This story takes place roughly three years before the present story line starts.

The street was dark.

Not dead-of-night dark, but getting there. The night air was chilly, but not unduly so, and the air was just starting to smell like autumn. Finally. Though I couldn't see them too well just then, I knew the little trees growing fenced in along the sidewalk were beginning to lose or darken their leaves. People were starting to put up Halloween decorations: occasionally a plastic pumpkin or a lit up ghost peeked at me from porches and yards, just begging for me to go at them with a roll of toilet paper.

I shook my head and sighed. No no, not tonight. I had to get home before the old ball and chain noticed I was gone.

Something scuttled off to my left, just out of the corner of my eye. I looked, just in time to see something else dart across the street to hide beneath a car.

Just a rat. Or cat. Or something.

There was a slow creak behind me, the noise of metal against metal and long-dry hinges.

I adjusted my scarf and hurried on.

Whispering carried on the wind. Something in the alley I was passing rustled. Something crunched. Something else hissed.

Before I could run, two thick arms darted out from the side and dragged me into the shadows. Claws buried themselves into my skin. Big ones. Hands whirled me around and slammed me back against the wall, holding me in place. Inky black tendrils made of sticky physical shadow slithered up my arms, up my chest and neck. They gently stroked my face before finally sealing over my mouth. I wriggled. I tried to kick, but the stuff had me thoroughly bound.

The arms let go. They weren't needed anymore.


Sharp talons clawed at my right eye, cutting into the soft flesh around the socket and tearing through my eyelid. I tried to look away, to turn my head, but another hand came up and forced my skull back against the wall, holding it still.

"No no no!" said the voice. "What have I told you about subtlety? You catch more flies with honey, after all. Try again, but softer this time. They hate soft. It gets them on several different levels."

The claws stopped digging into my eye, and for a second there was nothing. I stared dumbly into the dark, still bound by the tendrils, trying to think.

All I could manage was, What the hell?

Something breathed into my ear. Something slimy and unmistakably tongue-like touched my cheek; sending cold shivers down my spine. A hand brushed my other cheek, caressing it. I writhed.

"Good," said the voice. "Now, the coup de grace."

The tongue slithered up my cheek and gently licked my eye. Not just on the semi-exposed iris, all along the edge of the socket, working its way beneath the lids until, finally, it found a spot by the sclera and dug. It grew longer and longer and thinner and thinner slid its way behind the eyeball proper and, after it started coming up the other side, it pulled.

It hurt.

A lot.

And you know what? It was true. That second way was much more unsettling. At least, it would have been if I hadn't finally recognized the second voice.

I bit down on the tendrils holding my mouth. It tasted lukewarm, seaweed-salty, and had the same texture and consistency of greasy mushrooms. I sank my teeth in deeper, as far as I could. Partly to hurt it, partly to concentrate on something other than AUGH SON OF A BITCH FUCKERS MY EYE AUGH!

The voice howled in pain- apparently he'd been the one holding me in place while its friend went to work on my face. I cupped my right hand and, summoned up as much hellfire as I could muster without roasting myself, and then grabbed onto the thing holding me. There was the smell of burning flesh, and the hissing of fat being fried.

He screamed. Several of the tendrils- including those covering my mouth- flew up in agony, leaving me with more room to wiggle.

"Augh you fucker!" I shouted. "Don't you even look at what you eat? Fucking hell!"

The deathgrip loosened.

"Bri?" said the second demon. "Is that you? Oh damn! Sorry!"

As one, all the tendrils scattered, like frightened eels fleeing the scene, and I was dropped unceremoniously to the ground.

I turned away and clutched the empty socket where my right eye used to be. "Fuuuuck! Fucking hell shit damn crap fuck!"

"Oh damn, Bri, I'm really sorry about that!"

"Fat lotta good that does me!" I turned and gave him the best one eyed glare I could manage. Blood and some other fluids were leaking out through the hole, dripping down my face. "Do you know how long it's gonna take for that to grow back? It's not like I've got a lotta spares, here!"

He turned to the big guy, who was standing there, looking mildly confused.

"Hey, Klonkor, spit it out, will you?"

