Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Heroes of Majestia: The Company of Flight Excerpt: Shortcutter Pass

Chapter II: Shortcutter Pass
Shortcutter Pass was as it sounded: a path that was carved into the mountain range making travel from any side of the mountain to another much shorter. Unfortunately, it was perilous and narrow with off-season inclement weather and wind throughout. No one was completely certain who made the pass. Some said it was a wizard who used magic to cut his way through the mountain rather than traverse over it, which would have explained the weather.  Others claimed it had been made by a group of orcs who could neither read a map nor use a compass, but were handy with a pickaxe, which explained the pass’ labyrinthian nature.
Either way, it was not a pleasant trip because of the blustery and frigid weather, the large gaps one had to jump across, the jagged rocks that enclosed the pass, the winding and twisting paths that were exceptionally easy to get lost in, and a few dead ends that were simple drops. It was especially unpleasant this time though as Asina absolutely refused to walk the pass demanding to be carried through via sedan chair.
Lennox screamed, “You can’t take a sedan chair through Shortcutter Pass!”
He, Daven, and other members of Dragon were in the armory preparing their equipment.
“Did you tell her she was a mad bitch for even suggesting it?”
“Well, the Captain didn’t say that exactly,” said Crag. “But he is desperately trying to persuade her against it.”
“What a bitch.”
“I’m confused,” said Daven. “I thought I had once heard that the princess of Talian was a very courteous and considerate young lady. But then this brat shows up?”
“Looks like you were fed some bull shit,” replied Lennox. “But seriously, there’s no one in the Company who’s going to carry her ass through the pass. We’re soldiers, not servants. Let those buggers who came with her do it. Hey! One of those lines rhymed.”
“Three coppers say you can’t name which line it was,” said Daven.
“Well,” began Crag, “the Captain is at least trying for that angle. I don’t know how successful he’ll be.”
“Then we’ll leave her here,” suggested Lennox. “Or she can go back with the main forces in a day or two.”
“Yeah,” agreed Adder, another flight member. “And should the Captain fail, when the path narrows, we’ll purposely get the chair stuck and just leave her there.”
Crag sighed. “I wish you guys were just a little more helpful.”
Flint walked into the armory. “Well lads,” he began, “that daft bitch can’t be dissuaded. But at the least, we won’t have to carry her. The five men who came in with them will be forced to do it.”
“Poor buggers,” said Lennox.
“When do we leave, Captain?” Daven asked.
“As soon as possible. We should reach Talian by early morning.”
“Early morning?” Lennox repeated. “You make it sound like we’re going to march through the night.”
“Oh, gods no! Shortcutter Pass is hard enough to manage by day. And the weather worsens at night.”
“I suggest you wear a scarf.”
Lennox seethed.
“Oh, and Lennox. The princess doesn’t like you very much—”
“I wonder why,” commented Daven.
“—so you’ll take point.”
Lennox shook with rage. “Gods… gods dammit!”
Within the next half hour, Dragon flight and the Talian troop were prepared to take Shortcutter Pass. The Talian carriage would be driven back when the rest of the Company made its way to Talian several days later. The sedan chair to be carried by the knights had been secured to the rear of the carriage and amazingly brought through the narrow tunnel the Talians had come through with Alena earlier.
Dragon and the Talians took an unceremonious leave through another underground tunnel leading to the western side of the mountain. Lennox, cursing his fate, led the party and was followed by Daven. Behind him was another seven members of Dragon, followed by the Talians who were escorted more personally by Crag and Flint, and lastly another eight members of Dragon. Being on point, it was Lennox’s duty to lead everyone through the maze of Shortcutter Pass, hopefully taking the most direct route to Talian, and lighting periodic torches to light the way and point out environmental hazards to everyone who followed.
As Lennox exited the tunnel, a biting wind robbed him of his spirit prompting Daven to push him out. Lennox reluctantly led ducking and bracing against the wind while constantly moving his torch around in front of him making sure he could see everything.
After stumbling on several rocks however, he turned to Daven and pushed him ahead. “Light the path around our feet and I’ll light the path around our heads!” he commanded.
“What if I hit my head into something?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be lighting the path above you.”
“So I only need to worry about you dropping your torch or failing to see an incoming attack?”
“With a head like yours, kid, you could make sergeant someday.”
Daven hunched over and kept the path lit for their feet while constantly bumping his shoulder, bow, or quiver into Lennox’s elbow. The going was glacial and several times they had to stop to make sure everyone was still behind them.
Daven and Lennox came to the first fork. Lennox leaned as close as he could to the wall trying to read what had been scratched into it so many years ago when the Company originally mapped the pass.
He turned to Daven. “Which way is Talian?”
Lennox examined the wall again before leaning back. “Do either of these look like ‘Northwest’ to you?”
“Gods…” said Daven. “If you were going to use me this much, I should have taken lead.”
“There’s still plenty of time for you to step up. The Captain would love to see such an enterprising young soldier.”
“Eat me.” Daven examined the wall. “This one,” he said finally. “It actually says ‘North,’ but the other says ‘West by Southwest.’”
“It’s good to have young eyes,” said Lennox, lighting a torch just right of the north pathway. He turned to make sure everyone was still coming before ambling down the path.
Several more times they came across forks which required Daven and Lennox to examine the directions carved into the rock and try to decide which way to take. As they did so, they would light a torch or sconce next to that path and it would be the responsibility of the last man to extinguish the torch so they couldn’t be followed.
