Shadow Born

The Shadow-Born have one terrible secret: they are the hybrid sons of Lucifer himself, sent from the depths of hell to act as judges, determining the guilt and sins of humans as well as returning the escaped damned to their eternal punishment. The only problem with their existence? After twenty years, they are summoned by their father to attempt an impossible Trial, from which none return. With his very self a ticking timebomb because of the invader within his own mind, Luke must learn to accept this new part of himself and make the best of the few years remaining to him - all while attempting to rectify the mistakes and failures of his unlikely new companion.

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5. Shadows of Pain

Three days later…

 

Warm hands seized Luke roughly and dragged him from the room. He had expected this. Had waited for it for days, but

now he found himself unprepared. How did you defend yourself from a crime you didn’t remember committing? His captors, Jordan – the Hell Bringer – and Leon – Courage – were none too gentle, but Luke knew it would only be worse if he were judged guilty. These Shadow-Born were strict and quick to enforce any law they deemed broken. Apparently, desertion was a big one.

The hall they took him down was dark, the walls, floor, and ceiling all rough grey stone, as if it was a tunnel bored through

the rock. There were no lights, only a smoky torch Leon carried. Nothing electrical worked down here, he had said.

Finally, Luke was pushed into the room where he would meet his fate. It had some grand name, he was sure, but Luke

hadn’t cared enough to ask. All in all, it was a disappointment. It was hollowed from the same stone as the corridor. Stalagmites and stalactites dotted the cavern. It really was a cavern, disappearing off into the shadows. Water dripped into clear pools, which reflected the hopeless grey of the surroundings.

In the center of the room, a giant chair – almost a throne – sat before a metal cage. Around them, arrayed in a circle, were

seven other chairs. Four were filled. Valerie sat to the left of the throne, and beside her was Nathan. The two empty seats to the right of the throne were presumably for Jordan and Leon. On the other three, three boys who looked similar to the others, but with various shades of light blue eyes, waited patiently. Ray, Dylan and Aden, something whispered to him. And, upon the throne, Glen sat.

“Well, Lucius, have you reflected on your sins? Perhaps if you prove your loyalty, I may be lenient.” Glen’s voice and face

were both harsh, violent. Murder, barely contained, just waiting for an excuse.

-He wants us dead, Luke’s inner voice said with contempt. We proved that he can make mistakes, that he isn’t perfect.

Father was very cross-

Luke was pushed into the cage and the door shut behind him. He held his silence until Leon and Jordan were seated –

Leon just beside Glen, Jordan, looking frustrated, in the other chair. “How would you suggest I do that, Glen?” Luke injected the question with as much scorn as he could manage. He followed that inner voice, completely dependent on its guidance. That person trapped in his head knew who these people were. Knew how to stop them.

Glen, for his part, seemed baffled. Apparently, prisoners normally went along meekly. Having to actually think of a means

of testing Luke had never occurred to him. It might have ended there, if not for Leon. “Tell us where the other Dwellers are. You seem – intimately familiar – with their habits.” Leon’s face remained impassive, but Glen smiled again.

-Tell them nothing-

Luke obeyed, holding his peace. Would this really work? That other voice answered for him.

-No, it won’t. But I need time to think, so shut up-

“No, you shut up. This is my head!” When Luke looked back up, everyone was staring at him.

-Now you’ve done it. We’re both dead-

“Well, well, well, Lucius, I would have thought that using children was below you. Still hiding from us then? Trust me,

Lucius, under enough pressure, this boy will break and give you up. How much do you think he can withstand?”

This time, the voice answered, bypassing Luke completely. It was disorienting, having someone else speaking through

his mouth. The voice was different too, deeper and stronger. “You know Glen, sometimes you still surprise me. Acting all high and noble like that, speaking down to everyone. I wonder, do they remember when Azazek ruled us? At least he admitted what he was. The Angel of Death. Whereas you, my Hidden friend, still squirm from shadow to shadow like the worm you are.”

Luke’s strange voice was totally steady, almost flat, through the entire speech. When he was done, everyone just stared.

Glen was pale, red, and blue, cycling through the colors furiously. Luke’s heart thudded in his chest, but the presence in his mind stilled his nerves. Finally he realized. That voice, that was Lucius, the deserter, the traitor, the Light.

Finally, Glen opened his mouth to speak. All eyes locked on him instantly, leaving Luke more-or-less forgotten. “Lucius,

for your crimes against our brotherhood, for your sins against our people, for your betrayal of our Father, I condemn you. Leon, as my second, you shall carry out the sentence. Fifty lashes. Now.”

