Heir of Night by Emily Goodwin
“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?” I echo, though Julian was perfectly clear.
“Yes,” my cousin replies.
“The creepy dudes who ride horses and bring certain doom along with them?” I go on, eyes wide as I look from Julian to Lucifer and back again. Renniken, the demon who’s on all fours and acting as my footstool, tenses. If this is bad news for a demon, then it’s even worse news for earth.
Subconsciously, I move my hand up and down my belly, feeling my baby move around. The pain hasn’t come back, but a weird, warm feeling is coming from inside my womb. It’s okay, baby. We’re gonna be okay. We’ll get out of here…somehow.
At this moment, I don’t know what terrifies me more: being trapped in Hell, the fucking Four Horsemen busting out, or the very real fact that I could go into early labor while all that is going on.
“The Horsemen,” I start, looking at Lucifer. “I don’t have to ask to know this isn’t good. They’re going to start the apocalypse, aren’t they? I mean, the name kinda gives it away.”
“I’m afraid so,” he replies seriously, the usual cocky humor gone from his tone. “The more carnage they bring to earth, the more powerful they’ll become, until ultimately, they will rule.”
“That’s not going to happen, right?” Shifting my gaze from Lucifer to Julian, I quickly shake my head, making the flower crown slip. Right. I’m supposed to be at my baby shower, wearing this ridiculously girly dress with matching flowers in my hair. We were just about to open gifts, and while it’s awkward and uncomfortable to be the center of attention like that, things felt normal, like Elena was going to spend the next three months comfortably staying put, growing until she’s a full-term, healthy baby.
Lucas is supposed to time contractions and keep me calm when I go into labor. We’re going to wait until sunset and get to the hospital just in the nick of time for me to get an epidural, and then only a few hours later, our baby will make her debut.
Not like this. I put both hands on my stomach and close my eyes. I’m scared, but more than anything, I’m fucking pissed.
“Easy now,” Lucifer says, and I open my eyes to see the circle of red hellfire that surrounds the throne is sparking with strings of blue magic, bathing the entire room in purple light. “You don’t want to burn down Hell now, do you?”
“You cannot burn down Hell,” Julian says matter-of-factly, and Lucifer gives me a wink, causing some of the tension to leave. “And right, Callie. We won’t let it come to that. The Horsemen were trapped before. They can be trapped again.”
“Yes,” Lucifer agrees. “But first we need to send them back to Hell, and my heir to the darkness over here did a grand job at shutting the gates.”
“I feel like you want me to be sorry, but I’m not,” I say and force myself to take another breath. The blue strings of energy fade away, and the hellfire burns red-hot once again. “I stopped even more demons from escaping and making earth their personal playground. I live there, remember? My friends and family are there too.”
“Not all your family is there,” Lucifer counters, turning his gaze to mine. I can see the worry in his eyes, and it solidifies my faith in him even more.
“That’s true,” I agree. “Some are here with me. Thank you, Lucifer. If you hadn’t shown up, it would have taken us like twice as long to close the gates.”
He shoots me a look. “I would have been cleaning up your blood off the floor.”
“In theory, as long as my blood touched the pentagram, the gates still would have shut, right?”
Lucifer shakes his head. “Another fail-safe is the archangel closing the gates has to be alive.”
“Oh, well, damn. But really…thank you. You came back for me.”
“You are my family. And family sticks together. Though you should know I’m not staying down here,” he says, almost looking pained as the words spill from his lips. Before I have a chance to say anything else, he turns, walks right through the circle of hellfire, and waves his hand over another part in the wall, revealing a hidden shelf full of crystal decanters of alcohol.
Lucifer needs to stay in Hell so no one will use me to try to stake a claim on the throne. He can keep his demons in line when he’s ruling, and while some may still challenge him, they won’t use me to try to get to him.
Though we do need him to help us track the Horsemen down, and I’m guessing Lucifer is the only one who knows how to lock them up since he’s done it before. After that, I know he needs to return. It’s what’s best for not just me but the whole damn world. We just barely stopped Apocalypse Number One, and now the second one seems more menacing. But only by a bit.
Hah. Who am kidding? The fucking Horsemen of the Apocalypse escaped their cage and are roaming around earth. All I know about the Horsemen is from movies. They’re not mentioned at all at the Academy, because even for us, they didn’t seem real.
But holy shit, they are.
Slowly, I take my feet off the demon footstool and get up, one hand on my stomach. Elena is moving around, happy as can be and totally unaware of the situation we’re in. My eyes start to get a little misty—damn you, hormones—at the thought of how innocent she is and how I will do anything to keep her that way for as long as possible. The world is a cruel place, even without Heaven and Hell wanting you dead. I refuse to let Elena grow up how I did, cast away and unloved. Feared and made to think there was something wrong with me.
“How do you kill the Horsemen?” I ask, calmed by the thought of murder. I’m so emotionally balanced, I know.
“They’re ancient and not easily killed,” Lucifer tells me. “But everything can die.” He grabs a bottle and two glasses.
“I can’t drink, remember?” I move away from the throne and come down the stairs, walking to the circle of hellfire. I can summon it, hold it in my hand without getting burned. Can I walk through it like Lucifer did too? I don’t want my clothes to catch on fire and burn up, leaving me awkwardly naked in the throne room of Hell.
“Oh, right, your loss. This cognac is exquisitely aged. There’s nothing like it in the world.”
“I don’t even know what that is.” Pausing, I look around the throne room. It’s big and grand, but empty. There’s nothing personal or homey, not that I expected a Hell, sweet Hell sign hanging on the wall somewhere. It’s dark and oppressive down here, yet the crackling hellfire is oddly comforting.
Turning, I look back at the throne and feel the urge to march my pregnant ass back up the stairs and take a seat. I long to feel the crown of hellfire burning around my head again, and a part of me wants the demons to quiver with fear before me the same way they did when Lucifer appeared.
Fuck, I need to get out of here. I’m not the Queen of Hell, and I don’t want to be. I want to go home, back to my baby shower, and mostly back to the man I love more than life itself. Though the look on Scott’s face would be priceless if he were to see me as the new devil. He always said I was one, anyway. I really should have neutered him when he was a cat.
“The Horsemen,” I start again. “They were down here before you?”
“Right, kiddo.” Lucifer downs half a glass of whatever he just poured.
“Why didn’t you kill them back then?” I hold out my hand, sticking my fingers right into the hellfire. It doesn’t burn me or hurt, yet I know it’s hot. It’s fucking weird, and I can’t think about it too much or I’ll get a headache.
“That is a good question,” Julian echoes, coming over by me.
Lucifer refills his glass and takes a big sip. “I thought I could use them,” he says after a moment of hesitation. “They’re a nasty, annoying clique of doomsdayers who can bring death and destruction in ways I couldn’t even imagine.” He takes another drink.
“Use them how?” Julian’s brows furrow.
“I was hurt.” Lucifer sets his glass back on the shelf. “Hurt and angry. I’d just been cast out of the only home I’d ever known. My own father didn’t think I was worthy. I wanted revenge, and back then, I was going to get it by any means necessary. What better way to get back at my father than to destroy the world he loves so much?”
Lucifer’s words send a chill through me. “But you didn’t,” I say softly.
“No, I didn’t.” Lucifer smooths out his suit jacket. He’s always well dressed, making me wonder if needing to look pristine at all times is his way of exerting control over one aspect of his life. “Instead, I caged the Horsemen, which in turn will make me a target on their path of destruction.”
“Okay,” I say, wishing I had a notebook so I could jot down a few more bullets on my oh shit list. “We need to get them back to Hell and then re-trap them. Or just kill them.”
“It’s not going to be that easy,” Lucifer says again. “When I caged them, they’d been banished to Hell for centuries. They were weak. Now…now they have a way to gather strength.”
“So let’s get the hell out of Hell,” I say with a snort of laughter. No one else appreciates my joke.
Lucifer waves his hand, and the demon Renniken bursts into flames. My eyes widen, watching the demon scream in pain for a few seconds before collapsing into a pile of ash.
“Did you just kill him?” I ask, working hard not to feel bad for a demon.
“He served his purpose.” Lucifer pours himself one more drink and waves his hand over the wall, hiding the shelves from sight. Running both hands through the hellfire in front of me, I let my eyes fall shut for a moment, trying to find a small reprieve. None is to be found; shocker, right?
“Does time pass differently here than on earth?” I open my eyes and see that I’ve accidentally made the hellfire around me purple again. “When we go back, I’m not going to find a year has passed, right?”
