Love and Kindness in Leadership Class

In these crazy, uncertain times, it’s hard to remember that there is a light somewhere at the end of this tunnel we are all traveling. It may be hard to see, but it is there. Somewhere.

As a Para-educator, we have had to weave through legal contracts to see just how we can help our schools, our teachers, and our students. Along with that we’ve had to learn new technology, which for some of us is very hard. I’m lucky in the fact that I have played around with some of the new ways of online communication that the quarantine has forced most of us to learn.

In my particular district we are are finally in the swing of online learning. It’s been confusing wading through the rules and requirements that change everyday as the district and government struggle through the chaos COVID-19 has made of our lives. One of the things I have to do in order to help my students is work through the videos and assignments that the teacher’s post every week. Today was Intro to Leadership. A class mostly filled with freshman along with a scattering of sophomores and juniors.

I was in this particular class (I’m not going to tell you the teacher’s name as he has no idea I am writing this. Although I may give him the link so he can read it. We’ll see.) Anyways, I was in this particular class for the first semester and was sad when I was pulled to help out in another class. Even though I have been in a Intro to Leadership class with a different teacher, it was a fun and informative class. It’s always interesting hearing students answer some of the questions posed. Remember, most of the kids are ninth graders so their life experiences are not as vast as an adults. (Although, I have to admit, some of the things said were downright scary! *shudders* ;))

Now for the reason I am writing about this. At this point in the class they are talking about Love and Kindness, focusing on the different kinds of love and do we truly understand what love is. What it means and how we use that one little word that means so much. As I sat watching the video the teacher had posted explaining the assignment and giving his monologue that normally he would give in the classroom, I thought, why isn’t this guy a motivational speaker? He speaks from experience, from knowledge and, most of all, his heart.

I’ll admit, it isn’t that hard to make me cry. I didn’t used to be like this, but when you’ve had a loss that completely destroys the foundation you’ve built your life around, crumbling it into fine dust, it does not take much to shake the barely pieced together foundation that you’ve managed to rebuild. No matter how many years have passed. But, dang it, he managed to once again bring the tears to the surface. Not bad you made me sad or angry tears, but good pulling at my heartstrings make me think that there is still good in this world tears. (I am getting better at keeping them from making a mess.) Why did he bring those tears? Because he is very passionate about his class, the students and the part of Leadership he is teaching, love and kindness. I just wish we would see more of it in the world. Some of the things I have seen, heard, over the last four years…. Well, that is a soapbox I’m going to stay off of for now.

Love and kindness. A concept that, in some places, seems to have gone by the wayside. Kinda of wish I could post his video so you can see what I am saying. He really would be an excellent motivational speaker, and we could all stand to learn a little love and kindness.

Stay safe.

Heidi

Copyright © 2020 Heidi Barnes

Time on Our Hands

Morning everyone. I hope you are all staying safe and at home as much as possible. For those of you who are out working I thank you for putting yourselves out there to make sure the world keeps turning, albeit slowly, and we have food and supplies so we keep moving.

I have been keeping busy by editing and yard work. I thought I’d talk about the gardening because I have not done that much in the last couple of years.

This year I decided that I would finally put down compost on my garden beds. We also decided to bring in topsoil for those areas in the yard that need some help in growing grass or leveling. There are a few other things we’ve changed too. I’ll start with the back right corner of the yard.

This part of the garden has gone through many changes over the years. When we first moved in there was a play area and a few more trees. The only picture I was able to find of it was during one of our snow storms, but it gives you an idea what was back there when we moved in.

The boarder for this area was firewood. Not very safe or stable. So we had put in 4X4 pieces of lumber around the area to keep the pea-gravel in place. A few years later, when the kids had out grown it, we found that it was pretty rotten, so off it went to the dump.

Now what to do with it. Moving all that pea gravel was not high on my do to list so we decided to turn into a garden for my oldest. Through Grandma Frank, he had become very interested in growing his own vegetables. We put in a shed, water and fence to keep the critters out and four raised beds. All along the outside I planted a flowerbed to soften the edges. Unfortunately I could not find a picture of that phase of life, which lasted about five years. My son became too busy with school and work to be able to tend a garden. So we took down the fence and I put in large wine barrels to keep my few vegetables up off the ground in an attempt to keep the critters out. (Mainly slugs!) The first picture was taken when I decided that this was not going to work. Too much gravel and not enough pretty. The second is from the outside looking in when when everything is in bloom.

