The Churning Black

Every game has rules, and every rule can be bent, twisted, and shattered...

Amdusias has a palace of flames, 29 infernal legions under his command, a voice like thunder, and can make trees bend to his will-but he can't go home...not until his debt is repaid.  Until then, he walks among us.

The Churning Black: Part 1

I could almost feel the heat. Almost. I watched the low flames silently carve a path across the floor, and waited. The flickering tongues looked hotter than they really were, though. The temptation was too strong, and I bet low enough to run my fingers through the yellow-orange crests. They weren’t even hot enough to singe my flesh. A path was scrolled through the dirt and grime as if drawn by a steady calligrapher’s hand. The swirls and loops bent and twisted around themselves until they formed a perfect circle around me. I used to know the name of each glyph, but after all these years, it just didn't seem to matter anymore. 
I waited. I’m not sure how long it was, but the flames slowly burned lower. All I could hear was silence. I’m not sure what angered me more, that I was left standing there for hours on end, or that I had grown so accustomed to it. The stone beneath the flames started to melt like candle wax, and still no one appeared before me. 
Linear time was a concept I fought with constantly, but the flames never lied. It was hours before the darkness on the outside of the circle finally started to thicken. I heard the sound of wind, so faint at first I thought I imagined it. It carried the crackling of the great pits, and the distant thunder I once knew so well. I tried not to let my chest swell around the familiar ember. I wanted to go home so badly it hurt, but I had my pride. By the gods, I had my pride. 
The darkness became absolute, so thick not even my eyes could penetrate it. It swirled and folded in on itself, swallowing reason. I smelled sulfur, and I felt my shoulders stiffen. Of course it would be her… 
“There’s something different about you. No, don’t tell me…” Her voice was softer than I remembered. Despite my better judgment, my ears opened to the sound like a flower at dawn. I waited for the knife, “oh, that’s right, it’s desperation.” 
“I’m surprised she let you out, Syra. Won’t her kennels get lonely?” I saw the faintest outline of her appear on the other side of the circle. She took her time moving around the edge. She studied me like a bug under a glass. She didn’t bother to dress, and her breasts stirred the ether separating the worlds. She stepped lightly, and her hooves pointed beneath her ankles like six-inch stilettos. It made her pale legs flex and gleam in the firelight. 
“I missed you too, Amdusias,” she said, and turned to face the edge of the circle in front of me. She stuck out her bottom lip, and fluttered her eyelashes. Syra was raven-haired now, olive skinned, and her tail matched her hair. It tapered to a thin cord that fluttered behind her like a loose whip. “She was going to send Briel, but I convinced her not to. The Lords from Horan’s Deep weren’t finished yet.” 
My mind filled with images of Briel being taken by the Infernal Lords, and the back of my hand itched to meet Syra’s face. “There will come a day when I will be free, Syra, and when I do-“ 
“You’ll what, cut me into pieces?” She reached up and dragged a fingernail down her cheek hard enough to draw blood. “I’ll cherish it, Amdusias. Every. Barbed. Lash.” 
I bit my tongue and scowled, but she just threw her head back and laughed. Out of the deeper black behind her, I could hear the winds of the damned calling me home. I even took a step toward the flames before I realized what I’d done and caught myself. Syra’s eyes suddenly narrowed on me, and her mouth curved into a smile that stretched from ear to ear. It twisted her face hideously. 
“My poor, poor Lord,” she blinked and her eyes and forced a tear that leaked into the thin line of blood on her face. When I didn’t respond, she sighed and dropped into a crouch, holding her hands over the flames. I watched her fingernails start to glow like charcoals. “She wants you to tell me about the girl.” 
I rolled my eyes and looked over Syra’s head into the inky darkness. “I bet she does. But why you?” 
“Because she knows how much I love watching you crawl on your hands and knees.” Syra glanced up, and the grin on her face parted to reveal a row of razor-sharp teeth. “And, because every time you lie to me, I’ll add ten years to your sentence.” 
“It might be worth another few hundred years just to have my words spill from your mouth in her open chamber.” 
“Try me, Lord.” Her eyes glinted black, and the flames shone like mirrors in them. 
I smiled. “Fine, let’s just pretend I give a damn what you believe for a moment. By ‘the girl’ you mean Angelica.” I watched Syra’s tail swish behind her, and then it snaked between her open legs and began to toy with the fire under her hands. “There’s not much to tell, really.” 
“She wants answers. You are in exile, Lord, you cannot bring a Duchess into her court unannounced!” 
I laughed, and Syra’s smile contorted in her rage. “Ten years!” 
I folded my arms across my chest and sighed, but I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. So, Angelica actually made it to court without being cut down. It had been a long time since a mortal impressed me. “Fine, you win. I’ll tell you what I can.” Syra’s head tilted against her shoulder and watched me closely. “I can’t remember how long ago it was, time moves sideways here.” 
“Quit stalling, Lord, the heat is already fading, and if I return with nothing to report, I will heap as many centuries down upon you as she will allow. And then, I’ll take my time tearing your bitch to pieces.” 
“You’re the one who left me here waiting for hours on end, Syra, so don’t play the innocent victim, it doesn’t suit you.” I tapped my chin and took a deep breath. “I first saw her perform at the Kenton palisade. Her voice was phenomenal. But the role was completely wrong for her-- a peasant with that kind of power shouldn’t have been an understudy for the lead.” I pursed my lips, thinking back to that night. The opera house was full of aristocrats in overpriced suits, wearing jewelry handed down through generations. The smell of polish lingered under the rich perfumes. 
“I was borrowing a young man from a townhome a few blocks away. He was rich, handsome, and normally quite shy. I rather enjoyed the charade for an hour or two, but I got bored before long.” Syra didn’t take her eyes off of me, and her hands stayed in the center of the flames to keep warm. 
“The opera was something inane, a tragedy in three acts. It had a queen, a scheming courtesan, and a collection of sinister figures posing as her heroes in order to overthrow the kingdom.” I smiled at her, the irony was monumental. “During the second act, Angelica took the stage and began a long, sorrowful aria that drove every other thought from my head. I heard something rare in her that I hadn’t heard in years.” 
“Like what, celestial purity?” 
“Hardly. And since you don’t have an ear for anything less than a kennel whistle, I won’t waste my time explaining it.” 
Syra scowled at me. “Ten more, my Lord.” 
The price was worth the look on her face. “I didn’t wait for the show to end, just made my way to the dressing room backstage. It wasn’t hard to persuade one of the stage hands to let me in. I sat at the row of dressing tables and waited for her.” 
“According to the clock on the wall, I had just over two hours left until I would be stripped from my host. One of the queen’s more delightful limitations, Syra.” I closed my eyes for a moment and drank in the memory. When the stagehand walked Angelica in, I could hear the quiet heat in her voice. “This is completely ridiculous, I told you that I’m--” Angelica stopped when her eyes fell upon me, sitting by the dressing table. I stood slowly and she rounded on the stagehand, but he just bowed slightly, and closed the door after him. 
“I don’t know who you are, or what calling me in here was supposed to accomplish, but—“ 
“I was moved by your performance, and felt compelled to meet you. I apologize if it comes as a shock.” 
She glanced around nervously, then squared her shoulders. “While I appreciate the sentiment, sir, I hardly think ambushing me here is appropriate. If you’ll excuse me.” 
Syra threw her head back and laughed. When her mouth opened, I could see diminishing rows of teeth leading to her throat. “She walked away from you? You have been among them too long, my Lord. They’ve even made you start to think like them.” 
I waited for her to finish. “If you’re ready, I’ll continue.” 
Syra’s Cheshire smile was back and she bent impossibly low to the flames and swept her arm out. “By all mean, Amdusias. I forget myself.” 
“I stepped closer to her, and crafted a single long-stemmed rose behind my back. I handed it to her, and then smiled with all the charm my host could create. She looked confused for an instant, and then blushed. I told her she should get back to the wings before she was missed, and she nodded.” 
“How saccharine.” 
“I waited until midnight in the alley behind the opera house, and left poor Joseph laying against the trash cans. I passed through the basement windows, and then drifted under the stage until I found the trap doors. The lights were already turned low, so no one noticed the darkness seeping up through the floor.” 
I skipped over the finer points of how I managed to track Angelica through the streets, following her cab like a stray current of air as it slipped through the city streets. Syra wasn’t interested in the nuances, and the chances were heavily stacked that she wouldn’t tell the queen any of them anyway. I remember thinking it was strange that Angelica kept the rose. I saw it in her hand, the tip peeking out under the edge of her garment bag. 
“She lived in a tall apartment building, one that only had one window and a balcony. I watched her put the rose in a vase, and she stared at it for a long time before getting ready for bed.” 
“And that was when you claimed her as your own?” 
“I did nothing of the sort. I watched her undress, her limbs tired from the constant anxiety of performing. She fell into bed without a care in the world. I didn’t have long to wait. The glass was inconsequential, and I only had to whisper my name to plant the seed of my desires into her.” 
Syra hissed. 
“She turned over in her sleep, and I pulled back enough to watch her completely. Her eyelids fluttered, and her breathing started to rush between the soft whimpers mortals make. She didn’t wear clothes to bed, so when her hands moved to tease her breasts, there was nothing to stop them. Her thighs squeezed together, and when her fingertips pressed tightly against her nipples, she moaned aloud.” 
I watched Syra’s tail lash between her legs, and despite the anger on her face, her own nipples were growing hard. “Angelica was lost in her dream. I could have thrown her through the window, and she would never have awakened before hitting the pavement. Her eyes shot open, but it meant nothing. The desire pulsing through her veins was for me, and me alone. Angelica reached for the wetness seeping between her legs and ran her hand over it like I wanted her to. She teased the soft folds and ran her fingers up and down the edges of her labia. She toyed with her clitoris, rubbed it, made the pliant nub of flesh stand proudly for my inspection. She mewled, a sound so close to begging for release that I allowed her to climax. She clenched her teeth and groaned before curling into a tight ball of delirium.” 
“And then…?” 
I saw the look in Syra’s eyes—she wanted more. Her tail barely moved between her legs. The flames were almost gone, and darkness was bearing down on her. “And then nothing, Syra. I let her sleep with the thought of my fingers touching the outermost edges of her delicate folds, of my tongue savoring every inch of her.” 
Syra howled in rage as the flames blew out. 

