Raziel landed outside and modified his spell to hold Raphael horizontal, supporting him on a stretcher of air. “Do not even move before you can be treated, Raphael. You could do permanent damage, and Uriel is sorely exhausted,” he admonished.

Walking in, he saw Uriel laid out with the others gathered around her anxiously. Raziel walked to the healer angel’s side, an unhappy, badly burnt Raphael floating helplessly at his side. “Your services are needed once more, Uriel. Raphael is badly burned.” He placed a hand above her chest and once more imparted his personal energy. Too much more of this and I’m going to require payment. I am not a battery.

“I see that the vampire left… And why has Uriel fainted?” His brows drew together in concern; she would be needed in future battles, and Raziel did not have the ability to heal Raphael’s wings. “Someone bring cool, wet cloths… We need to dress Raphael’s burns and keep them from festering.”

Though startled by Uriel’s state, Raphael refused to show his concern. He struggled against Raziel’s spell and he muttered, “I don’t need help. Not from someone who can’t even help herself now.”
Raphael tried to flap his wings. He could, but not without stinging pain with no thanks to the burns inflicted by Moloch.

Sitting on the floor, Adriel was startled to perceive the smell of burnt flesh and feathers coming from Raphael. Her eyes filled with tears in a mix of anguish for his current state, remorse for having allowed him to go with her and then having to leave him behind, and frustration for being on the limit of her strength. When she coughed, her handkerchief got stained in blood. Adriel furrowed her brow at this as the tears momentaneously blocked her vision; she tucked the handkerchief back into her pocket before others could see it. “Cool, wet cloths…”, she murmured, struggling to get back on her feet and trying to ignore the pain.

“Angels you may be, but indestructible you are not…” Autumn laughed wearily at the mess the whole lot of them seemed to be involved in. For a greater power, they ended up wounded and battle stricken more times in the span of two days than she ever had within a month. It was almost ironic.

“The Lady of the manor seems to be indisposed at the moment, so I’ll be taking charge then.” Standing from her spot next to Uriel, Autumn summoned the first household servant she came across, ordering to bring others to retrieve the fallen and take them to appropriate rooms. Another she ask to bring fresh dressings and water to take care of the wounded with. Quickly understanding her tones, the servants did as she pleased… Two coming to take Uriel to a more comfortable room.

“Mr. Morris, please help Adriel to one of the prepared rooms, she needs her rest. Mr. McCoullagh, bring the ‘Needer of No help’ along with me. I can take care of him until Uriel has had her rest. If I hear protest out of any one of you, you’ll woefully regret having ears!” Not waiting for those protests or replies, she motioned for Raziel to follower her and lead to way to one of the rooms.

Raziel nodded and buoyed Raphael along behind him as he followed Autumn into another, cleaner room. The solar was a wreckage now; hopefully the servants would repair the damage before Rishta could see. It was not his way to injure his host’s home!

“Right away,” Johnathon replied, a bit surprised at Autumn’s sudden take-charge attitude. Still, it wasn’t like he had anything better to do. And as long as he made himself useful, he was happy. “Come along, Lady Adriel. There must be a bedroom somewhere around here for you.”

Adriel concentrated to pull herself back to her feet. She took in a deep breath and touched the nearest piece of furniture for support as her knees threatened to let her fall again. Adriel’s jaw was set as she was determined to impose her will to her wounded body.
“I will follow you, Mr. Morris”, she said, yet she cast a worried look at Raphael as they left the solarium.
I’m sorry I got you into this, Raphael…

Johnathon had no idea where he was going in the large house, but the bedrooms were always on the second floor for some reason. Leaving the solarium with Adriel in tow, Johnathon passed through the front rooms, and led her up the stairs. It wasn’t until he got to the bedroom door that he realized the strange absurdity of it all. Imagine, a second-rate occultist, leading an angel to rest! Every bishop on the island would have an absolute fit if they knew.

“I certainly hope this isn’t the master bed,” Johnathon commented as he led Adriel inside. “Still, under the conditions, I’m certain we’ll be forgiven.” Allowing Adriel to sit, Johnathon gave a relieved sigh as he looked around the room. Eventually, his eyes came back to Adriel, despite his better efforts to keep them away. He hated to stare, but it was almost as if he couldn’t help himself. She looked so…normal. Very much unlike the angels of the Scriptures. She was either hiding her true form beneath a human guise, or the legend had greatly exceeded the reality.

“W…well, I suppose that’s all,” Johnathon added after a moment, taking a few steps towards the door. “I’m certain that if there’s anything you need, it will be provided for you. Ah…thank you again for the rescue, Lady Adriel. Again, if there’s anything you require of me, don’t hesitate to ask.” Johnathon took one more step towards the door, and bumped into it, having forgotten to swing it open again. Muttering something under his breath, he pulled it open, and quickly rushed out into the hall.

Adriel blinked at the occultist’s attitude towards her. She tried her best to hide a smile when he bumped against the door on his way out; the man practically fled from the room. Adriel grinned once he left, closing behind him. The man was grateful fro the rescue, yet he still seemed to be overwhelmed by the recent revelations. He had looked at her as if he expected to see her clad in bright white with an halo, wings and a flaming sword. Adriel sighed, still smiling; then she took her angelic form.

She slowly made her way to the room’s closet. She found some fresh clothes to change hers. Adriel picked some things and entered the adjacent bathroom for a quick bath. She took a little time to clean herself and enjoy her bath. Afterwards, she got dressed and sat on a stool in the bedroom to relax some by grooming her wings and combing her hair. Since she had four wings, it took her sometime to finish her task. Adriel weaved her hair in a simple braid and got in bed, taking her human form again. She was so tired… She needed rest and some food to allow her body to fully heal… but she was too tired to call anyone for food. Adriel piled up some pillows behind her and closed her eyes, trying to sleep. She murmured a prayer. She missed her human family… Raphael was back. She hoped he’d be alright… Adriel pulled the covers to her chin as a soft sleep came to her.

Raziel chuckled as he began to tend to Raphael’s wounds; he was skilled with the science of chirurgery. Though his hands were gentle, though, Raphael whined and moaned and complained as his wounds were bound in dry cloth. Wet would cause the flesh to stick and pull off, creating worse wounds and making infection not only possible but highly likely. As he went along, Raziel utilized his small healing skills, trying to halt the progression of shock.
“Stay away, Raphael,” he warned sternly.

“Stay away?” Raphael repeated stupidly, “From what?”
Raphael looked around and was feeling both sick and bored. He didn’t want to be stick in this room forever! He looked at Raziel and asked, “How’s my injury? I can still run and jump about, right? I don’t want to be an invalid.”

“From the shadow. And yes, you are now an official invalid- enjoy it while it lasts.” Raziel shook his head. “Undoubtedly, all of the females in this manor will dote on you and feed you.” And not only your stomach, but your ego.

“I would assume trouble, though, Mr. McCoullagh might have something else in mind.” Autumn mentioned as she cleared away the soiled and useless bits of bandaging. She silently wondered if it where just the male population in general that couldn’t bare to hold still while being taken care of.

Raphael scowled, not liking the riddles Raziel always spoke in. He scoffed grumpily at all the fussing as he scooted down on the bed. He was worried about Adriel…

Azrael continued summoning the Dark, building a shadow on the other, calling the Night upon them. Azrael chanted imperturbably as their energies spun a thick web; Belial’s trying to suffocate hers, Azrael’s trying to bind him in a gentle, chilling grasp. When the Dark grew thicker enough, Azrael drew a sigil in the air – her Seal entwined with her name as written on the Dark Side of the Moon. The Night closed around them like a wing that folds and Azrael summoned Filos in the shape of a Spear. She revealed herself in the Dark and her gaze met Belial’s.
“I have found out something about you”, she said. “A secret of yours.”

Belial was startled; he faltered slightly in his control of the tainted Dark but quickly recovered. A secret of mine…? His first thought was Rishta had spoken to Azrael and had revealed to the archangel… Belial’s silver eyes shimmered in the Dark and he turned the Staff into the Scythe of Simara. I knew I should have killed that hybrid!
“I have many secrets, Dark One”, he defiantly replied. “Occultism is MY field. I do not wish to discuss such matters with you – Face me!” He dashed at her with the scythe.

Azrael blocked the attack with Filos, spun the spear to avoid getting it caught by the scythe; like a dance step, she turned in the same movement and aimed to his side with the pole of her weapon. “This is one that has caught my interest”, she said. “I had my suspicions. I’ve confirmed them.”

Belial paled. He almost automatically blocked the hit with the pole of the Scythe, turned it and the blade of the Scythe zoomed towards Azrael’s body. Confirmed…?! What suspicions…? He bit his lip out of sudden nervousness. “I don’t want to know!”, he bawled as the scythe hissed in its way to the archangel’s body.

Azrael hit the Scythe with Filos to nullify it’s trajectory with a similar blow, forced the clashing weapons in a round motion pushing the Scythe down and with the same fore impelled herself up, delivering a kick to Belial’s side.

The hit sent Belial some meters away; he spread his wings and hovered. He spun the Scythe but Azrael had disappeared again into the shadows. Belial searched for her using his power over tainted shadows. Damn Rishta! I’ll kill her when I can find her! I knew she would betray me! Belial was angry and anguished; also sort of scared.

“I had not expected this from you”, her voice came out of the shadows. “In a way, I was not surprised to find this in you.”

Belial was pale, but now all color drained from his face. He felt awfully vulnerable. The Dark had closed around him, like if the world would have disappeared.
“I guess that is true. I did not plan on it…”, he murmured.

“I know”, Azrael replied. “It can make you vulnerable, if the demons find out.”

Belial’s heart sank. He began to blush.
“I guess it doesn’t matter. You already know…”

Azrael frowned slightly, reappearing. “I don’t understand why you did that.”

“Did what?”

Azrael blinked. “That”, she insisted. “Look at yourself. The Dark Sigil of my Name’s power has seeped through your Veil – that’s why I summoned it.”

Belial blinked. He looked at himself. A soft radiance came out of him – the angelic nature that remained in him. Then it clicked.
She doesn’t know I love her! Belial gawked at Azrael in indignation. Azrael was a little perplexed.

“I don’t understand something. What were you trying to accomplish with that Ritual? You split in Light and Dark powers by mistake, but it has as many advantages as disadvantages, besides… you could have killed yourself.” As she spoke, Belial’s eyes widened in outraged fury.

“Wait!”, he blurted out. “I’m going to KILL YOU!”
Azrael blinked. Belial turned the Scythe back to the Staff and cast a spell of Destruction to break the Dark Sigil bounds over the Dark around them and use the energy against the archangel.

Azrael rose her hand and a crack opened in the Dark, letting in a beam of moonlight; it shone over the Dark Sigil as Belial’s magicks clashed on it. There was a large implosion; lightning cracked. The shadows seemingly formed a vacuum, absorbing the air and one of the chimneys on the roof of Essendre’s house; it sucked in the deep, thick Darkness inside which the archangel and the archdemon had been fighting, making them perceivable again to their brethren. Azrael coolly raised an eyebrow as the vacuum force pulled at her.
“You’d better watch out – you’re losing your temper. But again… why did you split yourself?”

“And you dare to ask?!” Belial’s eyes flashed. He chanted a spell and flicked his hand at the growing black hole; his Seal projected onto it and with a flash, the vacuum closed and disappeared along with the glowing seal. The scythe described an arc, the blade shining brightly in the raising moon light – Belial caught the pole with his free hand and turned in its spinning motion to slash at Azrael.

Azrael quickly spun her spear; the wake of the shining blade created a shield of dark energies as she regained her defensive position.

As the Scythe slashed towards Azrael, Belial summoned one of his Elements – Fire. A circle of black and silver flames surrounded him and got thrown at Azrael in the vacuum created by the mighty slash of the Scythe of Simara; Azrael’s shield of dark energies shattered like glass.

Azrael darted up, dodging the attack and spun the Spear, catching the flames in a circle of fire; her Dark grew, menacing to put the flames out. Her cold gaze shone darkly as she chanted another spell; the wheel of fire turned white and a black light beamed out of it, surrounding Belial; she was reverting the energies and creating a Portal.

Belial roared in anger. He narrowed his eyes to see better in the blinding light; he was about to use his own Light to counterattack, but he refrained himself just on time – after all, Moloch and her demons would see that and that… would be no good. He cried out a spell of Destruction. The moonlight seemed to change into a bundle of swords, the Dark around him growing thicker, absorbing the black Light to put out the force of her spell.

Azrael continued her chant, imperturbable. Her wings spread and many fiery eyes seemed to shine in the black feathers; her might increased and the moonlight changed again. Azrael stopped the Spear and the circle of fire darted towards Belial; a Portal to send him away. Belial darted to the side to elude the Portal’s trajectory, but Azrael flicked her hand and the Portal followed him. Belial held the Scythe with one hand and rose the other to summon his Seal, but Azrael rose her Spear and touched a beam of moonlight, refluxing it towards him with terrible precision; the light carried the sharpness of the blade and Belial gasped when a cut appeared in his flesh – that brief distraction was enough and he could not complete his spell on time; the Portal absorbed him. The circle of flames spun and zigzagged as if out of control as Belial struggled in the dimensional threshold to pull himself free; it zoomed past Azrael like a wheel of fire. Belial managed to reach out and grab her foot; Azrael was pulled in as well. The spinning fiery wheel went smaller and disappeared in a huge flash just before crashing onto the roof.

Belial stomped his foot on the wet grass in frustration. Azrael and he and fought in the Portal threshold; they had crossed several dimensions and had been to places he knew, others he did not know and others he has wished he could forget. Finally, he lost her somewhere and got lost in a maze of planes – it had cost him quite a bit to find his way back to Britain.

He was even tempted not to return. To Hell with Azazel and his plans, along with the Angelic Host! Life was easier when he was on his own. Belial was furious. The dark landscape smelled strongly of water and herbs, wet soil and night flowers; it was a marshland, vast and dark. Moonlight filtered through rags of clouds. Belial put his hair out of his eyes and stared at the moon.