All that was the least of their worries though as the wind became harsher as the night wore on and the princess’ sedan chair required some clever maneuvering in order to squeeze through some of the narrower parts of the path. It wasn’t long until it inevitably became stuck forcing the princess, whose mood had worsened with time, to abandon it for the cold world. One of the knights wrapped her in a blanket and there was a discussion about what to do. It couldn’t be left there as an obstruction, but Asina was adamant it shouldn’t be destroyed and could be freed if everyone stopped being so thick about it.
“Please listen to reason, your highness,” cooed Alezar. “What good would it do to free it now?”
“It is royal property!” argued Asina, shivering from the cold. “We can’t—we can’t leave it.”
“No! I don’t care if you have to use your magic. Free it!”
Alezar looked back at the sedan chair. Sure, a little bit of magic could easily free it. But then, there were the knights to think of. Several times they had tripped or injured themselves carrying it through the crags. And what about the Company of Flight? Would they break a contract if Asina gave them too much trouble?
Alezar looked sideways at the princess before catching sight of Lennox and Daven far ahead everyone else. Alezar clearly saw Lennox say “What a bitch.”
As he was watching Lennox, he got an idea. “Very well, your highness. I will free it.”
Alezar turned back to the sedan chair and theatrically opened his arms. He then paused. “Oh, bollocks! What was that spell again? Oh, I think I remember.” Alezar pointed a finger at the sedan chair and uttered a word of power of Arcana, the language of magic. “Losgi!”
A fireball the size of a man’s skull accelerated from his finger tip and incinerated the chair in seconds.
“Oh, damn,” he said, trying to look as sheepish as possible. “That was the wrong one. I’m sorry, your highness. But it appears you will have to continue on foot.”
Asina growled, biting her fist until it bled. Behind her, Lennox was guffawing and slapping Daven on the back. As Alezar caught his eye, Alezar winked. Lennox winked back.
While the chair was now gone and the troop able to move much faster without it, they were still moving slowly through the pass as the weather worsened developing snow and hail. They were forced to deviate from their course and take shelter in a cave just off the path. Asina insisted a tent be built for her so she could have some privacy. The knights did so reluctantly while Dragon started a campfire.
“Quickly eat your supper,” ordered Flint. “Then hurry to bed. We have a lot of ground to cover tomorrow. Lennox, you take first watch.”
“Did I stutter?”
“Come off it, Captain. You’ve been giving me shit since before we left. What’s the deal?”
“My hope is that as you serve others, you may learn some humility and keep your tongue from wagging needlessly.”
“Honestly, Captain,” ventured Daven, “it’s really more his mind you should worry about. If it wasn’t so rotten, you wouldn’t have to worry about his tongue.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Lennox.
“It means you have manure for brains.”
“How? Name one time when I have been less than genius.”
“Well, you remember that time you ate a bovine pizzle and thought it was a sausage?”
This drew laughs from everyone, including Alezar and especially Cazzo and his men.
“I didn’t eat it,” said Lennox, blushing. “I was just…” He gesticulated vaguely, “you know.”
“That makes it sound even worse, you imbecile.”
“How so?”
“Because instead of just being a hungry idiot who nibbled a bovine pizzle, you become the poor dumb bastard who gave a full knob job to a desiccated cow penis!”
Roars of laughter followed.
“Would you kindly shut up!” screamed Asina from inside the tent.
Lennox’s eyes narrowed before he stomped off for the cave’s exit. “You’re next,” he said, passing Daven.
In the morning, Daven woke with a start when Lennox kicked him in the ribs. Daven groaned. “What’s your game?”
“Come on. The Captain has ordered me—uh, us—to scout ahead and take point again.”
“Us, huh? Somehow I doubt that. Why don’t you push off and leave me be? Last night was worse for me than it was for you.”
While Lennox had only needed to endure a couple of hours of hail, Daven suffered freezing rain and for an hour longer than he was supposed to. He had at one point passed out from the cold.
“Either you scout with me, or I force you to give a cow penis a knob job. And not a dead one! Now, up!” He kicked Daven again.
“Alright, alright.” Daven rose, packed up his belongings, and followed Lennox out of the cave choking down a bitter apple.
“The Captain wants us to mark the next further routes with chalk,” said Lennox, holding up a piece. “But we’re not to go any further than the Razor Crags.”
“And how far is it to the Crags from here?”
“No idea.”
Lennox and Daven set out examining pass after pass, path after path, drawing a small chalk line next to the path the rest of the flight would take. The ground developed a noticeable decline, and about an hour before noon, they reached the Crags: a terrible labyrinth of sharp and jagged boulders as far as the eye could see. The dangers included falling rocks from the cliffs above, cutting oneself on the rocks, and getting hopelessly lost. And with all the progress made by Daven and Lennox, if they continued to put room between themselves and the others, they would make themselves easier targets to enemies. So they took a rest. All the while, they could hear something in the distance.
“What is that?” asked Daven.
“Voices, I think.”
Daven looked confused. “What species?”
Lennox shrugged. “Orc…?”
Orcs were a brutal and tribal species of humanoid. Generally, they were bigger and more muscular than humans. Usually they were shunned from human societies for their terrifying looks and customs, which gave rise to the belief that they were evil. But their twisted, scarred, and beaten-in looks and brutish customs were the result of not being accepted by the civilized species. Smart, educated, and even attractive orcs did exist and would even have relationships with humans resulting in the crossbreed called Orkans.
Two kinds of orcs existed: mountain and swamp, or in Orcish, Mal-orku and Mos-orku. The only real difference between them was their skin colors and builds. Mountain orcs were typically shades of murky red to brownish grey and quite muscular. Swamp orcs came in tones of green and dark grey, and were more slender.
