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About Varied / Student Member Danielle Dawson22/Female/United States Group :iconpatronoct: PatronOCT
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Deviant for 7 Years
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This room was not unlike Satan’s office. It was full of smoke and gave Hayden the impression that less people left than entered. Even though it was a small and dark hideaway, with Nikolaj Ballas seated at the desk on the far wall, it was no less intimidating than the grand chamber in his warehouse had been. Showmanship was important, but in the end, all one man needed was presence. The old soul had enough presence to bring an army of demons to their knees. Hayden had seen it, himself. Whatever had happened to make Ballas so angry, Hayden knew that it wouldn’t be enough to stop his tyranny. From where he stood, staring at his feet and trying desperately not to make a sound, Hayden wasn’t so sure it hadn’t only been worsened.

Ballas leaned back in his seat, making it squeak underneath the force of his great, old body. “State your purpose, boy,” he said. His voice was a rumble of thunder. “Your instructions were simply to return when you have acquired the mortals. I see no mortals. So, you have not done this, yes?”

Hayden mumbled and fidgeted in lieu of a response.

Ballas silenced him with a cough. “Use your words,” he said. “I do not like my time wasted.”

“I didn’t bring any mortals,” Hayden admitted, stammering. “I’m, um, still working on it, though! I’ll get them, just like you said you wanted me to do, I promise!”

“I still do not hear your purpose.” Ballas leaned forward, resting his hands flat against the desk. “Have I not given you time? Returning to me so soon and so unprepared, I feel, has been a very foolish decision.”

“Sorry.” Hayden shuddered. His hands tugged at his hair. “I thought you’d like this thing I found. I thought it would help, so I’m sorry and please don’t be mad!”

Ballas leaned back again, folding his hands neatly on his middle in a silent gesture for Hayden to get to the point. Hayden complied, fidgeting only once more before reaching his hand into his coat and pulling out a single, thin file. He thrust it out in front of him, his head ducked, but when Ballas made no movement he darted forward to place it against the desk.

“What is this?” Ballas asked. Hayden opened his mouth immediately to answer but Ballas waved for him to be silent as he reached for the file.

A moment passed. The only sound was the turning of paper until Ballas began to laugh. Hayden jumped and shook and stumbled as if he had been caught in an earthquake. His feet itched to run and his fingers tensed, ready to make a portal that would take him away from here—but he stopped himself. He hadn’t been dismissed and he knew he’d get in trouble. Expecting a reprimand, Hayden held his breath, but Ballas only slapped the file back onto the desk and tapped its surface with a finger.

“Good,” he said. “This is very good.”

Ballas stood, his limbs creaking and groaning as he rose higher and higher. Hayden only felt himself grow smaller, his knees coming together and his shoulders tensing against the sides of his neck.

“Very, very good,” Ballas said. Each lumbering step brought him closer to Hayden, who could only stare up at him, his expression torn between worried and hopeful. He squeezed his eyes shut as Ballas reached him, bracing himself for the beating that never came. Ballas put a hand on Hayden’s head and patted him like an animal. Hayden opened his eyes but couldn’t find the strength to lift them from his own feet. He felt as if his stomach was full of stones.

“You have proven your loyalty well, bringing this to me.” Ballas let his hand stay on Hayden’s head, pressing and insistent and heavy. “Now I can be sure the mortals cannot escape.”
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: strong language)
There was a split second of darkness and weightlessness—and then they were through. Rella let go of Hayden’s hand as her heels touched the ground. She stumbled but caught herself. Her head spun, but it was nothing a few deep breaths couldn’t fix. In front of them, Danielle was on her knees, looking ill.

“Oh no! I’m sorry! Don’t be mad! Are you okay?” Hayden was buzzing around the blonde, whimpering in concern.

Rella looked past them. Hayden had brought her exactly where she asked to be. Up close Satan’s skyscraper dwarfed everything around it—not that there was much. It didn’t surprise Rella to think Satan forbade any other construction in the immediate area, wanting to be separate from the rabble of Nothing. Behind the building, the gray tones of the city darkened into the deep shades of black and red hellfire. None of that was important. Rella’s gaze landed on a set of automatic sliding doors that led in and out of the ground floor. That was where she needed to start.

Sidestepping around the others, Rella pushed away the lingering traces of vertigo that jumping through the portal had left her with. “It’s been fun, but if you’ll excuse me I have some very important business to see to,” she called behind her, tossing Danielle and Hayden a final wave. “Please don’t wait for me.”

Danielle called after her, but the sound fell on deaf ears as the entrance slid open and closed behind her. The lobby stretched almost endlessly forward without a single furnishing beyond the single desk at the far end of the room. The demon sitting behind it had curved horns that framed her face and hair swept into a polished up do. Her eyes were too-sharp slits that glowed golden. She looked up from her keyboard and smiled as Rella approached. The click-clack of Rella’s heeled footsteps echoed.

She smiled back.

“Hello.” Rella folded her hands in front of her. A quick glance revealed no windows and no doors aside from the entrance. The only way to get anywhere in the building was through the right sources. “I’m here to see Satan.”

The demon rapped her nails against the desk. “Do you have an appointment?”

“I don’t need an appointment. He’ll be expecting me, though I’m afraid I’m quite early.”

“No appointment, no admission. Sorry, hun.”

Rella’s smile stiffened. Bridging the gap between them in slow, deliberate steps, she brought one hand down to press against the alabaster countertop. “I’m sorry, but I believe you misheard me.” Her eyes narrowed as her smile widened. “I don’t need an appointment to see my father. Now, while I do admire your dedication to your job, if you don’t let me pass I will be sure you regret it.”

The demon stiffened as they locked eyes, a glimmer of recognition passing over her face. Without so much as blinking she reached for the phone on her desk and punched in a few numbers. “Forgive me for interrupting, sir,” she said as her call was received, “but one of your special cases has just arrived.”

There was a pause. “Yes. Yes. I understand. I’ll take care of it right away, sir.”

The second she hung up the phone, her demeanor changed. She smiled, stood, and folded her hands nicely in front of her pantsuit. Rella couldn’t stop herself from admiring how smartly she had been able to dress despite her cloven hooves.

“My apologies, Ms. Triean. We hadn’t prepared for your visit so soon. Satan will see you right away.”

With a snap of her fingers, a door stretched itself from the floor to the ceiling of the previously-blank wall to Rella’s right. Rella shot the demon a final tight smile before pivoting on her heel and strutting forward. She didn’t so much as glance behind her as the door swung open and she disappeared inside it. The second she was in Satan’s office once again, nothing else mattered.

Rella’s grin widened. Satan was already standing, his bright eyes fierce above a controlled grimace. “You aren’t supposed to be here,” he said, adjusting one cufflink between his thumb and forefinger.

With a laugh, Rella invited herself to sit in one of the chairs opposite his desk and crossed her legs. She let her hands slide along the chair’s arms as she stared up at him from beneath her lashes. “You mean I’m not supposed to be here looking like this—at least not yet. Do you like it? Are you proud?”

Satan tapped a polished shoe. “I don’t know how you managed this, Rella, but it’s more than clear you know what I am to you. Get to the point; I don’t have time to play games.”

Rella’s smile faded as she pursed her lips. “There’s no need to be hostile. I was invited. Or, I suppose, I will be.” She propped her jaw in her palm. Although her smile didn’t return, her eyes remained full of quiet confidence. “You’d like to know why, I’m sure, but I have some questions of my own, first. And, if I’m being honest, I can’t help admiring this look of vulnerability on you. It may be more satisfying than Death’s.”

The wallpaper began to char as Satan’s eyes brightened further. Rella continued. “It’s remarkable how similar our tastes are. We both have an appreciation for fine things and efficiency. So why is it, then, that you won’t come to me when you decide to hire a new reaper? Do you really have so little faith in me, or do you just not want to be accused of nepotism?”

“That’s enough.”

“I know it isn’t that you’re ashamed to face me. I’m sure at this point you’re well-versed in the art of abandonment. Although I bet I have lasted much longer than any of your other bastards.” Rella’s eyes narrowed as her nails drove themselves into her chin. “But, honestly. Persephone Dimitriou? You could do much better than that blonde hussy.”

“Rella!” Satan’s desk burst into flames, encasing them both in heat and violent shadows. Rella clenched her jaw as Satan stepped forward, planting his hands on the very tips of the chair’s arms to lean over her. She didn’t flinch even as the leather beneath his palms began to burn. “Does any of this have a point?”

Rella’s voice caught in her throat.

Go on, Rosemary urged, tickling the hair behind her ear. Tell him that you missed him. Tell him you were so lonely and so betrayed. It’s the truth, isn’t it?

Rella narrowed her eyes.

Or, better yet, tell him that it isn’t about him at all. Tell him you’re just using him to make Death jealous. He’ll love that. Rosemary punctuated her taunt in a high, cruel laugh.

“Yes,” Rella said. Her voice came softer than she intended. “I don’t know how he did it, but Death brought me here from the future. The labyrinth he’s building now gets destroyed, and he wanted me to help him prevent it from happening.”

“Damn that imbecile.” Satan straightened, sucking in a tense breath. With a wave of his hand, the destruction cleared. He turned away from Rella just as she noticed how fast her heart was beating.

“I need to tell you what he was hoping to—”

The phone rang before Rella could finish her statement. They both glared at it, but when it didn’t silence itself Satan returned to his desk and yanked the phone up to his ear. “What is it this time?” His shoulders tensed. He brought a hand up to press against his temples. “I’ll be right down.”

Hanging up the phone, Satan only took a second to compose himself before heading toward the door. “Something’s come up. Wait here. I shouldn’t be long.”

Rella stood and opened her mouth to protest, but Satan slammed the door behind him before she had the chance to speak. Her eyes narrow, Rella’s hands balled into fists.

Waiting for your father to come for you? That sounds familiar. Rosemary hoisted herself onto Satan’s desk so her skirt billowed around her knees and her buckled shoes swung in the air. It shouldn’t be a problem for you, Rella. You have so much experience, after all, and we both know how well it’s worked for you in the past.

With a click of her tongue, Rella turned away from Rosemary and approached the door. “I’m done waiting,” she said. Turning the handle, however, she found it locked from the outside.


Danielle stared at the doors that Rella had left through, took a deep breath, and let it out in a frustrated rush. “Okay, that’s great,” she said to the air as she ran a hand fiercely through her hair. “I’ll just stay here, I guess.”

“Um, I should get back to work now, I think.” Hayden was fidgeting, his gaze avoidant.

Looking down at him, Danielle’s shoulders sagged. “I’m sorry. I know this is all pretty stressful for you.” Her chest tightened. The way he stared at his feet, his eyes even more sullen than usual, filled her with guilt. “But before you go, could you take me into the Records Office? I wouldn’t ask this if I thought I could do it by myself any other way. I really, really need your help.”

“So you want to steal from Mr. Satan, too?” He sounded deflated.

“No! I don’t!” Danielle put her hands on Hayden’s shoulders. He looked like he might cry all over again—like her request had shattered some image of her that he’d had. “It’s just that if there are other mortals planning on breaking in for the file you heard them talking about, it probably has information that could help us get back home. Anyone else would have to break in, which could get someone hurt, but you could use a portal to bypass all of Satan’s security.”

Hayden answered with a noncommittal shrug.

“I know you can do it and so do you. I don’t want to steal anything, and I don’t want to get you in trouble. All I need to do is read the file—then I’ll put it right back where it belongs and we can leave. Nobody but us has to know that we were ever in there at all.” Danielle paused. Hayden wasn’t saying anything and he refused to look her in the eye. He wasn’t going to do it. He was too scared. If she wasn’t also scared, she may have let it lie. Reaching her arms out to pull him to her chest in a warm embrace, Danielle held him close until the tension left him.

“Please,” she said.

Hayden whimpered, clutching tightly onto the sides of her blazer. Danielle could feel the beginnings of tears wetting her dress, but when Hayden pulled back he wasn’t crying. “Okay,” he said. “You’re too nice to be stuck in a place so scary.”

Danielle smiled. Hayden opened a portal as he had done before and this time it was her hand he held as they jumped through. Just like before, Danielle fell gracelessly. Hayden narrowly avoided being crushed beneath her as she slammed into the cold, immaculate floor.

“Sorry! I’m sorry! It’s hard to get used to but it gets better!” Hayden whined as he helped Danielle back onto her feet. She groaned, holding her head in one hand as she swayed and caught her balance on a file cabinet.

“This is the Records Office?” As her vision stopped spinning, Danielle took it in. The room was huge—almost as big as the library she worked out and definitely taller. Cabinets of files stretched onward and upward, differentiated only by their labels.

“Uh-huh! I got it the first try ‘cause I came here by accident once!”

“Okay.” Danielle nodded, chewing on the inside of her cheek. “Let’s make this quick. We’re looking for C under Incidents.”

“Okie dokie!”

Hayden zoomed down the row of cabinets they’d appeared in while Danielle searched the signs. They’d appeared under S for Souls, which was a long way off from I for Incidents. She groaned, afraid that this might take longer than she’d meant it to, and kept her focus on reading and breathing. Panicking would only make it take longer.

“So,” Hayden called from where he’d run off to, his voice echoing easily over the shelves, “how come, if you want to go home and you know I can make portals and stuff, didn’t you just ask me to send you home?”

Danielle stopped, startled at the sudden question. “Well,” she said, “I know you haven’t practiced jumping outside if your present realm. If I had asked and you said yes, I’d probably wind up in the wrong place.”

“Oh.” Hayden’s head poked up from the top of the shelves close to the far wall.

“How did you get up there?”

“Climbed,” he said, as if it were obvious, and hoisted himself on the top of the shelf to crawl down it. She couldn’t believe he wasn’t scared. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t made him afraid of heights. Not stopping to look back at her, he asked another question. “How come you know so much about me? Most people don’t even know my name but you know…gee, you know everything!”

“I didn’t know you were so good at climbing.” Danielle chucked beneath her breath as she watched Hayden open the topmost drawer of the cabinet he was crouched on and begin to rifle through the files. The silence in the air became thick. Danielle cleared her throat.

“I have to tell you something, Hayden.” She moved closer, until she was only a couple rows away. “Can you listen?”

“Uh-huh!” He didn’t look up. “I’m real good at listening! At least I think so!”

“Okay.” Not noticing his lack of focus, Danielle took a deep breath. “The reason I know so much about you is because I—”

“I think I found it!”

“What? Oh! Great!” Danielle squinted up at the file Hayden was waving above his head. It looked old and thin, but from the distance it was too hard for her to tell. “Come down so I can—”

Danielle was cut off for a second time by a sound like thunder. The whole room swayed as its door exploded inward. Something tall and armored filled the gap where it had been. The second it saw Hayden, still holding the file over his head, it opened its mouth to let out a deep, “there.”

Behind him, a man emerged, whipping out a handgun and aiming it at the now pale-faced demon.

“No!” Danielle shrieked, throwing herself forward. The gun went off before she could reach him, but Hayden scrambled out of the way just in time for the bullet to miss him, lodging itself into the wall beside his ear. He screamed and tripped, one hand holding the file to his chest as the other reached out to grab at the cabinet as he fell. Hayden caught himself on one of the handles, slamming hard into its face.

Danielle flung herself onto the man’s arm before he could readjust his aim. “Don’t shoot him,” she begged. He slammed her back against the wall behind them before she could get another word out, leaving her coughing and her vision spotty. Danielle looked past the angry, scarred face that stared down at her to watch as the cabinet Hayden had caught himself on began to tilt forward.

There was a great crash as it slammed into the next row of cabinets—and another, greater crash as that cabinet slammed into the next—and the next.

“Shit,” the man said. If he hadn’t been so close, Danielle wouldn’t have been able to hear him. “So much for being quick.”

“What the hell? Derek! Let her go!” Another voice—somehow familiar—tore Danielle’s gaze away from where she could no longer see Hayden dangling. The arm that had been holding her against the wall lifted, and a familiar face replaced it. “Jesus. Icy? Are you okay? Oh my god, I’m so sorry. What the fuck, Derek!”

“Wh—Kevin?” Danielle blinked. That was Kevin, alright. She didn’t know him too well but she remembered his face and his voice from a few instances. There wasn’t time to dwell on the encounter. She reached forward and grabbed his arm hard, her nails digging into the fabric of his jacket. “Tell them not to shoot him!”

“Shoot who?”

“The demon has the file,” said the monster, already stomping forward to yank one of the fallen cabinets up from the ground. He threw it to the side. “Force may be necessary to apprehend it.”

A hysterical cry burst forward from Danielle’s mouth that caused Kevin’s face to pale. “Oh. Shit. Silex, hold on!”

Neither Silex nor Derek listened. They continued forward, scattering paper and metal as they pushed aside cabinet after cabinet to get to the place Hayden had fallen. “Don’t worry,” Kevin assured, waving his hands frantically before him. “I’ll make them stop before they do anything crazy.” He lowered his voice as he took hold of the hand Danielle had grabbed him with and pried it off of him. “He’s your character, right? I won’t let them hurt him, I swear.”

Danielle blinked and he was gone, lumbering after Silex and Derek. She covered her mouth and slid backward, away from them and away from the hole they’d made in the wall. It wasn’t her intention to hide but before she knew it she was hiding, curled in a gap that was made between two bookshelves. Her heart was pounding so hard it hurt to breathe. All she could see was Hayden getting shot at—Hayden falling. It was her fault. She’d made him do this.

When the cabinets righted themselves, her breath caught in her throat. Shaking all over Danielle crawled forward on her hands. The destruction was gone. Everything was in its proper place—except Satan, who was now standing in the doorway, his hands folded behind his back. He wasn’t looking at her, his blue eyes focused instead on Kevin and his characters.

“I was in the middle of an important meeting,” Satan said, his voice dangerously even.

Derek raised a gun. Satan waved a hand—it flew out of his grasp to clatter against the ground. “I don’t appreciate being interrupted to clean up the messes of those with the nerve to break into my confidential records.”

Something shifted in the space beside her and Danielle turned away from the standoff. Hayden was by her side, shivering in panic. She almost screamed—in surprise or in relief that he wasn’t hurt, she wasn’t sure—but before she could let out a single sound he grabbed her shoulder and tore a portal open in the ground beneath them.

They were outside again, having landed smack in the middle of a bustling market. Souls jostled one another as they bartered, their chains clanking and keys jingling. Satan’s skyscraper loomed in the distance, clean on the other side of Nothing. Danielle reached a shaking hand toward Hayden, but he moved away from her, hugging himself.

“Hayden, I’m sorry,” Danielle said. Her throat was hot with tears she tried to swallow. “I didn’t think any of that was going to happen. I shouldn’t have asked you to take me in there.”

Hayden shook his head. “I lost the file,” he said, sniffling. “I dropped it when I fell and I was so scared I jumped out of the office and left it. I’m sorry. I ruined everything, I’m sorry!”

“No—it’s fine. It’s really—”

Hayden shook his head harder. “I didn’t mean to,” he said before turning away and disappearing, leaving Danielle alone. Not caring that the people around her were beginning to stare and unable to summon the energy to move her feet, she sobbed into her hands. Her heart was a rock in her chest that reminded her with every painful thump that she was even more lost than she had been before.
By the time she stepped out of the labyrinth with Rella, Danielle wanted nothing more than to collapse. It had, in all likelihood, only been a few hours since she had left the hotel room, but it seemed an eternity. Maybe that had something to do with the time disparity between the Underworld and Earth, or perhaps the way the sky seemed to stay the same general shade of gray. Mostly, it was the stress. Even when Rella wasn’t talking, she carried herself with such a purposeful stride that Danielle found it difficult to keep up. She saw herself sinking further and further behind as her steps grew heavy and Rella’s didn’t.

“Hey,” she finally called out, unable to bear the silence. “Can we maybe stop for a second and talk about our plan? A lot just happened really fast, and I’m a bit...I mean, I’m not sure exactly where we’re going.”

“You mean you can’t already tell what I’m thinking? How refreshing.”

There was a smile in Rella’s voice that wiped Danielle’s clean off. With a great huff she picked up her pace, hands white-knuckled into a vice around her purse strap. “I could guess,” she said, unable to eliminate an edge of grumpiness to her words, “but it would be easier for both of us if you just told me—especially if you still want my help persuading Hayden to work with us.”

Rella’s stride slowed to a crawl before she stopped altogether, her body stiff and uninviting. Danielle caught up and closed her eyes to focus her energy on breathing. Rella tapped one of her heels with impatience.

“I don’t have a plan for us,” Rella said, not sparing the younger woman so much as a single glance as she clicked open her clutch and withdrew a compact mirror. “I have a plan for me.”

It was a bluff, or at least part of one, but Danielle knew better than to say so. She was willing to believe that Rella had ideas, but much like herself, Rella had never been great at chess. “Fine,” Danielle said. It wasn’t fine. Rella wasn’t going to help her figure out how to get back home—and as unsurprising as it was, that left Danielle up the Styx without a paddle. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to leave Rella to her own devices. There was a knot at the pit of her stomach that convinced her it would be a bad idea. For which one of them, she couldn’t yet say. “Tell me?”

Rella sighed and stared at herself hard in her small mirror for a long moment before putting it away and beginning to walk again. Danielle scurried forward to prevent herself from falling behind again, the heels of her shoes clopping like horseshoes against the pavement.

“Death’s being a man,” Rella stated, tossing her hair.  “He needs to nurse his ego a little before he seeks me out.”

“And you’re sure he’ll seek you out?”

“Of course.” Rella barked a harsh, humorless laugh. “I’ve given him a taste of something interesting—and that makes me irresistible, even if he hasn’t realized it yet.”

Danielle opened her mouth to ask another question before stopping herself with a frown. She could feel the color drain from her face. If Rella’s plan wasn’t to go to Death, that left only one other being for her have set her sights on.

“It’s about time I paid my father a visit,” Rella said. Danielle could hear the corners of her mouth tug upward in a sly sort of smile.

“That’s exactly what I hoped you wouldn’t say.” Groaning, Danielle ran her hands through her hair and looked up at the skyscraper that loomed in the distance. Being clean on the other side of the city didn’t make it seem any smaller. Satan was in there, somewhere, and he wasn’t going to want any visitors. Not even if one of them was his own daughter.


Kevin sat and gnawed on the inside of his cheek. Horace laughed as he emptied the contents of the box they had given him, key-by-key, into the chains covering his body. He paused only to pick at a piece of burned, flaking skin on the back of his hand. Kevin was content with waiting; there was plenty to stare at on the ceiling, but Derek and Silex were growing rapidly more impatient. Not wanting to risk either of his characters completely demolishing the building, Kevin cleared his throat before they could begin interrogating the man.

“So, deal’s a deal, right?” Kevin slid off of his chair and onto his feet, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“Hold your horses, boy.” Horace closed the box’s lid and shook it so the keys rattled inside. “This’ll make a good dent, though it isn’t close to enough to get me outta these damn things.”

Kevin’s stomach churned as Horace went back to work, coughing and wheezing like his insides were full of ash. Silex slammed one of his armored hands against the bar’s countertop. A hush went over the rest of the Blind Pig as its scattered patrons looked up from their glasses to the source of the noise. Kevin wiped a hand across his forehead, gulping down a nervous knot in his throat. Horace only snorted.

“A deal’s a deal,” he agreed, “when you’ve got the muscle to back you up. C’mere, kid.”

