Arbitratus Short Fiction

On the eighth day of Fic-mas, an angel makes his case, disappointment sets up an eternal chase …

ScalesThe Letter of the Law

Lucifer’s patience drained away more rapidly as the hour drew nearer. Everyone he had gathered together could sense his building tension, and the danger that came with it. When his fingers started to drum impatiently on the armrest of his throne, even those in his inner circle who usually kept close, edged casually away, hoping to put some distance between themselves and his inevitable wrath, without drawing the Archangel’s notice.

The rich sounds of the choir he had assembled to mimic his true home echoed throughout the gleaming hall. But underneath those soothing layers of sound, stood an unmistakable silence of some sort. Everyone could hear it, after a fashion, but not one would have dared draw attention to it.

Hell’s most powerful Fallen, dressed in their finest, milled about, growing more and more uncomfortable as their host’s mood darkened. But, like any self-respecting underbeings with some sense of self-preservation, they all plastered on the appropriate expressions, mimed the appropriate behavior, and did their best to show the public face their Master expected.

“Well, I do appreciate a good show as much as the next multi-dimensional being, Old Son.”

Lucifer jumped at the voice on his elbow, turning to face the guest of honor with a subdued fire already in his deep shining eyes.

“But if it’s meant to influence me, you must know by now that it’s a wasted effort.”

The fire became somewhat less subdued. “You’re late, Asher, and rude. Why not use the door like decent beings?” Lucifer asked with a feigned smile, wishing he’d left off assembling his coterie since he was now overly conscious of his audience and the almost bored expression on the Keeper’s face.

“Doors,” Asher scoffed. “I’ve little use for doors, and even less use for your judgement on whether or not a being is decent.” He paused and gave Lucifer a look that made the Arch shift slightly in his seat. “And while we’re on the subject of things I have no use for, we might come around to how I feel about being summoned.”

“Your presence is required …”

“Required?” his voice rose. “I am here as a courtesy. Do not forget that. You hold no dominion over me or my work, in this realm or any other.” Asher’s voice was commanding. And loud. Almost stern.

True silence rippled through the assembled Host. Even the choir wavered.

Lucifer stood. “Everyone out,” he ordered, his voice ringing with his authority in this place. Though his voice was level, pleasant even, white hot rage burned in his eyes. He was at his most dangerous when his superiority was challenged, and the Keeper was a being for whom it wasn’t even a question.

The Fallen knew which side their bread was buttered on. And they also knew the sort of expression that usually saw heads rolling. Literally. An almost panicked air settled over them as they practically fought for the exit. The doormen nearly closed the doors on the slowest in their own hurry to not be the mortal beings left in the room when Lucifer was done speaking with Asher.

Lucifer resumed his seat, taking a moment to arrange himself comfortably on his throne. With a measured breath and a supreme effort to smooth the anger from his features, he began, “Lord Asher, I do thank you for coming. I appreciate your willingness to hear my claim. As a courtesy.”

He paused, expecting some sort of response, but Asher just looked at him. Lucifer was put in the mind of the way an owl might look at an interesting bug it spies crawling up a tree trunk on Earth. He breathed deeply again and went on.

“I have a grievance, and ask for your judgement as the Keeper of the Scales and Arbiter of Treaties between the realms.”

“Fine,” Asher replied, sounding more than a little impatient. “What is it this time?” His emphasis implied that he hoped this was worth his time, and that he didn’t consider their last interaction of particular importance.

Lucifer swallowed his irritation at the dismissiveness of the Keeper’s tone. “As you no doubt know, my Father is planning to become enfleshed and live among the humans.”

Asher nodded, his expression perfectly neutral.

Lucifer opened his hands, conveying that he knew he was stating the obvious. “Well, that’s clearly against the rules. We agreed not to directly influence events on Earth, to only work through mortal vessels if we had business there.”

Asher simply smiled. “Don’t you think if God were breaking the rules, I would already have stepped in?”

Lucifer frowned, but remained silent, allowing Asher to continue.

“I assure you, Lucifer, God is adhering quite faithfully to the letter of the Armistice.” He gave Lucifer a solemn nod that indicated his judgement was complete. “I think we’re done here.”

“But the spirit …”

“Is of no concern to me. Don’t pretend for one minute that the spirit of any agreement is of any interest to you either. The letter is the law. Your dispute is dismissed.”

“I have the right to an explanation, Asher!” Lucifer demanded. His voice had gained some of the fire that was once again burning in his eyes, a phosphoric flame, difficult to quench.

Asher put up a graceful hand. “Calm yourself, Morning Star,” he said almost pleasantly. Then his voice hardened, “Lest you find yourself locked in a real hell.”

Lucifer swallowed hard and took another breath, cooling the heat of his anger through sheer will. He tried again. “I ask only that you grant me an explanation, which is mine by right and custom. And which you have always offered in our past dealings, Good Keeper.”

Asher took his measure for a moment. “Very well. Although you will likely find yourself still unsatisfied.”

Lucifer dipped his chin deferentially, indicating that whatever the explanation was he would accept it.

