The House of Asmodeus: A Trial by Fire Chapter 21

“Chase away the demons, and they will take the angels with them.” – Joni Mitchell

SEVERAL YEARS AGO     

  “How did you two fall in l-ove?” Amy puts a lot of emphasis on her vowels as if mocking them.

Uriel chokes on air before she asks, “Amy, that’s a little rude don’t you think?” She hasn’t even asked what Virtue and Sin Saphira and Talon are. Last thing I want to find out is how an angel of Chastity remains so with a daemon.

“That would be a long, and uh…  inappropriate story for someone so young,” Talon tells her. Saphira starts to fret in his arms, using his soft blue fur to rest on. Her head just under his chin, and most of her back leaning against his torso.

“Well, what about your wedding?” Amy asks.

Abe seems confused by his sister’s question. “How do you know they’re married? She isn’t wearing a ring.” The kid can be pretty observant.

“Oh, well I just assumed-”

“Oh I see,” Abe interrupts her, “don’t you remember the saying about assuming?”
“Watch your language, Abe,” Uriel warns.

Abe though, says it anyway. “To assume is to make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’!” 

“Abe!” Uriel yells at him. “What did I just say?”

“Ooohh, you’re in trouble now,” Amy teases him.

Talon asks curiously, “Just how old are these two anyway?”

“We dunno, she dunno, everyone dunno!” Abe jokes.

“Shush!” Uriel yells at him, but Abe only looks at her with puppy dogs so she’ll stop being mad. She sighs, and slouches a bit where she sits in the sand. “But he’s right,” she admits, “we don’t really know much, just that when they were Thrones they gave up their wings to become the Cherubim they are now. They don’t remember anything but their names and that they were twins.”

“Yeah, and then the first Uriel took us in!” Amy cheers with her hands to the sky. “He liked kids, but the whole Chastity thing doesn’t really allow any when you take it to the extreme he did.”

Uriel is really starting to regret bringing them along. “No one is suppose to know that!”

“That you’re not the original Uriel?” Saphira asks, waking from her sleep. “I already knew, I may have been pretty young when he died, but I still remember who he was.”

“Then you told him I presume,” she says nodding towards Talon.

“Actually, I figured that out myself,” Talon admits, “not that its as uncommon as you think. Spend enough time in any mortal world and you’ll hear about Archangels through one religion or another. They all talk about the Archangels being guys asides from two or three, and Uriel wasn’t one of them. Doesn’t take genius to put together why you’re a woman all of the sudden.”

Sometimes I have these moments of dumb realization. “Oh.”

“Didn’t one of you ask about our wedding?” Saphira asks.

Amy raises her hand in the air to signal that it was her. Abe apologizes, patronizing his sister, “Sorry she’s silly, you’re obviously not wearing a ring,” and earning a dirty glare from her.

Saphira smiles and turns to Talon, who asks, “Didn’t I say what we did instead?”

“No, kind of got onto a tangent.”

“Great, I like telling this story,” he says.

Uriel arches her brow. “So you really are married?”

“Yeah we are, needed to be since I’m of Chastity.”

And then Uriel shifts from side to side, Of course she is. 

“But we couldn’t wear rings or obvious necklaces, most of the married couples in our community don’t, it would breed questions from other angels and daemons. Hard to explain to someone you know how you got married without them having met your spouse.”

“Instead, we have these.” Talons picks through his thick fur to get to his necklace. It’s half a heart. 

“We substitute rings for half-heart shaped necklaces that fit inside each other.” Saphira gets hers from where it hides under her tunic. Then she gets on her hands and knees to better face Talon, where they combine their necklaces into one heart. The act makes them smile. “Easy to have chain necklaces instead of the marital chokers, no one really thinks of them as symbols of union. Most just say they’re pretty but never overthink them.”

“So you were one of my angels,” Uriel mutters sullenly.

Saphira stops smiling, hearing the past tense in Uriel’s words. She turns around to face Uriel, who is looking rather disappointed.

“I’m still an angel of Chastity. I didn’t give myself to Tal until we were married, just as our mandate demands,” Saphira swears.

“What a drag that was,” Talon jokes but Saphira quickly hits his chest for him to correct himself, “but completely worth it!”

“As anyone could see I can and will maintain my Virtue while being with Tal,” she promises. The twins look confused watching.

They start to get it hearing Uriel’s more judgmental tone come out. “Many believe that maintaining purity would also be to not associate with Sin.”

“Many believe naively,” Saphira points out. This accusation is met with a stare down. I thought I could be alright with angels and daemons coming together, but once it was an angel of my Virtue, it felt like a blow to my heart. 

