ChapterHouse

From the Journal of James Watie: April 16th - 19th, 1867

Of Bananas and Hammers.

April 16th, 1867: We arrive in Prague in the evening, grabbing a bite to eat and a train to Budapest. It looks like we have beaten the authorities out of Krakow (we may be wanted for murder there… I’ll need to check on that).

April 17th: Arrive in Budapest. While waiting for our train to Bucharest, we are tracked down by none other than Matty T. and a thoroughly grumpy Mary (to be fair, it was daylight out, albeit cloudy). Tyson was heading this way to check on Houses, and thought we could use another resource. Besides, Mary would have been SOOOOOOO sad if we killed an actual Child of Lilith without her! Tyson mentions that he is backtracking to Krakow, where Fritz and Victoria have been jailed for… get this… disorderly conduct. Because how could they be murderers if they were in jail at practically the same time?

Genius!

Train-time to Bucharest.

April 18th: We finally arrive in Bucharest (in the morning). We purchase a local map (which might as well read “Tour scenic Romania! Ask us about our sadness and history of atrocities!”), and take a reading. North-northwest, through a couple possible decent sized towns or one of a couple of monasteries. We decided to use a bit more time getting a solid reading rather than guess wrong and tip our hand. So, after a few meat-on-a-sticks (decorum MUST be maintained!), we board a train to Sinaia.

Arriving there in the evening, we decide to take in a night at a local inn. As this is a burgeoning resort town, there are plenty to choose from; we decide on The Great Lion for the evening. Compass still points N-NW, though there are only a few possibilities in that line now. Mary goes out hunting (with Marcus as her dinner-buddy), while the rest of us rest a bit. When they get back, Sergei and Aldo do a bit of scouting around town. We rest a bit more, then hop a morning train, heading north.

April 19th: We hit the town of Bran before dawn. Taking a compass reading, I finally get everything mapped out. At last, Marcus has his destination. As of that moment, withing a few miles, his nemesis is in the town of Brasov.

There is no time to wait, as the possibility of impending mayhem and possibly having our souls eaten is just far too exciting! A quick two-hour train trip gets us to scenic Brasov. No joke, aside from a demonic infestation, this is a lovely town! If we live though today and are not wanted by every form of authority this nation has, we may have to come back on vacation!

Checking the calendar, we come to one of life’s little poetic moments; it is Good Friday. Heck, if we pull this off, it may be one of the Better Friday’s we have ever seen. If not? Well, it will be a very, very Bad Saturday.

We get rooms at a local inn, the Red Knight, mostly to store our unnecessary gear. As we are a big train-weary, Mary, Aldo, and I rest a bit while readying gear. Sergei and Aldo scout around, finding that the local church, the Biscerica Neagra (“Black Church”) is a primary tourist attraction in the area. They head in during the sermon, which is, according to them both, not the standard “Jesus is wonderful, he died for us so be good or burn,” you would expect today. As they look around, Sergei notices an area that once housed a reliquary, and, with Marcus’s assistance, they discern that it was removed by force.

NOTE: I would like to take a moment to bring this up, for posterity. My brother, Marcus, has had nightmares for several years, almost every time he has slept, about this demon. It is his life’s primary passion to see him dead and, after figuring all of this out, he knows that said demon is likely less than 100 yards from where he was standing. And, let’s face it, Marcus is known to have a few… impulse control issues. When faced with this, according to Sergei, his first reaction was in no way the one most people would attribute to my friend. His reaction was to return with Sergei and rally his squad.

That decision likely saved all of our lives, specifically his and Sergei’s. People can say what they want of Marcus’s impulsiveness, but, when the chips were well and truly down, he played it like a stone-cold soldier.

As evening was falling, we act as tourists around the church, with Mary acting as a consecration ‘divining rod,’ keeping us in the know of this majestic, Gothic buildings absolute lack of any protections from the profane. One final reading of the compass tells the tale; Banathamon is in residence and slightly underground.

Inside there is no one around (between sermons). A know how to summon priests in such a Church, and ask Marcus if he would like to go confess. Suddenly beset with guilt, he does so. Sure enough, a young priest (not the one who gave the sermon earlier, according to Sergei), heads over to hear Marcus’s confession.

Judging by the muffled, meaty ‘thunk’ noises, I do not think he liked what Marcus had to say. Marcus exits the little booth, and send Mary in. Good Lord knows she probably has something to chat to the priest about, but she is also only in there for a few moments before heading out. I did not know people with her condition could cough, because she sure was wiping her mouth with a hankie…

(For the dense folks reading this, Marcus rendered the fellow unconscious, and Mary drained him of blood. She said that doing so was not different than eating an animal, meaning that this young man’s soul was already vacant from his body.)

Doing a final check of the finally at-peace body, I find that he has a stylized “B” as a symbol on his body. As this is an affront to God, I destroy it. Well, that and several other reasons. But, for posterity, I shall record that as my primary reason.

Heading into the back area of the church, we are met by an adorable little altar boy. Well, adorable except for the immediately darkening eyes and suddenly very, very aggressive posture. A head-shot does nothing to him, but a heart shot puts the sad husk down. As Marcus has explained, this condition matches the soulless children from his previous encounter.

This is going to be one of the saddest harvests of my life.

We begin fighting our way through to the back stairs down, culling a wave of soulless children down. It looks like the church had been the town’s primary orphanage or, even worse, these children were volunteers from the local families (Do not dwell on this; it will just make you sad). It is tricky combat, as the heart is a tough place to strike. We are used to bulk, center-of-mass fire, so precision skills are a change of pace.

