Tartarus Lost··On-going Novl duration N/A
“Holy Zac! What the hell was that?”
Alexikan shakes his head multiple times, trying to clear his vision, while dusting off his trousers and vest. It takes him some time to realize that the howling ringing in his ears is not the result of his crash but rather the sound of a battle going on around him.
His landing has not been pretty: the smoke is still clearing from the twelve-feet-wide crater he has dug on impact. Above him, a red and violet arc of faint light traces his descent from the dark, clouded sky, like a corrupted bleeding rainbow.
At least I made a sweet cool entrance, the young Prince thinks to himself, looking at the shimmering light, already vanishing, and then down to the few charred corpses of the mortals he has caught in his landing. Still feeling his spine a little sore he stretches back and unravels his spiked tail for a moment, just to make sure that nothing is broken, quickly coiling it back around his waist a couple times a few seconds later.
Alright, then! Have to complete the entrance before the smoke goes away entirely...
After giving one last look at his black silk clothes, Alexikan straightens the high collar of his white jacket and makes sure that all medals and rings are still at their place. After all, he doesn’t want to spoil the rabble’s surprise by appearing too undignified.
Mantle’s a little torn, but meh.
The Overprince clears his throat, dramatically opens his arms and slowly floats up, trying to make his voice sound bigger as he emerges from the crater and addresses the people battling in the field all around him.
“BEHOLD, MORTALS! I, THE ETERNAL HEI-! Wait, what?”
Alexikan frowns, focusing his big dark eyes on the skirmish happening under him. Only a few lights, mostly coming from torches and campfires, are illuminating the otherwise black plain, but the faint illumination is not a problem for Alexikan. The real issue are the fighters themselves: it is just a bunch of men in rags and leather armor, swinging pre-industrial weapons at each other.
“This is lame.” Alexikan turns up his nose, feeling a growing sense of disappointment. “I thought I had landed in the middle of a real battle... Ar-?” He blinks a few times, disconcerted. “-Are those zombies? Really? Just zombies? Ugh...”
The young Prince takes a long breath and raises his index to slowly rub his forehead around one of his stubby little horns, while allowing himself to float back on the ground.
In the darkness of that stormy night, a small army of humans is defending its encampment from the slow and inexorable advance of the undead, hacking and burning the walking corpses, yelling and screaming as they test their bravery and endurance against the rotten remains of their friends and relatives, a gruesome horde animated by sacrilegious witchcraft.
A setting so mundane is obviously undeserving of even the smallest sprinkle of effort on Alexikan’s part.
Right, no messing around, let’s just focus on the main issue here...
Alexikan rummages for a while with his finger inside his right sleeve before finally extracting his spellpad. A faint shake is enough to widen and stiffen the digital metacontraption, readying it for use.
As the battle rages on, the little half-devil draws his password on the small screen and starts scrolling through the programs.
“Of course,” he mutters stiffly, angry with himself. “No coverage. Typical.”
Moving back to his private files, Alexikan starts scrolling madly through his spell list. Some of the yells around him are getting closer, but he isn’t really concerned about those primitives.
Though their quacking is getting kind of annoying. Shuck. Alright, focus! I’m pretty sure I should have an easy re-
“It’s there, Araqiel!” shouts a woman, making Alexikan’s eye twitch.
“I see him! Go back to Herner, I’ll deal with this!” a man’s voice thunders back.
“Are you sure?”
As if their loud and penetrating tone isn’t enough to distract the Overprince, both of the voices are coming quite clearly from above him, a detail that inevitably catches his attention.
What is it now?
He peeks over his spellpad for a moment, just in time to see a pair of angels crossing the sky in opposite directions. Both are young and tall creatures with clear, smooth skin and a muscular body, covered in light and simple cloth. The woman is flying away, surrounded by a bright white light, whereas the man is diving towards Alexikan. He has long golden hair, knotted in a braid, and fierce blue eyes; his features are hard to make out from that distance, especially with the halo hanging over his head showering his face in blinding light.
The angel slows his descent with a few heavy flaps of his candid wings, landing a few feet from the young Prince.
“Joy,” sighs Alexikan, moving his eyes back to the screen in his hand, “the help has arrived. Just hold on a sec, I’m sure I have-”
“By Melkar’s grace...” The angel makes a step towards him, unsheathing his sword and hardening his expression. “I don’t know what vile sorcery has that warlock concocted to bring you into this world, but...”
“Pretty sure it was a fairy, though,” casually replies Alexikan, scrolling over his spell list.
“...I swear it, before the coming of the new moon Gyran will pay for all of his wicked-”
“-deeds!” The angel clenches his fist as flames envelop his blade. “The day of reckoning is at hand!”
“Demon or vampire, whatever you are, I’ll send your head back to that despicable man you call master!”
“W- wait wait wait wait wait!” Alexikan raises his arm, his a face a mixture of confusion and entertainment. “First you name grandpa and now you say you want to kill me? Getting some mixed messages here, soldier... Care to clear it up?”
Alexikan has not even finished posing his request that the angel lets out a battle cry and charges him.
“See?” the Overprince gives the angel a condescending look while putting away his spellpad. “Was that so hard?”
He dismissively points his left hand to the attacker, whispering a few arcane words as he focuses on his sapphire ring. The angel is just about to strike him with his sword when a ray of blue light hits his chest, rapidly enveloping his body and pushing him on the ground. Alexikan smirks and moves a step forward, redirecting the arcane flux downwards as the angel crawls and growls on the wet mud of the battlefield.
In only a few seconds, the frenzied warrior sheds his wings and muscles; the crackling sound of bones accompanies his screams as his head and limbs are twisted beyond recognition and a coat of thick and messy black fur starts covering his body. When the blue glow finally dissipates and Alexikan lowers his hand, a small goat stands in front of him, shaking and bleating, surrounded by a pool of white feathers.
“Why, is that-?” Alexikan covers his mouth with his hands, suppressing a sudden laughter. “Is that still on?” In spite of the transmutation, the angel has still maintained his halo, a circle of bright shining light, now hanging over his gnarled horns.
“You really are persistent!” the Overprince chuckles, shaking his finger at the goat. “Guess I truly chose the apt beast. Oh, but what am I saying?”
Alexikan smirks, looking proudly at his sharp fingernails. “Why should I be surprised of my own brillian-?”
His monologue his suddenly cut short when the goat, having recovered from the initial shock of the transformation, decides to ram straight into the young Prince’s belly.
Alexikan bends over, holding the sore spot with one hand, while already enveloping the other in red lightning. “Why you stupid-!”
Before he can cast a second spell, the goat attacks him again, taking advantage of his position to ram directly into his face.
Alexikan lets out a chocked squeal and falls over, his sight rapidly blacking out.
When Alexikan starts regaining consciousness, the first thought that crosses his mind is about the slow and painful roasting he will give to the stupid angel-goat when he gets his hands on him.
Thinking about magic makes him suddenly aware that his rings are missing from his left hand. The sudden moment of panic caused by the realization makes him stir, and, when he finds out that he has been tied up as well, the fear turns quickly into anger.
“WHO DARES?!” he suddenly shouts, blinking and squinting a few times to clear his sight. His head hurts; he can feel the itching of open wounds on his face and the gnawing pressure of dried-up blood all over his skin. He is quite clearly not in any condition to appear in front of mortals, even churls as lowly as those inhabiting that primitive Realm.
“The demon is waking up!” yells a voice, filled with both rage and concern. Its sound is enough to make Alexikan shudder and scowl, his head still ringing due to the recent hit.
“Keep ready to shoot!” adds a second, more gravelly voice. “Don’t look at him straight in the eyes, he might charm you!”
Alexikan finds out that he is no longer in the middle of a field: he is inside some sort of primitive house, with decrepit, musky walls of wood surrounding him. He has been tightly tied to a pillar, and has four people surrounding him. Three of them are humans: two young boys armed with crossbows, and a tall, black-haired man on his thirties, with sharp features and brown eyes, dressed in a long, dark coat.
The fourth member of the group is the other angel. She stands taller than the three men, easily dwarfing the small Prince; just like her former companion, her figure is imposing and hardened, with wide shoulders and well defined muscles. She has golden hair, tied in a braid, and shining blue eyes, looking straight at Alexikan’s with a stern and disdainful flair.
Hm... What? The Overprince looks back at the angel. Does she thinks she’s intimidating me? Oh, that’s just precious...
The only thing that he can think about her right now, seeing her standing there, with arms crossed and a pout on her face, is what an awkward and clumsy feat must have been for her pushing those stupidly big wings through the small door of that house.
As his mind slowly clears, Alexikan’s rage subdues a little. He will have time to take his revenge upon the holy goat, just as he will take his revenge upon the Fay who has gotten him in this whole mess to begin with, but right now, he must focus on the more pressing danger.
He has absolutely no intention of letting some Lower Realm churl kill him.
It would be simply too embarrassing to even consider.
“This is too dangerous,” the angel breaks the silence and steps forward. “Let me end him before it gets out of control.”
The man in the black coat raises his free arm at her words, trying to calm her down. “Let me talk with him first.”
Shifting his attention to him for a moment, Alexikan cannot fail to notice that the mortal is wearing a silver amulet on his chest, a crude representation of the four-pointed star.
“All demons must be cleansed,” insists the angel, showing clear signs of anger in her voice.
Alright, Alexikan quickly starts to think, trying to recall all the other bits of information about that Realm since his sudden arrival, while forcing himself not to grimace as a new surge of pain gnaws at his wounded face. I think I get what kind of world we’re in now... How do I make this work? Oh, I know!
“Go ahead!” Alexikan incites her, smirking and narrowing his eyes. “Have your minions shoot this puny, useless body! I’ll just make myself a better one!”
He tilts his head, as if reflecting on something for a moment. “In fact, perhaps I’ll take over one of your meat-sacks...”
Seeing the humans exchanging a few worried looks with each other is enough to give Alexikan some relief: the more they think that he doesn’t care about being killed, the less likely they are to try it. They might decide to call him on his bluff, but then again, if they have gone through all the trouble of carrying him away from the battlefield and tying him wherever he is right now, it must mean that they want something from him.
The angel does not look too convinced by his words, but she stops nonetheless, allowing the man in the coat to get closer and address him:
“If dying is your only way to freedom, creature, then rest assured: we can keep you locked here safely for a long time...”
“Oh, really?” Alexikan retorts with a smile, snuggling against the pillar as he tries to roll around his tail. It has been tied as well, but he only needs to push one of its spines against his belly to get the desired effect.
The two crossbowmen make a step back, looking at their leader for directions, but the man in the coat simply gestures them to keep ready, trying to understand what the little devil is doing. It really hurts Alexikan to punch a hole in his royal jacket, but having his blood spill on white cloth will make it much more noticeable to the clueless rabble surrounding him.
“Look!” the man finally shouts, pointing at the growing dark spot on Alexikan’s side. “He’s bleeding!”
Alexikan, having bitten the inside of his cheek in the meantime, coughs up some blood, trying to give his captors the impression that he has just stabbed his own lungs.
“Bye bye, stupid mortals!” he hisses with a smirk, making his voice as hoarse and cracked as possible.
Predictably, after witnessing the scene, the angel pushes away her companion and rushes in front of Alexikan, giving him a triumphant smile.
“You are a fool, demon, if you think I will let you escape after what you did.” She closes her eyes and extends her hand, enveloping it in a white aura of healing magic.
“Oh, no!” Alexikan shouts, forcing himself to turn his smirk upside-down even as he feels the need to laugh growing in his chest. “Don’t touch me! No! Don’t you dare!”
The angel’s healing magic spreads all over the Overprince’s body, quickly fixing both the light wounds he has just made to himself as well as the more serious injuries to his head and face. All the while Alexikan curses, struggles and shrieks, even managing to twist his tied fingers enough to cast some simple red sparks and send them flying above his head for dramatic effect, further scaring the two crossbowmen.
When the angel removes her hand from his shoulder, Alexikan relaxes all his body, making his head hang down as if he had just lost consciousness. He stays like this for a couple of seconds, repeating his act in his head to make sure that he has covered everything, then he takes a long breath and looks up, giving the four confused people a relieved and grateful look.
“Oh, thank you!” he sighs, turning his eyes to the angel. “I am eternally in your debt, milady. I had long lost any hope to ever be free again.”
The angel’s eyes dart away from him for a moment, then the winged woman leans forward, carefully scrutinizing the Prince’s face. “What new trickery is this, demon?”
“Oh, no, milady: the demon is gone! Your blessed touch has cast the fiend away and cleansed my body.”
The three men in the room turn to the woman, as she looks befuddled at her own hand and blinks a few times in confusion. “It... It can do that?”
The older man steps closer to her, with a frown on his face, lowering his voice: “What is he talking about, Zephaelyn? Is he saying the truth?”
