Asgard. Valhalla. Hell. Loki and Lucifer. Death. Odin. Thor. A child. All may be too late.
|Prologue- The Living Dead
I once asked my Grandfather why there was so much misery in the world. He was old but strong, his body frozen in that moment of age before it stops giving character and becomes a flaw. A black eye patch covered one eye, and the other could freeze your body in place with nothing more than a glance. That one piercing eye was the color of the first blue that ever was. Grandfather didn’t speak to me often, though he sometimes suffered my presence in his home. I had gathered the courage to ask a child’s question. I did not expect him to answer. Surprise and fear made my heart sputter when Grandfather’s large warrior hands gripped me around my waist and settled me onto his lap. His one eye held both of mine captive as he spoke.
“All souls that live, die. All living things behave in that manner. Sometimes dead souls escape the scythe of the Reapers and enter newly born bodies. They do this to try to be reborn, but a dead soul is a dead soul no matter if it lies in a living body. The misery in the world stems from these living people with dead souls. Understood?”
The living dead, true zombies obsessed with death and dying. A constant battle between dead soul and living flesh; no wonder they were miserable. At that time, Grandfather’s explanation had been a bit over my head, but my voice was still tinged with respect and awe.
Chapter One- Black’s Bar
Candles burned low soft glows at each table, booth, and across the length of the curving bar. Instrumental music played so softly that my ears barely registered any sound other than the murmurs of other guests. Black’s Bar was a place meant for intimacy and privacy. The dim lights and lack of storefront windows assured both. Black’s was also famous for its chocolate. Imagine any chocolate drink, many alcoholic, and I can guarantee Black’s serves it. On the menu besides drinks was a variety of chocolate snacks like Chocolate Walnut Rum Balls; one of my favorites.
Black himself is rarely, if ever, seen. I drew attention to my empty glass. It disappeared as if by magic, quickly replaced with another Chocolate Duchess. I idolize Black’s, I’d marry Black if he showed his face long enough for me to propose, but Dylan was dampening my feel good time and he hadn’t even arrived yet. Dylan Casten, my Father’s number one toady. A Human with enough Demon blood that he was saved from becoming a mindless drone when his soul went to Hell. Now he’s a messenger boy when my Father can’t be bothered to contact me personally. Black’s front door opened, momentarily letting in the wailing of the city streets before closing again. Dylan’s unique scent curdled the inside of my nostrils. My skin quivered in disgust when he grasped my shoulder.
“How presumptuous, Dylan. I’ve destroyed souls for less.”
He removed his hand, but decided to invade my personal space with his body instead.
“It’s not Dylan anymore, it’s Crow.”
“You’re name isn’t Crow, its Dylan. If you insist on calling yourself by ridiculous names, I’ll tell you your true name, the one your soul answers to, and you won’t like it.”
There. I’d taken the cool out of his job. He was fairly new at it and the allure hadn’t yet worn off for him. Toady slumped against the bar and pouted at me.
“What’s your deal today? You usually don’t threaten me until I start hitting on you.”
I was hunched in my own miserable slouch. If my parents walked in, they’d swallow their tongues. Their child wasn’t allowed to look anything but perfect.
“My deal is that I’m looking at you instead of my Father. I set a date and he agreed. The time comes for him to show up and he sends you.”
Dylan shrugged. “He’s busy. Ruling an entire realm takes commitment.”
I sulked and glared. “Is that your message?”
“No. His Majesty orders you to go to Asgard and stay there until further notice.”
I straightened on my stool, sulkiness replaced by surprise…and suspicion.
Dylan nodded. “He looked really upset when he said it. His eyes were throbbing.” He narrowed his eyes. “If you try to sneak around this one, he’s gonna flay you. Besides, Loki’s expecting you.”
I opened my wallet and paid for my drinks, leaving a generous tip. Dylan smirked at my assessment of the situation as I stood.
“That’s about right. He also sends his love and devotion. How touching.”
I snorted in amusement.
“It’s true he doesn’t look like he’d say such a thing. Send mine to him as well and tell him to call me as soon as he can.”
“Sure.” He said right before he disappeared.
I left as well, but by more conventional means.
I took shelter in the first alley I laid eyes on. Safely unseen, I brought out my sleek gun metal touchscreen. My phone allowed me to call internationally and inter-dimensionally. It also had a Portal App. My Father had one as did all five of his demon sons, and Loki. Loki himself created them, so that is what we called them. Rarely did I have to use the Portal. I touched the screen with intent, the screen glowed a soft white, and the phone waited for me to speak.
