Married by Mistake Chapter 7. The Water Taxi

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Chapter 7. The Water-Taxi

Her first water taxi ride was an adventure.

She spent twenty minutes putting on the dress she had felt pretty in. But now she did not want to look like a party-girl in the views of anyone else.

This entertained Tom a great deal while he watched her put everything together.

Shoes, dress, then she wore a sweatshirt over that, gave herself a critical look, turning this way and that.

Then pulled it all off, put on a pair of his sweatpants and a t-shirt, then a sweatshirt to finish the look of high heels and sweats.

Tom laughed every couple of minutes while she mumbled to herself, pulling her dark hair into a pony tail, brushing it out, then braiding it.

“You go all out for the walk-of-shame.” He rocked in his chair with laughter until he choked on his own spit.

“Oh hush.” She stuck her tongue out at him.

In the last few days she had not left the Pacific Wizard and had no idea what the whole plane looked like. She had seen it only from the roof of the big plane or inside.

She had spent so much time inside this airplane, with this man she barely knew, but during a drunken party she had somehow married him.

*sigh*

Thoughts pounded Kaylee about the tangled mess of it all. She could not see the end.

She did not know how to accept it, she had thoughts to annul this and be rid of Tom and this accident as soon as possible.

But…

Still, this man who had his name on the marriage license along with hers was special.

And, danged if he didn’t made her soul feel light.

So she felt some fear by telling this caring man that she wanted to leave the plane without him to go home.

Like he would not be there when she came back. If he would just disappear like a dream if she turned her back too long.

That thought bothered her.

A yellow boat with a blue-and-white striped canvas shade pulled up to the door and Tom pulled a lever and pressed a button, the door opened up like a giant bird extending its wing.

Tom leaned out and paid the boat-pilot who thanked him, calling him Mister Harte, but Tom asked to use first names.

“Yes, Sir, Mr. Tom. Morning Ma’am.” The taxi-pilot looked as if it was all he did. “Be careful getting in.”

She kissed Tom at the edge before she stepped into the water-taxi in deep thought. It was a new experience. The taxi swayed and rocked more than the big plane when she settled in.

“Can we go around the plane so I can see it all?” She asked, the flying-boat that had been her home for forty-eight hours non-stop.

“Aye-aye, Ma’am.” It was an affected tone. The pilot of the boat could have just been a student from the University working over the summer.

“Oh ma’am, look at that.”

When the stubby yellow boat pulled away he turned the wheel and showed her the view.

From the outside, the jet was as beautiful as could be, and the plane was massive! At least a hundred feet long and the wings were wider than the length.

Twin jet engines up high with the T-tail she had to looked up at while standing on the roof of the big plane. Now they blocked the sun as the water-taxi’s motor rumbled and slowly moved them under the tail’s shadow.

The jet, painted deep blue from the nose that faded to a forest-green on the rear of the plane with a wizard and a witch riding brooms on the engine nacelles. The wings had boat-shaped pontoons to keep the wingtips out of the water.

The Pacific Wizard was exquisitely beautiful — and her home if she wanted it.

On the tip of the nose of the plane,  painted with the sun, with two killer whales jumping towards each other making a mustache on the sun. Under the mustache of whales, a smile of the ocean, painted on just above the waterline.

Riding the taxi to shore, the pilot of the boat looked the plane over from the distance.

“That is a beautiful vessel, how long have you owned it?”

“It belongs to…” She paused. “My husband. He had it before we got married.”

It saddened her with that thought. She was not supposed to be married, the beautiful home with wings.

*I need to think.*

“Must be nice!” He nodded and smiled. “Able to start the engines and be someplace exotic in a few hours.”

“Yes. We have flown to Las Vegas and back in a single night.”

“Wow… nice! That’s gnarly!” The taxi-boat pilot laughed. He was no more than twenty. Then asked. “Does Mister Tom have a sister?“

“You know… That is a mystery.” She said quietly as they pulled up to the dock. Leaving a slightly puzzled taxi driver sitting in his boat.

*I need to know a lot more about Tom.* Her curious side awakened. She had more than thinking to do.

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Steel Gardens of Anid-Sta Generation 2. Waking Naked

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Generation 2. Waking Naked

The first thing she felt, was cold. And her arms felt heavy, like someone hung bags of sand on them, or gravity had increased.

