Fic: Revenant

Author: Seraphim Grace

Fandom = Supernatural

Rating = R

spoilers = up to 5x10 -especially 5x04

Parallel universe

Notes – this is a fusion of sorts with Amy Hennig's Legacy of Kain series, where I took the plot from it and applied it to Supernatural.

Summary

When Lux is cast into the Abyss he is awoken by the Great Dark and sent out to kill his former master, but what he doesn't realise is how far his quest will take him, and why it all hinges around two brothers born aeons before he was destroyed.


iThe Lord Cadacus is a god, or as close as is possible to come. The Clans tell tales of Him. Few know the truth. He was mortal once, as were they all. However, His contempt for humanity drove him to create the Eidolon and give reign to the Unkin. He shattered the world and this, this world, was his prize./i

The first-born of His lieutenants, His favourite, was Lux. He stood with the Cadacus and his brethren from the dawn of His empire. He had served Him a millennium and more.

Over time the Eidolon became less human and more ...idivine/i. The Cadacus would enter a state of change and emerge with a new gift. Some years after the master, the evolution of the Eidolon would follow. Until Lux-- most favoured; most treasured Lux had the honor of surpassing his lord. For his arrogance, he earned a new kind of reward... agony.

Lux had, in his pride, entered the state of change and therein had sprouted a pair of batlike wings that erupted from the small of his back, tall proud wings that with a little thought, for they were new to him and such actions were not yet automatic, he could stretch out, first one and then the other with a snap and a creak.

The Lord Cadacus had allowed Lux to approach him, and kneel there before his throne, as he had a hundred- a thousand- a million, times before, and when Lux raised his head, his acid green eyes, bright inhuman Eidolon eyes, met those of his master, and his wings flicked out, first one, then with some thought and concentration the other, to their very fullest and Lux's brilliant eyes were caught between emotions even as his still human face showed pride and a little touch of fear.

The Cadacus twisted upon his throne. For the first time in a millennium he looked uncomfortable- human. His eyes flashed with dark blue malignancy. Then he rose and took those first few steps towards his most favoured lieutenant.

His footsteps almost clanged across the marble of his throne room floor, the inlaid gold seemed to come alive, twisting away from his bare feet. His shadow mottled.

"Lux," he said, and then he offered him his hand to help his lieutenant to his feet.

Lux rose gracefully, his new appendages allowing him a measure of balance that he had not had before.

The Cadacus stepped around him, pulling out the wings to their fullest extent and ran the very tips of his claws along the membranous skin stretched there. His expression for a moment softened and the other Eidolon wondered what would come of this. Perhaps they wondered if they too would acquire wings for there were those among the four who remained who saw that it was advantageous for their hunting of the Unkin.

The Cadacus ran his claws through the brown hair at the back of Lux's neck, through the soft curls that sprang up where it was shortest and Lux softened into the caress.

The lips that fell on the dip of his spine were warm although they looked like, and were as hard as, marble as his claws ran over the skin stretched taut. The Cadacus whispered something unintelligible into the skin there, and the bursting forth curls, then his hands fell to the place where the wings sprang forth.

Though Lux could not see it the Cadacus cast his eyes to the floor before he acted.

With a single rending motion he ripped away the bone and sinew of those wings, leaving behind only the membranes of skin, torn and oozing. Lux cried out, for how could he not, the wings, although new, were part of him that had been ripped asunder and to the floor and as the Cadacus stepped out behind him, with the bones and sinew in his hands, Lux could see how that Cadacus was stone faced, what emotion he had had fleeting.

"Pax, Nox," He turned to two of Lux's Eidolon brothers, "take him to the Lake of the Damned, the gates to the Underworld. Throw him in. Show him what we do to traitors and weaklings," he sneered as he looked at Lux, "even those who were once most beloved."

***

The pain was excruciatingly exquisite.

It was agony and it was ecstasy.

It was flight and falling and orgasm all at once.

It was crashing and soaring and fire and ice and hot summer rain.

It was eternal.

It went on and on and on as he fell and fell and fell into the depths of Hell and the fiery lake therein.

And through the pain came rage and hate and bile, as he fell he contemplated his betrayal, what had been done to him by those most beloved and he vowed empty vengeance.

***

Lux could not have said how long it was that he fell only that it seemed never to end, and then as suddenly as a thought, he landed upon the bottom and the great dark eye of Hell itself came to look upon him.

He could not have said how long he lay there, with the burning of his brothers' hands still fresh upon his shoulders, and the cruel twist of the mouth of Catena, screwing up her pretty pretty face in disdain- her hair a shower of golden brown curls over her shoulder like a mantle- before she licked her bloodless lips and turned back to the conversation she had protracted most amusingly with one of her byblows. And Caritas, who couldn't even be bothered to look. His brothers, his sister, the Greater Eidolon, and it was their faces, not that of the Cadacus, that haunted him under the suffocating weight of that one great dark eye.

Aeons passed and the eye merely watched.

Eventually, for whatever reason a voice joined the eye, at first a whisper, in languages long unknown and then in a crisp clear command, "Lux, you are worthy."

Perhaps years passed before Lux raised his head from the bottom of that lake, aware of the severity of the pain only now that it was gone as the voice repeated, "Lux, you are worthy."

The Eye was still there, manifest in the darkness with a wet light, shadowy tendrils around it, but in front of it was a young man, tall, taller even than Lux who had stood a head taller than most of the Eidolon and the lesser Eidolon. He wore unusual clothes in a brilliant, blinding white, and his brown hair fell across his face in a manner most pleasing. His eyes however had that Eidolon brightness, that colour that was clearly not human, even if they had not yet started to glow. When Lux looked at him the young man smiled. "Lux," he repeated the word and even his voice was different, "you are worthy."

Lux was aware of the most terrible sense of knowing. That although he could recognise that this figure and the growing gloom and the shining wet eye were one and the same, that he knew him other than that, and deep within him was a pang he could not easily identify. It was as if a bell, long dormant, had been strung and could not now stop resonating with a slow and sonorous chime of acknowledgement.

"What travesty is this?" Lux asked the man as he cast eyes over his new form, twisted, decayed, altered. "Death would be preferable to ithis/i."

The young man in white laughed. "You did not survive the abyss, Lux, I merely spared you from total dissolution."

"I choose oblivion." Lux snarled, that bell of knowing deep within him ringing louder and louder until he was driven half mad with it.

The young man smiled, spreading his hands. "That choice is not yours." His voice even, was soft and seductive.

Lux spat the words out. "I am destroyed!"

"You are ireborn/i." The young man touched his face to the ruins of Lux', what had been a beauty that transcended the very concept of death was now gone, his Eidolon finery remaining in tatters. There was love there, in the touch, a love that exceeded beauty; a love that exceeded decay. "My beloved Ghost of Light." And there was love there, on both sides, hurting, burning, and twisted, but love nonetheless.

"You are worthy, though you think you are not worth being saved, for I can see into the heart of you, and I know you, Lux, and you are worthy for I have said such."

It was not in Lux' nature to believe him, or accept such acts of largesse without question and doubt. "You are reborn to help me cleanse this world." And the young man smiled, soft and warm, and his all too human eyes were crinkled at the corners with laughter he had yet to expel.

"The Cadacus created the Eidolon, his abomination, to trap the very essence of life. It is this abomination, this iumbra/i, that animates your very flesh, the corpse that you inhabited. And that, Lux, is why the world is dying. There is no balance. The souls of the dead remain trapped in flux. I am unable to spin them in the Wheel of Fate. They cannot complete their destiny and the world is held in stasis.

"Redeem yourself of the sin that he created you with. Or," the young man smiled, "if you prefer, avenge yourself. Settle your dispute with him, destroy him and your past brethren for the wrong they did you, my beautiful Ghost. Free their iUmbra/ie and that of all the world and I can turn the Wheel of Fate again. Use your hatred to exorcise them. I will make it possible, for you, my beloved, if you will just say yes. If you will become my instrument of death."

Lux considered it for long minutes, but the young man had nothing but time and did not seem to care how long it took; and the answer was somewhat foregone. He may not have served him for the world needed saved, but the Cadacus and his former Eidolon brethren had both betrayed and murdered him. They had condemned him to this, this i half-life/i and revenge was nothing if not eager.

"I shall do it." Lux said, his eyes glowing with an unholy green flame, the last remnants of his former humanity burned from him in the Lake of the Damned upon whose bed he now rested.

The young man smiled and then reached forward, he pulled the tattered remnants of his Eidolon finery about his face like a shawl, caressing the skin that remained there with soft human fingers- "then feed, my champion, and do so with my love."

"My hunger for the Unkin has left me." Lux answered, for it was true, somewhere the pain had cleansed him of that need to devour the black quintessence which impelled their human host.

"You are changed," the young man said with such eagerness, his fingers trailing down the bony remnant of Lux' chest, "reborn in my image by my hand. You have a new purpose rather than the consumption of those twisted remnants," his entire face twisted with the word, "you are an instrument of Fate and such you must hunt those lost iUmbra/ie that haunt this Spiritual, nay, Spectral, realm, and through devouring them you will return them to me, and to the Wheel of Fate which we both serve."

The young man cupped Lux' face with both hands and then pulled down the fabric with which he had covered the gaping mess of Lux' face. "Feed, my love, feed."

It was entirely new and at once entirely familiar. It was light and night and red gold sunset, and feathers and fur and flame. It set each fibre and sinew of his new body alight, and then it was gone, the iUmbra/i consumed.

The young man in white cupped his face again, "is it so unpleasant to do my will?" He asked, "is it so wrong to take my gifts of love? Such iUmbra/i will replenish your strength and will even as they are returned to the Wheel." The young man had such love and devotion in his eyes that it was almost painful for Lux to look upon him. "Both those that exist here in the Spectral realm and the iUmbra/ie of your enemies will sustain you, and the hunger will, if left, overwhelm you. I would have you feed, my love, that you might live longer in the blazon of my glory."

Lux pulled the fabric back over the ruin of his face, jawbone removed, cheeks hollowed, nose a gaping hole with septum still hanging there. "When I kill the Cadacus will you offer me oblivion?"

"How could I deny you anything, my love," the man asked, "even if it breaks my heart."

"I know who you are," Lux replied, for this young man with his protestations of love, with his promises and his offer of revenge was the gloom that surrounded them at the bottom of the lake. He was the great shining Eye in the darkness. He was the Lake and the country it led to. He was the Darkness Incarnate and Lux knew that.

"I would have it no other way." The man said. "Come to me again in the blood of your enemies, bearing their shattered fragments of iUmbra/i within you, and the poisoned ianima/i of the Cadacus himself, and though it shall tear me asunder, I shall grant you oblivion. I will release you unto the Wheel that you might be reborn in the world that you have saved. You shall be rewarded for your service."

Lux didn't care for such trivialities.

He just wanted revenge.

"Come, my love," the young man said taking him by the wrist, "there are things I must teach you, and revenge is not the most patient of masters."

Lux snatched away his arm. That deep sonorous bell still tolled within him but he did not care for it, nor the intimate manner in which he was treated. "Don't touch me."

"As you wish, my most beloved," the young man said, then he took the membraneous remains of the wings Lux had been cast down by. "These are not as useless as they seem, take hold of them as you glide and they will carry you across small chasms and allow you to measure your fall. This is one of my gifts to you, there are others, created to measure your strength until you are truly my champion, my chosen, capable of defeating even the Cadacus."

"Go from this place," the young man said, and turned his back. His feet, Lux noticed, were bare, covered in the muck and the ordure that covered the lake bed. "hunt your enemies, if your strength is taken you will return here and I shall sustain you. Go, Lux, and go with my love, for you of all creatures of that upper realm are loved best."

Then the man, the wetly shining eye and the lingering gloom of the Incarnate Dark were gone.

***

It was perhaps unfair to say that the years had been unkind to the surface world, because they had instead been diligent. What had remained of the time iBefore/i, towering monoliths of glass and steel had long since twisted and toppled, but now great mountains of trees erupted from them, twisting out like fingers. In places great lakes had formed in the remnants of the concrete pillars, as they fell into each other, and tumbled down in a broken stream over the remains of glass and steel and aggregate rock.

It had begun when Lux fell, but now it was almost complete. The forests thick robbing the forest floor of the light, but they were verdant with wildlife, with birds that shattered shrieking at his footfalls and deer that bounded off into the darkness. He had no interest in them.

When Lux first beheld his image, reflected in the clear waters of a forest pool, he was horrified. He had known, with a certain self assurance, of his own beauty. All of the Eidolon were pulchritudinous it had been one of the reasons that they had been chosen afterall.

He had been fair of face and form, the loveliest of the lovely Eidolon, called Lux for the shine of his skin and his teeth and eyes-- For he had been the light of his master's smile.

It was not petty vanity, for beauty knew it's own worth, that moved him now but horror at what he had become. He had been tolerant of those with lesser beauty, which not all the Eidolon had been, but now he was hideous. His eyes sunken and bleached acid green that shone with an unholy light that was neither that of the Great Dark, or his human avatar, or Eidolon. His skin mottled grey and hanging in places in terrible flaps, that now he tugged away to reveal blackened and gangrenous flesh. His softer organs had been lost to the Lake leaving behind only those sheltered by cages of bone, but the muscles of his arms and legs remained, but made more vivid by the very absence of fat or skin.

He did not hold the animals askance for running from him.

His face it seemed had taken the worst of the damage. His mouth was entirely gone, instead he had cheek muscles flapping loosely from a jaw that was held in place only by the remnants of skin that had lain beneath him when he fell. The flesh of his nose was gone, but the cartilage remained, hanging futilely from the spar of bone. Strangely, he still had a full head of hair and a perfect pair of pointed grey ears.

He repeated the action of the Great Dark- he used his tattered finery to cover his face.

Gone was the golden Eidolon, pride of his Master, and in his place, was this unholy Revenant, a creature doomed to the shadows hunting the creatures of such beauty that they would not even bear to look at him now.

His eyes burned brighter and with it so did his desire for revenge. If he had have retained a stomach he would have said it ached with the need, but now all he had was a body segmented like a wasp's, with an empty pelvic bowl and a chain of spine.

Then the irony struck him, that the last and weakest of his former brothers was the most vain, the one who would cast aside things for not being lovely enough, was the first he would hunt. There in the forest, amongst the fallen ziggurats of an age lost even to history, Lux knelt in the loam and the previous autumn's fallage, cast what remained of his head back and laughed.

***

It took less than two days to travel from the shores of the Lake of the Damned to the ruins of the clan lands of the Luxor Lesser Eidolon, those lesser Eidolon that Lux himself had created to serve as family and nation, in his new state. Unlike the other Greater Eidolon, he had known all of his scions by name.

It was his intention that he would spy upon them, that he would merely check upon their progress- that they were well so that he could continue his quest without guilt as regards to their fate. He could be a ghostly benefactor, serving them without appearing.

How could he, who had loved them so well, inflict upon them what he had become, but his new strength and power, which he had quickly learned exceeded that of normal Eidolon power, could be used in their service. It was enough, he knew, to love them, and let them love his memory, than have them suffer a moment in his presence.

Even if he had not been reborn to be so ugly that it would cause them pain to behold him, then surely the Cadacus and the Eidolon would destroy them for harbouring him. They were a small clan, but they were his, and he would everything he could to protect them.

He just wanted to see them which is why, rather than going direct to the Hall of Mirrors that Caritas had made his own, he came first to the small Motte that they had built in his honour. Unlike most of the Eidolon palaces the Motte was defensible, built for strength and not celebration of their lord.

Lux' first suspicion that all was not well was when he realised that no smoke came from the chimneys and no light fell through the small windows in the upper stories. It was not unusual for birds to perch upon the battlements but they had never done so before in such numbers. His immediate unease he settled with the reminder that they too would have, in the intervening years through which he had fallen; changed. Perhaps they no longer needed fire to warm their fragile bodies, and light to see their way in darkness. Perhaps they were Greater Eidolon now.

Sabiyya with her honey skin would be sat upon his throne, a fur over the back, and her dulcimer on her knee as she struck it with hammers that she wore on her fingers. Isolde would be there at her feet, with her weaving spread before her, always catching her hair in the work with the laugh that blended with Sabiyya's music, even as the others would crowd around to hear.

Merlose would dance with shimmers of old coins, a hundred lost currencies, in chains about her waist that caught the light and the hammer of the dulcimers in a jangling cacophony of sweetness. She would have braided them through her hair so it too sang and danced with her.

And Sebastien would laugh, his bright blue eyes crinkling, sprawled across one of the carpets Isolde had made and laughing, ignoring the others as they sweetly teased him about his resemblance to the Lord Cadacus, how he was favoured above them when it was not true. Finn and Rye would act out scenes from plays that they invented themselves and there would be laughter, even Sabiyya would rest her hands on the strings as she rocked with laughter and love.

They were efficient, bloodless killers, but yet then Sabiyya would, in her sheer white gown and elaborate necklace, a gift from the Lord Cadacus herself, smile and move to the place where she kept her dulcimer and the music would replace the screams and the bodies of the Unkin that had made their supper left for the wild animals.

Sabiyya's cinnamon skin seemed to sweat frankincense and other precious spices. Isolde was milk pale and wheat golden with a mouth like a bloody slash. Merlose's sweat, gathered in the creases of her skin, tasted like barley wine. Sebastien had a pair of moles between crotch and inner thigh, as if one had been there, split apart when he was given legs from a singular stalk. Finn and Rye, together in everything, almost seamless halves of a broken whole.

And there was laughter and music and dancing and love and murder and sex and a hundred other things with a hundred faces and those who were his most beloved, artists and fools all. Dark skinned Pax, enjoying the irony of his name, had surrounded himself with warriors, Unkin hunters from the human fortresses turned into lesser Eidolon with his blood, but Lux chose the brightest, the most beautiful, the most loving.

As he approached the main gate to his Motte, he was horrified to see that the wood hung from it's hinges, splintered and rotten.

Inside the air smelt dank and cold.

There were no whispers of Sabiyya's perfumes, decanted in bottles but always tainting the air.

There was a silence of Isolde's dyes, pungent and brittle in the early evening light.

All he could smell was dust and mould. This place had clearly been abandoned for centuries.

Perhaps, Lux lied to himself, the Cadacus had adopted them, had taken them to his own palace without their lord to protect them for they had been worthless to the other clans, who would ignore them. They numbered less than a hundred, they could not rival the armies of Pax or Catena for military strength or numbers. They were outspoken and brilliant unlike the pampered lackwits of Caritas. And for Nox they would have held no value being trained in the arts and love and not those sciences that he found best pleasing.

Even as the thought went through his head Lux knew it for a lie.

Perhaps it was the broken loom that collapsed underfoot, years turning it to splinters just waiting the touch that compelled them apart. Perhaps it was the dark shadows on the wall that looked like they might once have been blood.

Merlose' chain of coins lay in the fireplace, blackened and twisted. There were bone fragments amongst the burnt coals, blackened amongst the white ash.

Sabiyya's dulcimer was nailed to one of the upper beams, the strings hanging in a noose although the corpse had long since fallen from it.

Two skulls lay at the base of a ruined bed, the mattress and covers long since gone to bedding for creatures other than Eidolon, and when Lux bent down to touch one, it fell to powder. The two paired rings in the carpet told him their identities.

Every room told a similar story, and in the last room, his own sanctum, the door had been smashed in with something that left tell tale black stains. The hangings which had proudly held his clan symbols torn down, because parts of them, solid with dust, still hung there, and scrawled in that same ugly black paint was the word "HERETICS" though it had long since been covered in dust and mould.

There was a limit to the amount of lies that Lux could tell himself. Even his talent for self delusion could not argue in the face of such evidence. The Cadacus had slaughtered his clan; his beloved children; the family he had carved out for himself, and he had done it just because he could.

The blood in Lux' veins ran hot with revenge. If he had had any doubt before of his purpose in slaughtering the Cadacus and his Eidolon since he was released to the surface it was since gone. He was full of rage and pain and hate and there would be blood for this! there would be slaughter. He'd kill them all. He'd destroy them all. He'd devour them all, give them to the Great Dark to do with as he willed, whether that was return them to his Wheel, or simply to torture their iUmbra/i for the rest of eternity.

He might have shown them the mercy of a quick death for his own murder, for he had been the brightest, the most beloved and his fall from favour would have presented an opportunity unlike any other. The strategy of it made sense. But his Clan were worthless, unimportant to any but him, and it was clear that their end had been slow and violent.

So as Lux knelt in the remains of what had been his tower; his Clan; his family, he screamed aloud and promised them, his dead dear loves, that there would be no mercy. There would be no quarter. There would be no restraint.

***

Caritas was the least of the Eidolon, vain, petty and cruel. He had lived in a great palace of windows and mirrors so that he could catch his own reflection and muse upon his own beauty. He had built up his clan in his own image, recognising his ears in one, or eyes like his in another, but none were chosen for their own beauty, only his.

With his new physique it took Lux less than two days to travel across the flatlands from his own clan lands, such as remained, to those of his youngest brother. Muscles behaved as they had not before, stretching further without complaint allowing him to move greater distances with every stride, even if his centre of gravity was now lower, closer to the floor. He could use his claws to climb and his wings, if grabbed could catch the air allowing him to glide.

Water proved to him a new enemy, his new body was fashioned from dust and those particles that hung in the air, held together in his form by will alone, but a simple rain shower, rare as they were in the flatlands, could cause his body to dissolve into mud and return him, unceremoniously to the Spectral realm. This too had it's own advantages because in the Spectral Realm water had no heft or substance and he could move across lake beds as quickly as roads without the water to impede him.

He maintained no illusion about his appearance, but even he was horrified by the Caritan, those eidolon created by Caritas, lost and corrupted to time.

Caritas had chosen them for their likeness to him. He had taken from them their humanity and brought them into his clan as lesser Eidolon. Now he had altered them. Each was different. They shambled about like broken automata, grabbing human and unkin alike, which was both new and terrible.

The first that Lux killed, for he could not bear the abomination to exist, wore the tattered finery of hundreds of years past, rotting and foul. Her mouth had been slashed open with four razor claws and some of the teeth hung loose. It caused four awful black wounds across her cheeks, like she had four mouths, each of which was broken. Her hair was a morass of twisted dread locks caught here and there with leaves and mud. There was no sanity in her at all.

Tearing out her throat had not even slowed her down. Instead Lux was forced to impale her on the outstretched branch of a tree and as she wailed and screamed and kicked, crack open her sternum and crush the heart within.

It was only when he had consumed the iUmbra/i trapped within the black flesh that she stopped struggling.

Her iUmbra/i did little to sustain him, but was better, he noticed, than those loose floating iUmbra/i that haunted the spectral realm. It was enough he knew to maintain this material form for some of the ways forward were impassable in the spectral.

Lux did not hunt the Caritan Eidolon as he passed to their lord's tower. If they crossed his path he put them down, swallowing their iumbra/i like candies. Each was mutilated differently, but with the same shrieking insanity. One had torn his ears off and one still hung flapping at the side of his jaw. One was blind where its eyes had been clawed free. The wounds looked somewhat fresh which suggested that it kept reopening the wounds.

So it was sustained with the iUmbra/i of these shrieking mad creatures that he came upon the Hall of Mirrors that was the palace of Caritas and home of his clan.

Lux had, before the Fall, been to the Hall of his brother. It was a squatting block of rooms with additions added here and there at whim as more room was needed. Lux had never shared with his Eidolon the ability to make others. He had not needed armies or legions of admirers. He had a hundred or so that he had chosen and knew and loved.

Caritas had been insecure, bullied by the others, Lux included, so he created the Caritan in his image that he might be loved, and they had grown and spawned and grown, and so had their Hall. Yet the years had not been kind to it. The hangings were torn, the furniture splintered, doors were either missing or lay in front of their openings. Yet this was different from the violent desolation of Lux' clan lands. This was not an attack, this was just decay and abandonment.

Yet every mirror that lined every wall, that had given this place it's name, was intact and covered, some with wooden shutters locked tight, some with heavy curtains solid with dust. There was no glass or metal amongst the debris. When they had gone mad, for the entire race of Caritan were violently insane, they had not touched the mirrors.

That stuck Lux as unusual because they had disfigured themselves so utterly that he assumed that they would have broken the mirrors. They had not.

It was when he opened the shutters on the broken windows and light fell on the first mirror, the fabric torn down by his own claws, that he heard the laughter.

Somewhere in this Hall his brother was laughing.

The Caritan had long abandoned their master and his domain.

After several fruitless hours Lux came to the steady realisation that, despite the laughter, the Hall of Mirrors was entirely empty. He could not find a single trace of his former brother, other than that eerie sound echoing the corridors, and sometimes glimpsed in the mirrors from the corners of his eyes.

The laugh was a high pitched ihihihi/i of mockery, like that of a child enjoying it's game of hide and seek, but apart from the mirrors which lined every wall like cladding, the entire Hall was empty.

Lux was enraged. In his anger he started to wrench open the shutters over the mirrors, he tore down the hangings over the glass throwing them to the floor in temper.

It just made the laughter louder.

It was as if there were a hundred Caritas were around the room mocking him with the same high pitched ihihihi/i that he remembered so well.

Caritas had had an annoying awful nasal laugh. The sort that caught in the ears and made others sneer. When he laughed, the others would gather, Lux included, and wonder why the Cadacus had chosen him to be a Greater Eidolon-- to be so close to divine.

The years, however many had passed as Lux fell into the Great Dark and his demesne, had not improved the sound, and now his transfigured self had hearing all the more sharp to receive it.

And to Caritas, wherever it was that he hid himself, it was the absolute best game for he laughed and laughed and laughed.

Driven to extremity Lux spun around on his back foot and punched the mirror nearest him as hard as he could. He broke the glass, the wooden frame upon which it had been set and cracked the bricks of the wall behind.

The laughter stopped.

"Just what are you, creature? Not human, not Unkin, not Eidolon." Caritas' voice was as nasal as his laughter, yet he still remained hidden. In fact, other than his voice, there was no sound of him, no breathing, not even the slow pooling and sludging of the remnants of blood in his veins.

There wasn't even the slow whirring of recording equipment, some of which existed from the time before the Cadacus. There was nothing there in that room except the mirrors, of which there might have been as many as fifty, and Lux, who had no more veins, and who had no lungs with which to breathe and therefore could stay absolutely silent.

"I am a Revenant." Lux answered, "reborn from what I was and I have come to destroy you all for the wrongs you have done."

"And yet," Caritas laughed, "you sound like someone dead."

"I am." Lux replied.

"The irony overwhelms me," Caritas sneered, "that the Cadacus has risen such a creature, a dead thing, to kill me."

"I am not from him," even Lux was shocked by the amount of derision in his tone as he said it. He spat the very words out of what remained of his mouth, the noise shaped by will alone. "I am on my way to kill him for this abomination."

"Did He create you?" Caritas sounded jealous, a little lost even, but he did not show himself.

Lux did not answer.

"He has locked himself away in the Sanctuary of the Clans, it has been centuries since the door was even unlocked let alone any of us given access. We cannot even visit the place of our birth let alone see our creator. Why now would he create you?"

Lux remained silent. It was better, he knew, to let Caritas speak, and then possibly remember what he said later, it rarely had worth, but he would whine if interrupted.

"He has abandoned us, he has secluded himself away and now he has created you to destroy us."

"Are you finished?" Lux asked. "Because if not, I can sit down and wait. Although I lack the organs to accept it, I could even fetch myself some water."

"How dare you speak to me that way?" Caritas roared and the mirrors shook on the wall. "I AM A GOD."

Lux laughed, but it was a dry humourless sound. "Is that what you think you are?" He asked. "Show yourself."

"Can you not find me? Am I so very changed?" Caritas returned to that dreadful ihihihi./i

"You do not recognise me." Lux returned, "why should I offer you any courtesy?"

"Lux." It was surprise at first, then derision as he continued. "You should have stayed where the master sent you. You will find this world much less pleasant than you remember."

Lux continued to press him. "What has become of my clan? Answer me, little brother, or I will beat an answer from your horrid lips."

But Caritas continued unabated. "Everyone is afraid, sibling. You awake to a world of fear. These times of change are so... unsettling. Do you think I feel no revulsion for this form? Do you believe for a moment that our Lord would risk his empire upon an upstart inheritance?"

"Enough riddles - what are you saying?!"

"You were only the first to change."

It was then that Lux realised what should have been apparent from the start, Caritas was in the room, he was in the mirrors, trapped there by his own evolutions and vanity. His clan had degenerated into madness simply because there was no longer a heart of their hive mind. He had altered so completely that they no longer served a purpose to him, and having been thus consumed the fey link between him and his clan was severed, the lesser Eidolon going mad in it's absence.

Instead of hate Lux was filled with a sort of apathy and disgust. He no longer saw Caritas as a enemy to be destroyed, as much as a small impediment to his path, a bug to be stepped on.

"Tell me, brother." Lux said as he gathered his will in his hand to form a projectile, "where can I find Cadacus?"

"The master is beyond your reach, little Lux, He makes himself known when He sees fit - not when commanded."

Lux lowered his blazing eyes as he forced the swirling ball of his will into the floor. The resulting shockwave shattered all the mirrors so that the glass fell to the floor, and he could almost hear Caritas whisper in his dying, "I am released."

Feeding on the iUmbra/i of Caritas was unlike anything Lux had known. The loose iUmbra/ie of the spectral realm was like passing through a cool mist on a hot summer's day, where the iUmbra/ie of the Lesser Eidolon was like sinking into a bath of warm oil, thick and enveloping.

The iUmbra/i of Caritas threw him across the room. It was like being caught in a great hurricane, buffeted by winds and rain. Each and every cell of his being shattered and reformed over and over again and all that Lux could do was scream in the wake of it.

"You have done well, love," said the young man in white who stood barefoot amidst the shattered glass. He had not been there before but Lux was not surprised to see him.

"Am I reduced to this?" Lux asked, "a ghoul, a fratricide?"

"Elevated, my love, not reduced, the ability to pass through semi solid objects is yours now, it will give you access to the Sanctuary of the Clans, which although derelict is not uninhabited."

***

The aftershocks of Lux' consumption of Caritas were felt throughout the entire hall and punctuated by the pained shrieks of the Caritan Eidolon. By the time he had emerged from the shattered glass ruins of the palace they were all dead, obviously maintained by the iUmbra/i of their creator. When Lux consumed it he consumed them, perhaps, he wondered, that was the reason for the aftershock, that he had literally consumed over a thousand iUmbrae/i.

He, himself, was left shaky from the force of it, left kneeling in the ruins of the multitude of mirrors, and the Great Dark in his meat suit and brilliant white clothes, bare feet shredded by the broken glass shards, knelt there and stroked his hair, that one part of him that looked like he had before. It was strange how familiar it felt, how natural, to be broken as the Great Dark whispered practised platitudes and stroked his hair, as if this was how it had always been.

He didn't even reject it when the Great Dark called him "my love," "my dearest," or any of the other pet names he used in place of his name. He did not know why the Incarnate Dark treated him in such a manner, as if they had a long standing and very dear acquaintance, a sort of closeness that came only over years and with an almost slavish devotion.

