Ascension

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Chapter 4: Contract Killer

The waxing moon shimmered above the bustling streets, illuminating a path. Figures wove their ways through the crowd, tourists stopping to giggle and snap pictures with their friends, adorned with beads and decorative attire even though it was not Mardi Gras. Their smiles and laughter lit the city brighter than the moon above, the camaraderie and tipsy bubbles of laughter warming the hearts of those around them. Lovers stole fleeting moments beneath the lamplight, the majesty of New Orleans permeating the most sullen of souls.

I wound my way through the crowd, adjusting my toque over my ears and slinging my sword across my back concealed in a guitar case. I made an effort to lift the corners of my lips at buskers on the street, tossing coins every now and then into the awaiting cases. At the end of the main street, I made a left and wrapped three times on an aged wooden door. No signs adorned the outside of the dilapidated building. The door creaked, and a small woman’s face peeked out. Her long, straight hair covered a large amount of her face, her beady eyes narrowed as she took in my shades, toque and large guitar case.

“How may I help you?” She quipped, holding the door so one could not see inside.

Her long and slender fingers wrapped around the edge of the door. I lifted my glasses, and stared straight into her eyes. Her eyes widened, and her fingers trembled against the door frame. She eyes the large case on my back.

“We don’t cater to your kind here. We don’t want any trouble.” Her voice betrayed her confident appearance. I lowered my shades and gripped the edge of the door, above her fingers. With a yank, I opened the door to reveal the crowded interior. Eyes darted to me from the various wooden tables scattered about the room, the bartender paused in polishing a glass. His eyes darted up, flashed red.

“I am here on business. Do not test me, Arlene. You know the laws of sanctuary.” I spat and marched passed her into the warmth.

I ignored the eyes that followed me as I made my way to the far North East corner of the room. A large man hunched over a stein of brew occupied the table in the dark corner. His hair was just long enough to cover the pointed tips of his ears, crows feet were beginning to show under his eyes. A deep, jagged scar ran across his aquiline nose, marring a once beautiful face.

The brown paper bag thudded onto the table. A finely arched brow raised, and he gripped the top of the bag gently. I pulled out the chair across from him and perched. Swinging around my case so I’m holding the hilt of my sword through it in my hands. The man glanced up at me.

“What is this?” He asked. He opened the top and reached into the bag, lifting his hand to see blackened ash sift through his fingers.

“Proof of services rendered.” I stated simply. A low chuckle emanated from his chest, and he put the paper bag into a small backpack next to the table. He pulled out a sealed envelope and slid it across the table.

“I should have known better than to question your efficiency.” He smirked. I gripped the large envelope in my rough and calloused hands. “Do you need to count it?” He asked. My lips quirked up in a smirk, I opened the envelope, ignoring the papers at the back of the pile to pull out a wad of folded bills.

“You know I do, Sol.” I counted the entirety, glad he always paid in even hundreds, making it easier to count. Then I smiled and placed the bills into the top of my leather boot. Then I pulled out the papers left in the package. Solomon sighed and dragged a large palm down the front of his face.

“Si, it’s getting worse. There is anarchy in the higher ranks, more and more sealed ones are appearing in the city and I hear in Europe as well.” He sounded tired. He waved at the bartender to bring me a tankard, I lifted my palm and asked for water instead.

“Why is this my problem, Sol? Are you not the guardian of this city?” I lifted my glass to my lips, enjoying the cool flow down my throat. Sol groaned and whacked his fist down lightly against the table in frustration.

“It’s everyone’s problem, Si. Something is happening, and I know somewhere in there, you care.” He appealed to me. His eyes lifted trying to meet mine through my shades. “If that isn’t enough for you, don’t you want the information they could provide?” I didn’t answer, and he reached toward my shades, I instinctively leaned away from him. He continued.

“You have been marked by the gods, Si. Don’t you want to know why?”

My brow quirked. For centuries, I had been seeking answers. Seeking some insight into why this young girl had been found, alone, wandering in the woods in the highlands of Scotland. Why I could not remember where I came from, who I was related to, what I was. I remembered that day, cold and shivering, the darkness of the world consuming me, and the shadows my only guide. I remembered the growls in the tree line, the bright yellow eyes shining through the opaque. I sighed and brushed the corners of the pages with my fingers. Three pages. I stared down at the rough outline of the paper, unable to see the words. Quickly, I glanced up at him and placed the papers down.

“Tell me about the targets.” I asked, pretending I couldn’t be bothered to read the pages. He smirked at me.

“First, Asmodeus, who claims himself king among demons. He has fled the seventh circle, and there have been sightings near your old hometown.” I nod. The lust demon was well known.

“Second, Belphegor, one of the seven princes of Hell. He has been seen around the city, his purpose is as of yet unknown.” I recognized the name, he lured innocents with promises of riches and renown. These would be straightforward kills, high ranking demons considered themselves untouchable, and that in itself was a weakness.

“And the third?” I prompt him.

“This last one, there are rumors he has been spotted in the city. He is one you will need to be cautious with, as he is easily the highest ranking of these demons.” He warned me.

“Just tell me, Sol” I snapped, impatient.

“Erlik, lord of the Underworld, judge of departed souls. He is responsible for much of the civil unrest in Elysium, after failing in his duties.”

I gripped my glass so tightly it shattered in my palm. Erlik. I quickly gathered my things and grabbed the papers off of the table.

“Done.” I said, rushing towards the door of the sanctuary. I heard his voice behind me as I turned away.

“Si, what the hell? Where are you going?” He calls. I place my hand on the door handle, and yank it open. Without turning around I call back to him.

“I’m going to slaughter a god.” I step out into the night.

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