Angel of Death

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Death

“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”

Revelation 6:8

I answered the door after a moment’s hesitation to find Atelus supporting a black and white wolf with intelligent and very familiar blood red and pale blue eyes. I dropped to my knees and hugged Ena despite the fact that her coat was soaked through, because I could guess why she’d come.

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered the words to her as Castiel came slowly down the stairs behind me, “this is all my fault.” My voice was quiet, barely audible over the pouring rain.

“Arron.” I looked up at Castiel, tears welling in my eyes, “she’s bleeding.” I turned my gaze back to Ena as I lifted one hand to find the palm of my hand slick with scarlet blood. Maybe Castiel actually wanted to help, or maybe he really did have a death wish, but after watching me sit unmoving, my gaze locked onto the blood for a while, he rested a hand on my shoulder before crouching down and lifting Ena’s Wolf form from my lap. I watched him disappear around the corner in the hall before turning my attention to Atelus. The other Hell Hounds had gathered around him and I gave them a grim smile.

“Sonzael,” I reached for one of the Hounds and let him rest his muzzle in my hands before I spoke, “find the twins and tell them to come home.” His eyes seemed to turn to living blood as he flexed his bony claws and I smiled, “bring them home.” I let go of his muzzle before his image blurred and disappeared. The other Hounds stood studying me, they knew we were fighting an impossible battle, I could see it in their eyes. I stood and pushed the front door closed before pulling the small black key from under my shirt. It turned with a near silent click in the lock and once again I opened the door into another side of the world, the one with living shadows. “Go,” I stepped out of the way, but for a moment the hounds just stared at me, “Ito,” I spoke the word again in irrefutable Hell’s Latin and the hounds growled at me their disagreement but still, they did as they were told. I watched as one by one they disappeared into the near liquid dark. Keep bared his teeth at me when I turned to find him still sitting beside me. I studied him a moment before breathing a heavy sigh, “Fine, you can stay.” There was a growl and a rather strange sound almost like a crash from the kitchen and I followed the hall to the open doorway. Castiel stood with his back pressed hard against the counter while Ena stood on the counter, teeth bared and hackles raised as her claws tried to dig into the wooden counter. It was the blood that dripped from Castiel’s hand that made me stop and stare. “What happened?” He looked over at me in surprise before answering slowly.

“She bit me,” he lifted his hand so that I could see the puncture wounds in the back of it and I looked back at Ena in mild surprise with the hint of a prideful smirk playing across my face.

“What did you do?” He shrugged, a slight indignace in his expression.

“I was just trying to clean the wounds.” I blinked, studying him a moment before gently taking hold of the scruff of her neck.

“It’s the water.” He looked down at the rag in his good hand, a look of understanding slipping into his eyes. Under my hand, Ena’s fur lay flat and she lay back down on the counter. “Go ahead,” I nodded to Castiel as I stroked Ena’s muzzle with gentle fingers. At his touch she gave me a wary look but I forced myself to give her a grim smile, bracing myself as I waited for what I knew would come. Castiel hurried to finish cleaning Ena’s wounds, flinching visibly when she bit down hard on my hand, the blood running into my sleeve and staining it red. There was an apology in her eyes but once again I smiled, “It’s alright,” I whispered the words, stroking her muzzle before I glanced up to find Castiel staring at me. “What?” He shook his head and busied himself with Ena’s bandages.

“Nothing really,” he spoke slowly once he had finished and she let go of my hand, the wound healing almost instantly. “It’s just that, what you did just now, it reminded me of something Hagar would do,” I swallowed and Ena gave me a quiet whine. “It was like she knew the pain that the animal was going through.” I said nothing at first; I had no words to answer him, so I looked back at Ena where she lay on the counter. I leaned over her after a moment and stroked her fur again.

“Sleep,” I whispered the word into her ear in Hell’s Latin and watched as her eyes drifted closed. “I’d imagine,” my voice was soft as I straightened up, keeping my gaze on her, “that it was because she did know it.” He stared at me in surprise, but I said nothing more as my gaze shifted to his hand. “Let me see your hand,” he started to protest but I caught hold of his wrist and studied the bite mark.

“It’ll be fine,” I pressed my thumb very deliberately into the back of his hand between the holes and he jerked out of my grip.

“Yeah, completely fine,” my voice was thick with sarcasm and I caught hold of his hand again. The damp rag I took from the counter singed my skin and I grit my teeth as I rinsed it and used it to clean away the blood, then I turned and dragged a chair around the island to him. “You might want to sit down, this’ll probably be especially painful for you,” he started to ask what I was talking about, but my eyes turned black and my fingertips caught fire before he could get the words out to do so. In the amount of time it took Castiel to sit down and to pull out of my grip, I had cauterized the bite marks in both sides of his hand. The fire flickered out and I turned to lift the roll of bandages from the counter where he’d left it. He sat staring at the back of his hand as a thin layer of ice spread from the wounds and part of the way up his forearm.

