Personal Demons
by Daegaer

Mid Fourteenth Century

The young wizard lit the last of the candles and anxiously looked over the figure painted on the floor. It was a perfect five-pointed star, skilfully drawn and accurate in all its proportions. He had the book open to the ritual, and read the words over quickly. Picking up the black cockerel, he began.

"Ioel, Iauaua, Sathanas, Abraxis, you spirits of the upper air, I conjure you, come to my call, come, come, come."

He sliced off the cockerel's head and sprinkled the hot blood over the pentagram. He would have one question, and he would not be distracted into wasting it, as the book warned. Spirits of the upper air were mischievous and tricky, but he would not be swayed. He would ask how he could gain the hand of his master's daughter, and she would be his. He ran his eyes over the page, making sure of his next words.

There was a flicker in the air in the centre of the pentagram, like the haze he sometimes saw on the hottest of days. It grew, and thickened, and the air solidified and tore. A figure of steel and flame dragged its way through, pulling itself through the haze with its claws. Before his astonished eyes it fell to the floor in the middle of the pentagram, and stood, dusting itself off. It wavered in his sight and stood before him, a very tall man with a sharp, unpleasant face and eyes lit with red, dressed in old-fashioned clothes that had seen better days.

"Wotcher," it said.

"Spirit," the wizard said through a very dry mouth, "I have summoned you here to --"

"An' a nice job, too," it said, smiling in a way that seemed meant to be encouraging but really wasn't.

"Spirit, silence! I have summoned you here to --"

"Grant yer three wishes?"

"Silence!" the wizard cried, feeling this was something he should finish as quickly as possible.

"Sorry, sorry," the spirit said, rocking back and forth on its heels. It seemed very amused. A little grin grew on its face to a wide and nasty smile.

"I have summoned you --" the wizard began for the third time.

The spirit laughed, long and loud. It wiped at its red-glinting eyes.

"Sorry. I don't fink I can keep this up. Yer see, mate," it said stepping out of the pentagram and draping a long, thin arm over the wizard's shoulder, "I've been havin' yer on."

"You can't leave the pentagram!" the wizard shrieked.

"Y'see," the spirit said cheerfully, "that'd prob'ly be true if one of them airy spirits had come when yer called, little ponces. But I hadn't been up in a while, and I thought, Well, and why not? So 'ere I am." It leaned very close, so close the young wizard could smell old blood on its breath. "Fanks for the invite." It turned back to the pentagram, where the air still hung solid and torn. "Oi, Ligur!"

The tear in the air widened and another nightmare shape forced its way through, all flame and dripping venom, solidifying down to the figure of a shorter, rat-like man with the same eyes of red. It sniffed unpleasantly and wiped its nose on its sleeve.

"Nice one, Hastur," it said, looking at the taller spirit admiringly. "Wot you got there?"

"A jenuwine practitioner of the Dark Arts," the taller spirit said. "Young people today, they does yer heart good."

"I'm sure he will," the new spirit said nastily.

"I'm a student of practical philosophy!" the wizard said, "I'm not some kind of dabbler in the occult!"

"Nah, course not," said the spirit, and it picked him up by the neck. "Come off it, mate, that's Black Magic yer got goin' there. Yer think we're idiots, can't smell it on yer?"

The wizard dangled from its grasp, gasping.

"Yer cuttin' off his air," the shorter spirit said helpfully. "Them lads don't work so well wivout air."

"Huh," the taller spirit said, relaxing its grip and letting his feet touch the ground. "So wot's it all about, then, mate? Yer got a question ter ask us? Yer got a favour ter beg?"

"Like 'Oh, please don't kill me'?" the shorter spirit suggested, snuffling with laughter.

"Nah," the taller one said, "nice young feller like this, got to be about a girl." It winked at him, "it is a girl, right?"

He nodded, not trusting himself to speak, and not altogether sure if he could. The spirit strolled around him, hands clasped behind its back, musing aloud.

"Yer got a partickular girl in mind?"

He nodded again.

"Yer sure yer don't want Helen of Troy?" the shorter one asked. "She's very popular, got these --," and it made an obscene cupping gesture with its hands, "...enormous knockers."

He shook his head firmly.

"Ligur, Ligur," the taller spirit said sternly, "this 'ere's a young man of sober habits and fidelity. He's a student of practical philosophy - he don't want some old Greek tart. He wants a nice fresh girl, a sweet young virgin wot he's been wankin' over the thought of, picturin' her firm young breasts and him bitin' them and pushin' himself between her lily white thighs till the stuck-up little slut stops strugglin' and admits she likes it, the little trollop. Ain't I right, boy?"

The wizard shut his eyes and shook his head frantically. The spirit laughed, low and dangerous.

"Yeah. I'm right."

The wizard kept his eyes shut, and jumped when a hand landed heavily on his shoulder.

"Well, yer in luck, mate. Ligur here, and me, we're not judgmental. You want ter get yer jollies wiv a trussed up virgin -- hey, it takes all sorts, right? But wot you goin' to give us, eh? We get yer girl for yer, yer says thanks, lads -- wot do we get?"

The wizard risked opening his eyes and peeped at the predatory face looking into his. He licked his lips.

"What -- what do you want?" he asked.

"Service," the spirit hissed. "Yer swears to serve our master, and yer gets the girl. More'n one, if yer wants."

"More than one?" the wizard asked, dazed.

They both nodded.

"Who's your master?" he asked, suddenly eager.

The spirits looked at each other and laughed with a sound of metal scraping against metal.

"'Oo'd yer think?" the shorter one gasped helplessly, supporting itself against the taller one's side.

The wizard recoiled, suddenly reminded of the misshapen creatures of flame and metal that his mind had all but blocked out.

"No!" he gasped, "no!"

"More'n one girl," the taller demon said cheerfully.

"Yer c'n make 'em do things to each other," the shorter one said, very softly.

The wizard shook with fear and desire. He felt himself nod once, convulsively.

"Yer swears to serve Satan?" the tall demon said, "yer renounces yer hope of Heaven? Speak up, now."

"Yes," whispered the wizard, "yes."

"Ta," the demon said, and broke his neck.

Ligur bent over, laughing hard.

"His face! I had ter admit, Hastur, yer had me goin' fer a minute, thought yer were goin' ter pay up."

Hastur grimaced unpleasantly. It was one of his more usual expressions.

"Fuckin' Silence, spirit! Little arsewipe. 'Oo'd he think he was? C'mon, Ligur, let's go get somethin' ter eat."

He led the way over to the door.

"'Ere, where are we anyhow?" Ligur asked.

Hastur shrugged.

"Knew there was somethin' I meant ter ask him. Oh well."

They grinned hungrily at each other, and left.


Fifteenth Century

War rode the earth on her red horse. She made it curve and rear prettily and all around her, men died. Death was there as well, of course, although he preferred to be on foot when he was working. Pestilence was hard at work among the wounded, while Famine was paying their wives and children an extended visit. The figure sitting at a distance from the battle, on what could -- viewed from some angles -- technically be considered a horse, was none of these. He was a Duke of Hell.

When he bothered coming up to earth, Hastur normally wore old clothes that had been in fashion the last time he'd been up. He felt it set a good example, not being distracted by worldly things and so on.* Demons who naffed about, making sure that their doublet was the right cut for the current season, or that their hose emphasised and enhanced the shape of their skinny legs were demons looking for a relocation to a desk job Down Below, especially if they tried to interest Hastur in a discussion of men's fashions. He grinned as he remembered how quiet the little snake had gone, all "Yes, my lord" and "No, my lord" for the rest of the day.

Today, however, was different. Today, Hastur was wearing clothing fully in the style of the current year, although all that could be seen of it was the glimpse of the scarlet silk of his arming doublet. He was clad from head to foot in the most modern armour, glinting with a cold, black shine. Occult symbols were inlaid on the black metal in jet. His delicately fluted armoured gauntlets made a delicate ringing noise as he tapped his long fingers against his metal-clad thigh. A massive and wicked sword hung, richly scabbarded, from his sword belt. His visor was raised, allowing him a fine view of the proceedings. He was here in a very official capacity, representing the might and glory of Hell. It was an occasion that demanded the glad rags.

