Writing Prompt ~~ Of Fire and Rage

The lake was still and shiny as glass, as if he could step on it and walk all the way across. It was one of those days when anything seems possible, and he stood there, breathing deep and imagining taking the first step. Then the cracking of the ice like a whip cutting the air. He shivered, the phantom sensations of frigid water washing over him, swallowing him down. Inhaling water. Sinking. Drowning.

It had been a day where anything seemed possible, just as every day with her had been, and just as quick as Hope had taken root in his soul, She’d ripped it to shreds.

Though the lake whispered sweet nothings to him like the lover he’d just lost, his feet remained firmly on the shore. The snow crunched beneath his black combat boots each time he shifted his weight, and the cold seeped into every last inch of him with icy, grasping fingers. He didn’t shiver. In fact, anyone looking on might believe he was at ease, admiring the lake. The only sign of tension was out of sight: his fists clenched in his jacket pockets.

That, and the blood.

It wasn’t the first time he’d been covered with it, though he wished such things had been left in his past where they belonged. But he’d let his guard down and this was the price. He sighed, and turned his face upward to lock onto to the Heavens above, containing thousands of stars, a full moon, and darkness between them all that didn’t hold a candle to the cold dark that consumed his soul. His crystalline blue eyes were flat and dull.

“For over a thousand years I have served you,” he said, the edge of his voice ragged. “Why?” he asked, the word ripped from the rawness of what remained of his soul.

No answer. There never was. He growled, and ran a hand over his blood-spattered, bone white hair.

“Forgive me,” she whispered. “I’d never want to add to your pain, but I wouldn’t trade this time for anything. I love you.” A weak smile lovingly graced her lips, and she brushed an errant lock of his hair from his forehead. Then her smile faltered, her usually warm, caramel eyes slid to a distant point over his left shoulder, and her arm fell to the floor of the cabin. She was gone.

He clutched her tighter to him, his face buried in her shoulder and hair. Even over the multitude of death scents hanging heavy on the air—blood, bowels, burned flesh, and more—he could still smell her. Vanilla, cinnamon, and apples. She’d joked that it probably had nothing to do with what she actually smelled like, and more his insatiable sweet tooth in regards to baked goods.

He’d run his hands through the thick, wavy, golden brown locks each chance he had, and this would be the last. He didn’t even care that said hair was covered in blood. The already drying, tacky fluid on the strands left trails of it on his face, as though someone had raked their claws across it.

He didn’t move for some time, and though his muscles screamed and cramped he refused to break the moment. To leave her. Eventually, though, he did. The only signs of his grief were the clear tracks of skin cutting through the red.

He hadn’t been able to leave her there, amidst the bodies and scattered bits of demon decorating what was left of the main room like gory confetti. But when he’d broken the shovel on his first thrust trying to penetrate the frozen ground, he fell back on the old ways.

Unlike creatures from other realms or dimensions, demons were bound to the earth and did not disappear on death. It was messy business, killing demons, even more so covering the evidence up. The human idea of what they thought their world was versus what is was, was tenuous and fragile. Humans tended to react rather violently at any disturbance in regards to their concept of their world. He could only be glad that his training in the early years happened when telling someone you were hunting demons got you praise, instead of a ‘go straight to the institution’ ticket.

The cottage burned brightly enough that someone might have wagered that white phosphorus had been thrown into the one-room structure, but that wasn’t the case. Lower-level and construct demons—demons created from the blood and/or flesh of more powerful demon—had highly flammable blood. It was not uncommon for larger demons to scoop up a handful, eviscerate them, set them on fire, and then lob them at opposing forces.

He grimaced as one particularly gruesome battle surfaced in his mind. A village, a hot summer, lots of straw, thatched-roof huts, and a horde of construct demons.

After setting the cottage ablaze, which would surely attract the local authorities no matter how remote their location, he moved back over to her cairn. Though he knew it was an abuse of powers, he could not bring himself to care. They could take his power, for all the good it’d done him, and shove it up their self-righteous asses. He’d used the hot, white light that burned deep within his core to carve out a footstone. The cairn itself overlooked the lake, and he would have done better for her if the fight had not taken so much out of him.

 

Emily Grace Farwell

25 December 2017

“Hope is seeing light in spite of being
surrounded by darkness”

 

“You were my light,” he rasped, his throat protesting the abuse it’d received between the yelling and smoke inhalation.

He looked to the sky once more and scowled. “I might not have been your most well-behaved soldier, but no one deserved this. Were you trying to teach me I didn’t belong here? Well, bang-up job.” He ground the words out from between clenched teeth.

When he turned his eyes back down to the cairn, his glower softened for a moment before snapping back in full force.

“Damn you, Emily! I told you how dangerous it was to be with me, but you never listen. You let optimism and hope guide you, and it set you on the path to your grave.” He shook his head. “I know I’m to blame for this, and you could have had so much—“

“God, you were always pathetic,” a female voice interrupted him, the tone half exasperated and half disgusted.

His frown deepened and his lip curled into sneer. He turned around and took in the figure near the tree line. She was tall, her body hard, lean, and scarred from countless battles. Their uniform had received upgrades over the centuries, evolving with military trends. They currently sported cargo pants, long-sleeved, lightweight tactical combat shirts, combat boots, and armor that consisted of a vest as well as pieces that covered just about anything but their joints. A deviation from the conventional might be their magical shielding that channeled their inner power through the plating, as well as gorgets and inner-thigh plating to discourage werewolves, vampires, and anything else that might want to gain access to a major artery for a snack or quick kill. While a solider in the desert had to worry about IEDs, their brand of combat was more concerned with not having your throat torn open by something with fangs. The material was magically enhanced to be just about anything one could hope for: lightweight, temperature-controlled, flexible, and nigh indestructible. Of course, they never did seem to get away from the red color scheme, which was as dark as a full-bodied red wine like Syrah.

Her platinum white hair was cropped nearly as short as his. Flint grey eyes matched the brittle laugh she let out at his regard, and it sounded as though it was sharp enough to make the air bleed.

The one thing she was not carrying was her sword, which sent a shock through him that trembled down to his very core. No one went anywhere without their weapon. Ever. Even within their stronghold, no one was ever to be unarmed. It was as good as him looking at her naked, which still didn’t even begin to cover how weird it was, since he knew she showered with the damn thing strapped to her back.

“Sabrael,” he greeted, tone cautious. His snarling anger had drained away in the face of her…bareness.

Her eyes narrowed, but a small, vicious smile quirked the corner of her mouth. “I told Them it would get even your temperamental attention, Desh.”

Tadeshiel—Desh—scoffed. “Considering it’s almost like you’re flitting around missing a limb, I’d say so,” he replied scathingly.

“Is that how you’ve felt the last three years?” she asked, tilting her head to the side as she considered him.

Her words jabbed at him like tiny knives in his weakest spots. “That’s not your business,” he hissed, and spat the words at her like venom.

“So that’s a yes,” she said brightly, and ignored his growling in favor of examining her nails. “No one believed you’d last this long, and especially not the human, what with her being as fragile as they are.” She tilted her head to the cairn.

“Also none of your business,” he said, tone low and warning.

It was her turn to scoff. “Not my business? You mean when my partner abandons the Order we’ve been a part of for over a thousand years, and then taking up with a human no less—”

“I—”

But she overrode him, “—after everyone told him, over and over that it was a bad idea, even by those who had been through the exact same situation? But no, it’s none of my business when the High and Mighty Tadeshiel, He Who is Perfect in Every Way, Slayer of Armies, Possessor of the Thickest Skull in the History of—”

“None of those are my proper titles—”

“—the Order, One Who Knows Better than All, up and abandons us—me!—in the middle of the biggest battle, during the biggest war we’ve had in centuries. That doesn’t concern me?” Her voice had reached a fever pitch with her final word. Her eyes bled from their usual grey to molten gold as her power rose with her anger.

In the face of Desh’s numb silence, she continued.

“Do you realize what you put everyone through when you laid your sword down? I can’t even begin to recount the ramifications, since we were in the middle of a battle and one of our Imperial Legates walked away!”

Still, he said nothing.

“I don’t even know why they sent me out here to speak with you,” she said, her disgust almost palpable on the air like slime. “You’re nothing but a co—”

“I watched him die!” Desh shouted, his chest heaving witht he sudden onslaught of emotions Sabrael’s presence had evoked.

Sabrael’s expression was one of bewilderment. “Who…?”

