- Author: Nazri Noor
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This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. March 26, 2021.
Copyright © 2021 Nazri Noor.
All rights reserved.
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About the Author
“Right. So I just dump the chocolate into the bowl?”
And so I did, watching as chopped up chunks of milk chocolate tumbled into a slurry of pancake mix. Made from scratch by yours truly, Mason Albrecht, nephilim renegade and sous chef to the best culinary mind in all of Valero, or at least in our home dimension of Paradise.
“It’s looking great,” I said, giving the mix a couple of good stirs. “Thanks, Chef.”
Priscilla the gorilla gave me another “Ook,” then curled her lips back, favoring me with a genuinely pleased smile. I’d only very recently shown any interest in the kitchen, mainly because I wanted to learn how to make the stuff that I loved to eat. Plus there’s something oddly meditative about the whole process, you know? Cooking is so low pressure. You just follow instructions, whether that comes in the form of a recipe or a highly intelligent gorilla with exquisite culinary taste. And Priscilla, by the way, loved it when I called her “Chef.” Fucking loved it.
I was helping her throw together breakfast. Now, Priscilla’s the kind of lady who likes to whip up a nice spread of freshly-baked scones and clotted cream and sliced fruit, or maybe lightly fried Filipino rice with some crisp fish and runny eggs, or any of the many, many multicultural recipes she kept in that brilliant brain of hers. But I just wanted some pancakes. Specifically, chocolate pancakes, made with tons of milk chocolate chopped into delicious chunks. It was a wonder I didn’t end up eating half of it before we even started.
Of course, Chef Priscilla had her rules, the most important of which was food safety. She preferred her signature frilly pink apron, while I was made to wear something that must have been a gag gift, very likely from our shared employer and landlord, Artemis, goddess of the hunt and bearer of bad taste. My apron said “Fist the Chef,” in short, and the huge graphic of a fist might have suggested that the phrase was referring to getting a fist bump, but other, more vigorous activities tended to spring to mind.
In any case, cooking was a nice change of pace, seeing things slow down in the world around me. It felt like things had happened so fast, between discovering my true lineage, then actually meeting my father, Samyaza, former king of the fallen. Said former king of the fallen had moved into Paradise with the rest of us with Artemis’s blessing, living in a hut much like my own, which I built with my own two hands not far from what was beginning to look like Paradise’s residential area.
Dad – Samyaza, that is – apparently liked to sleep in, which was fine by everybody anyway. He’d only just regenerated his entire physical being, and we, all of us, needed to build our strength for the challenges to come. The biggest would be finally tracking down my mother. She was alive, they said, they being Azrael, the angel of death, and Lucifer Morningstar himself. Yes, that Lucifer.
And I knew that she was a captive of the demon prince Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies and the Prince of Gluttony. Fucking demon princes. I could never catch a break. The Seven, especially, as in the seven deadly sins, were the worst of them all, and five of them had already popped into my life in some capacity to harass me, try to throw me into a people zoo, or eat bits of my soul.
Beelzebub’s entire thing was eating too much of the finest and rarest delicacies. That was the part that bothered me. But things had been bizarrely quiet on the demon prince front, hardly good news because it only implied that the rat bastards were cooking up something truly sinister. I only hoped I was wrong.
“How much longer are those going to take?” Sterling said. He’d lowered his sunglasses, looking over the rim of them as he lounged in his hammock, the very picture of total laziness.
I was just about to say something snippy when Priscilla answered for us both, by snarling and shrieking at him. She shook a wooden spoon in the air for good measure, mimicking a motion that made it look like she would have no hesitation bashing Sterling’s head in.
“It was just a question,” Sterling said, slipping his sunglasses back on and grumbling to himself as he melted into the hammock and went back to scrolling on his phone.
Priscilla shook her head and gave me a conspiratorial look, the kind that said, “Can you believe this asshole?”
She never said anything, but I replied anyway. “I know, right? That’s just how he is. You get used to it.”
“Ook,” she grunted, giving the pot another stir.
It was nice having Sterling around, truth be told, and it was even nicer how he liked to bring Asher along whenever he visited. Asher Mayhew, professional necromancer and avid gamer, was swinging in his own hammock not far from Sterling, a split coconut balanced on his stomach, his forehead furrowed as he concentrated on a handheld