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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10. The War Town - Pt. 2

 

    He had only realised he had been reaching out when a young man with his head in his arms walked by.

    “Smells like rubber, huh?”

    “Rubber?”

    “Like, uh,” he chuckled once, a quiet, lazy noise, “Never mind, you probably like the stuff, right?”

    “It smells amazing.”

    “Well, here, hold this,” the boy handed his head to Fate, who accepted it with a bewildered expression.  The hole in the boy’s neck wheezed where he would have laughed, and he took Fate’s hand, pushing it under the potion without splashing it back on himself.  Holding the head in the crook of his arms, and praying it wouldn’t bleed through his sleeve, he rubbed his hands together.  It felt warm, like holding them in front of the fireplace.  The warmth sent shocks down his fingers, reaching under his nails.  Suddenly, like it was of a life of itself, the blob of red realised its purpose and disappeared into his skin without a trace.  A second later, several inch long, yellow, crooked claws bore out of his fingers.  They didn’t match his elegant, smooth hands, but he held them up to the light to see just how something so chipped could shine like glass.

    “Cool, eh?” the boy gestured for Fate to hand his head back, and he made sure to not dig is new-found claws into the boy’s skull, “I’ll let you keep those hands for a bit, courtesy of letting my dad stick a fork through ‘em once.”

    “Wait, who?”

    The boy pointed to his headless-self, “My dad, other headless guy, stuck a fork through your hand?”

    “Oh, yeah.” Fate said, feeling like the tavern was a million miles away now.  Maybe it was.

    “Well anyway, I was sent to go find you.  The names Aspir.  Like Casper.  Like Aspirations.  Stupid sure, but we all got a name.  You are Lucifer right?  Again stupid question, but I was sent to find and retrieve one Lucifer.”

    Fate was getting over the way the boy spoke in few word, power sentences, “Most call me Fate.”

    “Ew, you really want a “human in the Holding” name?”

    He shrugged one shoulder.

    “Suit yourself.  They only give those dreamer names to future soldiers of the cause, so I guess it’s an honour.  This way,”

    The boy brought him down through stretches of tents and pitched gear.  Fate thought that this was not like any camp he had ever seen.  It had a certain muddy, dangerous vibe that made Fate feel on edge, almost as if they were all about to die, but he couldn’t quite tell why.

    The entire way, Aspir told Fate about drama in the village.  So-and-so had gone on a hunt together and they were dating when they got back.  Someone killed his sister but it was okay because she was actually apart of the other village.  There was a rumor that Hope was drinking his angel’s blood, but Hope hung the kid who started the whole thing by his shirt on the statues in the plaza until he apologies.

    Fate stopped, “What was that last one?”

    “Too late, we’re here,” Aspir pulled apart the tent flaps, “You’ll either die, find out later, or realise you shoulda asked questions before we got here.  The correct answer is to come find me, ask me later and I’ll tell you all I know, cool?”

    Fate smiled, “That sounds good.”

    Aspir tipped his head, “Go on, get your scoulding.”

    Inside the tent was as musty as everywhere else in Purgatory, but at least there was light.  Con was glowing as it was, even with his solemn look, but Hope and a few of the other people that sat at the table had placed lanterns around the table.  They looked at a map.  A messy thing drawn on dried leaves, but they apparently knew what it all meant.  A red X was in one corner, one woman with pixie-short hair desperately trying to rub it out with her licked sleeve.

“Lucifer,” Con said, “Good morning.”

“Morning is broad, but I’m glad to see you’re all well.”  Fate smirked at Con, who dropped his head, but hiding a smile didn’t matter then you glowed like the sun.

“Glad you could join us, Fate - if you don’t mind we’re keeping the name as so that no rivals get you first.”

“Get me first?  What could anyone use me for?”

    “Blood?  Strong, at that.” Con said, and Fate’s heart pounding thinking of the rumors he had just heard.  He tried to push it to the back of his mind as gossip, but he couldn’t.

