Remain - NaNo Competition version

NANO COMPETITION - 5,000 words. [Sequel to NaNo '15 novel Run.] Ruling the world isn't as easy or as fun as it sounds, especially not when a group of angry angels are thrown into the mix. What's worse is that Baxel is without his right-hand man, who just so happens to be the key to everyone's plans.


1. Remain.



    The day started with deep contemplation of sugary desserts, as most things do. It was completely valid philosophizing, I argued with myself. Some things are just better in concept than in execution. The fact that butter pecan ice cream was the perfect example of this wasn’t my fault. Anyway, the logic went something like this: I like butter. I like pecans. I like ice cream. I should, theoretically, like butter pecan ice cream. But it is, in fact, one of the grossest ice cream flavors I have ever tasted.

     In this case, the ice cream is a metaphor. Actually, in most cases, ice cream is a metaphor. But in this particular one, butter pecan ice cream is a metaphor for the Bane of Mortals. 

    The Bane of Mortals, also known as the Ring of Mortals, also known as the thing that I spent incredible amounts of time and effort lusting over, finding, and taking for myself. Yeah, that one. This was, in fact, the very same ring that reunited me with my son, revealed that I had a son (apparently), and subsequently - in a more roundabout way - drove that son away. 

    But all that was okay. All the hardships were just bumps along the road to ultimate glory, to the ultimate achievement of finally - after thousands of years of dreaming - ruling the world. 

    I had done it. I had done what Pinky and the Brain could not, what a thousand other fictional evil masterminds had failed to. I had done it. The world was mine, and nearly everyone in it would bow to my will at every command. It was perfect; it was everything I had ever wanted.

    I had just never accounted for how boring it would all be. 

    For the first few months, it was fun. It was a lot of fun, actually. I played God in a massive game of Sims, manipulating people however I wanted. I took power from those in charge and gave it to the most random of people - celebrities, rock stars, dogs. But now, I could feel my enthusiasm waning. 

    At the third knock on my door in an hour, I sighed. “What?” I snapped. The door opened slowly, and a shaking human stepped in, his hand never leaving the handle of the door. He looked ready to jump out and shield himself with it at any moment. Which was smart, given my track record. 

    “S-sir,” he began, swallowing hard. “I have a new report here about the war in China.”

    “Since when has there been a war in China?” I muttered. 

    “Since you gave half of its agricultural land to Germany to grow grain for more beer and then there was that famine…” 

    I vaguely remembered something about that. “Oh, that. Alright, well, what do you want me to do about it?” I was irritated by these trivial matters, but no matter how many times I told the humans I genuinely didn’t care, they still kept reporting to me. Almost like I had commanded them to sometime or other. 

    “Wh-whatever you wish, Sir.”

    I growled. “I’m tired of all you ‘yes’ men. Get out.” He didn’t hesitate to slip out the door and shut it firmly behind him. I sighed. This wasn’t how I wanted this to go. I wanted to have an advisor, a right hand man who would help me rule the world. I know I had sworn off humans and attachments and whatever after I got the ring, but times had changed. I didn’t want to sit alone in this room with the weight of the world on my shoulders. 

    I missed Damian. 





    Damian sat on the floor of his little cabin, the heat drawing sweat from his skin in rolling beads. He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath of concentration. It was daytime outside, and there was plenty of light, but inside his cabin lay only shadows. He could feel them move at his command, shifting through the air like roiling fog. 

    Taking in another deep, steadying breath, Damian held the shadows in their positions while reaching out past the walls of his cabin. Brining in a thin stream of light under the door, Damian willed it to form into a ball, which hovered in the middle of the cabin. The shadows reared back from the light, and it took most of Damian’s concentration to force them to surround the light orb, encasing it entirely. He was lucky that he had been in and out of the Nether so many times over the past few months that willing the shadows to take him had become a second nature. It required so little concentration now that Damian’s grasp on the light and shadows fighting each other within the little ball didn’t swaver. 

    When Damian opened his eyes, he was in the Nether. The dark gray-black expanse spread out flat in every direction, and Damian took a moment to let his eyes adjust to the alternate plane. Once they had, he turned his attention back to the orb in his hand. The light was still there; the Nether hadn’t attacked it through the cloaking layer of shadows. Interesting. 

