No. There was no way in hell that Helel should have been standing there before him. It was impossible, so much so that Judas almost refused to believe it. And yet there he was, poised at the edge of the bed and staring at him with that damn glare, the same one he'd inherited from his father, Mikael. Judas was used to being on the receiving end of that fearsome gaze, although even his brother had never looked upon him with such pure malice.
The Baron refrained from wiping at his eyes, his mind racing as he searched for some sort of explanation. Perhaps it was another hallucination. A fragment from his already broken mind, his memories and constant paranoia playing him for the fool. Or perhaps some sort of apparition, the not-quite-dearly departed soul of his nephew unable to move on from this world. But each assumption was dismissed just as quickly as the last, Judas cowering even further inside his blanketed fort as he came to a conclusion.
Helel had truly returned. And he was pissed.
"It seems you do remember me, Uncle. I'm relieved, I must say. I was afraid I'd have to beat the memory out of you."
The boy could see the huddled figure trembling underneath the cotton cocoon, fearful eyes staring out at him from the depths of the comforter.
"Go away!" Judas called out fearfully, a hand shooting out to shoo the boy. "Just leave me alone! I haven't done anything to you!"
The fallen prince couldn't help but chuckle at this, the bed bouncing slightly as he hopped on top of the mattress.
"You didn't do anything? I know we're not trying to play innocent, now are we? I see to recall you and yours sending me to my death!" With a ferocious bellow, Helel swung his foot deep into the side of the cocoon, sending Judas body rocketing off of the bed and slamming into the adjacent wall. There was a squawk of pain as Judas struck the stone, his wizened body falling to the ground before the blanket unraveled from around him.
"Yes! Yes, the forest? You shouldn't even be alive! You're dead, Helel! Dead! How are you here? Why are you here?" Judas cradled his head as he buried his face into the carpet, body rocking back in forth as he curled into a ball.
Leaping off of the bed, Helel quickly closed the distance between his uncle and himself, seizing the old man by his stringy hair and dragging him to his full height.
"Yes. The Forest of Red Feasts. You know the place, I assume. The hellhole that nearly tore me limb from limb, after my family had already done the same. Are you starting to remember, now?" He pulled the man's head forward, bringing Judas' chin to rest against his chest before pushing and smashing his skull back into the wall.
The Baron released a sharp cry of agony as pain exploded at the back of his head, his vision swimming as he tried his best to look anywhere but the face of his attacker. It wasn't true. It wasn't! He hadn't done anything, not to Helel. Not to anybody! He was the victim, the one who had suffered the most.
"No...not me. Not me!" he yelled out, shaking his head back and forth continuously. "I tried to make them stop. But my brother, your father, he refused to listen! He said it had to be done! It was the only way, the only way! You weren't ready!"
Helel released a scream of frustration, relenting his hold on Judas only to send a fist hurling into his belly, causing the older man to double over as spittle flew from his mouth. "I'm so sick of hearing that shitty little excuse! I'm not ready? Ready for what, Judas? What the hell was I supposed to be so ready for? If I'm this oh so important savior of yours, why the hell was I the only one kept in the dark?"
The man was wheezing uncontrollably, both hands wrapped around his stomach as he tried to squeeze whatever air he could into his flattened lungs. Where the hell were his men during a time like this? He had to get away, before this boy really did slaughter him. And judging from the malevolence radiating from Helel like body heat, he was seconds away from doing so.
"I...It's the Vyth. The Vyth you were bonded with, damn it! Y-You hadn't accepted it, like the rest of your siblings! You're...You're special, Helel. You're the only one capable of fulfilling ou-- no, your father's plans. You were meant to inherit our sin! But...it was too much. I couldn't be a part of it! Too much blood, already too much blood! That's why I had to get away from Decelia!"
Helel's face was still twisted in rage, but there was a sense of thoughtfulness behind it. His bond with Lucien? It was true that he had been reluctant to relish in the fact that he and the Vyth had been bound together, but he assumed that was just natural. How many people were so willing to accept the fact that their mind and soul didn't fully belong to them. But why the banishing? Why not just talk to him about it? Or, in typical Decelian fashion, force the decision upon him.
Because, little prince. It had to be completely voluntary, and we both know how you are. Stubborn and unyielding. Truly, its a wonder that they hadn't tried to kill you far sooner.
"So, what, I get tossed in the trash because I didn't want to surrender my soul over to some demon?" Helel asked, question aimed at both Lucien and Judas. It still didn't make perfect sense to him, but he was at least beginning to fill in the puzzle pieces.
A suspicious glance was flashed at his Uncle, as the boy finally caught the end of his last statement. "What do you mean why you had to get away? You weren't sent here to find me on my father's orders?"
Judas ceased the rocking of his head long enough to stare at Helel with a dumbfounded expression, as though he were the most idiotic person in the world.