So I decided that the plants that surrounded the graveled area needed to be inside the gravel area. As I planted the plants I brought in soil to put in the hole as I placed each plant. As the years have gone by I have put a couple of layers of compost on top of the gravel to help. The one thing that stayed the same was the 4X4 boarder and the water, which I re-vamped to fit the new layout. I also added a few accessories.

Jump a few more years later and we decided that the wooden boarder was too choppy. That it needed to go to make for a softer edge, making it part of the yard instead of a separate entity. And here it is.

Aside from throwing down some Preen in hopes to keep the weeds to a minimum, the garden part in this area is done. There is still some gravel, but we are playing with the idea of putting down brick to finish it off. There is one item left over from the Garden Era. The rhubarb that is surrounded by brick because it originally was in a raised bed. I didn’t want to chance killing it by digging it up and replanting it.

So now, even though it is gorgeous outside, I am taking the day off from gardening and maybe working on some editing. Tomorrow I’ll be back out to finish the one bed that I did not have enough compost for, but has a wonderful array of weeds.

Have a great day and stay safe by staying at home.

Heidi

It’s been a while….

It’s been a while since I have posted on here. I hope everyone is keeping safe and healthy. It seems so surreal sometimes that the world has basically slowed down to a slow crawl. We stay in our house and life still goes on. Then we venture out because we need food or medication and see that life is not moving as it once did. That it has changed drastically in a short period of time.

Since the schools have shut down I have been busy with yard work, house work, editing and wondering what the next step for us para-educators in our district is. We keep receiving conflicting messages because honestly no one knows exactly. It’s not ever day we have a pandemic on our hands. Kind of new territory.

As of now we are healthy. Aside from seasonal allergies that is. My luck to not just keep sneezing, but I actually become sick if I don’t stay on top of my allergy meds. As it turned out, I was late in starting this year – who knew I needed to start taking them in February! Silly me! – and they took me down hard. The day before we went on out trip to Disney World I started becoming sick with cold like symptoms. Next day on the trip I could barely swallow because my throat was so swollen. A week of DayQuil and NyQuil later, sinus infection. Again, yeah me! Now I have a cough left that yields dirty looks from others because they think I may have something much more dangerous than allergies. *Sigh* But enough of that.

My yard is looking pretty good, if I must say so myself. Even have managed to order compost before everything shut down, so that has been keeping me busy between rain squalls. I have also been editing. Fixing some of those things that have been bugging me about my books. It’s been a slow process, but I have enjoyed writing again.

We do our best to support the restaurants by ordering out. It’s not quite the same as going out to eat, but it also feels good to help others in some capacity. I do need to go to Costco, but I have seen the lines and that kind of scares me. lol

Well, that is all I have for now. Back to editing. Stay safe.

The Festival – A Suzi Story

Chapter 1

There’s nothing Suzy loved more than riding through the sky in style. Finding the perfect vehicle, she picked a brightly colored fall leaf, dressed in the brightest reds, oranges, and yellows. Hopping on top of it, she tipped it up, catching the tail of the blowing wind, and away she flew.

Riding the waves of the wind currant she dipped up and down, side to side…her tickling laughter could be heard echoing through the blue sky as she steered her leaf to her favorite place, Heidi’s house! Wouldn’t her dear friend be happy to see her. Taking her mind off of where she was going, she suddenly came to an abrupt halt, spiraling to the ground and landing on her face with an indignant plop. Rolling on her back, she brushed the hair out of here face, and staring down at her was a very annoyed looking Heidi. She seemed to have a red mark on her forehead…hmmm…ooooh dear.

Grinning up at Heidi, Suzy stood up, and flapping her wings, flew up to Heidi’s face. “I can fix that ya know.” Taking out her wand, she drew back her hand to fix her landing mark that she’d left on her friend’s face.

Quickly taking a step back and putting her hand up to ward off any “fixing” Suzi was planning, Heidi quickly said, “No, no! That’s okay. I can do it myself.” Waving her hand over her sore forehead, the mark and pain disappear. Taking a deep breath as she muttered a prayer for patience, she smiled and asked, “What brings you here on this fine fall morning?”

