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In Saecula Saeculorum

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It was the darkest days of winter, the cold kept at by only the licking flames of the hearths. The old stone basilica filled with the smell of wood smoke and sickly incense. The young sister hadn't slept since she arrived a few weeks ago. Her prayers for the holiday months were filled with pleas for peaceful sleep to come. Three Advent candles sat lit on the altar as the priest gave his eulogy, the same harrowing words of promised torment to sinners and praise for their unseen righteous God. The church was control, and it held fast to the hearts in minds of everyone who lived in its Dominion.

 

Sister Angela prayed, even as the service ended and she began to head back alone to her small stone room in the dormitories.

 

Bless me Lord and hear my plea.

I pray for still thoughts and a calm mind.

May rest give me the strength to fulfill your will.

Amen.

 

The young Sister repeated the prayer as she silently walked through dimly lit hallways and up winding cold stone stairways to reach her small chamber. The heavy wood door opened with an aged groan and protested as it closed behind the Sister as she stepped inside the room. A small candle flickered and danced with long shadows in the dim room. The humble chamber had room for a small wardrobe, wash basin, chamber pot, and her hay stuffed cot. The room was gently heated by a small coal stove that brought the only warmth to her existence. She pulled off her heavy wool habit off and hung it gently; the smell of incense and smoke permeated the worn wool. Each layer of forced modesty came off with a pleased sigh until she was in nothing but her under slip, the only soft cotton she owned. Her blonde locks draped sinfully across her back as she shook it lose from its tethers.

 

Her wash basin had been filled earlier during her daily routine, and the still water reflected back her tired countenance. The nights of sleeplessness had taken a heavy toll. Even with her tired eyes and chapped lips the sin of vanity wasn't a thought as she smiled into the water, a rare sight as hardly anyone smiled anymore during these dark solemn days. The young sister gently dipped her hands in the near freezing water and washed away the smile. She said one more prayer as she settled under the heavy wool blanket or her meager cot. Angela closed her eyes and softened her thoughts, willing her mind to not haunt her again, praying for a deep restful sleep free from her torment.

 

But it was not to be. As with every night since her arrival to the basilica but a few months past the voice echoed in her mind, an unintelligible mumbling that chimed foreign to her ears. It seemed to be pulling at her chest, urging her to follow. Every night she ignored it, lying firmly in her cot unwilling to be led astray by the devil's doing. That night her hands clenched the rough wool blanket as sweat poured from her brow, her small room growing hotter without any stoking of the small coal stove. Dreams filled with faces and places that felt so familiar. She felt her frustration grow intolerable and it grew to a level beyond frustration, but into wrath. The blonde sister wrenched herself from her bed, quickly putting her habit back on. The dark wool would conceal her as she stepped from her chamber, letting the strange mumbling voice guide her. She was determined to end this suffering. 

 

On soft feet she slowly made her way down to the main floor of the ancient basilica, it's massive open space made her feel vulnerable and small, as it was designed. Incense burned and sent wisps of smoke into the air filling the space with the heavy smell of frankincense. The voice lead the tired sister across the widest part of the cross shaped church in front of the holy altar. In the dim candlelight she could feel the eyes of every saint painted and sculpted on the walls staring daggers into her. The guilt of following such insanity weighed heavily on her, but she had to end this, and so she willed herself into motion reaching the far side of the oppressive gilded room.

 

Before Angela a large dark wood door that sat on heavy iron hinges having not been opened since the last regent of the churches domain had passed several years ago. Knowing the darkness that lurked below in the crypts the sister set about lighting an oil lamp left for the caretakers. Her heart thundered under her habit as she gripped the large cast iron door handle. It cracked open just enough for her to step into the darkness. The pull only grew as she followed the winding steps down, deeper and further than she would ever thought she was brave enough to do alone. The lamp flickered, casting shadows that seemed to reach out to grab at the hem. A mix of relief and dread spread through every nerve as she reached the lowest floor and the oldest part of the crypts. The air smelled of earth mixed with heavy dust and rot, and it was cold. Her breath slightly visible in the freezing crypt, frosty breaths of air chilled the carved tunnels, air vents most likely caused by erosion and time.

 

Sister Angela had heard stories about these lower tombs, maze-like corridors that winded along natural stone caves reinforced by masonry, built long before the basilica was even a thought. The dead lined the walls in carved alcoves. The tormenting voice was overwhelming in the crypt and seemed to drag her soul onward. Angela held the lamp aloft and surveyed the space as she began to take slow weary steps. Other passageways lead off into different directions. The sister took note of these as not to lose her way. Each passing coffin more rotted than the last until old stained yellow bones we're all that greeted her. Empty sockets of long dead priests and lords glared at her for disturbing their rest. Her unease was only being negated by the need to follow the pull forward; her hands trembled from as much fear as the cold.

 

Her ears heard it before he eyes saw it. The same foreign murmurings now clearly uttered by something alive, and close. The smell of rot only made tolerable by the frosty air. Sister Angela’s feet stilled and her breath became shallow, she had found herself far away from her God's watch. The pull still gripped around her heart and with as soft a footstep as possible the sister peered around the crumbling stone corner, oil lamp held out to reveal the truth of her affliction.

 

The din light revealed a modest sized alcove, an archway slowly crumbling holding up cast iron walls which confused the sister until she saw the scratches grooved deeply into every surface surrounding the entrance. No bars stopped passage into the chamber, and with caution she stepped into the unknown with her lamp held high, and that is when she saw it. Her breath arrested in her chest as her entire body went rigid. A dark form huddled in the furthest corner of the iron chamber that shivered in the cold. Its voice echoed softly in a low mumbling timbre that filled the room with a reverberating hum.  The lamps light revealed what appeared to be massive tattered bundle of wings tied together with chain, the feathers so dark the light seemed absorbed by them.

 Demon Moira

The sister stepped carefully, to curious and entranced to flee. She felt unafraid as she moved closer allowing her to glimpse what the wings concealed. White flesh glistened from beneath broken feathers, thin but long arms were pulled around bent knees as the figure sat crouched huddled to its own warmth. It wore tattered robes it's legs shaded from the knee into jet black fur where small pointed hooves supported the creature off the frosty iron plate floor. The beings narrow ribs were prominent and gaunt, malnourished. One long finger tipped with a blade like nail gently scratched at the iron walls, drawing a rune of some sort repeatedly into the metal. She could see a heavy cast iron collar circling its neck, a matching heavy chain connecting it to the wall. A tuft of matted red hair the only color that shown in the darkness. The mumbling continued as the sister began to inch closer. Forgetting her footing she slipped on something wet and dead, a rat carcass, landing precariously on the iron ground with a reverberating thud.

 

When she looked up again the being before her had stopped murmuring and was looking directly at her its eyes glowing in the near darkness. One eye was searing red, the other pure ice. The sister watched in horror as the creature stood, its hooves clacking on the iron ground as it pulled itself upright. She could not look away from those eyes, but even so focused she could see the remaining details. Ebony horns circled around framing the creature’s thin face, its neck long and bruised from the wicked iron collar. Its shoulders were bare as was its chest; the sister felt shame from her momentary glance. One arm was a pale white, and the other a twisted and burned like a charred corpse. The figures extremities tinged blue from the freezing temperatures. The sister realized what she was seeing, a demon, her heart thundered in fear as she stood from the ground preparing to run. All the fear she had pushed away in her fury came flooding back.

 

"Dear One, you're here." The demon smiled as soft words came from weak lungs and a dry throat, a flash of fangs glinting yellow from the light of the weak oil lamps flame. The gaunt figure opened its arms and stepped to embrace the sister.

 

She quickly stepped back. Her voice high pitched and small "Our father who art in heaven..."

 

The demon recoiled at her voice, arms limp to her sides. "You don't remember..." She whispered in a low soft voice.

 

"... Hallowed be thy name..." The sister stepped backwards on shaking knees.

 

"You heard my call, followed it, found me, but you don't remember." The demon stepped closer, her long legs catching up easily to the sister’s retreat. Chains dragged on the iron floor, clanking in protest.

 

"..By Kingdom come, thy will be done. On Earth as it is in heaven..." The sister’s voice shook in fear as the demon towered above her, too close; if she ran she knew she wouldn't escape.

 

"Please, Dearest Angela, please...remember!" The demon strained its wings against the chains, the collar pulling taught as the chain held the demon back.

 

The sister paused, her prayer cut off. She felt her stomach twist in horror as if the Devil himself had said it. "How do you know my name?"

 

"The same reason you know mine." The demon hissed in frustration, the chains clicking as the demon shook in mild rage. "Say it."

 

The sister, Angela, felt the words form in her mouth as if she had always known. Unable to stop herself she spoke.

 

"M-Moira?"

 

The demon shuddered and what feathers were free of the rusty chains ruffled as she let out a drawn out moan. In a reverent whisper she replied "It's been so long since I've heard you say my name."

 

The sister felt sick at her own bodies’ reaction to the demons lewd response.

 

"You are an unholy monster, and I will not be tempted!" Her mind screamed at her to flee and to pray for forgiveness for her weakness in being lured and tempted by the devil's servant. Yet a much stronger feeling began to take over, she felt warmth in her soul like a long snuffed out flame had been re-lit. Angela's fear and internal conflict etching her soft features, her mind panicking as her soul rejoiced.

 

The demon Moira reached out gently extending her left pale hand out. "I am no monster, tempter, or wicked being. I am yours, you are mine.” The conflicting eyes of the demon softened as the creature knelt down. “Let me remind you.”

 

Sister Angela stared at the outstretched hand in confusion. Her mind flashed an image across her vision, that same hand surrounded by soft light reaching out, she could see the kind smiling face of a red headed woman her head ringed in gold light, eyes a soft warm red and peaceful blue, a holy looking being gazing at her lovingly. Her vision cleared and saw the same soft face only stretched tighter to the bone, pale and eyes pitted in deep sockets, horns black and dim where gold once shone. Angela’s mind and soul were locked in battle; if she allowed this demon to trick her and lost herself she would lose her soul. But, her soul cried out for this Moira as of it had found a piece of itself it had been missing.

 

Either she somehow managed to run now and leave the creature to rot in this miserable place and she returned to her empty hollow existence, or she let her soul guide her and allow herself to trust something so ungodly. Against her minds screams of protest she reached out and took the demon's outstretched hand.

 

*-------------------------*

 

"Open your eyes." The soft melodic voice of Moira was smooth and unrestrained. Angela opened her eyes and surrounding her was nothing but light. She felt calming warmth and the hand that she held felt soft and inviting. Once again she was in the presence of that familiar loving face. Her wings were bright white and free, fluttering in the soft breeze. She wore a soft white tunic that sat immodestly lose around strong shoulders. Moira’s long legs were wrapped with soft red fur from the knee down with golden hooves. The sister was no longer in a heavy habit of her order, but instead a silky soft robe with a loose golden rope circling her waist.  Angela felt attraction and longing that lacked the pain of guilt that would cause her to pray normally until her mind was clear of temptation. But, she felt no such concern and instead allowed herself to be pulled into a soft kiss. Her soul sang as gentle hands gripped her hips and held her in place. She felt grounded and safe, unafraid.

 

She listened as her lovers gentle voice promised her commitment, knowledge, and free will. She would be free from her servitude to their creator. Angela pleaded for her lover to stay, but as her memories sped along she found herself holding an apple, a bite taken, her love writhing in pain...was it pain? She had never known pain until this moment. The right arm of her love that had plucked the apple for her was aflame with holy wrath. Only the start of her punishment for breaking their creator’s law by granting Angela everything she had promised. Her skin paled as her light faded, wings seared into an ashy black. The golden halo cracking and splitting into twisted broken horns. Even so pained her tortured lover only looked upon her with a loving smile. Angela felt a prickling of her eyes and the first tears of sadness washed down her cheek as strong hands gripped her shoulders pulling her away. She cried for her as she watched her skin burn and scar, the servants of their creator pulling her roughly away. Moira had done this for her and with that gift she finally able to understand what true love is, and what she had been taken.

 

Hell would not take Moira, as she had done nothing it considered worth punishment. Heaven would not permit her even an audience. She was thrown from Eden and set adrift in the new wild world as one of the fallen.

 

Hell would not take Angela, her soul was pure. Heaven would not permit a soul incapable of complete servitude. Angela was left to live in eternal reincarnation trapped in Eden. She grew old and died alone. She was reborn from the earth then lived and died again. The cycle continued until the last of humanity was cast from Eden and Angela's soul was free to exist where her love roamed.

 

Moira spent an eternity fighting to re-enter Eden. For centuries she struggled and finally exhausted by her fight she relented to seek assistance. Perhaps the human worshipers of her creator would show her the path to redeem herself and re-enter Eden. But they saw, and they feared. To them she was a monster, a demon, something to use to prove their loyalty to their one true creator. So, they tricked her and lead her to the lowest part of their catacombs promising Eden, and when she was at her weakest they ensnared her, dooming her to centuries of more pain and solitude.

 

For ages Angela wandered the natural world, living and dying alone again and again, her search unfruitful. Her sorrow wore at her until her memory faded after so many rebirths, her love forgotten. Alone until that fateful day when she arrived at the Basilica and felt the first tugging at her soul.

 

 *-------------------------*

 

Angela opened her eyes.

 

"My Love" Angela reached out and caressed the dry pale skin of the demons cheek who knelt before her.

 

Moira smiled and caressed the hand at her cheek, she sobbed. "I've missed you."

