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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

After falling some distance Azazel briskly flapped his wings, catching air and flying back on the platform. The army of demons roared and cried out strange words, some of them daring to hover over the mass of hellish creatures. Wide-eyed in fury, Azazel darted to the spot where he stood earlier but he discovered the archangel was gone with his prey. Azazel sought the area with his demonic senses but there was no avail. He landed on the spot; the demon’s wings shook in frustration and he stomped his foot on the ground, causing a tremor and the breaking of some sigils, whose powers formed a shimmer of stardust at Azazel’s feet.

Azazel howled in anger and frustration, shooting dark beams of energy at random targets as he did in a dangerous stress-relieving spree. After some terrifying seconds in which the remains of Moloch’s house lost a whole wing and the Armies from the Abyss roared, Azazel fell silent. Azrael had showed him the deepest fear in his soul; Azazel had believed no one knew about it but him. This angered and frustrated him, but it also made him confused, for he was now strongly aware that there were things about the secrets held by the Angelic Host he didn’t know of.

Azazel’s wings hung lifelessly to the ground. He turned around with a frown not caring that his long gold feathers brushed against the stone floor; with the heavy metallic sound of his armor clicking with every step, he headed to the onyx throne where Autumn was sat, her auburn hair blazing in the hellish lights. Like a frustrated youth, Azazel rubbed his eyes wet in blood and tears from the damage inflicted by the holy energies and knelt down before Autumn, impulsively resting on her lap. His huge gold wings seemed a strange oniric blanket, covering him, her legs and part of the floor.
“Nasty little angels”, he growled into the silky fabric of her dress. “They annoy me… I will destroy them all!

Raziel’s sudden death pained Autumn more than she could imagine, striking a deep cord within her soul. There was a strange calm that washed over her, no longer a fear. Just a cold determination and a seething anger. So many years of her life were taken from her by this man and her mother. Now it wasn’t just her life being destroyed, it was the lives of people she had come to care deeply for.

Azrael’s sudden appearance surprised her, and only served to anger her more. Were they all going to come one by one to meet a torturous death at the hands of Azazel? However she didn’t wait for him attack, or even for him to finish his ranting speeches. Azrael immediately projected something… Autumn wasn’t quite sure, but it startled her husband so that he stumbled backwards off the cliffs.
Remember Raziel’s words. were all that she said before disappearing with Belial in tow.
It was a few brief seconds before she realized what she meant. The ring…?

Azazel returned, sulking to her as if he were a scolded child, laying his head in her lap. Autumn got a glimpse of gold on his finger. The wedding ring…? Using her new found anger to bend towards her will, she boldly stroked through the dark locks of his hair and lay her hand on his. If the ring was the key, she would have to take it. But it would take delicacy and charm to avoid her husband’s violent suspicions. “I am sure you will, husband.” There was no trace of fright in her voice now, only an unnerving calm. She almost surprised herself how well she hid her fear. “You shouldn’t think any more of them. They only bring you grief…” Her fingers lightly brushed over the gold band on his ring finger.

Azazel had a small shiver as Autumn ran her fingers through his hair and touched his hand. He wanted her to be like this; he did long for her affections… but somehow he also knew that wasn’t her normal reaction. Azazel snuggled against her, but his muscles were tense, as if he expected her to lash out any minute so he’d have to jerk back.
He waited, but nothing happened. He stayed there, still suspicious at her new demeanor like the wolf in the fable. “I must think about them if I am to defeat them”, he murmured. “I will rule over the world of man and you could have anything you want…” Azazel softly touched her fingers.

It was a strange feeling, as if she were detached from her body and watching the scene from afar. “Anything I want?” Anything she wanted. As if she wanted the world and everyone in it laid bloodied at her feet. Many grotesque image flittered through her mind, only to be replaced with that same blankness she desperately needed to continue with her ruse.

“Everything has always been for you, husband. What I want holds little meaning.” It was the truth, always had been the truth while Lorant Riktophen had been in the picture. It was her duty as a wife to fulfill his wishes. But the rules of matrimony didn’t have in mind an unholy union such as this. She twisted the gold band on his finger as if she were unconsciously doing so.
Autumn stared down softly at his face, not quite able to hide her stricken expression as she looked at him. She quickly spoke to give a misleading meaning to it. “If you are going to battle, then you must. But I would be heartbroken if you lost your wedding ring in the fray. It is a symbol of us…”

Azazel slowly closed his hand around her fingers, listening to her almost absently. He heard the armies down the cliff and the crepitant sound of the hellish fires whose unholy lights tossed strange shadows into the thick, reddish clouds in the pale night sky, but Autumn’s voice has an unusual charm; a strange magic. Azazel relaxed slightly yet his muscles were still tense, ready to jerk back.

“What you want holds a meaning”, he slowly said. Azazel bit his lip. He did not intend to share the power unless it were convenient for him; perhaps this wife he had would be pleased with a power of her own. Like all humans do. Humans… Azazel bit his lip till a drop of blood appeared on it. Damnable Belial and his Book were momentaneously out of reach – Autumn should last the ages; Azazel would not risk losing her soul! His eyes blazed with infernal fire. “The ring…?” Azazel looked up at her face; he frowned slightly. “I won’t lose it… I can promise you that”, he slowly murmured, touching her cheek.

Autumn didn’t recoil, merely gave him the look she often times seen women give their husbands when they made promises they couldn’t keep. She had little to no experience in such things, but only hoped her observations of people gave her what she needed to be convincing. Laughing with a haughty sound, she gave an uneasy shrug. “Silly man. Perhaps you won’t loose it, but I don’t trust those angels not to lob off your hands and steal it.” Her tone changed to something more sympathetic. “They’re tried to take everything from you… haven’t they…” Autumn took her hands from his to cup his face with a soft caress. “It would be safer with me, husband. Close to my heart where nary a finger will soil it…”

Azazel’s eyes went wider at this development. He watched her as she cupped his face, a small shiver running up his spine at the soft touch of her fragile fingers. Azazel looked at her intently, listening to her. His first reaction would have been to keep the ring – who would dare to try and steal it from his very hand? But he did not wish her to change this new mood. Azazel watched and tried to figure out what to do. Would she change if he gave in to her wishes? Azazel had the vague impression that she would – after all, his mother had always been fickle and his father had known it well.
“But I can take care of it myself”, he softly objected. “See? I’ve not lost it, for it reminds me of you.” Azazel played with a lock of her hair.

She didn’t hide her disappointment, he could breath what ever meaning into it that he wished. He was so determined not to give up that ring, but she knew she needed to retrieve it, if at least to fulfill Raziel’s last wish. However she was at lost how to convince him, short of seduction, but she knew she couldn’t bare to carry it through.
The sudden hopelessness that she couldn’t even perform such a simple task over took her, and Autumn gave in to the tears that had threatened to shed since Lorant Riktophen once again haunted the earth. Let him see her weakness! She couldn’t stand the pressure any more. There was no torture left she couldn’t bare, and death would just be a sweet ending. Autumn pulled away from him, making no effort to wipe away the tears.

Azazel watched her with a blink in confusion, his feathers puffing lightly. He reached up to touch her face but he retrieved his hand before contact. Autumn was crying. She pulled away from him. Azazel was used to see people hopeless before him but this case was different. However, he still did not feel like giving up to her wishes over his own.
“What’s more important: the ring or me?”, he asked in a soft, low voice. “You said the ring is a symbol of us – well, I am here, right now. There’s no need to cry…” Azazel cast her a sideways look.
“Unless you’re not really interested in me.” Azazel rose to his feet. “I guess the angels have spoken ill of me. I would not be surprised.” He folded his wings around his body and waited.

She scoffed harshly, allowing herself to gain control over her sobs. “I’ve never heard a kind word spoken of you, husband.” The tears didn’t stop, but she could feel that anger towards him once again. She was almost hoping her retorts would stir him in to a rage and end this horrible night, but she knew when to hold back. “But I am no angel. I am your wife!” Autumn stood from the onyx throne, her arms like steel bands at her side, tears still streaming down her face. If he could be so infallible, she was determined to one up his stubbornness. “You promise me the world, yet you can not grant me one simple request! What must I do to gain your trust?” Her gaze fell to the cliffs beyond him. “Should I fling myself into the fires of your abyss to please you?” Autumn stormed past him straight towards the edge. Determined to do just that!

Azazel cast her a skeptical look. “You won’t survive if you jump”, he emphatically said. “You can’t… fly…” Azazel eyed her as she continued on her way to the edge of the cliff. Azazel felt like running after her, but his own stubbornness and his need to get his way pinned his feet to the ground.
“Autumn!”, he angrily hissed as she didn’t stop. “Are you defying me?!” Azazel bit his lip nervously but still didn’t move. His wings rose instinctively as if ready to take off.

Autumn stopped as she reached the cliff, looking down only to see flames and shadow. It would be an endless fall before she ever reached the bottom. Precariously perched on the edge, she turned around to face him equally as determined as he to have her way. Be it death or taking the ring, she was going to have her way. “Do you not defy me, refusing to grant my one and only wish? Forcing me to take such dire lengths to prove myself worthy of your trust?” Autumn found it ironic she had to take such pains to prove her worth to a man that she would betray. A man that would give no second thought to taking her life the minute she proved to be useless. She took a step backwards, one foot half hanging over the edge. “Will you grant me my only request, husband…?”

Azazel watched her with a blink. He couldn’t believe how daring and stubborn she was – it was strange she’d want to die for a simple ring. Azazel didn’t want her to die but he resisted the idea of giving in to her wishes. After all…
Would she really jump? Azazel was mischievously curious now. He rubbed his eyes slightly; by now his eyes had got better and the annoying bleeding had stopped.
“I don’t know”, Azazel lazily declared. He cast her an annoyed, sideways look. “I think you are overreacting, Autumn. For a one and only wish, it’s a strange choice you’ve taken.”

Samael flinched as a raven flew overhead. Accursed, evil birds, he thought bitterly. It was an ill omen. There would be death tonight the likes of which no living being had ever seen.
“Johnathon!” the doctor hissed, being careful not to raise his voice. “You foolish boy, Johnathon, where have you gone?”
He rounded the next corner, and nearly stepped into oblivion. The elegant manor suddenly ended in a sharp drop into the abyss! Standing at the edge, though, was the man he had been searching for. “There you are!” Samael snapped. “You could have gotten killed! What were you thinking, coming all the way out here? We were supposed to wait!”

“I cannot wait any longer,” Johnathon replied, setting down the sack with Samael’s book in it. “Take this, and do whatever you need to do. I’m going to the top of that platform.”
Johnathon turned his attention to one of the elegant suits of armor inside the manor. Throwing aside the metal gauntlets, he picked the worn sword up, and hefted it in his hands. It was heavier than it looked.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Samael muttered breathlessly. “You can’t face that… that monster all by yourself!”

“I don’t have to. The angels are coming. I can feel it,” Johnathon said, sliding the nicked blade into his belt.
/p>

Samael snorted in obvious disapproval. “Well, your courage is laudable, even if it is mostly stupid bravado. But all the bravery in the world won’t give you wings, Morris. How do you plan on getting up there? There are no paths, and no relic or spell either of us have will make you fly that far.”

“Then I will have to do it the hard way,” Johnathon answered.
Taking off in a sudden sprint, Johnathon dashed towards the edge of the manor, and jumped off the edge. For a moment, he seemed to hang in the air, suspended by a thread as he looked down, and suddenly became aware of what he was jumping into. He could see the armies of Hell below, cheering and bellowing at their master far above. Then, much to his brief yet sudden regret, he began to fall.
Johnathon’s hands reflexively wrapped around the first protruding stone that they came across as he dropped alongside the tall stone tower. His shoulder and elbow popped painfully as his rapid descent came to a sudden halt. The young occultist hung for a moment, a bit stunned from everything he had just done. Johnathon looked up; Samael was looking back down at him, shaking his head and muttering something to himself. He refused to look the way he had been going a moment before. Taking a deep breath, Johnathon reached up with his free hand, and grabbed hold of the next rock in the rising tower, and began his slow climb upwards.

The heat of the surrounding abyss floated up like a dense fog. The fabric of her clothing felt damp and sticky from perspiration against her skin, giving a momentary distraction for her focus. Taking a single breath was a struggle in the thick suffocating heat. Autumn hesitated gauging his reactions. He was impossible to read, impossible to decide what he could be thinking. At one point he looked as if he would stop her, the next it was as if he wanted her to jump. It would be a leap of faith. Something she didn’t think she had anymore…

“Overreacting or not, it is my wish and you have made you choice.” Autumn took in a deep breath and stepped backwards, allowing herself to fall.
Only the briefest of thoughts crossed her mind as she fell. It feeling as if time itself had stopped and she was only floating through the air, suspended. The faint memory of Raziel flying her to safety flittered through her head. It seemed so distant, as if it happened a decade ago and not just a few mere days…

.”…!” Azazel ‘s eyes went wide open as Autumn fell from the cliff. Azazel ran to the edge, then stopped, watching her fall.
It was a curious thought, but he noticed she was falling faster than a demon would. Azazel hesitated. She had openly defied him; didn’t she deserve a painful death? Autumn was falling like a stone, the armies roaring below. Azazel snorted at the sight. “Stubborn woman!”, he hissed. He motioned to jump after her, then stopped.

“Damn… ”
Azazel dived down after Autumn. With his wings folded close to his body, the demon plummeted down at terrible speed, then opened his wings to stop his fall once he maneuvered to get below her, catching her in mid fall. Azazel frowned and hissed through his teeth as he flew up, back to the platform with Autumn in his arms.
Azazel landed, folding his wings on his back; he felt like flinging Autumn back with better aim into the Gate of Hell but he placed her on the throne instead. Azazel cast her a cold glance filled with displeasure.

“You are crazy. I don’t even know why I married you!” Azazel thought over his own words and shook his head, annoyed. “A ring is all you want?! It’s ridiculous! I have offered you… anything your imagination could conceive and you insult me with such lack of ambition!” Azazel’s eyes flashed.
“Very well”, he angrily muttered. “Women are hard to content. You want the ring? That’s okay, then. I’ll give you the ring – but stop performing those stunts. At least till I get Belial’s book.”

Autumn was momentarily stunned in to silence. It only took seconds for the fall and the catch… she hadn’t even expected him to come after her. Despite her mixed feelings of being alive, she didn’t hide her pleasure in knowing she could have the ring. Once having it, she wasn’t quite sure what she would do with it. But she would keep it in her possession as long as she possibly could.
Azazel didn’t give her the ring immediately, but chided her for her ‘crazy actions’. Autumn even doubted her own sanity, but still chose her replies carefully. “You are right husband… It is such an insignificant request. But what more could I ask for… I already have you.” She waited silently and patiently, not want to rush him or seem to eager for him to hand over the ring, despite her brash actions before. She wouldn’t want him to change his mind.

Azazel was not too happy at granting the ring to her; he turned the ring around his finger. Autumn’s words pleased him to an extent but he still was not sure about her sudden devotion to him. Azazel folded his wings at his back, watching his wife; there was a subdued air to her, but he could perceive she was waiting for him to keep his word. Azazel however needed further proof of her devotion. He frowned slightly.

“Well…”, he murmured. “Your wish is mine. I’ll give you the ring.” Azazel took her hand and helped her to get back on her feet, then took her in his arms to kiss her. Azazel held her against him but he suddenly perceived a presence coming near. It was not an angel, but a human. A human? It seemed highly unlikely, but yes the presence was coming closer and it was not unknown to him. Azazel caressed his wife’s hair and let go of her; he walked to the opposite edge of the platform and peered down.

“Oh Mister Morris”, he sardonically greeted the man who was climbing the cliff to the platform. “What an unexpected visitor. Do you need any assistance? You could have asked for it.” Azazel’s eyes blazed like infernal carbuncles as he muttered a spell. The dark winds around the platform blew upon Morris, pushing him up till tossing him onto the platform at some distance from Azazel with a sickening thud. The Demon turned to his wife.
“Friend of yours?”, he coldly asked.

Johnathon’s unnecessarily sarcastic remark was, thankfully, lost to him as Azazel’s sudden spell blew him the rest of the way up the tower, until he landed unceremoniously in front of the demon. Momentarily stunned, Johnathon pushed himself off the ground, and spat out the cloud of dust he had swallowed when he landed.

“I’ll thank you in advance, not to do me any more favors,” he said after a moment, shaking his head to clear the cobwebs inside. Johnathon glanced back over his shoulder for a moment; Samael had scurried for cover, it seemed. Good. He wouldn’t be able to do this without him. “It’s a bit upsetting that we must meet under such trying circumstances,” he continued, turning back to Azazel, “but as long as you plan on slaughtering innocents, killing angels, kidnapping defenseless women, and being a general pain in the neck, I’m afraid you will never be rid of me.”
Nice, he thought smugly. A poker face that would fool anyone, and tough words to boot. As long as he was going to die, he figured he’d go out with style.

“No friend of mine.” Autumn said coolly, adeptly hiding her surprise at seeing Mister Morris. She could imagine how her managed to get here, or even why he would put himself in so much danger. If an angel was so easily murdered by Azazel, surely a human wouldn’t stand a chance. She brushed her hands along her skirt to smooth it, before linking her arm with Azazel’s. She lifted her chin in a cool defiance, deeply regretting the harsh words she was going to have to throw at Johnathon Morris. But if she were going to ease her husbands distrustful mind and save the life of the foolish man, she was going to have to wound him as much as possible.

“I would appreciate it, Mister Morris, if you would show my husband respect.” She stared him directly in the eyes, willing her thoughts to him, knowing he couldn’t hear. “Anyone who does not follow my husband, has no right to life. I suggest you take your leave, if you do not wish to meet that fate.” Please, just leave so no one else has to die…

Azazel was quite surprised; the Demon watched his wife with a blink, then blinked again when she linked her arm with his. Azazel quickly got even with the events, placing his hand on hers, yet he was still quite amazed.
“Yes… my wife is right!”, Azazel said after a pause. He flashed a cocky smile. “You are certainly not welcome here, Mister Morris – and indeed you deserve death for being so imprudent.”

Azazel rose his hand and a fiery orb formed upon his open palm, flames bursting from it and tossing hellish lights on Autumn’s blazing hair; Azazel’s eyes shone malevolently, but he still wanted to play with the man’s despair before killing him with the orb of fire. He proudly held his wife’s arm as she stayed with her arm linked to his.
My wife has been clear, hasn’t she? Your life is about to end. Or maybe you would like to offer me your services?” Azazel smirked. “I might be kind enough to listen to your pleas.”

Johnathon didn’t flinch. That is, until he heard Autumn tell him to leave her husband alone. His jaw nearly hit the floor when she snaked her arms around his. Had she gone absolutely crackers?
“I don’t suppose I need to tell you this, but you do know who that is, right?” Johnathon asked, pointing to Azazel. “That is THE Ruler of the Planes of the Abyss. There is practically nothing and nobody in all of Creation that is more evil, twisted, and filled with hate than this man here. I mean, you can see wh–”

Azazel’s hand began to burn with hellfire. Johnathon sighed dejectedly. “Well, I don’t suppose there’s much accounting for other people’s tastes,” he mumbled.
“Honestly! A Morris in service of the powers of darkness!” he announced, reaching into his jacket. “Absurd! Preposterous! Unheard of! I would sooner tear my own flesh from my bones before I would bow to you, Son of the Morning Star! Behold!” Johnathon removed a chain of rosary beads from his coat, and wrapped them carefully around his wrist. This was something he definitely did not want to lose. “The Lightning Beads of St. Augustine. I see your fire, demon, and raise you the power of the storm!”

Azazel watched Johnathon with a malevolent air, a dark mirth and mockery showing in his blazing eyes. The orb of fire floated on his palm, dancing flames of infernal light. Azazel’s lip curled into a smirk full of evil and disdain, yet it was evident the Demon was darkly amused.
“How flattering”, he said in sarcasm. “Your praising overwhelms me.” Azazel let out a heavy snigger that quickly evolved into laughter, venomous and evil.

“I won’t deny you are right, Mister Morris.” Azazel’s aura rose around Autumn and he, a sphere of flames with the couple as center as the aura nearly became a physical force forming a shield, the sigils at Johnathon’s feet coming into a sickly life. “I am the Warlord – I will rule your World like I rule the Abyss. My power has no comparison – all will bow to me.”

Azazel released the orb of fire, which shot at Johnathon in a curve, spinning around him. The orb unwound into a wire of fire, spinning around the man and quickly closing more with every turn, closer to him by the second like a live cage that shrinks to crush the prisoner.
“I’ll take your suggestion”, Azazel darkly said. “Your flesh will be torn from your bones… if you refuse to serve me.”

Johnathon flinched back as the fire grew closer. This was certainly unexpected. Oh, well… it was his fault, for underestimating a being who was wise in the ways of war back when humans were young.
“Clever! I must admit, everything I have seen of you makes you worthy of the title ‘Warlord’,” Johnathon shouted. “But I have a few tricks of my own, demon!” Reaching into his pocket, Johnathon brandished a glass vial of clear, sparkling water, marked with an ornate cross. Muttering a prayer under his breath, he uncorked the lid, and splashed the water around himself in a circle. When it was completed, the water began to give off a bright silver-white glow, and halted the hellfire before it could crush Johnathon, though it was not dispelled. “I am not some mere bookworm to be trifled with!” Johnathon snapped. “I am a Morris, and we have been battling your kind for over a thousand years! I will not fall to you, monster!”
Phew…rather glad that worked…

Azazel was certainly not pleased at Johnathon’s deed; specially because his wife was there watching. Azazel flicked his hand and the swirling wire of fire cracked like a whip, ceasing in its whirling; the end of the fire whip closed around Johnathon’s ankle, sweeping him off his feet and raising him into the air. Azazel flicked his hand again, making the human spin suspended by the burning wire.
“I won’t waste my precious time dealing with you”, he hissed. “Go paying your respects to your ancestors in the pits of Hell!”
Azazel motioned to the Hell Gate, down the cliff. The whip released Johnathon in its spinning motion, sending him in a wide arc over the platform and into the chasm where the Armies awaited, roaring around the Hell Gate.

Coming from the sky like a falling star, Michael tore through the clouds and dropped down into the Abyss, snatching Johnathon’s hand as he flew by, and unleashing a torrent of white light and blazing fire into the ranks of the damned. Screams of pain and outrage echoed up the vast chasm, spilling out into the otherwise calm London evening. It would take some deft footwork on the part of the police to explain this entire mess.

Working his great wings, Michael rose up out of the pit, and approached the stone tower, dropping Johnathon back onto it with another painful thud. The look on his face was priceless. Something he’d remember for the few minutes he had left to live.
The angel hefted Ezurewrath in his hands, and brought it to bear before Azazel. The human looked shaken, but otherwise all right. It was better than he deserved, coming all the way out here like an idiot. “Some nemesis you’ve chosen, Azazel,” Michael said smugly, glancing at Johnathon. “Did Raziel give you too much trouble? Or how about your ex-lapdog, Belial? You two just aren’t getting along like you used to. Such a harsh time we live in… can’t trust anyone these days, can you?”

Azazel’s smile disappeared but a distinct flame of hatred came to life in his blazing bronze eyes; deep as the deepest pit of his realm, old as the World. Azazel clenched his teeth, his jaw set. His mighty wings rose on his back. Without replying to Michael yet and turning from him with apparent disdain, Azazel gently freed himself from Autumn’s grip. Her face was nearly gray in the dark resplendence of his fiery aura, her hair blazing like a red flame. Azazel coolly led her back to the onyx throne and had her sit on it.

“I will take care of this in a minute, then I’ll go back to you”, he muttered. “As I promised…” Azazel slowly removed the ring from his hand and gave it to his wife. “Keep this for me, Autumn. I swear over this object you treasure I’ll come back to you.”

Azazel kissed her cheek. He then returned to the spot and Lufernatia appeared in his hand, the whip in his other hand. He summoned his power and cast a cold look into the archangel’s soul.
“The so-called leader of the Heavenly Armies”, he disdainfully spoke. “Where are your Legions? You’ve never had the courage to get involved and allow them to get involved with you; what’s your leadership? You only crave to fight for personal reasons. You come here to fight the Ultimate Evil – your pride makes you think you alone can defeat Azazel the Warlord – and MY Legions.” Azazel laughed, the malevolent sound echoing in the chasm full of ravaging demons.

“You are not better than my father. I am better than both of you” – he triumphantly hissed. Azazel’s aura lit like a fallen sun, a red fire igniting the heavy clouds above them.
Azazel flourished his sword. He’d kill Michael with ease, he promised himself. His power was flowing freely, engulfing Michael’s white light…
Azazel however sensed something was wrong.
“Alone, you will be defeated”, he said. “Here you shall meet your doom.” Azazel shot a beam of dark energies to the Archangel.

“You’re as delusional as you are crazy!” Michael shot back. Ezurewrath swung upwards in a wide arc, parrying Azazel’s blast and sending it screaming into what remained of Moloch’s roof. “You haven’t got a chance against me, you spoiled brat, and I’ll reduce every last shred of your being to ashes to prove it!”
Michael charged, and Ezurewrath flashed with holy fire as he slashed, stabbed, thrust, and swung at Azazel, hitting only open air or the Lufernatia as he attacked. Unearthly metal crashed together as Michael pressed on with his attack; he even lifted off the ground a few feet, to try and get a height advantage.

“The souls of Raziel and Uriel are calling me!” Michael roared as fire flashed against fire. “They’re begging me for justice! Pleading with me to slice you in half and burn your rotten guts, Azazel!” Michael’s bright golden wings erupted into two swaths of blazing flame; so great was the force of his presence, the top of the stone tower began to crack. “There is no hope for you, in this world, or the next!”

Azazel was surprised – Michael was not as powerful in comparison to him! However he had deflected his attack with more ease than expected. Azazel did not let his guard down, blocking and dodging Michael’s attack; Azazel’s whip slid like a snake, winding around the archangel’s foot as Michael’s fury rained over Azazel.

“Ha! You sent the weaker to die before you, coward!” Azazel roared in laughter, suddenly pulling, making Michael lose balance and gaining some space to leap back, hit the ground with his goat hoof and taking the offensive, attacking Michael with ignited Lufernatia, shielding from side attacks with his whip. “Uriel was a weak girl, only a Healer! Raziel was a scholar, not a fighter! The Messenger was nothing but a boy in the Angelic Host! And where was their leader? Hiding, for sure! Raziel had more guts than you, yet I didn’t need much to burn him to a crisp!” The black ignited blade clashed against Michael’s sword, sending eerie lights and lightning around them all over the cliff. The Legions cried battle calls, their voices closer.

“You’re a fool.” Samael wheezed as he ‘appeared’ behind Johnathon. Azazel and Michael were entwined in a heated battle, the humans forgotten completely in the fray. Samael had a devil of a time climbing the jagged rock of the platform to follow after his foolhardy partner. He was breathing heavily still trying to catch his breath. Once his breath was steady he grabbed Johnathon by the shirt tails and dragged him off.

It took all of the self control Autumn had to resist screaming as Azazel knocked Johnathon from the cliff side. It was a bittersweet relief when Michael appeared and dropped him to safety. Her eyes were then so riveted to the battle between demon and angel she barely heard the whisper behind her.

Ms. Riktophen!” Samael hissed from behind, he and Johnathon hidden from sight by the massive onyx throne. “Morris and I require your help.. Don’t-” he interrupted as she tried to turn around to see him, “-turn around. It is very important that you warn us if the battle takes a turn for the worst.”

Autumn nodded slowly, a barely noticeable movement. “What are you planning to do?” she whispered over her shoulder. She could hear faint shuffles behind the ebony stone.

“Creating a seal to send Azazel back to hell where he belongs…”

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER FORTY: FURTHER IN TO DEATH

Beelzebub felt his energy flowing out of his body slowly, bit by bit. He pulled Hellswrath out, his head spinning. Holding Hellswrath in his available arm, Beelzebub staggered away but he fell after not long. The pain is spreading like a disease in him. Beelzebub moaned in pain as he crawled to stairs and leaned against the wall. Beelzebub stared at Gabriel’s body. A dying friend…? Are we even friends… after the Fall…? Our friendship broke… ever since you rejected Lucifer along with Michael and the rest… Beelzebub looked down at his useless arm and smiled in jest. Rejection…? Refusal…? I hate these two words…

Beelzebub struggled as he stood up. The war had started. He could sense Belial going weak, Azazel raising his forces and Moloch going crazy. All his past friends… who was going to survive? How many of them are going to survive tonight? If I die… will I ever be given a chance by Azrael… Probably not. I’m kind of detestable. But I can’t die yet… There is something else more important for me to do right now.

Standing up and holding onto Hellswrath tightly, Beelzebub left the manor with heavy footsteps. Beelzebub looked up into the dark sky and his eyes were fixed on the glowing wings which were flying nearer and nearer. Beelzebub smiled grimly as he raised up Hellswrath. Flames burst out and a loud clash of metals echoed.

Raphael gritted his teeth as Beelzebub blocked his attack easily. The flames were soft and it indicated something about Beelzebub’s current state. Raphael could feel the dim aura of his maimed arm by his side too. Raphael gave a silent prayer to Gabriel and swore vengeance on his behalf. He caught Beelzebub’s smile and Raphael was angered. How could he still smile at a time like this? Raphael could sense Gabriel’s horrible and painful death. Even if they were enemies, they are still old friends. Obviously Beelzebub had not made death easy for Gabriel.

“You killed my friend in MY name…” Raphael hissed as he pushed Strife down harder on Hellswrath with all his might, “This is an insult. A wound. A scar by you. Uriel’s and Gabriel’s death shall weigh on my shoulders from now on… but I will not let you go freely away with this…”

Beelzebub grinned and parried Strife away, sending Raphael flying back some distance away. He stood up straight and tried to ignore the stinging pain. Beelzebub nodded at Raphael. “Friends…? There’s no such things as friends to me any longer….” Beelzebub replied, staring into Raphael’s eyes coldly, “Since the day I have decided to follow Lucifer… I have turned against my roots and friends. I have abandoned what has given birth to me… hence, my friends left me. Even Moloch, Belial and the rest… they are the same.” Beelzebub glared at Raphael, “Belial has decided to return to the embrace of the Light, but he is not accepted. The fact that we are no longer friends but enemies stands…” Looking down at his maimed arm, Beelzebub smiled, “Look at my arm. It’s done by the power of the Light. My Light has been twisted into Darkness… Only Light can kill Darkness and vice versa. If you could, Raphael… Kill me….”

Raphael shivered a little to the coldness of the night. His grip on to Strife was tight. He was uncertain and it made him mad. What has gotten into him? Hasn’t it been his dreams to kill Beelzebub ever since Zeruel died in his arms… and in front of his very own eyes? The life of his other half… wiped away by this creep. Raphael’s eyes blazed at the memory. Yes. He would not soften. “You will die in the Light you so much desire tonight, Beelzebub….” Raphael hissed, not really understanding why he said that, “But you will never return to the Light, not now… NOT EVER.”

Beelzebub laughed, as if Raphael’s words were nothing but a joke to him. “I said, ‘Kill me if you could.’, but I did not say I will let you kill me. Do you even think you could do it, my dear little Head General?” Beelzebub raised Hellswrath into the sky, shut his eyes and began to chant a spell. “The Light is too blinding for me… it is not suitable for me.” Beelzebub whispered as he slowly opened his eyes, filling up Hellswrath with his dark powers, the blade turning into black color with a dark aura around it. The power of pure Evil. “Let’s see who should emerge as the victor this time, Raphael…” Beelzebub muttered as his bright eyes gazed at Raphael. Beelzebub roared as he sends Hellswrath smashing down. The blade seems to grow larger and extend longer as it hits the ground, stretching towards Raphael at a lightning speed, splitting the ground open. “This shall be the Death of you, Raphael!” Beelzebub screamed, “Azrael’s next victim in the Book is YOU, not me!”

Raphael flew backwards quickly but Hellswrath was advancing on him too fast The earth was shaking from the unholy blade’s strike and Raphael could feel the tremors in him. Raphael flew aside, and his left wing was stabbed through. “AHHH!” Raphael cried out as he tried to get away from Hellswrath but it held on to his wings tightly.

Beelzebub was laughing like a crazy man. “Hell’s flames shall burn you!” Beelzebub screamed crazily as his arm continued to bleed, “Burn you to nothing just like Gabriel! Poor poor angels! What do you get from defending the pathetic humans?! Nothing! Do they even really know you exist?! NO! They only believe in the existence of demons, of devils, of darkness… not of the creatures from the Light! Hahahaha!!! What an irony!”

“Be quiet, you bastard!” Raphael growled as he breathed in pain. Flames burst out of Hellswrath and scorched Raphael but he refused to cry out. No, he would not give the privilege of enjoyment to Beelzebub, who so wanted to see him cry and scream in pain! “I will not succumb!” Raphael yelled in agony as the dark flames ate into his flesh slowly, burning him up, “NEVER!” Raphael let go of Strife and it flew around Raphael and the flames. A large bright golden sigil formed around Raphael and it extinguished the dark flames. With whatever strength he has left, Raphael flew towards Beelzebub before his strength failed him and stabbed Strife into Beelzebub’s chest.

Beelzebub groaned as he glared at Raphael angrily. Pain and anger was written all over his face. “You insolent fool!” Beelzebub screamed as he held onto Raphael arm, attempting to break it in two. Raphael shook his head furiously, struggling with Beelzebub. // Raphael… Darkness… is a powerful force. It can only be encountered by Light… Black can appear White when the Light is blinding. But White loses all luster at the faintest sign of Darkness… Do you understand why… Raphael…? //

“Because… because…” Raphael groaned painful as Strife was pulled out forcefully by Beelzebub, “We all come from the same place… born in the same roots… in the same power. It is Love which gives us our life… and also Love which twisted us…” Raphael whispered into the wind softly, in reply to the question Zeruel set to him many years ago, a question he couldn’t answer when she was still alive.

As Raphael finished his words, Beelzebub stopped pulling Raphael’s arm and looked into his eyes. Raphael could not see Beelzebub’s look but there was some strange feelings to it. “You have grown… Raphael.” Beelzebub said with a smile, “I’ve been asked that very same question before… I knew the answer… but I never wanted to answer it because, I know I’ve done wrong…” Blood dripped to the ground drop by drop. A long golden blade was embedded in Beelzebub, stabbed through his chest. “You have finally succeeded in… in… a… avenging… Zeruel….” Beelzebub whispered as blood trickled down his lips and he fell to the ground as Raphael let go of Strife in silent shock.

Raphael heard Beelzebub perfectly, but he still could not believe it. He had managed to kill Beelzebub in vengeance of Zeruel, Uriel, Tabris and Gabriel. He should be happy. Yes, happy. But why was he feeling so empty…? Raphael could not feel a tinge of happiness within. In fact, he felt pain. It was as if he had lived on only for the sake of revenge and nothing else. And now the person who had given him the meaning of life is gone, he began to wonder how much he really meant to this world.

If you love me… listen to me… Do not avenge me…

It’s not that I do not wish to help you… But Zeruel’s Light is fading… There is nothing I could do to help her now… Even I could only do this far… I’m sorry… Raphael…

Raphael knelt down beside Beelzebub and touched the ground. It was wet and sticky. Blood. A large puddle of it. He moved slightly and Strife came off Beelzebub. He touched it, and felt the Light in it. Strife had changed into a long sword.

Raphael must have looked puzzled, for Beelzebub laughed softly. “I told you…” Beelzebub whispered weakly, “You have grown… Only will your power increase when you grow up in mentality. And that is the difference between you and me… You could not defeat me in the past… not because you are weak in power… but because you do not really know what you are fighting for… and what you are putting yourself against… Now you know….”

Raphael said nothing. He did not want to say anything. Beelzebub was fading away fast. As Uriel always said, ‘the fire of his candle is going out’. “I wanted to give you this… Always…” Beelzebub mumbled as he coughed, and more blood splattered out from his wounds. Beelzebub slowly opened up his coat and a necklace was hanging there, with a golden cross. A familiar sigil was carved in the middle of the cross. Beelzebub took it off, and there was a charred mark on his flesh. “It… it burns me every minute and every second…” Beelzebub whispered, “Yet I do not take it off… for it is the only thing left behind by… by… your other half…”

Raphael raised his head and his eyes widened. Beelzebub grinned slyly. “Why so… sur… surprised… Don’t be angry. It’s not for me… it’s for you. I found it… by the Tree. She left it for you… but you are never fit for it in the past. Too stupid… so I kept it for you…. In the end…” Beelzebub moaned in pain, “It just hurts me… Love hurts…” Raphael felt for Beelzebub’s hand and took the cross slowly, a warmth filling him up. Yes, the hole in him is complete… Zeruel’s power is inside the cross. Yet Raphael could not detect her soul. Only Heavens knows what Azrael had done to Zeruel’s soul. “You are twins….” Beelzebub muttered as his eyes began to shut slowly, “You share the same power and sigil with her… Only you… can open this cross…”

Raphael nodded in silence, and held Beelzebub’s hand for a silent minute before letting it go. Beelzebub breathed no more. There was no reason for him to linger on. The battle was going on, and Raphael knew that there was always a reason for him to go on. As long as Evil existed, there will be Light to balance it. And I will be one of the people to maintain the Light… Raphael touched the cross.

//Only you can open this cross…//

Raphael shut his eyes as he began to think back into the past, the times he spent with his sister and friends… including old friends. Raphael reached out for Strife, and in his silent command, it morphed back into its dagger size again. Raphael touched the sigil on the cross with the tip of Strife’s blade and a golden light burst out, blinding even the darkness of Raphael’s eyes. The light surrounded Raphael and he felt something on him. An angelic armor of pure gold, with runes engraved deep into the plate, which shimmered in the moonlight. Raphael thought he heard a voice then.

I am sorry… Raphael. By the time you got this… I might have been gone. I live for love, and I die for love. I have no regrets… I wish you a happy life ahead. Do not think of me. Cherish all that you have…

A single drop of tear fell to the cross then. Raphael slowly hung the necklace and wore it on him. I am sorry… I know I’m wrong… Please forgive me… Raphael stood up as he gripped onto Strife tightly and it grew to its sword-length again. He prayed for a moment before opening his eyes. “The battle has began. I will not run away. I will face it… and defeat the Evil, defending the human race and all living things in this beautiful world.” Raphael’s wings spread, and as if blessed by some unknown power, the hole in it began to heal and fill up. He took off into the skies and flew towards the concentrated place of Darkness, where Adriel would be waiting for him with his Heavenly Armies.

Adriel, Camael and Zoriel regrouped the Heavenly Armies and led them to Luna’s, where Azrael’s Legions had set a temporary stop. The moon had traveled through the skies and midnight was near. Once the Heavenly Armies were again organized and the angel ranks took their positions, Adriel and her two companions set a round to check the armies before the oncoming battle. Adriel heard a familiar voice calling out to her; she turned and met Rashiel, an angel of Destruction.

Rashiel seemed worried and concerned. “There’s one from Belial’s Legions who is about to die”, he told her. “He was his Second, and you might remember him. He was a Gate Guard for the Heaven Gates, and before the Fall we were in the same legion. He’s asked for you.” Rashiel shook his head. “Moloch struck him”, he explained, “and he’s been agonizing. If you’d want to go see him before he dies, I guess it’d be no harm. I’ll take you to him, if you wish.”

Adriel nodded and followed Rashiel. The news somehow startled her; the sight confirmed to her what she already knew: it was Mastema. Mastema was dying. Adriel remembered the flowers and the poem; it hadn’t been the first time he had done similar things… Adriel knelt down beside him in silence.

Mastema seemed to have dozed away, but he struggled to open his eyes upon sensing Adriel’s presence next to him. He had been using all he knew to delay his own inexorable death, hoping she would come. He had begged Rashiel to call her; feeling his own death at the doorstep, Mastema had nothing to lose. Mastema coughed. “Adriel”, he murmured. “Adriel, I am sorry I’ve troubled you to come… I know I’m not looking my best.” Mastema smiled a bit, trying to focus on her beautiful face. “I had to ask you something…”

Adriel bit her lip, leaning forward a little to hear him better. She watched him as he spoke; Moloch’s whip had burned him badly, he had lost so much blood the ground was soaked around him. His gray and silver feathers were ragged and burned, silent testimony of the fury of the archdemoness. Adriel’s eyes shimmered with silent tears. “What is that you need to ask me, Mastema?”, he asked in a gentle voice.

Mastema moved his head, trying to focus on Adriel’s face; most of what he could still see was a reddish blur. Mastema tried to mask his intense pain and he tried again to smile. “I was wondering”, he murmured, “if you like the flowers I left at your window. There was also a note… a small note; I hope you saw it…”

Adriel bit her lip and nodded slowly. “I saw the note”, she murmured. “The roses… are beautiful, Mastema.” She took in a deep breath. “It was… a great risk you took daring to go there.”

Mastema laughed and had a fit of cough; blood came out of his lips and he frowned in embarrassment. “Sorry…” Mastema blinked but there was not much he could see. “Not too much of a risk, mind you milady”, he said in a joking tone. “but in any case it was worth the risk if you smile.” Mastema seemed to doze off. Adriel did not reply. Mastema blinked slowly. “I’ve meant no offense and I’d be deeply sorry if I’ve incurred in your disapproval”, he murmured. “I need… to tell you something; I wish I had more time to express myself… but unfortunately I will free the world of myself soon.”

Mastema made a pause to catch his breath. “How far behind are those times when I stood watch in the Gates of Heaven, when the world of Man was young…! Back then I would’ve never imagined… there’d come a Time when I could not cross those gates again. If you are so kind, perhaps you’d remember me.” Mastema had a small smirk. “Sometimes I’d exchange rounds with my fellows to have the honor to open the Gates for you whenever you’d need to cross them. Such little things take a extraordinary value… once they are out of reach.” Mastema coughed.

“I need to tell you that… in my long stay in the Abyss, my relief has been to dream of a life with you. There’d not be a higher happiness I could yearn for. Perhaps I’ve been too ambitious”, Mastema forced a smile, “but I dared to dream that I could have reached the skies with the wings I have. Not the wings of an angel anymore I fear….” Mastema nodded. “I’ve been forced to learn some things can endure the Fall and even the deep pits of Hell. I loved you back then. I still love you. There’s nothing I could offer you, for I’ve lost all and even I will leave soon… but if you were kind enough to stay with me and take my soul, I’d be grateful.”

Adriel pressed her hand against her lips, silent tears rolling down her cheeks. She didn’t know what to say, yet Mastema was waiting. Adriel was deeply touched by his words; she had somehow expected he’d say something along the line, but her own reaction surprised her. Adriel noticed he was trying to look at her face but his eyes could not see anymore. She reached out and gently brushed his hair away from his face as she tried to overcome the knot in her throat. “If you’d choose to be judged by the Council, it’d be better for you, Mastema”, she said. “I… will collect your soul, but I wish… I can’t tell you what to choose.” Adriel bit her trembling lip.

Mastema smiled, pushing the pain off his mind as much as he could. “I choose… judgment. I have nothing too lose, I guess…” Mastema closed his eyes. “Thank you, Adriel…” He relaxed, allowing himself to drift away. Slowly, the sounds died out around him. Mastema felt a soft touch on his forehead and he smiled. “Adriel…”, he muttered. Mastema passed away.

The aura of death in Luna’s attracted Raphael’s attention. He looked down and he took in the vibes, feeling the presence of the Heavenly Armies as well as Adriel’s Legions. Raphael flew downwards and landed by beside Adriel. There was a dead somebody by her, and Raphael could not tell who he or she was. However, Raphael could sense that Adriel was feeling upset over the loss of that someone. “Adriel…” Raphael whispered as he touched her shoulder gently, “Death comes to all as you know. It is inevitable in this Great Battle. It’s time we all learn to let it go…” Raphael paused for a brief moment before asking softly, “Who is it…? Is it anyone we are close to…?”

Adriel gently took the soul from the body, the Blade of Life a light in her hand. The soul seemed to pound in her hand with an eerie light; a tear fell on it from the angel’s eyes. Adriel rose her head in surprise as Raphael touched her shoulder; she rubbed her eyes lightly with her free hand. “It’s Mastema”, she whispered. “Moloch killed him… He was waiting for me…” Adriel’s voice faded in a sigh. She turned to look up at Raphael. Her eyes widened at the sight of the armor. “Where did this armor come from? It looks like Zed’s…” Adriel reached out to touch the armor with her free hand.

Raphael sighed. He recognized the name. So it was Mastema, an old friend… Raphael knelt down and touched his cheek, which is already turning cold. He no longer felt hatred for the Fallen. Moloch, Belial and Beelzebub. They were all sad people for one reason or another. Born of the same roots, yet they turn against their own people. All those deaths… were they necessary? Was the Fall even meaningful? “This armor… She left it for me. Sealed in a cross she left behind.” Raphael uttered softly as he stood up slowly. He maintained silence for a brief moment before adding, “Beelzebub… He kept it for me. until the day I could kill him…”

Adriel nodded yet she was still amazed. “Beelzebub kept it for you? Beelzebub is dead?” Adriel tilted her head and half-closed her eyes as if lost in memories. She silently wiped her eyes. Adriel motioned to get back on her feet, then with a careful movement she picked up one of Mastema’s feathers. Adriel slowly rose to her feet and carefully put Mastema’s soul in her wings, then put the feather in her belt. Adriel nodded. “It’s good news you’ve got this gift from Zeruel after all these years; I am sure she’d be glad to know you wear this armor now. She would be proud, I know.” Adriel smiled faintly, absently touching the feather.

Raphael nodded sadly. “I… I’ve always wanted to have something from her… to keep as a memoir. And she did this beforehand…” a tear was in his eye, “Did she even plan to die beforehand..? It’s just so unfair…” Raphael tilted his head a little as he tried to prevent the tear from falling. “Shall we go now, Adriel? It’s time to leave the Dead and to finish up whatever we have to… We have to get that cursed child this time…”

Adriel nodded. Time to leave the Dead… Adriel cast a long look at Mastema’s dead body. The gray and silver feathers still visible moved in the chilling wind; the view moved her to a deep compassion and sadness despite she had seen Death in many terrible forms. The corpse however was not all the Fallen had been; his soul beat softly in the shelter of the angel’s wings. A warm feeling emanated from it as if the Warlock in his own power still had the ability of awareness beyond his demise. Adriel let out a small sigh, tears running down her cheeks. Mastema’s last words lingered on her mind. Adriel wiped her cheeks in silence and kept silent a few seconds to regain control her voice. “Azrael will join us…”, she explained. “Her Legions must wait for her. Adriel nodded. “The child… How strange it does sound. But yes, he’s a child compared to us.”

Raphael shook his head and snorted slightly. “You mean the brat?” Raphael said, obviously disliking Azazel, “He has an ego like his father, or maybe worse.” Raphael waited for a while along with Adriel. The battle had just began so he could afford a bit more time. A get-together would be good. Reinforcements counted in. It was at this moment when something hit Raphael hard in his mind. Echoes of flames burning and the wielding of a sword… Ezurewrath! Raphael blinked. The flames of the Hell. It was so strong it could melt lead. Only one Demon could possess such a strong power under his command – Azazel. Michael is battling with Azazel! Raphael knitted his brows tightly. Michael would not be a match for Azazel with his armies. He cannot wait any longer. Delay any longer and Michael’s life would be at stake.

Raphael turned to Adriel as he looked perplexed. “I have to go now.” Raphael said as his wings twitched a little, “Michael is battling Azazel alone. He would be in danger if I continue waiting for Azrael – Heavens knows where she is!” Raphael patted Adriel’s shoulder and smiled faintly. “I guess I will be seeing you then, Adriel… I hope that the both of us will live through this together….” Raphael waved to the Armies, signaling for them to move off. Raphael flew away from Luna’s manor, with his Armies following closely behind him.

Adriel’s heart was concerned and sad upon seeing Raphael leave. She still had to wait for Azrael yet she would rather have taken leave after Raphael, for Azazel was not one to be taken lightly and Michael would need all the backup he could get. The Armies would kill all humans if the Angelic Host wouldn’t defeat them this time. She wrapped herself in her wings like a white cloak of feathers, waiting for Azrael. Adriel had sensed the fight, too; however she had also sensed something different to it from that other fight at Westminster Abbey; Azazel’s power had something different to it. It was still hard to describe, but Adriel couldn’t help but to wonder about Raziel’s words.

After a long time of waiting, Azrael arrived with Rishta and Belial. Retaking command of her Legions, Azrael called her Legion Commanders for quick news. The angels agreed on following the Head General right away. Azrael ordered a first battle plan to keep the demons within a small area inside the city district for as long as possible; the angels of Destruction were to canalize the energies from the dark side of the moon, patronized by Azrael. Belial’s presence caused an amazingly mild surprise. The angels of Death and Destruction are in general silent beings; they watch and listen carefully but they talk little. Knowing from the Old Days the Dark One was to capture the Necromancer, the angels warily watched and waited for orders.

Belial stayed near Azrael, wearing the bands on his shoulder, where he was able to find out what had happened to his followers. In his mind, Belial decided to try and keep his former Legions from supporting Azazel, and perhaps find a different fate than run scattered from the battleground. Allowed to meet his former Legion Commanders, he had to face their questions, their resentment and their fears; Belial would try to manipulate them one last time. They had previously made their choice, thinking Belial was dead; now they saw he was alive and yet it was obvious he had gone through perilous hours that didn’t seem enough compensation. Besides some painful details about the summoning and what he had seen at Moloch’s manor, Belial did not offer explanations. He simply said he had chosen Judgment. His cool demeanor got the demons curious and impatient.

“Why?”, they asked. “You’ll lose yourself. What would you have to gain?.”

“I have my reasons”, Belial replied with a disturbing shimmer to his silver eyes. The demons were perplexed. It was still unconceivable for them the fact that Belial was not their leader anymore. His cryptic smile suggested something behind his words.

“What would we gain?”, they asked. Belial cast them a strange look.

“What would you have to lose?”, he replied. “Most of us are Fallen. Azazel believes that means you’re still at least partially, angels.” This arouse angry protests, Belial rose his hand and there was silence in the group. The angels around couldn’t help but to notice this. “If you choose judgment, you’ll still have a choice to survive. If you don’t, you know well what the Council could choose for you”, Belial said.

“What about demon bloods?”

Belial tilted his head. “You will be judged if you choose to be, but I cannot foresee the will of the Council.”

The demons talked among themselves. “Mastema believed in you and he’s dead now.”

“He chose judgment, as far as I know”, Belial replied. “The decision is personal. It doesn’t matter what I think. You must make your own choice; all I can do is tell you mine.”

The demons were amazed. “Azrael’s allowed you to keep your weapon”, someone pointed out.

“I will follow her into battle”, Belial replied.

The demons gawked and arguments rose. Belial did not add more, watching them. The demons growled and hissed. “How come she’ll allow you this? If you are doing that, you must have a reason. Is it revenge against Azazel? Perhaps it would earn you points of sorts with the Order?”

Belial’s cryptic smile was becoming unnerving. The demons began to think there was more to gain than apparent. After some reasoning among themselves, they made a choice. “Can we go into battle, too?”

“I cannot grant that; it’s the Dark One’s decision. However, you must remember the Armies consider us the enemy as much as their enemy is the Angelic Host.”

Azrael turned to the group with Rishta by her side. “I’m not taking prisoners”, she coolly said. “If you are to follow and choose Judgment, it’s your personal decision; if you wish to go into battle, you must be aware not all the Angelic Host will probably receive notice of your change of sides in the heat of the Battle. I propose this. Your numbers have decreased. I will ask my Legionaries to host you by groups and you will keep your battle formations next to ours. We will be mutual aid. If you betray your word, they’ll be your executers. If you keep your word, I will speak for your deed before the Council.”

Azrael’s cold gaze was a immutable as ever. The demons took this choice, accepting Azrael’s proposal. “Let us go, then!” The Legions took formation and left the ground, flying fast to Luna’s manor after Raphael’s Legions.

As they landed and as Belial and Azrael spoke to their Legion commanders, Rishta took a small look around. Nothing seemed to interest her much; her mind was on other things. Quietly, she remembered her own grandfather’s wartimes. The tables of maps, planning, formation, the knights on their proud horses… It had been exhilarating. Her grandfather had always allowed her to sit by them and watch, as long as she had been silent. Well, that hadn’t been too much of a problem. To her it all was a mind game. Plotting, planning, thinking AHEAD. The strategy was it all. And when you were done with strategy, you relied on the sword.

Glancing down to her side, Rishta grasped the helm of her father’s sword. No, she shouldn’t keep on calling it that… Father. You couldn’t keep on doing that, especially when the sword had been taken. Cadmiel, Rishta mused. Would it be a suitable honor to her father’s name, calling their sword it? Yes, she thought so. Pulling the weapon out a bit, she looked at the silver surface. Yes, the time had come for her to swordfight again. She couldn’t rely on her powers – they were too strange still. She didn’t know her potential with them. But she knew her potential without them. And she preferred those odds.

Allowing it to slide back in, Rishta sighed, and then subconsciously reached up to her hair. It was still gathered up, as though she should be wearing a dress, not armor. Pulling out the clip, face solemn, she allowed her hair to ripple down. It hung below her shoulders, blowing in the evening breeze. It felt more right this way, as though she didn’t have to be a prim and proper lady anymore… After all, Ladies Never fight with swords.

The demons with whom Belial conversed did not scare Rishta; in fact, they more or less perplexed her. They feared salvation… even though in the end they had gone off. Azrael had been so cold to them… and after viewing this, she realized why Belial had been so hesitant himself. Now, in the end, it all made sense.

In the end… only in the end…

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE: REDEMPTION

Azrael came out of the shadows at Farishta Manor Gardens, just out of the side door. Belial was unconscious; Azrael had to fold his wings herself as she carried him in her arms – odd enough sight because he was taller than her. Azrael lightly wrinkled her nose, curious as she perceived the smell of food and heard voices coming from inside the house. She carefully held Belial, his blood running down her arms as in the scape rush she hadn’t made any other stop. //Rishta! I need your assistance//, she mentally called. She didn’t call out to Michael or the others, simply allowing them to sense her presence.

Rishta paused in the hallway, as the two brothers began to speak. When the first one said Camael, Rishta’s heart froze for a second, mistaking Camael for Cadmiel. As the angel spoke of not experiencing dinner since loosing their human form, Rishta gave a small smile. “It is an honor to meet you both. You are welcomed at my house at any time. I am Rishta, daughter of Cadmiel.” As Adriel then spoke, Rishta smiled. She has such a soft, pretty, crystalline voice. It was sad that they had had to meet under such circumstances. Rishta had the notion that they would have been great friends. She got along with everyone. Nodding at her words, Rishta turned to lead them through a set of heavy oak doors, which had been opened by awaiting servants. Like the outer doors, these had etchings, but of odd scenes. Angels. Anyone who didn’t know the truth could say that this family had an obsession with them.

Stopping abruptly at the doorway, Rishta turned and looked past Michael as though trying to see something. Azrael was at the side door. Why didn’t she come in…? Something had to be wrong. Brushing past them all, with only a small nod for a pardon, she quickly went through a few halls and opened the door, stepping out. Rishta gasped, then gasped again as she saw that she had stepped on a mouse. Ew… She nudged it away before ushering Azrael into the house and into the nearest room. “Put him on the sofa… you are both a mess…”

Azrael promptly did as Rishta said, getting into the first room Rishta indicated and heading for the couch; Azrael laid unconscious Belial on it, carefully keeping his six wings folded. Some feathers stuck to her hands. Azrael carefully put his hair away from his face, damp in blood. “Azazel tortured him”, she murmured with her cool voice. “He’s severely wounded.” Azrael proceeded to remove pieces of his armor to uncover the wound on his side.

Rishta stood there for a minute, tears filling her eyes. They were all going to die. Azazel… amazing how one name could cause such hate, such fear. Instinctively she wiped the tears away, trying not to give in to the terrifying desire to collapse and cry. Raziel, Gabriel, Uriel, Tabris… dead. Belial, possibly Azrael wounded. Raphael with eyesight gone. Father, gone. It was maddening. Taking a deep breath, she walked towards Belial, looking lost. I offered you a chance to escape… but I bet Azazel would’ve found you anywhere. I’m sorry, it’s my fault. I should have tried harder. Could’ve done something more. Always something more I could have done… but I didn’t… Holding her hand out, she placed it directly on the wound – blood no longer causing her to sadden. Within the night, she had realized that there was going to be a lot of blood in London soon. Once again, the dark soil would take on a crimson appearance. Once again, blood would run like rivers in the streets, being soaked up by earth, tainting the world with their ancient feud. She pinched it shut, and began to focus. But before she could heal him, she turned to Azrael, hand still tight on the wound. “How are you? If you are injured, I want you to sit there and hold on for a minute.”

Azrael blinked. “You should be careful”, she told her, “for Azazel’s evil power lingers on the wound. Belial himself is a Fallen; you’ll need to take that under consideration.” Azrael tilted her head. “There’s a part of him where Light remains; use it for it’s not alien to you… I am not wounded.” Azrael folded her wings neatly on her back. “Raziel and the others are under my care.” Azrael gently touched Belial’s forehead. “He is also my responsibility. It is my duty to take him back.”

Rishta looked at Azrael, with a sort of stunned shock. Dark? So? Belial was not evil, just misled. That made all the difference in the world! Azazel, sure – that was something to be concerned about, but she really didn’t expect to live out the week. But she was relieved to hear that Azrael herself was alright. That would make it a little easier. Ignoring Azrael’s warning, Rishta began to draw on her own powers, and a bit of Belials light, and mixed them. Seeping them into his would, she shut her eyes and concentrated. Belial had to be alright! Something she couldn’t explain… but it had to be! Meanwhile, in the back of her mind, Rishta was grateful the souls of the dear departed were safe. But, what did Azrael mean when she had said ‘take him back’?

Azrael took out two long pieces of cloth that seemed to be made of the same unearthly fabric of her black robes. The archangel held them in her hands and murmured a spell; the Sigil of her Name floated over each piece. Azrael waited for Rishta to complete her task, holding the pieces of cloth in her hands. She noticed Rishta didn’t seem to fully understand her words. Azrael’s serene gaze remained on them as she stood next to the couch where Belial laid. “Of you have questions, you may ask”, Azrael unexpectedly murmured. “Also, Raziel has a last message for you; something of great importance.”

Michael had been picking at his food ever since he had gotten it. The moment he had felt Raziel’s passing, what little appetite he previously had went shooting out the window. He didn’t think he could keep any food down, even if he tried. Only a moment later, after Raziel’s death, Michael felt Azrael’s presence. Rishta quickly hurried off; she must have been summoned by Azrael. Another powerful being was with Azrael, and it felt very much like Belial, though it was incredibly weak. The Fallen must have been on the very edge of death. Not worth saving, in Michael’s eyes. Best to kill the scaping bastard and get it over with. But, he figured, that was Azrael’s decision to make. Not his. He felt betrayed by the ones he once called friends They would be not here now if it weren’t for the Fallen…

Michael slowly stood up, shrugged his templar coat higher up onto his shoulders, and followed Rishta into the adjoining room. Just as he suspected, Azrael had brought along Belial, complete with a gruesome wound. This close to the Fallen, Michael could feel Azazel’s taint all over Belial. The angel smiled, though it was cold and grim. “There’s simply no hope for you, is there? You betrayed us first, and then, the ones you sided with millennia ago. Sickening. For your sake, I hope Azrael takes it easy on you.” His smile slowly faded as he turned to the angel of death. “I’m leaving. Azazel has to be stopped.” His templar coat flared behind him as his sword of fire and light, Ezurewrath, exploded into his hand. “This isn’t about the betrayal anymore. Innocent people are being hurt… ones that should never have to suffer for someone else’s sins. If I die, I die.” Michael turned around and started off for the front door, but stopped before he left the room, and looked back over his shoulder at Azrael.

“What you do with my soul when I die is of no consequence to me,” he said, almost to himself. “You’re the angel of death. You decide.” Gripping his sword tightly, Michael marched out of the room, and left the house, pushing off the ground and taking flight as soon as he was outside. For the first time in recent memory, Michael dropped his human guise, and exploded into his angelic self. Two bright, shimmering wings that were tinged with fire flared out from his back, and his bright white coat was pressed tightly against him by his sun-golden armor. In a flash of fire and light, Michael sped off towards the opposite end of downtown, where Azazel’s unholy power was like a beacon to his senses. ‘Raziel, Gabriel, Uriel… I’ll do right by you, and bring down a wrath onto Azazel the likes of which he’s never seen!’

Azrael had a number of objections to make but Michael of course didn’t stay to hear them. Azrael frowned and her night sky eyes darkened. As Archangel of Death and Destruction she was not the one to judge others decisions, but as an Elder like Raziel she was supposed to offer guidance. It was up to the others to take advice or not. //I can’t make decisions for you and I won’t point out the rights or wrongs of this course of action you’ve chosen; but you ought to remember you are the Leader of the Heavenly Armies and you are not supposed to fight alone. Azazel is powerful and he has the backup of his Army from the Abyss.// Azrael’s frown went deeper. //Raziel completed his task. Autumn knows about the ring – she will be of help.// Azrael tilted her head upon sending her mental message to Michael, seeing he was unmoving in his choice.

“Head General”, she coolly called out to Raphael. “The Heavenly Armies are under your command. Are you in conditions to lead them?”

Rishta had her eyes tightly shut, wound slowly healing as the people rushed around, or simply sat, eating. The wound was quickly healing, his body wanting to heal itself, Rishta just pushing it along – since she herself wasn’t powerful enough to heal the wound. Don’t think of anything. Keep your mind blank… just like Uriel said. Michael… NO! Don’t think about questions, or Michael… Michael… Why do I always think of him…?

Outside, Belial’s skin was quickly healing, the muscle grew, the veins creeping back over the body, flesh beginning to reform where it had been torn. His energy could not be changed – but at least no more had to be spent on the gruesome wound. Rishta’s hand was deep red, the blood drying on her skin, her dress spotted now with his blood. Azazel’s taint was strong, and she felt the evil creeping around, touching her skin, then seeming to recoil at her thoughts of Michael. Belial himself, was tainted with the Dark – but to Rishta, it wasn’t the evil Dark that Azazel emitted. It was a good dark, like the night that was filled with stars. But the Dark of Azazel persisted in Belial’s body, trying to bring him back to Darkness, where he would be finished.

Rishta couldn’t allow that to happen. Mentally, it was like putting out a fire. With the “pure water” of her energy and Aramis’, they were able to drown Azazel’s taint, and put it out completely. But it kept on resurfacing, and every time she and Belial put it out – it tried to come back. Snapping back as the wound continued healing, Rishta took a look where Michael and stood and tears slowly began sliding down her face, unable to finish healing – she was too drained. He’s going to die… We’re all doomed… lord no… Standing, shaking a bit, she leaned against the back of a chair to retain her balance. Looking at Azrael, unable to stop the gentle flow of tears, she murmured. “Raziel had a message… for me? And Michael…”

Gripping the chair with sudden harshness, Rishta slowly expanded her wings, so her balance would be kept. She felt a bit dizzy from all the energy she had used, but blinked as her retained balance felt odd. Looking down, Rishta gave a small smile between the tears. Her clothing had changed, the soft white dress replaced with soft white robes, over which clung deep silver armor, blue topaz glittering, forming patters upon the armor. At her side was her sword, in a case of silver and topaz, shimmering in the light. Her necklace hung around her neck, the loose front strands of hair held back by a silver fastening. The rest of the dark cascade flowing behind her shoulders. Looking at Azrael again, she finished her sentence. .”.. why did he go?”

Like Michael, Raphael has little pity for Belial. The injuries on Belial did not move Raphael a bit. Yet he could feel the dark poison of Azazel in Belial’s wounds, and Raphael felt a little upset that Azrael saved him. “I am of perfect condition.” Raphael answered defiantly, not caring for Michael’s opinions, “And why did you save this traitor, Azrael? He betrayed us in the past, and now he has betrayed the Dark side. Belial is treacherous in either way. Why not just kill him off and do ourselves a favor?”

Raphael fidgeted a little as he touched his scarred eyes. He turned to Rishta and pat her shoulder comfortingly. “Don’t worry…” Raphael said softly, “Everything will turn out well… The Dark always seems stronger… but Light will prevail.” Raphael bowed his head. His old friends were mostly gone by now. Gabriel, Uriel, Raziel… and even Tabris, even though Raphael never really regarded him with much respect. Gabriel had went to avenge Uriel on Beelzebub. Even though Gabriel was much weaker than Beelzebub, Raphael knew that Gabriel was anguished over Uriel’s death and would do just anything to hurt Beelzebub to the maximum. ‘I will do the job for you, Gabriel… For you, and myself…’

Turning to Adriel, Raphael nods and said, “I’m sorry Adriel… but I have to go now… Will you exercise the Heavenly Armies for me for the meanwhile…? I will be back soon…” Without waiting for a reply, Raphael went to the door, spread his glowing white feathery wings and flew off towards Riktophen Manor.

Azrael’s frown disappeared, her face again immutable. “Raziel wants you to keep Sapentia till he is able to live again and retake his task.” Azrael opened her hand. A silver locket from a large tome appeared on it, a chain loosely hanging between Azrael’s pale fingers. “Sapentia is linked to Raziel’s soul and it’s a great honor for you he’s chosen you to keep it, but it’s also a great responsibility he expects you to fulfill.” Azrael gave Rishta the pendant.

“Michael left for such was his decision.” Azrael looked at Raphael but she didn’t reply. Azrael tilted her head as Raphael left, for she was aware where was he heading to. “It’s my duty to take Belial back”, she muttered. Azrael turned to Adriel. “Regroup the Armies and join my Legions; Camael and Zoriel will assist you.”

Adriel and her companions had promptly followed the group from the dinning chamber; the angels of death and destruction took a bow upon receiving orders. They did not say a word about the scene in the room, but they cast a strange look upon Belial. “As you wish”, they replied to Azrael and Raphael, leaving the place.

“I will not allow anyone to harm Belial. Azrael, what are you going to do with him?” Rishta’s voice was soft yet hard, wondering yet serious. She felt deep pity for Belial, due to a suspicion she couldn’t tell anyone. Everyone is acting so foolish, not sticking together, allowing emotions to overtake them… its not good, it will lead to failure… angels will not be able to do this alone… When Azrael gave Rishta the pendant, Rishta smiled and clasped it to her, then slipped it on. “I will do my best to fulfill his wishes. …Lord, I hope we are ready.”

Azrael shook her head slightly. She proceeded to take one of Belial’s hands and bandage it leaving his fingers free using one of the pieces of cloth she held in her hand, then took his other hand to do the same. She looked at Rishta and showed her the marking on the palm of his hand in the shape of a scythe. Azrael put the bandage on his hand, again leaving his fingers free. Azrael’s sigil lingered on the bandages.

Belial’s lips trembled, yet he still was unconscious. Images danced like phantoms in his delirious mind; disturbing, scattered visions. A deep cold surrounded him like the waters in a chilling pool; distant voices came to his ears but he could not make out the words. Belial struggled to grasp the images and sounds drifting away from him but it was futile. He could be dead, for all he knew. Belial felt numb, ice-cold. He tried to remember… Azazel. Azazel had tortured him. He was going to kill him and he called him…

But the Dark One had arrived. Maybe then, he was dead after all.

The angel leaned against the wall of live rock as they stood in the narrow trail carved in the face of the mountain; he didn’t need to look down to perceive the bottomless immensity before them: one could fall for years, ages before meeting the bottom of the precipice. Belial put his hair out of his eyes and carefully affirmed his feet on the narrow cornice they stood on. He looked at the angel beside him, the Head of his Order; her back was turned to him, her six huge, black wings half-closed for balance. Her lustrous black feathers shone darkly; they almost brushed against his skin. Belial’s lip trembled with his untold emotion; it was a kind of sweet torture to be so close to her. Some debris at his feet fell down the face of the precipice with a crystal-like sound.

“Follow me.” Azrael led him down the narrow trail, always with extreme care till coming to a halt at the shelter of a large monolith in the face of the mountain. “We’ll wait here”, she said. Her voice was seemingly emotionless, but it was not cold.

Belial nodded. He dozed lightly and rose his head with a start. Azrael’s voice surprised him.

“You need rest, Belial.” The angel opened his lips to reply, but she continued, “You’d better try and rest while we wait. I’ll stand watch.”

Somewhat embarrassed, Belial nodded. “As you wish.” Pause. Belial tried to find a comfortable position to take a short nap in the narrow space.

“Lean against me”, Azrael suggested.

Belial blushed; his heart began beating faster. He complied in silence, leaning against her. After a few seconds, he murmured, “May I… may I lay my head on your back?”

Azrael nodded slowly. “You may.”

Belial laid his head against the soft feathers of her back, between her mighty wings; the soft, fluffy feathers between her shoulder blades were warm; the feathers had a subtle perfume to them. Belial closed his eyes, a sharp but ever so sweet pain piercing his heart; he trembled with her proximity and a loving smile formed upon his lips. Azrael’s wings were strong and ever so soft; his own wings brushed against hers as he fell in a beatific sleep – he was in love, he was in a peak of happiness but he was also in pain. ‘I must tell her… I have to tell her I love her’, he thought. ‘I must…’

He never knew how long it lasted. He slept soundly, his cheek pressed against her feathers, her scent intoxicating him to an ecstasy. The enchantment painfully broke when his dreams were starting to bring a deeper blush to his cheeks.

“Belial”, she gently said. “The others are coming; you have to wake up.”

Belial sat up, rubbing his eyes and hoping the chilling wind would cool down his burning cheeks. Azrael peered in the Dark before them. A row of angels flew towards them from the other side of the monolith. Azrael motioned to Belial. “We must go to the other side of the mountain to catch up with them; let us go.” Belial rose and followed her across the peak of the mountain to the other side; the winds had decreased. Azrael took flight and Belial flew right beside her; moments later, they joined the company.

Long gone times would never return.

Belial’s eyelids opened slowly. The pain persisted, but most of it was gone. Belial had a small shiver but he didn’t even feel like moving. The holy energies weighed heavily on him. “Am I not dead?”, he absently muttered.

“No. You’re at my home. Welcome.” Rishta’s voice was soft, yet it didn’t have the panicked undertone that she was so used to hearing in herself. She knew what was going to happen – or at least, had a good inkling. If she survived, well, something was definitely wrong with the cosmos. Walking to a small table, she poured him a glass of tea and then took it to a table next to the sofa. “How are you feeling?” Moving away from him so he could breathe, she went and poured herself and Azrael tea. Giving her the cup, she looked curiously. “What am I supposed to do for Raziel? And what is going to happen now?”

Belial tried to focus. He did not want to meet Azrael’s gaze. Belial narrowed his eyes and suddenly realized his hands had been bandaged, covering the marks. Belial found it difficult to breathe, anger rising inside of him. He cast a sideways look at Azrael, then looked away again. “You shouldn’t have interfered”, he muttered. “Nobody asked you to.” Belial recognized the insignia on Rishta’s armor and bit his lip.

Rishta looked at Belial, his uprising getting her a bit nervous. Looking at him nervously, she placed the tea down before she spilled it. Walking to him, her balance unsteady, she looked at his side. “Please don’t move too much, I wasn’t able to fix it completely. I’m sorry, but I’m drained.” Sitting in a chair next to the sofa, she invited Azrael to sit down. Both of them in the same room… tense. Sighing, she wondered what Belial had stared at when he looked at her. Glancing down at the armor, she smiled as she saw the insignia. Daddy. “Azrael, what now?”

Azrael’s cold gaze fell on Belial. “Death is not an escape – you should know that well”, she severely said. She turned to Rishta. “Now that he is gone, you will protect Raziel’s task. You’ll be able to use his Book and the tools he trained you to use.”

Belial moved on the couch; he winced as he did but he was visibly agitated. “Maybe it is not”, he hissed. “It’s not hard to tell what the outcome will be if you take me back. You could have saved time!” Belial closed his fists and the sigils on them shone darkly. “You know that”, he muttered.

Azrael pulled the chair Rishta had offered her and sat; strange little lights and eyes showed briefly in her dark wings as she did. “Do I?”, she murmured. “I am not the one to judge you; the Council or the Order is. I was given the task to capture you and take you back, dead or alive; I have preferred the second choice. I have my reasons”, Azrael nodded, “but a greater battle is at the doorstep and I can’t keep prisoners. I have offered your people a choice. This time, if you won’t willingly follow, I will let you go; the Angelic Host needs every one of its members and I don’t have the resources to keep you against your will. Rishta might not be able to fully heal you right now and she won’t stay behind. It’s your choice, for I won’t take your life now.” Azrael forced a strange smile. “How’d you foresee the will of the Council? You can’t do that, Belial. I have never suggested they will destroy your soul, if that is what you think they would do.”

Belial’s eyes darkened in a mix of indignation and amazement. He rose his eyes to look at her cold, serene face. Belial felt like strangling her but at the same time a familiar sadness and despair filled his soul. He frowned. “Is that all?”, he coldly asked. “Will you let me go, and that is it?” Belial frowned. “If they said dead or alive, you can still complete your task… Dark One, that is what you are supposed to do.” Azrael remained immutable. Belial’s silver eyes shimmered. “Do you hate me so?”, he suddenly asked, narrowing his eyes.

Rishta looked at them, her presence seeming to have faded into nothingness. Sipping her tea, and stirring the sugar with a mechanical sameness, she reached her mind towards Michael. He didn’t want to stop… so determined to kill Azazel… Azazel. Heartless, cold… and with Autumn. Autumn… why had she left this house!? This place was a sanctuary compared to that platform! And Raziel wouldn’t have had to go after them, and then Belial would not have been summoned… and so many things would not have happened. Why did she go to that CHURCH on that day!? Getting up abruptly, she walked out of the room and into the dining hall, and glanced around the cold, deserted room. “The end has begun…”

Azrael tilted her head to the side with a bird-like air and her gaze met Belial’s. She seemed to peer inside his eyes to his very soul for an instant. “I don’t hate you”, she simply said, rather emotionlessly. Azrael’s gaze followed Rishta. She rose from her chair to follow the girl and cast Belial an inquisitive look. “Choose”, she murmured.

“Choose…?” Belial’s brow twitched; his silver eyes were flashing. “In the end it will be the same; it makes no difference”, he bitterly said. “I am a Fallen, an Archdemon; I wouldn’t have a different fate from that of Lucifer. All trace of his soul is gone, isn’t it?” Belial clutched his side and sat up on the couch with some difficulty. “I might be struck down now, but I can recover”, he hissed. “Even though you’ve captured my Legions… I can start from scratch again.” Belial pressed his hand against his forehead. “I have lost so much but still I can start again..!” He slid his hand down his face and pressed it against his lips, watching the Archangel with shimmering eyes. Belial’s shoulders sank slightly.

“You… don’t hate me?”, he asked. “You should…” He looked at the bandage on his hand with Azrael’s sigil on it. “I’d kill you if I could.” Belial paused. “Do you…” He bit his lip. “Have you ever had any feelings… about me?”, he murmured.

Azrael was surprised. Her serene gaze fell on Belial, but part of her usual coldness had receded. Azrael’s gaze turned inward, as if pondering in her heart what to answer to him. After a long instant, Azrael spoke. Slowly, like a child who must recite a lesson she hasn’t quite understood yet, Azrael let her thoughts out. “I am not supposed to have any feelings”, she said. “At least not more than those of duty and responsibility to do what I’ve been brought to existence to do. I am the Dark Angel; unlike the rest of the Angelic Host who find their strength in the Light, I belong in the Void, in the Dark; because of my work I’ve always been alone.” Azrael nodded.

“I was alone till you appeared. I knew you’d need guidance, for your powers and your skills were steadily growing; once your thirst for knowledge became to strong for you to manage alone, I took you under my wing, to guide and teach you. I let you work with me; I devoted time to you and thus I was alone no more.”

Belial wished he could shut down all the sounds in the world after hearing those words. His mind automatically wandered off, not wanting to hear anything else from those painful words. She didn’t even hate him… Belial winced, closing his fingers tightly on his half-healed wound; however the emotional pain surpassed his physical pain. He shook his head slowly, still perceiving scattered words. All he had done before to get closer to her and all he did later to nurture his hatred for her… all had been equally useless. All reduced to a task in her list of duties.

“When you joined Lucifer, I warned you, your ambitions were mislead and you’d both lose all you could get and even all you both already had. You became an Archdemon and you took with you the weapon we had forged for the Archangel the Order was to choose to lead the Legions of Death and Destruction. The Order needed someone to oppose to you and they chose me, even though I am the Head of the Order; they chose me because I volunteered.” Azrael nodded again.

The pain was a cold blade slowly piercing through his heart, making it difficult for him to breathe. Belial bit his lip till blood came out of it. He felt so absolutely defeated it was despairing. He could never reach her; this realization struck down the remains of his will to plan for an uncertain future of fights and struggle for survival. Belial brushed his hand past his forehead, trying to pull himself together. He rose his eyes to look at her. She was talking but he did not hear a thing. Belial narrowed his eyes, forcing himself to focus.

“When you left I came to realize I was alone again; I understood the difference and there was pain in my heart.” Azrael nodded slowly. “I knew in the end you would need help to find a way back. The Fall would lead you only to despair, as I showed you it could happen, in my Mirror. I can’t choose for you, but I do not wish to take you back hopeless. I’ve offered you a choice. Don’t let your hatred for me cloud your judgment, Belial; if Azazel wins you already know what to expect. If you defy the Angelic Host again, you’ll be alone. You can still have a path to follow and find your self again.”

Belial blinked. “Pardon me?” Azrael blinked too but Belial insisted, “What did you say? About… what’s… what’s this difference you understood”, he quickly added. “What’s that difference?”

Azrael blinked again. “The difference I understood…?”, she murmured. “Well. It’s the difference between being alone and sharing my life with someone else. You are the only one I’ve ever allowed close to me.” Azrael frowned slightly, tilting her head in a bird-like movement with her night sky eyes half-closed; she laid a hand on her heart. “It is strange. I just…” Azrael’s slight frown went a little deeper. “I just know“, she absently said.

Belial suddenly noticed his mouth very dry. He swallowed. “Why won’t you kill me now? The Council’s order would allow you to”, he slowly pointed out. “They said you could capture me dead or alive, didn’t they?” Azrael did not reply. “Dark One”, Belial insisted, “Why do you still offer me a choice? I have done great evil and I have tried to kill you.” There was anxiety in Belial’s eyes. “I altered your Book!”

Azrael was seemingly unmoved, yet she was now perplexed at Belial’s reaction to her words. “I’ve just… told you”, she said. “I knew in the end you would need help to find a way back; the Fall would lead you only to despair. I showed you on my Mirror it could happen; I do not wish to take you back hopeless, so I’ve offered you a choice because I know you could still have a path to follow and find your self again.” Azrael nodded and cast him an inquisitive look as he clutched his side. “I thought at first I could take you back with me”, she explained, “but then I saw that was not your wish; many things have happened ever since; but even though you’ve done terrible wrongs I still believe you can take a different path if you wish.”

Belial was dumbfounded; he opened his eyes wide. It took him a few seconds to put some order in his mind and find his voice again. “Perhaps you remember…”, he murmured, “that earlier tonight you told me… you did not understand why I composed a Ritual to split myself in Light and Darkness. I will… tell you why I did.” Belial was intensely pale. He absently brushed his hand past his forehead. “It was an accident”, he bluntly said. “I did not intend it to happen that way. After a long time after the Battles and my scape from the Abyss, I decided to use my power and knowledge on myself, risking my life to… to tear off from my soul what I thought was a burden I hadn’t been able to get rid of, ever since I crossed the Heaven Gates for the last time.” Belial winced. “I… had been trying to perfect the Ritual to remove from my soul and imprison somewhere out of me… certain feelings I could not bear to keep. I was convinced… I was sure it could be done.”

Belial leaned against the sofa, struggling to pour out the words yet part of him still refused to let out the truth. Blood flowed between his fingers clutching the half-healed wound on his side in faint streams. Belial didn’t seem to notice this. “The Ritual failed and I… found myself split in two. All I achieved it was to split myself in my Light and my Darkness, yet the feelings I wanted to get rid of persisted… on my side of Light. I had to mask it before the Others, as you know.”

“You need to rest”, Azrael said.

“I’ve not finished”, Belial hissed. “I must… tell you.” His shoulders sank slightly. He looked down and for some time he didn’t utter a word, anguish showing on his eyes and his pale face. Finally, he rose his eyes to look at her. “Do you remember when you showed me the many futures that could be… on your Mirror, the day I left the Heavens?” Azrael nodded. Belial swallowed. “What was the last image you saw? The last thing that could be seen on the Mirror…. The very last image on it, after the visions.”

Azrael took a moment to answer. “The last image… It was the two of us”, she murmured in perplexity. Azrael looked at him, noticing he was considerably more agitated. “Why do you ask me these things?”

Belial leaned his forehead on his palms. “I do because… you told me those images could show me the future that would be. When I saw the two of us on the Mirror, I realized… that was the Future I wanted. All I’ve ever wanted… was summarized there. The two of us…” His voice seemed to trail off. “Together…”

Rishta stood there, leaving the two alone for some private time. Obviously, these two knew each other and had some issued that needed to be working out. This is not how I thought we all would end up… and to think I thought there was a chance we could avoid this war… Sighing, she indicated for some servants to clear up the dining room, her appetite gone: and she doubted many people would be alive to have dinner when this was all over. Becoming very tired of the room, which to her had become cold and lonely, Rishta walked back to Azrael and Belial, coming into the room, not hanging out by the doorway – so they would not think she had been intruding. “How are you feeling Belial?”

Belial’s wings moved slightly, snapping out of his daze as Rishta came back into the room. He moved his hands away from his face but he did not look up at the girl. After a few seconds, his lips moved. “I don’t know”, he muttered in reply to Rishta’s words. He stared down at his hands, bandaged and tainted in his own blood. Belial shook his head slightly and motioned to stand up with some effort, pressing his hand on his half-healed wound and trying to get his own wings out of the way.

Azrael’s eyes widened slightly. She stared at him with a blink. “I don’t understand”, she said. “We were together before.” She touched his shoulder to stop him. “You need to rest; you’d better stay there and lay down.” She looked at Rishta and blinked again. “Maybe if you allow him to, he could stay here”, she said.

Rishta blinked as Belial tried to stand, and as Azrael held him back. They had definitely had something awhile back… even a human could see that. Sighing, she looked at them carefully, a bit surprised by Azrael’s request. “Of course he can stay here. Belial, you can stay as long as you would like.” Walking back to a chair, she sat and looked at them both, a sort of lost look on her face. “What are we going to do now?”

Belial had a small shiver upon Azrael’s touch. He stared at them as Azrael asked Rishta to let him stay. His jaw was set. “I’m not staying here!”, he hissed. “I can go and solve my own problems on my own!” He was pale and agitated. “I don’t need… your help.” Belial cast a frustrated look at Azrael. “You will leave, won’t you?”, he muttered. “I have no reasons to stay.”

Azrael was confused by Belial’s words. His actions and his words pulled in different directions; the Archangel’s feathers puffed slightly and a small frown of concern formed on her forehead. She looked at Rishta, then back at Belial. “We must join the others”, she told Rishta. “The Armies will be moving soon; we must join them.” She looked at Belial and her frown deepened. “You can’t leave like that”, she emphatically said. “You’re still wounded. I need you to make a choice. I do not understand… why you said you wanted us to be together, then you say you won’t stay. What do you exactly want? You could get killed if you leave; I need to know… what choice you’ll take!” Azrael’s shadow fluttered around her feet.

“Don’t move – it won’t do you any good.” Rishta softly said as Belial struggled against their wishes. It was amazing how stubborn he was – and how he would go to great lengths just to get his way. “Sometimes you need to rely on others so you can do your best.” Rishta nodded wisely and stood. Yes, the war had begun, yes: the first blows had be dealt, now: she would join it. Memories flooded her head – the last war.. oh yes, she remembered the rivers of blood, the screams for mercy, the barbaric yells of her enemies… Memories like that never fade away. Sighing, but refusing to be daunted, Rishta looked back at Azrael, her eyes sad yet firm. “I understand – when do we leave?”

Belial felt his blood pump up to his head. He struggled to get up but he was too weak to get his way. His silver eyes flashed as he glared at the two. “What’d you know?”, he growled. “And what’s the use to stay anyway…?” Belial bit his lip. He guessed he could leave anyway after they’d leave. However… He cast an anxious look at Azrael, then at Rishta. Belial moved his wings uncomfortably like a bird in a cage that’s too small for him. Azrael was waiting. Belial winced.

“Choose…? What am I supposed to say to that?”, he bitterly said. “What I could I choose to do… when all I want…” Belial looked down and ceased to move. “All I want is you”, he muttered. “I love you, Azrael.” Belial’s eyes filled and he pushed her hand off his shoulder with one of his wings. “I’ve loved you ever since I saw you the first time….” He narrowed his eyes. “I do not wish to continue living.”

Azrael’s eyes widened. She retrieved her hand and stared at him for a few seconds. The myriad of tiny lights in her night sky eyes seemed to intensify their brightness in the dark blue as a frown formed upon the Archangel’s face. She slowly rose her hand as if she were about to slap him but stopped before doing so. “I don’t understand”, Azrael murmured. “How come you now say you love me? You’ve told me you hate me. I’ve never done anything to win your favor. In any case, Death is not an escape; it is not a punishment! Death is not an end.”

The Archangel straightened her back, her face again calm. “I can’t chose for you”, she said. “You must choose on your own. I…” Azrael looked at him, and there was a strange warmth to her gaze. “I believe you can leave the Fall behind and free yourself. You’ve done terrible wrongs, but if you wish you can take a different path. It’s not going to be easy but I know you can do it, for I believe you can succeed.” Azrael rose. “What’s your decision?”

Belial gasped. He stared at Azrael with wide open eyes; he suddenly didn’t seem to care any Rishta was in the room with them. “I don’t care!”, he bawled. “I’ve just… told you I love you! Does that mean anything to you…? I tried to hate you… I did try… but it didn’t work! I tried to remove the love from my soul… and you know what happened to me!” Belial struggled to get back on his feet till he managed to stand up unsteadily. He was not exactly looking his best, but he was getting angry again yet he was anxious and anguished. “Dark One, I lied when I said I hate you… but you must believe me, I love you!” Belial winced and clasped his hand on his wound, using the chair for support. “It cannot be you don’t care…”

Azrael was again surprised. She laid her hand on her heart and felt it was racing. She looked at Belial with a blank expression as he spoke; the Archangel was confused and strangely shaken by his words in a way she could not understand. “I don’t know”, she slowly said, “but I care… about you. When you left the Heavens… I felt it in my heart. I’ve missed you. I just want the best for you; if you’d choose to be judged, I know you’d be able to win your way back home. I had never considered the meaning of what a home is… but you don’t belong in the Fall.”

Azrael summoned her Book. She chose a bookmark and opened the large tome at the mark; a long black and white feather marked the pages. “This fell from your wings when you left”, she explained. “I kept it in my Book. I’ve kept a record of your life here, since you were chosen to belong in the Order.” Azrael touched the feather. “I am not supposed to have any feelings for individuals, but I know… I feel about you.” She tilted her head in confusion. “I feel it within me”, she said, “but I don’t know what it is. I just wish you would turn away from Evil.” Azrael slowly closed her Book. “I can’t choose for you, though.”

Belial felt a mix of relief and confusion; at least she had said she cares and yet his heart longed to hear from her words of love, her feelings had fueled his hopes again. Belial was surprised to see the feather – which he recognized as one of his own – and he was even more surprised to learn she had kept a record on his life in her Book. Belial blinked. There was a certain number of personal things about him and things he had done he would rather not have her know about, and he couldn’t but to wonder if she knew about all those, too besides his activities as Master of the Dark Arts. A feeling of shame crept within him and he paleness grew intense. “Do you believe I can win my way back… despite all you know about me?”, he asked.

Azrael rose her eyes to look at him. She gazed into his eyes for an instant and suddenly, she smiled. “Yes, I do”, she said. “I believe you can.” Azrael tilted her head. “Choose”, she said. “Rishta and I will be leaving soon.”

Rishta’s face softened as she listened to their exchange. Them, together… it seemed so… so right. It was as though Belial had been lost in the dark, and found his way back to the light – Azrael. It was somehow ironic that her nickname was “the Dark One,” but Rishta knew that it was a different darkness – and obviously Belial knew that too. Quietly, Rishta walked to the doorway, turning to them, not wanting to interrupt their peace, but unable to stay silent anymore. “Azrael, if you feel here…” touching her heart, Rishta looked at the night sky that was Azrael’s eyes, “then what you feel is called love.” Letting this sink in, she turned to Belial. She didn’t know how to tell him not to let this chance slip by, why he should not die, why it would be better if he remained safe here. So, she just looked at him, then turned and walked out of the room. After all, there was a war to fight.

Belial blushed at Rishta’s sudden words as if he had momentaneously forgotten she was there with them. He bit his lip and anxiously watched Azrael to see what effect Rishta’s words had had on her. He noticed Rishta’s look to him and yet in his nervousness he didn’t fully get what she meant, he simply looked back at her with a sort of grateful look in his silver eyes. Belial bit his lip. “I choose to be judged”, he finally said. “I’ll accept the will of the Council…” He looked at her and had a bitter smile. “We’ll see what happens, I guess.”

Azrael pressed her hand on her heart and seemed to get deep in thought at Rishta’s words; she still looked confused. A faint blush appeared on her cheeks and slowly faded out as she pondered on Rishta’s words. She rose her eyes to look at Belial as he spoke and she nodded. “I am glad you’ve taken this decision”, she softly said. Azrael slowly rose her hand and shyly touched his cheek. “Let there be hope”, she told him. “I believe there is.” “You’d better stay here”, she told him. “You need to rest.”

Belial closed his eyes, leaning his head into her touch; a wave of warmth ran through his body at the soft caress. The pain disappeared; Belial felt his heart so much lighter; he still doubted but her words soothed his soul. Belial opened his eyes. “There’s no way I’m staying”, he said. “I can’t stay sitting here while you fight.”

Azrael blinked. “You are wounded”, she stated. “You can’t fight like this; you’d better stay here, Belial.” Azrael shook her head. “You need to heal and to rest.”

Belial shook his head. “I’m not staying”, he replied. “I can’t stay…” Belial leaned on the chair, the blood loss was getting to him again, making him dizzy. “How could I stay while you go and fight?” He shook his head and tried to steady his balance.

Azrael shook her head and helped him back on the couch, despite his resistance. “No… you’ve lost too much blood. You shouldn’t even be on your feet.” Azrael helped him to lay down. “No… you do need to rest.” She put his hair away from his face with some shyness. Her feelings got her confused. “Just try to rest.”

Rishta stood outside the doorway, her tall frame hiding in the shadows cast due to the candles which were placed around the hallways. Quietly, she listened to Azrael and Belial. He refused to stay. Refused to stay while she fought. If only they had come to this peace on a different night, under different circumstances. Not on the night when it was certain someone would die. What are the chances of us surviving until the dawn? I can feel it. This place, changing, darkening… It’s like I can hear the Armies of Azazel resonating in my soul – but that is impossible… It must be fear, dread – dread of the unknown… fear of War…

Continuing to listen to their conversation, Rishta came to the conclusion, that no matter what – Belial was going to be fighting. He refused to stay, and she knew that as soon as they had gone – he would follow. Really leaves me only one choice. I just hope I can do this. Uriel… why did you have to die so soon? Stepping into the room, she lightly walked over to the newfound couple. “Belial, I can seal that wound for you if you wish. I may not be as good as dear Uriel, but she taught me a few things… and if you’d like, I could try to finish what I started.”

Belial tried to resist to Azrael’s wishes but half because he was too weak to struggle and half because they had rarely been this close, he let her help him back on the couch. Belial clasped a nervous hand on the couch and he slowly closed his hand on the shoulder piece of her armor. There was a subtle perfume to her feathers he remembered well. Rishta’s voice startled him. Belial blushed. Why did Rishta always had to pop out from nowhere? Belial however nodded quickly. “Yes… please do as you say, Rishta”, he replied.

Rishta smiled as Belial agreed, for once loosing his stubborn nature. Then again, one could argue that he agreed just so he could fight. Hah. Well, they’d see who would get their way. Pulling up a chair, she sat down next to Belial and Azrael. Once again, she placed her hand on his wound and closed her eyes – beginning to concentrate once again. That’s all life has become now… get wounded, heal, then get wounded again.

Azrael had a small shiver as she perceived the tension in him when he clasped her shoulder as she helped him back on the couch. When Rishta returned, Azrael gently but quickly freed herself of his grip and stood next to the couch, a faint blush on her cheeks. Azrael let her wings drape around her as Rishta proceeded to heal Belial, her feathers lightly puffed. Azrael’s fingers rolled on a knot in her armor, seemingly distracted. She tilted her head in a bird-like movement, watching them again.

Belial stayed still as Rishta healed him, trying to keep his mind calm to help her achieve her purpose; his mind however drifted again to Azrael. He turned his head to look at her. Her lustrous black feathers shone in the candle lights; Belial perceived she was again confused and deep in thought. He looked at Rishta but still didn’t say nothing, waiting for her to finish.

Rishta’s hand and mind worked deftly, her body now used to the skill that was healing – most likely due to the fact it was forced upon her. Healing round after round. Everyone would need it sooner or later. The muscle reformed, and the skin began to crawl back over the wound. Blood dried, making the body appear as good as new. Of course, she wouldn’t be able to replace the blood he had lost, but at least this was a start. After a good few moments of silence and concentration, she was done. Opening her eyes, she looked at him. Yes, it was finished. Standing up, she poured herself another glass of tea with sugar – she needed the energy. Sipping it, she sat back down in her chair. “How are you feeling?”

Belial sat up slowly. He concentrated, checking up his senses and the state of his body; Rishta’s healing was effective, yet a general weakness still bothered him. “I feel much better”, he said with a nod. Belial touched his forehead and rose back on his feet. A number of worn out, charred feathers fell to the ground, but new ones had taken their place. Belial picked up the pieces of his armor Azrael had removed and snapped them back in place after checking the place where the wound had been. Belial put his hair away from his face. “Thank you, Rishta”, he gravely said. He turned to Azrael and rose his hands to her. “If you’d please remove your sigil…”, he murmured.

Azrael slowly rose her hands and delicately unwound the bandages she had used to cover the marks of the Scythe in his hands, removing her Sigil at the same time. She tied the bandages to his shoulder plate. The marks on Belial’s palms recovered their normal appearance, making him again able to summon his weapon. “You must wear these bands I’ve tied to your shoulder”, she told him, “till I take you to the Council, after the Battles.” Azrael nodded. “You will come into Battle with me, if you wish.”

Rishta sat there, smiling. Sipping her tea, her mind was almost at ease for a moment. But with the war on her mind, she wasn’t truly at peace. It was a chaos that she had sheltered herself from, in this manor. Now she had to face it. But all things could be fixed, as Belial had just proven to her. “You’re welcome Belial.” Sighing a bit, Rishta finished her tea, and looked at the cup for a minute. Gone, already? Just like peace. Ah well… Carpendium – Seize the Day. “Shall we be leaving?”

Azrael nodded. “Yes, we’ll leave now.” Azrael’s gaze fell on Rishta’s armor. “Cadmiel would be proud”, she said with a brief nod. She narrowed her eyes. “The Elders are to decide in which Order of the Heavenly Host you’d belong, but even though you have good healing skills and you’ve learned fast, I believe they will appoint you into the Order of Destiny”, she motioned to the armor, “in which your father belong. For this time, I’ll enlist you in my Legions.”

Belial examined the hole in his armor; he had put the pieces Azrael had removed back in place, but still the armor needed to be repaired and there was no time for that. The armor itself was able to heal, but slowly because Belial had no energies to spare. While Azrael spoke to Rishta, Belial absently sipped the tea the girl had prepared for him when he woke up, which was already cold. Belial narrowed his eyes as he did.

//I never claimed any strength beyond what fate granted me. I never claimed any knowledge beyond what duty gave me. I always took responsibility beyond what life bade me. You can never say the same.// Raziel’s mental voice flickered and faded as his body was consumed.

Belial narrowed his eyes as he sipped the cold tea.

Moloch’s pale, once beautiful face was twisted into a horrible sneer. “How do you like be to left helpless, dear Belial? Alone, with no one to call ‘ally?’ You seem to have fallen in quite well with the Host! Even they turn against you, betrayer!” Moloch cackled, more than a thread of hateful madness in her high-pitched voice. “No one loves you! No one cares about your fate other than to see your existence END! You left me ALONE!”

Belial placed the cup back on the table. Slowly and without a sound, he walked to the chamber door and stood on the threshold.

“Enough, miserable creature!!!” Azazel flourished Lufernatia, which at once burst in flames again. “I’ve had enough of you, despicable spawn of Heaven!” Azazel shot a beam of infernal power to Belial, piercing his armor and his body in a single blow. Belial staggered back, bleeding profusely. Azazel smirked darkly.

Belial closed his hand; the Staff of Simara appeared in it. Conjuring in his mind the spell he had used at the ruins of Rishta’s old home, he sought through the last hours in the chamber, tracking the familiar presences he could perceive, this time making the spell private for only his mind to see and hear.

Michael slowly stood up, shrugged his templar coat higher up onto his shoulders, and followed Rishta into the adjoining room. Just as he suspected, Azrael had brought along Belial, complete with a gruesome wound. This close to the Fallen, Michael could feel Azazel’s taint all over Belial. The angel smiled, though it was cold and grim. “There’s simply no hope for you, is there? You betrayed us first, and then, the ones you sided with millennia ago. Sickening. For your sake, I hope Azrael takes it easy on you.” His smile slowly faded as he turned to the angel of death. “I’m leaving. Azazel has to be stopped.” His templar coat flared behind him as his sword of fire and light, Ezurewrath, exploded into his hand. “This isn’t about the betrayal anymore. Innocent people are being hurt… ones that should never have to suffer for someone else’s sins. If I die, I die.” Michael turned around and started off for the front door, but stopped before he left the room, and looked back over his shoulder at Azrael. “What you do with my soul when I die is of no consequence to me,” he said, almost to himself. “You’re the angel of death. You decide.”

Belial absently changed the view to another scene.

“I am of perfect condition. And why did you save this traitor, Azrael? He betrayed us in the past, and now he has betrayed the Dark side. Belial is treacherous in either way. Why not just kill him off and do ourselves a favor?” Raphael fidgeted a little as he touched his scarred eyes. He turned to Rishta and pats her shoulder comfortingly. “Don’t worry…” Raphael said softly, “Everything will turn out well… The Dark always seems stronger… but Light will prevail.”

Belial tapped his fingers lightly on the Staff as he suspended the spell. He rubbed some dried blood off his face. I must be a mess, he thought, looking at his hands and the state of his robes. Belial rose his eyes to look at Azrael, standing next to Rishta. He asked himself if he did care about being alone, like Moloch had said he’d be. Belial knew from before he’d be an outcast to both sides – he probably hadn’t fully realized to what extent until he rebelled against Azazel. Belial bit his lip slightly. He had to admit in that instant he was truly grateful for Rishta’s attention; but despite the winds that seemed to blow against him Azrael’s care for him was a harbor in the tempest. Belial’s eyes shimmered. He’d need to wait and see what options could he get – after all… he now had a reason to survive. He rested the Staff against his shoulder, waiting.

Azrael tilted her head, sensing Belial’s spell. Despite he had canalized the spell to himself alone, she did perceive the nature of it. Azrael turned and looked into his eyes. The nature of her own feelings was strange and mysterious to her, but it compelled her to worry and to want to know what was troubling him. “We need to talk”, she told him, “but others need help now.” Azrael turned to Rishta again. “Let us go”, she said, leading the way out. Once they left the manor, they took flight back to Luna’s manor.

As Rishta heard Azrael’s words, she felt immediately grateful. Her father’s only gift hugged her perfectly, as though he had known she would need it beforehand. That was not totally impossible… but, she found one part puzzling. How did he know what size she was going to be? Rishta nodded solemnly. Her father had been an Angel of Destiny… “I would be honored to fight alongside you Azrael.” As Azrael looked to Belial, who had obviously done something she could not perceive, Rishta frowned slightly, more out of frustration then annoyance. Ah well, nothing could be done know. Walking out of her house, hopefully not for the last time, she took flight after Azrael, not wanting to think about the odd feeling in her stomach – the one that was saying that war was very close.

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT: A PATH PAVED WITH CORPSES

Mastema and his peers in control of the Legions shook with an inner shiver when they sensed the new course of actions. Mastema had slain his enemies with a renovated fury as they moved in a nearly instinctive coordination to take over the five points of power the summoning ground held, but Azazel’s power pushed them away; the monstrous energy caused the ground to shake, startling all fighters; Mastema held his position and he didn’t realize he was uncovered for a few seconds.
Stunned, Mastema cried out in despair. It was obvious Belial was unable to break free and he was slowly fading – Mastema and his peers could read what the spell was about. The Fallen was dumbfounded.
//No… It cannot be!!!//

Moloch snarled. “Damn you, brat of hell,” she whispered beneath her breath. “He was mine, no matter what allegiance to you believe he broke… He swore to your father. I swore to you.” She dove back onto the battlefield. She would get some measure of revenge, even if she could no longer hope to take Belial for herself. Her voice was a growl that mingled with the thunder of evil-looking clouds she slowly dipped beneath, dark-red wings that seemed to drip tarnished gold like blood gripping the air like vicious talons.

It was bad enough that Azazel stole her energy, destroyed her home, and used it for his personal catalyst. But to steal the one thing that reminded her of happier times- the one thing she could keep forever- the one thing she could avenge herself upon…

The next best thing- Belial’s servant, Mastema, was before her in clear view, obviously stunned at the sudden loss of his leader. The one she had assisted in restoring to full working health so long ago, the crippled one that represented all the latent weakness in life that she despised and loved to destroy in others. She fell from the air, wrapping herself in the rage that had sustained her for many years, that had eaten away the wonder of living and healing so long before that all she enjoyed, all that was left to her, was pain.

“Take this to your master in Hell,” she snarled, savagely raking the metal whip across his prone flesh in a glory of red-streaked flame. Her burning eyes watched him fall and slump with a mixture of hateful joy and pained regret, her white-knuckled hands clutching the handle of Scorpion like the twisted claws of a hawk. “I hate you,” she murmured, unsure as to what she referred to. “I hate you all. I hate you.”
Turning her back, she summoned her Legions to follow. It was no use fighting the Legion of an army whose leader had been torn from the tapestry; no use to fight the Legions of an enemy she did not care for; no use to assist the Legions of a slave master she despised and still loved as a son. She shot into the sky with her army of demons and devils and Fallen behind her in orderly regiments, silent above the violent, wretched crimson and soot clouds. The screaming of the earth’s bowels being raped by Azazel’s magick, the roaring of the skies being torn by his hate, was enough of a voice for them all.

All colors had bled to red; Mastema fell to the ground with a sickening thud. Blood and dirt splattered around him; the Fallen blinked in a mix of perplexity and dismay. He hadn’t sensed Moloch coming, but the energy of her whip was unmistakable. The whip had cut his flesh to the bone; Mastema did not need to see it to know. The Archdemoness’s words startled him but at the same time, he was not surprised to hear them. I don’t trust anyone, Belial had said; Mastema knew nor that nor trusting his brethren would work forever. He clenched his teeth, his fist closed around Argentus, but the energy on Moloch’s whip was infected of her hatred and her bitterness; Mastema laid there in a world of red which was steadily growing cold.

From her lookout, Azrael watched Moloch flee the battlefield. When Belial was summoned by Azazel, the Archangel remained immutable, yet her eyes narrowed. Azrael did not care to pursue Moloch and what was left of her legions; her Time was yet to come. Azrael rose Filos in the shape of a spear and stomped it on the platform; the ground shook and the angels chant took grave, mourn tones. Azrael stood there, a grim archangel in black robes and black armor with eyes deep as the night sky.

“Listen to me”, Azrael spoke, her voice cold and clear like a bronze bell. “Belial is gone. He will not be able to lead you in a second rebellion. All you can do is surrender to me – there’s no other choice. Most of you once were part of my Legions – you know the Rule. If you surrender you’ll live to be judged. If you persist, we’ll take your souls and you’ll be damned.”

“If you wish to be judged and repent, you’ll be heard. If you choose otherwise, your Fate is already written. I am Azrael Archangel of Death and Destruction and I speak the will of the Council.”
Azrael’s wings shook slightly. Souls awaited, and others would need her soon. Azrael had missions to complete.

The angels and demons faces were inscrutable. Both sides were grim and now silent – the numbers had diminished. Agonizing, Laying in a pool of his own and others blood, Mastema heard Azrael’s announcement and he had a bitter grimace that could almost be a smile. A hard kick landed on his side. Mastema coughed out a gush of blood; he barely distinguished the enraged face of Malchiressa. The demoness, a Legion Commander like himself, was furious, her face streaked with tears.

“You idiot! The Necromancer should be dead by now… and we’re doomed!” Malchiressa would have had continued and she took impulse to deliver another kick; Mastema spoke coldly.

“Save your energies, if you wish to defy the Dark One”, he coolly said. “After all, she’s given you a choice.”

Malchiressa froze in place, shaking with anger. Mastema laid his head down and looked around.
“Rashiel.” One of the angels of destruction came to his side. Mastema moved his head, trying to focus. “Rashiel, the Were are not bound by soul. They are free. Give them a chance to choose.”

Rashiel scratched his nose, mainly to brush away tears from his eyes. “Azrael spoke for all; they have the choice, too.”
Mastema relaxed. He closed his eyes. Rashiel did not add a word, but he remained by his side.

An orderly mass of Were sat nearby on their haunches, all in their lupine forms. They were silent, unmoving, watching the exchange between the Others without a sound.
At Mastema’s words, a shiver ran through their ranks. The wolf-warriors, even the hideously wounded, stepped aside as a huge female wolf strode ponderously between them.
As she neared the group of Legion Commanders, her form shimmered and shifted as she once more became human. Although naked, she walked with a graceful, proud air that did more to clothe her than the thickest of wools.

“Belial is gone. Our reason to fight is over- we remain loyal to his memory, but it is not enough to risk destroying our presence. I do not think he would wish it so.” Her voice was low and soft, the musical growl of a predator. “We will leave the battlefield, unless Mastema, his second, chooses to continue with or against you. It is his choice, he who was closest to the Archdemon.”

Mastema seemed to doze off, then fight to regain his consciousness, laying on the soaked ground. He opened his eyes to look at Luna, but his sight seemed strangely off. “I won’t be going anywhere from here, most likely”, Mastema murmured. “and I don’t have the right to decide for you. If Belial were here, he’d tell you to leave and fight to survive. I bet he told you that ‘choose to be a Master or a Leader’ speech, sometime…” Mastema snickered with some sarcasm. “If you thought he himself was a Master… the truth is, he was a Leader. There’s an important difference.” Mastema coughed. “I can tell he thought you have all you need to be a Great One. Go and be one. That’s all I have to say.”

Azrael landed without a noise, her huge black eagle-like wings barely moving as the archangel set foot on the ground, not far from where Mastema laid. Azrael examined the ground where the summoning pentagram had been visible. Her black armor seemed to absorb all light, but the sigils of power curled and uncurled like melted gold and fire markings on the unearthly metal. Azrael turned her head to look at the small group around Mastema. Her dark night sky eyes were immutable as ever.

“We are Executers, not Judges”, the Archangel coolly said yet her full lips did not move. “I will not stop you, for your hour is not this one. We will be there when the Time comes.” A cold calm and inexorability emanated from Azrael, a feeling alike to that of the full moon in a black night; alone, unyielding.
“Belial is not dead yet. He is my responsibility.” Azrael motioned to a high-rank angel of her Legions. “Lead on. Wait for the signal.” The angel took a bow. Azrael tilted her head, as if listening to a voice from afar.

Luna nodded solemnly, her gold eyes catching the red-lit sky like a brass mirror. “I understand.” Her pale form hesitated for a second, and then she knelt beside Mastema. She found a sharp fragment of gleaming silver and cut her palm- the pain made her hiss. She streaked it across his pale sweating face, beneath his eyes. “In the old ways,” she murmured, and took his blood and marked her palms.

She bowed her head and, after a moment, stood and paused. She turned to Azrael, in her terrible beauty- even colder than Belial had been, in the beginning. Something clicked within her- Belial must have adored this angel, this Angel of Death. Luna stepped forward and touched an ebony feather, her face quiet and serious. “If there is such within you, find compassion for the dead today. There will be many more. It makes no difference in Time, but it does to the souls of the passed.”
Luna morphed back into her lupine form; it was far warmer. The cold air, generated maybe by the aura of fear, had prickled her skin. One by one, slowly, her Pack followed suit and dipped cold noses into the dying demon’s blood, to honor him. The survivors.

Azrael’s gaze met the Lupa’s as the Were spoke; she tilted her head in a slight nod as the Were took her wolf form and lead her people, bidding a last honor and farewell to Mastema. Azrael watched thoughtfully and kept all she saw in her heart, yet there was no trace of emotion on her face. The Archangel spread her mighty wings and took off, flying into the darkness of the night, quickly disappearing at incredible speed.

Azazel snickered evilly, allowing his arms to fall at his sides once the summoning was complete; Belial laid at his feet inside the pentagram whose power would hold him inside of it. He noticed he still held grip on his Staff, but Azazel cared not about it. It’d be useless. However… Azazel frowned. During the last stage of the Summoning, he did perceive a double nature in the Archdemon. Now as Belial regained his corporeity… Azazel narrowed his eyes. The faint aura of power that flowed from Belial was hurting his eyes… Azazel watched Belial emotionlessly as a memory flowed within his mind.

Azazel opened his eyes. He felt curious and amazed, blinking owlishly in a strange Light that hurt his eyes. Loving arms pressed his body against a female body; he rubbed his hands on his face. A small, soft and pale white hand; a rough, scaled claw. He wriggled and the female swayed him lightly.

“You say this is my son?”, a skeptical voice asked. Azazel shivered, a strange terror creeping within his soul. He looked up; three angels were looking at him, surrounding the female that held him. The light that hurt his eyes came out of them; strangely, the light was a dark force, bright but dark at the same time. The female’s face was beautiful, but shadowed by a dark anxiety. The angels he knew, but it was like seeing them by first time. One of them had white hair and a sly, crooked smile; he was more interested in his mother’s body than in him – for Azazel know now it was Lilith who held him. The other angel had raven-black hair and shimmering silver eyes open wide in wonder and piercing curiosity. The third one…

Azazel’s lip curled in a dark smile. Where would you go, Moloch? Where will you find rest in my domain? The best place for you to be is in the center of the whirlwind. Didn’t you say you are a kind hostess? It’s too bad you refuse to tend to Belial now. May I point out… I’d be sad if I needed to summon you as well when I think of you again. With a smirk, Azazel spoke to Autumn, his back still to her.

“I told you… I have someone who is able to make a human immortal. Someone who can rise the dead to true life.” Azazel laughed evilly. “He was my teacher once; the Necromancer of Old, the one being who can make you immortal for me!” Azazel flicked his hand disdainfully. “As you can see, Teacher… you taught me well. You should be proud of yourself!” Azazel hissed a spell. Bolts of energy ran through Belial’s body, causing him to twitch like a lifeless doll. “I have a task for you… Your life will last a few minutes more – you should be happy.” Azazel narrowed his eyes and his malevolent smile widened slightly.

Raziel crept ever-so-slowly into the broken stone chamber, gliding silently over the cracked floor as mad Azazel hammered his plan out into physical ‘perfection.’ He noted Belial sadly; there was no hope that Raziel could rescue both his student and Autumn, the human who had strengthened such odd sensations of protection that had been birthed by the hybrid Rishta. He flitted like a gust near to Autumn’s shoulder.
//The ring, Autumn. You must take the ring. It is your only hope.// He reached out to brush her hair, to touch it for the first and last time before he was obliterated.

He dropped his cloak of invisibility, sure that Azazel had already sensed him by now, even through his distraction and preoccupation with the Necromancer, his former teacher. “Fool,” he spat, summoning Sapentia as his staff and bringing it before him in a position of defense, enabling a shield just strong enough to last a few moments. “You do not understand the forces you speak so blithely of trifling with. Do you truly think you’ll succeed in this insane plan?” His voice was deliberately disrespectful and contemptuous; an attitude he could only maintain artificially.

Azazel’s brow twitched as he sensed an intruder in his improvised sanctorum – not an stranger. Suspending Belial’s torture for an instant, Azazel turned around with an eyebrow arched in contempt. It was Raziel, one of the Elders in the Angelic Host, the Keeper of Sapentia. Azazel’s eyes narrowed as he cast a sideways look at Belial. Thanks to Moloch Azazel strongly noticed Raziel had been his Teacher’s Teacher – what a nice detail. Azazel smiled with inner evil mirth.

“Oh, what an honorable visitor”, he slyly murmured. “What a remarkable guest has arrived – my Teacher’s Teacher. I should be delighted to receive your advice… Sadly, you force me to point out your wrongs, Angel of Knowledge.” Azazel’s eyes blazed like infernal carbuncles in his pale face, his lip faintly curled in a disdainful, mocking smile. “I do know the forces I’m talking about. I am the living proof!” Azazel’s smile widened slightly. “Belial can alter the basic balance between the human soul and its shell – he can make Autumn immortal for me! Of course after I watch and learn his procedures, he’ll be able to follow you into the chasms of non-being. I’ll keep the Black Scroll and Sapentia to mourn for you two and for future use. It’s too bad such excellent scholars must have such a bitter end.”
Azazel’s eyes blazed more intensely and his aura lit up in red flames. “Walk away from my wife if you are so kind, Raziel Angel”, he hissed.

Belial writhed in agony, refusing to scream in pain as Azazel’s unbearable power flowed through his body, unable to push the burning energies away.
Suddenly, the arc or energy ceased; the pain diminished. Trying to catch up his breath, Belial opened his eyes as faint curls of smoke rose from him. He heard a familiar voice, but he still could not make out the words; his senses were numb. Belial was terrified inside, but even though he bore no hopes, he refused to let his emotions be apparent. The Fallen saw Azazel was talking and looking to someone else; he closed his trembling fingers around the Staff of Simara. Belial used a spell of will to try to canalize and make some energy usable to regain some of his strength, but the evil brute force that was Azazel’s power was too crude and savage to control; the sigils on the summoning ground held on. Belial redirected his aim to the sigils of his Elements, desperately trying to revert them.

Then he saw to whom Azazel spoke. It was Raziel! Belial cringed inwardly, aware that Raziel alone was no match for Azazel in a power fight. Something long ago asleep seemed to awaken in the Fallen’s heart. Belial bit his lip. Would Raziel try to take the ring by himself? //He is a monster; you should go away this minute!//, he mentally hissed. //You are not a fighter! He’s too powerful for you alone!// Belial tightened his grip on the Staff till his knuckles went white.

It was madness! The plan he had concocted was pure madness! Did he mean to kill her and bring her back as the undead? Autumn would have preferred death itself to spending an eternity with such a man. The ease at which he summoned, and slowly tortured his own man had her frozen in place. He meant to have his own, despite the obstacles, how was she going to contend with that?
Raziel’s voice and the soft touch through her hair gave her a sudden flood of relief before it quickly turned into a more overwhelming fear as he revealed himself to Azazel. His warning temporarily forgotten as she looked around the ruined house for signs of the other angels. He couldn’t have been so foolish to come here alone, he wouldn’t survive! The fiery look in Azazel’s eye were proof enough of that, confirmed by his less than subtle threat. “Raziel,” Autumn breathed quickly as she leapt from the onyx throne. “Please don’t! You need to leave. You can’t stay here!” She warned him away, hoping he’d pay heed. Unaware Belial was giving him the same message.


“Will you kindly hurry up, Morris!” Samael snapped. “I can understand being late to dinner or some such, but this is the end of the world! And there is no being late to the Apocalypse!”

Johnathon glared up at Samael through his bangs. “Well, perhaps if somebody had remembered how to make a Seal Sigil, I wouldn’t have had to drag along your accursed grimoire!” Johnathon looked over his shoulder and into his pack, where the corner of a tome nearly as thick as his forearm was resting uncomfortably on his back. “Oh, God, my kingdom for a horse!”
The two occultists trudged along, moving more than halfway across town, until they reached the source of where Johnathon’s extra sense called him. Johnathon moved to the edge of Moloch’s house, and blinked in amazement at the rear yard. “Funny, I don’t remember there being a sinkhole filled with evil the last time I was here.”

“There is an army below,” Samael whispered, kneeling down next to the edge and peering into the crevice. “I can see the Baroness, and several others with her.”

Johnathon set down the huge book, and joined Samael. .”..that’s Azazel,” he muttered. “I’d recognize him anywhere. Lord Silvan… I mean… Belial is also with him, as well as the angel, Raziel. But, this is Moloch’s home… I wonder where she is?”

“Perhaps she’s been killed,” Samael said.

“I doubt we’ll ever be that lucky,” Johnathon replied. “I sense more very powerful beings, off in the distance. Perhaps she is there, commanding her armies.”

Samael nodded. “Look, there. That’s a summoning circle, and a very potent one at that. That Belial fellow must have been dragged here.”

Johnathon pulled Samael’s book close to him, and continued to stare down into the abyss. He had brought along a few trinkets of his own, but they were, thankfully enough, light enough to fit in his pockets. “Raziel is here. We’ll wait up here, to see if the others arrive. Then we can make our move.”

A message full of white-hot pain seethed and flickered into his mind. A warning. //I know this. I also know there is no hope unless we can succeed in our mission. Gabriel is already dead. As is Uriel, and the young Fallen Tabris. Cadmiel’s soul has been taken. Your legions are falling.// 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. A dangerous fool, but a fool nonetheless.” Now came the time where he prepared to die. Sending a brief prayer to Azrael, that she not forget their arrangement, he cast a spell imbued with as much holy power as he could straight into Azazel’s wicked eyes.

“I pity you, boy,” he whispered as he allowed his resources to pour into the quick, clear blast. As Gabriel said. It is a good day to die. The splintering rock walls, the sound of spells and the dying- all highlighted by the complete silence around Raziel’s words, his spell. All the dark shadows in the room crystallized into razor-sharp edges against pools of liquid radiance as the heatless energy sought to make Raziel’s first and final attempt at harming Azazel. Raziel’s six sky-blue wings were spread wide; he could sense the occultists and wondered if they were so foolish as to believe their presence here would accomplish anything. His silver robes flowed like water in a surreal breeze, his face stark and beautiful in that one prolonged moment it took to seal his fate.

Azazel roared in anger as the pure Light struck his eyes; the Demon instinctively rose his clawed, red scaled hand to protect his sight; the energy seemed to burn him without a flame. Azazel’s aura was lit in flames and the flames grew; the beam of Light came through his fingers like a bundle of swords, diffracting in all directions around him. Azazel pushed his hand forward, the heatless power being pushed back by the dark power of Lucifer’s son. Azazel had been forced to close his eyes, but as he did in Westminster he relied on his other senses to keep track of the world around him.

“Fool! In all your wisdom, is this the best you can do?”, Azazel snickered evilly, his voice seeping sarcasm and venom. “Where are your Legions; where is the so called Army of the Heavens, that they send a single Elder to face Azazel The Warlord? You all will be defeated.” 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!”

Azazel flicked his hand: the onyx throne detached from the floor and slid to the side at great speed, carrying Autumn away from Raziel and to the other side of the altar; it stopped just before reaching the edge of the platform on which the sanctorum was, the chasm below swarming with fire and demons. Azazel closed his scaled fingers and the outline of a great sword became visible. Azazel’s eyes shot open again, pools of red and blazing bronze; he flourished Lufernatia and the blade burst in flames.

“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.

//Teacher…!//
Held down on the summoning ground by Azazel’s magicks, Belial’s eyes widened as Raziel’s life came to an end; Belial’s eyes filled at the terrible sight. The Fallen was horribly pale, his fingers clutching the Staff. Belial pressed hard a hand on his forehead in deep, stunned despair.
I told you to leave… Belial gasped for air, his throat closing. It’s my fault… I should have let the Seal of the Abyss Alone! I should’ve left Azazel rot in Hell forever! But to free the others… What for? Mastema was agonizing or dead by now; his Legions slain by Azrael; he was a traitor to both sides – Moloch’s words still burn his mind. Azrael would never forgive him. Azazel was going to kill him… and he’d be destroyed, erased forever from the Book of Azrael. Belial had a shiver. Scattered beams from Raziel’s last shot touched him and burned his flesh, yet the summoning ground repelled it, some still touched him. The holy energies burned his flesh but were also absorbed and canalized by his dual system. Belial had a bitter, faint smile.
“I will never make your wife an immortal for you”, he muttered. “Shall she die and scape from within your grasp!”

//I never claimed any strength beyond what fate granted me. I never claimed any knowledge beyond what duty gave me. I always took responsibility beyond what life bade me. You can never say the same.// Raziel’s mental voice flickered and faded as his body was consumed. It was curious; he felt no pain. His energies and heart were elsewhere, he was separate from his burning body. It was ironic- both he and Gabriel died of demon fire. One last duty… Raziel’s spirit, Sapentia, flickered out from solidarity and into a pale gray and gold orb of light, darting this way and that, seeking escape from Azazel’s spells. He would hold on to his last hope, that Azrael would find him and follow his request. For now, he must evade the Son of Lucifer. //The Ring!//

Azazel narrowed his eyes incredulously as Raziel’s soul darted about in the shape of a small orb of golden light, seeking a crevice in the Sanatorium’s wards to scape from Azazel’s power. Azazel swatted once at it irritably as the small orb zoomed about like a nasty fly. “You won’t scape!”, he growled. “I’ll get Sapentia – my wards are not to be taken lightly!” Azazel didn’t look at his wife yet, busy as he was.

Azazel’s eyes widened in fury as he heard Belial’s voice. Tears mixed with blood fell from his eyes due to the damage Raziel had caused; Azazel swept the moisture away and winced, for the marking across his left eye suddenly burned his flesh again, everlasting curse his father had given him.
“Annoying creatures! It’s impossible to deal with you.” Azazel lazily shot several blasts after Raziel’s darting soul. “Teacher, I’ve not asked for your opinion. You will make Autumn immortal for me. Look how thrilled she is at the idea!” Azazel scowled in angry sarcasm. “Set to work!”

Azazel again made the evil power flow through Belial’s body like a voltaic arc, causing him to twitch and cry in pain. Azazel fixed his nightmarish gaze on him for an instant. The pattern of energies was different. Belial had had some time to recover as Azazel dealt with Raziel, and his aura yet still weak was lightly stronger. The dark splendor from him hurt his eyes; The light that hurt his eyes came out of them; strangely, the light was a dark force, bright but dark at the same time… Azazel was stunned as the energies ripped through Belial’s helpless form. The Warlord frowned and recalled the memories Moloch had shown him; Fallen and their previous life as Angels.

“Where’s the boundary…?”, he murmured as Belial screamed. “Damnation! You’ve betrayed yourself and all of the inhabitants of Hell!”, Azazel yelled. “Your aura denounces you! You are nothing but a miserable angel!!!” Azazel’s eyes widened in hatred and anger. “I shall kill you as I killed your Teacher!” Azazel’s fiery, mad gaze spied Raziel’s soul trying to scape by the corner of his eye. Azazel slashed down with Lufernatia, breaking the bounds that held Belial pinned to the summoning ground, then the Demon flourished the sword to burn the orb with it, but the soul once again scaped. The suddenly freed Fallen’s body shook and bounced with a sickening thud; the arc of energy ceased. “Get on your feet!”, Azazel demanded. “Or else you’ll die on your belly like a ran over dog!”

“Raziel!”

Samael nearly jumped out of his skin as Johnathon shouted down into the pit. “Stay quiet, you fool!” he snapped, pulling Johnathon back. “If they hear us down there, we’re as good as dead!”

Johnathon squeezed his eyes shut, and slunk back until he could no longer see into the abyss. “Damn… damn it all…!” he growled, punching at the ground. “How can you sit there and watch this? An angel is dead because of us! An angel, Samael! One of the most powerful servants of God, and it’s all our fault!”

“Quit dwelling on the past! What’s done is done already!” Samael replied bitterly. “If you truly want to make it up to that man, then stay quiet and wait here. You can do him no good if you’re dead.”
Samael waited for a moment, and continued to look down. “We must work together, if we are to overcome this terrible evil. The last thing we need is to go half-cocked into danger with a full head of steam. Ah–look there! The angel’s spirit is…” Samael looked back over his shoulder. Johnathon, however, was gone, and so was his book.
“Blast it all…” the doctor growled. “Such a shame that such talents are wasted on ignorant youth.” Picking himself up off the ground, Samael dusted himself off, and followed Johnathon’s footprints into the house.

He had had to scream; he couldn’t control the need to anymore. Belial tried to ignore the pain as the objects before him went blurrier by the second; his inhuman senses were numb. The Fallen felt intense nausea once the torture suddenly stopped again. The trauma of the form of summoning Azazel used on him plus the torture had caused important damage to him but he refused to realize to what extent they had. He was sweating blood; his fingers and his wings were going numb, yet a chilling shiver kept them shaking like those of a drunk one. Feathers of his own laid around him, charred. The smell in the acid, loaded in sulfur air he breathed was sickening, even for a necromancer; the spot where Raziel died was still burning in flaming rage. Azazel’s yelling painfully rang in his ears. Belial’s feverish forehead met the cold stone ground as a gush of blood came out of his bluish, trembling lips. When will this be over…? When will it be…?

Belial blinked, trying to focus. Then somehow his brain put together the scattered words he perceived in his torment; Belial was frozen in shock.
Belial felt as if the world were spinning wildly around him; those words pierced through him like a spear. In that second he came to realize what he had been denying to himself ever since he split in Angel and Aramis; he realized… and with the realization, once his darkest secret had been found, he lost all hope and with it he lost all fear.
Belial struggled to push himself up from the stone floor, first supporting his upper body with his elbows, then using the Staff he still held to finally sit up shaking, his hair damp in blood stuck to his face; his feathers stained and ragged. Belial sat on his legs, leaning on the Staff; he rose his eyes to look at Azazel with a madman look in his silver eyes. A disdainful smirk curled his lips. Belial slowly forced himself to get on his feet with visible effort. Leaning on the Staff, Belial’s shoulders trembled lightly. The Fallen shook with laughter, the shocking sound echoing on the live stone of the chasm below, mixing with the war battle cries and the clashing sounds of the Armies below.

Belial smirked. “I taught you”, he slowly said, “you ought not to use a summoning ritual if you are not fully certain on what lays on the other side.” Belial withdrew his Darkness, allowing the Light he so carefully hid and restrained all those Centuries to flow freely, forming a bright aura of white light around him. He was weak now; he was on the verge of death, but the Light was still enough to give Azazel a nasty surprise.

Azazel roared in fury and took a step back as the Light seemed to cut its way into his eyes like splinters of white-hot silver. The Demon instinctively protected his eyes with his scaled hand yelling curses that made the stones crack and the very flames from Hell in the Hell Gate wither. Belial was too weak to cause much damage, but he added to Raziel’s work. Azazel’s anger was quickly increasing.
“Enough, miserable creature!!!” Azazel flourished Lufernatia, which at once burst in flames again. “I’ve had enough of you, despicable spawn of Heaven!” Azazel shot a beam of infernal power to Belial, piercing his armor and his body in a single blow. Belial staggered back, bleeding profusely. Azazel smirked darkly.
“I’ll crush all your bones”, he muttered, raising his fist; he began casting a spell.

The raven emerged from the darkness Moloch’s mansion, traveling through the shadows; she appeared in a dark corridor, swiftly flying over Samael Norse’s head and straight in the opposite direction. The bird emerged from the ruins and reached the sanctorum atop the cliff in the blink of an eye in a silent flight. Without a warning, the raven went through the bonfire where Raziel died, darting to the side with cold precision; the gold orb of light which was the soul of Raziel met her in flight like a perfect aerial dance; the raven took it in its claws, where it seemingly disappeared. Without pausing, the raven squeezed its way into the deactivated summoning ground and touched the stone floor between the Demon and the Fallen; the Archangel of Death and Destruction appeared before Azazel with Belial at her back.

Belial’s eyes opened wide in amazement as his paleness increased, if that was possible; a piercing, desperate feeling of shame paralyzed him, almost making him forget the bleeding wound he had just been delivered; Belial was speechless.

Azazel abruptly lost his concentration upon Azrael’s arrival – for an instant he believed the Heavenly Armies had arrived; but he quickly noticed no other angelic presences were perceivable. The Archangel had a total absence of fear; being a living being, Azazel cringed instinctively at her sight. However he quickly regained his self-control.
“Azrael, the Dark One herself”, he murmured. “What will happen once the Death dies? If you are Death itself – but we’ll see!” Azazel’s aura lit up in flames again, ready to strike the immutable archangel; her demeanor was unnerving but he was sure of his victory.

Azrael was a pragmatic archangel; she didn’t lose time in threats or futile words. As Azazel snapped out of his shock and spoke, Azrael was already moving. She rose her hands in the air, her index and thumb fingers meeting before her eyes; Azrael projected her aura like a dark surface before Azazel’s eyes and on the black surface, an image formed. Strange lights came out of the image and Azrael murmured cold words. Azazel’s eyes went wide in terror and he howled before staggering back with such panicky that he fell off the cliff. Without losing a second, Azrael turned and took the Staff from dumbfounded Belial, then seized him like if he were a sack. Azrael turned to Autumn. If the woman had been able to see what she showed to Azazel, Azrael didn’t bother to mention.
//Remember Raziel’s words.// Azrael darted off as the wards faltered, their Master’s mind in confusion. She flew into the next shadow, leaving Autumn alone with Azazel.

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN: HELL HATH NO FURY

Angel was furious at the idea they had had the chance to get rid of Michael, but why he hadn’t thought about that earlier? Aramis was quiet and thoughtful. Angel’s eyes flashed.
“We should’ve dragged him to Hell when we had the chance to, at the Abbey”, Angel murmured.

Aramis shrugged. “If you’d ask for my opinion”, Aramis replied, “I don’t care anymore. I don’t see the use in that. I can sense the end is near.”

Angel frowned. “Maybe”, he grimly said. Aramis nodded slowly as he finished canalizing and dispersing the holy energies that blinded Mastema.
The wind blew furiously from the night sky; the trees bent and creaked, and the very earth seemed to groan beneath strange powers. Shadows ran, but none of the nightmarish creatures set loose would come near them. Aramis put his hair behind his ears as the wind pushed it on his silver eyes.
“You’ll recover your sight gradually. Don’t push it, Mastema. Rely on your other senses. You’ll do well.”

Angel swept a look around. “Luna’s manor is not far from here. Just far enough for a little walk.”

Mastema gasped. “A walk? We don’t have time for a walk!”, he exclaimed. “We must move, and fast! We ought to warn the others!” Mastema instinctively rose his hands to rub his eyes, but he stopped right on time.
“I’m sure there’ll be a solution… There always is one”, he said, trying to fake some cheerfulness. “You… always get good ideas. I’ll help you.” Mastema was frustrated at his blindness but he tried to belittle the fact that he couldn’t see a thing.
They started on their walk. Mastema blinked as he slowly began to see blurry shadows and lights, but he still couldn’t make out the shapes of the objects around him. The chilling wind howled. Hell ran on the streets of London.

Angel and Aramis cast a sideways look at Mastema as they walked; Mastema’s other senses were keen. However the real purpose behind their sudden wish for a walk it was to give Mastema’s eyes time to heal before they reached Luna’s grounds. Mastema trusted his peers under Belial’s command, but Belial didn’t trust anyone. They could – some would, that was for sure – turn against the Necromancer.
“There’ll be time to see about things”, Aramis murmured.

“Maybe”, Angel replied. The wind was chilling. Angel and Aramis walked close to each other and after one street turn, only one shadow showed next to Mastema’s.

Belial absently put his hair out of his eyes. “The manor is not far.”

Mastema pouted slightly as a frustrated child. He sensed Belial merge back into his normal self; the feeling was creepy even for a warlock.
Mastema was worried about Adriel. He tried to ease his anxieties telling himself she was with a number of her allies and that she would be safe… but still, he was a worried guy. “Have you ever loved someone?”, he asked Belial.

Belial forced a smile.
“Depends… on what kind of love you ask about. I love my Art. Isn’t that enough?” Belial showed a fierce, brief smile. “Your questions don’t please me.”
Belial looked ahead. “The Manor is ahead. We’ve arrived.”

Mastema scratched his head in embarrassment, noticing the displeasure in Belial’s voice. He gazed ahead. He saw the fence, then the manor beyond it. Still, the image was blurry, grayish. When the guardian spells opened the iron gate for them, he couldn’t but think one of the faces on the gate was just like some demon he knew. Belial was as serene and stern as ever. His apparent cool infused confidence to Mastema. Belial summoned the Staff of Simara, holding it in his right hand. Mastema’s own staff, Argentus, had taken the shape of a heavy Celtic bracelet on his arm.
Here we go…, Mastema thought to himself.

Luna rose from her desk as soon as she sensed the Archdemon and his cohort entering the grounds, taking a much appreciated break from her ledger of accounts. As a part of her determination to take over the manor, she had begun doing all of the economical work herself, instead of the bare necessities.
Drawing on a warm shawl over her light-blue themed dress, she swept out of her office and down the stairs, taking a hidden passageway that led directly to the manse’s front doors. She was there to open them as soon as her newly arrived guests reached them. “Greetings,” she smiled warmly, noting a faint scent of unease around the lesser Other and something else entirely about the Archdemon.

Belial nodded gravely. “Good evening”, he gently said in response to Luna’s greeting with a polite nod. His silver eyes shimmered strangely beneath his thick black eyelashes as he looked at her. He could sense her soul pound lightly beneath his Seal, the power he had transmitted to her flowing in harmony within her being. The warmth in her smile once again made him feel she didn’t question him, but accepted him. She hadn’t been twisted yet by her passions handling the power… as it usually happened to Humans in the course of the years. Samael, Lorant Riktophen… were only a couple examples. Belial’s eyes shimmered as she smiled. The Fallen found his own disposition had changed ever since he left Moloch’s house. Luna does not deserve this harm…

“I hope my people have not troubled you any”, he said with a small smile. “I shall see them now; they’ll leave your grounds soon. Some things have changed and I believe… they will concern to you as well, Luna.”
He offered her his arm. He led her across the house and towards the gardens. Mastema followed them. Once they reached the hall before the doors to the gardens, Mastema put on his mask, took a quick bow to the Archdemon and walked outside.

Once they were alone Belial turned to Luna, gently letting her hand slip from his arm. He held the Staff in one hand; he was in his human form. His piercing gaze met hers and yet it was as commanding and proud as ever, it had a strange tenderness to it, like the way he had looked at her after he heightened her senses.
“There has been a change in my plans for the immediate future”, he slowly said. “Sometimes even I must take decisions that do not please me. You are a special creature; you have the talents and the intelligence needed to succeed in any quest you’d choose to take. I would have enjoyed to teach you higher steps in the Dark Arts.”
Belial made a pause. “Unfortunately that won’t be possible. I have chosen to relieve you from my service. I will free your soul… and our agreement will be dissolved.”

Luna blinked in confusion and backed away a step. “I…” My… Dreams… You’re stealing my only ambition! To prove myself as a great Lupa. “I don’t understand, Great Other… You… You marked me! This is my chance to be the strongest pack, to preserve my race and lore for posterity! I don’t understand.” She shook her head as if trying to rid herself of an unpleasant thought. “Is this a test, Archdemon? What must I do to pass? How have I become unworthy?” Her golden eyes were caught between radically different emotions; confusion, anger, fear, ferocity- all battled for dominion of her heart.

“You’ve not become unworthy”, Belial said in a low steel-like voice, his eyes shimmering darkly. “It’s not about something you have done. It’s about me.” His shadow fluttered around his feet. “It might sound strange, but I believe this would be the best for you. Destiny might change… in the blink of an eye. You still get time to reshape your plans once I set you free – you are young and intelligent. You don’t need me to tell you that.” Belial narrowed his eyes, seeing the mare magnum of emotions in her golden eyes.

“I will give you a reason to agree with me”, he grimly said. Belial’s shadow began to change. The Archdemon held the Staff beside him, the end of the pole set on the marble floor. His human appearance vanished, revealing another form. Yet he still was very much like his human form, this form was of a terrible beauty; of an unbearable splendor. Six huge eagle-like wings of black and white feathers appeared on his back; the long feathers of his mighty wings brushed against the marble floor. He was wearing black, silky flowing robes; an unearthly armor of the color of steel and black sigils on Power etched on it protected his body. A blinding resplendence came out of him, strangely mixed with a dark shadow that put out all the other lights in the chamber. His silver eyes shimmered strangely – only his eyes remained exactly the same.

Belial moved his wings slightly, then folded them, allowing a pair of them to rest on his shoulders. He looked at her gravely, as if pondering on the better way to explain himself. His lip curled lightly into a sad smile.
“It’s a long story… if I were to explain you all of it, it’d start way back when I used to be an angel. I won’t exhaust your patience with that.” A kind of dark mirth showed briefly in his eyes. “For short I’ll tell you, I had a friend who was the closest thing to a brother I ever had… back then. He rebelled against the Heavens and I followed him; I became one of his Archdemons. We wanted our own Freedom; he was the Light-Bearer and we all had great hopes. However, his Light went out and he departed from the worlds. He left behind a son – the most terrible and wretched creature that has ever lived. He is now the Warlord, Azazel; the Leader of the Armies from the Abyss.” Belial made a pause.

“I still long for my own Freedom. Because of this I have finally rebelled against Azazel. I am aware that he will not forget this. I had believed I could resist his power, but I’ve come to realize my doom is near.” He nodded. “I do not wish to drag you down with me. Once I get killed, I will be destroyed to the full extent of the word. I don’t know all, but my friend’s soul… vanished and I could never find it. This gives me a cue on what could happen to mine. Even if I don’t take my power from you, it’d disappear upon my destruction. My Seal would still hold your soul, for that’s the way it works and I never considered my own destruction could happen…” Belial bit his lip. “It’ll be safer for you if I remove my Seal from your soul.”

He tightened his grip on the Staff.
“I could… weaken my seal enough for your soul to break free from it when you die, yet you’d keep the power I’ve given you for some more time. However, power corrupts the souls of men. Perhaps you could make your choice.” He cast her a grave yet inquisitive look.

“Corruption?” Luna barked a harsh, short laugh. “If any estimations are correct, I’m already doomed to an eternity in hell by any means. Do as you see fit, Archdemon, but my offer of assistance still stands. As I scent it, you may need all the help you can get anyway. What better for those begotten of long-faded demoniac blood than to help their ancestors? The Were of my pack are ever your allies, Master of the Dark Arts.” Luna curtsied gracefully, her silver eyes closed now and sharp with fury at whatever had changed her tutor.

She was not in the least surprised by the shift in Belial’s appearance; it had been the form in her dreams, those dreams haunted by the mysterious voice that warned her against him. The terrible beauty of his form did not cow her, though she knew herself to be so far weaker than the being before her that she should melt on the earth she stood upon. It made her want to make herself more, better, stronger; to be and make those around her be worthy of his attentions.
“I care not for my safety. I would not be a Lupa if I did- I would be a mere mongrel. You have my loyalty, with or without your Seal.” Her unblinking eyes dared him to throw that to the four winds. Surely hundreds of able warriors, even those not of her Pack, would not be worthless to a cause?

Belial was again, surprised. It was the first time he would spontaneously offer one of his Marked her freedom, and she didn’t seem to care; in fact, he could sense anger in her. She reaffirmed her alliance to him, with his Seal or not – he could see she was sincere; she was not cowed by his true form; she knew what she had exposed herself to. She accepted him; again, this fact touched his soul. The part of him that was Aramis was perplexed and grateful; the part of him that was Angel was furious. Somehow in his deep pride he was egoist about his own disgrace; mixed up with his need to protect those under his power it was the need to keep them away and face his doom alone; the need to deny to Azazel the satisfaction of killing the followers along with their Master; the will and the right to face his Fate alone. Belial’s feathers smoothed out in tension and he narrowed his eyes.

“Very well”, he grimly said, his voice like cold steel. “If this is the Fate you’ve chosen, I won’t ask you to leave my side.”
The gates behind them opened. The cold night air invaded the space; Belial’s aura receded, allowing the light and shadow to regain their nature. Belial’s gaze was fixed in Luna’s for a few seconds.
“Gather your people and meet me in the Gardens.” Belial nodded at her, his eyes shimmering. He crossed the gates and walked out into the garden, holding the Staff of Simara; the sigils on it shone and whispered with strange voices as the Archdemon walked. Mastema was waiting at the foot of the short steps.

Mastema’s face was somber. Leaving his human shape behind, Mastema hadn’t put the mask on as it was his normal way; he had discarded his cloak and his bronze armor shone in the strange lights from the skies. He took a deep bow at Belial.
“I have spoken to them”, he announced, seeing that Belial was not in the mood to stand long stories. “The want to know the details from you. At least fifty of your eighty legions will follow you; I cannot speak for the other thirty. They are indecisive.”

Belial didn’t stop in his tracks, forcing Mastema to walk next to him to speak to him. Belial’s wings bristled. “I have no use for their hesitation”, he darkly said. “They will make up their minds – they will stay or they will go out to be ran over by the Armies or join someone else’s legions. Either way they’ll have to make up their minds now!” Belial stopped in a small paved plaza and hit the stones with his Staff. The entire pavement rose like a platform of live rock pushed from below by a giant hand, rising Belial and Mastema about seven meters above the ground. The ground shook and hardened as rock, forming a sort of steps from the platform to the ground below.

Sounds of clashing metal and the shine of armors and weapons could be heard and seen in the deep night; the garden was an occupied land by an army of warlocks and their servants; burning eyes filled the shade beneath ancient trees as every warlock had set it’s own space where they could use the node’s energies for different minor things – maybe out of curiosity. The legions had set camp, every ten legions under one Legion Commander. They rose and came forth when they saw their Archdemon rise above them.

“I won’t give you explanations or reasons this time”, Belial harshly said. “I will tell you this: Azazel is not Lucifer. I won’t consider myself bound by word to the son of the Morning Star; Azazel’s way is that of slavery. I will NOT have that. I composed the Ritual that gave Azazel a living body in this Plane – I altered the Book the Dark One keeps. However, I foresee no gain in his alliance and I have rebelled against him. If you wish to leave and find yourselves another Master, you are free to go – I don’t want to waste my Time dealing with your resistance. If you stay with me, I won’t promise you victory. I can’t foretell how long it’ll take Azazel and the Armies to take revenge on me; but in any case I have decided to free myself from that wretched spawn of Lucifer; he could never be compared to his Father nor in intelligence or leadership. Again I tell you, you are free to leave my service – and of course be aware that you won’t be allowed to stand in my presence ever again if you do; I’ll kill you without a second thought. War is War. Make your decisions.”

Mastema was wide-eyed at this speech; it seemed to him that Belial was trying to hush them off his side. This strange mood shook Mastema and deep inside Mastema – who had known Belial before and after the Fall – perceived Belial himself didn’t think he’d survive long. Belial spread his mighty wings, his eyes shimmering with terrible light.

“What do you say?”, he called out, stomping the Staff on the platform once with terrible might. The legions were stunned, in a mix of fascination, anger, shock, terror and disbelief.

Mastema’s legions gave a step forth. They’d follow, they had agreed from before. After a terrible instant in which the fall of a pin could have been heard in the Gardens, the army moved. Part of it fled into the night; part of it stayed. Around 56 legions remained, their eyes fixed on Belial.
“We will follow you!”, they cried out. Belial bit his lip till a drop of blood stained his flesh and clasped his hand on his Staff till his knuckles went white.

What… have I done so wrong that I can’t get rid of them?! “I want you to be aware of the danger and how perilous this situation is. I can’t promise you victory”, he warned them. The demons remained undaunted. Idiots!, Belial bitterly thought. Luna’s people were arriving to the spot. Belial folded his wings.
“So be it”, he muttered.

Luna bowed and summoned the magic of the traces of ichor in her veins. Her bones grew and shrank and snapped as fur rippled across her changing body that tore from her gown. Streaks of white and gray and black, with hints of reddish-brown, flowed across the body of a large female wolf. Large golden eyes flashed and long, sharp fangs gleamed in the moonlight as the alpha female threw back her head and howled.
The call was echoed and soon hundreds of shapes leapt into the gardens, dark and light shadows of all types of wolves- arctic, desert, woodland, red- danced through the leaves and fountains and sculptures. The Call trilled along the spine, communicating the need and intent and memory of what had been and what would be; it was, and continued.

Luna’s Pack was complete; wolves of all colors and shapes moved like swift, agile shadows in the strange lights from the skies streaked by Azazel’s magicks. The demons and their servants that remained on Belial’s side watched them with curiosity as they took their positions in their usual battle structure. Belial watched them all with something that looked very much like a scowl. He leaned the Staff against his shoulder and relaxed slightly. The expression on his face changed to a strange smile, dark yet with a shade of melancholy to it.

“Luna and the Were are my allies”, he announced, “as you by now know well. They are free and they are here honoring the word of her Lupa – I want you to keep that in mind”, he told the Legions. Belial gazed into the skies; he perceived the Armies’ Gathering was almost complete. Belial pondered what’d be the best course of actions. “The Angelic Host is in London to face the Armies. We’ll defend this position and use our power to use the node in our advantage to increase our energies when needed.” Belial began fantasizing if they could somehow take the ring from Azazel. If Raziel would have told the Angelic Host about the Ring… If he had and it were possible to defeat Azazel, Belial and his forces could survive and leave to live on their own; even contribute to Azazel’s fall. He’d need information.
“That’s the order for now.” Belial narrowed his eyes and left the platform.

Mastema promptly followed Belial as the Archdemon descended from the platform. Mastema looked at the Were and the demonic legions and decided he better make sure these folks would get along well enough for the oncoming battles. At Belial’s order, Mastema should gather the Legion Commanders to receive orders from Belial. Belial on his part, turned to Luna.

Mastema scratched his head, looking at Luna. His eyesight was not fully healed yet but it was better than a human’s by now. How curious, he still couldn’t make out how or why Luna had earned the position she had in Belial’s account. If he was correct, less than a month had passed ever since they met. Some needed thousands of years to achieve that. Luna was stern and fierce; maybe that was part of it. Aside this, Mastema also thought her Were form was cute.
With a blink, Mastema took off to gather his peers.

Belial joined Luna at the foot of the platform, where the Legion Commanders soon joined them. Belial plotted the strategy with them, gave some orders and organized the defense positions, making sure each one knew what their orders were and the forces assigned to each one. After this, the Legions and the Were took their positions. Belial checked over the troops.
Belial frowned slightly. The Armies of the Abyss’ Gathering was complete; he could sense Azazel’s signal in the tense calm before the storm. The first attacks started. The Legions began their counterattack, with weapons and spells; the ground shook with the first clashes.

Luna’s Were howled malevolently as they leapt into battle; their bloodlust and ferocity was heightened by the need running through all of them to prove themselves to the Others, their distant ancestors, and the magic that coursed through their bodies. Some died in first contact; others died valiantly bringing their enemies down with them. Even though some were not of the Lupa’s Pack, the Were fought as one cohesive unit, even using their intrinsic magicks to protect themselves and destroy the horrifyingly strong enemy they faced.

Some swapped between wolf and human form, those who had mastered the ability to change quickly. Luna herself was among them; pale flashes of mortal flesh alternated with gray fur as she lunged among the demon legions, destroying with teeth and magic that which she could reach. By some miracle, it seemed as if they Were could tell instinctively with whom they were fighting; otherwise their heavy losses would have been worse. They were weaker in magic than the demons, but they made up for it in ruthlessness and feral cunning. Even now the Pack was reforming and grouping upon individual Others who found themselves quickly surrounded and annihilated like lone deer.

Luna barely had time to think as she snapped at the foul forms around her; they were rank with Infernal magicks that burned her senses and their flashy spells blinded and deafened her. But she would not be frightened nor deterred. She would be loyal if it cost her life, even her soul. She had everything to lose and little to gain from the battle, but she refused to betray the trust placed in her.

Belial cast a number of powerful spells each of the Legion Commanders amplified with the aid of their magicks, increasing the use of magic on part of the minor warlocks to reinforce the strategically points they had previously set. After the first wave of enemies hit, the Legion Commanders extracted power from the node to allow their own energies to replenish as the second wave came in. Belial shifted the Staff into the Scythe, then into the Sword as needed, fighting alongside with the Legions and the Were. The Archdemon’s Legions had earned their own dark fame in the Armies, for they not only killed the bodies like any demons – these Legions, mostly former Angels of Death and Destruction, snatched the souls of their victims and it was said they could destroy the souls of the defeated.
After what seemed hours, the enemy seemed to recede. Belial reorganized the forces as the fight continued.

Mastema combined the incantations and weapons to fight the enemies; along with his Legion Commander peers, each in their specified area, he amplified the spells started by Belial and projected the energies to the troops, fighting alongside the Were. Mastema concentrated hard on his work, leading his Legions and weaving the spells; however part of his mind drifted endlessly towards Adriel. When the second wave of enemies was controlled and the enemy seemed to recede, Mastema sensed a familiar force. Faint as it was, Mastema still couldn’t ignore its importance. Mastema gazed into the skies.
“The Angelic Host!”

Moloch dropped from the sky, surrounded by a blazing aura of infernal flames. Her normally flat crimson eyes were brighter than the scorching nimbus surrounding her demoniac form.
Wings the color of dried blood flickered about as she slashed her way through the legions of fighting demons, using her whip to clear a path through “ally” and “enemy” alike.
//BELIAL!// Her telepathic call roared across the battlefield that engulfed the space, what was once a garden but now touched on dimensions Infernal to defy the proportions of time and area. Moloch’s call was anguished and enraged, hateful and haunted. She wanted blood. She wanted the Archdemon’s blood, and anyway she could get it- she would.
Just as long as she could cause him pain.

A trumpet echoed above the battle; a strange, eerie sound accompanied by a dark, huge shadow floating above the battlefield. As Moloch descended in her fiery rage, the shadow followed; immutable and inexorable. The shadow spread like a blinding layer of dark, the trumpets sounding nearer and nearer. The battle cries of Azrael’s Legions could be heard; but these were replaced by a chant – the angels sang a gigantic spell, pronouncing words of Destruction.

Belial’s eyes shone strangely, shimmering cold silver in the dark. He clearly perceived Moloch’s blood-thirsty call; he distinctively felt the chilling Void that announced Azrael’s arrival. The Archdemon had an inward, bitter smile, wielding the Scythe. The two of his brethren he had feelings for; the two wanted his doom. Belial thought allowing himself dark humor, he could always split and fight both separately; but something inside of him did not care to gaze into the future anymore. Blood spurted as he beheaded his current opponent and sliced open the next. Belial smiled.
//Here I am, dear Moloch//, he responded in his usual cold yet courteous demeanor. //Greetings, Dark One.//

Moloch’s ruthless gaze was invested with something insidious by nature- something she had obviously recalled just at the right moment. A shrieking howl rose above the explosions and screams of the battlefield as her own legion finally joined the battle, some riding crazed six-legged beasts that resembled horses- but for the scales, the knife-like fangs glittering through rabid foam, and sharp, cloven hooves that laid about cruelly, trampling the dead and living alike with no compunction. The venomous yellow eyes of these beasts were enough to cause some of their opposition to freeze and allow themselves to be eliminated by the riders, who were more often than not armed with vicious lances that pierced through wards and armor with the same malicious ease.

Though it could not be said she was fighting against Azazel, she wasn’t fighting with him nor cooperating with him. Anyone who was too busy with the remnants of a twisted mortal love did not deserve herself as an ally in battle; but she would honor her private pact with Lucifer.

Moloch cut through the legions of the Angels and the legions of the Abyss with disregard, a blur of darkest red, roaring fire, and pain. Her magicks didn’t merely kill- they inflicted the most terrible agony upon those touched that could be imagined, draining their vitality and the energy from their dying to fuel more spells to inflict the same and same again.
Finally Moloch was face to face with Belial himself, instead of merely his lackeys. She disregarded Azrael entirely; she cared not about the Angel of Death nor her dark minions in the skies.
//Betrayer. I promised you safety until you left my grounds- I keep my word!// She lashed out with the white-hot chain, a weapon that would flay flesh from bone and melt life away as easily as breath.

Belial acknowledged Moloch with a nod and a small smile as she broke the circle around him, her usually flat eyes filled with burning emotions. The burning chain lashed out at him; Belial shifted his weapon into the Staff and with a swift moment he caught the chain with it, setting the pole on the ground at the same time. Belial called upon his Earth Element, canalizing the node energies he summoned with the Staff and through the chain into the demoness’ body in a sudden energy shock three or four times higher than Moloch’s initial attack. Belial pulled the Staff back, always set against the ground, as the energy Arc ran from the ground through her and back to the ground, pinning her to her position in a terrible flow. Belial’s eyes blazed yet in them could be seen a sort of sadness. He chanted a different spell, Dark and Light energies swirling around him like a blasphemy as both opposite forces had the same source, making the ground shake.

Moloch screamed as searing energy pulsed through her body. She jerked and tore the whip away from Belial’s staff. She recovered quickly, however, and created another inferno of black and red flames around herself to protect her body from Belial’s blasphemous mixture of Light and Dark.
The golden sigils on her armor twisted and shimmered into life, twining around writhing signs of evil so dark they seemed to be holes into the Abyss. Her shielding aura flared and warped, ethereal tendrils of pain and fire shooting towards Belial’s form, licking at his wings and exposed skin, closing eagerly around anything it could consume like a greedy kraken. Moloch lashed out with Scorpion, which twined around his staff. She yanked mightily and sent his Staff clattering to the ground.

Her pale, once beautiful face was twisted into a horrible sneer. “How do you like be to left helpless, dear Belial? Alone, with no one to call “ally?” You seem to have fallen in quite well with the Host! Even they turn against you, betrayer!” Moloch cackled, more than a thread of hateful madness in her high-pitched voice. “No one loves you! No one cares about your fate other than to see your existence END! You left me ALONE!” She balled her fist and set it squarely into his face with all the strength she could muster.

Belial was intensely pale, his silver eyes moonlit pools beneath his thick black eyelashes. The searing pain he could endure, but Moloch’s words still could reach his very soul. Raziel had been right, after all.
Belial stumbled when she hit him; he used the energy from the impact to leap back and fell on one knee; he felt the world around him grow colder despite his own aura was silver and black flames of power. In the very instant the Staff fell on the ground and the demoness moved forward to hit, Belial’s shadow split. The form on the ground that rose his eyes to look at her was an Angel of Destruction – Aramis in his silver armor. But from the shade of the Staff a dark form rose – Angel in his armor of the color of steel. Angel picked up and wielded the Staff, turning it into the Scythe; Aramis closed his fist and a second version of the Staff appeared in his hand. Terrible as the truth was, they were both there deprived of all masks – Light and Darkness. Blood stained Aramis’ face.

“I would have eagerly continued with you, but you wished to remain with Azazel”, Angel coldly said. “You preferred the Armies before me.”

“I shared a terrible secret with you”, Aramis said. “I cannot force your decisions, but I did it to protect you from Azazel.” Angel and Aramis chanted a spell, sending their opposite forces to clash on the spot where Moloch stood.

Azrael and her Legions descended on the battlefield, chanting their terrible and beautiful spell; the blades of the angels hissed, aiming for the thread that connected the souls and lives to the bodies; the thread of Life their spell summoned into vision. The undead the warlocks had summoned formed a wall, but the angels of Destruction had their way to slay them. Azrael summoned energies from the Dark and the Void; the dark side of the moon bore the Sigil of Her Name. The angels sang as if it were Harvest Moon, the angels collecting and keeping the souls of their slain allies at their right, the foe’s at their left. The Archangel her self’s song was a harmony of power – only in a climax of battle her voice would be heard.

The Legions of Belial were not alien to their methods, which were once theirs. The warlocks began a counter spell, their chanting voices clashing and mixing with the singing voices of their enemies; mixing with the battle cries and the spells from Moloch’s Legions.
Azrael’s immutable gaze swept over the battlefield as she stood in the high platform where Belial had addressed his followers, Fear surrounding her like a whirlwind; a ravaging sea of fighting angels and demons shifted like the tide at her feet. In a clearance, Belial and Moloch fought. Azrael knew the warlocks needed Belial to cast the more powerful group spells; Moloch’s Legions depended on her leadership; Azrael found their fight convenient.
//Do not interfere in the Archdemons fight//, Azrael coolly commanded to her angels. //Dismember their Legions’ hierarchies.//

Moloch cast about in desperation and glanced up to the roiling skies as if for guidance. And then inspiration struck her, in the instant before the split Belial’s spell was complete. Let them blast each other… She launched herself upwards into the freedom of air, through and above the black-winged legions of the Angels of Death and Destruction.

“Fools,” she hissed through her teeth. “None of us cooperate and we shall all perish…” She sent a mental message to her legions to fall back and recover; once legions of healers, the now-lethal Fallen and their demons had no difficulties disposing of their various ills and gathering the energies of the dead and dying.
Hovering gently above the battlefield, Moloch could watch the swirls of magick and death as if it were no more than a play being fought out for her amusement… But those were her legions dying below her; she could not have that… She waited and gathered her strength to prepare a counter-strike against Belial, with his unholy luck.

Autumn froze with fear, not sure if she was shot into the bowls of hell itself or if she long since lost her senses and was lost in some horrible nightmare. The beast holding her so tightly was like none she had ever seen, but it was the bronze of his eyes that gave her recognition. It was a new wave a fright that washed over her as she realized this hell’s creature was none other than her dear husband. She regretted her decision to come to him then, but even so it wasn’t her own two feet that brought her here, but some devil’s black magic.
“Lorant..” she breathed, barely above a whisper, “You.. you’re not yourself…” if she were going to put her plan into action, she would need all of the willpower she could possess. But she could hardly bring up the nerve to move herself from his arms as he normally was, let alone this beast he was now.

“Lorant…” The name surprised Azazel; the demon blinked. After a fraction of a second, he spontaneously realized yes, Lorant was a name of his, too. Azazel nuzzled Autumn’s cheek again, his six golden wings tainted in red folding around them like a huge cloak of shining feathers of gold stained in blood. Azazel laughed. His laughter, a mix of amusement and malevolent mockery, echoed in the cave and the echoes died quickly, mixed with the rumors of drums, trumpets and war chants from the Armies gathering down the sort of cliff where Azazel had set his improvised sanctorum and near the Hell Gate.

Azazel grinned and spread his wings, letting go of her so she could take a good look at him. “I’m not myself…?! That’s quite inaccurate, my dear wife”, Azazel said with a dark smile. He slid his fingers through his black hair to put it away from his eyes; his right hand was scaled, clawed and red; red scales seemed to shimmer with inner infernal fire. Azazel was wearing red robes and a black and gold armor with red sigils etched on it; his golden wings shone like molten gold. His goat foot was visible every time his robes moved around his feet. A red marking in the likeness of a red, burning flame could be seen across his left eye, from above his eyebrow to his cheek. He was had a monstrous beauty; a blasphemous splendor. Azazel slid a lustful look upon Autumn from her head to her toes.

“I am more myself than ever”, he slyly murmured. “Look at me. I am The Warlord, Leader of the Armies from the Abyss; for countless Ages we have awaited our Time to conquer the World of Man – the Time has come. My own power has increased, and it will continue to grow. I shall change the course of the Stars and not even the brightest of Them could oppose to me.”
Azazel folded his wings and took her hand.

“You can be very fortunate or a disgrace, either one you choose”, he said, his voice low and threatening. “You are my wife, but if you disappoint me you shall meet a side of me you don’t want to know of.” Azazel smiled and leaned over, delicately kissing her cheek. He looked into her eyes, then kissed her lips. Azazel held her tightly against his body as he kissed her deeply, not allowing her to move.
Azazel slowly broke the kiss. He swept her off her feet and carried her in his arms; he murmured a spell. The live rock of the cave wall withered and moved like a melted mass, forming a throne of rock, which solidified to shiny onyx. Azazel placed his wife on the throne.

“I will show you how powerful I am”, he assured her with a grin.
The cave shook and began to shift. The place where they were rose like a huge platform and the roof of the cave disappeared, along with part of Moloch’s house. The main wings of the house remained, forming a side wall with her watchtower and its connection to the node intact, live rock walls shining in the strange lights. The Hell Gates were now open to the night sky, the Armies of Demons and demonic creatures shouting and singing, along with the clash of weapons, drums and trumpets anticipating the Battles. On the risen cliff which held his sanctorum, the summoning ground he had prepared seemed to shimmer with an inner will. Azazel cried out in joy.

“Behold the Armies from the Abyss!” Azazel laughed, his bronze eyes shining with hatred for all beings and his burning desire of revenge and conquest.
“This is not all yet… dear wife”, he promised. “It’s a beginning.”

Autumn was filled with a deep sense of dread as she looked down at the malice and chaos that was Hell’s Army. Her face was void of all color, a pale shade of ivory that contrasted heavily against the bright red of her hair. Despite her fear she held her ground, knowing a faint heart wouldn’t get far. With all the heat, Autumn still couldn’t keep from having a chill. She rubbed her arms trying to bring back the warmth, collecting her thoughts to form some sort of delay to distract his attentions.

Leaning forward in the onyx throne, Autumn composed herself as best she could. Her feet barely touched the ground. “Don’t you think it’s… too soon, Lorant?” She questioned, trying to sound concerned. “You have just come back, and so much has happened. There hasn’t been any time for you to rest, or… for us to be alone?” The last part was a strain to get out. Being alone with him was not something she wished, but it might very well prevent him from unleashing his vile plans.

Azazel’s signal had unleashed the vanguard of the Armies to go forth; reading the energies flowing and echoing beneath the skies, he was very aware Moloch’s Legions were already moving. Azazel did not reveal any of this to his wife, but he turned from the sight of the Armies which were euphorically yelling his name and singing their hellish songs of war with and cast a sly, cunning look at is wife from where he stood on the edge of the cliff. Flames licked the walls of rock beyond the cliff and the remnant of Moloch’s house was a phantasmagoric sight with its eerie lights and in the light of the hellish fire beneath it that came from the Gate of Hell. Azazel had fallen silent, listening to her voice. His bronze eyes blazed like infernal carbuncles, his nightmarish gaze fixed on her.

His malevolent smile slowly widened, turning into a blood-curdling grin. Azazel strongly felt the twisted love and the desire of possession Lorant Riktophen had for Autumn, but the Demon’s eyes narrowed. He smelled fear in her, the sensation a warm wine in his veins; but in the twisted emotion he bore he longed for her to truly desire him, to be awed by his power. The hot, foul winds from the Abyss blew upon them, carrying a subtle rain of sparks and burning sulfur.

“Too soon?”, he dryly asked. “It cannot be… dear. We have waited for so long…” Azazel walked over to the throne and the red claw caressed Autumn’s fiery auburn hair. Azazel narrowed his eyes and put up a false sad smile as he did. “You wouldn’t want me to disappoint the Armies, would you? They have been looking forward to… play with the angels.” A mocking, heavy, malevolent snigger could be heard yet Azazel’s lips had not moved – but it was his voice. Azazel leaned over to kiss her and to hold her against him. After that, he impulsively kneeled down and held her tightly, resting his head on her chest. “There’ll be time for us, I promise”, he murmured. His hands slid on her body. “The eternity awaits… and there are ways to help you live the eternity with me.”

This last thought reminded him of something else. Azazel quickly stood and left Autumn on the throne, entirely as if he had forgotten about her. Azazel checked his summoning ground and lit an unholy flame in his hand. “There’ll be a way”, he told his wife, his back to her. “I have someone who is able to make a human immortal. Someone who can rise the dead to true life.” Azazel laughed evilly. “He was my teacher once; I shall bring him to your presence to meet him.” Azazel extended his hand and his solid crystal ball floated from its pedestal to its master. Azazel peered into the Eye and his gaze darkened to a scowl. Through the Eye he saw a dark manor and a battlefield. Angels, Demons and Demonic creatures fought like the waves in a ravaging sea; in a clearance, Moloch and Belial fought. Strangely… a third party seemed to have joined them – Azazel was not certain how or why, but he guessed there was more to Belial’s betrayal that apparent – someone from the Angelic Host was with him.

“Impatient, mischievous demoness”, he murmured. “I told you he is my prey. I told you you’d play with him later.” Azazel smirked. “What have you unlearned in the long years…” Azazel directed the unholy flame in his hand to the first point of Power of his summoning Pentagram, chanting a spell; his aura lit in a terrifying light, nearly becoming a physical force. Azazel conjured one by one the Elements of the World of Man – the Element of his former teacher. The pentagram lines lit in blazing silver; the sigils Azazel had drawn came to life, hissing with strange voices; Azazel rose his hand and chanted, concentrating his power and his will. A shadow appeared – a subtle form was barely visible. Azazel lit the second point and tossed strange things into the pentagram as the summoning ground began to shake.

Angel and Aramis reabsorbed and processed the opposite energies, like a snake canalizing its own poison; Moloch had fled but still if he still knew her, she still hadn’t bid her farewells. Angel and Aramis quickly merged back into Belial, merging the Staff and the Scythe into the Scythe of Simara, waiting for Moloch’s blow.

Suddenly, the ground lit beneath him in a pentagram filled with sigils of power. Belial’s conscience was lightning struck as Azazel’s nightmarish power weighed heavily on him. Azazel was summoning him! The Necromancer gasped as he felt the spell trying to tear him apart, to reach and break his very nature. Belial was pinned to the pentagram that had appeared out of nowhere, trying to cool his racing mind enough to start a counter spell. Belial shifted the Scythe into the Staff and yanked at the tendrils of magic, trying to convert the essence of the spell to scape from it with counter spells. Azazel’s sinister intent to break his nature during the summoning process was blood-curdling. Belial desperately tried to break free, pain ripping through his body and soul.

All Belial’s spells, his will-power were useless. Azazel’s will was too strong – even with the right tools, his spell could not be undone. Away in Moloch’s house, Azazel chanted and worked his magic, dismembering Belial’s nature before pulling him to his presence. Belial continued trying, but there was no avail. He screamed, but his voice couldn’t be heard. Belial fell on his knees holding the Staff; the reality before him was blurry. He could perceive Azazel before him, but he could also see the battle around him. He saw the remains of Moloch’s house, but he also saw… Azrael on the platform, away from him. Belial couldn’t feel his body; only a searing, monstrous pain.

The shape on the pentagram fluctuated and grew; a faint silhouette was visible. Azazel never ceased in his chant, despite a malevolent smile curled his lips; he lit two more of the outer points of the summoning pentagram, conjuring two Elements more. Azazel didn’t look at Autumn, but he sensed the fear within her soul and her body pinned to the throne; he continued his terrible work.

Down the cliff, the Armies moved like a vast sea of dreary eyes, shining armors in the dark beneath the hellish flames that licked the live rock of the cliff. In the shadow before him, Azazel could now see a pair of silver eyes fixed on him; mere glints of silver yet – but the spell was inexorable; Azazel’s gaze blazed in a mix of hatred and joy, his chant never ceasing.

Belial understood with a chill that no matter what he’d try, he wouldn’t be able to scape. Trying to tear the pain from his reasoning, he managed to cast a minor spell of will to pull his armor and his weapon along with him; in the brief instants his self-conscience seemed to fade, the Archdemon felt as if he were falling down a deep, endless chasm. The pain was monstrous; unable to fight to break free, the anguish could drive him crazy. Before the images of the battle faded completely, he could see the Legion Commanders try a desperate intent to rescue him; he saw Mastema fall under Moloch’s whip. Belial fell and suddenly met a solid ground cold and burning with powerful magicks.
His Elements slowly fused into his own self, his body; Azazel didn’t make it a pleasant experience. Belial gasped and coughed when he once again was able to breathe, laying on the summoning ground at Azazel’s feet.

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX: GABRIEL’S REVENGE

Autumn froze as she entered the manor, the scream she heard sent chills up and down her spine. For a quick moment she sorely regretted coming back to the manor, but still that compulsion to be there tugged at her brain, insisting she needed to stay and retrieve her camera. She quickly ran up the stairs. She had to fetch her things before anyone realized she was there!

Beelzebub descended down and came to the manor gate which he pushed open easily with his mental power. He walked in swiftly, not caring for the apparent death of Lilith in the house. He had been silly earlier. He realized he had not really been listening to Azazel. The brat said the woman would be at Riktophen Manor and where did he go? Beelzebub went to Farishta Manor instead. Drats. Something had made him go there, and the information simply slipped.
Beelzebub entered the house and spotted the human woman running up the stairs. The echo of the scream was still in the house. Beelzebub frowned. ‘Lilith did have a big mouth,’ he thought. Moving fast, Beelzebub was on the stairs in a split second, just behind Autumn. Pulling Autumn with a tight grip on her right arm, Beelzebub smiled.
“If you would, Miss Autumn, your husband would like to invite you back to his side.”

Autumn twisted and tumbled down the few steps, gasping as she hit the solid body of a demon. She tried to wretch her arm free to no avail, giving him a swift kick to the shin. The stun was enough for him to loosen his grasp and for Autumn to escape up the rest of the stairs. The unexplained pull to be there was now over-shadowed by the fear of being trapped without and escape route. Ducking down a corridor and into a small room, she closed the door quietly behind her.

Beelzebub glared at the running Autumn after she kicked his shin roughly. He heard a slight closing of a door somewhere and he smiled. No hurry. He could find her most easily. Beelzebub climbed up the stairs slowly and took his time to get to the door. As he came to the door, he could hear Autumn trying to catch a breathing from all the running. He sneered. Knocking on the door, Beelzebub said pleasantly, “Miss Autumn, this is a polite invitation. Do not blame me for using force on you if you still insist on running away.”

“Bloody crazy…” Autumn angrily muttered under her breath. Did he think she was going to scream and beg for mercy? Be dragged to that devil of a man, waiting for some divine intervention? Glancing around the room he eyes fell on a decorative sword. She snatched it from the wall, hissing through her teeth at it’s weight. It was a struggle to hold it off the ground, but the rush of adrenaline was all the strength she needed.

There’s no use in fighting… there will only be others. Autumn waited, catching her breath. She wasn’t about to open the door willingly, but the brief thought made her falter in her stance. Just like Anastasia, there will always be others… I am so tired of fighting… She thought she was free when Lorant Riktophen died, only to have Anastasia as her enemy… then to have him return with more strength and lust for blood? There couldn’t possibly be a heavenly host alive that could be rid of him. Let alone get close enough to kill him.

But you can! Autumn dropped the tip of the sword to the ground, the weight being more than should could hold. Could she really get close enough to do some damage and survive it? But to murder her own husband… Autumn reminded herself he was no longer her husband, not that she had any love for such a horrible man to begin with. Strengthening her resolve, she made her decision.
Dropping the sword altogether, she swung open the door to meet the demon face to face. She bit back any fear or dread as she smoothed out the wrinkles in her skirt. “We’ll go then, demon…”

Gabriel released the magic that cloaked him in invisibility and deception that had allowed him to slip past the manor’s wards without detection. He felt Beelzebub’s presence within; and a fleeing energy that revealed the death of Lilith, the great betrayer. Raziel was right, of course. It was she who had tainted the Lightbringer. He strode boldly into the manor, his angelic features glowing golden and infused with mad rage. So the Lord of Flies thought he could destroy his only love, his life… Gabriel would show him differently if it took his last breath. He had little to live for, now. The Fall and now the death of Uriel had seen to that.
Beelzebub. It is a good day to die.

Beelzebub smiled when Autumn opened the door and agreed to return with him. She could be up to no good, but he wasn’t afraid. If she tried anything funny, he was not going to be easy on her anymore and he was not going to care even if Azazel whined and scream. Let the brat be.
“That’s good, milady.” Beelzebub said as he smiled at Autumn, “A wise choice you have made. You could never imagine what horror I could have given you if you had not opened the door.” Beelzebub whispered beside her ear before pulling back slowly and laughed softly as he grabbed her hand and pulled her away down the corridor.

He could sense an angelic presence. Gabriel. An angry Gabriel. Beelzebub always knew and noticed something going on between Uriel and Gabriel. Their eyes betrayed them. Beelzebub gave a sigh unintentionally. Had he not been through it before? He knew the feeling best. But he was only doing what he thought Uriel deserved to receive.
“Let’s leave.” Beelzebub said, “This place is crawling with danger of all sorts. It’s unsafe to stay here.”

