He stood alone looking out over the Fields of Despair. Often he had been told how the submerged rows of moss-laden trees stretching into the distance resembled the swamps in a place called Louisiana. It seemed peaceful until one looked closer, noticing what hung from those trees. What looked like moss was in actuality the remnants of the many souls consigned to suffer there for his pleasure. He found their cries relaxing and often came to this hill to settle his mind.
These were his playthings, the suffering souls of the damned. Those never destined to die or receive the relief of the furnaces. They were to hang forever in these languid swamps thick with the fog of swarming insects. His millions of tiny torturers feasted on the buffet of suffering which hung from the remains of the damned like festering cancers. Some of these old pains were absorbed, feeding the little beasts. The rest was carried like pollen to the other damned that hung in this forest of grief. As the prize was deposited on a new soul, the suffering was added to their own so they too could share in the dread and regret of those around them. It was these new-found sadness’s which caused the whole pitch of the swamps to rise and fall.
He stood watching the finely balanced dance of adding and subtracting. Each time a bit was removed and before another could be added, the souls were given the small hope that their limbs would fail, allowing them to drop into the oily marsh below.
The dark, turbulent waters were never still, always gurgling and bubbling up gasses that would, on occasion, throw forth a flame, singeing the surrounding wildlife. It was then, for a brief instant, that all the buzzing would stop, providing a brief respite to the souls upon which the tiny creatures fed.
The bodies that had finally fallen into the shallow water flailed about, having now realized they had only traded one torment for another. No longer did they need to worry about the incessant nibbling of the little flies for they were being sucked down into the muck. The flailing arms and bobbing heads always struggled to rise in hopes of catching a breath for their phantom lungs before sinking again into the shadowy depths of the toxic bog. The moans which escaped as the flames licked their faces added to the lower registers of this choir of pain.
The residents who had been there the longest lay silently, staring up from just below the surface, looking forever into a sky with no stars. They had long ago abandoned the struggle, resigned to wait as they sank further into the muck, hoping to find that eternal resting place. At times, their eyes would move across the surface of the water to the hill where he stood looking out over his creation.
This place had become his comfort in the times when his own mental torment rivaled that of those interned here. He wasn’t sure why he still found solace in a place that, at its root, was nothing more than a class project long ago. He had been so young then and just beginning to understand the basics of pain, a gift which had come naturally to him. He lingered here a lot. His Great-Grandfather had been proud of this creation, which is why it had become a permanent part of the wider landscape of that which was The Great Plains.
A fog of heat floated up from the masses struggling below. Water had always held a special place in his heart; his sister was a water creature. He thought of her often, though he had long ago given up any hopes of finding her. She had been taken away when they were born. Now her memory was little more in his life than that of a gnawing insect, always picking at the little bits of his brain.
He should have been mother’s pride while she, her father’s. His parents were an unlikely pairing. She was a demon of the old guard. Her meeting and mating with a member of The Light ought to have, at the very least, doomed her to the Hatchery. At their birth, both he and his sister should have been destroyed. He knew he had only survived those first moments of life due to the intervention of his Great-Grandfather. How his twin had escaped alive was still a mystery to him.
As he stood looking down upon the suffering, his thoughts were disturbed by footsteps headed in his direction. They were still some distance away, just now starting to move up the hill. The group moving slowly, cautiously, but still with a hint of defiance. By now protocol dictated that they should have stopped and announced themselves. Few would even consider approaching him.
He smiled to himself. He had intentionally come here to wait for them. The smile continued to grow as he realized the size of the force she had sent to get him. She apparently wasn’t taking any chances. The last time she had sent her guards for him, none had made it back. The few who could be pieced back together were now hanging below in his beloved swamps.
He didn’t need to be close to know who they represented; his mother had sent them. Over the past few months the level of their clashes — or maybe a better word would be hatred — had continued to escalate. Now he feared he might have finally had pushed her too far. There was nothing about their upcoming meeting, or any that might follow, that would prove to be good. His Great-Grandfather had taught him long ago that all things have a path. This too like everything else could only be taken one step at a time.
“Lord Xia, your mother wants to see you.”
He heard the speaker from behind him; it was her general. She was serious. “How is my dear mother?” He smirked, not turning.
“Well enough to cause us to leave with one-third less than she had summoned, the rest falling to her anger. But overall, I guess as well as can be expected.”
Xia took a deep breath and forced the smile from his face. The corners of his mouth again almost curled upward when he saw some of the hardest soldiers in Hell fall back a step as he turned toward them. He loved his reputation; it had been hard earned, and he spent it well.
Xia was a classic demon, fifty feet tall in his current form, with heavy hooves covered with long, loose hair. He had a fantastic double set of horns which swirled like crowns from the front and sides of his head. His skin was as black as night with a slight green hue. His eyes, the color of gold, had fire dancing inside the orbs, literally.
Flames licked at his upper torso, starting just above his waist. He could summon them at will where they would dance across his bare chest like opalescent creatures with their own mind. At certain times, when his flames burned their brightest, the two rings that pierced his nipples would begin to glow white hot. As his anger grew so would the heat’s intensity, often causing the rings to melt, the raw metal flowing down his chest like sweat.
Though he was a near perfect example of a Hellspawn, what marked him as unique was the pentagram that rotated slowly on his forehead, centered just above his eyebrows. Only one other member of his family’s long line had ever carried this mark, his Great-Grandfather. It was a great source of pride for them both. To look at him left no doubt; he was a Morningstar.
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