My entries for Beloved Enemy's 100 Nights of Summer Challenge. Also posted up on my fanfiction.net account.
First up, Theme #57: Exorcism.
Exorcism. Rated PG.
It was the first house call of young Reverend Verily Rinderpest’s career and he was terrified of screwing it up. He’d initially joined the clergy because he wanted a career in which he could avoid hard work and danger and stay indoors. His dull manner of speaking and social ineptitude made him useless on the pulpit and more trouble than he was worth in missionary work. So they’d transferred him to one of the temple’s darker divisions. The dark division, in fact. The one where holy water was your tea and you cut your teeth on silver bullets.
And now he was standing in the threshold of the home of Miss Filia Ul Copt. Everyone in Achaea knew her. She was the dragon girl who ran that lovely shop on the main street. As far as Verily understood it, dragons were the servants of the gods. But selling instruments meant for bashing other people’s heads open hardly seemed holy to him. Although the vases were quite nice.
Verily clutched his scriptures to his chest as he looked around the shop-room anxiously. “Where umm…” he began, “Where does it… haunt?”
Filia gave him a questioning and somewhat sharp look. “He’s in the den,” she said, and began to lead him down a hallway.
I’m not cut out for this, Verily thought as he followed her down the hall. I’m scared of the dark and still sleep with a square of the blanket I had when I was a baby. I’m the last person that should be standing against the forces of darkness. He consoled himself with the elder Reverend Masis’s admittance that most cases they’d be called for would end up as the product of overactive imagination. “Just go through the routine as writ, whatever the case. It’s there for a reason,” the old man had advised.
But this case seemed… odd. Even though he had no prior experience to really compare it to. It certainly hadn’t been what he expected when he’d done the pre-interview with Miss Ul Copt. She’d gone into the temple one morning and, bold as brass, announced that she needed to see someone about getting an exorcism. So they’d carted her off to him.
As has already been indicated, socializing was not his forte, but he made an attempt. He’d been told that many people seeking intervention from the temple were likely to be in delicate emotional states. And with the reasons they generally had for getting the church involved: who wouldn’t be? So he’d been very kind to her. He’d offered her a seat and given her a cup of tea in case her nerves needed to be calmed, and only then did he open his ledger and begin asking questions.
They were all pre-written out in standard forms. Clearly an exorcism form was needed… either 1A or 1B…
“Now, as I understand it, there’s a demon you need us to get rid of?” Verily had asked in what he hoped was a commanding, in-charge voice that would convince his client that he was totally in control of the situation.
“Yes,” Filia had said, taking a drink of her tea.
Right. Verily looked at the forms again. One was for expulsion from living beings and the other was for expulsion from physical locations. Of the two, the second tended to be difficult to permanently expel a spirit from, but the first tended to be the most dangerous for client and attending. He prayed it was the second.
“Now, is this demon inside of you?” Verily asked in what he hoped was a very sensitive way.
To his surprise, Filia spat out the gulp of tea she’d been drinking in one long spray, coughed and choked incessantly, and glared. After this display was over she finally turned to him and, in what he considered an oddly dark tone of voice, said: “He wishes.”
“O-kay…” Verily said, not quite sure how to respond to this. “Then is the demon inside—”
“He’s in my house!” Filia said impatiently, not wanting to hear the end of that question.
Form 1B it is! Verily thought, feeling the relief wash over him as he tossed the other form aside.
“Now… there’s just one demon, is there?” Verily asked, realizing as he read the first question that he’d gotten a little ahead of himself by assuming that.
“One is enough,” Filia said firmly.
Verily put a check in the appropriate box. “Have you noticed any poltergeist activity?”
Filia gave him a bewildered look.
“You know, things moving by themselves… things breaking,” Verily prompted.
“I don’t really think it’s anything like that,” Filia had said. “Although, a lot of my vases have been breaking,” she added sourly.
Verily didn’t see how that didn’t qualify as poltergeist activity, but didn’t argue. “Has the demon ever spoken in tongues?”
“Not around me,” Filia had said.
“Is your house by any chance built on the burial ground of some indigenous people?” Verily asked. Sometimes it’s the simple things that can make your life a living hell.
She gave him a long, slow look. “I think,” she finally said, “that you’d better just come down and see for yourself.”
So Verily had. As he walked through the hall of Filia’s house/shop he tried to steel himself by imagining all the possible horrors that could lurk in the shadows so that nothing would surprise him. He’d tried to think of clowns with claws; he’d tried to think of gurgling masses of flesh and teeth; he’d tried to think tentacled monstrosities; and for some reason he’d tried to think of a little girl turning her head around three-hundred-and-sixty degrees.
In any case, when he walked into the den and all he saw was a purple haired young man playing with a green haired toddler he was a little shaken by the unexpected normalcy.
“Oh,” the man said, standing up as he noticed the arrivals into the room. “Do we have guests?”
“You shut up, Xellos!” Filia shouted, pointing a shaky finger at him. “Stop acting like you live here or something!”
He that was designated Xellos raised a sardonic eyebrow and looked from Filia to the Reverend and back to Filia again. “Filia, you’re making a scene in front of company,” he informed her.
“I’m not the one—” she began to explode, only to be cut off by Reverend Verily tugging at her sleeve. “What?” she snapped.
“Umm… Miss Filia,” Verily began, looking around the room. “Where is the uh… the demon?”
