You would think being the creator of all that you see, that surrounds you, saturates you with its very essence, you might know every nook and cranny. That every thought, every sound, every vibration would tell you what you wanted to know within an instant of asking questions like, where is the demon hiding? What are his plans? How did he manage to escape his realm and enter this one without even so much as a whisper? It was a foreign entity. Shouldn’t it have made some sort of noise, disruption in the harmony of this realm? Something to alert the deities that there was a disturbance in the…. Satan struggled for the right word. The one that came to mind he did not want to say. It sounded so clique, yet…oh hell. In the force. A disturbance in the force. There. He said it, the gods help his sanity. He was just happy no one was paying attention and heard him. Not that he did not like the movies. They were one of the few pleasures he still enjoyed after all these centuries. Still, he would have to figure out a different word to explain what he meant. If that were possible. It was was it was. A force of power, of personality, of life and death.
Mentally shaking his head to get back on track, Satan looked at his surroundings. He had not graced the halls of the deities of this realm for many lifetimes. This is where his character, Caius, was supposable created. Where Caius had met his brother and sister. Where the prophecy had begun, and hopefully where he would get some answers. Many Trials before, he and Godiva had decided that micromanaging every aspect of their creations was too exhausting and usually ended badly. That maybe their true creator’s teachings might have some validity to them. Plant the seed, nurture it the first few millennia until the roots take hold then stand back and give it room grow, to blossom. Watch as the leaves form, the colors shine. See what happens when the seeds drop and the new generation begins, how it is different, what new colors emerge, how it spreads, how it dies. Learn from its triumphs and its mistakes. Maybe every once in a while nudge it in a different direction, but most of all allow it to breathe.
It hadn’t been easy, and some of their nudges had been disastrous, but with each Trial they learned, and they grew, and they understood a little more. This Trial was to be the last. Finally, he and his sister understood what their creators had been trying to tell them all these centuries. Life of a mortal is precious, finite, and should be respected. That chaos is as much a part of that life as serenity is. Yet with all this knowledge he did not know how one vengeful demon they created could hide from them in a universe where he did not belong.
As Satan neared the throne room where the deities of this realm resided, he could already hear their squabbling. As one of those deities, Godiva had arrived before him to take her place as the queen. The gods and goddesses knew that something evil had gained strength in their little universe, something that did not belong. Now the blame game was in full swing as each one accused the other of bringing that evil in.
Shaking his head in disgust, deep down Satan knew once upon a time he had been just as petty, just as juvenile. Thought himself invincible, untouchable. How wrong he had been. He supposed it was all a part of the process. Now he had to try and reason with stubborn petty gods and make them understand how important it was to pool their power, find and destroy this new threat so they might have a chance of surviving. A task, from what he was hearing, seemed suddenly impossible. The knowledge that one comes across, the one where what their parents had been telling them all along suddenly makes sense, washed over Satan. It was a strange and somewhat unsettling epiphany that they had been right all along. Stopping in his tracks, his face screwed up as if he had just swallowed something vile, Satan shook himself. Ah gods! Was he becoming his parents? The horror! Before he could complete shove that unsettling thought into a box to not look at later, a sense of foreboding slithered across his skin.
It started as a low rumble, growing in intensity until the entire planet violently shook. Suddenly the air was sucked out, leaving a hollow void where there was no sound, no light, no thought, no feeling. Nothing. Just as he thought he would go mad; all sensation came rushing back in an explosion that buckled his knees. Satan grabbed onto the nearest pillar to keep from falling. Part of the ceiling collapsed near him, the ground under him heaved upward knocking him off his feet. Around him, demi-gods grabbed their heads crying out in pain, falling to the floor. Then the pain hit Satan and he screamed, his entire body tensing with agony. It was as if something were pulling him apart from the inside then slamming it all back together.
As suddenly as it started everything stopped. Satan lay gasping on the floor, dust and debris settling around him. What the hell? Then he felt it, felt her, and he knew what had happened. Fallon and Sapphira had had finished the second part of the ritual that bound their characters, Aden and Kara, together. That meant they were both open to the universe, a conduit waiting to receive power that would determine the course of the Universe for the final time. The thought chilled him. Even though they knew who they were, what they were, somehow the rules of the Trial still bound them. The prophecy would still play out. That meant he had to find Malphas sooner rather than later or he, his sister, the two sentinels, Damien and everything they had built would cease to exist, and Sapphira would belong to the demon for all eternity.
Shaking his head in confusion, he tried to flash to the planet where the others were to finish his part of that ritual, but as it had since he arrived on this planet something stopped him. It was like hitting a brick wall, slamming him back to the ground. Slowly pushing himself to his feet, Satan leaned against the wall until the hall stopped spinning. Someone was keeping him from Sapphira, leaving her open for anyone to claim her as theirs. Like the demon. That could not happen.
Pushing his bruised and battered body from the wall, Satan carefully picked his way through the mess of marble and bodies to the Great Hall where the deities were holding court. They needed to find and destroy Malphas or all was lost. The problem was, while the role he played in this Trial was important, to them Satan was a child. A piece of a chess game they had been playing for their entire existence. A mere pawn. Here, in this universe, he had no real power when it came to the council. He would have to be very careful with his actions and words or they would not listen to him. Godiva, on the other hand, was different. She was their queen, one half of the ruling couple. Hopefully her silver tongue had already begun the process. That thought was short lived as once again the bickering began.
“Lovely,” Satan muttered under his breath. “Just what I need.”
When he reached the door he stopped, accessing the mood of the crowd. Not good, apparently. They were scattered around the room. A few were still on the floor groaning, their servants, hovering over them. Some were righting their various ornate thrones while others still were already seated. There were ten in all. All beautiful, most self-absorbed. They had earned their reputations well.
“I don’t think racing out into the universe without knowing what we are up against is the smartest idea,” the one Satan knew as Marcus, the God of War argued. It was always a curiosity to Satan that someone who was supposed to desire the chaos and pain of war, he strangely did his utmost to avoid it. However, one did not question a god and not live to regret it.
“So we sit here and wait for them to find us?” Sasha asked incredulously as she gently set her ornate throne down onto the floor. The youngest among the twelve, blonde, slim and beautiful, Sasha was the Goddess of Youth.
“We are the strongest here, in the Great Hall,” a small sniveling voice reminded.
Satan cringed, his eyes involuntarily going to the slimy pocked mark man he knew as Nusair, the God of Lies and Despair. This man looked like a cross between a snake and a raptor, and not the pretty kind. This…god made Satan look like a saint. Evil oozed out in an inky black smoke that curled around him like a lover. The smell that followed him everywhere was that of rotting flesh. He was given a wide berth around his throne, which was made of slick black onyx. It was also the only throne in the room that did not have any carvings in it. It was just big and black, sucking in the light around it, attempting to shroud everyone in darkness.
“Hiding here in the halls will not help us find out who it is and how strong they are,” Marcus spat in disgust.
“They shook the halls of this temple. The shockwave was felt to the edges of the universe without diminishing in strength,” Godiva reminded. “I think we all know how powerful they are. The question is who is it and how many are there.”
Satan frowned. They do not know about the prophecy and the role Aden plays, or, it seems, about Malphas. Maybe Godiva has not had the chance to tell them.
There was only one other stronger than Godiva, and despite his obvious indifference to her in public, Satan knew he was very protective of her. Looking around the hall, his eyes fell on the deity who was his father in this universe. Zorya. The King of the Gods. Zorya’s eyes caught his and held them. In that one look Satan knew the god knew the truth, and he was beyond angry. Whether it was at the situation or at him, Satan was unsure. What he did know was if his father decided he was the problem and wanted to punish him, there was nothing he could do to stop it. Damn it! As powerful as he was, he was still the weakest one here. A choice he had made when they were creating this universe he was sorely regretting now.
Grinding his teeth in frustration, Satan made his way around the circle to where Godiva sat. By the time he reached her, everyone that was conscious was sitting on their throne. Satan took note of the ones that weren’t. The ones who would be of no use to them in fighting the demon.
“And when we do?” Nusair’s oily voice broke into Satan’s thoughts. “What then? How do we fight against someone who can shake the very foundations of the universe?”
“Caius,” Zorya called calmly. “Is there anything you need to tell us?”
Every eye turned to him, but the only one he saw was Zorya. The god knew his time was at an end, and it shocked Satan to see just how tired he was. He had been waiting for this day when the power, the responsibility, would shift to someone else’s shoulders. Wanting it. Godiva seemed, angry. Maybe even a little fearful. They had talked about their strategy before she came here. They were going to work different angles in order to bring the deities to their side. There was something wrong, though. Something out of place with his sister. It was then he realized she was the one keeping him from Sapphira.
“Son?” Zorya prompted before he could do more than narrow his eyes at Godiva in confusion.
Frowning, Satan ignored Godiva’s glare he could feel burning a hole in-between his shoulder blades and walked into the middle of the room to play his part of the dutiful son.
“What do you know about this, young one?” a tall formidable woman demanded. Girisa. Goddess of Wisdom and Truth. She was not one to trifle with. “And do not lie to us, Caius. You have broken enough covenants the past two thousand years to warrant your termination. Do not push our patience any further.”
