The Price of Victory

Here’s a short story I wrote for an assignment, that’s been graded, so I can now post online without worrying about it being considered plagiarism of myself… Makes no sense. I know… Enjoy!

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The Price of Victory

Katania leant against her maul, her breathing heavy and undignified. She was battered and bruised, and practically painted in her own blood. The wounds had healed over her coal-black skin, but the exhaustion remained. She had reached her limits, and needed to rest.

Valerie didn’t care.

They stood on the outskirts of a forest on a hill overlooking a small village. Valerie had long since lost count of how many villages they had crossed, and quite frankly didn’t care as long as Katania produced results. The hours had turned to days, but Valerie was still not satisfied. Not when she looked at her sister and saw her nearly collapsing from such a light warm up. The real training had yet to begin.

“The village isn’t going to destroy itself. Go,” Valerie said.

Katania gave her second oldest sister a look so brief that mortal eyes would have missed. Childish defiance filled them, and Valerie held back her grin at the thought of beating that out of her. Her baby sister—somewhere around 250-years-old, but Valerie didn’t really know or care—had stopped talking back, so she wasn’t a completely lost cause. But her work ethic was terrible, and Valerie was doing her damned best to at least beat that into her. After all, not all the dried blood and bruises on her body was the work of their enemies.

Katania stood up straight, holding onto her hammer with both hands. Without needing Valerie to tell her twice, she ran down the hill towards the village. Valerie watched as it took Katania seconds to bring about the first of the screams. Valerie would have been done by now, but once the screams and madness did start, Valerie looked on with glee as huts collapsed one after another, under the swings of Katania’s hammer. Fast and efficient. Men and women and children; all crushed and broken as she brought her hammer down, sparing no one. Try as they might to run, they were all just so slow. Even in Katania’s pitiful state, she was able to easily catch up to mere humans. Smashing limbs, turning brains to mush, and sending bodies flying.

It didn’t take too long for Katania to finish up. Valerie would have had a few choice words with her, if it had. Katania stood in the square of the little village, by a fountain centreing what used to be a market, and she moved her mouth with silent incantations; a wave of hellish flames washed over the entire village, setting alight to everything and swiftly melting it all, indiscriminately. Buildings, people, the sandy terrain. And Katania stood in the centre of the molten ground, their next battleground, unaffected, choosing now to rest, using her maul as a crutch, again.

“What are you doing?” Valerie said, knowing she would hear, despite the distance between them.

Valerie didn’t get an answer and wouldn’t get one any time soon, as the centre of a large cloud parted, and white light shone down from above. Back when this little training exercise had started, Valerie thought it amusing how the “almighty” and “benevolent” God had kept sending his soldiers to them to be slaughtered. But after quickly losing count of how many villages they had razed, it had swiftly become a bore, as it was evident that these angels were the worst of the worst, even with Katania deteriorating every fight. Katania needed a challenge, a real life-threatening fight to really push her. At this point Valerie would have made a better opponent to train with.

“If you have time to laze around, you have time to fight.”

And this was no time to be lazing around. Descending from the blinding light in the clouds were five beings with wings of pure, feathery white. Golden halos crowned their heads, and Valerie had to fold her arms to resist the urge to draw her sword, and make those halos come crashing to the ground.

Besides, this was not her fight. This was not her training session, and if it were, five measly angels wouldn’t be able to make her break even a single bead of sweat. Valerie just couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps their superior was still underestimating the power of the demonic duo.

“Make this quick, sister,” Valerie called out. Katania stood in the centre of the molten pool that used to be a village, still using her hammer as a crutch, still panting as if she had no energy left, still not taking this seriously.

“Begone vile demon!” Wow… warnings. They apparently still hadn’t learned their lesson. The angels descended down in a V formation, and the one at the head of the group was the one who spoke, his deep voice piercing Valerie’s ears. They were all clad in full silver armour, armed with golden swords and shields. Valerie couldn’t help but wonder if they had ever held their weapons against someone else.

The angels remained a good distance in the air, keeping the aerial advantage, but Valerie guessed they just didn’t want to get to close to the ground, and burn their wings off. Either way, Katania finally lifted her head up, and took her maul in both hands, ready to deal with her new training dummies.

“Shut up and fight me,” she said, and her hammer began burning with its demonic purple flames. Katania was breathing heavily, but it still took some effort on Valerie’s part not to smile at her little sister’s confidence.