The big guy with the busy tongue- Klonkor, I guess- spat into his hand. Galzeekebull immediately began trying to wipe the spittle off of my freshly severed eyeball. "I'm really really sorry, Bri! Here." He handed me back my eye. "Look, good as new, right?"

"Yeah," I said, the words dripping with sarcasm. "Everything's hunky-dory now."

Galzeekebull was never one for sarcasm. He sighed in relief and gave me a toothy grin. "Well What'ja think? Were we scary? Were you afraid?"

"No," I said, tucking the eyeball into my pocket. "Merely inconvenienced."

Aww man, I thought. It's going to get all linty and sticky and get little hairs and stuff stuck on it. Fuuuuck.

He visibly drooped. "Well, if you'd been human, would you have been scared?"

"Pants shittingly so, I'd imagine."

The big guy threw his arms up in what he probably thought was a dramatic pose. "AHA! KLONKOR IS THE MASTER OF SUBTLETY AND FINESSE! ALL SHALL COWER BEFORE THE AWESOME MIGHT OF KLONKOR!"

I stared at him. Then, to Galzeekebull, said "So who's the new guy?"

He smiled and rubbed the back of his neck. "New cacodemon. Fresh out of the pit. I'm showing him the ropes."


"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't quite catch that. . . "


I held my hand up to my ear and leaned forward. "What was that?"


"Again, what-?"


Galzeekebull tapped my shoulder and shook his head, frowning. "Bri. He's new."

"That's what makes it so easy," I said. Klonkor watched us both, head tilted slightly.

"So what are you guys even doing topside? They just let people take sabbaticals willy-nilly now or what?"

"Well, we're actually up here to teach Klonkor the finer arts of demonry-"


"But you need to learn subtlety!" It was apparent they'd had this conversation before. "Ripping out organs is only good for- for thugs! They must be afraid. Not just on the physical level- that's just adrenaline and instinct. Empty calories. You need to get them here as well." He tapped his temple. "You need to learn what truly terrifies them. That means being sneaky. Observation. Subterfuge. Hmm. Actually. . ."

He turned and beamed at me. "Hey, Bri?"

"Oh, no." I took a step back. "Oh hell no."

"Come on, you gotta help us! You've been on topside way longer than I have! You know all the ins and outs-"

"Servitor," I snapped. "I'm a servitor. Odd job. I feed the evil in the hearts of men and occasionally do a little light cooking. I don't know nothin' about scaring people. Not like what you guys need."

"You've gotta know something! I mean, you've been up here so long. even if you don't scare them yourself, you know what does scare them. Please? Just a few pointers? Please? Just a quick demonstration- one demonstration."

"No way. Besides, I hate to break it to you, Gaz, but I don't think Klonkor here's the subtle type-"

Klonkor suddenly appeared behind me, and a spade-sized hand crushed my shoulder. All of my shoulder.


* * * * *

I poked my head out from the alley and checked the street.

"Okay," I said, "here comes a good one. Places."

Our chosen mark was a man- medium tall, medium build, probably mid twenties to early forties. He walked down the street, bold as brass, looking like he was begging to be robbed. He was oblivious. He looked around himself, but in a 'Golly isn't this a nice night?' sort of way rather than the more appropriate 'Golly, this is a perfect place to be mugged' kind of way. In short, he had all the qualities of the perfect stooge.

"Okay, guys, get ready."

They cackled behind me.

Maybe if I hadn't been so occupied about impressing them, or maybe if I hadn't been missing a friggan eye, I would have paid more attention to the guy's smell. It was. . .wrong. It reeked of madness and death and ozone and things and the smell of otherness.

Whatever was living inside that body didn't start out in there.

But, again, I was too busy thinking; I'll show those two nitwits how it's done, followed closely by the thought, Ow ow my fuckin' head, to pay any attention to the warning signals my nose was giving me.

I stepped out of the shadows, onto the sidewalk proper, and said in my best helpless voice,

"Heya, Mister. Can you help me?" I clasped my hands behind me and ground the toe of my shoe into the concrete is a sufficiently anxious/shy manner.

Y'see I look- well, my glamour looks like- I mean, I'm kinda- I kinda look like. . . look like. . .