What he was currently watching was Ligur, out amusing himself on the field of battle. He was similarly attired, and had been spending some time limping round, pretending to be wounded, and attracting the notice of humans who wanted his nice things. After a while, he'd started fighting them with one hand held behind his back. Not that that evened things out much, with a mortal on one side of the combat and a commander of the legions of the damned on the other. Even given that Ligur would rather do almost anything than pick up a sword and practice, Hastur had worked out that over the aeons he'd had a quite literally ten-thousand-fold amount of experience compared to a human. It was pretty funny to watch.

Hastur sighed. Human battles. Never ran to schedule. Nothing was going to happen yet; he could take a break. He turned his horse's head downhill, and drove his vicious spurs into its side. It obediently trotted down to where Ligur was standing surrounded by a ring of corpses. As he approached, Ligur raised his visor and gave him a querying look. His face had been specially washed for this occasion, Hastur noted.

"Is there yet no sight of the Enemy, my lord?" Ligur asked. "I'd have wagered thou wouldst have sighted him ere this hour."

"Nay," Hastur said in irritation, "the battle proceedeth apace despite his lack. Thou mayest with thy sport make more men yet food for crows, my lord." He leaned down and winked. "Or we could 'av a bit of a breather, wot yer fink of that?"

"I fink it's a bleedin' good idea," Ligur said, slouching in his armour and managing to make it look like he'd found it while rummaging through a very dirty person's cast-offs. "Got anyfing ter drink?"

Hastur swung off the horse, landing beside one of Ligur's victims that was still moving. He kicked the human hard in the side of the head with an armoured foot and it stopped moving, sharpish.

"'Ow about a nice Beaujolais?" he asked, handing a neatly conjured bottle to Ligur.

"Ta -- yer a lot better at that than wot I am," Ligur said.

"Yeah, but you do a nice 'am sandwich."


They passed the wine back and forth, silently. That was the good thing about Ligur, Hastur thought. He didn't have some compulsion to natter on and on like some demons. Hastur could be as silent and menacing as he liked and Ligur would just be silent right alongside him. Some demons, when a fellow got silent and menacing, they'd start sweating and talking and doing parlour tricks till you had to rip their heads off just so you could hear yourself think. Not Ligur though, he was all right, although he had of late developed a disconcerting habit of looking really hard at Hastur, like he'd got a spot on his nose or something. He was doing it now.

"Wot yer lookin' at?" Hastur said, surreptitiously wishing all spots, blackheads and odd little marks that might turn out to be stray bits of toast off his face.

A startled, guilty look slithered quickly across Ligur's rodent-like face, and then he grinned.

"I was just finkin' -- an' I hope you ain't too offended -- yer look like Michael, done up like that."

Hastur grinned sharply.

"Nah," he said, and put a hand lightly on the pommel of his sword, stuck his nose in the air and strutted back and forth along an imaginary catwalk, swinging his hips. He materialised a hand mirror and checked his reflection, making sure his eyebrows were neat, and blowing himself a kiss.

"Now I look like Michael," he sniggered.

Ligur gave his snuffly little laugh and tapped his fingers on Hastur's tassets.

"That is a seriously nice set of armour," he said, looking Hastur up and down appreciatively. "Suits yer. Yer look real good in it."

Hastur shot him a fang-filled smile. He'd been feeling he must look pretty damned and impressive, but had felt it beneath him to actually check. It was good to know Ligur thought so. Ligur ran his fingers over the inlays on the breastplate, his metalled fingers making a light scraping sound.

"Yeah, very nice," he murmured to himself.

Hastur was searching for a way to return the compliment that wouldn't make reference to the fact that Ligur now looked like he'd been sleeping rough in his armour for a few centuries, when he realised they were out of time.

"Crap! He's here!"

Ligur snatched his hand off Hastur's chest, went scarlet, went pale, went scarlet again, slammed his visor down and straightened up.

"Where?" he asked in a muffled voice.

"Over there. Where's yer 'orse?"

"Shit, shit, shit," Ligur muttered, "fuckin' thing's all the way over there."

He clapped his hands together sharply and a rather surprised large black horse appeared beside Hastur's. They swung up into their saddles and rode at a dignified pace towards the figure in shining silver armour seated on a massive snow-white horse. The angel lifted his visor as they drew up to him, and tapped his wrist meaningfully.

"You're late," he said.

