Finsternis opened his eyes to see Bayarma holding a plate of vegetables over rice. It smelled delightful. He sat up, accepted the plate and opened his mouth to speak, but Bayarma put one finger over her mouth and gestured with the other hand.
Finsternis looked over to see Lucia asleep, sitting up, head tilted onto the overstuffed arm of the couch, scarlet curls spilling over her cheek. He took a bite of food, swallowed and whispered, “Did she eat?”
Bayarma shrugged. “Enough to keep an old woman from force feeding her.”
He smiled around another mouthful of food. “You would have done it, too, I am sure.”
Bayarma looked at the pictures covering the wall and smiled, pictures of smiling children, smiling adults, smiling adults holding smiling children, every smile a twin to Bayarma’s own. “I have dealt with more than my fair share of stubborn children, you know.”
“I cannot imagine where they got it from,” remarked Finsternis around another mouthful of food.
“Don’t even try to tell me that’s polite in Hell,” scolded Bayarma. “The archangel, what was he like?”
Finsternis put down his plate, no longer hungry. He did not really need to eat. As the direct descendent of archdemons, shadows were sustenance enough for him, he simply enjoyed the food, but thinking of Israfel did nothing for his appetite. “Israfel is odd. None of the others’ arrogance or pride. He was quite polite, actually. He even said my name, properly, in demonspeak.”
Bayarma’s eyes widened. “Really. What did he want, this Israfel?”
“I do not believe even he knew.” Bayarma’s eyes narrowed. She was likely irritated at being put to sleep through the visit. It was one thing to know that one was vulnerable to angelic powers, another entirely to experience it. “I am not withholding anything, Bayarma. He truly did not seem to know. Lucia may have figured it out, though.”
Bayarma smiled gently at Lucia. “Quite the clever girl, our nephalim. What did she figure out?”
Finsternis sighed, ran his hands through his hair. “She believes that we have been missing opportunities hidden in the apocalypses by the archdemons.”
“She believes the archdemons caused the apocalypses, not Yhwh?”
“Yes. Israfel seemed to agree.” Finsternis could not help but like the gentle, diffident Archangel of Music, although it chafed to admit it, even to himself.
What had Loki seen in Israfel? The human legends left over from a time when archdemons walked the Earth openly were warped reflections of the truth, but the humans had caught the essence of the archdemons, preserved more accurately in Hell’s history: quick tempered, possessed of wicked humor, combining a harsh sense of justice with a complete lack of patience. Such had not always worked out well for the humans and they remembered the archdemons as trickster gods at best, to be worshipped, but not to be trusted.
So what had a hot-tempered archdemon seen in a gentle archangel whose only purpose was to create and inspire music? Perhaps it had been the music itself. Finsternis was the Dark Prince because he was the most direct descendent of Loki, and he alone amongst the demons had overwhelming love of music—
Every piece of glass in the apartment, all the windows, the pictures, cups and little decorative baubles, exploded at once. Physics held no sway over the shards, some of them buried themselves into drywall and fabric like missiles, others floated lazily in the air like fog over a lake. Bayarma crouched on the floor, head tucked between her knees, arms over her head. Finsternis did not notice, he was too intent on memories of Israfel singing his name, Israfel commenting that he looked like Loki, Israfel so very concerned about his health.
“Israfel? About what?” asked Lucia, her voice deeper and gravely with sleep. “Hi, Bayarma, what are you doing down there? What is that?” Lucia pushed a floating shard of glass with a finger, eyes widening with delight when it bobbed in the air like a bath toy floating in water. “That is so cool!”
“That is so sharp,” retorted Bayarma, carefully standing up, gently sweeping floating shards of glass out of her way, with her forearm, the thick fabric of her bright orange shirt providing her protection.
Lucia plucked a shard out of the air and inspected it. “Is this glass?”
“Yes, Finsternis seems to have a bit of an accident,” said Bayarma sharply.
“I do apologize. That is not under my control,” said Finsternis. “Even if Hell contained silica, we would not make anything out of glass.”
After throwing the shard of glass up in the air and watching it fall to the ground normally, Lucia asked, “What is this all about?”
Finsternis shifted uncomfortably. While neither human would know it, a purple’s inability to control their occasional effects on physics was on the same level as a human sneezing and spewing out mucus on a bystander. No demon would discuss it, though children found it very amusing. “The archdemons could affect the laws of physics in this plane and in Hell, bend them to their will. As the descendents of archdemons, purples can do so as well, but not consciously. It is . . . involuntary.”
“Oh, so you basically just burped at a fancy dinner party?” asked Lucia.
“Yes, not that demons burp,” replied Finsternis.
Lucia patted his arm again. He could feel her skin through the fabric of his shirt. She smelled like flowers in a forgotten meadow. “It’s okay. Nobody’s perfect. If it makes you feel any better, I cannot see this as anything but impressive no matter how you see it.” She tossed her hair back out of face and grinned.
Just like that all the glass in the room fell to the floor.
Lucia’s eyes opened with wonder and she poked at the glass on the floor with one sandal. Finsternis studied her. She had changed from her blood-soaked dress into a long green dress, tight around her breasts, falling away from her body from tiny pleats under the bodice. The contrast between the dark green and her pale skin was heightened by her vermillion curls and scarlet eyes. This is was an archangel’s get, he reassured himself. He himself was purely demon, no relation to the Archangel of Music. He would have felt better if not for his own love of music, if not for Lucia’s pointed ears, poking out from her hair.
Finsternis put it out of his mind. He had no time for such things now. Perhaps he could think on it later. Or never. “I truly am sorry, Bayarma.”
The old woman waved her hand dismissively. “I can fix the windows and buy more cups, Finsternis. More shadowbalm is another story. Try to stay out of trouble.”
Lucia giggled. Finsternis tried a quelling stare, well known and feared in Hell, but she smiled wider and said, “Can’t very well stay out of what you’re made of.” Finsternis rolled his eyes. He did not expect from Lucia the deference he received in Hell, but being the butt of a homespun aphorism delivered in a particularly syrupy drawl was a bit much.
Still, Lucia was smiling, which was a pleasant change, so Finsternis restrained himself to a huff and put his boots on. He stood and performed a bow as showy as any archangel’s, minus the reference to wings he did not have, pulling Bayarma up with him as he rose. “Thank you for your hospitality, Bayarma. Be well.”
To his surprise, Bayarma reached up and kissed cheeks. “Be well, Demon Prince. May you find now what you seek, but what you need.”