My lips have tasted gorgondy
I have know the embrace of Shambleau
I have gazed awhile at an original Pickman
To the Flame of Udun I'd not bow down
But this was a different thing.
- "The Dreamer Whose Dreams Came False"
The gods came slumming through the city. They moved in packs, skin too clean and bright. Artful broken veins might muss their features, the carefully selected missing tooth. Bright hot things come down to earth for a while, to taste the pains and aches of flesh, to mingle among the milling humans. Misery tourists.
It was hard to say which were the worst. The artists tried hardest to fit in, seeking their muse in exquisite suffering, wanting to get the bodies and clothes just right to claim street cred. The randy bucks and does, eager to get laid, not caring who or what they left behind. Reformers who wanted to wave a hand and multiply the saran-wrapped sandwiches at the food bank, to heal the sick and leave them in poverty.
They all left. That's what set them apart. That was their option.
The Bloodz sniffed the godpack out quickly, spread the word in taps on the pipes. The bright things moved together, a little pantheon, luxuriating in the wet, smoggy air that brought tears to their eyes and burned their lungs. All part of the authentic experience.
They had a guide. A god of the hunt, maybe. Head buried in her stained hoodie, eyes flashing as the Bloodz thickened around them, and the herd of normal humanity thinned. Too late, she must have realized that the godpack was being guided, away from the strip of bars and restaurants where the tourists might pass unnoticed. She hissed a warning.
The brick caught her in the mouth, jaw fracturing, spilling teeth and blood over the chest of the leader, a hairy-chested tracksuit-wearing asshole with a patriarchal beard and gold-rimmed sunglasses. He roared, a miracle at his hand, but the Bloodz were converging then. It was work for crowbars and linoleum knives, sharpened screwdrivers and small lengths of pipe filled with concrete.
There are gods of war that think they know battle, but there's no glory in getting your ass kicked in an alley, two or three moving on you at a time. They came for pain, and they got it. Not the experience they wanted - the hangovers and deprivation, the slow grind of life as their bodies broke down to lack of care and overindulgence or just age. This was the swift ticket back to their personal Valhallas, blood bootheels crushing into the thin bone of temples, two or three together slamming the pretty skulls into the sidewalks until they cracked and spilled.
The Bloodz saved the guide for last. She had been here longer, and they saw why as they cut the hoodie away. Her arms cradled the swollen belly, broken fingers at odd angles.
One of the demigods showed the tourist the knife.
"Don't worry mom," the Blood hissed, as two others rolled the god onto her back, pinning her down to expose the dome of her stomach. "We'll take care of our new brother or sister."
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