"Are you completely stupid, boy? I left Decelia a week after they sent you into that forest! After watching what Gabriel and my brother did to you...and hearing their plans, I had to get away. It was too much, just too much. Our burdens already too great to bare, and not enough graves in all the world for the sins they plan to commit..."
"Enough," Helel cried out, gripping the man's robe and pushing him back into the wall. "Enough speaking in riddles! I want to know everything. Now."
Judas still found himself unable to meet Helel's glaring eye, wetting his lips nervously as he stared at a space to the right of them.
"I...I don't know everything, Helel. But your father plans to go to war with Mecaranth. The Vyth that have been invading? They're just the beginning. Soon, he's going to launch an entire invasion, and use...something, to raze this place from the face of the planet. I didn't want to be a part of it, Helel! I'm too old, too weary...I just couldn't be a part of it any longer! I fled here and plead amnesty with Mecaranth's government, told they that I would reveal the details of the invasion if they supplied me with a title and my own place of dominion. You have to believe me, nephew! I've changed...I'm not like my brothers any longer!"
Helel knew better than to believe his lies, despite the conviction that haunted the man's words. He might have not wanted to start a war, but that didn't make him any better of a person. He was just saying whatever he could to save face and keep himself alive, a sentiment that Helel refused to comply with.
"I don't want to hear any more of your lies, Judas. I was right here, remember? I saw what you did to that soldier. And I know that you've done a lot more to Drucilla than just 'reprimand' her. Times and seasons may change, Uncle. But people? People never change."
Wearily slinging the man to the ground, Helel took a seat in the velvet cushioned chair near the wall and cradled his head with one hand. This entire ordeal was tiring, and he was eager to be done with it.
"Well then, before I kill you, tell me what it is that my father is planning. And don't spare any details, lest I just rip out your foul tongue and be done with it."
Whimpering like the coward that he was, Judas wrapped his hands about Helel's ankles in a sign of fealty. "I can't! I can't! He won't let me! I can hear him even now, whispering in my ear. Buzz. Buzz."
Helel arched a single eyebrow in confusion while trying his best to kick the grovelling old man away. "Who? My father? What do you mean you can't? I don't see him here holding a blade to your throat, which is more than I can say for myself if you don't tell me what I need to know."
"But don't you see, Helel? It holds my tongue still, even now! Lies, all lies! I never...I could never tell Mecaranth anything. I just had to get away, I had to flee! But I can't escape from him, I can never escape...I can never escape..." This he repeated over and over, a strange look striking his eyes as the man's voice became monotone.
"What are you talking about, Judas? Escape from who?" Helel was frantic now, partially perturbed his practically catatonic uncle. He gripped the old man's shoulders, yanking him upright until they were eye to eye.
As though awaking from a trance, Judas' gaze finally locked onto Helel's, entire face shimmering from the old sweat that had gathered.
Lucien? What did he know about this mysterious figure that seemed to have his Uncle so scared? But before he could inquire either, something disturbing seemed to take the elderly Baron over.
It was as if someone had flipped a switch. One minute, Judas was quiet and stupefied, and the next he was throwing his head back and screaming at the top of his lungs. It was a deathly wail, one that penetrated Helel's skin and sent ripples of fear shredding through his soul. In sudden alarm he threw the hysterical man back, the chair giving a screech of resistance as Judas toppled into his night stand.
The demented old man was clawing at his skin, sharp nails raking bloody, red lines as he tore at himself in a manic frenzy. He ripped off the lavish robe that had been covering his body, now scratching and tearing at any and every bit of skin within reach!
"Get out! Get out! Get out!" he shrieked, yanking out fistfuls of gray hair as he repeatedly slammed into the nightstand beside his bed. Helel had no idea what to do, other than sit back and watch in morbid fascination as Judas quite literally lost his mind. Hunched over as though he were about to vomit, the man began ripping at his back, pulling strips of pale flesh with every gouge as he fought against some unseen force.
The last emotion that Helel had expected to feel when meeting Judas was fear. Anger and contempt, now those were nothing new. But this impulse to get as far away from the crazed man as possible was definitely something new. He found himself leaning back into the chair, one hand gripping the hilt of his sword tightly as the other braced against the wall. What in the world was happening to him? What was causing his Uncle to harm himself in such a way? A part of the boy wanted to hurry and put him out of his misery...but an even larger part was urging him to sit and watch the show.
The eerie sound of crackling filled the air, as flakes of skin began to fall from Judas' back like paint being chipped from a wall. The hard little diamonds of flesh crumbled into dust once they came into contact with the floor, the pieces growing larger and larger the more that the man tore at himself. But instead of the raw meat that should have been underneath, Helel saw a glossy, candied carapace that resembled the shell of a beetle more than anything else.
