Moving ever so slightly, because that was all the chains would allow him, Damien tried to release some of the stiffness in his arms and shoulders. All he achieved was sending sharp shooting pain throughout his body. Hissing, he pushed the back of his head against the cold stone wall as he rode the agony out. The one thing he did not envy mortals was their slow healing. The thought of using his power to heal was quickly stifled as the memory of the last time he had tried pushed through the pain induced haze in his brain. The chains that bound him also punished him when he tried to use his powers. It was probably the same metal that accursed necklace Malphas had forced on Sapphira was made of. It explained a lot on how the demon was able to keep her prisoner, hidden from him all those years.
Another shift, another spike of pain that left him gasping. Damien was not entirely sure what kind of creatures Malphas had given him over to, but they were very precise and vicious in inflicting pain without endangering their victim’s life. It was the only reason Damien was relatively sure Malphas did not know his true identity. Because for the moment, he was being careful not to kill him.
Footsteps in the dark, slow, methodical. Slow even breathing filled the cavern, echoing off the walls. Sighing at the obvious attempt for the dramatic, Damien lowered his head, cracking his eyes open. Or at least one of them. The other was swollen shut.
Malphas stood before him, his expression thoughtful as he studied Damien’s bruised and battered face.
“See something you like?” Damien quipped.
“Not so much as a like than puzzling,” Malphas answered rubbing his chin with his clawed hand.
To the passerby, they could have been two people having a conversation about the weather. Well, if you took away the chains, bruises, blood, put clothing on Damien and made Malphas look less reptilian and more human they might resemble that. Damien watched those red eyes roam his face before heading downwards.
“No offense, but you are not my type,” Damien said drily.
“None taken,” Malphas answered dismissively as he continued his perusal. “I tend to enjoy the softer more,” he made a motion with his hands to indicate curves of a body, “curvaceous bodies of your species. Although I have dabbled a time or two on the opposite side.” The grin he gave Damien was meant to incite the male’s ire, making it obvious who he was referring to. That the bastard had touched Sapphira and Gideon at all was enough to set Damien’s teeth on edge, but he had played this game one too many times to allow the demon to get under his skin. As Kara’s son, what happened to Gideon, or Tanis, would not bother him. The males were supposed to be the enemy after all. Two males who would take his mother away from her mortal family. Whatever happened to them they deserved.
“What you do with your free time is something I really do not want to hear about,” Damien said screwing up his face in disgust, playing his part.
The frown returned. Obviously not the reaction the demon was expecting.
“You play the game well, my friend,” Malphas murmured.
Damien’s face narrowed down, allowing a little of the omniscient being he was peak out. “I find life and death not so much a game, but a necessity of being.”
Malphas studied him for a moment longer before turning and walking across the small cavern to his throne.
“Yet we all play it,” he commented as he walked. Turning with a flourish, which would have been far more dramatic if he wore a cape or robes, not the loose leather pants or the tight red wife-beater t-shirt, which showed the well defined muscles under his black scaly hide. Damien had to admit, at almost seven feet the demon was impressive. Or would have been if Damien had not seen it all before. The demon continued; his voice conversational. “I think you’ve played this game many times. Just as my pets have. The question is, which player are you? I know about the Trials, what they are meant to do, and I know the hundreds upon thousands of times they have been played out and failed. I know that the universe I was created in was among the first of many that have long been forgotten. Who my creator was and why I was created. I also know who and what Sapphira and Gideon are. That Godiva and Satan are in some respect their children, and it was their arrogance that brought about the necessity of the Trials. I know that Fallon is a sort of guardian to Sapphira. Created to make sure she does not come to harm. Although, within the Trials he has failed many times, and correct me if I am wrong, he was not even in my Trial until he realized that I had enslaved his charge and master.”
“It seems you know a lot,” Damien commented drily. Too much, he thought.
“I can be very persuasive, and Godiva thought I was to be trusted. Even loved. She was very gullible, still is in some respects,” he mused. Shaking his head as if this was a sad point, he refocused on Damien. Leaning forward, his elbows resting on their respective sidearms, fingers interlaced before him, Malphas refocused on Damien. “You play the son of the heroine in this story, but I think you are more important than a mere stepping stone in the continuation of this universe,” he motioned with a wave of his hand to the outside of the cavern, “but I am not sure how.”
