It took a second for the words to sink in, rattled as I was from being dragged from Earth and dumped into some backwater, cross-dimensional cesspool. Just a few minutes before, I’d been spending what I thought was my last minutes alive with Karra and mourning the loss of Abe, when the demon Xyx and his flunkies, black and White, showed up. Now, here I was, standing before their master. I don’t know what I was expecting from this forced meeting, but it certainly wasn’t a message from my not-so-dearly-departed uncle.
There was fog in the air and it made my eyes water. Xyx, Black, and White had all faded into it after dropping me off. They were pretty much out of sight, out of mind because all I could do was stare at Hasstor. There was no mistaking the guy was a demon, of some kind, but I felt a strange reverberation against my senses. It was something I couldn’t put my finger on. His power was subdued, held in check by sheer will and the smoke that clung to everything like a bad credit score, but it was clear he had plenty of it. As it had when I first encountered Xyx, the wash of Hasstor’s magic rolled over me and made my stomach twist. Whoever he was and wherever he came from, he sat at the top of the food chain.
His cold, lidless gray eyes didn’t waver as he stared back, waiting for me to respond. Unlike Xyx, Hasstor didn’t hide behind a cloak and mask. In fact, he left nothing to the imagination. Naked as the day he was hatched, Hasstor stood before me like he was posing for the cover of Demonic Playgirl. His skin was an abyssal obsidian, so black it shimmered with a radiant blue in the dim light. Possessed of four powerfully built arms he stood with two of them upon his hips, drawing awkward attention to the monster between his legs; and I really mean monster.
Nearly as big as his forearm, the thing squirmed and hissed, silver teeth gnashing in the gaping maw that split the tip. Tiny black eyes dotted the serpentine length like a bad case of the clap. They blinked in alternating order, but kept their gaze on me the whole time. It made me more uncomfortable than watching an episode of Glee.
I tore my eyes away and followed the swirling trail of puckered scars that covered Hasstor’s flesh. They stood out, just a shade lighter than the rest of his skin. There were too many, and they were too intricate in design, to be anything but ritualistic. I didn’t have a clue what they meant, but I spied some similar to the ones I’d seen on the containment case in Lucifer’s chambers. There was a subtle difference to them that made me think it was a different language, but it gave me the idea that whoever–whatever–had been locked up inside it wasn’t from Earth.
Finally back at Hasstor’s hairless face, pug-nosed and square-jawed, I found my voice. “Uncle Lou sent you, huh?” My cheeks warmed as I thought about my uncle. Had Hasstor shown up a couple of months back, I’d have thrown a party to hear from Lucifer, but now? Not so much. There were too many questions.
Hasstor nodded, his upper lip pulled into an amused sneer.
“You’d think if this was so important he would have come himself.” No clue who Hasstor was, I wanted to be sure he was legitimately delivering a message from my uncle before I decided how I would deal with it.
The low rumble of a chuckle slipped from him. “Lucifer told me you would be difficult, Triggaltheron, so he provided me with the means to convince you.”
I cringed a little at the use of my full name, but given all the folks who’d been spitting it out lately, I was kind of getting used to it. Shrugging it off, I watched as he held out his upper right arm, his clawed fingers spreading open before me. Bright against his dark skin was a red dot of liquid that could only be blood. My senses fluttered against it expecting the residual feedback of my uncle’s power, but that wasn’t what I found.
My legs buckled and nearly went out from beneath me as the essence of the blood hit home. The air cooled in my lungs and I held my breath, my heart thumping a cannonade. I reached out and scooped the drop from Hasstor’s palm and cradled it in trembling hands. It wasn’t Lucifer’s blood.
It was my mother’s.
“How–” I started, but the words clung to my tongue.
“These are dark times. Lucifer knew you might question a messenger bearing even his essence, but he had no doubt you would heed the word of one who bore that of your dam.” I felt the weight of his eyes on me, though I couldn’t tear mine from the tiny drop of my mother’s blood. It was the closest to her I’d been since I laid her to rest outside her ancestral village. “Is this true?” he continued.
“Good, for I have little time before my presence is noted. The conflagration in your Heaven was the perfect cover for my arrival. Despite my power being depleted by the long journey, those more mystically adept will soon see beyond my weakened veil now that the conflict is over and their attention is not drawn elsewhere.”
Only half paying attention, I licked the blood from my palm. Warmth flooded my mouth, my tongue going numb as the essence of my mother’s spirit filled me. It was the tiniest of sparks, but it filled my head with memories that had been dormant for centuries. I could hear her soft voice and smell the subtle waft of the flowers she used to scent her bath.
As morbid as it sounded, I wished I had more of her blood so I could hold onto her longer. I missed my mother. She was the only person in my life who truly cared about me without qualification. She loved me because I was her son. That was enough for her. It was everything to me.
Hasstor grunted, ruining my reverie, and drew my attention to yet another of his clawed hands he held out. In it was a thick tome. It was covered in the strange symbols Hasstor wore on his flesh and looked as though it was made of some ancient leather. I suspected it was a hide of a more human nature, the writing like raised scars. With only a little hesitation, I took it. I didn’t need to examine it further to know I wouldn’t be snuggling up with it in front of the fireplace.
“What is this?”
“Lucifer wished it passed on to you, but he gave no specifics as to its nature or its intended use. He said to hide it where no eyes may see, and that you would know what he asked of you.”
That was a pretty clear allusion to the God-proof room in Lucifer’s chambers. He didn’t want anyone to be able to track the thing. I nodded to Hasstor, not really happy about another mystery, but I hoped the book might help translate the spells on the broken case and give me some clue as to who had been locked up inside it.
“Is there anything else?”
“Yes.” Hasstor drew a step closer. I had to resist the urge to step away from little Squirmy. “He wants you to know a war is being waged beyond your universe. God and Lucifer fight together to repel the enemy that threatens all of existence, but Lucifer fears the battle might reach Earth before the war is concluded. He asks that you find a way to prepare for its coming, or at least warn those who might stand in your planet’s defense should Lucifer not be able. If Earth falls, it may well become a foothold behind allied lines that might lead to the defeat of God.”
Hey, look at that; bad news. How unexpected. “What are we in for?” I really didn’t want to know, but what the hell? I’m a glutton for punishment.
“I am permitted to say little of the nature of our enemy, but so you understand the gravity of what may come about, your universe was only the most recent of God’s creations, and far from the most evolved, or the most dangerous.”
“So, we’re talking aliens?” This kept getting better and better.
“Alien to you, yes, but yet quite similar as well. If there was to be a flaw in God’s plans of Genesis it would be the self-absorption that infests so many of the beings He created to populate the various worlds.”
Amen! He was preaching to the choir. People sucked all over. “Are there little green men coming?” I didn’t think I had enough tinfoil saved up to protect me from the answer.
He didn’t even crack a smile. “There may well be, but I cannot say for certain. Even to my people, God’s plans and motivations are a mystery. I know only that your universe, as well as my own, are but parts of a larger plot whose purpose we are not meant to fathom.”
“So, y’all are no better off than us, huh?”
Hasstor laughed. His voice was a deep rumble that stirred the fog. “In our relations to God, we are most definitely no more informed.”
It was strangely comforting to know humanity wasn’t the only species getting screwed by the powers that be. Chalk one up for equality.
“Is this an impending doom type of scenario, or will I get to take a nap first?” I could really use one.
It’s hard to believe that just days before I was fighting to save Heaven from rogue archangels, werewolves, and vampires, oh my. The unexpected arrival of my cousin, Scarlett, beat to hell, set it all off. The Nephilim sent to finish the job were only the icing on the crap cake to follow.
After jet-setting around the world –Iran, Saudi Arabia…Hell –in a race to get to Heaven ahead of the supernatural rabble looking to plant their flag, and to escape the deadly storms that scoured the planet as the Tree of Life shared its death throes, I just wasn’t in the mood for any more apocalyptic bullshit.
Abe’s funeral was the culmination of it all. I watched from the trees as friends and family gathered at the grave, but not me. My mentor, my friend, the closest I’ve ever had to a human father, was laid to rest, and I was in the nosebleed seats. Even the cemetery workers got a better view. It was all just too much.
Hasstor’s face settled into an amused grin. “Lucifer did not provide me with a timeline, but neither did he convey the sense his fears were imminent. I believe he is simply being cautious, for even he does not know the full extent of what his and God’s forces face.”
That was encouraging. Nothing like saving the Earth only to find out the rest of the universe is on the verge of obliteration. How Douglas Adams. All I needed was a towel and a fish to shove up my ass. Right then, I almost wished Xyx had brought me here to be executed. It certainly would have saved me a bunch of stress. “Was there anything else Uncle Lou wanted passed on, like maybe asking how his beloved nephew is doing? Anything non-apocalyptic like that?”
“The tome and the warning were all he sent.”
Never any love for poor old Frank. Maybe I was just deluded, thinking I was more important to my uncle than I really was. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, though. You don’t earn the title the Father of Lies by being honest. It still sucked, but that’s what I get for thinking I’m special.
“It is time for me to leave, Triggaltheron. Xyx waits to aid my return to our world, but Jonas Black and Ethan White will remain. They will report on Earth’s progress and yours as well.” He held out a green gem wrapped in a strange, shifting, gray metal that looked almost liquid. “This is a summoning stone. With it close by, you can call them to you should you need their assistance or necessity demands you forward a message to Lucifer.”
I didn’t think that was likely as I took the gem, but I could imagine a few scenarios where being able to summon a couple of Black and White targets to take the heat off my back would be nice. As I was thinking that, a subtle hint of power rippled against my senses. Hasstor drew on his magic, and the fog danced chaotic at his feet.
“It would be best if the earthlings at large were kept ignorant of the universes beyond their borders. They are too fragile a species to grasp the complexities of their true place in the grand scheme of life.”
Half human myself, I wasn’t sure how to take that, but I let it go. I’ve had enough fights outside of my weight class lately to know better than to take this one on. I plastered on my best I’m-Gonna-Screw-Your-Daughter look, nodded, and waved goodbye. A split second later, Hasstor’s spell took hold, and I was whisked away.
I could have sworn Squirmy winked at me.