Ancient Fire, p.1Judi Calhoun
Copyright 2013 Judi Calhoun
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To the love of my life and my biggest, fan Edwin Calhoun.
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Many thanks to my editor, Randy Hurtt, the traveling little critique group consisting of Jane, Ron, Ellen and Sue, and the wonderful people at the Berlin WNO I love you all. Special thanks to one extraordinary fan Lisa Jeffers and the brilliant talented resource of S. Lynn Beckett and her excellent cover art
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“…For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 NKJV
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I didn’t scream as I tumbled downward past broken vines, dirt, roots, seeing the clear blue sky above me vanish. Below me a red glow…fire softly whispering its desire to incinerate my flesh and bones.
Orange flames twisted, stretching up, to draw me into its tormenting fire. I yielded without restraint, falling ...falling... an endless descent towards the conflagration below.
I slammed hard onto a cold, stone floor instigating a cloud of ghostly dust. I coughed once before covering my mouth. Gradually, I got to my feet, realizing that nothing had broken: no pain, no fire, no burns, nothing. Now my eyes survey the dark, intriguing, cavernous chamber, more accurately a vast ominous dungeon. The fossilized floors and high stone archways, like everything else in this place, were covered in a thick layer of ash.
Illumination came from purple, shivering flames in trenches that lined every wall. Flames licked the icy absence of light. I swallowed the taste of fire, yet bitter cold air cut into my lungs like sharp scalpels. A frosty prowler of extreme hopelessness tiptoed into my mind...the horrifying neurosis of fear...ruthless executions...screams, agonizing screams. I shuddered, realizing that all trace of joyful thoughts were systematically being erased from my memory, one by one. So this is Hell.
I saw him. The Prince of Darkness; Belial, wearing a gray, tailored Armani suit…two stubby horns protruding from his slick, black hair. He was perched on a baroque throne, carved with a dragon leering down on the narcissistic king. The heavy bodies of two black snakes encircled the chair, furnishing arms. On their serpentine heads, the Prince of Darkness rested his hands.
I could not move, my feet seemed cemented in place by some inexplicable power. I watched the many shadows creep past me, whispering, scurrying like frightened bugs into the darkness. Not one of them even noticed me standing in full view, their glowing eyes were trained on only one thing, the man kneeling in front of the throne.
“You have a new job for me, Master?” His voice sounded human, unlike the other evil spirits now whispering with raspy amusement.
Yet, I was struck most of all by his pale complexion, blonde hair, and white suit…a vivid spotlight completely out of place in comparison with the rest of the dark, sinister creatures.
“A very important job Asmodeus,” Belial said, as he gestured toward a silver movie screen suspended in mid-air between them, flickering with ghost light.
I struggled to make out the image, but couldn’t.
“This one’s been a real problem,” said Belial, his lips curling up in disgust. “I’ve been careless in the past, underestimating her talents, foolishly sending the wrong servants, only to have them punished at her hands. Every attempt to destroy her has failed. Does the name Shonna Wells mean anything to you?”
I gasped at hearing my name. A great roar of jeering rose from the agitated shadows, mocking.
Asmodeus grimaced and shook his head no.
Belial frowned. “I find that hard to believe. You hear what happens when I say her name. I had to deal with this same…no. No, I refuse to say his name; ever again…you
know that rat. Now this offspring…well, it’s ridiculous!”
“My lord, with all due respect, you forget that I’ve been away attending to your business in the Middle East.” His eyes squinted as he studied the image. “I admit, I don’t know her, but...ah, yes, I do remember him.” His mouth huffed with slight annoyance. “What a pleasure it was to end his reign of torment.”
Belial scrutinized Asmodeus as if the man were some abnormal germ specimen. “I’d almost completely forgotten.” His lips twitched almost into a smile. “You did the Underworld a real service that day. Hmm…” he rubbed the light stubble on his chin. “I understand this young Slayer is beneath your usual caliber of clientele. Yet, I think this job may be perfect for you. Yes…perfect.”
“I am honored, Master.” Asmodeus bowed slightly as he climbed to his feet. “Tell me, Lord, is this the only one? Are there more offspring expected?”
“Well, it’s a vicious circle, my friend. One never knows. New ones are reborn all the time. Lucky for us, things have changed.”
“Changed?” Asmodeus’ eyes went wide. “There’s been a change in the System? Why, that’s wonderful news. When did this happen, Master?”
Belial leapt to his feet. “You fool! You dare mention the System to me! Do you think I want to be reminded? It makes me sick, the power He gives His puny minions.” He spat out curses.
“Forgive me, my Lord,” Asmodeus said.
I took in a shallow breath, as this dark world grew suddenly silent. All demonic heckling instantly stopped. Static seemed to snap in the cold air. Tiny lines formed a mask of regret on Asmodeus’ face, but it was too late; he’d already spoken the dreadful words.
“I...forgive... NO ONE!” Belial voice blistered with rage. “Especially my elect!”
Matching his anger, large flames exploded from beneath his throne, licking the air, greedily stealing precious oxygen. His face went blank; his eyes flashed green before they rolled back inside his head, as if he’d unexpectedly dropped dead. There was an eerie sound of bones crunching, followed by the wet noise of flesh tearing. A million green scales popped out, like giant zits. His hair slid backward while his face protruded outward, transforming into the head of a king cobra snake.
The Cobra’s giant head, now fully formed, swayed absurdly from the neck of Belial’s suit. With his small lizard hands, he pointed one very long finger at the hole that dropped off into unspeakable evil. “Asmodeus may join my tormented souls in prison, today?” His voice was joyously mocking his own servant. “Do I need to...punissssh?” Hissing the last word, with a satisfying smile, a thin forked tongue slid out between razor sharp fangs.
From the darkened caverns, the mocking laughter reached an echoing crescendo.
Asmodeus’ face turned gray. Yet I could tell, he was not easily frightened, not like the other night creatures shaking with dread. “There’s no need for drastic measures, Master.” He raised white palms up in front of the snake’s eyes. “These hands have shed an ocean of blood. Your prison is filled with victims of my great talent. You know me. You know what I can do. I am an expert at torture and deception. I can easily end the life of one insignificant, teenage girl.”
“I know your skills.” The snake whispered. “That’s why I summoned you here.”
He stretched his head straight up and groaned. The fire swiftly fizzled out. Belial transformed back into his bleak human form. “Deception is exactly what I want,” he said, straightening his tie and smoothing his hair. “Torture her if you like. Really, I don’t care one way or the other, but when you’re finished having fun...” He leaned close casting a dark shadow over Asmodeus’ face, “I want her dead!”
“As you wish, my Lord,” said Asmodeus, his voice lowering to a whisper. “She’s as good as dead now.”
The faceless demons resounded with chant Shonna Wells is dead.
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Ancient Fire by Judi Calhoun / Fantasy have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes