Reverend Jeremy Howard leveled the revolver towards Bast and pulled the trigger. She raised one hand as the first shot rang out, missing her by a good distance, and the remaining bullets plinked harmlessly off an invisible barrier. “Oh Lord…” he whispered, his voice hoarse,
“He’s not here,” Bast said. With a flick of her finger, the gun was sent flying, torn from the Reverend’s fingers by an invisible force. “He won’t answer your prayers. I suggest you try praying to me instead.”
Nelly had stopped screaming and sunk to her knees, cradling her hand and sobbing. Two of her fingers were broken and her hand was badly cut, but they were intact. Assuming they survived the next few minutes, she’d probably heal.
That seemed like a rather large assumption to the Reverend. Bast was giving him an expectant look. Behind her, the troll like creature she’d had following her since she arrived, roaming the town, bounded into view. The Reverend had heard some of the other monsters calling him ‘Dale,’ and his face was human enough to look hauntingly familiar to Jeremy, although he couldn’t imagine where he’d seen such a brutish creature before. Bast sneered as the Reverend continued to stare. “I said you should try praying to me.” Before he could even hope to respond, the goddess reached out and clenched her fingers. “Perhaps you need instruction on how.”
A sudden wind whipped up around The Reverend and took an almost physical form, like it was a giant hand wrapping around him. With the same ease a child would manipulate an action figure, he was to his knees and his hands were pressed flat against each other in front of him. “This is how you Christians pray, but…we’re not trying to reach your god. You’re praying to me.” She bent her hand downwards, and the Reverend’s body followed suit until he was face down on the ground, his knees curled under him, and his arms outstretched. “You too,” Bast said.
Jeremy heard Nelly gasp in pain as Bast forced her through the same steps. “You’re lucky I’m full,” Bast said, walking over so the reverend could see the toes of her feet. She wore simple sandals, and there were a few drops of dried blood on her toes. “Now…Pray to me.”
There was no hesitation for the Reverend. He might die here, but he would do so a man of god. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures-”
Bast snarled and the Reverend found himself lifted into the air by that invisible hand. He continued. “He leadeth me beside the still waters-”
“You really don’t value your life, do you?” Bast interrupted, her eyes narrowing. “No point playing any more games, then.” She held up a hand and pointed a single finger towards him.
The exclamation hadn’t come from Nelly, and not from the Reverend’s lips. The wretched creature at Bast’s side had been the one to speak, and the Reverend knew that voice and remembered the face. Admiral Dale Bridges. It was hard to reconcile the proud military man with the debased thing cowering at Bast’s side.
“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths-” the Reverend continued, almost reflexively.
Bast snarled at Dale. “You contradict me?” she asked, ignoring her pray for the moment.
“Please, no,” Dale said, quaking under her fury. “I do not – I just beg you for mercy! I know this man – he is a good man.”
“-of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
“Shut up, you,” Bast said offhandedly, and the Reverend felt an immense force impact his stomach. The pain blinded him for a second, and he had to gasp for breath. “Dale, look at everything we’ve done here. We’ve killed dozens, if not hundreds, of ‘good men’ here. What’s one more?” Bast’s tone was calm, reasonable – but her eyes told a different tale, tight and hard.
“I know him,” Dale said, unable to meet her gaze anymore.
“And what we do is fine so long as you don’t know them?” Bast’s laughter was loaded with derision. “I suppose that explains what you did to me. No, Dale. I will not show him mercy. And I want you to watch as he dies.”
The Reverend found his breath. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,”
Bast raised her finger again. Dale’s eyes darted from the Reverend to the Goddess and back again. Sweat started to bead on his forehead.
“For thou art with me! They rod and thy staff, they comfort me!”
Electrical energy began to build up around Bast’s fingertip, crackling in the air. “As far as last words go,” Bast said, “I’ve heard worse. Lacking in originality though.”
He ignored her taunts and continued the psalm. He was going to die with the name of the lord on his lips. “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies! Thou anointest my head with oil! My cup runneth-”
The word was drowned out by the sound of crackling lightning and a clap of thunder as the world turned white – and the inhuman cry of Dale, shouting a single word that turned into a cry of agony.
The Reverend’s eyes cleared. He was untouched. He looked at Bast, who seemed as confused as he felt.
Dale – that poor, twisted monstrosity that had once been a man – had leapt into the path of the lightning bolt. The explosion of energy had fried him completely, and his mortal remains lay on the ground smoldering between the two of them. “How did he move that fast?” Bast murmured to herself. She looked up at the Reverend, and her eyes widened as with realization – or maybe a memory. “Well,” she said, and with a flick of her wrist flung the Reverend to the ground. “You made me break my favorite toy. I think your reward is going to be dying last. I want you to see this town burn around you.” She turned into one of those horrific cat monstrosities and stalked off.
Nelly wasn’t moving next to the Reverend. She seemed to be hoping she was forgotten – and in the chaos and Bast’s sudden realization, it seems that hope had paid off. He waited for Bast to finish clearing away, and then walked over to Dale’s charred remains.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” He reached down and closed the one-time Admiral’s eyes.
“He doesn’t deserve that,” said a voice from behind him. The Reverend looked over his shoulder and saw another one of those monsters standing there. The one that had come with Bast to the town. He’d heard the others call her Cassandra. “He was a terrible person.”
“Maybe he was,” the Reverend said, still feeling the calm from earlier. “But I am not, and there are some things that should be done.”
Cassandra considered him, and the Reverend was certain the danger hadn’t passed yet.