Landing in Heidi’s outstretched hand Suzi replied, “Well…I’m on vacation from my mandatory fairy retraining, ya know, seeing as how I’ve had a few mishaps, and I was thinking about how nice it would be to see my bestie. So here I am!” Settling in Heidi’s palm, Suzi looked at her nails as if there was something interesting on them. “Ya know…I hear there’s a huge fall festival going on for elementals and witches. I thought maybe you’d like to go with me.” Looking up from her nails she excitedly continued. “There will be contests and stuff, and I can show you all I learned! What do you say? Wanna go?”

Frowning, Heidi thought about declining. The festival was something that the elders had conjured up in order to entice those who chose to keep to themselves, those who were powerful and had lived longer than most of the so called elders, out into the open in hopes to talk them into joining the counsel, or find out some of their secrets. Personally, she thought, as one of those powerful witches who kept to herself, it was more a way to find their weaknesses or force of to agree to the restrictions that they had put on the rest of the magical community in order to control them. “I don’t know. You know how I like my privacy, only allow a few special individuals into my home. It’s why I live deep in the forest, away from prying eyes. If I go to the festival, they may think they could come and visit me whenever they want.”

Suzi’s smile disappeared, only to be replaced by a deep frown. “But Heidi…I’m not allowed to go without a sponsor. And if I don’t go and prove I won’t screw things up, they will take away my magic.” A small tear fell down her cheek, and the tiny drop landed on Heidi’s skin. One dropped followed the other as the little fairy began to cry in earnest, head bent, and shoulders shuddering, as she cried her eyes out. Finally able to catch her breath, she raised her tear filled eyes, a dirt streaked face up to Heidi. ” Please….”

Making her decision, Heidi gently wiped the tears away as she smiled down at Suzi. “How can I resist those big blue eyes. We will go and…,” her smile turned into a grimace, “see if you can stay out of mischief. Give me a minute to change into something more presentable.”

Carrying Suzi into the house, Heidi set her down on the kitchen table while she went to change out of her gardening clothes into a dress and walking shoes. Grabbing her cloak and basket she stopped by the door and asked, “Are you ready?”

Barely being able to contain her excitement, Suzi quickly flew over to Heidi and landed on her shoulder. Not wanting to wait another minute, Suzi decided to use a new talent she acquired. Closing her eyes, she visualized where she wanted to go and seconds later they were on the outskirts of the festival’s giant field. The only problem being was Heidi was sitting on a high branch in an ancient old tree, barely keeping her balance when she realized where she had landed. Unfortunately, she was terrified of heights. Closing her eyes, she muttered several angry swear words, and proceeded to take some slow deep breaths. Opening one eye she peered around for a place to land, and once calm she levitated gently down to the forest floor. Once firmly on the ground she looked around for Suzi, intent on killing her once she found her.

“Suzi!” she called out with a voice edged in anger. “Where the hell are you?!” Hearing a timid voice calling out here name, she looked in the general direction the sound had come from and spotted Suzi…hanging on a thin branch, skirt caught in the tree. Wanting to laugh out loud, but not wanting to hurt the little fairy’s feelings, Heidi sent a bolt of lightening to the small branch, causing the branch to break and sending Suzi spiraling down to the ground. Heidi had her revenge on the irresponsible little brat.

“New trick I see,” Heidi commented sarcastically, as she absentmindedly brushed a few flecks of dirt off her skirt. “I’m guessing you didn’t stay long enough to learn how to land properly.”

Pick herself up off the ground for the second time today, Suzi brushed off her butt and looked up at Heidi. “Jeez…when did you get so mean?”

“There is a difference between mean and teaching a lesson, little one,” she replied patiently. “That,” she pointed up at the tree, “was a lesson. What did you learn from it?” she asked, eyebrow raised.

“I learned you are mean…,” Suzi muttered.

Clearing her throat Heidi asked, “Excuse me? I missed that.”

Thinking twice about responding in a rude manner, Suzi replied, “I said I learned I should be more thorough with my teleporting. Sorry.”

“And maybe pay more attention in your lessons. No come on,” Heidi smiled as she straightened her cloak. “Let’s go see what the festival has in store for well-intended pixie and a mistrustful ancient witch.”

“Follow me.” Flying in front of Heidi, Suzi led them to a table where three rather comical looking witches with sour expressions sat waiting. “We have to sign in here.” If looks could kill, Suzi would have been reduced to ashes. “What?” Suzi squealed. “It’s not that long a line.”

