Lucifer stood unmoving, his gaze fixed on the purples and reds of the awakening dawn.
A stirring of wind rustled through the trees, sounding like a summer rain. The coolness of it soothed his blanched skin beneath crimson robes. Long salt and pepper hair danced about his face, settling tentatively on his tired shoulders. Sinewy fingers of alabaster held tight to the ageing balustrade, like talons on prey. The smell of mossy salt air flooded him with melancholy. He closed his icy hazel eyes, daring to miss the first rays of sun summit through the glassy horizon. Remembrance was more important. Only the long gone past offered him any joy these days. The present had little to live for. The scent of sampaguita, carried on the breeze, unlocked a treasure trove of memories. He lingered among them one by one, searching, breathing until her fragrance clung to him like salt from ocean dew. He found her at last, deep in his consciousness where he seldom allowed himself to go. Freedom. What would I not give for the freedom to see her, to hold her, to smell sampaguita on the curly locks of her hair. His pale lips parted into a weary smile, then quivered with sadness. The sound of footfall intrudes. He held on to her ghost like a desperate fistful of sand. He opened his eyes. Too late. Morning had already broken over the House of Auriel.
“Kailash, for the worlds to continue to exist, she must be destroyed,” he said, his eyes ablaze with the first rays of sun. The words rode heavy on the breeze.
“Yes, Master,” the man he called Kailash said blankly. The remorse from his voice extinguished so long ago.
“You have never failed me. But this Otherkin will not be like the others. The beast in her holds a power that is unknown, even to me. It must be destroyed well before her turning. Do you know what this means?” he turned to face his Duma. I must see the resignation on your face.
“Yes. I understand.”
“And this is not a deterrent to you?” he searched his eyes for any sign. Your life has been punishment enough, but this is to be your greatest test yet.
“Nothing will deter me, Master. It will be done.”
“Or everything will perish, Kailash. Even our kind.” He turned his attention to the sea he loved. Would that be such a terrible thing?
“I will not fail, Master Lucifer. Of this, I assure you.”
God help us all if you do, Kailash.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※
The young man doubled his steps to keep up with the Redeemer. The hem of his robes swung heavily from side to side, throwing the cadence of his gait awry. Sensing an air of volatile impatience, Gael lifted his drapes off the dank floor and reached the cell in just enough time to unlock it before the flurry of purple and oxblood raiment came charging past. Gael wished he did not have to stay. Since the Redeemer claimed Masterdom of the House of Jinn, cruelty was no longer reserved for the humans in the Earthenworld.
“Father, come into the light where I might see you,”the Redeemer coaxed gently to the shadow cowering in the farthest corner of the cell.The silence was broken by a stiff wind that breezed through the window high above them with a soft, mournful howl. A shiver crawled over Gael’s skin before making its way deep into his bones. A sign of foreboding.
“Father, please, you are wasting away in here. You must let me help you,” the Redeemer stepped forward slowly. The shadow shuffled deeper into the crevice. “Father?” he advanced again and the shadow lay still with nowhere to retreat. Gael held his breath. The shadow unfurled from the floor and stood towering over the Redeemer. Filthy robes fell off the emaciated body they concealed within. Bones protruded dangerously like daggers beneath dirty white skin. But his face – Gael had to breathe – his face was no longer of the Master Shaitan. In its place was the head of a ram. A humanoid face and eyes with slits where pupils should be, on either side of his head two horns – one pointed toward the heavens and the other pointed towards the firmament. The Horned Beast of Jacobus. Gael was both revolted and enthralled by the transformation. The once beloved Master Shaitan was gone. The beast shrieked, eyes wide with rage and charged clumsily beneath the weight of its horns. It was a pitiful sight from which Gael could not look away. The Redeemer cut the beast down with a single strike.
“Why must you do this, Father?” the Redeemer seethed as he grasped Shaitan by the horns and lifted his head so they stood face to face. “Tell me where the Sanctuary is and it will all stop,” the Redeemer’s anger had been awakened. Gael quietly stepped out of the cell before he heard the Master Shaitan croak an answer.
“Not today, my son,” the voice was deep and hoarse, barely audible from the binding ropes the Redeemer suspended him from last week.
“Perhaps I can change your mind,” a clawed hand took Shaitan by the throat and squeezed. He raised a device to the Master’s face. “Take a good look, Father,” the Redeemer gloated, blood pouring sluggishly from beneath his black claw. A flicker of fear on the beast’s face, a momentary dilation of the eye slits before consciousness slipped away and he fell in a broken heap onto the floor. The Redeemer drew an angry breath and expelled Shaitan with bolts of blue from the black palms of his clawed hands. The sound of cracking bone filled the chamber as flesh collided with stone. When the Redeemer was through, he made an abrupt about face and strode out of the cell.
“Clean this mess up. Perhaps Blassius will have better luck with him tomorrow, now that I have given him something to think about.”
Gael nodded in obedience and stared at the darkened stains of blood where the Redeemer had wiped his hands clean on the boy’s light-colored robes. Gael gathered the body and struggled with the shifting weight of Shaitan’s horns. He was reduced to a fraction of the man Gael had met as a child. Once Shaitan was settled on the sleeping cot, Gael made certain that no one remained loitering in the halls of the dark chambers before closing and locking the cell door. He cupped his hands together and muttered the words until he was no longer aware of them passing upon his lips. An orb of silver glittered smoke danced between his palms. When the sphere grew fiery and white with heat, Gael cast it into the dying body before him. The Master Shaitan heaved as bone, tendons and ligaments rejoined, fibers wove themselves into muscle and organs awakened with new life. Fresh blood gave color to renewed skin.
“No more, Gael. I am begging you,” Shaitan beseeched weakly as the metamorphosis completed. Finally, the four horns shed and fell benignly to the ground with a loud echo. The Jacobus beast was gone, leaving in its place the handsome frame of the man Gael knew well. The boy marveled at his work. He smiled, pleased with himself. Nature would finish the rest of the Master’s rejuvenation. And tomorrow death would begin all over again.
Forgive me, Grandfather, but God is not yet done with you.
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