An evil stalked Net.ropolis. The Demon Nalhoc fluttered out of the alleyway, his eyes ablaze. A set of small, leathery wings flapped up and down, holding him on the wind currents. Nalhoc felt /awful/. Why didn't anyone with any kind of imagination ever summon him? Forced out into a city peopled by /heroes/. How was he expected to get anything done? The old fool hadn't been very specific, of course - mortals never were. There was always a loophole. His gnarled face, Nalhoc could see it now - contorted into a look and abject terror. There was always a loophole, and he would find it. He would feed on the man's soul, drawing power from him. And he would be free to roam the Earth at will - feeding. The joy. He would decide when he wanted to return to the nether realms. He wouldn't have to be alone. Nalhoc looked back and forth; he was cloaked in shadows. The mortals would be of no use to them if they /knew/ he was there. The magi wanted him to fetch some book from a sorcerer - a trenchcoater, in fact. Nalhoc had almost spat at that. Trenchcoaters were always trouble. But, the man claimed, this trenchcoater was something different. He'd been banned by the others. He lived in a massive fortress, with beings of great power. Super-heroes, in other word. He'd heard of them. Appalling fashion sense. He'd offer them - fashion. In exchange for this book. Dress them in the finest clothes imaginable. Woven from gossamer. From dreams. From souls. They would be his. Nalhoc smiled widely, revealing a thousand teeth - hidden in such a small mouth. The fool - Nalhoc pictured him, growing so ancient, turning to dust - had been so unspecific. "I command thee, demon, to fetch me this book," he'd said. His voice was like lead. He hadn't said exactly what he wanted Nalhoc to do with the book. The fool, Nalhoc thought to himself. The book would be his. It would be - Nalhoc paused, wings beating against the wind. He hung over this 'fortress,' this 'LNHQ.' His breath ceased, narrow eyes darting back and forth. Carefully, he took a whiff of the air. "The book," he said, darkly, "Is gone." The malevolent grin disappeared. "Someone's taken it." He turned around in the air, and locked onto the scent. "There." And Nalhoc was off, flying as fast as a Fallen Angel could. He wanted this book, now. Then he would see the old fool burned where he stood, for the indignity of it all. He would feast on his soul, in a white wine sauce straight out of the demonlords' private book of recipes. He wouldn't be minor, low on the roll call. He could rise above all others. They would scream his name, beg for mercy. He would never be alone. Ending would be his companion, as he brought every poor wretch to their ultimate end. Only - wait. Nalhoc stopped again. The book was somewhere else? It'd been moved again. Nalhoc blessed under his breath, and scowled mightily. Well, as mightily as he could. The demon sniffed the air once more, searching for the telltale signs of a powerful grimoire - nothing. It was either out of the dimension. Or. "Blessed wards." =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Blue Light Productions Presents, TEENS IN TRENCHCOATS #5: "Demons of the Caffeinated Beverage," by Ben Rawluk, with special thanks to Jen Whitson and Jaelle. Recommended Soundtrack: Bjork's "Telegram," and Lamb's "Fear of Fours." =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= >From the 'Trevor Blount School of Trenchcoating and Shoe Repair' Pamphlet: "Even the most minor of demons can be a deathly foe to face. Always be sure to banish them as quickly as you can, without giving a thought to their purpose on Earth - demons are, by nature, pure evil, and shouldn't be left running around. If they're thirsty, offer them a glass of holy water. Most demons you will meet are definitely going to be minor, but are extremely apt to try and pass themselves off as someone major. Don't be fooled. The big guns never work so obviously, they're not in it for the flashy effects. And try not to examine demonic teeth - Infernal Dentistry is among the worst in the known multiverse." =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= There was a thump-thump-thump, as Mouse lay on her bed, trying to ignore what was probably just one more superpowered battle. They happened all the time. Amazingly, the building had managed to make it without ever