Trying hard to quell her desire to explode, Heidi raised her eyes to the heavens while tapping her foot, praying to the Goddess for patience. The one thing she hated almost as much as heights, was waiting in line. Suzi wisely kept silent.

When the others waiting in line saw who was behind them, they quickly moved out of the way, bowing and giving greetings as they did.

“Good morning, Mistress.”

“I’m sorry, I did not see you, Mistress. Please. Go ahead.”

“So good to see you, Mistress.”

Smiling politely, Heidi greeted each in return as she slowly walked to the table where there was a sheet of parchment. “Good morning, Agatha. So good to see you.”

Snorting, Agatha, who sat in the middle, her expression growing ever more sour even though she tried to smile, said sweetly. “Mistress Heidi. I did not expect to see you here, as you rarely travel outside your wood.” Glancing at Suzi who smiled brightly at the witch as she hovered just over Heidi’s shoulder, she added. “You seem to have an unwanted…guest.”

Glancing at Suzi, her smile softened. “Not unwanted.” Heidi turned back to the three in front of her who were eyeing Suzi as if she were something vile. Making a mental note to keep an eye on her little friend, for elementals were hunted by those who used dark magic for their magical little bodies, Heidi turned her now fierier eyes to the three…ladies in front of her. Smile still pasted on her face as she watched with some satisfaction as the women paled considerably, she replied just as sweetly, “I would be sorely put out if anything…untoward happened to Suzi.”

Those who were standing around them trying to act like they were not watching or listening took a healthy step back. The message was clear. The three witches at the table were on their own if they decided to cross the sorceress in front of them. The two on either side of Agatha tried to distance themselves without moving from their chairs. Scowling at the two imbeciles, Agatha turned her glare towards Heidi. While powerful in her own right, she was not suicidal. She also knew Heidi well enough to know the threat was not aimed at her, but those around them. “Keep your wand in your skirts, mistress,” she spat, keeping up the pretense that Heidi was not her favorite creature in this Goddess forsaken world. “While there are those who would rather be a stain on the ground, I am not stupid. Your little companion is safe from me.”

Her smile broadened, Heidi inclined her head in a show of respect and acknowledgement. “Thank you, Agatha. I knew you one of the more intelligent ones. Good day.” With a slightly dimmed smile at the other two, Heidi motioned for Suzi to follow and they entered the festival grounds.

“What was that all about?” Suzi whispered in Heidi’s ear when she perched on her shoulder.

“A warning,” Heidi answered pretending to look at the wares at the first booth they encountered. Where she did not need a new basket, she had to admire the craftsmanship.

“What kind of warning?” Suzi asked perplexed.

“One I will tend to later. Be Careful little one. We are not alone.”

“Well, of course we’re not alone!” Suzi groused looking at the hundreds of people milling around them. “There are people everywhere,” she exclaimed rising into the air and throwing up her arms in a gesture to take everyone in, and causing more than one person to turn their eyes towards them.

Closing her eyes, once again praying for that patience she seem to never have, Heidi slowly moved to the next booth. “And now they all know we are here, too.”

“Oh,” Suzi said quietly, drifting down until she once again sat on Heidi’s shoulder, realizing what she had inadvertently done. Hunching in on herself, she groaned, “Sorry.”

“It’s alright,” Heidi smiled, tilting her head to gently bump the pixie. Then, in Suzi’s mind, she whispered, Those who are looking for us knew we were here the moment we arrived. Out loud, Heidi began to talk to the pixie about more mundane things. What her stores needed, a pretty piece of material, the weather.

Hiding behind a group of birch trees, two trolls stood together watching the arrival of Mistress Heidi and her obnoxious pixie Suzi.

“We must go quickly to Master!” Grindle whispered .”He will want to know of the witch’s arrival.”

Turning to leave, his friend Thorn grabbed his arm go halt her progress. “No…wait! We need to find out more. Listen!”

The conversation between Heidi and Suzi drifted over to the troll’s big pointy ears as they took in every word. Crooking his finger, Grindle motioned for Thorn to follow. They steadily kept pace, staying hidden behind each tree they came upon. Knowing what would happen to them if they were caught by the witch.

