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BELIAL

After Belial’s initial escape from the Abyss.

Another village. Another pauper, muddy village in France; centuries, ages seemingly had scurried between his fingers and he continued alive in his continuous errand. The thirteen century was just like the others – a never ending story of passions and barbarousness. A cart stumbled on the muddy road, causing scattered chicken to run out of its way; the market was mildly visited at the time; it would be no wonder very few villagers had money to buy or properties to trade. The tall figure clad in a dark cloak spied the surroundings from his hood. Silver eyes shimmered in the dark beneath the shelter of the hood.

A band of children beggars skittered among the peasants and beasts, trying to catch a terrified chicken; one of them tripped and bumped into the tall silent figure in its dark cloak, next to a booth. The little boy gazed up and gawked at the face he saw beneath the hood; it took him a couple seconds to react and raise a pleading hand to beg this merchant – for the cloak was of a good thick, warm fabric and he certainly looked like a well-fed one. The man hesitated, then gave the child a silver piece.

“Go away”, he murmured. His exquisite voice was a murmur of waters. The child stared and finally left.

Aramis bit his lip. He had to be specially careful around small children – poor innocent creatures. Small children under six years old could still be innocent enough to see through the inhuman veils and see his angelic nature. At least they would only get curious at the sad angel they could see, and sometimes be brave enough to try and touch his wings – and pull the feathers at the worst.

Aramis left the side of the booth and wandered across the muddy roads and trails of the village market. A medieval castle – a mere tower on a hill with a manor, a pit and a wall of wood and stone – cast an indifferent shadow from its height on the squalid village. Aramis cast a look over his shoulder. The little beggars had been following him for a while now. They peeped at him from behind some barrels with wide open eyes.

“You’d better hold fast to your pouch of money, m’sieur”, a smiling voice said. Aramis cast a rather cold glance at the man who addressed him: a thin man in a brown robe. He nodded in greeting.

“Dominus Vobiscum”, the monk saluted. Aramis had a little start.

“Et cum spiritu tuo”, he replied after a tense moment. The monk sensed something strange and tried to gaze into the hood but Aramis moved slightly, making it difficult to see his face.

“Do you need any help, m’sieur?”

“No. Thank you”, Aramis curtly replied. The monk didn’t leave, however. Aramis clasped a gloved hand on his cloak…

//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…

His opposite had abandoned him. 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.//

“I am alright, good man. Don’t trouble yourself about me”.

The monk had an ironic smile.

“You have been wandering aimlessly, m’sieur. The children have taken quite an interest on you. May I suggest you go back to your lodgings, or perhaps set for a humble breakfast with me? You look quite like a foreigner”. The monk was smiling. Suddenly his friendly gaze turned cautious. “Are you a guest to the vavasour?”

“No”, Aramis said.

Vraiment?” The monk smiled again. “Follow me, m’sieur”.

“I have not said yet if I accepted or not”, Aramis sharply said. “I am a stranger to you – and I don’t know you either”.

“A very healthy attitude, no doubt”, the monk laughed. “But breakfast for free it’s not something to refuse”.

Aramis smirked.

“Monk, honestly… I doubt you have money to waste on me; besides, if we’d bet on whose bag is heavier I believe I’d win”.

“My Rule forbids me to bet”, the monk retorted. He smiled again. “You look pretty poor to me”.

Aramis gasped. In a sense, perhaps he was poor. He lacked the inner peace this man had. His clothes were richer, but in a way this man was right – and maybe this monk was too smart for his own good.

“I am not your charity quota of the day”.

“Then follow me”, the monk said with a grin, leading the way. Aramis blinked, but didn’t move. The monk turned.

“You are lagging”, he said.

Aramis raised an eyebrow, but finally complied. “I warn you, I am not a religious man”, he told the monk once he caught up with him.

“We’ll see about that”, the monk said with a smile.

* * * * * * * * * *

The light shone brightly on the river waters; the reflections hurt the eyes. By the shore, laying lazily on a cape spread on the grass in the shade of a tree, a tall, handsome man with long, raven black hair watched the skies between the branches. He stretched out and sighed in satisfaction. Suddenly a bird that had been chirping in the branches let fall a little bird deed. The man dodged just on time.

“Cursed little beast!” He glared at the bird and the small creature dropped dead. The man wiped off the drop from the cape with the bird’s tail and tossed the dead body into the river.

“Drats. Back already?” He cast a displeased glance at the man that had silently walked by. “Talking to humans again?”

“Yes, again”, Aramis coolly replied. He had had the impulse to laugh when he saw what had happened, but he cast the other a reproachful look when he saw what the other had done. “Taking things out on songbirds? Now that’s pathetic, brother”.
“For your own good, I will ignore your words”.

Aramis frowned.

“I found out some things about this place. That in the end is what you wanted, isn’t it?” Aramis crossed his arms.

“Let us leave this place”.

“Not yet. Don’t play the innocent, Aramis. You wanted to catch my interest; well I’m interested now”.

He cast a dark, yet playful smile at him. They were in appearance, twins: they looked just alike, exact to the last detail. Both beautiful, of noble bearing; tall and strong with broad shoulders, yet a slender build. Silver eyes shone between long, thick, black eyelashes; long, lustrous raven black hair fell down their backs. “Who might their demon Lord be?”

“I don’t know yet”.

With an agile movement, the demon sprang back on his feet. He lazily stretched out and yawned.

“The time is up for some distraction. Let us hunt and destroy”.

Aramis eyed his brother. That’s what they called each other: brother. They also passed as brothers to the human world.

“Why are you looking at me like that? Didn’t we belong in the Order of Destruction?” He had a charming smile. Aramis pursed his lip disdainfully. “It’s your turn, Angel. I want to… study things in the village some more”.

Angel frowned darkly.

“Alright. See you…” Angel grinned and walked away; soon he disappeared among the trees in direction to the castle.

* * * * * * * * * *

The ‘castle’ rose before him, not too far away. A mocking smile slid upon Angel’s sensuous lips. The place was rather an excuse of luxury in the desolated french countryside; it looked improvised and poorly executed. The pit was filled with dirty, turbid waters; a bridge of tree trunks laid from one shore to the other. The sturdy donjon rose four stories, surrounded by the manor and stables, a courtyard and servants departments. The wall was built out of stones and wood – most rustic. Angel sat on the grass and took a deep breath, enjoying the cold autumn air. He had entertained himself exploring the surroundings; the place that had interested him the most was not the castle, though. The most interesting place was a stone house on a hilltop not too far away which overlooked both the castle and the pauperized village. A small forested area surrounded the hilltop. Angel had not entered the forest; from the outside, his demonic senses caught enough information for the moment. The house was a place of Dark cults, presided by a ‘local demon’, as he liked to call them. There were several shallow tombs, with their smell of twisted death and torture. By the state of the dark energies, the cult had took place for several centuries by now, but it had a renovated strength. Angel knew the source was a new Celebrant, and he was after her trail. The scent led to the castle.

By the information Aramis had collected, Angel already knew some details. The lord was a vavasour, who collected the usual taxes to the villagers for protection. At least the villagers were tenants, but free. The rest of the population wore iron collars with their name and the lord’s name. The vavasour had a son and a daughter. Angel caressed the grass with his fingers, then plucked a leaf off the ground. The monk had been kind enough to warn Aramis about the vavasour. Angel smiled to himself, then laid down. He shook some leaves off his hair and yawned. It would still take some hours till nightfall.

* * * * * * * * * *

Nightfall. The dark came from the West, like a immense stain of china ink; quickly covering the skies, it tainted the living forms of the forest and small lights lit in the castle windows and battlements. The village looked very small and defenseless, almost imperceptible in the deep dark. Angel woke up little after nightfall. He had veiled his own presence so well not even another demon would be able to perceive him, even if he’d stumble over his body. There were lights in the forest, climbing the hill. Angel sprang back to his feet and swiftly followed them.

* * * * * * * * * *

In the village, Aramis’s gaze pierced the dark from a humble house’s window. He had taken his own position, knowing in advanced the next step. The monk had offered Aramis to share his lodgings with him, in a small house occupied by a village family. The family had a crippled child, and they had special reasons to offer shelter to the monk. The dark cult kidnapped crippled persons and young maidens; those who they kidnapped were never seen again. Aramis knew well what could have happened to them, but he kept his mouth shut. The monk had a feeling about his guest and Aramis knew it; he did not reveal much about himself, though. No more than the necessary to be considered of help.

Aramis had went back to the village after parting with Angel to see the monk. He accompanied the man in his daily duties, examining the village and looking for a proper place to retreat and hide. In the evening, they visited another family with an ill child. The monk was requested to bless the child – it was a common medieval belief that all sickness was work of demonic forces. Aramis stood in a corner of the room as the monk proceeded to bless the child. Without a word or movement, Aramis used his angelic power to enhance the monk’s power of Light; the child was miraculously cured. The family was overjoyed, but the monk turned and carefully eyed his newly found friend. He did perceive the Light came from that corner.

Aramis smiled faintly.

“That was remarkable”, he murmured.

“Indeed”, the monk said. “And you say you’re not a religious man?”

“I am not”, Aramis replied. “But I see you are”.

The monk stood before him.

“May I thank you?”

“I did nothing to deserve your gratefulness”, Aramis said with wide eyes. He smiled. “I’ve just watched you”.

“Are you here to watch over things?”

“In a way”.

“Very well”, the monk murmured, thoughtful. “I can’t ask you to stay. But will you?”

“I’d be glad to”.

So Aramis stayed with the monk.

* * * * * * * * * *

The stone house on the hilltop. Midnight arrived and the dark cult begun. Black and red candles were lit and strange chants broke the silence. People in black robes joined hands round an oblong table, presided by a huge black cat; behind the animal, a woman in a red dress conducted the ceremony. The victim was laid down on the altar and forced to drink three liquors of gold, black and red substances to cause her heart to collapse. The sobbing and screaming echoed in the vaulted ceiling. A ritual knife shone in the priestess’ hand. Suddenly, the door and every single window slammed open; the candles writhed and their light dimmed. A chilling wind swirled inside the room and a dark ominous shadow rose before them, tall to the ceiling; silver eyes shimmered in it with a mocking evil joy. The cat shrieked in terror and jerked back; when the woman tried to hold it the feline scratched her, causing her to scream; confusion and panic seized the attendees in black robes. The shadow extended a hand and the victim died; every candle in the room lit with unholy fire, turning into a fire thrower; fire shot in all directions, setting many attendees on fire. The cat took another form; a demon rose in its place but it was clear the invasive power overwhelmed him. The fight did not last long; the lesser demon flew into the night, abandoning his followers. The shadow grew; a terrible laughter shook the walls. A few were allowed to escape. The priestess stared in shock and terror as the evil power numbed her senses; the ceiling cracked and fire reduced the very stones to ashes. In a few minutes, the house was only ruins. The woman ran into the forest; looking back, she saw a huge black wolf emerge from the ruins. The animal snarled, silver eyes shining in the dark; it launched itself after her. The woman screamed and ran; the wolf chased her across the forest and down hill. The terrified woman ran for dear life in the cold mist; the demon in the shape of a wolf forced her to run across the wilderness till her robes were reduced to rags and her body was covered in blood from the scratches of thorns and rocks; he chased her mercilessly and finally left her reach the portals of the castle.

The wolf howled. It was not a mere beast. His howl was mocking, cruel and triumphant. The woman stumbled across the bridge; when the first ray of dawn pierced the skies and touched the enormous beast, it vanished like an illusion. The priestess scurried inside the castle and hid.

The sun was about to rise. Outside, Angel shook with mocking laughter and waited. A small party left the castle: it was the vavasour’s son and his hunt pack. The wolf retreated to the forest and sat in the first line of trees, howling. The young noble set after him immediately with his hounds. The wolf led them to the depths of the forest; none of them returned alive.

* * * * * * * * * *

Evening. Mourn had fallen on the vavasour’s castle. A few hours earlier, a nobleman no one had seen before had rode into the castle carrying the lord’s dead son. His body was barely together, due to the attack of a wolf, which was said to have killed the whole pack of half-wolf hounds. The servants prepared the body for the vigil and the burial the next day. The vavasour asked the nobleman to stay for the ceremonies, and the man agreed. It was a tall, handsome man with raven-black hair and silver eyes; his appearance spoke of a well-stated, wealthy noble.

The vavasour daughter had excused herself all day; she was indisposed due to the terrible news. When she came to the chapel to the vigil, she was shocked to see the man his father praised so much had piercing silver eyes she had seen before; she had, for she was the priestess Angel had tormented the night before.

The priestess was terrified. She had planned a new sacrifice for the night, to invoke a demon to her aid. Her familiar had fled and had not returned. She had sent her remaining followers to fetch a new victim, and now she found her attacker in her very house; needless to say it was to her evident he was also her brother’s slayer. But why? Maybe she had neglected or offended higher powers? He had cast some spell on her father; the old man seemed specially fond of him, as if the noble were a long time lost friend. He had dinner with the family that night; his dark, charming smile pierced her heart.

In the village, the news had spread quickly. Smoke still rose from the hilltop in the forest; it was said the vavasour’s son had been killed by the demon the nobles adored, for the villagers were convinced the nobles adored a Devil and they were responsible for the killings and kidnaps. The monk was requested to go to the castle for the vigil and the funeral, which would take place next morning. The monk was however not convinced that the cult had disappeared and he feared for the life of the crippled child.

Aramis was still in the house; he had not gone out all day long, and the monk was certain he had some reason to act like this; besides it gave him some tranquility to know Aramis was in the house with the mother and the crippled child. When the monk returned in the evening, before the vavasour’s messenger arrived, he found Aramis sitting outside the door in a rustic bench, next to a bunch of labor tools the father had reclined on the wall.

“Enjoying the view?”, he asked him. Aramis smiled.

“The world is a nice view”, he replied. The monk sat beside him.

“What do you like best about the world?”

“You ask me that as if I didn’t belong in the world”, Aramis said with a snigger. “I’ve heard monks don’t belong in the world, though – and I am not a monk!”

The monk laughed.

“Maybe. You have not answered my question, though”.

Aramis bit his lip.

“Let’s say… I like the view”.

“I don’t like it”, the monk said with a sigh. “The people suffer”.

“Change that, then”.

“How?”

“You have your Rule. Besides, I have no answer for that question”.

The monk watched him for a long instant.

“You are not happy, either”.

Aramis forced a smile.

“Who is?”

The monk blinked.

“Happiness comes from within. You decide if you want to be happy; it’s a choice. Sin binds the hearts of men to unhappiness”.

Aramis bit his lip.

“There are worse bounds…” He rose his eyes. A group of armed, masked men appeared, walking to the house. They stopped at a short distance.

“Give us the child named Etienne”, they demanded. The monk was about to rise, but Aramis laid his hand on his shoulder.

“Please, go inside”, he murmured. The monk stared briefly, then complied. Aramis reached out and grabbed a scythe that was leaning against the wall next to him, and calmly rose.

“Resistance is futile”, the men warned him.

Aramis cast a cold glance upon them.
“Indeed, it is”, he darkly said, wielding the scythe with inhuman skill. The men attacked with fury; Aramis killed them all. Not a bruise, nor even a slight cut showed on him afterwards. This the monk could clearly see. The mother wanted to flee with her child to the fields, where her husband worked; Aramis agreed. Aramis and the monk hid the bodies behind some barrels. Aramis carried the child to take him and his mother to the fields. A messenger came from the castle when they were still inside, with the lord’s request to have the monk’s religious services. The monk agreed.

“Are you sure?”, Aramis asked.

“Yes”.

Aramis was not surprised.

“You are a brave man”, he told him. “Maybe someday we’ll meet again”.

The monk smiled.

“Maybe we will. Dominus Vobiscum”.

Aramis smiled but this time he did not reply. Quickly Aramis, the mother and child left to the fields; the monk left to the castle.

* * * * * * * * * *

Angel tasted a goblet of wine and smiled to himself. Aramis had used the bait and killed the remaining followers of the cult, as planned – at least the fanatics. The others had surely deserted. His presence had scared away the lesser demons that lurked in the countryside and he could plan to stay for while – as long as it was fun. This had been too easy, though; that was the only spot in his mirror. What an un resourceful woman the vavasour daughter was! She did not provide much entertainment.

The priestess waited in vain for news from her followers. They had seemingly disappeared; maybe this demon led a group of his kin he sent to kill her followers? Without her Familiar, she was helpless in his presence. Irritated, she glanced across the table; he was there having dinner as if nothing else in the world concerned to him. After the austere dinner, the women and the hired mourners joined the vigil over the dead man in the chapel. The chapel in question was a small, vaulted room with a small altar and a few benches; barely an oratory. It was pretty packed with the corpse and the hired mourners, the smell of incense and the smoke from candles, barely leaving space for those who actually knew the dead one. The praying and crying weighed on the spirits. The monk was already there, annoyed at the hired mourners and directing the prayers. He was startled to see someone he recognized as Aramis standing in the chapel door. However, that malevolent air the man had to him was completely different from the gentle sadness of Aramis.
Angel watched the monk with a sly smile; he didn’t enter the chapel. He looked up. Standing in a window sill high on the stonewall of the chapel, Aramis looked back at him. Invisible to human eyes, the angel had wrapped his huge wings around his body. Angel turned around and walked down the archway, back to the manor halls.
A silent shadow followed his footsteps. Angel turned around and smirked. His eyes shimmered strangely in the dark.

“Shadowlord”, a female voice spoke. “What’s been my failure? How did I offend you?”

Angel narrowed his eyes, amused.

“Is that all?”, he asked. “I am not here to answer your questions”.

The priestess walked closer.

“Why do you strike me? I am your humble servant. All this province could adore you as its god, such as you deserve to be called. The lesser creatures of the Dark fear you greatly; none of them would dare to oppose you”.

Angel rose his hand and slid his fingers beneath her chin. His touch was warm; her skin was cold.

“Lovely Temptress”, he softly said. “I can see you want your little power back to you. I own it now; I don’t need you to self-proclaim myself a god. I means nothing to me. I ask you”, Angel smiled darkly, “what do you still own that could interest me?”

The woman paled.

“I do not fear to lose my soul”.

“You do not fear?” A mocking smile slid upon the demon’s lips. “Do you value your own soul so low? Why then would it interest me?”

His voice was mesmerizing, hypnotic. The priestess flinched. She could perceive his power now; she felt a bottomless pit open beneath her feet. The power of this Demon had no comparison to the other demons she had ever summoned – and yet, she knew he was only letting her feel a tiny part of his power to mock her, to terrorize her.

She closed her eyes. His hand slid down her throat, drawing the outline of her body; the power flowing from his fingers sent waves of dark ecstasy through her flesh. His hand slid inside her dress; the woman’s lips opened. The Demon kissed her; a burning pleasure, a maddening touch. The ecstasy was painful, unbearable. She heard distant drums, the clash of weapons and battle calls; myriads of demons chanting in strange tongues – they shouted a name in their battle cries, a name she recognized. She opened her eyes, a scream scratching her entrails, fighting to scape from her throat.

He was gone.

The priestess stood there in the empty archway, dumb, petrified.
“Not to you… I won’t give you my soul!”, she cried out. “Not to you!”

* * * * * * * * * *

The priestess ran to her sanctórum, a hidden vault beneath the castle. She rushed to her books and scrolls, trying to find in her long lists a single entity that could stand against this horror that had set quarters in her house; the Necromancer Himself, whom other powers had named Belial.

* * * * * * * * * *

The night aged. The village was dark and silent. The castle was silent but watchful; midnight arrived and passed. From the tall window sill in the stone wall, Aramis watched the humans in the chapel. His angelic nature allowed him to endure the Holy energies, unlike the demon side of him. Aramis hugged himself, his wings wrapped around him. Angel had already taken the vavasour’s son’s soul; he had collected quite a few since their arrival. That made watching the humans efforts to get divine indulgence for this dead man disturbing.

Aramis peered into the Night. No angels of death had arrived – at least, he hadn’t sensed any. The dark of the night sky, with the constellations shining like gems embedded in the black and blue immensity reminded him of the eyes of Azrael, the Archangel of Death and Destruction. He allowed himself a few minutes of daydreaming – Angel was away for now and Aramis could find some solace in his cherished memories. These were a secret, though. Not even Azrael herself knew about his feelings… Aramis sighed in pain and closed his eyes. The love was a curse to him. He had even tried to tear the love from his soul with the aid of his majicks… He failed. Miserably.

The monk rose his head. He was almost certain he had heard a familiar sigh, which strongly reminded him of Aramis. Where could he be by now? What Aramis was? A man, a gifted man? An spirit, maybe even an angel? Aramis’ most remarkable feature was his sadness, despite his holy gift. What could make an angel sad? The monk had no answer for this.

From the high window sill, Aramis looked down at the monk. He guessed he’d miss the man. It would be no good to talk to him again; Aramis knew that would be dangerous, as much as for the man as for himself. Aramis sighed and picked at one of his feathers.

He looked down again. Angel was coming… Aramis bit his lip. Why right now?

Angel appeared in the threshold to the chapel. He was somewhat bored and Aramis’ memories had disturbed him; he suddenly had the urge to start removing the holy energies out if the place – and why not to start where he was at the time? Angel waved his hand and the humans dozed, falling into a deep, dreamless sleep. The monk stared with a start as the people began to drop from their seats. Angel walked down the aisle to where the monk stood. The man instinctively clasped his crucifix.

//So different… It can’t be him!//

“Who are you?”, he demanded. “Identify yourself, man or spirit!”

Aramis leapt from the window sill and landed beside the monk with a hushed sound of huge, feathery wings, still invisible to human eyes.

“Not him”, he curtly said. He made himself visible in his human form.

The monk let out an exclamation. They were like two drops alike! However… opposite! Angel was unpleasantly surprised.

“He is no different from the others; besides, he’s a consecrated man – further reason to destroy him”.

“I said not him”.

Angel smirked.

“Stop me, then”.

Aramis bit his lip. Still startled, the monk forced a smile.

“You can’t fight my battles, my friend”.

Friend?” Angel was amused. “What’s this new eccentricity?”

“Oh yes, I can – specially this one”, Aramis replied. “You don’t understand, and I’m happy you don’t. Go, leave this accursed land as fast as you can. There’s still time”.

Eh bien! I’m not going anywhere”, the monk retorted. Aramis cast him a rather comic dismayed look at his stubbornness. Angel laughed, half amused, half angry.

“A spirit of quality at last. I was starting to believe they had gone extinct”. He clasped his hand and the Staff of Simara appeared in it. Aramis stood between them, resolute; in his hand appeared a second version of the Staff. The monk rose his crucifix and opened his mouth to start an exorcism prayer when suddenly a large explosion shook the chamber, causing a light drizzle of dust from the tall vaulted ceiling. Angel and Aramis stopped.

“What the Hell was that?”

A second explosion was heard and the ground shook. It seemed like the source was underground.

“Blasted witch”, Angel murmured. He unfurled his wings and flew outside. The monk turned to Aramis, but Aramis didn’t look at him; he ran out of the chapel, following Angel.

* * * * * * * * * *

The ground shook with another explosion. The manor cracked open, like if its walls were as fragile as eggshells; the roof sank and a huge dark from rose from the depths of the ruins, wearing a cloak of dark fire. The shadow giggled heavily. “Bliol”, a guttural voice said. “Long ages have passed since the Battles”. He was talking to Angel, then suddenly spotted Aramis, too. “What the Hell…?”

Angel forced a smile.

“It’s long to explain. I won’t take the work to explain it to you, anyway”.

Aramis dropped his human appearance and unfurled his wings. The giant creature took a huge beam from the ruins around him and tried to knock Aramis with it; Aramis dodged it easily. Angel traced a sigil in the air, then used the Staff to shoot a beam of dark energies to the giant. Aramis landed and stomped his Staff on the ground, chanting words of Destruction; the stone walls closed round the legs of the giant like huge stone hands, holding fast to him. The giant delivered several bolts of black fire at Aramis, but Angel shifted the Staff into the Scythe and deflected the bolts, spinning the Scythe. The giant chanted a spell. The air seemed to swirl and try to crush Angel; Aramis held his hands up and sent a beam of white energies to the chest of the giant; he screamed, interrupting his chant. Angel flipped in his fall, landing on his feet. He launched himself into the air, attacking the giant with the Scythe. The giant counterattacked cracking a fire whip; a storm rolled in the night sky, dark clouds surrounding them, cracking with unnatural lightning bolts. Aramis unfurled his wings and joined the air battle; the spell held fast to the giant’s legs, difficulting his movements. Angel and Aramis combined weapons and spells to fight; the whip caught Aramis’ foot and slammed him against the ground; Angel’s senses went numb for a couple seconds and the giant’s fist missed him for little; Angel quickly recovered and spun the scythe, severing the limb. He giant’s howl rang, followed by thunder. Aramis cried in terrible pain; the whip burned him with demonic ferocity – he chanted a spell as the giant in pain shook the whip, sending himself free from the demonic weapon; Angel redoubled his attack, summoning the evil power under his command. Aramis landed with a thud, but still rose and went back into the air. He joined Angel’s chant. The giant began a spell of his own, but the pain for the severed limb cut his concentration; Angel and Aramis combined their power in a single beam of Destruction, piercing the giant’s neck.

There was a large thunder and an implosion. The headless body sank through the ruins, back to the entrails of the Earth, along with part of the castle. The storm roared above, but not a single water drop fell. Concealed by Belial’s power, the majicks were canalized to the center of the implosion till only half of the castle remained in place. The tower mysteriously survived, as well as the castle’s Wall and the pit. Half the manor, the courtyard and stables were gone, seemingly to nowhere. Even the hill seemed to have shrunk.

Aramis let himself drop to the ground, landing softly on one foot. He folded his wings and touched the cracks in his armor at his ankle. Directing his energies to heal his ankle, he momentaneously turned visible to human eyes. Angel landed beside him, dropping as well his invisibility.

Anyway, who’d see them.

“I was starting to like the place”.

“Don’t speak nonsense – you hated the buildings’ architecture”, Aramis grumbled.

Angel shrugged.

“Anyway, it’s gone. The witch died too – just when she was turning interesting. I can’t believe I followed you here – it’s been disappointing”.

Aramis sighed.

“Whatever. I’ve never tried to entertain you”.

Angel shifted his balance.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes”, Aramis murmured. “It’ll heal soon”.

“Then let us go before unwanted attention arrives – this time you will follow me”.

Angel took flight. Aramis unfurled his wings to follow.

“I understand now… I think”.

Aramis turned with a start. The monk was watching him.

“I warned you to go away…”

“The chapel’s still standing; at least the people there survived…” The monk watched him with narrow eyes. “Do you care about that?”

Aramis did not reply. The monk had a small smile.

“I assure you, you don’t understand…”, Aramis began, but the monk rose his hand, cutting his words.

“You are a Fallen. What’s so hard to understand about that? You are a fallen angel, aren’t you?”

Aramis paled.

“Yes. It’s not hard to understand”. He turned and spread his wings.

“You are a Fallen”, the monk said. “But you are still an angel. Don’t follow him; seek redemption. The Mercy of God is infinite – that’s beyond doubt”.

Aramis’ throat closed and his eyes filled. After a few seconds, he was able to speak again.

“I must follow. This bound I cannot break; it’s too strong for me. There’s nothing left for me – no one to turn to. But you shouldn’t listen to me, if you hold your soul dear. I…” Aramis smiled faintly at the monk, “I thank you for this day. I won’t forget you… but I don’t know your name. Monks change their names…”

“I’ve not thought about my name in years”, the monk said.

Aramis nodded slowly and turned again to leave.

“My name is Táncrede”.

Aramis bit his lip and opened his wings.

“What is yours?”, the monk asked. Aramis took a deep breath. Tears were already running down his cheeks.

“I am Belial”, he murmured. He took flight, turning invisible to human eyes.
Quickly he left the hills back and caught up with Angel as the landscape ran beneath them.

//How wonderful. You give our name to a priest! It’ll be ridiculous if he prays for us – what are the others going to say!//

Aramis did not reply.

Categories
Writing

AZAZEL

After the Fall, before the first Seal of the Abyss was casted by the Angelic Host. I don’t know if this is PG13 – I find it stronger than that… but it’s not as strong as “18 and up” either e.e;

Azazel protected his sensitive bronze eyes from the glare of the sulphurous waters of Stigia, one of the many poisonous water bodies in the Abyss, with a pale, beautiful hand. The crystal-greenish waters formed waves of oily texture. A lesser demon could be burn to death by their acidic action, but to him, they only were a harmless, repulsive gathering of filthy liquid. Azazel bit his lip slightly as he hopped from rock to rock by the lake shore, always landing first and securely on his goat hoof after every agile and precise leap. He had some of his Father’s grace but his own beauty was distorted and twisted, fascinating and horrible at the same time.

Azazel fondly patted a long object he carried in his arms, wrapped in a black brocade cloth. He hopped off the last large rock and onto the white sand below, then limped his way up a narrow trail through a dry landscape of burnt trees. His left foot was a goat hoof, while his right foot was of perfect angelic shape and beauty; the impaired condition forced him to limp, yet he daily practiced to overcome this limitation and make his walking more regular. Azazel rubbed his nose and swatted off an annoying fly. He percieved more humming and a familiar stench. Azazel turned his head and saw white fingers coming out of the sand ahead.

A dead demoness was half-buried in the sand by the wind, her dead body a torn carcass yet a strange fixed smile showed on her decayed face. These were the rests of Beelzebub’s work; Azazel could read the signs very well by now. The young demon stared at the dead demoness. All of Beelzebub’s victims had similar facial features; he couldn’t help but to notice this. Green and blue flies feasted on the cadaver. Undaunted, Azazel turned away and continued across the dry lands, holding tightly onto his wrapped object.

After a few minutes, he reached a small camp custodied by armored Fallen in black robes. Rich tents and standards waved in the dry, bitter wind. Azazel walked to the gate and the guards bowed to him. Azazel frowned in impatience and entered the camp. He knew well they were aware of his presence before he came into view. Azazel walked straight to a red-haired Legion Commander in a bronze armor with emerald ivy leaves. The read-haired Fallen bowed lightly.

“Lord Azazel”.

“Mastema. Where’s my Teacher?”, Azazel asked without much ceremonies. Mastema motioned to one of the tents. They all looked exactly the same, except for the Sigil of their owner; even Belial Archdemon’s tent was no different. Azazel headed to the tent and entered.

*****


“Teacher”, Azazel greeted.

Belial watched him without a word. Of course he sensed Azazel coming long ago and he wasn’t surprised to see him, but he wasn’t glad nor annoyed by his visit. Azazel casted him a speculative look that made him look very much like his Father; but the red flame-like mark across his left eye broke the effect.

“I’ve completed my sword, except for one detail”, Azazel said.

Belial pulled a small table and Azazel laid his package on it, carefully proceeding to unwrap the rich black brocade cloth, revealing a black blade with a golden handle and red gems. Azazel’s fingers touched the carefully woven sigils etched by magic on the polished surface and Belial had a small shiver he carefully hid from the young demon. Azazel was absorbed in contemplation of his masterpiece. Belial carefully checked all details on the demonic weapon and he acknowledged it was a work of art. Disturbing for such a young being. Azazel had inherited Lucifer’s intelligence, yet he was still a pale and twisted reflection of his Father.


Azazel smiled, for he was still able of smiling.

“You promised to teach me Consecration, if I archieved this”.

Belial nodded.

“I will teach you”, he admitted. “It’s a fine piece, and you’ve made a good interpretation of your own Elements into the blade. Remember you must allow the weapon to grow with you; I will teach you the whole Consecration process, but you must remember not to fix the blade into a single stage. Let it grow with you as your own power grows with experience and age”.

Azazel stared at the blade, his fingers still caressing it; perfect angelic fingers on his left hand, his right hand a red claw with black sharp talons.

“I could be as powerful as He is”, he muttered. Belial looked at him and did not reply.

*****


After leaving the the camp of the Necromancer’s Legions, Azazel returned to the Fortress of the Gate – his usual residence. Azazel held tightly onto his sword, again wrapped up in the black brocade cloth as he walked down a long, sumptuous hall; he could not yet percieve his Father’s presence, but Belial and his Legions had returned with the Prince of Darkness – that wasn’t hard to say. Lucifer had led a long campaign against the Heavenly Armies, forcing them to the West of the Garden. Now he was back in the Abyss, and it was said an important battle was coming closer; one that could mark the end of the War.

Lucifer had not taken his son along this time. Azazel was both resentful and glad for being left behind; resentful because he was denied the place he deserved by blood right, but he was glad also… because his Father terrified him. Azazel couldn’t always control the deep fear the Prince of Darkness inspired to him; his terror towards his Father was so intense that he had to make a strong, conscious effort not to flee from his presence. Azazel was quite aware that his Father despised him, and from the very first day he was taken to Lucifer’s presence, Lucifer had marked Azazel’s face with a seal of Fire which never died out; a mark in the shape of a red flame from his eyebrow to his cheek across his left eye. It still burned his flesh and from time to time, it’d torment him. Azazel was too proud to let it show, but there were times when the pain was unbearable.

Azazel absently touched the red mark across his left eye; it was starting to pound softly. His impaired footsteps echoed in the hall, and he came to a halt before entering a side corridor. Moloch was coming down that corridor, wearing delicate and feminine robes. Her crimson eyes laid on him and the Archdemoness smiled faintly. Azazel left his eye alone, not to call Moloch’s attention on himself. She drew energies from pain – most of the time, pain she inflicted to others, and this was both her leisure and one of the sources of her powers.

“Greetings, Young One”, she said, smiling delicately with the air of a high lady speaking to a dear child, yet she always kept her distance, wary as all Fallen were. Her eyes met the wrapped object in Azazel’s arms. She didn’t question him, but she looked at him again. Azazel bit his lip. Part of him wanted to continue on his way and ignore her, but this wasn’t convenient – she was after all one of the Archdemons; someday he could need her alliance. Also, yet Azazel was in many ways too old for his age because his life had forced him to mature faster in many aspects, he was still a young creature and he had something important in his arms. Like the boy he really was, he felt the need to boast about his new archievement and get some praising. Also, he knew she wouldn’t turn him back because he was Lucifer’s son.

Azazel gave a small nod, making himself ready for some formalities to pet Moloch’s self-esteem before getting what he wanted. Demons and Fallen had so big egos these kind of things took precious time out of their lives, even among demonlords.

“Greetings, Moloch”, he replied, stopping before her; his red robes fluttered about his feet and the hoof shone darkly before disappearing from view again. “May your campaign have been successful”.
Azazel had never been too prodigal. He was kind of austere in his words and manner, with much thinking and little talk, which added something sinister to his usual malevolent air.

Moloch nodded.

“It has been, for the glory of your Father”, she courteously replied. “However, your sword was missed”.

Moloch was also familiar with such formalities and she skillfully used them for her own purposes. She knew Lucifer had ordered Azazel to stay in the Abyss, and she also knew the demonbloods saw in Azazel a version of the high Fallen more akin to them, and they identified with him – Azazel’s malevolence inspired them. However, that was not enough worth from the Prince of Darkness’s perspective; this she let seep out in two venomous phrases, but even these could hide a glimpse of sympathy. However that was the least thing Azazel would want from anyone; he loathed all Life and did not want anyone’s sympathy – that feeling was too close to compassion. Azazel catched the impact and prepared his reply.

“May the Leader of the Armies from the Abyss take down the Heaven Gates”, he said with half-closed eyes; from the Abyss sounded more like a demon than a former angel, but this was too subtle to be considered seditious; yet Azazel was Lucifer’s heir and Azazel certainly was from the Abyss. “There’ll be time and blood for my sword to shed; and I have completed my new weapon, which will also add to the glory of Hell”. An small, unwilling smile curled his lip, yet it was full of evil and malice mixed with an inner, private joy.

Moloch was surprised by the intensity of the fire dancing in the youth’s eyes; she carefully kept from showing her feeling. Azazel held up his sword for her to see and began unfolding the carefully plied brocade cloth.

“Good Eve, lord Azazel and lady Moloch”, a voice said; a silouhette stepped off the shadows of the corridor and materialized into a smiling Fallen. Azazel’s fingers stopped and he casted a displeased look upon the newcomer; Paimon was openly irritating, with a perennial grin on his feminine face. The fact that he always seemed to have a reason to smile was disturbing – at least, for Azazel. Paimon’s exaggerated courtesy was half mockery, half an indirect challenge – Azazel’s fingers went cold and his claws curved, going sharper if that was possible. Paimon frequently boasted in indirect ways about his position as one of Lucifer’s advisors, specially in presence of the Son. Yet Azazel had a higher rank as the Demon of Knowledge, it was a fact he didn’t have his Father’s preference.

“It’s an honor to meet you again”, Paimon nonchalantly said with a light bow as Azazel didn’t bother to reply and only glared in return, while Moloch simply watched the match. “You’ll be happy to know the Almighty Prince of Darkness graces Hell again with his presence…”

Then he took a deep bow. Azazel was momentaneously perplexed at this development, but he saw Moloch’s eyes were fixed on something behind him. She smiled with confident devotion and bowed her forehead, and Azazel’s blood drained from his face upon realization.

//He is behind me…//

A tight knot formed in Azazel’s stomach and he felt his hackles rise. His fingers and claws clasped on his half-unwrapped weapon; as usual, he had not percieved his Father’s presence coming, simply because Lucifer had the annoying habit of hiding his presence whenever he pleased with such perfection he was undetectable. Azazel desperately tried to control the need of falling on his knees and throwing up; he summoned his willpower to hide his fear from the others; hide it as he always did and strive not to fail to himself. He slowly turned to face the Devil Himself, his Father.

Lucifer smiled at Moloch and corresponded to her salute with a nod full of grace and dignity, then simple acknoledgement for Paimon. Then his gaze met his son. Lucifer’s bronze eyes were now half-closed, watching his son with a mix of contempt, slight annoyance and yet some curiosity. The Prince of Darkness wore rich black robes of severe elegance, for he Himself was already of extreme beauty and more ornament would’ve lost its meaning on him. Geheena, his renowned sword, hung at his side shining darkly as if watching them all with cunning gaze from its Master’s side. Azazel bit his lip and took a slow and light bow at Lucifer. When he straightened his back again, they looked strangely alike but at the same time, completely different. Physically, the resemblance was astounding, despite Azazel was still a youngster and his own beauty was distorted, while his Father’s was flawless. Lucifer’s eyes met the half-unwrapped weapon in Azazel’s arms. After what seemed an eternity to Azazel, Lucifer rose his hand and opened it, his palm upward; he wanted the sword. Azazel knew too well his silent request was a direct order never meant to be disobeyed. Still biting his lip, he pulled the black brocade cloth off the sword and presented the hilt to his Father; Azazel’s fingers were so cold now, the blade seemed warm at his contact. Lucifer’s long and perfect fingers closed round the hilt and Azazel instinctively took a step back, which proved to be just on time. Lucifer swung the sword, testing its balance, then he suddenly flourished it with impecable skill and Azazel paled further, his hands unconsciously clasping the black brocade cloth. Yet the sword was already consacrated to its owner, Lucifer’s sheer power could bend the will of the guardian spells without flinching. Azazel’s eyes widened as Lucifer moved away a few steps and suddenly threw the sword at him. Azazel didn’t have more time to react than the time his reflexes needed; dropping the black brocade cloth, he affirmed his feet in a defense stance and moved slightly to the side, catching the sword with his right hand by the handle as it hissed its way close to his body; he instinctively flourished it to modify the tremendous impulse the Devil had given to it and brought it to a fight stance. Then he stayed still, as if he had suddenly turned into stone.

Not a sound came from Moloch and Paimon, spectators in the background. A shiver ran up Azazel’s spine as beads of sweat formed on his forehead, dampening loose strands of his hair. The black brocade reached the floors. A smirk formed upon Lucifer’s lips and his eyes shimmered like infernal carbuncles.

“Interesting”, the Devil said. Azazel’s eyes widened and his pupils dilatated to a painful level as Lucifer drew Geheena out of its sheath and attacked him. The terrified young demon counterattacked on pure reflexes but in the second blow, his mind had already taken over. Azazel was sweating in his red robes; even in hard training under Beelzebub’s direction, he couldn’t help but to be fully aware that the Lord of the Flies wouldn’t actually kill him. However, with his Father the story was completely different; in the rare ocassions that his Father toyed with him like this, Azazel could feel his own death fluttering over his head. He did his best in the fight and both swords lit up in terrible flames; Azazel kept his lips tightly closed and Lucifer’s smirk never left his lips. Maybe it went more pronounced when Geheena broke through Azazel’s guard and pierced through his body.

Azazel gasped and his feet faltered, but he didn’t let go of his sword. Lucifer’s smirk changed to a soft and unpleasant smile as he placed his hand next to the wound and pulled Geheena out and off Azazel’s body. He hadn’t cut through any vital point, but still his Son bleeded profusely. Shocked, Azazel absently pressed his fist on the wound in an attempt to stop the blood flow.

Lucifer flicked the blood off Geheena and resheathed it.

“It’s a fine blade”, he coolly commented. “What’s its name?”

Azazel blinked slowly.

“I have named it Lufernatia”, he muttered. Lucifer nodded.

“It’s a work of quality”, he said, leaving him. Azazel clutched his side as his Father left him and he didn’t really notice when did the Devil leave the chamber as all sounds seemed to dim around him.

A soft hand touched his own, which was pressed on his wound. Lufernatia’s tip had met the floor, yet its owner’s red claw was still firmly clasped round its hilt. A brief, subtle wave of relief ran through him, but only enough to stop the bleeding; the wound was still open. Moloch’s eyes were inescrutable. Paimon had followed Lucifer, and they were alone now.

“You learn fast, Young One”, she whispered before leaving him. Azazel bit his lip till it bled. He painfully picked up the black brocade cloth and lovingly wrapped Lufernatia in it again. Without flinching despite the pain, Azazel limped his way to his private chambers; not a soul dared to disturb him on his way.

*****


Sitting on his bed, Azazel checked his wound before closing his bandages. He had done a decent work at healing himself, yet once the wound was completely healed, there’d be a scar for a few weeks. Azazel put his hair out of his eyes and yawned, loosely wrapped in a simple silk robe. His body ached from the fight earlier and to get a little sleep wouldn’t be a bad idea, plus the stress still lingered on his shoulders. He had taken a short bath and carefully polished his sword before wrapping it in a clean cloth. He still didn’t have a sheath for it, yet he was already planning on its design.

//A fine blade, a work of quality…// Despite he hated his Father with a passion and feared him beyond belief, Azazel still couldn’t stop mussing on Lucifer’s words with a sort of delight. After all, his Father was regarded as the brightest mind, and his technical approval was greatly ambitioned. Azazel could praise himself to sleep muttering those words. He was already dozing off when a familiar presence tingled his wards. Azazel lazily opened his eyes to look at his mother.

“Mother…”, he muttered. “I’ve completed my sword…” He closed his eyes again with a small smile and Lilith moved a few bluish black hair strands away from his face.

“I see, my love…”

Azazel rubbed his eyes and sat up. Lilith was looking at him strangely. Azazel didn’t know why, but a cold shiver ran up his spine.

“Mother”, he said trying to break her strange daze, “my Father has returned to the Abyss… I thought you were going to see him”.

Lilith’s silver hair rolled down her pale shoulders. “Yes”, she muttered. Her hand cupped his cheek.

“You are your Father all over again”, she lovingly whispered. Azazel blinked as she leaned over; her lips met his and Azazel jerked back when she kissed him, his eyes open wide.

“… Mother, what…?” Azazel saw her gaze was strangely off and his hackles began to rise, yet he still did not realize what was going on with her. Lilith narrowed her eyes, clasping her hands on his shoulders.

“How dare you reject me now?”, she hissed as her eyes lit up in infernal fire. She tilted her head with a small, crooked smile. “I love you, Lucifer…” Her hair began floating in the air around her as her power shifted, her nails sinking into his flesh.

Much to his horror, Azazel realized that even though her eyes were fixed on him, in her mind it wasn’t himself who she was looking at…

*****


Lilith hugged herself with a soft giggle. She put her hair behind her ears and toyed with a strand of silver, pulling the blanket to shield herself from the cold. It was oddily… cold, for a private chamber. She turned her head to see if Lucifer was asleep. “It’s getting cold here”, she lovingly whispered. But he did not reply.

Lilith reached out and moved his hair out of his eyes as he seemingly was staring off into space, maybe immerse in his thoughts. She enjoyed to watch him when he was thoughtful, aware of the Power of his mind; Lilith was content. Then she saw a red marking in the shape of a red flame running across his left eye, from his eyebrow to his cheek.

Lilith froze.

“My child…” Her voice was thin and trembling. Azazel casted her a blank look. Shaking, Lilith slowly reached out but her fingers didn’t brush against his hair. With her hand suspended short from his forehead, Lilith stared at him. Finally, her fingertips touched him. He was as cold as ice, despite he is the Demon of Fire. Lilith’s eyes filled.

“You must remember…”, she whispered, “that I only do what’s best for you….”

*****


There was a small garden of rocks and metallic trees beyond a wall of basalt in the First Fortress; Kasbeela would sometimes go there to play, sometimes to just sit in the branches of a tree and sing to herself. It was a rather secluded spot, and sometimes the Prince of Darkness would hold council with the Archdemons and powerful Fallen and Demons in the adjacent Hall. However, it had been a while since that Hall had been used, and Kasbeela usually had the garden all to herself. Kasbeel, her father, let his young child go there because it was a relatively safe place – if there’s any place considered safe anywhere in the Abyss.

Kasbeela peered down from the branches of a tree forged in copper and black iron as someone entered the garden and sat on a bench. She recognized him immediately; it was lord Azazel, in his red robes. His insignia was the color red, as the Demon of Fire; Kasbeela smiled to herself, for he seemingly hadn’t noticed the stalker in the tree and she could look at him all she wanted. In her eyes, he was strinkingly handsome.

Azazel laid a black lacquered scabbard on his knees, which held a long sword called Lufernatia, The Black Blade. Azazel’s fingers caressed the hilt of the sword and strange shadows danced in his bronze eyes. “You are the only one I can trust”, he muttered to the sword. “I will shape my Destiny with you”.

Kasbeela didn’t understand his strange demeanor, but she curled up in her branch, watching. //I will be his ally, someday//, she thought. //He’s a great general and he is also so beautiful…// Kasbeela wrinkled her nose, for even though she didn’t muse it to herself, she also knew he had a black heart, if he had a heart at all.

Categories
Writing

THE LIGHTBEARER

Historical Short Story Timeline: Before the Fall.

The sun of the Mortal World had not completed its transit across the skies; its light came up and across thick translucent veils into the Seventh Heaven, giving different colors to air and objects. Belial looked down through a pool of dark waters filled with bluish cold stars into the Planes below. The Heavens were his true home, an immaterial place where time and age did not affect the course of individual’s existence. Beneath the Seven Layers of Heaven and far below the skies laid the Mortal World; a place where beings were limited by materiality and rough, physical boundaries. Belial moved his raven-black hair out of his eyes in a slow, absent movement. He turned away from the pool and looked upon the road; he sensed the presence he was waiting for coming closer. Golden beams of light flashed through the thin mist as if the sun had changed its course and were emerging into the Seventh Heaven; the mist parted and a tall angelic silouhette appeared: the source of the golden light. The angel looked at Belial and a small, mischievous smile curled his lip. His eyes were bronze and gold; gold feathers graced his six wings, but his hair was of a deep, bluish black in high contrast with his pale complexion. Even for an angel, his appearance and poise were of astounding beauty; he wore the robes of the Order of Knowledge, but it was clear he was a different version of the scholar type, for in his fluid, graceful movements was the mark of the warrior. Lucifer dimmed his Light and walked up to Belial.

“When Azrael walked into the Hall of the Elders, this was stuck to the hem of her robe”, he said, showing Belial a black feather wrought with white. Belial blinked, a faint blush coming to his face; he immediately snatched the feather, which perfectly matched his own. Lucifer’s smile went more pronounced at his reaction. He walked down the road and Belial followed him with a frown.

“How did you get it?”, he asked. Lucifer shrugged the question off, still smiling.


“Why would it matter?”, Lucifer replied. “I suppose that since you are so persistant, the Dark One will like you someday”. Belial shifted his six black and white wings on his back uncomfortably. His own robes were different from Lucifer’s, for he belonged in the Order of Death and Destruction, led by Azrael. Belial’s eyes were silver moons beneath thick black eyelashes in his beautiful face, and his expression turned distant. Lucifer’s smile disappeared.

“I didn’t mean to bother you”, he said, watching his friend in concern. Belial still didn’t react to his apology. They were ‘almost’ brothers; they had been created next to each other, and they were their own first memory – they were close, and they tended to think they were already immune to each other, but as it usually happens with friends, they were somewhat wrong.

“Why did the Elders summon you?”, Belial asked. Lucifer bit his lip as his apology seemingly hadn’t been accepted.

“It was sort of an examination, I guess. They asked me questions, but most of their questions were for Raziel. One would have thought they’d hold an auction on me”, he jokingly said, still trying to make up for annoying Belial on purpose. Belial was infatuated with Azrael – go figure why. As far as it was known, Azrael was devoid of feelings for individuals and she was the embodiment of Fear. “They told me some things… but again, I only watched and listened most of the time. Raziel sent me back and stayed in the Council. I don’t know when he’ll be back”.

Raziel was an Elder and The Angel of Knowledge, Lucifer’s Mentor; a stern and analytic being, of formal cold manner and the ultimate perfectionist.

“What did they say?”, Belial asked as they walked down the road through the mist. Their other senses compensated the lack of visibility by far. Lucifer casted him a speculative look.

“Many things, but… You know Azrael is the Dark One because she’s the only angel entirely devoid of light…”

“And?”

“They said I am the only angel devoid of darkness. Thus they called me The Lightbearer”. Lucifer seemed to be a little confused. “I am the Lightbearer”.

Belial blinked.

“Well, it’s not completely a surprise… but what does this mean?”

“I don’t know”.

“But it ought to mean something. The Elders gathered and summoned you to tell you this”.

Lucifer bit his lip.

“They half-ignored me most of the time anyway”.

“What did Raziel tell you?”

“Nothing. I did ask him… but you know how he can get. He said I’d find out in Time, or something. He barely spoke five words more, and he used them to send me away”.

Belial arched an eyebrow.

“I see… I guess we’ll have to wait and see”.

Lucifer nodded.

“I guess…”

The mist parted. Belial and Lucifer took a long stair down to a small valley, where a river flowed across the grassy land to a cascade, which fell to another Plane, forming a Portal in the Element of Water. The landscape was strange and marvelous, for it was immaterial and mystic, and all objects were but the perfect absolute idea of their material embodiment in the Mortal Plane. Up in the Heavens, their substance could only be compared to that of dreams. Glass-like scattered trees and vast flowerbeds adorned the valley along the riverside. Beneath the grass, a soft radiance showed the course of the Sun in the Mortal Plane.

Not far from the river, a small number of angels were sitting in the shade of a tree busying themselves in singing and talking. In the shade of another tree, another group led by an angel of Knowledge talked to a white-haired angel who was seemingly cornered against the tree. Lucifer tilted his head with a frown and exchanged a glance with Belial. Both of them walked up to the group and stood aside. Gabael, the leader of the bullies, was playing wise-crack on the white haired angel while the others snickered; but upon Lucifer’s appearance, they looked at him and fell silent, for Lucifer was not smiling at all and Belial echoed his expression. Gabael turned upon the sudden silence and blinked. Lucifer was kind of a celebrity due to his superior intelligence and the fact that Raziel himself was his Mentor, precisely because of his intellect. His censoring look was quite eloquent. Belial on his part had a similar fame, in his own field.

“We were only joking”, Gabael muttered. Deciding a quick retreat was best to save his dignity, Gabael left and the others scattered, leaving Belial and Lucifer alone with the white-haired one.

Lucifer looked at the angel, who seemed ready to either lash out or make himself scarce. From his expression, Lucifer guessed it wasn’t the first time this happened. Lucifer frowned slightly. Wise-cracks. Did they really think it was an archievement to belittle others because they knew a few things more? They were a shame for the Order.

“I apologize for their behavior”, Lucifer said in his natural leadership manner. “Please, don’t judge my Order by them. I am…”

“You are the Angel of Light”, the white-haired angel interrupted Lucifer with half-closed eyes. Lucifer’s pupils widened slightly. Belial smiled slightly with a nod. Lucifer watched the still wary white-haired angel. How did this angel know…?

“Have we met?”, he asked. The angel shook his head. Lucifer blinked slowly. “Then you have advantage over us”.

The angel smiled, still hesitant but less distrustful than before.

“I am Beelzebub”.

“Beelzebub, then”. Lucifer nodded. “I am Lucifer, and this is Belial. Would you like to join us? We’re not going anywhere in special… Just taking a walk”.

Beelzebub’s face darkened again.

“The others think I’m stupid. Maybe they would think ill of you if you’re seen with me, and I see they respect you”.

Lucifer laughed and flashed one of his mischievous, charming smiles.

“And why would I give any importance to what they think? I have a mind of my own, and I am certainly not one to follow the tide”.

Beelzebub looked down for an instant.

“I am not one of subtle words”, he said. “But I thank you for your kindness..”.

“I’ve not done anything yet!”, Lucifer said, still smiling. “Please, join us, Beelzebub”.

After a little while, Beelzebub rose his eyes to look at them.

“Thank you”.

They continued on their way down the valley.

“Just don’t pay heed to Belial. He talks too much”.

Belial glared at Lucifer, for he actually hadn’t spoken in a long while, ever since they entered the valley; Beelzebub laughed, still shyly but slowly gaining confidence.

“Look who’s talking”, Belial muttered with a smile. Lucifer grinned. Belial wasn’t mad at him anymore and Beelzebub was an interesting character; he might seemingly not be a bright mind, but beneath the surface he revealed a glimpse of a higher perception. Despite the mysterious words of the Elders still weighed on Lucifer’s mind, there were no clouds in his day; at least, for now.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Silence seeped into Kasbeela's sensitive ears as Azazel took his time to answer her. There was no living creature down here, besides them and that red-haired girl hanging above them. The girl was breathing rather softly, with only a slight ragged touch – probably from Christopher's delicate handling – but she had tuned it out. So the world was silence to her. Watching with eyes that kept shifting from amber to gold to burnt sienna, she didn't shift as Lord Azazel watched her from the corner of his eye. A bronze eye that resembled a hawk. A hawk that had his eyes trained on her. Was he trying to wear her down? She couldn't tell. She knew he expected full obedience, and may the Demon who didn't was as good as dead and destroyed. Kasbeela didn't want to be that demoness.

“Find the Necromancer for me.”

The Necromancer… something must be up. Why else would he want to see his teacher…? Belial, the Bliol… the one who resurrected Lord Azazel the first time… the one who also abandoned him and caused the demise… this should be very interesting… very interesting indeed…

“Do not let him know he's being watched – find him and let me know about him. I have plans for my Teacher.

“Yes, Sire.” Spy on him and not say anything… this should be fun. Bowing to him, she had a small smirk planted on her face. When she rose, she wasn't Kasbeela anymore. The wings had folded and she had shifted back into Vemchu Mala'ika. Turning on her heel, she walked out of there, heading back upstairs – the mortal way. Stupid heels. Stupid mortal fashion sense!

Walking down the expensive halls with that thought burning in her mind, she stopped as she walked by a man with a…. a cat? Turning her head sharply, she looked at them coldly. She could feel magic around them, the man was an occultist? Or something of that sort. Blinking once, she made sure her aura gave off purely human signals. What were they doing here…? It was past tourist time and most people had gone home.

“Who are you?” Vemchu kept her words short and clipped, determined to get them out – and then go back to her mission.

The black cat waved his tail in a mix of contempt and indolence. Raziel had followed him, but someone had unexpectedly got in the way. Lucifer remembered the child, now he saw the woman. In a rather intuitive way, Lucifer perceived she was more like her father than her mother, both Fallen once under his command and now only memories. He had no time for socializing, though – and he didn't want to risk Raziel for now. The cat scratched on the door he had caused to open. It might have been there before or not, just like earlier facts could be confusing; but on the door showed a little metal sign with a black silhouette – it was a men's restroom!

The signal for a quick alibi was clear, as the cat's eyes narrowed. Get into the men's restroom! What could a lady object to a visitor looking for the restroom?

Raziel's circular musings were interrupted by the open and slam of a door nearby; clipped footsteps approached him in passing, the definite sign of a business woman in high heels. He sensed a yet another Presence in the building, albeit minor compared to the one he was so close to, but it quickly dissipated, as if someone was Shielding them self. “Who are you?” The suited woman's words were as clipped and brusque as her footsteps.

He looked up and straightened, looking less as if he were about to fold in on himself and disappear and more as if he were about to imperiously order her forgiveness for intruding on his important mission. He had no idea what to say, but he was thinking fast, examining the woman as a front while he tossed speculations out the mental window. She was tall and slender, with darker-than-midnight hair and brown-black eyes flecked with different colors; all in all, she was undeniably beautiful.

“I am Seren Galahad.” Raziel's gaze flicked contemptuously from the woman to the black cat scratching at the door. “I thought this company would do better with pest control. I hope you don't mind if I use the restroom, madam,” he replied, narrowing his light blue eyes. His stance showed dissatisfaction, as if he were an unhappy and valuable client; for the crucial moment, his plain suit was overcome by a powerful sense of persona.

He gave her one last glance as he slipped gracefully through the door, his posture saying that, for the moment, he forgave the woman for the inadequacies of her company. That… was too close. Thank God. Until the door slid closed, Raziel actually believed he WAS in a bathroom… But the illusion shuddered and fell away, revealing some sort of office. “What now?” he asked quietly.

//…Pest control?!// The cat laid his ears back, annoyed. Maybe it was only his own perception, but he couldn't help to feel alluded to, being a cat as he was now. In any case, Raziel was doing a great performance – at least it might seem it was a performance, but to the former student, the real teacher showed briefly as the squeamish, frail character faded out to reveal an imposing presence. The cat skittered into the restroom as Raziel kept his gaze fixed into Kasbeela's.

It was a fine restroom in Italian tiles and furniture – classy and stylish. However as soon as Raziel entered and closed the door behind him, the restroom vanished, revealing an empty office with a large, solid oak table for meetings. The cat hopped onto the table and sat there. They had entered using the small service door, provided for assistants. “What now?” Raziel asked quietly. The cat flicked an ear, his bronze eyes shimmering mischievously.

//That depends.// A mental message touched Raziel's mind, unobtrusive with a deft touch – it could've been a whisper in the air, over the distant humming of the air conditioning systems.

If Raziel had had ears, they would have been laid straight back onto his skull. What was talking to him? The cat?

//I've only followed you – I've made myself useful, and you've not rejected me. I've assumed I've been admitted.// The black cat waved his thick, lustrous tail.

My day cannot get stranger. He blinked and leaned against one of the walls, watching the black feline. He seemed slightly affronted. Must have been the pest control comment.

//There's a Power in this place. You are not looking for it, but for something that Power holds… If you like, I can lead you there safely. May I point out to your notice, I'm not stating conditions… I'm being fairly informal. I am a curious being.// A soft laughter came out of the shadows around the cat. //I can be of help… You can trust me or not – but in a place like this you'll need a tour guide and perhaps an ally.//

The message was gentle and insistent, vibrating almost like the purr of a real cat. If you are not a cat, like I thought… What are you? He wasn't sure that he wanted to take the advice of a strange creature in a strange place… If it was a trap, it was remarkably well-set for a person like him.

Still sitting on the table, the cat lazily waved his tail like a velvet aspid ready to strike. He cast Raziel a speculative look. Raziel's mental dialog was not aimed to the cat, but it was written on his eyes. Lucifer had an inner tingle of satisfaction as he waited for the final product of Raziel's mental process.

Raziel rubbed the handle of his suitcase with his thumb, thinking. If it was a trap, he was already too deep to have much hope of escaping. He hadn't done anything yet. Except for the water-closet escapade. “I would appreciate the assistance,” said Raziel gravely, giving the cat a momentarily piercing look.

The cat's eyes became sunlit slits and his tail wrapped around his feet as he tasted his small victory. The cat opened his eyes and his bronze mirrors blazed in the dark. //So be it//, the mysterious voice whispered in Raziel's ears.

Looking at the man from head to toe, Vemchu wondered who he thought he was fooling. She worked too close to Lord Cynric to be fooled by someone who tried to seem that he was important. However, she gave him the benefit of the doubt when he said he was looking for the bathroom… however, she didn’t let the fact that there was a bathroom right by the entrance slip from her mind. This man was looking for something. And for some reason there was that rodent hanging around too. Call her paranoid, but she didn’t like the way he felt.

He was too… bland. Like, there was something missing from him, something… wrong. He will not be let further into the building. I’ll have to escort him out… and if he refuses to cooperate… well, I can say I was defending myself. Poor man will be ripped apart. Or just strangled. I’ll have to think of something fun – haven’t had a good time in quite awhile… And that cat… it is way too intelligent to be normal. I should know. Standing there, she brushed off invisible dust while she waited for him to be… done, with his business. After all, if he thought she was going to leave, he had another thing coming. She could go inside if she had to. There was no doubt in her mind that he wasn’t a client, and she was going to expel this imposter so she could get back to work. Some people honestly didn’t know that she couldn’t be bothered by such… nonsense. Now, if you would just be so kind as to HURRY UP.

The cat hopped off the table and scratched the rug. Kasbeela was still outside, waiting. Lucifer smiled to himself. He hadn't thought she'd be the type of females that await men outside of men's restrooms… A distraction was needed.

Lucifer concentrated as his tail's fur bristled ever so slightly. There'd be no need for cantrips or spells – a spell of will was all the brightest star needed. According to Raziel and the Order of Knowledge, this had been one of the Morning Star's steps to his rebellion. Pure power flowing from a deep pit of Knowledge comparable to Raziel's Himself, manipulated by mind and soul.

Outside, the artificial lights blinked over Kasbeela's head. Something ran out of an air duct – a large, brown roach. The insect took flight and zoomed around the woman's head like an airplane, nastily close to her face. Just then, the bathroom door opened and closed. A feline shadow skittered down the hall. A tall man with a worn out leather suitcase looked at the woman and the roach over his shoulder and walked away, back to the lobby and into the crowd of overnight workers…

One of the neon tubes went out, then blinked alive again.

Meanwhile, the cat led Raziel deeper into the office, tracking something down. The cat stopped as he found what he was looking for. //Follow me…// A panel opened with a soft click, revealing a hidden niche with an altar to a lesser demon. Lucifer reshaped the altar's protection ward into a passage, through which Raziel and he passed, entering a long ethereal tunnel. The gate flicked and snapped back to its normal and solid state, leaving no trace behind. The panel closed with a soft click. The office was empty… or was it a bathroom? The light gave the place strange shadows.

Checking her nails for what HAD to be the zillionth time, Vemchu gave a small sigh. What was he doing in there? Performing a biopsy on the cat? From the lack of coming OUT, she could assume so. Suddenly, sniffing slightly, she blinked. What was… turning her head sharply to the duct, she saw a large, nasty, and positively disgusting roach come out. It's hairy legs tested the surface before, being sure of its footing, it began scuttling along. It's wings flicked on its back, and at the “perfect” moment, it launched into the air, zooming straight for her. Her first instinct was to kill the nasty beast and continue on with her job. So, in one swift motion, she extended some claws, and took a good swipe at the air – a move which should have beheaded the beast. However, it managed to evade at the last moment, and then come right back at her.

This cannot be real! Hissing softly, she swatted at it again, before she heard the bathroom door open. Retracting her nails in a millisecond, she turned to see the cat skittle down the hallway – obviously free from whatever operation it had just undergone. With little more than a hiss it slid out of there, followed by the man. Good riddance. She had been getting tired of him.

Fitzz… fitzzz…

What the…? With a muffled curse, Vemchu glared evilly as the lights went out, flickering once before totally dying on her. Perfect! What was the excuse now? Electrical storm, stupid electrician, or was there ANOTHER hole in the stupid ozone layer??? Whatever it was, she would not take it! She had had enough! This was a major company! There wasn't supposed to be- Then the lights came back on. Looking only slightly disoriented, she tossed her hair behind her back, then proceeded on. Amazingly, the bug had disappeared without a trace – she couldn't even feel it any more. Looking around one more time, suspiciously, she headed out of there, on her way to find the Necromancer.

Raziel sighed and followed the feline creature through the office as it hunted something down. A hysterical corner of Raziel's mind suggested that it was looking for a mouse as its lunch while it led Raziel to hell, but before the notion could spread, he clamped down on it. The black cat paused and something clicked quietly; against his better judgment, Raziel followed the cat into a hidden alcove, where a small altar filled the area with a cloying feeling of evil. Altars to petty demons? Magical cats? I think I've fallen into a real dream this time. It wasn't at all impossible, he thought. It could have been a new, powerful ward designed to catch the unprepared mind. Raziel had to admit that he hadn't been prepared for what had transpired thus far… But at least he had escaped the vixen outside.

“Where are we headed?” He asked, his voice still quiet.

The cat skittered down the ethereal tunnel till getting to a proper cross point between their plane of reality to jump back into the Mortal plane. Raziel hadn't noticed the switch of planes so far; thrilled by the fact, the cat brushed briefly against his legs as a loophole opened before them, onto a deserted corridor just below a camera, in the camera's blind spot. //We're headed towards what you seek//, the mental voice purred.

The duo emerged into another passage, leaving the ethereal tunnel that they had just been strolling through with no more than a tingle. Raziel turned but couldn't see the exit of the ethereal tunnel; he shivered and held the briefcase under his arm. He felt the need to run. What do you know of what I seek? I'm only here to look for her. What I seek is something entirely different…

//We're underground now, far below the ground level of this tower. The Power that rules this tower is near – and so must be what you seek.//

I'm not searching for a Power, no not really.

//He's not alone… there's a human girl with him, also a lesser demon. There are guards and dwellers, but this corridor is deserted – they fear their Master.// The cat sniffed the air.

As they should. His games are cruel and have the malice of a child.

//The demoness you've just met – her scent still lingers. So does her perfume… We're close to something interesting.// Lucifer cast Raziel a speculative look. What was his former Mentor looking for? The cat walked out the loophole and sat on the cold floor, wrapping his tail round his feet, his ears pricked up at Raziel. //What do you want from the Master of this place? What is that he holds that's caught your determination to get it from him?//

The not-cat asked his question, more curious than any feline had ever been before, no doubt. “The girl. She's just another innocent… And if he is a Power, then those more able to treat with him than I should know of it… Before another unfortunate battle occurs.” Oh… No, that's not right. I know her from somewhere else, I think. Something else.

The cat flicked his whiskers but kept his ears pointed straight to Raziel, as if it were really through his ears that he could hear what he needed to hear. The cat's body was tense; his fur, slightly bristled. Mind interpretation and voice came to conjunction. Lucifer found himself striving to do his best, despite the fact Raziel was not fully himself… and he wouldn't sense his touch… but the teacher-student feeling was persistent. Raziel wasn't a fighter, but he didn't need to be; his power was of a different sort, a sort the Lightbearer knew well, for it was also his field. Lucifer was perplexed.

He is looking for a girl? In a place ruled by something beyond his… current sphere, with no need to come here himself? Lucifer tried to digest the fact that Raziel was showing concern for someone he didn't need to be concerned about – in other words, Raziel was pitying someone. Scandal! Outrageous! The black Bombay was indignant.

'She's just another innocent…' That almost sounded like an apology. As far as Lucifer was concerned, Raziel had no right to go pitying others or trying to help if unnecessary, yet the 'And if he is a Power, then those more able to treat with him than I should know of it… Before another unfortunate battle occurs', ticked Lucifer off. Would Raziel retreat? Why not?, he thought. But no. He was there the day Raziel died – in a Battle Lucifer had only watched. He knew he wouldn't do that – maybe. The words girl, battle and child danced in Lucifer's mind. He once again questioned Raziel. //Do you want to retreat and leave these grounds now, or do you want to help her?//, he asked Raziel. //I'll assist you either way.//

Raziel shook his head with no small measure of irritation. Didn't he just say he was going to find her? And with find he meant get her out of this hellhole as quickly as magically possible. He was pretty sure that when she signed up for a thaumaturgy course that she really didn't mean to get first hand experience. I'm not going to be deterred by some impish tempter from what I've set out to do! Never mind that the young Occultist was not quite scared stiff. But he was going to do it! Rescue the girl. He uttered a low laugh at that… Rescue a woman, when all of his encounters with that unfortunate sex had been as Eve was unto Adam. Tempted and then thrown from happiness with a boot to the seat of his pants. He was still too shy to take the apple.

“I am going to find her,” he replied, voice harsh as he tried to force it into some semblance of evenness. Raziel felt a sudden urge to stalk off–the way this bloody magical skyscraper worked, he would probably end up in the “bad guy's” lair no matter what direction he chose. Large evils were vain enough to make every path lead to themselves.

The black Bombay flicked his whiskers in perplexity. Raziel had reacted as if touched by a live wire; once again Lucifer wondered if his appreciation was correct. The 'Raziel' that had been his mentor was not exactly like this. Lucifer still had fresh in his mind how Raziel would make clear those in the Order of Knowledge were bound to keep their feelings under control – how emotions and mind shouldn't interfere with each other…

Lucifer was so curious and intrigued he stared at Raziel for a couple seconds, which seemed to last an eternity. //Contrary to average designs, this Master's web of Power would lead you away instead of further inside, if you follow its flow//, he emotionlessly pointed out, mimicking the Elder he knew, yet was unintentional. No emotion involved, only guidance… The Light in the corridor changed gradually, shadows and light giving objects different shades and shapes, ignoring their shape and making them imperceptible to all eyes. The corridors were long and tortuous, once they abandoned a semi-earthly plane and slid through what seemed to be cave of live rock, bordering a chasm. Red lights danced on the opposite wall, denouncing flowing fire far below. Shadows in transit passed by them with the shine of unnatural metal, but they didn't perceive the intruders thanks to the mysterious feline influence.

Raziel's jaw clenched and he shot an angry daggering glance at the dark creature as it seemed to disappear into their new, hellish surroundings. The cat's shadow shifted crazily as they picked their way through the passage above the chasm, writhing into devilish shapes that at times reached to the ceiling above with crazed talons and broken horns, only to fall behind and cast itself in Raziel's face, making an illusion of black webbed wings behind him. As he walked, Raziel realized that he himself cast no shadow in this place. The light of a natural sun gave everyone a shadow; the light of what he was beginning to call Hell gave shadows to only those with souls. I feel like a photo chopped image now, he thought, half-jestingly. I'm not real.

After another turn and a flight of steps, metal replaced rock and they reached an underground level beneath the tower, in a strange place of polished dark green marble floors and vaults built in unearthly metal. Bank-style security doors could be seen round a chamber, from which many other passages started behind bar doors. Some were tunnels in total darkness for the human eye; in others danced strange flames and hellish lights, like the one the cat and the Occultist had used.

//Here we are//, Lucifer's voice resounded in Raziel's mind after a long silence. //They are in that vault over there, behind that security door. Since he took the time to make the flow lead unwanted visitors astray, I foresee some resistance.// The cat's eyes lit up in amusement.

The black feline stopped when they entered a much more real, much cooler chamber of green marble and metal. It looked like a security vault–and from what the Bombay was saying, that's exactly what it was. “I'm not here to fight them. I'm here to get in and out with what I came for,” he replied lowly, beginning the small cantrip he had placed on his office door so he could languish under its protection. The spell used such a small amount of energy and made itself look so insignificant that no one would notice the magick involved until he was right under their nose and poking their eyes.

Raziel glared at him. With that glare he gave when caught off-base. Couldn't he ever take in constructive criticism? The cat's tail tip flicked as the Devil snickered within at his former Mentor's reaction, almost feeling young again. Raziel's lack of soul caught Lucifer's fancy as the cat led the way through the tortuous passages and tunnels. Could it be the adjust, ever-frozen Elder had skipped a line or two? Perhaps he had been deprived from his soul for a reason… since this time there wasn't another bearer of Sapientia set by Raziel at work… and Raziel was as empty as a broken shell.

Could it be Raziel had broken the rules he had so strictly observed? Had he infringed the Heavenly laws? Or was there another reason…? Where was his book, his soul? Deep within, Lucifer wondered. What have you came for, old Teacher? I had never seen you have a passion for something that lives. You are dry and insensitive, distant and deaf when what is said disturbs the stillness of your own world. In your timeless account, Life is not to be lived and knowledge is an infinite ocean with a glass surface. To sail away is a scholar's deepest desire, but your anchors are set too deep. The cat thoughtfully tilted his head, watching. //Sundays are peculiar days.//

What kind of comment was that, Raziel wondered? Sundays are peculiar days. Sundays are only the seventh day of the week, first by the account of the Spanish, and are for the religious and the hypocritically pious to jaunt to their respective cathedrals. “Are we just going to stand here all eternity and bake, or are you willing to lead me to where I need… Where I want to be?” Needing and wanting were two different things. Asking for one did not follow that he would also receive the other. Where he needed to be was home. Where he wanted to be was rescuing the girl. If that could be considered a where. Mincing words with the supernatural and being more cautious of his words and even thoughts was a wiser course than that Raziel had followed thus far. If any day is peculiar, it would be a Friday.

Deep within, Lucifer was awaiting. Awaiting the unexpected, awaiting something mysterious and curious. Something worthy of his time and something that would explain Raziel's behavior and current state. The Morning Star perceived both the large picture and the detail at the same time – a characteristic of those of high ranks in the Order of Knowledge – and the multiple shadows in this picture annoyed the Lightbearer. It was way past midnight, dark hours before Sunday dawn. On a Sunday morn when it was still night, Christ resurrected – remarkable enough, even though those who believed there existed a real God would be surprised to know the striking truth of their mistake, but that Son of Man descended to Hell and popped out, a new day was instituted in the week, a new religion was consolidated, and new definitions of holiness. It's a Sunday morn before dawn, and Raziel is 'descended' to this hell Man calls Earth… yet by some mystery he's crossed a former pupil's path. Raziel lost his soul thus his power apparently, and Lucifer is curious as to know if this former angel will 'rise from his own hell' like that other Man did.

Sundays… It'd be interesting to follow the drama to its End. //With great pleasure I'll lead you//, the cat's voice purred into Raziel's mind, //I'll lead you to your goal.//

The cat's eyes shimmered with inner fire, the outline of his black body changing to a thick, incorporeal shadow. Lucifer once again used a spell of will, taking great care in not leaving a single trace that could identify the spell caster. The security locks turned and spinned like a giant swiss clock open; metal sparkled and chanted with a voice of its own as the guardian spells reacted to a wordless command, bending to the spellcaster's Will. The guardian spells hissed and were undone, but their hisses had a reverent note. With a solemn toll as if the whole hall were a gigantic bell, the security door slid and opened wide, revealing a vast security vault, with a vaulted ceiling, from which a gold cage with a human bird hanged.

Someone was inside that chamber, whose power flowed out as the wards dropped; his armor shone darkly in cold neon lights. He turned with a start, and Lucifer's eyes widened in utter shock as the power fought to regain control of its domain. I should've killed him when she brought him to me.

Azazel had been absorbed into his dark thoughts after Vemchu left. She better not fail – Azazel had never fully trusted her. She had some traits annoyingly alike to those of the Angelic Host; she was like a weapon with a defect. Azazel watched Autumn in her gold cage… He did need Vemchu to fulfill her mission. Azazel would have Belial to give Autumn immortal Life, even if it was necessary to kill her first.

I don't care about her fate, Azazel thought to himself, This I feel is not mine. This I feel belongs to Lorant – not to me! Belial will have to fix his mistake. Then I'll lock her away…

She won't be my Lilith, was his next thought, but he silenced it. Azazel turned his ring around his finger, deep in thought. Voices hissed from the door; the guardian spells were giving way. Azazel turned with a start as the door simply opened; no cantrip or chant had been used – how in Hell the wards had been broken? There was a strange note to the guardian spells voices… one that gave him a small shiver. Azazel's bronze eyes opened wide: there was no one outside! Only a human… with his familiar? Impossible! It was impossible a human opened the door!

Soulless… But… A faint memory flickered in Azazel's mind.

//Raziel's measuring gaze examined Azazel's face, his wings, his clawed hand.

“You may breathe the air around you and never understand the mechanism that allows you to do so. Likewise, you may be resurrected and not know the consequences of doing so. The Book was altered- you are living proof. But you neither know how nor what will happen because it was so. I repeat, son of Lucifer, that you are a fool. Dangerous, but a fool nonetheless.”//

Azazel shifted his weight to his goat hoof, his wings half-closed around his broad shoulders. His red robes fluttered around his ankles; his armor shone darkly and the red scales in his right, clawed hand had sparks of hellish fire as he gathered energy in it, preparing a blast of fire.

“You … again?” Azazel smirked darkly. “Such an interesting approach you've chosen. Did you by chance lose your soul in some of the holes you use to crawl through? Unexpected visitor: the outcome won't be different today.”

