(Author's Thanks: Edana and Final Rose for reviewing.

Author's Notes: Sorry for taking so long! All of the characters wanted to be depressing, and I was trying to figure out a way to get everyone into the chapter without doing an overload on your senses. Yes, another character is introduced. Dang characters that insist on being created! Anyways, enjoy the chapter! Yours, Cinaed)

Oistin Leir

By Cinaed, Born of Fire

Chapter Fifteen: Thee I Choose of All the World

Deiondre staggered up the stairs even though each step had begun to feel like hundred-pound weights had been chained to his ankles. So many questions were swirling around in his brain, enough to make the teenager dizzy and want to cling to the railing. He had to get upstairs and call 911, but….

Who had harmed his father? Would Bastion really be sent back to the asylum? What did Samoel have to do with all this? How had Oistin known to come running to his house with his sword in his hand?

Deiondre had a feeling he wouldn't like the answers to any of the questions. His hands tightened on the railing, but for all his attempts to stay steady, his grip loosened just as he tripped on the last step. His throat too tight with anxiety to let him utter a word, he felt himself begin to fall backwards—and then inhaled sharply as powerful yet gentle hands reached out and caught him.

"Be more careful, darkling." The words were a mere whisper as Samoel drew the teenager from the stairs and into the hallway. His gaze was dark with anxiety, and he held Deiondre close even after the boy had recovered, close enough for him to inhale and smell a scent of freshness that seemed to cling to the immortal. "Your neck would snap so easily…."

He stared at the angel. "You went to save my father from whoever was beating him to death," Deiondre said flatly as an odd numbness began to move through him. He couldn't even summon up a scowl, just a vague expression of awareness.

To his surprise, Samoel flushed and looked almost ashamed. "Yes, I did." The angel looked away for a moment, and then whispered, "Please don't tell him it was me who saved his life. I don't want the recognition for that deed. It is best to forget what I did, my darkling…."

"My name," the teenager said in a weary voice as he thought of his bloodied father downstairs in the family room, "is Deiondre."

At that, the angel released him and looked childishly hurt despite his earlier words to forget the entire thing. "But—oh, I see. There will be no thank-you for saving him then." His chocolate brown eyes held shadows of misery and rejection, and he paused for a moment before he said a low tone, "For your sake, I hope he lives."

Deiondre stared at him for another long moment, during which Samoel shifted awkwardly under his gaze. "Do you really? I'm beginning to think that you expect me to be grateful for everything you do, Samoel. You appear in your human form to show me that little trick and expect me to be awed." Which he had been, of course. "And then you stay in your mortal form just to show that you can keep it up rather than showing me your true form. Now you tell me to forget about saving my apparently shameful father's life and then look hurt when I don't thank you." He folded his arms against his chest. "Just because you're some blessed angel doesn't mean I have to worship you, Samoel. I am thankful that you saved my father even though you didn't want to, but Oistin would have saved him if you hadn't."

Samoel shrank back at that, became smaller, less impressive. He was like a hurt puppy who'd dragged a muddy stick into the house expecting to be praised but who had been severely scolded instead. "But I only meant—I was simply—" Anger suddenly replaced his dejection, and he scowled, menacing. "You are not worth this effort, darkling. You aren't!" He grabbed Deiondre's shoulders but despite his furious words, his hands were still gentle. "You were amusing for a while, darkling, but not any more. This is too much." His grip tightened a little, and his eyes unfocused. "Too much," he whispered again, softer now, and then vanished as he had in Deiondre's room.

The teenager stared. He still felt the presence of the angel's hands on his shoulders, as though the immortal had simply gone invisible and was still in the hallway with him. The numbness had settled down in the pit of his stomach and made him nauseous. He almost gagged before he steadied himself and hurried to his mother's room to use the phone, with a final whispered, "My name is Deiondre." His father needed help, after all, even if it meant Bastion would have to go back to the insane asylum. Surely Oistin could just break him out again….


Oistin ran as fast as his feet would take him. His feet pounded the cracked pavement at a frantic tempo, spurned on as Perdita spoke, her words serene. He had meant to leave her on the Swift's floor, but she had somehow appeared in his grasp.


"Shut up," Oistin said aloud, and increased his pace, hurtling himself forward fast enough that his sight blurred and he could pretend that his tears came from the wind stinging his eyes rather than his own grief.