The white light grew until I had to close my eyes against it. I didn’t open my eyes again until the light was completely gone. Bifrost Bridge was a rainbow; nothing more than colorful energy. My body naturally made the transition from solid to compact colored energy so that I could cross. At the end of the bridge was another being of concentrated energy; Heimdall, God of Light. Heimdall guarded the entrance to Asgard. One day he will blow his horn, Gjallar, and signal Ragnorok. Every color that made up Heimdall blazed bright and pure. Blue eyes, golden hair and beard, white skin, silver wolf furs, and gray weaponry. His horn shone so brightly, I could not lay eyes on it.
“Hello, Heimdall. May I pass? Loki is expecting me.”
Heimdall frowned, his glow dimming with displeasure. The God of Light didn’t like me much and he loathed Loki.
He shimmered off the pathway a bit, only enough to let me squeeze by, and I stood before the gates of Asgard, solid once again. The iron gates were over thirty feet tall and set into black stone walls. Stories and runes were welded into the surface of the gates. The one at eye level told the story of how Grandfather lost his eye. I pressed my hand on the gates; they reluctantly recognized me as a member of the Aeisir Clan and opened far enough to walk through. Glasir stood tall, its branches spread out and reaching and the same dusty gold as the trunk. Thousands of red-gold leaves glimmered with each breeze and passing sunbeam.
“Ho there, Little Loki!”
Always I would know that booming voice. Of all the dead warriors who were brought to Valhalla, Einar was one of the few I could genuinely call friend. The majority did not think it well to speak with me because Loki would not be fighting alongside Grandfather at Ragnorok. Light grey eyes radiated rare warmth towards me right before gigantic arms smothered me into a heavily muscled chest.
“Well met, Einar.” I wheezed. “Too much of your joy will kill me.”
Einar released me, but kept his grip on my arms.
“Nonsense. You cannot die by force or sword. How long will you stay this time?”
My parents lived relatively far away from each other and could not live together permanently, so it was not uncommon for me to spend years at a time with each. They did visit one another often, whatever originally brought them together still lingering.
“My Father ordered me here until further notice. He even skipped out on our meeting.”
Einar frowned, his eyes never leaving mine. When Einar frowned, other warriors took notice because Einar had temper and skill to rival Thor himself.
“Something of great importance must be happening if Lucifer doesn’t want his precious jewel in Midgard.”
I blushed at the usage of my Father’s nickname for me. Einar only knew of it because he had come with me to stay with my Father a few times. He always had a grand time killing Demons with my brothers. Einar rested one hand on top of my head and tilted it to make sure my gaze met his.
“If you’re in danger, I’m coming with you to stay in Loki’s Hall.”
He’d done so before, many times, but there was a look in the eyes that pierced mine that made my face burn and heart quicken. I opened my mouth to embarrass myself, but a Valkerye chose that moment to attach herself to Einar’s side. All Valkerye’s are pale and entirely naked with large feathered wings. This one was blue; feathers, hair, sclera, and nipples. She grinned, needle teeth gleaming. Einar’s hand still gripped my head, his eyes holding me in place.
“Still bothering with this mongrel thing.” Her voice was hoarse and guttural. “He’s not even of Odin’s blood. The only pure blood in him is from worthless giants and his spoiled brat of a Father.”
Einar’s hand tightened in my hair as my eyes went wide and my vision warped into a kind of perfect clarity that I could only achieve when my glamour dropped. I could hear a mole in the ground, ardent whispers in a tavern, and the double beatings of a centaur’s hearts if I made the effort to listen which could only mean that the glamour on my ears had dropped as well and anyone could clearly see the delicate points. Power burned through my blood and raced across my skin. I could feel my hair swirling around my head like flames stained red. My skin turned from warm gold to bright gold, Hell Runes carved their likeness into my skin. The Valkerye had made me so angry; I’d lost my glamour and then some.
Einar moved his hand to my shoulder, though the flames wouldn’t have burned him, and the Valkerye stepped back. Most people hated my parents and my parents hated them, but I loved Loki and Lucifer beyond thought. I was raised in good homes and taught how to survive in worlds that would hate me. Loki wasn’t really Odin’s son, but Odin had taken him into his home to be raised alongside his own blood. Loki didn’t really hate Odin; he just hated the feeling of never quite belonging and had grown to accept it. No one had the strength to stand up to Odin, as Lucifer had done with his Father, and demand the free will he saw given to others. I also knew no one else had the charisma to get others to follow them as faithfully as my Father had in such a momentous era.
And here was this Valkerye bitch, a creature made for no other purpose than to haunt battlefields and recruit warriors for Ragnorok, insulting my parents. I laid one hand against her chest, the Hell Rune wounds dark and vivid. Her flesh flinched and her heart stuttered. The dark potency of my anger and hatred towards her gathered in my heart and I directed it to my hand and into her body.
“Murdan.” I commanded. Die.
The word was unconsciously in my Father’s tongue and Einar’s ears began to bleed. The Valkerye threw her head back and cackled because we both knew that no one and nothing could kill her kind except Odin. I hissed like a Demon and removed my hand. The bitch’s eyes widened the same time mine did. I was so surprised, my glamour slid back into place. Where my hand had been, there was a large black mark against her pale skin and it was spreading. Her body was stiff and she was silent, but the right side of her body was crumbling to dust. Her left side was still pale, but was quickly turning black so I pulled a surprised Einar away from her. We both watched as the Valkerye turned to dust, and beyond all odds, died.
Asgard shook and groaned. Everyone with two legs or more ran as far as they could away from the scene of the crime. Einar clamped me in his iron hand and pulled me into Valhalla. I took a moment to admire how quickly ran for someone built the way he was before he picked up speed and literally dragged me along the floor behind him. Valhalla was understandably chaotic as Einar dragged me down several flights of stairs and into the Room of Flames that was a portal to Loki’s Hall of Fire. I just missed being clipped by the claws of one of Odin’s giant ravens, and was suddenly airborne. I slammed into a far wall, left a dent in it, and slid down to a blood red plush carpet. Einar’s hand began rubbing my back while I rested a moment.
“I’m sorry.” He mumbled. “I just wanted to make sure you got here safely; that raven almost had you.”
“Not only did you kill one of Odin’s creatures, but you managed to escape one of his ravens as well.”
I’d know that voice anywhere, a warm voice like honey with spice. I lifted my head and there stood Loki, dramatically back lit by flames. His skin was smooth and the warm gold mine usually was. Dark red flame tattoos marked his skin, making him look primal and seductive. Loki’s unbound, shining hair reached his hips. His hair was a deep red with glints of polished copper and gold. He was barefoot and wore nothing but a long skirt of black with a wide copper belt and an ankle bracelet set with jewels only found in Father’s Realm. Dark red eyes met mine and a pleased smile stretched perfect dark pink lips. Loki was beautiful and wild; I couldn’t help but smile back.
He walked forward, chiseled muscle stretching and rippling under his skin like a prized stallions. Loki wasn’t tall, but his slim frame gave him the appearance of having an inch or two above average height. To look at him was sinful for most, all except me. For me, I was just gazing at my Padere who would cuddle with me and sing me sad songs. He squatted by my head, smiling wider.
“I do so love, love and admiration.”
I sat up, a bit sheepish, and Einar pulled me into his side. For all of the centuries I’ve known him, he’s been the overprotective type. Especially with whom my parents were and how snide high and mighty creatures could get when my family wasn’t around. This thing with Odin would probably see me attached forcibly to his hip. Loki ran his eyes across me. I’d taken some damage but it was mostly superficial. The extent of any damage was more mental, as in exhaustion. The guttering flames and flickering shadows had always been soothing to me, and the lull of my Padere’s wasn’t helping in keeping me awake. Loki cocked his head and stared.
“She said bad things about you and Papa.” I blurted before he could say anything. Those eyes were all knowing.
“Your Father sent you here to keep you out of trouble, and as soon as you walk through the gates it finds you. I doubt this is what he had in mind, though it is very amusing. I can just imagine the expression in that cold blue eye.”
“Amusing to you.” Einar replied.
Einar’s arm tightened around me. I don’t know what was said next because my eyelids grew heavy and I was asleep. I dreamt of warm darkness, almost hot in its frenzy to overwhelm and slide inside me. The dark flowed into every orifice it could until I felt heavy and wet.
I woke too quickly, gasping for breath that wouldn’t come easily. A deep concerned rumble vibrated through me. Fenrir, a giant black wolf and my big brother, lay curled around the spot I’d slept in. Seeing him and knowing he was there calmed me considerably and I could breathe easily again.
“Don’t worry over much.” I told him. “It was nothing more than a bad dream.”
Fenrir stood and stretched. He was the wolf archetype and it showed. Standing over ten feet tall on all fours, thick muscle covered him in all the right places, he ran faster than birds could fly, and his teeth could make air bleed. Fenrir wasn’t the dumb animal others treated him as. He had power of his own that was greater than mine, because he was more than I was. A full blooded child of a God trumped his mongrel son every time. Fenrir straightened and lowered his large head to sniff at me. I smiled at his continued concern and hugged his muzzle. We may have been the dregs of divine society, but we stuck together. It felt immeasurably good to have family.
“No one else would even think to do something like that.”
I let go of Fenrir so I could see behind him. Einar was shirtless and bootless, his long black mane unbound by his usual leather tie. There were rumors that Einar had been brought to Valhalla alive because nothing could kill him, not even Time. Personally, I thought he was some ancient God of War who had lost his memories of himself. Killing in battle came naturally to him.
“Your compassion is all the more admirable because it is not expected of you.” He said softly.
Light gray eyes pinned me where I stood and the heat in them made me want to brush my hair. I’d never felt so self-conscious before in my life. I shrugged in a half response to his words.
“Fenrir is my big brother and I love him. I’m not going to treat him as lesser when I know the reality is the reverse.”
Fenrir growled in rebuke in unison with Einar, the sound vibrating through my bones. If I had been Human, my brain would have scrambled and my bones shattered. Even so, the noise left me a little shaken but more because of the sentiment behind it than anything physical.
“Don’t underestimate yourself, lyelyeyat.” Einar grumbled as he walked forward. “Did you not just do what no one else could?”
One large hand cupped my face, forcing my eyes to meet his.
“One of Odin’s creatures is dead and not by his hand.” He lowered his head and I subconsciously raised mine until I was lost in a gray sky and I could feel his warm breath tickle against my face. “You did that. You are not lesser, lyelyeyat, not to anyone.”
This was punctuated with a gentle pressing of his full lips to mine. A warm, silky tongue slid across the seam of my lips and I opened my mouth to it. Hot, silky, sweet, rough, soft, and increasingly more insistent. My arms were wrapped around his neck, his hands slid over every inch of me he could reach until my body burned. His large hand gripped my ass and he lifted me up against his body. My body slid against his and I gasped in pleasure and tingly shock. This was my first kiss, and my first time ever being remotely intimate with someone in a sexual situation; my Father was going to implode.
“Though I have an affinity for fire, I do not approve of this sort of flame being kindled in my son.”
I gasped and almost choked at the sound of Loki’s voice. He was definitely pissed and I was caught. The question was, how pissed was he? I’d heard him petulant, annoyed, frustrated, resigned, but I’d never heard him angry. This tone of voice was for someone who wanted to hurt and was willing to hurt whoever they were speaking to, maybe they were even willing to torture you for their own sick enjoyment. I understood a little better why people called Loki evil. I slid warily back down Einar’s body and he continued to kiss me from my chin to neck; three slow, wet, sultry kisses. Then he turned and stared at Loki with challenge. No one ever said that Einar wasn’t brave.
“Laelinyn may be your son, but he is no child.”
Oh, shit. Einar was pushing luck he didn’t have. Luck never came into account when it came to Loki unless it was his own and you never wanted Loki’s luck. Loki’s eyes flared, two large burning embers, and his hair became literal flames, dripping and sparking like a camp fire in a strong breeze. He was livid, but not furious. A furious Loki was the exact opposite of what he was now, at least from what I’ve heard. As I said, I’ve never actually seen him get that angry.
“He may seem a man to a Human, but all Humans are just children no matter their size. Twenty-two years is a short time. If you touch my child again, I’ll delight myself in killing you. Valhalla will still hear your screams when Ragnorok comes around.”
I peeked around Einar’s bulging muscle. Loki was being unreasonable. Killing him slowly until Ragnorok was overkill. I was pretty sure that Loki wouldn’t kill me under any circumstances.
Evil eyes cut me off. No one could speak, let alone breathe with an expression like that aimed at them head on. I felt embarrassed, shamed, and humiliated. I just didn’t have it in me to be angry. No one could rival and angry Loki, except an angry Lucifer. Yeah, that wasn’t helping at all.
“Be glad I even suffer your presence.” His voice was the hiss of fire. He sounded like he hated me and I had the stupid urge to cry. I took my cue to be meek and silent. Loki had never been angry with me before and I had no idea how to deal with it. Abruptly, Loki’s appearance went back to normal and his voice was calm.
“Fenrir, get this child thief out of my sight. He’s not allowed in these Halls until I say.”
Fenrir rumbled sympathetically in my direction before grabbing Einar in his jaws and loping off with him in the blink of an eye. I was worried, but Fenrir wouldn’t kill him and Einar wasn’t fighting his hold. Besides, I knew better than to speak just then. Loki breathed deeply and glared at me.
“Don’t. Say. A word. Don’t even think. You don’t seem to have the equipment necessary for it.”
Loki had just called me stupid. It hurt, yes, but it hurt even more because I couldn’t tell if he meant it or not. I was a mouse in all but form.
“There are many things I want to say.” Loki went on as he walked closer to me. “But the only thing I have to say is this: Your Father will hear of this. Very soon.”
The ultimate threat and promise. Lucifer didn’t practice restraint; you didn’t survive in Hell doing something like that. He killed and slaughtered every day and would do more than that if he felt he needed to. He always did what it took and if he thought killing Einar was what it took, Einar would be dead. I felt Loki push, pull, and twist my glamour with his power. When the twisty feeling went away Loki explained.
“I tweaked your glamour so that we can sneak you back to Midgard and you’ll be under Odin’s radar. You still must watch out for Huginn and Muninn. If they sense your energy now, it will seem as if you’re a mortal. But if they see you with their physical eyes…” It went unsaid that I would basically be done for or at least captured and held captive. Loki turned his back to me. “Go to Midgard. Stay hidden. Fenrir will carry you to Elvidnir in his belly. Hel hates Odin, she’ll help you.”
Loki left the room and Fenrir loped in. I guess I was dismissed.
Chapter Two- Hel
Hel was my big sister. I never really visited her much because being around her was a downer; floating in the black nothingness that was the inside of my brother’s belly was a downer too. The most striking thing about Hel was her appearance. She was beautiful in a strange way, at least in my eyes. The top half of her face and her ears were black, as was the right side and front of her neck, her breasts, a thick straight line down her belly and sides, and everything from her hips to the tips of her toes. The rest of her skin was more of a flesh color. Hel’s almond shaped eyes and knee length hair were molten silver. Loki had her in his youth when he’d eaten the heart of the giant, Angerbotha. Odin banished her to the lowest level and she can only emerge again at the time of Ragnorok. Elvidnir means Misery and is the name of her hall; Niflheim means Hel and is the realm of the dead or the underworld. Though her hall was in Niflheim, I’ve never seen it. No matter how curious I am, she never lets me leave the hall to wander. All I know of the underworld is that it’s for the dead and the roots of Yggdrasill lie there. Visiting her always made me uncomfortable. I felt like she was constantly trying to decide whether she should hate me or not. I sighed and did half-hearted loop-d-loops in Fenrir’s belly until he regurgitated me at the feet of our sister.
Everything was made of black rock and crystal in Elvidnir. Hel’s palace looked as if it had been a hill of stone or a mountain and had been weathered by wind and water into its current shape. I’ve always thought it beautiful in its own strange way just like my sister. She sat on her throne, as she always was when I saw her. The legs were of black rock, rough and uncut, with flecks of shining crystal within and standing two feet high at least. All of the rest was rock, except for the eight spines of crystal on the back that flared like a peacock’s tail feathers and were thin and sharp like spears. The pointy ends were about two feet above her silver head and it made her look even more intimidating, which is probably why she made it that way. Silver eyes watched me from an impassive face.
“You are a clueless child aren’t you?” Her voice was cool and light like icy mist. “Do you even know what is happening?”
I sat up and glared at her. Nobody did berating big sister like Hel. All my days she has done nothing but tease because of my youth or because she knew something I didn’t. I sat cross-legged on her stone floor and met her gaze.
“No, I don’t know. No one has told me anything. I was sent to Asgard before I could blink and then I killed one of Grandfather’s Valkerye’s.”
“Killed? Of Odin?” Hel was quiet a moment as a crystal glass full of a black liquid appeared in her hand and she brought it to her lips before sipping the contents. “You know, in times of ancient, the saying ‘Go to Hel’ meant ‘to die’.” Her eyes focused on me, cutting short whatever memories she had. “What do you know of Death?”
I frowned as I watched Fenrir lay down on his belly and rest his head on his paws.
“You mean an archetype like Fenrir? There is no such thing.”
Hel leaned forward on her throne with a sickly smile on her lips. It was the smile she always gave me when she had the upper hand; which was most of the time.
“Oh, but there is such a thing. As wolves are to Fenrir, so Reapers are to Death. But Death has been playing games for a long time now and we will all suffer for it.”
Secrets and riddles. The curse of being a youth among Gods.
“What do you mean?”
She gave me no answer, just threw her power at me and her intent. In no time at all, I was sitting in my apartment. Afraid. I tried to think of what I knew of Reapers. The only reference I could come up with was Grandfather’s story. I thought at the time that he had been using the Reaper’s Scythe as a metaphor for true death. I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and called my eldest brother on my Father’s side, Teivel. I touched the black screen with intent, touched the symbol for Lucifer’s Realm, entered Teivel’s Identification Number, waited, and then his face appeared on the screen. He looked very much like a pissed off Lucifer.
“Where the fuck are you, and where is Einar? I’m going to flay the flesh from his bones right after I take a whip to your ass.”
I shuddered. With five younger brothers, Teivel was known to dole out punishment to the deserving. And what amounted to a whip in Hell…you don’t want to imagine. I put on my best pouty face and hoped it would get me in the clear.
“I don’t want to hear a word from you right now. You’ve really done it this time and that look on your face isn’t going to work.” He shook his head angrily, his jaw clenched and his long dark blue pony tail going from the back of his head to over his right shoulder. I could just see part of the top edge of his blue feathered wings behind him. “As if the current situation wasn’t stressful enough. Why can’t you just sit still, be silent, and don’t touch anything so we don’t have to worry about you.”
His voice had gotten harsher and harsher with each word. I hate to sound like a baby, but it hurt and made me a little angry. Everyone I spoke to was either answering me with riddles or giving me the run around. I sat heavily on my small leather couch in front of the television.
“Well I’m sorry that you have to bother you with me. I’ll try my best to pretend I don’t exist.”
Teivel breathed deeply through his nose and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he had calmed exceedingly. Or appeared to.
“I’m sorry, milada, don’t be that way. This shit is really getting to me, we’re all under a lot of stress.”
“Don’t you worry about it, just stay out of trouble.” His blue eyes narrowed. “And you better not be in your apartment. Don’t make me have to come get you and lock you in the Nursery.”
The Nursery was where all of the young, baby Demons were put when they weren’t being watched or when they were in trouble. Adult Demons were terrible, baby Demons were terrifying. Being locked up with them for any length of time was enough to make even my bones rattle with fear. I did just that as the screen went blank again. Everyone was busy, busy. It was about time I got busy too.
Amasa was a Sex Demon. Most Humans know them as Succubi or Incubi. One being a female and one male. As with many Human notions, they’re wrong. Sex Demons are sleek, shiny, coal black, and entirely hairless. They all look exactly the same to those who can see past illusion to their true form. What Humans see is whatever they think is most attractive, whether it is tall, dark, and handsome or a red head with large breasts. Same sex deals weren’t an issue; as long as they were willing a Sex Demon would drain them to survive.
Amasa’s kind didn’t have a problem with where to stick what because they were fully functioning hermaphrodites. My Father only let me befriend Amasa because I could see its true form. Amasa lived in the heavily wooded outskirts of the city where you neighbor lived ten miles in the other direction. I grabbed my helmet, keys, and leather jacket. This wasn’t going to go over well with Teivel and Father.
Speeding through the streets, illegally, and held up traffic, I was staring at the silent façade of Amasa’s house in no time. I parked my bike around back and broke in. There were all kinds of curses and defensive spells, but they had no effect on me so I picked the lock on the door and let myself in. Once inside, I locked the door behind me and went straight to the fridge. Sex Demons didn’t eat food, but their prey did so Amasa kept its house well stocked. I grabbed a soda and a plastic wrapped sub from the fridge and a bag of plain chips from the pantry. I stepped out of my boots and carried my goodies to Amasa’s bed. After slipping out of my jacket, I climbed on the bed with my food and eased my starvation. I sighed in contentment when I finished the last gulp of soda, cowering in fear of Odin’s wrath was exhausting.
I dreamt that the darkness was surrounding me again. Thick and wet like congealed and decaying flesh, it slid down my throat. More and more of it built up until I began to choke and my throat was expanding until—
“Is this an invitation?”
I gasped and shuddered awake. Amasa was standing next to the bed gazing down at me with reptilian eyes. It was wearing an expensive looking suit, the jacket folded across the back of one of the two armchairs by the fireplace. I made my eyes as wide and innocent as I could.
“I need to stay here awhile.”
Amasa stared at me a moment as if it couldn’t believe I was such an idiot.
Then it walked off into the bathroom. I followed. The bathroom was made of onyx and stainless steel. The front and back rim of the black in-floor tub was covered in burning candles, giving off a soft soothing light in the dark room. A strip of mirror wrapped around the room in a haphazard design so there was mirror on every wall. I glanced at myself, and then back at Amasa who was lifting the toilet seat.
“Come on.” I wheedled. “It’s only for a little while, Amasa. Be a good friend.”
It undid its pants, pulled out its penis, and began to pee.
“Friends or not, Laelinyn, I am not a fool.” It shook and wiped before tucking it back in and flushing. “Even I have heard of what you’ve done. Something like that cannot be kept quiet.” It washed its hands. “The rumor is that Lucifer is way beyond pissed and is heading into completely furious.” Amasa dried its hands and turned to me. “So not only are the mighty Odin and his birds searching for you, but a furious Lucifer as well.” Amasa grabbed my shoulders and shook me. “You’re not staying here.”
Back to the bedroom we went. A light grey rug on an ebony plank floor, the walls the same grey and the ceiling painted black. There were no pictures or art, Amasa didn’t have anyone to take pictures of and you’d have a hard time trying to get any demon to take a picture anyway. I hugged Amasa from behind.
“But I have nowhere else to go, Amasa. You have to help me. I can’t get help from Einar because Papa and Padere are mad at him too.”
I blushed. Out of all my problems, this was the last one I wanted to be talking about, but Amasa was really the only one I could talk to about it.
“Padere caught us kissing.”
Silence. Then, “So you’re venturing into uncharted territory, hmm?”
Amasa’s tone didn’t sound as final as before, the tone was a pondering one. It definitely wanted something. Amasa turned around in my arms to face me.
“I’ll let you stay if you give me a kiss each night that you’re here. Starting tonight.”
What Amasa wanted was a tiny bit of my life force, which could sustain him for months, each night. It wouldn’t drain or hurt me, and the loss wouldn’t shorten my life in any way, but I was wary. Amasa prodded me.
“Well? Fair trade?”
It wasn’t in any way a fair trade. For what I would be giving it, Amasa should be offering to give me all of its belongings and to be my willing slave for the rest of its days. Yet, I would have to take it because I had nowhere else I could really go. At least not with my parents angry at me. I sighed as I thought about all the extra trouble this would bring me regarding my parents.
And I kissed it.
Chapter Three- Death and Darkness
So from then on, Amasa received my laced kiss each night, building up the kind of power Sex Demons weren’t allowed to have. Even living together temporarily, we rarely saw each other because Amasa slept mostly during the day. Even though it received power from me each night, Amasa still brought home prey for nightly life force draining. Its actions made me wonder what it needed all of that power for. Just to have it? Or did it have plans.
Though I call Amasa my friend, Sex Demons weren’t capable of friendship with anyone. I just happened to be someone of royal blood with great ingrained power who took an interest in it. Amasa and I were companions at best. We understood and accepted each other, but that’s as far as things went. Most would think that what Amasa did every night was immoral. I just see it as how Amasa survives. It needs to eat just like any other creature, and the Humans came home with it willingly. Do they know that their life is going to be drained? Of course not, but neither does the piglet know that you’re going to butcher it for dinner. In return, Amasa understood my situation. It’s difficult to become close to someone when you’re the child of the two most hated beings in all of history. So, I did not love Amasa and Amasa did not love me but we have a pact together.
I stayed inside, not taking the chance of being seen by Muninn or Huginn, and called no one. The last thing I wanted was to bring more attention to myself. With all of my free time, I used my netbook to look up all I could about Reapers and Death. All of it was complete Mortal nonsense. Every site I went to said that Death was the Reaper. Yet my sister had told me different. I tried asking Amasa, but it didn’t know much of anything that wasn’t in its job description. I gave up, left Amasa’s room, and headed towards the den. Just as I made to sit down, the front door opened and Amasa walked in. Only to be stabbed by the man who walked in behind it.
Amasa shouldn’t have died. It carried no heart or soul, being made solely of my Father’s power. Yet there it was, lying on the floor. Dead. By a dagger. The man stepped further into the house and shut the door behind him. He was average height, slim, and well-muscled. He had to be to have pierced a Demon’s skin. He wore black boots, black designer jeans with silver Chinese dragons swirling down the front legs, a black shirt, and a black seamless trench coat. A silver choker hugged his neck and the charm on it was a scythe. Our eyes met when I finally got to his face. They were slightly deep set and slanted in a brown face. The shape was similar to the eyes of the Ljosalfar or the Dokkalfar, but not as large and he had no pointed ears. Yet that didn’t mean that he didn’t have any Elven blood. The color was molten, swirling silver like his eyes were windows to a world of nothing but stormy silver clouds. The cold in them froze my bones and thoughts in place as I stared at him in shock and fear.
He stepped forward and I didn’t have the presence of mind to step back. In that moment, I hated myself more than ever. Shadows began to form around me until they surrounded me entirely. The darkness gradually solidified into the shape of a man with black and silver feathered wings. Gabriel. He stood in front of me, facing the man and shielding me with his body and enormous open wings. His voice was ice and freezing mist when he spoke, as it always was.
“Leave. This one is not for you.”
The man cocked his head, black bangs obscuring his eyes.
“Not yet.” He agreed.
I blinked and he was gone.
Gabriel was the Angel of Death, one of my Father’s brothers and therefore my Uncle. Of all my musings on Death, I hadn’t once thought of him. I guess that’s understandable since I’d only seen him once before. At the moment, he was sitting across from me on a stool at the kitchen island. I was still in relative shock and did nothing but stare into space, watching Amasa fall when it shouldn’t have over and over again in my mind. I could feel Gabriel staring at me. Not with his eyes, but with his awareness.
Angels didn’t have eyes, only empty black space where eyes should be. They had lips, but nothing was behind them except empty blackness. When Angels manifest in the Mortal Realm, they only take on a vague Human shape. They looked enough like a Human for no one to notice that they weren’t. Humans didn’t pay close attention to much of anything that didn’t revolve around their individual self, especially not in a big city. Gabriel’s mouth opened and his voice came out.
“Your Father is keeping you unaware of what is happening.”
“Tell me how Amasa died.”
Gabriel’s awareness sharpened even more. It was like that feeling you get when you know someone is staring at you, but times a million.
“Do you mourn its death? It is shameful that you knew the thing well enough to call it by its name.”
If only he knew that I’d been feeding it as well. I couldn’t care what he thought of me right then. Twice the impossible had happened and both times I had been involved.
“The man you saw is the son of Death. The dagger he held is a tool of his power. It is his right to take away whatever animates a body, be it life or power.”
So whoever or whatever Death was, he must be powerful. He had to be if his son could undo something Lucifer had made. I shifted on my own stool. Just about everyone was more powerful than me, it seemed.
“Do you work for Death as well as—”
“No. I serve one and one only. I am only called the Angel of Death by Mortals because it is my job to guide souls to Heaven.”
I thought a moment, hands squished together.
“What is this about, Gabriel?”
The Angel furled and unfurled his wings gently, making the silvery feathers shimmer. I watched as one fell gently to the floor.
“Souls. Dead souls being placed into living bodies.”
“Like the story Grandfather told me.”
“Odin.” He said Grandfather’s name like a curse and in that moment I had to wonder if I could consider God my Grandfather…no, no, that just wouldn’t feel right. “The Heathen god. We have been aware of this problem for a long time. In our foolishness we assumed these happenings were simple mistakes.”
“Weren’t they? In Grandfather’s story the souls escaped.”
I had to look away from Gabriel’s fabricated face. It was just eerie looking empty sockets and a gaping mouth with nothing in there.
“Escaped? How could they do that, they’re souls. There are rules that must be followed. A soul has no consciousness outside of a living body. It can’t do anything. These souls aren’t escaping, little idiot, the Reapers are letting them go.”
“Why would they do that?” I was intrigued enough to look at his face again and to lean closer. “You said that there are rules that must be followed.”
“There are. For every rule made there is someone who will break it eventually. You should know that nephew, of all creatures. As for why the Reapers are allowing dead souls to inhabit newly born bodies, well, you’ll soon find out if you haven’t already. One way or another.”
Then Gabriel disappeared in a cloud of black mist the same way he’d appeared.
Amasa hadn’t been anything special among its kind; just one among many. I didn’t feel angry that it was dead, but I did feel sorrow. Every connection broken leaves jagged edges and tears that are irreparable. Amasa had been a connection for me, to the part of me that hated myself, hated what I was and hated the two men who had made me despite the loathing they knew I would receive almost everywhere I went. Amasa had understood that. It had hated being one among many, being so inconspicuous. No one had even bothered to learn its name. Except me. Before I met Amasa, I had never seen Sex Demons before. My brother, Ketsa, had told his wide eyed little brother about them in an effort to cause trouble. That’s when I found it. I was amazed by its looks. So sleek and black, the perfect blend of male and female. I had looked on that creature and seen something amazing and perfect where no one else had seen anything else but a Sex Demon. I couldn’t understand why its kind was loathed so, and in my awe I felt compelled to speak.
“Who are you?”
It had looked at me, a young and awed boy of royal blood, and taken my measure. I had asked it what no one ever had. A moment passed.
“I am Amasa.”
And as long as we were connected, Amasa became someone instead of something. Even Lucifer himself recognized it by name. Amasa was finally held and recognized above its brethren. As it had always wished, Amasa wasn’t just one of many anymore. In return, I received no special treatment or loyalty. Amasa treated me as it would treat any other; I didn’t stand out so much anymore when alone with Amasa.
But that was gone now. Amasa was gone.
Amasa had been my friend, easy enough with me to show personal pleasure in things which had nothing to do with sex. My friend had just been killed, murdered, because of me. I knelt next to it and brushed a hand over the silky skin of its face. There would be no laments sung, mostly nobody would even notice that Amasa was dead. With its death, Amasa had once again become one of many. In all eyes but mine.
I wept and sang songs of ancient sorrow and pain. I made jewels of my tears and a shroud of silk of my blood. All this for Amasa. The others of my Fathers court would cry out in horror if they could see; the blood and tears of royalty wasted on a worthless lowly Sex Demon and one that dared have a name. But they would see. I was going to take Amasa’s body home and bury my friend beneath a bed of Lucifer’s blood violets in his personal garden, exalted in death as well as life above all others of its kind. As I wrapped my arms around its body, I smiled and thought, ‘Maybe I had loved Amasa after all. And maybe Amasa had loved me.’