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Family Denied


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The Pocket was quiet as the portal flared and The Man in Black stepped out onto the corrugated steel floor. He adjusted his fedora before jutting his chin to tighten the black tie around his neck.


The sound of hard soled loafers echoed on the ramp leading up to the common bar and Isaac turned from his patrons to glance up at his friend who nodded back before disappearing upstairs.


He made his way around the winding concourse to the second floor and stared at the guests gathered around the usual spot. It was the common assortment of youngsters, a strange mixture of bravado and shyness, flirtatiousness and dismissal but most of all uncertainty as if they had only just arrived. He wove his way through the thin crowd at a respectful distance to find a lonely stool at the end of the bar and promptly sat, pulling an already lit cigar from his breast pocket and jamming it between his molars. He turned to make eye-contact with Jenny from behind his opaque, burnt-orange shades and she nodded with a gentle smile and reached down to find an old dusty jug in an infrequently used cabinet. She filled the strange little, stemless goblet The Man in Black had already placed on the bar with a noxious smelling fluid before nodding again and returning to her other charges.


"Why do you spend so much time here, Abomination?" growled the little demonling as appeared at the man's shoulder.


"Ye ken the answer, Screwtape. I've tol' ye before, these youngsters need guidance." The Man in Black sipped from the little goblet and coughed before twisting to face the little, red-winged horror as it perched itself on the back of the booth.


"And yet none of them listen." He sneered. "You talk and you talk, you even lead them into battle and they still don't listen. Why do you waste your time with them?"


The Man in Black ignored his tormentor and focused on the room. All manner of self-styled heroes and villains alike mingled, as well as everything in between. The hum was familiar and he puffed his cigar and spun his little goblet in his left hand as he leaned against the bar-rail. The demonling prattled in his ear, joining the ambient noise of the space as he watched people in capes and tights and tactical gear and all manner of costumery meander back and forth. Time seemed to accelerate as more and more the interactions seemed to take an almost cartoonish aspect as they sped up. They began, carried on for a time and ended. Over and over as The Man in Black sat on his stool and watched.




He woke from his reverie to find an empty bar. Even Jenny had gone, but not before filling his goblet once more. The only other present was a beautiful woman with dusky skin in a white suit, as alabaster as his own cards. She leaned against the bar, filling his vision.


"An' who's askin'?"


The click of her heels left an impression as she stepped back once, her hands raised in surrender. "I'm just here to talk." She replied in Infernal. The Man in Black knew how it ended if he broke the truce of The Pocket. He could smell Downstairs on her. She was a Local.


She returned to English. "My name in this place is Claire. I was sent by your uncle to parlay." The demon dragged a stool over to a safe distance and perched upon it. She stared through the shades into the fires that lay beneath. "Will you parlay... Fergus?"


The Man in Black straightened and the cherry of the cigar still gripped between his molars flared and a sweet, blue smoke filled the room.


"Did he tell ye that'd werk, then? If'n ye called me as me mum did?"


The woman scoffed. "Surely you don't expect me to call you by that ridiculous name as introduction?" She snapped imperiously.


"Ye've called me all the others." He plucked the cigar from his mouth and rested his wrist on his knee before sipping from the little goblet, coughing slightly as he laid it back on the bar. "It's what they call me, an' it's a name I cherish an' protect an' ye'll nae e'en say it once." He popped the front of his fedora with his free hand to meet the woman's gaze from behind burnt orange shades.


The woman pulled herself to her full height on the stool and smoothed down the front of her blazer. "It would appear I've offended. I sincerely apologize, you are of course The Leg-"


The Man in Black held up his hand. "It's jes' Liv."


He watched as she tried not to roll her eyes and failed. He smirked.


"Liv, the war is going poorly, for both sides."


"Is that so?"


"Yes, and I've been tasked with- "


"Fer whom?"


"Excuse me?"


He shook his head and stood, draining the goblet before sliding it back into his breast pocket. "Fer whom is the war goin' poorly, lass?"


She shifted on her stool. "Well, for both sides and I've been asked to- "




"Angziel, you have to underst-"


"The answer is no."


There was a flash as she stood. A blip and for just a fraction of a second in her place was a fearsome visage as her rage clashed against the curtain of The Pocket. Scarlet red skin bled through the designer suit, hooves in the place of heels, fangs hung over perfectly lined lips and leathery wings blotted out the pot lights in the ceiling. And then the image was gone, but not soon enough.


"Angziel, son of Kadziel Opener of Ways, I address thee in tongue of your kin! Your Captor, Lord and Master commands your aid! Defy him at your own peril!"


The fallen angel's voice shook The Pocket. Bottles rattled behind the bar, stools stumbled as of their own accord and toppled over and then, predictably he was alone again.


"You can't just do nothing forever, Abomination." quipped the demonling as he uncurled from his nap, stretching languorously along the bench of the booth.


"Aye, Screwtape, I reckon that's so." replied The Man in Black as he flicked a match and stepped through the flame into The Room of Many Doors.

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-The Legendary Living Hellfire

"The newest person in the room is always the most important person in the room"

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