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When Ballister fell from heaven, it didn’t hurt nearly as much as he thought it would. Sure, there were fresh wounds on his back from where his wings had been ripped off by the Gatekeepers. But they were already healing, the way everything in the afterworld did. Non-corporeal, a body that simultaneously was and wasn’t.

He felt nothing but numbness as he picked himself off the ashy ground. He found himself standing in front of spiky iron gates, behind which raged a giant fire that took up the entire horizon, like an apocalyptic sky.

“Ballister?”

He jerked. He hadn’t noticed the short, nondescript man standing in front of him. “Yes?”

“Come,” he said, and the gates opened immediately.

As they passed through the door, Ballister observed, “No locks.”

The man turned and looked at him over his shoulder. His eyes glinted crimson in the hazy light, and in that moment, Ballister knew exactly who he was. “We don’t need any,” the Master of Hell said.

 

“Please, said Ambrosius, his voice cracking. “Take it back. Let him go.”

“You knew,” said She, voicing booming out loudly, echoing through the skies. “You knew we’d expel him.”

Ambrosius was on his knees, staring at the fluffy white cloud-ground. “I--I never meant for this to happen...” He didn’t bother to hide his tears. She could see anyway; She was all-knowing, all-seeing. “Please,” he said, hands clasped together in the prayer position he had learned in his other life.

“Yes, you did,” said She, her voice dripping with disgust. “You were envious, you were sick of him. You thought he didn’t deserve this place.”

Ambrosius was silent. His head was spinning, his breath stuck in his chest. He wished he could deny what she was saying. He watched his tears drop onto the cloud, melting right through.

 

“Normally,” said the Master, taking a seat on his throne of skulls. “I don’t escort folks personally, but you’re a fallen angel, you get special treatment.” Ballister opened his mouth and closed it again. “Angels,” the Master said, answering Ballister’s question as if reading his mind, “are the worst of souls, and the best of souls. For a person to take that job, they must be hiding something deep down, something they’re trying to compensate for.” The Master grinned, showing sharp white teeth like fangs. “But you already know that, don’t you?”

 

Ambrosius had never felt so sick with guilt before. Ballister had done the things he’d done, that was true. But he, like Ambrosius, had been able to shove those dark deeds away, obscuring them with light and goodness. It’s not murder if it’s for the right cause. They held the illusion long enough to impress the Gatekeepers, long enough to be promoted from mere citizens to defenders of good.

They were happy.

They were together.

But Ambrosius had wanted more. He dug up the Scrolls of Life, exposed Ballister with the record of his own life. And there it was: absolute proof, nobody could question it. They’d turned him out immediately sending him to the depths of That Other Place.

A sudden lightning bolt struck Ambrosius. “Enough,” said She. “You’re an angel. Quit griping.”

 

“You want me to be your left hand man?” Ballister asked in surprise

“Yes,” said the Master, setting down Ballister’s record. “I’d say you’re more than qualified.”

“I...” Ballister thought about Ambrosius, way Up There, probably celebrating his success, basking in the eternal sunlight while feasting on delicacies. Ambrosius, who turned him in. Got his own sins pardoned, for betraying the closest person to him.

“It’s not fair,” Ballister said, the anger in his voice rising.

“It’s not,” agreed the Master.

“They’re all a bunch of hypocrites.”

“They are.”

Ballister took a deep breath, taking in the smoky air. “Alright, I’ll do it.”

“Great,” the Master gestured to a seat beside him. “Welcome to Hell, Blackheart.”

“...Blackheart?”

“Yes, it’s your new name. Your heart isn’t quite black yet, but give it a couple thousand years or so.”