The sky was clear and bright. Birds were singing, the din of the town's crowd could be heard from all around, and all was peaceful. Moreover, no certain pesky child had tried throwing rocks at Sargatanas either that day. So, with a bit of a spring in his step, he slung the bulky hemp sack around his shoulder and headed for home.
The only warning anyone had was the sky darkening. It was a very short warning. Though relatively small by astronomical standards, the meteors that fell were still quite considerable in size to anyone not the same height as most mountains, and seared through the air at speeds far too fast to evade. Though as they were also impossible to aim, one of them actually hitting anyone was usually sheer luck, a display of power more for intimidation or to vent than anything practical.
It was also a certain overdramatic individual's signature, as comets of ice rained down alongside their fiery counterparts.
Sargatanas had just enough time to look up. His jaw dropped, and he prepared to bolt, but it wasn't enough - he was just that unlucky. Or, all things considered, just lucky enough.
A meteor impacted scant inches from where he stood.
He wasn't sure of much when he finally came to. It was dark, dirty, hot, and every inch of his body was sore. He rolled gracelessly onto his front, then pushed himself to all fours. He flexed his wings. Also very sore, and stiff, but not broken; that was good.
"Sargatanas!" Astétó's voice was slightly strained, as if he'd been calling his mate's name for some hours. There was also the signature sense of distances warping, a sign Nyithas was also on the search.
"I-" Sargatanas hacked and coughed, then spat up some granules of dirt. He made a disgusted face. "I'm over here!" he called. He looked up, and it finally dawned on him where he was. The crater of the meteor that must have knocked him out.
He grumbled something unpolite under his breath, then dug his claws into the slope and started to climb his way out. He didn't want to chance flying with his wings still so sore - maybe they had been broken? How long was he out, he wondered?
Distances warped, and what was far became near. Within moments, Astétó and Nyithas were at the top edge of the crater. Astétó was in humanoid form, sitting on his son's back as Nyithas had insisted on it. The last clutch had been laid over a month ago, but some of his now rather large family were still insisting he take it easy. Astétó hadn't bothered arguing, too worried about Sargatanas after the first hour had passed. He slid off to stand on his own two feet and help his mate up.
"Where...what attacked you?" It was the only possible explanation for there being a meteor practically on top of his mate. "Who in the stars did you get into a fight with? Are you alright?"
Well, it was Sargatanas, so naturally his mate would be fine regardless given some time, but still... Astétó didn't like seeing him suffer, and worry was worry.
Sargatanas accepted the offered help out of the crater, and when he was finally standing atop the lip of it, he pulled Astétó into a hug. "I'm sore, but I'll be fine soon enough." He looked around.
There were a lot of meteors dotting the landscape, marring the once serene view. He frowned. This was going to be outright ugly to look at from their house on the hills from now on. Ice and fire, though... "I didn't get into a fight with anyone. I pity the poor fool who did upset the summoner of this mess."
"I can clear the mess, but...not all in one day," Nyithas hesitantly offered. His stamina for his powers was far greater than it had once been, but anything involving a lot of mass at once was still exhausting.
Astétó shook his head. "We can worry about the oversized ill-suiting lawn ornamentation later." He hugged Sargatanas back, but mindful of his mate's soreness. "For now, let's go home."
"I might linger. I want to know who, and most can't really hurt me."
"No," Sargatanas said. "I'll explain who did all this back at the house, and if you still have questions then I'll answer." He just wished someone was around to answer his questions.
Nyithas hesitated, then nodded. "We've been searching for you for hours, but I have some energy left for the fast way home."
"And then the energy to stay up and talk?"
"...I might want to sit down after, but I'll still be coherent."
"Take us home then. I don't want to be caught out here in case someone else thinks it's cute to piss off an archdevil."
"An..." Nyithas cut himself off and nodded. Closing his eyes, the vortex in his chest hummed louder as he again exerted his power. They were a fair distance from home, but it wasn't too demanding to warp that. Not at this point in his life, though it was a relief to release the dimensions back to their proper shapes once all three of them were back indoors. Most of the family was out, but Malthus was in the incubation room, while Rikshirisa was resting quietly on one of the living room's couches. The deity opened an eye, snorted, and went back to sleep - whatever he had seen, he clearly didn't think it very important, at least not enough to force his mortal shell to remain awake.
Though Nyithas doubted Rikshirisa's idea of 'importance' was remotely close to anyone else's.
"Someone call the rest of the family home. I don't want anyone getting caught unprepared if they encounter our new 'friend.' I'm..." Sargatanas looked down at himself, caked in dirt and soot and what looked like dried patches of blood. He must have been injured worse than he thought. "I'm going to go shower before I start talking."
Before anyone else could speak, Rikshirisa's voice sounded in their heads - given its lack of specific address, it was just a general broadcast to the family. Sargatanas has woken from a dirt nap, come home. A pause. You as well, Belial, much as I hate to kill a joke so early.
"...Thank you, Mephiles," Astétó said after a few moments, then shook his head. He turned to his mate. "Would you like some help, or shall I go ahead and make dinner?"
Sargatanas' fingers trailed down Astétó's arm. "I would like your company. Kimaris can make dinner." Whatever he thought of Mephiles' broadcast was left unsaid.
What concerned Sargatanas the most was that he hadn't noticed the archdevil's presence at all. When did he arrive? How long had he been in the area? Most importantly, why had he come? He was clearly inverting his aura to stay below Sargatanas' radar, and he must still have been some distance away - so what had provoked him to launch his signature attack?
He hoped the fool was dead. He also knew he'd get to find out sooner than he liked.
He finished scrubbing off with Astétó's help, and then leaned down to kiss his mate before getting out of the shower and toweling off.
Downstairs, with everyone gathered - and everyone meant their massive, vaulted living room was packed - Sargatanas started to explain the source of the meteors 'decorating' the rolling hills surrounding their home. "Normally I wouldn't give half a shit about the next big thing to waltz into town with more power than brains, but this is the Archdevil of the Eighth, Mephistopheles, and he actually has as much brains as power to flaunt.
"I don't know why he's come, or what he could possibly want, but I do know that he's highly temperamental and volatile, and that I'd rather none of you end up in his crosshairs. Whoever provoked him into calling down the meteors earlier is likely little more than an ugly smear right now. They'll be lucky to not have survived."
"Oh, the idiot's still alive," Rikshirisa commented, though his tone was somewhat disinterested. "Barely. Meteors aren't the most accurate of attacks, and Mephisto did not follow it up."
"Is the fool suffering to death, at least?"
"Depends on if Mephisto's anger wins out over his sadism this time or not. Fool might become another live example, if they're lucky. Or unlucky, depending on perspective. You know the lines he doesn't like crossed."
Sargatanas stared dead ahead at nothing for a moment, then sighed and said, "All too well."
Astétó quietly squeezed his mate's hand.
"What, does he get upset if he gets caught with his trousers down?" For once, the biting sarcasm came not from Belial first, but Roneve.
"That presumes he cares to wear pants in the first place," Rikshirisa commented drily.
"Clearly, in this situation, whether or not a volatile pureblood is wearing shit-hose is important." There was Belial speaking up. "If this is all the conversation has to offer, can we move on now? Or shall we all sit and contemplate that scratch in the wall?"
Sargatanas sighed again, then raised his right hand - the one Astétó wasn't holding - and made a gesture in the air while his middle horn glowed faintly. An illusion shimmered into existence, and a man with sharp, striking features and four horns curving back over and around his head took form. "This is what he typically looks like. Don't do anything stupid around him. In fact, if you all would just try to avoid him, it would be appreciated. I know some of you aren't going to listen, but do me one favor and make sure I don't have to come collect your corpse later. Or your soul from the Nine Hells."
"My soul wouldn't go to the Nine Hells, though they would be preferable," Zyrda spoke quietly. Quietly enough to not have been heard by the true mortals of the family, but every tiefling and half-daeva picked up the words.