"Not at all, we have been here fully half the day," Hastur said smoothly. "I hope this day finds you well, Prince Michael?" He'd debated this with Ligur -- should they call the bugger by his title, or just his name? Hastur had really wanted to see if he'd get away with calling him "brother", but sense had won out.

"Quite," Michael said, "and you, Has..."

Hastur cleared his throat. Michael frowned.

"And you, Duke Hastur?" he said icily, "and Duke Ligur?"

"Quite well, Michael," Hastur said.

"Peachy," Ligur grinned.

Michael gave them a cool stare and turned his attention out over the battlefield. All three of them watched as the French soldiers made another attempt at a charge, the girl on the white horse in the lead. Although her horse was as white as Michael's, and her armour as silver, they and she shone with the brief light of mortality. The angel and demons watched as the Burgundian forces surrounded her, and her pennant was cast down in the mud as she laid about her with a sword that did have more than mortality to it. It was not enough. The Burgundian infantry grabbed at her legs and her waist, and hacked at the legs and flanks of her white horse. She looked about her wildly and stared straight into the faces of the nobility of Heaven and Hell.

"St Michel! St Michel!" she cried, and her horse went down and she vanished from sight in the mob of furious infantrymen.

Hastur, Ligur and Michael watched as the French tried and failed to rescue her, and were driven from the field. Then they turned their horses and rode away.

"She called you. She saw you. You could have saved her -- you could still save her," Hastur said.

Michael looked bored.

"Do you think to tempt me, Fallen One?" he asked.

"She was your favoured human. Did you tire of her?" Hastur said nastily. "Is this the care of Heaven for Creation?"

"Iffin I had a pet human, I'd look after it," Ligur muttered.

"I can see it is a hardship for you to keep up polite manners, Duke Ligur," Michael sneered. "Our ways part here. No doubt you will find a ditch in which to take your ease before you descend once more to the Pit."

The air brightened around him, and he and his horse were gone. Hastur shook his head. What a prig. He looked sidelong at Ligur.

"Yer want a pet human?"

"Nah. Just seems ter me he wasn't doin' that girl no favours."

"Yer sure yer don't want a pet human?" Hastur grinned. "'Cos I dunno where we'd keep it, an' they mess on the carpet."

"Shurrup," Ligur muttered. "I was just makin' polite conversation."

Hastur sniggered. Ligur looked at him in that odd way, like he was constipated or something, and then he sniggered along with Hastur. He probably was feeling the effects of the fresh air. Everyone knew fresh air was bad for you. What he needed was to get blindingly drunk in a smoky atmosphere. Well, Hastur thought, it would be a pity to go back so soon, when they were both looking so nice.

"I was thinkin'," he said, "of wanderin' to and fro upon the face of the earth and stretchin' forth my hand against the sons of men. D'yer fancy goin' wiv me?"

"Hastur," Ligur said with a giggle, 'yer wouldn't believe 'ow much I fancy that."

He snuffled over some private joke and Hastur shook his head, bemused. Then he shrugged and spurred his horse hard, giving it its head and he and Ligur raced off. Time to have some real fun.

*In his own way, Hastur was quite as priggish as an angel -- which of course he had been. People tended not to point this out to him. Not more than once, anyway.


Early Nineteenth Century

"Hastur," Ligur said, swilling back the vodka, "wot are we doin' here?"

"At this party, or in Russia?" Hastur asked, sticking his finger in the caviar.


Hastur shrugged casually.

"They wanted someone to come and see what was goin' on wiv the war. An' that bunch of shirkers in the office all found plenty of paper to shuffle, so I thought I'd do it myself. I was surprised yer wanted ter come along, Ligur."

Ligur went a sort of pinkish colour, and heaped food onto his plate, to the dismay of the servants.

"Ain't this sort of thing why Crowley's up here?" he said.

"Ain't you seen his latest report wot he miraculously got in on time fer once?" Hastur snorted. "Reasons why I am not the ideal agent to send to Russia in Wintertime: Item the First: bein' a cold-blooded bein' I fear I would immediately enter hibernation and miss out on performin' my duty ter the best of my ability. Goes up ter Item the Thirteenth, an' every one's a worse lie than the one before it. Lazy little sod."

"Yer should rip his lyin' tongue out fer him," Ligur said, cutting back on the vodka by diluting it half-and-half with wine.

"I bloody should," Hastur agreed. "Anyway, he ain't here, an' we are, so we get to go to this swank party, and we get to do the temptin', and we get ter eat the caviar. Fuck it, Ligur, leave some fer other people. Anyone would think yer got hollow legs, the way yer eat."

"I got ter keep my strength up," Ligur said sullenly. "I got a fast metabolism."

"Worms, more like," Hastur sniggered.

He turned to look at the humans, eating and drinking and dancing, and in general being very relieved their country's winter had done the job of getting rid of the invaders. Relieved drunken humans weren't much of a challenge, but Hastur knew his job, and sneakily insinuated thoughts and urges into human hearts and minds. Specifically, the thought that Of course the French had been beaten by the climate. Perfectly natural event. No need to give thanks for Russia's salvation due to a perfectly natural event. He looked at Ligur meaningfully until the shorter demon sighed, put down his glass and did a dishonest day's work too. After they'd paid attention to everyone in the room, and most of the people found themselves deciding to celebrate the victory with a spot of adultery, they got back to the serious business of eating and drinking. Hastur looked at the amount Ligur was stuffing into his face and shook his head in disbelief. You'd think he hadn't eaten for a century. Hastur mentally did some calculations -- huh. Ligur hadn't eaten for a century. Too dedicated to his work, Ligur was.

There was more music, and people were dancing. Ligur wiped his mouth and nodded towards the dance floor.

"D'yer want ter dance?"

"Wot, wiv yer?" Hastur grinned.

Ligur paused, then went red and scowled.

"Nah. Twat."

He marched off, indignation in the line of his unusually straight back. Hastur wondered if he was offended. Not that Hastur had any objection to offending other demons, but it wasn't like Ligur was just some minor functionary. A Duke of Hell in a snit was not to be trifled with, even if it was Ligur. Anyway, he'd been hanging round with Ligur for too long to derive too much pleasure from offending him. It wasn't like him to take offence, Hastur thought. He'd had worse said to him over the aeons, a lot of it in public, and he usually just snarled and stuck around for more. Hastur shrugged and walked over to where Ligur was standing, staring out the windows into darkness and radiating waves of pissed-off evil.

"Wot's wrong wiv yer?" Hastur said, pissed-off himself.

"Nuffink," Ligur said shortly, and walked off again.

Hastur gave up. Every time he'd asked Ligur over the last few centuries why he was moping, or what was wrong, or why was he always looking at Hastur in that odd way, all the answer he got was nuffink. Let him stew. Hastur'd tried. He looked over to the other side of the room, where Ligur was drowning his presumed woes in vodka again. Ignoring him, Hastur let himself become visible to the humans. Even though he hated music, he felt a strong urge to spite Ligur, seeing as he'd brought up the topic of dancing. Hastur looked around and asked a nice respectable lady to dance. By the end of their waltz she was thinking very non-respectable thoughts and Hastur sent her on her way to chase young servants. After a few more dances, Hastur decided he couldn't put up with being glared at any longer and stalked back to the by now listing Ligur. He flung back a couple of vodkas and glared down at the obviously seething shorter demon.

"Enjoyin' yersssself?" Ligur hissed nastily. "Enjoyin' the luvverly musssic?"

"You are drunk," Hastur said coldly. He turned to one of the terrified servants. "Don't give him any more, understand?"

"Yer wanna live, ssssonny?" Ligur said, giving the poor fellow a good look at his fangs. "Gimme annuver bleedin' vodka."

"What's the matter with you?" Hastur said, "you're like this in the office, you're like this up here. You've been like this for centuries -- you're a disgrace, you are. Frightening a mortal for a drink? You demean the dignity of Hell, Ligur."

"Oh, ain't we gettin' hoity-toity wiv our angelic speech-patterns showin'?" Ligur snarled.

Hastur saw red. Everything in the room went blood-coloured and out-of- focus. Except for Ligur, who was in very sharp focus indeed. The shorter demon took a good look at his face, dropped the drink and ran. Startled humans were shoved aside as he made his undignified exit. Hastur gripped the edge of the table till it splintered. He couldn't possibly kill Ligur. It would start too much trouble. And it'd only be the little shit's material body anyway. He had to kill something though, to relieve the tension. With a wave of his hand he made the nearest servant invisible and stalked up to him. The man recoiled from what he saw in Hastur's face.

