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The A-men

By HoodFuller All Rights Reserved ©

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Prologue

Mara the Scourge

“You are going to go out there and you are going to be faced down by one of the best. He will surely kill you if you do not have the right mind. You say you fight for your mother, it is your love for her that makes you do what you do. That won’t be enough; love will not give you the strength you need. But if you give in to your inner demons, if you give in to your hatred then you will find the power to survive. You will find the power of vengeance.”

Mara remembered the speech well. That was the day she was supposed to perish. It was what everyone including herself had expected but then again, she was known for shattering expectations. It felt like it had been so long since then. Almost an eternity had passed it felt and she didn’t know what to do about it. She could remember the words but she couldn’t remember herself. She couldn’t remember what it was like to be that girl. The girl she once was died that day and since she had been forged into something else. What exactly she was she couldn’t say but there was nothing good about her. She placed her hand on her face. Still no smile. She had been trying for the past few days to smile. After everything she had endured she was finally about to get what she wanted. It should have been a happy moment; there should have been a smile but there wasn’t. She couldn’t remember what a smile was.

‘Can you even remember your name?’ She thought to herself. The answer was yes. She knew what her name was but she wouldn’t dare speak it. All that existed was the name that she had been given. Demons were not fans of preserving the old. Once she was brought to them, her old life was forgotten. She had only said her real name once after being warned never to let it utter from her lips. She felt her back with both hands trying to find a spot that was not scarred. The harsh sting of the whip was familiar. That was the price for saying her name and then it became the price for survival. Here it was all about conditioning. She was whipped daily until she could take it without flinching. Only once she gave into her real power was she able to do it.

As she sat in her cell she looked over in one of the corners. There was a generous amount of dried blood on the wall and ground. She knew all too well what it was from. People who were brought here had to do atrocious things to live. She was no exception. In that corner was the memory which haunted her the most. Even now when she knew nothing of sympathy or regret, that unchangeable memory plagued her mind. There were nights where she would stare at it for hours on end hoping that something would change and that it would all be ok. Sometimes she rushed to sleep just aspiring to wake up somewhere else, to be told it was all a bad dream or if nothing else, to be granted freedom. But that was then. Now she embraced her calling. The chains on her arms and legs were her clothes. The two swords that she carried with her was her accessories and the cell she spent her days, she had a nice word for that. The door to the cage swung open and a face she knew too well stepped in. It was a high ranking demon or at least he used to be. Once Mara started moving up the ranks, he became less relevant.

“Goliath demands your presence.” Klesec said. There was a bitterness in his voice.

Mara scoffed. “And what does our lovely tyrant want with me today? All these demeaning and undermining tasks he’s given me, all that’s missing is for him to tell me to get on my knees.”

“No one here cares for your insolence Mara. Just report to the main chamber immediately.” Klesec approached her to unchain her from the wall. As he was doing so he discovered that she had something else to say.

“I noticed your face is starting to heal nicely. Have you finally been able to stop crying as well?” She winked at him.

His face still ached on a nearly unbearable level. “I hope you enjoy yourself witch because it won’t last forever. You’re nothing but a passing phase as all humans are. A good strong demon will always rise up and soon this legion will see me back in my proper place.” Klesec definitely didn’t like Mara. She was the one who got him to where he was today and he was waiting to kill her for it.

“Says the messenger boy.” By this time she was free of her chains. “You may been able to intimidate that little girl who came through here but not me. I don’t frighten easily. By the way, the mark didn’t do anything but make you slightly less repulsive. You should be thanking me.” Then she brushed pass him without a word.

As she was on her way to the main chambers she reminisced. Things around here had been tolerable in Goliath’s absence. When he left he said he was looking to find one of the other demons who could help them with their next agenda. Mara didn’t hear any of that. She was only concerned with her role specifically and how she was going to finally get what she had been waiting so long for. Now that he was back it was all going to get so serious and unentertaining. He would probably act just like Klesec and try to scare her. Except with him it would actually work. The very name Goliath made a lot of people uncomfortable and the sight of him made many want to lay down and accept death. Mara was not one of those people. As it were though she hated his way of doing things and she hated pain so she did what she could to avoid it at his hand.

She saw a lot of lower demons on her walk. Even though they despised her existence, they had a level of respect. She was after all the Scourge and that wasn’t a title easily earned. There was a time when Mara would have basked in recognition like this whether it be from demons, angels, and humans. Now it meant nothing to her if it didn’t have to do with her mission. Winning over the respect of a bunch of monsters was not a part of her goal in life. So she kept walking as if she didn’t see them, practically begging one of them to try something. Demons hated to be disrespected and none of them had qualms about killing a human. Mara was the exception. If they moved on her they would answer to Goliath and that was if they survived going through her. She made it to the meeting area and entered.

Inside were supposedly the top demons in the war. Even the simple foot soldiers were specially trained in here. It felt different when she entered. While at any other part of the base she would be revered, Mara met with no impressed faces here. Barely anyone even bothered to look at her. If they fell behind in their work then they could find themselves excluded from the elite and be forced to once again be on the front lines. Mara couldn’t help but look at them. She found it hard to believe that every single one of them were top tier. Klesec was the right hand when she arrived and now she wasn’t much more than a lap dog. If these demons were below that, none of them would mean anything to her. Yet despite her skills and her title of Scourge, she didn’t get any sort of recognition. In a way this made her nervous. She wondered if they knew something that she didn’t know.

Two figures were standing in the center of the room. One of them was the general that summoned her. Even from a far no one would confuse him with anyone else. He stood at eleven feet and was built like a tank. Mara never missed him when she joined his company even if he wasn’t directly in front of him. Then next to Goliath stood someone Mara had never met before. She assumed this was the demon that he left to go find. Something came back with her. It was a feeling in the atmosphere that Mara credited to whoever this was. Even though Goliath was the single greatest threat she had ever met, this was something different. Then she figured out who it was and the defining feature was the pink hood that the figure wore.

“Were you looking to tag team me again?” Mara asked Goliath as she got within earshot.

The massive behemoth loomed over her. “Oh trust me if I needed to deal with you I wouldn’t need her.”

She had already deduced the identity but hearing Goliath refer to the figure as female proved her suspicions. The hooded figure pulled her hood back and it was like looking into the eyes of dread itself. Mara had to keep herself from throwing up as she remembered how she met this demon for the first time. She like Goliath looked more human than other demons. She had pale skin and blonde hair. She could pass for a normal Caucasian woman in the physical realm even without a body change. The pink attire was excessive though.

“Well look at you, such a short amount of time and you appear brand new.” She said innocently.

Mara almost lashed out. “The rhyming didn’t entertain the kid, what makes you think it will entertain me Folly?”

The friendly smile that was on Folly’s face before gave way to anger. “Alright then it looks like the worm came to play.” She struck Mara across the face. “You have such an annoying habit of ruining a good thing. New name or not that has remained the same.” Then Folly turned to Goliath. “This is your Scourge? How did this occur?”

“It would appear that our ranks are not as well picked as they used to be. She wasn’t supposed to survive this long but she did and she has proven useful so I’ve rewarded her with life.”

“What possible use could she have been? The smell alone makes me question if the investment is worth the return.” This comment sparked laughter from the other demons in the room. Folly could have kept it going but she hated pandering to those beneath her.

“In fact she has indeed been worth the investment. A few high profile operatives from the angels have fallen by her sword. No one who knew her prior has lived after meeting her in battle and so she still retains the element of surprise with the enemy. I would say that is more than a decent weapon in our vault.”

Folly examined Mara up and down and saw her weapons. “If she is one of us then why does she still carry her old weapon? It is obviously of angelic design and has no place here.”

Mara had two blades. One of them was the one she had initially and the other was of demonic designed that she acquired during her time here. She pulled them both. “Listen to me carefully.” She started. “I will never be one of you and if I ever get the chance, I’ll show you just how useful this sword can be.”

Goliath took her by the arm. “I welcome you to try. I would thoroughly enjoy watching her end your life, almost as much as I would like to do it myself.”

A bead of sweat formed on Mara’s head. When Goliath let go she sheathed her swords. “You don’t frighten me muscles. When I’m done with her I’ll be coming after you.”

Folly allowed herself to laugh. The other demons in the room joined her which she found insulting. What had they done to deserve the privilege of laughing with her? “You truly are different. I see you have gotten far more arrogant and suicidal. I guess everyone has a breaking point. In fact when this is all over I’ll be more than willing to grant your request. That is if you manage to survive the big event.”

“It is all I have been preparing for the entire time.” Mara said. She wanted to smile at the thought but it never came.

“Give it a rest you don’t have anyone fooled. I know exactly what your stakes are. Just because this brute has more muscles than brains doesn’t mean he isn’t smart enough to watch you closely. In fact we’ve spoken on many different occasions about deciding if you are more of an asset or a liability in this endeavor. As promised you will have you chance but you will serve your purpose.”

Mara didn’t answer at first but Goliath demanded one and she was too shaken up by his voice to refuse. “Yes Folly. I will serve you in any way you see fit.”

“Well at least you’re more subordinate than before when you want to be.” Folly said. “I like your style of keeping me guessing. The only one who is less predictable than you is my old friend Wisdom Woman. Did you ever meet her?”

“I never had that displeasure.” Mara answered.

Goliath snapped again. “Hold your tongue! The opportunity to meet the great sage is a rare and cherished happening. Perhaps if you had you would be more endurable.”

Folly apologized on Goliath’s behalf. “It would seem the big demon has a little bit of a soft spot for my opposite. Well it’s to be expected. Before the big split in Heaven back before your time, the two of them were close. If you survive this I’ll tell you that story as well.”

“You will do no such thing.” Goliath blurted out. “The past is in the past and this wretch is far too simpleminded to understand it. In fact I doubt you would understand it either. It comes as a big game to you doesn’t it?”

“Oh Goliath dear you sound so passionate. Are you defending on of God’s followers? Is it possible you’re a sympathizer?” Folly taunted.

“How about you remember where you fall on the hierarchy. I am the right hand of our master. After thousands of years of service he would turn the other way if his left hand was out of line. Just you try and disrespect me again.”

“Between you and the mildew over there I could have a nice weekend killing you slowly and as intimately as I could imagine. But have it your way Goliath.” Then Folly dropped the subject entirely. “Did you send Klesec to get her and Hatred? He isn’t one to be late and I’ve been waiting here for an extended amount of time.”

“Try some patience.” Goliath said.

“Do I look like a piece of fruit to you?” Folly asked.

Before she could answer, another being joined their midst. This demon was only a little taller than Mara and had more of the demonic look that one would imagine. His skin was decaying, he had sharp claws and vicious teeth like some sort of wild beast. Twisted fire red hair ran from his head down throughout his entire body and his eyes looked to actually be set ablaze. Folly was relieved that he had finally arrived but she wasn’t at all any less upset that it took him this long to arrive, and she held no issues with letting him know.

“Do you want to explain to me why a filthy human made it here before you did? Is that the time we live in now that they are more reliable than even the master’s top soldiers?”

Hatred like any other demon in here knew the presence he was in. He fell to his knees in shame. “No Folly. Forgive my lethargy I can assure you that it won’t happen again.”

“Oh I know it won’t or you’ll be returning home much sooner than you would like.” Folly responded. Then she cleared her throat and Hatred stood to his feet. “Now we need to make final preparations for the task. Do you have everything you need?”

“Yes Folly. As requested I have remained in constant training the past few months in order to increase my range and potency and I am certain that I have grown strong enough to hold an entire city under my power.” Hatred said. He secretly hoped that she didn’t ask for a demonstration. Even the possibility of failing was so chilling that he wouldn’t dare run the risk now.

“I expect nothing less from you.” Folly started. “If we are able to meet with success then we will turn the tides in a way no one has ever seen. I have enjoyed these years of easy going and I would like to finish it off. Imagine how long a reign we would revel in.”

“It sounds to me like you just want an excuse to be lazy. Too scared someone might overpower you out there?” Goliath teased. “I on the other hand will be fine whether we are successful or not. I can crush them at their worst or best; it makes no difference to me.”

“Then why are you just now getting around to finishing them off? If they’re so beneath you then why didn’t you kill them a long time ago?” Mara asked.

Goliath clenched his fist trying to decide if this was the moment Mara died. He was able to hold himself back. “Because if there’s one thing they excel at, it is hiding. They’re nothing but cowards and because of it we have not gotten the chance to see their life fade from their eyes. But while they hide we have taken over and now the stakes are so high that they will have to come out and attempt to stop us.”

“I’m no idiot. I know your scheme. Now let me return to my station and prepare unless you have any more demeaning names or statements you’re just dying to let out.” Mara said.

“Why you little-” Goliath moved forward but he was stopped by Folly. He took a deep breath and regained his composure. “Get out of my sight Mara. I don’t want to see you again until you are of some use to me.”

“I hope you’re enjoying yourself because I will reclaim my name.” Mara said. It wasn’t the name she cared about but the respect factor. Of all of the things Goliath took from her she was going to find something she could take back. “I’ll be sure to think about you.” Mara said and then she turned around and walked out. This time she did gain some looks from the other demons. Never before had they seen a demon, much less a human show such impertinence and walk away. The ground was painted with the blood of beings before Mara who dared to say even half of the things she said the entire thing was just mindboggling. They all considered it the perks of being the Scourge.

Folly addressed Goliath. “That’s quite the specimen you have there. Now if you aren’t too busy I’d like you to go pick up our friend. She’s the only one who could possibly stand in our way.”

“You know where she is?” Goliath asked.

“You are such an idiot.” Folly responded. “The angels and the humans slip under my radar all the time but not her. We share a bond the two of us, not unlike that which you had with her before she couldn’t stand the sight of you anymore.”

Goliath nodded and left to complete his obligation. Folly crossed a lot of lines whenever she wanted because she was under the protection of the master. For now he had to accept whatever abuse she threw his way but it wouldn’t last forever. No demonic alliance was permanent and no two were actual friends. The day would come when she would make her mistake and lose her protection and then Goliath would be there to stomp his foot on her neck. He always came out on top.