being reduced to a crater. Despite what all those "Future LNH" stories say, with their bombed-out remains of a place we all know and love. There was a second thump-thump-thump, and Mouse finally sat up. "This better be bloody good," she muttered. "Sounds like the - bathroom?" She brushed her hair back, and stared at the closed door leading to her bathroom. "Mum better not have taken up plumbing or something. It's a bit early in the day for wackiness to ensue." A third thump-thump-thump. This time, Mouse was paying attention - it sounded like someone was moving around, disoriented or something. "Joy," said Mouse, and turned her attention upwards. "Jaelle, this better be damned good, or I'm personally going to come up there and do something really horrible to you!" There was no response. "That's - odd," mumbled Mouse. "Oh. Oh-oh-oh. Damn. Somebody else is in charge. Flippin' wonderful." Mouse grimaced at the thought, and stalked over to the bathroom door. "Awright," she called out, "Whoever the hell's in my bath, they better be ready for serious injury!" A faint mumbling could be heard, through the door. Steeling herself for the worst, Mouse turned the knob and walked right in. "Erp!" It was a boy. Mouse gaped - he was certainly pale, or at least he seemed that way at first. Then Mouse realized he was wearing face paint. White face paint. His black hair was badly in need of a comb - and haircut, and a better dye job, and, and... Mouse exhaled. "Get out of my bathtub - what kind of pervert are you?" The boy - no more than seventeen - stood, sheepishly. "God. One of /you/," said Mouse, pointing to the musty, black trenchcoat that hid the boy's form. "Trenchcoaters. What are you expecting to find in my bathroom? Who are you?" Her eyes narrowed. "And why shouldn't I impale you with the shower nozzle, then?" "Eep?" The boy rubbed the back of his neck. "Um. Um. Sorry. Sorry. Really sorry. I was kind of - well, you see - um..." He breathed out. "Perdition did this spell, or something [* See _Misfits_ #34, pretty please? - Footnote Girl]. Half a second later, I pop up here. Sorry about the curtains," he said. He gestured: her shower curtains were singed green in places. "At first I thought it was my bathroom, but then..." He smirked, slightly. "My name's Luke." He looked down at the floor. "Mmph," said Mouse. "I'm going to have to talk to that girl. Assuming you're telling the truth. Which, since I don't know you from Girlwatcher, is a pretty kind assumption. Especially given your wardrobe choices. Trenchcoaters are notorious for being bad liars." She watched his carefully pull himself out of the tub. "And," she added, "For being perverts." "I'm not a pervert! I didn't want to be sent away in the first place!" "A likely story. I wonder what my mum would say...?" "...er? Who's your mom?" Mouse's eyebrows raised in unison. Must be a newbie. "Writer's Block Woman. I thought everybody knew that." "Oh." Luke looked up at Mouse. "She's not going to hurt me or anything, is she?" "/She/ may not hurt you, but..." "I said it was an accident!" Luke grimaced. Mouse could tell he'd be practicing. "I don't even know who you are, anyway." "Mouse," muttered Mouse. "But my power isn't super-quietness, so don't ask." "I wasn't going to..." "Why am I telling you this?" Mouse grabbed Luke's arm and started to pull him out of the bathroom. "Dammit. You're wasting my life away. Precious moments are gone - I'll never get them back. So get the hell away from my tub, and out of my quarters. Out of my sight. Out of the whole goddam Looniverse..." And with a furious flurry of motion, the door was opened, and Luke shoved outside, in mid protest. "Hey! Hey, Leggoooooh!" There was a thump as he hit the corridor's floor. But, by that time, Mouse had shut the door with a bang. "Pfft. Freak. /Mum/ doesn't even wear that much makeup." For once, Emily wore her trenchcoat. As she walked down the darkened street, Emily considered finding a pay phone, and calling Luke. Then she could gleefully mention that she was wearing her trenchcoat, but only because it was so chilly out that night. And she was doing a much better job at being a demon hunter than he was, in the end.. He was busy at LNHQ, skulking around his quarters and trying to brood. She was actually doing something. Mmn, thought Emily. A pleasant aroma filled her nostrils - a pizzeria, about half-a-block away. Emily squinted. "Pizza Pit," she said, under her breath. Sounded familiar. "Probably seen an ad somewhere, or something." Emily breathed in, massaged the back of her neck, and looked up at the sky. The stars were barely visible - she was in the "good" part of town. The bright and shiny side of Net.ropolis, with lots of lighting and people. Somewhere, she could feel the dark side of town. The art deco side. Where the street lamps were in disrepair. Where light was barely there. Demons would probably be there. Left foot, right foot. Emily started walking toward a staircase leading down to the subways below the city. "An ectoplasmic river?" A thin smile formed on her lips. Silly thought. "Naaah. I've been watching too many Ghostbusters movies," she grinned and began to step more quickly. Might as well see about finding a demon to blast before sunrise. Her thoughts were cut short - a whomp filled the air, and Emily looked up: An errant raven, probably one of the little buggers that hung around LNHQ, had smashed beak first into some kind of creature. Leathery wings. Emily's eyes widened. A demon. A bloody demon! "Thank god Luke's not around," said Emily, stepping over toward the mass of feathers and scales as the pair of creatures plummeted to the ground. "He'd probably want an autograph. And I'd have to save him, as per usual." She came to a stop in front of the creature, an ugly beast that peered up at her with hungry eyes. "Ew, quit that." Emily gave the demon a kick. The creature coughed, growling something really blasphemous under his breath. Luckily, Emily wasn't the type to freak out about evil words. "Look into my soul again, and I unsummon your butt with a iron rod. Who are you, demon? Who summoned you?" The demon hopped to its feet, and fluttered into the air. "I am His Lordship Beelzebub..." A bow, quick and simple. And then another hideous look. It was almost as if - the demon was checking her out? Emily shivered at the thought. "I thought Beelzebub was a big fly, or something?" The demon /almost/ went pale. If not for the blistering, red skin, he would have pulled it off. "That's - that's - that's a common misunderstanding. You see..." "As if," mumbled Emily. "What's your real name, then? Nothing to do with ravens, I hope?" "Ravens?" The little demon looked at Emily sheepishly. "It's Nalhoc, actually. Or maybe it isn't. I'm not supposed to give away that kind of information without adding a little doubt. It's kind of pointless, sure, but whatever." He frowned, and looked desperately at Emily's features. "Who summoned you?" "Some bratty, old man. Real bore. No imagination. Called Dugan." "Ah." Emily smiled, vaguely. "He one of those ritual types?" "Oh, yeah!" Nalhoc grinned, showing off those teeth. "He did the whole bit! Occult circle, smelly candles, urine mixed with foxglove and lavender to act as the portal medium. He even said 'Come forth in a shape that's not too horrible.' I think he was expecting me to appear as a prince or something. But, no dice." Emily nodded, tilting her head as she looked at Nalhoc. "Must have been expecting a really handsome devil," she said, a vicious grin appearing on his face. Nalhoc giggled. A disgusting sound, Emily decided. "He's a fool. Like I said, no imagination. And he was really awful with giving instructions - nothing like that guy in France, last century. /He/ was annoying enough to give me a full work-up of my task, complete with footnotes and a glossary in the back, so that no misunderstandings would happen." "Got lucky this time, did you?" Nalhoc nodded, emphatically. "So." Emily shoved her hands into her pockets. "So." "Why, exactly, are you here? Come to wreak havoc? Steal souls?" "Something like that. Oh. Right. I'm supposed to do something right about now. Hope it works okay. One second." And Nalhoc drew up to his great height - two feet tall, really - and grimaced at Emily with the most hideous visage he could come up with on such short notice. "Fear, mortal! Give me one good reason I shouldn't burn you where you stand!" "Duh. I'm a trenchcoater," she gestured, halfheartedly, at her trenchcoat. Pulling her auburn hair back into a ponytail, Emily smiled. "You demons don't like us. Mind you, I tend to think of myself more as a demon hunter than a trenchcoater, but I'm stuck with a traditionalist