"Shut up!" he snarled. "Shut up, shut up, shut up…." And then there was no breath left to snarl, and so Oistin simply ran as though he could outrun the angel's voice inside his head.


"You…saw Ammon?"

Lethe looked away from her father, almost ashamed at the hope that had hoarsened her father's voice. He was an Ageless One, damn him! He shouldn't be so fond of his traitorous brother. "Yes, I saw him. He mocked me, Father! He scorned the Assembly!"

Jaalam ignored her words, too eager for news about his twice-fallen sibling. "And how does he look? We often teased each other about aging as mortals did. Does he have white hair?"

"No, silver—but that isn't the point, Father!" Lethe said, coming close to a growl of frustration. She struggled to maintain her temper for she knew the consequences. "He Fell for a mortal woman and has had two sons with her! They'll age like any mortal, no idea of their heritage, no idea of the power their father gave up for their whore of a mother!"

The demon lord's royal purple eyes glowed with delight, and he almost bounced in place. Any of the young demons who might have stumbled across him would have thought him their age, not a Firstborn. His round, cherubic face was bright with wonder. "Silver? It must look like he has moonlight in his mane…."

"Father!" Lethe shouted the word, and her father finally looked at her rather than through her. "He is Twice-Fallen! You know what that means…."

"Yes," Jaalam said slowly, "but you wouldn't…." He trailed off, eyes widening. "Who did you tell, daughter?"

The young demon squared her shoulders and forced her tone to be even. "Mordechai and Xenophon."

In an instant, the demon lord's entire demeanor changed. Those cherubic features hardened, sharpening the planes of his face. Everything about his visage was as sharp as a gem, especially his eyes, which were as hard as royal purple diamonds. An aura of fury shoved Lethe back a step or two, and the enraged man said quietly, "You told Xenophon and Mordechai?"

Lethe didn't even see the blow coming. One second she was glaring in defiance, and the next second she was sprawled on her back, ears ringing. She couldn't even summon up a whimper as her father's boot shattered a rib. At the second rib, the young demon managed a choked, "But Father…." She lost her ability to speak and instead cried out as he kicked her again, this time the steel tip of his boot driving into her jaw and knocking a few back teeth loose.

"You told Xenophon and Mordechai. You told on my brother, stupid little bitch! Did you really think I'd be proud of you? Did you think I'd say 'job well done'? You are nothing compared to him or your brother! Nothing!" Jaalam snarled the words as he kicked her sprawled form again and again, shattering bones and blood vessels with every blow.

Through her dimming vision, she could see the blankness on her father's face and wanted to sob even as blood trickled from the corner of her mouth. It was that look that earned Jaalam the nickname of The Two-Faced One. One moment he could be the most cheerful of the demon lords, almost kind, and the next second he would overwhelmed by bloodlust that stole every thought except the intent to kill the one particular person who had invoked his wrath. Spitting out a shattered tooth, Lethe whimpered. In the past, only her uncle and her brother had managed to draw him from his murderous rampages. Now, neither one was here to save her.

She was going to be maimed within an inch of her life, since even an Ageless One could not kill a fellow immortal. But she would be shattered, her bones never quite mending, trapped in an eternity of pain. Would she choose to Fall then, if just to die and escape the agony? Or would she slip away and become an Echo like her foolish brother? "Father…Father, please!"

"Lord Jaalam!"

Lethe knew she had never, ever been so grateful to hear Xenophon's voice, and that she never would feel this utter relief again. She struggled to lift her head, uncertain of where the blonde's voice had come from. A boot nudged at her bruised form; he was right beside her.

"Lord Jaalam, with all due respect, she was only following the law of the Assembly. Please, do not throw your daughter's life away like this," Xenophon said, in an ultra-respectful tone, but Lethe was surprised to hear an odd weakness to his voice.

Jaalam's tone was ice-cold, but the heat of his murderous aura struck Lethe like a blast of fire-heated air. "Leave me be, Xenophon. I see you have done battle. Did my brother draw your blood before you slew him like the cur you are?"

"He is alive, milord. We did not harm him…much. He is still living, though slowly dying from the curse of mortality he accepted during his second Fall."

There was a long pause, in which Lethe closed her eyes and wondered at her luck, and then Mordechai spoke, his voice low and filled with quiet fury. "He is protected by Samoel. While I appreciate your concern for your brother, my lord, you must understand that Samoel is out of bounds on this matter." There was a 'as are you' that went unspoken; Mordechai didn't want to face the Two-Faced One's fury any more than the next demon.

The demon lord was silent for a moment, but at least he'd stopped kicking Lethe. She'd just started counting the broken bones she had felt break when he finally spoke. "Yes, yes he is. Is he the one who stabbed Xenophon?"

"Yes, my lord," said Mordechai. "I do not know why he has allied himself with a Twice-Fallen, but if he's allied himself with Ammon the Traitor, who knows who he'll ally with next…. Just think if he were to assist the Beast-Slayer!"

Jaalam suddenly laughed—the sound was loud and boisterous, and Lethe knew that his rage had been bottled up once more. She was safe, for the moment. "That would be quite a quandary," he agreed, and then laughed again. "He could probably take out all of the lesser demons in one battle! I almost wish to see it! Still, I shall have to speak with him. Xenophon, tell the Assembly for me. I will take matters into my own hands. After all, he seems…fond of my brother."

There was a sudden emptiness in the air, the sensation that a powerful aura was no longer nearby, and Lethe knew that she was alone with Xenophon and Mordechai. She gasped and struggled to sit upright; a strained sound escaped her lips as her broken ribs protested. The demon touched a cautious hand to her cheek, and felt the space where two back teeth had been knocked from her mouth. She would certainly have a bruise on her face in a few minutes. "Samoel…protected Ammon?" Lethe spoke slowly, trying not to aggravate the agony in her mouth.

"Yes," Xenophon growled. "I wish I could see Jaalam tear his wings from him. Might I go and tell the Assembly, Mordechai?"

The green-haired demon eyed his companion. "Once you've stopped bleeding." He looked down at Lethe, and smirked. "I take it you said something your father didn't like, lovely?"

She glared at him. "I told him I'd sent you two after Ammon the Traitor. Believe me, he'll want…words…with you two once he's finished with Samoel." Lethe was pleased to see both demons go pale. She struggled upright, grateful for her strength. If she'd been human, she would have been overwhelmed by the extent of her injuries: four broken ribs, two lost teeth, a shattered radius in her right arm, and countless bruises. She flapped her wings experimentally, grateful to see that they had sustained no damage. The demon looked up at Mordechai and Xenophon. "Take care. The Assembly will be very disappointed if you both are too injured by my father to protect the Beauty-Slayer."

Before they could respond, Lethe closed her eyes and thought of Solange. She had so many things to tell him, nothing of which could wait.


Toya pressed her palms against her eyelids for a moment and pretended the pressure would relieve her of the anxiety she was feeling. Surely Deiondre must have called the ambulance by now! Toya glanced towards Bastion's unconscious form, and felt pity for the boy. She would have to hide him when the ambulance arrived. A true Seer shouldn't have to spend his entire life caged.

Of course, she had known something was off when 'Deucalion' had said he'd moved in with his cousin and her husband at the age of twelve and later on Deiondre had said that 'Deucalion' needed to sleep over to avoid his uncle. Toya hadn't questioned it though. She had assumed he'd made up a lie about his family, having some trouble at home—she had just never expected him to be a fugitive from an insane asylum.

Still, she turned back to Ammon after a moment. A gentle hand smoothed his graying mane away from his face, and Toya smiled gently down at him. "It will be all right, Ammon," she whispered to her unconscious husband. "It will be all right." It didn't matter at the moment that she was not trying to reassure her husband but instead herself. Reassurance was needed, and there was no one else to tell Toya that things would work out for the best. "Deiondre will hide Bastion, and you'll go to the hospital…."

"You need someone to hide the child?" A melodious voice spoke from behind her, and Toya jumped. She whirled, instinctively crouching over her husband's form to shield him from whoever had snuck up behind her.

She saw bright crimson strands first; they framed a dark, dark face. Toya had a fleeting glimpse of cherubic features before she looked into eyes of royal purple and was caught. These eyes were ancient, and held the promise of eternal laughter—both cruel and kind—within them. She licked her lips. How many times had Ammon murmured of his brother, a demon with dangerous, dangerous eyes? "Y-You must be Jaalam. I would say it's a pleasure to meet you, but seeing as you're here to kill my husband, I'll refrain." Toya was proud at how steady her voice was.

The demon chuckled, and the sound was as pure and deep as a plucked harp-string that had been perfectly tuned. "Relax, my mortal sister. I am here to help, at least for the moment. What would you have me do as aid?"

It had taken time for Ammon to break a habit of speaking in an archaic, high-handed manner, and it seemed Jaalam had never even attempted to break that habit. It took Toya a moment to understand him. "How do I know you're not here to kill Ammon?"

The demon smiled, and something within Toya made her instinctively tremble with terror at the sight of that smile. "If I was here to do so, he would already be dead." Those purple eyes peered past her, and drank in the sight of the unconscious police officer. "He is really going to die." There was something…beneath Jaalam's words, an emotion Toya couldn't quite define. Of course, it couldn't be wistfulness!

"Yes, he is, but not at the moment. He's going to heal up in the hospital and live until a ripe old age, by mortal standards," Toya said. She had to resist the urge to move between the demon's gaze and her unconscious husband. How could he really be here to help her?

But he seemed sincere as he asked again, "How may I aid you, sister?"

She swallowed. "Could you…could you carry the boy upstairs to his bedroom? When the ambulance arrives, I don't want the medics to recognize him." Too late, she realized Deiondre was still upstairs. A chill ran down her spine. She didn't want this…demon to see her son! What did demons do about half-demon, half-humans anyway? Ammon had never answered her question about that.

But it was too late; Jaalam had already snatched up the Seer's limp form, beamed at her, and begun to trot towards the stairs, his wings rustling. To yell for him to stop would rouse his suspicions, and so she simply stared, praying that Deiondre wouldn't intercept them.


It was about the third block or so that Oistin's bad leg finally gave out, and he tripped. There was a moment of breathless panic, and then he gasped as he slammed against the cold cement. Chest heaving, he blinked away tears and tried to keep ignoring Perdita's voice.


Oistin glared at the sword, which had fallen from his grasp and onto the damp grass beside the sidewalk during his fall. "Mr. Swift told me to stay away from him!" he almost shouted when he finally had his breathing under control. "Just shut up!"


"I must nothing! I'd only make him spiral into a deeper level of confusion, with the Beast contamination lingering on my skin." Oistin stared at the back of his hand, and suddenly wanted to claw at the unblemished skin, strip away the outer flesh and get to the muscle and bone beneath as though the corruption was only as deep as the skin. His sword hand rose, fingers curved, he went to claw at his other hand and—

A melodious voice froze him in place. "Oistin?"

He looked up at Solange. The angel's expression was one of dismay. The very sight of the anguish in those violet eyes made Oistin want to cry. So he did, burying his face in his hands and sobbing on the rock-hard sidewalk as Solange stared.


Jaalam wanted to laugh. This frail mortal felt weightless in his grasp. Why, a feather couldn't weigh more than this child! He gazed down at that calm, still face, and recognized the sharp features of death and despair in the smooth planes of the boy's visage. What had this child been through to carry the weight of such loss on his face? Jaalam wondered what he would see in the boy's eyes if he woke. Would he see the death of this boy's loved ones?

He shook his head. Thirty years since he had seen his brother, and he had let himself get distracted by some mortal boy. Really, what sort of brother was he? Jaalam shifted his grip on the child, and paused halfway up the stairs when he realized that there was someone else in the house besides him, his burden, his brother, and his brother's wife. There was someone upstairs, taking in quick, uneven breaths. That someone was trying desperately not to either sob or have a panic attack, perhaps even both.

Jaalam almost flew up the stairs, his interest peaked. Depositing the boy in the nearest room, he fairly slunk towards the place where the other person was. The door was ajar, and he peeked inside. There, amid books that looked as though they'd been thrown aside, a boy sat, his head resting against his knees. An instrument mortals called a phone was atop one of the books.

The demon recognized the boy instantly. He had the same caramel flesh of his father, after all. So this was….

It was only then that Jaalam realized he'd never asked Lethe for the names of his nephews. He was silent, fascinated by the way his nephew's frailty seemed to radiate from him. It was in the way he hugged his knees to his chest, and even in the way his jet-black strands fell to shield his face. There was something appealing about his frailty though—it made one feel protective. Was this how Ammon felt about his lover?

The demon lord shook his head. What foolishness! Anyone weak deserved to die. It was as simple as that. If Ammon's son was weak, then demons like Mordechai would eat him alive, and there would be no cause for anyone to save him.

