Thief: Chapter 11

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Chapter Eleven

    Cara gave Raph a sideways look and motioned for him to follow her. “Come on, we haven’t got all night. You know how they get if you keep ‘em waiting.”
    Raph pushed to his feet and followed her out the back door. “They’ll wait.” He said, staying close behind her as they walked down the dank, dimly-lit alley behind the bar.
    Cara snorted. “What do you know, Raph? They’re only waiting because I told them to. You aren’t their leader anymore--I am!”
    Raph sighed--he didn’t have the patience left for her posturing. “I don’t care.” He said tiredly, speeding past her at a brisk clip. Cara clattered on her heels behind him, trying to catch up and swearing loudly as her ankles nearly failed her.
    Ignoring her, Raph shoved the same pile of debris and bottles that has always been there out of the way and uncovered the grate in the wall. Prying it open deftly, Raph dropped himself into the familiar sewer tunnel that lead to the gang’s hideout, landing on his feet with a splash that soaked his shoes completely. “You coming?” he asked, popping his head out to watch Cara as she stomped over.
    “Shut up and get out of my way.” She huffed, slinging herself in beside him. The grate slammed shut with a dull clang behind them. “Let’s just get this over with.” She muttered darkly, skulking away from him further into the cramped tunnel.
    Raph followed after her, stepping lightly to avoid any traps or pitfalls. Luckily for him, it didn’t look like Cara had bothered to change them up since his time. An oversight on her part, sure, but it worked out just fine for him.
    His dress-shoes squelched in something disgusting and he skidded forward, waving his arms to maintain his balance. Grimacing, he made a mental note to change out of the damn suit as soon as the opportunity presented itself. He probably looked as gross as he felt--falling through an arcane portal to Hell would do that to a guy.
    The tunnel stretching out in front of them began to widen, and soon opened up to a large cavern with three more tunnel entrances on the far wall. Cara veered towards the one on the left.
    “That’s the wrong way.” Raph said quickly, glancing towards the path he’d always taken.
    Cara rolled her eyes and kept walking. “You didn’t think we’d keep everything the same, did you?”
    “I guess not,” Raph muttered under his breath.
    Cara led him down an unfamiliar, twisting series of tunnels and corridors, stopping in the middle of one and pulling up a grate in the floor. “Watch your step,” she smirked before jumping down into darkness.
    Raph followed, cautiously lowering himself down and only letting go of the ledge when his feet touched solid ground. He pulled the grate back in place and wiped his hands off on his suit jacket, looking around at the place he now stood in.
    He let out a low whistle, impressed despite himself. “Nice.” He said, taking in the high ceilings of the rough, dark-stone cave. It was much bigger than their old hideout, which had been built into a forgotten section of the old sewer tunnels. There were mismatched sconces lighting up the room with flickering orange flames.
    A long wooden table took up half of the room, and was surrounded by young demons sitting in an odd assortment of mismatched chairs. Raph silently wondered how they’d gotten a table that big all the way down here.
    The kids began to stand up at their approach. “Raph?” A tall, thin boy with prematurely grey hair walked over. He looked Raph over with an expression of mock-confusion. “Wow, you’re a lot more…alive than I thought you’d be.”
    Raph punched him on the shoulder lightly. “Nice to see you too, Allister.” Allister chuckled and rubbed at his shoulder. “Ow. Yeah. Nice isn’t the word I would’ve gone with. The hell did you get yourself into?”
    A girl with pointed ears showing through her long dark hair came up behind Allister, draping herself over his shoulder and leaning heavily on him. “You mean what the hell did he get us all into, right, Alli? Hi Raph.”
    It took Raph a second to place the girl’s face. He nearly did a double-take as he realized who she was. “Isabelle?!” he said, failing to hide the surprise in his voice. Her full lips pulled into a smirk that showed off a flash of fangs. That was her, alright. When Raph had last seen Isabelle she’d been a tiny, scrappy little thing, all adolescent angles and big, midnight blue eyes. She’d really grown up since he’d left the gang, and wasn’t hiding her hellhound features the way she’d used to.
    “You totally didn’t recognize her!” Cara called accusatorily from her seat at the head of the table. Of course the chaise lounge was her seat.
    Isabelle laughed and shook her head. “It’s okay, I almost didn’t recognize him. What are you even wearing, the Ralph Lauren Hot Mess collection?”
    Raph scowled and grumbled something about portals made of angel flesh.
    Isabelle raised both eyebrows and cocked her head to the side. “You know what? I don’t want to know.” She stated, walking back to the table and taking her seat.
    “Come on!!” Cara cried impatiently. “Some of us were in the middle of looting, remember?”
    All of us were in the middle of looting, boss.” A boy sitting near her pointed out.
    “That’s exactly why I need your help.” Raph said as he strode towards the table. He sunk into the seat at Cara’s right hand, a battered leather armchair that had seen better centuries. “You all know your way around Hades; you know the back alleys and the places that people have forgotten on both sides of the river. You’ve forgotten more about the nobility and their palaces than most demons ever learn.”
    Allister nodded. “Know your enemy. You taught us that.”
    “Right,” Raph said, inhaling shakily before he continued. He had to do this, even if it was crazy. He’d promised. “I need your help to break into the dungeons and rescue an angel.”
    The room exploded into noise as a dozen voices began talking all at once.
    “THE FU--“
    “An angel? What--“
    “---all gonna die--“
    A sharp, piercing whistle tore through the air, echoing shrilly off the cavern walls. Cara glared at her crew, then turned her gaze to Raph. “Explain. Tell them what you told Judah and Horace. Guys, I know this sounds crazy, but my stupid big brother has gotten involved in some end-of-the-world shit and we need to help him.”
    Raph explained the situation, all of it, reliving details he’d almost forgotten and telling them why Abby, and therefore Gabe’s soul, were so ridiculously important to their continued survival. He finished and looked at the stunned faces surrounding him, feeling once again like this was all a huge mistake.
    It was Isabelle who broke the silence. “I’ll help you, Raph. I owe you one, right?” She winked at him, offering a smaller smile than before. “But if we pull this off, you’ll owe me.”
    Allister stared Raph in the eyes. “You’re crazy and this whole thing is suicide. But I’m in.” He grinned at Raph, who glanced at Cara.
    She rolled her eyes. “You already know I’m going to help, idiot. I’d have led you into the death tunnel if I wasn’t.”
    Raph blinked. Death tunnel? He didn’t have time to dwell on that as everyone else around the table grudgingly chimed in their acceptance.
    “Okay, so we’re doing this,” Cara said, looking over the gang like a queen holding court. “Any ideas?”
    A short kid near the end of the table spoke up in a surprisingly deep voice. “Getting in is the easy part. The palace is ancient. There are passageways and corridors that have been abandoned for years, entire wings that no one remembers. Getting in isn’t the problem. Getting out is.”
    A girl with short spiky blonde hair nodded in agreement beside him. “You’ll need to escape quickly once you grab the angel--Gabe, right?-- but you can’t. Mirrors won’t work in the dungeons, not for demons like us. Ever heard of anyone escaping the dungeons?” she asked, looking around at her companions. “Yeah. You haven’t. Because only an Original Fallen’s power works in the dungeons. And unless one of us is secretly a General who’s been slumming it, we aren’t getting that angel out any time soon.”
    Raph took a moment to digest this new information. The girl was right; without a quick way to escape, they had no chance. If he couldn’t just warp Gabe and himself to the surface, they’d both end up imprisoned, and Abby wouldn’t be far behind.
    “Well that settles it then,” Allister said, like he already knew the answer. Raph shot him a questioning glance. Allister shrugged. “All we have to do is blackmail an Original Fallen. How hard could it be?”
    Raph stared at Allister unblinkingly as he turned the idea over in his head. “That…might actually work. How good are you guys at stalking people?”

Thief: Chapter 10

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Chapter Ten

    “Daddy?” Mammon asked, both eyebrows raised. Of all the things he had expected to hear from the girl’s mouth, that certainly hadn’t been one of them. “I’m not your father. I don’t have any children.”
    She pouted, and then smirked. “Sure you do, pops. You just weren’t a great dad. Kind of a deadbeat, actually.”
    Mammon glowered at her; he’d never seen this girl in his life, and if he had, he probably would have snapped her neck long ago. She was annoying him.
    She carried on, unperturbed. “My mother is Colonel Lyricia of the 1st Battalion. That should jog your memory.”
    Mammon didn’t even try to stop the laugh that escaped him. “You presume too much, girl. You could rhyme off her name, address and a list of her best features, and I still wouldn’t remember the slut.”
    Her face contorted into an ugly snarl.
    “Calm down.” He snapped. Tiresome girl. “I only seduce people I want something from. If I slept with your mother, it was because she had something to offer me other than her companionship. Whatever it was, it couldn’t have been that memorable.”
    The girl inhaled, sharply and irritably. “Fine, whatever. Since you obviously don’t know, I’m Lorelei. I just came here to help you out, dad. You seem to be in a bit of trouble, you know, now that you’ve pissed off all of the royals.” She grinned, pale eyes lighting up. “Besides, I thought we could get in a little father-daughter bonding!”
    Mammon snorted. “Bonding?” he muttered, glancing at his exhausted, wounded dogs. They weren’t panting as hard, and were quietly checking each other for damage. He was glad to have stopped running, if only for their sakes. If they didn’t have time to recover, they would cease to be of any use to him. And by the sound of it, he needed all the allies he could get right now. Not that he trusted Lorelei as far as he could throw her. The girl was hiding something; that much was painfully obvious. 
    And what could that possibly be, he thought sarcastically. Satan and Lucifer both called for his blood, and if Lorelei was anything like her father, she was all ready to sell him to the highest bidder. No doubt his pretty head would fetch a handsome price. But, he had to admit, he was rather attached to it. A smile curved across his pale lips, lifting the edges slightly. His supposed progeny would soon learn the first lesson her father would ever teach her; never cross a double-crosser.
    “So you want to help me, hmm? Somehow I doubt that.” Power flooded his veins in an instant, his eyes filling with black. Darkly glowing tattoos wove their way across his pale skin.
    Lorelei blinked in surprise, then let out a low chuckle. “Should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy.” Her light-gray eyes abruptly turned black as she tapped into her power. “Why don’t you make this easy on yourself and just give up now? I’d almost feel bad, hurting an old man like you.”
    Mammon snorted again. “Worry about your own hide.” He said, warping behind her fast as a whip and curling his fingers towards her neck. She disappeared just as quickly, materialising at the far end of the clearing.
    Freja growled low in her throat and made to rush Lorelei, dark markings swirling below the surface of her blood-smeared skin. “Stay.” Mammon ordered, giving her and Fenris a look. He wanted to test the girl’s abilities himself; he didn’t need their interference. Lorelei wasn’t nearly as dangerous as she thought she was. “I thought you came here to fight, not run and hide.” He called, voice ringing as it echoed off the preposterously large tree trunks.
    “Fight, yes. Die?” In a snap she was in front of him, so near that he could feel her breath on his face. “Not today.” She pulled away from him, but he was too fast for her, feinting alongside her and gripping her arm. She tried to shake him off, to no avail. With a hard jerk, he twisted her around and pinned her arm behind her back.
    “No?” he breathed, mildly disappointed that it was over already. The fight he had anticipated had been little more than a sorry spat; frankly, he had hoped for more from someone claiming to be his child.
    He was about to say so when she suddenly twisted back around and rammed a short blade into his side up to the hilt. “No.” she snarled, dissipating in a blink.
    Hissing softly through his teeth, Mammon reached down, probing the fresh wound with bare fingers. He held them up to his eye-level, rubbing the fresh, rapidly cooling blood between thumb and fingers. “Interesting,” he said, looking from his bloody fingertips to the girl.
    He smiled coldly at Lorelei, who stood a good ten yards away, holding the arm he had twisted. With the odd way it was hanging, he assumed he had dislocated it. Good. “Well. Perhaps you aren’t as much of a disappointment as I thought. Who knows! At the rate you’re going,” His breath hitched as he pulled the short blade out in one smooth motion. “you might become daddy’s favourite.” He tossed the knife to the ground, carelessly stepping on it as he walked towards Lorelei.
    He had what he wanted; there was no point in drawing this farce out any longer. Plans rapidly constructed themselves in his head now that he had a better idea of her capabilities. Yes, she would do quite nicely, he thought. Naïve, misguided little Lorelei wouldn’t realise what role she played in his own grand scheme until it was far too late to stop him; he would make sure of that. He just had to make the next bit convincing.
    He was sure that the sharp blow to the back of her skull was convincing, as was the knee to her stomach as she bowled over gracelessly. The swift kick he dealt her face with his scuffed, filthy shoes had to have been convincing; he’d really tried on that one. He stood over her as she moaned, hands over her bloodied mouth. Something was missing. Ah! Of course. One short second later, he had the dirt and blood encrusted blade in hand.
    “I almost forgot to return this to you, sweetheart.” He said, smooth as silk. “Let daddy help you put your toys away.” He said, plunging the knife into her torso, making a matching wound on the exact opposite side of his own. Her cries of anguish fell on deaf ears.
    “Fenris. Freja. Here.” He commanded, and the dogs rushed to his side. Deftly, Mammon grabbed their hands in his. “Been lovely catching up with you, dear. We must do this again sometime.” He said, smiling pleasantly at the girl writhing in pain on the forest floor. “Now, daddy has to go talk to some very important people about a business proposition.” He braced himself for teleportation. “Be a good girl.”
    He smirked, warping away from Lorelei and the forest of tall trees. He made sure she was following his trail before he changed directions. Stupid girl. Just as he’d banked on. She’d learn by the end of this to never, ever try to cross him again.

Thief: Chapter 9

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Chapter Nine

    The doors opened and Abby watched in amazement as the angels, all looking terrified, bowed low. The younger demon had retreated to Horace’s side, and stared with a mixture of horror and revulsion at the thing that stepped into the library. Unable to stop herself, Abby stared too.
    Her mind ignored the four people surrounding it like guards and focused instead on the strangest child she had ever seen. The child, who looked about ten years old, was completely bald. It didn’t seem to have eyebrows or eyelashes either, and its eyes glowed a pure, blank bright white.
    She could feel that that blank, dead gaze resting on her and shivered. She understood why the angels were so unnerved by the child’s presence. It showed no emotion, but its blank eyes seemed ancient as they bored into hers.
    It took another step forward, the pristine, voluminous white robe it wore rustling as it moved. She couldn’t discern the child’s gender at all; its features were too soft to be male, and too harsh to be female. It probably didn’t matter one way or the other, if the child even had a gender. She doubted it was human. Somehow, she just couldn’t see this kid going to school or playing with toys.
    The child and its entourage made their way steadily towards Abby, the angels in the room ducking aside with bows and murmured blessings in another language that she somehow half-understood. When it noticed the two demons, the child raised the skin above its eyes where its eyebrows should have been. “Fascinating,” it murmured in a soft voice that seemed to fill the room, bouncing off the corners and whispering into every ear at once.
    Abby’s eyes widened; that wasn’t normal.
    The demons huddled together wordlessly, Horace shoving the boy who Abby was certain was his little brother behind him, shielding him with his own body as he tried to put up a brave front. His jaw was set in a harsh grimace and he glared down at the child defiantly, almost angrily. It all would have been more convincing if his medals and badges weren’t clinking and rattling together from his constant shivering.
    Dismissing them, the child swiveled its head towards Aiden and Gabriel Sr. “Greetings, General. Archangel.” It said, quiet voice echoing through the entire room again.
    “Metatron,” Aiden said, careful and polite. “What brings you here?”
    Metatron’s tone was as expressionless as its face. “We are here for the girl, the same as you.” It turned, eyes once again meeting Abby’s. “You have caused quite a commotion this night. I expect you would like to know why.”
    Abby nodded once, stiffly. She still had more unanswered questions than anything.
    The child began to speak. “You must understand one thing; you are what they say you are. You are not of them; you are of Us.”
    Its white eyes flashed golden for a split-second, and Abby blinked. “Us?”
    This time, it was the shorter demon who answered, his voice trembling and terse. “It’s the freaking Metatron, girl--get with the program!” Ignoring his brother’s furious cry of “Judah!”, he continued. “That kid’s the Voice of God; the Speaker. The Holy Mouthpiece. It’s God’s freaky little meat puppet, and it’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen--and I literally live in Hell!”
    Abby understood that. Metatron didn’t exactly give off a cuddly vibe, and neither did the four angels powering up around it, sending murderous glances Judah’s way as their tattoos spun.
    “Enough,” the child whispered, loudly enough to leave Abby’s ears ringing. “It would take more than a frightened child’s words to anger Us.” Its empty eyes never left Abby’s face. “We are here to discuss your destiny, girl. You have a purpose you must serve, and We are here to tell you to continue on your path.”
    Abby just looked at Metatron incredulously, frustration boiling over. “What path?! What destiny?! Are you trying to tell me that what happened out there tonight, what happened to Gabe and…and Eli…was all part of some greater plan?!”
    It stared at her, unblinking. “Everything happens for a reason. No step you take or breath you inhale is without purpose. That purpose, however, is yours to discover.”
    If anything that frustrated her more. “So what about Gabe then! If you’re an all-powerful being, why don’t you bring his soul back right now?!”
    “Everything happens for a reason. He is exactly where he is meant to be at this very moment. I am not the one to save him; that task befalls another.”
    Those words hurt like a slap to the face--Gabe wasn’t supposed to be in Hell or on some hospital bed as a breathing corpse. He was supposed to be here, with her.
    She opened her mouth to speak, but her voice was crushed by Metatron’s next sentence. “Nothing happened that wasn’t meant to.” As it said this the child cast a look over his shoulder at one of the angels guarding him, a tall, muscular man with short brown hair who wore a crisp black suit. The angel avoided Metatron’s gaze, averting his eyes to stare silently at the floor.
    Metatron turned back to Aiden and Gabriel Sr. and began asking them questions about everything that had happened. It was much to Abby’s surprise when the same whispy-strong voice filled her mind and began conversing with her in private. “The demons weren’t wrong; you are a dangerous weapon, and it’s only a matter of time before you destroy everything you hold dear.”
    Abby inhaled sharply, but was luckily ignored by everyone else. The outward discussion seemed to have taken a turn for the intense. Aiden was gesturing furiously, talking with his hands in big, swooping movements.
    Her attention was abruptly diverted. “You are meant for more than blind destruction. Only you can change the outcome of the war.”
    What war?” Abby thought at the voice.
   “The war that has already begun, the war that has always raged below your feet and over your head. You are the turning of the tide; you are what will decide the outcome of the final battle that rapidly approaches.”
    How is that possible?! I don’t know anything about any of this!” she projected in alarm.
    “And so you must learn. You are Our most powerful Creation. You will be the final factor. Your power alone is the key to victory, and you will either be a pawn, as you so feared, or a force of your own volition. That is your decision.”
    She didn’t know what to think or say or do, and she sat in stunned silence. Metatron’s voice whispered into her mind once more. “Go with the demons if you wish to master your powers; you will learn more outside than you ever could hope to in this place. But be wary. The darkness forever presents an easier road, though you may not like what lies at the end of it. I wish you the greatest fortune, Abigail. May you choose your path wisely. For all of our sakes.”
    The child’s voice and presence receded from her mind, and the conversation playing out in front of her seemed to be drawing to a close. “…there really isn’t much else to tell after that.” Gabriel Sr. concluded.
    Metatron inclined its head, face as blank as ever. No one would ever guess that it had just been carrying on a conversation like that with Abby in her mind. She wasn’t sure that she believed it herself. “That will be all then. Come,” the child said, motioning to its guards. “We must return.”
    One of the angels, a black man dressed in a suit identical to the ones his cohorts wore, cleared his throat. Metatron turned to look at him. “Yes?”
    “I wish to stay, if that would be alright with you. I’d like to see to...” he coughed as if covering up a break in his voice.
    “Ah,” Metatron said. “Your son. Of course.”
    The man he had eyed earlier stepped forward. “I would like to stay as well.” He said simply.
    Metatron considered this for a moment before nodding his assent. “If you insist, Michael. Izrafel, my deepest condolences.”
    “Thank you.” The black man, Izrafel, said as the child and his two remaining guards left the library, though his tone was anything but grateful. He sounded angry and--oh god. Oh no no no no no.
    “You’re Eli’s father?” Abby asked, her voice coming out as little more than a strained whimper. The hard look Izrafel gave her told her volumes more than words could ever hope to convey.

Thief: Chapter 8

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Chapter Eight

    Lucifer raised his hand and the enormous doors burst open with a resounding bang. Storming into the throne room, he lowered his hand and the doors closed again just as quickly and loudly as they’d opened. 
    The servants cleaning up the remnants of the ball took one look at him and his expression and scattered, the ifrit vanishing in puffs of smoke. Others ducked out through the servant’s entrances that were well-hidden in the wall-panels.
    Lucifer ignored them all, very deliberately making his way to the raised dais and his throne. He stalked straight through the group of bloody, beaten demons cowering before the platform, not caring that some of them failed to scramble out of the way. More than one hand got caught beneath the solid, heavy tread of his dress boots and was crunched satisfactorily underfoot. None of them dared to even whimper.
    Lucifer climbed the steps and turned, seating himself smoothly with a rippling flourish of his cape. He had decked himself out in his finest royal trappings, smoothed his tousled hair artfully and placed the heavy crown back on his brow. He looked every inch a conqueror king, and the demons quaking below him told him that it had the desired effect.
    Draven kneeled in front of what was left of his team, his face pressed to the floor even harder than Astarte’s had been. His massive form hadn’t so much as twitched as Lucifer’s heel had ground into his outstretched palm, and if it weren’t for the rise and fall of his naked, heavily scarred back, Lucifer would have thought him dead. No doubt Draven wished he was.
    “What happened?” Lucifer asked quietly, staring down at the exposed back of Draven’s neck. His head General didn’t answer, though a shudder shook through his hunched body at his words. Cold rage filled Lucifer--perhaps Draven would get his wish, after all.
    “TELL ME!” He roared, power flooding him and flinging Draven up into the air effortlessly. Draven grunted as he crashed into a dark marble pillar, the hard surface buckling beneath him. Lucifer picked him up again, never moving from his seat. “How did you fail me, Draven?!” He shouted, tossing him towards the ceiling.
    His impact made the room shake, and tiny chips of stone rained down on them. “Why don’t you explain it to me, point. By. Point.” He punctuated his words with further slams of Draven’s bulk into the ceiling and floor, bouncing him up and down as carelessly as a child with a ball.
 Lucifer smiled. “Finally, the peanut gallery speaks.” He turned towards the voice and was greeted by the terrified gaze of one of Draven’s soldiers. The idiot looked ready to wet himself. Pathetic.
    “I mean, uh, stop, please, your majesty. If you want to, of course!”
    Wordlessly Lucifer dropped Draven from the ceiling, not looking to see where he landed. He was still alive; Draven wouldn’t die that easily. “Speak.”
    The demon flinched, nervously pressing his hands together as he spoke. “It wasn’t the General’s fault that we--that things didn’t go…as planned.” Lucifer stared at him. “There was another reason; the General’s son, the Hunter…he showed up and ruined everything! He was working against us--working against you, your Majesty!”
    “Mammon,” Lucifer growled under his breath. Of course that bastard would come back and try to ruin everything. Stupid naïve pale waste of skin--he’d been breathing for far too long. He made a mental note to scrape the flesh from his bones before he killed him.
    “Is this true?” he asked the puddle of bloody muscle twitching on the marble floor. Draven wheezed, a sticky, wet sound. Lucifer could hear the blood frothing and snapping in his throat with each breath. His lip curled in disgust--how the mighty had fallen. “I’ll take that as a yes, you simpering cur.”
    He sighed and raised his hand, lifting Draven to the ceiling and pinning him there so that the blood poured down, out of his throat to pool on the floor far below. He couldn’t have his General dying of something so mundane as choking on his own blood. He secured Draven in place with another pulse of dark power, and turned back to the man’s cowering subordinates.
    “Thank you,” Lucifer said pleasantly, addressing the one who had spoken up. “You’ve been extremely helpful.” He spread out the fingers of one hand and flicked his wrist, and the demon was torn limb from limb in an instant. His comrades scooted away, one of them going glassy-eyed and green before retching noisily.
    Standing, Lucifer sauntered from the throne, booted feet squelching through the pools of blood that now spotted the throne-room floor. The place grew darker and colder, the walls groaning and quaking around him. “FIND HIM!” He bellowed as he strode from the room.
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