As Sotiris watched the walking corpse that was his mother’s body, which now housed her soul stolen from the heavenly realm, the weight of the situation caused him to slump forward and his head to bow. The necklace his mother had gotten him for his birthday spilled out the front of his shirt, as though called forth by the presence of his mother. A soft sigh came from across the room, and Sotiris looked up to see his mother staring at him. A little wink of light flashed beneath his vision from the necklace, and then everything turned to chaos.
As though someone brushed the cobwebs from her mind and stiffness from her body, she moved into action. No one expected Mirinda to move as quickly as she did; the collar and chain were more for effect than a real need to keep her subdued. She spun toward the demon behind her, still kneeling, and wrapped her arm around the chain. When she jerked the demon down and toward her, he was too surprised to do much. Not even when she pulled a dagger from his belt and slit his throat. He died with shock in his eyes as his blood spilled over Mirinda’s desiccated form.
The problem with carrying weapons that were enchanted to kill half angels as easily as a normal weapon could kill a human, is that they can also kill demons. It took a few moments for everyone in the room to catch up, but once they did everything unhinged. While the captives could do little to actively fight, since they had no weapons, and because the demons had orders to keep everyone alive, it became a merry game of ’cause the demons turmoil’. Sotiris and the others tripped, choked with chains, kicked out knees, and generally gave them hell to choke on.
Mirinda being dead meant she was not constrained by a person’s need to live. She could tear herself apart until there was almost nothing left but bone, and she showed no signs of slowing. In fact, when she was able to get to Elias she gave him small touch of her hand, whispered a word, and brought him to his senses in much the same way.
Even as four rebelling captives and two corpses made a mockery of his demons, Kader showed no signs of worry. He sat back, watched, and occasionally side-stepped if the action got too close. Sotiris kept an eye on him, and made his way over to the thrice-damned demon as best he could. When Kader caught Sotiris’ eyes, he merely smirked and tapped the prophecy sword with a finger. Sotiris looked down toward it, and in that instant Kader moved like water given flesh, and with a speed that Sotiris could scarcely track.
Kader dispatched his grandfather first, cutting all the muscles and tendons at vital points to make movement impossible; even the dead had to contend with such physical limitations. His mother turned in time to see Elias fall, and managed to hold off Kader for a few blows, but then she, too, fell to the ground. The two of them had taken out four of the six demons, not including Kader. Their souls remained in the bodies, and would do so until released.
“How droll. You really should have played the game my way. I don’t like cheaters,” he hissed, as madness and anger burned in his eyes with the intensity of the hottest flames of Abaddon.
His mother and grandfather were off to Sotiris’ left, and somewhat forward and to the right stood Charis. Sotiris and Kader moved at the same time. Kader was faster, but Sotiris was closer. Whether Kader thought his speed would beat Sotiris, or he was going too fast to stop, Sotiris stopped in front of Charis and barely turned in time to take the sword through his gut. Its progress was abruptly halted by his spine, which turned out to be a good thing, since Kader’s speed forced him to slam backward into Charis. If the blade had gone through it would have injured her as well.
Thank the Light I got there in time. While relief washed through him like a cleansing rain that washed away the hot summer dust, Kader screamed his anger into Sotiris’ face.
“You incompetent fool!” he spat. Before he could utter another word, terror rippled across Kader’s features. “It was not my fault, my King, please!” he begged, and pushed away from Sotiris and Charis.
Screams echoed off the walls, and Sotiris turned as the other two demons erupted into scarlet flames.
“No!” Kader grunted, and his face turned an alarming shade of red. “I did as you bid. This was not my fault! How was I to know he had a spirit relic?” he shouted, referring to Sotiris’ necklace.
His mother must have stored a small portion of her spirit in the gem, at the height of her potency, which she could use later if needed.
How clever. Sotiris almost smiled.
Though Kader was a powerful demon by any reckoning, the King of Abaddon’s will was far greater. The companions in the room closed their eyes as Kader’s body burst into a conflagration so intense, the fire burned the ceiling.Nothing was left of the demons but black marks on the ground.
“Sotiris!” Charis gave a choked gasp, once the demons were dead. “What have you done?” She pulled her body from beneath his and laid him on his back.
A hard grunt came from his throat as the movement shifted the blade and sent pain screaming through him.
“I could not let you die at the hands of that madman; not if I had the power to prevent it,” he replied, as Charis began to examine the wound.
“I might be able to—” she started, but he brought his arm up and grabbed one of her hands.
“Gut wounds are a terrible, lingering injury, but I doubt we could make it to the portal with me in such a condition. Not to mention the blade hit into my spine and I cannot feel my legs. Healing such an injury is difficult for even the mightiest of Clerics,” he reasoned with her, in short spurts of words. The pain made it difficult to talk in reasonable sentences, but he needed her to understand.
“But we have to try—the vision said…It said you are our savior,” she whispered past the lump in her throat.
“A savior at the cost of one of your lives? I could not bear it. Not before the act or after. Even the thought of killing Damien leaves a sour taste in my mouth, if you can imagine it.” He chuckled and gasped at the tightening of his abdomen muscles.
“Remove the blade and let me bleed freely. Just please release my mother and grandfather from their bodies before you leave. I could not bear the thought of them stuck in such an existence,” Sotiris pleaded with Charis.
“I was already doing so,” Damien bit out the words, which were as bitter as burned koffee.
“Thank you, Damien,” Sotiris said, and the gratitude came surprisingly easy to him. He turned back to Charis, who set her mouth in a grim line.
“No, I will save you and in turn you will save us. Zoe, to me,” she said, determination lending an edge as hard as granite to her voice.
“Charis—” Sotiris started. But the look she gave him sent any protests from his mind.
Zoe quickly came over and knelt next to Charis, who removed the gloves from her hands to reveal the scarred, clawed mess. As best she could she put both hands over the wound, the blade between her fingers, ready to put pressure on the wound as the blade was drawn out.
“Now, Zoe,” Charis breathed, and readied herself for the pain. Zoe had a two-handed grip on the sword, and did not fool around as she yanked it up. It would normally not have been smooth since it had lodged in his spine, but Zoe made it seem as though she’d been pulling swords out of stomachs and spines every day of her life.
The sword sliced through the flesh between Charis’ pointer fingers and thumbs, and she immediately put pressure on the wound. She looked over to Zoe and nodded once. Zoe moved back, held the point-end of the sword in one hand with the hilt in the other for balance, and very precisely cut long, deep cuts from both of Charis’ wrists and down her forearms. Before Sotiris could say a word Charis began to pray.
“Lord of Light, though I know these hands cannot heal, healing is in my blood–given to me by you. Would that he live and be whole again, I would gladly give my life, so he may in turn save the lives of many others. I pray to you now, please let me heal him,” she finished with a whisper.
At first, nothing happened, she simply bled and bled, but then her blood started to glow. Not with the scarlet glow the demons had when they were vanquished, but the golden glow of the angels. The more she bled, the more his pain lessened, and the more he could feel in his legs. Just as she was on the edge of passing out, his pain stopped, and he sat up in time to catch her.
He expected her to perish, her life given for his, but when he started to turn her over in his lap, she moved to help him. Shock and disbelief mirrored in each others faces.
“How can this be?” he asked, and wondered at the miracle of it.
“Because this was how it was meant to happen,” the voice of his mother said from across the room. Except it was not just his mother’s voice, but overlaid by another—an Archangel’s. With the presence of the Archangel, her body was able to move again despite the wounds.
“What do you mean?” Damien asked, tone respectful and polite, yet still demanding.
“Did you truly think a blade that could help conquer the King of Abaddon, would be forged from such a selfish act as killing one’s comrade simply to ensure our victory?” the Archangel shook his mother’s head. “Nay. All life is sacred, and doing so would have created a powerful blade, to be sure, but not one capable of what the two of you saw in the vision. It had to be through an act of pure selflessness from both of you. One without the other would not have made it possible,” he finished, then looked upward.
“My time here is done. I shall escort Mirinda and Elias back to their rightful places,” he declared.
As the glow diminished, Sotiris caught a final glance from his mother: pride mixed with happiness. His grandfather acknowledged him with a nod, and then the two of them left their earthly bodies. They crumbled to bone and dust on the floor.
“We did it,” Sotiris breathed, and looked around at his companions.
All of them burst into laughter, except Damien, though he did muster a tired, albeit rusty, grin.
“So what now?” Zoe asked.
Sotiris looked at Charis, and the heat from his gaze made her blush.
“Now we go and make the vision a reality—all the vision,” he said, and gave Charis a wicked grin.
“You knew?” she whispered in surprise, and he chuckled.
“Well, it took me awhile, but when we spoke the other night I started to put it together. You were that familiar presence by my side,” he said, voice low and tender. He reached for her hands, and when he took them in his it was the first time she realized they were healed.
Her eyes widened in shock and then she cried tears of joy. “Lord be praised,” she said when she’d finished.
Sotiris nodded in agreement.
The two of them stood up and Zoe handed Sotiris the sword. With Charis at his side and the sword in his hand, the moment was a crystalline flash of perfection, forever etched in his mind.
“Let’s get to it,” Sotiris said, and gave Charis’ hand a small squeeze. They left the monastery behind and took the first step on their path to victory.
I couldn’t ask for anything more. And he never did.