“Seems you are at an impasse,” Damien shrugged as best as he could in his chains. Pain, sharp and immediate, sliced through his chest and he could not stop the hiss of agony.
Rubbing his chin, his red eyes and expression thoughtful, Malphas studied his prisoner as he hung against the wall gasping in obvious agony. Trying to see past the façade of the son to see who, or what, was hidden beneath. He knew the conditions of the Trial had been met, if prematurely, and the others knew their true identity. So if there was someone else hiding behind the character of Chris, he should have shown his true self by now. And if he was still trying to hide, the manacles should have prevented him from using his powers to do so. Yet the boy still hung before him. Maybe there was nothing here to see but the obvious. Still…there was something…not right.
Suddenly standing, he strode over to Damien, grabbed his chin with his clawed hand, shoving Damien’s head against the wall.
“Pain does not motivate. You have no fear save one, and that will never happen,” Malphas mused. Roughly pushing Damien’s face away, relishing the sickening crunch of skull meeting rock, he turned and walked to the middle of the cavern. “The one motivator is the one we both cherish and would never harm,” he said loudly.
“You and I have very different opinions on what cherish means,” Damien grimaced trying to blink the spots from his one good eye. When it was semi clear, he glared at Malphas who was once again studying him not unlike a scientist studies an insect. “I have a question for you.”
“Ask,” Malphas urged. Spreading his arms wide, palms up, he said, “I am an open book.”
Damien made a noise that said he did not believe the demon. “Why do you want my mother so badly? Especially when you know she can never be yours. Not really. She belongs to something much high, much bigger, than a mere demon. Someone,” he added ominously, his eyes narrowing.
“You know something,” Malphas accused striding towards him, stopping a foot away but not touching. Narrowing his eyes, he hissed, “Tell me!”
It was tempting to tell the bastard who he was, but until Damien figured out how to circumvent the dampening powers of the chains he was at a disadvantage.
“I only know what I have been told and overhead. Without my mother, the prophecy cannot be fulfilled and the universe as we know it will cease to exist.”
“Do you think I care about your paltry universe?” Malphas growled, turning and storming away. Flopping onto his throne, he made a sound of disgust. “There are plenty more where this one came from. All I have to do is choose and it will be mine.”
“What do you mean it no longer exists? You destroyed it?” Damien asked his tone shocking. Malphas stilled on his throne. “How could you destroy a universe? All those people. Everything living in it. Gone? Why? What is so important that so many had to be sacrificed?” It was a question Damien had wanted to know the answer to the moment he saw the broken glass scattered on the floor of the orb room.
“You are too young to understand,” Malphas snapped, his expression thunderous. “When you value something, someone, more than your own life. When you realize sacrificing the few to obtain what you desire, what you love is the only way, then you will understand why I did it,” he growled.
“Isn’t the phrase ‘sacrifice a few to save the many’? You sacrificed the many for your own selfish needs,” Damien corrected, his anger rising. “You desired something that was not yours, that did not want you. That is not love. That is evil.”
“Who says she does not love me?” Malphas growled, the black skin on his hand turning grey as his grip tightened on the arms of his throne.
“Responding to your touch because you have cursed her so she is unable to fight what that touch does not mean she loves you. What you forced on her was monstrous,” Damien growled, his eye flashing black, his rage lashing out.
Malphas stilled, the power that flowed through the room stinging his skin as it washed over him. Impossible. The boy was powerful, but not powerful enough to circumvent the metal of his chains. No being was. Yet that power had tasted familiar. Narrowing his eyes, he hissed, “Who are you?”
“The son of the female you have abused far longer than I have been alive,” Damien snarled. “An act you will be punished for.”
The words echoed throughout the cavern, a feeling of a vow that was set in stone, a prophecy come to life, settling in, around and through the fabric of life. Of Malphas’s life. The only being able to bring prophecy to life was a god. Not any god, but the one who was the beginning, the middle and the end of all. Like his Sapphira.
A flash of memory, of eyes black as coal. A face closed down in a fury so fine it burned. A powerful unknown that was cast and locked out of this universe before it could ruin all his carefully laid plans. A fourth….
With a smile that spoke of victory as it was deadly, Malphas hissed, “Liar.”
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes