Prologue: No Mercy In The Cathedral

[The incident that began the investigation into the myth of the Witches of the Clear Eyes]

No Mercy In The Cathedral

“Come hout, come hout, Spaniardsss. Giiive usss yoour babeessss hand weee wiiilll let youuu go freeee.”

Even through the whistles, clicks, and whistles, Father Bartolomé could make out the archaic Anglo. Who had taught this monster how to speak? Her voice was strangely musical and yet diseased, like a wood flute played by a leper. Father Bartolomé tried to get a glimpse of her, but her bodyguard of sand-colored males kept moving constantly, protecting her from Spanish rifles. Occasionally in their center he saw a naked slender female body the color of raw amethyst.

She continued to make her satanic offer. The settlers could leave safely, the demon said, but the price would be all the babies under six months old. The priest thought of the three infants he had recently baptized. A flush of fear leaped from his stomach into his heart.

Two Guardsmen nearby grumbled, averting the priest’s gaze. Father Bartolomé raised his crucifix towards them. They stopped immediately. How dare they even consider her offer? Did they want to damn their own souls to Hell?

Father Bartolomé shouted in the forbidden tongue, holding the crucifix up to her shadow with sweaty, shaking hands. “Better to die by our own hand! Better yet we should all die protecting our
helpless ones than surrender them to your horrors!”

“Soooooo beeeee iiit,” the female monster jeered.

Lieutenant Alphonso nodded to the priest. He spoke quickly and quietly in Spanish. “Step away, Father.Now.”

Mounted soldiers leaped over the low barricades at the door, heading straight for the she-devil. Her guards stepped in between, going for the horse’s reins as they before. This time the Guardsman make their horses rear, trampling the male monsters. Before these could regroup, the Guardsmen split into two groups traveling at full gallop to right and to left. They reached the opposite side of the Plaza in a thrice, riding straight into the waiting ogre army.

The monster brigades bounded forth, ululating until Father Bartolomé thought his ears would burst. The demons, intent on their goal, streamed towards the Cathedral entrance, oblivious of the horsemen. The Guardsmen met them crouched low on the saddle. Sliding under their horse’s armored bellies, the Spaniards fired blunderbusses filled with nails into the horde. Father Bartolomé cheered the Guardsmen on even as he fretted over the melting away of the she-demon. She appeared to have vanished into the morning air.

Tarred pews and wall paneling had been thrown into the central fountain of the Plaza the night before by the settlers, during a lull in the fighting. The monsters raced toward the Cathedral entrance as one being, ignoring the heap, just as Lieutenant Alphonso had hoped. He surprised the demons with tall arcs of fire from his hastily-improvised flamethrower. Constructed from a length of ancient iron pipe dug out of the floor of the Cathedral and a leather bellows formerly used by the now-deceased blacksmith, it licked the Plaza clean from north to south. As it washed across the fountain, it ignited the hidden barrels filled with the last of the gunpowder and broken pieces of stained glass. When the bombs exploded the air was filled with sliced fingers and noses. Surprised demons fell to their knees, vainly struggling to hang on to their dangling intestines and ripped scalps. The pioneers cheered when the lash of flame reduced the attackers to writhing cinders.

Father Bartolomé feared that this would be last earthly triumph his
people would ever see. He understood the ultimate futility of the
Spanish defense. There was an endless supply of demons in just one of
their ropy, knot-shaped cities nearby. The settlers had naively
thought it to be a natural mountain. How patient the monsters had
been! The settlers were already plowing fields and planting seeds
before they knew of the creatures

The monsters retreated for a moment, then regrouped, charging again in their relentless sideways slithering fashion. The Guardsmen reached the bonfire, driving the hindmost devils ahead of them, scything down any that stood between them and the Cathedral. When the horsemen were near the entrance, Lieutenant Alphonso aimed high, spraying more fire over the fallen demons. The howl and racket of their comrades on the other side of the Plaza was the symphony of Hell.

In the end it was however as Father Bartolomé had feared. While the Guardsmen fought in the Plaza, the demons had removed two great blocks of stone from the wall behind the sanctuary. They poured through in full force, clambering over the altar, knocking down the priest’s chalices. The trap door set in the floor in front of the Blessed Tabernacle flew off its hinges in an explosion of dust,reliquary bones, and unearthly light. The she-devil rose from the debris. She stood between the altar and the main entrance, beckoning to the priest with a talon-tipped finger.

“Come, priest. Worship your God of pain,” she mewed.

Father Bartolomé turned around. It was all he could do to choke down his terror. He clutched his crucifix while his bowels and bladder tried to escape the truth of his eyes. There would be no Holy Mass today, no works of mercy in the Cathedral. Before him stood a figure from the worst fevers and fears a Spanish child could have. She of the violet eyes, and the raven-black hair. The one to whom all supplication meant nothing

It was Doña Diña herself.