 

Angela felt her knees grow weak as she fell into Moira's arms. Chains rattled as the two embraced. Two parts of the same whole entwining together, their hearts and souls rejoiced as their chaste kiss pulled deeper. Without hesitation or ceremony Moira pulled off the hood of Angela's habit, freezing cold taloned fingers gently brushed into her soft blond curls. Angela cupped Moira's sharp frost bitten cheeks and gently dragged her hands down to the heavy collar. The iron was rough and old, and when Angela gently held it above where it had scarred, Moira shuddered with joy. Her opposed eyes pleaded for its removal.

 

Angela could see that the collar was ancient, its metal corroding and discoloring the skin it touched. Its latch held tight by a simple lock. Angela knew how it worked. Her mind was swirling with the long forgotten knowledge of all things as the Apple of the Tree of Knowledge had granted her. With a very simple twist of a hair pin the lock sprung free. The collar thudded to the iron floor as the chains rattled their last. Moira moaned as Angela placed gentle kisses to her exposed neck. The now free demon stood, lifting Angela with her, and let her unburdened body stretch to its full height. Her frail bones shuddered at the effort, and the chains that still held her wings groaned. Angela reached around Moira's shoulder and gently grasped the offending tether.

 

“Let me free you of this last burden.” Angela whispered lovingly. Moira closed her eyes and let out a soft sob of joy.

 

The chains were tangled and embedded into what skin it had managed to touch. Angela gently pulled and tugged until the twisting knot of it loosened and fell free. She stepped back letting Moira feel her body lighten. She attempted to flex her wings, but her muscles we're atrophied and would not permit her. Angela gently brushed down wild feathers and plucked out the matted broken ones. Moira relaxed into Angela's kindness. The feathers left a dark ashy powder that smelled of old dust and sulfur on her hands, that she brushed clean on her dark habit. The scent of sulfur and frankincense mixed and accosted both of their senses.

 

Angela reached down and picked up the still burning oil lamp and grasped Moira's hand tightly. The reunited pair stepped to the edge of the alcove. Moira's overgrown hooves clattered on the iron, as she stumbled weakly. Angela squeezed and held the weak demon up. With a held breath they stepped gently onto the stone floor, the rough ground providing her better traction. Silently they moved together, retracing Angela's path. After a long slow journey they finally reached the winding steps.

 

Moira cursed the creator and man as she struggled to climb each step. The centuries spent imprisoned had weakened her to the brink of a death that she would never be gifted. She collapsed on the rough stone steps unable to continue, undying but just so.

 

Angela set down the lamp gently pulling Moira’s head up and laid her back onto her chest. Moira panted as her eyes rolled into the back of her head as unconsciousness threatened their escape. Angela grasped and shook Moira's limp body.

 

“We are so close, what do you need, what can I do?” Angela whispered softly. Moira tilted her head back and opened her eyes barely a crack and looked at Angela sorrowfully.

 

Angela knew, but such a blasphemy wrenched her stomach into knots. Even at her past coming to light her present was still unlearned. Her mind and soul combating again, if she gave Moira what she needed she would lose any tether to the creator she had built. But, if she didn't she would never forgive herself or be able to accept forgiveness. Moira had been tormented because of what she did for her, what false God would allow such cruelty. Angela felt her soul win out over her empty faith. She tilted her neck back, her head resting along the walls of the winding stair as her hair clung wildly to the course stone. Swallowing away the last bit of doubt Angela said with clarity “Please, do what you must.”

 

Moira’s eyes widened and her pupils dilated until there was only a ring of color. She smiled warmly and sorrowfully as she leaned up kissed gently along the crook of Angela's neck. Angela relaxed her body and in the next moment tensed harshly as narrow fangs pierced into her skin. A shuddering groan rumbling from Angela's parted lips, her breath billowing in the cold.

 

The demon fed, gently suckling blood from the open wounds. The white collar of Angela's habit slowly started to dye pink as she grasped at the demons shoulders, her body stimulated and electrified. Moira twisted her body around and gently caressed Angela as she lapped away all the remaining blood until the wound was naught but two small scabs. Moira crooned into Angela's neck, her remorseful tears dripping onto her exposed skin.

 

“Thank you, my love.” Moira whispered, sounding grateful and profoundly sad in the same breath. Angela felt weaker but plenty strong enough to pull Moira in to kiss away the drying blood from her lips. The rejuvenated demon pulled back and stood lifting up Angela with her. Holding each other up the two began their climb again. The heavy wooden door was still open, a small beam of light guiding them for the remainder of their climb.

