Cult Unawares

Prompt: You have been kidnapped by a cult preparing to sacrifice you to their god. Problems? You’re immortal, the god they worship is a close friend of yours and the entire cult was the result of a prank you forgot you pulled centuries ago.

Jared returned to consciousness with an irritated snarl, he did not have time for this bullshit. Things were finally moving, pieces falling into place and he wanted to watch while that tepid little man who thought he could take a dragon’s hoard without consequence realised his horrible mistake.

He sat up, assessing himself, yep, still in human form, and then his surroundings, small, square room, single basic bed, single basic window with bars, at least they’d had the courtesy to draw the curtains. Now should he sneak, or blast his way out of here?

Then he noticed the insignia above the door. He looked around again. Shit, the damn thing was everywhere. That was one of the problems with the type of human attracted to cults, they tended to go overboard on everything.

And now he was going to have to deal with the consequences of what, at the time, had been an epically good prank.

Dragons, now as always, were few and far between, and with any small society, they all knew, or knew of each other.

Of the dragons he knew, his closest friend was Daemon and they had whiled away many tedious decades by constructing huge, elaborate pranks to confound, then amuse, the other.

It was generally agreed that Jared’s creation of a new religion, with Daemon as its unwitting god, was the best of the lot. The icing on the cake was the incorporation of the one magic-suppressing rune that actually worked on dragons into the main motif of the cult’s key symbol.

Whenever a Daemon-cultist caught sight of his friend, they would start chasing after him in some sort of religious fervour, brandishing this magic-blocking rune. It had gotten slightly out of hand for a little while, but a nicely staged defeat and death of Daemon at the hands of a rather glorious angel who owed him a favour had put an end to the worship. Jared had razed the temples a few years after they’d all been abandoned and thought no more of it.

That had been well over two hundred years ago, maybe more like three, or even five. It was a bit hard to keep track. He’d forgotten all about it but it appeared those idiot humans hadn’t. Or some new group of twits had discovered it and wanted another go.

The upshot was that he was stuck. His magic was useless until he could get away from these damn runes. He couldn’t even transform back into his real body

He wondered why the group had decided to kidnap him. Movement outside the door made him hope he was about to get answers.

The door was flung open and three wild-eyed, bearded men rushed the room, stopping just inside the door when they realised he was sitting on the bed, blinking at them in confusion.

A fourth man waited until they’d all looked at each other for a bit, then strolled in. Jared groaned internally. If this guy was in any way in charge, this was going to get very tedious, very quickly.

Anyone who thought heavy robes, stinking dirt and a deranged grin was a good look, tended to also like things like torture, sacrifice and lots of screaming. Provided they weren’t the ones being tortured or sacrificed. Jared had done some research into this in the past.

“Rejoice, miserable boy, for you have been chosen!”

Boy? Jared couldn’t decide between a snort of disbelief and an eye-roll of disdain, so he did both. They didn’t work as well together as he’d hoped.

One of the guards glared, “I don’t see why the honour should go to an unbeliever. Only the most holy should be sacrificed to the great Demon.”

Jared facepalmed, they couldn’t even get their own god’s name right! This was not going to go well.

The old fanatic started to shriek, “You are being brought before the greatest and most powerful being in the universe, you will be awed and overwhelmed before his magnificence.”

“He’s going to be seriously underwhelmed by you if you don’t get his name right.”

Another of the guards looked at him blankly, “What?”

Jared eye rolled again, “His name is Daemon, not Demon. A demon is a little red guy with a pointy tail and horns, hangs out in hell and pokes people with a pitchfork. Daemon isn’t red, or small and he finds hell tedious.”

Old guy was close to frothing at the mouth, “Silence! How dare you blaspheme in the temple of our Most Mighty.”

“Just trying to keep you out of trouble.”

The curious guard asked, “So how do you know all this?”

Jared considered the ‘old friend’ explanation but decided it might be pushing things, “I’m an archaeologist who specialises in lost religions and cults. The Daemonist one was quite interesting, although short-lived.”

The guard opened his mouth again but was cut off by the priest (at least Jared assumed that’s what he was), “Enough! Bring the unbeliever to the main altar.”

Jared pouted, he was rather warming to the topic and thought the guard showed a glimmer of intelligence that was most unusual for someone who’d chosen to not wash for a month, then run around with dangerous weapons and no training while screaming unintelligibly.

One of the other guards grabbed Jared’s upper arm and pulled him off the bed, then hustled him out of the door in the wake of the old man. The other two took up the rear.

Jared looked around the corridor, very few lights, more damn symbols. This lot needed to find better things to do with their time.

He was taken down several more corridors. The lighting system was rudimentary to say the least, a bunch of what looked to be camping lanterns, hung at irregular intervals, with cables hanging from the ceiling or wall in between each. So, he could wipe out pretty much all the lights in this area from a single point. They really had no idea what they were doing.

He was led through a door and stopped, blinking, trying to adjust to the bright light. He rolled his eyes again. Looked like he didn’t do a good enough job of flattening one of Daemon’s minor temples.

The roof of the main hall was completely gone and he was standing in the full glare of the mid afternoon sun. Other than the missing lid, the whole thing looked irritatingly whole and undamaged. He must have been distracted that day. He frowned, trying to remember. Ah, that’s right, his angel had dropped by and convinced him to go exploring in a nearby catacomb. He’d added some very nice pieces to his hoard in that trip.

HOARD! He growled. All this messing about was keeping him from getting revenge on that smug little worm who’d made off with his treasures. It was time to focus.

Of course he was still completely surrounded by that cursed rune.

He wondered what form the sacrifice was going to take. It was likely to get a bit embarrassing rather quickly. Immortal beings had a nasty habit of not dying, even if they were cut off from their magic. The immortal part was a feature, not an accessory.

He looked around at the row of silent, robed and hooded figures lining the walls of the room as was herded towards the central altar and Jared wondered what would happen next. Sacrifice had played no part in the original religion. It was a prank. Hurting anyone, even silly humans, was completely against the rules.

He’d made sure every temple built to Daemon had included a throne for their god to sit on to receive their worship. Daemon, of course, had never gone near a single one.

This throne, however, was occupied.

He surprised his captors by shaking off their hold and striding forward, stopping on the near side of the altar, frowning at the figure perched on the great stone chair behind it.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Um, I’m Demon.”

“The god this temple was built to worship was Daemon and I can assure you, you’re not him.”

The figure’s eyes widened and the glanced from side to side, then lowered their voice to a whisper that carried every bit as far as their normal voice had.

“Can you maybe not let on? I’m trying to get hold of him, or Jared, and I hoped upending one of their old jokes would catch their attention.”

“Why?”

“Why should you not give me away?”

“You’ve already done that yourself you twit. Why do you want to get in touch with Jared or Daemon? And why the hell didn’t you just email?”

“You can do that?”

“Well I can. I’m waiting to hear why you can’t.”

“BLASPHEMER!”

Jared looked around, ah yes, the old idiot and his guards. His questioner from earlier was now holding on to the goggle-eyed priest, holding him back, while pretending to hold him up. Jared made a mental note to do something nice for him at some point.

He grinned and hopped up to sit cross-legged on the altar, “So which of us is blaspheming? Me, or the impostor on the throne?”

He wasn’t sure if it was his words, or his actions that sent the shockwave across his audience, it was fun either way.

The person behind him ignored the humans, “But you know how to get hold of them?”

Jared spun to face him, he’d hear if any of those twits tried to sneak up on him, “Of course I do, but I’m not going to until you tell me who you are and why I should.”

The answer came from behind him, “He wants to meet his father.”

Jared turned slowly, to a new figure, standing in what had been the grand entrance, and was now a grand couple of pillars. She had her back to the sun but he knew that voice.

“And who might his father be, angel?”

She walked forward, and the hooded congregation started to scramble for any exit they could find. No one in their right mind stayed around when an angel looked angry.

Jared, on the other hand, leaned back and watched her approach with a grin. That rune blocked her magic too.

She stopped when she stood right before him at the altar, “He’s yours Jared.”

Jared speared upright, grin gone, “And you didn’t tell me? What the hell angel? That’s low.”

She looked down, shamefaced, “I made the mistake of telling management I was pregnant. They scooped me off duty and away from all contact so fast I never had a chance and once he was born, well it just got harder and harder.”

There was a scramble on the throne behind them, “Wait a minute, HE’S my dad?”

Jared looked at the slender young man jumping onto the altar to join them, the resemblance was striking, “Apparently so, and you have a lot of explaining to do. I refuse to believe your mother brought you up to think that starting cults and organising human sacrifices was acceptable behaviour.”

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