“I don’t know. I was only attempting to heal his body. I know that my power can destroy the undead, but I’ve never tested it against a demon...”
While the angel keeps trying to understand what has just happened on her own, the man turns to Alexikan, continuing with his inquiry: “Who are you?”
The Overprince gives him a warm smile, trying to look as harmless and calm as possible.
“My name is Alexikan. I am a Prince, from a faraway land. Several years ago, an evil sorceress, jealous of the love my subjects had for me, used her unholy powers to summon a demon inside my body.”
Alexikan looks down and shakes his head, turning his expression sour: “For many years that terrible creature has used me to bring suffering within my domain and beyond, destroying my reputation and bringing misery to my people.”
Alexikan looks up, faking renewed joy: “But now I’m free again! I can return home and right all the wrongs committed by that horrible monster in my name!”
“No,” the angel suddenly interrupts him, placing a hand over the man’s shoulder. “This has to be a trick. Look at him: the horns, the tail, his eyes... he’s still a demon.”
“If I may,” Alexikan quickly chimes in, trying not to sound too nervous, not wishing to have any pesky critical thinking get in the way of his narrative. “I can explain that. You see, as time passed, the demon changed my body, adapting it to his twisted sense of aesthetics. This is why I look like a child as well: I am, in fact, far beyond the prime years of my life. It is a curse, the same as the one the fiend cast upon your friend.”
Understanding that he is referring to the other angel, the woman gives Alexikan a hard look. “How do you know that?”
“Alas, the demon forced me to witness to all the atrocities he committed for as long as he’s been inside me. But please, if you doubt my words, perhaps you have some other way to test whether Evil still lurks within me?”
Alexikan looks up, keeping his eyes as far away as possible from the man’s amulet, once again mustering his strength not to smile.
As if on cue, the man in the coat slowly nods, taking the four-pointed star in his hand and briefly glancing at the angel. “There is. My master told me that the star of Melkar could be used to break charms and exorcise evil spirits. I could-”
“We cannot risk it.” The angel interrupts him with a firm wave of her hand. “He’s tainted. He must be cleansed.”
After a second of hesitation, the man in the coat gestures for his companion to step back alongside him and accosts her to whisper something in her ear. Alexikan cannot understand what he’s saying, but the woman looks clearly upset hearing it, shaking her head multiple times and retorting something back to him. It takes a couple of minutes for the man to calm her down, yet, in the end, she still refuses to approach Alexikan again, crossing her arms and giving him his back while the human returns to the pillar he’s tied to.
The man takes his amulet a second time, pulling it off his neck and pointing it at Alexikan’s face.
“By Our Lord Melkar’s sacred cross, demon of Hell, show yourself!”
Alexikan bites his lip, suppressing a chuckle as the cold metal of the four-pointed star is pressed against his forehead.
Oh, grandpa, they’re so clueless...
“I feel nothing, sir,” he answers with a shrug and an innocent smile. “The demon is gone after all.”
The man retracts the amulet, examining Alexikan’s forehead, probably looking for signs of burns.
“I.. guess so... Zephaelyn? Come see for yourself.”
The angel looks up at the ceiling, letting out a dry sigh: “I don’t need to, nor do I care.”
The man shakes his head, looking for the first time more relaxed, and gestures for the two guards to finally lower their crossbows.
He then looks back to the Overprince. “Listen, hm...”
The man nods. “Alexikan. Trust is hard to come by these days, Your Highness. If all you said is true, then you are indeed in our debt. I may convince my friend to let you go... But first, you must help us.”
“Of course! Just say what you need!”
“You’ve shared the demon’s life for years, you’ve probably seen him cast countless sorceries...”
The man pauses for a moment, giving him an inquisitive look. “Is there any way to revert the curse he cast upon the other angel?”
Alexikan opens his mouth, but he freezes himself before speaking a single word. He was about to say that of course he would have no problem dispelling the transmutation spell, but then the doubt that his captor’s request might be a trap stopped his tongue.
“I.. may be able to help,” he cautiously answers instead, studying the human’s face for any hint of trickery. “Although not a wizard myself, I have been exposed to a lot of.. unpleasant reading while looking through the demon’s eyes. In any other circumstance, I would refuse your request. I am not exactly eager to try my hand at the dark arts. Yet, I cannot go back on my word: if this is the way you wish me to repay my debt, I will try my best to help your friend.”
“Good.” The man crosses his arms. “Then start talking.”
