Eros wasn’t sure of the amount of time that passed while he hid from the world in the bowels of that cave but it was the search for the light and the warmth that he had last, the instinctual searching of something cold blooded, that finally drove him out into the sun. The day. The light. Not all that long ago the bright light suffusing the baked farm fields and sloping hills with a golden glow had been his time. Everything it touched, it seemed, his kingdom. But things had since changed.
He belonged, now, to the night and to the moon and it wasn’t kindly that the sun took to his transgressions. Where it’s rays did not burn his skin as they would that of an Apelat, it gouged painfully at his eyes-vision over sensitive in the unveiled state of his eyes and he himself left too unsure of his new form to even begin to know how to turn his vision to something closer to a human’s-with the talons of an eagle leaving him nearly blind.
Floundering and all but sightless, Eros stumbled forwards and went pitching over a deep embankment. Bruised and bloodied anew, he lay at the bottom and waited for night to cast its heavy shroud back across the land. It was nothing short of a relief when the darkness finally returned, the soft silver light of the moon replacing the sun’s jagged golden shards.
Slowly, his vision came back into focus. The sky above his head was clear and black, a blanket of nothing but thousands of immortal stars which stared solemnly down at the newest of their night-bound companions. Brothers in blood.
Escape. It was that thought of that which drove him onwards. The desire to find some exception to her curse. The desperate want to die because he couldn’t exist like this! As one of them. Not after all of the fighting that he had done. All of the destruction they had caused. He’d find some way, any way, to get free even if it meant a slow death from a refusal to feed.
That conviction powered him, pushing him forwards night after night with Cenuşă dragging behind him tightly secured into its wooden sheath. Day after day curling up in some dark corner of a forest or cave. Walking. Hiding. Taking every chance for death that he was presented, only to wind up lying on the ground still very much alive after each and every time. Blades. Flame. Rope. Water. Wolves. Nothing worked.
That enough was near enough to break his mind, even without the maddening thirst and the sensation that he was being followed and watched by something both unseen and unfamiliar.
It was on the bank of a river the name of which escaped him after attempting to drown himself for the third time that Eros finally lost it, throwing his head back and howling to the indifference of the sky above.
“Just get it over with!!! You’d throw me away after all I did, and now you’d let me languish? I devoted my life to your ‘mandate’ and this is how I am repaid?” Chest heaving with fury, Eros glared up at the moon and stars and waited. A minute. An hour. Nothing happened.
Dark laughter echoed around him, resonating down into his very bones. “Were you expecting a bolt from heaven, boy?”
The voice was thick. Heavy. Echoing like thunder from below the ground. It was guttural and harsh, clearly male, and one that he didn’t recognize as belonging to any of Lilith’s six remaining children. Casting around in fear and desperation for the source of the voice but finding nothing Eros couldn’t stop himself from stuttering “W-Who are you? What do you want?”
“Who am I?” it replied, tone almost mocking. “A fried. Someone who can help.”
Nothing surrounded him but the trees and water, rippling in the wind with the absence of his reflection. “What are you? Show yourself!”
“Brazen of you, even while all but powerless.” The voice was directly behind him now. In the water where his own reflection should have been was the image of a massive black wolf, its three heads adorned with six glaring red eyes and grinning mouths revealing rows of jagged fangs. Spread from its back, formed from the shadows of the night, were the feathered wings of a raven. “It wasn’t your precious Angel that put you back in that saddle AshHand. I’ve been watching over you for quite a while waiting for our chance to speak to present itself. And now it has.”
The fear that seized over him at the sudden appearance of the powerful Demon left him frozen on the spot.
“My name is Naberious, and I like you am an enemy of Lilith. That makes me a friend of yours.” The grin was cutting, terrifying, as all six eyes kept him pinned in place. “I’ve seen you doing great damage to yourself over the course of the last few days. Why?”
“Even a Demon should be able to understand! Especially if you’ve truly been watching me for as long as you claim!” He grated out, wanting to turn his eyes away from the terrible reflection but unable to do so. “You know what I was. And now, what I am.”
“You submitted to her curse by eating that apple; it does not discriminate between the bewitched and the willing. What is it about being barred from death that you are unable to understand?” A flat pale tongue licked the chops of one of its heads as it lowered itself onto its haunches. “But I can help you free yourself. Help you kill her.”
“And why would you do that?”
“Like I told you, we’re mutual enemies. Have been for a very long time.” Scrapping its great paws along the ground, Naberious passed into the water to look at him. “I can make you cunning in all arts and rhetoric. Avenge your betrayals and return your lost honor. I will champion you where the Light will not, replace Dagaz with my power-Thaurisaz-and make you strong. Lord of a force the name of which all shall hear and tremble, and give you all the tools you need to defeat her. And, once she’s gone, you’ll be free to do with yourself as you wish. All you have to do,” a curved talon came to rest against his neck over where Dagaz had once been, “is say yes.”
The power to defeat Lilith and an army with which to topple her empire? All that he wanted was to die, but Eros would be lying if he were to claim that a part of what he’d become didn’t start to salivate at the thought of taking her place as King. Even as his entire being coiled tight to pounce on the offer he paused, wariness prickling along the back of his neck as a single rational thought occurred to him. Nothing ever came from the darkness without a cost.
“And what, Demon, will I be forced to give you in return?”
The forces of hell blazed in its triumphant eyes as it’s awful gaze devoured him; it knew that it had won. “Everything.”
Small price to pay when there was nothing left for him to lose. “I accept your offer. Grant me your power.”
Heat and the smell of brimstone and sulfur washed over him as the beast before him howled with laughter. “Embrace your madness, AshHand!”
Its talon cut deep into his skin, carving out a shape into his neck which remained etched into his flesh inked in the same hue as his blood. A new agony, a mental one this time, consumed him as something other-an outside force-invaded his being. Cleaving a hollow into his mind for it to curl up and rest. Something, a black viscous fluid, spreading across his mind like an infection. Acidic. Evil. Ripping at his sanity until it burnt away to nothing and something deep inside him snapped.
It was raging through him now. A monster with a mind all its own. A burning sensation. White hot. Unquenchable. Death embodied. Chaos! Destruction! The taste of the words alone was enough to whip him into a rabid frothing mess. The thought of drowning the entire world in rivers of fire and blood sending him spiralling into a psychotic frenzy.
Baying with demented laughter and with hell itself raging through his veins, the former Slayer-Lord spread massive wings shrouded in darkness and flew off into the deepening night.ns 22.214.171.124da2