Filia gave Verily the same look that his teacher’s had given him when he confused scripture enough to think that the wages of sin was, in fact, eternal life. “He’s right there!” Filia said, waving her hand at the purple haired man.
Verily turned his head and looked at the man, who simply smiled in an open and friendly manner. Then he turned back to Filia.
“Yes ‘him’!” Filia thundered. “What? Do you really think I’d make this all up? Now just get going with the exorcism,” she ordered.
“Exorcism?” Xellos repeated, furrowing his brow in confusion.
None of this seemed at all right to Verily. “You let a demon play with your child?” he asked incredulously.
“Xelly!” the child gurgled happily.
“I don’t let him!” Filia said, offended, as she picked up her son. “He’s a monster! What am I supposed to do about him?”
“Exorcism?” Xellos repeated again, in case no one had heard him the first time.
“Yes, exorcism!” Filia said, rounding on him. “What? Did you think I wouldn’t do anything when you just decide to camp out in my house? What are you planning, you monster?!”
Xellos shrugged. “Can’t an old friend drop by for a visit without you calling in the holy water brigade?”
“Two weeks isn’t just a visit,” Filia countered.
“It’s a long visit,” Xellos said simply.
“You’d think you’d have better things to do with your time,” Filia retorted.
“Better? Than seeing my favorite dragon?” Xellos asked, opening one eye in her direction in a kind of reverse wink. “Perish the thought.”
Filia blushed, which Reverend Verily considered a little weird if the man in front of them was really a demon. “I-I’m not going to let you trick me,” she said, averting her eyes.
Xellos laughed, and put a finger to his lips. “Yes you are,” he said.
“Umm…” Verily said, feeling like he’d been forgotten. “Are we going to do the exorcism or not?” he asked.
“Yes,” Filia said, at the same time Xellos said, “No”.
They exchanged a look and then Xellos said, “Oh fine,” as he collapsed into one of the chairs. “If it gives you any pleasure, Filia, then go ahead.”
Filia looked back at Reverend Verily and gave an impatient gesture of her head that was the universal sign for: ‘Get on with it!’
Verily coughed and checked his notes. Ah, yes, first would be…
…Umm… this could be awkward.
Verily unrolled a scroll that had verses from scripture written all over it. He looked hesitantly at the man on the chair watching him like a cat. He shuffled forward and, all the while fearing that the man would suddenly sprout claws and disembowel him, he stuck the scroll to the man’s forehead and immediately backed away.
The scrolls were infused with divine energy. They were supposed to purify everything they touched. But Xellos just looked up at the bit of paper in a cross-eyed sort of way. An optimist might say that maybe, possibly there was a thin wisp of smoke issuing from where the paper touched him, but that was the extent of the damage. He picked it off himself as though it was a minor nuisance.
Umm… alright… he went back to his the written routine. When scrolls failed that meant it was time to go on to the litany. He turned to the appropriate page in his prayer book.
He looked up awkwardly for a bit of sunshine coming through a window for whatever hope it might bring him. This wasn’t how he expected his first exorcism to go.
He coughed and said in his clearest, most holy voice: “Deliver us, oh Ceifeed from all sin, from all your wrath, from sudden and unprovided death.”
“It sounds more like Ceifeed is the problem than me,” Xellos commented idly.
Verily swallowed and tried to ignore this obvious bit of blasphemy. “From all snares of the demons; from anger, hatred and all ill will; from all lewdness—”
“Was that what you had in mind, Filia?” Xellos said, giving her a wicked look.
“You—!” she began, too full of rage to take that sentence one step further.
“I command you, unclean spirit, whoever you are,” Verily went on, talking over them as loud as he could.
“Oh, it’s Xellos,” the man said brightly. “I don’t think we were properly introduced.” He extended a hand.
“Stop interrupting!” Filia snapped at him, slapping his hand away.
“By the mystery of the sacrifice of the great Ceifeed you shall leave this domicile and not return to harm any who dwell here. By all that is righteous I command you!” Verily asserted, his voice only breaking slightly in the process.
“…No,” was all Xellos said. It wasn’t a harsh ‘no’, it was more like a ‘no thanks, I won’t have a second slice of pie’ type of ‘no’.
Verily looked nervously from Xellos to Filia, who was tapping her foot impatiently, and then back down to his notes. Alright… one thing left and that’s holy water. Reverend Masis says it never fails.
He flipped open the cap on the clear, crystal bottle and began swishing it back and forth in deeply religious patterns in Xellos’s direction. The demon blinked as the water hit him.
“The power of Ceifeed compels you!” Reverend Verily declared. “The power of Ceifeed compels you! The power of Ceifeed compels you! The power of Ceifeed compels you!”
Xellos yawned to show that it didn’t.
Reverend Verily looked at his now very empty bottle of holy water. It seemed like all he had done was possibly damage one of Filia’s overstuffed chairs with the impromptu shower. What do I do now? he asked himself, fear gripping him.
And then, he remembered Reverend Masis’s words: ‘Just go through the routine as writ, whatever the case. It’s there for a reason.’
He took a deep breath and peered down at the end of the routine. “The, uh,” he began awkwardly. “The house is now free of demons,” he read.
Filia and Verily looked at each other, and then slowly revolved to look at Xellos, who smiled at them; then dragon and reverend looked back at each other.
“I’m not paying,” Filia said flatly.