The Churning Black: Part 2

The Park off of 37th street was bathed in the shadows from the towers on the west side.  Right before sunset, the last rays of sunlight reflect off of the Peyton Natural History Museum.  The light dances across the reflection pool like a Russian ballet on fire.  Most days I’m the only one who notices.  Today, I had company.

He wore a weathered trench coat that covered a mismatched suit.  His face was hidden under a mask of five o’clock shadow and bangs that needed a trim.  He also knotted his tie wrong.  It looked like he started with a Windsor that ended in a slipknot.

He appeared at the water’s edge right before the sun hit the glass and just stood there, waiting.  I’ll be the first to admit it bothered me, but then the light hit the pool, and the flames of the sun touched the water.  No one ever stopped to listen to the music.  Of all the times I choreographed the movements, no one ever looked to see where the sound came from.  Today, I chose strings.  Yesterday, it was woodwinds, and the day before, it was overcast.

The light passed over the pool and moved to my music, almost striking the water in time to the arpeggios.  When it reached the low wall at the man’s feet, the light warmed the concrete for almost a full minute before it faded.  He looked up and smiled at me when he caught me staring.  His face cracked along the edges like a dry riverbed.  He clapped as the music faded. 

“And who are you supposed to be?”  I said as I circled the edge of the pool.  The evening rush hour was just starting to hit, and the noise of the city was like a plague of locusts awakening.  The man cocked his head at me, and his smile widened.  I waited for it to split wide open to reveal rows of shark’s teeth, but it didn’t.  His eyes darted at me, each on an independent axis.  It was always the eyes that they never seemed to master.  They were always the wrong color, or they glowed, or they spun in circles…

“That was quite a trick.  Nice little bit or orchestration you’ve managed to put together.”  It wasn’t just his eyes-- his voice was wrong, too.  British, with a hint of Jamaican.

“I like to keep my arrangements simple.  I don’t do subtle well.”  He glanced down at my hands and shifted as if he expected a weapon to appear.  “And you didn’t answer my question.”

“My name is Deteo, your Lordship,” he said, straightening up so he was easily a full head taller than me.  “Syra is roasting like pig because of you.  Rumor has it the Queen almost lost her mind with rage.”

A flash of Angelica ran through my mind.  Her simple beauty among the horde of the Queen's court.  It must be priceless.  “Syra is her own worst enemy.  And she reaps what she sows.”

He held up his hands, “I’m just a messenger, Lordship, I don’t hold for any of that.  What you all do in the privacy of your little rooms is on you.  Per’sonly, I can’t stand the smell of any of you.”

“And yet, here you are.  So by all means, Deteo, indulge my curiosity.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small locket suspended from a thin gold chain.  “This was found in the tunnels by Acrux.  Don’t ask how Chimesa got his hands on it-- hell, he might have eaten some poor bastard and shit it out for all I know…”

I held out my hand, and Deteo dropped it in my palm.  It felt heavier than I remembered.  “Chimesa?”

“He brought it to Lord Kael when he recognized your scent.  And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna to go burn this skin-- it’s starting to itch.”

I waved him off and held the locket up to the fading light.  The engraving on the back was almost worn smooth.   The last time I held it in my hand was almost two hundred years ago.  I was haunting France in those days, sifting my way through the aristocracy and generally causing chaos at every turn.  For nearly three months straight there was hardly a man or woman of means who didn’t have my charm for at least one night.  Some were just entertaining enough to visit a few times.

Blanche Fournier was as charming as she was beautiful.  She was petite for an aristocrat with long golden hair, and the shyness of a Catholic nun.  I met her during one of the massive riots that kept sweeping back and forth across the city.  Something was working the place into a frenzy, and I was bored to tears enough to watch it all play out. 

Every night when darkness fell, the aristocrats all gathered among the chateaus on the hillsides and watched the city burn.  The working class and the poor were just kindling.  The gentlemen were in the habit of taking bets on the casualties and then marking entire sections of the ruin for sale the next morning.  The ladies would gather and talk about how the desperately the poor deserved their fates.

I worked through them slowly, starting with Renoir.  He had the largest chateau, and most gatherings happened there.  I used him to seduce Anne, the undisputedly wealthiest among them.  Under the orange glow of the city’s flames, I walked her to the rose garden and sat her on a small stone bench.  I stood over her and kissed her.  I put everything I had into that kiss, pressing my lips gently against hers patiently until she yielded.  Once she opened her mouth to accept the tip of my tongue, her whispered moan became her undoing.  I encouraged the strings to blow on the breeze, and it muffled the distant screams.  Her clothes fell in pieces on the lawn, her skin coming into view in layers until her only adornments were in her hair.  She spread herself easily for me, and I kneaded her milky white breasts under the stars and embers.

I left her with Renoir still inside her.  I laughed myself hoarse as he awoke with his cock buried in her to his balls, her clamping down on him as he came.  He recovered fast enough and seemed no worse for the experience.  The next night I possessed Genevieve, and through her, I led Pierre to the basement where Renoir kept his finest reserves.  He was tall, broad shouldered, and I led him on, teasing him mercilessly with whispered fantasies and gentle caresses.  I brought him to the boiling point and then turned to flee, racing for the stairs.  Pierre grabbed my wrist and pulled me back down.  I fought him off, but only enough to make things interesting. 

We didn’t waste time removing our clothes, we just revealed what we needed to.  Pierre buried his cock in her time and again, making her drip with anticipation.  When I left her, she was crying out so loud I thought the world was ending.  Every night, I switched between them, and some nights, it was impossible to choose which soulless husk I wanted to parade to my will.  The revolution broiling throughout the city was getting closer, but thanks to me, no one saw it coming.  At least, most of them didn’t see it.

Blanche first appeared in Renoir’s garden two days before it all went to hell.  I was in Margot, teasing Pierre by riding Genevieve’s fingers.  I caught sight of Blanche at the edge of the garden, watching.  I felt a wild exhibitionist thrill shoot through me, and I put on a show that was just as hot as the city burning behind us.  Blanche watched, transfixed while Genevieve went down on Margot, and Pierre settled onto his knees to sample Genevieve’s wetness, driving her face up against the junction between Margot’s thighs.

When Pierre climaxed, Blanche ducked back behind the hedgerows, and I left my puppets to fend for themselves.  It wasn’t hard to follow her.  I found her sitting near the front doors of the Chateau.  She had her head cradled in her arms while the embers drifted closer.  I stayed near her all night, watching her mourn her city. 

The next day, everyone gathered at Renoir’s estate again.  The mansions along the edge of the city were falling one by one.  Blanche was the last to arrive and stayed as far away from everyone as she could without appearing ungrateful.  The whirlwind of lust I helped churn was so ripe that within minutes, the idle chatter was thinning as couples paired off toward different sections of the house and the grounds.  I watched Blanche fade into the background without a second glance from the others.  Once she was sure they’d gone, she went back to sit vigil over the front gates.

I watched her sit there until dark, alone.  I’m still not sure why, but I left her there to find one of the servants in the lower halls.  I took him while he watched Margot and Pierre through a gap in the parlor door.  I walked him up back up to the front steps and sat down next to Blanche as if I’d known her forever.  Through his ears, I could hear the crackle of the flames.  The apocalypse was closing in.  In hours, everything would be overrun.  “They’re coming, you know.”

Blanche looked up and glanced at me.  Her eyes lingered on my black linen suit while I took off the gloves and tossed them into the bushes. 

“Wh-who are you?” she asked, then looked up over the gates and shook her head.  “Never mind, it doesn’t matter.  They’ve destroyed the bridge last week, and the roads are being watched.  We’re all going to die here…”

“You don’t think you could slip past the mobs?  They’re hungry and savage, but they’re also blind.  Lose your finery and you could escape.”

“And then what?  My family’s estate is in ashes.  My family…is gone.”

“So why are you here?”  I pointed out at the riot. “Why not let them have you when you had the chance?”

“Because I don’t want to die?” she sighed.  “But it's going to happen anyway, isn’t it.”

“Of course.  Everyone dies, someday.”

“Everyone else seems to be taking this like some kind of excuse to welcome the gates of hell, but I won’t, I can’t!”

I held her hand and felt a tremor course through it.   There were too many things happening, too many forces at work to stop it.  It was too far gone for me to intervene.  I just sat with her and squeezed her hand gently. 

I sat with her in silence until it was almost midnight, thinking.  It was rare that a mortal gave me pause, but Blanche felt different somehow.  I couldn’t stop the rampage, and I was bound to the Queen’s rule, but maybe there was something I could do.  It could kill her, but like she said, she was dying anyway.

“Blanche, can I ask you something?”

She took a deep breath and watched the embers reach for the stars.  “You might as well.”

“What is your favorite song?”

She laughed and looked sideways at me, her eyes glistening at the corners.  “It’s apiece by Revel, but I can never remember the name, it has a beautiful melody and—“

I knew the song.  I played it.  It carried on the breeze, and the moment it touched her ears, she gasped, and her hand tightened on mine.  A chorus of screams reached the front gate, and she didn’t even notice.  Her eyes held mine, and she squinted as if to catch a glimpse of me beneath the mask.  “You have to run.  They’ll kill you if you stay.  If not before, surely now.”

“I can’t run.  I have nowhere to run to…”

“Then I’ll carry you.”  She almost laughed.  Almost.  I stood up and let her hand fall away.  The church bells were long shattered, but I felt its ghost echo in my soul.  The first chime doubled me over like a punch to the stomach, and I willed the trees and shrubs at the gates to burst with wild growth that masked us from view.  The mob screamed and torches started flying.  They hit the chateau, the lawn, and the path under my feet.  The second bell dropped me to my knees.  My host begged to die because the pain coursing through us was so intense.

On the third bell, he did.  Life fled from him in the face of what was coming.  Blanche stood, her eyes wide with terror.  Her song was louder on the wind, enough to drown out the screams and mad cries of the mob.  The fourth bell started to strip away my fa├žade.  The fifth, sixth and seventh revealed my true shape taking hold.  On the eighth, my nec lengthened and broadened; on the ninth, my skin turned to a black so velvety deep that it sucked light into it.  On the tenth, my arms and legs turned into stalks tipped in golden hooves.  On the eleventh, my body swelled to more than two thousand pounds.  By the twelfth bell The golden horn burst from the center of my head in a splash of liquid gold.  The remains of the man I possessed lay beneath my hooves, and I could see a perilous shock play across her face. 

She looked over me, a unicorn spawned from the deepest pits of Hell silhouetted against the burning gates, the trees and shrubs, from golden horn to obsidian mane and flank to golden veins dripping down to my golden hooves.  Her song was still in the air, but I couldn’t do any more, I couldn’t speak again in my true form even if I wanted to. The choice was hers now, and hers alone.

I waited for her to breathe, and when the gate shattered, and the mob poured in, she saw the faces in the crowd, the ones that weren’t flesh and bone, but fire and blood.  She leapt onto my back and tightened her fists into my mane.  I ran for her.  Her legs gripped my sides, and I ran faster than I even had in my life.  The chateau, and everyone in it suffered for it, more than they would have otherwise, but Blanche survived.

Or so I thought.  I left her worlds away from the brutality of France on the shores of New York.  There was a man I met once who I trusted to do what was right.  I left her in his care, and took my leave of her.  There was nothing that could ever be said to explain.  I thought that was the end of it.

And now her locket was in my hand.  It was hers, I had no doubt.  But how did it find it’s way to a cave in the bowels of hell, in the possession of a beast that made Cerberus look like a hood ornament?  I closed it in my fist and looked up at the darkening sky.  And they said Hell was painful.

