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tell me everything

By the Great Sulfur Sea

(Realm of Hades, Beauty’s Sanctuary, Date Unknown)

In the fallen kingdom of Beauty, a pale red sun rose slowly, chasing away only part of the eternal night. Almost destroyed in the great rebellion, the red dwarf shed its feeble rays on a devastated world.

Once the most lovely of seven realms, Beauty’s kingdom was now a desolate habitation of unclean spirits. The fallen Seraph raged in her vast cage, forever hateful towards those who cast her down from heaven. Whereas once all served the bright and shining one willingly, now she enforced her will only through fear. Still full of outward allure, her heart held only bitterness and hatred. Much of her legendary power stripped, she could still send any of her immortal minions, without mercy, to within a short distance of the Great Sulfur Sea. All knew that to disobey her was to burn.

Tell Me Everything

A divan hurtled across the great hall, breaking into splinters upon the opposite wall, as Beauty screamed, “Tell me everything! Why isn’t Brenzel dead?!”

On the floor, kneeling between two large Hellions, a bald, pitiful female cowered, trembling uncontrollably, having just emerged from her punishment. Most of her immortal body still healing, the stench of her burned flesh lingered.

I saw her with my own eyes

“Your majesty, I saw her being taken up to the gallows with my own eyes,” the naked woman said weakly, desperately trying to gain control of herself. “If I can only answer correctly…” Penchant thought feverishly. Rage cascading out of the nearly 8-foot tall Seraph as she paced the chamber, Beauty’s wings flashing various shades of red.

Voice raspy and cracking, Penchant thought back to what she assumed would be Brenzel’s last day on earth. As she recounted the whole story she thought to herself, “How had it gone so wrong?”

The mission was simple enough

“The morning of the hanging, I awoke in the bed of my assignment’s former employer. The mission had been simple enough, ‘Seduce the man who kept Brenzel as a mistress, prevent him from falling in love with her.’ To those who kept watch it had become apparent that the young girl was with child and my mission then took on a new urgency. I knew that while destroying a nascent Seraph was important, preventing future generations from being born from one was essential.”

Unholy seduction

Truthfully, James Chesterfield, a middle-aged gadabout, wasn’t much of a challenge. The bachelor was merely a boy in a man’s body, living on his deceased father’s wealth. Through a predilection for drink, he steadily gambled his small fortune away. A simple bat of Penchant’s green eyes, a little too much leg, and he noticed her immediately. Having lived in ancient Rome, Penchant marveled at how such slight cues could arouse a grown man’s desire.

However, the tall, brown-haired woman took no chances. She seduced him just as her master had taught her, offering the promise of pleasure, but always pulling back at the last second. Over the course of a week, he was panting like a randy dog, promising Penchant the moon.

Glancing up as she recounted her tale, Penchant thought she detected a hint of amusement on her majesty’s face. A slight glimmer of hope awoke in her chest.

Oh, James!

Going for broke, Penchant narrated, ” ‘Kind sir, what type of woman do you take me for?’ I pouted as I leaned forward, my bosom staring up into his eyes.”

” ‘No, you mistake me, gentle lady, I assure you my intentions are only honorable,’ he said. Then, getting on one knee, the bumbling idiot proposed to me on the spot.”

” ‘Oh James!’ I exclaimed as he produced a golden ring, saying ‘Penchant, will you marry me?’ “

“From then on, your majesty, it was a simple task to suggest that his housemaid, Brenzel, should go. ‘Darling,’ I said in my sultry tone, ‘I’m bothered by your maid. The way she looks at you makes me feel quite uncomfortable.’ “

” ‘Whatever do you mean?’ James asked, feigning ignorance at first…but after a week of pestering, he dismissed Brenzel.”

Beauty, listening carefully, sat on the remaining divan, looking intently at her captive. Her only words were, “Tell me how she suffered.”

With child

Lying in bed the same morning of Penchant’s request for her dismissal, Brenzel had already made up her mind to tell James everything. Having missed her time of the month twice, she knew she was with child; his child. Feeling her belly, she thought of how she longed to be a mother again. Life had been cruel to her by taking her husband and young daughter with the fever five years ago, but maybe, just maybe, this baby would be a second chance at happiness.

However, James’ housemaid harbored no illusions about his character. Though well-to-do, he was given to pleasures of the most sordid kind. Drink, the company of loose women, and gambling all occupied most of his waking hours. The mornings after he always woke with bitter remorse and a splitting headache, swearing never to do it again.

Though still young, at 22, Brenzel was a realist. Even if James provided for her and their child, she could never hope for marriage now that he’d wed. Her father, poor and barely making it, would never be able to afford two more mouths. If only James would provide some small support, a fraction of what he gambled weekly, she would be content to clean and cook for him while Papa tended her baby.