As Mara returned to her cell she started to put a plan together of her own. She knew her part in all of this wasn’t going to be easy. She would certainly be victorious but it was possible that it was going to cost her a lot of energy. If this brought the response they were predicting however, the demons would be just as drained if not more drained than she would be. This would afford her the excellent opportunity to kill Goliath once and for all. It sounded good initially but then all of the variables started to come in. Besides the angel she was after, she had no way of knowing who else was going to be present. The wrong person at the wrong time could ruin everything. There was also the demons. They were as untrusting of humans as the humans were of them. It was a well-known fact that Mara had aspirations of killing the brute. Once the smoke cleared and the battle was won, it was likely that Goliath would surely suspect her of trying something. She definitely wouldn’t have any further reason to serve him. If not him then Folly would definitely see it coming. Mara knew that she was going to have to come up with something a little more clever than simply relying on fatigue and chaos. Since Hatred’s phase was first, she would have plenty of time to think about it in the meantime. When she reached her cell, Klesec was waiting for her.

“Alright little beast. Back in your kennel right now.” Klesec said. As soon as the words left his mouth, he started reaching for the whip he carried.

“You should be more careful around this ‘little beast.’ Despite your reservations I have outgrown you and in such a short amount of time too. You’re old news. The great Klesec reduced to delivering orders and escorting humans to cages and such. Pretty soon they’ll find someone who can do that better than you and there won’t be a place for you here anymore. So who about you stop acting big and bad before I make your spot vacant now?”

“You are the worst thing to happen to this battalion I have ever seen. Imagine the hero I will be when I prove once and for all that even the lowest demon is forever superior to even the highest human.” Klesec grabbed his whipped and cracked it. He waited for the satisfied sound of it striking flesh and the scent of fresh spilled blood.

Mara caught it around her arm without a problem. “Like I said, I have outgrown you.” She robbed the demon of his weapon and lunged at him. Before he knew it, Mara’s sword was on his neck. “I could open you up right now but somehow I think you got the message. Don’t think about crossing me again or we can revisit this moment.” She sheathed her sword and allowed Klesec to take her to into the cell and chain her to the wall. Then he departed and closed the door behind him leaving her in utter darkness.

The solitude afforded her certain privileges. She could spend as much time as she wanted trying to recall what life was like before all of this. It was nearly impossible for her to do so. For so long this as all she knew. She hardly ever slept and the days she did she woke up to darkness. There was a time when she had concerns such as what time it was. Perhaps she had taken that for granted. She could think of a long detailed list of things she would sacrifice if only it would afford her the opportunity to view time as a concern. There was a time she didn’t sleep chained to a cold wall. She once had a bed. The feeling escaped her. What was it like to lay on a bed? What would it be like to lay on one again? Would she ever know the life she once had? Would she ever want to? All she knew was malice and bloodlust. Those were good qualities of a demon. She would never be able to be a demon but Goliath saw to it that she would learn to act like one. Things like a conscious, remorse, love, compassion, they were all the things of angels and humans. Those were the taboo here. Those qualities were beaten out of her slowly and daily until there was nothing left but a bitter shell. The day she was given the name hurt the most. It was the day she knew that her old life would fade away. That’s when she died the first time.

All of these demons were going to pay. Every scandalous action they had enacted against her would be answered for one day. Klesec for all of his insults and lashings. He would be dealt with quickly. Hatred for the words he spoke that saved her life the first time and made all of this possible. He would answer as well. But Goliath who forged her into the being that she was today, his death would come slowly. Who she was before knew nothing of torture. That girl couldn’t think of a single bad act and even if she could, lacked the ability to complete it. Mara was different. She was an expert when it came to suffering and cruelty. She knew all of the ways to make someone hurt and she had the will to act. She could torture a little boy’s mother in front of him. She knew this because that was the type of malevolent spirit Goliath was. That particular mission held no place in her mind. She was indifferent toward it but it did come back to her as she reminisced. And so all of the lessons Goliath had taught her in her extended time here would come in handy when he was the one of the receiving end and she would enjoy it. Just the thought of such an immense level of gratification was nearly orgasmic. But that’s who Mara was. The only way she could slay the monster was to be the monster.

Part of her training afforded her the ability to see in the darkness. Goliath forced her to hone that skill so even in this pitch black surrounding, she could see herself. She could see the scars. Her arms were covered in them but it was nothing in comparison to her back. Her face had a great many. She did all she could to remember where each one came from. Any reason was just more kindling on the raging inferno in her heart. Before Mara this place was Hell. She always heard about Hell and never wanted to end of there but the day she came here, she learned what Hell was. Once Mara was born it became something else. It became the only thing she saw that was familiar to her. It was the only place where she felt at peace. The world outside was just a foreign land she had to visit on occasion to carry out Goliath’s dirty work. This place was what she knew. This was where she laid her head. There was a word for what this place was to her. It was called home.

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