He leaned forward, supporting his weight on his elbow, and Kevin resisted the urge to do the opposite. Bringing his face so close to Horace’s that he could see each and every blackened crack, Kevin pressed his lips into a tight line. He could feel Derek and Silex hovering close on either side of him.

“The door past the bar,” he said, “Knock three times and say afterlife.”

“To get into the…poker game?” Kevin asked.

Horace shrugged, leaning back again and putting his attention back on the keys in the box. There was a grin on the lips that were all but burned away, though it was somehow cruel. Kevin wasn’t too sure it would be good to invest in the stock Horace was selling, but they’d gone through a lot of trouble to get that information and it wouldn’t make sense to turn back now. He looked at Derek, who nodded and started toward the door behind the bar. It was thin, had no knob, and hidden so far back in the shadows that it blended seamlessly into the surrounding wood.

With a grunt, Silex crossed his arms. “Don’t tell me: too small for me to fit?”

Kevin’s eyebrows came together, and he shot a glance at Derek, who hid a laugh behind his hand. “Sorry,” Kevin said, shaking his head. “It’ll probably be crowded in there, anyway. Just wait here? This shouldn’t take long.”

“Right, whatever.” Silex turned away, planting himself against the wall, his entire form creating a makeshift barricade in front of the secluded entrance. “Humans. Tch. Inconsiderate cretins, the lot of them.”

“He’d only slow us down, anyway,” Derek said, already knocking on the door. Kevin hurried to his side as Derek spoke the password. The door slid open and a slender arm ushered them forward. Kevin didn’t have time to get a good look at the new room before the door slid shut behind them and he found himself spinning.

A young woman had her arms around him, her wrists adorned in chains as if they were bangles. “Well, golly,” she said with a laugh, resting her chin on his shoulder, “I can’t remember when I last saw a fella with a ticker still ticking—and sure as I can see you ain’t no stiff! Got a name, Bucko?”

“Uh—Kevin. It’s Kevin.”

“A swell name, Kev! Folks call me Birdie. If there’s anything you need, I’m your gal!” She shot him a playful wink with her hands on her swinging hips. “Just shoot!”

When she took a step back, Kevin managed to get his first real look at her. From what he could tell, she was exactly what he’d find if he searched for pictures of a flapper. Her sequent dress hugged her boyish figure and her hair laid flat against her cheeks in a sleek bob. If it weren’t for the bruise-colored handprints that hugged her neck, Kevin wouldn’t have thought her to be dead. His own throat tightened. Birdie looked younger than him.

“We’re actually just trying to get some ideas on how we could get out of here—out of Nothing, I mean. Horace said we might learn something in here. Do you know anything about that?”

Birdie only laughed again, her smile widening from ear-to-ear. “Gee! That old letch’ll tell anyone anything if he thinks there’s something in for him! How much money did you give him? More than you had on you, I’d bet!”

“So we’ve been had, then.” Derek frowned, uncrossing his arms and putting a firm hand on Kevin’s shoulder and pulling him back toward the door. “Let’s get out of here before we waste more time.”

“Aw, now, come on!” Birdie darted around them, blocking the entrance with a pout. “Just ‘cause I don’t know nothing doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” She paused to tap a finger against her chin in thought. “You could ask Nicky. He’s been here longer ‘n dirt. If anyone knows anything around here, it’ll be him.”

She stuck her thumb over her shoulder. Kevin followed the gesture, past the laughing, dancing bodies and dense atmosphere. There, a man sat alone at one of the shadowed booths. Derek was headed for him before Kevin could even look back to Birdie.

“Sorry,” he said, shooting her an apologetic smile as he shuffled past her to follow Derek. “Thanks for your help.”
Derek invited himself into the seat opposite their target, his hands balled into fists against the tabletop. Kevin hesitated before doing the same. He tried to ignore the way the cushion squeaked under his weight.

“Ah.” The man looked up from his newspaper and folded it delicately in front of him. He wore a pleasant, if tired, smile. The bold letters on the face of the paper announced it as The Hell Hound. “I don’t believe I need to ask if I can help you.”

He extended a hand forward. “My name is Nicholas.”

When Derek pointedly ignored the gesture, Kevin reached forward and shook it. “Kevin,” he answered. “This is Derek. We were told you might know how we can get back home?”

Nicholas’ smile became sympathetic. “I regret to tell you you’ve been misinformed.”

“Bull.” Derek’s lip curled as he snarled, leaning forward on his fists. Nicholas didn’t flinch as Derek fixed him with a glare. “We heard you’ve been here a long time. That you’ve seen some things.”

Kevin frowned, glancing at Derek. That wasn’t exactly true; Birdie hadn’t said anything so specific—but he knew better than to say anything. Derek, more than any of his characters, knew how to lie through his teeth to get the answers he wanted. Unfortunately, Nicholas struck Kevin as the sort of man who was very good at seeing through lies.

A shiver raised the hair on the back of Kevin’s neck. He cleared his throat, causing both sets of eyes to turn his way. Heat filled his face. To save it, he opened his mouth. “You’re the first person we’ve talked to who doesn’t have any chains or injuries.”

Nicholas offered a nod, his expression softening. “I paid off the debt my sins left me with long ago.”

To avoid the way that Derek was glaring at him, Kevin kept his eyes on Nicholas. He gave a short laugh, scratching the back of his hand. That sympathetic edge returned to the corners of Nicholas’ mouth.

“I wasn’t lying. I really, really can’t tell you.” Nicholas leaned forward as he spoke, lowering his voice and tapping a finger against the newspaper’s headline without looking down. The word his finger touched read mortals in bold capitals. Kevin didn’t notice himself scoot forward to the edge of his seat. “Even if I could confirm that mortals have come here before and managed to escape back to their worlds, I couldn’t tell you how they were able to do it. I could only tell you that in such an event, Satan would make sure that he’s the only one with access to the details.”

“And how would we get access?”

“We wouldn’t.” Derek frowned, running a hand down his face. “We’d have to break in.”


Hayden suppressed a whimper as a splinter lodged itself underneath his nail. He dropped the gray wood he was holding to cradle his hand to his chest. It clattered heavily against his foot. Stumbling backward, Hayden’s eyes watered. He stuffed his hands in his mouth, sucking the tips of his fingers, and looked down at his handiwork. It wasn’t much. The members of the faith had managed to set up a good foundation for the new building, but because of all the dissent everyone was refusing to work with one another. Hayden had hammered together a few brittle pieces of the wood from the wreck, but the result was flimsy and mostly unusable.

His heart dropped into his stomach. Looking around him, Hayden saw nothing but nothing—gray buildings and chained, squabbling people. Some of the more dedicated souls were hard at work clearing rubble from the sight of the destruction, but they were few and in-between. Heaving a sigh, Hayden abandoned the hammer and nails he’d wrangled and took a seat on a fallen, Romanesque column that was cracked into several pieces. He nestled his chin between his knees, rubbed his nose on his sleeve with a sniff, and thought.

Mostly, he thought about his meeting with Ballas. The demons who had accosted him when he first discovered the cathedral’s collapse had taken him to a dark room with a single light where he had been given a choice: to help catch the mortals that were loose in Nothing, or die. Neither option sounded very nice, but the promise of death had edged out his apprehension, so Hayden had promised to do as he was told.

Ballas had eyes everywhere. Hayden had been seen with the mortals he had taken to the labyrinth. They had trusted him to take them there safely, and Ballas believed this was evidence enough that they—and all the other mortals—would trust Hayden to lead them elsewhere, too. Hayden didn’t know where to start. He didn’t want to start. His tail curled around his legs, the point scratching against his shin. Hayden thought about Danielle—about her colors and her warmth. She had been nicer to him than anyone had ever been before. It would be mean to lie to her. What if she got hurt?

As his eyes began to water all over again, Hayden drew his legs even closer to his chest and tried to steady his breathing. When Ballas had let him leave, he had returned to the cathedral hoping maybe the something would be back and it would give him the hope he needed to get through this. The something would help him make the right decision.

But the something wasn’t back—and it had left Hayden hopeless.

“That’s crazy. You’re suggesting we steal from Satan—literal Satan,” someone said.

Hayden looked up at the sound of his boss’ name, as if even that much would cause Satan to know he was slacking off. His heart thumped as he caught sight of the one who had spoken. A mortal—three mortals, all male, were talking amongst themselves as they walked down the sidewalk in front of the Cathedral. None of them paid Hayden any mind as he slipped off his seat and took careful footsteps through the rubble closer to them.

“Yes, I am.” One of the other two men frowned, his steps tense. His voice had the texture of sandpaper. “What would you rather do, ask him nicely? If you think that he’s going to hand us the file straight from his archives you’re stupider than you look. You heard what Nicholas said—there’s no way Satan’s letting that information get loose.”

“Don’t call me stupid,” said the mortal who had spoken before. He was plainly dressed and much younger than his companions. His lips were turned down in a wounded scowl. “I just don’t know how that’s going to work out any better for us, is all. What if we get caught?”

“You focus on the risk and you’ll never get anywhere,” said the third. Looking at him, Hayden couldn’t stop himself from shivering. This one was bigger and bulker than the other two—his shape was barely humanoid, and he was covered so thoroughly in armor that Hayden couldn’t make out anything beneath it. “This is war. If you get caught in war, you’re dead. So we don’t get caught. We get in and we get out, simple as that.”

“Simple,” the youngest repeated. He snorted a laugh. “Maybe it’s that easy for you, Silex, but if you haven’t noticed I’m not exactly a solider.”

Silex turned toward him. “Tell me about the file, again.”

Holding up a hand to count facts off of his fingers, he recited, “it’ll be old, plain, unmarked, filed alphabetically under C for CANNON in the incident reports, and guarded in the Records Office.”

“So we get in,” Silex said, holding up an arm and flexing his fist, “grab it, and get out. We’ll have the element of surprise. As long as we’re fast, we’ll be fine.”

“But what if he comes after us?” asked the first mortal.

Hayden didn’t hear the response. The blood pounding in his ears drowned it out. He stood at the edge of the construction site, wiping his clammy hands down the front of his shirt, staring at them until they rounded a corner and vanished from view. They were going to try and steal from Satan—this was likely impossible, but now that he’d overheard their plan, it was Hayden’s responsibility to report it. Hayden whimpered. If he did report it, Satan would probably be upset with him for interrupting important work. These options were almost as scary as the ones Ballas had given him.

Before Hayden could make up his mind on what to do, a voice calling his name caused him to turn with a yelp. Down the road, Danielle waved an enthusiastic hand over her blonde head. Her smile looked so easy. Hayden took a step toward her, paused to give a nervous glance all around him, and then darted the rest of the way. Rella was next to her. Her big pretty eyes were just as cold as before so Hayden made sure to avoid them.

“Yes, hello,” Hayden said, trying to be polite despite the butterflies in his chest reminding him of Ballas’ terms. “You got out of the labyrinth without getting hurt, that’s good!”

“Yeah.” Danielle’s smile softened as she paused, pushing up her glasses. “I’m sorry about what happened. I know you probably took it to heart…but you’re not hurt, and that’s what’s important.”

Hayden shifted on his feet. In the corner of his vision, Rella’s dark form reminded him of Satan’s. “Um,” he said, “I think maybe you should stay with your other mortal friends! It might be safer that way!”

“Actually, we were looking for you. Oh! Maybe you could help us!” Danielle’s blue eyes widened as the thought lit up her face, but Hayden shrieked, throwing her off before she could speak again.

“Not you, too! You can’t break into Mr. Satan’s records! I’m sure he kept the file secret for a reason so it wouldn’t be nice to take it! Stealing’s very, very mean and you’ll get in trouble if you do it!” Hayden raised his hands up in front of him, forming a defensive wall. Danielle wrapped her hands around them, warming his cold fingers.

She looked up at Rella, whose frown had turned thoughtful. “We were planning on getting in touch with Satan,” Danielle said, “but I don’t know what we’d steal. What file are you talking about?”

“Oh.” Hayden took a step backward, his face coloring in a sickly shade of embarrassment. “Pretend I didn’t say anything, okay? Hey!” His face brightened. “If you’re just going to go talk with Mr. Satan I can take you there! It’ll be faster than walking, and now I know I can take people with me through portals! Isn’t that neat? I’d never done it before today!”

“Uh, yeah.” Danielle blinked. “That would be great.”

Rella cleared her throat, stepping between them. Hayden made to recoil, but she trapped his jaw between her slender fingers and forced him to look up into her face. “Tell me what you heard,” she commanded in a voice like silk and honey. “Who is going to break into Satan’s records, and why?”

Hayden looked into her eyes without thinking. As soon as he did, he couldn’t look anywhere else. His hands dropped to his sides as her words sunk into his brain. She was so pretty. Prettier than anything he’d ever seen. The more he looked, the more he found her eyes weren’t cold at all. They were refreshing and so was she. Hayden opened his mouth to answer her question, because it wouldn’t be right to keep things from someone so nice and so pretty.

Rella let him go. Hayden blinked. Closing his mouth, he felt he’d told her every detail of what he’d overheard, though he couldn’t quite remember saying anything at all. He scrunched up his face in confusion, and looked up at her again. She was smiling sweetly at him. Hayden couldn’t decide if it made him happy or put him on edge.

“Was that really necessary?” Danielle asked, frowning up at the other woman. Rella only laughed politely.

“You should thank me. Not only am I doing your job for you, but now you have a lead.” Her gaze went from Danielle to Hayden, and she extended her hand in an invitation. “Now, I’d like to take you up on your offer. I’ve grown tired of walking.”

Hayden reached for her hand on instinct, but stopped. He looked at Danielle. Her face was still full of concern. He wanted to know what Rella had done. Why had he felt so weird when she looked at him? Why had he felt so compelled to tell her what she wanted and why couldn’t he remembered what he’d said? Had she done something? The more Hayden looked at Danielle, the more he thought about Ballas, and the less he felt he had the right to ask any questions.

“Okay,” he said, wiggling his hand into Rella’s. It wasn’t as warm as Danielle’s but it was still warm, and that made him smile. He stretched his free hand out in front of him, and a black crack formed from the ground up until it was tall enough for all of them to step through. It widened next, flickering and warbling and dark.

“You’re sure you can do this?” Danielle asked. Hayden shook his head before quickly correcting himself with a nod.

“It’ll be good, I promise,” he said. “You go first, and we’ll follow! I can’t hold it for too long so please hurry!”

Danielle hardly looked appeased, but she stepped forward until she was just in front of the portal. She didn’t show any indication that she planned on moving further. At Hayden’s side, Rella sighed—and as she did, Danielle fell forward as if she had been pushed, disappearing into the portal. Concerned, Hayden ran to meet her, all but dragging Rella behind him.
Age: given the way time turns in the Underworld and given the fact that demons don’t age traditionally Hayden has not kept track of how many years he’s lived. For all intents and purposes, he seems to fall ambiguously between ten and twelve human years.
Sex: male
Race: demon; purebred—not the corrupted soul of an ex-human

Weight:  91 lbs.
Build: almost alarmingly thin and gangly, all limbs despite being so small.
Skin: pale and ghoulish, as if he’s never seen real sunlight—which he hasn’t.
Hair: a shocking mess of bright, fire-engine red that falls around his ears and face and in his eyes in untended waves. While it isn’t dirty, it doesn’t appear to be familiar with the feel of a comb.
Eyes: round and wide and dark green. They’re slightly sunken behind tired, purple circles.
Other defining features: a long, thin, hairless black tail with a heart-shaped tip and matching horns on his forehead barely long enough to poke out past the top of his hair. Subtly pointed ears and slightly too-sharp teeth.
Clothing: Hayden tries to dress his nicest, due to being employed by Satan (who takes appearances very personally), but can’t afford very fine clothes. He’s found a compromise in well-worn, drab vests and button-downs. His fashion sense could be comparable to Oliver Twist.

Hayden is an anomaly. Despite having spent a majority of his life in Hell and against all odds he's managed to somehow maintain a pure heart. Although his cowardice rules him and he’s never been particularly bright, his belief in a brighter future has never been stronger. His hopes keep him going and his optimism gets him through each and every hard day that comes his way. He is, perhaps, the only devout demon that can be found residing in Nothing, if not the entire Underworld. Although most things scare him, Hayden isn’t picky about who he’ll affiliate with. Partly because he’s incredibly gullible, Hayden’s happy to befriend anyone who will give him the time of day. All in all, he wears his big, simple heart on his sleeve so it’s always completely clear what he’s feeling at any given moment. Usually he’s stuck somewhere between being scared and being excited, but these two widely different agitations often blur together.
Loves:  his name (he thought of it himself!), compliments, colors, smiles, the idea of friendship, doing a good job, the cathedral in Nothing, violin music, and storybooks with lots of pictures.
Hates: getting in trouble, intolerance, being treated unkindly because of his status as a demon or because he isn’t demon enough, cynical attitudes, bitter foods, rudeness, getting blamed for things that he didn’t do.
Fears: messing up, pain, getting sent back to Hell, anything significantly bigger than him (inanimate or otherwise), raised voices, making decisions, losing his hope.
Strengths: polite, friendly, optimistic, hard-working, considerate of the feelings of others, trustworthy, doesn’t (intentionally) break promises.
Weaknesses: clumsy, inarticulate, barely literate, forgetful, rarely thinks before he acts, cowardly to an almost crippling extent, gullible, easy to read.
Pick one of the SEVEN DEADLY SINS that your character relates to, and one that your character does not relate to:  Relates to envy, does not relate to sloth.
Pick one of the SEVEN HOLY VIRTUES that your character relates to, and one that your character does not relate to: Relates to most of the virtues but most predominantly toward diligence. Does not relate to temperance.
When he’s especially frightened his tail curls around his leg.
2. Apologizes frequently, unnecessarily, and sometimes inappropriately.
3. Almost unable to stand completely still or remain completely quiet for any period of time.

 born and raised in Hell, currently residing in Nothing.
Family/Friends: Satan (boss), Death (not really his boss but might as well be)
Background:  Hayden doesn’t really like to dwell on his past. It’s pretty boring and also makes him sad. He was born in Hell along with several other demons—and demons, not being particularly familial creatures, left them all to fend for themselves. For a while Hayden, being an exceptionally cowardly and gentle demon, managed to find solace in the shadow of one of his tougher sisters. That sanctuary vanished when she found a place working under demon nobility. Hayden, being embarrassing, was left high and dry.

Most of his years thereafter were spent alone. He lived as best he could, remained positive, and tried not to take it personally when some of the other demons his age pushed him around or made fun of him for not aging faster or not getting a real job. Eventually, stumbling literally headfirst into the only stroke of luck he’s ever had, Hayden landed himself a job as Satan’s assistant. The term “assistant” is, of course, being used generously here. For the most part he’s been running messages and delivering coffees for the better part of a couple centuries. He’s been kept so busy that he hasn’t had the chance to grow—both literally and figuratively.

When Hayden’s not too occupied running errands for his boss, he generally spends his time helping out at the cathedral, where the faith of Something is practiced. He’s become an active believer in something, using it as a way to keep his head up high and hopeful through the tough, long years in the Underworld. It’s his hope that someday, if he’s really truly good and kind, God will overlook the fact that he’s a demon and let him into Heaven where he can live with the angels—or maybe, somehow, become an angel himself. This isn’t how it works, of course, but he has yet to face that fact.

Physical Attributes:
 nothing noteworthy. Hayden’s a complete weakling and he’s completely aware of it. He bruises like a peach and if he couldn’t teleport, he wouldn’t even be very good at running, either. The only thing he can boast is a cute, charming face—but in the Underworld this rarely does much for him.
Unusual Abilities: can create portals and manipulate dark energy; has poor control over both of these abilities, mostly due to a lack of practice. Unlike most demons, Hayden can create portals to worlds and times that should be beyond his reach. Not really knowing this, he generally just uses his portals as a means to jump across Nothing. It’s a big city, after all. He’s pretty good at doing that much, but is also terrible at navigating and almost always seems to end up either running into someone (or something) or putting himself in the completely wrong place.

How does your character feel about you?:
I simultaneously make Hayden very nervous but very excited. He thinks mortality is super cool! He also thinks I’m really colorful and wants to know everything about me and what it’s like up on the surface. He wants to help, but he also doesn’t know how and doesn’t want to get in trouble.
How does your character feel about your other characters?: Hayden thinks that Rella is really pretty but also really scary. She reminds him a lot of his boss, Satan, so he immediately feels like he should do everything she says unless he wants to get himself in trouble. He doesn’t think she’s a bad person, even if she doesn’t seem to take him very seriously.
How do you feel about your character?: I love him dearly. I feel guilty knowing that I set him up to desire things that are constantly beyond his reach and now that I know how badly he’s suffering I want to be able to just make it all go away. I want to help him without admitting that I’m responsible for the things he’s gone through. Besides this, I feel comfortable around him because he’s so friendly and cute. I also admire his blind optimism.
Other: N/A

List the three most important things about your character.

1.  Works for Satan, generally doing simple errands as he’s too clumsy to be trusted for much more than that.
2.  Has been able to retain a pure heart despite his demonic origins and the pressures that surround them.
3. Can create strong and diverse portals that most demons cannot but has no real control over this power.
EXIII Ref - Hayden
THIS IS EXTREMELY OVERDUE and I'm sorry for everyone who might've been inconvenienced by Hayden not having a completed reference. For some reason this was really hard for me to write even though it's a pretty small reference all things said? I guess because I had to do it from scratch while Rella's was already mostly complete; I didn't have to change much from her previous Exchange reference.

In any case here he is! And now he's officially a real character! Just in time for him to get pretty ding dang relevant in my story. Enjoy! I'm planning on uploading a drawn reference of him soon, too. I've been unfortunately without my tablet for the better part of the summer.
It's been somewhere around a year since my last journal so I guess it's about time I made a new one! I don't really have too much to talk about, but since I don't hear too much from the really cool fantastic people I watch and who watch me back on here too often I thought I'd ask a question!

I'd like to get to know you all better and be better friends. We all follow each other because we have things in common, whether it be our participation in past or current OCTs, writing in general, drawing, fandoms, or what have you. Would anybody be interested in swapping AIM or Skype usernames? Note me or comment and maybe we could strike up a friendly conversation!

I hope everybody's having a really nice day today!

Oh, also, I've been wanting to broaden my horizons. I don't have a lot of spare time these days, but if anybody has any book, movie, tv series, or video game recommendations I'd love to hear them! Or even if anyone has any suggestions for drawing or even some requests, I'll consider them! Besides what I do for work I've been a bit blank creatively so I want to work slowly at fixing that. Tell me what kind of things you like or what you want to see from me and why. I'll do my best!
  • Mood: Yearning


Danielle Dawson
Artist | Student | Varied
United States
ow o;;

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Saishira Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Happy birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Icysapphire Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2014  Student General Artist
Thanks! O:
Demoness-Melody Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Icysapphire Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2013  Student General Artist
omfg o n o
too close
Ganth Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2013
Icyyyyyy happy birthday :D
Icysapphire Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2013  Student General Artist
Thanks, Ganth! C:
2twinveggies Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Your King Lear comics made day. I thank you for your gifts to mankind and pray you keep up the good work.
Icysapphire Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013  Student General Artist
AW thank you!
applescruff Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey, good luck on this round of Libertas!
Icysapphire Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2013  Student General Artist
You too! C: I'm sure this is going to be tons of fun.
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