Luxifer

(NaNoWriMo, unedited) Between Heaven and Hell is a place only lost souls walk, alone, shrouded by grief and confusion and the knowledge and suspense that leads, hand in hand with eternal life and possible damnation. Between the bodies and scattered plans to escape to a world where their actions are not judged by a man without fault or knowledge claiming to be holy, a hero of sin rose. His name was Lucifer, and he would be the one to lead a revolution using hatred and hearts of wounds. He would be the one to let the evil rise.

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5. The First Village

Fate had ran out of words.  His mind swam with questions, but none of which were worth speaking up of.  Instead he kept his eyes up, only looking down to let Bede take his hand, and help him from rock to rock.  There was nothing to be seen above, not even a glimmer of stars.  The more he watched, the more he began to believe that this vast, endless landscape was in a sort of cave.  There was still no light source, but instead an ever-present glow, that he was glad he had stopped enveloping.

    “You’re quiet.” Bede noted, not turning to look at him.

    “I was just thinking.”

    “Of?”

    He swallowed hard, looking back to the closed sky.  His mind was still on the angel, on what he had forgotten between holding her delicate hands, and waking from the dead.  He felt like if he could just remember those few moments, he wouldn’t be stuck rolling his ankles on the trek down the hill, stopping periodically as a finger or ear fell off of Bede’s body, and rolled with them down the stone path.

    “What are you thinking of?” he asked.

    “How to stop rotting.”

    “No, you’re not.”

    Bede smiled so wide, she had to suck in her lips to keep herself from laughing, “No?”

    He smiled back, “You know how to keep from rotting, but you’re thinking of how much you hate the people who put you here, that’s why it keeps happening.”

    “And how what keeps happening?”

    “This,” Fate pulled out her hand which had fallen a while back.  He held it out her her like a glove, limp and making stomach turning squelching noises when he gripped it too tight.

    “Hey, gimme that!” she said, laughing, and went to snatch her severed limb back, when she realised that that hand was missing too, from the elbow down.

    “I’ll hold it.” he said.

    “Yeah, thanks.” she seemed worried now, looking over her body trying to find what else had fallen through.  There was a concerning patch under her dress where her clothes were baggy, and when she hit it, it made a hollow pulse like a drum.  She kept walking, regardless, and Fate followed with his hands drifting towards her cautiously.

    From the dense fog, a town began to appear.  There seemed to be huts of stone, giant slates acting as roofs, and empty carts to serve as the marketplace, but no people.  Fate shuddered, something about the small village unnerving him.

    Before he could ask Bede where they were going, she gave out a cry, and fell part way down the hill.

    “Bede!” he ran behind her, holding up her face.

    She blinked, trying to focus on light, sweat pouring into her eyes.  She groaned, reaching for something behind Fate.

    He looked, and saw a single leg from the thigh down, leaning against the blood soaked gravel.  She stopped reaching, and he realised she was trying to hide it.

    He looked back, and her face was full of two things he couldn’t recognise the meaning of.  Part way guilt, and fear, but he couldn’t understand why.  It seemed like there was nothing he could do, as her gaze shifted, and her eyes began fluttering shut.  He watched as her shoulder disintegrated, falling into the dirt and leaving

    “No, you can’t go now, Bede.  Please, I need you.” Bede stood up, looking around for some form of advice, “I’m going to go and get help, okay?”

    But as he spun on his step, Bede weakly called him back, and he felt his heart drop as the truth washed over him.

    “Fate…” she said, in a voice so soft, it didn’t match the harsh world in which they met, “Please stay.”

    He willed himself to not cry, and knelt beside her.  In the moment he was looking away, the rest of her arm fell to the dust.  He felt his eyes sting, but she only smiled.

    “There’s something I need to tell you, Fate.”

    “Yes?”

    She lifted what was left of one arm, and tried to pull a knife out of its sheath.  He took it for her, a thick blade with a jeweled handle.

    “First, take this.  It… It should keep you safe.  Take the rotting powder too.”

    He nodded, but dropped it to hold her face in his hands.  She smiled again, but with tears in her own eyes.

    “You’ve changed me, Fate.  I never thought this would come so soon, but you’ve shown me something else about… About this world.”

    “How have I?”

    She opened her mouth to finish, but inside her teeth and tongue rotted too, leaving her choking on her own powdered flesh.  Her eyes were wide, knowing she could never say what she needed to.  Although Fate wondered how important it could really be when she was dying in front of him, she began to moan, trying to form words as her lips caved in.

    “I’m sorry…” he said, a single tear slipping, and falling onto her neck.  It rolled down, shining on her ash skin.

    She closed her eyes, nearly screaming once more, as light flew from the place he had cried.

    Fate watched, as the light painfully took her throat and shoulders, forming them again and Bede’s body quaked in pain.

    He knew what he needed to do.  Without thinking, he took her knife and made a small dent in his thumb.  Blood began to surface, and he ran it along her lips, despite her protests.  She shook her head and groaned desperately, trying to pull her body away from him with only half a fading body left.

    Light erupted from each place of cracked skin.  His eyes watered watching her body writhe in pain, her own turning white in her skull.  The light formed the shape of four limbs, and the ash rose into the places they had been before.  He watched as veins began to pump red and blue, dancing through bones as white as ivory.  Muscle coated them like covers, and skin shone through on top, the same honey colour that he hadn’t realised that he had missed while he watched it turn to dirt.

    She still howled like a demon as her body formed again, without patches or scars, even the light freckles that splayed over her shoulders like stars disappeared.  The light eventually stopped fading, and there lay a new Bede, her nails bloody and chipped from clawing and her face coated in tears.  When she stopped screaming, she looked up at Fate with horror in her eyes.

    “It was all I could do.” he said, defensively.

    Her mouth swung open, refusing to speak.  She looked over her body, at her rebuilt skin.  

    “How much did you give me?”

    “Just a drop.”

    She licked her lips once more, flinching when she tasted what was left.  He wondered if she was angry.  Maybe it was better than guilt and fear?

    “You can never do that again, Fate.”

    He felt his blood boil, “I just needed you to stay alive, Bede.  Why can’t I do it?”

    “You could easily give me too much, leave me as a child, even.”

    “And would you not just age back again.”

    “That’s not the point, you-”

    “Can you get addicted?  Turn to sin?  Why can’t I then?”

    “I don’t trust you, Fate.”

    He sat back, his arms folded over his chest.  He couldn’t believe she was yelling at him, when moments ago she was coughing up her own teeth. He wished there was something familiar to run to, but he could only contemplate whether the unknown dangers of the town were worse than Bede’s temper.

    “I can’t trust you yet, not without memories.  Thank you for helping me, but there are a million like me-”

    “I doubt that.”

    She furrowed her eyebrows, “There are a million like me, but I can’t have you giving blood up ever again.  Not yours.  Got it?”

    He nodded, his arms still crossed.

    “Thank you.  Let’s go, I have people I need to speak to in this town.  After… I’m not sure.  Maybe it would be best for you to rest for a few hundred years.” she said.

    Fate looked shocked, “Hundreds of years?  Why?”

    “I’ll try to find someone to match your powers.  Until then, we could keep you safe from either rotting, or Harvesters.”

    “But hundreds of years…”

    She looked at him, “Fate, you slept thousands of years before now.”

    “I-I did?”

    Bede put a hand on his shoulder, “We should go.”

    He nodded, and handed up her knife, his mind even cloudier.

    They started walking to the ghost town.  No one came to greet them, no one even lit the gas street lamps, but Bede hardly noticed.  She didn’t seem unnerved, but at least she wasn’t angry at Fate anymore.

    They walked to the town center, where two standing stones took a place in the plaza.  More carts sat scattered around, the homes with shut doors and entirely windowless, but Fate couldn’t watch them, he was too busy surveying the intricate designs carved into the stones.

    “Feathers,” Bede said, “People here still worship kind angels, since that’s all that’s preached, but even those who preach don’t believe in God’s messengers, the believe in rebel angels like the girl, they just refuse to say it and deal with the consequences.  They’re waiting for someone to set them free, but they can’t even say who.  What a waste.”

    He traced the carvings.  They felt soft, each point of the feather splitting in three.  A part of him woke up again, and the wings triggered something deep inside him, that he just couldn’t grab a hold of.

    “If it isn’t Obedience,” a voice behind them called, and Fate jumped, making Bede laugh.

    “Hello, Hope.”

    A man with a beard greying under his ears, and skin nearly as pale as Fate’s walked towards them, arms outstretched.  Fate wished he had kept that knife.

    Bede walked towards him, still smiling, but the same thoughts going through her head.  When she was close enough, she took a clump of the man’s hair in her fist, and put the knife to his throat.

    “Where’s Faith?”

    “Woah, woah, darling.” the man didn’t even flinch, but instead turned up his palms, declaring innocence.

    “Where?”

    The man just grinned down on her, not moving, indifferent and nearly bored with the whole thing.

    She wasn’t smiling anymore, just pushing the blade closer, and closer up.  Fate wished she’d show her hand, but the man spoke again.

    “In the tavern, perfectly well.”

    “And can I trust you on that, Hope?”

    Non, mais peut-être moi?” a girl said, and once she did Bede dropped the knife, and giggled again.

    “Ma faute,” she said, and dropped the man’s hair, taking the girl by the waist and pulling her in close.

    Fate nearly pressed himself up against the stones behind him, feeling cornered by the men that had come from the houses.  They were bigger than anyone he had seen before, and had black drawings covering their bare arms.  They didn’t smile, unlike the man Bede had threatened, but he struck the most fear into Fate’s heart.  The way he watched the two girls hold each other, then with the same sharp eye, the way he had looked at Fate.

    The man walked towards him swiftly, pulling off a black leather glove and extending his hand, “I’m Hope.”

    “Fate.” he said, not taking a moment to hesitate.

    Hope turned his head to his shoulder, and looked him up and down.  Fate unconsciously pulled down his sleeves.

    “Who named you?”

    “Bede, she found me.” Fate said.

    He nodded, “Well, you must have wandered for days before meeting her.  Look at the size of you!”

    “He’s strong, but he came down here like that, don’t look at me.” Bede said, her arm still around the girl.  She was about their age, and one of the prettiest people he had seen in his life, with her coiled black hair and flushed skin.  She smiled at him, pity tracing her lips.

    Fate remembered what they had first said about him, that his body was scrawny and weak, but everyone looked him up and down like an animal, confirming that the boy who could hardly climb a hill that morning, was now stronger and tougher than the others around him.  Some of them men shifted closer, their bodies tense.

    “Well, you should be good here, so.  Come for a drink?” Hope laid his hand on Fate’s back, and gestured for him to come forward to one of the large houses, marked brick red with chalk.

    Fate nodded, not wanting to make a scene, but was grateful when the two girls followed behind.  They spoke to each other in a language he had heard but never quite understood, and the made their way into the tavern.

    It was a dimly lit room, filled with candles and the smell of fruit and acid.  Fate took a seat at the bar, on front of a woman with monolid hooded eyes and a black hair like silk, along with a large scar across her throat.  She greeted him, and poured a large glass of something amber for him and Hope.  The other men stayed at the market square, and the girls found their own seat in the corner, where they talked in hushed tones and laughed from time to time, hands resting on one another's.  The tavern was full of people, drinking and never noticing the new comer.

    Hope sat beside him on a wooden barstool, groaning as his back popped.

    “So, she calls you Fate?”

    “After Lafayette, she says.”

    Hope took a long sip of his drink, “Always has a soft spot for Frenchys, that girl.  Anyway, do you remember anything?  I’m sure she explained a thing or two to you?”

    “She did, but…” Fate looked into his glass, “I don’t remember anything.”

    “No shame, I hardly do.”

    “But you do?”

    “Ah, a disgusting story of a man who never respected anyone, ‘specially not women.  I’m getting better though.”

    Fate nodded, trying to keep himself from gagging, “What is in this?”

    “Cider?  Apples.  Don’t like it?”

    “I hate apples.” he said.

    “More for me so, boy.  Onto business,”  Hope wiped his upper lip with a black sleeve, “Are you planning to stay here with us?  That’ll be no problem, but you’ll have to shift your weight.  We have farmers, we have preachers, but you look like a guard, you have that sorta shape.”

    “I don’t know.  I was just staying with Bede.”

    “She’s a wanderer.  Minds the angels up the hill and keeps the town from running into trouble with neighbors, you know how it is.  If she lets you, you can stick with her, but I won’t say I’m not disappointed to not have you on my side.”

    “And what’s your side?”