“Thanks,” his voice was quiet when he finally spoke again and, though there was still a hint of pain in his words, he sounded like it was much better than it had been. I nodded slightly as I wrapped his hand expertly and then pulled another chair from the other side of the island.

“If Ena came to me alone, it can only mean that Daniel was taken,” I cast a worried glance toward Ena’s sleeping form and breathed a heavy sigh as I raked my pianist’s fingers through my thick, raven hair. “I’m starting to think the Eternity Box would have been the better idea.” Castiel shook his head when I broke the long and uncomfortable silence.

“No, because then none of this would have happened while someone could still stop it,” he paused, “and I would have continued to think that every monster out there was no different than the rest.” I stared at him a moment before reaching out to run my fingers through his hair. He pulled back from my hand, but not before I could see that much of his hair had turned black.

“Keep it up and you’ll have the same kind of dark soul as Lucifer.” He glared at my teasing tone a moment but said nothing in reply, instead simply shaking his head. “So,” I broke the silence again when it fell a second time, “what do you know about the Devil’s Pit?”

Castiel knew no more than I could find in my vast collection of books, except that Lucifer was to burn in a lake of fire. I smiled when he told me that, causing him quite a bit of worry, judging from the look on his face when the wicked grin spread across my expression. We only had sixty-two hours left and we were no closer than before, the only progress we’d been able to make being the discovery that Lucifer was in town, and that had been nothing more than a stroke of luck. I started to stand, to go and see if Sonzael had returned with the twins, but Castiel caught hold of my arm without moving in his seat.

“You know what your being Keyo means for you, right?” He kept his gaze on my empty chair as he spoke, his voice quiet. I nodded and flashed a smile as I said what would probably be the last lie I would ever tell.

“I’ll be okay,” I matched his soft tone when I spoke.

“Sophistry.” I stared at Castiel in complete shock.

“What?” I choked on the word as I struggled to wrap my mind around what he’d said.

“I said sophistry,” now he met my gaze, his alight with a spark of fire I didn’t quite recognize, “Don’t lie to me about something so simple. You’re dying, either by fire or by whatever Lucifer did to you, it doesn’t really matter, but you’re not going to be okay this time.” His frustration bled into his words and for the first time in my life, I was at a complete loss for a response, sarcastic or otherwise.

“Fine then,” I swallowed, “There’s really only one thing I can say now,” my grim smile returned and he gave me a questioning look, “I’ll see you in Hell.” I left before he could reply but I could swear I saw him smirk as I turned away.

Sonzael and the twins gave me the same criticizing growls as the others had, but eventually they joined the rest of the pack in the world of shadows on the other side of the door. I stood in the silence for a few minutes with Keep at my side as I stared into the black. I saw nothing in the dark, but when my eyes changed to match it, a small smile tugged at the corner of my mouth for the briefest moment as I saw countless pairs of glowing white eyes staring back at me. I looked over at Keep when he gave me a quiet whine and I gave him a grim smile.

“It’d be so much easier,” I reached out to touch the invisible wall between worlds sending a ripple across its surface, “to just disappear.” He gave another quiet whine and I breathed a heavy sigh, “yes I suppose you’re right,” I looked down at him again and let my hand drop back to my side, “as troublesome as they might be, I’ve grown to quite like some humans.” He bared his teeth at me and I smiled briefly before closing the door and letting the key slip back under my shirt. I started to turn away from the door, but I was stopped by a rather insistent knocking. I found Este on my step when I finally decided to answer it and for a moment I simply stood studying her with a bored expression. “If I were to just slam this door in your face, would you continue to insist on coming back, or would you finally leave me alone?” For a moment she just stared at me in surprise, but then her frown returned and she pushed past me into the entryway. “Or you can just keep coming right in. You’re like a bad habit, I let you in once and you just keep coming back.” I muttered the words as I closed the door behind her.

“You left me at the ball, by myself with that poor kid passed out at the table,” I shrugged as she turned back to scold me, ignoring my muttering as if it were simply background noise.

“He wouldn’t have been that drunk if you could manage to stick with one dance partner for a whole song, let alone the entire night.” She gave me a sharp glare and I shook my head, “I’m sorry, but I ran into a rather unsavory old acquaintance at that ball so yes, I left in a bit of a hurry and didn’t think that I needed to check out with you.” She raised an eyebrow in curiosity, completely oblivious to the thick sarcasm in my words.

“Really? Who was that?”

“The host.” Her eyes went wide and I couldn’t help my smirk.

“You mean Lord Lucius Abel?” She wore an easy smile and my own ran away in an instant, “he’s so charming though, and handsome, I don’t know how you could consider him so unsavory,” she trailed off when my gaze narrowed in disbelief.

“You honestly don’t see the connection? Lucius? Lucifer? Did you not see his eyes? It was called The Diaboli Ball for Christ’s sake!” She simply continued to stare blankly at me so I shook my head, my eyes turning black as I pinched the bridge of my nose between two fingers, “Your host at the rather aptly named ball last night was Lucifer, as in Satan, the Devil, Baal Davar, Azazel, Iblis, how many of his names do you need me to give you?” Este shook her head slowly in disbelief at my exasperated accusation before realization finally found its way to her expression.

“Oh dear,” I nodded and trailed a few steps behind as Este wandered into the sitting room. I watched as she collapsed into an armchair before breaking the silence.

“Why did you come?” She wore a blank, innocent expression that made me nervous for some reason I couldn’t quite pin down.

“To figure out why you left without me.” My gaze narrowed slightly at her words.

“Alright then,” I started to leave, “you know where the door is, do me a favor and don’t come back anytime soon.”

“Wait!” I stopped in the archway, not turning to look back, “I saw something last night at the party.” The sense of dread that her words bore sent a chill down my spine, “it was a cage, big enough to fit a tiger, or a large wolf.” I shook my head and started off again but she had more, “and there was something else,” I turned slightly towards her, “I saw you burn.” My blood ran cold at her words but I didn’t move a muscle except to dig my nails into my palms. For a moment I stood in the silence, searching for my voice before I replied through grit teeth.

“You’re a bit late to the party on that one, Este,” my voice was soft and I wore a grim smile, “I’m going to go check on someone.” I didn’t wait for a reply, I just disappeared. Ena was awake and sitting in a kitchen chair. She clung to the blanket that was wrapped around her and she shook as she wept silent tears for everyone she’d lost; everyone I’d cost her. For a moment I simply stood watching from the doorway, afraid to speak; afraid she might blame me as much as I did. Castiel stood in the corner, rubbing his bandaged hand with his thumb and watching Ena with a wary eye. I breathed a heavy sigh and he looked up at me in quiet surprise.

“Arron.” At my name, Ena’s gaze found mine and I felt a sense of hopelessness and guilt flood my mind as I took an unconscious step back. As she watched me, I could see her voice and in her amber eyes; I was drowning in it all. ‘What were you thinking?’ ‘Who are you that you thought you could save any of them?’ ‘You sacrificed your only friends for nothing.’
‘It’s your fault.’
‘It’s your fault.’
‘It’s all your fault…’
The voice changed in my head to match who really spoke: the naïve young demon who sat playing a grim tune on the ancient piano and dreaming of the things she’d never really have; things like freedom, a sense of belonging, and love: such human things... For a moment I found myself there with her in that room; in the cage, so I asked her: ‘Why do you say such cruel things to me?’ She studied me with cold black eyes that didn’t match her innocent face. ‘I speak the truth alone.’ I stared at her in disbelief and started to reply but she vanished, leaving behind only the ancient piano. ‘Where did you go?’ I called into the nothingness on a whim and was met by my own light laugh before she replied: ‘I grew up.’ I blinked and found myself staring at a version of me that wore a wolfish grin, blood dripping from the corners of my mouth and his infernal number on my forehead.

“Arron.” I blinked again and found myself back in my kitchen as Ena called my name with a soft voice. I looked back at her again, eyes filled with indescribable grief. “I’m sorry I bit you.” I shook my head slightly and swallowed the lump in my throat.

“When I told you about Lucifer, why didn’t you talk me out of fighting?” She gave me a grim smile. “It’s my fault they’re gone.”

“I couldn’t talk you out of anything no matter how hard I had tried.” I shook my head but she continued, “Even if Lucifer promised that he wouldn’t take them if he had you, he lied; he always lies. He’d have lock us all away like his circus animals while this world and Hell became one and the same.” Her words conjured an unwelcome image of black fire, ice, and inescapable cages to mind and I couldn’t help but stare at her uncharacteristically blunt tone.

“But I couldn’t stop it, it’s still going to end,” I was quiet, struggling to keep from throwing something across the room in my welling frustration.

“It’s not over yet,” Castiel finally spoke from his place in the corner and Ena nodded slightly, “Heaven’s still silent.” I stared at him a moment before I actually understood his words.

“I can’t.” He gave me a grim smile.

“But you’ll try.” I nodded slowly.

“And it’s not like you’ll be alone,” Ena smiled and in lighter times, I would have laughed; her words reminded me of Castiel’s on the day we met again. It seemed so long ago now, so far out of reach. I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair.

“Then I need a way to lock Lucifer’s cage up again. One that doesn’t involve death preferably but that seems to be fairly inevitable for me,” I was trying to make light of the subject, as much for my sake as anyone else’s but Castiel’s warning gaze turned cold and Ena frowned at me. “Fifty-eight,” my voice was quiet and Ena wore a slightly confused look at my words. Castiel wore a look of worry that I hadn’t seen since long before Hagar had ‘died’, but I shook the thought away. “Would you go get Ena some of my clothes? I need to go deal with an unwanted guest.” He nodded slightly after a moment’s silent debate and Ena climbed silently to her feet as I turned and returned to the sitting room. Este was pacing the floor as if deep in thought, so I paused to watch. She was speaking some form of ancient Greek and I had opened my mouth to ask why when the world around us seemed suddenly to be torn apart.The first impact knocked me forward into the room and I struggled to my hands and knees as the supports of my old home groaned around us. The second impact knocked my senses into oblivion and it took me longer than I cared to admit for me to realize that the flickering light around us was flames. In my moment of obscurity I wondered if my home would have burned as brightly without all of my books inside it. It was the third impact that made me scramble back to my feet, suddenly snapping back to reality as the house began to collapse. The ceiling above our heads began to cave and I tackled Este out of the way as part of it crashed to the ground. I was on my feet again a moment later.

“Get out!” I shouted to be heard over the sounds of breaking wood and collapsing supports, but I didn’t wait to see what Este actually did; I was already down the hall and at the stairs by the time she had even gotten to her feet. I stumbled up the stairs two at a time and crashed through my bedroom door shoulder first. Ena, now fully clothed, was pulling herself back to her feet with one of the cabinet doors that lined that side of the room while Castiel groaned from where he had landed when the floor collapsed into the painted room below. “Cas,” he squinted up at me through the dust that hung in the air, “you alright?”

“Just bruised a bit,” he spoke with a slightly stunned groan as I did a visual check of Ena before making my way around the edge of the room. I pulled open the balcony doors and saw the cause of the impacts; the stars were falling one by one from a sky stained red as the blood of millions. Heaven was silent no longer, it seemed.

“Ena,” I called her over after I recovered from the initial shock of the sight outside and she made her way over to me on the narrow edge of the room. The balcony itself had been hit directly and now, there was nothing recognizable left of it, but it didn’t matter any more; none of it did. “Jump,” she didn’t protest; didn’t insist on staying with me, she knew what was happening and she knew how it would end. So instead, Ena just hugged me.

“Thank you.” I frowned and started to ask why, “for showing me a different way; the way out of that life.” I gave her a sad smile and watched her jump. She never looked back as she disappeared into the trees, though I hadn’t expected her to, it would’ve been too painful for her if she had. I found myself thinking back to the first time I’d seen her after I’d escaped Hell; had I known then what was coming, I would never have let go. I shook my head and turned back to the hole in the floor; as nice as it’d be, I wouldn’t solve anything by reminiscing. I got down on my hands and knees at the edge and peered into the dark.

“Cas,” I called down but the dark seemed to have grown. I reached down, “Take my hand.” Something took my hand, something cold; something that chilled me to the bone. It pulled me down and I tumbled into the only room in my home that didn’t yet seem to have been touched by the fire. I crashed into what was formerly my bedroom floor and began coughing up blood as I struggled to my feet. “Cas?” My voice was hoarse when I called again. I caught a glimpse of something that moved in the shadows of the room, but the red gold eyes that glittered from the dark didn’t belong to Castiel. “Lucifer,” my voice was a growl, “what did you-” I crashed through the wall into the hallway with the flick of his wrist and a smile.

“I don’t like when my children misbehave, my little pet,” Lucifer stepped through the hole as I sat up with a groan and grit teeth. Despite the pain, I couldn’t help my harsh laugh at his words.

“Is that what I am? Your child? The rest of us thought I was nothing more than a whore to you,” I growled the words as I climbed to my feet. He waved a hand again and I was smashed through another wall and a bookshelf, sliding to a stop amongst piles of burning books and the wooden remains of bookcases. Lucifer didn’t follow me through the hole this time. Instead he stood with his back to me as he studied a rather beaten up looking Castiel with a cold gaze.

“You could join me, little brother,” Lucifer’s voice was wicked with calm and false warmth; he was a honeytrap and I had long ago grown sick of listening to him talk. I struggled to my feet and crept up behind him, drawing my hunting knife from its sheath at my back, “I could give you anything you want.” Castiel shook his head; his eyes alight with a fire despite his white knuckled grip on his limp arm.

“The only thing I want,” his tone was measured and a weak smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, “is death.” Lucifer growled at that.

“You forget, little brother, I taught you all of your tricks,” he turned away from Castiel and drove his hand through my chest. I’m not sure what kind of trick he was referring to, but I could swear there was something akin to shock in his eyes when he saw that it wasn’t there. “Delante?” I grinned, my own blood dripping from the corners of my mouth.

“There is no trick.” He pulled his hand out and I dropped to my knees, nearly choking on my next words, “Only fate and her defyers.” The silver cross that Castiel had given me slid out of my shirt, catching the light of the fire. Lucifer caught hold of it with now bloody fingers.

“You were sealed again,” it wasn’t a question, and he dragged me back to my feet by a handful of my hair. “Show me his eyes.” I’m not sure why he didn’t make the connection before he climbed into my head, with Castiel living in my house and all. I couldn’t fight it; he saw everything that had happened to me since I’d escaped Hell. He saw the agony of my wings being sealed away, and the joy I’d felt when Ena had shown up on my doorstep. He saw my work as the Angel of Death and my life with Abram, Sarai, and Ishmael. He saw the day I’d locked my Hounds away and the day I’d first hunted Este Demetriou. He saw the carriage that ran me over and how this whole mess had begun. He saw me waking up to Castiel and Keep on the side of a London road and I pulled painfully back out of his grip, squeezing my eyes shut because I knew what was coming next. “Open your eyes,” his voice was low, calm enough to send a chill down my spine. The old fear came over me and I couldn’t fight it, I opened my eyes; pale blue green eyes. “Castiel.” I blinked and the colour was gone as if it had never been. Lucifer’s eyes flashed and the fire between Castiel and us burned with a new life. “I’d have thought that after the last seal, you wouldn’t have done it again.” I pulled the cross from his grip, ignoring the fact that the silver burned my fingers as I bared sharp teeth at him in a silent snarl.

“After last time?”

“You lost your home-” I cut him off with a harsh laugh before his twisted sense of logic could take him any further.

“Hell was not my home,” I spoke through grit teeth, “this place was my home, and now you’re burning it to the ground. The pain I went through escaping was worth it, it got me away from you!” Lucifer’s eyes came to life with a fire that would normally have silenced me before I could say more, but I didn’t care anymore. “To think that you thought I would love you,” my voice became a snarl, “that you could be loved,” my laugh was harsh, “I was nothing more than an attack dog and a whore to you and all three realms knew it. The only thing I liked about my life then,” a wicked grin tugged at the corner of my mouth, “was when I was here, because even if I had to kill some poor, possibly innocent fool of a monster, at least I didn’t have to deal with you for a while.” I don’t think I was even considering the possible consequences that could, and would, come from those words; I just knew that it felt good to finally be able to say them to his face. Lucifer grabbed me by the arm and threw me, luckily, through two archways and, rather unluckily, into the stone chimney of the fire place in my sitting room. He started to follow me through the rubble but Keep chose then to appear seemingly from nowhere and throw his full 507 pounds at Lucifer. I allowed myself a sigh of relief as they went down, Keep’s massive jaws viciously snapping at Lucifer’s throat with sharp teeth.

“You.” I tore my gaze away from the fire and Keep’s hulking shape as he tried to tear off Lucifer’s head. Este stood to one side of the wreckage, unfazed by the destruction and the flames raging around her.

“What the Hell is wrong with you, Este? I told you to get out of here!” I shouted the words at her as I struggled to my feet.

“You have to die.” I stared at her as my home became a living inferno around us. Her eyes blazed gold, alight with the belief that her words carried. “You have to die,” she repeated the words as she began to weave a spell in the air and light in front of her, murmuring the words in an ancient form of Greek as she lifted her hand and the ground began to split at my feet. It opened wider as I tried to move away but my body had suddenly begun to weigh more than I could bear and I feared that I might tumble into the darkness that seemed so eager to swallow me whole.

“Este,” I struggled to speak but my words were lost on her, she wasn’t the witch I had come to know anymore. Her cat eyes seemed to glint with gold thread as she approached.

“It is written in the books that you must die today,” she gave me a wicked cat’s grin, “it’s nothing personal.” I couldn’t bring myself to believe her; the whole thing felt incredibly personal and I started to say as much, but I didn’t get the chance. I stared as blood suddenly began to bloom from around the point of a wooden stake in the fabric of her already tattered gown. Este looked up slowly from the stake. Her eyes met mine and for that moment, time seemed to stand still. Blood began to run from her mouth and I stared as she fell to her knees, her gaze mirroring the shock in my own. I watched her eyes roll closed as she slid to ground, blood staining her light hair red as it pooled on the wood floor. In that moment, the world was silent, despite the inferno that raged around us and the ground that still trembled with the last echoes of what had become Este’s final spell. Nate let go of the stake in Este’s back as I slid to my knees on solid ground and he looked over at me with his usual dead gaze, seemingly oblivious to the blood that splattered his face.

“What did she mean by ‘the books’?” I swallowed my voice and started to shrug; to point out that this wasn’t really the time for such questions even if I’d had an answer, but then the earth gave one final tremor and he and Este’s body disappeared in the dust, fire, and debris as what was left of the ceiling and roof collapsed into the room. I choked on the ash that had filled the air and looked up through the hole of my roof at the sky as the sun began to set. Great, raven coloured wings spread from the ink on my back and with one powerful downward thrust they had carried me through the hole and into the air above my home. As I drifted in lazy circles around my home, I was tempted to run, to just let my wings carry me to some remote place where I’d never be found. The cold wind that carried the scent of smoke and death was the thing that finally made it clear to me: there was no more running away. Este was dead. My home was being torn apart. Castiel and Keep had both been lost somewhere in the destruction. My life was burning in the library. The point of no return had been the moment I left Hell. I folded my wings in and started to fall, using them only to steer myself home. The wind and smoke stung my face and tore my hair from its untidy knot as I dove. I didn’t use my wings to slow me down as I neared the roof; I used them to turn myself feet first and then folded them back away into the ink. The impact sent pain shooting up my legs and the roof collapsed from under the force of my dive. I landed on the floor of the hallway in a less than graceful manner and pressed a hand against the hole in my chest as it ached painfully.

“Lucy,” I called out into the dark in a sing song tone but I was only met with silence. “Cas?” In an instant my tone turned serious, maybe even a tad worried, but still I got no reply. A ball of black fire sparked and came to life in the air above my palm and I used the flames to patch the hole in my chest before using it to light my search of what was left of my home in hopes of finding signs of life, no matter friend or foe. I found Jenny at the end of the hallway just outside Castiel’s door. She was weeping, clutching Nate’s body to her chest. He’d been torn open by the claws of something easily five times the size of Keep. From the looks of Jenny’s wounds, she wasn’t far behind her brother. I hesitated a moment before I used the last of my mercy, stepping up to rest a hand on her shoulder and silently remove the seal I’d placed on the wound from Alter’s arrow to keep the poison from spreading. She looked up at me and I watched her eyes as all of her grief and all of her pain slid away into death. I didn’t feel sorry for them; I guess that should have been my first hint but at the time I assumed it was because I knew they’d wake up and be mostly alright, even if I never saw them again. I carried their bodies out through a hole in Castiel’s room and laid them side by side under my oak tree. When I climbed back through the hole and into the house I couldn’t find Castiel, which I took to be a mostly good sign, and Keep gave no reply when I whistled for him. “If you hurt them Lucy,” I grinned wider as I called into the black of the ruins of my house, “I swear to God that I will make you wish you’d never made me.” That should have been my second clue, the madness that consumed my thoughts, but I didn’t notice anymore; I didn’t care to keep track. I heard was the sound of bones breaking and cracking as they reshaped themselves into a beast I’d thought long extinct. I saw the dark shape as it moved in the dark, but I couldn’t yet tell what it was. When I turned towards it, I found myself staring into a set of enormous red gold eyes that matched a snake’s. As I stared into the dark at him, I heard him move again, the occasional ink black scale catching the light of the fires. If I hadn’t known who it was, hadn’t recognized those eyes, I’d have been fascinated by such a beast as this; but I had recognized those eyes. We both knew more fire wouldn’t work, but even then I didn’t expect where the next blow came from; I couldn’t see his tail until it was about to hit me. I crashed through a wall and through the side of my house, knocking down multiple trees before I hit the ground and bounced to a stop against another tree. I staggered slowly to my feet and spat blood from my mouth as I held myself up on the tree. I didn’t get the chance to catch my breath before the wyrm climbed through the hole after me. I ran. What else could I do? I wasn’t meant to be the one who defeated Lucifer, that was Jesus’s job. And besides, I was supposed to be dead by now. I shook the thoughts away and ran as fast as I could manage with my injuries and without having the faintest idea of where I was going or what I’d do when I got there. I didn’t slow down until the sound of Lucifer crashing through the trees had quieted with the distance but even then I didn’t stop. The trees suddenly cleared and a few seconds later I had splashed a few paces into the shallows of a small lake. It was then that I realized that I’d been running further into my property. I doubled over to catch my breath and took a moment to be glad I hadn’t been running towards civilization. I let out a whistle and hoped to God that Keep would hear it and be alright. If I had believed that it would do me any good, I would have gotten down on my knees and prayed. But I’m a demon, and what would I say? Let the world not end? It was His book, Lucifer was only a means to an end. Despite everything I was and everything I’d lived through, or perhaps because of it, I dropped to my knees anyway. To say that my faith was shaky would be a bit of an understatement. I knew God was real, but there is a difference between knowing and believing and after everything I’d lived through, I found it difficult to have real faith. I had often told myself that God had a plan and I had a part in it, if only in the apocalypse; I’d tell myself that I was one of His soldiers, I’d just started on the wrong side. I told myself that because, though I didn’t believe it, I needed to believe it. I needed to believe that I wasn’t just Hell’s overglorified attack dog, because that thought alone was enough to send me plummeting into a grief driven madness. All of that worry crossed my mind as I was closing my eyes and, as I opened my mouth to whisper a prayer, I was stuck. I had no idea what I, of all people, would pray for. Let my friends go on unharmed? It was far too late for that. Please let me live? I didn’t want to live anymore, I was tired, and that set of thoughts in themselves were a sin. So I opened my eyes and stared through my hands at the forest floor beyond them as I struggled with my heart and soul. Then I took a deep breath and closed my eyes again. “I know that it’s been a long time, and after everything I’ve done, the chances of You hearing me is probably pretty slim, and frankly I couldn’t really blame You if you decided to ignore me,” I swallowed my nerves, “but I need help. You’re two witnesses are lying dead under my oak tree, Cas-” I stopped to correct myself, “Castiel is missing, I haven’t the faintest idea where Your Son is, and I’m about to die a probably long and painful death. I’m not going to ask that You let me live, I’ve made peace with my fate. Please, I beg though, that You grant me the strength and courage to slow Lucifer down enough that not everyone dies. These people aren’t always good, I know that, but some of them give everything they have, however little that may be, to help others. Your people preach forgiveness and mercy, they say that You’re loving and kind. So I beg of You, give them another chance. They can change. Then do whatever You like with me. I tried my best to protect them, I’m done. In Your Son’s name I pray, Amen.” I swallowed and opened my eyes, looking up at the stars as I climbed back to my feet, “thank You, for giving me hope when I needed it most in my life.” I breathed a heavy sigh and looked back at the trees, listening to the sound of my own death as it grew near, and I waited. Castiel limped out of the trees, leaning on Keep as they moved slowly towards me. “Cas,” I ran to meet them and gave Castiel a hug that surprised us both, “I thought he’d killed you.” I let go after a few seconds and pressed my forehead to Keep’s in a silent greeting. “Thanks for saving me, Keep,” I whispered the words to him and I could swear he gave me a wolfish grin as I pulled away.

