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Posted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 8:45 pm
This is a clear homage to Castlevania and to all the classic monster movies, the Hammer flicks and to films like Vampire Hunter D. Just a fun little project. Comments would be welcome.
Vorld Var 3
We all knew something was coming. We all knew that lasting peace was an illusion. We felt it in our bones, in our very souls. Humanity was fracturing again. Technology that should bring us closer together only divided us further. Nations were once again gearing up in the name of defense and our planet was finally showing signs of being fed up with the abuse we subjected it to.
So, yes, we expected something really bad to happen. Natural disasters, civil wars...even WW3 was at the back of everyone's mind.
When it eventually came, however, it was not something anyone had expected.
Because who had reason to expect Dracula?
Vampires, werewolves, alraunes, zombies, demons...all the things nightmares were made of and more.
They erupted from the shadows all over the world, brought back into our reality by the power of a secretive cabal that had sought to bring back the creatures of myth for hundreds of years. They were not the force behind mankind's downward spiral, no, we did that fine on our own – but they took the chance once they saw it.
Deep within Romania, a monstrous edifice, violating all rules of physics and gravity, erupted from the ground like a cancerous sore, spilling forth an army of vampires, bats, werewolves and other foulness.
Europe's armies were woefully unprepared and utterly helpless against that onslaught. Eastern Europe fell within a week, the rest followed soon. What good are guns, grenades, even tanks against beasts that can spit acid or cannot be harmed except by silver?
America was decimated as well, forced to content with creatures from its own darkest nightmares. Contact with China and Japan broke up a few days after the initial attack. Millions died or were turned into soldiers of the enemy.
The cabal would be victorious....except that Dracula, the driving force behind the darkness, would not be controlled. Whatever he had become during his hibernation, it was far beyond any normal vampire. It would not be so easily controlled. Instead, he tore the cabal to shreds and turned them into his minions. He and his lieutenants act out of sheer malice, eager to tear asunder the foundations of civilization and dance upon the ruins, a final act of spite against the forces of light that cursed and rejected them.
But, by some miracle, mankind did not fall. After the initial shock and disbelief wore off, man remembered the old legends. The silver. The crosses. The magic. The stake. And what had started as a massacre became a full-fledged war. There are enclaves, fortified cities where the remnants of humanity gather and muster, prepare to take back what was once theirs. London. The Vatican. Paris. Madrid. Venice. Munich. In Europe, these shine like beacons of hope, a sign that not all is lost – for now.
But daily, fresh horrors stumble from the bowels of Dracula's castle and the caves, ruins and monasteries of the fallen world, now given over to the monsters. Daily, more and more people are turned to evil or transformed into the minions of darkness.
But if adversity brings out the worst in mankind, it also brings out the best. Things are not lost. It is not over. We have magic. We have technology. And we have souls.
Posted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 8:46 pm
We all know the story of Vlad Tepesh and we know what dark pact he made with unknown forces that allowed him to survive his execution and become an undead monstrosity. Thanks to Mr. Stoker, we also know how he was defeated the last time.
If only it were that easy now.
The brave heroes who defeated Dracula unfortunately did not permanently kill him. As his body turned to dust, his soul went shrieking into whatever darkness awaited him and the world knew peace once more. With the rise of technology and science, magic became weaker and weaker, with Dracula having been one of the last holdouts of ancient eldritch power. After his demise, it well and truly passed into the realm of superstition. Where the supernatural creatures went during that time, no one knows.
Maybe they passed into that strange otherworldly place from whence all nightmares spring, the anti-universe some call the qulippoth. Maybe they hid amongst men and became used to their new powerless state. In any case, for a long time, the supernatural lay dormant, with only a select few knowing for a fact that it had ever truly existed.
Those were usually the scions of families who had once been of terrifying occult power, people who dreamed of past glories and could not stand to be reduced to mundane mortals. It was them who formed a cabal to bring back the powers of darkness. For ages, they gathered every little tidbit of true magic that still existed, every little mote of supernatural power. It took them several generations before they finally managed to collect enough magic to try and bring back the last true heir of eldritch might.
Some of them probably did not hold much hope that it might actually work. Some were blinded by their twisted desire to finally wield real magic and some might even have dreamed of making a puppet of Dracula himself. Fools is what they all turned out to be.
For what they managed to raise had little to do with the Dracula that had been slain by Van Helsing and his comrades. It still walked as a vampire, but wherever its soul had been, it had brought back something even worse – the essence of pure darkness, the chaos of Hell, in thrall to the will of the Impaler.
Within moments after the thing had risen, the members of the cabal were either dead, turned into undead slaves or hopelessly enthralled by the dark majesty exuded by Dracula reborn. With one gesture, the dark lord raised a monstrous edifice from the shadows, a castle that seemed built to spite the laws of nature.
From the parapets, Dracula let his gaze wander around the world and he smirked. He raised his pale hand once more....and like a flood, magic erupted from the gates of the castle, a wave of power upon which rode a host of horrors mankind had long thought of as dreams and tall tales.
And Dracula saw the ensuing carnage and he smiled. This time, the world would be his. This time, his cloak would cover all that lived under an eternal shroud of darkness.
Posted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 9:13 pm
Ooo, I'll be following this with much interest.
Posted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 5:15 pm
The Anathema Council, Part 1
For all his awesome might, Dracula knows he cannot conquer the world on his own. Unfortunately for mankind, he does not have to.
The return of magic brought with it a dire revivication of all manner of undead horrors that had long been forgotten or turned from dreadful fact into titillatingly scary myth.
Now being the closest thing to the embidoment of darkness on earth, Dracula could feel them stir in their tombs, under their rocks and in their castles and he wasted little time in calling them to him.
With their minds still reeling from their resurrections, they put up little in the way of resistance and so flocked to the castle within mere days of its reappearance. There, Dracula made them swear fealty to him and entrusted each with the duty of conquering and controlling a part of the old world. As their existance was an act of defiance against the forces of Light, he named them his Anathema Council.
The members of this council are:
Once a minor Romanian nobleman who was foolish enough to seek immortality for himself and dared to challenge Dracula to turn him into a child of the night. Dracula, both amused and enraged at such audacity, granted Orlok his wish...but not the way Orlok had wanted.
After draining him of blood, Dracula then dribbled some of his own blood mixed with that of plague-carrying rats into the noble's mouth, turning him into a horrid mockery of himself, long-clawed and stooped, forever in pain from his deformed bones and a magnet for disease and rats.
Orlok was ordered to take over Greece and what Dracula remembers as Persia, which the horrid monster did by basically turning whole cities into plague-pits simply by striding through their streets. He is horrendously powerful but cannot abide the rays of the sun, unlike his master. He also hates Dracula with an inhuman passion and seeks a way to overcome the compulsion to serve his master that occupies his every waking moment. Should he succeed, he might make for an unlikely and certainly untrustworthy ally.
Carmilla von Karnstein
There has never been a noble „ von Karnstein“ family in Europe, but Carmilla insists on presenting herself as having a noble background. She is not of Dracula's get, but never speaks about her sire. Nonetheless, she, too, was drawn to the Lord of Darkness after her resurrection. Being essentially a free spirit, she is not particularly fond of having to serve the elder vampire and has actually subverted orders more than once when it seemed convenient to her.
She has been tasked with overseeing the conquest of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France, but her efforts have been stymied more than once by the defenses of Munich and Paris. While she is quite powerful in person, she usually relies more on her charisma and her supernatural talents of mesmerism and enchantment to win the day. Her troops are without a doubt the most loyal, especially her „ Favoured Dozen“, a group of 12 female vampires sired by her who serve as shock troops and, rumors say, as her concubines.
Any such suggestions are better made out of earshot of either Carmilla or the Dozen, as the master vampiress does not like the implication that she plays favourites.
She has recently started to enact a dangerous new plan to subsume the leadership of Munich – personal infiltration. Able to pose as a normal human for far longer than most other undead and being inconvenienced rather than destroyed by sunlight, she has started to weave a deadly web of intrigue right inside the walls...though it is anyone's best guess if she is doing this to actually advance the plans of her master or set up her own little empire, free of any man's rule.
Posted: Thu Dec 05, 2019 1:38 pm
The Anathema Council, part 2
The infamous Blood Countess had been a sadistic monster even before her death. While she never bathed in blood as some later legends about her stated, she sadistically killed scores of young women, either herself or by proxy, watching her servants mutilate and kill the poor girls.
The hole in her soul opened her up to demonic possession and after her death, an unholy spirit from Hell reanimated her corpse as an undead abomination. Unfortunately, it was unable to escape her gravesite due to some clever warding sigils placed on her coffin.
Later, it went dormant as magic drained from the world, making the unholy thing sluggish and tired.
It, too, reacted to Dracula's return, the resurgent magic empowering it enough to overcome the sigils, and raced towards the castle.
Bathory has turned into a red mist-like creature that can solidify to become a female figure completely made of blood, the true form of the demon that took possession of her. Over the ages, the black soul of Elisabeth and the demon have turned into a perfect, sadistic and powerful union.
She has been sent to conquer Eastern Europe and Russia and solidify Dracula's command over those regions. It is said that she can control blood and even see and „ feel“ through the blood of others.
Well known beyond rumor and hearsay is the fact that she can „anoint“ undead with her cursed blood, rendering them nearly indestructible.
The frozen regions of the world are now being terrorised by a thing that few can believe was once human. But in life, the thing called „ Boneless“ was indeed a human, albeit one prone to terrible rages, a famed Berserker among the Norse tribes, despite a disability which should normally have crippled and kept him away from the battlefield. So great was his rage that in death, it turned him into a fearsome undead horror, a draugr.
Being bound to his gravesite, he brutally slaughtered all those who dared to disturb it while leaving the countryside alone. Eventually, when magic faded, he whithered away to a few bones, which were later unearthed by a careless farmer.
When the call of darkness came, he rose anew, but all that was left of his body was a raging torrent of fierce winds, bones and violent rage. As the thing even induced mindless fury in his own subjects, Dracula decided to send Boneless to scour and subdue the lonely and cold places of the world. Scandinavia and the northern parts of Russia have been hit hard by this monstrosity, which brings with it unnamable spirits of ice, frozen dead, gigantic ice-breathing wolf-things and a mindless rage that can cause brother to turn on brother...
A pharao so vile that all mention of her was erased from history and who was buried in a heavily warded tomb far away from the life-giving Nile, Nitocris herself heeded the call of Dracula, devastating Egypt within a day of her resurrection as a vengeful mummy. She has blanketed Egypt and parts of Africa under an endless dust storm and her undead and otherworldy legions slowly move further south to fully bring the African continent under her control.
Her loyalty to Dracula is tenuous, however, and the more magic returns to the world, the more of her own dark powers return. At full strength, she might be on par with the Lord of Darkness. But even if not, a battle between them would certainly remove one evil from the world...or devastate it utterly.
Posted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:39 am
I echo Ares' sentiment-I will be watching this thread closely! Superb work so far!
Posted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 2:34 pm
The Anathema Council, part 3
An ancient corrupted Taoist sorcerer whose inner darkness was so strong it returned him to unlife as a Chiang-Shi, a „ Hopping Vampire“, he was sealed away in a tomb deep within the Kunlun mountains, where he was forced to feed on his own dark magics until they could no longer sustain him and the torpor of death claimed him.
When Dracula returned, he brought Lao Po's soul with him from the Hell of the Upside-Down Sinners and it descended upon the Kunlun mountains as a cloud of shrieking poisonous death, killing everything within a 30-mile radius around the tomb. Afterwards, he took control of the spirits that began to reawaken with the return of magic and brought them under his control, infusing them with his corrupted essence and turning them into vile spirits with which he began to conquer Asia.
Lao Po was promised the entire continent as a reward by Dracula and unlike some other members of the council, he seems quite content to bring ruin over the descendants of the men who brought him low once. Rumor has it that he also seeks to find the reincarnated soul of his once-lost love...
The Baron of Death
Dracula's chief assassin, a figure dressed entirely in black, dull armor, capable of wielding both soul-shearing magic as well as devastating weapons of all kinds, is constantly on the hunt for dissidents and doubters among the ranks of the legions of darkness. Many believe him to be a demon from Hell or one of Dracula's own progeny.
But the Baron is neither. He is still human, at least on the outside. In life, he was one of the first documented serial killers in written history, a man who, although he once walked by the side of a saint, fell into darkness and sought to satisfy his base desires and quench his fear of mortality by forging dark pacts and sacrifice the most innocent to the masters of Hell.
In the end, Hell granted him immortality, but, as usual with such deals, the devil is in the fine print. Simply asking for immortality is foolish, for the soul is already immortal and so, that is a worthless gift, easily given. He was found out, tried and executed and his soul went straight into Perdition.
Still, the Baron's occult knowledge could come in handy and so, Dracula took his soul with him when he rose from the darkness and put him into a new body, one born of dark science and sorcery, to be his enforcer. The Baron has been beyond grateful and gladly watches over Dracula's minions, punishing every sign of rebellion with the utmost harshness.
Dracula is very keen on keeping him busy, for he knows that somewhere deep within the Baron's soul hides the longing to once more walk in the presence of holiness and maybe even a genuine desire for redemption.
Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:36 pm
Beyond the Ocean
Dracula's return might have brought the darkness back, flooding the world with all manner of unnatural horrors – but his rulership is not undisputed. The American continent has so far been out of his reach, for there, other things just as powerful have stirred.
In the south, blood-hungry godlings awoke. Once fallen to Earth during the War in Heaven, those of the angelic host who were not wholly depraved yet managed to avert the final fall to Hell and come to rest on Earth where they would eventually form the many pantheons mankind has been praying to for millenia. Many of them eventually found redemption and forgiveness in the eyes of the One True Light.
Others, however, began to prey on the human tribes that came within their sphere of influence, demanding sacrifice in ever-greater and ever-more horrific manners, becoming bloated things that slithered in the darkness under blood-soaked pyramids, even those who still had a spark of decency and moderation within them becoming addicted and dependant on the offerings provided by a fearful and intimidated populace who genuinely believed their gods needed them to die to keep the universe working.
When that populace was nearly wiped out by invaders, the blood gods found themselves without sustenance and withered away, having become so utterly dependant on blood and souls that they could not find any other way to sustain themselves even before the magic went away.
The return of magic sent a jolt through their essences and with roars of insensate hunger, they awoke – sending those poor souls who were now living atop their resting places into a frenzy of murder and cannibalism. 90% of the population of Mexico city was wiped out in one day.
After that, now feeling refreshed and empowered for the first time in centuries, the blood gods exerted their influence, letting loose horrors from their underworlds, darkening the sky with legions of bat-winged terrors and turning men into shrieking berserkers. Their legions are scouring the jungle for old places and artifacts of power, moving steadily northward...
The US, meanwhile, suffers from numerous outbreaks of supernatural phenomenon that seem to lack direction but are nonetheless utterly devastating and have led to the shattering of any sort of government or central authority, be it the mass disappearance of entire villages, Wendigo predations, gigantic sandworms under the Nevada desert, plague outbreaks and bouts of madness that seem to affect entire cities and cause literal serial-killer pandemics.
Canada and Alaska are blanketed under a seemingly never-ending blizzard. Many have died due to starvation and from the things that stalk the wilds outside their settlements. The natives have almost all vanished and it's assumed they were the first to fall prey to the horrors, among them gigantic six-legged walrus-like terrors who emit calls that sound like desperate human cries and into whose tusks are engraved faces of crying children...
There are a couple more fortified towns on the American continent, mostly due to a lack of concentrated effort in rooting out the survivors – but some of these cities have already gone to ar with one another over dwindling resources, lacking the unity that the last few European bastions show. At this rate, it is only a matter of time, too, until the land is fully given over to the night.
Posted: Mon Dec 30, 2019 7:07 pm
When Dracula returned, mankind was wholly unprepared for the sudden reappearance of all the things that had been safely relegated to the realm of fantasy and legend. Demons, zombies, ghouls and werebeasts slaughtered thousands, tore tanks to shreds and shrugged off gunfire like raindrops.
Darkness blotted out the sun to let the vampires roam freely. Sea monsters rose from the depths to scuttle the heaviest destroyers and devour their unfortunate crew.
It's not surprising that most of Europe fell within days. But it speaks to human resourcefulness and perseverance that not all of Europe became a monster-infested wasteland. Once they had gotten over the initial shock and disbelief, people began to realize that they were indeed being attacked by actual monsters and demons...and that there were ways to combat them, ways taught in religious texts, in fairytale books and in legends handed down for hundreds of years.
Not everything worked – not every spell from an ancient grimoire has actual power behind it – but enough did to give people a chance at flight, if not at fight. Bullets inscribed with psalms and crosses were able to at least harm vampires and demons. Water blessed by ordained priests seared unclean flesh. Silver knives penetrated the hide of werewolves.
Man was like an amnesiac, having to relearn the old ways in a time where hesitation could lead to a messy death. Many are the stories of tragedy and desperate heroism, from the siege of Berlin to the Seine Crusade, from the horror endured by the men and women manning the tunnel barricades between Calais and Dover to the flight of thousands across Italy to reach Rome...to name all the people who gave their lives to stand against the tide of darkness would fill thousands of pages.
In the end, it was not enough to drive back the tide of darkness, but it was enough to keep it from consuming everything. When the dust settled, six cities were still standing, hastily fortified and defended by mankind's last defenders: Munich, the Vatican, Paris, London, Madrid, Athens and Venice. These are the last bastians of humanity in Europe and just maintaining them requires constant vigilance, for the forces of darkness are made ever more eager for destruction by this show of defiance.
Life in these cities is hard. Everyone is expected to help defend their city. Those who do not build fight or learn or teach. Citizens are under constant scrutiny, for possession and enchantment are among the tools of the enemy just as claws and fangs are. Food and water, even electricity are heavily and strictly rationed. Those who take more than their fair share and are not privy to sensitive information can expect to be cast out – a death sentence for all but the most hardy and determined. Those who know too much are incinerated, giving the enemy no opportunity to learn any secrets from the dead.
Atheism is dwindling as the efficacy of miracles and blessings are proven every single day, but the seeds of division are still there, for faith has always been a source of conflict as well as a source of succor from the darkness.
The cities are run by the military or, in some cases, by the clergy. There is no democracy, nobody having time for it. And so far, people seem to be happy to be safe – somewhat. But who knows how long the same people will accept having no more choices in how they live their lives?
And if the inevitable happens and the protests and riots begin...will those cracks be wide enough for the darkness to slip in and finish what it started?
Posted: Sat Jan 11, 2020 8:21 pm
I'm enjoying this.
Posted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 12:12 pm
Rome, part 1
It's not an exaggeration to state that without Rome, Europe might have already fallen. Ironically, it was thanks to Dracula's own stratagem that huamnity rediscovered the powers of prayer and blessing, for he immediately sought to send his strongest army to Italy, to ravage and plunder and make sure that mankind knew that the power of the cross was no protection.
He had, and not entirely without reason, believed that the Church's corruption had rendered any remnants of holiness within the city moot. But a church is more than its clergy and millions still believed in Rome as their spiritual center, the city especially blessed by God. Many of those people fled into the Vatican when the demons and undead came. Millions died but several tens of thousands managed to reach sacred ground – ground the demonic hordes found themselves unable to tread.
Undead crumbled back into dust and demons perished in holy flames once they crossed the border onto blessed land. The priests and refugees who thought themselves as good as dead rejoiced. But they were trapped by a force that could stand to wait forever if need be, and the Vatican's resources were not enough to feed all of them for long. Fortunately, the clergy was quick to react and under orders from the Pope, they descended into the archives of the Vatican and began their research in earnest, uncovering old rites that had long been consigned to old tomes to be forgotten.