“I would not dream to, Girisa,” Satan bowed, a smile plastered on his face. Girisa snorted, clearly not believing him. “But I can’t tell you what is happening or why.”
“Because you refuse to?” Marcus demanded sitting forward in his chair as if he planned to attack Satan.
“No, because I cannot,” Satan answered doing his best to keep his voice as neutral as possible. They may not be able to kill him as Girisa threatened to, but they could make his life very painful for a very long time if they wished. “From what I have learned in the last two thousand years, this has all happened before, but only those involved in its outcome know the details.”
Marcus and Zorya exchanged a look of understanding. Satan filed it away for further investigation. Right now, he needed to convince Godiva to release him so he could find Sapphira. She was in danger. He could feel it. If anything happened to her….
“But we are involved,” Sasha countered. “Whatever just happened affected us greatly. I feel as if my powers have weakened.”
“I too was affected by whatever happened, but my greatest concern right now is Kara. She was taken from us, and if this…power hurt me then she may be hurt too. I need to find her to make sure she is safe. If we lose her the universe will come apart at its very seams, and no one will survive. Including you.”
“And your brother, Tanis?” Godiva asked.
“He is safe,” he frowned. Godiva knew where Gideon had gone, that he was wounded, yet her question sounded sincere. As if she truly did not know the answer to her question. The feeling that something was not right with his sister once again pushed at him. Deciding to cautiously test if his intuition was correct and things were not as they seemed, he continued the lie. “I left him at the house on the planet Cennad, unharmed.”
“Isn’t that the planet Kara’s human mate lives on? The one where you hid her and your bastard child,” Girisa growled.
Satan bristled. “Yes,” he answered after a moment, his tone as stiff as his body.
“Did you really think you could hide your treachery from us?” Girisa sneered.
“This may surprise you,” Satan answered, his disgust with the beings in front of him barely contained, “but I believe a child should grow up knowing the love of its mother.”
“If you had grown up knowing the love of a mother, you would not have been what you needed to be,” Zorya reminded calmly.
“And what is that, Father? Someone who knows only pain and suffering? Someone who can’t show how much he loves a woman without hurting her?” Satan snapped.
“Don’t blame your upbringing for your poor choices,” Sasha snapped, a rare hint of anger in her voice.
“Choices? What choices? We had no choices. We still don’t. I want…need with a desire none of you can in your petty, self-absorbed minds understand to find Kara, and yet you are keeping me here against my will.” He glared at Godiva.
“Selene?” Zorya asked calmly looking at his wife.
“I do not know what he is blabbering about,” Godiva answered arrogantly, not meeting her husband’s eyes. Instead she glared at Satan. Yes, something was very wrong with his sister. “He never recovered from Kara choosing another and has blamed me for it all these eons. Like I can interfere with something that was written down before time began.”
“But we are not above interfering with prophecies, are we,” Zorya accused quietly. Everyone in the room was silent as Godiva’s eyes snapped to his. Eyes narrowed, he glared at Godiva. “I know what you have been doing. Don’t you think it is time to allow the Fates to do their work without our interference?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” she snapped. “The only time I intervened was when he almost killed Kara in an attempt to break Tanis, and right before….” She let that one drop, her glare returning to Satan as she sneered. “Well, we don’t have to go into what happened then, do we.”
Satan looked baffled. What in the hell was she talking about? And why did he get the feeling Zorya was not talking to his sister but someone else? Satan looked closer at Godiva, trying to see what his father saw.
“Don’t give me that look,” Godiva snapped, fidgeting in her seat. “You know what you did to Kara and then to Aden. You forced her into your bed, abused her, then forced him to relive the horror of what you did to her until you broke him. I will not allow you to torture them again for some stupid prophecy!”
“I would never force Kara into my bed!” Satan was completely dumbfounded by Godiva’s accusations. “That is one line I would never cross. You know that.”
Zorya looked from his son to his wife, his eyes narrowed in anger. “Leave us,” he ordered suddenly. Immediately everyone began to clear the room, those who were still unconscious being carried out by their servants. “Not you, my son,” Zorya said stopping Satan as he moved to follow the others. “This pertains to you as well as us.” He explained when Satan looked at him unsure. “And you, my brother,” he added, a hint of anger in his tired voice.
