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Come Sail Away With Me Or Koscheis Island. By Steven S. Stevenson Orange Sweater P !

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Prolog Koschei the Deathless, Koschei the Immortal He never worries Nor would you if you had that name Nor should you Hes been out of this world for a while Living in stories Like this one Human Hes been live Hes been Dead !usinessman Hes been Poor Hes been "ich Daemon Hes been !ored He still is#

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Cha%ter I Somewhere in the Mediterranean & ly' "#$$ Ca%tain (or)emore r !!ed his *orehead' he wasnt s re what had ha%%ened' one moment he was g iding the cr ise liner %eace* lly across the Mediterranean on his way to +reece the ne,t he was on the *loor o* the wheelho se searching *or his hat. As he searched aro nd the ca!in *loor *or his *avorite sym!ol o* a thority he tried to remem!er what had ha%%ened. -e remem!ered a smooth tal)ing ! sinessman' a %arty' a gold circle' and then a !right *lash o* orange' the smell o* ! rning %lastic.then the *loor.(r strated with !oth the loss o* his hat and his ina!ility to recall the events that landed him in this sit ation' he slammed a *ist on the wall. /he im%act sent a message o* %ain *rom his hand to his !rain. /he %rocess !y which a hand sends a message to the !rain is a very com%le, one. 0%on im%act the nerve endings in the area a**ected start to switch their sodi m ion gradients ma)ing a charge *low down and o t the a,on and into the dendrite o* another nerve' that nerve then re%eats the same %rocess' and again' and again' millions o* times over. /he !rain then sends a message !ac)' !y the same means' to the hand con*irming the %ain. /his all ha%%ens within a millionth o* a second. /o all h mans this %rocess is s !conscio s and does not re1 ire m ch tho ght on their %art. Ca%tain (or)emore reali2ed that he had !een very aware o* this %rocess. It was the reali2ation that reminded him o* something very im%ortant -e loo)ed down at his two hands' they had *ive *ingers each. -e moved them aro nd in an almost hy%notic manner' *ollowing them with his eyes ma)ing s re that they !elonged to him. /hen he *elt his *ace' his ten *ingers searching slowly across the ro gh leathery s r*ace' loo)ing *or any cl es as to what he was. 3One.two.thre4 no. 5o third eye6 he said to himsel* 1 ietly /hen he remem!ered. (or the %ast twenty years he had !een h man. Well almost h man' he !leed' he %issed' and oo2ed all sorts o* interesting *l ids. -e ate' sle%t' and occasionally * c)ed. -e then remem!ered that des%ite these 1 alities he was not h man' he was a daemon. /hats what the real h mans wo ld have called him' altho gh the term 3daemon6 was not e,actly correct. /he word 3daemon6 was one o* the words invented !y mortals to try and descri!e things that were !eyond their nderstanding. Still * 22y on the details he stood % and investigated his re*lection in the silvery shine o* the shi%s control %anel. -e was tall' a!o t si, *oot in height' a little !it o* *at aro nd the middle ! t !y no means over weight. -is short' white hair was receding7 a shar% widows %ee) had *ormed. -is !eard melded seamlessly with his head hair' short white st !!le went *orm the to% o* his head all the way down to his nec). -e ran his *ingers across the st !!le. Occasionally he wo ld sto% and *allow a wrin)le in his s)in' admiring them. -e li)ed to loo) old. 5ot too old' 8 st aro nd 9#7 the age where yo were not too old to worry a!o t death ! t not too yo ng to worry a!o t money. /here was one as%ect o* his a%%earance he wasnt ha%%y with' his eyes. -is irises were c rrently a sim%le shade o* !rown. -e closed his two eyelids and concentrated *or a *ew seconds' %ict ring the

%er*ect color. -e o%ened them again7 they had !ecome a dee% !l e. 5ot 8 st a sim%le !l e ! t a dee%' % re !l e. Imagine a !l e so rich that it almost glows. Satis*ied he then went a!o t *ig ring o t where his shi% had ended %. O t the windows o* the wheelho se the ocean had !ecome dra%ed in *og. Slowly he scanned the hori2on7 thro gh the thic) mist he s%otted the sha%e o* an island. /he island was small' 8 st a mere mo nd o* yellow sand rising o t o* the sea. It was the %er*ect deserted island' the )ind where the only resident is one %er*ect %alm tree sitting in the middle. It sat %eace* lly' as it m st have !een doing *or years all alone. /he tree swayed !ac) and *orth in the wind' %ossi!ly e,cited !y the %ossi!ility o* com%any. It seemed to !e waving at the cr iser' ho%e* l *or someone or something it co ld tal) to. It had a lot o* time to thin) o* many interesting things to tell its *irst visitor. /he ca%tain tried to start the engine. It crea)ed and moaned and s% ttered' it was slowly dying' torn % !y the %eace* l islands less %eace* l ree*s. 3Shit.6 -e said alo d. 3Pro!lems !oss;6 A voice came *rom !ehind the ca%tain. -e t rned to see his tr sted servant and *irst mate /homas &. &ones. 3<ngines dead' weve %ro!a!ly r n agro nd on the ree*.6 3Sho ld we tell the %assengers;6 /homas as)ed. 35o need to worry a!o t them 8 st yet.6 /he ca%tain never really cared a!o t the cargo he was content 8 st to sail. -e regarded the vacationers as nothing more than cattle. 3I say we 8 st d m% the lot and go do something else *or the ne,t decade' Im sic) o* the seas.6 /homas light a cigarette' he was almost always smo)ing. I* someone %ointed o t that it was !ad *or his health or wasting his yo th he wo ld 8 st la gh and re%ly 3Im == years old' Im all o t o* yo th to waste.6 I* he was in a *o ler mood he wo ld also tie them down and ! rn them alive. /homas was short' and s)inny. -e loo)ed li)e a teenager *orm the late nineteen twenties' which in many ways he was. -e wore a !lac) leather 8ac)et' had his !lac) hair swe%t !ac) with gel. /homas was not a daemon he was a h man. /he im%ortant word in that sentence is 3was.6 -e was !orn on May $>th' $?":. -e came *rom a middle class *amily living in @o isiana. When he was $A his ho se was ! rned down )illing his mother' *ather' and yo nger !rother. -ow the *ire started was a mystery' the *ire chie* attri! ted it to *a lty gas stove. /his was inacc rate' it was arson. /homas was not res%onsi!le altho gh he !elieves himsel* to !e. /he real c l%rit was another h man' a child o* ten. /he child was nder the orders o* a gang leader who had !een swindled o t o* some money !y /homass *ather. @ater /homas was )illed in action on & ne $:th $?B:' on the Italian *ront. It was while in hell he met an enigmatic daemon who o**ered him a chance to ret rn to the mortal earth as his %ersonal !odyg ard and second in command. /homas agreed and was !o nd !ac) into *lesh' altho gh he wo ld not age and co ld not !e )illed again. /his s ited /homas 8 st *ine. -e no longer saw conse1 ence *or anything he did' es%ecially to h mans' and as s ch too) %leas re in rending the so ls *rom their !odies' %re*era!ly !y way o* *ire i* he co ld. /he ca%tain *li%%ed a *ew switches and % lled a *ew levers' still seeing i* he co ld restart the massive %ro%ellers that were c rrently torn % on the ree*s o* the island. /he shi% crea)ed and then gave a small groan. /he shi% had given % it 8 st wanted to die %eace* lly !y the island.

3I )now yo wanted to go aro nd the earth stri)ing *ear into yo r *ellow man' ! rning ra%ing' and all those other wonder* l things that landed yo % in hell the *irst time aro nd' ! t I le*t hell to esca%e all the *ire' and ra%ing.6 /he ca%tain scolded. 3I* yo re !ored I can always send yo !ac).6 (or all o* /homass tal) o* )illing and love o* *ire he did not li)e hell. 5o one did' that was the %oint. 3Im 8 st saying I wo ld li)e to do something more than 8 st set % )arao)e and sh **le!oard to rnaments.6 Be*ore the ca%tain co ld re%ly a man entered hastily thro gh the threshold. 3I tho ght Id *ind yo here.6 /he man addressed the ca%tain. -e was 8 st slightly taller than the ca%tain. -e was yo ng' a!o t :#7 he was trim' and dressed in only a %air o* !l e stri%%ed !o,ers. -is !rown hair was neatly %arted down the middle. -e smiled !ig at the ca%tain' this made the ca%tain neasy. -e did not )now this oddly na)ed' mortal' who a%%arently )new him. 3Can I hel% yo ;6 Ca%tain (or)emore as)ed. 3Co yo not )now;6 the man re%lied' still not losing his smile. /homas h ng !ac) staring intently at the tall man' he was thin)ing a!o t how he was going to )ill him. 3Do wor) *or me.6 /he rich man said. 3<,c se me; /he ca%tain was con* sed. Mortals never said that to daemons nless they were ignorant o* what they were addressing. 3Do serio sly dont remem!er;6 /he ca%tain tho ght !ac) no' he co ld not remem!er. -e smelled the man7 he was h man' nothing e,traordinary a!o t him. Clearly he was mista)en %erha%s the owner o* the cr ise line the ca%tain tho ght. 3Im sorry I thin) yo are mista)en' now i* yo dont mind Ill as) yo to ret rn to yo r ca!in.6 3Oh no' no' no' no' no.6 /he man %rotested' he la ghed a small la gh and then reached into his s it %oc)et. 3Do most de*initely wor) *or me.6 Ca%tain (or)emore was getting a little irritated !y this % ny man and was a!o t to tell /homas to have his * n with him ! t that was !e*ore he saw what the man had removed *rom the waist !and o* his !o,ers. 3I own yo daemon' yo re going to %lay nice got it;6 /he man smiled' he held !etween his th m! and *ore*inger a small golden ! llet. <tched on the side o* the ! llet was the *ig re o* a *laming s)eleton dancing on a grave. /he ca%tain *ro2e. -is one and only tho ghtE 3Shit' so thats where that ended %.6

