The music stoked his blood like a drug. Mammon sat in the VIP booth of the club like the king surveying his kingdom. The packed dance floor seethed and swelled with human bodies—so much young ripe flesh.
He leaned back in his private VIP booth, savoring the burn of the fine whiskey as it went down. He had to hand it to the humans. This was better than anything they had in Sheol, the hell dimension he called home. And the humans themselves. They were spectacular. In just a few hundred years—a blink of an eye for him—and they’d gone from sackcloth and preaching Puritans to this. Debauchery and vice as culture. There were entire cities devoted to it.
Las Vegas was his favorite. The young people congregated in the clubs, their only purpose to drink, dance, and fornicate. People gambled away their entire fortunes in the casinos or dropped a wad of sweaty cash for the privilege of seeing a naked female or even a muscular male.
Speaking of which…what was he in the mood for tonight? That tasty buck over there had been eyeing him for several minutes, however the cluster of girls wearing matching outfits near the stage had some very choice specimens. The one wearing a veil was the most attractive, but the entire group was downright delectable. So juicy.
Many leaned back and watched as the bridge was helped to the stage by her friends. The beauty put her arms up in the air, swaying to the beat. Her curvaceous body was a temptation, but the buck was so muscular and toned. A prize that muscular had been difficult to find the last time he visited. Now all he had to do to find one was walk into any gymnasium.
How could he decide? This place was a veritable smorgasbord and he’d been so hungry for so long…
Mammon had been patting himself on the back all week. He’d been on this plane for a few weeks now and had only killed and consumed two—no three—people. Normally a demon came out of his hell dimension wreaking bloody havoc. Inevitably, the carnage attracted the attention of some do-gooding witch and nine times out of ten their ass would get booted back to the pit.
Of course those had mostly been minor demons. Mammon was royalty, one of the seven princes of Hell. His strength of will rivaled Lucifer himself, but that remarkable restraint was paying dividends now. He’d made it all the way to Sin City, had set himself up in a very sweet situation at one of the strip hotels, the one with the fountains. The servants there had treated him very well, particularly after he’d hinted that he was a very successful Hollywood producer. Mammon didn’t know precisely what one of those did, but he knew humans bent over backward trying to impress him.
He even had staff. His lovely birdlike assistant Jessica made calls, scheduling endless ‘interviews’ for him. Gina, the female guard the agency had sent over was stood behind his left shoulder, her presence signaling his stature.
Oh, that’s right—his body count was technically four, but he didn’t think Sam his first bodyguard should count toward his tally. That one had been killed for his insolence. Yes, Mammon had eaten his heart afterward but still, a successful producer was like a king, and he needed to put down dissent in the ranks as soon as it appeared.
Mammon’s remarkable restraint and foresight was going to pay dividends now. He was in a huge metropolis whose transient population shifted and turned over nightly. A person going missing here or there and no one would blink. A group of half a dozen women? Sure the human authorities would take note, but as long as he didn’t do it too often…
He straightened the jacket of his bespoke suit before signaling Berta.
“Invite the ladies to my suite at the Bellagio. Make sure they know I’m interested in casting them for a movie.” He handed her his card to present. For some reason humans loved those little squares of cardboard. They accepted anything they read on them as gospel.
With flawless obedience Gina nodded, sliding through the crowd to approach the group. A minute later the giggling gaggle was walking toward him.
Excellent. They had taken the bait. Satisfied, he waved over a waiter and ordered a few bottles of champagne.
It wouldn’t do to show his eagerness. He’d have them all to himself soon enough. And tonight, he would feast…
Mammon aimed carefully. He popped the cork on the champagne, making it hit the roof at such an angle so that it rebounded, landing in the cleavage of the bustiest bridesmaid.
“I get a hundred points,” he yelled. Cheers and hoots of laughter followed.
Anastasia, the bride to be, grabbed the bottle of champagne—their sixth—out of his hand and began to chug it.
Things couldn’t be more perfect. The ladies had predictably responded to his overtures. A few bottles of the best bubbly later and they were piling into his limousine with Gina behind the wheel.
Mammon was so taken with his delicious dinner that he didn’t stop to look out of the window until they were well away from the gridlock of the Strip. By the time he noticed they weren’t near the hotel, the lights of the city were a distant memory.
“Where the hell is that woman taking us?” he muttered.
There was a beat of silence and then one of the girls tittered a bit nervously. “We told Gina to take us to the desert. There’s a big bonfire later—some girls we know are organizing it.”
Mammon frowned. “Are they there now?” He didn’t like to eat in public. And depending on the size, a crowd would hamper his hamper his plans for the evening.
“No,” Anastasia said, clutching the bottle’s neck. “But we have enough booze to last us till they arrive. Hope that’s all right…”
Mammon sniffed. He didn’t like to eat and run but if he got to work quickly then he didn’t have to alter his dinner plans. The girls resumed chattering, playing a poppy tune from one of their little portable telephones. Some handed the bottle back and two across from him began to kiss.
Mollified Mammon took the bottle, relaxing in his seat. “I suppose it’s fine,” he said, his eyes fixed on the show.
In fact, this was fortuitous turn of events. By doing his business in the desert he wouldn’t have to expend any energy on any soundproofing or illusion spells for the suite. They were simple rituals, but he didn’t like wasting time. And then he wouldn’t have to barter with that annoying group of gremlins to come in and clean up the mess.
As a prince of hell Mammon would eventually have staff on hand for that sort of thing. But for the moment he was still keeping a low profile. The gremlins still thought he was a regular demon, and for now he was willing to let them think that. He didn’t want to expose his new identity in the city just yet. Else, he would have just left the mess in his room and moved on to another set of rooms elsewhere. They just kept building new luxury hotels out here anyway. The humans were practically asking for it.
Yes, a trip to the desert was a much better idea. After he killed and ate these sweet young things all up, he’d could just throw them in the limo and drive them deeper into the desert where they would be harder to find. He might not even have to bury them. Mammon could leave their bones to bleach in the sun, a little decorative touch to remind him of home. No muss no fuss.
Reaching for one of the champagne bottles he let one of the glittering beauties rub up against him. Hmm…Well, there was no rule that he couldn’t have a little bit of fun before his meal. Mammon didn’t normally play with his food. He wasn’t a carnal being. He normally got his thrills the old-fashioned way—through decapitation and dismemberment. But he was going to have to make an exception for these girls. They were all so succulent and sparkly.
Eventually the limousine stopped and his driver circled around to open the backdoor. Like a gentleman, Mammon waited till every lady had stepped, or in some cases, stumbled out of the vehicle before following.
Once outside the girls were outside they ran from the limousine to where Gina stood waiting.
“Where’s the fire ladies?” he asked, reaching inside for a bottle.
Anastasia shivered, her wrapped around her bare arms. “A demon Gia, really? He’s so—ugh. I’m going to stink of brimstone for a week.”
“What the hell is this?” he asked.
Mammon froze in his tracks as his driver and bodyguard removed her glasses. “Sorry Tasha, but it had to be done.”
Roaring with rage Mammon dropped the bottle, hurling toward the group with a roar of rage.
Gia had shifted the desert floor , drawing the circular demon trap runes before she even stopped the car. When Mammon flew across the ground towards the group of nymphs, she tightened the circumference to leave the car outside of the circle.
The demon hit an unseen barrier and rebounded violently. He landed on his ass, hitting the back of his head against the ground with a loud thunk. She knew he didn’t feel pain, but it was still a satisfying sound.
“Do you want to take the car back to town?” she asked the nymphs, taking care to keep one eye on the demon.
“Ugh, no thanks,” Tasha said, shuddering as the other girls huddled around her. “His scent is all over that. It’s probably soaked into the upholstery.”
One of the other girls, Gia thought her name was Saffron, peeked around one of the others. “Can’t you just do your thing and send us back?” she asked, wiggling her fingers.
“Back to the strip, or somewhere else?” she asked. Gia could send them anywhere on the continent.
“Let’s go to Malibu!” Saffron enthused.
“I want to go back to the strip,” another chimed in.
The demon roared, getting their attention.
“Um, I think I’m going to vote for the strip too,” Tasha said, clutching the sleeve of Gia’s suit disguise. “That would be the fastest, right?”
“Yes,” Gia confirmed, patting her hand. “Thanks for helping out tonight.”
There wasn’t a male alive that could resist a group of nymphs in all their glory. Sure there had been a lot of ways to trap this particular demon, but Gia was on something of a time constraint.
“Mmm-hmm,” Tasha muttered her head pulling back as the demon continued to roar, banging on the invisible barrier of the circle. “We owed you.”
Gia waved her hands, adding some some symbols to her pentagram. The sounds from inside the circle abruptly cut off.
Tasha cleared her throat. “By the way, are we square now?”
Tasha and the other nymphs were paying off a longstanding family debt. Humans were mowing down forests at unprecedented rates. Gia and the other Elementals did their best to stop the incursions but it had grown damn near impossible.
But Gia wasn’t the earth Elemental for nothing. She’d found a solution…of sorts. When she’d been unable to find a way to stop a particularly aggressive group of deforesters , she’d come up with the most expedient solution. She’d called on the Mother for a reward. When the gold and gemstones had materialized from the ground she’d taken them and bought the land, signing it over to Tasha’s parents so it would be protected for future generations.
It wasn’t a perfect solution but until human nature fundamentally changed and they suddenly discovered a a new-found respect for nature, it would have to do.
“Of course,” she said, touching Tasha’s back lightly and gesturing for the girls to gather in a tighter circle. “I’ll send you back now.” She was about to call on her magic when Tasha grabbed her hand.
“I shouldn’t have asked that—I know the debt we owe is much greater to this. Whenever you need help again, please let us know. Just…you know…if it’s maybe not a demon next time that would be great.”
“We love helping! And if it’s at a club again count us in.” another one of the girls said, shimmying to music Gia couldn’t hear. “But yeah, those demons reek—I thought I was going to hurl in the car. It’s as if a thousand yak butts were collected, doused with gasoline and thrown into a barrel and we found the barrel a hundred years later.”
Her nose wrinkled as the others chimed in, agreeing with her. “I don’t know why the humans don’t run screaming. The stench alone is reason enough.”
“Nymph noses are much more sensitive than humans. That’s true for most Supes but don’t worry. I understand—no more demons,” Gia promised, although truthfully there was little reason to worry. Most of the time she didn’t need beautiful bait. That and the events that had led to Mammons release from hell weren’t likely to be repeated anytime soon.
The demon had continued to wail and punch the barrier, but when Gia opened the earth and the girls disappeared he quieted down, prowling inside the tight circle like a lion trapped in a cage.
Once they were alone Gia lifted the silencing spell, then crossed her arms.
“You know I’ve seen the man you’re wearing,” she said, referring to the glamour. “I don’t think you got the hair right, but then your true form doesn’t have hair…more like feathers? Or is the word I’m looking for spikes?” Technically, there were something in between.
Mammon had taken the form of a young and wealthy man, a hotel owner, one of the three or four people inadvertently responsible for the demon’s release.
“You have no idea who you’re dealing with you stupid witch,” the demon spat.
“Mammon, High Prince of Greed and Avarice, purveyor of false dreams and breaker of oaths and promises.” Gia shrugged. “And I’m not a witch.”
The demon sneered, but Gia could see the uncertainty in his borrowed eyes. “Oh, I keep my promises witch so believe me when I say I’m going to enjoy ripping your throat out. Then I’m pull that pretty head right off and I’m going to fuck your dead mouth.”
“As appealing as that sounds we’re going to have to table that because you have to go back to Hell now.”
The demon smirked. “You think you can do that little witch?”
Gia didn’t smile. “The spell is rather involved. I won’t lie—there are many other things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday night.”
True, she didn’t love clubs like her younger sister Logan, but Gia still knew how to find plenty of amusements. Chasing down trespassing demons wasn’t one of them, but hey, who loved their job a hundred percent of the time?
Technically Gia had never rid the world of a demon Prince, but she’d seen it done. Her mentor Tarni had done it twice in her career. The second time Gia had been there as a back-up in case things went wrong.
Most lower demons were easy enough to banish. Their bodies didn’t have the strength to leave their plane so they left them behind, possessing bodies or sometimes animals so they could walk around earth. You had to bind them with some silver or gold restraints. Them you threw a little holy water on them, chanted and bam, the demon was getting a one-way trip back to their nether region of origin. A Prince of Hell, however, was going to take a bit more effort. Unlike lesser demons they were strong enough to drag their bodies across the barrier between dimensions. A physical door was necessary to get that body back.
Calling for her supplies Gia stood back as a table appeared, already fully laid out with supplies. Planning was the key to efficiency. She got to work, mixing her ingredients and crushing them in the mortars with her marble pestle. All the while the demon alternated between hissing obscenities or screaming them at her.
After one particularly colorful epithet she laughed aloud. “What is so funny you fucking witch? The way I’m going to suck the marrow from your bones, or how I’ll use your skull as a toilet?”
“It was the toilet actually,” she said. “Although I can’t say I haven’t heard that one before.”
The demon looked confused. “What?”
Gia looked up from her nearly finished mixture. “You’d be surprised at how often someone threatens to rip my head off and use it to defecate in.”
“So you make this sort of thing a habit?” The demon was still confused.
Gia added the last drop of mercury to her mix. “Clearly Princes of Hell need to get out more, else you would have heard of me and my sisters. There isn’t a Supernatural on earth who doesn’t know what I am, but then you’re a tourist…and it’s about time to go home.”
She tossed her spell mix onto the ground and murmured the words to open to a portal to hell.
“It won’t work!” Mammon yelled. “You can’t just open a doorway to my world. No one in their right mind would.”
He had point. Not only was opening a portal to any dimension incredibly difficult, but doing so to one of the hell dimensions had an added risk. Not only did you have to make sure the opening was temporary, but you had to make sure there wasn’t a chink or a crack when you closed it. Even a scar would be a disaster. The barrier had to be seamless, as if it had never been opened in the first place, else it was a weak point, one that could be exploited by others of Mammon’s kind.
And then there’s the time when it is open. It like throwing the barn door aside to find a pack of starving wolves on the other side and for some reason you’re waving a dinner bell.
But this wasn’t Gia’s first time at the demonic rodeo. There was one way to make a door damn difficult to enter from the other side.
She raised her hands and pulled the soil around the opening into funnel, with a ring of dirt that revolved from top to bottom, a fast moving current that would be impossible to scale unless you had wings.
Well, some of the denizen’s of Hell do, so you better get your butt in gear.
“What?” the demon sputtered as Gia held up one hand and pulled the earth under his feet. With the other she reached around the door. Taking care to keep the main the perfect circularity of the door, she slowly pushed them together.
“Stop!” The demon screamed. “I can give you anything you want! Wealth beyond your wildest dreams. Or power. With my help you can rule this country.”
This time she let a smirk escape. “Only the completely selfless or the very corrupt want that job. I am neither.”
He was almost there. The circles had overlapped. Half of the diameter of the pentagram had disintegrated, falling through the pit to Hell.
“Wait! I can do get you anything you want. You don’t know what it’s like in Hell.”
Gia edged close to the pit. She stopped short at the edge, safely on the other side of barrier. Nevertheless she felt it, a wave of despair and bitter hatred—the collective turmoil of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions.
Blinking she swayed and stepped back. She hadn’t felt that the first time. But then, she hadn’t been the one to banish the last demon Prince. Her mentor had closed the circle. It hadn’t been necessary to get as close to the door.
Catching herself she stepped away just as Mammon fell through the pit, cursing her.
Hands up she focused on closing the circle, taking every precaution to reknit the fabric of reality back together. When she was done it the barrier was flawless, as if nothing had happened. And she was exhausted.
Despite her weariness Gia knelt on the ground. She began to pray to Mother, thanking Her for her abilities and for safeguarding their world.
Gia didn’t have to imagine a world without Her. She’d just witnessed one first hand.