As the fairy ale did its job and Constansa became more and more talkative, Steve finally popped the question that had been nagging him for years.
«So, what really went down between you and Katherine? There you were, practically blood sisters and then you’re off to parts unknown, and Katherine stays behind, getting all pissy if anyone even mentioned your name?»
Constansa looked even more thoughtful and drank down half a bottle in one long swallow before answering.
«We had, what they call creative differences. You know my record of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but even I can’t condone wholesale slaughter of guards and henchmen. Not always at least. Simply put, her bloodthirst was getting the upper hand, and when I tried to rein her in, it didn’t go well…»
«Not the version I heard,» Steve replied. «All Katherine would say on the subject, was cursing you for breaking promises, abandoning innocents and chickening out of cleaning up your messes.»
«That how she put it? More like cleaning up her messes. You do know that she is possessed by a demon? She was starting to torture and murder anyone standing in our way. Even when other options were available. Look I’m no saint, but at least I don’t take pleasure in vivisecting people like she did towards the end.»
«Not true. Katherine deserves better than you twisting what happened to cover up your bad conscience.» It was Theresa who had joined them and motioned for a bottle of fairy ale as well. «She fought at our side for almost thirty years, and we – you – did break our promise to her. Remember when we ran into her in Central Africa back in the 90s? She was more beast than human, and you personally promised to teach her how to control her rage. Never got around to that part, did you?»
«Pft, everyone has to carry their own weight and deal with their own demons and curses. Speaking of, why aren’t you busy flirting with Michael, instead of giving me a hard time about events in the distant past? Has he lost his charm, now that he’s starting to become a decent person?» Constansa flicked a bottle cap at Theresa.
«That’s low. Low, but true, and you won’t get out of telling the truth to Steve by calling out my fondness for heartbreakers with a five o’clock shadow.»
Steve realized that Constansa and Theresa must have been through some pretty bad things since he last saw them. In the old days, they would never have let their differences show in public. Not even when «public» was just him.
Baz was done updating his calculations, and strolled over to the confessional table and took the bottle that Helena tentacled him. «You’re not being fair, either of you. If Steve is supposed to have a paladin’s chance in Hell of understanding this argument you need to fill him in on some background. Katherine’s background to be more specific. In contrast to Elisabeth, she wasn’t born into the war we are fighting. To make sense of this, he needs to understand what made Katherine go looking for a way to martyr herself.»
«I’m all ears,» Steve said and wiggled his pointed, warty ears to lighten a mood that was starting to become tense. «Who will do me the honors?»
Baz sighed. «I might as well since I really do not care one way or another. Katherine was born as a fairly mundane girl in London at the beginning of the 70s. Or as mundane as you can be when your mother is a doped-out model-turned-golddigger, and your father is an equally doped-out spoiled heir-turned-sugar daddy. She was more an accessory than a child to them and was summarily packed off to boarding school at the earliest possible opportunity. Sometimes I suspect that those posh boarding schools do even more damage than convents to the children in their care. With most of the fellow girls sharing her background, she – predictably enough – turned to juvenile delinquency to pass the time and hopefully annoy her parents in the process. She had a smart and kind streak, strong enough to avoid truly messing up her life, and even managed to finish with decent grades. Seeing how her parents had rotted from the inside out possibly helped keeping her from becoming a spoiled brat. So instead of just wasting her life, like her parents had, she figured out that the truest act of rebellion she could perform was to make something useful of herself. So, after graduating from her boarding school, she went to some fancy medical college – Oxford, I think – and graduated with honors from there. The family money could have bought a post-graduate position at whatever prestigious institution she wanted, but instead, she opted to join Medicins sans Frontieres, to become a do-gooder. Not the phony kind with a lapdog, sipping vodka, high as a kite while hosting a fundraiser. Nope, not Katherine. By then she already had a highly-developed martyr instinct and wanted to work out in the field, saving children and all that.
«A young and idealistic Katherine was posted to Rwanda, and for a few months she had a positive purpose in her life, but if any of you folks remember history, Rwanda in the mid-90s was the place of the worst massacres since WWII. But in a way, it made sense, first some months working on sainthood and then the possibility of a really grand martyrdom when all hell literally broke loose.
«When a Hutu-mob reached the small Tutsi village where Katherine was stationed, the people barricaded themselves inside the church and prayed for salvation. Not surprisingly, there was no reply from heaven, and the mob broke into the church, raping and butchering the people inside. As Katherine was young, attractive and, most importantly, white, she was saved for last, to be gang raped by the officers. Desperately praying while the people around her were horribly slaughtered, something happened. Katherine got a response. Not from God in heaven, but from some ancient African demon god that had long slumbered, roused by the blood spilt on one of his ancient sacrificial sites, which the church had been built on top of. Waking up, it noticed the desperate emotions of the praying white woman and possessed her. With her bare hands, Katherine tore the soldiers into pieces and feasted on their corpses. With the demon’s bloodlust far from sated, she proceeded to chase down and kill everyone left in the village. Hutu and Tutsi alike – they were all to be devoured. Any claims she might have had for sainthood went down the drain, then and there. After completing the massacre of the village, she went out into the jungle – more beast than human – and preyed on anything walking on two legs.
«Carnage on this scale always attracts things, just like the nazi death camps and the trenches of WWI. We were down there, hunting down the worst of the monsters enjoying themselves, when we came across Katherine. Theresa made us stay our hand, so instead of killing Katherine on sight, we tried to help instead.
«It was obvious that Katherine was merely a possessed vessel, and killing her wouldn’t have solved anything. The demon would just have been free to possess somebody else, so it was just common sense to try and help her control the demon instead.»
«The merciful thing towards Katherine would probably have been to kill her on the spot,» Theresa added with a grim look. «To make a long story short, Baz and I were able to weaken the demon enough for Katherine to regain some control. Her mind was, understandably enough, shattered. She had been a mute and powerless spectator in her own body, while the demon had committed its atrocities. But we’d seen worse.»
Baz paused to take a long drink of his bottle before he continued. «So, as usual, we made a deal with the devil. In return for not being banished, the demon would relinquish its control over Katherine – as long as she kept on spilling blood. This allowed us to turn Katherine into a weapon we could use against our enemies, while incidentally bringing her back to sanity, if possible. Never did get that back to sanity part right, even though our esteemed leader Constansa swore that she would never stop trying. We managed to stabilize Katherine enough for her to be around other people without trying to eat them – as long as they didn’t piss her off. But that was about it.
«That’s as fair a recap about her past as I can give you, Steve, and the essence of the argument is that Theresa thinks that we gave up too early on Katherine and that Constansa was more focused on using her as a tool than giving her the chance to heal. Isn’t that so Theresa?»
«Yes – more or less. The human part of Katherine is still in there somewhere, tormented by the use we put her to. I’m certain that if I’d had enough time to work with her, I could have helped her banish the blood and darkness possessing her.»
«Sure you could, » Constansa spat. «I could make a really long fucking list of all the things we could have done differently if we’d had enough time! Lisboa, Schwarzwald, Göttingen, Kiev – do you want me to continue? No? Didn’t think so. The truth of the matter is that yes, possibly, in the beginning, there was something left of her original personality to save. But remember, she was not all that stable to begin with. Nobody with a martyr complex is. Over time, it was obvious that she began to enjoy the power that the demon gave her. She began to see herself as God’s Scourge upon the wicked, cleansing them from the face of the earth.» Constansa spoke without looking Theresa in the eyes.
«And where did that attitude come from, if not from you? That’s what we’re fucking doing – marching down that road paved with good intentions. Baz and Cullen know what kind of fanatics we are, and they’re going to Hell with us, willingly, just like those who have fallen by the wayside, like Ricardo, Arradia and Armand. But we never gave Katherine a choice, did we?» Theresa wasn’t backing down on this subject.
«Whatever. On the list of crimes that I have to pay for when I finally kick the bucket one day, Katherine won’t be the worst.»
Steve looked at Constansa and Theresa with something akin to sympathy «You’re not doing anyone any favors by beating yourselves up for past mistakes. Still, what happened to make you part ways? Did Katherine slip too far into madness or something?»
«That’s what Constansa would like you to believe,» Theresa said with a sigh. «We had a disagreement about Elisabeth, and for the record I still believe that Katherine was right, but this isn’t the only world we have created messes in, and one of our worst mistakes was about to boil over in another world, so we had to go there and stop it. That meant leaving Elisabeth without supervision in her convent, breaking our promise to protect her. Katherine disagreed and stayed behind, wanting Elisabeth to get the choice that she herself had been denied. Alone, there wasn’t all that much Katherine could do, as the convent was warded against the kind of demon that gave her her power. She could mostly just watch powerlessly from the walls as Elisabeth was tormented into madness.
«That was how Katherine met up with her wolf pack. They had been sent by the Lunar Council to kill Elisabeth before she came to full powers, most likely to prevent the present scenario from happening. Katherine spotted them and challenged their leader to a formal duel and defeated him. According to their traditions, that made Katherine the leader of the pack, and as long as she keeps on leading them to destroy what they consider corrupt, they are happy with her leadership. And Katherine can keep fulfilling the demon’s bloodlust while trying to stop the tide of evil; she’ll have her hands full with that now.»
«Hm, that makes sense,» Steve said as he put away the empty bottles. «From what I’ve heard she’s working as a bounty hunter and assassin for whoever that can pay her fees. But it also looks like she’s picky with her targets, only accepting missions to hunt those she considers wicked. She has steadfastly refused to take on missions against the werewolves or other shifters, and others that are fighting against the church.»
«How noble of her,» Constansa said dryly. «Won’t make much difference now that she’s escorted Elisabeth to Hell, will it? And what’s that red light blinking behind the bar?»
«That’s the signal that someone has answered the Summons. In other words, the Demon Fodder has arrived.»