    Raising his little experiment past eye level, Damian let the shadows disperse to merge with the others in the Nether and released the light within. For a split second, the Nether was bright - such a strange sight that Damian didn’t even have time to comprehend it. And then, it was just gone. Winked out like it had never been there at all. 

    Damian frowned. He knew that the Nether attacked light where it found it. In fact, it attacked most things that weren’t made of shadows - light, humans, angels like Sirio. In a way, Damian was lucky to be so composed of shadows; not that he would ever admit it. And it was this connection with the shadows that had him frowning. 

    When the light disappeared, he felt no disturbance amongst the shadows except for the dissipation around the light. From everything he knew about the Nether from his various experimenting over the past few months, the light should’ve remained for a few seconds more, held by his will, until the shadows attacked it and chipped away at his strength. Damian should have been the one who had to weaken and release. Instead, it was almost like they slipped away from his grasp, pulled by some sort of magnet. Stolen from his hands. 

    Damian returned to the surface dissatisfied and still confused. He flipped open a worn notebook and jotted down a few things about his most recent experiment. He may not like being the son of a demon, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t take advantage of the perks that came with it. The more he knew about the Nether and shadows, the stronger he would be when he finally returned to the magic world. 

    As he went to close the notebook, Damian paused at the small picture taped inside the cover. Taryn was younger in this photo than when he had last seen her, but he preferred to remember this time. She had posed next to a concert hall when Damian had surprised her with concert tickets. The only thing that outshone her grin were her eyes, filled with bright joy and love. But that was before she was taken to the Nether, before she was used as leverage by a demon, before she had found out the truth about Damian’s parentage. 

    Damian hadn’t stuck around long enough to see the disgust on her face, and he was glad. He would rather remember her when she thought he wasn’t the son of a monster. 




    “I’m not a monster,” I said to the scrawny boy fidgeting in his seat. “Go to the bathroom, for Satan’s sake.”

    He was up and out of his seat in an instant, and I sighed, turning to the rest of the room. “Interns, am I right?” They all nodded, but it was jerky and nervous, like if they didn’t I would rip their heads off. Literally. “Anyway, I’ve called you all here today because I’m looking for an advisor. Any volunteers?” 

    No hands went up. I looked around at my potential candidates. They were a strange group, chosen for a variety of qualifying factors - intelligence, obedience, and aesthetics. 

    “Huh,” I said. “Well, it doesn’t matter, because I wasn’t going to give you all a choice anyway. I’ll be keeping a close eye on all of you for the next few weeks, and then I’ll announce the winner.” I looked one of the women in the eye. “A real close eye.” Turning to the very attractive man beside her, I added in a hiss, “Uncomfortably close.” I traced a thin trail of shadows up his neck and across his chin, then grinned. He squirmed, and I tried not to laugh. Making humans uncomfortable was one of the best parts of my day. 

    “Dismissed!” I barked, and the room cleared out in a half second flat. 

    I wandered out into the hallway, passing one of my many servants sitting outside the room. She scrambled to his feet as I passed, calling, “Sir!” 

    Turning slowly, I surveyed this new messenger. She was bolder than the last one, no stutter in her voice. “I have a message for you, sir.”

    I rolled my eyes. “What is it this time? Is Russia trying to take over the world?”

    She paused, her dark brows lowering a bit. “They’ve been working at that for months now.”

    “Really?” I asked, then decided I didn’t care. “Whatever. What’s the message?”

    “Reports have been coming in from North Korea, Germany, Honduras, Africa, England, South-“

    “Yeah, yeah, get to the point.” My gaze wandered around the bare hallway, looking for something more interesting to focus on. 

    She looked annoyed at being interrupted, but it was me. What could she say against me? “You commanded everyone to tell you where there was supernatural activity spotted. I’m telling you.”

    I looked back to her, more interested than before. “What kind of supernatural activity?” 

    “Some of the reports are vague,” she told me. “But most mention flashes of light.”

    My cold blood ran colder. “When did these reports come in?” 