“The only thing CRAWLING here is the flies attracted to your stench, Fallen! Perhaps its that rancid brand of pig-flesh you devour like candy, or the refuse you wear as cologne!” Gabriel stalked through the corridor, the Lily Sigil drawn and ready to fire.
“You’re a coward, Lord of the Flies! You’re nothing but weak, quivering hellspawn, quaking like a dog with distemper! It’s time for you to be put out of the earth’s misery,” Gabriel growled, his blue eyes like fiery pits in his white face. The golden feathers on his wings were splayed out like the scales on an enraged dragon; even his teeth were slightly bared, and his fingers curled like talons.
A muscle on Gabriel’s jaw jumped and he swung his bow up and fired, once, twice, three times in rapid succession, the arrows shooting through the short distance and screaming like begrieved banshees.

Azazel’s lip curled slightly in contempt as he tracked down Beelzebub’s doings with the aid of his magicks and a rather traditional solid crystal ball. He had made his demons bring many of his tools from the Abyss, but he had also took and used some things he found convenient in Moloch’s house. Azazel arched an eyebrow. He had always thought Beelzebub was kind of a slow mind. Azazel wasn’t fond of his flies – nasty little pests. When he was a little child, Azazel didn’t like the way the flies rubbed their front feet together, like plotting secret plans of their own.
Exactly like their Master. Annoying. Beelzebub went to the wrong manor as Autumn ran in the opposite direction.

Azazel sniggered with dark mirth as he had watched Beelzebub shatter the bones of Uriel’s face – a little bonus for the night; the Angelic Host had been deprived of their best Healer. Azazel nodded to himself. Even in his wrongs Beelzebub could be useful. However, Moloch’s treat had suffered a slight change. He’d need to see about that. Azazel turned his wedding ring around his finger, thoughtful. Autumn would be back to him soon. She hadn’t yet realized her own importance – an importance only relative to her position next Azazel. Get rid of her if she isn’t of any use to you, Belial had said; Azazel tapped his chin.
“Teacher, I’ve not forgotten you”, he softly murmured, his voice seeping bitter hatred. “I’ll show you you’ve taught me well.”

He moved away from the crystal ball. Azazel swept a look around. His improvised sanctórum overlooked the Hell Gate and the cave full of withering shadows beneath Moloch’s house. The space below swarmed with demons, flames licking the stone walls. Azazel went back to the black altar he had prepared. On the floor before it he had drawn a pentagram of summoning with the sigils of power for the Four Elements of the world of Man – the Elements of Belial.
A shriek broke into his mind, echoed and fell. Lilith’s agonic cry died with her, away. Azazel snorted.
“Always inopportune, mother…”, he complained. Azazel went back to his work with a shrug.
Don’t worry, dear mother; I can take care of the Armies alone.

Azazel added some final touches, preparing a ritual of summoning that would give his teacher an unpleasant night. The Armies were almost complete; Azazel was ready for the next step. He had changed to his demonic form: his golden wings with blood-like stains trembled in anticipation.
“Soon this accursed world will fall at my feet…” Azazel turned his wedding ring around his finger. “Damn Beelzebub – what’s taking him so long…?!”

Azazel went back to his crystal ball and peered inside, setting the Eye as he called it to Riktophen Manor. Much to his displeasure, he saw the Messenger challenging the Lord of the Flies to duel. Azazel smirked. Gabriel was sure older than Azazel himself, but even so the Messenger had the air of a young boy facing a well-trained, mighty and brick-headed Fallen. Azazel’s eyes shone with cruel mirth in the withering lights in the cave.

//I won’t wait till you finish playing with your little ex-friend//, he mentally addressed Beelzebub. //You’ve done extraordinarily well tonight. The Healer, now the Messenger… Squash him and return; I’ll take care of Autumn from now on, if you don’t mind…// Azazel flicked his hand over the ball. He chanted softly words of infernal; a gate opened behind Autumn and sucked her in like a vacuum, closing immediately after that.

Autumn was pulled through a dark tunnel of foul infernal winds, damp in the blood and tears of the damned. As suddenly as her journey had began it ended, the terrible speed confusing her senses. The Portal opened again, throwing her out and right into Azazel’s arms.
Azazel grinned and held her against him tightly; he flapped his wings in joy as he nuzzled her cheek.
“My love….”, he muttered. “Finally, you are back to me.”

Beelzebub turned as he heard Azazel’s voice in his head. He watched Autumn being sucked into the portal as it closed up totally, leaving him alone. Beelzebub grumbled to himself. Squash the Messenger? Who is he to command him? No, like Belial whose promise is only to Lucifer, Beelzebub’s loyalty was only to Lucifer as well. Even though Azazel was Lucifer’s son, Azazel bore no great resemblance to his father beyond his appearance.

Beelzebub walked down the stairs slowly and spread his arms, two beams in his palms which formed a shield around him. Absorbing in the powers of the Messenger’s arrows and rendering the attacks useless.
“Hello there, Gabriel.” Beelzebub smiled, “Nice to see you again. Your language is foul, you know. Uriel could have made a better Messenger…” Beelzebub grinned mockingly, mentioning Uriel’s name on purpose.

Gabriel’s eyes narrowed and he involuntarily shuddered and took a step back. “You’re disgusting, Beelzebub. It’s impossible to believe you were once any kind of angel. Taking your orders from such a pitiful being as Azazel- for all his strength, his birth was nothing but a mistake. He was conceived in hate and suspicion- and you ACCEPTED IT!” Gabriel knew Beelzebub was stronger than he; but the archangel also sensed the beginnings of a great battle, and Azrael’s legions joining it. If he could keep Beelzebub out of the battle- avenge his beloved’s death…
Never say her name!” Gabriel screeched. “I’ll cut out your tongue!” He fired his bow again and again, now reinforcing them once more with the same holy energy that had brought even Azazel down – this time further strengthened with the wrath only one bereft of their love could call upon anyone.

As the arrow came flying towards Beelzebub with a holy light at the arrow tip, it was as if a hymn song was echoing in Beelzebub’s mind. It was giving him a slight dizzy feeling and he staggered a little backwards. “Fool!” Beelzebub hissed as he glowered at Gabriel. Chanting a soft spell under his lips, Hellswrath appeared out of midair and intercepted the arrow, bursting into a ball of sudden flames. The powers clashed and caused a loud explosion to which Beelzebub flew away to evade it. The force of the explosion created a vacuum energy around Gabriel, surrounding him.
“What do you know!” Beelzebub growled at Gabriel, “You don’t know me at all! How much do you or the others understand me?!”

Gabriel screamed in agony as a vacuum formed around him, tearing at his body and mind, trying to suck him away into nothingness. The keening wail of the attack spun around his shriek, pulling it away as it frantically sought to bounce off of the stone walls of the interior keep of the Riktophen home. Something crashed and fell away nearby; part of the manor had collapsed.
The spell hurt Gabe terribly- it was draining his energy, his very being, into a despairing nothingness. He could feel his body fighting against horrifying lethargy; a cold, stone-dead sensation was creeping through his limbs and muting his senses… He couldn’t fight something that was killing his soul, eating his magick. ‘…Uriel…’

“NOOO!!” He pushed against the terrifying energy of Beelzebub’s attack; it would not end so soon, he would not die without inflicting some measure of his pain on the Fallen! Gabriel’s aura flared and his six golden wings flared out behind him, straining and then bursting free of the black-gray energy. The evil spell hesitated and then faded away into shreds.

“What you don’t understand, Beelzebub…” Gabriel’s voice was hoarse from screaming, from weariness, ran through the silent hall like the sound of an ancient page being turned in a brittle tome, the weight of eons lying heavily. The manor rumbled occasionally, the sound of stone falling somewhere echoing like thunder, the whisper of tainted magicks moaning around them. “Is that the love of what you’ve destroyed… Is more power than what you’d ever have through hate.” Gabriel felt himself shaking; he knew that no matter what happened, he would neither survive this fight nor avenge Uriel by killing Beelzebub. Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.

Gabriel’s hands trembled, pale-knuckled and tight around the Lily Sigil. An arrow flashed into his hands and he advanced upon Beelzebub. He poured all of his energy into the tip, which flashed and coalesced into pure, white light, stronger than any star. “I’ll be the sacrifice to wipe out the noise… When all things beautiful and bright… Die in your night.” Lunging, Gabriel wrapped his arms tightly around Beelzebub and pushed the arrow tip through the demon’s armor, into his flesh. “We do what we must… For love.” His face, only a bare inch from Beelzebub’s own, smiled faintly. His eyes were still bright, but they were glazing. “So just kill me. You’ll die soon enough without a reminder of me sticking out of you back.” Gabriel laughed, his grip around Beelzebub weakening as he began to slide down to the floor.

Beelzebub was shocked at what Gabriel had done. All for that haughty twerp Uriel?! Beelzebub tried to push Gabriel away but to no avail. The darned angel was holding onto him too tightly, refusing to let go. “We do what we must… For love.” Gabriel whispered near Beelzebub’s face as he smiled faintly. His eyes were still bright, but they were glazing.
Beelzebub began to get a little nervous somehow as he sees Gabriel’s expression. The guy was crazy! He had never seen Gabriel like this before, not even during the Fall itself. The arrow tore through Beelzebub’s armor slowly, and pierced into his flesh. Beelzebub howls in pain and he tried to kick Gabriel away but he failed yet again. Beelzebub glared angrily at Gabriel but the grip was too tight and it seems that Beelzebub could do nothing to get rid of Gabriel from him ever.

The light blinded Beelzebub’s sight temporarily and the angelic energy bit through Beelzebub as the power flows through his body like poison, eating up his nerves and fighting his own energy. Beelzebub kicked Gabriel away from him angrily as he concentrated his dark powers upon the chest, where the arrow had pierced initially. Beelzebub winced as the two energies seems to clash and struggle inside his own body. Suddenly, Beelzebub felt a horrible pain in his chest and a light beamed from it. Beelzebub was horrified. Angered, Beelzebub raised Hellswrath and sliced a large gash on his left arm before touching the wound on his chest with Hellswrath, and used its flames to burn it, forcing it to close the wound. The light was forced to move to Beelzebub’s wound on the left arm and it exploded out from the wound. Beelzebub groaned as he tried to curb his pain. His left arm fell limp to his side.

Beelzebub took a moment to get back to reality. He looked at his now useless left arm and turned, glaring at the weak Gabriel. “The damnation of all living things!” Beelzebub cursed as he spat on Gabriel’s face. Beelzebub raised his left foot and crushed it down on Gabriel. “You will die tonight, not me.” Beelzebub hissed angrily as his eyes flashed. Beelzebub raised Hellswrath with his right arm he stabbed it into Gabriel before flames burst out of it, engulfing Gabriel, burning him alive.

Gabriel laughed, a maddened, gurgling sound that hissed through the pain of the fire burning his flesh.
//Can’t… Even grant… A dying friend… A clean, quick death… Your hate… And that arrow… Will be the end of you… Beel…ze…// With a sigh that seemed to extinguish the flickering flames on his body, Gabriel’s cheek touched the floor, his eyes closed.
The wind carried his laugh and changed it into something victorious, sane, and joyful. A faint blue light shimmered around his body, with dancing orbs of white falling as the blue rose, splashing on the floor into golden sparks. The music that had echoed through London not too long before, which had once mourned the possible passing of a friend, spun throughout the chamber into the turmoil beyond, soothing wherever it found pain- friend and foe alike.
What was left of him, his soul, was finally free. He had one last wish, to whatever Angel came to gather him. Let me be with Uriel… Please, let us be together…

Riktophen Manor. Silent, frozen in a chill of horror. The faint, hushed sound of feathery wings could be heard as a raven crossed the empty halls like a live arrow. The bird flew through stone and brick walls, using the shadows as gateways. A blood-curdling smell and the crepitant voice of flames could be sensed down a long corridor in the first floor. The raven followed the unholy light of hellish flames. An archdemon of translucent, fly-like wings was pulling out his sword from a burning corpse; the raven zigzagged with agility, squeezing between Beelzebub and flaming Hellswrath and passing over Gabriel’s body. A blue light shone in the bird’s claws – the soft, beating light of an angelic soul. Without a pause, Azrael disappeared into the next shadow using it as a gate as Beelzebub freed Hellswrath in fractions of a second, carrying the Messenger’s soul away.

Raziel uncloaked as he entered the presence of the two angels; it seemed that Raphael was wounded badly – he had lost the use of his eyes. Still stunned from experiencing the deaths of an angel and a Fallen, he slowed.
//The Ring… Azazel’s ring… Holds his powers. Strike the ring, and you weaken him badly…//

Autumn? Before anyone could question him, Raziel re-cloaked in his magical shields and disappeared once more. He could feel a demonic presence around Autumn… He had to find her before it was too late!

Adriel shook with Raziel’s revelation.
Adriel gasped. “Raziel, how did you…?” But Raziel was already gone.

Rishta rushed into her home, knowing something had been dramatically wrong for eons. This was wrong – life was wrong, and she felt so helpless. Helpless and lost. And Raphael…
“Oh my lord…” Rosi paused as she saw them, knees weakening. However, she refused to fall.
“What happened?”

Raphael turned and smiled faintly. However, he was eyeing at the wrong place and they were still bleeding a little. “It’s nothing serious, Rishta…” Raphael tried to sound cheerful, “At the most I won’t be able to see anymore but that’s fine. See no evil, as they says it…” Raphael paused and added, “And I’ve seen things I doesn’t want to earlier… I almost wanted to rip off my eardrums too…” Raphael closed his eyes and said nothing else.

As Rishta rushed into the room and Adriel sprang back to her feet. “How can you say such things, Raphael!” Adriel said in a low, sad yet firm voice. “You’re not the only one who has seen Evil and how Evil infects the world. You cannot pretend to close eyes and ears to it; how’d you help and protect the innocent pretending to ignore the Evil things in the world?” The angel’s green and golden eyes were filled with tears but also determination. “I’ve seen death in many horrible forms, caused by Evil. Still someone has to be there for the innocent.” A tear slid down her cheek, but her lip wasn’t trembling anymore. She had sensed Azrael and the other angels of her Order. “Rishta will take care of you. I have to go; Azrael is back. I’ll give Raziel’s news to the others.” Adriel took her angelic form and rushed out of the house.

Rishta was in a state of shock. In the course of the night two people were dead, her father was freed, Raphael was blinded and Azazel’s weakness was found. Too much. It couldn’t happen over an age, it happened within an hour.
“Raphael… why?” Rishta’s voice was detached and odd sounding. She walked to him and kneeled in front of him, crystal tears falling from her eyes.
There is no way I can heal this. I don’t understand how it works. Best I can do is clean it up and make it form properly. If Uriel was here she would be able to handle it… but I can’t. Might as well do the best I can…
“Raphael, hold still.” Rishta placed her own hands over his eyes and began to concentrate. However, she was brimming with emotion. Remember what Uriel said… don’t let the mind wander… Mentally exhausted, Rishta allowed all the emotion she had felt over the past days drain away. Calm at last and emotionless, Rishta began to heal Raphael.

Adriel almost bumped into Michael as she ran up the hill to meet them at the ruins. She was in her angelic form, accompanied by two other angels of Death and Destruction, members of Azrael’s Legions.
“Michael!”, she exclaimed. “Raziel has just left. Azrael fetched her Legions”, she motioned to her companions, who took a slight bow at the Leader of the Armies. “Azrael… collected Uriel’s soul. And Tabris’s. She sent us to let you know, Raziel brought in important information; he said: Azazel’s ring holds his powers. Strike the ring, and you weaken him badly.” Adriel bit her lip.
“Raziel left after that and Autumn and the humans are gone. Beelzebub left shortly earlier; he killed Uriel and Tabris.” She made a pause. “Raphael is wounded and his eyesight is gone.”

Cadmiel shimmered there, his moment of mirth disappearing in a moment as he became more solemn. My little girl… yes, this will be a good match… luck help them both… Straightening, Cadmiel took one more glance around, his dark eyes saddened by the fact he would never see again. Just as soon as Azrael took him. Never see this world, this earth. It was so beautiful, this world. The trees, lakes, rivers, plains… able to see the sky throughout the day: sunset, sunrise, midday… the scent of the wind, sweet rain, blessed warmth…
Never again.
Turning his head once more in Michael’s direction, Cadmiel gave a wry smile. “I never did.” He then stepped up to Adriel, but not too close, and smiled. “Where is Azrael? I know it is time for me to go.”

Adriel had a soft yet small smile for Cadmiel and nodded. She motioned to the next corridor. “The Dark One waits for you, Cadmiel… Follow the corridor.”

Outside the ruined dining Hall, at the end of a long corridor and just before a silver stain of moonlight, stood a dark silhouette. The silvery light filtered through a crack in a sunken dome and yet outside a persistent rain continued to fall, there was silence in the space where the slight beams of moonlight found their way through the ruined roof onto the cracked slabs below. Azrael tilted her head, watching the strange lights in the distance and hearing the hiss of magicks and the voices of her brethren on the other side of thick walls. Azrael did not interfere, nor did she make her presence apparent. The archangel of Death and Destruction stood in silence in the empty hall, waiting.

At last, Cadmiel came into sight. Azrael opened her wings and a heavy darkness fell in the space beneath the ruined dome; the dark erased the outline of objects and the very moonlight disappeared. Azrael’s night sky gaze shimmered and a subtle light shone before her, like a sphere of unnatural luminescence.
//I shall guide you now//, Azrael announced, yet her lips did not open. She rose her hand as Cadmiel walked to her side. A thicker, deeper shadow surrounded them, but it was lighter on the soul – a meditative, contemplative feeling. The archangel and the angel walked out of the Human plane and disappeared. The dark receded and once again, the moonlight pierced the darkness and touched the cracked floors with soft, silver fingers.

Adriel tilted her head as she sensed Cadmiel’s presence vanish from this plane. Her two companions exchanged grim glances. The angels of Death and Destruction had a different insight from the others – with souls previously assigned to them to collect, they had a unique yet non-certain glimpse on who might survive and who might not.
“Michael!”, Adriel insisted. “What’s to be done about Raziel’s news?”

Michael watched solemnly as Cadmiel left this plane. He never realized how much he missed the guidance of his mentor until this moment. Once again Michael was left alone to face the world on his own. Make the decisions no else wanted to make…
“I will fight.” he said simply, in reply to Adriel as they headed back to the Farishta Manor.

Michael shakily ran his fingers through his hair, giving a deep sigh. Whether the others would be aware of it or not, the chances of facing Azazel and coming out alive were slim. Who ever battled him would surely die. He wouldn’t allow any one else to take that chance. “What ever this ring is, you and the others will need to find it while I take care of Azazel. If he can’t be killed, he must be re-sealed, and he’s sure to have his legions ready for us by now…”

As they reached the manor, Michael stopped at the door hesitant to go in. His one wish was to leave Rishta here, as far away from the battle as possible. But he knew she wouldn’t obey. Perhaps that was why he loved her the most. Rishta was no coward. ‘Not like you are…‘ Pushing his thoughts aside, they enter the manor.


Raphael smiled wryly. “Looks like Adriel is a mad at me.” he said coolly, “It’s okay, Rishta. Thank you for this.” Raphael tried to stop himself from blinking too much as Rishta tried to clean his wound up. How bad could it be, Raphael wondered, when he has been injured by his own weapon? It wasn’t filthy as those of the Fallen’s, he was sure. He smiled for no reason at all again, as he imagined himself tearing Beelzebub up in vengeance for all of his dead comrades killed by him, including his sister. Slowly, Raphael’s smile disappeared and it was replaced by a slight murderous look.

“Adriel is just concerned… don’t worry about it. I’m sorry I can’t do more…”
Rishta sighed and sat back, he was cleaned up, looked normal… but Raphael couldn’t see. Tears sprung to her own eyes – how could this have happened? Raphael… dear friend. And the others, dead. Heartless was war. She had never felt it for so long – but now…
The pain had reawakened. Choking back sobs, Rishta looked at him. She then realized dinner would be soon – well, they were very very late. Amazing how that seemed to insignificant right now. Eating… when was the last time she had eaten? She couldn’t remember. This afternoon? Tea cakes… and tea. While waiting for Michael. Michael… “Raphael… dinner is ready. Do you want to change before eating? You have to keep your strength up.”

Raphael turned his head over to Rishta as he heard slight choking sounds which she made as an attempt to stop herself from crying. Raphael was concerned about Rishta crying.
“Rishta, are you alright?” Raphael asked, twitching his brow a little, “You don’t have to worry for me. Sometimes things aren’t as bad as you imagined to be. A loss can be rewarding at times.” Raphael smiled at Rishta.

Raphael stopped for a while as his angelic senses picked up something. He frowned. “Rishta. Do you sense something wrong? I can sense it… The hell has broken loose… and… and…” Raphael shook his head, his face anguished, “Lilith’s dead… Gabriel… I can sense him together with Beelzebub. But whatever they are doing can’t be good… I have a bad feeling about all these, Rishta. This is not the time for eating. Go get Michael, will you?”

“Eat anyway. We are going to need the extra strength.” Michael stood in the doorway, a hard expression on his face. There was no signs of his usual carefree exterior. His back was rigid and his arms stiff at his sides. Raphael looked better, no doubt by Rishta’s gentle touch, but Michael was sure he still yet had some healing to do. “After food and rest, we will make our plans.”

Adriel and her two companions promptly followed Michael to the house; the two angels were at least one head taller than Adriel, who looked curiously small in comparison, but they did look like people who belong in the same company. Besides, the two were brothers.
“Azrael sent us to provide support; her Legions are moving to secure this spot”, the angels gravely said. We’ve got word that only the vanguard of the Armies from the Abyss have moved; the rest remains near the Hell Gate.”
Adriel, whose concerned gaze lingered briefly on Raphael, nodded but remained silent.

Raphael growled at Michael, unhappy that Michael seemed to be giving him instructions. “The leader has grown up, I see.” Raphael snickered as he touched his cleaned up eyes. Touching them made it feel better. Raphael laid down again, and had a bad feeling of some sort. He turned over to Adriel’s direction, his expression blank.
“Where’s Gabriel?” Raphael asked. He fidgeted here and there, before struggling the words out, “I could be wrong but I have a feeling that something’s really wrong out there.”

Michael’s already-stony countenance quickly hardened into tempered iron. He knew exactly where Gabriel was. Beelzebub was in the middle of killing him. First Tabris and Uriel… then Raphael is wounded… now Gabriel. Angels, Fallen, and demons, all being slaughtered like mere mortals. The world was changing, perhaps faster than it could keep up. Such a change had not occurred since the Fallen descended from above, and look what the consequences of that were.

What would this world be like without its angels…? “Gabriel’s fate is out of my hands now,” Michael replied after a long, silent moment. “He’s taken his own path now. We have more pressing matters. A tremendous battle is being fought, and another army is waiting on the horizon. Our forces are holding, but the upper ranks of the Heavenly Host are thinning. All that remains is Rishta, myself, Adriel, Azrael, and Raziel… and the legions…” Michael let his words sink in for a moment, giving the impression that Raphael was nothing but a blind burden to him now. “We are not nearly as powerful now as we were even mere days ago.”

“I… I’m ok…”
Rishta sat there, feeling so lost she wasn’t even sure where she was anymore. She started getting up at Raphael’s orders, but as Michael came in, she sat back down, trying to stop a complete breakdown. This was too familiar… way too familiar. She did not know why, but the pure hate of evil was beginning to creep into her soul.
And she didn’t like that feeling. Dead… that’s why you don’t like this Raphael… They are going to die, we’re all going to perish. You can’t escape war a second time… no one is that lucky. Rishta thought to herself, keeping the horrible visions locked deep in her mind, so not even Michael could tap into them. What was that old nursery rhyme? One, two, three, four… how did it go? Angel’s have locked the heavenly doors? Five, six, seven, eight… demons pounding on the gate… nine and then ten… the angels have to fight again… is that right? It sounds right. Sounds so wrong to… Nothing is right anymore.

Glancing up from a minute, her eyes seemingly vacant and cold, she saw the two angels that towered next to Adriel. Slowly, she stood, her motions almost robotic, trained. “Will you two also be joining us for dinner?” Rishta’s noble body then stiffened, back as straight as a ramrod. Michael and Raphael… again. She was so tired of people dying, people arguing, people just not seeing the GOOD in this world. Giving them both a glare that would have paused Death, she muttered, softly, but harshly:
“Stop it you two. You think we don’t have enough problems? It is time to toss your forsaken differences aside and be friends. Even the enemy knows that for success we need unity.” After choking those words out, she walked stiffly towards the doorway to the dining room. Without turning her head, she murmured. “When you have settled your differences come and eat.”

The two Angels of Death and Destruction behind Adriel exchanged a quick glance at this development. Adriel took a light bow to Michael and Raphael, then followed Rishta. The angels promptly did the same.
“We will join you, milady”, one of them said with a smile. “I am Camael and this is Zoriel, my brother. It’s curious… but since we left our human lives, we hadn’t thought we’d share human’s customs like this.”

Zoriel picked up the next line.
“It’ll be a joy. However I’d suggest we don’t take long for dinner; Azrael Archangel and our companions will send us word on the state of the battle; we need to be ready.”
Camael cast a ‘shut up’ look at his brother.

Adriel nodded. “May this dinner bring harmony and calmness of mind to decide what’s to be done next”, she said with a clear, crystal-like voice.

The angels nodded.
“May it be”, they said.

Raphael turned to Michael and glared hard at him, though his eyes stared slightly off-direction. “He thinks I’m a burden!” Raphael accused Michael angrily, “This… this idiot!” Raphael yelled as he shook his fists, “I still can fight! I will not stop even I’m left with only one arm or leg! Get it?! You just stop being so self-opinionated, Michael!” Raphael screamed as he punched his fist to the marble ground.

“I don’t have any use for a blind fighter!” Michael snapped. “I need you around like another archd–” The angel paused for a moment, as a great rush of sadness swept over him. His fists slowly uncurled as he stared at the wall; through the wall, off into the distance. His sorrow was quickly washed away by regret and anger only a heartbeat later. So, it was finally over between those two. Gabriel was dead.
‘I don’t know why I thought he could make it,’ Michael growled to himself. ‘We can fight demons, the Fallen, and even time itself… but nothing can fight change. This is beyond all of us. Everyone is going to die.’

Michael turned back to Raphael. His eyes were still as sharp as his sword, but his voice carried only sympathy now. “Gabriel chose his own fate. And it killed him. If you want to fight, Raphael, you’ll be taking your fate into your own hands, too. You’ll probably die. I just thought you should know that, before you throw yourself into anything.” Michael turned back around, and followed Rishta. “Come, or don’t come. I don’t care anymore. I just want all of this to be over.”

Raphael was angered at what Michael had said. Glaring at him, Raphael bawled, “Gabriel chose to die fighting Beelzebub rather than submit to his evil! He has died a honorable death, fighting against Beelzebub that dirty fly. He feels much for our friends, and I understand his feelings because I’ve lost a loved one to Beelzebub too!” Gazing at Michael with his sudden dark blue eyes, as if trying to burn a hole into his brain, Raphael hissed, “I would rather die trying than not trying at all… I will kill Beelzebub sooner or later to avenge Uriel, Gabriel and Zeruel… Just you watch…”

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE: A FATHER’S LOVE

Adriel rushed after Raphael, trying to pinpoint Mastema in the manor grounds with her angelic senses. She noticed while she slept a lot of things had taken place. There was a fight going on and another… Another fight was just over. Adriel took in a deep breath. “Uriel… Tabris…” Adriel’s gold and green eyes filled with tears. The angel of death then sensed Raphael’s power going in an outburst, then he screamed. Adriel rushed and found him just on time to see him stab his own eyes. Adriel gasped. Raphael fell to the floor.
“Raphael…!” Adriel ran to his side and kneeled down, using a cloth she pulled off a nearby table to try and stop the bleeding.

Raphael was barely conscious. He looked around with his eyes but he saw nothing but a wave of crimson red. Raphael moaned softly in pain. He knew what he has done to himself. It was clear that his eyes were not going to see anymore evil from then on. Not anymore. He hated Beelzebub for showing those images to him. He could almost hear Beelzebub taunting him, for he had done Raphael a ‘favor’.
Raphael shook his head in his subconsciousness then. No… he hated Uriel alright… or maybe it was pure dislike…? But he never wanted her dead. It was all talk. He would never hurt Uriel. Raphael felt a familiar presence and was pulled back to reality. Raphael blinked as Strife disappeared from his hand.
“Adriel?” he whispered.

Adriel caressed Raphael’s hair to transmit comfort to him as she tried to stop the bleeding. Her own eyes brimmed with tears. “Yes, it’s Adriel”, she whispered. “We’ll need to get those wounds healed…” Adriel bit her lip. “I’m not a Healer, but I’ll try to help…” She touched his hair and motioned to get up to get medicines and help.

Red tears of blood streamed down Raphael’s cheeks. “It’s alright, Adriel…” Raphael muttered, “At least I can’t see anything now… No more evils…” Raphael’s voice became choked with tears then, and he gazed up into Adriel’s eyes. He couldn’t see with his eyes, but his heart could feel, and see. “Uriel is dead… Adriel… I never wanted her dead… but… but… a voice is blaming me…”

Adriel made a cushion float to her, then put it under Raphael’s head. She gently dabbed at the blood on his cheeks. A bright, crystal clear tear fell from her eyes to his face. “Don’t pay heed to that voice”, Adriel softly said, her voice gentle and comforting. “You’ve not caused her demise… in any way.” Adriel brushed his hair away from his face with her fingers.

Raphael’s face twisted a little and he shook his head, though he said nothing. He felt guilty for some reason. He knew that the feeling wasn’t going to fade away for sometime, or maybe forever. Raphael tried to think up of new ways to deal with Beelzebub. “I need to recover fast…” Raphael muttered, “I have to rid the world of Beelzebub. He’s killing too many innocents…”

Adriel nodded, quickly and discreetly wiping her eyes. “You need to recover soon.” She pressed her hand over her collarbone, feeling her rushing heartbeat.
‘Death still lingers…’ Adriel could feel someone else was going to die. The souls… who’d care for the souls? She couldn’t leave Raphael alone. Adriel hugged herself. //Rishta!//, she called to the girl’s mind. //Rishta, Uriel taught you healing; Raphael needs you. Please come to his aid! I can’t leave him alone…//
Adriel gently touched Raphael’s forehead. “You will be healed soon”, she softly said. “Try to stay still.” Adriel had a soft smile. She was sure Raphael had strong feelings for Rishta; she hoped he’d heal soon under his beloved’s care.


Mastema frowned slightly as Beelzebub left.
He had never liked Beelzebub much. Nothing personal, but he could never trust him any. Besides after what happened with Raphael’s sister, Mastema liked him even less. Adriel was a close friend to that girl.

Angel’s jaw was set. He cast piercing glance at Rishta: a warning for her to stay away from them. Aramis’ melancholic eyes seemed to grow sad. “If you’d take advice, I’d tell you you’d better not come any closer, Rishta”, Angel said, caustically. Aramis stayed relaxed but alert. He didn’t reply to Rishta’s words, but he had a brief nod at her. Angel narrowed his eyes, his silver gaze shimmering darkly. Aramis’ radiance and Angel’s dark aura seemed to coexist without clashing, giving the impression they shared the same space at the same time.
“You have been warned.”

Mastema blinked. Belial was giving rather contradictory signs. Was this girl and enemy or not? She was only half-angel, but still she seemed to be with the Angelic Host – no wonder after seeing who was coming with her! Belial didn’t seem to care, but Mastema was starting to believe Belial was seriously out of his wits.
It was not a surprise though, considering Mastema kind of always thought that ever since before the Fall.
He glanced around keeping his position and his guard on, looking for Cadmiel.
“Are you… sure he’s dead?” Mastema quickly wiped his eyes.

Rishta was slightly hurt by Angels’ harsh response, but understanding. He probably would never trust her. But Aramis… it was so sad that they were so different. They would have made good friends. “Why do you keep pushing me away? What have I done? Besides, this is my home – you are the intruders.” Rishta then walked forward, slipping her arm out of Michael’s, towards them. Keeping her eyes connected with Angel, she dared him to try something. This was her hall, her home, her land – according to tradition and other natural laws: she was right. And with her stubborn nature.
Then she nearly walked right into Mastema.
“I’m very sorry… we haven’t met. My name is Rishta, I’m the Angel of Destiny… may I ask for your name?”

Mastema instinctively grasped Rishta’s arm as she bumped into him. His natural reaction was to move her off the way of a possible attack from Beelzebub, but now that he had caught her arm ands he spoke to him, it was too difficult to let her go. Besides if he did, Michael would certainly attack him! Mastema blinked at Rishta as he sensed Cadmiel was too close for comfort and she wasn’t him, indeed. Then he realized it was only the soul that lingered on the girl and she had Cadmiel’s nose. Nosey family.

“I am Mastema”, he said, pulling her with him nearer the throne. “Legion commander at Belial’s service, and I am not your friend, milady.” His grip was too strong for her to pull away. He frowned as he did.

Rishta blinked as this ‘Mastema’ grabbed her arm. Usually it would be to steady both of their balances’ – for which she would be grateful, except, he didn’t let go. ‘Oh no… Michael definitely should not have come. What have I dragged myself into?’ As he dragged her closer to her grandfather’s throne, Rishta’s mind worked fast. There was no way she could pull away from that iron grip, which was bruising her under the white dress – still stained with Michael’s blood. Amazing how that seemed so far away at the moment. Mastema… she had never heard of him, or if she had, she most certainly did not remember. Strange how helpless one could feel when one didn’t know.

As the demon called by Mastema took a hold of her arm, Michael almost darted forward to wretch her free from his grasp. Something inside his mind held him back, he held his ground giving Mastema a cold stare. The demon knew he wouldn’t attack as long as he held Rishta. By heaven, if she weren’t there now he would sent all three of them back to hell where they belonged. “You better know what you’re doing, cookie.’

“Friend or not, it is an honor to meet you Sir Mastema, but: may I ask you release my arm? I would like to feel my fingers again.” Rishta’s voice was soft, filled with respect that came with medieval raising and touched with a hint of authority. One could say she had been a little spoiled. Then the fool decided to hit her nerve.

“The last Angel of Destiny I met was a nosey one”, Mastema added for Cadmiel to hear with a mischievous grin.

Immediately Rishta’s angelic face became flushed with anger. But then, she realized something, and forced herself to breathe. ‘He dared… but still…’ She could not stop her curiosity, and she stopped, jerking Mastema (as he tried to drag her further) to a halt. Her voice, leashed with tension, rang out.
“Two things Sir Mastema. One: you never insult my father. To insult him is to insult me, and I always wound those who wound me. Secondly…” Rishta’s paused as she seemed to become almost timid, but still holding that spark of fury in her eyes, .”..you knew him?”
But Rishta’s was cut off by the sound of Angel speaking.

Angel had to make a conscious effort not to roll his eyes impatiently. He had the sudden urge to lash out and blast Mastema and Rishta to the moon, just to get rid of these unnerving ones. The nerve that hybrid had! He glared at Michael and suddenly an idea came to his mind.
What was the Leader of the Angelic Armies doing at night alone with a girl in the lonely ruins? Rishta wasn’t bad-looking and maybe her sugary demeanor had got to the Patron of Scapists, he thought in sarcasm. However, didn’t he know her father was included in their romantic date? Angel snickered with a mix of amusement and evil mirth.

Aramis blinked at Michael as Angel’s thoughts flashed across his mind. Aramis bit his lip – things were growing worse by the minute. He was about to say he didn’t want any hostages but he held back his words, knowing Mastema would kill her to please him if he said such a thing at the time.

Angel summoned the Staff of Simara and arched an eyebrow.
“I guess you’re right. We’re intruders. It’s not very wise to greet the demons that happen to invade your house, child.” Angel shrugged. “You should’ve given her some better advice, Michael. It doesn’t matter anymore, I guess.” Aramis swallowed.

Immediately she retaliated. “Do you still qualify as a demon Angel? I didn’t think so. Besides – I told you that I did not mind your presence here, and I am sorry for my recently declared harsh statement.” Cutting herself off, Rishta’s eyes became wider, more doe-like as she saw him raise the Staff. He had barely stopped himself before… and now, he looked a thousand times more angry. As he chastised Michael, the inner soul that had stopped her the first time, did not stop her now.
“Be silent Angel. Michael is not even supposed to be here, and I did not bring him here as a threat. So stop being so stuffy and get off your high horse and face the truth!” She knew she was going to be in big trouble this time.

Mastema grinned. “I can’t release you”, he explained, “or else Michael would attack, which is not convenient. And yes, I met your father. Unfortunately, maybe. He was nicer than many but sometimes the Host would not listen to him.” Mastema’s grin died quickly as if an unpleasant memory would flash across his mind.
“I didn’t insult him! It was only the truth, as many would agree. Oops!” Mastema realized Rishta’s words had considerably increased Angel’s anger; the green eyes blinked with some fear to them. “Nosey family”, he muttered.

“The truth…” Angel’s voice seeped bitter sarcasm. “The truth is I am a Fallen; that’s not hard to see.” Rishta’s words had again stirred his wounds; Belial felt a mix of anguish and rage as she declared she didn’t think he qualified as a demon. What’d she know?! Angel rose the Staff; the outline of his wings showed around him.

Aramis swallowed.
“No lo hagas!”(1), Aramis whispered in Spanish, wide-eyed.

“Silencio!”(2), Angel snapped at him in a low, menacing voice. The Staff of Simara gave a strange glow as Angel hissed strange words in an infernal spell. Rishta’s sword vibed in response, subtle fiery lines showing on the metal as the sword floated up, out of its scabbard. The dark around them seemed to close, but Aramis’ radiance didn’t dim any. The Seal of Azrael was clearly visible now on Rishta’s sword. Angel’s eyes shimmered darkly in anticipation. He rose the Staff again and chanted a spell, sigils weaving around Azrael’s seal.
A subtle crack appeared on the Seal; Angel continued on his cantrip.

Aramis’ eyes opened wide. “Ángel!”

Rishta lowered her eyes in sadness as he said he couldn’t let her go – all because he feared for himself. But she knew Michael would not. He wouldn’t… right? “He wouldn’t. I wouldn’t let him… but, but thank you for telling me something about my father. I never knew him.” Rishta was tired of trying to fight, so she let his protests slip over her, as her fingers grew colder and more numb. ‘I cannot help it if I just want to help… does that make me so nosey…’

She even began to ignore Angel – not so good an idea. But she heard him, and although she didn’t want to speak, she allowed her thoughts to be projected. //You aren’t… you were mislead. Mistakes are never mistakes unless you refuse to correct them… DON’T!// Rishta’s head snapped up as she realized the sword was no longer by her side. Instead it was in the air, lines of flame forming an odd pattern on it… it was cracking. ‘Father! No… not you, not now… It can’t be time!’ Slowly, a tear slipped down her cheek, now white with fear for her father’s soul – and for Angel. The pain she once felt was invisible, her body numb at the fact her dad might be leaving her forever.
“Not father… What are you trying to prove Angel…?”

Aramis’ heart sank. Angel was enraged – at moments like this he’d usually let Angel have his will. This time it’d have to be different, though! Aramis rose his hand and touched the Staff; the balance shifted and Angel’s cantrip faltered. The spell could not be completed; Angel was furious. The Seal cracked open but the bound he had weaved around it to capture the soul was too weak; Angel tried to push Aramis away but it was too late. Aramis was pale but resolute. “Es inútil”(3), Aramis said in a low voice. “Ya no importa. Deja que se vaya – no nos sirve de nada”(4). Angel’s eyes flashed. Aramis bit his lip with a nod as the sadness in his eyes went deeper.

Michael remained quiet as Rishta spoke to the Fallen as if it were such a natural thing. His eyes remained trained on Mastema, waiting for him to make a false move, all the while the pieces of Belial growing more angry with every word she spoke. Belial’s anger took the sword from her side, raising it into the air and casting spells upon it… It confused Michael to no end, the sword was a useless piece of metal? Did he mean to trap them all inside? As Belial’s own self ruined his spell and then the sword emitting the blue fire, Michael was faced with a presence he hadn’t even realized was there!

Mastema perceived the weakness in the trap spell and blinked in surprise, even more as he saw Aramis was the responsible for it.
Mastema kept an eye on Michael as he held Rishta, staying close to the throne. The soul was coming out. Mastema sighed. ‘I should’ve stayed in Hell’, he thought.

Rishta stood there, eyes wide, the tears having disappeared, dried: with no more to replace them. Aramis had stopped Angel. How strange… literally fighting himself. Belial was certainly a man of many controversies.
“Father…”
The spell had weakened, and the sword poised there… trembling. Narrowing her eyes and peering at it, Rishta was shocked to see another web of fire appear. Ice blue this time, coming out from under Angel’s spell. Raging like an angry storm, it lashed out at the darker Hell-fire. As the seconds passed, it built up strength, and like a tsunami rushed forward, causing Belial’s spell to explode outward…

The remains hit the ground, seeping into the stone, flashing red before dissolving; while the sword remained upright, the cerulean presence veiling it in mist. Rishta stood there, stunned. The “mist” began to curl and gather, forming a presence besides the sword. It faded from blue to white, as it shaped itself into a man’s form. He was tall, maybe close to 7 feet – but no markings could be distinguished yet.
“I know…”

Cadmiel chuckled as the sun rose, back to the window, smiling at a little girl who laid in her mother’s arms, feeling better after a sick night. “I knew she would pull through…” The man smiled at his wife, who looked tired, but overjoyed.
That night, and for many nights before, the little girl had been sick with a fever. The priest had been called twice, and twice sent home. Even her grandfather had believed she would not live much longer – but longer she had lived.

Cooing at her daddy, the baby reached up to him, doe-eyes sparkling with happiness, the danger she had been in – forgotten. Gurgling and smiling a toothless grin, the child was rewarded by her father by being carried up towards the sun. The man had very similar eyes, both dark brown and deep… the same shade hair, same nose. “My Rosi… I knew you would live.” Cadmiel’s voice echoed, deep and joyful, trusting. The baby giggled in response, squirming. Embracing the child, he handed her back to his wife. “Milady, let us go back to breakfast…”

Rishta blinked as the white, transparent form shimmered. Daddy! It’s daddy… Smiling happily, she pulled her arm away, but to no avail. She did not care though, as the form began to take on features. Dark hair, expanded white wings, several pairs, Armour to make heaven jealous (all in her humble opinion).
Cadmiel was free. Turning, he faced his daughter – transparent, but recognizable. The soul saw Mastema’s grip on her, and he “stepped” forward, feet not touching the ground. As he advanced, Rishta looked on, helplessly stunned and speechless. Cadmiel raised a hand, and placed it on Mastema’s shoulder, telling him to let her go with a mere gesture.
‘Father… you’re back.’

Mastema pulled Rishta closer to him, holding her tightly as the magicks formed a blast and the spirit was unleashed from its shell. Mastema narrowed his eyes, green lights in the dark. The spirit motioned to him to let go of Rishta; the Fallen pulled the girl against him, large wings visible around his body. “Sorry, but no way. You are already dead, Cadmiel, and I do not wish to share your condition.” Mastema’s own staff appeared in his hand; he used it to keep Rishta in his power.

“Cadmiel…” the name of his heavenly mentor was barely a whisper on his tongue as he watched Cadmiel go to Rishta. Rishta’s reaction was even more of a surprise. She knew him? His lady murmured the words father it all suddenly came to him! He knew the soul was Cadmiel was lost… it was sealed in the sword? Rishta’s sword! His mentor was Rishta’s father! “Let her go, Mastema… you won’t die this night.” Michael said through clenched teeth as he took a step towards them. He wouldn’t dare put Rishta in danger, especially now. ‘The daughter of my mentor…’

Aramis’ silver gaze watched Michael’s reaction; it was obvious he hadn’t noticed earlier Cadmiel’s presence, nor had Michael known Rishta was Cadmiel’s daughter. Michael belonged in a different Order than Belial and Mastema once did; the former angels of Death and Destruction had keener senses for such things. Aramis smiled faintly. Azrael kept her secrets well.

“Suéltame!”(5) Angel pulled free from Aramis’ grip. He watched the curious scene before them and the anger in his flashing eyes partially gave way to a dark mirth.
“Well well. Seems like this has been a surprise for you, Michael”, Angel said with a dark smile. “Didn’t you know her father was included in your wanderings across the ruins? Cadmiel always had the gift to be unexpected.” Angel narrowed his eyes. “Unexpected will his end be – Azrael won’t be here to give his soul a second shelter.” He motioned to Mastema to bring Rishta closer.

Rishta was stunned to be so close to her father again, he felt so similar. This was who she belonged with! Not her granddad, not her grandmother, or those so-called “uncles” – just her and her mother and her DADDY. The “ghost” seemed somewhat happy too – smiling at his daughter. But Mastema and Belial were not finished yet. As Mastema dragged her closer and closer, she felt herself panic. What was he planning to do?
“Angel, Mastema, why? Why do you…”

.”.. Have you changed so much that you would hurt an innocent?” Cadmiel’s voice, deep and echoing, filled the room. It seemed to come from somewhere deep within the soul, not natural, shaking the souls of anyone around. He had had a powerful persona, and it came up now in death. His eyes were sad, he had once trusted Mastema, believed him to be a worthy ally. It had pained him when he followed Belial – another soul he had believed would not be tainted. Then again, deep inside: he knew Belial would not resist the ability to shine in Azrael’s eyes. It was a pity.

Mastema kept an eye on Michael and the other on Cadmiel or so to speak. He carefully dragged Rishta along with him towards Angel.
“If I could trust you Michael, this would be a better world”, Mastema said with a grin. “Nothing changes for the better, however. Sorry milady.” Mastema’s green eyes twinkled.
“She has your nose, Cadmiel”, he informed the ghost.

“I noticed. And who said you were going to die? You do not trust my daughters’ word?” Cadmiel’s voice was quizzical, but not foolish. He knew well enough what Belial could and would do. He stepped back, warning them both with a glare. If they dared to hurt his girl he would.
He then noticed Michael. He and Rishta had… well, of course, considering the current events, but he had thought Uriel would have followed. ‘Strange…’

“Michael.” Cadmiel nodded, smiling. A hopeless student, but the man had matured. And in the end, had become a brilliant swordsman.
Meanwhile Rishta stood there, listening to his voice, transfixed.
“He is just as I imagined…”

Anastasia stared out the window over the expanse of the grounds, watching as the flame-haired whore returned to the manor. The deep-set scowl on her face showed pure unhindered fury. She will remove the little whore from this scheme once and for all. Tonight she would die!
Anastasia left from the window, the room around her morphing from her bedroom chambers to the damp stone of her caverns below the home. She wore deep crimson velvet that made the pure pale white of her skin look almost luminescent. The old hag appearance had vanished, replaced by a ethereal yet volatile looking young woman with silvery hair and brilliant coppery eyes. Lilith had taken true form.

Walking over the marbled stone she came to an alter. Above it an incredibly ball of light an energy, flowing and churning waiting for her command.
A sound of fabric brushing against skin cause Lilith to swirl around staring into the dark shadows of the cavern. This was her haven, nothing could enter here! Her suspicions were rewarded by the tall and familiar form stepping from a shadow. Deep bronze eyes boring into her own.

You…” Lilith gasped, the incredible fear evident in her tone. Her gaze stood transfixed staring at the man. Her plans, her precious plans would all be tore apart…

He didn’t move a muscle, or even blink. Nor did his mouth have motion as his rich voice echoed in the cavern. “With my bare hands took your life when you betrayed me… and I’ll do it again and again for the rest of eternity.”

Lilith knew the tone, the same he used before he killed her for the first time. A sudden feeling of doom weighing heavily upon her. She tried to move her body, to summon her energies for escape, but she remained frozen in place.

The figure moved only enough to sneer in response to her struggles. “You will never escape me, Lilith.”

A blood curdling scream echoed through the night… Anastasia’s last breath.

Angel’s eyes shimmered darkly in a mix of anticipated triumph and malevolent joy. He flashed a dark, charming smile as Cadmiel glared to them.
“What are these things you wonder about? Riddles in the dark…” Angel snickered malevolently. “No one is innocent in this land – things men name as pure and good are illusions of the mind.”

A sudden rupture in the web of presences startled Belial; Lilith’s shriek echoed in his angel of death and destruction senses – echoed and disappeared. Aramis sensed something else, but a thick veil seemed to…
Angel clasped his hand on the Staff of Simara. Behind him, Aramis paled.
“Azrael’s Seal has been broken and your soul won’t be claimed by any Angel of Death, but by me – I am the Necromancer.” With this words, Angel rose the Staff and began to cast a binding spell. “If you wish, your daughter might join you. She seems anxious to spend more time with you.” Angel’s eyes shimmered like silver fire.

Mastema blinked as he sensed the echoes of Lilith’s shriek within his mind – Mastema was surprised she had been around, but he was sure he wasn’t going to miss her at all. When Angel rose the Staff of Simara, Mastema’s own staff gave a note in reply. The Fallen held it tightly as he forced Rishta to stand before him. Mastema didn’t hesitate to follow Belial’s command, but he couldn’t help to wonder why Aramis had interrupted the capture earlier. Mastema kept an eye on Michael. “I don’t want to be offensive… but we must hurry! Beelzebub is gone and he might have as well revealed we’re here or not!”

Michael bellowed with rage as Ezurewrath flashed to life in his hands, blazing brighter than a roaring inferno. “Hold your tongue, devil!” he shouted at Angel, squeezing the hilt of his sword until his knuckles cracked. The shimmer of wings appeared at Michael’s shoulders, but vanished as quickly as they had come. “If one dark incantation leaves those foul lips, I swear, I’ll have your wretched head rolling across the floor before you can blink!”
Michael lowered his blade towards Angel, though he didn’t take a single step. Still, the ferocious glint in his eyes was enough of a signal to show he was not bluffing. Every muscle in his body was tensed; the angel was a coiled spring, ready to launch forward in a torrent of fire and light to strike the demons down. Flame wreathed itself around his body, crawling up Ezurewrath and flickering off into the darkness. “Rishta, step away and come back over here,” he snapped, flicking his gaze over to her for a brief second. “Hurry!”

The soul of Cadmiel glared at Angel – this part of Belial was pure darkness… but his binding spell should not work. After all, he wasn’t a soul… he was just some of his power, plus memories, not even all his memories. Azrael held the rest of him. But he would not take a change and endanger his daughter. “You will leave her be. I am surprised at you, what would Raziel say?”

Meanwhile Rishta struggled against Mastema’s grip. ‘What have I ever done to deserve this…?’ She nearly smiled as Michael told her to come – did it LOOK like she could move? “Let me go, you’re hurting me…” The stone hall seemed so familiar now, but it also seemed accursed. Too many bad things had happened in this place, and another was about to happen. Aramis could not stop Angel. He was too enraged. And Michael… was too furious. ‘Too much anger here… way too much anger.’

Cadmiel saw his girl struggling. ‘If Belial manages to take me… or my spirit loses its potency. I won’t be able to give her…’ Cadmiel moved forward quickly then, startling the demons by daring to come so close. Placing a hand on Rishta’s shoulder, he whispered softly. “You may need this…”

“Father?” Rishta was confused, but the loving feeling she felt was enough to keep her calm. ‘What will I need…?’ His palm began to glow softly, and Rishta felt this sense, a sense of… one could call it awakening. Or maybe it was change. She could not be sure. Something expanded, but nothing changed physically. However, Rishta knew that something had changed within her. She had her suspicions, but they would have to be examined out later.
‘If only there was more time…’

“Eep!” Mastema pulled back and rose his own Staff to keep Cadmiel at bay; the Fallen began casting a ward spell to interrupt the flow of energies from Cadmiel to his child.

Angel went on with his cantrip; Cadmiel reached out for his daughter and Mastema was about to cast a spell of his own to weaken Cadmiel’s soul. Aramis watched, tense; he first intended to stay on the other side of the fence, but this time he knew he needed to do something!
Aramis frowned. He moved swiftly, going behind Angel and around the throne; when Mastema rose his staff Argentus, Aramis summoned his version of the Staff of Simara and blocked Argentus with it.

Angel blinked as he realized Aramis’ intent, but he had to break his concentration to pay attention to Aramis, breaking the binding spell he was performing on Cadmiel. Angel cried out in frustration and slashed down with the Staff at him but the stone throne was in the way. The stone throne exploded, sending the group back.

Rishta gave a small shriek as they were blasted back, Mastema had kept his grip, and her arm twisted. ‘THIS is going to hurt…’
With a sickening thud Mastema hit the ground, with Rishta on top of him. Struggling, she got up and immediately backed away, next to Michael. ‘I cannot believe Aramis would do this. I certainly owe him one…’

Cadmiel gave an alarmed look as his daughter – and the rest of the demon’s – were pushed back by the misdirected blast. He disappeared and reappeared next to Michael and Rishta, and before the demon’s could fully collect themselves, began to finish the transfer. He just HAD to finish… Meanwhile Rishta leaned against Michael, while she relaxed – she knew whatever her daddy was giving her, he wasn’t going to lead her astray.

Mastema was dumbfounded. Things were not looking good at all! Maybe he should take Belial’s advice and leave him on his own… or was it their own?
Whatever.
Mastema landed with a thud, lots of skirts blocking his view. His wings padded the landing some, but it still made him feel as if he had crashed onto a stone cliff after plummeting down a long distance from the skies. The Fallen pushed the skirts and shook his head, but as he lost his grip on her, the hybrid girl rushed and fled from him. Mastema sat up with a blink, rubbing his head and scowling.

“Gwah!” He reached out and grabbed Argentus.
He looked at Angel and Aramis. Aramis was already back on his feet, wielding the Staff; Angel seemed about to try a suicide move on Aramis. Mastema blinked and suddenly realized he was looking at them the wrong way. Despite how different or independent they might look like, they were Belial, only one. Belial, the Fallen he knew, his inner conflict visible. Mastema bit his lip. He had a conflict of his own and when he took that point of view he could see…
Damn… That guy needs a lot of help! Mastema sighed. He decided to stay. He sprang back on his feet and cast a shield spell to cover himself and Belial in case the angels would attack.

Michael flinched backwards when the stone throne exploded, but snapped back at the ready in a heartbeat. Rishta, now free of Mastema, came back to him. The angel looked down at her for a moment, but glanced back at Angel and Aramis when she looked back up. A lazy smile drifted across his face as he turned to Mastema, regarding him like a lord would a rude peasant.

“Well. This is certainly interesting,” he mused smugly. “‘All-powerful armies of darkness’, indeed. Your master can’t even come to terms with himself. You soulless abominations should have stayed in the shadows where you belong!” Ezurewrath blazed with holy fire once again, illuminating every dark corner within fifty yards of the enraged angel.
“There is no power in Hell that can save you now, demon!” Michael shouted, driving a lance of white light wreathed with flame at Mastema.

A sudden light appeared, surprising Angel and Aramis. The two ceased in their fight and turned around just on time to see Michael speak arrogant words and attack Mastema. Without a second thought, Angel and Aramis moved fast; Aramis landed between Michael and Mastema; Angel landed beside Mastema, quickly reinforcing Mastema’s shield. Aramis rose the Staff and intercepted Michael’s lance of white light wreathed with flame; the force pushed him back but Aramis held on, a sudden flash of pure light surging from him, a sigil of silver fire projecting before Aramis. The Light grew, erasing the outline of the objects around them; a sudden wind swirled, hissing with an unheard voice as Belial used the power he had fiercely denied before.

Angel murmured a spell. Dark sigils formed on the ground, hissing with strange voices and a Portal opened. Mastema blinked, momentaneously blinded by Michael’s light; the sudden dark confused him. Angel grumbled.
“I told you to stay away… Now use your other senses and watch your step!” He pushed Mastema into the Portal and motioned to Aramis to follow. Angel’s dark and Aramis light didn’t clash but seemed to coexist, none dimming the other but reinforcing each other.

Aramis swirled the Staff, sending the clashing lance of Light to the opposite wall and using the kickback to impel himself in the opposite direction towards the portal. Already on the other side of the portal and still blind, Mastema cried out:
“Uriel is dead! Tabris is dead, too! I can feel it!”

Cadmiel allowed the transfer to be complete, then released his daughter. //Remember, I love you Rishta… now, do what you have to…// Rishta turned to Cadmiel, smiling at him, and turning to Michael, quickly whispered ‘be right back’ and ran up to Aramis.

“Belial, we need to talk!”
Automatically, Rishta reached out and grabbed his arm, to keep him from disappearing like Mastema. ‘I do not want to know what is in there…’ And pulled him to the side.
“Aramis… don’t push me away, I just want to help, don’t kill yourself by doing this!”

Aramis blinked. From beside the Portal, Angel hissed in impatience. “Your are far worse than the Plagues of Egypt!”, he protested. “Get off Aramis!” Aramis pulled to free his arm from the girl’s grip, startled to see that they could be an easy target for Michael now.

“I can’t see anything yet!”, Mastema protested from the other side.

Angel frowned and stood in the Portal threshold, holding his Staff out at Aramis. “Get rid of her!”, Angel urged him.

Aramis pulled his arm free and reached out for Angel, refusing eye contact with the girl. “Go back to your people”, he told her. “Forget about me!”

Rishta narrowed her eyes dangerously. She wasn’t as powerful as them, that was certain, but she was in a very haphazardous mood. Standing in front of them, back to Michael, she made Aramis look at her. “I can’t forget about those who helped me.” Rishta’s voice was soft yet stern, and she held on to Aramis’ upper arm, keeping her eyes trained on him, then turning to Angel. Her eyes were concerned and hurt, large and an almost soft shade of brown. Tears hung precariously on her lower lashes, though she tried to keep them back.
“I know I am being a pain, and you most probably want to kill me right now, but I don’t want you to die, and I can’t stop worrying. Please… Don’t. Push. Me. Away.”

“You can’t decide my Fate”, Angel fiercely said, his silver eyes flashing. “Cadmiel should’ve taught you that!”

Aramis bit his lip. “You can’t and you won’t get involved”, he said, gently but firmly pulling her fingers off himself. “For your own sake, stay away!” Aramis pulled himself free from Rishta’s grip and rushed to the Portal, held onto Angel’s Staff and was dragged into the Portal. The portal flashed and disappeared.

“Its too… late.” Rishta sighed as he disappeared. ‘And there he goes… most likely to his death…’ Turning, Rishta walked back to a stunned Michael and a fading Cadmiel.
“I couldn’t stop him…” Rishta looked defeated as she allowed a tear to slip down her face and hit the ground with a small splash. However, no more came and she looked at Cadmiel, who was smiling in a sort of wise way.

“You cannot save them all… but he is strong, he will save himself.” Cadmiel’s deep, soothing voice echoed in the spacious room.

“I know…” Rishta sighed and looked back to where the portal once was.

“Rosi… will you please excuse me and Michael? We need to discuss something.”

Rishta looked oddly at her father, who was smiling somewhat mischievously, but she obeyed, walking off out of the room and down the hall. ‘I wonder what they need to talk about…’
Rishta stood in the hall, and walked outside. Darkness crept in any and every corner… but it was a comforting ebony night. She could feel her home, the similar presence of the land she had been on for years. It was sad, but Rishta knew she wouldn’t be here for long. It could even be the last time she walked upon the land of her ancestors. If she didn’t die, well… Why would she want to remain here anyways? The place was now filled with bad memories, and the good ones seemed to dim all the time… fading, disappearing into nothingness.

And they were dead. Rishta had heard Mastema and now… it all seemed to click. Tabris and Uriel… dead. By HIM. Beelzebub, the damned b… no. She, she couldn’t believe that… but he did. He was different then Belial, he was heartless. Crying silently, and inwardly, Rishta turned her head to the heavens. Contemplating and slowly walking around the lost garden, Rishta heard a voice. Familiar… Adriel!
//Rishta, Uriel taught you healing; Raphael needs you. Please come to his aid! I can’t leave him alone…// Rishta stood there, torn between leaving her father, and helping Raphael. But the decision was made in two seconds. Taking one last look at her ancient home, she made her way back to the solarium in the “new” Angel Manor.




(1) Don’t do it!
(2) Silence!

(3) It’s futile.
(4) It doesn’t matter anymore. Let him go – it isn’t of any use to us.”

(5) Let go of me!

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR: THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY

Belial’s brow twitched angrily yet the look on his face was somber and cold. His deft magicks he had perfected to find his followers wherever they’d hide had found Mastema’s trace… at Farishta Manor. He had ordered him not to go there, and that was exactly what Mastema had done. If Belial didn’t know him better, he would have thought…
Why not?, he thought with bitter sarcasm. After all, I myself have turned away from the Armies of the Abyss… The Fallen secured his wards to go undetected and slipped inside the property, as he had done earlier. As before, Belial headed for the ruins beyond the lake – it seemed logic no one that’s sane would have thought to look for him there twice.

Once he reached the old ruined manor, Belial went deeper and deeper into the main building, walking through old chambers and halls in the light of scarce lightning; the roof had collapsed long ago and only part of the upper floors endured. He finally reached a large dining Hall; part of the vault still covered the place. By the foot of a mighty wall there was a stone platform on five steps. Belial flicked his hand. The scattered stones on the platform moved and gathered together like a three-dimensional puzzle, regaining their original form: a stone throne with a high back and knot carvings. Once the spell was complete, Belial plopped down on the throne and clasped his hands on the stone armrests. His eyes shimmered in the darkness like molten silver.

//Mastema.//

He tapped his fingers on the cold stone, impatient. He shifted, uncomfortable; Belial took a deep breath as he felt the need to split in two again.
“Not yet…” he murmured, biting his lip.

A small shadow skittered among ruined walls into the impotent ruins of a massive manor on a small hill, beyond a lake where the gardens ended. Silent footsteps didn’t leave a trace behind as the small shadow ran deeper into the building, following an invisible trace coded by the Archdemon of his Legions, like him a former Angel of Destruction.

Moonlight and lightning struck through a sunk dome, piercing the dark in an empty dining hall like a bundle of swords. The cat skittered in, sensing the origin of the call in the chamber. The tabby sat in the moonlight, licking his paw. Then he spotted the unnerving shimmer of silver eyes in the far wall, like small stars; the tabby ran towards the strange lights with its tail tip flicked in complacency. There was a platform, a stone throne and a dark silhouette sat on the throne; silver eyes shimmered. Mastema laid his ears back upon not seeing any welcoming sign on Belial’s part. He retook his demon form and tried a smile in greeting; the horrible face wasn’t improved by it.
“Here I am!, since you’ve called me.” Mastema swept a look around.
“I was just out for a walk. No one knows I’m here, I assure you, Belial…”

Belial pressed his back against the stone throne and frowned.
“You are an irresponsible”, he slowly said with a dark voice. “You shouldn’t have come here to the Heaven Host grounds, and I am sure you know it. If the occasion were different, I know well what I’d do with you. However, the occasion is different.” Belial’s lip curled in sarcasm as he saw surprise and confusion in Mastema’s eyes.
“You’ve been too busy to pay attention. Hadn’t you heard the news Moloch sent? If not… I’ll inform you myself.” Belial straightened his back.

Mastema frowned slightly, confused by Belial’s attitude. He didn’t quite know what to figure out from it. “What news?”, he asked with a blink. “Do they concern to the battles?” Mastema swept a look around, then sat on the steps before the throne. “Um, if you don’t mind I’ll take a seat!”

Belial frowned as Mastema made himself at home. His fingers marked an impatient rhythm on the stone armrests of the throne.
“Yes and no”, he replied. “It concerns to us, but it’s MY decision. It might concern to the battles, but I don’t really care about it. I have made my choice.”

“Skip the riddle,” pleaded Mastema. Belial’s eyes flashed at the impertinence and Mastema swallowed.

“Anyway…”, Belial continued, his eyes shimmering darkly, “I shall be brief. I have left the Armies from the Abyss. I have deserted, if you wish. I find proper to let you know myself.” Belial leaned back in the throne, lazily.

Mastema gawked at Belial for a couple minutes. He was too shocked to speak; he thought at first it was some sort of joke, but Belial’s demeanor forced him to quickly discard the possibility. Mastema gasped.
“What?!”
Mastema let out a harsh cackle. “It’s some sort of joke, isn’t it…? No…?” Belial shook his head slowly and Mastema sprang back to his feet.
“For your soul’s sake, Belial… You can’t be serious! No no no… wait I’m not challenging you!” Mastema shook his hand in dismissal as Belial motioned to get up, then leaned back in the throne again. “That is stupid! Yes, it is! But… why NOW?! The Battles are about to start, we need you! Your Legions expect a lot from you… and so do I! Plus… Azazel won’t be happy at this!”

Belial frowned. “I don’t give a damn about what Azazel thinks. Yes, I am a selfish, egocentric person and I’m looking after my own interests alone. I am an Archdemon, remember?” Belial snickered. “I don’t think you had not noticed that”, he said in bitter sarcasm. Belial bit his lip and the shimmer in his eyes dimmed lightly.

Mastema’s eyes were filled with anger now, yet also with concern.
“Belial”, he said shaking his head, “This is not a good idea on your part. Azazel… well I won’t deny that guy scares me! His power… I have sensed it! All these centuries his power grew a lot! Why did you take this decision? I’ve been loyal to you. I have followed you and I know I owe you…” He raised his mutilated hand with the silver finger shining on it. “I want to know what’s going on!”

Belial forced a smirk. “No. You don’t want to know”, he slowly said. “It will have to be enough for you to know, I won’t baby-sit Lucifer’s kid anymore. My loyalty was to Lucifer – I never swore to follow Azazel.” Belial made a pause. “Do you remember… when you asked me what was going on, when the rebellion started back when we were angels? I told you what Lucifer had told me.”

Mastema nodded. “I remember”, he said. “Mankind enslaved angels and we could be free; that’s what you said.”

“Yes, indeed.” Belial clasped his hands on the armrests. “That’s what he said. I wanted – I want to be free. I refuse to be Azazel’s slave. There’s nothing in the Armies of the Abyss left for me. I’ve lost my bond to them the very day Lucifer died and we were Sealed in. I don’t belong in the Armies anymore. Azazel wants to own us all and rule over the world and his brethren as an Absolute. I won’t be a part of that, even if I have to die – I don’t care.” Belial rose from the throne. “Perhaps if I die I’ll vanish into nothingness, for the things I have done. Maybe that’s what the Order did to Lucifer. I tried to find him, to track down his soul – it was futile. I don’t see the point to allow myself to be oppressed by Azazel – if I must die I’ll die in any case, and that will be it, maybe. There are things beyond Life only a few know of.” Belial’s voice was dark, somber, grim. “There are things I have denied to myself and I can conceal no more. My decision is taken. I shall leave these place and will start on a new path.”

Mastema watched Belial in silence as he spoke. Mastema frowned and made a choice. The demon shook his head with a mix of resignation and determination.
“How ‘I will’? I think it’s ‘we will’“, he softly pointed out with a smirk. “When do we leave?”, he asked with wide open eyes. “I don’t suppose you’ve not considered at least part of your Legions would still follow you. I know I will.”

Belial frowned and shook his head.
“Not this time. You will stay with the Legions.” Belial shrugged his shoulders with elegance. “It’s no use to follow me, Mastema. I can’t lead you to anywhere you’d want to go. You will stay.”

Mastema grimly shook his head.
“You can’t force me to stay if I don’t want to”, he said. “Besides, why wouldn’t I follow you? If it wasn’t because of you, I would’ve wandered as a Forsaken since the Fall, have you forgotten that?” Mastema’s lips formed a smile filled with sharp, pointy teeth.

Belial narrowed his eyes.
“I’ve not forgotten that”, he slowly said. “Nor have I forgotten what the Host did to you. It’s not convenient for you to follow me this time.”

Mastema’s eyes flashed.
“I don’t care if you want me to stay”, he fiercely blurted out. “I’m sure many would agree with me. If you leave, your Legions will be dispersed and will be absorbed by the other Archdemon’s. Our lives wouldn’t count much, if our Master deserts; we’d be despised. You have a great power and yet Azazel is powerful… we’ve trusted you! There’s no reason why we wouldn’t choose to leave with you! At least many of us would.”

Belial’s eyes flashed; he narrowed his eyes and the very air shook around him, causing Mastema to give a step back as the Archdemon’s black and silver aura nearly became a physical force.
“You will do as I say!”, Belial hissed. “I don’t have time to reason with you! It’s for your own good, ungrateful Fallen!” The walls began to shake and Belial quickly restrained his power to prevent attracting unwanted attention.
“I’ll give you a reason!”, he snorted. Belial took a deep breath. The outline of his body seemed to shimmer and become blurry, then he suddenly split in Angel and Aramis.

Angel plopped down on the throne, scowling at Mastema. Aramis grimly looked at Mastema but still didn’t say anything. Mastema stared in fascination, yet there was also a taint of horror in his eyes mixed with curiosity. Angel narrowed his eyes.
“Another wonder to behold”, he slowly spoke. “I accomplished this after you returned to the Abyss and got trapped inside. I have doubled my power and this semblance”, he waved his hand towards Aramis, “is an effective bait. I am Angel; he is Aramis. We both are Belial. Aramis does look like an angel, doesn’t he?” Angel cast Mastema an inquisitive look.

Mastema felt uneasy, not knowing where did Belial want to get with this display. He looked at Aramis and a strange feeling of reverie struck him. He did look like an angel; he was exactly like Belial once were. Mastema, once an angel himself, felt pain confronted to his own memories. There was purity and innocence to this angel he saw, but still the taint of the Fall dimmed his radiant beauty.
Mastema swallowed.
“He looks like an angel”, he admitted, “but still the taint of the Fall shows on this semblance of you. I am a Warlock and as such I can perceive it. How come… the two are you? How did you do this? Why?”

Angel snickered darkly under his breath. “I split myself in my Light and Darkness”, he muttered. He paled gradually. “We both are Belial… but if you think he’s a simple semblance, I’ve fooled you like I’ve fooled everyone else.”
Aramis bit his lip as Angel continued, “You’ll see why you should not follow me. I’ve left the Armies; I’m an outlaw for both parties. I’ve reached the end of the alley and I do not need to keep appearances anymore.”

Angel chanted a spell in a low voice as he drew a sigil in the air before Aramis. Aramis touched the sigil and added a trace; the sigil broke and a dark cloak of subtle darkness became visible on Aramis. Angel pulled it off and the tail disappeared from Aramis. His Light became pure, blinding. Angel felt a knot form in his throat.

Aramis held himself. His aura dimmed quickly. “I’ve been cursed”, Angel muttered. “This is the worst aberration I could ever imagine… It just… happened. The truth within me became apparent. There is Dark and Light in me, but the Light in me… is still an angel’s. Still, I am an Archdemon. Nobody else knows this, Mastema. I don’t care to keep it secret anymore – it’s no use. Do you realize now why you shouldn’t follow me? Every demon would want to kill me because of this.”

Mastema once again found himself speechless. He blinked and opened his lips, but still no sound came out of them. After some time, Mastema gasped.
He broke into an unwilling snicker. Suddenly, he laughed – his shoulders shook violently as he laughed hard. Mastema slid his fingers beneath his chin. There was a soft click and the horrible face lost all expression.
Mastema pulled lightly. He moved his hand upwards and his face separated as a mask – and it was a mask, indeed. The face he revealed behind the mask was a beautiful face; his lip still twitched with laughter, but he was crying, actually. Tears slid down his cheeks.

“Every demon would want to kill you, indeed”, he said with his green eyes flashing, filled with tears, “I would! I feel betrayed…” Mastema wiped his eyes. “I tell you, Belial… you are not the only one that holds secrets. It happens, though…”
Mastema coughed. “How come this… has happened to you?”, he asked. “I don’t know… It’s horrible, I must say….” Mastema was visibly shocked. He shook his head and rubbed his silver finger.
“I’ve never been good on taking personal decisions”, he slowly said. “I still think though… I’d rather follow you than Azazel.” Mastema stared at Aramis, then at Angel.
“How…?”
Mastema rubbed his nose. He sensed someone coming. “Uh… someone!”

Aramis felt like hiding. He didn’t like the turn of things, and Angel had a strange surge of apathy that was kind of alarming. After all the time they had spent working to hide Aramis’ nature and all the things they had made to keep their angelic nature in the shadows, the situation had given an abrupt turn.

Angel narrowed his eyes and pressed his back against the cold stone throne. He was already planning ahead, gathering all the loose threads to weave them into a coherent whole; he knew he did have to plan for his new life. However maybe unconsciously, Angel was losing his motivations quickly.

Belial watched Mastema as he laughed hysterically, struck by the revelation. Aramis stood next to the throne and Angel slightly leaned towards him. Aramis shook his head upon Mastema’s words.
“Not this time, I insist”, he said. “Don’t follow me. I have nothing to offer.”

Angel bit his lip and the expression in his eyes became darker. Mastema had noticed someone coming closer. Angel sensed two angels in the area. The Fallen tapped rhythmically on the stone armrest.
“You won’t follow me. That is it. It’s time to leave, anyway.”

Beelzebub folded his wings down and kept silent as he hid behind the shadows. He couldn’t hear much. Darn the crickets! But he did caught something very interesting. He knew about Belial’s split, but to have him say the word ‘angel’, was something different. Not that it was anything rare but the way he made it sound is different. It was then Beelzebub felt something break. The connection. Mastema had sensed him. Perhaps Belial too. It might do some good to rid of Belial. Maybe not. Leave him to Azazel. Yep. Why should I bother with such trivial matters? I have more important stuff to do. I still have to play around with that Raphael. “It’s me.” Beelzebub said as he stepped out of his hiding place and the moonlight shone slightly on Beelzebub, revealing his faint but familiar sly smile.

Angel furrowed his brow and shifted in the stone throne. Aramis bit his lip. //Beelzebub is here.//

Angel smirked. //Yes. Maybe he’d like to fight us, then fight the Archangels, the Host and whatever else is lurking here.// He motioned to the door and Aramis nodded.

//Rishta is near, I know. I’d swear Michael is, too.//

“Look, Mastema. Perhaps you could claim I threatened you and you scaped from me. The walls have ears… and I’m not a suitable company for decent demons.” Angel’s voice seeped sarcasm.

Aramis shook his head.
“Go away before they accuse you of being a rebel, too.” Aramis’s wings became visible.

Beelzebub came out in the open and he was still smiling, though a little disapproving. “I suppose that’s for me? What a bad bad demon you are.” Beelzebub teased, as if Belial was a child. He glanced at Aramis. “I like him better.” Beelzebub announced as he pointed at Aramis, not caring how rude it actually is. Perhaps he did it on purpose.

“Well anyway I’m not here to fight anyone, even though Azazel does give me some work to do.” Beelzebub said, grinning ear to ear at Belial before eyeing at Mastema. “I don’t care what you plan to do to Azazel or your future plans. Just leave me and my ‘toys’ alone as I will do you the favor now. You know how eager the rest are in finding you, tearing you up and eating you? Yes….” Beelzebub shook his head and gazed at Belial, “I think Moloch has a thing for you. She was unusually snappy tonight.” Beelzebub commented carelessly, not really realizing that he himself was a little cause of Moloch’s anger too.

Rishta stood there stunned, as she and Michael stood at her old ruins. He had “whisked” her away faster then she could protest, and there they were. Unnerving. She turned to say something, but a familiar feeling struck her. It wasn’t any angelic sense, but she felt there was an intruder here… Like any person could tell when their home had been disturbed, Rishta could tell that there was someone in her home. Who would dare to enter here? But it felt familiar too… he wouldn’t. After he had made that scene, he came back? It made no sense. Only one thing to do.

She walked away.
Leaving Michael behind to follow on his own, Rishta walked along the decrepit old halls, familiar yet different. Parts had been burnt away. Others had simply crumpled away. Time’s little gift to her. Stepping up archaic stairs, she reached the dining hall… and stopped.
There were two here.
“What….”

Michael sensed the presence as Rishta did… First two then three. At her stopping, he scowled and quickly grabbed her hand. “Bloody hell, we’re not staying here either.” He pulled at her in the opposite direction of the power he sensed. It was an odd mixture of things he couldn’t explain, and it was just best for Rishta if they avoided any more confrontation if possible. He sighed, putting on a more cheery expression. “My stomach is making an awful noise. Didn’t you promise us dinner? I’m willing to bet Azrael isn’t even sure how to eat and will need our help…”

Rishta blinked as Michael began to pull her away, wondering what had come over him: sure there were demons here, but they were in HER home. Nasty evil people. You don’t invade her home. Never never never.
Glaring in the direction of the demons, Rishta tried to tug her hand away, but to no avail. “Michael! Let me go! They aren’t supposed to be here! Michael!” As he continued to drag her, Rishta felt a surge of impatience. She pushed it back down, however, knowing that Michael thought he was doing the right thing – which wasn’t so comforting as she tried to believe.

Blinking, Rishta decided that she had to go see, but she didn’t want Michael to follow. Dinner would have to wait for her. “Yes Michael, I did. You can go on ahead… I just want to see something. So just go on ahead to the house…”

Michael gazed down at her as if she had grown three new sets of heads. “Are you insane, woman!? I am not leaving you alone here with a bunch of demons!” It was obvious he wouldn’t be able to take her back without a good amount of force. He was going to have to go along. “Alright then… we’ll ask you demons to leave…” ‘Or slice them to pieces.’ he thought to himself. “Then, will you please come back to the house with me, cookie? We’re going to need all the rest we can get…”

Rishta merely blinked as Michael yelled at her. ‘Honestly… one would think that I had done something wrong… must be due to the lack of sleep and food.’In fact, she wouldn’t be surprised if he just picked her up and carried her back home. The horror. What was the world coming too? When Michael said that he was going to come along, Rishta blinked in alarm. Belial and the other demons, with an irritated Michael, who was obviously overreacting about her seeing them. It was a recipe for disaster. ‘I really should go by myself, but I don’t think anyone will stop him. I hope this won’t be a problem…’

Cookie. Once again, she heard cookie. Michael was never going to stop calling her that… but this time, it didn’t get her upset. In fact, it made her sort of… happy. Almost pleased. Strange how that once accursed nickname made her want to smile. It seemed to prove that Michael was the same Michael. He wasn’t the type to change… at least, change dramatically. But then again, it was impossible to stay the same over the years. Change always had to occur… She knew that well enough.
“Alright Michael…” Rishta murmured, defeated. Taking his hand, she led him through the ancient halls towards the dining room.

Mastema was too shocked too speak. He couldn’t tell if Beelzebub was being serious or not about him not caring about Belial’s and his doings. Words coming from an archdemon were to be taken warily, though. Mastema stayed on the steps before the throne where Angel sat, but he moved slightly back. The angelic presences he sensed were coming closer. Aramis’ aura has been dimmed but it still was startling, confusing. Mastema tried to calm himself down and clear up his mind in case he needed to cast some defensive spells. Another presence came into his mind.
“Is Cadmiel assisting Raziel here?”, he asked Belial.

“No”, Aramis softly said. “Cadmiel is dead.”
Aramis watched Beelzebub, still relaxed but ready to counteract any attack from the archdemon’s part. Angel tapped his fingers on the stone armrest, impatiently.
“He’s very dead”, he confirmed to Mastema.

“But I’ve sensed him…” Mastema didn’t like the turn of things, but he still lingered. He didn’t want to leave… yet… He gazed towards the door he had used to get into the hall. “They’re at the gate, Belial!”

Rishta continued to more or less lead Michael to the old dining room. She did not see the ruins that surrounded them, although she was very aware of their existence. To her, the halls were just as they had always been… her wishes had become an illusion to her, the girl believed in them so deeply. And so, even though they walked through ruins, and she saw them – her mind processed the pictures differently. So much pain had happened there… it was enough to break the strongest of minds.

“This is a stupid idea…” Michael had muttered as she led him around the over grown ruins of her old home. He saw nothing but rubble and decay, though in Rishta’s eyes he could she saw much more. It was curious to watch her in this place. How she would run her fingers across the air as if she were gently touching old pieces of furniture that once stood there. As they walked, he too found himself lost in thoughts of Rishta’s past. Wondering what it was like for she and her family so long ago. Her mother and father so happy to be with their child… She was half angel, Michael suddenly wondered if it were her mother or her father that was the one from heaven. He never thought to ask, or even had it cross his mind. He was so consumed with the events of late.

Sighing and closing her eyes for a moment, Rishta could have sworn she felt another familiar presence… there was Belial, an unknown… and it couldn’t be. She hated him. Cruel and merciless… he was the pure image of what had ruined her life. Beelzebub. He had promised her they would meet again, and meet they were about to. But she would not even LOOK at him.

Feeling resolved, Rishta walked into the ancient room, the towering stonewalls crumbling, the etchings faded… but that throne… Angel was on it – but she recognized it. The main throne… her grandfather sat there always, proud and stern… But no. He was dead. Years had past since then. Holding to that thought, she smiled a small sad, and shy smile at Aramis. Then she nodded in Angel’s direction, the man as pride-filled as ever. But you had to respect that. Rishta then turned to the man on the steps, and nodded, not knowing who he was, but counting on luck that he wasn’t some bloodthirsty demon.
She ignored Beelzebub.
“It is good to see you again.”

The presence of Belial, Beelzebub, and another demon brought Michael sharply back to the present. However, it was Rishta’s home. Something Rishta wanted to handle. He stood by out of respect for her, not saying a word only glaring.

Beelzebub was less than satisfied that no one was paying him any attention. However, it may seem to be the best option for him to sneak away. So many angels and demons around. Even Michael and Rishta was out here. Only a handful of badly-skilled angels might be left to guard the beautiful Baroness. He wondered why Azazel let him go along with the mission when he knew his bad habits. Beelzebub managed to sneak away successfully into the other side of the manor as he used his demonic senses to track down the scent of the Baroness. He sniffed someone else too. ‘Shoot! Raphael! Why do I have to meet him every time at ANYWHERE!’

Bereft of both horse and carriage, Johnathon was forced to wander the rainy streets alone, searching for Norse all over downtown. Soaking wet down to his skin and inside his boots, Johnathon was not pleased. He could usually attune his extra sense to Samael’s unusual powers, but for some reason, the old fool had suddenly vanished. He might have been killed. Johnathon shivered, and hurried down the street. That was a thought he didn’t want to dwell on. Without Samael, he wouldn’t have the strength or knowledge on how to send Azazel and the others back to where they came from.

Of course, if it hadn’t been for his hot-headed bungling, he wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. Samael had to take some of the blame, but he couldn’t dump it all on the doctor. Funny, though, how one botched spell had led to so much chaos. It didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem at all fair, either. But life was hardly ever fair. That was a lesson he had learned the hard way, a long time ago, with the passing of his father, Basil. What would he have done in a situation like this? ‘He probably wouldn’t be stuck dead in a fix like this one,’ Johnathon grumpily reminded himself.
Suddenly, Johnathon’s extra sense gave a twinge. He could sense a slight flicker of otherworldly power very close by. That had to be Samael! If there was a God in Heaven, that tiny speck of power would be Samael!

“Dr. Norse!” Johnathon called out. “Samael! I know you’re out here, you stuffy old fool! Oh, please, in the name of God, Samael! Get over here so I can take you back with me and we can get out of this blasted rain!”

“Idiot.. I don’t have time for you right now!” Samael growled out, continuing at his speedy pace through the rain. His soul returned, he intended to keep every last promise he made to himself and God. Every last demon he unleashed would be returned to their hell… starting with the greatest of them all.
Suddenly he stopped and turned on his heels. Grabbing Johnathon by the collar before he could blink twice. “Do you realize what we have done…? All these years…” He let go, shoving Johnathon back before setting pace and walking once again. He didn’t wait to see if he would follow, just continued speaking.

“They are all going back! You will have to send them back! Tonight… just the one…” Samael muttered random phrases here and there, all seeming like nonsense from the mouth of a madmen. He spoke of spells, scrolls… Before Johnathon could realize where they were headed, they had reached Samael’s home.
Swinging open the door, Samael headed straight for his library. “It must be done discreetly! He can not notice our presence or it will never be completed… Protection wards, perhaps a distraction, yes…” Snatching up a book and flipping through the pages, he paused for several moments. The urgency in his voice dropped, and he suddenly looked like a very worn old man. “Morris… we have to make it right…”

In all the years Johnathon had known Samael, never before had he seen the man so… human. He had always seemed indestructible, infallible. Now, an unfamiliar depth was in his eyes, mixed with a sad determination. There was also a sense of wholeness around the doctor now. As if he had found something he had lost long ago.
“I know what must be done,” Johnathon replied, taking the book from Samael’s hands. “That’s why I came looking for you. I have experienced the bitter fruits of our meaningless feud first-hand, and it is one I doubt I will ever forget. Such evil should not go unpunished, so long as a Morris is around to prevent it.

“But, I cannot do this alone, Samael. You were always the better summoner and spellcaster. I have come to you know so that we may put aside our rivalry, and work together for the good of all living things. Whatever decency and humanity you have in you, Dr. Norse, please, summon it up now, and return with me to the Farishta Manor. I shall explain everything to you along the way.”

Samael gave a heavy sigh, resisting his urge to throttle the younger man for his profound density. “Fool! Why do you think we are here! To have a late night glass of cognac and speak of old times?!” He snatched the book angrily out of Johnathon’s hands. Flipping through the pages, he scribbled down some key phrases and spells on a piece of parchment and shoved them in to his pocket. Gathering trinkets, wards other useful things he filled his pockets, and Johnathon’s with as much ‘power’ as he could. They were facing a powerful foe.. the very son of the devil.

“Let us go.” Samael said gravely.

“Autumn!”
Johnathon threw open the door and marched back inside the house, not bothering to shuck off his soggy cloak. “Autumn! Come here, quickly!” he called again, showing Samael inside. Johnathon closed the door, and moved into the parlor where he had left her. The fire was still going, but Autumn was gone. Where on earth could she have gotten to? Could she have told the angels…?
No, it wasn’t possible. She was a woman of principle and nobility. She would never snitch. But if she wasn’t here, where could she have gone? It was a pity he couldn’t sense her like he could the angels and demons; he’d be able to find her in a heartbeat. But without some kind of higher power to focus on, it’d be impossible to find her now.

“Blast it all…just when I think I have a handle on things, it all starts to fall apart again!” Johnathon turned to Samael. “The girl’s gone, and I fear the worst. Her husband may have come for her, or worse, she’s gone to him. There are no more angels within some distance of here, either…” Johnathon approached Samael, and placed his hands on the doctor’s shoulders. “I need your help, Dr. Norse. A summoned creature would be able to cover ground much faster than the two of us. We need something that can fly, and can travel at great speeds.”

“Have you lost your wits!” Samael sputtered. “Summoning a beast now would surely be suicidal! With all the demonic powers that have been set free, it would be near impossible to control them now!”

Beelzebub was complaining to himself about Raphael and Belial when he caught a loud voice shouting for a name. Autumn. Ahh… isn’t that the name of the Baroness? He remembered the beautiful name distinctively. Beelzebub followed the direction of the sound waves and entered into the room. He stared at Jonathan and Samael before smiling. “Oh… Look who we have here…” Beelzebub said with a sly grin on his face.

Johnathon released Samael, and quickly spun around to see who was addressing them. The demonic aura around the stranger crashed into Johnathon like a tidal wave; a power this great could only come from one of Azazel’s servants. The demons Belial and Moloch, he had seen… and under the service of the leader of the armies of the damned, only one other name came to mind.

“Beelzebub,” Johnathon whispered breathlessly. The Lord of the Flies, standing before them, and Johnathon without any of his relics. He should have stopped by Greystone on his way here to pick up his spare equipment! With his attention now fixed on his extra sense, Johnathon could pick up other powerful beings–angels, two of them, a powerful warlock, and something else he couldn’t identify, but it felt strangely familiar.

Samael shot the demon a glaring, wary glance but kept his silence. They were wasting precious time with these battle of words, and this woman Morris was seeking could not be of any use to them against an army of darkness!

“I have no idea how you got in, or what you want here,” Johnathon said after a moment, “but whatever your business is, I cannot allow you to carry it out. I shall find a way to stop you, demon!” Johnathon stood out in front of Samael, with a blessing on his lips. It wasn’t going to be much when he presented it, but it would have to do.

“Really?” Beelzebub sounded hurt, though his eyes were challenging Johnathon’s words. He didn’t believe Jonathan had the power to drive him away. Whatever powers he had, he was still a harmless human. Hah! Those humans he had always despised. “Remember… there’s always something you did terribly wrong in your life… and the demons of the Fall will inscribe it in a Book of Sins.” Smilingly, Beelzebub took a step forward, “And if it’s of a greater sin, you just have to surrender yourself to us after death…”
Let’s see if they take this bullshit… “Now cut the crap off.” Beelzebub stared into Johnathon’s eyes, “I’m not here for a fight. I just want the Baroness. The brat wants her.”

Brat? He must be speaking of Azazel. Funny, though, thinking of a demonlord in such degrading terms.
“Miss Riktophen… is not here,” Johnathon replied, relaxing a bit. “She left the manor while I was out. It’s anybody’s guess where she ran off to.” He actually had a fairly good idea, but he hoped he was wrong. If she had gone back to Lorant, he’d definitely have his work cut out for him.

Beelzebub groaned angrily. He didn’t like this news at all. He had come for nothing then? He would like to stay here a little more to search the house, for he didn’t really trust the human. However, if Autumn was not around he might just be wasting some precious time. Besides, that brat Raphael was close.
“I will take it as the truth though, although I don’t believe you.” Beelzebub said uncaringly, “I will just tell the brat that the angels are protecting her. The brat can come snatch her himself. I don’t care. She’s not mine anyway.” Beelzebub sounded a little sour as he turned and walked off. He knew he had to, quickly, for he could feel Raphael coming nearer.

Johnathon waited for a long moment after Beelzebub left before dropping down to his knees. His legs felt like blood pudding, and his stomach was only now starting to unknot. Lord, he felt like throwing up! The demonic aura was just beginning to trail away, and as it left, Johnathon slowly found it easier to breathe. That was an experience he did not want to revisit, yet he was going to, on a whole new level once he and Samael reached Azazel.

“We have no time to waste,” he muttered, turning back to Dr. Norse. “The demons are seeking Autumn, and I believe I know where she is headed.” Johnathon shrugged his cloak higher up onto his shoulders, and headed back out into the rain with Samael in tow.
“Quickly, back to Greystone! I must gather my spare equipment… and then, prepare ourselves to enter the lion’s den for the final time.”

Raphael hurried along the corridors and down the paths. He was sensing out Mastema somewhere, along with Michael, Rishta and… Belial. He sucked in a breathe. What a pack. He would have to fly again, Raphael mused. Raphael reached the doors and was about to open it when he felt a familiar demonic aura tugging at his deepest emotions. Anger and fury rose as Raphael turned around and charged up. In a blinding speed, he ran past several rooms.

Too late. The scent was gone. Or rather, fading away. He was gone. Raphael burst into the room and his face was twisted in an almost demonic look itself, filled with hatred.
“Where is he?!” Raphael demanded as he moved closer to Johnathon, grabbing him by the collar fiercely, “Where’s that bastard?!” If Samael was even trying to do anything, Raphael didn’t care. All he wanted was the man who haunted his dreams. Beelzebub.

Johnathon nearly jumped clean out of his boots when Raphael came out of nowhere and grabbed him. It took him a moment to stop struggling, and open his eyes. “You… Raphael? What in blazes are you doing here?” Johnathon wrenched himself free from the angel’s grasp, and straightened his coat again. “Have you lost your mind? I thought you were Beelzebub!”

Raphael’s eyes lit up when Johnathon spoke the name of the demon. That must be the “bastard” he’s looking for. “And, for your information, I have no idea where he ran off to. Quite frankly, I don’t care. If he stays out of my hair for the remainder of the evening, so be it. It’ll be one less trouble to deal with.” Setting his jaw, Johnathon led Samael back outside, and continued towards uptown.

Raphael growled after Johnathon. He didn’t take notice of Samael, even though he knew that Samael wasn’t a good ‘thing’. He was simply angry that he came too late. Suddenly, something snapped in his mind and he knew he was too late again. As if seeing through Beelzebub’s eyes, Raphael saw the deaths of Tabris and Uriel. Raphael moaned and screamed in pain as he held his head with both hands. He could hear his blood pumping through his brains and heart loud in his ears. Raphael shut his eyes, trying to keep the horrible images out but they wouldn’t go for some reason. He knew who was responsible for sending these images.

“Noooooo…” Raphael moaned as he swung around and smashed a few things around with his powers.
Unable to face the horrible truth that was placed before his very eyes, Raphael summoned Strife and gripped it tightly. He was not going to see anything else. No. Not ever.
“Beelzebub, you put such a curse on me!” Raphael screamed, “I will tear you to pieces if I ever catches you!” Without hesitation, he stabbed both his eyes with Strife and blood oozed from Strife. It hurts so much that Raphael fainted, falling flat on the floor.

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE: TEACHER AND STUDENT

With his wards gathered around him with expertise, the Necromancer flew unnoticed into the night. His exit hadn’t risen suspicions – Moloch kept her word. However now Belial was on his own. The thought made him break in to an unwilling snicker. In that aspect, the situation had not changed much. However he still had to see about many things. He almost wished his Legions would refuse to follow him from now on – if he’d be alone again… he’d be free of further responsibilities. However, this side of him he named Aramis insisted to worry about his followers fate. Belial increased his speed.

Why would I worry any? I won’t serve that spoiled brat. Azrael is out to kill me. Nor Heaven or Hell are for me; I’ll live in the Mortal plane, and most likely I’ll die in it. It’s all the same in the end – what would they threaten me with? Hell? Why would I fear? Belial’s initial relief was turning into a bitter resentment. He had to admit he acted impulsively, but he still was glad he had taken the first step out of the claws of Lucifer’s son.

He reached his house in London. Belial imparted orders to his demonic servants and an unusual activity awoke in the mansion. Documents, amulets, strange objects and books were packed and moved. In less than fifteen minutes the halls were empty, the servants sent to different places the Necromancer had set domain in England and around the world. Belial left the last, building up his wards to keep the appearance that this mansion still was a fortress of his. However the mansion was now as empty as a dry skull.


Belial finally left the mansion. With him as ever he carried the Black Scroll and the Staff of Simara – the only two objects he’d never want to part with. Belial kept his presence low and a human appearance as he walked into the Night, across the park before his former refuge. He’d need to see Mastema first. Mastema’s thought reminded him of Luna. Belial’s brow twitched. “There’s so much to do… so little time”, he murmured as he walked in the thick shadow of the trees.

Raziel had slipped away easily in the cover of the sudden activity; no one thought to stop him, nor ask him where he went. He chuckled mentally at how living among mortals had affected his thinking- as if he were below the ‘noble’ class. Why, if the humans knew his real identity- they’d repent every sin against ‘God’ they had ever imagined. He plucked a wet leaf from the huge oak he leaned against, near the center of a large park situated in the more wealthy district. He spun it between thumb and forefinger, watching tiny drops of water scatter off. Ironic- it, and he, only became more wet as the rain continued to fall. A great summoning was being performed- by the great child of the Fallen himself. A being to be feared, and pitied. His own strength would be his undoing…

As for Raziel himself, he knew it soon would be time for him as well. I will have to pass it on soon… My own powers are waning in this time; I will be long in the returning, if Azrael allows it to be so, this time. Things have changed… For better or worse, I cannot tell- but when the Fallen have gone, I doubt we nor the magic will truly be needed any longer… His short-cropped blond hair stuck to his pale face, giving him an odd, drawn appearance- his eyes were dark-circled and cheeks hollow; to couple these with an air of the ‘fey’ around him, many would have called him specter. Fey- for he knew his own mortality was near. Raziel was always thus when he felt called…

A deep vibration disturbed his thoughts; images and flooded him, of Belial… And his betrayal of the Fallen. Surprised, Raziel allowed the leaf to fall from his fingers. He had closed himself off from contact, so he thought… By leaving himself completely open, and unshielded. No wonder- by the feel of the Sending, it was Moloch- and she had always been mentally strong in such abilities. He closed his eyes, sending thin filaments out to see where all had gone… And was even further surprised to note Belial, swiftly approaching. “A meeting of old friends, then,” he said quietly, and struck off in the direction of his once-pupil.

Belial absently put a strand of raven-black hair behind his ear. The persistent rain continued on, poking the leaves of the trees and the blades of grass with subtle tones his inhuman senses could perceive. He was aware the news were spreading quickly – the Necromancer had left the Armies from the Abyss. Belial, Bliol, as some demons called him, was a traitor. The archdemon’s silver eyes shimmered in the dark.

“So much to do, so little time,” he slowly repeated in a low, dark voice. Then he sensed someone coming his way. Belial’s eyes widened slightly and the shimmer in them went sharper. A shadow’s outline was now visible, whitish in the rain. An angel presence flowed around him. It was… one of his elders, once his teacher. Belial closed his hand; the Staff appeared and the Fallen set it on the ground as he came to a halt. Raziel was heading towards him. It was no way to avoid a confrontation… despite it was not in Belial’s original plans.
Silver eyes shimmered in the dark beneath the trees. “Teacher”, he dryly muttered.

“Student,” Raziel replied, his voice softer and quieter than usual. “Moloch is not subtle in her tidings… Quite unlike her. You must have genuinely surprised her.” He left his hands down at his sides, intimating without saying that he meant no harm and wished no confrontation. “Did you know… Of all the angelic host, it was you she was most fond of? If it were still possible, it could be said she loves you, after her own fashion. As brother, comrade, or lover, I know not, nor does it concern me.” His blue eyes searched the fallen angel’s, looking for some flicker… Of knowing or surprise, Raziel himself was not sure.

“But I must know… Why did you take the Fall, student of mine? You were one of the most gifted, cunning of my own pupils… What did he offer you?” He, being Lucifer, Morning Star of the Heavens. Raziel’s normally cool eyes were curious, compassionate but not pitying… He knew himself as beyond good and evil, but he could not stand and allow the Fallen to destroy the creation.

Belial’s eyes went slightly narrower. He had never put words to the curious affection between Moloch and he; he simply accepted and enjoyed it. Belial doubted now she’d still keep a warm feeling for him after what he had just done… perhaps it had offended her to the core. Belial was forced to reflect on it and realize the loss hurt him. His face remained stern, yet a tiny light in his eyes went out.

“Do you really want to know?”, he asked after a brief silence, his voice slightly hoarse yet calm. “What would be the use to say it now? I see news spread quickly. It might be enough to say, the possibility died with my friend Himself… and his Child is not one I would want to bind my will to.” Belial’s tightened his grip on the Staff, yet he didn’t show intention to attack. He was wary; he always was.

Belial’s whole demeanor showed tension; and perhaps weariness. “Evil feeds upon itself, betrays itself, and destroys itself… For such reasons, true evil can never succeed,” Raziel murmured. That was what was taught by the Heavenly Host… It was true as well; Azazel could never truly rule the earth and heavens. Destroy them, yes… Control them, never. “You left for freedom… To learn what you might of all things, dark as they seemed to others. But you accomplished mighty things- you altered the Book of Life and Death!” Raziel barked a harsh laugh. “But you are denied that freedom by the son of the one whom you swore yourself to.”

Raziel’s gaze switched to the Scythe. “But who truly controlled the Fall? Not Lucifer, surely… He knew there were better ways to create the changed he wanted, in his heart… Who whispered in his ear, in his darkest dreams?” Lilith, of course… And my student should realize this. He was always the most facile learner. She had access to Lucifer’s heart and love; she could influence him. Destroy her, and he would destroy Azazel… For Belial could never hope to defeat Azazel on his own. No one can. And Azazel would never be content to allow the Archdemon a peaceful exile- the creature would hound Belial to the ends of the earth and beyond.

His eyes slipped back to the silver ones before him. “You have come to a crossroads, Belial. You cannot turn back. You only have so many choices, now. Choose wisely- else fear well. There are worse things beyond Heaven, Hell, and Death, which even you should know, maker of the Dark Arts.” Raziel acknowledged Belial’s status, no longer pupil and now again a peer. He turned to go, slowly walking, if Belial should perhaps wish to follow or say something more. Or not, as the old pupil chose.

Belial shivered, as if truly the cold rain could affect him. Raziel words confirmed this, but he already knew he had to move quickly for Azazel would want to hunt him down. His wife would provide a distraction, but once he got her back on his power, Azazel would turn his attention to his former teacher. Raziel’s laughter struck a cord within the Fallen.
Belial gritted his teeth. Of course he knew it was Lilith – he was aware of the influence she held on Lucifer and the influence she lost once she betrayed him. Lucifer had had strong reasons to believe her child was not His. They – Belial and Lucifer – had tried to imprison her by the end of her pregnancy, but the demoness hid from them to give birth and only returned once she carried the Child in her arms. Fortunately for her, it was Lucifer’s son. However from then on she held onto Azazel as her salvation, her Child a strong link to her lover whose love became hatred. Lilith was cautious enough to offer Lucifer another child – Belphegor. But it had always been Azazel her favorite, a carbon copy of the Morning Star. Azazel feared Lucifer – ah he feared him greatly. Stupid Lucifer! Why did he have to die?

“Choose…?” Belial blurted out in a bitter, sarcastic voice. “Is that some kind of joke? I can’t go back to either side – the great things you’ve mentioned I have done have banned me to follow but the horizon.” Belial’s lips curled slightly in a bitter smile. “Perhaps the only freedom I can reach would isolate me from all but from my own death. The truth is, no one cares about anyone when it comes to survival. Do you know”, he continued, “why Azazel has not yet set his hounds after me? His wife lives. He knows that. He wanted me to rise her for him, but now he knows she lives and his mind is set on her.” Belial bit his lip. He caught up with Raziel.

“I don’t care anymore which side would win. I’d get no gain in either case; but I certainly don’t want Azazel to win. There’s a crack in the Ritual I used to rise a body for him and alter the Book of Life and Death. The body still held a sanctified object: his wedding ring. The ring is a bond between the twisted yet powerful love the Baron had for Autumn, and Azazel’s power; if the ring is removed, there’d be a power drop large enough to defeat Azazel. I can’t remove it on my own. Do as you wish with this knowledge.” Belial took a respectful bow to his former teacher.
“Goodbye.” The Fallen continued on his way in the rain, hastening his pace.

Raziel watched Belial continue on his way; there was a ring of untruth in his words from before… But the Archdemon would rediscover himself soon enough. For now, Raziel quickened his own step back to Rishta’s manor, relaying to all of the Host what he had just learned.

Belial sensed Raziel going away as he took his own path across the park. He didn’t turn his head, but Raziel’s words still had the ability to reach into his troubled soul. He had been after all, his teacher; he still somehow had influence over Belial, yet the archdemon in the end would only follow his own reasoning. Belial gathered his wards and looked into the night sky. The purple and black clouds were receding towards Moloch’s house, but the stars were not yet visible. In the back of his mind, Rishta’s words tingled his conscience. The Fallen bit his lip. He hadn’t thought about it upon the sight, but he realized now there was weariness in his former teacher’s face. If an angel like him was slipping into such an state after all the Time he had endured, what could a younger Fallen expect? As the Necromancer, Belial was quite aware of things beyond Life that could befall on his soul… but would it really matter to torture himself with the unavoidable? Belial tightened his grip on the Staff of Simara as he scanned the various demonic traces across London. He sensed Mastema was not at Luna’s anymore, but the Legions had arrived. Belial moved fast across London. He wanted to find Mastema before heading for Luna’s manor.

“Belial.” Samael Norse called, stepping out from a dark alley way as his ‘master’ stalked by. His search for the one that took his soul had drug him all across the city… different spells… different tricks… but it still came back to one realization. He would have to face him to retrieve his soul and bring his life back and once again make everything right.
“You know what I request.” His voice was low, unthreatening but determined in it’s tone. His body stood poised, ready for a reaction of any sort.

Belial had sensed Samael; he recognized him from the park days ago, from long before that; he remembered each and every one of those whose souls he had bought or snatched, binding them to his service. He had no intention or interest to deal with the man without soul, but he stopped upon hearing the voice call him by name. Belial turned to look at him and his silver eyes shimmered darkly.

Samael’s voice was low, unthreatening but determined in its tone, perhaps strangely respectful. Belial straightened his back, his outline an ominous shadow in the dim light of a gas street lamp on the empty sidewalk. Belial frowned.
“We agreed a nice bargain”, he said with a sort of mocking smile. “I believe I have honored my part of the deal… Why then do you want to nullify the contract?” Belial gave a step into the dim, yellowish light of the street gas lamp. He looked like a man in his late twenties, proud and beautiful in his dark demeanor; unlike him, Samael had changed. White strands showed in his hair; he had aged in the long years. “I am curious”, Belial murmured.

“I have gained nothing, and lost everything!” Samael murmured, his voice still low but slightly strained. He shuffled his feet uncomfortably. The demon would not even be walking this plane if it weren’t for the personal war between himself and Johnathon Morris. One mistake that cost the lives of so many…

“MORRIS! I’ll kill you once and for all!” Samael raised the talisman, chanting an ancient phrase of summoning. Morris too raised his own talisman in response, chanting something of his own. The air around them both seemed to heat up, crackles of lightning and fire opening a portal over their heads…

Scowling, Samael retorted again. “I wish to redeem myself. If I must re-seal you, and every last demon I sat free…”

Belial arched an eyebrow. “What a laudable purpose”, he said in sarcasm. “What a remarkable optimism. You surprise me.” Belial’s lip curled in a dark smile. “So, am I supposed to give your soul back so you can set after this new goal…?” He was about to say, this new goal against me and my brethren, but he didn’t end the phrase. Belial watched Samael. For a brief instant, he saw some similarity between his situation and his. “Evil feeds upon itself, betrays itself, and destroys itself… For such reasons, true evil can never succeed”, Raziel had said. Belial’s bit his lip. “Why do you want to redeem yourself?”, he asked. His voice had changed; his eyes widened slightly. “You’ve spent your life among demons and creatures of evil – mortal as you are, you won’t live much longer. Isn’t it too late for you? Why then…?”

The portal opened… hoards of spirits and creatures flowed through the cracks… Samael did his best to cease his summon, but not chant would work! A child coming out of it’s home was met with a blood starved demon… Samael shielded his ears from the scream…

Samael snorted lightly, he expected the demon to laugh and strike him down. This interest he seemed to have in Samael’s reasons had his own curiosity peaked. He remembered the woman — half angel — that spoke with Belial before. He could hear next to nothing, but that seemed to strike him as odd… Was this demon holding his own regrets? “I wanted the power to save lives… not to take them away.” he finally replied. Watching the demon’s expressions carefully. There was something more, his bond allow him to sense it… but nothing else. “My life holds little meaning to me. Unlike you and your brethren, I can’t live forever… But I can make sure the lives of others are spared from the mistake I made…”

Belial listened in silence to Samael’s words. His expression became thoughtful as he weighed the man’s words. Less than twenty-four hours earlier he would’ve killed the man without hesitation; now something held him from doing so. Like Raziel had pointed out, Belial had wished freedom to learn and increase his knowledge, but at first he had meant no harm. At first, it seemed the right thing to do. Lucifer had promised they’d be free. Belial’s brow twitched as he battled himself in search for the course of action he was going to take.

Belial bit his lip and his dark appearance seemed to change for a brief instant.
Belial cast Samael a piercing look. He rose his hand and opened it; he murmured infernal words and light shone through his long pale fingers. The soul in his hand was warm; it has a soft beat, like a wounded bird.

The archdemon walked to Samael. The outline of his body in the twilight seemed to reveal a different, winged form; a subtle sound of a metal armor rhythmically tapped at the man’s ears, yet it wasn’t visible. Belial rose his other hand and traced a sigil in the air before Samael. A beam of power pierced the man as Belial recited a spell he rarely if ever used; the sigil of his Name and his Seal were now visible on Samael’s chest. The Seal cracked and disappeared; Belial used the soul to bind the life to the man’s body, so life wouldn’t scape as the Seal cracked. The ritual was brief. The soul had been restored.

Belial gave a step back as Samael fell to his knees, the power of the demon flowing out, being replaced by the soul’s own strength. Belial watched him for a brief instant. “Do as you said, if you can”, he said and it could be said it was Aramis who looked down at the Occultist. “I almost wish you would succeed. Farewell, then; may your path and mine never cross again.” Belial vanished.

“I’ll be back soon!” Mastema had cheerfully announced to Luna before leaving her grounds and venture into London. The Lupa was as stern as Belial – no wonder they got along so well. Invisible, Mastema flew about for a while, zooming on things that called for his interest. He had gathered the Legions with his seven peers, each in charge of ten legions under Belial’s command. They were a small contingent in comparison to other forces of the Abyss armies, but after all they were a elite service – necromancers and warlocks of great skill. Belial had taught them well. The Necromancer’s most recent deed, changing the Book of Life and Death at his will, had effectively cheered up the demons. Mastema was proud in his own fashion – he admired Belial but he always got the impression that Belial was a little off-center in his head.

After a little while, Mastema was drawn to the Angelic Host headquarters – had to be, due to the energies and wards, plus Belial had mentioned this. The wards would warn of intruders but they wouldn’t atop anyone from venturing in, so Mastema gathered his wards the best he could to go unnoticed and sneaked into the property.

Mastema took the shape of a tabby cat and skittered across the gardens, playing in the moonlight. He even hunted a mouse for fun and noticed mice had changed a little since he got stuck in the Abyss. Mastema carried the mouse to the manor and left it at the side door, where he sat for a while scratching his ear and reading the various energies he could perceive. Suddenly, the tabby pricked his ears up.
She’s here, too!

Mastema skittered to a tree and climbed it, jumping onto the manor’s roof and running on it. He jumped to a window sill and peered inside.
The tabby rubbed against the window pane and let out a soft purr. He peered inside again through the glass. A woman slept on a bed – an angel of beautiful face. The tabby sat and wrapped his tail around him.
How wonderful to know you are alive and well, Adriel… I’d rather capture you myself to know you would not be harmed… Mastema didn’t send the words to Adriel, but he purred again. The warlock changed back to his demon form and proceeded to scratch the stone wall around the window in a special shape, chanting strange words in a low, loving voice. He floated off the wall. After a few seconds, tiny plants grew out of the scratches in the shape he had carved, forming a vine. The vine prospered fast and bloomed. A sweet scent of roses filled the air.

Mastema picked his pockets for parchment. Forming a quill out of thin air, he quickly wrote down something he had read at Luna’s library; it was a bit sappy, but it would work, hopefully. He put the note in the vine. With a grin, Mastema flew down to the ground, retaking his tabby form. The cat skittered about till a light drizzle began to fall. Annoyed, the tabby sat beneath one of the solarium large windows to avoid getting wet.

Raphael opened the door and entered the room. He looked around as he walked to Adriel’s bedside. He thought he heard something earlier. Raphael sat down by Adriel’s bedside and felt her temperature on the forehead. Seemed fine. Raphael leaned backwards on the chair, relaxing. He had not realized the presence of Mastema yet. Touching his injured and bandaged arm, Raphael muttered soft complaints to himself.

Outside the solarium, the tabby cat peered inside through the glass, sitting among some plants that adorned the glass panels on the outer side. He saw humans, an annoyed Gabriel in human guise and annoying Uriel in human guise, as well. Mastema was tempted to retake his demon form and make faces at Uriel through the glass with the horrible face he wore just to make her scream – he could try that later. Her snobbish coldness and lack of compassion had struck Mastema’s life way back before.
The tabby skittered along the wall and found a hole to hide in. He sensed Raphael’s presence now, awfully near to Adriel’s. Mastema curled up in the hole and waited, keeping guard over the energies to know what was going on.

Adriel moved slightly in her sleep and a small, soft sigh came out of her lips. Still asleep, her dreams were mixed up with angelic memories, diaphanous like a blue, cloudless summer morning sky. In her dreams she saw many angels which were now Fallen as they had been before the Fall, dwelling among the Angelic Host. Even Lucifer was there, with his bright bronze eyes and mischievous, yet still innocent smile. On her duties, Adriel had to go into the world and return many times, going through the Heaven Gates. On one of the watchtowers, one of the Gate Keepers would always have a gentle word to her… He had cheerful green eyes; for some reason he came to her memory.
Adriel then felt a gentle touch on her forehead and a familiar presence. The angel moved against her pillow and turned on her side, resting her cheek on her hand.

The tabby flicked an ear as Uriel hurriedly left the building, running to some place beyond the gardens. The warlock swished his tail angrily and pondered. Should I follow her or should I stay… I don’t want to leave Adriel all alone with Raphael… yet he’s kind of harmless – just an overgrown child… I’ve just wished for the chance to see Uriel, but… The tabby scratched his ear.
It’s Tabris. A furious Tabris; the fool can’t cover his presence properly. Not like he’s been trained for it… or else, he doesn’t want to cover up. What’s going on…? Mastema was too curious – and not precisely because of his present cat form.

Adriel’s eyelids fluttered. Slowly, the angel’s dreams vanished as she woke up. Adriel curled up, trying to get some more sleep; a soft smile showed in her green and golden eyes upon seeing Raphael sitting on a chair near the bed; she had felt his presence before waking up.
Adriel frowned slightly, still blinking in the dim light. Raphael had been badly injured and still wore some bandages on his arm. “Raphael… how are your wounds?”, she softly asked. “I see you are better… but perhaps you’d better be at rest now…” Adriel stifled a yawn.

Adriel was awake! Mastema’s heart leapt. The demon in cat form flicked his ears excitedly. One of his ears turned to the wall as he perceived the humans were leaving. Mastema blinked. The humans leaving so abruptly made him curious, but Adriel was more important now. He felt like purring, but then he remembered Raphael was in Adriel’s room. The tabby hissed.

//Mastema.//

Drats, not now!!! Mastema meowed in frustration as he perceived Belial’s call. He didn’t dare to refuse, though. With a start, he realized Belial was not too far away.
Hm. I guess I’m in trouble again… The tabby skittered into the garden, trying to stay out of the rain, but there was no avail. He climbed a tree and made his way after Belial’s call’s path from one tree to the other. Flashes and strange lights danced in the distance. Michael and his swordie, he thought. Tabris is already doomed, the idiot. If he was of better worth, I’d stay to pick up his soul! The tabby quietly ran away in the maze of branches.

Adriel rubbed her eyes, still sleepy. She pulled a coat to wear over her nightgown and put it on before getting up. Adriel still sensed something strange was going on in the manor’s grounds. The girl hugged herself and walked to the window, which she pushed open. A scent of roses came into the room. Adriel sensed a scent of magicks in the sweet perfume. An unnatural vine had crept around her window, forming a wreath of red roses and dark green leaves. Adriel was amazed, her green and gold eyes wide in wonder. A sweet feeling was mixed in the scent of the roses.

Adriel saw a piece of parchment stuck in the vine; she took it and opened it, reading the jumpy, thin letters.

But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Adriel is the sun!

Adriel blushed. She turned the parchment around, looking for a signature. However she already knew who was the Fallen who had performed this wonder, she still was surprised to see the name. “Mastema”, Adriel murmured.

Raphael woke up from his nap when he thought he felt Adriel moving away. He rubbed his eyes and looked at Adriel’s shadow. Her head was lowered and she was holding onto a parchment in her hands. Despite the distance, Raphael could hear the name she uttered silently.
Mastema.
Raphael got up and walked silently over. He did not warn Adriel of his presence behind her at all. He peered over the Adriel’s shoulder. He read the poem. His face flushed red with anger. What a bold act! The demon had hidden his scent well from him.
Raphael walked out of the room and slammed the door shut.

