Demon Haunted Boy: Chapter 39

Fact Two: Seers are able to tap into senses that far exceed the usual five, and appear to experience reality in a significantly different way than you or I.

Fact Three: Seers have a high constitution, as evidenced in experiments conducted by the ever prolific Freya Castlemaine.

Lastly, I will close the section on Seers with a simple observation of my own. I have had the good fortune of meeting two of the Seven Great Seers in hell’s history, and have studied all of them in depth. With all of these outstanding qualities, a typical Seer is destined for notoriety, and they usually achieve it, either through exceptional evil and cruelty, or exceptional heroism. It is unfortunate, then, that the majority of Seers lean more toward the former than the latter.

– Blood Dweller’s Guide to the Underworld, Chapter 8 (On the Nature of Souls)

 

By the time they reached the top of the great cavern, Will was utterly broken. With strokes as delicate as calligraphy Flay had removed vast swathes of his skin, pausing for long minutes to heat his blade on the blazing fire. Later, Will would remember nothing of that first terrible experience but one thing: the reflection of the flames in Bone’s eyes. Bone had been grinning from ear to ear, practically drooling at the smell of cooking flesh and raw meat, but Will fixed on his manic face all the same because the look on Flay’s was so much worse.

But in the hours following, as Flay dragged Will up the last curving ledge at the cavern’s summit, the memory was all too clear, and it was all Will could do to stay on his. The thought of falling and letting his raw meat be dragged over the stones was enough to make him vomit. The thick blue mass that resulted was fascinating enough to bring him a moment of clarity.

After that it was nothing but endurance. He wasn’t conscious of the world around him, nor was he aware of his surroundings beyond the ground at his feet.

They moved, and in the absence of conflict they made good time through The Maze. Sick sounds reached Will through the haze of his unbearable agony, like the whimper of something small crushed beneath Bone’s boot, and the roar of an impossibly large whirlpool. Unidentifiable smells stung his nostril and made him vomit again, and eventually – who knew how long since they’d set foot inside – Flay pushed him into a dank red-lit cave with narrow walls of smooth bone. They followed it until the far side opened in the jaws of a gaping skull.

The Maze had let them free.

A rickety draw bridge was roped onto one of the teeth. It hung at a terrifying height above what must have been the grey expanse of Mort City, but Will was in no state to feel fear or even curiosity. His mind was occupied with the putting of one foot in front of the other, and the sickening stroke of wind against his open flesh.

At some point they stopped and a deep voice barked: ‘Stop! Angel’s orders to hold all possible entrants for identification.’ Will didn’t hear Flay reply, but the heavy hand that had led him through The Maze like a child finally let go of him.

A moment later, Will received the stunning force of pleasure, and it was accompanied – no, delivered by – the panicked scream of the guard.

Will lost his footing and fell back onto the bridge. His eyes rolled back in his head and a horrible gargling escaped from the back of his throat as the soothing relief flooded his soul in a warm bath. Each time the guard’s screams peaked or trembled Will got a fresh dose of breathless ecstasy; he could feel his wounds knitting together, his mind clearing, and his breath returning. When all the pain was gone, save for a few deep aches around his wrists and neck, he sat up and blinked in the warm air.

Flay had taken hold of the guard’s arm, forced it behind his back and snapped it. Then, while Bone had stood guard on the concrete platform beyond, he had used his blade to remove every feature of the demon’s head. All that remained of his cranium was an island of skin with a tuft of hair, which Flay had gripped in his free hand, and a seething mess of maggoty white meat. The guard himself was larger than either Flay or Bone, and the hand on his broken arm had been holding a sword. ‘P… P… Please no more,’ he said.

Flay looked over his shoulder, beady eyes flashing. Will pulled himself up by the bridge’s ropes, sucking in the air. He couldn’t believe how good he felt, how fresh. The lights of Mort City were bright below him, and brightest of all was the star of Angel Tower. It was a huge ball of burning red flame, a kind of star that had hovered above this island for who knew how long before this structure had been created below it. It burned so brightly that it was painful to look at, yet it did not radiate heat. In fact, it sucked heat into itself, making the air all around it crisp and chill.

‘…feel better?’ Will only caught the tail end of Flay’s sentence, so mesmerised was he by the sights and sensations. The thought of dashing back across the drawbridge crossed his mind, but only for a moment. Bone was watching him with empty eyes. And the sight of the brutalized guard was more than enough of a deterrent. Will nodded.

‘Good,’ Flay said. Then he stepped back and kicked the fallen demon in the side with enough force to partially lift him off the ground. ‘Get to the infirmary, gatekeeper. And next time you see me, remember that Flay comes and goes through Angel Tower as he pleases.’

Muttering garbled apologies and curses, the guard hobbled to his feet and made for a steel gate set in the base of the spire that touched the red star. He pulled it open and disappeared down a step ladder beyond, leaving Will, Bone and Flay on the rooftop of Angel Tower.

Flay stepped aside and made an elaborate gesture with his knife.

‘After you, young Will. The dungeons await.’

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