There were every imaginable creature, and some unimaginable as they were thought extinct, at the fair. As Heidi took in her surroundings, noting those who paid them no attention and those who paid a little too much attention, she listened to Suzi as she chattered excitedly in her ear.

“I thought griffons were extinct!” Suzi cried darting towards the huge half lion half bird creature who was preening itself as it sat in one of the grassy clearings dotted around the fair.

With a flick of her wrist, Heidi jerked Suzi back just as the griffon snapped its beak at her.

“Careful now,” she warned. “While the griffon is a majestic creature who, unless provoked, would not hurt one who meant no harm,” she cooed as reached up to pet the creature’s head. Bowing, it closed its eyes as she rubbed between them, a gentle purr emanating from its chest. Glancing at Suzi while she scratched, she said, “You are merely a snack. You must be careful, little one.”

Glancing over at the forest, she stared directly where the two trolls stood gawking. Terror filled their eyes as they realized they had not been as careful as they thought. Quickly looking at each, they nodded in consent and ran in separate directions. Regardless of their short stubby legs they possessed great speed and appeared to have just disappeared in a rapid blur.

Too preoccupied with the large creature who was once again eyeing her as if she was something tasty, Suzi pulled at the hood of Heidi’s cloak.

“Maybe we should look at something else,” she gulped.

Giving the Griffin one last pat, a small satisfied smile on her face, Heidi nodded and they moved on. At the next stall was a young witch by the name of Elena who Heidi had allowed in her small circle of people she called friends. With the demeanor of a shy young woman, Elena was anything but. Shrewd and almost as distrustful of others as Heidi, she picked one of her healing balms in a small clay jar with a cork stopper and handed it to her.

“You are being watched, it seems,” Elena mused.

“So it seems,” Heidi answered looking at the bottle before putting it in her basket. Pretending to look over some of the dried herbs hanging from the stall post, she continued. “It has been long since I have been in town. Who do those two belong to?” 

Elena leaned forward, signaling for Heidi to do the same.” Rumor has it the trolls are working for a very powerful Warlock, a name I would rather not repeat. But I can tell you, you must stay away from him at all cost.” 

“And why would that be?” Heidi responded, raising an eyebrow.

Carefully looking around as if to make sure no one was listening Elena continued in a hushed voice ” He is evil incarnate. Some say he is the Devil himself. And among other things, he’s responsible for the death of many of the pixies and the fairies..so please take care of your little pet.”

Visibly wincing at Elena’s careless words, Heidi quickly corrects the girl’s assumption. “Suzi is not my pet, but I thank you for the warning. We will be careful.” Paying for the item, Heidi wandered off into the crowd, bracing herself for the outburst that was inevitable. 

The little pixies face was as red as the berries on the bushes scattered throughout the forest. Just as Suzi was about to release her rage, Heidi lifted one finger, and placed it to her lips, immediately silencing the tirade.

“The trees have ears little one, and they are listening.” 

“But Heidi she has no right…”

The look Heidi directed at the still angry pixie shut her outburst right down. Expelling a deep sigh, Suzi pointed to the woods beyond the fairgrounds. “We can find a spot to put up our tent in here.” And taking the lead she flew ahead of the ancient witch to find a resting spot for them both. 

After approving of the spot, that was a good distance away from the majority of the fair goers, Heidi gathered her magic, and with a few words and a flick  of her wand a simple tent appeared where the space once stood empty. 

“After you little one.”

Flying through the open flap Suzi gasped in surprise. The inside of the tent appeared twice as large as the outside would have you believe. The inside came equipped with all the comforts of home. Looking around in amazement, Suzi spotted a hollowed out tree stump with a thick  cushy pillow inside of it and red velvet curtains that covered the opening. “For me?”

A genuine smile stretched across Heidi’s face. “Yes dear one, for you”

Suzi could not contain her excitement as she flew around the tent, bouncing off the sides of the heavy canvas material, until she bounced into one of the lanterns that contained a burning candle. Just as the lantern came crashing to the ground, Heidi grabbed it and set it back on the table. Stopping mid-flight Suzi cleared her throat. “Um…I think I’ll go check out my bedroom.” and quickly darted behind the curtains. 

Sighing, Heidi walked over to the table and set her basket down on top before emptying its contents. Taking time to prepare a mid-day meal, she then sat down and took out the last content lying quietly on the bottom of the basket.

“What is that?” Suzi asked fluttering over to where her plate of nuts and fruits waited for her.

