Authors: Tabitha Barret
The Third Throne:
Angel of Darkness
© Copyright 2015 Heather Baker
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
For copyright and publishing information, contact Tabitha Barret at her website http://www.tabithabarret.com
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real, living, or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Thank you to my family who has supported me and inspired me. I am eternally grateful for your patience, and the space you gave me to put my dreams down on paper.
I want to give special thanks to my husband for pausing the game to listen to me read.
Thank you to my first reader, who inspired me to continue on, even when I had doubts.
Lastly, thank you to my friend who, as always, is brutally honest and won’t pull punches. I hope I don’t disappoint.
“I feel certain that I'm going mad again.
I feel we can't go thru another of those terrible times.
And I shan't recover this time.
I begin to hear voices.”
~~ Virginia Woolf
Table of Contents
In the darkness he sat waiting, his patience gone. A deal had been made, but time and again, he had been denied his prize. No one was interested in helping him; no one would hear his grievances. He had been forsaken long ago, and apparently, even their laws no longer applied to him. A deal used to mean something. If it wasn’t upheld, it meant that someone would lose his head.
Though the time drew near for the exchange, he knew in his heart that the deal wouldn’t be honored and a new excuse would come to light. Years had turned into decades, centuries, and now a millennia. Hope had disappeared after the third or fourth delay, but now, time was slipping through his fingers. He was dangerously close to the edge. Every day was harder than the last, and with another delay on the horizon, it may very well break his spirit completely.
Tired of waiting, tired of the excuses, he decided to take action and deal with the consequences later, as he was so accustomed to doing. Let them reprimand him; he cared not for their punishments, for he had devised most of them. He knew their bite intimately. Their pain would pale in comparison to the pain that he had suffered.
He ignored the reasons that he should remain in wait, and pushed away the warnings of his so-called allies. They didn’t understand what was at stake, they couldn’t. None of them had ever wanted something so badly in their miserable lives.
If the traitorous deal breaker came for him, he would gladly remind him of their arrangement, and make him understand all that he had endured during the infinite delays. Truth be told, he looked forward to a possible battle.
Disregarding all logic and sanity, he broke his promise not to pursue what was rightfully his and called forth the servant best for the job.
Heaven help him if the servant failed in his task, for everyone would die and the world would burn.
New Jersey, 1993
The flames were getting higher and the stench was intolerable. Everywhere around her souls screamed in pain and fear. Their flesh was melting from their bones, their bones turning to ashes. She crawled faster to escape the sound, the smell. She tried her best to ignore the pain that sank deep into her body. The looming black stone castle with its three ominous towers was in sight, but felt unattainable. If only she could get to it, her misery would lessen and she would be able to breathe. The souls nearest to her were completely engulfed in flames and in various states of ruin. Some of them grabbed at her clothes as they fell and writhed, but she was used to it and shook them off. Even though the fire didn’t burn her skin, she still experienced the scorching pain as if the flames were consuming her. It was like this every time. She could feel what everyone else was experiencing, depending on which Realm of Torture she was in. She needed to get out of Murderer’s Row, as she called it, or the Realm of Fire, as she’d heard it called by the punishers.
As she pulled herself free from the fire and tumbled into the next Realm, the scene changed and people were being whipped instead of burned. She was surrounded by male and female punishers who used everything from switches, to leather strips with thick, sharp thorns, to metal barbed wire, to inflict pain. The result was always the same; searing pain, flesh rendered from muscle, and blood spilling into rivers on the ground. They called it the Realm of Thrashing Vines, the last realm before the castle. The castle was closer, but she felt like she was being torn into strips by the whips, though none made contact with her back.
She was able to get to her feet and ran from the shrieks, screams, and moans that surrounded her. The soot-tinged air was heavy and burned her lungs as she gulped it down, trying to move faster. She had come a long way, crossing through countless realms and endless tortures. She needed to find relief, even if it was for a short time.
The prisoners cried out, begging for forgiveness. The suffering souls around her were the only ones who could see her, touch her. Thankfully, the punishers ignored her or she was invisible to them. The souls prayed that their suffering would end. She prayed that escape would come quickly. She knew every one of their crimes; saw every morbid detail of their wrong doings. They all deserved to be punished, even the petty criminals that ended up in the lesser realms, where they only had to suffer their fingernails being removed, or endure unending thirst. She knew they didn’t believe that they were the lucky ones, yet they weren’t melting or being whipped into bloody ribbons.
