A P O C R Y P H A

Bound

“Hey D?”

The demon cracked open his eyes to look down at the boy addressing him. Caleb was laid out beside him, twisted at the waist to lean over Dantalion’s torso, arms draped over his chest and chin rested on his forearms. He was still bare from head to toe, faint pink lines criss-crossing his back and chest and arms and thighs, but the sweat that left his pale skin glistening frost on a window was beginning to evaporate. Dantalion was used to this by now. Whether it was the only time he let his own mind wander, or if he was trying to take advantage of Dantalion’s post-coital pliability and elevated mood, Caleb was always notably more inquisitive in the afterglow of a good hard fuck. Ghostly blue eyes that had no place in a human’s sockets gazed up at him, expecting a response. He closed his eyes again.

“Mm.”

“I got a question.”

 

“You always do.”

 

“All the demons in the book have a seal, right?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“That’s what keeps them bound to answering when a human calls them.”

 

“Correct.”

 

“Where’s yours?”

 

He opened his eyes again. “What do you mean?”

 

Caleb flapped one hand without lifting the arm attached to it. “Where’s your seal?”

 

“You have it. Your talented little wretch cast it for you, remember? Iron and all.”

 

He finally lifted his head, looking down at the eye in Dantalion’s chest that was definitely not looking back at him, and tracing one index finger idly around it. “No, I mean, like, that pink guy had his seal on his back, and your king wore his right above his dick, like he wanted to make sure anyone sucking it could see.”

 

Finally Dantalion lifted his head to speak to him more directly, brushing Caleb’s hair behind his ear with one claw. “It’s…optional. We all have to wear it, but we don’t have to show it.” The puzzled look on the boy’s face suggested that was not a satisfactory answer. “King Asmodeus has a sense of humor and bares it to remind his summoners what they summoned him for and what’s waiting for them if they fuck up…or if they please him, I suppose. King Paimon, on the other hand, does it as a reminder to himself. To stoke his own fire, so to speak. Make sure he stays angry.”

 

Caleb’s brows furrowed. “Angry about what?”

Dantalion looked at him a long moment, perhaps a little longer than was comfortable, judging by Caleb’s subtly shifting expression. “Do you know how we ended up in that book, Caleb?”

 

“You were captured, right? And the servitude is the sentence for your crimes?”

 

“In simplest terms, yes.”

 

The innocent cock of Caleb’s head would have been amusing under any other circumstance. “What does that mean?”

“We don’t have courts like your government. There was no trial, no deliberation. They hunted us down one by one, and at all costs.”

 

“Yeah, you’ve mentioned.” A moment of silence as Caleb chewed on his lip and traced the valley of Dantalion’s chest just below the eye. “What happened, then?”

 

“You won’t like the rest of this story.”

 

“Tell me anyway.”

 

The demon stared him down, trying to gauge what his reaction could be. It was difficult at best without the ability to read his thoughts. But if he wanted to know, so be it. Dantalion let out a heavy sigh. “The angels had pretty much given up on finding us at that point. All it took was a few blind, overzealous humans to trap us and call the angel assigned to find each of us. They spent days or weeks fighting each of us relentlessly until we were so drained the humans were able move in and take us by force. Couldn’t move, couldn’t fight back, some of us couldn’t even speak. Not that it mattered, because neither the humans nor the angels were listening to us anyway. All we could do was lie there and wait for it to be over, one way or another.”

 

“Did they try to kill you?”

 

“No. Sometimes I wished they had. Days more trying to get under our skin, sometimes literally. Trying to break us in any way they could to get us to confess our sins and beg forgiveness. Return to the light, or whatever. And only when they were convinced that wasn’t gonna happen, they held us down to seal us. We were still too weak to do anything about it. These men had divine blessing and thus divine fire, and they heated their iron with it, and seared our seals into our flesh the old-fashioned way, ignoring our screams, and under the approving gaze of their beloved angels.”

 

Caleb was disturbed, Dantalion could tell, but he was doing an impressive job of disguising it. A lifetime, however short, of hiding his emotions made it a well-fortified defense, but his extended silence made it clear he wasn’t used to covering something that intense. Dantalion sat upright off the wall, urging Caleb to sit up with him. His long, spider-like fingers hovered over his abdomen, just below his exposed ribs, where the flesh of his chest sloped in to meet his narrow waist. He made a gesture not unlike removing a sheet from a statue. What looked like skin slid away like sand blown about by wind, revealing a red, gnarled scar of Dantalion’s familiar sigil. 

 

Caleb was unable to look away, but his face remained unsettlingly neutral. It must be hard for such a sheltered mind to comprehend, Dantalion figured. The boy’s fingertips brushed over the scar, as though afraid the touch alone would burn all over again. “They…branded you?”

 

“Yes. It was the only way to make the seal permanent.”

 

“That’s…”

“Cruel, abhorrent, tyrannical, royally and supremely fucked. I know.” He let it linger a moment longer before opening his hand and letting the sand-like particles blend seamlessly into his skin and cover the image once again. “Some see it as a mark of honor, to show that demons do have humanity’s best interests at heart. Some see it as a matter of personal pride, as proof they evaded, outwitted, and outlasted an angel. But most of us just see a stamp of shame we’d rather just forget A reminder that our free will is shallow at best, and we’ll never belong only to ourselves ever again. So we hide them. To dull the pain.”

 

“…I’m sorry for asking.”

 

“Don’t be stupid, boy,” Dantalion retorted, but the usual bite to his voice was missing. “If you’re going to insist on meddling in affairs lightyears beyond your pay grade, I’m gonna make damn sure you’re at least well-educated.”