It’s one thing to accept Asmodeus’s presence and stature, but to fraternize with him is unnecessary.

Talon wants to defuse this tense situation, moving forward and trying to be more formal. “Uriel, my Archangel…” 

Uriel crosses her arms, before she corrects him, “I’m not your Archangel anymore than a Demon King is hers,” Uriel says, barely restraining the growl in her voice.

“Okay, sorry,” he tries to defuse again, but still tries to say that, “just let me say this. I embody Envy pretty strongly, I’ve never been close to rising, so Saphira must also embody Chastity better than anyone else, as she has never been close to falling.” 

Amy and Abe are amazed at the idea. They had heard the story of a daemon rising as a cautionary tale. 

“Who’s to say you’re envious,” Uriel remarks. At this point, she only wants to set these two up to disappoint her. How could anything they say, mean a thing when compared to the blight they partake in?

“Well,” Talon begins with a clearing cough, “once I married this lovely angel, I didn’t feel like I had anything to be envious of,” a line that makes Amy swoon in excitement, and Abe want to puke. “I mean, I had the love of my life, a partner, and place where we could be together without threat of violence. I could ignore the peril and ugliness of Pluto’s Palace and this realm, Envy isn’t exactly all that pretty by comparison. I just wanted to have peace with her.” 

Saphira mouths ‘I love you’ to him, taken by his words. “I was fulfilled, I was ready to say goodbye to the Circles,” then his smile starts to shrink, “as you know, one does not ascend or fall immediately, save for some extreme circumstances. It takes time, to give the daemon or angel a chance to stop the change. Well, I could feel it happening, and I was preparing myself for it.” The admittance sucks the air out of the cave, especially as Uriel realizes that this story isn’t going where she thought it would. 

“I decided that I wanted to visit my family, one last time, and say goodbye to my brother, who I hadn’t seen in years…” Then he takes a gulp, which foreshadows the tonal shift in his story if that wasn’t clear. “I visited my old home, the pretty place I remembered it to be, personal taste I know, but I didn’t become envious of it yet, but I would later,” he warns as his expression hardens. “I got to my old house that our parents had left to my brother, I mean, he is the older one. He was married too, and had two kids of his own, which was shocking, to me, we were both so much younger and kids was the last thing on his mind, but…” 

As he finds him losing track of the words, Saphira takes his hand in hers, allowing him to continue. “It was as I spent time with them, watching them be a family so freely in my old home, that it dawned on me what I was missing.” Saphira lifts his hand to kiss it. “My brother could live his life, with his family, in someplace, peaceful, safe, and beautiful, and I realized that I couldn’t. I couldn’t have a place like that for me and Saphira, or any family we might make. I can’t take my kid to play games in the desert, we can’t look at the clouds of an empty red sky, I can’t show them where I grew up, bring them to meet my people, they would always be in danger…  but my brother could do that, can do that, and my way home, as I grew spiteful towards that pretty place, I gained something to be envious about. That’s why I’ve followed A’rock, why I want what he promised.”

The things he desires are not something I’ve ever wanted for myself, but… damn this sympathy. 

Uriel is about to speak again when they start to hear the moans of a woman. 

The adults roll their eyes. 

“Shouldn’t have expected anything less from a King of Lust,” Uriel grumbles.

“Don’t they realize that there’s kids here?” Talon questions, seeming pissed.

“Don’t worry about us,” Abe assures him with a wave of his hand, “we may be forever kids, but you learn what adults do eventually.”

“Still think it’s completely gross though,” Amy adds.

“Totally,” Abe agrees.

Uriel turns to Saphira, “Maybe being with this daemon isn’t exactly going against our Virtue.” This makes Saphira smile.

“I really appreciate you saying that.”

Uriel looks away, from Saphira, unable to meet her eye. She struggles, It’s a fight between what I know and what I feel.

Then the moans get louder, obviously coming from Lolara. 

“You know, Tal…” Saphira mutters, biting her lip, “this could be our last night if things go poorly.”

He’s smiling, practically reading her mind. “Let’s go to the front of the cave.” The kids make a gross face, realizing what they’re going to do. 

“It’s too bad you never age, you’re missing out!” Saphira teases them. She figures they have to be older than the other two screwing in the cave, why hold anything back.

“Not likely!” Amy yells at her. 

Saphira laughs as she and Talon get up to do their own business. 

Uriel slumps down, head on her knees, quite drained by what’s going on around her. 

Not liking it doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me.

*****

Laya wishes she had chosen to spy on someone else to prove her power to her mother. Now she’s stuck looking through her father’s eyes as he stands over the dead body of a woman, alongside Seraras. 

“What do you want to say happened? This assassin came to kill you, but this is a Nephilim, so obviously the angels and daemons couldn’t have sent her,” Seraras figures with his chin in his hand. 

A Nephilim trying to kill her father confuses Laya, it doesn’t make any sense to her. 

“For one thing we don’t say that Selena was trying to kill me,” A’rock makes clear. Laya didn’t know Selena well enough to recognize her, but what surprises her is why her father wouldn’t want to tell the truth. 

Surely, he would want everyone to look for traitors, but what her father says next gives her greater pause. “We’ve been holding the captured humans for a few months now, and while no one’s questioned us, it doesn’t take a people person to see that most aren’t alright with this…  sacrificing a bunch of people to get what we deserve.”

Seraras agrees, “They have too powerful a conscience, but if we say that Selena was killed by angels protecting the humans, that could be the little push we need.”

Laya can’t believe that her father and uncle are actually considering lying to everyone. Everyone trusts them, believes in him, why would Dad lie like this? 

Then Seraras’s own colors darken even further, tugging at Laya’s heart as he praises the idea.  “Huh, I see the decent idea coming through that rock-head of yours. Some in our community will think it necessary to avenge our fallen, and those who don’t will stand aside to protect themselves.”

“We can even spin it to say that they know where we are,” her father suggests. While Laya does recognized that they aren’t exactly wrong, since she knows her Uncle Clay is coming, she knows that her father and Seraras most certainly do not know that.

After little debate, Laya decides to pull herself from her father’s eyes.

*****

Alice saw her daughter’s head tilt back almost like her neck had snapped, and had run to her in a panic. But half way to Laya’s bed, Laya’s eyes opened and her eyeballs were then red, with a white pattern around white pupils. She then backed away unaware of how to proceed in this situation.

She watched in bewilderment waiting for her daughter to wake up, after what seemed like a minute. 

Laya’s eyes close and her head dips down. She slowly looks up with her eyes watering. “Dad’s,” she tries to say while holding back sobs, “he’s doing something… that he shouldn’t.” 

“What’s wrong, Laya?” her mother asks she slowly takes her daughter into her arms.

“He’s wants to convince people to go to war by lying about Selena. She had tried to kill Dad, but either he or Uncle Seraras must have killed her, and Dad and Uncle Seraras are going to lie and say that she was killed by angels so everyone hates them!” 

Alice is admittedly bewildered. In the span of less than five minutes she learned about her daughter’s strange ability, that the assassination attempt she had planned had failed, and if her daughter was right, that her brother is coming, a brother she hasn’t seen in over a decade.

What is today? she asks herself.

“It honestly doesn’t surprise me that your father is doing this.” Laya looks shocked by her mother’s statement. “Listen, Laya, I’ve been trying to tell you for years that your dad isn’t the man you think he is, and he most certainly isn’t the man I loved a long time ago. He’s done a lot of things that were for the betterment of our community, but now he’s doing them because he wants power, so he doesn’t feel afraid. He’s not to help anyone else out as he would have you believe.”

Laya can hear the truth in her words but she isn’t ready yet to accept them. Alice believes, she feels like her father can still end up being the good guy she’s known him to be, few things hurt more than taking that from her-
“Uncle Clay is going to offer us a place to live in the Circle of Lust, he’s willing to accept us after meeting a couple of our own. Half of the Demon Kings and Archangels are too! They had this meeting where they decided that we all didn’t have to fight. Uncle Clay’s also only a day away, based on when I last checked on him last night. He could be closer by now!”

Alice has the realization, I should go find him… Clay and warn him of A’rock, that way Clayton can bring him down. If Clayton offers our people peace this can take away so much of A’rock’s power.

“I have a new idea, Laya.” Laya becomes very interested in what her mother has to say. “I’m going to go meet my brother before he gets here, and then I can warn your Uncle Clay of what is going on. He’s pretty much the only person I think who can stop a battle. If he really is close, Old Ticket can help me find him.”

“What about me?” Laya questions.

“You’re going to stay here,” Alice tells her, “your father would never let you go without a fight, but he can’t wait to get rid of me.” Alice kisses her on the forehead as she promises her, “We can fix this, I promise, just trust me.” 

Laya looks up her mother, with this sparkling eyes that don’t seem so bright, “You aren’t going to tell Uncle Clay to fight Dad… right Mom?” 

Alice looks deep into her daughter’s eyes, and can’t lie, she can’t tell her what she wants to hear. “I’m sorry.” 

Then she leaves through the door.

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