sidekick. Anyway, I don't even think you /can/ burn me where I stand. And I haven't done anything to you." Nalhoc puffed, turning his leathery head from side to side. The street wasn't busy - a bit of shadow, and he was hidden well. Emily'd just look like a freak, talking to herself. "Mmf. Guess so. This old fart summoned me to go looking for some book. Would have got me some power from that. But it keeps moving around. How'd you know?" "You're kind of small," explained Emily, gesturing to Nalhoc. "I figured you would attacked by now. If you could. And - well, you look kind of desperate." She shrugged her shoulders. "Some of the higher ups were never really impressed with me," muttered Nalhoc. "I figured if I could get this book, then they'd notice. But nooooo, some idiot has to go wandering around with it. I'm still trying to track it down. All kinds of wards and stuff kind of popped up around the thing. At least the idiot who summoned me didn't make it a specific-enough request that I couldn't take the book for myself. If I had it." He looked over at Emily, sheepishly. "So who are you, then? Voyd or somebody's daughter?" "Nah," muttered Emily. "Name's Emily. I'm with the LNH." "So, you going to banish me?" "Dunno." Emily turned and looked out across the street. "Seems kind of pointless, really. You're not a threat, and you seem like nice enough company. Except for that whole Damned thing. And the scales." "Then," said the little demon, "Want to go for coffee?" His voice twinkled with desperation. Emily could tell - he was lonely. Poor little spawn of evil. "Then, afterward, you can banish me back to Hell. A night out for both of us." "Sounds like fun. But don't tell my brother." She raised an eyebrow, and stared at the demon's forehead. "Wait. You're not, like, an Incubus or something, are you? Come to seduce me?" "Do I /look/ like an Incubus?" "Good point. So, demons drink coffee?" "Considering it's subjugated a good portion of Humanity, I can guarentee we /invented/ the stuff." A demon grin. More teeth. Emily shook her head, looking away. "You're probably lying, but whatever." Emily smiled, as the two began to walk off, down the street. "I know a coffee shop a couple of blocks away. Let's go." She turned and looked at Nalhoc carefully. "So. Tell me. You wouldn't happen to know a girl by the name of Ravencroft?" "Who?" "Damn. Thought you might. God, I need coffee..." Luke slumped to the ground. A few feet away, he could hear Mouse behind her door - muttering under her breath. Probably about him. He was /not/ a pervert. Perdition - no, Paytan - did that too him on purpose. But - but he still thought she was pretty cool. In a tortured way. Luke breathed out, and his head leaned back - smashing against the wall. "Gah!" He cursed under his breath, leaning forward again. He had to watch that. The walls around LNHQ were /hard/. He massaged the back of his head, and scowled darkly. It was good practice - but still. And where the hell was Emily? He hadn't seen her in days. It was like she was avoiding... Oh. /Oh/. Luke frowned even harder. "Fine then. Ignore your own brother, why don't you." A shadow fell across Luke. "You just really don't have much luck with women, do you?" Voice. Familiar. Luke struggled with the thought, and then it dawned on him: if he was going to hang out with dark chicks, he might as well pick the one he already knew... "...hi, Ravencroft..." Ravencroft slid into a crouch in front of Luke. Her lips was painted black, her skin was like ice. Hair like raven feathers. She smiled at him, ever so darkly. Ever. So. Darkly. She offered him a hand. "The little girl," she motioned toward Mouse's door, "Hurt you? Aww, poor Lukie." She smiled again. Luke felt his insides melt. He was amazed he hadn't broken down quivering yet. "And I hear you met the 'woman of your dreams.' You're not really Perdition's type. You're too young. And she'd worried about corrupting you with her darkness." "How - how'd you know?" Luke's eyes bulged. That had only happened - how could she know? Did Ravencroft have spies, watching him or something? "She sent me away and - and." He stared. Anyway, he was corrupt on his own! He could stand with a bit of Paytan's corruption being added on. "Woman's intuition," Ravencroft offered. "And I wouldn't worry, Lukie. Trenchcoaters are /supposed/ to be unlucky in love. It's all part the mystique." She pulled Luke to his feet - he felt weak-kneed, he certainly was out of it. "But let me kiss it better." And she did. Luke was stunned. The kiss blasted across his lips, a flaming sword cutting through the momentary confusion. In a glorious, hideous moment, Ravencroft was his sun, his moon, his - everything. Breathe, breathe, idiot, he screamed to himself. Breathe! Her skin was like ice, but her lips - dear gods. He was running out of cliched metaphors to use. Soon he was going actually have to describe it in his own words. Anything but that, he thought. He wondered who this Paytan person he'd been worried about was, again? He couldn't seem to remember exactly right. Probably - not - important. And then she was pulling away, looking at him with a rather frightening glint in her eyes. He wondered if she'd go out with him. He wondered if she'd marry him. He wondered if she's be the mother to his children. Luke looked at Ravencroft's lips: black, like vinyl, glistening slightly. Luke looked at Ravencroft's eyes: deep, pools of nothingness. He wanted to swim in them. Luke looked at Ravencroft's hair: ravens, swooping out under moonlight. And Ravencroft's hair soon filled his vision, the black caressing his optic nerves, filling his head. He heard a giggle, so distant. "Tweet," he gasped, and slumped back onto the corridor's grimy floor. He was sitting on someone's discarded gum. "Tweet," he repeated. Not bad, for a first kiss. "Frankly, I'm glad for the night out." Emily nodded, sagely. She sat, clutching her mug of hot chocolate as if it was all that kept her alive. Or sane. She leaned back against the hard, plastic chair, and looked across the table at the diminutive form of Nalhoc, who perched on the back of the other chair. He was pouring steaming milk down his throat. "Yes," Emily breathed, "I'd imagine you would be." "Hell's boring," continued Nalhoc. "Earth, at least, has /some/ excitement." "What, getting bored with planning the Apocalypse?" Nalhoc giggled, darkly. "Almost. We keep having to push back the deadline. Or at least, the up-and-ups do. Apocalypse is a bit out of my league. So, how'd you get into the demon hunting routine, then? Saw a trenchcoat one day and said 'Oooo. Career options'?" "Naaaaaah," giggled Emily. "I actually hate the trenchcoats. I mostly wear it so my brother'll shut up for ten seconds in a row. So, why aren't you running around spreading chaos and temptation like a bad little demon?" "I'm working my way into your life, so I can trick you out of your soul and gain more power in Hell?" A forked tongue flipped out of Nalhoc's mouth. "What, again?" Emily grinned. "You can't have my soul. I bought you steamed milk." "Just don't tell Hell that." Nalhoc leaned forward, his little wings flapping amiably. "Well, it's just about time for the final showdown, right? I have to pose and say how I have every intention of bringing about the final end of the Universe - with all the toad plagues /that/ implies - and you have to vow to halt my reign of terror." "Consider it vowed." Emily took a sip. "Good drink. Hot chocolate. How's the steamed milk?" "Had better," shrugged Nalhoc. "But it's much better than anything in Hell. Demon cows make poison, not milk." "Figured. So, ready for banishment?" "Naaah. If you don't mind, I'd kind of like to go find that book?" Nalhoc took to the air. His shadows wavered; people all around the coffee shop looked up, feeling a hideous sense that something evil was nearby - but the shadows reformed before anyone caught sight of the little demon. "Then I can give that old coot his penance." "Can't do that. Banishment of demons is my job," shrugged Emily. "If I didn't send you to Hell, I'd have all kinds of demons asking for /special/ treatment." A thin smile. "Fine, I understand. But, make it fast, 'kay? I have to tempt a poet into selling out tomorrow morning, bright and early." "Right, right." Emily made a vague gesture with her hands. "Then - I have to say something like. I dunno. Begone!" And then, Nalhoc looked genuinely startled - before disappearing in a puff of brimstone, space folding in on itself and air rushing into hole in reality. "Mmn," she breathed, returning her attention to the hot chocolate. "Good." They hadn't moved an inch from the corridor. Luke breathed in and out - very shallow breaths. He had to prompt himself to do even that. Ravencroft lounged beside him, her lips contorted into an insane smile, and she seemed almost - perky, Luke thought. "Why'd - why'd you kiss me?" Ravencroft looked over at him, her eyes boring into his skull. He felt - strange. And the dim memory of the kiss seemed so far away. "To get your attention," she responded, smoothly. "To wake you up out of your dream." "I wasn't asleep." "Sure you were," breathed Ravencroft, "All mortals are asleep, they just don't know it." "You act like you're not human." Luke felt the urge to edge away - RUN. She seemed so cool about the kiss. As if it didn't mean a thing to her. But that couldn't be, Luke thought. It had to mean something. "Did I ever say I was?" Ravencroft smiled; this time, it was warmer, almost reassuring. More silence. Luke stared at his feet. They seemed so large, all of a sudden. Ravencroft closed her eyes and meditated or something. Luke couldn't tell. Eventually, he heard her speak again. "I can tell fortunes," she said, her voice echoing slightly between the walls. Filling his ears. "Fortunes?" Luke turned to look at Ravencroft, who regarded him with a careful gaze. "Yessiree," grinned Ravencroft. "I could tell you your fortune." Luke raised an eyebrow, and leaned toward Ravencroft. "Would you?" "Definitely." "How do you - ? Do you need cards, or my hand, or something?" One word escaped Ravencroft's lips. "No." She moved her eyes over him; Luke squirmed. She wasn't looking at him. Her eyes were /inside/ him. Curling around his neurons and blood and bone. And as quickly as it started, the feeling stopped. "You're going to die," she said, coolly. "Wh-what? When? How?" "Oh, calm down," muttered Ravencroft. "I didn't say you were going to die soon. Everybody dies, eventually. Even immortals - burning up with the rest of the Looniverse." She pulled on her black miniskirt, dissipating some lint as she did so. "Where was I? Oh. You're going to die. Your trenchcoat in rags on the floor. With blood. Your face won't be white like a vampire - it'll be purple. A bruise. So alone, you'll feel like you're the only real thing in the entire Looniverse. And you'll suddenly miss everyone you've ever met - even me - remembering what it was like when your hair was auburn, because the blood colours it better than the dye you're using. You'll realize that dye and die are homonyms - they sound the same." Luke stared; if it was possible, he would have gone pale. Luckily, the makeup made that a moot point. Ravencroft stood, faster than he had ever seen her move, and she looked down at him. "Um," he said, looking up. The energy had just drained from him. Ravencroft offered a hand, and he took it. She smiled, darkly, at him. "That's my fortune?" Ravencroft grinned. "Now you know why I got fired from writing fortune cookies." =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= AUTHOR'S NOTES: Wheee. Episode 5. I think I've gotten three episodes done this summer. How productive. School's just around the corner - four classes, plus work as much as I can; I need to pay for next semester /and/ try and save up so I can leave next year, and get away from this small town life. Hence, my productivity may go down a bit, but I'll definitely write as much as I can, since this is always fun to write - amongst my other, non-LNH projects. As mentioned above, special thanks goes out to Jaelle for her approval of Mouse's appearence in this episode, and Jen for writing Luke, and doing the vaguely-defined collaboration thing. So make sure you read _Misfits_ and _Writer's Block Woman_, 'kay? Heh. Next episode? I dunno. I have a few ideas kind of bumming around in my head, but I'm not going to give anything away - my plans always change about sixty times, and an episode goes through a ton of rewrites before it gets close to posting. Characters and stuff! 'Teens in Trenchcoats,' 'Emily Jones,' 'Luke Jones', 'Ravencroft,' and Nalhoc' are all owned by Ben Rawluk, copyright 1999, et cetera. 'Mouse' is owned by Jaelle, and 'Paytan' is owned by Jen Whitson. Why I used all those apostrophes, I have no idea. Theories? As per usual, any and all comments, death threats, requests for character use, collaboration, bad jokes and letters of recommendation can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org ... ciao for now.Back to the Index.