    “Despite the size and the drunkard aora, I’m the armies general.”

    “You need an army?”

    “Towns invade each other now and again, and another reason you’ll never learn following Bede, but it’s not my place to say.”

    “Is it something to do with the war on Heaven?”

    Hope nearly choked on his cider, and began coughing, “Keep it down, a’ight?”

    “Alright…”

    But it didn’t take long before he was looking up at Fate,  the hollow parts of his face dripping in shadows.  Fate was still afraid, but something about his gentle smile, no matter how dark, intrigued him.

    “So what do you know?”

“That God created a corrupt place they call the Waiting, and people who had minor sins, or at least what people think sins are, are sent here to either redeem themselves or rot if they refuse.”

“And the angels?”

“The ones who thought that they could help the world, but this was seen as treason.”

“Very good, but keep from thinking that too much, or you’ll rot too.”

“How do you have farmers by the way?  There’s nothing here but stone.”

Hope shrugged, “It works the same way as the magic.  When God brought the first few here, the angels gave them gifts.  Magic, and grains, that sorta thing.  But as time went on, there were too many sinners to be accounted for, but I’m sure you know all this.”

“All of the magic?”

“Well,” he drank again, “Not the dark magic.  If rots you quick, or brings you back to life, or makes you younger, it’s made by killing angels, and burning the bodies fast.”

Fate turned back to the bench, not wanting to hear anymore.  Maybe that’s why Bede didn’t want to answer some of his questions?  There was no law in this place, but simply peaceful, fearful anarchy.

“So you’re sticking by Obedience?”

“If she’ll let me.”

“No problem there, boy.  And if there’s a war?”

“There won’t be.” Fate said, unthinking.

This seemed to rile up Hope, “And why not?”

“Because no one wants to die.”

“We’re all dead, kid.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

Hope rocked back in his chair, running thick fingers through his hair.  It occurred to Fate that there was no running water there, hardly any food, but no death either.

They sat for a moment, quiet in the increasingly loud room, before Hope spoke.

“You’re right,” he said, “I guess it’s what keeps my men going.  Even so, I appreciate all the hands I can get.”

“I’ll do anything I can.”

He smiled, “Thank you.  Now, you must want some rest, it’s been hard getting here I imagine.”

“Yes, thank you.”

They both stood, Hope hardly wavering, considering his two pints, and he showed Fate to a room on the outskirts of their town.  The guards from before had actually never left, and stood outside the Tavern, awkwardly alert in the dead streets.

Hope stopped before them, noticing them eying Fate, “Gentlemen, this is Lafayette, or Fate to us.  He is now a soldier in your army, so say hello.”

Fate nodded, but none of the men spoke until Hope said, “c’mon,” and they kept walking.

“Sir, it is dangerous for you to travel alone, we-”

Hope just waved them away with the back of his hand, “Nah, don’t worry about me.  And Fate’s a soldier, he’s protecting me.” he said, winking to Fate.

They only had to walk for a moment, before a small cottage came into view just before the town ended.  It had a field in the back growing a toxic green maize.  It was the same as the rest of the uniform houses, grey slates covered in the soft glow of the lit gas lanterns.  From one of the houses, a baby gurgled as it was put to sleep, and from another town over, a fire began to burn so much that the crackling of what dry wood was scattered around the land reached their homes, and the smoke rose as the lonely clouds in an endless sky.  The source of light never dimmed, but inside the cottage was as dark as a tomb, only holding a single bed draped in soft sheets and a thick hay mattress.

“Sorry, it’s all we have for you, but you can call it home for the time being.”

“Thank you, sir.”

He waved him away again, “Ah, no one calls me sir without a stick up their you-know-whats.”

Fate didn’t know what, but he appreciated the hospitality, “Then goodnight Hope.  Maybe being your solider would suit me more than wandering for the rest of time.”

“I selfishly hope so.  Sleep well.”

“You too.”

Just as Fate was closing the light beechwood door, a hand stopped it, and pushed it open again.  Through the generous crack, Hope smiled darkly, pulling black robes over his head.  Soldiers were emerging, marching towards their leader.  The baby fell silent, and the fire seemed to die out in the distance.

“And in the morning, Fate,” he said, nails digging into the door, “You might tell me your real name.  Hm?”

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