afireinthesnow: (TDG Pain)
Information: A story I wrote for my 8th grade English class in December. I haven't touched this story since, so there's probably some things that could be better.

Background info: Date unknown - Conventional methods for dating, aka "years" were forgotten as the climate grew more and more hostile to human habitation and scientific advances. Space-travel is once again impossible as many of the world's greatest scientists have died out, and with sand getting into the machinary, most forms of mechanical weaponry are also inoperable. The countries as known in what was once called 2010 are no more, and the Atlantic ocean no longer exists, though the Pacific still remains [in a smaller form].

Main race on Earth - Humans
Other races/species found: Daemons, Angels, Hellhounds, Devil's Tigers, Striikrs, Shadow-Touched, Shapeshifters, Cherubs, MatchMakers

Climate: Mostly hot and arid, excepting in the region of Dreabosk, where the last forests of the world remain. Much of the land is desert despite plentiful rains, and the main plants found are odd species of cacti [known as Bomburi and Feltspa, respectfully] and the occasional hardy shrub or weed.

Exceptions include the Angel Realm and Hell, both of which are more like the Earth was in the 1990's, though still with their own differences.

The Realm of the Angels [the so-called Heaven] is generally found to be "just right" no matter who you are or what your personal preferences are. For example, the temperature might be a comfortable 58 degrees to one person, but to the one standing two feet away from them it might appear to be in the upper 70's. Rain and other weather effects will affect every person currently roaming the Realm at the time, regardless of whether or not they enjoy it.

The Daemon Realm [Hell] is much the same, excepting that the temperature is set for everyone, because the heat tends to suit the largest collection of Daemons and other Daemon-kin that inhabit the Realm. The sun is also different, as there are actually two of them, casting a rusty red glow on everything they shine upon. There is no Satan, though just as with the Angels there is a Council of Daemons, the most powerful in all the Realms. They govern the Dae of the world and they dictate punishment should a law be broken.



Eryk.

The name echoed in her mind like a forgotten part of a dream, itching, begging to be heard even though the chance of remembering was slim. She remembered the name, but no face to go with it. No, that wasn't entirely correct. She could vaguely remember a face, but not the whole thing. Eyes, these deep, soulful brown eyes that seemed to stare into her soul. She needed to know whose eyes those were, and why his name called to her. She burned with every fiber of her being, her every whim directed towards that need to find who he was.

But she was such a long way from her destination. She had no idea where to go, or how to get
there, or...

"Oi, you!" She slowly turned to see a small band of men approaching her, smirks written across their faces. Each one was armed with knives, but not much besides that and the most drab of brown clothing, torn and dirty. "Where do ya think you're going?"

"If I told you, I'd have to kill you," she replied softly, her eyes roving over their faces. Two of them looked like decent fighters, and naturally one of them was the largest in the group. She warily eyed his bulging muscles, judging him to be at least two hundred and seventy pounds, all of which was likely muscle. The other fighter was a smallish man, who was also rather muscly, though he had a rattish face and small, beady eyes which flickered back and forth at all times. He was nervously fingering the edge of his dagger while he watched his comrades.

"Hey, now, liddul lady," began the first one to arrive, the one who had called after her before. "Y'don't need ta be nasty, we's just tha welc'min committee, an' you's a newcomer ta tha town, so we's come to show ya's a good time."

She narrowed her eyes and ran her tongue over her teeth, feeling the anger making her canines lengthen slightly. Whatever these men meant by a good time wasn't going to be good for her. She was tempted to remove her glamour, to let them see her true form, but there was only one person on the face of the planet who would ever know her true form. The one whose name and eyes haunted her life.

Eryk.

Damn him, she thought to herself, softly gnawing on her lower lip as she saw the looks in the eyes of the men - the thugs - in front of her. Why must he taunt me so? Those eyes, that face... I fear them so much, and yet... And yet she loved him as well. She needed to know who he was, to be with him. Every single cell in her body begged to be near him, or even, as some small part of her mind said, in his arms, in his embrace.

But before she could be there, she had to deal with these men. Confidently, the rattish man was approaching her, reaching out an arm to take her hand in his. She pulled her hand back smoothly, a faint smile upon her face despite the fangs concealed behind her lips. the puzzled man reached again, and a lightning-quick reflex made her reach out and grab his wrist, snapping it back and breaking the joint in the space of a few seconds. He screamed and dropped to the ground, cradling his broken wrist and shrieking profanities at the top of his lungs. His friends stared at her for a long moment, disbelief in their eyes. She let the glamour slip just the smallest bit, enough for them to see her irises turn red.

Simultaneously each of the men stepped back, even their injured friend, and she cast another faint smile at them and continued on her way. Her strides were long, quick and confident as she walked, and her long brown hair blew back from her face in the grip of a light breeze. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she continued on, opening them again to stare along the road. Such a far path, but where would it lead her? She didn't know, probably wouldn't know until she got there, but she'd keep on this road until it led her to where it was destined to.

And she hoped he was at the end of that path.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Three days past her last encounter with civilization, she passed through another town, similar to the first. Small, not many people, desolate, many of the buildings with holes in the windows. She glanced around warily, running her tongue along her teeth to make sure her fangs weren't going to poke out over her lower lip. The only thing her glamour couldn't hide.

She had hardly gotten two steps into the town when she heard approaching footsteps, but by the time she had turned around she was greeting a lead pipe with her skull. As the world around her faded to black, her last conscious thought was, What the fuck did I do this time?

----

"I ordered you not to harm her."

"Sir, you warned us she was dangerous. The men weren't taking any chances."

"I don't care if she was dangerous! I was told she was to come to no harm, and you hit her upside the damn head with a pipe! Sierra is obviously someone the boss doesn't want hurt, regardless of how dangerous she might be to us."

"I... I'm sorry, sir."

"Damn right, you're sorry." Neither man seemed to have noticed that the girl's eyes were open. Sierra wasn't quite happy with the situation, and her head was ringing from her close encounter of the metal kind. She had the mother of all headaches, and what felt like a lump the size of a baseball on her head. She tried to lift her hand to her head, but her arms wouldn't move.

The clinking of the manacles keeping her down attracted the attention of the two men standing in front of her, and they each turned to stare at the girl on the table. The first speaker was a tall, militarized man, with dark, scarred skin and an eyepatch over his left eye. He was in dark, typical green camouflage clothing, no weapons in sight, though there could easily have been any number of them hidden within his clothes.

The second man was shorter, a bit rounder around the waist, and dressed in the same army-type clothing. His body was less scarred, younger and a bit timid. He was obviously not in command here, and her eyes turned back to the older officer, noting the grays showing up in his dark hair.

"Where the hell am I?"

"I'm not at liberty to discuss that with you," the man answered solemnly.

"And why," Sierra muttered unhappily, "am I chained down?"

"That's for our protection, miss. We were warned you were... different... from anything we have ever had to deal with, and that it was best we keep you calm and inform you that you are not in danger here."

Sierra's green eyes narrowed, but she could tell the man wasn't lying. They were no threat to her, and he was rather irritated with his subordinant for hitting her the previous day. Or this day; she wasn't sure how long she had been out cold. She stared back at the man, his dark brown eyes, her gaze suspicious, yet also trusting in a way. He wasn't telling her anything but the truth, she could see it in those eyes.

Slowly, she nodded, looking to the other man. This one was young, he couldn't easily be trusted to tell the truth, but that might not have been his fault. He was nervous, not really meant to be in a military setting. He looked like he was too... not innocent, but he didn't look like he could deal with the kind of lifestyle he was living. She didn't think she would be able to trust him, but the other man, she definitely could.

"I understand. You know what I'm capable of, you know I could have caused some serious damage waking up to find myself in a strange room with two people I don't know standing above me. If I promise not to kill you, will you let me up and tell me where I am?"

The older man nodded, reaching for her manacles, but his younger comrade paused. "Sir, is this really a good idea?" The older man rolled his eyes, unchaining Sierra from the table, while she sat up and rubbed her sore wrists. She'd been down at least a day, judging by the aches in her joints, which hadn't been moved or stretched at all since she'd been captured.

Scarely a minute after being released, she was asking where her two daggers, Shadow and Flame, were located. The two were her favourite weapons beside her own natural ones, and she could only use those with her glamour dropped. She wasn't going to do that unless she found Eryk, so she needed to have her blades with her. If these men wouldn't allow her to have her weapons, she would suspect something was up and that they might not have been as kind as they seemed.
Luckily, the younger man procured her blades from a drawer in a side table near her own, and she gratefully took them and strapped them to her belt, then looking around herself. "What is this place?"

"This place," said another voice from behind her, "was once someplace you knew quite well, almost better than I."

Turning, Sierra had a smart-ass comment on the tip of her tongue, but it was lost as she met the eyes of the man who had spoken.

It was Eryk.

His eyes were exactly the same as the ones that had plagued her every day and night for the past year, deep hazel orbs that seemed to stare into her soul. She found her gaze glued to them for several minutes, which was amazing seeing as he was also shirtless, and with good reason. Sprouting from his back were two large, feathery silver wings, neatly folded against his back. His abs were toned, curved into an attractive eight-pack. His skin was pale, smoothe, though there were a few obvious scars on his body, mostly his arms. He was wearing pants, but Sierra's eyes were still glued to his face, only now they were finally beginning to wander. Her eyes widened as they roved over his chest, taking note of the wings and carefully skipping over his groin to see the black fabric of his pants, covering his legs and leaving his feet bare.

Her gaze trailed back up to his eyes, meeting them with her own green. "Who... who are you?" she whispered, frowning slightly.

He frowned as well. "I was right... you remember nothing... so it wasn't your fault." He murmured, not answering her question. He directed a faint nod to the two men standing behind Sierra, and they quietly left the room, leaving her and Eryk alone. His brown eyes moved back to meet her green ones, and he took a few steps closer to her. "Sierra... do you remember me?"

She nodded slightly. "Your eyes... that's about it."

Eryk's frown deepened more so, and he looked down and to the side for a second, thinking. When he finally looked up again, there was pain in his eyes. "You don't remember... us? What we were to each other, and the promise you made me, my beautiful little Daemoness?" When Sierra shook her head, he stepped even closer to her, taking her hands in his. He was a good five or six inches taller than her, and she could feel warmth radiating off of him. In comparison, she felt like a block of ice. Eryk gently stroked her knuckles with his thumbs, soothing her despite her deep confusion. He pressed his lips to her forehead in a soft kiss, sighing softly as he did so.

"Remove the glamour... let me see your true self... please." The plea in Eryk's voice was heartbreaking. Obviously, in whatever it was that Sierra couldn't remember, he loved her. Very much, judging by his touch on her body, his right hand snaking up her left arm, his fingers softly caressing her.

Taking a slow, deep breath, Sierra sighed, slowly releasing control of the magic that masked her appearance, making her seem human to those who couldn't see the more subtle signs. The pale skin remained, though now it was crisscrossed with dark purple stripes and slashes. They both knew that the most obvious mark, when she was undressed, was a dark phoenix shape over her chest, its feathery wings moving over her breasts. It wasn't hard to notice, considering that the appearance of her shirt was part of the glamour. She never wore a shirt, and rarely wore a bra, and the reason was the same one that left Eryk bare-chested. From her shoulders grew two large, leathery dragon wings, their edges torn and frayed, with long claws growing at the "thumbs" and the tips of the long "fingers" of the wings. Her pants stayed the same, dark blue slacks that were tight around the waist yet loose around her legs, and slightly too long for her to walk properly. Her chest was bare, and she felt a twinge of shyness at being shirtless and braless around a man, but Eryk's gaze was on her face, the hand on her left arm sliding up to cup her cheek. He saw the small, pointed horns poking out above her temples, curving backwards over her ears. Compared to most Daemons her age, they were rather small, but they were cute as well. Her clawed fingertips brushed against his flesh as she raised a hand to press it to the one he held against her cheek, reddish eyes staring back into his own. A long, black-furred tail was twitching just behind her legs, tip occasionally brushing the floor and getting dust on its dark fur.

She was amazed Eryk was keeping his eyes on her face, but he was, one hand cupping her cheek, the other one releasing her hand to snake around her waist and hold her close to himself. He kissed her forehead again, letting out another soft sigh. "Oh, Sierra..." he whispered above the rustle of her wings as she folded them back against her skin. His own wings, large and silver-feathered, wrapped around her smaller form, sheltering her and warming her bare skin. She shivered slightly and he pulled her even closer, her chest pressed to his own. She softly mewled, her eyes turning black with worry, her lips slightly parted, fangs revealed and resting slightly on the pillow of her lower lip.

"Who are you...?"

Eryk whined softly, seeming far less formidable than he had before, whispering into her hair, "Your soulmate." His fingers trailed down her back, his touch soft against her smoothe skin. His gentle utterance caused Sierra's eyes to widen, but before she could speak he was continuing. "I was a hunter of your kind, you were a huntress of the night, killing with reckless abandon. I was ordered to find you, to track you down and end you before you caused any more death. I kidnapped you so we would be able to dispose of your body without discovery. You were... such a bitch, to be honest... You killed the man who brought food to your room, and tried to do the same to me when I came to do the deed. I ended up with you pinned to your bed.

"You stared me in the eyes and told me to kill you. To keep the wounds in the front so no-one would think you a coward. It intrigued me that you wouldn't fight me once I had pinned you... Oddly enough, you asked me to kiss you, as well, even though I had only the intention of slaying you at the time. In all your years, you said you had never been kissed, and would have wanted to at least once before dying. Even by a ‘stinking, good-for-nothing, featherbrained Angel,’ if I recall your words correctly."

"Did you?" Sierra quietly asked, and Eryk shook his head.

"No... at least not that night. I let you go, left the room and asked you not to kill any more of my men. The next day I came back, and you were sat on the bed, ripping into a hunk of lamb I had ordered the cook to make you. Your kind need meat... you thanked me for it, and we actually sat and had a proper conversation for several hours past dawn, until you fell asleep, little nocturnal Daemonling. I stayed for a while and watched you, then left. We did the same each night for several weeks, sharing information about ourselves... one night as you slept, you had a nightmare while I was still there. You woke crying, and I held you and comforted you. Can't for the life of me figure why I did it, but I'm so glad I did. You clung to me, fell asleep again, in my arms...

"That night, I told the High Council of Angels I couldn't bring myself to hurt you. There was something about you, I didn't know what, but I couldn't kill you. The Council weren't too pleased, and they had you brought before them to be executed. My punishment for not being able to kill you was to watch you tortured and slain. They had you whipped, again and again..." At this point, Eryk growled, his fingertips tracing the slightly raised scars on Sierra's back, the marks from the whipping. "When you were released from your chains, you were bloody, everything but your wings, but you stood up and glared at them and said, 'Stop being cowards, and kill me yourself.' But the second you had stood in front of them, they could see your soul, in the way I could not. I was chained as well for my disobedience, but they ordered me released and I ran to you, grabbed you and sheltered your bare body with my wings.

"The Council stared at us, stared through us, even, and they could see the bond our souls shared; the same, yet different, the mark of soul mates, those destined to walk through eternity with each other... An Angel and a Daemon. The Council couldn't blame me at that point for not being able to carry out my duties... but in order to make them let you live, I begged you never to kill an innocent again. So long as the one you killed was impure, evil, you were allowed to live.

"But something happened... scarcely a month after, you and I were separated during some sort of attack on the base we were at. You were taken from me, and I didn't see you for a year, until recently, when we got information about a girl fitting your description who was wanted for going about on some sort of killing spree... I tracked you down, hoping beyond hope that it wasn't really you, or you'd have to die... James thought you might have had your memory affected, and it looks like he was right. That means you're safe, and I don't have to do something that I would have to kill myself for..."

Sierra didn't need to ask why his grip on her had become so tight, nor did she want to ask why she could feel a wetness beginning to soak her long brown hair, dripping down onto her shoulder and neck. She gently slid her arms around Eryk's waist, her leathery wings unfurling slightly, though with his own wrapped around her she couldn't comfort him with anything but her arms, which she held him close with. One hand gently snaked up his side, sliding up to his neck, and then his cheek, taking a step back to stare into his pained, tear-filled eyes. Her thumb stroked his cheek, smearing the fine trail his tears were leaving as she stood on her tiptoes and gently pressed her lips to his.

Eryk's eyes widened, obviously not expecting that, but he softly returned her kiss, holding her close to himself and stroking her hips with his soft hands. Sierra's right hand remained on his left cheek, her left against his shoulder, and even her prehensile tail shifted to wrap around their waists and bind them together. Sierra's eyes closed, the faintest purring sound leaving her lips, even as attached to Eryk's as they were. The tears ceased, Eryk softly holding the kiss, and Sierra close.

When she broke the kiss, her red eyes were a deep, vibrant blue, staring back into Eryk's brown pair. Her wings shifted slightly, the blue and black markings they bore shimmering slightly. She softly shifted the hand that was on his cheek back behind his head, entwining her slender fingers with his dark hair as she held his gaze. "I'm sorry I left you... all I remember is waking up on the outskirts of Brisbane, my bloodlust burning in my throat. I couldn't have held myself back from the killing even if you were there to stop me."

"I know," he whispered in reply, the pain still in his eyes as he spoke. "You wouldn't have broken your promise if you remembered."

A small, serpentine tongue slid out of Sierra's mouth and gently licked his cheek. "No, I wouldn't have."

Eryk blinked. Sierra didn't have a snake's tongue, except when it came to how she wove her words and lies. The girl in front of him wasn't Sierra. Another Daemon, aye, but not his lover. His brown eyes darkened for a moment, then becoming the gold colour that was the mark of an angered Angel. He stepped back from the impostor with a low growl, his lips parted slightly in a grimace of anger. His wings retracted, folding against his back again as he took another few steps back. His eyes narrowed slightly, his right hand extending slightly, diagonally from his body, fingers towards the ground. A bright, large sword appeared, his fingers closing immediately on its intricate hilt. Flames danced up and down the length of the blade, their shimmering green colours reflected in the Angel's golden eyes as he stared across at the one who had seen fit to trick him and impersonate his true love. She smirked back at him, extending her wings, which were now coloured a deep red shade, further proof she was an impostor.

"Who are you?" As he spoke, the flames on his blade slowly darkened into a deep purple shade. By the time the girl finally spoke the flames had become blue, the sapphire glow as much a warning as the gold of his eyes.

"Your death," the girl murmured with a sadistic smile. She drew Flame and Shadow, their wickedly curved blades shining in the light his own gave off, her red eyes glinting with evil laughter. "Hah, you should have seen your girl when we caught her. She was begging for death by the end, begging me to slay her."

Eryk's upper lip twitched slightly. She was lying. She had to be. Sierra couldn't be dead, couldn't! He would have known, would have felt it... wouldn't he? She was the partner of his soul, and if she were to die, he would feel it in himself. This Daemon, this shapeshifter was lying. He shook his head with another low growl, taking a step forward. "You're lying."

"Aw, what's the matter, feathersword?" the Daemon hissed, using the Daemonic slang term for Angels. "You don't believe me? No matter, you'll be in your lover's arms soon enough!" With the last word she ran at him, but Eryk stepped to the side and swung his blade in an arc towards her side, disappointed when it didn't cut into the Daemon girl's flesh, though the flames, once again green, ran across her pale skin. The impostor growled from the heat of the fire, but she didn't back down, opting to send Flame soaring to hack at Eryk's wing. He snarled as he darted back to avoid the horrific pain that the dagger could inflict into his sensitive wings and retaliated, only to watch the girl dance away from his returning strike.

It was infuriating. Every blow he dealt towards her, she dodged with ease, yet everything she sent his way he could barely avoid. Any second now she would get a successful hit, and he wasn't sure he'd live through that one. Her eyes glittered at him, taunting him with the sleek and slender curves that should have only ever been on his dear little Daemoness. Those eyes, those wings, the cute little black tail that waved behind her - These were Sierra's, not this little shapeshifting trickster's. They were hers, and hers only, just as he was.

This bitch had caused him to cheat on his true love.

That thought gave him the extra edge he needed to his anger, and he lunged, striking out with his sword, the blue-green flames leaving a wave of searing heat in their wake. The Daemon's eyes widened slightly as it swung just an inch in front of her nose, dancing back again. Her wings twitched as the shrill screaming of the compound's alarm reached their ears, and Eryk swore. The guards must have heard the fighting and set off the alarms.

"Shit..." he murmured under his breath, turning his attention back to the Dae in front of him. "Sorry, girl, but you're not getting out of here."

"Sorry, Angel, but I am."

And with that she was gone. She hadn't gone for a window or anything, she had just disappeared. A teleporter AND a shifter? he asked himself, frowning angrily. Worse than the fact that she was gone was the knowledge that she was gone without Eryk having any idea where she was going or where Sierra was. His sword, with it's shimmering purple flames, disappeared, his lithe form sinking to the ground with a frustrated yell. His right fist connected with the tiled floor, the resulting cracking sound echoing louder than the siren did. His knuckles stung, probably split open from the impact, but he didn't care. His golden eyes were slowly turning back to brown, but that didn't mean his anger had diminished. If anything, it had only grown stronger. The feathers of his wings were slightly fluffed out, making them look larger and matching his scowl as he forced himself to stand, rubbing his bleeding fist as he did so. He walked to the wall and punched a button by the door, perhaps a bit too hard, then growling into the speaker as it turned on, "Shut that damn thing up!"

Moments later, the siren quieted, but as it did, Eryk was replaying the past few months in his mind. The trail that had led him to the shapeshifter had begun in a small town known as Baine, so that was where he would start in trying to find Sierra.

But to track her down, he would need help, and not the kind the Angels could deliver. It was time to call in an old favour. A very old one, and he hoped it was remembered.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Two days later he was standing at one of the many gates to the lands commonly referred to as Hell. Contrary to popular belief, Heaven and Hell were not where those who were "good" or those who were "sinners" would go in death. They were simply the places where the majority of Angels, Cherubs, MatchMakers, Daemons and Daemon-kin were found. And among the Daemon-kin could be found the Hell-creatures, which were the very reason Eryk was here. A Hellhound or Devil's Tiger would be the best chance he had of tracking the Daemoness' scent to wherever she came from, which he hoped beyond hope happened to be the location of his lover. The hound would be preferred, as it was more loyal than one of the Tigers, and far less likely to tear his heart out and eat it.

Funnily enough, very few of the Tigers were actually tigers. The majority of the cats were prides of lions, most of which were wild and roamed Hell at their own whim. Other so-called Tigers were leopards, bobcats, pumas, jaguars and lynxes. Eryk had a soft spot for the bobcats and leopards. He actually had his own little pride of the cats roaming the halls of his home at will, the home that he would be able to bring Sierra back to in the future. He hoped...

He was greeted momentarily by a young Daemon with pale blue eyes and dark brown hair. He had no wings, and his only defining markings were the two small tribal tattoos on his cheeks and forehead. He spoke with a dejected tone to his voice, but his gaze wasn't half as sad as his demeanor.

"Vilkommen, Angel. Vhy are you 'ere?"

"Anthony."

The boy didn't even need a last name to that. Just the first name informed the boy that this Angel was not to be messed with, and was to be shown immediately inside and to anything he happened to desire, in this case, a Hellhound. The boy didn't even blink when he asked for the hound, but led him down a few levels into the darkness that served as the gate. Hell itself wasn't that special, looked a lot like any other city or town or whatever, just... darker, and tinged with red, and shadows that moved of their own accord, and--

Okay, so it was different enough to be noticeable by a normal person. The people, especially. Daemons of all sorts, Succubi, Incubi, Rage, Shadow, all manner of the Cacodaemons and Eudaemons of the world roamed these streets, but Eryk could spare them little attention as the Daemon boy led him towards a pit by the side of one of the main streets. The sounds of loud snarling came from within, and even the shadows avoided the area around the pit. Peering in, Eryk saw the writhing forms of the Hellhounds, feasting on the carcass of what looked to be one of their own. Their black-furred bodies were lean, similar to a greyhound, but bigger, with longer, muscular legs and long tails with spiked tips. Some of the hounds, the oldest ones, had small, wing-like appendages on their backs, with rows of spikes going down from their foreheads to the base of their tails. He would need an older, more experienced dog for this, but he couldn't choose one until the one who owed him the favour chose to show up.

He cast a glance to the German Daemon boy and was given a shrug in return. The Dae opened its mouth to speak, but Eryk cut him off with a shake of his head. In the red light of Hell's suns his silvery wings took on a pinkish tinge to them, the shadows of the feathers a deep red shade. He glanced up at one of the red suns, squinting in the fiercely bright glare, then looked around himself. No-one even cast a glance at the pit and the Angel standing beside it, arms folded over his toned chest, a slight look of annoyance on his face. Where was Anthony?

No sooner had the thought come to mind than he heard footsteps behind him, calm and slow, and as he turned he met the black gaze of one of the most powerful and influential Daemons on the entire planet, and in all the realms of the living. Anthony "Blackhearted" Daniels, the sheriff of the Southern North District of Hell, which was a fancy way of saying he had a buttload of people, resources and money at his disposal. The Hellhounds in each district were completely under his control; if you wanted to have control of one for any length of time, you had to go through him, and the majority of those who had the ability to keep one under control had to pay out quite a large sum of money to get ahold of one. Unless Anthony owed you a favour.

A few years back, there had been quite a riot in the realms of Hell, and Anthony had found himself in deep trouble. The Daemon Council of Seven had blamed him for the outbreak with the discontent Daemons, and were it not for Eryk's help in finding the real culprit, he would have found out the hard way what it feels like for a Devil's Tiger to eat out your soul... and heart, and lungs, and anything else it happened to find palatable. And all while he was still alive to see -- and feel it.

Now he owed Eryk a favour, and the debt was about to be repaid.

"Eryk, is that you, Angel boy?" Anthony's voice was warm, almost musical, but there was a dangerous undercurrent that was reflected in his black eyes. His amber hair was ruffled by a nonexistent breeze, and his jet black wings were curled close to his body. Very few Daemons actually had wings; Sierra, Anthony, a few other types, but only very powerful Daemons were born with or grew wings. It was a symbol of dominance and rank in their world, the darker the colours, the higher the rank. Sierra's were a deep black, with midnight blue markings that glowed along their surface. She was a second-rank Daemon. If her wings had been a pure black, like Anthony's were, she would have been at the highest level of their society.

"Oh, aye, Anthony," Eryk answered quietly, not moving an inch, not even to take the clawed hand that Anthony offered him. He wasn't here to be friendly, he was here on business. "It's me."

Anthony drew the hand back, eyes narrowing slightly. "Hmm... what can I do ya for, since you've obviously come down here looking for me?"

Eryk's gaze softened slightly, and he nodded to the pit. "My girl's gone missing; I need an old, experienced tracker. I knew I could count on you for a favour."

Anthony rolled his eyes, then chuckled. "Nah, with what you did for me, I owe you many favours. Your girl's gone missing? Have you ever thought of giving her a call on that psychic hotline you Angels have?" His eyes were full of humour; obviously he didn't quite grasp what Eryk had meant.

"That hotline doesn't work on Daemons, and last I checked, it was very hard to kidnap yourself."

"Oh."

"Yeah, so I'll say it again: I need a tracker that won't fuck up, or I'll let the Council - both of 'em, know about what you've got going on in the black market. Selling souls is illegal in every realm, Tony."

Anthony growled slightly at the casual nickname, but he wouldn't put it past Eryk to let it slip that he was pulling some less than legal maneuvers in the underground. Raising his hands in defeat, he shrugged and walked to the edge of the pit, whistling a high, piercing note. At once, every Hellhound in the pit stopped squabbling for the remains of their brother and stared up at him with rapt attention, their red eyes never straying from his form. The oldest ones, with their vestigial wings fluttering in the air, were all nasty pieces of work once Eryk got a good look at them. Many of the battleworn beasts had patches of fur missing, and large, bloody wounds to their lean bodies, many of which looked fresh. The hounds were all at least the size of dire wolves, but the oldest ones were far larger. If they wanted, any one of them could easily overpower Eryk if they tried. The old mutts had scars along their muzzles and flanks, showing beneath their short fur, and one of the younger ones was missing his left eyes. Not much loss, since they all had four eyes.

"Take your pick," Anthony murmured, and Eryk frowned slightly. He eventually chose, not one of the old, experienced dogs, but one of the younger, less scarred hounds. It looked obedient, and there were no scars on his nose, which likely meant it could scent properly and track well.

Eryk pointed to it and Anthony motioned to the little German Daemon, who crawled down into the pit, stepping around the older dogs and towards the one Eryk had indicated. He summoned a leash out of thin air and clipped it to the spiked collar around the young one's neck, dragging it back out of the pit and towards the awaiting Angel.

"'Old out yur 'and," the boy gasped as the Hellhound snapped at his leg. Eryk growled lowly, holding out his hand for the hound to sniff. When it got a good whiff of his Angellic stench, it snarled, bearing its saber-like teeth, but he met its red gaze with his own, an expression that said he was master, and if the hound had a problem, it would have to deal. It made to snap at his hand and he backhanded it across the snout with another deep growl.

The dog cowered.

"Thanks," he said calmly, taking the leash and walking back towards the gate. He didn't even say goodbye, and Anthony was shaking his head slightly as he walked off.

"Damn Angels."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Baine wasn't the same as he remembered. The people were more suspicious and less healthy, it seemed, and their eyes passed over him with little interest. It was a good thing he had used magic to hide his wings, as it drew less attention to himself from anyone. It was slightly odd for him to be out without a shirt on, but he didn't mind the cold spring breeze against his pale skin. It helped him think, and he would need to think if he was to find Sierra. The Hellhound he had acquired earlier that day was sniffing at the ground in front of him. People in Baine were used to seeing the hounds. Daemons who wandered through these parts often had one on their tails, and so long as the dogs did nothing to bother the citizens of Baine, they were content to allow Hellhounds to wander through.

However, their doors were closed to a boy holding a hound on a leash. That was sensible; he looked like a bounty hunter, and the hunters were generally people no-one wanted to mess with. At least, those who were fond of living.

But the hound was leading him out of Baine and into the desert surrounding it, which peaked his curiosity. The trail of deaths that had originally led him to the impostor Sierra had begun in Baine, but her scent had not. He allowed the hound to tug him along, quickening his pace into a slow jog to match the beast's long strides. This path had to lead him to the shapeshifter, and to Sierra, but... what would he do if something had happened to her? He really didn't want to think about it, but there remained the slim possibility that... that his lover was gone from their world. He shook his head as the dog pulled at the leash, and he tightened his grip. The tugging continued.

"Oh, for fuck's sake..." Eryk grumbled, pulling the black beast to a halt and glaring into the red pits that served as its eyes. He shifted closer to the dog, avoiding a whack from its spiked tail, which was wagging furiously. He grabbed hold of the hound's collar, then unclipping its leash. The leash vanished, unneeded for the moment, but Eryk kept his hand firmly on the black dog's collar. It was straining against his hold, and he was struggling to keep it in place. "Damn it!" he shouted, digging his heels into the earth, "what is it you want?"

The hound stopped, turning to look at Eryk again with an urgent growl. The Angel frowned, looking around, but nothing was in sight. He sighed and muttered, "If I release you, will you run off and not return, or will you come back to me after doing whatever it is you want?"
The hound yipped a few times, and Eryk took that as a sign the dog would come back, so he released its collar and watched it tear off after some unknown creature... or scent. He walked after the faint footprints it left behind, releasing the magic that masked his wings once he was far enough away from Baine. Just as he was beginning to think that the Hellhound had run off for good, he heard a loud, high-pitched howl piercing through the air, and he had to cover his ears against the shrill sound. He groaned faintly, following the sound to its source and finding... nothing. But there had to be something here; the hound kept pawing at the ground with its massive claws, as if digging. It looked at him expectantly and he sighed, staring at the ground at its paws. Nothing special, shifting sands here and there as the dog flung the dirt around itself.

Thunk.

Sand didn't go thunk. In fact, sand didn't make very many sounds. Eryk knelt by the earth, telling the Hellhound to move away as his pale hands shifted through the dark sand. There it was, not too far under the surface, something metallic and hard beneath his fingers. He felt around and found what appeared to be a ring, as if for lifting a hatch.

A hatch. An entrance to wherever his beloved Sierra might be. He smirked, lifting his head to stare at the Hellhound. "Good boy," he whispered, fingers hooking around the metal ring and tugging firmly on the hatch, pulling it open and causing a small cascade of sand to tumble into the hole it revealed. The Hellhound nodded and lay there in the sand, panting much like a real dog would in the glare of the sun above him. His long, forked black tongue lolled out the side of his mouth, his eyes closing as he watched Eryk climb down a protruding ladder and disappear from sight.

The tunnel was shorter than it appeared from the surface, and Eryk didn't have to climb far before his feet found the earth again. He turned to find a long, earthy tunnel ahead of him, lit by small electric lamps the whole way. He could see where the tunnel branched off into many more, and he cautiously followed it to the first fork. On a whim he chose the left, careful to keep his footsteps muffled and his sword in hand in case he needed to fight.

But there wasn't a soul in sight. He was confronted by no-one as he walked down the paths, sensing around himself for the auras of any hostile beings in the area. He didn't sense anyone, no Angels, no shapeshifters, and worst of all, no Daemons. Sierra wasn-- No, there! The faintest pulsing of energy somewhere west of him, but very weak. Definitely Daemonic in nature, female and around nineteen years of age. He couldn't get much more out of it - the energy signature was drained and dangerously faint, but at least it was there, which meant that its owner was alive... Sierra.

At the first possible corner he turned left, his wing brushing lightly against the earthy surface of the wall as he broke into a slow jog. He followed the tunnels carefully until he found a door. On the other side was the girl whose aura he felt, and he tested the doorknob. It was unlocked. He pushed the door open, sword sheathed since he didn't feel any other life inside. The room beyond the door was sparsely furnished, with only a table in the center and a smaller one by the right wall, covered in sinister-looking instruments. On the center table, a pale-skinned girl was tied down, her wrists raw and bleeding from the ropes binding them down. Her face was contorted with pain, and there were deep cuts and bleeding wounds all over her body, blood running over the purple markings over her slender form. The membranes of her black wings were torn and more frayed than they usually were, bleeding around their edges. She whimpered as he drew near, and he realized that there was a blindfold covering her eyes. She didn't know who he was... she thought he was whoever had hurt her, caused the wounds upon her body.

He let a faint, angered growl leave his lips, reaching a hand to softly stroke Sierra's head, his fingers trailing over her smoothe horns. She whimpered again, despite his gentle touch, until his warm fingers hooked under the bottom of the cloth covering her eyes, pulling it up over her head and horns, away from the beautiful green gaze they bore. Her eyes widened when she saw him, though there was mostly disbelief in their depths.

"Oh, come on," she mumbled, and Eryk winced at the agony in her voice. "You... you sunk low enough to impersonate my lover? Can you get no worse, Alvire?"

“Sierra... I am no impostor..."

"Yeah, sure..." she growled, rolling her eyes and looking away.

"No, Sierra, I mean it!" Eryk protested, trying to stroke her cheek with his fingers. She bit them.

"Cut it out!" she snarled, eyes flashing red for a moment. She wriggled her wrists in the ropes, further bloodying them as Eryk opened his mouth to speak again. "Oh, no you don't," she spat angrily. "Don't you freaking try it! It's not going to work. Eryk's miles away, in Errava, nowhere near Baine!"

Eryk frowned, pain in his gaze as she looked away from him. "What would make you believe me...?"

Sierra scoffed, growling, "Nothing would. You're not Eryk; you have his eyes but not his heart. You have his wings but not his Angellic soul. You have his sword, but not the flames."

Eryk blinked several times, his hand moving to the hilt of his sword. When sheathed, the fire wouldn't show, and his fingers closed around the grip with a faint smile. "You mean, this sword?"

As Sierra tried to speak, he drew the sword. Free of its scabbard, the sword flashed brightly for a moment, blue fire coursing up and down its length, morphing into deep purple, then lightening once more to green and repeating the cycle. Sierra's green eyes widened, and he stared back at her as her gaze met his own, wide, surprised, yet also relieved. She smiled faintly, fangs showing over her lower lip. Her right hand twitched, causing her to wince as the rough rope ground against her raw flesh. She mewled and turned her head to kiss his hand as he stroked her cheek again.

"The hell took you so long, Eryk?" she breathed as he reached up to untie her arms and her legs, then pulling her up into a tight, warm embrace. She whimpered softly as the ropes fell away from her hands, shifting closer and nuzzling her cheek against Eryk's own. Warmth surrounded her as his wings wrapped around her smaller form, comforting her, his touch soothing the open cuts along her pale body. She kissed his cheek softly and he returned the motion, holding her close to himself, hands stroking carefully up and down her back, avoiding the wounds. Her tail twitched, wrapping around his side as she heard footsteps in the hallway. "It's her... Alvire..."

Eryk growled, releasing her and stepping around to be in front of her. Sierra noticed with a pang of regret that his gorgeous silver wings were coated in many places by her blood, scarlet staining the silver feathers. The sword was glimmering with bright blue flames in Eryk's hand, his bloodied wings folding back against his form. Sierra stayed behind him, weakened from blood loss, though there was an angered snarl across her pale face. Both of them glared at the door as Alvire stepped in, a smirk across her-- Sierra's? -- features. She had no form of her own; no shapeshifter did, so they took the form of another living being. In this case, the shifter had taken a particular fondness for Sierra's body, though she had altered a few things... the colour of her eyes, the colours in her wings. The red eyes that gleamed back at her weren't her own, and the cold, sadistic gaze in them was the exact opposite of hers.

"Oh, dear," she murmured in a rather sultry tone. "Seems my playtoy has been taken from its cage... tsk tsk. Naughty, naughty Eryk... don't you know you should ask before playing with others' toys?"

"She was mine to begin with, bitch." Eryk shot back, brown eyes becoming gold once again. The arm that held his flaming sword was so tense it was trembling, but his gaze was firm and furious.

"Not really," Alvire replied with a smirk, "Daemons have a claim on their own kind before Angels, so she was mine to play with."

"Am I the only one who hears this conversation as some sort of twisted and very bad pornography dialogue?"

Had it been any other time, Eryk would probably have collapsed from laughter at Sierra's statement. Not this time, though. He was far too angry, images of her bloodied and beaten body imprinted in his mind. His wings spread, blocking her from the shifter's view as she purred at the pair, her wings rustling.

"Awww, it's so cute the way you protect her." she spat with a toothy, sadistic grin.

"Y'know what else was cute, bitch? The way you were making out with the floor."

"What? I wasn't making out with th--"

WHAM!

Even Sierra was surprised by Eryk's speed as the Angel shot forth and smacked Alvire hard upside the head with the broad side of his sword, golden eyes blazing. She didn't have the time to block his blow, and found herself on the ground, facefirst, her cheek bleeding from the force of the blow. She pushed herself to her feet, hissing angrily, fanged teeth bared at Eryk as he stepped back towards Sierra, who in turn was backing up to stay out of his way. When healthy she was a formidable opponent, but battered and weak as she was, and disarmed, she was more in the way than useful. She backed against the wall, into a corner out of the way of the battling Daemon and Angel, wincing as her stiff muscles protested the movement.

Alvire smirked at her as she retreated, but it was Eryk whom she needed to focus on. He began raining furious blows on her with his sword, the flames dancing to and fro as if with a mind of their own. Alvire drew Shadow and Flame from her back, attempting to parry his blows with little success. His rage had been steadily building since their last battle, and had peaked when he had seen the state Sierra had been left in. An Angel at peak fury was not to be reckoned with; the peak was an anger that rivaled even the bloodthirst of the most powerful of Daemons. Adrenaline coursed through his veins, his aura pulsing with his anger as he swerved to avoid a slash from Alvire. She was still fast enough to pose a problem for even his supernatural reflexes, and for every attack he landed on her, she countered them perfectly.

Already both of them were bleeding from multiple wounds, Eryk's mostly on his toned arms, Alvire's on her sides and stomach. Her red wings twitched irritably, tail lashing as she tried to feint. Eryk was ready for it, and he growled as he dodged the slash she directed at his right side, returning the hit. His sword cut deeply into her left side, fire crackling against the wound and instantly cauterizing it as Alvire snarled from the pain.

"Fucking Angels!" she hissed, snake tongue slipping past her lips for a moment. She darted forth again to attack, but Eryk swerved out of the way. In his peripheral vision he saw movement, but couldn't take his eyes from Alvire to see it properly, blocking her attacks, flinching with each hit but only becoming more determined to continue fighting. He countered a blow as she swung Shadow, knocking the blade from the shapeshifter's hand and sending it careening into the wall, where it clattered to the dirt floor.

When he next got the chance to look at it, some five blood-filled minutes later, the blade was gone. Alvire hadn't picked it up, and as far as he could tell, Sierra was still in the corner. He would have left if he were her, though, creeping out into the hallway to avoid the fighting and the strong scent of blood that was tempting her thirst. Ducking a slash at his throat, Eryk cut at the shapeshifter mindlessly, beginning to focus more on the missing sword and Sierra. When he glanced towards her corner, she was gone, yet as he dodged and shifted through the room to avoid Alvire's blows he could not see her anywhere. He began to worry until he saw the tiniest glint in the corner of his eye. Turning his head slightly while parrying, he saw nothing but a faint shimmer where there had been nothing before.

There was a low whine from Alvire, and as his attention turned back to her, Eryk saw a look of agony on her pale face, her body shuddering the smallest bit, the blade Flame trembling in her grip and falling from her slender-fingered grasp. The air behind her was shimmering, and he watched as the shimmer faded, to be replaced by Sierra, trembling as well, yet holding Shadow in her hands. Or, rather, driving it into Alvire's spine. The shifter's lip trembled momentarily as Sierra yanked the dagger back, dropping it to the floor and watching Alvire's black blood run down her body as she collapsed.

Tail lashing, she looked up at Eryk with a frown, shifting closer to him and kissing a shallow cut on his pale cheek. He was battered and bleeding from several wounds, much the same as she was, but none of them would prove fatal. He pulled her into his arms, holding her in a tight, warm embrace and wrapping his bloodied wings against her slender form. She tried to kiss his cheek again, but he turned his head to meet her lips with his own, tenderly kissing her as he pulled her closer to himself. Shyly, she returned the kiss, gently stroking his back with her palms, careful to avoid any of the deeper gashes on his body. Beneath the kiss, Eryk was smiling, and under the soft caressing of her fingers he felt the weariness and pain lessen,
flowing from his body...

"Stop that..." he murmured against Sierra's lips, deepening the kiss again before she could say anything. She was drawing his pain away and into herself so he wouldn't have to deal with it, but he would rather burn for a thousand years than let her shoulder his agony.

When the kiss finally ended, what felt like hours later, he rested his head on Sierra's shoulder, softly kissing her neck. She purred faintly, holding him close to her, still massaging his back. "Shh... shh, love, it's over now." she whispered into his ear, fingers kneading against his shoulders. Her tail curled up to wrap around his leg, the soft furs stroking against his pants, the tip just slipping under the hem to brush against his skin as well. Her wings unfolded to their full length, pushing his away from her form to wrap around him instead. The veiny, membrane-bearing appendages were far smaller than those of any Angel, but with them around Eryk's form even partially she could drain his pain more effectively.

"Damn, love... I said stop..." Eryk whined, holding her closer to himself, but Sierra wouldn't release the simple magics that drew his aches from his tired, sore muscles and the open wounds. He was safe, she was safe and there was no power in all of the Realms that could take her from his arms, or at least none that would be able to survive. Soon they would be making their way back to Eryk's home, the warm, safe grounds of the Draebosk estate and the gorgeous Devil's Tigers that patrolled the forested mansion. The dark shadows cast by the plants in the hallways made for perfect spots to meditate, and there were few places she'd rather be with the man whose soul was hers than his home.

...

Their home.

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Let's Get One Thing Straight: I'm Not.

October 2013

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