Prince Seere tossed his knee over the edge of his golden throne and sighed. No one would call the sigh of the Lord of Hell dramatic, but that’s what it was.
<I’m bored.> He kept the stern yet fair veneer plastered on his face, but inside he was pouting.
You’d think that after millions of years in existence a fallen angel would have found a cure for boredom. You’d be wrong.
The ambient energy of his throne heated the hall. The rest of his kingdom was a cold and barren land. A place normally inhospitable to life. Until he arrived. He’d taken the land as his own, but it still required constant maintenance.
A small part of him envied his Duxes on Eden. Demon’s like Gerry had it easy. Eden was a paradise, no matter what humans thought. It was a naturally accepting and nurturing place. The best place next to heaven.
Hell was different. Hell had its own plan, and the primordial being that created it never planned to have it usurped by others. Occasionally, Seere had to force his land to obey. <Ugh, back to work.>
Without moving a muscle, he expanded his consciousness. A flood of sensation threatened to drown him, but he wrestled control of the deluge and willed it to obey him. Power, energy, emotion, pure unadulterated æther coursed through him. His body was a conductor and lightning struck him over and over again.
<That never gets old.> This time his sigh was something completely different.
He got to work.
Souls descended through the ætherial barrier that separated the realms. Hell didn’t have a sky, just an otherworldly barrier with shadowy constructs slithering through the darkness. His father’s guardians tasked with ensuing the damned stayed in Hell and away from his precious Eden. Unfortunetly for the old man, they weren’t quite as effective against angels.
Once the souls passed through the barrier and into his kingdom he had complete control over them. Each Lord of Hell did things a little different. Seere had been doing things his way for millennia.
<If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.> He loved the saying that had been made popular over the last few decades.
His winged maidens sought out the strongest, bravest warriors and brought them to the hall. There they would swear allegiance to him and begin their training. Only the best made it into his legions. Those who remained went into a queue. Administrators, and people who enjoyed organization way too much divided up the souls based on their skills and actions during life. People with talents became laborers, farmers, worked in the forge or in the whore houses. The worst, the refuse of the human species, the truly sadistic, Seere fed into the land itself. He used their æther to constantly strengthen his hold on the land and to empower it. That way, if something threatened him or his domain the land itself would rise in his defense.
To a point.
Hell had a mind of its own. If it sensed his weakness it would do the job the other Lords of Hell had failed to do since their exile.
Seere watched as it all happened, and even steered a few things in a different direction. He couldn’t give his administrators too much free reign. He’d found long ago that random inspections were the way to go. It kept people on their toes and honest.
With his work done, Seer let the power fade. He dropped back into his body and took another deep breath. The exhaustion was brief and wiped out by a rush of fresh æther that filled the void left by his lordly duties.
But now he was back where he started…bored.
“The Ambassador of the Morning Star.” A guard was bowed before him.
Seere had no idea how long he’d zoned out. Sometimes he could be still for days or weeks at a time if nothing required his attention. But the heralded arrival of an ambassador was always something to look forward to. He didn’t here from his siblings all that often.
“Show him in.” He moved his leg off the arm of the throne and struck a more regal pose.
A flawless man walked into the throne room. His midnight black skin contrasted almost violently with his pale, shoulder length hair. Golden iris’ that belonged in Fort Knox were lowered as the man went to one knee, and his powder white wings curled behind his back. The man was lithe and built for speed.
“Rise.” Seere waved for the man to skip the pleasantries.
“Prince Seere, Master of Thieves, The Great…”
“Enough with the titles. My brother sent you for a reason. What is it?”
“Prince Seere.” The flawless man had to visibly restrain himself from adding on the Infernal titles. “My Lord Lucifer respectfully requests your presence at the Château of the Crossroads in Lord Azazel’s Neutral Lands.”
Seere’s face was placid, but inside he was groaning. Lucifer might be the one asking him to attend but he could smell his oldest brother was involved.
<What is Satan up to now?> Whatever it was, it was a good idea to go. Being out of the loop when it came to Infernal politics could be life threatening.
“Today, my lord.” The first visible signs of fear appeared in the other man’s posture.
Seere knew why. Lords of Hell did not like to be summoned, especially at the last minute. Fortunately, for the messenger, Seere wasn’t going to tear off his arms and beat him to death with them. Unlike the rest of his siblings, he had a particular gift remaining from his time as a Throne.
<At least it’s something to do.>
Seere hopped suddenly to his feet, fast enough that the messenger almost fell over backward.
“I’ll tell my brother you delivered his message.” With that, Seere unfurled his bloodstained wings and vanished.
What the angel did wasn’t technically vanishing. He dissolved himself into the æther, and honed in on his destination with an ability specifically limited to the Thrones of his Father’s judicial system. When you had to be nearly everywhere at once to dispense justice, you needed a way to get around. It was like using the ætherial equivalent of GPS. He moved from point A to point B faster than the speed of light. Once he reached his destination he reformed. The only sounds that announced his comings and goings was the slight flutter of wings.
Azazel, Atoner of the Wicked, ruled over the smallest kingdom in Hell, but that didn’t lessen its importance. “All roads lead to the crossroads” preceded the saying “All roads lead to Rome” by about two hundred and fifty thousand years. Crossroads were sacred to the Infernal. It was a place of negotiation and a place to strike deals. A deal made at a crossroads and signed in blood were unbreakable.
There was only one crossroad in Hell, and Azazel built a giant monstrosity on top of it. Seere appeared next to one of the twelve entrances and frightened the servants manning the gate half to death.
The souls of the truly wicked were drawn to Azazel’s realm, and he revisited all the pain and suffering on them that they did to their victims on Earth. He started by sowing all of their eyes and mouths shut, except for a small hole for them to subsist on a completely liquid diet. They were only allowed to listen and smell what happened around them, and the sudden sense of an Infernal Lord nearly overwhelmed them.
The Château of the Crossroads was a grand circular structure with multiple layers. The exterior looked like nothing more than a giant wall with huge humanoid figures cut into them. Each hole was cut in the mold of one of the twelve Lords of Hell. The holes were over three hundred feet tall, and would admit the Lords in their most powerful form.
Seere progressed through this section of the Château. His twenty feet had plenty of clearance.
After the giant outer wall, there was an open space. In this space, Azazel’s victims tended to lavished gardens and scenery. Sculptures long lost to the mortal world adorned the space while the scent of poppies filled the air.
Then Seere came to a square structure. This section had three twenty to thirty foot holes cut into each side to accommodate the form he currently inhabited. His entrance was on the far left of one side, so he looked to the right and saw the two other holes were already filled in. That meant his siblings were already present.
Seere passed through the second entrance and felt it slide closed behind him. Before him was the last set of entrances, the actual Château of the Crossroads. It was shaped like a triangle and was gaudy to a level beyond Seere’s taste. Azazel preferred to show off his finest collectables at the Château: Caligula, Genghis Khan, Hilter, Stalin, Pol Pot, and dozens of others adorned the walls on exquisitely polished silver spikes. Other servants were constantly polishing the spikes of the greatest killers in mortal history.
“Adolf.” Seere grinned at the man. “How’s it hanging?”
Blood flowed freely from the man’s nose and mouth permanently tinting his iconic mustache red. The architect of the Holocaust opened his mouth to reply and blood fountained out until he closed it.
“That’s what I thought.” Seere walked across the still, blue water and toward his door.
There were no bridges leading to the Château. The Lords of Hell had to cross the small moat on foot, but that was child’s-play to them. Anyone with a little bit of power could walk on water.
The final door was smaller than Seere’s current form. Each side of the triangle had four openings no more than six or seven feet tall. He knew there was some profound meaning to the multiple entrances to the Château, the different shapes, and the growing number of entrances per side, but he’d never paid much attention when Azazel started to get all metaphysical.
To get through the final door, Seere shed some of his æther and shrunk down to his human form. His scarred eye socket filled in, the age and wisdom drained off his face and was replaced by flawless white skin no older than twenty years. His armor and wings vanished to be replaced by a white t-shirt, jeans, and hiking boots. The angel ceased to exist and was replaced by a young man who would have fit in at any college in the world.
<Here we go.> Seere pushed through the final, normal looking wooden door and into a large room.
The room was filled with opulence, but he paid attention to none of it. His eyes were focused on the large round table at the center of the room where nine other Lords of Hell sat bickering.
“May I present, Prince Seere: Master of Thieves, The Great Dissenter, Harvester of the Elysian Fields.” An eyeless man stood in the corner.