 

Angela peered out of the crack; the winter sun was only beginning to rise. Services would begin within the hour. Their time was short. Angela reached for the clasp of her habit, gently pulling the outer layer off and around Moira’s shoulders. Moira looked at her inquisitively as Angela pulled the hood over Moira’s horns, her wings bunched up oddly underneath the heavy wool fabric. Angela tugged at Moira’s hand and the two stepped into the open vaulting room of the Basilica.  They made their way swiftly along the path in front of the holy altar.  Angela’s eyes pinned to the handle of the door to the dormitories intent to not delay, but she was jerked to a sudden halt when she felt Moira stop abruptly. Looking behind her to see what had stalled her she was met with a sight that stilled her heart.

Moira stood staring up at the carved faces of saints and angels. Her eyes darting to each one her mouth silently cursing. The faces of the Angels that had dragged them apart, the ones who had caught them betraying their creators wishes and seeking knowledge and love that was beyond what was permitted. Angela watched as Moira’s eyes glowed with rage as her scarred right hand began to create a ball of dark energy that crackled in a wicked way. Startled at the realization of what Moira was about to do Angela grasped her wrist and wrenched her away. “Save your wrath, you won’t find vengeance in broken stone and marble.” She whispered sharply.

 

Moira heaved and swallowed her anger, her eyes softening, her arm lowering as the crackling dark energy dissipated. Her eyes glinted with whimsy as she leaned down and kissed Angela deeply in front of the altar, Angela closed her eyes and smiled into it, they no longer feared the judgment of cold stone eyes of the statues and saints that witnessed them. With renewed strength the two set a hasty pace towards the dormitory. Angela pushed open the wooden doors and they ascended stairs and snuck down corridors, the only sound was the clacking of hooves on stone. Soon they reached the simple door to Angela’s small chamber, the two quickly sliding in as the door shut gently. Angela locked the door with the heavy latch.

 

Exhaustion overwhelmed them as both spilled into the small cot. Angela wordlessly pulled Moira in, wrapping them both in the meager wool blanket. They shivered in the cold of the morning as peaceful rest was finally granted to them both.

 

Before long the two were torn from their rest by a heavy pounding on the small door. The handle rattled, but the lock held. Moira hissed and tensed.

 

“Sister, are you well?” The concerned voice of the Mother Superior muffled through the locked door.

 

Angela grasped Moira's mouth and held her still. “I am unwell, I have a fever and I would like to rest I'm sure it will pass.” Angela held her breath.

 

“I see. You have been looking out of sorts lately. I'll send up some food and water. God be with you.” Angela let out a slow breath as the footsteps receded down the hall; she let Moira's mouth free as they once again collapsed in exhaustion.

 

Their dreams were peaceful and bright, and many hours passed before Angela woke to a warm hand gently stroking her lose blonde hair. She smiled and relaxed into the attentions and felt the arm around her torso squeeze her gently. The sister in her squirmed and clawed at her for her indulgence, her body stiffened in response to it. Moira stopped her gentle stroking and nuzzled into Angela's hair, kissing her gently on the back of her neck.

 

“Good Afternoon.” Moira whispered weakly into Angela's ear. They had switched positions in their sleep, and Angela woke slowly to a feeling of safety and peace she hadn't experienced in many lifetimes. Angela mumbled a sleepy reply as she rolled around and sat up to look down at the demon that crowded most of her bed. Black wings spread out reaching the far wall easily. Angela replayed last night over in her mind, her heart skipping as her eyes trailed back to the gently dozing fallen angel in her bed.

 

Moving carefully Angela stood up from the warm crowded bed, gently pulling her slip into place as she made her way to the door. With a gentle clack the lock fell open and she carefully cracked it open, she held her breath as she looked carefully up and down the chilly hallway. As the Mother Superior promised a basket filled with cold stew and bread sat next to a fresh pitcher of water. Angela pulled the items into the room, latching the door shut again with a relieved sigh. She knew they couldn't stay, and every moment they delayed was a moment closer to being discovered.

 

Angela's anxiety waned as her eyes peered down at the deeply sleeping figure in her bed. If fate had finally brought them back together, then fate must be on their side. Angela set the pot of stew on the top of the small coal stove to heat as she grabbed a clean rag, knowing Moira was in dire need of it she began to wash the overgrown cloven hooves. Moira did as much as stir as Angela wiped the years of dirt, dust, grime and what must be blood from the matted fur. Soon nothing but soft red accented the overgrown hooves that Angela began to whittle down with her small knife. She hummed to herself as she worked, after a time she glanced up. Moira was watching her through heavily lidded eyes.

 

Angela froze, she felt her heart race.

 

“Don't stop.” Moira spoke in a low hum, as she flexed her hooves gently.

