Authors: Trinity Faegen
The Mephisto Mark: The Redemption of Phoenix
He’s living on the edge – she’s completely broken.
Orphaned at six and sent to live with abusive relatives in Bucharest, Mariah learned early in life to box up violent, agonizing memories and put them in permanent mental storage. Now almost nineteen, she has a paying job, a tiny apartment, and a plan to attend university. She loves her independence and is steadily overcoming her past, but when an enigmatic stranger walks into the pub where she works and the trajectory of her life changes yet again, she begins to wonder if she’ll run out of mental shelf space.
The only females unafraid of the Mephisto brothers are the extremely rare Anabo, born without Original Sin. Over one hundred years ago, Phoenix was first to find one, but he made a fatal mistake and she was murdered by his oldest brother and enemy, Eryx. Phoenix soldiered through the next century wrapped up in grief and guilt, his only outlet planning takedowns of those who pledged their souls to Eryx. When one of his brothers brings Mariah to Mephisto Mountain, he’s torn between his instinctive, powerful need to pursue her, and his certainty that he can never have her.
Drawn into the world of the Mephisto, Mariah sees the pain and misery Eryx unleashes on humanity, and the boxes in her mind begin to fly open, one by one. All that keeps her from slipping off the edge is her unlikely, sexually charged friendship with Phoenix. He’s incredibly screwed up; she’s completely broken. It would take a miracle for them to find happiness. Then Eryx brings the war for Hell to a whole new level, forcing Mariah and Phoenix to make a choice that will bind them together for all eternity, or rip them apart forever.
Who’s Who and What’s What in the World of the Mephisto ~~
– First child of Adam and Eve, born before the fall of mankind, who was lost from Eden and began a line of descendants born without Original Sin who came to be known as Anabo.
– The dark angel of death who ferries souls bound for Hell. He is Lucifer’s second in command, and has many thousands of minions to aid him in his work.
– An Anabo Mephistopheles fell in love with over a thousand years ago. She bore him seven sons, in secret, without God or Lucifer’s knowledge. Before her eldest was compelled to jump to his death and be resurrected to immortality, he murdered Elektra to release her spirit and alert God and Lucifer to the existence of his younger brothers, to save them from his fate of losing all light in his soul. The remaining brothers were blessed by God at death, ensuring they retained the light of Elektra when they came back as immortals.
– Six immortal brothers, sons of the dark angel, Mephistopheles, and the Anabo, Elektra. Their sole purpose is to capture those who’ve pledged their souls to their oldest brother, Eryx, and imprison them in Hell on Earth. By virtue of the blood of Mephistopheles, they are bound for Hell when the world ends, or when Eryx is finally defeated, unless they fulfill the Mephisto Covenant.
. A human born without Original Sin. Extremely rare. An Anabo may be recruited to be a Lumina, or she can become Mephisto via a change in DNA when she’s kissed by a Mephisto. If she’s immortal, the change to Mephisto is permanent. If she’s not immortal, she can ask Lucifer to be returned to how she was before the kiss. If an Anabo wishes to become like other humans, she can request to lose Anabo and Lucifer will make it happen.
– Eldest brother of the Mephisto, oldest son of Mephistopheles, Eryx lost all light in his soul when he became immortal. An anomaly, his soul belonging to neither God nor Lucifer, to fill the hopelessness within, he wants to take the reins of Hell from Lucifer and thereby control all of mankind and eradicate free will, dooming all humans who are not Anabo to Hell.
– Ruler of Hell, the down to God’s up, dark to the light, he is mankind’s conscience, the reason for free will. Mankind is fallen and have the choice to rise above it, or not.
– Exceptional humans with extraordinary light in their souls, recruited by the Mephisto to become immortal and live and work with them on Mephisto Mountain. A recruit dies and is resurrected by God to be a living angel. Luminas may marry other Luminas, but are discouraged from interacting with humans.
– A spirit meant for Heaven, but unable to ascend because of their anger at God, usually because of something occurring just before or during death. They are sent to work for the Mephisto to learn humility, acceptance and forgiveness from the Luminas.
Hell on Earth
– A labyrinth of caverns deep within the Earth, carved out by Lucifer to imprison those who pledge their souls to Eryx.
– One who pledges his or her soul to Eryx. Upon death, their soul is absorbed by Eryx, making him stronger. When he believes he is strong enough, he will declare war on Lucifer and attempt to take over Hell. The Mephisto and Luminas know the lost souls by the shadow across their eyes. If captured, they die in Hell on Earth, their spirit unable to escape and add to Eryx’s strength.
