I gazed into the forest of Avalon as it was lit under the full moon and starry sky. Life had taken an unexpected turn, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it all, but for a moment all that mattered was the beauty of my natural surroundings. I didn’t know what it was about the landscape, but the island was having an effect on me that I was grateful for. It was calming, and I was finding that my conviction for what I intended to do was strengthened by the energy of the island.
Lumial had left again. He had brought his ship to the island and had been ferrying the injured back to the royal family’s estate in Germany. His ship was smaller, and I had yet to see inside of it. Even though I had already spent most of the day lost inside my own mind, most of that time had been spent taking trips back and forth, with only an occasional rest in between trips. There were only a few of us left on the island now, and he would be back for us soon.
I stole a quick glance back at Keith, Alan, and Verina, who were still gathered around the fire in the middle of the stones. They were the only others left to be taken home, having volunteered to stay with me. I had insisted upon remaining until all of the demons were taken back. There was a crisis among their people, and the demons needed to figure out what they were going to do about it. Or not do about it, which seemed the likelier option.
As soon as I made it back to the estate, I had every intention of voicing my own opinion to the king, if he would hear me. Keith had already backed me up, which meant that we had a representative worth a great deal more than I was. Lumial had also voiced his support, which was somewhat surprising to me, but I was glad for it. Any support we had was going to make a difference.
When I once again turned my gaze to Avalon, I remembered what I had been told about the place. This was where Merlin, my ancestor, had made his last stand. The battle had been fought on a larger scale, and many more people had died, but I couldn’t help but feel like our battle had been a greater turning point. Michael, the leader of the enemy forces, had been defeated. Lucifel had gone to take control of the forces of heaven, and she was an ally of sorts. Wouldn’t that make things better?
There was no way it was that simple, and as I watched Lumial’s ship once again touch down on the edge of the island, I knew that I would soon learn how complicated things were. I took one last look at the tranquil forest and then turned back to my friends with a sigh. It was time to move forward, even though it was going to be difficult. I owed that to Marc.
As we made our way down to the ship, I noticed that Alan kept on stealing glances at me. I knew he was concerned for me, like all of them were, but he was the only one showing it directly. Keith and Verina seemed involved in some silent discussion that I couldn’t and didn’t want to interpret; otherwise I was sure that at least Keith would be giving me similar looks of worry.
When we arrived at the bottom of the hill, Lumial stepped out of the small craft from a door that opened in its side. The craft was at most a twentieth the size of Hell, but it certainly bore the same type of design as Lucifel’s flagship. It was definitely designed by an angel, and I wondered if the designer was the angel who stood before us. I made a mental note to ask him more about it when he had the time.
Lumial greeted us with a smile and said, “Welcome to Abel, gentlemen and lady. I am happy to provide you passage, if you’re willing to ride on a ship that has seen more action in the last day than it has seen in over two thousand years. I’ve had it cloaked behind the mansion almost the whole time. The demons usually don’t even realize it’s there, unless they run into it.”
Keith smiled widely at him and replied, “Of course we’ll take passage. If I know you, then you’ve kept this old thing up and running at peak condition the whole time, even if it hasn’t gone on a trip in awhile. So, you never told me that your ship was named Abel, what a quirky name, considering your mother’s computer was named Eve.”
“Not so quirky, actually. There isn’t a coincidence in that at all. Belial’s old fighter was named Cain, and Father’s ship was named Adam. The story had inspiration from somewhere, after all,” Lumial replied with a sad smile. We then climbed onto the ship and took seats, strapping ourselves in with seatbelts. It was evident that whatever technology Lucifel had on her flagship was not used by everyone. Of course, Lumial had been out of touch with his mother for some time, so there was no reason to expect anything different.
“Alright, everyone settled?” Lumial asked as he took his own seat and buckled up. When we all nodded he commanded the ship to take off and head toward the demon estate. An attractive and young male voice came on the intercom and agreed, and soon we felt the rumbling of the ship leaving the ground.
Lumial looked a little uncomfortable as he said, “I regret to inform you, but Lucifel sent another missive to the demons, and I once again acquired a copy. You need to see this, especially the three humans. It’s not pretty.”
We all nodded, though we didn’t know what to expect. I was hoping that at the very least I would get another verification that Marc was alive, but I decided not to get my hopes up. We would just have to see what happened.
The wall in front of us suddenly turned black, and I realized it had converted to a screen. As the video came across the screen, it was easy to see Lucifel sitting prominently in the center of the action. She was practically glowing with arrogance and pride. She was situated on top of what I could only consider a throne, with both Marc and Kai’Fallon bound at her side. Shatan stood directly behind the prisoners, his stance ready in case either prince made any sudden moves. Belial stood on her other side, standing straight and firm, but the look in his eyes said that he was uneasy.
Lucifel spoke, and the words rang with conviction, “I am announcing my place as leader of the angelic forces. Heaven is now united under my hand, as it should be. As for you, King Ikarus and the demon people, I remind you of the conditions of the situation. I have your sons’ captive, and I will kill them if you interfere with my plans.”
“As for what those plans are, I suggest that you pull your operatives from human society. I have no quarrel with demonkind, but I the humans have made it clear that they are unwilling to make room for us here. Perhaps it was due to the machinations of Michael, but humans are a flawed race and must be purged from existence.”
I gasped, and noticed that I was not the only one. Alan and Keith had done the same, and we shared a look of astonishment. We knew that she had little love for our race, but we had not expected such a brutal act from her.
Lucifel continued, her tone unwavering as she explained, “The humans will destroy themselves, and then we will have the planet available for our own purposes. We are willing to share this world with you and your people, King Ikarus, just as long as you understand who is in command. We are letting you live, but we could destroy you just as easily. Think long and hard about how you will react. The lives of your sons’ and your people are in your hands.”
The video ended and we again shared looks of astonishment. Keith was the first to speak, his voice shaking, “That bitch. I knew that she didn’t like us, but I thought she was more open-minded than this. We have to stop her, but how? Has the king said anything about how they will respond?”
Lumial shook his head and said helplessly, “After I healed his wounds as best as I could, he called a council, but they had only just begun deliberating when I left. As far as I know, no decision has been reached yet, but I do not anticipate it will be favorable to you.”
We didn’t speak much more on the subject as we continued our travel to the estate. We were all lost in our thoughts of Lucifel’s promise of destruction. Though Abel was still an incredibly fast ship, it seemed as if Hell had made the journey quicker. It may have been that our perception of time was different, being wrapped up in our worries as we were, but it seemed like an eternity before we landed.
When we had come to the hidden valley with Lucifel, we had landed the gigantic ship on the other side, but Lumial’s ship was small enough to land behind the mansion, in a small copse of trees that seemed perfectly situated to accommodate the craft. We left the ship as soon as it was safe, and as a group we headed straight into the building and toward the council room.
Arriving at the double doors, we could hear the sound of lively debate through the wood, but we could not make out any of the words. It was quickly decided that all of us would go in except for Verina, whose obvious heritage would most likely only turn the debate against her. With a nod of readiness to each other, Keith and I both opened one door and stepped into the room, Alan and Lumial on our heels.
“… Then we cannot afford to risk demon lives. We must pull out our troops and let Lucifel do as she wills,” The king finished as we entered the council room. It was not what we wanted to hear. My heart sank and I almost collapsed to the floor if Alan hadn’t immediately caught me. Keith, on the other hand, was completely livid.
“How can you turn your backs on us so easily?” The Druid shouted in anger as he stormed toward the king. He was practically quivering with rage, and he paused just long enough to get his volume under control before continuing, “We have been your allies for as long as humans have been able to fight back. We have never turned our backs on you, even when you were at your most desperate. We gave you homes, and let you take the genes of our dead to let you hide among us. I know that you cannot risk the lives of your children in a full frontal assault, but surely there is a way in which you can help us.”
The king looked almost as angry as Keith, but he kept himself composed as he replied, “You are out of line here, Druid. You may feel differently if you were in my position. How long have we watched as your race has given in to the angel’s influence? Most of your race has become addicted to the control that Michael has used against you. We would have won this war long ago if humankind were not so weak willed. Why is it my responsibility to save you anymore? Because you can’t save yourselves? That is hardly justification. Here is the only compromise I am willing to offer you. Amnesty. Bring all of your Druids and we will keep them safe here. You have been a friend to us, while your people have not. I am willing to save you and your kind; that is all.”
If anything, the king’s offer made Keith even angrier. “You would expect me to sit out the war while my people die? I have been off of the frontlines for far too long, and perhaps so have you. Have you forgotten what it means to watch your friends die around you? Were their sacrifices in vain?”
The king almost lost his composure, but somehow he held on to it as he replied, “Of course I remember my friends and family dying, that’s exactly why I can’t do this anymore. You think I am betraying you? I would be betraying my people if I let them continue to fight this war that is not their own. I have the profoundest respect for you, Keith Morgan, but I will not let my son die just to fight a war I’ll lose anyway.”
The fact that he had failed to pluralize “son” was like taking a hit to the stomach. The king had glanced toward me as he said the word, and I knew that he had deliberately excluded Marc from his lineage. For some reason, even the king’s refusal to aid mankind in the war did not make me as angry as that comment had.
“Don’t you mean sons, King Ikarus?” I asked, surprising myself at my courage. “You have two sons aboard that ship. Two sons held captive by your enemy. How do you know that when our kind has been slain, that she will even return them to you?”
Finally, the king’s composure shattered, though I was the one to receive his rage and not Keith. “I only have one son on that ship, son of Merlin, and it is thanks to you that I no longer have another one. Do you think you have a right to speak in my court? Do you think that your tiny trace of demon blood gives you the ability to understand the ways of demons? You are part of the race that never understood the sacrifices we have made. Whatever you did to make my son fall for you, I will never forgive you for it. Humans have no place in our bloodline. They make our blood weak, and destroy our traditions that have allowed us to survive. It does not matter that you would not even be able to reproduce, for you have already poisoned his mind. It is your fault that he is on that ship at all, and I hate you for it. You have no rights here, and I demand that you leave here at once, or your blood will drip from my claws as I tear you to pieces.”
I was shaken by his response. Never had I received a more venomous response than what the king had said to me. My eyes widened, and I took an involuntary step back, then another after another, until I was back at the door leading out of the room. Keith put himself between the king and me, and said with his own amount of venom, “We are done here, Ikarus. Once I considered you like a brother, but no longer. You have failed in your oath to protect the peoples of Earth, but I will not stand by and watch it happen. I go to do battle where you are afraid to. May you enjoy a long life in the path that you have chosen.”
Keith turned around and walked straight toward me. I was still too shaken to open the door, but Alan quickly got it for me and pulled me through. Keith and Lumial were right behind us. Verina gave us all a once over as we stepped outside and said, “I take it that didn’t go well?”
Lumial spoke before the rest of us could answer and said with a mirthless smile, “No, it didn’t, but I have a plan. I know how we can infiltrate Heaven, and if we’re lucky, we might even be able to win.”
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