Time: An Incredibly Long Time Ago
Place: Palace of Princess Ashtaroth, Hell
"Prince Shax, your shoes!"
For a fleeting instant, Shax nearly obeyed the call of his attendants, the ones who dressed him every morning so he could be presentable for breakfast with Mum. She was a princess and wanted him to look perfect at her table. Normally, he sat quiet and still while the goblin dressers bathed him, fussed with his hair and nails, and picked out the perfect clothes. But today was special and he couldn't wait any longer.
Today was his birthday.
He raced down the stairs from his tower and only slowed as he got close to his mother's breakfast room. Running in the palace wasn't allowed. It wasn't dignified and messed up your hair, Mum said. Shax tried to look dignified as he marched past the servants, but he wasn't sure what that looked like. He would get better at it. At least this year, he didn't have an attendant leading him by the hand as if he didn't know the way.
Mum already sat in her throne-like chair in her breakfast room of black velvet and obsidian. She shone like a star against the dark background and the notion hit
Shax for the first time that it was probably the point to all the black furniture and drapery.
Carefully so he didn't fall over, Shax gave her a proper bow since he knew how to do that now. "Good morning, Royal Mum."
One perfect white eyebrow arched at him. "Where your shoes, my princeling?"
"Upstairs. Mummy, I was too excited…"
"I suppose since your feet are perfectly shaped, they won't disturb the aesthetics of the room. Though I do hope you won't be barefoot all day. Calloused feet are so unattractive." She waved to his smaller chair beside him and waited for him to clamber up. There were only two cushions now instead of three to bring him up to the height of the table. "So my own little demonling, what would you ask of your mother for you birthday this year? You must consider carefully since your sixth birthday is an auspicious one."
Considering carefully had taken up most of his thoughts the last month. For his fifth birthday, he'd asked for his own nightmare. Mum had given him a spark pony instead, and told him he must learn to ride first. The pony was wonderful, but made him think about how his mother might react to this request or that.
"I would like my own minion, Mummy. You have lots of minions. I'd like just one because I'm still a demonling."
Mum broke the top of her egg and took a dainty bite before she answered. "I see. This is an admirable wish in a young prince, to want vassals of your own. But minions are a heavy responsibility. Their appearance, their words and actions all reflect upon their liege. You must be able to control them and to discipline them. For that, I'm afraid you're still too young, my own."
"Oh." Shax tried not to let his disappointment show, but a shaky sigh still got away from him. Always too young, too small. When would he be big and have beautiful wings like Mum?
"Someday, I will choose minions for you." Mum raised her hand and with an elegant wave, ordered one of the imps forward. "Today, I have a more appropriate present for you. One I know will please you."
The imp staggered under the weight of a strange stone box. Fancy holes were carved into the lid and the box seemed to be…squeaking.
"You may open it." Mum sounded amused, though Shax didn't know why.
He eased the lid back on its hinges to reveal a ball of glossy fur crouched at the bottom of the box. Shax gasped and bounced in his chair. "A hell kitten! Really for me?"
"For you, my darling prince. We will start with smaller responsibilities before we talk about minions, yes?" She leaned down so Shax could plant a careful kiss on her cheek.
The kitten uncurled to stare up at him with its gorgeous glowing red eyes. Shining black fur covered most of it, but its ear tufts, tail tip and paws were scarlet.
"What will you call your kitten?" Mum asked in that same amused tone.
Shax lifted the kitten from its box to set on his lap and feed little bits of egg. He considered the question seriously, before answering, "I will call her Mittens."
(Author's note: Shax would continue to name his hellcats absurdly inappropriate things like Fluffy and Socks and Spot his entire life.)
Time: Twenty-fifth century
Place: Earth, the royal precincts of Hell
Ashtaroth watched the destruction with varying levels of distaste, not the least of which was how incredibly filthy Lu would be by the time he was done. She stood on a high butte overlooking the plain where her only progeny's palace had stood of late, her imps holding a golden sheet above her as a canopy to keep off any stray bits of ash.
She'd had ample warning, of course. Her son had whispered hurried schemes to his companion, his garde du corps, and the stones of her palace had repeated those whispers to her. Too late to prevent her princeling's flight but in plenty of time to prevent wholescale razing of assets. Her army of minions had descended upon Shax's shining stronghold and had brought out the hellcats, cleared the stables, and packed up anything of value. The house minions had taken the hint and scattered.
Not three hours later, Lucifer had descended in all his glory and his rage, expanded to the size of a city block in his fury, black wings blotting out all light, massive horns curled and twisted from his temples. His claws ripped fissures into the earth. His eyes were black pits of madness. Ashtaroth, from her safe vantage point, breathed in the sulfur of his passage and longed to have him like this, at the pinnacle of his power. Foolish that would be, of course, and painful. Not to mention extraordinarily messy.
"My darling, stupid boy," she murmured as the palace went up, seared in the flames of his nib's howling tantrum.
Then she sighed and turned from the sight, impressive as it was, to make her way down to the throne room. Of course, Shax wasn't truly stupid. He was hers, after all, and she couldn't blame him entirely for fleeing an impossible situation. She was quite put out with him, nevertheless—one, for not confiding in her and seeking her counsel and two, for seizing on such an impetuous and precipitous solution. Permanent exile from the Earth herself, where his power would be diminished, his influence naught? Reckless. Not the done thing for a prince of the blood.
By the time she reached Lu's throne room of malachite and basalt, he had already returned to a more reasonable size and sprawled naked and soot-grimed on the steps to the dais. Imps fluttered around him, trying to wipe off the schmutz, but he kept batting them away. Naturally, after the monstrous tantrum came the depression. Some things never changed. He'd sulked and taken up postures of pitiable despair for weeks after the fall from heaven.
Vassago tried to warn her off, shaking his head, but she would have none of it. She was no cowering minion to wait upon the Dark One's pleasure or censure. She snapped her wings in tight to her back and began in her frostiest tones, "Lu, you can't just—"
"Don't tell me what I can't!" Lucifer bellowed, one eye hidden in his sadly snarled mane of ebon hair. He thrust a claw at her. "You! How dare you show your face! Your son betrayed me!"
"Oh, do stop whinging." Ashtaroth tossed her shining hair over her shoulder with a sniff. "You're such an infant sometimes. I'd no idea what my willful spawn was up to. And quite frankly, I don't recall being advised of your plans."
That single black eye swirled red with anger. "I owe you no expl—"
"Plans, my dear, that would have resulted in the certain death of my son," she cut across his bellow with her own, unmoved by his show of ire. "I don't approve of how he's handled the situation, certainly. Though I'm not best pleased with you at the moment, either."
Lucifer curled in on himself, hiding under his wings. And here came the waterworks, howls of misery to accompany his tears.
"Drama queen," some minion whispered, though impossible to tell which one.
Ashtaroth gestured to Vassago, who just rolled his eyes and stomped away, so she took a chance and approached. Her minions spread a cloth for her on the stairs so she wouldn't soil her silver gown and she gestured to the imps to clean off a spot on Lu's shoulder and wing.
When she had a clean space, she patted his broad shoulder. "There, there. I know it's a disappointment. We'll make plans for inciting warfare another day. Ones you share with your siblings, yes? In the meantime, you get yourself cleaned up, call session and declare Shax a traitor to the realm, banished for all eternity, so on and so forth."
Lucifer nodded. "Yes. For all eternity." He snuffled and hiccoughed on a sob. "With dreadful and complicated punishments if he returns."
"As complex as you like, Lu." She stroked the clean spot, careful not to go beyond where the Imps had wiped him off. "And then, consider that we have a prince of the blood out amongst the stars. Someone who can serve as eyes and ears beyond our reach. The reach of man is so far beyond us now. We need someone with more intelligence than the idiot pit demon mercenaries out there."
Lucifer sighed. "I know you're right. But I need to be pissed off for a while. I'll probably yell at you during session."
"Of course you will, dear. There are forms to adhere to."
"You are the best, Ash." He lurched toward her as if to put his great horned head in her lap.
She jerked the material of her gown away with a shriek. "No! Not until you're clean!"
"Oh. Yes. Right." He propped himself on one elbow and bellowed for his bath.
Thirteen beautiful succubae brought his golden tub. Thirteen gorgeous incubi slunk over to bathe him. Lu still moaned and complained throughout their gentle handling of him but at least he was doing instead of wallowing in depression. Sometimes being a princess of hell was quite satisfying, even fun on her most evil days. Some days, though? It could be quite vexing indeed.
About The Brimstone Journals
Extra treats for our Brimstone readers, Brimstone Journals will post every Tuesday. Short scenes from characters' lives before, after or during the stories.
About the Author