Ravenwood lit the torch and walked into the barn. A lonely owl hooted from the rafters, ruffling its feathers, blinking. She saw the flame reflected in her golden eyes and then watched a shadow move along the rotted wood pile. A mouse scurried out, squeaking, carrying a piece of hay in her mouth. The shadow grew, blacking out the flickering light. She gasped, torch smoke billowed over her hooded head. With one shaking hand, she reached for the crucifix around her neck. The shadow crossed the pitchfork, fell upon the coffin.
The shadow took the shape of a man with wings. As he turned slightly in the torch light, she saw two red orbs glowing in his face. The wings were shiny, rubbery black with spines and points.
“Daakiel,” she whispered.
“Well met, Ravenwood.” A deep laugh like a growl rumbled from him.
The demon was naked as always, his grotesque, swollen equipment proudly on display. She shuddered head to toe, glancing around quickly, studying her options.
There were none.
The creature with hellfire eyes passed a hand with long, vicious claws over the coffin. From inside, came a soft scratching then the lid began to vibrate, the sound echoing in the ruined barn.
Ravenwood’s heart caught in her throat. A sudden silence crawled along her nerves. The owl hooted and took flight, a wing brushing Ravenwood’s cheek. She flinched, clamped a hand to her mouth but a little cry escaped. The demon flexed his wings and straw swirled in little tornadoes.
A malicious grin split the long, dark face. “Come my pretty,” and with the rasp of claws, he ripped the coffin open.
Her dead sister sat bolt upright, empty fish eyes locking to Ravenwood’s, but in the depths of Alethea’s eyes, no innocence remained. Crimson pinpointed the blue irises. Ravenwood’s scream tore the night as the demon turned and stalked toward her, fangs dripping thick, yellow saliva.
Terrified, she backed away, ran into a stack of old cans, sending them clattering to the ground.
“Dear sister.” With bizarre litheness, Alethea’s corpse climbed down from the casket, arms spread in invitation. “Raven, forsake your god. Come with me.”
Ravenwood ducked, grabbed the pitchfork and brandished it at the demon. Another unholy laugh rumbled from its throat.
“You cannot escape, Ravenwood. Your sister has paid her dues. She is mine. Tonight, Acolyte, you will join me in Hell.”
Playing for time, Ravenwood flung the pitchfork at the demon and dropped the torch. Smoke billowed from dry straw. Flames sprang up, reaching for the cracked roof. Laughter boomed in the fire. Engulfed in the holocaust, she saw her sister’s horrified face and the demon’s leering smile.
She whirled and fled into the starry night. The house seemed hundreds of miles away and her feet leaden. If she reached the house—
A claw sliced into her shoulder, drawing blood. She whirled, staring straight into the demon’s burning eyes.