Aster's Fall

Sonya Lano | 09/10/2011

Standing dead center in the middle of the angel’s graveyard, with the blade pricking his throat about to sink into flesh, Aster couldn’t help but think of the irony of it all.
As if his life hadn’t started ignominiously enough with his mum naming him after a flower, then continued in a similar vein when his father had sold him into the demon king’s service, now he was going to die because he lost his gumption and failed to kill the angel lord’s daughter when he had the chance.
He had been so close to getting her wings. Neither she nor her guard had stood a chance against his prowess in battle; one by one, they had all fallen under his sword, their wings sliced from their bodies and flung into the abyss for the demon king to collect and reward to his loyal servants. They had all fallen, even her. As her staff had spun from her grip, she’d tumbled to the ground, head bowed in defeat.
He’d raised his weapon high, its steel edge flashing in the sunlight, ready to sever those beautiful white feathers and cut her thread of life…and then she had looked up.
For an instant he’d lost all sense of time or place, staring into entrancing violet eyes, unable to tear his gaze away from her trembling lips or her long, shimmering white hair. The sight had rendered him powerless.
So he had lowered his sword.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
They’d seized him from behind and pressed the blade to his throat while the angel’s daughter had climbed trembling to her feet to stare at him, as dazed by his mercy as he had been by her look.
And so here he stood, the last man standing of the entire 500-strong demon army sent to raid the angel’s city to kill as many as they could and steal their wings, and he was going to die simply because he’d had a pang of conscience.
And there was no one left to save him.
“Stop this debacle!”
The blade digging into his neck froze. A trickle of blood…or sweat…slid down his throat. He could just turn his head enough to see the demon king come hobbling into the courtyard with his spiked black cane.
An ancient, stooped man with a dark gray beard hanging down to his knees and a receding hairline, the demon king hardly presented an impressive sight, but then again, he’d been around for ages and no one could expect him to remain young and horned forever. The horns had actually been the first to go, hacked off in his sleep at some point in his younger years by some deluded lover of his who had believed she could reform him. He’d rid himself of her quick enough after that.
He shuffled between the gravestones, the angels backing away in fear. No mere angel dared touch the demon king or he risked eternal damnation. Only the angel lord could touch him and survive unscathed.
“What are you doing here?” the angel lord asked in a commanding voice, his own face lined with age but yet retaining an ethereal, harsh beauty.
“What do you think? Just got me a touch of wanderlust and decided to drop in to see how the heavenly host is doing,” the crotchety old demon snapped irritably as he approached.
“You’re not welcome here. We are not a vacation resort,” the angel enunciated condescendingly.
“I was being sarcastic, you dolt!” the old man banged his cane on a gravestone angrily and irreverently as he came to a halt directly before the angel lord. “Do you have baubles rattling around in that fancy head of yours instead of a brain?” The graybeard pointed a gnarled finger at Aster. “I come for him. He may be ornery and foul as a flatulent boar, but he spared your daughter.”
The angel king glanced at the girl in question, and as Aster’s eyes unwillingly slid toward her, too, he was shaken when he found himself staring straight into those violet eyes…again. She seemed confused and uncertain, studying him as if he were a riddle she couldn’t solve, and he knew that if he’d had the moment to do over again, he still wouldn’t have been able to kill her.
“His life is not worth hers. This is not a worthy trade,” the angel lord intoned.
“Oh, go choke on a furball with that superiority of yours,” the demon king growled. “We both know we share the same mother. Just give me my slave back and let’s call it even. You’ve already killed the other 499.”
The angel lord’s face hardened and he lifted his chin, his tone icy as he pronounced, “He will die.” He half turned, his arm already poised to make the gesture ordering Aster’s death, when a small white hand on his wrist halted him.
“Spare him, father,” the angel’s daughter requested softly, smiling gently up into his uncompromising face.
That smile was a like a hook in Aster’s entrails, ensnaring him, binding him to her.
The angel lord looked at her for a long while, then a spasm of pain crossed his features and he lowered his hand.
“Release him.”
The weight of the blade vanished and Aster was shoved forward.
The demon king grabbed his wrist, and as the abyss opened under his feet, he raised his cane and hurled it at the angel lord’s daughter. It whipped around her wrist and, amid the shouts and screams of the other angels, dragged her behind the demon king and Aster into the chasm.
All three of them landed in the center of the shadow domain.
The demon king gave a tug and the black cane instantly released the angel’s daughter. She stood paralyzed, shocked and stunned, her white hair shining brightly in the gloomy realm. Aster stood motionless at her side, just as astounded.
The demon king set the tip of his cane against her back and pushed her into Aster’s arms.
“Go on and kiss her, slave,” he invited grandly as Aster caught her, then he threw back his non-horned head in a properly diabolical laugh. “Whoever said demons can’t believe in true love!” he crowed, and twisting his beard and rolling his demonic eyes, the graybeard picked up his heels and danced.

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