I look like a kid..

I said, I kinda look like a kid, okay? When I joined the big happy family below, my old body had been pretty much run through a celestial Cuisinart, so they gave me a spare they had lying around and stuck a glamour on it so I wouldn't make babies cry. The physical body under the magic is on the short, scrawny, scaly side, and cheap, government distributed magic can only go so far. The choice was between looking like a mutated dwarf or looking like a weird, impy kid-

Oh shut up.

Point is, though, in the time I've spent topside in the body, I've gotten pretty good at the 'creepy child' act.

"I'm lost," I said.

He stopped and smiled vacantly. "Oh?"

I grinned suddenly and removed all the glamour around my teeth, showing them off. The spare magic I'd just moved was put towards my eyes, making them appear to be pitch black.

"Yes," I said in the best demonic growl I could muster. "And I'm hungry."

Hellfire poured out of my clasped hands, rising up in a red and black pillar behind me. Over the roar of the flames, I heard Galzeekebull give a low whistle.

Aww yeah, I thought. I rock.

The target, however, was unimpressed.

"Hmm," he said. "A little imp has come to play."

There was a shiver in the air, and the fire behind me flickered. He smiled and made a small flicking motion. The fire behind me died with a quiet wuff.

And then I noticed the smell.

The man continued to smile. The air around him sharpened and took on an electric edge. The reek of otherness grew ten times stronger. Goosebumps broke out along my arms and the back of my neck. Whatever that thing was, it was strong and foreign and weird, and judging by the smile he was giving me, it was way above my pay grade.

I bolted. I ran back into the alley, past Gaz and Klonkor, shouting, "Alright Gaz your turn buddy seeya!"

"Uh, Klonkor! Out you go!" Gaz followed me, leaving Klonkor with the slowly approaching target. We didn't stop to see what would happen, but Klonkor was kind enough to bellow a play-by-play, so we got the gist of it.


There was a schreeeshk and a snick and finally a meaty splat. Klonkor screamed- a deep throated roar of pain, and flew over our heads onto the ground in front of us, landing in a black-bloodied heap.

Gaz stopped to ogle. I kept running.

Klonkor woozily sat up and touched his head. There was a gaping hole in his chest roughly the size of a basketball. I could see through it to the other side of the alley.

"KLONKOR. . . Isn't feeling too well, actually." He looked down and saw the hole. Immediately, he stuck his arm through it and craned his neck around backwards so he could see himself waving.


I would've gone right past him, but Gaz grabbed the back of my shirt collar and dragged me back.

"What are you doing?"

He let me go and started tugging at one of Klonkor's massive wrist. "I'm his mentor!" he said.

I ground my teeth. Gaz shouldn't be a demon. He should've been a fucking camp counselor. I grabbed the other arm, and we both pulled. Klonkor staggered to his feet and we were on the go again.

I made the mistake of looking back once, to see where the Guy was. He was at the mouth of the alley, taking his sweet time. He wasn't just walking. He wasn't even stalking us, which would have been more appropriate. The bastard was strolling, apparently enjoying the sight of a few demons running scared. Behind him was a pitch black shadow that stuck out stark against the mundane, nighttime-darkness around it. It followed him and grew, larger and larger, enveloping the sides of the buildings around us.

For a split second, I stopped. I closed me good eye and took a quick peek outside my head to see what this guy really looked like.

There was too much. I can handle things from Earth. I can handle things born and created and thought up in this side of the universe. Faerie, heaven, hell- I get those. They make sense. This thing, though, was soaked through with the otherness. There were things living inside him- things that weren't created but just happened. Things that were made out of leftover bits of creation that didn't fit anywhere else. I squinted and tried to look through the mind-bending distortion.

On another level, the level beneath the otherness, things got more sensible. A writhing mass of tentacle-esque things bursting from his chest, from his mouth, from the hollow slots where his eyes should have been. Eyes -great, floating spectral eyes hovering all around him. All around us. And whatever the hell he was- him, the human inside all that crap-, he was bound. Not to anything here, but his wrists, ankles and neck all had the spiritual chains and weeping gashes of something that had torn their soul to pieces and sold them all off to the highest bidder.

