Copyright © 2020 Heidi Barnes
Copyright © 2020 Heidi Barnes
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
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
You would think being the creator of all that you see, that surrounds you, saturates you with its very essence, you might know every nook and cranny. That every thought, every sound, every vibration would tell you what you wanted to know within an instant of asking questions like, where is the demon hiding? What are his plans? How did he manage to escape his realm and enter this one without even so much as a whisper? It was a foreign entity. Shouldn’t it have made some sort of noise, disruption in the harmony of this realm? Something to alert the deities that there was a disturbance in the…. Satan struggled for the right word. The one that came to mind he did not want to say. It sounded so clique, yet…oh hell. In the force. A disturbance in the force. There. He said it, the gods help his sanity. He was just happy no one was paying attention and heard him. Not that he did not like the movies. They were one of the few pleasures he still enjoyed after all these centuries. Still, he would have to figure out a different word to explain what he meant. If that were possible. It was was it was. A force of power, of personality, of life and death.
Mentally shaking his head to get back on track, Satan looked at his surroundings. He had not graced the halls of the deities of this realm for many lifetimes. This is where his character, Caius, was supposable created. Where Caius had met his brother and sister. Where the prophecy had begun, and hopefully where he would get some answers. Many Trials before, he and Godiva had decided that micromanaging every aspect of their creations was too exhausting and usually ended badly. That maybe their true creator’s teachings might have some validity to them. Plant the seed, nurture it the first few millennia until the roots take hold then stand back and give it room grow, to blossom. Watch as the leaves form, the colors shine. See what happens when the seeds drop and the new generation begins, how it is different, what new colors emerge, how it spreads, how it dies. Learn from its triumphs and its mistakes. Maybe every once in a while nudge it in a different direction, but most of all allow it to breathe.
It hadn’t been easy, and some of their nudges had been disastrous, but with each Trial they learned, and they grew, and they understood a little more. This Trial was to be the last. Finally, he and his sister understood what their creators had been trying to tell them all these centuries. Life of a mortal is precious, finite, and should be respected. That chaos is as much a part of that life as serenity is. Yet with all this knowledge he did not know how one vengeful demon they created could hide from them in a universe where he did not belong.
As Satan neared the throne room where the deities of this realm resided, he could already hear their squabbling. As one of those deities, Godiva had arrived before him to take her place as the queen. The gods and goddesses knew that something evil had gained strength in their little universe, something that did not belong. Now the blame game was in full swing as each one accused the other of bringing that evil in.
Shaking his head in disgust, deep down Satan knew once upon a time he had been just as petty, just as juvenile. Thought himself invincible, untouchable. How wrong he had been. He supposed it was all a part of the process. Now he had to try and reason with stubborn petty gods and make them understand how important it was to pool their power, find and destroy this new threat so they might have a chance of surviving. A task, from what he was hearing, seemed suddenly impossible. The knowledge that one comes across, the one where what their parents had been telling them all along suddenly makes sense, washed over Satan. It was a strange and somewhat unsettling epiphany that they had been right all along. Stopping in his tracks, his face screwed up as if he had just swallowed something vile, Satan shook himself. Ah gods! Was he becoming his parents? The horror! Before he could complete shove that unsettling thought into a box to not look at later, a sense of foreboding slithered across his skin.
It started as a low rumble, growing in intensity until the entire planet violently shook. Suddenly the air was sucked out, leaving a hollow void where there was no sound, no light, no thought, no feeling. Nothing. Just as he thought he would go mad; all sensation came rushing back in an explosion that buckled his knees. Satan grabbed onto the nearest pillar to keep from falling. Part of the ceiling collapsed near him, the ground under him heaved upward knocking him off his feet. Around him, demi-gods grabbed their heads crying out in pain, falling to the floor. Then the pain hit Satan and he screamed, his entire body tensing with agony. It was as if something were pulling him apart from the inside then slamming it all back together.
As suddenly as it started everything stopped. Satan lay gasping on the floor, dust and debris settling around him. What the hell? Then he felt it, felt her, and he knew what had happened. Fallon and Sapphira had had finished the second part of the ritual that bound their characters, Aden and Kara, together. That meant they were both open to the universe, a conduit waiting to receive power that would determine the course of the Universe for the final time. The thought chilled him. Even though they knew who they were, what they were, somehow the rules of the Trial still bound them. The prophecy would still play out. That meant he had to find Malphas sooner rather than later or he, his sister, the two sentinels, Damien and everything they had built would cease to exist, and Sapphira would belong to the demon for all eternity.
Shaking his head in confusion, he tried to flash to the planet where the others were to finish his part of that ritual, but as it had since he arrived on this planet something stopped him. It was like hitting a brick wall, slamming him back to the ground. Slowly pushing himself to his feet, Satan leaned against the wall until the hall stopped spinning. Someone was keeping him from Sapphira, leaving her open for anyone to claim her as theirs. Like the demon. That could not happen.
Pushing his bruised and battered body from the wall, Satan carefully picked his way through the mess of marble and bodies to the Great Hall where the deities were holding court. They needed to find and destroy Malphas or all was lost. The problem was, while the role he played in this Trial was important, to them Satan was a child. A piece of a chess game they had been playing for their entire existence. A mere pawn. Here, in this universe, he had no real power when it came to the council. He would have to be very careful with his actions and words or they would not listen to him. Godiva, on the other hand, was different. She was their queen, one half of the ruling couple. Hopefully her silver tongue had already begun the process. That thought was short lived as once again the bickering began.
“Lovely,” Satan muttered under his breath. “Just what I need.”
When he reached the door he stopped, accessing the mood of the crowd. Not good, apparently. They were scattered around the room. A few were still on the floor groaning, their servants, hovering over them. Some were righting their various ornate thrones while others still were already seated. There were ten in all. All beautiful, most self-absorbed. They had earned their reputations well.
“I don’t think racing out into the universe without knowing what we are up against is the smartest idea,” the one Satan knew as Marcus, the God of War argued. It was always a curiosity to Satan that someone who was supposed to desire the chaos and pain of war, he strangely did his utmost to avoid it. However, one did not question a god and not live to regret it.
“So we sit here and wait for them to find us?” Sasha asked incredulously as she gently set her ornate throne down onto the floor. The youngest among the twelve, blonde, slim and beautiful, Sasha was the Goddess of Youth.
“We are the strongest here, in the Great Hall,” a small sniveling voice reminded.
Satan cringed, his eyes involuntarily going to the slimy pocked mark man he knew as Nusair, the God of Lies and Despair. This man looked like a cross between a snake and a raptor, and not the pretty kind. This…god made Satan look like a saint. Evil oozed out in an inky black smoke that curled around him like a lover. The smell that followed him everywhere was that of rotting flesh. He was given a wide berth around his throne, which was made of slick black onyx. It was also the only throne in the room that did not have any carvings in it. It was just big and black, sucking in the light around it, attempting to shroud everyone in darkness.
“Hiding here in the halls will not help us find out who it is and how strong they are,” Marcus spat in disgust.
“They shook the halls of this temple. The shockwave was felt to the edges of the universe without diminishing in strength,” Godiva reminded. “I think we all know how powerful they are. The question is who is it and how many are there.”
Satan frowned. They do not know about the prophecy and the role Aden plays, or, it seems, about Malphas. Maybe Godiva has not had the chance to tell them.
There was only one other stronger than Godiva, and despite his obvious indifference to her in public, Satan knew he was very protective of her. Looking around the hall, his eyes fell on the deity who was his father in this universe. Zorya. The King of the Gods. Zorya’s eyes caught his and held them. In that one look Satan knew the god knew the truth, and he was beyond angry. Whether it was at the situation or at him, Satan was unsure. What he did know was if his father decided he was the problem and wanted to punish him, there was nothing he could do to stop it. Damn it! As powerful as he was, he was still the weakest one here. A choice he had made when they were creating this universe he was sorely regretting now.
Grinding his teeth in frustration, Satan made his way around the circle to where Godiva sat. By the time he reached her, everyone that was conscious was sitting on their throne. Satan took note of the ones that weren’t. The ones who would be of no use to them in fighting the demon.
“And when we do?” Nusair’s oily voice broke into Satan’s thoughts. “What then? How do we fight against someone who can shake the very foundations of the universe?”
“Caius,” Zorya called calmly. “Is there anything you need to tell us?”
Every eye turned to him, but the only one he saw was Zorya. The god knew his time was at an end, and it shocked Satan to see just how tired he was. He had been waiting for this day when the power, the responsibility, would shift to someone else’s shoulders. Wanting it. Godiva seemed, angry. Maybe even a little fearful. They had talked about their strategy before she came here. They were going to work different angles in order to bring the deities to their side. There was something wrong, though. Something out of place with his sister. It was then he realized she was the one keeping him from Sapphira.
“Son?” Zorya prompted before he could do more than narrow his eyes at Godiva in confusion.
Frowning, Satan ignored Godiva’s glare he could feel burning a hole in-between his shoulder blades and walked into the middle of the room to play his part of the dutiful son.
“What do you know about this, young one?” a tall formidable woman demanded. Girisa. Goddess of Wisdom and Truth. She was not one to trifle with. “And do not lie to us, Caius. You have broken enough covenants the past two thousand years to warrant your termination. Do not push our patience any further.”
“I would not dream to, Girisa,” Satan bowed, a smile plastered on his face. Girisa snorted, clearly not believing him. “But I can’t tell you what is happening or why.”
“Because you refuse to?” Marcus demanded sitting forward in his chair as if he planned to attack Satan.
“No, because I cannot,” Satan answered doing his best to keep his voice as neutral as possible. They may not be able to kill him as Girisa threatened to, but they could make his life very painful for a very long time if they wished. “From what I have learned in the last two thousand years, this has all happened before, but only those involved in its outcome know the details.”
Marcus and Zorya exchanged a look of understanding. Satan filed it away for further investigation. Right now, he needed to convince Godiva to release him so he could find Sapphira. She was in danger. He could feel it. If anything happened to her….
“But we are involved,” Sasha countered. “Whatever just happened affected us greatly. I feel as if my powers have weakened.”
“I too was affected by whatever happened, but my greatest concern right now is Kara. She was taken from us, and if this…power hurt me then she may be hurt too. I need to find her to make sure she is safe. If we lose her the universe will come apart at its very seams, and no one will survive. Including you.”
“And your brother, Tanis?” Godiva asked.
“He is safe,” he frowned. Godiva knew where Gideon had gone, that he was wounded, yet her question sounded sincere. As if she truly did not know the answer to her question. The feeling that something was not right with his sister once again pushed at him. Deciding to cautiously test if his intuition was correct and things were not as they seemed, he continued the lie. “I left him at the house on the planet Cennad, unharmed.”
“Isn’t that the planet Kara’s human mate lives on? The one where you hid her and your bastard child,” Girisa growled.
Satan bristled. “Yes,” he answered after a moment, his tone as stiff as his body.
“Did you really think you could hide your treachery from us?” Girisa sneered.
“This may surprise you,” Satan answered, his disgust with the beings in front of him barely contained, “but I believe a child should grow up knowing the love of its mother.”
“If you had grown up knowing the love of a mother, you would not have been what you needed to be,” Zorya reminded calmly.
“And what is that, Father? Someone who knows only pain and suffering? Someone who can’t show how much he loves a woman without hurting her?” Satan snapped.
“Don’t blame your upbringing for your poor choices,” Sasha snapped, a rare hint of anger in her voice.
“Choices? What choices? We had no choices. We still don’t. I want…need with a desire none of you can in your petty, self-absorbed minds understand to find Kara, and yet you are keeping me here against my will.” He glared at Godiva.
“Selene?” Zorya asked calmly looking at his wife.
“I do not know what he is blabbering about,” Godiva answered arrogantly, not meeting her husband’s eyes. Instead she glared at Satan. Yes, something was very wrong with his sister. “He never recovered from Kara choosing another and has blamed me for it all these eons. Like I can interfere with something that was written down before time began.”
“But we are not above interfering with prophecies, are we,” Zorya accused quietly. Everyone in the room was silent as Godiva’s eyes snapped to his. Eyes narrowed, he glared at Godiva. “I know what you have been doing. Don’t you think it is time to allow the Fates to do their work without our interference?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” she snapped. “The only time I intervened was when he almost killed Kara in an attempt to break Tanis, and right before….” She let that one drop, her glare returning to Satan as she sneered. “Well, we don’t have to go into what happened then, do we.”
Satan looked baffled. What in the hell was she talking about? And why did he get the feeling Zorya was not talking to his sister but someone else? Satan looked closer at Godiva, trying to see what his father saw.