Desh ran a hand through his hair. He’d done that a lot today. “Douma.”

She raised a single brow. “Douma?”

Desh blew out a sigh and nodded.

“The…healer?” she questioned, not quite able to place the name. To be fair, she had her own legions to oversee, so the fact she could even come close to the mark was impressive. Though, she’d always had a knack for memorizing troop names, faces, and abilities so could put them in a weird ranking system in her mind as to their usefulness. Also, it made punishments easier when she could identify all her troops on sight. He couldn’t figure out how she did it.

“Yes,” Desh said, exasperated. “The healer. He was…newer to our ranks. Under 100. Bright kid.”

Sabrael pursed her lips into a thin line at the mention of the healer’s age. “That’s practically a toddler.” After a small pause, though, she sighed. “Desh, we die all the time. I mean, not as often as the demons, mind you,” she said, and a ghost of a smile played over his lips. “It’s all part and parcel of what we do.”

Desh growled again. “I know that. It wasn’t necessarily the fact that he died, it was more how everyone behaved after it.”

A mop of curly black hair, a lopsided, dimpled smile, and eyes that Desh realized now were so close in shade to Emily’s it made his chest ache. The demons had exercised their evil tendencies to the upmost of their ability when they came across the tent of injured warriors. Though immunes were trained in combat, they were caught unawares. None survived.

Desh walked into the small clearing where his immunes used to be, his eyes searching for one face in particular. When he found him, body cut nearly in two as it covered an injured warrior, there was no question in Desh’s mind that Douma had tried to protect the injured with his own life.

‘He was probably waiting for you to show up and save the day,’ a voice had whispered in his mind. A cruel thought from the darkest recess of his mind, and one that had repeated like a mantra since that moment, slowing wearing away at his sanity.

He’d tried to regroup and secure the area, but what he saw on the faces of his soldiers made his gut twist: knotted eyebrows, narrowed eyes, curled lips and wrinkled noses. Disgust. Whether it was at the situation, him, or both, Desh didn’t know. They didn’t want to expend forces to secure a clearing of dead bodies, despite the fact that each of them had been saved by the immunes at one point or another.

It didn’t matter that, logically, the commander in him knew they were correct. All he could think about was the young man who spoke with such passion about being an immune, he’d nearly put Desh’s eye out as he moved his hands with his words. Between the sight of Douma giving his last breath to save his patient, and failing, and what Desh saw on the faces of his soldiers, he was done. Desh looked into each and every face around him for some flicker of guilt or remorse, but when none was forthcoming he drew his sword. Leveling his coldest sneer at the lot of them, he thrust his sword into the blood-soaked earth, turned on his heel, and left everything he’d known for a thousand years.

Now here he was. Douma and Emily were dead, and all he had gained was a seething, thick pool of bitterness and grief weighing on his soul.

She was quiet in the face of his prolonged silence, but tilted her head to let him continue. Feelings and such weren’t really her area of expertise or comfort, but she did care about keeping her mission success rate as close to perfect as possible. She was ruthless and efficient; she applied pressure and words expertly to achieve the desired results and emotions, even if she didn’t completely understand said emotions herself. This contributed to her high success rate, and she’d be damned if Desh was going to try and screw that up—again.

They were opposites in just about every way, but their opposition complemented each other, which is why their legions always worked closely together. Where he was compassionate, she was merciless. Her pragmatism tempered his idealism, and while they were both intelligent, she was shrewder in tactical thinking while Desh was more perceptive with the emotional element. Sabrael was authoritative in her command, while Desh was participative.

And that was where the problem came in.

When he said nothing more, she scowled. “You got too emotionally attached to one of your subordinates, and when everyone else didn’t stop in the middle of a battle and sob along with you, you took it upon yourself to just abandon us?”

He could understand how she might perceive it that way, but… “Douma was young, exceptionally talented, and proud to serve, but none of that mattered to them. Some of Malgareth’s forces managed to break the line close to where the non-combatants were positioned. I had told Tearny, the Prime Immunes, to move camp earlier in the day, but he argued that many of the gravely wounded could not be moved.” His voice went soft at the last part, because that had been his first mistake, borne from his compassion.

Sabrael honed in on it like a bird of prey on a field mouse. “So instead of moving everyone else save the gravely wounded, whose chance of living was less than everyone else around them, you let your subordinate play on your kindness. Instead a handful being slaughtered they wiped out your Immunes, including this Douma,” she finished.

As she spoke, his demeanor shrank in on itself as her words beat him about his head and heart, making him small and frail. There was a howling in the back of his mind, like a storm ready to break upon the shore of his sanity.

“I revise my previous statement: you’re a coward and an idiot.”

He snapped. In his fight with the demons that took Emily’s life, he’d known his physical abilities had deteriorated over the three years he’d been away. Chopping wood was not an equal replacement for near-constant battle training. However, when he flashed across the clearing to attack Sabrael, he realized just how far he’d fallen.

Construct demons were pathetic, and the only advantage they usually had were numbers. That’s what happened with Emily. That and the fact she was human and fragile, and all he had were his personal magics and no sword. Sabrael, on the other hand, was not a construct demon. She’d always been top of just about every class they took, and she relished hand-to-hand combatives.

Sabrael turned, his fist missing her face. She grabbed his arm, continued his momentum with a slight adjustment, and her power flared. Her strength easily tripled with the surge of energy, and the trees surrounding the clearing never stood a chance.

Sabrael flashed to the impact crater past half a mile of splintered evergreens. He was dazed, and the disturbed snow of the trees created a slight haze and drifted slowly to resettle on the land. Though he’d recover quickly, it wasn’t quick enough if he needed to defend himself from her if she decided to go on the offensive. So when her face appeared in his field of vision, he stiffened. A thrill of terror sped through him like rabbits being flushed from their burrow, and his mind scrambled to clamp down on the dread threatening to overwhelm him. She was smiling. Sabrael only smiled when she was going to kill or heavily maim something.

“I—” he spluttered, trying to find the words, willing his body to cooperate.

“I feel better now, don’t you?” she crooned.

His eyes widened.

“Now,” she said, her tone deadly calm and smile sickly sweet, “I read the after battle reports, which were as painful to procure as it would be to drink incaendium piss—” Desh flinched at that glorious imagery, “—because fully half of both our forces were slaughtered. All because you decided to let personal guilt outweigh your duty and responsibility to your people. Not mine, not the Order’s, yours,” she said, the last word hissing and full of contempt.

“Sabr—”

She kicked him in the ribs. It might not have looked like much, but the cracking that reverberated through his body followed on its heels by searing pain and an inability to breathe begged to differ.

“I’m not finished. It’s rude to interrupt,” she said, voice calm again.

When he finally managed to drag in a breath, he coughed, and could not fully breathe in. His chest was tight, and his vision started to darken around the edges. Sabrael rolled her eyes and leaned over. He tried to move away, but she dug her finger painfully into the spot she’d kicked and he writhed in response. As her power moved through his body, it was as though someone had poured molten metal through his veins. His back arched and his fingers curled with the need to claw at something.

He’d forgotten how much healing hurt, especially coming from someone as unsuited to it as Sabrael. Yes, any of them could heal, but with a lack of a healer’s precision and temperament, it was like cutting off a limb to cure a broken bone. It worked…sort of. The only reason Desh could stand it was the fact they were of a similar potential strength. If she tried this with someone further down the respective ladder than them, they could die from the shock.

When she removed her finger, and along with it her power, he sagged back into his crater. His consciousness and body were floating in the wake of so much foreign power running rampant through his body.

“Drink this, or you’ll be useless for the next day,” a voice said, the words floating like dandelion fluff through his mind.

Something cool and hard pressed into his lips, but when he didn’t open his mouth the voice scoffed with disgust and forced it open. The liquid that hit the back of his throat was refreshing and cool like a mountain stream, followed closely on its heels with what felt like lightning dancing over his nerves. Desh gasped, and then coughed when some of the potion went down the wrong way.

When he’d relearned how to breath, he opened a bleary eye. Desh didn’t know how long he lay there, out of his mind, but when he came to Sabrael was sitting on a stump, her chin propped in the palm of her hand. Her eyes were back to their usual grey, her power having receded to just below the surface.

Given what Desh knew of Sabrael, he wasn’t sure if staying silent or speaking would contribute to his continued existence. As she watched him like a bug she was deciding whether or not to crush, Desh took a chance.

“Why are you here, Sabrael?” The words came out roughly, reflecting his weariness like a mirror.

She simply continued to look at him for a moment, not answering. Just as he started to say something else, she spoke.

“We want you back.”

The words froze his insides as though he’d actually plunged into the lake as he had imagined earlier.

“No.” It was a knee-jerk, instant response. The word hadn’t finished forming in his mind before it flew from his lips.

She raised a single eyebrow, the one on the right that was bisected by one of her many scars.

“Wallowing in self-pity for three years isn’t enough?” she asked, scathingly.

Desh scowled. “I just buried someone I loved, and you want me to jump back into the fray?”

Sabrael snorted and shook her head. “As if they’d put you in charge again after what you pulled? No.” She paused and cast a sly glance his way. “Despite the mess you left, I managed to beat back the demon horde, and as a result I earned a shiny new promotion. My record has never been better. We recently won a major battle and they offered me a reward. I chose you.” She shrugged.

Desh’s eyes bulged. “But you said They sent you to talk to me—”

“I lied to make you angry,” she said, cutting him off with a nonchalant wave of her hand as well as her words. She scanned the surrounding area. “And it worked. It broke the tension you were holding like a taut bowstring, and made you stop and listen because I could beat the wings off you right now. Now, do I have your attention?”

He quieted but held his glare. She’d manipulated him, and easily at that. He gave her a grudging nod, his teeth gritted against lashing out with words, and his fists clenched, because using those had proven equally as useless.

“Good,” she said, looking like the cat who ate the canary. “As I said, you were my reward.” She paused again and sniffed, looking down her nose at him. “Though maybe not a good one. This was my one chance to bring you back into the fold with minimal fuss, because they want to keep me happy and winning battles.”

“I still don’t see how this benefits me. I don’t want to go back,” he said, grumpy and dare he think it, even pouting a bit? He didn’t like to lose, and Sabrael had him at a distinct disadvantage.

She huffed out an annoyed breath. “If you’d shut up, I’m not finished,” she snapped.

Desh shut his mouth accordingly, though he still didn’t lose the scowl.

“I knew you’d need an incentive, but I haven’t gotten there yet. First, I want you to hear my terms, and if they are agreeable to you then I’ll tell you why I think you’ll jump at the chance of coming back. Okay?” she asked. She stood up then, hand going to her hips as she gazed down at him in his pathetic state. She knew he just needed a little push.

He didn’t like it, but she was going about this in a very fair way for him, but instead of being relieved, it made him all the more suspicious. Instead of luring him with the incentive, and then forcing him to give into her demands, she was giving him the chance to hear her demands, decide if he could handle them, and then walk away if he couldn’t.

It stank as bad as day-old fish left baking in a high summer heat…

“Fine,” he snapped back.

…but something niggled at the back of his brain, driving him forward.

“Good, now these are my demands…”

She droned on for the better part of fifteen minutes, outlining what would and would not be expected of him. It came down to the fact that Sabrael found herself rather displeased with the combat teachers, stating all the good ones had died, retired, or joined the fight on the battlefields. She was wroth about the whole situation, and the lack of proficient teachers was producing sub-par subordinates. This simply would not do.

She offered him an instructor position, but he’d hold no power—not even allowed the usual authority of a magister. She would assign him someone to dole out punishments and rewards and assist him in any way she deemed necessary. He’d be an old wolf with no fangs, teaching the young pups how to be a proper wolf. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

If she had concerns about his pride getting in the way of having no power while she held it all, then he could definitely say no one had been watching him the last three years. They’d written him off, just as he’d wanted. That being said, it was hard to get upset over hurt pride when you had none anymore.

“Okay,” he said quietly, “those aren’t the worst terms given what I did. They are agreeable, and fair.”

Her eyes went a little wide, and it made him smile. He’d surprised her, and it was an interesting, yet somewhat gratifying, feeling.

“Just like that?” she asked, incredulous.

Desh nodded. “Just like that. Now spill, and tell me why you think I’ll come back, even with such a kind offer,” he said, though he couldn’t keep the mocking tone out of his voice. Nothing in Heaven, Hell, or on Earth would get him to go back…

“Malgareth is back.”

…except maybe that.

Eyes blacker than the void, heartless as a force of nature, curved horns, and a cold smirk danced in his vision, which had gone an alarming shade of crimson. A casual and cruel taunt on the battlefield, suggesting that he should check on his immunes instead of wasting time losing a fight with him.

He closed his eyes, and his body shook with the force of the rage that howled through him like a tornado of fire and fury. Desh was glad he was still laying on the ground. He wasn’t sure he could have kept his feet in the face of that revelation in combination with his recent healing.

When he opened his eyes again, Sabrael’s face was split with a feral, pleased grin at the expression she saw on his face. He took in a deep breath, let it out, and narrowed his gaze on her.

“When can we leave?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Song Inspiration: Demons by Jacob Lee

Silver and Gold: A Story of Damien

Silver and Gold: A Story of Damien

He tugged at the itchy, constricting collar and cursed, not for the first time, about the ridiculous decisions of those in charge.

“It is not going to get any better no matter how much you pull at it,” an amused voice said from the doorway. Damien turned to find his older, and only, brother there, leaning against the door frame in his own ludicrous get-up.

“I see no reason why we must participate in such an embarrassing event. There are many things better suited to our time,” Damien griped, and adjusted the stiff fabric of the elaborate brocade vest. The embroidery was silver, and scratched at his skin like a deranged cat, and it was made to match the mask sitting on his dresser.

“Everyone needs a break, now and again, Damien–even you, though you’ve yet to realize it,” Elias said with an amused grin. In his brother he saw a reflection of himself, in some ways, such as the strong jaw, just above average height, and wide shoulders made to carry burdens. The greatest difference was their coloring; Damien was paler, and had hair as dark as a starless, moonless night, while Elias had the light brown hair of maple leaves and tanned far easier.

Damien’s clothing was made to match his hair; at the thought he tugged down on the vest once again, and wondered if the seamstress had rounded down when she sized him for his breeches. At least the boots fit well, but they’re not good for anything except dancing, he thought, disgusted at such a waste.

“Some of us take too many breaks,” Damien replied, and cut a look toward Elias, whose honey brown eyes were fairly glowing with delight. Elias laughed, a deep, hearty belly laugh that burst from him like the boom of a cannon.

“Hanne said the Healers say it will be a little girl,” Elias reported, as the proud, happy soon-to-be father. Despite his foul mood in regards to the masquerade ball they were being forced to attend this evening, Damien smiled.

“Congratulations, brother; I am sure you and Hanne will make wonderful parents,” Damien said, and his brother wrapped him in a big, boisterous hug. Damien returned it, and kept in mind this might be the last time he’d see his brother for a while. In fact, the next time would likely be months after he’d, officially, become an uncle.

“From happiness to grim, just like that,” Elias said and snapped his fingers. “What is bothering you?” he asked, and moved back to lean against the doorway again.

“Just thinking on my first assignment,” Damien said, and didn’t look his brother in the eyes. Elias was much older than Damien, and had been fighting with the Disciples for almost as long as Damien had been alive. The ease with which he spoke of such things made Damien proud to have him as a brother, but a little jealous as well; he wasn’t sure if he could ever get rid of the nervous tangle in his gut.

“Ah, yes, up into the mountain ranges for you all, yes? And I hear your commander is a real hard-nose when it comes to new recruits,” Elias teased, just a little. Damien scowled at him but didn’t respond, just grabbed the mask from the dresser and glanced at the packed travel pack near the doorway. He’d be leaving tomorrow around noon, since the Head of the Disciples decided to have the masquerade after a particularly grueling fall campaign to lighten spirits, and no one was expected to wake early.

Damien did not plan on staying all night; in fact he would make an appearance and then slip away to get a good night’s rest. The only reason he, a new recruit, got to go to the party was due to Elias’ status as a commander.

“I guess we will have to see,” Damien said, and though his brother was likely just trying to scare him about the commander, Damien felt that a little toughness and a stickler for rules was needed around here.

“Well, come on, then, or Hanne will send the guards after us,” Elias said, and the two of them left Damien’s room and made their way to the great hall. The long tables which usually sat the Disciples who came and went to write reports and eat their meals, were pushed against the walls to clear the floor for dancing and mingling. The tables themselves were covered in beautiful pure white tablecloths, and enough food that the wood almost groaned beneath the weight.

Disciples and other honored guests such as the Lords and Ladies of the noble Houses, were talking, laughing, and some danced to the light, heavenly music. Elias and Hanne were embraced and swayed slowly to the song, and Damien doubted much could have wiped the smiles from their faces. Everyone wore masks, though if one knew what to look for, being able to tell who was who was easy enough.

“More of a people watcher, are you?” The question came from behind his right shoulder, the voice warm as the sun in spring, and Damien turned to see a woman whose dark chestnut eyes were amused, but so intense Damien almost took a step back. Her face was mostly covered by a golden mask that accented her brown skin and eyes beautifully, and her dress was an ornate affair with fiery colors of red and orange embroidered with gold to match her mask.

Instead he straightened his spine and inclined his head. “As you say, Lady; I am not much of a conversationalist, or dancer,” he stated, though for a brief second he almost wished he was.

She inclined her head in return, which was quite a feat in Damien’s mind since her light brown hair, the color of leaves turned in the fall and left to lighten in the sun, was piled artfully on top of her head. One wrong move and it appeared it might all come tumbling down. Not a bad option, the back of Damien’s mind piped up, but he squelched it. He had no time for such dalliances.

“Nonsense,” she replied, as thought she could hear his thoughts, and hooked one of his arms with hers and led him to the floor. “Everyone can dance if they find the right partner,” she concluded. Damian was so taken aback with the contact, and her bold attitude, he let her lead him along like a dutiful child. When his first foot hit the dance portion of the floor his mind flew into a panic, and he cast about for his brother. He caught Elias’ eye but his brother just grinned, pleased at Damien’s predicament. Curse you, Damien glared, and he didn’t hear his brother laugh but he certainly saw it.

“Now place your hand here..” she instructed, and continued to do so for the next twenty minutes or so. Gradually, Damien relaxed into the dance, though by no means did he believe he improved, but at least he hadn’t stepped on or tripped anyone. A major improvement in his book.

“You are a lovely dancer, but you need to learn to relax more,” she said, and Damien flushed at the praise but made no response.

Eventually the woman led them off the floor with the pronouncement; “I’m famished!” They headed to the tables and Damien dutifully held their plates as she filled them.

“We have danced for quite some time and yet you still have not introduced yourself, Lady,” Damien said. “My name is–”

“Damien, yes I know,” she said, but wasn’t deterred from her task. She continued to gather food despite Damien’s shock, and when she walked away from the large banquet tables to the smaller ones set up for people to dine at, he followed.

Damien was not so well known outside of the Selection recruits, and it made him wonder how she knew his name.

“And your name?” he asked, and placed the plates on the table she’d chosen. He pulled her chair out for her and she gracefully sat down, despite the stiffness of the dress, which meant she was likely from one of the noble Houses; to have that much grace with sitting in such a stuffy dress would take some time and practice.

“This is a masquerade ball, so why not enjoy the mystery?” she asked, and when it was clear that Damien was hesitant to sit down after such a question, she shrugged and began to eat.

It irritated him, and he was appalled at her lack of manners, but he sat and started to eat, too. Dancing was hungry work, after all. When their plates were finished and cleared by some of the waitstaff he went to ask her, again, what her name was, but she stood. Damien stood as well, surprised at the sudden movement, but his was merely an automatic response to hers.

“I think I will be off to bed now; long day tomorrow. It was lovely meeting you, Damien, and I hope to see you again sometime soon,” she said, a smile on her face as warm as her voice. Before he could respond she turned on her heel and left the room.

Damien stood there, somewhat in shock, but all he could think to himself was; Not likely, as I will be leaving on assignment tomorrow. He started back toward his chambers and though it was just a little later than he would have liked to have stayed out, he grudgingly had to admit it was worth it. I would like to see her again, once more, before I leave. Then he sighed, a little irritated by his response to such a rude, yet enticingly mysterious woman, and flopped into bed. The rest of that night he dreamed of dancing, her soft touch, and the mischief in her eyes.

The next morning found Damien groggy, as his usually deep and peaceful sleep was fitful and difficult to keep a hold on. It is all that blasted woman’s fault, he thought, irritated, as he shoved his legs into his pants with more force than necessary. In the morning light all, or almost all, desire to see the woman again had fled his mind. Instead he wished he could go back and get more rest. Perhaps more rest with her, eh? his brother voice sounded through his mind, and his scowl deepened. Truth tended to bite the worst.

He made his way down to the great hall to have his breakfast, and everything had been put to rights after the party. The familiarity was a balm on his soul–that and a nice helping of eggs, bacon, and potatoes. He made his way down to the courtyard and waited for the others to arrive.

Slowly, the rest of the Selection recruits came into the courtyard and fifteen minutes before noon they assembled by height. Damien was in the back, though he wasn’t the tallest there. The sergeant of their group came into the courtyard from in front of them, and he called them all to attention. A scant moment later a door on the other side of the formation from where Damien was, slammed, and he heard the slow, measured step of boot heels on the stone.

“Good afternoon, recruits,” the warm voice said, and though it was louder than the night before, Damien jolted at the familiar sound of it. From his peripheral he saw the woman from the night before move to the front of the formation, and though she made no outward indication of her recognition, amusement lit her eyes as they swept over him.

“My name is Commander Arella and this will be your first real-world training exercise. It is meant to give you something to sink your teeth into but not get you killed. We will likely experience skirmishes, though nothing as heavy as a pitched battle with the Society. Your job is to learn from those who know more and have more experience, and my job is to make sure you all come back in one piece,” Arella finished, and looked around at the recruits. She nodded once, as if she liked what she saw, and turned to speak to the sergeant.

Their brief conversation over, she left the area and the sergeant ordered them to head over to the stable area to get the wagons, horses, and their assignments. The preparation had been done well in advance, so they were out and on the road within an hour–enough time to have a few hours of travel on the road before dark.

He refused to seek that confounded woman out, but regardless she was making her rounds of all the recruits; talking and getting to know them, and of course she saved Damien for last. Her humor redoubled at the sight of him, scowling and irritated, but she remained composed and didn’t smile–or at least not overly much.

“Greetings, Recruit Damien,” she said, and Damien straightened his spine. While he might not be happy with her, she was still his commander.

“Greetings, Commander Arella,” he replied, but refused to take the conversation any further.

“Do you have any questions for me?” she asked, though there was no teasing in her tone to allude to the night before, for which Damien was grateful–though he still wasn’t pleased.

“Not as such,” he replied, though that was almost certainly a lie.

“I see,” she said, and this time she did smile. “Well, if you come up with anything feel free to ask. The sergeant and I are here to help,” she finished, and moved back toward the front of the caravan.

When she was out of sight, Damien slumped his shoulders and blew out an exasperated sigh. That woman is going to be a handful.

And They Say that a Demon Can Save Us, Final Chapter

Final Chapter

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Final Chapter

Silver and Gold: A Story of Damien

And They Say that a Demon Can Save Us, Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine

It wasn’t long after he’d woken from the dream that the demons came for Sotiris. They took him back to the room where they’d found the dead monk, and since everyone Sotiris encountered was a demon the other monks were likely dead as well. 

Such disregard for life. How could I have ever been one of them? Sotiris never had the taste for the wanton slaughtering of innocents, even when he’d been with the Society. However, where he once held no opinion on the matter, he now found it vile.

with the Society. However, where he once held no opinion on the matter, he now found it vile.

“Ah, brother, to see such a righteous look on your face makes me want to pull your eyes out, and feed them to my Bargh Hounds,” the man from earlier said, as Sotiris came into the room.

He sat on a bench, and leaned back with a slouch to the table with his elbows propped on it. Booted feet were crossed at his ankles, and he looked positively bored. The guards shoved Sotiris to his knees before the man, and he had to look up to meet his gaze.

“Orders are orders, though, and unfortunately I must keep you alive until the weapon is in our possession,” he lamented. “However, I have been given full authority to use anything at my disposal to see the task done,” he finished, detached, but the longing in his eyes burned into Sotiris’ soul, and sent a chill through him.

“I have no idea where the weapon is, and even if I did, brother,” Sotiris said scathingly, going for arrogance instead of fear, “it is unlikely I would willingly give it to the likes of you.”
The man’s laugh was cold and happy, as though Sotiris had unveiled a lovely present.

“I think you will find yourself begging me to take the weapon, in the end,” he replied, with fervent menace.

He switched his gaze to additional guards at a different door, and nodded. The door opened and Sotiris’ heart froze in horror.

“It took a while to find the body; you know how much the earthen plane can change over the centuries,” he said, as he stood and walked over to the chained, animated corpse. “And we were incredibly lucky to find the idiot villagers nearby had buried her with some of her personal effects, making the animation process much easier.”

It wasn’t because his mother’s decaying corpse hunched in front of him that his heart was breaking, it was because they’d gone a step farther and summoned her soul. Understanding, grief, and pain pooled in her eyes, but as she was trapped in a dead body the emotions could not escape them through tears.

“So…So-ti…rissss.” Her voice cracked and hissed. The man who held the chain connected to the collar around her neck yanked once, hard, and she collapsed to her knees.

“Ah, Sotiris’ mother. We have not been formally introduced as of yet, since I’ve had you locked away in that box, but my name is Kader, and I’ll be torturing you and your son today,” Kader cheerfully informed her.

She turned her face toward him and made a motion as though to spit on him, but as with tears she had nothing to use.

“I guess I can’t expect civility from your kind, filthy human that you are, or are you?” he questioned, and looked toward Sotiris with sadistic satisfaction then turned back to his mother.

“Never told this one, did you? Why his grandfather hated him so,” Kader teased.

His mother started to struggle, and noises came from low in her throat.

Kader laughed and moved back toward where Sotiris knelt, and dropped to a crouch at eye-level in front of him. “Did you ever wonder what made you so special that you could lead the Disciples to our presumed defeat, hm?”

Sotiris focused on Kader’s words, and he scowled. “What do you know of it?” he asked. It was something he’d wanted to know for so long—why him?

“Oh, poor little mushroom left in the dark and fed lies. They knew within days of you defecting why you could achieve this task: they just never told you,” Kader said, and remained in a crouch so he could be as close to Sotiris as possible for his next words. “Your grandfather, Elias, was once a Disciple. In fact, he was the older brother of your personal executioner should anything go wrong: Damien. Who is your uncle,” Kader laughed, and fell backward in a fit of giggles at Sotiris’ expression.

That made him part angel and demon. Though the half-angels and half-demons could not pass any powers on to their children if they had them with humans, (and he knew for certain his grandmother had been human), the demon blood must have done something to activate it. It might also explain why his demon powers never manifested; they’d been hampered by the angel blood.

He shook his head. In this moment it didn’t matter, and would only matter if he survived. Sotiris had to get through this to a time when he could process it all, but it was difficult getting past such a shock to think. Not to mention the betrayal he felt from any who had known but kept it secret. I wonder if Damien knew? He shook his head again, harder this time. Not the appropriate time.

“Let her go, Kader, your fight is with me,” Sotiris said as Kader wiped the tears from eyes and stood.

“Sotiris, you know I won’t do that. It was damned difficult to pull a soul from Paradise, and even more so for one with angelic blood. Cost me quite a few demons in the process, and I intend to get my worth from her,” he said suggestively, and walked over to Mirinda. He laid a thin, almost skeletal hand on her hair, and just as Sotiris tried to stand, his mother quickly turned her head and tried to bit Kader. “Ooh, feisty. Won’t you be delightful?”

He motioned toward the door Sotiris’ mother had come out of, and another demon came in with his grandfather in tow.

“It took even more demons to get someone such as him from the clutches of the Light, though once I explained my intentions to the Dark King he agreed their sacrifices were worth it.” Kader chuckled.

Elias looked worse for wear than Mirinda, likely because of having more angel blood. No wonder they never try to pull the Disciples’ souls into any of the corpses they animate. It makes them next to useless.

“Getting a touch crowded in here, eh? Well we aren’t done yet, folks,” Kader said and motioned at the door.

As the door opened, Kader pushed the heavy table toward the back wall, indicating his lean frame was stronger than Sotiris might have guessed. Strength was not always a guarantee with the demon or angel blood, and those like Kader who used magic usually were not blessed with both.

Just my luck. Sotiris spat as more demons filed into the room, along with his companions. They were considerably more chained than they’d been in the room, especially Damien. Sotiris could not help but stare at the man, trying to find some resemblance between them. Damien merely scowled at the room, until he caught sight of Elias.

Though his grandfather’s body was badly decayed, it was not difficult to see who it was if you knew the man.

“E-Elias?” Damien faltered at a complete loss.

Elias raised his face toward Damien, and though one eye was rotted and useless, the other flooded with comprehension. He didn’t try to talk, though, just nodded.

Rage and power flooded the room, and the currents caused the flames of the torches to sputter in protest.

“None of that, Paladin of the Spear,” Kader said, and the demon who led Damien prodded his lower back with the wooden butt of a cruel, double-edged axe.

Damien’s face flashed with pain, and it momentarily eclisped the anger, and his power settled down.

“Line them up along the wall,” Kader said to the demons. It was then Sotiris noted the rings on the floor, which opened and allowed the demons to put the jingling chains between the metal cuffs on his companions’ wrists, in them. It barely allowed them enough slack to rise from the floor, and not enough to come to their knees without hunching their shoulders.

“Here is where the fun begins,” Kader fairly tittered with excitement. Without making any particular motion another demon walked forward, (How many of the damned ones does he have?), and gave Kader a weapon wrapped in oiled cloth. From its shape it could be nothing else. When he unwrapped it, it was a plain longsword, and a pulse of recognition like a single beat on the drum went through his body.

It was the sword from the vision. It didn’t look like much; in fact it seemed almost humble compared with other swords he’d encountered over the years. The two-handed grip had worn, dark leather as though it had been used for years, and the cross-guard was simple and unembellished. The blade was a hexagonal shape, but was not dull despite the age of the sword. The most amazing and decorative part, though, was the pommel—it was exactly like the pendant he wore around his neck.

“Glad to see the two of you finally introduced.” Kader laughed, and pointed the sword toward Sotiris’ right eye. “Now what I want from you, Sotiris, is simple. In exchange for the lives of your friends and family, you’ll do what needs doing to make the sword the weapon it’s meant to be. Until you do, I’m going to torture said friends and family to help persuade you to see our way,” he said, a mockingly apologetic smile on his face.

“To make the game more fun for me, you get to choose who I torture at any particular time. If you refuse to choose I’ll have my demons help and torture them all at once. To make it fair for our unwilling participants I’ll change it up every once in a while. However, I’m sure we’re all hoping you just cooperate and none of that will come to pass.” He tilted his head to look back toward Sotiris’ mother. “Well, maybe just a little torture to keep things lively.”

Sotiris scowled at Kader when he turned his eyes back to Sotiris, but he knew it did him no good. They were at a clear disadvantage, and a strategy to get everyone out alive and/or with their souls intact was daunting, and more impossible by the second.

“Choose wisely,” Kader said, a mocking echo of the words from his vision.

 
How can I choose? Only now the stakes had significantly risen, and Sotiris didn’t like his odds.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Final Chapter

Silver and Gold: A Story of Damien

And They Say that a Demon Can Save Us, Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

The monastery was dead to Sotiris’ eyes and his senses; as though it lacked a key quality to indicate anyone living resided there. The building was not in disrepair, per say, and the small, stone building was well-kept and in decent condition.

However, since no one else said anything Sotiris decided to keep his mouth shut about it. The sense of relief at finally making it to their destination–in one piece and without incident–was too palpable for Sotiris to ruin with a groundless perception of the place. Just nerves, he repeated.

As they approached the stout, wooden door, it opened soundlessly and a robed figure stepped out from behind it. The man had his hood up and it partially concealed his face. Strange. Sotiris stamped down the suspicion that writhed in his gut like a handful of worms.

“Greetings, Lady Charis and companions, I am here to show you to the eldest of our order,” the monk said and bowed.

Lady Charis smiled, and the only indication of concern was the slight crease between her eyes.

“I have not seen you before,” she said.

“I am new here, Lady,” he replied, not too quick and without too great a delay. He raised his face just enough for Sotiris to get a look, but the late afternoon sun behind the monk and in Sotiris’ face, as well as the shadows in the man’s hood, made it difficult to get a good glimpse.

“Welcome to your order, young monk. We would be delighted if you showed us to the elder,” Lady Charis replied, the worry gone from her.

Damien had tensed up, but then relaxed once Lady Charis responded as she did.

The monk bowed and stepped out of the doorway to let them through first, and closed the door behind them once everyone was inside. The courtyard held a few monks going about their daily chores of cleaning and caring for their animals, and paid the group no mind as they made their way toward the quarters. Since Lady Charis showed no worry at their behavior it must have been normal, but Sotiris still swept his gaze slowly and constantly about their surroundings. The only way out was through the door they came in, and Sotiris was not comfortable having only one exit.

As they went inside toward the living quarters, the air did not grow warmer as one would expect. In fact, Sotiris shivered when they stepped inside, as though it were colder inside than out in the windblown courtyard. At this point even Zoe grew wary, and looked around, too.

They walked straight through to a small dining area, where a few monks were making dinner and another one sat at a table looking over a book. The only indication he was the elder monk came from the white sash about his waist, where the others simply used thick rope.
The group approached the table, and when Lady Charis curtsied the others followed with their respective motions.

“Honorable elder, as you requested we have come to retrieve the weapon,” Lady Charis said when she finished the curtsy. The man did not turn when they approached, and he did not turn when Lady Charis spoke.

Everyone frowned, and the young monk moved forward to touch the elder monk’s shoulder. When he gave a gentle shake, the elder monk toppled over backward onto the floor. The old man’s eyes, white from age, stared lifeless up at them, and the pain of his final moments were etched into every line on his face.

Zoe screamed, Lady Charis gasped, and the men cursed. The young monk threw back his hood and merely laughed, while the rest of the monks they’d passed in the courtyard joined the ones in the dining room. They’d suppressed their demonic aura, like with the help of the King.

Sotiris and Damien went for their weapons, but given the element of surprise the imposters drew theirs quicker, and had them pointed at the group. The fake who had let them inside pushed the old man’s face toward them with his foot, and clucked his tongue in disdain. His slender features were handsome, but twisted with cruelty. Ivory hair was pulled back in a loose tail of hair at the base of his neck, and his pale red eyes burned as though they were lit by the deepest fires of Abbadon.

“He died too quickly to give us any real sport, but at least he was useful in the end.”

“Who are you?” Damien demanded, and fairly glared holes into the man’s face.

“I am crestfallen you do not remember me, Paladin of the Spear, since I knew your wife so very well. Or, at least, my power did,” the half-demon said, with a wicked smirk to match.

Everyone in their group froze, including Damien.

“You lie. I laid waste to the forces that attacked us; there was no way on any of the planes that they escaped me that night,” Damien said, his voice tight, so sure of the truth.

The smirk never left the man’s face, and if anything it deepened. He simply raised his left hand and a whisper of power flowed over their skin. Flames manifested in the palm of his hand, like they were on the wick of a giant candle. It was then that Sotiris saw something he’d never seen before—Damien flinched.

“What of it?” Sotiris asked, and came to the defense of someone he’d come to view as the proverbial guillotine that remained just above his neck. “Many of the Orpheus Society wield fire; it’s almost as common as water in a swamp,” he spat.

Like the lightest of fall breezes that stirred the leaves on the ground, the merest beginnings of anger moved through the man’s pale blue eyes. Then the man’s smile fell and he snarled. “What would you know of it, you deficient traitor? You have no power to speak of.”

Sotiris smiled.

“Well, at least that establishes you are lying, and possibly insecure in your power,” Sotiris quipped, and Damien looked at him.

The last thing Sotiris saw before someone smashed his head from behind was a mixture of hope and relief on Damien’s face, and then there was nothing but darkness.

His dreams came in snippets of sound and memories, mixed with nightmares and hopes. His mother’s laughter; Charis’ fingers brushing his chest; the look of loathing on every Disciples face except a rare few; and the battlefield from the future.

It was there on that battlefield he remained, though it was a dream: the stage was set, but no one was there but him and someone who stood beside him. Each time he tried to turn toward his companion, his vision would skew and the scene would shift his focus away.

“You must be someone of very high, or very low, importance,” Sotiris said, but the person did not answer.

Out of his peripheral, the figure waved its arm and his companions, plus a couple relations, materialized before him. There was Gregory, Damien, Charis, Zoe, Elias, and his mother. His mother and Elias were slightly opaque, and he guessed this was a representation of their demise. At the thought, the figure nodded and the scene changed. His mother and grandfather stood at the beginning of the road and at the other end stood his four companions at the beginning of four branches. At their feet was the shadowy form of a sword, and beyond them on the roads were four different, solid swords.

It didn’t take a genius to understand the implication: the death of his mother and grandfather, the two people in his life that loved him the most and with the most power, started him on the road he found himself today. The road to gain the weapon but not have it.

The death of one of his four companions would determine the manifestation of the sword and its power. Beyond Damien the sword was consumed with the burning of vengeful fire, terrible for the enemy to behold and all-consuming for the wielder.

Gregory’s sword was practical, strong, but lacked a sense of conviction in killing the enemy. The same feeling that caused the man to flee to the astral plane in the first place.

Zoe’s sword was barely more than a normal sword, and though it would prove a steadfast blade, it would not be suited to decimating the armies of the Orpheus Society.

Lastly, Charis’ blade was a masterpiece of beauty and art, and would heal allies but do nothing to help battle and kill demons.

“Double-edged swords, eh?” Sotiris joked, but it held no humor.

“CHOOSE WISELY,” the voice boomed through him, and his mind nearly crumbled under such a voice.

“Now I understand why you played the strong, silent type,” Sotiris replied, and rubbed his aching temples.

The Archangel made no comment, but the slightest trickle of humor rolled off them. It was not the Lord of Light, as there would be nothing but a pile of quivering ooze left if He had spoken.

“Is it necessary that I choose one of them? What happens if I kill the demon that captured us instead?” Sotiris mused. 

The Archangel said nothing, but the emotion Sotiris sensed did not bode well if he made such a choice.

“How can I make that choice? None of them deserve this end,” Sotiris said bitterly, as the weight of his decision settled on his shoulders and mind.

The Archangel gave no indication for a yea or nay, but instead placed a comforting hand on Sotiris’ shoulder.

The dream-vision dissolved around him.

“How can I choose?” Sotiris mumbled, and then he heard a gasp from near him.

“He is coming around,” Lady Charis said excitedly, but kept her voice low.

Sotiris cracked open an eyelid, and the torchlight in the small room illuminated the faces of his four companions.

“You had the Light surround you after they placed us in here. You were Visited by an Archangel, if the power coming from you was any indication. What were you told?” Damien asked as he crouched near Sotiris.

“I…” he started, but looked at each of their faces, and anguish welled within him.

“Please, Sotiris, just tell us,” Lady Charis whispered, as the sense of foreboding permeated the air around them.

“They told me to get the weapon I have to kill one of you.” All his words were a murmur, but the word kill came out harsh and damned.

They let the words sink in for a moment.

“Oh, dear,” Lady Charis said, breathless.

That about summed it up.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Nine
Final Chapter

Silver and Gold: A Story of Damien

And They Say that a Demon Can Save Us, Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

After Damien drifted off, Sotiris was able to relax. This was one of those rare moments when no one was watching him like birds watch a hawk circling their nests. He had done nothing toward anyone in the Disciples of Light since he joined them, but everyone could not help but wonder; was this man the one who killed my friend, lover, brother, sister, husband, wife, or any number of relations?

They all looked at him the same way: with distrust. It didn’t matter what the foundation of that distrust was–be it hate, fear, or loathing–it all boiled down to a lack of trust. Constantly being around people who barely trusted you was mentally and physically exhausting. Nothing he could do would convince them otherwise, and destroying the armies of evil might not even do it for some. Like Damien. Sotiris turned his eyes toward the man asleep on the floor, and sighed.

 

“Something the matter?” a voice whispered from across the cave. Lady Charis was propped up on one elbow, and she held his gaze with eyes that were dark in the flickering firelight.

“Not in particular,” he replied and broke from her gaze. He’d never had problems keeping eye contact when he lied, but he could not do it with her.

Everyone looked at him with distrust, but she didn’t.

It puzzled him, and he wondered why since the moment they’d been introduced by the Head of the Disciples. It’s not that she considered him a friend, the way she did with Gregory or Zoe, but she also did not hold him in the same regard as she did Damien; the polite respectfulness of someone a person has worked closely with. It was entirely something else, but he could not say he disliked it. It was like a breath of fresh air after living where the air was stale with a slight foul aftertaste.

“What is in your hand?” she asked, ignoring the lie, and sat up completely. He looked down at his hand where it gripped the pendant on his necklace. He often held it without thinking about it, while he thought on other matters.

“It was a gift from my mother for my…fourteenth birthday,” he concluded after a moment’s hesitation, and the words came out emotionless. Such comments often conveyed more emotions because of their lack, than if he’d said them with the conviction of how he truly felt.

“Your mother was the human half?” Lady Charis asked gently.

He nodded.

“I am sorry for your loss,” she said, and meant it.

It was common enough for the humans to be killed when the half-demon offspring were collected, so she understood what he implied.

“She knew it was coming, though, which I still do not understand. I wish things had ended differently between us, but such is the nature of my kind, I suppose,” he said, and this time his words were coated in a bitterness that stemmed from self-loathing and shame.

Lady Charis stood and quietly made her way over to him.

“May I see it?” she asked.

He’d had to keep the necklace hidden for so long, that it was difficult to let others see it, since it might have been stolen, taken by a superior, or destroyed to teach him a lesson. It was only after joining the Disciples he dared wear it, but was still hesitant in having it outside his shirt. Damien had never seen it, and Sotiris made sure of that, because the other man might take it from him. Damien was very into not having any worldly possessions, and Sotiris could not risk losing the last piece of his mother he had.

He gave a stiff nod, and released it from his palm. It dropped against his chest, and when she reached for the pendant his heart sped up. Her fingers lightly brushed his chest when she picked it up, and he prayed she could not feel his heart as it tripped along like a nervous schoolboy’s.

When she turned it so it glinted in the firelight, she frowned in puzzlement.

“Something the matter?” he asked, and echoed her question from earlier.

“It is just…it looks familiar,” she said, and glanced toward Damien.

Sotiris raised an eyebrow in question. The pendant was round and a touch smaller than a woman’s palm. It looked like an ornate shield, with a sun emblazoned in the center taking up the majority of it. In the center of the sun was a tiny dagger, point down, and at the end of the point was a tiny red gem—a garnet.

He would have questioned her about the odd comment, but he did not wish to give her reason to move away from him. The flowery smell of her hair floated in the warm air between them, and it was the first time since he’d joined the Disciples he’d been this close to a woman. The women, more than the men, tended to avoid him, as though his mere presence would tarnish their virtue in the eyes of their comrades. At least they usually just ignored him. The men, more often, wanted to fight.

It was difficult to resist moving his arms the few inches between them, and placing his hands on her hips. Sotiris was by no means irrational when it came to the opposite gender, and he chalked up the overwhelming desire to touch her to their circumstance. It was an intimate setting, and their lives were in danger. It tended to add a little zing to such things. She was an amazingly lovely woman, and he wanted to kiss her with a desire that bordered on frenzied. In all, though, it did not add up with how little they’d interacted, in correlation with how much he needed to feel her lips on his. Despite the setting, something else was going on that he couldn’t quite figure out.

He must have made some small movement, because she looked up from the pendant into his eyes. They were gentle, kind, and understanding, but also held a question; as though there was something she wanted to know about him, but did not need to hear the answer from him, per say.

“You should probably go back to sleep. I believe Damien set your shift to be next,” he whispered, the words barely more audible than a sigh. He did not want her to leave, of course, but the suggestion came from the steadily shrinking, logical part of his mind.

Amusement played through her gaze, and yet she still did not move away from him.

“I am finding sleep to be difficult this night. Would you like some company?” she said, and her words were light; no pressure toward either answer he could give.

“Company would be wonderful.”

A few heartbeats later she stepped back, but he cherished how she had lingered near him instead of moving away right as he said the words. She sat down and leaned her back against the wall, so he followed suit at a close, but just outside the too close, range. If Damien woke up he would reprimand Sotiris for sitting, instead of standing, while on watch, but with Charis’ company he would have no trouble staying awake.

He looked toward the mouth of the cave to check on the storm. It had lost just a few fractions of its fury, and would still be unsafe to travel through for hours yet. The two sat in comfortable silence, neither of them feeling the need to fill the air with conversation. When they did start to talk, they kept it quiet out of respect for their companions’ sleep; or, in Damien’s case, out of not wanting to be scowled at.

They spoke of their childhoods, or the better parts at least. Damien noted that right around the time his stories stopped due to the Harvest, her stories did, too. Having come from a dark place such as the Orpheus Society, he could recognize the shadows in her eyes, and respected her avoidance of certain periods of her life–just as she did for him. What struck him as strange was her avoidance of her role in the Disciples of Light.

By her demeanor she was not a soldier. He supposed she could be a cleric, but no matter the occasion they wore their robes indicating what they were.

“What do you do in the Disciples?” he asked, as the topic of conversation ran its course.

Her face froze for only a moment, but he took note of it.

“I teach clerics,” she said, with only the slightest inflection of sorrow.

He could not imagine why such a thing would cause her sadness, but he left it alone. He turned her back toward her younger years, to when she’d visit Gregory on the earthen plane. Though it did not chase all the anguish from her eyes, it lightened the mood again.

As the night wore on to morning, Sotiris’ and Charis’ watches passed their own and into Zoe’s and Gregory’s. Neither of them moved to wake the other two, but continued to talk and let silence stretch pleasantly between their conversation topics. Maybe it was subconscious, but as they spoke they moved closer until they were but a hairsbreadth apart.

The blizzard ended sometime in the early morning just as the sun was casting its light across the world, but wasn’t touching the horizon yet. As the light grew, he looked less at Charis and more toward the mouth of the cave. Though nothing obvious jumped out at Sotiris indicating anything was wrong, he could not shake the sensation that something unpleasant awaited them. Just jangled nerves about finally getting the sword, he reassured himself.

“Our companions are waking,” Charis whispered, and stood up. Not quickly, as though embarrassed about being near him, but that might have been because they were stiff from sitting on the floor all night.

The add-on in his thoughts almost ruined the moment, but even when Damien rolled over and saw the two of them, Charis still held out a hand to help him up. Damien, of course, scowled, but Charis ignored him. Sotiris took the cue and let her help him up.

He had not noticed till then but she had never once taken her gloves off. Yes, it was cold so that should not have caught his attention, but even when the others had taken theirs off as the cave grew warmer, hers remained. Her hand curled weirdly around his, as though she could not completely close it. Sotiris could not say much of the strength in her hand, since he tried to be a gentlemen and only used her to help him balance on the way up, instead of letting her pull him up.

The sadness about her teaching clerics, and the way she kept her hands covered. She lost her ability to use her powers. When the thought drifted through his mind, he looked into her eyes, which waited for some measure of disgust or pity, he was sure.

He would not be the one to give that to her.

“The situation must have been dire indeed, Lady, for you to put yourself through a lifetime of pain and sadness. Both from the scars and loss of your powers. That is something to be admired, not pitied,” he said, and this time held her gaze.

It was she who broke eye contact that time as tears welled up in her eyes.

“Thank you,” she said, voice rough from the short, emotional exchange. She gave his hand a small squeeze, and maybe that was all she could manage, so he cherished that effort as another might treasure gold.

He did not know what awaited him at the monastery, and subsequently his future, but in that moment he cared for nothing but her touch and kindness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Final Chapter

Silver and Gold: A Story of Damien

And They Say that a Demon Can Save Us, Chapter Six

Chapter Six

The trip had been rougher than any of them expected—even Gregory. Though the weather was calm enough the first few days, and had shown no signs of changing, the group was hit with a sudden blizzard and forced to take shelter. This, of course, piled kindling onto the fire that was Damien’s sour mood.

“I do not care for the way this weather fell upon us,” Damien stated. No sooner had they set down their packs and shaken off the snow, Damien was at the mouth of the cave scowling at the howling winds and reduced visibility.

“’Tis likely but a squall; they dinna last o’er long,” Gregory said, and pulled supplies from his pack. He went a touch deeper into the cave, and it was difficult for Damien to see him because of the snow having killed the light.

However, in a few seconds a light caught Damien’s eye after Gregory lit a torch. The weak light grew stronger as it consumed the oiled rags around the top of the thick branch. It wasn’t meant to be used for very long, since the fire would eventually eat the wood of the torch as well. Gregory handed the torch to Sotiris to hold while he rummaged in something at the back of the small cave. Damien’s eyes followed the fire.

“Damien?” Lady Charis asked, concerned.

Damien did a long blink. He’d been staring at the torch for some time. Lady Charis had offered him food and he hadn’t noticed.