The Churning Black, Part 3

The ashes by my feet were little more than a pile of crimson dust.  It was a foot high and ringed with shredded remains of blackened lace.  The hotel room was under a penthouse suite, and the upper floors were still just starting to get up to a full burn.  Sirens wailed in the streets below, and I could just hear the screams of people trapped in the stairwells.  It was unnecessary, really.

Tracking Damnia wasn’t a task for the faint of heart, or a weak constitution.  Burn wards across half the star-system were filled with her victims.  The sprinklers burst open overhead and started spewing out foul brown sludge that instantly ruined the silk wallpaper and the chalk-white carpets.  The water soaked me to the skin as I watched the powdered ashes turn to mud by my toes. 
It was ten-thirty when the bellhop’s watch stopped.  The ashes started to steam.  The water spewing from the pipes finally cleared as the rivulets forming in the carpet boiled.  The liquid turned darker, blood-black before threads of sinew formed, and the faintest traces of hollow bones took shape.  It was like watching a plastic toy melt in reverse.

Fingertips, muscle, tendons, and gore mingled beneath a hidden depth on the hotel room floor, it congealed, formed, birthed, and ascended as if lifted by a pedestal was beneath her feet.  As she cleared the surface of the pool, Damnia was sheathed in a covering of crimson hair, long and full, clinging wetly to the palest white skin.  Her white-less eyes glowed emerald green, like gemstones, beneath her eyelids.  Her heavy breasts were capped with pale areolas as big across as the bellhop’s finger.  Her skin was so perfectly smooth, so clean, like only a thousandth-born virgin could be.
The water from the sprinklers steamed against her, hissing as it dripped against her skin.  I felt it radiate like a furnace.  It was Hell’s warm.  The smell of her skin, and the sight of her mons, wet, succulent, untouched…  It mingled with the intoxicating sensation of the heat, and it made my flesh harden.  I felt the busboy’s cock throb against his thigh just as part of the roof collapsed behind me.  I heard the squeal of a gas line rupturing and smelled the acrid stench as it mingled with the sweetness of Damnia’s sex.  The gas ignited against her skin.  The blast hit like a bomb, but I held my ground out of sheer will even as the finery of the suite was ripped away around us.

It took a few breaths before she opened her eyes, and her lips curled into a razor-thin smile.  The sprinklers were torn away, and water poured in gurgling beats like an arterial flow until the heart slowed to a stop.  The sounds of distant trapped voices were gone, and the city traffic was crisp between the gasps of raining glass.  The inferno that wrapped itself around the hotel’s upper floors warmed the dry winds darting through the gaping holes in the walls.
“Don’t look at me like that, Amdusias-- it gives me chills,” she said and flashed me a wicked grin.  Her form suddenly flowed like lava.  When she rose from the ashes, she was a statue, ridged and impervious, but now—now, her body was languid and supple.  She looked around her in mild curiosity, like she was seeing it for the first time.

I forced myself to blink and cleared my throat.  It wasn’t easy with the char and smoke drifting past us in waves.  “My apologies, Damnia, but I simply cannot look upon you any other way.”  I closed my eyes, but it only shut out the mortal world.  Every other sense I had screamed at me mercilessly. The smell, the heat, and her presence -- I was back among my realm.  I was home again, and it hurt like Hell. 
I wrenched my eyes open as I stood and found Damnia was already close enough to lay a hand against my face.  She only grazed the bellhop’s cheek with the back of her fingers, but I felt his soul scream in pain.  My knees buckled beneath me.

“You say the sweetest things, Lord,” she breathed “But then, you always did.”  Her lips pursed, and there was another burst of heat.  “Isn’t that why she cast you out?”  She moved away, and the pooling water turned to steam under her footsteps. 

I blinked again and glanced away from the globes of her ass.  Heat waves rose from it and made her skin shimmer.  “Our Queen is not without her reasons.”  Memories rolled over me like waves.  “And yes, my skilled tongue is among them.”
Damnia glanced back at me, “Hmm, I bet.  But you are also a conspiring, selfish egotist.  This begs me to wonder, Lord, why have you come to me?”

The reflections in the other glass towers showed just how hot the fires burned above us, and it was hard to clear my thoughts.  Damnia’s breasts hung perfectly from her chest, and the smooth juncture between her thighs was entirely too delicate to ignore.  “Because you walk in both worlds, Damnia.  You see everything from both sides.”

She laughed, and it was sweeter than birdsong—light and musical.  It took every ounce of willpower I possessed not to force myself upon her where she stood.  “Oh, come now, Lord.  You have legions at your command.  You have stalked battlefields greater than the Queen’s plantations like a phantom, and you expect me to believe you are without voices to keep you informed?”

I swallowed hard.  “I need to hear a clear voice, Damnia, from someone who can see things without the taint of politics from our Queen’s court.  Something is churning in the depths that no one within is willing to see.”

Damnia ran her fingertips along the countertop of the ruined kitchen and watched small flames erupt under her skin.  “Such a voice does not exist, Amdusias.  And it’s possible it never really did.  She loathes you to no end, but still, she does not raise arms against you.  And you, you took her judgment without question.  I’m not alone in wondering why.  So answer me that one question, Lord, and if your tongue really is as gifted as they say, I will bend my wings to its will.”  I watched her place her palms on the countertop through a shard of glass, and it smoldered.  “Why?”

I felt her eyes on me, even when she turned away. She watched me study the line of her back from her shoulders to her hips and linger at the crack of her ass.  She shifted her hips and turned to face me again.  Her hair framed her face and her nipples, and I sighed heavily.  “I bed her daughter.”