    “Yesterday?” I demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

    She tilted her head, making some kind of expression with her face that probably expressed something like confusion or offense, or whatever, I really didn’t care enough to figure it out. “Because you commanded us not to disturb you last night because it was ‘spa night’ and then this morning, there was that thing with the bird and you commanded us to leave you alone, and then just now before the meeting I tried to tell you, but you were all like, ‘Can’t you see I’m about to start a meeting? Don’t disturb me now.’ So I waited until now. And told you,” she finished a huff. “Can I go now?”

    “Yes, fine, go,” I snapped. This was the problem with the ring; I had to be really careful how I phrased things. “But tell me the minute you get any new information.”

    She was already walking away as per my command. “I’m not sure that’s physically possible-“

    “Okay, tell me as soon as possible,” I amended with a sigh. Really, butter pecan. The Ring of Mortals. Better in concept. 

    “Yes, sir,” she replied before turning the corner. I was glad that she was gone. After all, I had an angel to visit. 




    The Nether was nice this time of year. It was cold and dark and silent, just like I liked it. The shadows welcomed me home and followed in my wake, making me feel truly powerful - ironically more powerful than I felt on Earth with the whole of the human race under my thumb. 

    I knew where in the Nether I wanted to go, and the shadows graciously bore me there. The thick bars of the cage I’d erected around my brother stood firm, and he was his normal crumpled self inside. Tired, grumpy, Heavily Salted, but there.

    “Hey, bro. How’s it going?” I asked cheerfully, leaning casually against the bars. 

    Sirio glared at me. “What do you want, Baxel? Can’t you just leave me here to wallow in peace?”

    “Now, that’s not a healthy attitude to have about imprisonment,” I scolded. “Remember, act happy, be happy.”

    “I am personally going to rip your skin from your body one square inch at a time.”

    I raised a brow. “You’ve been down here for how long? And that’s the best you came up with?” 

    Sirio’s gaze darkened. He shifted, and I caught a glimpse of the hand that was half hidden in the folds of his clothes. 

    “Nice appendage you got there,” I commented. “Black and gnarled is coming back in style, I hear.”

    The knotted fingers on Sirio’s black hand clenched, but he hid it quickly. “This is your fault.”

    “I know. I’m proud of it,” I replied. I knew his hand would grow back after Taryn cut it and the ring off, but to have the shadows contaminate the process so thoroughly? Well, that was just immensely satisfying. “Anyway, talons aside, I just came down for a quick chat.”

    “Is that so.”

    “Yep,” I answered. “So, I’ll just be going now.”

    Sirio’s eyes narrowed. “You thought I escaped.” 


    Pulling his gaunt face into a smirk, Sirio replied, “I always was the smarter brother. You came down to check on me. You though I had escaped.”

    I shrugged. “I heard some things. Thought it wouldn’t hurt to check.”

    “Tell me, how would I get out of the Nether?” Sirio demanded. “There’s no light down here for me to use my powers on. The shadows are the only things that can cross the barrier, and they’d never take me. They’d obey you, but you’d never agree.”

    “Put some thought into this, have you?” I asked, amused. “Really, you ought to make your peace with being down here. A few months is a blink of an eye for eternal beings like us. You’re going to be down here for thousands of times that.”

    Sirio glared at me. “I’ll find a way out. I swear.”

    I smirked. “Didn’t mommy ever tell you that nice angels don’t swear?”

    “Get the hell out of here, Baxel. I don’t want to see your face.”

    “Why? Does it remind you too much of your face back when your eyes weren’t sunken in baggy grayish skin? ‘Cause let me tell you, I acknowledge your attractiveness because it’s usually my own, but right now… Damn, son.”

    “Fight me. I’ll still win.”

    I laughed loud and long. “Right. I’m not falling for that one.” I gave a jaunty little wave. “Let’s hope your next idea is a little better than that, yeah? See ya, Sirio.”

    The shadows returned me to where I entered the Nether, then bore me back up to the surface. Taunting my caged brother usually lifted my spirits a bit, but that faded quickly. After all, if Sirio was still in the Nether, who was off playing with light?

    Unless. Unless it was the one human I knew who had light powers. The one human that I had resisted spying on for a few weeks now. But now, I had a legitimate reason to check in; I had to get to the bottom of these reports for the good of the world. Yes, for the good of the world. 

