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The Lilies on the Table
The lilies on the table had been carefully lined up, which was nice; unfortunately, whoever had arranged them had no idea how to do it properly. He or she had clearly assumed that the best way was to line them up by size, and then by color. To a Trained eye the resulting arrangement looked almost painfully chaotic.
Don’t get me wrong about this. It wasn’t that big a deal, because I had been expecting to put the lilies in proper order and odor anyway. All of the flowers were in good physical and metaphysical shape; fresh-cut, clean-cut, carefully bagged on the ends with the nutrient stuff that florists use to keep flowers fresh. I had no complaints on how they had been prepared. But if I wanted to use them properly I’d need to sort them myself.
When it comes to the job you mostly just need the lily heads themselves, although the stems can be useful for the larger calibers. The small caliber lilies I stripped of stems entirely and inserted in my jacket’s quick-release tabs; the larger ones went on my belt. The largest one I attached to my salt cedar staff and slung over my shoulder. Then it was just a matter of grabbing the unguents, getting shriven, and going on my way.
One of the nice things about motorcycles: nobody really notices the leather, or the all-black clothing (my wimple was hidden under the helmet), and they don’t have time to notice the flowers unless you’re stopped at a red light. And even then, it just looks a little weird. Cities are often weird, which is why I have my vocation. You can’t let them get too weird.
My destination was the stereotypical abandoned warehouse that looked about a week away from being an abandoned warehouse being used for illegal raves. You’d be surprised how long it takes to convert one, although I had no intention of waiting around long enough for the Other Side to get witnesses and hostages; it sometimes takes Holy Mother Church time to learn a lesson, but once she does, she doesn’t forget it in a hurry. Which is why I started up the festivities by walking right up to the two sentries at the door, smiling, and throwing two small-caliber lilies in their faces.
Lilies are fun. The pagans thought that they were a potent male fertility occult symbol; the Church of course corrected this by making them theurgic embodiments of Holy Mother Mary, which made them female-oriented symbols. A very clever metaphysical hack, albeit one hard on the pagans; and in these more enlightened times of liberty of conscience you can go back to using them the way that the Greeks intended. However, the occult overlay still makes for an interesting male-female magical conflict, which is typically explosive when it comes in contact with incubus flesh.
Literally. The guard who was an incubus fell to the ground, rolling, as his face bubbled; the human guard was confused by the biker chick throwing a flower in his face long enough for me to throat-punch him, break a collarbone, and smash his face into the concrete a few times. Don’t consort with demons, kids. It’s bad for your health. Then I went into the warehouse and got stuck in.
If you’re going to be fighting demons, fight incubi. Or succubi. Same thing, really and literally. They’re not really physically strong, not particularly resistant, and their magic is more ‘mess up your mind’ than it is ‘mess up your body.’ Better and better, when they do fight on this plane of existence the idiots think that all they need are guns (the more intelligent among them get human minions to carry the guns). Of course, incubi don’t know how to use, maintain, and in some cases, even reload guns. So it’s always a very dramatic situation when you fight incubi, what with them all flourishing their firearms and wasting time in spray-and-pray and sometimes shooting their own side because they’ve never heard the words ‘range safety.’
All I had to do was hit them with the lilies. The trick was trying to match caliber with incubus; small ones were fine for the canon fodder (ahem), but larger ones could shrug off a weak lily. There weren’t many of those, thank God. I can’t carry that many single-shot weapons on my person, and I also had the humans to consider; those required actual beatdowns. Fortunately, when it comes to minions incubi select for physical appearance, low intelligence, and weak wills. When it comes to Trained agents, Holy Mother Church does not.
Still, by the time I made my way to the chief incubus was short on lilies. Its bodyguard was a real bruiser; an incubus with dreams and delusions of becoming a devil someday. It took the last two of my stemmed lilies to put the thing down, and I could still feel the warmth on my arm where it managed to grab me once. I shrugged it off, but I had been hoping to have a bit more when I faced Chief Incubus.
Who was good, I admit. It had the ability to assume a pleasing form at need, and it must have needed it, because I’ve never seen a form better designed to make my knees go weak with sheer lust. He was perfect, in every single possible way, except for one: there was no hole in his forehead. So I pulled out my target pistol and put one there; he stopped, looked extremely surprised, and fell down. Now he was perfect.
What? I’m vowed to celibacy. And bullets work fine on all demons. Bullets just don’t hurt the way that lilies do -- which is why I went up to Chief Incubus and jammed my lily on a stick into the hole in his head until the skull liquefied. I wanted it to feel agony, as it fell back to Hell.
It might keep this bunch from coming back.