– In Greek,
means shade, or shadow. Skia agree to become immortal followers of Eryx, and hand their soul to him upon resurrection. They are drones, incapable of free will, enslaved to Eryx’s commands. The Skia are Eryx’s recruiters, and search constantly for humans who are vulnerable, who are likely to pledge their soul. The shadow across Skia eyes are much darker than the lost souls because their spirits already belong to Eryx. Unlike the lost souls who die when they’re sent to Hell on Earth, the Skia are immortal, and live in eternal misery and horror if they’re captured. They have strength equal to the Mephisto and are specifically chosen by Eryx for their exceptional intelligence, which makes them cunning and more difficult to capture.
The Mephisto Covenant
– God’s promise to the Mephisto of redemption and a chance of Heaven if they win the love of a woman and selflessly love her in return. They are limited to extremely rare Anabo females because all other human girls are afraid of them.
– A small island in the North Atlantic, surrounded by a mist created by Mephistopheles over a thousand years ago to hide Elektra and his sons from God and Lucifer. When the youngest Mephisto became immortal, they left Kyanos, but still return for councils, or for punishment.
– A meeting of the Mephisto on Kyanos, a trial of sorts to determine guilt and punishment of a Mephisto who’s broken a hard rule. Punishment is usually a period of solitary time on Kyanos, which is primitive and cold.
– An internal mark made by a Mephisto to an Anabo during sex, allowing the Mephisto to mentally search for and find her, as they do with each other. If the Anabo is immortal, the mark is permanent. If she’s still human, it is not and can be replaced by another mark, or erased entirely by Lucifer.
– A particular scent attached to an Anabo, Lucifer’s way of indicating which Mephisto she is meant for. If an Anabo is found and any of the brothers could go for her, it would be a free-for-all, a fight to the death – and they can’t die. To keep order, Lucifer attaches a scent to an Anabo, and the Mephisto who don’t catch it are instinctively not attracted to her.
– Several thousand acres of land high in the southern Colorado Rockies above Telluride, populated by Lumina cottages, the Mephisto mansion, and outbuildings. The boundary is circled by the Kyanos mists, making everything Mephisto on the mountain invisible to humans and inaccessible to anyone but the Mephisto, Anabo, and Luminas.
Meet the Mephisto:
A note before reading
The Mephisto Mark:
There are elements of past child abuse and sexual assault in this story. Triggers abound, so please keep this in mind as you read.
“I am part of the part that once was everything,
Part of the darkness which gave birth to light…”
Mephistopheles, from Goethe’s
Within a minute of
his arrival, I knew the guy in black was going to be a problem. Unlike the other men in the pub who’d arrived several hours earlier to watch hockey on Gustav’s ancient television and were now very drunk, this one walked in at half past midnight, stone cold sober. Alone. He took a seat at a table next to the wall, not far from the loud group in the middle, and swept his gaze across the dim, smoky room. His inspection stopped at me.
was used to guys sizing me up to decide if I was worth hitting on. I worked in a bar, after all. But this one’s black-eyed stare was different. Inquisitive and intense. As if he knew me.
I had zero sexual vibes from him
, and as much as anything, that made me nervous. If an interested guy didn’t want sex, he was a wild card. Could he be with the police? My heart raced and I talked myself back to calm. He certainly wasn’t dressed like a policeman. Probably no older than twenty-one, he was tall and broad with a handsome face, and wore his long, black hair in a ponytail that reached just above the spot between his shoulder blades. Who was he? And what did he want?
Only one way to find out. I went to his table and asked what he’d like to drink.
He ordered whiskey, neat, and thanked me when I delivered it, but didn’t attempt to make conversation. I washed glasses behind the bar, cleaned a table in the corner, helped Gustav tally up the evening gross, and all the while, I could feel the new guy’s stare.
Nimbly avoiding grasping hands and crude come-ons,
I deposited a round of vodka and beer to the hockey fans, then carried my tray over to his table. Despite all of my instincts screaming that something was horribly awry, I smiled as if my life had been lacking until he appeared; genuine and warm without suggesting anything. Friendly and hospitable. I earned very good tips with my smile. “Can I bring you another whiskey?”
“Where do you go after you’re done here? Where do you live?”
His voice was deep, his Romanian perfect. Too perfect for a Romanian. I decided he was either British or American.
Determined to ignore his unnerving stare, I never lost my
smile. “In an apartment, with a cat and the mice she’s too lazy to kill. So, how about another drink?”
“Yeah, I’ll have another one.”
When I returned with his second whiskey, he handed me a U.S. one hundred dollar bill. A pay-off of some kind? I gave one millisecond’s thought to refusing it before I folded it into my pocket. If I had a prayer of attending university, I needed all the money I could get my hands on. Ignoring my uneasiness, I grinned at him. “I had a feeling you’re American.”
He pointed to the chair across the table. “Give me two minutes.”
“I can’t sit down or Gustav will be angry. I’m sorry.” I wasn’t sorry at all. What was it about this guy that set my teeth on edge?
I know who you are.”
know me, but how? Never abandoning my barmaid guise, I laughed and pointed to the name badge I wore above my left breast:
. “It’s not a secret.”
“I know a lot more about you than your name.
You were born in a tiny village fifty miles from here to an older couple who thought they couldn’t have children. Not quite two years later, they had another daughter. When she was four, they were killed in a car wreck and you and your sister came to live with your mother’s cousin here in Bucharest.”
Mention of my sister was all it took to send me into
extreme panic, but this guy went so much further. He knew things I’d never shared with anyone. Not even Gustav or his mother, Marta, the only two people in the world I’d ever considered remotely close to me. No longer able to keep up my bogus smile, I eyed him apprehensively. “Who are you?”
My name is Kyros.”
“What do you want?”
“I want to know how your sister wound up at an orphanage. Did your mother’s cousin take her there?”
This needed to stop. Now.
“My sister died. You’ve got the wrong story, or the wrong person.” I mentally placed Kyros in a box, shoved it into a space next to all the others, then turned and walked away.
He stayed where he was and drank his whiskey and continued watching
me, but I would not be afraid of him. He’d been boxed; him and his black staring eyes and nosy questions and unfathomable knowledge of my most closely held secret. Once something went in a box, it was no longer a threat.
As it grew closer to
two in the morning, the regular patrons began to trickle out of Gustav’s like the last foamy dribble of a finished beer keg. When the only guy left was Kyros, I went to his table and picked up his empty glass. “We’re closing now. You should go, because if you don’t, Gustav will make you.”
“I know she didn’t die, Mariah. She was adopted by a man who became the American president.”
Blood rushed and roared in my ears, making me lightheaded. He
. He didn’t just know of my sister’s existence. He knew who she was
, in real time. I could no longer hide my panic and my voice shook ever so slightly. “Please tell me who you are.”
a friend of your sister.” He pulled a stuffed patchwork rabbit out of his trench coat pocket and handed it to me.
My mouth went dry.
“Oh, my God.” A thousand memories floated around me as I ran my fingers across his stitches and his button eyes. Tears clogged my throat when I saw the tiny embroidered initials inside the bunny’s right ear.
Viorica Ardelean. My baby sister.
Kyros’s box came flying out at me, the lid flung too far away for me to shove it back on and make this stop killing me
His voice was low and earnest.
“I came to Bucharest to find who made him, to have it repaired. It took all day yesterday and most of today, but I finally found a little shop in a village fifty miles from here, and the woman who made this was still there. She remembered your family. All I want to know is why your sister wound up at an orphanage.”
Desperate to ma
ke him stop, make him go away, and equally determined not to show my desperation, I said calmly, “If you’re her friend, you’ll leave right now and never, ever tell her what you’ve learned.”
She and I are a lot more than friends, and I can’t keep something like this from her. I’d like to keep it from everyone else in the world, but not from her. She’s going to want answers, and there’s no doubt she’ll want to see you, but for now, I just want to know why she was in an orphanage.”
ressed in black leather, with a scruff beard and a hard edge to him that could only come from an unforgiving life, he looked like a criminal. Why would my sister, the adopted daughter of a wealthy family who now lived in the White House, have anything to do with this guy? She wouldn’t. He had to be lying. I took a step closer to him. “How did you get the rabbit? Did you steal it when you stole her? Did you have something to do with her kidnapping?”
That surprised him, and he
blinked. “I rescued her.”
“You’re a liar. She was left in Hyde Park by her captors.”
“That’s what the world believes, but that’s not what happened. You tell me about the orphanage, and I’ll tell you the real story of her abduction.”
If only he didn’t have the rabbit. Viorica’s rabbit. It was her treasure, her heart, and the only thing I’d allowed her to take when we ran away all those years ago. This guy couldn’t possibly have
it unless he was very close to my sister. I didn’t know what he might do with what he’d learned, but I had to know more. Had to protect Viorica. After all I’d done to make sure she was safe, I wouldn’t allow anyone to threaten her happiness and peace of mind.
I shot another glance at Gustav, who was busy cleaning the
bar, then whispered to Kyros, “I took her there.”
He looked incredulous.
You were six.”
stav’s voice rumbled across the pub. “That floor’s not going to mop itself, Mariah.”
Facing the inevitab
ility of talking to Kyros about Viorica, I handed the rabbit back to him. “I’ll be done here in an hour. Meet me outside, down at the corner.”
yros immediately got to his feet and walked out.
our later, my mind having run in circles while I mopped and cleaned, I said goodbye to Gustav before stepping outside into the cold night. In the faint light from the streetlamp at the corner, I saw Kyros waiting just beyond the door. I looked up at him and said, “Let’s walk.”
He fell in with me as I
went down the street, and I sensed his impatience. At the corner, while we waited for cars to pass, I looked up at him again. “Is there any way I can convince you not to tell my sister about me?”
He shook his head. “Not a chance. Why
don’t you want her to know? Wouldn’t you like to see her?”
More than I wanted anything, I wanted to see my sister.
But not yet. Not now. I kept my attention on the top button of his coat. “It’s just that I want her to be happy, and nothing about any of this is good. I thought that someday, when we’re older, when she’s settled and not living in the White House under a microscope, I’d see her and explain. She’d want to know. But she’s still so young, barely seventeen.”
Barely? She’ll be eighteen in three weeks.”
I met his eyes.
“She was born on Christmas Day. She just turned seventeen. I turned eighteen last February.”
“Did the orphanage not know how old she was?”
I shook my head. “They didn’t know anything about her. Either they made up a birthday for her, or her adopted parents did.”
“Please tell me what happened
His voice had softened
. Noticing the concern in his expression and the light in his eyes, I realized what hadn’t been evident before. “You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”
“Does it matter?”
It mattered a lot, but I didn’t say so. I wondered if Viorica felt the same about him? “How are you here? And why? No guy I know would come so far to get a girl’s stuffed animal repaired. There must be a million places you could have gone to in the States.”
He barely blinked, but I knew he lied when he said,
“I’m here for a family funeral. Jordan’s rabbit was torn up because of me, an accident, and she’s so attached to it, I thought it’d make her happy if I found where it was made and took a picture. I didn’t expect to find out so much, but now that I know, I’d like to have the whole story.”
Why did he lie? I supposed he didn’t trust me any more than I trusted him. But he was in love with my sister, and since he had the bunny, she must feel something for him. He was determined to tell her about me. My only hope of convincing him to keep quiet was to tell him the whole bloody truth. When he knew, when he understood, he’d change his mind, I was certain.
I focused on the button again and took a deep breath.
g of it meant remembering. I hated him for coming to Romania, for walking into Gustav’s, for digging and asking and making me do this. I carefully drew a very old box from the deepest recesses of my mind and hesitantly lifted the lid. “My mother’s cousin, Nadia, was married to a horrible man named Emilian. We’d only been living there a week when he broke my arm. He’d get angry and lock me in a closet and wouldn’t give me any food for days at a time.”
He clenched his hands into fists and I could feel anger roll off of him.
I ignored it. “It’s said that very young children who are abused don’t know it’s not normal, because that’s all they know. So maybe if our parents hadn’t been so loving, I wouldn’t have understood how wrong it was. But I knew he was evil, and as much as I hated what he did to me, I couldn’t bear watching him torment Viorica. She was so happy, so sweet, and I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to her. So I took her and ran away.”
“Where did you go? Where did you
As you said, I was six. I had no plan. I just knew I had to get her out of there. Emilian was already pinching her hard enough to leave bruises. I sometimes wonder if God led me, because I took refuge inside a church that happened to have an orphanage. I hid there for two days, trying to decide if I should ask the priest for help, but I was afraid he’d call Emilian and we’d be sent back. I’d been watching what went on at the building across the street, the children in the play yard, and the nuns who looked after them. I realized those children lived there, that they had no parents, no family. So I took Viorica late in the night and left her on the doorstep, rang the bell, then hid to watch, to make sure the nuns took her in.”