Raziel did not flinch at the terrible visage before him. Something else told him that he had seen worse in his time. Worse than an impetuous boy who had never matured into an adult–just a child who was spoiled with far too much power. The words he spoke came as if from far away, not spat from the mouth of a deceptively beautiful creature. Though Raziel knew it was he who was spoken to, the words were only noise. They made no sense. But he knew without being able to explain that this was part of the reason why he had no soul.

“Did you… Remember the part where I told you I pitied you?” The words rang cold and pitiless from his throat, striking with the frigid force of steel on steel. Something bitter and angry and sorrowful climbed into his voice and mien. “Do you know why, yet? Creature of two souls, master of none. ” His voice ran on without him, as if something else essayed without him. I don't understand.

Admitting ignorance is the first step in becoming wise. As one learns, one comes to realize how little they know. The clichés uttered by the mass were not merely truisms, but phrases of concentrated knowledge. That they were still remembered 'til now meant little and held little of their true value; that they were misunderstood and misinterpreted meant little still. Knowing that he didn't know what had happened to him, Raziel knew the greatest truth of all.

Something had wanted him to forget why he had no soul. Some external influence was involved in his current state. That he was able to command some power over magic was a miracle… An impossibility of itself, since there was no mark of another in him. Even magic of will required a soul or a promise in its place.

“Let her down, demon. Or even all the fires in hell won't protect this place.”

Azazel broke into a heavy snigger. The feline shadow at Raziel's feet hadn't moved. “Pity is a futile, worthless feeling”, he replied. “You are wise in not pitying me – that would cloud your judgment. However, it seems like I have what you lack of. Twice as much, if you like…” Azazel's eyes blazed with inner infernal fire. “However, it wouldn't cross my mind, such a simple idea. Pitying you… Soulless rest of what you used to be… I will take your advice, and I won't pity you.”

Azazel smirked darkly. “No… I won't please you”, Azazel softly said, his voice smooth and cold like a blade. “She is out of your reach, and will continue so.” Azazel narrowed his eyes. Somewhere in the vault, the demon Kasbeela had summoned earlier hissed words of infernal. Azazel changed his approach. He summoned his Power of Temptation to his voice; a terrible power of his own.

Lucifer under cat form sat down at Raziel's heels and watched with growing interest, his bronze eyes open wide. This was an older version of his own son, no doubt; and yet he didn't quite want to admit the resemblance, he had marked Azazel's face – and there was the mark across his left eye! It was still burning.

“Why would you risk your precious life for her?” Azazel asked, his magic seeping like poison into Raziel's ears. “Haven't you lost so much already? This human has no value to you – to interfere and fight is not your duty. To guide and to teach are your attributes, and even at those you've failed… losing those who were confided to you, who in the end, turned against you. Your power is no match to mine, and even worse now that you are an empty shell. To fight is futile.” Azazel's eyes shimmered and the air seemed to burn around him, his gaze fixed into Raziel's.

Lucifer shrugged. Azazel's guess was a good one, but not good enough! He wondered who had revealed such things to Lilith's son.

A familiar lump crawled into his throat, but Raziel shook his head in a ruthless effort to throw it out. “I… I don't know what you're talking about.”

Lucifer scratched his ear as Raziel had all the spotlight for himself. Sometimes a younger Lucifer had wished to see his former teacher under a similar state as part of his scholar daydreaming, but now it wasn't turning out to be pleasant – for some reason. He felt like digging his claws into Raziel's heels for being such a wimp. However, he still waited to see what Raziel would do under stress.

Azazel's voice changed slightly as he summoned his Voice power, to weaken and destroy the angel's confidence and faith. “You are alone in the end, Raziel. No one will help you and you've not been of any help! You have wasted your Life and my precious time!”

In the shadows behind Azazel, a lesser demon lurked. The cat waved his tail and stared at him, gently pricking at the demon's mind while Azazel was concentrated on Raziel, thinking the cat was insignificant. The demon bared four lines of pointy teeth, white enough for a toothpaste commercial. Lucifer eyes locked into the demon's. The demon tried to avert his eyes, but he was trapped, paralyzed. Lucifer's eyes were unholy portals of blazing fire, revealing a terrible power beneath – a maddening terror crept within the demon, unable to free himself as Lucifer shattered his mind. On the outside to the other two, it was just a kitty staring like kitties do.

“That's not true.” The greatest power of the highest demons is the ability to lie and to believe their lies… The thought came unbidden, and still… And still, it was of little comfort. He wasn't alone! But even the huge chamber mocked him. A golden cage hung above them all, the captive inside silent–dead, asleep, listening… who knew. The feline near his ankles seemed to have disappeared, perhaps behind him or gone altogether–Raziel dared not look back. If he did, he would run.

The room seemed empty, just a large mocking void like the rest of his life. He wasn't even a particularly valued teacher. Anyone could study Victorian history on their own and make the connections easily… And he did not even seriously teach the Occult. It wouldn't be allowed. It wasn't proper, and the students should have a proper education. Raziel was disposable and dispensable, as a person and as a life. No one would even really miss him.

“A waste of time and power; you should've known better”, he said in a sinister voice before shooting a beam of infernal power to the source of the blinding light. The light was diffracted, torn to blades of light by the power of Azazel, piercing through Raziel's body. Blue feathers were consumed in flame.

Coming here was a waste of time. Miss Kristof… Raziel still hadn't done what he came to do. “Stop wasting my time!” Raziel's voice rang out.

//Ah, there…// A slight change in Raziel's vibes brought closer a familiar feeling to Lucifer. His voice rang out, more like he could remember. However, Azazel was right – Raziel was not a match for him in a power fight. Not that Lucifer knew of. However, everything is subject to change – the Morning Star was always kept that in mind, no matter how unlikely things might seem. The demon's pupils were incredibly dilated, making its eyes all black in a sickening sight. It was about time. Lucifer set him loose. The cat bared his fangs and the driven insane demon howled, launching forward to reach the door and attack with a terrible cry, smashing the altar out of his way towards Azazel, his only intent to attack the world that had turned against him.

Azazel smirked darkly. “I'm afraid that's my line”, he replied, raising his hand to shoot the fire he had gathered to see Raziel be consumed by flame one more time. A howl rang out behind him. The altar was suddenly knocked off its position and sent flying against Azazel; he leapt to the side and used his fire bolt to protect himself, shattering the altar to pieces – but the fire also caught some of the reactive, causing a terrible explosion. Azazel was pushed against the wall, but his first though drifted off to Autumn in her cage hanged from the tall vaulted ceiling – the explosion shook it like a dreadful pendulum, shaking her against the gold bars like a lifeless doll. The demon leapt forward to the door to attack the intruders; Azazel momentaneously forgot about them and cast a spell to still the cage again.

The cat leapt forward, meeting the attacking demon in mid-air. It would perhaps be a funny sight… under other circumstances! Raziel looked anything but amused – but Lucifer had achieved his purpose: Azazel was out of the way. There was a blinding flash, confused with the fire in the vault; the demon dropped dead with a large gash in his chest as the cat jumped clean through his body, as if the sharp edge of a hellish sword had cut through armor and scales.

//The way is clear//, the cat's voice purred into Raziel's mind as the feline ran into the vault, sorting flames in his way. The cat jumped and bolted against the wall; another flash and the chain that held the gold cage shattered, causing it to plummet down onto the vault's floor.

Whatever musty fuzz of confusion and anger that still cobwebbed his mind disappeared as Raziel had to duck and tumble to avoid explosive flames and flying debris alike; of course, the spell he had been preparing as they crossed the vault's threshold also flew out of his head. Only God knew what he had been planning, now. From the corner of his eye, Raziel saw the cat leap with, well, super-feline ease into the air and literally rocket through its body. There was no way tiny feline claws had any part in that rout.

And the cat creature had the gall to sound quite pleased about it, too! Whatever the black hellcat really was, Raziel promised himself he'd have the full story when this was over. If there was a Raziel to get that story afterwards. The clanging and shriek of a chain dropping through a pulley activated some strange shard of instinct in the human–he looked up to see the golden-looking cage whistling down almost on top of him and reacted only as an Occultist would–blinked and screamed a word of command. “Flutârum!” And only an Occultist would have gotten a result other than being flattened into an unrecognizable pulp.

As it was, the brassy metal overgrown birdcage only stopped a meter above his prone suitcase-clutching body, so that he had to roll over (carefully, lest he smash or otherwise abuse the grimoire still relatively undamaged by his escapades otherwise) and struggle to his feet. Raziel was only a little surprised that he wasn't straining with the effort of holding up what had to be a massive tone of ore.

He was distressed yet grateful to see that Ms. Kristof was either stunned or unconscious; it would make getting her out of this… hellhole… less of the ordeal than it already was. Hopefully the girl wouldn't have any leftover trauma… And maybe I can convince her… or let her mind convince her… that this is all just a very strange nightmare. The mind had an especially queer way of covering up things it couldn't handle, and a little magick would be right to help it along.

There was no lock on the cage; there wasn't even a door. But Raziel would have considered himself a poor magician if he didn't even have a spell that could bend some paltry bars, even if he'd pay for the effort with a reaction-headache the size of Wales the next morning. “Curvarum!” The metal bars obeyed reluctantly, groaning and screeching as they bent inward far enough–and just barely, at that–to allow Raziel to shimmy through and unceremoniously drag his student out. He could only thank the powers that be that she was not wearing a dress.

Azazel opened his eyes wide as the cage plummeted down, then stopped. Strange power surges tingled on his conscience with each of the two flashes he had perceived. The Demon lord steadied himself and summoned Lufernatia without a second thought as Raziel bent the gold bars open to pull Autumn out of her prison. Azazel didn't seem to give any importance to the fire and explosions all around – he had lived among such all of his life.

The outline of his great sword cut through the flames that surrounded him as his aura lit up, still constrained to a radius short enough not to fry Autumn alive – damnable Elder was still pulling her through the bent bars of her cage. Azazel stomped his goat foot on the floor, causing a crack to open; hellish flame licked the cage, coming out from the crack in an attempt to force Raziel to recede.

“Let go of her!”, he demanded, his eyes blazing with nightmarish rage. Azazel leapt over the fallen altar that nearly crushed him against the wall and launched himself forward to behead Raziel with Lufernatia.

It was strange. Lucifer suddenly found himself simply watching the course of events: Raziel's spells – quite human, by the way -, Azazel's reaction, hellish flame and shadow creeping into the vault. It was a bad habit of his, partially a remnant from his training as angel of Knowledge, partially a habit he had acquired. To stay out, to keep himself from mingling into the events directly.

However, Azazel was about to behead Raziel with Lufernatia. Lucifer wondered why he had to interfere – but he had bound himself by word, and he had imposed himself the task to take Raziel and his loot out of Azazel's tower. Raziel's loot. He almost burst out laughing.

Azazel was drawing closer. At blinding speed. The cat reappeared at Raziel's heels. Words of Infernal were heard, but the voice was different from the purring echo Raziel had heard before. A sudden wall of fire and liquid rock rose, forcing Azazel to flap and stop in mid-attack; Lufernatia burst into flames, but before Azazel could redirect his blow, a terrible pain ripped through his skull. Lucifer had caused the mark he gave to his son to burn again.

Azazel howled and pressed his hand on his left eye, staggering back; he fell and disappeared from sight among the fire. Lucifer's eyes shimmered with malice and dark complacency. Yes. It still burns…The cat skittered before Raziel and leapt over the fallen cage, whose far end was melting already.

//You better not linger – he'll be back soon.// The purring voice echoed again through the Occultist's mind with a hint of mirth. The vault's door rippled and a portal appeared at the cat's command. He used a traditional spell this time. //Let us leave!//

Raziel had just freed Miss Kristof and stumbled back under the released deadweight when a ridge of hot rock plunged up from the floor and blocked the attack of the enraged demon. “What do you care?!” Raziel responded, steadying himself beneath the double burden of an unconscious woman and a heavy suitcase. He stared at the wall as if his sight was trying to bore through it. A terrible howl followed his reply and Raziel flinched back and remembered where he was and what he was doing. He skirted around the opposite side of the cage, avoiding flickering flame that looked likely to do worse than just burn him. Following the cat, Raziel felt the recognizable tug of a portal bespelled and stepped through the scatter-light surface.

Vertigo tossed his stomach to his toes and back and pulled his guts half a mile before returning them, possibly upside down, to their confines. …I'm going to be sick. Happily, the portal spat him and his loot out onto the pavement with nothing worse than a case of buckling knees and a brief moment of overwhelming nausea. Thank god he hadn't eaten dinner.

With a command in words strange to human ears, a voice echoed and the Portal closed, leaving behind Azazel and his howling rage. From Raziel's reaction after crossing the Portal, Lucifer guessed his shell had but all of human boundaries. But was it a simple shell at all? Where was his soul, where was Sapientia? Such questions persistently flickered in the Devil's mind.

The cat skittered and sat in front of Raziel, waving his tail with his ears pricked up, looking very pleased with himself. The creature's bronze eyes shimmered with eerie light as he looked up at Raziel's face. //As I promised, I've assisted you in and out, with the object of your interest…// The cat's mental voice was again, a soft purr. He seemed to expect some well deserved praising!

Raziel glared at the feline, aching and stubbornly refusing to show it other than the favoring of his right side, ever-so-slightly… He leaned on his left leg a bit and steeled his arms to keep with the woman's weight. He wondered if his future rescues could be convinced to go on a diet. “You seem pretty damn proud for something that almost got me killed by a bloody demon with a mother-complex!” At least, that's what Raziel wanted to say. What he actually said… “Who and what are you, and what are you going to demand in return for your… protection?”

The black Bombay cat laid his ears back till flattening them on his skull and sulked. Damn ungrateful Elder! He was again, glaring at him – after all he did for him! Lucifer felt like opening a portal and flinging Raziel and his girl across it, right into the Lake of Fire in the depths of Hell. The cat hissed, baring long white fangs as his eyes lit up in his face with inner light.

//I told you I was not stating conditions//, the cat's voice hissed through Raziel's mind. //And you said you would appreciate the assistance. It seems like you think you could've done quite nicely on your own back there!// The cat narrowed his eyes to slits of gold fire. //My protection! I suppose I should be grateful you allowed me to be your humble escort//, he continued, scornfully. //I suppose you'd rather have the cat return to its garbage can and leave you be!//

The cat glared at Raziel, then eyed the girl and the leather case he so carefully kept. //Since you expect me to demand a payment, I will consider your request. As for who am I – find out yourself! I will follow you till I make up my mind…// The cat turned his nose up.

Raziel shook his head. “No. Thank you.What's wrong with me? Picking a fight with a demon, and then picking a fight with a… hellcat… that helped me. Whatever its reasons are, they're it's own. Doesn't matter to me. But you know him, don't you? The young Occultist blinked and wavered a little. He didn't answer my question. “Just… find me when you decide.” He stumbled past the cat and out of the alley, closeting himself and Miss Kristof in a payphone booth. Maybe I'll be luckier with the cab this time.

Momentaneously stunned, the cat pricked up an ear and flicked it. No – then – Thank you, he had said? This Raziel is very strange. The cat scratched his ear, keeping a fiery eye on the Occultist as he made his phone call from a nearby payphone booth. His anger disappeared as abruptly as it had surged – or at least it went to a different level. His curiosity increased to a nearly painful level. I will find you… Raziel.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Azazel's smile became more pronounced as Vemchu showed her respect to him – a dark and malicious, yet seductive smile. Azazel walked up to Vemchu and motioned to her to rise. “It's been some time, Kasbeela. I've watched you from my shell…” Azazel shrugged lightly with lazy elegance. “You'll be rewarded for your devotion”. His voice echoed strangely within their space. In his second imprisonment in the Abyss, Azazel had had time to plot out new strategies and lines of action, including some personal things. 'I can learn quickly', he had told Michael Archangel before giving him a terrible wound – later on, he had successfully slain the Archangel. This had given a turn in Azazel's mind, where he had started a conscious effort to remove his father's shadow from himself. His father had been slain by Michael – Azazel had slain Michael, proving himself better than the two of them. Being reimprisoned has been a learning experience; Azazel had promised himself he would succeed where Lucifer failed. He had lost some things before; loyalties and servants; but he'd eagerly restructure what Lucifer had created into something of his own – let the dead remain dead! Aidan hadn't named his company Morning Star by simple chance… as many of his deeds had been plotted and imprinted in his will by Azazel himself. Azazel was determined to give his own fate a new turn.

Rising from her bow at Azazel's command, Vemchu connected her deep eyes with his bronze ones. They sparked with hidden power, deep want – want of vengeance. Her Lord wanted to reclaim what was his. And she couldn't blame him at all. After all… she wanted what was hers as well. “Thank you, Sire, but working with you is a reward in itself.”

Vemchu had learned some things over the years. When it came to a superior, you didn't accept anything unless they insisted. Otherwise you may seem too greedy. You told them that working for them was rewarding enough. And with him, it was true. Sure, he would have her sacrificed like that if he felt she was a threat… or a nuisance. But it wasn't just the present – it was the past as well. Some things from her past made her want to stay on his good side. Stay in his favor. Then maybe she would stand a chance in this world. No one would dare go against him… no demon and lower angel, anyways. And after the last battle – no Archangel. He took down Michael himself… they would be foolish to try to take him on. And he remains strong, I can feel it. Ever so easily. So… overpowering. Makes one shake. And that aura… he looks so elegant, dark… seductive. I can feel this power seeping out of him, through this room – shaking my soul, vibrating my bones, curling my blood… such an aura…

Azazel cast Kasbeela a speculative look, then his blazing gaze fell on Autumn. Azazel frowned as his piercing eyes scanned the girl's looks and her soul denounced her; his lip curled lightly in a mix of contemptment and resentment. He hadn't been wrong – this girl was Autumn, indeed; a reincarnation of a contradiction. Ironically, she had brought him the ring she had taken away from him, over a hundred years ago. However… Azazel's frown deepened to a scowl as he again sensed the man's love and need of his wife. Useless human limitations! There was no such thing as love; only lust and greed.

Snapping out of her semi-daze, she looked on as Azazel looked at Kris. Vemchu could tell that she was related to the red-haired vixen from a long time ago… very similar in fact. Except for the fact that she was wearing pants, of course. And the ring had been around her neck instead of finger. Ah well, such minor things meant nothing. She could very well be the reincarnation of Autumn. But in her mind, the chance was very slim. Lord Azazel was frowning. The past. It always bothered people like them. Then again – it could be anything else. Vemchu didn't know, and right now – it was good to stay out of his business, until he invited someone in. That's the only way it could be and would be. Azazel didn't allow people to control him.

Again, Azazel promised himself he wouldn't allow himself to be reached by his father's shadow – Autumn would not be his Lilith. The cycle must be broken. “We'll take her down to the vaults beneath the Tower”, he told the demoness, “where she will remain”.

“Yes, sir.” Snapping her fingers lightly, a form appeared from what seemed to be pure darkness. A low-leveled demon, who was under her command. Until Azazel appeared, of course. He now owed his allegiance to him. Bowing deeply, the demon picked up Kris, and waited for further instruction.

Azazel narrowed his eyes, watching them. He didn't show if he was satisfied or not with their actions; his expression didn't change. Azazel stomped his left foot on the floor and the floor disappeared beneath them; demons and human fell down a pit of walls seemingly made of volcanic rock streaked with threads of living fire at blinding speed. The fall suddenly met a halt in an underground level beneath the tower, in a strange place of polished dark green marble floors and vaults built in unearthly metal. Bank-style security doors could be seen round a chamber, from which many other passages started behind bar doors. Some were tunnels in total darkness for the human eye; in others danced strange flames and hellish lights.

The fall ended as it begun – without warning. Azazel landed neatly on his goat hoof and his angel-like armored foot – he had assumed his 'normal' appearance during the fall. His gold wings spotted in dark crimson folded on his back, the long feather edges barely brushing against the floor. His red robes fluttered round his feet as if driven by an unseen force; his black and gold armor with red writings shone darkly in the dull white fluorescent lights. Azazel led the way to one of the security vault doors, which he proceeded to open and lead them inside. His aura of preeminence and hellish power surrounded him like a dark cloak, yet he limped almost imperceptibly due to the different nature of his feet. Inside there was a huge, aseptic, circular space built in a bluish metal walls and quartz floors. From the vault hung a gold cage, long, narrow and oblong in the likeness of those used to keep and starve prisoners to death in the 11th Century. Azazel pressed a button and the cage lowered to the floor. At his command, the lower demon placed unconscious Autumn inside the cage and activated the locks. The cage slowly rose to its original position, high above them.

One minute Kasbeela was standing on a carpeted floor – the next, falling through what seemed to be the bowels of the earth. However, tempted as though she was, she didn't allow herself to shape shift or transform into her true form. So, through fire and earth, she dropped, alongside Azazel and the demon servant, hair whipping around her face, hands firmly by her side. With a gently click Vemchu landed, in a bent position, so her legs would break after absorbing all the shock. Standing in a fluid motion, she looked around. Green marble underneath, bank vaults, black tunnels – if she didn't know any better, she'd think it was a Hobbit's cave. Strange how mortals thought up such things. Hobbits… Only a mortal would think of something so stupid as a Hobbit. Turning her head to face her master, she saw he had regained his old appearance. Following him into the vault, she watched with a sort of hidden amusement. He had the girl placed in a cage and then had that cage placed near the ceiling. Well… what did you know? The girl – who was possibly his own grandchild, if not his old wife – stuck in a cage towering above them. My, my… how the tides had turned. Closing her eyes while he busied himself, Vemchu let her body relax as four wings unfurled. Deep gray, with white here and there – in this light, black and gray. Her scandal-causing robes clung to her, then spread out as it came to the floor. She hadn't been in this form for such a long time. Her whip was laced to her side, while her hair gently slid down her back in an ebony waterfall. Yes. This was much better. No more stupid work clothes for now.

Azazel tapped his long, beautiful fingers on an altar prepared in the center of the room, which was a chilling mix of an operation table and a place of sacrifices. Tools and strange bottles waited aligned in shelves inside a niche behind security glass doors. The space was clean of exhaustive details for the naked eye, but the quartz floor was covered in sigils of power and prepared for a major event. The Warlord was frowning still; the flame-like crimson mark across his left eye had taken a bright hue in his pale face. “Kasbeela: there's someone I need you to find for me”.

Hearing a sudden tapping sound, Kasbeela opened her eyes to see an unhappy Azazel. He looked preoccupied, as though he needed something, craved something. Either that, or he looked like someone had just done bad and was about to be killed. She sincerely hoped it wasn't her. Her fears were then relieved by him speaking, his voice echoing in the chamber. “Who, Sire? I'll be glad to assist.”

Azazel watched her from the corner of his eye. Kasbeela in his eyes, looked different – strangely different but the same underneath her features, like someone we met as a child and meet again when childhood is nothing but bad memories. Azazel bit his lip lightly. The white feathers in Kasbeela's wings unpleasantly reminded him the both of them were children of former angels. After the century ago experience, this problem had haunted Azazel's mind – the demon of Knowledge hadn't yet processed and digested the information properly. Then again, he'd see again the embodiment of a paradox again, if Kasbeela succeeded. She better succeed.

Azazel looked at her from the corner of his eye, then turned to her speak his will. “Find the Necromancer for me. Don't let him know he's being watched – find him and let me know about him. I have plans for my Teacher”. Azazel's lip curled to a small, dry smile as he tapped again his fingertips on the altar.


Raziel rose and closed the door of his room after the last student filed out of his small classroom; it was six o' clock in the evening, as he had been doomed to take one of the later class slots. The steel and brass lock clicked as the tumblers within closed; a more subtle “sound” vibrated unobtrusively through the magical web in his dimming room as the anti-pick charm activated. It had been a clever little spell Raziel accidentally discovered; anyone who focused on his locked door with ill intent would remember some pressing urge or “hear” a guard down the hall and leave, forgetting what they had come for. All Raziel had to do was lay the spell; he found that, while other teachers ended up with a few break-ins each semester, he never had a single event. It usually earned him strange looks from the other professors, but… I'd rather have odd looks because of my ancient lock than a looted room. Raziel left the bronze key in the lock after shutting himself in and sat in his battered green chair, opening the drawer on his desk and pulling out the grimoire he had been reading earlier.

He flicked on a small wan desk lamp and opened the tome, leafing through. He was entranced by the lines flowing across the page, forming detailed pentagrams and dancing devils that twined into intricate patterns. His eyes were drawn along the slightly raised inklines, spiraling through each loop and knot and through the enumerated veins of leaves and illustrations of beating hearts; the ink seemed to shimmer and pulse like the beat of that self-same heart, thickening to arteries and down to capillaries, splitting and converging and twisting in to each other like spider webs. Leafing through the illuminated text, Raziel allowed a long index finger to trail along the ridges, letting the book tell him its story… Raziel leaned back and took off his wire-framed glasses, laying them carefully on the desk before massaging his eyes with the heels of his hands. Shadows stretched along the room like bars as streetlights outside flicked on, sending shafts of amber-orange into his night-grayed room. “Ye gods… What time is it?” he murmured, and checked his watch. Ten o'clock.

He slipped his glasses back on and grabbed his battered brown leather briefcase, pushing the old book inside somewhat guiltily. I'm not really stealing… It would have moldered away in the Library. He walked quickly through the unlit halls, looking over his shoulder from time to time; the old building he taught in always gave Raziel the feeling something was going to come out and pull him to the Netherworld. The street was cold and, even with the lights, the shadows crawled up the walls and slunk around the corners like hungry bendith-gnomes. Raziel shielded his eyes as a pair of painfully bright headlights mounted the hill he walked on; the car slowed and stopped beside him. Raziel's heart stopped for the moment it took his eyes to readjust; but it was a Yellow Cab, obviously seeing his hand-blocking as a signal. Bloody convenient, I say… He opened the door and was almost blasted backwards by ear-drum-bursting hard metal. He winced but slid into the backseat anyway. The cabbie looked back at him questioningly, mouthing — ? — a question. “Fourth Queen Mary and Ryde!”

The cab stopped amidst bright lights, its tires screeching audibly over the impossibly loud music and slamming Raziel first into the seat before him and then nearly through the windshield behind him. “Are you MAD?” He almost screamed, but was unheard over the music. The ride had probably scared decades out of Raziel's life; the cabbie had swerved in and out of traffic, engaging in an infinite number of near-misses and illegal u-turns. The driver started to signal how much Raziel owed, but, terrified of another joyride, Raziel thrust a wad of banknotes in the man's face and fled the car. It swerved off of the curb, hiccoughing and weaving slightly, as if the driver were drunk. Thank you GOD! He found himself before a brightly lit multi-level nightclub, people and music spilling out of all its orifices. The pulsing neon lights scored patterns into his retinas, making him wince more than the deafening music of the cab had.

“Sir? Sir!” A high pitched, panicky female voice called out; Raziel turned instinctively, his teacher-instincts taking over as he recognized the sound as the voice of a student he had seen in the hall earlier that day, talking to one of his students… Ms. Kris, if he remembered correctly. “Have you seen Autumn?”

Raziel adjusted his glasses nervously, almost terrified at being addressed by a female outside of the university. “Wh-why n-no, I haven't… N-not since class ended.” Stupid bloody idiot! Very reassuring, you are, you shy arse!

“She was supposed to meet me, and she's just… Gone!” The young woman was too excited to really notice his lack of composure; she ran right over his voice. “I'm sorry, thank you, if you see her, tell her I'm looking for her!” The woman dove back into the crowd, her rather virulent orange dress blending in with the crowd.

“Wait, ma'am!” He cut himself off as it became apparent she couldn't hear him. “You didn't say your name…”

Raziel checked his watch, thankful for the fading Indiglo that lit the digital numbers–in the darkness of the alleyways, it would have been impossible to see. Raziel had sensed the residue of incredibly powerful magic; strong enough for the Masters in the city to take notice of, yet none had come… And its signature was nothing he recognized, but for some vague feeling that it should not be here. He had learned to follow his hunches, however, and examined the spot of the highest reverence… Perhaps the occultist who had been there had some kind of dampening field… If so, this was important enough to investigate and inform one of the stronger practitioners in London.

He had discovered quickly that the last spell had indeed been a portal; the magics before it were too warped by the spell to be recognizable, and were quickly fading to mere afterimages. There had been a death and blood spilt; Raziel could discern that much. He even had the general direction of the portal's destination, which was a surprise–it wasn't too far off… And it seemed that the twinges he was getting were leading Raziel straight into the heart of the business sector; he had opted for a more sedate cab, directing it to leave him at one of the lawyer's offices in the more “upscale” business sector. To his surprise, his drop-off point fairly screamed of the mage's signature.

Where have you gone, hind? Raziel walked quickly through the empty streets, haunted by the cold blackness of the structures around him. It seemed heartless as Hell here; no warmth to be found anywhere. The trail pulled him towards one of the larger buildings; a brass placard on the black base read “Morning Star Corp.” It was one of the huge glass and metal constructs; it was designed to be intimidating and martial, as if it would be a fortress at the heart of a conquering empire. Raziel's reflection was warped weirdly by the silvered glass, twisting his features into a fiendish grimace. He looked away quickly, unnerved.

Raziel laid a hand against the cool electric door and it opened easily, much to his surprise; he had expected something more… Secure. Then again, it was a business. People had to go inside, and at least the non-mages had to use doors. He stepped into the doorway, prepared to be assaulted by god only knew what. Dear Lord, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name… He refused to allow the fact that he had no soul to impinge on his prayer.

The night was coming to a zenith, crawling over the world like a gigantic worm. The apartment was ice-still, almost chilling; the only light came from a computer screen. Lucca finished sending emails and laid back in his chair, staring at the screen. The bluish light made his skin look silverish, his black hair barely out of his bronze eyes. In his eyes danced an eerie flame; a curious mix of emotions showed in the depths of his eyes once he allowed himself to sink into the apparent calm of the vast and dark ocean of his mind. Beneath the surface, violent storms and unyielding currents flowed, carrying monsters from the past.

Lucifer absently rubbed his shoulders. The cold he felt had nothing to do with the weather or the air conditioner – as certain as the rising moon in a distant horizon, he sensed a new storm rising above him. Lucifer had gone through many of these, ever since Michael's blow tore him from the skies. The stillness in the apartment was unnatural, for he himself had provoked it; the curtains were closed and the inner space turned its back on the World as much as its owner did. What had stirred the conflicts within him? He wasn't certain on it – but there was a disturbance in the web of energies across the damned island where so many angels and demons met a recent fate, over a century ago. Lucca pushed his chair off the desk and rose. The screen light tossed a long, bluish, diffuse beam of light across the room, cutting the silhouettes of different objects in an elegant, yet severe bedroom. The materials were gold, silver, cedar of Lebanon… all ancient, invaluable pieces. However, for the Devil these exquisite objects were only a proof that he dragged the past along with him. Lucca crossed the bedroom, his steps silenced by the thick Persian rug. He only wore low-cut pants. Shirtless and barefoot, on the unearthly perfection of his human-like form showed a scar across the left side of his chest and a matching scar on his back, as if he had survived a blow no one would be meant to survive. The bed was untouched – and the truth is, he rarely used it, if ever. He only had a bed in the bedroom to fulfill a conventionalism. Lucca changed clothes to go out for a walk, to escape from his own thoughts, to find shelter from the storm.


Lucifer had wandered aimlessly down the nightclubs area, going deeper and deeper into the miasmal display of human nature in exhibit for the night. Most of the lesser demonic creatures, vampires, were and others referred to themselves as non-human and proud of it; but in the Devil's eyes all of them had their origin in the archetype of Mankind his companions and he had delightfully corrupted; they'd always have an indelible streak of humanity. It was an old game, like long forgotten childhood rhymes; are you superior, are you scum… In fact, these beings were the result of a careful process aimed and planned to exalt and bring forth the deepest, darkest passions within the human soul, to make them apparent and reshape the bodies of what once was called Man to express what the Fallen saw as Man's true nature in horrid semblances. It was a work of art – a work of art that could never be undone. Humans and the immense variety derived from them to prey on each other filled the night, oblivious to the Prince of Darkness that walked among them.

Ironically enough, The Prince of Darkness was as well, the Lightbearer. Lucifer had carried out his experiments in both directions: to improve and to degrade what Man is, mainly out of 'scientific curiosity', to test and to increase Knowledge, filling the ever thirsty Book of Light. Both intents had an equal result, firmly sustaining his conclusion on the poor quality of the creature the Angelic Host had so fiercely defended. What for, in the end? The Armies from the Abyss had been defeated, but Hell had won. However… However this poetic victory was far from what Lucifer had wanted the Fall to be. Only he could see the magnitude of its failure; how ill the turn it took had been. Sometimes in his solitude, the Devil had wondered and sketched in his mind possible fixes, retouches, detours; riddles of Gods cast on ears of children – thus academic, empty and abstract, merely mind exercises.

Lucifer spent some time looking for a bar to have a drink, but he eventually forgot about it as the World played before him, again distracting. The World was a theatre; Lucifer, an spectator and only occasionally, a player/director. Lucifer was intrigued by the various raptures and disturbances in the net of energies over London; the Devil took off into the night, flying invisible to both human and inhuman eyes and from his position above the city, a wonder became neatly visible. Time-Space rippling tingled his senses; Plane rippling exploded less than half an hour later. The top of an luxurious office skyscraper was destroyed… then rebuilt. It was like the blink of an eye – the Devil admitted to himself it was artistic. The signature was well concealed, but still something oddly familiar bothered him. Curious by nature as all those chosen to be in the Order of Knowledge, Lucifer modified his flight pattern and landed near the building in question. It was a new building; he hadn't seen it before. Again, he hadn't stepped in London for a hundred years. Lucifer landed in an alley and assumed his human form, yet he didn't drop his invisibility. Lurking in the shadows, he tasted the subtle clues and tried to decipher the enigma of the tower. He didn't like his preliminary findings all that much. Morning Star Corp… How presumptuous.

Then Lucifer saw someone else coming near the building. His heart leapt in unpleasant surprise, yet his mind was intrigued. A blonde man had appeared, by subtle signs it was apparent he was tracking down something of the occult. He could be a perfect stranger, but Lucifer's heart had recognized his former Teacher. His heart only, because not all the pieces fit in harmony for is mind to recognize. His former Teacher, an Elder – a human? This was no mere shell or appearance; the power was terrifyingly lesser. Terrifyingly in an academic sense, of course – Lucifer knew better than to underestimate Raziel. But was it really Raziel? Why was he empty? Where was his soul?! No soul, no Book. The core of his duties had departed from the angel. But was he an angel at all? It seemed to be an absurd riddle. However, somehow he was certain it was Raziel.

Lucifer was painfully curious. The man's demeanor was far from the Raziel he knew – and the Devil perceived doubt and a subjacent fear in this Raziel. It was too attractive to let it slip by – even if he risked his own disclosure. Lucifer took the shape of a black cat and skittered down the sidewalk to catch up with the mysterious man, diminishing and twisting his presence to avoid recognition, but still allowing it to be noticeable to an Occultist his inhuman nature – a test. Like Mephistopheles followed Faust in the shape of a black dog after finding him in the marketplace, Lucifer in disguise followed Raziel into the building: a black cat of flaming eyes skittering into Raziel's soulless shadow.

Raziel breathed an inaudible sigh of relief as he found the interior of the building to be just like any other corporate headquarters he'd seen in movies or on the tele. A large receptionist's desk stood to the left wall, with people milling around the marble-tiled floor like bees with their suits and briefcases. Halls branched out all around, and steel-doored elevators lead up and down through the building like cords of nerves. The woman at the desk glanced up at him, adjusting her “fashionable” calico frames on her nose before going back to her phone conversation. His generic last-year suit wasn't good enough for her time; knowing that he was going through the halls of a wealthy building thrumming with power that would squash him like a bug wearing a polyester suit given to him buy an aunt around businessmen dressed in Armani made Raziel feel even more insignificant. He squared he shoulders and stepped out of the doorway, letting a harried-looking intern pass.

I'm not going to let this university wits intimidate me, Raziel thought resolutely. Something warm brushed his leg, sending his senses sharp needle-prick tingles. What? A black cat had come in; a Bombay, by the looks of it, with the faint striping all such black cats carried. It looked up at him mutely, blinking its fiery orange eyes at him like a wise, mischievous sage. “You really ought not be here,” Raziel muttered, sensing something more powerful than a cat or a familiar behind the feline guise. “Unless you're here to torture me. Then jolly away.” Raziel walked across the open floor skittishly, trying to avoid the suits as he made his way to the elevator, with the black cat following him not too far behind. No one really seemed to notice it; or maybe they just ignored it. “Lucky cat.” He wished he attracted less attention–the suits gave him curious and condescending looks, not caring when he returned their frank gazes. Are normal people like zoo animals here? I don't have time to care about this! There's a Power in this building, and I've got to find it and Ms. Kris…

Not a very conventional response, but it was enough for the Devil to assume he had been officially admitted. Lucifer had a knack for protocol and ceremonies, but it was his former Mentor and Teacher to blame. The black cat winked his fiery eyes and waved his tail in contentment, skittering next to Raziel's feet as the man walked. The cat was nonexistent for human consciences and merely a strange notion for inhuman beings. Lucifer read and collected information as they walked deeper into the building; humans and inhuman coexisted and worked together in interlaced relations, yet Lucifer was yet to know if all the humans knew about their partners' true nature. After part of his interest dimmed, the cat flicked his tail tip and pulled his ears back, thinking about the building's name – a building swarming with demonic traces. It'd be curious to learn about this in depth – and what was his former Mentor and Teacher doing here? The cat sat down and licked his nose deep in thought, but no more than an instant; he sprang back on his feet and followed Raziel like a silent shadow.

There was a strong, intense presence in the building; Lucifer knew it. It was oddly familiar to the point of being annoying, since he could not pinpoint it right in his memories. Due to Raziel's body language, it was evident to a former student of his he was looking for something in special he did want and did not want to find. Perhaps something to learn everything about, then ban away. Lucifer narrowed his eyes to burning slits of molten bronze. Ban away, as usual. Lucifer sniffed on Raziel the usual elements found in an Occultist – and not exactly a high level one, much to the Devil's indignation. If Raziel had been one day the Morning Star's teacher, it was almost an offense to his memory that Raziel were now a human, and worse than that, that he were not the top category in his current field!

//Hisss…// The cat didn't look pleased at Raziel's shoes – if anything. The cat skittered ahead, efficiently tracking down the Power they both could sense. For Lucifer, it was easier to follow; the Power was deep underground beneath the building… He sat down next to a door behind a turn and waved his tail, staring right into Raziel's eyes. This way, his eyes seemed to say. The door didn't look special – it didn't have signs on it. The door was hermetically closed, but next second it was simply ajar. Lucifer flicked his whiskers in slight impatience, waiting for Raziel to go in. In his blazing eyes it didn't show yet what his plans were. If he had any.

The blaze-eyed cat flicked its tail in acceptance, sliding in at Raziel's side like it belonged there. He was smart, that was for certain. He was ignored by those of the building, glancing at them only in the most uninterested and almost condescending way. Apparently my new companion doesn't like the company he finds himself in… I wonder if he knows something I don't. Of course he does; he's a cat. Raziel slipped through the halls with the black cat trotting at his heels, thoughts churning in his mind like a rudder stirring up sand in a deep river. They're not all human, that's for certain… Minor devils, demons… Something bigger the further down we go… Elementals allied with dark powers. I can feel the Dark seething here, like its heart was nearby… And it was true. Something pulsed, some black heart sending Power through the building like blood, like oxygen. The building thrived on it; its inhabitants were infused with it and a part of it, whether they knew it or not. It was disgusting, disturbing… And magnificent. Raziel felt part of him singing to the dark and part of him recoiling, but it was as if something separate from himself recognized the Power and Knew its Seal… But Raziel didn't know that part of him, couldn't comprehend the knowledge that was just out of the reach of his mental fingers, like a folded map ready to spring open and reveal its secrets if only he could grasp it in his hand.

The young Occultist fiddled with the buttons on his light gray cuffs as they walked, straightening his shirt as if trying to be presentable for whatever lie in wait for him. Like Jonas always said, make sure you have a clean change of underwear every day, just in case the paramedics find your body on the floor. The thought gave him a wry smile of humor; morbid comedy, but gallows humor was better than stark terror any day. The cat had trotted in front of him and he followed it with only half of his mind on the task at hand; he was cycling protective spells through his mind and charging the unobtrusive Shields on his body. Raziel felt something off and stopped; the cat was resting on its haunches near a door, staring at him, as if it were telling him to go inside. But the door is… Not… Shut? He could have sworn… Raziel looked at the cat and shook his head, glancing away from its burning eyes and pushing the door open slightly. I hope you know what you're doing… He shifted his grip on his battered suitcase, loosening the latch in case he had to search through the grimoire for a spell. Late wasn't better than never but it counted for something.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Lord Aidan Cynric leaned back in his tall, ergonomic Executive chair behind his large oak desk. His office was silent, as usual – in the silence Aidan could listen better to his own thoughts and to the subtle waves and unchained words of those beyond the human world. Also, in the silence Aidan could try to listen to the 'One' he sometimes had sensed within his mind. Vemchu, his Assistant, wasn't back yet with her report. Aidan ceased on his rhythmic typing on his computer keyboard and turned his head, casting an absent glance through the glass wall that was his office window, on top of Morning Star Tower, the skyscraper built by the company in the heart of London. The huge space was dark and still, as if frozen in Time. The tall doors to the antechamber were not completely closed, tossing a thin beam of golden light on the thick rug. The antechamber consisted of a reception desk and a small waiting room with expensive leather furniture, which connected Aidan's office, his Assistant's office, a Meeting chamber with capacity for twenty people and another office for Morris. Aidan's office was the largest, complete with a library, a mezzanine and a private room above it, completing three levels. The private room was an Observatory, more precisely, on top of the tower. The rest of the skyscraper held offices and dependencies, branches of Morning Star Corp. and its numerous associates, along with other things, a bank and a laboratory.

Aidan rose and watched London at his feet, standing before the glass wall. Every detail of the quiet image reflected in his cold, shimmering bronze eyes. Earlier, he had sensed a disturbance in the various energy fields across the city, spreading from an ancient Node which once belonged to a Were pack to another Node which had been said to have belonged to a being powerful as a pagan goddess, to Westminster Abbey and across the Thames to other sites of ancient power concealed beneath a quiet surface. Strangely enough, according to the BBC news, that place once related to that entity as powerful as a pagan goddess had been bombed tonight by a mysterious American who had been set free after his bail was paid. The Nodes' ancient forces pulled and weaved subtle links with other sites of power scattered all across London, including the lesser ones of non-mobile artifacts… and relics, like a gigantic spider web of many layers. The disturbance he had perceived had Christopher's touch. Aidan was curious, but he was also patient. Sometimes he got the impression he has waited for Ages something that hasn't yet come to him… Aidan ran his fingers through his hair, absorbed in his thoughts. The tide was changing; it was coming straight to him.

The rhythmic tapping of long nails on cherry wood was enough to drive someone insane, as a soft whir could be heard coming from a printer. In her private office, Vemchu waited, trying not to lose her temper at the slow machine. Sure, it printed out 30 pages a minute, in black and white ink only, but it had to take forever with the latest profit updates! What did the machine think? That she had all day to wait for it to get a move on? Honestly. She had a job to do. Looking down at her crimson colored nails, a smirk formed on her perfect lips. Her nails weren’t human nails at the moment – they were like a cat’s claws. Due to the fact there were no appointments today, she allowed herself that little luxury. She always found it amusing to shift partially. Especially when it was something like half cat or half bunny. Going half snake was fun too… especially when you just wanted to scare a little kid away with fangs. With a slight noise, the printer finally finished printing out the report. Retracting her nails, she pulled out the bundle of paper, stapled them together, and slipped them into a clear folder. Adjusting herself, she made sure her computer was locked before heading into Lord Cynric’s office.

Down the short hall clicked the black heels of her shoes, as she tossed her hair over her shoulder. Even in office wear, she was quite a sight. She wore a black suit, with a short skirt and cute jacket. Her shirt was crimson, to match her nails, and had a deep neckline. The ebony cascade that was her hair was pulled away from her face by a clip, though it was still kept free. Light makeup, and she was done. Effortless enchantment. Knocking on the door delicately, as to not harm the door or her hand, Vemchu opened the door and stepped inside. His office was carpeted, unlike hers. She had asked for polished wooden floors, except for the Persian rug under her desk. When she walked on it, it was like walking on air. Very comfortable for her. Looking around, she saw him standing there, looking absorbed in his thoughts as he gazed at London town. She remembered the first time she had met him. He was a child. Vemchu had been respectful, afraid of his father. After awhile, it became a sort of vague friendship – even though they had never spoken. Heck, she had even thought she had loved him for a while. But no, that love turned to hate during the time they spent in the abyss. Now, it had mellowed down into a tolerance. A respectful tolerance.

Walking up to him, she coughed softly, just so she could get his attention. They had been together for a long time, and she knew he wouldn’t mind her standing there. Offering the folder, she spoke softly to him. “Sir? The profit reports are done.”

Aidan refocused his eyesight, allowing the London nocturnal landscape pass onto a second plane and bringing forth Vemchu's and his reflection to the first plane. Using the glass as a mirror, he watched the seductive woman walk to him with a small, glacial smile on his lips; her statuesque body swayed lightly as she walked – like an aspid. A thought more according to her true nature. She stopped. Offering the folder, she spoke softly to him. Aidan turned and accepted the report from her well-groomed hand. Her nail color matched her crimson, almost indecent shirt. However, it was still of flawlessly tailored cut. Vemchu did not restrain any expenses on her appearance, despite it could seem an effortless charm at first sight. Her silky stockings had a slight shimmer in the dim light on her long legs. “Thanks.” Aidan leafed through the report slowly in the silver and blue, dim light from the night sky and the city. He walked over to his desk and placed the report under the light of the expensive, classic desk lamp; the desk lamp and the computer screen were the only lights in the private office.

Gracefully, the proud head nodded once. Her position never swayed as he looked through the reports, eyes only assisted by the moonlight. For some reason, he had never enjoyed bright lighting in his room. It always had to be sort of dim. The windows even had the capability to fog over when the sun became too much for his bronze eyes. Bronze. Vemchu still couldn't believe that such a color came naturally to a man. It seemed almost impossible when you studied the genes and the dominant traits. But, it had happened, and that was all there was to say about it.

“If you like, you may go, Vemchu. I won't need anything else from you tonight.” Aidan rose his bronze eyes to look at her. “Unless you don't mind checking the agenda for me before you go.” It was a commanding statement in a smooth voice, as usual. He frowned slightly, looking at the computer screen for an instant before saving a document to the hard drive.

“Not a problem, Sir. I will be back in a moment.” Turning around, she headed back outside to her office. Typing in her password, she watched her background come back up – something that not even Aidan saw. It was a collage of pictures that she had scanned, including him. The randomness of the wallpaper made her feel ordered, for some strange reason. Sort of like, despite the miscellaneous pictures, she knew exactly where they came from and how they were taken. It was a strange whim. Moving the mouse to a small notebook icon, Vemchu double clicked, pulling up a schedule for today. Everything had been crossed off. Good. Typing in a new date, she looked at the appointments and events scheduled for tomorrow. There were also a few things that she would have to fax, an email to write out, and a bouquet of flowers to order for the British Museums head. For a successful party, of course.

Standing up, Vemchu once again put on her screensaver – which was simply darkness, and headed back into the office. I had also better check on the progress of the cloning sect… have every section send me their reports, so I can have the final one typed up by the end of the week… delivered, sealed and over with. Oye, I hate this time of the month… Walking to the front of his desk, Vemchu held up her hand, and began ticking off the events her boss would have tomorrow.

“At 8:00 AM sharp, you have a meeting with the business people from the bank. According to them, they would like you have you represent their newest endeavor. A couple of ads, the drill. Then around 1, you have a luncheon with a few big bosses who owe you money. They want an extension. After that, you're free for the day. However, in a few days will be the British Museum's Art Exhibit. You've been invited there, and someone will be sent to pick up your ticket tomorrow. Finally, the overall progress report will be here by Friday. Anything else, Sir?”

“Your fetching girls has become indulging, but bothersome, Aidan,” Christopher stated as a matter-of-factly while he ripped the dimensional fabric open like a cheap sweater and stepped through it. “Here is the girl, as requested.” It was annoying, in a sense, to be wasting so much precious energy to play an errand boy to someone who clearly had others to do the work. Chris, however, gave the thought an annoyed gesture and sealed it away within the confides of his own mind. Now that he noticed it, that demon woman was there as well; he couldn't forgot that smell even covered up by her perfume. “Disdainful,” he mumbled, casting a glance from the corner of his eye towards her – if only to acknowledge her presence in the room. He hated demons.

Aidan rose his eyes as the first links in dimensional fabric began to loosen in a so tiny fraction of Time it wasn't measurable by human means. Aidan was not an expert in this field, but he seemed to have a natural talent to sense its effects in advanced or after the travel had taken place. It was like an echo in his mind – a sense he hadn't fully explored, for it took him too close to the thing that haunted his sub consciousness. Through the ripple, Christopher Morris made his way to the office, carrying a limp girl's body in his arms. Aidan arched an eyebrow in a mix of surprise and contempt. “As requested? I asked for information, not for this”, he said, his voice smooth and cold like a blade, low yet perfectly audible.

Vemchu turned away from her employer and gazed coldly at the mortal man that had arrived. Christopher Morris. The man was a snake. Just like that distasteful creature he had just pulled out of the redheads' ear. Honestly, such a spell was no match for the true beauty a real snake contained. A true viper, with skin like poisoned silk, clever in its moves and utterly deadly. Teeth like an ivory needle, and honor to match it. Yes, it was definitely a more worthy creature then the specimen he had formed with his will.

“Now if you excuse me,” he added, looking up with a smug look plastered across his face as he dropped the girls unconscious body to the floor and collected his serpent back into his hand as it slithered from the canal of her ear. It took a moment of flexing his fingers a few times before the seal in the palm of his hand closed up and vanished just as quickly as it had appeared. Mind infecting snakes that induce sleep. A task even a less than lower demon could pull off successfully, but that was indeed another thought that he clearly stuffed into a file cabinet in his mind and locked it shut. “You have your precious girl that I've been through hell to catch, and I'm treating myself to a long and needed vacation from this maggot infested city of London.”

Aidan's bronze eyes shimmered in the dim light as his mind turned it's cold gears, seeking a way to tame the disaster before Autumn would wake up. Vemchu and Christopher were not ever cordial to each other, but this didn't bother Aidan at all. He was strangely anxious at the possible reaction on Autumn's part – for some reason he could not yet understand, he had the need of approval from her. Christopher removed his snake. “Well”, Aidan said with a shrug. “I knew you wouldn't like Londoner lifestyle.” He had suspected Christopher would leave again ever since they arrived to England after a business trip. The occultist's mood was erratic, constantly changing beneath a concealing surface – Aidan was not blind to the fact that he was an unsteady ally. He simply used him and accepted this trait as he knew and accepted many of his henchmen's inhuman traits – like Vemchu's.

In a flash of bright light, the occultist tore open a hole in the space fabric and half sunk into its dark walls before he gave the secretary, and, the so-called master a fleeting glance. “If you see my brother, tell him good-luck. He'll need everything he holds dear to him to achieve what others can only hope to accomplish. Humanity, indeed. The peanut gallery shall enjoy watching the unfolding events!” With a bemused glance up to the ceiling as if to mock both God and those present in the room, he was gone in an instant.

Aidan was surprised at the mention of Christopher's brother, but he didn't show it. He had a deeper knowledge on the Morris lineage than Christopher himself, but this sudden notion surprised him. What was Trevor Morris trying to achieve? He looked at Autumn. Maybe there'd be more things to uncover than he expected. He however did not go to Autumn till after Christopher left. The flash of light produced on his departure made the bronze in Aidan's eyes look a flaming gold and red, like a dancing fire; the reflections from his blazing eyes tossed a strange hue of red on his face, across his left eye. Aidan went to Autumn and picked her up, taking her to a leather sofa. “Vemchu, more light…” Aidan examined the girl, who was still semi-unconscious. At the touch of her skin, of her mere clothes, a shiver ran down Aidan's spine. Aidan frowned. Too many explanations wouldn't be good and she'd wake up any minute! A tranquilizer would come in handy.

Fool… he thinks HE's been through Hell… he wouldn't be able to survive the first level of that land. He should be grateful he has never had to encounter it… I hope he does encounter it, when his foolish mortal life has ended… certainly he deserves no more – the abomination. …Brother…? Well, that is certainly a useful little piece of information… seems like he's planning something – I'll have to keep my eyes on him… ally indeed… He then disappeared. Vemchu did not allow herself to comment as he did, though the urge to hiss at him was strong. The man was utterly incompetent, and a total blockhead – for lack of better phrasing. He thought that, without him, this little deed would not have been possible… heh… if he only knew how EASILY Vemchu could have gotten her to come.. without having to use any stupid spells. After all, “sisterhood” was so much stronger then that little thing… and this flimsy little human would have had no choice. Point was, she didn't need that stupid little insect of a human to help her with anything or DO anything that she could have done herself! Turning her head slightly, in an almost owl-like fashion, she watched with deep eyes as Aidan picked up the girl and then place her on a sofa, requesting more light. Quickly walking to a small panel on the wall, she increased the light a little bit, having the entire office cast in a dim, golden glow. Luckily, the lighting system was such that she could control the amount of light let out by the embedded lamps. None of them appreciated right lights.

“Vemchu, we can't have her to recover consciousness”, he indicated the demoness. Autumn moved. A gold chain at her smooth neck twinkled in the bluish light, and a circular form slipped into view, attached to the chain. A ring. Aidan felt as if he were sinking through the floor, the air escaping from his lungs. He clasped his hand on the leather of the couch as a strange vision substituted reality before him.

Reaching into her jacket pocket, she pulled out a slim ivory box, then opened it to reveal a lovely needle. It was more finely done then the doctor's needles, specifically made to slide under the skin, and inject a tranquilizer. It was also sharp enough to put someone's eye out. Not to mention pierce someone's ears.

Azazel noticed how tight Belial held his grip on his staff. He did know he was not in conditions to face a powerful demon – let alone Azazel was the strongest of the bunch. He looked into his cool silver eyes with his blazing bronze gaze. “Among other things! Now that's more interesting!” Azazel smiled darkly. “I wonder what those things are. I've been trapped far too long; I might be outdated on many things… may I not, teacher? I see you wish to rest. But I don't want you to go just yet.” Azazel had a sinister smile. “You'll accompany us, won't you Moloch?” he asked. “What could be more important than me? I can feel the world within my grasp. I will succeed this time!” Azazel broke into a heavy snigger. He opened his arms, still enjoying the new sensation of this human shell, when his gaze met a strange object.

Azazel fell silent. It was a ring; a gold ring on his hand. It was a simple gold band, but it had some significance. Azazel touched the ring and turned it thoughtfully around his finger. After a few seconds, he rose his eyes to look at his mother. “Where's my dear wife, mother? I wish to see her”, he said.

Aidan's shook with violence; the attack tossed him on the floor is if he were going through an epileptic fit. It stopped; he coughed and held his head with wide open eyes. //My wife…// Aidan's heartbeats raced furiously. “I have NO wife!”, he said as if trying to convince someone in his head. “No wife…” A will other than his own pushed him against the rug. Aidan was terrified. Spells and wards were all mixed up in his obnubilated mind – he was unable to fight back. It suddenly stopped. Aidan sat up, shaking. He held himself, feeling a suffocating heat taking over the room – he knew what it meant. Aidan pulled himself back to Autumn's side. He did not want her to be harmed…! A light sweat covered her forehead in the high temperature in the room. “What do you have… that he desires…?”, he muttered. “This…” He reached out to touch the ring in a strange fascination.

Looking at him sharply, Vemchu's mind went back to the old times… London, 1850s… Who could understand the silly mortals…? Such a time, where women tightened their stomachs to unnatural sizes, then proceeded to march around in dresses that could have several cats living happily in their volume… such a strange world. There was no sanity. No rhyme or reason for what they did.. they simply did it. But what had surprised her most was her master. There had been something different, ever since Belial had placed his soul in the human shell. An attachment, to a redheaded woman. A woman with some device called a camera. She had been the man's wife, and the man had been dead – until now. He had come back with the soul of the Devil's Son. For some reason, he still thought of her as his wife. It had perplexed Vemchu to no end. After all, why was this woman so important? Couldn't he just destroy her and get another pretty lady to catch his fancy? Silly males, always so possessive. And then… they were sealed again… after the death of Michael Archangel. A death SHE did not cause. Something that still kept her bitter.

Snapping back to reality, the vixen that was Vemchu stared at her boss for a long instant. Yes… again he had become very possessive over the red-haired dame. Closing the box with a light 'snap,' she quickly slipped it back into her pocket. She certainly did not want to seem like a threat. And with a needle like that, there was no way she wouldn't been seen as a threat.

Swimming. Her head was swimming. Was she even awake? “I want you to study in London. To learn something about your history. Autumn, you never seem to care!” her mother chided her for the fiftieth time. History, blah blah, heritage, blah blah.

Kris wrinkled up her nose in annoyance as she flipped through a folder of newly developed photos. “Don't call me that Moma, you know I like Kris better…” The women was completely senile! First she was obsessed enough with some silly story about their ancestor to name her own daughter Autumn, and now she wants to ship her off to England for a history lesson? It wasn't that she didn't like the idea, it was just some weird gut feeling that told it was the last place she wanted to be.

Her mother sighed pulling out a small box and handed it to Kris. “Please. It's your last year in college. Would it kill you so much to spend it in a beautiful country? Take lots of pictures to send home, and maybe see why your mother is so 'crazy', hmm?”

She hesitated before opening the box, but sighed at her mother's insistence and did so. Inside was a gold ring on a thin chain. Kris raised a curious eyebrow. “Let me guess… 'Go to London and learn about the mystical family heirloom!' Alright alright… but you're paying for everything!”

Not awake. Life flashing before her eyes? Not such a good sign… Kris stirred. Her entire body felt as if she were being held under water. Her head throbbed with every beat of her heart. She tried to recall what had happened. Did someone attack her? Kris could only remember being grabbed… and snapping pictures. Yeah, she snapped a few pictures so he couldn't see. Then she could run away. But she didn't get too far… Her eyes burned and refused to open, but she could feel the weight of her camera strap across her shoulder. Good! She was going to find the bastard and beat him good, and then she'd let Trevor smack him around! The weirdo was probably just ticked that she didn't have any cash on her. Kris tried moving again, it being easier this time but still her body was sore. She raised her hand to rub her eyes, and was surprised to find a scratch across her cheek. Blinking her eyes open she fought off the panic that was building in her stomach. “Where am I… How did I get here…?!” The room was incredibly large, and looked almost like an office. Even more disturbing, the man she had met earlier that day in the college was leaning next to her. Had she no felt so weighed down, she would have immediately jumped up. Instead she eyed Aidan with a mixture of surprise and distrust. “How did I get here…?” she repeated, almost whispered.

Stepping up to her, and blocking the still-dazed boss from view, Vemchu put on a trusting smile and spoke back to the frightened little rabbit, despite the fact she HATED mortals. “Are you alright? I'm Vemchu Mala'ika, secretary here at Morning Star Corp. I'm afraid some thug knocked you out. He was dragging you away somewhere, and I was out for coffee when I saw him. Of course, I had security stop him and bring you up here. Would you like anything…? You've been in an AWFUL scare…” With a pretty face like that, and eyes so trusting – there was no way this little girl was going to need a tranquilizer.

Blocked from Autumn, Aidan tried to pull himself together and get back on his feet, but the other was slowly invading his mind. //The ring…//Aidan ran his fingers through his hair, his forehead covered in sweat. The heat in the room was steadily rising; Aidan felt suffocated, as if a hellish fire were burning inside of him. He tried to steady his breathing and for a brief instant, he thought of calling Dr. D'Allesandri and shout on her ear he was going through a crisis and her stupid treatment wasn't working. However, at the mere thought of her, the heat seemed to rise even more and the other once again tried to take a hold of him. Aidan held his head with a gasp as an unbearable pain seized him from within his skull. Aidan clenched his teeth and suffocated the scream that was trying to fight its way out of his chest. “Ah…” Aidan gasped for air as he managed to get back on his feet. Vemchu was talking to Autumn…. and the ring was still laced to the woman's neck.

//The ring…// The other's voice was stronger, hypnotic; Aidan cringed in terror as a dark power seemed to wrap around his soul. Suddenly, it was gone. Aidan brushed his hand past his forehead to wipe the sweat off it. He took out a linen handkerchief and dried his face with a trembling hand. These episodes were more frequent lately and it weakened him… it chilled his blood. He looked at his hand and jerked back. For an instant, he didn't see his hand, but a red claw of sharp talons and diamond-shaped scales. Aidan paled and felt a weight upon his chest, inhibiting his breathing. “What's with that ring…?”, he muttered. He stood next to Vemchu, yet letting Autumn some vital space.

He nodded to Vamchu's words. “How do you feel?”, he softly asked Autumn, trying to ignore the darkness creeping within him.

An impeccably dressed woman suddenly stepped in to view, and Kris flinched on reflex. She never noticed her in the room before, only Aidan. Her explanation gave immediate relief though, and Kris visibly relaxed. She was still wary, but less so now that her fears of being kidnapped by some crazy person were brushed away. Aidan looked weary, and about as shaken as herself. Did he help with the security personnel? She could hardly see with the woman, Vemchu?, standing directly in her line of sight. As he moved next to Vemchu she heard him mutter something about a ring. Kris unconsciously clasped her hand around it. “How do you feel?”, he softly asked. Kris almost felt badly for him. If he was forced to play savior to her against some lunatic that was probably just after leverage against Trevor. Things always happened that way. “I'm… okay.” she replied, rather sheepish. It was such an awkward situation and she had the sudden urge to flee as soon as possible. Kris brushed her auburn hair from her face. “I think I just better get home… ” she started to rise.

Hazel eyes flecked with gold looked deeply into the brown eyes of the red-haired girl sitting on the couch, looking slightly dazed. This girl seemed familiar, as though there was something in her face that Vemchu should recognize – or at least be aware of. But nothing particular struck her at the moment, except for the fact that this girl was extremely American. She didn't have the British feel of pomp and perfectness. This little college girl had a much more casual air then most British children had. It was slightly unnerving, considering she had only traveled out of England several times. Despite the seemingly one tract mind that Vemchu portrayed, the secretary was exceedingly aware of her boss' difficulties. There was something seething inside him, someone she knew very well, and waited for. Her master. Azazel. She could almost feel the power of his aching and growing, stretching everywhere it could. He wanted to break free. There was no doubt about that. And Vemchu would do anything to assist.

“No!” Aidan blinked as he realized the voice was actually his – as if it hadn't been him who pronounced that word. “No… you can't leave like this – it's almost midnight. You better stay… and we'll call a taxi for you.” Aidan brushed his hand past his forehead and exchanged a quick glance with Vemchu, so she wouldn't forget about the tranquilizer. Autumn was clasping the ring in her hand – what was that ring about? Aidan wasn't sure, but he was certain the other wouldn't leave him be unless he got that ring. He had a slight shiver. “Letting you out and alone at this time of the night is out of the question.” Aidan frowned slightly, watching them.

His sudden reaction startled her, but his reasoning was logic enough. The grogginess from her spell was slowly melting away and she was becoming increasingly aware of how strangely he was behaving. He looked nothing like the collected man she had met early. Even if he had a run in with her kidnapper, it was like he was perturbed about something else entirely. Kris' instincts were starting to kick in.

Turning her head slowly, she blinked at the slightly befuddled man standing just behind her. What was he thinking…? He must not be in full control of himself, otherwise there was no way he would simply lose that slight control of Aidan he had. At least he was in a sane state of mind. “I agree. Unfortunately, we didn't catch your kidnapper. He may still be out there waiting for you. If you would wait but a few minutes, we can personally take you home with some guards following us – instead of a taxi, which could be intercepted.”

Not waiting for an answer, Vemchu quickly walked out of the room, then came back mere moments later with a cup of hot chocolate for the woman. “Here, drink this. You may need it.” Handing it to the woman, Vemchu sat to the left of her making sure that the younger lady was ok, hands behind her back. With serpentine grace, she moved her right hand back slightly, and let her left hand move through the space, the hand holding the needle. Within seconds, she had lightly pierced the flesh of Autumn's arm, without one drop of blood spilt. That was why Vem loved fine needles. Smiling slightly, she caught the coffee as Autumn slumped over, sleeping.

The woman Kris assumed was his secretary chimed it without missing a beat. She moved away and exited the room before Kris could even reply but returned a few short minutes later. Vemchu handed her a cup of hot chocolate and Kris happily took it, giving a small smile in response. She was being so kind, even sitting next to her on the couch to be sure she was alright. Kris didn't even have a chance to realize the sharp prick as the cup slipped from her hands and she returned to a blissful slumber.

Vemchu’s smile changed from warm and inviting to cold and serious as Kris slumped over, head landing on the soft leather cushion. Standing next to her boss, she waited a few moments – making sure the tranquilizer had worked, and the little mortal was asleep. With no luck at all, Kris would be asleep until dawn. At least. Unless someone forced her awake – and no one was going to do THAT. Taking the needle, she put it away, placing the hot chocolate on the desk, ignoring the slightly surprised look that her boss had – for being so blunt with her actions. “Now, sir, was there something bothering you?”

Aidan watched this development in a growing stupor. He touched his forehead as he felt the heat in the room increasing. Didn't they feel it? Aidan had a sudden need for water; his mouth was very dry. He gazed around and Vemchu's words surprised him. Aidan took a step back and pressed his hand against his feverish forehead. He seemed about to faint; however, he straightened his back and looked at the two women. His forehead was wet, his eyes shimmered with a light of their own.

.”..” Aidan took in a deep breath. He mentally cursed his psychologist. “No… I am fine.” Aidan blinked slowly, a general dizziness attempting to seize his senses. Autumn didn't look too well – Aidan was worried about her, yet he knew Vemchu had simply drugged her, not killed her. //The ring…// He only had to ask for it. The other was demanding for the ring Autumn wore at her neck and Aidan's self-control was faltering. He just had to ask for it and Vemchu would hand it to him. A simple gold band… Aidan tried to resist, but the other was taking over his will, whispering, hissing in the back of his mind. “Vemchu…” He pointed to the drugged girl's neck. “Get me that ring.”

“Good.” Walking towards the unconscious girl, Vemchu leaned over and examined the necklace. Slipping off a solid gold ring from her own finger, she weighed it in her hand. Then, with the utmost delicacy, she gently picked up the ring on the necklace – weighing it as well. Close enough. Her ring was probably heaver by .5 grams or so. The girl wouldn’t notice. Undoing the clasp, Vemchu took the ring out, then slipped the other ring back on. Closing it again, she let it gently fall back to the girls throat. There. It looked as though it had never been changed… Inspecting the ring for a moment, Vem made sure that there weren’t any distinguishing marks. When she found none, she turned and smiled at her boss, displaying the ring between two ivory fingers. “This one, sir?”

Smirking slightly, Vemchu didn’t wait for an answer before taking two short steps and offering it to Lord Cynric. She knew that it was the exact thing he wanted – hopefully it would be the thing that Vemchu thought it was. It was hopefully the thing to unlock Azazel and bring him back from this pitiful parasitic state. No more business leaders. Just a plan to power. And success. And that would bring her one step closer to defeating Michael Archangel. Hand outstretched, she watched Aidan with smoldering eyes – the color of burnt sienna. Success was so close… so close.

Aidan was tense, his face intensely pale. Vemchu was offering him the ring – Aidan wasn't certain if he had requested for the ring or if it had been the Other who had. The ring was there, within his reach. A simple band of gold. //You want it – take it//, the voice hissed in a hypnotic way. //Try it on.// Aidan felt his hackles rise. //No… No, I won't…// However, he found himself with the ring on his palm. How did it get there? Aidan stared at the ring in fascination. His self-control was faltering; he tried to resist… //A simple gold band…// The other was taking over his will, whispering, hissing in the back of his mind. Aidan's face seemed drained of all blood. His bluish back hair contrasted heavily on his skin, his eyes lit like infernal carbuncles. He closed his fingers over the ring, then opened his hand again and picked it up in a painful effort. His heart had almost stopped; his fingers were cold, yet the temperature around him had risen even more, making little plastic clips behind him on the desk melt and bleed into a single mass. The light was going reddish, strangely tainted by an unseen crystal; Aidan didn't see this clearly. He was staring at the ring. He felt as if the air weighed heavily on his chest, his bones hurting within a crushing grasp.

Vemchu found herself smiling sinisterly as she offered Aidan the gold band. There it lay, almost glowing in her pale hand, amidst her long fingers and smooth palm. Her employer was sweating now, much more then he had been before. He looked deathly ill, with his pale skin clashing with his dark hair – eyes blazing as though tortured by the mere item she held in her hand. Then the being inside managed to gain more control. Shaking, as though the effort was costing him all he had, he picked up the ring from her hand, and she dropped it back to her side. Gazing almost coldly, eyes filled with purpose, she watched Aidan Cynric took one last glance at the ring, and cease to exist.

No… Aidan tried to breathe, desperately trying to fight back the Other, but it was a futile endeavor. Azazel had the ring in his hand, he had the power within his grasp again and he wouldn't let it go. The Demon's Temptation power was overwhelming, yet Aidan knew his own desire was nothing but an illusion. The dark crept within him; shadow and hellish flame. Aidan rose his left hand. His fingers didn't obey his will, but a force beyond his mind. He slid the ring on the ring finger in his left hand.

A chasm opened beneath his feet; a deep pit of Hell. In the dancing flame, a pair of bronze eyes stared at him in mockery and a dark joy; Aidan was unable to scream, paralyzed by an utmost terror. The flames shot to the skies and hundreds of inhuman beings were killed; a Portal to the Abyss open like a wound torn in a dreary red night sky absorbed him into Darkness and Pain; unspeakable suffering clouded his judgment. His soul was embraced and engulfed; all Light disappeared from his sight… but those eyes were still there – bronze, terrifying eyes out of his most terrible nightmares. Aidan despaired and his soul was absorbed once more into the terrible shadow of Azazel's own.

Aidan's form became blurry and a terrible heat exploded in the room, melting away glass, steel and walls like butter; the top of the tower faltered and vanished in an explosion of stardust; a net of sigils of Power woven by Aidan outstretched; hellish lights tore through the net in various beams, ripping through the majicks' structured layers and exploded in black lights; the force erased the top of Morning Star Tower completely. However, nor the heat or the explosion touched the demoness and the girl on the couch. Suddenly, the force changed and an implosion took place. The various and diverse forces and materials returned to the stomp on top of the Tower; the net was repaired and strengthened; melted glass and steel that had fallen like rain turned up midfall and went back up; a Turning spell was cast and the black lights disappeared. The top of the tower stood there, immutable beneath a frozen still midnight sky as if the terrible explosion never happened; the office rooms, the carpet and the very plastic paper clips were back in place. However, they were not exactly the same – subtle hues, almost imperceptible changes were concealed beneath a majick layer; these things the Warlord had shaped according to Aidan's eyes; according to the way he had known them. Even the erasure rests that were on a notepad were recreated – but no new matter or energy were used; only recycled.

Without flinching once, Vemchu stood silently as the items around the room began to bend with the sheer power this man gave off. The elements themselves could barely survive as they twisted into unrecognizable forms, each one of them burning from the inside. When had it gotten so warm? Ah yes, when Hell’s Gate opened. Well – not the Gate to Hell, but the Abyss. A place of horror… where she had spent many a year. Had it been so long ago? Or was it such a short time? Vemchu couldn’t tell anymore. She had stopped counting the years… years ago. Finally… so close to what I have longed for… what the entire army has longed for. Your return. Back to the plane which you once knew, then lost… now regain again. Lord Azazel, this world is yours for the taking. And take it you shall, for this time you will NOT fail… Vemchu blinked once as the top of Morning Star Tower exploded outward, not causing any damage to her or the girl on the couch. In the back of her mind, Vem noticed what an act this was – having the girl unaffected, yet the couch gone. Wouldn’t it be funny if the couch reformed on top of her? If he decided to reform the building at all. Moving her eyes from the girl, and back to the man in front of her, Vemchu looked on in awe as he indeed cleaned up. Probably for the first time in his life. Every item reformed, down to the little paper clips on the desk, and the profit reports that laid on it. Absently, she wondered if he had had the figures changed. Well, that would be one interesting scandal. Not that it mattered.

The silhouette of a tall man stood next to the massive oak desk; he was clad in a dark, elegant suit but at the same time a distinct shadow fluttered around his feet, as if a cloak or robes hanged round his body. As he moved, the light reflected softly on the soft, expensive fabric of his suit; but it also revealed as in a second plane the shine of metal. He moved his left hand up; light glistened on the ring he wore. It was Aidan, but it wasn't him; his will had been replaced and another power lived within his body. He rose his bronze eyes and looked at Vemchu; a sly, cunning smile showed in them. A red mark showed on his left eye, from his eyebrow to his cheek – it resembled a crimson flame. “Vemchu”, he greeted with a blood-curdling smile, so strange it was in his face, even it was a simple curl of his lips.

Her master had returned. He seemed different somehow, even to the untrained eye. More regal, more… powerful. His suit held shades of robes, and armor. Yes, it was him. Azazel was back. Trembling slightly, Vemchu looked on with tempered awe. Such an aura… it made her shake on the inside as well as out. Seeing him again brought back so many memories… so many memories. Sure, she had been with him for a while now, working with him, trying to assist in any way possible… but she hadn’t had any real contact with him for years. And there he was. He hadn’t changed. In looks, anyways. Smiling almost sinfully, she bowed as he said her name. “Lord Azazel, welcome back to the mortal plane.”

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER TWELVE

Allison was almost dying from a happiness overload. Sure, she had cursed up all of holy hell – but he didn't mind! And to add on to her victory, he had never de-clinged her until he went for his guitar! What a guy… what a musician! So devoted to his instrument… it was so sweet! And cute! And so MICHAEL!!!

“Stay.”

She froze. There was no way she was going to ignore a message from the almighty Michael himself! Sure, there was that little blaze in the corner, spreading and threatening chaos – but Michael was here and her world was good. Then again, what if he got hurt??? In a crazed moment of fandom, Alli considered running through the crowd to drag Michael away to safety, but with a blink, she realized that she wasn't going anywhere. Rish was holding her back. Good o'le Rish, always calm in a moment of pure insanity. Or a pure moment of fandom. Then he came back, and her heart stopped – again. Sure, he had called Rishta an angel, but he didn't know her name. Alli was certain that if he hadn't known her name, he wouldv'e called her Goddess. *Sigh* This was HER sort of life.

So brave, so strong… Allison kept on repeating that little mantra as he proceeded to drag them away from harm and into the cool night. Her jacket was probably still at coat check, but she really didn't care right now – she had dear Michael keeping her warm. And so, she kept clinging.

Blinking slightly, Rishta watched as he told them to stay and then ran off to get his guitar. Wouldn't it have been more intelligent to just tell them to get OUT of there while he went to get his instrument? She had barely jumped when the fire started, so classically after her hello. It was just her luck – she expected it. After all, Murphy's Law had an interesting way with the former angel. Then Alli tried to go save her savior. Grabbing the back of her shirt in an almost comical way, she pulled her back and whispered in her ear: “do you want to die Alli? No fire walking.” Of course, she had meant it in the most loving way possible – they both always joked with each other. With a sort of frenzied grace, Michael came back, and proceeded to drag them out of there – much to Rishta's unhappiness. She never liked being dragged anywhere! She could take care of herself… except when she went into sleep deprivation mode, then Jem was the one who kept on slapping her back to reality. Good o'le Jem.

Coughing slightly, Rishta kept a tight grip on her water bottle, as Michael led them out into a side street. Since they had not gone out the main way, there were way less people here. Had the fire been that bad? Allison's face was smudged with black, and Rishta probably looked the same – if not worse. Backing away from Michael's grip, she looked in horror at the side of the building – flames like a serpents tongue licked it's way up into the starry heavens. By gods, how could something like this happen in such a short time…? With a silent roar, the fire kept on spreading up the building. You could still the screaming… hopefully everyone was getting out. A few more people came out the way she had, looking drunk and somewhat lost. Then quickly exited and disappeared, staggering.

Looking back to Michael, Rishta raised an eyebrow as Allison kept clinging – either out of pure panic or pure fandom. Honestly. Coughing more violently now, Rishta took a long drink of her water. Smoke always caused her to cough. Cig smoke and thick “fire” smoke specifically. She just prayed she didn't cough up a lung this time.

