CHAPTER 1: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here
Screams and flames. Whips and chains. That was all there was anymore, she thought idly. She'd been good, she'd fought for God... and now in the hour of her need He condemned her to Hell. And it was all for making a contract with a Devil. The barbed whips tore the flesh from her back every four days. They'd let her heal and then do it again. Being nailed to a cross with her back facing out had been painful. Being ripped from that cross, healed and then renailed was agony. She'd stopped screaming long ago and knew they were trying to find new ways to torture her. After all, she'd sold her soul, she was worth nothing to the Devils in Hell.
Rosette cracked her eyes open a little, mouth parched dry and eyes sore. How long? How long had it been since she died? She couldn't remember and really didn't want to. Her eyes met with the crimson ones facing her. Chrono...
He offered a weak smile before biting his lower lip to keep from screaming.
Bound in life, bound in death and now bound in torment.
That had been the punishment for killing his own kind. Dying sent Chrono straight back to Hell and into the hands of those who waiting this moment eagerly. His punishment was to be the same as hers. Flogging, healing, flogging again, torn down from the cross, healed, renailed. A constant cycle that repeated itself over and over and over... But at least they were together. Together, they had strength. Together...
"Take this one away," a voice snarled, snapping her out of her thoughts.
Chrono struggled a little as his cross was lifted by two hunched Demons, whimpering and straining against the nails for her. "Rosette..."
No... no... "No... Chrono!"
She struggled against the nails, struggled to fight for him. They couldn't take him! "CHRONO!" He was gone from her line of sight, the Demon holding the whip cackling. "After all these years... finally a reaction from you! Why didn't I think of that sooner?"
Rosette wished she could make a fist, but her hands had no feeling. The nails were hard and hot, searing into her bleeding flesh. She knew she was a good person. She knew she helped a lot of people. The one sin she commited was to help save her brother.
So why was God punishing her for it?
Ewan Remington stopped outside the crumbling walls and the broken, twisted gate. 'No Trespassing' signs hung outside, so faded he wouldn't have been able to read them normally. Except, he knew what they were because he put them there. When the Order of Magdalene moved and went underground, this place had been burned to the ground, leaving only crumbling remains to show that a building had in fact stood there.
Picking his way carefully through the ruins, his hair matted and dirty, about a week's growth stubbling his cheeks, he once again cursed his immortality, and cursed the one to give it to him. The Father... what kind of father abandoned his child?
"Sister Rosette... she WILL be received in Heaven... won't she?"
The words that Sister Kate had spoken still haunted him nearly eighty years later. And... he'd sinned. He'd sinned by lying to her, telling her that she would be admitted to those pearly gates. He told her that... and she probably knew he'd lied. Heaven was a hypocracy. It was why he'd come to earth in the first place. It didn't matter how much good the girl had done, she was still tainted with Hell's blood. Chrono owned her soul. And even though he released it when he died, Heaven wasn't going to collect it. Allow such filth the stain their shining whiteness? Absurd!
That was why when Malachi had come and offered him his old position back in God's sight, he'd given him the finger. The Messenger had been furious at the rude gesture and stormed off, eyes crackling with lightening bolts. It was that night that he heard the Voice. He hadn't heard it in centuries, but the attitude hadn't changed at all.
You scorn my Messenger, you scorn me. Remain there then, if it pleases you. The immortality you keep, as you are still in my favor. But you will no longer have your wings.
Fine, what did he need them for anyway? Remington sighed, finding his way through the overgrown grass and weeds to a place he knew very well. It was clean and free, the simple grey stone wet from the early evening mist. He knelt in front of the tombstone, fingers drifting over the carved letters familiarly. Rosette Christopher... Physically, she'd been barely a woman when she died. Fifteen years old... but with the mentality (at times) of someone much older. She'd suffered greatly for their Lord... and she suffered still more in the hands of His enemies.
"I'm sorry... I'm so sorry," he whispered, tears stinging his eyes. Everytime he came here, he wept for her and for Chrono. Chrono was more noble than any servant of God. How could anything evil care so much for one insignificant human being that he died when she did? Before his visit from Malachi and the dream of the Voice, he'd prayed to God to show mercy on them both. Every. Single. Day. And... nothing for it.
