Fiction~~Ice Wind's Bride~~Ch. 5

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Ice Wind's Bride
Chapter 5 - The Braid and the Ass

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Leaning against the cobblestone wall, his boots tapping the hay bale beside him, Bey thoughtfully chewed on a small piece of straw. He poked at a bruise around his eye while he watched Silva walk up and down the market.

Silva paused as he passed. “Stop playing with it. You’ll only make it worse.”

Bey smiled to himself. It wasn’t sympathy, but Silva was definitely paying a little too much attention to Bey’s new bruises.  Silva’s hirelings had been rougher than he’d been expecting, obviously.

It hadn’t had a bad plan, really. Shoved into an alley on his way back from the pub, Bey hadn’t been in any state to fight off his attackers. They’d had him trussed up like a goose when the guard caught wind of it and scared them off.

Wasn’t that hard to realize Silva had been behind it from the look on his face when Bey had come back that night.

Not that the setback seemed to be stopping the man. Bey wasn’t sure what Silva was planning now, only that it seemed to involve an unlimited supply of irritating harangues about leaving, and extended stops at the market.

And truly sad attempts at sneaking.

Bey felt almost sorry for Silva; had he not been bullied enough as a child? It was like the man’s guile had been switched with a toddler’s. Actually, Bey was pretty sure he knew toddlers who were less obvious in their intentions.  Never knew what those little menaces were thinking.

Shaking his head, Bey looked on as Silva headed to the cobbler’s stall, then the tinker’s, then one of the more expensive jewelers, and…ah, finally, the baker’s. Bey had wondered how long it would take him this round. Silva turned his body to hide what he was doing from Bey, made his purchase, and stuffed it into the canvas bag tucked into his belt.

Bey masticated the dried grass some more, examining the table of baked goods from across the road.  Yeah, like he’d thought. The pile of journey cakes was smaller again.  Silva must have half the baker’s stock in his bag at this point. Enough for at least a two-week long trip, and Silva looked like he wasn’t done ‘shopping’ yet.

Only a few places were that far away, without any places to re-supply in between. Cross off Silva’s home as an option, and all of them were in the Southern Kingdoms.

Heading south, then, were they?

Shifting to take the weight off his aching feet, Bey wondered how much longer Silva would be before they headed back to the barracks. It had been fun, watching the man exhaust himself, but Bey was reaching his limit. He’d been planning to go out drinking as soon as the nightlife started. That had been an hour ago. Almost dusk now, the pubs would be so packed Bey could sneeze and his dick would hit something.

He shifted his weight again rather than wave goodbye to Silva. It was annoying, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave without the idiot. Couldn’t move an inch, even though he could be enjoying five different women right this moment, relaxed and petted and propositioned a dozen times before he even ordered a drink.

The appeal of company, roast duck, effortless sex, and beer was a faint echo compared to Silva’s ass yelling out at him every time the man moved.

Guess the saying was true.  Family made a man mad, but it took a spouse to make him crazy. 

Silva turned to speak to a young stable hand and his braid swung behind him, slapping his backside with a playful pat. A flush nipped a path down Bey’s throat and spread across his chest, tightening his nipples while he stared. The heat didn’t quite make it all the way to his cock, but he had plans for that later.  As long as he could keep watching that braid, he’d wait a little longer.

Besides, it drove Silva nuts that Bey refused to leave and let the man shop on his own; teasing Silva was worth a little pain. Bey couldn’t be expected to deny himself fun like this when he could come by it.

And poking at Silva until he burst out of his ice-queen shell was damn fun. Bey had thought so the first day they’d met, with Silva looking so uptight and snooty. Standing over those dead bodies, his head bloodied, he’d looked like an idiot with his hair falling out of his braid, flopping over his eyes in a ridiculous, silver dandelion-fluff tangle. Challenging Bey to mock him without even saying a word.

What else could Bey do but invite him back to the barracks?

Marriage aside, he still thought that was one of the best decisions he’d ever made.

Silva glanced at him over his shoulder, frowning. Hoping Bey would suddenly ‘come to his senses?’ That they could both escape the city amidst snowflakes and rose petals, like some weeping couple in a fairy story?

Bey hummed to himself, wondering what Silva would say when he found out they could do just that, any time they wanted.  He’d already sought permission for an extended leave from the captain, for both of them. They could leave tonight, if Bey were so inclined.

Except, of course, that Bey had no intention of doing a damn thing, not for a few days more, at least. Silva had no one to blame but himself; he was too damn sexy when he was all fired up and determined like this. Bey wanted to see how far he could push him before his husband snapped.

The sex would definitely be worth waiting for.

Bey pulled a new piece of straw from the hay bale, tucking it between his lips. “Done yet?”

“Almost. I might be a while, though. Why don’t you head back?”

Silva: a marvel of subtlety in his own mind.

“Nah, I’m fine. The view’s pretty good here; take as long as you like.” He turned his head with an exaggerated leer to stare at the potter’s apprentice one stall over. Her low cut blouse was nearly falling off her teats. Silva stiffened up, his braid smacking his ass again as he turned abruptly to head to the next stall.

As usual, Silva completely missed Bey’s eyes snapping back to him the second he moved, funneling down the lean line of Silva’s back to bump up against his ass.

Bey smirked. Guess Princesses didn’t notice that sort of thing.

He looked around and his smile slipped. Too bad other people weren’t as blind. Another guard walked by with her partner and they both paused to visually feast on the same ass Bey had been enjoying. They caught his glare and shrugged, smiling at him as they continued on. Bey had been running into that ‘couldn’t help myself’ shrug a lot lately. It was beginning to piss him off. He would have thought people would have more discretion when they looked Silva over.

There was a proper etiquette to checking out another man’s husband in front of him.

Bey frowned darkly. The bitches had better not think that he’d be as easy to slip around as your average husband. He knew all the tricks.

Silva didn’t, though.  Hmm. Maybe Bey should give in early so they could leave tonight.  

He watched Silva for another minute, taking in the tight shoulders and snapping pops of his braid as he walked. Sexy. Silva was so frustrated he was spanking himself with his own braid.

Bey wanted to do it himself. Drool pooling in his mouth, Bey couldn’t stop fantasizing until Silva finally stopped moving and the braid was still again. Oh yeah, that settled it. They were staying a few more days.

That braid had a few sexual fantasies it needed to fulfill before Bey would even consider leaving Varlan.

Shredding the end of the straw with his teeth, Bey watched Silva head to the cobbler’s yet again, dickering over a pair of finely tooled boots. Dickering badly. Silva should just let Bey take over the haggling, like he usually did, and spare them all.

He sighed in relief when Silva finally gave up. Spitting the straw out of his mouth, Bey strained his neck to catch sight of Silva’s whoring little braid as Silva walked past the fruit vendor’s without stopping. Next would be the knife merchant, if Bey guessed right, and then the potter’s again where the apprentice got another leer.

Bey waited to speak until Silva was done and had started back across the street again. “You should rest before your legs fall off, princess.”
“You should use the few brains you’ve been given and help me pack to leave Varlan.  We only have a few days, if that.”

Bey smiled back silently as he calculated how long it would take Silva to head to the baker’s small counter this time. His groin tightening, Bey noted the sexy roll to Silva’s hips even as he shook his head over the drama.

If Bey could survive growing up in one of the worst slums in five kingdoms, a small pack of silver-haired nobles sure as hell wasn’t going to do him in. And frankly, if they did? Well, that’s the way the dice rolled. Hell, Bey hadn’t joined the guards to become an octogenarian; a soldier’s life was usually shorter than his dick. 

Speaking of dick, or at least where all dicks would like to be…

Silva’s backside was casually sidling up to the baker’s again already. A whispered conversation, another purchase, and there went a new bundle of journey cakes into his pack. When Silva looked like he was going to head to another stall to start the whole dance again, though, Bey started over. Enough was enough. Silva had enough cakes squirreled away for the day. Time to head home, get some food, and have a short scuffle and a long grope.

Silva pretended to look at the sesame buns as Bey walked up. Bey snagged two sweet rolls, paid the baker, and handed one to Silva since he knew the idiot would never admit how much he liked the sweet, gooey things.

But Silva never wasted food. With a reluctant grimace that couldn't even fool the baker, Silva took a bite. He spoke as soon as he swallowed it. “We could leave tonight.”

Sweet virgins, but the man never gave up. “I have plans.”

And there he went, pole-up-the-ass stiff again. “I’m sure. How foolish of me to assume that life might be more important to you than debauchery.”

