Another village. Another pauper, muddy village in France; centuries, ages seemingly had scurried between his fingers and he continued alive in his continuous errand. The thirteen century was just like the others – a never ending story of passions and barbarousness. A cart stumbled on the muddy road, causing scattered chicken to run out of its way; the market was mildly visited at the time; it would be no wonder very few villagers had money to buy or properties to trade. The tall figure clad in a dark cloak spied the surroundings from his hood. Silver eyes shimmered in the dark beneath the shelter of the hood.
A band of children beggars skittered among the peasants and beasts, trying to catch a terrified chicken; one of them tripped and bumped into the tall silent figure in its dark cloak, next to a booth. The little boy gazed up and gawked at the face he saw beneath the hood; it took him a couple seconds to react and raise a pleading hand to beg this merchant – for the cloak was of a good thick, warm fabric and he certainly looked like a well-fed one. The man hesitated, then gave the child a silver piece.
“Go away”, he murmured. His exquisite voice was a murmur of waters. The child stared and finally left.
Aramis bit his lip. He had to be specially careful around small children – poor innocent creatures. Small children under six years old could still be innocent enough to see through the inhuman veils and see his angelic nature. At least they would only get curious at the sad angel they could see, and sometimes be brave enough to try and touch his wings – and pull the feathers at the worst.
Aramis left the side of the booth and wandered across the muddy roads and trails of the village market. A medieval castle – a mere tower on a hill with a manor, a pit and a wall of wood and stone – cast an indifferent shadow from its height on the squalid village. Aramis cast a look over his shoulder. The little beggars had been following him for a while now. They peeped at him from behind some barrels with wide open eyes.
“You’d better hold fast to your pouch of money, m’sieur”, a smiling voice said. Aramis cast a rather cold glance at the man who addressed him: a thin man in a brown robe. He nodded in greeting.
“Dominus Vobiscum”, the monk saluted. Aramis had a little start.
“Et cum spiritu tuo”, he replied after a tense moment. The monk sensed something strange and tried to gaze into the hood but Aramis moved slightly, making it difficult to see his face.
“Do you need any help, m’sieur?”
“No. Thank you”, Aramis curtly replied. The monk didn’t leave, however. Aramis clasped a gloved hand on his cloak…
//He remembered when disaster struck and the Ritual failed. He had found himself in an unbearable pain, being two instead of one; one filled with hatred and Dark, the other filled with the burning emotion he had tried to tear from his soul and Light; the worst abomination he could have ever dreamed. But it was no dream, not even a nightmare he could wake up from; it was his very own Hell. He had fought Himself. Long both battled, trying to annihilate each other till they came to the bitter realization that they were not separate enough to survive each other. Belial was probably no more…
His opposite had abandoned him. Long they wandered that night in opposite directions, trying to scape from this terrible reality that had stricken them, but despite whatever they did, they were inexorably bound to each other: the angel and the demon. The angel got lost in a marshland near a river; wounded and exhausted, he collapsed and lost track of the world. When he woke up, he was in such a state of shock he could not utter a word for days. A group of monks found him. Taking him for a lost, robbed traveler, the monks took him to their monastery and nursed him back to health. Despite the veil, the monks eventually came to suspect they had found an angel in the marshlands…
But then the demon came back to fetch him.//
“I am alright, good man. Don’t trouble yourself about me”.
The monk had an ironic smile.
“You have been wandering aimlessly, m’sieur. The children have taken quite an interest on you. May I suggest you go back to your lodgings, or perhaps set for a humble breakfast with me? You look quite like a foreigner”. The monk was smiling. Suddenly his friendly gaze turned cautious. “Are you a guest to the vavasour?”
“No”, Aramis said.
“Vraiment?” The monk smiled again. “Follow me, m’sieur”.
“I have not said yet if I accepted or not”, Aramis sharply said. “I am a stranger to you – and I don’t know you either”.
“A very healthy attitude, no doubt”, the monk laughed. “But breakfast for free it’s not something to refuse”.
“Monk, honestly… I doubt you have money to waste on me; besides, if we’d bet on whose bag is heavier I believe I’d win”.
“My Rule forbids me to bet”, the monk retorted. He smiled again. “You look pretty poor to me”.