His nephew took in a deep breath that shuddered its way through his body, and then spoke quietly to himself. The whisper was easy enough to listen to, with Jaalam's demonic powers. The words made him wrinkle his brow in puzzlement, though, for the demon lord did not have the gift of mind-reading.

Oblivious, the boy repeated his mantra again, the words broken and filled with an odd despair. "I didn't mean it…. Come back and call me darkling. I really didn't mean it…. Brag all you want. Please come back."


Samoel reappeared over the ocean, tumbling for a moment before his wings flared out and he caught a breeze, one which lifted him away from the swirling waters that would have loved to have drawn him into their endless depths. He had often wondered what would happen to a demon or angel who allowed themselves to sink and sink and sink until they reached the ocean floor where no light shone. Would they finally, truly be left with only memories of the sun, trapped within a realm of utter solitude? It sounded almost…peaceful.

He stared down at the sea, spiraling for a moment before another breeze pushed him back away from the surface. Samoel spoke to the ocean as if it were a living creature, voice soft. "The Romans called you many names, you know. Pelagus, Oceanius. They even had a specific word for the surface of the sea. It was aequor. Did you know that they believed that if they drowned at sea, their souls would have to wander by a river of the dead for 100 years before they could finally be judged?" The immortal was silent, and then said almost plaintively, "They could be right. No one knows where humans go, not even the Ageless Ones. Where will Deiondre go once he's dead? Where?"

He wrapped his arms around himself and flapped his wings, suddenly vaulting for the clouds. Grief for the loss he knew would eventually come overwhelmed him for a moment. His fluttering faltered, and he started to plummet. For a second, Samoel let himself fall, and then he threw himself upwards once more, suddenly desperate to be away from the alluring surface of the sea. It would be far too simple to just wrap his wings around himself and fall.

Too late, he remembered what the clouds were made of, and he screamed in a mixture of rage and agony at the sensation of soft water against his flesh as he burst through the clouds. The cold water burned at his skin, reminding him of a duty he had failed so many years ago, a duty far less important than Perdita's but a duty nonetheless. His hands flailed uselessly, trying to get the droplets off his skin. He flapped harder, and almost sobbed with relief as the wind whipped the water away from his flesh. Had Ammon felt this sort of relief when he'd looked down at his hands and realized that he would die?

He shouldn't feel this way! Deiondre, like all pathetic mortals, would die. That was the meaning of mortality. Samoel shouldn't care. No immortal should feel this way about a pathetic human! This was a weakness, a disease of the spirit that gnawed away at any little joys that Samoel had once clung to so that he could mentally survive these eons of life.

Look at what had happened to Ammon because of his weakness. All too soon Ammon would fade into oblivion and go…somewhere. Or perhaps just vanish. Perhaps he and his son would just fade away as though they'd never existed.

Invisible hands grabbed at his heart and dragged him back towards the clouds. He fought violently for a moment, and then screamed out his frustration before he gave up and shifted from one place to another, reappearing in the Himalayas. The air felt thin and weak against his wings, and he had to struggle to stay aloft with no breeze to caress his frame.

"He isn't worth anything!" he snarled at the uncaring, snow-capped mountains that were oblivious to who 'he' was. "He's just a stupid mortal, put on this earth to live for a flicker and die when the slightest puff of air comes along! Deiondre isn't worth my pain! He's useless! He's just a pathetic little half-breed that doesn't know what his father gave up for him! He doesn't know anything at all! I shouldn't care! I won't care! I DO NOT CARE!" The last sentence was a scream that echoed through the peaks. Softer, he added, "I will not care about him. He will not be my weakness. I will not be like my fool of a father. I am Samoel, son of Dhenuka the Beautiful, and I will not succumb to such a…a weakness as love."

He suddenly laughed. It was a harsh, desperate laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. Of course! Mother would save him! All he had to do was explain his situation, and she would tell him how to be rid of this weakness that gnawed at him. Samoel almost clapped his hands with glee. Throwing back his head, he cried out joyfully, "I shall be rid of him!" and was gone, leaving the snow-capped mountains alone again.

(To be continued….

Author's Comments:

The title is taken from a quotation by the Arabic poet Rumi, which goes:

"Thee I choose, of all the world, alone;

Wilt thou suffer me to sit in grief?

My heart is a pen in thy hand,

Thou art the cause whether I am glad or melancholy."


Yours, Cinaed)