Lux did not know the Great Dark, only that, even against his will, he found calm in his touches, and familiarity, as if it was always thus, as if it always would be.

In the presence of the Great Dark time had no meaning, his hands were soft and without claw. He looked like a normal human, the sort that huddled in their fortresses from the Unkin, but he was not and probably never had been.

And when the Great Dark finally left, though Lux had no concept of how long it had been, it was dark, and as he wandered through the woods outside the Hall of Mirrors, woods which had once been carefully manicured, the bodies of the Caritan Eidolon twitched in their death throes. Some kicked at the leaves with their cracked heels, one jerked about amongst the branches, shaking the leaves down in it's fury, but they were gone. Lux could sense no more life in them than in the rocks underfoot.

So he gave them no more thought than he gave the rocks- mere annoyance as they got in his way.

***

The Sanctuary of the Clans was a large monstrosity in the flatlands in the centre of the land. There were six great towers that ended bluntly giving the impression, from a distance, that the Sanctuary was a rose bush cut back for the winter.

To the northwest of it was the Abyss that led down into Hell and the Great Lake of Fire into which he had been thrust.

Lux knew that there was a reason for everything that Cadacus did, he knew that the Sanctuary was there amongst the flatlands for a reason. He knew that the Abyss had been opened where it had by design. He knew each of the towers represented something.

But Cadacus kept his reasons to himself.

At the time Lux had not questioned it, because one did not question Cadacus, he was Divine, he had fashioned them from clay to serve him, if he had his whims who was Lux to question him? Now those towers represented answers that he lacked. They were reasons that he did not understand, and he wanted to know the reasons of those whims.

He wanted to know why Cadacus had kissed the back of his neck before he had ripped off his wings.

He wanted to know why it was that he had thrown him into the Lake of Fire and Damnation to endlessly fall into pain.

He wanted to know why he had been the first born.

He wanted to know why his Clan had been slaughtered when it became clear his own death was sustained in limbo by the Abyss, his own clan surviving it.

He wanted to know why he had been betrayed and abandoned when he had been so loved.

He wanted to know if he had been loved at all.

For longer than he could remember Lux had been loved, perhaps not by his brethren for there was too much jealousy amongst them for that, they had always been covetous of their lord's affection, but by Cadacus, that perhaps those long hours amongst them might not have been false.

He was angry, incensed with the need for revenge, for murder and righteous fury and a hundred other things, but mostly he remembered that soft, human, kiss on the back of his neck just before the pain started.

He was not so far removed from human, he knew, that he did not wish that his love had been reciprocated.

He had loved.

He had loved with all of his Eidolon being.

For centuries too numerous to count he had iloved/i.

He was not so far removed from human, he knew, that he did not recognise at least part of his need for revenge to be that of a lover scorned.

And the Great Dark offered something, amidst his promises and declarations of love, the Great Dark offered.

Lux had been hurt, he knew better than to accept such promises.

So he armed himself for war, with all the anger and rage that he could contain in his tattered frame, and laid siege to the Sanctuary of the Clans.

***

Cadacus was waiting for him in the central sanctum of the Sanctuary. He sprawled over his throne like a blanket carelessly tossed there. He wore armour, such as he had not for nearly a thousand years. He had expected Lux and prepared for the battle.

"Lux," he made the sound of it a caress the way he always had.

"Cadacus." Lux hissed the word through teeth and tongue he no longer had, dragging out the final sss like a threat.

Cadacus was nonplussed. "The abyss has been Unkind." He said almost conversationally.

He unfolded himself from his throne and began to approach Lux, using the same clanging steps he had when he had ripped away his wings, there was menace in his movements.

But Lux held firm. "I am your creation, Cadacus - now, as before. You criticize your own work. What have you done with my clan, degenerate? You have no right--"

Cadacus' blue eyes flashed with danger, like small lightning bolts over the sockets. "What I have made, I can also destroy, child."

Though he maintained his stance rage rippled through Lux like the lightning over Cadacus' eyes "Damn you, Cadacus! You are not God! This act of genocide is unconscionable!"

Cadacus quirked an eyebrow at that. "Conscience...? You dare speak to me of conscience? Only when you have felt the full gravity of choice should you dare to question my judgment!

"Your life's span is a flicker compared to the mass of doubt and regret that I have borne since I was first turned from the light... To know that the fate of the world hangs dependent on the advisedness of my every deed -- can you even begin to conceive what action you would take, in my position?"

Lux knew the answer to that. "I would choose integrity."

Cadacus was calm, as still as a mountain lake. "Look around you, Lux - see what has become of our empire. Witness the end of an age. The clans, scattered to the corners of this world... This place has outlasted its usefulness -- as have you."

As Cadacus spoke from his hip he drew his knife. It was an ancient thing of bone and steel and magic. Lux knew it well. It was an ancient blade - older than any of them, and a thousand times more deadly. The legends claimed that the blade was possessed, and thrived by devouring the souls of its victims. For all their bravado, they knew what it meant when Cadacus drew the knife in anger - it meant you were dead.

The fight was short and dirty, and it was clear that Lux was no match for his creator. Yet something strange happened as Cadacus lunged forward with the knife, the glyphs along the blade glowing white. Unsure how else to counter Lux caught the blade between the two bones of his forearm and twisted.

His intent had been to disarm the Cadacus, to use his own state of rot to his advantage. Instead, with a blinding flash and a shriek that was certainly unholy, the blade snapped.

Cadacus leapt back, out of the range of Lux's claws. "The blade is vanquished." He said, "And so it unfolds... and we are a step closer to our destinies." Then with a power he had never showcased before Cadacus teleported from the room leaving not a trace he had been there.

In his rage, impotent as it was, Lux lost control of his mortal form, it shattered into dust and he entered the spectral realm where he was most comfortable.

To his horror, the remnants of the knife, sinuous and ethereal, hovered there like a threat. It hung in the air like an iUmbra/i.

He could have sworn that he saw a glint of satisfaction in Cadacus' eye when the blade was destroyed. He did not understand the game that Cadacus was playing. But he knew the finishing move.

Lux reached out and grasped the knife. The blade flared to life, its energy melding with Lux, consuming him as he consumed iUmbra/i.

Of course the Great Dark was there, with love and pride and honour in his human eyes. "From this moment and ever afterward, you and this blade are inextricably bound. Demonslayer and Slayer of Demons, your destinies were always intertwined.

"By destroying the knife, you have liberated it from its corporeal prison, and restored it to its true form - a wraith blade, its energy unbound. No longer a physical blade, it can only manifest itself in the material realm when your strength is fully restored. Once manifest, it will sustain you." Then laying a kiss upon Lux forehead the Incarnate Dark vanished, just as Cadacus had.

He was alone then, within the throne room, so he slipped back into the material realm to catch his breath, as it were. The spirit appeared before him as a wisp of white and fire.

"What are you, little soul?" She asked. "Another of creation of Cadacus, come to taunt this bound spectre?"

Lux went to leave. "I did not intend to disturb your rest." He said.

She was half lovely half fire, blonde hair melded with tongues of flame that flared hotly as she raged, her feet were gone, perhaps to death or perhaps to the constant immolation that consumed her. "Rest...? A body is needed for sleep... Flesh and bones are required to recline. No, child, all I may do is watch, and remember, ceaselessly conscious as this wretched world's history unfurls. Ghastly past, insufferable future, are they one and the same...? Am I always here?"

Lux could not help but ask. "How have you come to haunt this throne room."

She answered him. "He betrayed us all. The very world remains corrupted to its core, stands as a monument to his blind ambition and lust. Now this throne serves only to bind me here -- my prison and eternal home, thanks to the avarice of your master, Cadacus..."

"That bastard can claim no allegiance from me."

She smiled, her eyes like glowing coals and her lips wet, "Then we share a common foe, Lux. Return here when you have need. Mary remembers what others have forgotten..."

***

The Great Dark awaited him in the foyer of the Sanctuary, as if the very presence of the ghost had unnerved or discomfited him. He had left as suddenly as she had appeared, yet now he seemed calm and composed. He flicked his hair from his face with a gesture of his head before he spoke. "Your sister's keep lies far to the east, beyond the ruins that greeted your first exit from my Underworld. She and her brood have cocooned themselves in a derelict cathedral, having murdered its human guardians. She holds the key to chasing Cadacus."

***

Catena had made her home in the Silenced Cathedral of the Far East, where the wind buffeted and howled around what remained of humanity's last great fight against the Unkin. The building itself had been a great pipe organ that was tuned to cause the Unkin pain and confusion allowing them to be easier killed. This was before the Eidolon had taken control of their numbers and feasted on them. The Unkin had swarmed the Cathedral and silenced it utterly, breaking it's bells and dislodging it's pipes until it stood testament only to persistence as humanity retreated further and further into it's fortresses surrounded by salt, iron and running water.

Catena had loved the majesty of the place, erupting from the nearby mountains taller than any of them, swirls and curlicues of stone, all crafted to channel the sound that was now stilled, and great echoing domes full of shadows where light played tricks on even the most world weary of the Eidolon.

Even before they had been forced to by the growing nature of their own private kingdoms Catena's home had been overlooked by the other Eidolon who felt themselves ill at ease amongst it's gargoyles and broken pipework and had met their sister in the Sanctuary of the Clans.

She was most at home there, wearing the finest fabrics that humanity made, draped around her like fronds of cypress moss, her hair styled into the same curls and curlicues as the stone around her. Over the centuries as the very soil tried to reclaim the Cathedral she had become more isolated and more like it until she had had very little time for anything but the curt demands of Cadacus commanding her presence.

Her Clan maintained that cool aloofness because each had been made with part of her iUmbra/i and so could not help but be like her. As the years passed she had become colder yet and more distant, but as each of them had retired into their own clan so Lux had not given it a moment's thought. Pax had retreated amongst his soldiers and Nox to his books, Lux had been so happy with his Clan, with Sabiyya and Isolde and Merlose, Sebastien and Finn and Rye and Pasha and all the others-- Abandoning them only for the love of his master for Cadacus had burned with love.

So as Lux looked upon the Silenced Cathedral-- the home of his sister, he felt the ache of them, of his clan, his brethren and his master, and the anger welled up within him like bile.

The Catenar Eidolon were somnolent, they had arranged themselves amongst their clan lands under brush and against rocks, waiting for Unkin to pass them by whereupon they snatched out and consumed in quick ugly bites.

Lux saw enough of them as he passed, like trapdoor spiders, but grey skinned and slow, left hungry as even the stupidest of the Unkin could see them where they were barely hidden.

Lux fed his own hunger upon them easily enough, biting through the back of their throats so that the iUmbra/i did not have chance to vacate the body, and leaving him with a palate covered in dust as the last of the will that kept them alive left them.

iUmbra/i tasted, if such could be said, of the nature of the being that had housed them. The Catenar tasted of dust and sand and the soiled rags that dressed them. Lux wondered what had happened to his sister that she who had been so careful of her appearance, and that of her Clan, that would allow them to appear as such.

Further away from the Cathedral, which stabbed into the sky near the mountains- taller even than the highest peak- with a great fire blazing smokily from the top, he found a small hamlet. He had assumed that these Catenar were outcasts, thrust out from their lady's whim. As he grew closer he realised he was wrong, that this was what they had become.

Humans tilled the fields, using the proximity of the Eidolon to maintain their lives outside the fortresses, sure that the Eidolon would consume any passing Unkin which was drawn by their own hunger. There were irrigation channels and stone houses and walls which suggested that this had been the way of it for years. In the centre of the houses stood a crudely carved statue in which it was possible to see the lines of a woman with her head cast back in a scream, her hair and the folds of her dress vanishing into the natural sweeps and clefts of the stone.

A young human girl stood at the door of one of the buildings, and there was something about her Lux recognised as she looked at him with hard eyes. She couldn't have been more than sixteen, a child yet, but he could smell the children upon her, and the flakes of stone that decorated her dress, chingling and tinkling in the wind that caught around her ankles. She had her hair wound around twigs and scraps of fabric which fell about her shoulders and when she looked at him she blessed herself by pressing her fingers to forehead, lips and breast, then with the clamour of heavy fur and stone chips woven into the wool around her bare feet she turned back into her house.

Lux could not say he was not discomfited by the affair.

The girl was a priestess, he knew that, he just didn't know of what. There had been priestesses of the Unkin before, with their hair smeared with blood and their furs badly tanned, wearing clothes taken from others, bodies scarred and tattooed. This girl did not worship the Unkin.

It did not take a leap of great genius to assume she worshipped the stone woman that dominated the clearing of houses.

Cadacus had never allowed false gods before, he had not allowed gods and had forbidden their worship of him, but it was another sign of just how long Lux had been absent that this weathered rock might be anyone's deity.

The man had a fur cap and leather coat with long tassells to protect him from the wind as he came up to Lux at a shuffled run. He had a thick grey beard and he had no fear in him. Lux supposed it was because he had taken one of the hangings from Caritas' Hall of Mirrors and wore it draped around himself like a cape so perhaps the man could not see how hideous he truly was.

"Thou art not Unkin," the man said firmly, "what manner of creature are you, that you walk upright like unto a man? hast thou come to worship the goddess? dost thou come from distant lands to bring her tribute?"

Under his hood and the cloth that covered what remained of his face Lux smiled, he could feel it with muscles that no longer remained to hold in place a jawbone left on the bottom of the Great Lake of Fire. "I come on another errand." Lux said with a low bow of his hood. He had no argument with humanity or those gathered there. "I have business in the Silenced Cathedral."

The man furrowed his brows. "I know not of what it is you speak of, stranger."

Lux tilted his head to the great monolith of stone that was his sister's palace. "That," he said making sure the man tracked the gesture, "is the Silenced Cathedral."

"Nay, stranger, it is the Great Spire," the man corrected him, "It is the path by which we reach our goddess. It is there that we bring the Unkin that their sacrifice might please her."

"Is that so?" Lux was not so distant that he could not remember how to lead a conversation.

"Our goddess is beneficent, she allows us to live in her shadow and protects us from both the heat of summer and the ice of winter here. Our crops are bountiful and our people protected." The man needed no other argument.

Lux knew these arguments, he and Cadacus had lain amongst their pillows and discussed them in quiet days of winter when flesh cooled and mouths were prone to talk. "But yet she demands sacrifice."

The man grinned, "she does not demand, we are pleased to bring them to her. We have constructed the machine that she might receive the gifts we offer her. She has asked nothing of us but we are eager to thank her for her bounty."

"Does she have a name, this goddess? I have travelled far and when I return there are those who would have me tell them of such things as goddesses."

"She is called The Fettered." He answered.

"I would see her," Lux pressed.

"It is late, stranger, and thou hast travelled far by thy own admission, rest this night and our priestess shall guide thee to the foot of the spire come morning."

Lux moved in such a way that the hood shifted slightly giving the man a glimpse of his glowing eyes. "The Dark is no impediment to me." He said, "I can find my own way, but thank you, sir, for your information."

The man frowned. "Would you not sup with us at least? I cannot help but think of thee as an iangelei/i of our Lady."

Lux barked out a laugh. "I have come, by lucky coincidence," he said, playing to the man's delusional religion, "to Unfetter your Lady." He said, because he knew now what she was, their goddess. Catena in the ancient tongue of Cadacus meant chains or fetters.

Caritas had been trapped by his vanity in the mirrors he had so praised and Catena had become a god. But even gods could, and did, fall.

The man did not know how to answer. "Thou hast offered us no violence, sir, wouldst thou wait until morning? The path is treacherous and we would not have thy death upon our conscience."

"Surely you would have me free your goddess that she might take her place amongst the stars, as a spoke of the Great Wheel of which I'm sure she has told you, that which manages the iUmbra/i of Humanity, the ivitrim/i of Unkin and the ianima/i of Eidolon , that they might, in the eyes of Fate, be judged by such gods as equal."

"Please," the man protested. "Wait until morning."

Lux lowered his head. "She has waited this long," he said, "would you have her wait another day?" His eyes burned as he looked at the man, "you are a good man and devoted, I will carry word of your devotion to your goddess."

"Thou dost intend to kill her?" The priestess had, despite the stone chips woven into her dress, moved silently.

"Nay, little sister," Lux said throwing back his hood, "I am here to free her from her chains, that she might shed her mortal form and join her brethren. I am charged by the Great D," he stopped himself short of the word Dark, "demiurge to do so, transformed that I might better serve."

"Thou lies prettily, stranger, the lies told to women are not unknown to thee. We cannot stop him, Rahab, let the creature pass." Her smile was brittle and knowing. "And our lady is not without her protectors, if he is false, then they will consume him as if he were Unkin. We are not so defenceless afterall, our Goddess loves us."

"It is the nature of gods to love," Lux answered, "so that we do not hold them accountable for their failures, for afterall they love us."

The girl's expression was sweetly sad. "It must be lonely to shoulder such burdens and such doubt, yet have no doubt, brother," and she used the word carefully as she reached up on the tips of her toes and laid a blessing kiss upon the leathered skin that showed above his gathered cowl, "The Fettered loves you."

***

A great wide staircase had once led the way to the doorway of the Silenced Cathedral but it was now gone, scavenged for stone by the neighbouring humans. It was clear that they had another method of entering but they had no intention of sharing it with him.

He was not so crippled in his new form as they would like to think him, he thought, tucking his make do cloak between his wings and through a process of climbing, forcing his claws into the very rock to give him purchase, and gliding he easily reached the platform where the great gates stood, rusted shut and chained with ivy and other weeds.

Catena had really let the place go.

He shifted from the material realm to the spectral with a thought, maintaining the memory of his cloak in case he was to need it later. He would recreate the very essence of it from the dust as he did himself. Then he walked through the gate as easily as if it were not even there. Behind it was the first of the corridors which led to the central vent which powered the machine at the heart of the Cathedral.

He knew his sister and that would be where she was, at the heart of the machine, the very heart of the Cathedral.

Yet even he was surprised by what he found there.

The walls were thick with vegetation, vines and moss and ivy covered everything including the lip of the pit from which the air that powered the machine came. The moss was carpet thick carpet under his feet.

In places, through the ivy and kudzu it was possible to see sigils carved into the very walls to restrict the movement of Unkin although the entire building was built in the shape of one giant seal. Any Unkin brought here could never leave.

There were statues amidst the vegetation, lying there covered in mushrooms and scavengers, flies thick about them, because hanging from hooks on the ceiling were gobbets of meat, an arm dangled uselessly from the metal through it's wrist, torn apart at the elbow. Bones that looked decidedly human were piled here and there amidst the lushness as rats hissed at him and flies buzzed uselessly at his face for him to swat away.

The machine had been changed, where once it had been an instrument of deterrent it now stood as a automaton of torture. From four great spindles were a multitude of chains, rusted and dark with he did not know what. But hanging from the ceilings, eyes and lips black with Unkin perversion, was a body, and even as he watched the spindles slowly tightened and the flesh held taut tore a little more, causing a splatter of blood to fall upon the platform raised on the centre of the pit. The island looked like it was held aloft by vines which the rats scurried down like tight rope walkers.

Upon the island was the village's goddess, The Fettered, his sister- Catena.

The years had taken their toll upon her, she had lain there so very long that her skin had turned to stone and her hair to wire, and she was incapable of movement as the blood spattered her and the inky black ivitrim/i and other humours of the Unkin fell upon her, feeding her hunger.

More than disgust Lux felt pity for what she had become. He did not hesitate, he fashioned himself a hammer from one of the broken chains and a piece of broken statuary from the walls. Then he started, systematically and methodically, to shatter the statues that lay around the pit.

He perhaps expected them to scream. They did not.

The rats scurried to their holes, the flies found other amusements, but the statues remained still.

"Who comes to disturb my rest?" the voice was like the tide against granite, a slow dusty whisper.

"Am I so changed, sister, that you do not know me?" Lux asked as he took his wings in his claws and leapt to the island where she lay.

She had opened her eyes. Her face was sticky with blood and other remnants of gore, torn from the Unkin by the chains and spindles, and her eyes were the same grey as the stone, flashing, her mouth caked in dust that fell from her as she spoke. "Lux." She said. "Not as lovely as you once were."

"You know the law, sister, you know the fate of heretics and traitors."

Catena just smiled as he brought the makeshift hammer above his head. She didn't answer him, there was no quip, she just smiled as he brought the stone down and smashed in her face.

***

As the dust settled from the debris that remained of his sister, as the Umbra found the places within him, leaving him breathless and shaking, Lux slipped into the spectral realm where he was most confident and sat on the edge of the floating island of rock, letting his feet dangle over the edges and laid his head into his hands.

He was not surprised when the Great Dark sat beside him. "As you feed, love, you grow more human. That includes the return of such human concerns as guilt."

Lux asked. "What do you know of guilt?"

The Great Dark had a smile of dimples and soft brown eyes, his hair eroded the hard edges of his cheekbones and jaw. He reached out with a hand that tugged down the edges of Lux' mask, as corporeal in the spectral realm as he was in the material, and leant in, pressing soft warm lips against the teeth of Lux' upper jaw, his tongue quickly flicking along the exposed canines. "I know guilt." He said finally.

Lux did not look up at him. "She was my sister, even if she had become this," he spread his hands, seeing the divide which ran along the two claws which made up his hand, they were dividing into fingers, "I loved her, even if she had become abomination. She turned away as I was murdered." He stopped, "but she was still my sister."

The Great Dark offered him that soft dimpled smile again, "I would think less of you, love, if you did not love her, even if you hated her in equal measure. And because you loved her, you mourn her, and feel guilt for doing what it was that you had to do. She had set herself up as a god when she was not even the greatest of the Eidolon." He flicked his head back to move his brown hair from his eyes, then reached out with his hand, entwining his fingers through Lux' claws.

"I, too, have brethren whom I love and ache for their loss, I, too, have a brother whom I miss with every breath." He pulled Lux towards him, resting his head against the shoulder of his white jacket. "We have all the time in the world, love, for our revenge against the wrongs our brethren have done us, but we shall never stop loving them regardless."

It was a long time before Lux answered. "I don't know if I can do this."

The Great Dark breathed against Lux's hair, letting it fall across the skin as it slowly filled with subcutaneous fat, although there was no hint of his jawbone growing back. "I would not have chosen you if I did not believe that you could not."

"I wish you didn't believe in me so much." Lux muttered.

"I can't help it," said the Incarnate Dark, "I love you." And Lux knew it for truth. He did not know why the Great Dark loved him, or even how for he was the very antithesis of creation, but he did, and it was an all encompassing love, the sort that moved mountains.

Lux knew the Incarnate Dark had an agenda, that he was merely a pawn in his plan to bring down Cadacus and the other Eidolon, perhaps he wanted control of the upper world as well as the lower, but Lux knew, in what remained of his heart, that the Great Dark had chosen him, not because was wronged, but because he was loved.

"I don't want to move just yet." Lux almost whispered into the falling beams of newly risen sunlight.

"We have time," the Great Dark reassured him. "We have all the time in creation."

***

The priestess waited for Lux when he left the spire, spiralling down on his tattered wings like a sycamore seed caught on the wind. She sat on the wall and in the mid morning light he could see that there were small bones and twigs woven into her skirt as well as the stones.

Like the Great Dark her feet were bare. "Did you unfetter the goddess?" she asked. In the full sunlight her hair had traces of gold and copper. She was hardfaced but lovely in her way.

"I did." Lux answered.

"There are those in the village who will believe thy pretty lie, and I will not gainsay them. I am an instrument of faith not it's instigator, they shall believe as they will."

"I serve Fate," Lux said, and it was the truth, amongst the things that spurred him onwards Fate was one of the reasons.

"And yet, the Great Spire itself could not equal thy burdens. Thou knows how hard it is to kill a god, even when it is a god that commits the act."

"I'm not a god." He cut her off quickly. "I'm just something left over, I just," he stopped, "look, little sister, I'm here to kill things and save people and I don't matter." His grief and guilt were welled up inside him.

"That is why I shall keep thy secret." She said. As she stood the chips of stone and wood and bone in her skirts rattled about her, swimming through the fabric like minnows. Her bare feet squelched in the soft earth, the mud rising up between her toes. "Thou art no horror to me," she said and reached out, her fingers finding the fabric of his mask. "I am the Priestess who gathered the Unkin to suffer in her Infernal Device for her hunger, altered by my worship and knowing it for false even as I lived long past the point where I would have died. I thought that in her dying that I too would turn to dust, but I have not though I feel her lack. I do not know what thou art, but I do not fear thee." To show this she stepped in close enough he could smell her breath, fetid and sweet, and then she kissed him just above each brow. "There is much I could give thee for freeing me from my bondage to the Fettered."

Lux thought about it. "Don't worry about it," he said, "just live your life, and forget about me." It was better that way, he knew.

She smiled for him through the grime on her face. "Thou art not to blame." She said. "Thou must not blame thyself because others have made the decisions that bind thee. Find thou the answers and make the choices thyself. I shall wait for thee, Lux."

As she said his name, which she could not have known, she turned and walked away, back into the trees that surrounded the path to the Silenced Cathedral.

It was strange, he thought, how ultimately satisfying it was to rip out the throat of a passing unkin and to consume it's ivitrim/i, even if he had done it on no more than a whim.

***

Lux made no hurry as he returned to the Sanctuary of the Clans, he took time to appreciate the flat open lands with their dry grasses and roaming beasts. Horses ran wild in herds across the plains and he felt the quick stir of wonder as they thundered past him.

He took time with the nomads, his hood pulled up over his head and his mask tight about the remnants of his face. He listened to them talk, strange how he knew all the languages they spoke no matter how strange it should have been.

Lux must have retained some charm from his former existence as Eidolon for the ladies amongst them, and some of the men, were not immune to his wit and would, as the priestess of the Fettered had, offer to lie with him. As time went on and the memories of what he had lost grew stronger, the refusals became more and more saddened. It was not only the young beauties of the humans that offered, but sometimes wizened crones, who offered him a sort of easy mother comfort.

It was that, and the ache that it caused, that sent him back to the Sanctuary of the Clans although his brother Pax maintained his Clan far to the Northwest.

It had been a long time since the Sanctuary had been his home. When he had been first born and the Eidolon were new, as the remnants of the human civilisation had only just begun to collapse under the weight of their new Lord, with plague and fire and famine, Lux had taken his first steps, with Cadacus there to guide him. If Cadacus was father, the one who created him and loved him and guided him, then the Sanctuary itself was Mother and even though it was ruined and haunted and abandoned, Lux yearned for that.

He wanted answers, though he did not know that yet. He wanted revenge but he worried that he might be wrong, because there was no pleasure in killing his brethren, if anything there was the terrible guilt of having done so. He would do as the Great Dark asked, he would destroy them, for his Clan, for the soft human peoples that littered the land, but he had long since lost the taste for doing it for himself.

***

Mary hovered in the Sanctuary's heart like a candle flame, twisting and flickering as the flames eternally consumed her. Her dress was white and even as it was eternally consumed and reborn it never showed a single flash of her nudity, but there were dark splashes of something wet and dark across her belly. Parts of her hair fell away as sparks and her eyes glowed - fire showed from her mouth, half of her face burned away at any point.

"Like a corpse in a shallow grave, corruption rises to the surface... Beyond this throne room, the defiled victim mutely screams its outrage..." she said and then promptly vanished from his sight.

"I don't understand." He protested, calling out into the air in the hope that she might hear him.

"The earth trembles under your weight, Lux," even her voice sounded like the crackle of flaming logs. "Things are revealed that have been long hidden. Secrets long forgotten are returning to light."

"Please," he shouted to the empty air, "tell me, is what I am doing right?"

"Right or wrong means nothing, Cadacus must die that balance be restored. He has betrayed all of creation for his own satisfaction and lust. This land was destroyed out of his own pride and inability to yield. He must be made to pay for what he has done." She flittered back and around the pillars at the outside of the throne room.

"And what has he done to you, spirit?"

"I was human once," she said, "a mother, but not only did he murder me," she leant against him and for all the flames that blazed around her there was no heat, "but he manipulated my children and bound me here for more aeons than I can count. There will come a time when even I shall be set free of this bondage, but my own wants died centuries ago - all that remains is this spoiled earth and how it must be healed by Cadacus' death. We may have cross purposes, Eidolon Lux, but we serve the same end. Follow the path opened through the grounds to the south, the hills have shifted in your way. It will give you answers, I can give no more than that."

***

Behind the Sanctuary of the Clans to the south was a large cliff, although maybe a day's travel or more for a human. It was caused as much by Cadacus' will to protect his world as it was by the slow collision of continents over time. It had marked the last of what the Clans bothered to dominate because there was nothing on the other side except desert and sand creatures.

Lux had never questioned why Cadacus had created the cliff face but he had heard legends that there had been tombs of Hunters but no one had put much credence in it. Lux had known differently but had no need to scale the cliffs to find the truth of what had happened, but it was clear now that this was where the spectre of Mary intended him to go.

Large stones had fallen down to create a sort of ladder that with some acrobatics he could manage, he could leap and grab the top of some of the blocks, pulling himself up, and then the tattered remnants of his wings to glide over gaps that he simply could not leap over.

It was not an easy climb, often he had to stop and look to see if he could find another path and sometimes he needed to plunge his claws into the very stone to pull himself higher although the granite did not want to give him purchase. Even with his new physique it still took him the best part of a day and night to climb to the summit and the small temple that stood sentinel over the Clan lands.

It was a collection of small square blocks with small windows rounded at the top and great stone domes topped with ridged terracotta tiles. The bricks that made it were suspiciously well cared for and patterned in stripes of dark red and bright gold.

The temple was old, ancient even, but it looked as if it had been built just yesterday and even the gardens that it sat in, with great yew trees and mosaics laid into the floor. No vines escaped the careful pruning of the bushes. It was strange because only some one who had wings or the ability of flight could maintain this place and it had been well maintained over centuries.

Only where the earth itself had shifted in the past weeks did the temple show any sign of deterioration, paths were cracked, and one of the great fountains was broken, the ledge that surrounded the pool had dislodged itself in parts and fallen into the water. Yet the winged figure that was raised aloft into the centre of the spire at the heart of the fountain still had water that fell from the skirts of stone, patter slapping into the pool at it's base, but also curling around the column like a lover's touch.

The Tomb of the Hunters was beautiful and Lux had not expected that.

Lux knew the tales of the Hunters, they had been Warrior Priests, lifted from the depths of human squalor in order to save humanity, emboldened by righteousness and need. They had, in their quest to preserve humanity a life at a time, committed terrible acts of genocide against both Unkin and Lesser Eidolon alike.

The last of his brethren, Fidelis, had been murdered by them, her entire bloodline decimated, and yet they were here in this building enshrined, and it was carefully and lovingly maintained.

As he went to step inside the Great Dark spoke, his voice alone with no image of the soft eyed young man in white to accompany it. "Take heed, Lux. A forgotten history lies within. Know thyself - though it may destroy you..." It just spurred him on.

The inside of the Temple was cloistered, with arches held aloft by pillars and corridors on either side, with a central hall. Like the garden before it, the floor was beautifully decorated but, caused by the recent tremors some of the tesserae had lifted, and when he looked up to where the sunlight fell in dusty shafts he could see that the great dome was inlaid with gold and precious stones, there were large swathes of plaster where the decoration had fallen away, but still the beauty of it was breathtaking.

It had a sweet incense smell that lingered amidst the dust and and between each of the pillars was a statue of a figure in flowing robes with great feathered wings, just like that on the fountain outside. Each of them had a human face, unscarred, untroubled, some with beards, some feminine, but each had a wire set above their heads with stars set at intervals along its length.

He could not help but marvel at their beauty, for they were hauntingly lovely, despite the dust that twisted and cavorted in the beams of sunlight from the windows that surrounded the domes, but he continued into the temple where a great staircase descended into the cliff itself.

He went down for what seemed like hours, at times using his wings and the air that whipped up through the staircase to carry him down quicker but the stair case seemed to have no obvious end, and when it finally did conclude it was at an elaborately wrought gate, causing him to shift from the mortal realm into the spectral realm to enter the great catacomb that lay beyond.

The Catacomb was aired by a series of natural vents which caught the wind from the top of the cliff and passed it through, causing the air to smell sweetly of cypress, yew and olives. Without natural light the sconces gave off a sickly green glow from a sort of phosphorous that centred around, and underlined, a great frieze.

Lux had never seen anything like it. It was large enough that Lux imagined it took at least a hundred steps to walk from one end to the next and he knew he would never see anything like it again. It was carved in bas relief from the stone, but the stones themselves had been encouraged in different colours, if such a word could be applied.

The frieze showed a great war.

In it the figures that decorated the temple, those in robes with great feathered wings and shining wire and star haloes, were depicted in alabaster and silver, and they were aloft from the ground, hovering, and each of them had a weapon: a sword; an axe; a spear; a flail; and the wings themselves had their tip coloured red from iron ore as if they had ripped out the throats of their enemies with them.

Their enemies were basalt and gold, wings twisted and broken, haloes torn down, and a sort of inky darkness that swirled around them, with flashes of green and purple jade throughout the sea of it. There were strikes of fire, of lightning and a great white figure was struck down by another of them, one with a flaming sword and diamond tears in his eyes, and he fell into the blackness.

The panels were not separated but instead told one great story blended into another.

Lux saw that fallen white figure try to rise from the inky black basalt and fail as the others did nothing to help.

He saw the white figures turn their backs as small figures appeared on a crust of green jade over the blackness. Then as black creatures, twisted and corrupted, appeared on the crust the figures became limned in alabaster. These, Lux knew, were the Hunters.

Then the white figures came back and rained down their terrible fury upon the world, and one white figure, smaller than the others, a spear dipped, led a white highlighted figure with gold detailing, a hunter, who stood hand in hand with a black highlighted figure with silver detailing, and the white creature who had fallen, who now was carved of obsidian, glassy black and gold, brought his armies against the white horde and they were destroyed.

The last image was missing, Lux could see that because the stone was ripped bare, torn away in temper perhaps, and broken parts of precious stones lay on the floor.

To the left of it was a great stone, blocking the only passage out. Not sure what to think, what the frieze meant and why it was so hidden, or why it had faced such violence, and then only on that last panel.

The stone was no obstacle for him now, though before it would have taken many teams days to move it, and as he did so a gasp of sepulchral air escaped it.

Lux could have no preparation for what awaited him there.

The room was small, a tabernacle adjunct to the huge catacomb that led to it.

It had six enclaves, each with a tomb that lay open, but in the centre stood a statue of a human man, a sword hanging down from arms that were unraised. There was a look of despair on the marble face, and gold thread flecked through the hair. He wore human clothes, maintained by the years and that none could enter here.

The sconces had sputtered into life as air had flooded the room as the stone was pulled back, the phosphorence needed air to glow and it just revealed more and more of the blasphemy that had taken place here.

This room was not as undisturbed as it appeared, it seemed that it had been opened at least once before, and strange how the tarnish upon the statue's cheek looked as if a hand had cupped it for years upon end.

Each of the opened tombs lay empty, but upon them were the names, scratched out by some terrible implement were names, Pax, Nox, Catena, Fidelis, Caritas. The last tomb looked undisturbed but at the same time he knew perfectly well it had been emptied like the others.

The statue in the centre of the room, the hunter who had been thus immortalised, the young man was supposed to have been the inhabitant of the final tomb, was Lux himself.

The blasphemous irony was as bitter as ashes in his mouth. He could not even voice the horror and hurt but the Great Dark, stood behind him, stepping forward to cup that marble cheek although his hand did not match the tarnish. "It is true, you were a hunter, you were all Hunters. You were born of the same warriors who tried so hard to slaughter your kind. Before the dawn of the empire, before the Great Fall that turned this world to ashes, you were chosen."

The Incarnate Dark's eyes were soft and puppyish as he spoke, "Cadacus, this world's self declared and imposed emperor, plundered this tomb and raised you from these crypts. Breathing his vampiric gift into your defiled corpses, he resurrected you as his favored children. He turned you from Hunters, the greatest of all Hunters, gathered here from all over the world to be honoured, and turned you into the very opposite. He made you into the thing that you hunted and hated.

"I did not wish you to see this, love," The Great Dark said and his voice was soft, sorrowful. "I had hoped to save you this pain."

Lux turned, his eyes blazing and his hood hanging down to fall down his back amongst his wings. "How gallant of you," Lux sneered, "when you knew that it would fuel my hunger for revenge. I doubted only because I had to kill my brethren whom I had loved."

"There is a guardian here," The Great Dark continued, "he might not be a challenge for you now, but Cadacus keeps his secrets close. There is a way here, through the spectral realm, to the Drowned Abbey that Nox calls his home."

"Fidelis." Lux gasped out the word. "Where does he keep her body? if I must consume her iumbra/i to be strong enough to destroy Cadacus."

"You will serve despite that you know the horror and how it breaks your heart." It was not a question that the Great Dark asked. "You were the same as a hunter."

"You knew me then?" That was a question.

"I have always known you, love." The Incarnate Dark said, "and I have always loved you. That ache you feel in my presence," he frowned, "know that I feel it too, for it is that knowledge within you. You know me, as I know you, and although you cannot remember it your heart knows it's love for me. I shall leave you. Fidelis awaits you on your path. Your lost sister is ahead in your future, but know this, it was not Hunters that killed her and her Clan, it was Cadacus, just as he once travelled this land and ripped from you your human lives."

Lux didn't answer him, in fact his stare, for all it's Eidolon brightness, was as blank as that of the statue that dominated the room and bore his face.

***

The Great Dark had not lied when he had said that the Temple had a guardian. It was one of the other's, a creature that fed on humanity but had lost it's own long since. It was tall and slim and could, with it's voice and mien, imitate humanity but it had not been human for a very long time and in that time it had accrued power.

"You shall not pass," it hissed through a mouth that hung open, like the hinges of it's jaw were undone and the muscle gone. "Heretic, you shall suffer for setting foot here."

Lux wanted this, and he laughed, full of dark mirth and the terrible irony of it. He wanted to kill something and this guardian, whatever it was, would suffice. "Such loyalty..." he sneered, "to one who has you guarding this outpost like a chained dog. Do you prosper on the scraps he casts you?"

The guardian lashed in the darkness between the pools of pale green light from the sconces. "Your insults will do nothing to blunt the agonies of your demise."

Lux enjoyed this, he wanted to enjoy this, more than the taunting, the feel of it as he consumed this creature, where his rage was slaked on something, that something might suffer for the blasphemy that he had suffered. "Cadacus killed me once -- behold the result." He ran his clawed hand down his front to emphasise his transformation, conscious of the statue in the tomb's sacrum, conscious of what he had been, "I have no more to fear from you."

He did not waste time fighting the creature. He gathered the air into ribbons that spun as fast and sharp as razors. It took seconds before the leathery remains of it were showered over the catacomb it had been restrained here to protect, and pulling down the cloth over the ruin of his face, Lux fed.

It was more than the simple umbra of a human, which was not unlike a single drop of water to a thirsty man, and greater still than the ivitrim/i of an Unkin, which was a sweet and sticky mouthful, yet it was nothing compared to even a lesser Eidolon. It was more, he thought as it blushed through him, as if he had consumed a hundred or more Umbra, both Unkin and human, but knew also that he had no powers to gain from the thing.

Time was later to prove him wrong.

***

Nox was a master of sciences during Lux' lifetime. He was fascinated with the manner of things and how they intersected. His was a palace of creation and desecration as all manner of things were taken apart and put back in new and interesting ways.

Cadacus had looked upon these experiments with a dull amusement. The experiments failed more often than not leaving the Eidolon with the corpse of something strange and wonderful upon which to continue his experiments.

So Lux expected that this would continue in his palace, which had been an austere place, taken from the humans, painted a sterile white and tiled. There had been great machines and devices and other automata whose purpose Lux had never cared for.

Nox had abandoned his palace of the sciences in exchange for a smaller property on his lands, again stolen from the humans because it was beneath an Eidolon's dignity to build or create, a small abbey that had, over the years, sunk into the marsh it had been built beside.

The entire area stunk of wet rot and dampness. It was foetid and close and as Lux sank into the spongy islands he felt his feet dissolve underneath him for he could not hold his form in water. Without waiting for the process to be complete he slipped into the Spectral Realm.

Water did not exist in the Spectral realm, so the ground which had been sodden and spongy underfoot now was as hard as brick. Rivulets and channels were now just grooves in the floor and it made it much easier to make his way forward. Climbing was impossible in the Spectral realm although the more time that Lux spent there, the more he found the perpetual twilight gloom of the place welcoming and the light of the Material Realm began to hurt his eyes.

On his way, in either realm, as he switched back and forth between the two to make progress, he encountered none of the Noxian Eidolon that he expected to. He encountered no humans. He encountered no animals. Even the sluagh, scavengers of the spectral realm, and as perfidious as the cockroach, were absent.

It did not help with Lux' sense of unease about the place.

Nox had called his great tower Dark Eden and from it had spewed a catalogue of perversions. It seemed now that his perversions had wasted the very land he had claimed as his own that not even the lowest of creatures would dwell there.

The Abbey itself was in a great pool of water and Lux was forced to jump, glide and hop from one platform to another to even reach the building, before climbing up the side and entering through a broken window. The entire building was at a slant where one side was sinking faster than the other.

Moss and mould painted the walls a sickly green, and doors warped shut in their frames or twisted and bowed upon the floor. Lux paid them no heed and went in search of his former brother.

Lux found his brother in a chapter house at the centre of a flooded courtyard. He had changed, as had the others, now more piscine than Eidolon he lolled in the water drowsily like a great drunken fish. Of them all only Nox knew what he looked at.

"Lux," he said finally and his voice was a watery wheeze and the flaps at the sides of his neck opened and closed showing flashes of oxygen rich red meat underneath.

"Nox," Lux said with a formal bow of his head even as he squared his shoulders for battle, "You have adapted well to your environment, for one so maladjusted..." Nox no longer had separate legs but had, in the intervening centuries since he had thrown Lux into the abyss, formed a single powerful tail, but he maintained arms with vicious claws at the end.

"Do not mock me, Lux. You, of all of us, should respect the power bestowed by a limitation overcome." He sounded almost proud of what had happened to him. Lux wondered for a moment if he had done it to himself, if this was one of his experiments. "Cadacus said you would come."

Lux was surprised at that and it showed when he spoke. "You speak with the murderer?"

Nox' tail lashed under the water and his gills flared open with rage that he did not show upon his face. "You would do well to mind your blasphemous tongue, brother."

Lux pressed on "What more did he tell you?"

Nox' grin was full of shark white teeth. "That you would destroy me." It seemed to him to be a great joke.

"I will, indeed. But tell me, before I tear your iUmbra/ifrom its moorings, do you know what we were before Cadacus spawned us?" It mattered to Lux because he wanted someone to share in his outrage in the blasphemy of what they were.

Nox shrugged "Human."

Lux narrowed his eyes and lowered his brows. "Hunters, Nox. The antithesis of all we ever believed."

Nox remained nonplussed. "Does it matter? We were lost. He saved us."

That surprised Lux for he asked. "Saved us? From what?" He spread open his hands with his claws bared, equally ready to entreat or attack.

"From ourselves." It was calmly that Nox answered him. It just made it hurt more.

"You're a fool and deluded both, Nox," Lux said sadly and raised his hand. He gathered the very air around his brother and lifted him from the water with just his mind, this new power growing stronger by the day. "I wish I could make you see what it is that you follow."

Nox flailed in the air. "Stop the platitudes and do it, Lux, or are you still the coward who hung back in Cadacus' shadow? He said you would kill me, do you intend to do it perhaps by boring me to death?"

"As I recall," Lux answered with a grin under his cowl, "it wouldn't take long, you were never one for patience. I wonder how long you can survive outside the water now." He sat down on a dry piece of masonry. "I have all the time in creation to find out."

"How do you know this will kill me? How do you know that I am not divine?"

Lux laughed. "Is that what you think we are? What we were?" He crossed his arms. "We were a mockery, an insult, and I don't even know to what. You know, I always liked you, you were funnier than the others."

"Do I amuse you now?" Nox asked from the air where he hovered, held in place by Lux' will alone. "Now that you are something unholy, some creature crawled from the abyss."

"Kicked," Lux corrected, "The Great Dark himself threw me from the abyss, obviously even Hell itself did not want me. I'm just too much for one realm, I must now exist in two." He gestured with his hand along his face. "I mean, my beauty was such that I must cover it up just so that people can exist around me, otherwise no one would get any work done and humanity would starve without someone in the fields."

"You were not funny when you existed the first time." Nox growled. "I do not see now why I must suffer your attempts at humour."

"Because they always worked better than your attempts at creation, am I not right, brother?" Nox growled but Lux was on a roll. "I suppose I have been conversation starved. So few creatures will speak to me and those that do, well have you tried to maintain a conversation with a human? They are so very small minded. And not only that, you no sooner start talking than they die of old age."

"I'm not surprised." Nox growled. "Am I suffocating yet? Because I thoroughly agree you are obviously much more powerful than me." It was sarcastic, "and this is excruciating. I can withstand torture but, Lux, seriously. Is this where you tell me the great blasphemy that Cadacus performed when he made us? We were nothing, we were dead, and now we're not. We are gods. Can you hold him askance for that?"

"That is only the beginnings of the things I hold him accountable for." Lux answered sweetly. "Have you met the spectre of the throne room? She has interesting things to say."

"No," Nox replied, "though I knew of her presence, for some reason she always hid herself from us. It should say how far that you have fallen if she deigns to speak to you."

"She is held in bondage." Lux answered calmly.

Nox sneered. "Am I supposed to care? Perhaps you wish to sacrifice me to free her, because centuries of being held there surely haven't driven her spirit mad. If you mean to kill me, Lux, get on with it, I do not have all day."

"Actually, you do." Lux answered, enjoying this, "I intend to kill you because you threw me into the Abyss, tormenting you like this is a bonus, it will not free the spectre and I can't say I care if she is released. Everyone seems to have an agenda here, Nox, well, except for you and me, everyone has something they want me to do, even if it's only not killing them." He looked at the piscine form of his brother, trying to struggle against the invisible bonds that held him aloft. "You really aren't dying, are you?"

"Not unless you count of irritation, no."

"Oh well," Lux sighed, "I hoped it would be easier than this." With a gesture Lux took hold of every particle of matter that made his brother and then with it held taut in his will, he slipped into the spectral realm, ripping his brother from his soul into the twilight gloom, where he was met with the true horror of Lux' transformation, the wide open galaxy that had been his mouth as he was consumed.

***

Lux met the Great Dark as he left the abbey, noticing the way that the water lapped at his feet. There was mud up to the other man's ankles and he had that condescending pitying look. Lux was not in the mood. "I get it," he said, "consuming him made me immune to water. I can now swim, oh joy. Perhaps you're here to present me with a bronze certificate to show for it."

The Great Dark looked hurt for a long moment, and then he grinned, his dimples beaming in full force. "If you wish for certificates I will make them for you in multitudes that I might shower them in your path." He took a step back to let Lux pass. "If you do not need my comfort then I will not force it into your arms, my love, I am here for you, and I believe in you. I hope these words bring you comfort."

"I just ate my brother, the one I liked the best, even if he did throw me into Hell." Lux snarled. "So take your comfort and shove it where even the Incarnate Dark fears to go."

The Great Dark's face mottled in rage "Do not think that you are so beloved that I will tolerate such from you. You were chosen to serve my will, not for your own amusement and sardonic humour."

"I didn't ask you to come here." Lux answered. "You asked me to do this and I'm doing it. I don't need you or your threats or promises of love. Point the way to Pax and I'll take him down too, then I'll find the missing body of Fidelis and take on Cadacus, I'll mend your wheel or ring or whatever it is, because then you'll kill me and I won't have to worry about this shit anymore."

"Watch your tongue, Lux." The Great Dark continued in a low and menacing tone. "I have been indulgent, I might not continue to be."

"Then point the way, oh great master of the dark, aim your weapon and release. I am tired of this, I wish it to end so I'll do what you want."

"It pains me to hear you speak thus." The Great Dark said, his voice soft now and his anger gone. "I would hold you tight in the bounty of my love."

"An eternity knowing what I had to do, what I have done, knowing the feel of them inside me, with this," he looked for the word, "this hunger. Do you think that there is Unkin enough in the world to satisfy me after the Eidolon are gone. It is only a matter of time before I consume the very world. I would consume even the Abyss." He looked at the Great Dark, measuring him. "Was that your plan all along?"

"Can I not just love?" The Great Dark seemed wounded by the accusation. "Can I not just act upon those feelings? I can feel the ache in you that my presence causes, the memory of a love that you cannot comprehend. I have loved you since the stars were born and the dust of their collisions formed this world. I have loved you since there was first light, and although as you grow in power you become more like him who I loved, whom you do not remember. You seek to wound me, Lux. You do so by your very presence. You must pass through the human citadel of Steinchencröe. Then north into the mountains. Pax has built himself a great citadel there. You will find him there, in the snow and wild winds."

Then with a lingering look the Great Dark left Lux to the swamp and the smell.

***

Many of the older fortresses had, in the centuries, acquired the status of cities although often no more than a thousand people lived there at any time. The humans were proud of their cities with large stout walls, running water and great defences against the unkin, but like all cities they had their weaknesses and relied primarily on trade.

Before Lux had fallen there had been five great cities, Vasserbunde, Steinchencröe, Avernus, Coorhagen and Willendorf. Lux was also sure that none of the others had learned their names as they tended to look at humanity as the fodder of the Unkin, and so kept their numbers reasonable that their own prey would thrive. Just as a human might tend the grass his cattle fed upon the Eidolon managed the human population.

Lux had liked humans, in small doses, they could be witty and charming and could and did make him laugh. He looked at them much as they would look at a pack of dogs that they kept for hunting, amusing, warm but basically much less than he.

So he had known the human cities by name and locations, and there was a sense of pride that they had survived those centuries of his Fall into the Abyss.

Each of the cities had their own focus and trade, Willendorf, surrounded as it was by meadows was famous for both it's medicines. Avernus was beside the quarries that people used for stone, as well as the rivers that they used to transport them. Coorhagen was on the steppes where sheep were plentiful as well as flax plants so fabric was it's main export, as well as things like yoghurt. Vasserbunde was a fishing town and harbour, protected on two sides by the sea itself which the Unkin could not penetrate.

Steinchencröe worked with beef. It meant that it did all of those things associated with cattle. It butchered and salted beef. It cured and tanned leather. It rendered glue and tallow. So, to put it succinctly, Steinchencröe stunk. Although it was wedged between two massive inland seas that caused strong winds to blow across the town, carrying with them winter storms, the lingering stink of Steinchencröe could be smelled nearly ten miles away.

So no one even looked twice at Lux as he appeared in the town with his cowl over his lower face. In fact it seemed to be something of a fashion. Both men and women wore cloth, often soaked in fragrant oils and vinegars, across their faces and if anything it made the stink greater. The stench was almost visible and even Lux, who could only experience it as something removed through sensory organs he replicated with will alone, wanted to gag.

It was a city of both extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Men, despite the biting cold, worked shirtless over pots of lye to soak the leather but here and there, wrapped up against the wind, with fingers flashing, were women knotting lace. That lace went to trim the dresses of some of the women who walked along the wooden sidewalks in heavy fabrics and wool shawls wrapped about their heads.

In his tattered Eidolon finery and recycled curtain Lux felt underdressed, so when he found a clothing store he used a lump of gold, synthesised from the very air, to purchase boots, pants, a shirt, a jacket and long hooded shawl that covered his face. He looked more and more human as the days passed, and although he did not feel the cold at all, he had to dress for it if he wanted to pass unnoticed.

He also knew that he paid for the privelege of not being fitted for the clothes, buying those that had been made for others, knowing that as soon as he slipped into the spectral realm that they would shatter into their component particles, the memory of which he carried with him, so he would reappear in them.

In his new finery, which was mediocre with some lace at the collar of his shirt, he attracted the eye of many of the richer ladies that passed him by on the wooden paths, but despite his search for Pax he found nothing. As he went into municipal buildings his face was dabbed with a mix of altered water and oils that caused the skin of the Unkin to burn and mottle. If Lux had come here before he had consumed Nox he could not have passed this most rudimentary test, as the oily water was daubed at forehead, palms and heart in a blessing.

Days passed, like the blinking of an eye, and he found little information about his brother. Although he did not need to sleep as he passed time in the city he found himself lodgings, paying for it with precious metals he pulled from the air itself, and using it to store the records he acquired, through both theft and purchase, as he searched for Pax.

Unlike Willendorf Steinchencroe had very little written material, but in the temples where they worshipped the cow itself, there were murals and friezes, and in the mountains to the north, which he had searched carefully, there was merely a graveyad which held no interest for him, for even the iUmbra/i of the people who had lived there were long since gone.

His lodgings were in a medium part of town, not poor enough that his lack of belongings would cause some talk, because he hired a room with furniture, or rich enough that he would require servants to maintain face. Money was no object but at the same time he had no real requirements in his new form, other than snatching the iUmbra/i that came from the cattle which hung in the air, or those people who died.

He was hunting in the rougher areas of the city where murders were a nightly occurrence, either from fights among the cattle wranglers, or locals taking the opportunity to rob those who had just come into the city. In the morning the carts would come to collect the bodies but Lux roamed the streets and collected the iUmbra/i as they were freshly severed.

His favourite mark was a man who made his living entirely from the murder of others. Lux was not so sure he would refer to him as an assassin as much as a cut purse who decided it was easier to kill his target before robbing him. On a productive night he could take three or four victims, each of whom Lux brought back to the wheel that the Great Dark spoke of.

Of the Great Dark himself he had seen nothing since the swamp. He saw his worshippers, those in dark clothes who burned offal in his honour, but with no idea of how it was that he actually appeared, for he was pictured as a goat faced creature with great curving horns, in one hand he held aloft a great heart and the other what appeared to be Cadacus' knife.

Sometimes people went into the temple never to return, but of their iUmbra/i Lux saw nothing.

She wasn't worth noticing, and Lux was not quite sure why he did notice her. She was just a whore who stood on the street corner calling out to her customers, but there was something about her that caused that same dull ache inside him that the Great Dark caused. She was a small thing, with blonde curls like those Catena had had, but she looked nothing like her, instead there was something of a doll about her features, small and childlike with huge black eyes and a wry twist to her mouth that suggested she knew more of life than anyone her age ever should.

She had her arms about her chest as she stood, hips canted, dress cut low and turning slightly grey in the cold winter night. Lux didn't know why she caught his eye, she was not close to death, for he could see that through the iUmbra/i that hovered loose about them. He stopped, turned back, "It's a hard night, little sister." He said. "How much for the night?"

She looked him up and down, "You couldn't afford a whole night, it's ten for the works."

He looked over his shoulder. "Which of these men is your pimp?" He asked, he could see the shadows in the alley ways.

"I'm independent." She sneered though he could tell she was lying, her bruises were too fresh to be out here without paying for someone else.

"Liar," he said softly, "tell me your name, little sister."

"Look," she said, looking over her shoulder, "either you do or you don't," she shrugged so her dirty blonde hair fell down her back, "but you're costing me business, if you want me, sailor, I'm yours, but..."

"The one with the hair lip," Lux said tracing her gaze. "Wait here for me, little sister."

He crossed to the alley where the man with the hair lip stood with his bravos. "How much for the girl?" Lux asked.

"She aint for sale, well not permanent like." His bravos laughed.

"I'll give you two pounds of gold." Lux corrected him.

"She aint for sale," the pimp continued, "now beat it before we beat you."

"Like you could," Lux laughed. As the bravos approached him, knives drawn, he stepped out and slaughtered them, tearing them apart in front of the pimp with his bare hands. "Now, I repeat, how much for the girl?"

The man opened his mouth to scream but Lux had his throat in his hand, moving faster than the man could even realise. "I'm not Unkin," he said, "I feed on Unkin, now how much for the girl."

"Take her." The man said, "just don't eat me."

Under his cowl Lux grinned, as much as he could with only half a jaw, and the man went white. "Don't let me see you around, I'll devour you whole." He dropped the cloth from around his face. "Believe me, I will happily."

He walked back to the girl and grabbed her by the arm. Along the side of her pretty face was a large and ugly bruise and her lip was split, but he would have done it even if she hadn't been broken. "You belong to me now." He said and pulled her from her corner. "Are you cold?" He unhooked the cape from around his neck and draped it around her. "We'll get you something to eat."

She looked him up, measuring him with her black, black eyes. "Why?"

It took him a moment to answer, "you remind me of someone I loved once," he said, and knew it was true. He felt the dull ache he felt around the Great Dark with her, but milder, without the violent wrack of emptiness that the Incarnate Dark left within him. "And I can." He answered, and that too was true.

"What are you?" She pressed, pulling his cloak tight about her shoulders to warm through.

"To tell the truth," he answered softly, putting his hand on the small of her back to guide her. "I really don't know."

***

Her name was Ghen and Lux did not know who it was she reminded him of, with the blonde curls he immediately thought Catena but Catena had been a wiry woman with strong features, and this girl was more like a doll, small and perfect. She ate like she hadn't seen food in weeks, although it was a simple stew with slices of a grey bread. She chased the gravy around the plate with the bread and talked with her mouth full.

With her blonde hair he wondered if it was the spectre Mary that he saw in her, but she, like Catena, had strong features and was taller, broader. He didn't know who Ghen looked like but however it was, perhaps one of his Clan, Isolde maybe, she caused a dull ache of remembrance within him that Isolde never had. He wondered if it was a part of his transformation that he was yet to understand.

"I'm not fer passing up a free meal but why me?" She asked, washing down the half chewed bread with her beer.

"I don't know." He answered.

Her eyes were hard despite their liquid blackness. "I suppose you'll want..."

He shook his head sadly. It was impossible, even if he wanted to, there was nothing there for him to act with. His genitals, like his jaw, had gone to the Abyss. "I don't know." He answered. "Maybe I'm just lonely."

"You're an odd one, that's fer sure." She agreed, belching and pushing away the empty plate, then she lifted her beer mug, looking at it's denuded contents almost sadly. Lux waved the waitress over. "I aint the kinda girl people go rescuing. I'm just a trick, and a cheap un at that."

Lux lowered his head before he spoke, "maybe in this life, maybe in the last you were a goddess, every woman deserves to be a queen, even if it's only for a short time."

"If I was a goddess," she answered, sucking up the foam from her ale mug, "I'd 'ave jewels and gowns and castles and servants at me beck an' call."

"Do you want those things?" he asked, and reached into the air to pull out the gold hidden there, scattered across the room and placed it in front of her. "Jewels are just rocks other people find pretty, and gold is everywhere if you know where to look. I could get you palaces, and servants and gowns if you want them." He wanted to please her though he didn't know why.

"What are you?" she asked,

"Lost," he told her knowing that of all his answers that was truth. "Adrift." he said.

"I don't know yer name." She said.

"Lux," he answered proud of his name, but she laughed.

"Like the Eidolon," she mispronounced the word as eedolon rather than aydolon but he thought it charming.

"You know of the Eidolon?" he asked, pressing her for information, because he still wanted to find Pax. His revenge was only stalled not stopped by his inability to locate him.

"It's an old wive's story," she laughed, "apparently there were all these gods and they went to war against the Great Dark and one of them turned on his brothers and helped him, and the Great Dark won the war. The traitor God he called Cadacus and gave him the ability to make five lieutenants called the Eidolon." She looked at him, "Lux, Pax, Nox, Charity and Fettered."

"Then what happened?" Lux asked.

"The Unkin came and there was plague and fire and the Eidolon started to feed on the unkin and raised armies to defeat them."

"What happened then?"

"I heard that they turned on each other and Lux was killed and they died out. You hear tales of them in the wilds, but no one's seen an Eidolon in years and years."

"Lux wasn't killed." He corrected. "He was thrown into the abyss for an act of sublime treachery."

She looked interested as she put her empty beer mug on the table. "Yeah?" she pressed him.

"Yeah, he surpassed his master."

She was quiet for a long time, thinking over what he said. "Well, you aint an Eidolon, that's fer sure, they aint real."

"In your story," he asked, "what happened to the Eidolon?"

"Well Charity was eaten up by his own vanity, and sucked into a mirror," she said. Lux nodded for that had been true. "And Fettered for her laziness was turned to stone." That also had been true. "Nox for his greed was trapped in his treasure chamber." Nox had been trapped in his abbey by his piscine transformation forever caught amongst his experiments.

"And Pax?"

"Oh, Pax was killed by the humans a long long time ago for his temper. They're object lessons, aint they?" she said, shrugging so her curls bounced about her neck prettily, "like you shouldn't be lecherous or you'll end up like Lux, neutered or lazy or you'll turn to stone." She yawned. "Well, Lux," she enunciated the name carefully, "I'll be getting back to me lodgings."

"Mine have a bathhouse and a real feather bed." He said inviting her back, "I don't need to sleep but I pay for them regardless. You belong to me now, I bought you from him, and I will treat you like the goddess you are."

Ghen laughed. "Aye," she said, "you do that," though she was sceptical.

Lux may have been lecherous in his past life, but he knew how to treat a lady, even one that worked a street corner for a cheap pimp.

***

The Great Dark proved his impatience after at least a year passed in Steinchencroe in the company of Ghen. In many ways Lux was surprised that he waited that long as he lavished the prostitute in all the finery he could acquire, even to the extent of having her taught the making of lace that she might have a skill if he was to leave her.

He continued his nightly perambulations swallowing the iumbra/i of those who were killed or died during the night, but he took no time amongst the temples of the Great Dark, but still expected to see him whenever a figure in white passed him by.

So the last place he expected the Incarnate Dark to appear was at his lodgings, trying on a pair of lace socks that Ghen had made, and talking to her most sweetly. When she saw him enter Ghen chided him. "Lux, why didn't ya tell me ya had a brother?" She smiled, "although he's a ibig/i little brother," and her laughter was sweet.

"We don't talk." Lux cut her off. "Ghen, I saw that the embroiderer is finished with your dress, why don't you go collect it?" Ghen was spoiled by Lux' attention but part of her was still that street whore who knew how to accept an order, even one so carefully worded.

The Great Dark watched her leave almost appreciatively, the way her waist was nipped in by her dress and the sway of fabric at her ankles. "You do not even know, love, of who it is that she reminds you." Lux did not know how it was that the Great Dark, the antithesis of all creation, might sound rueful and somewhat sad. "But they are very alike."

"I'm sure you did not call just to see how I was." Lux sneered.

"You are meant to be looking for your brother. There are things to be done, I have been indulgent, my love, but even my patience can wear thin." He sat down on the small leather couch, that made him look like some sort of spider, his long limbs blown out of proportion by the furniture. He was wearing the lace socks that she had made Lux, it made him look all the more ridiculous.

"I have looked," Lux said, "and I continue to look, but I simply cannot find any trace. I have searched this city high and low, and found nothing."

"Then you have looked in the wrong places. Pax is here, can you not feel him? The way his very ianima/i distorts and twists the world around it." The Great Dark was disdainful, but the expression on his human face appeared that he might belch or laugh with the way the muscles were pulled taut.

"I can feel nothing." Lux answered calmly, "I feel the ache of you when I am in your presence, the memory of it I feel with Ghen. I feel disdain for this place, the stench of it is almost visible and lingers on a tongue I no longer have." The bitter irony of it dripped from his tone. "I no longer have nerves to feel with and emotions are such a human concept."

To his surprise the Great Dark smiled, "every day you become more and more like he whom I loved and less and less the creature that Cadacus made you. Soon even my patience will be tested by this love I have for you as who you were, Lux may have been pliant but now you become more and more intractable. In the deserts to the west the last of the Remnants built a great tower and trapped within prophecy and knowledge. If you cannot find Pax on your own perhaps word of him will linger there."

"And Ghen, perhaps I don't know who she reminds me of but I have obligations to her now."

"Your pretty little bed warmer will be under my care," The Great Dark said, "no one will harm her whilst I wait with her, go to the tower of Babel and come back, she will wait for you." When Lux hesitated he continued, "I would not cause you pain, my love, but you were created for a reason and that reason remains unfulfilled. She will want for nothing, my followers will treat her like an empress in your name. Now come," the Great Dark unfolded himself from the couch, "kiss me before you go."

Lux could not have said why it was that he acquiesced to the Great Dark's command, but he lowered his mask and allowed the Dark to kiss him, letting his human lips linger on the teeth that Lux maintained. Then when the Great Dark pulled back he shifted into the Spectral realm to begin his hunt again, trusting that Ghen would be taken care of in his absence.

***

The tower of Babel had been built on the remnants of a great city of luxury that had been swallowed by the desert. Over time the sand had taken all but the upper most rooms, but Lux remembered the tower from before the Abyss.

It had stood tall and proud amidst the sands, white plaster and stone with a polished dome, and it was full of wonders though Lux had no time for it. It was a library after all and he did not know which pleasures could be found in books that could not be experienced. So Lux had travelled to the tower, but he had never actually been inside. The Remnants who had created it were long since gone, killed by Nox when they denied him entry to the tower.

For a very long time the Eidolon had been active and very much the top of the food chain, and as it remained only Lux, the Incarnate Dark and Cadacus were greater now, even as their dominance had twisted them into caricatures of their former greatness.

The tower was almost gone, completely subsumed by the desert it had been created out of, and Nox had almost certainly raided it for anything he would have found useful and destroyed what remained, so Lux was not hopeful when he entered the tower.

It was a revelation.

The tower was much larger than he had expected, and although in places the stairway was gone it was clear that it was the entrance to a huge underground complex. Hanging from wires from the centre was the bones of a large monster the likes of which he had never known, but lit by the same phosphorous mould as he had found in the Tomb of the Hunters was another frieze.

Unlike the one in the Tomb of the Hunters, which was carved with appliqued precious stones, this one was painted and the paint was worn and had flaked over the years.

There were minor pictures, showing of all things, his human self, in green armour, with his head held high as a great beam of light fell around him. The light split when it reached his head, and he was not pictured with the halo of stars, just as a man with what appeared to be a club hanging from his hands.

There were other pictures, one in triptych form showed a clawed monster holding aloft a human child, naked but for the blanket lifted with him as around him the world burned. The furthest image was of a tall young man using a sword to hold down a great demon with burning yellow eyes. The third image was of that young man in shimmering white with yellow eyes as the world burned and great buildings were crushed underfoot, and bloodied corpses were littered about. It showed the birth and life of the Great Dark.

Lux knew that these paintings were a record even if he didn't understand them.

He was surprised at how many of them appeared to feature him, as a winged hero bearing a blazing sword. What was strange however was as often as the hero appeared he fought for everyone, there were images of him appearing to fight with the other winged creatures, driving the twisted remnants, the Unkin perhaps, away. There were images of him fighting with the Unkin to drive the winged beings away. There were images of him fighting amongst humans to drive them both off.

The surrounding murals depicted a winged race, their features so like Lux' own but beautiful, where his were grotesque... and angelic, while his were demonic.

He tried to decipher these images...

And throughout the chamber, inscribed everywhere, images of Cadacus' knife itself.

Lux wondered if the Great Dark had meant for him to see these things, for he either did not know, or did not care what was pictured here in this tower for any to see. It showed the life of his vessel and that it was mortal, even if he was not.

However the images made little to no sense to Lux, they showed him, and it was clearly him with face covered and great wings unfurled, both as saviour and damned, fighting it appeared for all three sides in the war. In more than one panel he fought what appeared to be himself, in human and Unkin form.

"Hisstories," the voice wheezed as the unkin slithered from the small hole it had made it's den. He reached out it's hand, clawed and split to touch him, "balanssse," it said, "waited for you, waited sssso long." The creature was clearly mad. "Wait he ssssaid, wait, he will come. Will want ansssswers."

"What are these, Creature?" Lux asked. He knew better than to trust an Unkin, even one as base as this, with skin given to scales and bones twisted into a new form. He had never seen one so very old before.

"The path forward." The creature enunciated the words clearly, fighting to remember a language, "the sssssand comesssss. There is sssssand everywhere. I waited. I waited. Givessss me my reward." And then the Unkin lunged at him.

Lux held him off with a thought. "What are these, creature. Tell me, where is my brother, Pax?"

The creature writhed against it's invisible bonds for a moment, it's tongue lashing and snaking out to taste the air. "The sssssand comessss," it said, "but peasssse is dead and gone. Dead and gone. Dead and gone." Then something crossed it's unholy face for it tilted it's head, "we're going to get you," it started to sing song, "we're going to get you, we're going to get you."

"Answer me," Lux shook the creature.

All it answered was it's song. "We're going to get you, we're going to get you."

Annoyed Lux stepped up to the creature, "you'll gives me my reward?" the creature stopped. "Necropolissssss," it said, "I wants it, I wants what's mine."

"I shall reward you well enough," Lux answered, before he ripped what remained of the ivitrim/i from the creature and let it's corpse fall on the floor with a sound like dry wood. "Necropolis." He said to himself, "what does that mean?"

***

The return to Steinchencroe was subdued although Lux did not stop along the way. He took the shortest route but even so he had been absent for several weeks. He worried for Ghen, for although he had left her plenty of money, and her lodgings paid up for several months, she had a tendency to be rather careless with money. She had no real impulse control and would given the opportunity spend the whole fortune he had left with her, on gowns, jewellery and embroidered shoes.

So when he returned to their shared lodgings he was surprised when the land lady grabbed him by the arm. "Ye've returned at last, that's good, yer lady, she's gone."

"Define gone." He said grabbing her by the arm.

"He said he was yer brother, took her to the temple, I tried to find ye, I did." The woman was distraught, "she had the damp lung, we all heard her hacking i'the night. I told her not to go wi', to wait fer ye, but she wouldna listen."

"You have done well to tell me," his voice was carefully controlled. "I am sure my brother only brought her to the temple to seek medicine for her chest." He was trying to ease the woman so she would let go of his arm without him having to kill her or shift into the Spectral Realm where she would holler about him being Unkin.

When she let him go, with much tears and many protestations, he went back into the street, into an alley and shifted to the Spectral Realm where he could move much faster without worry.

The Temple of the Great Dark had a stench all of it's own, even in a place like Steinchencroe. It smelt of burned meat, old incense and a state of wrongness. In the Spectral Realm it was haloed by a dark and sinister shadow that Lux knew was the power of the Great Dark embodied in this realm. There were no statues or images of him, and he wondered what these slavish devotees would think of their master if they knew him to look just like they did, just taller in a white suit of clothes that never seemed to get dirty no matter what he did.

He wondered what they would think of their diety if they knew he had sat with Lux in the Great Spire of the Fettered and stroked his hair as Lux mourned. If they knew what he was beyond his human shell, a writhing dark mass with a single shining wet eye.

They were pitiful things, not even Unkin but human striving for more by painting themselves in bull's blood and they fell away in fear when he appeared amongst them, shifting into the Material Realm with a thought. "I search for the one called Ghen. She was brought here."

Their high priest, if such a term could be ascribed, had shaved his head and all over his face was ritual scarification, in swirls, alchemic lines and one of his eyes had been burned out. "All penitents are equal in the eyes of the Dark." He said and his voice was a burned out rasp.

Lux dropped the mask from his mouth to show the mockery of his face. "I serve the Great Dark," he said, "perhaps not so devoutly as some. A girl was brought here, with blonde curls and black eyes. A tall man in white would have brought her. I seek her."

The man tilted his face at Lux' disfigurement as it it not only pleased him but he wished to emulate it. "She is gone to the Great Dark." He said as if that was more than enough information and went to walk away.

Lux roared with anger and as he did so the tightly coiled rage within him gathered up the air and exploded it around him. "He said she would come to no harm."

"And so she did not." The priest answered, looking at his brethren, blown back by the force. "She was given draught of poppy before the ritual began. She felt nothing."

If Lux had have had a mouth he would have smiled, instead he narrowed his eyes and asked, pulling the cloth back over his face, "how many of you do you think I'll have to kill to get his attention?" And then the slaughter started.

Lux used the knife, because he knew it would take longer, letting it manifest in his hand, carving shallow cuts even as the priests slipped on the floor and begged for mercy. He was relentless and cruel and as the high priest stood firm, Lux could not discount his courage or stupidity in these matters, the Great Dark himself manifested in the shadows around the hall.

"Know that I did not command this." He said, "and so it is with my blessing that you do this thing."

"You wash your hands of it?!" Lux screamed. "I asked only that you look in on her, that you make sure she was well, I find instead that she has been sacrificed to your name."

"Joanna-Beth." The Great Dark said, "that is who she reminded you of. Her name was Joanna-Beth."

"And what use is that to me if she is dead?" He grabbed the high priest and without thought plunged his hand through the man's chest, the knife pressed against the shirt gathered in his fist. "I could raze this place and would you, you, who professes to love me, even stand in my way?"

"This," the Great Dark said stepping forward, "this is a human amusement, nothing more." The priest in his dying moments looked upon his god and saw how very little he meant to him as Lux let him drop to the floor amongst his brethren. "Not far from this place, through the passages under the altar is a great warren of caverns, it is where they store the dead of their amusements. I imagine if she is anywhere she will be there." He tilted his head, his hair falling across his eyes, "did you find what you searched for in Babel?"

"I found out a lot of things." Lux answered and then ignoring the Great Dark and his line of questioning he walked to the altar and brought his fist down upon it, shattering it in twain.

"There is something you should know," the Great Dark said, "I was always jealous of your love," he sounded amused by it, "but you did not love this girl, only the memory of who she reminded you of, Joanna-Beth."

"I know no Joanna-Beth," Lux said about to drop into the hole the broken altar revealed, "or anyone with such a strange name."

"No," the Great Dark said as Lux dropped into the darkness, "it was a long time ago, in another country, and besides the wench is dead."

***

A necropolis, Lux found, was an underground city of the dead. And it was the only word that could be applied to such a place. The walls were lined with skulls, inset in the plaster, to create a form of tiles. The bones of forearms were laid out like flooring and even then there were bodies lying in piles as they rotted. Chains of bones decorated the ceilings, chandeliers made from human remains had fires lit in them. The entirety of the complex, for there were many rooms, was decorated thus with a sense of what the very embodiment of the Dark might want.

In the centre of the first room, surrounded by flowing water was an altar and there lay Ghen. She had been dressed entirely in white and looked as if she might just be asleep, with unguents and salves caressed into her skin to prevent rot, but judging by the amount of bones that lay littered about, dressed in the same shimmering white, with dried flowers in their hair, for Lux knew that was among the last things to decompose, that she was one of many brides chosen for the Great Dark by his human followers.

He thought with some self satisfied chagrin of the lengths to which these human followers had gone to please their lord and that he had never bothered to visit the place or collect the brides that they laid out for him.

Lux was angry, but he had no intention of taking it out upon the dead, afterall they were not the ones who had angered him.

He shifted into the Spectral Realm more out of grief and apathy than any need to. His reasoning was simply that it was easier for him to maintain his form there without having to think it, though it had long since become so customary to him it was almost automatic.

It was only then that he noticed it, hovering about the edges of his attention, but powerful and succinct. If he had not been so angry he might have laughed. Here in this Necropolis, under the city he had walked for a year in search of, was his brother, Pax, buried with the human sacrifices of the Great Dark.

Although time had made Lux more human in this place he eschewed that, loping like an animal, jumping from pillar to post, each of which was made or covered with shaped human bones, like an insect, through the dark passages which were now lit by that strange green moss he found in places of interest. He knew now, though whether it was something that he remembered of the Before or something taken from Nox, that it was called Ignus Fatuus and it was said that it lit the way to Hell.

He had not realised that caught in the cloak he brought with him to the spectral realm, picked up unnoticed, was one of the dried flowers from Ghen's hair.

aaa

Pax had been a warrior, a soldier, with little time for anything but the hunt. Of all the Eidolon he had been the only one who had not looked upon the Unkin as a necessary inconvenience. He had built a great army and harried the Unkin until only a small remnant remained, enough to sustain the Eidolon if carefully managed. Then he began to hunt both human and animal.

Of them all only Pax had stood taller than Cadacus and Lux, though now Lux measured him in his mind against the Great Dark and found that even he was smaller. Pax had been tall and broad, built like a building, all solid muscle and when he laughed it was a deep boom that echoed in the corners of his chest. He had arms like a vice, and just as he was quick to violence, he was quick to shows of affection, often scooping up the smaller Eidolon into bone crushing embraces as he tickled their faces with his great black beard.

Lux had had no real time for him, for as much as he enjoyed hunting the Eidolon there were other things in the world that he was happy to give more time to.

Cadacus was with Pax, as he was with all the Eidolon, softly indulgent.

Pax had been one of those who threw Lux into the abyss.

Now to see him Lux was amused at the irony. He was dead but not dead, murdered as much as humanity could kill an Eidolon, which was to say that he was mostly dead. He was pinned to the rear wall of the last chamber of the Necropolis by a variety of weapons, wooden, metal, and in one case vegetable, and they had obviously managed to mostly release his ianima/i. However a thread still bound it to his body and it was that which held him in bondage.

"Come to save my ianima/i," the ghost, manifest in front of the almost corpse, asked Lux, "it has been long since any came this deep amongst the dead, even the Great Dark fears to tread here so great is my wrath."

Lux sighed, "more that he does not care," he replied, "but I have not come to save your ianima/i but to consume it. Your threats are premature, Pax, I have not forgotten whose hands bore me into the Abyss, cursing me to this halflife. Now I must feed upon the iUmbra/i of my brothers to survive, but before I end your bondage and release you to the Great Dark and his wheel, do you know the location of Fidelis, our lost sister?"

"Never heard of her," Pax answered, "unless I could hunt with it, or hunt it I have no interest, now release me that we might fight this out."

Lux rolled his eyes, "as you wish," he said and with his hands, manifested in the Spectral Realm he took hold of that thread which bound Pax to his body and tore it, sucking in the ianima/i like noodles. He gave his warrior brother no chance to fight simply because there was no point in it.

Believing himself, erroneously, to be near the end of his quest and aching from the loss of Ghen, who he had loved in some small part, even if she was a mortal human, he sat down in the dark to mourn.

***

Lux did not feel changed after consuming Pax, apart from a terrible sense of emptiness and impotent rage. There was also a terrible sense of knowing exactly where Cadacus waited, in the Oracle's Cave that had always been forbidden them before.

The more Lux remembered the more offhand about the old Cave that Cadacus had always been. He remembered lying in Cadacus bed, sated and catlike, boneless and asking about it, to be told "it's just an old cave, I like it, it reminds me of the Before, but it will have no interest to you."

Cadacus had retreated to it more and more as the years passed, if he was not in the Sanctuary of the Clans, Lux knew, he would be there.

The Oracle's Cave was just that, a cave, with little pomp or circumstance, in fact it was only through the surveillance of Nox that they had discovered it and it was Cadacus that had named it. He had never bothered to enlist humans to beautify it, or even build upon it, just leaving it a hole in the ground that he visited for his own purposes.

The rage drove Lux on even when he thought he might stop, he slipped between worlds to better aid his progress without care of what beauty he missed, only that some places were easier passed in the Spectral and some in the Material.

The Oracle's Cave had, in the intervening centuries become over grown with grass and mud had fallen over the entrance revealing only a slight hole in the ground, unmarked even by animal traffic. Without care of the damage he might do Lux tore at it with his hands, looking so very human now, ripping up great clods with his mind, in many ways assuaging the rage that burned through him. The Great Dark had said that "revenge was nothing if not eager" but now Lux understood that sometimes it was also the only fuel a fire needed, and that fire could easily consume it's vessel.

So fuelled with rage and hate and need, and the terrible fear that his time with Cadacus was empty, taken out on the soil around the Cave, Lux exploded into the cavern through the small opening and looked around.

He expected the Ignus Fatuus, everywhere else had been lit by it, but there was no light here at all except what fell through the opening, but Lux knew it was the right place. He could ifeel/i it, like insects under his skin and buzzing in his skull. So he pressed forward.

After climbing unto a ledge and then passing through a crevasse that was only just wide enough to accommodate him he found a larger cavern that resembled nothing more than a subterranean cathedral, complete with stained glass. It was lit, though by what Lux could not say, for the light was brilliant white.

Lux knew the history of this place, Cadacus had told him, an amused god relating fables, how the Oracle had played the role of a doddering soothsayer, stirring his pot of visions while dispensing enigmatic predictions to gullible visitors. Underneath the facade was the arch demon Azazel, a great sorcerer of hell - a ruthless manipulator with the power, Cadacus said, to bend time. Since his murder at a hunter's hands centuries ago, these caverns had stood vacant... though, like Azazel himself, they were rumored to be only a facade for a much larger, more elaborate complex.

Lux could feel Cadacus here, burning up his skin like fire and razorblades, and with the rage and hurt and pain and inevitable indignation he would have plumbed the very depths of the Abyss to find him.

In the apse of the underground temple, where an altar would have stood, was a statue that Lux supposed to be Azazel, the demon who, according to Cadacus, had instigated this horror.

He seemed not at all the impressive figure Lux had imagined from Cadacus' boasted exploits. And yet, even this cold image radiated a certain undeniable power...

Lux continued on, past the statue into the depths of the cave and what it had concealed.

When he had walked for some minutes he came across a series of windows set into the stone and around each the stone had been carved into detailed relief. When Lux pushed his head through the liquid that seemed to fill them he discovered that they were portals displaying scenes of past and apparently future events.

The first portal showed Lux being revived in the Underworld, after being executed by Cadacus, thrown into the abyss for no real reason he could see. "My arrival in this miserable age..." Lux mused, "What trickery is this?"

The Elder God spoke but he himself did not appear. "It is no trick, my love, but a glimpse into the currents of Time itself." Then he was gone leaving Lux to see the second portal, it showed Lux discovering the tomb of the hunters and learning his true origin, he could see himself stand before the statue of his human self. "Impossible," he murmured, but yet it remained there.

The third window showed the terrible confrontation between Cadacus and Lux with the knife held between the two bones of Lux's arm. "These apparitions torment me... has this all been foretold?"

The next portal showed Lux confronting Cadacus at some future time, in an unfamiliar setting "My mind reels with conflict... does he await me moments from now, or in some century yet to come?"

Another portal shows Lux striking Mary down with the knife and being changed by her umbra. It had not happened and Lux could not see it happening "This cannot be! What madness does this scene portend? Cadacus must think me credulous, to suffer these lies..."

The final portal showed Lux armed with an enhanced version of Cadacus' knife, its blade writhing with it's intertwined black and red energies "Is this phantasm a conjuration of my mind, or an echo of future events?" He asked, but he was too close to his goal now to simply stop. He shook the unsettling image from his mind and continued on.

At what Lux assumed to be the heart of the time streaming device that Azazel had built into this place Lux found a room he would later know to be the Chronoplast Chamber, the heart of a device that would allow him to cross time and space. It was tiered with several round portals set here and there about it. There was an infinity design upon the floor.

His attention however was diverted by the presence of Cadacus in the centre, as he stepped out of the shadows.

Cadacus looked more human than he had in centuries, small and almost insignificant, with brilliant blue eyes that no longer flashed with malice, "At last." He said, "I must say, I'm disappointed in your progress. I imagined you would be here sooner. Tell me - did it trouble you to murder your brothers?"

Lux knew his answer to that. "Did it trouble you when you ordered me into the abyss?"

The Cadacus tilted his head, like a cat looking at it's owner and considering them foolish. "No," he said, "I had faith in you. In your ability to hate. In your self-righteous indignation."

Lux snorted out a laugh. "Lies. You cannot have foreseen all of this."

Cadacus answered him calmly, "Eternity is relentless, Lux, of us all you should know that.

"When I first stole into this chamber, centuries ago, I did not fathom the true power of knowledge. To know the future, Lux... to see its paths and streams tracing out into the infinite... As a man, I could never have contained such forbidden truths... But each of us is so much more than we once were... Gazing out across the planes of possibility, do you not feel with all your soul how we have become like gods? And as such, are we not indivisible? As long as a single one of us stands, we are legion... That is why, when I must sacrifice my children to the void, I can do so with a clear heart..."

Lux cut him off before he could continue to monologue, "Very poetic, Cadacus - but in the end, you offer no more than a convenient rationalization for your crimes."

Cadacus smiled, soft and warm, and it was at odds with who he was, with what he had become. "These chambers offer insight for those patient enough to look - in your haste to find me, perhaps you have not gazed deeply enough. Our futures are predestined - Azazel shaped mine a millennium ago. We each play out the parts fate has written for us. We are compelled ineluctably down pre-ordained paths. Free will is only an illusion."

Lux changed the subject, he had not come here for long religious debates. "I have been to the Tomb of the Hunters. Your dirty secret is exposed. How could you transform a Hunter into an Eidolon?"

Cadacus tilted his head again, his emotions cool and distant, "How could I not? One must keep his friends close, Lux - and his enemies even closer. Can you grasp the absurd beauty of the paradox? We are the same - Hunter and Angel. With our holy wars... our obsession with domination... Who better to serve me than those whose passion transcends all notions of good and evil?"

Lux raised his eyebrow, "I won't applaud your clever blasphemy. The Hunters were saviors, defending Humanity from the corruption that we continue to represent. My eyes are opened, Cadacus- I find no nobility in this unlife you rudely forced on my unwilling corpse."

Cadacus turned away but continued to speak as he started up the tiers of the room. "You may have uncovered your past, but you know nothing of it. You think the Hunters were noble, altruistic? Don't be simple. Their agenda was the same as ours."

Lux made a move after him, "You are lost in your own ego, these apparitions and prophesies... what game are you playing now? Because I preferred hide and seek."

A momentary pride flashed across Cadacus' face then vanished into blank smoothness, "Destiny is a game, is it not? And now you await my latest move..."

He vanished to reappear on the top floor of the chronoplast chamber, next to a portal that swam with stars. "You nearly had me, Lux... But this is not where - or how - it ends. Fate promises more twists before this drama unfolds completely." As he finished speaking, he turned and ran through the star portal behind him.

"Son of a," Lux started and prepared to follow him through the portal and into the void of the unknown, but the Great Dark's disembodied voice admonished him. "Be warned, my love, once you cross this threshold, you are beyond my influence..." Lux did not even hesitate.

He did not appear in the same place as Cadacus, instead he appeared in a small chapel with the same infinity symbol upon the floor as the room he had left. There was a pool of light on the floor, falling from a strange device which hung from the ceiling and Lux stepped into it.

A man he did not recognise, but with bright yellow eyes, started to clap from where he sat at the edge of the room in the darkness. "Lux," he said, "Redeemer and destroyer... pawn and messiah. Welcome, time-spanned soul... Welcome... to your destiny..." And Lux recognised him then, as the Arch Demon Azazel.

***

Lux had leapt through the Chronoplast portal in pursuit of Cadacus- fueled only by blind rage and a desire for revenge so closely thwarted. He appeared in a different time and place. As the room fully coalesced, he saw that he was in a small, domed chamber - similar to the Chronoplast chamber he just left, but built on a much smaller scale. Azazel, the Arch Demon wa there, leaning on his staff for support.

Azazel was playing the part of a kindly sorcerer or oracle, and Lux saw through it instantly. "'Where am I?' is the usual question.

In your case, 'when?' might be more apt."

Lux recognized Azazel from the statue in the Oracle's cave, and knew just how dangerous he was. He raised the wraith-blade in defense, but as he did so the orb on Azazel's staff glowed brightly, and the blade sputtered out and retracted into Lux' arm, the wisps of wraith energy receding completely. Lux was momentarily alarmed, and now even more suspicious of Azazel' motives.

Then he shrugged, "if you'd prefer I use my bare hands..."

Lux leapt like a snake at Azazel and grabbed him by his scrawny neck, throwing him up against the wall. Azazel feigned surprise and fear for a moment , his yellow eyes large, but Lux knew it for a sham. "This is completely unexpected!" the demon whimpered, "This orb disables our spiritual enemies, leaving them helpless and incapacitated. Strangely, it seems to have the same effect on that peculiar weapon of yours. But you must believe me - I mean you no harm." Lux knew this kind of creature well enough, that if he had fear it was because Lux was not playing the game the way that he wanted him to.

"You can drop the benevolent facade, Azazel." Lux sneered, "I know who - and what - you are. I should kill you where you stand..."

As Lux spoke, Azazel's whole demeanor changed - no longer the addled old magician. This Azazel was composed, confident, in control. "Perhaps you should, my boy. But you don't."

Lux tightened the fist around Azazel's throat.

Lux barely whispered "Are you so certain of that, demondim, Unkin?" He knew the taste of the creature before him, even if he had never seen one so in control of it's human host.

The insult rolled off Azazel like water, "My patronage affords me a certain level of omniscience, Lux." He stopped and smiled, a slow inky thing across his face, "No, you don't kill me. That honor belongs to another, Dean Winchester, some thirty years from now."

Lux dropped him. "You are a pair with Cadacus - you're just as fatalistic as he is."

Azazel sat on the floor, laughing dryly. "Death comes for us all, Lux. It's just matter of time." He used the staff to bring himself to a stand, then turning his back on Lux he went towards the exit door,.

Yet Lux remained suspicious, "How is it that you know my name? We have never met."

Azazel grinned, a slippery snake of a grin, "On the contrary, Lux- I know you very well..." the door opened to his approach, "And it grieves me to see how cruelly you've been used. I knew you when you were a Hunter, Lux, in fact I knew you as a baby in the cradle, we were even close."

"Oh, please." Lux sneered, "if I had a stomach I think I would lose it."

Azazel was rebuffed by his answer, "Fortunately, you need not love me now to be my ally..."

Lux rolled his eyes and pushed his shoulders back, "How convenient for you. You'll forgive me if don't naively devour every scrap of information you toss me. You do have a reputation for deceit."

Azazel sighed dramatically, "And who has slandered me so? Your malefactor Cadacus, who was called Castiel? The one who betrayed and destroyed you? Our common enemy? Consider the source, before you judge me too harshly." He stopped drawing in a noisy breath, "We'll forget about rekindling our old friendship, then. But consider an alliance based on our common ground - We both want Castiel dead. I can help you do it."

Lux was amused by this turn of affairs, "You don't want to meddle in this, old man. I know all about your sordid little schemes, but you're simply out of your depth on this one."

Azazel's instant grin was like a knife slash, "You underestimate me, Lux. Let me show you..." At the edge of the room was a large metal basin filled with a strange sticky black fluid, that may once have been blood, Azazel lit the four candles that stood on the basin's edge. "See." He said, "Even now, Castiel, that is his true name, is lying in wait for you, unaware that I've snatched you out of the time-stream and brought you here, to me."

The image slowly appeared, reflected in the mystical waters of the basin. The image coalesced, and Cadacus, no Castiel, was revealed. The image wavered, and we see that he was stood next to a small blue house next to which a great tree grew, apparently waiting. Lux leant over the basin and looked, mesmerized.

Azazel did not bother to look. "See how he lingers at the very place he is destined to destroy and to make his throne room... foolishly confident that he has eluded your grasp. His very existence is a cancer upon this world. As long as he lives, all of creation is in peril."

Azazel stopped and looked at the creature before him. "You may never again be human, Lux... But you can re-embrace the essence of your humanity, and the nobility of your Hunter heritage. Go to him, Lux , and end this." He stopped for dramatic effect Lux was sure, "But first you will need to find your way out of this warehouse I have taken over for my purposes- and in this, I'm afraid, I cannot help you. My soldiers will not understand your appearance here; they will try to kill you. You needn't fear them, of course. They're no match for you. Try to keep the casualties to a minimum, but do what you have to do." He nodded sagely as if expecting Lux to understand. "Afterall all great movements require a few martyrs..."

As he left the room into which Azazel had summoned him Lux began to feel a strange distortion, a sense of vertigo that was disconcerting but not debilitating. It was as if he had stuck his head into a great bell which was then rung. Reality itself was trying to warp and twist around him and he did not know why.

Unkin which he might have referred to once as fledglings swarmed him. He threw them across the room without a thought, ripping their ivitrim/ from them like tearing off a band-aid. "What are you?" One managed before the black smoke, ivitrim/i erupted from his mouth like vomit. Yet as he stepped forward the sense of dislocation and strangeness intensified.

It centred on a girl in blue trousers with flared ends and blonde hair in feathered wings about her face, "oh hell, no," she said and pulled a knife from the belt of her pants. It was the knife that Cadacus had used to try and kill them, the one that was bonded to his arm. Then she looked at Lux, truly looked at him, narrowed her eyes and prepared to run.

Perhaps if Lux had been human still, or even Eidolon, she might have outran him, for her shoes, although built high with thick soles, did not impede her movement, but he grabbed her by the long tail of blonde hair that streamed out behind her. She did not wait to be consumed, and instead billowed out of the girl's mouth and down into the floor, leaving a corpse behind, and in it's hand was the wraith blade as he had come to know it.

That was the source of the displacement, the wraith blade hanging limply from the hand of a dead girl. Lux stretched out his hand, mesmerised by the metal and staining of the bone, and as if in response the wraith blade along his arm materialised, flickering and glowing, reaching out for it's twin. Lux could not resist the dread fascination and stretched out to lift the blade as the unkin around him cowered awaiting his next move.