Aramis gasped. In a sense, perhaps he was poor. He lacked the inner peace this man had. His clothes were richer, but in a way this man was right – and maybe this monk was too smart for his own good.
“I am not your charity quota of the day”.
“Then follow me”, the monk said with a grin, leading the way. Aramis blinked, but didn’t move. The monk turned.
“You are lagging”, he said.
Aramis raised an eyebrow, but finally complied. “I warn you, I am not a religious man”, he told the monk once he caught up with him.
“We’ll see about that”, the monk said with a smile.
* * * * * * * * * *
The light shone brightly on the river waters; the reflections hurt the eyes. By the shore, laying lazily on a cape spread on the grass in the shade of a tree, a tall, handsome man with long, raven black hair watched the skies between the branches. He stretched out and sighed in satisfaction. Suddenly a bird that had been chirping in the branches let fall a little bird deed. The man dodged just on time.
“Cursed little beast!” He glared at the bird and the small creature dropped dead. The man wiped off the drop from the cape with the bird’s tail and tossed the dead body into the river.
“Drats. Back already?” He cast a displeased glance at the man that had silently walked by. “Talking to humans again?”
“Yes, again”, Aramis coolly replied. He had had the impulse to laugh when he saw what had happened, but he cast the other a reproachful look when he saw what the other had done. “Taking things out on songbirds? Now that’s pathetic, brother”.
“For your own good, I will ignore your words”.
“I found out some things about this place. That in the end is what you wanted, isn’t it?” Aramis crossed his arms.
“Let us leave this place”.
“Not yet. Don’t play the innocent, Aramis. You wanted to catch my interest; well I’m interested now”.
He cast a dark, yet playful smile at him. They were in appearance, twins: they looked just alike, exact to the last detail. Both beautiful, of noble bearing; tall and strong with broad shoulders, yet a slender build. Silver eyes shone between long, thick, black eyelashes; long, lustrous raven black hair fell down their backs. “Who might their demon Lord be?”
“I don’t know yet”.
With an agile movement, the demon sprang back on his feet. He lazily stretched out and yawned.
“The time is up for some distraction. Let us hunt and destroy”.
Aramis eyed his brother. That’s what they called each other: brother. They also passed as brothers to the human world.
“Why are you looking at me like that? Didn’t we belong in the Order of Destruction?” He had a charming smile. Aramis pursed his lip disdainfully. “It’s your turn, Angel. I want to… study things in the village some more”.
Angel frowned darkly.
“Alright. See you…” Angel grinned and walked away; soon he disappeared among the trees in direction to the castle.
* * * * * * * * * *
The ‘castle’ rose before him, not too far away. A mocking smile slid upon Angel’s sensuous lips. The place was rather an excuse of luxury in the desolated french countryside; it looked improvised and poorly executed. The pit was filled with dirty, turbid waters; a bridge of tree trunks laid from one shore to the other. The sturdy donjon rose four stories, surrounded by the manor and stables, a courtyard and servants departments. The wall was built out of stones and wood – most rustic. Angel sat on the grass and took a deep breath, enjoying the cold autumn air. He had entertained himself exploring the surroundings; the place that had interested him the most was not the castle, though. The most interesting place was a stone house on a hilltop not too far away which overlooked both the castle and the pauperized village. A small forested area surrounded the hilltop. Angel had not entered the forest; from the outside, his demonic senses caught enough information for the moment. The house was a place of Dark cults, presided by a ‘local demon’, as he liked to call them. There were several shallow tombs, with their smell of twisted death and torture. By the state of the dark energies, the cult had took place for several centuries by now, but it had a renovated strength. Angel knew the source was a new Celebrant, and he was after her trail. The scent led to the castle.
By the information Aramis had collected, Angel already knew some details. The lord was a vavasour, who collected the usual taxes to the villagers for protection. At least the villagers were tenants, but free. The rest of the population wore iron collars with their name and the lord’s name. The vavasour had a son and a daughter. Angel caressed the grass with his fingers, then plucked a leaf off the ground. The monk had been kind enough to warn Aramis about the vavasour. Angel smiled to himself, then laid down. He shook some leaves off his hair and yawned. It would still take some hours till nightfall.
* * * * * * * * * *
Nightfall. The dark came from the West, like a immense stain of china ink; quickly covering the skies, it tainted the living forms of the forest and small lights lit in the castle windows and battlements. The village looked very small and defenseless, almost imperceptible in the deep dark. Angel woke up little after nightfall. He had veiled his own presence so well not even another demon would be able to perceive him, even if he’d stumble over his body. There were lights in the forest, climbing the hill. Angel sprang back to his feet and swiftly followed them.
* * * * * * * * * *
In the village, Aramis’s gaze pierced the dark from a humble house’s window. He had taken his own position, knowing in advanced the next step. The monk had offered Aramis to share his lodgings with him, in a small house occupied by a village family. The family had a crippled child, and they had special reasons to offer shelter to the monk. The dark cult kidnapped crippled persons and young maidens; those who they kidnapped were never seen again. Aramis knew well what could have happened to them, but he kept his mouth shut. The monk had a feeling about his guest and Aramis knew it; he did not reveal much about himself, though. No more than the necessary to be considered of help.
Aramis had went back to the village after parting with Angel to see the monk. He accompanied the man in his daily duties, examining the village and looking for a proper place to retreat and hide. In the evening, they visited another family with an ill child. The monk was requested to bless the child – it was a common medieval belief that all sickness was work of demonic forces. Aramis stood in a corner of the room as the monk proceeded to bless the child. Without a word or movement, Aramis used his angelic power to enhance the monk’s power of Light; the child was miraculously cured. The family was overjoyed, but the monk turned and carefully eyed his newly found friend. He did perceive the Light came from that corner.
Aramis smiled faintly.
“That was remarkable”, he murmured.
“Indeed”, the monk said. “And you say you’re not a religious man?”
“I am not”, Aramis replied. “But I see you are”.
The monk stood before him.
“May I thank you?”
“I did nothing to deserve your gratefulness”, Aramis said with wide eyes. He smiled. “I’ve just watched you”.
“Are you here to watch over things?”
“In a way”.
“Very well”, the monk murmured, thoughtful. “I can’t ask you to stay. But will you?”
“I’d be glad to”.
So Aramis stayed with the monk.
* * * * * * * * * *
The stone house on the hilltop. Midnight arrived and the dark cult begun. Black and red candles were lit and strange chants broke the silence. People in black robes joined hands round an oblong table, presided by a huge black cat; behind the animal, a woman in a red dress conducted the ceremony. The victim was laid down on the altar and forced to drink three liquors of gold, black and red substances to cause her heart to collapse. The sobbing and screaming echoed in the vaulted ceiling. A ritual knife shone in the priestess’ hand. Suddenly, the door and every single window slammed open; the candles writhed and their light dimmed. A chilling wind swirled inside the room and a dark ominous shadow rose before them, tall to the ceiling; silver eyes shimmered in it with a mocking evil joy. The cat shrieked in terror and jerked back; when the woman tried to hold it the feline scratched her, causing her to scream; confusion and panic seized the attendees in black robes. The shadow extended a hand and the victim died; every candle in the room lit with unholy fire, turning into a fire thrower; fire shot in all directions, setting many attendees on fire. The cat took another form; a demon rose in its place but it was clear the invasive power overwhelmed him. The fight did not last long; the lesser demon flew into the night, abandoning his followers. The shadow grew; a terrible laughter shook the walls. A few were allowed to escape. The priestess stared in shock and terror as the evil power numbed her senses; the ceiling cracked and fire reduced the very stones to ashes. In a few minutes, the house was only ruins. The woman ran into the forest; looking back, she saw a huge black wolf emerge from the ruins. The animal snarled, silver eyes shining in the dark; it launched itself after her. The woman screamed and ran; the wolf chased her across the forest and down hill. The terrified woman ran for dear life in the cold mist; the demon in the shape of a wolf forced her to run across the wilderness till her robes were reduced to rags and her body was covered in blood from the scratches of thorns and rocks; he chased her mercilessly and finally left her reach the portals of the castle.
The wolf howled. It was not a mere beast. His howl was mocking, cruel and triumphant. The woman stumbled across the bridge; when the first ray of dawn pierced the skies and touched the enormous beast, it vanished like an illusion. The priestess scurried inside the castle and hid.
The sun was about to rise. Outside, Angel shook with mocking laughter and waited. A small party left the castle: it was the vavasour’s son and his hunt pack. The wolf retreated to the forest and sat in the first line of trees, howling. The young noble set after him immediately with his hounds. The wolf led them to the depths of the forest; none of them returned alive.
* * * * * * * * * *
Evening. Mourn had fallen on the vavasour’s castle. A few hours earlier, a nobleman no one had seen before had rode into the castle carrying the lord’s dead son. His body was barely together, due to the attack of a wolf, which was said to have killed the whole pack of half-wolf hounds. The servants prepared the body for the vigil and the burial the next day. The vavasour asked the nobleman to stay for the ceremonies, and the man agreed. It was a tall, handsome man with raven-black hair and silver eyes; his appearance spoke of a well-stated, wealthy noble.
The vavasour daughter had excused herself all day; she was indisposed due to the terrible news. When she came to the chapel to the vigil, she was shocked to see the man his father praised so much had piercing silver eyes she had seen before; she had, for she was the priestess Angel had tormented the night before.
The priestess was terrified. She had planned a new sacrifice for the night, to invoke a demon to her aid. Her familiar had fled and had not returned. She had sent her remaining followers to fetch a new victim, and now she found her attacker in her very house; needless to say it was to her evident he was also her brother’s slayer. But why? Maybe she had neglected or offended higher powers? He had cast some spell on her father; the old man seemed specially fond of him, as if the noble were a long time lost friend. He had dinner with the family that night; his dark, charming smile pierced her heart.
In the village, the news had spread quickly. Smoke still rose from the hilltop in the forest; it was said the vavasour’s son had been killed by the demon the nobles adored, for the villagers were convinced the nobles adored a Devil and they were responsible for the killings and kidnaps. The monk was requested to go to the castle for the vigil and the funeral, which would take place next morning. The monk was however not convinced that the cult had disappeared and he feared for the life of the crippled child.
Aramis was still in the house; he had not gone out all day long, and the monk was certain he had some reason to act like this; besides it gave him some tranquility to know Aramis was in the house with the mother and the crippled child. When the monk returned in the evening, before the vavasour’s messenger arrived, he found Aramis sitting outside the door in a rustic bench, next to a bunch of labor tools the father had reclined on the wall.
“Enjoying the view?”, he asked him. Aramis smiled.
“The world is a nice view”, he replied. The monk sat beside him.
“What do you like best about the world?”
“You ask me that as if I didn’t belong in the world”, Aramis said with a snigger. “I’ve heard monks don’t belong in the world, though – and I am not a monk!”
The monk laughed.
“Maybe. You have not answered my question, though”.
Aramis bit his lip.
“Let’s say… I like the view”.
“I don’t like it”, the monk said with a sigh. “The people suffer”.
“Change that, then”.
“You have your Rule. Besides, I have no answer for that question”.
The monk watched him for a long instant.
“You are not happy, either”.
Aramis forced a smile.
The monk blinked.
“Happiness comes from within. You decide if you want to be happy; it’s a choice. Sin binds the hearts of men to unhappiness”.
Aramis bit his lip.
“There are worse bounds…” He rose his eyes. A group of armed, masked men appeared, walking to the house. They stopped at a short distance.
“Give us the child named Etienne”, they demanded. The monk was about to rise, but Aramis laid his hand on his shoulder.
“Please, go inside”, he murmured. The monk stared briefly, then complied. Aramis reached out and grabbed a scythe that was leaning against the wall next to him, and calmly rose.
“Resistance is futile”, the men warned him.
Aramis cast a cold glance upon them.
“Indeed, it is”, he darkly said, wielding the scythe with inhuman skill. The men attacked with fury; Aramis killed them all. Not a bruise, nor even a slight cut showed on him afterwards. This the monk could clearly see. The mother wanted to flee with her child to the fields, where her husband worked; Aramis agreed. Aramis and the monk hid the bodies behind some barrels. Aramis carried the child to take him and his mother to the fields. A messenger came from the castle when they were still inside, with the lord’s request to have the monk’s religious services. The monk agreed.
“Are you sure?”, Aramis asked.
Aramis was not surprised.
“You are a brave man”, he told him. “Maybe someday we’ll meet again”.
The monk smiled.
“Maybe we will. Dominus Vobiscum”.
Aramis smiled but this time he did not reply. Quickly Aramis, the mother and child left to the fields; the monk left to the castle.
* * * * * * * * * *
Angel tasted a goblet of wine and smiled to himself. Aramis had used the bait and killed the remaining followers of the cult, as planned – at least the fanatics. The others had surely deserted. His presence had scared away the lesser demons that lurked in the countryside and he could plan to stay for while – as long as it was fun. This had been too easy, though; that was the only spot in his mirror. What an un resourceful woman the vavasour daughter was! She did not provide much entertainment.
The priestess waited in vain for news from her followers. They had seemingly disappeared; maybe this demon led a group of his kin he sent to kill her followers? Without her Familiar, she was helpless in his presence. Irritated, she glanced across the table; he was there having dinner as if nothing else in the world concerned to him. After the austere dinner, the women and the hired mourners joined the vigil over the dead man in the chapel. The chapel in question was a small, vaulted room with a small altar and a few benches; barely an oratory. It was pretty packed with the corpse and the hired mourners, the smell of incense and the smoke from candles, barely leaving space for those who actually knew the dead one. The praying and crying weighed on the spirits. The monk was already there, annoyed at the hired mourners and directing the prayers. He was startled to see someone he recognized as Aramis standing in the chapel door. However, that malevolent air the man had to him was completely different from the gentle sadness of Aramis.
Angel watched the monk with a sly smile; he didn’t enter the chapel. He looked up. Standing in a window sill high on the stonewall of the chapel, Aramis looked back at him. Invisible to human eyes, the angel had wrapped his huge wings around his body. Angel turned around and walked down the archway, back to the manor halls.
A silent shadow followed his footsteps. Angel turned around and smirked. His eyes shimmered strangely in the dark.
“Shadowlord”, a female voice spoke. “What’s been my failure? How did I offend you?”
Angel narrowed his eyes, amused.
“Is that all?”, he asked. “I am not here to answer your questions”.
The priestess walked closer.
“Why do you strike me? I am your humble servant. All this province could adore you as its god, such as you deserve to be called. The lesser creatures of the Dark fear you greatly; none of them would dare to oppose you”.
Angel rose his hand and slid his fingers beneath her chin. His touch was warm; her skin was cold.
“Lovely Temptress”, he softly said. “I can see you want your little power back to you. I own it now; I don’t need you to self-proclaim myself a god. I means nothing to me. I ask you”, Angel smiled darkly, “what do you still own that could interest me?”
The woman paled.
“I do not fear to lose my soul”.
“You do not fear?” A mocking smile slid upon the demon’s lips. “Do you value your own soul so low? Why then would it interest me?”
His voice was mesmerizing, hypnotic. The priestess flinched. She could perceive his power now; she felt a bottomless pit open beneath her feet. The power of this Demon had no comparison to the other demons she had ever summoned – and yet, she knew he was only letting her feel a tiny part of his power to mock her, to terrorize her.
She closed her eyes. His hand slid down her throat, drawing the outline of her body; the power flowing from his fingers sent waves of dark ecstasy through her flesh. His hand slid inside her dress; the woman’s lips opened. The Demon kissed her; a burning pleasure, a maddening touch. The ecstasy was painful, unbearable. She heard distant drums, the clash of weapons and battle calls; myriads of demons chanting in strange tongues – they shouted a name in their battle cries, a name she recognized. She opened her eyes, a scream scratching her entrails, fighting to scape from her throat.
He was gone.
The priestess stood there in the empty archway, dumb, petrified.
“Not to you… I won’t give you my soul!”, she cried out. “Not to you!”
* * * * * * * * * *
The priestess ran to her sanctórum, a hidden vault beneath the castle. She rushed to her books and scrolls, trying to find in her long lists a single entity that could stand against this horror that had set quarters in her house; the Necromancer Himself, whom other powers had named Belial.
* * * * * * * * * *
The night aged. The village was dark and silent. The castle was silent but watchful; midnight arrived and passed. From the tall window sill in the stone wall, Aramis watched the humans in the chapel. His angelic nature allowed him to endure the Holy energies, unlike the demon side of him. Aramis hugged himself, his wings wrapped around him. Angel had already taken the vavasour’s son’s soul; he had collected quite a few since their arrival. That made watching the humans efforts to get divine indulgence for this dead man disturbing.
Aramis peered into the Night. No angels of death had arrived – at least, he hadn’t sensed any. The dark of the night sky, with the constellations shining like gems embedded in the black and blue immensity reminded him of the eyes of Azrael, the Archangel of Death and Destruction. He allowed himself a few minutes of daydreaming – Angel was away for now and Aramis could find some solace in his cherished memories. These were a secret, though. Not even Azrael herself knew about his feelings… Aramis sighed in pain and closed his eyes. The love was a curse to him. He had even tried to tear the love from his soul with the aid of his majicks… He failed. Miserably.
The monk rose his head. He was almost certain he had heard a familiar sigh, which strongly reminded him of Aramis. Where could he be by now? What Aramis was? A man, a gifted man? An spirit, maybe even an angel? Aramis’ most remarkable feature was his sadness, despite his holy gift. What could make an angel sad? The monk had no answer for this.
From the high window sill, Aramis looked down at the monk. He guessed he’d miss the man. It would be no good to talk to him again; Aramis knew that would be dangerous, as much as for the man as for himself. Aramis sighed and picked at one of his feathers.
He looked down again. Angel was coming… Aramis bit his lip. Why right now?
Angel appeared in the threshold to the chapel. He was somewhat bored and Aramis’ memories had disturbed him; he suddenly had the urge to start removing the holy energies out if the place – and why not to start where he was at the time? Angel waved his hand and the humans dozed, falling into a deep, dreamless sleep. The monk stared with a start as the people began to drop from their seats. Angel walked down the aisle to where the monk stood. The man instinctively clasped his crucifix.
//So different… It can’t be him!//
“Who are you?”, he demanded. “Identify yourself, man or spirit!”
Aramis leapt from the window sill and landed beside the monk with a hushed sound of huge, feathery wings, still invisible to human eyes.
“Not him”, he curtly said. He made himself visible in his human form.
The monk let out an exclamation. They were like two drops alike! However… opposite! Angel was unpleasantly surprised.
“He is no different from the others; besides, he’s a consecrated man – further reason to destroy him”.
“I said not him”.
“Stop me, then”.
Aramis bit his lip. Still startled, the monk forced a smile.
“You can’t fight my battles, my friend”.
“Friend?” Angel was amused. “What’s this new eccentricity?”
“Oh yes, I can – specially this one”, Aramis replied. “You don’t understand, and I’m happy you don’t. Go, leave this accursed land as fast as you can. There’s still time”.
“Eh bien! I’m not going anywhere”, the monk retorted. Aramis cast him a rather comic dismayed look at his stubbornness. Angel laughed, half amused, half angry.
“A spirit of quality at last. I was starting to believe they had gone extinct”. He clasped his hand and the Staff of Simara appeared in it. Aramis stood between them, resolute; in his hand appeared a second version of the Staff. The monk rose his crucifix and opened his mouth to start an exorcism prayer when suddenly a large explosion shook the chamber, causing a light drizzle of dust from the tall vaulted ceiling. Angel and Aramis stopped.
“What the Hell was that?”
A second explosion was heard and the ground shook. It seemed like the source was underground.
“Blasted witch”, Angel murmured. He unfurled his wings and flew outside. The monk turned to Aramis, but Aramis didn’t look at him; he ran out of the chapel, following Angel.
* * * * * * * * * *
The ground shook with another explosion. The manor cracked open, like if its walls were as fragile as eggshells; the roof sank and a huge dark from rose from the depths of the ruins, wearing a cloak of dark fire. The shadow giggled heavily. “Bliol”, a guttural voice said. “Long ages have passed since the Battles”. He was talking to Angel, then suddenly spotted Aramis, too. “What the Hell…?”
Angel forced a smile.
“It’s long to explain. I won’t take the work to explain it to you, anyway”.
Aramis dropped his human appearance and unfurled his wings. The giant creature took a huge beam from the ruins around him and tried to knock Aramis with it; Aramis dodged it easily. Angel traced a sigil in the air, then used the Staff to shoot a beam of dark energies to the giant. Aramis landed and stomped his Staff on the ground, chanting words of Destruction; the stone walls closed round the legs of the giant like huge stone hands, holding fast to him. The giant delivered several bolts of black fire at Aramis, but Angel shifted the Staff into the Scythe and deflected the bolts, spinning the Scythe. The giant chanted a spell. The air seemed to swirl and try to crush Angel; Aramis held his hands up and sent a beam of white energies to the chest of the giant; he screamed, interrupting his chant. Angel flipped in his fall, landing on his feet. He launched himself into the air, attacking the giant with the Scythe. The giant counterattacked cracking a fire whip; a storm rolled in the night sky, dark clouds surrounding them, cracking with unnatural lightning bolts. Aramis unfurled his wings and joined the air battle; the spell held fast to the giant’s legs, difficulting his movements. Angel and Aramis combined weapons and spells to fight; the whip caught Aramis’ foot and slammed him against the ground; Angel’s senses went numb for a couple seconds and the giant’s fist missed him for little; Angel quickly recovered and spun the scythe, severing the limb. He giant’s howl rang, followed by thunder. Aramis cried in terrible pain; the whip burned him with demonic ferocity – he chanted a spell as the giant in pain shook the whip, sending himself free from the demonic weapon; Angel redoubled his attack, summoning the evil power under his command. Aramis landed with a thud, but still rose and went back into the air. He joined Angel’s chant. The giant began a spell of his own, but the pain for the severed limb cut his concentration; Angel and Aramis combined their power in a single beam of Destruction, piercing the giant’s neck.
There was a large thunder and an implosion. The headless body sank through the ruins, back to the entrails of the Earth, along with part of the castle. The storm roared above, but not a single water drop fell. Concealed by Belial’s power, the majicks were canalized to the center of the implosion till only half of the castle remained in place. The tower mysteriously survived, as well as the castle’s Wall and the pit. Half the manor, the courtyard and stables were gone, seemingly to nowhere. Even the hill seemed to have shrunk.
Aramis let himself drop to the ground, landing softly on one foot. He folded his wings and touched the cracks in his armor at his ankle. Directing his energies to heal his ankle, he momentaneously turned visible to human eyes. Angel landed beside him, dropping as well his invisibility.
Anyway, who’d see them.
“I was starting to like the place”.
“Don’t speak nonsense – you hated the buildings’ architecture”, Aramis grumbled.
“Anyway, it’s gone. The witch died too – just when she was turning interesting. I can’t believe I followed you here – it’s been disappointing”.
“Whatever. I’ve never tried to entertain you”.
Angel shifted his balance.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes”, Aramis murmured. “It’ll heal soon”.
“Then let us go before unwanted attention arrives – this time you will follow me”.
Angel took flight. Aramis unfurled his wings to follow.
“I understand now… I think”.
Aramis turned with a start. The monk was watching him.
“I warned you to go away…”
“The chapel’s still standing; at least the people there survived…” The monk watched him with narrow eyes. “Do you care about that?”
Aramis did not reply. The monk had a small smile.
“I assure you, you don’t understand…”, Aramis began, but the monk rose his hand, cutting his words.
“You are a Fallen. What’s so hard to understand about that? You are a fallen angel, aren’t you?”
“Yes. It’s not hard to understand”. He turned and spread his wings.
“You are a Fallen”, the monk said. “But you are still an angel. Don’t follow him; seek redemption. The Mercy of God is infinite – that’s beyond doubt”.
Aramis’ throat closed and his eyes filled. After a few seconds, he was able to speak again.
“I must follow. This bound I cannot break; it’s too strong for me. There’s nothing left for me – no one to turn to. But you shouldn’t listen to me, if you hold your soul dear. I…” Aramis smiled faintly at the monk, “I thank you for this day. I won’t forget you… but I don’t know your name. Monks change their names…”
“I’ve not thought about my name in years”, the monk said.
Aramis nodded slowly and turned again to leave.
“My name is Táncrede”.
Aramis bit his lip and opened his wings.
“What is yours?”, the monk asked. Aramis took a deep breath. Tears were already running down his cheeks.
“I am Belial”, he murmured. He took flight, turning invisible to human eyes.
Quickly he left the hills back and caught up with Angel as the landscape ran beneath them.
//How wonderful. You give our name to a priest! It’ll be ridiculous if he prays for us – what are the others going to say!//
Aramis did not reply.