"I can’t believe you seduced me." Ford said, out of breath. Athen just gave a lazy smile from her position beside Ford. She was laying flat on her stomach. "I think we need to get you out of here. Hell is corrupting you. I think I miss when you were naïve, shy and innocent." Athen raised her right eyebrow at the man as if asking if he was serious. "Okay, not that much, but hell be blessed if I am ever able to say no to you again. You are a dangerous force Athen." The girl could only laugh, far too exhausted from their previous activities for much else.
Joey’s boisterous laugh filled the room.
"It’s not that funny," The girl mumbled the blush on her face residing.
"Yes, yes it is! Not to mention it’s simply ingenious!" As the man laughed Athen decided she was never telling the old soul anything again.
"Just hush and help me get ready." She hit him playfully on the arm.
"Alright, so," The demon got a hold of himself and looked over Athen, especially her wings. "Your wings are certainly unique, and you can’t retract them. You’re right a bird demon is probably the best choice. Also with features like yours," He motioned to her hair. "A harpy demon would be the best choice."
Athen just sat there letting Joey mumble to himself. She was far too excited. Not only was she able to finally leave the palace but she was going to a festival!
Athen missed stars. Although the night sky was a beautiful dark indigo and it shone with a mirage of many different colours it wasn’t stars. It wasn’t the twinkling almost magical balls of pressurized gas. The festival, though was lavish!
The court was filled with thousands upon thousands of demons. They were all so intricate. They made the ones Athen knew look like humans. There were ones whose skin was metal armor itself, and others who were nothing but a structure made completely of mud. They were entirely without space in the realm of belief. To Athen they were beyond fascinating.
The ones that intrigued Athen the most were the Miasma. They were female celestial bodies, beautiful in every aspect of the word: their hair long and sensual as it frolicked in the warm hell wind; their bodies curvy where needed and moved seductively. They were also made completely of gas. Their whole body was gaseous, each one glowing a unique colour.
"I’d be heaven sent to mess with one of those witches. They are scary beyond belief. Suffocation is said to be the worst way to go. They have sent many a man to their lives." Akefia whispered to the group shuddering as they were passed by a convent of the gaseous women.
In hell when a demon was killed they were not sent to their deaths. They were already dead. Where was one sent to go after one has died? To live, of course. Given the chance to start their mortal life over and perhaps sin a little less and eventually end up in heaven. Because heaven, of course, was the Eden of all the places to be, right? Athen wondered.
Most demons, however, didn’t want to give up their powers, their cushy lives just so they can go back to being human. Life was alright in hell, after the torture.
Paper lanterns littered the court yard, lighting the way for families of demons and haunted souls to cruise the streets of the festival. The merchants on the side yelled and swindled, calling for every well-off-looking lad and lass they happened to hook their eyes on.
Athen shook her head slightly to move the hood that had slipped into her eyes. She half had to concentrate on keeping her wings close to her back, folded. The outfit she wore concealed her angel lineage as best as possible. The red dress was tight and covered up to her neck. Athen had a hard time believing the dress was Lily’s. It must have belonged to someone other than the temptress. Ignoring the tightness of the gown at its shortest part, the dress was below Athen’s knees. Even with Lily’s extra height the dress was far too modest for the princess of demons.
Over the dress a drab grey cloak hung around her loosely. Her folded wings managing to find nice resting places in the slots provided by the cloak. The loose hood overlapped into Athen’s eyes frequently, but she begrudgingly left it alone. She didn’t want to risk her only chance of any type of hell bent adventure. Her long hair was tucked behind her in a long plait and her purple eyes were shadowed by the overhanging shadow of the hood.
"Oh look! Games!" Zack shouted. The young demon hurried in front of the group. The three remaining guards watching over Athen as if she was all they had left in their world. They all on some respect agreed with Ford for wanting to keep the girl inside. As much as they enjoyed the time spent with the girl, they also wanted it to last as long as possible. Exposing her in such a way was a risk to that. A risk they didn’t take lightly.
Athen and the demons met up with the enthusiastic Zack the young one was already immersed in a game Athen couldn’t make heads of tails of. On the table cards sat in an intricate fashion and Zack furrowed his eyebrows in concentration. Suddenly as if an epiphany had hit him he reached for the cards and pulled away at four cards that lay atop a pile. Suddenly the demon that was running the game, a slimy bird looking creature, cawed with great surprise. “Pick your prize, fellow you sure deserve one. In less than a minute you solved such a riddling puzzle!” The way he spoke reminded her lot of Bapi when the man thought it was enough to speak that was. Over-enthusiastic and accompanied by the smacking of lips in between sentences.
They all looked curiously as the demon pulled out a box. When he opened it, the initial brightness blinded each person; the glow faded to a mere twinkle and they all looked on in wonder.
"Angels, my boys, parts of an angel. I have here a bottle of tears, the best cure known in all four worlds. A feather from an archangel, quite rare really." Rare indeed, Athen held back her scoff, about as rare as pigeon droppings in Toronto. There were so many archangels in heaven they were counted as units and not individuals. "This, you’re going to love, angel blood. The best drug one could ever get their hands on." Athen narrowed her eyes, Angel blood. The silver liquid was thick in the vial, looking a lot like mercury for all purposes; the metallic liquid sloshed violently in the bottle.
"I dare say, try not to sell those again." Akefia spoke, the four demons removing their grey hoods in a single synchronized motion. "Lest the King’s court catches you, don’t you think so, beggar?" Athen smiled behind the veil of her hood and watched the bird start to squirm under the hard gaze of her friends.
"I dare say you be right, Count Akefia." The bird quickly closed his box and hid it among the shelves that contained other black market prizes. "Perhaps something else might interest you Count Zack?" Zack’s big round eye blinked at the demon.
"No, no thank you. I just like games." The count pranced off to some other stands with similar set ups of games. Athen couldn’t help but laugh; the young male seemed almost innocent. But if there was anything she had learned in her last few weeks here it was that nothing was as it seemed. At a second thought, she wondered how old the small boy actually was.
Another thing you will realize about Zack as you spend time around him is that he sounds like chains. It was a really strange phenomenon considering anyone with eyes could see that Zack had no visible chains on him. And yet he rattled, almost jingled when he walked.
"I miss earth." Athen said suddenly. Four pairs of eyes all went to stare at her. "What?" She called indignantly. "I miss warmth." She said. "At least here is better than you know where, but Earth is wonderful everything feels like something. Kind of makes you feel alive." Athen laughed lightly.
"Isn’t that the point? You’re not alive anymore, none of us are." Mark spoke, though his voice lacked any emotion. He shrugged his shoulders loosely and they continued walking. Each of them mulling over the words that were previously spoken.
Athen was mystified by the shops that had popped up in the court yard over-night – well over the day. It made for a wonderful market place. Everything was so enchanting.
"How much for this?" Athen was staring at a box, it was a simple box made of what looked a lot like wicker, she had no clue but it was quite a nice box. It was also seemingly empty, light when you held it in your hand. What captured Athen’s attention the most was the lock that hid the box’s secrets. Athen never liked secrets she was far too curious for her own good. That was the main reason why she found herself away from her protectors looking to buy such a treasure. The wind picked up behind her and a few strands of her white gold hair escaped the confines of her hood.
"A few strands of your locks will do quite nicely." Athen blinked, staring at the merchant. She was a demon, Athen assumed, though she looked quite human except she was compressed into a short package with graying old hair. The angel saw no harm in trading her hair for the start of a new mystery.
"Pan, I’d prefer if you didn’t try to steal my friend’s life. I’m quite attached to it." It was a voice Athen both recognized and didn’t. It was obviously Joseph’s voice. He was the only one of the four demons that sounded any bit regal. When he spoke like that it made Athen wonder what he used to be.
"Of course not, Joseph, I wouldn’t think of it." The old woman begrudgingly spoke. Stripping the box from Athen’s hands the woman and blew imaginary dust from the box. With a casual arm around Athen’s shoulder Joey lead her away from the woman.
"That’s Pandora. I’m pretty sure you have heard her story." The demon rolled his eyes and he smiled brightly at Athen as though he was laughing. "She’s a bitter soul stealer now, and she still holds grudges from two thousand years ago!" He did laugh then, but didn’t continue his story. And for once, for some reason, Athen was sure she didn’t want him to. He might be the only ‘man’, ‘alive’ old enough to know the truth behind all those myths, stories and legends of days far before Athen’s time.
"I see you’ve met up with Pandora tonight." Mark whistled loudly, looking over Joey. It was then that Athen noticed the bright green hair that replaced his usual golden blond locks.
"Bless that stupid witch!" He cursed. "On second thought, she might like that. Self-righteous whore. Damn her further to the depths of hell." He ruffled his hair testing if the colour was only a powder or paint. No such luck. "Akefia, can you help?" Athen wondered as the group of five huddled in what the bleached demon could do in terms of help but yet she wasn’t surprised with what happened next.
"If I didn’t want that witch dead in the first place I would’ve left you like that for a while. It suits you." The man barked out a laugh before he ran a hand through the blonde’s hair. A few moments later and a second of chants in a voice that was nothing like Akefia’s usual brisk tone and Joey’s hair was a respectable gold once more.
"Thanks, thief!" Joey called happily. Shaking the golden mane in front of his eyes joyously, his tail true to his lineage was wagged wildly.
"Heh, no problem." Akefia replied. Athen watched the exchange with something akin to wonder.
"Wow! Akefia what was that?" She said excitedly, not being able to resist circling Joey in an enthused manner. She stared at his hair from all angles. She was pretty sure that Akefia wasn’t a witch like the woman, Pandora, Athen had just met was. So how was he able to revert Joey’s hair to its rightful colour?
"That’s Akefia’s special trait! He’s like a demonic chameleon. He can take any magic he feels or comes in contact with and recreate it." Zack explained. Athen stared at her friend in wonder. That was so…
"Cool." She said, mystified, her eyes wide like a child’s on Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, Athen frowned. Where was that horned demon singing foolish human Christmas’ carols that she envisioned?
She thought over it as they walked along the path. The others glued to her side not wanting to lose sight of her in the crowd again. It was well into January by now and albeit a little late for carols but…but…
"Jingle bells, Jingle bells" A male voice sung from behind Athen. The angel jumped and turned around. She then noticed the long soft brown hair slipping out from under the dark blue cloak the man wore. "Jingle all the way."
"Ford!" She called hugging the man instantly when she recognized the demon prince. Sure, his horns where hidden underneath the cloak and he was far more cute than foolish looking as she imagined, but it was what she had dreamt about. It wasn’t perfect but it would do.
"I believe tonight called for a horned demon singing Christmas carols." The man winked at her and Athen’s jaw dropped.
"Lily told you!" The girl growled while blushing a bright crimson.
"Yeah, I just finished talking with her. They’re on their way back now. Trust them to go fishing in the middle of the pacific for a month." Ford rolled his eyes, Athen just laughed.
"Why are you here anyways?" Athen asked, her hand lightly clasped in Ford’s
"I got lonely." The pout on Ford’s face was undoubtedly cute.
"Aww, so are you out to join in the festivities?"
"Sadly, no. I was but, I have to go back to the palace and prepare for their arrival. Afterwards, we will all join you though." Ford answered Zack’s question and gave Athen’s hand a squeeze. With a nod to the rest of them, he blinked from sight. Athen pouted making a silly face.
"Ah wells! We’ll just have to have fun without him, won’t we?" She said and started walking briskly to the centre of the courtyard where an impressive crowd had formed. The group of veterans looked between themselves, their shoulders dropping. With a heavy sigh the four continued forward. Just leave it to their prince to make their job harder. An aggravated Athen was a distracted Athen. And a distracted Athen was an Athen likely to get lost.
"What he is doing here?"
"Shouldn’t he be holed up in his village torturing his people?"
"Or shoving more sticks up his ass." Athen slowly turned around to meet Joey’s mirth filled amber eyes.
"Who are you talking about?" She joined in their hush whispers. Not wanting to disturb the audience who was enthralled with the Medusa-like snake-haired dancer on stage.
"You see the creepy frowning guy to the side of the stage?" Mark whispered to the girl. Athen nodded. "He is the epitome of all things evil. I actually think the man is the incarnation of everything bad. He barely even laughs. Trust me. When I say that, me the person who decided to play tag with the black plague in the eighteen hundreds for amusement, you know the guy is heartless.” The purple eyed demon hissed in his slightly maniacal way. Athen frowned, Mark caused the black plague? That wiped out town after town of people. She shuddered: it was times like this she remembered the company she kept.
The dancer continued to move, her body mimicking the snakes that made up her hair. A few hollers were heard as the rowdiest of the crowd arrived. Athen’s eyes were drawn to the shady figure Mark had pointed out.
The man had dark hair that looked wet to the touch; his eyes were a little far apart, making room for his straight, long nose. He had to be at least six feet tall, flat-footed – his boots gave him an extra few inches making him even more menacing than usual.
"What about him?" Athen asked curiously her eyes wide as she watched the girl on stage twist into a demon pretzel. Wow…
"That’s Ford’s cousin. If Noel, Ford, Spencer, Lucifer, and Lilim all die he’s the next in line for the throne, and he makes sure everyone knows it." Akefia explained, Athen blinked, Lily’s full name was Lilim, and Luke was actually the Lucifer. Just when you think you have finally figured it all out you find out…
"So, does he try to kill them all the time?" she guessed: it only seemed obvious.
"Of course not, THAT would be too nice and far too simple. He wants all of hell to turn against them in a nasty revolt which he will turn around to make useful for himself. He will take over the throne and have his cousins and uncle as slaves. Or at least that’s what he’s said on an occasion or few." Joey shrugged his shoulders in the way he did when he was feigning to be nonchalant. Athen could tell he was near seething though. Athen took another look at the man.
On second glance his hair was quite normal, nothing notable about it except that it looked like it was slimy to the touch but besides that, it was just there. He was dressed in quite an extravagant gown and a crown firmly placed on his head. He looked evil; it would be fair to even say he exuded evil. Athen didn’t know why, but she assumed it was his eye shadow or the eyeliner.
"He really creeps me out." Zack shuddered beside her the tinkling of chains accompanying his movement.
"Yea, it’s the make-up," Athen said absentmindedly. The four demons stared at her, stunned, and then at once they all erupted into laughter.
The show finished and the crowd cheered vivaciously. The four were left standing there as the spectacle ended.
"Was that acceptable, master?" The snake charmer bowed to her lord. She didn’t cry as a sharp hand lashed out and hit her.
"You couldn’t do better? You’re so useless, I don’t know why I brought you here. You were better off locked up in the cell." She didn’t speak out as his even sharper words were thrown at her.
The woman bowed her head in apology, her eyes closed. Athen, who had been watching the scene since the beginning looked at the man she knew, she had a gut feeling that he was going to kill the girl.
"Stop!" Before Athen knew what she was a doing, a force field had appeared around the woman. It blocked the certainly deadly attack that was aimed at her. Coal black eyes turned on Athen and the girl froze in place. It was like looking death in the face. Death shouldn’t have scared Athen, but she right near cried when the onyx orbs locked on her own purple ones.
"Well, well, well, if it isn’t the guard dogs of the inner court." The man blinked over, Athen shuddered, wishing she hadn’t stepped in. His attention wasn’t attention she wanted. "And you brought a pet." The girl shrunk back as he stepped towards her.
"How are you, Hades? Or what do they call you nowadays?" Joey said, looking disinterested.
"I’m known as Vatican, now." The man, Vatican, looked at the blond dog demon with a glare. "What about you Adonis? Or wait, was it Anibus? I really don’t know how to keep track of all the aliases you go by on earth. Not that I care about human-lovers like you four." His glare receded and he managed to just look bored as he spoke.
Joey growled, actually growled. His canines were bared as he glared at the creepy dark demon.
"What do we have here?" Joey’s small diversion wasn’t enough for the man to forget about Athen. She cursed silently. His gloved hand grabbed her face roughly, her cheeks being pushed into her teeth. "Purple eyes. Interesting." He said, twisting her face in all kinds of directions. She wanted nothing more than to pry his hands off of her, but she had no idea what he could do. And frankly she didn’t care to find out. "Wings, with feathers…A harpy?"
The four court men stayed silent, watching the man abuse their angel friend. Silently they seethed, ready to step in if necessary. They only regressed because the Marquis would make quick work with at least Athen before they could do any damage. He was too blessed close.
"No, of course not. A harpy would have fought back by now, and of course they don’t have that interesting power you showed a few moments ago. A force field, really? Impressive," His hands had left her face and she let out the breath she didn’t know she was holding. Without warning he pulled back the cloak that was hiding the majority of her platinum hair.
The four demons stepped back bracing themselves as the ripple of power surged through them, knocking their cloaks clear off them. Athen was exposed. Without warning the man floated up, his energy surge had gotten the attention of many of the crowd. The speech he started attracting the rest.
"My fellow demons! I give you treason of the highest degree. Among you lie Angel-lovers. Those who dare sneak an Angel into the royal court. Those who dare let their vile kind into our kingdom." A roar started among the crowd and people struggled to get a look at the so called traitors. "What’s worse is that it’s your own guard men. The counts of the court dare to bring such a threat to our kind. I give you all. The angel." He used his power to clear a space around the four demons. Athen’s eyes went wide and she froze. Thousands of eyes were on her, some with a curious stare, most with bloodthirsty glares.
"Run." Akefia’s whisper was all that was needed, Athen turned on her heal and high tailed it out of there. For parts she ran, when avoiding buildings and stands. For longer distances of paths not blocked she blinked. She dared not to look back, the sounds war cries and hundreds of claws, feet, and other ways of movement were enough to tell her they were still being followed.
They ran closer to the castle; if anywhere, they would be safe there. Athen rolled her eyes at herself. Ford was right, it was dangerous to go outside and risk death. But as she ran full speed denying herself the use of flight, the adrenaline coursed through her. She was scared out of her wits, she was aching from moving but she wouldn’t have traded it. Somehow she knew this was an adventure she would get out of. As long as they could just reach the castle.
"Home sweet home!" A voice boomed and Athen’s whole body was sucked to the floor. The force exerted on her body just as great as the Prince’s had been, though there was no control to it. If anything, the owner was purposely throwing out his power to get such a reaction. It got heavier as three figures appeared in the castle way. The sound of the horde of demons that were on their tail died. As they were all flattened to the ground by the impressive power, the three figures went silent the murmur of their voices now stilled at the sight in front of them.
The power lessened slightly just enough for the demons to be able to move. Athen didn’t – the ground was far too comfortable.
"I’m sorry to darkle this ravenous mutiny." Athen looked up from where she rested on the floor. Navy eyes scanned the crowed with mirth. A man in a pair of black slacks stood center. His dark skin was glimmering in the colourful shine from the sky. His voice and eccentric manner of speech clued Athen in. This extremely powerful man was Noel. Ford’s Father, and the king of hell.