I snapped back to myself and ran.

He laughed, like he knew what I'd seen and didn't mind in the slightest.

I'm a fast runner, and Gaz was bogged down with Klonkor, who still wasn't up to snuff just yet. I passed them.

"Follow me," I said. "I know a place to hide."

I was lying. We couldn't hide. Not with all those eyes following us. The only reason we were even able to run was because he wanted us to die tired.

But I had an idea.

* * * * *

The house was dark when we got there. Naturally, as Bossman had gone to sleep hours ago. I let us in the front gate, and we ran up the slope to the porch, not bothering to use the walkway and instead just crashing through the plant life.

I bet I'm gonna have to clean that up.

I rammed on the door while Gaz rung the bell.

"Boss! Boss, open up!"

No answer.

"Boss, got a problem out here!" I checked and saw the sorcerer making his way down the street. The shadow was behind him. Its edges were torn and tattered looking. They flickered, looking like a silhouette of a large fire.


Klonkor, dastardly clever fellow he was, reached out and hit the door with enough force to splinter it straight down the middle and send the remains flying inside.


We ran inside.

"Boss!" I shouted.

Finally the lights upstairs came on. Bossman appeared in all his pajama'd glory at the top of the stairs.

"What?" he snapped. "What's-"

He saw me, and the bloodied socket where my eye used to be. He saw the door, now scattered around the livingroom floor. He saw Klonkor. He facepalmed.

"Oh no. What have you done?"


"No, this one's mine. Boss, we got a big problem, and it's making its way up the drive as we speak."

He scowled. "You weren't supposed to be out tonight. That was the deal, remember? Best behavior this month, or no trick-or-treating. I specifically said-"

"Boss! Listen! There's a thing out there, and it's out for blood, and it's got three demons running scared. Priorities!"

He groaned. "I need coffee. It's too early for this."

The ground rumbled, rattling the windows and sending the more delicate knick knacks around the house toppling to the floor.

Bossman seemed to wake up. "The trouble, I presume?" He rubbed his temples. "Fine, I'll deal with it. You," he pointed at Gaz. "Pot's in the kitchen, beans are in the cupboard. I take it sitting up and barking."

With that, he strode down the stairs, bed robe trailing behind him like a cape. Klonkor and Gaz let him pass, staring at him. Without another word, he went outside.

"Does he really expect me to get him coffee?" said Gaz.



“Star Wars. Don’t worry, guys. Bossman’s a wimp, but he knows his stuff. If anyone can-“

A scream cut through the air. A flash of magnesium-bright light from outside lit up the entire room before going to black again. Then Bossman ran into the house and slammed the door behind him.

Lightning quick, he twisted his wrists, called up a burning ball of green light and hurled it at the door, where it hit, spread out and went disk-flat over the entire wall. For a split second, yellow signs in a script I didn’t catch shone over the green shield. Then, the whole thing vanished.

Bossman was already running for the study. Something thumped outside, rattling the house. A sticky looking black substance oozed down the windows from outside. The roof began to creak.

As one, Gaz, Klonkor, and me went after Bossman.

“Dammit,” he said, digging through one of his old books. “I know it’s in here somewhere.”

“Too much for you?” I said.

He whirled on me and came almost nose-to-nose. I hadn’t noticed the blood trickling out of his mouth before then.

“You didn’t say it was an Other.”

“It’s not,” I said. “It’s a sorcerer.”

“Well it’s using Other magic.” He went back to the book and started flipping through again.

“You can deal with it, right? I mean, you know how to fix this, right?”

“Shut up, will you?”


Gaz raised his hand timidly. “I have to agree with Klonkor here . . .”

I was already wondering if my diabolical contract counted as complete if the mortal I was tethered to died when Bossman shot up. “Ha! Got it! Demon-“

“Yes?” said me, Gaz, and Klonkor at the same time.

My demon,” he clarified. “I know you have those cans of spray paint-“

“What, me? Defile public property? Are you really accusing me at a time like this? Come on, it was just the one time. Okay, twelve. But still-“

Shut up! I need you to go bring me them from whatever hidey hole you have. You, the big one. Go into the kitchen and bring me leeks, a loaf of bread-“ He saw me still standing there. “Go!”

I left. The cans are in the back guest bedroom upstairs. The one nobody but me ever goes in because Bossman is incredibly anti-social. I went over to the dresser and grabbed the first full one- a can of blue.

A quick glance told me that the windows up here, too, were slathered over with slimly black. There was an almighty thud, followed by a crack. The guy outside was apparently going to town on the protective wards around the house. I bolted back downstairs before the second story could collapse with me still in it.


Everyone had conglomerated in the kitchen. Bossman snatched the can and started quickly spray-painting the glass slider door and the floor in front of it. Soon, there was a huge, webbed summoning ring in the kitchen, half on the floor and half on the glass. Gaz and Klonkor busied themselves by setting up piles of things- bits of paper, leeks, bread, a few goose feathers and who-knew what other random crap Bossman needed- inside the webbing of paint, and then setting them on fire.

There was a noise outside. Like a hundred thousand tone-deaf vocalists all up and decided to try their hand at operatic performance. It simultaneously reminded me of Beelzebub speaking in his swarm manifestation, Legion when he was showing off, and James Earl Jones with a sore throat.

"What the hell is that noise?" said Bossman, finishing up the last of the sigils.

"I'd say 'hell was that noise' except it obviously isn't. C'mon c'mon, we don't have long before the place crashes in."

"Done! Everybody out!"

He leapt backwards out of the circle, and we all scampered sensibly behind him. He tugged at the thick, silver chain around his neck and revealed a necklace I'd never seen him wear before. Then, after taking a deep breath, he held onto the charm at the end of the necklace and started chanting in a language I didn't catch.

White mist rose up inside the circle, wafting up from the floor and falling out of the paint on the door. It smelled. . . planty. Like woods. And damp dirt. And. . .old. Not old as the thing outside, but still respectably old.

Bossman kept chanting, and a figure rose up out of the mist.

He couldn'tve been taller than eight feet. Couldn'tve been. The ceiling only went up to eight, after all. But the man Bossman had summoned gave the impression of being much taller than that. He wore a hooded green cloak and a sword on his belt. I couldn't see his face: I thought at first it was because of the hood, but when he moved his head, I saw it was because his face itself was colored pitch-black, despite the rest of his visible skin being pale.

The man rumbled something I didn't understand.

Bossman answered. Then, to my surprise, he knelt down onto one knee, head bowed. He held the necklace up and spoke again.

The man was silent for a long while. The spells around the house creaked, and outside, someone screamed. I didn't think it was our tentacly friend.

Finally, the man nodded. He brought his fingers to his lips and whistled.

They came out of the mist. Men on horses with bows and arrows. Wild looking women with plants in their hair running on foot beside them and laughing. Dogs- dozens of them- all with coats that were pure white, save for the red around each of their ears. They laughed and screamed and whooped, and the dogs bayed and howled and barked and the horses screamed and the mist grew thicker, adding to the chaos. The whole wild mess went through the glass slider as though it wasn't there. After an eternity of shouting and singing and baying and braying, they were gone. We could hear them outside, tearing through the yard. The summoned man was nowhere to be seen.

As a whole, we all ran for the front door.

The sorcerer wasn't expecting the hunt. The men shot him with arrows that flashed white light when they struck. The women grew silver claws and clung onto them, looking like they were trying to kiss him, but leaving bloody gashes wherever they touched.

He fought to get them off. They giggled. When the tentacles really did start coming out of his chest, the women only laughed harder. They got tangled in pretty quickly, and bit down on what they could get. It took me a second to realize they were doing that on purpose. That they were eating him.

The dogs came last. The ladies saw them coming and, somewhat regretfully, disengaged themselves.

They converged on him. One misty, semi-ethereal mass of glowing red and white diving down onto something that, from this distance and without most of its tentacles, looked vaguely like a giant spider. From then on, all we could see from the porch was the dogs as they tore out hunks of flesh, and the occasional bloodied maw.

The man appeared beside them. No wuff of smoke, no flash of light. He was just quietly there. He held up a hand- not like to hit them, but in the universal gesture for 'that's enough'.