It happened in an instant, but Valerie still caught it all. The two angels at the two ends of the formation both charged forward, fast enough to leave no room for error on Katania’s part. Golden swords swinging at her from two sides, Katania jumped a few feet off the ground, and lashed out with her tail. It hit nothing, but she wasn’t aiming for any of them. At least Valerie hoped not. No, her tail sprayed venom into the air, that rained down, and their formation fell apart, as they frantically tried to escape the corroding venom of a demon princess.

In their panic, Katania flew at one of the separated angels, and swung her hammer overhead with such speed and ease, one would have thought it weighed less than a feather. But Katania was strong, and the hammer was heavy, so when the devastating blow of her impure weapon connected with the skull of the pure being, it was sent hurtling to the ground. Lava mist spurted up from where the angel crashed into the hellish pool, and it was safe to assume that was one angel down.

A shriek made Valerie wince slightly, and, watching from the safe distance upon the hill, she could see that one of the angels had been caught in the rain of venom, and was falling. Never mind what the venom touched, the hellfire-tainted ground consumed the angel, setting it alight.

Katania didn’t seem to pay any mind to it as she flew at the three remaining, now having regrouped, their new formation just a small wall. And as Katania readied her first swing as she approached, they flew at her, too. There was a flurry of blows, and ridiculous parrying from Katania and her maul, of all weapons. But she was putting on a clear and undeniable display of superiority, not letting a single slash or thrust hit her. Valerie expected nothing less from a demon princess. She would tolerate nothing less from her sister.

Valerie shut her eyes and sighed through her nose. This was pathetic. Seriously pathetic. It was harder on Katania when she faced off against a single angel. Now they were just sending the useless filth they must have wanted destroyed. They weren’t skilled. They weren’t experienced, and most importantly for Valerie, they weren’t stealthy. She could track their rancid stench a mile off.

She leant a little to the side, as an arrow came flying  past from behind her. She ducked as another came immediately after, shooting for her head. And she spun on her heel, drawing her sword and slashed at the third arrow aimed at  her heart.

Why must they draw her into a fight that was not her own?

Valerie spent little time pondering this as she raced back into the forest. She couldn’t see her attacker, and as arrows came seemingly from all directions, homing in on her, it was clear to her that it was trying to stay hidden. She was more focused on the fact that this poorly hidden annoyance was distracting her from watching her sister train, than paying any mind to the assault. She followed the scent, slashing at some of the arrows, and using the trees to intercept others. In little time, Valerie caught sight of a lone armoured angel with a bow, notching his next arrow. Slow. So slow. So painfully slow that this couldn’t have been considered training at all. Even for Katania.

Valerie was on the angel in an instant, clutching his throat in her claws and squeezing. Grunting and struggling in futility, the angel grabbed hold of Valerie’s hand, as she lifted him up off the ground. She hadn’t dealt with all of the arrows, but as they homed in on her, she used the angel as a makeshift shield, moving him about like a ragdoll, as she used it to intercept the last three arrows, all from different directions. To its credit, it didn’t cry out too loudly as it was pierced with its own arrows. Holding the angel in the air by the neck, the two blankly stared at one another. It knew its time was up. Valerie tightened her grip around its neck, sheathing her sword with her other hand, so she could clutch from under its chin and tear its head clean off.

“Cowardly,” Valerie muttered under her breath, as blood splattered on her face. “Useless.” She threw the head against the trunk of a tree, unable to mask the building irritation. “Pointless.” She drew her sword again, and swung at a nearby tree. It slowly fell to the ground, but the simple swing of her dark blade had rotted the trees around her, and it was spreading out, as far as she could see. “I dare you to keep underestimating us.” A quiet challenge to the angels’ master.

The fighting had stopped. Valerie could not hear the clashes of weapons, and she re-entered the clearing in time to see Katania bring her hammer down, with another overhead swing, upon the last remaining angel, sending him crashing to the molten earth mercilessly. She was getting better, despite the exhaustion, and the terrible opponents. That much was perfectly clear…

But Valerie had missed it. Katania turned to look down at Valerie, her eyes half open, her chest heaving, her inability to fly back down in a straight line speaking volumes. She landed, or rather fell in front of Valerie, face down on the ground.

“Sister,” Valerie warned.

No answer.

“Katania,” Valerie pushed.

Heavy panting.

One second was too much. Two was an insult. But to make her wait three…

Valerie’s left eye twitched, and her hand instinctively went for her sword, but she stopped herself. “You say you want to be a warrior, but you lie at my feet like a wounded hound?”