To Satan’s complete shock, Marcus hesitated at the door. Brother? Wracking his brain, Satan tried to remember when they had decided that Marcus would be Zorya’s brother. Nothing came to mind. In fact, there was a huge gap of time were there was a complete blank. He remembered planting the seed that would begin all creation. Sitting back, watching, waiting for the time when sentient life appeared. Then…nothing. Looking from Zorya, to Marcus then finally to Godiva, who refused to meet his eyes, Satan realized he had no memory of their creation. Of invoking the prophecy that would result in the creation of their characters, his role in this universe. It was all a complete blank. What was going on here?
“You made it abundantly clear many eons ago that this was none of my business,” Marcus snapped, not turning around.
“That was…necessary. Please, hear me out before you leave. I think I know what is going on,” Zorya bargained quietly as he stood turning his gaze to Godiva. “And so do you, Malphas.”
Satan froze. An emotion that he rarely felt washed over him. Horror. Unable to swallow it back, he asked hoarsely, “Who?”
“Someone I think you are well acquainted with, Caius,” Zorya explained as he stood and walked towards Godiva. “Fight him, my love,” he whispered his voice breathing through the room along with his power. “Fight him and come back to me.”
“But that’s impossible. He is locked away where no one can escape,” Marcus breathed, walking back into the room.
“His body is,” Zorya reminded stopping in front of Godiva, who sat in her chair, back stiff glaring at him. “But I think not his spirit.”
Godiva glowered at him. “You and your arrogance. You think you can simple banish me into the darkest pits of hell and keep me there? As I have told you many times before, she is mine!” The voice that came from Godiva’s lips was not hers. It sounded like her, yet it wasn’t.
Satan stared at his sister in shock, then fear as recognition washed over him. It was the same voice that he had been hearing in his head. The one that had been whispering for him to do things he would have never done or gave him answers to puzzles that he was unable figure out on his own. Like how to survive the last two thousand years, where to look for the scrolls, how to gain control of Sapphira. Oh gods! The nightmares. All those horrible things he had done in his dreams that had left him gasping and dripping in sweat in the middle of the night. Did they really happen?
“She has never been yours,” Zorya growled, his voice showing his anger as his power lashed out at Godiva/Malphas. The laughter that came from his sister’s mouth sent a shiver of fear down Satan’s spine.
“You cannot get rid of me that easily, brother,” Malphas sneered. “Not this time, and definitely not alone. I am too strong.”
“Maybe not alone,” Marcus said standing beside Zorya. “But, then again, he’s not alone, brother.”
“You always thought too much of yourself, Marcus,” Malphas spat. “Always interfering where you did not belong.”
“Interfering? Me?” Marcus gasped as if affronted by the mere suggestion of being interfering, his hand on his chest, a pain expression on his face. “You wound me, my brother. Or should I call you grandpa? Besides, you have no room to throw stones after what you did. If you had just cooperated instead of trying to control destiny, we would not be here today.”
“What is he talking about?” Satan rasped, the horror of what he was discovering threatening to drown him. “What is going on?”
“This is not the first time the fate of the universe has tried to come to a conclusion. We had a choice, just as you do. One that would decide how the universe would continue, but one of us had his own agenda,” Marcus explained, his eyes narrowing on Godiva, his voice filled with annoyance. “Before we were able to banish Malphas to the hell he currently lives in, he tried to thwart the Fates and in the end cursed us.”
Satan’s mind was still reeling as he tried to understand what was going on when the tension in the room shot up as Zorya placed his hands on the armrests on either side of Godiva.
“Let him go, love,” Zorya pleaded softly, leaning in so his face was mere inches from hers. “I’m tired of these games and want to rest. Let the young ones have their glory. Then maybe we will be free to have what we’ve always wanted.” He teased her lips with his.
“Do you really want to lose all of this?” she asked breathlessly. “All the power, the ability to control the universe on the off chance you may be able to love me again?”
Zorya looked into Godiva’s eyes with such fierceness that it took Satan back. As Selene, Godiva was fated to love Zorya, to only want Zorya, but he was not supposed to love her back. And Marcus was their brother? The third demi-god? As far as Satan knew, the third had been banished, which would be Malphas. Questioning everything he had known in this Trial, which he thought he had control of, that he had created, Satan’s jaw dropped as Zorya dropped another bombshell.
“Please, Godiva,” Zorya begged, brushing the back of his hand across her cheek. “Let this torture end. Let us have a chance to finally be together again. I love you.”
He knew Godiva’s true name. That meant he knew her true identity. Their true identity. And since Marcus did not react to the name change, then so did he. Staggering backwards, Satan tried to push through the chaos of questions and horror that threaten to overwhelm him and listen and watch what was going on before him.
“You say you love me, yet that does not seem to stop you from fucking every female you meet,” Godiva snapped pushing him away from her so she could stand. But Satan could see the pain in her eyes, hear the hint of regret behind her anger. Did his sister truly love this male? Was she capable of love?
“Sasha is wrong,” Zorya said sadly. “There are those of us who do not have a choice in what our lives are to be. You and I know that better than most.” He moved closer to Godiva. Reaching out he pulled her to him, wrapping his arms loosely around her. “I can already feel the change; feel the bindings Malphas put around my heart loosening. His mind is elsewhere and so is his power. If you would only let go of the hurt and pain you would feel it too.”
“How can you be so sure?” her voice low with uncertainty, and maybe a little hope.
“Because after all this time I can finally do this.” Tightening his arm around her waist, a hand tangling in her hair, Zorya pulled Godiva against his for a searing kiss.
Caius watched with fascination as Godiva answered that kiss with as much passion as was given. Apparently she did love Zorya. Then another thought crossed Satan mind. All this time, Godiva knew who Malphas was, what he wanted, and she had never told him. Had lied to him all these centuries. Why? They were so close to proving to their creators that they had learned their lesson, that they could be released from their punishment, and she goes and lies to him. To all of them.
Zorya released Godiva’s lips, resting his forehead on hers, both of their breathing ragged. “I want to be free of this curse. I want to hold you and only you in my arms again. Please, Godiva, fight him. You must find the strength release Satan. He needs to be with the others or the Malphas win, and we will descend into chaos.”
“I am trying,” she breathed her voice showing the strain she was under as she clung to Zorya.
“What is going on here?” Caius rasped stepping forward, his anger rising. The fact that Zorya had used his true name hadn’t even fazed him. At this point he didn’t think anything would surprise him. “How do you know who we are?”
Zorya looked at him, keeping his arms around Godiva. “You should know you three were not the first to fight this battle. Like your sister, or I should say your maker, Godiva had to make a choice. Back then Malphas was charming, easy going. He hid well the evil that lurked behind his smile, the power he held over us. What he did not know, or understand, was even though he may have created the characters, written out the storyline, the ending may not come out as you planned. That one thought, one word, one little action can tilt the those carefully laid plans into a completely different direction. Somehow, Godiva saw through Malphas’s façade and realized who he was. That he did not belong. When she chose me the story he so carefully crafted veered into a different direction. One he could no longer control or see the ending. He did not take it well. Long story short, when Marcus appeared, and it was clear the time had come to let go of our differences and join together as one, Malphas refused. Instead he took Godiva and ran.
“It took years, but we finally found where he had hidden her. Together the three of us banished him to a place where the gods are forgotten, but he made sure he was never forgotten. On his last breath he cursed us. If he could not have Godiva to use to achieve his goal, then we could not have her either. The rest you know. We know that Malphas is gaining in strength. He sees his prize and he will do anything to achieve it. To have Sapphira as his queen and Gideon as his pet. If he manages to ensnare them, he will use their power along with his to destroy everything that threatens to take them away.”
Tightening his grip on Godiva so she could not pull away, Zorya put his other hand out and an ancient looking scroll appeared in it. “This is the original prophecy. Take it to the others. It might help you defeat Malphas, or it might not. What we do know is you must all fight him, together, or he will win. Everything.”
Satan took the scroll from Zorya, looking at it as if it would bite him. One question that he had tried not to think too much about because there were more pressing issues at hand pushed forward. He had to ask, if only to know the answer. “And my child?” not looking at them, his eyes transfixed on the brittle parchment in his hand.
“The child was not yours, my son,” Zorya answered sadly. “Although he wanted you to believe otherwise Malphas was in possession your body when the child was conceived, so in turn the child was his and it had to be destroyed.”
Satan tightly gripped the old parchment in his hand, hearing it crackle. Not his child? And the things that he thought were nightmares of what he did to Sapphira were true?
“I will kill him,” he growled.
“If you all work together you may be able to do just that. Go, find them. There is not much time left.”
As if on cue, a mixture of pain and pleasure the likes Satan had never felt before encompassed him, sending the room into a tailspin. Right on the heels of that an unholy roar that shook the building, threatened to burst his eardrums as every molecule in his body screamed RUN dropped him to his hands and knees. Forcing himself to look up, he found Zorya and Marcus holding Godiva in-between them as she fought with everything she had to break free. When her eyes landed on Satan, the snarl that left her lips and the hatred in her red eyes shook him to his core. This was not his sister, but the demon in disguise. A demon that she claimed to know nothing about yet had full possession of her body. What. The. Hell?
“We are out of time!” Zorya bellowed. “Go! Find the others. Figure out the clues before it is to late.” he commanded.
Needing no more prompting, Satan disappeared.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes