Three Trials – Kristy Cunning

Just a suggestion: When the Devil says, “Let the games begin,” see if you can run in the opposite direction. If not, put on your big girl panties. Someone might die. “First ten across the line will ascend,” Cain, the Devil’s son, says as he takes over. “Even if everyone else dies, if no one crosses the finish line, then no one wins.” “The Devil wants to see what will happen to us if we die,” Jude growls. “Has to be what’s going on. All that shit about not knowing our situation was bullshit.” “I’m not really sure what we were thinking by trusting the Devil to begin with,” Ezekiel mutters just loud enough for me to hear it. I turn again, finding the Devil practically excited as he grins so broadly and continues to stare at them. “Even if we manage to survive a land no one outside of hell’s belly residents or royals have ever survived, we have to remember Lucifer built this course. It’ll be full of illusions that could send us in circles. We’ll never get out of here if he doesn’t want us to,” Gage states quietly. It reminds me of that palace and how I kept going in circles even when I passed through walls. I couldn’t get out until I focused on them and zapped myself to them.

I’m not sure what happens. Between them talking about the fact they’ll never get out of hell’s belly and the Devil laughing like he’s enjoying every minute of this, I snap. A haze comes over me, and I move away from the guys as they continue to talk to each other. Slipping by people and through people, I make my way toward Lucifer as the acidic power burns at my fingertips, demanding to be set free as the dull echo of my heartbeat pulses in my veins. Lucifer’s eyes are still gazing toward the left, watching the guys as they talk about their impending doom. Every single ounce of fear and dread rolls through me, becoming a force that has to be released. My hand flies out without another thought, and Lucifer’s eyes widen seconds before he’s launched across the room. He slams through a crowd people before crashing against a wall, dropping to the ground with a heavy clap. But when he starts laughing instead of screaming in pain, my hand wavers then lowers slowly. A sick feeling slithers up me as a bit of hopelessness joins alongside it.

Lucifer just dusts himself off, still grinning, completely unaffected. The rest of the party has gone silent, all eyes on the Devil as they worry about what happens next. “Somebody is really not happy about this course,” Lucifer says loudly, then laughs along with a few other psychopaths. His eyes narrow even as a smile stays on his lips, and he looks around like he’s searching for me. Feeling a hollowness at the proof I can’t take the Devil down, I turn and walk swiftly back to the guys, nervous the Devil will beat me to them. As soon as I’m to them, Jude gives me smirk and an arched eyebrow. “Any particular reason you just threw the Devil across the room in front of everyone? Or are you just suicidal? He’ll know that was you,” he points out. I look back just as Lucifer predictably starts making his way over here. “You know that acid power I have that eats people from the inside out?” I ask them. “Yes,” Ezekiel says hesitantly.

“I didn’t throw the Devil across the room,” I say as Lucifer draws closer, his smile scarily widening with each step he takes. “I used the acid power on him.” Jude mutters a curse under his breath, and he passes through me, standing in front of me as the Devil nears. “Seems like someone is a little riled up. Tell me what she is saying,” Lucifer tells them. I thought Lamar was my friend, but apparently his main priority is to the Devil, to hell with everyone else. Even though I never thought the Devil would be more intrigued with me upon discovering I have a gender, I’m sure Lamar knew. “She’s saying she will find a way to kill this evil son of a bitch if anything happens to you guys in there,” I bite out, stepping closer to Jude’s back. Kai chokes back some sound, and Jude smirks. “She says she’s sorry,” Jude lies.

“She knows she was terribly out of line, but she has no true gauge of right from wrong, as she’s not an actual being.” I glare at the back of his head. “That’s not at all what I said, and a touchable vagina makes me very much an actual being. My independent thoughts and emotions make me a being too, but mostly the vagina. And it’s a good vagina, by the way. Not an evil one, despite the house vote.” I ramble when I’m stressed out, it appears. Gage mutters something under his breath that I don’t catch. “I have a feeling that’s not entirely true,” Lucifer says, that deceptive mask of amusement on his face. “However, the next time she wants to strike me, tell her to make sure I can strike her back.

There should always be a balance.” He turns and walks away, and I flip him off to his back. “Balance my ass. If that didn’t even leave a mark on him, then he has a much bigger upper hand than I do,” I snap, feeling way too frustrated and struggling to get my temper under control. I want this entire place to burn to the ground with the Devil in it. Or maybe ice would be the counter to kill the man who can withstand fiery acid. “You need to calm down. You didn’t get this upset when you thought Manella was trying to kill us,” Kai says from too close behind me. “My power wouldn’t work on him, yet it flowed through me to hit the Devil. It only works to protect you, so what does that tell you?” I growl, eyes still on Lucifer as he takes a seat in his throne and lazily lounges like he has all the time in the world to watch them die.

My fists ball at my side, and I struggle not to go whole. I almost think he knows what I am and is trying to lure me into some sort of trap. “You already tried to kill him, and it didn’t work. Maybe your power is trying to tell you something still. You forget you’re stronger than you were when you attempted to kill Manella,” Gage says from my side, moving closer. They’re surrounding me and trying to get me to calm down? “Why are you defending him?” I ask incredulously, feeling an understandable pang of betrayal. Gage actually looks a little surprised, then his eyes narrow as anger settles into his features. “I’m not trying to defend him. I’m trying to defuse you before you turn whole and he kills you in front of us.” If he hadn’t just admitted they’ve only kept me around for a power boost, I’d almost think he sounds and looks like he gives a damn right about now.

For whatever reason, the imitation of concern is enough to ice out some of the burning fury, and a weird little contented burn settles in my chest. Without letting them see their effect on me, I turn around and face the course again. “Competitors, get ready!” Cain shouts, standing in front of everyone. I have no idea why I do it, but I think of how I burned Lilith, and mimic the same stirring emotions until his pants…burst into flames. He curses, reaching down to dust the flames away, but then his pants drop like the fire broke the hem. He grabs his pants, jerking them back up, then glares at the Gemini twins before pointing a finger. “You fucking assholes,” he growls. Their eyes widen, and they vanish from the room when he starts stalking after them. Apparently no one in this room would have a death wish besides the two of them. He vanishes too, and I smirk.

Well, I just caused at least a little sibling drama among their royal realm. Sure, it’s minor and petty, but at least there’s some satisfaction in it. Hera steps up and takes over where Cain left off, using a tone that makes it sound like she’s terribly bored with the entire ordeal. “Ready, set, go, and blah blah,” she says with a dismissive wave of her hand. A light flashes and momentarily blinds me. Chapter 2 We’re suddenly alone in the middle of what looks like a fiery canyon. The fire travels u p in streams, wrapping over the mountains in front of us. On the other side, we have woods full of black, ashy trees and zero light. The right and left of us fades into both as they touch. We’re standing in the only clearing between the two options.

“Do we die in the forest or on the mountaintop?” Gage asks, looking back and forth between both. “At least we can see death coming if we climb the mountain,” Jude answers. I zap to the top of the mountain, looking around, then zap back down to them. “He didn’t say anything about not siphoning. No rules other than to finish the course,” I tell them. “Which way is the end? We’ll just—” “Either direction we choose will take us toward the end or in a circle, depending on Lucifer’s agenda at this point,” Gage butts in. “And I’ve been trying to siphon since we got in here. He’s blocked that ability somehow. Maybe because we’re in the belly of hell it doesn’t work. Who knows at this point?” “And I can only do it in this form—the form where I can’t touch anything or anyone so that I can siphon them with me, because for whatever reason, each new gift has a downside.

Yet I’m not supposed to be a gift from Lilith because that’s impossible,” I state-matter-of-factly, rambling again. Gage starts climbing the side of the mountain with Ezekiel right behind him. Jude and Kai move as well, and I grin when I hear Ezekiel yell down at Jude. “Really glad I got that good night of sleep now.” Jude mutters something as he climbs a little more angrily now. I just hang out, watching them near the ledge, making sure nothing comes at them while they’re distracted. As soon as they reach the ledge, I zap up there, and start looking around, inspecting it for dangers that might catch them off guard. “I wonder if I can create weapons the same way I create clothes,” I say to them, moving from spot to spot on the barren mountainside ledge in front of them as they start hiking up behind me. “Don’t risk it,” Kai says to me absently. “Lucifer is likely watching our every move.

Besides, we need certain weapons to actually be able to do any damage in hell. I don’t think you’ll be able to materialize those.” “Can the Devil hear you?” I ask him. “No,” Jude answers. “Not unless he comes down here.” I look around, but don’t see an obvious hole in the air where the doorway once was. As we continue to hike up, avoiding the side with the lava spilling upward, I conversationally say, “So they focus on quads, and they’re desperate to know of your powers. Even accuse you of being too strong to be topside. Yet he seemed surprise you had a balance.” “I noticed that too,” Ezekiel tells me.

“Just curious, but do you think they’re searching for the Four Horsemen?” I ask. Jude snorts. “We thought of that first. The Four Horsemen were killed centuries ago during a collision of the two kingdoms, before we were even born,” Kai answers me. “We thought we’d access more information on it, but even if that’s what we were, they’d be trying to get us in hell; not keep us out.” Huffing out a breath of frustration, I start to say something else, when a huge half-bird, half-snake creature, breaks through the mountain side, passing right through me with its wide, fanged mouth open for food. A shudder ripples through me as the scaly tail finishes passing through me, and power pulses from me without me even summoning it, sending the bird-snake squawking in pain as its wings stumble their flight and it starts spiraling downward. It catches itself right before the bottom and shoots off in the opposite direction of us. “That was so not cool,” I grumble, shuddering again, feeling like I need a shower. “Did you see its tail?” Gage chuckles, but we all start warily listening to the mountainside now that we know there are beasts that can shoot out of it.

“I don’t know if that thing could see me, but I am curious why the hell some monsters have seen me, even though people—not even the Devil—can do so,” I state idly, glancing around. No one volunteers any possible answers, so I prattle on, adding, “Maybe because they’re deader? Mushed up in that soul chamber called hell’s throat until they’re the abominations they are now?” “Maybe because the monsters see differently than our kind. The monsters don’t see things threedimensionally. It’s another level of vision that has evolved in their state,” Kai says through strain as he starts shoving at a boulder. Gage helps, and they topple two boulders into the lava, using all their strength to interrupt its path. It’s safe to assume it’s hellfire lava. Quickly, they all jump over those boulders before they sink. “I wonder if they see me like an ink blob. Psychology would make so much more sense to me if so,” I observe thoughtfully, changing my entire attitude about ink blobs prints on movies now. “Or maybe they see things in ones and zeroes.

Could be the origin of code if one of these was humanoid and got loose topside.” Apparently they think I’m ridiculous since no one is dignifying my very creative musings as conversation starters. I keep talking, mostly to myself since they’ve stopped responding. Talking seems to calm me down, and I’m still a little nuclear-level furious from the Devil’s betrayal that we really should have seen coming. There’s a reason people tell you to never make a deal with the Devil. “Why not just get one girl and keep her for those fun times? Is it really because you’re too selfish to spend any amount of time on a woman? Do you not find her worth your time between bouts of dirty four-way sex?” I ask, not expecting an answer as I try to distract my mind. As I open my mouth to keep talking, Kai answers. “Relationships are different than a one-night experience. Attention gets divided when emotions get involved. We’ve tried.

There are always favorites, and none of us enjoy it when there are favorites, not even the favorites.” “It creates jealousy among us, and we always suffer a power loss,” Jude says, staring a little accusingly at me. “Well, favorites change. For instance, you were my favorite in the beginning. Now you’re a peg below Mr. Selfish,” I dutifully point out. “You had us numbered, so I’m assuming four was the best?” Gage muses. “Making me your least favorite, despite your animosity toward Kai and his selfish ways.” “Actually, you were numbered based on the order I saw you in,” I tell him as I step across a bleeding rock. Yes.

The rock is bleeding. I’m not sure if it’s dangerous, but if it’s bleeding, I’m gonna say it’s not a good rock. Certainly not sanitary. Or maybe it’s on its period, so I assume stepping on it would really piss it off more than usual. “When I first started drifting in and out, fading out of existence then back in again, I saw you,” I tell Gage. “I realized quickly that the longer I could see you, the longer it took for me to fade. I followed you everywhere for a few days, but I could never see anything around you or hear anything at all. It was just silence and one gorgeously tattooed anchor.” He clears his throat and looks away, and I shrug a shoulder. “My vision soon started expanding, and I saw Ezekiel next.

He was the one with you when it first expanded. Then Kai came into frame moments later. At last, I could see the whole room, and Jude was the final piece. Just one helped my state-of-being grow slowly. All four sped up the progress exponentially.” They exchange a look, but I pretend not to notice. They’re likely trying to detect a lie or spot the manipulative web the evil vagina is weaving. “Then I watched you moderately. Every time you’d take a woman back, I’d fade out because I refused to watch that. It got harder and harder to come back, so I finally started watching.

Then berated myself for not watching sooner.” Kai snorts out a laugh. I continue on with my story, since I never told them the details of my beginning. “Finally, sound came. It was overwhelming at first. Smells were just behind it. Sight. Sound. Smell. Touch took the longest to appear.

The last was taste that followed quickly,” I say, adding the last part a little quietly. Ezekiel steps a little closer, then makes a conscious effort to put immediate space between us. He was my first taste. “You got all pissy about us keeping you around just to boost our powers, yet you admit you stuck around with us to power yourself. Double standard much?” Jude drawls, being his typical asshole self. My usual response would be witty and catty with equal parts menace and humor. Today, it’s honest. Might as well be brutally honest and rip the veins open. Death could come by nightfall for all of them, then me by proxy. “You four were there for every step of my growth, even seemed to aide in it.

I grew attached to all of you—infallibly loyal, viciously protective, savagely lustful, and tragically devoted. I genuinely believed I’d seamlessly slide into your lives and fulfill your need for a woman to share. Pathetic and short-sighted as it may sound to you, it was that fantasy that kept me coming back. And because the four of you unknowingly saved me for years, I became indebted to you on a scale that I can never repay. That is why I stick around. I could give in and just fade out—could go back when life would have been so much easier and less lonely. I finally get to be the one saving you, giving back to you all you gave to me, despite your rather extreme protests, so I stay.” No one says anything for a while. It’s not the first time I’ve attempted to bare my heart and soul, then have the pieces of it get thrown in my face directly after by them. It’s odd that I’m thankful for the next bird-snake that emerges to break up the awkward tension surrounding us.

It shoots out, passing through me again, just like the last one. “Why do they keep shooting out at me?” I snap as that sickly tail slashes through me, the birdsnake soaring out and away from us. I think that other one must have somehow warned him I’d kick his scaly ass. “I’m a badass,” I state primly as I walk a little taller in my sexy phantom heels. “You could at least give us something pretty to look at while we’re off to face death,” Ezekiel states flatly. “My outfit is badass and hot.” “It’s…not our thing, really,” Kai drawls. A sexy little red Devil Halloween costume appears on me, along with red fishnet stockings hooked to the garter belts. The cliché pitchfork, red horns, and little red heels complete the look for hell’s belly’s deadly excursion. At first there’s silence, then suddenly there’s boisterous laughter, and I grin to myself while swishing my ass that is clad with red lace panties.

“May be just a little too distracting,” Gage groans. “You wanted pretty. My ass in lace is as pretty as it can get.” “I think it’s her vanity that always catches me off guard the most,” Ezekiel says on a rumble of laughter. “I prefer to hear it called confidence,” I once again point out. “I think it’s her greed that surprises me. Wanting all the jewelry and fancy dinners we bought the other women,” Kai muses.

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