• Astaroth stepped over Zargos’s now still corpse into the library they had wound up in. There were books and pages everywhere, scattered and torn throughout the room. As he walked amongst the shelves he tried to read some of the titles of the literature. None were labeled; no titles, no authors. Just scraps of information tossed together to form a jumble of ideas.

    As he passed one shelf, he noticed there was a single book on it. It was bound in crimson leather that had been burned off in a few spots. As he flipped through the pages, he found it was information he already knew far too well. For some reason, there was a copy of the code to follow for souls like himself and his brother. The Book of Shadows was a compilation of rules and regulations that restricted the already rough life that was experienced when being born a Shadow.

    Unlike normal demons, Shadows were expected to surpass all others in every way thinkable. Their power was to be unmatched, both in physical combat and in the use of various arts. Strategy was also a very crucial part of the life of a Shadow. Since most were the leaders of armies or mercenary bands, they needed to be able to think tactics on the fly and over the course of battle. Due to this, the first main block of life was spent just on tactical training.

    There was a catch to being a Shadow however. There were extreme precautions taken to ensure that the abilities they needed were lasting ones. Solitude was almost an absolute. You could interact, but never could you achieve something closer than a friendship. With the constant wars amongst the humans, this became a grave problem for most Shadows. As with all restrictions, most found a way to compassion past a friend. Unfortunately, it was almost always with a human. This was even more unthinkable, as the interaction between the two groups was not something even be thought of.

    Due to all the chaos caused by these events, there were changes made to the book. Exceptions were allowed to the normal flow of things. You were allowed two of these exceptions and once they were used, they were set for good. These weren’t simply handed out though. Exceptions must be fought for and proven constantly. As Astaroth finished skimming the section, he felt an odd tingling in the back of his mind. Following it came a strange voice he had never heard before.

    “I guess you’re seeking salvation,
    Nothing but damnation,
    Left for you,
    If you choose the wrong direction.
    It’s a brand new feeling,
    Sacrificial healing.
    Like a U-turn out of the blue
    Once you’re strong enough to face it”

    The voice was soft and sweet, almost singing to him. Where it came from or whom it belonged to, Astaroth didn’t know. It wasn’t Elspeth’s. Certainly wasn’t Amon’s. He flipped in the book a few more pages to the section about transcending the elements. It wasn’t something that happened often. But every now and then, someone from the dark was brought over to the light or vice versa. As his eyes left the page, the voice returned to him yet again.

    “Are you escaping the dreaming,
    A life without meaning,
    Left for you,
    If you choose the wrong addiction.
    Let me tell you a story,
    Without a blaze of glory.
    The darkest days are through,
    Once you taste my love you’ll make it”

    Again the voice left him in a fade, sounding ever so sweet as before. The last line lingered in Astaroth’s head as he let go of the book. Moments after it dropped to the floor, Astaroth followed. He was on his knees now, his entire body shaking. This was not something he had ever experienced, nor was it something he even understood. Astaroth tried to stand, but his legs refused to move. Slowly his eyes shut on him. When they reopened, his hands were now pressed against the floor and spread out.

    There was sweat dripping off his head, forming a puddle below the strands of hair the droplets come from. He could see the floor below him disappearing, turning into air in his fingers. Eventually there was nothing but black all around him. Once in the abyss, he was held up by some other force. Every joint in his body was extended and held stiff in its’ place. The only point of motion he had was at his neck, which allowed him to look up and down. Above him was a single drop of light, not even enough to shed light on Astaroth’s face.

    His head dropped back down, his chin tapping against his chest. He held one eye open to gaze at what was below him, the other was clasp shut. Beneath him, several dark claws were grasping at him, just barely falling short of his legs. Still the words lingered in his head, distracting him from his current situation. Astaroth still had little idea what was going on at the moment. All knowledge he had built up had left him, leaving him with the soft words spoken by a foreign voice.

    There he remained, caught between a glint of light, and the ever present and prevailing darkness below. As he played the lines back over in his head, he noticed the claws lost their strength. Their attempts to grab at him lessened, their length reducing with each second. Finally they faded into the ground, leaving a dull red crack in the floor where they had once been. Above him, the faint flicker of light was expanding in diameter.

    Eventually he could see again, though he was still distracted from too much detail. As the darkness faded, the air around him was filled with the ever-growing light from above. Slowly he felt his joints loosen up and return to their previous state. As he gained motion, he also felt a slight pressure back in the bottom of his feet. He was back on the floor.

    Astaroth looked around finally, hoping to find out what had just happened. As his hands appeared in sight, all became clear to him. He could see the black fabric on his fingers turning to dust. As the fibers blew away, they were replaced with white and gold linen. He looked down at his legs and saw that his once baggy pants were now replaced with a reinforced armor with the same decoration as his gloves.

    A few footsteps were heard when Astaroth let his brain recognize what was happening to him. He was being brought over to the light. The footsteps grew louder, but seemed to have no owner. Just to be certain, Astaroth glanced down at his own feet to make sure they weren’t in motion. As his gaze trailed back up, he met a rather shocking image. There before him stood a tiny child.

    She had fine white hair that covered her face entirely. A simple white garb was tossed on her for clothing. She stood there for a moment, looking him over. Astaroth too looked at himself to see just what she was looking for. There was no longer any bit of black or silver cloth left on his body. Only his hair remained jet black. As he returned his gaze to the child, he saw her mouth move behind her hair.

    “You who have slain the Seven Winged Seraph, we praise you not only for your efforts, but also for your success. For such an action, you shall now hold the title. Surely you won’t corrupt it as the last did. But before we can be certain, one test will be in effect” she said in a monotone. It seemed as if someone was talking through her. Astaroth tried to imagine what kind of task it would be. If he was to be the new Seven-Winged Seraph, it could possibly mean stopping Amon.

    As he went to open his mouth in questioning, he felt he was no longer on solid ground. Indeed, he was now falling through the air. Where he was to land, he wasn’t sure. But the sensation of plummeting from such a high place, then the thought of contact wasn't exactly appealing to him. Then a thought occurred to him. He was a Seraph now; a Seven Winged Seraph at that. As he thought of this, he felt several shifts in his shoulder blades. From them emerged seven large white wings. Though they had been released, they didn’t spread correctly right away, so his descent wasn’t stalled much.

    Slowly he managed to force them downward and gain some resistance. The presence of wings was a new concept to him, one he would have to master quick. Just as he felt the last wing start to angle itself out, he noticed something upsetting. He was far too close to the ground for it to matter anymore how much resistance he had built up. Crashing was inevitable now.