There was one more type of orc: Cyth-orcs. These were orcs that had allowed themselves to be possessed by the Cythraul, the demons and dark spirits created by the god of evil and darkness, Dyavolat. They had white or black skin, and were capable of all the atrocities that Cythraul and Gythraul, Cythraul incarnate, were capable of.
“Mountain orcs?” suggested Lennox.
“Look at you. So fancy being able to speak Orcish.”
 Daven ignored him. “Mal-orku don’t come this far down the mountain. They’re awfully close to the plains. A little too close.”
Lennox and Daven heard familiar voices and around the corner popped Flint and Crag.
“Sorry it took us so long, boys,” said Flint.
“The princess has been bitching the whole way,” added Crag. “She’s tried several times to get one of the men to carry her.”
“Really? Fascinating,” said Lennox dryly. “We may have company in the crags ahead.”
Flint jumped slightly. “Who?”
“Orcs, possibly,” answered Daven.
Flint turned to Crag. “Tell Alezar and his men to keep quiet, and call up some of the lads.”
As Crag turned back, Flint turned to Daven and Lennox. “Scale these walls and see if you can espy who it is.”
Daven and Lennox rolled their eyes, but did as they were told climbing the rock face behind them and slowly peered over the edge. There was no one to be seen, but there was a trail of black smoke rising out of a circle of rocks.
“A possible campfire about thirty yards away,” reported Daven.
Crag returned with a few more archers and Alezar.
“What’s the problem, Captain?” asked Alezar.
“There’s no problem yet. But we may have some orcs not too far from here.”
“Orcs? They’re awfully far south. Unless… Yes, yes. It’s possible.”
“What’s possible?”
“Ever since King Talianus took his rule, trade between Talian and some shady groups have opened, including a nearby tribe of orcs. The king claims they’re not dangerous, and so far, he’s right. But, it’s possible it’s the same group. They may let us by.”
“It’s also possible they’ll try to kill us without a second thought,” retorted Flint. “Lads, get to the top of the rocks and scout out important targets. Prepare to fire on my command.”
Dragon did as they were ordered, and crept along the rocky ledges as quietly as possible.
“Please, wait,” said Alezar. “Let me talk to them. If they meet with and listen to me, we can avoid needless bloodshed.”
Flint’s eyes narrowed. “Fine. But if you get killed, it’s your fault.”
“So be it.”
Alezar wound his way to the camp, which the flight was now looking down into. It was indeed an orc encampment. There were about ten canvas tents pitched with about twenty or so orcs below. It looked as if they were only starting breakfast.
Flint drew his bow and aimed at what looked like the chieftain. He whispered orders. “Daven, take the one on the right of chieftain. Adder, the guard at the other end of the camp. Crag, the lone soldier over by the rack of weapons. Lennox, hit the one sitting at the feet of the chief.”
“What?” said Lennox. “The one that looks like it has tits?”
“I think those are breasts,” said Daven.
“That’s ridiculous. Orcs can’t have tits. If they did, that would mean there are female orcs. And no such thing exists.”
“How do you know?” asked Adder. “Have you gone around and sexed all the orcs in the world?”
“Yeah, where do baby orcs come from?” added Daven.
“They spring out of the ground,” said Lennox matter-of-factly. “Just like dwarves and goblins.”
“Next, you’ll claim there’s no such thing as male faeries and mermen,” said Crag.
“Well… there aren’t.”
“How do you know?” asked Daven.
“I just do.”
“Shut up, all of you,” hissed Flint. “Yes, Lennox. Take the one with the tits. Now, wait for Alezar. If he looks to be in trouble, don’t hesitate.”
Alezar appeared from around the far corner and knocked his staff against the ground to get the orcs’ attention. “Hail, humble brethren of the mountain! Hail, Chief Malgoth!”
“Who are you?” growled the chief suspiciously.
“It is I, the wizard Alezar. Advisor to his highness King Talianus!”
Chief Malgoth made a strange snort that sounded like a human “Oh.” “Lord Alezar! Hail! What brings you to the High Fells?”
“I was sent by his liege to employ the Company of Flight for the upcoming war with King Jeremy the Wicked.”
“The Company of Flight? The archers?”
“The very same.”
“Cowards. Real soldiers fight with the axe and club.”
“I’d like to see you face a mass cavalry charge from a hundred yards away and not shit yourself,” replied Lennox, under his breath.
“That may be,” admitted Alezar. “I confess I know nothing of physical combat. Regardless, I am under his royal majesty’s command. Do I, my men, and the Company have your blessing to proceed back to Talian?”
“Blessing? Of course. Proceed and leave us be.”
“Thank you, your eminence,” said Alezar, bowing.
Alezar returned back to the passage and was joined by Flint and the others as they leapt down from the ledges. “Do you see, Captain? There was no need for force.”
“Yeah. Thankfully. But still, we have to be careful.”
“Of course,” nodded Alezar.
“Hey, Alezar,” interrupted Lennox. “Perhaps you could settle something for us: who was that orc sitting at Chief Gargle’s feet?”
“Malgoth,” corrected Alezar. “I don’t know, but I am sure that that is the Chief’s current concubine.”
“Yes. What? Are you surprised to hear that orcs can be female? Weren’t the breasts a giveaway?”
“Yeah, I suppose,” said Lennox, rubbing his forehead. “Next, you’ll tell me that there are male faeries and mermen.”
“There are.”
Some members of the flight snickered.
“If you’re through being puerile, can we continue?”
“Yes. Let’s,” said Flint, leading.
Daven leaned over to Lennox and whispered, “You should ask about female goblins and dwarves.”
“Shut. Up.”
Daven, Adder, and Crag burst out laughing.
On the magical world of Majestia, the child sorcerer King Jeremy the Wicked threatens to sacrifice the kingdom of Talian to the ominous Black Moon as his prelude to universal conquest. Talia, the princess of Talian, learns through divination that King Jeremy is not all he seems and sets out to discover the secrets behind his evil. To aide her, she enlists the help of the mercenary Daven, a member of the archery corps known as the Company of Flight.

