The Undertaker’s Daughter – THE FIRST FIVE

From Hell’s portal to a Lambeth basement, 1848

Cruel spikes dug into the tender flesh of his wrists, shooting a wildfire of agony through his veins and dragging him back to consciousness. A signature pain letting him know that blood magick was being used to restrain him. Acrid brimstone and harsh smoke assaulted his nostrils and battered the delicate lining of his lungs, making each breath an effort of will.

His eyelids were caked with thick mucous and he had to fight to crack them open. Smoke enveloped him, swirling in a black mass around him like the souls of a thousand sinners had been released to hound him. He stared deeper into the inkiness to see the faint glowing red of the underworld below him.

He could feel his arms outstretched above him, constricted by a thin crimson band knotted around his wrists that bound him and kept him dangling. Below his feet lay an infernal abyss of lava-like intensity. Hot air blasted away some of the cloying smoke, allowing him to see the brimstone and terrifying flames below.

His body flailed in the air, striving for release.

His consciousness reached out, seeking his brother-in-arms. Zadkiel.

A wash of violet light filled his consciousness. Here, brother.

I’ve been ambushed by Abaddon. Yes, that was what happened, he forced his mind through a labyrinth of memory that was nothing but a jumbled sequence of events.

Catching sight of the sharp-toothed, slimy-scaled demonic being stealing the Book of the Living Dead.

Grabbing his sword to dive headlong after the demon’s heels as it fled the celestial realms.

Plummeting downwards, tumbling and rolling to land, not in the expected domain of the underworld, but amongst a group of pitiful hovels.

Sprawling facedown on a cobbled street strewn with screaming, writhing human bodies spasming in death throes, with shriveled skin and sunken eye sockets in faces blue with oxygen deprivation.

Trying to ease their suffering had pried his attention away from the quarry he hunted. In those seconds a red haze ensnared him, covering him from top to toe, trapping his senses like a fish caught in a net. Now here he was above the bowels of hell, shackled by blood magick.

I was chasing the book. He sent the thought to Zadkiel.

You have it? Eagerness inflected the words.

He forced his eyes open past the thick crusting of mucous. Red-rimmed smoke covered him in darkness. He blinked several times trying to adjust his eyes to the shadows. No.

Do whatever you can to guard that book and return it to its rightful place.

I will.

Whatever it takes. The emphasis of the words flooded his consciousness with their importance. But take care you don’t lose your own salvation.

Tingling warmth reached out to him, sheathing him in Zadkiel’s purple glow as heat etched black letters across his chest. Take this gift from the Book of the Living Dead to remind you where to find your own salvation, should you fall prey to Abaddon and all else fails you.

His awareness of Zadkiel faded under the cloud of his own mental anguish. He lashed out at himself for his carelessness, struggling against his bonds. Leaping single-handedly after the demon without activating reinforcements had been rash. Now, there would be a price to pay.

From the enflamed smoky shadows below him, a figure glided upwards, like a huge serpent. It was enormous, it’s head raised from the thick coils of its body below until the face was only inches away from his own face, the forked tongue slithering between a lipless mouth.

Abruptly the fires of hell vanished, to be replaced by four stone walls, dripping with mildew and moisture and exuding a pall of stale, damp air. He sucked in the dampness to ease the pain of his burning lungs. He looked up to see his bound wrists were dangling from one of the heavy beams that crossed the basement ceiling. The stench of rotting damp mixed with the odor of rat excrement and unwashed humanity made him realize he was no longer in the celestial realms but tied to the physical world.

His vision adjusted, pulled back to human limitations and, instead of the hissing serpent, he saw before him a man dressed in a black frockcoat, wearing a top hat and twirling a cane between his fingertips. He looked exactly like a London toff except for his eyes. They were deeply hooded, sunk cavernously deep and glowed with a feral ruby glint.

The smell he exuded was even worse than the damp and rat excrement, it was like burned and rotting flesh that clung to him in a noxious haze.

“Abaddon!” The word erupted on a visceral growl.

“What do you think of my ingenuity, Sinclair? A cholera epidemic to scourge the streets of Lambeth. Thousands are dying. Too many to bury properly. So many unshriven souls, perfect for my plucking.” He uttered a nasty laugh, little more than a vicious snicker.

Sinclair struggled, flailing wildly, his wings beating strong to lift him in the air up to the ceiling. But it was useless for the blood magick that bound his hands was solid and fierce and unrelenting. This was not the blood of an animal, it had to be the blood from a human. An innocent. Only such a source would provide magick strong enough to bind a being of light.

He brought his body back down to dangle from his wrists, while his wings continued to beat, creating a backdraft that knocked the hat from Abaddon’s head and blew his coattails straight back. The wind did not sway the man in black, only his clothes.

“Enough,” Abaddon snarled. “You rely on those wings far too much. Let’s see how you handle not having them.” He signaled behind him and gliding forth came a ghost, its soul so blackened with perfidy that it could hardly be distinguished against the dark walls of the cavern. It hugged in its arms a sleeping infant which it held out to Abaddon.

Abaddon grasped the baby, cradling it in the crook of one arm.  Flipping his cane with the other hand the spring-loaded tip revealed a deadly blade.

Sinclair gnashed his teeth with frustration. Horror and fear battled within him. Using his wings as leverage, he bucked his body, trying to wrench his wrists from the thin red thread that bound them. Pain continued to lance through him, but he ignored it.

Abaddon raised the tip of the blade to the sleeping infant’s neck.

“Stop!” Sinclair’s voice sounded raw and hoarse within the basement confines, as though maybe it had been worn away by screams he could not remember. “Stay your hand, Abaddon! I will do your bidding without more blood magick.” The words cost him enormously to bow his will to that of his foe, the black-hearted demon, the fallen angel who was Zadkiel’s enemy and therefore his own. But he would not have the blood of more innocents on his hands.

Abaddon laughed. The laugh started softly and then built until it was a great belly-shaking roar that woke the baby. Its frightened wails echoed throughout the room. Then, so swiftly his actions were little more than a blur, Abaddon slit the infant’s throat and as the blood welled up, he replaced the cane with a sword that the ghost beside him provided.

Pearl-handled with a wickedly long silver blade, it was a beauty. The metal sang silently to Sinclair, vibrating in the very depths of his being. It was his very own sword!

Grasping the hilt, Abaddon dipped the sword tip into the baby’s blood and then shifted closer to Sinclair.

Sinclair used his wings to support his body as he lunged out, swinging his legs to strike at Abaddon, who stayed just outside his range, skirting around behind him. Sinclair changed the thrust of his body to kick backwards, feeling satisfaction as his booted foot struck home against Abaddon’s chest.

“Ingrate!” As the word howled across his lips, a searing pain sliced through Sinclair’s shoulder blades.

His mouth wrenched open in a scream so intense it reverberated around the stone walls. Brutal pain speared from his back, saturating his body, making his limbs jerk and tremble uncontrollably. His vision blurred, before darkening entirely, his consciousness lost in an incoherent buzzing.

Gasping, he forced his eyes open, looking downwards to see his severed wings heaped below his feet. Pristine, snow white feathers wallowed in the excrement lining the floor.  Benumbed with horror, he watched as the feathers browned at the tips, curling in on themselves.

Abaddon had hacked his wings with his own sword, using the power of the blood magick he had ripped from the innocent baby, leaving nothing but ragged stubs between his shoulder blades.

Sinclair’s back muscles twitched and knitted, as drops of blood trickled down his spine. A sharp point nicked against his skin, scraping upwards to soak the blood onto the edge of his own sword. As he felt the fight go out of him, his chest warmed and tingled beneath his shirt almost as though Zadkiel was reaching out to him. Don’t lose your salvation.

He gritted his teeth, clamping down on the sobs that pooled in his mouth.

When Abaddon reappeared in front of him, his eyes glowed redly with blood lust and satisfaction. He flung the baby to the floor, where it landed cocooned in his dying feathers, curling inwards around its soft skin, paling from healthy pink to alabaster white.

The black ghost glided up beside Abaddon, who still held Sinclair’s sword in his hand, its edge dripping with blood mixed from the innocent and his own sanguine fluid.

“You think losing your wings is the worst I can do to you?”

Panic now crawled up his skin, prickling his eyes where sweat clung and dripped from his forehead. Without his wings he would be trapped on this earthly plane with no powers!

With the ghost hovering beside him, Abaddon raised the sword, placing its blood-soaked tip against Sinclair’s face. Without warning, the blade slashed downwards.

Screams ripped from his throat as cold metal dug into his flesh. Slicing his face, cutting deeper in a jagged line through his neck, grating against his collarbone, biting through his chest until finally the blade struck his hipbone.

He could feel his flesh peeling away from his body, hanging open, only held in place because his bound hands stretched above his head, preventing the loose flesh from slipping to the floor.

His organs were still contained by his ribcage. He could hear his heart pumping and feel the blood pounding as it pulsed through his exposed veins. His sinews stretched under the peeled skin.

He felt his soul leaching outwards through his torn flesh. From the corner of his eye he could see the golden shimmer of his angelic being leaking upwards.

“Now!” Abaddon barked the order and the dark ghost floated forwards, its shape hollowing as it seemed to suck inwards.

The golden shimmer was pulled strongly forward into the hollow, like a cobweb blown by the wind. Appalled, Sinclair watched as the dark shade swallowed his own luminosity. The ghost’s blackness was shot through with golden glimmers.

“Your angelic brothers will now believe you have crossed over to the dark realms, for that is all your soul will reveal when they reach out to you.”