“The Rivers’?” Castiel’s voice barely broke the silence and I shook my head.

“They’re both dead for the time being,” I hesitated a moment before I continued, “Este is as well.” He nodded slowly and breathed a heavy sigh. “Is there any chance either of you would listen if I told you to run?” Keep bared his teeth at me in a silent snarl and Castiel shook his head, his gaze cold as ice. I can’t say that I hadn’t expected that response but I had honestly hoped that they would leave. I ran my fingers through my hair and was momentarily struck by a sense of great loss in that I would never play the piano again; how strange, the thoughts one sometimes has when they know they’re going to die. As I turned back towards the oncoming wyrm and the last of the trees between us fell only centimeters from where I stood, a grim tune began to echo in my head. That was the third and final sign; I had never needed more than three. I knew the fires and the destruction that would come next and despite that, or perhaps because of that, a wicked grin tugged at the corner of my mouth and the spark of madness gleamed in my silver eyes. He himself had said that I had been created for destruction; it was only fitting. Lucifer stopped in front of me and I held his unblinking red gold gaze. The world around us was silent, and for the moment it seemed to be only he and I on the lakeshore. Time seemed to move in slow motion as I drew my kindjal again from its sheath at my back, the sound of metal on leather the only sound in the dark. I can’t say what in the three realms I was thinking; I can’t honestly say that I even knew what I was doing. Lucifer inhaled, his head rising up as his snake like body coiled behind him. When he exhaled again, he exhaled fire and I threw up a hand to block it, black fire leaping up from the ground to form a wall in front of me and swallowing the flames. I was no dragon slayer, I’d never even seen one of the beasts before that night, so how I expected myself to deal with this one was beyond me.

“Arron!” Castiel shouted to be heard over the roar of the flames and I looked back from my wall of fire, “It’s the witnesses, ‘he shall be broken without human means’!” My gaze narrowed at his attempt at helpfulness and I bared my teeth at him in an inhuman snarl.

“They’re dead, Cas, they aren’t going to be defeating anyone,” I growled the words back at him and he started to protest but I didn’t let him, “We don’t have three and a half days to wait, so unless you see a miracle or another translation of that verse,” I trailed off and for a moment he simply stared at me, but finally he gave a slight nod and a crooked smile.

“I suppose it’s good that you broke the seals then,” I gave him a wolfish grin and turned back to Lucifer. The wyrm paused in his onslaught and I let the fire wall died down. I smiled up at him from behind my raven hair and lifted a hand. All around us, the shadows erupted into black fire and closed us off from the rest of the world. Lucifer whipped his tail around again and I was sent skipping across the lake’s surface like a stone. I sank like a stone too, when I stopped, struggling to get my head back above the surface as I felt my lungs begin to fill with water. Keep swam out to me, taking the back of my shirt in his teeth and pulling me to the surface. I put an arm over his back and gave him an exhausted smile.

