It’s been a little more than a week since Solomon’s big announcement for the Magical Society. James, Lily and I have been working hard to help Solomon test all the current members. We've been at it for six days with today as my third day of rest and I’ve tested 120 members, with only approximately 465 more to go...If I don’t count the sorcerers who never showed up in the first place and have gone into hiding. I feel dizzy just thinking about it. Eventually we will also need to test the thousands of apprentices and mages that have partial seals, but Solomon says we can worry about them a bit later.
The most rotten of the Sorcerers’ Society showed their true colors by never showing up and going underground instead. Approximately a quarter of all our 780 registered members. As awful as that is, at least there’s less testing to get through. Solomon has had his demons hard at work rounding them up. Barbatos has assigned a section of the Demon King’s Castle dungeon for the captured corrupted sorcerers, where they have to wait until we have time to give them a proper trial and sentence them their due punishments. Solomon worked with Barbatos to make sure the human prisoners were held and treated in accordance with human ethics in mind. I have to say I was surprised and somewhat relieved to realize that Lord Diavolo has been very supportive to us on this matter.
While I know the majority of the Magical Society is good people who support us, the rotten ones are just… very rotten. Eventually we will have to get to work rounding up power hungry covens of witches, warlocks and mages with bad intentions for the Three Worlds in general. To do that efficiently we have to finish purging all the corruption from the Sorcerers’ Society. We still have a long way to go, I sometimes feel we will never be able to get the Society fixed the way Solomon envisions it for the future.
But we have to try. We all have our own motives, but in the end we all want the same. This reality is our last chance of a peaceful life and I have to fight for Pandora’s future. Peace and harmony between the Three Worlds might be Lord Diavolo’s dream, but it is also mine. It’s the only future where a child like Pandora will be accepted. I know Lily’s current motives are vengeance for what happened to this reality’s Solomon and Mammon, but I know deep down she wants the same as all of us: A peaceful life. I think James just mostly is determined, just like Solomon, to keep what remains of his family safe.
So far the rotten ones have gone into hiding, but we know they are only biding their time to attack. It frightens me to think of another attack on my family but I have to keep faith in myself and everyone else. We’re determined not to lose anyone else.
Anyway, of the Sorcerers who did submit to testing, the results were not quite as bad as I had feared. There were only a handful that lost everything, their souls felt so tainted that they were sent in for questioning and investigating. After that, it was only about half of the Sorcerers that lost one to three virtues out of seven at most. The majority were worth retraining and Solomon even found several potential candidates to fill the empty council seats. Finally it felt as if we were making progress. All the sorcerers that have not lost their virtues at all were granted one of the new Sorcerer's rings that James, Lily and I have received as well. Most of them volunteered to help retrain their fellow sorcerers who lost a few virtues, once the time comes for that.
Today is another rest day for me and once again Solomon has taken Lily and James out for training. I hope Lily doesn’t return in low spirits like she has the other times. It’s also a break day between our visits, except for Mammon coming home later of course.
Sir Piggy made an absolute mess of the garden this past week, luckily Lily was able to use her fae abilities to fix most of it. We don’t want Lucifer to bring him to Hell’s Kitchen after all. I made an ever-fitting harness and leash for him and yesterday I took Sir Piggy to the Devildom for the first time to start with his snuffle-training and the walk I promised Lucifer. Only for a short half hour walk and poor Sir Piggy was frightened the entire time. I can’t say I blame him, the Devildom is infested with predators of all sorts, after all. Even Beel has already mentioned that we’re only keeping Sir Piggy - or Pork Chops as he calls him - to fatten him up so he can eat him later. That was a whole other discussion and Lily and I were practically in tears by the end of it. Beel does mean well in general, but he has such a one-track mind...
But anyway, today I am going to use this free time to perfect the spelled collar I’ve been working on to keep Sir Piggy out of certain areas of the garden. Luckily our little enchanted piggy door has worked like a charm in keeping mud out of the manor. That’s some good news I could bring Lucifer yesterday, at least. He seemed pleased to hear it.
I’ve also struck on an idea that might help Lily, a way to have her clashing Celestial and Fae magic coexist. But I have to talk to Solomon about it first.
It’s our third time out for training. I appreciate Solomon for taking time away from his mountain of responsibilities for us this way, but I’m tired and frustrated. Our running theories currently are that my time in Faery has awakened more of my latent abilities and with my memories returning, it’s not playing nice with my other skill set, so to speak. Solomon thinks my erratic emotions might be at play as well, which makes me feel weak. Leila and James have been through hell and their grief doesn’t seem to be messing with their power. There’s also a possibility it has something to do with James and I’s rings trying to exist together permanently in the same reality.
Today I’m wearing a necklace of red rowan and holly berries, rowan twigs and various herbs in my pockets to see if it’ll help by suppressing my fae abilities. So far all it’s doing is giving me allergies. I know Leila has already told me that suppressing my Fae magic isn’t the solution, because it is part of me just as much as my Celestial magic. But I have to try something! It’s so frustrating, I could cry.
I’m almost relieved when Solomon says we have to wrap up training early. Until his next words. “I’ve just been warned about an unauthorized summoning. The demon in question is currently imprisoned in Tartarus, so normally I wouldn’t worry. It’s almost impossible to summon a demon from Tartarus.” He says this in a way that has James and I exchanging a glance. I’m fairly sure Solomon has summoned a demon from Tartarus now. I bet that’s a curious story for another time. “But with the number of highly skilled rogue Sorcerers out right now who want our hides..well, we shouldn’t risk the chance they are successful.”
“We’re coming to help right?” James guesses before Solomon has the chance to say.
“Yes. This will be a good chance for you to show what you’ve learned since the last one you witnessed.” He nods approvingly. “Lily, you’ll be witness only today, unless things get out of hand you can back James up if he needs help.” Solomon tells me in the stern voice of Master to apprentice. I have to force back an eye roll. I’m not sure what’s wrong with me lately, it’s perfectly reasonable what he asks of me since I’ve never witnessed an unauthorized summoning before, but I feel extra combative. Solomon doesn’t deserve that, so I’ve been reigning in my attitude as much as I can. “Astaroth will be there for backup too…” He warns me.
Just great. I keep my mutterings in my head and plaster on an agreeable smile.
Lily and I were not ready for the sudden shift in climate when Solomon teleports us to the middle of some humid jungle. It was afternoon in England where we had been training, it’s dark out wherever we are now. Solomon wastes no time in summoning Astaroth, I contemplate taking off my heavy Sorcerer’s robe, but think better of it: who knows if I’d ever find it again? It’s supposed to protect against some magic too, but later I will have to ask about a summer weather version..
“Where are we?” Lily asks in a hushed whisper once Solomon’s summoning is complete and he’s had a short whispered conversation with Astaroth.
“South America, outside some Mayan ruins.” Solomon answers. I notice Astaroth pointedly ignores us. “Sites where human sacrifices have been made are popular when trying to summon particularly nasty demons.”
Ah. Well. That explains it. Still, he could have given us a heads up. The moon isn’t quite full yet, and the jungle is so dense barely any of the moonlight trickles through. I hope Solomon is going to allow us to summon some light because I can barely see my own feet.
“This may be a trap, so be prepared for anything.” Solomon advises us before summoning a tiny orb of light to lead us with. Astaroth has disappeared into the jungle silent as a panther.
I feel on edge as we stalk through the jungle, not sure if this is better than the creepy crypt in France. At first the jungle was alive with the sounds of nature creeping through the canopy up high and the plants below. Things that are being hunted, things that give off warnings, things that let out their last cries as they are ambushed in their sleep. But then the jungle falls silent and not long after that we begin to hear the first sounds of chanting.
The jungle is becoming a little thinner as we pass by crumbling rocks with indecipherable carvings. Eventually we come to the crumbling remains of an ancient Maya pyramid illuminated by the light of the moon. At the top I can barely make out the silhouettes of robed figures.
“We’re going to have to climb up.” Solomon whispers, making his orb of light disappear. “Watch your step. The terrain will make it harder for them to escape but also not easy for us either. James, employ the shackling spell. Lily, you will provide backup.” Both of us give him a serious nod.
I still don’t know where Astaroth has gone but since Solomon hasn’t mentioned it, I’ll assume it’s all part of the plan. We slowly climb the crumbling steps, trying to be as silent as possible. Lily has told us about how she was raised in the woods around her home of course, but I’m still impressed at how silently and agile she is able to move, she’s keeping up with us easily despite her shorter legs.
Somewhere in South America...
Astaroth has been sent ahead to the Mayan temple. To scout the area. He was to report to Solomon if there was an ambush waiting there, or if anything seemed out of sorts. However, after investigating the entire clearing and the jungle surrounding it, he was sure that the only people nearby were the five humans chanting something atop the temple and the three humans making their approach towards them. The five humans are indeed engaged in a summoning ritual but without more information, he can’t discern the authenticity of their ritual. He could take all five of them out by himself right now and be done with it. They don’t seem to be all that powerful, unlike Solomon and his students. However, his master told him he wanted to use this opportunity to train James and Lily. He is not to interfere unless one of them looks to be in mortal danger. Basically he’s their babysitter now… What a waste of his time. Well, at least he’s not wasting his time at RAD.
He looks for a place to have a good view of the top of the temple. The building that used to be on the top has long crumbled away, so that won’t work. He can’t continue to fly overhead either: The moon is making too obvious shadows. People would see him. He decides to wait in the tallest tree close to the clearing. It’s some distance away from the temple, but he has a clear view of the scene that would probably be over within a few minutes anyway.
Finally he hears his master approaching with his students. They could do with a bit more stealth training. Astaroth thinks with contempt. Especially that boy. He can smell his nerves from all the way over here. He’s sure that Solomon is aware of this too.
Astaroth continues to observe Solomon and his students as they climb up the steps on the shadow side of the temple quickly. They’re going pretty high up, for human standards. A fall from those steps would be fatal. He decides he will come closer as soon as they engage the group, just to be sure.
He’s too focussed on watching his master and his students to notice that one of the people atop the temple stops participating in the ritual and instead is sending a message...
And there it is: Suddenly the clearing is bathed in light as if it was the middle of the day. Astaroth flies up silently, is within reach of the temple in mere seconds and sees his master and his students have already subdued the five people performing the ritual in some type of shackling spell that seems to grow out of the foundations of the temple. Like he thought: It would go quick.
“Look out!” Lily calls out a warning as suddenly five real Sorcerers teleport in.
He notices them before he sees them. A much larger group of sorcerers and this time also demons are suddenly upon them! These humans are more powerful than the ones who were playing the bait, as Astaroth now realizes. But their demons would be no match for himself, so he decides to wait before engaging. ‘Only when one of us is in mortal danger.’ That’s what his new Solomon commanded him.
It doesn’t sit well with him to just wait and watch as he circles high above the fight now. He couldn’t stop the attack on Solomon all those weeks ago. The fact that Lily thought he would partake in his demise and her unhappiness chafed at him. He scoffs at himself, his cruelty to her had obviously erased whatever affections she held for him. While it’s true that there was no love between Solomon and himself, he had never wished for the sorcerer to meet such a senseless end. Maybe you would never know this of him, but he felt the loss during the time his pact with Solomon was severed and just the ghost of it lingered. While he was imprisoned he could barely make sense of it all. Solomon had died, he knew it. But something of him still was around. It only made sense to him when this new Solomon found him, freed him and restored his pact with him.
This new Solomon seemed different, though. He would only know why a couple of days later when he met with his students. One of them was of course Lily. But he never knew about Solomon’s granddaughter, or her cousin. The granddaughter was interesting. He had heard that the Ring of Souls had been lost, not that he thought Azrael would have ever found someone worthy to wield it. But there she was, wearing the legendary ring, using its powers to peer into his soul with just a touch and a look in his eyes. Or sense it. He wasn’t sure what he experienced when she did it to him, with Solomon’s permission. He couldn’t hide it from her, like he can with everyone else: his true character.
He huffs with discomfit. It just has the result that now he’s babysitting Solomon’s students. Because his new master trusts him. Of course he wouldn’t let any harm come to Lily. They have a history. But why is he also watching the cousin?
Anyway, so far it doesn’t look like any of them is in mortal danger. Three of the Sorcerers and their demons have descended on Solomon. Oh, how noble the human race is. Flaunting their ‘virtues’. Astaroth scoffs. He’s pleased to watch how his master easily evades the attacks sent his way. The other two Sorcerers are attacking James and Lily with their demons.
James seems to be very agile now that he’s let go of his nerves, Astaroth notices as he sees the boy dodge an offensive attack, using his robe. Lily looks just as skilled as she casts the shackling spell on James' attacker, while he successfully shackles the second Sorcerer who was trying to attack Lily, while she was distracted defending James. Meanwhile Astaroth watches how the two demons of the Sorcerers are closing in. But with their masters trapped, it doesn’t look as if they’re keen to hurry and help them.
Weak humans. Astaroth thinks with contempt, as he hears the attackers shouting commands to their demons that they’re barely inclined to follow. They have no business making pacts with demons if they can’t control them. Solomon’s students will hardly have any problems defeating them together. He turns his attention to his own master to see if he needs any help. So far it doesn’t seem like he does. He has already one of the Sorcerers shackled with the others and has put some sort of confusion spell on himself to keep their demons busy, seeing as they keep getting in each other's way as soon as they get too close to the clever old Sorcerer. Astaroth smirks: His master seems to be toying with those demons and is only interested in capturing the attacking sorcerers. But then Astaroth sees something strange happening.
Lily makes a noise of distress when the Sorcerer she had pinned begins to laugh. The shackles around him had turned to flowering green vines which then began to dry and wither, allowing him to easily brush them away. Astaroth turns his attention back to her. Something like this also happened when she tried to attack him, a couple weeks ago. He thought that it was because of her emotions, but up until now Lily has been fighting with alertness and efficiency, just like Solomon and James. But now her usual boundless energy seems to be waning much sooner than he’d expect from her. This effect must have origins outside of her skill or emotions. James has noticed it and takes a defensive position with Lily’s magic on the fritz, but Astaroth feels a twinge of concern: the boy might not be up to the fight if it is just him against the two demons and the escaped Sorcerer.
“Ah, how adorable. The Sorceress Lily is giving us a bouquet of flowers.” The one that freed himself mocks Lily with derisive laughter.
The weaker people who were captured first are starting to mock her too. “Can you believe it? I’m swooning!”
“The new SS you’re building will only show how weak you are, Solomon, if you surround yourself with Sorcerers like her.” Another one laughs, as if he isn’t stuck in shackles himself.
One of the Sorcerers that fights Solomon growls out from behind him. “Still, as your greatest weakness and treasure, she’ll have to die. Today we’ll accomplish what our brothers failed to do.”
They’re mistaken. Only Solomon, his demon and his students know this. New Solomon cares for Lily and James a lot, but they are not his greatest treasure. His granddaughter Leila is. And she is not his weakness, but his greatest strength: Constantly challenging him to become a better man and Sorcerer. But they also know that the Sorcerers’ Society hasn’t failed to kill Lily’s Solomon… And Lily can’t take the abuse anymore.
Lily let’s out an angry and anguished cry, as James blocks an incoming attack that comes her way. Then he has to jump back quickly as suddenly jungle vines shoot out from cracks and crevices and twine themselves around all of the five witches and the two trapped Sorcerers at the top of the temple. Only the people who can move away are able to evade them and before any of them can do anything, the vines are dragging the seven screaming people into the crumbling pyramid.
“Lily, get yourself together!” James shouts at her as it looks like she wants to fall on her knees and cry. Lily looks up at him with her eyes misty with tears, but she nods determinedly. This isn’t the time to give into despair.
“Kill her and the boy too!” The Sorcerer that has freed himself commands his demon with a deranged snarl as he starts launching spells at Solomon’s young students who are starting to advance on him together now.
The demon laughs wickedly and the ones who are now freed from their masters join in with him. This is going to be fun: No masters to command them to return to the Devildom afterwards. They’ll start with the souls of these humans here and then continue raiding the Human World later. They’ll have a good party, before Lord Diavolo orders them to return. Nobody notices how above them a powerful demon watches every move that is made, ready to intervene.
James exchanges a glance with Lily, they’re going up against three demons and a Sorcerer now and they will need to try to summon Celestial power against them. Astaroth watches how Solomon tries to get to the side of his students to aid them and protect them, but he is hindered by the spells of his own four attackers. He growls with impatience, if Solomon wasn’t so bent on taking his attackers alive, this could have ended by now.
James and Lily raise their hands and both chant a variation to their own personal Light spells that they used on the Bogeyman all those weeks ago. The memory of that day fuels James’ power. Remembering how Satan gave him access to his powers, Lucifer’s trust in him. He wishes he could go back to make it right! I miss them all so much, I want them here with me!
Only Astaroth can see what exactly is happening, even if he doesn’t understand what exactly IS happening: James’ Ring of Light glows up brightly and so do Solomon’s and Lily’s Celestial rings in reaction. But while Solomon’s power stays with Solomon, it is as if Lily’s powers are connecting to James through their twin Rings of Light. It looks like a strong surge of power enters James' being via his ring, coming from Lily. Then he casts his spell: Light spills forth from him that sets all the demons atop the temple ablaze. They scream in pain and instantly flee back to where they belong.
Astaroth is stunned. He’s never seen something like that. He’s also glad that he had not landed on the temple to intervene yet, because that looked painful. This was not just James’ own power! This looked as if James accidently leeched powers from Lily…? What is going on with these humans and their magic? It’s powerful, but it seems erratic.
“Impossible!” The three remaining Sorcerers start to panic and all advance on James and Lily now. If they’re unable to take down Solomon tonight, they will at least take down his most trusted students and leave him all on his own again!
“Die! You bitch!” One of them screeches.
“Lily! Watch out!” Solomon calls out a warning as he’s quickly trapping one of his own foes in another shackling spell.
James spins around to try to help Lily after he hears Solomon’s warning, but he loses his footing and falls on his knee, feeling dizzy and out of sorts from the power surge of that last spell. What was that?!
Lily is swaying on her feet from the surge of power that James drained from her and she hasn’t seen that one of the Sorcerers has moved behind her, poised to strike her down with a dagger. Astaroth takes this as his que and immediately swoops down.
While Solomon deals with the other remaining Sorcerer and shackles him as well, Astaroth suddenly drops from the skies, kicking the last Sorcerer in the chest straight off the pyramid and catches Lily, before she passes out from the sudden loss of energy. Just in time. She would have likely broken her neck on a fall down the steps.
And with that, the fight is over. Solomon summons a few more of his demons with instructions to search for the missing witches and sorcerers and contacts Barbatos so that their new prisoners can be transported to the Devildom. By the time Barbatos has arrived with a transportation portal, one of Solomon’s demon’s returns and shakes his head. The Sorcerer that Astaroth kicked off the temple is dead and the ones taken into the temple cannot be found, all that remains of their existence are trails and puddles of blood.
Lucien and I have decided to enjoy a late afternoon tea in our cozy living room while Pandora still naps. I’m happy to see that he hasn’t lost his passion for baking. The scones he baked for us are amazing! One moment we’re chatting and laughing and then the pressure changes in the room momentarily as Solomon suddenly teleports into the room. The scent of sweat, blood, magic and something earthy fill my nose as we jump up in alarm. Solomon looks fine if only a little rumpled and his hair out of sorts but I gasp when I look at James. He looks like he’s been through hell, there’s a thin cut on his cheek, his hands are scraped and bruised, the fabric of his trousers are torn and dirtied. More alarm fills my gut as I take in Astaroth’s bulk standing behind them and carrying Lily who looks unconscious.
I rush towards them. “Solomon, what happened?!” I reach James first and make him sit in our comfy oversized chair before he collapses. Astaroth settles on the couch, laying Lily down with her head on his thigh as he smooths her hair tenderly. I’m a little shocked at the display of affection after the hostility they’ve shown each other but it’s just more proof that he’s not as bad as he tries to make himself appear.
“We encountered an ambush and one of James or Lily’s defensive spells went haywire, it seems.” Solomon explains. “Astaroth will tell us what he saw. In the meantime we need to revive Lily.” He says this as he checks her pulse, “I’m afraid she could go into shock or even slip into a coma. Can you do that, Leila?”