Along the way, they encounter twisted monsters, mad mages, a draconic demigod, and a wacky sorceress. Stumbling their way through adventure, romance, and evil, Daven and Talia forge their legend as they become the first in a new crop of Heroes of Majestia.

Inspired by the works of JRR Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Glen Cook, and HP Lovecraft, Bryan C. Laesch has created a unique and entertaining fantasy series. A new legend has begun.

If you enjoyed this excerpt from Heroes of Majestia: The Company of Flight, you can purchase it here on Amazon. Available in both Kindle and paperback editions.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Crypto Theory: Are Cryptids Demons, Pt. II

Hey, everyone.

This blog entry is brought to you by my new novels: Remnants of Chaos: Chaotic Omens and Heroes of Majestia: The Company of Flight. You can buy ROCCO here and HOMCOF here. HOMCOF is also available for free download until Sunday, and ROCCO is actually about demon slayers which is funny because...


Finally, after so long I'm getting to demons. I know I said I was going to cover demonic activity this week, but instead I'm returning to Crypto Theory, specifically the question "Are cryptids demons?" Now, why am I doing that?

Well, I've said this before, but in case you haven't heard, I am a practicing Catholic. And back before the celebration of Fatima (Oct. 13th), I read an article that sort of scared the hell out of me. It was written by a Monsignor Charles Pope from the National Catholic Register. The article was called The Times are Urgent and We Must Heed the Warnings of Our Lady. In it, he says that he believes a great calamity will descend upon the world. For his references, he lists a number of visions of the Blessed Mother where she urged us to repent of our sins lest we should suffer for them, both good and bad people alike. In fact, there was once a similar vision and calamity. At the vision of Fatima, Mary urged us that prayer, specifically the Rosary, and devotion to her Son were the only things that could save us and that the advent of the calamity would be preceded by great lights in the sky. A few years later, the Northern Lights were able to be seen as far south as Africa. A year after that, Germany annexed Austria and invaded Poland the year after.

Msgr. Pope goes on to say more about the evils that were released by WWII and about how our pride and stubbornness has doomed us. From there, he goes into the next impending doom soon approaching, but I won't go into it here because it would take me away from my point; just know that he urges everyone to repent of their sins, and to pray for the conversion of sinners. But, before I continue, I must admit that I was scared of writing this blog entry because it is a mix of religion and cryptozoology. I am afraid of losing my cryptozoology audience, but considering I ain't getting paid for these blogs, what difference does it make? Also, I read another blog that said my blog should be a representation of my brand, and two elements of my brand are the Catholic faith and cryptozoology as can be seen in my book, Remnants of Chaos: Chaotic Omens (buy it here). So, what the hell.

Now, what does Fatima have to do with cryptids besides the obvious demon connection? Well, a couple of days before, I watched a video called True Skin Walker Encounter in New Mexico. To sum up, a woman was at her in-laws and they were tormented by a skinwalker all night, and she asked what was she supposed to do to prevent other such instances from happening. Her in-laws apparently dealt with it by prayer, but she said she was an atheist. But while I was reading the comments, one woman said that the reason why these encounters happen is because people don't believe in God meaning they don't have any spiritual protection. At first, I just thought she was a Bible Thumper. Yes, I a devout Catholic do get tired of other Christians constantly heralding doom. But then, after I read the article by Msgr. Pope, my mind began to tick.

On the one hand, it seems like cryptid sightings and hauntings, whether residual or demonic, seem to be on the rise. On the other hand, we didn't used to have a place where people who experienced these things could connect with others and tell their stories. We may not be doomed, just more aware. But, let's say that cryptids are evil, that they are demons, and that there has been a spike in sightings--what has caused it and how do we prevent it? Well, it's no secret that tensions have risen all over the United States, politically and religiously, as well as in other places of the world. And, if people are seeing monsters and demons because they don't believe in God and are terrible sinners, then it would make sense for the Devil to have a firmer grip on the world and be able to terrify us with his minions. But, the problem there is that we then have to go around and start asking people who have seen these things what their religious affiliation is and how well they practice their religion. But, going back up to the story about the skinwalker, why weren't three believers over one atheist enough to prevent such an encounter from happening? So, maybe they're not related. But to be honest, is that a risk worth taking? I mean, what's it going to cost anyone to follow God's commandments better? A couple of sins not on their souls, and they get to go to Heaven and never see a Dogman? Doesn't sound so bad if you ask me.

