The House of Asmodeus: A Trial by Fire Chapter 16

“A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” – Ecclesiastes 3:8

“You’re doing just fine sweetie,” the mother said to her boy. “Your father is proud of you, and I’m proud of you.”

“For what?” the small child asked. “I don’t get fish like dad wants, I don’t get into schools like Alice does, I just sit around, and waste space. How could you be proud of me?”

The mother frowned at his words, his lack of confidence. She didn’t appreciate how her husband, Clayton’s father, was treating him. He’s harder on him, too hard. I was hard on Alice and she ran away. Not this one too. 

The mother picked up her boy and sat him on the kitchen counter to speak with him on equal eye level.

“Listen here, you’re my son,” she strongly poked him in the chest, “mine,” then pointed at herself, “there’s no way I could ever not be proud of a boy like you, screw whatever your father wants. Pardon my language.” 

Getting Clayton to look up was the first step. 

“I’m just happy to be around you, I need no other reason to be proud of you then to see you being the good boy that you are. 

“And your father, well, between you and me,” she put her hand around her mouth and got in real close to Asmodeus, “your father is crazy!” This causes Clayton to giggle and smile, which brought his mother much joy. “See! Who cares about catching some dumb fish!”

“No Mom, it wasn’t about catching the fish. It was about killing the fish, for him.”

*****

“How could you even consider to agree to such a thing?” Jophiel asks, the Archangel of Benevolence, asks, ‘the Beauty of God.’ With that name, she finds herself constantly changing in terms of looks, with the only real constant being her dark skin color. “Think about how many lives have been lost to daemons, how many of our brothers and sisters have fallen by their hands?!”

“Could they not say the same about us?!” Michael challenges her, forcing her to back down. There are no Archangels willing to tempt Michael in argument alone, but sometimes forgets that means the others will not speak. He turns away to calm himself, trying to make sure that they follow him out of logic, trust, love, not fear. 

Uriel rests her head in her palm, silent as she usually is during these discussions. Being the youngest by several billions of years, she finds herself rarely spoken to unless someone needs a tie broken.

Besides, no one truly dares to go against Michael, would they?

Her doubt is put to the test when Michael asks them all, “Have none of us broken rules and mandates of Heaven just to slaughter daemons?” 

The half circumference table they’re gathered around stands high in the clouds, in the empty air between all the Dominions of Heaven. The ground is a marble square, perfectly cut so that the sides are smoother than an atom. Only magic of the highest order could have accomplished such a thing, and they use it to gather and judge the world from above.

From his tall throne in the middle of the half-circle, Michael stands up and reminds them, “There are angels who have not fallen who have admitted guilt to acting out on their own. The angels given to us by Asmodeus-”

“Asmodeus?” Zadkiel interrupts, having regained his courage to bite at Michael now that he is not alone. “You speak of that Demon King as if he were a trusted associate!”

“Has he not been welcoming and forthcoming with us?” Michael asks, trying to stay calm even when he wishes Zadkiel would be forever silent, even after all these years. “He even trusted us with a daemon prisoner.”

“I highly doubt that was out of the kindness of his heart,” Jophiel points out, remaining unconvinced of the King of Lust’s nobility. “I think you’re being characteristically gullible. Is the Archangel of Humility is losing his taste for conflict? And was he really so forthcoming? 

“Uriel, you were there too,” she asks Chastity, “was the King of Lust not somewhat out of his mind after the battle? You said as much before.”

At the end of the table, besides Zadkiel, Uriel arches her brow, not sure where Jophiel is going with this. “Yes, I would say he was out of sorts.”

“How would you specifically describe his behavior?” Jophiel asks, masking her intentions in a tone of kindness, one that she should be known for.

“He looked like he’d seen a ghost,” Uriel informs her, hesitant with every word.

“And did he disclose this ghost to you?” When Jophiel asks this question, Uriel finds it ridiculous. 

The Archangel questions herself, Why would he tell me anything at all? 

Uriel tells her, “It’s not like we need to know everything there is know about him, he’s entitled to his own-” 

Nothing,” she is cut off, by an olive-skinned, long dark haired angel, with his five o’clock shadow showing. 

Interrupted, just as I anticipated.

With his arms crossed, the Archangel condescends to Uriel, telling her, “They are entitled to nothing, are we not supposed to protect the many? The humans? The mortals? The ones who daemons have terrorized since the beginning of time?” 

The Archangel of Patience, Chamuel, bided his time to enter the conversation. Now he leaves those who back an alliance with the daemons in a minority, as two Archangels had yet to pick a side.

“And the humans are endangered by this group, a sect of angels and daemons come together. We’ll need to stand united if we are to defeat them,” Michael pleads with his fellow Archangels.

