Twelve Years Ago…
The hall is dark, lit only by candles that line the floor and the gray, shadowy figures that scale the walls. The smell of rotting meat and candle wax coat everything. It all serves as a reminder to those who enter of what awaits inside. That callous nature and cruel intentions rest in cold eyes and burning need.
Whispers fill the chambers and a throat clears, making those waiting jump and the shadows scatter. Silence fills every corner as ears lean in, listening closely.
"And you've completed your duties for the day?" Carlisle sits on his throne, his pale fingers tapping impatiently against the thick wood. Jasper stands close, his second in command, ticking off names of lower level demons as they bring their offerings to his father. "My time is precious, Jacob."
Jasper's eyes slide along the larger demon, his wings spreading wide in warning as his daggers sit open, strapped along his bare chest in warning to those who enter this place. Runic symbols color his scarred skin, displayed for all to see, marking him as chosen. As a prince. A son of Hell. His respect is felt far and wide with every step he takes in the darkened halls of this palace, fear striking those that scurry from his path.
"Sir." The broad man bows in respect, his flesh hanging on by sinewy threads revealing bone and muscle as he smiles at his king. "I bring you news."
Carlisle leans forward, his red eyes burning bright and his interest peaked. He's such a contrast to the vast darkness. His white suit a beacon in a place filled with so much filth. Dark, blood red wings, their feathers dipped in black, so unlike the harsh webbed and tattered wings that line the backs of his people.
"I have found the girl, Sire." Jacob laughs, sending chills through the air as Carlisle turns to his son, a slow nod signaling him to his side.
Jasper's harsh commands fill the hall, his words a long forgotten tongue. The creatures scurry away, the lower demons fading into the walls. Those that dwell here fear him as much as they do his father. A twitch of lips show the pride residing deep within Jasper as he watches the room clear at once.
"She was a fool to believe she could evade me forever." Carlisle's nails elongate and dig into the ornate wood as a snarl rips from his chest. He'd built that cage himself. Carved the runes that lined its bars with his bare hands. She had escaped before, a pure soul not meant for his tainted grounds, but he'd been cautious this time. Keeping her closer to him than the other souls. Crafting a new form of torture, just for her. Marking her with his scent, and ripping her soul apart with his hands.
He'd broken her. Created something obedient in the rebellious girl that should have been cowering in a corner hundreds of floors below his throne. Her hands should have been shackled to the wall, her mind swirling, running into dark rooms as demon after demon devoured her flesh.
He should have felt her absence.
Jacob slinks back in fear as ink black irises turn to focus on him.
"An angel watches her," Jacob hisses through broken, exposed teeth. His need for approval dripping from him as he looks up at Carlisle. "She's broken and new, but she protects the babe."
The demon conjures the picture in his mind between his frail fingers. Smoke swirls around bone and meat until a tiny child with chubby cheeks and curly hair forms in his palms. Her laughter fills the room and Jacob recoils at the sound.
Jasper and Carlisle sit, minds whirling at the shadow of wings cast over the girl.
Jasper's anger is tangible as he recognizes his brother's onyx wings, tinting blue in the sunlight of the girl's backyard, as he edges closer to her. Even without his sight, their bond pulses through mirage.
Masen lifts the small girl in his arms, a rare smile on his face as she grabs at his wings with her small hand. Disgust ripples through the cave as he whispers promises of protection to his charge. A bond already formed, a future already taking hold.
"A child?" Carlisle leans closer as the girl colors a sheet of paper, her smile lighting up the dark cave. Carlisle snaps his fingers and like a soap bubble it pops and the image disappears into dust.
"It is not unheard of, Father," Jasper reasons, his father's anger drifting across his skin in thick waves.
"Leave us!" The walls shake with the command.
The corners of Lucifer's lips lift and his eyes burn. In an instant the demon known as Jacob explodes, his insides coating the walls as Carlisle sits back, satisfied yet angry.
"Father," Jasper steps closer to the throne, his mind a mess as he processes the scene that was laid before them.
Carlisle taps his bottom lip and closes his eyes. "I would have sensed his betrayal."
"Then you do not believe this madness?" Jasper's eyes narrow. He knows his brother, has played his games for centuries. He knows the draw of a charge, of a bought soul. The temptation of the bargain. The feeling when you rip away the soul of those who come to the crossroads, willing to sell their own for a few years of spoils.
Years ago, and even still, the brothers made a game of it. Each one piling their lists high, collecting soul after soul. Sending the lower demons in to see who could create the bloodiest battlefield. They would boast about their collection as the lower demons gossiped about the cruelty of the brothers and their deeds. Each relishing in the wake of their carnage.
This felt like a betrayal to Jasper. After all, it had been he who set up the exchange with the woman desperate for a child. He was responsible for putting her in Masen's path, certain she would be toyed with until Masen persuaded her to choose another gift.
Bargaining an innocent soul for one of Hell's was never done. Never chanced. A day in Hell for one soul was a thousand tortured days on earth. Their minds were shattered. The risk was too high. It was a ritual to break a soul on the first day by creating a new, better world in their minds before breaking them all over again. The cycle never ended. To release a soul, after hundreds of years, or even just one, would only end badly.
Carlisle eyes his youngest son. Sensing his unease. His hurt thick in the air.
"Masen is very powerful, but his loyalty is his most valued possession and it lies with me. Something else is at work here." Carlisle closes his eyes once more, his mind pulling at the power he needs and his lips whispering against the stale air that surrounds him.
Had it been anyone else in the room, the newly formed presence would have been a surprise. Carlisle would know that unique taste of power anywhere. He'd created it himself, loathed and respected it. It was, after all, what had destroyed and created him all at once.
In the center of the room, drops of rain splash to the floor, their rivlets sliding gracefully down inky black wings as Masen stands, his muscles tight and his eyes narrowed.
"You've summoned for me?" His aggravation spikes as Jasper stands unmoving at his father's side, making Masen laugh. "No hug for your brother?"
"What have you done, Masen?" Jasper's voice breaks, giving away his hurt as he stares at his brother. There were never any secrets between them, and now Jasper feels as though he is losing his brother. As if the fabric that separated their world from the mortals was now ripping them apart.
"Jasper." Carlisle's voice is calm, but neither miss the warning in his dark eyes as he turns to offer his first born a tight smile.
In an instant his wings shimmer out of sight, his tattoos slowly slinking across his skin, taking form as runes and swirling ink. Unlike the chosen few, Masen doesn't flaunt himself around, knowing his presence alone strikes enough fear. He doesn't care for the showy displays as the others do. Instead he lets his influence, his trust, and his loyalties reflect that battle within his eyes.
He is a warrior. A prince birthed in light, but bred for darkness, and every creature in Hell knows it.
"Your new… toy." Carlisle starts, straight and to the point, as Masen's fists clench at his side. "She's quite lovely, Masen. Truly unique."
"Yes." Masen's jaw ticks. "She is."
"May I ask how you acquired her?" Carlisle sits back, a casual stance as his fingers drum the ornate wood. If Masen didn't know his father, he would swear he looked uninterested, bored with their discussion. But anger was something all of them hid well, something Carlisle himself taught both Jasper and Masen to hide.
"A deal with the son of the Devil of course." Masen shrugs, watching Carlisle's every move. Taking in the muscles in his neck, his own tattoos fading as he tries to keep calm, but Masen senses something darker hidden under that white suit. Something beginning to snap free.
"A soul for a soul? We have rules set in place for this sort of thing, Masen. Rules that you show very little respect for. You know souls do not leave these grounds, not even when bargained for another." Carlisle's cold stare turns on Jasper. "You're not much better. I know your role in this as well."
Jasper flinches as Masen watches, anxious to get back. To get away from whatever wrath Carlisle plans to unleash inside this cave.
Growing tired, he asks, "Am I here to be punished?"
"I brought you here to give you a choice." Masen knew there was no choice. It was a test. A test he and Jasper had been given time and time again.
"This soul, the child you ripped from Hell. You are aware of the implications, yes?"
"She shows no signs of madness. She's a child, happy and carefree," he says, but the words are wrong. She's unlike any soul he's ever encountered. Fearless in the way she embraces him. Touching his wings as if they belong to her. Holding his hand in possessiveness every chance she gets.
"Is happiness not lunacy for them? Does it not grow into cruelty over time? Are you so sure she'll even survive? Few do, Masen. Are you prepared for her death, so attached as you seem to be?"
"Is there a point to this?"
"The child has been kissed with the sight of Hell, Masen." Carlisle rises, stepping down from his throne. "My point," he spits. "Is that you now must choose. Your safety or theirs? The mother knows too much, eventually she will condemn the child, maybe even kill her."
Masen flinches, making Carlisle smile. "Did you think she would go unnoticed by the demons that roam the earth? That she wouldn't draw them in like a beacon of light? A soul set free without so much as a mark to show for it? A babe? And you put her with a bargained one? Surely I taught you better than this."
Disappointment shines bright in Carlisle's coal eyes as he paces the room.
"You've seen the madness that slowly eats at those bargained for. She'll offer her daughter up to the first demon that tempts her with more time. With a hiding place beyond our eyes. Was the temptation that strong that you couldn't resist?"
The blood of that soul is still fresh in Carlisle's mind. The blood on his hands as his dagger sat hilt deep in her chest. He holds her secrets in his hands now, safe and far away from his son, but someone is playing games with him, and Masen is suspicious and much too smart.
He could unravel everything if given the chance. The proper tools. A certain soul.
"You must choose now." Carlisle's wings snap at his side, their red tips glowing in the candle light. "Give them up, Masen. Keep your silly game going with your brother and set these two loose to roam freely back in Hell."
"You think that low of me?" Masen laughs. "That I couldn't track a human if she tried to run?"
"I think you weak over a child. I think you're letting a little girl cloud your judgement. She's nothing to you, Masen. A bargain. A pawn on a chessboard. What use do you have for her that prevents you from returning her to Hell?" The mask slips from Carlisle's face, and for only a second, for long enough, fear replaces the anger in Carlisle's eyes.
Masen straightens, his body growing eerily still. "I have my word."
"You'd disobey me?"
Masen narrows his eyes, his wings itching to lash out. They vibrate against his skin, his knuckles turning white as he clenches his fists. He imagines flaying open the secrets hidden beneath his father's flesh.
Masen smiles, truly enjoying himself in the pit his father calls a palace. "She means something to you."
"She wasn't yours to take!" Carlisle snaps, flying across the room, his wings snapping wide as he lands inches from Masen's face. "These souls do not belong to you. You collect them. You do your job. You do not reach into my home and snatch them out."
Masen's eyes turn to slits, shifting from bright white to a cold, icy green. He holds steady, unmoving as he looks into his father's eyes. "When the contract is up I'll pull the souls and hand deliver them to you if you wish, but a deal is a deal."
"Not anymore. They must die. Those are the rules." Carlisle strides to his throne, wings tucked tight behind him as he sits once more. "And this is your punishment."
"This is your final ruling?" Masen's teeth clench, his mind absorbing every move, every word from his father's mouth.
"So be it." With a flick of his hand, a deep red scroll sits in Masen's palm. One name vibrating off the parchment as he squares his shoulders and stares at his father. Masen knows he broke the rules. He knows his father is hiding something and his own suspicions are founded the minute he was summoned. The fury boiling inside his father, the straining of the muscles in his neck his tell.
He doesn't fear Carlisle, but Masen knows his father too well. Things were strained for years between them. Being in that room after years of avoiding him, being summoned and brought there without his permission is just another sign that his father's control is slipping.
The old Carlisle would hunt them down, destroying those souls himself. This Carlisle is vengeful and hot tempered. Impatient. Making mistakes.
Masen will use them against him, playing his own game against him.
"As you wish, father," Masen bows, the wheels in his head spinning. He ignores the ache the girl has left within him. The urge for her closeness as the fear in his father's eyes overshadows her face. Closing himself off to her. Letting his true nature take form.
The unfeeling monster that children are supposed to fear.
She's now the game. A chance to push his father. A battle of wills. The opportunity to unearth the secrets he keeps hidden in the bowels of Hell.
The girl is important, he'd known the second his fingers touched her soul, lifting her from Hell. Something about her called to him, the deal leaving his lips with too much ease. He wasn't supposed to stick around with her, but he couldn't resist the call. The lure. Something about her felt pure even in the darkness that tainted her soul.
With a snap of his wings Masen is out of the cave, a fog of demons trailing close behind as he makes his way to the girl. He summons his own creatures, whispering commands and scanning the watchful eyes of his most trusted.
He lands gracefully in the girl's backyard. His plans already in motion as he let's the veil slip and strides toward her.
When it's over, Masen is exhausted. His body and mind wearing thin and his anger drowning in his need to for answers. For more of the girl. When he returns, his cool mask is set in place as he passes the scroll to his father.
Carlisle sits at his throne, his fingers digging into the wood as his mind spirals out of control. He let himself become comfortable as ruler of Hell, believing he was untouchable, and maybe he was. No one from above ever dared enter this realm. None had the power, nor do they want to taint themselves with the markings this place leaves behind. It's deadly to those above.
But in his complacent state, and after hundreds of years of peace, he gave Masen more freedom. He set him free, collecting souls to fill the burnt out walls of their home. He stopped messengers before, those willing to take the chance against his son. To bring him the truth from above. He would sniff them about before their white tipped wings touched the ground and destroy them, dragging them back to Hell to serve him, lost in a sea of others.
And he wasn't the only one. Masen destroyed them as well. It only took a whisper here, or a rumor there. Masen would snatch their soul and watch as their lifeless bodies crumple to the ground, relishing in his taken. Their hurried words were nothing to him, pleas and cries, desperate for him to listen, were all lost on him.
Until the girl.
"And it's done?" Carlisle blinks, turning his full attention to Masen. The girl lingering only on the edge of his mind, far out of the reach of either of his sons.
"The girl's soul?" Two souls entered with Masen, but Carlisle was too lost in thought, too distracted to know their unique tastes.
"Somewhere deep in Hell where none can touch her again." Masen tucks the scroll away, looking back at his father. "Satisfied?"
Carlisle's eyes narrow, brimming with fire as his teeth puncture his bottom lip. "Very well. You may go."
Carlisle waits a beat after Masen leaves before turning to Jasper. Pure rage sits in his every bone. It chills the entire cave, turning their breathes into puffs of cold air.
Well that escalated quickly.
Or maybe not quickly enough. It HAS been 32648790156 months since my last update. This was actually a part of a larger chapter that I've decided to break up because it makes more sense stopping it here.
Anyway, I hope you guys are still with me. Your reviews has kept my head in this fandom and my fingers to the keyboard so keep'm coming, guys!
Until next chapter!
I rarely do this, but I have a few recs that I love.
Deb Drotuno's Rain Must Fall
JiffyKate's The Other One
And Shadow Mission by maxigrumpling