Posted 20 February 2012 - 10:19 PM
It looked like a simple brown cloak. Well, it was a simple brown cloak. That was the problem. One of the three young-appearing women lifted the hood, as if to confirm that there wasn't somebody somehow still hiding in the folds somewhere.
“Well,” rasped Ophelia Bleedout, “I guess he's dead.”
The demons of Ophelia's House, of Hell's Gate, nodded as solemnly as they could manage. It had, apparently, started a week ago, when one of their number, Reina In'Sane, had not returned to the house in the Pit after her day of killing on the surface world. The remaining six members at that time had thought she must have been simply further enjoying her task of destroying the human race, but then she did not return the next day, or the next, and it finally occurred to the group that Reina may not be coming back at all. But no matter. She was one of the founders of their damned group, but none of Hell's Gate particularly liked her, not even Ophelia, her co-founder. Euffy, for one, said Reina had been a bit of a downer. And afterlife had gone on as normal. If she had finally decided to leave Hell's Gate, good riddance. If she was dead, well, good riddance to that too.
Then Jin La'Muerte, Embodiment of Death and Darkness, had vanished. Mona, always the most rational of the group, did some quick research and found that a corpse matching Jin's description had been found, right near one of the creature's favorite hunting spots. This was unsettling, to say the least, but not unforeseeable. Several of the group had thought that La'Muerte was nowhere near as invincible as he had purported himself to be. He had simply finally fought something tougher than he was.
And now, a pile of burlap and leather that was all that remained of Horen Ali'Gandel laid before the three remaining members of Hell's Gate.
“So what'cha suppose happened to him?” asked Euffy Fellani, though she said it while inspecting her meat cleaver for chips.
“Who knows?” replied Ophilia. “Something got him good. Think we should bury him? What's left?”
The third woman, Hinori Mona, the Embodiment of Jealousy, scoffed. “Why? I felt no particular fondness for the creature. More important is the question of what we shall do to protect ourselves from whoever is killing our fellows.”
Ophilia looked at Mona. “You honestly think someone's out to get us?”
Mona shrugged. “Three of us gone in eight days. It cannot be a coincidence.”
“We don't know Reina's even dead!” returned Ophilia, but it sounded hollow even to her ears.
Euffy raised a blood-red eyebrow. “Look. There is no way I'm going to be taken down by whoever killed these idiots. I've lived for seven thousand years, and I'm not about to stop now. Plenty of people have tried to destroy me before. Plenty will.”
Ophilia just looked up at the coming dawn. “We gotta get back to the house, guys.”
Ophilia's Slaughter House, an expansive manor, existed simultaneously in the Pit of Hell and the California coastline. On approach, it looked like any normal old-fashioned abandoned house, but its lines would blur as one got close, and if you were within five feet, you could hear the howls of the tortured souls inside. The manor's décor matched its appearance, with old-fashioned junk collecting dust; as most of the members of Hell's Gate had existed for centuries, there was very little want of modern accoutrements. Ophelia's room, the master bedroom, had her own design. Fleshy, Boschian nightmares soaked in blood extended from the walls, while her bed was gaudy and frilly. Truly, it was the only place Ophelia really felt at home.
Ophelia entered her room, locked the door behind her with an absurdly large key, and caught her breath. What if...what if someone was trying to kill them? Ophelia had died once already, in the horrible event that truly spawned Ophelia Bleedout as she was known. She did not want to die again. She was already in Hell, she was a damned Demon Lord! And what happened...what happened when demons died? Ophelia shivered, despite the infernal temperatures.
She told herself to calm down. She had no reason to be scared, just like Euffy said. They were strong, they were invincible, they were fucking Hell's Gate. She thought about her best moments, her favorite kills. She remembered demons ripping out spines on her command, the thrill of seeing blood spilled across floors, screams of beautiful terror as her victims realized just what was to happen to them. To her surprise, however, she found little comfort in her memories. They had filled her with such pleasure, before...why weren't they making her feel better?
Every night, the howling of a thousand minor demons rushing into the Slaughter House through every opening they could find created a symphony of wails, a noise that thrilled the denizens of Ophelia's house to no end and incited their bloodlust. But the evening after they found Horen, Ophilia woke up in silence.
She rushed to the front door and gazed out on the blasted landscape of Hell, joining Mona, already there. There was not a soul, demon, mortal, or otherwise, as far as they could see, for tens of miles, if Hell could be measured in such things. “Where did they go?” Ophilia asked of the swordswoman.