It took one month during which food and water were dwindling rapidly and many refugees were killed during desperate trips outside to look for more supplies. One long, arduous month during which the sun could barely be seen, dark clouds shrouding most of Italy except the Vatican itself. But finally, it was done and the Reconquista could begin. All members of the Swiss Guard were armed with sanctified weapons and armor. Every refugee and priest who volunteered was blessed and given holy blades and amulets or aspergillums filled with holy water.
The pope himself led the crusade out into the city, having donned the crown of thorns that once pieced the temple of Christ, a relic long lost in a forgotten corner of the archives. Atop the quickly refurbished and armored popemobile, he led the cardinals and priests in prayer. Immediately, the demons and undead horrors attacked but were beaten back numerous times, although there were heavy losses among the humans who slowly retook the city. Numerous beachheads were established and piece by piece, the center of the city was retaken and fortified.
It should stand as a shining beacon of hope in the midst of this new all-encompassing darkness. Once Rome was free once more, the pope, near death from exhaustion alone, sent messengers into the rest of Europe, messengers bearing prayer scrolls and the secrets the Church had long hidden, rites of exorcism and pieces of true relics that had now flared up with power once more.
The attacks on Rome would not stop, but for now, the barriers and holy wards held. The pope knew, however, that it would not be enough. As dangerous as it seemed, they would need to take the fight to the enemy. They could not stay on the defensive forever. The prayers and wards might hold, but the human heart was a feeble and fragile as ever.
And so, he ordered that parts of the city be dismantled to make way for industry, an industry of holy war that would turn the wisdom of old and the weapons of now into an arsenal the world had never seen before.
It was the last thing he did before he succumbed to death. It is said that, upon his death, a pulse of holy energy washed over the besieging hordes of undead and demons, freezing them in their tracks for a moment, ripping keening screams of pain from them...
Posted: Tue Feb 11, 2020 6:23 pm
Rome, part 2
Today, Rome is a city under constant siege, the all-encompassing evil held at bay only through sanctified steel and eternal vigilance. Much of the original city has been dismantled, save for all houses and places of worship and massive factories dominate the cityscape, built at a speed fuelled by the light of hope and the depts of despair. Around these factories, shantytowns have sprung up as the refugees use whatever the factories leave for them to construct their homes.
Sunlight is rarely seen these days thanks not only to the shroud of darkness cast over the world but also to the smoke rising from the factory chimneys day in day out. Only the Vatican itself is periodically bathed in sunlight, a daily reminder that there is a higher power looking upon mankind in its struggles and finding that it is good.
Rome is ruled by the Council of Cardinals with the current Pope, Honorius V.,at its head. Thanks to a rediscovery of old scriptural blessings and rituals that have regained their potency with the return of magic, nearly all members of the Council are capable ot working miracles and bless weaponry, rendering it devastating to unholy flesh.
Even more important, however, is the daily blessing performed by the Pope upon the city at noon, a time during which manna falls from the sky, a bread-like substance that tastes a little bland but has the nutritional value of three full meals. For many people in the city, it is all they ever eat. Some have managed to grow a few vegetables or find some old cans, but it is not nearly enough. Without the daily rain of manna, the city would starve.
Everyone from the age of 10 onward must learn how to handle the basic weapons, is required to wear a blessed cross and will be put to work in the factories as soon as they are physically capable. There is little place for weakness or indulgence in the Holy City and for the most part, people know and understand this simple fact of life. After all, they merely need to peek over the sanctified barricades to see their fate should they falter.
Nonetheless, the fact that they are living in a theocratic dictatorship where the word of an ordained priest is law, chafes for some. It is to Honorius' credit that he regularly reigns in some of the more zealous members of the Council when it comes to enforcing discipline. However, acts like blasphemy, gluttony, theft and, depending on who you get caught by, fornication outside of marriage are often punished harshly. Physical punishments are the norm, as no one really has the time or the space for prisons, with the harshest punishments being either exile or, for people with access to intimate knowledge of the city's defenses, death by fire.
There is an Inquisition, but Honorius vets each prospective member himself, knowing full well that ordaining overly zealous clergymen could spell desaster for the city's morale. Inquisitors are usually only sent to investigate when there is a real danger of infernal corruption. Mundane and even moral misdeeds are usually handled by the city guard, the Pretorians, so named in an act of somewhat misaimed whimsy.
Each and every person in the city at least pays lip service to the Abrahamic God. Jews and Muslims are explicitly tolerated whereas pagans or atheists are not, with the punishment for apostasy usually being exile. It's no wonder then, that nearly everyone makes a show of being seen at services regularly.
To be fair, it is easy to be a person of faith in these times, however, with even the most stubborn atheist noticing that miracles actually work. Often, for the more stubborn people, peer pressure does the rest. It can get ugly, letting the people police themselves this way, but, in the eyes of the Cardinals, it frees ressources to be better deployed elsewhere – keeping everyone alive and their souls out of hell, for example.
Posted: Sat Feb 15, 2020 1:07 pm
Rome, part 3
There is not a single citizen over the age of 10 who is unarmed and even many children carry small blessed knives or daggers with them. Guns and rifles are commonplace as well, with most civilian firearms looking very much cobbled together from scraps and repaired numerous times, because they are.
Daily firedrills are common and everyone capable of holding a gun is taught how to keep the weapon at least functional. Many citizens adorn their weapons with crosses and other religious iconography, hoping to augment their firepower this way.
Munitions are issued to every citizen , albeit strongly rationed. Every projectile is blessed, rendering them potent against the spawn of darkness, though there have been instances in which bullets or entire magazines have been overlooked during the assembly-line-style blessing ceremonies (There's about a 5% chance of that happening for any given magazine).
Given that bullets are a finite resource, melee weapons have become commonplace once more. It also helps that a blade need only be blessed once every couple of days to keep being effective. Here, too, most people individualise their weapons, most often with religious images.
Every able-bodied person who is not a priest, member of the Swiss Guard, the Inquisition or the Pretorians, including teenagers and women, is expected to either work in the factories to churn out more weapons, armor, vehicles, or to serve in the Militia. Most people work in the factories for 5 days, then in the militia for 2 and so on. Shifts in both are gruelling 10-hour affairs, although people are granted enough rest to make sure they do not collapse.
The Militia is meant to man the sacred barricades and keep infernal incursions contained. They are expected to bring and care for their own weapons and to hold the line at all costs until reinforcements arrive.
Said reinforcements usually consists of a battlefield priest and a troop of Swiss Guardsmen. The Swiss Guard have been elevated from just guarding the Vatican into an elite fighting force equipped with the best that ancient blessings and modern technology can provide. Retroengineering ancient designs long thought lost when the library of Alexandria burned down but rediscovered in the deepest vaults of the Vatican archives, the Council was able to outfit them with blessed armor that increased their speed and their strength to superhuman levels.
Hissing steam and crackling with electricity, Swiss Guard armor is painted in gaudy colours to make them easily recognizable, their cross-shaped visors giving them at once an indimidating presence and making their allegiance clear. Every part of their armor and their folded steel or carbon blades is blessed and sprayed with holy water before they deploy.
Unlike the Militia, the Swiss Guard is outfitted with newer and often experimental weapons, like the ANTIOCH grenade-launcher or Demonbane nets.
They are also outfitted with ignition charges that can be detonated within their suits, cooking their own bodies to a crisp if they are compromised. So far, not a single member of the Swiss Guard has betrayed their calling.
Swiss Guardsmen are usually kept away from the general population for fear of being led astray. They are explicitly told never to remove their armor in front of non-priests and non-Swiss Guard. This has only added to their growing mystique among the survivors, with some starting to equate them with angels of the Lord, a small bit of blasphemy that has been ignored for now.