    I had to visit Damian. For the good of the world. 




    Damian came back from the market tired. He’d tried the light orb experiment another four times, then struggled back to the upper world so exhausted that he crashed for three days. When he woke up, he was starving, and all he had in his cabin were a few rotting fruits and a jug of water. 

    After buying an assortment of bread and produce and eating half of it on his way home, Damian had gone from starving back to tired. He braced the paper bag on his hip as he pushed open the door to his dark cabin. The shutters over the windows kept the light out when he wanted to focus on shadows - or, in this case, sleep. 

    Damian dropped the bag of food onto his little table, then bent down to untie his shoes. 

    “How domestic,” a familiar voice commented from the darkness. “Coming home with groceries.”

    Jerking back, Damian nearly fell off his chair, only just managing to catch himself on the edge of the table. A laugh echoed from the darkness, and with a snap of the fingers, one of the shutters cracked open, bathing the red demon in midday light. “Hi,” he said. 

    “What are you doing here?” Damian demanded, scowling. 

    “Now is that any way to greet your father?”

    Damian growled. “You’re not my father.”

    Baxel raised a brow, a playful smirk dancing across his lips. “Uh, yes I am. I think. I mean, we never got a blood test, but… come on, look at the evidence.” 

    “Gregory Cross was my father. He raised me. He loved me. You’re just a demon playing parent,” Damian spat. 

    Something flickered across Baxel’s face, but he waved a hand and it disappeared. “Never mind that; debating lineage versus parentage is actually not why I’m here.”

    “Why, then? I thought you were going to leave me alone.”

    “I don’t actually remember promising that,” Baxel pointed out. “But either way, I have. I haven’t even been spying on you, though this dark little house would’ve made it easy.”

    Damian leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. “Then how’d you know I was here?”

    “Keeping tabs is not the same as spying.”

    “Right,” Damian muttered, rolling his eyes. “So what do you want? Let’s get this over with.”

    Baxel considered him, his dark gaze studying Damian’s scowl, his frown, the set of his shoulders. “You’ve changed.” 

    “Yeah, finding out you’re an abomination will do that to you.”

    Baxel said nothing to assure him that he wasn’t an abomination. Instead, he just shook his head. “No, it’s something else.” He flicked a trail of shadows at Damian’s face, and they diverted a second before touching his skin. “You’ve been spending more time in the Nether. The shadows, they obey you.” There was a hint of pride in his voice alongside surprise.

    “So what? You thought I was just sitting here on my ass and not practicing?” Damian shot back. 

    A slow smile split Baxel’s red lips. “Something tells me that you don’t entirely resent your demon blood. I actually don’t think you’d change it, if you could.”

    Damian’s silence was enough of an answer. 

    Baxel clapped his hands. “Well, it’s not shadow powers I’m here to discuss. It’s light. Have you been galavanting across the globe doing little light shows for people to see?” 

    “What?” Damian asked. “I haven’t left Africa since I got here.”

    This didn’t seem to be what Baxel wanted to hear. “Hm… well, then. We might have a problem.”

    “We? Sounds like you might have a problem.”

    Baxel sighed. “Listen, kid, problems in the magic world are going to affect you just as much as me.”

    “I doubt it.”

    “Believe me, if there’s somehow an angel loose on earth, you’re going to feel pretty damn affected.” 

    Damian looked up. “An angel?”

    “Yeah, probably. Angels control light, you know that. Humans with light blood can too, but those secrets have been lost for thousands of years. So unless you or Sirio have been going around teaching people, it’s probably an angel.”

    “I thought heaven was closed. I didn’t think they could come down here.” 

    “They can’t,” Baxel replied. “That’s why this is a problem. If the angels are up in heaven - well, other than the few in the Nether - then where’d this one come from? Assuming it is one. We should probably figure that out first.” 

    Damian wasn’t listening to the last part. “Uh, did you say there are angels in the Nether? Like angels, plural? I thought it was just Sirio.” 

    Baxel shook his head. “The Nether’s a great place to lock up angels, since there’s zero light. No light, no powers. It’s pretty hard for them to escape that.”

    Damian’s heart was beating so loud that he felt certain Baxel could sense it somehow. He tried to make his face blank, but not soon enough. 

