I stood at the edge of the camp, watching as the troops approached.
A swarming mass of dread was coiling itself in my stomach, and I nervously twirled a strand of my ridiculous hair.
Then, right when I had to get everyone to take women seriously, I looked like I was a rejected Barbie prototype. It was safe to say I was a little troubled.
The triumphant cheers and thundering horses grew nearer, and I steeled my nerves.
I had an important job to do. I had people counting on me. I couldn’t let my hair get in the way.
I saw Destroyer before I looked up to see Lucifer, the setting sun creating a halo around his golden hair.
In one hand he was hoisting Hell’s flag triumphantly, and the other he raised in a glorified fist.
They rode through the camp, spirits high, before leaving their horses to the makeshift stables and dispersing to get out of their armor before the night’s booze fest.
I stood a few paces from Lucifer’s huge black tent, so when he walked back he quickly caught sight of me.
“Commander?” he asked incredulously, with an amused and surprised expression easy to see through the blood caked on him.
“Yes.” I replied, “I was wondering if I could discuss something with you.”
He walked into the tent, gesturing for me to follow.
I tried to figure out what I was going to say as I walked through the flap, knowing full well the gravity of the situation. I had to get it right.
“Speak your mind.” Lucifer smirked, pulling off one of his gauntlets.
“Recently, an issue was brought to my attention.” I began, “And I thought to consult you.”
“Does this have anything to do with…that?” he asked, gesturing to my hair.
I cursed silently before continuing.
“Actually, no. It’s about the women in our forces.”
Lucifer looked somewhat sheepish.
“Who’s pregnant this time?”
I tried not to stare at him.
“Nobody. As far as I know.” I said quickly, “Wait…have you been..?”
“Old habits die hard.”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, watching as he sat down on a cot and worked at his other gauntlet.
“Well, that’s not the issue, for now.” I sighed, “I received word that I was the only woman allowed to fight.”
Lucifer looked at me expectantly, as if waiting for me to continue.
I folded my arms.
“Doesn’t that strike you as a problem?”
He took off the plates on his shoulders, yawning.
I glared at him, halfway between annoyance and exasperation.
“Well, is there even a legitimate reason for why they can’t fight?”
Lucifer hoisted off more of his armor like it was a shirt, baring his torso.
“It’s the way things have always been.” He replied, leaning back and stretching his neck, “The men fight. The women have their own place on the battlefield.”
“Mercy duty?” I asked, eyes narrowed.
“Yes. As well as managing the camps, the infirmaries, feeding the troops –“
“Are you kidding me?” I shot back, “Why can’t men do those things?”
“We’re too busy fighting.” He offered, “We can’t do everything.”
“Then let the women fight!”
“Why?” Lucifer asked, watching me with a remote curiosity.
He started working at pulling off an armored boot.
“We have an image to maintain. What would Purgatory think if we made our women fight? They would think us cowards.”
“Do you care more about what they think or about actually winning this war?” I asked incredulously, “Your male troops can’t keep fighting forever. Use the auxiliary forces and give them a rest.”
“I have my pride.” He said simply, “And I will not have my name defaced.”
“Then…I won’t fight.” I replied, my voice quiet, “Even once I get better. If you think a woman doesn’t belong on the battlefield…then who am I to fight?”
Lucifer looked considerably stunned.
“You do remember I own your soul.”
All too well.
There was a moment of silence as Lucifer watched me, holding his bloodied boot.
“And that I can consume your soul whenever I please?”