Caim, who was standing nearby his son, lightly patted his back.
Whatever Sargatanas thought of it was left unsaid. "That's all for now." He waved his hand through the illusion and it vanished. "You all can go back to whatever you were doing."
"The other avanlaz will want to know of Mephistopheles' presence." Zyrda looked to Nyithas and Răzvan.
"You and Nyithas rest, I'll go make the run," Răzvan replied, then stood from where he'd been sitting on the armrest of a couch - one room wasn't quite enough to comfortably seat everyone related to Sargatanas or Astétó these days. Especially not with Astétó also adopting random orphans.
Once everyone cleared out, and Sargatanas had a chance to have dinner with some of the family, he said to Astétó, "I won't be able to relax until I know where Mephistopheles is. I'm going to head back out tonight to find him."
Astétó searched his mate's gaze for a few moments, then nodded. "Then I'll come with you." His tone had a note of finality to it. He was fine, and could even hold his own in spars with his mate, though he didn't have Sargatanas' sheer stamina, whatwith being still mortal. He also cared too much to just let Sargatanas face this sort of danger alone - Astétó was, after all, a capable healer in his own right, and while Sargatanas' regeneration was fast, he'd noticed it did start to slow if his mate took too many severe injuries in too short a timeframe.
And no matter how battered he got, Sargatanas had a bad habit of refusing to get out of the damned way.
Sargatanas opened his mouth to protest, then recognized the look on Astétó's face, and instead said, "Fine. When you're ready, we'll go."
Before long, they were both up in the air, with Astétó secure in Sargatanas' arms while they flew dozens of feet over the rolling hills, trees, and past Andatori itself. Sargatanas took note of how the meteors had landed (quietly relieved none had struck the town), and flew in the direction where they seemed to have originated.
"Xarxus and Sholto must be far, if they're not searching the area," Astétó observed, noticing the lack of either avanlaz in the skies or on the ground. "I would think they'd be the first to react if they were home."
"Maybe they already found Mephisto? They'd have had a few hours head start," Sargatanas suggested.
"Would it have been likely for them to have avoided a fight if they did? I can't imagine any battle with Mephisto would be very contained, from what you and Rikshirisa said of him."
"Mephisto is... kind of our superior. They wouldn't have fought him unless they absolutely had to."
"You and Xarxus fought the day Xarxus arrived in town."
"Yeah but fuck that guy."
Astétó snorted. "I don't think he'd let anyone other than Amaera do that."
"That's because he's a prude."
"If by 'prude' you mean 'easily flustered.'"
Astétó shook his head and fell silent for a while. He had nothing against Xarxus - the Prince of Hell was actually rather difficult to not like - but he was more than familiar with why his mate wasn't fond of him. There wasn't really anything further to actually say on the topic, however, and a new one didn't immediately come to mind - as quick as he was when it came to verbally confusing his mate, Astétó's quick wit had only gotten much conversational exercise after he'd gotten into their relationship. Before meeting Sargatanas, he'd rarely felt a reason to speak at all.
Oftentimes, he still didn't.
time, it passes
The day was warm and sunny, though storm clouds seemed to gather on the horizon - whether it was because of the newcomer's presence, or just nature saying 'fuck you,' was currently indeterminable. It overall took several hours of flying - almost long enough for Astétó to ask for them to land so he could walk for a bit - before a certain, familiar presence was detectible. For even masked, no outsider was able to entirely hide their existence from another, all they could do was shorten the range of detection.
"There. He's up ahead somewhere," Sargatanas said, the first words in some time. He tilted to one side to alter his course more towards where he felt Mephistopheles to be. "I just wonder why he's trying to hide. I know he senses me by now."
"Maybe you're not the one he's concerned about?" Astétó suggested, also speaking for the first time in a while. Though, given how Sargatanas spoke of Mephistopheles, it was worrying that there might be someone the archdevil didn't want sensing him, especially if it wasn't one of the outsiders around Andatori. Or maybe... "Would he have reason to be wary of Laon?"
"They're uh... Kind of on even ground as far as power goes. And besides, if he didn't want to be detected, he shouldn't have thrown fucking meteors around."
"Is he inclined to think that far ahead when he loses his temper?" Sargatanas certainly wasn't.
"Usually, yeah. So whoever pissed him off must have really, really fucked up."
Then another thought hit Astétó. The questions had occurred to him before, but it was often hard to get a word in edgewise at home, and then distractions had happened. "What reason would he have for being close to Andatori? What would provoke him to come here? A frontier town out in nowhere doesn't hold much, even with avanlaz congregating."
"That's what I'm going to try and find out."
"Just...try to not stand in the path of anything this time, please."
Sargatanas frowned at Astétó. "That thing didn't give me time to dodge, alright?"
Astétó raised a slender eyebrow. "Do I need to list off all the times you could have dodged something, and simply didn't?"
Sargatanas finally touched down when he felt Mephistopheles almost too close for comfort, and put Astétó back on his feet. He allowed them both a moment's rest, then pressed on through the tall grassy meadows.
Their quarry was....well, he was dark. Taller than Sargatanas by almost three feet, the archdevil's back was to them, slightly tattered - but uninjured, Astétó noted - wings folded against his back, red and icy blue runes along the edges of the membranes and along his thighs. Long, shimmering dark red hair flowed down to his lower back, tips edged with what looked to be frost. Indeed, though there was no frost around him, there was a subtle iridescent shimmer to his form that gave the impression of frost and blood.
The spined, long tail, ending in a sharp blade, seemed to just accentuate his appearance. Astétó would have assumed him a Nightmare, but given this was an outsider...he wasn't sure which breed, if any, Mephistopheles technically favoured.
"Tell me, General, are the Princes hiding?" Mephistopheles' voice was a deep bass, and like Rikshirisa's, was an odd mix between rough and smooth.
To be called by a title again, and while on extended vacation, no less, somehow grated on Sargatanas. "I have no idea. I thought they'd beat me here. Frankly, I could ask the same question of you, Lord of Cadia."
Mephistopheles' tail swished to one side. "Asmodeus needs to learn when to shut up."
That earned a slow blink. Just several years ago, there were many dumb things Sargatanas would have said to that, but since meeting Astétó, he had learned much. Or at least he felt like he had. So, instead of something Mephistopheles could take back to Asmodeus, he instead asked, "Who's the idiot who made you call down the space rocks? They're not exactly my style of lawn décor, you know."
"But they break up the monotony nicely," the archdevil replied with amusement. "As for the former question... Xovxal did a you."
Sargatanas raised a hand, index finger extended, and he opened his mouth to protest, but then thought better of it. "Well. That explains why they survived. What brings you to Galabastarin, specifically?"
Mephistopheles' tail swished again, and he finally turned to...well, not quite face Sargatanas, as he more had his left side to him now, but turned his head to look at him. "Were archdevils forbidden from vacations of their own when I wasn't looking?"
Sargatanas crossed his arms over his chest. "No. But why this planet?"
Mephistopheles did not immediately respond, instead turning to face Sargatanas. The runes and lines crossing over his body began to glow slightly, but with his aura inverted, that was the only indicator of emotion. It was some time of the archdevil examining the daeva before words were finally spoken. "I am here to find my brother."
It was Sargatanas' turn to go quiet, while he carefully considered his next words. Would Luxifer - once Lucifer - even want to meet, or remember, Mephistopheles? He hadn't pushed Luxifer to remember more of him when they'd first reunited, but what would Mephisto do? His tail swished side to side.
"And what will you do if you find him?" He kept his tone somewhat cautious, the glow of the markings on Mephistopheles' body not escaping his notice.
The uncharacteristic quietness and caution of Sargatanas did not go unnoticed by Mephistopheles, and his markings became slightly brighter, but not enough to indicate immediate danger. "...Closure. Whatever shell he's chosen will live."
Lucifer was his brother, and through their heights and fall, they had remained close when nigh all others forsook them. It was only those memories that swayed Mephisto's normally selfish nature.
Sargatanas sighed, and let his arms fall to rest at his sides. "Alright, just... don't get your hopes up for a 'sunshine and daisies' reunion. What do you think about me bringing him here to you?"
Mephistopheles' runes and lines flared, but dimmed within moments, the spike of his temper tamed by his reason. The archdevil remained silent for some moments, but when he spoke, his voice was steady. "Either I go with you, or the mortal at your side stays here while I wait, General."
Astétó took a steadying breath, then muttered just loudly enough for Sargatanas to hear him. "Your call, Sargatanas. I trust you.." His mate's judgement wasn't always the best, but here Sargatanas clearly had his guard up.
Sargatanas prepared for pain, or a fight, but when neither came, he allowed himself to relax slightly. He clenched his jaw once Mephistopheles made his proposal, and Astétó spoke. Yeah, but I don't trust him, he thought. Not with you.
He shook his head. "Alright, fine. Fair warning, Pelinor's pet celestial is also in the nearby town." He drew Astétó close, and bent to scoop him back into his arms, and spread his wings to prepare for liftoff.
"I can feel him," Mephistopheles replied, his markings going slightly more intense as he joined Sargatanas in the air. "Laon is not a significant concern to me here. Part of why I do not care to hear Asmodeus."
"Alright." Once they got going, the wind rushing past their ears made conversation all but impossible, especially with the distance they had to maintain from eachother just to avoid colliding in mid-air. Nothing was said on the return trip, but Sargatanas did occasionally hug Astétó closer to him.
It was a little past noon when Andatori came back into view. Now that Sargatanas really looked at it, it seemed the meteors had fallen haphazardly all around, but had not struck anyone or anything of note. Except himself. He idly wondered if all the deity-reincarnations were passively shielding the town from misfortune - he wouldn't be surprised in the slightest.
He sighed, and stuffed that thought and the aggravation that came with it into a box to be dealt with later. He circled the edge of the town once, planning to land outside the walls by a gate.
Mephistopheles landed before Sargatanas did, in a melodramatic display of fire and ice that destroyed the grass directly below him, but which was otherwise kept confined as just a display for drama's sake only. After all, had to make an impression for the mortal guards. His gaze soon began searching the gate to the town, however, as he sought out the exact location of the celestial and aasimar he sensed.
There was also a demon and a half-demon in this town. Joy. At least the former wasn't of a breed he particularly cared about.
Sargatanas pretended not to notice Mephistopheles' showy landing, and focused on a gentler landing himself for Astétó's sake. He let his mate down, then, taking his hand, headed for the gate.
Laon was already waiting there, greatsword slung over his back in the usual fashion, but to his credit neither bristled nor drew his weapon the moment he laid eyes on the archdevil. "I would call this visit unexpected, but the meteors yesterday were a fair warning. What brings you here?" he asked of Mephistopheles, tone not quite broaching on a demand.
Sargatanas very carefully kept himself and Astétó out of any possible line of fire between Mephistopheles and the Chosen celestial of Pelinor.
The runes and lines on Mephistopheles' body flared, but not as brightly as before, and dimmed as his temper was again reigned in. "Nothing that threatens you or yours, for once. On my word."
The elaboration was, in honesty, necessary, since otherwise there would be no telling if it was truth or lie. And Mephistopheles chose to not leave it to ambiguity. Not for this.
Laon raised a brow. Devils were usually as good as their word, but he wondered how long it would stretch in this case. He was about to ask.
Sargatanas cleared his throat. "Laon, you haven't happened to see Luxifer around lately, have you?"
"I have, but that was hours ago at a café. I don't know where he is now."
"Great, thanks. Can we all come in?"
Laon frowned at him, and then at Mephistopheles. "If you don't mind my keeping an eye on you. I won't make you suffer my company, but I will be watching."
"I doubt you could ignore my existence anymore than I can yours." Was Mephistopheles' answer.
Laon's shoulders went up and down in a shrug as he sighed. He signaled for the posted guards to stand aside. "Fine. Welcome to Andatori... Lord of Cadia."