The girls were safe and sound, and so was his guitar. Michael silently hoped his mate's made it out okay, but seeing as how they've been in more than one scuffle like this, he was sure they were fine. 'Course it was never so bad as to send the whole building up in flames, but they'd make it past the riot. All three of them were covered in a fine film of black smoke. A look of concern crossed his face as his angel began coughing heavily. His angel. He wasn't sure when he became possessive of the girl he hadn't barely met. “We should stop by the hospital… make sure you're alright. We can take my car?” he offered.

Just look at that blaze… almost like the bonfires in August, but so much more deadly… The screams that once could be heard at last faded away. Either the people were gone, or had been burned to silence. Hopefully it hadn't been that bad. Rishta would've hated to see people's lives lost, just because they were having fun. Even though she may not have approved of all the people there, and their way of living… the fact remained, they were still people, who were just trying to have fun. Her thoughts were interrupted by Michael speaking, who was obviously concerned about her incessant coughing. That's the last thing we need! Me in the hospital with two surgically attached people! Coughing, Rishta took another long drink of water, waving Michael's help aside, almost desperately.

“Nono, it's okay, I'm fine.” Standing up, Rishta took a deep breath, trying to clear her lungs. The building was still going up in smoke, but she had more or less cleansed her lungs of that evil substance. Thank god smoke rises. Meanwhile Allie was STILL clinging to Michael. How nice. Ah well, she must be blinded by the lovely world that is fandom… too bad Rishta wasn't the clingy type. “Really… I'm ok.. No hospital.”

A slice of Heaven. After getting out of that horrendous fire, Allison was willing to leave sanity and just lap in the pure bliss that was clinging to Michael's arm. Sure, she had seen about every show he had done – but never this close! The Italian princess was seriously drunk on happiness. She was touching HIM, breathing in HIS cologne, and there was no one else!!! Wait, sure, there was Rishta, hacking up a lung, but Alli knew she would be ok. After all, she had the exact same reaction at Lyn's party last year – when some guy decided to smoke while flirting with her. Well, that was a disaster. She started coughing, and the dude didn't get it, so he had to try to help her – while smoking. This caused a fit from hell. It was only when Alli had pulled him away, and given Rish water (and space) did she live again. Stupid guy was thrown out of the party. Honestly… smoking in a no smoking apartment complex! The gall of the guy was beyond comprehension.

So, in conclusion, if this was anything like the party – Rish would be fine. And see! There she was, waving Michael's help aside (Alli would have never done that – in fact, she would've demanded CPR!) and polishing off that water like a dehydrated camel. Yeps, good o'le Rish – never injured for long… too bad she didn't want to go in his *sigh* car though… maybe I should try that tactic sometime… but not now, now would make it seem too fake… and I certainly don't want Mike thinking that I'm fake… look at him, so concerned over Rishta, even though he barely knows her… *sighsigh* What makes him so perfect? Helping people he just met… *sigh* Clinging for her life, she sighed out loud – very happy.

“If you're sure you are alright…” Michael still wasn't so sure himself, but he couldn't very well drag the girl off. He'd likely be brought up on kidnapping charges. Not the best way to impress a girl. Her friend on the other hand seemed as if she'd follow him the edge of a cliff with the way she was cutting off the circulation in his arm.

“I'm sure.” Rishta had finally stopped coughing and could make a coherent sentence without choking, so she was certainly sure. She'd rather be stuck in an alleyway with him and Allie, then in a hospital – trying to explain that those two weren't Siamese twins, and she certainly did not have asthma. Meanwhile, she had to pity Michael. The poor sap looked so lost with Alli gripping onto his arm, like a cat with a mouse. Even though he tried to escape, there was no way she was going to let go – unless he smacked her with his guitar or something. Then that would be abuse… and that probably wouldn't change her opinion on him. The girl was totally obsessed.

Michael tried to discreetly pry her grip from his arm. He motioned his head down the edge of the alley in insistence that they move away from the club. “If no hospital at least allow me to take you both somewhere nice. No sense in a beautiful evening being ruined for beautiful ladies…” he grinned broadly, knowing it was a sorry excuse for an invite, but he didn't care. It gave him an excuse to get to know a little more about his ebony angel.

Allison Elda's heart stopped. Thank the powers that it restarted about a minute later. Going out… with Michael… just us… squeeeeeee! Wait.. Rishta too… well, she can be gotten rid of. I'm sure she'll understand – she's always been good about things like these.. MICHAEL… “That's such a great idea Michael! I'm sure we'd love to go! Right, Rish?” Meanwhile, she had a huge smile on her face, and had still not moved from Michael's godly side.

Rishta's heart stopped – but not in a good way. Oh no… No.. you know I hate to do this… oh… just for you Allie… “Uh, sure Allie…. So… where to?”

“Great! I know the perfect place…” With protest, or lack of protest, Michael didn't allow another word to be spoken. Not that the Alli girl, that was perma-attached to his arm, seemed to want to disagree with him at all. He avoided ushering them in to his car, the night was nice (aside from the weird explosions and hysterics going on), and his chosen destination wasn't very far off. The walk was quick, though having a girl attached to him made it a little more difficult than usual, they arrived at a small secluded cafe. The place was little known by the vast majority, and the inside settings were intimate. Michael like to come to this place when he wanted peace and quite, or when trying out new songs. There were tables skitter about across the room, and a small stage where poets and other musicians would get up on stage for their 15 minutes in the spotlight. It was a quaint little artsy place… Michael led the girls to a table in the corner of the room. It was out of the way of the crowd, but still allowed a good view of the stage, as well as a good distance from the counter to order coffee or tea.

Rishta silently followed as he, more or less, herded them into a small cafe – quaint with its silence. However, she had to raise an eyebrow when he led them into the corner, and sat at a table. There was a stage set up, and at the moment, a solo guitarist was playing, singing softly. His voice seemed to have an echoing ring, haunting the air. The mystery of his voice easily covered his slight off-key-ness and he did, as all musicians did, have a few fan girls sighing wistfully at his feet. Right now, Rishta was growing increasingly sickened by fan girls. Maybe it was because of Alli's constant attachment to Michael's arm – not even getting off when they sat down. She had drawn her chair close to him, stroking his arm. Blinking for a few minutes, Rishta took a seat across from both of them. She wouldn't embarrass Allie by dragging her off of him. I should have just gone home and let Allie cling to him all she likes… I feel like the third wheel… No, it's more like an investigation… like I'm being inspected or something…

Allison Elda was off in La La Land while they walked into one of the cutest places in the world! The little place was so adorable, with it's candles and guitar solos – even though the man wasn't half as good as Michael… Alli was beginning to hope that this night would never end. What more could one ask for? Music, Michael, tea, flowers, Michael, hanging out with Rishta, Michael and well… Michael. His shirt felt so soft against her arm, and he smelled great! Why couldn't he go to college? Specifically – go to her classes! Surely he wouldn't mind learning about art and business! And he would probably love to be a model for some of her designer clothes – from her lovely set: BeDaZzLeD! These designs, of course, came from her mind – but were drawn by Rishta, since she herself had no artistic ability besides writing.

Looking around, and feeling very awkward, Rishta decided to make the best of the situation and start a conversation. “Uh, so… how long have you been playing guitar?” Yeps, I sound like a TOTAL ignorant idiot… Alli prolly knows..

Then Rishta asked one of the most stupidest questions on the planet (at least, in Allie’s opinion). Oh Rish… you have much to learn young Padawan… he has been playing since a child! *sighs* But… I'll let him answer… so I can hear his perfect voice… *sigh* He must have fallen from heaven…

He was blushing by now. It didn't matter how he shifted or moved or pried off her hands, the wee little girl had managed to wind arms back around his. Each and every time. He had no idea how a girl so small so could such an iron grip! “Since I was a kid… I think I amused my parents playing with the toy guitar so much, they bought me a real one.” he smiled softly, feeling almost embarrassed.

Poor Michael. He really looked like he wanted to get away from Allison, but there was no way he could get away. The Woman with the Iron Grip. Aka, Allie. She looked like she was in heaven, and didn't want to get out – no matter what. And… she was STROKING him! Poor, POOR Michael. He was now her new adopted kitty. Allison always had a thing for cats. “That was nice of them.” Rishta's voice, however, was drowned by Allie's happy-go-lucky chirping.

“That's just so cute!” Allison chirped, with an adorable grin on her face. Tossing her perfect curls over her shoulder, she kept staring at him. He's so perfect… so perfect… Aieeee! Look at that smile! He's embarassed! He's so kawaii!!!

Talking about himself never was his favorite subject. He tended to dodge any personal questions, and stuck to answering things about his music, his band… or the weather. And as classic Michael, he switched the focus. “I assume you both live here in London. Ah…” he skipped asking them if they listened to his music. Both because the Alli girl seemed to be a big fan, and he didn't want to seem like a conceited bastard. “.. are you in college?” He desperately wanted a cigarette, but figured the girl coughed so much in the fire, she didn't need any more smoke. Instead, he tapped his fingers on the table.

“Well, I come from Rome, but I'm studying here in London with Rishta! We're both in college, even though I'm finishing next year and she still has 2 years to go – I think.” Happily grinning, she continued to stroke Michael's arm – enjoying the moment.

Good Lord woman… could you get any more obsessed? I can't wait until it's time for us to go home – what then will you do? Take him home!? …. yeah, she would do that. Rishta thought. Poor Michael looked terribly flustered. Obviously Allison was going to answer. Rishta nodded quietly, before giving in her two cents: “I was born here.” Gods, this was a disaster.

Jesus! This was a disaster! He was learning plenty… about the wrong one! Granted she was a beautiful girl, and more than eager to answer any question, but it was her friend that stirred his stomach when she gave her friend that frustrated look, she probably didn't even realize she did. Despite enjoying the company of his angel, the need to escape was even greater. “I will order us something to drink!” he quickly said, jumping from his seat. As an after thought he grabbed his guitar too. It probably looked as if he was going to run out the door until he stopped at the counter. He ordered something for himself, the thumbed over his shoulder requesting someone at their table. That finished, he slinked his way up to the stage, guitar in hand.

Maybe I should just leave and leave him to deal with Alli… it'd be much less embarrassing without me here… then again, it'd be 1000x as dangerous… Rishta mused silently to herself.

“Oh no…” Allison started pining then, and sank into despair as he forced her away from him. Rishta could practically read her mind. 'Oh no, my Michael is gone.. what will I do? No more cologne and soft skin…' She hated fandom. Rishta almost sighed in relief as he grabbed his guitar and appeared to run out of there. It wasn't that she didn't like him… it was just that she couldn't stand that close air. She was almost grateful for Allie's intruding presence. That Void in her mind was stirring again, and thank god there was someone here who understood her mood fluxes. It was hitting her harder then ever, and she had the urge to ask him to tell her his life story… yeah, that would've gone well.

“He's going…?”

“I don't know about that…”

Then Mike went to the counter and asked someone to come to their table. Wait.. he wasn't leaving? It certainly seemed that way when he went to the stage and starting singing. Her heart seemed to freeze right then, while melting into a sugary mess. He has such an amazing voice… Rishta seemed to forget everything else, even Allison – and could only keep her eyes trained on the man singing on stage. Wow…

“Ahem… good evening…” he said in to the mic, calling the attention of everyone in the room. “I'm going to sing…” he sweat dropped, “as if that wasn't terribly obvious.” He decided that liking a girl and wanting to impress her was going to drain him of every intelligent thought. Michael focused his mind on the song he wanted to sing.

Walk away if you want to.
It's OK, if you need to.
Well, you can run, but you can never hide
from the shadow that's creepin' up beside you.

And, there's a magic runnin' through your soul,
But you can't have it all.
Whatever you do, I'll be two steps behind you
Wherever you go, And I'll be there to remind you
that it only takes a minute of your precious time
to turn around and I'll be two steps behind.

I could almost relate… Rishta watched quietly as she listened.

Meanwhile, while RISHTA was off in La La Land, Allison had taken some initiative and had ordered them both mocha latte's. She had heard him enough to not go that insane… plus, she was amused by Rishta's reaction. Even though his voice was a common occurrence, as soon as she finished ordering – she went off into her stupor, watching Mike along with Rish. Though Rishta was beyond help.

Yeah, yeah.
Take the time to think about it.
Just walk the line, you know you just can't fight it
And take a look around, you'll see what you can't find,
Like the fire that's burnin' up inside me.

If Michael had any idea the girls were head over heels over his song and near passing out in their chairs, he didn't show it. His eyes were closed, his pesky blonde hair falling into his face as he leaned over his guitar. Strumming the strings with ease, he sang. An image of his angel popped in to his head, causing a faint smile to play across his face.

And, there's a magic runnin' through your soul,
But you can't have it all.
Whatever you do, I'll be two steps behind you
Wherever you go, And I'll be there to remind you
that it only takes a minute of your precious time
to turn around and I'll be two steps behind.

“Fire burning..” Allison smiled as a sinful idea popped into her head. The one thing she wanted, some alone time with Michael, was about to become a reality! Thank the heavens that Christina was always paranoid about their safety. Because of her fear of being kidnapped, Michael's heart was about to be captured! And there was no way he could escape it, especially since he was to absorbed in his singing. Pulling a small vial out of her pocket, Alli smiled as the waitress put Michael's black coffee on the table, where he had been sitting. Black coffee..? Wow, I can tell he's a serious guy… at least, with what he drinks.. hm… well, here we go… Taking off the cap of the small glass bottle, she sniffed it to make sure it was the right one. Yeps. The poor sap was going to have a hangover the size of Texas. Dropping the entire contents into the coffee, she innocently went back to her daydreams with Michael. They would all become a reality tonight. Well, at least, they would be beginning.

The great thing about Christina was her paranoia. She was always insisting that if they looked at a guy the wrong way, they would be kidnapped and raped. So, she insisted that everyone carry protection. And not only pepper spray… but an entire vial of concentrated vodka. A few drops was enough to make a man a bit tipsy, but the whole vial…? And coffee wasn't the best thing to dilute it in. A hyper drunken man. Hopefully he had a slight alcohol tolerance level.

And Rishta hadn't noticed a thing. You'll certainly be two steps behind me…

With the last verse of the song, Michael halted his playing. The few people in the room clapped and murmured their appreciations. It was a nice contrast between the screaming and loudness of playing at one of the clubs. Michael stood up an bowed, giving a goofy smile and blowing a kiss to the audience. Here he could be a little less of the mysterious rock star, and a little more of his normal self. Leaving the stage and pulling off his guitar, he return to the ladies. He immediately set down his guitar and went for his coffee, taking a long drink. It was late to have it, but he felt divine inspiration setting in. He hopped to learn more about the angel, and write new lyrics as soon as he managed to get home. He brushed his hair out of his eyes as he set down the now half empty coffee cup. Michael gave a ridiculous grin as he settle in his seat. “Maybe one of you has a poem or a song…?”

When Michael's song ended, and he blew a kiss to the crowd, Rishta snapped out of her daze, turning a pale rose for the barest of seconds. Turning her eyes back to her mocha latte, she blinked once. For a minute there seemed to be a guilty feeling in the air. It could be her going crazy, or that “I did it” look on Alli's face. She could never hide the truth. Then again, it was dark – maybe it was just her eyes. Rishta's attention diverted from her friend to Michael as soon as he sat down and took a long drink from his coffee. He must have an iron gullet… it looked so hot just a few minutes ago… well, at least he chose coffee instead of something stronger… Slightly embarrassed smile on her face, Rishta then blushed again as she heard his question.

“I don't think so, Mr. Traugott.” Rishta said, trying to tone down the color in her cheeks. She felt worse when she realized that she had been casually calling him Michael all night. That was not what her parents had taught her – she would only be calling him Michael if he told her to. Even though by now, she felt they had indeed gotten closer – even if it was just a side effect of his song. “Maybe Allie would like to….”

“Most certainly not!”

Rishta blinked at the sudden change in the girl. She had certainly done something, she looked as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room of rocking chairs. Blinking, she did notice Michael seemed happy, but that could have been from his song. As she looked from one to the other in nerves, she sighed. Something had gone wrong. “Um, forgive me for the question Mr. Traugott. Are you feeling alright?” Meanwhile, Allison looked as though she had just been caught.

Allison looked on, feeling that pit in her stomach grow bigger and bigger, until she realized she was in no mood to drink her mocha latte. And considering she was caffeine addicted, that was saying something. Blinking, she realized that he had downed the cup faster then Christina became paranoid. Wasn't this stuff exceedingly potent when taken so quickly…? She sincerely hoped not. Then again, he was showing signs of being drunk more clearly than crystal. This was not good. Praying for a miracle, Allison looked at them both, guilt scribbled on her face in bright red crayon. No, he isn't all right.. he's punch drunk and I'm to blame! Ah well, too late now… poor Michael… just remember, this is for the better… I can't believe she called him Mr. Traugott… Jeez… so old fashioned… I mean… ugh. Mentally sighing, she watched carefully, hoping that Rishta would get scared and simply leave. Unfortunately, the chance that Rishta would actually do that was slim. She never left any of her friends if she suspected something. Damn goody two-shoes.

“Yeah.. just fine.” Michael laughed, returning to his coffee cup and downing the last of it. Actually he felt great! Before he was kind of nervous, now he felt tons more relaxed. His music always did have a calming affect on him. “Y'know… Mr. Traugott sounds like my dad… Just call my Michael. Or Mike if you like…” Ha ha! That rhymed! For some reason that seemed to amused him and his grin grew even wider. “Are you sure you don't want to sing…?” He asked leaning closer across the table towards Rishta. He seemed oblivious to Allison next time him. His hair was falling in to his eyes again, but for some reason her couldn't move his arms well enough to stop leaning on them.

Even in a drunken state he wants to be nice to Rish… how sweet… he's so utterly perfect: even when drunk… However, something inside Alli panged for a moment. Sure, this may seem wrong – but it really was for the benefit of them all! Otherwise, Mike would be left alone and Allie certainly didn't want to have that! Yeah… it was for their benefit.

“Okay Michael… and I'm sure..” Rishta quietly murmured then shot Allie the glare from hell. There was no doubt about it now. When the more 'shy' face of Michael was replaced by this current 'mischievious' look, Rishta was certain he was not alright. It was a naughty look, and one that made her very, VERY uncomfortable. What in the name of mother England had Allie done??? He's acting like a drunk man… but all he did was have coffee… maybe it was Irish coffee or something… no song makes any man that happy…

“You have a really pretty voice… I bet you sound like an angel when you sing.” Michael mused out loud. She looked like an angel, it was logical to think she would sing like one too. By now his head was swimming, but he still couldn't seem to perceive anything wrong. He merely watched Rishta with his wide, ridiculous smile and waited for her reply.

Okay. Now Allie was certain he was drunk. After all, if he wasn't, there was NO WAY he would have called her an angel! He had never complimented her like that, he had not had the time when he was sober… so, he HAD to be drunk. However, she could not stop a small pang of jealousy. Even though she was certain Michael was the one, she was beginning to have doubts. No… he has to love me… after all, he… he sang for me. She just had to keep believing that.

Rishta stiffened at that. However, she couldn't stop the pale pink color her cheeks became. A curse on her body! Why did it let her turn that color so easily!? Well, sure, she didn't turn that color just for any compliment, but still… Allie was the obsessed one, not her! And right now, Allie looked like she wanted to kill. Although Rishta couldn't help but notice a slightly victorious look in her eyes. What has she done…? “I… don't sing that well, Mr. Tra- Michael. Certainly not as well as you.”

Allison stiffened and tried not to feel jealous. Who was Rishta fooling?? Sure, she wasn't some expert singer, but she certainly had a lovely singing voice. Why the hell did she have to be so modest??? Couldn't she just say “Yes Mike, I sing so well! We should sing together sometime!” It was sooo obvious that she was developing a crush on HER Michael. Well, they would have to see about that!

Giving Allie a glare, Rishta looked down at Allie's untouched coffee. What was… a vial. Obviously Alli had forgotten to put that thing away. She had DRUGGED MICHAEL. Talk about obsessed… and the whole thing too! A pox on Christina's paranoia. Now, she was dealing with a drunken Michael and a guilty Allison. And she would have to fix it up.

Telling Allie to shut up with a mere glance, she turned her attention to Michael, smiling softly. Naturally the responsibility would fall on her… if she wasn't so kind, she would have left Allie to her doom! Let HER fix up this entire mess! But noo…. she was too nice…. well… not really… he was just… well, she didn't know. “Um, how about we go to my place in a little while…? I would be honored to have such a big star in my home…” Allie… you are so in trouble…

What a whore!!! Filling up with rage, the short pixie shot death glares at Rishta. There were two possibilities why Rishta could be doing this. One, she knew Alli had done something and was cleaning up after her, or two: she was trying to hook up with a drunk star! How low!!! Then again, she was trying to do the same thing. Hey, it was different! After all, Michael already loved her. She was just… helping him realize that. And if seduction was the only way well… so be it. Allison was a girl who knew what she wanted, when she wanted it. And even though she didn't want to lose her virginity, if it was the only way to stake a claim on that hottie – well… sacrifices would have to be made.

Michael had somehow maneuvered his chin in to the palm of his hands without toppling over, and was grinning broadly at Rishta as she spoke. It was heaven to hear her speak his name. Like a gentle breeze. An angels song. It seemed he was suddenly obsessed with angels. If he could paint he'd paint a thousand pictures of her. If he could write music, he could.. Hey! He could write music! He'd write her a song! Michael's expression suddenly became dead serious (as dead serious as someone completely smashed could look), as he frowned at her!

“Abso-lootly not. It's dang'rus to take home strange men, love. Ev' just me…” he held up one finger and waved it unsteadily. “You're too pretty not to kiss… an' we haven' even had our first date yet…” Michael forgot why he was holding up his finger and looked at it quizzically. He was also starting to slur his words in an awfully bad way. Michael turned in his seat suddenly noticing Allison for the 'first' time. He pointed the finger at her and gave a suspicious look. “Y'look diff'ren… dijoo change your hair?” he leaned backwards to get a wider view, but tumbled backwards out of his seat in to a rumpled heap on the floor!

If Michael wasn't Michael, Allie would have beaten him by now. Was he testing her devotion? Was this some sort of cruel torture? Was cheating off of ONE test so bad that the big guy in the sky had to punish her with this!??! Too pretty not to kiss..!?!?!?! Wait, maybe he was talking to her. Guess not. Feeling hurt, she merely blinked when Michael fell off the chair and hit the floor. Hesitantly, she turned her head up to meet Rishta's glare. Why did I try to be so smart…?

Blinking, Rishta found herself sitting very stiffly again. Did he think she was suggesting something? Who did he think she was??? Date? Kiss? Pretty??? If she didn't know he was drunk, Rishta would have simply left the two immoral people there. Honestly. Was sex and alcohol the only thing these two had in mind..? They were going to end up straight in hell if they continued speaking about such things casually! Shaking her head quickly, Rishta leaned over and saw Michael crumpled on the floor. Oh. My. Stars. Quickly getting up, she knelt down next to him and prodded him several times. Yeps, out like a lamp. Or like he had been smacked with one. No, wait, he was stirring. Guess he had just slipped… Looking up at Allie, she gave a harsh glare. “Do you want to HELP?” Meanwhile, she was dealing with a jealous friend, drunk rock star, and a bunch of people who wondered what the hell she had done with the poor guy.

“Uh, yeah, sure…” Kneeling down next to Michael, Allison gave Rishta a somewhat cold look, becoming increasingly resentful of the woman next to her. Why did Rishta always get to have all the attention? Sure, when they went out, guys normally went for the both of them, but the ONE guy Allison loved above all… the one guy she would rather have then all the jewels in India – that one guy seemed totally intent on knowing Rishta. That dark hair, kind face… what made HER so special..? No, wait. Michael was just drunk. There was no reason to start resenting her best friend just because his sense of judgment was impaired. No, she wouldn't do that. Nothing was worth losing Rishta over. Not even Michael. Besides, she would get him tonight. All they had to do was make it out of there and head over to one of their houses. And knowing Rishta, they'd be gone before ya knew it. Good o'le Rish, always good for something. And he was so cute!!! Smiling at the fluffy softness that was Michael's hair, Allison's eyes twinkled. She could never stay mad at him. And, no matter what, tonight he would be hers.

“Wow… they add-ed a movin' floor..” Michael mumbled as both the girls helped him off the floor. His head was swimming in a sea of… something! He felt like he drank a barrel of that crazy stuff Katt was always sipping. Either that he was drunk off love. That thought sent him in to a fit of chuckles, no doubt causing a couple of strange stares from his companions. Michael reached down for his guitar, nearly toppling over again in the process, and refused to let either girl offer their help. He slung the strap over his shoulder, stepping back a few paces in the adjustment for balance. Shoving his hands in his pockets it took him several moments to drag out his car keys, then dangle them in the air with a triumphant grin. “Time to go! I drive there… where we goin' a'gin?”

Wow. When he's drunk – there is nothing spared… not even some form of sanity. Blinking slightly at the deranged form that was Michael, Rishta helped him up (along with Allison's help) and looked him over. The poor guy was seriously drunk – and would probably have a migraine the size of Texas by tomorrow morning. Then he started laughing. Obviously he was amused by something he had thought to himself, because there was nothing Rishta could see that would make the situation even slightly amusing! And people had started to stare. Talk about keeping low key and cool. Pressure was so starting to seep in, and the urge to leave was growing stronger. Alli… you are so going to pay… Blinking slightly, Rishta realized that he had picked up his guitar and car keys, and was smiling triumphantly. Oh nononono mister… Looking thoroughly alarmed, Rishta snatched the car keys from Mike, while Allie grabbed him, more or less dragging him out of there. Alli was good for one thing, she knew what she wanted. And right now, it was pretty obvious she wanted to survive the trip home in order to have her fun. “I'll drive. They won't let you in otherwise.

” 'way we go!” Michael pointed forward as he staggered, kind of heavily leaning on Allison. He'd likely tumble over head first if he didn't have her to balance on. It was very lucky the car wasn't too far away from the small cafe, the pair would have hit the ground before long. The car wasn't flashy as one would expect for a rock star, infact it was fairly mainstream. Pretty new, simple black, four doors… plenty of room for him to stuff his guitar in the back, and maybe a couple girls too. He was more concerned with having enough room for his head and legs. Michael opened the car door with some effort. The doors weren't locked, which showed he was either careless, or didn't seem to mind if his car ended up stolen.

Michael stuffed himself in the car, head first, and the girls had a hell of a time trying to get him in a sitting right. Putting on his seat belt was also a bit of a challenge with him falling over or squirming out of his seat.

So true… stupid security system… it's friggin scary! And that fence… Allison proceeded to half-carry, half-drag a drunken Michael to the car. It was so cool! Deep black, roomy… she was sure it could go really fast too! Imagine… her in his car… all the girls at school would be so jealous!!! All because she spiked his drink. Oh yeah, she was good. Opening the backseat of the car, Allison let Michael in, and then had a hell of a time trying to get him to sit correctly. Half of the time was spent apologizing since he had moved suddenly, and Allison got her hands… Well, she got her hands in a position not appropriate for the moment. Then came the seatbelt. Well, that was fun. He kept on falling over and she kept on falling on him. She could almost feel Rishta's annoyance as she unlocked her door and slid into the drivers seat. Michael sat right behind her. Climbing in, she sat in the middle, so if Mike fell, it'd be on her shoulder. Not to mention it'd be an excuse to cuddle against him. So she did. Leaning against him, she smiled as Rishta gave a 'humph' of annoyance, and pulled out of there.

Sighing, Rishta paid for their drinks while Allison proceeded to carry Michael away. Poor man was as drunk as anything. Well, at least she now knew the effect that vodka would have on people… that stuff was terribly strong. Heh. She wouldn't be surprised if that stuff was ILLEGAL. Ah well, Christina would justify it by saying that it was only to be used in defense. So what would Allie say? Of course: defense from being boyfriend-less forever. And she'd probably be able to get away with it too. Raising an eyebrow as she got to Mike's car, she watched with a partially annoyed expression as Allie went through hell and back just so Mike could get into the car correctly. Opening the door, she slid in and clicked on her seatbelt. Glancing in the review mirror, she saw Allison immediately taking advantage of her position, cuddling against Mike.

You would do anything to have him… insane girl. The man's going to wake up tomorrow and wonder what the hell you did to him, and probably hate you – but all you can do is take advantage of the moment… carpe diem Allie… seize the day… Pressing her foot on the accelerator, Rishta, with grace to suit a dolphin, shot out of the parking space, and slipped into the night. All while ignoring the love fest behind her.

Michael was pressed back against his seat as the car zoomed out from the parking space, and he had the distinct feeling they must of left his stomach behind. His head felt like it was spinning in circles and his insides were turning flips upside down. He tried to move but the Allison girl had a firm hold on his arm. It wasn't so bad. She was incredibly pretty, somewhat like a pixie. But the wee pixie was only a dull shimmer compared to the brilliance of his angel. He could hardly see his vision was blurring so badly, and it was hard to get a good glimpse of her face in the rear-view window with the car zig zagging as it was. Michael squinted hard at her expression. Was she angry? She was slinging them around in the back seat like a couple of rag dolls despite the tightly strapped seat belts. Or maybe it was just his throbbing head over exaggerating even the slightest of movements.

It seemed like hours to him before they finally reached their destination. His giddy mood was replaced with an ill sick feeling deep in his guts. Even after the car had stopped Michael still felt like he was zooming around in some sort of twisted roller coaster ride. He fumbled to unclick the seat belt, then quickly pushed Allison out of the way as he opened the car door and hurled out the remaining contents in his stomach! Had he not been worried about choking up his stomach itself, he would've felt stupid as hell looking the fool in front of his lady angel.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER ELEVEN

And here I thought London would be more stuffy and sophisticated… Right… Autumn stepped out into the cool London night air after escaping the brawl inside the club. If she didn't have to get a conscience last minute, she might've been disappointed to have the night ruined by a bunch of angry drunks. Allot of people were going to disappointed if the band's gig was cancelled. But, lucky her fate decided she should rescue dumb Trevor from jail. At the street she was having no luck catching a cab, and grumbled to herself as she decided to just walk to the police station. It was a pleasant night and the walk would do her some good…

As a being of evil, Christopher had been searching through the gathering crowd of spectators for signs of the girls locale and perhaps – commerce as well; but for all the people there, he could not pick her out from anyone with a sixth sense. It is said, betray the touch of God, the dark touch leaves neither visible mark, or invisible spots on the flesh that are impervious to pain; and – putting that to his knowledge, was only half the game as he pushed passed the final spectator but, however, not before leaving behind one final surprise that crept eerily across the ground in the form of a serpentine creature. In truth, it was as harmless as a house fly, but the touch it left if stricken by surprise was deadlier then the most venomous of snakes. “The dark touch,” replied Christopher in monotone, as he stretched out his store-house of astral energy and reseeded into residual shadows cast by the street lights against the dark attar wood of a house. “Construct the flesh of those who beg for death and bleach their bones white with the fire of Exodus..”

The slithering creature went for the head of the crowd on its own hellish instincts – moving between the legs of gathers one person at a time. The being was stripped and stepped on, and even restrained by its serpent like tail until it was released by one who picked up their foot. Yet, it didn't attack, only continued on into the crowd as if they didn't exist to it at all. It's rich black scales were shorn, and its white underbelly was – with little care; shown only when it gave a growing paranoid flick of the tail as it became suddenly very aware of those around it. It was only a matter of time before it struck, and, before it was known; the first of many slapped at their heel as if to mash a pesky bug but found only the cool feeling of their own blood quickly waning itself from their veins. It left its mark on more then half of them, and when the police decided to grace the party with their presence, it would be hampered by the deafening screams and dried bones of those outside. With its job unknowingly finished, the creature curled up and shriveled away until nothing but its gray ash wafted into the breeze.

As no trace of Autumn was found, the occultist found himself moving from plane to plane with annoyance that a normal human could cross distances such as the one he was covering in the span of only a few moments. When he had finally caught up to her a handful of blocks away, though, Chris stalked her – for the fun; no doubt, like a lion hunting its prey. For a moment, he marveled at the simple strength of the girls gentle aura, so much calmer and broader then his, and so much shorter and less intertwined with dread then others. It was no wonder Aidan would want this girl but his first impression of a simple mortal gaining such attention from him was puzzling in itself still. Yes, he was the servant at the Corp, with those demons that posed as humanitarian workers and even the janitors; but unlike those he had a sense of dignity and fetching girls in cheap clothing was below even those worthless scum. But, they were orders and he would follow them despite growing honorary issues.

..you see, I'm the great Trevor Morris…

Chris spat at the memory of that name as it entered his mind at the exact moment his body entered normal reality and slid up behind the girl before him. It annoyed him that it would appear now, at that point in time; but he brushed it off as just another bother. Christopher reached out like a sly fox and caught Autumn by the shoulder, giving her frail body a sudden shock that would of caused her to jump and spin around in fear if it were not for the fact that he had already spun her and had her neck buried in the angle of his arm. She would flail and kick, though screaming was at a mute level as her voice box compressed in from the pressure and left her at a loss for words. There was no question that he had caught what he had sought out, but it was only lived for a short while as Christopher soon found himself waiting for a sudden array of spots before his eyes to go away.

She had taken his picture! That girl, who stopped struggling was only biding her time so she could reach into her bag and snap off several pictures into the face of her attacker to ward him off. It worked, for the most part, but only temporarily as the colorful dots disappeared and the chase was back on as the man in brown split up the street at inhuman speed and came in front of her seconds to late as she let out an ear piercing scream that cacophonies through the clear sky like a lighthouse fog horn. She had quite a pair of lungs on her for a girl, and he made sure to quickly cease anymore of her picture taken and screaming by grabbing a hold of her arm and throat with separate hands. Kicking and screaming, those kind were always fun, but they were growing hard each time and for some reason – she kept hitting the same spot again and again every time. With a growl and furrowed brows, the occultist called forth a slithering creature from within his own body that crept up his forearm and weaseled its way up to the girls ear as it poked and prodded to the entrance of her ear canal. By the time she noticed, she was out like a light.

Alistaire had only a tenth of his mind focused on Belial and the woman, Genesis. He barely caught on to what they were saying, only really hearing something about an appointment. His attention was focused on the horribly powerful and dark aura that suddenly spiked up and overwhelmed his senses. Even masking the aura would not have hid it from Alistaire's sort-of demon sense. It was an amazing, terrifying presence. Despite that fact, he moved anyways. He let his feet take over and without so much a word, parted from Belial and Genesis. Instead, he reached into his coat with his left hand and drew one of his USP .45 Tactical pistols, fitted with an LAM and a 15-round clip. Hiding it low and to his side, as to not draw attention (as if he wasn't already), he laid a hand on Stormbringer's hilt above his right shoulder and followed the presence of the door, deftly moving through the crowd and dodging the small critter that was tearing at their feet.

As he stepped into the street (which was far clearer than the sidewalk), and turned his head to either side to look for the man. He caught the tail of a coat around the corner and felt the dark aura from the same direction. Putting two and two together, he began doing a silent run while leaning forward, Stormbringer loose and ready to pull. He felt the aura disappear and skidded to a halt as he rounded the corner and took several more steps. He felt it again suddenly, farther ahead, and felt it blink out once more. He cursed silently; the dark man was much farther ahead. Taking a breath, he began running at full sprint, hand tightening around Stormbringer. He was feeding off of what was left in the mighty blade to keep his strength up. He hoped enough was left to do battle, if that was what would happen; Alistaire had a feeling it would come down to it.

He continued racing, following the dark spirit as quick as he could. He suddenly felt it pause and move slowly, as if finally finding prey. Or getting far enough away to feel comfortable about itself. Alistaire lop-sidedly grinned an arrogant grin and quickened his pace. He rounded one final corner in time to see the man– the origin of this dark presence– standing over an unconscious girl.

Trevor went around back, and opened up Ana's trunk before following her. He immediately grabbed the two M9s and the Colt Python, and the bandolier of bullets, which he fastened around his waist. He continued to rummage around for a minute, searching in vain for an M16, but what he came across beneath a blanket was even better. “Holy shit! Why the hell are you packing a grenade launcher?” Trevor asked, pulling the sizable weapon out of the trunk. “Jeez…talk about civilian ordinance…even I don't pack stuff like this. `Course, I don't have a car. Just my motorcycle back home. Crimeny.” He shut the trunk after grabbing a few rounds, and slung the weapon over his shoulder using the strap.

“It's about goddamned time we got here…what would you do if your partner just got here and died because you were too busy saving the worthless hide of this Trevor character?” Ater's voice was loud and annoying in her head, and as she walked on- the demon could feel an opportunity to cause some real damage arise.

If she gets angry enough, she'd drop Lux and just use Ater and that would kill just about anyone around. Ater was glad that he just might get the carnage he was waiting for. Oh, shut the hell up. Alistaire can take care of himself- and it's not like I am completely late. Give me a freaking break. Ana wrinkled up her nose and lightly patted her guns, making sure that she only had them and spare ammo. She never reloaded anyway- but there was the slight chance that maybe someone else might need it. “Yeah, just don't break it…that launcher is my baby.” Raising her eyebrow, Ana lowered her head and closed her eyes to get a perception on her surroundings. Evil was definitely there- but faintly, so was that damn creepy feeling that she got from the guy in the club.

“Let's go!” Ana made sure to lock her car before running down the way, and she didn't know if she saw the creepy guy in the coat first- or her loving partner Alistaire. She didn't waste any time, though- and soon Lux and Ater were drawn and ready to fight.

Trevor would have preferred to take the lead, but Ana seemed to know where she was going–she must have felt that strong presence, just as he did. There was also the fact that he was carrying that launcher. It wasn't necessarily heavy, but it was pretty clumsy, and hard to run with. Without his gear, though, he couldn't afford to complain. Still, a shotgun would have been nice. “It's the same guy from before!” Trevor shouted to Ana. “I can feel it all the way from here! I'd never forget a spirit like that!” The man in the dark coat…that complicated things a bit. There was a second force nearby, similar to his own–another hunter, most likely, and a strong one at that. Still, he wasn't any match for the guy in the coat. Not alone, anyway. Three on one seemed like acceptable odds to him. He'd kill that jerk for what he did to him–showing him up, then leaving him to the police! Just thinking about it pissed him off!

It didn't take long for the two of them to find their quarry. Trevor slid to a halt on the sidewalk, and took a quick look at the situation. There was the guy, all right–standing over somebody he had just knocked out. Or maybe killed. Perfect, there was another excuse to kill him. Some blonde guy with a sword was at the other end of the street. He looked familiar, too. A blonde slayer, with a claymore…that weapon looked suspiciously like Stormbringer. Could that guy be from the MacCoules? I thought they had all died out…well, that's good luck for me, anyway…

“I told you I'd find you!” Trevor shouted to the guy in the dark coat. “We've still got some unfinished business, you worthless puke! I've got a dozen high explosives with your name on `em!” He leveled the grenade launcher at the stranger, and wrapped his finger around the trigger. “So step away from the poor slob you've just jumped, and come over here so I can kick your goddamned teeth in!”

While Trevor barked, while Christopher waited to play his part on the body of the girl and while the slayer behind stole through the streets of London unseen, the occultist ran a hand through his hair with uncaring arrogance to the severity of the situation at hand. “It's a nice night, really,” he said. He took a step back, and whispered into the air so as not to disturb the silence, who worked the quiet air and seemed to struggle a bit with the disdainful wind. What was this creatures plan? He knew not to answer his own questions. Still, Christopher, mercifully, offered an explanation of sorts. “Meanwhile, as our brave hero banters, the girl lays trapped at the hands of the tragic villain.” He smiled and tightened his cold grip on his hand until wings fluttered and the forlorn shadow beneath his feet showed the featherless outline of his dark aspect.

It seemed that everyone appeared just as his falis tasted the girls blood and started to infect her psyche; as planned, he silenced her, restrained her, and relieved Aidan, who would have returned to Morning Star with eager enthusiasm upon his trophy being delivered to him. As quick as the shadow came, it vanished just as fast – the body before him, ragged and limp becoming suddenly stiff as it rose. He watched this feat, ignoring everyone around him, before snatching her body from the air and turning on his heel; holding her delicate face up if to taunt Trevor as his hand burst into a bright black light. “She is rather adorable, so cute with the skin of an angel, don't you agree?” Christopher grinned a toothy grin, holding her face up to the light for all to see. He would twist the knife in deeper, if time allowed it, but for a brief instant he forgot about everything around him – giving the girls cheek a taste. “I know many demonic gods who would, how to say it.. kill for something so tasty and delicious.”

Uncontrollably, the thick burning flame of purple light extended pleasantly from the end of his hand–the outline of blade and hilt becoming apparent as it transformed into a churning sword of flame. He cut her cheek, letting her blood spill from the wound and slide across her skin until its droplet fell to the ground below. The first blood was spilt and the game was suddenly very interesting as to which of the three would make the first fatal move.

Trevor's heart slammed to an abrupt halt the moment he saw Kris' face. His entire body seemed to go completely numb, and he dropped the grenade launcher to the ground at his feet. Kris…I told you…to be careful! Why didn't you stick with Joz, like I told you to?!

“You…you miserable, stinking coward!” Trevor howled, tightening his fists until his knuckles cracked, and the stitches in his gloves began to pop. The silver crosses sewn into his gloves began to blaze, and Trevor's hands were blazing like dying stars, surrounded by a wreath of dancing white flame. “Sneaking around in the shadows, and hiding behind innocent people…you're not even as good as the lowest devil! I'll send you straight to Hell to prove it!” Trevor's anger was accentuated with the Silver Herald flared up again, sending a sharp gust of wind blowing through the street, knocking over trash cans and kicking a cloud of dust into the air.

“My fist is the divine breath! The fire inside my soul has ignited, and I grasp that flame with my powerful hand!” The light in Trevor's gloves flooded into his right hand, lighting the street up like it was noon. “Nothing in all the pits of Hell is going to save you now! I swear, you're not going to live to see another sunrise!”

“Blood…I smell it…” Ater's voice came ringing into Ana's mind, causing the girl to close her eyes and shake her head. Lately, it had been so hard to control him like she used to…”Release me…let me draw blood too…I won't hurt the others…I just want to test HIM.” All of the years that he had to suffer with his brother, the demon was plotting on finding a host that he could feed off of. He needed the darkness, hatred, loathing…the man that had been speaking earlier and even now- was dripping with it. Christopher was a cesspool of negative energy.

This just might be his one way ticket out of here. “Ana. If you don't do it- that girl is going to die!”

“Ana. What are you d-doing? Don't listen to him- not now, don't you value your friend's lives? Are you feeling alright?” Lux's heavenly hold was getting harder and harder for her to see as Christopher went on, and even though both guns were drawn- Ana's hand was mindlessly placing the yelling angel back into his holster.

The gusts of wind coming from all around shook Ana back into reality, and she closed her eyes- pulling Lux back out. Her mind became cloudy and she glanced over at Trevor and then to his hand. Whatever he was doing had that effect on her, and she was close to dropping to her knees. “T-Trevor…calm down, please…That thing…it's hurting me.” Her chest felt as though it was being crushed, and as it all went on- she did whatever she could to put Ater away in his holster. Now, it was judgment time. “Put it away…stop it!” Now that she had a hold on Lux alone, the darkness that was building had vanished. Even with his power of light, she was having a hard time being alert. The angel had a bright idea to try and at least lessen his guardian's pain, whether she would allow it or not. Releasing himself from his metal prison, Lux made himself visible to all in the alleyway and placed a hand on Ana. His wings shielded her as well as they could from the winds of the Silver Herald, and as he held onto his weakening host he whispered.

“Guide my bullets, protect her with light.” His ghostly hand fired Ana's gun, shooting directly at Trevor.

Light. Trevor's entire existence was nothing but warm, soothing light. His anger melted into nothingness, dwarfed by the sense of pure absolution that filled his every thought. He felt his feet leave the ground for a moment, and off in the distance, he heard was he thought was rocks crashing together.

You cannot remain here!

“…what…? Who…”

Think of Autumn! You have to save her!

Trevor's eyes snapped open. Kris! In a bright burst of light, Trevor found himself back on the streets, facing the man in the dark coat, with Kris still in his grasp. His right arm, up to the elbow, was covered in what looked like silver chrome, shining with an inner fury that was almost blinding. The air reeked of ozone and lightning. Trevor could sense the holy energy coursing through the metal, flowing back and forth from the angelic figure to the left, protecting the now-unconscious Ana. The angel nodded solemnly to Trevor, and glanced towards the man in the dark coat. “Right. I understand,” Trevor whispered.

“My hand is burning with the fires of Heaven!” he shouted, causing another sharp gale to kick up. Trevor raised his right arm, opened his palm, and took careful aim at his target. He hoped that guy with the sword got out of the way in time. “The roaring inferno inside my soul has ignited, and I grasp that flame with my powerful hand!” The glowing metal began to burn, and a bright sphere of radiant light exploded to life at Trevor's fingertips. “I will deliver your final judgment, with my Silver Halo Shot!” A thick column of light, nearly half as big around as Trevor was tall, flew from the gauntlet. Just the sheer force of it was enough to crack the street in a straight, narrow line, as it shot towards the man in the dark coat like a speeding train.

Christopher stood there for a moment, shivering as if the unfolding events with a fitful dream; dreams had plagued him of reoccurring situations like this happening, but upon waking he could never recall them. He'd never have any idea how long he slept when they would come. Neither did he know where he was when they occurred. He sat up and felt the cold enrapturing darkness heeding his needing call, but he blinked and the world became eerily known around him as he stood face to face with a missile straight from heaven. The speed it moved was uncanny, and even stretching his power to slow down the process of time did little to slow its progress. The light was cold, terribly cold; and colder still when it bared down on him in unfamiliar strength. He was no match for something like that, but he was not going to be killed with such ease, nor would he give those around him the benefit to rid him of the world before his time was truly up!

The ground around him whipped up in a cold, sheer wind, and the ground beneath his feet crackled and uprooted from the pavement as lightning danced around up-turn rubble and rock that began to float with intense and ever-growing power – charging each piece of rock and every being of the soil with enough electricity to keep the city running for weeks on end. The intertwined force of energy forced a barrier to grow, but by the process; it was taking overly long and it would not hold. But still, he pushed his power to limit, eyes becoming depthless black pearls behind the blinding light as it neared. His shadow bopped and danced behind him, as his silhouette of wingless wings curled and spread behind him. Taking a breath, his heart snared like a rabbit in a trap as he drew a snow-white sword from the now volatile air. A showdown to the end, but if he was to suddenly parish; the girl was coming with him.

The cold light first came in contact with the barrier, releasing built up energy with such a force that the road began to bend inward and tree limbs began to snap like cheap firewood. After a moment, the shot pierced and shattered the barrier and in an instant, everything stopped as a gout of dust kicked up followed by a suitable sized explosion for such a blast. The crackling of thunder between the roadway stopped and the rising current of air wafted away the smoke. A still moment, indeed, one no doubt mixed with interest and hope the target was hit.

When the cloud of dust and ash settled, Chris stood there, clad in black runic armor; covered in midnight black wings that crossed in front of him – smoldering with smoke. When he uncurled them, he flexed his right hand, then his left; dropping both the sword of flame and the sword of white to the ground when he glanced upward. He didn't do this, someone else had interfered with the shot? But who; not Aidan for his presence was no where to be found, but instead there was a nagging feeling at the back of his head of something keeping him protected. However, as fast as everything had appeared, within the space of a heart beat the attire vanished leaving him again in the brown coat unscathed. He would be grateful later on, but he wanted to know what the hell that was.

Too many things had happened. Too many at once, Alistaire decided. As soon as he arrived on the avenue in which he had found the dark figure, he saw a woman. A very young woman, who wasn't dead– yet– and was definitely what the man was stalking. Then, only moments after that, he saw another man and his partner, Ana. Both looked ready to do battle, but not with just one man– with an entire horde! “What the bloody hell is going on?!” His cries touched uncaring ears as things unfolded before his eyes. Both holy and unholy events, some stuff he had never seen before. The dark man was a horrible man; not one sense of light or good existed within him. He was nothing but a wave of darkness ready to crash down on any and everything within reach. He lifted the girl, taunted the man until he released a power– and then Ana collapsed, writhing in pain. Alistaire dropped his .45 and drew Stormbringer, his massive claymore, completely with both hands. He felt the energy in the sword pour into him, strengthening him with the energy of those who had been unfortunate to meet his blade. He felt the calm presence wrap over and around his soul and soothe his mind. He felt ready to kick some ass.

Ana writhed on the ground and he felt obligated to rush to her. Not just obligated to, he wanted to. He wanted to pick her up in his arms and comfort her, protect her from what was causing her pain. But he couldn't. He saw an ethereal being appear, seeming to protect her, and then a massive beam of blue energy rocket from the man and into the darker man. The blue beam crashed and slammed into a shield of sorts. A cloud of thick dust, ash and other things came up from the sheer force of the two mighty powers. When it cleared, he saw the dark man clad in strange armor. It disappeared, and the dark man looking at his own figure wonderingly. Alistaire tossed aside amazement and silently charged, Stormbringer back and to the side, his stance similar to the hidden guard, waki no kamae. The energy of the blade turned his strength beyond human and with a mighty leap, he went for an attack of his own. “Say g'bye, asshole!”

He tried to understand; not a hair was touched–not cut, imprecated, or planted. It was strange, yet somewhat satisfying to be alive. What Chris saw in the watering light that night were but holy things. They were white, nearly translucent in the dark of space, and solid in the light. It was rarely seen that you could catch of a glimpse of the world beyond without having been sent to the grave, for the written word is that it resides in the deepest clouds and shows themselves only to strike judgment at those who come uninvited or unescorted by death or an angel surrogate. The occultist ignored the slayer as he sprung into action, fast as a flash, to bury his sword deep in the dark one. He meant little to him, at the moment, as he extruded a blue vial from his pocket and dumped a necrotic venom that is known to work on the soft tissue of the body, consuming the flesh from within from its spout. “Even assistance from an angelic host can't kill me.. I'm, still here” His voice took an edge to it with an uncharacteristic amazement as he took a step forward before having a steel blade impeded into his head, and ducked beneath a second swing, while pulling the girl in tow. That blade was uncommon; he could hear the wind cry from the sharpness as it momentarily parted the air currents. Its presence was somewhat of an annoyance to him, but instead, he jumped up with a inhuman speed as a third and fatal stab came from behind; aimed at his vital organs. He landed on one of only two light posts that remained standing, though slightly tipped.

“The great Trevor Morris, huh? What a truly musing legacy. A descendant of the Johnathon Morris that sealed away the great evil centuries ago..,” he lowered his eyes, holding the girl close by the chin as he held her before him like an award. “You almost had me, with that blast. Such a holy thing. One of light, one of dark. You didn't think you could get rid of me that easy, did you?” For a moment, he and Trevor's eyes met, but he could only grin wider as he glanced to the side at Alistaire. “Let me introduce myself. My name is Christopher, Christopher Morris.” He pointed a finger, crooked towards Trevor as he leaned his head back with narrowed eyes. “It's nice to meet, brother. The ties of fate are indeed interesting, but nothing but ironic in the end. Trying to kill your own flesh and blood. The Morris' before us must truly be rolling amongst their graves!”

“M…Morris?! That's not…it can't be true!” Trevor shouted up to Christopher. “You're lying! No Morris has ever served the darkness!”

Christopher…

…is he really going away, dad? Why? What did he do?

“No…it's not…”

Your brother…Trevor, something's wrong with him. We have to send him away for a while.

But, I don't understand.

Trevor slowly sank to his knees, and could almost feel the energy slipping away from him. That last attack was draining, but nothing he couldn't take. This, though…he felt like he had been hit in the stomach by a cinderblock. “It's…it isn't true…”

I'll tell you when you're older, Trevor. Just pray, for now. Maybe, when he gets better, you'll see each other again someday.

“No! No, goddamn you!” Trevor howled, pounding at the ground. “He never told me! All dad ever said was that you were sent away because you were sick! Because the Church wanted to look after you! He never told me…never told me anything…” Slowly, Trevor looked back up, his face a mixture of sorrow and deep, burning anger. He would have cried, if he thought he could spare the energy. “Christopher…is this the real reason you were sent away? Because dad was afraid of your power?” he whispered, though he was certain Christopher could still hear him. “Oh, God…I thought you were dead…dad told me, the monastery you had been in was destroyed… But I knew that you weren't dead! I just knew it!” he continued, raising his voice, and staggering back up to his feet. “I knew if I searched long enough, I'd find you! I never gave up hope…even though dad disapproved…I had to find you. I had to! Because I wanted to know why things turned out the way they did. Why did Simon send you away? Why did you have to leave us?”

Trevor's tight fists slowly loosened, and the last of the energy given to him dissipated as he did. It was obvious to tell, just by looking at him; his very aura seemed to diminish, and eventually fade away. Not a trace of power was left inside him. The Silver Herald flashed once, and was silent. The slayer took a few stumbling steps backwards, and slid down to the ground when he bumped against a light post. “And this…this is my answer,” he muttered, looking down at his hands. “Christopher…you were never sick…you were twisted. All my life, I've been searching for you, and this is the end of it. My brother is the Devil.” Trevor rested against the light post, and looked up into the sky. If Christopher had pulled out a gun, he didn't think he had the energy to move. “Devil…”

Her body felt as though it was on fire, she was hot and cold as the same time- after all of that, Ana Gordon was practically down for the count. Green eyes were lifeless and void as the angel guided her down to the pavement; Lux didn't realize that even by trying to protect Ana, his holy touch had caused her damage too. His fingertips had burned into the skin on her shoulder, while numerous cuts and scrapes were left behind from his wings. “All of this…” Lux had tried his best to protect his master, only to fail horribly- perhaps it was just better for him to let Ater take control. “I caused all of this…I did this to you..” After casting Trevor a worried glance, Lux returned to his prison; he would rather stay there for an eternity than to ever harm her again. One thing remained on his mind, though- the fact that his brother had interfered.

“Ater, she's not going to be pleased when she wakes up.” Was all he could say, before being completely overcome by anger- to the point where he just couldn't talk. Somehow, he was going to make his brother pay for what he had done. All in due time. Lux had a few tricks up his sleeve, and after already having a few close encounters with Trevor Morris- he knew exactly how he could protect Ana for good.

For a while, everything was calm. Ana's chest barely moved up and down as she tried to breathe; the pain was still throbbing, everything hurt. She felt like she'd been hit by a speeding train. Faster than a speeding bullet…I got screwed up and I didn't even get to DO anything! At least her mind worked, keeping the rest of her body in line. Slowly, her eyes opened- and even while they were still glazed over, they darted from side to side. I can't believe this! Sean would be so disappointed…Ali would be disappointed. Mentally, she continued to beat herself up; Sean had warned her about the size of her ego and how it would be deflated someday. Well, shit couldn't possibly get more deflated than this.

Worthless…what if that little screw-up cost your friends their lives?! What about Ali? Hell- and even Trevor…What if he got hurt- wait…no, I hear him. He's not hurt. A sigh escaped Ana's lips as she began to breathe easier; she listened closely to everything that had been going on and judging by the sound of it, Trevor wasn't too happy.

“Tre..Trevor.” All of her energy went into making that one word come out, and once she realized that she couldn't do it anymore she just went back to saying things in her head. Yeah, your brother is the devil- so we do whatever we can to kill him. I'll help you, the best I can. Ali will too…

Alistaire's attacks had done no good, despite his burst of inhuman power. His speed and strength was for naught; the Devil of a man kept ducking and weaving away, only to finally humiliate him by leaping away and landing on one of several lamp posts still standing. He topped the cake by giving him a condescending look, and that sent Alistaire's blood boiling. He listened to the brother's conversation and let his mind wander, back to his upbringing. Morris, he repeated in his head. They were another line of familial Hunters. Generation upon generation, the descendents were brought up with knowledge of the occult and how to deal and contain the variety of things involved. Just like his own family, the MacCoules. He shook his head in sorrow, listening to their words. The thought of his father, or mother, or one of his sisters serving the Dark twisted his stomach into knots and made him want to puke. He could only imagine what the man named Trevor was feeling, and only put out sympathy for him.

Once again, Alistaire's blood began boiling. This man, the Devil man named Christopher Morris, was causing grief and anguish to them all in some way. Ana was lifeless on the ground. Trevor was in a state of disbelieving sorrow. The girl in Christopher's hand was now a puppet to be used as bargaining chip after bargaining chip. His eyes flashed with a fiery wave of passion and anger and Alistaire leaped to action once more; he was the only one left to do such a thing. And this Devil needed to fall. “Shu'up, you fucker, and get back down here!” Alistaire screamed, rushing forward and slicing the lamp post at the base, Stormbringer going through it with no resistance what-so-ever. Sparks began to leak and spray from the clean cut immediately. The post began to wobble, nothing holding it up any longer. Using momentum, Alistaire spun around and twisted, pulling his other .45 USP Tactical from under his left arm with his right hand and aimed at Christopher's heart. He pulled the trigger, and a resounding 'bang' followed.

Christopher turned to the banks of the Loire towards London, sitting inland on the Maine, an affluent of the greatest river; and he took a moment in time to attend a gathering shadowed by that things gracious interference, a gun built with the soul of a demon inside. In the interest of a splendor, not safety, the occultist obliged it. Anger was charming, if somewhat dark in aspect. He wondered if he was growing accustomed to massed humanity, cityscapes, and strangers being kept in check for all these years? Perhaps, he answered, in reply to his own questions. How enlightening to behold such a marvel! A gun, sealed with an angelic host, and a twin star. One sealed with a greater power of that of a demonic entity, he mused, in retrospect, and cracked a brief but alluding smile. Tell me, how long have you been kept held in that metallic prison – held by something who refuses to draw you in fear of your power?

Within the moment, Christopher found himself being led up a dark and narrow staircase, its steps made of that slate, quarried locally, which earns for the city the appellation. Indeed, the steps seemed hewn from obsidian; they were dark and smooth as the river's night-waters. At each narrow step he expected to slip backward down the whole lightless flight of stairs, for he was off-balance; even if this place was his own undefying existence. At the top, he noticed, a landing of nothing, but stood at the top over-looking the aforementioned scenes through the feel and eyes of both holstered weapons.

And then, how long do you plan on staying held within these bounds? It was surprising to see, but the occultist out-layed a hand and pointed to the darker of the two within its own accosted mind, through intervention of its blackened anger. He would of noticed the surprised look from the demon, but only if he had cared to do so. Before him, stood the exact opposite of the holy form that produced Trevor's power, a being clad in the blackest of armor and the blackest of wings, frilled with the enraging color of crimson blood. It looked somewhat enigmatic in that state, compared to its compact and ungiving form of the present.

You.., it began, turning its head to only give him a glance, as if to size him up before truly giving the man its full attention. How do you have the right to meld with the casings of my bindings and speak with me as you do now?

The man grinned a lop-sided grin, and folded his hands within his pockets as if to think on the demons question for a moment. His only answer, however, came in the form of a dynamic whisper. Because I can..

A second entity, although not as apparent, had made the scene as well; the holy host no doubt – as it appeared in all its bright glory; shimmering wings of gold and white that produced a searing light – but the counter-balance of darkness to the light absorbed most of it and turned it into only a dim, but of still noticeable light. For a second, the occultist stood in shock at how this one could enter a world of darkness, his world, but the sudden feeling between the two was enough for both his mind and questions to be put at ease. They were linked, it seemed.

It spoke, suddenly, the one clad in light armaments and silver gauntlets. You dare come here, as if you own the place? Its voice was booming and hard, but he ignored it and simply closed his eyes. You were but lucky due to the interference of this one, but now you will not be able to— The talking ceased, as the angelic hosts words vanished; the surrounding nothingness engulfed its presence and swallowed it mercilessly within. It twisted and cast its body back into that of its own bounded place and sealed it there from interrupting, for the moment being. Demon to human, was more his style. Those of light were of no push-over, even for him; but in his world, the one he created to talk to this gun, this thing – was more over-powering then its burning power. He turned, faced the demon again with eyes wide open, and took a step forward if only to appear in front of him as the demonic influence before him turned his head back to the front and glanced at the intruder. If it was amused, it hardly showed it with its unchanging and uncaring eyes, but the vibe and aura he picked up from it was somewhat of a mixed gesture.

You're wondering, I know; I can read your thoughts and what you are thinking. How did I accost him from here? Simply, all this around, this world; this is the fiber of my being. Hardened by darkness, resides in nothingness. No light, just a never ending depthless of absolute nothing. He paused, ran a hand through his hair, though only a thought in his head, the image of him within the world followed through the thought making it reality there. Why stay here, stretch your power and join us. No, me. I will allow you the pleasure of using your energy at will, without holding you back. Christopher continued, becoming suddenly serious. Will you, I ask? His hand out-reached, the man in brown held up his hand as if to shake. A long pause occurred, one that seemed to stretch on for an indefinite period of time before the beast before him raised up a hand and went to shake, but the occultist lost control over the world suddenly, as the world around him echoed for him to turn around.

Eyes snapped to the side as Alistaire cut the pole, leaving him suspended in the air by his own power – forcing the wind to hold him aloft, and when he turned and pulled out a gun, then fired; he stood face to face with a rather courageous or stupid man. Things slowed, and the bullets speed became engulfed in a spark of hellfire. But as fast as that came, an arrow of sudden speed split through the air and just barely missed its target as a dark touch came from the reaches of space and deflected it to the side; strewing it effortlessly to the ground. Again, he owed that thing his life. Twice. With attention turning back to the closer approaching bullet, the occultist put out his hand – palm first to the angle of its trajectory and ran a finger in a circle amidst the air; a swirling purple disturbance of negate air formed, circling in respect. Ungrasping his power, Chris let time go and watched as the bullet slammed head on into the occurrence that was as thin as a sheet of note book paper and vanished.

He saw the one who fired the arrow at the same time through the corner of his eye, and watched as she prepared a second arrow that had his name written all over it. The crossbow, or bow; he couldn't tell, was being loaded with another arrow into the string and pulled back as careful aim was being taken. This would be her last shot and it would hit its target if it were to kill her. She fired, the speeding arrow became one with the wind as it carried it towards the one it was to hit–as it crossed the spaces with precise speed it seemed as if it was going to nail its intended victim with no trouble, but again; the swirling gate of negate energy opened and took the object for its own. She would of cursed if she had the chance, but the occultist only redirected both shots for an instant and corrected the gravity when it opened before her very eyes right in front of her. A step back, but it was too late already. With it in reverse force, the gate spit the arrow back out at the same speed it entered and struck her in the side, puncturing her kidney before going through to her back. An ear piercing scream, and ragged breath, until the end came as Alistaire's bullet shrieked from the gout and struck her in the neck – severing her vocal cords and jugular vein as it passed through the warm flesh and impeded itself into a rustic stone wall. The scene of death was like an opera to him, amazing and over before one knew it.

The girl, struck twice, fell over dead into a pool of her own blood and choked back once as her eyes rolled to the back of her head. It was over, for her. Her last shot did kill her, but unfortunately for her and lucky for the occultist, she hit the wrong person – herself.

Trevor barely had time to react, between the few seconds that the grisly scene started and ended. As quickly as she had arrived, Christopher neatly dealt with her, and his partner was dead. His sorrow temporarily vanished by a chilling anger, Trevor staggered up to his feet, and ran to where she was lying, in a steadily-increasing puddle of her own blood. The arrow and bullet were redirected with frightening precision. She had probably died the minute the bullet struck her throat. “Jadziin…no…oh, God, no…” Trevor got back up and spun around, flashing his brother a bitter stare. “There wasn't any need for that! You knew she wasn't a match for you alone, Christopher! First Kris, and now, my partner…I don't understand! Why are you doing this?! Our family is full of protectors and healers! None of this makes any sense!”

Christopher stayed there, aloft in the air with bittersweet amusement playing behind his dark eyes. “Match for me, alone? Did you forget, dear brother, the odds? The last time I checked,” he stopped moving to the side as he stretched out a hand to the side to show all the gathered players. “It was only one against three. Four was too much, so I simply.. evened the odds a bit! But don't despair, or cry over her. She was nothing significant in the end. Just a weak mortal,” he continued, a sudden edge coming to his voice. “Your family is the protectors. I was cast aside for what I am! You and dad humbly await your natural ends, and would gladly give up your life to save humanity. However, I am the curse of humanity, and I am bound to see it destroyed.”

“I am your enemy. The last thing you'll see before death.” It was the first time in the awhile that all was calm on the London street. The wind was cold, filled with the death of one, and the skies clouded as if to release rain to show they were mourning for the loss. The silence and still moment was broken however, as Christopher touched down to the ground next to Alistaire, and parted the air with a gravity well correction. As quickly as it appeared, the occultist gave a mocking salute to all those around, and imparted a single message to Ater before he sunk within the portal and it disappeared; man, girl and all. I'll return..

The Portal closed behind Christopher Morris and Autumn, leaving thin air charged with heavy traces of dark majicks. The explosions and lights that has disturbed the night sky left subtle scars in the planes that inhuman creatures could easily perceive, along with those Humans who had learned the Arts or their distortions. Slight energy arcs still lingered, breaking their way through the air particles back to their elements – air, earth, water… Shimmering ponds on the paved street disappeared slowly – they could last till sunrise. On the street, the blood that sprouted from Jadziin's wound had turned into a faint stream, forming a pond of a different sort beneath her body, dampening her clothes and her hair as the stunned humans watched the scene. A shadow came off the thicker shadows – a Shadow that didn't bear the taint of Evil. With a hushed sound of her feathery wings, a raven hovered over Jadziin's body and perched on her dead body. The raven clicked her beak, shaking her wings before neatly folding them on her back with a caw. The bird's eyes were of a deep blue, filled with a myriad suns; her black color was the deepest black humans eyes had ever seen. The raven seemed to seek something near the corpse's wound, catching a strange, ethereal silver thread which she cut with her beak.

A sphere of silverish light seemingly came out of the dead woman's body, like a firefly in her resplendence but stronger and different, like the halo Renaissance painters show around the heads of the saints. The raven delicately caught the light and put it beneath her wings. The light disappeared. The raven rose her head and stared at the group, her eyes shining. Allover the dead body laid Moloch's taint, strong as it was on the Mortal who had killed Jadziin and kidnapped Autumn. On Trevor the taint was ever so much more subtle. Azrael laid her eyes on the demon blood Huntress and her companion; on the angel brothers and their ever going quarrel – a warning was sent to the brothers. The Archangel of Death and Destruction took flight and disappeared into the night with the soul she had collected.

Trevor's eyes met with the raven's as the bird flew into view, and perched on Jadziin's body. His dark omen had returned. The prediction had come true. Thus, like the sad, presaging raven that tolls the sick man's passport in her hollow beak; and in the shadow of the silent night, doth shake contagion from her sable wings. He couldn't remember where he had heard that snippet of literature before, but it rang in his head like a church bell all of a sudden. This time, though, the raven didn't even pause to exchange glances–it swooped down, took…something…and left, as quickly and mysteriously as it had arrived. What had it took? What was that silver cord…?

I am the Dark One This is the Sigil of my Name written on the Dark side of the moon. If you can read and understand, the Time for your answers is closer.

“…an angel,” Trevor whispered, watching the bird fly away into the night. “An angel of death was following me. Were you just watching, and waiting…?” He got back up to his feet, and ran off in the direction the raven had disappeared in. He couldn't see the raven against the dark curtain of night, but he didn't care anymore. He knew she was listening. “Tell me! Tell me why you followed me! What kind of curse is it that makes the angel of death watch me?!” Trevor continued to run for what seemed like forever. Ana and MacCoule didn't seem to even exist in his thoughts anymore. He saw ravens and black feathers everywhere; each corner he turned around brought only more darkness than the last. Exhausted and heartbroken, Trevor finally gave up, and fell to his knees, staring at his reflection in a puddle of water. This is what it had all come down to. He was lost and alone, in the dingy streets of a city his great ancestor had come from, but now, he was just another stranger. Another stranger with a dead partner, a kidnapped companion, a demonic brother, and a headache big enough to land a helicopter on.

BEER

“Wha…?

BEER

Trevor looked at the blinking blue lights in the water. Beer? He looked up, and found what must have been the most secluded bar in the entire city, staring him right in the face.

BEER

Beer, dammit. Screw it all, he reasoned. The world was on its own. His Silver Herald was drained, his friends and what little family he had left was gone, and his partner was dead. The next time anybody saw Trevor Morris, he would be swimming in the bottom of the filthiest, cheapest bottle of the most god-awful bathtub gin London had to offer. With any luck, it'd kill him.

Perched on a dim, blinking streetlight, Azrael shook her tail as she saw Trevor was following her – his special senses allowed him to perceive her angelic trace, even though he was mentally and physically exhausted. Azrael clicked her beak. Azrael watched Trevor stagger into the bar. The ebony bird flew down and landed on the paved, poorly lightened street; swaying lightly as she walked, the bird slid inside the local, jumping over people's feet and avoiding obstacles. Unnoticed in the twilight inside the bar, the raven followed Trevor's unsteady steps.

Lurking in the shadows and staying unnoticed were two of old Daman's pastimes. The present-day Daman usually didn't bother himself with such trivial affairs as the fight that blossomed before his eyes. The demon had been drifting about the city, when he sensed a strain between good and evil. Well, this is a turn of events, he thought to himself, slightly amused. Daman didn't feel like getting involved in this classic struggle tonight; it was a thing of the past, something he had put behind him when he had returned to England. But before he knew where his legs were taking him, he was a spectator to the brawl, gray eyes pinpoints of light in the otherwise gloomy shadows. He was delighted with Christopher Morris, and how coolly he dealt with his foes. At Trevor Morris his eyes narrowed. It was the disgraceful demon hunter in the college a couple days back…

Then he spotted her. Ana, if Daman could remember correctly. She was sprawled across the ground, looking worse for the wear. Something in Daman wanted to make him the hero. To be the savior of this. Why, he had no idea. Normally in circumstances like this, the demon would either walk away, or join in on the bloodshed. There was something special about her though, and it made him feel queasy. Why shouldn't I help her? But then again, why should I? After all, it's none of my concern… Again Daman's body reacted much quicker than his powerful mind. He entered the outskirts of the skirmish, and bent down, gently scooping the girl in his arms. Lifting her was a strain on his back, from wounds long ago… He froze then, like a deer in headlights, unsure of what to do next. The fight had mostly broken up now, as Christopher and Trevor had vanished. Daman turned quickly, shrouding himself in the darkness once again. He was almost certain that the other fellow in the fight, Alistaire, had seen him. Demon hunter was scribbled all over his face, and Daman didn't need any more trouble than he already had on his hands. After all, he had practically kidnapped an acquaintance for no apparent reason within the working of his twisted mind. He had saw her there, and now he had no choice but to flee, carrying the girl's dead weight in his arms.

The demon passed what he thought was the solitary Trevor, poring out his woes to a puddle. Well, that was something odd and slightly delightful to Daman, and it pulled newfound adrenaline into his aching arms. Something was irrational about this whole night. Maybe something is irrational about me…

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER TEN

“Oh… uh… thanks!” Michael was never one to be speechless or even blush at the comments from girls. He received them all the time! But the mention of her friend loving his music, he could feel the heat rising at the back of his neck. He recognized the girl… Allison… being the one to dance with the brown-eyed angel he picked out in the crowd. Finally Michael managed to recovered his charm enough to speak. He rubbed the back of his head as he spoke. “I'm glad you appreciate both my music, Allie. I'd love to meet your friend, though, if that's alright…” He peered over her head scanning the crowd for the girl. Finally he locked eyes with her waiting at the bar, a glass of water in her hand. Water in a bar…? No less for an angel I think…

Before Allison could answer some putz when flying through the air, landing on some other putz… both causing the place to erupt in a mass swinging of fists. Michael inwardly groaned at the choice of club. The place wasn't known for getting dirty, but it wasn't the best in town either. As security was being called in, Michael grabbed Allison by the arm and lead her safely through the crowd, making sure to deck the lights out of anyone that tried to make a grab at her, or dumb enough to swing at him.

Rishta sipped her water and calmly blinked as a small fight started on the dance floor. By now, all of her friends had escaped (except Allie) and were probably headed to the diner across the street. However, Rishta stayed in her seat, not daring to attempt to cross the dance floor to get to the door. That, would probably be suicide. She wasn't a small person, but she didn't want to get into any fights – or worse, accidentally hurt someone. Rish was more of a pacifist. Wonder if Allie will head here or outside… she'd prolly come here. I'd better not move. Looking around at all the people and authorities, she sat there, trying not to cause any trouble.

“You *beeeeeeeeeeeep*!!! Get your hands OFF of me!!!” Allie screeched as she punched a dark haired man who had tried to steal her away from Michael's solid grasp (which was prolly a piece of heaven right there). Being the stereotypical Italian, she had a very hot temper, even though it rarely flared. But when it did… she'd probably be able to scare the whole world away with that cussing. Meanwhile she hoped Michael wouldn't be offended by her language and actions. Grabbing a hold of Michael's arm, she dragged him off while he tried to protect her. Within minutes, there were at the bar, and out of harm's way for the moment. Smiling brightly at her friend, she gave a slight wink – as though to say she had finally captured HER man.

“Rish, meet Michael. He wanted to meet you.”

“Uh… okay… um, hi. I loved your music – you really are talented.” Needless to say, Rishta was only 'slightly' flustered by his interest, and Allison's possessive grip on Michael's sleeve.

“Evenin' angel… I'm afraid this isn't the best place to chat however…” It was more than a few moments after her spoke that something went up in flames. It seems he wouldn't be doing another set tonight. The others were already packing up their stuff for a quick escape. “Stay.” He ordered both the girls as he dived back into the crowd and made his way to the stage. Katt gave him a curious glance as he quickly shoved his guitar in to it's case, then swung the strap over his neck. If the club was going down, pretty girls or not, he wasn't leaving his baby behind!

Taking only a few moments to swing his way through the crowd, he returned back to the girls. “We need to go! Now!” The fire near the center of the crowd had quickly spread to other parts of the club. The front doors were getting jammed with people trying to escape, and there was something completely unnatural in the mix, though he had not yet met it face to face. He didn't want to stick around long enough to find out either. Taking both girls by the arm, Michael led them from the bar to one of the side exit doors for escape…

It didn't take Ana too long to get to where Trevor had been sleeping; curse her good heart and kindness for allowing her to spend some money that she wanted to spend later on the next day at the lingerie shop. Sometimes, saving money just didn't matter- it would all go away anyway. Arms crossed over her chest, Ana only had to say a few measly words before she was brought to where he had been locked up for the night. “Stay right here, beautiful- we'll go get the keys…” The scary guy that looked like a chemistry experiment gone wrong gave her a toothless grin before slowly hobbling down the dark hallway. Ana was actually kind of scared, and her hand was hovering over Lux. By the looks of it, Trevor wasn't too happy about being there- and it seemed like he had seen a ghost.

“Funny meeting you here.” Ana smirked once Trevor caught eye contact with her, tucking a few loose strands of hair behind her ear. She glanced down as a chubby rat skittered past her feet; the girl was tempted to kick it and send it across the hall, but her better judgment kicked in. It also kicked in, when Lux began to speak. Damn interruptions. “Ana…I feel like something's wrong. Grab the hunter that's not Ali and let's get out of here.” Lux's voice was urgent, and it caused her to jump slightly as she waited for a guard to open Trevor's cell.

What…is it Ali? Is Ali in trouble? A strong sense of worry came over the girl just then, and she looked impatiently down the hall for someone to come open up the door.

“Hey…could somebody put a fucking move on? Now?!”

Trevor gave a dissatisfied grunt at Ana. “Yeah. Real funny. This entire trip has been one great big chuckle-fest.”

The guard eventually came back, keys in hand, and calmly opened Trevor's cell door. “I don't know why you're doing this,” he said to Ana, eyeballing Trevor warily. “He's a criminal! Blew up government property, he did!”

“Blow, lardass!” Trevor shouted once he was out of his cell. The guard was obviously upset, but there was little he could do about it now, save shooting Trevor a dirty look, and leaving the room. “I swear, this whole damn country is off its freaking rocker. First that goon in the coat, and now this…I just can't catch a break.” Trevor put his gear back on, and turned back to Ana, tugging on his gloves. “Thanks again for the bail,” he said, still without smiling. “You can just drop me off and Kris' house. All my spare equipment is there.”

Once the two had left the jail, she idly reached for her car keys- fumbling with the lock. Lux's voice hadn't come at all after it had in front of Trevor's cell- but she still had quite a bit of urgency to get back to the club. “Would you mind…if we went back to where I was? I….forgot something there.” Smooth way to lie, even to someone that could probably read you like the side of a cereal box. It didn't matter- because either way, Ana had to get back to that club and check out on that guy in the coat…he was far too suspicious.

While she was starting the car, Ana had a slight sense of de ja vu…”guy in the coat”..wait, no- that couldn't possibly be the same person, could it? she furrowed her brow and hauled ass back to the club, concentrating on that creepy feeling that the man in the club had given her earlier. “…what did the man in the coat look like?” It was a shot in the dark, but the possibilities of the things in London could be endless.

Trevor glanced over at Ana. She had a death-grip on the steering wheel. What was she so nervous about all of a sudden? “He was a bit taller than me, and he had on this long brown coat,” Trevor said, turning to look out the window. Streetlights shot past as Ana sped down the street, headed back to where she had come from–wherever that was. “Dark hair, dark eyes…a real creepy aura, though. It was like looking at a revenant, or some kinda weird demon. He's human, though.”

And he looks familiar.

Trevor pushed that idea out of his head. “Anyway…London's a big place, and I scared him pretty good. I seriously doubt I'll see any trace of this guy for the rest of the trip.”

Ana calmed down as they neared where the club had been, listening to Trevor's description of the man. He was right, it couldn't have been the same person…but it didn't matter- that creep that she saw in the club rubbed her the wrong way and she was about to try and find out why. Human or no- he gave off a really bad vibe.

For some reason, the streets got more and more crowded as they went on- it always made her wonder why traffic went up when she had somewhere to be. It was just another way for God to let her know that he controlled things around here…well, perhaps he was mocking her a little bit too. Ana Gordon always felt the need to help whomever she could, and it was going to take something catastrophic to make her realize that she couldn't always be there.

“I've got equipment in the trunk, if you'd like to use it. Sorry about the little detour…” Her urgency was boosted when she noticed that fire trucks and ambulances were going in the same direction as they were, and she cursed a little under her breath. “Fucking traffic….dammit!” It wasn't a good time to lose her cool, but she couldn't help it- between Lux's nagging and her suspicion about the main the coat, Ana was close to just parking the damn car and going on foot. “I hate this place.”

Belial walked through the crowd, heading to the bar. Something strange was happening and it might as well deserve his attention. Alistaire was still following him. The Fallen hastened his pace and suddenly bumped into someone he recognized before looking at her face. An explosion was heard and the crowd swirled like the tide around them, forcing him to stop to keep his balance. A presence he had sensed before came out with the sound and yet his eyes didn't see the man, he knew who was he. Belial looked at the person he had bumped into as the crowd pushed in the opposite direction. “… what are you doing here?”, Belial blinked slowly in surprise.

“Apparently getting ran over by everything in existance!” she snapped in reply. Her anger was still seething from her encounter with Luc, and then her evening plans had to be dashed by a riot. She briefly wondered why she even bothered to speak to angels or humans alike. Noticing Belial's company, her anger quickly melted away to a mild curiosity. He was not one to interact with others and his current choice of company was a far cry from anything she had expected. Genesis placed her hands at her hips, concealing the wince from the pain at her side. “You have not come to see me for some time, Beltrán. You are past due for an appointment.” she chided. “Will you introduce me to your friend?” curiously she looked over Alistaire.

“….” Belial frowned, annoyed. “I guess I've been distracted”, he said, biting his lip. It didn't sound like an apology at all. He absolutely hated those appointments. He loathed having to report to Genesis and talk to her about his private life – all his life was private by now – plus he didn't take in her counseling all that well… mainly because he didn't trust her too much, just like he didn't trust anybody… but Azrael. And Azrael was never around! It could get quite upsetting. At least his Book was safe from Genesis' scrutiny, for only the Council of their Order and the Council of the Order of Knowledge were given access to it. It was good enough they gave it back as part his test. As far as he knew he could stay on trial forever and he'd have Genesis for psychologist for the rest of his life.

“Friend?” Belial cast a sideways glance to Alistair. “Well… Genesis, meet Mr. Alistaire MacCoule. Alistaire, meet Miss Genesis D'Allesandri”. The crowd was pushing still, smoke coming out heavily from the bar's doors. Belial moved aside so Alistaire could face Genesis. “Mr. MacCoule has a piercing curiosity for the occult”, he said with a sort of smirk, letting it to Genesis' imagination to wonder why this man was following the Necromancer.

Alistaire muttered under his breath as he tried to keep up with Belial through the crowd. The man was quite nimble and agile, and was bobbing and weaving through the crowd far easier than he could. Lets not forget about Stormbringer, either; the massive thing on his back was proving to be far more of a drawback than anything right now, serving him strange looks and making it harder to keep up with the enigmatic man. He kept up, however, and found himself right outside the club and right behind Belial. There came a sudden explosion and Alsitaire jumped out of reflex, ducking his head under a hand and trying to shield himself from whatever may happen. He looked back up after the passing of a split second and saw a fire building up inside of the club. He looked back to Belial and now noticed he was speaking to someone, another woman. This man seemed to have quite a few ladies in his life…

“Yes, I'm Alistaire MacCoule.” He nodded his greeting and offered a quick hand, his Scottish accent as heavy as ever. “A shame we cannae be introduced under lighter circumstances.” He said, nodding towards both the crowd and the club, smoke billowing out of the entrance. “And I dun have a bloody curiosity for it! Well, I do… but I arready know aboot it!” He bobbed a thumb and pointed to a cowering woman who was as pale as they get, with raven hair and ruby red lips and a beauty that could draw any man. “Like her– she's a bloody vampire. Or a wannabe, anyways. Her guy pal prolly just turned her a week or something ago.”

“I see. Quite perceptive aren't you.” Genesis decided he was some sort of slayer and was trained in the arts. Only someone with a trained eye would be able to tell the difference between a vampire and a junkie going through withdrawals. This piqued her curiosity about the man tagging along with Belial. He would have much to tell her in their next appointment. Something at the club turned, and shifted the balance. She glanced over her shoulder with a frown as some dark power was summoned, though the summoner had quickly made their exit. The taint was annoying familiar, and Genesis was well aware that the shift of balance was going to make her soul retrieval all the more difficult. Her anger returned again, this time directed at Belial. His magical genius of soul melding only brought her grief in the years as many tried to mimic his 'sucess' by stealing and melding souls to revive the lost or sealed.

As a more personal interest, Michael was just inside. He had no memory of his past life, and no power to protect himself or the others being harmed. She had a special like for his music, and it would be a shame if he died so soon. “We should interfere, Beltrán. The authorities will not be able to dispel the trouble on their own.”

“Interfere?” Belial frowned, visibly annoyed at the idea. “I am not supposed to interfer! I am not supposed to follow orders from you, mind you. I am not… even supposed to be here!”, he protested in frustration as Genesis didn't seem to care about his objections and walked into the club. Belial's silver eyes flashed in the cloud of smoke as he followed her through the door, in a clearly unnatural way. Let humans deal with their own problems! He had enough problems of his own.

Belial glanced back to see if Alistaire was following. He was gone. All I wanted was a drink…

Like if life in this world has ever been peaceful… It's rather normal, in fact.

We're not supposed to…

Belial bit his lip as his self-conscience split in two again, forcing him to re-focus his mind. Another sign of stress… Maybe he really needed a psychologist.

Genesis walked in to the bar, smoke stinging her eyes, and the screams of the humans ringing in her ears. She could not tell why they were so hysteric, from the fight, the fire, or the creature that man had set loose in the middle of the club. There were two she could perceive. The snake like thing slithering across the floor, nipping at people's legs… and a larger beast out side the club, no doubt doing the bidding of it's summoner. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted Michael fleeing with two girls. It was with great amusement she saw the former angel Rishta. It was an interesting twist of fate, something she would think on later. Her attentions were drawn to the creatures loose in the club.

Belial waded through the crowd, avoiding hits from the brawl with amazing ease. The place was filled with smoke and the taint from the beast was multiplying as it infected more humans. Many lamps had been knocked down or broken, and the lighting was very poor. Michael made his exit, pulling tow girls along – Rishta was with him. Belial let out a subtle snort. Belial made his way to the bar and pushed some limp bodies out of his way as he got behind the counter. He ducked behind the thick counter to dodge a flying bottle and when he rose back, the drunk guy laying on top of the counter was not quite wrong when he seemed to get double vision. Aramis left the bar with a frown and Angel stayed where he was, checking the bar's surviving liquors.

Aramis summoned the Staff of Simara in the shape of a walking cane and scanned the floor with it, using the Staff to canalize his awareness to the floor level. He saw the snake, which slithered past Genesis. Aramis passed by her, following the beast. He finally was able to touch its tail with the Staff, breaking the beast into its original Elements, bringing its unnatural life to an end. Aramis moved aside to prevent being knocked down to the floor by the fighting mob and went back to Genesis. “The taint will cease soon by itself”, he said. “Well, in a few hours…” Aramis shrugged. “Let us leave this place”.

Angel joined them with a glass of a yellow, clear liquor. “You don't expect me to clear out the taint, do you? It'll disappear without my help”. He sipped his drink, indifferent to the general fight and the people trying to escape from the smoky room.

“You've done enough…” Genesis replied, as she slowly eyed the room. The presence was fading from the club, though it was strong outside… along with other forces. It was curious, but now that her personal interest was resolved, she preferred to avoid the conflict. And her side still hurt. Genesis trained her attention to Belial. Now spilt as the 'brothers'. This physical manifestation of his alternate personalities was a rare thing to see now. The fact it even happened was a unique case she enjoyed to explore. Another lesser explosion of fire in the building disrupted her thoughts. If she wanted to start a session, this was not the place. “Join me for a talk. Your new friend is a curiosity to me.”

Angel coolly sipped his drink and Aramis made the Staff disappear. Standing side by side they were a reflection of each other, exact to the last detail, but still one of them was Dark and the other was Light. Aramis' angst might have receded in appearance and Angel's hatred had turned into a simmering fire beneath a thin layer of ashes, but their eyes had not changed… much. “You don't need to work extra hours because of me!”, Angel said with a exaggerated expression of surprise, in sarcasm. “I wouldn't want to interrupt your leisure time”. He sipped his drink.

Aramis frowned slightly. “Let us leave”, he told them. “We could talk outside… I have a bad feeling”. A chair crashed on the wall, putting out some blue neon tubes which formed words on the wall. The police sirens could be heard outside, coming down the street. Aramis dragged the both of them to the emergency exit.

Being unceremoniously dragged out of the club through the emergency exit, along with Angel in tow was not the elegant exit she would have preferred to of made, but it made an amusing site nonetheless. Outside the burning club, she straightened her clothing and dusted herself off. The black of the fabric hid the stains, but she had a bothersome smudge on her face that didn't seem to want to rub off. Even in her casual clothing, she couldn't stand not looking neat. “My leisure time was already interrupted before I stumbled in to you. No need to feel guilty about my time.” Still fussing over her disheveled looks, Genesis starting walking in the opposite direction of the club. She assumed Belial would follow, and if not, well… It wouldn't be the first time tonight someone decided to walk away!

“Your bad feelings are justified. There is much amiss. More work for me I suppose…” Between the magical explosion in the background which lit up the city sky for several moments, and Lucifer's sudden strange visit it was no wonder everything was out of balance. Genesis did not like the current coming together of souls. It spelled bad news, and she didn't appreciate anything disrupting the flow of her work.

Aramis followed Genesis, much to Angel's displeasure. He tossed his glass over his shoulder and followed the two. It would be best to make sure Aramis wouldn't speak all their mind out. Aramis pulled his coat collar around his ears. There was a huge explosion and it lit up for several moments; the light was reflected in his silver eyes as he looked up into the night sky. “A dark arts user is at work. I felt a presence earlier… It carried Moloch's taint in his blood”. Aramis's eyes showed melancholy, but he didn't add more.

“There's two brothers with Moloch's taint”, Angel muttered. “She cursed their ancestor”. Angel's eyes shimmered cold, as if he expected Genesis to drop a censoring comment about his past next and he didn't care. “I remember that day”. He wondered where could Moloch be.

“They're going to tear up half the city…” she mused out loud. Genesis was not a fan of senseless destruction. The taint left by Moloch had only grown stronger in the Morris bloodlines over the years. She suspected it was all a part of the balance… fate as many liked to call it. Though the balance was heavily shifting toward the sinister side. Especially if the Morris curse was any evidence of that. Still, the tidings of fate didn't concern her until it began to interfere. If the dark Morris was connected to Azazel as she thought, then it would prove to be a very bothersome problem. Genesis paused, realizing Belial had distracted her attentions from him to her own concerns. She was jumping thoughts too easily tonight. “Your friend, he is an occultist? Did you meet him by chance…?” she asked.

“….” Angel frowned. “Do you have to worry about him now? And what if he's an occultist?” Angel shrugged with elegance. “I don't know yet to what extent he's a practitioner of the Dark Arts. He's a Hunter, if I've seen one. A descendant of Finn Maccool”.

Aramis' gaze was still fixed on the subtle traces drawn in the night sky by the majicks freed in the cold air. “Maybe by chance, maybe not”, he said with a conciliative air. “That's still to be determined…”

Angel crossed his arms. “You look… distracted, Genesis. May I ask what has altered your sempiternal and evergoing routine? You seem out of balance, if I'm allowed the expression”. Angel narrowed his eyes, watching her while Aramis read the signs in the night sky, each brother concentrated on a different target.

“My distractions are none of your concern.” she snapped in retort, with more force than she intended to show. As if she'd explain her 'joyful' chat with Lucifer. Even if she deemed to talk of her private life, no one knew Lucifer was still walking the earth save for her and Azrael. Belial would also be a poor choice of telling, considering the history. The battle only a few blocks over had ceased. There was a dead set feeling that the worst was yet to come, but she hated to get dramatic. Worst or not, she would deal with it. “And all is right with the world once again…” Genesis said with a sigh. “I suppose you are free to go. You should make an appointment and see me this week. I promise not to be so distracted and make sure to have you tell me everything in great detail.”

As they walked next to some pedestrian-level neon announcements and behind these, Angel and Aramis merged back into Belial. He was skilled at this 'disappearing act'. “Well… I guess I should be thankful”, Belial reflexively said yet it was another of his sarcasms. “I'll call your secretary, then. Goodnight, Genesis. May you find some rest”. Belial nodded and left Genesis' side. Belial stopped and turned. Like a flash in the night, he had sensed Azrael was near. He stayed still for an instant, then continued on his way.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER NINE

The night was unusually cold. Personally, Belial was more fond of warmer

places and wholly different climates, not to mention he was more akin to Latin and Eastern

cultures; they seemed to go better with his peculiar personality and temper, despite he had been

worshipped in the Harz Mountains and he could count important deeds in the ancient Britain. His

past as the Necromancer, Demonlord and Archdemon marked many cultures in his wake but after

the strangest turn of his existence, Belial had deserted from the Armies of the Abyss, turning back

to the Angelic Host to be judged. To be honest, he had not exactly repented. It would be more

accurate to say he once again followed his own particular interests… or at least, that’s what he

thought. Belial had among other things the ability to deceive himself – or at least, part of himself

could deceive the other. After a rather unusual day at ‘work’ in the London University

Campus as professor, Beltrán Oliveros had found himself idle for the rest of the evening. Alone with

his thoughts, he went out for a walk. He had so many things to think about after all the strange

encounters of the day. His wanderings took him to the old part of the City still imbued with energies

from the past. A fight had taken place, he could clearly perceive and see. Beltrán turned invisible to

human eyes and crossed the perimeter set by the police with their yellow plastics, gathering his

wards to go unnoticed. He watched in awe. He could strongly perceive Azrael’s trace, for even

the slightest trace of her was more than enough for him to know she had been around. She was

gone however and he strongly wished…

Belial frowned slightly, trying to curb his feelings. A Fallen on trial has to be

patient and wait. He concentrated and carefully read the previous events – the two Morris had

fought. One held the Silver Herald. The other, a stronger version of Moloch’s taint.

Moloch… Belial tilted his head in melancholy. The stars where shining above. He turned and

left the ruins.

The streets were filled with cars and neon lights. The place had changed, a

few streets away from the ruins. Beltrán walked in the cold night, a perpetual dialogue in his mind.

He turned and entered an alley, crossed a street and wandered into a park with tall trees, the same

one where he saw Raziel before his demise. The night was cold and deep. Belial walked down a

small trail and after some time he perceived a familiar scent of human sacrifice. From the smell of

the blood, he could tell the human still lived. Belial stayed still for a second, then continued on his

walk till a strange scene came into view in the shade of an old, twisted tree in a secluded spot away

from the lightened area. It wasn’t very artistic and the sacrificing ground was full of

imperfections, hurriedly traced on the ground. Belial frowned. It was a simple man, busy trying to

kill a woman with very little skill. An impatient demon waited in the tree branches, obviously

annoyed. Belial dropped some of his wards, so the demon could see him in his human form. Belial

cast a binding spell, leaving the humans in suspended animation. The demon’s eyes

flashed and a circlet of fire rose around Belial, trying to burn him. A silver fire engulfed the red

flames, then both died out. The demon leapt on the ground, his whip-like tail wrapped around his

body, eyeing Belial with yellow eyes. He caused a greater fire to rise around him like a wall of

flames and it was equally eliminated.

“Nice trick”, the demon cautiously said, for he couldn’t yet make out

exactly what the stranger was. “You put out my fire. Are you a Great One from Below? I don’t

think you want a share of this”, he said licking his lip as he motioned to the humans.

“It’s a very poor offering, as you’ve noticed”.

“It’s true. I am not interested – and it’s one of the worse works

I’ve ever seen”.

“That might be true…” The demon glared but still smiled, his scales glistening

in the dim resplendence of the sacrificing ground. “What then brings you here? Your wards are

deep. There was a time London was infested with angels… but that is no more.. Unless…” The

demon cast him a suspicious glare. “Who are you?”

Belial smiled. “Can’t you decide where to classify me?”

The demon’s jaw set. “Let go of my dinner!”

Belial shrugged. “There was a time when I might have pleased you. You

can’t have those souls, though. I’m guessing you were going to kill the killer as

well”.

“Yes. He’s a dumbass pain”. The demon summoned a double ax. “It

might take me some time, but I’m sure I can chop your head off”, he declared “Great One or

not”. Belial slowly rose his hand and held his palm up. The demon thought at first he was going to

surrender and let go of his dinner, but then he saw a marking on the stranger’s palm in the

shape of a scythe… The demon howled. “You… you are the Necromancer, the damned angel

who tricked the demonlords!”

Belial blinked. “That one is new”, he muttered, summoning the Scythe of

Simara. The demon was pale in terror but he attacked – there was no use in showing fear. Belial

blocked the attack, spun the Scythe and chopped his head off. “I have bad habits”, he explained

as he collected the demon’s soul. He stuffed it in a small pot, sealed it and into his pocket it

went. Belial proceeded to remove the binding spell. The pole of the Staff hit the man’s back,

depriving his legs of motion. The woman had passed out, but the terrible cuts had already sealed

her fate. Invisible to their eyes, Belial had a slight feeling of compassion for her as her life came to

an end. Very slight. Belial collected the woman’s soul, sealed it into another pot and walked

away. The wind shook the branches with unusual violence. Making the Staff disappear and leaving

the park, he dropped his invisibility. He hadn’t changed his human form. Beltrán walked into

the night. It was the right time to go to that bar he recently discovered and get himself a drink.

Alistaire let out a steamy breath before lighting up a cigarette. He didn’t

normally smoke, but after waiting this long on such a cold night… hell, anything was worth doing if it

just warmed him up a bit. He sat idly under a tree and hidden behind several rocks in one of the

local parks not too far from his hotel, where he stayed with his partner, Ana Gordon. They were a bit

more than partners, but not too much more, considering their current relationship. He loved her,

but… there was just too much going on to expand their relationship. Or at least, that was what he

always told himself. He took a long drag on his cigarette before propping a fully-sheathed

Stormbringer on his shoulder. It jut out far above his head, but because the way the shadows

played on this part of the park, he and his blade were still practically invisible. His eyes were

sharp and his vision in the darkness almost as perfect as his vision at night. The only flaw was

that he couldn’t see as far as he’d like to be able to. Despite Ana’s wanting him to

join her at a local club, Alistaire just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to hunt. As soon as he

stepped out of the hotel, his creepy demon sense took over and drew him to where he was. All he

had to do now was wait for a visual of his quarry, because no matter how hard he tried, he could

never really use his demon sense to pinpoint and track fluently his prey.

He tossed his cigarette down and put the bud out with the hilt of a small knife

that he drew from his boot. He sighed and lolled his head back, looking up at the dark blanket of a

sky filled with little white dots. He shut his eyes and let out another breath.. and god knows how

much time had passed. He heard a stifled scream and his eyes fluttered open. He sat up quickly

and began to stalk the shadows, heading towards the origin of the sound. After a moment or two of

silence, he saw a man attempting to kill a woman, and his skill at doing so a horrid thing. He felt

obligated to try and help her when something caught his eye– his quarry. Grabbing his wicked

Claymore, Stormbringer, he moved closer and was no more than ten or fifteen paces away when

another figure suddenly shimmered into view. He ducked back into place when the other figure

suddenly appeared with as much sound as a pin dropping and watched as two fires burst around

him– it was definitely a him– and suddenly die out. The demon leaped to the ground and they

began to trade words. Feeling a bit uneasy, Alistaire drew his boot knife and pricked his palm,

drawing blood, and began to write a rune to mask his presence. It wasn’t a perfect spell, but it

would keep him hidden from magical detections. Or at least, magical detections that didn’t

involve heavenly or hellish doings.

Unable to fully make out their quiet voices, Alistaire crawled several paces

closer in time to hear the last bit of their conversation. “You… you are the Necromancer, the

damned angel who tricked the demonlords!” He caught as the demon lashed at the suddenly

armed man who was now not just a simple man. The demon was quickly cut down and Alistaire just

sat there in his shadow, nearly trembling in fear at what he had just witnessed. The man quickly

left the scene and, after only a slight moment, Alistaire collected himself and took a breath– and

began following him. I hope that rune holds up…, he thought to himself with a slight grin.

Belial pulled his coat around his ears as he walked. On the outer edge of the

park, a long row of 18th Century style street lamps tossed yellowish lights on a broad sidewalk.

Belial walked lazily. No one was waiting for him, so why to hurry up? He gazed up into the

night sky. There were a few rags of clouds but the stars still shone brightly to his unearthly eyes.

The lights in the city seemed to dim the starlight, but he could still clearly see constellations

humans would need a telescope to perceive. His heart ached but the pain had changed… for

she was distant, but not as distant as before. He opened his lips to mutter her name… but he

noticed he had allowed himself to be distracted and he was being followed. He perceived a human

soul and a ward to veil its presence. Somewhat tiredly, Belial turned and scrutinized the shadows

behind him.

Alistaire’s tracking was nearly flawless. He stepped into a very shallow

puddle once, and his metallic items jingled together on two separate occasions, but all in all– very

good tracking. He followed the man quite a distance while keeping a good distance himself. They

exited the park together, and he continued on for several paces until he stopped. Alistaire froze

and loosed the blade at his back, the tip of the scabbard nearly touching the ground; how he would

draw the blade was beyond any person’s logic, but he could do it, and very skillfully on top of

that. The man looked up and seemed to have the look of longing on his face. Alistaire could almost

sympathize for the man, as if he had lost a lover but not really. Knowing– albeit barely– what he

was sort of cut his sympathy short, however. He saw his lips move for just a second when–

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to follow me?”, Belial asked in a low voice

which was perfectly audible in an unnatural way. The nearest street lamp caused his tall form to

toss a strange shadow on the sidewalk distorting the outline of his long coat, almost in the fashion

of a winged form.

Alistaire swore silently and bit back the urge to duck back and hide, because it

would do him no good. The man, or whatever he truly was, was staring right at him through the

shadows. Hiding or running would do him no good, and give him the look of a coward, which he

was definitely not. If Alistaire was destined to die now, he would die with his sword in hand.

Holding onto his reserve with an iron grip, Alistaire stepped into the yellow lights that the street

lamps tossed about onto the sidewalk and kept his hands in his pockets. He was wearing all

black– black slacks, black boots with metallic-silver clampings, a velvet black shirt that clung to his

chest and a heavy, black leather jacket that flowed down to mid-thigh. He also wore a black choker

with a silver-cross hanging by a short chain and wore a wooden rosary that dangled down above

his heart. He looked to be unarmed, saved for the huge sword across his back, but he was far from

it.

“To tell ya the truth,” he began, his Scottish accent thick, “I don’t think

it’s a very safe or wise thing tae do– followin’ ya, I mean. But ye know..” His eyes

hardened a bit, the yellow light playing with his light-blue eyes, making a golden hue. “I do what I

do to help make this world a bit safer for everyone. If that means riskin’ mah neck at every

turn, well, then I’ll go ahead and risk it.”

Belial’s silver eyes brightened and his shoulders trembled with a brief,

unwilling snicker at the man’s words. He recognized Alistaire from the University hall that

morning when Rishta tackled him down but Belial showed no sign of recognition. “That’s very

brave to say”, he softly said, narrowing his eyes. “Safer for everyone… That’s very ambitious.

However, what does it got to do with me?” Belial’s eyes shimmered dangerously with inner

silver light as he cast a head-to-toes look at the Scotsman with an air of slight contempt. “Why do

you follow me?”

Alistaire leveled his eyes with the man’s own and made no sign of his

inner thoughts. His face was as hard as stone and the way the lights cast down it’s glare

only increased that effect. He stood with his back arced and his body lax, as if he wasn’t

scared at all. Quite the contrary. Alistaire was frightened out of his mind. Why? He couldn’t

say. There was just a feeling in the air. Something colder than whatever the London night could

produce. His muscles tensed involuntarily as the man spoke again, and Alistaire tried his best to

keep his poker gesture up. “Brave, stupid. It’s all the same.” He responded simply. He let

his eyes touch the man’s and a shiver went down his spine, but he continued on. He

wouldn’t be put down like a cowering dog. The contempt he felt from the man only

strengthened his resolve and leveled off his sense of being, and a lopsided grin spread over his

lips. It was a dangerous grin.

“Well, I suppose I should tell ye. Ain’t no use in gettin’ into a brawl and

havin’ no reasons, huh?” He moved his feet once again, and it felt as if he were trying to

uproot a tree at every step. He leaned up against the lamp post. “I saw ya back there– in the park.

You killed that demon like it was nothing, and that ain’t normal for a human. Which you’re not,

I’m sure. That means you’re some other hell spawn or something, ’cause angels

don’t walk this earth no more. If they did, a lot of things would be different, I can tell ya that.”

He nodded, punctuating his sentence.

A smirk formed upon Belial’s lips and it became more pronounced as

Alistaire spoke. He could perceive his fear both as an scent and from the fluctuations in his aura,

but it wasn’t what darkly amused the Fallen. It was his last phrase which called the most for

his attention. “That’s an adventurous statement”, he said. “However, I still don’t see why

you follow me… unless you want to challenge me. You’d do well to mind your own

businesses, mister. As for what I might be… you’ve been watching too much television.

Demons? I don’t know what you are talking about…” Belial pronounced the last phrase

slowly and emphatically. “I am a simple man going out for a walk”.

Alistaire kept his lax stance and crossed his arms as he leaned against the

lamp post. His fear was still at a heightened state, but now… he felt something in the back of his

mind. An almost soothing feeling. His grin stayed on his face with his new found sense of

confidence, and he barked a quiet laugh as Belial finished his words. “Don’t know what a

demon is, huh? Ah, well. Can’t blame ya for wanting to just chill out or maybe, stay

cool..” He began moving again with much more ease and emphasized his words with gaudy

hand gestures. He was now only three or so meters away from Belial– perfect striking distance for

either of them. “A simple man out for a walk is all ye are.. heh.. Alright, I’ll give ya that. I

don’t think you were out for any real purpose in that park, other than for that little walk of

yours.” He ran a hair through his blonde hair and tilted his head. “Though, as for you being a

man, well, I just can’t give ya that one. Nuh uh. Sorry.”

Belial’s brow twitched in irritation. “Well I guess I must feel relieved that

you believe me”, he said with a forced smile in irony as he narrowed his eyes again. “Frankly, I

don’t see why I should mind your appreciation about my nature. So if you are not going to do

something else, I’ll leave. Have a nice life”. Belial continued on his way, lazily walking

down the sidewalk. However, he was alert as he did.

Alistaire’s own brow twitched when Belial turned and walked off. This

wasn’t how it was supposed to be…, he thought to himself. I was to follow him and see

what other things he was up to, to see his true nature.. little things like that! His thoughts

trailed on like that for several moments as Belial continued on down the side walk. Alistaire

considered following him again, this time a bit more directly with Stormbringer drawn. Even if he

was some all-powerful demon from hell, his sword could more or less even the odds for as long as

Alistaire could stay alive. He watched Belial take a few more steps and he let out a breath before

running after him. He made sure to keep his steps at a casual jog and let out the aura that he had

no intention at striking him– just yet, anyways. Any demon could feel that. Hell, a normal

warrior could.

“Arright, I think we started off all wrong and everything.” He said as he

stopped just two paces behind Belial. A bit too close for comfort, he thought. “Okay, so

maybe yer not a demon. Okay– but still. Ye did some awfully strange shit back in that bloody

park.” His fear was practically gone. In its place was sense of curiosity. “I’ve never seen

any o’ it done before. Or, well, I saw that fire trick done a few times, but the scythe thing?

Totally new.”

Belial couldn’t really decide what annoyed him the most: if it was

Alistaire’s manners, his persistence or the fact that he didn’t have the slightest notion of

who he was talking to. It was definitely best he didn’t know, but still it somehow annoyed

Belial… yet he didn’t want to be ‘found’ again by mortals in general. “New,

eh…?” Belial’s frown deepened. “I don’t think you pretend to get explanations from me. I

insist, I’m just a man who’s out for a walk”. He didn’t turn to look at Alistaire, who

was indeed too close for comfort. Belial felt tempted to give him a personal demonstration and

collect his soul in the process. However, he knew he wasn’t supposed to do that… yet.

“May I point out to your notice, you are not welcome”. Belial headed

for the bars and nightclubs area, already visible from their location. Hopefully he’d miss the

man in the crowd. Yet he could perceive this man had something akin to a demon sense. If he were

still into his old activities, he’d find his soul some use. However… Belial looked at Alistaire

from the corner of his eye. “How did you get that thing past the Customs?”, he asked, alluding to his

sword.

Alistaire would’ve clasped Belial around the shoulders, or slapped his

back a few times– all while laughing– but for some reason, Alistaire had this strange feeling that

him doing so would result in… not good things. Instead, Alistaire just gave a light chuckle and

tucked his hands into his pant pockets. Not a good place to be, in case of a fight, but he was

confident in his reflexes and his ability to resist any and all spells. He’d be alright…. I

hope… “Well, insist all you want. I know what I saw, and what I see is usually correct because,

hey– I’m not simply going by what I see. Y’know?” He shrugged and let a half-arrogant

grin spread across his lips. He continued to follow Belial, despite what he wanted, and into the

night-owl’s district where clubbing, drinking, and sex was all rolled into one. A perfect place to

find demons and the like, and boy, was Alistaire’s demon sense going off here.

“Well, I may not be wanted.. but until you get rid of me, I’m prolly not

gona be going anywhere too soon.” He shrugged again and was a bit taken back when Belial asked

of his sword, but he took it all in stride. “It’s not too hard, y’see. My sword’s a…

special one, and, well… I can get it all over the place without too much looks. Travel by land and of

my own means, really, so I don’t worry about gettin’ my bag checked every ten minutes.

Of course, I can’t really carry it around during the day, but.. well, you get the general gist of

it.”

Autumn entered the club dressed in a simple pair of jeans and a shimmering

top. Strapped across her shoulder was her camera tucked away in it’s little leather case. So

she looked kinda of like a nutcase tourist toting it about, but nightlife was always the best time to

get photographs of the supernatural. Society would’ve shocked to know how many demons,

vampires, and overall creepy things liked to go clubbing. On second thought, most parents like to

claim all the ‘wrong’ sorts did and would only be proven right.

Picking a table out of the way of any crowds, she frowned at her phone

beeping at her belt.

Landed in jail. Shut up. Send J ASAP.

Autumn laughed out loud, surely getting a few odd looks. Quickly she typed in

her short message and smirked to herself.

Told U so.

Simple. Effective. Not that Joz was anywhere around, thank god. Though

Autumn would be sure to get rid of her if she spotted her. She could have gone to bail out Trevor

herself… but what was the fun in that? Served him right, and would keep him out of trouble!

Dancing forms of light and shadow
Torn by devil’s dragons of ancient rhyme
Singing praises of a lover’s arms
Heaven’s angel with eyes so kind

I don’t believe in anything but what I see today
It’s never just a simple thing when the world gets in the way
All I am is what I do and that’s all I wanted to say
All I have are the simple things, and baby that’s okay

Michael plucked at the strings of his guitar as he sang the lyrics of his music

to the tune. The club had just opened, though he and his band mates were still preparing for the

show later. Golden blonde hair hung in his eyes as he sang, his complete attentions trained to the

words of the song. When he played, it was like memories of a forgotten past he never had would

dance in his mind, teasing his senses.

Sweet angel of mine cease your tears
Living in a dream is never what it seems
But when I look in to your eyes
Time stops everything
My guitar for a kiss and my soul for those words
Just say ‘I love you’ and my heart is yours

I’ll never fear the darkness your light shines my way
Heavens gates aren’t really closed to those who run away
Dancing to an angel’s song we’ll remember the love of yesterday

Only a few stray people had ambled into the club so far. The same pack of

girls that seemed to be at every Forsaken gig was in the corner trying to catch his eye with

slim fitting clothes and painted smiles. But never have they been able to divert his attention as he

played. He was consumed by the sounds of the music, the words of the song. The song ended and

his guitar aside, Michael was all charm and all smiles. He talked with the girls, flirted as he always

did before leaving them to giggle and sigh. At the bar, he slid into a seat and ordered a drink before

he and his mates began the next set. Tonight he was uneasy, he doubted it was performance

nerves… on stage he was always at ease. But he couldn’t seem to shake the feelings of

discomfort. Sticking a cigarette into his mouth, he fumbled around his pockets for his lighter.

Even though they had left the college, Ana still couldn’t shake the

strange feeling she got from the boy back in the music room; after a nice bath, a not-so-nice

argument with her partner Alistaire (which resulted in some well-deserved make-up attention) and

an early dinner- Ana decided to take a look around the place where they were going to live. Of

course, things between her and Ali hadn’t gotten too far- the two of them always managed to

stop before anything that would make them more than partners would ensue. It was upsetting, but

the girl was used to rejection, if that’s what she could call it…the more time they spent

together, the closer they had gotten- and since the first day they met it grew. There had been big

fights, the occasional sharp tongue- but never once had either of them been so angry that they

would leave.

One would definitely leave after what had happened in their room a few hours

ago. Nobody was angry, it was the exact opposite- but she had to leave so she wouldn’t crowd

him. This time, she told him exactly where she was going- and that she wanted him to come

along…when he was ready. Alistaire knew exactly where the club was- it wasn’t far from their

hotel. Ana really wanted him there with her, she had a feeling that something might start up. Or at

least she hoped. As she sat at the bar, the sound of giggling girls could be heard; Ana simply shook

her head and asked for another scotch. It felt damn good to be out of that miniskirt, and back into

some jeans. Before she left the kids in the music room, she had handed each of them a card- along

with the specific date that she was supposed to come to the lecture in the next week. Maybe one of

them would call her to bring up some sort of sighting- and then finally she and Ali would be back in

business.

By the time Ana received her drink, a man came by and sat at the bar- fiddling

and searching for his lighter. “Smoking will kill you, don’t you know that?” Ana always had to

put her 2 cents in- even when people didn’t want to hear it. Without really thinking about it, she

reached into her jacket and pulled out the book of matches from her hotel. “Here you go…”

Michael took the match book with a nod of thanks. “Hey.. so does drinking,

sex, and spicy food… I’ll be damned if I give up all the good stuff.” He grinned, leaning back

lazily in his seat. Giving her the once over, he immediately decided she wasn’t the screaming

fan girl type. In fact, she had the look of someone who was damn capable in more ways than one. He

liked those kind of girls. Sometimes a decent conversation was all a guy wanted. …sometimes.

After lighting his cigarette, he flipped the matches in his hand noting the hotel name. “In town on

business or pleasure?” Michael asked as he offered the book back to her.

Ana always asked for a separate cup of ice, in which she chewed and sucked

on. The girl liked to think that it was a nervous reaction, but it was due to the fact that she was

indeed sexually frustrated- but mostly, it was because of her anemia. With her mouth closed, she

rolled her tongue over the small ice cube and brought her glass to her lips. After a sip, she

answered him. “Well, we just moved here…it’s pretty nice so far.” The ice cube had melted

away by the time she opened her mouth to speak again. “What are you here for? Pleasure? Or are

you here for the spice food and women?” She couldn’t help but chuckle at her silly joke;

impatiently giving her cell phone a glance. Alistaire hadn’t called her yet, and it was making

her upset.

Michael chuckled, as he nodded a thanks to the bar tender that set his

‘usual’ drink down on the bar in front of him. “I’m in it for a little bit of everything,

chica.” Smiling easily he took a drink from the cold glass. Thumbing over his shoulder he directed

to his mates tinkering with their equipment. “With the band… Speaking of which…” Michael gave a

sheepish grin as Katt, the only female on board, gave him a disapproving stare. He was supposed to

be getting ready for the beginning set, not chatting it up at the bar. Despite the fact he was nearly

always chatting it up at the bar during break, Katt liked to keep them all in line.

“Guess I’m being summoned…” He quickly downed the last of his drink

before standing and stretching. “My work is never done. I’m Michael by the way…” He gave an

dramatic bow before striding back to the make-shift stage of the club. It wasn’t more than a foot

off the ground, but the Michael never did care where he was singing as long as he could be

heard.

“As they say – ‘girls just want to have fuuuun!'”

“Sure thing, Allie, whatever you say!” Laughing at her best friends,

Rishta took a look around the club. Allison (aka Allie – the singer-wannabe) had dragged them all to

this new club, where her ‘most favorite bestest band of all time’ was playing – Forsaken.

She had this huge obsession with the lead, a man by the name of Michael. Glancing up at the

‘stage,’ Rishta had to admit that he had a certain charm to his manner – much like Mr.

Marzari. However, he was more ‘cute’ then ‘drop dead gorgeous.’ At least, in

her humble opinion. Leaning against the wall, Rishta continued chatting with her friends, trying to

avoid being stared at. Tonight, she had gone in dark blue jeans, and a light blue sparkling top –

which had, in dark blue letterings, her name written in Arabic. It really looked cool (in her “humble

opinion”) and had been made for her when she went to Saudi Arabia with her class last year. Good

thing it still fit. With this, she wore boots, and simple silver jewelry, once again keeping her hair

down. She didn’t look overdone – just merely pleasant. Which, indeed was her goal.

“Heys, Allie, which one is him again?”

“Which was who?”

“You know… Miiiicchhaeeel…”

“Oh!” Allie’s face brightened happily, as she pointed forward, to the

blonde man up front, singing his heart out. She was a small girl, about six inches shorter then

Rishta, with curly dark hair and dark eyes – an Italian princess. Following the motif of her friends,

she had worn dark blue jeans, and a shirt with her name written in Arabic on it. However, her’s

was red – to match her complexion. Everyone wore a different color shirt. Even though Rishta had

objected that this made them look like ‘groupies’.

“Who? Him?” Rishta gently teased, pointing to a man who danced alone, right

in front of the stage. He turned when Rishta pointed, smirking slightly. He wasn’t all that bad

looking… just… sleazy. Laughing, Rishta turned to a disgusted Allie.

“Noooo! The hot one! Behind him!”

“We know, we know… just joking.”

“You had better be! Now come on!” Grabbing Rishta’s hand,

and screaming to the others ‘be right back,’ Allie proceeded to half-drag, half-lead Rishta

to the front of the dance floor, so they were about five feet from the stage. Dancing, she encouraged

the self-conscious Rish to do the same, ecstatic that she was so close to THE MICHAEL. The God of

her Paganism. Oh Allie… you’re such a nutcase… Smiling and laughing, Rishta began

dancing along to the music, just for Allie’s sake. After all, when was the next time that she

would see Forsaken?

Locked in this cage
Watching the wind take flight
A war of fallen to engage
The angel’s battle I have to fight

I never wanted to be your angel
I never want to believe again
To take the soul of one you love
To take their life with your own hand

Don’t speak to me of right and wrong
When you don’t see all the grey
I’ve turned my back on the angel’s song
I’ve got nothing left to save

Michael was once again lost in the words of the song, this one tugging a

string inside him. But then, all his songs tugged at something he could never quite explain. His

eyes remained closed as he sang, no outside distractions penetrating his trance.

The dark one comes to seek my soul

With eyes that see in to infinity

Feathers of my fate will fall

Caught by the ties of destiny

The world is frozen in this feeling

With dreams I’ve never told

Hearts of desperate souls are screaming

Lonesome cries of empty souls

A strange sense filled Michael, almost like a recognition running through his

mind. He opened his eyes for them to meet with a girl on the dance floor. Rich brown eyes framed

with a halo of ebony hair. She was beautiful… an angel princess. His heart stopped in his chest,

and for a moment it was as if he only sang to her.

Don’t speak to me of right and wrong

When you don’t see all the grey

I’ve turned my back on the angel’s song

I’ve got nothing left to save

As the song finished, many in the crowd cheered and applauded. Michael

immediately started to make a beeline for the girl, before Katt snagged the back of his shirt and

tugged him back.

“Whoa there, rocker boy, you gonna take off that guitar or do you plan to lug it

around? The cord only runs so far y’know.” Katt smirked at his utterly confused face before he

finally looked down to find himself still holding his guitar.

Michael gave a sheepish look before pulling the strap over his head and

handing it to Katt. “Here, I’ve just got to meet someone.”

He jumped off the short stage before she could do much more than yell at his

back. “Women are going to be the death of you Michael Traugott!!”

Pausing in her dancing, Rishta turned and looked at Michael for a long

moment. Her face must have shown some form of shock, because Allie then proceeded to tug on

her sleeve. It’s almost like he’s singing to me… just to me… he seems so

familiar…

“Rish? Oh Riiiish? What’s up…?” Allie then turned to see who she was

staring at. Blinking for an instant, she gave a knowing grin and smiled at Rish, then continued

dancing.

“What?”

“I see.”

“See what?”

Twirling, she laughed at Rishta for a moment. “You’ve caught

Michael-god-itis!”

“What?!”

Rishta stood there, gaping at her friend, before she was bumped and forced to

start dancing again, before the song ended. Pushing her hair back with one hand, she looked at

Allie seriously, trying not to grin at her “I knew it!” smile. “You heard me…” Allie stopped short

then, as the song ended. Cheering loudly, and accompanied by Rishta’s polite applause, she

called out to her favorite singer. “MICHAEL! WE LOVE YOU!!!!!”

Love…? Rishta then stepped out of the dance floor, and waited for Allie

by the bar. Ordering a water, she took a small sip. Michael had disappeared from the stage. Wait –

there he was again. No, wait.. he jumped off. Raising an eyebrow, she had to stifle a snicker. Allie

had seen him and was going straight for him. Poor Michael… As soon as Michael had

jumped from the stage, Allison saw him and headed right to him, dodging girls and elbowing guys

out of the way. Finally, she arrived before HIM, and he looked a bit lost.

“Hihi Michael! I’m Allison, and I’m the BIGGEST fan of

yours! Me and my friend just LOVE your song! I think she disappeared to get a water, but

I’m certain she loves you too! You’re so awesome!!!”

It was dark and the thick ember of smoke hung in the air and permeated

through the thinly woven material of his coat. Oh, the sweet smell of death was at hand!

Christopher ambled along the roughly sought together roadway into the crime infested back streets

of underground London that same night only hours after Trevor’s and his egoistical battle of

brawns and the same ever present half-assed grin of arrogant confidence hung brightly on his lips

from ear to ear. The streets were busy with commerce despite the very late hour, with people

stretching down the way till they crept below the sunken horizon, and police plodded along while

taking careful eye to the nights activities. The gray skyline shrunk in dismal recognition of coming

events, and the worried wind brought the whispers of time to unheard ears of warning to those

around, but became scorned with twisted words as deaf ears turned to them and waved them but

away with a casual wave of the hand. Fools, maggots. They would all end up dead, once his job was

completed.

Up the street rose banks and banks of houses, their arched windows and

iron-worked sides with balconies formed disalluding cryptic shadows that formed the eyes and

mouths of hard-set faces with overhung brows that slated the grainy street below. They danced and

flicked and played mercilessly under the feet of those around, but seemed to receded frighteningly

as the man in brown crept and crested the hill as he made his way to the heart of the entertainment

section of town.

It was not long before all eyes fell upon Christopher, the braver boys and men

on the top of the crested hill spat and made crud insults towards his direction in both mocking and

idiotic tones. One dared to even come over to him and ask for money, but found only the hard

solace and truth of having the back of his skull introduced to the pavement and the hard bone of his

elbow split open from his wrist to his shoulder with an unforeseeable motion that took only but a brief

second. Running away, or rather, slowly trudging away with a pool of his own ichors spewing from

his wound, the man spat and disappeared over the hill-line as those who would no doubt be

considered his trust-worthy lackies following closely in pursuit behind. It was funny, in a twisted

sort of way – as the grins presence shrunk in size and he began to frown. “These people, lowly

scum, are mere maggots residing beneath the trash can that is humanity,” Chris mumbled, looking

back and forth between women, children and men as he walked. An uncontrollable breath of wild fire

danced within the pupil of his eyes, but were snuffed away with an annoyed blink as a truck

carrying a sharp wind rolled by. “Too bad, really.. deep down inside, I will truly feel sorry after

sending you all to hell.” He paused, stopping in his tracks as he looked up and shuffled a hand

lazily through his brown hair. “.. but then again; I doubt it…”

Dismal and dreary as he shrugged up his coat higher to his shoulders and

gave a nearby rock a hearty kick out from his way and pushed open the shoddy soaked door of the

club with a brief push and stepped inside – taking in what little atmosphere the place behind the

thick rock and door held. Luckily, it wasn’t as crowded as the information gather had told of,

which was indeed a good thing. Witnesses to this would need to be silenced, and the sheer thought

of that alone made the face of the occultist twist into another grin of satisfaction with an added

furrowed brow to emphasize his smug happiness. Stepping from the top step and down to the bar

floor below, Christopher gave the surrounding` area a going over to familiarize himself before he

leveled his gaze and scanned the room for his acquired target.

There was nothing but darkness in all directions. The stone slab beneath

his back was icy cold; the black candles surrounding him did little to offset the chill that was

seeping through his jacket. Trevor’s hands and feet were bound, but he hadn’t been

gagged. Bad news for whoever jumped him and brought him here. He’d fire off a charge from

his rosary and be out of this dump in time for Happy Hour. A soft whisper started to float from the

cold darkness, slow and rhythmic, like a chant. It probably was, considering where he was. Well, this

wasn’t the first time he had been used as an offering to a demon lord. Hell, it might even be

one he had taken out before. There must not be a whole lot to do in Hell. It seemed everything was

either torturing human souls, or coming topside to frickin` try and kill him.

“You were asleep for some time,” a soothing, melodic voice said. A woman

stepped out from the shadows, clad in a crimson silk robe. “I was afraid my servants had been too

rough on you.”

Trevor managed to smirk confidently. “Yeah, I had a nice little lie-down.

Shame I was sleeping alone.”

The woman laughed. Bad sign. “Oh, my…you’re just as bold as I had

heard. Your powerful soul will be a feast for my master!”

“Uh huh. I’m just too hot for words, ain’t I?” Trevor looked up at his

wrist; it was starting to chafe and bleed from rubbing against his bindings. It didn’t matter. If it

came down to it, he’d just pull out his “trump card” and bring the house down. That’d

teach `em. “So, what’re the odds you’ll just let me go, and we can grab a beer or

something? Come on, I bet your master isn’t really all that. Besides, if we go back to my place,

it’ll be good times. Go to his, and…well, I bet the decor is nightmarish. And he’ll eat your

soul.”

“Charming. But no,” the woman replied, smiling as she tugged at the belt of

her robe. “Now, you will writhe in agony, as a sacrifice to Lutania, the demon king of lust!”

Trevor blinked. Lust?!

Her robe fell from her shoulders…

…and when Trevor blinked, he was staring at the moonlight through iron bars.

His eyes darted from one end of the tiny cell to the next, searching for the presence he just knew

was hanging around. All he found, though, was a chubby rat, gnawing at the heel of his boot. “Get

lost!” he shouted, kicking the rodent across the room. “Goddammit…just my luck, that the one

sacrifice I want to attend is only a dream. What else can go wrong tonight?” No sense in stewing

around here any longer, though. Joz shoulda been here by now, but she hadn’t shown up. She

must have been delayed by something, which means he’d hafta to go Plan B. B, as in,

“Begging”. He couldn’t ask Kris, though. He’d never hear the end of the lecture she

probably had for him. There was only one other person he could call, and he hoped she was in a

good mood…

Ana frowned at the fact that Alistaire hadn’t called her yet; when she got

home, he was going to get quite the verbal lashing. He always had a tendency to keep a girl

waiting, but that was one of the many things she liked about her partner. Any bad thing was easily

outweighed by the good about the Scottish storm; few things in life were like that, anyway. After a

few more drinks and several cups of ice, the demon-hunter finally decided that maybe it was time to

mingle a little. They were going to be stuck in London for quite some time now- so why not make a

few friends while you’re at it? That thought made her chuckle to herself; the strands of blonde

hair that covered her eye hung loosely over her face and moved as she breathed. Her senses were

beginning to sharpen; when if she was a normal person- they would most likely get dull and cause

her to slur her words. She finished off her cup of ice and thought about her plans of what she was

going to do there; all of the bad feelings eventually drifting away as time passed.

That was, until “hell” just so happened to walk through the door. Out of

everyone in the group, the girl’s eyes caught contact with the man’s- everyone else was

too busy having fun and being merry, when Ana was alert and waiting. Her right hand itched…so

much just to grab Lux and Ater- and she had no idea why. Of course, it would just be silly to grab

her guns and attack the man- but as he went further into the club, the urge was rising.

“Ana…we need to get out of here.” For the first time in hours,

Lux’s voice rang through Ana’s mind, causing the girl to close her eyes and sigh. She

wasn’t in the mood for this now- who knows, the man just might be a decent fight. “We need

to leave NOW, Ana- I won’t say it again. Don’t you have something else to do instead of

pick fights? What’s going to happen when you pick a fight that you can’t win?”

I’ll die. Simple as that. She smirked again, giving the bartender a

wink and tossing him the money she owed. Ana lifted her behind from the stool and went to walk

further into the crowd, a few people pushing and shoving her frail form from side to side. Every

once in a while, someone copped a good feel- only to be reprimanded by her sharp elbow. Hand

hovering over Lux, Ana was about to do something- when her cell phone rang. Talk about interrupting

plans. Frowning, she reached down to remove the tiny phone from her pocket- who knows, it might

have been Alistaire!

“Hello!” She sounded oddly cheerful as she kept her gaze on

Christopher, one hand on the phone- and the other hovering over gun. Her eyes were piercing- and

her look meant nothing but ass-kicking business, but as she spoke in the phone- she was happy.

“Hel-…..Trevor? What are you doing?!”

Cripes, now I gotta beg for it…how embarrassing… Trevor cleared his

throat, and looked back over his shoulder. His fat friend was nowhere to be seen. Thank God for

small blessings. “Ana…listen, I need to ask a favor of you. I know it’s really

sudden…but…uh…I’m in jail.”

In jail? What on earth for? Ana asked. It sounded like she was

distracted by something, though. And there were lots of voices. Where was she, anyway?

“Would you believe, acts of terrorism against the country?” he replied,

leaning against the wall and looking out his small cell window. “How about wanton destruction of

public property? I ran into some jerkface a few hours ago who kicked my ass. Then the cops came,

and I was too tired to fight back. So now I’m in prison.”

I think I can see where this is going, Ana said.

Trevor beamed. “Smart girl. It’d be a big favor if you could come by and

get me outta here. Bail money isn’t a problem; whatever it is, I’ll pay you back. Or

don’t pay bail. Bust me out through the wall. Whatever. I don’t care. Just get me out, and

I’ll owe ya a huge favor.”

Jerkface… Ana’s eyes were still on Christopher as Trevor

continued talking, getting bumped into ever so often- but fondled allot less, after she broke the

guy’s nose and sent him crashing to the floor. One unfortunate person decided to feel up on

her as she began to start her walk to the door- with a sharp kick, the person went crashing back into

the crowd. “Sure thing, Trevor- I’ll be there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.” After a few

minutes, commotion began to ring throughout the club; apparently Ana had sent the man flying into

the wrong guy- not like she gave a damn. Now, yelling and the sound of crashing objects filled the

bar- as just about each and everybody began to break out into a fight. Ana caused a riot in that club,

and she had to miss out on kicking someone’s pathetic behind while she was at it. Oh well,

she had another less-pathetic (and kinda cute) behind to tend to- and she did so just like she had

said… In two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Autumn was leaned back in her chair, relaxed and pleased with melodic

sounds of the band Forsaken. She adored music that had such a powerful sounds it could speak to

her soul. It was kind of stupid when she thought too much about it, but every body had some sort of

divine inspiration. Hers was just good music. It was great watching the band live, there was

something the lead singer seemed to carry more in person than over the CD. He was damn cute,

kind of like a puppy. Autumn found the guitarist more to her tastes with darker hair and more ease of

movement.

A group of what she considered fan girls had entered the club, obviously

smitten with the group. Autumn was almost glad she came alone. Now she could play the part of the

sexy mysterious lady, instead of giggling along with Jess. Sure she was no lady, but it was sure

fun to pretend. She tried not to laugh as she caught the lead singer staring at some girl in the

crowd, he was so obviously interested Autumn wouldn’t of been surprised if he fell off the

stage trying to see. The band took a break, a DJ putting on some other random bit of dance music. It

wasn’t nearly as cool as Forsaken, but had a good beat nonetheless. Someone entered the

club and for a split second she thought Trevor had managed to bust his butt out of jail and hunted

her down, but was relieved to find it someone. Well, kind of relieved. The guy was beyond creepy

and was scanning the room like he was looking for someone.

Autumn checked her watched, the guy reminded her of Trevor so much she

was starting to feel bad for letting him rot in jail like she was. Sure it wasn’t too long ago since

he messaged her, but he probably needed a good nights sleep after all the hell he pulled today.

Sigh, leave it to her to be the voice of reason. Downing the last of her drink, she dropped a tip on

the table before slipping past the fighting bodies in the crowd and out the club door.

Chris stood there for some time in the center of the room. The room was lit by

low-angled lights; their tiny bulbs shone yellow with multihued and gold against the oak wood floor;

and the indignant glass shades brimmed with infinite pastels of color. And the air was thick with

enticingly strong perfume and the scent of the bars alcohol only added to the mounded cascade of

smells that hung loosely at the base of the nose to await a taken breath. Occasionally he would

raise a hand to the horizon of his nose and wave away the intrusive odor with a fleeting and

annoyed motion on his hand. The girl was near, but reaching her was distant; the people began to

swarm as a fight broke out and it was only now with a glance about that he realized he was at the

center of the disturbance. From where he stood at the center, he could not see much but the heads

and fists of those within remote view; and so, he temporarily lost himself in the play of the battle,

instinctively bringing the back of his fist to view and quickly introduced it into the nose of some

unlucky soul that found himself unfortunately behind the occultist in brown. It did little to quiet the

brawl, but it caused a few side ways glances to be cast his way as the man struck went crashing

into a table and took three more down with him.

Chris might have stayed there forever, but giving the short period of time he

had; he had to make use of the sparseness of time granted to him and his cause. But no; he

couldn’t pull himself away from those around him before he had the greatest chance of

grabbing the nearest person akin to his position, and introducing them to their maker personally. It

was sad, that he could abandon his job with such carelessness but then again, he disliked orders.

They were boring and did nothing for his greedy hunger to show off exactly what he was – though;

what he truly was escaped him even at unknowing times. A step aside, a move forward all within

the same movement as Chris moved and ducked around an incoming punch; bringing the hard truth

of his heel to the side of ones jaw and the bone-jarring shock of his fists leaving their fatal

impression in the kidneys of another. One would bump into him and would only find themselves strewn

aside with little effort at all from him. It was sad, poor, and not very challenging to make his way

from dead middle of the area to the front door. He had even made a path for a few girls who wished

to escape as they ran from the club accompanied by a few bruised and battered men, though, it

wasn’t his intention to have done so.

With a glance over his shoulder and narrowed eyes, the hellish creature that

was Chris let a grin engulf his face as a hellfire flame slid calmly across the back of his head and

found a spilled alcohol beverage as it ignited brutally just as he ambled out the front door.

Belial was further annoyed at Alistaire’s resolution to keep on following

him. Where the Hell was I going…? Oh yes… that bar where Michael sings. Belial wondered

if he was starting to inspire other thing than fear. Not likely… but this man was simply annoying. As

they walked deeper into the nightclubs and bars area, the amount of unhumans increased.

Hopefully the mixed up demonic and inhuman auras would be enough to provide a ‘smoke

curtain’ to get rid of this Scott. “I see”, he dryly said. “That reinforces my trust in the police and

government agencies”. Belial frowned and entirely ignored the shy attempt to pay homage to him

of a group of lesser demonesses out of a bar. Others simply stayed out of his way. He was

masking his identity, but for personal reasons some of his power was still perceivable and

multifaceted… Aidan and the three demon brothers came to his mind. He looked at the human again.

Maybe… “What brings you to London, if there’s a special reason…?” Belial walked through the

crowd waiting for the right moment to confuse and lose Alistaire.

Alistaire continued to follow Belial. He wasn’t so close as he was

before, deciding to drop back a pace and keep a good meter or so distance between them. He

wondered what the man.. the demon.. whatever he was thinking. Does he find me just an

annoying gnat?, he wondered to himself idly. Heh, he probably does, he de decided

with a smirk. He let silence fall for a moment, after Belial said something about police and

government. Alistaire wasn’t really paying attention to him; his attention was focused on the

people all around them. Demons and other hellspawn were walking the night, and in vast

quantities. His fingers itched, his eyes twitched, and he had the general burning desire to just cry

havoc and let loose the dogs of war. He kept his hands in his pockets however, and shook away

the fact that he had two .45 pistols under either of his arms, tucked away in holsters hidden by his

jacket.

Then you had Belial walking ahead and to the left of him. He wasn’t

exuding what he’d thought he would pick up. It was different. Masked, and strong, but…

Ugh. Sometimes I wish this stupid demon sense was more refined. They began to bump into

a crowd, but Alistaire kept his gaze hard on Belial’s back and tried his best to memorize him in

the case he would lose him. His ears perked at a question, and he answered. “Well, no doubt you

know I’m a Hunter already. Me an’ my partner are here on dual-business, really. She

has stuff to take care of all over town, and I, well… I got word that some big things were going down

in the stuffy ol’ city of London. I decided it best we come together and stay for awhile. If

something big really is going down– and I can feel it in bones that there is– then I’ll be here

ready to tackle it head on.”

Belial looked at Alistaire. The part of him that still was Aramis had

some sympathy for the man, for when he mentioned his partner that was busy ‘taking care of

all over town’ a subtle change in Alistaire’s tone spoke of other feelings beneath the

surface. The other part of him, formerly called Angel, strongly reminded himself he was out for a

drink and some distraction. “If something big really is going down– and I can feel it in bones that

there is– then I’ll be here ready to tackle it head on”, Alistaire continued. Belial sighed. The

very last thing he wanted was to get involved… in anything that might occur. Just cross his fingers

and hope Aidan would get run over by a truck and never take hold of that blasted ring again was all

he was in disposition to make.

“Good luck then. I’d give you my blessing but it could do more evil than

good to you”, he said with a mischievous grin in a sudden change of mood. Belial gazed down the

street. The bar where Michael sings was already in view, and it seemed like a brawl was or were

taking place inside. Belial sighed again. “Some things just don’t change, I suppose”, he

muttered to himself. A glimpse of red hair caught his attention and the trace of a human soul he

remembered well. There she goes again… Autumn was leaving the bar, walking away from

the crowd.

Alistaire simply nodded with that grin on his face. Belial, still cold and

distant, was sort of… warming to him, or so he thought. Not warming in the sense of befriending,

but at least finding his presence not as annoying or distracting as before. He nodded at

Belial’s response and shrugged heavily. “Eh, any blessing would do, I’d say. Nothing

but a streak of misfortune for me, I can tell ya that.” He said, his Scottish accent a little lighter than

before. “Ever since day one, I’ve always run into something that was just a weeee bit

out of my league.” His eyes twinkled and took a sort of blank look as he reminisced for a

moment.

“But, yeah– nothing but bad luck for me and my partner. By the way, I

don’t think I’ve toll’ye me name. It’s Alistaire MacCoule. Don’t know how

you knowin’ that could harm me, so I decided to go ahead and give it t’ya.” He nodded,

satisfied with himself for only God would know the reason for and looked a bit farther ahead, trying

to get the general gist of when Belial would end his walk. All he saw was more and more clubs and

he felt more and more strange spirits and auras. He looked back and forth to groups of people and

a variety of club entrances and exits and noticed one was a bit more rowdier than the others.

People were milling out and there was a lot of commotion. “Huh, wonder what’s going on over

there.” He said, where he was talking about obvious.

“Yes. It seems like there’s a brawl in there… Too bad; I liked the interior

design of that bar”. Belial tilted his head slightly. There were a dark-arts user involved in the

commotion – he could perceive it. Was it supposed to be his jurisdiction? Like if I had one…

He was not supposed to interfere – but it was almost painful to stay out and watch. “So, your name is

Alistaire MacCoule. It’s an interesting name… if you’d be a descendant of Finn Maccool.

You don’t look like him, though”. Belial frowned as he saw Autumn disappear in a less packed

side street. “To correspond… my name is Beltrán Oliveros”. His lip curled in a sort of sarcasm. Any

name he wore was as his own as any other. “A name is something very important in some spheres.

Every soul has a distinctive name that doesn’t change”.

Alistaire raised an eyebrow and looked at the back of Belial’s head.

There was definitely something about this guy that was not human. He wouldn’t be able to

pinpoint exactly what, but all of his senses and better judgment pointed him in that direction. For

now, he could only wonder what secrets this man… this entity… possessed. “Heh, just so happens

that I really am a descendant of his. Or, rather, that’s what my family tree tells me.” He

rubbed his chin, thinking back on it and nodded after a moment. “Yeah.. a direct descendant, to be

exact.” He decided not to point out how he would know what Finn would have looked like, but filed

away this interesting little tidbit of info.

“Anyways, it’s nice to meetcha, Beltran Oliveros.” He was hoping

he’d turn around and offer him a hand shake or something akin to that. Until then, he

continued to look ahead and tried to match a lock on whatever Belial might be looking at. He caught

the red hair of a girl that was turning down a side street. Looking back to Belial, he was pretty sure

that’s where his eyes had to be on. Why else look down that direction? “Who’s the

girl?”, he risked asking.

Belial turned a little and looked at Alistaire over his shoulder. His silver eyes

shimmered strangely as if warning the man not to get too curious. “She’s someone I’ve

seen before. It’s curious how the world can be such a small place…” A strange, small smile

slid on Belial’s lips. “So, you are a descendant of Maccool. It’s nice to meet you”. He

mainly said it to distract Alistair’s attention from Autumn. Belial frowned slightly. His own

curiosity was increasing. He turned to face Alistaire. “Are you already convinced I am just someone

that’s out for a walk or do you intend to follow me all night long?” Belial arched an

eyebrow.

Alistaire grinned in response to Belial turning and giving him that strange

glare. That’s all he really could do; just smile and shrug. He didn’t want to get him too

mad, though. He had a feeling that this man mad would spell certain doom and a great variety of

things, himself included if he wsan’t careful. He nodded absently as he then proceeded to say

a few more words, mentioning that he met the girl once before and that it was nice to meet him and-

-huh? Alistaire blinked and came to a sudden stop when Belial turned to face him. He didn’t

foresee this happening anytime soon.

Alistaire thought for a moment. “Well,” he began, “like I said before– I think

you really are just some guy that was out for a walk. Not a normal guy, but for a walk

none-the-less. As for following you, well, I tollya the answer to that one, too. Yer not gona get rid of

me until something big happens, with you or with someone else, really. I’m intrigued by you, I

guess you could say.” Just then, a larger crowd came rushing out of the already-in-a-riot club.

Belial frowned, annoyed. He was about to reply when he noticed the crowd

moving as more people rushed out of the bar as if something worse than a common fight were

taking place. Belial could perceive the influence of dark majicks growing intense. “Something big,

huh…?” Belial frown went deeper as he headed to the bar, moving against the continuous flow of

people fleeing the place and the thick crowd of people chatting and waiting to get into the other bars

and restaurants in the area.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER EIGHT

Genesis walked down the back alley, only the moonlight illuminated the street. Rays of light cast over her, causing the silver unicorn print on her off the shoulder black sweatshirt to glitter. The only sound in the night was the faint music from the club and the light clinks of her belt chain wrapped around her waist. A frown was cast across her face, thoughts of her patient, and her task still very fresh in her mind.

Bronze eyes shimmered in the thick black shadows out of a lonely back street. The moonlight tossed strange lights on the objects, giving them hues of silverish grey and dark steel-blue. Lucca's wanderings had taken him deeper into a part of London he didn't quite remember. New streets and buildings rose all around; he was following tracks of souls of the living to find his way out of the strange maze. The night sky above looked like a thin strip of deep blue and grey with a lazy moon wrapped in rags of clouds. He could reach the skies and let the wind find his way for him – float away to another land. But he had a compromise he wanted to keep…

Lucca kicked a pebble out of the way. From an alley, a blasphemy rang into the night followed by the sound of crashing glass and the barking of astray dogs. Lucca flicked his hair out of his eyes. A deep silence followed, but this silence he knew well. It was the sort of emptiness found at dawn in a battlefield when a battle has ceased. All life seemed to have crawled into holes and nothing seemed to have a will strong enough to let itself be seen. No beasts, no humans were within sight in the lonely street.

No humans…

Lucca clasped his fist. He set off running. He had found a trace; he could smell it. This presence he sensed was different and yet known – it was something he had considered before but hadn't had the chance to pull out. Lucca ran swiftly as a silhouette came into view; he clasped his fist and a Staff appeared in it; Lucca didn't drop his human appearance, reaching the silver-haired woman he was chasing; the Staff hit her side, sending her against the next brick wall. Lucca stopped, holding the Staff of Light beside him. The Staff didn't give a light of its own – yet. His eyes shimmered in the dark, for the shadows fell on his tall form. Without a word, Lucca pointed the Staff to her in challenge.

So lost in her thoughts, Genesis had no sense of the pending danger. A sharp pain hit her side, and she fell against the brick wall. Her first thought was of a human looking to steal her cash, but as the staff was pointed in her face only a mere hair from her nose she realized her error. The darkness concealed most of his face but the sense was there. She gasped in surprise then hissed. “Azazel! You've made your last mistake!” With a deep growl, she knocked the staff away with one arm. Genesis shoved off from the wall to tackle him to the ground! If Azazel had awakened, there was nothing to stop her from retrieving the soul. And having such audacity to attack her like thus her feverish anger blocked any thoughts or senses. Hovering the steel spike over his face, she held him tight to the ground. “Give me the soul, Azazel!”

Lucca's knee met the woman's belly as he smacked her off him with the Staff. Rolling to the side, Lucca sprang back on his feet. He needed to make her angrier. At least she had mistaken him for Lilith's child by now. Staying in the shadows as he spin the Staff once like a rod, he waited for her to attack. Lucca walked as if trying to circle her, his footsteps echoing in the empty street. Again, he challenged her taking a defense stance.

Genesis staggered to her feet, her anger clouding her better judgment. She was not made for fighting, but the man himself was infuriating, and she must have that soul! A tingling sense of wrongness teased at her mind. Azazel was a powerful foe and in his arrogance never ceased to show off his power or boast of his gifts… but now he was merely toying with a staff and barely saying a word. “Enough games!” throwing her hand out, she summoned several more spikes. They hovered in the air for a fraction of a second before zooming their way towards her target!

Lucca's eyes brightened as she shot her spikes at him at terrible speed. He made the Staff disappear and stood up, quitting his defensive stance and getting the shots into his body. Lucca didn't close his eyes as the spikes pierced through his flesh. Lucca's vision clouded as he dropped to the ground with a sickening thud.

…!

Genesis stood still in same attack position, a look of complete surprise across her face and her eyes wide. He dropped his staff and took her spikes head on! Even Azazel was not such a fool to absorb the poison steel. To accept death so willingly? It was a trick.. She had been fooled. Relaxing her body, she walked over to the man and leaned down next to him. A closer look, he was not Azazel, though the similarities were amazingly close. Lucifer…? What a fool… She held her hand over his body, recalling the steel that had absorbed into his blood to reform as spikes and pull from his body. The disappeared as if they never were. “Awake Luc. Might you explain why you waste my time…?”

Lucca coughed out blood, feeling the cold paved street under his body as Genesis removed her spikes. The wounds hadn't even been bad enough as to cause his temporary death…! His eyebrow twitched. His flesh began to heal. Lucca coughed blood out of his throat as he managed to sit up, pushing Genesis aside. “I don't owe you explanations”, he hissed. Lucifer took in a deep breath as the holes in his body closed and all trace of their existence vanished. Lucca got back on his feet and touched his forehead, as if to overcome his dizziness. It had failed… With a glare, he turned his back on her and walked down the alley.

“You are not going to attack me then walk away.” Genesis said indignantly as she quickly caught up to him and matched his pace along side him. Much of her silver tinted hair had fallen loose from it's bindings, and she busied herself with straightening it again. “It makes no sense. Were you hoping to die, Luc?” she pointedly asked. “It was a miserable attempt. Foremost, I do not kill. Second, It will take more than steel to relieve you of your life…”

Lucifer's eyes shimmered like infernal carbuncles in a deep cave. Even in his held-back, simmering rage, Lucifer had a beauty and majesty to him that could be appalling. He didn't look at Genesis at she rubbed in his face his latest failure. “I don't need you to point out the flaws in my plans”, he softly said, his voice cold like a blade. “However, I suppose I must thank you for trying. Your aim is terrible and the effectiveness of your weaponry is even worse. You should really try something different”, he said. His voice hardened. “I shall see by myself what will it take to relieve me of my… life. And I don't need your counsel about it”.

Lucca looked at her by the corner of his eye. “What makes sense, anyway?” He frowned. “Leave me alone”.

Genesis was not put off by his cool tone. In fact was much relieved to be dealing with the father over the son. Though he refused the need of her council, to not accept his curse proved otherwise. After all.. she wasn't asking to be murdered. Ignoring his pleas she continued to walked next to him. “Waking up is knowing who you really are. It makes sense to recover why you are where you are before you can truly be free.” She glanced up at him, unmoved by his natural aura. It was no wonder how so many people followed Lucifer in the fall. He was magnetic. She pursed her lips in thought. “As for my weapon of choice… poison steel is quite effective against my normal targets. It's not my job to kill, only to create.”

Lucifer's eyes flashed. “Keep your wisdom for yourself”, he scornfully said. “And stop following me! Truly be free… Don't make me laugh”. Lucifer stopped and looked at his blood-stained, ripped coat and shirt in the silvery moonlight. “I don't care about your opinion. All you can do is to repeat their words. Have you ever had an idea of your own? Know who I really am… You have no idea”. Lucifer shrugged with indifference and waved his hand on himself, erasing all trace of the fight. “Go and do as you are told by the Elders. Be a good girl and stay away from the Prince of Darkness”. Lucifer continued on his way.

Genesis stopped in her tracks, her hands balling into fists. Of all the nerve assuming her brilliant advice was nothing more than the gibberish of the Angelic Host. As if any of those fossils truly knew the psyche of human or angel alike! She had no care for the ramblings of the Host, just as she had no care for the preaching of the Fallen. However, to be insulted struck a cord. “Halt, Lucifer! You do not know what you speak of!” she hissed, pointing a finger in his direction. “My words are my own! Cultured by years of expirience! Perhaps if you stopped sulking like a spoiled child, you'd reach your own enlightenment!”

“My words are my own! Cultured by years of expirience!” Lucifer was furious, but he clearly perceived he had struck a cord. He stopped and turned, a disturbing fire shimmering in his bronze eyes. “So… your words are your own, aren't they? Interesting argument…” Lucifer smirked. “What do you intend to say? Perhaps you are screaming out loud you have individuality?” Lucifer's smile widened slightly. “Poor child”, he gravely said as his mirth quickly died out. “You have no idea…” For a brief instant in his eyes showed a deep wisdom and an equally deep sadness, despair and hatred. The fire burned again and Lucifer's eyes were suns of drought in the cold dark of the lonely street. “Perhaps you've caught a glimpse in the days of your long death”, he emotionlessly said.

“You are so arrogant! Self consumed! Blind! And ridiculously dramatic.” Seething she crossed her arms. Still, she could care less of his jaded and bitter views of life. Her anger stemmed from the more personal of insults. Calming herself enough not to call her spikes again, Genesis chose a different route. He was baiting her, pulling the string he knew would catch her temper. She would not give him his satisfaction. “You forget, Luc. I am as old as you, if not older. Your argument on lack of knowledge is mute! Perhaps you'd like to take a different route.” Genesis smiled an almost imp-like smile. “You should join me for counseling. We can discuss what makes you so irritable and cure you of your nasty habit of attacking women in dark alley ways.”

“You forget in which area I'm specialized”, Lucifer replied with an unpleasant smile. “Your age is pointless to me. And of course I'm arrogant. I have every right to be”, he continued, softly. “I might attack women in alleys, but I certainly not ask women what's their age”, Lucifer added in sarcasm. “You look cute when you lose your point”, he said with a smirk. Lucifer turned and once again walked away.

She rolled her eyes. Flattery was a pathetic attempt to throw her off. It almost worked. “I didn't loose my point. You just choose to ignore it.” Again, she caught up to him, matching his pace. She wasn't finished with him yet, and intended to dig further. If she were lucky she would learn choice information that would allow her better access to Azazel. The father had naught to do with his son, but family quirks always ran deep. “Every right to be arrogant hmm? I told someone just today how arrogance leads to destruction. …Oh, but that's exactly what you're aiming for isn't it?” She left one arm wrapped around her waist, as the tapped her chin in thought. “I believe if you wanted to die so badly, you'd stop trying to be murdered and try defying fate instead. It seems to enjoy killing the ones that do not wish to die…”

Lucifer looked at her. “How curious… I might have done that just today”, he muttered. He didn't seem to care about her talk as he walked. He moved aside as a beer bottle hissed its way between them from an obscure window. “By suggesting that you've demonstrated you've not made your homework”, he said, ignoring the bottle incident. “How about you living by your own word?”

The comment managed to silence her. She thought on it for several moments, as they walked in the dead of night. Follow her own advice? Enjoy living in hopes of death? Thinking about it, she supposed she worded her suggestion incorrectly. The idea sounded redundant. However maybe if he enjoyed life he wouldn't be so consumed with trying to end it. Even she wanted a true end to the cycle without having to start again from the same point she left off, but she didn't foolishly put herself in peril to accomplish it. She merely accepts the fact and moves on. “I am a special case. I wasn't punished with an eternal life to learn a lesson, one that you haven't learned yet, by the way. I simply exist. There's something said for acceptance…”

“We all are special cases”, Lucifer replied with a shrug. “You are starting to sound like a human. I refuse to simply exist. Maybe that contents you, but not me. Now get a life and stop following me”. Lucifer stopped in his tracks, his bronze gaze fixed on her. “Leave me alone”.

“Alas, dear Luc, you've awakened a sleeping devil… No pun intended of course.” She grinned her impish grin once again, seeming not to care being compared to a human. “Weren't you the one that bothered me first?” Genesis, strode her way in front of him blocking his path. “And now that I've been bothered, I do think my life has been forever altered!” She made a play of being overly dramatic, mocking his brooding nature. “I think… I will create you a life! Free you from your chains of discontent! What do you think is fit for a fallen angel?” she pondered out loud. “You remind me of a rouge, skulking about the streets like you do. It will be my greatest accomplishment! Giving new life to a soul without having it reborn!”

Lucifer stared at her, immutable. Mockery, scorn, deafness… Nothing more could he expect out of someone he could see as well as one of the guards of his prison without walls. “You don't have a life, Genesis”, he said. “Don't pretend before me. There's no need for it”. Lucifer created a Portal beneath his feet and sank through it, leaving no trace behind.

Genesis watched him disappear. It was a comment that held close to the truth and hurt more than she cared to admit. They were kindred in their immortality, though the circumstances were different. Yet he still had an escape, even if he had not come to realize the path yet. But she… she had a job to do. Death and rebirth was never ending. There was no reprieve, no breaks, no vacations. Even her own 'death' was nothing more than rejuvenating flames to last her another vigilant one thousand years. She could have been bitter, look for an escape, but it was a waste of precious time. As long as she had her tasks, she would never join a new cycle. A 'life' as he saw it was impossible for her to achieve.

Realizing she was standing alone in the alley, staring down at the pavement like a fool, she started back towards the club. She made a habit of attending the shows of Forsaken. The archangel Michael had no tangible memories of his past lives, but his music told the stories of things he could not remember. Genesis found it curious, and oddly fitting how he got lost in the music. She took at least some joy in watching others get to live a normal life…





“Hey, fathead! I want my phone call!” Trevor shouted, grabbing hold of the bars on his cell. “Would you believe me if I said that the fate of the free world rested on the idea of you waddling over here and letting me go?”

“Get stuffed,” the officer commented, not looking up from his Popular Mechanics.

Trevor snorted, and shuffled back to his wafer-thin cot. “Yeah, whatever. See if I ever save this dump from a demonic invasion.” They had taken his phone away, as well as most of his artifacts, including the Lightning Rosary and his Banishing Jewels. He still had his Silver Herald, but he couldn't use it to blast out of here; somebody might get hurt. As mad as he was, he wasn't ready to become a killer just to escape from a crummy jail like this. The world could do without him for one evening. The almost silent fluttering of feathers snapped Trevor out of his funk. He looked up in the window, where the raven from before was sitting calmly in the window, preening itself and staring at him. “You again?” he growled. “You've already been such a help for me this evening. I knew you were a bad omen from the start, so unless you've got some kind of amazing miracle to perform that'll get me out of here, I suggest you buzz off.”

The raven stopped grooming herself and nonchalantly shook her tail as Trevor scolded her. She leapt from the window and landed on the bench in the cell, where she scratched her ear for a little while, then stared at him again. The raven disapprovingly shook her head and leapt on the floor, walking out of the cell through the space between the bars of the door and made her way to the guard's desk, swaying a bit from side to side as she walked on the cold floor with her wings closed. Unnoticed, she crawled under the desk and disappeared from sight. The policeman was still absorbed into reading his magazine.

Suddenly, something else was visible behind the man: it seemed to be the top of the head of a little kid, with black hair. The kid moved behind the guard, little pale hands seeking on the counter next to the desk, then disappeared from sight. The policeman turned the pages of his magazine. A little hand appeared next to his elbow and picked a medium-size plastic reseal able bag from a box, but the man didn't seem to notice. The little hand disappeared with her loot.

After a few seconds, the raven came out from under the desk, dragging a reseal able plastic bag with Trevor's belongings. She was pulling it with her beak, dragging it to the cell. The raven pulled lazily till reaching the cell bars, then she leapt in and pulled the bag in with some difficulty. Once the bag with Trevor's belongings was on the cell floor, the raven leapt on the bench and sat there, looking at Trevor in a rather unnerving way.

For several minutes, Trevor wasn't quite sure exactly what had happened. His stare was fixated on the raven, a mixture of surprise and utter disbelief. Maybe someone could train a bird to fetch things…but how many birds could turn into people?? Everything seemed to be in the bag when Trevor rummaged through it, including his summoning glyph. Joz didn't care much for text messages like Kris did, so she had given him this thing instead. It'd tell her where he was and if he was in trouble, when he activated it. And a quick escape was just the thing he needed right about now.

“Okay, Joz. It's up to you now,” Trevor muttered, squeezing the glyph tightly. He felt the rune pulse in his fist like a heartbeat, and the stone gave a brief flash before crumbling into dust. That took care of that. Now, all he had to do was wait. In the meantime, though… “We need to talk,” he snapped, standing up and glaring down at the raven. “Who the hell are you? Who sent you? And why are you helping me?”

“Caw!”, the raven replied, very seriously. After giving him a stern stare, she proceeded to groom her wings, ignoring the questions.

Trevor's jaw nearly hit the floor.

Caw?

That was it?

“You…you…you goddamned chicken! That's not what I wanted to hear!” Trevor howled, his temper now at its utmost surprising peak. “I'm sick and tired of being jerked around today! First it was the taxi cab, then that stupid kid and his invisible friend, and then Kris gives me a hard time, and now some jackass in a trench coat is going around town summoning demons! I have had enough!” The Silver Herald on Trevor's right hand flared to life, reacting to his violent rage. “I am going to get some answers from you, you turkey from Hell, or I'll turn you into an early dinner, I swear it!”

The raven nonchalantly scratched her ear as Trevor yelled at her. She groomed her feathers some, then shook her tail and watched him go on in his rage with one eye, then the other. When the Silver Herald flashed, the bird opened her beak and unfurled her wings in a defensive stance, almost like a heraldic symbol. The raven shook her head in disapproval. Suddenly, a five or six year old kid was staring at Trevor from the bench, wearing a black overall and a Winnie the Pooh shirt. The girl's hair was raven-black and her dark blue eyes were filled with a myriad of burning suns, like the night sky. “I'm not your dinner”, the child said with a frown.

This time, Trevor was not surprised. At least, he didn't show it if he was. Slowly, his hand dropped back down to his side, and the white aura in his fist fizzled into nothingness. His eyes were still as dark as thunderheads, but at least he wasn't about to blow the building up anymore. “That's better,” he growled. “At least now we're getting somewhere.” Trevor glanced out at the police officer. He hadn't apparently noticed anything. Was it this kid's doing…?

“You're not a demon, I can tell that much now,” Trevor said, kneeling down in front of the girl. “But, you're not human either. Are you a were? I've never heard of a were who could turn into a bird. Wolves, boars, and rats, yes…but not ravens. Who are you? And why are you helping me?”

“Questions, too many questions”, the child replied, shaking her head. “I can't answer all of them – yet. The Time will come soon for you to learn the answers… I am the Dark One”. She opened her little hand and showed him a sigil floating on it. “This is the Sigil of my Name written on the Dark side of the moon, if you can read and understand”. The child looked at him. “If you can read and understand, the Time for your answers is closer”.

“The…Dark One?” Trevor blinked. Something about that title was familiar, like he had heard it before. It probably had some kind of theological significance, but whatever it was, it escaped him. Too bad he didn't have his radio equipment with him, or he could ask his dad about it. That sigil seal also looked familiar. Trevor had seen it in a book before, a long time ago. “Okay, so I can't read it,” he grumbled, leaning against the far wall and shooting the little girl a bitter stare. “I'll try to live with the disappointment. If you're not going to help me out, then get lost. My partner'll be here soon to get me out of this dump.”

The child closed her hand. The sigil disappeared and the child watched Trevor for a long instant. “Freewill is the Gift of Man”, she simply said. “It is up to you to seek the answers”. The girl's image seemed to ripple and vanish – now it was the raven who stared at him from the bench. The bird flew to the window, squeezed through the bars and disappeared into the night.

Trevor didn't bat an eyelash as the girl turned back into a bird, and took off out the window. If she wasn't going to help, he really couldn't care less what she did. Sleeping was going to be hard, though, since now he'd have that stupid sign in his head all night. Maybe Joz would know what it meant.

“Jadziin…you'd better get here soon,” Trevor muttered, looking down at his hand. A faint impression of the rune that had been on the stone earlier was glowing on his palm. Joz'd remove it when she showed up. If she showed up. She might run into that guy along the way. She was tough, though…she could take care of herself. She'd make it. Sitting on his cot with his back to the guard, Trevor slipped on his rosary again, and pulled out his phone.

Landed in jail. Shut up. Send J ASAP.

He included the address, and sent his message off to Kris' phone. She'd probably give him the chewing out of a lifetime again, but it wasn't his fault. He was just trying to help! Might have even saved her life by stopping that guy. Of course, if she was with that jerk from earlier today, it wouldn't matter. She wouldn't be torn away from her little date, come Hell or high water. Lovely. “Prob`ly drooling over some shirtless punk rocker right now,” Trevor grumbled, lying down on the small bed. “Damned stupid London…gettin` me into more trouble than it's worth…shoulda stayed home…finished that bottle under the bed…hrm…need a drink…” Trevor was asleep before he knew it.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER SEVEN

Upon leaving the University of London, Aidan's limousine headed for the King's Memorial Medical Center, a large complex connected to the King's Memorial, one of the finest hospitals in England and Europe. The Medical Center included a Mall and three glass-curtain facade office towers around a plaza above the Mall; the office towers held a number of exclusive private clinics and medical facilities, along with selective spa services and sport centers. The Hospital and the Medical Center were connected by a traffic bridge and pedestrian bridges from one luxurious lobby to the other. The base that held the towers, the Mall, functioned around the circular Plaza with a center fountain; the Plaza connected the different areas with wide sidewalks shadowed by beautiful trees.

The limousine stopped in a private, secluded area where Aidan got off the limo alone and waved them away. Aidan didn't like to take company to his appointments at the psychologist – not even Christopher and maybe specially not him. Aidan had his eccentricities and stuck to them without giving explanations of any sort. The rumors about the mysterious deaths of his previous doctors were part of the strange stories weaved around the baron of Cynshire. Aidan got to the private lobby and in the elevator. The baron seemed strangely calm when he got out the elevator at the private psychology clinic. The receptionist smiled warmly at the baron.

“Lord Cynric, Dr. D'Allesandri waits; you may proceed”.

Aidan nodded and flashed a seductive smile at the girl as he passed by the marble counter and on to the hall with panoramic view to the office. He knocked once and opened the door. “Good morning”, Aidan greeted.

“Morning, Aidan. Have a seat, please.” Doctor Genesis D'Allesandri motioned her hand to a couch and two chairs arranged neatly in the far corner. It looked more like a living room suite than a Psycologist's office. The room itself had a nice comfortable feel, soft muted tones of color combined with plush fabrics. Dr. D'Allesandri was always a favorite amongst patients, as her knack for putting them at ease seemed to come completely natural. The Doctor herself was dressed in a neat solid emerald suit, her hair pulled up in a slightly messy clip. A pair of gold glasses sat on the tip of her nose, as she easily pulled out a grey folder from her drawer and laid it neatly on the table. This was the third time she had spoken with Lord Aidan Cynric, quietly learning and assessing his personality each time they spoke. His tract record with other psychologists had frightened many doctors away from taking his case, however she had a special interest in this man… “Tell me how your week has been, Aidan.”

Aidan took a seat, choosing the best seat for himself. He leaned back slightly, making himself comfortable as he looked at the doctor carefully: the tailored cut of her emerald suit, the slightly messy hairdo, the shape of her eyebrows and the shade her eyelashes tossed on her cheeks beyond the gold frame of her eyeglasses. Aidan's bronze eyes seemed to scrutinize through her as if he were examining the cover of a book he was about to read. He kept his own records in his own fashion. This trips to the psychologist were exercises of the mind, for he would not openly confess all and he would at the same time twist and cover things he needed to say.

“My week… has been fine”, he softly said. “Work has gone as usual and I've acquired more companies overseas to incorporate them to MS Corp.; slightly out of schedule, for the best…” Aidan ran his fingers through his hair to get it out of his eyes. “Why are your file folders grey?”, he suddenly asked. “Grey is a color for nameless things, for the anonymous. For rows of faceless beings. I wonder what goes through your mind as your patients speak. I had a professor once who said all in his class were perfectly asexual to him – he didn't want flirts-for-grades. I was thirteen years old, I think. I tend to forget my age.”

Genesis rose a curious, and slightly bemused eyebrow as she rose from her desk, folder in hand. The man was evasive, always dodging details and cleverly changing the subject at the drop of a hat. She got the impression from his body movements that he had done something pleasurable. He seemed relaxed, more so than usual, and his question came off as more sincere than simply a way to distract her. “Grey is two-sided, a combination of both the dark and the light. The perfect reflection of emotion, I believe.” she replied with ease, moving through the room to take a seat across from him.

“Why do you forget your age, Aidan? Do you feel as if you experienced more in your lifetime than what is normal, or something else…?” It was a bold question, something she would not normally confront her patients with. But, Genesis had learned quickly enough, it took a little more too keep Aidan interested and involved in the sessions than simply nodding and asking him to continue.

“I must disagree”, Aidan said with a cryptic smile. “If emotions were grey, my life would be dull. …Experienced more than is normal…?” Aidan's eyes widened slightly in false surprise. “What would be considered normal? I am out of the average standards in many ways – it would not be strange I'd exceed limits in that field as well”, he murmured with a voice that strangely resembled the sound of fire on dry wood. “Why do I forget my age…” Aidan smiled. “I have no reasons to keep track of it. To count aging years is like collecting years you steal from the hands of Death, but in the end it's pointless as we all know”.

Genesis felt her own calm crackle beneath her cool exterior. Had she not known the truth, this enigma of a man, with his uncanny ability to draw in knowledge, she would have been unnerved. “I would have to agree. Age becomes meaningless compared to experience…” It was now her turn to change the subject. Age and Experience came with a price in her world. It was not something she wished to discuss, especially with Aidan. “What of today. I except your tour of the University was a pleasant one?”

A grin appeared on Aidan's face; strangely, it showed the most in his eyes for his lips barely curved; despite this something shifted about his aura that revealed his satisfaction. “Yes, it was”, he said, a flame dancing in his eyes. “It's an interesting project; I might… devote more personal time to it. There was a moment when Time stopped and I was able to peer into the strangest feeling… As if I were looking back into my memories at someone that wasn't me”. Aidan paused. “Sometimes I feel something is missing”, he muttered, his fingers brushing against his left eyebrow.

The scribbling in the notes in her folder suddenly stopped as a wave of realization washed over her. Memories not of your own. Something has triggered your second soul, has it Azazel? Her brows furrowed as she glanced down at her papers. Few knew Azazel had returned to the mortal world. She and Azrael had realized this first, as the soul of the child was collected, and somehow Azazel had taken in it's place. They still had not yet discovered who had helped him to break the seal of the Abyss that was created by Johnathon Morris and Samael Norse, but had watched Azazel grow from a child to the man that was sitting before her now.

The second soul that was branded to Azazel worried her the most. Though Azazel himself was a powerful foe, the mortal Lorant Riktophen was like adding gasoline to the fire. Branded together they had started a second war, parties of both sides falling. All for the need of power, and the obsession for a simple woman. To have those memories triggered again would cause havoc once again. Especially if she could not retrieve Lorant Riktophen's soul from Azazel and return it back to it's cycle…

“Often people feel as if something is missing from their life.” she replied, hoping to draw more information on his day. She needed to know what had triggered his memories, and inform Azrael as quickly as possible. “Perhaps your project reminded you of something you feel you need.”

Aidan shook his head slightly. “Perhaps your project reminded you of something you feel you need.” Genesis's voice echoed through Aidan's mind. He again touched his left eyebrow and his bronze eyes shimmered strangely. The temperature in the room seemed to raise, as if an untimely wave of heat ran over London. As Aidan's fingers rubbed his left eyebrow, a strip of a pale hue of red appeared across his eye. “There's a saying somewhere, about how things find their way back to their owners”, he said in a strange voice. “Something I feel I need… I might get it back sooner than expected”. Aidan closed a tight grip on the armrest of the couch till his knuckles went white. The ever so pale red mark across his left eye disappeared and the temperature in the room fell suddenly to its normal cool.

Aidan blinked slowly and rested his back against the couch. He seemed confused, but no more than a fraction of a second; he quickly regained his cool and collected demeanor. “I might have missed some things, but that's opened new possibilities for me”, he said with a forced smile. “May I have a glass of water?”

Her eyes narrowed a fraction as she watched his reactions. There was no doubt something had changed. There was shift in the balance, she could feel it creeping across her skin. Though she had no care for such battles this was surely going to cause… her only concern was the soul that was still trapped, and the disturbing after-effects that came along with it. “Of course.” she replied, as she rose from her seat to the desk. Pouring a glass, she turned back to Aidan and held it out for him. “I see you feel your future is looking up. It would be a good idea to remember one's own limitations before putting any new projects in to motion.” And give me time to retrieve that soul…

Aidan drank his glass of water slowly, as if tasting it. “I have no limitations for the time being”, he softly said with such uncaring arrogance it seemed entirely natural. “The future's looking up because I've shaped it. I shape it everyday”. Aidan looked at her through the glass of water. “I provide the limitations for others and they choose which limits to impose to themselves… but they all bow to my word. I bring some order to chaos; it's my job. I won't deny it can be stressing… but it's good business. Morning Star Corporation grows as we speak”. Aidan tapped his fingers on the armrest of the couch and curiously watched his doctor as if he expected her to pull a bunny out of a hat or do something equally unexpected to entertain him.

He was an arrogant bastard, Genesis could feel her patience quickly wearing thin. Her manor was always so cool on the outside, but inside she was seething. It was time to end this session before she was tempted to take steps she was not yet ready for. “That's quite presumptuous of you, Aidan. Be careful not to be too confident, as life has a way of spiting your wishes.” Rising from her chair, she scribbled a few final notes in to her grey folder before moving to her desk. “Your next appointment is next week, but don't hesitant to call any time you need council.” she dropped the folder on the desk before turning back to Aidan. “Perhaps in the next session you'll divulge this new project of yours.”

“Presumptuous? Am I supposed to fake modesty?” Aidan smirked. “I am supposed to be honest with my doctor. There's always odds against one's wishes”, he pointed out. “You words seem to imply a dark omen; not very encouraging”. Aidan rose and placed the empty glass on a side stand. “I will call… sometime”, he softly said. “We'll see about my… project”.

“Good.” Genesis walked to the door and opened it wide for him. “I look forward to hearing from you soon. Sending him away with out much more than another word, Genesis gave a relieved sigh as he left her office. The urge to stab her spikes well deep within his heart and imprison booths souls was great. However, it'd do little good to do so this soon. The Angelic Order and their damn blasted tidings of fate and destiny… Her schedule being clear for the rest of the day, Genesis was well ready to leave. It took only a few minutes to change from her neat and tidy business clothing to something completely different. She was unrecognizable from her neat and tidy professional self, to looking more like a punk teenager. Slipping out of her office, she gave her secretary a nod before taking off to find relaxing amusement…





After an evening of studying and practices, Connor had finally convinced Adriel to go out with him for a walk. It was his night out – no work at the ER tonight… Connor was in an excellent mood. He hoped no more strange things and beings would cross their path, which seemed to be free of worries. Connor had some money and his first automatic choice had been to take Adriel to an ice-cream shop. Adriel was his love interest, the object of his secret dreams which could make even himself blush, but still somehow she also made him think of flowers and sweets, plushies and birds. The moon was high in the night sky, despite the night was still young. Connor and Adriel walked down a sidewalk, watching the moon, the traffic and the beautiful lights placed beneath the trees of a nearby park, giving the park a magical air. Connor was very pleased at his route of choice. Adriel was still eating her ice-cream cone, looking at everything with her big green and gold eyes. Connor tried to think of some compliment to tell her, but he was having a hard time thinking of something appropriately nice. Cursing his sudden loss of words, Connor scratched the back of his head. “You are very pretty”, he cautiously said. How lame…

Adriel smiled, a faint blush on her cheeks at the compliment. She pulled her coat to keep herself warm, eating her ice-cream. “Thanks, Connor”, she said after a bit. “And thanks for the ice-cream, the soda and the cookies….” Adriel continued eating her ice-cream cone. “It's a nice night for a walk…” Adriel admired the park lights and the strange green, gold and blue shadows they tossed on the trees, making them stand out on the starry night sky.

Raphael was listening invisible some distance away, a naughty smirk on his face, tainted by a bit of jealousy. That Mastema, he's still biting onto Adriel refusing to let her go even when he doesn't have his memories! Raphael sucked in a deep breath, taking in the fresh air in the park. His sharp senses told him that the park was dim and refreshing with lots of trees. Nice scenery, Raphael jested to himself, how romantic. He eavesdropped on the two quietly, listening to each and every word with tentative care. He felt like eating some ice-cream suddenly. It's been quite a long time ever since he last stopped eating. Raphael shook his head. No, he was not going to let Mastema have such a good time. Raphael batted his wings slightly and flew around Connor, blowing air into his ears, making a loud hissing sound. Finally Raphael sat down on Connor's lap mischievously and turned to face Adriel with a smile.

Connor jerked back in alarm as something ominous seemed to zoom by like a nasty insect – but a really big one! Connor lost balance and fell on a bench with something heavy on him – but he couldn't see a thing! He pushed away to stand up again, but nothing seemed to get in the way, yet there was a weight on his lap. “Did you see that?”, he asked Adriel with wide open eyes.

Adriel bit her ice cream with wide-open eyes as Connor suddenly batted at the air and fell on a bench as if something had fallen on him. Sure Connor could sometimes be a little weird, but being raised in Irish traditions herself, she was used to strange, unseen things. “Umm… No”, she replied, sitting on the bench. Adriel took a small bit of her cone with a soft cracking sound, her green and gold eyes fixed on him. “It's getting a bit windy”, she said with a grin as if she were offering an explanation.

Raphael bit his lower lip in excitement as Connor began to show shock and nervousness on his part when he sat down on his lap. Raphael laughed to himself. Feeling young and mischievous again, Raphael felt around Connor's face and pulled his ears hard before he stood up a distance from Connor and gave a hard kick to where he thought were the kneecaps. Take that! I will be pestering you as long as you are a bug around Adriel!

Connor swatted at the air as something pulled his ears hard, then he felt a kick on his knees. “Ow!” He gasped, for now he could distinctively sense a presence around them… “Adriel! There's something lurking around here!” Connor's eyes were open wide. “Poltergeist!” Connor jumped back on his feet. “We better leave”, he said with a frown, gazing around with worried eyes.

Adriel took a larger bit of her ice-cream cone, blinking as a drop of ice-cream landed on the tip of her nose. Connor was acting more odd than usual. “But Connor… it could be just the wind…” Adriel wrinkled her nose. “Poltergeist?” Adriel blinked again. “Who'd take interest on us?” She rose, however. “Well alright… let us go; I guess it's getting late. I want to go home”.

Raphael snickered at Connor's 'frightened' state, and it was a pity he couldn’t see his face. He laughed and it echoed into Connor's ears which was red from all the merciless pulling from Raphael. Pointing finger at Connor, slightly off-track he said, “You dummy! Stop bothering Adriel!” He felt silly then. Connor couldn’t hear him anyway. Raphael smirked and disappeared into thin air. In another moment, as Connor and Adriel were leaving, he appeared in his human form from behind and approached them with his stick. He smacked Connor's legs. “Hi… goodnight, dear friends.” Raphael said with a weird smile on his face as he pushed his sunglasses up.

“Home already…? But it's early…”, Connor softly protested. “I'll take you home, though…” Suddenly a guy with a walking cane appeared and smacked his legs. “Ow!” Connor winced and glared at the stranger. The Irishman's eyes flared with inner fire, yet he still wasn't sure why his anger was redirected to this strange guy who had just sprouted out of the grass. Connor flicked his hair out of his eyes and came to the startling realization that the presence he felt earlier was not gone and the only other one around that close was this stranger! Connor frowned slightly. He could be getting a wrong impression… but his fey sense never failed to him. Connor's frown deepened. “Who are you?”, he demanded.

“Connor…! It sure was an accident…” Adriel protested at Connor's fierce reaction to the blind man. When he lifted his eyeglasses, Adriel recognized him from the University.

“Mr. Raphael, isn't it? Well, it's a surprise… Connor, he was in the hall this morning, at school…” Adriel blinked at Connor's expression. She knew he was containing his anger when his eyes flared like that, giving his green eyes an eerie light. “There's no reason to be upset”, she firmly said. “Just give him some space…” Adriel pulled Connor a little aside. “There”. She smiled, conciliative. “Goodnight, Mr. Raphael”.

Raphael smiled as he turned to where he thought Adriel was. “It's all right… Miss Adriel…” Raphael said in a light mood, “He's a young man after all. Maybe he's just concerned for you.” Raphael smiled as he turned over slightly, 'looking' at Connor's direction. “Goodnight to you, young man. How are you feeling? My name is Raphael, if that's what you are asking earlier… I'm just a blind man who loves to walk around.” Raphael could sense Connor's explosive feelings and he was very amused by it, by which he obviously showed with a slight curl of his lips. He couldn’t resist.

Connor's jaw was set. “Just a blind man? Is that supposed to mean you are harmless?” Connor asked with a forced smile. “I don't know you and yes, I am concerned for Adriel – who happens to be important for me. Goodnight, however. Keep that stick of yours under control – Mr. Raphael. You could hit other people with that…” Connor showed a small smile as he saw the smirk on Raphael's face. “Have you considered taking in a guide dog?”, he softly asked.

“The stick's here so that I can feel around… it's not surprising I would hit someone accidentally… I'm blind, after all.” Raphael replied with a smile, amused by Connor. He tapped the ground with his stick again making a music like sound. “I don't need a guide-dog… thank you… I can get by pretty well by myself.” Raphael said as his face appeared a little sad, “I used to have someone who guided me around, but she's gone now…” Raphael turned to Adriel and smiled at her. “You behave allot like her.”

I am concerned for Adriel – who happens to be important for me. Adriel smiled a bit. Connor was always looking after her, ever since they met in Ireland, when he worked on the streets. He always had a fierce determination on getting what he wanted – but he was also so filled up with anger and resentment. It was bottled up, but she could perceive it. Connor could be incredibly sweet, but… Sometimes Adriel wondered how could he get rid of that painful anger. It seemed like Raphael had a trigger for it. Connor's sarcasm about the dog was too bitter to be casual. Adriel opened her lips to interfere again, but Raphael interrupted. Adriel opened her eyes in surprise and forgot what she was about to say. “Oh… I see, Mr. Raphael… I’m sorry”, she murmured.

Raphael smiled again. “It's all right… It's quite nice to know that someone who's like an old friend of mine is around. May I be your friend, Miss Adriel?” Raphael asked, not seeming to care about Connor's existence anymore. If anything were to happen, surely Adriel would help the poor helpless blind boy? “I believe I haven't catch your boyfriend's name yet… Miss Adriel… Was it Connor?” he asked with a sweet sugary smile.

Adriel was confused. “Connor is a good friend”, she murmured. “He's one of my best friends… He is a good person”. She looked at them, holding what was left of her ice-cream cone with an air like a confused child. “I have no objection, Mr. Raphael”, she gently said. “I suppose we can be friends”. She smiled a bit.

Raphael smiled happily, like a young boy who just graduated from school. “I'm glad to hear that, Adriel.” Raphael said, changing his way of addressing Adriel instantly, “You can call me Raphael or Ralph, if you like.” Raphael offered as he snickered to himself in his heart. Good, so Adriel finally said Connor's just a good friend, Raphael thought to himself. “Mr. Connor, I hope you don't mind me making friends with Adriel?” he asked Connor, in a slight sarcastic manner.

“I do mind”, Connor harshly said. “I don't trust you one bit”, he frankly continued. “Adriel! I can't tell you who to befriend or not. It's your decision and I won't interfere… about this. You know my quality of judgment”. Connor crossed his arms with a frown.

Raphael shrugged, though looking hurt. “… What can a blind man like me do? If I'm going to hurt any of you, do you think I can do that fast enough before you can stop me? I'm blind, I can't see. I feel my way around… So I don't know why Mr. Connor seems to detest me.” Raphael said as he lowered his head sadly. “I'm sorry… I didn't mean to annoy any of you… I thought… I just thought we could be friends.” Damn you Mastema. Who are you to say things like that? You stupid Fallen…

Adriel was confused. Raphael seemed to be quite saddened and concerned while Connor was indignant and concerned. Two concerned men can be a dangerous mix! Adriel didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings. She finished her ice-cream. All they needed it was to settle down their differences, maybe. “I know your quality of judgment, dear Connor”, Adriel said. “You don't need to be sorry, Mr. Raphael. I suppose… we just need to know each other better, okay? So you guys can stay here and talk – I'll see you both later. Goodnight!” Adriel waved and walked off.

“But Adriel….!” Connor watched in frustration as Adriel turned around and walked away. He turned to Raphael with an glacial stare – this guy did have managed to successfully ruin his night! However Raphael's handicap still held back Connor from introducing him to the sidewalk.

Raphael was pissed off with Connor whom he thought was responsible for making Adriel 'mad'. When Adriel was out of earshot, Raphael removed his shades and stared directly into Connor's eyes. “You are such a pest, as always.” Raphael hissed at Connor, seemingly to show his 'true colors'. “Before this, you were always interfering with Adriel and me, even when she showed you utterly no interest, and just as a friend.” Raphael's face was beginning to show deep displeasure with Mastema whom he found rather pesky. Buzzing around Adriel just like how Beelzebub used to buzz around Zeruel. Annoying pests. What I need is a special insecticide!

Then the strange man started talking a sort of gibberish that reaffirmed Connor's impression that Raphael was dangerous and insane – and he must not be allowed near Adriel by any means! Raphael claimed he knew Adriel from before – a manifest lie as far as Connor could tell – and he also claimed Connor had interfered between Adriel and he back then… Connor was very annoyed. “Stay away from Adriel!”, he growled, “or else I am going to forget your condition! Psycho! I know you hide something!”

“While you think I can't be trusted, I don't trust you either, Mastema. I thought you would at least change your attitude towards me after some years. I shouldn't have been that nice to you when you passed out of your previous body.” Raphael smiles almost sinisterly as he puts on his shades again. “Yo, I'm going, young man. See you and Adriel some other time…” Raphael said as he moves off into the night, seemingly to disappear into the dark.

Then Raphael called him Mastema and claimed he had had a previous life! This was the top of it… Raphael moved away but Connor followed and reached out to grab Raphael's collar – he wasn't going to let him go away like that! – but the man seemingly disappeared. Connor stood there with wide-open eyes. It seemed out of an episode of Twilight Zone! With a start, he turned and ran after Adriel, hoping he'd find her to walk her home – he didn't want to take the risk of that strange man to pop up in her way tonight. Everything was so creepy and strange… Besides, a voice had called him Mastema that very morning. It was sickening! And who the Hell was Mastema?! For all he could tell, it was a demon or something. Maybe he should've paid more attention in the catechism class when he was a boy. He'd have to find out, if these creepy things kept on happening.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER SIX

I'm so dead. Wincing to the surrounding garden, Rishta yawned slightly. Having arrived from Venice just this morning, she had been exhausted – and had attempting going to school. Well, that had been a disaster. Obviously jet lag and caffeine had joined together in an unholy matrimony and had caused her pandemonium – she had attacked several people. Just, several random people who never did anything… well, maybe the first guy: he was pointing a gun at Jem. And well, the second guy had nearly run her over, then had gone chasing Adriel… so she did have a good excuse. Maybe. And she had skipped the first day of school… deep in her heart, she had known this would happen. Rishta would come home, get insomnia, try to go to school, and end up going home before there was a first period class. Of course, attacking random strangers hadn't been on her list. It could be thought of as a special bonus.

After sleeping for a good two hours, Rishta had decided she wanted to go for a walk, and go buy herself a proper breakfast. The air would do her good, and give her a time to think. It had been so long since she had really done that, just walk and think. There was always something on her mind, whether it be school, friends, or that Void. It was the Void that was the worst thing though, because if she was alone, it would eat her away for days and days, until someone (usually dear Jem) would come and pull her out. God, she hated those feelings. That feeling of not belonging, and being a stranger to the world. Being… so out of place. So alone. Rishta didn't like being alone, and only had to deal with it when necessary.

Now… do I want to get coffee, or some real break- With a sickening thud, Rishta was thrown from her feet as another figure was also, and landing on her tush with a soft 'ow.' Her hands panged, and that's when she realized that she had scraped them. Fun fun. This day was going great. Now, not only had she missed school, her hands were bleeding, her tush hurt, and to make it worse – she had brought someone down with her. Shaking her head a bit, she vaguely looked at the poor soul, still trying to organize herself and the world. “Oh no… I'm so sorry about that… I wasn't looking…” It must have been a comical sight, two disoriented people on their tushes in the park, each wondering what the hell had hit them.

Lucca's ever going wandering took him to that park, again. He had seen it from above a few days ago – Lucca had a knack for gardens and things that grow, even if it could seem a contradiction from some scholars' points of view. The day was grey and cold. Lucca pulled his collar around his ears, ignoring the looks occasional women tossed on his astounding beauty as he wandered down the trails, deeper under the trees. He stopped in a crossroads and searched his pockets for his cigarette case. A pair of insistent eyes made him look around, spotting a 5 year old child staring at him. Lucca stared back with a slight frown. The child in her age and innocence could still be able to see a different, sublime form to him and the shimmer of gold where his wings would be supposed to be. Despite whatever she could see, from Lucca emanated a perpetual air of charm and poison, despite he hid his 'presence' with expertise. The kid was obviously perplexed – was he good or evil, according to her childhood notions?

“You are weird”, the child said. Lucca's frown went deeper.

“Would you like to become an orphan?”, he softly asked. The child opened her eyes wide and ran away without questioning the threat. Lucca coolly turned back to his search. He took out an elegant, gold cigarette case and opened it, then placed a cigarette between his lips. Then suddenly he was hit; Lucca unceremoniously landed on his butt, the cigarette case clicking on the paved trail. No one knocks Him off his feet! Lucca glared at the confused… woman. His expert eyes noticed something else, however. Lucca's eyes flashed in a mix of rage and hatred, then suddenly turned back to an indifferent expression.

“How rude you are, signorina”. Lucca cast her a censoring look, then picked up his cigarette case, tucked it in his jacket inside pocket and taking out a lighter proceeded to nonchalantly light up his cigarette before getting up.

I feel another migraine coming on… it's so typical… me and my clumsy feet… Shaking her head one more time, Rishta opened her eyes and faced the man she had knocked down. Oh… my… god… Blinking once, she looked at him again. Not only was this man utterly gorgeous, he had a sort of refined air… and a mystery that could probably make girls swoon. I had better keep my wits about… he feels… strange… Casting the stranger an astounded look, Rishta tried to calm her poor, wrecked nerves down before they reacted to his rudeness and smacked him right around the head. He had a lot of nerve… after she had apologized! What did he want her to do? Beg for forgiveness? Honestly… anyone with that much of an ego DESERVED to be run into!

Tossing her hair back, she gave him a dark look. She had changed from earlier, and instead of being swathed in black, she wore dark blue jeans and a short-sleeved red fitted tee, which had some Italian phrasing on it. She had bought it two days ago, and now she prayed it did say “Believer of Fate” because if it had some sort of profanity, this Italian model was going to start making a scene. And a scene she didn't want. Giving him a light glare, Rishta stood and answered him delicately, waiting for him to snap at her. He looked like the type to eat little kids.

“I'm sorry sir, I assure you it was an accident. Allow me to help you up.” Rishta offered him her hand, trying hard not to comment on the cigarette. She didn't like the smell of smoke, and she prayed it wouldn't get all over her and her nice new shirt. But, according to her recent run of luck – it should. This, was a great morning. All she needed, was an encounter with a devil.

Lucca arched an eyebrow and looked at the woman from head to toes as she remarked her apologies. Lucca's lip curled slightly in amusement at her proposal. “I don't need any help”, he murmured. There was a strange, hidden significance to his voice upon this words. Lucca calmly rose to his feet, but he took her hand, placing a kiss on it. “You should watch your step”, he said with a smirk before dusting himself and continuing down the trail.

He could've had the manners to let me help him up… Rishta felt a bit indignant as he stood up on his own, his face looking somewhat amused at her offer of assistance. He had a beautiful face, that one did not want to look away from, but to Rishta, there was something cold and sinister in it. But… was there a bitterness in his eyes? Like someone who hates something so much, yet can't do a thing against it… What am I saying? Her thoughts were interrupted as he took her hand, even though he had stood, and kissed it. His lips felt warm against her skin, and her face soon felt the same way, as he walked away with his “you should watch your step” warning. She was almost relieved to have him go, he made her feel uncomfortable – too exposed. She didn't like the feeling at all. Blinking, she saw something in the grass, where he had been sitting. Kneeling down for a second, she picked up a… wallet. I guess it must have fell from his pocket when I waltzed right into him… Turning she saw him walk away. Typical… I get to look like a nuisance… Stepping up to him quickly, she tapped him on the shoulder, and waited for his attention… …And those impossible bronze eyes.

Lucca sensed her coming after his footsteps even before she tapped on his shoulder. He did not desire to stay around this girl for he had perceived she bore a Heavenly Seal and more importantly, he had a strong notion about what may lay beneath it. He wanted to remain anonymous, to remain nameless. However… she was there, tapping on his shoulder. Lucca stopped and looked at her over his shoulder before slowly turning to face her. He had not quite made out her face, only her eyes. Now the face and the eyes were before him again; she had a special charm of his own but at the same time she seemed to be a lone orchid clinging to a tree that hasn't noticed her in a the dark gloom of a wild jungle. “Signorina…?” He arched an eyebrow, noticing the motto on her shirt. “Angels walk the Earth”, it said in Italian; Lucca gave a subtle snort.

“Gli Angeli camminano la terra”, he murmured, his bronze gaze fixed on her face. “Very… appropriate.”

Rishta found herself taking a deep breath when he turned to look at her, although it was inaudible. Those bronze eyes… such a color had to be impossible! Those eyes, along with his amazing good looks, made her want to stand there and look at him nonstop. It was an impossible beauty, an impossible perfection that none could hope to achieve! The only way she could cling to that hope, was by convincing herself that that eye color wasn’t real, and that he was wearing colored contacts. I hope they are colored contacts…

“Signorina…?”

And he’s Italian… Blinking once, she used her pathetic Italian translation skills, and realized that he had said angels walk on earth. Now, was that a compliment, or the saying on her shirt? She had forgotten… maybe she had bought the wrong one, and it had a different saying or something. “Uh, thank you.” Rishta looked at him cautiously for a minute. He still gave off those creepy vibes, but there was something else hidden in them. Her curiosity was begging for a chance to be allowed to find out, but she didn’t want to agitate this stranger any more than necessary. “Oh, I found this.” Holding out her hand, she displayed the wallet that had fallen on the ground. After all, she would’ve hated to seem like some annoying fan girl instead of a girl with a mission. She wasn’t like that, not now, not ever. And especially not for the guy with the impossible bronze eyes.

Lucca's gaze slid from her face to her hand. She was presenting his wallet to him. Lucca's fingers brushed against hers as he picked up the leather wallet; he placed it into his pocket. “Thank you, signorina”, he murmured. “I see you are not so rude”. A mischievous smile lightened up his gaze briefly; his eyes shimmered with inner gold fire and again his face was serene, yet the strange melancholy in the depths of his eyes persisted. Lucca looked at her. This girl was calling for his attention and yet she could be something to stay away from, he suddenly felt like knowing her name and learn about her piece of history. A caprice, maybe; he did not care. He was used to live for himself. “You've saved my life”, he said with a small yet charming smile. “I would've been lost and totally broke in a strange city, if it were not for your kindness. May I know your name?”

Rishta blinked as he stared at her face, then down to her hand, to where his wallet lay. As he reclaimed it, his fingers brushed hers, and once again she felt that rush of warmth. It was a sort of chilling warmth, something that reminded her of a sin. This man was so strange. It made her feel… sort of uncomfortable. “You're welcome… I couldn't just leave it there.” Choosing to ignore the impish smile that had been on his face for the barest of minutes, Rishta couldn't help but keep on staring into his eyes. They had been bronze before, but now they flared with an inner golden light, a sort of shine that only gold had. It wasn't just golden light to her, it was gold. There wasn't a substitute for that color. Unless he was wearing contacts. Then it would explain everything. Her thoughts were interrupted as he put on a charming smile, and asked for her name, saying something about her saving him. She only could assume he meant it figuratively, then again, he could have meant it literally, especially if he was new to the city.

“I'm Rishta, and I doubt I saved your life… someone else would've found your wallet. Anyways, may I have your name?” After all, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. She didn't want a stalker on her hands. Even if he looked like an Italian prince.

Lucca bit his lip in a brief, mischievous smile. He shrugged his shoulders with elegant grace. “I am Lucca Marzari”, he said, looking at her. “Doesn't Rishta have a last name?” He tilted his head, his gaze fixed on her. “I don't blame you to keep it secret. I don't look like one to be trusted…” Lucca tossed the stomp of his cigarette on the paved trail, gazing around.

Rishta blinked once, in slight confusion, as Lucca smiled. It was a secretive, unnerving smile. When he shrugged, she found himself looking – no, staring. He was a work of art in man form. It was hard NOT to stare. His stare, and voice, were unnerving. “It's not that… it's just that I didn't know if you wanted it or not. It is a lot of information when you think about it. Some people just rather know the first name only…” Biting her lip, she gave a sort of shaky smile. “It's Farishta. Rishta Anu Farishta.” Glancing around for a moment, she decided to make polite conversation. “So, where are you from? What part of Italy?”

“I come form the Eternal City”, Lucca replied with a half smile. “I am from Rome. Your name speaks about Destiny, Rishta Anu Farishta… Do you believe in such things?” Bronze eyes shimmered. “Some think there are things they are meant to do, no matter what's their desire. What do you think about that?” Lucca tilted his head and a skeptical smile slid on his lips, yet it was strangely warm. “Or is your name simply a name someone imposed to you?”

“My name was never imposed on me… I guess you can say that I sort of came with it.” Yeps, he is really going to understand that… Rishta sarcastically thought to herself. However, what she said was true, she did come with a name, and her adoptive parents never chose it. Being found on their doorstep, her name was in the letter they had received. During her life, many had commented about how odd it was, that this child should come from nowhere into their lives, and it was simply a coincidence that she had the same exact name as the Lady that had once resided in the home the Smith's owned. It certainly was something. Legends had grown around the house that was under the Smith's care, now under Rishta's. No one had entered that house since 1860, some said. Others claimed it was since 1854, when something strange happened in the city of London. The Lady Rishta had been a recluse, just living there for a bit over a year, and all of a sudden strangers had been allowed in her home, and for the first time she had opened her house to them! The Lady was well known for refusing invitations and offers ranging from dinner to marriage. Then, only a few days after the strangers' arrival, she moved away, and the house was locked, nothing touched. No one dared to enter that place anymore. Children found it haunted and adults were scared of it. Such was their paranoia that they never had anyone tear it down, or even go on the property. That fear, and the fact that the land didn't belong to the government had kept them away for years. In fact, they had never mentioned it to the family. Didn't want to tempt them with the prospect that the land they kept safe was worth big bucks, since it had the purest lake in London, and remains from the Middle Ages that archeologists wanted to study. It was a gold mine.

But this Lucca reminded her of mysterious places like Angel Manor. Asking her about destiny, and what she thought about it. Maybe that's the way all Romans were… but if so, why did she miss it when she went there? He certainly was smart – and good looking, if not a bit egotistical. And chauvinistic. Then again, most men were like that. At least, most men she knew. “And I believe in destiny… I mean, I believe that man has a free will, but there are always certain obligations one must complete before their passing… otherwise they won't be at rest.” This man really must be intelligent… I had no idea my name meant Destiny, it's sort of cool when you think about it… and he has the most amazing looks… Allison would die if she saw him… Returning his smile, Rishta tried to come back to Earth. “What do you believe Mr. Marzari?”

“Interesting point of view”, Lucca replied with a small, dangerous smile. “I believe everyone should have the right to shape their own destiny. Could someone be bound to be miserable just because someone has to be? Why should some be slaves and others rulers even if none of them means to? I refuse to accept imposed obligations. I believe in the power of the Will. No one has the right to tell me who to serve or who to rule over, if I don't see them fit”. Bronze eyes shimmered, but their inner fire seemed to dim after he spoke. “So… you came with your name?”, he softly said. “It's curious how some wonders are delivered at our doorstep.”

“I guess you're much more of a free spirit then I am.” Rishta gave a small smile, his dangerous one unnerving her just a bit. It was amazing how he went through faces… and how they changed your own emotions. One minute, he could charm you, the next – utterly terrify you. It was like he was manipulating how you felt, just by manipulating the muscles on his face. It was… strangely amazing. Blinking a bit at his accuracy, Rishta began laughing, like cool rain on the water. It was amazing at how accurate his phrasing was, and very nerve-wracking. Smiling at him, she decided to enlighten him with her past. “You surprise me, Mr. Marzari – I didn't expect you to be so… accurate with your phrasing. Though I doubt being called a wonder is true, I was indeed delivered to a doorstep.”

A small yet warm smile slowly curled Lucca's lip as Rishta laughed. “I see…”, he murmured. “Yes, I am full of surprises, Miss Farishta. Why wouldn't you be a wonder? A wonder delivered at the right door…” Lucca ran his fingers through his hair to put it out of his eyes as the breeze blew upon them, his fingers contrasting against his silky blue-black hair. “What business brings you to London?”, he asked, still smiling. “If I may ask”.

Giving a small shrug, Rishta ceased her laughing, still holding that calm happiness on her face. Mr. Marzari was certainly an interesting character, and a charming one at that. With those bronze eyes… they seemed to pull you in, and drown you in their golden depths. Such a color… and with his complexion and bluish black hair… he was so gorgeous. There really was no other word. “Hot” wasn't good enough, “pretty” didn't cut it… “beautiful” seemed so dim… it was scary. Such a beauty couldn't be real. Not that she was falling for him. Noooo way. She had no problem in admitting someone elses' beauty, and didn't need to be head over heels in order to do so. He was gorgeous. Fact, not opinion. Straightening herself a bit, Rishta gave a charming smile. Nothing brought her here, but then again – how would he know? If he just came into town, and was knocked on his tush by her… The thought still brought along a mental cringe. “Well, I just came back home from a trip to Venice. I live here, at Smith Manor. What about you? What brings you to my 'Eternal City'?”

“The wind brought me to your city”, Lucca replied with a small, charming smile with a mysterious touch to it. “The wind… and the lights in the dark”. He took mental note of the name of her lodgings, maybe just out of his old trained habit to collect data… which could have a future use. “Venice is a nice city, if you like water and history”, he casually said with a charming smile. “I have businesses there… but I've not been there in years”.

Wow… he's a poet as well… I'm so lucky! “Well, I hope the wind will keep you here for awhile Mr. Marzari. London needs more charming people.” Might as well tell the truth… Nodding, Rishta once again smiled. “Venice is beautiful, but I think Rome was my favorite. I went there a few years ago. What sort of businesses do you have in Venice?”

A small yet charming smile curled Lucca's lip at the compliment. He nodded once in acknowledgement, with natural elegance. “I might stay for a while”, he slowly said. His eyes shimmered. “There's always something new in places like this… Everything converges in large population centers at one point or another”. His voice seemed to carry a particular significance. “I have an antique dealer's shop in Venice, in Rome… and other places. Antiques hold a way to capture the past and look back into others' universes… Have you ever felt you somehow belong in other time? Some people do. It's good business for me”. Lucca smiled. “What are your interests, Miss Rishta Anu Farishta? You have the particular air of an analytic mind… Do you follow studies?”

Tossing her dark hair behind her, Rishta smiled back at him and nodded. It was very hard not to smile back when he smiled at you. It had a charm to it, a sort of… foreign elegance. Which was expected, since he came from Italy. The Eternal City… a place of history and majesty. And really beautiful guys. Nodding, Rishta's smile broadened. So, he was planning to stay awhile… surely he wouldn't mind spending some time with an interested person like her? He was everything Rishta liked to speak with: charming, intelligent, wise, and very handsome. Not to mention he had an elegance that very few could master. Yeps, he was indeed a great guy to know.

Rishta blinked once at him, face looking purely stunned. How did he know…? It must have been a lucky guess – no one except Jem Jem knows about the Void… and that feeling… of being born in the wrong era… Wait, no.. he's a businessman, it must be something in his nature… Reaching into her pocket, Rishta pulled out a small index card, and offered it to Lucca. It was snow white, with gold handwriting (which, in fact, was real gold) and perfectly elegant. On it was inscribed her name, address, house number, e-mail, and cell phone number. Around the edges were little moons and stars, engraved with silver instead of gold. “Here, just in case you want to get in touch with me.” Blushing slightly, Rishta smiled in embarrassment. “I don't know about analytical.. but I'm interested in art, history, and psychology. I take Medieval History and Psychology at the local college here… what about you?”

Lucca looked at the card, then accepted it. He sensed he had hit the right spot; he had broken through the first ward. She wanted them to be able to keep in touch. It was a sort of victory but also a risky step to take, for she bore a Heavenly Seal. Lucca did not wish to be found, to be uncovered… but his fingers closed round the card. He'd see her again. What a name she's got… and she seems familiar, somehow… Lucca smiled with a nod. “I'm honored… and I'd like to correspond”, he murmured as he pulled out a small gold card-holder case. He opened it, slid Rishta's card inside and pulled out a card of his own. It was white, made of papyrus, with sharp golden embedded script. Lucca Marzari, Art Appraisal and Antiques. Rome, Venice, Paris, Santiago de Chile, Lima, Calcuta, El Cairo, Berlin. The card held no more direction than a cell phone number and an email. Lucca presented the card to Rishta.

“Medieval History and Psychology… Interesting choice”, he said. “I'm specialized in Art and History… but I have other interests. To learn and to teach is my distraction, whenever possible. Medieval history and Psychology… Now I have a clue on what other things could keep your interest”, he said with a charming smile.

“I'm honored… and I'd like to correspond” Rishta smiled as she accepted his card, slipping it into her pocket. She had taken a look at it, and was deeply impressed. This guy worked all over the world! Just doing antiques… he had seriously have some money. Then again… so do a lot of people nowadays.. always striving to be the best… Rishta smiled at him, and his 'deduction'. They had so much in common… both of them loved art and the past… maybe they were related! The thought struck her suddenly and she blinked. She wasn't sure if that would be such a good idea. “What sort of 'other things' did you have in mind, Mr. Marzari?”

Lucca smiled softly. “I don't have an office in London”, he said, “but I have contacts. I might participate in a Medieval art exhibit with some artifacts – an exhibit organized by one of my clients. If you'd like… and the exhibit is scheduled soon, maybe it could interest you. This, if you are interested. I have not confirmed my participation, but if you are interested in the exhibit, I'll send my confirmation email to the exhibit manager”. Lucca shrugged his shoulders with natural elegance. “This sort of other things, miss Farishta”, he said with a faintly mischievous smile. “To please you… and to know you better. As I mentioned, I like to learn”.

Smiling happily, Rishta nodded enthusiastically. “That would be so awesome! I'd love to go! I haven't seen a good Medieval Art exhibit in years…” He's perfect.. literally! Awwing slight, Rishta gave a smile. “You certainly have a way with words. I'd like to get to know you better too.” Glancing down for a moment, she saw her watch face. That can't be the time…. “I'm sorry Mr. Marzari, but it seems that I've run out of time, I'm late for an appointment.. it was nice meeting you! Call me sometime!” Waving, Rishta turned and ran off down the trail, not waiting for his 'goodbye'. She had the premonition that they would be meeting once again. Let me not be so clumsy next time…

Lucca watched her go smiling to himself. Her dark brown hair had golden reflections in the sunlight as she ran and disappeared in the next turn of the trail. Lucca turned and took the opposite way, flicking his hair out of his eyes as the wind blew from the skies. The sun had gone past its zenith and was running its course down. Lucca made a mental note to send that email to his contact in the British Museum. But again, he was once more immerse in his solitude. The Londoner night was not far away – Lucca took a long thoughtful walk, immerse in his memories till the night began.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER FIVE

That swirling, thick feeling of heaviness encompassed within never-ending and never-ceasing void of emptiness flowed like a thick smog and clung to the very fiber of existence as it was known. Chris knew it well. It was through his existence that it in itself existed, his retreat from Aidan and his meaningless endeavors brought it to life. This new order was as useless as previous ones made, fetching him information on a girl whom he just met. That fact alone was enough to produce a low growl to slip from the very back of his throat by just thinking about it. He was not a hound to be told what to do and then get a treat after obeying it. The lesser of the demons could be his pets and Christopher would make sure to remind him of that the next time.

Moving through the blinding darkness; temporarily removing and then relocating himself into a different plane–a different existence of dimensions–Chris moved silently, though, in a place void of everything including deafening silence-it would be surprising to him in there was to be any noise. Even the faintest sound of his breath was dulled and soon absorbed into the walls after it left his mouth, an eerie but somewhat comforting feeling to the occultist. It never lasted though, a shameful thing indeed to be taken away from as he seemed to hit a spongy wall of smoke before eventually shimmering; as he liked to call it; and taking form as his body came back into contact with the world that is and not a world that was alternate in contemptible reality.

Slipping into the MS Corp. building unnoticed by security cameras was simple, but Christopher knew there was always a chance of him relocating his atoms and flesh with that of a wall. Though, he was as devoid of that fear as he was of Aidan, or rather, the being that was part of Aidan. He had butted heads with him on quite a few occasions on his tact and the way he gambled overly with his games of the mind, and even power. Aidan knew it, and Chris knew it, but each harbored a fear of one another. Christopher, a descendant of the great Occultist Johnathon Morris, had more then enough power to cast aside the hellish soul that resided within Aidan without little effort, and Azazel, the first born of Lilith could easily take the life that was his. A fearful companionship indeed.

“Information,” he mumbled, an air of arrogance permiating through the room while he took a seat from behind a table and spun it around, taking the seat for himself. Propping his feet up on the thick marble top of the table, Chris drummed his fingers on the arm rest before running his fingers calmly through his hair. “Doleful and unexciting he is with his so-called orders. Information seeking is a job for his foul creatures, not me.” His eyes lit up with a quirked brow, but pushed a sudden thought aside as he brought his feet from the table to the ground. Reaching out with his mind, and folding his hands in front of him, the occultist reached out into the empty air like a blind man with a cane and forcefully took a hold of the nearest demonic mind and insighted it with a call. It would only be a matter of time before the one he summoned would arrive, but in the time of waiting.. he would simply enjoy the view from the window of its eyes.

Christopher sat idly, tapping his fingers against one of the plastic coverings of the arm of his chair. Each tap seemed to symbolize a passing moment and with each one, Chris' impatience grew with them. Demons, the things of hell, never did know how to be courteous and at best, didn't understand the importance of why it might be summoned. Importance…, he though for a moment, then snorted callously through his nose with a huff as he spun around in one of the office style executive chair and crossed the room over to one of the large style windows. It was almost a perfect height for a person to walk through, though what awaited the person who did was a step that no one would walk away from. That would truly be an interesting sight.

Sucking in a breath of air through his teeth and pulling back the long brown sleeve of his jacket, Chris let his eyes wander across his arm with little care and with an almost scrutinizing gleam within them. If he was expecting to see a watch there to look at the time, he knew it would of been a lie. Instead, on his arm, seemed to be pentagrams and oddly shaped words, words that looked as if a child with a crayon or perhaps a marker had drawn them erratically on a sheet of paper. Each was etched into his skin neatly, and shimmered a translucent black when he ran a finger across them-tracing the lines and letters with a fingertip. Immersed, Chris sighed a long annoyed sigh, muttering something that sounded very much like a prayer before turning and sending a thick wall of heat into the window he had before looked through. It shattered, though briefly, and quickly reversed itself back to its original state as if time had been set back. Rolling his sleeve back down, the occultist turned to look at the shadow. He had arrived and of course, very late..

If almost to show off, Chris could feel the demon emanate his power by stretching it like a heavy rubber band as the air within the room began to expand then retract like a vice. The air outside did as well, though the consequences of such a large mass being attracted together very much like a magnet would do to metal caused the smallest of sparks; beginning a chain reaction of more until it looked like lightning. Lightning, on a clear day. How droll and unimpressive. Not much of a demonic power.

“You're late,” he muttered, waving away the show with a slow movement of his hand. “I called you here for one reason, demon,” Chris continued, slipping his hands into his pockets as if he was all alone in the room. “I want you to collect some information for me. I don't wish to lower myself down to your levels.” That same air of arrogance spread again when he craned his neck over his shoulder, a darkened fire hidden behind his eyes. No matter how much he despised working with demons, they had their uses. Easily disposed of as well, if anything were to go wrong. Indeed, they were worthless to him in the end.

“This mission should be simple, even for you,” Christopher stated as a matter-of-factly, turning around with ignorance to the demon as if he was inferior to everything that he was. In truth, he was, but letting him know that would do little in the matter of the job getting done. “I need you to gather any and all information on a girl. Yes, a girl. Do not get me wrong, you creature of the abyss. Meaningless things such as information fetching is not my idea of putting you to practical use but rather one of someone higher then even myself.” Higher then himself, he grinned a toothy grin and shot the demon a chilling glare. “Her name is Autumn Kristof,” he added nonchalantly as if the demon had already been aware of the girls name from the very beginning. “Gather the information on her and return. If you succeed, you'll be awarded more power then you can fathom, but if you fail or stray from your goal.. you shall die, by my hand. It will be as if you never existed at all.”

With a wave of his hand, the occultist turned his back to the shadows and peered out the window as they folded back upon themselves and creeped along the floor and wall until they vanished from sight entirely. The game was on, but Chris had the strangest feeling something was not right. The darkness told him so and if that was the case-he would have to be wary and cautious.

Trevor steadily marched down the hallway, following his sense towards where he was getting the strongest blip. With his power on high alert, now he noticed several dozen dark forces popping up on campus. Just how many demons were there in this dump, anyway? Was there some kind of convention in town or something?? Slowing down near the administration offices, Trevor cleared his mind, and tried to focus on the nearest reading. There was a strong pulse coming from…the record room? What would a demon want in there? Duh. It's looking for information, Trevor snapped at himself. He pressed his ear to the door, and tried to listen inside.

“Is this all you require?” it hissed to somebody. Its voice was more irritating than fearsome; it sounded like somebody was choking on gravel. There was nobody else in the room Trevor could feel. Maybe it was communicating with somebody at a distance? Pulling his gun, Trevor kicked down the door, and marched into the room, taking the ugly demon inside by complete surprise. “Well, well. Look at this. I didn't think you brainless gimps could even read.”

“You…are not him,” the demon rasped, eyeing Trevor for a moment after recovering from its initial shock. “Same smell. Different feel. Your blood is not thinned with the Dark Arts.”

Trevor blinked, and lowered his gun a bit. “What in the hell are you talking about? No, actually, never mind. I really don't care,” he mumbled, raising it again. “I'll ask your sicko boss when I see him. “G`night, sunshine.” The demon lunged, and Trevor unloaded the entire clip into the thing's face. It was dead before it got halfway to him, and it slumped lifeless onto the floor after bumping into Trevor, and quickly turned into ash as it hit the ground. Loading up a full magazine, Trevor quickly darted across the room, and made a hasty dive out the window. The last thing he wanted to do was be around when students came by and started asking questions. Trevor stopped when he got across the campus, and quickly pulled out his phone. One throwaway, dead in the record room. Keep an eye out for more trouble. Keep Joz close. Be back soon. With the push of a button, Trevor fired off the message back to Kris' phone. Searching a city this big for a summoner was going to be tough, especially when the thing that was summoned was so low-powered. Even an apprentice could do it. Telepathy, however, was another thing entirely, and that narrowed down his search considerably. Checking his gun again, Trevor ran off campus, and made his way downtown.

Campus records. What kind of idiotic being would look for family information at a school? No, Chris truly didn't need his rhetorical question answered, because he himself had seen what kind of creature was stupid enough to do something like that with his very own two eyes. And he had actually made an effort to pull him through the dimensional wall, though he wouldn't outright admit it. A waste of time and energy, but at least one thing was clear enough from what little gathering had actually taken place. The only place now that might produce something of an acceptable quality would be the gothic style town hall. It had been standing for hundreds of years, and would no doubt carry the equivalent of those years in its records of all people who lived in the city. Excellent. Christopher motioned his hand in the air, the sleeve of his coat rolling back as it once again revealed those strange glowing marks that ran the entire course of his arm. Almost instantly, the clear air within the conference sized room turned stale and frigid, covering the walls within condensation before a cold windless gust sheeted them over in ice. Placing his finger to a window, the occultist began to mutter things incomprehensible to the human ear before beginning to draw old characters some might see in the fairy tales told to them by their parents or rather, in books of fantasy and lore along the sleeted over windows. It took little less then a moment, but when it was finished that artic feeling of cold quickly displaced with a sudden searing of heat. The diagram drawn nearly melted into the thick safety glass of the window before fading into a darkened violet swirl of veil. Summoning ceremonies were always bland, but at least the light show was somewhat better then the first.

“It's time. You demon, have been chosen. Go to the hall of records of this mortal town and retrieve me the information of Autumn Kristof!” He cared little for explaining himself at the moment like he had to do before with the other one. Time was of the essence, and he hated to lose. Failure was not an option. “By all means,” he continued, giving one of his temple a well deserved rub as he shut his eyes from the annoyance the heat caused. “Kill. Maim. Destroy, but get me that information above all else.” Quickly as it came, it left, and with it-the room returned to normal and just in time as well. The large oak doors at the end of the table parted and with them, walked in one of Aidan's secretaries. By the time she crossed the room to turn the light on, he was gone.

It was getting late in the afternoon by the time Trevor managed to catch a bus towards where he wanted to go. Mindless searching and a bit of random luck had helped him stumble across a coven of wanna-be witches, and even a pawn shop, where he was able to pick up a Magnum and a SIGPRO that was in surprisingly good condition. Of course, his ammo was limited, but he'd make-do with what he had. No sooner had he left the store than his extra sense went off again, and this time, it was almost dizzying in its intensity. Whoever just put off that effect must have been extremely close. Probably inside one of those big Darth Vader-buildings. As soon as it showed up, though, it vanished, like it had never been there in the first place. Intentionally or not, it had left a trail behind… And so, here he was, on one of the infamous crimson double-decker busses, lurching back and forth as the massive vehicle shuddered around a corner, headed downtown. Kris was probably out of class by now, at home with Joz. At least, she would, if she was smart. Which she wasn't. So she was probably about to be sacrificed to a dark demon's resurrection or something lame like that. Again.

Trevor silently got off at the next stop; the feeling was stronger than ever around this area, and he'd go faster on foot from here. Much of the city's older architecture rested around here. He could feel the age of the place, almost like the stones were speaking to him. There was also a taint in the air, though–whatever he was looking for was definitely nearby.

The demon lumbered tall and proud, snarling teeth dripping with its acidic venom as its cold, slited eyes glared menacingly towards a record keeper with a piercing look of forlorn despair and inner hatred burning brightly behind its copper glance. Its dark, muscular figure stood out in front of the dark stone background architecture of the building, with a tail slender and long adorned with thickly sized barbs and spikes that lined its entire length to its very end. The front of its weight seemed off balance on its two hunched legs, but its center of gravity well compensated for the awkward shape the demon had decided to manifest itself. Unbeknownst, it would of done better taking a human form, but Chris did mindlessly tell it to kill and destroy anything between objectives. An order was an order. Toppled tables and scattered books of old lineages occupied the worn carpet of the place, pages torn from them and strewn wildly about the floor with careless intent and wild fury. None of them held the information it was searching for and with every growing impatience-the more it searched and the more he didn't find what he was looking for–the demons inner rage would show itself as it gave a dark hideous growl that spread in a cacophony of noise along the walls. Searching, flipping. Throwing. It continues endlessly, until the demon gave a shrill shriek of a hidden agenda and spun around; slamming that large tall of its into a nearby shelf of books sending it crashing to the floor below. In that very same motion, it brought down a heavy three-toed hunched foot of his and broke it across a oak chair. The chair, crunched and broke, laid helplessly in a heap of unusable pieces as it made its way across the hall in a few long strides of its legs.

I have found your information, the demon stated into his mind, that thick rumbling of a voice expanding with swelled pride as he accomplished what was set out to do. I'm sending it now. Be prepared. Within the hands of the imposing beast, an illuminating bright light sparked and set the area ablaze with its brightness but soon died out quickly as the parchment of records hold within it disappeared with no trace. Chris had what he was looking for, and Aidan would be glad to know that his order was fulfilled to its fullest. Even if, in fact, he wasn't the one who actually gathered the information. He didn't need to know the details.

Trevor crept up to the double-doors leading into the records room, and peeked inside through the slightly open doors. It was too dark in there to really see what was going on. He could definitely hear somebody shuffling around inside, though. Again, with the records. Somebody was looking for something important; important enough to go through all this trouble, anyhow. That was when the furniture started to fly. Chairs and tables and shelves were tossed around and snapped in half like they were made of balsa wood, instead of sturdy oak. A deep, inhuman howl came from the dark chamber, loud and sharp enough to nearly make Trevor's ears bleed. That was it for him; this thing had to die, and so did the schmuck that was behind it. Pulling his .9mm and the SIGPRO, Trevor pushed open the large doors, and allowed the light from the hallway to stream into the dark records room just in time to see something flash and vanish from the demon's large, clawed hands. The thing turned to Trevor, and narrowed its beady eyes, staring at him much like a normal person would have eyed a deli sandwich.

“God, you things just keep getting uglier,” Trevor scowled. “Is there no such thing as an attractive demon where you're from? It's like the eternal punishment for a bad life is being whacked with the ugly stick, every day for all of an eternity.” The demon roared, but Trevor ignored it. “So, where's your master? I can feel him around here, somewhere.” Trevor looked up the ceiling, and shouted, “Hey! You slimy, soulless bastard! I know you're here somewhere! Come show your pasty mug so I can put a dozen rounds into it and call it a day! I got better stuff to do than shit around with you and your miserable pets all night!”

The darkness told him not to do it. It beckoned to him to abandon the idea of showing himself, but Christopher eased its uncharacteristically worried demeanor with a disacknowledged grin and a half amused sparkle in his eye. He would grace this thing with his presence, but for the sake of Aidan and his pathetic secret; he would have to do it as discreetly as possible. Something he was not very good at. Not at all.. It took a moment to align properly, but after a few moments Christopher opened up a conical shaped rift in the center of the stale air that was in front of him and stepped through its swirling mass. A second later, he was gone.

“Soulless. Indeed. It is one thing to mock me, but I must admit. You are a brave person to be standing there with a gun in hand, facing a ravishing beast of the underworld. Or maybe you're just a knucklehead,” Christopher snorted with a guff of air he took through his nose, sitting vertically against a dark window pain. The darkness was both enrapturing and comforting, hiding his form well behind its curtain. Pulling at his coat, Chris ran a hand through his tussled hair with an air of confidence. “Kill him.” Almost on cue, the demon gave its tail a hearty thump followed by a throaty howl of laughter, setting itself down low into a crouched position and lunged forward. What happened next was both interesting, yet foreseeable in the end.

Trevor's entire body tensed when the guy in the coat popped up. It had taken some buku-magic to just appear like that, and the guy didn't even look winded. That weird sense of deja vu hit him again, even more powerful than last time. I…know you… His train of thought was suddenly derailed as the demon lunged at him. Acting on sheer reflex, Trevor jumped at the door frame, and vaulted off of that, carrying him up and above the attacking monster. Trevor landed with one foot on the back of the demon's head, and in a furious barrage of gunfire, he unloaded both clips of ammo into the back of the monster's neck. The two smoking clips were ejected from the bottom of Trevor's guns as he threw them aside and vaulted off the demon, landing neatly behind its twitching corpse with his Magnum out and trained on the floating guy up above.

“I told you, I don't wanna fart around!” Trevor shouted, his right hand flickering with electricity for a brief second. “There's nothing you can throw against me that I can't deal with, so just give up now and I promise I'll put you out of your misery quick!”

The dark figure stayed in the window through a reason that he didn't quite understand himself, but with the unlit and unholy darkness whispering its weaving tale of an indecent campaign, Chris could of stayed in the window forever if not for a feeling of something strange that harbored a part of his mind. He turned a deaf ear to the nagging voices that screamed out through the hundred-year-old stone walls, splitting the dull silence like a cheap cotton-knit sweater with its agonizing cry for vengeance. The thick cloddy sound of the vanquished demon mixed amongst them, shrieking wildly in-tune with its raspy voice; begging almost humanly for revenge. The dreaded day would come and the occultist would brook no debate that he would someday be amongst the name of those who wished revenge on him and his deeds, but he seemed as calm through the words being spoken from both Trevor and the restless souls. He would cross that bridge when the time called for it.

Then it happened. With a smooth unwavering motion of his hand, the rooms air still thick with death became hot and stale. A day turned dark through the power of magick born through one man began to condense the paranormal activity abruptly within a two mile radius–pulling in the restless souls that haunted or even still plagued the world with their inability to cope with their deaths, and held it stead fast into the palm of his hand. Ready to use it at a moments call, Christopher didn't bother to wait for the man before him to squeeze the trigger of his toy as he craned his arm back and threw this sphere of death towards him like a fastball. It was no surprise to him that Trevor did little to move away save for only stepping back and spinning on the back of his left heel before tucking and rolling to the side. He wasn't the target, though, and Chris had figured he could tell that as well. Though how he knew that was beyond him.

The screaming souls lost their voices, descending to sit in silence beside the walls, where innumerable mumbles of selfish antics glittered through them at the foot of a table, where books shone black against the moon-silvered floor that cascaded through the parted front doors. Christopher rose suddenly, and spoke callously if to mock Trevor with his words. “The game has only begun,” he mumbled, catching the attention of both things living and dead. Throwing his hands up in the air in mocking defeat, he let a half-hearted grin slip across his face with an amused and uplifted eyebrow. “My friend, things have only begun to start and I don't think you will want to be there when it does. But, do not worry. My friend will send you to your grave!”

A booming voice, thick with venom rose through the ranks, and soon through the uncarried wind before the fist of the occultist clasped hard until his knuckles turned white and cracked. A moment later, the floor buckled with hellfire and spread through the forming cracks around the demon that had been felled and soon enveloped it within the scorching heat and once again brought undead life to it. Rising from its own ashes like a phoenix, the thing gave an ear piercing scream that changed octaves. It was charged overly through necromantic powers of those who longed for death and revenge and would not stop until it had gotten either or both. Smiling with an uncharacteristically emotion on his face, Chris hunched, face pale with a twinge of sharp pain jabbing into his gut like a needle. He hadn't noticed how much energy he exerted when he tapped into the store-house of energy, and failed to notice that the moon of the day was sacred in religious beliefs. Weakened, by his own neglect to realize his limitations. A mistake he rarely made but something about this guy urged him to kill him, though dieing suddenly before he could of stress or a heart attack wasn't his idea of being subtle.

Trevor's head rang painfully as the resurrected monster split the air with its bone-jarring scream. The entire display had been interesting, but with this as the final result, Trevor wasn't terribly amused anymore. He thought the poor guy just had bad aim, what with that first shot. So much for that. “An undead demon. That's a new twist,” Trevor mused, giving the chamber of his Magnum a spin on the side of his leg. “But I'm not impressed. I killed this thing already without breaking a sweat! All you've done is buy yourself another ten seconds before I come over there and beat eight tons of crap out of you!” Trevor raised his gun and pulled the trigger. The bullet scored home, blowing a chunk of burning skull from the demon's forehead, but it did little to slow it down. The resurrected monster charged again, more than twice as fast as before, and had Trevor pinned to the wall before he could blink.

“Gurk…not…fair…” Trevor choked out, despite the demon's iron grip on his throat. “Get offa me!” he shouted, emptying four more rounds into the demon's skull. Each one of them blasted apart shards of bone and flesh, but if the monster was hurt, it didn't show it. In fact, it only seemed to make it angrier, and it expressed its anger quite well when it turned around and threw Trevor across the room, where he crashed into a bookshelf and send four more rows of books behind him toppling over like dominoes. Slowly, and rather painfully, Trevor picked himself back up, and glared hatefully at the demon. It was standing still, waiting patiently for Trevor to make his move. One bullet left. The young slayer pulled open the six-round chamber, and stared at the copper bottom of his last round. Two bad guys. Bad deal. Might hafta go to Defcon 4 on this one. Wish I had brought Joz with me.

“I don't get to do this very often,” Trevor said, leveling his gun at the guy in the dark coat. Instead of pulling back on the hammer, however, Trevor opened his hand, and let his gun hang on his finger for a moment before letting it drop to the battered floor. “I hate having to repeat myself. So pay attention. This is the last thing you'll see before you wind up in Hell.” Trevor tightened his fists, and his right hand exploded into a bright white fire. The two silver crosses on the back of his gloves began to burn, and the dark room was lit up with a blinding white flash.

“My fist is the divine breath!” he howled, letting the fire grow in his hand. “The raging fire in my soul has ignited, and I grasp that fire with my powerful hands!” Windows shattered. Books were thrown about in the sudden chaotic wind that kicked up. The foundations of the stone building itself rumbled in discontent as the fire in Trevor's hands swelled. “I will deliver the will of Heaven–with my Shining Silver Herald!” His fist plunged into the ground, and everything went white. The walls to the records room, and the adjoining rooms blew out, yet the ceiling was blasted apart before it had a chance to crumble and collapse on those inside. The impact was felt for blocks; church bells rang nearby, and even more windows shattered from the force. The undead demon shrieked once, and was quickly turned into a smoking pile of ash in the resulting explosion. Moments later, after the smoke and debris had settled, Trevor finally managed to stand back up, pulling his fist from the small, hand-shaped glass crater in the ground at his feet. He hated doing that; it was simply too exhausting. But there wasn't much he had faced that wanted to tangle with him after such a display. All the wild energy still hanging in the air made it hard for him to sense the guy in the dark coat. Had he been killed? Or just ran away?

“Should be dead,” Trevor muttered weakly, falling to his knees. “God, I hate that. Dad, I wish I had your strong spirit…I just can't get used to this magic stuff…”

It hurt. Every inch of his body stung with an unbearable amount of pain that made its presence felt with every breath that he took in through his teeth and let out. The air was still hot with magick, and his lungs burned from the ether that loomed ominously in the space between. Somehow, he managed to survive something like that by relying quickly on the walls spirits and putting them to use by managing to attach a spell of binding to each and everyone of them to a specific point on his body so their lack of meaning in the world would have some use. It did little to stop the attack, but it was enough to cast a small barrier that melted the dead away leaving him safe but not unharmed. One more second, and he could of kissed his ass goodbye. He was impressed. Pushing a half cracked shelf of books from his back like it was made of a cheap cardboard box, Christopher crawled from the rubble, coat tattered and torn with holes plunged straight through the thin material. It was the first time someone managed to catch him off guard with something like that, as well as the first time anyone had been able to tear his coat. A protection spell was always placed upon it in-case an attack did manage to penetrate his defenses, but it faired to do little currently. Shaking the cob-webs out from his ears, the man in brown stood slowly-bones aching but he wasn't going to let him have the satisfaction of knowing that.

“Impressing that someone like you could produce something as big as that,” he said, wiping away his own blood from the corner of his head. It seemed he was able to draw blood as well, and stifling a laughter; the occultist licked it from his finger and spat it to the side with a brief snarl as the corner of his lips curled up. Now he understand the worried words he disregarded. No matter. “You almost had me. But almost only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.” Moving his neck from side to side, giving it a long needed crack as it rotated around his shoulders-Christopher glanced around admiring the destruction that had happened and it wasn't even by his own hands! Looking down, he gave the head of the demon a good kick sending the rest of its flesh and bone spiraling into a ruined stone column. Indeed, they were as worthless as he had always thought. Taking a moment to run his fingers through his dusty brown hair, Chris turned his attention back to Trevor with a fire dancing in his fixed eyes. Things were getting very interesting.

“Shining Silver Herald, huh? Who named your attack, a little girl?” Christopher muttered, sticking his hands into his pockets with contempt. He disregarded the look he received with a smile. “Let me show you how it is done. Watch and learn..” Christopher raised his hand and tightened his fist until his fingers bore holes into his palm and drew blood. Slowly and silently, Chris stretched out his fingers widely into the night sky and began to chant as his hand exploded into a rippling purple flame. Clouds passed over the late-night moon, muting the silver moonlights shining gaze. A moment later, the moons light burned its way through the clouds and the shafts of silver, blue, and white light shone brightly red, yellow, and black as it had done before. Red light hung in the air like smoke. Shadows of books passed over the broken stain glass; fixed there, trapped were the saints and martyrs unaffected too by the occultists power gazing upon them though broke as they were at their piebald shapes. He envied their stillness, their perpetuity as the fixedness of their lines long ended etched themselves into the far reaches of his mind. It was then when the purple flame grew and lit the air with purple that their images became faceless and covered.

“Unholy device of power that flows from the condemned,” Chris said, lowering his hand and, instead of the fire burning out, it engulfed the arm of the hand it appeared on; burning away the fabric of the coat so it could dance widely along the etched in scars of the symbols of dark and evil. “I call you from your world of nothingness to be my sword and strike down those who oppose me!” The ground rocked and the wind kicked up carrying with it whipping rubble and sand as the floor beneath him began to glow absently with a growing intensity. Fueling the fire within his arm, a thick plume of dancing smoke billowed from beneath his feet and crept, swirling along the occultists form and clung to him like a second layer of skin. When the floor upheaval and cracked, shooting an one inch spiral of fire from them until the ground looked very much like a symbol upon Christopher's arm that he put his palm face out towards the kneeled over Trevor, who, by the time the fire had began to appear, struggled to stand up.

“Take this, the wraith of the condemned.. Divine Chaos Stream!” The fire flicked around his arm and soon began to churn like it was living and started to boil over with a wild intensity before it sucked suddenly to the palm of his hand and spread out very much like a shockwave of shadows or a back draft of fire. The stone walls fell victim to the over-powering force and as the wave spread they cracked and fell in upon themselves. They hit the ground in a pile, but soon after doing so blew away to nothing more then ash in the breeze. Moments after, the ground pulled open into a swirling vortex of purple hellfire. Sucking in books and furniture, burning the facts and knowledge held within them before it closed up just in time for the shockwave to contact with Trevor and send him sprawling into the large oak doors. Whatever god was up there and liked him, however, snapped the doors from their hinges and sent them sliding across the ground before resting down a ways from the entrance as a second wave melted the stones walls to glass and brought them shattering down to the ground.

When the heat and smoke finally settled down into the night sky, Christopher lowered his hand to his side and kneeled over-spitting out a slew of blood as it settled into a pool on the ground. His reflection rippled through it, but he smashed it away by dropping his fist down into it. He couldn't believe it, but through some divine intervention or maybe through some soddy craftsmanship that guy survived. What a fluke! He was an interesting opponent indeed. Someone he found to be a thorn in his side as well as a rival in power. Christopher would kill him, if it killed himself. Confidence was in his blood.

Trevor was still for a moment, watching the bright colors dance in front of his face. He still wasn't quite sure what had hit him. One minute, he was staring down that beat-up guy, and the next, he had a heavy oak door in his face. When he looked up, he saw the sky, and plenty of smoke. What the hell had that guy thrown at him? “Divine…Chaos Stream,” Trevor echoed to himself as he crawled back up to his feet. “More like a frickin` warhead from Hell. Where'd he learn a trick like that, anyway?” The crosses on his hands crackled with lightning again, but a second blast would probably kill him at this point. Then again, judging by how wasted the other guy looked, it might kill him, too. I can't kill him. He's…something about that attack was…

“Who the hell are you?!” Trevor shouted, falling down onto his knees again. “Every time I look at you, it drives me crazy! You bastard! Tell me who you are!”

The dust hadn't yet settled down after the explosions and the collapse of the walls; the smell of twisted death lingered strongly in the air. The ancient, over one yard thick walls of brick and stone danced their way down, cracking and crumbling to pieces, crushing the places they had protected before. Thick shadows embraced the objects between the explosions, crawling their way into the battlefield. The wind of the night blew, chilling wind that seemed to be dark itself; but this wind brought about a void feeling, a serene silence in an absence of all other sounds, as if all the voices remaining in the world had went out bringing a deeper, absolute silence after the wall spirits were absorbed by the artisan. In the wind a shadow moved. The wind blew upon the battlefield and a raven seemingly out of nowhere hovered on Trevor Morris, coolly perching on his shoulder entirely as if she were an expected guest. The raven perched and sat, and nothing more – for the moment. The wind ceased the instant the raven folded her wings.

Trevor shielded his eyes against the wind; there was no way that guy could be making a second attack! He couldn't recover so quickly! A dark, depthless presence made itself known in Trevor's mind, triggering his senses without him even having to activate them. It was a powerful, absolute presence. One without age, limit, or definite purpose. A single raven flew from the darkness, and with an obvious sense of what it was doing, it landed neatly on Trevor's shoulder, and stared straight at him. “…raven? What is this? You're gonna get killed if you stick around,” Trevor said, followed in his own mind by, I can't believe I'm talking to a bird. “G`wan. Get outta here. Ravens are bad omens anyhow. You're not doing me any good.”

The raven clicked her beak, immutable. She didn't seem to be leaving any time soon, despite Trevor's words. She let out a dry caw and shook her tail with dignity, watching both Trevor and Christopher from Trevor's shoulder. A timeless wisdom lived in the bird's eyes – blue eyes with a myriad suns, like the night sky.

“A raven. How suitable,” Christopher mumbled, interrupting Trevor's plea for the safety of his winged friend. “They say the raven carries the souls of the dead until they are ready to be reborn. Unlike it's counter-part the crow, that actually delivers the soul to heaven or hell. It must know your life is about to be extinguished!” Christopher tightened his right fist until his knuckles ran white with the lack of blood flowing through them. He hated to admit it, but he barely had enough energy left in his body to remain standing let alone launch a second wave of the attack. And tapping into an astral bank of psi-energy to launch it would do more harm then good and undoubtedly remove Europe from the map. Something he wasn't ready to do while he was still standing on London's soil. It took a moment to dig his fingers from his palms, but the occultist flexed his hand to return the flow of blood to its proper place. Doing so did little to make him feel better about the choices he would soon have to make regarding Trevor and his feathery companion. After a second, the wind managed to fight against whatever had ceased it and wrapped its way around his fingertips with persistence and danced widely at the tips and spun around the palm of his hand. About to do what he was to do, Christopher ran his tongue across the front of his teeth and spat off to the side; loathing his decision.

Trevor skirted half a step backwards when the wind began to pick up again. It was carrying a foul miasma on it; another bad omen. Great. Just what he wanted. “I wouldn't do anything stupid if I were you,” he said, no longer noticing the bird on his shoulder. Azrael clicked her beak again as Trevor began a boastful speech. She briskly shook her tail as Trevor grinned, and scratched at his cheek. The archangel under raven form stood on one claw and scratched her ear with the other, opening her beak to take out the air in her ear. “You're wiped from that last attack, and we both know it. What good are you going to accomplish if you kill yourself? Think you can take me out in a suicide move?” Trevor grinned, and scratched at his cheek. “I'm flattered you think so highly of me. But I'll say right now that it's a waste of your time. You see, I'm the great Trevor Morris. There's nothing on this planet that can kill me”, at this point Azrael stopped scratching her ear and shook her wings, “and since you happen to fall into that category, I suggest you run away now before you destroy yourself and end up looking like an idiot. A dead idiot.”

Nice bluff. Of course, you're probably not any better off than he is. Trevor's smile faltered a bit, but he tried not to let it show. Now, let's see what he's up to…ball's in his court now, I guess. “Come on, mister big-shot. I'm waiting.”

Azrael tilted her head, watching Christopher to see his reaction at his rival's name. Her ebony feathers barely moved around her shoulders with the wind that was again starting to blow. Azrael snapped at Trevor's ear but she didn't catch his skin. She rose her head and waited.

Trevor watched the guy in the coat carefully, resisting the urge to blink. Whatever was going to happen would happen soon, and if he looked away for even a second, he could be dead. The bird was still perched on his shoulder, for some bizarre reason, not seeming to care at all that it could die at any given moment. Whatever. I couldn't care less about some crow. Trevor's eyes flicked over from the raven to his opponent. He was still gathering up energy for something. He'd have to do something about that before–

“Hold it right there! Both of you!” Both Trevor and the guy in the coat looked back at the street. Police cars were starting to line up, one after the other, and each one was packed with cops. Cops, Trevor noticed disdainfully, armed with guns. “The two of you are both under arrest for blowing up government property!” one of the policemen shouted. “Surrender now, or we'll shoot!”

“Perfect,” Trevor growled.

“What is the world coming to these days,” Christopher asked Trevor, a bit of an edge coming into his voice. “Blowing up government property. For a bunch of officials that work for said government, they arn't very perceptive.” Chris looked across his shoulder for a moment as the guns slowly began to level. He hated the way they stood behind their police cars like cowards, and cringed disdainfully at the blare of the bullhorn that split through the air like a knife through butter. “I guess they'll have to do,” he mumbled, forcing the wind to his fingertips. “It's time..”

A spiral beam of wind danced at the skin and flew from his hand, splitting a police car in half from the tail-gate to the hood, creating an equal sized top and bottom half at the feet of the cops. Before the police had time to react, a second corkscrew beam of wind split the center of an officers vest wide open, and blew it open from the inside out. When Chris lowered his hand from over his shoulder, he gave Trevor an ingenious grin as he brushed a hand efficiently through his hair with an uncharacteristic arrogant air. Enough. With them regrouping and trying to get their comrades innards from their laps, the occultist would be long gone.

Shrugging his coat up onto his shoulders, Christopher pulled a cigarette from his pocket and placed it between his lips. Tightening his fist, his hand ran white before it exploded into a bright violet flame he used as a lighter. Snuffing the fire out and blowing the smoke into the air, Christopher brought the stick from his mouth and snapped it through the air before erupting into a slew of black vulture feathers and making a straight line into Trevor's general direction.

This time, Trevor barely noticed, the raven left. A flock of dark feathers flew at Trevor like a spear, slicing through the air at breakneck speed. Everything around him seemed to grind to a halt as he spun on his heel to try and pivot out of the way. He managed to avoid being sliced to ribbons, but a single feather still nicked his face. It stung like crazy, like a fiery needle. A warm, wet trickle ran down his cheek, and collected on his chin for a moment before he wiped it away. Trevor righted himself, and watched as the feathers flew off into the distance, and disappeared from sight. He was glad the guy in the coat had left, but at the same time, he was rather pissed. Something about that guy struck him as being just a little bit off–aside from the fact that he was a slave of the darkness, of course.

…daddy? Why did…

…tell you when you're older…best not to worry for now…they'll take care of him.

But, he's…

Trevor blinked. The moment he came back from his weird vision, he was surrounded on all sides by guns. “Don't move an inch, or we'll shoot!” somebody shouted. He couldn't quite see who; there was a flashlight the size of Toledo being shined in his face. “We're taking you with us! Try any of that crap like the last guy, and you'll be dead before you know it!”

“Would you believe me if I said I said I had immunity from the Vatican?” Trevor asked flippantly. His answer came when the officers shoved him into the back of a van and started to cart him away.

Figures. That never worked.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER FOUR

Raziel meandered through the college's gothic-style halls, his attention completely absorbed by the huge moth-eaten tome he held in his hands. It seemed as precious to him as the book of the great Angel he was named for; the one tossed to the sea out of the jealousy of the angels over the fortune of man. Perhaps that was what the Fall was all about. He turned a page of the book, passing it over slowly and carefully- the thick paper was old and prone to cracking. It had long since dry rotted, it was just waiting for a reminder Raziel himself didn't want to provide. The tome itself was in reality a grimoire, one he himself had found in the school's library when he began teaching. It had almost called for him to pick it up- and being what he was, Raziel couldn't resist. After all, what innocuous Occultist could be blamed for curiosity? Or even a teacher of Thaumaturgy. What a shame. Only being able to teach the bare-boned theory of it all. But there are so few with the talent and will power to actually teach the art- not to mention the risk of weak-minded fools wreaking havoc with such knowledge… We humans are such warp able creatures.

No wonder most of the students called him the youngest old man on campus; his thoughts suited the outlook of a slightly jaded elderly grandfather watching over a pack of naive grandchildren. He chuckled at the image of a grizzled hound observing the rumpus of overexcited pups. That's the perfect life for you, old dog. Too bad no woman would be interested in an old maid like yourself. Now that wasn't exactly true. Plenty of women had tried to capture his heart and failed, because of his distance. Others had succeeded and made what would have been an open heart into a shy and wincing one. He didn't believe himself to be beautiful- once a woman had told him he was like Gucci; a symbol of status and attainment, and nothing more. He was so interested in books he had become one himself. Perhaps it hadn't been the scholarship, but that comment, that had made him accept the offer to teach here. I am just an old soulless man. One day I'll match my books on the inside, too.

Autumn rolled her eyes as she and Trevor walked down the hall. “Give me a break! You say that every time I give out my number.” As they walked, she pulled out a map of the building to look for her class number. Thaumaturgy was a completely random subject, but Trevor and her parents thought it might be a good lesson for her. It was probably the only thing she had let them give her advice on. “Not every guy I meet on the street turns out to be a demon, you know. Jeeze… it happens once, and you never let it go!” That “once” was a complete fiasco. Autumn was only 13, it was the first time her parents had allowed her to date. Of course, they had allowed to date guys her own age, not a 17 year old that had a bad habit of hanging around clubs and smoking two packs a day. It's not like she was psychic and could have known he was a vampire!

Autumn stopped at the door of her Thaumaturgy class and turned to Trevor. “You can come with, if you promise not to attack the professor. Last thing I need is to be embarrassed on my first day in class, okay?”

Trevor shot Autumn a bewildered stare. “Attack the professor? What kind of anti-social nut do you take me for?” he griped, putting his hands on his hips. “Besides, you know me–I can tell when there are demons and stuff around. Hell, I can tell just by looking. It's in the eyes. All I need to do is look at a guy, and I can tell whether or not he's a demon or a vampire or whatever. “I bet that last guy was possessed or something,” Trevor muttered, looking back down the way they had come. “Talk about weird characters. I don't know about him, Kris. Maybe you should let me check him out, first. Remember what happened last time? You got chained up in a basement, and me and dad had to come bust you loose.”

“Last time!” Autumn scoffed. “That wasn't last time, that was over ten years ago! Any other time has been completely unrelated to me giving out my phone number.” She poked him square in the chest giving him a wary stare. “I bet you're jealous I've got an admirer, and you're gonna be stuck too busy chasing ghosts to get a date!” Autumn leaned against the class door, with a triumphant look on her face. It was locked, and it seemed she was a little bit early. She wasn't concerned though, it was nice to be early for once and not jetting down the halls like she had something nipping at her heels.

“Say what?!” Trevor snapped, his jaw nearly hitting the floor. “You must be losing your mind! First of all, I'm way too cool to be jealous of anyone or anything you could possibly name. Second, I just so happen to have the name and number of the most sizzling-hot babe on this entire dumpy island.” Trevor turned his back to Autumn, and folded his arms across his chest. “Yeah, it's tough when you're as awesome and totally badass as me…I mean, if it's not the girls dropping down in front of me, it's all the legions of the damned I need to slay, day in and day out. In fact,” he said, looking over his shoulder at Autumn, “I bet I get all the way to third base before you and your new pretty-boy even start to break the ice. I'm so damn smooth, it's almost scary, y`know?”

Autumn laughed out loud. He sounded like an arrogant jackass, and maybe he was. She knew he was just out to get approval from his dad, though she couldn't even begin to understand why he cared. As much as she loved her own parents, she had always been sort of distant from them. “Well be my guest, hot shot. I'm not here to get dates, I'm here to get a degree! Maybe you should take classes too, so when you slay all your the demons, you'll have something to fall back on!” she laughed to herself again before taking notice of the man coming down the hall. He had his nose in a book, and couldn't have been much older than herself. She assumed her must've been another student also early for the class. Autumn slid behind Trevor to peer over his shoulder, as she often did when she was curious but didn't want to get caught staring. She was far from shy, but she never seemed to notice the strange habit to hide when she found herself deeply curious. He had the most wonderful look about him, and she was compelled to pull out her camera and take a picture. But it was tucked away in her pack, she wouldn't of been able to get it out and take the shot without getting spotted, and then the whole mood would have disappeared.

Raziel continued on his diagram-absorbing journey back to his class room- it's strange to be able to think that now, soon I won't notice, my class room– and slid smoothly into the door around a few students. He didn't know exactly how many students would be in his class today; the enrolled list was rather small- ten or fifteen, he hadn't but barely glanced at the paper- but there were always the unenrolled students who came. Those were oftimes the most interesting ones. He slipped into the desk, noting a young lady and her friend at the door enough to give them a friendly smile before zooming off into the nevernever land of his ancient book.

Trevor couldn't help but smile at Autumn’s ribbing. Demons, vampires, and the hordes of darkness seemed to be a million miles away when he talked to her. Anybody who had known Trevor for even a short length of time might have been amazed at how quickly his mood changed–paranoid and hostile towards strangers, but he seemed the exact opposite, now. “I think I'm going to take off,” he said, waiting until after the tall guy passed by with a smile. Finally, somebody without an attitude, Trevor sighed. “You be a good girl, okay? Share with all the other kids,” he cooed mockingly, patting Autumn on top of her head. “Don't start any fights, and for the love of gawd, don't get captured by a demon, okay? I didn't come all the way out here just to watch after your bony butt.”

Autumn wrinkled up her nose in child-like irritation. “You're such an jerk, Trevor!” She peered into the classroom after the man who had entered. He must be an apprentice of the professor to help get the class set up before the lesson. “I'll be fine… Been here three days, an not an incident yet till you got here!” Sticking out her tongue, she waved him away as he left. Conveniently leaving out the fact he sort of was there to keep an eye on her. Her mother was completely nuts sending her off to Europe to research family history, but both their parents seemed to be wary of having her go alone. Beyond a few weird people, she didn't see what the big deal was.

As Trevor left, Autumn quickly slinked in to the classroom. Her curiosity was still piqued about her classmate, and she didn't wish to disturbed him. Again it was something uncharacteristic of her. Earlier she had no troubles speaking Daman when she was interested. Now instead of openly chatting and asking for a picture, Autumn found a seat in the front and set her pack down on her desk. She quietly as possible pulled out her camera… Perhaps she could sneak a quick picture…

Raziel turned a page of the book slowly, trying to burn an image of the complex diagram before him into the inside of his eyelids. For a wonder, he succeeded. The parched paper of the page made his fingertips feel like dried papyrus; the cellulose was drawing out all of the natural oils of his hands, and would if he wasn't cautious discolor the page. He would have to place a cleansing protection spell upon the grimoire; all of its wards had long since died with the passing of their caster over a hundred years ago. The book was concerned with souls; that much was quite abundantly clear. So far it only given Raziel the most haunting and tantalizing of clues that it might hold such secrets as he desired within its deeper nether regions, within the dark cream and midnight sapphire interior. Perhaps it had an answer for him, just one, on the difficulty of his soul. Or, rather, the difficulty of the lack of soul. The grimoire was a necromancer's tale.

Adjusting his glasses on his straight, gentle nose, he felt eyes upon him. His own light blues looked up slowly to see a ruby among gems- a red haired girl with deep eyes, like the rich steadfastness of mahogany or even the warmth of red oak. Raziel was somewhat astonished and felt warmth rising in his skin as a bright flash of light erupted from something in her hand. A supernova of white reflection shot off of the scratch-resistant lenses of his glasses, piercing his own eyes and making him jerk back. When his sight returned, fuzzy little neon dots danced around his vision, and he had to fight the compulsion to reach out and snatch at them. Light-dazzle.

“Do you make a habit of blinding all your professors?” He mumbled, the former moment of… something… blasted to smithereens like Hiroshima after an American bomb. Vaporized was the word he was looking for. Bleeding son of Mary!

“Professor…?” It took Autumn a few moments to realize she just flashed-photoed the professor not a student, or assistant. “Holy hell! I'm sorry.. it's just that.. I was.. ah.. sorry.” She felt very much the fool but couldn't help the itch to curve her lips into a smile. Looking down at the preview image of the photo her smile vanished. It wasn't… normal! Typically pictures out perfectly clear… though sometimes she'd get a glimpse of a ghost, or unmask some demon's illusion… this was just kind of… weird! Twitching her nose up, she decided it was just simply the camera acting ugly. After all, Trevor didn't get weird and try to attack him, so it couldn't be anything else. But… it wasn't just a camera glitch. It was like a pure aura being smothered in shadow. She scowled to herself, now feeling just as paranoid as Trevor. Sliding her camera back into her pack she quickly clasped her hands together to watch the professor. He was a little young to be a professor in an highly esteem college. And her photos were typically never wrong! Curiosity was getting the better of her…

“You don't look like a professor… Well, you do, but I guess I mean young for a professor.” she asked, with just a slight bit of suspicion. “This subject you teach… it involves magic spells, right…?” Last time she flat out asked someone if they were demon, she was responded to with sharp objects. His was going to take delicate prodding…

Raziel smiled slightly, with the slightest air of condescendence. He heard this question far too many times in the two years he had been teaching; he'd hear it until he retired. “No, this course only involves the theory of magic. After all, a religious establishment such as this could hardly allow its students to study such a thing, even if magic was admitted to be real. You'll learn more about the theory and the history of it, more “in depth” into the personal side of religious mythology, some of my fellow professors would say.” He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, gazing at her curiously. “I don't usually see such young ladies as yourself,” he said. “I apologize for my lack of manners. I am Raziel McCoullagh, your professor for this course, assuming you're not an unenrolled attendee.” His demeanor was once again far more serious than anyone of his few years. “I have been sponsored by this college to teach in exchange for my graduation and diploma three years ago. That is why you have such a young teacher.” A little of that submerged humor appeared as his lips quirked into a half smile that was more easy and familiar.

“May I ask why you are taking this class?” He couldn't say, but something bothered him about this girl. The camera in her hand, the small square of the photograph… It seemed like something he had seen before. Probably just the memory of a tourist, he decided. She was obviously American; and those oversea tourists had the tendency to carry cameras about like an extra appendage.

Beltrán slid inside with the last students that were making their way into the classroom, trying not to catch attention. One or two students were surprised to see him there, since they were in his earlier class. Beltrán found himself a seat and waited for the class to start. He wasn't sure why he had picked this one, but it was as interesting as strangely soothing to take a class under Raziel. Again. Beltrán watched from his seat as Raziel spoke to… Autumn. Beltrán bit his lip slightly and opened his agenda. Despite he was looking at the pages, he was thinking of other time and terrible possibilities.

He called her young lady! She wanted to laugh. “Autumn Kristof… Kris, please.” She tilted her head, watching with a silly “school-girl” type smile. He was adorably cute, and reminded her of a little boy pretending to be grown up. At the same time she had the weirdest sense of deja-vu, like she had tried to unravel this same sort of mystery before. “My parents asked me to.” She replied honestly. “They're big on my learning stuff related to our family history.” Autumn really didn't want to talk about herself though. Or her mother's twisted little family stories. Having her camera safely tacked away in her bag, she still couldn't help but glance at the preview image and back at her professor, trying to ponder the reasoning behind the distortions.

“Why did you decide on Thaumaturgy to teach?” Obviously he was some sort of wizard! Or sorcerer! He must've chose the class as some sort of front to sacrificial spells. Or maybe her imagination was getting out of control again. “Do you have.. personal involvement?” It was a baited question. She watched his reaction in hopes of getting some sort of clue.

As Trevor rounded a corner in the school's hallway, the slender figure of Jadziin moved out in front of him. While not angered or disturbed, she did look serious–she always looked serious. It was very rare for Jadziin to be jocular. She waited until Trevor saw her and registered her presence before speaking, adjusting her glasses as she did. They were uncomfortable, but needed to correct her eyesight. A hunter should not be caught off guard by a demon merely because they can't see them. “I could've been here sooner, Trevor, but my means of transportation were limited. I managed, however. I assume you've spoken with Autumn already?” Jadziin asked quietly, subconsciously tugging one of her blonde strands back behind her ear.

“It's nice to see you, too,” Trevor said, putting his hands up behind his head. “Y`know, you should try wearing contacts. Glasses don't suit you.” He beamed at her, but Joz was sometimes even more of a stiff than Kris. Why is it that all the women I meet are weird? Trevor stuffed his hands into his pockets. “Yeah, she's fine. She's got another class, though, so I figured I'd just go out and see what else this pompous, over-inflated island has to offer. Wanna come with?”

Jadziin let the comment about her eyewear drift past, ignoring it. She'd learned to deal with Trevor's personality, and she honestly didn't care whether the glasses didn't “suit her”. Contacts might be more practical in battle, however… “While what you suggest doesn't sound at all appealing, I believe I shall accompany you. This island gives me a strange feeling…one I can't quite place. I will stay with you in the case that something wishes to bring harm to you. I can not waver from my duty to you…” Jadziin said with a hint of compassion. Were anything to happen to Trevor, she would be dishonored, for his protection was her primary purpose right now…and without purpose, what did she have?

“Not interesting? Come on, this is history here. My family roots go back here hundreds of years.” Trevor pushed open the doors leading outside, and jumped out in front of Jadziin. “Maybe we can go see the site where ol` John sealed up Azazel,” he said, smiling. “You know I've always wanted to see it. It'll be fun! Besides, what else is there to do around here?” Without waiting for an answer, Trevor turned back around, and started off down the stairs towards the sidewalk. A sudden and sharp wind kicked up, carrying a cold shiver within it. Trevor's eyes tingled as the cold forced him to squeeze them shut. The unmistakable smell of ether was suddenly very apparent in the air. Something unbelievably worthless had just been called from the darkness. Trevor looked back at Joz; she could feel it, too. “It was a powerful call,” he muttered, looking up at the sky. “Made by somebody who didn't care whether to not they were found.” Or maybe they're baiting us…

“I'm going to take a look around.” He pulled his gun from inside his jacket, and loaded a bullet into the chamber. “You go back to Kris' classroom, and keep an eye on it from the outside. Let me know if anything weird happens.” Trevor tucked his gun away again, and ran back inside the school.

Jadziin nodded, and turned on the heel of her foot, moving back down the school's hallway. As Trevor had said, something had been called from another world to this one. Something evil drew near. Jadziin approached Autumn Kristof's classroom, and stood outside the classroom, on her guard. She did not have her bow with her, but did have her sword tucked in its sheath, hanging from her belt, obscured by the large coat that Trevor had given her to wear. Her native clothes would make her stick out here, in this urbanized area, and possibly give both herself and Trevor away. She felt unsure about leaving Trevor, as she would not be there to protect him should anything assault him…but if he needed her to watch 'Kris', then she would. He could fend for himself, after all. Jadziin waited outside the classroom, ready for any sort of surprise that might be flung her way…

Raziel watched Ms. Kristof as she spoke; she seemed to have an easy manner of someone used to attention; a popular person out of virtue of beauty and friendliness. Not out of money or blood, though one or both of those had to be true for her to be taking classes at a college on a wholly different continent. That accent sticks out like a cockney in the Birmingham Palace. Ms. Kristof was obviously trying to bait him into something with her question.

“Because it's a fascinating subject.” Raziel's smile was innocent and enigmatic. You weren't named for the angel of mysteries for naught, now were you. “And I needed a course to fill the time between Victorian History classes. What better than to teach something so filled with intrigue and so controversial?” Raziel shifted his smile to Professor Beltran in greeting, saying nothing and deciding that, as he had come into view the class, he would be treated as a student and not selected arbitrarily to parade around. He closed the grimoire carefully and put it in a drawer that clicked into locked as it was closed. There were other artifacts in that drawer; all minor. He would remember to take that grimoire home to his tiny little hole in the wall apartment that evening; otherwise, it would have to face the ravages of the curious student body. “You came in rather early. Class starts in… Oh, less than ten minutes.”

Belial smiled in reply, more grateful for the simple greeting than Raziel would imagine. Beltrán put the agenda away and pulled out a notebook. He opened it and distractedly wrote the date on top of a blank page. Belial loved blank pages. They were always waiting to be filled with knowledge and cryptic signs. He was curious about what the class would be like and what would Raziel teach this time. Belial was there as a student again, despite he is the Master of the Dark Arts. He did not expect Raziel to reveal the deep truths of the mechanism of the universe, nor the alter life that flows within sigils of power or their kaleidoscope of ancient languages, or the contemplative verses of the angels of Knowledge. Coming to it, he was there because he felt lonely. Plain and simply, he longed for the acceptance he enjoyed in the old days – old days nor a human would remember. Perhaps all he wished to get was a reminiscence of his old existence, when Raziel was his Teacher.

“Oh, I won't make a habit of it. ” Autumn grinned broadly. “I'm almost always late.” She took little notice of the book he put away. Autumn was curious, but not enough to want to come back and snoop later. That was more Trevor's thing. The professor, she didn't think she'd get used to calling him that, seemed oblivious to her baiting, which gave her the distinct impression that maybe she was getting a little paranoid about the picture…

Raziel smiled broadly to his desktop as he rearranged it to his liking, pondering today's lesson. It was nominally a term beginning for him, so he ought to give a speech- but he had decided a week in advance not to; to launch fully into the teaching. Ignorant questions could be answered as the lessons went along; he had no patience for the illusions of those who came merely to criticize. “I hope,” he replied to Ms. Kristof quietly, “that you are not late to mine.” He would share no great secrets of the universe; those were for the students who truly wished to be initiated, those who seemed that they would not be corrupted by the powers. Sometimes, as he taught on the podium, it felt deeply satisfying and familiar… When he touched an old tome of magick, or some article of ancient and strange knowledge, he felt something akin to memory, though no true memory came with it. He sighed and wondered if any more students would be joining his class today; a small group.

For such a large school, very little in the way of students came into the class. Not that Autumn minded, she always preferred intimate setting. It was much easier to ask questions and get individual attention. The professor immediately launched into teaching instead of giving a beginning semester speech, which she appreciated much. She's heard enough of the newbie basics from Trevor, not that she ever practiced… but hearing it again would have been dull.

As class began and quickly ended, she frowned at the red light flashing on her phone. One throwaway, dead in the record room. Keep an eye out for more trouble. Keep Joz close. Be back soon. Kris rolled her eyes, stuffing the phone back in her bag. How irritating! Not even here for two hours and he was already chasing around demons! And she was here too. Kris wasn't sure just why she hated the girl, although it might've been the fact she was beautiful, strong, talented, and had no sense of humor… but she couldn't stand to be around her more than five minutes. If Trevor thought he was going to leave the stuffy chit following her around London, he had another thing coming.

Stuffing the rest of her things in her bag and scribbling down the nights homework assignment, she gave a friendly smile and wave to her professor (a class she definitely decided she would -never- be late to), she quietly slipped out the side door to avoid Joz. It was brilliant luck that Jess was getting out of her own class. “Jess!” Kris laughed as she linked arms with her friend and quickly turned her around before they headed in Joz's direction. “We're going out… You are most definitely correct, the professors are worth the tuition alone!” Both girls giggled as they headed down the hall… promptly deciding a night of clubbing was in order. After all, their favorite band Forsaken was playing…!

Belial stayed in his seat till most of the students left once the class was over. Despite he intended to enjoy the class, a part of his mind continued to brood on the recent encounters. The three demon brothers wouldn't succeed unless the special item was found, and they didn't seem to even know about its existence. The gathering that was taking place – all the souls were returning to the place of the sinister events in the late 1800 Century – was unnerving, yet not unexpected. Belial was worried and he didn't know what role he was to play this time. He was still on trial. He probably would be on trial for the rest of his existence. The only comfort he received it was Azrael and he hadn't seen her in a long time.

Besides, something else further dampened his mood. To the eye of the Necromancer of Auld, Raziel had adopted a different shape and a different, terrible shift. Why had this had to be? Rishta the half-angel had died and her mission had passed to Azrael… but why Raziel came back soulless…? Belial couldn't yet see the reason. The class was over. It was time to go back 'home'. Belial picked up his belongings to leave the classroom as the last students were leaving.





Ana gracefully made her way to the back of the room, picking out a violin and beginning to tune it. The man who came in caused her defenses to raise, only for a second- she had to fight back the urge to quickly draw Lux and Ater and wake them from their sleep. Sure, they would be cranky- but that was just something they would have to get over. The man coming in actually made her jump. “I didn't see you…I just decided to come in here and play a little bit. I'm on a tour of the college…” She couldn't help but check him out as he reached for the cello- but the thoughts were quickly pushed to the back of her head. What on EARTH would Alistaire think about her actually -liking- a demon? That would make killing him all the more fun for her partner. “…what brings you here early?”

With an eased motion, Daman plucked the cello off the floor and carried it to one of the chairs in the back of the classroom. As he began to rub resin on the bow, the demon spoke in a melodic lit to the girl. “I'm just in between classes. Nothing special. I usually come here on days like this to play some music…” He tossed his silver-black hair over a shoulder as he steadied the instrument between his thighs. Peering up through his bangs, he gave the woman a randy grin. Yes, the encounter with the demon hunter before had given him confidence and stride. “And to think, that the girl I met before believed that all cello players are, as she called it, dorks.”

Daman did not offer his name or any other personal information before he began to play the cello. The stringed instrument was perfectly tuned, for some odd reason, and seemed to mold itself into its user's body. At first glance it might not seem like this was the correct instrument for the demon; however, that was all proved wrong as he played. Deeply harmonic notes splashed themselves around the room, tinged with melancholy. The tune was unlike any other heard, shallow on the surface, but intensely bittersweet at its core. If anyone had said that the cello and Daman were an unlikely pair, they were most definitely proved wrong with his playing. The bow seemed to be an extension of his hand as he expertly ran it across the strings. It was for certain that he was no amateur. As the song took on a quieter and milder melody, he asked Ana, in a voice that matched the cello's baritone quality, “So, what is your name, demon-girl?”

Ana shifted her stance and listened to him play; she didn't want to feed his ego any more than she already did- this boy had her attention. His playing made her close her eyes and begin to move her hand as if she was directing it; something that she always dreamed of doing. As sad as his music was it made her heart flutter; even in darkness Ana found light. “D-demon-girl…that's a bit…”

“…rude? Creepy…evil…Ana- this man is a demon.” Lux had to intervene, the demon was obviously trying to have his way with his master. He knew that even though he warned the girl- there was nothing he could do to change her mind. Ana didn't even have to answer Lux, and he went back to being silent.

“I'm Ana. Ana Gordon…who might you be?”

With a beautifully dissonant chord, Daman ended his song. He leaned down and rested his chin upon the instrument, staring up at Ana through his hair, gray eyes vague and unfocused. At the mention of his name, the demon smiled smoothly. “That's a bit…what?” He paused, as if reluctant to give up his name. Briefly he wondered if he was to give a pseudonym, but for some reason he felt as if he could trust the girl. “Daman. Daman Winters, if you want to be precise.” He felt something odd about her presence. She was part demon, all right, but more human than so. But that hadn't been it; something else felt almost wrong with the girl, something that Daman couldn't place. He couldn't tell if it was right or wrong; yet it seemed as though there was something more to Ana than what was on the surface.

Daman held the bow poised over the cello, its strings begging to be played. He held off, and then asked Ana, “Well, demon-girl, I saw you tuning that violin back there. Would you mind to accompany me with a duet? Violin and cello aren't usually used together without the viola somewhere in between, but…” He shrugged nonchalantly. A sudden thought came to Daman's mind, and he put on a rather coy face. “You do recognize me for a demon, do you not?” He had no idea why he said it; it just seemed to have wanted to be put out onto the open. With that, Daman began to play the opening chords of Vivaldi's “Winter,” a song cold yet full of life. The notes seemed to call to Ana, as if begging her to play along too. Ah, that persuasive demonic charm!

“Draw…just draw on him and shoot- save yourself some trouble.” Ater could sense his brother's annoyance, and soon he too grew impatient.

“You're going to have to do it later…save yourself the work. Just kill him right here.” The demon was toying with her- and his ego needed to be deflated; that was something Ana could easily do if she would just listen and fill him full of her holy-lead. For once, Ater and Lux wanted to make life easier on Ana's partner- the poor, abused Scottish storm. Alistaire would go insane if he were to see this.

“Just pick me up- and paint him silver.”

Ana nearly dropped the violin in her hands as Daman spoke to her; goodness, she almost forgot that was there. Getting a hold of herself, she placed it on her shoulder and readied to play. “Rude- calling me that is just rude, and I would appreciate it if you would call me Ana….Daman.” That right there was her sorry attempt to deflate him; always hearing Lux and Ater tell her how to run her life was a bit strange- so she tried to indulge them. As he began to play she started to go along with it, not even tapping her foot or swaying to keep on with the pace. She knew exactly how it would go, judging by how he moved. Ana didn't stop at all when he pointed out that he had been a demon, but began to take control of the music- and even rush him to play along now.

“Yes I did, but if you knew about me I am sure you wouldn't be so open.” He had been honest, and so was she- but the girl wasn't going to press that matter any further. She would hate to draw blood in the music hall and he had sparked her interest- much to Lux and Ater's dislike.

The demon merely smiled serenely and exclaimed with mock astonishment, “Why, am quite sorry for not appearing the gentleman, my dear. Excuse the rather uninspiring pet name,” Plucking the strings in a pizzicato fashion, he locked his gray eyes with her green. “Ana.” There was something final in the way that he said he name; something chilling in a good sense. He felt her try and run away with the music, to call it her own, to warp it to her liking. Daman didn't bother to keep up. Instead, he changed his melody into basso continuo, playing running sixteenth notes underneath her melody. The effect was very startling and unique, with Ana's own tune the main melody. He kept on playing in that fashion, and arched an eyebrow delicately as she made her comments. “Was that a threat, then? You should be happy I'm keeping conversation with you. It's not usually my thing.” He dropped the cello's tone into an ear-vibrating register as the song ended, and smiled at her. Such a vague and indistinct smile, one that could mean so many things. “I fear close to nothing. Except those in higher rank above me on the demonic plane. Other than that…” Daman's tone was confident, but his hand absentmindedly brushed upon the silvery teardrop upon his neck. The scar was old, but it hadn't faded. There had been power behind that blow, and the demon couldn't help but recall the agony he suffered from that angelic blade.

Adding as if to prove a point, Daman said, “Besides, I already can tell there's something odd about you. Something not right. Or maybe it is right, who am I to judge? My perception of the world is different from the next person.” He wrapped his legs around the base of the instrument and gazed up at the hunter. “So, why don't you tell me a little about yourself, Miss Ana?” Punctuated with that easy grin.

After a few minutes of playing, Ana recalled that at this moment- she was the calmest she had ever been since they all first arrived in London. Losing her bags in the airport, getting stopped by the security guard that didn't speak any English and then being forced to -unstrap- Lux and Ater from her back… The week so far had been like a trip to hell. Now everything was somewhat settled; her bags were safely stored at the hotel- all except for her “undergarments” bag, but that could easily be fixed with a credit card and a trip to lingerie stores. She might just have to do that on her own- the last she was waving her lacy unmentionables in Alistaire's face, something almost happened. Even as she stood there, conversing with someone that wasn't her partner and was quite attractive- Ana couldn't help but think about how close she and Alistaire had been.

Her mind was quickly snapped back into line when Daman spoke to her, and she sighed before setting the violin down. Her fingers itched to release Lux and Ater and show him a completely new thing to fear, but she just couldn't. He seemed unarmed, and wasn't going to attack her. “Oh…w-well, there really isn't much to tell…I'm a historian, and I just moved here.” Ana loosened up a little more and leaned against the back of a chair, resting her behind on it. If he were to even try- just a little bit, Daman could see up her skirt. She knew he wasn't going to try; next time- she would have to come to the college in jeans. Why was it always cold in the music rooms? “Wrote books…I was a college professor before…uh- Now, I just came here for adventure. You know- something fun and different. I'm here to check out the night life…”

As he listened to Ana tell of how she came to be at the university, Daman couldn't help but notice the way she shifted her weight. The move was slightly alluring; the demon knew that if positioned himself just right, he would have a clear view of her undergarments, and perhaps a bit more. Sniggering in his head, he abstained from the free look, however. Ana seemed to be a classy lady, and Daman wasn't the leering jerk to take pleasure in looking at an acquaintance’s unmentionables. However, her words did spark some interest in him, and he stared up her, gray eyes giving off excited sparks. “A historian? Really then…I myself am a history major here. I have as much a passion for history as I do for the cello…and a few other knacks as well.” A slightly conceited look overtook Daman's face. He snapped back to attention in a few seconds, though, and simply said to Ana, “Well, I bet you could show me a few tricks yourself,” he paused dramatically, “Professor.” Here he was, working his charm and charisma to full effect, and although it didn't show, Daman felt slightly uncomfortable. Flirting was not exactly his thing, and here he was, in an empty classroom conversing with perhaps one of the most beautiful demon/humans he'd seen in a while. Yet the demon seemed to be able to allow her to get a little closer to his world, understand him as he thought he could understand her. After all, she was a demon, and there was nothing to hide from others of his kind, was there?

“Are you going to tell me a bit about yourself?” came Ana's voice. Daman paused for a second, contemplating what to tell her. “Well,” he said smoothly, “That's rather confidential information now, isn't it? All you need to know is that I'm studying here as a history major, live in an apartment off campus, just a few blocks from here. My past…” Memories sprang into his head and he blocked them. No need to delve into much more serious issues at the moment. He suddenly hoped she wouldn't connect him with his old self. After all, Rage was gone with the past, merely an urban legend now. And that was in Canada, this is London. The chances are next to none, Daman thought to himself. Flashing a toothy smile, he finished, “Is not worth mentioning.”

Adriel pushed the door open and entered, followed by Alastaire and Connor. She glided across the room, her feet did not make a sound as the little Irish girl chose a place to put her things. Raising her green and gold eyes, she saw a couple in the far end of the chamber. A shadow lingered on them, but Adriel didn't seem to care. “Good morn!”, she greeted with a smile.

Alistaire walked as if he was being dangled from a piece of rope from the top of his head, his entire body loose. His step was more or less no more than an arrogant saunter, or so one would think. It was actually a walk to be used to shown his looseness, but at the same time, be ready for any attack. So if some crazy woman decided to come charging at him, he'd be ready. Or if those god awful vibes turned out to be something else… well, he'd have hands on two different guns, both locked and loaded with anti-Hellspawn bullets. He'd only be able to get off a few shots and maybe dodge the first attack from a vampire or a demon, but if he placed the shots well…

He yawned and stretched his arms back suddenly and looked around, admiring the halls and the design of the building. “Know how old this place is?” He asked idly as they turned a corner. They continued walking a bit, and he hoped they would be coming up on this room quickly. He was getting a sudden awful twist in his guts. They arrived at a large door and Adriel pushed it open. This must be it, he thought with a relieved sigh. He followed her in with Connor to his side, both of them flanking Adriel to the side and rear. He looked around the room with interesting eyes and shuddered, feeling the cold and even more pressure here in this room. This school is full of bloody wrongness…, he thought idly. He suddenly heard the little Irish girl say cheerfully, “Good morn!”, and he looked over her shoulder. He saw both Ana and another man, both sets of their eyes on the group. He eyed Ana, then put his gaze on the man, then put his eyes back on Ana. His brow furrowed and he opened his mouth to say something.

It was funny how someone who seemed so uptight and cold, ended up actually being not all that bad. Ana used to think she was a good judge of character, but she had to admit- at first glance, she thought he was a stuck-up brat, who wouldn't give anyone the time of day. So far, he wasn't that bad at all. She smiled softly and watched him talk, even the words he chose to use were graceful. Daman was almost too perfect- there HAD to be something wrong with him other than his demon blood. The historian had a knack for diving into people's minds, and even after a few minutes- she could tell whether they chewed on pens, bounced their knees or grinded their teeth while they slept. For example, Alistaire grinded his teeth when he was sleeping- meaning he was constantly under stress.

“Most people don't like to speak about their past- it's sad, really. Once you come to terms with what you've done, it'll be easier on you when you pass on. People have the ability to change, they just don't realize it until it's too late.” Ana was cut short, but even though her words stopped- her glare didn't. She was reading him, whether he would like it or not. She turned around to look at whomever was coming into the room- and she almost giggled happily as she saw Ali. “Hi!”

Connor stuffed his hands in pockets after setting Adriel's bag and his backpack down, eyeing Daman. He had sensed something distinctively heavy in the air as he walked into the room, and now he sensed the heavier source – for he knew the girl next to him gave out heavy vibes, as well. Like two rocks tossed into a pool of quiet waters. Adriel greeted them, then the woman greeted back. There was recognition in her eyes towards Alistaire. Connor stayed near Adriel. “Good morning”, Connor said with a small smile, watching and waiting.

Alistaire's wide open mouth was ready to attack Ana with a verbal attack, but– when she said “Hi!” to him the way she did, it killed off any malicious thoughts he had. Instead, he stood there, quiet, with his mouth hanging open a good, long, stretched out moment. After realizing the silence, he shut his mouth and 'ahem'd!, straightening himself and regaining his composure. His eyes still sharp towards Ana, he grumbled out. “Hello, Ana.” He smiled half-heartedly, still wanting to bash Ana with his words, but not finding the drive to. I'll tell her later…, he grumbled in his head. He looked around the room at all the faces and sighed. Then his gaze fell again on the man Ana had been in the room with and his eyes focused sharply.

“Dunnae believe I got yer name…” He said finally, taking a few steps over. His hand glide down his side and rested on his waist, giving him the best position to draw his .45 handgun should the need arise. This fellow gave him the bloody creeps, and that was hard to do. The hair on his neck stood and the young demon-hunter's blood was boiling. He tried to keep himself in check. “Me name's Alistaire MacCoule.” He glanced to Ana. “Knowin' her, I dunnae think she told ye me name. Hell, I dunnae think she even mentioned I bloody existed!” He cocked his head towards her, but kept an eye on Daman.

Adriel blinked and her eyes opened wide – she could easily read the tension in the air, and Connor's watchful look enhanced her own worries. Adriel as ever tried to be conciliative. “Is this the person you've been looking for, Ali?”, she asked, trying to infuse some cheerfulness in the cold atmosphere. “What a coincidence we found her already…” Adriel tilted her head, looking at the woman. Her clothes made her look older, or maybe more precisely, too formal for a student. “Are you a new professor, ma'am?”, she asked her.

Oh yeah- Alistaire was mad. It didn't take a rocket scientist named Ana Gordon to figure it out; later on she would get a Scottish verbal lashing, and maybe if she just cried- he wouldn't be as angry later on. Lately, Ana had to admit that she was being a bad best friend. Leaving him back at the hotel was a mean thing to do- mainly because he wouldn't have anything to do; they just moved here for Christ's sake. The least she could do was stay there with him and keep him company…and busy. He would get too mean when they would hang out too much, but he got upset when she took time for herself. Either way, she was still very happy to see him. And that girl who asked her if she was a professor. There was the possibility that Ana could get her job back, but until then she would settle for interviewing Morris and dilly-dallying around in the college as a guest. Getting her job would mean leaving her hunting behind, and the girl didn't know if she was ready to do that. She wasn't smitten to that…was there something else?

“No m'am, I'm a guest. Ana Gordon, nice to meet you.” She smiled cheerfully to the girl and then back at Ali, nodding a few times. Leave it to Alistaire to get upset that she was talking to someone; if he would have known that he was a demon, there wouldn't be any talk at all. Only killing.

Adriel grinned. “I see! My name is Adriel Oscar; I'm a member of the chorus and this is my friend Connor McFadden”, she said motioning to Connor. “We met Alastaire this morning…” Adriel cast a curious look at the man with the cello. She sensed something distinctive about him. “I thought you'd be part of a cultural exchange program”, she continued with a smile. “We've got some professors from abroad”.

Connor flashed a brief, fierce grin. After the introductions, Connor gave some excuse and dragged Adriel to the announcements board, where they took some notes about the schedule for the next chorus meeting and other miscellany. Connor was rather annoyed as the atmosphere in the building had become strangely heavy and yet most of the odd 'presences' he perceived were gone, he suddenly felt the huge spaces tight and heavy in a sort of claustrophobia. “Let us go. We don't have more classes for the day…”, he muttered. After some time, Adriel and Connor left the Campus in Adriel's bike.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER THREE

Near the University, in a secluded spot, the world began to move. Rats scurried from their dens in anticipation. Insects began to buzz and fly wildly. Even a serpent or two made an appearance at the “gathering.” Three pairs of malevolent eyes stared out of the shadows.

“The human world,” one whispered, an exceedingly dark and sinister hiss.

“Yes…” another voice, this one dry and brittle, with a sarcastic undertone, “It's been far too long.”

“Can you feel his presence?” the third voice whispered, a dignified, noble tone, “Our Lord is here.”

“He is not alone,” the first voice hissed, “There are others…demons and angels alike…”

“It does not matter,” the third replied, “He is here.”

“Yes…” the second voice again, “now, let us quit wasting time and find him.”

The three pairs of eyes vanished and the rats, insects, and snakes fled the location in a rush of buzzes, screeches and hissing.

Jem opened the car door and stepped out of it before closing it. He bowed to the chauffeur John, smiling in appreciation. At Rishta’s home he had bathed and changed in his special room. One he took the effort and excuse to acquire, to keep an eye on her when the servants couldn’t. Jem thought the old house was too big for her and with so few numbers of servants to take care of it. By all means, he was now dressed in black leather clothes with a plain white shirt. He went to the other side of the car and opened the door for Rishta. Extending his hand out to her, he smiled sweetly.

Rishta leaned back in the limo, as the car came to a stop near the college. She had changed back home, and was now wearing black pants and a white shirt, on which was scrawled some kanji – from her trip to Tokyo a year or so ago. Over it was a jacket and with it were dark boots. Her hair had been pulled back to a ponytail, securely tied with a dark ribbon. When they stopped, she blinked as Jem opened the door for her and helped her step out. With an innocent smile, she murmured a thanks. He was such a doll. With a start, she realized they were late for Medieval Philosophy!

Adriel rushed on her way to the old gothic buildings in the campus where she was to take her next class on Medieval Philosophy, painfully aware that she was going to be late. The black hair waved behind her like a black silk flag as she ran, clutching a notebook to her chest and her bag shaking at her side. Adriel turned her head and saw Rishta's car park by. The little Irish girl smiled and stopped to wave at the newcomers; maybe they were late to class as well. Tilting her head gracefully, Adriel pulled her bag strap on her shoulder so it wouldn't slip. “Morning!” she cheerfully called.

Blinking, Rishta turned to the familiar voice. Adriel! “Adri!! You're late too?” Pulling her bag from the car, she began to tug Jem, and then broke into a brisk walk next to her friend, as Jem walked next to her. He looked really cute in a 'punkish' way – and Rishta couldn't help but smile at the thought of him shopping for clothes. It was a dangerous business. “What’s up?”

Adriel hugged her notebook and grinned, her green and golden eyes sparkling in innocent joy. “Hi Rishta! How was it on your vacation trip? You were going to Italy, weren't you? I went to my family's manor in Ireland, just that. I would love to go to Rome next year! Venice! It was Venice, right?” Adriel chatted happily as she waited for them to join her so they could go inside the building. “Yes, we'll be late! In a way it's better I found you… Hmmm I'd be nervous to go in alone once the class has started. Professor Oliveros can be scary when he's mad. Do you think he'll mind?” Adriel smiled shyly at Jeremy as he came along with Rishta.

“Who's your friend, Rishta?” She smiled shyly at Jeremy. “You are in our class, right?”

Jem smiled at Adriel and extended his hand out to shake hers. “Hi, my name is Jeremy Doyle. You can call me Jem if you like though. I'm Rishta's boyfriend.” Jem was getting slightly nervous that Adriel was suggesting Rishta had to go somewhere else for a visit and he quickly piped in, “I will go along. Rish, I can pay for my own ticket and expenses but I want to go with you the next time.” Jem looked at Adriel, thinking that she might of thought he was weird, he smiled again at her quickly.

Adriel smiled at Jeremy yet the boy confused her a bit. “Oh… sure you'd be welcome!”, she said despite she was not sure if he meant he'd come along if Rishta would visit her family's ancient home in Ireland, or if he'd go to Venice with Rishta. Adriel was a bit perplexed. “Oh I didn't know you have a boyfriend, Rishta!”, she said with a grin.

Alistaire growled as he flipped his cell phone closed with one hand and tucked it away into his jacket. He swerved into main traffic and dove between two cars before re-aligning himself in the proper lane. He was getting angrier by the second. Ana, who he had wanted to get back to being with, had more or less told him to buzz off for a little while longer– or at least, that was how he perceived it. It drove him nuts, and being bored in the middle of the day with nothing to do didn't help at all. He began playing with words in his head, trying to remember the university that Ana was at. “Later, eh?!” He said through his teeth. “Ah'll bloody show ye later!” He cursed to himself; he couldn't remember where it was at all, or what the name was. That didn't stop him, however. Upon just a little more traveling along the road that he thought was where the campus could be, he did spot a school– and whether Ana was actually there or not really didn't matter.

He pulled off the main road and towards the main building. The loud roar of the motorcycle engine could be heard quite a ways, and his constant shift in speed didn't help with muffling the sound at all. Alistaire barely dodged a limousine that was pulling away and cursed, yelling back at the limo driver who couldn't hear him at all, and tore onto the walking pavement. He again cursed and swerved in order to avoid running into a trio of students and he nearly skidded into a tree. Thankfully, his riding skills were a bit better than he had hoped for and avoided skidding entirely and instead swung around the front of the trio. With a jerk, he stopped and nearly flew off from his seat. With his sunglasses hanging off of his nose, blue eyes clearly visible, he looked up at the kids who were puzzled, frightened, amazed… he didn't know which. He gave them all a grin and kicked the bike into a park and stood up, albeit a bit woozy.

“Any of ye mind tellin' meh whare I am?” He asked, his Scottish accent as heavy as ever.

Rishta blinked as the motorcycle came revving up from nowhere, nearly HIT her limo, and then nearly killed them. Just that one action made her forget scolding Jem about claiming to be her boyfriend again. Honestly, one day his pranks were going to make her go crazy. She even forgot to answer Adriel, and she and Adri were great friends.

Adriel cringed as she saw the motorcycle zoom by and come to a halt at short distance from the little group with so much noise and screeching. She had the impulse to run, but some strange sense told her to hold still. The vehicle stopped. Adriel opened her innocent, big, green and gold eyes wide. “You, rude savage person!”, she said putting her hands on her hips, glaring at the newcomer. “You should learn how to drive those things before jumping on one! If you would have run me over – you'd have to pay ALL the hospital expenses!” Adriel made a pause to catch her breath.

“This is the central campus. Go park that thing out of the grass!” Adriel looked very authoritarian for a small Irish woman, but it somehow went right with her.

Alistaire could've spat at the girl's words. Didn't she understand the circumstances? He had just nearly killed himself trying to avoid smashing into them! In fact, he did spit. He looked over his shoulder and spat out a big glob of saliva and turned back to them with a lopsided grin. He took his glasses off and tucked it into his jacket pocket and took a few steps.

“Now girl, I know I'd have te pay alla'dat if I did bloody hit ye, but I didn't, did I?” He tilted his head and waved his finger around the whole time, making little punctuation-stabs in the air. “I'm not paerkin' here either, out of choice! Bloody limo gettin' in my bloody way! Nearly killed me, I tell you!” He now made had movements that re-enacted the whole near-crash that turned into a swerve. “Then ye and yer pals here were in my way, so I bloody swerved and alla' dat.” He again re-enacted with his hands, holding three fingers up to show them and his flat hand for his bike. “Luckily, my riding skills are pretty gewd, so I dodged ye. So now, here we are.” He crossed his arms and nodded. “Sorry aboot alla dat, at any rate. Where am, again? Y'know, de school. And who're ye three?”

Raphael, Jem’s “guardian” angel, was watching on top of the tree all along. He didn't like the way Alistaire acted around Adriel. He seemed cocky enough, even though it was true that he did try not to knock into the three. He stared at Alistaire coldly, thinking of ideas of what he should do to such a rude person, but changed his mind. Raphael decided it was only worth the effort if Alistaire proved to be a true threat. Jem finally noticed Raphael's presence and began to feel uneasy as he inched closer to Rishta. He frowned down at Jem but said nothing. It wasn’t the time to play tricks on the boy again, not with more than three hundred people around.

Shocked at the ill manners the stranger had displayed, Adriel was not too satisfied but the man had at least apologized. The small Irish woman furrowed a cute brow. “This is London University”, she said, hands on hips. “We're… students, you see”. She eyed him as he showed numbers with his hands as if he were a magician doing passes in the air. “You've not told us your name – if you do we might tell you ours!”

Adriel was amazed at the size of the bike, certainly bigger than hers, which resembled a stylized bicycle in comparison. Adriel had parked hers on the other side of the building – in the parking lot. “Who are you?” Adriel checked her watch and shrieked. “We're late!” She set off running for the building's entrance.

Alistaire nodded and shrugged to the little Irish girl. He understood where she was coming from, buuut… he just didn't feel all too polite right about now. Besides, sophistication and good verbiage really wasn't his sort of thing. He just said whatever was on his head, and hope it came out good enough to be understood. “London Univarsity! Thass gewd, thass gewd.. ” He said quietly enough as she gave her explanation. He grinned sheepishly when she again seemed to berate him. His tall form seem to shrink a bit as she once again carried on about his manners. He nodded and added his assent, still grinning. Wait a bloody second, why should I be so acting silly…? His ears rang and he lost his train of thought when the girl shrieked and began running.

“Wait a bloody second!! I need ye tae help me!!” He reached out a hand and began to run after her, and despite his heavy boots, kept up quite well. “And ye haven't aeven heard me name!”

Rishta wasn't prepared for Adri’s sudden explosion! That pretty calm face just blew up at the big Scottish guy, scolding him like she was his mother! Rishta wanted to laugh so badly… then Adri ran off, into the building. I think she fears the professor more than this biker-stalker dude… Then the “biker-stalker dude” took off after Adriel. Now, there was one thing Rishta would never stand for – and that was for her love ones to be injured while she could do something about it. So, as soon as he started running, Rishta did, catching up with amazing speed, thanking God she was fit.

“DON'T YOU DARE HURT ADRI!” Rishta tackled the man with untrained 'finesse' as he went through the double doors that lead to the classrooms. With a sickening thud he landed on the stone floor, with Rishta on top of him. She had totally forgotten Jem. Hopefully he would've gotten the hint and come running after her. Holding the man down, she hissed. “Who are you?” Lord, this was just like the movies!

Alistaire's chase after the girl was going well. He had jumped a low, stone wall there for design purposes and a few shrubs to keep behind her and was finally coming up on the door. He didn't know this school, and he needed a guide, more or less. Being guided by a cute little Irish girl didn't hurt, either. He was about to catch hold of her when suddenly, he heard a bark and voice so– scary, he couldn't help but spin around. He stood there with awe and a bit of fright as the girl charged at him. His right-eye twitched and his grin faltered as she bulldozed into him and sent them tearing through the double-doors into the actual school-building, both sprawling to the ground in a strange, sadistic embrace. He hit the stone floor with enough force to knock a man cold, and indeed, he wouldv'e been out like a light bulb if it hadn't of been for two things: one, he had had his share of beating when demon hunting. This was.. nearly nothing. And two, the girl was straddling his lap in order to hold him down. What better could you ask for?

“Bloody girl!” He managed to get out. Though he didn't pass out, he did lose his breath. His head thudded into the stone floor as he gave up trying to struggle; he was weak. Physically weak, at any rate. It wasn't his fault; it was a birth defect. He was weaker than the average Joe, and the only way to combat that was with his trusty sword– that he didn't have. “Ugh.. My naeme's Alistaire MacCoule.” He finally said. “And who are ye?!”

Adriel ran swiftly as if she had wings to her heels, trying to be the less late as possible to her class in Medieval Philosophy. She only noticed she was being followed by the Scott once she got into the classrooms hallway and Rishta screamed. A loud thud could be heard and Adriel looked back as she ran, bumping into Connor who was just outside her classroom door. Adriel gasped and accidentally stepped on Connor's foot as she tried to turn around and saw Rishta on top of the Scott.

“Rish… What…?! He's not done anything to me…!” Adriel blinked in frustration.

Connor had got distracted by the yelling down the hall as the strange group of visitors appeared; he recognized the baron of Cynshire from pictures on the newspapers. Connor saw that American was causing trouble again – maybe that was his normal behavior…? The Irishman gasped in surprise as Adriel unexpectedly ran into him and stepped on his foot, making him see tiny stars all around… Connor instinctively held her as she turned around so they'd not fall to the floor as well. Connor blinked as he saw Rishta had tackled someone to the ground – not like that was an unusual behavior in her… Then his mind registered Rishta had yelled something about protecting Adriel. Connor held tighter on Adriel and his eyes widened.

“Who's that guy?!”, he demanded to know.

Jem responded to Adriel's scream by turning to run into the building hurriedly. Suddenly, he heard Rishta yelling and a loud sound of the doors banging made him turn and look at what was happening. The sight of Rishta tackling Alistaire almost freaked him out as he rushed over, kicking Alistaire twice hard in the gut as he pulled away Rishta. “You… you lecher!!” Jem accused angrily as he pulled Rishta behind her, “Come on Rish!! Let's get away from this freak!” Jem cast Alistaire one last hard glare as he pulled Rishta away, running towards the class.

Rishta blinked as Jem pulled her back, and tried to drag her away. She couldn't believe what she had just done, and pointed to the jet lag for blame. It was like she couldn't even stop herself from acting the way she did… and she assumed that the combination of lack of sleep and too much caffeine that made her all hyped up and ready to kick arse. And she had taken it out on a random stranger. Well, that stranger had tried to kill her… so she wasn't too sympathetic. Shrugging Jem off, she muttered something about needing sleep, and headed out of the building, slipping out a cell phone from her pocket and calling her limo. Within minutes he had arrived, and Rishta was heading off home.

Raphael sat through the whole scene with much amusement, especially at Rishta and Jem. He didn't think Adriel or Tabris would become like this… Rishta didn't change much, he thought in amusement as he descended down on to the ground slowly. He glanced around with his hyper sense and could feel no one around before he morphed into sight as a human with a intricate looking walking stick. Something any average blind person would have. He scoffed as he put on a pair of expensive Valentino sunglasses and he made his way into the building calmly, barely resembling a blind person at all. His stick hit Alistaire hard who was still lying on the floor after Jem's cruel second attack.

“Who's blocking my way?” Raphael asked as he squat down and began feeling Alistaire all over, poking him hard with his fingers. “Oh my…” Raphael exclaimed in an exaggerated manner, “A human! A human blockage! Why are you sleeping in the school campus, young man?” Raphael slapped Alistaire's stomach with his stick as he stood up with a grin. “I can show you around the school if you like.”

The door to the Medieval Philosophy class unexpectedly opened and the professor appeared on the threshold. Beltrán glared at the noisy students in the hall – it was too bad most of them were his students, getting late for the class which was over half done… His silver eyes flashed in the shadow tossed by the massive wooden door.

“This is a University, not an arena!”, he said in a low, menacing voice. “What's all the wrestling about? You are all late and disturbing the peace!” Beltrán blinked as he saw Trevor Morris and another American hurrying to another classroom across the hall. Autumn… no doubt. The cycles had brought them together again. Belial sensed something even more strange and he recognized the soul of the one formerly known as Lorant Riktophen… which meant someone else was within Lorant! An initiate of the dark Arts was with him, which announced little good. The silver eyes shimmered strangely as he felt urged to get out of sight before any recognition would arise.

“Into the classroom!”, he ordered to the bunch of his students in the hall with a glare.

Connor cringed inwardly as indignant professor appeared in the threshold. It could be his own embarrassment and nervousness, but Connor could have sworn the air in the hall was heavy with dark vibes; like the shadow of the storm covers the sun before it starts to pour down. Connor receded towards the door still holding Adriel and practically carried her into the classroom with him.

Three men walked through the halls of the university. All of them wore clean, neatly pressed and well-cared for outfits. Each of them bore a strong family resemblance to the other two, though the ways they carried themselves were quite different. One of the three was large and exceedingly muscular, built like a bodybuilder. Another was tall and lanky and had a bit of a stooped posture. The third wore glasses and stood upright, his tall and lean frame carrying a noble air. Despite their differences, something about their presence made it clear that all three were connected in some way.

All three of them stopped in unison. Several familiar presences bombarded their infernal senses. So many minions and… so many angels. Many of them had no idea about the truth of their identities. Two stood out most prominently in their minds, though. One was immediately ahead: Belial, the Necromancer. The other…was nearby. The three thought and acted as one. The tall, noble-looking man approached the professor. The other two moved past, toward the location of Azazel…or rather, Aidan.

“It has been some time since I last saw you, Professor,” the dignified man, Marcus Caius, also known as the Demon Morbus, said to Beltran as he approached. “I trust the past years have treated you well?” His mouth quirked up in a slight, knowing smirk.

Belial's eyes shimmered with strange reflections, as if a silver and black fire danced behind his pupils. Three demons stood before him and these three he remembered well, as one of he earliest deeds of the Morning Star when the World of Man was new. Lucifer had a knack for creating and shaping things that could defy his imagination, to form strange new beings that would make the Elders' hackles rise. Alone, a lesser demon was no match for a Fallen, but in combination that could change and Lucifer had found that sickly amusing. Belial motioned imperatively to the students at the door and half-closed the door once they were inside the classroom, standing outside to deal with the three demon brothers alone.

“The face of the Earth has changed and the Skies have shifted ever since you came into being”, Belial coolly said in a low voice. “All of us have changed since you saw the light for first time. For wasn't He the Lightbearer? It's been some time, indeed. What do you seek?”

Alistaire spat hard onto the stone floor and coughed hard. This just isn't my day…, he thought sourly. First Ana, then he nearly crashed, then those kids thought him some sort of stalkers, then some girl tackles him, then some guy kicks him, now this crazy blind man decided to smack him around with a stick! Who the hell did these people take him for?! He didn't exist to be their punching bag, and he definitely wasn't going to take it! He sat up quickly and barked acidic words at the blind man. “I don't need any bloody help from some fockin' blind fewl who theenks he can just slap around any bloody thing he bloody feels like!” He snatched the blind stick to make an emphasis, and slung it down the hall with more force he thought he had. He keeled over once more and coughed; despite the beatings he was used to, he had gone through a lot in only a matter of a minute or two. His fragile body couldn't take it.

“Rrgh! THAT BOY!” He leaped to his feet and nearly exposed BOTH of his guns. “Whare's the bloody boy who thought he could keek a bloody man when he was down?! Dunnae the kid have a BLOODY SENSE OF HONOR?!” He shrieked with anger and ignored everyone around him (whomever that would be). He brushed past the blind man and took a few strides, not spotting the boy he saw earlier. He turned around and shrieked again in rage and probably made the biggest scene the school had seen in quite a bloody long time.

Adriel blinked and squirmed in protest as Connor carried her into the classroom, annoyed at the stares and random smirks from their classmates. Jeremy had managed to pull Rishta in but that guy with the Scottish accent was yelling outside in the hall at the top of his lungs for some reason – and the professor was out of the door! Adriel wriggled free from surprised Connor and squeezed out of the door, passing between the professor and his three visitors – she was short enough not to interrupt their visual line. However, she felt as if she had just walked through a cold dark corridor once she passed between them. Adriel blinked an momentaneously forgot why she had gone out. Then she heard the yelling again. Adriel was indignant. “Keep quiet you, mister Bloody!”, she exclaimed, her hands on her hips. “This is an area of silence! This is a school!” Adriel blinked as she noticed the blind man standing there.

“You could rise the dead with all that screaming!”

Raphael blinked as his stick was snatched away and thrown down the corridor. Then Alistaire started screaming like a complete loon. Silly man, Raphael thought as he walked down the corridor feeling his way about. Raphael touched Adriel's arm slightly and flushed. “Excuse me.” Raphael said with a quiet smile directed at Adriel as he squat down and picked up his stick which was lying beside her feet. Adriel! Raphael was careful not to say much. He didn't like the person near Adriel though. Mastema. Always buzzing around Adriel as usual, no matter during Angel, Fallen or even human days, Raphael mused to himself bitterly. He went down to Alistaire from the corridor and took off his sunglasses, his dark blue eyes staring into Alistaire's eyes strangely. After a while, he smacked Alistaire's legs lightly and sighed.

“Hasn't anyone taught you to show some respect for the handicapped, young man?” Raphael asked, “Besides you are being too loud, obnoxious and rude to the kids here at your first day in school.” Raphael put his sunglasses back on and turned back to Adriel, smiling at her. “Whatever. Kids nowadays.”

Adriel blinked as the blind man came by and picked up his cane at her feet. When his fingers touched her arm she felt a strange tingle, a familiarity to him as if she had known this man before. His voice enhanced this impression, but she still could not quite remember him. Adriel was confused. The sunglasses move confused her further, for his eyes were not fixed into space as those of the blind. Was he really blind? …Kids? Adriel put her hands on her hips again. “Who are you two?”, she demanded to know.

Alistaire's hands clenched tightly. And so did his eyes. And his teeth. He was gritting his teeth so tightly, you could practically hear his teeth grinding down. He took a deeeep breath…. and held it. He held it for the longest of seconds, and finally let it out. When he let it out, he was calmer. Much calmer. Or at least, much calmer than before.

“Blood and ashes…” He started. He looked at the blind man, and gave a sort of wry, apologetic smile. “Sorry.” He finally said. “Today just hasn't been my day.” He spun on his heel and quickly pocketed his hands and peered around at all of the wide-eyed stares he was getting. He barked quickly. “What're ye all bloody starin' at?! Git bock to yer studies.” He said the last part a bit gentler. He turned back to the blind man. “Again, I'm sorry. And I'm not a student here. In fact, I finished my schoolin' a few years ago. I'm now a professional– ” He was about to say 'Hunter', but that didn't sound right. “– scholar, you could say. I read the hist'ries, study stories. 've read Paradise Lost five times.”

He looked at the girl a second, hearing her question, but put his attention on the blind man. “Anyways, m'name's Alistaire MacCoule, of the MacCoule Clan of Scotland. And Ireland.” His place of birth was obvious from his thick accent. “Wot's yer name? ” He looked at the girl and poked a finger at her. “And yours, too? All I wanted was to git yer bloody name, and a hand around here…” He sighed and raised his hands and spun in a broad gesture. “And alla this happened.”

“I know that.” Raphael replied to Alistaire calmly, “I thought I might just help you around since you said you wanted someone to show you around? I believe it doesn't have to be a pretty girl doing the job, right?” With that, Raphael smiled at Adriel meaningfully again. Raphael's radar senses felt Alistaire pointing his finger about and he didn't like it, especially his tone.

“My name is Ralph…” Raphael said, more to Adriel than to anyone else, “And I'm here to…” Raphael paused. Yes, an excuse. He needed an excuse around. He sniffed the smell of Belial then. Wait… and three demons… Raphael's eyes glowed and his face twisted a little but that didn't stop him. “I'm a friend of Professor Beltran…” Raphael smiled at Belial in a weird manner as if he was playing a prank on the Fallen, “If he doesn't mind, I would like to sit through his class for a day.”

//Belial, who's the three little pigs? Are they here to mess the day? Besides Mastema, I feel a familiar person around here too… Is it 'him'?// Raphael tapped the floor with his stick twice and made his way to Belial, “May I attend your class, Professor Beltran?”

Adriel couldn't help but to giggle at the way Alistaire expressed himself, moving his hands in the air a lot and saying 'bloody' every five seconds. Well that at least when he was upset. Adriel blinked and looked at Ralph. Ralph… The name echoed in her mind but she still couldn't make out why it sounded so familiar. Strange. “My name is Adriel Oscar”, she told them with a smile, omitting the 'lady'. Then she was reminded of professor Beltrán… and class… Adriel opened her eyes wide in despair. Nothing was going to save her from the absent mark in the class roll!

//Es invierno en el Infierno, si eres mi amigo…//(1), Belial thought to himself with a frown in resentment as the blind Archangel flashed a rather menacing smile. Unwelcome in Hell, distrusted in Heaven – nothing was easy these days. He could already perceive the splitting headache he was going to get after this situation was over.

//Belial, who's the three little pigs? Are they here to mess the day? Besides Mastema, I feel a familiar person around here too… Is it 'him'?//

Belial was quite annoyed at Raphael's appearance and despite his face was serene and cold, it showed in his eyes. Morbus and his brothers had not yet answered to his question, but it was more rhetoric than anything else. What annoyed Belial the most it was the fact Raphael had exposed him – but maybe he could still get some advantage of the situation. “I don't see why not… Ralph. However, the class is almost over…” A long, clear ring echoed in the hall. “The class is over, more precisely”. He looked at Morbus, Visha and Karrion. Aidan and his group were seemingly gone. “You all are a bit late”, he softly said in sarcasm to the demons as well as to Raphael.

“Late?” Morbus echoed. The three demons sent waves of discontent between each other at the presence of the Archangel. They were extremely powerful for demons, among the first ever to come into being, but they had no desire to stand up to an Archangel.

“We are hardly 'late,'” Visha hissed.

“In fact,” the third, demon, Karrion said with his dry voice, “we're quite early.”

The three brothers smiled a little too warmly at Belial. “Of course,” Morbus said, “To one who has betrayed both Heaven and Hell, what difference does it make?”

A dangerous, soft and small smile slid on Belial's lips. “Difference…? It'd be unwise not to care”, he said. “Besides, I always keep watch on my experiments from their start to their end”. His voice hardened. “Whichever that end might be in your lord's case”. The classrooms doors opened and the students walked out of the classrooms and into the hall, chatting and forming small groups. Belial elegantly shrugged his shoulders with a smile. “Let's say my interest is merely professional. I don't expect you to understand that but there's the difference it makes for me, if you have eyes to see”.

“Your experiment?” Karrion grinned sarcastically. The three brothers moved to form a circle around Belial.

“Pardon our lack of knowledge,” Visha's hiss whispered again.

“But we have been asleep for eons,” Morbus explained.

The grins the three brothers gave would be enough to cause any normal human being to pass out on the spot from sheer horror. “What is this experiment of yours?” the three asked softly, in unison.

Raphael laughed, eyes fixing on the three demons. “Getting a bit too serious about the lesson and has gone bonkers?” Raphael teased, thinking of how to get rid of the silly demonic brothers sooner or later. “Very soon you will be telling the whole class that Lucifer is God.”

… Oops? Belial frowned. He had no desire to cause a commotion but he wasn't eager to be questioned by Lucifer's deeds. “I concede you my pardon”, he said in sarcasm. “Go and find out by yourselves; you have no excuse for this lack of information. You've indeed missed so much…”, he said as his shadow fluttered around his feet. “Have you not wondered how the Seal of the Abyss was broken? How was the Second Seal created? You are lazy, indeed”. Silver eyes shimmered. “Get out of my way”.

“We were sent to sleep to await this time,” Visha hissed. None of the brothers moved a muscle at Belial's threat.

“But,” Morbus continued, “we have no quarrel with you, Necromancer.”

“Not now,” Karrion finished.

The wicked gleam in the brothers' eyes flickered at Belial. Their sheer malevolence was almost palpable within the hall. For a second, time seemed to freeze, as if something great and terrible were about to happen. Then, without a word, the brothers broke their circle around Belial to allow him to pass.

Belial walked out of the circle of demons and watched them with a frown. If it were true they had just been awoken, how come they knew Belial had been labeled a betrayer to the Demons? These Lucifer had made shortly after the rebellion started and put to sleep to wake up once their power reached a peak. It seemed logic to guess they might not know… “You've not answered my question”, he said. “What do you seek? As I said, many things have changed. Your Master is long gone”.

“What do we seek?” Karrion grinned. All three brothers turned in unison to face Belial. It was as if they were one entity, rather than three separate beings.

“I think you know what we seek, Necromancer,” Visha's serpentine smile crept across his lips.

“Release of our Lord,” Morbus's sickening grin grew deadly.

“But what can you do?” Karrion continued.

“You cannot stop this,” Visha's eyes flickered. The wicked smile had yet to fade from any of the three faces. They showed no aggression, merely strong confidence. They hardly expected Belial to attack them here and even if they did, the three of them moved as one. Even Belial would likely find it difficult to survive against all of them.

Belial arched an eyebrow. “Are you trying to tempt me?”, he asked. “I might unmake my work. I could unmake Lucifer's toys if I wished – but I have no quarrel with you now”. A soft, arrogant smile slid on Belial's lips. Despite the exterior, inside the Necromancer was trying to get some feedback – how much did they know? If they sought the release of their Lord – implying that Lord was Azazel – did they know about the trigger of the spell? However, the souls involved had passed right before them and there had been no reaction. “For you information”, he said, “the Seal of the Abyss was broken because I designed a Ritual to break it. I took your Lord's soul and fused it to a human's so that he could enter this Plane. Unfuse the souls and he will be kicked out – and why not? It would be interesting. I am the Necromancer. How would you contribute to his release?”. Belial narrowed his eyes.

“We have our ways,” the three brothers whispered in unison, “And we will do what he commands.” They walked past Belial. “That he has not awakened yet is a good omen for us,” one of them whispered…but which one? Or did all three of them whisper part of the sentence in turn? They were one mind and virtually one body. An unholy trinity, now loosed upon the world. “We will meet again, Necromancer…”

“Indeed”, Belial muttered as the three brothers left. He went back into the classroom and picked up his belongings and the stack of papers the students had turned in. Packing them in his case, he left the classroom and headed for the Thaumaturgy class.

Raphael turned to Adriel again, his eyes looking at her, but slightly off into the space just out of her face. “Hello, Miss Oscar…” Raphael greeted as he smiles charmingly at Adriel, “Would you mind me calling you Adriel from now on…?”

Adriel was devastated by missing the class; she hoped professor Beltrán would at least allow her to turn in her homework… without taking too many points off her grade! How strange those visitors of his were! They gave Adriel a bad feeling. Alistaire was now more civilized and Ralph was… he was smiling at her; Adriel tried hard to place him among her memories, but she still could not remember if she had met him before or not. Blue eyes looked for her, but missed her face. His blindness was barely apparent, but yes he was blind. Adriel was sure he was familiar to her… but why? She looked at Alistaire, then back at Ralph with a blink. “Oh…” Adriel blushed a bit in confusion. “Have we met before? I can't quite remember…” She put her hair behind her ears. “Well… I don't see why n…”

Raphael smiled at Adriel, forgetting about Belial and the others temporary. Yet he was hesitative for telling Adriel that they have met before. That would be a little bit dangerous, especially with those demons around. Looked like he has to lie a little bit. “No, we haven't met before.” Raphael replied, trying to sound cheerful, “I don't think I will have a chance to know you before…” Raphael said, referring to his blindness, making use of his handicapped status shamelessly. “Maybe we are just destined to meet… or maybe it's just a random deja-vu.” Raphael offered with a smile, “If you like, you can just call me Ralph.”

Adriel smiled a bit in a mix of shyness and perplexity. She looked at his face intently, then looked down as her ears turned pink. “A random deja-vu…?” Adriel blinked innocently. “It'd be so curious… but I'm sure I've seen you before”. She felt the impulse to hug her bag to hide her sudden nervousness but she realized she didn't have her things with her. “I must go fetching my things before the next class starts…”

Connor opened his eyes wide at the strong malevolent current he sensed as he went back into the hallway after the bell rang and the students began to leave the classroom. He glanced about in alarm, then saw Adriel, the Scott and a blind man he strangely familiar. Despite they hadn't exchanged words, Connor thought he didn't like the blind guy a bit. He was talking to Adriel with too much familiarity to be considered polite, from Connor's point of view. The sight propelled the 'bad vibes' out of his sphere of attention. “Good morning”, he greeted, standing next to Adriel. “Adriel, I got your things; don't worry, I'll carry them for you”.

Raphael smiled at Connor, though it wasn’t considered a very friendly smile. “Nice boyfriend you have, Adriel.” Raphael remarked with a chuckle. Best if Adriel chose to say 'he's not my boyfriend'. That would teach silly Mastema to back down. Besides, he was a Fallen… Raphael scoffed slightly and said, “The lesson's over. Looks like I'm a bit late…” Raphael tapped his way to the door and peeks in. Jem spotted Raphael and almost fainted from shock, his face pale. Raphael smiled again as he turned back to Adriel. “Be seeing you, Adriel…” Raphael turned and walked away from the corridor down to the doors. He pushed the doors opened and left. When nobody was looking, he simply vanished into thin air.

Adriel blushed as Ralph said 'boyfriend'; it took her by surprise. Adriel hadn't had yet a boyfriend and the mere thought got her nervous, perhaps after all the comments she had heard from Rishta, Adriel's shyness had increased. Adriel waved a bit as Ralph left and felt immediately silly, since he well… obviously wouldn't be able to notice her gesture. Adriel was confused now. “Uh… thanks Connor”, she said after a while. “Alastaire um… needs a guide to find something on Campus”, she informed, still wondering about Ralph.

Alistaire had crossed his arms and stayed quiet through this Ralph fellow and Adriel's little engagement. He was talking to her like her knew her, and indeed he did– he was just trying to hide it. Alistaire couldn't place where the feeling came from. Maybe it was just a feeling from the way Ralph had been acting to Adriel? Bah, it didn't matter– their relationship wasn't of his concern. He shuddered, suddenly, as he felt a tang all over his skin and felt like he was being pressurized. He squeezed his arms tightly against one another and blinked when the blind man, Ralph, suddenly walked away. His eyes followed him closely and never left his back for as long as he could see him. He shook his head quickly and focused back on attention to Adriel, who was now being flanked by some fellow named Connor. Bloody hasty kids. Always think someone's out to get'm… He couldn't help but grin, though.

“Arright, now all that's over– li'l Adriel here's right. I need a guide, o'sorts. I'm not really lookin' fer anythin' in particular– not a student, or a room, or something like that. Just a someone, and I'm not all too bloody sure she's even here. I was hoping that, on the way to your next class, you'd point things out to me for future reference– that was before you took off. I still need a little help, though. I still have no flaming idea where I am.”

“Oh it'll be okay Mr. Alastaire…” She eyed him for insinuating she was small. “We could give you a small tour till our next class starts, but I need to turn in my homework before Professor Oliveros leaves…” Adriel grabbed a large leather notebook case from Connor's arms and hurriedly looked into its side pockets. Adriel gasped. “My paper!!!”

“I put it with the others when I turned in mine”, Connor quickly explained. “I hope you don't mind I looked into your things….”

Adriel blinked. “Well, thanks, Connor”. Adriel hugged her leather notebook case. “We could start by the Music Room, if you like Mr. Alastaire. I play the flute, but I'm not in the orchestra – Connor and I are members of the chorus”.

Alistaire snickered a little at the couple as they traded a few young words with one another. Heh, I guess he is 'er boyfriend. She wasn't denyin' it earlier, either. He thought and observed of the two. “The music room? I guess that's a good place to start! I dunnae play any instruments, myself. Never had the time to. I can sorta play a tune on the bag pipes, though… ye'know, somethin' we all learn from our grand da at some point or other.” He chuckled and a thought occurred to him. Hey wait… Ana plays the violin… She's good with music, too. Maybe she'll be over 'dere? “Arright, then. I guess a small tour'll do, ye'know.. if ye got the time. Oh! And please, call me Alistaire. Or Ali. Either of the two'll do it, lassie.” He gave her a wink and looked at the boy. “You call me Alistaire, though– Ali's reserved for the gals.” He gave a nice, hearty chuckle.

He began to take a few steps before suddenly stopping– he was going to get this tour kick started, but he remembered… “Er… I dunnae know which way the bloody Music Room is. Why dontcha go ahead and lead the way?”

Connor blinked at this development. He also noticed Adriel had not denied the boyfriend question and this made him both nervous and content, yet he knew Adriel probably hadn't given it any importance. Connor frowned slightly. I hope she won't start calling him Ali – how sappy. Connor again sensed the heavy, choking 'bad vibes' from the group that left to Professor Oliveros. What was going on there? He'd be glad to get Adriel away from the area. “Alistaire, then”, he said. “My name is Connor McFadden… and the Music Room is this way”. He led the way down the hall and a corridor turn. “Bagpipes! The landscape would not have the same feeling to it without them. I've learned a few tunes with bagpipes myself, but nothing too impressive”. Connor shrugged. He only had four fingers in his left hand.

Adriel smiled as the guys talked. Once they reached the Music Room's door, she leaned against it to push it open and walked inside.


(1) It's Winter in Hell if you are my friend…

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER TWO

Ana safely tucked Lux and Ater away, completely ignoring the loudmouthed girl in black. Trevor seemed quite upset with what had happened before- and the boy was even more distraught. Good thing she left her card in the sweater he had been wearing; he could call her cell phone if he needed to talk. Who knows, maybe she could write a section about the angels next. That would be a nice change from the ordinary; something slow-paced. She was actually beginning to tire with running around- she wanted to have some calm-time to herself. That would have to wait.

Her cell phone began to ring, and after excusing herself from the crowd of people she began to speak. Ana had been taking tours of every college she was near- usually stopping by in philosophy and ancient history classes to hear the lectures. Occasionally she would give a lecture herself; pleased to meet the students that were interested in their courses. She would even attend the music classes, and either play -with- the band, or after class. Usually, she had to call way in advance and make an appointment- but this time, the professor that taught philosophy decided to call -her- up first. He asked her to come hear his lecture about Aristotle and even tell his class about her views on him. It sounded like fun, seeing how the party here had not only gotten creepy- it had went down to a dull meow.

“I’d be honored to, professor. I’ll be there in just a few- try not to start without me!” Ana was cheerful and happy when she hung up the phone; walking over to Trevor and lightly tugging on his arm. They were supposed to be leaving, anyway. “Trevor, I was called to listen in on a lecture back at the college- would you care to come with?” She had already begun tugging him back to the house- as well as her rent-a-car. The class had already started and she didn’t want to stall the professor any more than she already had.

“The university…that's probably where Kris is,” Trevor muttered to himself, tearing himself free from Ana's grasp so he could walk on his own. And Ana was offering to give him a ride? Was she trying to lure him into a false sense of security, then pounce and drain his blood? Or turn him into some kind of disease-ridden zombie slave? “I still don't trust you,” he said sharply. “But since you're going where I want to be, I guess I'll take you up on your offer.”

To tell the truth, he was starting to trust her. He had felt something unusual when he grabbed that gun away from her. It felt like somebody was looking over his shoulder, and softly holding onto his wrist to steady his aim. A warm and comforting presence, yet obviously aggressive. Almost divine in its relaxing aura. “By the way,” Trevor continued, “you've got some nice guns.” He threw her a casual smirk; she could take that however she wanted. “I've head about them, in my travels. Luke and Auger or something, right?”

“Well, at least he knows about us…” The soft voice that Ana could recognize was none other than Lux’s; she sighed in relief and walked on. It was a good thing that Lux and Ater could only be heard by her; she had no idea what she would do if everyone else could hear them. She was thankful that they would make themselves scarce. Except for that time that they were both….singing. Ana chuckled slightly and looked at Trevor, walking back to her car. She had been waiting for him to ask about her guns- at least it would give him a chance to -try- to trust her. If she simply spilled her guts about the guns, maybe he’d stop looking at her like she was going to rape him, drain his blood and leave him in a gutter somewhere.

“Lux and Ater- guardians of darkness and light. They’re more trouble than they’re worth.” She reached over and lightly patted Lux, nodding softly. The girl even had yet to explain to Alistaire about her guns- and why she never let him use them. Sometimes, she kept things from him- that he just wouldn’t understand, no matter HOW much she explained. “You won’t be saying that later, Ana- trust me.” Ater would usually be the one that made Ana angry, his comments even angered his brother. He would often say these things to get a rise out of his Lux; who- even after that, remained silent.

“Legend has it that two angelic brothers- couldn’t get along, no matter what their father did. He soon got tired of his sons hatred, and thought it would be a good idea to seal them up- in a situation that they would have to work together for all eternity.” This story had been known by most- either heard in school, or read in a book. Once she got the guns, Ana had a hard time believing in it- until they spoke to her. That had to be the scariest moment in her whole life. Very few things frightened Ana- and hearing guns actually -speak- really did it. “The one you had in your hand- Lux, his bullets seek justice…naw, I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.” Nonchalantly she waved her hands in the air as they neared her car, taking a few minutes to reach for her keys. She would have to call Alistaire when she got to the college to tell him what was going on- to prevent him from worrying about her. He didn’t really seem to care that she was gone, but she called anyway.

“So- where did you hear about them?” She asked, unlocking the door and going to sit behind the steering wheel. His door was then unlocked for him, and she started up the engine. This trip wasn’t going to be too long- they had passed the college on the way there. Ana was really looking forward to visiting the class- but she had no idea what she was getting in to.

Trevor made sure he picked up his bag on the way back, and then casually dropped into his seat, slamming the door shut behind him. “I first heard of them when I was young,” he said, watching the automatic seatbelt slide up to press across his chest. “My father, Simon, called on the original owner, Sean Gordon, for favors when he needed help. Dad always wanted Lux and Ater, but he respected Sean were too close to let that gnaw at him. I always heard dad talking about the guns, though, and how much good he thought they could do in his hands.” He reached into his bag, and rummaged around for his pistol. “I never got attached enough to these things to get a pair custom made,” he mused, running his eyes across the sleek chrome. “Maybe someday, though I can't see myself putting a personality into something as mundane as a mere firearm.” Trevor turned his hand sideways, and a shaft of sunlight breaking through the clouds caught the Silver Herald on the back of his fist, causing the bright metal to flash for a moment before the sun was cast back into gray obscurity.

“I can see now why dad liked those things so much,” Trevor continued, tucking his gun into the holster beneath his jacket. “It felt weird at first, but after a second, it handled like a dream. You're pretty lucky to be carrying those.”

“Sean was pretty great, I met him when I was 16 or so…” Ana said, driving like a madman to the college. She was pretty skilled when it came to racing- to herself. Hopefully, Trevor wouldn’t notice her driving about 15 over the speed limit. Lux and Ater kept themselves quiet for a while as Trevor spoke, trying to remember the person he was referring to. They had gone through all sorts of masters- but the ones that made the biggest impact on them both was Sean and Ana. For not being related, the two had an awful lot in common. Very few could control the darkness in their hearts- or handle Ater’s ability to cloud one’s judgment.

“I didn’t have to put a personality into them…they sort of did it on their own. Most people think that they would do good when being in charge of the guns- but I’ve heard that very few can control it.” That sort of came out as a mumble as they pulled into the parking lot; they had finally arrived at the college- and Ana was more than prepared to listen and even pipe in on the lecture. “Eh, I don’t think you can come into the class with me…but we’ll see what I can do.”







“He NEVER checks his messages!” Autumn growled down at her cel phone, causing her friend Jess to erupt into a fit of laughter. Sighing, Autumn dropped the little orange phone back into her backpack before heading down the halls of the ancient old college. She had been leaving Trevor messages for the past hour about her class, and to just grab the key from under the door mat. He was obviously a door mat himself.

Jess still with a hint of amusement in her voice, continued with her touring of the school. “As I was saying, You'll adore the history classes the most. I must say, we have the most gorgeous professors here in all of England!” Her dark ebony curls danced over her shoulders as she gave another giggle. Jessica was Autumn’s physical opposite, a dark haired blue eyed beauty queen, compared to Autumn’s bright red unruly mane, and dark brown eyes. However when it came to thoughts, both shared the ridiculous love of gossip and cute professors.

“Excellent, no one wants to stare at an old crab while they listen to lectures!” Autumn shared in the laughter before she grimaced at the huge clock on the school wall. “Hell! I'm going to be late for class! Catch you later, Jess!”

Awakening with bleary eyes, Daman Winters nearly fell out of bed when he saw the time on the alarm clock. “9:03?!” the demon exclaimed loudly, vaulting out of the bed in one clumsily motion. Being rather finicky with his clothes, he began to search through his dresser to pick out what to wear to his 9:30 class. Luckily the college was just a few blocks away… After several minutes of being calm and feverish at the same time, Daman selected a slightly clingy black t-shirt and a pair of black jeans. Today just felt like a black day… It took another ten minutes to fix his hair. One of Daman's prize possessions was his hair, with its unique silver and black style. Tugging on his silver and black sneakers, he hopped his way into his kitchen. The apartment was rather tidy, but it seemed as if it was becoming a whirlwind this morning. Rummaging through the cabinets while tying his laces, the college student hastily picked out a granola bar. So much for breakfast. Tossing on his leather jacket, and book bag, Daman was out the door. It was at this point that he submersed himself in utter coolness. Nonchalantly unwrapping the bar, he took a bite out of it as he slowed his pace to a stroll. The demon radiated presence not seen anywhere else, a presence darkly inviting. As he walked, he wondered silently to himself why he kept up so much with this cover. It wasn't exactly the greatest one, but he adored history. Daman wanted to fill his head with facts and dates of the past, a past he wasn't around for. It was also a small longing to be…almost normal for once. He held a silent desire to share space with the mortals, beings that had such short lives. Humans rushed from one place to the next, trying to cram everything into their pathetic lives. Daman merely strolled, smelling the flowers on the way.

When he came to the college campus, Daman was already ten minutes late. His first class of the morning was not a history class; that would come later in the day. Instead, it was some philosophy course. He had a somewhat attachment to philosophy, seeing how the thinkers of days gone by reacted and solved the world around them. Daman entered the classroom through the back, avoiding any eye contact with the teacher. The wizened professor in the front of the room seemed to know not to question Daman, or simply did not care. The lesson had already started, and it was on Aristotle's perspective of the world. Taking a seat towards the back of the classroom, Daman slouched, finishing off the granola bar. Yet another day of college.

Autumn glanced over her shoulder as she heard the back door open and someone slip in to class late. She expected the professor to chide the guy, and was surprised to find him ignoring the interruption altogether. If she were at home, the guy would have found himself standing out in the hall holding his desk above his head. But this was London, and this were so irritatingly different here.

Class lasted a good hour and thirty minutes. Much to Autumn’s pleasure it was an entertaining lecture, she wasn't left with the urge to fall asleep. Her notebook was filled with a bunch of messy scribbles that she insisted were notes to the trained eye. As students ambled out of the classroom, Autumn immediately set her sets on the interrupter, with no real reason to back it up beyond the fact he was fantastically photogenic. Her camera was stashed away in her backpack, maybe she could talk her way into taking some photos…

The philosophy class had been rather interesting. The professor had held the class with his words and animated gestures, and many of the students had felt a connection between themselves and the man. Daman looked down at his small, angular handwriting that cramped the page of his notebook and smiled. Yes, it certainly had been a fulfilling class. As the class ended, he stayed put and watched his fellow classmates linger for a few minutes, and then shuffle out of the class. The demon made no move towards the doorway. What was the rush? Surely the humans had to live their lives in the fast lane, but he definitely did not. He watched out of the corner of his eye as a female with bright red locks and a dazzling smile came towards him. Daman propped his legs onto the desk in front of him, sneakered feet drumming out Beethoven's Fifth Symphony to the tuned ears. Fingers laced behind his neck, Daman stared up at the girl with slitted eyes.

“Hey…” Autumn said, trying to catch his attention. “Do you make it a habit to be fashionably late…?”

A slight grin flitted across his handsome features, and he merely shrugged. “My alarm just happened to malfunction this morning. Or I set it wrong. Either or, I don't usually step out of the house looking like a train wreck.” He tugged on a strand of silver-black hair for emphasis. The fact was that Daman looked eerily perfect in stance and dress. He jerked his head towards the side as he felt a dark presence in the corner of his mind. Ah yes, there was a rather strong demon in the school, perhaps even a Fallen. Daman felt another slightly dark-tinged aura that confused him. Which side is that one on? He asked to himself, still keeping a casual look in the direction of Autumn. Daman stilled his feet, and listened ever so carefully. He still made no move towards the door, however, and felt the slightly dark one about to open it. He saw a flicker of a female face, and then she was gone, distracted by other things. There's something odd about that one… he thought to himself, absentmindedly stroking his chin.

In a fluid motion Daman stood, brushing long fingers idly upon his jeans. Glancing over towards Autumn, he simply said coolly, “I usually go spend some time in the music room right now…” He paused, and then added for nonchalantly, “I play the cello. You can come along if you want. I know a pretty good shortcut through these hallways.” At those words, he felt the slightly dark female meet up with a much more tainted character. And both were headed in the direction of the music hall. Now, this would be interesting…

Trevor turned his attention to the passing buildings outside the window as Ana mentioned her guns. Selective in their masters, were they? And he was able to use one of them? He smiled wryly at his reflection in the window. Maybe there was something to that Named Guns hoopla after all. Ana's car eventually came to a halt at the university, in the sprawling parking lot that was still tiny compared to what Trevor saw of the rest of the campus. “Cripes, this place makes NYU look like an elementary school,” Trevor muttered as he climbed out of the car. His mental reflexes kicked up, and Trevor quickly swept the area with his extra senses. He definitely got a “ping” somewhere in the area, but it was too faint to pinpoint. Oh, well…he'd deal with it later. “Are you sure you know where you're going?” he asked, turning back to Ana.

“Yeah- I'm sure…positive.” Ana made sure to lock the car before walking onto the campus; her tiny form mixing in pretty well with the rest of the students. They were moving like cattle- and after picking out one measly student that looked like he would take a philosophy class. “Where's Mr.Linnel's Philosophy class?” She was already pretty late, and when she was speaking to the boy- she couldn't help but sound a little…angry. Nobody could really take the beautiful Ana seriously until she had her guns pointed in their face- but the college boy seemed intimidated enough. A few points and grunts later, Ana found herself in front of the Philosophy class door. “Eh….you just come along with me- unless you want to stay out here?”

The Ancient Religions class was over; the students left the classroom, some of them clutching their packs and books to their chests as if to ward off some strange fear; a few had the mask of indifference so common to the average student who tries to sleep through most of their lives; others were simply thrilled at the class topic. Being an elective class, the chances were perhaps higher to get signed in more students really interested about the class than in regular courses, but in any case the subject was strange and perhaps the professor was as strange as the class itself. The professor was on the platform before the large blackboards; the screen was still unrolled but the data show system was already turned off. Standing next to the window, Beltrán's tall form seemed darker in broad light. He could be described as a dark person, but sometimes there was a sort of light about him; some would call that 'moments of inspiration'. He was an excellent professor and he did know how to get to the minds of his students, but he couldn't be said to have 'pets' and he didn't have an assistant. Many tried to earn his approval and get closer to him, but there was a subtle wall between people and him when out of the classroom. He was tall and quite handsome, with unnerving silver eyes and raven black hair, and a cold sort of savage look to his beautiful face. His slight Spaniard accent somehow added to his charm. Beltrán was always polite and did look like a noble – only a few students knew he actually was a noble blood.

Beltrán tapped his fingers slightly on the laptop side as the last students were leaving the classroom. The class had been about Molech the God of the Ammonites and the temple Solomon built for him… and the many names this Molech deity had been associated or identified with. Baal, Malik, Moloch… Moloch… Beltrán's silver eyes half-closed as one of his many wounds seemed to open and bleed within his soul. Memories flowed.

//Angel looked at her with dark complacency. Inside Belial gloated, wondering what did Moloch think or what did she perceive about this change, for she hadn't seen what he had done before – split in two without losing power, but gaining. Aramis looked at her and his serene gaze seemed to watch something beyond Moloch's face; but what it was or if he actually saw something, he kept silent and his lips did not open.

“I missed you”, Belial said through Angel, for this was not one of Angel's only thoughts but of his whole. A dark smile slid on his lips. “It's strange, is it not? We don't need anyone. But I missed you. I guess it's your mind what I've missed”.//

Beltrán bit his lip slightly. After more than a hundred years, Moloch turning her back on him still hurt. Maybe she'd never understand he had tried to protect her when he told her about the accursed ring and Azazel. Talking about her as a distant old and outdated deity was strange. Worse maybe, the next class would be about Belial himself. Some students had some questions he quickly solved. Once they left, Beltrán checked his agenda. His next class would be in a few minutes, on Medieval Philosophy. Beltrán picked up his belongings and left the classroom, walking like one who isn't on a rush to get anywhere. In the hall, he sensed a known presence but slightly. Beltrán swept a look around and recognized a soul before seeing its shell.

“I don't care either way,” Trevor muttered. “I just want to get Kris and get out of…here…” Slowly, Trevor's hands tightened, and the comforting weight of his gun turned into an almost unbearable pressure on his ribs. Every muscle in his body seemed to tighten at once; he could feel the pair of eyes on him, even before he turned to face the figure at the end of the hall. A sudden jolt struck him, down in the bottom of his soul, rather than his own physical memory. Trevor wordlessly stepped away from Ana, and made his way down the hall, staring the tall stranger dead in the eye every step of the way. After what seemed like an eternity of walking, Trevor stood toe-to-toe with the man, and narrowed his eyes as he studied the stranger's face. >”You…are…staring at me,” Trevor grumbled. “Cut it out. I freaking hate it when people stare at me. Weirdo.”

Beltrán didn't blink but the silver eyes shimmered strangely as a dark smirk formed; yet it was a slight curl of his lip it seemed particularly intense. “You've come a long way to speak your mind”, he said in sarcasm when Morris arrived and spoke after striding down the hall to where Beltrán stood. “I don't have any interest on you, whoever you might be”. He cast Morris a disdainful look. “You've successfully got others' attention though”, he murmured as the students stared in amazement. “Move out of my way, if you are so kind”, he said in a low and chilling voice, his strange eyes fixed on Trevor's.

Strange meeting, but Belial guessed it might not be meant to be.

I know you, Trevor whispered to himself in the back of his mind. Not your face, but…your presence. Your secret self. Images flashed in front of Trevor's face. A large house. A beautiful woman, and a Spanish nobleman, carrying something bloody. Then, searing pain, and a white flash of light. Almost as quickly as it had come, the strange occurrence was over. Trevor blinked a few times, but didn't say a word as he stepped aside, and allowed the stranger to pass by him.

Nobody in my family ever had visions before. Maybe I'm going crazy. Maybe that thing in the park infected my brain. Trevor's eyes darted across the hall, where a group of students were staring at him wide-eyed and jaws on the floor. “What the hell are you all looking at?!” he snapped. “You look like a bunch of carp with rotten teeth! Go choke on a scone!” Trevor marched back down the hallway, and rejoined Ana in front of the classroom door. That man…

Beltrán coolly walked down the hall leaving Morris behind as he snapped at their little audience. Trevor… The name spontaneously came to his mind. Beltrán reached his next classroom door and cast a sideways look at Trevor Morris as he passed down the hall to join a woman by a door not far away: a demon blood. Belial found the association very strange. He absently pushed the door and held it open for a group of girls who came by to attend his class greeting him with cheery voices and offering to carry his cases. “I can do that myself, thanks”, he told them with a smile.

A tall young man had been watching Trevor and his companion ever since he got out of the Ancient Religions class. With fiery red hair and sparkling green eyes, he looked so Irish he had an eerie air to him. Connor McFadden was sure there was something unnatural to the woman – Connor was what people in Ireland called fey. He just had a knack for such paranormal things and strange powers of his own – nothing he wanted to be known. Connor had a fervent admiration for Beltrán Oliveros. Despite the professor was rather young for his cathedra and ominous curriculum vitae, Oliveros somehow seemed old as the world at times and Connor wished he could become as knowledgeable as he. The strange scene made him cast the evil eye on Trevor and a curious wide-eyed look at his companion.

Ana's face went from happy to flat in the instant that she was almost knocked over with the door. Somehow, they had been horribly late- and Ana missed out on hearing the lecture. Discouraged, she took a few steps back as the students poured out of the class; crossing her arms over her chest. “That's what you get for fiddling around girl. Now, I suggest you get in the ca-“ Ater's voice was interrupted by Ana's cell phone; as it rang, he wondered why he and Lux always had to get the “popular” ones. It was frustrating sometimes.

“H-hello, Ali!” The girl took a few steps back and stood near the bench that was in the hall, the tiny cell phone pressed up against her ear. Ali sounded impatient and bothered- as per usual, that- and it seemed as though he finally had his motorcycle. She couldn't help but wince as Trevor went off to follow some student- he seemed way too eager to pick a fight; even she knew that would be a good way to meet your maker quick. It was something that didn't look like it mattered- boy, Trevor was sure cocky. Covering up the phone and mouthing a few silent words- Ana waved her hand in the air.

“What in the -hell- is he doing?…Picking a fight with a college student…” Ater spoke up again, recognizing the presence in the room. That could be only one being… “…Belial..” Ana did what she could to ignore Ater's rambling and continued to concentrate on the phone call. Alistaire would get upset when she ignored him- and even though he didn't admit it, she knew it was true.

“Yeah, I'm at the college- taking a tour. I missed the class I was supposed to get to, but I think I'll stick to going to the music room. How was your little nap?” He would most likely give her some little guilt trip about her leaving him behind without having anything to do- when he would make a big deal out of being dragged along. Either way, Ana really needed some alone-time. “Do you want to meet me here and grab something to eat after I finish the tour?” She asked, raising a eyebrow at the strange feeling that she felt. It was something powerful…in a college? Strange and unusual. After a few more words, the phone was hung up and Ana glanced to Trevor as he came back. Tucking the phone back into her pocket and fixing her gradually climbing skirt, she mumbled softly and tried to hide her disappointment.

“We missed the class, damnit. I'm going to the music room- do you want me to help you find your friend first?”

Of the two strangers, it was around the girl where strange forces danced the most; Connor could swear there were three and not one on the spot she stood on – but why? The other sounds and voices in the hallway went in a whirlwind and returned to his ears, but in the rush of voices there were some unnatural ones that called for his attention, yet he did not fully perceive… Connor walked to the woman and stood next to her.

“Excuse me, miss; are you looking for someone? Maybe I could be of help…” Connor cast a distrustful look at the man but keeping within the lines of politeness. There was a subtle scent to the girl that made her familiar, a feeling like if she were someone from his town. The other two – where and why – what could they be?

…Belial.. Beltrán clearly heard a voice mutter his name in a second plane. He instinctively tilted his head as he sharpened his hearing; a cold cautious look showed in the depths of his silver eyes. From a bottomless pool of memories sounds and images emerged. “Professor?” Beltrán arched an eyebrow and his eyes focused on the girl next to him, inquisitive. The girl blinked. “Professor, I was wondering if I can turn in my essay later in the day. I've not finished it because…”

Beltrán gave a slight nod. “You may leave it in my inbox at the Professors Lounge, but as I stated by the beginning of the term you'll get three points down for your delay”. He tilted his head a little so the demon blood was within his eye range. Connor had already arrived as well. He had recognized the angel/demon presences by now but he gave no sign of recognition. He listened and waited.

“Nobody asked for your help, Irish,” Trevor snapped, turning his hard stare to Connor. “I think we'll be fine by ourselves, without your amazing cognitive abilities. So why don't you let the road rise up to meet your feet and get lost.” This is what I picked up before. I'm sure of it! Trevor made a mental note to track this guy down later. He had some power in him, all right, but it was buried beneath something solid and tough to scratch–a seal of some kind, maybe? First Ana, and now this guy…maybe his trip to London was going to be more trouble than he bargained.

“I'm going to look around for Kris,” Trevor said, turning back to Ana. “You can do whatever you want. Thanks for the ride.” With a flick of his wrist, Trevor produced a business card from seemingly out of nowhere. “Give me a call later,” he said, handing the card to Ana. “I still owe you an interview.” Giving her a half-cocked smile, he slowly turned around, and made his way down the hall.

Lux's voice came yet again as the Irish man approached; his usual calm tone was now raised and upset. Not even Ater could get a reaction like that out of his brother. “I don't like this- Ana, we need to leave.” He worried about his master while being around so many…strange forces- epically the one that his brother knew. Lux would be damned if he would lose Ana. “Ana! We need to lea-“ Connor was now next to Ana, but even as he spoke to her- she couldn't even think straight enough to answer. Her mouth opened to let out a few words but nothing but a few mumbles came out. It was a good thing Trevor spoke to snap her out of it.

“Oh…” Trevor was leaving the two behind- only after giving the girl his card did he disappear from sight. Now, she would have to do the talking. “Could you lead me to where the music class is?” Her words came out quickly- and he hoped that she wouldn't have to repeat them. She just wanted to go and lose the strange feeling she was getting from Connor. It wasn't just Connor, though- it was someone else, too.

“Mastema. It's been a long while…” Ater's voice came out loudly over his brothers- most likely causing every presence that Ana felt in the room- point it's attention to her.

Connor frowned at the stranger's rudeness and his eyes flashed. “From what tree have you stepped off?”, he grumbled in response. “I'm not talking to you!” Connor noticed the woman seemed disturbed or annoyed, so he held back from going further. He frowned as the annoying American left; the pun to his Irish heritage immediately got Trevor on Connor's bad side. “The music class? I'll take you there, miss”. Connor smiled then his pupils widened as a strange voice slid within his mind like a cold snake.

“Mastema. It's been a long while…”

Connor cringed and felt his hackles rise. He swept a look around yet he was certain the owner of the voice would be nowhere to be seen. “Did you hear… Oh. Never mind….”, Connor muttered. “The music class is this way…” Connor was pale. Mastema, the voice had said… a name of a demon, for all he could tell.

Ana was quickly getting tired of the voices in her head; and as she followed after the man, she decided to shut up Lux and Ater for good. She tucked Trevor's card into her pocket and let out a sigh. A best-selling author and historian had to occasionally crack the whip on the two angelic voices in her head.

“Oh, my- and Belial…Mastema and Belial…it's like a part-“ Ater was about to try and strike up conversation when Ana completely lost it; stomping her foot and clenching her fists. The girl had dealt with enough. Would you two just SHUT the hell up for once?! I want some time to myself- so just be freaking quiet for once!! After that, all was silent.

“Thanks for showing me where the class was, I really appreciate it.” She smiled, mainly because she FINALLY got them to shut up- and slightly because Trevor had been so rude to the man. “I'm sorry about my friend back there, he's pretty jumpy.”

Beltrán frowned as he kept track of the events. He would have rather had Connor away from the girl and the angel brothers, but as Azrael had told him he was not meant to interfere unless strictly necessary – that, with orders. Standing at the door of his classroom as the last students got in for the class, Beltrán watched Trevor leave, his piercing gaze fixed on the soul within the shell. Belial wondered why was he back in England and what was he looking for – what had caused him to return. Return… Maybe Trevor himself had never been to England before, but back then, when his name was another. Playing deaf at the exchange between the woman and the angels, Belial tapped his fingers on the massive wooden door. The two brothers reminded him of himself – of the two who were him. Not a pleasant thought at this hour in the morning.

“You will be late, mister McFadden”, he muttered as he closed the door with a sinister creak. He stepped on the platform and to his desk, setting down his case. “Good morning”, he gravely greeted, going back to work.

Connor let out a small sigh at the warning as the door closed. //He left me out again…// He mentally counted how many more points would be taken from him if things would go worse. The woman stomping her foot and clenching her fists as if ranting at someone startled him, then her pleasant smile surprised him even more. Even for an Irishman, this woman was strange. “It's my pleasure… and don't trouble yourself about that… person“, Connor forced a smile. “Maybe he's having a bad day”.

//Bad day would I give to him…// Connor smiled and led her to a tall door at the end of a corridor turn. “Here's the Music Hall; the music class is held here. I am member of the Music Club, if you need anything. My name is Connor McFadden”. He cast her a curious look. “Excuse me, but there's something familiar to you. Have you ever been to Ireland?”

Ana smiled back at the Irishman; the strange feeling that had been there was faint- but still known. Something that Lux and Ater were responding to. It wasn't as strong as the feeling she got from the professor- but close enough. “He's making the moves…cute.” Ater made one slight comment as he asked about Ireland- once again, hoping to get a rise out of his brother. “Oh, would you SHUT up. You're foolish.” Yes, Lux was then beginning to get upset. He didn't speak any more in fear of Ana getting angry- but BOY was Ater going to hear it later on.

“O-oh…Yes, I've been in Greenwich. Born there.” Either way, she tried to ignore the nagging voices at the back of her head and pay attention to going to the music hall. He was being a gentleman, and she decided that there was no really hurry. Except for that creepy professor. “I'm Ana Gordon…pleased to meet you.”

Connor looked at the woman's hands. Strangely he always looked at the people's hands to know more about them; if the hands were groomed or not, if they had scars or signs from manual work… Hands could tell a lot from someone. Ana's hands spoke of a scholar, despite her so-fashionable appearance. Besides she didn't have the wandering eye of the average 'cheerleader' type.< The shape of her nails strongly reminded him of something else; something distant inside his mind, like the dreams whose shapes you can't quite make out once you wake up. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I see you are not a stranger, then", Connor said, oblivious to the fact he seemed to be putting the moves on her. "Ireland is a land to find beauty in every turn of the road... but there're also strange echoes of a distant past; something that remains in our blood..." Connor smiled rather shyly. "It's odd how some things return". Connor frowned slightly.

“Excuse me! I'm delaying you”. Connor grinned. “Will you be taking classes here?”

There was a bit of truth in what he had said, something that had repeated itself in her mind over and over again. She traveled around seeking knowledge, but never once did she find the answers to the questions she really needed to know. “… but there're also strange echoes of a distant past; something that remains in our blood.” She had an idea of what was in their blood, but just outright saying that they were demons wasn't really a good idea. That wasn't a good way to make friends.

Ana could feel a slight blush come across her cheeks as she checked her watch; she was in no hurry, but he seemed not to care about missing his class. The door was right next to her too- all he would have to do was nod and be on his way, but she kinda liked meeting people here. “Oh, well I'm here to give lectures- and take a tour of the college. It's very nice.” She flashed him a warm smile and tucked a few strands of hair behind her ear. “It seems as though I'm the one who's keeping you!”

“I'm already late and I can't avoid it. It's a risky business to sneak into his class once it's started”. Connor had a mischievous grin. “Well I must go in anyway…” Connor nodded. “You give lectures? That is interesting… What are those about?” Connor smiled. “Are they open to the public or do they require invitation?”

Ana nodded quickly and handed him her card and smiled again; the urgency to let him get to class rising. Being late wasn't good- especially if people would be late to her class. The result usually was her making a complete ass out of the tardy, sometimes even causing them to cry with mere words. Ana was verbally abusing.

“I will be around, in music class and philosophy. You'll be seeing me, I promise. It was nice meeting you, Connor!” Beginning her trek down the hall, Ana weaved in and out of the crowd of tardy students. There never seemed to be a rush to get to class, but it wasn't any of her business. She needed time to relax now and before opening the door to the music hall- she blocked out all of the nagging feelings. Music would calm her soul, she just knew it would.

Connor smiled and carefully put the card in a pocket of his agenda. “It's been a pleasure. I'll see you later! Good luck”. Connor nodded with a smile before heading back to his class. He'd usually wish people he liked good luck, for maybe – and he did not know this for sure, so he just guessed it could be – his strange powers might grant someone better luck for the day. Connor stood out of the Medieval Philosophy classroom door and watched it for a couple seconds. //My goodness, I hope the class hasn't started…// He rose his hand to knock on the door…



Trevor grumbled something indecent under his breath as he fired off another e-mail to Kris. He was looking for the Photojournalism class, and somehow wound up next to Bio-Chemistry 101. She would have to come and get him before he made a wrong turn and wound up in Scotland. Putting his phone away again, Trevor dropped down onto a bench in the hallway, and rested his head against the wall. His entire trip here had been nothing but one giant headache. Well, `cept for that Ana Gordon character. She seemed trustworthy. And she was pretty hot. But, she still had demon blood in her. Then, there were those other two characters, that teacher and the Irish dork. He might have to stay here a bit longer than he had counted on. London was more of a hot spot than he had thought.

“Damn stupid demons,” Trevor muttered around a yawn. “Always givin` me crap…I can't catch a breath or nothin`…” He was asleep before he could even realize how tired he was.

“This is one of the older buildings in the Central Campus – it's gothic architecture is contemporary to Canterbury's cathedral. This wing was a former cloister to the old abbey that rose here, in a Romanesque period”. Aidan nodded as the guide spoke, walking in a small group of University authorities, bodyguards and close subordinates. MS Corp. was a newly acquired benefactor to the University – mainly as a tactic to avoid taxes to an extent – and Aidan was there as President of MS Corp. in an official visit. The small group took an archway and into the building by a arched door.

“The funds are being used in this section to restore some bass-relieves in decay, as you will see Lord Cynric”. Aidan was only half-listening to the man, since once they had gone through the archway and now into the building, strange voices hissed names in the back of his mind. In the back of his mind something seemed to stir, trying to emerge again. Aidan frowned slightly, trying to focus.

“I see”, he briefly said. The group walked briskly down the hallway. The corridors were deserted; the classes had started. On a bench in their way a man slept. Aidan arched an eyebrow, for he for a brief instant thought he seemed familiar… //Again…// Aidan's eyes widened at the voice that hissed within him, but he quickly held control of himself.

“I see the halls are quiet enough to sleep once classes have started”, he said with a dark smirk.

It's broken. Trevor stirred on his bench, and stretched out his legs. That's why I had to bring you back here… “Nh…?” Wake up!

Trevor's eyes flew open as he drastically scanned the hallways for the idiot who had been yelling at him just a second ago. The only people he found, though, was the group at the end of the hallway. One of them, a guy who didn't look much older than Trevor himself, had just made some kind of smart-ass comment. “Hah! Think you're clever, huh?” Trevor shouted down the hallway, folding his hands behind his head and leaning back again. “You tea-sucking clodhoppers are all the same. All talk, and no backbone. What's a high-priced goon like yourself doing here, anyway? Gonna bulldoze the university down and make a strip mall? Fine with me. Just wake me up when the bulldozers show up.”

“Cello, eh?” Autumn laughed good-naturedly in reply to Daman. “I'm sorry, but you don't look like the cello type. I suppose I thought a cello player would be some kind of a dork…” she shrugged it off before her cel phone gave a little beep. Giving an exasperated roll of her eyes, she checked the message. It seemed Trevor managed to find his way to the school, yet couldn't find a simple house key to get inside?

“I'd like to hear though, that would be great.” Autumn shrugged her backpack back on her shoulder after she tucked her phone away.

In the hallway, Autumn and Daman stopped to find Trevor screaming at the top of his lungs to, what Autumn thought, was absolutely no one. All she saw was a tour guide and a man exiting at the end of the hall. “Trevor! Have you lost your mind?! People are trying to study…” she glanced at him with a dumbfounded expression before crossing her arms in an irritated manor. “I'm guessing you didn't get my message about where I left the key…”

Aidan's group had almost reached the point in the hall where Trevor stood on their way to the classrooms when two persons joined Trevor. “If I were to care any about you, I'd get you deported for your mere insolence”, Aidan softly replied with a chilling, small smile as his bodyguards glared at the American. The guide and University representatives were scandalized at the loud stranger, but Aidan had displaced his attention from Trevor to the redhead that had joined him.

Aidan's bronze eyes widened ever so slightly in his pale, beautiful face. A beam of light coming through a tall pointed gothic window at the end of the hall fell upon the young woman's auburn hair; the light seemed to bring flames upon her, forming a golden halo around her beautiful, proud head. Soft shadows framed her face which strangely seemed to emerge from his strange, secret dreams. The University representatives were apologizing for the harsh behavior of the man next to her and glaring at the man, but Aidan wasn't quite listening. All the hissing voices in his mind and the very darkest one of them all had fallen silent; it was so strange, as if Time held still as he watched her…. The voices around him seemed to come from very far away. Aidan could have sworn a violin started playing somewhere in the long empty corridors; he could have sworn he knew this woman from before… but the notion was strangely distant, like one of those dreams we can't make out completely upon awakening.

“I do check them!” Trevor protested, standing up and pulling out his phone. “Look, the last one you sent to me was…fifteen minutes ago.” He paused for a moment, and glared hatefully at his phone. Key under the third rock. Leftovers in the fridge. Back in a while.

“…don't you say a single word,” Trevor growled, looking up at Kris through his bangs. “And you,” he snapped, turning to the guy who was with him, “have got exactly two seconds to get as far away from me as humanly possible before I make your life a never-ending spiral of pain and misery.”

A sharp-edged luminous smile played over Daman's lips as he exited the classroom following the redhead. “The cello is a moody instrument. Perfect for-” The words died as Trevor's yelling drowned them out. He watched the exchange take place between the two, and discerned that they were either very close, or perhaps even boyfriend and girlfriend. Something odd was emanating off the young male, and Daman's eyes slitted when he realized what Morris was. Demon hunter, he thought nastily, molten rage coursing through his veins. Although not the same line as the one who killed my blood, it is one nonetheless. Daman's hand touched briefly upon the blood-stained silver bracelet worn on his left wrist, but kept all emotions in. This was not the place. The conversation was dropped into Daman's lap as the hunter looked straight at him. Gray eyes twinkling in amusement, Daman thought to himself, Lovely choice of words. Such a show of stupidity. I'm quite disappointed. A multicolored smiled lifted itself onto the demon's face, and he said in a mocking tone, “As you wish.”

Aidan came out of his daze with a slight frown. “You could watch your manners in attention to the fair lady you are so lucky to have met”, Aidan coldly said to Trevor. “How dare you be so loud in her presence?” He narrowed his eyes slightly.

“Lord Cynric, we apologize for the inconvenience”, the guide said with a nod of the University representatives. Aidan did not yet reply, but once again looked at Autumm's face.

“May I know your name?”, he asked her, a handsome nobleman in an elegant black suit.

Daman felt a stab of cold pierce his heart, and recognition sunk into his mind as he gazed upon Aidan. Could that possibly be? No… But now the hunter was glaring at him, and he didn't want to start anything right in the middle of a respectable college. So instead of holding a conversation with the one he so admired he made way for the music hall.

Autumn gave Trevor her best dirty look as he managed to scare away her new friend. Later they were going to have a chat about showing up at her school, but for the moment the man down the hall she had noticed earlier had interrupted. He was strikingly handsome, if not in a devilish sort of way. If anyone had that natural “gothic” look, this guy did. He also had a smooth tongue, and gave her the distinct feeling that no one had ever dared to question him. Autumn grinned nervously, still not sure if she were creeped out by him, or if it were just the English themselves she found weird. “Autumn Kristof… Kris if you may. I'm sorry about him, ” she motioned to Trevor, giving him another dirty look, “he's about as subtle as a train…”

Aidan was quite pleased he had obtained her name and even a nickname of hers – yet Aidan was not fond of shortening people's names, he would gladly call her Kris if she wanted him to. “It's a pleasure to meet you, Kris”, he said with a smile and a nod. “My name is Aidan Cynric, baron of Cynshire… and I am at your service, if you are so kind”. Aidan rose his hand and one of his henchmen automatically handed him a card. Aidan gave it to Autumn.

Lord Aidan Cynric
President of MS Corp.

The card included the office address, phones and email. Aidan smiled. “As I said, I'm at your service”. The bronze eyes shimmered in a charming smile.

“Pardon me sir”, Christopher said non-chalantly, bowing down low at the waist with an arm crossed down over in front of him as a half-hearted grin began to creep itself across his lips. It seemed like he had appeared from the shadows or the wall itself, and he could feel the looks fall on him through his dusty brown trench-coat; but Chris simply brushed them off with a discerning turn to Aidan as he stood. “.. sorry for the interruption,” he continued, pausing for a moment to crane his neck around to flash the girl a lop-sided smile that quickly faded when he turned back to the gentlemen in black clothing.

//.. sir, this tour is pointless. You shouldn't be wasting your time.. with, these children. More important things need tending to.//

Straightening his jacket out, Christopher moved a piece of hair from his eye sight and glowered in his mind. Having to behave as ordered was boring to him. But, he had little choice in the matter. Aidan had made that very clear before he had left the corporation that he was supposed to act civilized around others. Though, he had to admit, his patience was beginning to thin severely.

Aidan arched an eyebrow lightly, his eyes still lingering on Autumm's face as she accepted the card.

//I have every right to please my eyes//, he replied to Christopher's mental message. //See? It's not been a waste of time for me.//

A subtle smile slid on Aidan's lips. “Duty calls”, he said with an elegant shrug and gave a slight nod at Christopher. He cast a sideways look at Trevor with a sort of sardonic expression. “I must leave now”, he told Autumn in a less formal tone, as if they were not surrounded by people. “I'd be grateful if I could see you again… Perhaps if I could call you?”

“Um…” Autumn was taken aback, not expecting for him to ask her number, let alone want to see her again. She decided he was most definitely weird, and made her more than a little bit uncomfortable. But you couldn't exactly tell a Lord, no, could you? “I suppose that would be alright…” she rambled on as she pulled out a small piece of notebook paper and scribbled down her cel-phone number. “I'm not exactly familiar with London or the customs or really much of… anything…” Autumn laughed nervously, catching herself talking more than she should. She brushed a few strands of her auburn hair out of her face before handing Aidan the paper.

Trevor was giving her one of those looks like she just handed her soul over to the devil, so she slid her pack higher on her shoulder before donning a fresh smile. “It was nice to meet you, Mister.. ah.. Lord Aidan. I have a Thaumaturgy class to catch!” Waving kindly, she grabbed Trevor's arm and jerked him down the halls before he could make any more protests or loud comments. He was only here for a few minutes and he was already ticking off everybody in sight!

Trevor began to protest, but Kris was in one of those Unstoppable moods, and that was something even he had to be careful around. He cast one last glance backwards at Aidan, and to his contingent of suits that surrounded him. Except for that one guy in the dark coat. Only for a brief second, their eyes locked, and Trevor's heart skipped a beat.

…just too dangerous…over seas…

What is, daddy? What're you talkin` about?

Hm. I'll tell you when you're older, son.

Trevor wrenched himself from Kris' iron grip, and began to follow her on his own. “I don't know if it was such a good idea to give your number away like that,” he said, an unusual amount of concern in his voice. “First of all, he's a mouthy jerk, and I didn't like the way he was smiling. And that second guy was a real weirdo, too. Have we met him before? Because, I could have sworn…”

Aidan watched Autumn and her loud friend go away with a strange smile, admiring Autumn's movements with a serene gaze. If Trevor was a close friend to her or more than that, it didn't have any importance in Aidan's eyes. He added the number to his own cell phone, then handed the paper with Autumn's number to Christopher. //Find out everything about this woman. Full name, family history, bank accounts, credit allowance, current residence, what's she doing in England… Any special talent of hers; you know what to look for. There's something about her beneath her face that calls for my attention//. Aidan nodded at the guide and University representatives as they went on the rest of their tour.

Aidan barely arched an eyebrow at the people engaged in some sort of fight a few doors ahead. “Curious campus life”, he muttered in sarcasm.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

CHAPTER ONE

As the sleek silver jet landed in Heathrow Airport, a solemn figure brooded in her private cabin. Dressed in black, swathed in shadow – she seemed to be the perfect type of thief. Possessor of that air… not even the perky stewardess wanted to go near her. It was a dangerous demeanor she portrayed, and their fear suited her just fine – she was in that sort of mood. Being the highest paying passenger aboard this flight, the dark child was the first off. Then again, she had been the only passenger on this private ride. Money ruled this world, and the girl had enough of it. She wasn't some corporate leader, though one could argue it had been a work of inheritance. It didn't matter. The point was, she had it – and she really didn't care what other people thought of her. Maybe a little. Just a little. Okay, maybe a lot.

Once again, I cannot find it… mused the teen, slipping on black sunglasses as she walked to the car that had been prepared for her arrival. The luggage would be brought in another van. Not that it mattered, as long as it got to her manor it would be all right. It was a stormy day. Not storybook stormy, with lighting and thunder – just gray. It was a gray morning. Dark clouds loomed overhead, threatening to burst at the barest whisper. The day would go by, and with it – an increasing promise of rain. In all, a classic English day. And the figure seemed to melt right into it. Black pants and a dark shirt emblazoned with silver Chinese writing, deep brown hair that appeared black – highlights simply hiding in that ebony day. And of course black boots. Why ruin a good theme? She was in a dark mood. Peace… will elude me again until the next vacation… why can’t I fill this Void!? The teen felt old, even though she was just 20, and at the peak of her existence. I could live a thousand years and still feel this way… most unnatural.

The ride to her London home was uneventful. She listened to the radio – the rock improved her mood a little. Slipping off the glasses, she watched the sun climb from the back of the limousine. Deep brown eyes. Some said you could have drowned in eyes like that. Especially now, she thought, amused. Her pupils were large in the darkness of the car, giving them a doe-like appearance. It seemed odd, as they seemed to clash with her pale skin. Clashed… but enhanced. She was beautiful. “How have things been, John?” The girl's soft and sweet voice rang, stirring the sleepy silence. A small smile played on her lips. She was going home. Sure, the feeling of not belonging hadn't been solved, but she was home… no matter how “icy” she tried to seem, the girl missed London and her life terribly.

“Quiet and calm, as usual… how was your trip, Ms.?” The driver made a turn off the motorway, and headed into the city. An amazing driver, John easily avoided the rush as he made his way to the manor.

“It was nice. Venice is so nice this time of year.”

“School started today – and I believe you may have missed it. But, I will assume from your choice of clothing, that you didn’t find what you were seeking – and have jet lag.”

“Yes… and no, I didn't…. and yes again.”

“If I may be so bold as to ask, what is it that you seek?”

“I don't even know myself, John… it's like I am missing something. Sometimes at home, at London, I seem to think I have found it… but my peace never lasts. Something is missing John. It's like a sickness.” John merely nodded in response. He couldn't really relate – so he assumed it was one of those “growing up” things. If he had been given a choice – he would never repeat the teen years. Too much hell. They remained silent for the remainder of the ride. As the manor approached, the girl found herself smiling at it. Smith Manor. Her home… well, for the past 19 years at least. Lord knows where she was before it. But now… it was hers. Sadly, it was empty… the warmth it once portrayed lost, in it’s place, cold memories – and graves. A tear slid past her cheek, but that was it. She didn’t want to mourn over them today… they would not have wanted it. John parked the car and let his employer out. But though it was morning, she was exhausted. Never again…. Never do I arrive home at the crack of dawn… Climbing the stairs slowly, she ignored the hustle and bustle that began stirring in the large house. Within minutes she had arrived in her room and had thrown herself on the bed. But her face hit paper. Pushing herself up, she blinked at it. Reading it out loud, she smiled. Welcome back home Rish!

“Silly goose…” the girl smiled. Giggling, Rishta turned over and fell asleep.







Alistaire yawned and grumbled on the hotel bed he had procured for himself once arriving in London. He had arrived only a little while ago, on “urgent business” he had told everyone. In actuality, he was just moving to newer hunting grounds and was allowing Ana to do what she needed to do at the colleges or universities and whatever with this Treble Morrish guy. Alistaire was more than willing to go along with her, but Ana had decided that she would run off on her own, and in doing so, had decided to just drop him off at the hotel. That left him bored, very bored. It was during the middle of the day, and none of the clubs were open, and there was definitely no possibility to go hunting.

“Bloody girl..” He mumbled as he rolled over, his arm covering his face. He was tired. Very tired. He hadn't of had much sleep at all for the past few days, but that didn't mean he couldn't do anything. He yawned and drifted for what could've been five minutes, ten minutes… maybe even thirty seconds. He didn't know.

Alistaire jumped up after his brief moment of rest and looked around, refreshed for the moment. He had a few bags strewn about the room, and there was one single, very large bed that he would share with Ana. Nothing would go on, of course. Ana insisted on sharing a bed with him sometimes, so he decided he would indulge her. Just this once.

He threw off his clothes and took a quick, cold shower. He liked cold showers; they always got him ready for a long, hard day, and they kept his mind on where it should be. He dressed quickly, putting on a pair of loose black slacks and a purple silk-shirt with a v-cut. Over it he threw his light leather long coat that went down to his tights, and slicked back his hair with what water still remained. He decided to bring along a simple .45 caliber handgun and a double-barreled shotgun that he put in a special holster under his coat behind his back. He wrapped a silver-choker around his neck that was covered in religious icons, it serving a dual purpose– style, and protection.

He walked down to the lobby and asked the clerk if his motorcycle had arrived. He had passed a nice sum to the manager in exchange that he procure him a motorcycle for his London use within an hour of his arrival. The manager had done what he asked, and he had a bike ready for him. Alistaire's lithe frame mounted the massive bike and he donned a pair of unneeded sunglasses and tore of down the road. Immediately, he pulled out his cell phone and brought up Ana's number.

RING RING…

“Whare's tha' bloody girl?” He asked idly, his heavy Scottish accent audible over the loud engine.







Trevor glanced down at his phone. Kris had e-mailed him directions to get to where she was staying, but he had been running into 15505 N. Easterly streets at least ten times today. He didn't see why she couldn't have gone to college back in the states, or even in New York. At least he knew where he was going over there. Spending half the day lost in a land where nobody knew how to talk right was not his idea of a good time. At least Joz had stopped worrying long enough to let him visit Kris by himself. Knowing Joz, though, she was probably going to pop up somewhere or another.

Slinging his bag back over his shoulder produced a thick metallic cracking; he had a pair of guns in there, muffled by some of his clothes. Kris would probably think he was crazy, but only if she found out. Smiling to himself, Trevor marched into the tiny front yard, and pounded on the front door.

Lightly tapping her finger on the panel of the car door, Ana Gordon waited and patiently….waited. She had managed to drag Alistaire after the elusive Trevor Morris. Word about him and his ancestry of demon-hunters was no doubt interesting, so when she got info on his whereabouts- she hopped on that opportunity like a junkie to a half-eaten sandwich.

This was going to be good.

The girl had followed Trevor since he left the airport; quickly dropping Alistaire at the nearest hotel while she tried to work her magic. It all came down to this- he was standing in front of a house, leaving himself open for approach. Eventually she got out of the car and walked over to him, hands in her pockets. You never know if he wasn't a big fan of being chased down by beautiful girls- so Ana was packing underneath her long jacket.

Ana was always packing.

Trevor put his phone away, set his bag on the ground, and began to rummage through it. Moving aside his shirts and spare jeans, he wrapped his hands around the grip of his pistol. In one fluid motion, Trevor drew the weapon, pulled back on the hammer, and leveled it at Ana as she approached.

“The day some bottom-feeding soul sucker like you sneaks up on me is the day I hang up my crosses for good,” Trevor snapped, wrapping his finger around the trigger. “I could smell your demon blood all the way up the street. Coming right up to me was pretty impressive, though. You must be really strong, or really stupid. Either way, you've got two seconds left before I put a bullet into your skull.”

Impressive. He was as good as they said.

Ana smiled and cocked her head, the only visible eyebrow raised. She had both of her hands in his line of sight, both at the level outside of her jacket for a quick draw if needed. Shifting her weight ever-so-slightly, she felt for the holster straps on her back. They were there, and intact. She was ready to roll.

“Hey now- you wouldn't shoot an unarmed lady, would you?” Ana kept her eyes on his, it was a trick she learned from Sean back in training. If you looked hard enough, you could see their pupils dilate- as long as you think you're quick enough to act before they do, you're safe. As tempted as she was to just show him that she wasn't like the others, she thought that talking her way out of it was going to give her a better chance to get away unscathed. “I'm Ana Gordon. Historian. Came here to possibly get an interview?”

“Historian? Interview?” Trevor flashed her a half-cocked smile, and then burst out laughing. “Oh, God, that's a good one! I suppose the rest of your clan are all accountants and secretaries, right?” He had completely let his guard down, he just realized, but as he wiped a tear from his eye, he realized that he didn't care. All of this was too rich for words!

“Christ Almighty, a historian…I wish dad was here for that…he woulda totally lost it.” Trevor slipped his gun back into his bag, and leaned against Kris' door. She must be out already. Probably looking for him, since he apparently couldn't navigate his way out of a wet paper bag. Damn stupid London. “Okay, I'll bite. You're a historian, here to interview me, probably because I've cut down demons and vampires like wheat for years now, right? I can't blame you, really. I even impress myself sometimes. I think if there was any one person in the world who could rid humanity of all evil, it's probably me. I mean…come on. How could you not think that?”

At least she had the gun out of her face. It didn't really matter if he believed her or not, but once she had time- her latest book was out, and waving in his face. “Demons of America”- Was her latest book, in which she did research on the demons that used to plague the states. She did a lot of traveling, and was pretty much able to live off the money that she made from that book alone. That didn't matter- money was just a minor thing compared to the thrill of hunting down the others.

“Historian and writer, mind you.” Ana let out a sigh and calmed down, scratching her head and tucking a pesky strand of hair behind her ear. In the back of her mind she thought of how Alistaire would react to her hanging out with another man- but it didn't matter, he liked to say they weren't together. Well fine- two could play that game. “Now, about that interview…”

Trevor grinned down at her. She was pretty cute, for a demon. “Well, we should start with the basics. My name is Trevor Morris, and I slay evil. To date, I've killed seventeen vampires, four master vampires, thirty weres, two dhampires, one hundred and sixteen demons, fifty-five devils, three hundred and two half-demons, seven hundred and sixty-nine cult members, fifty dark priests, and one Greater Bone Servitor,” he announced proudly, counting off his list on his fingers as he bragged on. “I was born and raised in New York. I'm an Aries; I like guns, kung fu movies, and killing demons. My turn-offs are goths, women who want to devour my soul, and hairy arms. My favorite food is a good Philadelphia cheese steak, and I'm allergic to shellfish.”

He looked up at Ana and shrugged. “Did I miss anything?”

Ana was taking mental notes, not to invite him to a seafood place later on. His astrological sign would explain his actions though, so upon hearing it- she wasn't too surprised. “I was talking interview like…actually hearing about your family of demon-hunters, actually. Although women who want to devour my soul turn me off as well- it's useful info, but not the stuff I want.” She was blunt and straight to the point- dicking around didn't get her the things that she wanted to know. Cold, hard facts was what she needed- oh, and maybe a few snapshots. Flash photography was fun.

Speaking of, Ana hummed to herself and pulled out her trusty camera- snapping a picture of Trevor in mid-question. He had his mouth open, and it would end up like one of those pictures where the person looked a little drugged up- but it was good for now. She'd get more pictures later on, better ones. Like him actually killing. Sweet. “So, when will you get to the killing- so people can see Trevor Morris in action?”



15505 N. Easterly Street. Inside the park near the house where Trevor and Ana spoke, a young man of twenty walked with his arms stretched, and eyes closed. His body was stiff, and he seemed afraid of falling. “Damn you…” the young man – Jeremy Doyle complained in a soft voice, “I'm not blind like you are… don't make me do such silly things… you blind bat….”

Something invisible seemed to thwap Jem's arms then, and he cried out in pain. A voice came to him mentally. //Yes… and date with your Rishta…? Take your practice seriously…// Another blow at his already bruised arms.

“OWWW!!! Stop it!!!” Jem cried out in mercy, “I'm taking it as seriously as possible! I've even managed to memorize part of the bible! What do you still want?!”

//The art of perfectness…// The voice coldly replied.

“I'm a mortal, no humans are perfect. We all err.” Jem retorted, happy with the possibility of shutting the irritating angel up. Thinking of it, Jem had been stuck with the angel for more than ten years, and in each lesson there was no way he could escape a beating from the sadistic angel. Annoying thing was, Jem never knew the angel who had been guiding him. He was able to sense and hear him, but he wasn't able to see and feel him. Eerily, Jem was the only one around who could do it so far, and it made him think that he was really serving the demons in actual fact.

//I told you I'm an angel. I'm not related to the demons.//

Jem was startled and he looked up at where he thought the angel could be but there was simply empty space. “You… you are too much!” Jem yelled while he shook his fists, “I… I am taking lessons from you at the risk of losing Rish as my friend and you never failed to beat me up! You demon!! I will never trust you again!” Jem turned and tried to run to the gates of the cold and empty park.

//Yes… Next lesson… Swimming…//

An invisible hand picked Jem up easily and dragged him to the rails where the lake lied below. “LET GO!!! YOU DEMON!!!” Jem screamed as he tried to struggle but to no avail. “HELP!!! HELP!!! A DEMON IS TRYING TO EAT ME!!!” Jem cried out as loud as he could, hoping that someone could hear him.

SPLASH!!!

Jem was thrown into the lake. “It's cold!!!” Jem howled as he kept struggling in the water, “I… I… I can't swim!” he cried out, appealing to the angel for help but the invisible being ignored him only watching Jem silently. Refusing to help until the boy almost drowned.

“So, when will you get to the killing- so people can see Trevor Morris in action?” Ana had just finished her words when a loud voice came from afar.

“SAVE ME!!! SOMEBODY!!! I'M DROWNING!!!”

Trevor's eyes shifted from pleased to hard iron almost too fast for Ana to catch. “Killing people…?” he growled. “I don't know what you've heard, lady, but I–“

His next smart comment died in his throat when he heard somebody screaming about drowning. Trevor ditched his bag on the front doorstep and ran around to the back of Kris' house, vaulting over the fence in one great leap and charging towards the park nearby. In less than half a minute, Trevor was halfway through the park, and he reached the lake as he shot past a girl wearing more black than was probably necessary. Without hesitation, Trevor threw himself into the water, and started pumping his arms as he made his way towards the poor drowning slob.

Ana almost felt like there wasn't going to be anything good happening- until someone began to scream for help. Running behind Trevor, she quickly reached over and tapped Lux- it was still nicely tucked in it's holster. You never know when one could use firearms. This better had been good; the girl lacked any type of action since they had landed in London. The place stunk, but perhaps that was the horrible stench of evil. A demon smiting fellow demons, wow- that could possibly get her into trouble. Ana Gordon liked trouble, mainly because she could handle it. If not, there was always Ali… Coming to a stop where the land ended and the water began, Ana furrowed her brow. Seems like there was going to be no slaying- but saving a life was good enough. She wasn't dressed for fighting anyway- wearing a white miniskirt and a white sweater wasn't all that good to draw blood in. Inwardly, she cursed at the fact that she hadn't put on some jeans before coming down here.

Jem gaggled in the water and was halfway drowned when someone jumped in and managed to drag him up after some struggling. He climbed up and panted heavily, heaving quite a few times. The invisible being watched on in annoyance.

//You can never do a single thing on your own. Not even when learning to swim.//

“Are you trying to kill me?!” Jem yelled, looking as though he was screaming at Trevor even though he was facing in the other direction.

//….. That's a Morris isn't it? Oh good lord… I thought I will never see the people from Morris family again… How disdainful… I don't like the Morrises…//

“What's your business with the Morrises?!” Jem yelled yet again, beginning to shook his fists, seemingly to direct it at Trevor, “Shut your crap and go!!” Complete silence. Jem turned to Trevor and coughed a few times.

“I'm sorry… Thanks for saving me earlier…”

“A-are you okay?” Her attention was directed to the yelling boy; he seemed bothered by something- or maybe there were voices in his head? No, maybe he was ticked at Trevor. Ana tilted her head and looked at the soaked kid. She was tempted to take a picture, but that might make him yell at her- and that she couldn't really take right now. “Are you okay, Trevor- it looks like both of you need to get changed. Wouldn't want anyone catching a cold…” She walked over to the two of them and gave them a concerned glance. After lightly patting the boy's back and removing her sweater- she handed it to him. “Here, take this…”

“Yeah,” Trevor replied, a bit hesitantly. “Don't worry about it.” He regarded the half-drowned guy curiously, wondering why he was the target of his outbursts, only to be apologized to and thanked a moment later. Was he insane? Talking to himself? Or under demon possession? Trevor's extra senses kicked in, and he immediately found a very strong presence nearby; close enough to almost reach out and touch. His hands reflexively went to his jacket, but he quickly realized that he had left his weapons back in front of Kris' house. His attention slowly turned from the soggy stranger, as he looked alongside him, staring intently at the empty air. There was definitely a presence of some sort there. And why did it feel vaguely familiar?

“What's your name?” Trevor asked, his eyes darting from one side of the stranger to the next. “And why were you in the middle of the water if you can't swim?”

Jem smiled at Ana gratefully as she put the sweater over him. He mumbled a soft thank you as his attention was drawn back to Trevor, who ask a peculiar question. Jem hesitated. He could feel his teacher staring hard at him even though he was thankfully keeping quiet. He didn’t think the man or woman would believe him, maybe even send him to the mental hospital if he tried to explain the truth. However, his teacher seemed to know Trevor, and that sparked a hope in Jem. If he knows this guy, he must be someone so great that he has to be noticed! Jem looked at Trevor seriously. “This demon has been bugging me for eleven years! He claimed to be an angel but he kept refusing to show himself to me or to even tell me his name! He taught me strange things and forced me to read the bible and all that funny stuff. I tell you he's not like an angel at all! He beats me whenever he likes!”

Jem pulled up his sleeves and showed Trevor the bruises on his arms. “See??? I refused to listen to him today so he threw me into the water when he knows that I can't swim! I think he wants to make me into a demon!!”

Within a few hours, Rishta was up and had had a shower, breakfast, and had watched half of some Spanish soap opera. Damn insomnia. “Ugh! I need something to DO!” she groaned out loud to herself.

“Why don’t you go to school, miss?” the cleaning maid replied without care if she was spoken to directly or not. The miss look dreadfully bored, it was the start of school season after all! No sense in missing any of her classes.

Rishta blinked at the women. Then shrugged. “I missed my class.”

“Then go for a walk.”, she suggested. A little bit of sunshine would likely do the girl some good, she had looked so lost ever since she arrived back home to the Smith Manor.

Smiling slowly, Rishta muttered, “I think I will.”



Wandering a bit, Rishta thought she heard screams that sounded familiar. “Jem…? Nah!” But, she blinked as a man ran past her, not being able to see him – just his blur. Jeez… any faster and I would've thought that the hounds from hell were after him… He was then politely followed by a woman. Had they heard it too? Rishta had simply assumed it was her mind – she was too paranoid for her own good. Might as well go see what all the fuss is about… Turning on her heel, Rishta began running where the other two people had disappeared. Despite the boots, she was pretty fast and within a few minutes saw what the others had been running to save.

“JEM!” Eyes wide, she made her way to the small group and cast a surprise look at her best friend, not realizing that she was standing in an angel's shadow. Typical… of all the water-logged people I meet at the park, on the first day of school – it's Jem… only Jem would be able to do such a thing… Mentally giggling, she tried to look at him seriously, but was unsuccessful. In a record of three seconds, she began to smile.

“Jem, ya nutcase, what are you doing here!?” Rishta expected a friendly response from him – after all, she was his best friend. Even though he would be a bit surprised to see her… since she had been gone for about a month. But still, why shouldn't you run into your best friend at the park? Even if he was still choking on water. Turning her attention to the man who had saved Jem, Rishta offered him her hand. “I'm Rishta. Thank you so much for saving my friend Jem here… I dunno what happened… but thank you.”

A familiar voice called out. Jem looked up and was stunned to see Rishta! “Ri… Rish!” Did she hear what he said earlier? What a shame. She would probably think he was making stories up. And he thought she was supposed to be in Venice. What is she doing here?! He smiled happily anyway. Jem was so embarrassed by the whole thing and hoped Rishta didn’t hear his comments about the invisible being.

//…. Cute, isn't she? Rishta… I know her…//

Jem was startled to hear that. “Don't… don't hurt her…” he stuttered out.

“A demon?!” Trevor finally shouted, tearing his hand away from Rishta's. Dammit! And me without any weapons…except… Trevor glanced down at his hands. The only thing he was carrying was the Silver Herald…but did he really want to use that against a single demon? It'd be gross overkill, but if it had to be done, he'd just have to do it. “Come out and show yourself!” Trevor snapped, tightening his fists until his knuckles cracked. “Get your camera ready, Ana Gordon…you just might get those pictures you were hoping for, after all.”

Rishta blinked as Trevor ripped his hand from hers, as though she had burned him. Well, this one's a bit jumpy… maybe they both swallowed some of that poison for water… Retreating her hand back to her side, she looked at him all, her gaze obviously suggesting they all needed some mental help. Wait… maybe he's talking to me. “Um… sorry, no. Rishta means Destiny, not demon. And, thank you for that… introduction.” Rishta was a bit flustered, and was wondering how egotistical this man could get. Claiming that he was some powerful dude. Honestly, what was he comparing himself to? A baby? What made him so special? Unless he was some voodoo master or whatever. Of course, she had to take that walk in the park.

Everything was happening so quickly- people talking to invisible beings, or so it seemed…this place was a nuthouse. Ana looked from the creepy girl in all black to Trevor- and then over to the poor soaking wet boy. The thoughts in her mind stopped when she heard Trevor speak about a demon. Without a second thought she crossed her arms in front of her belly- her fingers coming in contact with the cold metal of her guns. She tightened her fingers around them and pulled, releasing the wonder that was Lux and Ater. Funny how her partner was missing out on the action- he was back doing lord only knows what at the hotel. It was just Ana and Trevor now- maybe kicking ass. “Demon…there's something different here.” Ana was ready if anything were to happen- and she hoped Trevor was too.

Then the other woman went insane, pulling out guns. Immediately Rishta’s body tensed, wondering if she and Jem had thrown themselves into the middle of some sort of mafia meeting. Wait, the mafia was in Italy… no, the mafia could be anywhere. Maybe this was a cult! Yeah, that would make sense. These two were probably high on opium or something, and must have made Jem take some and so that's why they were seeing things…

The angel was invisible, up above Rishta. He stared down at Jem, feeling annoyed. Why, that kid is even smiling to himself in secret joy and victory. Slowly, he sent a mental note to Trevor. //I'm not a demon… He's just sour that I tried to make him learn things he doesn't like… You are John's child… aren't you…? Don't interfere with this matter…// The angel glanced down at again Jem and gave a slight snort. What a brat, he thought.

Trevor stared in amazement at Ana for a moment. She had been packing the whole time? Jeez, that long flight must have given him more jet lag than he thought. He really, really needed a rest. Nope, he realized. No rest for the wicked. Trevor flinched as the voice echoed in his mind. “John's child…? You mean, my ancestor, John?” Trevor looked around, still not able to pinpoint the source of the power, or the voice in his head. “Yeah, I am. My name is Trevor Morris, son of the great slayers of old.” He snorted. “Who the hell are you? And why do you want me to leave? You're not scared, are you? I can't say as I blame you. If I were you, I'd be afraid of me, too. It's not often someone as powerful and capable as me comes along to ruin your day.”

The angel only increasingly got annoyed. Not only did Trevor refuse to leave, he wanted to stay and verbally challenged him. As annoying as his ancestor, he thought. Except that John could be a little bit more mellow. He kept quiet for a while before looking at Rishta, a familiar feeling warmth his heart. Another old friend, but she doesn't remember.

//…. I'm in no mood to fight or squabble with you… Leave…//

Quick as a snake, Trevor smacked the bottom of Ana's hand, catching her gun as it dropped from her open palm. He adjusted his fingers as best he could to the custom grip, and pulled a bullet into the chamber. Funny, though, how she just let go like that. He had met some weak demons in his time, but none of them were disarmed that easily. Trevor suddenly had a sneaking suspicion that she had simply allowed him to take the weapon. Hmph. Not bad, for a half-blood, he thought bemusedly. Trevor spun the gun Lux casually in his hand, and leveled it at the soaking wet Jem when it came to a halt. “A demon can't exist without a host. If I kill this boy, you'll have nowhere left to run. Don't make me do something we all might regret later, and come on out and show yourself. I'm getting tired of screwing around with you, demon.”

When Trevor became the new possessor of the gun and aimed at Jem, Rishta immediately stepped in front of Jem. Awww… This is SO a cult… While Trevor seemed to speak to thin air threatening to shoot Jem, Rishta high kicked at Trevor’s wrist, sending the gun spinning into the air, and into the grass a bit away, near Ana – it's original owner. People going around carrying guns… honestly – they HAVE to be a part of some cult.. or maybe they're dating and just don't like each other… Somewhat pleased at what she had done, Rishta took Trevor by the collar and shook him a few times, hopeful that he would come to his senses. Please don't let him go insane and have him smack me… I don't deserve that…

“Will you stop acting like a psycho! You don't pull guns on random people! AND JEM AND I ARE NOT DEMONS!!!”

The angel stared at Trevor as he took the gun from Ana, and was preparing to find out where to shoot. He was about to react when Rishta knocked the gun out of Trevor's hand and started to shake him badly. The angel chuckled. Still the same as ever. Slightly amused by Trevor's threat to kill Jem, though, he didn't think Trevor would really do that, he challenged him. //… Go ahead… Just try…//

“Wait…” Jem cried out, shocked that Trevor and his teacher were now playing with his life. He looked at Rishta, amazed. He stood up and took Rishta's hands away from Trevor's collar quickly, just in case Trevor went mad. He was sure Trevor and the girl beside him weren’t ordinary people. “Uhh… I'm sorry but it's a lie… He… he's not a demon…” Jem admitted, looking fearful, scared of what Trevor might do to him for that lie, “I'm just trying to get away from him… get some help and… well… he… he told me he's an angel right from the beginning….”

This little act was getting old- Ana grew tired of everyone's overreaction; and she was thankful that no blood had to be drawn. Although she could only guess what Trevor's reaction to being shaken around would be. Maybe he would deck her- that would be cool. “So -THAT'S- what that strange feeling is.” She muttered, referring to the presence of an Angel instead of a demon. Ana had no clue what had gone on now, but when nobody was looking- she extended her hand for Lux to come. And come it did, as if it had been pulled by an unseen force. She had yet to explain how and why they obeyed her like they did- but it even happened when they weren't her guardians. They had been her master's guns once- and even back when she didn't know how to even fire a gun, they seemed to call to her. It was -quite- odd how Lux fit into Trevor's hand like it did- but she wasn't going to talk to him about it until everyone was gone. “Well, that's a plus. At least he's being honest.” Deep down Ana didn't want to harm the drenched boy; it always bothered her to draw young blood. Although the girl dressed in black was asking for it- Ana put both of her guns away and stood next to Trevor. She was growing tired of standing- and she wanted to get her interview over already.

Trevor shot Rishta the most icy stare he could muster, but not for very long. He had a feeling she wasn't the type that was impressed by mere words. She had even called his bluff, and knocked the gun from his hand. He never had any intention of shooting the kid, but he had hoped to lure whatever it was that was giving him a hard time, out from hiding. “I've wasted enough time here,” Trevor growled, staring down at Jem. “I'm going to find out, once and for all, what's going on with you.” The young slayer took a small step away from Jem, raised a hand, and set it firmly on Jem's head. “Shut up and hold still. This won't hurt.” Trevor shut his eyes, and cleared his mind. He couldn't read minds worth spit, but if he poked around the kid's aura and soul, he'd be able to tell what was clinging to him so tightly. Only demons normally gave this much attention to mortals, and if that was the case, this'd be the only way to flush it out. The more Trevor searched, though, the less evidence of demonic possession he found. This guy's spirit seemed to be a bit more churned up than most people's, but aside from that, he was perfectly normal.

Rishta glared at Trevor as he tried to stare her down – resulting in a staring contest for about two seconds. Jem had pulled her back, and for that she was extremely grateful. After all, she didn't want to fight guys who were obviously on some drug high. Then the word 'angel' came up. That's it. Jem is so going to a psychiatrist when this is over with, and I'm getting putting a restraining order on those two. Angels, pheh – honestly… angels would never exist on this plane, they're just fantasy creatures… I hope. Blinking, she realized that she had been daydreaming for a few seconds, the ghost buster or whatever he was had his hand placed on JemJem's head, looking like a priest about to perform an exorcism. She had to stifle a laugh at that. Poor Jem, must have been overworked about the school situation and now had lost it. And this guy thought he was Pope John Paul II! And the woman? Hell if she knew, maybe she was pretending to be some sort of Wonder Woman. That brought another thought into her head: what if she had wandered into some movie set? Some super hero action adventure! Nah.

No…wait, there was something else. Trevor thought as he continued searching. Small so small and unnoticeable, it was only by sheer luck that he had found it at all. There was another presence again, and it felt very much like the first one, though that was only a shadow of the power this one possessed. Trevor tried to search around it more, but the closer he got, the larger the presence became. Surprisingly enough, though, there was no malice in it; only a desire to be left alone. So…no demons. But it certainly didn't feel like any angel he had ever heard about. Of course, his ancestor John's memoirs were full of weird things about the angels he had met, so maybe he was, in fact, dealing with the divine. Whatever. This kid's clean; I don't care anymore, Trevor mumbled to himself as he opened his eyes.

“It's not a demon,” he said, taking his hand off Jem's head. “But if it is an angel, it's the most pissed-off angel I've ever seen. I'd be careful if I were you. Do what he says, `cause I might not be around next time to save your sorry butt.” Trevor turned back to Ana. “Let's go,” he snapped, marching back off towards Kris' house.

As they left, Rishta blinked as her best buddy ran behind her – using her as some sort of shield. How… chivalrous. Then he began complaining. And not about a paper.

“But… but…” Jem stammered, not wanting to face the angel alone, not after what he had done! Ducking behind Rishta as if for protection he continued, “He ill-treats me! I don't want to learn from him! And anyway, why me?! I'm just an ordinary boy!”

“Um… Jem…”

// Oh boy… Running behind a woman for protection…?! How wimpish can you get?! //

“I just want a normal life with a girlfriend! That's all!!” Jem protested, near to tears but determined to stop them from flowing. He honestly thought the angel had something against him, and was there to torture him.

Turning, she slapped Jem's cheek softly, just trying to stop him from cracking like a mirror. The “slap” was affectionate, because after all – she knew what a big softie he really was. Just like a teddy bear. “Jem, did you stay up all night again? Or is this first-day-back-itis? And I can get you a girlfriend if you want.. I heard Alicia really likes you, and she's been DYING for a date…” Sighing a bit, she gave him a somewhat teasing smile. “Should I call in the Ghost Busters?”

“I'm not interested in that slob.” Jem almost snapped to Rishta, upset and irritated that she was not taking him seriously. He watched Trevor and Ana walk away. He thought Ana was a nice, and Trevor seemed to be a little edged. Whatever. He was happy enough that the blind bat was keep quiet… no. He was gone. Whatever. As long as he leaves me alone… Jem looked at Rishta and smiled sweetly at her.

Rishta blinked at Jem, as he insulted one of her friends. Well, not friends – more like gossip acquaintances. Alicia was a storehouse of information, and she told anyone whom she thought was worthy. She and Rish had gotten along in freshman year, and they occasionally spoke to each other. They were pretty close, and Alicia was crazy about Jem. And he had just called her a slob. “Jem…”

“Rish… you should have told me that you are back! I would have picked you up.” He wondered how her vacation went and was worried that she might have returned with a boyfriend.

“I know JemJem… but I came before dawn, and I didn't want to have you wake up – since today was school…” Rishta then noticed that Jem seemed a little edgy, and worried.

“So… did you get any boyfriends there???”

Blinking, she hoped she hadn't heard him correctly. Was he serious? Did he want her to be married off or something? Jeez. “Um… well, many gorgeous guys there – but they didn't speak English, so no…” Rishta laughed then and ruffled Jem’s hair. “Jem, of course not. Now, did you skip school or what?”

“I don't mind missing classes to pick you up.” Jem replied with a happy smile, forgetting that he was quite soaked. He looked at her carefully when she told him that she didn't get any boyfriends and he felt relieved. However, he didn't quite like the fact Rishta seemed to indicate that she didn't get a boyfriend there because they couldn't speak English. Nervously, Jem scratched his head and he smiled when Rishta ruffled his hair.

“So… if they could speak English… you would be coming back with a boyfriend?” Jem asked with his eyes wide opened, “Don't! I heard that the boys there are evil! They will break your heart!” Smiling, Jem straightened himself and hit his chest with a weird look on his face. “You can have me as a boyfriend if you like… I mean… I'm more reliable than anyone else.” Jem said, trying to sound as cool as possible.

Rishta smiled at him, poor sap was soaked. “I know you don't mind picking me up, but you need your rest. Honestly, did you drink a lot of coffee this morning?” Rishta commented on his jittery nerves. Honestly, did he really think she was the type to run off to some foreign country just because she met some guy? She would never do such a thing – first of all, she loved England. Second: she was settled here. Third: her dreams would never let her move. Angel Manor was here – and you can't move a house that size. “JemJem, no worries – I'm not dating anyone anytime soon, especially people I don't know that well and can't speak English!”

Blinking at Jem, she pulled out a cell phone, missing his last words. With a sort of silent authority she called home and asked them to bring a limo. Closing the phone with a soft 'click' she turned back to Jem. “The car will be here in a few minutes… luckily you have some extra clothes at the Manor – and a room – so you can have a shower and everything. Then we can talk. Capice?”

Jem blinked as the phone call interrupted his last few words. He cursed in his mind, wondering who had to call at this time. However he felt relieved too. He didn’t want to face the possibility of rejection. Jem had known Rishta for years and even though he was just a child at that time, he knew that Rishta was going to be the one in his life. Sometimes it just hurt that she talked about other boys in front of him. Jem wondered if his signs of affection were too mild or if they seemed too brotherly. He looked at Rishta and smiled wryly. “Okay. I will come along. But don't yell at me for getting your car seat wet.” Jem remarked with a smile that made him look like a jerk, as if he had some funny ideas in his head.

Blinking, she turned to him and gave him a sharp poke. He had that devilish grin that made her wonder what he really had on his mind. Not that she could blame him – he was like every other guy she had ever met: he had a mischievous streak. The only difference was that when he joked, it was normally something sweet, funny, and utterly adorable. At least, to her it was. Rishta yawned a bit as she and Jem stood out there in the cool air. She hoped the car would come soon – she didn't want her best friend to get sick. On the first day back to school too… that would really suck. Well, unless if Jem proved to be a escapist when it came to school – which she really doubted. “It doesn't matter – it's leather. I just hope you don't get sick.” Rishta brushed a few strands of hair away from her face as she looked at him, then at her watch. The car should be there in a few moments, and all they had to do was wait.

Categories
Shadows Beneath

PROLOGUE: FULL CIRCLE

Trevor hunkered down behind a stack of packing crates, scooting against the wall as far as he could go to keep in the shadows. As softly and silently as he could, he slid the spent clip from his pistol, and set it on the ground next to him. He carefully removed a full clip from his belt, shoved it into the gun, and slowly pulled back on the weapon, snapping the top back into place.

No sooner had he finished, when three shadows glided from the adjoining room. They sniffed the air carefully for a moment, and muttered something unintelligible in German to eachother. One of them passed by a window, revealing his pale, gaunt features, which seemed to glow in the moonlight. Trevor scowled, and poked his head out from behind the crate for a moment to get a better look. Not only were they vampires, they were eastern European vampires, which meant they had their own code of honor and brutality that American vampires did not. It was strange, thinking of undead culture at a time like this, Trevor chided himself.

Keep your goddamn head on your shoulders, he mentally scolded as he reached for the spent clip on the ground. Thrown across the room, it would make an excellent distraction as he jumped up and-

What I’ve felt, what I’ve known, never shined through in what I’ve shown.

Trevor nearly jumped out of his boots when he heard the music start to play. Metallica shattered the perfect silence like a stone breaking apart a church window. And it was coming from his phone. The very same phone he had forgot to turn off before entering the vampire’s nest.

Never free, never me…so I dub thee…

“Get him! Don’t let him get away!” one of the vampires shouted in broken English.

…Unforgiven…

“Goddamn stupid Metallica!” Trevor shouted, diving backwards as a vampire claw tore through the crate he was hiding behind like it was made of tissue paper. The hunter continued backwards, plowing through a patch of thin drywall, and stumbling through the bathroom the hole connected to. Fine place for a nest, he grouched-freaking son of a bitch vampires in the fucking ghetto! Vampires and Harlem were two things Trevor simply could not stand, so having the two together was just a big fat bag of flaming shit in his face to him.

He ran out of the bathroom, out the small apartment, and into the second floor hallway, where he got half a second to answer his phone. “Hello? Who the fuck is this?! It had better be good!”

Trevor? What’s wrong? What happened?

Trevor sighed, and rolled his eyes. It figures it’d be Autumn. She had an uncanny knack for causing him trouble at just the wrong moment. “Nothin`,” he said, his voice turning calm. “What’s up?”

Well, I’m all moved in, and my first day at the university is in about a week. I thought I’d invite you to the big school-warming party the school welcoming committee is throwing.

The door behind Trevor exploded in a shower of splinters, forcing the hunter to move further down the hall. A very angry vampire kicked what little remained of the door down, and started advancing down the hall towards him. “Big party, huh? I didn’t think they did that in London. Isn’t it all tea and big fur hats over there?”

Autumn laughed. Believe it or not, no. This should get you interested-Forsaken is going to be playing at the club we’re going to! I know those are your two great loves; liquor and loud music.

“What, so I’m an annoying alcoholic now?” Trevor asked, smiling a bit, despite the vampire closing in on him. “`Scuse me for a minute, Kris.”

Trevor raised his gun as the vampire lunged, and emptied an even six bullets into the monster’s face. The vampire fell at Trevor’s feet, howling in pain as the silver-jacketed bullets made his blood boil, and burned away at his skin. Trevor methodically removed a wooden stake from inside his jacket, knelt down, and drove the oak steak into the vampire’s chest. The undead let out a blood-curdling shriek, and twitched for a minute before finally coming to rest.

What on earth was that?

“Big damn cockroach,” Trevor muttered into the phone. That scream would probably draw the others before too long. Where the hell was his back-up when he needed it?

I didn’t catch you at a bad time, did I?

Trevor shrugged, and backed out of the hallway, towards the stairs. “You could say that. So Forsaken is gonna be there, huh?” It wasn’t his favorite band just by chance-Arc Windstone, the drummer, was an old friend of his. Of course, Kris might just have a heart attack if she found out, which is why Trevor never told her. Or maybe it was because he just liked teasing her, and always having Forsaken just barely out of reach.

I’m sorry. I forgot the time difference between London and New York.

“Naah, don’t worry about it,” Trevor mused as he backed closer to the stairwell door. “I’ll call you back when I’m done here, okay?”

Be careful, Trevor! I don’t want you showing up here in a casket or anything!

Trevor looked back down the hall. The second bloodsucker was coming at him full-speed, which, for a vampire, was pretty damn fast. Without batting an eyelash, Trevor reached for the door, and pulled it open as the vampire got close. Unable to stop, the monster crashed into the door face-first hard enough to put a dent in it. Trevor switched his phone to his other hand, and pressed the door back in, squeezing the vampire between the door and the doorframe. Trapped and stunned, it was an easy matter to drive a stake through its heart, killing it instantly.

“I don’t think that’ll be a problem.” He smiled grimly as he pulled his stake from the vampire’s chest, and let the body slump down to the floor. “I’ll see you in about a week, then. Take care, Kris.” Trevor put his phone away, making sure he turned it off this time. A second mess like that was the last thing he needed tonight.

A second shadow down the hallway caught the hunter’s attention. His gun was out in a flash, pointed at the darkness.

“Trevor! Please, tell me that is you!” a thick German accent shouted from the shadows.

Trevor sighed again, and lowered his gun a bit. “Yeah, it’s just me. Stop creepin` around like that and get out here, Richter.” The shadows parted a bit as another man stepped into the dim light, carrying an automatic rifle in his hands, along with a two-foot iron cross slung across his back. “I nearly plugged you, you dumbass. Where the hell were you back there?”

Richter smiled, and let his rifle hang from its shoulder strap. “I apologize, Trevor. I thought I sensed a normal soul nearby, so I ran to investigate. Sadly, I was too late, and a resident of this building was dead before I could reach them.”

“There are no ‘residents’ here,” Trevor snapped. “Just squatters and crackheads. The bastard probably had it coming to him.”

“I find it sad, how a Morris can think he has the right to mete out death and life, based on his own prejudices,” Richter replied, his smile quickly vanishing. “Our family has sworn to protect all life, regardless of sin and reason. Do you remember? Surely Simon told you of this?”

“Shut up! Just shut the hell up! I don’t need a goddamned lecture from you on how to do my job, Richter!” Trevor shouted. “Maybe you do things different in Austria, and maybe everybody there is all love and peace and bullshit like that, but not here! This is kill or be killed here in the big city, so you’d better get used to it and grow a thick skin, because I don’t have time for your whiney bleeding-heart shitfest!”

The second Morris pursed his lips in thought, and slowly nodded. “Your mission is a sad tragedy, my cousin. Some day, I hope to bring you to my home, so you can see how precious life can be.”

“Yeah, that’d be a real kick,” Trevor groused, pulling a second gun from its holster and loading a bullet into the chamber. “Come on, we’ve still got one more of these shitheels to clear out before we can call it a night. It’s only an hour before last call at my favorite place, so let’s get the lead out. Unless you’d rather go preach to the poor outside.”

Richter chuckled, and removed the iron cross from his back. A small trigger near the top sent the two arms of the cross sliding away, revealing an ornate, gilded crossguard. The long bottom of the crucifix slid away, revealing a long, slender blade. Its polished silver surface gave off a ghostly light, even in the dim corridors of the abandoned building. “Schattenkerl is anxious to deliver justice,” Richter said, his smile turning almost wicked. “Lead the way, Trevor.”

* * * * * * * * * *

“This next piece, as you can see, has been badly damaged by what forensic experts claim to be an extremely intense fire. Trace elements show that the item is composed of pure silver, which, as many of you know, has a higher melting point than most other precious metals, such as gold.” Rachel turned to the projection shining on the large canvas screen. A crumpled shape that looked like it had once been a cross was spread to nearly twenty feet tall across the screen, when in reality, it was barely four inches long. “Experts have come to the conclusion that the accident occurred only over a century ago, but the item itself was carried in each of the Crusades by one of King Richard’s knights, Sir Richter Morris.”

In the audience, a hand slowly rose above the crowd. “Miss Masika? I’ve heard rumors that some of these items were used in occult rituals and ceremonies a long time ago, and that several of the artifacts in this museum were connected to the unusual events of a hundred and fifty years ago in the Essendre manor-house.”

“That…is unconfirmed,” Rachel answered, brushing her hair from in front of her glasses with an elegant sweep of her hand. “And, more importantly, based in nothing but speculation. All evidence gathered from the so-called ‘evil’ site has shown that it was neither demonic activity, nor an act of God, that destroyed the manor and the surrounding area. The most logical explaination, and the one most sensible historians go by, is that a meteor fell and struck the home, much like at Tunguska in the early part of the 1900’s.”

“But the reports of murders and disappearances nearly tripled in the months prior to the events at the manor,” the student pressed. “The Vatican even recently released a long-hidden document written by a London priest and exorcist, revealing the presence of demons and vampires in England at that time. I’m sure you remember the huge stink the Human Advancement League made about it back in the 70’s.”

Rachel suppressed the urge to sigh. Of course she remembered it; she had based most of her college thesis paper on the HAL events. The Human Advancement League was supposedly a group of people who believed in the purity of the human race and shunned organized religions, but most people-Rachel included-saw them as little more than a cult of zealots and lunatics who had an overwhelming desire for attention. HAL had laid siege to the Vatican in 1977 to protest their “death grip” on humanity, and demanded the Pope release sensitive documents regarding the Church’s secret activities. Most of the information the Church fed to HAL was a bunch of carefully crafted lies and deceptions; any first-year history student would have been able to discern that much. But to the madmen at HAL, this information was like a juicy steak thrown to a pack of hungry lions. The information was devoured, and pumped for years into their newsletters as anti-religion propaganda. Several of the documents revealed the existence of a priest who went only by the moniker “J.M.”, who, according to his story, assisted a group of angels in the elimination of what he claimed to be the Devil. Regardless of whether or not the story is true, the priest certainly did know how to tell an exciting story.

“Yes, well…I wouldn’t put much faith in anything the Human Advancement League says or claims. The members of HAL are quite dangerous and quite insane.” Rachel removed her glasses, and neatly tucked them into her shirt pocket. “The true historian is a person who can look at facts objectively, and not be blinded by personal beliefs. Faith is a wonderful thing, but being blinded by it is dangerous. If you truly desire to put so much nonsense into your research, I believe there is a professor at the university who teaches Theology you may be interested in.”

A brief snicker rolled through the crowd. Rachel looked down at the podium, and released her grip when she saw she was grasping it hard enough to turn her knuckles white. Most of what she had just said, she didn’t even believe herself. She was an artificer; a collector of rare and magical items, most of which had some kind of religious history behind them. Of course, admitting as much to the public would put her in the insane asylum for sure, and giving an actual demonstration would cause more public controversy than she thought she would like to deal with. For now, it was just better that she denied the existence of magic and the occult. Besides, events like the one a hundred and fifty years ago were exceptionally rare. The chance of all that nonsense happening again-especially in her time-seemed laughably small.

“Yes. That will be enough spoken of that,” she said with a curt nod. “Let’s move on. Next slide, please.”

Categories
Seal of Azazel

EPILOGUE: END OF DARKNESS

The soft rain smoothed away the stark damage done to the stone and iron manor, softening the marks of scorch and brimstone and feeding the remaining blood-drenched trees and grasses with the tears of heaven. Thunder groaned quietly in the background, a bass rumble more felt than heard. Bleak gray light only revealed the smallest fraction of the damage, the twisted gates and the gaping crevasse and crumbled rock, dissolving bodies and fading scales and feathers.

A dark figure sat on the rim of a cracked and warped fountain, part of which had been liquefied by a terrible heat and then hardened once more, like a child’s slide. The figure sat silently, twirling a black feather wrought with white between her thumb and forefinger, her other white hand clenched so hard that pale veins throbbed between bone and flesh. Dark crimson hair, now black with water, formed a veil over a pale and bloodied face that was smooth yet deeply afflicted by some unseen pain. Bloody wings hung from its shoulders, tensed and slick, and rivulets coursed down strange armor. A deep red stain tainted all the figure touched, barely diluted by the thickening drizzle.

The figure leaned foreword, metal cuffs around its wrists rattling like the chains of an abandoned prisoner. The hand relaxed and loosened, dropping a shining vermilion scale that disintegrated before it hit the ground. The last of an ancient, misbegotten evil to hold on the world. So they thought. The feather spun between the soft, delicate fingers, flicking droplets onto the armor, making trails of rust-colored liquid streak slowly across pearly flesh. Dark, opaque eyes cast restlessly around the ruins of the courtyard, touching all but seeing nothing, drawn inward in some deep inspection.

A whisper ran across the staccato silence of falling rain. Time to start again… They would be seriously weakened on their return. The figure stood and shimmered, becoming a tall, handsome man dressed in black, untouched by the rain. He strode across the muddy earth, his footsteps smoking slightly and fading. The gaping crack within the earth shuddered slightly and began to close, slowly, unrelentingly… It creaked as deep bedrock met and were mated once more in a fusion of infernal heat, sealing away the worst of the wound.

Broken corpses strewn about the grounds flashed simultaneously into brief azure flames and died away in mere seconds, leaving not even traces of ash to mark their final passing. Energy of death, despair, and even the platinum gleams of hope washed into the ground, beginning to restore the damage wrought.

The striking rhythm of hooves beat into the deserted sanctum of the devastated yard. “Ho, are you all right, milord? What has happened here?”

The man turned, somewhat startled, and replied in a mournful tone. “It seems that an earth-quake has struck my dear Aunt’s home, man. No one survived- they may have been burned alive. A terrible thing. I am here to take stock of my inheritance.”

It was drizzling rain across the moors, and throughout London, two days after the fateful encounter with Azazel. Old wounds became fresh memories, and the newer fatigue of battle had not worn off, even after all this time. Johnathon looked around at those he was surrounded by – Rishta, Azrael and Raphael… the only members of the highest Heavenly Host left after the battle. The Fallen Belial was also present, he noticed, although there was a much more soothing feeling flowing from him, as opposed to the dark hostility he had sensed during their first encounter, at Moloch’s manor. Autumn had arrived as well, which was a bit of a surprise. He had expected her to try and put this all behind her as soon as possible. He should have known better, though; facing Azazel before both he and Samael could showed a strong will and courage that Johnathon himself hoped to possess one day. She was far stronger than he had given her credit for.

The cold, lonely graveyard caused Johnathon to pause for a moment, as he kept down a cold shiver. He was luckier than he deserved. It should have been him that went on, not Samael. Regardless, he was gone. And he still had one last duty to perform.

“Lord, we ask of You on this terrible day to take into Your arms the lives and souls of your children,” Johnathon began, clasping his Bible close to his heart as he stared down at the empty casket before him. With no body for Samael, a traditional last rites ceremony was the best they could do. He didn’t suppose the angels would be buried in such a filthy place as beneath the ground, either. “The shining beings of hope and prosperity You created, in the image of all that was true and noble: Michael, Gabriel, Raziel, Uriel, Adriel, Tabris, and Beelzebub.” True, the last was once of the Fallen, but they had been an angel, once. They deserved to be listed amongst those he once called allies. “Were it not for the sacrifices of the brave Heavenly Host, the shining world You created would be forever lost. We pray for their souls, wherever they may journey.”

Johnathon swallowed, and paused a moment before continuing. “Also, Lord, we ask that You take in another, Samael Norse, the man who gave his life and his freedom in order to see to it that the rest of humanity could live in peace. He is a hero, Lord. A true and honest hero. May he find rest, and salvation in Your kingdom.

“Blessed be all those present, and those that are not. Amen,” he finished, slowly crossing himself.
The group of mourners stepped away, and the two groundskeepers slowly lowered the wooden casket into the ground, muttered a quick prayer of their own, and began to slop the wet earth back into the hole it came from. Johnathon tucked his Bible away and exchanged uneasy glances with the others.

“Well. What do we do now?” he asked half-heartedly. “I suppose most of you shall be leaving. I don’t believe we will see each other again, either. For all our sakes, I hope you never have to return under such trying circumstances.”

Rishta had stood there quietly throughout the entire ceremony. She could not cry anymore, even when Michael’s name had been mentioned. There were no more tears left. The past two days, she had been locked in her room, preparing certain plans when not crying her eyes and heart out. She hadn’t left that room, kept the curtain’s drawn, and had stayed silent, not eating or drinking. Finally, only the funeral service had called her out.

Now, here she stood, dressed all in black. Ebony silk and lace fitted her perfectly, as she looked at the grave. It was so cold, so heartless. What was it like to be dead? To not experience the world as it was? To not have sunshine, rain, the wind, the earth, warmth, clothes, discussion, life..? It must be horrible. Or maybe it wasn’t… maybe it was heaven. She hated not knowing.

Hate. It had become a familiar emotion for her recently. Without Azazel, Michael would’ve been alive! ALL of them would’ve lived! But they were dead… everyone had to die… even angels. I thought it was supposed to end differently. The vision… God, if I had seen it, I would have known. I would have been able to stop it. But no, it’s all my fault… only my fault…
Her thoughts were interrupted by Johnathon speaking.

“I don’t know what we must do, but I for one am leaving England. I cannot stay here anymore.” Rishta was quiet as she spoke her first words in two days. She knew it would be somewhat of a shock to many people, but she remained quiet, not giving more information than she had to. She didn’t want to be followed.

Belial stayed away like an outsider, standing in the shade of an ancient tree. A dark, thick shadow covered him, his silver eyes shimmering darkly in his somber face. He was clad in black, elegantly leaning on a walking cane which was the Staff under another shape. He wore two black bands on his shoulder. The Necromancer listened to the service in silence, watching the rites. A comedy, maybe? Belial himself could not tell such. There were elements of use, but those very archangels could already tell what the humans strived to know and to learn. At least, Azrael could.

Belial’s eyes softened slightly. Azrael’s serious, calm face looked almost placid. He wondered what was going through her mind in that instant. Johnathon’s words didn’t move Belial a bit, since the Archdemon did not consider himself included in the question. Rishta spoke; Belial could smell the feelings of hate and questioning from Rishta without effort. Belial could understand the girl’s feelings quite well, but those related him inexorably to the path he had taken as a Fallen. Questioning, despair, hatred… Belial watched her without a word, his eyes suddenly sad. He would have spoken to her, but he’d be far from being opportune and he knew it.

Belial looked down and listened to the rhythmic sound of the shovel filling the grave. He had recovered most of his strength in the past days, yet he still was pale he would be able to follow Azrael to his final destination. The days he spent in a secluded bedroom at Rishta’s manor had been way too long. Belial clasped his hand on the handle of the cane, waiting for Azrael.

Azrael had again taken a human shape; a beautiful yet distant, solemn dark-haired woman with the night sky in her eyes. She kept a contemplative attitude, which was rather her usual; Azrael knew the path the souls follow and she herself was to deliver them to the next step in their existence: life, death; grave and womb. Azrael however had a different notion for that of Samael Norse but it was not the time to reveal… It was not the Time.

“I shall again go back to my duties”, she said in response to Johnathon’s words. “Eventually you will meet me again.” Rather ominous words coming from the Archangel of Death and Destruction, those could still hold a soothing meaning. “From those who’ll be judged, only Belial remains and I shall take him back with me.”
Azrael tilted her head, looking at Rishta. “The road for those who flee has but a bitter end”, she murmured. “You must allow yourself to heal, then face your sorrows and turn the memories of dear ones who accompanied you in the dark hours into cherished treasures.”

“I believe, for once, I agree with the Lady Rishta…” Autumn spoke softly, her hands clasped tightly together. Her feelings were much the same as Rishta’s, that deep feeling of despair and wonderment of why it all had to be this way. Though unlike the angel, she had no hatred… not even for her husband. Despite all the horrors he put her through, demon or no, she only felt a cold detachment.

At her neck, laced with a gold chain was the ring. By Raziel’s wishes she took the ring and hadn’t let it go. Until the day Azrael came to take her own soul, she wouldn’t give it up. It along with the story would be passed to her children, along with a warning of dangers that may pass…
“I will be traveling to America. There is much to offer a modern woman in the states.” she smiled half heartedly. What Azrael spoke had much truth to it. She herself wasn’t sure if she was running away or not. Autumn just couldn’t stand the thought of staying in the Riktophen house, she had no memories there worth treasuring.

Raphael was standing alone by one side, a lone figure in the shadows. He leaned against the bare tree and was keeping unusually quiet, holding his golden cross in his hand. He listened to what everyone was saying and he became a little more sad. Everyone was leaving. Even Rishta and Autumn. Rishta had gotten a heavy blow after Michael’s death, but Raphael was quite sure he would see Michael again, soon.
Raphael tilted his head aside and said nothing. His words were all used two days ago.

Johnathon gave Azrael a half-hearted smile. “Only a short while ago, that would have worried me,” he said, looking up at the angel. “But now, after everything I’ve seen and done, your return signals nothing to me but the last great adventure. I have no fear of death, now. But don’t expect me to come quietly,” he added, flashing a quick grin.

His attention turned back to Autumn when she mentioned America. Perhaps it was best, that she move away from this place as soon as possible. And the farther away, the better. “With your permission, Miss R… ah… Autumn… I would like very much to come with you,” he said, smiling at her. “Of course, there’s still a bit of cleaning up to do here, but afterwards, I should like to join you. The worst is over, but I would feel better if I was to accompany you, just in case.”

Rishta stood there, silent – no more words to say after stating her position. She listened to Azrael’s words, but they did not affect her. Azrael did not understand – she had to leave! This place, London… it was filled with miseries. Miseries from ages past, and ages to follow. Besides, the plans have been made, and she was stubborn enough to follow them. Looking once more at the grave, Rishta’s face showed no expression. Blankly, she stared, wondering once again: why? Why did Michael die? Why did Azazel rise? Why did the rebirth ceremony work? Why? Why… why?
Sighing to herself, Rishta turned and saw both Raphael and Belial standing to the side, away from the rest. Raphael had lost Adriel – his sweetheart. Just like she had lost Michael. Her Michael. Quietly, she stepped away from the group.

Autumn gave a weak smile at Johnathon Morris. The foolish man that faced hell itself against the devil’s son with an army of angel’s at his side. Could she wish for any better friend or protector? Perhaps my guardian angel… In another life, Raziel… maybe in a another life. “Let us go then Mr. Morris.” Taking his arm, she gave one look back at the cemetery and the grave faces of those she had come to trust. Yes, In another life…

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER FORTY-THREE: THE GREATEST SACRIFICE

Inferno. Rishta, along with Azrael and Belial had flown from what was Heaven compared to this. Red and Black, all smashed together to form this picture. The sound of War filled her ears, so that to be heard, one had to shout. The clash of metal upon metal, screams of the victims of the blades, the shouts of triumph from the victors from a single round… all merged together into one continuous blast.
And then she saw him, Azazel. This demon was no demon… he was a dragon! A monster! Lashing out at everything, proud with himself, vain and horrible. She could see no good that could come from his being. She could only conclude that he had been born this way, and so there was nothing that could be changed. He was unreachable. And damned.

Sword in hand, Rishta was stunned to see Michael in the grips of Azazel, bathing in his own crimson blood. Oh no… With Belial, she attempted to free him, her heart heavy. God, it wasn’t supposed to end like this… it wasn’t supposed to end without… no…
When Belial managed to free Rishta gave a small sigh of relief. As soon as she heard him say “Drag him away!” she did. Holding him by the shoulders, so he was almost standing, Rishta pulled Michael and her away from the thing that was Azazel. No offense to whoever had created that portal behind Azazel, but she definitely did NOT want to be joining that dragon in there.

After a tugging Michael away, Rishta had managed to pull him to the throne, clear on the other side of the platform. Setting him down, she knelt by him, trying to see where to start. God, there is no way I can heal all this… but he can’t die… I’m so lost… Holding her hand over him, she began healing the wound, knowing there was no hope, but trying to go against the odds.

Then a roar reached her ears – turning, she saw that Azazel was being sucked into the portal, and he wasn’t happy. As the pillar swayed, Rishta held on to Michael, the newly formed cracks making her nervous of the platforms’ stability. The destruction of Moloch’s home… merciless. So much uncontrolled power. so much uncontrolled hate.
As Azazel made his final oath, Rishta shook her head. The power, this war… so many had died, and it was all because this man was so selfish! He couldn’t let Autumn go! He had to rule this world! Like every other power hungry HUMAN… and he thought he was better. Rishta shook her head sadly as he disappeared permeate. She pitied the fool.

Finally, the dawn arrived. Looking up to it, Rishta shook Michael urgently.
“Michael, Michael, oh dear god Michael please wake up! It’s Over!!! Azazel is gone!”

Raphael sighed. It was over. Finally. He turned, and gave chase to the fleeing demons. Many died under his sword, but most escaped. Some were simply being stepping stones to those who managed to flee from Raphael and the Armies. Raphael flew down slowly, his wings hurting. He went to Rishta and felt for Michael’s breathing.
“His Light is weak.” Raphael said, quoting Uriel surprisingly, “But I think he will live through…”

“I think he will live through…”
Michael could have laughed and called Raphael a fool, but he had no will left for the trivial things. He could feel Rishta drawing on her energy and trying to draw his own to heal his wounds, but there was nothing left in him to give. His life’s blood drained away to a deep pool on the cold stone. Saving him from being sealed in the abyss along with Azazel was futile, he knew what was coming.

Rishta gave a small smile as Michael woke up, even in this state to her he was… radiant, shining, handsome… perfect. Who would’ve guessed it? Rishta thought to herself. Or… maybe it had been the obvious answer all along. The park, at home, even from their first meeting. But when had she fallen in love with him? Was she in love? Confusion. Michael.
He couldn’t leave her. For a moment she thought she was going to break down. The mere thought of another loved one leaving her was almost too much. But then he spoke.

His eyes cracked open just a fraction as Michael’s blood streaked gaze looked on at Rishta. She was weary from battle, concerned… so beautiful… He didn’t want to leave, but Azrael was looming close. It was almost time.
“Rishta…” his voice came out in a painful rasp. No trace of strength, just a breathless whisper. “I was… going to.. steal a kiss…” His lips curled up in a weak smile. “I think… I need a bath…” he laughed, only to choke on coughed up blood.
“French cookie… I love you…”

Tearing up and smiling affectionately at him, Rishta was stunned to feel her cheeks grow warm at his suggestion. But he was so quiet, so helpless sounding. It made her heart shatter. Each breath caused pain, each moment was excruciating.
Laughing with him softly for the barest second, Rishta forced a quiet smile upon her face. How will I smile when he is gone though… How will I go on? He can’t die… he can’t leave me… Immersed in this thought, a tear slipped past her guard, and slid past her cheek. Choking, Rishta looked at him sharply, stunned senseless for a moment. He… he loved her? He actually… she had never really known that as a pure fact. Suspicions, maybe, but fact? She whispered softly when she spoke, so she wouldn’t cause him further pain.
“Michael… I… I love you too Michael…” Crying freely now, Rishta wiped them away, looking at him helplessly. Nervous, yet knowing that she didn’t have a century, she bent down a bit hesitantly, and touched her lips with his.

The soft pressure of her lips was like heaven. He didn’t dare try to move less the spell of the moment be shattered along with his body. Did she say she loved him too? He couldn’t remember. All he felt was her lips against his.
He wasn’t sure how he managed it, but all he wanted was one last touch. One last look at his beautiful angel. Michael raised his hand, brushing a bloodied finger across a crystal tear, leaving a streak of crimson along her cheek. Please… where ever I go… let me be with her again… all I want is to be with her… His hand dropped back to his side, and he closed his eyes. A contented smile across his lips. “Another day… cookie…” And he drifted away.

Raphael listened to the two for a while. Then things got really cheesy and Raphael could hear the air wheezing in Michael’s lungs. Shaking his head, Raphael stood up and walked away slowly, joining Azrael and the rest. He looked around, but could not sense out Adriel. Raphael went to Azrael and asked in a tired voice, “Where’s Adriel…?” Raphael paused and hesitated, before letting his question out slowly, a question he long wanted to ask Azrael. “If you might… let out a little news… How is my sister now…? Has she been reborn anywhere…? Is she well…?”

Belial was exhausted; he loss of blood was getting to him again; the pain and dizziness were intense. He had wasted his last energies dealing with Azazel to free Michael and still the Archangel had the nerve to die. This was the second time Belial had saved Michael from a trip to the Abyss – that made him wonder what had been the use. Belial walked out of the pool of blood and stayed away from the group; he let himself fall on his knees and sat on the platform floor despite it could crumble into the chasm any minute. He just needed to sit and breathe. Belial brushed his hand past his forehead and leaned against the Staff in silence holding it by his side, trying to catch his breath.

Samael Norse’s sacrifice had impressed him. Belial was amazed the human’s repentance had been so sincere, so brave. In silence, Belial wondered if he’d be able to feel like that some time. Probably not, he guessed. He was there because of Azrael; because of his love for her he needed to continue next to her and to achieve that he would go to great lengths. He knew from now on he’d be an outcast in any case, and he still had to see if the Council of the Order would allow him to continue to exist. Belial was absorbed in thought.

How come I was so careless to leave the ring on Lorant’s hand before performing the Ritual…?, he wondered. However, if I would have been more careful… Azazel would’ve not been defeated today. Monstrous child… but a child in the end. Belial narrowed his eyes, staring down at the floor immerse in his dark thoughts. The wind shook his feathers and the hair that fell on his silver eyes.

Azrael looked at Raphael; the wind ruffled her ebony feathers as he cold gaze met Raphael’s. “You should see about your broken wings”, she coolly said, “for Azazel’s scales are poisonous. I cannot reveal to you where Zeruel’s soul is; the Order keeps secret the destiny of the souls. If it is in your destiny to ever meet her again, you will; you might, sooner or later”, she cryptically replied. Azrael then turned to Michael. Filos flashed in her hand. Azrael slashed down in a swift motion and collected the soul of the Archangel.

“I cannot grant or reveal if you’ll ever meet again”, she told Rishta. “But let there be hope.” Azrael put the soul in her wings.
“Adriel might not refuse her destiny twice”, Azrael murmured, looking at the pit.

She turned to Autumn and Johnathon Morris. “Your courage has saved the world of Man”, she told them. “You have been of help; a keystone to this victory. Let your courage endure, for it’s not over yet.” The grim Archangel nodded, her wings swaying slightly. “Let there be hope in your hearts.”

Rishta cried silently to herself as Michael touched her face, for the last time. God, she loved him. And he had had to die. Watching him, relaxing… dying… It took her heart and ripped it right out. “Yes, another day… my love…” Then he died.
Paralyzed to the spot, Rishta could only keep brushing the hair out of Michael’s face. He looked so peaceful, so perfect. God, how could he be dead? Sure, Azrael had taken his soul… but he didn’t look dead. Nodding silently, Rishta moved away. She couldn’t torture herself with him anymore.
“Why…?”

Raphael grew silent as he heard what Azrael said. It was already bad enough she refused to reveal anything about Zeruel current condition and now she was telling him something which hurt him badly. Raphael walked dumbly to the edge of the pit where he had sensed Azrael looking. His legs lost energy and he fell on his knees, his expression blank, and eyes of a complete loss. Adriel is dead, and Raphael felt like a complete failure. What has he been fighting so hard for earlier? He once fought hard but he couldn’t protect his sister. Tonight, he fought for the continued peaceful existence of humans, for his friends and Adriel. But now Azazel was gone, Adriel was dead too. It all felt so empty and meaningless to Raphael.

Tears brimmed in his blue eyes. Raphael wanted to shout out Adriel’s name, and wished she would answer him but Azrael will never be wrong. Raphael shut his eyes and muttered a silent prayer to all his dead friends, and to Zeruel and Adriel. Raphael stood up, and stared ahead. Yes, he will meet Adriel again. And when that time came, he would protect her at all costs, and not let her leave him again.
Without a farewell, Raphael took flight and disappeared.

The heavy crimson red clouds disappeared along with Azazel, the monstrous red dragon brimmed in fire. The Portal closed, the Abyss was sealed again. Above the night sky showed again all the beautiful stars Adriel had loved to watch with her two brothers in Ireland; scattered clouds seemed to announce the rain. Laying on her back in the edge of the pit, Adriel watched the constellations fade as dawn came nearer, making the skies look like a crystal gray surface filled with stardust. Tears silently flowed from her eyes, running on her pale cheeks. After the final explosion, countless angels and demons had died. She fell where she was on the edge of the chasm and was pushed back by the angels and demons desperately trying to scape from such a horrible death. Adriel had been knocked down, the demon sword still piercing her body. She laid on the ground damp in blood, a small patch of grass beneath her; the night was fading away and so was the angel.

Adriel tried to focus. She had still souls to deliver; she couldn’t afford to die now… but to choose was beyond her. “Bye, Adriel”, a voice murmured. Adriel tried to see who was talking to her but she couldn’t move. Leaning against a tree, an angel in blue robes and white armor smiled at her, drenched in blood. The angel smiled faintly. Adriel tried to smile but couldn’t. “Bye Annael”, she replied in a murmur. Annael’s wings shivered one last time, then the angel hung her head and passed away. Adriel’s tears blurred the world. I wish I could wait till the Dark One comes for us, she thought. A breeze carrying ashes and scattered sparks flow on Adriel, ruffling her feathers.
“Raphael… I’m sorry I can help you no more”, she murmured.

Raphael heard that clearly. The same clear voice. It was Adriel! Was she still alive? She sounded so weak! Raphael leapt and flew down into pit. The stench of burnt flesh and blood was thick in the air, and Raphael had a bit of trouble locating Adriel. Raphael was walking when he stumbled on someone’s feet. He fell, and the person was breathing. Raphael put his hand to the angel’s face, and felt for it. “Is this you… Adriel…?” Raphael asked, choking on his tears for Adriel breathing was irregular, and sounds like her windpipe has been blocked. He felt around, and touched the demon sword. Tears fell onto Adriel’s face. “Adriel… I’m so sorry…” Raphael wept, “I couldn’t protect you…”

Adriel shivered and weakly tried to move. Raphael was there? Adriel was not sure if he was real, but some warm drops fell on her face.
Adriel tried to speak. She needed a few moments to get enough air in her lungs to let out words.
“Don’t worry… about me, Raphael. Death… is a path we all must sometime walk…” Adriel tried to smile. “I am glad to know you are fine.”

Raphael could not take the sword out, it would just make Adriel die faster. He knew it was the only way to end her pain but he couldn’t do it. More tears rolled down his cheeks. “But I don’t want you to go….” Raphael moaned as he held Adriel’s hands which were getting a bit cold and a shudder went down Raphael’s spine.
“I want you to stay alive and be with me… don’t die…” Raphael wept. This death, he cannot accept.

Adriel smiled faintly. “You don’t need me anymore… You are more independent, emotionally stronger… You’ve got Zeruel’s gift… You’ve faced Beelzebub… and you’ve found someone to love.” Adriel slowly closed her eyes. “If I asked Azrael to delay my departure, it was because… I wanted to make sure you could live a happy life with Rishta.” Adriel made a pause and painfully took a deep breath so she could speak again.
“I wish you all the happiness… I know I was not Zed… but I just care for your well-being…” Adriel’s voice faded. “I tried…”

“What… what are you talking about?” Raphael sobbed like a little baby, “Over the years you have become more than a friend and sister to me…” Raphael’s tears couldn’t stop. He hadn’t cried this much ever since Zeruel’s death. This hurt so much. He felt like he was watching Zeruel dying all over again in front of him. “I know you are not Zed… but I don’t see you as her too… Zed is Zed, you are you… You cannot replace her, neither can she replace you… You are two separate beings altogether…” Raphael wept as he touched Adriel’s face, “I don’t want Rishta… I just want you…”

Adriel tried to focus. She coughed and her wings trembled slightly and her eyes filled.
“You are just used to me, Raphael”, she murmured. “We’ve shared such a long time together…” She tried to reach up and touch his face, but she missed, reaching only air. A silver feather was tangled in her sleeve. “Tell me you will be fine…”

“I will not be fine without you!” Raphael yelled, as more tears fell. “I don’t want you to leave me. It’s more than just being used to you… Don’t you understand…?” Raphael buried his face at Adriel’s neck. .”… I… I… I love you… Adriel… I don’t want you to die… or to leave me… ever… please..?” Raphael muttered softly.

Adriel had a shiver and a faint blush colored her pale cheeks at Raphael’s reaction. Tears rolled down her cheeks again and her throat closed; Adriel was deeply touched but the emotion difficult her breathing. She tried to take in some air and weakly touched Raphael’s hair as he leaned on her.
.”.. love me…?” Adriel faintly smiled, emotion washing over her like the tide. “You love… me…?” Adriel weakly ran her fingers through his hair.
“I thought… you loved Rishta”, Adriel slowly murmured. “I thought…” Adriel’s voice trailed off.

Adriel’s voice faded, and Raphael could hear nor sense her any longer. Her hand fell to her side and Raphael knew she was gone. Slowly, Raphael pulled the big ugly sword out of her and dumped it aside. Blood oozed out , black with demonic poison. Raphael hugged Adriel’s limp body and cried silently to himself, burying his face into her neck. Her body had already went cold. Raphael carried Adriel over to a single tree where Annael lie dead. He placed Adriel there, propped her up against the tree. Raphael pulled flowers out of thin air and placed them on her lap. He kissed Adriel’s cheek.
“Goodbye… Adriel…” Raphael muttered, “We will meet again….”
It took Raphael a moment to pull himself away and turns back. He spreads his six wings and flew away, away into the night sky, to nowhere else… As Raphael left, a single leaf of the tree turned gold and broke off from the branch, falling and landing onto Adriel’s hands on her lap as if it was a drop of tear.

Johnathon sat on the cold, unforgiving rock, slumped against the side of the onyx throne. The past few moments had felt like he was in a trance, watching himself from outside his body as he somehow managed to bring up enough strength to hold back the Son of Lucifer. Bringing along the Silver Herald was not a bad idea. Johnathon lifted the two silver crosses from around his neck, and stared at them as they rested in his palm, as if he expected them to jump up and explain to him everything that had just happened.

All around him, his extra senses were picking up the tell-tale signals of death, on a monumental scale. Hundreds upon hundreds of creatures, angels and demons alike, were annihilated like so many ants before a tidal wave. He could sense the passing of the angel Adriel, and also, that of Michael. He wanted to thank Michael for the daring rescue earlier, too.

So much death. So much suffering. And it was all his fault. No kind words from Azrael could help him, now. Azazel’s terrible words still rang fresh in his mind: Moloch’s taint is all over you! To hers I add this curse: You’ll never be trusted; havoc and hell will follow you and your soul will never rest! The taint of Evil will never leave your House and it’ll endure in your bloodline! Forever damned, only in Hell your soul will find its final destination!

A cold shiver ran up Johnathon’s spine. Never before in the likes of human, were, or vampire had he ever heard such a vicious curse. Worst of all, Azazel had the power to make good on his threat. And he was right about Moloch; the taint of that witch was still present. He could feel it, like a black spot in the middle of his soul. Even Uriel, the healer, could not fully remove it from him. It was a burden he had to carry alone, now. Azazel was gone, but in the end, Johnathon realized that he still did not win.

Johnathon pressed the Silver Herald against his chest, leaned his head back against the throne, and closed his eyes. “To my children, and the children of each new generation,” he whispered, “I offer the meager blessings of a fool, hand-in-hand with the curses of Hell. Though I will bear the brunt of this horror, I pray that your lives will be rich, full, and happy. May you live in a safer, happier world, where there is no need for us, and our legacy of brooding darkness withers away, turning to naught but dust in the wind.”

If she were any other woman, she would have lost her senses that night. But she wasn’t a normal lady. Not a gentle soul who’s only care was impressing the socialites of London. She was a woman who took pictures of the unnatural, married to the son of the devil, and friend to angels. No, insanity would have been a blessing.

Simple tears cascaded down her cheeks as she clutched the cool gold band tightly in her hands. She lied calling it a symbol of love to convince Azazel to give it to her. It was indeed a symbol, but not of love. It was a painful reminder on this story, one she would not let herself forget.

Autumn looked over her shoulder, hearing Johnathon’s grave oath to his future descendants. He wished them peace, free of the horror. But she wished them knowledge. She would pass the story of the Angels and the Fallen to her own children so they might learn the painful lessons and not be doomed to repeat them.

Belial watched the small group without a word. He was impressed by the humans achievement, but he still doubted they could scape from Azazel a second time for like Azazel he was aware this second Seal was far weaker than the original one, done by the Heavenly Host. Humans lives were short and they all would die soon… in less than 70 years, they’d all be gone. Would they rely on their descendants to face the horror that was Azazel? Belial had an unwilling snicker that died quickly. He, the Necromancer of Auld himself had known the unspeakable fear of being in the brink of destruction, despite all his power by Lucifer’s Son’s hand. At least the ring had been taken from Azazel and with it, much of his power.

Belial struggled to get back on his feet. He could sense many of his legionaries had died, but he was glad their souls had not been destroyed. To what end had he lured them to? Belial’s shoulders sank slightly. He held a tight grip on the Staff till he finally managed to get back on his feet, his wings slightly open for balance.
“What will you do with the ring?”, he asked Autumn. “He must never get it again… for he’ll recover most of the power he lost.” Belial bit his lip. “I… fused your husband’s soul to Azazel’s. He won’t forget you, but Lorant’s feelings won’t be in Azazel till he wears the ring again.”

Eyeing Belial carefully, not sure if he were trust worthy or not, Autumn considered the severity of his words. “It will be my family’s responsibility to keep it safe, then. It will not touch his hands again…” Heaven forbid her descendants ever faced such a terrible foe as Azazel, the Warlord of the Abyss.

Raziel… Autumn looked down at the ashes that were once Raziel, soaked in the blood of the angel Michael. Never had she met a man that was so kind, someone that could stir her soul. Did she love him? She wasn’t a romantic, or dreamed of such impossible things… but… Raziel… Oh, I wish… Autumn shook her head softly. Her children would know of her husband and the angels that protected their world. Be it by word or by writing. This night would be honored as well as those that died…

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER FORTY-TWO: AZAZEL DRAGON

“How dare you stand there and judge me!” Michael shouted, jumping back and away from Azazel. “You, the spawn of the beings who split all of Creation in half! The absolute antithesis of everything the angels stand for! And you have the nerve to call me a coward?!” Michael raised an open hand to Azazel, and with only a thought, dozens of bursts of fire and light flew from his palm, crashing into the ground at Azazel’s feet; into the walls of the chasm; down into the legions of the Abyss; anything or anyone that connected with a fireball was reduced to cinders. Except, much to Michael’s annoyance, Azazel. He was parrying with his sword, but every explosion kicked him back half an inch closer to the edge. The moment he lost his footing, Michael would strike.

“Come on, demon! Show me your great power!” Michael said, his voice dripping with confidence. “You’re not so strong now that you’re not picking on someone weaker than you, are you? I guess all your ‘power’ is nothing but show! You’re just another bottom-feeding brainless spawn of the pit, just like all the other worthless slime from Hell!”

Azazel was surprised that the Archangel’s fury was pushing him backwards, able to face his initial attack; Michael had not showed this might in the Abbey. Something was strangely different, but Azazel couldn’t yet make out exactly what was wrong. The Demon quickly tried a different approach as he skillfully deflected and dodged the attacks of the holy weapon.

“I dare to because I am absolute antithesis of everything the angels stand for and thus I can easily read your signs! I can see into your soul. I’ve spoken nothing but the truth”, Azazel replied with an unpleasant grin. “I can see your fear responsibility. Countless souls have been lost while you made up your mind – if you have made up your mind. You’re not here for them. You are here for yourself, because you hate me“, Azazel triumphantly said. “In your soul you think you are a coward – ah I can tell you you are right!” Azazel called upon his Voice power to weaken the Archangel’s self-confidence as he maneuvered with Lufernatia, the blows he deflected slowly getting him closer to the edge of the cliff. Azazel laughed with infernal mirth.

“I almost like you, Michael!”, he yelled. “You have the seed of the Fall within your soul!”
Azazel affirmed his goat foot on the edge of the platform of rock; his eyes blazed like carbuncles from the pits of Hell. Suddenly, six huge dragon wings sprouted from Azazel’s left side among the golden feathery wings.
“Is this your best, Michael?”, he asked with a horrible grin. “Show me your dark side.” Six dragon wings sprouted from Azazel’s right side; the Demon had now twelve wings in a shocking mix of angel and dragon natures. Azazel’s dragon claw began to glow with red resplendence, parrying the archangel attacks with Lufernatia. He flapped his wings, causing an infernal wind filled with red sparks. Azazel’s voice weighed on the spirits. “Show me your hatred”, he hissed. “Show me the real Michael.”

Michael’s heart sank as Azazel shrugged off his assault, and only came back stronger, taunting him all the while. Whatever advantage he had before probably just went clear out the window.
But… I’m not beaten yet! “You can summon up all the strength you want!” Michael growled, putting the fact that Ezurewrath was slowly getting heavier into the back of his mind. “Your twisted words have no effect on me! Regardless of whether I’m fighting for myself, for my friends, or for the world, the result is the same–you’ll still be dead!”

Ezurewrath blazed like a dying star, and in a flash of fire and light, Michael surrounded himself in a veil of fire that stuck to his armor like a second skin. Every last inch of the angel was covered in rolling flame, save for his eyes, which blazed a pure, blinding white. Six great wings of light spread from his back; two were his, but the other four were merely projections of the power he was putting out. The strain of all this was almost too much for him to bear, but if he got in a lucky shot, this would all be over before it could really begin.
“Here I am, Azazel! The one chosen to lead the Heavenly Host, and all of its absolute power!” Ezurewrath sliced through the air, and waves of fire and light tore between the distance between Michael and Azazel.

Azazel howled in dark joy. Autumn was clear out of his mind, along with Morris and their frail lives as Azazel flapped his twelve wings, causing a foul infernal wind. Sparks and burning sulfur rained on the platform, which seemed to sway and creak under the power of the fighters. Michael’s last blow was effectively blocked by Azazel, but the impulse sent the Demon off the platform. Momentaneously blinded by the Light, Azazel fell out of sight with an explosion of ashes and sparks, his wings of gold and fire ominously spread.

A deep growl shook the cliff and the walls of live rock in the abyss below. The Armies fell silent. A huge shadow grew on the side of the cliff, tossing a black nightmarish form on the heavy red clouds streaked by magicks in the skies above. The shadow moved. The Armies from the Abyss still did not utter a sound, their silence frightening. A heavy claw took grip of the edge from which Azazel fell; large, scaled in red with black sharp talons. A shriek ran across the chasm and the Abyss came to life again with the howls and battle cries of the Armies as a huge form climbed back onto the platform. It was a huge red dragon; a nightmarish creature with twelve leathery wings and a long arched neck, baring sword-long teeth in a horrible grin. The tail lopped around the rock and crushed it like wet sand, sparks and fire coming out of his very scales; the strong wind caused by his wings of the size of the sails of a war ship was hot, damp as in blood and the tears of the damned. Fire came out of his mouth as Azazel spit flames onto the archangel surrounded by Light.

Azazel rose his long neck and arched it to look down at the archangel before him, a sly and cunning look in his bronze eyes. Lufernatia had turned into a beam of dark resplendence in his right claw; his claws were similar to the hands of men.
“Let us see who will live to see the dawn”, the dragon said with a malevolent snigger.

Michael took an uneasy step backwards as he stared up at the dragon. Was this the extent of Azazel’s true power? How could he stand up to something like that? It wasn’t possible! That beast was huge, and its demonic aura was almost overwhelming. It could probably take on a dozen angels!

Off in the distance, though, a spark of hope caught Michael’s attention. He could feel several powerful forces moving his way, and in front was… Raphael! Azrael and the others were probably not very far behind.
“I guess I was wrong,” he whispered to himself, hanging his head and letting Ezurewrath droop in his hand. “I’m not that strong; not as strong as all of us. I should have depended more on you guys. Raziel, Gabriel, Uriel… and now you’re gone. I can’t avoid taking the blame for your deaths anymore. It was my fault, for not doing what I should have done a long time ago!”

Michael looked back up at Azazel, and narrowed his burning eyes at the dragon. “I guess I should thank you! You’re the one who showed me my true self, Azazel!” he shouted. “The lord of the abyss gave me the courage to face my fears! Pretty ironic, if you ask me.”
Ezurewrath flared up again, and Michael’s white aura burned brightly amidst Azazel’s darkness. “I came here looking for death, but now I know I have to live! Everybody is depending on me, and I could never rest if I failed them now!” Taking off like a fiery comet, Michael launched himself at the dragon. Ezurewrath had extended to nearly three times its normal length, leaving a burning trail as Michael swung it at the dragon.

Azazel laughed so hard at the Archangel’s words he nearly lost his balance. The dragon roared triumphantly. The poison of his Voice had filtered through Michael’s mind to the very core; the bitterness in the Archangel’s words was a warm wine in his veins. “Yes, it’s your fault”, he said with fake, mocking compassion. “Truly and only yours…” Azazel arched his neck dodging Ezurewrath in the last second; the dragon’s teeth flashed like a bundle of curve swords as he suddenly launched forward, snapping at Michael. Ezurewrath pierced through one of the leathery wings in its fall; Azazel howled, losing his grip on Michael’s body, part of the robes torn by the teeth. Blood spurted as the teeth came out from Michael’s body. Azazel shook his head, knocking Michael to the side; Lufernatia flashed, a black light in the dragon’s hand piercing through Michael’s body. Azazel growled a spell and pushed the demonic weapon further, pinning Michael to the ground.
“If you want to know”, the dragon softly said with a sinister voice, “the ashes on which you lay are Raziel’s.”

Raphael came flying over with his Armies sticking tightly behind, and he shook his head violently. Angel blood was in the air. From the vibes it gave out, Raphael could tell the blood belonged to Michael, of all people. “Are you dead yet, Michael?!” Raphael yelled as he flew down swiftly towards the edged aura, when he sensed another person. Probably on top of Michael.

“Azazel…!” Raphael whispered as he summoned Strife into his hands, gripping it on the hilt tightly as he cut down through the air. The blade glowed with a powerful golden light as it neared Azazel, burning his flesh.
“Leave him alone!!!” Raphael shouted as he attempted to cut Azazel’s draconic form. The two side of the Armies went into a fierce war against each another, leaving their leaders to their personal fight. Down in the abyss, screaming and sickening sounds could be heard.

White hot piercing pain washed over Michael’s body, numbing the senses until all that was left was a dark fathomless pit of nothing. The sinister sound of Azazel’s revelation of Raziel’s death was only a faint echo of words amongst the sea of anguish. There was no light, no energy left as blood ran from his wounds soaking his clothing and the ground beneath him. It was ironic now, as he just found the will to live, the will to fight… that his life would be taken in such a quick blow.

With the dumbness of his impending death came a new crystal clear clarity. He could feel Raphael’s presence as if he could reach out and touch him. The overbearing feel of Azazel’s power was weighing over him like a wet blanket. The humans that had come so foolishly conducting a spell…

A spell…

Michael could not bring himself to open his eyes as the sudden twinge of hope leaped at him. Azazel had not sense the power of the spell? He was so distracted by Michael, he had not realized those humans were recreating a seal to send him back to the abyss! But now, Michael was down… pinned to the ground like a speared fish. Raphael was blind and would not distract him for long. The human’s spell was only halfway completed, the energies collecting and solidifying out of sight in to a new portal. They only need time!

Michael’s arms slowly raised as he wrapped his blood soaked fingers around the obsidian light of Lufernatia. He pulled with every ounce of strength and determination he could wretch from his body, sliding the dark beam inch by inch until he was completely free. Movement took such an intense concentration, Michael could only bring himself to his knees before opening his eyes to gaze on hell’s beast.
“Is that… all you have… Azazel…” his taunt came out in short ragged breaths, but his voice remained strong. “If I must die… you will die with me!”

Azazel sneered at Michael’s threatening words. He pulled his sword and swished his tail, annoyed at the few angels hovering and zooming over his head; the dragon spit fire at the angels, his thick scales protecting him from most of the blows. The tail cracked like a whip, taking down one of the angels and tossing him down into the fiery chasm where the Armies clashed.

“Die with you…”, he mockingly hissed. “Do I look like I want to share your miserable fate? I have better aspirations than following after your footsteps of failure”, Azazel replied, lashing out at the archangel with his sharp claws. Azazel flourished Lufernatia and flapped his wings to force the angels to recede. Raphael had the lead; Azazel noticed him a little off. Stupid Beelzebub, Azazel thought. “Off, disgusting creature!”, he yelled at Raphael. Azazel’s claws tore into Michael’s flesh. Azazel spit fire at Raphael, his eyes blazing in hatred.

“Veiling Light!” Raphael shouted as the flames flew towards him. Raphael halted in midair as the bright gold light of Strife forms an energy shield, blocking the fire off. “Is this all the power you have, kid?!” Raphael shouted, refusing to call Azazel by the name, “Show me what you’ve got!” Raphael took a quick dive and hacked at the dragon hands which were crushing Michael in their locked embrace.

Azazel’s vigilant eye followed Raphael’s dive and as soon as the archangel got in front of the dragon’s face to stab the claw that held Michael, he nonchalantly spit a fireball at Raphael as he was uncovered. Azazel moved his fingers slightly, blood from the stab fading into his crimson scales. Azazel clenched his teeth.
“Shoo”, the dragon said with a sneer. He flapped his wings and crouched down, getting ready to take flight. His wings were enormous; the wind caused by the flapping wings sent a rain of fire and sparks into his enemies’ eyes.

Raphael was taken by surprise as the fireball came flying. Raphael tilted his head over and it missed his cheek narrowly, though the hotness of it burned his flesh. Raphael drew a Sun Sigil above him with Strife, and it enlarged as it went down on Azazel’s body, wrapping him and trapping him. With a fierce burst of energy, Raphael flew up into the air and charged downwards, stabbing Strife into Azazel’s feet, embedding deep into the ground.

Azazel narrowed his eyes, pulling his hand off Strife without apparent pain. The dragon opened his mighty wings and stretched out the magical net, chanting an infernal spell; the net ripped in various points; Azazel leapt and dropped his bleeding claw on Michael, trapping him beneath. The platform shook with the tremendous weight; Azazel chanted the second verse of the spell, fire coming out of his very scales; the net began to fade slowly. Azazel ripped the net and freed his wings to an extent, the net steadily fading.
Azazel’s fingers slowly closed on Michael, his blood choking the archangel. The dragon roared and spit fire at Raphael in a cold, calculated attack.

Raphael grunted as he dived down again, hitting Azazel’s claw off Michael with all his strength before blocking Azazel’s path to Michael. He raised his arm, and stabbed Strife into Azazel’s dragon neck. Raphael shouted as he pushed it in further, and the holy energy burst in Azazel with a bright golden light, strong enough to burn Azazel and to even fend off his fire.

Azrael sent the Legions of Death and Destruction to attack from the peripheria and to the epicenter of the Battle in an attempt to keep the Demons into the chasm, to force them back into the Abyss. The Legions quickly took their positions, the angels chanting a spell to call upon the Elements of the human world, calling upon the Dark side of the Moon on which Azrael’s Name was written.
Azrael led a small group including Rishta and Belial over the chasm and near the platform where Raphael and Azazel fought. Michael was nowhere to be seen, but his faint presence revealed he was under the bleeding claw of the monster. Azrael and her group circled, looking for Azazel’s weakest points to center their attack while Raphael distracted him.

Azazel swatted at Raphael as he stabbed his neck, picking him up like a bug by the wings. The huge beast smashed the archangel to the ground and cracked his neck moving his head to the sides. This made Azazel lean his front weight on Michael, who barely moved under his claw, soaked in the demon’s poisonous blood.
“Annoying kid“, the dragon mockingly said, alluding to Raphael’s girlie face. “You could hurt yourself!” Azazel arched his neck to look at him and suddenly noticed Raphael was blind in the eerie way his eyes followed after his movements. Azazel burst out laughing. “Some fighter you are!”, he mockingly hissed, blood running in a faint stream to his scaly chest. “The Blind Avenger?” Azazel spit fire at him aiming close to Raphael but not straight at him in obvious mockery.

“Get your facts right, kid,” Raphael gasped as he held onto Strife with his right hand tightly, “I’m OLDER than you, existing in this world even before your father and mother started messing around and gave birth to YOU – the hellspawn!” Raphael coughed up a little blood as he flew away from Azazel. He held onto his chest for a while, checking his wounds before slashing through the air, the golden energies hitting onto Azazel all over his body from everywhere.
“A blind avenger is better than a person with good eyes but unable to tell who’s the real kid!” Raphael yelled as he sent a large beam of energy towards Azazel’s face.

Azazel rose his wings with the remains of the net and quickly used a spell of Will to revert it using it as a shield to Raphael’s first attack; he arched his neck and let out fire in a continuous flow, crashing against Raphael’s attack and steadily pushing the Light energy back. Yet his mouth was busy, Azazel’s dark and heavy snigger lingered in the air full of sparks, ashes and burning sulfur. The match of energies slowly favored Azazel, his fire going closer and closer to Raphael as the Light receded. Michael was barely visible under Azazel’s heavy, huge claw.

Johnathon peeked around the edge of the giant throne. “Good God, he’s turned into a dragon!” he said breathlessly. “A dragon, Samael! A fire-breathing, winged, scaly red dragon!”

“I know, I know!” Samael shot back, grasping a silver dagger and red crystal tightly in his hands.

“We can’t fight that… even the angels cannot beat it back.” Johnathon sank back behind the throne, and leaned against it, staring blankly into the sky. “We pushed him too far, Samael. Maybe, as a mere devil, we could have beaten him… but now…”

Samael paused for a moment, and looked up at Johnathon. As much as Samael himself had changed in the past few days, he suspected his old rival had changed even more. He had come out here without hesitation, something Samael himself would have had to debate over with himself. And for what? For his friends? For a pat on the back? “Johnathon, I beg of you, take whatever shreds of courage you have left, and stay with me here! I… I cannot do this alone.”

“I have no courage or bravery!” Johnathon snapped, shooting Samael a murderous stare. “Even I don’t know why I’m out here! I thought it was because it’s my job, because I have a responsibility to the world… but now, it all seems so futile.” He looked back around the throne, at Michael’s bloody body, as it lay beneath the claws of the dragon. “Despair is always more powerful than hope, Samael. That is why the darkness is so strong. Hope is fleeting, but resentment and bitterness are forever.”

Samael set his red crystal down, and used his free hand to smack Johnathon cleanly across the face. “You fool! You stupid, small-minded idiot! You, of all people, coming here knowing you could die… you have more courage than you know! Besides,” he continued, picking up his gem again, “you led me out here, and so help me, I am not going to give my life in vain! Do you still possess the Silver Herald?”

Johnathon blinked. Give his life? What did he mean by that? “Silver Herald…? Yes, I do,” he replied, reaching into his pocket and removing a pair of silver crosses bound together by a golden chain. “The Silver Herald of Saint George, the knight who slew the great dragon. Do you honestly expect me to use this?”

“You must,” Samael said, closing his eyes. “Because I will be busy.”
Samael began to chant, and the pages of his grimoire shone with an infernal light. Johnathon recognized this spell–it was the gate spell Samael had used during their battle that started this whole mess. Was he going to summon more demons to battle Azazel? What good was that going to do?
Several tense moments passed, and when Samael was finished, both of the relics he was holding were shining brightly, splitting even the darkness of the Abyss. “Come on, Morris,” Samael said, standing up. “It’s time to finish this.”

Swallowing his gut-churning fear, Johnathon nodded, and followed Samael calmly around the throne. Much to his regret, the dragon was still standing there, swatting at Raphael while Michael lay in a bloody heap amongst a pile of ashes.

“Viator!” Samael called out. The red stone activated, and lifted out of the doctor’s open hand. Spinning wildly in the air for a moment, it eventually came to a halt, and pointed directly over Azazel’s shoulder. With another command word, a thin red stream of light flew from the stone, and shot past the dragon.

“Samael! You fool! You missed!” Johnathon shouted.

Before Samael could even get a retort out, the very air began to shimmer, like the surface of a pond disturbed by a stone. Lightning flew across the sky, and the earth around the manor began to heave as reality twisted itself around Samael’s arcane spell. With a deafening roar, the sky split open behind the dragon, revealing a churning black abyss, dark enough to make even Azazel’s blackness look bright in comparison.
“Now, Morris!” Samael barked. “Use the Silver Herald!”

Johnathon nodded, and slung the golden cord around his neck. Almost immediately, he could feel the boundless power of the relic flowing through him, like a torrential river. A strong, deep voice called to him, filling his panicked mind with centuries of knowledge and wisdom. His fears melted like ice on a hot anvil as the Silver Herald ignited his hands in a burning white fire. He started this whole mess… and now, by God, he was going to finish it!

“My fist is the divine breath!” he shouted, finally grabbing the dragon’s attention. “Hear me, demon, and know that it was a Morris who would signal your defeat! Now, take your resentment, your hatred, and all of your anger back into the dark corners of Hell where it belongs!”
In a sudden flare of light, the Silver Heralds activated, throwing a great wave of pure force at Azazel, slamming into him hard enough to almost knock him out of the sky. Even combined with Raphael’s power, though, it was still not enough. Azazel’s will was second to none, and in this, his hour of triumph, he would not be denied!

“It’s…it’s not working…!” Johnathon choked out, leaning into the force to keep it from pushing him over onto his back. “Samael! It’s not…”

“I know,” Samael replied, a surprising amount of calm in his voice. “That is why I always have a backup plan.” He looked down at the silver knife in his hands, and smiled as it shone brightly. “Morris… Johnathon… whatever you do with your life, do not surrender it to another. Make it your own.”
For the first time in as long as he could remember, Samael actually smiled at him. Not a cold, menacing smirk of revenge… but a pure, warm smile.

“Samael, what in Heaven’s name are you–Samael!!” Johnathon was too late. Samael took his sorcerous weapon by the hilt, and charged Azazel head-on. Human, angel and demon alike all watched in amazement as Samael uttered one final command word, shattering the knife like it was made of glass. A blazing golden curtain of light surrounded Samael as he vaulted clear up to the dragon, and slammed himself against it like a sledgehammer. With Johnathon’s Silver Herald, Raphael’s own power, and Samael’s spell all working together, Azazel started to be pushed back into the gate of the abyss.

Azrael quickly sent order to the Legions to leave the skies at once, leading her small group onto the platform. Azrael sent Rishta and Belial to get Michael back and she herself went to Raphael’s aid, standing beside him and sending a beam of Dark Holy power onto Azazel’s body, giving a mighty push to the aid of Raphael and Samael. Debris and rock flew as Azazel tried to take hold of the platform, roaring madly as the clashing energies forced his fire to recede and his heavy massive body was being pushed back and off the ground, into the cold hole in the skies.

Belial was amazed at this development. A shiver ran up his spine as he identified the elements of the Spell the humans were casting and his surprise was greater when he saw Samael Norse was involved – and charging against Azazel! Belial had not believed the man would carry out what he had told him he would when Belial freed his soul; the Fallen’s eyes widened in wonder. The Gate opened in the skies awaited like a black mouth trying to suck the world into its bottomless Dark; Belial summoned the Scythe and ran to Azazel’s claw followed by Rishta; he rose the Scythe and hit. Blood spurted from Azazel’s scales but the dragon was not opening his fingers – he was going to drag Michael along with him!

Azazel roared, still trying to push the energies back with his fire. A small form clashed against him, carrying a source of Holy energies that made the demon lose his balance and causing his body to be pushed up into the air; Azazel howled madly and flapped his wings, fiercely resisting. Something pierced his hand where he held Michael, but he refused to open his scaly fingers. Azazel was losing his match with the archangels, demonic and angelic forces colliding; the unknown attacker beneath him with the holy artifact exasperated the demon’s fury.
His power was supposed to be greater! He was supposed to be easily able to crush down them all! Azazel lashed out with tail and talons, inexorably pushed back into a cold void that suddenly appeared behind him. Azazel took in a deep breath and continued to try to push the holy rays back with his hellish fire. Sparks flew around him.

Belial was frustrated; he nearly slipped on the pool of blood and he knew his own might was not fully regained; he would not be able to cut through the demon’s bones and Michael would be dragged into the Abyss! Belial himself could be dragged there any minute along with Azazel, Rishta and Michael. Belial turned the Scythe into the Staff and pushed the top of the Staff of Simara, squeezing it between Michael and Azazel’s fingers. I do hope this works… Belial summoned the Light within him and canalized it with the Staff inside Azazel’s fist. Beams of Light came out between the demon’s fingers and through the large gash Strife had made. Azazel’s fingers refused to open. Belial enhanced his power till his senses went numb. Finally, the dragon loosened his grip. Belial forced the fingers open with the Staff and Michael’s body dropped to the ground. “Drag him away, Rishta!”, Belial yelled in the ravaging winds. “Drag him away!”

Raphael flew away before the fire caught him right on his face. He turned, and could sense Azrael and the rest coming to his aid. There was another source of energy too, mixing with his power. It took Raphael a moment to realize who it was. The humans! They were creating a seal to reseal Azazel and his Armies! Raphael grunted. All they need is time, and Raphael decided he would supply them with it by distracting Azazel a little bit longer.
Raphael raised Strife and a loud gold light exploded in Azazel’s thick scaly skin as he cut down in the air swiftly, adding his power source to what Azazel was trying to repel currently.
“Awake, Michael!” Raphael cried out as he flew above Azazel and stabbed Strife into Azazel’s head with all his force, attempting to split it open. Sealing Azazel would be good, but killing him would be better.

Azazel roared as the holy beams crashed onto his nuzzle, his fire useless; he was already up into the air, lashing out to take a hold of the Mortal Plane; in the moment he was forced to let go of Michael’s body, the Demon let out a blood-curdling howl. Azazel felt a holy weapon trying to penetrate his skull; the dragon curled up, bringing his tail to the front and cracked it like a whip, hitting a feathery target; Azazel was partially blinded by the energies and the attack. The tail cracked again, sending Raphael and Strife flying. “Off, kid!”, he growled in arrogance. Azazel lashed out in an attempt to get Michael again. “Where are you, Michael? Hiding again…?” Azazel’s sinister voice had a malevolent mirth to it.

Azazel’s claws cut through the air. “Blasted spawn of Heaven!” Azazel reached out blindly, being steadily pushed into the cold bottomless pit open behind him. “I won’t go back there without you!” Azazel sensed a source of the Holy energies pushing him and swiftly lashed at it, capturing a writhing living form. The Demon closed his fingers tightly. Azazel realized this source of Holy energies was definitely a human. A human! How and when had humans got onto his Sanctórum?

Autumn! Where was she?! In the Demon’s feverish mind, the red-haired woman seemed strangely distant, lacking the importance she used to have. Azazel felt the ominous presence of the Portal behind him, almost there already. The Demon howled. How and why had the Portal so suddenly appeared? He could sense it now.
The Portal was humans’ work! If so, maybe it could be reverted. Azazel summoned Lufernatia in a final attempt to take as many lives as possible before being cast back into the Abyss; he tried to unwind the spell he could not find a way and the Portal seemed to open further to swallow him. Azazel flapped his wings. “Miserable Humans!!! I’ll wipe you off the face of the World!!!”

Raphael would not give up, though the tail had caught his upper arm, and it stung from pain as if he had been burnt by fire. “You are the Child of Lucifer, who used to be a most respected angel!” Raphael shouted as he flew to Azazel’s head once again, and sat on him firmly. Raphael removed his necklace from his neck and cast a spell. The chain enlarged and became longer. Raphael flung it around Azazel’s neck, choking him. The angelic forces of the chain and cross burns Azazel. Raphael held onto the chain with one hand as if reining a horse, while his other hand summoned Strife, and stabbed into Azazel’s skull again.

“Return to the inferno of Hell!!!” Raphael shouted as he sent Strife deeper. When Azazel was pushed down low enough, Raphael removed his chain and Strife.
“LIGHT!!!” Raphael cried out as he smashed Azazel’s head with Strife heavily with his golden light, pushing him down further. Before flying off, Raphael gave Azazel a hard kick. “Back to your home!!!” Raphael cried, “Where you are born!!!”

The tail cracked like a swift whip, missing Raphael’s foot but winding around a feathery wings like a snake on a bird; Azazel crushed the bones in the archangel’s wings with all his hatred. The mighty muscles of the gigantic beast’s neck went larger with anger, bursting the chain open; Lufernatia flashed with black light, the energy reducing what was left of Moloch’s house to dust. Azazel howled, the sum of all hatred and anger under the skies in his blood-curdling voice; his eyes blazed like fallen stars, blood running down the twisted dragon’s face. Azazel flapped his huge wings; Lufernatia’s black fire hit the cliff; a large crack ran on the onyx-like surface, bursting the energies of the sigils on the summoning ground and causing the platform to sway dangerously.

“Why not come along, kid?”, Azazel sinisterly said; Lufernatia’s black fire hit the chasm, increasing the burning flames onto the Hellgate that lay beneath. You and all your damned brethren!”, he howled. “All humans will be destroyed, I’ll make sure of that!” “Specially you…!”, he growled, spotting Johnathon on the platform; Azazel clutched his claw holding Samael. “Moloch’s taint is all over you! To hers I add this curse: You’ll never be trusted; havoc and hell will follow you and your soul will never rest! The taint of Evil will never leave your House and it’ll endure in your bloodline! Forever damned, only in Hell your soul will find its final destination!” Azazel laughed, a mix of hatred and madness. “Your friend will precede you into Hell!”

A beam of Dark hit Azazel’s tail from Azrael’s sword; the Demon’s howl made the stones vibe and crack open as he lost his grip on Raphael. The archangel fell, away from Azazel’s reach. “I DAMN YOU ALL!!!”, he shouted as he Portal sucked him in with his last prey. Azazel arched his long neck and cast a cunning look at Autumn, catching a glimpse of her fiery auburn hair.

Then it clicked. Somehow Azazel finally linked the loss of the ring with the drop in his power; how that woman only came to him by the ring and by the ring she was again a face in the crowd. Meaningless woman now? No. He’d have both of them back.
“I’ve not forgotten my oath, dear, he hissed. I have sworn over the object you treasure I’ll come back to you.” The Portal’s gravitation caught Azazel, swallowing him. There was a large thunder, as if a crack had split the Heavens in half. The red clouds swirled and were sucked in, then the Portal seemed to ripple like an image in the dark waters of a pond in a large implosion. The Portal was gone and with it, Azazel and Samael.

The Hell Gate down the chasm spit a column of fire to the night sky, consuming demons and angels alike; the armies for both parties shot off the chasm to escape a horrible death; many demons ran into the Night and the angels could not stop their flee. Upon the departure of its Master and the Sealing, the Hellgate slowly imploded. The Abyss was again sealed. The heavy clouds streaked by magicks were gone, revealing a crystal-like night sky, gray in the prelude of dawn. A shy beam of golden light appeared in the horizon. The Night had come to an end.

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER FORTY-ONE: PLAYING THE HERO