    “No, Consonance!” Hope practically shouted, “Don’t let him think we’re hear for his blood, honestly.  Fate, we need you because you will be one of the greatest war heroes the Hold has ever seen.”

    Fate looked at Con, not really listening nor caring.  Con was biting his lip, his light dying fast and no one seemed to care.  The people in the room were scarred like the others who were hidden in the outskirts - men with no eyes, women with their scalps missing, turned pink and white, and people with such horrible stories torn into their skin - and something felt dreadfully wrong.  Despite the light,  heavy bags of time clung to their faces, their skin long after have fading, even crumbling in some, the problem that Bede had nearly died trying to go on with.  If you rebel, you die.  If you remember you scar.  Was this all these people were?  

    He thought of Bede.  He felt his breathing panic for him.  Was she happy with Faith, or did she want another revolution?  Had she crumbled since he left, is that why she was out looking for him that day, and what if she had disintegrated and he wasn’t there for her?

    The light practically bleached Con, leaving him dry and dead, just a shell of the lively boy he just was days ago, before those God-awful wings sprung from Fate’s backside, winding him up miles away from his home.

    He realised everything was wrong here.  Humans drank angel’s blood, people were remembering, he stopped drinking, but there was more than that.  Hope was assaulting barmaids and drinking cider.  Con was gossiping back and swearing.  Young boys were tempting and killing others.  Barmaids were victims and performing witchcraft.  Bede was nowhere to be found, and he knew - he needed her more than ever, to save him this time.

“Fate, did you hear me?”  Hope tapped his arm, nearly too quickly, pulling away too fast, “You will be the best war hero Purgatory has ever seen, the people love you.  Hell, they need you, Fate.”

Fate turned back.  He hissed his newly forked tongue, and everyone jumped, except for Con, “I don’t feel like a war hero.”

“War god, if you’d like, but you-”

“I’m not a god,” he stood, “Either way, I should go.  I’m worried about Bede.”

Hope scoffed, as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  He looked to the others in the room apologetically, as if this were some meeting he was the head of.  For some reason, speaking to board of directors suited him scarily well for a man who drank angel blood in his after life.

“How can you be worried about Bede right now?”

“She crumbles without me.”

“She crumbles-” he stopped the wide-eyed, heathen act, and just looked genuinely shocked for a moment, “Wait, you mean metaphorically right?”

“She just,” Fate stepped forward, feeling his body want to implode in on the angry knot in his stomach in that moment, “Crumbles.”

Hope went back to not believing, and held the bridge of his nose between his fingers, “Right, right, uh… Hey, could you call your son, please?”

The man from the tavern leaned his head towards the door, “Aspir?”

“Yeah, da?” Aspir yelled back, sticking his head back through the curtains, his body waiting outside.

“Get that girl from the village, eh?  Bede.”

“Black chic, real good hair?  No problem.”

“Oh, and Faith too please?” Fate added.

“Okay, bring the girlfriends, got it.”  And with that he disappeared, back to the village, the rooms attention back on Hope, who was running out of energy.

“Do you not understand the weight of this, Fate?”

“But I’m not the man you’re looking for.”

“No, but you’re the angel we are.”

“I’m not strong, not even fast.  I can fly, and that’s all, Hope.  I don’t understand how you brought everyone except for Bede.  She’s braver, quicker, better than me.  If you need a general, ask her, not me.  I’m a stranger, and not a god.”

“Con hasn’t dreamt about you for years for you to be a stranger.  And Bede is good, we can’t question her.  It was a mistake on our part forgetting her back there, but she’s not half the person you are.  You aren’t even a person, you’re an angel, for Heaven’s sake.”

“So is Con.”

“Con is different, we need you.”

“Why is he different, do you not need him?”