“All of those years wandering around with nothing to do, you’d think that I’d have learned how to swim at some point,” I muttered the words and he bared his teeth at me in agreement. We made our way to the shore as Castiel used a tree as a fire shield while Lucifer tried to burn him. A chill ran up my spine when I saw the hate inn those snake like eyes, but I couldn’t tell if it was from fear or from the chill in the air that came with the ice that spread from the black fire. I shook myself and scooped up a decent sized rock from the shallows. I tossed it up once, my eyes flashing like steel as it caught black fire and hovered above the palm of my hand. “Oi!” I chucked the rock hard and fast at Lucifer’s head in order to get his attention as I shouted the words, “I’m not dead yet!” He seemed to study me in the silence, his head tipped slightly to one side. I plucked up a few more rocks, “You kidnap and kill my friends. You maul my Hounds.” Keep growled his agreement at that one. “You burn my home to the ground. You kept me locked up in a cage when you weren’t using me,” with everything I listed, I threw another rock caught fire until he stood in human form a few paces away. He closed the gap in a few long strides and hit me so hard that it snapped my head around and made my jaw ache immediately.

“I gave you life, you insolent little-” I punched him before he could finish, the fire that licked out from between my fingers singeing his cheekbone. He turned back to me as if in slow motion and I watched as the frost spread out over the side of his face from the burn.

“You gave me an existence Hell, not life.” Keep matched the snarl in my voice as I continued, “No one gave me life; I took it when I got out.” Lucifer smiled, which was in itself disconcerting, but it was the icy light in his eye as he waved a hand and sent me flying into Castiel’s tree that actually made my blood run cold.

“Is there a plan anywhere in this madness?” Castiel moved out of hiding and offered me a hand. I hesitated a moment before taking it.

“A plan?” He nodded slightly as he pulled me to my feet, “I’m sort of... making it up as I go along.” A knife stuck in the tree between us, centimeters from where my hand had been while I was leaning on it. “For now,” I continued as I pulled the knife from the tree, “I need to find my kindjal.” Castiel pulled a short sword from somewhere in his coat and offered it to me hilt first.

“I’ll find your kindjal, but until then,” he pressed the blade into my free hand but it burned like a combination of holy water and silver. I started to protest against both the pain and the idea of leaving him unarmed, but he took hold of the back of my neck with his good hand and murmured a few quick words in Heaven’s Latin. Then he pressed his lips to my forehead in a silent kiss and let go, disappearing through the trees. It took me a moment to recollect myself before I turned slowly back to Lucifer, a blade in each hand. All of my fear was gone as my pain melted away and my mind went blank as the music in my head fell silent. I threw Lucifer’s knife back at him with deadly accuracy but he dodged aside at the last second. I swung the second blade across at his neck but again he moved, the blade just clipping the vein before he sent me skidding back into a tree.

“I remember you being stronger than this,” Lucifer walked slowly towards me, but I didn’t see him. I had collapsed onto my hands and knees, head down, “It’s a shame really, your power used to be so beautiful.” My impact with the tree had thrown me into another coughing fit and I struggled to catch my breath without choking on the blood, “Your time here must have softened you up quite a bit.” Lucifer grabbed a handful of my hair and dragged me to my feet, “I told you that you were coming with me,” his voice was low and he started to drag me away but Castiel’s knife was still in my hand. The blade punched into Lucifer’s back and I drove it up to the hilt into him. I pulled it out as quickly as I’d driven it in and now I twisted painfully out of his grip to watch as he staggered away from me. The wound wasn’t going to kill him, but it would slow him down and I could feel my grip on my own life slipping; I was done, there was nothing left that I could do. I dropped to my knees, the Angel’s blade dripping the Devil’s blood as it slid from my fingers into the rocky sand. I fell sideways, my world spinning away as I hit the ground. Keep’s blood chilling howl broke the silence and a smile tugged at the corner of my mouth; I’d never heard him speak before, and the thought struck me that his voice was beautiful. I blinked in what felt like slow motion and the Hell Hound was blocking me from Lucifer, teeth bared and hackles raised. Lucifer stood, staring into Keep’s black fire eyes, his hand pressed against the wound though the blood continued to seep from between his fingers. I blinked again as I felt Daniel’s icy grip close around my soul.

“Arron!” Castiel’s voice echoed from somewhere I couldn’t place and again I wore a mad smile; he’d gotten his first wish after all, “I take it back!” His words echoed in the silence and I groaned; squeezing my eyes shut.‘Arron.’ I wanted to tell the voice to shut up and let me die in peace, but I’d lost my words when I lost my sight. ‘I don’t want your soul,’ Daniel’s voice echoed again in my head and I frowned. ‘I don’t want your soul,’ he repeated the words and I felt his fingers slip away again. All at once I seemed to come back to life. The pain of all of my injuries flooded over me and I felt my injuries begin to mend themselves in fast forward as the sickness was stolen away from my soul. I could hear Lucifer wrestling with Keep again while Castiel tried desperately to wake me up.

“Cas,” I breathed the name with a barely audible voice and he leaned closer to me, trying to hear what I said next, “turn around and no matter what happens, don’t look.” I didn’t hear his reply over her laughter as I finally gave in, but I knew I didn’t want him to see. I sat down at the grand piano inside my mind and smiled Delante’s wicked grin. As I pressed the first few keys, Delante sat up and opened her eyes; cold, black, empty eyes.

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