The dogs stopped gorging immediately.

I wasn't surprised to see the man was alive. A guy like that, with so many deals and things hanging over his head- well, one of them had to be for immortality, or something like it. He uncurled from the fetal position and looked up at Bossman's friend. Already, we could see the hunks missing off him were growing back.

The head of the hunt studied him. After a moment, he nodded, apparently satisfied.

This time, when he spoke, he spoke in English. "You will do."

There was a cheer from the rest of the hunters.

The master huntsman pointed down the road. The air shimmered and shifted and a portal appeared. The biggest portal I'd ever seen. It took up the entire width of the street, and unlike other portals I'd seen, this one showed what was on the other side.

There were no more houses, or parked cars, or carefully tended gardens. All had been replaced by a forest, full of semi-naked trees and the fading light of sunset.

"Go," said the man.

The sorcerer got to his feet.


He did. He ran straight into the portal, into the forest, and the hunters followed, screaming their pleasure. The first hunt of the year was on.

The head of the hunt bowed once in Bossman's direction. Then he, too, stepped through to the other side. The portal vanished behind him.

For a long minute, we all stood outside, staring.

"Well," chirped Bossman eventually. "That was simple." He went inside. We followed.

"So," he said casually, despite the flush in his cheeks and the slight rasp in his voice. "Any of you going to tell me who I just condemned to an eternity of being hunted down like an animal? And what happened to your eye?"

Privately I doubted the hunt would hold that guy for long. He seemed like the sort used to wriggling out of sticky situations, but I said nothing. Instead, both Gaz and I looked at Klonkor.


"That guy," I jerked a thumb behind me, gesturing to the street. "Is what happened to his chest. Mine'll grow back, eventually." I pulled my eyeball out of my pocket.

Yech, I thought. Crumbs.

"Give it to me," said Bossman.

I did. "What, you got a spell or something to put it back?"

He inspected the eye, holding it up to the light to see it better. "No. There are a lot of scrying spells that list the eyes of a demon as an ingredient." He went to the counter and pulled some saran wrap out of the drawer.

"You're kidding me."

"There," he said once my eye was completely covered. "That ought to hold."


I glared at them all. "Well you know what, I've just had a hunky-dory night, and it's been fun, guys-"

"Fun?" said Gaz. "It seemed like a rather unpleasant-"

"Sarcasm, Gaz. Sarcasm. This is me telling you to leave."

"But we can't go! Klonkor hasn't learned anything yet!"

I stared. "Are you kidding me? Have you just not been here for the past half hour? Klonkor, you want to scare people? Just do what that guy did."

I tried ushering them towards the gaping hole where the front door used to be. Which was actually harder than it sounds since Klonkor basically had the weight and consistency of solid concrete.

Gaz frowned. "I don't know. Klonkor, how are you at shape shifting? Do you think you could pull off tentacles?"


"Then it's settled!" I said. Bossman was watching us with a look of mild amusement. "Gaz, you're an excellent shape shifter. Go. Teach. Have fun, you two. Leave."

We made it to the front entrance. Gaz began to brighten up. "Hey, yeah! Come on, Klonkor, I know a great nunnery where we can practice, too! Bye, Bri. Thanks for trying."

"Yeah goodbye, Gaz. Bye, Klonkor."


And then, finally they were gone. I trudged back into the kitchen, feeling the dire need for something loaded with sugar.

"Friends of yours?" said Bossman with a smile.

"Only if I truly am damned."

He nodded. "Well," he said, heading for the living room. "I'm going back to bed."

"What about all this?" I pointed to the remains of the spell still scattered around the floor and wall.

He waved a hand. "Have it cleaned up by morning. And the living room, too. And the gunk on the windows. And I'm sure Gwyn and his troupe made a mess of the yard-."

"Aww come on, boss! That'll take forever!"

"Then you'd better get started, shouldn't you?"

I scowled at him, though it was wasted as he didn't see it.

Well, I thought, taking out the mop and bucket. I guess it could've been worse.

Outside, I heard the sound of howling.

Huge thanks to Pandeism Fish, The Joopinator, and Sergeant Buttercup for letting me use their intellectual property. THE FOOLS!