“The agreement will remain unviolated on the Earthly night of your concern, Lucifer, because your Father will not descend as a god. God has, with some incredibly complex magic … as in primordial arcane deep magic beyond your understanding … managed to split his being into three. A human soul, his vital essence, or Spirit if you will, and his concept of mind, or the sum and total of all knowledge and experience.”

“I … What? How is that possible? How can He be Himself, but three? How would that even work?”

A wry smile tugged one corner of Asher’s lips. That was the question wasn’t it.

“My understanding, such as it is, such as it concerns me, is that the Soul will love on Earth in that human body that has you so riled up. The Spirit will maintain Creation, will keep the structure of Heaven intact, and the Mind … Well, to be honest I’ve no idea where he’s gone and stashed that.”

Lucifer looked less angry now and more confused. “But I … I don’t understand what … why ..?”

“Regardless,” Asher concluded, “The rules have not been broken.” He prepared to leave. “Now, if you’re quite finished …”

“I don’t believe that I am,” Lucifer said, a speculative expression, one of sly consideration creeping over his face. “So, if I am to understand correctly … God is not breaking the rules because he is using a mortal soul?”

“Correct,” Asher conceded. He knew what was coming next.

“Well, if that’s the case, then according to the letter of our Armistice, I may send demons to walk on Earth freely, since they are, after all, mortal souls as well. Some have even walked as humans, so must have as much right to be there as He.”

Asher considered the Archangel for a seemingly endless moment. “Agreed.”

Lucifer’s face lit up at the victory, reminding Asher how God had named his once favored offspring. “Excellent!”

“Of course, I will expect you to abide by certain limits in doing so.”

“I am certain that we can work out something that’s agreeable and within the limits of the treaty,” Lucifer practically purred.

“I’ll look forward to it,” Asher replied with mock sincerity.

He prided himself on his ability to remain impartial, to trust the magic of the Scales, but something about this sanctimonious ass had always rubbed him the wrong way. It gave him the all too human urge to … what was it the humans would say at some point … punch his lights out? That sounded right, but he hadn’t availed himself of travel to that future in some time, so he supposed he could be wrong.

As he turned to leave, by the door, just to make the point that he could use it if it suited him, he thought he would do well to speak just a bit of the possible future that he sensed was about to present itself.

“Oh, and Lucifer … You have a choice to make, or rather you will have. Keep in mind that the status quo isn’t always as bad as it seems. And once certain wheels achieve motion, well, the outcome is no longer in your hands.”

With that, he slipped out the door, and then immediately out of the lower realm.

Lucifer slammed his fists against the armrests of this throne. “By the Fire, I hate that self-righteous prick!” he spat.

“Brother,” a resonant voice said from next to the same elbow Asher had appeared earlier. “Such words are beneath you.”

Startled for the second time in his own throne room, Lucifer glared toward the door where his personal security was supposed to be ensuring these things didn’t happen. Heads would roll once his business here was concluded.

He turned to glare at his unwelcome companion. “You have no business here, Michael. You may have forced me to make my home here, but you cannot force me to tolerate your company!” he snapped. And just to make his point, he loosened his sword in its scabbard.

Michael held out open hands, a universal gesture for peace, even here. “No reason for fighting this time, Brother. I come to you with an interesting opportunity.”

“You possess nothing of which I could possibly have a need.”

“Come now, Lucifer,” Michael said, not in the condescending manner Lucifer was expecting, but the way he used to speak, when he once cared for the outcome of his younger brother’s decisions. He put a hand on the Morning Star’s shoulder. “For once in your life Little Brother, take the long view?”

“Long view?” Lucifer stood and stepped down from his throne and turned to face his brother fully. “What do you mean long view? Of what?”

“Of what you’ve been waiting for.” He clasped Lucifer by the shoulders, warmth and something like their old affection in his grip. “I’m going to show you the big picture.”

Lucifer’s eyes narrowed. He thought Michael was only playing at the overtures of brotherly love, but he found himself intrigued anyway. “Alright, I’m listening.”

~~~~

Asher sighed as he watched the brothers conspire in his mind’s eye. He was grateful that if the Balance was threatened, the plots and plans of all beings, be they man, or angel, or god, were his to see.

“Very well, then. If they are committed to their purpose, I’d best set things in motion.” He called out to his servant. “Kae!”

His loyal friend, caretaker, servant, and sounding post, bustled into the chamber. “Yes, Lord Asher?”

“I’m going to need that Divine Spark we saved from the Dawn War. Do you know where it’s gotten to?”

“Of course, my Lord.”

Asher prepared for his task as he waited for Kae. After the servant’s return, he simply nodded and disappeared from his home.

He reappeared immediately in a lovely garden, perfumed by the gentle breeze caressing the flowers and moving the heat of the sun over the ground. “Can I help you, good sir?” a voice inquired. “Are you lost? Is there anything I can do?”

Asher looked kindly at the man he had startled with his abrupt appearance. “I’m actually right where I need to be, Enoch. But I do believe you can help me.”

“How so?” the man asked, his face open and pleasant.

“Grab a pen and paper. I have a story for you.”

– End –

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