<I can’t believe Azazel let this one keep his tongue.> Seere thought as he smiled.
Dimples and boyish good looks did nothing to cut through the tension around the table.
“Brothers, sisters, and others.” Seere shot a glare to the chair two seats down from him.
Beelzebub’s human form was a hunchbacked man dressed in rags. He constantly looked like he was in pain, and his hands were curled into talons like he had severe arthritis. But even from two seats away Seere could smell the blood on his breath.
Seere’s glare turned into a genuine smile as he embraced the angel that sat right beside him. “It has been too long, Lucifer.”
Lucifer, The Morning Star, Father of Lies took the human form of a beautiful, smartly dressed man. He made his messenger look like an ugly hobo. He was wearing a suit of exquisite white linen with a blood red tie adorned with a starburst pin. Of all the Infernals present, Lucifer was the closest to what Seere would call an ally.
“That is nine of us. We have a quorum.”
There was no head of the table, but if there was that was where Satan sat. The Prince of Darkness and King of Hell had the human form of a frail, fatherly-looking old man. It was all a giant ruse. There was nothing frail or fatherly about the regular or combat forms of the most powerful being in Hell.
“Why have you summoned us, Satan?” Frigg, Keeper of the Gate, had only one form. She was a tall, regal woman with skin so pale it was almost translucent. Purple veins bulged as it carried her venomous blood throughout her body.
She gave Seere the creeps, so it was a good thing she sat on the other side of the circle.
“It is time for us to stop squabbling for scraps and take back what is ours!” Satan smashed his tiny fist on the table.
<Here we go again.> Seere felt tension leak out of his shoulders. There were no new Infernal political moves happening today. This was just business as usual.
“We must breech The Pearly Gates, rewrite the Balance, and take power from our Father.”
Satan had never been patient.
The Balance was the term used to define the movement of souls between the realms. Before their father’s conquest of Eden it had been simple. The Divine stayed in Heaven, the mortals in the Middle Realm, and the Infernals in Hell. The primordial beings kept their souls where they wanted them. Once the conquest was complete their father rewrote the ætherial laws.
Their father allowed those he deemed worthy to ascend from his newly conquered Eden into Heaven. These were the best of mankind, the cream of the crop. They’d shed their human concerns during their lifetime and engaged in selfless practices that their father deemed worthy. Those were also the virtues that he was steadily influencing human society with. Over centuries he’d gradually crafted the duality of concepts mortals referred to as good versus evil.
“Not my father.” Frigg muttered, not wanting to draw attention from the King as he continued his ranting.
“So, Seere. I’ve heard from my little birdies that you’re making a move in Charlotte.” Lucifer leaned in close.
As the only other former Seraphim angel present, Lucifer knew Satan wouldn’t start something with him here.
Seere felt all the tension return to his shoulders, and an uncomfortable feeling in his gut.
“Don’t worry, brother. I have no plans for Charlotte. However, you might have your Dux join forces with mine in Charleston. Together they might be able to do some good for once.”
Lucifer’s smile was so infectious it could almost make you forget he was the father of lies. The angel that tempted the first humans into giving into their animalistic nature, and allowing the other Lords of Hell to gain the foothold needed to pull human souls into their domain.
Lucifer had been able to tamper with the code of their father’s new ætherial law, but only to a point. Their father pulled his souls to Heaven, and Lucifer had rigged it so that those who were closer to their basic human natures were drawn to the realms of Hell. But for the most part, human souls underwent a cycle of reincarnation in the middle realm. They were neither “good” enough to make it into Heaven, or “bad” enough to descend into Hell.
It was their Father’s greatest defeat next to the Rebellion, and had supplanted Lucifer as a legend in human mythology. Now, Satan wanted to expand the work that Lucifer had begun eons ago.
“I will alert my Dux.” Seere left it at that. It would be years before the other angel checked up to see if Seere followed through, so there was no rush.
Getting into bed with Lucifer was better than with any of the other Lords, but it was still getting into bed with a viper and asking to get bit. Lucifer had his own plans, and even if they temporarily aligned with Seere’s they wouldn’t last more than a few centuries. He had to tread carefully. A war with Lucifer would decimate his kingdom.
He just needed to play it cool for now.