh… Not exactly… But he tore that golem apart, he’s clearly not small fries.”

Wrath snorted. “An imp, hell, even a mane, would be more than small fries dear. And probably more than you could handle besides.”

“Hey, I’ve made it this far haven’t I? I’m clearly not a total incompetent. And stop calling me dear.” I replied indignantly.

“Yes, such an amazing performance to date. You lost the relic you stole from an unguarded tomb, nearly burned down a bunch of unsuspecting villages, accidentally got a major airport leveled, made a bargain you don’t understand with a demon, then got captured. Brilliant. I bet the Association will be asking you to teach their next supernatural combat in-service!” Wrath deadpanned.

“I killed that Slaugh, priests have made their careers on less!” I objected.

“Hah! You got lucky, if you’d been facing anything that wasn’t deathly afraid of fire, or fighting anywhere less flammable, you would have been toast. Hell, if it hadn’t rained afterward, you probably would have been toast anyway!”

“I left a strip of scorched earth between me and the fire, there was no way for it to reach me. I’ve been working with fire for more than a decade, I know what I’m doing.”

“There’s this thing that sometimes causes fires to spontaneously spread, it’s called wind. Ever heard of it pyromancer?”

“It’s Ireland, if the weather is bad enough to be windy, it’s probably raining too! Besides, where the hell do you get off on criticizing my performance? How I do my job isn’t any of your fucking business!” I shouted. Okay, he might have hit a bit of a nerve there. I definitely could have handled Hartsfield-Jackson better, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to admit that to this asshole. He was right, but he didn’t have to be an ass about it.

For a few blessed moments, Wrath didn’t say anything. I leaned back against the wall of the truck, listening to the steady hum of the engine. I closed my eyes, it wasn’t as if I had any chance of winning a fight against my kidnappers anyway. Even if Wrath’s knife wasn’t as magically nasty as I suspected it was, even if he didn’t have the sort of supernatural speed and strength that typically backs up a weapon like that, there was no way I was getting out of here. Judging by the bumps in the road we were far outside of the city proper, and without a weapon I certainly had no chance against the shape-shifting, head-ache inducing monster that was apparently driving the car. It would easily outpace me if I tried to run, and without a lighter and a wand or gun I couldn’t hope to fight the thing on open ground. The only advantage I had in this situation was that I was still technically a member in good standing of the Association, they couldn’t just kill me and dump the body without some sort of consequences. The Association was full of ornery, brown nosing, assholes that any merciful God would have called to his side centuries ago, but damn did we take care of our own. Or rather, damn did we take care of anyone who messed with our own. And, technically a warlock or not, Wrath couldn’t prove anything, it was his word against mine.

Unfortunately, Wrath derailed that train of thought with a question.

“So, have you noticed any changes since making the bargain? A newfound thirst for blood? A desire to to urinate on Churches? Supernatural insight into the futility of the human condition?” Oh, shit. I suppressed the urge to flinch when Wrath asked me about the changes. Hallucinations and enhanced stamina? Yeah, there was no way those were unrelated. Had I accidentally given the demon permission to heal me? I couldn’t remember the exact words I’d used. And Wrath had to have seen my run from the hospital, that alone was enough evidence to convince a jury to have me examined by a priest.

“Nope. Nothing new, though I haven’t really checked. I’ve been a bit preoccupied since I woke up.” I tried to lie anyway. It’s not like I could get into any more trouble, he practically already owned me.

Wrath sighed. Yep, he knew. He had to, there was no way a human who had been injured as badly as I was could have run that far without magical aid. Maybe I needed to look into destroying the records at that hospital. I couldn’t remember the name, but if I found it again a little arson wouldn’t be too hard to get away with.

Wrath opened his mouth to say something obnoxious. Well, it probably would have been obnoxious, I never did get to find out. Before he could speak, something slammed into the side of the van.

I tried to brace myself, but there wasn’t really anything to hold onto in the back of the van. I first felt a crash as something collided with the van, then the world turned 45 degrees, as if the van was balanced on two wheels. For a long moment, the van held it’s precarious balance and I slid off the former floor down towards where it met the wall. Wrath reacted better, keeping his balance by planting one leg on the wall, one on the floor. Then, with another crash, the van tipped. The van rumbled along the road on it’s side, momentum carrying us onwards. I reached out, for something, anything, solid to try to hold onto through the as we slid along. I saw the hacksaw flying through the air, and narrowly managed to curl out of the way. For my trouble, something blunt and metal slammed into my face from outside my field of vision. I shut my eyes and tried to shield my head, but another impact knocked me off the floor. I hit a wall, or maybe the old floor. The van kept on sliding for a few more seconds before friction did it’s work.

I opened my eyes as soon as I felt the van begin to slow down and tried to take stock of the situation. The cooler had tipped open and some point, the new floor of the van was covered with ice and vacuum wrapped plastic bags full of red stuff. Were they… Kidneys? I couldn’t tell without a closer look.

Closer to me, I saw the hacksaw that I’d barely dodged and the empty handgun that I hadn’t. My food was strewn across the floor, and Wrath’s half finished coke had spilled everywhere. Wait, where was Wrath? I could see the whole inside of the van, and he wasn’t here.

Had he gotten out of the van before we’d even stopped moving? I grabbed the gun and hacksaw and stumbled across the wet floor. The bottom half of the van’s doors were already open. I crawled through onto the asphalt into, well, a scene that looked like the unholy offspring of a Bosch triptych and a zombie movie. Yeah, it was that bad.

The Georgia night was warm and humid. We were far outside the city, surrounded by a thick forest on all sides. The waning gibbous moon and a few fireflies were the only sources of light outside of the truck. The narrow asphalt road we had been traveling down was in a pretty terrible state of disrepair, filled with potholes and being encroached upon on all sides by the forest. Wrath stood alone in the middle of the road a few yards in front of me. He was surrounded by a pile of human limbs and torsos. Most of the limbs weren’t attached to the torsos anymore. Neither the limbs nor the torsoes seemed to have realized that, they flailed back and forth with a violent rhythm. Wrath held an obsidian knife in each hand, the ebony blades glowing with a queer sort of black light. It flowed down the edges blade then drifted upward like smoke, dissipating into the thick air. The knives were beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. I wanted to touch them, to stroke their edges, to keep them forever, to take them away from their unworthy owner. And I wanted to run away screaming at the same time, yet they drew me like a moth to a flame, or an isolated teenager to a hungry fae. I knew deep down they would hurt me badly and I would never recover, but I wanted them.

Something deep and angry stirred inside my stomach. I couldn’t have told you why they I wanted them, or why I feared them, but I knew they were precious as surely as I knew that death was bad or that people were cruel. And with just as much certainty, I knew some day they would be mine.

I was so infatuated by the knives almost didn’t notice the faces between the trees. Or the twisted, misshapen bodies beneath those faces.

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