A young girl chokes, blood bubbling and spilling past trembling lips. Her vision swirls, colors and shapes blurring until all she can see are smears of black and red.
She is dying.
Damn those cultists, she thinks, head pounding in time with her struggling heart. Those crazed witches. Why had she not stayed inside? Behind the warm and safe magic wards of her families home?
But then she remembers the scream, the crimson splattered alleyway, that poor girl she’d tried to save. Tears cascade down her chilled cheeks as more copper fills her mouth, the pulsing scorching pain roaring in her chest and stomach nearly blinding her. She coughs, trembling, horrified and amazed she hasn’t lost consciousness yet.
A voice, so much like hers but not, hisses in the cage of her crumbling mind, claws against the edges of her fading soul. She remembers her shadow.
That terrible creature that had lurked at her heels for the past decade. The demoness who was bound to her moral soul, a fallen witch who claimed to have been her in a past life. She coughs again and spits thick red globs.
She has little, if any time left, but somehow, likely through sheer stubbornness, she makes her fingers move, she dips them into the still warm blood, and though the appendages jerk, she draws. Even dazed and dying, she remembers the shapes and symbols the demoness had taught her.
Her burst of strength drops, but she’s finished anyway. Though she can’t see, she knows she’s drawn a summoning circle, something a witch as young as herself shouldn’t have done. But it doesn’t matter, she slurs her offer, strikes a deal, her life as compensation, and signs with her blood. She breathes her shadows name, the demonic name forced upon her, and then — the girl is swallowed by the darkness. A muffled chuckle echoing behind her.
A chuckle rises up, deep and menacing and ancient.
The robbed figures spin, eyes widening at the sight of their victim rising, body rolling and sliding with the unnatural grace of a serpent. Ebony hair glistens, waving like dark water under the silver moonlight falling from the abandoned and desecrated churches windows.
The girl settles on spread knees, dark skirt suddenly showing far too much pale flesh, flesh no longer stained crimson. White shirt stained crimson, curled around a chest no longer fit for a young teenager — the girl was no longer a girl, but a fully grown woman. The minor transformation happening in the blink of an eye.
Again, she chuckles, and the figures drink in the sound like a fine wine, the men of the group stepping closer on impulse. Drawn to the waves of power rolling off the woman they had just stabbed eight times.
“Oh, now that, was so very rude.” The woman sings, crimson lips curling against alabaster skin, spreading to flash pearly fangs. She slips forward, hands sliding across the stained stone dais, black nails clacking as they grow longer and sharper. “You made her invoke my name.” She hissed, face twitching.
The figures moves — and immediately the assembled find themselves frozen in place, the unspoken spells words caressing their ears. Behind, curling around shoulders and feet, Familiar monsters hiss and growl and make warning motions, slicing the air with claws, flash teeth and spiked wings, but they do no more.
“You hurt her.” The figure growls, lips turning south sharply. “You tried to kill my girl. Oh, that simply cannot stand.” She slithers to her feet soundlessly, grin manic as she rolls her hips, marching down the steps towards the shuddering cultists. Her heels clack against the worn stone, lights flickering before bursting as she walks past, the glass shattering against the broken pews.
She raises a hand, flipping her long dark hair over her shoulder, and opens her eyes. Presenting not their previous earthen hue, but a vicious slitted glowing red.
“H-how…?” Gasps one of the closest figures, hands raised, pale gnarled fingers mid formation, pre-emptive spell long forgotten.
The possessed grin widens, face stretching unpleasantly. The shadows writhe, and the creatures curl protectively around their masters, but make no move against the possessed. Instinct over-riding loyalty.
“It’s the Solstice, darling.” She sings, flashing forward, nail-tips caressing the frozen flesh of the man’s face. “A time when the lines are blurred. When terrible monsters and vengeful spirits walk the earth.” She cackles, head tilting like a curious bird. “All one need do is invoke their name — and a demoness such as myself can rise up easily.”
Crimson eyes flash and something hisses, loud as a train-whistle. Eyes shoot to the altar, and behind, coiled around a crumpled cross, lay an Amphiptere — a massive obsidian serpent with bat wings, eyes glowing with internal hellfire. The structure creaks and groans under the weight, the creature hisses again, but does nothing else.
“He’s such a good boy, isn’t he?” The woman croons, head falling back to stare lovingly at the serpent. Snapping back a second later to her captives, she smiling gently. “Don’t worry, he won’t be participating.”
The assembled watch in broken awe as blue fire flickers across the fingers of her raised hand, words falling from her lips that cut the mortal cultists ears. They scream, as slender silver daggers, similar to the ones that had been sheathed in their victims body shoot through the air like bullets — cutting down the monsters and tearing jagged holes in the cultists souls. The agony echoing down the bonds of each.
The woman grins, flashing teeth, hair hovering and rolling around her shoulders, as if tossed by unseen water currents, shimmering with oily colors. She slices her hand through the air and the nearest bodies are cut perfectly in half. Blood sputters and splashes across the once holy ground, corpses snatched by the writhing shadows, devoured by the power they had sought to control.
“Don’t you know the price for the shadows power?” The woman mutters, chuckling bitterly as she sets the rest ablaze, strolling past leisurely as cries are abruptly cut off as the shadows feasted.
Deep within, the fragile soul of her host tried to wake, the demoness hushes her beloved reincarnation. Drawing the blanket of sleep back over her younger counterpart; the humanity she had cast off so many centuries ago. The humanity she wished so desperately to reclaim. She sighs, shaking her head as tears prickle behind her eyes, eyes that had lived and died and suffered for so long in the dark.
“Only until morning, my dear.” The demoness soothes, fingers caressing the still-healing flesh of her hosts abdomen. “Can’t have you dying on me.” She smiles softly, warmth blooming in her long dead heart. A hiss sounds over her shoulder and she reaches out without looking, other hand smoothing the scales of her beloved pet. She turns, pressing kisses upon the loyal guardian.
“Oh my darling, I have missed you too. But I can’t stay.” She breathes, pressing close to her companion. “She loves you too. Protect her well, as you once did me.” The Familiar hisses again before nodding, melting back into the shadows.
Pulling the stained shirt back down over her hosts gaping wounds, she marches out the door, power banging the decaying wood against the crumbling stone. She tastes the icy air, eyes flashing as she buries her sorrow once more. Sunrise was hours away, she had time before her deal was broken.
Haunting laughter, old and crazed and terrible rang out into the night as the demon witch ran, guzzling her fleeting freedom. Until her host would need her again.