We finally head down the stairs and into a large basement area. I assume this is our location du jour, as it has several soulless children and adults, an armored knight, and the sermonizing priest from earlier. Oh, and a huge, 40’ diameter pit with a large portal 20’ down that, according to its the patina of its horizon, leads straight to Hell.

Fight time. We know the weaknesses, but our lack of precision slows us down. Their caster is fiendishly clever, keeping us moving and hurting through the fight. We finally begin to pare down the ‘basic’ husks, making our way out of Sergei’s darkness bomb (which Aldo had previously dark-vision’d us to prepare for) and toward the caster. Marcus finally breaks free and heads for the caster…

NOTE: Some portals cannot be seen through, some can. Some are two-way transparent, some one-way. This was the latter, as something was waiting for one of us to get near.

…and out pops Banathemon. Twenty or so feet tall, covered in wings and scales and a 10’ long sword-axe thing. Seriously, he is the most frightening thing I have ever seen, and I do not scare easily. Luckily, the current boondoggle we were in, combined with a sudden surge of ABSOLUTE HATRED prevented any jitters. Everyone else pulled through the initial shock as well, with Mary being the most affected. When you have lived as long as she has, I suppose seeing your possible death jump out of a pit, laughing, is a bit worrisome.

BantamHerman immediately hits Marcus, damn near cutting him in two. Seriously, all of the times in practice we worked on rolling with a hit came into bright, shiny focus on that initial impact. He hit Marcus so hard it looked like Sergei was the target! After the initial hit, he grabbed Marcus in a gigantic fist, laughing and casually dropping the hint that Marcus’s next hat will be the interior BantuHarambi’s gullet.

I had a plan; a daring, probably suicidal, but, in hindsight, feasible plan. But Sergei beat me (and, thankfully, the demon) to the punch. The bouncy Russkie bounded in leaped up, and grabbed Marcus’s foot…

…because that is all he needs for a teleport.

Gentle reader, let me tell you, when Sergei and Marcus popped up across the room next to that caster, that demon was very, very angry. The fact that this opened him up to a barrage of gunfire from our squad did not help he anger management. Mary and Aldo kept at clearing the minions as the tide turned.

BargainHammock lept across the room, still focused on Marcus. But he had decided to get mobile, and he and Sergei danced away (not before ringing up the ‘priest,’ tho). As I decided to tag out with Marcus (my dance partner, the knight, had folded at that point), I figured it only fair that we trade weapons. Marcus was skeptical at first, as he trains almost exclusively with his Tysonic Blade. But he got the picture as Songrid and the quiver hit his hand; the fiend needed a beefier dance partner (and, with that sword in my hand, he dared not show me his back). And Marcus now had the weapon forged to kill this critter (and its siblings). Kill it, for good.

I switched the sword over to the WORLD’S BIGGEST BANANAHAMMER, and started swinging. The caster goes down as the demon begins making its way back around me and towards the now very, very threatening Marcus. Seriously, he almost pooped when Marcus pulled Songrid back for that first shot. And she OBVIOUSLY hurt it, as it screamed bloody murder at every strike. Aldo sprinted over to heal the still-grievously-wounded Marcus, and was greeted with a loud POP and the smell of burning metal that accompanies his healing gloves burning out.

(At least they did not explode!)

And, noticing that escape was in this beast’s eyes, I took a chance at a suggestion to our new-christened archer.

“Marcus, shoot the portal.”

That demon looked like the horse he bet it all on just broke all four legs as it burst into flames.

Marcus, though bleeding and hurting, grinned A LOT, and dropped a shot into the portal. And, as we all thought it would probably pop the portal, it did something much, much more interesting. The demonic energy shattered, leaving a cool, blue disk of energy in its wake. Out of which stepped Sammy T.

And let me tell you, she looked happier than I have ever seen her!

She stepped over to Marcus and, with a wave of her hand, his wounds vanished. This freed up all of our casters for the offense; Mary responded by stunning every enemy in the room except the demon, and Aldo and Sergei begin a little bit of ranged heart surgery. BirmingHamburger is on the ropes, preparing for (what we were later informed by Sammy) was a likely teleport to safety. I decide to make his life a bit more exciting by, and I am not kidding, grappling the demon. Jacob wrestled an angel, so I figured I had to have at least a chance, right? His attention thus turned to me, it allowed Marcus to line up that final, perfect shot into the creature’s heart.

That creature let out a literally unholy scream as its essence was rent asunder. It was unlike any sound I had ever heard. This being was old when humanity, as a whole, thought tools were the new rage. Thousands upon thousands of years of experience were shattered that moment, gone forever. And though it was horrifying and cacophonous, it was one of the best sounds I have ever heard. Because it was the sound of an impending good night sleep for my tortured brother.

What happened after was a bit of a blur. We said a prayer over the bodies (the knight I was one of the men in Marcus’s previous crew, sad to see). Sammy offered us a teleport, but that would have taken us to her sanctum again, and the less we know of that the better. We loot the place (including one very, VERY large sword-axe and about 30lbs of demon-related body parts), and head back to the hotel. Mary and Aldo (the least covered in ichor) grab our gear, we clean up as best we can, and board a train.

That night, a good man slept the sleep of the vindicated. He will have to reevaluate his life in the upcoming months, as his nemesis is no more. But, on that train, he slept.

Seriously, it was ADORABLE.

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