Hmpf. Alexikan resists the urge to roll his eyes. I suppose untying me first was too much foolishness to expect from you.
“Very well,” the Prince answers instead, frowning as if trying to remember what the man asked for. “I should be able to repeat the gestures of a counterspell, but, in order for it to work I’ll require my jewels back. The demon used them as focal points for his spells.”
“Impossible.” The angel’s voice cuts through the room, causing for the first time some fear in Alexikan. “They are beyond your reach, as well as anyone else’s.”
“Did you..?” Alexikan clears his throat, trying to maintain a neutral tone as a cascade of rage floods his mind. “Did you destroy them?”
You lurid thieving pigeon-tramp! I’m gonna eventually kill you! And the things that’ll happen on the way there, ooh, they’ll make your gruesome death look like a freaking happy ending in comparison!
“No, but they might as well be,” is the laconic response of the woman.
The man in the coat nods, letting out a faint curse from his clenched teeth.
“Whatever do you mean?” Alexikan keeps a clueless tone, giving an innocent smile to the couple. “What did you do with them?”
You better have some beloved half-blood kids or lovers, or whoever! I’ll force them to pluck your puking fluffy feathers one by one, then have you watch them watch you watch them as I make them impale you and roast you on a shagging stick!
“All sorcerous artifacts must be brought back to Our Lord Melkar,” the angel continues to explain, walking again towards Alexikan. “I delivered your jewels to the Gatekeeper, so that he may cleanse them of mankind’s corruption.”
Then, I’ll suck out your miserable, worthless soul, smash it in pieces, jam those pieces into your loved ones, and, after they become insane abominations because of it, I’ll throw them into a dark pit until starvation will make them kill and eat each other!
“Can’t you recover them?” Alexikan presses her. “Just for a few hours? Once I have restored your friend to his true form, you can take them back, of course.”
Every time one of them eats the other, the piece of the dead one’s soul will fly right back into his killer, making him feel all the emotions of the guy he has just eaten, turning him even more crazy. And so forth, until there’s only one of them left standing and your soul has been recollected in a patchwork of broken, ever-suffering pieces glued together by HORRIFYING MISERY!
The angel shakes her head sternly. “Not even I can cross the Pearly Gates. Once something, or someone, has been sent through them, it’s gone forever.”
And THEN, I’ll kill that pitiful last creature too, break your soul AGAIN, and reincarnate its pieces into a bunch of worms, that I’ll dump on the remains of your original chicken body, which was roasted alive as previously determined, so that your new vermin selves may spend the next decade or so eating and breeding over the rotten meat of your former self until- Wait wait wait. Hold on a second... ...I think I get what’s happening now...
This ragtag bunch of crusaders is clearly following some old orders from Melkar, as they called him, whether they know who he really was or not. Cleansing a world from enchanted artifacts is a common scheme to pillage magic items from the Lower Realms and give them to the army, which might mean that, contrary to the angel’s claim, Alexikan’s jewels, and more importantly his spellpad, could still be within his reach.
“What about the necromancer?” he asks after a pause. His question catches both man and angel by surprise.
“Gyran can’t be trusted!” the angel yells. “You’d want us to entrust Araqiel’s fate in his unholy hands? Never!”
“No, no, no, no, you don’t understand: what I’m saying is he might have some magic items that I could use to help your friend.”
The man and the angel exchange a long, meaningful gaze, silently battling each other for a moment.
“He would not want this, Herner.” The woman clenches her fist, looking briefly at the door. “To be saved by some witchcraft.”
“Do you wish so badly to become the only one left?” the man answers, ignoring his companion’s angered expression. “We must save him, for the good of all of us. We need both of you to end the war against the undead.”
The angel moves her eyes back to Alexikan and then to the man, letting out a frustrated grunt before leaving without saying another word.
The man in the coat returns to face Alexikan, giving him one cold, meditating look.
“Release him,” he finally orders, and the two guards quickly step in to untie the young Prince.
“I am choosing to trust you, Alexikan.” The man menacingly raises his finger at him, turning his voice into an icy whisper. “But beware: I am not a forgiving man. If you lied, if the demon somehow still lurks inside you, I will personally send you to the fiery pits of Gehenna for what you did to my friend.”
“I am humbled by your trust,” Alexikan readily answers, stretching his arms and making him a gentle curtsey. “Worry not, brave hero, you won’t regret your choice...”