Cha%ter II -ell' $??$ A22a2el sighed. /his was this *o r tho sandth year serving in hells army. Only once had he ever seen any act al com!at. /he war !etween heaven and hell was mostly a %olitical one. A*ter the *irst !attle at the !eginning things had cooled o** considera!ly. -ell was more a!o t %roviding a %lace *or so ls to tort re themselves and daemons a %lace to call home and less a!o t contin ing the war with heaven. S re hell still had its army o* the dammed ! t it was all *or show. /his came as a disa%%ointment to A22a2el who was there at the *all and had e,%ected to contin e the war with heaven ntil the end o* time. -e had %lanned on slicing % angles' dying' and !e reincarnated co ntless times on the !attle *ield. Instead he had %itted his )in in s)irmishes against h man who died com!at. /he !attles were 8 st massacres he was not training *or the +reat War at the end o* days he was 8 st * l*illing the masochistic h mans desires. -e soon discovered that even a shallow %ro,y war had made him sic) o* *ighting. A22a2el wanted a vacation' he tho ght a!o t going to other realms. P rgatory wo ld hel% him get away *orm the *ighting' ! t there was nothing to do in % rgatory not even any good theaters or resta rants. Falhalla or the *rost giants realms wo ld !e all *ighting all the time. -e tho ght a!o t 8 st hanging aro nd the nowhere and try his hand at !eing nothing *or a while. -e had once !een to earth *or a *ew years !ac) when the h mans were 8 st learning a!o t the %ossi!ility o* heavier than air *light' and gearing % *or their *irst !ig war. -is time there had ended.interestingly7 at least it ended in a way that s r%rised A22a2el. In short he had to leave a little sooner then he wo ld have li)ed. 5ow it was ?: years later and A22a2el *o nd that in that short time he had !ecome weary o* hell once more. Cesiring to ret rn to the mortal world he % t in a re1 est *or a leave o* a!sence and went a!o t *inding a mortal that wo ld act as !oth to r g ide and !odyg ard. -e *irst noticed /homas as he was la nched thro gh the air !y a s)eet shooter that had !een modi*ied to *ire h mans. -e watched as /homas *lew thro gh the air !e*ore !eing !lown in hal* !y the large laser ri*le wielded e,%ertly !y one o* his 3men6. What made /homas stic) o t among the other h man so ls is that he didnt seem to see) *orgiveness or any re%entance at all *or any wrongs in his %ast li*e. All h mans who entered hell did so !eca se they !elieved themselves to have committed terri!le crimes worthy o* eternal % nishment. /homas on the other hand went to hell !eca se he was convinced that thats where A@@ h mans !elonged. A22a2el li)ed this. -e co ldnt 8 st ta)e any h man so l !ac) with him' they wo ld most li)ely !e see)ing *orgiveness and s%end all day whining a!o t how evil they were and mo%ing a!o t all the loves they co ld have shared or the lives they r ined. /homas wo ld s%end all day not giving a shit. A22a2el a%%roached /homas a*ter his %%er hal* had !een reattached. -e laid o t the details o* his %lan and e,%lained the r les /homas wo ld have to *allow. /here was 8 st oneE do what I say or I send yo !ac) to hell. /homas agreed and a !ea ti* l *riendshi% was *ormed.

Interlude $homas %# %ones# He was once a human He was once a s&irit 'hat he is now( soul in a )hell( nightmare thing( *r sim&ly a man who cheated death(

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Cha%ter III "#$$' B# miles so th o* +reece' on a lovely cr ise liner' "E$: AM /homas was sitting in the engine room. -e li)ed the engine room. It was hot and dam%. It was not as good as the older shi%s that still had the large !oilers. /homas li)ed the o%en *lames that they %rovided. Still the heat was there and thats all /homas really needed. -e lit a cigarette. /hen he e,tended the %ac) to his com%anion. 3Want one;6 -e as)ed. 3Mm%hhhhmmm.6 re%lied his com%anion. 3Oh right sorry.6 /homas removed the gas soa)ed gag *rom his *riends mo th. /he !londe haired man gas%ed and s% ttered. 3/hat !etter;6 3+a4 ( c)G What the hells wrong with yo ;G6 /homass *riend was laying *ace down on the hot metal *loor o* the engine room. -e was hog tied. /homas was sitting on a crate over him' still o**ering him a smo)e. 3What yo dont smo)e;6 3(4.*4*4* c) yo man.6 /he !londe haired man str ggled against his !onds ! t it was no se. -e was dressed in a %in) *lowered -awaiian shirt. -e had won several lays in the )arao)e contest earlier in the evening7 they were dra%ed lim%ly aro nd his nec). -is soc)s were soa)ed in gas. So were his sandals' even the ro%e that !o nd him was dri%%ing in warm gas. 3Oh come on'6 /homas teased' 3Smo)e % !e*ore yo go %.6 /he man did not res%ond instead he str ggled even harder. /wisting and gr nting ! t the ro%es held. 3Pathetic.6 /homas too) o t a )ni*e *orm the waist o* his 8eans. It was not a *ancy )ni*e 8 st a sim%le !lac) switch !lade. It was only two inches in length. /he mans eyes widened at the sight o* the )ni*e and he let o t a so*t c rse. 3Camn..I didnt even want to get on this !oat.I get sea sic) too easy.6 30%set stomach aint what yo need to worry a!o t.6 /homas & m%ed down o** the crate and leaned in close to the man. 3Cont worry ! ddy I aint gonna c t yo .6 /homas cooed. /hen he c t the mans !onds. 3Why wo ld I go to all the tro !le o* soa)ing yo in all that gas i* I was 8 st going to c t yo ;6 /he man )new he was *reed o* his restraints ! t *ear still held him in %lace. /homas leaned in close and whis%ered into his ear. 3H n.6 /he man o!eyed. -e % shed /homas down and !olted away. It sho ld !e noted that the ro%e /homas had sed to tie the man %' which was also soa)ed in gas' was *i*ty *eet in length. (o r *eet o* that *i*ty was sed in the )nots' the rest was coiled neatly 9inches !ehind the mans *eet. /homas c t the ro%e in s ch a way that three o* that *o r *eet *ell o** the man ! t that remaining *oot stayed tied aro nd the le*t an)le. When the man ran he dragged the heavy wet ro%e !ehind him. -e made it thirty *eet !e*ore sli%%ing. /homas la ghed and light the end o* the ro%e. /he man did not

)now he was still attached. -e event ally *ig red it o t. It was one o* the last tho ghts that went thro gh his !rain. /homas inhaled dee%ly. -e did not need to !reath ! t he co ld still smell. With a large !reath he smelled the gas' the *lesh' the *at all ! rning in a e %horic mi, o* aromas. /homas was a!o t to clean % when the shi% l rched and he was *l ng *orward. -e awo)e a little later with no memory o* the last *ew min ets. Con* sed' he went to see the ca%tain' leaving the %in) shirted man with a good )arao)e voice melting into the *loor.