“Time is relative,” Julian starts. “What happens here happens anywhere else, just not there. The construct of time, you will find, is simply just that.”
“What?” I shake my head. “Never mind. That’s, uh, way too complicated for me right now. If I’m here for a day, only a day will pass for Lucas?”
“Yes,” Julian tells me, and I let out a small breath of relief.
“Then let’s get out of here.” I look at Lucifer. “You’ve gotten out before, so I know we can do it again. Since the doors were closed from the inside this time, will it make it easier to get back out?”
“Perhaps,” he says. “Though I’m afraid this is another thing that’s not quite so simple.”
“But it is,” I shoot back. “Open a door and get out. Super simple.”
“Everyone in Hell knows who you are,” Lucifer reminds me. “Only someone with archangel blood is able to shut the gates. There were rumors before of the Nephilim child still being alive. There’s no doubt now.”
“Right. Fuck.” I sigh and step away from the hellfire, putting my head in my hands. “And when the demons start talking, the angels will listen.” I nod, trying to keep up with my own thoughts. “We open a door and risk someone tagging along with us.”
“Correct,” Lucifer says. “You are safe here until the rumors quell once again,” he goes on. “My brothers and sisters wouldn’t dare come to my dark kingdom in search of you.”
I swallow hard, Lucifer’s words echoing in my head. He’s right. No one would look for me here, and Elena would basically be cloaked from everyone. “I’m not having a baby in Hell. I’m going home, with my husband, and he is going to be there whenever I do go into labor. In a hospital. With doctors and drugs.”
“There are many doctors here,” Lucifer tells me, and I make a face, not needing to say what I’m thinking for him to get it. “Fine, if they’re here, they’re not the most outstanding humans, but it doesn’t mean they’re bad doctors.”
“I’m going home to Lucas,” I say, and the fire glows purple again. “We’re going to figure out a way to get out. Because I really want a slice of the ridiculously expensive cake Eliza ordered for my baby shower.” I blink and get a flash of the house, remembering how panicked Eliza was to get the decorations up in time, and how Lucas and I put a skirt on a fucking table. It felt a little silly then, but now…now it’s all so trivial. Because what does it matter if the balloon arch in the foyer is perfect when Famine is going to wipe out all the crops? Or if War makes loved ones turn on each other?
I bring my hand to my mouth, sniffing a laugh. “I’m sorry. It’s not funny, yet it is. I’m standing here in Hell—literal Hell—and everything else just seems so fucking petty, doesn’t it?”
“Is she cracking?” Lucifer asks Julian under his breath.
Julian, who takes everything literally, narrows his eyes. “She looks fine to me.”
“Oh, right.” Julian’s concerned gaze trains in on me. “I believe so.”
“I’m fine, guys. I mean, I’m not fine because I’m six months pregnant, trapped in Hell, and who knows what kind of carnage is going on above us. Speaking of Hell, where are the special places?”
“Yes, she’s definitely cracking.” Lucifer strides forward. “Maybe, dear niece, you should have a seat.”
“Not until you show me the special places. Come on, you have to know what I’m talking about. You’ve never heard someone say there’s a special place in Hell for so-and-so? Scott told me there was a special place for me many times.” My lips pull into a smirk. “If only he knew my ‘special place’ was the bloody throne.”
Julian looks from me to Lucifer and back again, blue eyes clouded with worry. “Years ago, you used to give witches a boost in their powers for worshiping you. Callie is a witch. Witches can create portals. Normally, it would take an entire coven, but if you enhance her power, we could very well get out without alerting anyone.”
Lucifer grins. “You’re right. It’s worth a shot. What do you say, kiddo? Think you can handle it?”
“No pressure or anything, right?” I stick my hands in the hellfire again. “Since I’ve created so many portals before.” The only portal I personally know of is the one that takes us to the hidden Covenstead. It’s been there for centuries, continually strengthened by the witches who use it.
There are others leading to different Covensteads across the world, and the spells used to create them took days if not weeks to perform. And like Julian said, it took a bunch of witches and warlocks to cast those spells. But I’m not an ordinary witch, not by any means.
“Yeah,” I say. “Let’s do it.”
Lucifer holds both hands out slightly to his side, and red flames surround his fingers. “All right then. I’ll give you more power, but first…first I want to make a deal.”