Keeping his wings under check and cover, Tabris landed in one secluded corner where he walked to his next patient’s home – Farishta Manor. Knocking on the gates, Tabris called out, “It’s Doctor Clinton Crawford, here to check on Mr. Phillips. Please do open the gates.”
After a few seconds, the gates opened and Tabris knocked on the door which opened as well. It revealed a huge and spacious house. Tabris sniffed. Lots of angels, including Raphael and Adriel have been here earlier. And a half-angel. What a party. Phillips walked out and he was frowning, for his eyes were giving him discomfort. Tabris walked with Phillips to the couch deep in the corner, just next to the fireplace, opened his medical box and began to check on his eyes.
Tabris put the casing over Phillips’ left eye and said, “That’s only infection, don’t worry. It should get better with a day or two, provided that your employer let you rest enough.”
Phillips laughed. “Don’t worry about that point, Dr. Crawford, for our mistress is kind-hearted and treats us like her own family.” The servants around chuckled and nodded their heads in agreement.
“A lady uh?” Tabris smiled, “I see she’s rather popular with you. Well well. That’s rare.”
Tabris stood up and Phillips asked, “Going back?”
“Yes. It’s morning and I have to attend a dinner later.” Tabris lied. He was really free, but he sensed that Phillips wanted to say something and he waited.
“I heard that Dr. Crawford loves fine arts. Mind if you walk around and gives a few comments on the paintings in this house?” Phillips asked.
“Sure, no problem.” Tabris replied, flashing a smile.
Rishta then landed on her bedroom balcony. “Home at last…” She then placed her book down on the desk and changed, refreshing herself. As she splashed her face with water, she thought ‘Why would Raziel want me to read this, I wonder?’ She then left her room, ready to go down to breakfast. Then she felt it: the doctor was here. He always had this presence when he arrived, and she never could place it but he was here to see Phillips. Now he was roaming the house. “What on earth…?” Turning a corner she saw them approach. “Good Morning. I take it you are Dr. Crawford. My name is Rishta, and I am the mistress of this house. How is Phillips? Is there anything he needs?” She knew she was being fast, but she was unsure if she could remain awake for long.
Tabris blinked when he saw Rishta for the first time. Then a friendly smile broke on his face. “Hello, Miss Farishta. Nice to meet you. I am Dr Clinton Crawford. Mr. Phillips is alright, just a minor infection which could be cured in no time.” Waving his hand to the paintings hanging on the walls, Tabris said, “Mr. Phillips kept my here to take a look at the paintings. A fine collection you have, I must say.”
“Thank you. But not all these are mine – some are contributions of the past owners. I do hope he did not force you to stay.” Rishta smiled, and then turned to Phillips. “You need your rest. Take the next couple of days off – I’ll have Edward take care of you – you just tell him what you want, and he will do it for you. I want you to rest, and that is an order!” Rishta’s eyes sparkled, while Phillips chuckled – they all knew she had his best intentions. He went off, leaving the doctor and Rishta alone. “So, Doctor Crawford, will you be joining me for breakfast? Or do you have other patients to attend to?”
Tabris’s eyes twinkled at that. So she hadn’t realized his identity? He had already sensed that she was an angel… No. A hybrid of a human and angel. Special. “I suppose I will stay for breakfast, if you don’t mind.” Tabris said with a seemingly warm smile, “I have no patients today. I work on alternate days, unless the patients comes knocking on my door.” Tabris explained patiently.
“I am glad you can stay.” Rishta said, her eyes sparkling. She started walking down to the dining room, pointing out paintings here and there. “This one was from the Renaissance. This: the Middle Ages.” Meanwhile Rishta was thinking: ‘What is this feeling? Something about this man. Can’t place it.’ “So, Dr. Crawford, what else do you do besides specialize with eye care? I have heard of your prestigious reputation. What else do you do in your spare time?” They arrived in the dining room, all ready laid out. “Shall we begin?”
“If there is a need, I perform surgeries.” Tabris answered with a faint smile, “I read and exercises in my spare-time. It’s important to be healthy.” Tabris said with a soft laugh. Unknown to Rishta, Tabris’s exercise was his nightly sojourn of victims made up of humans, angels and any sort of living being. Even demons had been his victims, but only those Tabris didn’t like. Taking a seat Rishta had somewhat offered, Tabris sat down and smiled. “Yes, if you might.”
Rishta sat down and began to eat, as Tabris did as well. “Amazing. You are certainly a man of many talents. And I agree. You need your health to do all sorts of things, anything really.” She then sipped her tea, an English necessity to life. “I enjoy reading too. May I inquire as to what genres you like? I own a library. If you wish you may look in it. You may be surprised as to what you find.” Rishta mused, thinking of the scrolls that she had saved from the Middle Ages and the histories her mother wrote, of her father and the angel – demon war, which of course were hidden in the back, the most important – locked in her room. ‘There is something about you, doctor. I cannot place it. Something about the way you ‘feel’. What do you hide?’ Rishta was confused when it came to him – he didn’t feel normal. Usually she dismissed it, but this time, it nagged at her. ‘What secrets hide behind you? Adriel, if you were here now… I could use your advice.’
Tabris smiled at Rishta. “If you would allow me to, Lady Farishta.” Tabris said. He could already feel the power in this house. The remnants of the past angels who once lived here… and now, Rishta. He could also feel the power in the library but it was not something he wanted to encounter today. “However, I’m afraid that I might have to say ‘no’ as I have to go back early today to start preparing a thesis paper of mine, which I prepare to give a speech on in a club I’m in.” Tabris commented.
“Clubs? I am afraid I do not enjoy socialization. I get a bit… claustrophobic when I am around too many people.” Rishta and Tabris then finished up their breakfast, and the servants took the plates away. Quietly she got up, still a bit confused about the doctor. “If you have to go, then maybe you can come for dinner sometimes. And then you may see the library, if you wish.”
Tabris wiped his mouth clean, then got up and bowed to Rishta. “See you then, Lady Farishta. And thank you for the hospitality.” Tabris said with a kind smile as he walked to door, opened it and left.
Rishta acknowledged the fact he left and decided she would go too but not by any normal means. Quietly she went to the window and flew out – making sure to soar high above the clouds. And to say she was on a spy mission was to be utterly correct. She followed Dr. Crawford. She was suspicious.
* * * * * * * * * *
The first rays of dawn painted blue shadows on the walls of the room, filtering through delicate lace curtains. Angel rubbed his eyes and yawned. In the faint light the objects looked nondescript, but as he went out of his heavy sleep, Angel was able to distinguish forms and things. Cushions, books. Dolls. Angel blinked and sat up in the bed. Beside him laid a beautiful girl in her late teens, soundly asleep. “Who the hell are you?”, he mumbled. Angel got up and looked around. There were feathers and clothes everywhere; the sight made him smile. He picked up his clothes and got dressed. The girl still slept. Angel picked up a hairbrush from her beauty parlor and combed his hair absently. He left the hairbrush next to the mirror and picked up a doll from the floor. The porcelain face had a subtle crack. Angel smirked and put the doll in the girl’s arms. “Forget me”, he whispered. The girl’s face changed; she seemed drawn to an even sounder sleep. The feathers on the bed and scattered on the floor vanished. Angel slid out through the window and opened his wings, soaring up in the morning sky. Invisible to all eyes, the Necromancer enjoyed the pleasure of flying. The sun hadn’t risen yet and the dawn was fire, blue and cold.
* * * * * * * * * *
In a Londoner mansion, a young man slept. The dawn moved over the house, filling the windows with blue shadows and subtle golden and blue rays of light. In his sound sleep, the young man shivered. His lean, muscular body was barely covered and the cold disturbed his sleep. A subtle sigh came out of his lips. He was dreaming, and in his dreams a beautiful form rose beside him. A cold gaze stared into his as he contemplated her in adoration. There was light about her and she had many wings; her feathers almost brushed against his skin. He sighed in despair and suddenly his dream parted; he coughed, gasping for air and sat up with a start, wide-eyed. Aramis coughed.
Angel contemplated him with contempt, an empty, dripping glass in his hand. He had thrown the water to Aramis’s face. “Again those stupid dreams of yours. You could use your time for things with a purpose. You lock yourself up in your room, the service thinks the masters are not home and they dare to sleep in my bed. I had to kill them, it was so disgusting. It’s hard to find good service these days.”
Aramis mechanically pulled the sheets to cover up. “It’s not my fault. You chose them. Besides, you barely step in the mansion these days… brother.” He looked away, thoughtful. “She’s been in London.”
“It’s not strange, if you mean her. She’s out of staff and I guess she has to share the field work these days until all her angels return.” Angel smiled caustically. “You might get in her way if you go out”, he cruelly said.
“I… don’t want to go out.”
“You will go out, Aramis dear. I perceive necromancy going on in the city and you may go in adverted into places where I’d call much for attention. We have work to do. The Gathering has begun; I know it. I hate London; damn weather – why does it always look like it’s going to rain? Even Germany is better than this. All they drink is beer – a drink of peasants. They expected me to have roast beef for breakfast; what an insult. Move aside.”
Aramis bit his lip. Angel laid on the bed and stretched out. “Will you move? I’m tired and I’ll take a nap. Use your time and get a bath – I mean it when I say we have work to do.”
Aramis put his wet hair out of his face. He pulled a sheet to cover up and left the bed. “How modest”, Angel mocked him.
“I’m not that aspect of us”, Aramis said, sharply, heading to his private bathroom.
“It’s all the same. We are Belial.”
Aramis turned to look at him from the bathroom door. “May the Devil take thy soul”, he softly said before closing behind him. Angel laughed heartily.
“Yeah, I love you, too.”
Some time later, Aramis stepped out of his bathroom. The bathroom included a boudoir and several walk-in closets, so he came out fully dressed and quite elegant at that. In his inhuman beauty, he was the exact image of Angel, precise to the last detail, but Aramis had an air of innocence Angel lacked of. His long, black hair was worked in to a complicated braid. Aramis walked over to the bed. Angel was soundly asleep; his eyelids were dark as smoke. Aramis frowned slightly and opened the glass doors to a balcony. The morning air was chilling compared to the climate of Spain, one he liked best. In Sevilla, the air smelled of oranges and the sky was a bright, cloudless blue. In London, the morning was dark and damp, cold and smelled of smog. Aramis sighed and contemplated the sky. “Where could she be…?”, he whispered to himself. In his sleep, Angel mumbled some colorful insults in a mix of German and Spanish and turned over, continuing to sleep.
“Para eso me despiertas, para irte a dormir!(1)”, Aramis angrily protested, but Angel didn’t move. Aramis turned around and walked out into the balcony. Across the street, there was a large public park. Over the trees could be seen the towers of a gothic church. In the park there was a greenhouse in iron and crystal with high round domes and long vaults in Art Nouveau style, in the likeness of the Botanical Gardens built for the Expo. The park ran to the West and many beautiful buildings aligned beside the area.
Aramis suddenly felt the need to go down and take a walk in the park. Angel was asleep, but Aramis didn’t bother to try to wake him up. Aramis entered and closed the glass doors, then took a more conventional way to the five-stories mansion ground floor: the stairs.
Outside, it was cold and dark. The morning had arrived, but clouded. It was still too early to find many people out on the streets, and Aramis was glad at that. He crossed the street and into the park; he took one of the trails and went under the cold shadow of the mighty trees.
The greenhouse was open, but only some gardeners were there at the time. Aramis watched the men work thought the misty glass and iron walls. He pulled the collar of his leather coat – the morning was too cold to his liking. His wings would keep him warmer… He touched something inside his coat and took it out. It was a feather. Aramis smiled a little. He blew it into the air and the feather soared up to the tree tops.
Aramis took a walk under the trees. A woman passed by pushing a baby carriage and smiled at him, for he was very fair to see. Aramis nodded in response as he walked by. Some nannies were arriving with small children and the children’s cries in playing excitement disturbed the morning silence like pebbles in a pond. Aramis realized there were no birds. Aramis bit his lip. Maybe he was being paranoid. Maybe the birds had sensed him and fled. It had happened before, sometimes. Sometimes the birds would stay and sing, however… It depended perhaps on…
A small, dark form moved among the trees. Aramis stopped in his tracks with a start and his gaze followed the little shadow. His heart began pounding. The blurry object disappeared among the bushes. Aramis bit his lip and followed the presence he could now sense. Down the next trail there was a pond, and some children played. One of the kids was playing high rope in the line of rocks on the edge of the pool. Aramis swallowed. Not far from the group, a lonely child was sitting on a bench, watching. She was a beautiful child with black locks and a velvet dress – but her eyes were dark and cold, in the liking of the night sky. Aramis heart pounded furiously. ‘It’s…’
A woman shrieked. “William, step down those rocks this minute! You could kill yourself!” A woman ran to grab the kid and put him down on the ground, but the child lost balance and fell into the water. Aramis’s gaze was fixed on the child on the bench, though. The woman pulled the child out of the pool; it wasn’t deep but the damp kid shivered in the chilling morn air. “Oh Will… I hope you won’t get sick!” The woman and the kids left quickly with the wet boy.
Aramis stood still in the shadows. The child on the bench saw him, however. Her eyes were of a cold, dark blue with a myriad of lone stars in them; her cold gaze was fixed on him.
Unconsciously, Aramis leaned against the tree he stood beside of, his heart pounding. She had seen him, too. Aramis hesitated and found himself speechless; her cold gaze made him shiver. A group of humans passed by, blocking his sight momentaneously; when they moved aside, the child was gone. Aramis bit his lip. He wasn’t certain why, but he felt the need to find her. Using his angelic senses, he quickly moved among the trees, searching.
Azrael walked down another trail. The child she had seen earlier would die within a month or so. A pregnant woman passed by; she’d give birth in two months more. Azrael looked up at a group of people passing by. She knew exactly when each of them would die. Azrael had taken the appearance of a little child no more than six years old, but it was tiresome to look up at everyone all the time. The little child was a strange one, however. She looked quite stern for a little kid. Not to mention she was walking alone in the park, if anyone’d notice. At least someone had noticed and Azrael knew well who that someone was. It was Belial. He was somehow different. Azrael knew about his dual nature, for as the Necromancer studied Death and the dark arts, Azrael had kept an eye on him. He was a strange one, now stranger than ever.
Azrael sat on a bench, pulling her Book out of her little coat over her velvet dress. She took some notes – it was surprising enough a kid of her age knew how to write. The Book of Death and Life looked smaller, like a little notebook. Azrael closed the book and put it back inside her coat.
Aramis followed Azrael’s presence, unsure on what to do. He was somewhat pale and nervous. The morning seemed to stop and the blue dawn shadows didn’t vanish; the sky was clouded and dark, and a thunder rang above. Aramis walked swiftly without making a noise; his steps left no trace behind. Then he found her again. What a strange little child she looked like now! Beautiful like a porcelain doll but lone, unmoving. Aramis looked at her intently.
Azrael sensed Belial’s presence… or at least part of him. His power and magic allowed him to live in two – but why had he done that? Azrael looked up. Aramis was standing not far away. The child cast a blank look at him, slipped from the bench and vanished.
Aramis felt stupid. Why was he chasing her like this? He didn’t want to fight her – not now. His heart ached and he closed his eyes. “Are you alright, sir?” Aramis opened his eyes with a start. A gardener was looking at him with concern. “Sir?” Aramis forced a smile.
“I am fine. Thanks.” Aramis walked away. He intended to go back to the mansion, but… “She is still here”, he whispered. He went deeper into the park, searching.
* * * * * * * * * *
Angel woke up sometime after Aramis left. He knew his brother had left the mansion but was somewhere near the city block. Angel yawned and stretched out. He peered under the bed, for he knew Aramis put the books he read to sleep under the bed. He found some newspapers and a couple books, very light lecture to Angel’s liking. It was ‘The Island of Dr. Mureau/ H.G. Wells’ and ‘The Lost World/ sir A.C. Doyle’. Angel leafed through the Island and laughed. “Well, it’s not as bad… The day humans can do these things we’ll have little to do.” He left the books and got up. Angel took a quick bath and got dressed. He perceived Aramis was stressed over something… related to Azrael. As usual. Then he remembered something.
“Where’s my new book?”, he mumbled. It was an antique he had acquired in Greece through one of his agents. He was certain Aramis had it. Angel peered into his brother’s memories to find out where he had put the book. Angel’s face changed. He was perplexed and not pleased at all. Aramis had donated the book to a Londoner library! Angel growled under his breath. “Sometimes I hate myself”, he murmured.
* * * * * * * * * *
Azrael looked over her shoulder. Belial was still following her. Azrael didn’t perceive a particular animosity in him, but she wasn’t eager to be stalked. The little kid skipped her way down a trail into a clearance in the park – which seemed a small forest in this area of the park. There was no one else around. Little Azrael stood in the center of the clearance, smoothing out her skirt.
Aramis was surprised. The little child Azrael was now seemed to be awaiting him now. Had he been so obvious…? She just stood in the glade, smoothing out the wrinkles in her velvet skirt. Aramis stood in the limits of the clearance, resting his hand on a tree trunk. ‘Azrael…’
Azrael rose her eyes to look at him from the center of the glade. Her coat vanished and her wings spread out. She had a strange appearance: a child angel with six open wings and a dark and gold aura about her. Azrael folded her arms on her chest. She then changed; she grew and in less than a second she stood there, again a grown-up archangel in black armor. The writings on her armor blazed like threads of fire, the aura about her increased and a veil fell on the human world, hiding them from mortals senses. Without a word, Azrael flicked her hand and Filos appeared in it, taking the shape of a curved sword. She pointed it to Aramis in her guard stance. “Belial”, she said, her eyes cold and immutable as ever.
Aramis opened his eyes wide; a shudder ran up his spine. He didn’t want to fight her!! Not now… He watched her – how beautiful she was! How out of reach as well. Aramis was mesmerized by his feelings, but he knew she was very able to kill him on the spot. “I don’t… want to fight you”, he murmured, giving a step back. He hardly heard himself though.
Azrael didn’t let her guard down. Her experience told her never to trust any move a demon could make. Belial looked kind of confused, but it could be a trick. Azrael released an energy bolt that impacted the tree next to him, which shook like a flag with the tremendous force, yet it wasn’t meant to destroy the tree. The shockwave made the very air shake like in the heat of a bonfire.
Aramis jerked back when he sensed the bolt coming and instinctively spread out his wings. He crossed her arms before him and formed a shield which deflected the bolt energy away from him. Aramis swallowed, yet it was obvious the bolt was not as mighty as she could have made it be. Aramis was pale and shocked, wide-eyed. He had assumed the angelic form: six wings with white and black feathers forming bands like a Harpy Eagle wings, a silver armor with black writings on it and a black, silky, flowing robe. Aramis didn’t yet summon the Scythe of Simara. He stood there in silence.
Azrael frowned slightly. She wondered what he was plotting. With another flick of her hand, she sent another bolt this time aiming to Belial; at the same time she kept her guard up.
Aramis formed the shield again and deflected the bolt. He realized she didn’t want to charge first. Aramis’ heart pounded furiously; it was beating so hard he could hear it. He let his hands fall at his sides. “I do not… wish to fight you”, he murmured.
Azrael frowned slightly when Aramis let his hands fall at his sides. She released another bolt aiming next to Aramis’s head, to force him to move. His attitude was strange and Azrael didn’t trust him any.
Aramis opened his eyes wide, but he didn’t move. He perceived the bolt trajectory was going to pass close by him, but not directly to him. The bolt rang on the tree behind him after passing so close next to his head its force made his head hurt. Aramis gasped and bent in pain. One of his wings hurt as if it had been ripped through; a burning pain in his shoulder increased. Aramis gasped for air and managed to keep his balance. ‘Angel is hurt!’, he thought with a start. The echoes of the pain vanished. Aramis cast a last glance at Azrael with tears in his eyes – maybe out of the pain, maybe out of something else – , then he spread his wings and ripped through the veil Azrael had set, soaring up into the sky. Aramis murmured a spell and went invisible to human eyes. He described a circle over the park and followed Angel’s trace. ‘He’s in the Library!’, Aramis realized. His heart sank. ‘He might have recovered the book… damn it!’ Aramis flew quickly to the library.
Azrael was surprised at Belial’s reaction. She was certain she hadn’t hit him with her attack, yet… Azrael frowned slightly and decided to follow him. She vanished, and the glade remained empty. The shield disappeared.
(1)That’s what you wake me up for, to go to sleep yourself!