    “Whyyy?” Baxel asked, drawing out the last syllable. His eyes narrowed to little slits. 

    “Just curious,” Damian replied. 

    Baxel wasn’t buying it. He stepped closer, his tone hardening as he said, “Damian. What did you do?” 

    “I didn’t do anything,” Damian snapped defensively. He dropped his gaze from Baxel’s face, and knew resisting was futile. Baxel would annoy the truth out of him if given the chance. “I just did a few… experiments. With the Nether.”

    “What kind of experiments?”

    “Um,” Damian began, “like taking… light… into the Nether.”

    Baxel blinked at him. “What? You can do that?”


    “Why the hell would you do that?” 

    Damian shrugged. “I was curious to see what would happen.”

    Baxel was fuming, but set aside his anger to satisfy his own curiosity. “And what did happen?”

    “When I let the shadows that were masking it go, it just kind of vanished. Not because of the shadows, though. They didn’t move, really. It was just kind of… sucked away.”

    Baxel ran a hand though his chin length black hair, turning as he did so. His shoulders rose and fell as he took a breath, then turned back. “Damian. Please tell me you didn’t bring anyone up from the Nether.”

    Damian hesitated. 


    “I didn’t think I did,” Damian started slowly. “I thought it was just a hallucination because I was so tired, but…” Baxel’s gaze was piercing. “When I came up from the Nether the last time, it was harder than the other times. Like I was pulling more than my own weight. I didn’t see anyone, though. Just felt…” He shook his head. “And then I got back here and passed out for three days.”

    Baxel took a step back, the bed hitting his knees. He sat down hard. “I’m not gonna lie, this is pretty bad,” he declared. “But if you did bring someone up, it’s only one angel. We can handle one angel.”

    “We?” Damian repeated. 

    Baxel’s eyes were dark when he turned them on Damian. “This is your mess. Don’t think you’re not going to help clean it up.”

    Damian didn’t argue. He knew Baxel was right. “Fine. One angel. That’s all.”

    “That’s all.”

    That wasn’t all.




I wanted to be angry with Damian, and I was. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but be a little impressed. After all, bringing light into the Nether? I had never heard of that done. Granted, that’s because I never heard of anyone who could traverse the Nether but myself, and I had no light powers, but even so. Impressive. 

    Still, that didn’t change the fact that not only was there apparently an angel on the loose as a result of his reckless experiments, but that angel was a criminal from what was effectively Heaven’s Maximum Security Prison. If I thought my life as ruler of the world was getting a bit dull, well, here was some excitement, that was for sure.

    “So,” Damian began, “how do we find an angel?”

    “Same way you find anyone else,” I replied, digging around in my pocket. 

    Damian frowned at me. “How’s that?”

    I grinned, pulling out my phone. “Have someone else do it for you.” 

    “Is that a Samsung Note 7?”

    Pausing, I looked up at him. “Are you a sponsored ad?”

    “I was just asking because you know those have a tendency to explode,” Damian commented, leaning back in his chair. “Let me guess, you had someone else get it for you because you’re too lazy?”


    Damian smirked. “Looks like one of your ‘followers’ doesn’t like you very much.”

    I considered him for a long moment, trying to decide on what I could say in my own defense. That it was a simple error, that the servant was probably too stupid to know better, that the chances of it exploding were one in a million, right? In the end, I settled with, “Shut up.”

    I scrolled through my contacts until I reached one labeled “Servant #48.” I searched my brain for a face to go with “Servant #48,” but came up blank. Not because my brain was blank, just because I had never really bothered to learn the faces of any of my servants, of course.

    “Hello?” a female voice answered on the other end.

    “Hello, yes. This is your Overlord Baxel.” I waited for the shuddering praise.

    “I know who it is, you made us all put you into our contacts on the day you enslaved us for life, remember?” she replied. I had the sneaking suspicion that Servant #48 was the same one I had encountered in the hallway earlier. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. 

    “Right, I did,” I answered. “Of course I remember that, I forget nothing.”

    “Mhm,” she murmured, sounding distracted. “So how can I help you, Most Majestic Overlord?”

