Iron Cross

Prompt: The story starts during a war. The story must have a demon in it. During the story, a character is robbed.

As the Allies storm the beaches at Normandy, unholy forces plot against them. The fate of the war in Europe may rest far from the frontlines, in a powerful MacGuffin artifact carried by an uncertain low-ranking demon.

His map was useless. Atzamis was already behind schedule, and now hopelessly lost in the backwoods of continental Europe. Why did these accursed French name every town Saint Somebody-Or-Another? Had he already passed St. Lo? Sunrise was approaching, and he dared not be seen traveling the main roads in daylight. Demons were creatures of darkness and obscurity.

As daybreak approached, he had no choice but to contact the embassy. Quickly taking human form, he knocked on the door of a nearby house. A young woman answered.

«Excusez-moi, madamoiselle, mais ma voiture est tombé en panne. Est-ce que je pourrais utilizer votre téléphone?»

«Mais oui, monsieur.» She pointed to the telephone.

Atzamis trembled as he slowly dialed headquarters. France was his first assignment: less than a week in, he knew nothing of the country, its language or its customs. Its head diplomat, though, was well known within the Infernal Services. Ambassador Belphegor was loath to lift a finger to do any work himself. That is, any work except ripping to shreds any young demons who failed in their assignments.

Only one day prior, Atzamis stood weak-kneed in Belphegor’s office. “You have heard of the recent invasions in the north of this country?” he asked.

Atzamis nodded. He had transcribed the reports off the wire from headquarters.

“Intelligence from our German allies indicates that these attacks are a diversion,” explained Belphegor. “But soon, Generals Montgomery and Patton will move against the German forces at Calais.” The ambassador waved broadly at the map behind him, unwilling to shift his grotesquely obese body to point out Calais more precisely.

“What are we to do?” The Department of Infernal Services were not armed. They were an ambassadorial service.

Belphegor pointed to a briefcase on his desk. It bore the triple-six coat of arms of the DIS. “Inside is an artifact: an iron swastika, forged centuries ago for a scholar in Staufen, Germany. We have kept it safe ever since. Its power is great: whoever wields it is assured victory in the upcoming battle.”

Atzamis opened the case. The artifact was barely the size of his palm, crudely forged and hammered in black iron. Four straps each restrained one arm of the swastika.

“Take it to the German commander at Calais,” Belphegor ordered. “He is expecting you. Make all appropriate haste. Travel only on backroads. Allow no humans to see your true form.”

“Yes, sir.”

“One more thing,” the Ambassador added ominously. “If you don’t deliver it by tomorrow morning, don’t bother coming back.

Fortunately for Atzamis, the Ambassador was not yet at his desk. His young Cambion secretary was much more understanding, and gave detailed directions to Calais via backroads, where he was unlikely to be spotted.

«Merci beaucoup, madamoiselle» he thanked the human woman before leaving her house.

The sun was above the horizon by the time Atzamis reached the forest crossroads at the edge of town. To make Calais before noon, Atzamis knew that he must risk traveling at demonic speeds in broad daylight. He looked around suspiciously for human onlookers.

Just as he was about to revert to his demonic form, a voice called from the woods.

«Monsieur! Monsieur! S’il vous plaît!» Whoever this man was, his accent was worse than the demon’s. «Parlez-vous anglais?»

“Yes?” Atzamis called back to the woods, struggling to be a Frenchman struggling with English. “You are who?”

“Oh, thank God,” said the man. A twinge shot through Atzamis’s spine at the mention of the name. A man stepped out of the woods. “PFC William Saunders, 82nd Airborne.” American. An armed soldier. Atzamis panicked: in human form, he was vulnerable.

“Listen, I got dropped way off target. Can you help me?”

Atzamis backed away. “I’m sorry, Monsieur Saunders. I cannot help you. Perhaps in the town…” As the demon turned to walk away, he tripped. The DIS briefcase flew out of his hands as he landed on his face. The latch snapped open.

“Here, let me help you with that,” PFC Saunders offered. Before Atzamis could shoo him away, the paratrooper caught sight of the iron swastika within the briefcase. “What the hell? Vichy, are we? Fleeing with some kind of artifact?”

Immediately, Atzamis found himself staring down the barrel of a firearm. “I’ll just take this,” PFC Saunders told him, removing the iron swastika from its restraints and tucking it into a pocket. “Hell, maybe it’ll bring me good luck.”

“I never saw the Faustus Swastika again,” admitted Atzamis. “Never returned to the embassy. Ambassador Belphegor never forgives a mistake.”

“Otra copa, señor?” asked the bartender. Atzamis consented to another ounce of liquor.

“The rest is history,” continued the demon. “Afterward, the Allies were unstoppable.” Atzamis downed the shot. “Calais was never their target. The Germans were unprepared. But… I wonder how big a role I played in their final defeat.”

Not a single person in the crowded Buenos Aires bar listened, nor knew what he was saying.


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