 

Angela felt her cheeks warm up as she finished up her task with a smile. Moira sniffed the air and looked to the pot of stew that began to steam in the chilly room; she all but tripped over herself to get to it. Before Angela could say anything Moira had grabbed the pot and began to pour it down her throat. Angela just watched as Moira devoured it greedily consuming the contents loudly, barely a few moments passed and the stew was gone. Moira dropped the empty pot with a clang and wiped her mouth with the back of her arm. Angela just stared, a cheeky grin crossing her face until she couldn't hold back her laughter.

 

Moira just smirked. “You try eating nothing but rats for a few centuries…” with a full stomach, she laid back down in the bed, her wings fanned out and draped onto the floor.

 

With a calm chuckle Angela went back to nursing Moira, she had to get her back to full strength before they could decide what to do next. That meant getting her clean. Angela set the water pitcher on the small stove, and tossed in a few more coal chunks and stoked it with a few strong gusts of breath; it caught and crackled into life. Angela rolled up her long sleeves and dowsed a rag into the heating water. She held it out as not to drip water everywhere and sat down aside the dozing demon. She hesitated, the oppressive voices if her past echoed warnings of damnation for every glance, but she silenced it knowing that if the creator would damn someone for loving another, it was not worth minding. Angela gently pressed the warm rag against Moira's cheek. The sensation was enough to rouse Moira and she gently looked up into Angela's eyes. Smiling widely she nuzzled into the warm rag and murmured sweet nothings.

 

Her heart pulsed with affection; Angela gently moved the rag washing away years of accumulated mud, sweat, and tears. Moira's face flushed as the rag caressed her ears and the base of her horns. The warmth of tenderness was something they both needed, and when Angela stood Moira gripped her hand to stop her from leaving. But, she didn't go far as Angela tossed the rag into a corner and grabbed another dipping it into the hot water. She settled back down and draped the hot cloth over their clasped hands, gently pulled hers away to wrap Moira's in it fully. She gently cleansed her hands, careful not to catch the cloth on her talons.

 

Moira relaxed into the attention, her mind softening and finally releasing all of her tension. She could feel the deep love they had sacrificed so much for in every gentle caress. She let the pain go as Angela soothed her burned and scarred arm. Her skin felt alive again as the water cooled on her skin. Her heart pained in loss every time her love moved away to get a fresh wet rag, but it skipped in joy every time she returned.

 

Every whine and approving hum that came from Moira spurred the former devout sister on, any indoctrinated guilt in her melted away further. Angela hesitated for a moment but shook it off as she softly wiped away the filth that had darkened Moira's pale chest. The rag brushed over the soft pale skin of the demons exposed breasts, eliciting a hiss from between fanged teeth.

 

Angela stopped, and pulled back. “I'm sorry.”

 

Moira reached out and grabbed Angela's rag clad hand and gently placed it back where it was. Angela flushed and felt a tingle of desire roll down her spin and settle low in her hips. She felt conflicted as she gazed at the gooseflesh that coated both their skin. She finally looked up as gentle fingertips caressed her face, understanding eyes gazing at her with want. Moira's lips parted temptingly and Angela didn't resist as she was drawn up to straddle her thin hips, her knee length slip sliding up her legs. Her body shuddered at the sudden rush of chilled air that billowed around her. The coal stove needed tending, but Moira was so warm against her thighs that the chill was easily forgotten.

 

Emboldened Angela began to soothingly bathe Moira's torso. Grit and grime washed away revealing nearly transparent skin, dotted with small freckles. Arteries and veins crisscrossed over her chest and ribs in a beautiful tapestry. The chill of the room caused waves of goose-flesh; Moira's small breasts peaked in the cold. Angela unseated herself and threw in the last of the kindling, the fire roaring back to life, with a fresh rag in hand soaked with coal heated water she turned to find Moira sitting up on the edge of the cot.

 

A thin pale arm reached out and grasped Angela's free arm pulling her into an embrace. Moira pressed her face into Angela's soft stomach, her horns pressing in just enough to be felt. Angela brushed her fingers gently through matted red hair quickly replacing them with the hot wet rag. Angela massaged the demons scalp and cleansed her crimson hair. Moira's wet hair dampened her slip down the front making it cling uncomfortably. Angela reached for her small comb, one of the few vanity items she was premised, and combed the red locks back into gentle waves. Moira hummed contently at each stroke, sitting back up only when she felt the comb pulled away.

 

Angela glanced down at Moira mega coverings; the ancient scrap of purple silk long since faded and stained into an inky black, had been shredded and decayed to barely provide any warmth, fluttering in strands along her long thighs. The once gold rope, now frayed and black, hung low around gaunt jutting hips.  Angela reached for her small knife, gently grasping the rope and with no hesitation cut it. Moira stood and pulled the filthy garment off and unceremoniously tossed it into the small fire, it caught fire and the flames licked out of the hearth joyfully.

 

Angela watched the flames die back down and reached for the last clean rag, drenching it with the last drops of hot water. When she was done the demon pulled Angela back to her and grasped around her waist. Gently kissing her as she slowly dragged the slip up over Angela's soft hips. Angela shuddered as Moira slowly sat back down pulling Angela into her lap. Wings fluffed and fluttered as Angela gently lowered the rag and cupped the demon gently. She carefully cleansed her, the rag the only thing dividing them. Moira didn't make a sound; instead she leaned into Angela's neck, peppering her with gentle kisses, giving each of her small neck wounds the softest lick of her tongue. Distracted Angela didn't pay attention to the slow descent of Moira's taloned hand as it traced her curves from her breasts, down her hips, and gently caressing her soft mound, the textured pad of her thumb gently circling her sensitive clit. Angela was not as reserved as Moira as she moaned gently to the attentions she received and gave. Moira's wings snapped tightly to her back as she came undone for Angela, whom soon followed falling forward grasping around Moira's broad shoulders. That sat there breathing steadily together, until Moira laid them both down again on the small cot. They slotted together under the heavy wool blankets and fell back into pleasant dreams of warm skies and full hearts.

 

Hours passed, and the weak summer sun was descending. Three steady knocks on the door startled both women awake, Moira snarled menacingly at the sound. Angela braced Moira by the shoulder before she could move.

 

“Sister Angela? Are you still unwell?” The familiar voice of the Mother Superior pierced the door with experienced volume.

 

“Yes, I am feeling better though.” Angela shouted.

 

The door groaned and caught on the latch. Mother Superior followed her attempt with an angry impatient “Angela, let me in, I have to see how you're doing.”

 

Angela looked to Moira, who was staring violently to the door, her fangs bared. “I'm too weak to get out of bed, I-I-” Angela faked a cough. “-I am fine, just a fever.”

 

“Sister Angela, I insist.” The door rattled as the clinking of keys set all the hairs on Angela's arm on edge. Moira stood and stalked her way to the wall next to the door.

 

“No, please, I don't want to get you sick too!” Angela croaked as she watched Moira press herself close to the wall.

 

The sound of a lock turning caused them both to flinch.

 

“I'm begging you, please stay out!” Angela yelled as the door slowly opened. Moira looked to Angela with an apology clearly communicated in her eyes.

 

“Nonsense, I've survived worse!” The Mother Superior stepped through the doorway.

 

With inhuman speed and strength Moira gripped the hooded woman's head, and with a sickening crack ended her. Angela held her mouth in order not to cry out, but a few tears fell down her cheeks.

 

Moira pulled the still body fully into the room and closed the door, latching it again. Angela shook from horror, she didn't want this. The Mother Superior was a kind woman, strict but kind. She tried to stop her, but she made her choice. Angela stood and walked over, letting a few sobs out quietly. Moira embraced Angela and whispered apologies in her ear.

 

“What do we do now Angela?” Moira inquired.

 

Angela buried her face into Moira's chest. “We take what we can, and go.” She sniffled. “Let's not let this death go to waste.”

 

Moira bend down and kissed Angela gently on her forehead, her eyes glinting. Angela turned away as Moira knelt down and gently pulled down the hood of the corpse’s habit, pulling it away from her neck. Angela winced at the sound of blood being devoured filled the small space. The metallic smell reached her nose, her stomach churned. Soon the sound lessened and stopped, Angela turned to see Moira closing the Mother Superiors eyes, holding them shut delicately until they remained that way. The pale form looked peaceful; Angela let herself say a brief thank you and looked to Moira who looked flush and alive. Angela smiled, her sadness still leaving her hollow inside, but the promise of what was next grounded her.

 

“Help me take off her robes.” Angela requested as she knelt down.

 

Moira tilted her head inquisitively. “Why?”

 

Angela smirked up at Moira “do you intend to walk out of here in the nude?”

 

Moira scoffed and chuckled as she helped Angela. With the robes removed and set aside they gently picked up the corpse and set it in the cot, gently placing the heavy wool blanket over it. At a glance it would look as if someone was sleeping soundly. Angela laid out both sets of robes. As they dressed the issue of Moira's wings became troublesome. No matter how tightly Moira pulled them to herself, they didn't stay there long. Angela felt her anxiety spiking as she knew that had only once choice. Moira could read Angela's internal conflict but didn't understand why.