“I do not know,” said Mona, “But I do know that something is very wrong.” She paused. “We should cancel our nightly hunt until we know what is happening. The living plague will still be there when we return.”
Ophelia nodded. She looked behind her. “Hey, where's Euffy?”
Mona and Ophilia found what remained of Euffy Fellani, Tabitha's Daughter, down one of the umpteen hallways of the manor. Her tiny body was collapsed against a wall, eyes and mouth gaping open but with nothing but darkness inside, her skin like the vacated shell of a cicada.
Ophelia felt an emotion she had not felt in millenia, so long that she had to concentrate for a moment before she realized it was fear. “Wh-what happened to her? She was barely even there, she was untouchable! What in Hell could have done this to her!?”
Mona shook her head. “I cannot say. But we must assume it will come for us as well.” Mona reeled back and punched Euffy in the head, collapsing the demonically constructed skull. “It is time for us to hunt, Ophelia, to kill it before it kills us. Whether what is after us is mortal or demon, we shall find it and destroy it.”
Hinori nodded, her will steeling. Whatever-it-was was in Ophelia's Slaughter House, on her turf now. And she was The Greater Demon Lord Ophelia Bleedout. Nothing could stop her. This might even be fun.
The two immortals wandered the silent, abandoned halls of the manor for hours, destroying anything that moved. This was true hunting, Ophelia realized, not the slaughter of those useless humans. She reveled in it.
Then Ophelia saw it, out of the corner of her eye. The trailing corner of a black cloak retreating into a room. She pulled on Mona's sleeve and pointed. Mona nodded, and both Demon Lord and Embodiment of Jealousy moved to the wall just outside the room. Mona held up three fingers. Two. One.
The pair jumped out, finding the room nearly empty except for the short form enveloped completely in the cloak. “There!” shouted Mona, and she leaped, a primal scream of victory emerging from her throat as her blade sank through the cloaked figure's chest.
Whatever wore the cloak barely noticed.
It grabbed Mona by the shoulders, sword still through it, and another scream came forth from Hinori Mona, one not of victory but of terror and pain as light blazed from the other's hands. Hinori Mona's form seemed to be peeled away from existence itself, flaking like dead skin and turning to dust in the air. Her scream did not stop until there was nothing left of her but her artificial arm. The creature in the cloak looked up at Ophelia.
Diabolic heart filled with nothing but terror, Ophelia tore though the Slaughter House like she was aflame, blood flowing like tears from her clamped-shut eyes, knowing that the cloaked thing was chasing her, was behind her, and knowing if she stopped running it would have her...
Ophelia should have known the hallways of her Slaughter House like a part of herself, should have run from the house and into the California night...but she somehow, due to panic, forgetfulness or something else entirely, abruptly found herself at a dead end. She turned around, and sure enough, out of the darkness came the cloak, sans sword. It paused before her.
Ophilia giggled, a mad giggle that quickly transformed into an insane cackle. She knew who was behind the cloak. “You're Death,” she said, through her laughs, “We...we pissed you off so much...you had to come and do it yourself...” She descended back into giggles. “Fine. I'm—I'm not scared. Death holds no surprises.”
“Huh? I'm not Death,” came a curiously high-pitched voice, and then the figure drew back its hood. It was a teenage girl, with beautiful brown hair and bright eyes. “I mean, I know Death,” she continued, “We're kinda-sorta-common law married by now, or something. But I'm not him. My name's Erin.”
Ophelia was confused, another feeling long forgotten. “But...then...”
“I mean, yeah, you kinda annoy him, but all undead do that. Hell's Door, or whatever? You guys are just silly, with all your rationalization and such. But if there's some way I can help make my Thaddy's day a little easier, I will.”
“But...why not send Death? Who are you?”
“Y'said it yourself; Death couldn't do anything to any of you. Been there, done that, right?” Erin had a friendly smile on her face.
“Who...who are you?” Ophelia began getting the feeling that she should be scared once more, more scared than ever before.
“I told you, I'm Erin. And you people, with all your emo hate and stuff? What else could be your inverse but Love?”
“No!” Ophelia screamed, angry and scared and everything all at once. “I know love! I loved Lemi! I loved my sister!”
“Oh...” laughed Erin, tilting her head to one side. “You really think that. Tell the truth to yourself for once, Ophelia. If you had loved her, really loved her, my kind of Love... Would you have ever started killing?”
Ophelia was silent. Erin rolled up one of her sleeves. “Now,” she said casually, “Let's get this over with. I'm taking Thad to see The Vow tonight.”
As the warm golden glow touched her, as she felt herself being unmade, Ophelia Bleedout finally began to scream.