The wraith blade seemed nostalgic and reached out, stretching itself to the length of a sword and wrapped itself around it's twin trapped as it was in it's corporeal shell.

His hand involuntarily clamped down on the hilt of the knife. This was the will of the wraith blade, now - Lux was no longer in control of his actions. Embracing its twin, its mirror self, the blade's long-dormant spirit was now fully aroused. And for the first time, Lux felt the true presence of this other entity - willful, ravenous, and deranged from thousands of years of imprisonment... The blade was now in command - and he, now merely its helpless host, felt his very umbra being leeched to restore the blade.

But the blade knew better than to destroy its host - and just as Lux neared the brink of oblivion, the blade released its hold on him, sending him across the room, barrelling into the wall. As he recovered, he realized that they were now bound together in a fragile alliance - the blade no longer merely his symbiotic weapon, but a sentient parasite, competing for control.

He turned his head to look at Azazel, who had appeared, soundlessly, behind him. "What have you done to me?" he spat, "Is this your trap?!"

For the first time Azazel looked genuinely afraid, as if he had had no idea of this turn of events. "How was it mine?!" The Demondim asked indignant, "Don't forget it was Castiel who led you here, not me! While you curse me - the only soul in Creation ready to guide and assist you - he laughs at our folly and revels in your dismay."

Lux raised the two blades to attack. "These blades now coiled in sinister embrace have inspired terror in the hearts of creatures far more durable than you, old man. Bound together as they are, I can only imagine what they could do to your soul's fragile shell." Lux knew it wasn't an empty threat.

Azazel stepped back, "I beg you to stay your hand. This was none of my doing. I have sought only to aid you in your righteous quest." He was almost wheedling.

Lux seized the advantage presented him to attack, if only verbally, "Why, you're trembling, Azazel. Has your confidence abandoned you? You seem to have made a fatal error by leaving your precious staff behind. Is that where all your courage comes from?"

Azazel was desperate as he spoke, "Listen to me, Lux- you don't know what you're doing. I have taken an enormous risk by appearing here before you, so defenseless, yet eager to prove my good intentions. If there's anything left of the Hunter in you, you won't do this. While you threaten me, your true enemy eludes you!"

Lux' tone was like ice when he answered, "Don't concern yourself with Cadacus, old man. He'll join you in Hell soon enough. As you said, Death comes for us all..." He took a step forward with the knife in his hand ready to lunge.

Azazel's yellow eyes looked sickly, "Yes... the Wheel of Fate demands it." He said.

It was enough to stay Lux' hand. "What did you say?"

Azazel blinked quickly, trying to restore his calm as he did answer, "The Wheel of Fate - the inexorable cycle of death and rebirth to which all men are compelled. We serve the same God, Lux." Confident now that he had reached his goal Azazel started to puff up from where he had cowered. "To strike me down would be striking His own attendant, and I don't believe even you would take that risk."

Lux threw the corporeal blade away in disgust. The wraith-blade untwined itself and coiled back into his arm. "I tire of your games, demon. Now that I know you fear me, I needn't concern myself with you. Cadacus is waiting for me."

Azazel's breath of relief was almost palpable, "Go, then, Lux. Seek Castiel out and destroy him, in the name of the One God we both serve. You, who were once the greatest of the Hunters - murdered, profaned, destroyed and reborn again from His mercy... You are now most powerfully equipped to be His agent - His instrument of restoration and retribution."

Lux sneered as he went to leave, "give it a rest, old man, my own vengeance is motivation enough. I don't need coaxing."

As Lux left the warehouse Azazel slammed and locked the gate behind Lux, so that they were now safely on opposite sides of it. He breathed a sigh of relief as Lux left, looking for the blue house with the tree. "By my soul, you almost had me, my little assassin. But that'll be the one and only chance you get, I assure you of that."

***

Lux was led to the blue house with the tree beside by the very presence of overwhelming power that emanated from it.

Cadacus stood on the street watching. He had changed his clothes to better suit this time, and wore a sort of tan cape, but his eyes were on the window. Lux crept up behind him, readying the wraith-blade. He addressed Lux without turning around, completely composed, and slightly amused. "I know you are there, Lux."

Lux did not lower the blade but he did speak. "Azazel led me to you, Cadacus - though I might have guessed you'd meet me here. This is to become your throne room is it not?"

Cadacus continued to speak with his back turned to Lux, turning his head only slightly, watching the window intently. "And if Azazel told you I was hidden on the underside of Hell, would you throw yourself into oblivion to pursue me?" He stopped, tilting his head, "Azazel trawls for the ignorant and unwary, hauling his gasping prey from the streams of their destinies. Stay out of his net, Lux -"

Lux interrupted him. "Spare me the elaborate metaphors, Cadacus, or should I say, Castiel? I have pursued you here for one purpose - you will pay for your betrayal, and Balance will thus be restored."

Cadacus sneered. "And whose will is satisfied then, the will of Lux, or Azazel or the Great Dark?"

Lux rolled his eyes, his rage making the blade forged to his arm roil and twist with blood hunger. "Would I be better manipulated by you, Cadacus? Now turn and face me; the chase is over."

Rather than turning, Cadacus started to walk slowly forward, gently placing his hand on the tree along side the house, with his fingers splayed. "This was never a chase, Lux - we are merely passengers on the wheel of destiny, describing a perfect circle to this point. We have been brought here for a reason. I have seen the beginning and the end of our story, however - and the tale is crude and ill-conceived. We must rewrite the ending of it, you and I."

Lux's anger boiled inside him and he could feel the magic escaping his eyes in flashes of light. "Face me, Cadacus. Even you shouldn't die a coward's death."

Cadacus finally turned to answer him; he has delayed Lux as long as he needed to. "Isn't it customary to grant the condemned a final request?"

"I recall no such courtesy from you." Lux sneered.

"Indulge me." Cadacus sighed, "All I ask is that you listen."

Above him a great billow of flame erupted from the window, catching in the branches of the tree. "This is the sublime moment of our undoing, Lux - the ineffable fulcrum upon which swings the entirety of our history.

This is where all of creation is betrayed. In this instant, Mary- the mother of the saviour and damned - is murdered by dark forces bent on overthrowing the order of things. Her spirit is just now tearing free, lost in the ether, trying to find its way here. You have already seen how she comes to haunt this place."

"Blah blah blah," Lux interrupted snidely, "bound here by your betrayal and your murder of her. You are the reason this land becomes diseased - as long as you remain alive you condemn us all to an eternity of decay."

Cadacus gently raised his hand to silence Lux, and intently urged him - "Silence," Cadacus cut him off, "See this."

The sky darkened, the wind began to gust, and birds scattered from the clearing in alarm. A low, nearly sub-audible rumble swelled, as though a massive storm were gathering. Cadacus continued, with some urgency - "As Mary dies, her sons are led from this place by their father, woken by my hand. Such is my destiny."

Suddenly, the entire clearing was rocked by an indescribable force - A telepathic blast burst across the landscape with a thunderous rumble, and distorting waves of energy ripple across the clearing. Cadacus visibly tenses as he absorbs the onslaught of this psychic attack. A young man, broad of shoulder and dark of head led a boy, golden haired, from the fire as it swept through the house, a baby in the child's arms. He could hear the distant whine of sirens.

"...my god..." Lux breathed, recognising both the children as they were saved from the fire.

Cadacus spoke as the telepathic assault receded. "At this moment Mary's husband tries to return into the flames, and driven to extremity as he is wracked with grief and tormented by suspicions of treachery, he plunges into a madness which overflows and infects everyone involved, the players, who are symbiotically bound. Including me. The repercussions of Mary's," he stopped looking for the word, "assassination were expertly calculated... The entire spiral descends into madness, and I am left powerless to protect the child I was entrusted with as he descends into a functioning lunacy."

Lux just raised the knife higher in response, "Shall I show you the same mercy you showed everyone else, then? You blithely murdered them to restore the boy, yet your hand faltered when it came to the final sacrifice. What makes you exempt, Castiel? You're merely the last man standing. Why condemn me for simply carrying out what you hadn't the courage to do yourself?"

For the first time Cadacus lost his composure, and there was rage in his voice, "Let's drop the moral posturing, shall we? We both know there's no altruism in this pursuit. Your reckless indignation led you here, as I knew it would, in fact I counted on it." Lux bristled at the insult but Cadacus continued unchecked. "There's no shame in it, Lux - revenge is motivation enough. At least it's honest. Hate me, but do it honestly."

Amused at Lux' defiance, as slight as it was, he watched the house burn, "Thirty years hence, I am presented with a dilemma - let's call it a two-sided coin. If the coin falls one way, I sacrifice myself and the forces of heaven win but this would mean the annihilation of humanity. Azazel made sure of that. If the coin lands on the reverse, I refuse the sacrifice and thus doom humanity to the an eternity of slow collapse. Either way, the game is rigged."

"We agree then that these children are crucial, and must be restored?"

Cadacus sighed, a slow exhalation. "Yes, Lux - that's why we've come full-circle to this place."

Lux was incredulous, "So after all this you make my case for me. To end this stalemate, you must die so that these boys can be raised free of the madness."

"The universe doesn't belong to them," he gestured derisively, indicating humanity in general. "...they belong to us. The Eidolon, the Angelei, the Unkin, the demondim."

Lux paused briefly, absorbing what Cadacus said in surprise and some growing horror. "Your arrogance is boundless,"

Cadacus chuckles under his breath, "There's a third option - a monumental secret, hidden in your very presence here. But it's a secret you have to discover for yourself. Unearth your destiny, Lux. It's all laid out for you here."

Lux shrugged, and ran his thumb along the edge of the wraith blade, as if testing it for sharpness, "You said it yourself, Cadacus - there are only two sides to your coin."

"Apparently so. But suppose you throw a coin enough times..." Cadacus was impassive like an emotionless doll, "...suppose one day, it lands on its edge."

With a grin that was almost obscene in the impassive mask of Cadacus' face he winked out of existence and Lux was stood still for a moment and watched him go, not knowing why he had not tried to stop him.

Behind him, crouched behind a sleek black automobile a young boy with hair like copper and gold cooed to a fat baby in his arms, their father behind them, wrapped in a blanket as men in blue doused the house in water.

In the spectral realm, where the fire had no effect on him Lux stepped up to the house and walked inside. It was too soon to talk to Mary, her human form was pinned to the ceiling, eviscerated as fire billowed out from her, and he could see Azazel, a smoky black archon such as they had had in his time, and Cadacus, younger, brighter, and they were caught in stale mate and Mary had merely interrupted their battle over the remnants of a crib.

In their current state, in both the Spectral and Material realms, caught in a bizarre stand off as the house burned around them, they paid no attention to the revenant in their midst, but Lux saw them. He saw Cadacus before he became so jaded, shining and brilliant, almost too beautiful to be real, with great feathered wings held around him like a shield, and Azazel, dark, murky, hard to follow with the eye, laughing as his plans began to come to fruition despite this Cadacus, Castiel, interfering.

The irony stung, that Cadacus had been so bright and brilliant and beautiful, with great shining wings, and had cast Lux into the abyss for daring to grow them in his stead. Revenge was eager, but jealousy was a bitter canker in what had been a beautiful creature. This shining thing, this, Lux searched his vocabulary for a word that fit, though Cadacus had used the word angel it seemed inadequate, this apotheosis was what his Cadacus had been, perhaps the jealousy was merely that he could no longer stand the memory of what he had been, in comparison to the tainted, twisted, wingless thing he was now.

For a moment, amongst the unchecked billows of rage was a small glimmer of pity. Lux stamped it out. Cadacus had stood here, he had looked on as his former self did battle and the house erupted into flame, and he had done nothing. He had watched and held Lux back that he too was forced to watch as the cycle began. Or perhaps Cadacus had a second plan, a way to make the "coin fall on it's side", time was clearly not a barrier with the use of the machine, so why couldn't he go back, further, and prevent the battle, unable to stop it.

Even as the fire bickered around him, the shadows of which he could feel in the Spectral Realm, Cadacus' words lingered, though Lux could not have said why when Cadacus had abused him so cruelly and valued him so little. There was not enough faith left in him to blindly follow as a pawn, but if there were truths, if there were answers, he would find them, and if Cadacus crossed his path, he would annihilate him.

Not sure what else to do he returned to the warehouse, hoping to be able to use the chronoplast to find the answers, but the building was gone, as if it had never really been there, just a vacant lot, of upturned iron rebar and broken concrete, fenced with mesh and a stray dog looked at him and began to growl. So Lux walked away wondering where he should go next, without vengeance or the Great Dark to lead him.

He went back to the blue house which still burned fiercely, he looked at the man and his children and wondered if they perhaps knew the way, when a man in blue stepped up beside him, clearly noticing him despite that he remained in the Spectral Realm. "Azazel." Lux said, his voice echoing in that twilight space.

"I wondered if you'd notice." Azazel said, "I don't know what you are." So this, Lux reasoned, was the past Azazel, the one who existed in this time, not the one that he had met in the warehouse. "But judging by your appearance we have things in common."

"I need to speak to the Great Dark," Lux answered. "You will tell me how."

"The Great Dark?" the demon asked, "oh, you mean Lucifer, it can be arranged, in exchange for your scratching my back."

"How about I don't eviscerate you and then pin you to the ceiling of that moving thing," he waved at the fire truck, "and inspiring the very cells inside you to burn out the Unkin taint of what you are before I swallow what remains of you. Is that a fair trade for the information?"

Azazel looked at the dark haired and the two boys, bundled in blankets and watching their house as the fire slowly died. "I think it can be arranged, to the North East, in a place called Ilchester, Maryland, there is a place, a small chapel in a convent called St Mary's, because our lord does love his ironies, you can talk to him there." He went to step away.

"There are things you should know," Lux said, "your plan, your endgame, it's not what you think. You're being played."

Azazel looked angry for a moment but he smoothed out his expression as his pale yellow eyes looked milky for a moment, the white swirling through the yellow, "I don't know what you are, but when you stood in that room with the Angel you did not flinch, and you helped to drive him off." Lux knew that for a lie, he had merely stood there for long moments and watched, "I could feel you, just as I can now, even if I can't see you. Follow the hound," he gestured and at Lux' feet appeared a great black dog with teeth the size of Lux' hand. "He'll take you where you need to go, and like you, he can't leave that realm, but can act in this one."

***

From the moment of his arrival at the small church, as the Hell hound went whimpering to it's death, it's iumbra/i sustaining him though he did not need to feed. Lux had the constant and palpable sensation of being watched. Someone, it seemed, was keenly interested in his presence there.

The convent was long since abandoned, strangely it made him feel more at home. There was a fence and signs warning him to stay out but Lux paid them no heed, using the chain link to propel himself over and entering through a broken window.

He knew how these things worked, where the Great Dark was most comfortable, so he descended to the lowest part of the building, and in the basement, with no real supprise to him, was the chapel that Azazel had told him of. It had been defiled, the valuables taken, but there were chalk outlines of people in strange poses drawn all over the floor and altar.

With a whim Lux raised the wind and scoured the place clean.

As he looked around, now the dust and humanity was gone from the place, pews pushed back he could see a familiar effigy painted on the floor, under a deliberate layer of dirt and stone that it would take something as powerful as Lux had become to reveal it.

It was a stone door and painted there, arms spread in a magnanimous pose of love was Lux himself, grey skinned, face unmarred, although the cloth hung around his neck, and his fingers were split as they had been before, when he had first awoken to the half life. He wore white, shimmering and behind him were two great feathered wings.

In the painting, where his heart should have been, was a black circle with a symbol surrounding it. The same symbol he had seen in the Tower of Babel and the Tomb of the Hunters, the symbol of the Cadacus' blade that formed a symbiotic partnership with him against his will.

He summoned the blade, listening to it's unholy hum in this once sacred place, and then he plunged it into the black hole where his painted heart should have been.

So it was with a sense of gravity and trepidation that Lux unsealed that ancient door. It opened with a granite squeal revealing a stair case that descended into the dark. The stair case was between both dimensions of spectral and material realms.

He cautiously descended that ancient, subterranean passageway, and voice called him by name, barely audible at first, then gradually growing louder as Lux descended deeper. As he reached the final bend of the passageway, he discovered himself at the threshold of a magnificent underground chamber. Upon a great underground lake was a island with a dais, and dappled reflections were cast on the surrounding walls from a light source, bright and blinding, high in the ceiling.

This place, like the Oracle's Cave, was ancient and clearly not created by humanity.

Lux jumped onto the central platform, and marvelled at the scenes depicted in murals along the walls. He recognized his own ragged form in these heroic figures - the grey skin, the wings, the cloven hands, though power had healed them. He held up his hand, mentally comparing his anatomy to theirs, then spreading his fingers totally; he looks at the blade's imagery... trying to put the pieces together.

He knew that it had been sealed for hundreds - perhaps thousands - of years. And while this room was clearly built when humanity was scrabbling in the dirt, he knew that no human hand could have shaped it, however extraordinary that person - and that perhaps it had never been seen by human eyes.

The surrounding murals depicted a winged race, their features so like his own but beautiful, where his were grotesque... and angelic, while mine were demonic.

He tried to decipher these images but they contradicted each other from panel to panel. There had been a great war, but with combatants like none he had ever seen. There had been foxholes built by this winged race, who thus defeated their adversaries.

Then it was the winged beings again, writhing in agony, holding their heads, apparently afflicted with the same madness that had corrupted the world.

And throughout the chamber, inscribed everywhere, images of the blade itself, revered and honoured, like a holy relic.

Was this what Cadacus had urged him to discover?

The voice of the Incarnate Dark, now sharply clear and distinct, bubbled up from the depths of the chamber, as if in answer to Lux's unspoken questions "It is lies, Love."

Lux knew the voice of course, and realized that it was rising from the watery depths beneath the platform. As he stepped to the edge and looked down, he sees that the island descended into the murky depths of the chamber - and coiled around it like tentacles was the amorphous mass of the Great Dark.

"Do not be deceived, love," the Incarnate Dark repeated.

Lux recognised him with some sarcasm in his tone, "Ah, my ancient 'benefactor'... And I had dared to hope we had parted ways forever. Your silence was refreshing, while it lasted. No doubt you have a conveniently inexpressible reason for your presence here?"

The Dark tentacles lashed under the water, "Do not be insolent. I am eternally present - here and everywhere; now and always. I am the still center of the turning wheel, the hub of this world's destiny."

Lux knew better than to believe him. "But not so omnipotent as you'd have me believe. Your hold on me appears to be tenuous. I no longer seem to need you, yet I'm guessing you still need ime/i."

For a moment the waters roiled and then stopped, "This impudence is beneath you, Love. You have a task to fulfill here, and you are indebted to me for your very existence."

Lux sneered in anger, disgusted by the very suggestion, "Oh yes," he said with a sigh, "it is the best Christmas gift I have ever received, I am indebted of course for a gift I didn't want. Do you forget that you forced me to inhabit this vile carcass - to exist without death and feed upon my brethren."

"I restored you to yourself, Lux." The Great Dark said, shaking the platform Lux stood upon. "It was Cadacus that destroyed you. The very enemy you have just let slip through your grasp." The island rocked with the Great Dark's rage. "Do not fail me, you will serve me, my love..."

Lux just spread his feet to better spread his balance. "I'm no one's slave, not you, not Cadacus and not your lackey, Azazel."

The Elder God dismissed the comment, "he is my good servant, but I have many."

Lux grinned, "and if I tell Azazel that he's worshipping a giant shadow squid, do you think his faith will falter? that all you are is a shadow without a body lashing around in a room he can't enter, trapped here with no hope of release."

"You have grown willful, Love." The Incarnate Dark acknowledged, "more like unto your human self, but beware - to embrace a serpent is to invite poison into your heart. Cadacus is a sinuous beast; he will seduce and deceive you. You pride yourself on your free will, yet you let that degenerate creature deter your resolve. He will betray you again, as he betrayed his host, humanity and you."

Lux looked around the room, bored, then polished one shoe against the back of his leg, "I harbor no illusions about his integrity, nor anyone else's. In fact, I am beset by manipulation on all sides. I merely want the truth."

The Great Dark took solace in those words for the waters calmed. "These are the fathomless truths, my love: The agony of birth and death and rebirth - this is the Wheel of Fate, the purifying cycle which sustains all life. In this there is no God, no devil, no right or wrong, just existence and non existence. Both Angels and Demons are an abomination, a plague which leeches this land of its spiritual strength. They obstruct the flow of life and death - their souls stagnate in their wretched corpses. But the Wheel must turn; Death is inexorable and cannot be denied. Your destiny is irresistible, dearest- you are my soul reaver, the scourge of the demon and angel both, consumer of their apostate souls.

"Remain steadfast. End the demon parasitism, and restore Creation. Cadacus's blood belongs on your hands, do you not yearn for it's heat?"

Lux had long since grown bored of the monologuing, "I'm going to kill him for condemning me to this, but if and when I do, it'll be for me, and me alone, to decide."

The Dark seemed to creep up the walls, but was held in check by the brilliance of the light in the chamber, "He destroyed you without a flicker of remorse. He tore the soul from your noble corpse, and after you had served him faithfully, in ignorance, for a thousand years, and he discarded you in the Abyss on a jealous whim." He stopped, letting his words find purchase. "Remember your rage, Love, and let it guide your hand."

Lux had his own answer, "blah blah blah blah blah, if you put you and Azazel in a room together even a creature such as I could die of boredom, with your self righteous oh save the universe speeches. Perhaps you resurrected the wrong Eidolon, for I really have no patience for these sermons, now I was offered answers, you don't have them, but there is a second door out of this place, I can see it, there under the water. I'm sure that we'll meet again, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and then I should have my answers and we'll see what happens then."

***

Lux surfaced into a very different landscape - the daylight barely penetrated the dense canopy of this forest. He wheeled around upon hearing a flock of crows shatter into the trees. He sees a figure silently watching him from the parapet of the towering rocks behind him.

The creature vanished when he realized he was discovered - but he caught a glimpse of him, and his features were distinctive enough. This was the creature Uriel - the monstrous assassin and destroyer of cities that Cadacus had spoken of in his tales of the Before. Strange that a creature brazen enough to assault Creation single-handedly would avoid confronting him. Well if Uriel would not come to Lux, then Lux would go to him.

Although the lurking creature, for it was too powerful with that same brilliance Castiel had had back at the blue house, to be anything but a creature evaded him he found ruins amongst the brush, and those intrigued him more. Using his telekinesis he cleared the area revealing the arcane symbols from the chamber beneath the convent repeated, and realized that this shrine, too, was sealed to all but him, or whoever held the wraith blade.

It was a shrine, long since abandoned and left to the slow decay of water and stone, but through out it murals depicted the winged race, and the apocalyptic war against their mysterious - and equally inhuman - adversaries. These winged beings, it seemed, were the architects of these places, the shrine, the chamber beneath the convent and the Oracle's Cave. These places were their Foxholes in the Great War.

And just as in those underground chamber, the shrine was adorned throughout with imagery of the blade- depicted with the reverence of a holy icon.

As he prepared to leave he found Uriel leaning against one of the stone doors blocking his path. He was clearly waiting for him.

"Well, you're a ragged excuse for a savior." Uriel told him with some disdain.

Lux bowed his head, "Uriel."

"I see my reputation precedes me."

Lux knew better than to antagonise this creature, even if it looked human, "It does."

"All good, I hope." Uriel began to circle Lux as he spoke, examining him. He looked at Lux's cloven hands, fingers separate but still drawn together in that vee - so like his own - his grey skin, his ragged wings. Lux stood still and allowed himself to be looked over. "I've been watching you since you emerged from that accursed warehouse." There was a challenge in his tone. "Strange that your arrival coincides with the explosion of that house and the death of the iMatre/i. But I'm left wondering - are you the catalyst of these events, or the answer to them?"

Lux chose his words carefully because Uriel was powerful enough to destroy him, but he also offered answers if Lux knew how to ask. "I don't know what you mean."

"I will speak plainly, then." He said, "I distrust your origins, stranger. Seeing you crawl from the putrid depths of Azazel's clutches makes me question your purpose here. And what should I make of your appearance? Not human, clearly - and more demon than anything else. And the house - it is no mere coincidence that your arrival in that clearing heralded the iMatre's/i destruction. And so I ask you plainly: are you the instrument of the iMatre's/i destruction and the beginning of the prophecies, or their end?"

"Neither."

Uriel's posture tightened at Lux' obtuse answers, "Very well, let us look at the other side of the coin - I have followed your journey, and watched as you blithely unlocked secrets that have been sealed and forbidden, even to us, for thousands of years. The path you have been treading is open to only one being..." His voice trailed off with realization. "You don't know what you are, do you?"

Lux answered carefully, "I have been many things... so if you find me ignorant, enlighten me."

Uriel laughed before turning his back. "What's the point - this world is beyond redemption. Let the monkeys burn."

Lux was surprised, he had heard that Uriel had been a great warrior, defiant to the last, murdered because he would not give up. "I would expect better than meek capitulation from you."

Uriel's answer was disgust, "Angels meddling in the affairs of men... Look where it has brought us. The world will burn and we should let it."

Lux changed the subject, "What am I to make of these secrets I've uncovered, then? The depictions of the winged race, the knife."

Uriel turned back to him before he spoke, "Fairy tales, boy. The delusions of an ancient culture, clinging to hope long after the world had discarded them and their war lost. Their might trickled away, until only one of the Ancients remembered- sustained solely by obligation and his unfaltering faith in the old prophesies."

He leant in against Lux until they stood face to face. "But you see, even if you are who you appear to be, it no longer matters... You're simply too late. There was a human who knew our secrets, the guardian of the blade you seek, the one that will unlock your answers, John Dee, the one to whom the last of the Ancients, and my superior before he was murdered- died five hundred years ago in another country. He alone would have the answers you seek, but his secrets died with him."

Uriel took a step back, "I don't know how you've come even this far without his guidance - or without the blade, stolen these 500 years ago by the demons." He paused, long moments hanging between them, "I am afraid, my friend, that you - and all of us - are out of luck."

Uriel remained stoic despite his own pessimism, "I would wish you well, but there is no point," he said, "you will burn with us when the world dies." Then without by nor leave he vanished.

***

In his journey through the underground chamber where the Great Dark was pinned by the floating island Lux intended not to linger but the Great Dark had other plans.

"Ah, my wayward lover returns..." he said and his voice was a distant earthy boom, rather than the soft tones Lux was used to.

Lux answered him tiredly, "Having unearthed more than you'd like, I suspect. What am I to make of these ruins that litter the land, and these images here in this chamber?"

The Great Dark had an answer for that, as he did for most things, true or not, "Merely the deceits of a failed civilization. You are being misled, my love. This Ancient race, the Angelei hoped to manipulate the future with these scrawled misdirections. You must tread carefully. There are dark forces at work in this world, bent on subverting your true destiny."

Lux was rather unimpressed by that information. "Everyone wants a piece of my ass," he said, "and it used to be such a fine ass, like two boiled eggs held in the hand, and now," he sighed, "but I suppose a better question is am I in their presence right now? Are you Angelei, or Unkin? I'm still not decided, but you're definitely one of the two."

The water roiled with the Great Dark's impotent anger, for he could do no more than agitate the water. "Your arrogance will spell your demise, Lux, deny my will, and the arc of your destiny will reach a sudden," he paused, "conclusion."

Lux yawned. "Your threats bore me. I'm beyond your reach now, for all your promises of love."

The water came to a sudden eerie stillness, "My reach is longer than you realize. This is a very dangerous game you're playing."

Lux yawned loudly before he left the underground chamber completely hoping that he would never have to return.

As he left the underground sanctuary into the church built upon it he found Cadacus waiting, perched on the altar and tossing the corporeal form of the knife that the demon had dropped up and down, effortless catching it by it's bone handle. The distortion was uncomfortable but when Lux stepped out of the hidden stair well he put the knife down on the altar behind him.

"And again," Cadacus drawled out the words with his strange non inflections, "everything is decided here." He sounded unusually detached, almost melancholy. This unexpected change in demeanor was enough to give Lux pause. "You cannot comprehend the magnitude - the rapture and the tragedy - of this moment..." he stopped, "And yet you must if Creation is to be dragged from the wreckage of this damnation."

Lux was tired of this game, by withholding information each player moved him and Cadacus was no different, he had merely put the game pieces in play. "I understand only this, Castiel," he dragged out the old, unfamiliar name, "- that you and Azazel have impelled me to this moment simply means I can trust neither of you. I don't know or care who's pulling my strings, because it no longer matters - because I'm cutting them. I set my own course from here."

Lux turned to leave the chapel. Cadacus paused for a moment, watching him go, then replied - "If it were only that simple."

Lux spun on his heel to look at Cadacus, "Your fatalism is boring, Cadacus."

Cadacus lowered his blue eyes to the floor, "- and profoundly ingrained, Lux. You must understand, our presence here doesn't alter history. You and I meet here because we are compelled to - we have always met here."

He spread his human hands in a flash of tan coat and white shirt underneath. "History is irredeemable. Drop a stone into a rushing river - the current simply courses around it and flows on as if the obstruction were never there. You and I are pebbles, Lux, and have even less hope of disrupting the time-stream. The continuum of history is simply too strong, too resilient."

He stopped and then gestured to the chapel, "Except... then how do we explain our very presence here, here? Without your approach my past self would not have been distracted in the battle with Azazel over Samuel Winchester's crib." He gently lifted the knife from the altar where he had previously placed it, the hilt in his right hand, the blade resting on his left palm. "My past self would have killed both Azazel and the child, his brother, Dean, would have been raised as a normal child, away from the lunacy of his father, for the child merely would have died in the night, as many do in this age."

Cadacus turned the knife in his hands before sliding to his feet. Lux stiffened. "Keep your distance." He warned.

Cadacus continued, slowly closing the distance between them. He seemed oblivious, almost detached, absorbed by his reverie. "Years later, I stumble upon a chance to journey back in history, unaware that the entire affair has been carefully orchestrated by Azazel. In my wisdom, I seize this opportunity to murder the boy king, as they call him before he can ravage the world, for his brother to sell his soul to save him..."

Lux was visibly bristling as Cadacus slowly closed the distance between them and the sense of unholy distortion continued. "I warn you," he said "- no further!"

Cadacus continued, his voice taking on a greater sense of urgency. "That one reckless act unravels the skein of history. Sam Winchester was revived from the dead by a power greater than my own, and Dean Winchester, who by his mother's death had become embroiled in this madness went to Hell where he was tempered as a weapon, and Lucifer profitted from it all. In trying to destroy a potential tyrant I unleashed Hell upon the world."

"But how can it be so? How, if history is immutable?" Cadacus took the final steps towards Lux, the feeling of displacement was now like riding a boat in a terrible storm. "The answer is here in this room, Lux. Azazel propelled me into those times and places making sure of one thing, that two incarnations of the knife would meet.

"The blade is the key. Just as there are two now, there were two then, both at the crib where Azazel carried it in his belt and you brought it, and then when my past self carried it and Azazel had left it in that ghost town of demons where Sam Winchester was killed.

"Two incarnations of the blade meet in time and space... a paradox is created, a temporal distortion powerful enough to derail history."

At his approach, now less than a span away the wraith blade manifested of it's own accord, raising and levelling at Cadacus. "Is this your sorcery?" Lux asked, afraid for he did not trust the weapon nor was he fool enough to.

Cadacus remained nonplussed. "Not mine, Lux - yours. You have nothing to fear from me. You hold all the cards."

Cadacus turned the blade and extended it to Lux, hilt first. Lux backed away slightly sure that this was a trick, he had hunted through time there was no way that Cadacus would so blithely hand him the instrument of his own destruction. However he found himself reaching out tentatively and taking the blade, keeping his eyes locked on Cadacus who released the blade willingly, and extended his hands to show that there was no deception.

As Lux gripped the hilt, the coalescing affect, the vertigo intensified around them. Lux spoke and as he did so the the wraith blade manifested around its twin. "Then perhaps I should test your sincerity."

He brought he point of the knife up to Cadacus' throat, the other stepped back but Lux kept pace with him, keeping the knife at his windpipe. "If what you say is true, you should be terrified. I could kill you here and now."

Cadacus smiled, soft and winsome, and strangely full of love, "And so you do." He answered.

The blade began to tremble slightly, as if possessed of its own will.

"What's happening?" Lux asked. The trembling intensified as Lux struggled against the pull of the knife.

The Cadacus remained calm. "We are hurtling toward our destinies, Lux. What you feel is the pull of history rushing to meet us. This is where history and destiny collide."

The blade lunged at Cadacus who stumbled against the steps of the dais and fell to the ground. As Lux fought to resist the pull of the blade, Cadacus urged him with earnest intensity; everything depended on this moment. "If you truly believe in free will, Lux, now is the time to prove it. Kill me now, and we both become pawns of history, dragged down the path of an artificial destiny. I was ordained to assume the role of protector and guide to Scion of Creation, while you were destined to be its savior. But the map of my fate was redrawn by Azazel, and so in turn was yours..."

Lux struggled to maintain control as the blade reached and hungered. "This is madness!" He protested.

The Cadacus remained firm, even supine on the floor with a knife at his throat, "Fight it, Lux... This moment does not have to be an ending - it can become a prelude."

But Lux was losing strength. "I can't..." He protested.

The Cadacus held out his hand, "You can, Lux - look inside and see that it is so. You have the power to reshape our inevitable futures. It is why I chose you."

Lux raised the blade and brought it down violently. Cadacus turned his head and winced, sure that this was the end, that he had failed. The knife crashed downward in a blinding flash of light, and Lux staggered back, his hand now free of the blade. He had missed Cadacus by mere inches. The blade stood embedded in the altar, the impact having fractured the stone. Cadacus could scarcely believe he survived this.

He got to his feet but was still wobbly. As a great tremor ran through the room, their surroundings warped and blurred and bled into each other as the very earth groaned.

Lux jumped back grabbing one of the pews to balance himself, "What is this?" He asked.

Cadacus recovered more quickly, "History abhors a paradox, Lux. Even now, the time-stream strains to divert itself, finding its old course blocked by your refusal to destroy me. The future is reshuffling itself to accommodate your monumental decision." Slowly the distortion began to subside. "This is where we restore ourselves, Lux, and reclaim our intended destinies. It may yet be possible for me to assume my role as protector and guide the one who will save us all, returning the Earth to it's rightful inheritors."

Lux cut him off. "To the angelei, And this is the destiny you have urged me to discover?" Lux was enraged as the ramifications of what Cadacus told him sank in. "I don't know what game you and Azazel are playing, Cadacus- but I refuse to be your pawn. Unlike you, I still revere whatever shred of humanity I've managed to preserve. You will not use me as the instrument of your messianic delusions."

He turned and left the chapel leaving Cadacus behind, still leaning against the altar. "Very well, Lux. I'll not ask you to trust me - your truths are for you to discover alone." He said to his back.

Lux didn't turn back as he answered, "Humble words for one who presumes to teach me a lesson at every turn."

Cadacus raised his voice "Then continue your journey and learn your own lessons. Remember - Azazel led you here, but you walk away unfettered. A champion of free will, and conqueror of false histories."

Lux said nothing as he walked away, although he was filled with the strange urge to show his former master his middle finger. Cadacus called out to his back. "There is much more for you to unearth, if you have the heart for the truth and the will to see it..."

***

The sensation of sucking was new to Lux and he tried to ignore it as he perched high upon the buildings looking down over the small city of Lawrence where he had been held. It did not have the sense of vertigo that approaching the knife did, or even the hunger of being pulled into the spectral realm, it was more like being stuck in mud that the longer he remained static the deeper it became but it was no real impediment.

It was however, quickly growing old.

He discovered that if he pointed himself in different directions that it was stronger, or weaker, and the very wind altered it. However shifting into the spectral realm turned it into a sort of buzzing that itched at his skin like bees in the back of his head. So he avoided the Spectral Realm.

It had gone on for well over a week.

At first he had thought that it was the Great Dark trying to elicit some response from Lux cast from his prison, but it had not intensified and other than a mild annoyance was not harmful. So it could not have been him.

Azazel might have done it but then why would it be such a minor inconvenience, surely he was powerful enough to cast a truly powerful geas and he still hoped to recruit Lux to his purpose, and Cadacus had said that he would leave Lux to find his own answers and for all of his sins he was not known for deceit, but Lux still felt like he was stood in sticky mud.

It wasn't an Unkin he found lurking in the shadow of the hospital, but a Reaper. She was amorphous, barely of one realm or the other, and he had seen her before at the Blue House with the tree. Like him she hunted the hospital as it offered iUmbra/i that he did not have to hunt or kill, and she did not seem to mind his presence as a threat. She maintained a sort of human shape mostly, he knew, to reassure him. They were alike, but they were not the same.

"You are being summoned," she said and her language was all languages and all knowledge in a whisper of the aether. "Do you not wish to answer it?"

"Is that what this is?" He asked. "I wondered if I had annoyed someone. Perhaps it will guide me on my path."

"I do not have answers," the Reaper answered calmly, "it is not my nature. I merely reap," the word was deliberately chosen, "and wait. Perhaps it is your nature too."

"Maybe later," he answered, "I have things to do first."

If she had a mouth in her form of existence, that was so like his, he thought she would have smiled. "We have eternity, we wait." She said. "Answer the summons, not all are as patient as we."

"I don't know how."

"Apparate." She said calmly, "give in to it, allow your will to roam free and follow it to it's source. You are powerful enough and more. You could be the one we wait for."

Lux sneered. "I seem to be everyone's promised one."

"Not promised," she answered with that maddening absent smile, "just awaited." Then she was gone.

It took some effort to relinquish his will, which was afterall what kept him in the material realm and not to slip into the Spectral realm, but to find the thread which had attached itself to him and follow it back to where it started.

It was a simple house with no suggestion at all of what it might contain, and inside, on a low table with a crocheted cloth was a candle into which his clan symbol, not yet crafted, was carved and marked with blood of some kind. The sorceress, and it was a woman who had summoned him, merely pottered about her house, baking, and cleaning things at whim, fluffing pillows, perhaps unaware of the horror that she had called into her home.

"I know you're there." She said finally. She looked around the room, "I've been trying to get hold of you for a week."

Lux did not materialise. "You do not know what it is that you have called." He growled the words out as a threat.

She was dark skinned, as Pax had been, and her head was a mass of curls. She was slim with heavy breasts and thighs and would, in later life, be rotund, but for now it was contained by youth. She was small, but there was a sense of power to her. She was not a threat, she was only human and he fed upon the things that fed upon her kind on whims.

"Do you know what you are, child?" She asked. She couldn't have been more than five and twenty and she called him child. "Come, I have cookies, and we can talk. I'm Missouri."

"Lux," he said as he shifted into reality in her home. She looked him up and down and then smiled, "there's tea, I didn't think you'd come. I was told you would, but I didn't think you'd come."

Lux sat carefully upon the padded chair she indicated for him. "Then why summon me?"

"That's a long story and I don't think you have the patience, but call it a favour, it doesn't do to be too curious. My great great great," she waved her hand gesturing it off, "grand mammy did a man a favour and so we do him this in exchange. He asked us, well her, in exchange for a certificate of freedom," her eyes looked to the wall where a piece of very old paper was framed, "to give you this." From around her neck she took a small talisman that hung on a leather thong. "We call you and give you that, and we're square."

"What is it?" He asked and made no move to take it. It was a squat little image of a golden man with horns and an ugly face.

"I don't know." She asked. "But my great great," she made the rolling gesture with her hand again, "grandmammy told Dr Dee she'd give it to the thing who answered the summons."

"Who?" the name seemed familiar to Lux but he didn't know why.

"Dr Dee." She repeated, like it meant something to him, but he didn't know why the name was familiar to him. "I think it's a key." She continued. He reached out across the table to snatch it. From absolutely nowhere she pulled a wooden spoon and slapped him soundly across the knuckles with it. "The cookies are hot." She said, "they're not ready yet, now drink your tea."

If Lux had have had lungs he might have taken a deep soothing breath to calm his anger, instead he reached up and pulled down the cloth over his face to reveal the mockery that remained of his skull. "I have no interest in your confections." He said with a mouth that was no longer there.

"I have a scarf that will go with your colouring," she replied without missing a beat, "it won't stand out as much as that thing you're wearing."

"I only remain in this realm upon a whim." He told her.

"Still, there's no point in looking like a hobo." She lifted her own tea, blowing on it to cool it for consumption.

"I devour creatures like you," he threatened, trying his best to loom amidst her lace and potted plants. He felt really rather sheepish.

"Honey, eating me would be the same to you as going to all the bother of growing a field of rice, cleaning it, boiling it and eating a single grain. It aint worth the effort."

"Witch, you have summoned me here to give me that item, I would take it and go."

"Go where, child?" she said. "Do you know what happens next?"

"And I suppose you do?"

"Me," she asked, "not a clue, but I might have answers if you have the right questions."

He bristled but she was like a rattlesnake with the wooden spoon across his knuckles. "Do you intend simply that I might be enraged enough to consume you, despite the effort?"

She frowned. "Honey," she said primly, "manners cost nothing. And I am trying to help you."

"and what do you want in exchange, because if there is one thing I have discovered in this new existence it is that no gift is free."

Missouri laughed, a low chuckle deep in her chest. "Honey child," she said annoying him even more by taking the two hated endearments and combining them to form a third, more despised one, "I told you, my family was done a great favour so we would help you. I'm not giving you anything for free, we were paid a long time ago."

"By this doctor?" he asked.

"Yes, because of him we were free people of colour, and we could prove it. That's worth more than a cheap tin trinket and a cup of tea, honey," It meant nothing to Lux.

"I'm a pawn," Lux told her sadly, "but I don't know the rules of the game. I just know," he stopped, "that I know nothing." He stopped. "I acquired wings for reasons i do not know, and before I could make use of them they were torn from my back, does that make it equal?"

"Wings?" she asked, "like angel wings?" She stood up, "you stay there, honey," she lifted a book from the shelf and flicked it open to an illustration of a blonde figure in a white dress which she showed him, behind him were great feathered wings. It was an image similar to that he had seen in the Tomb of the Hunters but instead of the wire with stars placed at intermittent stops along its length there was a perfect halo of light. "Like this?"

On the opposite page one of the winged figures stood over a twisted red creature his foot on it's chest and a spear through it's throat. "Can I see this?" he asked. "What is this?" He said as he flicked through the pictures in the book.

"It's just old pictures," Missouri said, dismissing it, "of angels and demons."

"Angels," he said the word carefully, testing it's cadences, "like "angelei? And demons, I have met the demondim- they do not look like this. They resemble more a sea urchin within a human host, the weaker of them we call the Unkin."

"Honey," she asked, "don't you know this story? Of how the angels and the demons went to war and Lucifer fell to become the great devil himself." He had a momentary flashback of the image of a great winged figure falling into a sea that devoured him and how his brethren turned their backs. It had been part of the frieze in the Tomb of the Hunter.

"No." He answered. "Tell me."

So she told him the story of God and the angels, and how he created humanity and that his most prized angel, his morningstar Lucifer, had turned against them because the angels were meant to be loved best and he was cast down into Hell and how he had raised an army of demons but his brother, Michael, had locked him deep in hell and put a thousand locks on the door. She also told him that it was a very old story, and she didn't believe that there was truth of it, and that there were many versions some of which contradicted. "Besides, child," she said, "I've seen many things in this heaven and earth, but I aint never seen an angel, and I aint met anyone who has, or knew someone who has, or whose pappy had."

Lux raised his head to look at her, his eyes feeling cold as he realised with terrible finality what Cadacus clearly was, with what Azazel had told him. "I have." He said. "It was one that created me." Then he corrected himself, "and the other one, Lucifer," he said the name slowly, softly, "in his vein I was reborn."

***

After Lux had left Missouri, with the talisman and a set of bruised knuckles, he returned to the hospital but saw no sign of the Reaper who had been there before, but nor were there any loose iUmbra/i.

Without an easy source of nourishment he decided that he would hunt down an Unkin and consume them. As he leapt from the top of the building, perhaps five stories, and using his wings to break his fall he had a small realisation. Azazel for all his posturing and threat was an Unkin, a powerful one, but still just a black shadow that he had consumed for thousands of years.

Before he had become this thing he had been the firstborn of the Eidolon and they had not needed nourishment but nonetheless hungered for the inky blackness that possessed humanity. They had cultured human civilisations that they might not have to travel so far to hunt, but they had hunted the Unkin and Azazel for all of his affiliations was Unkin.

Lux would hunt him.

It didn't take long, Lux may have been slightly out of practice but Azazel was powerful, as Lux began to scent the air around the small city he was surprised by how little effort the demondim made to hide. They were like stars shining amidst the city now that Lux had decided to look, and brightest of them all he suspected to be Azazel, although if he was wrong he would merely consume this other one and try again.

He found him in the warehouse he had first appeared in, making him think that when he had first tried to find it he had clearly been lost but Lux did not give such details consideration.

He climbed up the metal railing of the broken elevator and used his rage to throw open the shutters at the top. It was the same room where Azazel had first summoned him through the time stream.

Interestingly, he noticed that the body Azazel wore had a small gold coloured talisman hung around his neck, it was the same as the one that Missouri had given him. He watched as Azazel, slightly panicked, used the talisman to activate a sigil carved deeply into the altar.

Azazel rushed at the sigil, which clearly started the chronoplast, shaken and alarmed. He thought he had successfully orchestrated Cadacus's murder at Lux's hands, but now everything had gone wrong. He knew that Cadacus had survived, and that the course of history had therefore been changed.

This meant Cadacus and Lux both know about the blade-convergence which, up until then, Azazel believed was his little secret, his ace in the hole.

Lux greeted Azazel smugly, realizing that he has the upper hand and relishing it. "Ah, yes - I like that look on your face, Azazel. You really don't know what to do now, do you, old man?" If Lux had lips he would have licked them with anticipation. "Here you are - caught with your pants down - and I suspect things aren't progressing quite as you'd hoped. "You're not used to the fly turning to confront you in your web, are you?"

Genuinely shocked and distressed, Azazel struggled to regain control of the situation. But he also knew precisely how history had reshuffled itself, and was deliberately appearing vulnerable to let Lux think he was in control. He admonished Lux - "Cadacus' devious influence has poisoned your mind, Lux. Now you see betrayal everywhere, even in your closest allies."

Lux raised an eyebrow. "We were never allies, Azazel. Conspirators, perhaps. Briefly. And then perhaps unwillingly."

Azazel was enraged, frightened, desperate. "Why did you not kill Cadacus when you had the chance? He was at your mercy!"

It felt knew to Lux that he might actually be in control for once and he liked it. "I had a choice, and I chose mercy." He paused letting Azazel stew. "And now I know your sordid little secret - the significance of that...displacement I felt when the two knives came together. Strangely enough, I was enlightened by the 'devious' Cadacus, not by you. In fact, I've learned much more than you counted on - I understand now how you've tried to manipulate all of history for your agenda, even if I don't know what it is. But now all your little schemes are whirling in ruin around you, aren't they?" He knew it was patronising, he depended on it. "All because I chose to exert my will for once, rather than obey the demands of sorcerers and spirits and demondim all singing the same tiresome refrain: 'kill Cadacus!' I'm setting my own path from here, Azazel. I intend to discover the truth behind all of this."

Azazel sounded distraught when he cried. "But you condemn us all with this impetuous act!"

"Hardly impetuous; it took all the will I could muster. Has my refusal to kill Cadacus reshuffled your carefully stacked deck of cards?"

Azazel slammed his host's hand down on the altar, "You really think that you're exercising your free will, Lux? You're simply Cadacus' servant -"

Lux's tone turned cold. "I do not serve Cadacus. I just did not kill him."

Azazel was slowly recovering from his rage. "Lux, do not forget your purpose here - you are destined to be our savior!"

Lux rolled his eyes, "Oh, I'm sick of hearing that particular phrase. As for saving Creation, so far I see precious little reason to I'll choose my own 'purpose' from here on out, Time-Streamer. Right now, I choose to manipulate you, for a change. Start the machine.".

Lux summoned the wraith-blade and flourished it at Azazel threateningly. Gesturing with the Reaver, Lux directed Azazel toward the two devices which clearly manipulated the chronoplast.

Azazel feigned surprise when he asked. "What are you doing?"

"Come now, Azazel - you're a cunning serpent... you'll piece it together, I imagine." Lux shoved Azazel and brandished the knife to usher him towards the portal. "This era is of no further use to me. You will operate this device to provide me passage. I want to see the world in a simpler time - I wish to find the one called Dr Dee whose name appears so often in this story."

Azazel obediently adjusted the dials and switches of the arcane device, but he continued to entreat Lux - "And what about Cadacus? You're leaving your quarry behind!"

Lux shrugged. "You kill him, if it's so damned important."

Azazel lowered his eyes and said "You need only touch the two poles of the switch, and the device will transport you. But I urge you to reconsider -"

Lux smiled and then swept out his hand, taking the talisman from Azazel's neck and holding it clear in his hands before he laid his palms on the poles of the time-streaming device.

Lux sneered, "You've lost your powers of persuasion, old man. Rot here and forget me."

Azazel turned away dejectedly, but once his face was averted he broke into a cunning grin. Lux threw the switch, and the chamber blurred carrying him to another time.

***

Lux had expected to appear in a simpler time when this Dr Dee had worked his magic, leaving the favour which had given Missouri the answers she had given him. Instead Azazel played a cruel trick upon him and cast him into the future. He knew it as soon as he had appeared, the Chronoplast was shattered, cracked straight down the middle, able, he assumed, only to accept visitors and not to transport. So he was further along in time than he had been when the house had burned.

The air tasted strange, cleaner than it had been but acid tinged and sulfuric. The windows on the warehouse were all broken, and only small shards of glass remained in the frames. Humanity milled about as it always did, but now there were fences and the Reapers who had followed them seemed gone.

The decay was starting to set in, so it was perhaps a year or two after the Fall, when the Unkin were rising. He wondered if this was the time of the Great Plague that Cadacus had spoken of in his stories. He hung the two talismans about his neck and jumped out of the window to the street below without care if any of the humans saw him.

When they did they charged him en masse, bloodstained and dirty, brandishing any kind of weapon that they had been able to get their hands on. He took one look at them and gathered his will in his hands, "I don't think so, do you?" He asked rhetorically before he parted his palms and sent a blade of air scything through them all.

They didn't even halt in their advance, those who had not been cut in two merely climbed over those who had. A plague Cadacus had said, that drove them mad, poisoned them with unkin and turned brother against brother with a madness in the blood. Lux was in no mood for this, it was all so very dramatic. He didn't want to be here, at this time, he wanted to find this Dr Dee who had given Missouri some of the answers that he needed.

He shifted into the Spectral realm and balked as it seemed to only baffle them that their prey had escaped them. He could sense them stronger than most humans but it was clear that they were not fully of both realms, more that they infected with one but still creatures of the other.

In the Spectral Realm the Great Dark, Lucifer as Missouri had called him, blazed like a beacon. It was not in the direction of the convent and his prison, as Lux might have expected, but not far from this place at all.

The Great Dark stood in a rose garden, barefoot amongst the foliage with a red rose held to his face, drinking in the scent like it was a great luxury. If he knew Lux was there he clearly gave no sign of it. There was a corpse to his left, Lux recognised the figure as the one from the tomb of the Hunter, it was his own human body, lying there ignored in the dirt. A few Unkin, obviously whilst they still blindly served them, before he scoured the earth of them, brought a figure in blue and threw him down on the ground before the Great Dark.

"Castiel," the Great Dark, Lucifer, crooned, "my poor little Qafsiel." Lux jumped up into a nearby tree to watch this unfold, wondering if this was why Azazel had sent him here, because Lux recognised the man in blue, shining brightly under a layer of grime and hair, although he was closer to human than Lux had ever seen him. He bent down and dragged the petals of the rose along his face in a twisted lover's gesture.

"I do not understand you," Castiel's eyes were fixed upon the human corpse on the floor, unable to take his eyes off it as the Great Dark spoke. "My little renegade, Prince of the Seventh Heaven, guardian of the moon, reduced to this poor facsimile by a human." The Great Dark sneered at the word. "Do you have anything to say for yourself?"

Castiel kneeled back against his heels and took a deep breath, his pupils were blown but his expression was one that Lux knew well, he looked very much like the Cadacus even if he was not him yet. "The forces of Hell like to make deals, don't they?" He asked, cocky.

"Winchester corrupted you more than you let on, what would he say if he was here," he looked over his shoulder at the corpse on the floor behind them, "oh look he is, and Sam is in here, comfortable as he is," he patted the rose against his cheek.

"We talked about this. But we always thought you'd kill me first." Castiel admitted. He was growing brighter by the instant so that Lux was almost unable to look upon him. He was grinning, lopsidedly, something that Lux had never seen before on him. "But I've always been a bit contrary."

Lucifer laughed, tapping the rose down on Castiel's head in three slow strokes. "Amuse me," Lucifer said, "and I'll let you live."

"Give me the surface, leave it to me and the demons, and I shall call the forces of Heaven into your thrall." Lucifer stepped back. "But I want Dean back, I'll let the demons take humanity for what it wants, I'll let this world fall to wrack and ruin, I'll let it return to what it was when the world was new. The angels betrayed me, but you were always honest, so you and me we'll do a deal, I'll give you the host, you give me Dean back."

Lucifer laughed, loud and low. "The host overthrown for an angel's love of a human," he continued, amused and fascinated by it like a child with a new toy. "How the mighty fall. Yes, my little Qafsiel, I'll make this deal, it suits me well enough. I'll give you back your little human whore, but he won't be human anymore, he'll be something else, a ghost, an iEidolon/i, we will call him Lux, in my honour, and I will call you Cadacus, as soon as you deliver the host to me."

***

"I know you're there, my little love," the Great Dark said returning to the roses when Castiel had left. "What I don't know is why you're here?"

"I thought you transcended time." Lux answered calmly.

"I do," he answered, "but you should not be at this time. This has nothing to do with you. His choice is his own, imagine," he laughed, "He's not even the brightest hope of Heaven, he is," Lucifer's smile slid across his borrowed face, "a spy, a watcher, the moon. And yet, he'll undo them all."

Lux considered yawning, Lucifer was monologuing. "So you're the one who killed me." Lux said, "to recreate me again and again, so much for your protestations of love."

Lucifer laughed. "If it were that easy, my dear one," he said the words carefully, "I love you in all your forms, I always will, you see," he walked across to the body and lifted it's head in his hands, "such beauty, such fire, such a terrible waste, you were dead before this really, I just made it a little bit more permanent."

"Spare me the soliloquy."

"You came here," and Lucifer clearly meant the corpse, "to die, to punish me for what I had done to you, all those terrible things, killing your mother, though Castiel did that, killing your father, though Azazel did that, killing your brother, though he's alive and well in here," he tapped his chest, "killing your lover, although I just let him watch you die."

"You are mine, my light, my ghost, you will always be mine. If you could only remember, all those lives, all that time in Hell with me, the sound of your sobs, and before, oh I wish you knew how much you were worth."

"Then why resurrect me for someone else."

"Because I want Heaven dead more than I want you." Lucifer growled. "The surface is beautiful, wasted on humanity, wasted on the demons, but to get the angels, I'd give it all up. Hate makes you strong, love, self sacrifice can never make anyone weak."

"But you're not anyone, are you?" Lux asked, "You're the Great Dark, the Lord of the Unkin, the Fallen angel."

"They left me behind." Lucifer snarled, dropping the body back to the floor and standing up in a fluid motion. "They stabbed me in the back and left me to die, why shouldn't I want them destroyed. Revenge is eager, little Lux, and I can wait, I do nothing but wait." His teeth were clenched together, "and you, you had the last of them at your mercy and you did nothing."

"I'm your get out of jail free card," Lux said rocking back in the tree with laughter, "I'm your loophole in this deal. I kill Cadacus and you get the surface free and clear, and win win, you've defeated Heaven, given up on Hell for this world and you didn't have to do a thing."

Lucifer slowly clapped his hands together. "Not so stupid as you are pretty, eh Lux? Play out your pitiful rebellion, and take your place among the destroyed, the used, and the damned. But know this - you are mine for eternity. You have always been, and will always be, my wraith blade..."

***

Lux didn't hesitate as he made to return to the warehouse in the hope that he might be able to negotiate something with the chronoplast.

His path took him past the blue house, now painted a sort of grayish colour, darker than it had been, and the tree was in full foliage, just starting to turn into their autumnal glory.

The windows had blown out on the top floor, and those on the ground floor, boarded up and the door barricaded. It was clearly abandoned but he went inside anyway.

The house was wracked, but not by fire as he might have expected. There were wet stains on the walls and ceilings and the carpet was slurping under his feet. For the first time Lux felt the desolation of this future and only in this house.

He could not have said why.

Mary met him at the top of the stairs in the form he knew her best, a white shimmering that exploded into flame as he watched, the edges of her falling like embers. He did not know how long she had been bound here but she pulled at her hair, at the part of her face that was burned away and did not appear to notice him at all.

"Forever am I bound, hope abandoned, my spirit tethered to this place... What destroyed the Circle and opened the door could not touch me. For I was newly dead, and beyond harm's reach. I alone was spared the descent into madness, and my poor boys condemned to Hell. When John's madness seized Dean and robbed him of so very much, much more than just his destiny was lost. All of Creation lost Balance. Consider us now... both of us less than we once were. I, pure but insubstantial; and Dean, my Dean terribly real, but corrupted."

Lux cut her off. "Your imprisonment here has deranged you, spirit. You fixate because you believe this Dean is the tether that binds you here. But we both know he is not the author of your agony. This was created by dark forces that manipulated you into this. The more I learn of your kind, the more I see a tangle of nested manipulations."

Mary raged, her flame burning hot against his face. "Sam handed them their victory. They sought to topple the Hunters and free Lucifer, and he was their willing instrument. How can I not blame Lucifer for what he did, my boys, my beautiful sons." She returned to her lament.

"Or was he their unwilling pawn? Would it blunt your wrath to know that this entire dilemma was calculated to set Lucifer free regardless of the choice he made? And that the devastation would have been even greater had he chosen the path you would prescribe for him?"

Mary blazed hotly, her spiritual flame actually singing the walls. "You are a subtle, deceitful creature. But your clever arguments do not absolve Sam. He must die for Lucifer to be restored to his prison; there is no other way."

Lux tired of this. "Then consider this more ominous possibility - what if Sam's death does not restore the prison? Consider that it may simply be too late. That this world may be beyond redemption. And that you may be bound here eternally."

Mary didn't want to hear it; she tried to escape Lux by dematerializing, unaware that he was able to follow. Lux shifted into the spectral realm and startled her as she cowers behind the broken armoire. "Why do you hound me, demon? You can see that I am captive here. Show me some mercy."

Lux sneered, "Like the mercy you showed your fellow Hunters when you found these set things in motion, in your own household? Or the mercy you showed your son, Sam, when you kept him ignorant of his destiny while you used him as the scourge of the underworld, knowing that regardless he would unleash Lucifer. Or perhaps like the mercy you showed your beloved John when you left him to train your sons to save and damn the world in your place. These things I have learned from the very creature you would have me kill."

Mary wept tears of fire, that fell down her face unto her nightgown. "You are cruel. Why do you torment me so?"

Lux relented, "I'm merely looking for answers, Mary. Very well - I'll leave you in peace." He stopped and looked at her over her shoulder, "But know this - about you, and this Purgatory from which you long to escape... this is only the very start of it."

He left what remained of the blue house which would become Cadacus' throne room and stepped out to the street with no idea where he would go, but hoped that in the broken chronoplast he might find answers.

He was lucky, there was a reference that might amount to something, a hint. A demon he found there quickly gave up the name Bobby Singer, and then laughed and laughed, "he's dead, dead and dead and we've got his soul, but his things are warded, protected against us and our kind, it won't help you, even if you manage to save him from Hell."

Lux lowered the cloth from his face to reveal the open chasm of his mouth. "I'm not like you," Lux told him, running his claws along the edge of the demon's face, "No one seems sure what I am but not Unkin," he growled out the world, "I feed upon them." He sucked out the quintessence and then was chagrined that the vessel that the demon had chosen was not dead and now the poor human was staring into the wreckage of his face. The human reacted normally and screamed until he fainted.

Lux did not really blame him.

***

Bobby Singer had lived in a house that adjoined a scrap yard that seemed to have turned into a sanctuary for cats in his absence. There were holes punched here and there throughout the metal the likes of which Lux had never seen before. It didn't seem to bother the cats at all.

The house had been a farmhouse, and at some point had been someone's pride and joy, but it had been left to it's own recognizance long before it had been abandoned. Now the doors were open to the dust and bitter cold, which scoured the wood and piled up here and there in the house.

The demon was wrong, Lux had no problem entering the house at all.

He explored it feeling an eerie sense of knowing. He knew this house although there was no way he could have, he knew which drawers had false bottoms and opened them to reveal books. Unusually the house had not been looted, but there were cats curled up on the furniture and one of them jumped down from it's nest and rubbed itself against Lux' legs, which was strange behaviour for a feral cat. He reached down and scratched it between the ears.

He gathered what books he could find, of which there were many, in the main room with the desk, and lit a fire in the grate. He did not need the heat although the light was useful, but the cats immediately started purring. He shook his head at himself and this sudden sentimentality.

He read for days. He read about the great war in Heaven and the angels flung to earth. He read about the fallen and the word Cadacus and how it meant Fallen and how it had many spellings, but how it also meant futility.

He read about the Angel Qafsiel who watched over humanity.

He read about Lucifer the great tempter.

He read about wendigo and striga and anything he could get his hands on. Language was no barrier to him in his altered state and he read everything he could get his hands on, and the house was full of books. He read about Bobby's wife in letters kept between the pages of the books. He read about demons and other horrors. He read about Dean and Sam Winchester through a series of childhood photographs and letters written to Bobby.

He saw his human self as a child, a young man with the human vessel of Lucifer, the great dark, beside him. The irony of this continued fratricide did not elude him. The Archon Michael had been unable to kill his brother and so for eternity brothers were thrown into mortal combat to make amends.