Cha%ter IF @o isiana' $?:= /homas stood on the %orch o* his home. It was a 1 iet' cold morning. <ven tho gh no clo ds h ng in the s)y the s n was na!le to remove the chill *rom the air. Ces%ite the cold' wet air /homass ho se was very warm and dry. /homas tho ght a!o t ste%%ing inside to get o t o* the cold. It wo ldnt !e a hard thing to do' there wasnt even a door !loc)ing his way. -e started to l rch *orward' his shoes dragged against the now !lac)ened wood. -e reached the threshold. -e did not loo) inside' instead he *elt along the edges o* the door *rame. Bits o* dry wood !ro)e o**' some st c) in his *ingers' others rained down on his shoes. /he smell o* smo)e and ! rning *at wa*ted o t *rom inside the ho se ma)ing /homass eyes tear %. -e decided the cold o* the o tside world was !etter than the warmth o* whatever memories co ld !e *o nd inside. /homas stood in the doorway7 he *o nd that leaving was 8 st as hard as staying. A hand clas%ed his sho lder and sna%%ed him o t o* his trance. 3Do going to !e o)ay son;6 /he *ire chie* as)ed. /he *ire chie* was a h ge man. -e loomed over /homas' the shadow cast !y his helmet concealed his *ace. /homas had no res%onse. -e never e,%erienced tragedy !e*ore. -is *amily had mirac lo sly !een nto ched !y the economic downt rn o* the last twenty years. /homas had gone to school' he had made *riends there. -is mother and *ather made s re that he was well *eed and always had clean clothes. <ven when his !rother was !orn two years ago he never *elt % shed aside or 8ealo s as most si!lings do when they *irst earn the title. /he *ire chie* was in all res%ects a good man ! t had always !een very !ad at dealing with %eo%le' es%ecially with )ids' and es%ecially' es%ecially with )ids that had 8 st gone thro gh a tremendo s loss. 0na!le to thin) o* anything else to say he gave a reass ring %at on the )ids !ac) and went over to one o* the %olice o**icers sent in to investigate the ca se o* last nights *ire. /he co% was named &ohn (enster. Altho gh no one ever sed his *irst name. -e had !een wo)en % in the middle o* the night !y one o* his s !ordinates telling him that there had !een a *ire in a ho sing develo%ment in the northern %art o* the city called 3Shady Acers.6 When he as)ed why the hell he was !eing called in to % t o t a *ire instead o* say a *ireman his s !ordinate said in a sha)y ns re tone that he was 3told !y (enster to contact him i* there was ever any activity in that neigh!orhood.6 3Shit.6 /ho ght (enster' he had told him that' )nowing his s !ordinate tho gh he sho ld have s%eci*ied what )ind o* activity. (enster had !een investigating a local gang. 5ot 8 st any local gang' a gang that a%%eared to se children to carry o t hits. (enster was the only one who !elieved they even e,isted. -is *irst cl e was when he !ro ght in a )id *or carrying a /ommy g n that was a!o t as !ig as he was. -e *o nd the )id three !loc)s away *orm /homass ho se. /he )id had !een s r%risingly tight li%%ed and when he did s%ea) he had an im%ressive

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voca! lary o* ins lts. /he only thing (enster was a!le to get o t o* him was the name o* the %erson we was going to shoot with the large /ommy g n. 3&ones' Im going to waste that * c)er &ones.6 /he )id had said. (enster had no idea i* this was a *irst or last name. All the other co%s tho ght that is was 8 st a street rchin messing with the co%s. 5evertheless (enster had told the men nder his command to % t together a list o* every 3&ones6 in the area where the )id was *o nd. It never had amo nted to anything. 0ntil now there were no incidents that *it (ensters theory. (enster was interested' it was the closest thing he wo ld ever have to a lead. 3Poor )id.6 /he *ire chie* sighed wi%ing the soot *rom his *orehead. 3Is it o)ay i* I tal) to him now;6 (enster %rod ced a !lac) leather %ad and a thic) !lac) %en. /hese were not standard iss e' he had !o ght them himsel*. -e was one o* the co%s who !elieved in diligent note ta)ing. 3Do can i* yo want' I dont thin) yo need to tho gh.6 3Why; Do dont thin) there was any *o l %lay.6 3Well I g ess I cant r le it o t ! t the stove is a de*inite %oint o* origin' loo)s li)e a gas lea).6 35o one co ld have tried to ma)e it loo) that way;6 3Well i* yo want to get all %aranoid I g ess yeah it co ld have !een engineered ! t in my e,%erience the sim%le answer is always the right one.6 3Im still going to need to ta)e a loo) aro nd' as) a *ew 1 estions.6 3Its yo r crime scene now o**icer.6 /he *ire chie* had a low o%inion o* co%s' all %aranoid g n n ts loo)ing to !e heros in their own crime drama. It sho ld !e said that (enster li)ed *iremen ! t did not li)e the *ire chie*. -e tho ght he was a la2y' incom%etent man' who was only in the *ire*ighting ! siness !eca se he was )ic)ed o t o* the army. (enster wal)ed over to /homas who was still standing in the doorway to the shell o* his home. 3My names Cetective &ohn (enster' everyone 8 st calls me (enster.6 3-ello.6 /homas said his voice carried no emotion. 3Im with the %olice I 8 st want to as) yo a *ew 1 estions a!o t last night.6 3Do thin) I did this;6 /homas had !ecome s ddenly hostile7 he had 8 st lost his entire *amily and was not dealing with the emotional weight o* the sit ation as well as someone longer lived might have. It made him a%%ear !i4%olar in the eyes o* the detective and even a little g ilty. 35o' nothing li)e that I 8 st want to ma)e s re we can catch whoever did this.6 /his was a lot to ta)e in *or yo ng /homas. (irst he had seen his *ather and mother ! rned alive' *allowed shortly !y the cries o* his !rother m **led !y the so nd o* a colla%sing ceiling. -e did not *eel that he sho ld !e alive' and now the idea that a *ellow h man may have !een res%onsi!le seemed to raise the *ire in his !lood. 3/he *ire chie* said it was an accident.6 /homas stared coldly at the detective. (enster met his ga2e' loo)ing *or some cl e as to the !oys motives. 3I 8 st want to r le o t the %ossi!ility.6 /he two stared at each other. /homas was *elling something re%lace the cold em%tiness o* his loss7 it was the hot *lames o* an angry' naive )ids revenge. (enster was

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seeing the rage ! ild in the yo ng man moment !y moment. -e decided that now was not the !est time to 1 estion the yo ng man. 3May!e now isnt the !est time.6 -e said alo d. -e handed /homas one o* his ! siness cards. 3+ive me a call when yo want to tal).6 -e crac)ed a smile. /homas did not reci%rocate the gest re ! t he did ta)e the card and then t rned his !ac) to the detective. Cetective &ohn (enster wo ld never hear *rom the yo ng man again' nor wo ld he ever !e a!le to %rove that the *ire was arson' which it was. /homas was now set on his %ath o* destr ction. -e stayed at the door to his ho se *or the rest o* the day watching as the *ire crew cleaned o t the r !!le' and event ally carted o t the smoldering remains o* his *amily. /he *iremen each o**ered him a %lace to stay or a ride to some relatives ho se' he t rned down each o* them %olitely. It was not ntil the ne,t morning that he decided to leave. /homas wondered the streets o* 5ew Orleans *or the ne,t month' the rage was ! ilding' he no longer wanted to !e alive nor did he want anyone else to !e. It was toward the end o* his nomadic month that he s%otted a recr iting station where he saw a chance to die and may!e even ta)e some o* these %athetic h mans with him. -e came % with the name 3/ony Smith6 and told them he was $=. /he recr iter had a s s%icion that the )id was lying ! t did not want to t rn down what a%%eared to !e s ch a %atriotic yo th. /homas was well ! ilt *or his age and easily %assed his %hysical. -e was sent to (ort Barrister to train where he met a *ew other yo ng men. Some said they were there to )ill others said they wanted to %rotect their co ntry' no matter their story /homas saw them all as enemies. When he did get his chance to *ight he contained his e,citement. -e was loaded onto a %lane which carried him to the *ront lines in so thern Italy. -e was %art o* the A#$st heavy wea%ons s1 ad. -e was given a *lame thrower' and was sent into to mo% % s rviving enemy soldiers that managed to live a*ter the Air (orce !om!ing r ns. -e went on one mission. /he village he was sent to never ho sed any soldiers' it was a small townshi% thats only strategic asset was a single distillery. /he air *orce was nder orders to level the %lace anyhow' and they did their 8o! to near %er*ection. When /homas and his s1 ad got there every ! ilding loo)ed e,actly as his ho se had !ac) in @o isiana. /homas smiled at the destr ction. -e led the charge into the a!andoned distillery. -e saw a sha%e move o t o* the corner o* his eye' la ghing he % lled the trigger. /he monster he held in his hands roared to li*e lashing o t at the sha%e with tong es o* *ire. /he sha%e was a $A year old !oy who wor)ed %art time in the distillery. -e was going to come o t to s rrender. -e was met with the vengeance o* /homass *ire. /homas however wo ld not !e directly res%onsi!le *or the !oys death. -e had missed the !oy and instead hit a large tan)er o* alcohol. /he tan)er was sealed and as the *lames lic)ed its side the tem%erat re inside rose drastically. /homas had only !een in high school *or two years. -e never st died the %hysics o* %ress re' heat' and energy. -e never learned that as the tem%erat re in an enclosed environment rose' so did the %ress re. 0n*ort nately *or /homas' ignorance o* the laws o* %hysics does not ma)e them any less tr e' or dangero s. /he tan)er e,%loded' sending hot' *laming ch c)s o* metal in every direction. One o* the ch n)s deca%itated the sha%e' another logged itsel* in the side o* /homas' he !leed o t almost instantly.

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- mans have a lot more choice then they tend to thin) they do in the a*terli*e. A*ter all' the so l is the reason they have *ree will in li*e why wo ld it !e any di**erent in death; When /homas died he *o nd himsel* in hell. -e had never )illed anyone I nless yo co nt the Italian sha%eJ nor had he ever stolen' cheated' a! sed' or violated anyone. /homas went to hell !eca se he saw all h mans as worthless' evil' sc m' himsel* incl ded. /here were all )inds o* wonder* l % nishments that the h man so ls' co ld %ic) *rom' sta!!ed' ! rned' *ro2en' shot' h ng' eaten' and everything in4!etween. /homas had wanted to !e dead *or years now and now that he was he 8 st wanted to see what % nishments awaited the other h mans. As with a lot o* so ls that die on the !attle *ield the daemons that inha!it hell' s%eci*ically the ones who are tas)ed with contin ing the war with haven' li)e to se the h man soldiers as live ammo %ractice. /homas was handed a ri*le and told to %artici%ate in an endless war against daemons. -e 3died6 co ntless more times while on the *ield. -e didnt seem to mind. It was while serving as h man s)eet that he was a%%roached !y a second lie tenant in the o%%osing army. /he lie tenant called himsel* A22a2el. /his was not his real name7 daemons never told mortals Ieven the so ls o* mortalsJ their real names. 5ames have a great deal o* %ower es%ecially *or daemons giving % that %ower was a mista)e that wo ld almost certainly r in a daemons day. /he real A22a2el was act ally a d )e o* hell. -e made the mista)e o* giving % that %ower and as s ch had !een tragically )illed !y an assassin hired !y the (ate Cor%oration. A22a2el e,%lained to /homas that he was !ored o* *ighting and was going to wander the mortal world *or aro nd a tho sand years or whenever he got sic) o* it. -e told /homas that he co ld ret rn to the world as his loyal servant. /his was not acce%ta!le to /homas. 3Why wo ld I want to go !ac) there;6 /homas re%lied 3<s%ecially i* I wo ld !e serving some shithead daemon;6 3Do re l c)y Im even giving yo a choice.6 A22a2el said coldly 3I have never !een on the earth *or very long. I need someone who nderstands that %lace !etter.6 3Deah' well I was only there *or twenty years and I co ldnt even stand !eing there *or that long.6 3I )now yo r story' yo where there when yo were alive' now yo re here and dead. Why not come !ac) !eing something in !etween;6 At this /homas smiled and a !ea ti* l %artnershi% was *ormed.

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Interlude II Koschei the Deathless, Koschei the Immortal Hes been out of the world for a while Hes coming back +oming back to his favorite vacation s&ot

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Cha%ter F "#$$' Somewhere in the Mediterranean /he three men did not say anything *or a long time. /he ca%tain was glaring at the tall man who was meeting his ga2e with a wide smile o* sel* satis*action. /homas *irst glared at the smiling man' and then t rned to glare at the ca%tain. 3Do )now this g y;6 /homas as)ed. 35o.6 the ca%tain tried to so nd at ease. /he tall man !egan toying with the ! llet7 rolling it aro nd in the %alm o* his hand' r !!ing the s)eleton with his th m!' *elling the weight o* it. 3-oly shit. Do dont remem!er.6 /he tall man la ghed. 3B t yo seem to remem!er this.6 -e shoved the ! llet in A22a2els *ace. /he ca%tain *linched at the gest re' he was * rio s at himsel* *or giving away his discom*ort so easily. 3Des. Des yo do and yo )now what it means.6 Be*ore the man co ld contin e however a *ist landed in his chest and he *ell to the gro nd. /his was *allowed swi*tly !y another !low to his !ac) ca sing him to smac) his *ace on the cold *loor o* the wheelho se. /homas stood over him tri m%hant ! t !y no means done with this sc m. -e %roceeded to slam the toe o* his !oot into the ri!s o* the man *o r times !e*ore the man on the *loor cho)ed o t a word that so nded li)e ! t was not 3ser%ent.6 /he ca%tain held o t a hand and /homas sto%%ed. -e was starting to hate this %artnershi%. -is *irst legitimate )ill in A years and the ca%tain is denying him the %leas re !eca se o* some ! llet. 3Control yo r goon.6 /he tall man s% ttered. 3Answers nowG6 /homas !ar)ed' this was a demand *or !oth the ca%tain and the stranger he so !adly wanted to ! rn. 3/homas this mortal has somehow come across the means to destroy me. Im ass ming that he will do so i* I do not coo%erate' that means yo coo%erate.6 /he na)ed man slowly got to his *eet. 3/hats right' so no * c)ing * nny ! siness.6 /he ca%tain ste%%ed closer' staring directly into the eyes o* the slender' almost na)ed man. 3When Ive done whatever it is yo want me to yo d !etter destroy me !eca se i* yo dont I will not only )ill yo ! t ma)e s re yo end % in hell as my %ersonal tort re toy.6 3Oh' dont worry I will.6 /he ca%tain ste%%ed !ac) not removing his ga2e. 3What do yo want *rom me;6 /he man smiled. 3I am a ! siness man' a s ccess* l ! siness man. Im very wealthy' have access to women' %oliticians' cars' 8et' %lanes' everything a sim%le mortal co ld as) *or. B t what I dont have is s %ernat ral reco rses. 5ow I have yo and yo will hel% me cond ct ! siness' negotiate' and *ind other !its o* s %ernat ral to add to my arsenal6 -is s%eech so nded li)e something that he had %racticed in a mirror *or months on end. 3S %ernat ral things li)e what e,actly;6

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/he man seemed st m%ed' %erha%s he had not tho ght this o t all the way. 3St ** li)e.I d nno the %ower o* immortality.magic swords' gems that )inda thing.6 /he ca%tain smiled and let o t a relived la gh. 3Do * c)ing mortals' yo dont have any idea what yo re doing. I !et yo didnt even mean to enlist my services.6 /he rich mans smile seemed to *ade a little. 3Do didnt did yo ;6 /he ca%tain had regained all con*idence7 he strode % to the man grinning the whole way. 3I !et yo were 8 st messing aro nd with some trin)ets yo *o nd in yo r grannys c %!oard and thro gh some ama2ing loo%hole yo act ally managed to ca%t re me.6 -e was so close their noses almost to ched. 3/ell me how e,actly did yo go a!o t getting yo rsel* into this mess;6 /he man %a sed' having lost the high gro nd and his !alls' he s !mitted to A22a2els re1 est. -e st c) his hand !ac) into his nder%ants and removed a gold rimmed monocle *orm the stri%%ed %oc)et. /he ca%tain loo)ed down at the trin)et. /hen !ac) % at the man. -e co ld not !elieve his eyes. 3Shit. So thats where that ended %.6 -e said alo d.

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Interlude III Little Niki Dolarota &oor kid from a &oor country rich man from nowhere Now an unlucky man with a lucky charm

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Cha%ter FI "#$$' B# miles so th o* the coast o* +reece on a lovely cr ise liner' "E$" a.m. 5i)i Colarota was a wealthy man7 he had access to women' %oliticians' cars' %lanes. & st a!o t anything a mortal man co ld as) *or. Hight now he was vacationing on a cr ise liner !o nd *or +reece and was sing his money to en8oy the com%any o* *o r women. /hey were not %rostit tes' at least in the traditional sense' they were sim%ly attracted to his money. -e was lying in his *irst class s ite with the girls o* the evening as they giggled and chatted' removing vario s articles o* !oth theirs and his clothing. -e was not %aying them m ch attention. /hey were sim%ly set dressing. -e li)ed having constant reminders o* his s ccess aro nd. 5ow it is im%ortant to note that 5i)i Colarota did not and never had !elieved in the s %ernat ral. -is grandmother had ta ght him a!o t daemons and *ort netelling' am lets' c rses and all the other wonder* l things that h mans sed to !elieve in. -e had only concerned himsel* with con1 ering the %ower o* the dollar. Something tangi!le something that he )new had %ower in this world. -owever the evening was dying down and 5i)i still remem!ered a *ew little tric)s that he co ld se to am se his conc !ines. -e %rod ced *orm an old wooden !o, on the *loor' a golden ! llet with the sigil o* a daemon whose name so nds a lot li)e ! t is not 3Ser%ent6 as well as a gold rimmed monocle. 3Whats that;6 A !lond girl giggled 3@adies.6 -e addressed the whole room' %re%aring to wow them with a *ew little tric)s to get the %arty rolling. /he tric)s in 1 estions were not act al magic. 5i)i did not )now how to se the items his grandmother had le*t with him %ro%erly. -e 8 st said something he *o nd mysterio s and s%oo)y and then when the tension was high may!e give the light switch *lic)er and !ring o t the dr gs. /his had wor)ed anywhere he went. -e slowly revealed the two arti*acts and %laced the monocle on his eye and the ! llet in the center with its golden %oint stic)ing straight %. -e t rned o** the lights letting the room go dim' lit only !y a select *ew candles. /he ladies were giggling and e,cited ! t very con* sed. 5i)i !egan to ma)e % some tale a!o t a c rse' a gy%sy woman' and a daemon. /he ladies all la ghed' he did too. /he niverse is a mysterio s %lace7 things can ha%%en *or seemingly no reason' de*ying all )nown sciences and statistics. @eading e,%erts have yet to attach a single name to this %henomenon. Some call it *ate' others god. In this case well 8 st say that the niverse was getting !ored and decided to * c) with 5i)i. 5i)i *o nd himsel* chanting' in the lang age o* his homeland. -e had almost *orgotten that he )new it. /he monocle %erched on this chee) !one reveled to him a strange version o* the world. -e co ld see the women' at *irst they 8 st a%%eared to have a red tint a!o t them. /hen he saw only their !lood7 still % lsing thro gh their veins not in one *l id motion li)e he once !elieved. It t gged and s1 ee2ed thro gh their !odies % shing *orward in time to the th m% o* their hearts. 5i)i was scared' ! t he co ldnt sto%' his !ody was no longer nder his control. /he grotes1 e sha%es !e*ore him changed again' now he saw their !ones' 8 st their !ones. 5o 8oints' no cartilage 8 st clean white

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!ones s s%ended in air. -e heard the words that came o t o* his mo th ! t he did not nderstand them. /he ! llet on the *loor then er %ted in *lames. 5i)i tho ght he heard someone screaming. -e was getting light headed. /he th ndero s cla% o* an e,%losion ri%%ed threw the air. 5i)i *o nd himsel* on the *loor. Standing over him he tho ght he saw the ca%tain o* the shi%. It was the ca%tain' short white !eard and all. /hen a*ter another lo d !ang he saw a grotes1 e *ig re where the ca%tain sed to !e. It had the head o* a *o,' i* a *o, had two rows o* si, inch teeth all e,tr ding at %erverse angles *rom its mo th. Its !ody was reminiscent o* a large !eetle7 !lac) chitin %lates overla%%ed and weaved themselves over its torso. It had si, lim!s one o* a h man' it carried a ! rning scimitar. /he /wo lim!s toward the !ottom o* the torso were %ro!a!ly the legs. /hey were long7 covered in !rown * r' and ended in dar) !lac) hooves. /he lim! o%%osite the h man one was reminiscent o* a cra!7 the %incer was as large as the creat re itsel*. Ces%ite this it li*ted it with ease. /he *i*th lim! was h man *or all intensive % r%oses. It had the same str ct re' a sho lder' an el!ow' a hand' and *ive *ingers. /he !ig di**erence was that this lim! was on *ire. It carried a large !lac) h nting ri*le. /he si,th and *inal lim! was %rotr ding *orm the monsters !ac). It had si, 8oints' and contorted aro nd and aro nd in odd sha%es. Moving in a way that made it a%%ear that it had a will that was se%arate *orm the rest o* the !ody. - mans wo ld call it a daemon and leave it at that. 5i)i had a m ch more s%eci*ic name *or it. -e did not )now what it was or why he sho ld say its name ! t something in his g t screamed. So he did too. -e screamed a name. -e did not )now what it meant. -e 8 st )new he had to say it. It so nded a lot li)e' ! t de*initely was not 3Ser%ent.6 /hen 5i)i !lac)ed o t. At least thats what he tho ght ha%%ened' he *o nd himsel* on the *loor o* his ca!in' con* sed. -e had no memory o* what had 8 st ha%%ened. -e loo)ed aro nd' he saw that his conc !ines were also slowly wa)ing %' they too had no idea what had ha%%ened. -e sat %7 he saw the monocle and the ! llet on the *loor. -e %ic)ed them %. /he second that his *ingers to ched the ! llet he *ro2e. All o* a s dden he )new. -e didnt )now why he )new ! t he )new. -e )new a daemons name. 5ot only that ! t he )new that that daemon was the ca%tain. -e also )new that i* he )e%t the ! llet with him he co ld command the daemon. 5i)i Colarota had never !elieved in daemons' magic' c rses or any o* those wonder* l things that h mans sed to !elieve in. -e !elieved in the %ower o* the dollar' something tangi!le something that did have %ower in this world. 5ow something had changed. -e still didnt )now why ! t he didnt care. -is g t still screamed at him' told him the tr th o* things' he !elieved. -e !elieved in daemons' c rses' magic' talismans' and angles. -e still !elieved in the %ower o* the dollar' it had gotten him to the to% o* his world. /he %ro!lem now was that 5i)is world had 8 st gotten !igger. Witho t a moments hesitation he headed o t o* his s ite in search o* the ca%tain. @eaving *o r con* sed' hal* na)ed girls alone and scared.

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Cha%ter FII C2echoslova)ia' $?== 5i)i Colarota was having a wonder* l $"th !irthday. -is grandmother had thrown him not one ! t two %arties' one *or him and his *riends and one *or him and his *amily. 5i)i Colarota had not m ch in the way o* *riends or *amily. -is grandmother was the only *amily he had ever )nown. -is mother had died in child!irth7 his *ather had r n o t on them !e*ore that. /his le*t his grandmother' Stella Colarota' in charge o* his care. She did her !est with what she had. /o ma)e ends meet she did tarot readings and made charms to hel% those who did !elieve in s ch things. A*ter a *ew moths o* saving % she had eno gh to % ll o t all the sto%s *or her grandsons !irthday. She had made two ca)es' made him a *a! lo s !rea)*ast com%lete with eggs' cheese' and !acon. She even managed to get some chocolate mil). Ces%ite the %overty and the loss o* most o* his *amily 5i)i Colarota was not an nha%%y child' es%ecially not on this day' his twel*th !irthday. -is grandmother reached % on a high shel* and %rod ced a %ac)age wra%%ed in !rown %a%er and twine. Smiling she handed it to 5i)i. -e glee* lly too) it and tore o** the %a%er. Inside was an old wooden !o,. It loo)ed as tho gh it might t rn to d st in his hands i* a !ree2e !lew !y. 5i)i care* lly % shed the sim%le r sted loc) % and the lid crea)ed o%en. /he interior o* the !o, was lined with a cloth. It might have !een a !right red at one time ! t now it was a *aded' dirty' maroon. @ying neatly on the cloth there was a golden ! llet with the image o* a s)eleton on *ire' dancing on a grave. 5e,t to the ! llet there was a monocle. It was rimmed in gold. 5i)i did not want to seem ngrate* l ! t still !egged the 1 estion 3What is it;6 -is grandmother )new that he might not a%%reciate the gi*t and she was o)ay with that. Altho gh she had !een teaching him a!o t the myths and legends o* her c lt re he regarded these stories sim%ly as s ch' myths and legends' nothing more. It was a %ro!lem with the newest generation. /hey wo ldnt !elieve in Santa Cla se let alone Koschei the Ceathless. Hegardless Stella Colarota loved her grandson and calmly smiled and told him that i* he ever was attac)ed !y evil s%irits he co ld see their tr e names and with that con1 er them. 5i)i smiled' altho gh he did not nderstand 8 st how se* l these trin)ets were' he was grate* l. 3/han) yo grandma.6 -e !eamed and em!raced her. /he two o* them ate ca)e' and %layed with some o* 5i)is more child a%%ro%riate gi*ts ntil late in the evening. 5i)i went to !e that night e,ha sted and ha%%y. 5i)i was still yo ng and ignorant o* the world. 5ot only o* the s %ernat ral elements in %lay ! t also o* the %olitical ones. C2echoslova)ia was in the middle o* a revol tion. It had !een nder soviet control *or too long and its residents were nearing the end o* a 3%eace* l6 resol tion. 0n*ort nately *or 5i)i ignorance o* the %olitical %owers does not ma)e them any less tr e' or dangero s. 5i)i awo)e to the screams o* his grandmother. -e !olted o t o* !ed. -is home was small' only a two room shac). -e did not have to go *ar to see the intr ders. /hree soldiers' no' %olicemen' in a way. /hey had !een at the candle demonstration in Bratislava 8 st a *ew days earlier. /here' %wards o* $#'### C2echoslova)ians had gathered to %rotest. /hey held candles and marched' and !loc)ed streets' demanding an end to the starvation and o%%ression. Ces%ite the *act that not a

