April 27, 2014

Demons Ascension - Croatoan

[Posted by Ted H]

There's still about 20 minutes before midnight...technically it's still Sunday.
...Part 3, the final one, of the exposition dump...


[Demons Ascension - Croatoan]

            "What do you know about Roanoke?" he asked as he opened the book, the spine cracking from years of non-use, and searched for the appropriate page.
            "The lost colony?" James asked, "Or not so lost colony?"
            "Right, In the 1580s, the English settled a colony in present day North Carolina. A starting point for privateers. The main ships left for England to return with supplies. When they did return, they found that the colony was abandoned."
            "They assimilated with the nearby indian tribe. Case closed. What does this have to do with the symbol?"
            "That's not the whole story," Matthew said as he flipped to the correct page and spun the book around to show James. On the opposite page he placed the napkin. The book and the napkin featured the exact same symbol. "What you have in Chicago is a demon, but it's far worse than that," he said with a grim look.
            "What can possibly be worse than a demon?" James asked "The big guy himself?"
            "I wish," Matthew said "If the big guy, as you put it, wanted to conquer the earth, he wouldn't be faffing about it, we'd already be in the apocalypse. This is worse though."
            "Listen to me very carefully," James said with a serious look "I've been jerked around a lot regarding the identity of this guy. I will punch you in the face if you too decide to get all cryptic on me instead of flat out telling me who this guy is. Now just tell me his or its name."
            Matthew looked at James for a moment without blinking. He then moved the napkin away revealing the name. He spoke as James read it. "The one you're looking for is called Croatoan."
            "The indian tribe?"
            "Native Americans."
            "Whatever. You're trying to tell me a bunch of indians are what I'm looking for?" James was visibly annoyed at the news after such a supernatural buildup. Matthew sighed. "I wish I still had the Bible of Hell," he said "He wrote such an intriguing passage in it."
            "Croatoan is to the devil what the devil himself was to God."
            "There's a story in this isn't there?"
            "Revelations is a funny book in any bible. Heaven and Hell, both have different ideas over how things will go. Basically both of those revelations chapters are little more than fan fiction; The ultimate what-if matchup between good and evil, each with their own personal happy endings. One thing is known though, that the devil will eventually decide that it is his time to reign over earth."
            "How do indians and a lone demon figure in on this?"
            "Earth belongs to nothing. God, not so much abandoned it, but no longer has a strong interest in it. Imagine when you play the Sims game: At first you're really into it and have a hand in everything that happens. Then some time passes and you switch the free will mode on so your sims do things for themselves while you worry about other aspects of the game. Eventually you grow tired of day to day maintenance and do less and less, allowing your sims to do more and more for themselves and also endure the consequences of such actions. Before you were simply coddling them, now they're directing their own destinies. You only step in when you absolutely need to.
            "Time passes, generations of your little sim family come and go until the sims you were directly interacting with are a distant memory, while the current set of sims have been doing everything for and with themselves since birth, only hearing stories of a so called creator. They don't need to believe in you because you don't do the things for and to them that you did for the original generations. Sure, you may do the occasional tweak of addition that will strike the sims as odd, but it won't nearly be as extravagant as what you originally did. You, meanwhile, have grown tired of your sims. Direct intervention no longer suits your fancy and maybe some of the sims have made choices in their free will that you don't particularly approve of. You shelve the game, allowing future sim generations to come and go with even less reason to believe in you, and you less reason to care about them.
            "This is where we currently stand with God; A disinterested higher being that will only pay heed to humanity if something major were to occur. But just like your save file, God doesn't want anyone else playing in his game, so no one is allowed to claim it. The old gods though could, since they'd have home field advantage, but that's a completely different matter."
            "And Croatoan?"
            "The devil will be patient. He has no interest in rushing the end of days. He feels the time will come where he will be known of the god of not only Hell, but of Earth as well. Not all of his demon followers agree. One of which decided to claim the rule of Earth for themselves. One does not simply declare themselves a god however. When Croatoan found his way to Earth, he found that his influence was negligible. Not only that, but once the devil tracked him down, there would be hell to pay, no pun intended.
            "Croatoan was not the first, nor the last demon to defy their creator. But unlike the devil, they all lacked the skill and cunning to achieve the same success he did. Croatoan was no different, but what made him special was when he stumbled upon a tribe of Native Americans. They saw him as a god, and immediately worshiped him. This alone would not save Croatoan from the devil, but they possessed secrets and knowledge from the old gods. How any of them came to that knowledge, or claimed a Bible of Earth for themselves, no one knows.
            "Using the powers that neither major deity knew of, the Croatons, as they begun calling themselves, managed to hide Croatoan from any divine knowledge or tracking. Unless they knew exactly where to look, neither Heaven nor Hell would be able to find Croatoan. And thus he was free to exist and be worshiped like the god he now believed himself to be.
            "Then the New World was discovered and slowly European influence began to spread. Croatoan knew he wouldn't remain hidden much longer, especially when it was Christians making their way across the ocean. He was prepared though. He had for a long time studied the Bible of Earth and found a way to exploit its power to achieve his long desired divinity. The required ritual was useless with his followers, but the approaching English were ripe with what he needed.
            "He needed seven sacrifices, timed apart perfectly and in precise locations to create the proper bastardization of the two divine superpowers at odds; devout followers of God used to conjure the unholy power of the devil. Combined with the ritual from the bible, he could corrupt the energy and use it in tandem with the residual energy of the old gods, the true gods of Earth, and himself become a true god of the realm. The sacrifices creating a conduit of divine power that flowed through him, and when he completed it, his power was absolute. With that power, he would be able to resist both divine entities and lock Heaven and Hell out from Earth permanently.
            "So did the ritual work?" James asked.
            "Well, details are sketchy," Matthew said "Word was that six of the seven were successfully sacrificed and the conduit completed; their souls collected into their hearts, then cut out to be fed to the demon. Three done in secret by his followers, afterwards Croatoan would be powerful enough to block out any divine influence. The next three would be performed by Croatoan himself. After the six are sacrificed, Croatoan will have his powers, but will need to make the final sacrifice to essentially seal the deal and lock out the other realms, because even as a god of Earth, he would still lack enough oomph to stand against either of the major deities.
            "The ritual worked but the final sacrifice, the one necessary to finalize Croatoans divinity, was never made. Some say it was God himself who found a way to step in at the last minute and prevent the final kill. Croatoan failed, now at the mercy of two raging gods, furious at his attempt to claim something that was not his right to take. But Croatoan, with the secrets learned from years with his followers, had a trick up his sleeve.
            "You see, demons and angels, gods and devils, none of them are mortal. They are ever existent, never ceasing to be. Earth is all about being mortal; Every beginning has an end and all things much end. Major interaction between mortals and either angels or demons is impossible. Details are beyond human understanding as far as I can figure it, but that's how it is.
            "So when Croatoan had failed in his attempt to become a god, he quickly realized he was about to be outgunned by not only some seriously pissed off gods, but also their entire armies of angels and demons to boot. The only way out safely was to make himself mortal, then to vanish with the help of his followers so he could safely regain his immortality in secret and stay in hiding while plotting his next attempt."
            "All that made possible from the same book I brought here?" James asked.
            "Maybe," Matthew responded "If you're willing to subscribe to the notion that Croatoan was the one who attacked you outside."
            "Probably. I did take that book from what I believe to be his little alter slash temple. There was just so much blood down there. Do you think he attacked me for the book?"
            "I think he was able to follow you because of the bible. If he wanted it, he would've taken it back instead of trying to torture you. Anything he's needed from that bible, he already memorized over the last few centuries."
            "So why attack me?"
            "Because he failed once before, and you obviously represent the chance to stop him. No matter how bad the odds are for you to prevent him from succeeding, he's unwilling to take that chance. The last time he failed, he barely escaped."
            "What's been stopping him from trying again before now?"
            "The ritual itself was not designed to allow repeat attempts so easily. Those seven sacrifices? They're integral to the ritual, they can't just be randomly replaced. His godhood was tied to their blood. Only a blood family member could be a suitable replacement. The survivors of Roanoke, and more importantly the surviving members of the sacrificed, all were scattered. Many were taken in by the Croatans, who were no longer following their fallen god in hiding. Others were led across the new world to other colonies by divine guidance and protection. They were scattered so Croatoan wouldn't be able to try his ritual again."
            "There any way to manage a loophole?"
            "No such thing as loopholes where the old gods magic is concerned."
            "You think he actually managed to figure out who the descendants would be?"
            "I honestly think he never needed to figure anything out. He's probably been keeping tabs on all the appropriate families since day one. All he needed to do was manipulate conditions to ensure the right people were in the correct place at the right time."
            "There's no way something, even a demon, could orchestrate such events."
            "Croatoan has had centuries to plan this. You've been after him for a week."
            "How can we figure out who these people are in advance though? Might be the best way to prevent everything."
            "At the time, only six family names were ever recorded. So either two of the sacrifices shared a name or one was immediately lost. Hell, only one identity has been remembered to this day: Virginia Dare, the seventh sacrifice."
            "Dare found a way to survive?"
            "Again, details aren't the best, but the same people who recorded Virginia Dare as the final sacrifice failed to mention if she survived the ordeal. Either her sacrifice was, unlikely, botched or something else got in the way long enough for Croatoan to fail. Her mother, however, was rumored to have had another child, thus allowing the bloodline to continue and allow Croatoan another shot. Probably his first act in ensuring a retry."
            "So, the only way to stop him is to mess up his ritual?"
            "That depends. How many murders have occurred?"
            "Specifically? Or in general? Cuz those numbers might vary."
            "Rituals. Anything else is irrelevant, to him and to the matter at hand."
            "Specifically regarding to the heart being cut out? Three."
            Matthew's face slowly grew pale. "This is beyond divine intervention," he said "If you were able to track him down before, you could have easily have allowed either an angel or demon to step in and stop him."
            "Because, you know, I can easily call upon an angel, right? Who wouldn't be able to?"
            "But with the first three sacrifices done, he's now strong enough to repel divine forces. The only way to stop him now is for mortal intervention."
            "Well sure, coming from you that sounds like no big deal."
            "Honestly, your best bet is to track down Eleanor Dare's descendant and find a way to protect her from Croatoan and his followers."
            "Again, sounds easy from you. And you're also suggesting that I simply let three more people die."
            "Unless you can pull their identities out of your ass, yes. For the greater good of the rest of humanity, I'm asking you to not bother trying to save three people we have no idea of how to track down."
            "Alright, I'll figure out the Dare child. What else can I do to damage the demon though?"
            "He is immortal. There isn't a weapon on earth that can possibly hurt him. A head shot may slow him down."
            "Head shot? Because I'm a marksman, right?" James said sarcastically.
            "In the heat of the moment when you need to momentarily jar him, it would work. Anywhere else, he won't even flinch."
            "So basically, stop him from sacrificing the last child cuz there's no way I can hurt him otherwise. But what about you? Didn't you do some weird voodoo stuff before that made him back off?"
            "While the magic and power I wield will always be more effective for me since I am native to this realm, a higher demon of Hell with many more years experience could easily handle me. What I did was merely cast flare by comparison, since I had no idea what I was squaring off against, but it also would have caught the attention of some angel or demon. Croatoan was smart to run, not because I could stand a chance against him, but because his whole plan requires secrecy. And if you're as threatening to his plan as I think you are, then something, be it good or evil, wouldn't have been far behind to keep an eye one you."
            "Stan..." James said softly to himself.
            "Besides, I'm not stupid enough to go against Croatoan even if I thought I had a chance."
            "You have a better chance than anyone else."
            "I'm safe in this house, and so are you so long as you don't leave. Croatoan may be powerful now, even at a fraction of what he'll be capable of, but he won't easily breach this home. I've had years to layer spells and such to secure this place from anything you can think of."
            "Let's just say you're not the first person to come to me for help while trailing a whole mess of problems."
            "So you'd rather sit here and suck on your thumb as prolly the most qualified person in existence to help me?"
            "Yes. Because in the event that you fail, and let's face it, you probably will...In the event that you fail to stop Croatoan, I will still manage, for a short while at least, to stay protected in here while I research a way to possibly save the world. Croatoan takes over, there has to be a way to get one of the major deities back into the picture."
            "You can't even translate that book. You think it's going to have an answer?"
            "An answer can always be found. In time I may be able to figure out its contents."
            "Not fast enough though. You sure there's no one else who can maybe help you read that book?"
            "No. There may be one person who might have the ability to figure it out, but I don't know how to find him. I haven't seen him in years. Like you, he never carries a phone on himself though he has more intriguing reasons. And odds are if he were to come, he would bring that infernal child of his with him and I still haven't been able to clean my carpet from last time they were here."
            "You're going to let a carpet be the reason why you won't ask for help?"
            "I don't even know if the man is dead or not, let alone how to find him."
            "What did God do the first time against Croatoan? You said he somehow found a way to intervene. Why can't he just do it again?"
            "Because he just doesn't care as much as he did then. By time he figures something is wrong, it'll be too late. Hell, right now is too late. Humanity is on its own on this."
            "No pressure, right?"
            "You need to return to Chicago, immediately."
            "Why the rush? Besides the obvious."
            "The forth ritual killing will mark the beginning of the end, and the expedition of his ascension."
            "What do you mean expedite? There a time limit between his kills?"
            "Everything has to fit with the ritual. You have little more than a day to stop him."
            "A day? He's been waiting around a week between killing. Why would he suddenly speed up?"
            "Six days between kills to be exact. It will be six days exactly since his last sacrifice tomorrow."
            "......How long was I out?"
            "Several days. You've probably been forgotten by Croatoan, no doubt confident in your demise. Once the fourth sacrifice is made, his own pattern will repeat itself, but much faster, needing to wait only 6 hours as opposed to six days."
            "Six days, six days, six days," James said as he counted on his hands "Then six hours, six hours, six hours. Six, six, six. How quaint."
            "The number of Croatoan. It's always been confused as the number of the beast. That number is 619."
            "Crap. What time is it now?"
            "A little after seven."
            James said nothing, but was on his feet and running out the door in seconds. He cursed himself for taking the bus as he jogged out of the apartment complex and for the bus stop. After a few minutes of pacing, he started running in the direction of his own apartment to get to where John's car was. He felt dizzy and his back still hurt and burned but he ignored it as he ran.

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