To Rise Above

To Rise Above

Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

Summary

The final chapter of the His Redemption series. Matthias and Aurianna have found a home in Monsford, and a sanctuary in each other's arms. But the demon within Matthias fights against his bondage, and tempts Matthias with the promise of strength. Will Aurianna's love be enough to keep the demon at bay, or will Matthias give into his darkness?

Summary

The final chapter of the His Redemption series.

Matthias and Aurianna have found a home in Monsford, and a sanctuary in each other's arms. But the demon within Matthias fights against his bondage, and tempts Matthias with the promise of strength. Will Aurianna's love be enough to keep the demon at bay, or will Matthias give into his darkness?

Chapter8 (v.1) - Facing the Past

Author Chapter Note

Matthias surrenders himself to the order, and is greeted by an old flame.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 15, 2019

Reads: 26

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 15, 2019

A A A

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Matthias’ great regret was that he hadn't said goodbye. But, if he had, it would have sapped his resolve. He wanted to stay with his new wife, with his Ari. But he was a danger to everyone about him, now. His demon clawed at the prison of his mind –he'd sensed weakness and now fought hard for it. And with his demonic strength, and his magic, and the utter lack of morality and conscience, his demonic self would make an abattoir of Monsford.

And he knew what he'd do to Aurianna. The demon-sent visions weren't necessary. The same things he'd done to hundreds of men and women who'd been objects of his infernal pleasures.

He'd cut his own throat, first.

And so he fled, without saying goodbye. First on foot, until he had the presence of mind to call up elementals of earth and stone to bear him tirelessly. The spirits of the air or the river would have been faster, but he had no desire to test the Godslayer's goodwill with flight. And the blood of two dragons had made the river wild and chaotic.

It took a week to make the journey, perhaps a quarter of the time a horse would have needed. The Seraphin Wall glittered white on the far side of the river, and he stared at it with a mixture of hope and dread. There was no turning back, not now.

The lift descended down as he approached, and the demon clawed at his binding. Flee, resist, the demon snarled in his own mind, anything but allow the order to imprison him once again. Because there would be no escape this time. He would face justice this time, and justice for a decade as the demon traitor could only end in flames. He didn’t want to die anymore than the demon did, but this was best way to protect Aurianna. Still it was a struggle to restrain the demon as the paladin on the lift came into view.

It was Justine. Well, she might be willing to hear him out. She hadn't just put an arrow through his throat, after all. So, forcing himself to relax, he watched her hit the ground and jog towards him. "Where's Ari? Did something happen to her?"

"No, I mean, well..." He licked lips that were suddenly dry, all too aware of hiw easily even this petite paladin could kill him. "She's fine, although... well, aside from watching her father die front of her."

“We'd received word that he'd been slain by that bastard Jeoram." She spat, clearing her mouth of his name. "But I hadn't... no, that's not the point. Why are you here, Traitor?"

He bristled as the epithet stung him, then forced himself to relax. "Remember how I..." He swallowed. "How I bound the demon that, that attacked Ari? At Monsford?"

Her eyes narrowed. "Yes..?"

"It... he, escaped. Took me over, and–" Suddenly the world was a blur as something crashed heavily into his chest, hammering the air from his lungs. Justine knelt ab0ve him, an iron hand on his throat and steel in her fist.

"What did you do to her, you bastard?!"

"Nuh..." he croaked, scrabbling at her fingers as he struggled to breathe. The demon's laughter echoed in his mind.

"Hasn't she suffered enough at your hands?" Justine roared. "You took her to..."

"Nothing!" Matthias croaked out, eyes frantic. "Mykel stopped me!"

"Then why are you here?" she hissed. Her grip eased, but still held him fast.

"Mykel... Mykel bought me time," he croaked, still tugging at her fingers. They may as well have been a steel collar for all the good it did. "But the demon... the demon is growing stronger. I don't know how long I can hold him."

"So?"

He wasn't certain if the question was curiosity or apathy, but he pressed on. "I came to surrender. I came, hoping the demon could be bound, or exercised, or..." Giving up on freeing himself, he slumped into the dirt. "I came, because I know what I'll do to Ari, if he consumes me. To Ari, and to our child.”

He closed his eyes, steeling himself. "Take me to the Inquisition, Justine. Free me, execute me, I don't care. But my demonic soul has to be banished or slain, whatever they do to me."

She stood up, and dusted herself off. “Come on then, Traitor. The Inquisition awaits.”

 

Matthias had expected quite a number of things once he surrendered, but awkwardness hadn't been one of them. Not until he reached the top of the Seraphim wall and came faced to face with Rielle. Newly elected Lady Commander of the Order, Rielle. And being handed to his former fiancee, the one he abandoned because he sold his soul to darkness, qualified as awkward. And it became more awkward by the moment as she escorted him down into the Temple and back to the exact same cell this had all started in three months ago. "Do I need to have you restrained?"

Once, he'd have risen to the bait. Both of them had been quite dominant in bed, and both of them had enjoyed the feel of being restrained as the other used them. But now... "The Demonqueller Rune," he said. "And the Rune of the Chain. That way, even if the demon gets free again..."

I won't lay waste to half the Temple before you subdue me. He'd studied the Primal Language in Baath-Me'el's court, but he'd been too drunk on his raw demonic might to really embrace it at the time. He doubtrd he'd overlook it again.

Silence built into tension between them, neither of them quite sure how to handle these interactions. Rielle studied him for a long while, those piercing grey eyes seeing so much deeper than the surface. Despite his goading from the first time around, he found himself at a loss for words. Did he congratulate her on the recent promotion? Apologize for abandoning her a decade ago? Ask how long it took it took her to move on, or express regret that he married Aurianna, after how long their own wedding had been pushed back?

No, it was probably best to just let her speak first. But when she finally did…

“So, I suppose the wedding didn’t go over well?”

The bitterness in her voice was new, and he winced as he heard it. He'd put it there, after all. She blew out a long breath, “Sorry, that was uncalled for. Clearly you’ve been through hell…” This time she winced, but pushed through, “We didn’t expect you to receive you so soon. Or you at all, to be perfectly honest. But let’s start at the beginning. Tell me what happened in Monsford, the day Mykel died.”

"Killed," Matthias corrected by reflex. He'd always been a teacher.

"What?"

"Mykel didn't die, Rielle. That implies a peaceful passing of natural causes. He was killed. By that son of a bitch Jeoram, who decided to follow in my footsteps."

"He's a demon, then." It was a statement, not a question.

"Yes. He sold himself to Baath-Me'el, and has been rewarded with my old offices, it seems." He offered a sour mockery of a smile. "In a way, you could say, we are brothers now. He even commands the Ravenous."

Rielle pulled up a stool. "Tell me."

Matthias glanced around, then settled on the floor. "Not much to tell, although I can try to go into exhaustive detail later if you want. Jeoram and the Ravenous crashed the wedding. Mykel was the only one armed, and attacked Jeoram to buy time for me to try to wrest control of the Ravenous and for the others to arm themselves. Then things got... hectic."

He bit his lip, thinking. "I missed some of the details - speaking the Primal Language takes a lot of concentration. But Mykel acquitted himself well, for an unarmored swordsman fighting a man in plate. He was actually thr better swordsman."

"No surprise there," Rielle interrupted.

"No, not really. But Jeoram still skewered him with a hellfire blade, making a terrible wound mortal by stealing some of his life."

"So why are you here?" Rielle demanded.

"Because," Matthias answered, leaning against the wall, "I had to bind my demon soul within me. After Hydranes tore it from me in an act that was assuredly not mercy. He had to be caged, and I was the only thing to hand that would work. But... it fights me. And it broke free, in Monsford. Repossessed me. And Mykel used the last of his strength to put it back down. Temporarily."

He sighed. "I've been reinfected by a conscience, ever since Hydranes tortured me. And it would be so easy to give in, to return to what I was. To silence that conscience in demonic power once more. To be free of guilt and dread and self-loathing, to be strong and confident again." He chuckled, a hollow sound. "But, believe it or not, Matthias the man is terrified of what I'd become. What I'd do to my friends, to my wife and unborn child. Of what I could do with my magics and my demonic power."

Sitting up, he looked Rielle in the eye. "My demon soul needs to be put down, Rielle. For the sake of everyone. And..." he shrugged, "it doesn't matter what happens to me. I'm just the soulless husk of a damned fool, after all. More of a zombie that can think than anything else. My soul was consumed, a decade ago.”

She stared at him for a time, grey eyes probing not just what he’d said, but how he’d said it, his choice of words and tone and even his body language. “That can’t possibly be true.”

“What, that I have no soul? I saw –felt– Baath-Me’el rip it out, Rie. It’s not exactly something I can forget.”

"And yet you survived having the demon ripped from you, by Hydranes," Rielle countered. "Everything we know about the soul tells us that you should have died when your soul was removed. Everything." She leaned forward. "And don't talk to me of zombies, Matthias. You and I both know you aren't one. You'd be mindless if you were. How did you survive having the demon torn out?"

"I... don't know," Matthias finally confessed.

"Which is why we need to know." Matthias recognized her expression. He was a puzzle for her to solve, now. “We don’t know all that much about what happens when a human gives up their soul in exchange for a demon.  We’ve never had a chance to study the fallen, or to ask them any questions. We’ve never had a willing subject, or someone who has experienced it twice.”

He considered that for a moment. "I'm not possessed, not in the common understanding of the term. Once Baath-Me'el and his court had finished with me, once they'd broken me to the point that I was sincere when I begged him to take me, he tore my soul from my body." Simple words, placing a gloss on days of torture. "The demon filled the gaping wound that was left." He paused as an acolyte arrived, bearing a bundle of clothing. Rielle pushed it through the bars to him and stepped to one side, giving him a measure of privacy as he changed. That was the oddest feeling about all of this –the realization that the last time they spoke, she'd have insisted on watching. And 'helping', in a way that would have left them both needing to get dressed.

Now, though, the closest she came to those games was the way her fingers brushed his wrists ss she clamped the runes about them. "The tribunal will convene after Aurianna arrives with Mykel’s body. That is, assuming you want her to testify on your behalf”

"She... she should speak in my defense," he murmured. He had to look away, because he could see the pain in her eyes –distant and controlled, but there– as they both spoke of her. A decade, it seemed, wasn't enough to destroy the memories. For either of them. "And... her testimony would be invaluable for your studies. She, well, what she went through was the beginnings of what I was subjected to.”

 “Do you think anyone else would testify on your behalf? The reports from Monsford indicate that you were crucial in the defense efforts, which could provide mitigating factors to the tribunal’s judgement. You should consider calling upon those who were there, for their testimony.” Her grey eyes softened then, as if no longer made from cold steel, but liquid silver. “Every little bit would help, in this case…”

"I know the law, Rie," Matthias said, using her nickname without even realizing it. "And... I could call Clara, and Sue as well. And Justine and her two attack dogs as well. I don't know that I could count on any of them to testify on my behalf, but I can trust them to speak the truth." He chuckled grimly. "It remains to be seen how much of a help that will be, though."

“Get some rest. I’ll be back by tomorrow, to get a full exhaustive testimony regarding the events of Mykel’s murder. As well as more details about how your soul was removed. Both your human soul and the demonic one.” With one last look, she left.

Matthias watched her go, then settled down against the wall and looked around. The same cell. The very same where he'd been held, where he'd asked for death and where he'd first lain with Ari. Back when it had just been fucking.

The cell she'd been dragged from, to be brutally raped by her fiancé and her brothers in arms.

Stilling his thoughts, he looked inwards. The demon was there, waiting. "Think you're clever, don't you?"

"Think? No, I don't think I'm clever."

"Funny. But why do you flee me? We are the same, you and I."

"No longer."

"Bullshit. The things we did... I didn't make you do them."

"I know."

"I just gave you the strength, Matthias. The strength, and the freedom. And you can have that again, Matthias. You can be strong."

"I can be a demon, you mean."

"Yes! And why not? Power and freedom, Matthias. Anything you want! Keep Ari, if you wish. She's yours! Rielle as well! Have them both!"

"I'm going to see you destroyed."

"No. You won't. You need me. You'll see that. Soon enough."

***

“Rough day?” Edwin asked, tapping her shoulder. When Rielle looked up from the book she was nose deep in, he passed her a glass of wine.

“That is a generous assessment, yes,” Rielle noted, marking her place with a ribbon. Still, she smiled up to her husband. “I really should assign a new high inquisitor, before I am stuck pulling double duty.”

“You’d still be pouring through these books, even if you had someone else to do it. You have a new puzzle, and you won’t be satisfied until you solve it,” he concluded, smirking. She wasn’t sure if she should be proud or annoyed by how he’d picked up on her use of deductive reason. “Should I even ask what it is?”

“How does a human survive the sundering of his soul from his body? Twice?”

“So it’s about Matthias?” Edwin asked.

Scarlet embarrassment warmed her cheeks. “I’m sorry I…”

“Don’t be, I’m not jealous.”

Rielle blinked twice. “You’re not jealous? Not even a little?”

“Ok, I am a little jealous,” Edwin admitted, knowing better than to play the interrogation game with her, “but I also know what it’s like to lose someone you love. I love you Rielle, and I am very happy with you, but there is very little I wouldn’t give up to have my Gwen back. They say you never forget your first love.”

“Well, now I’m jealous,” Rielle teased, resting against Edwin’s shoulder, intertwining her fair fingers with his dark ones. He kissed her on her silver locks.

“I’m jealous, you’re jealous. Should I go down into that cell and make a big fuss about how you are my wife? That way he can feel jealous too? Who else can we pull into this jealousy chain?” he joked,  and Rielle couldn’t help but laugh. It felt good, after everything that had happened this day.

“You aren’t mad I am trying to help him?”

“That’s the woman I married, for better or worse. I know better than to get between you and your puzzles.” He kissed her hand as she drank her wine.

“And what would you do with me if you did get your Gwen back?”

“Oh, don’t worry. I’d keep you both.”

***

The time passed slowly at the temple, leaving Matthias in a sort of limbo between the hope that something could be done about the demon, and the fear that it wouldn’t matter anyways, if the tribunal decided he deserved death for his crimes.

Rielle had brought over some books the next morning, insisting that, “You might as well assist in this research, since you aren’t doing anything anyways. Besides, you owe me about a decade’s worth work as a researcher, and I intend to get as much out of you are possible before your trial.” She visited him every day, and, for a time, it seemed as if the years had rolled back and things were the way they had been. Except for the bars. And their respective spouses. And all the atrocities.

Today, however, she just brought two bowls of stew.  “Lunch?”

He stood, as she approached, realizing that he’d been looking forward to seeing her. And not just because of the growl in his gut. "I could eat, yes."

“You realize that this is more proof that you aren’t a demon or some sort of undead, right?” Rielle stated, handing him a bowl of stew. “Without blood, you should have starved to death already, but you are able to subside on food once more. Whatever Hydranes did to you, it changed your physiology.”

They ate in a comfortable silence for a time, but he could tell she was working through the problem in her mind. Finally, she pushed her empty bowl aside and pulled out her own notes. “I think we are on the verge of putting the pieces together, and it comes down to what happened when Hydranes sundered the demon from you soul. Can you elaborate on what it was like?”

He set the empty bowl aside. "it was... weakness, to be separated. My thoughts were unclear, my strength no more than that of an ordinary man. I experienced emotions I hadn't felt in a decade. Shame. Pity. Love.” With knowing it, his eyes flashed crimson, and he could hear the demon speaking through his voice. “And I could barely think. After a decade of clarity, I was a beast again, driven by hunger and lust. I was a shell of myself."

Matthias' hands shook a little as he picked up a book. "I've tried to tell myself that I'm better off this way, but... divided, I'm weak. A broken husk. And part if the reason I can't resist is that I want to be whole. And Aurianna loved me, as a demon.”

He fell silent, staring at the books in his lap. "That's why I need the Order, Rielle. Not because I can't resist, but increasingly because I don't want to

“You can’t resist, because… you want to be whole?” Rielle repeated, emphasis on the repeated phrase. She met his gaze, understanding sharp in her eyes, and she smiled, “That’s it.”

 

 


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