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single %rotestor threw a roc) or threatened the %olice in anyway the %olice sed water cannons' then when the %rotestors did not dis!and they charged the crowd' !eating' and arresting tho sands. 5i)is grandmother had not !een at the rally. She had never shown any hostility toward the government. /he soldiers' or %olice' or secret %olice what ever yo want to call them were nder orders to ro nd % as many o* the %rotestors as they co ld. It had !een a long night and the three o* them had had eno gh. /he old womans ho se was lined with old trin)ets and charms that made the soldiers neasy. /he trin)ets were meant to %rotect against the s %ernat ral. /hese soldiers had nothing s %ernat ral a!o t them. Stella Colarota was shot' in the head. At %oint %lan) range' in *ront o* her grandson' !y a mortal man with a g n made !y another mortal man. 5o magic was %resent' no charm' no c rse' no daemon' 8 st a man and a g n. 5i)i saw the soldiers arg e *or a *ew moments !e*ore ta)ing his grandmothers !ody away. As they le*t one o* the soldiers saw him hiding. /hey loo)ed in each others eyes' only *or a second. /he soldier' or %oliceman' or K+B' or man' or whatever yo want to call him' smiled. A*ter that second he contin ed to drag Stella Colarotas !ody o t o* her ho se' leaving 5i)i alone in the dar). (rom that day on 5i)i Colarota wandered the streets. -e carried with him a small wooden !o,. -e did so not !eca se he !elieved in the magic' ! t o t o* res%ect *or his grandmother. In *act he was done !elieving in magic' ghosts' daemons' c rses. -e saw his grandmother )illed !y a man' !y %olitics. 5ot magic. -e set o t to control that %ower o* %olitics' o* man. /he easiest way' he soon *o nd' to do that was with money. 5i)i started o t as a small town %ic)%oc)et' a street rchin. -e was !right tho gh' soon he 8oined organi2ed crime' when he was twenty he ran a small gang o* his own. A*ter that we went to America' then to -olland' China' India' Me,ico' +ermany' A stralia' nder the g ise o* a s ccess* l ! sinessman. By the age o* thirty he was a s ccess* l ! siness man' a sha%eless *ig re' a C<O to a com%any that no one ever hears o*' ! t ! ys its %rod cts daily. -e had *orgotten his homeland' his origins7 he never did *orget his grandmother. -e )e%t that little !o, with him at all times. 5i)i Colarota had con1 ered the dollar. 5ow he was cele!rating with a rela,ing cr ise in the Mediterranean' !elieving himsel* to !e in control o* all the *orces in this niverse.

"$

Cha%ter FIII Somewhere in the Mediterranean' "#$$ /he ca%tain *li%%ed the gold monocle over and over in his hands. -e was !eside himsel*' how co ld one mortal' 8 st one mortal' %osses !oth his *avorite sigil and the one monocle he had wished he wo ld have never seen again. 3What is it !oss;6 /homas as)ed' he was %issed' he needed to )ill 5i)i. 3I dont )now' as) the man in his %a8amas.6 3Alright yo got me. I didnt mean *or this to ha%%en. Do re right. I didnt even )now daemons e,isted an ho r ago. B t I )now now. I also )now that I own yo ' and yo are going to hel% me con1 er this new world.6 3I dont )now what yo want me to do...6 /he ca%tain was nim%ressed. -e needed to !e rid o* this mortal as soon as he co ld. /ro !le was as long as that mortal )new his name he co ldnt )ill him' nor co ld /homas. -e stared at the monocle. 3Come on A22a2el yo )now yo ve seen this !e*ore' 8 st thin)G6 -e tho ght to himsel*. 3Well loo)s li)e were in a * c)in stale mate.6 /homas lit a cigarette. 3Do re a * c)in %rodigy ya )now that;6 3/his * c)in %rodigy has yo r ass nder his th m!.6 3Sh t %. Both o* yo .6 /he ca%tain sna%%ed. 3Do ' na)ed h man' I need to )now what yo did. <,actly what yo did' where yo go these items' when yo got them' *rom who' how yo )new the rit al' everything.6 3I got !oth o* those things *rom my grandmother. She was always going on a!o t magic st **.6 3What )ind o*.magic st **;6 A22a2el was !ecoming more and more ama2ed. 5ot only had he !een ca%t red ! t the mortal who had ca%t red him had 8 st sed the %hrase 3magic st **.6 3Da )now magic st **. Ba!a Daga' talismans' angles' Koschei the ndead43 3Wait.6 A22a2el interr %ted 3Koschei.6 3/hat im%ortant !oss;6 /homas as)ed. A22a2el loo)ed !ac) down at the monocle. -e stood % and loo)ed o t at the island. /he %alm tree was still sitting there 8 st as %eace* l as ever. A22a2el stared at the island' then at the monocle' then !ac) at the island. 3Koschei.6 -e whis%ered. 3/ell me nowG What does that mean;6 5i)i demanded A22a2el said nothing. -e sim%ly stared o t o* the wheelho se window. -is ga2e *i,ed on the island. /homas wal)ed over to him and % t o t his cigarette on the shiny s r*ace o* the shi%s control %anel. 3What is it !oss; What is Koschei;6 3Were leaving now' I dont care how. I* I cant get the shi% started well have to *ind some other way.6 3Im sorry ! t when did yo start calling the shots;6 5i)i inter8ected. /he ca%tain had had eno gh. -e whirled aro nd. (or a second 5i)i ca ght a glim%se o* the ca%tains monstro s *angs.

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3@isten yo st %id' st %id manG Im the (0CKI5+ ca%tain o* this shi%G I always call the * c)ing shotsG Do thin) 8 st !eca se yo got my name and a *ancy little trin)et yo can command meG; I am nine BI@@IO5 years older than yo G I have seen so m chG /hings that wo ld melt yo r nimagina!ly small mindG Do want to destroy me; Co itG I wanted a vacation may!e !eing dead *or a while is the !rea) Im loo)ing *orG6 /he ca%tain charged 5i)i. /he ca%tain st c) his *ace so close to 5i)is that their noses to ched. 5i)i noticed that the ca%tain was now m ch taller than him' and had to !end over to com%lete the threatening gest re. 3Do got s into this * c)ing mess. Im getting s o t.6 /he ca%tain snarled. A22a2el stormed !ac) to the controls' and threw one giant lever as *ar *orward as it co ld go. /he shi% l rched. It moved a!o t *o r inches !e*ore a large e,%losion ri%%ed the %ro%ellers a%art. 3What the hell was that;6 5i)i was ashamed o* how easily he had let the sit ation s%in o t o* control. -e was not sed to !eing given orders. 5i)i decided then and there to get these two daemons nder his control. A22a2el was still % shing levers and ! ttons. -e )new that he had no engines' and no ho%e ! t he re* sed to give %' he was getting o t. 0n*ort nately 5i)i had other %lans. 5i)i clenched the ! llet tightly and sho ted *orm his g t the name o* the !east. /he ca%tain *ell to the *loor' conscio s ! t immo!ili2ed. 3I am yo r master and yo will answer meG6 5i)i screamed. -is voice was not entirely his own. It was a side e**ect o* channeling s ch energies. /o command a daemon %ro%erly yo needed a rage not commonly *o nd in 8 st one h man. 5i)i had channeled the rage *orm all his ancestors into his words. /homas made a move toward 5i)i ! t 5i)i gave him a loo) that /homas recogni2ed. It was the loo) /homas had when he was *i*teen and angry. 5i)i )nelt down ne,t to the hel%less ca%tain. 3Who is Koschei and what does he have to do with this island;6 3.Koschei the deathless' Koschei the immortal.-e.well I g ess yo wo ld call him a daemon. -e cant !e )illed' not !y daemons' not !y mortals7 even gods have learned to leave him alone.6 -e ca%tain stood %. -e reali2ed that he co ld not *ight 5i)i anymore. Slowly he was devising another strategy. 3I heard there was a way to )ill him.6 5i)i said. 3S %%osedly i* yo *ind his island' and dig % his chest a d c) will *ly o t' and i* yo )ill the d c)' a ra!!it will start r nning away' and i* yo )ill that an egg will a%%ear in its %lace. I* yo !rea) the egg yo will *ind a sowing needle. I* yo re very l c)y and yo %ric) Koschei with that needle he will die.6 3/hats his island o t there isnt it;6 /homas as)ed. 3Des. Des it is. B t were 5O/ going there' we are leaving. /he shi%s dead ! t we can43 35o.6 5i)i c t him o**. 3Were )illing him. Do me and whatever the hell that thing is.6 -e motioned to /homas. 3( c) yo ! ddyG6 /homas went to the ca%tains side e,%ecting to !e !ac)ed % !y his master. 3O)ay.6 /he ca%tain said calmly. 3WhatG;6 /homas e,claimed. 3Well go with yo and we will )ill Koschei the immortal.6