Remington blinked the tears away, taking a deep, shaky breath and letting it out. He looked at his watch quickly, standing up, and pulled out the letter he'd received not even four days ago. He'd been asleep near a dumpster and woken up when he felt the familiar rush of wings against his face. Expecting an angel, he found only a folded and typed letter with a single black feather. Angels didn't have black wings, and it was too long and perfectly shaped to be a bird. That alone had intrigued him. That and the contents of the letter.
To Whom It May Concern,
Evil is rising again. I know you're aware of it's presence and name. I know also that you're reluctant to do God's work in this matter, but all I ask is five minutes of your time and your aid in helping me find those who can and will help.
What I intend to do is forbidden by both Heaven and Hell. In the end, both of us may lose our wings, but it will bring back those needlessly punished. Meet me at the marker by nine o'clock in the evening on March the fourteenth. I will eladorate further then and more properly introduce myself.
Remington knew exactly who and what the letter was refering to. He'd spotted Aion almost three months ago, walking down Times Square. Aion had been ressurected... how, by whom and why still remained a mystery. Even now, despite his issues with God, Remington couldn't just stand by and watch the Demon throw the three worlds into chaos. It was his damned noble character that kept him from sitting back and watching.
Footsteps came, snapping on a twig. A lightly uttered curse and then a dark figure came into view. Remington stepped forward, eyes narrowed as his mystery person came into view. The man was tall and thin with broad shoulders. His skin was a very pale white with a faint white glow to it that bespoke of him being something other than human. His hair was short, dark and neatly kept, and all he could see of the man's clothing was a very warm, expensive looking cashmere black coat that covered all but his dress slacks.
"Mr. Ewan Remington?" he asked. His voice was a cultured British one that bespoke of prep schools and blue blood. But, there was an odd musical quality to it that didn't fit with the stuffy appearance.
"What do you want?" Remington bit out sharply, blue eyes narrowed.
The man smiled slowly. His teeth... he had fangs! This was a Devil before him. "No need to be uncivil, Mr. Remington. I'm not your enemy."
"Are you the one who sent this letter?"
"I am. I know everything there is to know about the Order of Magdalene, you... Rosette Christopher and Chrono the Sinner." He laughed bitterly. "Only in stories, of course, passed down by my dear mother. But, I do feel as if I know them very well."
"Who are you?" Remington asked softly, gut twisting in a way that might possibly make him sick.
The man smiled again, the bright white of his fangs catching a little in the moonlight. "How terribly rude of me! I'm so sorry, please forgive me. My name is Asmodius."
A Latin name... a Demon name. "I have no business with your kind. Leave this place!"
"You didn't let me finish, Mr. Remington. My name is Asmodius. Asmodius Hendric."
Remington's jaw dropped, eyes wide. No... "As in..."
Asmodius' nodded, digging his designer shoes into the grass. "As in Azmaria Hendric's son. My mother was one of the Order... but you already knew that. What you probably didn't know is that she also found comfort from a Devil... one who gave everything he had to ensure our safety. My father's name was Peccatus, the Lord of Hellfire. He was extremely powerful and very well off, in both this world and Hell. And, he fought my mother at first."
"I remember that," Remington murmured, memory flashing back. "Peccatus staged a rebellion in Hell, taking any who would follow him to this world, where they're forbidden to be."
"Yes, exactly. My mother captured him and was going to send him back to Hell when he begged her to listen to his story. He told her of why he wished to leave, how he and his followers wanted to repent and God wouldn't listen. All they wanted was a haven."
"And that is why she fought so hard for sanctuary for the Repenters. I thought it was for Chrono."
Asmodius laughed again, the bitterness still laced with that sound. "For him and my father and others unhappy with their lives. She did it for them. And when the assassins came for us, my father used what power he had to protect us and destroy our would-be killers. My mother was never the same after that. She never sang again, not even when I begged her to. And, eventually, she died."
"She died nearly sixty years ago."
"And I still look so young." He laughed again, running gloved fingers down his smooth skin. "Because of my father, I'm immortal and inherited some of his power." Pulling his hand away, a blackish flame hovered over his palm. Hellfire, about the only thing that could kill both Angel and Devil alike. There was no cure for it once it touched you, no way of putting it out. It burned and consumed you right to the soul. "And from my mother, I received the graces of God." There was a creaking sound and slowly large black feathered wings spread from his back, his skin glowing bright enough to cast shadows. Two small black horns twisted from his head. "I am neither Devil nor Angel, but I can walk both their worlds with only a few suspicious glances."
"As interesting as this all is, what has this to do with me or them?" Remington demanded, heart in his throat.
Stepping closer, Asmodius' wings folded and disappeared back into his human disguise. Clasping his hands behind his back, he leaned in and whispered, "I want to bring them back. And I need divine intervention, so to speak, to do it."
Gasping and stepping back, Remington stared at the man in horror. "That's not right! It's not-,"
"-Allowed, yes I know the litany through and through. My mother died regretting she hadn't been able to help them. My father was fighting the very chaos that Aion wants to bring. I'm not doing this out of charity, though I feel for the souls of those two. I'm doing this out of guilt for my parents' deaths. And I believe you will help me for that same reason. What do you say? You'll never be admitted to Heaven again, and Hell won't take you. You and I have nothing to lose by pissing the Higher Beings off. We alone cannot stand against Aion and his new allies. Rosette Christopher and Chrono the Sinner are our only guarantee for survival. So, what will you decide?"
Remington hesitated, torn between two conflicting beliefs. On the one hand, he would give anything to bring them both back and let them have a second chance at happiness. On the other, what this man proposed went against both God and Satan. Once it was done, there was no going back. All four of them would be damned for eternity in limbo, stuck between the two worlds of light and darkness. But... he was already there, as Asmodius said. Sighing, he spread his hands from his side. "You have me. What needs to be done?"
Asmodius smiled again, his pale blue eyes sparking in the darkness. "First, I need to get the Sinner. And you need to unearth her grave. I have a private plane waiting a mile up the road in a corn field. You can't miss it. Take her there, the pilot will know where to go."
"And where will I be going?"
"To my house. In England. When you land, my assistant, Tegan, will help you. I can't say exactly how long I'll be, but I shouldn't say more than four hours, five top."
"So all I have to do is dig her up?" Remington asked skeptically.
Asmodius clapped a hand to his shoulder, smirking. "For now," he answered. "When I return, you'll know the rest. And please pass along a message to Tegan that I will need medical care immediately upon my arrival." The man disappeared out the way he came, a quick flurry of heavy wings telling the other man that he'd taken off into the shadows.
Remington stood rooted to the spot, still trying to process everything. To bring them back... it was secretly what he'd longed for these past seventy-eight years. "I only hope this isn't too good to be true," he murmured before walking off to teh ruined gardening shed to see if maybe a shovel had been left behind.
It was time for him to heal. Chrono hissed as the nails were yanked from his hands and feet and he was dumped off of the wooden cross onto the burning grounds of Hell. He was too weak to use his true form, and so his smaller one was burned by the fires and steam beneath him. But he didn't care. His caring about his fate stopped when they took him from her. Rosette... He'd dragged her down here. It was sealed the day they made their contract. When he returned to Hell, she was going with him. She knew this, but trusted that God would forgive her sin and accepted her. And he'd trusted it, too. If he didn't, he would have refused the contract made by a twelve year old girl. He thought he knew all about God and His motives. He thought for certain someone as good and caring as Rosette would surely make peace.
Hadn't he done it right? He'd seen the Last Rites performed so many times over the course of thousands of years. He knew the words and the actions inside and out, knew that Rosette had believed in it when he'd given it to her. And really, it was only the belief in those words and those actions that mattered, right? So why was she being punished for it?
It was because he was a Devil, he thought bitterly, his skin tingling as it healed the wounds rapidly, his supernatural body making short work of it. Soon enough, they'd start again, but for now he could rest. Because he was a Devil and he'd given her the Last Rites. That was why. Everything that was happening to her was because of him! Chrono closed his eyes, shuddering. Because he's a Devil...