Lucius or no Lucius, Luke’s heart skipped a beat. He couldn’t stand pain. Fifty lashes would probably kill him.

-Let me do this, Luke. I will shield you as best I can.-

Luke complied immediately. Losing complete control of his body was strange. At first, every inch of him tingled, then went

hot, then felt like he was being drowned in ice water. Then, he just felt empty. He tried to speak, but his mouth didn’t form words.

“Lucius, is that really you?” Leon’s hand reached tentatively through the bars of the cage. When Luke looked around,

everyone else was gone, probably to prepare for the show.

“I’m sorry Leon. The pig irks me.” Luke’s – Lucius’, really – voice was still deeper than he was used to. It was rough and

strong and hard. But there was sorrow in it as well.

“Lucius, where were you? You abandoned us. Valerie almost died, you know. And Ray, did you even think of him?” Leon’s

voice was strained, close to breaking. Luke, in that corner of his mind that still was his, thought it was strange. This boy, who so openly hated him and adored Glen, was conversing with Lucius like long-lost brothers. Which was, Luke realized, what they were.

“I never stopped thinking of them, Leon. If you trust nothing else, trust that. Trust me.” Lucius’ voice was hard. Harder than

his emotions. Luke could feel the other boy’s desire to break, could feel his pain and loneliness. He was frustrated as well, and, deep down, Lucius was afraid.

-Is this what it was like for you, all these years? Only being able to talk to me? It’s disorienting.-

Luke thought the words slowly. He still couldn’t get used to the idea of not having a mouth. He could only see what Lucius

looked at, as well. Right now, the boy seemed enthralled in Leon’s eyes. If Luke didn’t know better, he might think that the boy had an attraction for Leon. But Lucius was studying the young man with the fascination of a scientist.

-What are you looking at?-

Lucius answered, still using Luke’s body. “His eyes. They’re dark now.” He turned to Leon, who seemed genuinely

ashamed for a moment. “Why? Were you so ready to follow him when I left? Had to prove yourself? I saw you on the beach, even though you didn’t realize it was me at the time.”

Instantly, Leon was on the defensive. “You weren’t here, Lucius! You don’t know what he can do! You never cared about

any of us!” Leon cooled his temper with obvious effort, but his eyes still glared bloody murder at Lucius. In a softer voice, he continued. “You shouldn’t have come back. We all thought you were dead, you know. Better for you if you had stayed that way.”

Before Lucius could form a reply, Jordan entered smirking. “Sorry to interrupt your heartfelt reunion, but its time. Unless

you don’t have the stomach for it, Leon.”

Leon glowered darkly at the younger boy, then took the proffered bundle. Luke wished that Lucius would look away, but the

boy was watching Leon intently. “Do it, brother,” he whispered.

-What the hell? You want him to whip us?-

Lucius ignored Luke and strode from the cage with more confidence than he felt, Luke could tell. His hands didn’t shake

as he reached them up to grip the pole that Luke hadn’t noticed being set up. Jordan tied them in place too tightly, the thin leather chords cutting into the soft skin of Luke’s wrists, drawing the first blood.

“Let it begin,” Leon whispered back, just loudly enough for Lucius to hear. Luke listened with growing terror to the sound

of the whip whistling through the air. It seemed to take forever as time slowed. Then he felt a bar of red-hot pain across his back. If this was how painful it was even when Lucius was bearing the brunt of the pain, Luke didn’t want to know what the boy was feeling. As it was, had he been able, he’d have screamed.

“Hold on, Luke. Relax.”

Laughter erupted from behind them, and Luke felt Lucius’ desire to turn and see who was laughing. Glen’s voice negated

any curiosity, however, and replaced it with bone-deep hatred. “Look, the boy is consoling himself. I would have thought you’d have had the intelligence to choose at least a strong body.”

“There is more to life than strength, Glen. If you had one, you’d know that.”

The jibe seemed to pierce deeper than Luke would have thought. “Give me that,” he ordered, and Luke knew somehow

that he’d taken the whip from Leon. This time, the strike was harder, faster, and followed immediately by another.

Being just a voice in someone’s head, Luke realized, meant that he had to wait for his body to lose consciousness. He

was trapped until Lucius fainted, which took a very long time. Luke didn’t count the strikes – that would have been much too depressing and painful – but he knew it must have been almost done before Lucius weakened.

His breath coming in gasps between the strikes, Lucius’ pain began leaking into Luke more and more. Strangely enough,

Luke found that he could bear it more easily as the other boy lost his strength.

-Give me my body back, Lucius.-

“No!” the boy growled, through his teeth. Snickers behind them bounced harmlessly from Lucius’ iron resolve. “This isn’t

your fight.”

-Then at least stop trying to shield me. It’s not doing much anyways.-

Luke knew that Lucius obeyed when, at the next whistling of the whip, he felt the full blow. It was breathtaking, but

somehow Luke found that it wasn’t really so bad. He tried to reverse what Lucius had done before, and shield the other boy, but it didn’t work. Apparently, only the one actually holding their body could shield the other.

Luke knew when the fifty lashes were up, because he felt fingers brushing at his hands, untying them. As soon as the

support was gone, Lucius collapsed to his knees, shaking and gasping. Leon stood beside him, apparently awaiting orders. Lucius didn’t wait to hear them.

With one quick, fluid motion that shocked Luke, Lucius dove for Leon, grabbed the dagger hanging from his belt, turned,

and threw it. It spun end over end through the air, seeming to take an eternity. Luke watched it fly toward Glen as everyone stood still, shocked by the action. Even Glen looked surprised.

Lucius almost fell at the end of the spin, the twisting of his back sending a wave of agony through him. Luke felt him bite

back a scream. Because of the pain, the throw went slightly wide. Only a few inches off target, the flaw was still enough. The knife buried itself in Glen’s shoulder, not his heart.

Everyone stared at the dagger that protruded hilt deep, from Glen’s shoulder. A spreading stain clawed its way across his

shirt. Then Lucius started laughing. “How’s that for a strong body, Glen?”

The last thing Luke saw was Jordan, his face a white mask of rage, striding toward him. Then the boy brought the hilt of

his own dagger down on Lucius’ temple, and they both blacked out.

 

Luke regained consciousness in a warm bed in a familiar room. It was the room he’d first woken in the day after the failed

bonfire-party. It was only after he’d tried to sit up that he realized that Lucius still controlled their body.

-You ever going to give me back?-

Lucius groaned. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. I hate recovery anyways.” But before he could pass Luke control, they both realized

something. They weren’t alone.

“Lucius? You ok?”

The voice was so conflicted, so worried, so full of emotion that Lucius laughed. “Leon, I’m fine. Just reassuring my host

that he’s not trapped inside forever. Although, I lasted seven years before breaking out…”

-Don’t you dare.-

Leon’s face when Lucius started laughing was priceless. “Now worries, Leon. Sorry, still not used to being in control of

things.” Lucius paused to reach his hand out before him and turn it over. He seemed immensely pleased to be in control, Luke had to admit. And it was rather difficult and still very disorienting to be just a voice.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Lucius. I shouldn’t have let Glen take it, but I did, and I’m sorry.” Leon sounded perilously close to

tears. Didn’t these strange people realize that men didn’t cry?

Lucius seemed to find it totally normal, however. “No worries, Leon,” he repeated. “You did what you had to, and I

understand that.” Lucius paused to try sitting up, but fell back with a moan. The smallest movement sent waves of intense pain through their body, and Luke thought he probably would have done more than just groan.

Leon reached out to help Lucius into a sitting position, then stuffed a pillow behind him, so that Lucius could stay sitting

up. “Thanks,” Lucius mumbled tiredly. Luke got the feeling that accepting help was not something Lucius was used to.

Glancing behind him to ensure that they were alone, Leon leaned close to Lucius. “Please, just at least tell me. I’ll keep

Glen off your case for a few days, but I need to know. Why’d you leave?”

Lucius burst into a peal of dark, humorless laughter, and Luke felt the boy’s ever-present hatred spark back into a roaring

flame. “Who says I did, Leon?”

Then, before Leon could reply, Lucius passed control to Luke. All of a sudden, Luke was in command of his own body

again. The relief at not being trapped anymore warred with the intense spike of pain that the change made Luke aware of. He was suddenly glad that he couldn’t see his back, for he knew that it would be a hopelessly mangled mess.

Leon must have seen Luke shiver, because he was suddenly all worry again. “Lucius, are you alright? Do you need som-”

“He’s gone.” Luke paused to yawn, suddenly aware of how tired he was. “He’s mad at…” But Luke was too far gone to

finish.

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