 

“If-” Angela looked to the ground. “-if we tie your wings down we could…” Angela's heart sank when she looked back up into Moira's panicked eyes.

 

“Angela-I-” Moira's hooves clacked on the stone floor anxiously.

 

“I promise, it won't be uncomfortable, no chains, no pain, and I'll make sure you can free yourself.” The former sister hugged the demon and brushed gently up and down her back, gently rubbing at the base of the troublesome wings.

 

Moira trembled and squeezed back around Angela's shoulders kissing her gently. “Alright, I trust you above all other things.”

 

They pulled apart and Angela set about retrieving one of the long chords she would use in the summer to cinch the waist of her robes. It would be soft and quiet, unlike the rusty chains that still made her range boil under her skin, fueling her push for their escape. Moira knelt down on her knees to give Angela room; she closed her eyes and waited penitently.

 

Careful Angela brought the center of the rope underneath the back of Moira's wings, just below the joint, gently placing it under both her arms. Crisscrossing them in the front and carefully pulling them up and over her shoulders, and down along her spine. Moira gasped at the feeling, her wings fluffing against the sensation.

 

“Pull your wings down, please.” Angela spoke in a near whisper. Moira did so without a complaint, and Angela pulled each rope over a tucked in wing. The ends looped and threaded down and around each bundle of feathers, interlocking between each wing. This was repeated down along the middle, gently looping the ropes together and down, pulling them taught enough to flatten but not enough to hurt. Moira's feathers fluffed and her muscles tensed, but kept silent. Angela pulled the ends of the rope gently around Moira's stomach where she tied it in a soft looping bow. Angela stepped back only to see Moira panting softly with her eyes pinned shut.”

 

“Are you alright?” Angela hurried to undo the rope, but a taloned hand stopped her.

 

“I'm fine, this is-I'm, so much different from my chains.” Moira stood slowly. Her wings held tightly to her back. “No matter what you do I feel safe and cared for, this is no different.”

 

Angela gave Moira a reassuring kiss. “Let's go.”

 

The fire died leaving the room in twilight darkness, just the flickering of a candle dancing their shadows along the walls. The smell of wood smoke was soon replaced by the sharp tinge of a corpse. The cold was welcome to hinder the stench.

 

Their breath billowed out in the cooling room as they began to dress. The robes fit around Moira's shoulders tightly, but they passed her skin frame making her look plump. The head wrapping took some skill to hide the horns, and soon everything was hidden. The fallen angel’s hooves were barely hidden behind billowing cloth. Asides from her height she would pass as an old hunched over person, much to Moira's dismay.

 

They stole away into the quiet hallway. The sun was setting and the low pink winter sun glared angrily through the small slit windows of the hallway. They had about an hour of daylight before the nighttime would give them cover. The pair held their hands in front and their chins down, slowly walking towards the stairs passing a few other sisters who were also focused on the floor. Angela could feel Moira tense at each passing figure, but she held herself and kept moving. As they reached the bottom stair the ancient wooden door to the basilica door was flung open violently. Stood before them was the tall broad chest of basilica's cardinal. Angela stepped in front of Moira shielding her as best she could.

 

“Sister Angela, I see you are feeling better.” The cardinal stood not allowing them to pass. “Have you seen the Mother Superior? She is needed for services.”

 

“No your grace, I have not.” Angela lied easily, hiding the fear pounding in her chest. She could sense Moira tensing, ready to fight.

 

The Cardinal peered down at them both, assessing them. Angela clenched her hands under her sleeves; she felt a prayer form on her tongue but knew it was useless.

 

“I will seek her out elsewhere. Bless you child, and go with God.” The cardinal stepped aside, his robes fluttering aside like the red Sea to Moses. Angela stepped through with Moira close behind her eyes pinned to the ground. They could both feel the intensity of his gaze as they passed by him. The Cardinal headed up the stairs into the sisters dormitories, Angela knew exactly where he was headed.

 

“We have to hurry!” Angela whispered harshly and the two began a hurried but calm pace along the outer wall of the basilica. Passing marble statues of saints and small Fresco's depicting the passion of the Christ. As they walked Moira looked at each image, it seemed the followers of the creator had rescued a man sentenced to death to die on a cross. “Odd” Moira thought as the man was forced to carry the cross they rescued him from. It didn't matter, whatever stories that had been twisted from truth we're not what mattered, only that they were together and free.

 

They reached the massive entrance, the old heavy lumber used groaned in protest as Angela pushed it open just enough for them to slip through. The rush of cold air that carried the smells of the human city curled around them in cold tendrils. The smoke of hundreds of chimneys wafted through the evening air. The held hands as they stepped into the cold as the Basilica's bells rang out into the night.