“Yes, I’ll try.” I nod seriously and get to work with determination.
“How can I help?” Lucien asks with concern, his hands in fists at his side.
“Can you bring James some black tea and something sugary?” Solomon says with a grateful smile. I’m kneeling next to Lily, channeling energy into her. While I concentrate, I try to still follow the conversation as Astaroth explains what he witnessed from his perspective.
“Gods.” James groans, covering his face with his hands. “It’s my fault. I think I pulled power from her through our rings, that's the only thing that makes sense.”
“It’s not your fault James.” I tell my cousin in a gentle comforting way as I give Lily’s hand a gentle squeeze before standing up. I’ve done what I can and hopefully it’s enough and she’ll wake soon. “We all know that your twin Rings of Light try to co-exist. It could have easily gone the other way.” I try to calm myself, dreading the moment Lucifer starts calling my D.D.D. the same way he had when Lily had gone into Faery. I distract myself by fussing over James’ superficial wounds.
“She’s right.” Solomon says solemnly. “Anything that happens to my apprentices under my watch is my responsibility alone.”
“That’s also not what I mean to say. But you should have called me, Solomon. I could have helped.” I grumble, as I heal the cut on James’ cheek, making sure to leave no scar behind on his handsome face.
”Yes, maybe I should have.” Solomon agrees with me. “I was assuming that this would be a standard unsanctioned summoning and a good training opportunity for James and Lily.”
“Then why did you summon Astaroth, if you thought it was a standard-”
“In case I was wrong and we needed backup after all.” Solomon continues, frowning a little by my interruption, but I think he understands my worries. “You need your rest, Leila and you would not have made it in time, either…”
We all stop arguing when Lily suddenly sits up, looking around the room with wide eyes as she tries to get her bearings. She seems to look relieved when she sees that everyone is whole and well, then she pales.
“What happened to them? The vines…” She looks down at her own hands as if she doesn’t recognize them. “They’re dead aren’t they?” She barely whispers.
I’m honestly just relieved right now that she’s back to the land of the living. But when I take her hand to soothe her I am worried for her soul. Killing someone… It’s...
Lily sees me looking at my ring as I hold her hand and turns to hide her face. Astaroth growls in irritation as he reaches for her and pulls her into his embrace at the same time. “Foolish human.” I think I hear him say, quietly.
“I killed them.” Lily sobs as the gravity of the situation hits her.
The fact that she’s showing regret alone will help her heal her soul, I know it. I think that she’s gotten a real wake-up call that going into a confrontation purely fueled by hatred and vengeance could make her lose her virtues in a moment of weakness. It’s something we ALL have to continue to remember. I know, with my temper, it could have easily been me doing something like this…
“It’s good that you can cry about it, Lily.” Solomon comes over and squeezes her shoulder with his hand. “Now you will have to learn to live with this. And remember it for the next time. As a Sorceress, you must always stay in control of your emotions when dealing with evil.”
Lily just nods at him. We let her cry it out until she’s given it all a place in her heart, while comforting her and supporting her. Lucien brings her her own tray of tea and a new batch of freshly baked scones for everyone.
Once we’ve managed to calm Lily down, Solomon begins to ask Lily questions about what she felt when James’ spell got the better of him. From her description it becomes clear to us all that it's a danger for James and Lily to continue on this way.
“I wanted to discuss this with Solomon first, so I don’t want to get your hopes up. But I think I’ve come up with a solution.” I tell them and then explain my idea of how we can transform Lily’s ring to suit her abilities better and so we can balance hers to work in harmony with ours and hopefully solve both problems.
“That very well could work.” Solomon gives me his special proud smile and I can’t help beaming a little despite the situation. “The difficulty will lie in the execution. It’s no small feat to alter a divine object like the Celestial Rings.” He hums in thought.
“This is true.” Astaroth agrees.
“Well then I guess it’s good you know an angel with a rebellious streak that would do almost anything for Lily, James and Leila.” Lucien tells us with a mischievous grin.
I return Lucien's grin and I’m about to say more when I hear Pandora’s coos coming from the baby monitor. “I’ll be right back.” I tell them as I leave them to discuss plans for talking to Simeon as I go upstairs to fetch Pandora.