“Don’t give me that look,” Godiva snapped, fidgeting in her seat. “You know what you did to Kara and then to Aden. You forced her into your bed, abused her, then forced him to relive the horror of what you did to her until you broke him. I will not allow you to torture them again for some stupid prophecy!”
“I would never force Kara into my bed!” Satan was completely dumbfounded by Godiva’s accusations. “That is one line I would never cross. You know that.”
Zorya looked from his son to his wife, his eyes narrowed in anger. “Leave us,” he ordered suddenly. Immediately everyone began to clear the room, those who were still unconscious being carried out by their servants. “Not you, my son,” Zorya said stopping Satan as he moved to follow the others. “This pertains to you as well as us.” He explained when Satan looked at him unsure. “And you, my brother,” he added, a hint of anger in his tired voice.
To Satan’s complete shock, Marcus hesitated at the door. Brother? Wracking his brain, Satan tried to remember when they had decided that Marcus would be Zorya’s brother. Nothing came to mind. In fact, there was a huge gap of time were there was a complete blank. He remembered planting the seed that would begin all creation. Sitting back, watching, waiting for the time when sentient life appeared. Then…nothing. Looking from Zorya, to Marcus then finally to Godiva, who refused to meet his eyes, Satan realized he had no memory of their creation. Of invoking the prophecy that would result in the creation of their characters, his role in this universe. It was all a complete blank. What was going on here?
“You made it abundantly clear many eons ago that this was none of my business,” Marcus snapped, not turning around.
“That was…necessary. Please, hear me out before you leave. I think I know what is going on,” Zorya bargained quietly as he stood turning his gaze to Godiva. “And so do you, Malphas.”
Satan froze. An emotion that he rarely felt washed over him. Horror. Unable to swallow it back, he asked hoarsely, “Who?”
“Someone I think you are well acquainted with, Caius,” Zorya explained as he stood and walked towards Godiva. “Fight him, my love,” he whispered his voice breathing through the room along with his power. “Fight him and come back to me.”
“But that’s impossible. He is locked away where no one can escape,” Marcus breathed, walking back into the room.
“His body is,” Zorya reminded stopping in front of Godiva, who sat in her chair, back stiff glaring at him. “But I think not his spirit.”
Godiva glowered at him. “You and your arrogance. You think you can simple banish me into the darkest pits of hell and keep me there? As I have told you many times before, she is mine!” The voice that came from Godiva’s lips was not hers. It sounded like her, yet it wasn’t.
Satan stared at his sister in shock, then fear as recognition washed over him. It was the same voice that he had been hearing in his head. The one that had been whispering for him to do things he would have never done or gave him answers to puzzles that he was unable figure out on his own. Like how to survive the last two thousand years, where to look for the scrolls, how to gain control of Sapphira. Oh gods! The nightmares. All those horrible things he had done in his dreams that had left him gasping and dripping in sweat in the middle of the night. Did they really happen?
“She has never been yours,” Zorya growled, his voice showing his anger as his power lashed out at Godiva/Malphas. The laughter that came from his sister’s mouth sent a shiver of fear down Satan’s spine.
“You cannot get rid of me that easily, brother,” Malphas sneered. “Not this time, and definitely not alone. I am too strong.”
“Maybe not alone,” Marcus said standing beside Zorya. “But, then again, he’s not alone, brother.”
“You always thought too much of yourself, Marcus,” Malphas spat. “Always interfering where you did not belong.”
“Interfering? Me?” Marcus gasped as if affronted by the mere suggestion of being interfering, his hand on his chest, a pain expression on his face. “You wound me, my brother. Or should I call you grandpa? Besides, you have no room to throw stones after what you did. If you had just cooperated instead of trying to control destiny, we would not be here today.”
“What is he talking about?” Satan rasped, the horror of what he was discovering threatening to drown him. “What is going on?”
“This is not the first time the fate of the universe has tried to come to a conclusion. We had a choice, just as you do. One that would decide how the universe would continue, but one of us had his own agenda,” Marcus explained, his eyes narrowing on Godiva, his voice filled with annoyance. “Before we were able to banish Malphas to the hell he currently lives in, he tried to thwart the Fates and in the end cursed us.”
Satan’s mind was still reeling as he tried to understand what was going on when the tension in the room shot up as Zorya placed his hands on the armrests on either side of Godiva.
“Let him go, love,” Zorya pleaded softly, leaning in so his face was mere inches from hers. “I’m tired of these games and want to rest. Let the young ones have their glory. Then maybe we will be free to have what we’ve always wanted.” He teased her lips with his.
“Do you really want to lose all of this?” she asked breathlessly. “All the power, the ability to control the universe on the off chance you may be able to love me again?”
Zorya looked into Godiva’s eyes with such fierceness that it took Satan back. As Selene, Godiva was fated to love Zorya, to only want Zorya, but he was not supposed to love her back. And Marcus was their brother? The third demi-god? As far as Satan knew, the third had been banished, which would be Malphas. Questioning everything he had known in this Trial, which he thought he had control of, that he had created, Satan’s jaw dropped as Zorya dropped another bombshell.
“Please, Godiva,” Zorya begged, brushing the back of his hand across her cheek. “Let this torture end. Let us have a chance to finally be together again. I love you.”
He knew Godiva’s true name. That meant he knew her true identity. Their true identity. And since Marcus did not react to the name change, then so did he. Staggering backwards, Satan tried to push through the chaos of questions and horror that threaten to overwhelm him and listen and watch what was going on before him.
“You say you love me, yet that does not seem to stop you from fucking every female you meet,” Godiva snapped pushing him away from her so she could stand. But Satan could see the pain in her eyes, hear the hint of regret behind her anger. Did his sister truly love this male? Was she capable of love?
“Sasha is wrong,” Zorya said sadly. “There are those of us who do not have a choice in what our lives are to be. You and I know that better than most.” He moved closer to Godiva. Reaching out he pulled her to him, wrapping his arms loosely around her. “I can already feel the change; feel the bindings Malphas put around my heart loosening. His mind is elsewhere and so is his power. If you would only let go of the hurt and pain you would feel it too.”
“How can you be so sure?” her voice low with uncertainty, and maybe a little hope.
“Because after all this time I can finally do this.” Tightening his arm around her waist, a hand tangling in her hair, Zorya pulled Godiva against his for a searing kiss.
Caius watched with fascination as Godiva answered that kiss with as much passion as was given. Apparently she did love Zorya. Then another thought crossed Satan mind. All this time, Godiva knew who Malphas was, what he wanted, and she had never told him. Had lied to him all these centuries. Why? They were so close to proving to their creators that they had learned their lesson, that they could be released from their punishment, and she goes and lies to him. To all of them.
Zorya released Godiva’s lips, resting his forehead on hers, both of their breathing ragged. “I want to be free of this curse. I want to hold you and only you in my arms again. Please, Godiva, fight him. You must find the strength release Satan. He needs to be with the others or the Malphas win, and we will descend into chaos.”
“I am trying,” she breathed her voice showing the strain she was under as she clung to Zorya.
“What is going on here?” Caius rasped stepping forward, his anger rising. The fact that Zorya had used his true name hadn’t even fazed him. At this point he didn’t think anything would surprise him. “How do you know who we are?”
Zorya looked at him, keeping his arms around Godiva. “You should know you three were not the first to fight this battle. Like your sister, or I should say your maker, Godiva had to make a choice. Back then Malphas was charming, easy going. He hid well the evil that lurked behind his smile, the power he held over us. What he did not know, or understand, was even though he may have created the characters, written out the storyline, the ending may not come out as you planned. That one thought, one word, one little action can tilt the those carefully laid plans into a completely different direction. Somehow, Godiva saw through Malphas’s façade and realized who he was. That he did not belong. When she chose me the story he so carefully crafted veered into a different direction. One he could no longer control or see the ending. He did not take it well. Long story short, when Marcus appeared, and it was clear the time had come to let go of our differences and join together as one, Malphas refused. Instead he took Godiva and ran.
“It took years, but we finally found where he had hidden her. Together the three of us banished him to a place where the gods are forgotten, but he made sure he was never forgotten. On his last breath he cursed us. If he could not have Godiva to use to achieve his goal, then we could not have her either. The rest you know. We know that Malphas is gaining in strength. He sees his prize and he will do anything to achieve it. To have Sapphira as his queen and Gideon as his pet. If he manages to ensnare them, he will use their power along with his to destroy everything that threatens to take them away.”
Tightening his grip on Godiva so she could not pull away, Zorya put his other hand out and an ancient looking scroll appeared in it. “This is the original prophecy. Take it to the others. It might help you defeat Malphas, or it might not. What we do know is you must all fight him, together, or he will win. Everything.”
Satan took the scroll from Zorya, looking at it as if it would bite him. One question that he had tried not to think too much about because there were more pressing issues at hand pushed forward. He had to ask, if only to know the answer. “And my child?” not looking at them, his eyes transfixed on the brittle parchment in his hand.
“The child was not yours, my son,” Zorya answered sadly. “Although he wanted you to believe otherwise Malphas was in possession your body when the child was conceived, so in turn the child was his and it had to be destroyed.”
Satan tightly gripped the old parchment in his hand, hearing it crackle. Not his child? And the things that he thought were nightmares of what he did to Sapphira were true?
“I will kill him,” he growled.
“If you all work together you may be able to do just that. Go, find them. There is not much time left.”
As if on cue, a mixture of pain and pleasure the likes Satan had never felt before encompassed him, sending the room into a tailspin. Right on the heels of that an unholy roar that shook the building, threatened to burst his eardrums as every molecule in his body screamed RUN dropped him to his hands and knees. Forcing himself to look up, he found Zorya and Marcus holding Godiva in-between them as she fought with everything she had to break free. When her eyes landed on Satan, the snarl that left her lips and the hatred in her red eyes shook him to his core. This was not his sister, but the demon in disguise. A demon that she claimed to know nothing about yet had full possession of her body. What. The. Hell?
“We are out of time!” Zorya bellowed. “Go! Find the others. Figure out the clues before it is to late.” he commanded.
Needing no more prompting, Satan disappeared.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
Fallon was helping Sapphira dry her back when he felt Gideon enter the cave. The part of him that had been Aden pushed forward, overshadowing this own self-awareness. It was a side effect of the trials that could leave them disoriented, depending on how deep their memories were suppressed. Apparently Malphas had tried to bury them so deep they would never remember who they really were. One of the many ways he tried to keep them under his control.
After so many centuries of being someone else, it was strange and a bit disorienting being able to feel Gideon so intimately. In the last six years, unless the emotion was being specifically directed at him, there had always been the small tastes of what the male was feeling. The rage his brother was directing at him now was palpable. Fallon knew when Gideon saw the rumpled sheets on the bed because the jealousy that intensified that rage almost brought him to his knees. Right on the heels of that was frustration laced with guilt. These were Tanis’s emotions, and Gideon knew that. There was no jealousy between the brothers, there never would be, but until they could separate themselves from their counterparts their emotions were going to be debilitating. With some effort, Fallon pushed Gideon’s rampant emotions away enough so they were only a dull roar in the back of his head.
“What’s wrong?” Sapphira asked turning towards him frowning in confusion.
“The usually emotional chaos that ensues once our true selves awaken,” he sighed, placing his hands on her hips, drawing her closer so he could rest his forehead on hers. “The part of Gideon that is Tanis is pissed I took you from him. Seeing a bed rumpled from us having sex did not help,” he grimaced as a particular strong shot of rage sliced through his head.
“Why don’t I feel him?”
“I am blocking him. I was worried if I didn’t shield you, you would not have survived the pain of separation as Kara and Tanis would experience,” he explained. “Now I’m glad I did.”
“That bad?” she asked warily. Like Fallon, Gideon’s emotional turmoil would mix with hers. When they were this high, it was never a pleasant experience.
Closing his eyes, Fallon nodded.
“You might as well drop the shields so I can get it over with,” Sapphira sighed
Opening his eyes, he regarded her warily. “You sure? I’ve never felt it this intensely before. It’s as if the emotions are heightened somehow.”
“Do I have a choice? We need to remember who we are, regain our powers before we try to rescue Damien or Malphas will enslave us again. I don’t think he’ll give us another chance to escape.”
“You really think he is more powerful than you?” Fallon asked surprised.
“I think he has done his homework and he knows our weaknesses,” Sapphira frowned. “I can still feel him…here,” she whispered putting her hand over her heart, shuddering. When she looked up into Fallon’s eyes they were full of something he rarely saw from the goddess. Fear. “I do not want to be under him again. In any sense of the word.”
“I’ll so my best to make sure that never happens,” Fallon vowed.
Nodding a little too much, a little to quickly, Sapphira squared her shoulders and braced herself. “Okay. Hit me,” she ordered.
