With his wards gathered around him with expertise, the Necromancer flew unnoticed into the night. His exit hadn’t risen suspicions – Moloch kept her word. However now Belial was on his own. The thought made him break in to an unwilling snicker. In that aspect, the situation had not changed much. However he still had to see about many things. He almost wished his Legions would refuse to follow him from now on – if he’d be alone again… he’d be free of further responsibilities. However, this side of him he named Aramis insisted to worry about his followers fate. Belial increased his speed.
Why would I worry any? I won’t serve that spoiled brat. Azrael is out to kill me. Nor Heaven or Hell are for me; I’ll live in the Mortal plane, and most likely I’ll die in it. It’s all the same in the end – what would they threaten me with? Hell? Why would I fear? Belial’s initial relief was turning into a bitter resentment. He had to admit he acted impulsively, but he still was glad he had taken the first step out of the claws of Lucifer’s son.
He reached his house in London. Belial imparted orders to his demonic servants and an unusual activity awoke in the mansion. Documents, amulets, strange objects and books were packed and moved. In less than fifteen minutes the halls were empty, the servants sent to different places the Necromancer had set domain in England and around the world. Belial left the last, building up his wards to keep the appearance that this mansion still was a fortress of his. However the mansion was now as empty as a dry skull.
Belial finally left the mansion. With him as ever he carried the Black Scroll and the Staff of Simara – the only two objects he’d never want to part with. Belial kept his presence low and a human appearance as he walked into the Night, across the park before his former refuge. He’d need to see Mastema first. Mastema’s thought reminded him of Luna. Belial’s brow twitched. “There’s so much to do… so little time”, he murmured as he walked in the thick shadow of the trees.
Raziel had slipped away easily in the cover of the sudden activity; no one thought to stop him, nor ask him where he went. He chuckled mentally at how living among mortals had affected his thinking- as if he were below the ‘noble’ class. Why, if the humans knew his real identity- they’d repent every sin against ‘God’ they had ever imagined. He plucked a wet leaf from the huge oak he leaned against, near the center of a large park situated in the more wealthy district. He spun it between thumb and forefinger, watching tiny drops of water scatter off. Ironic- it, and he, only became more wet as the rain continued to fall. A great summoning was being performed- by the great child of the Fallen himself. A being to be feared, and pitied. His own strength would be his undoing…
As for Raziel himself, he knew it soon would be time for him as well. I will have to pass it on soon… My own powers are waning in this time; I will be long in the returning, if Azrael allows it to be so, this time. Things have changed… For better or worse, I cannot tell- but when the Fallen have gone, I doubt we nor the magic will truly be needed any longer… His short-cropped blond hair stuck to his pale face, giving him an odd, drawn appearance- his eyes were dark-circled and cheeks hollow; to couple these with an air of the ‘fey’ around him, many would have called him specter. Fey- for he knew his own mortality was near. Raziel was always thus when he felt called…
A deep vibration disturbed his thoughts; images and flooded him, of Belial… And his betrayal of the Fallen. Surprised, Raziel allowed the leaf to fall from his fingers. He had closed himself off from contact, so he thought… By leaving himself completely open, and unshielded. No wonder- by the feel of the Sending, it was Moloch- and she had always been mentally strong in such abilities. He closed his eyes, sending thin filaments out to see where all had gone… And was even further surprised to note Belial, swiftly approaching. “A meeting of old friends, then,” he said quietly, and struck off in the direction of his once-pupil.
Belial absently put a strand of raven-black hair behind his ear. The persistent rain continued on, poking the leaves of the trees and the blades of grass with subtle tones his inhuman senses could perceive. He was aware the news were spreading quickly – the Necromancer had left the Armies from the Abyss. Belial, Bliol, as some demons called him, was a traitor. The archdemon’s silver eyes shimmered in the dark.
“So much to do, so little time,” he slowly repeated in a low, dark voice. Then he sensed someone coming his way. Belial’s eyes widened slightly and the shimmer in them went sharper. A shadow’s outline was now visible, whitish in the rain. An angel presence flowed around him. It was… one of his elders, once his teacher. Belial closed his hand; the Staff appeared and the Fallen set it on the ground as he came to a halt. Raziel was heading towards him. It was no way to avoid a confrontation… despite it was not in Belial’s original plans.
Silver eyes shimmered in the dark beneath the trees. “Teacher”, he dryly muttered.
“Student,” Raziel replied, his voice softer and quieter than usual. “Moloch is not subtle in her tidings… Quite unlike her. You must have genuinely surprised her.” He left his hands down at his sides, intimating without saying that he meant no harm and wished no confrontation. “Did you know… Of all the angelic host, it was you she was most fond of? If it were still possible, it could be said she loves you, after her own fashion. As brother, comrade, or lover, I know not, nor does it concern me.” His blue eyes searched the fallen angel’s, looking for some flicker… Of knowing or surprise, Raziel himself was not sure.
“But I must know… Why did you take the Fall, student of mine? You were one of the most gifted, cunning of my own pupils… What did he offer you?” He, being Lucifer, Morning Star of the Heavens. Raziel’s normally cool eyes were curious, compassionate but not pitying… He knew himself as beyond good and evil, but he could not stand and allow the Fallen to destroy the creation.
Belial’s eyes went slightly narrower. He had never put words to the curious affection between Moloch and he; he simply accepted and enjoyed it. Belial doubted now she’d still keep a warm feeling for him after what he had just done… perhaps it had offended her to the core. Belial was forced to reflect on it and realize the loss hurt him. His face remained stern, yet a tiny light in his eyes went out.
“Do you really want to know?”, he asked after a brief silence, his voice slightly hoarse yet calm. “What would be the use to say it now? I see news spread quickly. It might be enough to say, the possibility died with my friend Himself… and his Child is not one I would want to bind my will to.” Belial’s tightened his grip on the Staff, yet he didn’t show intention to attack. He was wary; he always was.
Belial’s whole demeanor showed tension; and perhaps weariness. “Evil feeds upon itself, betrays itself, and destroys itself… For such reasons, true evil can never succeed,” Raziel murmured. That was what was taught by the Heavenly Host… It was true as well; Azazel could never truly rule the earth and heavens. Destroy them, yes… Control them, never. “You left for freedom… To learn what you might of all things, dark as they seemed to others. But you accomplished mighty things- you altered the Book of Life and Death!” Raziel barked a harsh laugh. “But you are denied that freedom by the son of the one whom you swore yourself to.”
Raziel’s gaze switched to the Scythe. “But who truly controlled the Fall? Not Lucifer, surely… He knew there were better ways to create the changed he wanted, in his heart… Who whispered in his ear, in his darkest dreams?” Lilith, of course… And my student should realize this. He was always the most facile learner. She had access to Lucifer’s heart and love; she could influence him. Destroy her, and he would destroy Azazel… For Belial could never hope to defeat Azazel on his own. No one can. And Azazel would never be content to allow the Archdemon a peaceful exile- the creature would hound Belial to the ends of the earth and beyond.
His eyes slipped back to the silver ones before him. “You have come to a crossroads, Belial. You cannot turn back. You only have so many choices, now. Choose wisely- else fear well. There are worse things beyond Heaven, Hell, and Death, which even you should know, maker of the Dark Arts.” Raziel acknowledged Belial’s status, no longer pupil and now again a peer. He turned to go, slowly walking, if Belial should perhaps wish to follow or say something more. Or not, as the old pupil chose.
Belial shivered, as if truly the cold rain could affect him. Raziel words confirmed this, but he already knew he had to move quickly for Azazel would want to hunt him down. His wife would provide a distraction, but once he got her back on his power, Azazel would turn his attention to his former teacher. Raziel’s laughter struck a cord within the Fallen.
Belial gritted his teeth. Of course he knew it was Lilith – he was aware of the influence she held on Lucifer and the influence she lost once she betrayed him. Lucifer had had strong reasons to believe her child was not His. They – Belial and Lucifer – had tried to imprison her by the end of her pregnancy, but the demoness hid from them to give birth and only returned once she carried the Child in her arms. Fortunately for her, it was Lucifer’s son. However from then on she held onto Azazel as her salvation, her Child a strong link to her lover whose love became hatred. Lilith was cautious enough to offer Lucifer another child – Belphegor. But it had always been Azazel her favorite, a carbon copy of the Morning Star. Azazel feared Lucifer – ah he feared him greatly. Stupid Lucifer! Why did he have to die?
“Choose…?” Belial blurted out in a bitter, sarcastic voice. “Is that some kind of joke? I can’t go back to either side – the great things you’ve mentioned I have done have banned me to follow but the horizon.” Belial’s lips curled slightly in a bitter smile. “Perhaps the only freedom I can reach would isolate me from all but from my own death. The truth is, no one cares about anyone when it comes to survival. Do you know”, he continued, “why Azazel has not yet set his hounds after me? His wife lives. He knows that. He wanted me to rise her for him, but now he knows she lives and his mind is set on her.” Belial bit his lip. He caught up with Raziel.
“I don’t care anymore which side would win. I’d get no gain in either case; but I certainly don’t want Azazel to win. There’s a crack in the Ritual I used to rise a body for him and alter the Book of Life and Death. The body still held a sanctified object: his wedding ring. The ring is a bond between the twisted yet powerful love the Baron had for Autumn, and Azazel’s power; if the ring is removed, there’d be a power drop large enough to defeat Azazel. I can’t remove it on my own. Do as you wish with this knowledge.” Belial took a respectful bow to his former teacher.
“Goodbye.” The Fallen continued on his way in the rain, hastening his pace.
Raziel watched Belial continue on his way; there was a ring of untruth in his words from before… But the Archdemon would rediscover himself soon enough. For now, Raziel quickened his own step back to Rishta’s manor, relaying to all of the Host what he had just learned.
Belial sensed Raziel going away as he took his own path across the park. He didn’t turn his head, but Raziel’s words still had the ability to reach into his troubled soul. He had been after all, his teacher; he still somehow had influence over Belial, yet the archdemon in the end would only follow his own reasoning. Belial gathered his wards and looked into the night sky. The purple and black clouds were receding towards Moloch’s house, but the stars were not yet visible. In the back of his mind, Rishta’s words tingled his conscience. The Fallen bit his lip. He hadn’t thought about it upon the sight, but he realized now there was weariness in his former teacher’s face. If an angel like him was slipping into such an state after all the Time he had endured, what could a younger Fallen expect? As the Necromancer, Belial was quite aware of things beyond Life that could befall on his soul… but would it really matter to torture himself with the unavoidable? Belial tightened his grip on the Staff of Simara as he scanned the various demonic traces across London. He sensed Mastema was not at Luna’s anymore, but the Legions had arrived. Belial moved fast across London. He wanted to find Mastema before heading for Luna’s manor.
“Belial.” Samael Norse called, stepping out from a dark alley way as his ‘master’ stalked by. His search for the one that took his soul had drug him all across the city… different spells… different tricks… but it still came back to one realization. He would have to face him to retrieve his soul and bring his life back and once again make everything right.
“You know what I request.” His voice was low, unthreatening but determined in it’s tone. His body stood poised, ready for a reaction of any sort.
Belial had sensed Samael; he recognized him from the park days ago, from long before that; he remembered each and every one of those whose souls he had bought or snatched, binding them to his service. He had no intention or interest to deal with the man without soul, but he stopped upon hearing the voice call him by name. Belial turned to look at him and his silver eyes shimmered darkly.
Samael’s voice was low, unthreatening but determined in its tone, perhaps strangely respectful. Belial straightened his back, his outline an ominous shadow in the dim light of a gas street lamp on the empty sidewalk. Belial frowned.
“We agreed a nice bargain”, he said with a sort of mocking smile. “I believe I have honored my part of the deal… Why then do you want to nullify the contract?” Belial gave a step into the dim, yellowish light of the street gas lamp. He looked like a man in his late twenties, proud and beautiful in his dark demeanor; unlike him, Samael had changed. White strands showed in his hair; he had aged in the long years. “I am curious”, Belial murmured.
“I have gained nothing, and lost everything!” Samael murmured, his voice still low but slightly strained. He shuffled his feet uncomfortably. The demon would not even be walking this plane if it weren’t for the personal war between himself and Johnathon Morris. One mistake that cost the lives of so many…
“MORRIS! I’ll kill you once and for all!” Samael raised the talisman, chanting an ancient phrase of summoning. Morris too raised his own talisman in response, chanting something of his own. The air around them both seemed to heat up, crackles of lightning and fire opening a portal over their heads…
Scowling, Samael retorted again. “I wish to redeem myself. If I must re-seal you, and every last demon I sat free…”
Belial arched an eyebrow. “What a laudable purpose”, he said in sarcasm. “What a remarkable optimism. You surprise me.” Belial’s lip curled in a dark smile. “So, am I supposed to give your soul back so you can set after this new goal…?” He was about to say, this new goal against me and my brethren, but he didn’t end the phrase. Belial watched Samael. For a brief instant, he saw some similarity between his situation and his. “Evil feeds upon itself, betrays itself, and destroys itself… For such reasons, true evil can never succeed”, Raziel had said. Belial’s bit his lip. “Why do you want to redeem yourself?”, he asked. His voice had changed; his eyes widened slightly. “You’ve spent your life among demons and creatures of evil – mortal as you are, you won’t live much longer. Isn’t it too late for you? Why then…?”
The portal opened… hoards of spirits and creatures flowed through the cracks… Samael did his best to cease his summon, but not chant would work! A child coming out of it’s home was met with a blood starved demon… Samael shielded his ears from the scream…
Samael snorted lightly, he expected the demon to laugh and strike him down. This interest he seemed to have in Samael’s reasons had his own curiosity peaked. He remembered the woman — half angel — that spoke with Belial before. He could hear next to nothing, but that seemed to strike him as odd… Was this demon holding his own regrets? “I wanted the power to save lives… not to take them away.” he finally replied. Watching the demon’s expressions carefully. There was something more, his bond allow him to sense it… but nothing else. “My life holds little meaning to me. Unlike you and your brethren, I can’t live forever… But I can make sure the lives of others are spared from the mistake I made…”
Belial listened in silence to Samael’s words. His expression became thoughtful as he weighed the man’s words. Less than twenty-four hours earlier he would’ve killed the man without hesitation; now something held him from doing so. Like Raziel had pointed out, Belial had wished freedom to learn and increase his knowledge, but at first he had meant no harm. At first, it seemed the right thing to do. Lucifer had promised they’d be free. Belial’s brow twitched as he battled himself in search for the course of action he was going to take.
Belial bit his lip and his dark appearance seemed to change for a brief instant.
Belial cast Samael a piercing look. He rose his hand and opened it; he murmured infernal words and light shone through his long pale fingers. The soul in his hand was warm; it has a soft beat, like a wounded bird.
The archdemon walked to Samael. The outline of his body in the twilight seemed to reveal a different, winged form; a subtle sound of a metal armor rhythmically tapped at the man’s ears, yet it wasn’t visible. Belial rose his other hand and traced a sigil in the air before Samael. A beam of power pierced the man as Belial recited a spell he rarely if ever used; the sigil of his Name and his Seal were now visible on Samael’s chest. The Seal cracked and disappeared; Belial used the soul to bind the life to the man’s body, so life wouldn’t scape as the Seal cracked. The ritual was brief. The soul had been restored.
Belial gave a step back as Samael fell to his knees, the power of the demon flowing out, being replaced by the soul’s own strength. Belial watched him for a brief instant. “Do as you said, if you can”, he said and it could be said it was Aramis who looked down at the Occultist. “I almost wish you would succeed. Farewell, then; may your path and mine never cross again.” Belial vanished.
“I’ll be back soon!” Mastema had cheerfully announced to Luna before leaving her grounds and venture into London. The Lupa was as stern as Belial – no wonder they got along so well. Invisible, Mastema flew about for a while, zooming on things that called for his interest. He had gathered the Legions with his seven peers, each in charge of ten legions under Belial’s command. They were a small contingent in comparison to other forces of the Abyss armies, but after all they were a elite service – necromancers and warlocks of great skill. Belial had taught them well. The Necromancer’s most recent deed, changing the Book of Life and Death at his will, had effectively cheered up the demons. Mastema was proud in his own fashion – he admired Belial but he always got the impression that Belial was a little off-center in his head.
After a little while, Mastema was drawn to the Angelic Host headquarters – had to be, due to the energies and wards, plus Belial had mentioned this. The wards would warn of intruders but they wouldn’t atop anyone from venturing in, so Mastema gathered his wards the best he could to go unnoticed and sneaked into the property.
Mastema took the shape of a tabby cat and skittered across the gardens, playing in the moonlight. He even hunted a mouse for fun and noticed mice had changed a little since he got stuck in the Abyss. Mastema carried the mouse to the manor and left it at the side door, where he sat for a while scratching his ear and reading the various energies he could perceive. Suddenly, the tabby pricked his ears up.
She’s here, too!
Mastema skittered to a tree and climbed it, jumping onto the manor’s roof and running on it. He jumped to a window sill and peered inside.
The tabby rubbed against the window pane and let out a soft purr. He peered inside again through the glass. A woman slept on a bed – an angel of beautiful face. The tabby sat and wrapped his tail around him.
How wonderful to know you are alive and well, Adriel… I’d rather capture you myself to know you would not be harmed… Mastema didn’t send the words to Adriel, but he purred again. The warlock changed back to his demon form and proceeded to scratch the stone wall around the window in a special shape, chanting strange words in a low, loving voice. He floated off the wall. After a few seconds, tiny plants grew out of the scratches in the shape he had carved, forming a vine. The vine prospered fast and bloomed. A sweet scent of roses filled the air.
Mastema picked his pockets for parchment. Forming a quill out of thin air, he quickly wrote down something he had read at Luna’s library; it was a bit sappy, but it would work, hopefully. He put the note in the vine. With a grin, Mastema flew down to the ground, retaking his tabby form. The cat skittered about till a light drizzle began to fall. Annoyed, the tabby sat beneath one of the solarium large windows to avoid getting wet.
Raphael opened the door and entered the room. He looked around as he walked to Adriel’s bedside. He thought he heard something earlier. Raphael sat down by Adriel’s bedside and felt her temperature on the forehead. Seemed fine. Raphael leaned backwards on the chair, relaxing. He had not realized the presence of Mastema yet. Touching his injured and bandaged arm, Raphael muttered soft complaints to himself.
Outside the solarium, the tabby cat peered inside through the glass, sitting among some plants that adorned the glass panels on the outer side. He saw humans, an annoyed Gabriel in human guise and annoying Uriel in human guise, as well. Mastema was tempted to retake his demon form and make faces at Uriel through the glass with the horrible face he wore just to make her scream – he could try that later. Her snobbish coldness and lack of compassion had struck Mastema’s life way back before.
The tabby skittered along the wall and found a hole to hide in. He sensed Raphael’s presence now, awfully near to Adriel’s. Mastema curled up in the hole and waited, keeping guard over the energies to know what was going on.
Adriel moved slightly in her sleep and a small, soft sigh came out of her lips. Still asleep, her dreams were mixed up with angelic memories, diaphanous like a blue, cloudless summer morning sky. In her dreams she saw many angels which were now Fallen as they had been before the Fall, dwelling among the Angelic Host. Even Lucifer was there, with his bright bronze eyes and mischievous, yet still innocent smile. On her duties, Adriel had to go into the world and return many times, going through the Heaven Gates. On one of the watchtowers, one of the Gate Keepers would always have a gentle word to her… He had cheerful green eyes; for some reason he came to her memory.
Adriel then felt a gentle touch on her forehead and a familiar presence. The angel moved against her pillow and turned on her side, resting her cheek on her hand.
The tabby flicked an ear as Uriel hurriedly left the building, running to some place beyond the gardens. The warlock swished his tail angrily and pondered. Should I follow her or should I stay… I don’t want to leave Adriel all alone with Raphael… yet he’s kind of harmless – just an overgrown child… I’ve just wished for the chance to see Uriel, but… The tabby scratched his ear.
It’s Tabris. A furious Tabris; the fool can’t cover his presence properly. Not like he’s been trained for it… or else, he doesn’t want to cover up. What’s going on…? Mastema was too curious – and not precisely because of his present cat form.
Adriel’s eyelids fluttered. Slowly, the angel’s dreams vanished as she woke up. Adriel curled up, trying to get some more sleep; a soft smile showed in her green and golden eyes upon seeing Raphael sitting on a chair near the bed; she had felt his presence before waking up.
Adriel frowned slightly, still blinking in the dim light. Raphael had been badly injured and still wore some bandages on his arm. “Raphael… how are your wounds?”, she softly asked. “I see you are better… but perhaps you’d better be at rest now…” Adriel stifled a yawn.
Adriel was awake! Mastema’s heart leapt. The demon in cat form flicked his ears excitedly. One of his ears turned to the wall as he perceived the humans were leaving. Mastema blinked. The humans leaving so abruptly made him curious, but Adriel was more important now. He felt like purring, but then he remembered Raphael was in Adriel’s room. The tabby hissed.
Drats, not now!!! Mastema meowed in frustration as he perceived Belial’s call. He didn’t dare to refuse, though. With a start, he realized Belial was not too far away.
Hm. I guess I’m in trouble again… The tabby skittered into the garden, trying to stay out of the rain, but there was no avail. He climbed a tree and made his way after Belial’s call’s path from one tree to the other. Flashes and strange lights danced in the distance. Michael and his swordie, he thought. Tabris is already doomed, the idiot. If he was of better worth, I’d stay to pick up his soul! The tabby quietly ran away in the maze of branches.
Adriel rubbed her eyes, still sleepy. She pulled a coat to wear over her nightgown and put it on before getting up. Adriel still sensed something strange was going on in the manor’s grounds. The girl hugged herself and walked to the window, which she pushed open. A scent of roses came into the room. Adriel sensed a scent of magicks in the sweet perfume. An unnatural vine had crept around her window, forming a wreath of red roses and dark green leaves. Adriel was amazed, her green and gold eyes wide in wonder. A sweet feeling was mixed in the scent of the roses.
Adriel saw a piece of parchment stuck in the vine; she took it and opened it, reading the jumpy, thin letters.
But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Adriel is the sun!
Adriel blushed. She turned the parchment around, looking for a signature. However she already knew who was the Fallen who had performed this wonder, she still was surprised to see the name. “Mastema”, Adriel murmured.
Raphael woke up from his nap when he thought he felt Adriel moving away. He rubbed his eyes and looked at Adriel’s shadow. Her head was lowered and she was holding onto a parchment in her hands. Despite the distance, Raphael could hear the name she uttered silently.
Raphael got up and walked silently over. He did not warn Adriel of his presence behind her at all. He peered over the Adriel’s shoulder. He read the poem. His face flushed red with anger. What a bold act! The demon had hidden his scent well from him.
Raphael walked out of the room and slammed the door shut.
Adriel shook in surprise when the door slammed shut, snapping her out of her daze. Raphael was gone! Adriel blinked and suddenly felt awfully vulnerable.
Adriel pressed her hands on her cheeks, blushing. “When did he do this…? Mastema might be still around – maybe he’s not alone!” Adriel quickly got dressed and rushed out of the room.