Two long days. It was two long, no sleep, frustrating days before Satan decided to look in the last place he thought Fallon would go. One, because the demon knew about this cave, and two, it was too obvious. Maybe that was why he chose it. That, like him, the demon would never think to look here. It was the logic that finally led Satan here. The makers only knew what Malphas was doing to Damien during those two days. Hopefully he had not figured out who it was he really had in his grasp. Once Satan realized the demon was gone, he had put up every ward, cast every spell he knew to keep one safe from being possessed. It was a fool’s hope it would work, because once invited in it was damn near impossible to keep them out. Since Malphas was now residing inside of Godiva, apparently it worked. Or he had been damn lucky, so far.
Stopping at the top of the narrow trail that led up to the cave to catch his breath, Satan looked out over the pristine vista before him. The small planet they were on was in the center of the universe where few had traversed, and those that had somehow overlooked this little gem. Untouched by outsiders, Satan had been drawn to the power, the spirit that lived within the planet. Yes, the trees and plants and animals were all alive, but so was the planet. Where every planet to some extent was alive, this planet was sentient. She was a living and breathing entity that had seen what man, in its various forms, had done to their planets and refused to allow that to happen to her. Yet for some reason she had seen something within the two of them and was gracious enough to allow them to live upon her. It was a small miracle that Satan had marveled at and had never taken advantage of. They lived in this natural cave, only used what resources they needed with care, leaving the planet virtually the same as they found it. Kept safe even from the demon’s influence. Maybe that was why Fallon came here. He thought Malphas did not know of this place. Unfortunately, having been ensconced inside his head for so long, the bastard knew everything Satan knew.
A soft breeze brushed against his face, like a caress from a lover. Within that wind a soft female voice whispered, Not everything.
Closing his eyes, Satan smiled as the wind gently wrapped around him, giving him strength, soothing his worries before wandering off across the tops of the trees, reminding him that as long as they were here no one could harm them. Feeling more at peace than he had in years, Satan opened his eyes. “Thank you,” he whispered before turning towards the opening of the cave. Now to face what he was sure would be a less than warm welcome. He had a lot of explaining to do, and he was not sure anyone within would believe what he had to say.
Walking into the cave he was surprised to find everyone asleep. Fallon was stretched out on one of the couches, an open book resting face down on his chest, snoring lightly. Quietly walking to where he stood behind the couch, Satan frowned down at the books cover. Why was Fallon reading a thousand year old book on curses? Looking around the room, he saw Brynn draped over the table filled with open books. Walking over, he noticed that most of the books were various version of the same theme. Curses, counter curses, spells and potions. What were they looking for?
Then he saw the medallion peeking out from under one of the books. Careful not to touch it, Satan gently closes the book so he could look at the offending piece of metal closer. When Gideon had fallen to his knees in obvious pain, unable to release the damn thing, Satan was not proud of his reaction. Instead of trying to pry it out of the sentential hand, he and his sister had moved as far away as they could, yelling for the mortal to do it. You would think they were a couple of sniveling children, not powerful gods. Although, even now as he reached for it he hesitated. If it could so easily take down a power being like Gideon, Satan was certain it would render him useless. Glancing over at the bed where he lay, Satan’s frown deepened. The immortal lay on his back, his skin grey, his breathing rapid. There was a sheen of sweat on his naked body where the sheet did not cover. Looking down at the medallion then at all the books, Satan wondered if there was more than what Malphas has done to Gideon in the vision.
Squatting down, he looked closer at the medallion. The symbols engraved on the surface were familiar, but Satan could not remember where he had seen them before. Standing once again, he moved so he could see the books strewn on the table. These where not right. He did not know how he knew that, just that he did. Another gust of wind pushed through the cave, rustling papers, flipping pages of the books. What should have woken the occupants of the cave did not even stir them.
They were running out of time. I put them in a deep sleep until you returned. You must find a cure, or the guardian is lost and you will not win against the evil that threatens you, a soft voice whispered in the air.
“Where do I start looking if I don’t even know what is wrong with him?” Satan asked.
Another gust of wind and a book in the far corner fell of it’s stack. Quickly going over to it, Satan reached down and picked it up. “Herb Lore of the Napalli,” he read out loud.
The answers you seek are in this book. Hurry, or all is lost.
Just as suddenly as the presence was there it disappeared. Opening the book, Satan began to thumb through it as he walked back to the table. About halfway through he found the symbol that was on the medallion. Above it in scrawling letters of a language long dead it said, “Lingering Death”. Below the picture was a description of what the poison was. A concoction that was meant to make the victims death a long and painful a possible. The length depended on the strength of the victim. Gideon was technically an immortal, but as with all creatures there were ways to kill the seemingly untouchable. As he read the ingredients of the poison, he realized this just might do that.
