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Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Silence seeped into Kasbeela's sensitive ears as Azazel took his time to answer her. There was no living creature down here, besides them and that red-haired girl hanging above them. The girl was breathing rather softly, with only a slight ragged touch – probably from Christopher's delicate handling – but she had tuned it out. So the world was silence to her. Watching with eyes that kept shifting from amber to gold to burnt sienna, she didn't shift as Lord Azazel watched her from the corner of his eye. A bronze eye that resembled a hawk. A hawk that had his eyes trained on her. Was he trying to wear her down? She couldn't tell. She knew he expected full obedience, and may the Demon who didn't was as good as dead and destroyed. Kasbeela didn't want to be that demoness.

“Find the Necromancer for me.”

The Necromancer… something must be up. Why else would he want to see his teacher…? Belial, the Bliol… the one who resurrected Lord Azazel the first time… the one who also abandoned him and caused the demise… this should be very interesting… very interesting indeed…

“Do not let him know he's being watched – find him and let me know about him. I have plans for my Teacher.

“Yes, Sire.” Spy on him and not say anything… this should be fun. Bowing to him, she had a small smirk planted on her face. When she rose, she wasn't Kasbeela anymore. The wings had folded and she had shifted back into Vemchu Mala'ika. Turning on her heel, she walked out of there, heading back upstairs – the mortal way. Stupid heels. Stupid mortal fashion sense!

Walking down the expensive halls with that thought burning in her mind, she stopped as she walked by a man with a…. a cat? Turning her head sharply, she looked at them coldly. She could feel magic around them, the man was an occultist? Or something of that sort. Blinking once, she made sure her aura gave off purely human signals. What were they doing here…? It was past tourist time and most people had gone home.

“Who are you?” Vemchu kept her words short and clipped, determined to get them out – and then go back to her mission.

The black cat waved his tail in a mix of contempt and indolence. Raziel had followed him, but someone had unexpectedly got in the way. Lucifer remembered the child, now he saw the woman. In a rather intuitive way, Lucifer perceived she was more like her father than her mother, both Fallen once under his command and now only memories. He had no time for socializing, though – and he didn't want to risk Raziel for now. The cat scratched on the door he had caused to open. It might have been there before or not, just like earlier facts could be confusing; but on the door showed a little metal sign with a black silhouette – it was a men's restroom!

The signal for a quick alibi was clear, as the cat's eyes narrowed. Get into the men's restroom! What could a lady object to a visitor looking for the restroom?

Raziel's circular musings were interrupted by the open and slam of a door nearby; clipped footsteps approached him in passing, the definite sign of a business woman in high heels. He sensed a yet another Presence in the building, albeit minor compared to the one he was so close to, but it quickly dissipated, as if someone was Shielding them self. “Who are you?” The suited woman's words were as clipped and brusque as her footsteps.

He looked up and straightened, looking less as if he were about to fold in on himself and disappear and more as if he were about to imperiously order her forgiveness for intruding on his important mission. He had no idea what to say, but he was thinking fast, examining the woman as a front while he tossed speculations out the mental window. She was tall and slender, with darker-than-midnight hair and brown-black eyes flecked with different colors; all in all, she was undeniably beautiful.

“I am Seren Galahad.” Raziel's gaze flicked contemptuously from the woman to the black cat scratching at the door. “I thought this company would do better with pest control. I hope you don't mind if I use the restroom, madam,” he replied, narrowing his light blue eyes. His stance showed dissatisfaction, as if he were an unhappy and valuable client; for the crucial moment, his plain suit was overcome by a powerful sense of persona.

He gave her one last glance as he slipped gracefully through the door, his posture saying that, for the moment, he forgave the woman for the inadequacies of her company. That… was too close. Thank God. Until the door slid closed, Raziel actually believed he WAS in a bathroom… But the illusion shuddered and fell away, revealing some sort of office. “What now?” he asked quietly.

//…Pest control?!// The cat laid his ears back, annoyed. Maybe it was only his own perception, but he couldn't help to feel alluded to, being a cat as he was now. In any case, Raziel was doing a great performance – at least it might seem it was a performance, but to the former student, the real teacher showed briefly as the squeamish, frail character faded out to reveal an imposing presence. The cat skittered into the restroom as Raziel kept his gaze fixed into Kasbeela's.

It was a fine restroom in Italian tiles and furniture – classy and stylish. However as soon as Raziel entered and closed the door behind him, the restroom vanished, revealing an empty office with a large, solid oak table for meetings. The cat hopped onto the table and sat there. They had entered using the small service door, provided for assistants. “What now?” Raziel asked quietly. The cat flicked an ear, his bronze eyes shimmering mischievously.

//That depends.// A mental message touched Raziel's mind, unobtrusive with a deft touch – it could've been a whisper in the air, over the distant humming of the air conditioning systems.

If Raziel had had ears, they would have been laid straight back onto his skull. What was talking to him? The cat?

//I've only followed you – I've made myself useful, and you've not rejected me. I've assumed I've been admitted.// The black cat waved his thick, lustrous tail.

My day cannot get stranger. He blinked and leaned against one of the walls, watching the black feline. He seemed slightly affronted. Must have been the pest control comment.

//There's a Power in this place. You are not looking for it, but for something that Power holds… If you like, I can lead you there safely. May I point out to your notice, I'm not stating conditions… I'm being fairly informal. I am a curious being.// A soft laughter came out of the shadows around the cat. //I can be of help… You can trust me or not – but in a place like this you'll need a tour guide and perhaps an ally.//

The message was gentle and insistent, vibrating almost like the purr of a real cat. If you are not a cat, like I thought… What are you? He wasn't sure that he wanted to take the advice of a strange creature in a strange place… If it was a trap, it was remarkably well-set for a person like him.

Still sitting on the table, the cat lazily waved his tail like a velvet aspid ready to strike. He cast Raziel a speculative look. Raziel's mental dialog was not aimed to the cat, but it was written on his eyes. Lucifer had an inner tingle of satisfaction as he waited for the final product of Raziel's mental process.

Raziel rubbed the handle of his suitcase with his thumb, thinking. If it was a trap, he was already too deep to have much hope of escaping. He hadn't done anything yet. Except for the water-closet escapade. “I would appreciate the assistance,” said Raziel gravely, giving the cat a momentarily piercing look.

The cat's eyes became sunlit slits and his tail wrapped around his feet as he tasted his small victory. The cat opened his eyes and his bronze mirrors blazed in the dark. //So be it//, the mysterious voice whispered in Raziel's ears.

Looking at the man from head to toe, Vemchu wondered who he thought he was fooling. She worked too close to Lord Cynric to be fooled by someone who tried to seem that he was important. However, she gave him the benefit of the doubt when he said he was looking for the bathroom… however, she didn’t let the fact that there was a bathroom right by the entrance slip from her mind. This man was looking for something. And for some reason there was that rodent hanging around too. Call her paranoid, but she didn’t like the way he felt.

He was too… bland. Like, there was something missing from him, something… wrong. He will not be let further into the building. I’ll have to escort him out… and if he refuses to cooperate… well, I can say I was defending myself. Poor man will be ripped apart. Or just strangled. I’ll have to think of something fun – haven’t had a good time in quite awhile… And that cat… it is way too intelligent to be normal. I should know. Standing there, she brushed off invisible dust while she waited for him to be… done, with his business. After all, if he thought she was going to leave, he had another thing coming. She could go inside if she had to. There was no doubt in her mind that he wasn’t a client, and she was going to expel this imposter so she could get back to work. Some people honestly didn’t know that she couldn’t be bothered by such… nonsense. Now, if you would just be so kind as to HURRY UP.

The cat hopped off the table and scratched the rug. Kasbeela was still outside, waiting. Lucifer smiled to himself. He hadn't thought she'd be the type of females that await men outside of men's restrooms… A distraction was needed.

Lucifer concentrated as his tail's fur bristled ever so slightly. There'd be no need for cantrips or spells – a spell of will was all the brightest star needed. According to Raziel and the Order of Knowledge, this had been one of the Morning Star's steps to his rebellion. Pure power flowing from a deep pit of Knowledge comparable to Raziel's Himself, manipulated by mind and soul.

Outside, the artificial lights blinked over Kasbeela's head. Something ran out of an air duct – a large, brown roach. The insect took flight and zoomed around the woman's head like an airplane, nastily close to her face. Just then, the bathroom door opened and closed. A feline shadow skittered down the hall. A tall man with a worn out leather suitcase looked at the woman and the roach over his shoulder and walked away, back to the lobby and into the crowd of overnight workers…

One of the neon tubes went out, then blinked alive again.

Meanwhile, the cat led Raziel deeper into the office, tracking something down. The cat stopped as he found what he was looking for. //Follow me…// A panel opened with a soft click, revealing a hidden niche with an altar to a lesser demon. Lucifer reshaped the altar's protection ward into a passage, through which Raziel and he passed, entering a long ethereal tunnel. The gate flicked and snapped back to its normal and solid state, leaving no trace behind. The panel closed with a soft click. The office was empty… or was it a bathroom? The light gave the place strange shadows.

Checking her nails for what HAD to be the zillionth time, Vemchu gave a small sigh. What was he doing in there? Performing a biopsy on the cat? From the lack of coming OUT, she could assume so. Suddenly, sniffing slightly, she blinked. What was… turning her head sharply to the duct, she saw a large, nasty, and positively disgusting roach come out. It's hairy legs tested the surface before, being sure of its footing, it began scuttling along. It's wings flicked on its back, and at the “perfect” moment, it launched into the air, zooming straight for her. Her first instinct was to kill the nasty beast and continue on with her job. So, in one swift motion, she extended some claws, and took a good swipe at the air – a move which should have beheaded the beast. However, it managed to evade at the last moment, and then come right back at her.

This cannot be real! Hissing softly, she swatted at it again, before she heard the bathroom door open. Retracting her nails in a millisecond, she turned to see the cat skittle down the hallway – obviously free from whatever operation it had just undergone. With little more than a hiss it slid out of there, followed by the man. Good riddance. She had been getting tired of him.

Fitzz… fitzzz…

What the…? With a muffled curse, Vemchu glared evilly as the lights went out, flickering once before totally dying on her. Perfect! What was the excuse now? Electrical storm, stupid electrician, or was there ANOTHER hole in the stupid ozone layer??? Whatever it was, she would not take it! She had had enough! This was a major company! There wasn't supposed to be- Then the lights came back on. Looking only slightly disoriented, she tossed her hair behind her back, then proceeded on. Amazingly, the bug had disappeared without a trace – she couldn't even feel it any more. Looking around one more time, suspiciously, she headed out of there, on her way to find the Necromancer.

Raziel sighed and followed the feline creature through the office as it hunted something down. A hysterical corner of Raziel's mind suggested that it was looking for a mouse as its lunch while it led Raziel to hell, but before the notion could spread, he clamped down on it. The black cat paused and something clicked quietly; against his better judgment, Raziel followed the cat into a hidden alcove, where a small altar filled the area with a cloying feeling of evil. Altars to petty demons? Magical cats? I think I've fallen into a real dream this time. It wasn't at all impossible, he thought. It could have been a new, powerful ward designed to catch the unprepared mind. Raziel had to admit that he hadn't been prepared for what had transpired thus far… But at least he had escaped the vixen outside.

“Where are we headed?” He asked, his voice still quiet.

The cat skittered down the ethereal tunnel till getting to a proper cross point between their plane of reality to jump back into the Mortal plane. Raziel hadn't noticed the switch of planes so far; thrilled by the fact, the cat brushed briefly against his legs as a loophole opened before them, onto a deserted corridor just below a camera, in the camera's blind spot. //We're headed towards what you seek//, the mental voice purred.

The duo emerged into another passage, leaving the ethereal tunnel that they had just been strolling through with no more than a tingle. Raziel turned but couldn't see the exit of the ethereal tunnel; he shivered and held the briefcase under his arm. He felt the need to run. What do you know of what I seek? I'm only here to look for her. What I seek is something entirely different…

//We're underground now, far below the ground level of this tower. The Power that rules this tower is near – and so must be what you seek.//

I'm not searching for a Power, no not really.

//He's not alone… there's a human girl with him, also a lesser demon. There are guards and dwellers, but this corridor is deserted – they fear their Master.// The cat sniffed the air.

As they should. His games are cruel and have the malice of a child.

//The demoness you've just met – her scent still lingers. So does her perfume… We're close to something interesting.// Lucifer cast Raziel a speculative look. What was his former Mentor looking for? The cat walked out the loophole and sat on the cold floor, wrapping his tail round his feet, his ears pricked up at Raziel. //What do you want from the Master of this place? What is that he holds that's caught your determination to get it from him?//

The not-cat asked his question, more curious than any feline had ever been before, no doubt. “The girl. She's just another innocent… And if he is a Power, then those more able to treat with him than I should know of it… Before another unfortunate battle occurs.” Oh… No, that's not right. I know her from somewhere else, I think. Something else.

The cat flicked his whiskers but kept his ears pointed straight to Raziel, as if it were really through his ears that he could hear what he needed to hear. The cat's body was tense; his fur, slightly bristled. Mind interpretation and voice came to conjunction. Lucifer found himself striving to do his best, despite the fact Raziel was not fully himself… and he wouldn't sense his touch… but the teacher-student feeling was persistent. Raziel wasn't a fighter, but he didn't need to be; his power was of a different sort, a sort the Lightbearer knew well, for it was also his field. Lucifer was perplexed.

He is looking for a girl? In a place ruled by something beyond his… current sphere, with no need to come here himself? Lucifer tried to digest the fact that Raziel was showing concern for someone he didn't need to be concerned about – in other words, Raziel was pitying someone. Scandal! Outrageous! The black Bombay was indignant.

'She's just another innocent…' That almost sounded like an apology. As far as Lucifer was concerned, Raziel had no right to go pitying others or trying to help if unnecessary, yet the 'And if he is a Power, then those more able to treat with him than I should know of it… Before another unfortunate battle occurs', ticked Lucifer off. Would Raziel retreat? Why not?, he thought. But no. He was there the day Raziel died – in a Battle Lucifer had only watched. He knew he wouldn't do that – maybe. The words girl, battle and child danced in Lucifer's mind. He once again questioned Raziel. //Do you want to retreat and leave these grounds now, or do you want to help her?//, he asked Raziel. //I'll assist you either way.//

Raziel shook his head with no small measure of irritation. Didn't he just say he was going to find her? And with find he meant get her out of this hellhole as quickly as magically possible. He was pretty sure that when she signed up for a thaumaturgy course that she really didn't mean to get first hand experience. I'm not going to be deterred by some impish tempter from what I've set out to do! Never mind that the young Occultist was not quite scared stiff. But he was going to do it! Rescue the girl. He uttered a low laugh at that… Rescue a woman, when all of his encounters with that unfortunate sex had been as Eve was unto Adam. Tempted and then thrown from happiness with a boot to the seat of his pants. He was still too shy to take the apple.

“I am going to find her,” he replied, voice harsh as he tried to force it into some semblance of evenness. Raziel felt a sudden urge to stalk off–the way this bloody magical skyscraper worked, he would probably end up in the “bad guy's” lair no matter what direction he chose. Large evils were vain enough to make every path lead to themselves.

The black Bombay flicked his whiskers in perplexity. Raziel had reacted as if touched by a live wire; once again Lucifer wondered if his appreciation was correct. The 'Raziel' that had been his mentor was not exactly like this. Lucifer still had fresh in his mind how Raziel would make clear those in the Order of Knowledge were bound to keep their feelings under control – how emotions and mind shouldn't interfere with each other…

Lucifer was so curious and intrigued he stared at Raziel for a couple seconds, which seemed to last an eternity. //Contrary to average designs, this Master's web of Power would lead you away instead of further inside, if you follow its flow//, he emotionlessly pointed out, mimicking the Elder he knew, yet was unintentional. No emotion involved, only guidance… The Light in the corridor changed gradually, shadows and light giving objects different shades and shapes, ignoring their shape and making them imperceptible to all eyes. The corridors were long and tortuous, once they abandoned a semi-earthly plane and slid through what seemed to be cave of live rock, bordering a chasm. Red lights danced on the opposite wall, denouncing flowing fire far below. Shadows in transit passed by them with the shine of unnatural metal, but they didn't perceive the intruders thanks to the mysterious feline influence.

Raziel's jaw clenched and he shot an angry daggering glance at the dark creature as it seemed to disappear into their new, hellish surroundings. The cat's shadow shifted crazily as they picked their way through the passage above the chasm, writhing into devilish shapes that at times reached to the ceiling above with crazed talons and broken horns, only to fall behind and cast itself in Raziel's face, making an illusion of black webbed wings behind him. As he walked, Raziel realized that he himself cast no shadow in this place. The light of a natural sun gave everyone a shadow; the light of what he was beginning to call Hell gave shadows to only those with souls. I feel like a photo chopped image now, he thought, half-jestingly. I'm not real.

After another turn and a flight of steps, metal replaced rock and they reached an underground level beneath the tower, in a strange place of polished dark green marble floors and vaults built in unearthly metal. Bank-style security doors could be seen round a chamber, from which many other passages started behind bar doors. Some were tunnels in total darkness for the human eye; in others danced strange flames and hellish lights, like the one the cat and the Occultist had used.

//Here we are//, Lucifer's voice resounded in Raziel's mind after a long silence. //They are in that vault over there, behind that security door. Since he took the time to make the flow lead unwanted visitors astray, I foresee some resistance.// The cat's eyes lit up in amusement.

The black feline stopped when they entered a much more real, much cooler chamber of green marble and metal. It looked like a security vault–and from what the Bombay was saying, that's exactly what it was. “I'm not here to fight them. I'm here to get in and out with what I came for,” he replied lowly, beginning the small cantrip he had placed on his office door so he could languish under its protection. The spell used such a small amount of energy and made itself look so insignificant that no one would notice the magick involved until he was right under their nose and poking their eyes.

Raziel glared at him. With that glare he gave when caught off-base. Couldn't he ever take in constructive criticism? The cat's tail tip flicked as the Devil snickered within at his former Mentor's reaction, almost feeling young again. Raziel's lack of soul caught Lucifer's fancy as the cat led the way through the tortuous passages and tunnels. Could it be the adjust, ever-frozen Elder had skipped a line or two? Perhaps he had been deprived from his soul for a reason… since this time there wasn't another bearer of Sapientia set by Raziel at work… and Raziel was as empty as a broken shell.

Could it be Raziel had broken the rules he had so strictly observed? Had he infringed the Heavenly laws? Or was there another reason…? Where was his book, his soul? Deep within, Lucifer wondered. What have you came for, old Teacher? I had never seen you have a passion for something that lives. You are dry and insensitive, distant and deaf when what is said disturbs the stillness of your own world. In your timeless account, Life is not to be lived and knowledge is an infinite ocean with a glass surface. To sail away is a scholar's deepest desire, but your anchors are set too deep. The cat thoughtfully tilted his head, watching. //Sundays are peculiar days.//

What kind of comment was that, Raziel wondered? Sundays are peculiar days. Sundays are only the seventh day of the week, first by the account of the Spanish, and are for the religious and the hypocritically pious to jaunt to their respective cathedrals. “Are we just going to stand here all eternity and bake, or are you willing to lead me to where I need… Where I want to be?” Needing and wanting were two different things. Asking for one did not follow that he would also receive the other. Where he needed to be was home. Where he wanted to be was rescuing the girl. If that could be considered a where. Mincing words with the supernatural and being more cautious of his words and even thoughts was a wiser course than that Raziel had followed thus far. If any day is peculiar, it would be a Friday.

Deep within, Lucifer was awaiting. Awaiting the unexpected, awaiting something mysterious and curious. Something worthy of his time and something that would explain Raziel's behavior and current state. The Morning Star perceived both the large picture and the detail at the same time – a characteristic of those of high ranks in the Order of Knowledge – and the multiple shadows in this picture annoyed the Lightbearer. It was way past midnight, dark hours before Sunday dawn. On a Sunday morn when it was still night, Christ resurrected – remarkable enough, even though those who believed there existed a real God would be surprised to know the striking truth of their mistake, but that Son of Man descended to Hell and popped out, a new day was instituted in the week, a new religion was consolidated, and new definitions of holiness. It's a Sunday morn before dawn, and Raziel is 'descended' to this hell Man calls Earth… yet by some mystery he's crossed a former pupil's path. Raziel lost his soul thus his power apparently, and Lucifer is curious as to know if this former angel will 'rise from his own hell' like that other Man did.

Sundays… It'd be interesting to follow the drama to its End. //With great pleasure I'll lead you//, the cat's voice purred into Raziel's mind, //I'll lead you to your goal.//

The cat's eyes shimmered with inner fire, the outline of his black body changing to a thick, incorporeal shadow. Lucifer once again used a spell of will, taking great care in not leaving a single trace that could identify the spell caster. The security locks turned and spinned like a giant swiss clock open; metal sparkled and chanted with a voice of its own as the guardian spells reacted to a wordless command, bending to the spellcaster's Will. The guardian spells hissed and were undone, but their hisses had a reverent note. With a solemn toll as if the whole hall were a gigantic bell, the security door slid and opened wide, revealing a vast security vault, with a vaulted ceiling, from which a gold cage with a human bird hanged.

Someone was inside that chamber, whose power flowed out as the wards dropped; his armor shone darkly in cold neon lights. He turned with a start, and Lucifer's eyes widened in utter shock as the power fought to regain control of its domain. I should've killed him when she brought him to me.

Azazel had been absorbed into his dark thoughts after Vemchu left. She better not fail – Azazel had never fully trusted her. She had some traits annoyingly alike to those of the Angelic Host; she was like a weapon with a defect. Azazel watched Autumn in her gold cage… He did need Vemchu to fulfill her mission. Azazel would have Belial to give Autumn immortal Life, even if it was necessary to kill her first.

I don't care about her fate, Azazel thought to himself, This I feel is not mine. This I feel belongs to Lorant – not to me! Belial will have to fix his mistake. Then I'll lock her away…

She won't be my Lilith, was his next thought, but he silenced it. Azazel turned his ring around his finger, deep in thought. Voices hissed from the door; the guardian spells were giving way. Azazel turned with a start as the door simply opened; no cantrip or chant had been used – how in Hell the wards had been broken? There was a strange note to the guardian spells voices… one that gave him a small shiver. Azazel's bronze eyes opened wide: there was no one outside! Only a human… with his familiar? Impossible! It was impossible a human opened the door!

Soulless… But… A faint memory flickered in Azazel's mind.

//Raziel's measuring gaze examined Azazel's face, his wings, his clawed hand.

“You may breathe the air around you and never understand the mechanism that allows you to do so. Likewise, you may be resurrected and not know the consequences of doing so. The Book was altered- you are living proof. But you neither know how nor what will happen because it was so. I repeat, son of Lucifer, that you are a fool. Dangerous, but a fool nonetheless.”//

Azazel shifted his weight to his goat hoof, his wings half-closed around his broad shoulders. His red robes fluttered around his ankles; his armor shone darkly and the red scales in his right, clawed hand had sparks of hellish fire as he gathered energy in it, preparing a blast of fire.

“You … again?” Azazel smirked darkly. “Such an interesting approach you've chosen. Did you by chance lose your soul in some of the holes you use to crawl through? Unexpected visitor: the outcome won't be different today.”

Raziel did not flinch at the terrible visage before him. Something else told him that he had seen worse in his time. Worse than an impetuous boy who had never matured into an adult–just a child who was spoiled with far too much power. The words he spoke came as if from far away, not spat from the mouth of a deceptively beautiful creature. Though Raziel knew it was he who was spoken to, the words were only noise. They made no sense. But he knew without being able to explain that this was part of the reason why he had no soul.

“Did you… Remember the part where I told you I pitied you?” The words rang cold and pitiless from his throat, striking with the frigid force of steel on steel. Something bitter and angry and sorrowful climbed into his voice and mien. “Do you know why, yet? Creature of two souls, master of none. ” His voice ran on without him, as if something else essayed without him. I don't understand.

Admitting ignorance is the first step in becoming wise. As one learns, one comes to realize how little they know. The clichés uttered by the mass were not merely truisms, but phrases of concentrated knowledge. That they were still remembered 'til now meant little and held little of their true value; that they were misunderstood and misinterpreted meant little still. Knowing that he didn't know what had happened to him, Raziel knew the greatest truth of all.

Something had wanted him to forget why he had no soul. Some external influence was involved in his current state. That he was able to command some power over magic was a miracle… An impossibility of itself, since there was no mark of another in him. Even magic of will required a soul or a promise in its place.

“Let her down, demon. Or even all the fires in hell won't protect this place.”

Azazel broke into a heavy snigger. The feline shadow at Raziel's feet hadn't moved. “Pity is a futile, worthless feeling”, he replied. “You are wise in not pitying me – that would cloud your judgment. However, it seems like I have what you lack of. Twice as much, if you like…” Azazel's eyes blazed with inner infernal fire. “However, it wouldn't cross my mind, such a simple idea. Pitying you… Soulless rest of what you used to be… I will take your advice, and I won't pity you.”

Azazel smirked darkly. “No… I won't please you”, Azazel softly said, his voice smooth and cold like a blade. “She is out of your reach, and will continue so.” Azazel narrowed his eyes. Somewhere in the vault, the demon Kasbeela had summoned earlier hissed words of infernal. Azazel changed his approach. He summoned his Power of Temptation to his voice; a terrible power of his own.

Lucifer under cat form sat down at Raziel's heels and watched with growing interest, his bronze eyes open wide. This was an older version of his own son, no doubt; and yet he didn't quite want to admit the resemblance, he had marked Azazel's face – and there was the mark across his left eye! It was still burning.

“Why would you risk your precious life for her?” Azazel asked, his magic seeping like poison into Raziel's ears. “Haven't you lost so much already? This human has no value to you – to interfere and fight is not your duty. To guide and to teach are your attributes, and even at those you've failed… losing those who were confided to you, who in the end, turned against you. Your power is no match to mine, and even worse now that you are an empty shell. To fight is futile.” Azazel's eyes shimmered and the air seemed to burn around him, his gaze fixed into Raziel's.

Lucifer shrugged. Azazel's guess was a good one, but not good enough! He wondered who had revealed such things to Lilith's son.

A familiar lump crawled into his throat, but Raziel shook his head in a ruthless effort to throw it out. “I… I don't know what you're talking about.”

Lucifer scratched his ear as Raziel had all the spotlight for himself. Sometimes a younger Lucifer had wished to see his former teacher under a similar state as part of his scholar daydreaming, but now it wasn't turning out to be pleasant – for some reason. He felt like digging his claws into Raziel's heels for being such a wimp. However, he still waited to see what Raziel would do under stress.

Azazel's voice changed slightly as he summoned his Voice power, to weaken and destroy the angel's confidence and faith. “You are alone in the end, Raziel. No one will help you and you've not been of any help! You have wasted your Life and my precious time!”

In the shadows behind Azazel, a lesser demon lurked. The cat waved his tail and stared at him, gently pricking at the demon's mind while Azazel was concentrated on Raziel, thinking the cat was insignificant. The demon bared four lines of pointy teeth, white enough for a toothpaste commercial. Lucifer eyes locked into the demon's. The demon tried to avert his eyes, but he was trapped, paralyzed. Lucifer's eyes were unholy portals of blazing fire, revealing a terrible power beneath – a maddening terror crept within the demon, unable to free himself as Lucifer shattered his mind. On the outside to the other two, it was just a kitty staring like kitties do.

“That's not true.” The greatest power of the highest demons is the ability to lie and to believe their lies… The thought came unbidden, and still… And still, it was of little comfort. He wasn't alone! But even the huge chamber mocked him. A golden cage hung above them all, the captive inside silent–dead, asleep, listening… who knew. The feline near his ankles seemed to have disappeared, perhaps behind him or gone altogether–Raziel dared not look back. If he did, he would run.

The room seemed empty, just a large mocking void like the rest of his life. He wasn't even a particularly valued teacher. Anyone could study Victorian history on their own and make the connections easily… And he did not even seriously teach the Occult. It wouldn't be allowed. It wasn't proper, and the students should have a proper education. Raziel was disposable and dispensable, as a person and as a life. No one would even really miss him.

“A waste of time and power; you should've known better”, he said in a sinister voice before shooting a beam of infernal power to the source of the blinding light. The light was diffracted, torn to blades of light by the power of Azazel, piercing through Raziel's body. Blue feathers were consumed in flame.

Coming here was a waste of time. Miss Kristof… Raziel still hadn't done what he came to do. “Stop wasting my time!” Raziel's voice rang out.

//Ah, there…// A slight change in Raziel's vibes brought closer a familiar feeling to Lucifer. His voice rang out, more like he could remember. However, Azazel was right – Raziel was not a match for him in a power fight. Not that Lucifer knew of. However, everything is subject to change – the Morning Star was always kept that in mind, no matter how unlikely things might seem. The demon's pupils were incredibly dilated, making its eyes all black in a sickening sight. It was about time. Lucifer set him loose. The cat bared his fangs and the driven insane demon howled, launching forward to reach the door and attack with a terrible cry, smashing the altar out of his way towards Azazel, his only intent to attack the world that had turned against him.

Azazel smirked darkly. “I'm afraid that's my line”, he replied, raising his hand to shoot the fire he had gathered to see Raziel be consumed by flame one more time. A howl rang out behind him. The altar was suddenly knocked off its position and sent flying against Azazel; he leapt to the side and used his fire bolt to protect himself, shattering the altar to pieces – but the fire also caught some of the reactive, causing a terrible explosion. Azazel was pushed against the wall, but his first though drifted off to Autumn in her cage hanged from the tall vaulted ceiling – the explosion shook it like a dreadful pendulum, shaking her against the gold bars like a lifeless doll. The demon leapt forward to the door to attack the intruders; Azazel momentaneously forgot about them and cast a spell to still the cage again.

The cat leapt forward, meeting the attacking demon in mid-air. It would perhaps be a funny sight… under other circumstances! Raziel looked anything but amused – but Lucifer had achieved his purpose: Azazel was out of the way. There was a blinding flash, confused with the fire in the vault; the demon dropped dead with a large gash in his chest as the cat jumped clean through his body, as if the sharp edge of a hellish sword had cut through armor and scales.

//The way is clear//, the cat's voice purred into Raziel's mind as the feline ran into the vault, sorting flames in his way. The cat jumped and bolted against the wall; another flash and the chain that held the gold cage shattered, causing it to plummet down onto the vault's floor.

Whatever musty fuzz of confusion and anger that still cobwebbed his mind disappeared as Raziel had to duck and tumble to avoid explosive flames and flying debris alike; of course, the spell he had been preparing as they crossed the vault's threshold also flew out of his head. Only God knew what he had been planning, now. From the corner of his eye, Raziel saw the cat leap with, well, super-feline ease into the air and literally rocket through its body. There was no way tiny feline claws had any part in that rout.

And the cat creature had the gall to sound quite pleased about it, too! Whatever the black hellcat really was, Raziel promised himself he'd have the full story when this was over. If there was a Raziel to get that story afterwards. The clanging and shriek of a chain dropping through a pulley activated some strange shard of instinct in the human–he looked up to see the golden-looking cage whistling down almost on top of him and reacted only as an Occultist would–blinked and screamed a word of command. “Flutârum!” And only an Occultist would have gotten a result other than being flattened into an unrecognizable pulp.

As it was, the brassy metal overgrown birdcage only stopped a meter above his prone suitcase-clutching body, so that he had to roll over (carefully, lest he smash or otherwise abuse the grimoire still relatively undamaged by his escapades otherwise) and struggle to his feet. Raziel was only a little surprised that he wasn't straining with the effort of holding up what had to be a massive tone of ore.

He was distressed yet grateful to see that Ms. Kristof was either stunned or unconscious; it would make getting her out of this… hellhole… less of the ordeal than it already was. Hopefully the girl wouldn't have any leftover trauma… And maybe I can convince her… or let her mind convince her… that this is all just a very strange nightmare. The mind had an especially queer way of covering up things it couldn't handle, and a little magick would be right to help it along.

There was no lock on the cage; there wasn't even a door. But Raziel would have considered himself a poor magician if he didn't even have a spell that could bend some paltry bars, even if he'd pay for the effort with a reaction-headache the size of Wales the next morning. “Curvarum!” The metal bars obeyed reluctantly, groaning and screeching as they bent inward far enough–and just barely, at that–to allow Raziel to shimmy through and unceremoniously drag his student out. He could only thank the powers that be that she was not wearing a dress.

Azazel opened his eyes wide as the cage plummeted down, then stopped. Strange power surges tingled on his conscience with each of the two flashes he had perceived. The Demon lord steadied himself and summoned Lufernatia without a second thought as Raziel bent the gold bars open to pull Autumn out of her prison. Azazel didn't seem to give any importance to the fire and explosions all around – he had lived among such all of his life.

The outline of his great sword cut through the flames that surrounded him as his aura lit up, still constrained to a radius short enough not to fry Autumn alive – damnable Elder was still pulling her through the bent bars of her cage. Azazel stomped his goat foot on the floor, causing a crack to open; hellish flame licked the cage, coming out from the crack in an attempt to force Raziel to recede.

“Let go of her!”, he demanded, his eyes blazing with nightmarish rage. Azazel leapt over the fallen altar that nearly crushed him against the wall and launched himself forward to behead Raziel with Lufernatia.

It was strange. Lucifer suddenly found himself simply watching the course of events: Raziel's spells – quite human, by the way -, Azazel's reaction, hellish flame and shadow creeping into the vault. It was a bad habit of his, partially a remnant from his training as angel of Knowledge, partially a habit he had acquired. To stay out, to keep himself from mingling into the events directly.

However, Azazel was about to behead Raziel with Lufernatia. Lucifer wondered why he had to interfere – but he had bound himself by word, and he had imposed himself the task to take Raziel and his loot out of Azazel's tower. Raziel's loot. He almost burst out laughing.

Azazel was drawing closer. At blinding speed. The cat reappeared at Raziel's heels. Words of Infernal were heard, but the voice was different from the purring echo Raziel had heard before. A sudden wall of fire and liquid rock rose, forcing Azazel to flap and stop in mid-attack; Lufernatia burst into flames, but before Azazel could redirect his blow, a terrible pain ripped through his skull. Lucifer had caused the mark he gave to his son to burn again.

Azazel howled and pressed his hand on his left eye, staggering back; he fell and disappeared from sight among the fire. Lucifer's eyes shimmered with malice and dark complacency. Yes. It still burns…The cat skittered before Raziel and leapt over the fallen cage, whose far end was melting already.

//You better not linger – he'll be back soon.// The purring voice echoed again through the Occultist's mind with a hint of mirth. The vault's door rippled and a portal appeared at the cat's command. He used a traditional spell this time. //Let us leave!//

Raziel had just freed Miss Kristof and stumbled back under the released deadweight when a ridge of hot rock plunged up from the floor and blocked the attack of the enraged demon. “What do you care?!” Raziel responded, steadying himself beneath the double burden of an unconscious woman and a heavy suitcase. He stared at the wall as if his sight was trying to bore through it. A terrible howl followed his reply and Raziel flinched back and remembered where he was and what he was doing. He skirted around the opposite side of the cage, avoiding flickering flame that looked likely to do worse than just burn him. Following the cat, Raziel felt the recognizable tug of a portal bespelled and stepped through the scatter-light surface.

Vertigo tossed his stomach to his toes and back and pulled his guts half a mile before returning them, possibly upside down, to their confines. …I'm going to be sick. Happily, the portal spat him and his loot out onto the pavement with nothing worse than a case of buckling knees and a brief moment of overwhelming nausea. Thank god he hadn't eaten dinner.

With a command in words strange to human ears, a voice echoed and the Portal closed, leaving behind Azazel and his howling rage. From Raziel's reaction after crossing the Portal, Lucifer guessed his shell had but all of human boundaries. But was it a simple shell at all? Where was his soul, where was Sapientia? Such questions persistently flickered in the Devil's mind.

The cat skittered and sat in front of Raziel, waving his tail with his ears pricked up, looking very pleased with himself. The creature's bronze eyes shimmered with eerie light as he looked up at Raziel's face. //As I promised, I've assisted you in and out, with the object of your interest…// The cat's mental voice was again, a soft purr. He seemed to expect some well deserved praising!

Raziel glared at the feline, aching and stubbornly refusing to show it other than the favoring of his right side, ever-so-slightly… He leaned on his left leg a bit and steeled his arms to keep with the woman's weight. He wondered if his future rescues could be convinced to go on a diet. “You seem pretty damn proud for something that almost got me killed by a bloody demon with a mother-complex!” At least, that's what Raziel wanted to say. What he actually said… “Who and what are you, and what are you going to demand in return for your… protection?”

The black Bombay cat laid his ears back till flattening them on his skull and sulked. Damn ungrateful Elder! He was again, glaring at him – after all he did for him! Lucifer felt like opening a portal and flinging Raziel and his girl across it, right into the Lake of Fire in the depths of Hell. The cat hissed, baring long white fangs as his eyes lit up in his face with inner light.

//I told you I was not stating conditions//, the cat's voice hissed through Raziel's mind. //And you said you would appreciate the assistance. It seems like you think you could've done quite nicely on your own back there!// The cat narrowed his eyes to slits of gold fire. //My protection! I suppose I should be grateful you allowed me to be your humble escort//, he continued, scornfully. //I suppose you'd rather have the cat return to its garbage can and leave you be!//

The cat glared at Raziel, then eyed the girl and the leather case he so carefully kept. //Since you expect me to demand a payment, I will consider your request. As for who am I – find out yourself! I will follow you till I make up my mind…// The cat turned his nose up.

Raziel shook his head. “No. Thank you.What's wrong with me? Picking a fight with a demon, and then picking a fight with a… hellcat… that helped me. Whatever its reasons are, they're it's own. Doesn't matter to me. But you know him, don't you? The young Occultist blinked and wavered a little. He didn't answer my question. “Just… find me when you decide.” He stumbled past the cat and out of the alley, closeting himself and Miss Kristof in a payphone booth. Maybe I'll be luckier with the cab this time.

Momentaneously stunned, the cat pricked up an ear and flicked it. No – then – Thank you, he had said? This Raziel is very strange. The cat scratched his ear, keeping a fiery eye on the Occultist as he made his phone call from a nearby payphone booth. His anger disappeared as abruptly as it had surged – or at least it went to a different level. His curiosity increased to a nearly painful level. I will find you… Raziel.

By BroodingDarkness

Before the birth of man there were the angels. The purpose of the Angelic Host was to keep the balance and guide man through it’s evolution… but many did not agree. This stand became known as The Fall and those that apposed the Host were known as the Fallen.

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