“A note that someone slipped into my basket when they thought I was not looking,” Heidi mused, opening it.

“What does it say?” Suzi asked before popping a juicy piece of peach into her mouth.

“It seems to be a warning of some kind,” Heidi frowned. 

Grabbing another piece of the delicious peach, Suzi fluttered over to perch on Heidi’s shoulder so she too could read the note. “Is it from that witch who called me your pet?” she growled.

“No,” Heidi answered absently.

“The nerve of some people,” Suzi snapped before shoving the piece of fruit into her mouth. “Me! A pet!” she continued as she chewed. “I should have turned her into a toad for such an insult. Or maybe a goat. What do you think?” 

As she talked juice dribbled down her chin landing on the front of Heidi’s dress. Glancing at the dots of juice that now stained the paper down to the mess that was staining her top, Heidi frowned. The pixie had every right to be angry. She just wished it was not with a mouth full of fruit.

Not waiting for Heidi to answer, Suzi continued her tirade as she lifted off of Heidi’s shoulder to land near her plate where she picked up a slice of grape.

“Maybe I will go and turn her into a mouse and feed her to the gryphon. Then we’ll see who is a pet and who is….”

Tuning her out, Heidi looked at the paper once again. There were four words scrawled across it. Four words that confirmed what she feared. That the festival was a trap. What she had not considered was, it was a trap set solely for her. The question was, who had laid it.

A cry of surprise followed by a crash brought Heidi out of her musings. Twisting towards the sound, she saw a flickering glow from one of the tents inner doorways. Muttered a curse, she quickly rose to put out what she was sure was a fire in the kitchen.

Fluttering to the floor, forgotten in her haste, the note softly landed on the rug, it’s words facing the tent’s canvas ceiling. 

You will be mine.

Copyright © 2020 Heidi Barnes & Suzanne Carey

We are not sure when each chapter will come out or how many there will be. We actually live across country from each other, as in on opposite sides of the continent, so our schedules are not exactly in sync, but we will do the best we can.

Do You Ever Wonder Why?

Do you ever wonder why the earth is round, galaxies spin,
how did it all begin?
Do you ever wonder why the sky is blue, the grass is green,
and who decided these things?
Is there life after death?
Do we move on to another time, another place,
another challenge, another space,
or comeback to begin again?
Do you ever wonder why people are they way they are?
Is it who they are born to be,
or how they are shaped, molded,
by society?
Are we alone in the vast unknown?
Is it arrogant to believe we are all there is,
or naive…?
There are many different answers, opinions, theories,
and many more questions, queries.
None of the answers are really right,
none of them are really wrong.
Opinions to be had all around.
Will we ever really understand?
Will anyone truly ever know…
why?

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Writer’s Block Blues

I have the worst case of writer’s block. Because of the way the last few chapters fleshed out and the changes that occured, what I have already written won’t work. So I have to write the rest from scratch. Usually that isn’t a problem, and i know the direction I’m going in, but for some reason this time the words just won’t flow. I will say that last week might have had something to do with the fact we were in Vegas. There are a…few…distractions there, but usually I can get an hour or two of writing in. I didn’t even pick up my pencil or the journal I brought.

Nothing.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened. Probably won’t be the last. What’s troubling me is that I have been posting a chapter a week for a long time, and now I’ve broken the cycle. A writer’s worst fear is to lose the interest of his or hers audience. It doesn’t help that I’m back to work on Tuesday. *sigh*

One of the ways I try to work through a blockage is to just write down words. Sometimes they make sense, most of the time is just me rambling. Kind of a purge of everything that is in my head. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Time to find out.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Heidi

Broken Promises – Chapter 43

Chapter 43

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.

“Oh?”

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.”

Chapter 42
Chapter 44

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises – Chapter 42

Chapter 42

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.

“Excuse me?”

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.”

Chapter 41
Chapter 43

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes

Broken Promises

Okay, I’ve tried and tried to put the next chapter down on paper but the words just won’t flow. As soon as they do and I am happy with it I will post it. Hopefully that will be soon. I hope you all have been enjoying your summer. It finally showed up here in the PNW. 90°F this week! For us that is hot!

Off to try and kick my muse into gear.

Heidi

Broken Promises – Chapter 41

Chapter 41

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.

Chapter 40
Chapter 42

Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes