The evening sky was painted orange by the time Arilev’s carriage turned the gravel road to the abandoned house he had scouted out a few days previously. The conditions were hardly what he was used to, with the house made of rotting wood, eroding stone, and surrounded by the forest of Earth. It was a far cry from the perfectly pristine, pure white Celestial Palace he was used to. That being said, it was a hardship he would have to endure, if only for a couple of hours so he could get the information he needed.
Officially, Arilev had been explicitly banned from doing what he was about to do. It was far too dangerous, even for someone as skilled with handling demons as he was. But, there was too much to lose if Arilev’s plan didn’t work. Allowing a spy to fester in their ranks as long as it had was bad enough – but the fact that the council had denied him his methods to directly learn who the spy was was a bridge too far. All the official denial had done was solidify Arilev’s desire to do it himself.
The horses slowed just as they arrived outside the house, Arilev having compelled them to deliver him right here without need for a driver. As he stepped out of the coach, his great wings finally bloomed behind him, having been stifled and crumpled horribly during the four hour ride from Munich, where he had set down. He gave them a little flutter to exercise their muscles, and feeling satisfied, he made to meet with Raz.
The demon had come ahead by several hours just to ensure that the house was prepared to Arilev’s needs. Now, he stood stiffly and expressionlessly outside the door, waiting for Arilev to speak first. Arilev admired Raz from a distance for a while. Raz had been his first high profile purification, and was still the one Arilev was the most proud of. Raz stood at about the same height as Arilev, around 200 centimeters, but that’s where the similarities stop. Most notably, as opposed to Arilev’s almost luminously white skin, Raz’s skin was a deep red, and covered in scars and bruises from where Arilev had beat him. Still though, Raz had a strange beauty about him, and while his skin was obviously blemished, his form was clear and strong, making him an opposing yet attractive sight.
By far the part of Raz that Arilev liked the most though was his uniform, partially because Arilev had been the one who created and forced him to wear it. Even on its own though, Arilev liked it. It showed a remarkable amount of skin, with the only real covering being a golden-white loincloth around his waist and a prominent golden collar around his neck. The collar was very thick and bore the inscription “Raz, the purified general. Owned by Arilev” upon it.
As he approached Raz, Arilev made a motion with his fingers. Raz immediately noticed it and kneeled as Arilev approached. He cupped his hands out, holding his chain leash and presenting it before Arilev. Arilev smirked and reached to take it, pulling at the demon as he entered the house.
“How did the set up go?” Arilev asked, as he made stock of his new surroundings.
“Very well, Master. You will find the materials You requested on the table waiting for You,” Raz replied, walking behind Arilev with his head faced subserviently downward.
“Good boy,” Arilev praised, patting Raz on the head with a smile on his face. “Stay outside the house for now,” he ordered, “If I need anything, I will explicitly come outside and tell you. Otherwise, no matter what you hear within, you are not to enter.”
“Yes Master!” Raz responded enthusiastically, as Arilev put the handle of the collar into his mouth. Raz left to kneel outside and keep watch.
It was finally time. Weeks of planning, having to conspire just to get some of the materials he needed, having to plan long in advance the few hours away from his duties that he would need to complete the ritual. Seeing that the chalk, herbs, and sacred metals had been placed along the table satisfactorily, Arilev took a piece of chalk and began to draw across the floor of the large empty room.
For years now, Arilev had been the finest purifier. The art of taking the demons that the Celestial Host had been fighting for millenia now, and forcing them to serve. The concept wasn’t anything new, it had been used with some limited success in the past, and of course the demons tried to use it constantly, albeit to little success on their own. But purification was never really viewed as a weapon, merely a method of last resort. All that had changed though, as Arilev had taken to using it as the main tool in his arsenal. Before long, he had gotten himself a pretty little group of purified demons and forced the council to pay attention to him. Nobody else was nearly as good as he was, but with the approval of the council he had managed to purify bigger and more powerful targets. Nothing was even close to as large as what he was trying to purify now.
Dragging the chalk across the wood floor, Arilev checked constantly to make sure he was creating a proper circle. Normally, he could just use magic to do it, but Arilev didn’t want to take any risks with the magic reacting in an unexpected way and summoning the demon when he wasn’t ready. So, Arilev drew the circle by hand. After successfully completing the large circle, Arilev moved a little bit away and began drawing the smaller circle. It was absolutely imperative that this be done with the utmost care. If he attempted the summoning and a circle wasn’t drawn properly, then rather than summoning the demon in a cage, Arilev would be letting a demon loose on Earth.
There was little chance of that happening though. Arilev had more experience dealing with demons than pretty much anyone else. He knew how to handle them and their common tricks. The council simply didn’t appreciate this, they didn’t understand how easily manipulable demons were once you knew what you were doing. With a satisfied smile Arilev finished the second circle, knowing he was doing both what he knew was right and got to go over all the needlessly cautious desk jockeys who didn’t know a thing about what it was like out on the battlefield.
Gazing at his work, Arilev admired it for a moment, before moving back to the table to grab the incense. Slowly but surely, Arilev took a few steps, shook the bottle of incense, and then repeated. He repeated the methodical process until he had reached one wall, before turning around and going back, until he had covered the whole room in this way. Spreading the incense as evenly as he possibly good, Arilev returned to the table, grabbed the herbs and metals, and stood in the smaller circle.
Taking a deep breath, Arilev closed his eyes and let the overpowering scent of the incense surround him. He stayed like this for a long moment, breathing slowly and deeply, just accepting the atmosphere that he would have to be so familiar with. Then, when the time felt right, Arilev began to chant. He hardly knew the words that he was chanting, things that had seared themselves so deep inside his mind that he could hardly recall what they even meant, things that exited his mouth without even trying to speak them. As his chanting grew louder, he began to throw the herbs and metals at random around the room, not even thinking when or what to throw, simply using the time that felt right in the very bottom of his being. There was no sound of the metals hitting the walls or floor.
A controlled demon summoning was more of an artform than an advanced scientific endeavor. Arilev didn’t so much memorize a complex ritual, but attune himself to the world around him, letting himself feel when the time was right to perform an action. Letting himself feel what would bring Hell and Earth closer together in this one spot.
And that time was coming very quickly. Arilev felt his wings start to prickle – a sure sign that something demonic was near. Waiting nervously, Arilev began to chant even louder, shouting at the top of his lungs in some language he couldn’t understand, when it was time. Time to call the name of the one he was calling.
“VRAFELIN!” he shouted, letting everything out, the few remaining herbs and metals in his hands being thrown into the air. With that, he opened his eyes.
The room looked oddly similar to before. There was no soot covering the walls, no strong scent of fire in the air, no obvious sign that a portal to Hell had very briefly appeared within this very room. No sign, except for the demon currently seated in the center of it.
Arilev wasn’t exactly sure who Vrafelin was. He had no major books or articles about him like every other prominent demon did, and there hadn’t even been a description in the paper Arilev read about him in. The only thing Arilev did know about Vrafelin was that Vrafelin was a member of the Rogues – Hell’s espionage agency. A few years ago, Vrafelin’s true name had been leaked to the Celestial Host, but the council had been too cowardly to really do anything with it and so it had just languished away. Getting access to the document containing it had been one of the main difficulties in preparing this summoning.
Finally though, Arilev was able to gaze upon the one he’d been planning to summon all this time. For their part, Vrafelin appeared tall, even more so than Arilev, and powerful. Their red skin was noticeably toned even through their uniform, and their figure stood extremely confidently, even as they had been teleported without warning into an abandoned living room. Vrafelin’s uniform was an elaborate sight. It was made of black leather, and full of buttons and pockets and hooks. Beside that though, it covered remarkably little, especially when compared with Arilev’s full toga. Vrafelin’s entire chest was visible, along with most of their legs, arms, and stomach. Across their head, lay a small band of gold.
“Speak your name, demon,” Arilev commanded.
Vrafelin flinched upon receiving the command – no doubt feeling the extreme pressure to obey for the first time. “Vrafelin,” they spat out, “Although everybody calls me Fel. Who are you and why have you called me here.”
Arilev ignored his question and continued, “What is your job within Hell.”
Fel waited a moment to respond, which must have been torture under the pressure to obey that the summoning cage enforced. “I change.”
Arilev furrowed his brow. He had never seen any demon start skirting the limits of what the summoning cage allowed so quickly. This was going to be a bit more difficult. “What do you change.”
“Why don’t you come over here and I’ll show you,” Fel replied as a smirk spread across their face.
Not bothering with a response, Arilev just waited. That wasn’t an answer and the demon knew it. The summoning cage would force a confession out of them soon enough if they tried to resist.
Except, that confession never came. The angel and demon just stared at each other, Arilev desperately hoping for Fel to blurt out an answer. Instead, the demon casually layed down on the ground and closed their eyes. This situation stayed for a few awkward moments, with Arilev just staring down at Fel, totally unsure of what to do.
Before Arilev could answer that question though, Fel stood up again, looking a bit more confident than they had been.
“I appreciate your patience,” Fel finally said, “I managed to get that awful noise out of my head telling me to just do as you say, such a bother really. Now, what’s really going on here?”
Fel began to walk forward and Arilev opened his mouth to say something, before watching Fel run straight into the forcefield created by the chalk.
“Ah,” sighed Fel. “I see now. I’ve finally been summoned. And by an angel no less, what an odd occurrence, I thought you all were forbidden from doing so.”
“Tell me what you change,” Arilev tried, exasperatedly holding out a hope that Fel was lying about being free from the influence.
“Well, clearly I can’t just do that. It looks to me like your main source of control over me is just about gone. Sure you’ve got me in a cage, but I assure you I can stay in this cage far longer than you can stay away from your duties, Arilev of the Chains. I don’t know what you want, but you’re going to have to work with me if you want even a chance of getting it.”
Arilev almost smiled upon hearing his title thrown back at him, reminding him how good it was going to feel once he got this demon under control. Unfortunately though, for now Fel was right.
“Fine. But do not labor under the impression for the moment that you will be set free here.”
“Of course not, why would I ever do that? Now, the first order of business. I want you to formally introduce yourself, pretend like we don’t both know intimately who you are and what you have done.”
He sighed, but complied. “I am Arilev of the Chains, the foremost purifier in the Celestial Host, taking total power over multiple generals and high demons. And you will either answer my questions or be added to my long list of purified property.”
Fel laughed for a moment. “Such lofty expectations, I really appreciate it. I suppose I’ll give you an answer then. I change minds. It helps to root out dissidents… and any spies the angels may have sent.”
“How do you change them,” Arilev demanded, the initial purpose of the summoning temporarily forgotten.
“Well obviously I can’t just tell you that. Besides, I’m sure you’ve got your own methods that are plenty effective, surely more than anything a measly demon can do. Do you mind if I call you Lev, by the way? I can’t stand the you angels’ names sound.”
Arilev hummed as a way to stall, unsure exactly where to go from here. “No, refer to me as Arilev. I give you the honor of referring to you how you are called.”
“Fine, fine. What is your purpose with me, then dear Arilev.”
“The Rogues have placed a spy high in our ranks. I want to know who it is.”
Fel smiled slyly, “Surely you can’t just expect me to tell you who it is then, can you? Your position isn’t nearly strong enough to force anything like that out of me.”
Arilev knew that Fel was right. At least, they were right for now. In order to take the information Arilev needed, he was going to need to use all of the tricks he had learned over the past several years for subduing demons.
“Oh? Are you sure of that,” Arilev retorted.
“What do you mean?” Fel asked, seemingly unsure of themself for the first time.
“I just think that you’re oddly confident in the strength of your position. Clearly you know about my reputation. How many other demons were feeling exactly how you do right now? How many others of far greater strength were exactly as cocky as you, only to wind up on all fours confessing eternal loyalty to the Celestial Host?”
Again, Fel appeared to fall back. Their stance gained less confidence, although they still stood taller than Arilev.
“I’m sure some did. I’m sure plenty thought themselves stronger than you, only to be proven wrong. But. I will win.”
“You don’t believe that. Don’t kid yourself, you know you’re nothing but a merely lower officer in the Rogues. Destined for a life of pretending you engage in the espionage the Rogues are famous for, but spending most of your actual time filling out paperwork. You are nothing. Quit pretending otherwise.”
That was what really put Fel on the retreat. They stepped back a little more than a meter from the salt circle, and returned to sitting in the middle. Fel sat down, and just stared at Arilev.
“Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps you’re wrong. I think I can do it.”
“Oh come on, quit the act. Look at how far you’ve backed down, vowing that you would not budge one inch, and now giving up that you are both weaker and lesser than those I have purified before you. Give me what I have come for and I will let you go. Otherwise, I get to use my preferred method and you will tell me willingly with empty eyes and a smile plastered across your face.”
As one last act of defiant resistance, Fel merely sputtered, “No.”
That was that. Their spirit had been broken, as was so clearly obvious to Arilev. With that, he stepped out of the circle. Breaking it would be the point where Fel would be able escape, had they wanted to. Now though, it was clear that Fel was in no state to do so, and indeed they merely continued to sit, refusing to speak.
Arilev sauntered over to Fel, imagining all the horrible things he planned to do to them, all of the ways he was planning to use this Rogue agent, to create a new trophy for his collection. And that’s when he felt a new presence in his mind.
The force was totally unlike anything he had felt before, so much stronger and more well trained. It was a skill he knew some demons had, some had even tried to use it against him. Getting into an angel’s mind and forcing them into positions they would never normally allow themselves. But normally, basic mind fortification would be enough to prevent them, a skill that was required for anyone who wanted to get anywhere in the Celestial Host.
Even with Arilev’s fortifications though, the intentional warding of his mind, this force was unlike anything he had encountered previously. It seemed to be ramming against the walls of his mind, and he was paralyzed, unable to move forward. The whole world around him seemed to disappear, all his energy being required to sustain his mental defenses, to repair the cracks in his armor. And yet, even with all that. Even with his vision fading away, even with his limbs going numb, with all of that focusing on his mind, to try and prepare for the next assault as they just kept coming, to try and stop what Arilev feared was inevitable, they just kept coming.
His mind continued to resist, but the resistance was becoming harder by the moment. The assaults were rhythmic, every few seconds a new one coming, bashing against his mind, making him believe that this would be the time he broke, before receding, giving Arilev a scant few moments to recuperate. Arilev had no idea how long this continued for. He had no way to tell time, no way to count how many waves had bashed against him, no way to ascertain exactly how long he might be able to continue holding out for. All he knew is that despite his best efforts, each attack left a few more cracks in his defenses that he wouldn’t have the energy to repair.
After some time, some unimaginably long time in a space where time seems to have lost all meaning, Arilev noticed movement. Not movement within his mind, but movement from the outside world, the one he was barely able to see, the one that was too fuzzy to make out exactly what was happening, there was movement. There was absolutely no way he had the energy to move anything, and so he desperately hoped with the little capacity he had left that somehow, someone had found out what he had been trying to do and was coming to stop him, to save him. This hope was misplaced.
Fel stood up. Slowly, with a great grin across their face, they strolled over to Arilev, all the time the assaults on his mind kept him paralyzed, barely cognizant of what was happening. Fel stood over him, as Arilev had fallen to the ground, and just stared. The greatest purifier of demons, stood crumpled at their feet. Smirking, Fel quickly reached down, grabbed Arilev by the neck, and forcefully lifted him into the air by it, coinciding with the greatest mental barrage they had unleashed yet. There would be no more resistance.
Arilev’s defenses were totally blown through. All of the cracks that had been forming over the assault suddenly gave way, as a torrent of power rushed through them, combined with the physical sensation of being lifted and vulnerable, he never had a chance. The energy rolled through his mind, running around it, doing laps, crashing through any thoughts that Arilev tried to form before he even realized what he was doing. All he could do was dangle in the air by Fel’s hand, unable to even create a simple sentence.
Eventually, the total power receded a little. Not completely of course, but enough so that Arilev was able to see and form thoughts again. He briefly tried to reform his defenses, but even a halfhearted attempt at that caused the power to rush back in again, incapacitating him. And all the time, while he could still theoretically move freely, there was a voice in the back of his mind, pressuring and manipulating him in ways he didn’t yet understand.
Fel began to chuckle and dropped Arilev to the ground, where he fell into a pile.
“Oh how low you have fallen, you once powerful thing.”
Lost in how to respond, Arilev just looked up at Fel, furrowing his brow.
“What, have you forgotten how to speak in this experience? Has the revelation that you are not some miracle worker able to tame any demonic spirit rendered you mute?”
They were mocking him, and Arilev knew it, and he couldn’t do anything about it. And, perversely, there was a part of him that liked it. A part of him, somewhere deep down, that was aroused by it. He knew it was the voice in his head, the thing whispering at him to submit and give up, but he could not give in. Even now, as he was beaten, he could not do that. To be captured by the enemy is bad enough on its own, but to give in, to be corrupted, was the most dishonorable thing that could happen to an angel. He could not allow that to happen under any circumstances.
“I have nothing to say to you,” he replied defiantly.
With that, all Fel could do was laugh. “Oh? You know now that you are helpless before me. You know that as easily as snapping my fingers, I could have you paralyzed, a worthless sack of flesh for me to use. And yet you will try to resist?”
“Yes,” Arilev spat out.
“Good. It will make this so much more fun.”
Moving swiftly before Arilev could respond, Fel leaned over and yanked him upward by his wings. Arilev screamed in pain, but refused to say anything else. Fel pulled him even higher, until Arilev was forced to stare Fel in the face.
Whispering in his ear, Fel said, “Now, I want you to understand what is going to happen to you. I want to watch you as I tell you and I see the fear in your eyes. I am going to remake you. I am going to remove the parts I don’t like, add on new ones, and change anything that’s left. Both of your body and mind, I am going to leave every mark I can on you. Every crime you have committed against the demonic race is going to be repaid in flesh and thought as I corrupt you more than any angel has been corrupted before. I am going to fuck you and rape you and beat you and use you until you are nothing more than what I have decided you are to be. Do I make myself clear?”
There was nothing in Arilev’s eyes but fear. He struggled to get away, to do anything that might save him from his fate, but there was no use. He screamed, screamed for Raz to save him, screamed for someone from the Celestial Host to arrive, screamed for some passing Bavarian peasant to help. But there was no one coming. There was never going to be anyone coming. His fate was sealed.
Feeling his prey helplessly resisting, the grin grew further across Fel’s face. Without warning, they threw Arilev back onto the ground. Putting their boot on Arilev’s neck, Fel leaned over and pulled a knife from their belt.
Grabbing Arilev’s head and forcing him to look them in the eyes, Fel spat on him. “Welcome to your new life. This is going to hurt. You’ll thank me someday.”
With that, Fel let go and turned their attention to Arilev’s back. Those pretty angelic wings, one of the great hallmarks of their kind. One of the great sources of pride, the majestic things unrivaled by anything else. Fel took their knife and moved it to where the wings met the back, and began to cut.
The moment Arilev realized what Fel was doing, he began to scream and to shout and to struggle. But he could do nothing. He was helpless against Fel. And even worse, as he could feel his precious wings grow looser, as he screamed louder and louder, the pain becoming more and more unbearable, he found that a part of him liked the idea. He was being changed. For the better?
It only took a couple of minutes, but it felt much longer. Feathers covering the floor, Fel soon held their prize, separated from Arilev’s body. A pretty pair of angel wings.
Satisfied for now, Fel placed a hand on Arilev’s head and teleported the two back to Hell.
End of Part 1