By Moe Lane


To begin with, do not use that name around Laurence or Novalis. Neither Archangel likes it - or the concept that it covers. Indeed, both of them decline to officially recognize the group's existence: it isn't precisely a condition that one would wish to encourage.

However, neither Archangel gets to make the final call on this one. You see, the problem with fighting an enemy that is, well, vile, is that the aforementioned enemy will seldom hesitate to fight dirty. Obscenely dirty, if necessary ... and it's amazing what Hell can rationalize as being 'necessary'. Most angels learn to accept this as a matter of course, but it can come to a surprise to many Soldiers. There's a reason why so many human servants of the Host don't have much of a social life, outside of their colleagues: Hell does its damnedest to take it away, often messily. Some Soldiers rise above this test. Some are broken by it.

Some become Hellburners.

There's only one 'requirement' to be a Hellburner (in game terms, at least): a Will of 7. That's in game terms. The background, however, is a different story: Hellburners are invariably Soldiers who have seen demonic cruelty up close and personal. They've watched as their families or friends or lovers were targeted, tortured or damned. Many times they themselves were the unwitting agents of such activities (Hellburners often get that way as a direct result of Shedite machinations). The experience drives them mad - but it's a functional madness, really. They can still act effectively, after all. Just don't expect them to ever again demonstrate a full range of human emotions.

Contrary to popular belief, not all Hellburners are combat monsters. For every zombie-like gunman, there's a emotionless hacker that trashes entire financial networks to target one demonic bank account: for every chainsaw-wielding fanatic there's a silent paramedic prepared to make sure that a suspected Hellsworn never makes it to the hospital. What does distinguish all Hellburners is their collective willingness to not shrink from any activity that will hurt Hell. Demon holed up in the abandoned building with hostages? Break out gasoline and matches. Evidence that a human is Hellsworn? Introduce him or her to a tree shredder. Shedite possessing an innocent? Pull out an ice pick. Shedite possessing a colleague? Pull out an ice pick. Shedite possessing you? Quickly pull out an ice pick.

As the above might suggest, Shedim and Hellburners have a very, very interesting relationship. Inexperienced Corrupters are drawn to them ... only to discover that these half-broken Soldiers are usually quite cognizant of what it feels like to be ridden, and have no compulsion against forcing the demon out by any and all means necessary. Some Hellburners have even been known to use Force Catchers (or Will-Shackles on themselves), then calmly sit in the locus of a Tether and savor the screams. A more experienced Shedite can overcome this kind of conditioning, but it is still not a pleasant experience at all.

Indeed, most of Hell's street-level operatives find an encounter with Hellburners to be highly unpleasant. Aside from their high Will, Hellburners have no inherent added resistance to being affected by a demonic resonance ... but they don't particularly care. For example, an inexperienced Balseraph might try to convince a foe that he or she isn't actually attacking a demon, but no Hellburner will ever stop using a chainsaw on someone simply because he cannot remember why he chose to start doing so in the first place. Lilim (and Calabim) will find that Hellburners are indifferent to pain: they can feel it and be physically affected by it, but it won't stop them. Impudites are usually terminally shocked to discover that a Hellburner will kill someone that he or she 'likes', if the situation calls for it. A powerful, experienced demon can play a Hellburner like a violin, of course - but the average demon would be well advised to simply avoid finesse and either shoot to kill, or run.

There is no formal Hellburner organization: it's more of an epithet than anything else. 'Members' usually work in groups of (at most) three or four. They tend not to socialize with each other too much, but then they never really socialize at all. Hellburners never consider themselves off duty, after all. This fact, coupled with their complete lack of self-preservation, helps explain why so few Hellburners seem to last very long. 95% of them are dead within a year of whatever it was that half-broke them; none have lasted more than a decade before full madness or death.

Nobody in Heaven likes the idea that humans are capable of getting this bad, but there's a wide difference of opinion about the appropriate response. Every Archangel has his or her own method of dealing with the situation (many would say 'problem'), ranging from reassignment to involuntary care to a painless death and intensive therapy in Heaven. Active, open Hellburners serve War, Stone, Lightning or Creation - Eli's walkabout has had some extremely unfortunate consequences - but there are always rumors about most of the other Archangels, and how they may have one or two available, at need.

Any tool at hand, after all.


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