Being brave

Making James his favorite breakfast, she called him to the table. Though his new wife was cold and aloof, Bren reasoned that James was a good man and would take care of her and his child on the side once he knew the truth. However, as the older man sat dejectedly at the head of the table, she sensed something was wrong. Bren sat down cautiously next to him, waiting for him to speak, making up her mind to be brave.

After a moment, and not having touched any of his breakfast, James said, “I must ask you to leave.”

Shocked, and beginning to fight back tears, Bren looked at him with clear hurt in her eyes, saying, “Why M’lord, what have I done?”

Looking down, James said, “You’ve done nothing wrong, it is just that my wife can’t abide your being here.”

Bren felt her heart grow cold, and in anger said, “I clean, cook your meals, you bed me often, and on someone’s whim you rid yourself of me?!”

No escape

Mr. Chesterfield looked around as if trying to find an escape route, as Bren stood abruptly. “I gave myself to you, willingly, loving what little was left of you!”

Eyes furtive, darting here and there as his head hung lower, he said nothing. Bren eyed the candelabra, imagined bludgeoning him to death with it, but remembering her delicate state, simply cried.

No mercy

Penchant continued her story, “From there, your Highness, my target sank lower and lower into ruin. Returning to her father’s hovel, she gave birth to a girl child in the midst of winter. I was certain that both would starve, but unexpectedly, she gave up the girl to a local nunnery. Afterward, with nothing left to live for, she found work at the town brothel. It was later that we were able to tempt her to bury an ax in the back of the head of a customer, the local Baron’s son, after he viciously beat her. She was arrested immediately and sentenced to death. Everything was going to plan, and I was certain she would be executed within a fortnight. . . “

Coughing, voice cracking as she trailed off, Penchant tried but failed to speak further.

Motioning to one of the servants, Beauty commanded, “Give her something to drink, I want to hear the rest.” Dutifully, Penchant received a cup of water, consuming it eagerly.

Execution

Gaining a bit of strength, Penchant said, “On the date of the execution, I arrived and stood with the rest who gathered to watch. It grew cold and windy that afternoon, as we all heard the massive doors creaking angrily open. Finally, Brenzel emerged from the prison, half carried by the large guard escorting her. She appeared very sickly, her eyes lifeless.”

“With assistance, she mounted the gallows and the hangman fitted the noose. A priest – not one of ours – stood with her. As they were about to open the trap door, lightning flashed, and I saw an angel with wings that spanned the scaffold. I heard a shout, then a thunderclap, as an invisible force pushed out, causing everyone in the crowd, including myself, to fall backward. I’ve never felt such power before, except of course, in your presence, your Majesty. When I managed to stand again, Brenzel, the priest, the guard, and the angel were all gone.”

Exactly how do you mean gone…

“Exactly how do you mean ‘gone’?” the livid Seraph asked as her eyes flashed red.

Fists clenching, Penchant said, “Disappeared, your highness; vanished. They could not have left on foot, not in her condition, not that quickly.”

Beauty, seemingly satisfied, reclined back on the large divan, forefingers tapping her lips, concluding, “So, she had help.” Pausing for a long moment, as the room held its breath, she decreed, “I find no fault in your methods.” Addressing her nervous servants, she ordered, “Take her away, wash and clothe her, then send her back to her sisters.”

As Hellions grabbed her roughly, the relieved woman didn’t even wince in their powerful grip. She’d escaped torment for now, and that was all that mattered.

Evil’s got a blind spot

Wings retracting and folding into her back as she stood, Beauty turned and walked out of the Great Hall. Passing through a massive door of ancient beams and wrought iron, she stepped on to the balcony of her Sanctuary. Looking up into the deep red sky, she wondered to herself. “Why did an ordinary Seraph warrant such attention? Heavenly beings hardly ever reveal themselves to mortals unless those mortals are of special significance.

Below her citadel, acidic waves crashed against the ancient basalt flows, the foul smell of rotten eggs permeating everything. Several hundred leagues to the east of the city gates, that infernal Sulfur Sea created by YHWH boiled relentlessly, poisoning everything. Pondering, questioning, reasoning, Beauty could not understand why they saved that lowly, wretched girl.

It was Him!

Turning abruptly from the great expanse, Beauty’s eyes widened, realizing, “I couldn’t see what she was. I…COULDN’T… SEE IT because HE WOULDN’T LET ME! I missed her significance completely!” Runes up and down her body glowing the color of molten lava, she said, “He veiled her future!” Letting out a deep, guttural growl, red pressure waves pulsed outward, causing bits and pieces of the aged walls to fall as they shook. Calming herself, Beauty muttered, “It was Him, I know it!”

Wheeling around and entering the great hall with haste, she commanded, “Ready my full escort: We leave for Eden at once!”

SEOISB.