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Branan Lachlan is transformed by the devil, betrayed by God, and made to battle demons with naught but his Scottish wit…
The soul of half an angel.
The body of a demon.
The devil on his tail.
When the devil came for Branan Lachlan and turned him into a demon, he expected to train the young Scotsman to be the antithesis of God and his own damned apprentice. Cursed at twenty-one, Branan fought his demonic character armed only with an iconic sword and an unwavering light in his belly. Plagued by an internal battle of good versus evil, one part of him playing against the other, he is destined to walk Scotland forever, neither living nor dying.
Turning his brother to save Earc’s life, Branan returns to the fold of his tiny family to lead them on a strange journey through the devil’s world on Earth. He is helped by Fionna Frazier, a young peasant girl with a shocking secret of her own.
The trio travels around Macbeth’s Scotland trying to escape from the devil’s spawn, Raum. They meet vampires, druids, murderers, and a harpy, all which add adventure and demand they make choices between good versus evil. In the end, will they win the epic battle with Raum and return to God or will they lose their souls to Lucifer forever?
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I needed help from a skilled man—someone who would have the knowledge to send the evil demon from my body back into the depths of Hell and allow Branan Lachlan to return to his mortal, God-fearing, and human presence. Isaiah fifty-three came to me. ‘Out of my anguish, I shall see light.’
I needed a priest.
I immediately realized I could not simply stroll into our little village church and ask the man who had baptized and merrit me to also exorcise me. Besides, I believed he had no experience on which to draw, as I was certain he had never seen a demon before. I instead I set off toward Obar Dheathain, or as the English called it, Aberdeen, to see whether the priests there could help me. I believed they would have seen all the vices mankind could imagine and the Devil could bestow upon the unwary or willing. I was both wary and unwilling, but here I was, proof of the dealings of the Devil and his demon corps.
I changed into my wolf and ran like the wind, covering in a single night what would take a carriage or a man on a horse nearly a week to do.
Knowing I would be less likely to be detected or set upon as prey, I chose to remain in my wolf form as I slept the day under a thicket. The crisp fall air lay heavy around me, but it did not affect me. Neither heat nor cold penetrated my demon’s skin. I remained comfortably warm year round in any weather.
Though leery, I held comfort in my supernatural power. Woe to anything or anyone who dared attack as I slept, for they would not win a battle against a demon.
At the setting of the sun and the time of my normal awakening, I set forth to the large and beautiful cathedral of St. Macher with apprehension. Not with the fear of any sort of attack but the fear of exposure. If the priest or his servants wished to set the night watch upon me, I would have a wolf by th’eares. I would then have no recourse but to set the hounds of Hell upon them, but this hound of Hell did not have the Devil’s bloodlust for human flesh. I was about to place myself into a situation with possibly no good endings, so I approached with caution.
I could hear the beatings of many hearts and smell the rich blood of dozens of humans calling forth my beast. I plugged my nose from the back of my throat and breathed through my mouth in order to block that delicious smell.
The sheer number of prey nearly overcame my control over my demon’s desires, and I nearly retreated back down to the thickets. I paused in the shadows, pulling my hood closer to my face. I had been able to steel myself against my demon’s lust in my own small villages of Glaxton, but I had never felt the pull of the flesh from so many.
As I had been taught as a small child, I touched my forehead with my thumb, then my mouth, then my heart and said, “Be in my mind, be on my lips, be in my heart,” and wished for the strength of the one above.
I felt an odd glowing deep in my belly and the fear left me, dredging up memories of the past when I felt the light in my body.
Because I could not enter the cathedral itself, I knocked on the door of the rectory. My demon still screamed against the proximity to holy relics as my chest felt as if an anvil sat upon it, crushing my ribs.
The sexton opened the door. He raised his eyebrow at my dark cape pulled low over my face and at the hour of the visit. “May I serve you, brother?” he said cordially.
“I have need of your master, the priest of this fine cathedral,” I said in return, trying to sound human and meek.
“Come in then.” He gestured for me to enter.
“If you please, may I meet him here on the terrace?” The anvil pressed harder on my chest and, remembering my last torturous entry into a holy place, I wanted to talk with the man while under the least amount of pain possible.
The sexton disappeared into the darkness of the rectory and returned a few minutes later with a very short, portly man wearing priestly garb. He too raised an eyebrow at my hooded cape.
“How may I be of aid, my son? I am Father Gordoun.” No matter my disturbing and dark appearance, he was bound to serve those in need.
I indicated a stone bench nearby. “Sit here with me please, Father.”
As soon as we were seated, I simply blurted out like a child, “I am Devil-touched, Father! I need you to purge me of my demon and make me human again.”
“We are all sinners, my son, but it does not make us demons. Come to confession on Wednesday evening, and I can give you absolution and penitence to serve.”
“I wish it were that easy, Father, but mine is not born of sin but of the sinister.”
I told him my sordid tale. I left out no detail. If this man was to help, I reasoned that he should know everything.
To his credit, the priest moved nary a muscle throughout my horrifying story. I could not imagine that this saga was any easier to hear than it was to tell but the man was positively stoic.
“A fantastic story, young sir,” he commented at last. “But I really do not believe in ghost stories.”
“You believe in—” I paused knowing the word would, in the least, burn my lips, “—God.” The sting was swift and deep. I flinched.
“Of course. But Lucifer manifests himself in the spirits of men, in their behaviors, not in physical being.”
“God,” I choked, “manifested himself in his son.”
Father Gordoun contemplated me a bit before asking, “Do you believe yourself to be Lucifer’s son?”
I shook my head. “Nay, Father. I do not believe so.”
There was only one way to convince the priest that I spoke the truth and was indeed the monster I described. I closed my eyes and breathed in the sweet, tantalizing smell of his blood allowing my demon’s eyes to glow red and my beastly teeth to grow. As I opened my eyes, I snarled and pulled off my hood to expose my horns.
Father Gordoun jumped sideways off the bench and backed away nearly to the door. I quickly replaced my hood and lowered my gaze.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God! What deevilry is this?” Father exclaimed.
I looked up again and pleaded softly, “I am truly among the damned, Father. I do not want to be what I am. I do not want to kill or prey on humans. I do not want to spend eternity in Hell with all the fiends of the Devil. I simply want to be Branan Lachlan again and go home to Glaxton a whole man.” My voice was barely a whisper. “I need your help.”
I could see the man was greatly conflicted. I knew he wanted to run as I could smell his fear.
But run he did not. Instead he told me to wait and then reentered his home.
‘Here in o’erwhelming final strife,’ I thought while I waited, ‘the lord of life hath victory, and sin is slain and death brings life . . .’
It was another prayer from Clement of Alexandria.
‘. . . and Earth inherits Heaven’s key.’ I hoped against all hope that prayer would come true tonight.
A few minutes later, the rotund priest came to the door and motioned for me to come.
I followed, but just as before, the moment I stepped through the door, oppressive pain of God’s holy presence attacked my chest and head. But it was not the torture chamber of church in Ardoch, so I entered the rectory’s kitchen.
The sexton was present as well as a small boy whom I assumed was a servant.
Father Gordoun introduced them. “This is Cruikschank the cathedral’s sexton. The boy is Dovny Hennersone.” I nodded my acknowledgement, my hood securely on my head again.
They had cleared all the furniture to the side leaving the well-trodden, earthen floor exposed.
Father Gordoun handed me a bucket of fine sand usually used to help dowse the hearth fire. “Make a circle large enough for you to lie in,” he commanded.
I did as he bid, carefully scattering the sand. I heard the boy whisper something about my sixth finger. I had practically forgotten about it since I lived with the extra fingers and toes for nearly five years.
I concentrated on the feel of it through my fingers to take my mind off the pain, which constantly penetrated in my deepest bones as if I were wracked with the bloody flux. If this man was willing to help, I would tolerate whatever pain he inadvertently caused.
When I had completed my lopsided circle, he instructed me to draw two triangles in such a way that they formed a six-sided star whose apexes touched the perimeter of the circle.
Again, I did as he bid, but this time to the horrifying gasps of the sexton and boy as I revealed my true demon shell.
The priest watched with damish’t and awe. “You do not have a body of a normal man. No one has that musculature in the human world.”
I shrugged my shoulders. I was sure Cruikschank and Dovny were more taken aback by my horns, bruised skin, and odd spots than my biceps. Whatever Father had briefly told them, it surely did not prepare the gaping duo for me.
“Lie down in the circle in such a way that you are centered,” Father Gordon said and then nodded to the boy. “Cover him.”
All the time keeping a watchful eye on my horns, the boy nervously laid a cloth over my groin. I could immediately feel the burning heat.
“What is this?” I hissed.
“An alter cloth,” I heard one of them say.
I began to question the sanity of my actions.
I lay in suffering silence as the portly priest drew various symbols inside the circle around me. As he completed each one, the anvil on my chest became heavier.
The pain became even more intense as the priest mumbled his incantations. I tried to lie still, pulling the pain inward as I stifled my baser instincts, which would easily be the cause of three murders that night.
I focused on three passages from Psalm 51, repeating them in my head:
‘Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin . . .’
‘Purge me from my sin and I shall be pure; wash me, and I shall be clean indeed . . .’
‘Cast me not away from your presence . . .’
I could no longer keep my eyes open, as I needed to focus on healing and not killing. I could smell the pungent order of incense and hear muted chanting from all three human voices. The world spun around, and I became lightheaded as if I had spent an entire weekend at a horoyally, drinking my way through an uproarious party.
As I willed the earth to stop spinning, I felt a heavy object placed on my chest. I immediately endured the most intense pain of my life, dead or alive. My earsplitting screams threatened to call the entire town to the rectory. My chest felt as if it were being charred in the fires of Hell itself. Tears of blood flowed abundantly, and I was certain my body would explode any second. I tried to roll over and rise, but I was utterly pinned to the floor by the weight of the sacred object. The priest could not free my body of the demon, but he was succeeding in removing any trace of Branan Lachlan from the bounds of Earth. I was going to die this night at the hands of a priest and I would count myself blessed.