Anyway, I hope to have that blog post about demon activity up in two weeks as I'll be trying a new writing schedule. And I may just keep up the posts about demons coming as promotion for my book. What fun. But, until then...
Keep writing, my friends.

More About Bryan C. Laesch:
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Remnants of Chaos: Chaotic Omens Excerpt: Sinister Intentions

Chapter III: Sinister Intentions

“Oh! And by the way,” said Nissa shrilly. “I’m not seventeen. I’m twenty-three.”
“Oh,” said Azrael. Was she mad about something?
Azrael flicked on one of the light switches in his office to reveal a spacious room. There was a desk at the far end opposite the door and to the left were two couches organized around a short, rectangular coffee table. To the right of the desk, Azrael had a collection of weapons on his wall including guns, swords, and experimental weapons of his own modification.
Nissa crossed the room and sat on one of the couches crossing her legs. She turned her back to Azrael and folded her arms.
“Hey,” Azrael said to her, “you said that Omens choose their own way to use their power, right? What made you choose belly dancing?” Azrael asked, placing his sword on the wall. He then sat down at his desk shuffling some paperwork.
“Well, actually,” began Nissa, warming up a bit, “I didn’t choose belly dancing. My mistress did.”
“Mistress?” Azrael dropped the paperwork into one of his drawers. He then pulled out a rather old and huge book out of another drawer. “What do you mean?”
“Well, don’t you have a master that you learned how to fight from?”
“Oh!” said Azrael, flipping through the dry pages. “That kind of mistress!”
“Yes, that kind of mistress. Well she recognized me as an Omen and took me as an apprentice; and she was a belly dancer, so that’s how I learned to use my powers. You’d be amazed at what I can do.”
“I’m sure,” he replied, looking through the old book. “Let me see; L-M-N-ah ha! O!” Azrael scanned the pages quietly in a foreign language that Nissa couldn’t understand.
“I’m hungry,” she said after a while.
“I have some jerky in a drawer over here.”
“It’s a good source of protein and doesn’t rot. And it’s tasty. Want some?”
“I guess so.” Nissa slipped off the couch and walked over to Azrael’s desk as he pulled a bag of jerky out of a drawer.
“Teriyaki flavored,” he said, giving her the bag.
“Ooh,” replied Nissa sarcastically. “Got anything to drink?”
“Vodka, whiskey… or tap water.” Azrael took two bottles, one clear and the other brown, from another drawer.
“Such illustrious choices.”
“There’s no need to get lippy.”
“Sorry. Just a little agitated. I guess I’ll take the tap water.”
“Both the faucet and glass are in the bathroom, though you may want to clean it first.”
 “Where is the bathroom?”
“Through the door next to the wall-o-death.”
Nissa walked past the desk, through the door beyond the wall, and up a staircase to the second floor where there were two rooms. One was the bathroom; the other was Azrael’s bedroom.
While passing his bedroom, Nissa had an urge to explore it a bit. After all, he did say she could have the bed. She paused at the door, but decided not to go in since she thought she might be betraying his trust. Nissa wanted to be on his good side.  And she had a feeling that if Azrael caught her, he would use the reason that she didn’t want it as an excuse to throw her out.
While Nissa got her water, Azrael moved his fingers over the Latin text of the old book quickly being able to read, write, and speak it fluently. The book was a full history on all the slayer families in the world from the year 2012 AD to 2900 AD written by the Maleiorcum. He didn’t remember why he had it, or when the last time he looked at it, but he was happy to have it now. Had it been Grand Master Alaric who suggested taking it with him? And why?
Now that Azrael really thought about it, he couldn’t remember why he had left. He knew he had a reason, but after three years of almost perpetual boredom, his reason seemed to have faded away.
But that wasn’t important right now. What was important was finding the Omens, which he couldn’t. There were hardly any “O” family names and most weren’t true demon slayers.
There were two kinds of demon slayers: charismatics and normal humans. Charismatics had gotten their powers, known as charisms, as gifts from Hyperion that were either passed down through the family, given to a person at baptism with the intention of becoming a demon slayer, or after a person had proven themselves worthy and sworn the demon slayer’s oath. For normal humans however, killing a demon was almost impossible. It involved a lot of praying, sacraments and sacramentals, and using regular weapons. Often times, exorcists were extremely helpful.
In the end however, Azrael couldn’t find the Omens. As far as he could tell, they didn’t exist, and the book he was using was supposed to be a complete history. “‘Complete’ my ass,” he said disdainfully, dropping the book back into its drawer. He took a swig of whiskey and shoved some jerky in his mouth.
Just then there was a knock at the door. Azrael looked at a clock he had on the wall; it said 22:30. It was later than he thought. “We’re closed!” he shouted. The knocker persisted.
“Mr. Chaos?” came a familiar voice. “I have your money and weaponry.” It was Cromwell. And at the mention of money, Azrael hurried to the door. “Ah! Mr. Chaos,” said the familiar pierced face of Cromwell.
“Hello. You have my pay?” asked Azrael, trying to hang onto his manners. “And my guitar! I had completely forgotten.”
“Yes,” answered Cromwell. “Turns out my manager had some money set aside for you before he was murdered. I also have Miss Omen’s payment, but she didn’t leave a forwarding address. Do you know where she is?”
“She’s here,” replied Azrael. At that, Nissa came back from the stairs holding a tall glass of water.