“And how do you figure that? I’ve yet to hear anything that tells us that this community of… lovers,” he nearly chokes on the word, “are even great in number? Who’s to say that we need the daemons’ help?” 

I can say Zadkiel underestimates the threat to the human world just as much as I can say Michael overstates it.

“I do not remember anyone being this against uniting with the daemons when the Pagans came. How much of this argument is simply some of us wanting to sate our own need for battle?” Raphael’s words were damning considering Zadkiel’s close brush with falling decades back, and the glare from Zadkiel shows it. 

“I wonder if some of us need to stop being so naive, on both sides of this argument. The threat of some new force isn’t apparent, if it were this conversation would have been forced upon us and not asked of us, but the same could be said of the daemons. One could even say that it is our own doing that a new war might break out. Sure, daemons have been claiming mortal souls, but their industry has shrunk greatly in the past few decades. This new war would have been instigated by us for the first time.” 

“Let us not forget that this new group has been stealing souls too,” Gabriel adds, the Archangel of Diligence, ‘the Strength of god.’ A brunette with long hair, she looks like her brother. Gabriel says, “It’s possible that a significant number of the souls being collected aren’t even being taken by daemons, who are we then to blame them?” 

 Uriel watches Gabriel’s worn hands, finding herself seeming rather petite comparing their calluses. There’s nothing extra on her skin, and her hands are worn. She’s here to do, and Uriel cannot stop looking at her biceps. What, 50,000 years and mine still aren’t that big?

Uriel catches herself from instinctively looking to her own impressive muscles, but it appears so much less next to Gabriel.

“We are the Archangels!” Jophiel yells throwing her hands up. “We are suppose to inspire other angels to protect the good of mortals with everything they have. This isn’t some world destroying conflict like the Pagan gods. But this is an opportunity to rid all of the worlds of the threat of evil once and for all.” 

Jophiel really can’t fathom any kind of kindness towards a daemon, as anything other than betrayal, can she? Am I… any different…? 

“And let us not tell any half-truths about the Pagan Gods and our old truce with the daemons,” Chamuel interrupts to remind them all, “the Pagan Gods were overcoming us, even with the daemons’ help. The only reason we won was because of the civil war between the Celtics and the Romans, and I see no proof that this new faction will be like them, and I don’t believe any faction ever will be.”

Raphael is always ready to correct someone, and jumps at the chance to correct Chamuel. “Don’t be so sure,” Charity reminds Patience, “the Incarnal Ones and the Dark Ones are just as great, if not greater than the Pagan Gods were in power.”

Michael ceases this tangent pissing contest with his plea, “One problem at a time my brothers and sisters!”

“You’re right,” Zadkiel agrees, but not in anyway Michael can be happy with, “we should focus on the problem in front of us. We need to decide, right now, because if you four will not stand by us, then we will simply fight without you.” Zadkiel’s ultimatum is a hard one. Can any of these angels really hold back their forces and not all go to war together? Can any of the Archangel’s acquire the peace they desire if some of their own are trying to instigate a war? 

“That’s lunacy!” Uriel exclaims. “If you go at them with three armies, the seven Demon Kings would most crush you in open battle and they will storm your Dominions like we did their Circles!”

“Then do not abandon us, do not abandon your duty, Archangel.” Chamuel is attempting to guilt trip the youngest Archangel into changing her ideals, but she is not to be manipulated.

Uriel has found that the older Archangels have been trying to manipulate her far too often. She snaps back at Chamuel, “We do not abandon our duty because we protect the mortal realms and value the lives of our warriors!”

Jophiel decides to close the argument, giving up on outright arguing. “Then it appears we are at an impasse, some of us want to start an already brewing and earned war, and the rest wish to make friends chasing ludicrous possibilities. The only option left for me to do is go prepare and hope that you change your mind and do the right thing by assisting me towards victory.”

Michael pleads one last time. “It doesn’t have to be this way!”

“But it does, Michael, it does.” With that Zadkiel, the Archangel of Temperance, ends their discussion. The lines are drawn, Humility, Chastity, Diligence, and Charity are on one side of peace, and Temperance, Patience, and Benevolence have decided to force war upon them all.

They leave their round table in two directions.

Michael says to Uriel, “Quickly retrieve the angel and daemon pair from imprisonment, we must be sure the others do not kill them.” 

“Of course.”

“I hope it is possible to still convince the Demon Kings of an alliance with some of us at least.” 

No Archangel predicts the split of the Ogre daemons like Asmodeus did the Archangels.     

*****

She took a rock to bash his head in, causing him to fall. And then he got up to blindside her and drag her into the abyss of death with him. This same terrible memory had replayed over and over in Asmodeus’s head for years since his parents died, bearing slight differences each time as the memory starts to fade. 

Or really, it twists and changes.

This was the first time since coming to the Circle of Lust that Asmodeus had this dream again, and this time it was terrifying him.

This time his mother didn’t just die from his father’s blow, but instead she just screamed, and screamed for his help.

Clayton! Clay! Please help me, he’s killed me!” she screamed out, but Asmodeus didn’t know how to help her or him. 

His father just laid there bleeding out, saying one thing. “Why do you just stand there? Watching?” 

Asmodeus couldn’t wake from this nightmare.

*****

Asmodeus is violently thrashing and muttering in his sleep which means that all of the women were awake. “I can’t! I can’t help you,” Asmodeus yells with his eyes closed, “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do!” 

“Beloved, Asmodeus! It’s only a dream!” Noella tries yelling in his face to wake him up. Laying on his left arm to keep it from swinging around at them. “What’s wrong with him?! Why won’t he wake?!” she cries to the rest of them.

“I don’t know, I don’t know of daemons that have night terrors like this, I can’t explain it!” Asmodea calls out. 

Then his daemon appendages begin to grow out. His horns shoot farther than his nubs should, nearly piercing Asmodea in the stomach. She moves in time for the horns to just graze her thigh. 

“Oh my god, oh my god, we need help.” Lolara puts her hand over her mouth as she backs away on the bed, to stay out of the way of Asmodeus’s flailing limbs. She falls off the bed and starts crawling towards the door, finding her strength sapped and her limbs unable to stand.

Master, please! You’re scaring everyone!” Azale tries pleading to no avail and reluctantly goes to hold down his legs.

Lolara reaches the door overcome by shock. The others can’t feel it as she does, being a human she has little resistance to the resonance of magical energy, but resonance shouldn’t be intense in any capacity. Lolara is over-encumbered by the dark magical energy releasing in waves from Asmodeus. She can barely stand to unlock the door. 

As soon as she switches it Dotor, Zazriel, Logue, and Cavill burst in to see what was happening. “What in the devil is going on?” Cavill asks. Lolara couldn’t do anything but tear up in pain. Asmodeus’s magical energy is making her incredibly sick. 

Dotor goes to the bed, not understanding the situation. “Why is he thrashing!?” 

Noella, Azale, and Asmodea, are each trying to do their best to hold him down to keep him from striking anyone. Azale’s chin already looks bruised from some kind of strike.

“We don’t know! We were all sleeping as he gradually got more and more restless! He’s seeing some sort of vision or nightmare. We haven’t been able to wake him!” Noella tells him.

“I’ve never heard of Demon Kings having nightmares at all! What do they have to be afraid of?” Dotor mutters, horrified, at a loss over how to act or contain the problem. 

Cavill moves Dotor aside and jumps on the bed. “Do your best to hold him down ladies, I think I can pull him out of it!” Cavill unsheathes his sword and holds the blade like an offering, moving it towards Asmodeus. 

As Cavill moves, the other Dotor and Logue come to help tighten everyone’s grip on Asmodeus. Cavill’s sword starts to release a gray smoke that moves up into Asmodeus’s nostrils. It continues to fuel into his head causing some of Asmodeus’s veins to visibly pulsate. They all start pour their hearts out towards keeping Asmodeus still as Cavill’s sword moved the smoke. 

Cavill struggles to make a connection the Demon King’s mind, and he asks them to, “Hold him still!” 

They tell him, “We can’t!”

Zazriel jumps on top of him, knees to his thighs and hands to his shoulders, holding him down at the joints, using her superior strength to hold him down. Now he’s fidgeting at the ankles and wrists as she struggles. “Do it!” she yells at Cavill.

Eventually, the gray smoke starts moving backwards, pulling out. The more of the smoke that retracts, the more Asmodeus’s body starts to slow and eventually it all comes out.

But it comes out in a flash.

Whoooommmmm!

In a wave, the memory flies throughout the room, hitting all of them, knocking them over. Cavill’s sword tried to steal Asmodeus’s memory, but it was too powerful and scarring for that. It exploded in their face, and gives them all flashes of Asmodeus’s nightmare. 

They see a woman bash a man’s head in with a rock, and they see him go to attack her back but then it flashes. Then they’re both on the ground, laying side by side, bleeding from many wounds, the two flashing between normal clothes and armor. 

All while from the viewpoint of a smile child. A little boy’s hands shaking two dead bodies, shaking the woman frantically, calling out, screaming his name for her. 

Mom!” Asmodeus eyes shoot open and Asmodeus sits up to yell. Naturally, his eyes start dripping and Asmodeus moves his hands to his face to scream in sorrow. Their starring could only be described as intense. 

Asmodeus just lets the tears flow, as they all hesitate to embrace him. The energy pulsating from Asmodeus has ceased, and Lolara can gather her bearings. She walks over to the bed to crawl to him and hold him first. 