“So it’s true.” I nearly jump out of my skin as I exit Pandora’s nursery to find Astaroth leaning against the far wall, looking at us in an indecipherable way. Even though I’ve read his soul and don’t believe he would actually hurt us, I don’t take chances as my Celestial shield comes around us instinctually. “I won’t harm her.” Astaroth shakes his head with a sigh, dropping his crossed arms.
“You startled me. Why did you follow me?”
“I had to see for myself.” He looks at Pandora with a mix of awe and despair in his eyes. I’m curious about his reaction, when Lily feels better I should ask her more about him. I’m more likely to get details from her than my tight lipped grandfather. Pandora is watching him with curiosity and making curious cooing noises. “You risk much misery upon yourself, bringing a nephilim into the world.” He murmurs.
Yes, don’t I know it… As her mother, I want to feel offended by his words but he says them with such a tragic look on his face that I wonder if he speaks from personal experience? Has he known hardship like mine too? I don’t know this demon well enough but if he knows about Nephilim then I wish to ask him so many questions. Instead I hear myself saying, “Would you like to hold her? Her name is Pandora.” Somehow I feel it’s the right thing to say to him.
Astaroth looks genuinely surprised by my offer and honestly, I am too. Under normal circumstances I would never trust a demon outside my family with my child. I just trust my gut about this one though. Pandora bounces in my arms and reaches out to him with a noise of encouragement, she’s already comfortable around him too. He slowly reaches out and lets her grab one of his fingers. When she smiles at him and laughs, shaking his finger, he suddenly smiles. It’s a good look on him, I prefer it to the surly scowl that’s always plastered on his face when I see him.
Slowly he takes Pandora in his own arms. She happily babbles her baby talk at him and pulls playfully on his long hair. He seems mesmerized by her and I can’t help beaming proudly as her mother. “I have little fondness for our Crown Prince.” He suddenly says to me as he continues to stare at Pandora. “But I follow him because of his ideals. I would like to see a future where this little one can live freely without fear.” He looks back to me now as he hands her back to me.
“Yes. It’s my hope as well.” I nod at him. “I… do not trust Lord Diavolo. At all. But I will try my best and do my part in establishing harmony for the Three Worlds. It’s the only future where Pandora will be accepted…”
“Having one pact is annoying enough. I have no desire to forge another.” He suddenly huffs.
Um...what? Somehow me agreeing with him on something makes him think I want a pact with him?! “I didn’t say anything about making pacts.” I huff in return. Honestly, I feel I already have a lot, once they’re all restored again. Who needs more of that rollercoaster of emotions? “I’m not my grandfather.”
“Hmph.” Astaroth snorts. I’m not sure if it's amusement or disbelief. “I suppose I’ll take your word on that for now.”
“Okay then, I’m glad we agree.” I sass, suppressing an eye roll.
He gives me a smug smirk in return, before his expression settles into something more serious. “Instead I will offer you an oath. As long as I draw breath, I pledge to protect this child and you, as her mother, to the best of my ability.” He vows to me solemnly. I can only nod and accept his oath, feeling too emotional and moved to find the right words. His features soften again. “Pandora.” He chuckles, “A suitable name.” He nods with amusement and approval.
I notice my grandfather looks curious as Astaroth and I return together, talking in a friendly manner. Lily looks surprised for a moment and then her expression softens with a knowing smile. I definitely have to talk to her about this later. My D.D.D. starts buzzing, Mammon is waiting to come home. So I leave Pandora with Lily, knowing she could use the distraction.
When I return with Mammon, he loudly greets Astaroth with. “Yo Astaroth! What’re ya doin’ here, mate?” And a clap on his shoulders.
Lily looks at Mammon with wide, surprised eyes and I can assume that her own Mammon wouldn’t have ever interacted with Astaroth this way. Astaroth eyes Mammon suspiciously, his relaxed posture becomes stiff and formal again. “Refrain from touching me.” He practically growls, his eyes cold again.
“You’re always such a grump!” Mammon laughs loudly, then he turns to Lucien and me. “Ya still didn’t answer my question, Leila. What’s for dinner? I wanna brag to my brothers who have to eat Beel’s offal stew with the pickled harpy organs he’s been savin’! Ahaha!”
“Where’s Solomon?” I ask instead. “Don’t tell me he’s…”
“Damn.” James curses. “He must have slipped away to the kitchen when we were all talking and playing with Pandora…”
“Oh no, oh no!” I run towards the kitchen with Lucien following me with determination. “He’s going to cook a ‘healthy heartening’ meal for James and Lily that’s going to KILL them!!”
“We got this Leila! I have an idea!” Lucien shouts suddenly. “Come here, Mister Oink! Come to the kitchen with us! Come on!”
Sir Piggy squeals in excitement and makes a run for the kitchen just like us. Smart! To Solomon it will look like we’re chasing our wild little Shadow Hog around the house. Haha!
When Lucien opens the door, our little piggy storms inside, excitedly snorting straight up to Solomon who was indeed cooking… who knows what, really? Completely running him over. Solomon is able to balance himself and the pot he was busy with, but then Lucien and I pretend to tumble over each other, because of Sir Piggy who is still excitedly snuffling around in the kitchen.
Our combined forces make whatever Solomon was cooking fall to the floor and Sir Piggy is immediately on top of it! “Thank you Leila!” I hear him as he dives in Solomon’s food.
“Sir Piggy! Are you sure?” I ask him in animal language. “I don’t want you to get an aching tummy!” I try to get our little piggy away from Solomon’s ‘poison’, but he protests.
“I want to eat it, Leila.” He tells me. “It’s really nice.”
“Alright then.” I pat our piggy on his back and turn to Solomon who stands next to us, looking with a pouty face how Sir Piggy is slobbering up the meal he was cooking for us. “The good news is, nothing has gone to waste.” I smile brightly. “Sir Piggy loves your food, Solomon!”
“Really?” Solomon beams proudly. I’m not sure if it's something to be proud about, but eh. He’s happy. “Let’s make some more for everyone then!”
“No, no.” I tell him, shoving him out of the door. “It’s Lucien and my turn to cook. You have to spend some time with your great-granddaughter.”
Meanwhile, back in the Living Room…
I watch as Mammon looks after Leila in surprise before turning his gaze over me and Lily, I notice the way his brows rise as he notices our torn, dirty clothes that we haven’t bothered to change out of yet.
“What the heck happened to you two?” He asks, loudly.
“They were ambushed during training today.” Astaroth answers for us. “They fought well but there were some complications.”
“Huh? What sorta complications?!”
Mammon carefully steps around Pandora who is happily playing with Chimera on the rug between us. He lifts Lily up like she’s fragile and sets her back down on his lap. I try not to laugh when he nonchalantly rests his hand over her middle. I watch as his expression turns from pensive to relieved. “I’m okay.” She tells him quietly, patting his arm, none the wiser to his true thoughts.
Astaroth has scooted away from them on the couch, scowling. I tiredly tell Mammon a few details about our rings and Leila’s plan. Not really wanting to explain everything all over again. I gloss over the details about Lily’s outburst that cost several lives. She looks like she might start crying again.
Astaroth growls with impatience. Apparently not appreciating the way I’m telling things. “Lily ended a few worthless lives in self-defense.” He bluntly tells Mammon. “And while I agree that you must learn to control your emotions and magic,” He tells Lily, his tone softening the slightest bit. “You have nothing to feel guilty over.”
Mammon seems at a loss for words for a moment. I don’t know what he’s feeling through their pact, but I know Lily enough to know she’s not going to agree with Astaroth’s sentiment on the matter. A life is sacred, enemy or not.
Solomon rejoins us then, Leila must have been successful in her pursuit to stop him from wrecking our kitchen and guts. Mammon gives him a glower, but doesn’t say anything. Knowing that our Solomon never would let us do something if he thought we couldn’t handle it. Knowing that Leila will scold him if he treats Solomon with less than respect. Solomon notices Mammon scowling however, and gives him an apologetic squeeze on his shoulder. Yeah, that might work on Mammon. Now. Just because they know each other better now, but I doubt this will work on the others who don’t know Solomon so well yet.