There were scribbled notes in the blank pages at the end of some of the books about how Dean was supposed to be Michael's vessel but he had refused. There was reference to Sam saying yes in a place called Detroit. There were blood stains on some of the pages. The last note he found spoke of how Michael remained absent.

That puzzled Lux, and he wondered what had happened to that first brother.

Amongst the books he found some written by Dr John Dee, because that name wouldn't leave him alone, it appeared in the most random places, and it seemed that encrypted with mysticism that he had had answers and there written out in perfectly clear latin was the instructions on how to build a chronoplast.

As he stopped in his study to relight the fire he heard footsteps in the house and the cats began to hiss.

"Oh, no. Every time you turn up something monumental and terrible happens." Lux drawled recognising the figure as Cadacus even before he turned around. "I don't think I have the stomach for it." He patted his absent midsection knowingly.

"No drama this time, Lux." The angel answered calmly, sitting down on the chair and crossing his legs.

Lux went back to his book, sitting cross legged on the floor by the dying fire, one of the cats crawled into the pool of his lap. "You are persistent, crossing time like this to follow me. Still waiting for that coin of yours to land on its edge?"

Cadacus just smiled. "I'm biding my time. I see that Azazel has played a little trick on you. However it allows you time to read."

Lux looked over his shoulder, "Yes - he clearly doesn't want me to meet this 'John Dee'."

Cadacus stared into the fire for a moments, "Perhaps... Or maybe he merely hoped that it would harden your heart against me to see this wasteland which I apparently single-handedly authored."

Lux didn't look up this time, looking at the illustration of the chronoplast in the book, "My heart doesn't need hardening, Cadacus. If I even suspected that destroying you would make any difference, I would do it this instant."

Cadacus laughed and it sounded proud. "I knew you'd see through them, Lux. Dr Dee is indeed the key to your destiny, but you'll need to find your own way back into the past. Make no mistake though, Lux - you and I are now in great danger. We are irritants here - malevolent forces are being marshaled to eliminate us."

Lux raised an eyebrow at that. "You talk as though we're allies."

Cadacus remained impassive. "Regardless of your sentiments, Lux, in their eyes - we are."

Lux bristled at the information, "Well, they're certainly trying to eliminate you, Cadacus, there can be no doubt of that. I am assaulted relentlessly with demands for your death. Whatever it is that you're plotting, they're scared to death of you." He stopped. "As for me, I suspect they made a grave error when they allowed my unique resurrection. I don't think they know how to destroy me."

Cadacus' voice contained a clear frown, "You mustn't underestimate them, Lux."

Lux had tired of this, "And who exactly is this diabolical 'they' to which we keep referring? If there's some grand conspiracy going on, the right hand doesn't appear to know what the left is doing. Even Azazel seems to be caught out at every turn."

Cadacus took a deep sigh through his nose, "Azazel is a puppet, Lux - haven't you realized that yet? That's the sweetest irony in all of this - demondim's 'great manipulator' is their plaything." He stopped, "But the Great Dark has his own agenda and it's not always what we might assume."

"He doesn't like us unwriting their carefully choreographed history, though, does he?" Lux grinned through his cowl.

Cadacus corrected him. "You must understand, Lux - we haven't unwritten history, we've merely rewritten it. The future flows around our petty actions, finding the path of least resistance while admitting only the slightest alterations. This is the reshuffling you felt, when you refused to kill me. And remember, Lux, we are irritants in this regard, as well - history will not allow the introduction of a paradox."

"And if events cannot be reshuffled to accommodate the change?" asked Lux.

The Cadacus' answer was succinct. "It is the irritant who's expelled. Bear in mind that this may be exactly the outcome our enemies are trying to provoke. We must tread very carefully." And with his warning ringing in Lux's ears Cadacus vanished.

***

In the heart of the books of Robert Singer Lux found the instructions that he needed to repair the broken Chronoplast as he had hoped, even if he had spent long weeks searching for it. Tucking the book into the pants that Missouri had given him, strange stretchy blue things, and she had given him matching white shoes with ties that made no sound when he moved. He concentrated for long moments on the place where he knew the broken Chronoplast to be and let loose his existence, hoping that this would work as it had when Missouri had summoned him and to teleport.

It did not work exactly to the way he had planned it, he arrived in the ruined warehouse in the spectral realm but with a feeling of such nausea that if he had have a stomach he would have thrown up. The book tucked into his waistband fell open on the floor with a crack and the scenes that it showed were unambiguous.

The winged beings walking tall amongst their fellows as they threw them down into the ordure that Lux knew to represent Hell. He saw the winged beings, the Angelei, as they moved through mortal women, casting them down for ravishing.

It was only in the Spectral Realm that these images appeared.

He saw the Angelei taking those children born of ravishment and consume them, eating them to preserve their icy chill.

He saw how that twisted them, corrupted them, until there was nothing left inside them except that hollowness that governed them, and he saw Lucifer, for it could be no other, with two great pairs of wings held wide, his arms spread in beneficence and his face twisted with a smirk.

The Angelei for all their purity were truly no better than the demondim that they despised so much.

Lux just shifted back to the Material Realm and put the book back, this time into the crook of his jacket where it would be more secure. Then he turned his attention to the broken Chronoplast.

It's mending was easier than Lux might have imagined for he had only to extend his own essence into the cracks and chips until they were whole. He had been wary of doing this because he had not been sure how much it would take and how denuded it would leave him. Strangely it seemed to barely affect him, and if not for the lingering scent of dried flowers in the air he would have thought that it had not.

With no way to control the device there was nothing to do but trust himself to fate.

He had hoped that he would achieve one of two times, the period with John Dee which he sought, or at least with someone who could work the device well enough to send him back then. Instead he materialised as a blow shattered the device.

He recognised the man who had brought the hammer down upon the globe at the centre of the Chronoplast and caught the tool on it's second upswing. John Winchester was determined to break the device and to his credit did not react when Lux appeared other than to try to wrench the hammer from his grasp, and then raise his foot to kick him in the knee.

Lux laughed to himself as he tugged the hammer from his grasp, "I think it's broken now, don't you?"

John Winchester did not bat an eye as he pulled the knife from his jacket, slashed Lux across the throat and stabbed him in the chest.

With a long suffering sigh Lux pulled the knife from his chest and handed it back to the hunter, hilt first. "I have no intention to harm you," he said, "but if you continue I may have to restrain you for your own safety." His eyes flashed with Eidolon brightness in what he knew to be a menacing gesture, "my temper is short and my power great, I cannot be held responsible for those things that happen when it lashes out of my control." It was an empty threat.

"Then kill me and be done with it." John Winchester postured.

Lux laughed again, throwing the hammer over his shoulder where it sailed straight through the wall with a crash. "I told you," he said and then decided to enjoy the moment, "it is not your destiny to be killed by me at this time," he said in his best impression of Azazel. "You have things to achieve that stand apart from me, this meeting is merely a twist of fate."

John Winchester rushed him, trying to butt him with his shoulder. He hit Lux as if he was a brick wall, propelling himself backwards with the force of it. "Stop it! You will hurt yourself." Lux said, and then using his gift lifted him off the floor. "Will you listen to me now, I have no interest in you, I have no interest in anything of yours, John Winchester, and I am more than content to let us go our separate ways."

"How do you know my name?"

Lux rolled his shining green eyes in his head with exasperation. "I know who and what you are, hunter, and I know your destiny as well as I know your sons." Lux should have guessed that was a mistake from the way that John Winchester thrashed and grasped at his unnatural confinement. "I am part of your tale but I am not your enemy, nor ever have been. I know your story, but I did not know that I featured in it. Fate has a cruel sense of humour to send me back to this time. I search for the Arch-demon Azazel, you have spent years hunting him, can you tell me of his whereabouts?"

John Winchester narrowed his hard features, "is that the name of the demon that killed my wife?" He asked.

Lux made an ah sound of acknowledgement, "so that is how I feature in your story," he said, "we hunt the same creature. You would see him dead and I wish to consume his ivitrim/i- that thing that makes him demon."

"Is that what you are, a creature that devours demons, a demon killer?"

"I am a consumer of umbra," he said, "made this way for purposes beyond my reasoning. I do not know why or how, I seek revenge on those who made me this way, and you can help me. Tell me what you know of the Arch-demon Azazel."

"He killed my wife." That was said with enough venom that it should have dissolved the floor beneath him.

"You know nothing," Lux said with some surprise. "What year is this? Where are your sons, John Winchester?"

"What do you know of my sons?" He started to growl and thrash about again, like a snake on a pin.

"I know their destinies, John Winchester, as well as I know my own. I know that it is Dean that will kill Azazel, as does the demon himself, and I know about Sam." John fell still, "I know what Mary did, the bargain she made, I have no interest in these things, I seek the demon that he might answer my questions, something you cannot do."

But John Winchester, mad as he might have been, was not stupid. Blinded by bloodlust he had his own agenda. "What is ivitrim/i?" he asked.

"It is that blackness which inhabits the host and turns them against their will." Lux answered, "all living things have iumbra/i, that force that animates their flesh, it is part of a greater whole broken by the angelei. The demondim have ivitrim/i a corrupted and lesser form of the Angelei's ianima/i."

"How can I destroy it?"

Lux was silent for a moment thinking it over. "I don't know that you can. There are weapons, but I can think of no other way for a human to do so. So arm your son with one of these weapons for the battle he will fight."

"And Sam?"

"He is more than a Hunter," Lux answered, "he contains enough of the ivitrim/i to give him abilities, and he contains enough of the ianima/i that he can be a host for one of the Angelei."

"Angels aren't real." John Winchester answers bluntly.

"Where I am from two remain, but they are real, devastating creatures, dangerous to behold or hear, forced into human vessels only to preserve the very iumbra/i of their servants which would otherwise shatter in their presence. The Angelei are real, John Winchester, and it is Sam's destiny to hold host to the greatest of these, The Great Dark himself, whom you call Lucifer."

John Winchester wailed like a stuck piglet.

"I shall leave you to your decisions, I have always said what I have said here, time is a great river and this meeting was preordained. You needed to know what I could teach, as little as it is. Perhaps there is another who might furnish me with answers, do you know the location of Bobby Singer? I have questions to ask him."

"If you hurt him or my boys...." John Winchester threatened.

"Humanity can not sustain me, violence done upon your kind is a waste of resources to me, you have no more appeal to me than the fleas upon a cat's back. I told you, I am part of this story but I am, perhaps, a subplot, something other that happens. Your story will not always be that of your boys, your boys will have stories apart from each other. This is the nature of these things. I am not the antagonist in this tale, just another character."

For the first time John Winchester really looked at him. "Dean?" he asked suddenly, "no, Dean is in Baton Rouge and you are..."

Lux lowered his hood. "I am," he said, "I am born of the decisions your sons made and the Angelei who influenced them. Prepare your sons, John Winchester, for what comes for there will be none to save them."

"Are you threatening them?" John Winchester asked again.

"Mary was right," Lux said, "you are quite mad." And then without arguing further he slipped into the spectral realm to look at the damage John Winchester had done to his clothes.

***

The house of Robert Singer was in better repair than when Lux had left it. It was run down but now smacked of comfortable neglect, where things were attended to as they broke, but no longer complete abandonment. There were, however, still plenty of cats, who yowled and purred at his approach.

Robert Singer did not bother with the same pleasantries that John Winchester had, he just fired with his shotgun into the air where moments before Lux had stood. "I come for information." Lux called out. "Nothing more."

"Get away, creature, or I'll fill you full of silver."

"It won't hurt me, if I wanted to kill you, you'd be dead, I would not have let you see me approach or the cats announce me. I seek answers, I think you have them." He held out the book he had stolen from the house in a time yet to come. "I bring a book that will aid your research, as I said, all I want is answers."

A splash of cold water landed across him. "Well, ya aint demonic this time either," Robert Singer said wryly, "but you still aint comin' in."

Robert Singer was, for all of his outward gruff manner, really rather soft hearted. He might have wandered around the house with a shot gun in one hand, and a beer bottle in the other, and refused to let Lux in the house, as if he could have stopped him if Lux truly wanted to enter, but he sat on the porch with whatever book that they were reading and genuinely discussed it's contents with a sort of hunger that was terrifying in it's loneliness.

He asked questions and made notes of the answers there in the priceless books, notes that Lux had read in those very books. The cyclical nature of it no longer surprised him. Lux gave him the answers he had, unbeknownst to him, given Lux.

Sometimes he got drunk and railed at Lux for things Lux had not done, or had not done yet, because it was clear, even from the start, that Bobby had met Lux before. He even suggested that it was Lux that trained him, though Lux didn't know why he would. He was not selfless after all.

However when the first flakes of snow began to fall it was not one blanket that Bobby fetched, but two, one to wrap around his own shoulders, drinking from his coffee as it steamed in the night, and the other for Lux, who had no need of it.

He offered Lux food.

He made him coffee.

And Lux found himself liking the man, human as he was.

It was Bobby that told him the tale of the Divine, whom he called God. He told him many stories but this was the first that gave him answers.

The Divine had existed before Creation. He was Creation. All of the things that were had been created by the Divine. The Universe and all it's majesty was the Divine.

The Divine, had, depending on which story you listened to, created the Demondim who were flawed. Unable to "uncreate" he had cast them aside. He had then, learning from his mistakes, created the Angelei,and greatest of them all and most beloved was Lucifer.

Here the story took a darker turn. The Angelei for all their power and beauty were flawed, they were simply too powerful and too pure to be perfectly flawed and so after creating and spending an eternity in their presence the Divine cast them aside.

He then created Humanity, a mix of the things he had gotten right with the Demondim and the Angelei. Unlike them both he made them capable of change.

Like the Demondim before him Lucifer saw that he was no longer loved best and like a child taken away from it's favoured toy he rebelled. He conspired with the Demondim, he whispered in the ear of the Angelei that the Divine's attention be returned to them, that they were loved best.

There was war amongst the Angelei but perhaps in their purity they revealed their greatest flaw, for they did not murder those who had turned against the centre, they threw them away, casting them aside just like their creator.

Lucifer staged a second attack and still rather than kill him, his twin, Michael, locked him away. The Demondim remembered their general and elevated him to the position of their Divine.

But these were children's stories Bobby assured him, the sort told in church to make kids behave. Go to bed and do your chores or the Devil will get you and you'll burn in his lake of fire.

"The Lake of Fire is real." Lux said sadly, and ran his fingers, such as they were, over the remnants of his wings.

Bobby had no answer for that, so they sat in silence for some time.

It did not occur to Lux but he and Bobby did not speak for three days after that.

***

For his kindness Lux did Bobby a great honour, in the bowels of his house he constructed, taking metals from the ruined cars outside, a great room of iron. Into the ceiling he twisted the metal into sigils he had learned. He created a small bunk for him, and carried down a case for the books. He did this whilst Bobby slept, then he embedded salt in the walls.

Bobby did not know the kindnesses he had given Lux, even if he didn't let him in the house, but Lux did not want to be beholden to anything, even a human.

Bobby asked nothing of him, but instead offered him a shelter and a place to learn, and to lick his wounds. A room of iron and salt was poor recompense, but it was one of the few things he could give. Bobby had no interest in money or gems when Lux deposited them at his feet. He had what he needed he said, and that was that. So instead Lux stole into the bowels of his house and created for him a place safe from both Demondim and Angelei in the way that the Humans of his own time did.

He did not expect Bobby would appreciate it, not fully, but it was his gift to him.

He suspected all the man really wanted was company with whom he could discuss these things that the books told him, someone else who would understand them.

***

Lux spent two years in the house of Bobby Singer discussing those books and keeping the neighbourhood free of the Demondim. When any of the Winchesters arrived he did as he was told and stayed out of sight for Bobby was adamant that they would not understand and would try to hunt him.

During this time when they needed the body of a young blonde girl who stunk of Demondim disposed of it was Lux that took care of it. When the Demondim came sniffing around it was Lux that took care of it.

Time passed quickly, and Bobby grew older. Sometimes the shingles fell from the roof and Lux fixed them. Sometimes wild animals wandered into the scrap yard and Lux shooed them away with his wings. It was, he thought, the first time since Ghen he had felt close to someone, and what stung was part of him, who watched Bobby interact with his human self, knew that it was Dean's love for Bobby he felt, and not his own.

And Dean, what Lux saw of him as he watched from the shadows, was a dick.

Sam was naive but Dean wanted to be his father. Dean wanted to lash out and rage without understanding what Lux had been told, and learned for himself, that John Winchester was mad. Mary's death had shattered her husband, the overtones of it weighing on a fragile mortal mind and there was no way he could have coped even without the grief.

So when John Winchester died, as the second summer started to roll to it's end and Dean took out his rage on the car he did not see Lux twisting the metal back into where it had been. He did not see Spectral hands that loved this car with him, with his distant memories of being him, as they soothed the metal back to where it belonged.

Lux did not mourn John Winchester with his sons. He did not mourn him with Bobby. He merely made sure the ashes were scattered to the wind, and if he found himself muttering that the Divine take care of him he spoke of it to no one, not even the cats who curled around him when he perched to watch over the house.

John Winchester's madness had polluted his sons. Dean was twisted inside, unable to fulfil his potential without the strange calm that was so central to Lux, even with his mortal emotions, Dean's own emotions he knew, and Sam was so busy trying to rebel against his father he didn't know what he was agreeing to.

When Lux told Bobby he was told that the boys needed to make their own mistakes, then Bobby would lower his eyes and that was the end of those conversations.

Yet when Dean phoned and said Sam had vanished, just plain up and gone from under his nose, Lux knew Bobby would send him. He just didn't realise what it meant.

***

Lux cast himself to the void, feeling around in the spectral realm for the flesh that had been his own, that would be resurrected as his own. He slammed into the small town and fell to his knees.

The air shimmered with a temporal distortion. The blade was here. It made it hard to walk, as if the very ground underneath him was roiling but he continued on.

The town was ruined, old and derelict. Inside a ramshackle house was the ruins of a man, Lux was horrified to discover that it was Caritas. There lying beside him with her neck broken was Catena. He stumbled through to a thoroughfare where, suspended from a water tower, was the body of a dark haired girl, "Fidelis?" he asked under his breath

As he watched Pax's human body lifted the knife he knew so well, the one forged into Lux' very arm, although it seemed altered and unblooded, and plunged it into the back of Sam Winchester as Dean watched. As he raised his arm for a second strike Lux threw himself forward, unsure if the first had been fatal. Unable to parry the blow he took it within his own chest. "And so it ends," Lux thought to himself, "I have come full circle."

However with nothing else to sustain it the conjoined blades turned themselves on Lux. And he realized, finally, why the blade had chosen him all that time ago in Cadacus' throne room. ... the ravenous, umbra-devouring entity trapped in the blade was - and always had been - Lux.

He realised that this is why the blade had shattered when Cadacus tried to strike him down - the blade could not devour its own soul. The paradox shattered the blade. So - this was his terrible destiny - to play out this purgatorial cycle for all eternity...

He could not bear it - despair overwhelmed him. He fell to his knees, transfixed by the blade. His hand, still bound to the handle, formed a perverse vicious-circle as his ianima/i was gradually but relentlessly drained away, absorbed slowly and torturously into the blade. Lux strained against it, trying vainly to escape his inevitable fate.

At that moment, Cadacus revealed himself, stepping out from the shadows of the ruined houses. Lux saw him, and knew that this had been a trap. Overcome with rage and agony, he accused - "You!"

Cadacus approached, watching Lux with intense fascination. Lux cried out in anguish, "Are you enjoying this, Angelei?!"

Cadacus was intent, "Don't fight it, Lux... Give in to it..."

Lux was breathing through the pain, "Was this your destiny for me, all along?!"

Cadacus remained firm. "Trust me."

But Lux's strength was fading, and the compulsion to let go, to let the blade consume him, for it finally to be over was too great.

Out of strength, Lux surrendered his will. As he neared the brink of oblivion, a fluttering distortion tangibly began, and Lux approached a dawning revelation - with a growing sense of vertigo, and the familiar displacement... ... the paradoxical moment when the twinned ianima/i hovered both outside and inside the blade... That was the instant - the glimmer of temporal distortion - Cadacus had been counting on all along.

iThis /iwas the edge of the coin - the minute flicker of probability upon which Cadacus had gambled everything.

The Angelei lunged forward - and with a massive, history-defying effort, pulled the blade from Lux's chest.

Lux screamed in agony.

The mortal blade flew across the dirt and the wraith-blade flickered and fades as it is separated from its twin. Lux fell forward, rescued from the threshold of oblivion, but nearly completely drained.

Cadacus sounded exultant, "Now you are free to reclaim your true destiny, Lux."

Gradually, the area around them began to warp as history shuffled to find a new course around this new obstruction. As the future arranged itself, a look of horror slowly dawned on Cadacus' face. With new memories blooming in his mind, he realized he may have just made a terrible mistake.

As Lux, exhausted, emptied, watched, falling into the spectral realm and Lucifer's prison, he saw Cadacus realise that he had introduced the fatal paradox into their story.

***

It had been two very long years since Lux had awoken from when Pax stabbed him with the wraith blade. He had believed, almost certainly, that it would be the end of him, but he had been wrong, and had instead awoken trapped in Lucifer's prison with him.

He was trapped, a state made worse by the two doors that tormented him. He had awoken in the spectral realm but because there simply was no matter in Lucifer's prison he could not shift into the Material realm, and the two doors were suspended in water which had the heft and weight of air in that realm and so even if he did leap off his platform to the bottom he could not reach them, and in the spectral realm he could not use his claws to climb for the rocks would not shift under his weight.

He spent the first few months working out an escape route so he learned all these things.

After that he lay on the floating platform and waited for a while, in the hope inspiration would strike him and he would think of something. Nothing came.

The next few months were spent monologuing at Lucifer who remained unresponsive apart from the occasional sigh from below. He tried tormenting him, baiting him, and finally name calling all to no avail.

He spent the last year lying flat on his back singing a song from his human memory about the marital woes of someone called Henry VIII with the sole intention of getting a reaction, any reaction, from the amorphous Angelei trapped with him who might have made this interment more bearable.

Then it happened- the door that led to the convent of St Mary in Ilchester started to open. With a mumbled thanks for interfering Hunters Lux revelled in the iprima materia/i that flooded through the albeit tiny gap, and forced his consciousness through it.

The mural upon the floor was highlighted with a preternatural brightness and standing resolute facing it were the Winchester brothers. He was not surprised by that, but an impish thought went through him. This was what Lucifer had been waiting on, stood here having freed him, by design or not, was his host.

Lux wrapped his will about them, and thought "north."

Instead of north, which he had tried for, Lux teleported straight up, deposited the two brothers on the empty seats in front of him, and tried again, hoping to translate himself to the house of Bobby Singer where he could discover what was going on, and hoped that perhaps Bobby was happier this time than when he had last seen him.

Even in the spectral realm he knew something was wrong. The house was perfectly cared for, he could see parts of the paint that were still wet. The rotten floorboard had yet to give way. There was a swing on the veranda, which had not been there before.

Lux was wary, for things did not change without reason, and approached the house in the spectral realm where he could remain unseen. When he heard the scream, a woman's scream, he picked up his pace to help Bobby whom he trusted.

The woman wore a white night gown that fell in ironed pleats around her ankles, her hair was a morass of black curls, pressed flat and tangled from the weight of her head and the pressure of a pillow. Her mouth was slack and a line of fetid black saliva, tinged with something like coffee grounds, dribbled from the corners. Bobby was cowered in the corner murmuring Annie as the woman looked around madly.

The woman was possessed by unkin, Lux didn't need to see the creature hovering through her to know that. So he shifted to the material plane, appearing in all his Revenant Glory, between the woman and Bobby, who was whimpering Annie, and with a flick of his wrist Lux drew down the cowl from about his face and sucked the ivitrim/i in.

The unkin was not old, still somewhat human around the edges but Lux consumed it and then watched with a mounting horror as Bobby pushed him out of the way to catch the woman as she tumbled. She was dead, and had clearly been for some time, animated only by the ivitrim/i so Lux did not know why Bobby might be upset at his rescue.

"ANNIE!" Bobby yelled as the woman flopped backwards in his arms, blood joining the dark saliva now running along her cheek and over her dead eye. Bobby turned, facing Lux head on. "You killed her, you son of a bitch, I'm calling the cops."

And Lux didn't know what to say so he said nothing, he simply faded into the spectral realm to reflect upon what he had done.

***

Days later reflecting upon what he did he watched as Bobby answered the ringing of the strange black box on the table, and spoke into it. Lux followed him as he went to the old house where the dead waited, and saw what Lux had done to make recompense.

Annie, for that had been her name when she lived, had been taken from her coffin and laid upon it in fabric that no mortal man could weave, bound tightly by the pressure of air and spirit. Her hair was dressed and through it were flowers. The entire room was bathed with flowers. They lay, ankle deep, on the carpet, and built a barrow around and over her coffin. The stranger in black, the one who worked with the dead, was apologising, saying he did not know what had happened, why someone would break in to do this, but Bobby's face was set. He just waded through the orchids and chrysanthemums on the floor up to where she was laid, like Ghen had been in the Necropolis under Steinchencrue, and cupped her face.

Lux had removed the gaudy thick make up so her face was clean and pale. Her eyes glued shut, but instead of a woman in her prime, she was arranged like a maiden, cut before her time.

Bobby looked at the empty room, knowing Lux was there, even if he couldn't see him. "Don't think for an instant that this will make amends." He said, "You are never going to be welcome in my house."

Lux let his consciousness fade from the house of the flowers and let his hunger carry him to the hospital.

The reaper sat wearing a woman's body. He didn't know why they appeared as women to him. But they did, dark haired women with large liquid eyes, never the same women, but they did all look alike. "Are you still waiting?" She asked because obviously time was irrelevant to her.

"I don't know." He answered.

"Humanity is lucky," she said briefly, "they know what they're waiting for- us." Then she was gone. She did not simply fade into the spectral realm as Lux might have done, she was simply gone.

Lux sat there beside where she had been for a long time, perhaps days, snatching umbra out of the air as they sailed past him, to feed. He pretended to think when really he was licking his wounds. He loved Bobby Singer as a brother, and he had been cast out. He knew now how Bobby had known him previously and remained slightly distant from him, but Bobby was kind and had answers he was not unwilling to share.

Lux did not know how long had passed before he made his decision, almost unwillingly and returned to the house of Bobby Singer. "I know you won't see me," he called out into the night, "but I did not kill her. I will go, and it will be years before you see me again, but I give you this," he pulled off one of the chronoplast keys, the funny little idol on its leather thong, "as a promise. Do with it as you will, hunt the thing that did kill your mate." He threw the amulet down onto the floor. "You were kind to me when you had no need. I will go, I will seek my answers elsewhere."

Bobby didn't answer him at all. No lights came on in the little house, there was no sound of movement.

Lux pretended it didn't even hurt as he sought out a chronoplast that he might still be of use in this story even if he didn't know what his role was anymore.

When he returned to Kansas and the warehouse that housed the chronoplast he saw the small blue house on the edges of his mind, and knew that by this time that Mary was dead, but that perhaps she had some counsel for him, even so freshly dead.

So he went there first.

The house was in the process of being rebuilt, they stripped away the burned timbers and water sodden carpets. Mary stood at the top of the missing stairwell like an empress, commanding all around her to take notice, as the flames licked at her incorporeal form and fell from her hair. Only Lux could see her.

Mary demanded when she saw him. "What manner of creature approaches?"

Lux didnt' smile to see her so proud and vital, as she must have been as a human woman. "I know you well, Mary - though you do not yet know me."

Mary's face blazed white and through the flames her death mask skull was clearly apparent. "I have no time for riddles, creature."

Lux corrected her blithely. "All you have is time. I have come to seek your guidance..."

She interrupted him brusquely. "I will counsel only one man, and you are not he. But you will know him soon. The contagion of your kind is coming to an end."

Lux laughed at her presumption. "My kind? What exactly do you think I am?"

Mary's lips curled showing the burning inferno of her mouth, "Your name shall remain 'Unspoken', as decreed by our ancestors. You serve the one who so brutally took my life and set this tragedy in motion. But even now, hope is at work. Balance will be restored, and your kind will be expelled forever. This I have learned in the fire."

Lux could not hide his dissatisfaction, "You have pinned your hopes on Sam. He will disappoint you and betray you."

Mary raged, her incorporeal fire licking the fresh new walls of the building, "What can you know of Sam?"

Lux did not look at her as he said "More than you could ever fathom."

"He will do what he must when the time comes." Mary was adamant.

Lux sighed. "The future is set, Mary, Sam will not sacrifice himself for the world, and the angel who counsels you sells out the world for a whim. You don't know Castiel very well at all."

For a moment Mary was shocked silent. "I know what he is called to do," she said finally, "My faith sustains me."

"Is it faith, or fear?" Lux asked, "You know that if Sam opens the door and accepts Lucifer that you will never leave here. And already you begin to suspect..."

Mary blazed like a star. "--I will not hear your poison, fiend." She interrupted him and then vanished into the dark.

***

Lux's first thought was to consume the angelei that he found resting against the bench. She shimmered and glowed like a beacon and it was only that he was not in particularly hungry and it did not seem in any way interested in him.

He did not recognise it, it was neither Castiel or Cadacus, Uriel or the Great Dark, just a lone iangelei/i resting against a bench and watching children play. "What are you creature?" It asked.

"My name is Lux," he answered and sat down next to her on the bench. He chose the Material realm for no other reason than he could and that also he could see her form in both realms. It was easier to watch the children in the Material. Some were playing a game of tag, others hanging like monkeys from the bars suspended there for that purpose. There were seats suspended from ropes that others swung back and forth on whooping with glee.

"That does not answer my question, creature." The angelei repeated.

"It is the only answer I have." Lux answered. "If you have more information I'd be glad to hear it. But if not then I am Lux and that's all I can be."

To his surprise the angelei sighed, a deep whispery bellow that sounded to the children like a cold breeze that whipped the sand they played in. "I am Amanatiel, and that is all I can be." It said.

They sat in silence for a moment, the revenant and the angelei until Amanatiel spoke. "It is coming to an end," it said.

"Yes," Lux agreed. "or a beginning, I know what comes next," he stopped himself, "no, I know the ending, the middle's a little vague though."

"I've never known a story like this." the angelei agreed. "Destined to repeat itself over and over again. There can be no surcease and we shall act as we have always acted." It sounded forlorn. "We do not want, it is not in our creation to want, but yet, I want to play with the children."

"Then do it." Lux said, "you said it yourself the world is ending, what have you got to lose?"

"Eternity," the angelei said, "they would destroy me."

"From what I know of your kind they'd destroy you for wanting." There was another long silence. On the playground a girl fell with a little yell. There was blood from her knee. "Surely it's worth a little pain, look," Lux said as the girl spat into her knee and then wiped it over the blood before she continued to play. "She bleeds, it must hurt her, but yet the game is worth more. Children are often the answer, I've found."

"What are you, Lux?" the angelei asked. "You speak with the sort of wisdom that suggests eternity, but with the innocence of a creature newly born. You ask something of me only someone who could not understand would ask, but yet your arguments are wise and compelling." The angelei turned it's full attention to him and Lux for a moment felt overwhelmed, but then it passed, like a cloud had obscured the sun.