Smiling as her overexaggerated bravado, Fallon brought down the shields that kept her and Gideon separated.
Sapphira gasped when the full force of Gideon’s anger and jealousy hit her. There was so much anger, so much hurt, and mixed together was a heavy dose of guilt followed by physical pain. Gideon was still wounded from Malphas attack. That should have not been possible. One, because Gideon’s physical body had not been in that cavern. Two, because he was an immortal. He should have healed by now. Why wasn’t he healed?
Fallon tightened his grip on her waist as she felt his powers start to mask Gideon’s feelings.
“No,” she gritted out. “It just startled me. Give me a minute.”
Fallon froze, watching Sapphira carefully as she not only pushed Gideon’s emotions back, but began to sooth them. While Damien had created her sentinel, he had used both his and hers essences in that creation. It was the reason the four of them were so closely linked to one another. It was also one of the reasons Satan and Godiva were jealous of the two males, because they had not been created from Sapphira and Damien, but from the matter that created all. Sapphira used that link to assure Gideon, she was okay as well as remind him of what was real, and what was a product of the Trial.
“He’s hurt,” she whispered, her face showing the pain that Gideon was feeling.
Fallon stilled. Why wasn’t he feeling Gideon’s pain?
“Because Tanis’s rage is trying to take over, and he wants nothing to do with you,” she answered his thoughts. “He’s,” the grip she had on Fallon’s arms tightened as her face closed down even more with pain. “There is something wrong with the wound, but…there is no physical wound,” she frowned. “There is no torn flesh, no blood. Just burning and so much,” she swallowed hard, “pain. He’s,” her eyes flew opened, fear once again lacing them, “dying,” she breathed.
Within a nanosecond she was dressed and heading for the door, Fallon closely on her heels. Gideon may have escaped Malphas’s trap, but the damage had already been done. If they did not reverse it, and soon, Gideon would not survive the night.
* * *
Brynn carefully laid a barely conscious Gideon down on the rumpled bed. Reaching for Gideon’s forehead, he gently placed the back of his hand against it to find his skin hot. That was not good. Brynn was not sure what had happened when Gideon took the medallion from him, but when he had finally been able to pry that damn thing from his fingers, Gideon was curled in a ball on the floor weak and shaken. Godiva said he needed Sapphira in order to heal him, but neither she or Satan knew where they were, and Gideon was too weak to teleport himself there. Knowing that if they could they would leave him behind because he was only a mere mortal and not a part of this particular story, Brynn volunteered his ship. If Gideon could direct him, he would take him to Sapphira. So here they were and so far no Sapphira.
Straightening, he looked around the large cave, doing his best to ignore what the rumpled sheets on the bed meant. He glanced at a door off to the side of the cave where he had heard a male’s voice then a much softer female’s voice. The knowledge that his wife had been with other men, that because of some cosmic rule she was not his alone was not a new concept. Seeing it so blatantly before him was not what you would call, comforting. Jealousy so thick he would choke on it if he allowed it to take control swam just below the surface. Part of him wanted to storm into that room, grab Kara and take her somewhere all this madness would never find them. The other part knew if he wanted to find their son he needed the help of the two immortals that were connected to his wife on a cosmic level Brynn could not even begin to comprehend.
Focusing on finding something to help bring Gideon’s fever down. he spied the sink across the room. Making his way over to it, he took in the ratty furniture, papers and books strewn all over the place that were covered with a thick layer of dust. Whoever had lived here had been gone for some time. Kara would have called it shabby chic, one of her home world’s terms. He would have argued it was more of a mess. The smile that thought had brought to his face dimmed as he remembered Kara, or Sapphira, was not only not his wife, but not even from this reality. That once this latest emergency was over, she would leave here and never return.
A wave of vertigo hit him so hard Brynn had to grab one of the kitchen chairs for support. When she had been taken from him by Colin his world had collapsed around him, yet he knew that someday she might return to him. That she was still somewhere in this universe. How was he going to cope when she was completely gone? Then another thought hit him hard. Chris was not his son, not really. Brynn may have been one of the two parts that created him in this universe, but in reality he was some sort of god that would return to his own realm with Sapphira, never to be seen again. That was if they survived. After what Brynn had seen this Malphas do to Gideon and he wasn’t even in the room, Brynn was not so sure they would.
Shaking the thoughts of losing his family out of his head, he turned to what he assumed was the kitchen and began to look for a clean towel. First thing first. Try to keep Gideon from dying, help defeat a demon to save his son and probably the universe at large, then, if he survived, go home to his daughter. There would be time enough then to grieve.
Shaking the dust from the towel he found under the counter, he turned to the old fashion water pump attached to the counter that stood next to the sink. Grasping the handle, he lifted it then heaved downwards. Deep within, there was a hollow gurgling sound that shook the pipes, making them clang loudly. Well, that did not sound good. And the Gods only knew how deep the pipes ran before they hit water. Grimacing, he tried again with the same result. A groan filled with pain from behind him spurred him on. After ten more pumps, water finally started to trickle from the spout. One more and it gushed into the sink. Putting the rag under the spout he gave it one more push, noting how cold the water was as it poured over the towel and his hand. Wringing it out, he returned to the male and placed it over his forehead. Straightening he looked at the cave opening. Where were Sapphira and Fallon? Gideon said they would be here.
The door he had notice before opened and the female that rushed out of it was as unfamiliar as she was familiar. Her auburn hair was pulled back in a loose bun, revealing a face that was so beautiful all Brynn could do was stare open mouth. It was her hazel eyes that lit with mirth and the small upturn of her lips that brought to home that this beautiful creature was his wife. It was then that he noticed what she was wearing.
The thick leather tank top that hugged her curves while covering them up at the same time tucked into tight leather pants of the same dark color. Brynn could not determine if that color was a deep brown or red. A wide deep red belt circled her waist just above the hips. It all had a look of a layer of clothing you would wear under some sort of armor. Unfinished. The bare feet that quickly made their way to Gideon’s side told him what she had put on was in a hurry.
“Gideon,” she breathed hovering over him.
Cracking his eyes open at her voice, Gideon managed a weak smile. “Hey gorgeous,” he whispered hoarsely. “Sorry I’m late.”
“Hush,” she admonished, her eyes roaming his body for any sign of injury. Reaching down, she gently touched his cheek with the back of her hand and hissed when she felt the fever in his skin. “I thought you said he was fine,” she snapped at Fallon, who was standing at the end of the bed frowning at his brother. Brynn took in the sleeveless leather shirt that hung over loose leather pants of the same black color. While he knew this was who he thought was Aden, like Sapphira there was something very different about the male. As if his aura was changed, enhanced, far more powerful than before. It was the same male, yet not.
“He said he was,” Fallon growled, none to pleased he had been lied to. Turning his sky blue eyes onto Brynn, he gruffly asked, “Tell me again what happened when Gideon took the medallion from you.”
Running his fingers through his hair, Brynn blew out the air he had sucked in. He did not even understand what had happened. How would he explain it so the others would? Glancing at the bed, he saw Sapphira bent over Gideon, eyes close, her lips moving silently, her hands slowly circling over his head before moving down his body.
“I’m not sure,” Brynn answered his eyes going back to Fallon. When I held the medallion, nothing happened. It was just a hunk of metal. When Gideon grabbed it took him to his knees. When he started crying out in pain, it took everything I had to pry it from his hand. It was like it was glued to him.”
“Did he say anything?”
Frowning, Brynn tried to remember. Godiva and Satan were yelling for him to take the medallion back, too afraid to touch it themselves lest they too were caught in the trap. He shook his head. “No. At least not that I could hear.”
This time it was Fallon’s turn to frown. Holding out his hand, he asked, “May I?”
At first Brynn did not understand what the immortal wanted, then he remember that Sapphira could read other’s minds, their memories, through touch. Figuring it was the best way for Fallon to understand what had happened, he held out his hand and nodded.
Taking Brynn’s hand in his, Fallon closed his eyes. Very carefully, he searched for the memories he was looking for. When he found them, his frown turned into a scowl.
“Remind me to beat those two within an inch of their lives,” he growled as he watched Godiva and Satan stand as far away from Gideon as the room allowed, yelling at the mortal in the room to save him from an immortal’s trap.
“Only if I can help,” Brynn countered.
Turning back to the memory, he saw that Gideon’s lips were moving, but he could not hear anything he was saying, and his head was bent so he could not read his lips. Releasing Brynn’s hand, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly to help center himself back in the present.
“Did you find anything?” Brynn asked.
“Nothing I already don’t know,” Fallon sighed rubbing his face wearily with his hands. Resting them on his hips, he turned his attention to the two on the bed. “While Gideon’s consciousness was in the hole Malphas is hiding in, Malphas tried to rip his heart out.” He turned back to Brynn. “You saved him.”
Grimacing, Brynn looked towards the bed. Sapphira’s hands were over Gideon’s abdomen, her concentration solely on the immortal. “Not in time. What is wrong with him?”
“Poison,” Sapphira rasped, her eyes still closed, her hands still hovering over where the physical wound would be if Malphas had actually dug into Gideon’s flesh. “I just don’t know what kind. If I did, I might be able to counteract it before it’s too late.”
“No,” Gideon rasped weakly grabbing her wrist. “Trap.”
“I won’t allow you to die because it might be a trap,” Sapphira growled, turning her arm so she could grasp her hand in his. “I will not lose you to this madness.”
“It’s what we were created for, my lady,” Gideon reminded, his eyes locked with hers. “I could never rest if I caused your death.”
“Malphas does not want me dead. He wants me as his, and he’s willing to sacrifice you to get to me,” Sapphira reminded angrily. “Whatever this poison is, it is not meant for me.”
Gideon collapsed back onto the bed, gasping for air, his eyes closed as pain wracked him. “I won’t take the chance you are wrong.”
“He’s right, Sara,” Fallon said moving to the side of the bed next to them, using their nickname for her from a previous Trial.
“No,” Sapphira countered stubbornly. She turned to Brynn. “Do you still have the medallion?”
Nodding, Brynn took it out of his pocket and held it up. Sapphira stood to go to him for a closer look, but a hand on her arm stayed her. She looked at the hand then up into the owners worried eyes.
“Don’t touch it,” Fallon warned.
“I won’t,” she promised. “Trust me,” she added with a smile. That smile grew when Fallon grunted in obvious skepticism. He knew her too well. Gently pulling her arm from his grasp, she moved towards Brynn. “Hold it up,” she instructed.
Doing as she asked, Brynn watched as her eyes narrowed while she studied the markings on the medallion. The urge to pull her into his arms, make sure for himself she was alright, assure her he would allow nothing to harm her, was strong. The imposing figure watching them like a hawk kept him where he was. First they saved their son, then he would think about what happened after that. Right on the heels of that thought, the compulsion to reach for her intensified.
“Sapphira,” Fallon’s voice growled in warning.
Startled by the sudden noise in the quiet, Brynn turned back to see Sapphira’s hand frozen in mid-air. Frowning, he pulled the medallion further away from her. “What happened to trusting you?” he admonishment, an eyebrow raised with disapproval.
Closing her eyes, Sapphira shuddered. “It was calling to me. Wanting me to touch it,” she whispered hoarsely. Opening her eyes, she trained them on Brynn’s. “You don’t feel it?”
Brynn started to shake his head no then stopped. “I feel a strong compulsion to hold you, even though I know now is not the time.”
A small shy smile spread across Sapphira’s lips. “There is always time for a hug,” she teased.
A hand gently wrapped around Sapphira’s wrist, pulling her away from Brynn. Sapphira turned to Fallon who was frowning down at her.
“You took a step towards Brynn and reached out for the medallion again, but you don’t know that do you,” he said.
Swallowing hard, she shook her head. “You don’t feel it? The pull to touch it?”
“No,” Fallon answered turning his attention to the medallion. “The trap was not set for me. It was set for you and Gideon.” He looked up at Brynn. “And it is using every means at its disposal to make that happen.” Making sure Sapphira was safely behind him, his hand still wrapped around her wrist, Fallon took a closer look at the medallion. “That symbol. It looks familiar. Could you put that on the table, over there,” he motioned Brynn towards the kitchen table. Giving Sapphira a considering look, he added, “Then I want you to make sure she stays away from that medallion. I don’t care how you do it, just make sure she does not touch it.”
Raising his eyebrows in surprise, Brynn walked over to the table and set the medallion with the symbol facing up on the table. The moment he let go, the compulsion to hold Sapphira decreased. Then he went to Sapphira, hesitated for a moment as he watched her stare at the medallion as if it was the most fascinating thing in the world before wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her back against his front. The moment she was safely in his arms, and Fallon did not object but turned to start rifling through the many books and papers filling the space, a weight lifted from Brynn’s shoulders. Especially as Sapphira settled in against him, her arms hugging his against her. As if she belonged there.
“What are you looking for?” Brynn asked, turning his attention back to Fallon, his thumb absently rubbing Sapphira’s arm. A comforting gesture not only for him, but also her.
“When Satan found me as a young Aden, he brought me here to live for the first few hundred years. When I was old enough to read and understand what I was reading, we would spend hours looking for clues about how to work around the boundaries of the prophecy.” Pausing, Fallon grimaced as he looked around the cave. “Caius had told Aden that it was he, not Malphas, who had raised him. Now I wonder if that was entirely true.”
“Why do you say that?” Sapphira asked.
“There are times where Satan would not remember something I told him happened while we were here. Could Malphas had emerged without Satan noticing?”
“Maybe,” Sapphira answered after a moment of thinking about Fallon’s question. “I guess we will never truly know.”
Shaking his head, Fallon returned to his searching.
“Can we help?” Sapphira asked.
Looking around at the mess, Fallon gestured to the farthest stack of books and papers from the kitchen table. “Try those over there. Look for anything that talks about compulsion spells, or poisoning, or that symbol.”
“You think this is some sort of spell?” Brynn asked taking Sapphira’s hand and leading her to the other side of the cave. At first she resisted him, but the further they moved away from the table, the easier she seemed to breath.
“I’m not sure,” Fallon answered thumbing through a book. “But it’s a place to start.” He glanced at Gideon who had grown quiet on the bed. There was a moment of panic before he saw the shallow rise of Gideon’s chest. He was still alive, but for how long? And what about Damien? What was Malphas doing to him why they tried to save Gideon? No matter what disaster they tried to fix first, there was one thing that kept repeating over and over in Fallon’s mind. They were running out of time.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
Fallon looked at the woman he was wrapped around with a profound sense of peace and wonder. He had kept his promise. Once they woke tangled in each other’s arms and legs, he took his time making love to her. They spent hours just touching, kissing, relearning each other, and it still wasn’t enough. Now they lay on their sides facing each other, her legs wrapped around his, her arms loosely around his waist as he held her with one arm while the other hand gently stroked her cheek as they smiled at each other. It had been a long time since he had known such peace. It was like he was finally home, and by the look she was giving him and the way she had made love to him, held him, he knew she felt the same way.
As Aden, when they had been together before Malphas had sent her back to her mortal husband, there had always been a sense of peace, but he never knew what it truly meant. Now that he had all his memories he knew. Knew that outside the Trial, he may have started out as her sentinel, created along with his brother by her mate to keep her safe from those who wished to harm her, but that was not what they were to her now. That after thousand upon thousands of centuries, they had become an essential part of her and her mate’s existence. Maybe even more so than the beings they created before them, their children. Godiva and Satan. Or so those children thought.
Obsession, jealousy, they are destructive emotions. Rarely has anything good come from them. They were emotions that Damien and Sapphira did not know even existed until Satan tried to keep Sapphira for himself and Godiva refused to help find her. Godiva even went as far as to weave tales of infidelity and betrayal in an attempt to convince the god that Sapphira was not worthy of his love. That she, Godiva, was by far the better female because she would never do those things to someone she loved.
Knowing Sapphira was incapable of what Godiva accused her of, Damien realized there was another trait foreign to his existence. Lying. So closely linked in mind and soul, it was impossible for the two immortals to lie to each other or hide from each other, yet somehow Satan was able to mask where he was keeping Sapphira from Damien. When Godiva refused to tell him where Satan had taken his beloved, Damien did something foreign to his very being. He forced his way into Godiva’s mind to find the truth, invading her privacy, essential raping her mind. While she truly did not know where Satan had taken Sapphira, what he did find left him cold. It also brought to home that even though they were the power behind the existence of all, they were also naïve of the intricacies that power had created. Such as hate, obsession, jealousy, vengeance, and the one that Damien was loath to admit he held in abundance, arrogance. Because it was arrogant to assume that what they had created in their likeness would not evolve, grow into something much more. They also learned how deeply their creations felt those emotions, the chaos they could generate, and the most important fact. That love was not as simple nor was it as pure as they thought.
That was when Fallon and his brother came into existence. Created to protect, to be the fiercest warriors in existence, they were also given the ability to feel, hear, see what their masters were hearing, feeling, seeing. They could also sense when someone was lying. When their intentions were not entirely true. Together they scoured the known universe until they found where Satan was hiding Sapphira. Deep in an underground cavern, surrounded by wards to mask its existence along with layer upon layer of traps, and something new. A creature full of hate and destruction. A creature Satan named Demon.
How do you keep the reason the universe is spinning, the creation of all, a being that not only was powerful, but power itself captive? You bind her with a piece of jewelry wrought with evil intent. Beautiful as it was delicate, the cursed necklace that still haunted them to this day had bound and hidden Sapphira so completely that even though she was standing right in front of him, Damien could not see her or feel her. Her sentential could, though.
While Sapphira had essential been unharmed, Damien’s rage at his children’s betrayal was something Fallon had never seen before, nor ever wanted directed at him. It was in that moment that Damien created the Trials. If Satan and Godiva could not learn humility, that life was precious, and that their actions as powerful beings could affect everything they built in the first Trial, they would repeat the Trial over and over until they did. In addition, because of what he had learned in their search for Sapphira, that they had stayed safely in the background for too long and the creations they had thought pure of what they now knew was evil intent were far from it, he and Sapphira decided they would be a part of those Trials. In order to truly learn, their memories would be wiped, their powers bound, and they would live, learn, die as their creations. Learning firsthand the emotions they were unfamiliar with. Unwilling to leave their charges unprotected, Fallon and Gideon joined them.
Not for the first time, Fallon wondered how good of an idea that truly had been. As with any child caught breaking the rules and subsequentially grounded, Satan and Godiva were outraged that they were being so severely punished. The four of them learned early on the act of vengeance as the children lashed out at their unwary parents with atrocities that no mortal or immortal alike should suffer. When the four of them had grown so close it was hard to distinguish one from the other, Fallon had questioned Damien’s judgement on the subject. While Damien had agreed maybe it wasn’t one of his brightest ideas, there was no going back. Once something was created or decided in their realm, unless natural causes came into play, that life or decision was final. There was no destroying the life or going back on the decision. After they survived this Trial, Fallon was once again going to question the God on his decision and maybe his sanity.
It had taken both Fallon and Gideon combined to remove the cursed necklace that first time. It was a memory that had slammed into Fallon when he had fought to remove the accursed piece of metal a few days ago alone. Shuddering, there was not enough hot water to dispel the slimly feel of evil that had crawled over his skin in an attempt to stop him or kill them both. Once he had broken the spell holding it to Sapphira’s neck and she was sleeping peacefully, Fallon had taken the necklace out of this realm into theirs and locked it away in a vault where they kept powerful relics that should have never been created in the first place. That could destroy the very fabric of their existence. Weak and exhausted when he returned, he had curled around Sapphira and slept.
Now they waited for Gideon to arrive. Weak from his fight with Malphas, he could not simple materialize into the cave. Instead they had to take a slower mode of transportation. Fallon grimaced at the ‘they’ part of that thought. While Brynn was an important piece of this Trail, he was not part of them. Once they finished their roles here, he, Gideon, Damien and Sapphira would leave this realm, returning to their own. As an important part of the makeup of this realm, Brynn would stay, where he belonged. Fallon was not even sure the male could survive outside this realm.
“What has put such a frown on your face?” Sapphira asked, a frown creasing her own brow as she reached up to smooth his.
“Just wondering what will happen when Gideon arrives with his…guest,” he answered, that last word filled with disgust. The memories of what the male had said, the lengths he went to keep him and Sapphira apart while Fallon was Aden were still fresh in his mind. No, the male was not one of his favorite mortals. With that thought another emerged. Growling, he realized he had a bone to pick with Gideon on that subject, too. Through the link that they shared and only they could hear, Fallon sent the thought of pounding some sense into his brother with a fair amount of animosity to go along with it. Let him chew on that headache for a while.
Dial it down, asshole, Gideon snapped in his head. You know full well I would never keep you from her if I had known who we were.
Fallon answer was to make a noise of unbelieving.
Sighing, Gideon’s voice filled with the bone deep weariness that he was feeling, I am not who you should be worried about. Brynn’s anxiety and anger are so high I can feel it vibrating the ship. You need to warn Sapphira the emotional shitstorm I’m about to drop on her.
Closing his eyes, the sigh Fallon released went clear to his toes.
“What wrong now?” Sapphira asked warily.
Opening his eyes, he looked worriedly into her as he thought, How long until you get here?
We are coming up on the planet now. Once we land I don’t know. I’m not exactly running marathons here.
How badly are you hurt? Suddenly worried.
I’ll live, Gideon grimaced. Warn her. And he was gone.
“We are about to have company,” Fallon answered Sapphira’s question, “and one of them is not happy.”
Frowning, Sapphira watched as Fallon untangled himself from her and sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. Placing his elbows on his knees, he rubbed his face wearily. “I am getting tired of this shit.”
“Which part?” she asked curling around him from behind, her hand absently rubbing circles on his back.
“The jealousy. The pain it causes, the destruction,” he sighed. Turning his body so his knee lay on the bed and he could see her better, he continued, “Gideon will be here shortly, but he is not alone. Brynn is with him.”
Sapphira’s frown deepened. “Why would that be a problem?”
“Because even though he knows who we are, he still thinks of you as his wife and me as the enemy. Finding us in bed, obviously fresh from making love will not go over well.”
“Ah,” she smiled. Rolling over onto her back, raising her hands over her head, Sapphira stretched her body. Eyes closed, back arching, she groaned as the wonderful feel of her muscles stretching to their limit coursed through her body. An almost feral growl filled the room. Before she could open her eyes, lips latched onto one of her breasts, sucking hard followed by light teeth biting down. Gasping, she grabbed Fallon’s head, holding him to her as he continued his rough torture. Without releasing her breast, Fallon moved until he was once again laying on top of her. Just as he slid inside her, a roar filled the cave.
Groaning in unison, Fallon placed his forehead against Sapphira’s. “As always, perfect timing,” he growled.
Giggling, Sapphira teased his lips with her tongue. “We could always kill two birds with one stone and take this into the shower,” she suggested huskily.
A wide grin slowly spread across Fallon’s lips. “I like how you think.”
Within a blink of an eye, they were in a large shower with steaming hot water running down their bodies, still closely wedded together. Slamming Sapphira’s back against the tile wall, Fallon claimed her lips as she wrapped her legs around his body and they continued where they had left off, the outside world and its troubles once again fading away.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
“NO!” Sapphira screamed sitting up. Eyes wide with terror, they darted around the room searching for something that in the back of her mind was not there. She was not trapped in the cave with Gideon, unable to release the medallion that held him prisoner while Malphas sunk his claws into his belly, slowly digging so to cause as much pain as possible upwards towards his heart. She was in her room, at the Llassar farmhouse. She was safe.
Pain wracked her body and she doubled over, clutching her chest. Inside her head Gideon screamed her name, screamed for her to save him. Gasping for air, Sapphira kicked at the covers that tangled her legs until she was finally free of them. Sliding from the bed, she staggered a few feet before she realized the voice she was hearing was not Gideon but Brynn’s. Strong hands grabbed her arms as her legs collapsed from under her.
“Kara!” Brynn called anxiously. “What’s wrong? What’s happening?”
“Gideon,” she rasped, desperation thick in her voice. “He has Gideon! He’s killing him! We have to save him!”
When Brynn did not answer her, his body suddenly still, she looked up and froze. His face was slack, eyes glazed over. His body jerk violently then blood gushed from his open mouth. Screaming, Sapphira backed away, Brynn’s hands falling limply by his side. With one more jerk, his knees collapsed and he fell in slow motion to his the floor. Listing sideways, his lifeless body hit the hard stone floor with a muffled thud. In his place was a clawed hand holding his bloody beating heart. Staring at it in horror, Sapphira tried not to look up, but her eyes betrayed her. Slowly they followed the red leather clad arm up, and up, and up, past the armored shoulder to the strong smooth chin. Past the cruel mouth that held a sneer full of malice. Past the strong smooth nose to crimson eyes that bore into hers, the lustful triumph they held freezing the air in her lungs.
“I have waited a long time to make you mine, and now that I have eliminated all the obstacles between us, you will never escape me again,” Malphas sneered. As he spoke, he raised his bloody hand to where Sapphira could once again see Brynn’s heart and began to squeeze. “You are mine!” he snarled as Brynn’s heart disintegrated, blood gushing down his arm covering the wood floors.
“NO!” Sapphira screamed sitting up in bed, sweat drenching her, terror stealing her air.
“Sapphira!” a familiar voice cried.
Arms encircled her, pulling her against the warmth of a hard body, but she knew it was a trick. Malphas would torture her for days, making her believe she had woken from her nightmare only to find she was still trapped within one far more horrifying. Fighting with everything she had, the arms finally opened and she scrambled from the bed. She only made it a few feet when the pain wracked her body again, dropping her to her knees screaming. This time when the voice called her name, it was gentle, careful.
“Sapphira?” he coaxed. It was definitely a he and it sounded so familiar. Like home, but Sapphira still did not trust it. “Please, love,” he begged.
Now the voice was in front of her. Refusing to open her eyes, her arms tightly wound around herself as spasms wracked her body, Sapphira cowered away from the voice. Pain, sharp and immediate tore a scream from her. Falling to her side, she curled into a ball, her teeth grinding together as she tried to hold in another scream that threaten to break free. Exhausted and beaten as she was, she would not give the bastard the satisfaction. So tired. So very tired.
There was a small movement of air, warmth to the front of her. The male had quietly moved towards her, but she could not unwind herself to move away.
This time the voice held a note of command, even though she could also hear worry. “Sapphira. You must tell me what is happening, or I cannot help you.”
Help her? She choked back a burst of laughter, which strangely sounded like a sob. Too many times she had believed him, and each time had left her broken, lying on the floor in a pool of her own blood. Not today. Someone shoved a white hot poker into her brain and she could no longer keep her scream inside. Clutching her head, she rolled onto her back, scream after scream tearing at her throat.
Cursing vehemently, the male grabbed her wrists and suddenly the pain was a little less. When those curses became strangled she realized whoever it was, was feeling what she was feeling, yet they did not let go. Instead, they held on tighter as power flowed through his hands, into her arms pushing away the pain. Malphas was not ready to let go of his prize. Growling, the demon pushed back.
In the back of Sapphira’s mind she registered that if Malphas was the one holding onto her wrists, then why was he fighting with himself to gain control. With a cry of pure rage, the male holding her wrists pour more power than Sapphira had felt in a long time into to her. Enough power to shove Malphas back and out, locking an invisible door behind him. That shouldn’t have been possible. The necklace bound them, making it impossible to use that amount of power against the demon without agonizing repercussions. Yet, as the residual pain began to subside, inside her there was only peace.
The figure slumped over her, his breathing ragged, the hold on her wrists still bruising. Gasping for air, Sapphira cracked open her eyes, trying to focus. The room wavered, spots dancing before her, but slowly a mass of black hair that belonged to the head resting on her chest came into view. With a shudder, the male lifted his head to catch his sky blue eyes with her hazel ones. As the face came into focus, Sapphira already knew who her rescuer was. The face and body may be different in each Trial, but the eyes. The eyes never changed. Yet these eyes were not who she expected.
Parting her lips to ask how, the male shook his head slightly, his eyes begging her to not say what she was thinking. They may have won this battle, but they were still not safe.
“Fallon?” she mouthed. She was rewarded with a small smile that he saved just for her. The one that spoke of how much he loved her. A smile she thought she would never see again.
“Are you with me?” he asked releasing one of her wrists so he could brush the tears from one side of her face, his face etched with worry.
Nodding, she released a sob and suddenly she was in his arms. Everything would be okay. He was here and they remembered who they were, what they were. They were no longer bound by the demon’s spells. Where they were still trapped in the Trial, but for the moment they were safe. They were finally safe. Sapphira allowed that feeling to wash over her as the tears fell faster, pushing away the nagging feeling she was forgetting something very important. She wasn’t sure how long they sat there as she cried out all her pain while the male they thought lost to them whispered soothing words in her ear. When she was finally spent, he gently picked her up and carried her back to the bed. Lying her down on it, he crawled in next to her and pulled her to him. Once again snuggled against him, she drifted off to a dreamless sleep. The outside world and all the horrors that awaited forgotten for the moment.
The next time she woke, she felt rested along with a lightness within her she had not felt for a long time. The spells that had weighted her down for so long were truly gone. Stretching her body, reveling in the feel of her body feeling like her own, she opened her eyes and looked around the large cave. Frowning, she also realized that she was alone again. Did she dream Fallon was here? Sitting up, she saw the pillow next to her had a depression in it. Feeling the sheets, they were still warm. No, he had been here. The question was, where was he now? Looking around at the large cave, it reminded her of the one where….
“Gideon!” she gasped.
“Safe, for the moment,” Fallon answered from somewhere near the entrance of the cave.
Turning, she watched as he strode into the cave, the deep cowl of his cloak hiding his face. A jolt of fear that she had been wrong and this was another trick shot through Sapphira until he swept his cowl away and she could see his eyes. Some say the eyes were windows into one’s soul. Sapphira believed that to be true because those eyes were the one thing Malphas could never duplicate. It was how she learned to see through his illusions.
“What do you mean, for the moment?” she asked her eyes narrowing.
Watching with fascination as Fallon dropped his cloak to the floor as he kept his pace towards her across the immense cave and began to pull his shirt out from his leather pants, she barely heard what he said to her question. As Aden and Kara, they had been kept from finishing a ritual that was essential to this Trial. While they now knew who they were, the ache they had lived with for so long was still very present. The ritual needed to be completed in order for the Trial to move forward. Not that Sapphira needed the excuse. The four of them had crossed that barrier some of the mortals in the Trials had placed on relationships many eons ago. Jealousy was not an emotion they carried so they shared just fine. Still, they needed to keep their thoughts on the problem at hand. Defeating Malphas. “I’m sorry,” she said closing her eyes and shaking her head to try and bring her thoughts deep from the gutter where they had traveled the surface where their existences were uncertain. “What did you say?”
“Malphas laid a trap and Gideon walked right into it,” Fallon repeated smirking. With a sharp tug, he pulled his shirt over his head and dropped it to the floor. The heated look in Sapphira’s eyes hardened him even further. While they were in a dangerous situation, and they needed to find where Malphas was hiding their fourth, for the moment they were safe and had time to rest. Not that resting was what Fallon was after. He had been denied the touch of the female before him for far too long. It was time he remedied that.
By the time he reached the bed, his had unlaced his leather pants and they hung loosely on his hips. Climbing onto the bed and into Sapphira’s waiting arms, his hands slide up her hips, pushing the linen shirt further up her waist, exposing her.
“Brynn was able to pull medallion out of his hand before Malphas could kill him,” he continued huskily, his eyes following his hands. “So for now they are safe and we have time to reacquaint ourselves with each other.” Before Sapphira could say much more than a groan, he claimed her lips, pushing her down on the bed with the weight of his body. Coming up for air just long enough to free himself from his pants, Fallon breathed hoarsely as his hand slid down her side and under her hips so he could angle himself to slide inside her. “Next time we will take our time to enjoy each other. For now…,”
When she pushed her hips up taking him inside and there was no more talking. There was only sensation. Fallon took her mouth again as he drove into her with a ferocity he could not even begin to contain as Sapphira answered him with her own unbearable need. Years of being denied. Of being together yet unable to touch, kiss, rarely able to just hold each other. Outside the cave was a demon who was hell bent on destroying everything Sapphira loved in order to possess her. Inside, they were safe and warm, and the outside world did not exist. There was no one to hide from. No one to stop them. With each thrust they came closer to climax, with each thrust their power grew stronger, the prophecy finally being realized, until they suddenly spilled over the edge. Sapphira’s hands scrambled at the sheets trying to find something, anything to hang on to, screaming as her body bucked under Fallon’s. Fallon pushed one more time and joined Sapphira roaring to the heavens. Their climax so intense as it rolled over and over, them taking them into oblivion.
A bubble of power that had built around them, surrounded them flex once before, in a blinding flash of light, exploded outward. The universe held its breath as the shockwave pushed its way through, waiting in anticipation of what was to come. Light years away, animals tensed as if they heard some predator nearby ready to pounce. Every sentient being looked up from what they were doing, woke up with a start thinking they had heard something in the dark, straining to hear it again, not understanding what the feeling of unease that made their hearts race was. In the heavens the gods of this universe were in a panic as they fell to their knees, holding their heads crying out in pain as the pressure continued to build. Then the universe shuddered as it breathed out, animals and beings smiled and went back to what they were doing. The Gods screamed as the heavens shook down to its foundations. Walls began to crack, pillars crumbled, everyone ran as chaos ensued. Then as suddenly as it started it stop, and everything was eerily silent.
* * *
In a cave deep underground in the heavens, a lone figure sat on his throne of skull and bones as rock and debris rained down around him. Clenching his hands over the ends of the armrests until the bone cracked, eyes burning with a rage that threatened to melt the very walls, Malphas ground his teeth.
“Enjoy your time together, for it will be your last,” he snarled. Those burning eyes slowly turned towards the figure gagged and chained to the wall. Stupidly that figure glared back, his own eyes black with rage. A show of power that should not have been possible with the chains that bound him. Slowly rising to his feet, Malphas strolled over to the figure who he had at first thought was only a boy to use as bait to catch his prize, his eyes boring into his captive’s, trying to break through the barrier that held the information he was seeking from him. “You are not what you seem, boy. I intend to find out exactly who you are and your relationship with my pets.” The only answer he received was a silent glare that challenge the demon to do his worst. “Oh, I will, my friend. I will,” he sneered.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
“What was I supposed to do?” Godiva hissed. “Allow it to live?”
“Have you learned nothing?” Satan snapped, his anger filling the room, hot and prickly.
As it danced across Gideon’s skin, it brought to his attention the rest of his aches and a whole new meaning to the word pain. What the hell happened to him while he was unconscious? Grimacing as just moving his fingers sent fresh waves of agony throughout his body, the quarrel between Godiva and Satan continued.
“All life is precious,” Satan finished angrily.
“And that is exactly why we are in this predicament. If Father had killed that bastard, Mother and Gideon wouldn’t have had to endure the horrors they did,” Godiva hissed.
If they were trying to keep quiet for his benefit, they were doing a lousy job of it. Stealing himself for what he knew would be far from easy, Gideon tried to open his eyes. When the light hit his eyeballs, pain lance through his brain and he could not suppress a groan.
“Gideon,” Godiva half cried half sighed in relief.
There was a rustle of clothing and footsteps. When Gideon opened his eyes and the blurriness cleared, Satan was leaning over him, worry etching his brow. Rage at the insolent child rushed through Gideon, pushing the pain into the background. With lightening speed, his hand shot up, encircling the little bastard’s neck.
“Give me one good reason why I should not end your existence,” Gideon growled rising enough to rest on his elbow, glaring at the male he held in his grip.
Gasping for air, his face quickly becoming purple as the demi-god struggled to pry the angel’s fingers from around his neck, Satan wheezed, “Because Malphas has Fallon and I may know where they are.” The hand around his neck only tightened.
“And why should I believe anything you say after what you did to us? What you allowed him to do to us?”
“Because he is telling the truth,” Godiva answered coming into view. Wringing her hands, she looked from her brother who was slowly losing consciousness to the enraged angel who lay glaring at her. Barely keeping herself from stepping away in a strong bid of self-preservation, she swallowed hard and whispered, “Gideon. Please.”
It was a few tense moments where Gideon tighten his grip even further before he shoved a half consciousness Satan away from him. His strength draining away at an alarming rate, Gideon collapsed onto the bed.
“Why do I feel like I was hit by a meteor?” he grimaced.
“Father was able to remove the necklace from around Mother’s neck. It was less than…smooth,” Godiva answered from where she knelt next to her brother.
Smooth. That was an understatement. It felt as if every muscle, every bone, had been beaten within an inch of its life. Even his organs felt abused. Rubbing his face with his hands, wincing when even that hurt, he tried to sit up. The room spun sharply, and his stomach heaved. Swallowing hard, he fell back to the bed. “There wasn’t this much pain the last time we escaped him,” Gideon groaned.
“Lie still,” Godiva admonished moving to sit beside him. “We think he modified the necklace, adding more spell and curses to it. If what we witnessed with you was the same as with Mother, it took Father almost a full day to remove it from her, and it wasn’t pleasant.”
No, no it wasn’t, Gideon thought hissing when another sharp pain lanced through his body. And apparently it wasn’t done with him.
“You said Malphas had Fallon. Before I passed out, we didn’t even know where Fallon was.”
“Mother’s mortal husband did,” Satan wheezed. Gideon looked at the male who had managed to sit up, still rubbing his swollen neck. Eyes narrowed, he really wanted to finish strangling the little bastard, but Gideon knew if Malphas really had his brother he was too weak to go looking for him on his own. He would need both of the children’s help to find him. At least Satan had the decency to cringe under Gideon’s anger.
“Explain,” he snapped.
“Their son, Chris, had always seemed older than what he was,” Godiva answered, bringing Gideon’s eyes to her. “I should have seen it earlier, but I had always thought Fallon was trapped outside this universe.”
A vague memory of a cave and Malphas throwing Fallon out of this realm floated to the forefront of his mind. “I remember Malphas saying Fallon was a conundrum. I still don’t know what he meant by that, though.” The more he thought about it, the more he knew there was something…off with what had happened. At the time he was so focused on the necklace and what it meant to him and Sapphira, an elephant could have walked through the cave and he would not have noticed.
“I’m not sure either, but somehow Fallon was able to break in and take the form of Mother’s son without losing his memories.”
“Then why didn’t he reveal himself to us earlier?” Gideon frowned. There was something in Godiva’s expression, her posture. It was so slight that Gideon thought he must have imagined it.
“I think partial because of his age as Mother’s mortal son, and partial because the rules of the Trials stopped him. While he may have known who he was, he needed to be careful so Malphas would not suspect him. As per the rules of the Trial, you, Mother and Father needed to remember who you were on your own. Until then, the best Fallon could do was protect Mother until you and Father were revealed.”
The word ‘memories’ sparked a memory of his own. Frowning, he tried to bring it forward. When it finally did, his eyes widened, turning towards Satan.
“Two thousand years ago, we did remember,” he said, his voice almost a whisper. “It was why Malphas killed Sapphira. He knew the rebirth would once again bind our memories.” His eyes darting around the room and more memories assailed him, Gideon continued. “After he pulled us into the Trail, he placed Sapphira and I into Kara and Tanis’s roles, giving us their memoires while keeping Damien locked away in a cave deep underground. We were powerless to stop him, but Fallon. Fallon had retained his powers. Malphas could not control him so he locked Fallon outside of the Trial where he could not interfere.” He looked at Godiva, his eyes wide with recognition of what she was trying to tell him. Things he thought strange then started to make sense. A slight shake of her head told him to keep this new knowledge to himself a little longer.
Suddenly sitting up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed, pain exploded within him while the room spun out of control. Putting the heal of his hands to his forehead, his elbows on his knees for support, Gideon groaned as he rode out the vertigo and pain. There was no time to lay around and recuperate. He had to find his brother before Malphas dug his claws into him, or they were all lost. Taking a deep breath and willing his stomach to settle, he sat straight, looking from Godiva to Satan. “Somehow Malphas still held power over us, so Sapphira and I were helpless to fight him. Damien was weak from being dragged in with us, and the rules still held him, binding his powers. How did Fallon escape the restraints of the rules?”
“We’ve been talking about that,” Satan answered hoarsely, pushing himself to his feet. Clearing his throat, he continued, “These Trials were built so we would be taught a valuable lesson. That life is precious and our decisions, or whims, as powerful beings could affect those lives within our control. That we must be careful in those decisions. In every universe we have built, Godiva and I have known who we were. That way our choices in how this Trial played out would be based from what we had learned in the Trials before. In this Trial you were never supposed to be here, and Malphas did not belong. When he escaped and entered this Trail the rules, unknown to us, were altered. When the four of you were pulled in they were altered even more. Once he placed you and Mother in the roles of Kara and Tanis, your memories were bound. Father he kept locked away so he could not interfere. Fallon he did not count on. If I remember correctly, you never mentioned a fourth to him, so he was not ready for Fallon to appear, and sending him back to our plain, locking him out of the Trial, must have weakened him. So he had to wait until he regained enough power to once again manifest here in his true form. Until then,” he looked at Godiva, his expression filled with remorse, “he used us to control you.”
“How do you mean?” Gideon asked, his eyes narrowing.
Adverting his eyes, Satan answered, his voice quiet. “There has always been a voice whispering in my ear, trying to turn me from the path Godiva and I chose for this Trial.” He looked into Gideon’s eyes. “We were tired. We.” Godiva loudly cleared her throat. Closing his eyes, Satan took a deep breath and let it out before once again looking at Gideon, whose expression was not comforting. “Godiva,” he amended, “wanted to do things right this time. Show you that we had learned so we could rejoin you and finally live in peace. I,” he glanced at Godiva, “however, still coveted what was not mine.”
“Sapphira,” Gideon filled in, his voice flat with anger.
Satan nodded. “We were a millennium into the Trial when the voice began to whisper in my ear that he could give me what I wanted if only I would let him in.”
Gideon stood; his expression thunderous. Wisely, Satan took a step back, so he was out of the angel’s reach.
“I never dreamed that one entity could escape their own realm let alone enter another, and the trial Malphas was created in was so long ago I did not remember him. You have to believe me, if I had known who that voice belonged to I would have never allowed him in,” Satan quickly said, his hands up in the air to either ward off the blows he knew were simmering just under the angel’s surface or show supplication. Whichever kept him in one piece would work for him. “As it was, by the time I did he had too much power and I became a prisoner in my own mind. I had to stand by and watch while he did those horrible things to Sapphira, unable to stop him. Right after he plunged the dagger into her heart two thousand years ago, he released me. I awoke with my hand still wrapped around its hilt, covered in her blood. You cannot imagine the horror I felt….”
“I was there,” Gideon snarled suddenly in his face. “Remember? I was holding her in my arms while you sat there frozen like a small child just realizing that there were consequences he could not live with for his selfish needs. So yes, I can imagine the horror of watching the reason I exist die in my arms. The only thing that saved you from sharing her fate was that I died with her.”
Anger flared in Satan, making him bold. “Don’t talk to me about horror. That was not the first time I had to bury her.” Gideon stepped back, this news shocking him enough his anger drained away. “You may remember the end of the last cycle because you finally remembered who you really were. What you don’t know is you have been here far longer than you realize. That you have died over and over, each time Malphas making sure it was my hand that ended her life. Making sure that every time I stayed alive long enough to bury you both before he forced me to take my own life. I know there is no love lost between us, but it about destroyed me to know I was responsible for your deaths not once, but hundreds upon thousands of times.” He turned and walked away a few paces, cursing the tears that coursed down his cheeks. A sign of weakness that he could no longer hold back.
“Two thousand years ago, Malphas was finally strong enough to supersede the rules and keep Satan alive indefinitely. While he waited for your return, he put the rest of the chess pieces into place.”
“Damien as Aden,” Gideon filled in. He turned his accusing eyes to Godiva. “You were the only one who kept their memories intact. Did you know Malphas had possessed Satan?”
“No,” Godiva answered shaking her head. She turned her sorrow filled eyes to her brother’s back. “Malphas was very careful to keep his presence hidden from me.” She turned back to Gideon, who, by his expression, she knew did not believe her. After all they had done in the past, she could not blame his hesitancy to do so. Pushing that problem aside for another day, she drew the conversation back to what was important. “Brynn went to see if his theory was right about Chris being Fallon to find his farmhouse in flames and Chris missing. That could only mean he was right, and Chris is really Fallon.”
“And now Malphas has him,” Gideon finished. Putting one hand on his hip, the other rubbing his face in exhaustion, Gideon turned towards the window, his thoughts in turmoil. If Malphas had been able to capture Fallon, then he must be more powerful than they first realized. Closing his eyes, he reached out, searching. When a familiar male presence washed over him, a tension he did not realize was there loosened in his body. The pain lessened and he could think past the weariness.
Where is Sapphira? Gideon asked, allowing that weariness to fill his thoughts.
Sleeping, he answered with a weary sigh of his own. The memories of what Malphas had done to her were too much. She….
He did not have to finish his thought. Gideon knew too well what Sapphira had felt, even without their connection. The same horrors were trying to incapacitate him as he stood there. Unfortunately, there was no time to come to terms with them. Pushing them into the background where he could deal with them later, he focused on the blue sky outside the window.
Malphas has…our fourth, he announced. There was a sharp intake of air within his head.
I cannot leave Sapphira alone, and I don’t want that bastard to find her until she has had time to recover. How are you doing?
I’ll survive, he answered ruefully. What are you thinking?
I want you to take Godiva and Satan and find him, he ordered.
You know it’s a trap, Gideon said.
Does it make a difference? he smirked.
Gideon had to smile, although it was not a pleasant smile. More anticipatory evil smile. Of course not. Just wanted to make sure we were on the same page.
Always, my brother. Then he was gone.
Gideon turned towards the two demi-gods patiently waiting for him. “Take me to the farm. If I know anything about Malphas, he will want us to find him, so he’ll have left some clues behind.”
“He did,” Brynn said from the bedroom doorway.
As one, they turned to see the mortal dressed in a black battle suit made from material that could withstand the coldness of space without hindering his ability to fight. Over his suit and black boots that reach just under his knees was a dark leather duster that hid numerous weapons from his time as Colin’s assassin, and while he had been on the run with Sapphira that he had been hiding in woods behind the farmhouse. Before them stood not a farmer, but a battle harden warrior whose eyes showed nothing of what he was feeling inside and every bit as deadly as the angel who regarded him with wary eyes.
“We are not going against the mortals you are used to. Malphas is a demon whose power may rival my own,” Gideon cautioned.
“I may be mortal, but I am not naïve when it comes to those with ‘power’. I have a few tricks of my own he will not see coming,” Brynn smirked. “Besides, in this world your Sapphira is also my wife. I will not allow one more power hungry bastard use her as his pawn.”
“Malphas is not after power,” Godiva corrected.
Brynn’s eyes narrowed on the Goddess. “To hell he’s not,” he growled. Taking a step into the room, he narrowed his eyes further. “At the moment, you are not one of my favorite people, Selene. I suggest you stay out of my way. And you,” he snarled, pointing his finger at Satan when he opened his mouth to defend his sister, “I will deal with later.”
With a huff, Satan snapped his mouth shut.
“I like you,” Gideon chuckled walking towards the mortal until he stood next to him. “You can stay. Now, what is this evidence you mentioned?”
“This.” Brynn held up an intricately designed medallion that looked as if it were made of gold.
Frowning, Gideon took it from Brynn. The moment his fingers touched the metal, pain scorched down his arm into his body, sending him to his knees. The bedroom fell away until Gideon knelt in an underground cave. On the wall furthest from him, a figure was gagged and chained hand and foot. Their eyes caught, Gideon’s widening in horror as the figure narrowed his, slightly shaking his head. Then he moved his glare to something the left of Gideon. Knowing what he would find, Gideon slowly turned his head until he saw a figure sitting on a throne made up of what looked like the skulls and bones of humans and demons. The figure was one Gideon recognize instantly.
“So nice of you to join us,” Malphas greeted with a smile.
The cold fingers of dread brought on by centuries of abuse from this creature tried to pull Gideon under, but he fought them off. This bastard had taken enough of his existence, he would not allow him to take anymore. He tried to rise to his feet only to have the pain once again drive him back to his hands and knees. When he tried to let go of the medallion he found he could not. The trap had been set and he had blindly walked right into it. If he lived through this, he would never hear the end of it.
Praying that Malphas did not know who he had chained to the wall, that he thought it only Sapphira’s son he wished to use as bait, he hissed, “Release the child.” Hanging his head, Gideon tightly closed his eyes as the laughter that filled his nightmares filled the room.
“You dare to make demands of me?” Malphas sneered. “You, who with all your power, all your strength could not defeat me?” A clawed hand clamped painfully around Gideon’s neck forcing him up until he was on his knees, the hand that did not hold the medallion clutching the wrist of the hand around his neck. Chains rattled in the silence. Opening his eyes, Gideon found himself staring into crimson ones full of rage. Teeth razor sharp moved closer so Malphas could whisper angrily in Gideon’s ear, “Even now you cannot hope to escape me. I own you and that bitch you stole from me! I will have back what is mine or her son will pay for your disobedience with his life, once I am done playing with him, of course,” Malphas sneered.
Gideon froze. He couldn’t help it. The atrocities that the demon had heaped on him in this Trial were still fresh in his mind. They were something he would not wish on his worst enemy, let alone the brother he would give his life for. Anger pushed back the fear.
“Over my dead body,” Gideon wheezed glaring at the demon.
Moving so his eyes were inches from Gideon’s, their noses almost touching, Malphas hissed, “With pleasure.”
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
Godiva had just placed the still unconscious Gideon on the bed Sapphira had once lain on when there was another flash by the door. Thinking Damien had returned, Brynn turned to tell him his idea and froze, his smile sliding into a scowl. While he had never met him, Brynn knew the being that now stood in the doorway looking calm yet far from harmless was Caius. Or was it Satan? To be honest, all these new identities were beginning to confuse him. Either way this creature had cause them all a lot of pain.
“You!” Brynn snarled stepping towards Satan.
“Think very carefully, my friend, before you do something unwise,” Satan calmly cautioned.
“You and I have never nor ever will be friends,” Brynn snapped. “Not after the horror you have put someone you claimed to love through.”
“What I have done?” Satan laughed. His eyes traveled to his sister who sat glaring at him. “What tall tales have you been telling today, Godiva.”
“Only the truth,” she answered no inflection in her tone to give hint to what her mood was. Only her eyes spoke of anger and distrust.
“You would not know the truth if it bit you in the ass,” Satan snapped his pretense of a calm evaporating as he scanned the room.
Power flowed out from him, thick and hot, filling the room before pushing outwards. Brynn had a moment to realize how powerful the being before him was before all that power snapped back, pulling him a couple of steps forwards with its momentum.
Satan’s eyes narrowed on Godiva. “Where is she?” he demanded.
“With Father. Where I don’t know,” she answered primly, settling herself back in her chair.
“I felt the wards collapse first, then the barriers that hold their memories snapped,” Satan said, once again calm. He moved into the room until he stood at the end of the bed staring at Gideon. “And I am not the only one,” his voice confused. Pointing at Gideon, he turned to look at Godiva. “Why didn’t he go with them? They are never far from at least one of their sentinels.”
“He was supposed to look for Fallon, but the chains you helped Malphas wrap around Mother are still firmly in place,” Godiva answered, her voice telling Satan how much this news really angered her. “The moment she disappeared with Father, he collapsed to the floor.”
“Did they take the baby too?” he asked looking around the room.
The silence that followed that question was deafening.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Satan asked after he looked from Brynn to Godiva and back when he received no answer from either.
“Kara…I mean Sapphira, lost the baby,” Brynn finally answered quietly.
Satan’s expression slowly changed from disbelief to rage so fine that Brynn took a step away from the immortal. Thankfully, he then turned that rage onto Godiva.
“What did you do,” he snarled stepping towards her.
To Godiva’s credit she did not even flinch.
“It was an abomination,” she hissed.
“It was my child!” Satan roared his fist hitting his chest as he took another step towards the goddess, who stood up.
“No, Satan. It was Malphas’s. He may have wanted you to believe that in that small reprieve he gave you that you fathered the child, but in reality Mother was already pregnant by then.” When Satan deflated at this news, the loss and horror of what he had been forced to do to someone he claimed to love etched in his expression, Godiva moved that small space in-between them, wrapping her arms around him. With a choking sob, Satan wrapped his arms tightly around his sister, clinging to her as his legs gave out from under him. Taking both of them to the floor.
“I tried to stop him,” he sobbed. “I thought that once I broke free…gasp…I could throw him out…gasp…that I could banish him. He was too strong. He was just too strong!”
Brynn did not know what to make of the seemingly broken man in his sister’s arms. This was not the monster he had learned about through Damien then Sapphira. This male had been just as used and tortured as the others, only his wounds were not on the outside. They were within, and the hardest to heal.
Quietly moving towards them until he caught Godiva’s attention and she looked up, her eyes stricken, Brynn quietly said, “I think I may have an idea where this Fallon might be.”
“Where?” she gasped, desperation thick in her voice.
“I want to make sure before I tell anyone.” He glanced at the still unconscious Gideon. “So far, this demon, Malphas, has been able to take down three very powerful immortals. I don’t want to chance he is somewhere listening to us and I endanger the fourth.”
Nodding her head a little to quickly, Godiva wiped a tear from her cheek. Swallowing hard, she half gasped half whispered, “Good idea. I will stay here and guard Gideon while I try to calm my brother.”
With a small nod of his own, Brynn ran out the bedroom door, down the hallway then stairs, jumping over the dead males, and out the door. As he leaped over the stairs to the ground, he prayed he was not too late. They needed one immortal who had his head on straight, or else he feared they were all lost.
* * *
Sapphira slowly became aware of her surroundings. She lay on a comfortable bed in a room that felt vast in size. Open as if maybe they were outside. That didn’t make any sense. Why on earth would she be outside? Opening her eyes, she stared up at the impossibly high ceiling made if rock. Okay. Not what I expected.
I guess the next question was, what did she expect? Memories that were hers yet not fought for dominance with who she knew she was and who she was not. Feeling a headache brewing of magnificent proportions, Saphira took in a deep breath, held it for a moment then slowly let it out, willing her mind to settle into blankness. Once her mind settled she tried to bring forward the last thing she remembered. Two memories pushed their way forward. The first of a farmhouse with three men, two who looked vaguely familiar and one she had never seen before yet also felt very familiar, discussing a danger that lurked nearby. The second was of the Orb room. Of her and Damien watching their children, of reaching out to touch the orb and coming away feeling unclean, sticky.
Sapphira’s eyes flew open as she sat up, gasping for air. They were being pulled into the orb by something malevolent. Something that did not belong in that universe. Something that desperately wanted her and Gideon back under his control. What he ended up with was more than he bargained for.
“Malphas,” she hissed, anger surging through her.
As per the rules of the Trials, the moment they landed hard on the cold dirt covered rock floor of a cave very similar to this one, their powers had been restricted. What did not happen per the rules was that the memories of who they were had not been immediately bound so they could play the roles Godiva and Satan had created for them unhindered. Instead, Damien was instantly put in a large square cage that hung from the ceiling while still disoriented from being pulled through the barriers of their universe into this one. With a cry of rage mixed with disbelief, Fallon had been thrust back out while in mid-stride, sword raised, ready to cleave their captor in two. Before Gideon could rise to defend Sapphira he was gagged and bound in chains from shoulders to feet and left on the dirt floor. No matter how much he struggled, cursed, he could not break free. Sapphira had been left where she landed, groaning in pain both physically and mentally. When she rolled over onto her back and opened her eyes, Malphas was standing over her, smiling, something dangling from one hand, the other behind his back. When Sapphira focused on the vile piece of metal her blood had frozen in her veins.
“Hello, my dear,” Malphas cooed.
Her hand flew to her neck to find it bare. “How?” she breathed looking around her, fearing the worst. That since she had remembered who she was Malphas had her brought back to the cave where it all started. Yet as she looked wide eyed around her, she realized this was not the same cave. It was too big, and too open. The cave they first appeared in felt as if it were deep underground, the earth above them pressing down, suffocating. Then where was she?
Frowning, Sapphira threw the covers off and slipped from the bed, revealing that she was wearing a white linen male’s shirt that fell to mid-thigh and little else. Okaaay. Her frown deepening, she looked around the enormous cave. The bed was at the back away from the large opening that looked out into the afternoon sky. Other than the sky, she could see the tops of trees that told her the cave must be very high. To one side was a kitchen complete with sink and water pump, some sort of cooler that looked like a small refrigerator and a cast-iron woodstove. Shelves lined the grey rock above the counter filled with dishes and cups, and worn cupboards lined the bottom under the counter.
Sitting in front of the counter was a wooden table that looked like it had seen better days surrounded by mismatch chairs. Across from the kitchen was a fireplace hewn into the wall with a fire blazing in it, an old couch, two worn but comfortable looking plush armchairs and a couple of small tables. Cluttered along the walls, on the table, under the small tables, and along the back of the couch were books. Hundreds of books and papers everywhere. Most of them were in languages long forgotten. Some of the books were dry and brittle with age as were the papers. In all, the cave had a feeling of being very old and well used, but where was here? And who lived here? Better yet, how did she get here?
Another question came to her. Where was Gideon? He would have never left her side for this long. Once she woke with her memories returning his would have too and he would have come to her. A chilling thought crossed her mind. If he could not come to her then Malphas must have him, but if that was so then…where was the pain? None of this made sense.
Malphas’s words came back to her.
“I have fought long and hard to find you,” he said, squatting down next to her. Reaching out, he started to touch her cheek with the back of his hand. All Sapphira could do was stare in horror at the demon above her, terror freezing her where she lay.
“Don’t touch her!” Damien snarled, pulling at the bars of his cage hard enough to start it swinging.
Fallon growled low in his throat, his eyes turning black as night. Something that should not have happened if the rules of the Trial were in place. Beside her, Gideon grew still, his eyes riveted on the necklace in Malphas’s hands. Memories, horrors, of the time he and Sapphira were trapped within its spells freezing him in place as they did her. Memories that leaked out onto the rest of them.
Malphas’s eyes moved to Damien’s. “What I choose to do with my pets is no concern of yours.” Then he saw Fallon’s eyes. Frowning, Malphas stood and walked over to stand before his cage. “You, my friend, are a conundrum.”
“Let me out and I’ll show you just how much you do not know of me,” Fallon snarled.
“I think not,” Malphas mused. “I think it is a good thing I reinforced these cages with spells to keep you from using your magic. Even so, if I am to concentrate on what needs to be done, you need to be thrown back from whence you came.” With a flick of his hand, Fallon was thrown towards the back of his cage and with a flash was gone.
“What did you do with him?” Damien demanded.
“Just as I said. I sent him home,” Malphas answered still frowning at the empty cage. When his eyes turned to Damien, they narrowed. “Which is a much better place than where you will be spending eternity my lord,” sneering the title as if it was something vile. Turning his back to Damien in dismissal, his sneer turned into a smile when his eyes landed on Sapphira. “Now, where was I?” he asked cheerfully. “Ah, yes. I was about to reclaim my pets. You were very naughty leaving me,” he chided as he walked to Sapphira and once again squatted down next to her. “For your disobedience I have no choice but to punish you. What better way than to have you play out what I have devised for the heroine and hero of this little story your lovely children have so graciously provided for me.” His eyes moved to Gideon who lay glaring at him. “Although I have made a few…tweaks here and there.” His smile slide into something full of evil intent.
His eyes widening with a fear he rarely felt, Gideon began to struggle harder to get free as Malphas turned his attention back to Sapphira, slowly lowering his hand to her forehead. The last thing Sapphira remembered was that laughter ringing in her ears.
Her fist clutched to her chest, her breathing coming in gasps, Sapphira’s knees buckled and she landed hard on the cold floor, her free hand keeping her from completely collapsing. Staring down at the rock under her, the memories of her life as Kara assailed her. Colin had not been far off when he blamed another for the atrocities he heaped upon her. Although it had not been Caius, but Malphas whispering horrors in his ear, and because of one of those ‘tweaks’ Malphas had place on Kara’s character, she had enjoyed every bit of what had been done to her.
Nausea assailed her; her stomach heaved but she had no food to throw up. It did not stop her from dry heaving over and over until her stomach and ribs ached and her head pounded fiercely, threatening to send her into oblivion.
“Sapphira!” an alarmed voice cried out.
“Damien,” she breathed listing to the side, spots dancing before her eyes. Before her shoulder hit the ground, strong arms caught her.
“I’m here,” he breathed in her ear as he held her tightly to him. “I’m here.”
Her soulmate was here, holding her. Their memories were returning in bits and pieces. They were still weak, yet they must face a demon with enough power to pull them into another universe and bind them to him, keeping them prisoner for thousands of years. The necklace was gone, but were they truly free of his spells? Could they fight him and win? Or would he enslave them once more and destroy everything they had built in his need for revenge?
As the world swam before her, Sapphira tried to stay in the here and now. She could not afford to lose consciousness and put them all in danger. Together they were strong, apart….
“Where are Gideon and Fallon?” she whispered.
“I left Gideon at the farm. I don’t know where Fallon is. Gideon was supposed to look for him and meet us here when he found him,” Damien answered. Shifting her so she sat more upright, he asked anxiously, “Are you going to stay with me?”
“Trying,” Sapphira wheezed, her eyes tightly closed as the pounding in her head increased. With a blinding flash of pain, everything went dark.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
The dead body at the bottom of the stairs stopped Damien just inside the doorway. Outside he could hear Colin begging for his life. Blaming Caius for every vile act he performed. That his so called Emperor had ordered him to use any means at his disposal to break Kara. With each word, the sun dimmed and the wind gain in speed as the angel’s anger grew. Trees groan in protest, the windows of the house rattle as the gale force winds beat against the house.
Inside it was deadly quiet.
Knowing that the dead body at the bottom of the stairs was probably not alone, fear spiked through Damien as his eyes slowly moved to the top of the stairs. There was a hand dangling over the last stair that lead into the darken hallway above, proving him right. Pushing away the thought that Brynn had been too late, that Sapphira had not been awake to defend herself from the mortals, Damien allowed his power to breathe through the house, searching for any life. Before he could reach too far, pain lanced through his head driving him to his knees. The relief when he saw Gideon hovering in the air, every bit the avenging angel Damien knew he was, disappeared. They may have their memories back, but the chains were still firmly in place. That meant that whatever Gideon did to the two idiots outside would rebound on Kara tenfold.
“Shit,” Damien hissed pushing to his feet.
Grabbing the fallen blaster beside the dead male, Damien took the stairs two at a time, trying to be as quiet as possible. It was obvious Brynn had taken care of at least two threats, but it never hurt to be cautious. Blaster held before him, two-handed, Damien looked over the edge of the floor into the hall. There was the body at the top of the stairs and another further down the hallway where it had crumpled, neither of them Brynn. Stepping gingerly over them, Damien heard voices up ahead. One Brynn’s, the other female and they seemed to be arguing.
“We need to leave,” Brynn snapped.
“Kara is perfectly safe. I will not allow anything to harm her.”
“I can see by the bodies that you can take care of yourself, Selene. But those are mere mortals. Caius is not mortal in any sense of the word.”
“Caius would not harm me or my daughter,” Selene growled.
“What about Malphas?”
There was silence.
Screams of agony from outside ended any further argument. Agony that sent a shiver of remembered pain down Damien’s spine. It was as if Colin was having his flesh peeled away from his bones, ripped apart and burned all at the same time. A cruelty Gideon would have never imagined if it had not been for the overconfident female in the room with Brynn. Time to take that confidence down a few notches.
Damien stepped into the doorway and breathed a sigh of relief. Sapphira lay on the bed curled on her side facing him, sleeping peacefully. Seeing she was safe for the moment he scanned the room, his eyes narrowing when he saw one of the culprits sitting in the rocking chair in the corner, gently rocking back and forth as if she had not a care in the world. When his eyes narrowed further in anger, she looked away, unable to keep her calm façade up any longer. Good. She should be scared.
“He’s rather peeved,” Selene mused, her eyes on the open window where the screaming drifted through.
“I wonder why,” Damien said, his voice flat and angry. Taking the few steps to the bedside, he reached down and brushed the back of his hand across Sapphira’s cheek. Outside the screaming continued as the smell of burnt flesh began to waft through the open window.
“What is he doing to them?” Brynn frowned.
“Probably best not to know,” Damien answered grimacing. Turning that grimace into a scowl, he looked at Selene…or who he now knew was Godiva. A true goddess, but not in the way that Brynn thought. “Why isn’t she in pain?”
“Because I am blocking the necklace from sensing what Gideon is doing,” Godiva answered with a small smile. “There are benefits of being the creator of all that is.” She waved her hand to encompass the room and probably all that was outside it.
“Yet with all that power you could not see what was happening right in front of your nose,” Damien snapped. Moving so he loomed over her, he snarled, “Did you even know we were here, or did you turn a blind eye to what that bastard was doing to her for some twisted need of revenge?”
“What are you talking about?” Brynn asked not liking what Aden was insinuating. “What revenge?” When Aden did not answer, he took a step towards the two powerful pissed off beings and growled, “Aden! Answer me!” Was that ten kinds of stupid? Probably, but this was his wife they were talking about and he wanted answers.
Damien stood back, his anger filling the room. “We are not who you think we are. My name is not Aden. It’s Damien. Kara’s real name Sapphira and she is my mate, the other half to my soul. Literally. This creature,” his eyes narrowed on the female in the chair who had the sense enough to cower, “is Godiva. For all intent and purpose, our daughter.” He turned to Brynn. “To make this as simple as possible, Sapphira and I are the beginning of everything. We were the first sentient beings to come into, well, being. Long story short, Godiva and her brother Satan needed to learn a simple lesson. That life is precious and that our choices can create or destroy that life. That we, as old and omniscient as we are, must be very careful with how we use that power. Because they chose not to understand this and did not care what the consequences of their actions were, Sapphira and I created what we call trials. They were to create a universe of their own and keep it spinning, keep it balanced between good and evil, life and death. The demon, Malphas, was from one of those very first trials.”
“One they obviously failed,” Brynn added quietly. While the thought that the creatures before him were the creation of all was mind-boggling, if not downright insane, Brynn could feel some truth to what the being before him was saying.
“One of many,” Damien said, his eyes once again narrowing on Godiva. “Where is your brother?”
“Satan is on his ship, currently under the influence of Malphas,” Godiva answered brushing her robes, smoothing some unseen wrinkle.
“Caius is Satan?” he snarled.
Godiva was out of her chair and behind it before Brynn could blink. “You must remember, Damien. You were not supposed to be here this time. You were only supposed to watch from a distance. We had absolutely no idea Malphas had pulled you into this trial or put you in the place of the players we had already established.”
“Bullshit!” Damien spat. “You have learned nothing.”
“That is not true!” Godiva shouted. Her anger overriding her common sense, she stepped out from behind the chair to face the enraged being before her. “We followed your rules. We cared for every creature as if they were our own child. We allowed them free will and we kept the balance between good and evil. We did not invite Malphas into this universe. He broke in.”
“However, it was you who created him,” Damien reminded his voice cruel.
“It was you who allowed him to continue living when he should have been destroyed,” she yelled stepping another step forward in her rage. “Don’t blame me when your high and mighty ideals come back and bite you in the ass!”
Brynn watched from the other side of the room as the two immortals stood nose to nose, glaring at each other. He could feel the power build, pressing down on him, making it hard to breath. A part of him, the sane survive at all cost part, screamed at him to leave before they imploded and took him with them. The bigger part of him that stepped in front of a blaster to save those he loved moved a little closer to his wife. He did not care who they said they were, he was not leaving her alone while she slept unawares of the danger in the room. A movement from the corner of his eye drew his attention to the bedroom door. Tanis…no, Gideon was standing at the threshold frowning at the two snarling beings.
“Did I miss something?” he asked calmly. When no one answered, or moved, he turned his gaze to Brynn.
Taking a deep breath and letting it out in a huff, Brynn said, “From what I understand, Aden, I mean Damien, is angry with,” he paused frowning, not remembering what Selene’s other name was.
“Godiva,” Gideon provided.
“Godiva,” Brynn repeated suddenly remembering, “because of who Caius really is.”
“And that is?” Gideon prompted the two immortals again, turning his eyes back to them. Whatever the answer was, by the look in Damien’s eyes he was not going to like it.
“I think she said his name was Satan,” Brynn answered.
“Come again?” Gideon asked not quite sure if he heard Brynn right, his voice a calm that his worst enemy would cower from. Since the mortal did not know him or what that name meant, he had no reference to warn him that being in the room was probably detrimental to his continuing health.
“You heard him,” Damien snapped turning his attention to Sapphira, completely dismissing the goddess who still stood fuming behind him. Carefully sitting down on the edge of the bed, he brushed the hair that had fallen into Sapphira’s face away. Smiling and making happy humming noises in her sleep, she rolled over onto her back, revealing the necklace around her neck. Whatever calm Damien had gained by touching his mate disappeared as he stared down at the piece of filth that was effectively their chains in this universe. Looking closer he hissed, a distant memory surging to the surface.
It was early in the trials. Maybe the hundredth attempt, a small number when you live forever, yet Damien was beginning to lose hope his children would ever learn. Deciding to not participate in this particular trial, he watched from the safety of the orb room as they struggled to maintain balance as the universe spun ponderously towards its inevitable end. While for him it would take what the mortal’s calendar paced as a few months, to those inside the orb it would be millions upon millions of years.
In staying on the outside looking in, Damien could not interfere with what was going on within. Something that was becoming increasingly difficult as he watched his mate struggle through the horrors their children heaped upon her and her guardian.
“What are they doing to her this time?” a low familiar voice asked with a weary sigh.
Damien looked up towards the door at the imposing figure standing their frowning at the swirling colors in the orb. Dark as the abyss black hair that reached his shoulders, well over seven feet tall and built for battle, Fallon sauntered into the room, the tight leather pants creaking with newness as the long sleeved white linen shirt billowed around him. As the images in the orb became clearer, his frown deepened. Damien had to smile at the impressive male beside him because he looked more pirate than avenging angel, even with bare feet and no weapons. Fallon was one of two who had been created as his and Sapphira’s sentinels after they realized their children, their first creations, could not be completely trusted. Over the centuries the two had become much more than mere guards to Sapphira and himself. They had become close friends, confidents, lovers. While he and Sapphira could protect themselves, one of the angels were never far from their sides.
“It’s not the children,” Damien answered, his eyes moving back to the orb, his smile slipping away. “It’s the demon. Malphas. Somehow he has figured out who Sapphira and Gideon are and is trying to capture them so he can use them to escape the confines of this,” he gestured towards the orb, “universe into ours.”
“Can he do that?” Fallon asked his eyes wide with shock.
Damien slowly shook his head, one arm going around his waist so he could rest the elbow of the other on it while he rubbed his fingers over his lips, his eyes narrowing in thought. “I don’t know,” he answered softly.
“Explain?” Fallon prompted frowning when Damien would not elaborate.
Glancing at Fallon, his eyes went back to the orb. “Technically, the beings from one universe cannot break the barrier that divides the other universes from it and enter.”
“Technically,” Fallon repeated warily.
“Yes,” Damien said looking at his friend, his eyes showing his worry.
“What is different about this time?”
“This time, Godiva and Satan trusted too blindly, and they gave the wrong person too much information in the form of a prophecy. That information has fallen into Malphas’s hands. As convoluted as prophecies can be, he has figured out the hidden meaning behind this one. That there are multiply universes, and the veil that separates them can grow thin with time. If you know what to look for and you have enough power, you can cross through those thinnings.”
“Which is why he wants Sara and Gideon,” Fallon finished once again looking at the orb. “But how did he find out who they were?”
“That I don’t know, and that troubles me. What is worse is he has created a device that may bind Sapphira to him.”
A huge sword with an intricately carved metal handle that fit around his hand making it more of an extension of his arm then an deadly accessory suddenly materialized in Fallon’s hand. “That cannot happen,” he growled.
“Easy, my friend,” Damien soothed placing his hand on the wrist of the hand that held Fallon’s sword. “You know the rules. We cannot interfere.”
“Who made up that stupid rule?” he snarled.
“I did,” Damien answered flatly, his eyes narrowing at the insult.
Fallon grimaced at him. “Why?” his voice clearing telling the immortal that he was ten kinds of an idiot for doing such a thing. It was one of the drawbacks of becoming so familiar with each other. It was also one of those times Damien longed for the good old days when Fallon and Gideon did as they were told without questioning the reason behind it.
“Because if we kept interfering when things went sideways, nothing will be learned,” he growled.
Wisely, Fallon clamped his mouth shut. Although his eyes said everything he wanted to. Ignoring him, Damien turned back to the orb. “We just have to pray that Sapphira and Gideon remember who they are before it is too late.”
While they had managed to keep the powerful demon from escaping his own universe, they hadn’t been able to stop him from enslaving Sapphira and Gideon. It had taken Godiva and Satan years before they were able to free them and return to the safety of their plain, but the cost had been great. And now the bastard had the cursed necklace around Sapphira’s neck once more. The difference this time was Damien was here. Frowning, he looked at Gideon.
“Where is Fallon?”
“Good question,” Gideon answered his eyes going to Godiva. “I assumed he was Caius.”
“I have not seen him,” Godiva frowned, her eyes going distant as she wracked her brain for any sign of the angel she could have mistaken for something else.
Gideon’s looked back at Damien. “Maybe he wasn’t pulled in?”
“No, I remember him grabbing onto me. He has to be here somewhere.” Damien looked back down at the necklace. “I need to figure a way to remove this accursed thing.” Standing, he reached down and gathered Sapphira into his arms before turning towards Gideon. “You and Godiva look for Fallon. I’m going to take Sapphira someplace safe and try to break the spells around us.”
“How will we find you?” Gideon asked.
“As soon as the necklace is destroyed our connections should be reestablished. You’ll know then it is safe to come.” With a flash he was gone.
Gasping, Gideon fell to his hands and knees.
“What’s wrong?” Brynn asked moving to kneel beside the angel.
“The rules of this universe still bind us. Here I am one of Sapphira’s mates, or as you know her Kara. To be apart is….” Tightly closing his eyes, Gideon hissed in pain, his fingers curling into fists as he rode out the spasms that wracked his body. “Painful,” he squeezed out.
“How are you supposed to look for your friend if you cannot function without Kara?”
“Good question,” he whispered just before he collapsed onto his side, unconsciousness.
“Well, that is problematic,” Godiva huffed.
Sparing the female a glance that told her exactly what he thought of her and that comment, which wasn’t much, Brynn’s eyes moved to the open window. An idea forming that might just save all their lives.
Copyright © 2019 Heidi Barnes
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An Empyrean Cycle
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