August 16th 2014 – Molly
I wasn’t about to just take the demon’s word for the fact that the priest was trying to kill me. That would be stupid. But lying about that would be a stupid move on Casimir’s part, all I had to do to verify he was lying was wake up and wait for Father Murphy to try to kill me. When he didn’t, I’d know Casimir was lying, and he would have made an enemy of me for nothing. I didn’t trust Casimir, but I trusted him to act in his own self interest, and to be smart enough to know that nothing he said would convince me to attack Father Murphy the instant I woke up. Which meant either I was overestimating his intelligence, or he was telling the truth.
Overestimating the demon’s intelligence was definitely less of a catastrophic mistake than underestimating the priest’s willingness to kill me. When in doubt, I usually err on the side of not getting stabbed.
“So, what’s your plan?” I asked.
“What, that easy? Not gonna insult me or rant about how much you can’t trust me first?”
“I’ll save the insults until after I hear your plan. If it’s as bad as ‘Learn diabolism’ I might still need them” I retorted.
“Hey, that was a perfectly good plan, It’s not my fault you’re irrationally prejudiced against that branch of magic.”
“Oh shut up. There’s nothing irrational about not wanting to die of infernal magic induced cancer before I’m old enough to legally drink.” I retorted.
Casimir paused for a moment before replying. When he finally spoke again, for the first time in the conversation, he actually sounded angry.
“The winners write the textbooks. And for all the crap they spew about how dangerous we are, I think it’s pretty obvious which side of heaven won that war. They didn’t win by being merciful.” Well, looks like someone has issues. I wasn’t touching that comment with a ten foot pole.
“Just tell me your brilliant idea already.”
“Well, actually I have two.”
“Ooh, this’ll be good. Let’s hear em.”
“We could work together to kill the priest, or you could give me enough power to hide my presence and make up a story about slaying me in some sort of epic internal battle for your soul.” Casimir said. It was eerie how closely his words mirrored my thoughts from earlier, but I put that aside for now. Survival was of a higher priority than privacy for the moment. Unfortunately, his ideas were about what I’d expected. Dangerous, and not much better than anything I could think up on my own. But, this conversation did give me an opportunity to get a handle on how much information Casimir had, and how I could use it.
“Do you know anything about Father’s Murphy’s powers or skills?” I asked. It was a good starting place, and he had no reason not to share with his life on the line. I might be able to get an idea of his capabilities too if I played along about working together.
“I know nothing more than you about him in particular. My best guess is that the man is a hunter who favors small, easily concealed weapons. He has no substantially greater divine presence than one would expect from a priest of his position, and he came to greet you without any obvious weapons. He is likely partially retired, and was probably drinking whiskey prior to your arrival. He could have magical prowess and an easily concealable implement, but that is statistically unlikely, priests with arcane training are disproportionately rare.”
“I’m have eyes, and I’m not an idiot. That doesn’t tell me anything new.”
“And I don’t have a body and have never met the man, I have no information you don’t. Casimir either never met the man, or neglected to provide me with any memories he had of him.”
I scowled at the rather unhelpful demon. He stuck his tongue out at me.
“Okay, well then what the hell can you do?” I asked, changing tactics.
“I don’t know.”
“So, you’re totally useless?”
“Hey! I didn’t say that! I don’t know exactly what I can do, but I have a rough idea. You saw the real Casimir’s power right? I bet I’ll be able to break stuff, maybe drop a big crossbeam on the priest.”
“That doesn’t exactly complement my skillset, I can do that too.”
“Yeah, but I can aim, and do it without bringing the fire department.”
“How exactly can you not know what your powers are anyway? And how exactly are you related to the real Casimir?”
“Well, I’m not really a demon yet, I’m more of a mote. My fragments of lore are probably going to be both weak and annoyingly specific. It’s not like I’m blessed with some sort of mystical self-knowledge, I can’t know my capabilities without testing them any more than you could. Dollars to donuts they involve destroying stuff.” Casimir explained.
“You just said dollars to donuts. What kind of self respecting demon talks like that?”
“The kind created using your subconscious as a substrate apparently.”
“So… I could say you’re my own personal demon?” I asked.
“You could, but it would only be vacuously true and it’s not really a good joke anyway.”
“It’s not my fault you’re not funny. Besides, I don’t get to have self respect until I have a body of my own.”
“At least we agree on that.”
“I hope we also agree that we need to come up with a plan to deal with Father Murphy. You’re going to wake up soon, and alone, I’m not strong enough to do much more than watch while you’re awake. Since you’ve made it clear you’re not about to give me any power to intervene directly, you need to be prepared enough to survive whatever he tries.” Casimir said. As much as I hated to admit it, he was right.
“So, what do you propose?” I already had the beginnings of a plan in mind, but it wouldn’t hurt to hear his perspective. I wasn’t all that confident of my ability to win a fight, and I hardly in a position to be picky about advice.
“Well…” Casimir began. “Really what it all comes down to, is you need to stall until…”
I woke from my deep meditative sleep feeling relaxed, refreshed, and ready to kick some ass. If, and only if, ass-kicking turned out to be both necessary and expedient. As it turned out, both me and Casimir had agreed on the likely necessity of ass-kicking. I cracked my eyes open a fraction, and gave the room a quick once over. I was in a dark dingy room, lying on a cot that was probably neither cleaner nor softer than the floor. The walls were wooden panels, barely covered with peeling off-white paint, the floor pretty much looked like one of the walls, minus the paint. A threadbare blanket covered most of me, but left my feet exposed to the chilly autumn air. I was probably in a room in the back of the church, Adrianne wouldn’t have let him move me off the property. There was a brick fireplace set in the wall, filled with wood, but unfortunately unlit. Father Murphy sat across the room, slumped over in a chair by the fireplace. It really was unfortunate, if he had just lit the damn fireplace this whole thing would be so much easier. I could have just straight up asked him if he was planning on killing me, and then swallowed him up whole if he didn’t deny it.
Instead, I’d have find another source of fire. I mentioned earlier that it’s hard to just poof fire out of nothingness, which is why I usually kept multiple lighters on my person. Unfortunately, having three lighters hidden in my clothes does me absolutely zero good when the damn hospital stole my clothes. This room didn’t have a gas stove, and I had no idea whether or not any other room here did. I really wasn’t looking forward to risking my life to escape into the kitchen only to discover that Father Murphy favored electric cooktops. Which pretty much left me with only Casimir’s plan. As much as it pains me to admit it, demon-boy had actually been pretty helpful. He’d reminded me of two advantages I had neglected to consider. The oddly protective vampire waiting outside, and the one source of fire present in basically every Catholic church, the votive candles.
Assuming the candles hadn’t gone out, I was feeling pretty good about my chances of surviving the night.
Father Murphy was slouching in his chair by the unlit fireplace, but it was hard to tell if he was asleep or not. His breathing was regular, and his eyes were closed, but that really didn’t tell me anything for sure. It had probably been several hours since he put me to sleep. I had arrived at the Church a few hours after midnight, and the small window set high on the wall to my right showed it was still dark outside. Father Murphy was only human, he had to sleep at some point, especially if he was spending his days delivering sermons.
I slowly opened both my eyes, and shifted onto my back. No reaction from the Father. I slowly shimmied toward the edge of the cot, trying to prevent the wood from creaking. Soon, I had my legs close enough to swing them over the edge to the floor. I put one hand on each side of the cot’s frame, trying to even out my weight as much as possible, and swung a leg onto the floor. The bed creaked. Just a little, but enough to be audible. Father Murphy’s chest stopped moving. I waited, not even daring to breath, watching his chest, waiting for the rise and fall to resume. If he saw me now, it would be obvious I was trying to sneak out, nobody sleeps with one leg out of bed. After several agonizing moments, his breath resumed its steady rhythm.
I started breathing again too. Then I slipped my other foot out of bed. The seven steps I took to reach the half-closed door were some of the longest moments of my life. A hundred thoughts whizzed through my head in those moments, my brain on overdrive to find solutions to ridiculous hypothetical problems. What if Murphy was a mage? What if someone else was in the church? What if the candles were out? The answers to most of those questions involved me dying a quick death. Planning obsessively was a bit of a coping mechanism for me.
I placed one hand on the door, just above the knob, and pushed it the rest of the way open. The heavy wooden door silently slid back on well-balanced hinges. I could have jumped for joy, if I wasn’t sneaking. I took a step into the doorway, slipping through the half open door and into the church proper. And then my luck ran out. The door, sliding further back from the momentum of my push, hit a sticky spot in the mechanism of the hinge. And the fucking door whined like a baby that had lost sight of it’s parents. I didn’t waste time checking on Murphy or trying to be quiet, I just dashed for the side of the altar like a fat kid toward free food. I could see the warm glow the candles were casting on the far wall, I could practically feel the fire that would soon be mine to command.
Then something small and silver whistled past the side of my head. The tiny knife embedded itself in one of the old wooden pillars supporting the roof.
“Stop.” The word was spoken with a quiet authority, it wasn’t a request or even a command. It was just a statement of fact. I would stop, or the next knife would stop me. I stopped moving a mere few feet from the candles. They were close enough for me to feel them with magic, close enough for me to begin pumping power into the air around them.
I slowly turned to face Father Murphy.
“So, you are going to kill me then.” I said, trying to throw him off guard and buy time. I wasn’t optimistic about this being a misunderstanding. I tried my best to look scared, but it was difficult, being so close to fire filled me with confidence. Or homicidal mania. It was hard to tell the difference between the two.
“Of course not! I promised that I would help you.” Father Murphy said, with a concerned look on his face.
“Then I’m free to go?” I asked hopefully. Long shot didn’t begin to cover how unlikely I thought that was.
“I’m sorry, but I cannot let you leave yet. Not while you remain under the influence of such evil. Surely you still wish to be free of the demon within you?”
Well, that was about what I’d expected. I continued channeling what meager scraps of power I could into the air beneath the candles. I was still low on power after the disaster at the airport, but with a meal and nap, I wasn’t completely running on empty anymore. Father Murphy hadn’t noticed the little ball of mana yet, it was nowhere near dense enough to be visible to the naked eye yet. Another piece of evidence for the him-not-being-a-wizard theory.
“Well, yeah. Obviously. I just don’t trust you anymore. The throwing knives aren’t helping either.” I said. Father Murphy almost cracked a smile at that.
“Why the sudden change of heart? You came to me of your own free will, seeking aid.”
“The demon told me you were going to kill me. It’s not hard to verify that, so the demon would know that lying would only make me even less likely to trust it. I tend to err on the side of not getting killed, so sneaking out seemed like a logical move. Please tell me this is all a misunderstanding and you’re not planning on killing me.”
“I wish that I could trust your words, but the dark presence inside you has grown noticeably since you slept. Whatever deal you made with the demon within you, it has allowed it to gain greater purchase within your soul. I cannot be certain that you are still the person you once were. If you return to that room, my superiors may be able to remove the demon from you without killing you. But I cannot allow you to leave in your current state.” Father Murphy explained somberly.
Shit. I wasn’t sure who to believe anymore. Was the priest trying to get me to stand down so he could kill me without risking magical counterattack, or was Casimir trying to turn me against someone actually trying to help. Father Murphy did refrain from killing me in my sleep earlier, but everything I’d ever heard about the Church suggested they favored death as an easy solution for the worst cases of demonic possession.
“So, you can’t trust me not to be evil, and I can’t trust you not to try to kill me.” I summarized.
“I promise that I will do everything in my power to help you. Please return to the guest room and wait for my colleagues to arrive, I promise that we will do what’s best for you.”
“Unfortunately, I think we have very different ideas about what constitutes my best interests.” I was a lot more interested in keeping my head on my shoulders than I was in some bullshit about the corruption of my immortal soul.
“You’re about to make a terrible mistake. There are some paths you can’t come back from, and I fear you’re about to start down one such road.”
I didn’t bother to dignify that patronizing comment with a response. Sometimes, it seems no matter how hard you try, you just can’t convince the good guys you’re not evil, just selfish. Not that I’d tried very hard. I’ve always felt it was the good guy’s job to recognize that sort of thing.
I pushed the rest of my strength into the ball of mana gathering beneath the rack of votive candles. Then I broke the stalemate. I slipped behind the altar, putting it between me and those nasty knives of Father Murphy’s. With a tiny little mental shove, barely enough to merit the name telekinesis, I sent the candle-rack toppling to the floor. Half a moment later, I made the tiny little change to the structure of the ball of mana that let the fire use it as fuel.
The flames whooshed out into the center of the church, spreading quickly enough to engulf the far side of the altar and one of the front pews in a few seconds. Almost immediately, thick sooty smoke began to fill the air, as the resin, or stain, or whatever the hell churches put on all their wooden furniture began to burn.
I dived for the cover of the flaming first pew, Father Murphy wasn’t in the direct path of the fire, so the few seconds I’d spent casting was more than enough time for him to hop behind the altar and flank me. Unfortunately, he hadn’t moved yet.
I dived right into his line of sight. The world practically slowed to a standstill as I slid through the open space between the side of the altar and the pew. I could see him calmly take aim, measure the distance, and let loose another knife. As it tumbled end over end through the dozen feet between us, I silently cursed the asshole who had arranged that damn courier job. If I survived this night, one way or another, I was going to make him pay. Both metaphorically, and financially.