"Hello," Hastur said softly, and reached out.

He found Ligur in a library. It wasn't where he'd have expected him to be, as Ligur wasn't much of a reader. He reached under the table with a long arm and pulled the struggling demon into the light.

"You kill me and I'll start an inter-departmental war!" Ligur squealed.

"Shut it. I ain't goin' ter kill yer. Now. You 'n me, we're goin' ter have a little talk."

"You've got blood on your hands," Ligur said, peering at the hand holding his shirt front.

"Huh? Oh. Yeah."

"Was it fun?" Ligur asked, an unholy light coming into his eyes. He looked a lot less scared, suddenly.

"It was all right. What was all that about, in there?"

"Nuffink," Ligur said.

Hastur shook him. He shook him some more, it felt so good. He contemplated hitting him, and had slapped him twice before the thought was even finished. Ligur looked rather stunned. And pleased, which wasn't quite the effect Hastur had hoped for.

"If you ever -- ever -- say nuffink again when I ask you a question, I ain't goin' ter be held responsible, yer understand me?" he growled.

Ligur nodded, red-pupilled eyes wide. Hastur slapped him again to make sure the point had been got across. A dreamy smile appeared on Ligur's face.

"C'n we sit down?" he asked.

"Be my guest," Hastur said sarcastically.

Ligur sank onto a couch and looked up at Hastur with a silly grin.

"I'm really drunk," he said.

"Yeah. I sort of noticed."

"No, I mean I'm really drunk," Ligur said, and patted the couch. "Sit down, Hastur. I got somethin' ter tell yer."

Hastur sat beside him, and Ligur didn't say anything, just grinned foolishly.

"Well?" Hastur said, "Wot? And don't say nuff -- Ligur? Why is yer hand on my knee?"

"Erm," Ligur said, "sorry. Is that better?"

He moved his hand higher. Hastur jumped up, or tried to, but it was difficult with his sudden lapful of squirming demon.

"Wot's got into yer?" he yelled, once he managed to get Ligur's tongue out of his mouth.

"Now, there's an idea to play around with," Ligur grinned.

Hastur extricated himself and got off the couch.

"You're crazy," he said, appalled.

"Yer have that effect on me," Ligur said. He giggled. "Crap, I'm drunk."

Hastur backed away as Ligur slithered off the couch after him.

"You sober up, right now, Ligur," he ordered.

"Nah," Ligur said, stalking him across the room, "I wouldn't be sayin' this, sober."

Hastur found himself trapped against the door. This wasn't how things were supposed to go, he thought, rather desperately. Ligur wasn't up here as often, he didn't understand about material desires and material bodies. Or maybe he did, given what he was currently doing to Hastur's.

"I ain't askin' yer ter pledge eternal devotion, Hastur," Ligur grinned. "I'm just askin' fer a shag."

"You know the trouble that could cause," Hastur said, feeling his resolve weaken under Ligur's persuasions. Obviously the bastard had been doing his research. "You know. You're not naive."

"Nah, I'm not," Ligur said. He gave a bright and crazy smile, "But I bet I could put on a good show of naivety, if yer'd like that."

Hastur looked down at him, and then thought the door locked. Bugger it, they were drunk, they'd worked hard and could take a break, and it wasn't like anyone ever reported everything they did up here anyway.

"OK," he said.

Ligur grabbed him tight before he could change his mind.


Late Twentieth Century

As it was so often when he was on earth, it was a dark and stormy night. Hastur quite liked it. He admired the lightning flickering across the sky like dragons' tongues caressing the clouds. Or at least he might have if he didn't deeply distrust anything that sounded like it might be poetry, no matter how bad. It was all fucking poncy in his book.

He was currently lurking in a rather pretty park that had been put over a centuries-old mass grave. He found it amusing to think of young mothers proudly watching their children at play, while underneath the long-forgotten plague victims caressed the earth with skeletal fingers contorted in agonised poses. He thought about that for a while, and decided it was purely an accurate description, no poncy poetic metaphor at all. He scowled up at the moon and stopped lurking and started pacing. It was downright rude, was what it was. He was a punctual demon and he expected others to extend the same courtesy to him, if they didn't want him to eviscerate them with his bare hands.

