There was an old painting in my grandparents’ attic. Neither beautiful nor ugly, it simply depicted an empty room with no figures, an old living room with an armchair, library, and fireplace... [+]
There was a devil, rather, an imp resting her chin on Niklaus’ shoulder, attempting to appear alluring. In the darkness the imp’s skin glowed a hellish red, bright enough to see by. She was swatting away the moths.
Niklaus drove a blade into soggy soil. He stepped on a shovel and the tool drilled deeper into the earth. With every inch he shaved off of the ground, Niklaus’ heart sank deeper, dread pooling in the pit of his stomach as he thought of the consequences he was about to face.
An hour later, Niklaus stood in a hole up to his waist. He stuck the shovel in the ground to dab the sweat off his face with a handkerchief.
“Good lord!” exclaimed Persephone snatching the cloth out of his hand, “Is that an honest to God handkerchief? I haven’t seen one of those in like, 80 years!” the imp said bending over with laughter. “You mortal types are waaay out there, huh?”
Niklaus seized Persephone's wrist and grabbed back his handkerchief before shoving it ruefully into his pocket. The women stared for a moment, startled.
“What’s your problem, huh?!”
The harsh line composing Niklaus’ eyebrows lifted a fraction as he looked around the graveyard.
“This! This is my predicament! You’ve got me out here in the dead of morning, shovel in hand like some common cinema villain, robbing a grave.”
Persephone waggled a finger at the man, “It’s more like you’re digging your own grave.”
Somewhere in the distance sirens sounded, Niklaus paused, shovel quivering above an indent in the ground.
“Ignore the mortals,” said the imp, “you’re doing my bidding tonight.” She threw her head back and cackled. Niklaus jumped, not so much out of fear, but because the sound was so abrupt, so sharp, that at first he thought it was glass shattering. The imp sighed contently,“I think you’ll be glad to know that we can get up to much more sinister deeds from down there than up here.”
“About that Persephone...” started Niklaus as he sent another clump of dirt sailing over their heads, “I was thinking that maybe we...”
“Maybe we what?”
The imp’s eyes slid narrow and her reddish light dimmed. In hindsight, this whole mess was a mistake Niklaus recognized, but what was done was done. There was no changing the past. There was however still the opportunity of altering the future. Niklaus committed to finish the sentence. He tightened his grip on the shovel and slung it behind himself once more. “That we-we call off the deal.”
Niklaus turned slowly, too look at the face of his haunting spirit but was surprised to see only the muddied face of the imp. She swiped the dirt from her eyes with a force that shook the earth. Persephone, filling up with angry, hot air, levitated off the grass so that she was eye to eye and a centimeter from the man’s nose. Her hellfire glow cast Niklaus in a monochromatic crimson. He stumbled back but was trapped by the very grave he was digging.
“Are you trying to be funny Alistair? Because I’ve never heard you tell a joke before and this is not the moment to try and be smart with me, mortal.” Her hellfire glow cast Niklaus in a monochromatic crimson. He stumbled back but was trapped by the very grave he was digging.
This was going exactly as he thought it would, time for a different plan. From his night-robe pocket Niklaus withdrew a handful of jimsonweed petals which he scattered quickly around the hole. In one swift, and shockingly athletic move, Niklaus grabbed Persephone by the wrist, using her as leverage to heft himself out of the hole, while simultaneously dragging the imp to the depths of the pit. Niklaus rolled away safely onto the grass, panting, and praying to a god that he was just starting to believe in that this worked.
“Wha- Niklaus what did you do?”
She clawed at the wall of the grave before being burned by the flowers around the edges, instantly Persephone felt her powers drain from her blood and a headache throb in her skull.
“Devil’s snare.” finished Niklaus with a slick grin.
“We had a deal!” bellowed the imp.
“Sorry, dear girl. I’ve had- a change of heart.”
Persephone dragged her arm across her face, smearing dirt across her cheek. “You? Ha. As if you’re capable of guilt.”
Niklaus refused to meet Persephone’s eyes.
“My God!” cried Persephone, “You really do have a heart!”
“In any case- I’d rather not damn myself.” Niklaus snapped up to a standing position.
“Ooh, it’s too late for that, you little beatle.” Persephone laughed.
“Says the one who’s natural form is serpentine.” said Niklaus.
“You think one measly good-deed will outweigh the things I taught you? The things we did?”
“The things you mesmerized me into doing!” screamed Niklaus.
“You really think that’ll save you? That I tempted your pooor wittle innocent soul.”
Haughtily, Niklaus crossed his arms, cheeks burning. “It’s the only thing I have left to believe in.” he said.
“Well...” said the imp, “I hope for your sake, that your couraaageous good deeds are enough to save you.” With a final shattering cackle, the pit swallowed her up, and the imp was gone.