This is Chapter Two of my dark fantasy novel Hunters. Warning: the content is mature. Feedback is appreciated. I will post a chapter a week.
Also,the anthology Saints and Sinners is now available, featuring the short story prequel to Hunters, Harsh Mistress! A pirate captain sails his ship into Hell to rescue the woman he loves.
Other novel chapters can be found on the Hunters page.
Compare this latest version with the first draft here!
I stepped out of the private room, leaving crumpled rapist husks laying in the darkness behind. Constellations of body fluids flared across my body under the black lights of the dance floor.
It would be awhile before anyone found them. They would have made sure no one would interrupt their conquest of a drugged teenager. No rush to leave. But a club was a dangerous place for a Lust Cursed to be. The souls I just ate were sustenance, not enjoyment. Their memories of past conquests, their sadistic fantasies for me, stripped their souls of any purity. None of them were depraved enough to rise as Cursed after death, but that didn’t make their souls any less decrepit. I felt satisfaction ending their miserable lives. But holy Christ, I still needed to fuck.
I closed my eyes. The dancers surging against me radiated heat, thundered with lust. Desire, everywhere desire, need. They were so embroiled with passion that I could walk into the crowd in full demonic glory and take every last soul in an orgy of desire. Yet their fervor was a mere whisper against the eternal hunger inside me that never died. Usually I could ignore it, often I had to subdue it, but not here, not now. Every doubt about coming here exploded. I wanted more. I wanted it all. My mind went numb.
I reached into the human sea, grasped the nearest person by the hair and spun her toward me. Her squeal of surprise cut short when I dragged her mouth to mine. At first she stiffened and pressed her lips tight. Then they quivered, opened, and we devoured each other. She tasted like spearmint, cigarettes, cum. Her embrace was sudden and fierce. Our hands explored each other with delirious intimacy. I felt her passion, her power, her eager soul as our bodies melted together.
Her mind opened to me the second we touched, and Stacey captivated me. Not like the worthless raping shits I ate earlier. Stacey was kind, she didn’t steal or lie, she didn’t cheat on her boyfriend Mark and wanted a family with him. My God, she was the purest, kindest, most delicious creature I’d tasted in decades, and I wanted her. Not to consume her soul like Derek and his minions, but to possess her, enslave her, savor her.
Stacey’s the kind of bitch I go for. Derek’s voice, weak and distant, slithered through my thoughts.
A chill gripped me. The echo of my victims’ unfiltered souls was the most revolting curse of feeding from the worst of humanity. Derek’s presence would linger in my mind for a few hours, sometimes even a day. But it reminded me of why I fed from shits like him. If I enthralled Stacey, I would damn the soul I struggled to redeem, if it was redeemable at all.
Fuck. I shoved Stacey away.
She stared at me, gasping. Her short-bobbed blonde hair curled over one eye, but the other stared, the thin rim of her dilated eyes the color of a winter stream. Her cheeks flushed fire.
“The fuck,” the guy next to her said, and wheeled her away by the elbow. The boyfriend Mark. His haircut was a brunette mirror of hers.
I turned my attention to him. Yearning mixed with his anger. Seeing me kiss his girlfriend again would shatter his resistance.
I stopped myself before I indulged the thought further.
“Thought she was someone else,” I said.
“She’s not. Fuck off.”
He strained as he held Stacey back from me. Her gaze never left me.
God damn it. I spun away and bolted deeper into the crowd. In a moment I couldn’t see them anymore.
Rapists and sinners deserved death, even if their souls were empty and ungratifying. But a feast like this club was too much temptation. A Cursed wasn’t built to cope with control, or a Lust demon with abstinence. I had almost enthralled Stacey and consumed her boyfriend’s soul just for the fuck of it. Had to get out of here before I did something I’d regret. I wouldn’t be able to look at Sister Rosie again if I threw away all my work now. I pushed my way toward the doors.
I felt its presence behind me an instant before its sword slashed at my head. I wheeled to the side. The black blade missed me by less than an inch and carried without slowing through two guys dancing in front of me. The music drowned their screams. Blood sprayed over me and the dancers around them.
An Andrasi Wrath demon towered behind me.
“What the….” A girl turned as blood slashed across her face. She stared in shocked silence at the two bodies on the dance floor, eyes wide and white in a mask of glistening red. Then she looked up into the empty stare of the Cursed that cut them down. She screamed.
The club went apeshit.
I was at eye level with the demon’s waist. No glamour to disguise its nature. Its bones glowed through its translucent red skin like a skeleton suspended in gelatin. Angelic wings draped its back in a shadowy cloak. Muscular arms as thick as my waist held a blood-stained sword as tall as me. Long hair hung to its shoulders like a tangle of wet eels. Its eyes blazed emptiness.
“You die, succubus,” it growled, straight into my mind.
A wave of humanity broke around me, scattering toward the exit. I used the chaos to crouch and draw the twin kukri sheathed at the small of my back. The curved blades were heavy and a pain in the ass to keep hidden, especially when people touched me. I hadn’t had to draw them in years.
Since the last time a Wrath Cursed swung a five-foot sword at my head, come to think. Good thing old habits were hard to break.