“Bitch.” Bey forced his frown into a smirk.
Silva glared back. Somehow, the look lost something when the man’s cheeks were full of dessert. Although the white glaze had somehow smeared over Silva’s chin, and Bey could instantly imagine Silva’s mouth full of something else entirely.

He really was going to bend Silva over that moss covered wall those oldsters had mentioned, especially if Silva didn’t watch that braid of his. Bey paused in mid-step, imagining Silva’s bare, white ass highlighted by the deep green softness, those long fingers digging into the grit while his body rocked under Bey’s thrusts. The heavy silver braid held taut in Bey’s hands like a leash

Oh yeah. They were definitely visiting that wall.

“I need to check out the tanner’s.”

Bey caught his arm. “You need to get your ass moving so we can head back to the barracks, Princess.”

Silva’s lips tightened to flat lines. “You need to pull your head from your-” He cut himself off and pulled himself free. Silva stared at Bey and sighed. “Never mind.”

“Oh no. Please don’t stop on my account. Pull my head from my what?”

“It doesn’t matter, Bey.” Silva turned away and shoved the last of the roll into his mouth.

“Well, now, that depends entirely on where you think my head is. Personally, I’d like it to be buried between your cheeks with my tongue in your ass.” Bey could see color spread down the back of Silva’s neck. “Are you blushing?

The color darkened; it looked like the nape of Silva’s neck had suddenly come down with sunburn. “Don’t be foolish.”

“Foolish? I’d say brilliantly observant. You’d love my tongue in your ass right now.”

Silva’s entire body went tight as the nearest shopkeeper let out an embarrassed giggle. He glared back at Bey, face bright as he hissed at him. “Not only are you an idiot, you’re crude and over-sexed.”

“Eh, It’s a gift. Before you know it, the whole world will be wallowing in my crude yet sexual masculinity.” Damn Silva was hot when he was pissy.

Silva didn’t even a crack a smile. “We should leave tonight.”


“Tomorrow morning, then.”

Persistent, had to give him that. “Silva, I said I’m not going.” Not quite yet.

Silva rounded on him. “Damn you, Bey! I will not stand around and watch you pay for your own stubborn, foolish idiocy with your life! If you don’t use the few grains of intelligence you have soon, you’re - ”

Bey stepped into Silva’s space. Before the man could react, Bey grabbed his head and kissed him. He had one moment to shove his tongue in and taste the sugary inside of Silva’s mouth before Silva shoved him back, slamming the bag full of journey cakes against his stomach.

Ow. He’d forgotten how rock-hard the damn things were.

Bey rubbed at the forming bruise as he grinned. “You know, you’re damn tasty when you’re lecturing.”

Silva growled before he turned and stalked down the road. “Idiot.”

Bey followed, admiring his ass. “Priss.”

“Stubborn goat.”

“Stubborn ass.

“Beer swilling sot.”

“Nagging henwife.”

Silva’s hands clenched. “Lecher.”

Bey couldn’t stop grinning. “As always…proud of it.” 

Silva stalked down the road, cursing under his breath, and Bey enjoyed the extra flex to Silva’s muscles as he moved. Bey wondered if they’d look just like that when the man thrust, bunching and tight, the braid snapping with every stroke. Bey took a deep breath and looked away to control himself. He needed -

Wooo, damn.  That.

Bey stopped, staring as two scantily clad acrobats passed by. He’d seen them on the playbills around town. Before he’d pegged Silva, Bey’s cock would have given it up just thinking about them. Their bodies were sexy as hell, not to mention flexible. Couldn’t argue with flexible, not when it was combined with a pair of asses like that. His body turned to track them on reflex.

All he got was a trickle of interest, not the usual rush of blood to his groin that they deserved. Someone might as well have dunked his wick in vinegar for all it was reacting.

Bey looked over at Silva out of the corner of his eye and caught him wiping something off the toe of his boot, bending over so that his tunic lifted and showed the tight fabric of his breeches where they cupped his ass. Bey’s cock thickened instantly.

One last glance at the acrobats and Bey wrote them off in his head. A good fuck with Silva was a hell of a lot more appealing, to his head and his dick.

What the hell did Silva do to get his ass to move like that when he walked?!