He paced up and down some more. The bells had rung midnight almost an hour before. Late again. Bloody buggering bastard. Why couldn't he show up on time for once in his existence? Finally he gave up and sat down on one of the swings to wait. After the bells had rung one he looked round very casually, and then had a bit of a swing. It was of course only to be expected that he'd be caught in the act of innocent childlike amusement. He'd just swung extra high when there was a half- smothered nasty amused hiss from behind him.

"Hello, Hastur."

He leaped from the swing and glared at the newly arrived demon. He smiled evilly. Finally. Now the little shit would get what was coming to him.

"Hello, Ligur."

Ligur snarled and jumped him. Hastur growled and got a good, clawed grip on the shorter demon. Ligur's claws sank deeply into his arm and he was hauled viciously into range of the sharp fangs. The little fucker was a lot stronger than he seemed at first sight, Hastur thought with the last shreds of his rational mind, and then the two demons were clearly not thinking about anything but enthusiastically kissing the faces off each other.

By the time the lightning stopped the pair of them were sprawled on the grass; adjusting their clothes in the case of Hastur, or creating a new set of disreputable and shabby clothes from the raw ether to replace his shredded rags in the case of Ligur. Hastur fumbled in a pocket and brought out a not-too-squashed pack of Sweet Afton. He lit one and passed it to Ligur who took a deep and appreciative drag before handing it back. Hastur winced as he reclaimed his cigarette. Ligur'd done his best to claw his way down to the bone. Hastur gave what he thought of as his pleasant smile at the memory. He liked it. He turned his head to look at Ligur who was now squinting sleepily up at the stars and whistling tunelessly. Hastur frowned. He didn't approve of music. It just led to songs and what were songs except poems that sneakily inserted themselves into your brain, so that one day you turned round and other demons were sniggering behind your back about you setting up an infernal choir?

"'Ere Ligur," he said.


"Yer not goin' poncy on me, are yer?"

Like all demons, Ligur didn't need to breathe, so there was no dramatically held breath from beside him. A demon that was more used to being on Earth might indeed have taken a dramatically deep breath just to equally dramatically hold it. Ligur, however, just narrowed his eyes and glared at Hastur.

"Wot?" he said in a voice that was less of a voice and more a sort of hissing snarl.

"Y'know, yer not goin' ter start spoutin' that Roses is red crap, are yer? Or paintin' yer claws and wearin' panstick?"

"Like them fellows wot run the Fifth Circle?" Ligur said.

"Well maybe not like them," Hastur said. "Not right off, anyway."

Ligur landed a solid blow right where Hastur's kidneys would have been if he were actually paying attention to his body at the time. He seemed more than a little miffed at Hastur's question.

"Yer can be a right bloody twat, Hastur," he growled.

Hastur gave him a toothy grin. Nah. Ligur wasn't going to start spouting poetry or waxing lyrical about emotions or any of that girly crap like what angels got up to. He reached out a long, powerful arm and grabbed the seething Ligur before he could vanish in a fit of irritation.

"Gerroff!" Ligur snarled, sinking his teeth into Hastur's forearm.

Hastur growled in pain. That really bloody hurt. He rolled over to punch Ligur a few times. Bloody little bastard. He hissed as Ligur's claws went right through his hand. Ligur grinned triumphantly through bloodied teeth.

A few minutes later Ligur was happily conjuring up yet another set of disreputable clothes as Hastur ruefully examined the by now completely flattened cigarette pack. Well, if you couldn't smoke them -- he passed the flattest to Ligur who chewed it up delicately and swallowed it. Hastur was pleased to note that the bastard was breathing hard this time around. He popped a cigarette into his own mouth and made himself comfortable on one of the more elaborate flowerbeds.

"'Ere, Hastur," Ligur said, collapsing beside him.


"Yer all right."


Hastur finished the cigarette and flung the pack away. That was OK, he thought. And it was OK that Ligur's hand was touching his. Wasn't like they was holding hands or nothing.

He smiled a chilly yet genuine smile up at the night sky. Yeah. It was OK.


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