Azrael found her way to the manor gardens. Taking her woman appearance, Azrael walked out of the House and into the gardens behind it, taking a trail in the shade of mighty trees. Near a stone fountain, she found a stone bench in a shadowed spot; Azrael sat there and summoned the Book of Life and Death, which she opened on her lap. The Book looked now like a large, ancient tome. Azrael reached out and picked one of her black feathers, seemingly out of thin air; with it, she leafed through bookmarks, taking notes using the feather as a pen.

After a little while, Azrael’s pen stopped. She seemed to meditate for a long instant. The cold breeze barely touched her beautiful, marble-like face and her black hair. Azrael closed the Book, then opened it at a different bookmark marked with a feather; but this feather was not hers. It was a long black and white feather from the wings of another angel. The wings of someone who used to be an angel. A former angel of Destruction.
The black and white feather was quite distinctive. It belonged to Belial.

Azrael was not one to hold ‘feelings for individuals’, like Belial once said. The Head of the Order of Death and Destruction was a lone angel created from the Dark; she represented mysteries and terrors that earned her the name of Fear Itself. Azrael ought not get involved with the living or the dead – always distant, she was a director, not an actor. A player – maybe.
Azrael followed the entries with alabaster-like pale finger, then added some notes to the complex compilation of Belial’s existence she held. He belonged in her Order; he had been about to become her archangel; she had trained him and he had assisted her in her work, being the closest one to her. In fact, the only one she allowed to be. He then became a Fallen. Azrael had been forced by the Order Council and the circumstances to take the charge of archangel to oppose him. It was her task to stop him. Azrael had accepted this with her usual immutability.

Azrael began taking notes in a new entry below his name; she wrote about Belial’s split. In the last days, she had found more clues on what she had studied for a long time: Belial’s dual nature had manifested, but as it split in two, Light and Dark had split along, siding in two alter-egos. Azrael had her doubts on if one half was the ‘good one’ and the other the ‘bad one’ but the dark half had the lead, as expected.
Azrael bit her lip slightly. Belial had managed to give true life to dead flesh. He had finally surpassed the stage of the undead to reach the stage of true life: that was alarming and could not be allowed. Then, the Seal of the Abyss. He had conducted a ritual to break it with the power of other demons. Azrael’ brow twitched.

At Westminster, both in her fight with him and then when he rescued Azazel, she had perceived despite his masks and tricks that the angelic Light within him endured. Azrael had waited centuries for him to make a mistake that confirmed this – he finally did. What had he done to himself? Demonic and angelic powers unmixed coexisted within him. He was able to use both powers. He had voluntarily taken Gabriel’s shot. Azrael knew well this ought to be Belial’s darkest secret. Knowing him… or at least the old Belial, he wouldn’t have wanted this. It had to be a mistake… but what then was he trying to do when he split himself in two? Why do such a dangerous thing to himself? What was supposed to be the use?
Azrael’s pen paused.
//I must tell this to Michael… but I need to have a word with Raziel first.//

Raziel walked with Lady Riktophen in serene silence, enjoying the calls of birds. The air was scented with the perfume of flowers, and elder oaks formed a twisted canopy of leaves and branches. Elementals were profuse here; they enjoyed the peace of the place, untainted by the dirty pollution of London.
As they walked, Raziel sensed Azrael and subtly guided their steps to her.

“Hello, Azrael…” He turned his head slightly; he sensed a foreign being near the protections… Not very strong, probably a lesser demon or vampire… He sighed. “Expecting company?” He pulled his energies in closely, wondering if there would be cause for violence.

Azrael rose her head to look at Raziel. She carefully placed the black and white feather back in the Book marking the last entry and closed it.
“Hello, Raziel”, she replied. “Welcome back.” The significance of her words lingered. Welcome back to our eternal labor, to our eternal journey. Azrael nodded in greeting to Autumn. “Good Eve, Baroness.”

“I need to have a word with you. It’s about Belial”, she said to Raziel.
Azrael also sensed a presence – different from the other near presences, this one was hollow. A suspended form of Death. A vampire.

Autumn welcomed the evening , and the quietness of the walk, yet couldn’t help but let a small sigh of disappointment escape the moment she spotted Azrael. At the mentioned of their ‘duties’ she immediately shied away, not wanting to be the silent tag along to another conversation.
“I believe that is my cue to leave…” she gave a weak smile. “I’ll just be walking. You can fetch me if you need to.”