Adriel shook in surprise when the door slammed shut, snapping her out of her daze. Raphael was gone! Adriel blinked and suddenly felt awfully vulnerable.
Adriel pressed her hands on her cheeks, blushing. “When did he do this…? Mastema might be still around – maybe he’s not alone!” Adriel quickly got dressed and rushed out of the room.

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO: A DEATH IN THE FAMILY

Kevin followed the servants for quite some time before they reached a mansion. He stood for a second and gaped at the size and structure of the building. His jaw dropped, and so did the cigarette out of his mouth, as his eyes widened. Looking around, Kevin decided to let himself in after the servants have disappeared from view. Walking through the big wooden doors, he was greeted by a different servant.

“Hello young sir. And what business might you have here?” Asked the man with a long face and a spectacle in one eye.

“I’m Kevin, a friend of Frost Spencer. Do you know where she might be?”

“No,” answered the servant, “but I can get someone who possibly knows her whereabouts. I’ll go get Lady Riktophen. Please wait here.”

“Sure.” replied Kevin darting his eyes from one place of the entrance hall to another, admiring every aspect of it. “I’ll be right here.”

Hearing a soft knock at the door, she moved to answered it. One of the Lady Rishta’s servants, informing her someone was waiting… yet the Lady wasn’t there to attend them. “Ah… Alright…” Slipping out the door she followed the servant to the awaiting guest.

Kevin waited patiently for a few minutes and then heard a door shut upstairs. Moments later a woman began to descend down the stairs. The very first thing he noticed about her is her rich auburn hair, the color seemed to glow around her head like a halo.
She approached Kevin with the servant following behind her.

“Baroness Autumn Riktophen,” announced the servant.

“Pleasure to meet you Lady Riktophen,” said Kevin softly as he picked up her hand and lay a soft kiss on the back of it. “I’m known as Kevin Smith, you can just call me Kevin. I am looking for Frost Spencer, do you know where she might be?”

“Frost…?” Autumn looked unsure for a moment, the recognition crossed her face. He meant Uriel. She remembered her saying the name in the hallway earlier. “Ah… Yes, actually. She is here, but I am afraid she’s not well…” The man looked odd, but she was sure he wasn’t one of the angels, and definitely not of the demon persuasion… however, it may be a bad idea to let him see Uriel while she was still weak. Motioning to the servant, she asked him to check on Ms. Spencer, and if awake, let her know she had a visitor.

“If she’s well enough she’ll send for you…” She smiled warily, not sure what to do with this new visitor. Rishta was still away. “Ah… dinner is actually being served at the moment, would you like to join me while you wait for news?”

Kevin began worrying of the situation; it didn’t sound like Frost was in the best condition. He quickly had a flash back to the time that he saved her a few years back. Fate had it that their paths have crossed again, and it was undoubtedly for a reason.
“Is there anything I can do to help Frost? I am a healer in fact, I might not be the best one, but I can sure lend a helping hand.” At this point his stomach growled and he let out a nervous laugh. “But dinner doesn’t sound half-bad. Please tell me if there’s anything I can do to help her.”

“A healer?” She stopped in mid-step on their way to the dining hall. A healer would be incredibly useful, but again, she didn’t know this man or his affiliations with Uriel. Did he know about the angels? “That might be helpful, especially if she wishes to see you…”

Uriel by this time was awake in the room, and was sitting on the bed frowning. She was simply sitting still, as a glow of white power was concentrated on her injured back. It took some time before a pair of small childlike wings sprouted. “Now it’s all done…” she muttered, “Just to wait for it to grow bigger…”
Uriel glanced around, annoyed. Wasn’t there anything to help her out of boredom?

A soft knock on the door caught Uriel’s attention from her bored brooding. The servant spoke timidly, “Miss? There is a Mr. Kevin Smith here for you. Do you wish to greet him?”

“Ehh?!” Uriel was surprised. What was Kevin doing here? How did he even find his way here? She was partially relieved that her wings were small and weren’t glowing or the servants would have seen it. “Erm… okay. I will go down now. Thank you.” Uriel stood up and went out of the room as she closed her wings and kept them invisible. She felt silly about her new wings which made her seem so childlike. She imagined Raphael laughing at her.

Within minutes Uriel reached the gallery. “Hi, Baroness.” Uriel said coolly as she walks over to Autumn, as if nothing were wrong with her. She looked at Kevin and she grinned at him. “Hi Kevin! What are you doing here? You should be in my room.”

Kevin watched Frost walk into the room, she seemed fine as if nothing were wrong, but there was an ill air about her that made Kevin uneasy and wanting to help.
“Oh hi Frost! Heh, I was in your room, but…” He paused for a moment, explaining his story of the past few hours would seem boring, .”.it’s a long story, I’m just glad to see you’re doing fine. You are fine, aren’t you? Baroness said that you weren’t doing too well, I can help if necessary.”

“Oh…” Uriel smiled, slightly nervous even though she was happy that Kevin cared, “I’m okay now, thank you. Have anyone told you that you are such a sweet man?” Uriel turned to look at Autumn as she smiled at the Baroness, meaning to ask if she had told him ANYTHING else.

“Heh. Why thank you,” Kevin’s face blushed slightly after hearing that comment, he hasn’t been very social for the past years, people have just left him out of things, “No, no one’s told me that, and I don’t think its true. I just treat friends as I would like to be treated.”
Kevin shot a quick glance at the Baroness, just to see the expression on her face, to have some clue of how she was feeling at this point. She still seemed unsure whether Kevin was a friend or foe. He caught her eye and smiled at her softly, letting her know everything’s okay.

Gabriel snuck in quietly through the front doors, unsure of whether or not Lady Rishta’s servants would kick him out on sight. He crept quietly through the halls, stopping at an open door where he heard Uriel’s voice. And another… man’s… A small surge of jealousy flushed his face; he hid outside of the room, close enough to be hidden but not seen.
You better just be friends, he thought.

Uriel smiled at Kevin’s statement. The man was a nice one. He had saved her before and close encounter with him made them have a special bond together. Sensing a slight angelic presence, and a familiar one at that, Uriel turned to the door. She narrowed her eyes a little, and for a moment, thought it was Raphael. Realizing that it was Gabriel, Uriel’s frown gave way to a gentle expression and she called out, “Gabriel, why are you hiding behind there for? Come out here won’t you? The Baroness is here too.”

Gabriel smoothed his expression out into a pleasant smile. He might be a young human… Hell, both he and Uriel were fairly young angels. But still, he could fake a face if he needed too. “Hello, Uriel. Lady Rishta just invited me in.”
He paused, looking at the man. He hadn’t been introduced, but anyway. //Belial was here, Uriel… Just outside, talking to Rishta. And he was… disturbed.//
Gabriel glanced around the room- it was well appointed. The fabrics on the canopied bed alone would pay for several years of schooling- even the floor was covered in rugs to keep out drafts. Espying a cushioned chair, he plopped down. “Lady Riktophen, yes?”

Autumn nodded with a smile to Gabriel. As strange as the circumstances were, she found herself more at ease with the strange host of angels and the constant coming and goings of all the people. Uriel seemed fine with Mr. Smith, and that made her worry just a little bit less.

Kevin stood there for a second confused. “Uriel? Who’s Uriel?” He looked over to the character that just walked into the room. He looked quite arrogant, yet he wasn’t someone Kevin would dislike.
“I don’t think we’ve been introduced yet. I am Kevin Smith, a healer.” He moved over closer to the young man waiting for him to respond.

“It’s my other name, Kevin.” Uriel told Kevin gently as she looked into his eyes, “Few know me by that name, so it’s alright.”
// Belial was here…? Does that hybrid girl need any help? //

Gabriel blushed a furious scarlet and turned his face away. He had managed to forget the man already. He had gotten used to running his mouth freely; and had only known these people a week or so! //Rishta is fine,// he replied, putting a slight emphasis on the girl’s name. After all; she wasn’t just a hybrid- she was an angel, like them.

Uriel cocked her head aside and said nothing. She got what Gabriel means but she didn’t think she’s wrong. Rishta IS a hybrid, isn’t she? Besides, she hadn’t done much to impress Uriel to let her call her by the name. Hmm, maybe except for the healing matter where she helped Michael.
// I don’t care. I’m just stating the facts. //
Uriel looks over the wall outside the room and sensed a demonic sense. Uriel’s face twisted in anger.

// Tabris! He’s here! I will be going for a while, Gabriel! I MUST teach him a lesson for what he has done to me and my wings! Protect the baroness and Kev, alright? Thanks! //
Without waiting for any responses, Uriel ran out of the room, climbed over the wall and ran straight to where Rishta and Michael were. It was a shortcut, and Uriel didn’t mind it.

Gabriel tossed Kevin an apologetic look and a murmured apology as he ran out the door, following Uriel. He knew it must have been strange to sit there for a few moments and then watch Uriel run out for seemingly no reason. “Women!” he muttered, trying to decide which way was out of the manor to the courtyard and gardens.

Johnathon blinked in surprise, and barely managed to get out of the way before being flattened by somebody running past him at full-tilt. Whoever it was, he must have been in a great hurry to be so rude.
Tugging on his jacket, Johnathon peeked into the room the stranger had just ran from, where he found Autumn and some other fellow standing around, looking somewhat surprised. That was fine, though…he needed to talk to her anyway.

An almost silent “Um,” was the only way he could manage to introduce himself as he stepped inside. His attention was suddenly diverted elsewhere. Outside, something was pulling at his extra senses. He’d need to go investigate in a moment or so. “Ah… Lady Riktophen? May I speak to you for a moment?” He glanced over at Kevin. “In private…?”

“I am sorry, Mr. Smith. Please, enjoy dinner.” Autumn apologized to Kevin and she got up from the table to speak with Mr. Morris. She hadn’t spoken much at the table, just watched as she usually did. Autumn had such little interaction with people over her lifetime… the past few days were so interesting to watch. Especially considering the existence of angels! Autumn led Mr. Morris to a common room, and had a seat on one of the sofa’s. She brushed a few strands of her hair from her face and looked on at Morris with curiosity. “Is there something amiss that you needed to discuss with me…? I hope there isn’t anything serious…”

Serious? Only if the sum total of every soul in Creation being put at risk was serious! Only if the lives of everyone he knew was in jeopardy! Serious! Of all the silly questions!
“Ah… I’m afraid… I haven’t been very honest with you,” Johnathon admitted, folding his hands behind his back. He turned away from her, and started to intently study a crack in the corner of the ceiling. “I have carried around this terrible secret for some time now. And it burdens me greatly. Lady Riktophen, what I am about to say to you must be kept between yourself and me. Were any of our…’friends’ to learn of this, they would, no doubt, become quite put out. And the wrath of the Heavenly Host is not something I would like to add to my troubles today.”

Johnathon glanced back at Autumn for the briefest moment, and turned back around to the crack. “Tell me… do you remember the doctor who treated you earlier? On the first night we met?” Autumn pondered for a moment, and slowly nodded. “Ah. Yes. Good. Well, that was no ordinary doctor. His name is… Samael Norse,” Johnathon said, his mouth twisting down in irritation, “and he and I have a bit of a history together. Just as I am an apprentice occultist, he is a master of our trade, and a remarkable summoner. His skill with magical healing is unprecedented.

“And, though it pains me to say it…” Johnathon paused for a moment, and placed his hands in his coat pockets. “It was because of Samael and myself that the archdemons walk the Earth today. A summoning, inadvertently gone wrong, ripped open the seals that separated this mortal coil from the planes of darkness.”
He finally turned back to Autumn, after letting his words sink in. A sad, regretful expression was painted across his face, and set deeply in his eyes. “Your mother has invoked the ancient evil of Lilith, in order to gain control of the monsters Samael and I set free. With her power, she was able to resurrected Lorant Riktophen, and place the spirit of her demon-son, Azazel, inside his body.

“I… I don’t blame you, if you hate me,” Johnathon continued, taking a half-step backwards. “I understand, if you wish me dead. Often, I have considered taking my own life, and facing whatever judgment God has decided for me. But now, so close to the end, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Please, let me redeem myself! To you, and to everyone who has been hurt by my actions! Let me find Samael, and we will set right whatever wrongs we have incurred!”

“I see…” Autumn replied quietly, lulling the information around in her head. She examined his face carefully, filling in the bits and pieces that he didn’t mention to her… It was he and the Doctor that set them all free. They must have hated each other greatly to take their battle so far as to summon all of the demons of hell. As for Anastasia…? Invoking the powers of Lilith to raise her dead son? It was hard to believe, but nothing seemed to surprise Autumn anymore. It seemed though the two men might of set free the demons, Anastasia was the one pulling all of the strings.

“You should go then. But…” She hesitated only a few moments before continuing, .”.. I think we need to tell the others. It isn’t possible for you both to handle things alone. The angels have fought the demons before, they can help you…”

“No! That’s the one thing we can’t do!” Johnathon protested. “Please, you can’t tell them! If they found out that I was the cause of all this chaos… you must understand, my family has been in close quarters with the forces of good for centuries. We have always relied on the power of the divine to aid us in our endeavors. Would you, then, tell your lord or emperor that it was you who shot down his favorite hawk, or trampled his best dog with your horse?”

Johnathon knelt down in front of Autumn, and took her hand in his own. “Please, Lady Riktophen… promise me that you will not speak a word of this to anyone. If I succeed, then I shall confess my terrible sin to the whole world. And if I die, then it is a death I shall not regret.” Without waiting for a reply, Johnathon stood back up, and left the room with a brief flourish of his coat. He’d comb the entire city for Samael if he had to. And with his luck, that’s exactly what he’d end up doing.
Outside, a sudden storm threw great waves of water up against the windows.
Raining. Perfect, Johnathon mumbled.

Autumn sighed as Johnathon left. She still had a deep set feeling that it wouldn’t be safe for him and the Doctor to go at it alone. He didn’t give her enough time to respond… it wouldn’t be breaking a promise to warn them, if she didn’t make the promise. Autumn stood slowly from her seat, making her way to the door.

A cold stilling feeling rushed over her, that made her pause and steady herself on the frame of the door. Second thoughts crossed her mind, like a strong compulsion or sudden epiphany. It would be betrayal if she told the angels, Mr. Morris would be angry. But she couldn’t let him face the demons without something to help him. ‘My camera can see through illusions… that is exactly what he needs!… But, I can’t go to the manor it would be too dangerous…’ Autumn wrestled with the thoughts in her mind. She knew it was a mistake to leave the safety of Lady Rishta’s home. Worse yet to return to the Riktophen Manor. But she felt she had to go… she needed to go.

Quietly sneaking into the main hall, Autumn look around to make sure no angel, human or otherwise was watching. A strong pain of guilt tugged at her for not mentioning she was leaving… but something told her she just couldn’t utter a word. With one last look, Autumn slipped out of the Farishta home towards the Riktophen Manor.

“Michael, love? What are you doing sitting here in the woods alone? It’s time for dinner…” the soft voice chided.

Michael’s lips curled up in a charming half smile as her looked up from the ground. He was sitting comfortably, leaned against one of the huge old oak wood trees that surrounded the lake. “I was just thinking how much I was going to miss you and Pop…” He sighed, glancing back out to the lake, a very distant look glimmering in his eyes.

The woman simply smiled, brushing away a few stray strands of her deep gray hair from her face. “We will always be around, Michael. Life is a circle… In death you return to the earth and are reborn into a new life. The people you know and love now have been with you since forever, and will stay with you just as long…”

Michael chuckled deeply, shaking his head in disbelief. It was a wonderful thing to believe in, but he knew the truth. There was no death or love for him… just eternity….

“Michael!? Are you here?”
Rishta’s voice drew him from his thoughts, but he sat still as stone against the tree. How he wished he was normal… human… If all of them were just human! There would be no battle of heaven versus hell. No lives ruined. No forever living to protect and have your heart torn from your chest with the loss of things you can’t have. Michael could hear Rishta called again, but still made no motion to move. Maybe if he sat still long enough he’d become real stone, and all his problems would be solved.

Rishta kept walking in between the trees, the old, still-strong wood appearing to be columns of an ancient cathedral. It was as silent as chapel here. Rishta remembered chapel. The dark corridors, leading into the pews. The priest standing there, murmuring stories about angels. When she was young, Rishta always wanted to jump and say that he was wrong – angels weren’t incapable of human emotions. After all ‘daddy was one.’ She had asked her mother that once. Was daddy really like the angels the priest had described? In the utmost secrecy her mother had told her ‘no’, and that her daddy was ‘as sweet and kind hearted as the next mortal’. If mortals could be kind. Some weren’t…

Stepping up to a clearing, she thought she saw a familiar form lean against the trees. Michael. He looked so lost… Calling to him again, with no results, Rishta walked up to him. He didn’t seem to notice her… Odd. Kneeling next to him, Rishta placed a pale hand on his shoulder. Her voice then hauntingly echoed around the trees, startling the blissful silence, “Michael… are you alright? We should go in, it’s getting late.”

“In a minute…” Michael mumbled, not turning to face her. His eyes string straight out at the expanse of the lake. A soft breeze took through the tree’s blowing disheveled strands of hair into Michael’s face. It took several moments before he let out a deep sigh, turning to Rishta. He ran his gaze down her face. She looked concerned. Hell, he was sitting here being about as dark and broody as Raphael, anyone should be concerned.

“Would you give it all up if given the chance?” Laughing softly he turned away again. “No. I guess you wouldn’t. You don’t give up on anything…” Kicking his feet out and tilting his head back to stare up at the sky, Michael frowned. “I’d give it up in a heartbeat…”

Rishta looked at him, eyes filled with concern. Something was wrong. Severely wrong. Sitting down next to him, she looked over the lake. How many times had she seen it? Oh, so many over the years. She was old. She could feel it. Not old as in angelic sense, but as a human… She was unnatural. “If you mean give up my angelic blood… you would be surprised. I would. I have not lived as long as any of you Michael but, I have a human mind, human traits… to me and my mind – I am ancient. Weary, tired… and lonely.” Rishta laughed softly, one filled with helpless despair. She had never allowed herself to feel it for so long… but when it started, it all came out.

“I miss them so much. My family, my people… my life. This isn’t my world Michael. It’s too… advanced. But you… you were made to handle this. I know you can, you must. Michael, no matter how hard it seems, I believe in you.” Rishta then broke off, turning a pale pink as she realized what she had just said. This is Michael and look at you… control your mouth for once! “Michael, I believe in you.”

“Belief has nothing to do with it.” he said, probably more gruff than he had meant to. Michael slumped forward, running his hands through his hair, giving a low hiss of anger. “It’s not fair for us… I almost… I almost understand how Lucifer felt. We’re tied to this battle for the rest of our lives… forever! While everything else passes us by. But…” Michael paused for a moment, playing out his own words in his head. Did this mean he wanted to quit? Join Lucifer’s cause? Is freedom what he wanted? Freedom from servitude… freedom from protecting life?

“Argh!” Jumping up, he turned to hit the tree, but stop himself just short. He ran his hands through his hair roughly again, as he paced back and forth on the soft earth. .”..heh… I just don’t know what to think any more…”

Tabris was from a distance, watching and listening. His blood boiled with anger and his eyes blazed with jealousy. Michael… he just had to have the best of the world, huh? The fame, the power, he had the best. Tabris stared at the feminine form of Rishta and he was angered at the thought that she might like Michael.
You are nothing compared to them! Beelzebub’s words echoed in Tabris’ mind and he could not control his emotions. Tabris flew straight down from behind and summoned his glowing wire, which was sizzling with electricity. With great strength gathered in his arm, Tabris lashed towards Michael, who had his back turned to Tabris.

Rishta blinked as Michael stood up sharply and obviously agitated – a bit stung by his words and seeking reconciliation with him. It wasn’t her fault she couldn’t fully comprehend – but she got most of it. Life wasn’t fair… especially for them. One thing she could not help with at all… Standing up, she stepped in front of Michael and looked him in the eyes.
“Michael… please Michael. Think clearly. You may not love the life you have now, but do not think that LUCIFER could be right. If he had succeeded… imagine the world today. I can even say would there be a world… Michael…”

Rishta stopped as something caught the corner of her eye. Something familiar… Tabris. No… not now… why now… “Michael, MOVE!” Rishta grabbed his shoulders and moved them both aside, watching the white rope lash past.
“Tabris! What are you doing!?”

“What in hell’s name is your problem?!” Michael growled, waiting for Tabris to appear in better light. He had no time for this! Let alone a want for a battle for someone who obviously wants a fight. Holding an arm out to protectively guard Rishta, he scanned the trees for the signs of Tabris. He could sense him close… very close, but couldn’t catch the movement in his sights.

Tabris hid among the camouflage of the trees and snickered to himself while his eyes burned. He worked his wire to spinning for a while with his telekinetic powers. “Die… die… die…” Tabris muttered to himself with hatred as he glared at Michael who seemed to have difficulty seeing him. “DIE!” Tabris screamed as he sent his weapon slashing through the air and towards Michael’s chest. The electricity burned the ground and sparks flew.
“DIE!!!”

“Back up…” Michael growled, moving Rishta back quickly with his arm, the line zipping past and tearing a rip in the fabric of his shirt. He was poised, strangely calm giving the situation. But it was easy to see all of his muscles were tense with anticipation, waiting for the next strike.
Die is not an acceptable answer! Why don’t you come out here and give me one, you coward!” he called out to Tabris awaiting in the trees. If Tabris wouldn’t show himself, Michael could solve that quick enough. He summoned his sword in his hand and held it low, pointed to the ground.

Rishta was stunned when she was thrust back by Michael’s hand. Was she some sort of child that she needed to be defended on such a basis? This was WAR! The soldiers defended the LEADERS! Not vise versa! This defies everything mother ever taught me… Tabris was hiding in the trees, his weapon lashed out and nearly sliced into Michael. Her eyes widened as her eyes scanned the trees for his familiar form. Tabris… why are you doing this…? Why can’t you understand…?
As Michael then summoned his sword, Rishta looked around, desperately trying to find Tabris before anything drastic was needed to be done. Come on Tabris! “Where are you?”

“Coward?” Tabris sneered, “That doesn’t apply to me, oh almighty St. Michael! My objective here today is only to get rid of you, bloody Raphael and that smartass-know-it-all Raziel!” Tabris’ face darkened, “And my methods of course, do not matter. What matters is the results of it all. I’m here to take your life, and I will do it. I don’t care what you say.”
Tabris’ eyes drifted to Rishta and for a moment, he felt like berating her for being so ‘sluttish’, ‘flirting’ around with three male angels. However, he managed to keep his mouth shut. “Take this to your grave, Michael!” Tabris hissed as the wire slapped the ground and it leapt up like a snake as it wrapped around Michael’s left arm, burning it.

Michael winced, not crying out, but the pain still evident on his face. He grabbed the wire and pulled hard, swing up his sword to catch the wire and help with his leverage. The sparks of the wire fueled Michael’s sword, causing it to ignite into it’s own flames… Giving him a clear few of Tabris hiding spot! “Raphael’s in the house, why don’t you go ahead and pick him off first!” His tone was a mixture of seriousness a joke. A thousand new thoughts running through his head. Just the three of us? Typically a demon wants the whole flock gone… “Rishta.”, he hissed lowly, “Go back to the manor!”

Rishta stood there, eyes wide open – wondering what the hell could be going on in Tabris’ head. It’s not everyday you see demons falling from the sky threatening to kill every single angel in sight… well, it was odd seeing angels and demons anyways! That was it. Rishta wasn’t about to snap, but she was tired of everyone fighting out of nowhere. Michael needed his rest, and she wanted dinner. Stepping from behind his arm, she stood between them, pain obvious on her face, wanting them both to accept the truth. She unsheathed her sword, and with odd grace, she tilted it upwards, pushing Tabris’ wire up, so it wouldn’t be so heavy on Michael, nor injure him further.

“I am not a child Michael. You need to rest. TABRIS… what are you doing? First thing – is your arm fixed?” Rishta’s voice was ringing and stern – sounding almost like her mother, but with her father’s tone of command. Standing up, she looked at both of them, frowning. She knew they weren’t going to listen, but she wasn’t going to stand around and be treated like some whimsical wallflower. “I do not know what has gotten into the heavenly-hellish host, but I suggest you stop it right now. Both of you are acting almost like children! Can’t you TALK!?”

“Don’t worry, he will be next after you!” Tabris growled as he leaped off the tree-branches and landed on the ground. He was revealed anyway. Tabris glared at Michael and at Rishta. “SHUT UP!” Tabris shouted out, “I need not your kindness! Leave them for your lover!” Tabris chuckled bitterly, “I will kill him in front of your very eyes!”
And let you taste what it is like to lose a loved one! Tabris’s wire cracked again and fire burst out from it as his fingers moved and it swirled one large circle around Michael, attempting to tie up his entire body and burn him off.

Before Tabris’ wire could do the trick, water came splashing and put the fire off totally. Unfortunately, such an act also wet Michael from head to toe. And only one person was capable of such careless attack.
“URIEL!” Tabris growled, “You spoiled my plans!”

“Does it matter?” Uriel said in a matter-of-fact manner. She turned to a wet Michael and chuckled at his annoyed expression. “Sorry, that isn’t intentional but I’m just trying to help out.” Uriel explained, barely trying to hide her widening grin which might turn out to be a laughter.

“What lover? You can’t mean Michael…” Rishta just looked at Tabris, eyes filled with innocent confusion. He surely cannot mean that me and Michael. First, me and Raphael, and now… He is jealous. But why..? She was about to say something, but then Uriel came, dousing both Tabris’ wire and Michael. His expression was hysterical. Holding back laughter, Rishta smiled.

“Hello Uriel… glad you could join us and um… cool down their tempers. Which, may I add, have a basis on nothing.” Rishta looked at Tabris oddly, wondering what was wrong with him. So, she decided to send him a private message, hoping he would get the gist.
//Tabris – I think you misunderstand. I do not have any lovers. They are just my friends…//
Smoothing out her dress and sheathing her sword again, she looked around. It was getting cold, and Michael was wet – and she was getting tired and thoroughly worn. “Uriel… how is everyone back at the house?”

“Thank you ever so much, Uriel,” Michael grumped to himself. “A cold is just what I needed to cap off the day.” Hefting Ezurewrath effortlessly in both hands, Michael allowed the blade to flare up once again, surrounding him in a warm sheath of fire. Now suitably dry, the archangel let the flames simmer down again, and leveled his weapon at Tabris before him. “It’s not enough to had to try and come kill me, is it?” he shouted to Tabris. “You had to go and get me wet, too! You’ve got some nerve, especially for someone as weak and cowardly as you are!” Swinging Ezurewrath down from overhead, Michael tore at the air, and launched a ground-moving swath of fire and white light streaking towards Tabris.

As Ezurewrath flared to sudden life, Rishta moved back almost instinctively. Something wrenched in her heart. Was it her heart? Or her father’s soul? She could not tell. She could feel she was losing her connection with him… Very slowly – he was leaving her. Not now, not at this moment, but he was allowing her to by much more independent. But that sword… She almost recognized it from somewhere else…

But before she could finish her thoughts, he was dry again, his light blond hair fluffy soft again. It looked so smooth and soft… like a kitten. Rishta mentally giggled a little as she thought about it. But as Michael raised his sword, Rishta’s eyes widened.
“Michael, please stop!” Rishta cried as his hand swung down. The next thing she knew, she was right next to him, hand clamped on his wrist, holding it up, as the blast went totally off course, smashing into a tree, obliterating it in a matter of milliseconds. That was close…

Rishta could still feel the heat being emitted from Ezurewrath – or was it the heat of Michael? She couldn’t tell, as they were so close. Turning her head a little away, she stepped back, nervous that she had offended Michael by stopping him, and that he was going to be upset with her.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that… I, well… I didn’t want… I couldn’t…” Rishta turned crimson, head down as she realized she couldn’t explain why she had stopped him. Was it because she wanted Tabris to be safe? Or was it because she wanted Michael to heal? Or… It was too confusing. “I am really sorry.”

Michael sighed deeply, lowering his arms as Ezurewrath disappeared from sight. “Azrael must be waiting for us to return… we should go.” He gently took Rishta by the arm and started leading her back towards to the house. He waited for a few minutes to see if Uriel would join them, but she seemed to hang back. Shrugging he continued on with Rishta.
He remained silent on their walk back to the house. He wasn’t angry that she stopped him… He shouldn’t be wasting his energy on small issues. But a small pain of jealous tugged at him. Why would she protect someone that was out to harm them?

Tabris was shocked that Michael simply turned his back on him and it angered him to think that Rishta might just do the same too, and leave with Michael. It hurt him so much that he just want to die and rot away. His eyes glared at Michael. “You stinking bastard!” Tabris almost yelled at Michael, “Stop right there! You are not leaving! No, nobody’s leaving! This is a fight to the death, understand?!”

Michael looked over his shoulder, giving an irritable almost angry look. The challenge was tempting, so very tempting, but he could feel Rishta tensing at Tabris’ words. If she weren’t there he would have very likely leaped through the air and cut Tabris into many tiny pieces.
“Unless you have a death wish, demon, you should bite your tongue.” Michael growled out through clenched teeth. He was just barely keeping his temper in check.

“Silence?!” Tabris was angered, “You mean to keep silent, huh?! You think you are so good and smart, but in my eyes you are nothing! You might be powerful but there is nothing to you other than being strong!”
Pulling back his arm, Tabris swept his fiery whip through the air, and down the ground towards the angels’ feet.

As Michael pulled her away, Rishta felt slightly relieved, happy that conflict had been avoided. However, Tabris persisted, much to her dismay. Why can’t they avoid this…? Why can’t they try to stop? When they turned, she kept one arm laced with Michaels, while the other one rested on his upper arm, keeping him from moving. This would just get Tabris more furious, she knew – but it was easier to have Tabris mad then both of them fighting.

“Tabris, please stop – there is no sense to this…” Rishta’s words were cut off by him unleashing his attack. She stepped back, and as Michael moved back with her, the fire snapped at the ground, hitting the stone – but not lighting. Her body tensed instinctively – she remembered that color, all too well. Fury crimson… crimson… blood is also crimson… illuminated blood… Breathing heavily all of a sudden, she looked at his whip, as if for the first time seeing it, almost transfixed by it. Red. Pure red in some placed. White in others… yellow in between… fire. It scared her. Somewhere… was it from Before? Or was it something else? Rishta’s mind went blank as she stared at it, her grip on Michaels upper arm loosening, resulting in it dropping back to its original side.
“No…”

“Rishta? What’s wrong?” Michael pressed, putting his hands on her shoulders. He looked back behind him, towards where Rishta had been staring. Tabris’ whip was lying on the ground, creating a thin line of soot on the stone. Did the weapon scare her? The most likely solution would be to simply kill Tabris and end all this. But Rishta didn’t want them to fight, for some reason or another. If he attacked, she’d get in the way again, and he might end up hurting her. His only option now was to get Rishta out of here. Then he could return, if he needed to, and destroy Tabris.

“Consider yourself lucky, Tabris,” Michael snarled, summoning Ezurewrath back to one hand, and turning it upside-down. “The next time I see you, I won’t waste any time sending you straight back to Hell.” Michael plunged his sword into the ground, and poured all his will and energy into the blade. In the blink of an eye, a fifty foot tower of fire exploded around Tabris, not touching him, but keeping him contained. With every ounce of speed he could muster, Michael grabbed Rishta, and rushed off back into the house.

After Beelzebub left the tower, he couldn’t stop cursing Azazel. Of course he wasn’t intending to really play around with Moloch. She bit. Only the silliest fool would really WANT to mess around with her. Not him. Wasn’t it lucky of him that neither Moloch or Azazel discovered his deepest secret? They could have made use of it and he would have been worst than a slave or dog to them.
Beelzebub’s glowing wings flapped a little while and he stopped, staring down at the Farishta Manor. Now, has that Manor become the main battlefield or something, Beelzebub mused as he descends down.
Interesting, the energy of angels, a demon and…

Uriel didn’t leave, despite with all the tears, threats and explosions. She was bent on getting her revenge on Tabris today. She would tear his wings out like he did to her. Uriel stared at Tabris coldly, her eyes penetrating into his heart. She did noticed his anger, and it was an unusual anger. Rishta did not notice it, but Uriel wasn’t as silly as she was. She knew what type of anger Tabris was harboring. “Jealous?” Uriel sneered, “Try getting past me and you might just have a chance to get to Rishta. If not, don’t dream of even touching a hair of Michael’s because you can’t beat him.”

Tabris growled. Whenever he was angry, he would lose his rationality. And usually, brains too. He glared at Uriel and noticed her newly-grown wings. “Your wings have grown.” Tabris smiled unpleasantly, “This time I will take your muscles out and prevent it from growing again.”

“If you can, do it.” Uriel scoffed.

Tabris rose his arm with his weapon in hands and Uriel brandished her trusty spear, ready to defend herself when suddenly, a force blew through Tabris’ chest. Blood splattered all over the place and blood were trickling down from his eyes, nostrils and mouth. He looked down at his chest in disbelief. A large Smokey hole. He tried to turn to look at who has attacked him but as he even turned a little, another force blew his head off. Uriel screamed. Nothing was left of Tabris anymore.

When the first blow came, Uriel was shocked. Too shocked for words or to move. She just stood there, gapping and staring at the ruined body of Tabris. She knew Doom was near and whoever did it was being crazy and sadistic. No angel finished off somebody like that, not even for the likes of Raphael or Azrael. Uriel staggered backwards as a strong demonic aura pressed down on her.
“Oh god….” Uriel cried. She wanted to tell Tabris to run, leave everything for later or else none of them would make it but it was too late. Tabris simply turned and everything which was left of him simply got blew off, into pieces. All was left of him, perhaps was the soul which either went into the Book of Azrael’s or Belial’s.

The force which tore Tabris apart blew Uriel hard too. She was thrown into the wall, crushed into it. Blood trickled down her lips and her head was bleeding. A shadow appeared. Uriel recognized the man then. “Goddamn it…” she swore, something she never said in her whole life before, “I can’t believe you did something like this….”

Beelzebub’s smiling face emerged from the smoke and dust. He glanced down at the spear lying beside Uriel and gave her a sweet smile before giving it a swift kick again, sending it meters away. He almost laughed at Uriel’s shocked face.
“Why not, Uriel dear?” Beelzebub said sweetly as he knelt down, touching her cheek, “I gave him a simple job and he couldn’t even get a thing done. I know I’ve failed Azazel at times but,” Beelzebub shook his head in false regret and sadness, “At least I don’t screw things up like him.”

“You are crazy!” Uriel screamed, trying to shake Beelzebub’s free hand away which was holding onto her wrists tightly, “Let me go!!! Don’t touch me with your filthy hand! GAB!!”

Beelzebub’s hand which was touching her cheek earlier had now covered Uriel’s mouth tightly, “Be silent. Gabriel would not be in time to reach you.”
He gazed at her lovingly, or rather, a twisted love. There was something else too. Hidden within it. A dark secret of Beelzebub’s. Yet Uriel could not comprehend it. She had not done something wrong to Beelzebub! Why was he doing this to her?!
Beelzebub smiled, knowing what is going through Uriel’s mind.

“Raphael is not the only one, my love…” Beelzebub whispered into her ear softly.
Uriel’s eyes flung opened as she heard that and she tried to wriggle away. Beelzebub smiled kindly at Uriel as he opened his palm on her face and squeezed tight. Uriel felt the pain searing in her.
“Goodbye, Uriel….” Beelzebub’s sadistic voice whispered as he gave a final tight squeeze. Blood splashed onto his face and hand which was holding onto Uriel who was now limp on the wall. Beelzebub smiles as he removes his hand and stood up. He turned, sucked in a deep breathe and looked away. Beelzebub laughed, a deep laugh. His eyes reflected craze, hatred and anger.
He could not stop laughing as he opened up his wings and flew away. There was something wet in his eyes. Perhaps it was blood, he thought. He could feel Lilith’s fall, but he didn’t care. There was few he cares for in this world.

A raven caw was heard in the night. Deep black shadows descended from the skies, circling the gardens of Farishta Manor, perching on the trees. A raven caw answered. Another replied. A female figure in black angelic armor stepped out of the deep stain that was the shadow of the trees in the clearance next a tall wall where Tabris had disappeared and Uriel laid. In the surrounding trees, ravens of bright eyes watched; their gazes pierced the night. Azrael stood next to the lifeless body, what had been the woman’s face was now a shapeless pulp. Azrael chanted in eerie, beautiful voice. A bright outline showed on the dead body. Azrael rose her Spear.

The archangel slashed downwards in a wide arc; she then opened her hand and reaching out, her soft, pale fingers closed around the immaterial. Azrael pulled gently and a confused Uriel rose out of her body; a transparent, luminescent spirit. Azrael spoke ancient words and Uriel’s soul became a tiny sphere of light in Azrael’s hand. The archangel of Death and Destruction carefully put the soul in her wings, then turned.

A raven cawed, flapping its dark wings. Beneath his branch, a terrified soul awaited. His eyes were open wide, for he saw the ravens were not such creatures but angels of death and destruction. They surrounded them, waiting for Azrael’s order; something ominous but at once serene shone in their eyes. Tabris cringed in terror.
//Leave me alone!//, he hissed. //I don’t want to be condemned…//

“I am not the one to judge you”, Azrael replied, her face immutable. “I am the archangel of Death and Destruction and it’s my duty to take you with me.” Azrael rose her Spear. The harsh, strange caws of ravens disturbed the night, like a nightmarish cackle.

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE: THE BEGINNING OF THE END

A grayish layer of clouds slowly crept into the night sky, slowly swallowing the stars one by one, covering the moon in claw-like rags. The temperature began to descend and the night became extremely cold, covered by a pale sky of clouds. A red lightning crossed the dome of the heavens and cracked like a gigantic whip, a deep, distant thunder announcing a storm. The air was still and the night, silent; however the clouds moved fast against the sky, which began to take a purple color that slowly evolved to a deep crimson.

Another lightning cracked and thunder roared, but the voice of the thunder sounded like a strangled cry – a howl from a hellish throat; a powerful curse from an inhabitant of the Abyss. The sound echoed on the roof of lady Essendre’s manor and danced in her halls, multiplying in the vaults and dying like a dark cackle in the multiple corridors of the mansion. In a vault beneath the house, a strange creature howled and hissed; the creature let out a blood-curdling scream and thunder cracked in response. A light drizzle began to fall. The creature flapped twelve mighty wings, producing a foul wind; behind it a Gate to Hell was open. The creature was a monstrous dragon of deep crimson scales, fire coming out of the very diamond-shaped scales of crimson; the eyes shone with a strange light. The dragon was an incarnation of Evil, and such Evil was Azazel.

Azazel rose his reptilian head towards the vault and howled again, fire swirling around his feet; in the horrendous bellowing a note of pain could be heard. The creature looked at one of the gates of access to the vault and saw a dark man of silver eyes looking at him.
“Finally!”, the dragon roared. “I sent demons and beasts to fetch you. I demand your services – I order to you!” Fire licked the dome ceiling. “I shall have my will!”

Silvanus felt the room chilling, despite the foul heat that arose from the gate to hell and the hellish flames that surrounded the Son of Lucifer. The chill was of a different sort, from another plane – Silvanus’s eyes widened slightly.
He dropped his human form and a Fallen rose in his place and went forth. Belial bit his lip and unwillingly took a bow to the Warlord of the Armies from the Abyss.
“I came as soon as I received your word”, he said. Lies. He didn’t want to come to his presence, for he had read the signs in the skies and now the stars were covered by Azazel’s nightmarish power. “Tell me Azazel Dragon, how can I be useful to you. What’s your… will now.”

The dragon seemed to fuse and vanish, and in its place a young Demon of strange, twisted beauty appeared. His long red robes flowed around him as he strode to Belial and rose his fist, opening pale, tainted fingers before Belial’s silver eyes.
“Look!”, he roared in a hoarse, growling voice. “It’s her blood!” My mother’s servant brought it to her as proof – the Angelic Host slew my wife!!! In the pale hand shone a hollow pendant, containing human blood. Azazel’s face showed hatred and pain beyond belief.
“I must have her back… You can do it for me! Give me Autumn back, Belial! I’ll send others to fetch her body… I order you, rise her for me!”

Belial’s brow twitched as Azazel’s blazing gaze pierced his eyes, his mental power reaching into him to compel him to obey; the archdemon forced a step back.

“It’s not as simple”, he said in discomfort. “Even if you have her body, it’s her soul what you need. I could host her in another body, but the soul is what matters the most.”

His silver gaze shimmered in the shadow.
“I see you made them look for it in Hell.”

“Yes”, Azazel replied in anger. “Fruitless search, though; they must be holding her soul – if you’d find Azrael you could make her give the soul back!”

Inside, Belial shook with anger. He hadn’t yet managed to do such a thing as to capture Azrael, and now…. Lucifer’s kid demanded him to take a soul from her Dark wings!
Belial reached out, touched the blood and smelled it from his fingers. The silver eyes watched closely Azazel’s demeanor: the Warlord kept on turning his wedding ring around his finger.
“Azazel Dragon”, he murmured in unpleasant surprise and discomfort, “Your mother’s informants are wrong… The woman is not dead. She’s alive.” At Azazel’s piercing, wide-eyed look, Belial nodded slowly.
“Autumn is not dead.”

Azazel’s eyes flashed. He shoved Belial aside by his shoulder and took the next corridor, his robes floating in a non-existent wind.
“Alive!”, he cried out in a mix of joy and bitter hatred. “I’ll make her come to me! She shall return to me…” The voice echoed in the corridor as the Demon left.

Belial’s eyes shone with outraged fury. He had been pushed to the wall, yet his wings reduced some the impact of the hit. Azazel’s might was nightmarish, even to the Archdemons. Belial clasped his hand on his forehead. What have I done?, he furiously asked himself. I shouldn’t have helped Lilith to bring him back… Blasted spawn of Lucifer believes he owns us all! Belial swept a look around, but no living or non-living soul was near at the moment. The archdemon shook his head. Enslave us… Let him be damned! I won’t be enslaved! Belial growled softly. I won’t be enslaved… He took another corridor and returned to the main Lady Essendre’s manor. Belial assumed his human form as Silvanus and took a polite bow at the woman who suddenly appeared out if an adjacent room.
//Greetings, Moloch.// Silvanus had an air of carefully held back anger.

Moloch sat in the darkened solar, accompanied only by the repetitive clicking of two metal knitting needles. Sullen anger pulsed in the room; even visible, to an extent- a dark, deep red at the very edges of peripheral vision, something more instinctively sensed than seen. The very nerve of the child; Summoning on MY Grounds… Lilith failed as a mother, never teaching her spawn the skills of rulership and diplomacy. The only diplomacy he knows is the steel gauntlet… If only I had taken full advantage of the time he was comatose…! A thread of yarn snapped and she hurled the throw at the wall in a tantrum, not caring if it took days for the servants to untangle the skeins. She didn’t intend to finish it.

Pacing to the window, she didn’t take the time to admire the glossy flickers of light the burgeoning storm created… It was a mage storm, a product of Azazel’s incompetence. Oh, yes, he was strong… And wasteful, with as much finesse as those bestial dragons he so admired. She whirled from the window as a roll of thunder pealed above like a brass gong. A crack appeared in the center of the transparent, bubbleless glass -an expensive investment-, spreading out slowly and then gaining in speed; sending shoots of hair thin cracks out like spider webs that grew into shining seams until the panels exploded, one by one, from the center out.

Now infected with purpose- catalyzed by the uncontrolled release of power- she strode out of the room, focused. She would speak with Belial about how to gain the upper hand in this situation with Azazel; force respect.
Moloch’s head snapped to the side as Belial appeared from a passageway.
“Greetings to you, as well. We take it as granted that His Infernal Majesty summoned you here?” The caustic sarcasm made her voice sharp and brittle; she made no effort to conceal her heated anger. That the Son of Lucifer was still on her Grounds made little difference to her. He could not challenge her while she remained tied to the energy there. “He must have his wings clipped. He needs to be taught.” She sensed fertile ground in Belial- discontent and seething resentment. She was not alone in this.

The outline of Silvanus’ body changed in the light of cracking lightning and the silver eyes shimmered in the shadow as he reassumed his demonic form, yet he kept his hands and feet from an angelic form. Anger rose up his throat and a slight headache tingled him. Belial’s eyes narrowed.
“Yes”, he said in a low and gentle, yet chilling voice in reply to Moloch all had told him. Summoned! It was kind of humiliating, put that way. Clip his wings? To sever them would be more satisfying. Belial frowned slightly and looked at Moloch. He took her beautiful hand in his hands and watched it for an instant with half closed eyes.

“We’ve flown a long way since we left the place where we came into existence”, he murmured, slowly letting her hand slip from his. “We’ve learned and invented many things. Not all work out right as we’ve planned… but one must be prepared for such possibilities.” Belial rose his eyes to look at her. His anger and resentment hadn’t yet cooled down, but his mind was already working fast. Belial did not trust anybody but he was fond of Moloch… even though he was fully aware she could betray him if she wanted to.

“To clip his wings would be too generous”, he said with a small, dark smile. “I have a confidence for you.” Belial half closed his eyes, thoughtful.
“Long back when I accepted to become an archdemon, Lucifer promised me we’d never fall under the power of others. Freedom is something I treasure – my freedom. However somehow, freedom started to become a relative concept… ever since we were imprisoned in the Abyss. It changed under Azazel’s rule, and finally it’s morphed into slavery. I won’t have that, dear Moloch.” Belial smiled at her, a determined and dark, charming smile.

“I don’t feel like babysitting him anymore. I’ll reveal to you some things, so you can take them under your consideration and use them as you like, for I won’t deny it would not please me to… see you distressed.”
Belial’s black feathers moved in the cold air current filtering from the broken window.

Moloch’s form shivered for a half-instant when Belial took her hand; she blurred into her Fallen form, a more than three-dimensional shift that pulled the eyes and made them tear. Even in the absence of light, her pale-skinned form was visible- she did not emit energy in the form of true light- it was an unacceptable waste in energy. She was simply, totally visible in the black.
She listened silently, weighing Belial’s words. She knew of his fondness for her; she returned those feelings. But if it became necessity… Moloch understood that one would betray the other in an instant. It was nothing personal; just survival. She wondered if she had spoken too much; was this a test, from Azazel? Could he be that canny? The Fallen doubted it, but she could be mistaken. She had been, in the past.

Watching his eyes, Moloch examined him for any hint of dissembling, of trickery… She sensed hesitancy; but it could be true- his unsurely if she would accept his… Ideas, thoughts. But it could be more treachery. Feints within feints… She remembered a saying, from the days she was as a deity on Earth- a replacement for a deity that did not exist. Evil feeds upon itself… Thus will it never succeed. She didn’t believe herself to be evil; Azazel, however, was. His father… Hadn’t been. His mother… They were slaves to her creation. She should have kept her knees closed; that was what happened when angels bred.
“Speak your ideas, then, Belial. We must admit that we are of poor patience right now.” All that betrayed her tension now was the soft susurration of her breath, and the steadily increasing pulse of the red orb half-immersed in her chest.

Belial’s eyes shimmered as he made a conscious effort to trust enough to let aside his habit of subtle enigmas; he wanted to.
He tilted his head slightly as an idea took form in his mind. “I’m leaving”, he said. “That’s what I’ve just… told you. I refuse to be his slave – the power I have might serve me right and those who would still want to follow me, but even though I’m aware of the risks, I’ll still take this path.”

Belial made a pause.
“The Ritual you assisted me at is the only performance I’ve ever done of it, thus it is still through a testing phase. I used a human soul to bind Azazel to the body I made living; I won’t brood on techniscisms. What’s important is, the human soul was absorbed by Azazel in order to leave him control the body alone… but the man whose soul I used was that Autumn’s husband. His love for her was twisted but incredibly strong and intense… and it’s infected Azazel, to say it in a way.”
Belial frowned.

“Azazel’s convinced Autumn’s his wife and that he loves her, but those feelings don’t belong to him, but to the Baron Riktophen. It shouldn’t be that way… and I’ve found that it’s an artifact whose influence is causing the baron’s feelings to manifest in Azazel. If the artifact is removed, the boost in his emotion might drop, along with part of his power in this plane.” Belial bit his lip. “You might have noticed the only thing that belonged to the Baron and Azazel still keeps it’s his wedding ring. Sanctified at it is, the ring… got stuck in my spells, and it is the artifact that is as well Azazel’s weakness.”

Belial’s brow twitched slightly.
“I can’t remove it on my own, but now you know what to aim for, if the need comes to you. The power drop would be important – an archdemon could fight him upon it. Right now… he’s just a monster.” Belial straightened his back with a frown.
A small smile came to his lips and his eyes softened slightly.
“Farewell, then.”

Moloch inhaled sharply. A weakness? In the prodigal son? Did Belial truly mistake and cause this, or was it a calculation? The creator of the Dark Arts had a shrewd mind. Double feint. Her flat red eyes glittered.
“Do you… understand what it is you suggest?” Treason? Would he kill the son? And the ring… Was it bound to Azazel’s power alone, or could anyone use it? She was hesitant, unsure, not willing to take a step and be a traitor… But at the same time, icy fire thrilled along her nerves- to trim his wings indeed!

But trim only. They needed him strong in power. His mind was what concerned Moloch. He was the child she had envied Lilith for having; at the same time, an object of her scorn and even pity. He would be more useful as a puppet.
“I cannot support you in this act, Belial. I will not forswear myself to Lucifer’s child.” Lilith she could care less about. It was the late Star of the Morning she had admired and revered. “I will wait until you are beyond my grounds before letting this be known.” Her eyes hardened, like bloodstone.

“You have breached your duty of honorable contract. All those who find you- let their hands be turned against you. All those who meet you- let their hearts be hard against you. All those who hail you- let their words be those of challenge. All those who aid you- let them find their ends in the hands of fate. This is the judgment; your wings sheared and your hands nailed to the rock of time.” She spoke the ritual words that had been trumpeted righteously to the Fallen; but her voice was different. Tired; grave; not without some trace of compassion, but at the same time, angered and betrayed. She turned her back to him; she would honor her promise to let him get beyond her bounds before telling of his duplicity.

My promise was to blasted Lucifer, not to his son!, Belial wanted to say, but he knew better. Moloch was actually helping him to an extent.
When she turned her back on him, he knew it was over. The ritual words were as hard as stone, like meant to be written on his tombstone. Belial took a bow and cast a last look on her as to fix her in his memory before turning and leaving. His footsteps echoed in the halls as he walked away.

Outside, the rain was going thicker. The storm rolled, but it seemed to be receding into Moloch’s grounds; Azazel was surely getting ready to cast other spells, gathering power. Belial cast a last look at Moloch’s house; despite his determination and that he did not hesitate, silent tears shimmered in his eyes. Why, he was not exactly sure. The rain cooled down his cheeks and he was for a moment relieved of a great burden but he knew there was a new one ready to take its place on his shoulders. Belial unfurled his great wings and flew into the night, gathering his wards to go unnoticed.

Moloch gripped all her power, sealing the energies away for her use and her use only- Azazel could uncover his own. She would need all she could battle.
She saw it now; there was no more time for hesitation. The last battle approached. She would have her victory.

//Lilith, Azazel, Beelzebub… This is what has happened…// She shot messages out to the other demons on this plane and began summoning her ‘entourage’ for the battle, tearing the human guises off of her insidious creations and using the pain to further expand her power. And that power would increase that night.

Tabris sat on the top of the tower clock bored out of his mind. His wings were kept and his eyes fixed on two buildings. One was burning with demonic aura while the other was filled with angelic warmth. But it was a warmth he didn’t want or like to touch, even to come in contact to.
Tabris touched his healed injury and his brows arched in jealousy. He remembered that Rishta didn’t need him and she already had both Michael and Raphael by her side. Two of the most powerful angels. What was he? He was not even a leader of the demonic forces. His eyes blazed in helpless anger and jealousy, he started to think of homicidal things.

Beelzebub landed behind Tabris and he kept his glowing transparent wings in annoyance. He hid it well from Tabris, however and smiled. It had been long since the two last met and it was their usual meeting. Beelzebub had found Tabris and made frequent contact with him. “You are early.” he spoke. Beelzebub stood there, waiting for Tabris’ respond.

Tabris tears his eyes away from Beelzebub as he stood up. He had difficulty looking at the Lord of Flies straight in the eye. He always has a weird flame burning in his eyes and Tabris always felt scorched.
“How could I afford to be late, when it’s Lord Beelzebub who wants me here?” Tabris said in irritable sarcasm.

Beelzebub smiled as he said nothing to the sarcasm that did not go unnoticed. He walked silently up to Tabris’ side, balancing himself on the tiled roof.
“Say…” Beelzebub started slow, “Can you see what’s over there?” Beelzebub smiled as he pointed his finger to a certain spot in the manor. “I see your mind… Tabris… You might be smart, but you are not one of the smartest among us, and definitely not of the intelligent league even in the time of the angelic hosts’ old days.” Beelzebub said almost mockingly, “But… can’t you see something which is already so clear to you? You have been rejected. Give up, Tabris, and follow the true path for enlightenment.”

Tabris scowled but he kept his expression to himself. No point making himself an enemy of Beelzebub’s, especially when he was so near to the Lord of the Flies. The demon Lord could break him into two pieces in seconds. However, Tabris could not resist looking at the place where Beelzebub pointed at and he froze. He felt cold. Tabris turned and saw Beelzebub smiling at him. But it was a cruel smile.
“If you hurt her in anyway I will not let you off…” Tabris growled as he got up and glared at Beelzebub, “Even if it means paying with my life…”

Beelzebub laughed at Tabris’ words. “Indeed! The child knows his own limits after all!” Beelzebub looked straight into Tabris’ eyes in amusement. “But I’m afraid your lady need not your protection, for she has Raziel, Gabriel, Raphael and even Michael with her.” Beelzebub shook his head and smirked, “Tsk tsk tsk. Lucky girl, isn’t she? Surrounded by so many high-ranked angels, even the likes of Michael!” Beelzebub stepped forward and smiled, “But what are you, Tabris? Consider your own identity… What are you… and what are you compared to them? Trying to vie with them? In your next life, perhaps!”
Beelzebub laughed as he pushed Tabris away.

Tabris’ lips quivered with anger and humiliation. Beelzebub was right. He didn’t hold a rank high enough to impress anyone. Yet Tabris was full of confidence, and in himself. He had beaten Uriel before after all, and twice. Tabris clutched his fists and his eyes were glaring at Beelzebub.
“You just watch, Lord Beelzebub…” Tabris muttered in controlled anger, “I will do something that you and even Lord Azazel can’t do! I will kill those wretched angels in Farishta Manor! When I do, I believe my rank will no longer be as now!” Tabris spread his wings and took off into the sky towards the manor, “You just wait for my results!”

Beelzebub sneered as he watched Tabris fly off. Silly demon. Tabris used to be smart. But his intelligence had been polluted by a thing called love. Beelzebub remembered how he got rid of his love and had since little problems in accomplishing his missions. That was, if he meant to do them. Suddenly, a voice came over Beelzebub’s mind, sending him messages. He heard it all and was bemused. Belial. Interesting. As far as Beelzebub was concerned, he didn’t care a bit for Belial, Moloch or even Azazel. However, like Belial, his promise was only to Lucifer, the Morning Star. The brat Azazel, had more than twice shown his elders including Beelzebub disregard and that was no good. Beelzebub grinned. His wings appeared at will and Beelzebub flew off, towards Moloch’s house.

At the very peak of the manor of the kind Lady Essendre was a two-story observation tower, with all of the sides glassed with expensively imported clear leaded glass plate. A very nice, very large investment- the Lady had deep coffers and eccentric tastes. Its roof was also copper-plated; something many looked askance at, wondering if her ambition rivaled her sense. But somehow, no one ever got around to mentioning it to anyone else; thus, the situation never changed. And if anyone noticed any strange lights, or how often storms gathered nearby, no one said anything either.

Inside the observation tower, a large, translucent pillar of crystal pierced through the stone floors, which, oddly enough, were covered in slate. The pillar went through the very roof of the tower, a small, invisible cap that only shone when sunlight glanced directly off of its sharply faceted peak. The column of crystal itself went down through the very foundation of the manor, down to the bedrock, and into the fiery mantle of the earth. It was the physical anchor of a powerful demoness’s node- one that had been freshly rekeyed, only moments before, to its mistress. Who was quite upset indeed.

Now that Azazel must draw from his own resources here, I can redirect my sources into the core… All of the household’s generating energies were being drawn to the softly pulsating stone, but for those being engaged in transformation of her once-human servants into hellish fiends… A ingenuous plan she had developed that involved twisting the very energies and souls of those she owned and marked, black seeds in their hearts and minds. The process itself was quite painful during the actual change- which generated more power for the node.

Moloch was of course in her demonic form; from what she had gathered in experimentation, it not only amplified latent ability, but focused it and harnessed external energies as well. While some of that information, she reflected, was rather redundant, it hadn’t truly been proven before, either. Her dark crimson wings were folded tightly at her back, obscuring where her armor opened up to reveal a small port-wine marking in the form of a flame. The gray-white glow of the node stone made the golden power sigils of her armor and the golden sheen on her wings seem silvery and slippery as mercury, as the signs of power slipped around her armor and rearranged themselves to accommodate the energy she was linking herself to.

An insidious sensation crept into her mind; recognizing the feeling, Moloch scowled. She was about to have a visitor; and not one she much liked, either. Thankful that she had locked the energies away from any other but herself, she opened the two window-doors on the west side of the tower. Little fool, that Beelzebub… How anyone can stand the bastard is beyond my ken. She stood a few feet back from the open windows, her wings now open and her heartstone pulsing softly scarlet.

Beelzebub hurried along his way as he flew invisible in the sky, not wanting the hostess to wait too long for him. Eccentric Moloch, weird and creepy woman. She was one of those Beelzebub would love to shame but yet have little chance to. She was a little too smart to fool by with trickery. Beelzebub got up to the high tower’s window panel and opened the window with sheer force and a little bit of a magic. Otherwise it would have crushed to the floor with a loud smashing sound and Moloch’s face would have been lovable. Beelzebub slipped down to the floor silently and went behind Moloch. He wasn’t sure if she had detected him near or not. Beelzebub opened his arms and gave Moloch a brief hug from the back before letting go and skipping aside, laughing. “Hello, Moloch. Long time no see… You have been well, I believe?” Beelzebub asked as he winked at Moloch with a sly smile.

The twin windows Moloch had opened and those Beelzebub had came to a slow, creaking close as she turned to ‘greet’ Beelzebub. She had sensed him; let him think he had won something over her- he would be easier to deal with. He was canny, but not too intelligent… Much like that lesser demon he enjoyed torturing so. The female Fallen couldn’t remember its name, but that it started with a ‘t’.

She schooled her expression into something rather annoyed; which wasn’t too difficult- that was exactly how she felt. Moloch despised the imbecile- how he had ever reached his position was beyond her. Fool. But she wouldn’t underestimate him; he was a Fallen as well, and thus had a certain amount of power.
“Greetings to you as well, Beelzebub. You haven’t changed much, we see.” She allowed her gaze to slip languidly from his head to the floor and back, as if weighing what she saw for future use… or interest. She knew exactly his tastes- but if she ever captured him, he would not be the one indulging.

In another of his unexpected, abrupt mood changes, Azazel found himself in an excellent mood. The news – Autumn lived – had considerably affected the course of his thoughts. Azazel gathered his energies and prepared a place for a special summoning session. Azazel was used to take whatever he needed from others and on that behavior basis, he disposed on Moloch’s resources to prepare and carry out his own dark purposes. His twisted smile widened when he noticed Moloch had withdrawn her power resource from him, like a woman puts a cookie jar out of the reach of a child. Azazel snickered with dark mirth as he happily added some final touches to the ritual he was planning for the night. In the end, he thought, he’d own everything anyway. Maybe Moloch hadn’t realized it, but the Warlord would rule above All, including their households and powers. After all, he was the top of the chain of Power. He was the most powerful of all Demons – He’d be Almighty. No one would dare to stand in his way – ever.

Then the news arrived. Belial had turned against his roots? Azazel burst out laughing; the demon assisting him cringed in a corner. The echoes of his evil laughter full of disdain and venom rang in the vault above and bolted against the halls stone walls. Azazel grinned as he changed his plans slightly. He perceived Moloch’s trace and Beelzebub’s. The Lord of the Flies had finally arrived – he better have a good excuse for going missing for so long.

Azazel laid a soft kiss on the locket filled with Autumn’s blood, then placed it on the altar he had prepared. The Son of the Devil sent his breath upon a brazier on a tripod; the coals burned with a green flame, which slowly turned blue, then black. Azazel performed a short ritual upon the altar; the demon who assisted him held an incensory by a chain, balancing it as a pendulum three times before the altar every time Azazel finished a phrase of his incantations. The blood in the locket seemed to liquefy again and boil; Azazel pronounced strange words and his pale hands drew sigils of his own power. The gold of the locket shone darkly in the black and green phosphorescence from the burning coals and the horrible grin reflected in Azazel’s bronze eyes. Once completed the ritual, Azazel stayed there in silence for a few seconds, smiling to himself.

The ritual was targeted to Autumn, to lure her back to Azazel. One of the Warlord’s greatest powers was Temptation; Azazel designed his spell to make Autumn desire to go back to Riktophen Manor, to fetch her camera equipment and personal things without telling about her plans to the Heavenly Host, for the angels wouldn’t let her do such a thing if warned. Then Azazel’s messenger would fetch her at Riktophen Manor and she’d willingly go back to Azazel, as the spell would grow heavier on her soul as time passed. Azazel bit his lip in delight upon anticipating the moment his wife would be back in his arms. Failure wouldn’t be allowed – he’d send Beelzebub to fetch her at Riktophen Manor when lovely Autumn would leave the Heavenly Host to go back to he accursed place.

Meanwhile, he could take care of… other things. His teacher was very wrong if he thought Azazel would let him leave his side like that. The time would be propitious to use Summoning spells Belial himself had taught Azazel. His power cannot be compared to mine, Azazel thought in satisfaction – he could be accused of many things, but having a low self-confidence as a warlock wasn’t one of them. How did Moloch find out Belial’s treachery and why hadn’t she put her forces after him? After all, Moloch had showed him a nice view of the things before and after the Fall, before Azazel was born, and Azazel had seen in the memories she showed him Belial was or had been important to her. Azazel sent a servant to prepare the vault where he had open a Hellgate to be the scenery of his next summoning; a terrible one. Azazel smirked.
“I’ll show you you’ve taught me well… dear teacher”, he muttered.

Azazel faded and vanished; next second he appeared in the shadows of the threshold to Moloch’s tower chamber. Azazel did not enter, though; he watched them with a strange, twisted smile from the shadow – he didn’t announce his presence with any magicks or even his aura. He could’ve been as well himself as a trick of the light.

Beelzebub noticed the Son of Lucifer in the thick shadows with a start, which he concealed beneath a sly smile that tried to be friendly. The archdemon had interpreted Moloch’s looking at him from head to toes as a sign of desire from the demoness’ part and he was already planning his next ‘move’, but the Son of the Devil’s presence ruined his plans.
“Hello, Azazel”, he greeted with fake enthusiasm. “I’m glad to see you well. The Armies are gathering at a steady rate; I’ve been busy… looking after my duties.”

“I see”, Azazel said with irony, never leaving the shadow nor stepping into the threshold. “I missed you”, he said with a strange smile, his voice seeping venom and sarcasm. “You see, when I required assistance, only Belial and Moloch were available – I was wondering what could have stopped you from being around, as dutiful and responsible as you are”. Azazel’s voice was full of disdain and poison concealed beneath fake benevolence. “I hear Belial left, which is too bad. I… hate when my dear friends leave like this. Do not be sad though; I shall have him back very soon. It’s amazing someone could refuse your hospitality like this, Moloch; I thought he was closer to you.” His gaze fell on the demoness with a fake innocent grin.

“But enough about Belial. I want you to do something for me, Beelzebub… if you want to, of course. Since you have such a tight agenda, I guess we should be grateful you’ve found some minutes to spare with us.” Azazel had a dark, malevolent smile – his eyes blazed like unholy fire in the shadow.

Beelzebub gritted his teeth. He knew he could not refuse… He wondered what had Azazel reserved for Belial and definitely, the Lord of the Flies didn’t envy him.
“What can I do for you?”, he asked with a pleasant smile, yet his eyes told a whole different story. Azazel gave back the most kind and pleased smile that could have ever shown on a man’s face, yet it was of course fake.

“My dear wife will be at Riktophen Manor soon. She should go alone, but feel free to get rid of anyone who’d dare to accompany her. Fetch her and bring her here.” Azazel grinned. “I’m sure you’ll have no problems.”
His eyes flashed a warning. Don’t fail to me or else… Azazel turned his wedding ring around his finger.

Beelzebub took a bow to Azazel.
“It won’t be a problem”, he dryly said, yet he was still smiling. “I shall bring her here soon… so I’ll see you later, Azazel and Moloch.” He gave the archdemoness and lustful grin before leaving, using one of the tower windows.

Azazel’s smile faded. He turned his wedding ring around his finger once again, watching Moloch with a thoughtful air.

Moloch gave Beelzebub a hate-filled glare as he flew out of her tower; the scum! To presume she had any sort of interest in the likes of him… The fool wouldn’t last an hour under her hands. She turned to Lucifer’s son. “What would you have us do, Azazel?” Her flat, featureless crimson eyes shimmered briefly; something within her felt horribly empty… With Belial’s betrayal.
He had been the closest thing she had had to a friend in all of her many centuries. Her only confidant; if only in a shallow sort of sense, plot within plot… But for only for him were her angelic sensibilities. There was no innocence; but there was sincerity. And he refused her… Something withered and died; the empty place slowly filled with poisonous hatred. “What would you have us do?” She repeated.

Azazel had a strange smile, both darkly evil and childishly mischievous as Moloch insisted, asking what he’d have her do. He still did not walk into the room – he could smell Moloch’s magicks and almost hear their subtle hisses. He wanted his summoning to be perfect – he did not need external influences taint the careful ablutions he had carried out.

Azazel’s eyes blazed like infernal carbuncles. He had to admit he had inherited Lucifer’s touch to read into the souls and the hearts of the beings. The things Moloch had showed him about her past and the ones involved in it danced in his head like phantoms. He wondered how and why Moloch came to know about Belial’s betrayal first.
“The Armies will be in London tonight”, he said with a blood-curdling smile. “I still get some time for minus details. I shall bring Belial back to common sense; I am sure you’d have some opportune ideas to make him feel welcome.” Azazel’s smile still lingered on his lips as he emphasized the last word. “After all, you are a kind hostess.” His eyes blazed in the dark.
“I shall have him to be an example on how unwise it is to turn away from our side.”

Moloch turned away from Azazel’s horrid visage, inwardly cringing. She had made a possibly fatal mistake showing the son of Lucifer her past. It would be her last, she knew in her heart.
“Yes, we are an adept hostess… I will ready myself to strike against the Host.” She wondered if he would ever leave, or if he would insist on haunting her outside of the tower.

Azazel tilted his head with a dark half smile when the archdemoness broke eye contact with him. He had struck the right nerve; Azazel knew that well. “Very well”, he slowly said, his eyes blazing carbuncles. “Get yourself ready… I shall let you know when my dear teacher returns; we’ll need your services. If you’d excuse me, I have work to do…” Azazel shook with evil laughter and turned around, walking into the shadows of the corridor. The echoes of his footsteps suddenly ceased as he transported himself away with a spell. Even after he was gone, a trace of his evil power lingered as a subtle warning.

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER THIRTY: MASKED MAN

Belial’s transport spell took him away from the city, to a vast grassy land of small round hills. It seemed deserted in the quiet night. Despite he was still shaken, Belial had not lost his practical common sense. He carefully erased the traces that could’ve allowed a magic user to track him down; he diminished his presence and veiled himself, getting practically undetectable. Once he did this, he took in a deep breath and enjoyed the silence. His senses could perceive mice squeaking in their subterranean homes, the sound of insects eating the plants and the various calls of night animals, all unperceivable to human senses. If he paid attention, he could hear the sounds of the ground shifting and the very grass growing… but Rishta’s voice was not part of the chorus – therefore, the ‘silence’ was silent enough.

But if he kept quiet enough yes, her voice was part of the chorus. Her words came back to haunt him, to pester him despite she was miles away now.

//.”.. it isn’t idealism, it is something I truly believe can happen. And I may be young. But I know you aren’t a bad person. I just wish you would see it that way, not as some evil creature who deserves the worst. You may be the Necromancer, you may be fear itself… but you had to earn it to survive, to remain in Her eyes… I don’t want to fight you… I want to help…”

Belial sighed. He allowed himself to sit down on the grass in the skirts of one of the hills. His wings brushed uncomfortably against the grassy ground; he gathered them around himself. A curious thought came to his mind – from when he was… well, younger and he was still learning so many basic things. He had wondered why he had six wings while others had four or simply two. Lucifer on his part interpreted the number of wings as a sign of status and he was quite proud of his own six golden wings. Belial however, just found having six wings cumbersome and rather annoying – back then.

.”.. but you had to earn it to survive, to remain in Her eyes…”

Belial shifted in discomfort, trying to shoo Rishta’s words away from his thoughts. He laid down and crossed his arms behind his head, despite his armor was stinging his back. A cold wind ruffled his feathers and got his hair in his eyes. He slid his fingers through his hair to take it off his face and suddenly the night sky came into view. Belial’s eyes filled again. He let out a deep sigh. Her eyes… The night sky looked like Azrael’s eyes. Ever since he had noticed that, he enjoyed watching the deep night and the dance of the stars in the deep, bottomless blue. However after the Fall, the view only caused him pain.

The wind blew insistently on the grassy hills, chilling in the dark night. Belial felt like crying his heart out, but he was too tired and depressed to even cry. He simply watched the night sky, laying on the grass with his half-closed, huge wings swaying ever so slightly around him like the sails of a ship in a soft sea breeze.

“I have to get up”, he told himself, “and go back to the city. Once there I must… forget all this nonsense and set back to work. I have wards to work on, spells to cast, demons to summon… Spawn of Lucifer to deal with…”
However, he didn’t move.
“I must fight to survive…”, he murmured. “I can’t lose myself. Why do I want to live? I don’t know.” He was so tired by now. His energies were intact, his power at its fullest, but he simply didn’t feel like going back and dealing with his crazed brethren. The night was cold and beautiful. He wondered where was Azrael. He had the annoying suspicion that she simply found their fight pointless and left him alone without a farewell.

Belial closed his eyes and tried to sleep. He was quite confident on his wards to sleep in open field – it was not the first time he did that. However, sleep did not came to him. The archdemon wiped his eyes. He wished he had some place to go – a place where he wouldn’t be questioned. Then he remembered his most recent ‘acquaintance’.

Luna. The spirited were who ambitioned to become a Lupa. Belial rubbed his eyes. She didn’t know as much about him as to ask embarrassing questions or haunt him with either work or redemption. He winced. Everybody expected from him… How tiresome. He missed his loneliness. Luna had met Angel, she’d expect ‘him’ to be the dark, mysterious man she had met. Belial wondered if she had already realized what to bear his Seal implied. He suspected she had known it ever since he heightened her senses.

Belial rose. Maybe he could pay her a visit out of curiosity and to keep his mind busy. He cared not about the traces of the earlier hours on his face – those would disappear once he’d assume his human form. He made the Staff disappear and took off, back to the outskirts of London. The steady flow of energies from the node of power on which her house was set made him feel better for some reason. He landed near the house and assumed his human form, his appearance as noble like and elegant as ever.
Belial stood out of the iron gates to the gardens and took a look at the faces in the ironwork, featuring demonic creatures grimacing or in mocking laughter. His silver eyes shimmered thoughtfully as he allowed the guardian spells to recognize him.
I should’ve brought something for the lady…

Luna smiled graciously as her two guests departed; Were from her pack. She was now the Lupa, and stronger and more dominant than the pack leader. They came to her for advice, orders, assistance… They were quickly becoming the strongest pack, with all of London as their territory. Whispers trickled throughout Europe about a demon-touched Lupa, a beautiful she who commanded magick and destroyed foes without a second thought. As the men departed, her smile became something slightly more malevolent before disappearing entirely to the cool, marble facade she usually wore.

“Mistress? ‘He’ is here to see you. ‘He’ stands at the front gate.” A bound-demon bobbed anxiously, wanting to go back to his duties before the Archdemon saw him shamed. Even though the servants were treated well, the forced service was a great shame on their black hearts. She dismissed him thoughtfully before summoning the demon that had served them before, when she had taken the Seal… Which she had quickly discovered was of the Archdemon Belial, to her only slight amazement. And most of that amazement was to the idea that such a tremendous being would take interest in her.

“Guide our guest from the gate quietly; give orders to the kitchen to prepare the evening meal, as we will be there shortly. Summon others to tidy the reception chamber.” She sent him on his duties with a flick of her wrist; he seemed anxious to see the Archdemon for himself. No matter; she could destroy such a devil now. She toyed with a silver pendant and straightened her black-lace trimmed red velvet gown, and rearranged a silver pen that held up her coiffure ebony hair before walking out into the antechamber to greet her esteemed guest.

“Welcome, Lord Silvanus.” She curtseyed slightly, her golden eyes locked on his. She was far easier in his presence than in the company of humans; he knew what she was and what she wanted, though she did not fool herself into thinking that his desires were the same as hers. They were merely parallel, for the time being, and she was not like to give away any more than she must. “How are you, this evening?” Something about his air seemed to be off, but she would not press. It was not her way.

Silvanus allowed himself a polite bow at his hostess. His ever vigilant eye read her poise and the light and dark harmony in her eyes. She had accomplished her plans – or at least a good part of them. Her very scent was now that of a dominant creature; the various tones had evolved from a wary wolf trying to find her place in the hierarchies to a well-stated pack member – more than that: a dominant lupine; a ruler… but her scent still reminded him of night flowers. Besides, he could read various traces of were spirits that had come in and out of the manor in different dates – the manor had acquired the spectrum of a Head House.
How are you. That was almost a riddle.

“Good Eve”, he said with one of his dark, charming smiles. What he had seen had pleased him, a personal satisfaction similar to that of a teacher before the triumphs of his disciple. Now he wanted to hear her account; his gaze lingered on hers. She had an ever so subtle light of recognition in her eyes. She knows my name already, he thought. How sad… “You are ever so kind to take interest on me”, he enigmatically said. “I am well. I am just starting to enjoy my stay in London.” Silvanus tilted his head, watching her. “But let us not talk about me…” Silvanus’ lips curved slightly in a strange, curious smile. “I presume these past days have been more interesting in you account than in mine.” His smile went slightly more pronounced. “May I admit I most desire to know what has put this fascinating light in your eyes since the last time we met.”

Luna laughed merrily, a slim hand over her mouth. “Indeed! These past few days have been interesting… As you can tell, I have become the Lupa of the packs of London… The Pack, now. And I thank you for your assistance.” But when will he require his payment, I wonder? His scent wafted through the room. Blood, acid, and spice. It singed her nose but at the same time attracted it; as if it were an opiate. She resisted firmly; it must be part of his aura.
“But it seems that I am not the only one who has had interesting days, milord.” She gave him a veiled look. “If ever you require assistance, remember me, and send word.” She waved her hand, indicating that she wished to change the subject; her golden eyes never left his.

A smile slid on Silvanus’ lips – dark yet in a strange complacency. Luna always kept her pride – he liked that. He could sense her subtle resistance to his influence, yet her greeting was sincere.
“The Pack now”, he said with a mischievously proud light to his eyes. “And only in a few days! That is a remarkable feat.” He took a light bow at her. “May I point out I only gave you the means; you designed and carried out your own plans. It pleases me to see you’ve archived this goal – but I am sure you will face new challenges in the future.” When saying the last phrase, Silvanus’ gaze lost part of the mischievous light they had gained.

“You are so kind to offer your assistance; I take your word, of course.” Silvanus had a gentle nod. He need not to show excessive power or futile recalls on the fact she bore her Seal thus was bound to him. That was not necessary. “Yes, these days have had some interest for me. The days to come will be even more interesting, I believe.” Silvanus swept a look around. The demon who assisted him the night he heightened Luna’s senses was in the door to announce dinner was ready. After this, he took a deep bow at the Necromancer, his yellow eyes held a rare expression of anticipation. Silvanus took notice of his but he did not show any sign of acknowledgment. He offered his arm to Luna to leave the hall and walk to the prepared chamber.
“Your guest.” His silver gaze remained in hers, a curious smile in them.

“Things have a way of getting done when one needs them,” she replied cryptically. It wasn’t only her charm that had won her the Pack; she had also relied on the abilities strengthened by the Archdemon and her own occult skills, aided by the hundreds of compendiums in the upper story library. She was now quite an accomplished occultist in her own right.

“Indeed.” She accepted Lord Silvanus’s arm and they walked into the antechamber, which opened straight into the formal dining room. The appointments were the same lush, expensive things as before.
The table was laid out with a fare of oriental-style dishes; spices brought up through the old Silk trading roads. Rice, chicken, beef, several styles of steamed vegetables and something called ‘bamboo’ that the gardeners were trying to culture in the mirror pools. Luna released the demon’s arm and smiled, indicating for him to take a seat. She herself strolled around to the other side and took her own chair.
“My guardian sent me a message the other day; he says that he is remarkably pleased with my progress. I do believe that is the first I’ve heard of him in ages; he must be at least slightly mystified.”

Silvanus waited till his hostess took her place at the table; then he took his seat. As Luna spoke, Silvanus pulled his napkin – which was folded in the likeness of origami work on his plate, opened it with a slight flick of his wrist and placed it on his knees. The various, complex scents from the oriental-style dishes suddenly called an image to his mind: the edge of thick woods, a man-cultivated marshland and a rice plantation that seemed to reach the horizon. Belial tilted his head slightly, sensing the sticky moisture in his hands again. Blood or water? He absently looked at his palms. On both of them showed a small mark in the form of a scythe; when split, Angel had one in his right hand; Aramis, in his left hand. But now he was whole… – it showed on both his palms – and away, in Britain.

Luna’s voice made the china vibe slightly in a delicate harmony of tones, yet far beyond reach of the human hearing. How curious. Belial’s lips moved to form a curious smile. In Luna’s voice he perceived an entire song; he wondered if he had heard it before like this. Every tone, every inflexion of her voice spoke of the ambitious were female that longed for power of her own – to be recognized as the unique, dangerous creature she was and in a way, stand apart from the crowd; the resultant melody danced lazily in his ears like a Hindi demoness.

“How could it be otherwise”, he thoughtfully said. “I perceive your usage of the Dark Arts has increased. It’s not surprising your skills as occultist have morphed into a new stage… If he’s wise enough, he’ll take precautions against you before the year is over.” Belial’s eyes shimmered darkly beneath his thick, black eyelashes. “You have your own goals, but I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t seen possibilities of interesting developments on your part. It pleases me to see you are able to handle these powers and use them in your behalf – some have not been… clever enough to do so.”

His lips curved in a dark smile.
“I ask you. If you need any help in your studies, don’t hesitate to say so. As you climb higher on the Dark Arts, you could reach peaks where information is too scarce – I am the ultimate source of Dark Arts knowledge. I believe… you already know that. Life can last long to your kin – you could reach things you’ve not dreamt of. On my part, I don’t need reasons to act.”
He suddenly smiled.
“Teaching is a personal pleasure of mine.”

Silvanus slightly arched an eyebrow, narrowing his eyes. Sake would be alright at the time – his usual Oporto would ruin the delicate taste of the various dishes, for its own taste was too strong. Usually he’d take his Sake at the end of the meal, but latin customs had found their way into his liking – to accompany the meals with some sort of liquor. He pondered on it while he watched Luna, his silver eyes shimmering like the moon on a black sea of deep, dark thoughts.

Perceiving, at least his surface want, Luna signaled to one of the servants who had stood in station along the wall. He approached and poured two cups of sake in their traditional containers; first for the guest and second for his mistress. He stepped back.
“Reliable information is always scarce; I will most assuredly call upon your skills when I reach such a peak. For now, however, my guardian’s library serves me quite well. I thank you most graciously for the offer.” She declined her head in acknowledgement. “We must all use the skills that come into our hands and the tools that come into our reach.” Her eyes shimmered as she sipped at the light oriental wine; she wished it were possible to grow the rice-plant here in England, but it seemed only the cruder wild rice would grow.

“I have been pondering in what manner, and how, I should reply to my guardian’s query. There are many precautions to be taken on both sides now, at least until a draw can be safely reached.” A wizard’s duel was the least of things she wanted right then. A small magical shield overlapped them both, to hide them from scrying. She could only hold it for a short time before her guardian would notice. “He will be loathe to lose this house; but I will arrange for ample repayment to him, to leaven the sting. It is within my reach, now.” And replacing his creatures within this house with my own… I will, soon. There is no need, once this place is Head House, for the vampire to be receiving reports of the Pack. She waited for his reply before she would dissolve the spell.

Silvanus nodded at her reply. He tasted the sake, holding the small container in a beautiful hand; his lips barely touched the liquid as he listened to Luna’s voice.
Verdaderamente…(1) I could help her give a swift end to this problem once and for all, he thought. But if I tell her that right now she’ll get offended for she can handle it herself, and that won’t he helpful. Besides, if I interfere with this, that will cripple her development. “From what you tell me, right now he doesn’t have enough information to proceed against you; it seems like he’s trying to gain some time by sending you a letter. He might also be trying to measure the depth of the waters, by getting you to explain yourself.”

Silvanus tasted the sake.
“You could take one of two ways. Once could be a diplomatic way; release little, twisted information – send a courteous reply but keep him in the dark while you secure your position. Replace the house servants; set the guardian spells to work only for you; remove his wards and replace them with your own. The node itself is a powerful tool, using its energies to enhance your power. You have allies now and your power increases. After some time, once you’ve secured your position, you may negotiate over the house with him and repay him as you’ve mentioned; but by then it’ll be you who sets the rules.”

Silvanus’s eyes narrowed.
“However, to lessen the sting and avoid direct confrontation won’t help from him turning into an enemy. This is a valuable prize, after all. You’ll be at some degree of risk while his servants work here. The other way could be to confront him directly, but this might be too soon for you. He has his own allies most likely and you ought to find out about these to plan your defenses more effectively. Maybe find a servant of his to inform you; someone with a need you can use to your purposes.”

His silver gaze moved momentaneously to the direction in which the yellow-eyed demon awaited for orders from the lady. Beyond Luna’s shield, the yellow-eyed demon couldn’t perceive what was going on in the chamber. After dropping this hint, Silvanus’s gaze returned to Luna’s golden eyes.
“Either of these two ways I put to your consideration. The decision is all yours, as it should be.” He rose his sake slightly in greeting, then tasted it again with a dark, charming smile.

“No. I know my limits- I do not have the skill to confront one of his age and lore face to face. I shall begin at the bottom and work my way up. And I have something in my possession that may interest him; it will assuredly give him the funds to build another manor over a node in the Americas.” Her mind strayed to the small bauble hidden in her dresser drawer- it appeared only to be a rough stone, but was in truth a valuable ore finding tool, attuned to the earth and stone. It would definitely aid in his ventures.
Luna followed Silvanus’s gaze to the servant… Indeed, she knew that it was one of the Lord Guardian’s agents. Which was why she allowed him to stay- feeding him just enough truth with the misinformation. She gave a brief nod to the Lord Demon and released the spelled shield. “But enough of these matters.”

“As you wish”, Silvanus politely said with one of his dark, charming smiles. He concentrated his attention on the food for a while, tasting and analyzing the flavors and spices like a consummate gourmet. The chopsticks provided for him were made of an oriental white wood, with silver inscriptions in the thicker end; Belial identified the icon of someone he knew in the tiny, contorted dragon worked into the wood by a miniaturist jeweler. Silvanus held and used the chopsticks with a natural skill – some things you never forget.

Enjoying his meal, the archdemon allowed himself some dark thoughts. Some could be optimistic in a moment like this, but Aramis’ side pulled him to withdrawal and meditation. He ate in silence for a few minutes.
“Soon, London will suffer a slight change and you need to be ready”, he slowly said. “The demonic armies have been freed; ancient demons trapped in the Abyss have… been set loose. My Seal will provide a warning to them, though.”

Silvanus tasted his sake, thoughtfully.
“Time is an spiral and the past returns in strange new variations. A new Battle has begun. Long ago, when the world was new I became a Fallen and led my Legions under Lucifer’s lead. We were cast into the Abyss – Hell, if you wish.” He spoke lazily, his voice melodic and dark like a windy night without stars. “The Angelic Host came up with an ingenious way to imprison us to eternal torment…” His voice hardened like ice. “A Seal was created; the Seal of the Abyss, supposed to endure to the end of Time.” Belial’s lips curled in a sardonic, malevolent smile. “I scaped by my own means, and so others did, but few powerful ones scaped. However, the Armies and the Warlord remained imprisoned. I sworn to Myself that I would find the way to break the Seal open. I did. Two nights ago, I carried on the Ritual I composed, successfully. With the power of the Warlord to fuel the spell, I unmade the Seal.” He coolly tasted his sake.

“It’s been a most interesting week. I have perfected the Dark Arts by bringing a dead corpse to real life to host the Warlord in this Plane. He’s not an undead, but a Live One; I altered the Book of Life and Dead. A busy week.” Silvanus’ silver gaze shimmered with dark light and his malevolent smile faded in a small curl of his lips in contempt at the flowing memories.
“I tell you this because your prized possession might call the attention of others in the flow of demons to London; my Seal will discourage them from charging on you because of my Power but in any case, I don’t want you to be unaware, for the Battle has already started. I don’t trust anyone and I know their temper.”
Calmly, Silvanus went back to eating entirely as if he hadn’t revealed hellish horrors and the doom of the World, but a simple tale.

Luna’s eyes widened slightly, and she barely prevented herself from dropping the sliver of beef she held between mahogany chopsticks. …There are more of the Others here? And… The Holy as well? This is more than I had expected… Many precautions will have to be taken! I may as well replace all of the Demon kind from this household and bind Elementals- they will not be tempted to run off and join their brethren any more than usual, at the least! But no… I could not replace all of the Cold Iron in this House. I will have to replace my Guardian’s creatures and bind them as tightly as I can. This was… very unexpected.

Taking a quiet, deep breath to calm her nerves –this is far beyond unusual– she took a dainty bite of the meat, listening closely. He altered the Book of Life and Death? How did he escape Death’s wrath? Of all beings, Death would be the most powerful! Those jaws are ones we all find ourselves in, one day. “Then I shall have to be… Prepared. I have more than a few tricks up my sleeves, like the Fox and Cat of old,” she replied quietly. I still have the Scroll. I will use it if I must, even for different purposes than I had originally intended. And the pendant. Luna had spent long hours studying the scroll that gave the magical means of exorcism- one that did not require faith in God, but only in one’s will and power. Though it required ability, indeed….

So there are several advantages to being the creature of an Archdemon… For a brief moment, she was grateful for the Seal of the Master of Dark Arts. But he has said that it may not give me total protection- I will believe him on that account. He has given me no information to doubt so far. The Pack has, besides my own senses, noticed the huge use of power here… It is all I can do to keep the drain redirected from the Node. I will have to make heavier shields… Which may require some sacrifice. She made a mental note to command a young ram on the morrow.
“I thank you for the warning, Lord Silvanus.”

Silvanus nodded on acknowledgement but did not reply. He ate in silence for a few minutes. The mention he made of the Book of Life and Death had brought the Dark One to his mind again. Belial half closed his eyes, tasting a delicacy. When would he see her again? Maybe too soon, in battle as ever. He tasted his sake again.
Luna’s mind was working, plotting and forecasting possibilities by now; he could feel it. He watched her as he tasted his sake, barely touching the liquid with his lips, his silver gaze dark and calm like still waters.

He sensed a slight disturbance in the Night; the Dark he had used to hide the window to Azazel’s room at the battle in Moloch’s house transmitted him the news. The son of Lucifer had awoken. Belial’s gaze turned inwards as he narrowed his eyes slightly.

//He’s awake…//

//He will summon us, sooner or later.//

//Let him be damned!//

//Let us wait.//
Silvanus put down his sake and ate some more, moving his chopsticks in a slow, almost ethereal way as his gaze darkened.

He was distracted- she could smell it. They finished their meal in silence, she distracted by her thoughts and he by his. They were two in company with Quiet and Solitude, and the quartet were quite comfortable with each other. A light dessert and corresponding wine were brought in. She toyed with hers, not quite hungry any longer, too caught up in her plans and plots.
It will be the nights of Celebration soon… Tomorrow, and the next two days… I would join the Pack tonight, but I have other, more fulfilling obligations. “Will you be leaving,” she asked, “or do you have something else in mind?” She implied nothing improper; she was merely curious as to what his plans were.

Contrary to the previous time when Angel had dinner with Luna, Silvanus showed his appreciation for the dessert and picked a second share after finishing the first. He ate it slowly and thoughtfully. When he finished, he picked up his sake and tasted it. His silver eyes rose to look at Luna when she spoke to him shimmering darkly, but at the same time they had a slight trace of the melancholy that was distinctive of Aramis.
“I will take a walk in your gardens”, he said. “It’s a beautiful night and the moon has a different light here.”

“A walk it is then, milord.” She motioned for a servant to take her dish away, and sat quietly, sipping her sake and watching her beautiful, dangerous guest.
Such lovely eyes… Sadly, he is not Were… And I will not dally or even attempt to dally with one of his kind, through which veins ichor runs. Even though the faint taint of it runs in my own. He may be an ancestor of mine, for all I can ever know. She tapped her long, red-enameled nails on her thin-stemmed goblet.
Taking a glance out of the far skyward window, she noted that it was indeed quite dark out, and that the almost full moon had risen. “It shines clearer here… Because of us.” She rose from the table, smiling. She always felt her best just after the sun set and the moon slipped into the sky.

Silvanus removed his napkin and rose in a slow, graceful movement, then joined his hostess. He stood next to her as he gazed up into the skyward window; the moonlight reflected and shimmered into his silver eyes. “It shines clearer here… Because of us”, she had said; Silvanus gazed up to the lunar disc. The moon had a dark side; Azrael’s name was written on it. The love had turned into a sharp blade; an ever so sweet pain piercing his heart he could not remove… not even will all his power.

Silvanus half-closed his eyes; the thick, black eyelashes tossed a shadow on his eyes, but still the silver gaze shimmered with a light of its own. He gently took Luna’s arm and allowed her to lead him out of the manor and into the gardens. The archdemon watched her as they walked out; her proud poise and her self-confidence. She acknowledged he was a powerful being beyond her sphere but she as well accepted him without hesitation; she didn’t question him. This curiously soothed the demon’s soul.

The night was dark and deep; a magnificent black and blue pierced by the ethereal moonlight. Silvanus’ lips had remained closed. The scents of the night and the delicate symphony of the nocturnal choruses flowed around them with the chants of the various fountains that sparkled like crystal in the twilight. The node energies made these things more defined, purer in their perfect simplicity.
Silvanus and Luna came to a halt next to a bench in the shade of a tree, in a small space in the garden dominated by a fountain. Silvanus felt like dropping his human appearance to follow his relaxed mood, but still didn’t. Luna was looking at him; her golden eyes captured the light. Silvanus took a seat at the bench. He suddenly smiled; his eyes shimmered.
“May I present my excuses for being so silent”, he said with a dark, yet playful smile. “The night and the company took the words from me.”

Red goggle eyes rolled in mismatched directions, a green light flashing from their depths, entirely like a chameleon’s independent eyes. Deep in the bush, a strange, unnaturally crooked figure peered through the leaves into the space ahead. He saw a fountain and across the fountain he saw a bench in the dark under the canopy of a tree; a tall dark figure sat at the bench; a beautiful lady kept him company. Were lady. The figure curled up in his hideout, holding his legs. The air vibed slightly around his feet with the continuous fight his wards held to keep him out of the reach of the guard spells in the place.

Silvanus’ eyes shimmered when he spoke to Luna. A cold drop fell into Silvanus’ mind as he perceived a subtle disturbance in the garden. His eyelids closed slightly and his smile faded a little. Silvanus closed his hand and the outline of a staff could be perceived out of thin air. Silvanus didn’t rise yet, however.
The presence he perceived now reminded him of things he did not want to remember at the moment. Silvanus’ eyes lingered on Luna’s face yet he was as ever, alert to their surroundings.
On guard.
“Sometimes I have wished… time could be stopped. I’ve not really tried to find a spell of such power; but at times like this it’s a tempting idea.” His silver gaze fell across the fountain ahead onto the dark bushes. Could spare us from unwanted interruptions…

Luna smiled slightly; sometimes a spell to stop time would be welcome… But her nature ever demanded change. She would become bored after a time; with boredom came decadence. “What slays kings and levels mountains, creates valleys and tries patience?” She asked softly, the old riddle just coming to her mind. Something prickled up her spine, tickling her awareness. Her sharp ears picked out the sound of something brushing leaves and cracking twigs; her hackles rose. Did she scent another demon? Of a lesser sort than her guest, as well… And distinctly… Different.
Luna’s silver eyes swept around, glinting fiercely. She may have been a lady of refined tastes, but she was also Were… A born warrior. “Come into the open, Lesser Kindred,” she commanded, her voice low and quiet, but clear.

The creature in the bushes cringed slightly at the were’s voice, annoyed. He peered again and saw the demon next to her remained immutable. Lesser kindred! How nice…, he thought in sarcasm.
A face popped out of the bush – a nightmarish grin distorted his monstrous features. With a long leap, he jumped out of the bush, flipped in the air over the fountain and landed like a frog before the two near the bench. His back was crooked; his legs like a frog’s and the red goggle eyes had a strange green light within them as he rose his face to stare at the two. One eye looked at the were, the other eye was fixed on the demon. “Greetings and good eve”, he said with a sibilant voice.

If Luna had been in wolf-form, her ears would have flickered back. As it was, however, when the strange creature… hopped from the bushes, she recoiled not in disgust but leaned forward with curiosity. “Greetings, Lesser Kindred of the Higher.” She stood and curtsied politely before returning to her seat. Is he friend or foe? He is a cordial enough fellow, for an Other… Luna’s silver eyes dimmed for a moment as a sudden memory hit her… From just a few days ago… The voice she had heard, upon her introduction to Belial… The warning… But it swam away before she could close her vise-like mental grip around it.

She allowed her eyes to half-close, to cover her momentary daze; she pretended indifference, though prepared in case the Other had violent ideas… He didn’t smell as if his intentions were anything but harmless, however…. She couldn’t afford to be trusting. It was a strange and unique situation she found herself in.

The grin on the creature’s face went wider, revealing yellow sharp teeth. One of his eyes looked at Luna from head to toes with curiosity; the other eye remained fixed on the demon. He held his long legs of a dark, brownish color.
“Greetings again, then.” He nodded at her, grinning and hissing. “Greetings to you, Bliol the Archdemon!.” The creature tilted his head.
“Sorry for the delay.”

Silvanus cast a cold look at the newcomer, letting his hostess deal with the visitor. Upon his greeting, Silvanus didn’t bat an eye but frowned slightly.
“You call that a delay? I warned you not to return there.” Silvanus’ jaw was set. “Show some manners and take another shape. What news do you bring?”

The creature cringed like a scolded child with a small pout. The red eyes rolled as he held his knees, then rose. It seemed a trick of the light and shadows, but as he rose his back and legs straightened, his limbs shortened and his claws changed; the brownish, dull skin acquired a metallic shine and the head went smaller. The batrachian-like silhouette had changed to a tall, slender man in a bronze armor. A dark green cloak covered most of it; deep dark red hair shone in the moonlight, yet the horrible, nightmarish face remained. The red eyes blinked, a green light shimmering within them.
“May I speak freely?”, he asked. His voice was grave and melodious, like a singer’s voice. Silvanus nodded gravely.

Silvanus slight frown went deeper. He looked at Luna.
“May I thank you for your patience to this visitor. This is one of my legionaries, Mastema. Mastema, this is Luna Lamina – an ally of mine and my kind hostess.” He cast a speculative look upon Mastema.
“Well, go on with your news.”

Mastema seemed to have expected a different welcome; he looked kind of disappointed. The demon rubbed his left hand on his dark green cloak and the moonlight shone on his hand – one of his fingers seemed to be made of molten silver or quicksilver, yet it was as flexible as the others. He cast a curious look at Luna and took a light, polite bow, then crossed his arms.

“Well”, he reluctantly began, “I… lost my way back. I had to stay in the Abyss, but I’ve kept the legions at my orders organized; when the Seal cracked and it became known what you had done…”, Mastema’s eyes went slightly wider, “that acted on our behalf; it added to our reputation. It raised the morals of the troops! Because since we rely on magic and it’s been shown how powerful that Art is… thanks to you… Everyone is wondering how did you achieve that Ritual. The other legions are ready as well, at your service. Is it true Azazel is hosted in a corpse that’s back to real life?” Belial nodded.
Mastema had an unwilling grin. “How’d you do that? You’ll have to teach me, at least. Moloch was involved, wasn’t she? And what about Azrael?”

Silvanus’ eyes went extremely cold, his gaze shimmering darkly. “What about her?”, he coldly asked.

Mastema shrugged. “Her Book”, he said. “You altered the Book of Life and Death after all…”

“We’ve had a battle. Then another. Nothing has changed, really.” Silvanus had an elegant shrug of his shoulders. “It doesn’t really matter.”

Mastema didn’t look much convinced, but he decided in his own behalf to keep his mouth shut on the subject. He looked at Luna with curiosity. He saw on her soul Belial’s Seal and he guessed she had to be a special being to have caught the Necromancer’s attention. Mastema took a polite nod at her.

“I’m sorry if I’ve been rude”, he said. “But I’m just out of Hell… some people over there have terrible manners and I’ve had to deal with them for a long time. Your manor and the Node are a work of the Art; it called for my attention even before I sensed the Archdemon here.” He looked at Belial, thoughtful. “He’s a good general but sometimes I don’t understand him.”
“I need a place to stay”, he announced with a blink. “Then you decide on what you want us to do.”

Luna sat quietly, observing the interplay between the Archdemon and his subordinate. Belial battled Death? And succeeded, I must assume! Amazing… Azrael is a member of the Host, then… And he altered Death’s Records…? Himself must have been displeased. Strange creature, this ‘Mastema’… A commander of one of Belial’s legions? There are more Others than I had realized… Are they all free, or just these? Moloch? Azaz…el… The son of Satan himself? …This… Will become interesting…
Luna nodded politely in reply to Mastema. “I have found your General to be agreeable company,” she replied, “and I am quite honored to entertain him. If you have need for board, you may take shelter here. It is the least I can do to repay milord.”

Silvanus looked at them thoughtfully. He thought it’d be convenient as well as for Luna as for him to have Mastema stay with her: for Luna because Mastema’s presence would be a helpful warning for the agents of the vampire not to be too audacious and give her more time to carry out her own plans; for him because he could set a quarter in a node of energies with a deft canalization. So he nodded. “You are so very kind, Luna”, he said with one of his dark, charming smiles. “So be it. Mastema will stay here.” Silvanus cast a warning look at Mastema. “Mastema may be of some help to you… I’d be thankful if you help him with any questions he may have about London; you know the area in depth, my kind hostess.”

“The Angelic Host has set quarters in London. Moloch has a district of her own and Azazel’s with her. I believe you could still find my house in London, Mastema.” He cast him a mocking smile. “I have no orders for you at the moment.”

“Oh. That will be just perfect.” Mastema took a polite bow at Luna, seeing that the Archdemon had some consideration to her. Mastema’s mismatched eyes rolled in opposite directions, studying the landscape. “Well, as you wish. I’ll wait for your word…” Mastema rubbed his hand on his cloak. “They have set quarters in London…? Where’s Azrael?”

Silvanus frowned. “May I point out to your notice that I am not her bodyguard”, he said, his voice cold. “She can go back to the Void, as far as I’m concerned… so spare me from your interest about her!” After a little pause, he said, “She will be in the Battles – that is for sure.” His silver eyes shimmered with hatred like eerie flames, then regained their normal look.

Mastema unconsciously gave a step back.
“Alright… I was just curious, that is all!” The red goggle eyes blinked with a guilty air to them. “I didn’t mean to be offensive.” He looked at Luna as if he expected her to come to his rescue. “Hm… at least seems like I arrived on time. The Armies from Hell await Azazel’s orders… but I’d say even if he doesn’t summon them soon, they’d be more than eager to leave the Abyss empty by the end of the month.”

Luna observed quietly; it wasn’t that difficult to fade into the ‘background’ when the others were paying you no mind. It showed a great deal of trust on the Archdemon’s account that he and his subordinate spoke so openly of such… subjects before her.
Or perhaps the knowledge that she couldn’t afford to betray him.
“It is my pleasure. I hope you have an uneventful stay, Oth… milord.” She stood and curtsied, but did not retake her seat. “If you have no further wishes, Lord Silvanus?” she declined her head in his direction, indicating that she would like to leave them to their discussion. She could ill afford to know to little; knowing too much would be more dangerous.

Mastema cocked his head to the side and watched Luna as she discreetly tried to make her exit. One of the goggle eyes turned to Silvanus, inquisitive.
//Why is this one at your service? Why did you choose her?//, he mentally asked. //Why don’t you mind her listening? Am I staying to keep an eye on her or just because of the node? Your Legions are following.//

//What do you want her to do? Go around telling what’s she heard?//, Silvanus replied in sarcasm. //I chose her and that is it. I believe you can still trust my touch to choose my allies//, the silver eyes shimmered darkly. //She has some points in her favor; watch her and learn a couple things, my long lost and recently found friend. Let the Legions set camp around here; you and the other commanders will report to me.// Silvanus graciously nodded. “I have no further wishes; I am thankful for your attentions, my kind hostess.” He rose and took a polite bow.
“I will leave now; I may return later. For now, Mastema will remain here; if you find his services needed don’t hesitate to call him. He is a resourceful demon.” Silvanus had a dark, charming smile. “I thank you for the pleasant eve.”
Silvanus vanished in the cold night breeze.




(1) Truly.

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: THE KING OF HELL

Azazel moved slightly in his deep unconsciousness. The sounds of battle disturbed him and called him as well – the smell of magicks, rage and fear was extremely attractive. However, he was still too weak to wake up, bound by his flesh weakened by the terrible injuries Moloch had healed – his body still needed rest to recover, even though Moloch had weaved his flesh and blood back together. The thundering over the roof and the roaring dragon outside disturbed him. Azazel coughed and tried to turn over, but the pillows at his sides were enough to help him from moving. The Demon’s lips trembled, but he still could not wake up. Strange dreams filled his sleep.

Azazel was confused and irritated. He had been walking in a thick mist for what now seemed hours… He had slight memories of a battle, and he was sure he had been wounded in it. He felt the echoes of pain in his chest, but it was somehow like if the pain was not really there. However, he was now alone and seemingly lost; the thick mist absorbed his voice, the Light, maybe it even absorbed the very Dark. All he saw was the white mist as he waded through it. Azazel reached out but his fingers did not find anything to touch. He was not afraid but angry – angry because he could not control this mist; he had no power over it, and the simple idea that he could not bend something to his will disturbed him. Azazel howled, but he couldn’t hear his own voice. He saw a silhouette ahead. Azazel ran to it, but when he was about to reach it, it vanished…

Azazel opened his eyes. He felt curious and amazed, blinking owlishly in a strange Light that hurt his eyes. Loving arms pressed his body against a female body; he rubbed his hands on his face. A small, soft and pale white hand; a rough, scaled claw. He wriggled and the female swayed him lightly.

“You say this is my son?”, a skeptical voice asked. Azazel shivered, a strange terror creeping within his soul. He looked up; three angels were looking at him, surrounding the female that held him. The light that hurt his eyes came out of them; strangely, the light was a dark force, bright but dark at the same time. The female’s face was beautiful, but shadowed by a dark anxiety. The angels he knew, but it was like seeing them by first time. One of them had white hair and a sly, crooked smile; he was more interested in his mother’s body than in him – for Azazel know now it was Lilith who held him. The other angel had raven-black hair and shimmering silver eyes open wide in wonder and piercing curiosity. The third… Azazel gasped. It was himself! His own face was looking down at him with a mix of disgust and wonder, biting his lip disdainfully. Bronze eyes narrowed, but he lacked his red mark over his left eye.

“He looks like you”, the white haired one quickly said.

“You did not do well hiding from us. Lucifer and I wanted to see what the birth process is like”, murmured the one with silver eyes.

Lilith held her child more tightly. Hissssss…

Lucifer’s brow twitched.
“Looks like you don’t trust us, Lilith”, he said with an unpleasant smile. “Our interest was purely scientific – you can believe me.”

Beside Belial appeared a fourth one – a female with crimson eyes. She reached out nonchalantly and touched the baby.
“Healthy baby; it pleases us to see… it’s a demonblood. Look at his goat foot.”

“His wings are golden like yours, but tainted in red. Interesting”, Belial said, reaching out and touching the right hand, which was scaled and red. The baby grabbed his finger and suddenly clasped the claw; a drop of blood appeared on Belial’s finger. Belial quickly pulled back and shook his hand. “Ouch!” A small smile slid on Moloch’s lips. Beelzebub laughed.
“Damn, it’s your kid all the way.”

Lucifer was not yet satisfied. His expression had not changed. Azazel swallowed in an irrational fear, looking at him in fascination. Beelzebub shrugged. “What’s so interesting about birth labor? And why did you hide? I don’t think you laid and egg, did you? Besides”, he turned to Lucifer and Belial, “if all you want is a pregnant one of our kin, I can supply you one!”

“Hardly enough, for you only attract flies”, Belial said with a smirk.

Beelzebub sulked.
“What do you know, anyway.”

Lucifer smirked and rose his hand to stop the banter. “That’s enough”, he said, his eyes blazing with unholy fire and a malevolent smile in them. “It’s a very curious thing, Lilith. The son of the Morning Star – My son. So, you think he looks like me?”, he then asked Beelzebub.

“Hell, yeah.”

Lucifer raised an eyebrow. He reached out and closing his hand on the baby’s head, he pressed his thumb on the baby’s left eye and slid it down. Azazel howled and writhed, his crying a strange mix of sobs and growls. A burning pain overwhelmed him, but he tried to fight it, despite the striking fear this being inspired him. Lucifer smirked, his eyes blazing darkly with unholy fire. A long, thin flame of the color of blood showed now on Azazel’s face across his left eye, from his above eyebrow to his cheek. Lucifer leaned over and delicately kissed Lilith’s cheek.
“I name him Azazel”, he told her before leaving with his archdemons.

Azazel shook his head and rubbed his left eye. The marking seemed to burn again; he pressed his hand on his eye…

“Lorant?” Azazel looked at his interlocutor; the man watched him with concern.
“Are you alright? Did you get something in your eye?”

“No. I’m fine”, he curtly replied. Azazel turned abruptly from the man and looked around; he found himself in a Hungarian art gallery, at a photographs exhibit. Among the attendees he saw a young woman with auburn hair – her poise and beauty struck a cord deep within the demon’s soul. He stared. He felt the need to reach out and capture her like a butterfly, hear her laughter and feel her touch…

Bend her pride to his will.

“She’s not part of the exhibit”, the man snickered in a murmur. “She’s an amateur photographer, but I’ve heard she’s good. She’s Autumn Kamaria. By the way, she’s single and a bourgeois…”
She was smiling. Her companion made her laugh. Azazel narrowed his eyes and gave a step towards her…

The mist was everywhere: white, anonymous, asphyxiating. Azazel waded through it, trying to find a way to leave that accursed Limbo…

Trapped inside his dream, Azazel was strangely aware he had been separated from reality and he needed to find his way back. All that surrounded him was the thick mist; an empty space he could not grasp and rip to pieces – something quite annoying.

The pain in his chest was almost completely gone. Azazel put his hand on his chest and sensed the steady, rhythmic beat of his heart. His thoughts wandered off to the Ritual in which he had acquired this body and how the twisted mind and will of the real baron Lorant Riktophen had been absorbed by his hellish power, as he used Moloch to canalize the pain… but the demon remembered something else. He instinctively touched his left hand in search for his wedding ring in a sudden need to touch it… A white pale hand took his and pulled back.

“Love! These are not… the ones you like.” Azazel looked up in indignation at his smiling mother. “You don’t want this”, Lilith insisted. “This is what you like.” Again, he was a child; Anastasia smiled and her guest was seemingly asleep in his chair. Azazel looked upon him – a dead human in an elegant private room. Anastasia caressed his hair, trying to bribe him away with a cookie.
“Love…”, she insisted. Azazel raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t want that”, the child contemptuously said, waving a white hand at the cookie in Lilith’s hand. “The man is dead – I already know that. Did he annoy you?”

Anastasia/Lilith paled slightly.
“He’s indisposed, my Love.”

“I won’t say anything to anyone”, Azazel said with a shrug. “But don’t treat me like if I had a short intelligence. That annoys me.”

Anastasia held him lovingly and kissed his cheek. “You are your Father all over again”, Lilith lovingly whispered in his ear, a strange passion in her voice.

NO! I am a different being. I am myself – I am not someone else! No one is like me, either!” Azazel’s bronze eyes flashed, then suddenly a blood-curdling smile of fake benevolence curled his lips.
“I am your beloved… son, mother.”

Anastasia looked at him in unnatural fascination. “Yes, my Love…”

Azazel coughed. I am the Lord of the Armies! I will Rule above all! All will bend to MY will – I am NOT He! I won’t fail! I won’t die! Azazel roared in anger, gasping for air as he felt the very flames of the Abyss rise and surround him. A choked, scornful laughter came out of his lips.
“I will rule above all!”

Azazel’s eyes shot open; his demonic senses suddenly poured the world into his conscience, overwhelming him. Azazel gasped for air and shook his head, trying to grasp his conscience and take a hold of reality on the earthly plane. With a gasp and an spasmodic contraction of his muscles, he sat up among the pillows of a bed in a dark room. His breathing still difficult, Azazel put strands of wet bluish black hair out his face. The marking or red flames across his left eye seemed to burn again; Azazel pressed his hand on it.

“Where in Hell is this place?”, he murmured. He had been bandaged and set among pillows to prevent him from moving. Azazel knew Moloch had used her skills on him… The Demon bit his lip slightly. Nothing is for free, and he was certain she should’ve taken something in return for her Healing services. But what had that been? Azazel clasped a hand on the sheets. He’d need… to find that out.
“Belial took me to the Abyss… but this is not Hell; it’s Moloch’s house – one of hers…” Azazel brushed his hand past his forehead and tried to clear up his mind.

Moloch sighed, drawing a bit of hair away from Azazel’s face. He reminded her so of his father, Lucifer… The Morning Star. They had both been once on the side of the ‘Good’, the ‘Light’, the ‘Righteous’. And it had all changed… Because of jealousy, simple greed like those humans they so despised…!
Even in all those years of his life, Azazel had not really matured beyond his childhood. Spoiled, bratty, grasping… He had only grown in power, not in his mind. It would be his downfall. Moloch regarded him with a jealous eye; if only he had been her son…! He would have been a true Prince of the Fallen, not this whining spitting crass being he was now. If Lilith hadn’t coddled him, the fool, had taught him correctly instead of concealing so much…

Azazel twitched and rolled, murmuring in his sleep. Ah… So he’s fighting it. He shall be awake, soon. She summoned a servant and ordered him to bring rich broth and a hearty wine. It would do to revive him- his wounds still weakened him. Sweet child of darkness… It was one of the few times the compassion she had left reached out. But she knew her only maternal instinct would be scorned.
“Are you awake, Young One?” She asked, her low, melodious voice distantly respectful.

Azazel took hold of the voice that reached into his senses to take a better grasp of the reality around him. He slowly opened his bronze eyes and blinked, trying to focus. Azazel felt like turning around and sleeping, but he also expected to be nursed and taken care of. A part of him though wanted to jump out of the bed and set the whole accursed city on fire.

“I’m awake…” Azazel frowned and pushed away cushions placed around him, trying to sit up. He let out a small gasp and pressed his hand over his left eye. He quickly put his hand away, seeing Moloch was watching him.
“I sense there was a battle in these grounds. I don’t want to remain in bed; I don’t have time for this…” Azazel struggled to get up.

Moloch noted his gasp- he was definitely not at full strength. They had injured him badly. She said nothing, though, veiling any emotion in her features.
“You’re not quite up to your full strength, Young One,” she said soothingly. “Allow our servants to care for you.” She gestured, and a servant propped him up and placed several plush cushions behind his back so that he might sit up comfortably. Another placed the tray over his lap, a sort of small writing-desk like contraption that did not rest on his legs. On it rested the broth, from which richly scented steam rose. There was also a coarse, though good, bread, and honeyed wine and butter. “Eat. Michael and Gabriel tried to wound you badly, Azazel, and you must regain your power before you go to avenge yourself. The leader of the armies of the Fallen must not be disgraced, after all.” She leaned back.

“We had a pet here when Belial brought you… We had almost had him bound, but a device of the Host prevented my powers from permeating his soul. Our mark is still on him, though we feel them trying to burn it off even now… But, we fear that the taint he will carry with him forever.” She allowed herself a small smirk… Not now, nor his children, nor his grandchildren, but someday, it was quite possible, that one of his line in the far future would become a powerful Occultist- and an evil one, at that. “Adriel arrived, as did Azrael- Belial left battling Azrael, and Adriel escaped with the toy. Though,” she reflected, “she was too weak to face me. Raphael came as well, but he has been burned quite badly and will not be playing with us for quite a while.” Which is well- the Final Battle will be soon. Drat that foolish child Belphegor- she had to disappear when she could have been of use, for once.

Azazel bit his lip slightly. The red mark his father had imprinted on his left eye was again burning like a hellish flame; every living being was wrapped in a sort of strange aura which revealed to him things his demonic vision yet wouldn’t tell him. Azazel narrowed his eyes and clasped his hands on the sheets. The fire burned him fiercely but despite Fire was one of his own Elements, this fire didn’t belong to him but to the Morning Star; it burned his flesh without consuming it ever since Lucifer marked his face. Sometimes he would feel it; but other times…

Azazel’s blazing bronze eyes were filled with hatred and anger, despite his beautiful face remained serene; his eyes followed every movement of everyone in the room like if he were going to attack them any minute. Contradictory as he was, he saw Moloch did well by taking care of him but on the other hand he felt she was ‘controlling’ the situation over him by taking decisions on what he’d do without asking him first. If he would’ve followed his brattish mood he would have thrown the tray away, but the cold side of his mind held him back. He looked at Moloch. Despite he was weak now in comparison to his normal state, his power was still out of some hellish nightmare… but he wouldn’t get any advantage from rejecting her help harshly. Moloch’s pride relied greatly on her healing abilities – Azazel knew this well. To use the present situation to give her pride some praise, the best course of action was to accept her help as healer by following her suggestions. The hellish light in Azazel’s eyes turned into a shimmer of melted stone in the depths of a cave.

Azazel tried the broth and took a sip of wine. The liquor flowed into his body like a wave of warmth. The broth was good and the wine, honeyed. Azazel took a piece of his bread into his soup like a small child would, then ate it; it was kind of evident he liked it but he did not smile.

He listened carefully at her words, skimming the information and classifying it. “Is Michael alive?”, he coolly asked.
Michael. The angel he hated the most – Azazel would gladly give up an eye to kill the leader of the Angelic Host. Belial had taken him away from Michael and the angels; on one hand his former teacher had done well; but on the other hand… By the way! It could be a product of the delirium state he had fallen into when he got wounded, but he had seen the strangest vision: Belial and an angel that was just like him.

“They will all pay”, he muttered, eating some more bread with his broth, adding butter to the bread. “I’m guessing this toy of yours is a promissory trifle”, he said in a low voice that vibrated across the room. “I sense his trace. He was in that accursed Inn – Johnathon Morris. It would please me to see you take him under your special care, Moloch.” His voice seeped malevolence and a kind of dark, twisted mirth.

Disgraced…? I won’t be”, he said with a chilling, blood-curdling softness to his malignant voice. “The Battle will end with our victory.”
Belial and Azrael were a curious pair. The fiercest enemies, yet they were somehow alike. Azazel didn’t know exactly why, but it seemed appropriate to name them as opposed forces – the right killer to each other. Azazel sipped some wine.
“My sister probably ran away”, he unexpectedly said like if he were offering a gentle explanation, then continued eating.

“Michael survived, I’m sure. I would know if he didn’t.” Despite the fact that she was Fallen, Moloch still had the powers of an angel- something she denied vehemently. As all of the original Fallen did, with the possible exception of Lilith. Moloch would have felt the pain of the Archangel’s passing- and reveled. “No, he is alive.” She knew the news would not please Azazel; but she also knew that it would be quite simple for him to find out. It would gain her nothing to lie, anyway. And she was not certain about… No.

He enjoyed the food and wine, obviously, though his contradictory nature would not allow him to reveal it. Such a twisted child he was… His mother’s son, quite obviously. The Morning Star had not survived long enough to rear his own offspring- though Azazel did resemble him in many ways. Especially in power. Moloch extended her healing ability back into his body, now that she had rested from the small battle in her gardens. It had cost her little energy, as she had been able to draw on latent power instead of using her own.

At the mention of Morris, Moloch’s general good mood curdled. “It would please us as well, Young One. It would please us greatly to have our hands on him- and we would not hesitate to move swiftly and harshly, this time. It will be our victory, indeed. And the Host will wish they had never trifled with the wishes of the Fallen.”

Moloch almost blanched. She pulled her innermost, almost traitorous thoughts in closer, where he could not read them so easily, especially without alerting her. How rude, to trifle in another Fallen’s mind! It would be different if she were the enemy. But she was not. And hopefully… it would remind him that she wasn’t, subtly.

A hellish spark danced in Azazel’s eyes in delight as he sensed he had startled Moloch. He did not reveal he had perceived her retrieval, but inside the demon Warlord was pleased at his own mischief. After all, Azazel was still a young one – like any brattish child to his elders, he had learned from the Archdemons to what extent he could torture them without getting too far as to get them rebellious – and he enjoyed a good joke from time to time. His ‘jokes’ however were always private and of a disturbing nature.

Azazel noticed with some disappointment his broth was gone. He sipped his wine, which also was good and found himself in a better mood.
“So he lives”, he murmured. He couldn’t say he was surprised, for somehow he knew Michael lived – perhaps his hatred for the archangel had set a subtle link that allowed him to keep an eye on the enemy without even think about him. “I’ll crush him next time.” Azazel looked curiously at Moloch over his goblet, hellish fire dancing in the depths of his eyes.
“Tell me Moloch. What would please you to win for yourself in the Battles?”
It was his equivalent of ‘I’ve had my meal, now tell me a story’.

Moloch smiled ever so slightly. “What will we claim when we win the War? When we finally win the long War…”

Moloch had always had an incredible knack for healing, despite the fact that her strongest and only element was Fire. She absorbed all of the knowledge of the body and mind that she could- healing humans, body and soul, was her purpose, and her only ambition was to have the ability to perform that duty as well as she might. She was one of the fastest, deftest, and most driven of any students in the Host- healing was her love and her obsession.

But it seemed that fate would conspire against her. For whenever she used her ability to heal physical wounds, her patient would feel a corresponding amount of pain- sometimes great, sometimes a pinprick. She could block it mentally, but it seemed to weaken the effect of the healing she laid- not to mention that it was difficult holding two intricate spells together at once, one that could damage a body and another that could destroy a mind. The other angels found this to be amusing- particularly Uriel, who found it to be a fascinating joke. Uriel, her only rival in healing- who had everything she could ever want fall into her hand, even the attention of an Archangel- the Messenger.

Moloch never gave in- she would bend, but never break. She worked harder, and as she researched, she discovered something fascinating- the release of pain, not only the physical sensation, but the mental as well, created great power that she could not only absorb but use and control to heal more than ever before. Experimenting further, she found that other emotions- like love and pleasure- could also release energy, though usually not quite as much as pain. With her findings, she healed more than any thought could be done before. She was adored, adulated, cheered by other angels and almost worshipped by humans- until the angels found out how she worked these miracles. They shunned her, treating her as if she had done something unspeakable- but all she had done was worked more and harder than anyone else to find an efficient method of treatment- bringing life from the brink of death! Even things Uriel couldn’t claim to do. No one complained about the little extra she took- they were happy to be sound once more.

And that was when she discovered others in discontent- when Lucifer, The Morning Star, approached her and asked if she would join in his faction against the Host. And she did so, for as she used the energy of pain- her innocent envy of Uriel had grown into black hatred, for the oh-so-righteous Uriel was only jealous of what Moloch had accomplished, and had no idea of the work she had thrown away, the waste she was committing. When they Fell, Moloch was worshipped and revered by humanity- not only because of her healing, but because of the pain she brought that they so adored. Humans always craved pain- and she discovered a new source of energy. Lust and hatred. And Moloch’s power grew in leaps and bounds- making her among the first ranks of the Fallen.

And then the Sealing, when the angels had no idea of the mistake they had made in sealing them in ‘Hell’. Moloch escaped, using a small loophole she had discovered. After all, in the abyss they had been sealed into, she had little else to do. So she escaped, waiting for the time that Uriel would appear once more and consolidating her power on the earth.

“And then… It is so simple, Young One. We only want one thing- revenge. There are worse things than death in which she can contemplate her sins against us.”

Azazel took his wine in smaller sips as to make it last longer as Moloch showed him a kaleidoscope of the past, long before he was born. Images and memories flowed in her mind, allowing him to follow and look through her eyes back into her long gone past. Azazel watched carefully and with fruition, grasping as much information as he could. Not even his teacher the Necromancer had shown him private memories like these; he had relied on spells to show him the past. Moloch’s insight was different – the memories were filled with feelings, with a personal perception and a sense of truth he enjoyed deeply.

Azazel’s eyes widened and blazed as he looked into her and saw images of Heaven and the angels that are his enemies and the angels that now are some of his demons. The knowledge he acquired he carefully kept inside his own mind to increase his view and understanding… for future use.

Azazel’s eyes narrowed again as he leaned against the piled up pillows. He himself was son of angels; of powerful Fallen. He however was not an angel but a purebred demon. Where laid the limit, the boundary between a demon and an angel in the Fallen? That was an interesting consideration…

“Revenge”, he said. “A highest object of ambition. You will have your revenge – so will I.” His malevolent voice softly seeped poison in every word. “All angels will be destroyed – some swiftly, others deserve special treatment.” He smiled in sarcasm. “I am sure you’ve planned long… on how to entertain your guest when she falls into your power.” Azazel slid his fingers through his black hair and suddenly felt the touch of his wedding ring again. Azazel distractedly turned the gold ring around his finger.
“The angels will return what is mine to me”, he murmured. “I do not wish to stay in bed.”

Moloch studied Azazel with a piercing gaze. “We are not the ones who choose who lives and dies… We are but pawns in a game of judgment.” She turned to live, and paused.
“All we can do is but hope and struggle to tip the futile balance- once again, the sword will fall against the dragon’s chest, and the board will become even on the scale.” She left the room. Lilith would arrive soon.

Azazel’s eyes opened wide in indignation. I choose who lives and who dies!, he thought with arrogance as his eyes narrowed to blazing slits of fire. “I must disagree about that”, he hissed. However, Moloch’s last phrase was puzzling.
Azazel was perplexed. Dragon? What dragon is that? I suppose she doesn’t mean it’s me… Azazel turned the ring around his finger. A servant retrieved the tray and portable desk. At the Demon’s order, the servants left him alone.

“All I’d have to do is fly outside in any case”, he muttered. Azazel closed his eyes and scanned his body. He was not fully healed – he still needed some rest, despite the frustration and anger this discovery caused to him.
“Dragon…” He touched his eye mark; it was burning again. Azazel bent over pressing his hand over his left eye.

The blood had been wonderful. A young man, an aristocrat, at that. All too easy, feeding these days was… all too easy. But still, he was satisfied. Nicholai could still taste the faint traces of wine in the noble’s blood. Superb. The locket hung from his neck, filled to the brim with blood, swaying softly in late night wind. He would spend the night at his employer’s home. The sun was to rise in a matter of short hours. Crossing the broken bottle-alleyways of London provided a sort of thrill, a sense of familiarity his detestable ancient home had provided. Before royal bedrooms and champagne, Nicholai drank in the meager pleasures of dirty rainwater, ragged clothes and trash barrel dinners. Poverty had been a terrible memory in his past, and London was simply swimming with it.
After a time of half an hour or so, Anastasia’s grand home came into view. There were most definitely advantages of having a photographic memory. He wouldn’t have found the house again otherwise. He strolled to the front door, and tapped leisurely, once, twice, waiting for the lovely evil to answer his call.

The door swung open on it’s own accord, revealing the woman standing on the steps. Now dawned in the red silk dress the vampire had presented to her earlier. Going down the last few steps, she turned to model the dress, lightly gliding her hands down the soft silk. “Are you pleased with your choice? Crimson has always been a delightful color…” Motioning her hand, she beckoned him to come in. The door slamming shut behind him as he stepped through the threshold. “I trust you did what I asked. I would so hate to be disappointed on only our second meeting.”

The vampire smiled. Indeed, the dress was gorgeous on her. Folds of red silk clung to her figure, beautifully, excitingly, but yet, somehow, still tastefully. Her hair fell in moonlight strands about her shoulders; it contrasted dramatically with the dark dress. She was a sight to see, indeed.
“Very pleased, Madame. It brings out your eyes.” He flashed a slow, charming smile.
Nicholai tilted his head, brushing bangs out of his crimson eyes- they matched her dress perfectly.

“You underestimate me… What kind of knight would I be to leave a fair maiden’s request ungranted? I would give you my sword myself to slay me.” Slowly, deliberately, Nicholai slid pale fingers about the chain that hung from his neck, removing the necklace and holding it, floating, above his palm. “I trust you recognize this..?”
He smirked, anticipating her expression in the moment she would open the little locket.

She snatched the locket from his hands quickly, much like a half starved child. Moving away from him to the window. Turning the locket gently in her hands, she admired the craft and designs that adorned it. It was the woman’s… something her sad little human family gave to her long ago. Dark red stained the gold on the inside, as she opened it. The sweet familiar smell of the woman’s blood wafted past her nose.

Giddy laughter rang deep from Anastasia’s chest as she clutched the gold piece, turning back to the vampire. “You did well. I trust she suffered much. All the years she escaped me…” Her crimson lips turned into a delighted sneer at the thought of all her carefully laid plans to kill her dear son’s pathetic bride were shattered time and time again by the woman’s impeccable luck. Only having shed her blood herself would have made this moment the more sweet.

However… though Anastasia’s victory was sweet, the sinister mind of Lilith pulsed with suspicions. The human woman was surrounded by many a foe. Angelic guardians surrounded her like grotesque flies to a vat of honey. The thought reminded her of Beelzebub and his ill habits. The lithe body of Anastasia moved across the floor, tucking the little trinket in to the folds of her gown. Lilith was no fool. A toy brought by her puppy would not satisfy her taste for blood. A smile splayed across her crimson painted lips. “You shall be rewarded, darling. Such a service you have done for me.”

“But of course, belle.”
Nicholai smiled, pleased with himself. “I thought you would prefer it that way.” He lifted a pale finger to his lips, brushing them in thought with the tips. “Now. I kept my end of the bargain, my dear… Shouldn’t you? I would love to see the town.”

Anastasia gave a slight coy tilt of her head, feigning forgetfulness. “Did I? My, my. For shame on me. Yes, we shall paint the town red…” she gave a slight sinister smile, “In a matter of speaking. …But first…” Reaching out her arms to him, she grasped the collar of his coat, pulling him in close to her. She pressed her body against his, tilting her head back with a subtle come hither look to her eyes. Nicholai raised an amused eyebrow as he leaned down, pressing a kiss against her soft supple lips. Lilith pressed her power outwards, using carefully weaved wards to sift through the vampire underlings mind, searching for his memories. Distasteful blood and gore she found until she found where he had met the human pest that plague her plans.

No! Anastasia, and her mental parasite both hissed in unison she shoved the vampire away. The whore was not dead! Did the little vampire think he could play games with her? It was no matter. “Foolish little beast. It was I and my legions that spawned creatures like you! How dare you betray me!” With a frightening gleam to her eyes, Anastasia raised an arm. Flames erupted around Nicholai’s feet. He motioned to make a pained cry, but the red hot flames engulfed him, burning his shell to naught but ashes.

Turning away from the worthless creature, Anastasia gave a heavy scowl. The woman was not dead, but that did not mean should could not make her precious believe it to be true. The locket would be proof enough, and he would give up his foolish search and focus on his legions. The Angelic Host would be destroyed.

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: ANGEL OF DESTINY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did what?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then the demon came back to fetch him.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have no idea. It was very scary.”

“Yes… it was.”

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

“Yeeks. Just leave it there…”

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

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

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

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

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

“The Rishta-thing!”, Angel hissed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: A DARING RESCUE

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

Adriel! Adriel!

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

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

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

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

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

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

//Choose wisely then.//

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: DARK TIDINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Seal of Azazel

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: SCARRED SOUL

Moloch landed gently on the eastern balcony, using a simple spell to unlock the so-called French doors. It was a room not often used, but her servants made sure it was well kept for her few ‘guests’- those she wished to break to her will, but not destroy. The room itself was quite comfortable- a large canopied bed done in varying shades of blue, with sky blue painted walls and a midnight plush carpet. A small stand stood next to the bed, as well as a wardrobe with men’s clothing. Women stayed in another room. A washstand stood in one corner, and a table with two chairs and a desk occupied the rest of the space. A private bathing chamber opened up from the south wall, and the west wall led into the manor itself. A golden tassel hung from the ceiling, allowing one to ‘ring’ for servants.

Moloch placed Morris, who was still unconscious and would be for quite a while, on the bed. Taking her human guise once more, she sent out a mental call for servants, whom responded immediately and began to take care of the matters of dressing him and his wounds. She walked out of the room, confident in the knowledge that anything she desired would be done, and anything she wanted she would have.

She sojourned to her room, where she began the task of triggering the spell to mask all traces of magick in her and her household, including her servants. It was a pert spell, sadly she rarely had cause to use it. With a final touch, the whole house seemed amazingly less-less… It even felt void to herself. Moloch rarely slept; and since she could draw enough energy from London tonight to fill her magical reservoirs in the manor, that is what she decided to do until a servant should come and tell her new toy had awoken.

The dry, withered ground exploded in a shower of rock and magma at Johnathon’s feet as the archdemon burst from the earth, riding a tower of fire and brimstone. All around him, he could see the angels, servants of God, engaged in mortal combat with the legions of the damned. Demons and unholy spirits of every type he could name came pouring from the split earth, seething in great, hellish waves.

“Our time is at hand!” the archdemon howled into the night, as his thousands of millions of servants overwhelmed the angels. “The earth will be plunged into a thousand years of bloodlust, fire, and death! Feast on the divine flesh, my children! The coming of the Apocalypse is finally upon us!

Johnathon’s mind reeled as he snapped open his eyes. For only a brief moment, he swore he could see and hear swordplay and infernal laughter in his… room? This wasn’t the inn. His head was still swimming, but he tried to remember everything that had happened.

First, the demon had come, and said he was after Autumn. Then he unleashed the smaller servitor demon he had captured that night to battle the other summoned monster. After that, he had cut himself for some reason, and everything after that was a blur. All he could really make out was a warm, inviting voice, calling to him from afar.

Johnathon slowly sat up in bed. His wounds had been dressed, and by somebody who knew very well what they were doing. He looked to the chairs across the room, where he saw his gear piled onto the seat.
“Hello?” he called out, pushing the blankets away. “Is anyone there?”

One of the servants heard his mistress’s guest call. He walked swiftly and quietly in my room. “Good… eve, my lord. We will be having an early supper this evening, in half an hour. Shall I call others to draw you a bath and dress you?” he asked, with the offhand politeness of a servant used to giving those he served orders. The servant was a thin, older man, with a definite presence.
Hmm… It seems our guest has awoken! Indeed… We will have company soon, and it has been long since anyone civilized has graced our table. Moloch awoke from her reverie, and called her servants to dress her.

Johnathon blinked, and leaned back against the elegantly carved headboard on the bed. Was it so late in the day already? He felt like he had slept forever! As worried as he was about everything, though, a bath and a fresh change of clothes sounded marvelous. Besides, he didn’t “feel” any dark magic in this house. Perhaps he had just stumbled outside, and had been taken in by a concerned citizen.
Right. And maybe he’d be knighted by the Queen of England.

“That…sounds very lovely, thank you,” Johnathon said, cracking every aching joint in his body as he stretched out. After a bit of real rest, maybe he’d be coherent enough to figure out what was going on around here.

The servant knew exactly what to do. He smiled and bowed slightly to his Mistress’s guest and turned to fetch more servants. It was no time at all before he returned with two others, one of whom began to draw a bath, and the other to help the man undress, like any nobility required.

The head servant, for that is what he was, bowed slightly and stole into the bathroom, ostentatiously to assist with the bath. He removed several herbs and scents from the cabinet; all specially blended to cause relaxation and a small amount of mental… fuzziness. No scent would be recognizable in the soft chaos of perfume, and all of the bottles appeared to be bath herbs, and tightly capped in a cabinet. Anyone with manners wouldn’t open it, and probably wouldn’t recognize what they were. And they were considered ‘harmless’ herbs anyway.

Moloch smiled and admired herself in the mirror. Dark, almost red hair coiffed elegantly and laced with tiny seed pearls; a long, prim gown with white lace and dark, not quite black, red fabric, and black gloves. Her face had no need of enhancing cosmetics. She was more than beautiful on her own. She smiled again, showing a bit of tooth this time.

His extra senses weren’t going off, but something about this entire situation seemed a bit… off to Johnathon. A strange feeling he had, as if someone was constantly watching him, or looking over his shoulder. The cloud of perfume that was wafting from the bathroom was almost overpowering as it hung in the air like a heavy blanket, clinging to his skin as he approached the elegant tub.

The bathroom was almost crowded with bath oils, crushed flower petals, and perfume bottles. It was difficult to turn around without bumping into one. Still, despite his misgivings about the whole situation, that water looked extremely inviting. Johnathon stuck his hand into the water, followed by his arm, up to the elbow, and practically melted at the relief that flooded up to his shoulder.
Suddenly not giving a whit about the rest of the world, Johnathon eased into the water, and let out a quiet sigh as his whole body seemed to unknot. Maybe he was wrong about everything. He’d have to thank his host, when, and if, he ever showed up.

Moloch smiled happily. He was a truly divine piece of man-flesh. She warded the spell mirror and exited her room, sweeping through the halls to direct servants and pass out orders for the meal and for the preparations.
The head servant chose an outfit out of the wardrobe, a comfortable selection not meant for public usage. It was mainly of soft ramie and silk, in a dark and light blue ensemble of colors. Slacks, an undershirt, and an overcoat. He would have to oversee the tending of the man’s wounds again when he exited the bath. His Mistress hadn’t wanted to reveal her hand by healing him so soon. The servant placed a kerchief of linen over his nose and mouth once the scents from the guest bath began to seep out; he couldn’t be muzzy like the guest would most assuredly be. He hurried out for a moment until Morris finished his bath.

Johnathon lost himself in the relaxing water and clouds of steam, going over everything that had happened since last night. First, he had run into that angel posing as a human, and the Baroness Autumn Riktophen. What did he know about them? He had heard rumors that the baron had passed away some time ago, leaving behind his wife and mother. That “mother” must have been the witch he had met in the manor house last night.

After the battle with the Dire wolves, Johnathon had finally gotten to meet the angels, the servants of God themselves. The thrill quickly wore off, though, once he remembered what they had acted like. Stuffy, self-important, conceited… well, except for two of them–the one that had accompanied Autumn, and the one that had left them at the inn. After that, things started to get a bit hazy. He remembered being assaulted by a demon of monstrous power, and then, the voice… that had told him to…

Johnathon jerked upright once he realized he had slumped further down into the tub, and was inhaling scented water. Looking around, he noticed that the steam had settled, and the water had lost its soothing warmth. Resisting the urge to sigh with disappointment, Johnathon crawled out of the tub, and hastily dried himself, still having that feeling that he was being stared at. Suitably dry, Johnathon looked over the clothes that had been laid out for him. His old things were nowhere in sight, meaning they had been lost, or were being washed.
Moments later, Johnathon emerged from his chambers fully dressed. Fixing his hair in a hall mirror, he slowly started off down the hall, now determined to find his mystery host, and pry some answers from him.

The head servant was just coming back to the guest room when he saw the guest walking down the hall in search of his Mistress. “Ahem.” He cleared his throat. “Milady is waiting for you at the Hall. If you will follow me?” He stood and waited for the man to turn back and follow him.

Moloch chuckled slightly, standing with hands demurely clasped behind her back as she waited for her new toy. She assumed her stance, her posture was straight with proprietary pride and power. After all, she was a strong noble in her own right. She allowed her role as ‘Lady Essendre’, a noblewoman rising quickly to political power in Victorian England through careful use of the noble houses beneath her wing. Her flawless, pale face was serene, and her thin figure healthy but not robust. And of course, the aura of a strong willed personality. A large, beautiful dark red ruby hung around her neck, clasped on a golden chain. It was worth enough to literally buy an entire House.

“Lady? So, my most gracious host is, in fact, a hostess,” Johnathon mused with a smile. “That’s interesting. Tell me, why has the lady of the house deemed it necessary to pick me up off the streets and bring me in?”

“I’m sure I couldn’t say,” the manservant replied with a bit of an edge to his voice that made Johnathon’s hackles rise. That cold feeling that he got when he first woke up had come back. Still, there was no magic in this house… none that he could feel, anyway. And he relied rather heavily on his extra senses. If they could be dulled by anything here, he was as good as blind.

Moving down the stairs and past the parlor, Johnathon was led to the dining room, at which point the servant stepped aside, and allowed him to enter first. Johnathon tugged on his shirt, took a deep breath, and opened the double doors leading inside. Greystone Manor, his ancestral home, was certainly marvelous, but even it paled in comparison to the elegance of this house. Fine art, impeccable decorating sense, antique cutlery and china…

And then, his eyes drifted to his host. She looked even more impressive than the rest of the house. Especially that large gemstone she was wearing. Johnathon didn’t want to stare, but he found it rather difficult not to. She was beautiful, to be certain, but there was also something else about her… something mysterious that Johnathon couldn’t pinpoint. Then again, it may have just been his own personal paranoia. Best to just play it by ear until he knew what was going on.

“My Lady,” he said, approaching his host and bowing deeply. “I must thank you, for whatever assistance you gave to me the previous evening. Such acts of selflessness are a rare and beautiful thing in these troubled times.”

‘Lady Essendre’ declined her head slightly in greeting. “Good evening, dear sir. I believe you are one of the Morrises, am I correct? I am the Lady Essendre.” She smiled warmly, offering her arm. She had noted his slight confusion, and the effects of the drugs in his bath. While they hadn’t affected him as strongly as she had hoped, they had still done an admirable job.
“You are quite welcome. You reminded me of a cousin of mine; one of my man servants heard that you had been left in a quite ransacked inn room when he went to pick up some goods from the Innkeeper. He sent word, and I decided it would not be safe to leave you there… You know how commoners are. They tend to strip anything of worth and leave the body in a gutter.” She shuddered slightly in disgust.
“This is our private dining hall,” she gestured with her free arm as she led him into a spacious room, modeled after the arching style of the Romans.

“Truly remarkable,” Johnathon commented, looking up at the grand ceiling. “Your home is simply breathtaking, Lady Essendre. I must admit, even my own spacious home is like the common room of an inn, when compared to all this.” Looking over the expansive table in the dining hall, Johnathon ran his fingers across the tablecloth. Soft, light linen. It felt like the same thing his shirt was made of. “I am, indeed, from the Morris’ Greystone Manor,” he said, only half-paying attention to his words. “I am Johnathon Roger Morris, student of… ah… religion, and cultural history. Please, if there is anything I can do to repay my debt to you, do not hesitate to ask.”

A student of cultural history and religion? Essendre allowed herself a small smile of mirth. “Of course I will, Lord Morris. A true gentleman, at last.” She gestured to a seat on the opposite end of the table.
“The servants will enter with food so that we may sup shortly. Meanwhile, would you mind telling me how you arrived in such poor condition?” It seemed that he had not given the servants a chance to rebind his wounds once more.

Johnathon flushed as his eyes wandered down to the ugly scar spreading across his palm. A high price to pay, for the chance to resist a demon’s coercion. But what was he going to tell her? That he had fought alongside angels in a house of the devil, then confronted demons for the life of a young noblewoman? She’d think he had lost his mind! “I was…simply helping a friend,” Johnathon said, gently closing his hand.

“She had been the target of ruffians last evening, and they followed us to the inn we were staying at. I assume she is safe, though, because of some timely intervention on the part of her… ah… private guard.”
Johnathon caught a whiff of the food being prepared, and cleared his throat to mask his growling stomach. “But I can’t seem to remember how I got outside… perhaps I had been thrown through a window. It wouldn’t be the first time that had happened.”

Soon, servants came out and set the table with fine china and crystal, and began bringing silver platters of food. It was an overlarge amount, but her household would eat it after they ate, as there was no human around who could hope of denting that pile by themselves or in a pair.

“I see.” She smiled and took her seat at the table’s head, a servant pulling out the high-backed chair that was far taller than she. Gesturing, a servant pulled out another chair for Morris.
The food itself was pure and fresh; Moloch would not allow a hint of impurity to food she might eat, not even to assist in breaking someone. And as always, it was quite good.

Johnathon was practically ravenous, but he held back on the food as much as he dared. If his feelings were right, and things turned ugly, the last thing he wanted to be was sleepy and sluggish from eating so much. “At the risk of being nosy,” Johnathon said after finishing, “Where are my things being kept?”

Lady Essendre looked up at him, surprise in her eyes. She knew the true arts of dissembling; it would take no Coercion to convince this man. “You mean your poor, torn clothes? Why, they were in such bad state none could repair them, and were not even fit for rags, milord Morris.” She smiled kindly at him, and ordered to servants to clear the table in her soft, concise voice.
“May we?” She gestured gracefully with her pale, delicate hand after standing, indicating the parlor room not too far from the Private Hall.

“With all due respect, Lady Essendre,” Johnathon continued, rising from his seat, “I had some very valuable things with me.” Two silver knives, an axe, and a holy ward with charred demon flesh on it. Yes, lovely. She’ll have you thrown into an institution for sure.
“Evidence, that would help me throw the thugs who attacked the girl and myself last night.” Johnathon hid his clever smile. A nice save, he thought. “May I ask for my bag, my lady?”

Lady Essendre blinked slightly. “A bag? Milord, we found no such thing on your person.” She offered her arm silently. “I can have the servants go to the Inn and conduct a search, if you wish.”
Moloch chuckled mentally, in the deep crevasse where her essence had withdrawn. Dear little occultist… You have no idea what you have walked into with eyes wide open! Her persona continued onward.

“I am truly sorry for any loss… I might be able to recompense you, somehow, if they do not find your things.” She gestured with her free hand, and a servant appeared quickly at her side. Lady Essendre issued orders, and the servant went off quickly to collect his fellows. They would indeed conduct a quick and thorough search, although all knew there was nothing to find.
Because Morris’s little trinkets were harmlessly locked away in a pantry, wrapped in shielding silk and encased in a lead casket. After all, what was the point of ruining the game? Moloch chuckled again, and Lady Essendre gave Morris a small, self-berating smile. “I do so apologize,” she said sincerely.

Johnathon tried to come back with a retort of some kind, but all of a sudden, he started to smell rose petals, and his mind started to wander. Soon, he had completely forgotten what he had asked about in the first place. He hated it when he lost his train of thought like that. Oh, well… it’d come back to him, in time.

Taking Lady Essendre’s hand, Johnathon allowed himself to be taken into the adjoining room, where a comfortable fire and large, soft chairs were waiting. Johnathon’s hackles rose again, his unchecked paranoia sniffing out the situation. This was all very nice, but why would a total stranger be so kind to him? Especially in the condition he had been in. And then, all the hospitality… the elegant food, the soothing bath and welcoming atmosphere… Johnathon had the unnerving feeling that he was being lured into a false sense of security. No, that was ridiculous. He was being too edgy. But…
“Lady Essendre, that was excellent,” he said, running his hand along the back of a chair. It certainly did feel comfortable. “Shall we have a drink, to settle our meal?”

Lady Essendre smiled. “Of course. We have a lovely cordial…?” She motioned to a servant to go lift a cask from the cool storage. “And a well aged cognac, or liquor?” As she waited for the servants, she turned back to Morris. “You are probably wondering why I am being so hospitable? I assure you, this is no… ransom.” She chuckled, of course, at the ridiculous thought. Not for ransom. The Lady was quite wealthy, and had no need to turn to such methods. “I once knew on of the ladies of your venerable household, and she performed such a service for me, in my younger days.” She smiled. It was true, in a way. A young lady of such a household, perhaps even of the Morris household, had rescued Moloch from the streets. It had been a shameful incident- a few street toughs managed to come upon her –confidant, cocky, lazy, dead– and knocked her shell quite unconscious. A young lady of one of the semi-royalty or wealthy households had gotten to her in time before the body of her host was killed, or worse. “And now I return the favor.”

She leaned in closer, with a slight, secret smile, and placed one of her pale, cool hands on his own. It had been an honor many would have died for, to be touched by a Lady. It was an honor many had, in these Victorian days. “It is only the right thing to do, yes?”

A sharp, sudden tingle shot up Johnathon’s arm. He quelled the shiver that was running up his back, and gave Lady Essendre a winning, yet hollow smile. Surely, his mother would have told him, had she ever run into somebody from the wealthy and elegant Essendre household. Then again, maybe she didn’t think it was terribly important. Something about the lady’s story wasn’t clicking with Johnathon, but he couldn’t quite place it.

“Thank you,” he said to the servant as the cognac was carried in. Taking up two small glasses, Johnathon poured only a single mouthful into both, and carefully handed his to the Lady Essendre. Their hands brushed again, and another tingle went into Johnathon’s shoulder. Hopefully, the alcohol would clear his head, and let him think without all the fog.
“It would seem, then, that our households seem to have a fated relationship,” Johnathon said, smiling coyly as he raised his glass to her. “To our blossoming friendship… may it endure throughout the ages.”

Moloch mentally growled in frustration; the boy could tell she wasn’t what she appeared. Her shell was flawed. She tore control away from Essendre, filling in seamlessly and expansively. Without thought, she wove a small spell of compulsion upon herself not to reveal anything of her demonic past. No more slips of the tongue. Again, within her nulling shields, she wove another compulsion- but this time laid it on Morris. The drugs had begun to wear off from earlier. The spell would quietly push any questions about her origins and her story to the back of his mind.

She raised her glass in a return salute, taking the requisite sip before cradling it with her hands in her lap. “Indeed.” Moloch-as-Essendre’s coy smile returned, slightly shy this time. “What do you think of my home, my dear lord?”

Johnathon flinched, and nearly lost the grip on his glass. The smell of roses was almost overpowering this time, but after only a moment, it had passed, leaving only the faint traces of aged cognac and burning wood in the fireplace. What had he been talking about…? “It’s…ah…it’s lovely,” he replied, only half-paying attention to what he was saying. He hated it when he lost his train of thought. “Filled with stories and histories, I’m sure. My own Greystone has been painfully empty for years now, ever since my parents passed away.”

Reflexively, Johnathon’s hand went to the silver cross around his neck. He always wished his parents were still around whenever he mentioned them, and although his faith in God was a bit shaky after last night’s events, he never had cause to doubt. Again, he owed it to the previous evening. How blissfully ironic, he thought to himself. As his fingers slipped over the metal, however, something was amiss. Something was missing, so tiny and unnoticeable, that he might have missed it completely, had he dropped his guard a bit further.
“Ah… tell me, Lady Essendre… how long has this house been in your family?” Johnathon asked after a quiet moment.

She smiled kindly, as if reading his sorrow and doubt. She slipped her hands over his, pulling them oh-so-gently away from the pendant around his neck.
“It has been with the family so many years that I can no longer remember… Quite rich with history.” She sighed, self-deprecatingly, as if somewhat depressed at the slip of memory. Meanwhile, she strengthened her threads of coercion, slipping something new in… want, and need. For comfort, for a woman, for love and beauty. Moloch-as-Essendre’s expression was fairly open, as if her lady’s mask had slipped, revealing shy attraction and reserve. She blinked and started, and up went the mask once more.

Maybe it was the cognac finally getting to his head. Maybe it was the relaxing atmosphere, and the sweet smell of roses. Whatever the reason, Johnathon suddenly did not want to let go of Lady Essendre’s hand. Letting go would be like snuffing out all the world’s light; like plunging into a dark, endless pit of nothingness. She was everything, his entire world. He wanted to stay with her.

I…

“I can’t stay!” Johnathon shouted, tearing himself away from Lady Essendre. It felt as if he had just torn his own heart out from his chest and threw it into the fire. “Please, in the name of God, tempt me no more! Had I the opportunity, I would be at your side for all of eternity! But Autumn… Lady Riktophen… she… Lady Essendre, she is the target of a wicked cult who has summoned up the most horrifying demons imaginable. As a Morris, and a slayer of evil, I am bound by divine law and personal morals to protect her from them!”

Johnathon’s entire body felt cold and empty. His heart didn’t believe what his head was saying. Speaking against Lady Essendre was like meeting the angels all over again!
“Please… I am in your debt, but I must find Lady Riktophen again,” he continued. “You have no idea what kind of evil is after her!”

Moloch watched, a shocked expression on her delicate, paling face, as he violently tore himself away, and started raving about demons and angels and cultists. She listened gravely, hands now folded in her lap. “It sounds… You would leave the rest of us to suffer the same fate? Your Lady Riktophen is in all probability dead or taken to the depths of… Hell, by now,” she said softly, seriously. “If what you say is true, and not a fancy from hitting your head. Or even a dream,” she added.
Now. While he is at his weakest… I will not have this chance twice! Moloch’s threads of Compulsion twisted and expanded, no longer strings but ropes. Desire. Want. Pain. Love.

Johnathon’s head suddenly felt like it was splitting open. A deep, intense cold flowed over his awareness, stabbing at his heart like a poisoned icicle. He wanted to stand up, but his legs refused to follow his orders. He wanted to run away, to find someplace to hide… anywhere that the terrific pain wouldn’t be able to find him! Anything… any…

Goodnight.

.”..Autumn… can wait,” Johnathon said though his teeth. “A few hours… a few days… she’ll be all right. I can stay here,” he mused to himself, righting himself in his chair and smiling at Lady Essendre, “with your permission, of course.”

Moloch smiled. “Of course.”
The Compulsion had indeed taken effect; it would take some time for it to straighten its coils around the occultist’s mind and run as an efficient, cohesive whole- until then, he might shift between one thread of the Compulsion and another.
So… The Lady’s husband has come back. And from the sounds of it, Lilith must be having fits by now.
She would have to wait until the Compulsion was in order to complete her Marking; it ought not take long, though.
“Milord,” she said. “Might we take a walk through the gardens?”

A strange, unreal panorama unfurled before Belial’s eyes: strange and untold, of unspeakable despair. This was of all places, a place to which he would have never returned, if he had the choice.
A bright red space in a foul resemblance of the Mortal World skies extended above, limitless. A crimson storm rolled about, blue and silver lightning cracking in the heavy clouds thick as blood. A light drizzle began to fall, but it was fire what it rained: acid and sparks. Angel led the gargoyle like a common horse through a tight path in the edge of a cliff where they had appeared. Sitting next to him, Aramis held his knees getting very quiet.

Angel watched him with a frown. The layer of darkness on Aramis’ nature was ripped in various points; now that they were in the outer lands of the Abyss, Light shone annoyingly bright through the various tiny cracks. Angel was grateful Azazel was knocked out.
//Get rid of those rips, brother.//

Aramis nodded slowly. He weaved the Dark together on him. It took him some time to complete the task. Meanwhile, Angel took a trail into a tight gorge in the mountain, which sheltered them from the rain. Azazel was bleeding profusely, but Belial had managed to suspend the bleeding for brief moments.
Angel finally found what they were looking for: a small node that’d allow them to open a portal to London. Angel traced the key spell.

Aramis already knew where they were going to, but he said anyway, “We ought to send her a message first.”

“I know.”

A terrible heat fell upon them all of a sudden. Aramis held his knees again. “Let us go now.”

“It doesn’t thrill me either to be here!” Angel opened the portal, “but at least… we don’t have to stay.” They crossed the portal.
Once out, Belial closed the portal from the Abyss. They were in a dark alley. Angel slid off the gargoyle’s back. He insisted he didn’t want Aramis near Azazel – no strange clues for this Beast! Aramis jumped off the gargoyle’s back. Then they fused into one once more.

Belial picked up Azazel from the gargoyle’s back. He spoke a word of infernal magicks removed his Seal: the gargoyle crumbled to dust. Belial sent a mental message to Moloch. //A small trifle for your Art, if you wish. Azazel is wounded. I’ll take him to you if you’d like.// He waited for a response. Of course Belial knew about Moloch’s heal toll.

//Very well. Who is prepared to accept the price?// Moloch replied mentally from her place in her mansion. //Bring him to me. I am sure you can trace where I live; mask yourself, please, for I am entertaining a guest right now, and I do not want him confused by our natures.// Moloch smiled to Morris as they strolled through the gardens.

//Azazel will pay his own expenses//, Belial replied. //We’re on our way. I’ll do as you request, ever so kind Moloch…//
Belial shook with evil, mocking laughter after replying. //Would I ever pay for him? Jamás en la vida lo haría, si puedo evitarlo! (1)//, he thought to himself with a smirk.

Now that he was again whole, the whip from Hell had loosened its tight grip around his wrist; Belial unwound it from his wrist with a frown. His hand had bled from a burn because of it when Aramis held the handle; he still had the wound in his side from Gabriel’s arrow, but these were minor things compared to other stabs he had endured. Plus Aramis’ nature had canalized a great deal of the Holy energies. Belial cast a chilling glance at unconscious Azazel. With subtle spells he put a temporary relief to his own wounds.
Belial proceeded to mask themselves. He took his human form and pulled Azazel’s human form onto him; once again looking like noblemen and with a exquisitely woven web of mask spells on them, even a demon would have trouble to tell their true nature, despite their rank and power. Belial held Azazel carefully and used a portal to transport themselves to Moloch’s gates, just out of her magic wards.

Belial walked through the first stages of the protection wards; Moloch was awaiting them.
“Inform Lady Essendre, lord Niemeyer and lord Riktophen are here”, he ordered the butler. Servants led them to a private reception chamber in the ground floor. Belial laid Azazel in a divan. The demon’s lips trembled, but he was still unconscious. “Our best Healer will take care… milord“, he murmured.

Moloch felt Belial’s entry into her small domain before he walked through the House wards; little did he know that most of this district of London was hers. They were of equal level, after all.
However, she awaited the messenger before going to ‘greet’ them, taking Morris with her slowly, arm in arm.

She released him and rushed over to the two ‘noblemen’, feigning surprise and agitation. “Oh Lord! How could this have come to pass?” She waved Lord Niemeyer off before he could reply. “Never mind! Take him into the Red Suite immediately!” She ordered, and two servants relieved Belial of his burden. The servants exchanged wide-eyed glances but obeyed without delay; these two were lower demons in her service, and obviously could feel some tingle of energy, but were unaware of what it was. She mentally lauded Belial on the deft hand of his spells.

She followed them swiftly, skirts and petticoats swishing around her feet, which clicked on the stone walk into the manor halls. Moloch-as-Essendre didn’t wait for the two men to catch up; she had, as any ranking woman would, assumed that they would follow her. “How did this occur? And I apologize, milord Morris. This does not usually occur… They favor bringing wounded to me rather than the surgeons, however, due to what they call ‘a lady’s healing touch’. Poor fools,” she finished with a whisper.

Belial or better, Silvanus Niemeyer let room for lady Essendre to see about the wounded as she waved him away; he had a polite bow to her and a nod to her companion, in greeting; it was not a moment for excessive talking. Belial’s ever vigilant eye recognized the man he had seen in Azazel’s wife’s room when he fought Azrael at the Inn; he however did not show any recognition. He had seen Moloch taking him away. Lord Niemeyer promptly followed Lady Essendre; in his face you could read the supreme confidence he had on the lady’s healing skills. This could be a mask on Belial’s part or the very truth.

“Lady Essendre is too kind and modest”, he gravely said. “The Lady’s hands can work marvels; she is one to whom we’d turn to above all the surgeons in the land.” A soft smile briefly slid on his lips when he pronounced the last phrase.

“It was an unfortunate incident, milady. Seems like a Londoner gang charged on our… friend; I believe they robbed him. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I affirm their intent was to take his life as well. Fortunately, I found them on time.” Lord Niemeyer’s beautiful silver eyes were half closed as if in concern and sorrow. “They must have taken him for a foreigner lost in the city.”

Moloch smiled and shook her head. “As foreign as you, my dear sir?” She chuckled, for the Spanish accent was plain on his tongue and his face. It was amazing how Belial chose his forms.
Finally, they reached the suite. The servant placed the prone man on the bed; the whole suite was decorated in rich shades of crimson varying in degrees of darkness. Another servant entered with dressings, soap, and warm water; a third stripped the lord down to his breeches.
“You may stay or leave.” Moloch then turned all of her concentration to her patient, to leave the boys to converse as they wished.

“Oh yes. Just like me, I guess”, Lord Niemeyer softly replied to Lady Essendre’s words. He had a charming yet kind of shy smile as he did, as if he were a little embarrassed at her remark yet pleased for bringing a smile upon her lips. He stayed out of the way of Moloch and her servants, who tended to Lord Riktophen.

Belial did want to stay and watch Moloch work due to a dark personal reason, therefore he stayed in the room. However, he turned to Morris out of politeness and introduced himself. He expected to get some information by doing this; he had checked while they followed the Lady to the suite and no, Morris did not bear Moloch’s Seal just yet. Belial carefully added subtle touches to his mask spell to provide an extra veil for Moloch’s doings. He did want to help this time. Belial also wondered if Morris would remember Lord Riktophen… and his particular way to socialize.

“Excuse me, if in this rush I have forgotten to introduce myself”, he told Morris. “I am Lord Silvanus Niemeyer. I see we share the joy of meeting Lady Essendre. I present my excuses for this untimely visit…”
He waited for Morris to reply, despite he had caught the name from Lady Essendre’s lips – and despite he had other means to get such information.

“My Lord is most gracious with his apologies,” Johnathon replied, bowing to Silvanus gracefully. “However, given the current situation of your companion, the abrupt dismissal of social graces is, I believe, acceptable.” Johnathon smiled honestly at Silvanus, showing he meant no slight by his words. Pausing for a moment, Johnathon glanced at the man lying on the bed. There was something oddly familiar about him, as if Johnathon had met him before. And very recently, too. But for some reason, his memory was fogged, and trying to remember anything outside of this afternoon’s meal was painfully difficult. It was probably just the cognac getting to him, he reasoned.

“I truly wish we could have met under less informal conditions, my Lord,” he continued, turning back to face Silvanus. “I haven’t–”

Wake up!

Johnathon blinked, and looked over Silvanus’ shoulder with a puzzled look on his face. Who was talking to him? Lady Essendre was busy with her charge, and Lord Niemeyer hadn’t flinched since he stopped speaking. “Ah… that is… my name is Johnathon Roger Morris, of Greystone Manor. It is an honest pleasure to be in the company of such elegant aristocracy. Perhaps my recent foul luck is turning around.” He was certain he heard somebody speaking.

Belial was delighted with Moloch’s art display upon this human. He watched Johnathon with interest – every gesture, every inflection of his voice; all spoke of the subtle web Moloch had laid on him, veiling his memories, fogging his mind. In Belial, a childlike curiosity that could come from Aramis and a scientific curiosity derived from Angel came together in his interest towards Morris. All this he kept beneath his masks; on the surface, he was just a charming, somewhat withdrawn nobleman thankful for the attentions dispensed to a friend in need.

Belial noticed Johnathon’s pause and slight surprise, as if he had expected another presence next to him. Quite strange, but it suggested a strong will inhabiting this man called Johnathon Morris. He could see the trace of an occultist on him; the man ought to know the Dark Arts… The Necromancer got even more curious. He decided to try and see if the man would speak about these.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, mister Johnathon Roger Morris of Greystone Manor.” He pronounced the whole name slowly, as if to compliment the man by fixing his name in his memory. “Even foul turns of luck might bring some good fortune encounters around the corner”, he said. His silver gaze turned to Lady Essendre and her patient for a brief instant.
“These days good will and safety are hard to find. Specially now. It might sound foolish, but it’s almost like if unleashed evil roamed about… Excuse me for such a comment”, he had a small, almost shy smile yet the smile was fascinating. “My people is said to be superstitious. Both German and Spaniard – I guess I cannot escape to believe in certain things.”

Johnathon chuckled under his breath, but it sounded forced, and mechanical. “I wouldn’t dismiss your beliefs so quickly, my Lord. These are, indeed, troubled times. Men turn to God in times of crisis, but many more find the personal attention of the Devil to be much more inviting.”
Pausing for a moment, Johnathon grasped at the silver cross that hung around his neck, and rubbed it thoughtfully. That same, unusual feeling of emptiness was back again. No, not emptiness… more like, a hollow sensation. He could feel the edge of something important, but nothing beyond it.

“Ah…please forgive me,” he continued, releasing his cross. “I’m afraid that the excitement of the past few days has been a bit much.” He only wished he could remember exactly what all the excitement was about! He had a feeling it was linked to his memory somehow, but thinking about it hurt, and only caused him to run around in circles.

When Johnathon mentioned God, Belial’s wound by Gabriel’s arrow pounded lightly but enough to be annoying. He strengthened the spell on it further. Inside Belial, Aramis had one of his hopeless sighs and Angel had a mocking smirk in typical opposite reactions. If I could tell you, my friend… that there is no such thing as someone you could call God, you’d be surprised. I must admit there’s something to this I’ve not fully understood myself; but that’s another question. The silver cross summoned holy energies that tingled on the demon’s skin. Belial watched Johnathon, reading his confusion between the lines.

“You are too kind”, he murmured, as not to disturb the Lady’s work. “Among my humble activities, I’ve conducted studies on the Egyptian death rituals; I have – to say it in a way – peered into the mysteries of the dead…” Belial had an inward snicker. “I have read about strange enigmas and rituals, but still the science claims there is a rational explanation to all this. I’ve strived to find those, but again”, he smiled apologetically, “there are things out there that have not been explained. I see you are a religious man… and I also see you believe in the Devil. Maybe such devil is only the passions within the Man.” Belial’s eyes shimmered slightly.

Johnathon held back the urge to laugh, but a bit of it slipped out, in the form of a sly grin. No such thing as the devil, was there? If that was the case, he thought to himself, he’d be out of a job!
“Most people would find it somewhat difficult to take your ideas to hear,” Johnathon replied, letting his grin slip a bit. “The idea that humans go through their entire lives alone and unprotected is a cold and bitter reasoning. Could you imagine what it would be like, growing up without the support of your parents? People need somebody, or something, to look up to, and to come to for understanding. Religion is a crutch that I don’t suppose we’ll ever get off of.”

Inside, Belial gloated at Johnathon’s reaction. He poured some more words. “Oh, I suppose you take religions as a whole”, Silvanus said as if he were surprised at Johnathon’s words. “On the risk of being misunderstood, may I insist. On my part, I do have my beliefs as you’ve said. However, science is up to cold reasoning that some might find bitter – but it’s a man’s vision of the world. On one hand I have my beliefs. On the other hand…” Silvanus’s eyes shimmered strangely again, “I have no proof of the Devil’s existence but very subjective traits. If there were a science or a discipline that would face these dark forces with a cold mind… Mister Morris, when I came back to London I’ve found myself with a sudden tide of médiums and people who claim they can talk to the dead – for money, of course. All that are nothing but impostures. Many of them use egyptian trifles to appear ‘exotic’ to their victims. Where’s the seriousness of all this?” Silvanus bit his lip slightly in disbelief.

“Could occultism or necromancy really be an exact or at least reliable science?” Inside Belial, Aramis lingered on Johnathon’s words. Alone, unprotected… isn’t that a way of life? The way of life I know, at least. Who would ever care?

I cannot trust anyone, Angel replied. Alone is enough; I myself can face my existence and continue to survive. I, alone.

Moloch sighed and delved with her mind into Azazel’s wounds. What have you gotten yourself into, boy…? For all that he was more powerful than she, Moloch was still his elder and as such more knowledgeable than he… And obviously more in control of herself, as well, though no one would imagine it with what the other Fallen deemed her ‘excesses’. Moloch’s physical hands tended to the visible damage; her mental hands dealt with the metaphysical. She first pushed his mind into a deeper state of sleep; oblivion, in fact, for what she would do would cause his body pain and she refused to lay the blocking spells.

She drew the holy energies out carefully, and noting Belial’s own pain, canalized them into something darker using Azazel’s shell’s pain and fed them into him. She was in no need of the energies; there was latent power in her territory that was accessible to her and her alone. She drew of this power now. Muscle knitted itself together beneath her fingers and blood clotted and slowed; she would not heal the flesh before the mortal’s eyes, indeed, it was difficult enough to shield her works simultaneously as it was; she would have to hope her Coercion set in quickly so she could end the charade; while she thought of it, she sent a fresh surge of strength to hasten it.

Finally, she had the holy energies removed from Azazel’s body and the worst of the injuries, including those internal, healed. While keeping a careful eye on Azazel’s mind, she set about exacting her Price. She laid a delicate web of Coercion on Azazel’s mind, one that even Lilith would have difficulties sensing. She would not make him unable to harm her; that was noticeable and could be worked around easily. However, she could make him disinclined to do so… Whenever he felt anger towards her, a memory of her uses would surface, and even future contingencies where her skills would be needed. The protection was all she needed; it would settle her price nicely. She finished without flourish; the threads settled into place, finer and stronger than spider’s silk.

Her hands bound dressing around his wounds quickly and skillfully, and she walked slowly, deliberately, and sat in a chair. That had taken more out of her than she wanted to admit; her reservoirs were still not full from the Awakening ceremony. She released the sleeping Azazel’s mind; he would probably be out for a day or so in recovery. She would make sure she could tend to him once more to complete the healing and make sure there was no other damage.

Still waiting for Johnathon’s reply, Belial noticed that the price Moloch had claimed for herself from Azazel had been of a different sort from what he had expected. Belial was disappointed; he’d have to wait for another time. Little had been in his opinion the pain Azazel had endured compared to what he had wished for him. Indeed, he had expected Moloch to torture him further… but she had had other plans. Belial’s shoulders relaxed slightly. After all, all in Life was subject to Trial and Error. Researcher and discoverer, master of his Art, he knew that well.

Belial bit his lip slightly. There was plenty of room for hatred in his tormented soul and he was strongly inclined to hate Azazel: let it be because of Azazel’s natural talent to be an object of hatred, or because of what he represented for Belial. Maybe it hadn’t been like this while Lucifer lived – but that was another story.

He took a light bow to Johnathon to excuse himself and turned to Lady Essendre in her chair. It had been difficult, even to Moloch… She had pulled energies out of his pain. Belial did not bat an eye at this last notice. “Milady, may I ask for the state of the patient?”, he softly asked, like a concerned friend would. “Once again, thanks for your ever so generous attention to us, Lady Essendre.”

Moloch didn’t bat an eye at using Belial’s pain; it wasn’t doing him any good, now was it. “He should be fine; he’ll sleep for at least a day or so, but it is a natural one, not brought on by shock.”
She sighed and leaned back into the chair, allowing her reservoirs to fill quickly. Sometimes exhaustion was pleasant, but she knew she had no time for such trivialities now.

Silvanus smiled as in relief.
“That’s excellent news, milady. May I beg your indulgence once more… I’ll have his family notified, but perhaps it’d be convenient if he stays under your care till he wakes up.” Silvanus took a polite bow at Lady Essendre.
Pain was seeping into his conscience, but it was not worse than it had been countless times. The soft smile never left his lips as he addressed Lady Essendre. Belial’s human form had slight, tiny sweat drops bordering his hairline, but he kept his movements fluid and courteous. He was not eager to take the risk of Moloch seeing that something within him that was Aramis’ nature.

Moloch nodded and smiled. “It will be no difficulty… The lord is not an imposing guest,” she replied, with a subtle hint of sarcasm. Noting the sweat at Belial’s brow, she frowned. Perhaps the wound was more serious than she had believed…
She covertly brushed his hand; the action was concealed by the fact that Belial stood beside her chair, with Morris on the other side. She gave him a brief jolt of healing energies; that would have to do for now.

Caught by surprise by the healing energies Moloch infused into him, Belial didn’t move but his lip trembled slightly. Her power touched his wound on his side and the burn in his hand, healing them to some extent. Belial did not know how to accept the relief in that second. A part of him resented the intrusion, but the other part of him was thankful. Both were however, wary. He always was; but this time an ever so faint blush touched his cheeks as Aramis achieved a momentaneous victory. “The Lady is gracious beyond words”, he gently said. “Once again I must say, the Lady’s hands can work marvels.” His sliver gaze fell on Azazel. Belial half closed his eyes as in concern, but within he felt like letting out the most utmost and sincere scowl.

Johnathon flinched when Lady Essendre touched Silvanus. There was that hollow feeling in the back of his mind again. Like there was something important he should be catching on to, but couldn’t, for some reason.
He shifted his gaze away from Silvanus, and looked over the sleeping lord that had been brought in. Johnathon got the same feeling from him that he did from the other two in the room. Only this time, it was a far greater emptiness. He was sure he had seen that man somewhere before, and quite recently, at that. Where was it…?

“Excuse me, milord,” Johnathon said, turning back to Silvanus, “but something about your companion over there seems strangely familiar. Does he live here, in London? Because I could swear that I’ve seen him before…”

Silvanus smiled almost apologetically.
“Oh, Mister Morris. My friend is not a Londoner nor British; he has just arrived from a long journey to distant lands. Perhaps he reminds you of someone else… He’s Hungarian.”

Hungarian? Why did that thought jog his memory again? He hadn’t met anybody from any farther east than France in years.

…was a Hungarian name…

Johnathon’s head was spinning as his memory fought to pierce the veil of fog in his brain. He had met somebody just the other day that was also from the same area! He remembered the unusual name, but the face still escaped him.
More and more flashes of memories were returning to him. A house. A woman, and her pets. Dead dogs.

Tell me your name…

“Uh? Name…my name is…” Johnathon whispered under his breath.

…before I kill you.

Images of blood and blades fluttered temptingly on the very edge of his awareness. He flinched as a sharp, sudden pain struck his hand. Looking down, he saw his fresh scar, throbbing painfully in his tightened fist. It had all happened in a room, much like this…and that man…that man was…

My will and resolve is great! And I will not stop until you have been banished!

Johnathon blinked. There had been a battle last night, between himself, and several powerful demons. One of them had Autumn. The other had taken him–the “Lady Essendre” no doubt. That would explain why he had awakened in bed, instead of on the Baroness’ hotel floor. And the man on the bed, the Hungarian native, could only have been one person.

“Baron Lorant Riktophen, I presume,” Johnathon announced triumphantly. “Husband to one Autumn Riktophen, if I’m not mistaken. It would seem that the news of his death was somewhat exaggerated.” He turned to Silvanus, and made no attempt to hide his wry grin. “There is no God I know if that is so forgiving with life. Only one presence could be so inclined as to stop the relentless march of death, but only for the price of a human soul. Am I correct, ‘Lord Silvanus’?”

Moloch scowled terribly and stood, wrath flashing in her eyes. She stalked to where Morris sat, and seizing his head in both hands, relentlessly impaled his mind with threads of Coercion for him to do her bidding. She would bind him to her will and Seal him if she had to re-write his puny mind to do it. At least he showed some promise; the threads of her former, weaker Coercion had been melted away… Though she was unsure as to whether it was him, or his relic. Very well… She smiled at Belial before turning back to Morris, whom she still held. Perhaps, if she gave the right price, Belial would desanctify the holy artifact.

She paid no heed to what he had seen or knew or remembered. He would obey her; he would desire to do so, and still beyond death. All of his resistance up ’til then would seem folly; he would remember and be ashamed, and wish to prove himself better. Moloch’s crimson eyes bored into Morris’s; she needed just an extra bit of power… She dragged a single nail across his cheek, drawing a thin line of blood. He filched. It was all she needed.

“You are MINE, Jonathon Morris. Of that, there can be no mistake.” She smiled at him, some how horribly compassionate. She understood his crossroads- should he take the way of power, with her, where he could conceivably one day gain enough power from her to break away? Or should he struggle and