“Just come here,” she tells him. He rests his head on her shoulder, his crying calming into a slight sob. Eventually, the sobs become heavy breaths as he wraps his arms around her. Asmodea slowly reaches out her hand to rub his back, trying to help calm him.

The room is silent for a minute that feels like hours. No one needs to ask, having all seen the images in their head. They all saw the two people kill each other, and they all knew that Asmodeus’s parents died. Now they have the answer they never knew they didn’t want to know. 

Except for one Reaver.

From his knees on the ground, his eyes creeping over the side of the bed, Cavill asks, “So, what was that?”

Cavill, shut it,” Zazriel commands, as she scrambles back to her knees to crawl towards Asmodeus.

Asmodeus holds his hand open to signal to her to stay calm. 

Everyone takes a deep breath and waits for the King to speak. This becomes another pause, as Asmodeus lifts his head from Lolara’s shoulder. He looks at her face, putting a hand to her cheek. Asmodeus tells her, “I’m so sorry, being so close to power like that could have killed you.”

“You couldn’t possibly have known, don’t beat yourself up over it,” she tries to assure him. Truthfully, if Asmodeus’s intensity had kept on increasing, her exposure to such dark magic could have poisoned her. She has most certainly lost years off her life from this experience.

“Beloved… Clay, what was that… what was that dream that’s been causing you so much grief?” Noella asks, not quite sure she understands what she saw. She assumes they were his parents, but the images, the violence, she doesn’t understand that.

“The past,” is all Asmodeus tries to answer with.

Asmodea is not accepting this answer. “No! That’s not it, that’s not everything, you’ve been having strange dreams before tonight, and I bet they’re all connected. The last King of Lust was more secretive than most when it came to his past, and so are you. This needs to end now, we can’t help you if you won’t let us, and not fixing this is putting us in danger.” She grasps his head by his hair to yell at him in a way she never would have his predecessor. “Are you listening to me, Asmodeus? Are you listening? You can’t do this to us!” 

Asmodeus looks at her astonished, so shocked by her, the worriedness and the fear on her face, the fear of him. He looks away from his first lover to look around. Everyone has the same look on their faces. Even Dotor, the Reaver of Maturity who would storm Heaven at his liege’s command, looks at Asmodeus in fear. 

“You all… most of you…” Asmodeus isn’t sure how to start. So he decides on the worst day of his life. “My parents, you all know I didn’t have any growing up, I was alone and scared after they died the way they did.”

“How do you possibly know how they died?” Asmodea asks, refusing to believe that the memories she saw were his, that the little boy was him. “How could you have those memories, they were reportedly dead for days, by some freak accident.”

 “I know how they died, you know now, that story the police told wasn’t true, I was there.” 

Lolara’s hand covers her mouth in shock, then she pushes herself up against him to embrace him further. Zazriel and Azale can’t have looked more sorry. Asmodea just shakes her head in her hands like she should have known. 

Cavill’s the only one to ask, “How did they, well you know, eat the big one? Your memory kept flashing back and forth.”

Asmodeus looks at Cavill, wishing that he had never had to relive this moment, but if he is this far deep, he has to push forward. “They… she,” he corrects, “took this rock, and bashed the back of my father’s head. Then as she turned her back, my father took his own and got her back.” Asmodeus gulps down as he tries to remember the finer details. “I remember her just crumbling to the ground, splayed out on her side, bleeding from her head, asking me to help her, but I didn’t know how.” 

“Oh how could you though?” Noella comes to wrap her arms around his neck from behind, trying to nuzzle her forehead into the back of his head. 

“And my father, he just fell forward, his face in a pool of his own blood. His last words…  they weren’t to ask for help, to save him or to run away. He just, asked me, ‘Why do you just stand there? Watching?’ And that’s all I did, I didn’t think to save them or anything. I was just…  frozen.”

“What else were you expected to do, Clay? You were just a boy.” Lolara tries to reason with his brain, but after almost a decade, reason has not absolved Asmodeus of his feelings of guilt. 

“Just now, I was reliving that day, that nightmare. I haven’t dreamed about it since I first came to the Circle of Lust, but ever since the first conference among the Demon Kings I’ve been having these memories come back to me when I sleep. I don’t dream anymore, I just remember days I wish I didn’t, and days I wish would come back.”

“What can we do now to help you, Master?” Azale feels powerless to shield her master away from his suffering and pain.

“Nothing at the moment. This can’t be fixed overnight, and this afternoon I meet with the other three Demon Kings to try and convince the Archangels to align and commence war with two different factions of daemons. There’s no point in trying to sleep and risking a repeat of what just happened.” 

“Understandable, my liege, but I promise we will fix this.” Dotor is reassuring, and comforting, but Asmodeus honestly doesn’t expect anything. Asmodeus has been living with whatever mental trauma he has for years, and doesn’t expect that to change anytime soon.

“It’s time to start this day early.”

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