“What was I supposed to do?” Godiva hissed. “Allow it to live?”
“Have you learned nothing?” Satan snapped, his anger filling the room, hot and prickly.
As it danced across Gideon’s skin, it brought to his attention the rest of his aches and a whole new meaning to the word pain. What the hell happened to him while he was unconscious? Grimacing as just moving his fingers sent fresh waves of agony throughout his body, the quarrel between Godiva and Satan continued.
“All life is precious,” Satan finished angrily.
“And that is exactly why we are in this predicament. If Father had killed that bastard, Mother and Gideon wouldn’t have had to endure the horrors they did,” Godiva hissed.
If they were trying to keep quiet for his benefit, they were doing a lousy job of it. Stealing himself for what he knew would be far from easy, Gideon tried to open his eyes. When the light hit his eyeballs, pain lance through his brain and he could not suppress a groan.
“Gideon,” Godiva half cried half sighed in relief.
There was a rustle of clothing and footsteps. When Gideon opened his eyes and the blurriness cleared, Satan was leaning over him, worry etching his brow. Rage at the insolent child rushed through Gideon, pushing the pain into the background. With lightening speed, his hand shot up, encircling the little bastard’s neck.
“Give me one good reason why I should not end your existence,” Gideon growled rising enough to rest on his elbow, glaring at the male he held in his grip.
Gasping for air, his face quickly becoming purple as the demi-god struggled to pry the angel’s fingers from around his neck, Satan wheezed, “Because Malphas has Fallon and I may know where they are.” The hand around his neck only tightened.
“And why should I believe anything you say after what you did to us? What you allowed him to do to us?”
“Because he is telling the truth,” Godiva answered coming into view. Wringing her hands, she looked from her brother who was slowly losing consciousness to the enraged angel who lay glaring at her. Barely keeping herself from stepping away in a strong bid of self-preservation, she swallowed hard and whispered, “Gideon. Please.”
It was a few tense moments where Gideon tighten his grip even further before he shoved a half consciousness Satan away from him. His strength draining away at an alarming rate, Gideon collapsed onto the bed.
“Why do I feel like I was hit by a meteor?” he grimaced.
“Father was able to remove the necklace from around Mother’s neck. It was less than…smooth,” Godiva answered from where she knelt next to her brother.
Smooth. That was an understatement. It felt as if every muscle, every bone, had been beaten within an inch of its life. Even his organs felt abused. Rubbing his face with his hands, wincing when even that hurt, he tried to sit up. The room spun sharply, and his stomach heaved. Swallowing hard, he fell back to the bed. “There wasn’t this much pain the last time we escaped him,” Gideon groaned.
“Lie still,” Godiva admonished moving to sit beside him. “We think he modified the necklace, adding more spell and curses to it. If what we witnessed with you was the same as with Mother, it took Father almost a full day to remove it from her, and it wasn’t pleasant.”
No, no it wasn’t, Gideon thought hissing when another sharp pain lanced through his body. And apparently it wasn’t done with him.
“You said Malphas had Fallon. Before I passed out, we didn’t even know where Fallon was.”
“Mother’s mortal husband did,” Satan wheezed. Gideon looked at the male who had managed to sit up, still rubbing his swollen neck. Eyes narrowed, he really wanted to finish strangling the little bastard, but Gideon knew if Malphas really had his brother he was too weak to go looking for him on his own. He would need both of the children’s help to find him. At least Satan had the decency to cringe under Gideon’s anger.
“Explain,” he snapped.
“Their son, Chris, had always seemed older than what he was,” Godiva answered, bringing Gideon’s eyes to her. “I should have seen it earlier, but I had always thought Fallon was trapped outside this universe.”
A vague memory of a cave and Malphas throwing Fallon out of this realm floated to the forefront of his mind. “I remember Malphas saying Fallon was a conundrum. I still don’t know what he meant by that, though.” The more he thought about it, the more he knew there was something…off with what had happened. At the time he was so focused on the necklace and what it meant to him and Sapphira, an elephant could have walked through the cave and he would not have noticed.
“I’m not sure either, but somehow Fallon was able to break in and take the form of Mother’s son without losing his memories.”
“Then why didn’t he reveal himself to us earlier?” Gideon frowned. There was something in Godiva’s expression, her posture. It was so slight that Gideon thought he must have imagined it.
“I think partial because of his age as Mother’s mortal son, and partial because the rules of the Trials stopped him. While he may have known who he was, he needed to be careful so Malphas would not suspect him. As per the rules of the Trial, you, Mother and Father needed to remember who you were on your own. Until then, the best Fallon could do was protect Mother until you and Father were revealed.”
The word ‘memories’ sparked a memory of his own. Frowning, he tried to bring it forward. When it finally did, his eyes widened, turning towards Satan.
“Two thousand years ago, we did remember,” he said, his voice almost a whisper. “It was why Malphas killed Sapphira. He knew the rebirth would once again bind our memories.” His eyes darting around the room and more memories assailed him, Gideon continued. “After he pulled us into the Trail, he placed Sapphira and I into Kara and Tanis’s roles, giving us their memoires while keeping Damien locked away in a cave deep underground. We were powerless to stop him, but Fallon. Fallon had retained his powers. Malphas could not control him so he locked Fallon outside of the Trial where he could not interfere.” He looked at Godiva, his eyes wide with recognition of what she was trying to tell him. Things he thought strange then started to make sense. A slight shake of her head told him to keep this new knowledge to himself a little longer.
Suddenly sitting up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed, pain exploded within him while the room spun out of control. Putting the heal of his hands to his forehead, his elbows on his knees for support, Gideon groaned as he rode out the vertigo and pain. There was no time to lay around and recuperate. He had to find his brother before Malphas dug his claws into him, or they were all lost. Taking a deep breath and willing his stomach to settle, he sat straight, looking from Godiva to Satan. “Somehow Malphas still held power over us, so Sapphira and I were helpless to fight him. Damien was weak from being dragged in with us, and the rules still held him, binding his powers. How did Fallon escape the restraints of the rules?”
“We’ve been talking about that,” Satan answered hoarsely, pushing himself to his feet. Clearing his throat, he continued, “These Trials were built so we would be taught a valuable lesson. That life is precious and our decisions, or whims, as powerful beings could affect those lives within our control. That we must be careful in those decisions. In every universe we have built, Godiva and I have known who we were. That way our choices in how this Trial played out would be based from what we had learned in the Trials before. In this Trial you were never supposed to be here, and Malphas did not belong. When he escaped and entered this Trail the rules, unknown to us, were altered. When the four of you were pulled in they were altered even more. Once he placed you and Mother in the roles of Kara and Tanis, your memories were bound. Father he kept locked away so he could not interfere. Fallon he did not count on. If I remember correctly, you never mentioned a fourth to him, so he was not ready for Fallon to appear, and sending him back to our plain, locking him out of the Trial, must have weakened him. So he had to wait until he regained enough power to once again manifest here in his true form. Until then,” he looked at Godiva, his expression filled with remorse, “he used us to control you.”
“How do you mean?” Gideon asked, his eyes narrowing.
Adverting his eyes, Satan answered, his voice quiet. “There has always been a voice whispering in my ear, trying to turn me from the path Godiva and I chose for this Trial.” He looked into Gideon’s eyes. “We were tired. We.” Godiva loudly cleared her throat. Closing his eyes, Satan took a deep breath and let it out before once again looking at Gideon, whose expression was not comforting. “Godiva,” he amended, “wanted to do things right this time. Show you that we had learned so we could rejoin you and finally live in peace. I,” he glanced at Godiva, “however, still coveted what was not mine.”
“Sapphira,” Gideon filled in, his voice flat with anger.
Satan nodded. “We were a millennium into the Trial when the voice began to whisper in my ear that he could give me what I wanted if only I would let him in.”
Gideon stood; his expression thunderous. Wisely, Satan took a step back, so he was out of the angel’s reach.
“I never dreamed that one entity could escape their own realm let alone enter another, and the trial Malphas was created in was so long ago I did not remember him. You have to believe me, if I had known who that voice belonged to I would have never allowed him in,” Satan quickly said, his hands up in the air to either ward off the blows he knew were simmering just under the angel’s surface or show supplication. Whichever kept him in one piece would work for him. “As it was, by the time I did he had too much power and I became a prisoner in my own mind. I had to stand by and watch while he did those horrible things to Sapphira, unable to stop him. Right after he plunged the dagger into her heart two thousand years ago, he released me. I awoke with my hand still wrapped around its hilt, covered in her blood. You cannot imagine the horror I felt….”
“I was there,” Gideon snarled suddenly in his face. “Remember? I was holding her in my arms while you sat there frozen like a small child just realizing that there were consequences he could not live with for his selfish needs. So yes, I can imagine the horror of watching the reason I exist die in my arms. The only thing that saved you from sharing her fate was that I died with her.”
Anger flared in Satan, making him bold. “Don’t talk to me about horror. That was not the first time I had to bury her.” Gideon stepped back, this news shocking him enough his anger drained away. “You may remember the end of the last cycle because you finally remembered who you really were. What you don’t know is you have been here far longer than you realize. That you have died over and over, each time Malphas making sure it was my hand that ended her life. Making sure that every time I stayed alive long enough to bury you both before he forced me to take my own life. I know there is no love lost between us, but it about destroyed me to know I was responsible for your deaths not once, but hundreds upon thousands of times.” He turned and walked away a few paces, cursing the tears that coursed down his cheeks. A sign of weakness that he could no longer hold back.
“Two thousand years ago, Malphas was finally strong enough to supersede the rules and keep Satan alive indefinitely. While he waited for your return, he put the rest of the chess pieces into place.”
“Damien as Aden,” Gideon filled in. He turned his accusing eyes to Godiva. “You were the only one who kept their memories intact. Did you know Malphas had possessed Satan?”
“No,” Godiva answered shaking her head. She turned her sorrow filled eyes to her brother’s back. “Malphas was very careful to keep his presence hidden from me.” She turned back to Gideon, who, by his expression, she knew did not believe her. After all they had done in the past, she could not blame his hesitancy to do so. Pushing that problem aside for another day, she drew the conversation back to what was important. “Brynn went to see if his theory was right about Chris being Fallon to find his farmhouse in flames and Chris missing. That could only mean he was right, and Chris is really Fallon.”
“And now Malphas has him,” Gideon finished. Putting one hand on his hip, the other rubbing his face in exhaustion, Gideon turned towards the window, his thoughts in turmoil. If Malphas had been able to capture Fallon, then he must be more powerful than they first realized. Closing his eyes, he reached out, searching. When a familiar male presence washed over him, a tension he did not realize was there loosened in his body. The pain lessened and he could think past the weariness.
Where is Sapphira? Gideon asked, allowing that weariness to fill his thoughts.
Sleeping, he answered with a weary sigh of his own. The memories of what Malphas had done to her were too much. She….
He did not have to finish his thought. Gideon knew too well what Sapphira had felt, even without their connection. The same horrors were trying to incapacitate him as he stood there. Unfortunately, there was no time to come to terms with them. Pushing them into the background where he could deal with them later, he focused on the blue sky outside the window.
Malphas has…our fourth, he announced. There was a sharp intake of air within his head.
I cannot leave Sapphira alone, and I don’t want that bastard to find her until she has had time to recover. How are you doing?
I’ll survive, he answered ruefully. What are you thinking?
I want you to take Godiva and Satan and find him, he ordered.
You know it’s a trap, Gideon said.
Does it make a difference? he smirked.
Gideon had to smile, although it was not a pleasant smile. More anticipatory evil smile. Of course not. Just wanted to make sure we were on the same page.
Always, my brother. Then he was gone.