“Good evening,” said Cromwell, bowing his head.
“Good evening.”
“Very well, then.” From inside his jacket, Cromwell took out two short stacks of cash and handed them to Azrael. He then handed Azrael his guitar case with his bloody guitar in it. Before forgetting, Azrael gave Cromwell the contact information for the exorcist he had mentioned earlier.
“Good night,” bid Cromwell, who bowed again and left.
Azrael dropped the case and guitar right next to the door knowing that it would have to be fixed and cleaned after what it had sustained. He took a small vial of clear liquid out of his pocket and sprinkled the guitar case with it making smoke rise from the blood. He then walked back to his desk where Nissa was standing gnawing through a small piece of jerky.
Azrael dropped Nissa’s payment on the desk in front of her and returned to his chair and counted his own. Five hundred total. He should’ve taken the thousand he’d been offered. But then Azrael had to remind himself that slaying jobs weren’t done for profit. The Order carried them out as if they were sacraments slaying demons for free. Despite that, Azrael’s services still had its expenses: ammo, weapon maintenance, medical supplies, food and water. And since Azrael was in the city, he had to pay taxes and bills on his shop. No one became a demon slayer to get rich. 
“Can you hold onto this for me?” asked Nissa, breaking the silence.
“I want you to hold onto some of my money for me since I can’t carry it all,” she said, pushing three-fourths of her pay to him.
He picked it up and added it to his own placing it all in a pocket in the inside of his jacket.
“No problem.”
Nissa then stood up and hid the rest of her money somewhere in her costume. Azrael had averted his gaze when she did, not sure he wanted to know where she hid it.
Nissa took another piece of jerky and started working at it. She seemed to be thinking about something. Azrael watched her. Even though she looked somewhat troubled and was unceremoniously chewing at a piece of jerky, he still thought she was awfully cute.
“Where did the name ‘Maleiorcum’ come from? I mean, words with the prefix male- are often evil, like malevolent.”
“Well, have you ever seen a Maleiocur?”
“They’re sort of terrifying at first glance. To some people during the Oppression, they looked like distorted or wicked jesters beneath their cloaks. Someone who didn’t have a very good grip on Latin created the word ‘Maleiocur’ from the Latin words ‘malus,’ ‘iocus,’ and ‘vir.’ ‘Malus’ means ‘evil,’ ‘iocus’ is ‘joke,’ and ‘vir’ is ‘man.’ The creator slapped the three words together into ‘Maleiocur’ trying to create a Latin word for ‘wicked jester.’”
“And that stuck?”
“Yep. Someone did try to rename them ‘Benesapien,’ which means ‘good sage,’ but it didn’t work. They eventually took on the word ‘Maleiorcum’ as the plural and they gave it its own noun declensions in Latin too. I can tell you them if you’re interested.”
“No, thanks. But that’s pretty interesting. So, what happens now?”
“I go to bed,” replied Azrael, taking another gulp of whiskey.
“I mean, what happens now in life?”
“Well, I was thinking of going to the library.”
“Research what?”
Azrael made a vague gesture. “Things. Origins. Mostly.”
“Origins of what?”
Nissa gave him a hard look. “Do I want to know what you’re hiding?”
Azrael shrugged. “It wouldn’t hurt if you dropped the subject.”
“I’ll go ahead and do that then.”
“Good. Actually, it would make a good excuse for going back to the library. I haven’t needed to do any real research since I moved down here.”
“Down here?”
“I used to live in the mountains. The Austrian Alps is actually where the Head Monastery of the Order is located.”
“Really? I had heard that it was close, but I didn’t think it was that close.”
“You’ve heard of the Maleiorcum before I mentioned them?”
“Anyone who has heard of the Chaos family has heard of the Maleiorcum. And how rare do you think demon slayers really are?”
“There were a lot more of us a generation ago. But, this all begs a good question,” said Azrael, starting to look at her in a new light. “Where do you get your information from?”
“My mistress.”
“What was your mistress’ name?”
“Mistress Giry.”
“Giry what?”
“Just Giry.”
“Well, she may have had a full name, but I never asked nor was it mentioned.”
“Hmm… Well, in the light of that development, I’m going to sleep.”
Azrael corked his whiskey and put it back in the drawer with the vodka. He also put back the jerky after Nissa swiped one last piece. He then walked over to the closest couch and sat at the far end.
Nissa choked down the jerky and chugged the water down impressively. She then walked over to the couch and considered it for a moment.
Azrael looked at her. “What?”
“I… I usually sleep in the nude,” she replied.
Azrael gave her a hard look as if to say, ‘Bull shit!’ Instead he cracked a smile and said, “Don’t tease me.”
 Nissa couldn’t help but smile back. And with a shrug, she lay down on the couch curling her body slightly and laid her head in Azrael’s lap which quite surprised him.
“Well, if you’re going to insist on sleeping down here with me, I don’t want you to freeze.” Azrael stood up, removed his gloves, and took off his jacket, dropping it on Nissa. It landed on her heavily. He sat back down, loosened his boots, and kicked them off without any grace sending one up and over the coffee table and the other landing behind the other couch. He put one of his arms on the rest and his other on Nissa as she cuddled up with his thigh. But there was one last moment of shenanigans.
Nissa pinched Azrael’s leg, saying, “Good night, Azrael.”
“Good night, Nissa.”
The next day, Azrael woke up with a crick in his neck and a stiff back. He looked at Nissa and she seemed quite content next to him. He pried his leg from her grip and opened up shop. The clock read 8:30.
Azrael again took out the jerky and whiskey from the night before, and had breakfast.
At about 8:45, Nissa woke up with a yawn. She got up and pulled Azrael’s jacket closely around herself. “One of the best night’s rest I’ve ever had,” she said, walking over. “I think it was your thigh as my pillow.”
“I think it was the jacket,” Azrael responded.
“What makes you say that?”
“It was blessed by the Maleiorcum. There are some interesting blessings on that thing.”
“Mostly to revitalize the body, mind, and soul, and to defend against harm done to the body and mind.”
“So, it’s armor?”
“Do your clothes do anything special?” she asked.
“Well, they’re mostly responsible for regulating your body temperature and the duster does help, but its main purpose is defense.”
Just then, there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” said Azrael.
The door knob turned and in walked a man in about his late-sixties looking slightly worn down, like a member of the proletariat. Azrael noticed a slight slouch in his back and a limp. His eyes had bags under them and his nose was long. As he was half way across the room, he noticed Nissa in Azrael’s jacket.
“Is now a bad time?” asked the man in a soft voice.
“I said ‘come in,’ didn’t I?” asked Azrael, standing up.
“I could have imagined it.”
“Well, you didn’t. Now, what can I do for you?”
“Well, I’m not sure if I’m in the right place for a start. Is this the Chaos Demon Slaying Company?”
“Well, not very many people call it that anymore, but yes, it is.”
“I have a demon problem,” said the older man bluntly. “It’s taken over the house. It chased us out three days ago and has been occupying the house ever since.”
“How did it get in?”
“I don’t know. My wife and I were just sitting in the living room one day, and we heard someone coming down the stairs. We looked up, and it was a demon!”
“What does it look like?”
“It’s about seven feet tall, yellowish-grey skin, scrawny limbs and body, huge bulbous red eyes, claws for hands and feet, a tail, large mouth with a lot of fangs, and spikes all over its body.”
“Interesting. Most demons aren’t that detailed. Did it say anything?”
“Not really. There was something about a mission and a woman in black.”
“A mission?” Azrael glanced at Nissa and began to wonder if this demon had anything to do with Mephisto from the night before. “I’ll take the case, but I’ll need an address and probably a house key if one is available.”
“You won’t need a key,” said the man. “The demon didn’t bother to close the door after us. Sometimes we can see him in there pacing the ground floor mumbling to himself. He never leaves.”
That was certainly peculiar. If this demon was related to Mephisto in some way, why hadn’t it come for Nissa? Was it an apathetic demon? While most demons had rejected humanity and Hyperion, there were some who had rejected Diabolus as well. Was it possible that this one had overheard the plan, was about to carry it out, remembered its apathy, and then just didn’t leave? Farfetched to say the least, but nothing was impossible.
“Um…” faltered the man.
“Huh? Oh!” said Azrael, coming out of his train of thought. “I’ll drop by later this morning.”
“When?” asked the man.
“As soon as I can,” said Azrael. “Where do you live?”
“6234 West Flight.” The old man cast one more look at Nissa, then back to Azrael before leaving.      
Nissa asked, “What was he looking at?”
“A beautiful girl in a man’s jacket cinched around her like she’s not wearing any clothes.”
Nissa clicked her tongue and rolled her eyes. “So, we have a job?”
“Yes, we.”
“I wasn’t thinking of taking on any partners.”
“Good thing I’m joining you regardless of what you say.”
“Brazen. May I ask why?”
“Of course you can, but that doesn’t mean I have to answer.”
“Is that revenge for last night when I wouldn’t answer your question?”
“Not especially, but it’s a good idea. So, when do we leave?” she asked, taking a piece of jerky.
“Can you go outside in those clothes?”
“I walked here from the club like this, didn’t I?” said Nissa, shedding Azrael’s jacket.
“Then right after I put my boots, jacket, and gloves on, and re-arm. And after I hit the bathroom. Drinking does that to you.”
Once Azrael had returned from the water closet, he got his effects together, and they were on their way to the old man’s house. They walked there since Azrael didn’t have a car.
It was about 9:15, but there weren’t very many people out. And although the sun shined, it was still very dim. Master Schylar, the Order’s scholar and historian, told Azrael this was caused by the invasion of demons into the world. Depending on how many demons there were on Earth was reflected by the darkness of the smog. Master Schylar told him that the smog was slowly thinning and that it had been much darker almost a millennium ago. Back then, the sun had been completely blocked out for two years. It caused a great deal of damage and dismay.
Azrael and Nissa didn’t talk much on the way, but when they got there, Nissa started asking questions. “So what do we do?”
“Slay the demon,” replied Azrael.
“I mean besides that.”
“Liberate a household from the tyranny of the Devil’s companions.”
“I mean besides that.”
“If you’re hoping for more, you’re in the wrong business.”
“So… what? Do you think it’s a big job?”
“No,” replied Azrael. “I don’t even think I’ll need the guns I brought. Sounds like a lower level, apathetic demon. Should be an easy job.”
They found the house at the end of a block and peered through the door from outside. From inside they could hear mumbling and grumbling along with foot falls. Then the demon passed by the doorway. Nissa let out a small squeal of fright and quickly covered her mouth.
“It’s hideous!”