“I apologize if I seem to impose, but I would prefer staying near you at this particular time…” He trailed off, as if saying, “Don’t you remember how we met?” The assassin from earlier still lingered in his mind; Raziel did not want Azazel to ‘rescue’ his wife.
//Perhaps you could change into a form a little less unnerving for the mortal,// he advised Azrael. He assumed that her angelic form was probably a bit frightening to any non-angelic being… She was, after all, their incarnation of fear.
He bowed slightly to both of the ladies. //Of course, we could continue this conversation mentally, if you do not feel so inclined…//

Azrael smoothed out her silk skirt. Since this form was still ominous, she pondered which one would be better for the time. She held her Book and stood up; as she did, the outline of her body seemed to vanish and change like a trick of the light; black wings spread and a shadow described a curve in the dark shade of the tree. Next second, a raven was perched on Raziel’s shoulder. The bird carefully held her grip on his shoulder and flapped her wings before folding them neatly on her back. Her eyes were a dark blue with a myriad tiny suns in them.

//Mentally then//, Azrael said. //The woman gradually accepts us as time passes; but still that’s a sign of other times she has endured.// The raven clicked her beak.
>//It was Belial who planned the ritual to break the Seal of the Abyss, but you already know that. His ritual altered an entry in my Book: he gave true life to a corpse and fused it with Azazel to bring him to his plane of existence, and that is grave. He surpassed the stage of the undead in necromancy. But there’s something else about him…//

//Aside from the split persona that solidifies itself into two separate forms…? One side, I sense more dark energies, akin to your own, Azrael… The other, he seems less violent… More… Holy energies, perhaps, but well hidden. Would you see my Records?// He opened that part of his mind to her, mindful of the information so terrible he would not share with even the Head of the Order of Death and Destruction.
//To whom else have you spoken on this subject?// He queried, still keeping a mental eye on the section of his spells reacting to the presence. He smiled slightly to Lady Riktophen. “Milady?” he said mildly, offering his arm once more.

//Thank you. I’ve mentioned this to no one else//, Azrael replied. //Eventually, I’ll have to update the case to the Council of my Order.// Azrael looked through Raziel’s records, careful not to miss what she was looking for. //It intrigues me why he carried on the ritual that split him in two. In Westminster, he used holy energies twice; Gabriel’s shot had another effect. It shook the layer of Dark over him and I saw it is a mask. I am almost certain he pulls a layer of Dark over the nature of his less violent half to hide the fact that the angelic Light endures in him; this ought to be his darkest secret, something to hide from the other demons… and that is why I don’t understand what he was seeking.// Azrael went back on Raziel’s records to the times Belial split his own self.

Autumn found Azrael as the raven mildly curious. Well, she found almost everything about the angels curious. They weren’t much like the stories people often told, yet at the same time very much like them. If the situation were different, she’d very much want to hear their conversations and learn more about them.
Like if your dear husband hadn’t returned from death to seek you out?

As Raziel offered his arm once more, she gave him a half chiding look, softened with a smile. She knew full well they were still discussing things, most likely in their minds out of earshot. The others did it often before when they didn’t want her to hear things. As if they thought she couldn’t figure it out. Avoiding his arm and taking his hand instead, Autumn did the leading this time. Staying at least a pace or two ahead. After all, how could the man mind his step while speaking to a raven with his thoughts?
If I had my camera, that’d make such an amusing photograph… No doubt soul telling as well. Damn it all! I wouldn’t be able to convince anyone to fetch it for me either. Anastasia and her blasted demon of a son… Sigh. Maybe they can be rid of the Baron and take his hellfire mother with him…

Raziel was mildly surprised as Lady Riktophen took his hand and led him; a change, but he could accept in stride. He felt rather… foolish, though, but the shadow hid the sudden warmth that suffused his cheeks. //I see… It is curious. I am relieved that I had not missed that part of the battle. Stone has an odd viewpoint when it comes to living affairs.// He had, after all, had to draw information from the rock about the site, as he missed the beginning of the battle…
He was worried over that sudden display of his weakness; it seemed that more and more energy was being drained from him. The next time he died, he was sure he wouldn’t have the energy necessary to return to the living plane, if Azrael even allowed for such… Which was why he was so anxious to train Rishta in his duties.

The raven flapped her wings to keep balance as Autumn led Raziel down a trail beneath the shade of the trees. The sun was set; an explosion of dark blues and warm gold painted the landscape, and the night shadows ran to the West, painting the manor in blacks and blues. Azrael secured her grip on Raziel’s shoulder. She felt a sudden, faint wave of warmth coming out of him; Azrael was sure he was recovered by now though, so she did not ask about it.

//Yes//, Azrael said. //It’s curious…// She carefully read into the records he opened in his mind for her.
//Maybe he wanted to remove that angelic light that remained in him and get rid of it. I see in your records he at first tried to part with it. It’s strange.// Azrael had a curious look for Autumn and tilted her head like the bird whose form she had taken.

//I’d like to know your opinion. I will need to tell Michael about this too, when he gets a minute of seriousness.// Azrael clicked her beak and dodged a small branch in their way.
//May I mention your energies are marking a point to make plans for the future//, she said. //This of course is your own choice.//

Raziel nodded thoughtfully, forgetting the mind-to-mind contact in an odd, fleeting moment of mortality. //I am aware… I have vague plans for that, though it depends on what you may and may not make allowances for,// he conceded.
//I would say I’m surprised he didn’t try to destroy that half, but it would not be giving Belial credit for his cleverness. Such an action, destroying part of himself, would surely destroy the whole. Perhaps as two he gains more power than before?//

//As you prefer.// The archangel nodded. Azrael puffed her feathers in perplexity, getting a lustrous black fluffy look. //He gains more power//, she admitted. //It’s a mirror principle – but it’s counterproductive I suppose, since he has to mask part of his power to fight efficiently as a demon…// Azrael got lost in a complicated trail of technical explanations. She shook her tail and bristled as she continued her speech. She abruptly interrupted her conference realizing it was not necessary at the moment to say all that.
Besides, for some reason Raziel’s mind was starting to wander off.

//Well//, she said. //Maybe in some way I could use this discovery to our advantage, but I also need to consult Michael; also I need to figure out how to do that. We’ll also need to work in a different Seal to the Abyss I suppose. It’s so strange this split of his… Rishta thinks one half is good. I think he’s tricked her about that.//

Autumn stopped under the tree’s to watch the dark hues of the sky a few moments. Another beautiful picture she could have captured. If she didn’t know better, she’d climb over the manor walls and go back to fetch it. Glancing over her shoulder, she gave Azrael a curious look. She was puffed up like a Christmas turkey, with Raziel nodding to whatever speech was going on in his mind.

“Tisktisk. I’m sure it’s not so bad. You’ll molt all your feathers away getting so agitated.” Autumn let go of Raziel’s hand as she addressed the raven on his shoulder. She scooped Azrael off with ease, allowing her to perch on her finger while she lightly patted her head.
“If you ask me, I think you’re spending too much time fighting and not enough time resting.” She hadn’t a clue of what they were really speaking of, but she was much more perceptive than they gave her credit for. Giving a half grin she scratched under the raven’s chin. “Before long you’ll all be put up in bed with me nursing you back to health. I’m afraid I don’t know much about nursing angels… or birds for that matter.”

Azrael flapped her wings and her feathers smoothed out as Autumn scooped her off. Her black claws closed carefully around the woman’s fingers as the archangel blinked at being treated like a bird. She watched Autumn with one eye, then the other. Azrael bristled, then shook her tail; she rose her head proudly.
//There is no time to rest//, Azrael spoke to Autumn’s mind. //I have never rested, myself.// She was about to explain her work, but then thought it over and didn’t mention it.
//Do you rest, sometimes?// Azrael asked with curiosity, tilting her head. //How do you rest?//

Autumn’s eyes widened in surprise to hear Azrael’s voice in her head. She tilted the little raven’s head gently with her finger, from side to side as if expecting to see her beak move along with her words. “I do… I should be even now. Even if your mind doesn’t require rest, your body needs time to regather energy. It should be true for angels just like humans…” Autumn lifted one of Azrael’s wings to examine her more closely. “I think there is always time for rest… Your mind can only do so much without your body. It’s senseless to wear yourself out too quickly, then risk not being strong enough to defend yourself later.” She spoke as if she knew the truth of her words from experience. After all, how could one survive in the Riktophen family without learning a few important tricks.

Azrael blinked when Autumn lifted her wing; she delicately snapped at her curious hand with her thin pointed beak to make her desist.
//I see//, she said in perplexity. Still she didn’t feel her question had been answered. //The mind always lingers on the important matters//, Azrael insisted. //There is so much to do…//
Azrael leapt from her hand and perched on her shoulder. Moving from one side to the other as she moved the hair out of the way, the raven bristled then finally perched comfortably.

Raziel chuckled softly as Autumn spoke with Azrael, petting her and poking at her. Autumn had a curious mind; were that she an angel, he would have his replacement, and he could rest.
He leaned against a tree, watching, where a small patch of moon could illuminate. He committed everything he knew up until now into the Records he held in his mind, straightening out the few discrepancies and adding Azrael’s knowledge to it.
The vampire was still outside of the gates; what WAS he doing?

Nicholai stuffed the crumpled white sheet into his pocket. Violence had not been required this time. The duke was all too willing to surrender any information about Autumn’s whereabouts to him. The man had been rather frightened though- the map was scrawled in messy black ink on a cocktail napkin. But, however measly it might have been, he did have an idea of the Baroness’s house. He was making his way there now.

Along the way, however, a sort of sixth sense kicked in. Nicholai turned off his routine course and took a back alley, following his premonition. His feeling had been well-founded. A beautiful manor, with gardens and a clear sort of roof loomed in the darkness a good six-hundred feet away from him. He could feel enchantment seeping through the cracks in the old walls. Some sort of magick lived there. “Hm…” Nicholai paused, pondering over something silently. .”..The Baroness can wait…” He smiled slightly at the welcome distraction. London was just full of surprises. Cobblestones crunched softly under his footfall as he approached the gardens of the manor.

Nicholai stepped inside the gates rather slowly, taking in his surroundings with a growing curiosity. Twas’ true, the gardens were beautiful- especially by moonlight. He stayed in the shadows mostly, cloaking himself with a half cast, nonchalant sort of charm. He sensed beings nearby- he wasn’t quite sure if they were humans or otherwise, but he did sense beings- and moved toward them as a slow, steady pace. He stopped short of six yards from them, taking a seat in the bushes and strengthening his charm as he observed.

Rishta walked out into the gardens, pausing for a moment to really feel the difference. This wasn’t London, this wasn’t the hustle and bustle the city had become – as much as it pained her. This was her haven, the only part of “home” she had left. She knew this place, from her true childhood, and it had only been cleaned, not totally modeled to fit society. Sure, paths had been laid, but otherwise… the same. She never wanted it to change.

Calmly walking to where the others were, she smoothed out her dress, now dotted with blood, and pushed back the strand of hair that Michael had tugged. Something inside her pained when she remembered that, but she pushed it aside, not understanding why. She opened her mouth to speak, but something caught her attention. Not a visible thing, but more of a paranoid sixth sense. Like a poke in her mind… someone had trespassed on HER land. Someone… uninvited. What did they think they were doing?! Something inside her made her angry. She was trying to preserve her past, and now someone… wait. Who said they were spoiling it. Still.

Walking quickly past Autumn and Raziel, and Azrael in bird form, she went into the brush. She looked around… she felt the presence… but where? This was frustrating. However, unknown to her, the vampire was right behind her. Talking a couple of steps forward, she turned abruptly, and walked right into the intruder.

“YOU! Who are you!?” She said, backing back unto the trial, so it seemed to the others she was talking to a tree… that wouldn’t help her image much, now would it? She looked totally annoyed at him though, and had half a mind to simply throw him out. NO ONE messed with her like this, and lets just say she wasn’t happy.

Azrael was amusing, especially as a small raven in heavy contrast of her more human form. She knew very little about the world for one that was so smart. It made for a nice distraction. Autumn paused for a moment before replying to Azrael again. Glancing around the garden as if looking for something. She hated the feeling someone was watching, a great deal of the time she was right. It wouldn’t be very pleasing for someone to ruin her quiet moment.

Having Azrael tap around on her shoulder tugging at her hair was enough to distract her again. “Do you always think about your duties, Azrael…? Never taking a moment to enjoy what’s around you?” She tried to brush the raven off her shoulder on to her hand once again, to have an easier time of examining her, but she kept hopping over her hand. “What exactly do angels do…?”

Azrael resisted Autumn’s intent to pick her up again, eluding her fingers and staying close to her neck. The archangel blinked in perplexity and pushed her fingers away with her beak as she moved her claws out of their way to stay on Autumn’s shoulder.
//Angels watch over the balance in the world; it’s our duty//, Azrael replied. //We use the power from our Elements to carry on our task in harmony, in a heavenly Hierarchy. Man has free will and the power to reshape his Destiny, unlike us, to an extent. We archangels watch over certain things, we keep the Destiny keystones in place and lead the heavenly legions.// Azrael puffed her feathers a bit as in contentment.
She tilted her head with a blink and her feathers smoothed out. //I always think about my duties. I don’t know if there’s a satisfaction to them. It’s my duty.// Azrael seemed to get deep in thought.

Then Rishta appeared and seemingly scolded a tree. Rishta had a considerable amount of energy to scold people and things, it seemed. Azrael was certain she had scolded Belial and Michael with equal enthusiasm. The raven absently scratched her ear and watched Rishta deal with the mystery vampire visitor. Azrael as usual would not interfere unless necessary.

“Rather graceful little thing, aren’t we?”, Nicholai inquired as he stood from the bushes, removing his cloaking spell and brushing himself off. “Stumbling into me like that.” He peered up and around at the people before him- the girl directly in front of him was clothed in a blood-seeped dress. It was nearly tempting. “No matter. I have heard enough.” He smiled, stepping out into the moonlight for all to see. “I have gathered, from your conversation, that you are angels. Fascinating really…” He cocked his head with a small smile, now ignoring the woman in front of him.

“But you, you ma cherie… You asked what angels did. You are not one of them… no..?” He stepped a little closer, nonchalant of the powerful beings surrounding him. “I assume you are miss Riktophen…” Anastasia had had a lovely little picture in her house of the woman, though it was shattered in a few places from obvious abuse. “I need a word with you, ma cher… I mean you no harm. I merely have a message to convey…” Nicholai glanced to the surrounding beings a moment. “In private, if you please…”

Autumn was surprised by the vampire’s presence… and she was sure he was vampire simply by the way he moved. He was for sure someone sent by Anastasia. There was no other reason such a man would seek here out. Warily she regarded him, unconsciously sliding herself closer to Raziel. “I am not sure that is the best of ideas…”

Rishta took a couple of breaths, calming her poor nerves. All these constant events. Enough to kill an anti-social person… but it was sort of like a rebirth. In an odd way. She backed up and stared at the man when he started talking to Autumn. She didn’t like the way he sounded… like a sneaky threat. Gracefully walking next to him, and with unlimited authority, she pushed him back into the grove, and turned back to her guests.

“Everyone… dinner is ready, so you can go eat now if you wish… I have to handle him first.” Him, of course, being the intruder.
//Raziel, do me a favor and take Autumn in… I don’t like this man, like, he makes me nervous…//
Finally turning her attention back to the Frenchman, she narrowed her eyes and looked at him.
“What do you think you are doing trespassing on my property, in the evening? Do you have any idea who I am?” Rishta whispered, almost daring the man to even respond.

Nicholai dared. Oh, how he dared. “A very disheveled little person, at the moment. How rude of you, to push me away from my business like that. I would think a lady would have a bit more charm.” He pushed his bangs back from his eyes and looked at her musingly.
Nicholai smiled at her question.
“No, really, I have no idea. I know only that this seems to be your home, and you have quite a temper. Calm yourself mademoiselle, it is very unbecoming.” He was so very amused by the constant reddening of her face as he spoke.

“Now do listen. I must speak with the Baroness. It is a matter of urgency, I’m afraid. I’m the messenger sent to speak to her of things. I mean you no harm, I merely wish to speak with Madame Riktophen.” He turned to the group smoothly, moving his crimson eyes from one figure to the next. “Come now, do you really think that I would attempt anything with the Baroness? A lowly little vampire like myself?” He raised a palm to him chest, mock hurt. “Think logically. I am surrounded by beings that could kill me in a moments notice… I would have no chance. Why then, would I endanger my one and only life to kill a girl I have never met? Consider this, my friends…” He looked to Autumn with a sincere sort of smile, tilting his head a bit. “And let her decide…”

Rishta raised an eyebrow in amusement as he assaulted her with his words. He had some nerve… however, she was stunned with herself for losing her normal Lady demeanor, and she forced herself to become more tranquil – these events had been a bit to much.
“A lady has charm as long as a man has dignity. Who are you to enter private grounds?” Rishta murmured as he made his way past her. Some had said the French had charm… well, this one had lost it.

Autumn glanced at Rishta with surprise, but allowed the woman to speak for her. Her inner pride cried out, not approving of letting another fight her battles, but… she was simply so weary of fighting them on her own. Having true angel guardians was a blessing.

Rishta walked back out and stood next to Autumn with an air of protection – no matter her first impression, she didn’t want her to get hurt. Raziel was on her other side, and she knew that Raziel felt responsible for her, and that they probably had become close friends. Then the intruder went around saying how he wouldn’t hurt her, how they could fry him, and how he was such a lowly vampire. That kind of stunned her – she had never been to sure if such creatures existed. Finally, he asked to let Autumn decide. That was fine with her, after all, she was a Baroness, and Rishta had no right to intrude on her life… wasn’t allowed to even if she wanted. Destiny, she could never interfere, unlike her father. But she wasn’t sure of this man… time to go to who knew of these type of people.
//Azrael… Raziel… what is he? I mean, I have heard legends but… is he even the slightest bit trustworthy?//

In her raven form, Azrael clicked her beak watching all from Autumn’s shoulder. Her night sky gaze shone strangely in the shadow.
//He is a vampire – a dead who walks//, Azrael explained to Rishta. //He is already dead and his soul parted with him – vampires ‘live’ long unless they are slain. The demons brought them into being after the Fall. They are not to be trusted, for their way is sustain themselves with the blood of the living – they are cunning liars and tricksters.// Azrael made a pause.
//Are tea cakes served for dinner, too?//, she asked, clicking her beak again.

//So, he should be removed from the property… or maybe he wants the Baroness’ blood… or… so many possibilities.// Rishta kept beside them, looking at the strange man. Vampire – she remembered tales of blood and horror from her past. Creatures who lived in graves and came out on nights to drink young maiden’s blood… then they would return to their accursed abyss to wait for another chance… Outside, Rishta more or less looked passive. Well, passive despite the blood splattered dress. A part of her wanted to sleep, another – to eat, and finally, the last was curious… who was this guy? What did he want? How did he exist?!
Then Azrael asked the question that brought a smile to her face. //Tea cakes… yes. But there is a main meal, soup, salads… entrees… and desert. I think you will like that… sweet delicacies from around Europe… will this be the first time you have eaten?//

Raziel smiled condescendingly and jerked his hand downward, casting a binding on the vampire, planting him to the spot.
“Oh, we know your kind, Small One… Demon-bred nonsense.” Raziel had no patience for those who did not know their place. He cast another spell, one of levitation, a specialty of air. The vampire lifted a few inches from the ground; enough to make moving him easier. “Shall we go in? Then this young man can tell us all about this discussion he wishes to have with the Lady… I presume you’re involved with the interesting events occurring lately.”

He chuckled as he was planted to the ground, not in the least bit intimidated. He knew the angel could kill him. But somehow, he doubted he would.
Nicholai folded his arms and laid back, relaxing comfortably.
“Demon-bred nonsense? Yes, I believe that would be me. Or something like that. But that is not of the least importance, I’m afraid.” He waved his hand dismissively. “My speaking with the Lady Riktophen is what rules my present hour. But, inside or out, as long as I get to speak with the dear femme.” He flashed a little white-toothed smile at the ethereal being that held him the air, knowing his very presence grated the man’s nerves.

Raziel smiled back. “As your… heart desires.” He offered his arm to the Lady, turning to head back into the manor. He wasn’t about to leave the lady in such an uncouth being’s presence.

Autumn bit her lip. She was pleased at the idea of taking audience with the vampire, who could very well be there to kill her, but she had trust in Raziel. She took his arm with a weak smile and nodding. “Inside is a good idea.”

//I think yes//, Azrael replied to Rishta. She tugged a bit at Autumn’s hair with her black beak as the woman’s hair attempted to fall on her again. A tiny sphere of light suddenly flashed beside the raven, then disappeared. Azrael stretched out her wings. //I’ll be back later//, she informed Rishta in a mental message. //Then I’ll see about this you call ‘dinner’ – it sounds interesting.// She then spoke to Raziel. //Adriel needs backup – I’ll help her, as it’s my duty.// The raven took off from Autumn’s shoulder and disappeared into the night.

//As you see fit, Azrael. I will watch over these two. Make sure Adriel can finish what she starts.// Raziel’s mouth flickered into a smile. He bowed slightly to the retreating raven.

Rishta watched on in silence as Raziel bound the vampire, then he and Autumn went inside. Hearing Azrael’s mental message, she nodded as the raven took flight away from the manor. Rishta allowed them to go on ahead, turning and walking deeper into her gardens.
After a few minutes she reached a dense area, the trial barely visible, but obviously worn. Old, ancient… leading into a pool. A lake – surrounded by trees, an old playground to her and her friends. Briefly touching a tree for an instant, Rishta smiled from the memories. Old friends, deceased. Turning away, she made her way back into the mansion, taking a back stairwell, so she wouldn’t have to disturb Raziel and Azrael – they had looked busy.

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