Every night she navigated this horrific plain and every night she experienced things that would destroy most sane people. She told herself that there must be a reason for her plight, but she had yet to find it. She only knew that she had to reach the castle. It was her only salvation.
She jumped out of the Realm of Thrashing Vines and navigated the small path between the realms. She typically couldn’t use the paths since the punishers were occupying most of the available space. Though she wasn’t seen by them, they were still solid objects in the way. She was forced to battle the realms to travel throughout the bleak world. It was something she despised doing, but it was the only way to end the nightmare.
A punisher, who looked like a demon with black wings and a black leather outfit was standing in middle of the path, yelling at the other punishers. They all cowered before him and quickly scurried about, carrying out his orders. She should have been intimidated by him, but instead she was relieved to see him. It meant that the castle was in reach.
She stumbled past her last obstacle, the guard standing at the imposing doors to the castle. He was tasked with keeping escaped prisoners in and unwanted guests out, but he couldn’t stop her. She reached out for the heavy fire scorched wooden doors with their thick black metal braces and hinges. She gripped a handle and tugged with the last of her strength.
“Michelle, are you awake? It’s time to get ready,” a pleasant voice called from the hallway. Her mother was a morning person and perpetually cheery.
“Yes, I’m up,” Michelle choked out the words as she opened her eyes and threw herself from her bed. She was sweating and shaking. She could still feel the sting of the barbs that had torn her skin, though her skin was unmarred. She was grateful to be awake and even looked forward to the normalcy of school. Most teenagers would rather skip school and sleep in, but most teenagers didn’t have recurring nightmares of Hell. Apparently, she alone held that honor.
She looked in the mirror, and took a deep breath. “Five more weeks and you can start over. You can do it,” she muttered, trying to believe that a change of scenery would make things better
“Please tell me you look exhausted because you were up late working on your project and not acting out scenes from
Night of the Living Dead
,” CJ smiled brightly at her. Though he joked about her situation, she knew he was worried about her.
Michelle brushed past CJ and trudged to her locker. She felt as if she had been pummeled by a sack of rocks, which in truth, she had. She desperately tried to shake off the lingering agony of the tortures and the fear they inspired to pretend to be a normal high school senior.
She yawned as she threw her backpack in front of her locker and looked at CJ for the first time.
“I don’t understand how you can be so happy all the time. Your eternal optimism is crushing my soul,” she smirked. “Sadly, I was done with the project early, so it was scenario number two,” she shrugged.
Tossing her books into her locker and reaching for her Pre-Calculus book, she spared a glance at her locker mirror to examine the bags under her eyes and sighed. It always amazed her that no one seemed to notice her lack of enthusiasm or total indifference toward school, but looking around at the sea of unhappy faces filing in, she decided that no one was happy to be in school. Maybe she fit in better than she thought.
CJ snickered and leaned against the locker next to hers. “What’s there not to be happy about? Prom is coming up and then we’re on to Graduation. I can’t wait to start college and get on with my life.”
“Fine, I accept your happiness and agree with you. I’m looking forward to traveling in the fall,” Michelle closed her locker and sat down in front of it.
She intentionally avoided the subject of Prom. She didn’t need to hear about the latest round of girls trying to ask CJ to be their date. She fulfilled her duty as his best friend by respectfully listening to all the unique ways the girls had approached CJ to ask him out and, of course, gave her opinion of each girl, but it was painful to listen to. The entire experience was unbearable, since she secretly wished that he would ask her to the Prom, which would potentially ruin their friendship forever. Since she couldn’t bear the thought of losing her best friend, she tapped her foot and practiced her look of approval for whomever he decided to take.
CJ sat down next to her and threw an eraser at her to lighten her mood. She vaguely wondered how he managed to look so good in the morning. His short black hair was never without gel and his big brown eyes were never puffy from lack of sleep. He wore T-shirts and jeans, but always looked amazing. He was normal and fun-loving. She envied how simple his life was.
“What was it this time poisonous creatures, or zombie funfest? For everyone’s sake, I really hope Hell is nothing like you envision; otherwise, I swear I will never do anything bad enough to end up there. I will eat all my vegetables and not have sex until after I’m married,” CJ crossed his heart and winked at her.
He was the only one whom she trusted enough to confide her secrets in. He knew everything there was to know about her experiences, and then some. It made things a little easier knowing that she had someone to talk to, though it didn’t take away all her misery.
Michelle shuddered when she recalled the images he mentioned. All the Realms of Hell were abysmal, but she especially hated the Realm of Poison where she died a slow, painful death as the poison burned through every vein until it finally stopped her heart. She did her best to joke around with CJ when it came to the terrors that she faced every night, but it wasn’t easy. The one thing she refused to do was cry in front of him. She knew if she showed any signs of weakness, he would undoubtedly push her to seek help. He was accepting of her tales of horror and didn’t judge her, but he constantly thought of ways to help her, which only caused them to argue.
“Thankfully, it was nothing that interesting. The realm with the zombie creatures is rough, but I started in that realm with all the thorns, and then moved on to the crushing stones. I did make it to the castle though, so the dream didn’t last as long as it could have. I woke up when I got to the doors. Oh, and I saw that crazy punisher again, the one who yells at everyone. He looked angrier than usual. I don’t know why,” she replied matter-of-factly as she flipped through her Pre-Calc book, trying to focus on the formulas.
“Who do you think the punishers are? Do you really believe that they’re demons, or could they be something else?” CJ doodled on the edge of his notebook.
Michelle shrugged. “I don’t know what they are, but I know that you don’t want to screw with them,” she hated talking about the punishers. The blank looks on their faces proved that they didn’t care about the people suffering and were only interested in doing their job. She wondered what they had done to deserve such a fate.
“Do you think it’s one of them talking to you when you hear the voice?” CJ asked quietly.
“I’m not sure, though I doubt it. None of them can see me during the dreams. The voice is different. It’s talking directly to me, but it has nothing to do with what’s going on,” Michelle replied indifferently. She didn’t want to think about the voice, let alone provide a detailed summary of all the people who might have an interest in threatening her.
She’d heard the voice in her dreams for as long as she could remember. It was a man’s voice, deep and sinister, though at times, sad. He said things like, “you will yield to me,” or “I will get what I want, it’s only a matter of time.” He held every range of emotion throughout the years. He would scream at her menacingly and threaten her, other times he would be calm and reasonable, stating things very simply and plainly. Worst of all, he would go for the throat and try seduction and promises. The message was always the same, regardless of the tone. “Join me.” She did everything she could to block the voice from her mind, but she swore there were times when she heard it while awake. Her reaction to him depended on his tone, but her answer was always the same. “No.” She had no intention of joining anyone, especially someone so frightening.
CJ seemed to sense the tension building inside of her and thankfully changed the subject. He handed her his notes from Spanish and pretended not to understand something he had written.
When he leaned closer to her, she smelled his cologne and smiled. It helped dispel her sadness and made her hopeful. She was excited by the idea of moving on from high school, but she had no idea what she would do without CJ. He was her only friend, and the person she relied on to help her get through the day.
He was very likable and got along with almost everyone. He was Captain of the Lacrosse Team and the Fencing Team, though he had quit the Student Council to play video games in her living room. He claimed that he needed more down time. She liked to believe it was because he wanted to spend time with her.
She, on the other hand, was a social pariah. The students gave her a wide berth and typically ignored her. She wasn’t sure if most of them even knew her name, despite sitting next to her since Kindergarten. She was grateful, since she didn’t like talking about herself. Boys rarely acknowledged her, which was fine since she didn’t have any interest in them. The girls didn’t see her as competition, so they didn’t bother gossiping about her. If they only knew how odd her parents were and how disturbing her nightmares were, she would definitely be fodder for the rumor mill.
From the corner of her eye, she watched Kelly Nimbles mercilessly attempt to flirt with CJ and fail. Michelle grabbed CJ’s notebook a little too harshly and nearly ripped it in half. Anger and jealousy overwhelmed her when Kelly put her grubby hand on CJ’s arm and begged him to watch her track meet that afternoon. The slut went even further and invited him to her house to study for their History final.
CJ smiled politely and told her that he had plans every night that week, which of course wasn’t true. Aside from homework, sports practice, and video games, he was very much available.
Kelly pouted and slunk back to her locker, which made Michelle chuckle. She knew it was childish, but she didn’t care. CJ deserved someone less shallow than Kelly, who was only interested in him for his looks.
Michelle knocked into CJ’s arm to get his attention and lowered her voice. “I heard that Melissa got dumped by Jared yesterday,” she motioned to a red headed girl down the hallway.
“Seriously? I thought Jared was really into her. Who told you that?” CJ whispered.
Michelle hesitated. “Well, no one actually told me. I just have that feeling. She’s angry about something and borderline violent. I want to say that Jared might have another girl. It feels like jealously. I bet Melissa’s plotting revenge against the girl.”