"You tell me," he answered, "because I know I have no clue."

"Part of you feels angelic," she said, "and yet demonic and human, perhaps you are what comes next, not one or the other, but all three."

Lux laughed. "A coin falling on it's side?" he asked.

The angelei didn't get the joke, or if it did could not laugh with him. "They will scour the Earth," it said, "they will eradicate humanity and demon both, they will restore the planet to what it was before."

"Then you don't have as long as you think to make your decision. I'm told, though I can't appreciate it, that chocolate cake is worth it."

The angelei remained firm. "I cannot, it is against all that we stand for."

"Never said you should or shouldn't," Lux agreed, "the decision is all yours, but it's up to you whether or not you want to play with them. Sometimes I remember things," he stopped for a moment, "human things, from before, I think I was human once."

"You are not a vessel." She said, "for if you were your humanity would be lost, muted by our grace."

"I'm just me," Lux answered, "but I will take any other options."

"Mister," the girl said coming up to him, her friends were gathered in a cluster whispering and had clearly dared her to do this. "Why do you wear a mask?"

"Because they're terribly comfortable," Lux answered, "why in the future I suppose everyone will be wearing them."

The girl laughed, "no really," she said when she finished.

"I'm a superhero and I have to protect my identity." He said, "but don't tell anyone, okay."

That answer seemed to appease the girl, she had two long blonde plaits but wore jeans and flannel and black eyes. "So why ya here?" She asked.

"My arch enemy has set me a puzzle and I can't quite solve it." Lux told her.

He expected the girl to wish him well with that and continue with her game, but she had other plans. "I can help, my mama says I'm ever so clever, too clever for my own good she says."

"Why don't you go back to your game, sweetheart," Lux said, "this is a silly puzzle and there's no rush for it."

"Maybe you just aint got all the pieces yet," the girl said screwing up her pretty face, "whenever I gots a puzzle I can't solve Mama says that there might be pieces missing and she's right, so maybe you just aint got all the pieces yet."

"Joanna-Beth!" A woman called across the park, "get your skinny ass over here now."

"That's your mama," Lux said, "you better go."

"Kay, Mr Superhero, good luck with the puzzle."

The angelei spoke up, "She might have a point, perhaps you're just missing the piece that will give you the answers."

"I was taken back from death," he said, "to destroy and consume my brethren so that I might be powerful enough to destroy my creator." He couldn't hide the feeling of lack from his voice. "They give me answers to questions I don't know, and talk amongst themselves about things I can't understand, I'm the only one who can do this, or they wouldn't have brought me back, so when I see your envy, so easily solved, I don't understand it."

"Did you destroy all of your brethren?" The angelei asked.

"No, I couldn't find the last, Fidelis." He told it.

"Maybe that one has the answers, maybe the child is right and you can't solve the puzzle unless you have all the pieces, but I understand how you cannot walk away."

"You can," Lux corrected it. "It's your decision to make, you want to be human, cut out your grace. I'd do it for you but I can't guarantee it wouldn't kill you. You wouldn't be the first, and you wouldn't be the last."

"They'd destroy me." The angelei protests.

"They'd have to," Lux agreed, "or their army would collapse as everyone did it," He had ruled armies, he knew how to deal with dissidents, "but you could just hide."

"You have given me much to think upon." The angelei said, "perhaps I can help you on your way too, Lux." It was the first time it had said his name. "What do you know of your lost brother?"

"I hear the name John Dee over and over, and know that he is long dead, but other than that I do not know."

"Have you asked the humans?" the angelei seemed calm as it spoke. "Perhaps the answer was not lost with the passage of time. They record things where we do not. They have libraries and tomes that their knowledge not be lost despite their short lives. The answers might be there, if you find the last piece of the puzzle you may solve it entirely."

"I would wish you well, Amanatiel," Lux said, "but I am not sure it would help you."

"I would wish you well also, Lux," the angelei replied, "but something tells me that is something beyond the power of wishes." Then it was gone and the children leaving the park as the dark settled over the area.

***

It wasn't the first time that Bobby Singer had fired at Lux with a shotgun, it might, however, have been the first time it was filled with lead and not salt and silver. "You have the balls to come back here?" Bobby asked and then fired.

Lux took the twin blows full on the chest, skidding backwards a touch, and then he shook the shot from his clothes. "There are answers I can give you." Lux said, "but I need your help."

"You killed my Annie!" Bobby cracked open the shotgun to reload.

"She was already dead." Lux answered calmly, "I killed the demon which possessed her. She had been dead for weeks, perhaps as soon as the demon took control."

"How convenient," Bobby dragged the words out, "what proof do you have?"

"Proof?" Lux asked. "I'll give you proof." He stepped up to the twin steps to the veranda, "will this do?" He yanked down the cloth over his face and then let the wraith blade form about his arm. With the other hand, the cloth fallen away to show the wreckage of his face he pushed Bobby's gun down and away, "Everything you feared to live in the dark is real, Bobby, everything, your gun won't hurt me, it won't even impede me."

His eyes glittered with Eidolon brilliance, a strange hybrid of human, demondim and angelei, unholy and agleam. "I know your future, Bobby Singer, and I know that you will become one of those who hunts those creatures and I do not know who will be the one to teach you. I know you wish revenge on the creatures that hurt your Annie."

He could see Bobby's horror as Lux spoke so clearly with no jaw to shape the words. He could see the terror at the glowing eyes and writhing wraith blade. "I know that the person possessed can be saved if the hunter is quick, and you will save many, but I need your help, there is something I must know."

Bobby fired his shotgun again, this time into the floor.

"If you're all that, why do you need me?"

"I have read the books that you will own," he said calmly, "and you will own one of the greatest libraries of magic, but I seek information that will not be held there. I search for the ancient wizard John Dee and I believe you can help me, I believe that you can understand these great libraries of your time that I might find the answers I seek."

"Why do you think he's the one with answers?" Bobby asked.

"I will tell you everything and you can tell me what you think." He sheathed the wraith blade, pulling his cowl up over his face and bringing his eyes back to human dullness. "But I will not enter your house, Bobby, and I am sorry about your wife."

"I don't want your apologies," Bobby snapped, "what do you know of loss?"

Lux just lowered his eyes and said naught.

***

Dr John Dee had been dead for nearly five hundred years, and had in his short mortal life, although still long by human standards, achieved much. He was interested in all the sciences, as he saw them, including mathematics and the occult. It was this that interested Lux.

He spent human months reading badly printed copies of his diaries which Bobby was able to order for him from the University of South Dakota, which was the one nearest to where he lived. They in turn suggested collections in other universities if he was prepared to travel.

Everyone it seemed had a story about him and no two of them ever seemed to agree. In his diaries he spoke of two "shewstones" which he had been given by an angel with a fiery halo, and that one would allow him to talk to angels and the other to demons.

All of the books that the humans had access to in Enochian, the language of the angels, had been transcribed by Dee. However his library and his materials were stolen. What Lux discovered in a document telexed to him from a university in Manchester, England, however, was a copy of a letter written to another scholar of the time, called Tycho Brahe, in which he stated those items whose lose had most affected him.

He described in that letter an Astrolabe which had been given to him by Rudolph II and although incorrect, having been made before the shift to the Gregorian calendar he was rather accustomed to. He described a pen which was alleged to belong to Copernicus himself which he had been lucky to discover. He was certain that he knew the location of the Diabolic Shewstone, for a nearby lord was said to have one in his keeping, but that the Angelic was missing, as also was part of the great silver salver which "dear Kit" had brought him.

None of these things interested Lux.

However couched in a different part of the letter was a strange entry, i "& that ladie of which we hast much corespondense remains in custody secure with those men of the cloth within Palermo." /i

Although many letters to Brahe remained none mentioned this "ladie". He knew from his own study that Fidelis was female and truthfully he had nothing to lose.

Palermo turned out to be a large city on the island of Sicily, but it had been five hundred years and the chances that she might still be there were slim. He imagined that it made sense for Cadacus who seemed to be able to travel through the time stream at will to hide her in the past that the final component of the Great Dark's plan would be unavailable, but then why would he lead Lux back into the past?

Cadacus had his own agenda, which he wanted Lux to discover on his own and therefore enact for him. The Great Dark, for all his machinations, was open, he wanted Lux to kill Cadacus, in doing this he would null the deal that Cadacus had made with the Great Dark for the surface in exchange for the slaughter of the iangelei/i and their great host.

Cadacus had traded the angelic army for Dean Winchester and of all that Lux had seen of his former human self, because it was quite clear that's who Lux was, he had seen that moment where the Great Dark had promised him rebirth and named him Lux with a sense of irony, he had not been worth it.

He sat in the coffee area of the huge university library, in the corner, with a book on his knee. "Flu?" the young woman asked, she had a sort of wicked sparkle in her eye that Lux recognised as sexual attraction. "I mean the mask."

"Yeah," Lux agreed, because it was a convenient excuse, "don't want to share it."

"What are you studying?" she asked, sitting down next to him. She had long black hair and wore a vest and jeans with a heavy winter scarf and arm warmers.

"The apocalypse."

"Angelology?" She asked, "Lucifer or Michael?"

"Pardon," he asked.

"Lucifer or Michael, which one is the bigger badass?" She was drinking black coffee from a white polystyrene cup but there were teeth prints around the edge of the cup.

"Humour me." Lux drawled.

"Well, Lucifer stirred up the war, which makes him a serious badass, and he was like the brightest star in heaven, so he must have been like totally kickass, but then along comes Michael and kicks him down to the kerb. That makes him more badass." She pauses, "but if he's coming back for a deathmatch then Lucifer has had aeons to hone his fighting skills but where is Michael?"

Lux blinked. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"What," she asked bewildered, "about the deathmatch?"

"No, at the end, you said, Where is Michael?" Under his cowl he grinned, "do you know what, child," he said, "I could kiss you."

She grinned back, "if you wanted to." But Lux was already standing and making his way to the door as she continued to speak.

It was so very obvious Lux was not surprised that he had missed it. Where was Michael? He had read the prophecies and the revelations over and over, Lucifer would rise and Michael would put him down, as he had before. Lucifer was set to rise, he would inhabit the body of Sam Winchester and become the creature that Lux recognised as the Great Dark, and Sam would murder his brother to create Lux for Cadacus.

Cadacus had been Castiel who had been Qafsiel and was not nearly as powerful as Lucifer. He was an angelei who had become powerful through years of absorbing the ivitrim/i of the demondim and adding it's vitality to his own. He had had spent aeons augmenting his power but yet was no match for the Great Dark.

In the totality of it's power even Amanatiel was nowhere near as powerful as the Great Dark even denuded in his prison. He had read of Michael, the general of Heaven's host but of all the people he had met in his thousands of years of existence he had not met anyone who had met Michael.

He knew if the Great Dark had murdered Michael he would have spoken of it, even if it had resulted in his imprisonment. The two were said to be evenly matched and the Great Dark was not the kind not to brag and bluster but instead he simply did not mention him. He had spoken of a brother whom he had loved but other than that he did not speak of him.

Michael was the missing piece of the puzzle and it was possible that lost Fidelis was the clue to finding him. It was possible that Cadacus was waiting for Lux to be powerful enough to awaken Michael, but then why had he sacrificed the Host and it's army to bring a human being back from the dead.

Why had he resurrected the children from that damned town of demons and how had he done it? The research into John Dee had revealed that the angelei who spoke to him had introduced himself as Uriel, which Lux could understand for when he had met Uriel he had found him knowledgeable but jaded and given to despair.

In this time, Lux thought, Uriel lived, Amantiel had not yet killed him in defense of Castiel who would become Cadacus. The irony of the same faces appearing again and again did not escape him but now that he knew to look for it made Michael's absence all the more noticeable.

Michael was the great general and Lux knew he did not need a vessel for Lux to be able to see him, like the Great Dark he would be ablaze in the Spectral Realm if he was anywhere near, but there was no sign of him. Now in this time when the Great Dark was still trapped the most powerful thing Lux could sense nearby was Amantiel and even that was grossly faded and far from where he was in South Dakota.

This was the puzzle he knew, not what the Great Dark or Cadacus wanted, but that there were three players who intended to use him as a pawn and the third had made no move in their game.

He was sure that it was a game, even if he did not understand the rules, and that he was the pawn of every player.

He found a quiet field in the middle of Dakota and began to call "Uriel!" until the angelei appeared, a shimmering creature that was barely contained by the black man he wore in his cheap suit.

"So...our wretched little savior returns... Come to join the last pathetic battle for the human race? But on which side, I wonder..." Uriel sneered.

"I've not summoned you to fight you, Uriel.

When Lux approached, Uriel brought the point of a, heretofore hidden, sword up to his throat. The move was supernaturally swift, and revealed that Uriel was a master swordsman.

Uriel corrected him. "You don't know why you're here. "

"I know this much:" Lux said "that you were the author of my fate - and as such, only you can rewrite it."

Uriel laughed without any sense of humour. "You give me too much credit."

"You wrote the prophecies," Lux corrected him, "I have seen the evidence."

Uriel's grin was mocking, "I gave them to the human, yes."

"Then you know my purpose." Lux pressed.

"No" Uriel cut him off, "only the scraps of prophecy the host shared with me."

But Lux was desperate. "And do these scraps explain why you would forge a weapon to imprison your savior?"

Uriel shifted, and brought the sword back up to Lux's chest.

"Ah, well then...," he said, "it seems we have our answer. You've chosen your path."

Lux couldn't help but be angry. "I have chosen nothing. I've been deceived at every turn." Uriel looked at him, really looked at him, but said nothing. "You seem to know what I am," Lux continued, "Tell me."

Uriel finally lowered the sword, "I thought I did, once. But now all the prophecies have failed. The vessels are corrupted... I am the last of those who watch and I would burn the Earth in a moment...and I know I am going to die in this battle, but I really don't care anymore."

"You've forgotten about Dean," Lux was fishing and he knew it.

Uriel sighed, "Ah yes, him... I fear he shoulders a greater burden than he realizes." He was talking to himself but then he turned his attention back to Lux. "I cannot help you - even if I was inclined to. I delivered the prophecies to Dee, but only at the behest of the Host, orders direct from Michael himself. What sorcery he and the others planned, I cannot say."

"Again it comes back to Michael, it seems only he knows the answers."

"Then perhaps," Uriel sneered, "you'd do better asking him and not me."

"Then maybe you know where he is, the host don't know, the prophecies don't even mention him."

Uriel's laugh was mocking as he said, "find the Michael sword, that's your answer, it will reveal all truths, creature, whether you want them to or not."

"Before you go," Lux pressed, "what is in Sicily, what did you tell Dee to hide there?"

"You question my fidelity?" Uriel asked with a laugh, "you've read the prophecies, you've seen the images on our foxholes, you've stood up and defied Lucifer himself, and you can't even figure that out? What a pathetic messiah you are."

"I like not that word," Lux sneered, "it smacks of martyrdom."

Uriel was still laughing as he vanished.

Lux remained in the field until it started to grow dark, sunlight dissolving into the flat lands and it was then that he felt the other presence. "Cadacus, why is this no surprise?"

Cadacus shrugged, "Because our destinies run together, Lux, like two rivers that have met and can never be distinct again. At your every fatal turn, you will find me." He sounded almost regretful.

"And the free will you said was mine," Lux pressed, "what has become of that?"

"You still have it." Cadacus answered, "And that has everything to do with my presence here now."

"It was your machinations that set my destiny in motion." Lux protested, "The coin you tossed has struck the earth. Now you must abide by its outcome."

"The coin is still turning, Lux," Cadacus corrected him. "To reach the resolution we both can live with, that will best serve our futures, You must not go to Sicily."

Lux sneered, "Because you do not wish it? Is my free will to be exercised only when it accords with your whim?"

Cadacus' bright eyes were lowered, "There is much more at stake in this than you know."

"Yes, and it is Michael who has the answers I desire."

Cadacus remained firm. "You must trust me, Lux. Our intentions - for humanity, for our futures - are not so diverse."

But Lux had lost his patience with iangelei/i obtuseness. "I must trust you -- or?"

Cadacus took a step forward, closer. "I have not come here to threaten you."

"You say that, while you hold in your hand the instrument of my doom?" Lux said looking at the knife in Cadacus' belt.

Cadacus spread his hands to show he had no intention of using the blade. "I saved you from the blade once. I have no intention of imprisoning you within it."

Lux had heard those kinds of lies before, "At least not until the moment it serves your plans to do so."

"You are not the only one at risk." Cadacus said, "I may carry the instrument of your destruction, but I, too, have taken a chance in coming here. Or haven't you realized -- you bear the only weapon that can kill me."

Lux summoned the wraith blade. "Then you know what I am -- and who you are?"

Cadacus tightened his vessels lips and then licked them once, twice. "I believe I do." He sounded rueful.

"And still you think you can move me about like your pawn. Think again, iangelei-- eidolon-- despiser/i." Then he lunged with the blade held firm. Cadacus quickly dodged.

"Stop this, Lux."

"Why? If we are who we are, then are we not destined to fight to the death, to decide the fate of Humanity? Isn't this what you planned?"

Cadacus sidestepped avoiding the blow. "Don't be a fool. I will not fight you. I wish only to make you understand."

Lux was blinded by rage. "And that will be the prophesied heroes' battle? I win, because you will not fight me? and that is what it takes to bring Michael out of hiding?" Lux feinted at him again, a little more seriously this time. "The Emperor Cadacus who sold out his kind for a human whore, falling because he will not fight." He went to strike again, but Cadacus pushed him away.

Cadacus sighed, "if this will make you see reason --"

The fight was quick and dirty. Cadacus pushed Lux to a point where he was at a momentary disadvantage, and tried to reason with him, holding the corporeal blade against Lux' arm, to keep him still. "Now - you will listen to me. Fidelis must remain undiscovered. Great harm will come of her waking."

Lux realised something then. "You don't know where it is, do you?"

Cadacus shook his head, "No -"

"-- you never looked for it."

"It doesn't matter, Lux. Listen to me - you must understand that every creature is bound to one predestined path. We are all shackled--"

Lux was mocking when he said, "--to the Wheel of Fate. Believe me, I know that even better than you do."

Cadacus ignored the interruption and continues his thought -- "All but one. Because of your re-making, you are the one unbound creature, the one among us all that truly has free will. I had to wait to unmake you until I knew that Lucifer would think I had forsaken you. You have a choice, Lux --

"Which I'm sure I must make at your direction. Your pawn has reached the end of the board, Cadacus. And now my powers may even surpass yours. How ironic if the creature that you made should prove your own undoing. Now - we finish this. Once and for all."

Lux attacked Cadacus. Eventually he was able to get in a slash at Kain's chest with the wraith blade. Unable to push Lux back any longer, Cadacus reached up to grasp Lux' arm to prevent the blow of his sword. Holding on to Lux' arm, Lux' soul began to drain out of him and through Cadacus, to reach the material blade.

They were both astonished and Lux gasped in pain. "You ..."

Cadacus tried to wrench his arm away but it was held fast. "No - Lux."

Lux roared in horror and rage "Vae victis--"

Cadacus was trying to break the hold but he could not. "I didn't--"

His words were cut off, as Lux plunged his left hand into Cadacus' chest -- breaking his grasp finally, and aborting his soul's absorption into the blade -- and pulled out Cadacus' heart: He held it up to his maker who emitted a shallow wheeze. Lux was as surprised as Cadacus and staggered backwards, the Heart in one hand, the wraith-blade in the other. This had been a reflexive act -- even he couldn't quite believe what he'd just done. He breathed heavily as the rush of adrenaline fades.

And in that moment the entire weight of Cadacus struck him, as it had been when he had consumed his brethren, the other Eidolon, what felt like a lifetime ago.

It smashed into him hard enough to throw him across the room and hard against the wall, still clutching the heart of Cadacus in his hand. "Woe to the fallen." He said finally when it had passed, "woe to the fallen."

***

Lux wasted no time and went to Palermo, where he could immediately feel the pull of Fidelis. In the catacombs beneath an old monastery she waited. Preserved, surrounded by the carefully maintained dead of several centuries, mummified and still wearing the gown she had died in when Cadacus killed her all those years ago. "This knowledge had come at so high a cost -- my blood offering for the answers I sought from this enigmatic corpse. It was the price of my freedom, for which Cadacus had paid with his life."

Lux held his bloody hand over the lips of Fidelis, dark haired and lovely, every inch of her skin but her face covered in fabric. Nothing happened as the blood dripped down her lips. "Had I journeyed so far, and forsaken so much, only to have it end like this?"

For long moments nothing happened and then Lux stepped back, prepared to go, wondering if it wouldn't be best just to consume the power here when she took her first gasping breath of the squalid air of the catacombs and it's preserved corpses.

Fidelis looked intensely at Lux as she slides off of the burial slab and stands unsteadily, almost falling to her knees in the heavy fabric of the gown she wore.

"Lux, the heir of prophecy... You came for me - I knew you would, Lux, love."

Lux appraised the sister he did not know, "You've been entombed here for five centuries. Your murderer is dead."

"So long," Fidelis asked. "The world is changed, the end comes."

Fidelis was alarmed, trying to take all this in. "Then we must waste no time -" she said, stepping forward but Lux cut her off.

"I'm not who you think I am. Nor is this a benevolent act. I have questions that apparently you alone can answer."

She smiled with soft pale lips stained with Cadacus' heartblood. "Lux, there are forces in this world that will strive to deceive you and pervert your destiny. But you must believe - your arrival foretells the salvation of the human race. Your rebirth allows that."

Impatiently, Lux cut right to the heart of the question "Why then would the angelei devise a weapon to consume and imprison their savior and give it to the one who sacrificed them for his own hungers?"

Fidelis was confused by this revelation. "No - that cannot be..."

Lux continued, with controlled hostility -- "While the blade yet exists, I am drawn inexorably toward my doom. It was you who bound me to this fate. Only you can release me. Only you, of them all, can be the vessel of Michael, the lost piece of this puzzle."

"Lux, you have been misled - you are ordained by prophecy to wield the blade which will destroy Lucifer." She sounded so earnest, looking off into the distance in a romantic expression.

"And so I do - though not quite as you'd envisioned." Lux summons the wraith-blade and brandished it before her, who regards this new revelation with astonishment. She gasped softly, her hand at her breast and studied Lux intently, as if seeing him for the first time. "Redeemer and destroyer..." she said. This was not the first time Lux heard these words -- his eyes flared with distrust.

"It seems your destiny is more labyrinthian than I had imagined. You must trust me, Lux, for I am Michael and we may have very little time. I will convey you to the place where your answers lie."

She reached out and grasped Lux's shoulders with both hands, digging her nails into the meat that was there and transported them into the ruins of the convent in Ilchester. The remains of its windows looked out onto the Maryland landscape, and the Americas beyond. Lux broke from Fidelis' grip and took a distrustful step backward, looking around the room.

"Why have you brought me here?"

Fidelis whirled in a cloud of dusty velvet, "this was a foxhole, a great citadel where we imprisoned our enemy."

"The Great Dark,"

Fidelis smirked a little, the expression incongruous on her pretty face. "Yes. From this chamber we witnessed the confining of the Great Dark, and the banishment of our adversaries from the land into the pit."

"We stand at the threshold of a new aeon, Lux, and you are the fulcrum upon which our destiny turns. Beneath this room lies our innermost sanctum - beneath that prison which held his dark majesty there are secrets." She reached into the neck of her gown and pulled out a ring pendant which she handed to him. The ring formed the symbol of the ouroboros -- the head of the golden snake devouring its own tail.

"This token is the key to the mysteries you seek. I cannot accompany you; you must face this trial alone. If you prevail, you will have your answers." He did not see her face when she turned away so he did not see the way her eyes turned completely red.

Lux only had eyes for the ring. "And if I fail the test?"

Fidelis did not turn back to him, "Then you will die," she said calmly.

Then she was gone.

Using the ouroboros key Fidelis had given him, Lux entered the prison of the great dark and the door there, to his dismay, he found the entire chamber infested with the mass of the Great Dark which had not inhabited his host, a small figure before it. "I should have known I'd find you here." He sneered.

Lucifer sat forward wearing a meat suit that Lux did not recognise. "Here and everywhere... Now and always. I am the Wheel and its turning; I am the Circle of life and death. "

"- and I am beginning to think that the angelei locked you away only to escape your monologuing."

The Great dark smiled fondly, "Do not forego my favor with your impertinence, love. You have finally fulfilled your purpose. I am pleased."

Lux looked around, "What are you trying to obliterate here, then? What is it about me that has you so afraid?"

The Great dark smiled warmly. "Your fate is eternity here, with me, love, as it was always meant to be now you have killed that impediment to our love."

He could feel the human footprints as they entered the prison for the first time, the winchesters were coming, if they could get past Fidelis with her dark hair and wry mouth. "Do you see, love? However far you stray, you will always return to me. Surrender, brother."

Lux was furious, defiant. "Never!"

Lux struck out at the Great Dark with the wraith blade, again and again but to no avail.

The Great Dark laughed loud and free, "Your efforts are wasted, Lux. That weapon you bear, however endowed, remains only a wraith blade. It cannot touch me."

Lux relented, exhausted. He scanned the chamber, looking for a way out, but finding none. "I will not be your prisoner -"

The Great Dark offered him his predator's smile, "You have no choice. Your task is fulfilled. Cadacus has been cleared from the board, and this chamber made ready for my more malleable servants. There is nothing more for you to do."

Lux clenched his fists and his eyes blazed hotly, "I refuse to bend my will -"

The Great Dark remained nonplussed, "- it has always been my will you satisfy, never your own, love,"

"You parasitic fraud - you're forced to imprison me because I possess free will--"

The Great dark mocked him, "--you possess you are undying, your soul cannot be returned to the Wheel - but it may console you to abide here in eternity with me, my love, my lover, my only."

Then his tone changed as he spoke to someone else in the material realm that Lux could not see. "Azazel, my servant, I call you to the place of our first meeting. Return to me here..."

***

Dean Winchester made sure to take point as he descended the steps to the basements of St Mary's Convent, this place was desolate and the irony of Lucifer choosing it as his throne room. He held the demon killing knife in front of him and a small torch in the breast pocket of his jacket.

When the path forked he sent Sam to the west and himself took the eastern path.

He crept in silently to find Azazel standing there, his back to Dean, as he spoke to an invisible Lucifer. Dean smiled and let the light find the edge of the knife like a smile.

"... the angels are merely an inconvenient consequence. They will be dealt with in time. It's a small price to pay for Winchester's death."

"You're a bit premature." Dean said.

At the sound of his voice, Azazel whirled around, genuinely frightened and surprised. He turns to see Dean standing before him, and the demon killing knife in his hand.

"Winchester!" Azazel gasped. He took a step back. "This is not possible..." He gasped.

"Now, Azazel, you yellow eyed son of a bitch, I thought you died too quickly last time."

Azazel tried to back up, but he had nowhere to go. "To kill me? Again? Your only solution, for every problem: kill -"

"Yup," Dean said and then ran him through with the blade.

Azazel was laughing as his ivitrim/i burned out of him laughing, though clearly in pain. "You think this will matter?...I serve One who has power over life and death."

Dean pushed him away, "Then go to him, and I'll kill you again."

As Dean wiped off the blade on his jacket he watched Azazel as he bled out on the floor. "I am His obedient... His devoted servant... Soon, all pain will fade, and my master will bring me life once more."

Azazel collapsed into a pool of his own blood, black and foul with his demonic essence.

Lux was waiting in the spectral realm. Azazel appeared with his back to him and called around what he thought was an empty room. "Master, my apologies, a momentary oversight. Somehow Winchester still lives, and has unexpectedly dispatched me. Make use of your good servant, and --"

Lux drove the wraith blade into the spirit impaling him from behind."Go to your master, then. I release you to the Wheel." He said almost smugly.

When the wraith-blade entered Azazel, it transformed him. A veil was lifted from Azazel's sight. Azazel-- with the wraith-blade still in him -- saw the horror of the Great Dark at last. His expression changed from confidence to horror -- and Lux seeing this transformation, finally understood.

"Do you see it now?" Lux whispered loving in the demon's ear. "The monster that you served? Is this what you imagined when you worshipped it? Did you see the way it would destroy you?"

Azazel was horrified, "No..."

Lux grinned, "And in that knowledge, go - and feed it. I release you." He kicked Azazel from the blade and then lowered his cowl to consume the ivitrim/i and end him permanently.

Lux looked at the Great Dark defiantly. The Great Dark was unimpressed. "Your petty actions are irrelevant, love. Azazel was a good servant, but he was of no further use. His long life had run its course. You see? - even when you rebel, you are doing my will."

"Perhaps, but something has changed, hasn't it?" The Great Dark ignored him. "Is this where the story ends, Lucifer?"

"You haven't the means to kill either one of us, do you?."

Lucifer postured, this was too close to the truth for his liking. "Ah, but you can be stopped. And you will come to understand how oblivion can be a mercy."

The convent trembled as the Great Dark pulled and tugged at its very foundations. "You and Winchester will spend eternity buried here together, praying for the merciful release of a death that will never come."

Fidelis was a fallen angel, not the last part of the puzzle, in consuming Cadacus he had inadvertently taken the last piece, the one that Cadacus had so carefully hidden. The plan was brilliant, too much for Qafsiel who had been a loyal soldier, it was a general's plan. It was Michael's plan.

If Michael possessed Winchester then Winchester would be destroyed and the angelic host would destroy humanity. Yet Lucifer could not be defeated without Michael. Winchester would not agree to be a host knowing it would mean his own dissolution but still he needed Michael's sword to defeat the Great Dark.

It had been a long game, Lux wanted to shout out with the joy of the realisation, the cunning way in which the coin fell upon it's side. "Despair, my love. There is no escape."

In the material realm, Azazel's corpse suddenly came alive again. Winchester turned as he saw Azazel rising behind him.

"Winchester," the word was a breathy exhale.

Winchester reflexively brought up the blade and impaled Azazel through the chest once again.

"You really get a kick out of dying don't you."

But Azazel responded strangely, with satisfaction-- "Yes..."

Then Azazel transformed, and Winchester saw that it was Lux impaled on the blade, his own face, tormented and broken -- just as Lux' own ianima/i began to leech into the blade.

Winchester made a few aborted sounds and tried to pull away, but Lux grabbed his arm and held it firm. "This is how..." He said.

Winchester resisted, but Lux pulled himself farther onto the blade. "The Michael Sword, complete and pure of all corruption -- this is what it is for. This is what I am for -- The two become one - both blades - together - and the Scion of Heaven is healed. And I -- am not your enemy - not your destroyer - I am, as always, your right hand. Your sword." He knew how why he could never find Michael, what Cadacus had hidden amongst the Eidolon ianima/i. He was the Michael Sword. He was Michael.

Winchester was still protesting but it was almost over. "No,- this can't be the way..." he had heard tales of this creature from Bobby, of what this thing had done for him unseen since before his birth.

"And now you will see," That was the last thing Lux said as he faded entirely into the blade. And Dean looked at the blade, which looked exactly the same, but stronger, fiercer, and for the first time since the release of Lucifer -- he felt hope.