Bey caught up to him and reached out. He gave Silva’s ass a hearty, approving squeeze just as the man stood up, then had to duck as Silva swung out before he knew who it was. Silva flushed – anger or lust? – and threw him a perfect ‘fuck you’ glance before walking on. Bey could still feel the weighty heat in his hands as he followed. Son of a bitch but the man had a nice handful of an ass.

That had to be why Bey couldn’t get enough of him right now. He’d always had a weakness for a well-made pair of buns. It was the only explanation for Bey’s ongoing case of severe lust.

That and what Silva looked like underneath him. And his voice. The sounds Silva made during sex had embedded themselves in his brain. Shit, they were so tight and repressed until the last second when Silva screamed as he came. Fuck, it went straight to Bey’s cock. 

The same cock that seemed to be ignoring the rest of the adult population as well as Bey ignored Silva’s whining.

“There has to be some sort of wicked irony there,” he muttered.

This really hadn’t been what he’d expected of a marriage.  Silva was supposed to embrace the sex, and Bey was supposed to enjoy Silva embracing the sex. Instead, Bey couldn’t think of anything but sex with Silva, and Silva…

The man called over his shoulder. “Don’t get too drunk tonight. I don’t feel like cleaning vomit off the floor tomorrow.”

The only marital duty that Silva seemed to have embraced was the nagging.

They walked a few more blocks in silence. Bey was wondering whether Silva might respond to fingering or oral better when Silva detoured out to the middle of the road.  A racket of young men was too busy wrestling amongst themselves to pay attention to a stooped mother and her little boy walking in front of them. A wail went up as one of them shoved the other and the dumb ass knocked the toddler to the ground.

Oh, this would be good.

You didn’t hurt a kid when Silva was around. Marital lectures were a fleabite compared to the pain of Silva on a ‘protect the children’ rant. And the man was already in a bad mood to begin with.

Silva’s gait changed into a deadly glide that should have warned the idiots what was coming. He helped the woman calm her little one, then turned like one of the tigers Bey had seen in a cage once on the coast. Pure, fluid fury. The boys must have been out fishing when they handed out brains, because they brushed him off when he demanded they apologize to the mother.

Bey started to grin as Silva sent all four boys into the dirt with a collection of new welts. Just because someone looked pretty didn’t mean he couldn’t kick your ass.

They scrambled to their feet as Silva continued to bitch at them, finally taking off with newly respectful bows. Silva smiled at Bey as he walked back. The stiff anger in his gait was already gone. Bey could understand the feeling.  Nothing like a good pansy-ass stomping to get the blood pumping and rid the body of all that pesky frustration and rage.

Instead, there was a flow in Silva’s step that had his ass rolling like he was asking someone to ride him. Bey had every intention of granting that request. There was a hell of a lot he could do, if Silva was feeling…energized.

The feeling didn’t fade as they headed into the barracks. Bey stared at Silva, Silva walked like he knew exactly what Bey was thinking, and the world began to recede until all Bey could think of was his cock and Silva’s ass.

He moved to let Silva unlock the door, stepping back to get a better look at the silhouette of his body. The line of Silva’s back was imprinted into his brain, but he never tired of looking at it: smooth until it hit his ass, then curving out in a tight handful that topped Silva’s finely sculpted thighs.
The others would have to do without him tonight. Bey was having Silva for supper as soon as they got inside the door. Bey grinned. His husband tasted better than anything the pub had, anyway. And Bey would bet a year’s pay that Silva looked better covered in oil than their roast duck did.
“Silva.” His voice growled a little. The heat in his groin jumped a notch as Silva looked back and his eyes caught Bey’s need and reflected it right back.  “Bet you a gold piece I can make you come before I do.”

Silva paused, hand on the door handle. “What about Ton and the others?”

“They’ll have to worship someone else tonight.”

Silva’s lips slipped and fell into a small smile, but Bey didn’t like that his eyes didn’t seem completely in tune with the expression. That prudish little mind was thinking too much.

What was Silva planning?
“No gold.” Silva paused. “If I win, you have to leave town with me for at least a month.”
“Seems like a steep price for an orgasm.” Although still worth paying, if it was good enough.

Silva stared at him and shook his head. His eyes warmed. “Two orgasms in a row, then.”

Well now, this was going to be fun. “Make it two orgasms for two weeks, and you have to follow my orders in the bedroom for just as long, if you lose.  Do that, and you’re on.”
The man’s pale cheeks flushed, his eyes flowing down Bey’s body in a way that had Bey harder than an anvil. Damn. Bey was so ready to go off, Silva might actually win this one. Watching Silva’s ass flex, he groaned, nearly feeling the taut flesh in his hands again.

Lose or win, he wasn’t sure he cared.

Silva seemed to be of the same opinion. “Done,” he said hoarsely. He turned back to the door to finish turning the key, and Bey would swear he could see sexiness floating from Silva’s body like heat waves over a rocky field.  Even pushing the door open was sexy, slow and languorous, until Silva’s body froze.

Something rustled heavily in their room.  Bey took a step forward as the floorboards inside their room creaked. Cursing, Silva pivoted, his eyes huge as he tried to leap out of the doorway. 

 “Run!”  Silva didn’t get a chance to take another step. There was a high-pitched series of rapid pops and a silver dart of movement slammed into his body from beyond the door.


Silva grunted.  He twisted, dropping to the floor as he reached for Bey, his eyes blank and glassy. Bey couldn't reach him before Silva’s head hit.

“To arms! Thieves in the barracks!” Bey could barely recognize his own voice.

The grey lump of Silva’s uniformed body twitched once before everything stilled. Bey couldn't see where the crossbow bolt had hit. It had to be deep. And Silva wasn’t even trying to drag himself out of the way…

Bey dove for him. He scooped up the bag of journey cakes from the floor and flung it around and into their room.

A man yelled in surprise from inside.

As long as it bought him a few seconds to get Silva.  The next room was feet away; they could get in and take cover there.

He reached under Silva’s arms, heaving as he wrapped his arms around his chest. Bey could see his eyes, staring blankly. Silva’s body was completely limp; he didn’t twitch, didn’t scream, when Bey dragged him against the floor.

He wasn’t dead. Silva was too smart to get killed by some cowardly thieves in their own fucking rooms! Stupid, prissy bastard was tough as hell.

“You fucking princess, get your pathetic, womanly ass up!” What the hell was he doing, lying there with blank eyes? Dirtying his damned, teasing, silver braid on the filthy wood of the hallway floor?

“To arms, you cock sucking maggots!  Thieves in the barracks!”

Silva hated getting his hair dirty…

“Move, damn you! On your feet!”

Bey could hear the other men moving inside the room, but he needed more time! A few more seconds to barricade themselves in another room. Then he could call out the window for someone to get their damned, pathetic asses out of the tavern and back here.

Then he could find out where Silva had been hit.

“Don’t you fucking dare die,” he growled, heaving again, stumbling at Silva’s weight. He saw a figure emerge from the room at a crouch and he swore again. Just another foot, dammit! Turning, he reached desperately for the handle of the nearest door.

A heavy crackle made his hair stand on end and Bey gasped as something hot sliced into his spine. His arms lost feeling; Silva dropped out of his grip.

Numbness spreading down to his legs, Bey toppled over his lover and onto the floor. His face made painful contact with the wood. His lungs moved, his heart pumped, but Bey couldn’t so much as blink. Dammit.  Dammit!

He couldn’t fail Silva like this!  If he didn’t get up, the bastards would kill them both. Fucking, shit-eating assholes! If they fucking hurt Silva any more, Bey would rip off their arms and shove them down their throats.

There was more sound in the hallway. Boots tramping, deep murmurs in a language he didn’t know, their door closing with a slam. It was loud, no attempt at stealth at all.

Bey couldn’t move a pinky to make them pay. But even while part of him screamed inside, he could have smiled.  Most of the barrack were out drinking tonight, but these bastards wouldn’t go undetected. Bey knew he’d been loud enough.  Someone would come soon and punish the piss-swilling bastards who’d killed Silva.

And Bey. Earlier than he’d expected, but he knew he was dying. His spine had been hit – he’d felt it. Any moment now it would all stop. Everything would fade away and he’d find out if the gods had enough of a sense of humor to let him into the eternal garden.

Silva would get in, Bey thought, his mind fuzzy. Maybe the gods would even let he and Silva see each other, at least every few years. Or centuries.  Silva liked lecturing Bey so much, surely he wouldn’t be happy in paradise unless he could still do that once in a while?

The thickness receded momentarily as Bey’s body was tossed off of Silva’s. His head flopped over bonelessly and he lay in the hallway, staring at knee height. The back of Silva’s head was just visible out of the corner of his eye, but it didn’t move. Silva hadn’t made a sound since he’d been hit.

Bey tried to focus. He wouldn’t fail Silva in this, at least; Bey would memorize what he could of the men who’d murdered them both, and they would meet them again.

Everyone had to die some time.

There were at least a dozen, with large feet, dressed in cloth that was swirled in intricate patterns of grey and blue, wrapped tightly around their wrists and ankles. One, smaller than the rest, crouched down next to them both. It didn’t seem fair that his face had possibly the most beautiful set of features Bey had ever seen. Silver hair was pulled sternly back, leaving the beauty stark and exposed, and the man had the same eyes as Silva.

Exactly the same, if Silva’s warm azure had been as icy as his hair. This wasn’t a thief.  It was family.

These sheep fucking bastards were Silva’s family!

Bey wanted to kill the man and Silva, both. That stupid, stupid idiot. Silva had said his family would try to kill Bey.  He didn’t say they’d kill Silva. Bey’s eyes stung and blurred; he would have given anything to be able to blink the moisture away. Dammit…if he’d known someone would try to kill Silva, he would have stopped playing games and damn well left! 

Arctic blue eyes examined Silva, the man’s rosebud lips curling, and then turned to Bey. “So you’re his bride.” The pocket Adonis looked for a moment like he was going to spit on them both before he stood.

Bey felt such rage rising up that he could have choked on it. Silva was dying behind him and the man’s last look at him was of such contempt. Bey wanted to see the slug paralyzed, choking in his own blood.

He couldn’t follow him with his eyes, no matter how hard he tried; he was trapped staring at his boots. But that would be enough. Thick soled, furred along the top, and decorated with beadwork, they would identify the man anywhere, even in the afterlife.

A door opened down the hall and the men around them shifted, blocking Bey’s view. A voice demanded their surrender; swords were drawn. With Silva’s body next to him, Bey could only hope his husband was still alive so he could watch with Bey as their murderers were captured. Or killed, if they fought back.

The bastards mattered less to him than whether or not Silva was watching. He needed to know Silva was… He just needed to know. Bey struggled to move, just his eyes to see if Silva was staring, too, but his body was dead and unresponsive. He could only see the backs of the blue-clad legs in front of him.

Which weren’t in fighting stances at all. What the hell was going on? His fellow guard should have been taking care of things already.  But now, Silva’s family was talking, words too soft for him to make out, and no one was killing them! He couldn’t believe he didn’t hear metal clashing, screams, the splash of blood against the walls. While Silva and he lay on the floor, dying in plain sight, they were fucking talking. And…were they leaving?

Those useless tubs! He was going to haunt them until they begged for mercy!  He’d help Silva sneak from the gardens and they’d both haunt them.

His mind swirled with anger and a thick fog. He envisioned the look on Silva’s face when he told him and he changed his mind. It would hurt Silva to know what pathetic shit-pots their fellow guards had been.  Better if Bey fed Silva’s spirit a load of heroic epic drama, how valiantly they’d been defended, how poorly their enemies had died.

Silva loved that shit. He’d eat it up, probably make him almost happy to be in the afterlife. Least Bey could do for getting him killed…

Bey felt moisture stream across his cheeks, blurring his eyes again. His sight was fading anyway; all he could hear were the bastard men from Silva’s family. They should have the flesh flailed from their bodies, their bodies boiled, and the bones ground into-

He realized the boots were back within sight a moment before a hand reached down and closed his eyelids with a touch. The dark made his immobility worse.

 “Bring them. We need to return home quickly. Shivar, get his bride some proper clothes.”

A deeper voice responded, not as cold but just as uncaring. “Will we be here long enough for me to look through their markets?”

“If you hurry. Meet us outside the North gate. I don’t want the man uncovered for any longer than necessary.”

Bey felt himself lifted and he strained to hold on. What were they doing?  They’d said ‘them’; did they have Silva?

If only he could move.

He could tell his mind wasn’t going to function much longer, but he repeated the sound of their voices in his head. Bey made the vow to himself again: he would recognize these men, when they came to the other side, no matter how many years it took. He wouldn't forget. And Bey was going to make their souls wish they had led better lives so they hadn’t descended to hell and met him.

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