Katania clutched the dirt under her hands, and lifted her head some, but didn’t look up at her sister. “Just let me rest for—”

The kick Valerie delivered to her little sister’s ribs would have broken a lesser being easily. But if Katania wanted to fight, she wasn’t allowed to be weak.

The kick had launched the young demon into the air, and sent her flying in an arc, falling far across the other side of the burned village. Valerie definitely felt something break in Katania as she kicked her. Katania hit the ground with such a glorious thud. Along with the dust that kicked up around her there was no holding back the laughter Valerie burst into. Her little sister lay motionless on the ground, save for the very slight movements of her breathing, and it felt like the smile on Valerie’s face was never going to leave.

Valerie jumped in the air and swiftly closed much of the distance, in a single leap. On the other side of the destroyed village, she slowly walked over towards her baby sister, going over in her head how much more she thought Katania could take, and feeling content with herself when she figured far, far more.

“Get up, little sister,” Valerie said.

Truly, this time, there was no response.

“I thought you wanted to be a warrior, dear little sister.”

Valerie’s laughter intensified at the thought, more so when she recalled the determination in Katania’s eyes when she asked the favour of her. Naïve. Naïve and stupid. Gutsy, too. But just childish foolishness. But Valerie liked the idea of putting her to the test, if only because it gave her the opportunity to discipline her, and mold her into the perfect puppet. Her right hand girl. Second best to her, but better than the rest of their sisters. That was an opportunity too good to give up.

Standing over her still motionless sister, Valerie just stared. She was good. For a child, she was damn good, and as Valerie’s laughter died out, she was left just smiling as she imagined what would become of Katania in the future. It was… She was…

Valerie didn’t have a word for what she felt, but it was warm, yet sickening and came from deep within herself, putting a swift end to her reverie. She put on a sinister snarl, masking all traces of that unsettling feeling. She knelt down by Katania, and rolled her onto her back, so she could place her hands over her sister’s chest, mouthing silent incantations to herself. Once she finished, and stood up straight again, Katania slowly opened her maroon eyes, her’s finding Valerie’s.

“Get up,” Valerie said.

Katania slowly and shakily rose to her feet. Her balance was appalling, and Valerie was incredibly close to punching her back to the ground again, just so she could rise back up in a less disgraceful manner. But she was listening to her. Despite the earlier attitude, she really was doing as Valerie had told her, as best as she could. Or, at least as best as she believed she could. That warm feeling emerged again, and Valerie almost growled in an attempt to scare it away. Katania was doing as much as she believed she could, but what she believed meant nothing. She was underachieving. She could do better. Of this, Valerie was certain.

“We’re not done,” Valerie said, as she walked away towards the closest settlement of humans she could smell.

Without a word, Katania fell into step beside her big sister.

Black Syndicate – Part One

Part one, because I don’t do chapters. Somewhat mature content follows, maybe? I don’t know. Anyway, it’s been a while since I posted an excerpt on my blog. Over two years even . . . So, since it’s NaNoWriMo, here’s something that may or may not be a garbage beginning to my novel. Enjoy! Or don’t . . . Your call.

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There are certain perks that come with being Katania Morningstar, Thirteenth Princess of Hell. Having servants to tend to my every whim; getting preferential treatment from the other demons; being able to do whatever I want. So, to find myself standing before Father’s throne, on what can hardly be described as a trial, for the most absurd of reasons, there isn’t enough havoc in the world for me to wreak.

“Obscene and disgraceful behaviour,” they had said. “Actions unfit for a demonic princess,” they had said. I am a goddamn succubus! What purpose do I have in life besides being obscene?

“This is insanity!” My voice bounces off the dark walls of the throne room.

Black ropes bind my hands. If all they did were cut off the circulation, that would be irritating enough, but they tame my flood of magic from crashing down on each and every being in this chamber. I take some pride in knowing they do not snuff it out completely. But with guards lining the circular wall of the room, their Earth-inspired, but vastly superior rifles locking dead on to me, surrounding me in an execution waiting to happen, I wonder if it would take much of my magic to eradicate them all, and still have some left over to burn this palace to the ground.

There is an unmistakable kissing of teeth to my side. If I try hard enough, I can feel the chilling gaze of my eldest sister boring into the side of my head. I would sink my claws into her, and destroy her too, if not for these cursed restraints. But I hold back the urge to snarl at Vasilisa. I hold back to the urge to glimpse out the corner of my eye at any of my twelve sisters, looking on from the balcony around the back half of the room. They are spread out across it, and in the very corner of my vision, it’s impossible for me to block out the vague shape of Vasilisa, to my left. But I dare not look away from father, and break my unmoving, fettering glare.

At my outburst, Father merely droops his head some, red eyes barely open. With him slumped back against the blood red throne, his legs hanging over the ornate golden arm of it, the boredom practically exuding off him, I can only hope that this is some kind of sick and twisted joke. Something simply to infuriate me for a little while, and then care little about before the day is done. I wouldn’t even put it past the damned demon.

“What do you say I just banish you to the Earth realm for a little while, and we call it a day?” Father, Lucifer, the Devil, and the Lord of Hell says.

If not for his red eyes, and cracked, ashen grey skin, he could pass off as an angel. He has the large feathery wings to mark him as one of  God’s most loyal soldiers, but the inky black of them marks him as one of God’s strongest adversaries. He would look at least vaguely intimidating, if he wasn’t wearing one of those suits the humans like to wear, to appear important. It makes him look about as threatening as a common fiend who snatches babies out of cots.

“For what?” Father just opens his eyes slightly more, at my screech that would certainly put a banshee to shame. “As long as I continue to corrupt the souls of man, who cares how I choose to do it?”

“Your family cares,” Vasilisa says, her haughty voice surprisingly not making my ears bleed. “And when how you choose to conduct yourself brings shame to the royal family, banishment is far too tame a punishment.”

I dig my claws into my charcoal black palms, the black blood dripping on to the obsidian tiles. I focus on the sharp stinging in my palms, so as to keep my eyes forward, and not look up at the balcony and bring down my words of wrath. I don’t need to see the disappointment on the sisters I actually like.

“Dearest sister,” I hiss the words, pushing them out through grit teeth, “I suggest you silence yourself before I come up there and truly bring shame to you.”

It is no empty threat, but it could have far more weight without all of the precautions preventing my imminent rampage, and the ensuing grovelling and begging for my forgiveness.

The war hammer at my back is a mere deadweight.

The magic screaming in me to be released is but a caged animal.

My claws, always at their sharpest and ready to rend and shred, lack all lethality, bound in front of me.

Unless I want to get up close and personal, my venomous tail, and ram-like horns are completely useless, too. My sisters all have far more years of training on me, anyway; my father is just unfairly powerful; and there’s still the trivial issue of the guards.

“If you can manage that in this state,” Vasilisa says, in a tone that is far too close to one she would use on a peasant who disgusts her, “I might just show a small bit of pride for you. Anything to wash your shameful behaviour from my mind.”

Father’s gaze flicks up to Vasilisa for a moment, before returning to me, with his previous, ambivalence and boredom. I know he doesn’t care about me, and the feeling is mutual, but a lump still forms in my throat. The only thing keeping the tears from falling from my silver, irisless eyes is knowing how much more harm it would do, than good.

So we stare at each other. Vasilisa’s stupid comment hanging in the air, as neither Father nor I speak. I don’t mask my feelings, at all. I know I can get away with throwing my dirtiest snarl at him, like the filth he is, and I know I would be a pile of ashes, were I anyone else.

“You would banish your daughter to the realm of man, where halfbreed nephilim dwell, and vindictive angels oversee, for the mere fact that I like to play with my food?” I narrow my eyes at the ridiculousness of it all. I fully expect someone to shout that this is all just a ruse, and a stupid jest. But my heart thunders in my ears, and as no one meets my expectation, I wouldn’t doubt that it’s the loudest thing in the room. “Have you grown senile after such a long existence?”

“If all you did was play with your food—” Vasilisa starts.

With all that Vasilisa has to say, it’s clear to me that she’s the only one with any real problem. She’s the only one who can’t grasp the simple fact that I, as a succubus need to feed off humans. She’s the only one who disapproves of how I choose to have fun, during the process.

Well, I don’t care, and I’ve had enough of her shrill, infuriating voice. Instinct strikes, and not even the inconvenience of my bindings can contain the pulse of death that I send out, enveloping every being in the room. All the ropes can do is dull the effects. Instead of eradicating every last one of the lesser demons Father passes of as elite guards, they merely collapse onto the cold obsidian. Most are unmoving. Some try and fail at rising to all fours, like the worthless beings they are. To his credit, Father at least lifts his brow, in acknowledgement of my power.