Damnia almost laughed, thinking I was taunting her, but she caught herself.  A grain of recognition and memory collided in her mind and swam before her eyes.  Minutes passed while the weight of my revelation leveled itself against her.  When it settled into her depths, Damnia licked her lips softly, and I watched her nipples harden.
She crossed the room quickly and took the bellhop roughly by the back of his head.  Our mouths were mashed together for just a moment before she released us rather than let the heat melt his flesh.  I groaned at the sensation flooding my loins.  I may have even growled, but I can’t remember.  She stared at me with undisguised longing, “I’ll say this much, she has good taste.”

I wiped the corners of my mouth and tried to steady the bellhop’s racing heart.  I could feel the last minutes ticking by fast.  The bells were going to start ripping me from the human any second.  “I must know, quickly, who is stoking the depths.  Armies are shifting, alliances are forming.  I can feel it.  Somewhere a line has been drawn, and I need to know where the tides break.”

Damnia looked deep into my eyes and nodded; then reached for me again, this time pressing herself against me in a frenzy of boiling kisses.  I felt my skin blister the moment the bells started to chime.  She stripped my clothes away from my chest, and I grabbed at her, pawing at her breasts and dragging my fingertips down to her cleft.  I touched her labia and felt the hot molten core of her sex before the second chime hit.  Agony ripped through me, but the bellhop didn’t suffer; his soul fled the moment it could, as if expecting what was to come.

Damnia groaned as my fingers probed her, grazing her reborn virginity.  She howled when I turned her around and bent her over.  She reached back to guide me into her.  I felt her hand struggle to hold my throbbing shaft.  Damnia moaned softly as I nuzzled her lips, and then gasped when I edged forward and plunged my cock into her.  I continued to swell inside her as my body convulsed. 
At the third and fourth tolling of the bells, I started to fully transform again, but Damnia held herself in place and allowed me to shift atop her.  She thrust back at me, bucking against me hard enough to take every inch of me until she simply couldn’t anymore.  By the time the last bell tolled, Damnia was shuddering, dripping from our junction in drops that burned the floor between her spread legs.  She held onto my front legs as if her life depended on it.  I felt her flesh clamping down on me, milking against the head of my cock.  I fought the urge to rear up, but I knew it would only rip her apart.  I shunted forward, barely moving, and she grunted at first, then screamed for me to fill her.  She begged me to take her, to claim her as my own and make her erupt.  She cooed softly about how close she was, about how badly she needed to burn.  She held my front legs even tighter than before, and I had no choice but to obey.

When I reared up, Damnia screamed.  It was a sound that burned the air in a fiery chorus, like a flock of eagles dying.  She burst into flames as she climaxed.  I held myself up on my hind legs as long as I could, walking in short, agonized steps like a circus horse in a ring.  My head jerked from side to side as the flames licked at my neck.  I’d never felt anything like it before, or since.  I felt myself release into her burning depths, and she managed to turn around on my cock just as her wings erupted from her back.  She clasped her hands around the thick length of my neck and pressed her head against me.  I felt her grunt with every step I took. 

She screamed again, and as another orgasm overtook her, she burned even hotter.  Embers were ripped away from her in the wind as she started turning to ash.  I held myself aloft until she burned down to something I couldn’t recognize and dropped to the floor.  My hooves sparked against the concrete, and I could feel her wetness on my cock as the breeze licked my skin.  Her embers and ashes were scattered around the room, but I knew they wouldn’t stay idle for long.  Soon, Damnia would be reborn, beautiful, clean, and ready to burn again.

The Churning Black: Chapter 4
A. Octavia

"It will be our little secret," Selma said softly.  I smiled down at her and nodded as she dipped her head to swallow my cock.  Her mouth felt like velvet against Jordan's skin.  She was young, even for him but what she lacked in experience was compensated for in exuberance.  Selma didn't just want to make Jordan orgasm-- she wanted him to remember it for the rest of his life.

I gently stroked the side of her face and felt the head of my cock press against the inside of her cheek.  Her nostrils flared as she drew in a deep breath and moaned.  I smiled as the whole scene spread out in front of me.  Selma, wrapped in her modest little white dress with her hair pulled back into a tight bun so her face would be easy to photograph--was intoxicating.  When she bounced around the studio, Jordan watched her her small breasts defy gravity and found himself following the line of her calves up  to the hem that dipped below her knees.  The dress looked so primal hiked up to her waist, her panties just visible along the curve of her ass as she knelt in front of me.  Her knees were spread wide, and her hips rocked slowly as if riding a lover's face.
The only light in the storeroom pooled where rows of shelves blocked the second-story windows.  A chorus of laughter reverberated up the stairwell, and I watched splashes of color move between the cracks in the floorboards.  I started to rock my hips gently in time with hers, and we found an easy rhythm that matched Selma's hands as they stroked my shaft.

The zipper at the base of her neck was easy to pull down, and my cock only slipped away from her lips long enough to shrug her shoulders.  In that one subtle movement, her dress fell to her waist.  Virgin-white lace hugged her breasts, pale handfuls in the dim light.  She suckled on the end of Jordan's cock and reached lower to cup his balls.  When we groaned, she smiled wickedly and ran her tongue up and down his shaft.  She started humming softly, making his cock throb.  Selma's palms collected the moisture leaking from the tip, and she started pumping his shaft again with her fist.  I felt the orgasm start to churn deep withing me.  Selma sensed it too, and her eyes smoldered with lust.  She opened her mouth again, and when the moist heat slowly enveloped him again, we erupted.
Jordan's knees buckled, and as he slid to the floor, Selma kept her mouth on him.  She kept pumping his shaft, swallowing everything he could give even as he fought to break free.  She swallowed everything he had and didn't stop until her mother called from the bottom of the stairs.  "You guys find it yet?"

Selma smiled wickedly and leaned up to kiss me.  Her tongue was even hotter, and wetter, than before.  She tasted like two frenzied animals now, instead of one.  She wiped the corners of her mouth with the back of her hand and then snaked it down her delicate chest, and my eyes obediently followed her fingertips to the front of her wet panties.  She started tapping her clit through the wet cotton just enough to tease herself, "I'm coming, Mother. I think I found what we were looking for."

"Do you need help?"

Selma smiled, a lopsided impish grin that never left Jordan's deflating cock that pulsed in time with his heartbeat.  "I think I took care of it," she said, then whispered, "I did take care of it, didn't I?"

She groaned as she shrugged back into her dress and fixed the zipper.  Selma did accomplish her goal, because it was easily one of the most memorable experiences I'd had in a long while.  Even so, I didn't wait to see how the rest of the day played out.  I left Jordan panting on the storeroom floor as Selma bounced down the stairs.    
I don't even know how long I'd been living among mortals.  Like I mentioned before, time moves sideways outside of the Hells.  There were secrets to be learned while living here, though.  Simple truths... practical lessons that applied to anywhere.  The one that kept surfacing lately was the key to keeping something secret: complete non-disclosure.  There can be no witnesses, and you can never speak of it to anyone.  Ever.  Because even the smallest drop of truth can turn into a flood of anguish.
I wandered aimlessly for months after I spoke with Damnia, and I had never felt so utterly lost.  Hundreds of years among mortals, and never once did I feel like time was against me.  I had eternity to trudge through, and endless mile to walk, to earn my redemption.  I missed my home-- I longed for my return, always--, but nothing compared to this.  I felt like a battlefield General who couldn't see the front line-- reduced to a signature on a field order.  The simple act of waiting ate at me more viciously than any measure of the Queen's wrath.

I tried to keep busy the only way I knew how, but even my most endearing hobbies were wrapped with hidden messages.  It wasn't obvious at first, or maybe it was, but I was too preoccupied to notice.  Either way, the messages eventually became painfully obvious.  The more I floated between mortals and took my pleasures from wherever I chose, time and again, they were rooted in deceit, lies, and secrets...

When Veronica moaned, I dipped my head so my mouth could work down the line of her neck.  She choked off a scream as my hands worked up under her shirt and found her naked breast.  Under the dim kitchen lights, she looked paler than when she sat next to her husband in the living room.  The firelight gave her a warm glow, but the soft compact florescent light made her look almost savage.  She bit the back of her hand when my lips found her hard nipple.  Veronica didn't reach for me, didn't want to believe she was a willing participant, but we both knew better.  It was the hidden lust for her cousin that drew me to her in the first place.  Casey needed no convincing.  He watched her subtle movements, her playful glances.  My subtle contribution was only the catalyst.  When Veronica glanced over her shoulder at him on the way to the kitchen for another round of drinks, I pushed Casey to follow her.  The rest followed naturally.
Veronica's breathing quickened as I flipped her around and pressed her against the wall.  She gasped as she felt her pants get yanked to her waist.  When she inhaled, she smelled her own sex, and she stared at the kitchen door.  Her heart was thumping wildly in her chest, afraid her husband would walk in on them, waiting for the door to swing open at any second.

I only opened the front of Casey's pants enough to press his cock into her.  His balls scraped against his zipper, hard enough to draw blood, but it kept him from cumming the instant his cock sank into her folds.  Veronica thrust back and held her breath.  I felt her clenching against him, pulling us in deeper at the same time.  We could hear the fire crackling in the hearth on the other side of the door.  It wouldn't be long until she was missed, and we all knew it.  I pulled back and then thrust into her roughly, slamming my hips against her ass.  I reached one of Casey's hands up under her shirt to hold onto one of her swinging breasts and came without warning.  Veronica tried to scramble away from us, but I held onto her tightly until I was empty.  I filled her, and didn't let go until I felt her start to drip down our thighs.  She panted heavily as she reached for a dish towel.  I felt Casey grin like a damned fool as he put his cock away.  Veronica glared over her shoulder at him. "What the fuck were you thinking?" she hissed quietly.

"I was thinking, that I needed to fuck you."

"I meant cumming inside me..."

"I thought you needed that, too.  It'll be our dirty little secret."

I left them to wrestle with the consequences.  I had a revelation shortly after that, though.  Secrets were just lies waiting to be discovered.  There were a dozen other men and women I passed through while I waited for Damnia to find me.  Each time I sated my lust it followed the same pattern, it played out a variation of the same scenario, the same message: people were indulgent with illicit affairs, hiding their feelings, keeping secrets...

I wandered aimlessly when my own dirty little secret caught up to me.  I don't remember what city I was in, but it was big enough that I was able to lose myself in my thoughts for a few hours.  I took control of a woman waiting for a train, someone at random.  Now looking back, it may not have been so random-- she'd already left her purse by the bench, but instead of crossing the yellow line, we went for a walk.

Hours passed, and Cyra stayed remarkably silent.  Her thoughts were muted, and a complete numbness filled her from her core out.  Her memories felt full of emotional pain that she kept repressed, and some of it was even from herself.  Regardless, she left me free to think.  The afternoon sun slowly faded into neon, and the streets grew darker than I'd seen them in a long while.  The asphalt pulled at the souls moving across their surface, and the night air felt like it was breathing.  A chill swept into Cyra's bones that wouldn't end, and it started to make her skin crawl.  

We crossed the main boulevard into a wooded park, and I turned us down a running path.  I heard the alder leaves rustle, and I could actually feel the roots digging into the earth all around me.  I felt the energies of the world growing-- something I hadn't sensed in eons.  The path turned at a small fountain where two stone cherubs poured water onto a pair of sculpted lovers.  The splashing water muffled the drone of the city.
I sighed when I felt them approach, stalking out of the darkness like cockroaches.  The men wore business suits, and if it wasn't for the bloodstains covering their chests, it might have looked like they were on their way home from a late night at the office.  The man on the left twitched when he pretended to exhale, and the one on the right couldn't keep his eyes straight.

"Beautiful night, your Highness..." the one with the twitch said.  His voice sounded like gravel rubbing together.  "Beautiful night for a stroll, eh?"

I felt a twinge of unnecessary panic race through the woman's chest.  The two men spread out so my back faced the fountain.  I glanced slowly between them, "You're a little far from home, don't you think?"

The one with the rolling eyes laughed, "I don't think he knows, Karzhi..."

"Shame, that, your Highness.  I hate being the bearer of bad news."
The one with the rolling eyes started licking his teeth.  He didn't seem to notice the drool flowing from the corner of his mouth.   

"Now, she is a tender little piece, Highness-- are you saving her for later?"

"Enough!" I called down a sound like thunder that shook the earth.  It was a resonating chord that fused with reality.  Every tree for miles stopped bending to the wind in answer to my call.  Roots knotted and stretched under our feet; I could feel them coiling, waiting for a command.  The only sound it left in the park was of the wood creaking.  The men stopped short and looked around.  They looked at me with a mix of awe and terror and then started to back up.  

"You obviously like games, so let's play one of mine."  I said.  The men bolted, each turning to run in opposite directions, but I did not allow it.  A dozen roots burst up through the footpath, each as thick as a suspension cable.  Before the cement even hit the ground, the thick coils wrapped themselves around each demon and started to pull their limbs to the breaking point.  When the bodies snapped apart, the roots dropped the pieces and lashed themselves to the shadowed souls that leaked from the carcasses.

Cyra's mind shut down, and I felt her consciousness drift into blissful catatonia.  I focused on the roots again, and they constricted impossibly tight.  I stopped them at the threshold of annihilation and pulled them both closer to me so their twisting, mottled faces were level with mine.  "Explain yourselves, immediately..."

Their faces were wrapped in roots-- distorted, agonized--,  and the demon who'd possessed the lazy eye mewled like a crippled dog.  It started to speak, but the other demon, whose body twitched, hissed at him until he fell silent.  I glared at him before I let the roots pull him under.  "I will not repeat myself."

The lazy eye groaned again as the other demon was consumed by the earth.  I squeezed the remaining demon slowly until I felt his soul being crushed.  "I beg you, Lord... please--!"

No.  The demons weren't there out of malice.  There was nothing to learn from interrogation.  They were loosed upon the world and smelled blood, nothing more.  I pulled him down, too.  I let the earth swallow them both, crush them like twigs and devour them.  When I closed my eyes, I could feel more like them out in the distance, sniffing at the air like a pack of dogs and baying at the moon.  Demons awakened all over the city, all over the planet,  even worlds beyond.  

A chime rang somewhere in the distance, and I froze.  I never meant to keep Cyra so long, and I suddenly didn't want her to die.  Another chime, and I braced for the inevitable, but instead of feeling the transformation start to rip through me, I only felt a slight reverberation within my soul.  The rest of the bells tolled in vain.
I reached my will into the ether-- I needed to know.  I needed to feel the distant connection I cherished with the Hells, and I was met with nothing. It stirred against my senses, and I left Cyra by the fountain.  She slumped to the ground while my spirit gathered like a storm cloud above her.  I turned in a slow circle and made myself whole.  I crafted my shape out of a distant memory and took a deep breath that pulled the essence of the world into me.  Every sight, every sound... I was spirit made whole again, finally, after millennium of walking between shadows.

I looked down at Cyra, the first woman I saw with my own eyes.  I didn't put much thought into it before, but now... I knew without a doubt that the tides of power were shifting.  Cyra slept while I carried her back to her small apartment.  She'd cleaned it before leaving for the train station, and I saw a note stuck to her refrigerator with a picture magnet.  All it said was, 'Sorry Mom.'  
I set her down gently on the couch and stared out the window toward the horizon.  The clouds swirled in the distance, and I saw faces shift and transform.  I let my mind wander, and I searched the ether, stalking the thin veil between worlds.  I felt my consciousness stretch until it was swallowed by the void.
I heard a startled gasp behind me, then a soft "Who are you?"

I turned around so I could lean against the window.  The glass felt cool against my shoulders.  "I'm the reason you missed your train."

Cyra blinked and looked around her apartment.  She looked at the door and then down at herself.  "My purse..."  She looked at the door again.  It was still locked.  "How did we get in?"

I smiled as gently as I could.  "Your mother is worried about you.  You should call her."

She glanced up at me and her eyes darted between mine as if searching for some measure of reassurance, an explanation.  "Are you an Angel?"

I laughed, and it felt amazing.  As much as I hated to admit it, Syra was right: I lived among mortals for far too long.  I began thinking like them, adapting to their world.  Even unconsciously, I let myself be adapted by their perceptions, a puzzle piece made to fit their world instead of mine.  On the other hand, what was the truth worth, really.  It was relative, I suppose.  I smiled at her again, and this time, I saw a soft rose color rise to her cheeks. "Something like that."


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