So enthralled by this twisted metamophosis, Helel hardly noticed the fat little insects hovering around his face, buzzing constantly as they assaulted him. One had the gall to actually land on his face, flittering along his jawline as it sought out the pink of Helel's cheek. Moments later, the boy would feel a sharp jab of pain as it thrust a sharp barb into his skin, attempting to bore into his flesh and bury itself inside of his body.
"Damn it!" Helel cried out, slamming the insect away and leaping to his feet. The air was filled with dozens of the parasites, most of them flying in spiraling patterns around the still hysterical Judas. The prince could see them wriggling their way out of the man's pores, more and more swarming him with every passing moment.
"What the hell is going on?" the boy yelled at nobody in particular, brandishing his sword as he dashed across the room towards Judas. He had to kill him now, before things became even worse than they already were. Wasting no time, the young man swung the blade in an overhead arc, slashing at the black shell protruding from Judas back, only for it to instantly be deflected away.
His Uncle, if he could even call him such, whirled around at this point and stared at him with eyes that couldn't even be considered human. The orbs had grown swollen and bulbous, splitting into hundreds of individual panes of vision with each reflecting his own horrified face. Most of his skin had been peeled away, showing more of the shimmering black covered in millions of tiny hairs. His mouth had transformed into two individual mandibles, a disturbing clicking sound emanating as they constantly clicked against one another.
"So...hungry. Hungry. Hungry!" The creature screamed out, in a guttural speech that Helel only barely understood. With a hand that looked more like a sharpened talon, the creature lashed out at Helel, slicing at his chest even as he sent the boy soaring back into the desk across the room. The wood splintered immediately from the force of the blow, Helel grimacing in pain as the shards of wood that were stabbing into his back, as well as the throbbing pain that radiated from his body.
"What...what is this? What is he?"
Did you really think that it would be that easy? asked Lucien, in a tone that was more condescending than anything. You assumed because he was old and senile, that made him less of a threat. But what you forgot to factor in...was the Vyth.
Damn it, how could he have been so stupid? Yet again, the damn bastard had been absolutely right. All Helel had seen was a frail old man that had obviously lost his mind at some point after his own exile, judging the proverbial book by it's cover instead of realizing what lie underneath. Every member of his family had been "blessed" with a Vyth from birth, a fact that he definitely should have kept in mind.
"So what," he asked, wary eye still focused on Judas as he continued his metamorphosis. "The Vyth is taking him over? Why now? Why act up so suddenly? What in the hell is that thing?"
It is who he said it was. Beelzebub. The Lord of the Flies, himself. Never thought I'd see this disgusting bastard again. The Vyth sounded genuinely repulsed, as though the mere sight of the being had left a bad taste in his mouth. It's our presence, more than likely. It was likely hard enough for him to suppress Beelzebub's insatiable hunger on his own. Once the little maggot sensed my presence, on top of his obvious distress...well...the little human just snapped.
"Hm, sounds like a charming character," the boy grunted as he struggled to stand to his feet. "Friend of yours, I'm assuming? If they're bound together, why would he stop Judas from telling Mecaranth about my father's plans?"
Distant cousin, more like it. And remember, Lord Mikael is the one whom all Vyth pledge allegiance to, being the direct descendant of Elohim. Bound or not, his interest are far more important than those of this one. Beelzebub might not have been able to control Judas' actions, but he could at least keep his mouth shut.
"I see. Well, this certainly makes things a bit more difficult." There was no time to continue berating himself for letting such vital information slip his mind, not with this abomination coming to life before him. He watched as all remnants of pink flesh melted away, leaving only a swollen, dark exoskeleton. With a dreadful crack, the shell on the creature's back split straight down the middle, as a set of dripping, membrane-thin wings unfurled.
The dark cloud of insects continued to swell, the pest in a frenzy as their constant buzzing grew to a deafening roar of thunder. They could sense the revival of their Lord, and were eager to bring abut a reign of pestilence and despair with Beelzebub leading the way.
"So....hungry," the being moaned out once more, slowly turning it's kaleidoscopic eyes to lock onto the form of Helel. Globules of acrid, green saliva dripped from its mandibles, striking the the floor with a hiss as the liquid began burning straight through the carpet and eating away at the stone foundation. As quickly as it was able to burn through solid rock,, there was no telling what would happen if Helel were to come into contact with it.
"You....feed me. Feed me. Feed me! Feed me you!" It screeched yet again, flailing its pincer-tipped limbs as the insects formed a whirlwind of death around its form. All Helel could do was ready his sword before him, beads of nervous sweat stinging his eye as he looked into the face of this...thing.
"And you called me a monster," he threw at Lucien in one last jab.
I stand corrected. It was nice knowing you, little prince.
"Right," the boy said with a wry grin. "Here goes nothing."