His eyes flew open, brow drawing down. What... Someone was calling his name. He could hear it in his mind more than with his ears. Who was calling him...
His heart lurched and his breath rattled from his chest in a gasp. His names...
The Crooked Horn...
Someone was calling his names! They were trying to summon him. "N-no..." If he was summoned...
The Ignoble One...
Then he wouldn't be here...
With Rosette. Chrono screamed as the final name was whispered out...
The Merciful One...
The ground began to tremble and shake, fire breaking from the cracks to lick the darkened ceiling. Voice screamed in anger, hands grabbed at him as he was suddenly ripped from the floor and hurled upward into darkness. "ROSETTE!" Don't take me from her again!
He was slammed into the cold earth, shivering and panting for breath, sweating even as his breath fogged the air. He was naked, too, and his stomach felt ready to explode any minute. Rolling over, he complied, dry heaving into the grass, almost too weak to support his own weight. A hand colder than the dark air itself touched his shoulder, muttered words of comfort said near his back. Tears scalded his cheeks, hotter than even hellfire and more damaging to him. Rosette... she was still there. He had to go back... but he couldn't, not until his summoner was through with him.
"Chrono, answer me. How do you feel?"
"C-c-cold... and... s-scared," he stuttered out, voice cracking slightly. He was still in his small form, unable to change. His summoner should have been aware that he wouldn't be much good in this form. Why bring him when there were plenty others to summon more healthy?
"I understand, truly I do. She's still there... but not for long."
For the first time, Chrono, still shivering with more than cold, looked at his summoner. A pale man with blue eyes and short black hair. His skin was too luminescent for human. Narrowing his eyes, he used his second sight, the one that detected anything supernatural, and stared again. Black feathered wings were outlined dimly in the night... skin shone like the moon was trapped beneath it... his eyes glowed with the light of Heaven... and two small black horns protruded from his head. A Demon and Angel? That was... "Y-you're a... heretic!"
The man smiled and gave a short bitter laugh. "That's not the worst thing I've been called. You're right, though, I'm a heretical being. But I've come to bring you back into this world. You need a contract to stay... I can offer you that."
So... THAT was why he'd been summoned! This man, this... thing... wanted to make a contract with him! He didn't understand why. The man was powerful enough to summon him from the bottom circle of Hell. It wasn't something just anyone could do, which meant he knew the dark arts very well. Why would he need a contract with Chrono. "N-n-no... deal! Send me b-back."
The man blinked in surprise before laughing again. "You misunderstand me, Chrono! I don't want a contract with you. I want you to make another contract... with Rosette Christopher.
The rage bubbled up, overwhelming the confusion and hope screaming in the back of his mind. Chrono shoved the man away with a snarl. "She's dead! I can't make a contract with the dead! How dare you summon me for this! Release me NOW!"
"Very well, I release you from the binding circle, but you are not dismissed from this world." There was a pale flash as the salt circle lit up and was absorbed back into the earth.
Chrono stood shakily, legs wobbling from underneath him. The man caught his arm, helping him stand up before removing his warm coat and putting it over his shoulders. "It's too cold even for a Devil to be out. Come with me, Chrono, and I'll explain everything. Hold on to me, we're going to use the astral lines."
"Can you do that?" He knew the man would be more than capable of handling the lines on a normal occassion. But pulling a Demon from the inner circle took a great deal of strength.
"I'll manage. So, are you coming with me?"
Glaring angrily, fists balling inside the large coat, Chrono bit out sharply, "I don't really have a choice, do I? You won't dismiss me until I do."
The man smiled and shrugged. "You have it about right." He held his hand out.
Chrono took it, still glaring. "I didn't get a name."
The smile widened, showing his fangs. The black wings broke free and the horns as well. It wasn't until they were flying up into the swirling green and gold mass that he had his answer. "Asmodius Hendric."
He only had time for a startled wide eyed stare before the sharp sting of entering the lines flooded him and they were sent careening to wherever this man was taking them.