The demon passed by again and it looked exactly like the old man had described. Then they heard it climbing stairs. Azrael walked up to the door and pushed it open a bit. He squatted down and poked his head through a little. He saw the demon head upstairs and then disappear into a room on the left. It quickly reappeared and then walked down the hall into more rooms and came out again. Eventually it returned to the stairs and Azrael backed out.
Azrael and Nissa watched the demon do this for half an hour. They looked in through different windows making sure not to be seen and observed the demon just wander around aimlessly.
“Talk about the sin of sloth,” said Nissa after a while.
“Indeed.” Azrael picked up a rock from the street. The demon passed by the front door again, but not before Azrael had chucked the rock at its head. The rock hit its mark, ricocheted off, and landed in a chair in the living room. The demon stopped for a second or two, but didn’t look to see what had happened. It then started pacing the house again.
“Hmm…” thought Azrael. “Ready to go in?”
Nissa nodded.
This time, when the demon went up the stairs, Azrael and Nissa followed it. But, when it had emerged from the first room, it didn’t see them coming up the stairs and kept on walking. It wasn’t until after it was coming out of the furthest room back to the stairs did it see them on the landing and acknowledged their presence by stopping. It held its mouth open for a minute or two just staring at them. Nissa was greatly disturbed by this. Azrael thought it was a bit creepy himself.
“What are you doing here?” asked Azrael finally.
The demon didn’t reply.
“Hyperion got your tongue?”
At the mention of Hyperion’s name, the demon started to scream in anguish. Nissa grabbed Azrael and hid behind him. When the demon had stopped, it stood there again, returning to stare down Azrael.
“How did you get in here?”
 “I don’t know.”
“Why did you chase out the old man and his wife?”
“Chase? They fled.”
“Why are you here?”
“To search for the girl that his Darkness wants.”
“You’ve been master of this house for three days and you’ve done nothing. Why?”
“I don’t know…”
“Are you one of those demons who are apathetic toward both Diabolus and—?”
“Don’t!” shouted the demon. “But... probably.”
“Who is the girl that you’re looking for?”
“Some young woman donned in black who can move her hips like a pendulum.”
“Riveting,” commented Azrael. “This is getting real old real fast.” Azrael reached behind himself and pulled Nissa out into the open, asking, “Is this the girl?”
The demon’s eyes lit up. “That’s her! The one his Darkness wants.”
The demon started to move toward Nissa. But she locked eyes with him stopping him in his tracks. She popped her chest sending the demon flying down the hall and crashing into the wall behind him.
Azrael pushed past Nissa and charged forward. As the demon was getting up, Azrael grabbed it by the head and gave one violent twist. There was a snapping of bone and the light disappeared from the demon’s eyes as it died.
Nissa let out a sigh of relief. “That was easy.”
“Lower level demons often are.” Azrael picked up the demon’s body and threw it over his shoulder.
As they were leaving, the old man came running up to them. “You did it! You really did it!”
“‘Course,” said Azrael. “It was a snap.”
“Fantastic! But I don’t have very much to pay you with.”
“Don’t worry about it. This job is on the house.”
“Really? Why is that?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
The old man didn’t protest. He merely thanked them and ran back into his house.
Azrael and Nissa then found an alley where Azrael threw the demon body down, and pulled the vial with the burning liquid from inside his jacket. The demon immediately erupted into fire when sprinkled with the contents.
“What is that?” asked Nissa, taken aback.
“A combination of holy water, sacred salt, and exorcised oil. Demon bodies don’t agree with it.”
“Why did you do the job for free?”
“The Order insists that slaying demons is a free service provided by the Order. We’re only allowed to charge for expenses, but not the work itself. Since I didn’t fire my guns, there were no expenses that needed to be paid.”
“Huh. Well, unfortunately for you, I’m not part of the Order, so I can make a profit.”
Azrael snorted. “Gonna buy a nice little cottage with all that demon slaying money you’ve got sitting in the metro bank?”
“Regardless,” said Nissa, “I do have expenses of my own. If you can’t tell, there are places on this skirt where it has been mended before. So how do you expect to pay your partner when you do a job for free?” she teased.
“You’re my partner,” Azrael replied. “Not my assistant. Go find your own jobs.”
“Ouch. How about a foot rub?” she said with a wink.
When Azrael and Nissa returned to the shop at about 10:00, there were actually four people standing around outside of it.
“What’s all this?” asked Azrael.
“We require the aid of a competent demon slayer!” exclaimed what looked like the richest one.
“Huh. Well, I am Azrael Chaos,” said Azrael to the group there. “This is my partner, Nissa Omen. How may we be of service?”
“It was dark—it had always been dark.”
Azrael Chaos is a demon slayer for the Order of the Maleiorcum. While on a job, he meets the beautiful Nissa Omen who can control the minds of others with her dancing. After discovering a plot enacted by the forces of Hell that centers on Nissa, Azrael takes her to the monastery where he completed his training to protect her. But things become more complicated when Azrael’s old rival and suspected demon general, Mammon Zebulun, takes an interest in her.
Before the forces of darkness can execute their dastardly plan for world domination and turn the tide against God’s holy warriors, Azrael must face the faults in his faith and find the strength necessary to save Nissa.
Let the Gothic Epic begin.

If you enjoyed this excerpt for Remnants of Chaos: Chaotic Omens, you can purchase it here on Amazon. Available in both Kindle and paperback editions.

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