He pointedly ignored her unspoken inquiry, took the food, and thanked her. While he’d been focused on the flames, Gregory had piled some wood in the middle of the cave.

Damien scowled. “Where did you get that from?”

Gregory raised an eyebrow at Damien’s suspicious tone, but did not rise to the other man’s cantankerous behavior. Damien was simply Damien, and it would be just as useful to get mad at water for being wet.

“The monks know people become lost on these mountains at times, so every so often they will supply various caves along the paths to their monastery,” Lady Charis answered for Gregory, who merely grunted and went about getting the fire lit.

Instead of helping to alleviate his wariness it deepened it.

“Is this well-known?” he asked.

“Yes…” Lady Charis said, slowly.

“Something devious is happening here,” Damien said, and scanned the cave. There was not much to scan, and his eyes turned back to the storm.

“Do you feel some kind of evil at work?” Lady Charis asked, and looked toward the mouth of the cave as well.

Though no one would have thought it possible, Damien’s scowl deepened. “Not as such,” he fairly spat.

“What of ye, daemon-born?” Gregory asked Sotiris, who looked down at the other man with a barely contained look of irritation.

“I do not feel anything per say. This kind of storm can be conjured at a distance, though to do so would require a tremendous amount of power, or the collaboration of a few demons. Being farther away would affect our abilities to sense the evil—or good,” Sotiris added.

Damien did not say so out loud, but he was somewhat pleased Sotiris had not risen to Gregory’s bait. It had taken Damien years to break him of the habit, as there was much cause over the years to do so. A demon joining the ranks of angels was not appreciated.

Gregory looked at Damien.

“Since we cannot sense anything, but are not sure, I would say we set up a lookout if we are here for the night. If it comes to that I will take first watch,” Damien volunteered.

Everyone nodded, and settled in for a rest. They had hoped Gregory’s prediction of a squall was correct, but as the afternoon wore on into evening with no signs of the storm stopping, they knew it would not be so.

Once everyone fell asleep, Damien sat with his back against the side of the cave not far from the mouth, but not too close, either. If someone watched the cave with some kind of enhanced eyesight, he would be an easy enough target against the light of the fire. Since he sat on the ground against the cave wall and not too close to the mouth, it made it more difficult to distinguish between him and the wall. Even someone with eyesight-based powers would have difficulty seeing through the storm.

As there was nothing he could do about seeing beyond the cave mouth and storm, and with the fire ruining any trace of night vision he might have, he stayed on guard for a surprise-based attack. Every so often, though, he’d catch himself staring into the fire. His hand traveled to the left side of his chest, as though he could feel the roughness of the scar tissue beneath his clothing and light armor. 

The battlefield was muddy from a recent rain, and reddish-brown from the blood. It coated everyone from at least the waist down, and flecks of it dotted the group all the way to the tops of their heads. Damien took a ragged breath and drank some water. They’d been at this particular battle for days now, and it showed no signs of ending. The soldiers were tired and worn out, but Damien had to remain the standard by which the soldiers measured themselves.

Though he had not sat down for what seemed like ages, he made sure to walk among the soldiers and give them a reassuring word here, or smile there. They perked up as he went by, and some even got up to help where they could, even though they were dead tired.

It was a lull in the battle, as both sides had mutually decided to take a short rest. It did not happen often, but at times both sides would determine they needed to stop or they would have no one to fight each other with.

“Ah, Damien. Just who I was looking for,” a warm voice hailed him from behind. His smile widened before he turned, and then further when he caught a glimpse of his wife.

“You, dear lady, are a wondrous sight for aching eyes,” he said, and held out his hand to her. 

She laughed and shook her head, but took it with her own. Gloves covered both of their hands, but he could still feel the warmth radiating from her and her personality.

She had taken her helmet off, and though sweat, mud, and blood seemed to cover her from head to toe, he could still see the light brown of her hair. It was the color of newly browned leaves in the fall that had sat in the sun for a time, and matched the darker chestnut brown of her eyes nicely. Those eyes now held amusement, exhaustion, and love.

“I am a sight for a long bath, is what I am.” She laughed as they made their way to their shared tent. 

Damien still smiled and nodded in greeting at the soldiers as they went by, but his thoughts were purely for his wife.

“The enemy fought well these past few days,” Damien commented, as they wended their way through the encampment.

“You almost sound contented about that,” she teasingly accused. 

Damien laughed and shrugged. “They are the enemy, but I still respect them as my opponents; they are misguided and must be shown a better path. Think of what a blow it would be to their side if we convinced them to join us,” he said, thoughtfully.

She shook her head, but quirked a smile. “That is my dreamer talking, again.” Then her expression sobered. “Be careful you are not so respectful that one of them knifes you in the back while you are trying to be of help to them, and their salvation,” she cautioned.

He did not laugh at her concern, but kissed the top of her head. “I promise,” he said, just loud enough for her to hear. 

She looked up into his eyes, and satisfied with his answer, nodded. Though they had a noticeable difference height, she was not one to let her shorter legs slow her down. Though Damien slowed his stride a touch, it was not as much as others might expect. The pair made it to their tent quickly enough, and found that their servants had already drawn baths for them both.

They cleaned up quickly, as they likely had a single night of rest ahead of them and nothing more, and made their way to bed. Rest was more important at that moment in time, but the two lingered half-awake and embraced as they slowly fell asleep.

It was in the middle of the night that the demon-spawn attacked the camp. Both sides held people adept at wielding magical fire, but the enemy’s fire burned with an unholy intensity and light; with highlights of sickly green amidst the crimson, bright yellow, and persimmon orange.

Though the calamity in general had woken him, it was the sound of his wife screaming that snapped his mind to attention. She wasn’t in bed, and he looked around the tent, as the flames threw shadows and light against the canvas. He rushed out, only half dressed, to see her not ten feet from him.

In a crystal clear moment that would haunt him forever, he saw his wife’s visage among the flames that consumed her body.

“Arella!” he shouted, and reached for her. She did not reach for him, and the moment passed as she fell face-forward to the ground.

Her body still in flames, he ran over to her and collapsed half on top of her, and tried to roll her body through the mud to put out the flames. He paid no heed to the fire as it licked his skin and burned through his clothing. He was too focused on helping her.

Arella’s eyes were closed, and he was too panicked to tell if she was still breathing. He picked her up and ran as though Abaddon’s hounds were at his heels. He did not acknowledge anyone, and everything was a blur as he made his way to the clerics’ tents.

It did not take them long to tell him his worst fears were true: his beloved wife was dead. Dead at the hands of the accursed demon-spawn.

“Sir?” One of the clerics asked, concern in his voice.

Damien said nothing and left the tent. He grabbed the weapon closest to him—a spear—and made his way to where the enemy were pillaging the camp.

They never knew what hit them. Damien himself barely remembers that night, as he fought for what seemed like an eternity, with everything blurred the way it was when he’d run for the clerics’ tents. Each time his eyes caught the face of a dead soldier he saw only her face, her beautiful face, surrounded by flames.

It was that night the Orpheus Society first started to fear the one they later dubbed the Paladin of the Spear. No one but the clerics ever saw the burned flesh and the extensive scarring on his chest and over his left shoulder. The scars he’d gained while trying to save his wife. As the years went by only a few remembered how Damien’s legend was created, and they remained silent out of respect for him, and for Arella.

The Disciples of Light had won that night, and everyone cheered Damien as a hero, but after said night no one saw him smile again. He had no kind or uplifting words to offer, even to those he’d once called friend, and no mercy to spare for the ones who killed his heart. 

“Who is Arella?” Sotiris whispered not far from where Damien sat.

He hadn’t known he’d spoken her name aloud, and it might have only been a whisper but the acoustics of the cave made it louder.

Damien ignored the question, and with the fire as close to him as the memories of his wife, Damien did not turn his face to Sotiris; he did not know what the younger man would see if he did.

“Do not fall asleep,” Damien said, scathingly, and stood along the wall to keep his small bit of cover.

Sotiris did not sigh or lash out. Yet more improvement shown over the years. Damien passed him and went to a place in the cave the others had not gone, because the warmth of the fire would barely reach it. Sotiris took Damien’s place and began his watch.

Damien lay down on the smooth floor of the cave and did his best to fall asleep. It was a long time coming, but he eventually drifted off, all without realizing he hadn’t referred to Sotiris as a demon-spawn within his thoughts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Final Chapter

Silver and Gold: A Story of Damien