    I felt my chest swell at the title. “You’re the one who gave me the report about the light sightings, right?”


    “Okay, I need the location and time of the most recent one.”

    There was a rustle of papers on the other end. “One second…” I tapped my foot to imaginary elevator music. “Alright, I got it. The last sighting was five minutes ago in your room.”

    I blinked. “Um. Repeat that.”

    “Alright, I got it. The last sighting was five minutes ago in your room.”

    “One more time.”

    “Alright, I got it. The last sighting was five minutes ago in your room.”

    I could feel Damian’s eyes on me, but I didn’t look his way. “How did he get in? What about my massive amounts of security? What about the fancy lock I had installed on the door?”

    “I don’t know,” she replied, sounding annoyed. “All I know is that a few minutes ago, someone went into the hallway, found a bunch of dead people, and came running out screaming. We checked the security cameras, and all they showed was white light for, like, five solid minutes.” 

    “Why didn’t you tell me immediately?” I demanded. 

    She sighed. “Your exact orders were to tell you as soon as possible, and it wasn’t possible because I forgot the password to my phone, but apparently when someone calls you, you don’t need a password to answer, so-“

    “Alright, alright! Whatever, I don’t care. Did he ransack my room? Did he steal the signed Hamilton program that I keep in my bedside table?”

    “They said it doesn’t look like anything’s missing,” Servant #48 said hesitantly. “Other than, well…” 


    “Not as much what as who.”

    I stood up from my perch on Damian’s bed. “No.”

    “I’m afraid so.”



    “I’m hanging up now. I’ll be there in five.”


    I hung up, turning to look Damian straight in the eye. “He has Mr. Skullcrusher.”




    “We should think about this,” Damian insisted, following me as I dropped into the Nether. I walked a few feet in the other plane, the rough glass-like sand crunching under my shoes. “We shouldn’t just run back there because he has your dog. What if he’s waiting there?”

    “I hope he is,” I shot back. “We’re looking for him anyway, aren’t we?”

    “Yeah, but we’re not prepared,” Damian protested as I gathered the shadows around myself, ready to teleport through the Nether. “We don’t even have a-“

    I ignored him and disappeared, letting the shadows go when I reached the section of the Nether right beneath my headquarters. Damian appeared behind me a moment later, finishing, “-plan. We don’t have a plan.”

    “Lock him up in the Nether again,” I said, my voice hard. “There, we have a plan.” I turned to look at him. “Are you coming or not?”

    With a sigh, he shrugged. I went first, materializing in my room. It was empty. Too empty. I missed the normal slobbery greeting from my German Shepherd. 

    “This is your room?” Damian asked, crossing the room with long strides. “I expected something…” 



    “Cream is in right now.”

    Damian raised a brow. “Uh huh.”

    I shot him a glare, then swept past him into the hallway. “Servant 48!” I called in my most booming voice as I approached the secretary room. Several servants looked up from their cubicles. 

    “Uh, I don’t think you ever gave us numbers, your Majesty,” one of them ventured. 

    I waved an impatient hand. “Get me whoever I was on the phone with earlier. Girl, about yea tall,” I said, motioning at about my own eye level, “dark skin, black hair.”

    The guy in the cubicle nodded to one of the others, and they hurried off. In a few seconds, they returned from the other room with Servant 48 in tow. “Ah, Servant 48.”

    “I have a name, you know.”

    “What is it?”

    “Riya Kaur.”

    I thought about it. “And you think that’s catchier than Servant 48?”

    She scowled. “Yes?”

    “Fine,” I shrugged, pulling her into my room. Damian followed.  “It doesn’t matter what you’re called, as long as you tell me everything you know about the person who stole my dog.”

    Riya crossed her slender arms. “Well, from what we can tell, ‘he’ appears to be a ball of light,” she said slowly. “And not really a person? As such?”

    “True, he isn’t a person,” I agreed. “He is the devil.”

    “I thought you were the devil.”

    “I was exaggerating,” I snapped. “He’s actually an angel.”

    “That’s pretty nice of you, considering he just stole your dog.”

    I shot her a look. “I mean he’s a literal angel, I wasn’t calling him a- You know what? I don’t think I like you much, Riya.”


[end of 5,000 words]

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