A bubble formed on the dance floor around us. Hentai sex flashed over the screens. Lasers rippled through the body of the Cursed as it glared at me with those empty eye sockets.
“You don’t want to destroy me,” I said, as calmly as I could. Despite my mental guards, the Cursed’s aura of rage needled my self-control. It smelled like blood and ash and mindless anger. The shouts from the fleeing patrons had turned guttural, frenzied, as much rage as fear. A quick glance at the brawls erupting around me confirmed that the mortals were as intent on fighting as getting away, all because of this fucker.
Its voice boiled into my brain. “You break oaths, you die.” Its laugh claws my mind with fury.
I skipped sideways, keeping out of sword range. “What oaths did I break?”
“You die, then I kill your friend,” it said.
Friend? Oh for fuck’s sake. I had to concentrate on surviving, not figuring out what the hell this thing was talking about.
“Fight me,” it said. “I like it when you fight.”
“Well, then.” I lunged and snapped invisible.
It was one of my tricks. Made up for not showing up in mirrors, cameras or video, which was a bigger pain in the ass than you’d think. I assumed this Andrasi knew I could do it, but I needed every moment of surprise it might give me.
The Cursed swung its sword across my expected path. I rolled under its arc and sprang at the demon’s exposed side. Kukri chewed crimson Jell-O. No blood from the cuts, they opened like raw steak. Streaks of chartreuse energy flickered from the wounds. I hoped that meant they hurt like hell.
Its elbow smashed the back of my skull. The world sparkled and tilted. I turned the fall into a sideways tumble away from the Cursed, cradling my head. Agony.
“I smell you,” it growled. Its eyes no longer followed my movement, but it charged straight at me.
I broke for the doors. But thoughts of escaping that way vanished. The front of the club was a pile of people tearing themselves apart, either to get out or because they were overwhelmed by the rage aura. The burn of mace started to fill the air, and I heard the hollow pop of a gun from the midst of the melee. Jesus, someone got a gun into the club. This was getting ugly.
“Fight me,” it said again. Its blind slash tugged the edge of my jacket.
I wheeled around and charged. I couldn’t take on a Wrath Cursed in the middle of innocents, or let its rage aura drive them to kill each other. Needed to get out in the open somehow.
I leapt over its next swing, somersaulting over its head and grabbing where its wings met its back. My momentum inverted him in front of me, and I smashed my shoulder into its back and sprinted.
It roared, wings and feet thrashing in midair. Screams shook my body. It felt like carrying a volcano. I hung on just long enough to plow it into the nearest wall.
Masonry and rebar exploded. A second crash, a second wall. The impacts knocked the air from my lungs, wrenched and shattered my shoulder. Brick cascaded over me seconds before we were in the alley and the Seattle mist was falling on us. I let go of the Cursed and collapsed on all fours. The Andrasi kept going into the opposite wall of the alley, cracking brick. The impact left a crater half a foot deep. The demon tumbled onto its back, its broken body arcing with internal sparks.
I willed myself to stand and pounced on the Cursed’s chest. It tried to get up but I hung on by its greasy hair, hacking the kukri across its neck. My arm screamed in protest with each movement. It howled and plunged its sword into my side. Agony exploded but I kept slashing. Its body glowed putrid with each cut.
I hit spine. The jolt traveled through my body. The demon collapsed back to the ground.
“Don’t die yet,” I groaned, my own blood hissing against its skin. “Why’d you try to kill me?”
I planted my lips on a mouth big enough to swallow my head. Flashing, discordant images tore through my thoughts. I shoved the Andrasi away with a gasp. My broken arm hung limp at my side. I lurched up and rammed the heel of my boot under its jaw.
Its neck shattered with a wet, ripping sound. The Cursed began to smoke. The smell of burning carcass filled the air.
I stumbled back on the surrounding rubble, hitting the ground hard. My entire body was pain. I probed where it stabbed me, confirming the sword dissolved along with its body, and focused my energies on mending my wounds. The power I got from the rapists ebbed, exhausted. My side and shoulder burned with any movement, but at least they were whole again. I wouldn’t recover fully for the better part of a week without eating anyone else.
Holy fuck. I lay in the drifting mist for what must have been minutes, still invisible. Andrasi pack demons hadn’t bothered me in years because we stayed out of each other’s shit. They kept out of Seattle and stuck to their outlying territory, and I let no other Cursed in. But this one tried to kill me in the middle of my city, in undisguised demonic form and in a nightclub full of mortals.
I sifted through the jumble of its dying thoughts and found out why. A pale man in a tailored gray suit worth more than a car, getting out of a limo at the most expensive condo tower in Seattle. Long black dreadlocks, goatee and eye patch, smoking a black cigarette. Just a momentary image, but one as painful as the Andrasi’s sword had been.
My end of the bargain was easy to keep since no one gave a shit about a city surrounded by roving packs of Wrath demons. Besides, I didn’t like my kind any more than the Andrasi did. But a Pride Cursed had come to Seattle. One shielding his presence from me or I would have felt him the second he entered the state. And one I knew intimately enough to loathe even after a century.
Sebastian Essex was going to tell me what the fuck he was doing in Seattle, or I was going to kill him.
(c) 2015 by William Reid Schmadeka. All Rights Reserved.
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