Angel was furious at the idea they had had the chance to get rid of Michael, but why he hadn’t thought about that earlier? Aramis was quiet and thoughtful. Angel’s eyes flashed.
“We should’ve dragged him to Hell when we had the chance to, at the Abbey”, Angel murmured.
Aramis shrugged. “If you’d ask for my opinion”, Aramis replied, “I don’t care anymore. I don’t see the use in that. I can sense the end is near.”
Angel frowned. “Maybe”, he grimly said. Aramis nodded slowly as he finished canalizing and dispersing the holy energies that blinded Mastema.
The wind blew furiously from the night sky; the trees bent and creaked, and the very earth seemed to groan beneath strange powers. Shadows ran, but none of the nightmarish creatures set loose would come near them. Aramis put his hair behind his ears as the wind pushed it on his silver eyes.
“You’ll recover your sight gradually. Don’t push it, Mastema. Rely on your other senses. You’ll do well.”
Angel swept a look around. “Luna’s manor is not far from here. Just far enough for a little walk.”
Mastema gasped. “A walk? We don’t have time for a walk!”, he exclaimed. “We must move, and fast! We ought to warn the others!” Mastema instinctively rose his hands to rub his eyes, but he stopped right on time.
“I’m sure there’ll be a solution… There always is one”, he said, trying to fake some cheerfulness. “You… always get good ideas. I’ll help you.” Mastema was frustrated at his blindness but he tried to belittle the fact that he couldn’t see a thing.
They started on their walk. Mastema blinked as he slowly began to see blurry shadows and lights, but he still couldn’t make out the shapes of the objects around him. The chilling wind howled. Hell ran on the streets of London.
Angel and Aramis cast a sideways look at Mastema as they walked; Mastema’s other senses were keen. However the real purpose behind their sudden wish for a walk it was to give Mastema’s eyes time to heal before they reached Luna’s grounds. Mastema trusted his peers under Belial’s command, but Belial didn’t trust anyone. They could – some would, that was for sure – turn against the Necromancer.
“There’ll be time to see about things”, Aramis murmured.
“Maybe”, Angel replied. The wind was chilling. Angel and Aramis walked close to each other and after one street turn, only one shadow showed next to Mastema’s.
Belial absently put his hair out of his eyes. “The manor is not far.”
Mastema pouted slightly as a frustrated child. He sensed Belial merge back into his normal self; the feeling was creepy even for a warlock.
Mastema was worried about Adriel. He tried to ease his anxieties telling himself she was with a number of her allies and that she would be safe… but still, he was a worried guy. “Have you ever loved someone?”, he asked Belial.
Belial forced a smile.
“Depends… on what kind of love you ask about. I love my Art. Isn’t that enough?” Belial showed a fierce, brief smile. “Your questions don’t please me.”
Belial looked ahead. “The Manor is ahead. We’ve arrived.”
Mastema scratched his head in embarrassment, noticing the displeasure in Belial’s voice. He gazed ahead. He saw the fence, then the manor beyond it. Still, the image was blurry, grayish. When the guardian spells opened the iron gate for them, he couldn’t but think one of the faces on the gate was just like some demon he knew. Belial was as serene and stern as ever. His apparent cool infused confidence to Mastema. Belial summoned the Staff of Simara, holding it in his right hand. Mastema’s own staff, Argentus, had taken the shape of a heavy Celtic bracelet on his arm.
Here we go…, Mastema thought to himself.
Luna rose from her desk as soon as she sensed the Archdemon and his cohort entering the grounds, taking a much appreciated break from her ledger of accounts. As a part of her determination to take over the manor, she had begun doing all of the economical work herself, instead of the bare necessities.
Drawing on a warm shawl over her light-blue themed dress, she swept out of her office and down the stairs, taking a hidden passageway that led directly to the manse’s front doors. She was there to open them as soon as her newly arrived guests reached them. “Greetings,” she smiled warmly, noting a faint scent of unease around the lesser Other and something else entirely about the Archdemon.
Belial nodded gravely. “Good evening”, he gently said in response to Luna’s greeting with a polite nod. His silver eyes shimmered strangely beneath his thick black eyelashes as he looked at her. He could sense her soul pound lightly beneath his Seal, the power he had transmitted to her flowing in harmony within her being. The warmth in her smile once again made him feel she didn’t question him, but accepted him. She hadn’t been twisted yet by her passions handling the power… as it usually happened to Humans in the course of the years. Samael, Lorant Riktophen… were only a couple examples. Belial’s eyes shimmered as she smiled. The Fallen found his own disposition had changed ever since he left Moloch’s house. Luna does not deserve this harm…
“I hope my people have not troubled you any”, he said with a small smile. “I shall see them now; they’ll leave your grounds soon. Some things have changed and I believe… they will concern to you as well, Luna.”
He offered her his arm. He led her across the house and towards the gardens. Mastema followed them. Once they reached the hall before the doors to the gardens, Mastema put on his mask, took a quick bow to the Archdemon and walked outside.
Once they were alone Belial turned to Luna, gently letting her hand slip from his arm. He held the Staff in one hand; he was in his human form. His piercing gaze met hers and yet it was as commanding and proud as ever, it had a strange tenderness to it, like the way he had looked at her after he heightened her senses.
“There has been a change in my plans for the immediate future”, he slowly said. “Sometimes even I must take decisions that do not please me. You are a special creature; you have the talents and the intelligence needed to succeed in any quest you’d choose to take. I would have enjoyed to teach you higher steps in the Dark Arts.”
Belial made a pause. “Unfortunately that won’t be possible. I have chosen to relieve you from my service. I will free your soul… and our agreement will be dissolved.”
Luna blinked in confusion and backed away a step. “I…” My… Dreams… You’re stealing my only ambition! To prove myself as a great Lupa. “I don’t understand, Great Other… You… You marked me! This is my chance to be the strongest pack, to preserve my race and lore for posterity! I don’t understand.” She shook her head as if trying to rid herself of an unpleasant thought. “Is this a test, Archdemon? What must I do to pass? How have I become unworthy?” Her golden eyes were caught between radically different emotions; confusion, anger, fear, ferocity- all battled for dominion of her heart.
“You’ve not become unworthy”, Belial said in a low steel-like voice, his eyes shimmering darkly. “It’s not about something you have done. It’s about me.” His shadow fluttered around his feet. “It might sound strange, but I believe this would be the best for you. Destiny might change… in the blink of an eye. You still get time to reshape your plans once I set you free – you are young and intelligent. You don’t need me to tell you that.” Belial narrowed his eyes, seeing the mare magnum of emotions in her golden eyes.
“I will give you a reason to agree with me”, he grimly said. Belial’s shadow began to change. The Archdemon held the Staff beside him, the end of the pole set on the marble floor. His human appearance vanished, revealing another form. Yet he still was very much like his human form, this form was of a terrible beauty; of an unbearable splendor. Six huge eagle-like wings of black and white feathers appeared on his back; the long feathers of his mighty wings brushed against the marble floor. He was wearing black, silky flowing robes; an unearthly armor of the color of steel and black sigils on Power etched on it protected his body. A blinding resplendence came out of him, strangely mixed with a dark shadow that put out all the other lights in the chamber. His silver eyes shimmered strangely – only his eyes remained exactly the same.
Belial moved his wings slightly, then folded them, allowing a pair of them to rest on his shoulders. He looked at her gravely, as if pondering on the better way to explain himself. His lip curled lightly into a sad smile.
“It’s a long story… if I were to explain you all of it, it’d start way back when I used to be an angel. I won’t exhaust your patience with that.” A kind of dark mirth showed briefly in his eyes. “For short I’ll tell you, I had a friend who was the closest thing to a brother I ever had… back then. He rebelled against the Heavens and I followed him; I became one of his Archdemons. We wanted our own Freedom; he was the Light-Bearer and we all had great hopes. However, his Light went out and he departed from the worlds. He left behind a son – the most terrible and wretched creature that has ever lived. He is now the Warlord, Azazel; the Leader of the Armies from the Abyss.” Belial made a pause.
“I still long for my own Freedom. Because of this I have finally rebelled against Azazel. I am aware that he will not forget this. I had believed I could resist his power, but I’ve come to realize my doom is near.” He nodded. “I do not wish to drag you down with me. Once I get killed, I will be destroyed to the full extent of the word. I don’t know all, but my friend’s soul… vanished and I could never find it. This gives me a cue on what could happen to mine. Even if I don’t take my power from you, it’d disappear upon my destruction. My Seal would still hold your soul, for that’s the way it works and I never considered my own destruction could happen…” Belial bit his lip. “It’ll be safer for you if I remove my Seal from your soul.”
He tightened his grip on the Staff.
“I could… weaken my seal enough for your soul to break free from it when you die, yet you’d keep the power I’ve given you for some more time. However, power corrupts the souls of men. Perhaps you could make your choice.” He cast her a grave yet inquisitive look.
“Corruption?” Luna barked a harsh, short laugh. “If any estimations are correct, I’m already doomed to an eternity in hell by any means. Do as you see fit, Archdemon, but my offer of assistance still stands. As I scent it, you may need all the help you can get anyway. What better for those begotten of long-faded demoniac blood than to help their ancestors? The Were of my pack are ever your allies, Master of the Dark Arts.” Luna curtsied gracefully, her silver eyes closed now and sharp with fury at whatever had changed her tutor.
She was not in the least surprised by the shift in Belial’s appearance; it had been the form in her dreams, those dreams haunted by the mysterious voice that warned her against him. The terrible beauty of his form did not cow her, though she knew herself to be so far weaker than the being before her that she should melt on the earth she stood upon. It made her want to make herself more, better, stronger; to be and make those around her be worthy of his attentions.
“I care not for my safety. I would not be a Lupa if I did- I would be a mere mongrel. You have my loyalty, with or without your Seal.” Her unblinking eyes dared him to throw that to the four winds. Surely hundreds of able warriors, even those not of her Pack, would not be worthless to a cause?
Belial was again, surprised. It was the first time he would spontaneously offer one of his Marked her freedom, and she didn’t seem to care; in fact, he could sense anger in her. She reaffirmed her alliance to him, with his Seal or not – he could see she was sincere; she was not cowed by his true form; she knew what she had exposed herself to. She accepted him; again, this fact touched his soul. The part of him that was Aramis was perplexed and grateful; the part of him that was Angel was furious. Somehow in his deep pride he was egoist about his own disgrace; mixed up with his need to protect those under his power it was the need to keep them away and face his doom alone; the need to deny to Azazel the satisfaction of killing the followers along with their Master; the will and the right to face his Fate alone. Belial’s feathers smoothed out in tension and he narrowed his eyes.
“Very well”, he grimly said, his voice like cold steel. “If this is the Fate you’ve chosen, I won’t ask you to leave my side.”
The gates behind them opened. The cold night air invaded the space; Belial’s aura receded, allowing the light and shadow to regain their nature. Belial’s gaze was fixed in Luna’s for a few seconds.
“Gather your people and meet me in the Gardens.” Belial nodded at her, his eyes shimmering. He crossed the gates and walked out into the garden, holding the Staff of Simara; the sigils on it shone and whispered with strange voices as the Archdemon walked. Mastema was waiting at the foot of the short steps.
Mastema’s face was somber. Leaving his human shape behind, Mastema hadn’t put the mask on as it was his normal way; he had discarded his cloak and his bronze armor shone in the strange lights from the skies. He took a deep bow at Belial.
“I have spoken to them”, he announced, seeing that Belial was not in the mood to stand long stories. “The want to know the details from you. At least fifty of your eighty legions will follow you; I cannot speak for the other thirty. They are indecisive.”
Belial didn’t stop in his tracks, forcing Mastema to walk next to him to speak to him. Belial’s wings bristled. “I have no use for their hesitation”, he darkly said. “They will make up their minds – they will stay or they will go out to be ran over by the Armies or join someone else’s legions. Either way they’ll have to make up their minds now!” Belial stopped in a small paved plaza and hit the stones with his Staff. The entire pavement rose like a platform of live rock pushed from below by a giant hand, rising Belial and Mastema about seven meters above the ground. The ground shook and hardened as rock, forming a sort of steps from the platform to the ground below.
Sounds of clashing metal and the shine of armors and weapons could be heard and seen in the deep night; the garden was an occupied land by an army of warlocks and their servants; burning eyes filled the shade beneath ancient trees as every warlock had set it’s own space where they could use the node’s energies for different minor things – maybe out of curiosity. The legions had set camp, every ten legions under one Legion Commander. They rose and came forth when they saw their Archdemon rise above them.
“I won’t give you explanations or reasons this time”, Belial harshly said. “I will tell you this: Azazel is not Lucifer. I won’t consider myself bound by word to the son of the Morning Star; Azazel’s way is that of slavery. I will NOT have that. I composed the Ritual that gave Azazel a living body in this Plane – I altered the Book the Dark One keeps. However, I foresee no gain in his alliance and I have rebelled against him. If you wish to leave and find yourselves another Master, you are free to go – I don’t want to waste my Time dealing with your resistance. If you stay with me, I won’t promise you victory. I can’t foretell how long it’ll take Azazel and the Armies to take revenge on me; but in any case I have decided to free myself from that wretched spawn of Lucifer; he could never be compared to his Father nor in intelligence or leadership. Again I tell you, you are free to leave my service – and of course be aware that you won’t be allowed to stand in my presence ever again if you do; I’ll kill you without a second thought. War is War. Make your decisions.”
Mastema was wide-eyed at this speech; it seemed to him that Belial was trying to hush them off his side. This strange mood shook Mastema and deep inside Mastema – who had known Belial before and after the Fall – perceived Belial himself didn’t think he’d survive long. Belial spread his mighty wings, his eyes shimmering with terrible light.
“What do you say?”, he called out, stomping the Staff on the platform once with terrible might. The legions were stunned, in a mix of fascination, anger, shock, terror and disbelief.
Mastema’s legions gave a step forth. They’d follow, they had agreed from before. After a terrible instant in which the fall of a pin could have been heard in the Gardens, the army moved. Part of it fled into the night; part of it stayed. Around 56 legions remained, their eyes fixed on Belial.
“We will follow you!”, they cried out. Belial bit his lip till a drop of blood stained his flesh and clasped his hand on his Staff till his knuckles went white.
What… have I done so wrong that I can’t get rid of them?! “I want you to be aware of the danger and how perilous this situation is. I can’t promise you victory”, he warned them. The demons remained undaunted. Idiots!, Belial bitterly thought. Luna’s people were arriving to the spot. Belial folded his wings.
“So be it”, he muttered.
Luna bowed and summoned the magic of the traces of ichor in her veins. Her bones grew and shrank and snapped as fur rippled across her changing body that tore from her gown. Streaks of white and gray and black, with hints of reddish-brown, flowed across the body of a large female wolf. Large golden eyes flashed and long, sharp fangs gleamed in the moonlight as the alpha female threw back her head and howled.
The call was echoed and soon hundreds of shapes leapt into the gardens, dark and light shadows of all types of wolves- arctic, desert, woodland, red- danced through the leaves and fountains and sculptures. The Call trilled along the spine, communicating the need and intent and memory of what had been and what would be; it was, and continued.
Luna’s Pack was complete; wolves of all colors and shapes moved like swift, agile shadows in the strange lights from the skies streaked by Azazel’s magicks. The demons and their servants that remained on Belial’s side watched them with curiosity as they took their positions in their usual battle structure. Belial watched them all with something that looked very much like a scowl. He leaned the Staff against his shoulder and relaxed slightly. The expression on his face changed to a strange smile, dark yet with a shade of melancholy to it.
“Luna and the Were are my allies”, he announced, “as you by now know well. They are free and they are here honoring the word of her Lupa – I want you to keep that in mind”, he told the Legions. Belial gazed into the skies; he perceived the Armies’ Gathering was almost complete. Belial pondered what’d be the best course of actions. “The Angelic Host is in London to face the Armies. We’ll defend this position and use our power to use the node in our advantage to increase our energies when needed.” Belial began fantasizing if they could somehow take the ring from Azazel. If Raziel would have told the Angelic Host about the Ring… If he had and it were possible to defeat Azazel, Belial and his forces could survive and leave to live on their own; even contribute to Azazel’s fall. He’d need information.
“That’s the order for now.” Belial narrowed his eyes and left the platform.
Mastema promptly followed Belial as the Archdemon descended from the platform. Mastema looked at the Were and the demonic legions and decided he better make sure these folks would get along well enough for the oncoming battles. At Belial’s order, Mastema should gather the Legion Commanders to receive orders from Belial. Belial on his part, turned to Luna.
Mastema scratched his head, looking at Luna. His eyesight was not fully healed yet but it was better than a human’s by now. How curious, he still couldn’t make out how or why Luna had earned the position she had in Belial’s account. If he was correct, less than a month had passed ever since they met. Some needed thousands of years to achieve that. Luna was stern and fierce; maybe that was part of it. Aside this, Mastema also thought her Were form was cute.
With a blink, Mastema took off to gather his peers.
Belial joined Luna at the foot of the platform, where the Legion Commanders soon joined them. Belial plotted the strategy with them, gave some orders and organized the defense positions, making sure each one knew what their orders were and the forces assigned to each one. After this, the Legions and the Were took their positions. Belial checked over the troops.
Belial frowned slightly. The Armies of the Abyss’ Gathering was complete; he could sense Azazel’s signal in the tense calm before the storm. The first attacks started. The Legions began their counterattack, with weapons and spells; the ground shook with the first clashes.
Luna’s Were howled malevolently as they leapt into battle; their bloodlust and ferocity was heightened by the need running through all of them to prove themselves to the Others, their distant ancestors, and the magic that coursed through their bodies. Some died in first contact; others died valiantly bringing their enemies down with them. Even though some were not of the Lupa’s Pack, the Were fought as one cohesive unit, even using their intrinsic magicks to protect themselves and destroy the horrifyingly strong enemy they faced.
Some swapped between wolf and human form, those who had mastered the ability to change quickly. Luna herself was among them; pale flashes of mortal flesh alternated with gray fur as she lunged among the demon legions, destroying with teeth and magic that which she could reach. By some miracle, it seemed as if they Were could tell instinctively with whom they were fighting; otherwise their heavy losses would have been worse. They were weaker in magic than the demons, but they made up for it in ruthlessness and feral cunning. Even now the Pack was reforming and grouping upon individual Others who found themselves quickly surrounded and annihilated like lone deer.
Luna barely had time to think as she snapped at the foul forms around her; they were rank with Infernal magicks that burned her senses and their flashy spells blinded and deafened her. But she would not be frightened nor deterred. She would be loyal if it cost her life, even her soul. She had everything to lose and little to gain from the battle, but she refused to betray the trust placed in her.
Belial cast a number of powerful spells each of the Legion Commanders amplified with the aid of their magicks, increasing the use of magic on part of the minor warlocks to reinforce the strategically points they had previously set. After the first wave of enemies hit, the Legion Commanders extracted power from the node to allow their own energies to replenish as the second wave came in. Belial shifted the Staff into the Scythe, then into the Sword as needed, fighting alongside with the Legions and the Were. The Archdemon’s Legions had earned their own dark fame in the Armies, for they not only killed the bodies like any demons – these Legions, mostly former Angels of Death and Destruction, snatched the souls of their victims and it was said they could destroy the souls of the defeated.
After what seemed hours, the enemy seemed to recede. Belial reorganized the forces as the fight continued.
Mastema combined the incantations and weapons to fight the enemies; along with his Legion Commander peers, each in their specified area, he amplified the spells started by Belial and projected the energies to the troops, fighting alongside the Were. Mastema concentrated hard on his work, leading his Legions and weaving the spells; however part of his mind drifted endlessly towards Adriel. When the second wave of enemies was controlled and the enemy seemed to recede, Mastema sensed a familiar force. Faint as it was, Mastema still couldn’t ignore its importance. Mastema gazed into the skies.
“The Angelic Host!”
Moloch dropped from the sky, surrounded by a blazing aura of infernal flames. Her normally flat crimson eyes were brighter than the scorching nimbus surrounding her demoniac form.
Wings the color of dried blood flickered about as she slashed her way through the legions of fighting demons, using her whip to clear a path through “ally” and “enemy” alike.
//BELIAL!// Her telepathic call roared across the battlefield that engulfed the space, what was once a garden but now touched on dimensions Infernal to defy the proportions of time and area. Moloch’s call was anguished and enraged, hateful and haunted. She wanted blood. She wanted the Archdemon’s blood, and anyway she could get it- she would.
Just as long as she could cause him pain.
A trumpet echoed above the battle; a strange, eerie sound accompanied by a dark, huge shadow floating above the battlefield. As Moloch descended in her fiery rage, the shadow followed; immutable and inexorable. The shadow spread like a blinding layer of dark, the trumpets sounding nearer and nearer. The battle cries of Azrael’s Legions could be heard; but these were replaced by a chant – the angels sang a gigantic spell, pronouncing words of Destruction.
Belial’s eyes shone strangely, shimmering cold silver in the dark. He clearly perceived Moloch’s blood-thirsty call; he distinctively felt the chilling Void that announced Azrael’s arrival. The Archdemon had an inward, bitter smile, wielding the Scythe. The two of his brethren he had feelings for; the two wanted his doom. Belial thought allowing himself dark humor, he could always split and fight both separately; but something inside of him did not care to gaze into the future anymore. Blood spurted as he beheaded his current opponent and sliced open the next. Belial smiled.
//Here I am, dear Moloch//, he responded in his usual cold yet courteous demeanor. //Greetings, Dark One.//
Moloch’s ruthless gaze was invested with something insidious by nature- something she had obviously recalled just at the right moment. A shrieking howl rose above the explosions and screams of the battlefield as her own legion finally joined the battle, some riding crazed six-legged beasts that resembled horses- but for the scales, the knife-like fangs glittering through rabid foam, and sharp, cloven hooves that laid about cruelly, trampling the dead and living alike with no compunction. The venomous yellow eyes of these beasts were enough to cause some of their opposition to freeze and allow themselves to be eliminated by the riders, who were more often than not armed with vicious lances that pierced through wards and armor with the same malicious ease.
Though it could not be said she was fighting against Azazel, she wasn’t fighting with him nor cooperating with him. Anyone who was too busy with the remnants of a twisted mortal love did not deserve herself as an ally in battle; but she would honor her private pact with Lucifer.
Moloch cut through the legions of the Angels and the legions of the Abyss with disregard, a blur of darkest red, roaring fire, and pain. Her magicks didn’t merely kill- they inflicted the most terrible agony upon those touched that could be imagined, draining their vitality and the energy from their dying to fuel more spells to inflict the same and same again.
Finally Moloch was face to face with Belial himself, instead of merely his lackeys. She disregarded Azrael entirely; she cared not about the Angel of Death nor her dark minions in the skies.
//Betrayer. I promised you safety until you left my grounds- I keep my word!// She lashed out with the white-hot chain, a weapon that would flay flesh from bone and melt life away as easily as breath.
Belial acknowledged Moloch with a nod and a small smile as she broke the circle around him, her usually flat eyes filled with burning emotions. The burning chain lashed out at him; Belial shifted his weapon into the Staff and with a swift moment he caught the chain with it, setting the pole on the ground at the same time. Belial called upon his Earth Element, canalizing the node energies he summoned with the Staff and through the chain into the demoness’ body in a sudden energy shock three or four times higher than Moloch’s initial attack. Belial pulled the Staff back, always set against the ground, as the energy Arc ran from the ground through her and back to the ground, pinning her to her position in a terrible flow. Belial’s eyes blazed yet in them could be seen a sort of sadness. He chanted a different spell, Dark and Light energies swirling around him like a blasphemy as both opposite forces had the same source, making the ground shake.
Moloch screamed as searing energy pulsed through her body. She jerked and tore the whip away from Belial’s staff. She recovered quickly, however, and created another inferno of black and red flames around herself to protect her body from Belial’s blasphemous mixture of Light and Dark.
The golden sigils on her armor twisted and shimmered into life, twining around writhing signs of evil so dark they seemed to be holes into the Abyss. Her shielding aura flared and warped, ethereal tendrils of pain and fire shooting towards Belial’s form, licking at his wings and exposed skin, closing eagerly around anything it could consume like a greedy kraken. Moloch lashed out with Scorpion, which twined around his staff. She yanked mightily and sent his Staff clattering to the ground.
Her pale, once beautiful face was twisted into a horrible sneer. “How do you like be to left helpless, dear Belial? Alone, with no one to call “ally?” You seem to have fallen in quite well with the Host! Even they turn against you, betrayer!” Moloch cackled, more than a thread of hateful madness in her high-pitched voice. “No one loves you! No one cares about your fate other than to see your existence END! You left me ALONE!” She balled her fist and set it squarely into his face with all the strength she could muster.
Belial was intensely pale, his silver eyes moonlit pools beneath his thick black eyelashes. The searing pain he could endure, but Moloch’s words still could reach his very soul. Raziel had been right, after all.
Belial stumbled when she hit him; he used the energy from the impact to leap back and fell on one knee; he felt the world around him grow colder despite his own aura was silver and black flames of power. In the very instant the Staff fell on the ground and the demoness moved forward to hit, Belial’s shadow split. The form on the ground that rose his eyes to look at her was an Angel of Destruction – Aramis in his silver armor. But from the shade of the Staff a dark form rose – Angel in his armor of the color of steel. Angel picked up and wielded the Staff, turning it into the Scythe; Aramis closed his fist and a second version of the Staff appeared in his hand. Terrible as the truth was, they were both there deprived of all masks – Light and Darkness. Blood stained Aramis’ face.
“I would have eagerly continued with you, but you wished to remain with Azazel”, Angel coldly said. “You preferred the Armies before me.”
“I shared a terrible secret with you”, Aramis said. “I cannot force your decisions, but I did it to protect you from Azazel.” Angel and Aramis chanted a spell, sending their opposite forces to clash on the spot where Moloch stood.
Azrael and her Legions descended on the battlefield, chanting their terrible and beautiful spell; the blades of the angels hissed, aiming for the thread that connected the souls and lives to the bodies; the thread of Life their spell summoned into vision. The undead the warlocks had summoned formed a wall, but the angels of Destruction had their way to slay them. Azrael summoned energies from the Dark and the Void; the dark side of the moon bore the Sigil of Her Name. The angels sang as if it were Harvest Moon, the angels collecting and keeping the souls of their slain allies at their right, the foe’s at their left. The Archangel her self’s song was a harmony of power – only in a climax of battle her voice would be heard.
The Legions of Belial were not alien to their methods, which were once theirs. The warlocks began a counter spell, their chanting voices clashing and mixing with the singing voices of their enemies; mixing with the battle cries and the spells from Moloch’s Legions.
Azrael’s immutable gaze swept over the battlefield as she stood in the high platform where Belial had addressed his followers, Fear surrounding her like a whirlwind; a ravaging sea of fighting angels and demons shifted like the tide at her feet. In a clearance, Belial and Moloch fought. Azrael knew the warlocks needed Belial to cast the more powerful group spells; Moloch’s Legions depended on her leadership; Azrael found their fight convenient.
//Do not interfere in the Archdemons fight//, Azrael coolly commanded to her angels. //Dismember their Legions’ hierarchies.//
Moloch cast about in desperation and glanced up to the roiling skies as if for guidance. And then inspiration struck her, in the instant before the split Belial’s spell was complete. Let them blast each other… She launched herself upwards into the freedom of air, through and above the black-winged legions of the Angels of Death and Destruction.
“Fools,” she hissed through her teeth. “None of us cooperate and we shall all perish…” She sent a mental message to her legions to fall back and recover; once legions of healers, the now-lethal Fallen and their demons had no difficulties disposing of their various ills and gathering the energies of the dead and dying.
Hovering gently above the battlefield, Moloch could watch the swirls of magick and death as if it were no more than a play being fought out for her amusement… But those were her legions dying below her; she could not have that… She waited and gathered her strength to prepare a counter-strike against Belial, with his unholy luck.
Autumn froze with fear, not sure if she was shot into the bowls of hell itself or if she long since lost her senses and was lost in some horrible nightmare. The beast holding her so tightly was like none she had ever seen, but it was the bronze of his eyes that gave her recognition. It was a new wave a fright that washed over her as she realized this hell’s creature was none other than her dear husband. She regretted her decision to come to him then, but even so it wasn’t her own two feet that brought her here, but some devil’s black magic.
“Lorant..” she breathed, barely above a whisper, “You.. you’re not yourself…” if she were going to put her plan into action, she would need all of the willpower she could possess. But she could hardly bring up the nerve to move herself from his arms as he normally was, let alone this beast he was now.
“Lorant…” The name surprised Azazel; the demon blinked. After a fraction of a second, he spontaneously realized yes, Lorant was a name of his, too. Azazel nuzzled Autumn’s cheek again, his six golden wings tainted in red folding around them like a huge cloak of shining feathers of gold stained in blood. Azazel laughed. His laughter, a mix of amusement and malevolent mockery, echoed in the cave and the echoes died quickly, mixed with the rumors of drums, trumpets and war chants from the Armies gathering down the sort of cliff where Azazel had set his improvised sanctorum and near the Hell Gate.
Azazel grinned and spread his wings, letting go of her so she could take a good look at him. “I’m not myself…?! That’s quite inaccurate, my dear wife”, Azazel said with a dark smile. He slid his fingers through his black hair to put it away from his eyes; his right hand was scaled, clawed and red; red scales seemed to shimmer with inner infernal fire. Azazel was wearing red robes and a black and gold armor with red sigils etched on it; his golden wings shone like molten gold. His goat foot was visible every time his robes moved around his feet. A red marking in the likeness of a red, burning flame could be seen across his left eye, from above his eyebrow to his cheek. He was had a monstrous beauty; a blasphemous splendor. Azazel slid a lustful look upon Autumn from her head to her toes.
“I am more myself than ever”, he slyly murmured. “Look at me. I am The Warlord, Leader of the Armies from the Abyss; for countless Ages we have awaited our Time to conquer the World of Man – the Time has come. My own power has increased, and it will continue to grow. I shall change the course of the Stars and not even the brightest of Them could oppose to me.”
Azazel folded his wings and took her hand.
“You can be very fortunate or a disgrace, either one you choose”, he said, his voice low and threatening. “You are my wife, but if you disappoint me you shall meet a side of me you don’t want to know of.” Azazel smiled and leaned over, delicately kissing her cheek. He looked into her eyes, then kissed her lips. Azazel held her tightly against his body as he kissed her deeply, not allowing her to move.
Azazel slowly broke the kiss. He swept her off her feet and carried her in his arms; he murmured a spell. The live rock of the cave wall withered and moved like a melted mass, forming a throne of rock, which solidified to shiny onyx. Azazel placed his wife on the throne.
“I will show you how powerful I am”, he assured her with a grin.
The cave shook and began to shift. The place where they were rose like a huge platform and the roof of the cave disappeared, along with part of Moloch’s house. The main wings of the house remained, forming a side wall with her watchtower and its connection to the node intact, live rock walls shining in the strange lights. The Hell Gates were now open to the night sky, the Armies of Demons and demonic creatures shouting and singing, along with the clash of weapons, drums and trumpets anticipating the Battles. On the risen cliff which held his sanctorum, the summoning ground he had prepared seemed to shimmer with an inner will. Azazel cried out in joy.
“Behold the Armies from the Abyss!” Azazel laughed, his bronze eyes shining with hatred for all beings and his burning desire of revenge and conquest.
“This is not all yet… dear wife”, he promised. “It’s a beginning.”
Autumn was filled with a deep sense of dread as she looked down at the malice and chaos that was Hell’s Army. Her face was void of all color, a pale shade of ivory that contrasted heavily against the bright red of her hair. Despite her fear she held her ground, knowing a faint heart wouldn’t get far. With all the heat, Autumn still couldn’t keep from having a chill. She rubbed her arms trying to bring back the warmth, collecting her thoughts to form some sort of delay to distract his attentions.
Leaning forward in the onyx throne, Autumn composed herself as best she could. Her feet barely touched the ground. “Don’t you think it’s… too soon, Lorant?” She questioned, trying to sound concerned. “You have just come back, and so much has happened. There hasn’t been any time for you to rest, or… for us to be alone?” The last part was a strain to get out. Being alone with him was not something she wished, but it might very well prevent him from unleashing his vile plans.
Azazel’s signal had unleashed the vanguard of the Armies to go forth; reading the energies flowing and echoing beneath the skies, he was very aware Moloch’s Legions were already moving. Azazel did not reveal any of this to his wife, but he turned from the sight of the Armies which were euphorically yelling his name and singing their hellish songs of war with and cast a sly, cunning look at is wife from where he stood on the edge of the cliff. Flames licked the walls of rock beyond the cliff and the remnant of Moloch’s house was a phantasmagoric sight with its eerie lights and in the light of the hellish fire beneath it that came from the Gate of Hell. Azazel had fallen silent, listening to her voice. His bronze eyes blazed like infernal carbuncles, his nightmarish gaze fixed on her.
His malevolent smile slowly widened, turning into a blood-curdling grin. Azazel strongly felt the twisted love and the desire of possession Lorant Riktophen had for Autumn, but the Demon’s eyes narrowed. He smelled fear in her, the sensation a warm wine in his veins; but in the twisted emotion he bore he longed for her to truly desire him, to be awed by his power. The hot, foul winds from the Abyss blew upon them, carrying a subtle rain of sparks and burning sulfur.
“Too soon?”, he dryly asked. “It cannot be… dear. We have waited for so long…” Azazel walked over to the throne and the red claw caressed Autumn’s fiery auburn hair. Azazel narrowed his eyes and put up a false sad smile as he did. “You wouldn’t want me to disappoint the Armies, would you? They have been looking forward to… play with the angels.” A mocking, heavy, malevolent snigger could be heard yet Azazel’s lips had not moved – but it was his voice. Azazel leaned over to kiss her and to hold her against him. After that, he impulsively kneeled down and held her tightly, resting his head on her chest. “There’ll be time for us, I promise”, he murmured. His hands slid on her body. “The eternity awaits… and there are ways to help you live the eternity with me.”
This last thought reminded him of something else. Azazel quickly stood and left Autumn on the throne, entirely as if he had forgotten about her. Azazel checked his summoning ground and lit an unholy flame in his hand. “There’ll be a way”, he told his wife, his back to her. “I have someone who is able to make a human immortal. Someone who can rise the dead to true life.” Azazel laughed evilly. “He was my teacher once; I shall bring him to your presence to meet him.” Azazel extended his hand and his solid crystal ball floated from its pedestal to its master. Azazel peered into the Eye and his gaze darkened to a scowl. Through the Eye he saw a dark manor and a battlefield. Angels, Demons and Demonic creatures fought like the waves in a ravaging sea; in a clearance, Moloch and Belial fought. Strangely… a third party seemed to have joined them – Azazel was not certain how or why, but he guessed there was more to Belial’s betrayal that apparent – someone from the Angelic Host was with him.
“Impatient, mischievous demoness”, he murmured. “I told you he is my prey. I told you you’d play with him later.” Azazel smirked. “What have you unlearned in the long years…” Azazel directed the unholy flame in his hand to the first point of Power of his summoning Pentagram, chanting a spell; his aura lit in a terrifying light, nearly becoming a physical force. Azazel conjured one by one the Elements of the World of Man – the Element of his former teacher. The pentagram lines lit in blazing silver; the sigils Azazel had drawn came to life, hissing with strange voices; Azazel rose his hand and chanted, concentrating his power and his will. A shadow appeared – a subtle form was barely visible. Azazel lit the second point and tossed strange things into the pentagram as the summoning ground began to shake.
Angel and Aramis reabsorbed and processed the opposite energies, like a snake canalizing its own poison; Moloch had fled but still if he still knew her, she still hadn’t bid her farewells. Angel and Aramis quickly merged back into Belial, merging the Staff and the Scythe into the Scythe of Simara, waiting for Moloch’s blow.
Suddenly, the ground lit beneath him in a pentagram filled with sigils of power. Belial’s conscience was lightning struck as Azazel’s nightmarish power weighed heavily on him. Azazel was summoning him! The Necromancer gasped as he felt the spell trying to tear him apart, to reach and break his very nature. Belial was pinned to the pentagram that had appeared out of nowhere, trying to cool his racing mind enough to start a counter spell. Belial shifted the Scythe into the Staff and yanked at the tendrils of magic, trying to convert the essence of the spell to scape from it with counter spells. Azazel’s sinister intent to break his nature during the summoning process was blood-curdling. Belial desperately tried to break free, pain ripping through his body and soul.
All Belial’s spells, his will-power were useless. Azazel’s will was too strong – even with the right tools, his spell could not be undone. Away in Moloch’s house, Azazel chanted and worked his magic, dismembering Belial’s nature before pulling him to his presence. Belial continued trying, but there was no avail. He screamed, but his voice couldn’t be heard. Belial fell on his knees holding the Staff; the reality before him was blurry. He could perceive Azazel before him, but he could also see the battle around him. He saw the remains of Moloch’s house, but he also saw… Azrael on the platform, away from him. Belial couldn’t feel his body; only a searing, monstrous pain.
The shape on the pentagram fluctuated and grew; a faint silhouette was visible. Azazel never ceased in his chant, despite a malevolent smile curled his lips; he lit two more of the outer points of the summoning pentagram, conjuring two Elements more. Azazel didn’t look at Autumn, but he sensed the fear within her soul and her body pinned to the throne; he continued his terrible work.
Down the cliff, the Armies moved like a vast sea of dreary eyes, shining armors in the dark beneath the hellish flames that licked the live rock of the cliff. In the shadow before him, Azazel could now see a pair of silver eyes fixed on him; mere glints of silver yet – but the spell was inexorable; Azazel’s gaze blazed in a mix of hatred and joy, his chant never ceasing.
Belial understood with a chill that no matter what he’d try, he wouldn’t be able to scape. Trying to tear the pain from his reasoning, he managed to cast a minor spell of will to pull his armor and his weapon along with him; in the brief instants his self-conscience seemed to fade, the Archdemon felt as if he were falling down a deep, endless chasm. The pain was monstrous; unable to fight to break free, the anguish could drive him crazy. Before the images of the battle faded completely, he could see the Legion Commanders try a desperate intent to rescue him; he saw Mastema fall under Moloch’s whip. Belial fell and suddenly met a solid ground cold and burning with powerful magicks.
His Elements slowly fused into his own self, his body; Azazel didn’t make it a pleasant experience. Belial gasped and coughed when he once again was able to breathe, laying on the summoning ground at Azazel’s feet.