Fae R. MacLir slowly became aware of a bright light shining directly into her eyes.

TWO bright lights, but her eyes did not want to focus on anything.

Holding her hand in front of her face, she nearly had to touch her nose with the flat of her palm before it came into focus.

“About 20/500.” She noted with a sigh. “I’m blind.”

She put her hand down on the table, the appendage felt like it weighed as much as all the machinery that filled the room around her, combined.

She became aware that she was under warming blankets on a firm bed, the room felt small and warm, slightly more than body-temperature. Warm air was blowing through the tubes built into the blanket that covered her, and she was shivering.

While the temperature warmed her, a voice, tiny but sounded like it was booming in the room.

“Warm fluids, she will be dehydrated, administer isotonic electrolytes, buffer it and prevent alteration her pH level. Infuse slowly over an hour and continue warming protocols.” A pause, slight clicking sounds as if someone were tapping on keys. “Keep me in the data loop. We need to find out why this happened.”

She looked around for the source of the voice, but saw no one, becoming aware of what looked like bugs flying in the air, close to her face.

*Must be a field hospital with a window open* She thought to herself.

She ranked as an engineer’s assistant, she was twenty-years old and would be among the first of the awakened, with the chief engineer, Amsi Idd-Tejo, they would supervise the awakening of the governing leaders.

But, she could not see him. Her focus was improving, in the glass walled room, there were four beds, besides her own, all were empty.

She was the only one awake.

“Who…” Her throat felt like someone sanded it with broken glass and salt. Then whispered. “Ah! Who else?”

Silence, except for a buzzing. Sounded organic. More bugs, the flying pest control protocols had failed.

Then a voice, it sounded as if it the speaker stood next to her ear.

“You are the first. Viral bodies stayed in the environment longer than the time originally anticipated.” The small but very close voice said. “The Core Systems chose you, no one else. We don’t know why.”

She turned her head, slowly. The movement making her dizzy, and her life changed forever.

In front of her barely functioning eyes, a gold and silver… something… hovered. Barely as tall as her thumb, the eyes looked back at her and blinked with oversized eyes.

“The doctor is on his way,” The tiny, fluttering creature spoke just loud enough for her to hear. “He stepped out to see to another alarm on the Core Systems.”

“Who,” She paused. “Or what are you?”

“I am Thea.” Her golden-eyes glittered and caught the lights that illuminated the room on the face that looked as if someone carved her from an emerald gem. “I am a minibot. Who are you?”

“A what?” The human girl asked. “I am Fae MacLir, an assistant electrical engineer and tech support in SCOTOC.”

“I am Physicians Apprentice, Abu Thea.” She fluttered with a smile. “You can call me Thea. I’m not a doctor yet, I’m only halfway through.”

“IF you survive.” A deeper voice, but still sounding as if from an earphone from a distance. “You still have a lot to learn.”

“Good evening Miss MacLir, I’m Doctor Ofir Bhabel. You no doubt have some questions, we have a good many questions ourselves. Not the least of which, do you feel?”

The little… Minibot? That said her name was Thea, landed on the edge of Fae’s field of view.

“What is going on? Who are you?” Fae asked. “And a Doctor? Of what?”

“What is SCOTOC?” A silver-winged, gloss-blue creature lit along side Thea and smiled as the questions overlapped each other. “First, I will answer you. I am your physician, I supervised your awakening. You can call me Bel. You were the first to be awakened by the Core System.”

“I don’t understand.” The human said in a whisper. “My head hurts, I’m dizzy.”

“That is a consequence of the length of time you were in stasis, you were in a helium bath that supercooled your body.” The blue fairy seemed to shimmer in her eyes. “You have a case of brain-freeze, your body temperature is still less than normal, your core temperature is still thirty-two celsius, but you are warming at a good rate. I am pleased with the protocols written by your people.”

She ran her hands over her body, under the blankets, “I’m naked?”

“No, you have a warming blanket over your body and you are in a capsule, warming you with infrared heat and warm air, you are naked inside of it, and the blanket is transparent to infrared.”

“You talk funny.”

Doctor Ofir blinked twice.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Your voice. It has an electronic buzz in it, a slight dissonance caused by a code error. It’s minor but nothing I can’t fix.” She said rubbing her eyes. “Everything seems oddly colored and it feels like a dream. You look like little fairies.”

“We are minibots. Humans built our ancestors, but in much smaller scale. They were nanobots, and after time, the Core Systems determined that the most efficient use for the planet was to increase sizes. Microbots were built. Then millibots, then our kind are officially designated as minibots. Macrobots are generally outside, do not fly and are few. There is a point of diminishing return the bigger bots get. The greatest numbers are nanos, followed by the minis, we are the best sizes.”

“The doctor talks too much.” Thea said. “You have a lot to catch up on, hun.”

“You called me… Hun?” Fae said. “Can I get some clothes? Even inside this little oven-thing you have built, I am uncomfortable just laying here. It feels heavy, like I have no strength. This was not supposed to be this way, they said we would not notice any changes in sensation.”

Thea and the Doctor looked at each other.

“Fae MacLir, there are no clothes in this facility for your size.” The Doctor said. “But I will leave it to Thea to search. You are an unexpected presence in our society. The humans have a story in the database of a man who traveled a long ways by the name of Gulliver.” The Doctor looked at her. “You are a giant among us.”

“Doctor.” Thea interrupted, tapping on the side of her head. “There are storage areas for hazardous materials response the humans built. I think those had clothes for humans.”

“Good. Go check that, use my authority to have a team go with you and transport any clothes that would fit this human.” The Doctor nodded. “Providing we cannot get her to overcome the archaic restrictions of being nude.”

Thea flew off so fast, she was a blur and a flash as she exited the window.

“Excuse, me.” Fae spoke up. “I’m right here. And I’m not about to walk around in my birthday suit. I could get in trouble.”

“You may be excused.” The Doctor answered. “And you must also know, there is no one to make you feel uncomfortable. You are the only human on the planet that is not immersed in helium, partly dehydrated and filled with glycerin to protect cellular structure in stasis.”

Turning her head away from them, Fae took a deep breath.

“How is it that I am the first one awakened?”

“The Core Systems chose you. The criteria are unknown.”

A noise of footsteps sounded. A macrobot, about four feet tall with four legs moved in an eerie grace, carrying a black folded object that looked like vacuum-packed bags.

The eight eyes on four stalks were more akin to a lizards, moving independent of each other watching all points of the compass at the same time. The washing machine sized bot deposited its cargo on a table and departed without a sound.

Thea landed and with a smile reported to the Doctor.

“Extreme mobility, hostile environment protection suit. The voice interface called it a EMHEP suit” Thea said proudly. “The computer interface worked perfectly. And it is in her size with her name.”

“Her name?”

“She has her own wardrobe listed.”

“I would like to get up.”

“I would recommend against that, you haven’t stood on your own feet for thirty-thousand years.”

“I…” Fae shook her head. “I didn’t hear that right. You say that again, please?”

“I would advise you…”

“No, no. The years. You said thirty-thousand.”

“Yes, I rounded for your sake.” The Doctor nodded as he walked along the edge of the platform that served as her warming capsule. “You’ve been in stasis for thirty-one-thousand, two-hundred eighty-four summer solstices.

“Holy crap!” She pushed open the heating capsule’s cover and sat up, her skin felt warm, but she was still cold. Muscles trembled when she stood. “That is why I am weak.”

Then paused as she pulled the heating blanket close around her, Thea unplugged the heat tubes so Fae could walk.

“And I am hungry!”

“You would need to eat carefully, the digestive system has nothing in it, we will give you enough flora to live in your intestines so you can live on the proteins you will consume.” The Doctor motioned to a macrobot standing in the corner that moved off out of sight.

“How do you do that?”

The Doctor looked at her and smiled.

“Get dressed, we will get you a glass of synthetic milk. Your organs of digestion will be as weak as your legs.”

Fae nodded. She was trembling at every step to the table where her clothes were, naked and chilled with every breeze, the hair on her arms stood on end.

“What is that?” Thea asked, pointing to the piloerected hair. “Why are you fuzzy?”

“Humans get that way when we are cold.”

“You are still hypothermic.” The Doctor said. “You will have another hour with shivering. I ordered your drink warm, so that will help.”:

“If I am so cold and I’m not shivering. Why?”

“I don’t know, precisely, you should have crossed the threshold but the Core System says that you have been in stasis for so long, there is no data. There is no precedent. But your core temperature still shows thirty-two celsius, you might still be too cold still.”

Fae lifted up the pile of clothes, a black body suit slide over her legs and torso, then black ceramic plates that contoured to her bodysuit. The memory of her being fitted for the metal-infused laminated ceramic plates that fit on the soft spider-silk bodysuit like scales.

It was comfortable and warm. Even the socks she wore felt strong, but the shoes were little more than slippers with ceramic scales and looked funny.

Reading the paper that came in the package, the suit was an electrical insulator, she would wear it to work on the systems. The uniform had the badge molded in with a different color of ceramic, and she had a computer access key.

She would find out why the Core Systems awakened her on a planet six-times the size of Earth.

Alone.

Dragon Master University Chapter 30. New Year, New Session

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Chapter 30. New Year Session

Tired, sore muscles, a continual headache from boggling at history, teamwork and predicted future, not counting the lessons in magic taught by Cranndair the Green Wizard, the students walked, crawled and a few fluttered back to their rooms in the various houses they belonged to. All were bone-tired.

If anything, the Green Wizard taught with the students in a practical application, humans and dragons and those that had a bit of both, hugged and smiled as they parted company, instead of being in separate houses, they all knew they were of one house.

The House of The Green Man.

Sprite had grown even longer, although she had gained some length, her weight had not increased, she continued to grow longer but, like all children, she started to stretch out into a willow of a creäture.

Back in the house of Garnet, Jona walked to his room and found Sam-Sam had already returned and unpacked.

“Hi Jona! Are you back, visiting the lower side a bit with us? You don’t have a room on the brown garnet level, anymore. You have gone up on the scale. They should place you at least in blue, if not green, I’d say. You spent winter’s break with the Green Man. So you would have a room there.”

“I didn’t know. Where would I have found that change?”

“Professor Vale posted it on pillar by the front door.”

“Oh, ugh. I was too tired, the Green Wizard is about killed us all.”

“Yeah, he does that. He is spry for an old guy, a thousand years old and he can move a mountain with a finger. Not even Professor Vale is more powerful.” Sam said.

“That is because the Green Wizard lives with Nature.”

“Yeah, always in that mountain.” Sam nodded. “He has more power from the trees and rocks that he cares for.”

“No, it’s not that, his mate is Nature.” Jona laughed. “She is his spouse.”

“What?”

“Dude, didn’t you go to study with him once?”

“No, I was more interested in racing and never went, I learned all I wanted about him from those that have went there and came back all broken down and dirty.” Sam shook his head. “Teamwork, what good is that in a race with one-on-one paired rider and ride?”

“When the world has floods, fires, or earthquake, how do we help each other?”

“Well, how do…” A familiar voice interrupted Jona.

“Well, I thought you might be lost.” It was Kolo. “Well, sexy human, you do not live here anymore, your room is in another level, since you came back from the Green Man’s mentor program. Did you learn a lot?”

“Oh HI Kolo! Oh wow, did I ever!” Jona said.

“You lost weight.” She traced her finger over Jona’s left shoulder. “You look good. You could be ridden, looking like that. You would be a good training for a racer girl.”

“What?” Jona boggled.

“Never mind. You are sexy looking, just saying.” Kolo winked. “Come with me, we need to find your new room.”

“Okay.” Jona was still trying to get his mind around the flirt he had just gotten. Dragons were a strange group. They loved like no other, but loved one after another.

“Sam.” Kolo turned to Jona’s ex-roomie. “Come with me, you are on the Blue floor. It appears you did not check either.”

“I did! The color was brown.”

“You did not have a color until this morning. Your grades have improved and the professors were talking about keeping you and Jona together. Jona is a good influence on you it seems.”

“He just showed me around.” Jona said.

“Jona, you got him to attend class. Attendance is the single most important thing in school, even if you don’t work, the professors feel that you absorb information by sitting there with your eyes open. Sam has been at ever class last session.”

“Well, I’ll have to pack.”

“I’ll send Wynter for you.”

“AH! I’ll be packed in two minutes! Don’t send the Wyvern for me!” Sam jumped up and was immediately stuffing clothes into a pillow-slip and wrapping the rest up in his big wool blanket he brought from home.

“Why is he worried about Wynter?”

“Wynter is a wyvern, and he has no patience for lower level students. He is especially angry with Sam-Sam, they’re related and he bragged about Sam being smarter than most everyone around before this little hatchling arrived.” Kolo laughed. “I think Wynter would roll Sam up in the blanket and play football down the hallway with him.”

“Football?”

“Yeah, you kick it, until it gets to where you want it to go.”

“Ooooh!” Jona laughed, imagining Sam-Sam the Dragon, already in hot water with his family, being used as a sports toy.

“Here we are. Green level.” Kolo said, her tail swaying in a more serpentine way when she was walking in front of Jona. Jona could hear the other men whisper to each other when they walked in.

“Kolo, why is he here? This is a Brown Level Garnet.” A red dragon with vestigial-black wings and eye-brow scales said. Chain mail that glittered in the light when the dragon moved, they had arms like some other people had legs.

Very muscular legs.

“Mars, this is Jona, he just came back from winter break with the Green Wizard. He passed with the wizard giving him a pat on the back and an invitation to come back.”

“Well! That is different, welcome Jona. I am Mars, the senior leader of the game-players club. Do you play Drake and Hunter?”

“I never heard of it.”

“Awesome, you are human? If you get to enjoy this and want to play a lot, you can join our club. The only requirements are good grades and play at least a bit every day.” Mars nodded, his scales glistened like polished jewels. If one did not know that he was a dragon, one would thing he was human dressed in fine scale armor.

“Mars,” Kolo smiled and traced her finger over his ear (Mars’ eyes dialated and Jona swore he could hear the scales shake.) “Would you ask that Jona have a tutor to keep his grades up? Professor Vale has requested that Jona keep his studies going from the Green Man. Jona is a racer and a good one at that.”

“You do can keep doing that, Kolo, but so that you know I’d do it anyway.” Mars laughed. Turning to Jona. “She is the one that keeps Garnet house going. And she is cute.”

Mars shook his head to clear his vision.

“You know how to touch my feelers,” Mars sighed and Kolo laughed softly.

Jona laughed awkwardly as the pretty girl dragon flirted with the brawny leader of the Green level.

“Where is my room?” Jona asked.

“This way,” Kolo smiled. “You have a choice, Green Level has had a change in tenants here. A few have not kept up their grades, another has aced her studies and has moved up from Emerald to Gold level.”

“What is Emerald level?”

“This one. We call it green informally, but the official term is Emerald. Blue is Sapphire, Brown is Rough.”

“Rough?”

“As in unpolished and dirty.”

“Oooh!” Jona said as Kolo led him to his room.

“Here is where you will stay. Mars’ is at the end of the hall, he has a private room, most of his club members meet there. You will have no one else in this room for a while. So I will check on you from time to time to make sure you are keeping your studies up.”

“Mars will, too?”

“Yes, it is important to the house that we keep our ratings up. It is a contest between each house who has the highest ranked students. It will also give you a chance to study with the Green Wizard once again.”

“I’m not sure I can survive another round with him.” Jona laughed.

“It will do you good. You will find studying here is easier than with that old man.”

A soft voice behind Jona, a human girl with tight curly hair and dark skin whispered to the new arrival.

“That is for sure, the Green Wizard made me want to come back so much, I made sure my grades were high enough I could go again.”

“I did not see you there.” Jona said.

“Part of my skills, I’m a member of the Fae.”

“The who?”

“No, that is a music group in about a hundred centuries, I am fae.” She smiled, probing eyes looked into his eyes to see if he understood the joke. “My family are more magical than dragons.”

“A fairy?”

“No, well, in a stretch of the sense, I suppose, I can change size.”

“You can get bigger?”

“Ohh, no. I am at my largest now, I can get smaller, a lot smaller.” She smiled. “My name is Retta. This is my last year.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

Watching her walk away, she wore her armor like it someone painted it on and then oiled over the leathery parts until she shimmered when she walked.

Kolo laughed.

“Human boys are so much fun. Brain damaged since puberty and it takes years to have enough blood to run all your parts at the same time.”

Laughing at himself, Jona moved into his new room that he had no one to share with.

The second session in the main school of Dragon Master University was going to be fascinating.

Instructive, anyway.

Dark Heart, Pure Soul Chapter 19. A Nightmare Of A Possibility

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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.

“Orcus! HELP!”

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.

And failed.

But not this time.

Not again.

Never again.

Shall not. Ever again. Fail.

And a single word, born from the very core of fury.

“STOP!”

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?”

Orcus nodded.

“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.

For him.

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!”

A pause…

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.

“TRAITOR!”

“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 mistake.

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.

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.