Good. Let him know what I can do to him.

“Dearest sister,” my voice is quiet, my tone is poison, “unless you wish for me to tear this palace apart, whilst we fight to the death, then I suggest you shut your harlot, scum-hole of a mouth.”

Only now do I look up to the side, at my eldest sister shaking, as she holds on to the golden railings, her wide-eyed fury just as evident as mine.

“You little—!” She has the audacity to even open her mouth?

I delve deep into my infinite abyss of magic, feeling the unnatural resistance, trying to push me back. But I push on, and dig deep, and with far too large an amount for the task at hand, summon a flaming bow to levitate in the air in front of me. But just as the string of it pulls itself back, and a flaming arrow materialises, the form of the weapon falls to pieces, as it goes up in a small plume, and vanishes in black smoke.

Watching my needlessly proper sister duck behind the glass barrier of the banister would make me cry with laughter, any other time. If I actually managed to strike her, I may very have laughed, despite the situation. Around me, my other sisters look equally rattled, some on one knee, others using the railing as support. Once I get through this, I’ll make sure to apologise. But now, with the unconscious ‘guards’ no longer a hindrance, I turn back to my father, my back straight, head held high.

I delve into my pool once more, but not as deep, aware of the few recovering guards, and I send out one final, concentrated pulse of death. This time, focused on the guards, finishing them off. None of them struggle, as they become lifeless husks on the ground. If nothing else, they’ll have the privilege of being the first beings to survive one of my magical attacks, laced in absolute lethality. Even if they were dulled.

The corner of Father’s mouth quirks up ever so slightly. This is all just entertainment to him, isn’t it? He doesn’t bat an eye at my two attacks. I even managed to affect my sisters, even though I am the youngest . . . But then I am the strongest.

I take a deep breath in, through my nose, and race through all the scrambled thoughts in my head. I’ve talked myself out of worse situations before, I could talk myself out of this, too.

“Father . . . Majesty,” I force out, almost choking on the word, “think this through.” The thought of begging and grovelling before Father makes my stomach churn, but I am out of options at this point. “How would it look to banish a princess— your daughter, no less— over something so trivial? Demons would think of you not as an overseer who leads them, but a tyrant who . . .”

I can’t finish the rest. Not when a lazy grin works its way on to Father’s face. Not when he sits up, and leans forward, eating up my words, but I know it is not in the way I had intended.

“Go on, sweetheart,” Father drawls, in a way that sets my skin crawling. “A tyrant who what? Rules with an iron fist, and cares not what the scum of Hell think of me?” Father rises to his feet, and I curse my body for shivering. He starts down the dais, arms spread wide, as if showing me the scope of his reign, his control. “Let them call me tyrannical.” Another step down. “Let them curse my name for everything that goes wrong in their pitiful lives.”

His feet reaches my level, and with every step across the floor, the closer he gets to me, the urge to run grows stronger, deeper, and more unbearable. But I refuse to show it. I meet his smug grin, with my deadly calm, if only because a temper tantrum at this point has ‘exile’ written all over it. A good seven feet away Father stops, and raises his right hand; with a simple, echoing click, the guards I made sure I killed rise up once more, like clockwork, and point their rifles straight at me, like good little puppets.

“Father—”

“With the greatest of sincerity, I care not how you choose to please yourself in your own time.” I doubt he’s ever been sincere for a second in all his many days in Hell, but I dare not move a muscle. “But I am always welcome to the opportunity to teach my kin some respect.”

And then it hits me. My very core freezes. I’m positive my heart stops, if even for a second. The flames in my blood go out, and in a swift wave of panic, I no longer care about keeping up my bravado.

“It breaks my heart that my own daughter truly despises me, with her every waking breath.”

This is not a hearing.

“I dream of the day you will hang on to my every word, like a good little girl.”

This is not a trial.

“Perhaps some time away from me will teach you just how much of a loving, caring father I am.”

This is an excuse.

“Father,” I breath out, the breath stolen from me, “you can’t be serious.”

A circle of fire surrounds me, the edge of it just before Father’s feet. Within it, a five-pointed star, with me dead in its centre. This is his answer. And despite the flames, I have never felt colder.

