Aurora was exhausted. She had spent the entire day training in the Peaks, running and climbing but mostly fighting the monsters in her head. As she approached the farmhouse it was almost nightfall and through the window, she could see her sisters crowded around the kitchen table, the warmth of the lamp light spilling over their faces. Despite all that was on her mind, she smiled and reached down to stroke Aurel. “At least I have my family back,” she told him softly. “I am thankful for that much.”
Sensing her presence, Jasmyne looked up and immediately motioned for her to come inside. Aurora knew from the look on her face something was definitely wrong.
“Thank goodness you’re back,” Aria sighed as she walked in. “We’ve been trying to work this all out, but it doesn’t make any sense.”
“That’s because you’re not looking hard enough,” Jada scolded. “Did you look at the mapping website I told you?”
“No, she needs to look on a proper paper map,” Amelia chimed in. “You can’t figure anything out on a stupid computer.”
“Stop arguing all of you,” Aurora told them. “Now what’s going on?”
“We wanted to help,” Amelia began. “You know, to try and figure out what the sites mean and why the Reapers choose them. We thought if we could figure out why, then maybe we could figure out when and where they’re planning to rise.”
“And that way you could be there ready to kick their arse,” Aria grinned.
Aurora smiled at her sister’s optimism. She could not blame Aria for believing in her. She was her sister. More importantly she was young and had never seen the Reapers or what they could do. In many ways Aurora envied her. “Okay, so what did you all figure out?”
Her sisters exchanged nervous glances and Jada bit her bottom lip. “Well, we figured out that we can’t quite figure it out.”
At her feet, Aurel flopped onto the floor and buried his enormous head between his front paws.
“Alright, well I appreciate your help so let’s take another look,” Aurora tried. “What do we know so far?”
As they poured over every detail of the sites listed on the Mr Murder blog, Aurora felt the warmth of family begin to take the place of fear. They were in this together. Whatever the outcome, they would stand by each other. They would either win together or go down fighting. Beside her Jasmyne pointed to the locations where groups of mutilated bodies had been found.
“The Peaks, the Swedish Alps, French Polynesia, the Congo and Patagonia,” she said. “They are all secluded sites but that’s easy to understand. The Reapers need a place big enough for a slaughter and far enough away from populated areas as to not draw attention. But geographically the sites have nothing in common. They don’t even share the same climate.”
“So what are we missing?” Aurora sighed as she stared at the map on the computer screen. “How are they choosing the locations?”
“Aurora, you said the night our families were killed it was the first time you ever saw these things, right?” Jasmyne asked.
“That’s right.” Aurora shuddered at the memory. “But that was in Eastern Europe and nowhere near any of these sites. According to our research, they’ve never been back there. There’s no reference to that location at all.”
Jasmyne nodded quietly as she paced back and forth across the kitchen. “So, they didn’t go there as one of their regular feeding rituals, they were there for something else. Something that once they had it, they didn’t need to go back.”
“What are you getting at sister?”
Jasmyne stopped and stared at her. “They were there for your family Aurora. Not us, but your blood family. Your mother and your father. The rest of the village, I hate to say, were just collateral damage.”
“No, that can’t be true,” Aurora gasped. “All those lives, some were just children.”
“Sister, you are the direct descendant of one of the strongest strigoi elders to ever walk the Earth. And he loved your mother – a Scythian queen. Together they could have defeated the Reapers had they been prepared. They were the strongest and most capable of defeating them. The demons knew that.”
Aurora thought back to the words Lucius had said at the castle. ‘It takes a demon to kill a demon.’ Had they purposely murdered her parents in preparation for the day they would rise?
She turned to Jasmyne and flames flickered in her eyes. “And Chris is dead, so they think there’s no one left on Earth who can stop them. They think they have us beat. They think…”
“Would you all at least just try this?” Jada interrupted as she came down the stairs, a world map trailing out behind her like a cape.
“Jada, that thing has so many folds in it we won’t be able to tell borders from creases,” Aria scoffed. “And besides, we’re really getting somewhere here.”
“Fine, but a bird’s eye view is more effective when you can actually touch it and feel like you’re in the map.”
“A bird’s eye view,” Aurora whispered.
Next to her, Aria shrugged as Jada took the opportunity to lay the map out across the table. “Move that computer would you,” she asked Amelia. “It has to be flat.”
“I told you,” Aria began. “It’s just the same as the one on the computer, just bigger and older with more creases. Kind of like you Jada.”
Aurora gave her youngest sister a look and then focused her attention on the map. She looked from one site to the next, over and over again. A bird’s eye view. The words had triggered something in her mind. What was she missing? Her eyes scanned from continent to continent, the missing piece had to be there. And then suddenly she knew what she had to do.
“Jasmyne get me a pen quickly!”
Her sister tossed a pen across the room and Aurora leaned in and began to draw. When she was finished, her sisters all crowded in at once trying to see what she had done. When they realised what she had drawn, together they fell silent. When the sites were connected it was easy to see the lines created a perfect inverted pentagram.
“They feed at the five points of the inverted star,” Jasmyne breathed.
“That’s right,” Aurora nodded. “Five points for the five realms of Hell. One demon rules each realm with Satan himself at the bottom. This is the ritual. Every nine years they feed at one of the locations to pay homage to the five demons of Hell.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask,” Amelia began. “But who are the five demons?”
“Well, Satan exists in the deepest realm. In books it’s often referred to as the Lake of Fire,” Aurora explained. “And in the fourth realm, the one directly above, is Lucifer and despite what you may think, they are not one and the same.”
“And the other realms?” Aria dared.
“The third belongs to Astaroth, Hell’s only female demon and in many ways the most vicious. She is responsible for inciting anger, jealousy and rage.” Aurora took a moment to calm herself. “The second belongs to Belphegor the horned beast and at the very top, closest to the Earth we know, is Melloch. According to Lucius, he brings the Reaper Army up to feed. That’s how he would have noticed the change in our atmosphere. He’s bigger than the other demons in the army, and smarter. He’s also…”
“Aurora what is it?”
“He’s also the one who killed my parents.”
The women fell silent as they each thought about their childhood home and what the Reapers had taken from them.
“Who are these five demons?” Aria asked. “I mean, were they created by Satan?”
“The Reaper Army was created by Satan, but the five demons of Hell were…”
“The five demons…” She picked up the map. “Were not created in Hell, they were angels cast from Heaven.”
Jasmyne moved in closer. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that these locations,” she pointed to the map. “These feeding sites are where each of the five demons fell from Heaven.”
Jasmyne thought for a moment and then began to count out loud. “Aurora, going by our research if they rotate their feeding sites every nine years, the next site is in French Polynesia, in two days.”
Aurora fell back into her seat. She finally knew the truth about the Reapers but there was no way to prepare for battle and get across the Pacific Ocean in two days. “Then it’s over,” she whispered in defeat. “There’s nothing I can do to save us.”