Day 57. 127 pages, 58,058 words.
“Okay,” Predericon said. They’d returned to the kitchen, although at this point they were all drinking water. The unspoken understanding seemed to be that if they started drinking frohu again now, they weren’t going to stop. “It’s been a solid year and a half since the Flesh-Eater was thrown to where Gyden found it. If this … whatever-it-is…”
“Demon,” Lelhmak intoned.
Predericon tried to ignore him. “If this whatever-it-is hasn’t-”
“Demon,” Lelhmak snapped.
Predericon capitulated. She’d known all along that Old Man Lelhmak wouldn’t be rolled over. “If this Demon hasn’t found us yet, then it clearly doesn’t have a way to track us or sense us. It’s either trapped in the Elevator, or it’s scouting at random across the surface like Gyden has been.”
“Hell and teeth, I might have run right into it,” Gyden said weakly.
“Or it could be capable of finding us and has no interest in doing so,” Predericon went on, “although that feels a little wishful to me.”
“Agreed,” Gyden replied. Lelhmak made a low sound of assent.
“Of those options … I don’t see how it can be trapped in the Elevator, to be honest,” Predericon continued. “It managed to punch a Flesh-Eater clean out through the hull without any apparent effort, so getting itself out should pose no difficulty. And it’s clearly not stuck in there by dependence on heat or air, because according to those final readings the platform has had neither for some time already.”
“So where does that leave us?” Gyden said. “We stay here until the sleep chamber runs down, and then stay a bit longer before we all die; we put together Lelhmak’s escape pod and leave one of us stranded and the other dead while the third goes for help that may not exist; or we go to the Elevator which may be overrun by a – a Demon.”
“And the Elevator might just swat us dead the second we turn up anyway,” Lelhmak said moodily.
“Or chop us to pieces like she did with her crew,” Predericon added. Lelhmak nodded.
“What even is a Demon?” Gyden demanded abruptly.
“Oh for goodness’ sake,” Lelhmak exclaimed, “didn’t you read anything about the Four Realms before coming here? Quick quiz: how many Realms are there?”
Gyden favoured Old Man Lelhmak with a glare. “Right now I’m going to go with ‘none’.”
Lelhmak glared back at her, then conceded with a grudging mm hm. “Okay. But neither of you read up on the Void theocracy?”
“We read it, Kedane,” Predericon said gently. “There was nothing about Demons in the official literature.”
“Well as the name might suggest, while Angels are human undead glorified by the Pinian God, Demons are human undead glorified – excuse me, diabolised – by the Darking Adversary,” Lelhmak explained.
“Was it imprisoned in the Elevator?” Predericon asked. “Maybe it got free when the platform went into shut-down?”
“Maybe it was catching a ride from Cursèd to the Castle,” Gyden suggested.
“Maybe we should ask it,” Lelhmak grunted, and poked at the database display with his lower hands. “Look, the official literature doesn’t talk about them because they’re one of those dirty little open secrets the Firstmades love so much. Like, they’re all eternal opposites and nemeses and all that, but they still go to the same cocktail parties and chat about mortals these days, you know?”
“No,” Predericon said.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Gyden agreed.
“This is the Firstmade equivalent of politics,” Lelhmak told them. “The Elevator ferries people up and down between these two deathly-enemy states, and everyone just pretends it isn’t happening. Free will. The right to choose. The Pinians put agents in Castle Void, and the Darkings ignore it. The Darkings put agents in the Four Realms, and the Pinians ignore it.”
“The Demons are Darking agents,” Predericon concluded.
“I don’t know,” Lelhmak said impatiently. “I don’t understand it much better than you two newborns. But no, they’re more like … byproducts. A necessary evil,” he barked a short laugh. “Literally.”
“The newborns are still lost,” Gyden remarked.
“God gets Angels,” Lelhmak said, “the Adversary gets to make Demons. And they sort of just hang around and stay out of trouble. So you’re not going to find them on any important database … but they’re part of the landscape if you know where to look,” he tapped at the interface again. “There,” he said, and pointed. “You see?”
Predericon leaned forward to examine the database entry, which was still fairly obscure. There were classifications within classifications within classifications, and the Demons seemed to be tucked away at the bottom levels of all of them.
In a way, it made sense – an unspoken and unacknowledged secret, indeed. And yet this was apparently a creature capable of demolishing at least the low-level internal security measures of a Godfang. One would think that the Pinians and the Archangelic court would be more interested in keeping tabs on them.
Unless things had gone far more horribly wrong than even Predericon had assumed.
“How many of them…?” she asked.
“Three,” Lelhmak replied. “Odium, Mercy and Fury.”
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while on the bus. Ooh, must be Wednesday!