I’m frozen in place, and not just out of the real, genuine, foreign fear coursing through my veins. My eyes bug wide, my mouth remains slightly ajar, and I can’t keep my bottom lip from quivering. A flood of thoughts invade my mind, and I can’t think straight. My heart feels like it will burst out of my chest, and I feel like I’m falling through Hell, to some place, even further down. And then I blink, and my father comes into my vision again.

No.

No!

“I’m sorry!” It pains me. “I’m truly deeply sorry!” Father’s face lights up in delight. “I’ll be loyal!” I want to kill myself. “I’ll be respectful!” I want to throw up the contents of my stomach. “I’ll be a good girl and do everything you tell me!” I didn’t realise I was crying, but as my voice cracks, the blurry vision and the wetness riding down my cheeks make sense. I’m crying. I’m crying in front of my father, and my sisters, but it doesn’t matter to me anymore. Nothing matters except staying here. “I’ll beg! I’ll get down on my knees and beg!” Dignity is a small price to pay.

“Oh, darling,” Father says, his eyebrows arched as he stands at the edge of the flaming pentagram, “you’re making me want to change my mind.” He shoots me an apologetic smile and for the briefest of moments, I allow myself to hope. “Well, okay.”

Through the wall of tears and shame, my lips start to pull up at the corners.

“Beg.”

I know I suggested it, but even so, where my blood was ice moments before, it now burns hotter than the fiery pits of Hell. I clench my jaw tight, keeping the words locked behind my fangs. Father’s grin, though . . . Those perfect white teeth just begging me to rip them out . . . The bastard is enjoying this. Making his daughter suffer. I know I can be difficult, but this is just wrong. Even to a demonic level.

But I have to. Damn it all, I do. I abandon the last tiny shred of pride I have, and slowly fall to my knees. I am only vaguely aware of my sisters watching this farce, from atop the balcony, but they don’t matter in the slightest right now. All there is is me, Father, and how low I have to go to appease his sick amusement.

A dark, soul-breaking chuckle escapes from him, and I can only look to the floor. Heartless, I can’t help but think. Heartless filth. But it would save me the trouble of ripping it out, myself, when I get my revenge. As if to prove the point, an invisible force pushes down on my shoulders, pushing me down to all fours, like a goddamned hellhound.

This is a lesson.

“I don’t hear begging.”

I want to snarl at the floor. I want to let out  a growl so bestial that even Father would think twice about punishing me. Considering my position, I’m glad I hold my tongue. “Please Father,” I can barely croak out, “I beg of you; allow me to stand at your side, and serve you as your loyal daughter.” I’ll kill him. I’ll kill him, and feed his remains to the hellhounds!

“Damn. If only you had meant that, I just might have listened.”

“I do!” I shut my eyes tightly, trying not to curse his name, and everything else about him, even in my head.

Damn him!

“I pledge my life to you!”

Damn him! Damn him!

I clench my teeth. “I won’t ever question you again!” I scream at the top of my voice.

Damn you, Satan! Damn you, Lucifer! Damn you, Father of Lies!

I sob, tears falling on to the obsidian floor. As if tugged by the strings of a marionette, I’m pulled up straight, my heart jumping near out of my chest, as I find Father standing barely an arm’s length away from me, inside the pentagram with me. I only just reach his shoulders. I was always the smallest sibling, but I’ve never felt as small as I do now.

He looks down at me, fire flickering in his eyes. I can see how he wants to break me, destroy my ego, and replace it with a loyal hound, just for his amusement. Not for the first time, and certainly not the last, I can only feel undiluted, unrestrained hate for him, with every fibre of my being.

He leans down, and whispers in my ear, “How does a thousand years sound, precious?”

Fear courses through me, making my black heart beat faster, and my voice catch in my throat. This is happening. This is really happening. He pulls back, ruffling my head of blood red hair, that falls to my chest, dancing with the flames. I’m just a child in his eyes. Maybe even in the eyes of my sisters, despite the many centuries I have lived, and I can’t help but wonder if maybe they have all been punished for absolutely nothing, in such a cruel way.

“Actually, we’ll make it two thousand,” he says. I don’t have the will or the energy to register the words. I don’t know what I am supposed to feel. “We’ll miss you.” With a wink, he steps through space again, reappearing just outside of the pentagram.

“Father,” I move my mouth, but I don’t even know if any sound comes out. It doesn’t matter, anymore.

The flaming lines of the pentagram erupt in flames, and the last thing I see is Father’s smug face, just beyond the wall of flames, waving to me, before my entire world is engulfed in a sea of orange, blazing hot hellfire.