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The moon was riding high by the time Raziel finally retired to his priorate, his tread heavy. The cell was less spacious even than the space allotted to each candidate in the pre-initiate barracks, allowing nothing but a desk, a chair, and a cot, all crowded too close. The high, barred window admitted only the faintest shaft of light, even at high noon. But it was private, a mark of great prestige for any young proctor, and a privilege that the candidates, if they lasted so long, were at least a year from earning.

All save one, apparently.

Fingering the fine vellum missive one last time, the young priest placed the letter carefully at the center of his little desk. Taper in hand, he touched the flame to first one thick tallow candle, then the other. The flames were feeble at first, only just clinging to the braided cotton wicks, casting strange elongate shadows over the seal -- imposing even broken -- of the Lord Justicar Antaeus Valadon.

Raziel stripped off his gloves, flexing fingers gone stiff from the cold. He smoothed out the letter once more, read the few terse lines and list of names in the slowly-growing light, as if new meaning might have leapt into them in the last few minutes. It hadn’t.

Almost all the names were good choices for ascension to the Order, good lads and promising fighters, many from respectable houses and proven against many types of monstrous wretches. Some had displayed admirable talent for sniffing out the witches and vampires that hid amidst the peasantry, and equally admirable zeal in putting those abominations to the stake.

And then… there was Rahab Marrok of Coorhagen. A strange lad, quiet and too small for his purported age. He was quick on his feet, yes, but the weight of even a breastplate and mace was nearly too much for him, let alone full plate. He’d be far better suited to the halls of scribes, or perhaps a monastery, or so Raziel had concluded. He had dutifully reported this assessment to the Knight-Prior, with all humility …

… and had been ignored. Marrok, it seemed would be a squire-novitiate, whether Raziel willed it or not.

Raziel was no innocent in the ways of the world; even within the Church, wealth and influence had their way. Even the finest warrior required arms and armor, required provisioning, and such things had to be bought and paid for, one way or the other. But what he could not fathom was why any patron, no matter how powerful, wished to see someone so unsuited thrust upon the battlefield. The monsters that the Sarafan hunted were soulless and without mercy … to match them, one required not just a pure heart, but an iron will and the ability to kill, efficiently and well.

Perhaps the matter would sort itself out once the newly initiated squires saw real battle, and the true light of passion for the cause lit within the boy’s breast. And yet. There was something about the boy’s air of contemplation, a certain... knowing that -- Raziel did not understand, but that raised the hair on the back of his neck all the same.

Raziel shook the impressions away. Fanciful, unworthy. Regardless of the reasons for these orders, it was not Raziel’s place to question them. Kneeling before the small altar below the window, he bowed his head for his devotions, praying for humility and patience. Neither were virtues that came naturally to him, and he had a feeling that Marrok was likely to test them both.

After an hour, Raziel unclasped his hands and levered himself up from the cold stone floor, knees aching, but mind and heart at last rendered clear and unburdened. “Honor,” he whispered, pinching out one of the tallow candles. “Obedience.” The second was also snuffed, plunging his cell into darkness. Only a few hours were left before Matins, with another long day of training to follow. Best to sleep while he could.

 

******

 

The night was chill and cold. Autumn was still many weeks away, but now, during the witching hour, the oncoming cold laid its fingers onto Raziel’s exposed skin, fine tendrils of mist curling through the confines of the little cell. Sleeping fitfully under his roughspun blanket, Raziel shivered, tossing restlessly at the chill caress.

Roused to half-wakefulness, Raziel tugged the blanket up a little higher. It didn’t help.

Cool fingers of mist infiltrated the thin covering, sieving through the weave, under the edges. Even in the thick darkness, Raziel could make out bands of fog, a sinuous flex through the air. A dream, it had to be, because the paralysis of sleep clung to him, an inertia that dragged him back towards the deep darkness of rest every time he tried to blink, shake his head, clear his mind.

The chill touch found his smallclothes. They were no more barrier than the blanket. The eclipsing fog was so thick now that it seemed to have a mass now, a weight, impossible though it seemed.

Something was wrong. The understanding burst like the sun upon his mazed awareness, and then just as quickly... retreated. Submerged, like a thing lost beneath rising vapor. The cool, countless, formless fingers of brume trailed down his chest… and coiled around his cock.

Raziel jerked upwards, hips twisting--but the heavy weight that pinned him to the bed was impossible to fight, a leaden lassitude that weighed down his limbs. The touch was wrong, was sinful; ever since he had taken his vows, he had not touched himself other than what was necessary to cleanse his flesh or use the latrine. To have another touch his organ, his flesh both shrinking at the chill grasp, yet still somehow rising eagerly … it was a sin, a defiance of the natural order, and … and …

The low creak of oaken floorboards sounded like a dark chuckle, somehow, as Raziel writhed, trapped by twisted bedding. The alien, chill touch of the fog delved downward, to his balls, as if weighing their worth. Then it moved back upwards, and Raziel gasped as it tightened somehow, his filling flesh held captive by formless vapor. The invisible grasp rippled, a slow stroke from root to tip, and he tossed his head in mute negation. No! He could not tell whether he spoke aloud or merely dreamt it, but the fog did not lift, nor did his helplessness. He could writhe, but he could not rise and do battle, his arms and legs pinned as if manacled. Surely--surely this was a demon succubus, a creature sent from Hell to tempt the righteous! If he only had his sword, he would … then the touch changed, running the length of the underside of his cock. Cold as ice, it prickled along fever-hot, tender skin, and felt like nothing so much as the kiss of a razored blade.

Suddenly afraid, Raziel froze. Whether nightmare or demon or something else, he did not wish to be unmanned! “Please …” he whispered. “I …” He should invoke the liturgy that would drive this evil from him, turn his faith into the weapon he knew it could be--but the fog had surrounded his mind as well as his flesh, and he found he could not recall the words. The fear threatened to swamp him then, shameful as it was, and he tried frantically to twist away, a fox caught in the fanged jaws of a steel trap.

But the prickling-sharp touch only moved with him, neither escapable nor biting tighter, just on the verge of pain and yet not -- not enough somehow. His struggles against that implacable weight ebbed as Raziel exhausted himself, his breath coming in hard gasps that plumed and stirred the fog.

And then he realized.

With each gasping breath… with every hard inhalation… the vapor was entering him. Cool, moist in the back of his throat, tasting like dust and steel, pouring down into his lungs. Someone gave a soft sob of horror, and Raziel realized too late that it was him, it was his own voice, the mist flowing from his throat only to enter him again. Raziel froze, clasped his mouth shut, trying to empty his lungs, to hold his chest from heaving. His cock… his cock never softened.

Lazily, slowly, something touched his shuddering chest. Soft, pliant, humid, swirling over first one cold-hardened nipple, and then the other. Then... both at once. The roughness of the blanket still pressed against him, and yet there was this sensation too, like lapping, swirling tongues. The sensation was -- exquisitely attentive, drawing at him, caressing, nipping with terrifying care. And then, oh, then... a third wet caress came… at the head of his prick.

Raziel gasped as if drowning, the haze a fractal maze around him, all vortices and disorder, like his mind. Because that damned, demonic mouth -- it suckled and laved, invisible tongue swirling and dancing around the swollen head of him.

Chill fingers began to spread his thighs. A strangled sound of negation escaped his throat as he tried to resist, but his muscles were strengthless, twitching uselessly against the pressure. The floorboards creaked again, sounding somehow satisfied, as his legs parted. The chill pressure of that mouth sank deeper over his cock, suckling his flesh, and below … below the mist was spreading tendrils over taut balls, and even lower …. Raziel thrashed weakly, arching away, but the evil was in him, around him, and there was no escape. No surcease from the unnatural pleasure that the fog was forcing upon him, the icy caresses counterpoint to the sweating heat of his body, the frantic pumping of his heart.

“Ngh--G--God, please ….” he managed to croak before his throat seized, a desperate plea. But there was no divine intervention, no holy flame to drive away this madness. Only the dark, and the fog, and the sensitized, unbearable pleasure of his flesh as it was toyed with, manipulated as if Raziel were nothing more than a doll, a thing to be used.

Invisible lips smiled against his skin. The weight settled down more fully upon him, pressing his back into the thin straw mattress, as if relishing the tiny helpless twitching of his muscles. Chill bands snaked around his trembling limbs, just holding him there, wantonly open. Something nipped at Raziel’s throat, as if the night itself were baring its fangs to taste the skin over his pounding pulse.

It stroked him -- the mist, the unholy brume -- caressing his cock in a rippling embrace, until only terror stood between Raziel and completion, a barrier thinning with each slow squeeze. Something… something pressed at him then, something glassy and chill.

Not succubus. Incubus. And it meant to -- it was going to -- “No!” Raziel cried, his efforts to escape redoubling under that monstrous mass. His struggles gained him precisely nothing. “No! N--”

A thick band of pressure snaked around his throat, cutting off that scream. The mist, that steel-scented nothing, pushed into him, implacable and cruelly relentless. He could feel it, every inch of it, rocking up into his belly, like the cold was seeking out every last bastion of living warmth within him. The edges of his vision darkened, the desperate hunger for air adding its own hot fire to his struggles. Sparks sprang across his vision--dying fireflies as he struggled for air.

It hurt, and it felt intensely good, pleasure coiling ever tighter. He fought--he couldn’t help it, desperate struggles to free himself from the iron band around his throat, from the intrusion within him, to *live*.

**So determined, even now …** came a dark whisper. Sourceless, voiceless, it curled into the base of his mind, coiled around his spine. **It would be so easy to break you like this …** Raziel could barely comprehend the words, pain and pleasure receding as darkness rolled over his senses--

--and then the constriction eased, the world flooding back in a rush as he sucked in frantic sips of air, chest heaving. The grip wasn’t gone entirely, wouldn’t allow him an entire breath … only shallow half-gasps, the icy mist searing his throat. And down his aching body--icy tendrils plucked at his nipples, pulled at his erect and straining flesh. Broke him open, inexorable, a steely and invisible hardness pushing past his balls, into his body, bright sharp pain warring with the pleasure.

Raziel had no breath for words, barely enough for consciousness. His mind was a haze of conflicting sensation--he’d never felt anything like this. How was he to fight a formless enemy? Fight his own body, which seemed determined to scourge him with ecstasy and agony in equal measure?

That dark voice rumbled in satisfaction -- and then the angle… it somehow changed. A bolt of white hot bliss alloyed to that stretching, burning pain, and then again, and again. There were no words for this: pure sensation, transmutation, a physical alchemy.

The grip around him tightened, both at his cock and his throat. Raziel would have screamed, had he been able, with the sheer force of the tempest raging within his flesh. Instead he came, through the starbursts of air hunger, through the pain and this wicked, demonic pleasure. His cock jerked and trembled in the invisible grasp, his seed just pulsing from his body to vanish into the cold vapor.

The darkness closed in with each jerking crest of pleasure. But before the waters of blessed oblivion closed over him, Raziel realized one final horror. He could feel each spurt of his own hot seed… inside him, channeled deep into him, somehow, by that terrible impalement.

 

******

 

The Matins bell rang out across the outpost well before sunrise, when the eastern sky had only just begin to blush with rose and pink. In the barracks lining the courtyard, candidates stirred, readying themselves for a long day of prayer and training.

Raziel sat bolt upright.

He was in his cot, the blanket pulled up and tucked in around him. Frantically, Raziel pushed the wool away, seized the longsword beside the pallet, and scrambled for the bull’s horn censer hung on the wall beside the doorway. Hands trembling, Raziel plucked a live coal from the ashes with small tongs, and lit his taper candle.

The tiny flame at last sprang up, casting its warm glow on a room… devoid of demons or mists. Raziel’s body still bore the bruises and scrapes of the training ground, but no more -- not even on his throat, when he checked his reflection in the polished flat of his sword blade. Nothing but unblemished skin, shadowed by nothing more than the usual beard-stubble. Had it truly been a dream?

Portents and premonitions were for heathen witches and heretics, Raziel knew, not for the righteous. And yet, it almost seemed like he could feel the shadow of an ache in his muscles--as if he had spent the night battling terrors rather than in restful sleep. But with no corresponding wounds or other evidence … perhaps they had simply been dark temptations, conjured up by weakness to lead him astray? The moments he could remember, they were… were….

Raziel growled in frustration, and slammed the sword home in its sheath. Regardless, there was no enemy here to fight--and if he delayed much longer, he would find himself chastised in front of the Order by the Knight-Prior. Pushing a hand through disheveled hair, he straightened his robes, buckling them in order. Time spent in devotions and drillwork would put his nightmares in their place soon enough.

And if they did not … well, there were always monsters to hunt.