Between Heaven and Hell: Part Two

In my world, there are certain rules to follow if you want to survive, even under Lucifer's watchful reign. Especially with Lucifer. Everything is in it's own particular order in Hell, because that is the way he likes it. I suppose one cannot be a good ruler if one does not set the rules. You cannot simply go around wreaking havoc, even in the underworld. It is something I learned early in my time with him, and one I have carried around with me all these years.

Nicholas's father, Tristan, has never cared much for rules. Once, many moons ago, he was an archangel of the highest order, and he answered only to the big man Himself. Unfortunately, he fell in love with the daughter of a very powerful god called Poseidon; god of the sea, ruler of all things aquatic. Poseidon of the infamous temper, who would fling his fury to the farthest corners of the universe at the drop of a hat. Penelope, his daughter, was a beautiful half-mortal with eyes the color of the sea right before a storm and hair so black and glossy it seemed spun from pure silk. It is easy to see why Tristan fell for her. Besides being a beauty, however, she had the kindest heart of anyone he had ever known and, in fact, her kindness played a big part in how they met.

Tristan's official archangel title was Angel of Mercy, and part of his job was to lead those who were hanging onto life by a thin thread to their next home; a surprising amount of people who are dying don't know they are doing so, and cling to their last breaths with one final surge of strength, which often causes them unnecessary pain.

One balmy March afternoon, Tristan was dispatched to the northernmost shores of the Atlantic Ocean, where a man had fallen off the side of a boat and come very close to drowning. The tide quickly pulled him up onto the beach, but he had inhaled so much water that his lungs were about to collapse. Tristan found the man easily enough, but was surprised to find a beautiful woman at the man's side in the sand. He had been told that the man was alone. He cautiously made his way to where he lay, loathe to frighten either of them.

“I tried to help, but he was too far gone,” the woman said, without turning to look at Tristan. Her pale hand was still on the man's forehead, and Tristan reached out to him with his mind to discover that the woman had given him images of his family as he lay dying. His fear had abated enough for him to move on.

She turned to look at him, her waist-length hair as dark and shiny as the underside of a crow's wing, and he saw tears in her eyes. “I couldn't help,” she said. “Sometimes I can.”

He knelt beside her and gently stroked her cheek, touched by her feelings for this man, whom she didn't even know. “You helped him,” he said softly. “You took away his fear, and that was the greatest thing anyone could ever do.”

She turned to the dead man and placed a kiss upon his forehead. His eyes, Tristan saw, were mismatched; one blue and one hazel. He reached down and closed them and wrapped his arms around the woman's shoulders. The wind was picking up, and he could smell a storm on the salty air.

Or perhaps, he thought, it was just her scent. The idea was oddly comforting, and anyone watching the two of them would have seen the unmistakable look of love in his eyes.

He did not find out until much later that she was Penelope, daughter of Poseidon, and by then it was too late. He could not have abandoned her any more than he could have cut off his own wings. Needless to say, it was not a blessed union. Tristan was banished from Heaven forever, and his wings were taken, along with his title and most of his powers. He took a fall from grace to be with the woman he loved, and they decided to run away to the one place the would be allowed to live in peace: Eden.

Soon, though, Penelope was with child, and, although she and Tristan tried to keep it secret, her belly gave her away not far into her sixth month. The others who had taken refuge in Eden were relatively peaceful beings, and wanted no trouble; they were, however, outcasts themselves, and had nowhere else to go. They knew that the possibility of Poseidon imposing his wrath upon their small community once he learned of the unborn child was great, and therefore began to treat the lovers as though they had a communicable disease. Tristan tried to ignore this sudden change in his neighbor's demeanor, but it all came to a head when, in the dead of night, a fire was set in their little patch of lawn. The word “leave” had been scorched into the earth.

And so, fearing for Penelope, who had entered her ninth and final month of pregnancy, Tristan struck a deal with his God, the one who had banished him from Heaven without a single hesitation; he plead for the protection of his unborn child, for if he and Penelope were to stay together, they would have only one place left to go. On the outskirts of Eden, exactly one hundred and two miles as the crow flies, was their last resort. Hell awaited them with open arms, like a jilted and forgotten lover.

But Tristan did not want his baby to be born under the ever-watchful eye of Lucifer. He begged his lord's forgiveness, and asked for grace upon the child's head; he promised to leave Eden for good in exchange for the child being born there.

Penelope was devastated, for, although she would have rather fallen upon a dagger than have her baby born in Hell, she couldn't bear the thought of Tristan leaving her. She begged and cried and screamed at Tristan, pleading to let her go with him, but he remained firm. They would not stand a chance with Lucifer, Tristan knew; the simple, happy life they had led up to now would be a mere memory. So, although it broke his heart to do it, he made arrangements to leave. He packed up their only horse and cried the first tears of his long life, tears he had not even shed upon his exile from Heaven, and held his pregnant lover the way a drowning man might hold onto a life buoy. He begged her forgiveness, but she would not, could not, speak to him. Her sorrow was so great she began to fear for the life inside her and the toll her emotions must have begun to take on it.

He did not ride away into the sunset. He stole away, like a thief in the night, barely making a sound as he rode southeast, through the forests of Eden. Penelope watched his steadily dwindling figure until all she could see was a tiny black speck atop a slightly bigger black speck. The moonlight was so silvery bright upon her shoulders that her alabaster skin seemed to glow, and she looked every inch the goddess that she was. Had Tristan been able to see her then, he might have been struck momentarily blind by her beauty.

She placed a hand upon her belly and breathed in the perfume of the moonflowers all around their cabin. The pain was coming in waves now, and she knew it wouldn't be long before her perfect boy, her Nicholas, would be born into the world. They had known it would be a boy from the beginning; Penelope had a certain gift of sight, and had delighted in informing Tristan a month into the pregnancy that their wish had come true; they were to have a male child, one third each of angel, god and mortal descent.

He was born into the hands of a midwife named Lily, and Penelope slept for a full day after thirty-two hours of labor. Lily, a rotund redhead who had lived in Eden for more than a century, later told her husband that it was a wonder the child had come out at all; he had been born feet first, with a wild tuft of his mother's black hair and two tiny, perfect, downy wings attached to his shoulder blades.

Penelope died three years later. Nicholas found her in her bed, with all the appearances of having fallen asleep. He climbed up beside her and breathed in the clean scent of her hair, which always smelled of the beach, and tucked his tiny child's hands beneath her chin. He slept that way, and when she did not wake up to feed him his supper, he began to cry, a sound so mournful that it woke their nearest neighbor, who lived two miles away.

As I have said, the people of Eden keep mostly to themselves. No one discovered Penelope's death until two days later, when passerby began to notice a horrid smell emanating from their cabin. Hearing Nicholas's now feeble crying from inside and concerned someone might be hurt, a man by the name of Artemis Drake pushed open the front door to get the shock of his young life: Penelope's body had begun to decay, and Nicholas, though frightened and hungry, had not moved from his spot beside her on the bed.

It was decided by all that the best thing for the child would be to get him into Heaven, at least while an investigation of Penelope's death was conducted. He was sent away with Hermes, a messenger between worlds, and taken to live with others like him. He flourished in Heaven, for a while. But he is truly his father's son, and soon he grew to think much like his father. He became rebellious and lashed out at those who had once been so close to him.

And, like his father before him, Nicholas was sent from Heaven. He was not banished, however; he simply needed what his God could not give him, and only Lucifer could: a parent.

We met in Hell on the day of a great celebration. Beautiful music filled every cavern and reached its notes into the deepest pits. Strange, I know, to think of Hell as filled with beautiful music, but there is much that has been falsely written of Lucifer and his lair. Certainly, he loves a party as much as any mortal, and does not need a cause to celebrate.

That day, however, was the anniversary of the first time I met Lucifer, and there was a celebration to be had in every room in his castle; for the thirsty, like me, and for the lustful, and for the hungry demons who feed on the souls of the Lost Ones.

It was a fateful day, to be sure, and one I will always remember clearly, no matter how old I live to be. When you meet an angel in Hell, it tends to stick with you.


whoisphillip   whoisphillip wrote
on 12/15/2008 10:11:18 AM
I love it.

StarPoet   StarPoet wrote
on 5/12/2008 4:59:46 AM
Interesting. Your creativity and imagination shows.

Novel / Novella
writing mandycrum
Vita brevis, ars longa.
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