“Why does everything have to go so wrong?”, he mumbled. “Damn Azrael… I thought she…” He was about to say ‘I thought she knew’ but he refrained from saying so. His hand was bleeding. Belial improvised a bandage with a handkerchief, growling under his breath.
“Damn hybrid, too…”
He gazed around. The marshland brought him bitter memories…

He remembered when disaster struck and the Ritual failed. He had found himself in an unbearable pain, being two instead of one; one filled with hatred and Dark, the other filled with the burning emotion he had tried to tear from his soul and Light; the worst abomination he could have ever dreamed. But it was no dream, not even a nightmare he could wake up from; it was his very own Hell. He had fought Himself. Long both battled, trying to annihilate each other till they came to the bitter realization that they were not separate enough to survive each other. Belial was probably no more…

The demon had abandoned the angel. Long they wandered that night in opposite directions, trying to scape from this terrible reality that had stricken them, but despite whatever they did, they were inexorably bound to each other: the angel and the demon. The angel got lost in a marshland near a river; wounded and exhausted, he collapsed and lost track of the world. When he woke up, he was in such a state of shock he could not utter a word for days. A group of monks found him. Taking him for a lost, robbed traveler, the monks took him to their monastery and nursed him back to health. Despite the veil, the monks eventually came to suspect they had found an angel in the marshlands…

But then the demon came back to fetch him.

Belial’s lip trembled slightly. “And she dared… to ask why…” He bit his trembling lip with a fierce light to his silver eyes. I must secure my grip and silence that hybrid. If she speaks… Belial took flight.
I need to know more about her. All I can find out… Then I’ll plot some personal hell for her. He narrowed his eyes flying swiftly, using the stars as guide back to London.

Walking up into the forested zone, Rishta one again appeared next to the lake, and the images it brought into her mind. Summers, friends, memories. Nostalgia… Shaking her head she walked next to the water, unable to even dip her feet in due to the restrictions of society. Shoes, stockings, long skirts. Those we not always necessary in her day… you could take them off when you were alone… and…

“Memories… interesting how you can live forever and STILL picture things so clearly…” Rishta murmured, kneeling down and gently touching the water with the tips of her fingers. The lake was so pretty at this time, when the moon reflected off of the surface, making it seem like liquid diamond. Such a thing man could never own or tame. Such perfection could never be recreated – no matter how far man went in his success.
It is so amazing… how man has progressed so far into the world. Almost like destiny is just there now… lost in a vision that the world cannot explain. Rishta then went off reminiscing into the night, dreaming of days that seemed so close, and yet so far.

Michael leaned against the tree, hidden by the shadow as he watched the Lady gently touching the pool of water. Her eyes looked so far off as if she were thinking of days gone past. Michael knew and understood the feeling well. Days where your greatest concern was dinner, and having clean socks… But then again, Michael was always an angel. In the back of his mind, his responsibilities loomed, forever reminding him of his true calling, his real purpose.
In another time, love… We’ll both be free.
Smiling to himself, he cast his glance downward towards the earth. He wanted to reach out for the Lady, and call her name. But for now… it was best not to disturbed her. After all, she’d just lecture him for being out of bed.

Rishta continued to glance at the lake, and how the moon danced on the surface. It was so pretty… and the moon was so full. Almost unnatural. So familiar too, although she knew it could not have happened so clearly before. But the memory… someone. If only she could remember.
Sitting on a rock, she leaned back against the trunk of a tree, gazing at the appearing stars. Something… she needed to remember. It was necessary, for something… With a small gasp, she seemingly slumped against the tree, eyes closing and seeming blank.

Rishta was standing a bit ahead of “her” standing in front of a lake. Wait… wasn’t she Rishta? She was seeing herself… but there was someone else there. Straining, she tried to catch a glimpse of who, but could only determine that he was a he. And… what… opening her eyes in somewhat shock, she saw them kiss. Something was so sweet and painful in that one moments, Rishta felt as though her heart had been torn out. They seemed so perfect… so, together. Blinking, she saw the scene change. Red. Blood. Rivers of blood. “No…. I don’t want to.” but the scene focused on the shadow figure. Blood. “No…” With a stunned look, Rishta thought she knew who it was. But that was impossible. Then the scene flashed again… the same idea, but another man… and again the man died. With a flash, she was in a sea of dark memories, her mind allowing her body to rest in the physical world, while she figured out the puzzle…

Outside, the figure of Rishta remained crumpled, cheeks stained with tears that had flowed. Her duty, to keep destiny – her curse, to not tell. The truth: she didn’t know how.

It was all of three seconds as Rishta slid to the ground, that Michael was at her side, gently brushing hair from her face and feeling her forehead. “Hey… cookie?” He was concerned. She looked so pale, and so disturbed as if she saw visions of things she never wanted to think.

Rishta’s eyes fluttered open as she felt a warm hand upon her forehead, and the word cookie being said. It is Michael… but why isn’t he in bed… I don’t… ugh. With somewhat of an effort, she opened her eyes, and smiled as both of their eyes connected, and she felt his hand brushing her hair. Without knowing why, a soft rose tinge appeared in her cheeks, and she bit her lip in embarrassment.

“I am sorry if I scared you Michael… it was just a vision. Have you eaten?” Rishta murmured, knowing the answer. But, before he could say anything and before she turned even more crimson, she placed one finger on his lips, silencing him.

Michael smiled as she pressed a finger to his lips, and remained silent. He watched her eyes, and softly stroked her hair from her face. Rishta was so strong and independent, yet during a moment like this all he could ever want to do was protect her. She felt so fragile.

Allowing her mind to wander for a brief second, Rishta thought about her ruins… there was someone there. And not just any someone – Belial. Hmm… to see him, or not to see him… some part of her wanted to know the truth – the other part heeded Azrael’s warning about him not to be trusted. But everyone deserved a second chance… not to mention, he had been somewhat kind to her, and she doubted if he was truly evil. Remember Rosi… no man is truly evil. A truly evil person could slap an innocent child while reprimanding them – and then feel no pity or guilt for the tears of the youth. A man who can do that is rare – so never be quick to judge… can you remember that darling…? Her mother’s words rang in her mind. Belial wasn’t evil… maybe he had been confused. She just HAD to find out!

Blinking once to ease the tension in her heart, she whispered: “You should be resting… go back inside, I will be back soon… there is something I need to see. Please, go and eat – I will be there, I promise.” Not allowing him a moment to argue, she gently detached herself then backed off, expanding her wings. With a final wave, she took off, and headed for her home.

Michael looked perplexed as Rishta pulled herself from his arms and took flight across the lake towards the ruins that must have been a former home. He could feel someone powerful there. Belial. A long scowl form across his face as she watched across the lake. Michael wanted to follow after her, to protect her if there was danger… but her knew Rishta would resent it. If she felt she needed to speak with Belial, he would trust her instincts.

Belial flew swiftly and silently, carefully hiding his presence once he reached London. The high-speed flight and the cold night’s air had helped him to cool down some. He was still extremely annoyed, though – he had to admit Azrael drove him crazy. She possibly was the only being able to make him lose his temper like that! Belial desperately wondered why he had been cursed with this love for the Head of the Order of Death and Destruction. Thinking back over the moment when he thought she had discovered his secret love for her… How absurd it would be! What’d be the use anyway…? Damn I’d rather erase Rishta’s name off her Book myself! He increased his speed in frustration and anger; the air hummed in his ears. He abruptly came to a halt and landed on a roof.

Belial pulled his shoulders back and swept a look over London, his wings spread. He began tracking the holy energies; it didn’t take him long to find Farishta Manor. Belial took flight and flew very high over the place, taking a nice air view before going down. Raziel’s wards protected the Manor… Belial could see well his work, for he himself had taken some studies under Raziel’s direction. In the manor… Well, the manor was the Angelic Host Headquarters, it seemed. Azazel’s wife sure was there, too. Beyond the manor there was a small lake, and on the opposite shore there were the ruins of another manor; for the disposition of the foundations and the remains of the thick stone and brick walls, Belial set an approximately date back in the early Middle Ages. The ruins were abandoned – unprotected. Near the lake he spotted Rishta herself… and another unpleasant presence. Belial was not in the mood to be social, so he flew to the old ruins and landed beyond them, in a small glade on the other side of the ruins, if we take the lake as point of reference.

Belial carefully folded his wings and examined the glade. He could perceive the stench of killing and battle long before extinct for others. He wandered in the small area from one high point of energies to another. Going closer to the ruins, he touched the remains of a wall.
Rishta used to live here, he decided. There’s discord… fear… joy. Hatred blew against the place and a fire destroyed it – a battle. Belial was puzzled.
Why didn’t she rebuilt over the old foundations? The masonry is good. It would’ve been cheaper, too – but again, not like the Rishta-thing has some common sense in her head.

Belial walked down the hill over which the castle ruins were and found himself near the outer Wall. He continued on his field trip, sliding his hand close to the wall, then came to a halt. Azrael has been here… so long ago… Belial summoned his Staff and had a rather cocky smile. Raziel had taught him this little trick he was about to use – that’s one of the advantages of being a first-class student! The teachers get enthused about your intelligence and teach you the best stuff available.

Belial reverted part of the energies he had drained from Johnathon’s ward into holy energies, canalizing them into the spell Raziel taught him. The air before him stirred and rippled like a water surface; in it he saw images from the past.
“I need sound…”
Belial worked on his spell till words flew from the past like a soft murmur. He kept it low. A man – by his insignia and clothes, the manor Lord – was fighting demons. Not any man – an angel! Not any angel, either.

It’s… Belial blinked. Nah! This has to be some kind of joke! He looked more closely. Cadmiel…?!! Cadmiel, the Angel of Destiny is Rishta’s father? Hehehehe that explains quite a bit… Belial was quite amused at the discovery. He waved his hand and the images changed. Now the demons were gone and Cadmiel was agonizing.

“I remember what you used to say”, Belial murmured, despite the angel was not really there, nor he’d be able to hear him. “You should have paid heed to your own words…” Azrael appeared in the image. Belial sharpened his hearing. Azrael and Cadmiel exchanged few words about some promise and blood bounds; teaching his daughter Rishta and training. Azrael cast one of her spells and put Cadmiel’s soul into his sword, using her Seal to seal him in. Then she left. Belial was amazed.

“Vaya!”(1) The image died down. Belial ran up hill and into the ruins. He used the spell in a larger scale, using wards to make it visible to his eyes only. The stones scattered among the ruins went up, rebuilding the Angel Manor as it used to be when Cadmiel lived. Belial wandered among a crowd of ghosts, watching curiously their way of living; he used the Staff to “simonize” forth and back in the years. He saw Rishta in different stages of her life like if he were in a live theatre. Finally, the battle that destroyed the manor and her flee in despair at seeing her people die.

Belial got deep in thought. He broke a section of the spell. All ghosts disappeared. The phantom castle endured yet. Belial went down stairs and back to the courtyard; his steps echoed in the phantasmagoric building. Belial spread his wings and stifled a yawn.
“Cadmiel’s daughter. How absurd…” He picked at one of his wings and thoughtfully groomed it for a little while. He waved his hand and the ruins recovered their normal look. Belial looked at himself. The angelic nature that remained in him showed a soft radiance.
“Damn Azrael… look at what she’s done…” Belial split in Angel and Aramis.

Angel frowned, looking at Aramis. Aramis was quite upset and depressed; his eyes were wet. Angel was upset but resigned, plus the recent discoveries put him in a better mood. Angel patted Aramis’ shoulder.
“We knew deep inside it was a ridiculous idea. She’ll never know – and that’s the best. I’ll weave the Dark on you again.”

Aramis sighed and nodded. The layer of dark was gone, for Azrael broke it. He had diminished his presence as they split, but still the Light showed in him. Angel cast a number of spells and pulled a layer of Dark upon Aramis’ nature to a reasonable extent.

Aramis sighed.
“But Azrael knows, anyway. She’ll use it against us.”

“It’s the first reasonable thing you’ve said in the whole year. Yes, she will. We need to work on some wards.”

Aramis climbed a section of a crumbled wall and sat on it, hugging his knees.
“What would’ve happened… if she would have known, for real?”

“I have no idea. It was very scary.”

“Yes… it was.”

Angel examined the ground. Like a hound, he followed the scents to a pile of rocks. “There’s a common grave here; they buried some people in the same spot after that battle in the Middle Ages. The place was abandoned for a while, though. In some Time.” He removed some rocks and picked up something. “It’s a human bone… A clavicle – and it’s witch-gnawed.”

“Yeeks. Just leave it there…”

Angel smirked. He pointed at Aramis with the bone.
“You share my interests – don’t play the innocent.”

“I have less morbid ideas than you, at least.”
Angel tilted his head, but nodded. He stood up and dropped the bone. Aramis watched him.
“Rishta was a lonely child.”

“Some brattish, stubborn kid. No wonder after seeing who’s her father.” Angel opened his wings a little, then leapt on the wall and sat next to Aramis. “We ought to leave soon… before we get noticed.”

Landing near the main castle ruins, Rishta began walking towards the place where she had felt the presence. Stepping up, she found herself behind him, and not wanting to startle, she innocently called out.
“Um… hello Belial…”

On top of the stump of a two meters thick wall, Aramis and Angel blinked at the same time. Angel sprang back on his feet and turned, his six, huge black wings opened like a threatening eagle’s. In the shade projected by the wings under the moonlight, his silver eyes blazed ominously. At Angel’s feet, Aramis didn’t rise; he simply turned around, looking over his shoulder. His eyes shimmered as he blinked again.

“The Rishta-thing!”, Angel hissed.

“Yes, that’s her”, Aramis said looking at Rishta, a little annoyed that Rishta appeared behind him out of nowhere again. “Hello, I guess.”
Angel crossed his arms, his wings still arched over them in threat. He didn’t say more, but he eyed the girl ready to counteract any attack from her.

Rishta blinked when Angel jumped up and arched his wings as though he was being attacked at for no reason. His wings seemed to resemble that of a wary bird, who could lash out at any moment. Her own wings were more down, draped over her shoulders, protecting her from the cold.
Thing? I don’t understand… thing?! And why is Angel being so cold? He looks like I am going to attack. So tense. Aramis seems a bit upset, but I don’t understand…
Sighing, she arched her wings again, and allowed them to fade into her body, so he could see her hands, and possibly realize she didn’t want to spear him and roast him for no reason. Maybe he didn’t know her. Maybe he thought she was bloodthirsty or something. Maybe he considered all humans to be ruthless so… Looking at Angel straight in the eyes, she walked up to him, and extended her hand, trying not to show any fear.
“We haven’t met… even though I met Aramis. I am Rishta. It is nice to meet you…”

Aramis blinked in alarm when Rishta came closer. Why was she so imprudent?! Hadn’t she been warned against him? Aramis swallowed and slowly rose back to his feet. Angel stared at Rishta’s hand and broke into an unwilling snicker.
“Nice… to meet me?”, he said, darkly amused. “I suppose you’ve not been properly informed about me – have you?” He spoke disdainfully, his eyes narrowed. “I am one of the archdemons and obviously, your natural predator. Besides”, Angel eyed Aramis then looked back at Rishta as his voice went cold, darker, “some things between us have been already stated.” He waved his hand in the direction in which he sensed the sword with Azrael’s Seal.

Aramis bit his lip slightly, took Rishta’s hand and pulled her gently from Angel’s side. “I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but you’d better… leave now!”

Angel eyed Aramis in displeasure.
“Me avergüenzas”(2), he told him.

Rishta looked at Aramis and smiled, they, being Belial, didn’t seem to understand. She turned to Angel for a minute, her innocence fading into sternness, as she gently dropped her hands to her sides.
“I have. But still… I have my reasons to believe that even you aren’t pure evil. And my fathers soul… what does that have anything to do with it? Unless of course, you mean Azrael… but I cannot speak of that, unless you ask me to.” Rishta kept a steady unblinking gaze trained upon his silver eyes. He was not evil – he was darkness. There was a big difference. And archdemon… phtz. All you had to do was LOOK at Aramis and you would know there was no way he wanted to stay like that. So, unethical… So… unnatural.

Turning herself away, not from defeat of will, but merely to answer Aramis – she gazed into another pair of silver eyes. “I am not trying to do anything… just, trying to figure out what is real. For myself. I cannot have a biased opinion – I want to know the truth. Is that so wrong?” Innocence seemed to fill her eyes as she stared into his. Beautiful silver in shade. Yes… I remember. He is definitely the one… now, to not tell.

Belial was perplexed. Her attitude was due to extreme boldness or extreme ignorance – only one of the two. Rishta’s affirmation that he was not pure evil was highly offensive… considering it was not impossible. However, he was not going to admit such things. It crossed his mind perhaps Azrael had…
But no. That was not her MO.

Angel frowned. “Rude little creature. I wonder what you consider evil, if you say such things about me. I am the Necromancer – we both are, if you want to be so technical. I could have a mere professional interest on your father’s soul or Azrael’s work. After all… I learned many things from the Dark One.” A dark smile slid upon his lips. “However, you flatter me in a way.” He took a sarcastic bow at her. “You remind me to admit there’s always room for improvement, even for the Master of the Dark Arts.”

Aramis’s brow twitched. “In your position, yes it is very wrong” – he impatiently told her after Angel spoke. “The truth… is relative”, he evasively said. “You’d just need to look at all we’ve done through the Ages of the world to have a better idea on where you stand. Humans say you know someone by his deeds…” Aramis swallowed. “I thought you’d know that.” He vaguely motioned to the ruins around them. Leave!, his eyes seemed to say in a sort of plea.

Angel folded his wings with a smirk.
“Did you know I designed the Ritual that allowed Azazel to break the Seal of the Abyss? I also brought a corpse back to life – real life – to host him. He’s not an undead – he’s very alive! I surpassed that limit.” He smiled with dark joy. “I could do it again…” He waved his hand towards the hidden sword. “Bring someone back to life without making him an undead – you won’t deny that’s remarkable!” Angel laughed sardonically.

Rishta continued to stand there, listening to them both, trying to pick out the truth from the lies – if there were any. To tell you the truth, she believed that if he was truly evil – he would have killed her all ready. Unless of course, he found this to be sickly amusing. THAT she could not put past any demon.

“You misunderstand me. Or, maybe you misunderstand yourself. First of all, Dark is not necessarily evil. My Dark Ages were not an evil time. Secondly, no one is pure evil… except for maybe Azazel. Others have been mislead, as I have been brought up to believe. And despite that title, Necromancer I believe that you are just covering up for your true nature… otherwise, why did you reseal Aramis in Dark?” Rishta did not smile, did not change the alarming calm look upon her face. She did not fear him anymore. You cannot hide the truth from destiny, and she had found out enough to come to a suitable conclusion. He was afraid of others to tell the truth… it was heartbreaking.

Rishta closed her eyes, remembering the old days… yes, human destruction. The bane of Man was Man itself. “It is true. You know a man by his deeds. But, you know an angel by truth. Otherwise, it could all be a facade. A false face to society. A dream. And like it or not, you are still angels. Fallen, maybe, but there is always room for improvement – in the right direction.
Meanwhile, she totally ignored his looks telling her to leave. There was no way. She had a purpose and she was going to achieve it. Then Angel made her heart freeze. He actually brought back the dead! That is… so… wrong. If Rishta had been full human, she would have been extremely tempted right now, but all she felt was a hint of pain.

“Why would you do something so ridiculous? Remarkable it may be… but morally wrong. Let the dead lie in PEACE. With Azazel – you will come to regret that, but… I cannot judge you there.” Rishta then thought carefully about her next phrase. The human part kept on saying ‘imagine… you could have your father back! mother even!’ but her angel side was saying no. “Are you trying to tell me you can bring my father back? What makes you think I want him to come back to an existence like that!?”

Angel was darkly amused at the girl’s reasoning. It was such a curious thing that after all he had done and caused to happen through the Ages, suddenly someone tells him he was not an evil creature. Go figure… When she mentioned ‘misled’, Aramis nearly flinched. Angel had not considered the possibility, but he had. However, Angel had always refused to allow such a thought in his ‘side’. Aramis bit his lip slightly and Angel’s mood changed again like the tide. //She was spying on us somehow…? It’s impossible – she was not around the spot earlier!// Aramis did not reply to Angel’s thoughts and the demon’s evil mind began to turn its metal-cold gears.

“I made Dark evil”, Angel softly pointed out. “Don’t forget that! I know all that story…”, he waved his hand in dismissal of the thought. “Besides… you’re missing something. I mentioned he would not be an undead. He’d breathe, his heart would beat. He’d be perfectly normal, healthy and capable. With his own soul. That is why it is so remarkable.” He shrugged lightly.

Aramis had a small shiver.
“I believe anyone can be known for his deeds”, he said. “There’s no biased rule. Ask any of your captains; plus you know you would not be precisely praised if they find out you deliberately came to speak to me.” Aramis was gradually growing pale. “There is no other direction I could follow. Any of the angelic host can tell you that…” He looked away.

Blinking, Rishta tried to close her mind from the tempting possibility that her father might be back. That is wrong. I cannot allow that. Despite what I want… Sighing, she looked out towards the ruins, her eyes losing their determined spark. Angel was so difficult! It was enough to drive a person insane!

“You made the Dark evil? But Azrael is not evil, yet she is still Dark – and so, you have not succeeded. A person has no reason to fear the Dark… alive… imagined… Never such a sin has been tried. It is wrong.” Rishta’s voice was harsh, snapping mainly at Angel, mad at herself for even slightly being tempted by the idea.
“And Aramis, I did not come to speak to you… I have my own reasons to visit my home from time to time.” Rishta stopped and sighed, a small smile coming to her face. A sad one, she connected their eyes, and she kept him in her gaze. “You cannot change – or you don’t want to. And from what I see, you want to change… You are just afraid to. Is it so bad, having someone believe that you can be a better person?”

Angel had a most charming smile. “Ask any human – they will tell you Dark is evil. That’s what counts for the matter to me! Besides,” he narrowed his eyes, “Azrael is… what I would consider evil!” His eyes blazed with unholy light and his silhouette went black for a brief instant, then he recovered his normal appearance. “But anyway… It’s relative, like dear Aramis said.” Angel grinned.
“Ah why bringing back to life a dear one is wrong? Didn’t you suffer upon his departure…? Did he wish not to continue with you?” He motioned to the sword with a small smile. “I think his wish was clear, but Azrael was not kind enough to let him continue living.” Angel took a step aside and distractedly groomed a couple of his feathers.

Aramis was now as pale as the moonlight. Did he wish to change? What would be the improvement about that? He’d be an outcast, hunted down by demons and angels alike. From the start, Angel had the lead – Angel, or more precisely, the hatred in Belial, had made most their decisions and had managed to keep them alive. He was alive because he was feared, he was a powerful being. Aramis handled the emotions, the questions, the stress… the love. He looked at Rishta. She was not the first that had told him such things… but also that had been the doom of many, innocently attracted to him only to lose their souls in Angel’s hands. Angel was set to work already, ever since she spoke to him, and Rishta was walking the edge of a chasm in unawareness.

“I cannot change, maybe”, Aramis grimly said. “Maybe now you understand why I am an archdemon; my power gives me a relative freedom, despite I’ve never been free. I will stay like this as long as I wish to live. You might think I am with the other demons. None of us demons is – we’re all on our own. If we ally is to continue living.” Aramis’ brow twitched and his eyes slowly filled with angry tears, despite his face was still serene. “Do you believe the Abyss is a nice place? Hell is not only a space – it is the ones who live in it. I don’t want to go back there. I don’t want to fall under others’ powers. I must fight to keep myself alive and whole.”

Angel’s eyes widened in amazement and a sort of awe, looking at his twin. Concern showed on his face and for a brief instant he forgot about the soul in the sword. He reached out and touched Aramis’ wings.
“Brother… we can leave now, if you wish”, he murmured. “You wanted to go, didn’t you? Let us go.”

“The Dark was never evil… things that frighten Man make it seem so… but I never thought so. The night is just the mystery of Light – its twin… very similar in your case.” Rishta looked at him, trying to stop the urge to break down. Her father… she had wanted to know him so badly. But to get him through these means? It was wrong, he would be disappointed in her. But no. She had to focus.

“Azrael isn’t evil. After all, how can you be evil and STILL enjoy a good tea cake?” Rishta flashed him a smile, despite the inner turmoil… the mere thought of Azrael and her tea cakes made her want to laugh. It proved her belief that anyone could change – anyone. “I may want my father back, but through such means… it is not worth it. And leave Azrael out of this! It was not her fault that my father died! He had to!” Rishta gently trembled, her eyes not being able to connect with Angel’s. He had hit her nerve. Her weak spot. She raised her left hand slightly until it touched the scabbard also on her left side, hidden beneath the folds of the dress. What would you have me do? Would you truly want to live again through such means…?

Sighing, she kept her eyes on the ground, her mind a bucket of turmoil and questions. She knew that Belial had a chance. Aramis proved it. Otherwise, if all the hope and goodness had faded from Belial, Aramis should have disappeared. I know there is hope for him. I know it. He just needs to see that he can conquer the turmoil in himself, and then be free… “Is that why demons are so lonely? It’s odd. I have known loneliness for a long time. It hurts there. Do you hurt from being alone?” Rishta glanced up to look at Aramis, her own eyes filling with tears – not from her own pain, but tears for Belial, as she took his suffering to her own heart. Not knowing what to do, she walked up to him, and placed a hand on his shoulder, looking at his face with through concern, feeling a bit upset that she did not know what to say.

“I know nothing of the Abyss and the hell it contains, but I know it must have been bad. Probably ten times worse then the hell that I have known. All that fighting. I am glad you got out of there alive. I am sorry. I am so sorry you had to go through that…” Rishta choked out the words, while silver tears slid down her face, as she tried to figure out how to help them. Because, indeed – everyone deserves a second chance. And he did too… more then he would ever think.

Angel frowned, his eyes narrowed. He opened his lips to speak and further tempt Rishta, but Aramis opened his eyes wide and looked at the girl; a tear slid down his cheek but he didn’t notice it.
“Azrael enjoys tea cakes?”, he asked with sudden interest. Angel pursed his lips disdainfully.

“Don’t pay heed to her”, he hissed. “Forget about Azrael! She’s the root of all troubles!”
Angel’s wings trembled as if eager to take off. “Why would Cadmiel need to stay dead, anyway? To be at rest it’s his exclusive decision, and he is not!” Angel put his hair out of his eyes, impatiently.

Aramis was still looking at Rishta. His eyes had softened some, his beautiful face serene despite the tears in his eyes.
“Are you crying because of me?”, he softly asked. “You’d better not do… I took this path willingly, and it’s too late to find a way back. I am a Fallen – I am doomed by my own hand. All I can do now is try to survive… as long as I want to. You are right… about Azazel. I shouldn’t have done it, and I know. I might die because of him…” Aramis sighed and straightened his back. “You’d better go back. I’d better leave.”

Another tear slid down her cheek, but Rishta ignored it and smiled when Aramis seemed to want to know more about Azrael. He was so in love. “Yes, she does. You should have seen her. She went through a whole tray…” Rishta gave a small shaky laugh, as she remembered the scene. “You really love her, don’t you?”

Then a word struck Rishta’s ears. Cadmiel… Blinking, she looked at Angel sharply, as though trying to fully grasp what he had just revealed to her. Cadmiel… was my father’s name Cadmiel? I now know… Cadmiel… “Cadmiel… was that my father’s name? How did you know? Did you know him?”
Questions left Rishta’s mouth before she could try to think. She allowed her hand to drop from Aramis’ shoulder, and it fell to her side, but she stayed by them both, overcome with curiosity and pure emotion. Imagine if he knew her father… maybe he could tell her some things! A couple of more tears fell, and she gave them both a sad look.

“I never knew his name…” Rishta turned to Aramis, her eyes seemingly vague in memories. Then she heard his words, her heart feeling as though it had been ripped out. “I cry because I see someone who was misled, and now thinks there is no hope… but there is Aramis. I know there is. It does not matter about decisions. Foolish ones can be corrected.” Then listening about Azazel, she looked at him again, sharply this time, as though her determination was enough to change his mind.
“You will not die. I know this for a fact. And… I will leave when I want too… there are still some things I need to finish.”

Angel was really upset, but Aramis was not quite listening to him. He carefully kept the information Rishta had just revealed to him. Azrael had never really ‘gone’ into the world. Now she was discovering these things… and he was missing it. Aramis bit his lip slightly as his heartache went sharper than usual.
Aramis swallowed.

Angel blinked at Rishta and frowned.
“He was from the Order of Knowledge, along with Lucifer and Raziel… and others, of course. I met him, yes… Why am I telling you this…” Angel’s feathers bristled. “Aramis! Snap out of your daydreaming and let us go!” But damnable Rishta still insisted, trying to get Aramis in a worse state that he already was.

Rishta was seemingly undaunted and Angel grew exasperated. “How’d you know that?! Maybe that could change…” Not like I want to die but anyway… “Besides, you could go back to your own businesses.” Angel grabbed Aramis’ hand and dragged him along, walking on the remains of the wall.

Aramis snapped out of his daze and blinked.
“Wait!” But Angel was determined to leave. Aramis tried to pull his hand free. Angel hissed angry words in Spanish and Aramis’ eyes flashed. He pulled back, Angel gasped and with a sudden flash, they merged back into Belial. Belial shook his head and brushed his hand past his forehead. His breathing was difficult, as if the two had fought for some time before the merge was stable.

Rishta listened to Angel, her eyes wide with awe and wonder. Father… you worked with Raziel? Belial knew him too… I wonder what you were like… not just in mother’s eyes… but with your friends… what were your habits? Loves… hates… if only I had met you… but maybe Raziel can tell me some things… oh, I hope so… Rishta’s eyes then widened, as she noticed Angel getting severely agitated. Was she bothering him that much? Maybe she should learn to keep her mouth shut…

“I just know. I guess you could call it a feeling… but… oh, I don’t know how… it just… maybe it was a dream, maybe it is just my wishful thinking… but you can’t die! You won’t let yourself!” Rishta shook her head, wishing she knew how to explain. It was like a little poke in her mind; as if she had had a vision… or maybe it was just the result of a wishful daydream. The perfect world – as if such a place existed…
Even though her eyes were downcast, she could still feel them, and could easily place which was Angel – even though Aramis’ Dark aura had changed. That was how she had known earlier. The layer had changed somewhat – it wasn’t magic, spying or even telepathy. Just a little notion – and it seemed she had gotten him mad because of her “little notions.” Then she felt it. Anger. Clashing. Raising her head and looking at them, she saw Angel drag an angry Aramis away… then… there was one. They had merged. However, Belial looked seriously unsteady. Quickly walking to his side, she looked at him with concern, not knowing if he was going to attack her or have the same feelings as Aramis.
“Um… Belial? Are you ok? What happened?”

Belial had put his hands to his face and pressed his palms on his eyes, as if trying to overcome a sudden dizziness. He instinctively summoned the Staff of Simara and used it for support. Rishta came to his side; he tilted his head slightly to look at her, his gaze serene but also grimly sad.
“You’d better stay away from me”, he said with a strange smile. “I have to admit all you’ve said is… tempting.” He nodded slightly. “But it’s a product of your idealism. I wish it could be as you picture it… but that is not what I have learned in my life. You are but a young creature… You don’t know me, you obviously have strange ideas on who to trust. I am the Necromancer. I am the Master of the Dark Arts – even the shadows are afraid of me. I earned that position – I did not inherit it from anyone. I won’t harm you tonight… but don’t risk yourself to speak to me again. You may think I am afraid – maybe I am. I won’t accept nor deny it. The truth in this case is… life is not easy, Rishta. Your decisions haunt you. Maybe it was my Fate to become this from the very day I came to exist. I suppose I’ll never know that…”
Belial leapt off the wall and landed on the grass below with a hushed sound of feathery wings. He set the Staff on the ground and took a deep breath… He then walked to the remains of the courtyard gate in his way out.

Rishta looked at him, eyes filled with concern. He didn’t look so good. And when he looked at her, she wanted to start crying all over again. He looked so sad… he wanted to change, but couldn’t. He was trapped. If he went where his heart desired, he would be killed. If he stayed, he would be killed. Then he walked away, opening her wings, she landed next to him, and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“You cannot tell me who to stay away from… and I think I am a great judge of character. It isn’t idealism, it is something I truly believe can happen. And I may be young… but I know you aren’t a bad person. I just wish you would see it that way, not as some evil creature who deserves the worst.” Rishta seemed to be innocently trusting, but she knew she was trying the right thing – even if the others did hate her, she had followed what her parents would have wanted her to do: and that was all that mattered to her then. “You may be the Necromancer, you may be fear itself… but you had to earn it to survive, to remain in Her eyes. I don’t want to fight you. I want to help…”

Rishta wanted him to see this as the truth – but she didn’t know how. Could he be afraid of me? Why? What am I to be a threat? “I do not think you are afraid. Just timid about it… and I know life is hard, I’ve lived it – the outcaste way. My decisions have too haunted me, and I have woken up screaming because of them. But that is not the point. You can change. I know it…” Rishta looked at him with an almost pleading gaze, wanting him to believe her, and trust her. “Tell me you can never trust me – like I trust you. You may think this folly, but I trust in the good I know is still there… can you?”

Gabriel sighed; he had felt Uriel’s energies all day during his lessons and chastisements. He had been missing from the boarding school for several days, and the headmaster had decided that punishment was the only answer for a disobedient boy. His linen shirt rubbed uncomfortably on the raised welts on his back from the whipping cane; red lines crossed his knuckles and forearms. And angel and you still take punishment from a doughy old lecher… He rubbed one of his arms and winced… The wheals itched but touching them even slightly caused pain. A not-so-subtle reminder. Besides school, his sister had been a wreck for days after he left, a sad predicament. Gabriel had had to pet on her for ever it seemed to make her believe that he hadn’t left her because he didn’t love her. He felt terribly guilty, but torn… He had duties to his family and to the other angels… but what was more important? Blood-ties or battles?

He crept quietly through the gate to Rishta’s manor. Raziel’s wards had been made to warn of demons and protect against attack, not to keep anyone out. Gabe had felt the energies of battle for quite a while, but was reluctant to join, remembering his promise to his sister to be careful and come home. Who knew what would happen if he had to battle another demon, even of less than Azazel’s strength, or Belial’s.
Speaking of the devil… Gabriel ducked behind a large stone. There he was now… And Gabriel didn’t think it was fitting to attack, since he was walking unmolested on Rishta’s ground. Not that Gabe wanted a confrontation. He snuck along until he saw Rishta.
//Hello?// he asked shyly.

Again, Rishta was insisting; the pain in his chest went sharper, cutting his breath. He felt she was pushing him off to a chasm – she was stirring all the wounds of his soul! Belial cast Rishta an angry look from his filled eyes. He tried to speak, but his throat was closing. When she placed a hand on his shoulder he abruptly opened his wings, sending her back. He clasped his hand on the Staff and the carvings on it began to glow. Belial coughed; tears scaped from his eyes when he did.

“Leave me alone!”, he hissed. “Don’t get me wrong, Rishta! I still can break Azrael’s seal and take Cadmiel’s soul away… I warned you.” He took a deep breath to control his voice. “Stay out of my life and I’ll stay out of yours!” His eyes flashed and the shadows gathered around his feet.
“Trust you!”, he said with a hoarse, choked and resentful voice. “I don’t trust anyone!”
Belial blinked. The Messenger had arrived; he could sense his presence. Michael was still weak, but he was not far. Belial rose the Staff of Simara; the shadows around his feet formed wriggling tendrils to the staff, curling and uncurling around it like live snakes; the archdemon cast the angel a warning look.
“Stay away”, he hissed, his eyes blazing.

“There’s no need for that…” Gabriel stepped out from behind the tree. “You’re on the Lady Rishta’s ground, and you ought to respect the hallowed earth. You came here, to her lands. If you wish to battle, take it elsewhere. I thought even you had the sense to respect the ancient laws of guest-rights. We have enough people to cast the Outcaste rites on you, Belial, and that’s a curse not even you would take lightly. Do not add this to your sins.” Gabriel’s sky blue eyes regarded him calmly, though little else of him was visible in the darkness. It must seem interesting, a slight boy of sixteen speaking in such an unruffled manner to a Fallen demon.

I would hate to fight here on her property… And I promised. But hopefully Belial will regain his head. I wonder what’s going on here…? And why is Belial here? I suppose I have a lot of catching up to do. So many questions and so few answers.

Yes, that’s right. Threaten me! Seems like the time’s just right for everybody to charge on me, Belial thought with bitter sarcasm. Plus I’ve been trying to leave… “Watch your step, Messenger.” Belial showed an unpleasant smile. “Do you really expect me to respect every rule? I thought you knew better.”
You expect me to be nasty? I can please you… Belial was slipping into a darker mood. He was angry and exasperated, but he also knew it wasn’t worthy of more trouble. He just wanted to get away.

Almost unwillingly, he rose the Staff again. The shadows hissed strange words as they curled and uncurled around the Staff… the rocks on the ground began to move and strange voices hissed beneath them. The bones of the dead began to clatter in their graves; Belial shook his head. All fight seemed pointless now. He slowly drew the Staff down and moved to the gate in a new attempt to leave the courtyard.

Rishta looked at him as he threatened her, lashing out, just because he felt trapped. It was enough to make her just want to end it all. Impossible for anyone though, but maybe this was her misery – to want a better world, but not being able to accomplish it. When Gabriel arrived, she smiled, and uttered a whispered ‘hello’ to him. Where had he been? Smiling slightly, she kept her eyes trained on Belial, who had become severely agitated.
Then he was saying something about taking her father’s soul… she paled, and her lower lip trembled, not wanting to think about what she would do if he was taken away from her. She needed him… that was why he was there. But didn’t Azrael say something? About having to release him? But…

When Belial began to threaten her with a staff of some sorts, she just blinked, not wanting to push him further. Gabriel came, telling him off… then Belial tried to leave again. She didn’t want a fight… but she wanted to know more – damn her curiosity.
“Belial… wait. You know that if you need someone, for anything… you can come to me, right? I don’t mind helping you – despite what you pretend to be…” Rishta then decided to talk to the Messenger: whom she had never actually spoken to before. Didn’t seem possible she had missed one.
//Gabriel… welcome. We have been waiting for you… and do not worry about Belial, I am afraid I may have pushed him a little too far…//

Gabriel’s presence somehow made it easier for the archdemon to reset his balance back to its usual state; a reminder of his current status and also a reminder that he was putting his life at risk by calling unwanted attention on himself – the Angelic Host was aware of his presence. Belial’s eyes shimmered with eerie light; he cast a glaring cold look on Rishta.
“Tomorrow maybe, when you regain your common sense you’ll be grateful I leave now”, he coldly said. “If you care about your father’s soul safety, you’ll keep your mouth shut about what I’ve told you.” Belial stuck the Staff in the ground. The tendrils of shadows that lurked around him like live snakes wrapped around the archdemon, forming a layer of Dark over him – the next second, Belial had disappeared.

Gabriel sighed. “And to think, he wasn’t always this way. He was once… Nevermind.” He shook his head and grimaced. “What… happened, Lady Rishta?” He was about to ask what she did, but years of conditioning influenced his mind. Never implicate a noble in the blame. Something had upset Belial. Even at his worst, he was oddly courteous. Something must have happened between Rishta and the Archdemon…
Something interesting. And Gabriel was still young enough to enjoy a good tale.

Rishta just blinked when he began to become a bit more hostile – no doubt regaining his lost ‘evil demeanor’ as soon as he had seen Gabriel – an angel he was used to knowing and fighting against. Then he seemingly disappeared. Rishta looked at that spot with dignified curiosity, wondering how he had done it. Like the old jesters…

Snapping back into reality, she turned to Gabriel, who appeared younger then her, at least – in this age. Smiling almost awkwardly, she walked towards him, so they didn’t have a mile separating them – exaggeration, of course. “I have a good idea about what he once was… and I think he is still like that. Or, my hopes have once again clouded my better judgment.” Rishta spoke softly, as they were standing in an old Uriel ground – and she had known some of them. Or, they had been the killed descendants of the people she had known.

“And, please, just call me Rishta… and to tell you the truth, nothing much. I had pushed him with some things I assumed – and he got upset.” Rishta bit her lower lip thoughtfully, and then sighed, keeping an eye on him. She had only seen him while he was with Uriel, and at the Riktophen Manor. And, there hadn’t been enough time to chat then… no time at all. Turning her eyes to his still youthful face, she said: “I have a question. Is he always so… mannered, when you upset him? I mean, even though he kept on insisting we were mortal enemies – he let me live… even though I kept at him. I really do not understand…”

“He has always been polite, even in battle. Very considerate fellow, he is. More so than many I can name, even among the angels.” Gabriel shook his head and sighed.
“Too bad Lucifer got to him… The snake.”

Rishta sighed and looked at him, smiling a little, wondering about Belial, her mind working like a clock, trying to figure out the puzzle.
“Lucifer got the best because he could offer something that they didn’t think was achievable. Of course, he lied… but in the end those who were meant to never Fall will return…” Rishta looked up again, at the full moon. Then, looking at him again, she noticed the moonlight dancing in his eyes. The sort of moon that could creep anywhere… it would be a rare clear night. “We better get going… but before, I need to make sure Michael went in… then dinner, and maybe rest. You will be staying the night, right? I can always have a letter written for your parents.”

“I… I would be very grateful!” he said, stammering. He suddenly felt like the young boy he was. It was odd; his memories of angelhood and childhood mixed and mingled in uncomfortable ways. There was the half that was still a boy, and half that was older than humanity could imagine… “I’ve never stayed in a manor before… Only when we fought the illusion in Lady Riktophen’s House.”

Rishta looked at him. He was most presumably like her – split, but maybe in a different way. Smiling once again, she extended her wings, laying them to rest over her shoulders, protecting her from the light chilly breeze. “Well, welcome to your new second home. I hope you will feel comfortable here… since it seems the others plan to make the manor a ‘base’ of sorts.” Rishta looked at him with a hint of curiosity, since he was so much older, yet seemed younger, almost nervous of her – she couldn’t understand why.

Pushing back a strand of hair, which had fallen across her face, she turned toward the general direction of the ruins – the place where her room had once been. It had been so pretty…. Blinking, and trying not to get lost in another dream, she turned back to Gabriel. “Will your family need a note of some sorts? Maybe your school too… or any other place that you may be absent from. I would hate to make people worry.”

“I’d appreciate it,” he replied shyly. She was distracted; he could tell. But also curious about him. He rubbed the welts on his forearms again and winced. It itched so badly…!
“It’s kinda cold out here… Can we go in now?”

“Of course! But I have to check Michael… you may go on ahead, if you wish. Just tell anyone who questions you that you are my guest. They will not deny you entry…” Rishta said, calmly smoothing out her skirt and extending her wings again. “I assume you will be going straight inside? You can get changed there… dinner… I promise I won’t take long.”

“Yes ma’am.” He bowed deeply and skipped into the manor before she could change her mind.

Rishta smiled as he danced away, seeming nervous around her. She really could not understand why. Sure, in moral terms – she was older, and certainly of high status, but when you considered it in angelic terms… he was older and definitely more powerful. It was enough to drive one to puzzlement.
Turning, she flew back to the lake, not sure if Michael was there or not. She hoped he had heeded her words and gone inside. Looking, she couldn’t see him, but that didn’t mean anything, as the place was filled with trees.

(1) Spanish Interjection. It means something like, “wow” or “oh boy.”
(2) You embarrass me.

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