Adriel woke up with a start. Night had fallen; the shadows had invaded the bedroom and she had slept for hours by now – a dreamless sleep. Her strong yet delicate angelic nature did need rest; she was not fully healed, and she knew that. But in the edge of her dreamless rest she had heard a voice calling her name – faintly as if it came across a long distance, even from another plane.

Adriel! Adriel!

Johnathon Morris…” Adriel sat up in the dark and gasped with pain. The call was so faint… but she was certain he was calling for help! The angel moved her wings and used her hands to pull herself to the edge of the bed and moved her legs over the edge, sitting with some difficulty. She opened her hand to summon her weapon, but she remembered Azrael had confiscated it. //Azrael Archangel!// Adriel gasped. She touched something in the dark – Raphael, asleep.

“I need my weapon…” Adriel rose unsteadily. She cast her summoning spell for the Blade of Life.

//You are not fully healed//, Azrael’s voice echoed in her mind.

//I know, Azrael. But Johnathon needs help! Please give my weapon back!//

//Compassion has a limit////You said you had things to do in this Life that compelled you to stay.//

//I will try to fulfill them… but Dark One, you said it is my choice.//

//Choose wisely then.//

The Blade of Life appeared in Adriel’s hand. Adriel shape shifted it to her Spear and turned to Raphael.
“I’m sorry, Raphael.” Adriel flew out of the window.

Shortly after Adriel left, Raphael woke up. He had felt her touch, heard her voice and ultimately… her will to leave. Alarmed, he sat up, thinking it was all but a nightmare. “Adriel.” he muttered as he reached for the space where Adriel’s forehead used to be at, wanting to take her temperature. Raphael gasped when his hand grasped at nothing but at thin air. He jumped up, spread his wings and flew straight out of the household, passing through the walls formlessly. He glanced around and he was glad that his senses were back to normal and he was able to track Adriel down. He seen her in a distance and called out to her.
“Adriel!” Raphael flew to Adriel and looked at her sadly, as if upset that he was left alone in the room without a word, “Where are you going with all your injuries?”

Adriel looked at Raphael with a start, as if sad and guilty for being found by him like this. She still looked determined, though.
“Johnathon Morris… is calling for help. I think the demons are involved… but he was desperate when he called; I have to help him”, she explained. “I’m following his call…”

Raphael stared at Adriel as if she had lost her mind. “What, have you gone crazy, Adriel?!” Raphael nearly shouted at her, “You just got healed and shouldn’t even be moving about, much less talk about fighting demons and rescuing that whatever Johnathon Morrick. Besides, the demons could be powerful for all you know and you might die for all you know!”
At that, Raphael almost cried as his eyes became red. “If… if anything happened to you… how am I going to accord to your human family…? And that bitch Uriel will keep nagging nonstop for wasting away a life she saved at her own risk when she’s injured herself! Please do not be too conceited!” Raphael sulked, “If you want to go, at least bring me along!”

Adriel’s lip trembled. “I did not mean to trouble you… but I just have to go… He trusts us; I can’t abandon his soul…” Adriel bit her trembling lip.
“You may come along… if you wish.”
She suddenly felt small and weak. However, she tried to shove away the feeling – Adriel was a stubborn girl.
“I’m sorry… but I just…”

Azrael silently came flying about in her raven form. She swiftly caught up with the two arguing angels. The Head General was being a loud creature, as usual. Azrael hovered and coolly landed on Raphael’s back as he floated near Adriel, perching on his back using her claws to hold fast to his clothing.
She perched and sat, and nothing more.

Raphael turned to the bird and glared at it. He tried to shoo it away but failed to. It stayed there, refusing to go. Raphael gave up after sometime. It didn’t matter if Azrael wanted to come along. It was an advantage anyway.
Turning to Adriel, Raphael said with a guilty look on his face, “I’m sorry for yelling at you… but I’m worried for you… you shouldn’t be moving around much in your current state… I will go with you… and protect you…”

Azrael flapped her wings for balance as Raphael tried to get her off his back. She coolly held fast till he calmed down. When he gave up on hushing her away, the raven closed her wings and sat on his back again, always holding on to his clothing.
//Fool//, she coolly said. //It’s my duty to be here.//

Adriel blinked at Azrael and Raphael when the raven came out of nowhere and perched on the angel’s back, then Raphael tried to shoo Azrael off like if she were a common fowl. Both archangels lost a couple feathers in the process… Adriel blinked again.
Then Raphael apologized. Adriel smiled faintly.
“It’s alright, Raphael… I’m sorry for troubling you.”

Azrael took a peek over Raphael’s shoulder.
//He yells at you because he’s cares about you? I don’t understand//, she told them.

Adriel didn’t know what to answer to Azrael. Somewhat embarrassed, she led the way to the place where she could sense the call came from – when they got closer, Adriel gasped.
“It’s near Azazel’s house again…” The manor next to Azazel’s. How nice.
Demonic wards formed a thick web around the place.

Raphael stayed close to Adriel; just beside her. He frowned as he flapped his wings to stay hovering above the sky. “Is this area popular with demons?” Raphael asked in a sarcastic tone, “It’s infested with the powers of Darkness.” Raphael kept watch for a while before he finally said, “There’s a demonic web around the house, protecting it. I will cut it open. Wait up.”

Raphael mumbled a magical chant and Strife appeared in his hand. Holding the dagger, Raphael let it spin with a flip of his hand as it formed a golden angelic sigil. “The Sigil of Dismissal.” Raphael muttered as Strife brought the Sigil forward and touched the web with it’s tip. The web crackled as it came in contact with Strife and the Sigil, defending against the angelic power trying to cut it open. Sparks flew all over the place and it took a few minutes before the Sigil and web began to gradually disappear. “Let’s go in.” Raphael said as he retrieved Strife.

Belial lazily leaned against the window frame, watching Moloch’s work. Suddenly he ‘heard’ a crack sound. The magicks murmured with alarmed voices. Belial stood straight, alert and listening. A crevice opened in the web of spells. Presences filtered through – angels! and one of them…
“Azrael!”, he exclaimed. He looked up and saw Raphael and Adriel – but he was certain Azrael was coming, too; he unfurled his wings almost instinctively and held the Staff with both hands.
I won’t hesitate this time…

Moloch held her strike in, thinking the better of saving the energy for use against these new, slightly worthier foes. While somewhat vexed at the destruction of her outer layer of protection spells, she knew that it would be just as easy to replace them when she was finished with these angels.

“Fools. Seek you to destroy us on our own ground? As you can tell, we are FAR more powerful than either of you. And we have a friend to play with, as well.” She sneered, baring sharp, white teeth. She flung the Scorpion’s infernal lash out to strike at Adriel; a demonic fiend issued forth from the manor to attack Raphael, ripping out of its spell-formed human disguise and spewing infernal flames as it approached.
“We shall enjoy your cries of pain and despair as you flee for your paltry lives. If you leave now, we will be merciful and not track you.”

Raphael flew upwards speedily and dodged the dragon breath. The dragon cracked its neck with a loud and disgusting ‘CRACK’ sound, glancing up at Raphael with its unfriendly and demonic eyes. Raphael looked at the demonic being and decided that the long distance attacks he used on Belial would probably be effective on the dragon. Summoning his strength and inputting his power into the blade of Strife, Raphael sent it flying towards the dragon. The blade stabbed the dragon and the demonic blood splattered everywhere! Strife drove a sharp blade embodied by the earth and the dragon growled in anger and pain as it glared at Raphael. The dragon flapped its wings and with a loud roar, it straightened up against the sword and threw the angelic weapon off its thick scaly skin. Growling angrily, the blood flow continued but the blood soon ceased to flow and the dried blood closed up the wound Strife made. Raphael looked in disbelief and the dragon seemed to be smiling at Raphael’s failure. Angered by the dragon’s arrogance, Raphael held onto Strife and prepared to strike out again. From the corners of his eyes, Raphael watched out for Adriel, in case she ran into any trouble.

Adriel dived down after Raphael; she spotted Johnathon within Moloch’s grasp; to help him she’d need to go very close to the demoness, but her whip was a special problem. Moloch cracked the whip at Adriel; Adriel maneuvered with the Spear, catching the whip. The Blade of Life shone brightly at the contact of the unholy weapon; Adriel used Moloch herself as center axis, the whip the radius of her spin – she wouldn’t be able to pull Moloch from her feet at the moment. In her spinning motion she gave one turn around the demoness and grabbed Johnathon as he stood in her trajectory; Adriel at once shape shifted the Spear to sword, releasing the whip and sending herself and Johnathon flying backwards and above/across the fence he had been about to reach when Moloch captured him like one single projectile.

Adriel flapped her wings desperately and caught some air, landing and setting Johnathon beside her on the street. She sword shone brightly in her hand and she kept a guard position; a sting of pain made her brow twitch.
“Stand behind me”, she murmured. “I need a second… before flying again.”

Johnathon quickly complied, and ducked back behind the angel. He didn’t need to be told twice.
“I…ah…I’m not sure if this is the right time for this,” he said hastily, “but thank you, for coming to my rescue. I suppose I judged you all a bit too harshly in the beginning.”
Over Adriel’s shoulder, Johnathon watched as the second angel battled with Moloch’s unholy creation. Maybe the angels would be merciful enough to grant him a new holy ward? That one had been in the family for generations, after all. He’d need something to pass on to his children.
“Are you sure he’s all right in there?” he asked, nodding his head towards Raphael.

Despite the pain and the tension Adriel couldn’t help a smile at Johnathon’s words. “I’m glad to be of help”, she murmured. “Yes, Raphael will be alright – and he’s not alone there…”
Adriel took a deep breath. “Hold on to my back tightly; I’ll need my hands free! Let us leave this place!” Once he held onto her, Adriel got ready to take flight; she once more shape shifted the Blade of Life to a spear and kept her guard position as she took flight.

Perturbed by her walk cut short, Autumn did well to remain coolly polite as they entered a glass encased sun room filled with various plants and a small seating area of benches. She dropped her arm from Raziel, crossing them over her chest, regarding the latest ‘guest’ with a distrustful air. After all, he was seeking her out in particular… Now it was a matter of what he wanted.
“I suggest you make your comments as quick as possible, sir. I don’t wish the company of strangers tonight.”

“Ah, so harsh, cherie. Do not distrust me… I bring a message, not a bad one at all. In fact, I do believe you will enjoy it.” Nicholai thought quickly, trying to get what he wanted without Raziel unleashing his power. An idea clicked in his head-he decided to make a wild guess. “You have a husband, yes..? What is his name… I must make sure I am relaying this correctly…”

“You know very well what his name is, vampire. Answer milady’s question, please.” Raziel took a step back, not trusting himself with the spells on the vampire. He gave Autumn a questioning glance. Did she know more about this than she seemed to? He was unwilling to tap her mind, as it was not generally a polite thing to do under the circumstances.

Adriel felt some relief upon going through Raziel’s wards around Rishta’s house. She flew through walls and roof in a similar fashion to that of Raphael, then reached the hall and landed with Johnathon on her back. Letting him on his feet, Adriel stumbled and leaned against a pillar, panting. She took in a deep breath; her internal injuries were hurting badly. Adriel made a violent effort to call her human form upon her.
“Rishta!”, she called. “Someone…” Adriel forced herself to stay calm. “Mister Morris, come this way…” Adriel stumbled after Raziel and Autumn’s presences. “Autumn and Raziel are over there… in the solarium.” Adriel leaned on the wall before a short flight of stairs that led to the solarium doors. “There’s a vampire, too…” Adriel blinked in surprise but softly fell to her knees.

“Lady Adriel! What happened? Are you all right?” Johnathon searched through his pockets for something to help her, then realized he wasn’t wearing his own clothes anymore. Whatever he might have had was still at Essendre’s, and most likely destroyed. It was probably his fault she was in such bad shape! He shouldn’t have called her here! What would life be like, with the blood of an angel on your hands…?
Vampires be hanged! Johnathon decided as he ran off for the solarium. After everything that’s happened recently, a vampire would be a welcome change!
“Lady Riktophen! Sir Raziel!” he called as he headed for the solarium. “Autumn!”

Her attention that was previously trained to the vampire, switched to Johnathon Morris, who seemed to appear from no where as the devil himself were on his heels. Autumn frowned at the irony of her own thoughts, and gently touched Raziel’s arm with mild concern.
“You can free him, he couldn’t be so daft to try something here, and I can take care of myself…” She smiled softly. “Mr. Morris and Adriel need the help. You can always return when they are taken care of?” The last phrase was more of a hopeful question than a statement.

“Very well.” Raziel bowed gracefully, with a touch of irony. “As milady commands.” He turned to face Morris and Adriel. He blinked with some surprise; he could sense Moloch’s taint and touch, and a faint, glowing sigil on his body of hers- the rod and weal.
“You are tainted… Milord Morris. I would recommend you sequester yourself until one of us can remove the darkness from your being; there should be a room hospitable enough for your liking.” He doubted, should Morris encounter Moloch once more, that he would be able to resist her will. Her taint covered the man.

“Adriel, I trust you are unhurt… Raphael is there, dealing with Moloch alone?” He did not bother to mention Belial and Azrael; they would concentrate on their own battle, of course. He would leave once he had the information from Adriel that he required. And he’d summon Gabriel as well; he could never be too cautious in dealing with that sly demoness.

Adriel had managed to pull herself back on her feet. She wrapped her arms around her body, eyes closed, leaning against the wall.
“Yes”, she replied with some effort. “Raphael is fighting Moloch inside her wards; she has demonic servants to her aid… Azrael is there, but Belial is there, too. Please, somebody ought to go help there! I… don’t think I can make it again; I’m so sorry…” Adriel was in pain, but frustrated, too. Her brow was furrowed. “I must admit I can’t fly again… yet. I’m not fully healed.”

Raziel frowned in concern; reaching out to touch her lightly, he gave her some of his own energy, which had been replenished by the Sylphs. They had been of utmost help as of late- they sensed the storms to come. “If you shall stay here with milady Riktophen and her guest, and summon one of the other angels to cleanse the man, I will be off to assist in the battle. Farewell and live.” He bowed deeply once more before leaving the solarium.
Upon reaching the garden, Raziel changed into his angelic form and wrapped his wards tightly around his body before taking flight.

Adriel smiled thankfully to Raziel; now she could breathe more easily and the pain diminished. She still needed to get back in bed, but stubborn as she was, she decided she could not leave the humans and vampire alone – Morris has lost his wards and Autumn could actually be the vampire’s target. Adriel looked at Morris. She knew the man had good intentions and the will to help, but he had also been through a lot of trouble on his own – she ought to do something to make him feel he was welcomed.
She bowed her head in reply when Raziel bowed and left.

“Mister Morris”, she said. “I’ll need your assistance. I’ll call one of our friends to cleanse the taint of the demoness from your being; but meanwhile take precautions against the vampire to help Autumn. Milady”, she addressed the woman, “I strongly suggest you stay in the same room with this creature as little as possible; if possible, I’d suggest you don’t pay heed to him. Vampire”, then Adriel said, “The wards Raziel has laid won’t allow you to leave this room, which you might’ve have noticed it’s a solarium. Don’t try anything against us or else we’ll leave you here till the sun rises!”
Adriel was a kind creature, but she was from the Death Flock, also.
//Rishta, Uriel… One of you, please come to the solarium – we have a situation here.//

“Without my ward and oak stakes, I’m afraid I won’t be of much use against a vampire,” Johnathon lamented. “Once this taint is gone, however, I should be able to perform a small blessing on Autumn and myself. The sooner, though, the better… I can feel it crawling inside my mind, like oil on water. It makes me shiver just thinking about it.”

Johnathon tugged at his coat. He could feel Essendre’s touch all over him. He wouldn’t feel clean until he burned these wretched clothes, and got the chance to return home and change. “What I wouldn’t give for a drink,” he muttered to himself.
“Lady Adriel, let me apologize again. I’ve caused you so much trouble.” Johnathon’s hand reflexively went to his neck. But his father’s ward was gone. It would take a long time for him to adjust to that. “I never meant for any of this to happen. If there’s anything I can do to make it up to you, I am at your service.”

Uriel heard a voice calling her and she woke up in a dark room. Silently, she got up enduring the stinging pain on her back and walked out of the room. She walked in the corridors, down the stairs and through the halls. Her replenished powers slowly healed her back and bits of white feathery wings sprouted on her back, which Uriel tried to hide as best as possible through an invisibility spell. “Someone is calling me… I’m needed….” Uriel muttered to herself as she walked, feeling feverish as ever.

It didn’t take Uriel long to reach where Adriel and the rest were. Uriel just arrived from behind Johnathon’s back. “I heard I’m needed…” a pale-looking Uriel said softly, and she didn’t seem to be her usual pesky self. She stopped short beside Johnathon and looked at him in bewilderment. “You… you…” Uriel was almost too shocked and startled to talk, .”..I can sense… Moloch’s aura on you… You have been tainted by her… So she’s really around… and close…” Uriel spoke softly.

Adriel watched them, trying not to show her pain. They all looked confused in her eyes – except the vampire! The Angelic Host leaders were busy, and Uriel was obviously not feeling well. Adriel then took the lead to bring some comfort to them. She’d have time for herself later.
“Yes, she is”, Adriel gravely said. “Uriel, we need you to remove the taint Moloch left on Mr. Morris; he does need to be cleansed from her influence. I believe you can do that, for you know Moloch well.”

Adriel spoke emphatically to bring the confidence back into the dazed archangel. Uriel was pale and seemingly had not recovered her usual temper yet. Adriel took in a deep breath. She did need to get back to bed, but the idea of going back to help Raphael was haunting her mind.

“Oh Mr. Morris, you do not need to apologize”, Adriel said. “I believe… Moloch kidnapped you at the Inn while we fought the demons. It’s me who should in either case apologize; I did not arrive on time.” Adriel had a small smile. She spoke calmly, her eyes gentle but with a determined look to them; she looked at Johnathon for a couple seconds, sensing his soul was suffering like a caged bird.
“I believe however… you do have something you’ve been wanting to say and you’ve not found the chance to”, she suddenly said. “If I can help you… I’ll be glad to be of help; but first let Uriel remove the taint from you so you can be free of the touch of Evil.”

Nicholai stretched a little, smiling to Adriel. “Interesting, that you should tell me not to try anything cherie. I sense you are weak, and probably would have a hard time warding me off, were I to attack. But I have no desire of that, I’m afraid.” His words were spoken in a heavy French accent, face laden with confidence.

He looked to Autumn, smiling warmly at her. “From what gossip tells, you are the wife of the dear Baron, Lorant… the son of Anastasia Riktophen…” He paused, bringing a hand down under him to bow charmingly. “A pleasure to meet you, I’m sure. You see, my dear… I was sent here to kill you by your dear, dear mother-in-law… The lovely woman has a fondness for you unparallel in anything I’ve seen.
I wanted to know more about her, so I agreed to accept her request of your murder. It seemed an interesting game… But now, ah, I am not so sure I wish to take it..” A frown came over his perfect face. “Do not be so presumptuous as to think that I am afraid of death… I care not. I would kill you now, and die thereafter without regret. But this seems far too mundane a circumstance, left with only a weakened angel to protect you. Lorant would be very displeased with his mother if he though you dead. And I would be displeased with myself, having let it end so quickly, so far from climax.” The arrogant vampire seemed not to even notice the precarious situation he was currently in.
“So my dear. I thicken the plot… and spare you from Anastasia’s hunt… for now.” He moved a hand forward to touch a small pendant that hung from her neck. “If you let me go I may bring proof of your ‘death’ to your mother… and she will cease efforts to bring about your death. And… Lorant should stop looking for you as well. I do believe that he will be searching soon… You wouldn’t like that, would you..? Non… He is a rather nasty fellow, if the grapevine is correct…”
Nicholai closed his palm around the necklace, looking at Autumn with a persuasive charm. “Come my dear. What do you say..?”

His voice was griping, something hard for her to turn away from. But he wasn’t the first. She showed no surprise or fear as he grasped her pendant, despite her need to smack his hand away and run screaming from the room. He confirmed her suspicion of being one of Anastasia’s assassin’s… but his motives still remained unclear.
“You choose to let me live… then what exactly do you receive in return?” Autumn asked curiously. “After all, such a gracious gift, you must expect something…”

“There is no gift that you could possibly want from this detestable creature!” Johnathon snapped, forcing himself in between Nicholai and Autumn. “A bargain with something that has no soul is simply suicide.”
Johnathon shot Nicholai the hardest stare he could muster, and tried not to think about how tired he was. He had faced down a vampire or two before; this was nothing new to him. But then again, he had all his equipment with him. Now, he was exhausted, and totally unarmed. Still, he did have a job to do. And the vampire wouldn’t try anything stupid, not with all the angels around.
“We will not make shady deals with the undead. We shall face Anastasia in due course, on our own terms, and without any help from you,” he added sharply.

Adriel did not add anything but summoned the Blade of Life in the shape of a spear and held it almost casually, ready to strike Nicholai at the slightest sign of danger. It was Autumn’s decision – Adriel kept watch, ready to attack. She was still weak to openly fight a powerful demon, but she could deal with a vampire.

Nicholai sighed, not giving the blade at his throat even a blink. “My dear angel, being the lovely creature you are, I would have thought you less violent.” He shot a grin to Johnathon, countering his glare. “Detestable? Manners, monsieur, manners. Use them, if you have them. It is Autumn’s choice to make. Not yours.” Here he paused, turning his head as to look into the curious young woman’s eyes once again. His golden pupils glinted with a child-like amusement.

“Ah, my dear lady, you misunderstand me. I wish for nothing. I want nothing in return. All I desire is to play the game. Win or lose, it doesn’t matter. I pledge no allegiance to that devil of a woman, shriveled inside her lovely mask. But what I burn for, what I need is to play. I should have no reason to kill you. That would end it all, it would end my game… so I let you live… be not suspicious, just think it a favor.”
Nicholai’s curiously red lips parted in a smile. “An invitation… to perhaps play with me sometime.” He was off the subject as soon as he has started upon it, brushing his ebony bangs from his eyes, mindful of the blade. “All I ask is proof. A sign to bring to Anastasia of your demise…” His eyes fluttered closed momentarily, and the back clasp of her necklace unlatched, gently, ever so gently, and floated into his palm. He held the delicate pendant in the most tender of ways, admiring it’s subtle beauty. “This will do perfectly.”

“The Lady is right. You must want something in return.” Uriel spoke suddenly, her eyes suddenly alert to the possible danger. The vampire was very suspicious… and they were not to be trusted. “Give that back, or would you explain your actions before a fight starts here?” Uriel said, eyeing Nicholai carefully. “Well, Lady Riktophen, what do you say? It’s all up to you.”

Adriel did not pay heed to the vampire’s words; she stayed alert and waited for Autumn to make her choice. Adriel held her spear with expertise, waiting. Where could Raphael be? Adriel was upset at leaving him alone, but she trusted Raziel’s abilities. However, the idea of going back to help persistently lingered in her mind.

“It’s alright…” Autumn said gradually, keeping a wary eye on the vampire. He viewed it all as a game did he? She wasn’t too surprised, and at least at the one small point he seemed sincere. He wasn’t going to kill her, even if she weren’t surrounded by the others. But rarely did one give something for nothing. It was just going to take time to tell. “Take it to Anastasia. I just hope it will be enough proof…”
If it wasn’t, she’d find a new way to avoid danger. She always did.

Uriel scowled. She wasn’t happy with Autumn’s decision but she left it at that. It was none of her business if her throat got ripped open by the old hag or her minions later. It would only be her own fault by being too trusting. Moving over to Johnathon, Uriel touched him on the shoulder gently. “Come, let me heal you.” she said silently. A white glow beamed and a rune appeared on her palm. Uriel closed her eyes and allowed her power to run through Johnathon’s body. Suddenly, there was a force within Johnathon’s body resisting Uriel’s power, fighting against it in full strength. Uriel’s brows twitched, and she went on softer, knowing that forcing on Johnathon would hurt him internally with the two forces clashing in him.

Suddenly, the black demonic force sucked in the white power of Uriel’s and the two forces fought, with the white force winning in the end, and spreading in Johnathon’s body, healing him. Uriel tried to open her eyes, but what she saw shocked her. The black aura escaped out from Johnathon and seemed to form an image of Moloch, an angry looking Moloch projecting hatred towards Uriel. With a blood-curdling scream, Uriel fell to the ground and blacked out.

Nicholai blinked in surprise, for once, at the image that was emitted from the mortal. “Well… What an interesting way to take my leave. He stepped to the left of the falling girl as she fainted, musing over the situation. “Thank you all for your great kindness.” he added with a brief sort of chilling smirk to Adriel. “Especially you, dame. I wish you a pleasant evening.” He bowed to Autumn, taking her hand in his and placing a gentle kiss upon it. As he did, his fang scraped her skin, broke the surface. It was just a little cut- not enough to hurt. Nicholai placed the locket underneath the tiny droplets of blood, and filled the inner compartment quickly. He then closed it, and it disappeared somewhere inside his jacket. “Au Revoir… I hope you all enjoy your night.” With a smile and a bow, the fainted body was stepped over, and Nicholai moved out of the room and back into the gardens. It seemed with Autumn’s consent, Raziel’s sealed wards over the solarium had vanished.

Startled by Uriel’s sudden scream, Autumn barely noticed the movements of the vampire until she felt the sharp prick of his fangs along her skin. She merely winced, allowing him to drip the blood into the locket, understanding the meaning behind it. He was thorough in his game, all the more reason to be wary of him in the future.
As he left, she moved to Uriel who still laid passed out on the floor, and gently patted her cheeks to rise her out of the faint. Autumn sighed, shrugging lightly as she looked up with a weak smile at Johnathon. “Moments in this place are never dull, it seems… I hope you didn’t have much trouble after I… left…”

“Ah…nothing truly terrible that I couldn’t handle,” Johnathon replied, flashing a genuine smile for the first time that day. “I must admit, though… you certainly do seem to keep odd company.”
Johnathon turned to Uriel, his smile quickly vanishing. “Of course, I’m hardly one to talk. Only a bungler like me could cause angels to pass out from exhaustion, and faint dead away.”

Adriel on her part was more or less glad the vampire left. She did not trust the creature, nor did she like the idea of… his game. Adriel made the Spear disappear with a small sigh. At least the humans were now as safe as they could be, and whole.
Adriel was uneasy about Raphael. She still lingered on the idea of going back… Uriel had fainted upon the foul sight of Moloch’s image and her hatred. Adriel really felt like fainting, herself… She went to her and kneeled down beside Uriel as Autumn tried to wake the Healer up.

//Uriel… I am with you. Moloch can’t reach us by now; please, come back to us…// Adriel faltered and fell on her ankles as she was knelt down beside the archangel. Adriel frowned slightly in displeasure and brushed her hand past her forehead. Wielding the spear had been hard work earlier, with her internal injuries stinging her. She wouldn’t be able to lift Uriel – maybe not even herself! Adriel sighed and gently touched Uriel’s forehead, now sitting on the floor.
“Please, help her on a bench… I’m afraid I can’t be of much help for now.” Adriel pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it on her lips as she had a fit of cough.

Azrael stayed in her raven form for the moment, holding fast to Raphael’s back. From her position, she watched Adriel fetch Johnathon as Raphael fought the demonic dragon; Belial was around – she could perceive him, but she also perceived Azazel: distant, unconscious. Azrael waited for the right moment to counterattack – let it be Belial’s or Moloch’s.
//Leave now//, she sent a message to Adriel. //We’ll cover you.// Azrael cast a spell. It was her Time, for it was night and the land was immerse in the Dark. The archangel delicately pulled at the tainted Dark in the limits of the wards and reverted them back to original Dark – a thick wall of darkness formed around the ground’s wards, hiding Adriel and Johnathon – a dark that absorbed everything like a living being, thick, merciless and meditative in the likeness of the Void and Azrael.

Taking the chance, Adriel flew away swiftly carrying Johnathon on her back; she covered her trail the best she could, heading to Rishta’s manor. She knew Raphael was in condition to fight, but anyway the angel’s heart ached in angst. She was quite worried and she wished she hadn’t got him in this problem.

Belial looked back. Azazel was still unconscious. Belial cast a quick spell that veiled the window as he darted out of it. He couldn’t help but to wonder if he did well – after all… if the angels found Lucifer’s son right now, it might not be a bad thing.

The Necromancer felt an unnerving tingle upon his skin, for in the very instant he flew out, Azrael cast her spell, reverting part of the Dark and untainted form, bending it to her will. The feeling was awfully familiar and stirred feelings he did not need to have stirred at the moment. Where the hell was Azrael? He didn’t give a damn about Johnathon Morris and Moloch was enraged and apt to fight by herself. Raphael would be getting into more trouble than he expected, for sure.

Calm down!, he growled at himself. I need to focus, or else… He flew up, hovering over the roof. Rising the Staff of Simara, he started a spell to counteract Azrael’s – as he chanted, his feverish mind began to cool down. He worked – meticulously and methodically. All by the Book – His Book, of course.

Raphael was annoyed. He believed Azrael could do more than she was doing right now. He tried to shake her off again but failed miserably. “I will get you later!” he whispered fiercely to Azrael as he turned his attention back to Strife and the ugly lizard Moloch had presented to him. The dragon opened its mouth and snapped at Raphael, aiming acidic spew towards the angel. Raphael ducked easily and flew aside. Raphael flew about the dragon and tried attacking it a few times but its tail kept interrupting Raphael and threw him off-balance. SMACK! Suddenly, the tail hit Raphael’s hand and Strife was hit away, embedded onto the ground. Raphael glared at the dragon crossly, but now he had a plan.

Moloch snarled as Adriel took off with Morris, but the mortal wasn’t much of a loss. There were much stronger occultists she could turn her attentions to.
Instead, she diverted her tender mercies to Raphael. Let Belial handle Azrael; those two had had their battles long in the making. She sent her whip, with its sullenly glowing thin metal plates, shooting towards the vulnerable male archangel. She had had hopes at one time to break the arrogant child, but she didn’t feel as if the time invested would be worth it. He’d break easily under pain, anyway. Anger hid fear. The whip snaked around one of the boy’s arms, searing angelic flesh with infernal fire. “So you wish to mock us?” The dragon reared back, preparing to strike Raphael down while prone and thus earn favor with its mistress.

Azrael bristled nonchalantly and blinked at Raphael’s threat. She did not consider it necessary to reply. When Moloch’s whip caught Raphael’s arm, the Raven suddenly took flight, and the dark followed her like a cape. She flew over Moloch when the demoness arm tensed upon the grip of the whip, covering her head in a dark shadow which remained as Azrael darted to the roof to attack Belial. She momentaneously disappeared in the shadows on the roof, moving through them.

Belial left the barrier of Dark around the limit of the wards alone – it was weakened enough and now he could concentrate on his enemy. He rose the Staff and began casting a spell to control the darkness around him so he could locate the Dark Archangel and strike. Belial fully assumed his demonic form, but he did not have claws this time; his armor shone darkly as he chanted in a low, hissing voice. The shadows began to form twitching tendrils around him.

Azrael’s angelic form showed an outline as the fire-like writings and sigils on her armor came to life, shining in absence of light. Their shine was not visible, either – only perceived. Azrael chanted with a crystal-like voice lacking all emotion – still and perfect, chilling cold. The Dark went thicker like a sudden tide; it rose and swirled around them, smoothly sliding through the tendrils of tainted Dark Belial was controlling.

Belial was undaunted; he used the Staff to canalize his energies and strengthen his spell. The dark tendrils began to grow thicker and larger, trying to grasp and nullify the force unleashed by Azrael. The dark grew and soon the others would be no longer able to perceive Belial and Azrael’s presences; it became heavy, suffocating on Belial’s side; deeper, a living Void on Azrael’s.

Raphael nearly threw a fit of anger when both Adriel and Azrael left him. They had to choose this time, he thought angrily.
Raphael grimaced slightly as he tried to pull himself free from the burning whip but it became tighter than usual and burned deeper into his flesh. Growling, Raphael’s turquoise eyes flashed dark blue and with a cry, he whipped his two arms aside and swung his burnt arm to the other side. Unable to take the repeated swinging, the whip eventually let loose of its victim as it hissed like a serpent.

The dragon roared, angered that Raphael had gotten away from Moloch’s whip and thinking that he had insulted its mistress’ dignity He attacked with a hot breath of fire. Raphael grasped his hands together, chanted a spell and a golden sigil formed in front of him, acting as a shield against the hot fire. The fire died down and Raphael was left unharmed, leaving the dragon exasperated and even more angered than before. The dragon was beginning a new attack when Raphael shook his head and said darkly, “Uh-uh… It’s MY turn!”

Summoning a glow to his palm, Raphael stooped down and pressed down onto the ground, letting the beam of golden glowing ball sink into the earth. The ground around the house began shaking heavily and cracked open just beneath the dragon where it fell. It howled as it fell into the deep pits of the ground, appealing help from it’s Mistress as the ground shut upon it again. Rising to his feet, Raphael mumbled a commanding spell and Strife was back to his hand. He grinned forcibly at Moloch. “How is it Doctor?” Pausing, Raphael laughed, “Oh. I forgot. It’s NURSE. Uriel is the doctor! You will always be the backup as long as she’s still around.”

Moloch’s flat crimson eyes narrowed at Raphael’s remark; he thought he could manipulate her by angering her. Sadly, she was already angry. She supposed she should save him the trouble… “Allow us to assist you by removing your ability to think of new, pitiful insults…” She lashed out with her whip, and whispered a few words.

Immediately, a solid ward rose up around the two, practically unbreakable. The temperature shot up to lung-shriveling heat; it was possible to see the heat waves as it turned a hazy red.
“Prepare to meet… Inferno!” The air flashed into fire as molecular friction caused the oxygen to ignite. It was instantly hot enough to incinerate a full-grown cow. Scorpion hissed around sizzling flesh. Raphael could escape, but definitely no longer unscathed. A shadow slipped through the red wards; distracted, Moloch turned to see who- not allowing the spells to slip her grasp, of course. She could still hear the dragon’s pitiful screeching.

Raziel alighted behind Moloch and outside of her ward; it would be near impossible to break through if he didn’t get to work immediately. He put up a shielding ward around himself; if he didn’t act quickly, Raphael would only be a few cinders. As it was, he’d definitely have horrendous burns. Uriel would be busy once more.
Raziel tugged and cut at the knots in the spell; hard, because of all the demonic energy around him; even worse, because the spell’s threads wanted to slip around his mind and expand to pull him in as well. Moloch was far stronger than he had ever expected; and she showed no signs of exhaustion or even boredom. He allowed himself a small feeling of envy.

Raphael narrowed his eyes as the heat increased greatly and the fire began to build up over him. If he didn’t do something soon, he would be fried, angel or not. However, he did sense help from Raziel and a bit of confidence was added. Spinning Strife in his hand, Raphael wrote a sigil in midair and it formed a protective aura around him as he flew up into the skies, escaping from the flames. However, the heat was too searing and it seemed determined to track him down whenever he flew. Raphael gritted his teeth in pain as the fire caught his back, arms and legs. With a final dash, Raphael escaped out of the burning hell with his sooted wings. Turning back, Raphael looked at Moloch and blasted an ugly vacuum slash towards her with Strife.

Raziel broke off his efforts to weaken the ward, seeing as how Raphael escaped. He was badly burned and his wings were a bit crispy (and smelled like burnt chicken), and looked exhausted as well.
“Come on!” Raziel caught Raphael up in an air-woven net and flew off, carrying him out of the manor and its grounds. The young archangel would be angry now, but when he grew up he’d thank Raziel. Some day.

Raphael shrieked as he felt a net over him suddenly. He struggled, thinking it was Moloch again. However, he eased down when he heard Raziel’s voice. He was mad at Raziel, but kept quiet about it. He just allowed Raziel to lead him away.
“Put me down soon!” Raphael said unhappily, “My wings might be a little charred but I still can fly!”

//No, you cannot. You’re lucky Moloch wanted to cause you pain. You’ll be unable to fly until Uriel can tend to you, as I am not gifted in the Healing arts. Perhaps Rishta will be able to see to you.// Raziel continued to fly, adjusting the spell to make Raphael more comfortable. He passed some of his energy along to the young archangel.

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