“Oh no, I’m just-”

Hope interrupted Con again, not even sparing him a glance to watch his wills fade, “You were made for this.  Made to lead people to rising up against everything that has enslaved them for thousands of years, yourself included, Lucifer.  Bede lost her mother, and grew up with a slave-owner father.  When they met again, the mother was being sucked into the ground for believing in the people’s power.  Con was cast out of Heaven for being different, and still as kind.  I’ve been given leadership, Fate.  Me.  Do I look like a leader the people want?”

He chose to not answer, and bided his time.

“I’m not, but if you become a leader here, and Heaven doesn’t like you, you crumple up like paper, and the world sucks you in.  I’m here because Heaven thinks I can’t do much, and they might be right, but they made the mistake of landing you here with us.  They don’t care for us, this isn’t repenting, this is torture, and if you want to help your friends while you can, I suggest you learn how to fight.”

Fate found something in him.  Not a glimmer of hope,  or the willingness to fight, but simply a part of him that gave in.  He nodded once, and slowly, refusing to look back at Con.  What was changing on this side of the invisible village that made humans and angels turn on each other, use each other.  Was there something hiding behind the surface of this world to make evil rise up from each person.

Hope closed his mouth, as if he had something left to say, but instead gestured to the people around him, “These are some of the commanders in our army.  We’re just mapping right now, but while you were asleep we were telling people about our plans and now we’re showing them the potions we’ll use during the battles, you might have noticed that, going by the nails.  We want to ease everyone in, but we might start explaining things about Heaven, get all of those who remember to explain.  We might get Bede and the others to wake some of the angels.  After that, it’s all prep.  Sharpening swords, sharpening weapon skills.  We’re so close, it’s only starting to dawn on us how serious this is.”

“You can’t disappoint us, Fate.  And most of these people here aren’t soldiers.  They just want to be free, and they’re willing to fight for it.  Don’t you want to be free, Lucifer?”

Hearing Hope say the name that had stuck in his head since he woke made him quiver, nearly more afraid than he was before.  Hope had two sides, like a coin.  One that looked at his people with a kind face, the man who became a king for lack of a better ruler, someone that no one really wanted, but all relied on.  The other was a man with blood-stained lips, whose life crashed under the knowledge that he had used magic and sin to forget the abusive man he was when his heart was beating.  A face clouded with shadow and guilt, looking out on the training camp with only revenge in his eyes.  Revenge, and secrets.

“Yes, I do.  I also have questions.”

Hope punched his arm, both playfully and exhausted, “It wouldn’t be Fate without questions, eh?  Okay, shoot.”

“How do we battle Heaven, surely reaching it is impossible, we’re trapped under ground.”

“You know Bede’s story, surely?  There’s one route to upstairs, but the light being admitted is too bright.  Remember Bede’s blistery hands when she tried to touch you when you were glowing?”

“Faintly.”

“Exactly, it is faint.  Well, one would turn to the barmaid if you hugged you right then, but compared to the route, it’s not much.  It is said, however, the darkest angel has a power to kill the light, that one source that keeps the Hold glowing around us, eerily shadowless.  Kill is wrong… Numb the light, let people pass, and then there we are, on the factory floor.”

“And can God not stop us?”

“God would rather we took over Heaven than get involved in affairs, no, don’t worry.”

“Are we taking back Heaven?”

“Us?  No way.  Not our job.  We just wanna live somewhere better.  More rehab, more angels, more powers - then we get more faith, but before that.  If you dark angels wanna protest though, go ahead, I don’t mind who rules the world.”

“Dark angels?”

Hope stopped on top of a mound, looking down to the people below.  Some had bows and arrows, or knives, but most just sat making potions and spells in little colourful bottles, and chatted.

“Don’t tell me since you’ve got here, you’ve never sinned?  You’ve drank, swore - had an inappropriate thought, I bet.  Dark angels happen when they turn away from God’s light, and you’re the one young man with no knowledge of Heaven, just a name that has been drumming in angel’s minds since the beginning of time, as far back as we know.”

Fate felt his new claws dig into the skin of his palms.  He caught Hope’s attention enough with thick, velvet blood beginning to show through the cracks in his knuckles, “I have never once sinned, Hope.”

He poked his back, pushing him ahead, “Is that why your wings are so speckled, dalmatian boy?  You abuse an angel's powers, you begin to sin.  Ever notice Bede snap when she rotted someone’s face off, or Con go for a while, come back all shaky?  Why do you think we practice for war on enchanted grounds?  Because sin is the only thing telling people wrong from right, and yet they were the one’s who made us commit those acts, God’s will and all.  Do you think if we could choose between doing the wrong or right thing, we would think of Heaven in that moment?  We’re wolves, boy, that’s all we’re good for.”

    Where his finger lay on Fate’s back it began to turn to dust, and he swore again.  He nodded to Con, who scoffed, something in him about to say no, before he saw Hope’s eye socket cave in, and he fell quiet.

    “Ladies, gentlemen, both and neither - I would introduce you today to our most pristine angel, Fate.”

    A few people muttered their hellos, but it took Con to shout, “Or as we know him, Lucifer,” for people to begin cheering.

    “Knock ‘em dead, kid.  I’ll see you after the speech.”  and Hope and Con left him alone with dozens of anticipating eyes.

    He looked at each of them, how they blinked back like children.  They slouched over their magic potions, awaiting instructions or any sort of advice for the impending war.  He realised that they were waiting for him, for his words, or any signs that the dark angels were beginning to rise.  He felt like - through the persuasion of Hope - that he owned their future, or simply the people.  When he parted his lips, they looked as if he were spitting the holy grail, and that thought alone made his wings beat black.

    “P-People,” he finally began, “Please, call me Fate for now.  I am only here to free the way for you to rise up against the power that’s oppressed you for thousands of years.  This is you battle, I am simply here to show you your powers.  Um…”

    Aspir nodded to him in the crowd, as enthusiastically as the rest of his people.  He gripped a knife in his hands, his knuckles turning white with anticipation.  Across the hollow of people sitting on their new beds and training mats, flat green things stuffed with hey, the committee of commanders he had just met had come out of their tents to watch him speak.  They grinned as he spoke, each mangled, murderous one of those souls, waiting for an uprising to stream from his mouth, but he couldn’t feel it inside of himself.

    “This is the future.  Our future, one we shape with what we put our faith in.  We shall rise to this, and get what we deserve.  Fight for those lost to the ground for believing in their rights.  We will win for our future where our people can not be afraid to commit our sins, as we shall learn from our mistakes, and we shall build as people.  That is what humans were made to do, and why not now, not here?  We deserve our plane, and we shall win it, but I need your strength, your resilience.  Will you join me to free Purgatory, for all lost souls, for the lost souls we are now?”

    They looked to each other, as if they were waiting for more.  His arms, which had began to rise from his sides, dropped into place.  He wished now, more than ever, he had never woken up.  That this was a dream that Bede, and even Faith, could shake him from, maybe he could be sharing the room with Con this time, Hope teaching him all he knew with his brave face uncut.  He needed his people, and this army was not them.

    “To the fate of Lucifer!” one person yelled, and it rippled through the people, through the village, leaving his army standing to attention, clapping and hooting, the committee nodding and smiling in the distance.  Bandit pirates, homicidal old women,  vengeful business partners - those who had died that had remembered, and remembered their longing for blood.  They had what they wanted, finally.  Someone their people could listen to, whether he had to be told what to say, or not.

    He reached out his hands again, and the people below cheered louder, some shedding tears, reminded of those they had lost to the so-called holy light they were about to escape with Fate by their side.

    He noticed the light around him suck into his body, leaving the world just that bit darker, and his wings shook with fear, slinking back into his body all they could.  He just smiled.

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