Parajunkee’s View would like to issue a warm welcome to the wonderful author, Nancy Holzner. Dr. Holzner is the author of the Urban Fantasy, Deadtown series which include, Deadtown & Hellforged.  You can find more about the books on her website.

Programme for Apprentice Demon Fighters

My name is Mab Vaughn, and I’m a retired demon-fighter. Well, perhaps semi-retired would be more accurate. One never knows when one’s services may be required.

I come from a long line of demonslayers, stretching back to Ceridwen, a Welsh goddess well known for her shapeshifting ability. My race, the Cerddorion, have opposed demons since our mutual origins. I have trained many a Cerddorion demon fighter, including my niece, Victory. Recently Vicky has undertaken to train an apprentice of her own, a young, so-called “zombie” named Tina. So I thought it would be helpful to put together a training programme for Vicky to use. Other experienced demonslayers thinking of taking on an apprentice may find it helpful, as well.

Years 1-3: Know Your Enemy

Before an aspiring demon fighter can even begin to think of actual combat, it is essential to understand the nature, habits, strengths, and weaknesses of the demons eventually to be encountered in the field. There’s simply no point in charging in unprepared, trying to fight (for example) a Glitch using  techniques best suited for opposing Drudes. To do so is, quite frankly, to court disaster. A Glitch is an anti-technology demon; a Drude is a nightmare-causing demon. Combat in the technological realm requires a completely different strategy from fighting in the realm of dreams. Anyone who fails to understand this has no business fighting demons.

So a firm grounding in the fundamentals of demonology is the necessary first step in any training programme. The apprentice must gain an encyclopedic knowledge of demons before proceeding. For this phase of training, the indispensable text is Russom’s Demoniacal Taxonomy. Yes, it’s dry. Yes, it’s lengthy. And yes, it’s a couple of centuries old. But there’s no better resource on demons. If an apprentice cannot get through the book due to tone or length, that apprentice should not—indeed, must not—continue training. As for age, some argue that Russom’s has become dated, yet how much have demons changed over the centuries? Very little. I can vouch for that from personal experience.

For the first three years of training, the apprentice must become thoroughly familiar with the contents of Russom’s, to be supplemented by other texts as required. Written reports, oral reports, and frequent pop quizzes are the best means for demonstrating knowledge. In the third year, the apprentice may move on to analysis of complex scenarios, such as “Is it likely that Imps and Hellions would form an alliance? Why or why not? In the event of such an alliance (whether likely or unlikely), describe the best strategy for defeating the enemy.” 

Year 4: Introduction to Weaponry

After the apprentice has demonstrated a thorough understanding of the demon world and its inhabitants, it’s time to introduce weaponry. This year is reserved for gaining familiarity with the different types of weapons. I recommend the following units, in order: the properties of bronze, bladed weapons, projectiles, and techniques to enhance weapons’ effectiveness (holy water, sacramental wine, basic spellcraft, etc.).

Although the apprentice may view and handle individual weapons during this phase, the apprentice should not use them, even in mock combat. The goal of this year is to know the different weapons available and understand, in theory, which weapons are most effective against a particular type of demon.

Years 5-6: Combat Fundamentals

This phase marks the beginning of the apprentice’s physical training. It begins with a fitness regimen designed to prepare the apprentice for combat training. Assign weight training to bolster strength and long-distance running to increase endurance.

When the apprentice meets a high standard of physical fitness, weapons training—using wooden or blunted weapons—may begin. The course of instruction should include swordplay, axes, throwing (knives and spears), archery, marksmanship, and hand-to-hand combat. In Year 6, the apprentice may accompany the instructor on demon-fighting excursions, but only as an observer.

Year 7: Advanced Combat

If the apprentice has progressed satisfactorily through the previous phases of training, advanced combat may begin at this time. A word of caution, however: Do not embark upon this final phase of training unless the apprentice has thoroughly mastered all previous phases. It is useful to test the apprentice’s knowledge and skills before proceeding. Better to spend another year or two on an earlier phase as needed than send an unprepared demon fighter into the field. Too many have perished from going into the field too early.

Advanced combat begins with a review of combat skills already learned—this time with sharpened blades. The instructor must not pamper the apprentice during drills; demons most certainly will not do so in an actual combat situation. Next, the instructor conjures small demons for the apprentice to fight under controlled circumstances. The apprentice continues to accompany the instructor to demon exterminations, moving from observer to back-up as individual progress warrants. Finally, the apprentice takes the primary role in an extermination, with the instructor providing back-up. When the apprentice has successfully exterminated at least one of each of the main types of demons without excessive assistance from the instructor, the program is complete.

You can read the first chapter of Deadtown here and of Hellforged here. Stop by Nancy’s website to explore the world of Deadtown and say hello!