Once upon a time in the far off kingdom of Heaven, there were two beautiful princes. Beloved by their Father and subjects, feared and hated by their enemies. They lived in a palace of golden spires and lush gardens. The kingdom was lovely, peaceful, and...
"Boring..." Lucifer, eldest child and heir apparent, huffed. He spread his large tawny wings in a stretch mirrored by his arms. "This is so boring."
His brother, younger by less than a year, and the more patient and sensible of the two, nodded his agreement absently, eyes never leaving the book he was pretending to read. "Yes, Luc, living the life of luxury is such a chore. We suffer so."
"Don't patronize me, Michael, I am aware of the many blessings," he sneered the word, "that comes from being Our Father's sons. That doesn't mean I can't find it tedious at times."
"Of course," Michael said. He shrugged his own golden wings in a display of indifference. "You are free to be as petty and ungrateful as you like."
"Bite me, brother," Luc said with a sigh, bored even by the fight. "Mike-y," he whined, changing tactics, "entertain me."
Michael sighed heavily but closed his book, giving in without a fight. For all their bickering, he truly loved his brother. "Very well. Would you like to play a game?"
"No. I tire of beating you in everything."
Michael raised an eyebrow but let the comment pass. "Shall we call for the jester Chuck?"
"He's the worst fool ever. He's only entertaining when he's gotten into Father's wine cellar."
"Would you like to write a letter to Ana?" Michael asked, knowing the answer already.
Lucifer sneered. "No, if our charming little sister wishes to spend her time playing house with the humans she can do so without my support."
Again Michael let the comment pass. To do otherwise would lead to a fight. "A ride? Perhaps a change of scenery would do you some good," Michael suggested.
Lucifer considered for a long while. "Yeeesss," he said finally, "I think a ride might be amusing. But only if I can pick the destination."
"Of course," Michael agreed, his first - but not most grievous - mistake.
"Don't you think we ought to turn around, Luc? Daylight will already be gone before we have the palace in our sights." Despite his words, Michael was content to trot his horse along the rocky beach at his brother's side for a little while longer. The weather was beautiful and it felt like ages since he'd left the confines of his Father's home.
Lucifer was ignoring him, staring intently out at the water, searching the horizon back and forth as if looking for something just out of sight. "There! Michael, do you see?" he called, pointing out to sea. "There's a light out on the water."
Michael squinted in the direction Lucifer was staring, but he could see nothing. "The sunset is playing tricks on you brother. It is past time we returned home."
"No, look! It's right there I tell you." Lucifer pointed vehemently toward the water again.
Michael urged his horse closer to his brother and followed the line of his arm. "Luc," he began, but then, there, he spotted the mysterious light as well. "Could it be Earth?" he asked doubtfully. Earth could be seen from Heaven, but only if one knew exactly where and how to look, and Michael had never had the time or the inclination to learn the trick.
Lucifer scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous. It's much too close for that."
Michael nodded, acceding to his brother's superior knowledge, and the two brother princes studied the light flickering on the bobbing waves in silence.
Finally Lucifer broke the quiet, saying, "I'm going to find out what it is." And he spurred his horse back the way they had came, toward the royal docks where they had a small boat anchored. A gift from their Father last Yule.
Surprise made Michael slow to react, and by the time he caught up to his impulsive older brother, Lucifer was already aboard the sailboat, readying it for launch.
"Lucifer! Stop. This is madness. We've nearly lost the light already. Father will be worried."
"Aw, Mikey, don't be a spoilsport. The weather's fine this evening and we have plenty of time before sun fully sets," Lucifer argued.
Michael looked around uneasily. Lucifer was blatantly lying about the amount of daylight remaining, but correct about the weather. Then Lucifer said the one thing to which Michael could not say no. "Mike-y, please, what if someone is in trouble out there?"
Michael didn't believe for a moment that Lucifer was concerned for the safety of one of their subjects. But that didn't mean that someone out there didn't need their help, and Michael did try to be a good son.
"Fine, but we turn back at full dark, whether or not we have achieved success in our hunt," he said.
"Of course," Lucifer demurred.
So it was that Heaven's two Princes - brave, beautiful, and very foolish - found themselves caught up in an unfriendly wind, lost on a dark sea with a storm beating at boat and body alike.
"Go ahead and say it," Lucifer groused, wrapping a rope around his waist in hopes of keeping himself attached to the boat while it was tossed about like a child's plaything. "You did tell me so."
Michael didn't answer and Lucifer looked up quickly, panic at his brother's non- response filling his head with visions of Michael - his Mike-y - throw into the water, ripped by the tide, drowned in the sea spray. But Michael was maintaining his precarious perch on the ship, staring in amazement at something in the water behind Lucifer.
Slowly, a little afraid at the hope in his brother's face, Lucifer turned to see what had left Michael speechless.
There on the water was their mysterious light, growing larger as it moved toward them. It's journey was swift and smooth. Whatever the light was, the storm seemed to be having no effect on it.
Within minutes the light revealed itself to be a single lantern on the bow of the most beautiful dough trough either brother had ever seen. The sea around the vessel was calm and serene, and it brought the pocket of calm to them as it approached. On the dough trough sat a most peculiar creature.
"Good day, young masters," the creature greeted.
"Demon," Michael hissed, for that was the only explanation for the unholy thing before them. He was a man in shape and size but with eyes that burned black as coal.
Lucifer scowled briefly at his brother before addressing the demon in the dough trough. "Good evening, sir, you seem to be having no trouble in this horrid weather."
"Not at all Prince Lucifer. This sea is my friend and I know how to bend it to my will. Perhaps that skill could be of some use to you now?"
Lucifer laughed, delighted at the offer, but Michael answered before Luc could speak. "At what cost? Our Father's coffers? The run of Heaven?"
The creature put a hand to its breast as if shocked and the eyes it turned to Michael were filled with reproach. "I would never ask you to endanger your kingdom like that, Prince Michael."
"Of course not," Lucifer jumped in, "forgive my younger brother. We would be sincerely grateful for any help you could offer."
"At once, sire, I want nothing more than to offer you the comfort and safety of the shore," the demon said. He stretched one hand out to the storm and paused. "However, it does seem like such a large favor should come with a reward."
Michael made a wordless sound of protest, but Lucifer spoke over him. "Name it."
"I want the next child of Heaven your Father brings forth."
Michael pushed Lucifer to one side and shouted angrily. "Never, get away foul creature and return to your shameful exile."
At once, the demon's agreeable smile changed to rage, and the sea around them raged with him. "Then you can rot at the bottom of the sea, both of you. See if your Father or your feathers can save you now."
Even Lucifer made no move to stop the demon as he retreated away from them. Before long the storm seemed to rage even more fiercely than before, waves threatening to spill the princes into the depths, lightening promising to make the ending fiery.
"Perhaps," Lucifer ventured mildly, clinging to but not looking at Michael, "Father would rather keep the two sons he has alive, rather than save the freedom of one he has not yet, and indeed might never, bring froth."
Michael said nothing in agreement or protest, and he kept his silence while Lucifer called out to the demon to rescue them.
That night both brothers lay warm and dry and safe in their own beds, more miserable than they'd ever been in their lives. Neither slept and neither told their Father of their foolish promise.