Towards the bottom of the page was the antidote. His frown deepened as he read the ingredients. Some he recognized, a few he didn’t. Since the book was from a different world, he supposed he would have to go to that planet to retrieve those ingredients. Looking at the bed where Gideon lay, he wondered if he had time. What he needed was help. Turning back to the book, he began to walk towards the table where there was some paper he could jot notes down on.
A groan from the bed snapped Satan’s head around. From the other side of Gideon, Sapphira slowly pushed herself up onto her elbow. Placing her other hand on her forehead, she tried to shake the cobwebs away. Grimacing at what Satan could only guess was a headache from sleeping for so long, she slowly opened her eyes. When she saw Satan staring at her in shock, she froze.
“It’s just me,” he assured quickly turning his full body around so he faced her.
“How can I be sure?” she asked with a fair amount of skepticism.
“You have only my word, which I know is not the best,” he added as her eyes narrowed. “Malphas has moved on to…shall we say more deceptive pickings.”
“I don’t understand,” Sapphira said moving so she sat up. “Why am I so groggy?”
“Because you’ve been asleep for a couple of days,” Satan answered moving so he stood by the bed, on the other side from hers.
Struggling to come up with a shorten version to explain what he meant, Satan finally sighed. “Long story short, the planet is alive, as in a sentient being. She realized you were running out of time to save Gideon, so she put you all to sleep until I arrived.”
“As she trusts you because?” Sapphira growled.
“Because in the three hundred years that Fallon and I lived here, we never gave her any reason not to. She knows who I am, what I am. All strengths and all my faults. She has never judged me, and she kept us safe from those who were searching for us until it was time for us to leave.”
“And even after all you have done, she still trusts you,” Sapphira countered, clearing not believing him. The fact that this planet was a sentient being, a living, breathing entity was not what she questioned. As a being that was created in the very beginning of time, one of the first to think, to question, to understand, she had seen many what others would call impossible things. No, what was in question, and she had every right to question it, was that the planet trusted him.
Smiling, Satan shook his head. “Yes. She trusts me, and Fallon. And apparently you, even though she does not know you. Otherwise you would not be allowed to stay here. But that is beside the point. To your other question, Malphas has turned his attention to Godiva, and apparently it is not for the first time.” Sapphira’s eyes widened. With shock or disbelief he was not sure, but now was not the time to figure it out. “We don’t have much time if we are to save Gideon. The poison Malphas used is very rare, as is the antidote. I asked for more help, and the planet woke you.”
Groaning as she moved, every muscle stiff from laying in one position for so long, Sapphira pushed the covers off her and swung her legs over the side of the bed, giving Satan her back. The trust in doing this was not lost on him. Waiting a few moments, she slid off the bed and instantly crumpled onto the floor. Satan was around the bed and beside her before she could blink.
“Why am I so weak?” she asked hoarsely, her hand once again going to her forehead.
“Did you try to help Gideon?” he asked, gently pressing the back of his hand against her cheek. It was cool to the touch, so no fever. A good sign.
“Yes. Contact always helps when one of us is sick.”
“You’ve probably drained your reserves,” he frowned. “Here, let me help you to a chair and we can figure out how to help you so you can help me.”
Wrapping his arm under hers as she reached for him, careful to make sure the oversize linen shirt she was wearing still covered her, Satan pulled her to her feet. When her legs still refused to hold her, he swept her up into his arms and carried her to one of the oversized chairs.
“I’ll get you some water,” Satan offered as he stood and headed to the kitchen area.
Leaning forwards, Sapphira put her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands, willing to world to stop being wobbly. She had slept for long periods of time before, and there was always a bit of disorientation when she woke, but never like this. It was as if she had been drugged.
I am sorry, a female voice breathed through her head. Sapphira jerked up in surprise to find there was no other woman in the cave save herself. I did not realize you would react to strongly to my suggestion of sleep. I only wanted to slow the progress of the poison. Now that you are awake, you must hurry, or you will lose the one you love.
“Gideon?” she asked to the air.
No. The one the demon holds. Once he finds the true identity of his captive and who he is to you, he will destroy him the same way he is destroying your sentential.
“No,” Sapphira whispered in horror.
“Sapphira?” Satan asked kneeling down in front of her with a glass of water, a frown on her face. “What’s wrong?”
Before she could answer, the voice continued, There is only time to make one dose of the antidote. Then you must choose….
Choose? Between two men who are as much a part of her as breathing?
“Sapphira?” Satan said urgently. “What is wrong? What do you hear?”
Moving her wide frightened eyes to his concerned ones, she grabbed onto his arms, sloshing water onto the them and the floor, before whispering, “We must hurry.”
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes