19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility
Twitching, the world took on a surreal color pallet.
She slept with her arm over his shoulders, cuddled up to his back like two spoons in the flatware box. This world faded away and another one slid forward on soft cat-paws in his mind.
A nightmare invaded Kane’s slumber. A violent dream.
He was angry. He was fighting and he was fury incarnate, down to his core, he was… He was…
He was Orcus the avenging demon of wrongs. The angry imp that struck in an instant.
The black-soul that would invade a lover’s heart and turn the loving soul into a murderer in a moment for minor wrongs, bringing new slaves to the Dark Lord for his bidding.
And found – Not an angelic minion, a nameless adversary. It was… It… was… even in his dream, he stammered.
It was HER!
He defended his Angel. It played vividly in his mind, he was again there when the Hoard attacked. For his heart focused only on one soul ever. A heart properly motivated would do anything. In defense of his deepest mote of love, that one spark never lost, did he do the unthinkable.
But the hesitation brought the unwanted attention of the Dark One who did not believe in such deep thoughts – Backing up his best, his most infernal, the one who brings the most of the new souls in for the Satan, Emperor of Hell to torment for his pleasure.
The Great Angel of the Pit arrived and struck her a crushing blow, pushing the smaller imp out of harms way, attacking the crimson haired angel delivering a huge slash across her arms and with that single blow of his clawed hand, he knew her name.
Bronwyn they called her. In that instant he knew it was her human name. Somewhere in time there was a candle lit for her. But that mattered not, this soul, that forestalled the killing stroke of the best of his warriors, one who commanded a legion. The Emperor’s best and brightest, the most savage, one of the most feared of all.
A blow stung him to the core as she struck back, a blessed sword of holy crystal! With a mighty roar of a thousand damned hearts, and struck at her with claw and fang, to tear out a new soul. Not one that would be returned to this little Angel’s lord. Her flesh would be ravaged, spirit would be torn and body broken as he pounced on her like a savage raptor of hate, of the dark side and he struck with a blow to shatter souls; it was the law of things in battle. The mighty overwhelm the weak.
But this angel did not read the rule book.
The bright, pure soul of the host, drove Hell’s Master backwards the flash of a moment as she struck him with the might of the host. Michael would not have struck as hard. Silver chain mail over her torso resisted the power of darkness, for this was for this was one of the great warrior archangels. Fitting her like a wet shirt, it guarded against the savage horde. However, it was not on par with the supreme demon of the darkness.
The battle ensued, he was savage and she as a blinding light against his dark, claw to armor, fist to fang. The whole of the lands shook with the fury of battle. Master against Angel, there was no turning back, Bronwyn was fighting for her immortal soul and there was no mercy, no plea that would be heard. This was a battle to the end of it all, to the death of two immortal beings.
She struck with enough power and heart to knock him to his knees, enough power to break a demon. But not this Dark Lord, almighty in his satanic powers, he was beyond her dreams of power. He took his measure of her strength, weighed her power and compared it to his own. She who had gotten a few hits in, her light was as a small lamp in the pitch darkness of night. Bright as she was, she was found wanting, and he retaliated.
That little blessed knife of hers, broken and thrown away, hummed feebly in the dirt.
And the Devil struck with the might of Hell – again and again the great dark fist of the Emperor shattered her body, her shield of faith. Her soul would taste like a sweet grape on his tongue after he tore it out of her and consumed it, never to return to the adversary of her Lord of Light. To hell with an angel.
Beaten, weaponless, on her knees, held by one wing he beat her again and again. She screamed one name.
Her screams echoed in the cold, dead heart. Somewhere in the dust of ages, among the dead and heavily scarred flesh that wound around the blackened and charred whole of his soul, a spark that was hidden was found and it heard – the spark flared, burned and ignited something within the emptiness that was the heart of a demon.
A rage that grew, fanned to flames by the winds of memory that rushed back, an awakening of a promise once made to a pure soul. The spark that remembered once promised to protect.
But not this time.
Shall not. Ever again. Fail.
And a single word, born from the very core of fury.
Corruption was who he was, a body covered in hideous scars of ages of combat, unholy visage of a beak-like face, horns for hair and red-rage that glowed in his eyes. Orcus, a name known only to Bronwynn, had in that one moment, that blistering rage that erupted and attempted control of in a futile effort, the Emperor of Hell saw and knew.
One brief shining moment of longing crossed the angry face of the warrior-demon. Of passion’s fire kindled in a heart that had long gone to cold ash. A history that was once forgotten, rose again in the demon once thought soulless, an ember of passion rose and the testimony of that one quiet hot mote arose to live again in the being that was Orcus. A soul, blasted and scarred with self-hatred and anger.
“You wish this female? Take her soul then. Use the battle-ax, the Claw of Hades and cut it from her.” The terrible eyes of the Emperor turned on the General of his legions. “Strike her sacred body, cut off her wings, cut out her soul and you will stay together for an eternity! You will command together. Whole legions of demons that would respect you both, you will the power second only to mine, you both will be in Hell forever.”
The dark countenance of the Dark Lord was that of savage pleasure, to have her struck down without her fighting back. A total defeat of an angel and the stealing of a soul as pure as this.
“Power and love of your mate for all time. Fear and respect from others, none shall dare not stand up to you.” The Dark Master spoke to the smaller demon.
On the battlefield the three stood, all demons had stopped their corrupt actions and watched the drama, would an angel switch sides for love? Would the great Gardener stand up and save one of his own. A warrior angel, the best and brightest, one that had once turned her back on heaven to live a life with a love. One where her heart once rejoiced so much that it echoed in heaven.
The Dark Lord held her by a copper-colored wing, this angel, one who had given her heart to Orcus so long ago with the blessing of her Enlightened One. The long scarred and hideous arm held her out as if to offer a meal to the demon for his abuse, for the cut to come. To take her into the darkness and drive out doubt in the host.
Once an old affable gardener with wisdom unmatched and told her to go to the Imp and love him good and well.
“Raise him up, love him all the days on that little spot that you claim your own.”
This moment she hung helpless in a giant’s clawed hand. On a finger an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake on the hand, he squeezed and smoke billowed from her wing and Bronwynn screamed in pain. The battle between the light and dark over for the moment.
But there was no fight left in this angel. Her crystal sword broken and the angel’s battered and bruised body hung limply from combat against the one called Satan. She was out of energy. With not enough strength to fight, she hung in his mighty grip and cried. Holy chain-mail hung off her in tatters and shreds. Plates of armor, harder than diamonds, tougher than a heart of a warrior crushed like foil lay on the ground.
Defeated, no weapons left, too weary to lift her arms. Bronwyn hung there, broken and beaten.
A flick of the wrist and she was flung across the battlefield at the feet of the demon of retribution, vengeance and pain.
“Cut her soul from the angels body and you will have her forever.” The Dark One spoke. “How deep is the love you have? What would you do for that passion that burns in your chest? Do you believe you have a love for this small one?”
“She pleases me.” Orcus looked at her.
The old rage was there, ruby-red eyes of a savage demon. But… something else and it did not go unnoticed.
“DO you love her?” The question was more of a statement by Hell’s Master.
“I…” A hesitation. How does one give up a weakness? Never a good idea to do so to anyone that has power over you… but… “Love her.”
“What sweetness.” Satan laughed. “Would you do anything for her love?”
“Yes.” Orcus was watching her, greed in his wholeness. Cultivated consciously, lust for power. Turning away from love. Lust for a mate. Not love. To use her for pleasure. NOT love.
“I love her.” Damn it all! Orcus thought. Not what he wanted to say.
“Sweet indeed. Love for an angel. Does the small demon wish her with him forever and ever?” The Emperor said softly. “I can give her to you.Just give her the stroke, take her soul and bring her to you. Live forever in each others company in the beauty of your world. Can you do that? Can you love her enough to bring her to you?”
“I can do that. The soul of an angel, power untold. I can do that.” A grin from the lips that split with the evil of his own words.
Savage anger glowed from his eyes, the Claw of Hades, an old friend, a battle-ax whose blade had ten points for piercing of armor in his hands that caressed its polished surface as if it were a sexual device. The tip of the main blade pressed against the bare flesh of her chest, an unprotected gap of her rent and destroyed armor.
Bronwyn looked up into the eyes of the one she loved most in all the worlds, all the universes that existed, anywhere she ever lived, anyplace she had gazed upon — she had given him her heart.
The tip of the ax rested against the curve of her throat, where it joined her torso, she had nothing more to give this demon, the imp that held her heart. Trying to tell him, never did he fail her. For she loved him greater than all the souls that were in heaven.
An evil laugh as the Master knew what would come. “Would you do anything for love?”
“I would do anything for power! I would do anything for love.” Orcus cackled now.
Bronwyn gave him her best, most vulnerable spot, knowing the pain of the cut coming. Not fighting any longer, she arched her neck back, offering her soul, she gave up all that would be her history, her love, her passion.
She would give up her heaven.
Her lord and her soul.
And waited for the cut that would take her from the light and plunge her forever into the darkness of the pit of the abyss.
She then heard the last time he would speak to her in this world.
“I’ll do anything for love.” His breath was hot on her cheek.
His breath coming in deep ragged gasps of blood lust, she knew. The tip of the cursed battle-ax, a gift from Hades to Orcus in another long ago age, pressed against her throat dimpling the flesh.
“I would do anything for your love. ” He said again, softer. “I will have you as mine forever.”
She could feel the muscles of the battle-scarred body tense, the winding up of the moment, he was ready and the blow was moments away.
“I”ll do anything for love!”
Bronwyn closed her eyes, waiting for the first sensation of pain that marked the end of her heavenly life as she gave herself to her love, her heart, and the one that brightened her soul even from the darkest of realms.
She closed herself off to the view of the one with the weapon that had her at his mercy. The him through time and realms that they had traveled. Through dimensions, ages, together they had once loved laughed and had light of the universe in their hearts.
“I’ll do anything for love…” He drew a deep breath through sharpened and savage teeth…
*I love you.* It was her last thought.
“… NO! I WON’T DO THAT!”
Turning in an instant, Orcus hurled the cursed ax, the Claw of Hades at Satan himself, launching into an attack against the Emperor of Hell, this demon of legend, the First Emperor of all things of evil intent, action and temptation.
A simple flick of the Lord of the Demon’s hand and the ax flew away over his shoulder, landing uselessly in the battlefield beyond the reach of the smaller demon.
“I knew you! Traitor! You shall live forever as a slave to serve us all! Torment by those being tormented, undying life of slime, never-ending pain is all yours forever. I shall enjoy consuming your angel, she is MINE.”
“NEVER! You will starve!” The Demon screamed.
Savage was Orcus’ attack, the crushing blows he delivered was with every mote of his being, all sound, all battles, all conflict stopped as the host of heaven and the hoards of hell halted their battles and watched this ballet of destruction played out.
Watching the fight that suddenly became center stage of a battlefield, Asmodeus turned to Lucifer. “One-hundred on Orcus.”
“You’re on.” Lucifer already had plans to tell the Emperor how the odds were. Who bet on the outcome.
“I’ll take some of that.” The Beelzebub stood near the arch-demons. “I’ll take the Master.”
“Roll your own dice Beeze?” Leviathan laughed, the giant put down his vote for Orcus. Calling him “The once and future Emperor”.
Savage orange fire from the mouth of the Emperor for the chest of Orcus as he folded his wings around for protection and laughed as the flames enveloped his body.
“Time to fall!” A scream from the beak-like face as the demon went claw to talon, fang to fire as Satan did battle with the best and darkest of his demons. Green fire from the clawed hands of the demon that shattered the confidence and wings of the Emperor. The tail of the once-Emperor, whipped through the darkened atmosphere of war, a weapon unto itself, the prehensile appendage wrapped itself around the throat of the Dark One.
“To slime, to torment, to slavery with you! For LOVE I shall strike. For her soul I shall beat you into the ground.” Orcus screamed as his tail tightened against the armor-scale of a neck as he looked into the compound beast-eyes. Sixty-six and six-hundred pupils that he saw his reflection framed by the horned face.
“For my angel’s heart, you will suffer!”
Satan’s quad-lipped mouth opened up and exposed too many teeth as the Emperor of Hell choked on a grip tighter than steel that squeezed ever tighter. The Devil’s mouth tried to bite the scale covered hide of traitorous demon.
Twisting about in the noose of a tail, the Dark Lord landed a blow that registered on earth as an earthquake. Scientists explained that a previously unknown fault shook the humans. The same blow nearly obliterated the demon, but Orcus fought back with the power of love. The demon was unstoppable as Satan was relentless. Again they collided head on, claw to claw, fang to tusk. Each blow measured to inflict the greatest damage, each block meant to waste the energy of the opponent.
Never had there been such a challenge to his power. Victory was not assured, for the fist time in an age – Satan, the Emperor of Hell, felt fear.
Fire and fury, hate versus love. A Dark-Heart against the power of darkness, the energy of both opponents took a toll as they gave their all for victory.
One loved power, the other loved.
Suddenly a misstep, a missed moment in a battle against an implacable enemy and Orcus was flung backwards by a titanic blow, one wing broken, the other wing torn, horns broken, eyes unfocused. The right arm lay useless under his body.
Tired and out of breath, the Emperor of hell moved towards the demon that dared to choose love over immeasurable power, lust and greed. This Satan, wheezing and blinded in half his eyes, all the fingers on the right hand missing and the Emperor of Hell walked on his hands, swinging his leg forward in an ape-like walk, trailing black ichor that served as blood, towards the traitor, a stump where the left leg was missing. He struggled to tear with his remaining hand, to finish the demon, to turn him into the lowest of the slime of hell – Better! To consume the dark soul until it was no more, to digest and spit out that which they called “Love”.
As the Emperor got close to the puny and broken imp, close enough to strike with what was left of his claws and fangs, Orcus held his left hand outstretched towards the Emperor…
Was this beseeching? That thought was entertaining.
A plea for mercy? A laugh at the thought rose in Satan’s mind.
A plea? Hardly.
It was a call, a command to a part of the demon’s own wholeness, a call to an old friend, a gift from the Emperor that followed Orcus to the throne. The call to the Claw of Hades, a call that the ax must answer. Return to its owner no matter the obstacle.
Behind the Dark Lord, the Claw of Hades lay in the filth of the battlefield, forgotten in the rage of battle. Tossed so easily away by the more powerful demon and never given a thought after.
A fatal mistake.
The weapon, as much a part of Orcus as his tail was, answered its call. The ten-pointed ax trembled, slightly at first, then turned blade first and raced through the air to the Master of the Ax in a straight line, regardless of what was in the way.
The Dark Lord became aware of the whistling noise, the disturbance drew the great demon’s attention, but too late.
Returning to Master of the Ax, the cursed weapon drove through the through the forehead of the Dark Lord on the way to the hand of Orcus. The look of surprise was entertaining to the old demon as for one brief glorious moment as Orcus nearly laughed, the Great Devil himself, the destroyer, He who defeated Hel who gave her name to the kingdom that He then ruled. He who defeated Hel held his hands up in frozen stark surprise…
And imploded without a sound, like a shadow banished from view when a light shines into the darkness.
The Dark Lord was no more in one last anticlimactic, quiet, mundane moment.
All that was left, an ebony ring of an apple surrounded by a snake that fell to the ground. Frost formed where it bounced until it stopped moving. A freezing fog formed around the ring, curling over the ground as it rested quietly in the dust.
Panting, barely strong enough to stand, pain was his second world, a second life of passion drove him to stand. Shredded and torn, his right-wing broken, dark blood oozed through dozens of new wounds that covered his body as he knelt next to his angel.
Lifting her up in his arms, she reached up and caressed his face. His broken hand held hers gently. There were too many wounds on his immortal body, he was weak beyond description. The immortal demon was weakening further, the great heart had begun to beat, now faltered. He caressed her face with a blood-stained finger tears leaked from his eyes as dark blood leaked out of him into the dirt.
“I’d do anything for you.” He whispered softly and nodded, “I would do anything for your love, but I would not do that. I could never do that.”
“Come with me.” Bronwyn whispered. “Come back home. You are free.”
A soft cough from a few steps away interrupted.
“Hell needs an Emperor.” The Lucifer said, standing behind Orcus. “It is advancement by assassination in Hell. He must take his place on the throne.”
“NO!” The Angel refused to accept this! Orcus sacrificed it all for her life.
“NO! Stay with me!” Bronwyn argued. pulling on Orcus’ arms, her own hands too weak to grip tightly.”Turn away from all this, come home. I will not have this!”
“He could do anything for love. Fight the old Emperor,” Asmodeus nodded, frowning as he handed the ebony black ring of an apple surrounded by a snake to Orcus. “and win. He has changed the course of a war, changed a thousand hearts. He has altered the universe in uncountable ways. He did that all for love.”
“He did it all.” Lucifer nodded. “He did it all for love. But he cannot go with you.”
“He can’t do that.” Beelzebub whispered as he shook his head and bowed to the new Emperor.
The cool hand of Bronwyn touched him in between the shoulder-blades. “Orcus”, the name echoed in the webs of his dream, his face was wet from tears, Kane had cried out in his sleep.
Kisses on his cheeks as the hands of an angel cupped his face.
“What makes you cry?” She frowned with concern in her eyes.
“I dreamed I had lost you. Our time together was over and I had to use my powers to save you. I also remember my name, from so long ago. Orcus.”
“I remember that name. Punisher of broken promises and oaths. No wonder you do not break promises to children.” She smiled at him. “You are the children’s guardian of promises. You keep the promise of the gift giving when the days grow short and life begins anew. You are the one to shape a child’s view of the world.”
He shook his head, “I still lost you and I will not allow that. Ever.”
She slid her arms around him as she kissed her husbands tears away.
“We can change the future.”
Together they slept the rest of the night, no further dreams intruded.
But Kane had his doubts.