":

3What; All that Im the ca%tain shit and now were 8 st going to go with this %ric)G;6 3/homas what are yo so worried a!o t; Do cant die' I am a daemon with ntold %ower' and.6 /he ca%tain loo)ed at 5i)i' scanning him *rom toes to nose. 3Im s re this g y here has many se* l 1 alities.6 3Camn right' I am 5i)i * c)ing Colarota' the wonder child' the nameless )ing o* the world' the43 3Wait.6 A22a2el had not heard a word %ast 3Colarota6 altho gh i* he had he wo ld have !een even more ashamed. 5ot only had a sim%le mortal ca%t red him' who ses %hrases li)e 3magic st **6' ! t now he was calling himsel* 3the nameless )ing o* the world.6 3Cid yo say Colarota;6 3/he god o*4.what; Deah' 5i)i Colarota yo r h m!le master.6 5i)i !eamed. 3Shit.6 A22a2el said alo d. 3So thats where they ended %.6

"B

Interlude ,,a,el, the bored daemon Having an e-citing night night seemingly caused by coincidence ,,a,el, the bored daemon He can esca&e coincidence Not fate#

"A

Cha%ter IK /he newly *ormed co ntry o* C2echoslova)ia' $?$= A22a2el was glad to !e o t o* hell. /his was his *irst time in his entire nine !illion years o* e,istence that he had ta)en h man *orm. It was a new sensation7 the lac) o* lim!s' the closed circ latory system' the need to !reathe' the aging' everything. A lot o* daemons *rom time to time ta)e h man *orm. Most do so to mess with the heads o* mortals. A lot o* the time the h mans ass me the things that torment them are the devil. /his is incorrect the devil never leaves hell' never %lays the daemons games. It never !o ght or sold so ls' never tric)ed h mans into giving themselves to it' they did that themselves. -owever a lot o* daemons en8oyed %itting their wills against the yo ng h man race' o*ten claiming to !e the devil itsel* to stro)e their egos. /he h mans were s ally no match e,ce%t in one nota!le incident involving a *iddle contest. A22a2el did not come to earth to ca se mischie*. -e was sim%ly a to rist in a *oreign land. /here is a %henomenon that %ro*essional to rists have called 3+oing 5ative.6 While this is never a %ro!lem *or h man to rists' it is a !ig %ro!lem *or daemons. Caemons have no genes' no cells to !e designated 3ha%loid6 or 3di%loid.6 Most times they dont even have genders. /he r les o* !iology and nat ral selection do not a%%ly to them. /hey have no !iological desire to re%rod ce. /he instinct some h mans have termed 3animal l st.6 Caemons dont have that. /hats not to say that that dont re%rod ce. Since the day o* their creation daemons have !een mi,ing their !lood with 8 st a!o t everything in the niverse. Some se their children to gain stat s and %ower' others se them *or *ood' and a rare *ew do it *or revenge. A reason that yo wo ld never *ind !ehind their actions was love. A22a2el was no di**erent. -e was a daemon7 he was not act ally attracted to anything he only cared a!o t himsel*. -e )new nothing o* love. 0n*ort nately *or A22a2el ignorance o* love does not ma)e it any less real or dangero s. -er name was <va Sedla)ova. She was a small *arm girl living with her h s!and to !e. -is name was @ )as Colarota. A22a2el had !een on earth *or a total o* two months -e had discovered the invention )nown as the 3Bicycle.6 It was while attem%ting to ride this )new discovery with his no longer cloven *eet that he ran into' or more acc rately' over <va Sedla)ova. A22a2el didnt )now why ! t he chec)ed to see i* the girl he had hit was nin8 red. -e hel%ed her % and she d sted hersel* o**. When his !rand new hand to ched hers something changed in him. -e *elt.something... he co ldnt descri!e it. It came *orm his g t. It was 8 st a whis%er. /he thing *irst a%%eared to !e want' a sim%le desire to %osses something material. /hen he started to loo) at the girl he had 8 st r n over' and the want !ecame something more. She la ghed and A22a2els new heart *orgot to !eat' he loo)ed in her eyes and his new stomach *l ttered. She was !y all acco nts !ea ti* l. -er hair was a ha2el !rown. It was slightly c rled. It seemed to *low o** her head and down ether side o* her *ace li)e a water*all. -er eyes' that st nned A22a2el' were a %er*ect shade o* green' a dee%' rich green. @i)e two tiny emeralds simmering at the !ottom o* a shallow %ool o* water. All o* this A22a2el admired ! t what made his whole new !ody sha)e was her dress. It seemed as i* it was made *or her and her alone. It was nothing *ancy' a cas al s n dress *or the wee)days. On anyone else it wo ld have

"9

!een 8 st that. On her it *lowed. It *lowed o** her sho lders' *ollowing her c rves. It was a !right !l e. /he %er*ect !l e' imagine a !l e so % re that it almost glows. It shone thro gh the d st )ic)ed % !y the crash. <va loo)ed at A22a2el. -e was handsome. In his *irst incarnation he did not go *or an aged loo). /he *irst time he was trying o t the gri22led handsome loo) some o* the other daemons had told him was great *or !lending in. A22a2el wal)ed her home. /hey made small tal). -e told her he was a rich traveling merchant selling !icycles. She *o nd him charming and did really en8oy his com%any. Perha%s i* she had not already *allen *or another man this story wo ld !e !oth shorter and ha%%ier. When they got to her h m!le home her * t re h s!and was o tside en8oying the *resh air. -e was not a 8ealo s man and welcomed A22a2els com%any. -e even o**ered to ! y a !icycle *rom A22a2el. A22a2el did not nderstand who the man was. -e was still learning h man traditions' he tho ght him to !e her *ather' or ncle or some other h man relationshi% that he had heard a!o t. -e did not )now that the relationshi%s !etween h mans were not all genetic. A22a2el did not stay long' he said hello and a%ologi2ed *or the incident' shoo) hands' and !ade them *arewell. As A22a2el was wal)ing away *orm the small *armho se he t rned aro nd to catch a glim%se o* the woman he now nderstood to !e !ea ti* l. Perha%s i* he had not ta)en that last loo) this story wo ld have !een shorter' ha%%ier' and d ller. -e saw them )iss. A22a2el had never seen a )iss !e*ore. /hat does not mean he did not )now what it meant. It wo ld have !een o!vio s to anyone. /hey )issed7 it was 8 st a little )iss. & st a little )iss that said 3Im glad yo re !ac)' I missed yo .6 /hey )issed7 it was 8 st a little )iss. It lasted a hal* o* a second. (or A22a2el it seemed to last an ho r. /he thing in his g t screamed. It was more than want and he *inally had a name *or it. Over the ne,t *ew days A22a2el made several tri%s !ac) to the *armho se. -e watched the ha%%y co %le *rom a distance. -owever the thing in his g t was not content with 8 st watching. -e soon set a %lan in motion to ta)e <va Sedla)ova *or himsel*. /wo wee)s a*ter the !icycle incident A22a2el )noc)ed on the *ront door to the *armho se. @ )as o%ened the door and greeted him with a !ig smile and a handsha)e. A22a2el greeted him with a gi*t a !lac) h nting ri*le and a single homemade ! llet. /he ! llet was gold and !ore the image o* a *laming s)eleton dancing on a grave. @ )as had never owned a g n ! t acce%ted the gi*t with a smile. /hen A22a2el waited. -e watched *or months on end as his %lan n*olded. At *irst the ! llet whis%ered to @ )as. -e had dreams *or wee)s a!o t his wi*e !eing n*aith* l. She wasnt. <va loved @ )as and really did intend on marrying him. Slowly @ )as went mad. P shed to the !rin) he *lew into *ren2y on the eve o* their wedding. <va had given him a gold rimmed monocle *or the occasion. It is %ossi!le that he saw the gest re as an a%ology *or her n*aith* lness or %ossi!ly he was sim%ly 8 st too *ar gone. -e acc sed his * t re wi*e o* cheating on him with everyone *rom the neigh!or to the highest mem!ers o* %arliament. She we%t and %leaded with him. It was not eno gh. -e gra!!ed the !lac) h nting ri*le he )e%t on the wall. -e loaded the golden ! llet into the cham!er and aimed it at his so!!ing wi*e to !e. -e % lled the trigger. /he ! llet )new what it had to do. It *lew !ac)wards o t o* the cham!er' ! rrowing itsel* *irst thro gh @ )ass s) ll and soon a*ter the so*t' grey matter o* his !rain.

">

<va was sha)ing. She sat ne,t to his !ody a*raid to to ch him. O t o* the aether came A22a2el. -e a%%eared ne,t to her and % t his hand on her sho lder. -e was certain that his %lan wo ld wor). -er h s!and had 8 st tried to m rder her and now he wo ld %lay the com*orting *riend and event ally her new h s!and. <va Sedla)ova loved @ )as. She loved him to the end. <ven a*ter all this she still loved him. She )new @ )as and the man who tried to ta)e her li*e was not him. She loo)ed % at the smiling *ace o* A22a2el. It was the smile that gave him away. (or any h man to smile at this occ rrence was a social *oe %aw She stood % and wal)ed toward the door. She did not loo) !ac) at A22a2el. She wal)ed down to the %olice station. She told them what ha%%ened. /hey came and collected the !ody' gave their condolences and le*t. A22a2el *ollowed her the entire way. She never loo)ed !ac) at him. -e watched as she was handed her h s!ands last %ossessions' incl ding the ! llet that ended his li*e. She never loo)ed at him. A22a2el was cr shed. -e wanted to )ill her' send her to hell to !e with him. -e didnt' he co ldnt the thing in his g t wo ldnt let him. -e went !ac) to hell to esca%e the thing in his g t. It too) ninety years ! t event ally the thing in his g t vanished. <va meanwhile too) her h s!ands name. She was a wee) %regnant at the time o* her h s!ands death. She gave !irth to a da ghter' who married another man and gave !irth to another da ghter. /hat da ghters name was Stella Colarota. She gave !irth to another da ghter named Maria' and she gave !irth to a son named 5i)i Colarota. /he ! llet and the monocle were %assed down the generations' as was the tragic story o* @ )as Colarota. 5i)i Colarota was twelve when he heard the story' he soon *orgot a!o t it as did A22a2el. /hey *orgot a!o t <va' a!o t @ )as' a!o t the want' the need' the 8ealo sy' the %assion' the rage' the death' the love all *orgotten !y A22a2el and 5i)i.

"=

Interlude Koschei the deathless, Koschei the immortal He never worries .aybe he should /ust this once#

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Cha%ter K /he Island o* Koschei' "#$$ A22a2el has rarely !een content with anything in his nine !illion years o* e,istence. Bac) at the !eginning he was e,cited *or the *all and the creation o* hell. A !illion years in hell drove him % the wall so he le*t. C ring his *irst tri% o t he !ac)%ac)ed aro nd the golden mo ntains o* Atlantis. A*ter a h ndred years o* that he went to a retreat *or all !eings *rom all dimensions who wished to !ecome %oets. It was held in a dimension hand cra*ted !y a !eing made o* % re tho ght. At *irst he loved it. /here were no r les' no %hysics 5ewtonian or otherwise' and no colors e,ce%t the ones that yo *elt li)e seeing. 0n*ort nately a con*rontation with another %artici%ant ca sed him to !e )ic)ed o t. A22a2el 8 st co ld not *ig re o t why the o%%osing %arty tho ght that iam!ic %entameter was the !est *orm o* writing. A*ter ret rning to hell *or a mandatory sta** meeting that lasted a million and a hal* years he set o** once again this time to %artici%ate in an religio s war on a %lanet many light years away *orm earth. /he %lanets inha!itants were *ighting over weather or not to worshi% the s)y. /he s)y itsel* did not really care weather or not it was worshi%ed. It ended % leaving the %lanet all together to esca%e the g ilt that it *elt *or ca sing the war. /his %attern o* coming and going contin ed *or A22a2el *or many more years. & st !e*ore his nine !illionth !irthday he heard some daemons tal) a!o t a very *resh %lanet whose %rimary inha!itants had not recogni2ed all the %owers that lay o tside their world. It so nded li)e * n so he le*t. At *irst he en8oyed it. (or a measly two months then he *ell *or a h man' )illed her *iancL' and then %o ted all the way !ac) to hell. 5ow he was !ac) a*ter 8 st ninety years and now what; -e was enslaved !y the asshole great' great grandson o* the m rdered *iancL' and was now !eing sent to )ill an n)illa!le !eing. /his time tho gh he had a %lan' a %lan that wo ld not !e com%romised !y love ! t * l*illed !y hate. 3-eyG Do coming;6 5i)i sho ted % at the ca%tain who was still standing on the dec) o* the cr ise liner. 5i)i and /homas had clim!ed into a li*e!oat and were waiting *or the Ca%tain. Slowly the ca%tain ste%%ed over the railing and landed in the small motorless !oat. -e threw the release o%en and the !oat screamed toward the %ale !l e water. /he three o* them each too) one o* the white %lastic %addles and slowly made their way to the island. /homas was glaring at 5i)i. -e had !een glaring at 5i)i ever since he *irst wal)ed into the wheelho se. 5i)i' the once %oor ! t never again child' did not care what /homas did. -e was at the *ront o* the !oat7 he did not %addle ! t rather held his oar at his side standing %ro dly. Imagining himsel* leading an army to victory against ins rmo nta!le odds. In some ways this was tr e. /heir chance o* s ccess was incredi!ly low. 5i)i did not )now this. -e once again !elieved himsel* in control over all the %owers in the niverse. A22a2el was silent and e,%ressionless. -e )new they wo ld not s cceed in )illing Koschei the deathless. /hat was not his %lan however. -is %lan was sim%leE get 5i)i over to the island' *ind Koschei and ma)e s re Koschei )illed 5i)i and 5O/ him. As they a%%roached the island the %alm tree shoo) e,citedly. It was nclear i* the tree was reacting to them or the s dden ! rst o* wind that greeted the three as their !oat

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scra%%ed against the !ottom o* the now shallow ocean. 0na!le to %roceed any * rther !y !oat the three got o t and t gged thro gh the 1 iet water. @ead !y the !rave and naive 5i)i the three reached the so*t yellow sand o* the tiny island. 5i)i had carried his %addle *rom the !oat to the shore7 his %lastic sce%ter' his mighty sym!ol o* dominance. 0ns re o* what to do ne,t the three stood in silence. /he *og had !een removed !y the howling wind. /he wind rattled the %alm tree. It !ent and twisted. It made /homas nervo s. Ces%ite the wind r stling the tree and !lowing thro gh their clothes the yellow sand remained still' their *oot%rints still *irmly %ressed into the gro nd. 5i)i *inally !ro)e the silence and t rned to his com%anions. 3AlrightG @ets )ill s a KoscheiG6 5i)i !eamed. 5ether /homas or A22a2el had a res%onse they sim%ly stared at the ama2ingly ha%%y man in *ront o* them. 3-eres my %lanE /homas yo go le*t me and the ca% will go right.6 Again he was met with silence. /homas )e%t his glare *oc sed' and then he s%o)e %. 3I* yo live thro gh this Im going to )ill yo .6 5i)i said nothing. -e sim%ly smiled and motioned to his le*t. /homas shi*ted his ga2e to A22a2el who only win)ed and motioned to his le*t. /homas m ttered something a!o t how this li*e was !oth e,ce%tionally more d ll and %ain* l.

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Cha%ter KI

/homas )ic)ed the yellow sand. -e had !een wal)ing in a straight line *or a!o t an ho r now. /he hori2on had not moved closer' the %alm tree had not moved * rther away. -e had lost sight o* 5i)i and A22a2el a!o t *orty min ets ago. /he wind still howled. /homas % lled o t a cigarette lighting it in his c %%ed hands %rotecting the *lame *rom the winds. 3+oddamned asshole.6 /homas m ttered to himsel*. 3Sho lda stayed in hell.6 /homas sto%%ed and loo)ed aro nd. /he water was as still as the sand. /he %alm tree contin ed to *lail in the wind. 3And yo G6 /homas sho ted over the wind waving his cigarette at the %alm tree. 3What the * c)s yo r %ro!lemG; Calm. /he hell. Cown. 5othing else here cares a!o t the wind why do yo ;G6 /he tree' still twisting and contorting' t rned toward /homas. /he wind *allowed s it. A g st o* wind hit /homas * ll on in his *ace. /he cigarette !lew o t o* his mo th and *l ttered into the still rela,ed sea' *ading with a si22le. 3&ess sG (ine' *orget I said anything.6 /homas %o ted and % lled o t another cigarette. Be*ore he co ld ta)e his *irst % ll /homas *elt something wriggle thro gh the width o* his nec). It was cold and 1 ic). /homas saw the hori2on tilt down and sin) o t o* view. -is eyes then ga2ed at the grey s)y !e*ore *illing with yellow sand.

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