Gideon turned towards the two demi-gods patiently waiting for him. “Take me to the farm. If I know anything about Malphas, he will want us to find him, so he’ll have left some clues behind.”
“He did,” Brynn said from the bedroom doorway.
As one, they turned to see the mortal dressed in a black battle suit made from material that could withstand the coldness of space without hindering his ability to fight. Over his suit and black boots that reach just under his knees was a dark leather duster that hid numerous weapons from his time as Colin’s assassin, and while he had been on the run with Sapphira that he had been hiding in woods behind the farmhouse. Before them stood not a farmer, but a battle harden warrior whose eyes showed nothing of what he was feeling inside and every bit as deadly as the angel who regarded him with wary eyes.
“We are not going against the mortals you are used to. Malphas is a demon whose power may rival my own,” Gideon cautioned.
“I may be mortal, but I am not naïve when it comes to those with ‘power’. I have a few tricks of my own he will not see coming,” Brynn smirked. “Besides, in this world your Sapphira is also my wife. I will not allow one more power hungry bastard use her as his pawn.”
“Malphas is not after power,” Godiva corrected.
Brynn’s eyes narrowed on the Goddess. “To hell he’s not,” he growled. Taking a step into the room, he narrowed his eyes further. “At the moment, you are not one of my favorite people, Selene. I suggest you stay out of my way. And you,” he snarled, pointing his finger at Satan when he opened his mouth to defend his sister, “I will deal with later.”
With a huff, Satan snapped his mouth shut.
“I like you,” Gideon chuckled walking towards the mortal until he stood next to him. “You can stay. Now, what is this evidence you mentioned?”
“This.” Brynn held up an intricately designed medallion that looked as if it were made of gold.
Frowning, Gideon took it from Brynn. The moment his fingers touched the metal, pain scorched down his arm into his body, sending him to his knees. The bedroom fell away until Gideon knelt in an underground cave. On the wall furthest from him, a figure was gagged and chained hand and foot. Their eyes caught, Gideon’s widening in horror as the figure narrowed his, slightly shaking his head. Then he moved his glare to something the left of Gideon. Knowing what he would find, Gideon slowly turned his head until he saw a figure sitting on a throne made up of what looked like the skulls and bones of humans and demons. The figure was one Gideon recognize instantly.
“So nice of you to join us,” Malphas greeted with a smile.
The cold fingers of dread brought on by centuries of abuse from this creature tried to pull Gideon under, but he fought them off. This bastard had taken enough of his existence, he would not allow him to take anymore. He tried to rise to his feet only to have the pain once again drive him back to his hands and knees. When he tried to let go of the medallion he found he could not. The trap had been set and he had blindly walked right into it. If he lived through this, he would never hear the end of it.
Praying that Malphas did not know who he had chained to the wall, that he thought it only Sapphira’s son he wished to use as bait, he hissed, “Release the child.” Hanging his head, Gideon tightly closed his eyes as the laughter that filled his nightmares filled the room.
“You dare to make demands of me?” Malphas sneered. “You, who with all your power, all your strength could not defeat me?” A clawed hand clamped painfully around Gideon’s neck forcing him up until he was on his knees, the hand that did not hold the medallion clutching the wrist of the hand around his neck. Chains rattled in the silence. Opening his eyes, Gideon found himself staring into crimson ones full of rage. Teeth razor sharp moved closer so Malphas could whisper angrily in Gideon’s ear, “Even now you cannot hope to escape me. I own you and that bitch you stole from me! I will have back what is mine or her son will pay for your disobedience with his life, once I am done playing with him, of course,” Malphas sneered.
Gideon froze. He couldn’t help it. The atrocities that the demon had heaped on him in this Trial were still fresh in his mind. They were something he would not wish on his worst enemy, let alone the brother he would give his life for. Anger pushed back the fear.
“Over my dead body,” Gideon wheezed glaring at the demon.
Moving so his eyes were inches from Gideon’s, their noses almost touching, Malphas hissed, “With pleasure.”
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes