“Mother, what a surprise. I thought you would be in your lab,” Belial began uneasily. Lucifel simply raised her hand and his mouth stopped moving. It was clear to me that she would have none of his excuses. I was terrified. I had seen her angry before, and it had almost led to my father’s death. The way she radiated her rage now I was certain my death would be long and torturous.
“Get inside. Now,” she said in response before she headed down the ladder. Belial motioned for us to go ahead of him and we rushed to comply. He was quick on our heels, and I didn’t need to be able to read his thoughts to sense the urgency in his stride. There was nothing he wanted less than to go inside at that moment, except the consequences of not following his mother’s order.
We climbed down without wasting any time, and found Lucifel standing out in the corridor staring at us expectantly. Only the fact that there were others behind me gave me the courage to step into the corridor with her and face her withering gaze. I was barely observant enough to notice that her gaze softened a slight amount when her eyes rested on Alan, but it was gone in a second and back to full effect when she shifted her look to Belial.
“You can explain yourself later, son. Right now we have bigger things to worry about. We will reconvene in the conference hall,” Lucifel stated simply, and then walked down the corridor opposite of the lift. I moved to follow, but Belial put a hand on my shoulder to restrain me.
I looked at him in explanation and he responded with a sigh as he explained, “I’d rather give her the space before following her. We’ll let her get there first so that she can get situated. That way when we come in she can already have the room under control, and she likes her control.”
Alan and I both nodded and waited a moment before following Belial as he took a step down the corridor. Before he went too far he turned to Mephistel and said, “Don’t worry. I don’t hold it against you that you didn’t stop her. I’m sure she already knew that we were up there. She always knows.”
The guard nodded and his relief was noticeable. He raised his hand to his chest in salute again and replied, “Thank you, commander. I wish I could have told you somehow so that you could prepare, but she came without warning. Good luck. I hope that you won’t be punished too severely for this.”
Belial flashed him a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, and then turned back to the corridor without replying. For not the first time, I wished that he didn’t have the implant in his head that kept me from reading his thoughts. I would have given anything to know what he was thinking about at that moment. It would have given me more insight on Lucifel, and that was something I desperately needed.
We continued along the corridor at a brisk pace for a few minutes before we came to another door with guards standing at either side. This time though, Keith was also standing next to the doorway looking anxious. One of the guards sneered openly at Belial as they neared, and Belial returned the sneer with twice as much venom in his eyes. No words were spoken between them, but what their glares were more than enough to tell me that there was nothing but hate between them. I tried to read the guard’s emotions and was faced with the same wall I had experienced with the others. I was starting to get sick of that wall.
Belial walked through the doorway after taking a deep breath, but I looked to Keith instead, reaching out with my mind in an effort to determine the source of his anxiety. What I found was just concern for mine and Alan’s safety, and relief that we had shown up. I was about to release the telepathy when I felt him send a message across the link.
“Where have you three been? You were gone when I got up this morning and I’ve been looking everywhere I dared for you!”
I was surprised, and I was sure he felt the emotion through the link. I replied with confusion, “We were gone when you got up? I knocked on your door and you didn’t answer, so I thought you had left already. We even spent an hour at breakfast. You and Marc both left early this morning.”
There was suddenly a wall put up around a section of his thoughts, and I knew that he was keeping some sort of secret from me. I was heartbroken by the realization, and I dropped the link immediately. I looked at Keith with disgust and rage, and then turned toward the doorway to walk through. Before I could I felt Keith push me back against the wall with his face inches from mine as he explained in a whisper, “I felt that. Those doubts right as you ended the link. Yes, Damien, I am keeping a secret from you, but trust me it’s not a conspiracy. I’ll tell you when I’m ready, but I don’t even understand what’s going on yet. As for Marc, no, I don’t know what the hell is wrong with him. I was going to ask you the same thing when we got a chance. He’s in there sitting next to Shatan, chatting it up about their training. If you really want to know, confront him, but I suggest we see what this is all about first. I’m going to let go now, and we’ll talk afterword okay?”
I kept my glare as long as I could, but I realized a moment later that he was sincere, and I dropped by eyes from his. I was too tired to maintain that level of rage, but I was definitely still hurt. I was a mess of emotions I couldn’t explain or control, and I was on the verge of breaking down. In a moment of quick reflection, I realized that Keith hadn’t given me much reason to doubt him, and that I was being unfair by treating him with the level of distrust I was feeling. I had been acting out on him because of my doubts concerning Marc, and I needed to learn to separate the two.
With my confirming nod, he released me, and then turned to walk through the doorway. He stepped into the room and with a deep breath I followed after him, with Alan right on my heels. Almost the instant I stepped into the large room a siren started wailing on the side of the wall and the computerized voice of Eve started shouting, “Intruder Alert, Intruder Alert. There is a human in the council room. I repeat; there is a human in the council room. Security personnel please report to the council room immediately.”
“Eve!” Lucifel shouted from her seat at the head of a very large table, “I told you to disable that function today. We are trying to have a meeting here.”
The siren ceased almost immediately, and the room fell completely silent. The silence was broken a moment later by a very apologetic Eve, who gave the most polite string of apologies that I had ever heard, before finally excusing herself until she would be needed further. If I hadn’t been as unnerved as I still was because of Lucifel, I might have even laughed at the computer’s exchange with the devil. Seeing that her ire was still every bit present squashed any idea of that almost immediately.
Instead, I simply moved to the table and took a seat. I didn’t even realize that I had subconsciously avoided the seat that was still open next to Marc, and was quickly filled by Alan. At least, I didn’t notice it until Marc gave me a hard look that I couldn’t read at all. I returned his look with an almost mirrored copy. I wasn’t in the mood to play mind games with him; I was simply tired of how he was acting.
Lucifel cleared her throat and we turned as one to regard her. She was sitting straight in her chair and made sure she had our full attention before she began speaking. When she did speak, it was with an air of authority that told us any interruptions would have dire consequences.
“You have been called here because it is time to move forward. I had hoped that we would have more time to prepare, but unfortunately Michael is forcing our hand, but at the same time he has offered us a way out. It’s probably a trap, but that’s exactly what we are here to discuss.”
“Michael has sent messages to both Hell and the demon royal family. He has been very clear that he is tired of the subterfuge, and will bring the entire world to nuclear war if we do not come out and reveal ourselves. Before you start thinking too highly of yourself, son of Merlin, I doubt that he fears your ancestor’s prophecy, though he has asked that you be among those who reveal themselves. I think that you are simply the last straw in a string of events that has been coming for a long time.”
Despite the glare he got for it, Belial interjected his own thoughts on the matter. “With all due respect, mother, I think the reason he wants Damien is entirely different. Michael has always played the political game very well. I think he wants to kill Damien in front of everyone in order to remove all hope of him being our savior. He wants to break our moral.”
When he finished, Lucifel was nodding, and I could see the relief settle on Belial’s posture. He had taken a gamble by interrupting but it had paid off. She responded after a slight pause, “Yes, you may very well be right; all the more reason to consider that this might be a trap. It doesn’t matter though. Even if it is a trap, both Dae’Marca’s family and I agree that we should meet Michael on the battlefield. We will have our own tricks up our sleeves, and I think we can use his arrogance against him.”
“I would agree,” Keith spoke up in reply, “As the only representative of the druids present, I think this is the only plan with any merit that has been presented in a long time. When do we leave?”
“We will leave at nightfall. We will be taking the ship, which means that cover of darkness will make it a great deal less conspicuous to the locals. They’ll have a missing hill in the morning, but we have a cover story prepared. We will head straight for the royal family’s estate in Europe, where we will discuss this matter with Dae’Marca’s father and brothers,” Lucifel replied, confident in her plan.
“For once, I agree with a plan my family endorses, and ironically devised by angels,” Marc added to the conversation. He received a wry smile from Keith, a grin from Alan, and I gave him a blank stare. He frowned at me before he turned back to Lucifel and said, “I’m good to leave tonight. I’ve been ready for this fight for a long time.”
“I’m in!” piped up Alan from his seat beside me. I once again took note of the effect his youthful exuberance had on Lucifel, as well as Belial. For a brief moment Lucifel even lost the hardness in her eyes.
That hardness came back completely when I protested, “Don’t I get a say in this?” Everyone turned to look at me. Some of the stares were shocked, like Alan’s, Marc’s and Belial’s. Shatan and Keith both looked at me with considering eyes. Lucifel was unreadable. I could get nothing from her at all other than the hardness. When I continued my protest though, her eyes began to burn with such intensity I thought they would melt through her skull. “I don’t know if I like this plan entirely. The way it’s been described, you want to use me as bait. Can’t I have some time to think this over?”
“How much time do you need?” Lucifel replied coldly. I surprised myself when I was able to meet her stare with the same intensity. I wasn’t about to back down from this. The way I saw it, I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t do what she wanted. She continued when I didn’t immediately answer. “Michael has given us twenty-four hours to respond as of half an hour ago. How much of that precious time do you want to use up making selfish decisions? How much time do you want to waste, human? This is much bigger than you.”
I turned to look at the faces around the room. Alan looked unsure. Keith smiled at me supportively, while Belial nodded the same. Shatan was unreadable, and Lucifel was livid, though she had it under control. But then there was Marc. Marc was more conflicted than I had ever seen him, and I reached out with my telekinesis and tried to skim his thoughts, but they were fluctuating so quickly I couldn’t tie any of them down fast enough to read them. Flashes of the night we arrived on the ship and had spoken seriously about our needs fought valiantly with his feelings of duty and responsibility to his people. I didn’t know what to think about it all, but I knew that I had to get to the bottom of what was going on before I made any decisions.
“We’re leaving at nightfall?” I asked, and received a curt nod from Lucifel in response. “Then you will have my answer by midday, though I can’t guarantee it will be a yes.”
Even as the words left my tongue I was standing and walking toward the door. I didn’t wait for a reply. It wasn’t necessary. I had to make the decision on my own, whether they liked it or not.
Belial was the only one to initially follow me. It was his duty to guard me, so it came as no surprise when he fell in step beside me, though what did surprise me was the amount of support I could see in his eyes when he turned to look in my direction. I almost thanked him, but my mind was too cluttered to say anything coherently, so I kept my mouth shut instead.
We made it to the lift and still no one else had come after us. I didn’t say anything and Belial took control and sent the lift to where we needed to be. It wasn’t long before I was back in our quarters, and Belial was once again guarding the door. I had considered asking him to join me, so that I would have at least one person to confide in, but I didn’t want to put him in any worse position than I he already was with his mother.
And so I waited. Alan and Keith arrived first; both of them looked at me with concern. Keith moved to touch my mind and begin dialogue telepathically, but I pushed him away and said defiantly, “No, I’m not going to keep this conversation from Alan. We will talk about this openly. Alan was there for me today, which is something that my other friends were not.”
Keith nodded, and sat down on the arm chair, while Alan took a seat next to me. “What exactly would you like to talk about then?” The Druid began, and then with a shrug of helplessness he added, “I don’t exactly know what you want from me. I thought we were coming here to end the war so that you could get back to your normal life. I’m not saying that you’re not justified in being afraid, but I can’t help but wonder why you wouldn’t want to push for this.”
“Before we get around to that, can I ask a question of you?” I replied anxiously. Keith nodded, and so I asked, “Where the hell is Marc? Why didn’t he come back with you?”
Alan and Keith shared a look that already told me everything I needed to know, but Keith answered me anyway. “Shatan told him that it would be a good idea to train before they left. He said that it could be the last time that they would be able to before we meet Michael in battle. They went straight to the dojo.”
My eyes started to water; tears of pure rage pushing to the surface. I didn’t let them fall though, instead I held them back as I whispered, “bastard… I hope he’s happy with his new life. Screw him.”
Alan laid a hand softly on my shoulder, but I didn’t acknowledge it, I just stared at the wall and tried to control my emotions. I had to use every ounce of psychic training I had to get myself under control enough to keep on with the conversation. It still took me a few moments, but I was ready to go on with the discussion. “So, enough about the demon prince; why wouldn’t I want to do this, you ask? I still fail to see how any of this directly affects me. I’ve been dragged into this since day one. I’ve been ripped away from everything I’ve known, and all because I have some bloodline in me that my ancestor said was going to give me the ability to end a war I learned about within the last year. Why should I even care? Michael has supposedly asked for me to be there… well I don’t see why you couldn’t go without me and tell him I’m coming, and then put your plan into action.”
“If it were that simple, Damien, I think we might do just that. You are forgetting one thing though,” Keith replied, and then with a level tone he explained, “That ancestor of yours was almost always right when it came to predicting the future. Many thought that he had developed a new psychic ability, the ability to know what was coming. That assumption may or may not have been right, but it was believed by a lot of people. Why do you need to come? It’s not because Michael believes that you are a threat, but it’s because the demons and Druids will look to you as a symbol. They will see you as a beacon of hope after a long, dark night.”
He may have been able to keep his emotions in check, but I wasn’t able to any longer. As I replied, the tears began to flow, a mixture of anger and helplessness. “But why does it have to be me? I didn’t choose any of this! Dammit Keith, I’ve been trying to be mature about this whole thing, but I’m starting to get sick of it. I want to be a teenager for once, is that too much to ask? Maybe it’s easy for you, being older, but I’m only sixteen, and you want me to walk straight into a trap where Michael has pretty much guaranteed my death. Does it sound reasonable to you that I need some time to think about this?”
The look he gave me was pure empathy, and I stopped crying, because I knew that at least one person was listening to me. Alan’s arm around my shoulder a second later told me that there were two. Neither of them spoke, and instead took the time to digest the information and feed me silent support.
It was a few minutes later that we heard a phone ringing, and I recognized my ringtone. There was only one person who would be calling me that wasn’t already on the ship; my father. I jumped up and ran to my room, where I found my phone buzzing on the end table. I quickly flipped it open and forgot my troubles for a moment. I vaguely heard Keith’s voice in the background from the other room, and what I thought was Marc’s voice, but I was more concerned with the phone call.
“Hello?” I said with a calm that surprised me. I didn’t think I could bury my emotions so quickly, but I was proud of the way my voice sounded.
“Hey, Damien,” my dad’s voice said on the other end. There was an obvious restraint in his tone, and I knew that there was something going on. I was about to question when he went on, “How are you doing today? You didn’t call me this morning, I was worried about you.”
His question made me forget my suspicions that something was up, and I replied, “Sorry, I was having a rough morning. It just slipped my mind. I’m… okay, just trying to decide a few things.”
I barely registered the sound of the door to my room sliding open again and someone stepping in. I looked over my shoulder and saw Marc, but I ignored him as I turned my attention back to the phone call. There was no indication other than the hesitant sound in my father’s voice, but I could tell that something was dreadfully wrong.
“Listen, son. I don’t really know how to say this, so I’ll come right to the point. I love you, more than anything. Your mother would be very proud of the person you’ve become, and I am too. I really wish things would have worked out differently.”
“What are you talking about dad?” I asked with worry heavy in my voice. I did not like where this was going. Marc wrapped me in a hug from behind, but I shrugged him off. It was a distraction, and with how I felt about him, it was one I neither needed nor wanted.
“There’s someone here, Damien. His name is Gabriel.”
“Gabriel?” I replied, not quite sure what he was getting at. Marc appeared in front of me almost instantly, worry etched into his face. He made me look up and meet his eyes.
He explained quickly, “Gabriel is the angel who almost killed you in the alleyway. He’s the one I ripped apart. He’s third in command of the forces of Heaven. If he’s with your father…“
Marc might have continued, but I was no longer listening. My father had begun speaking again, “Son, he wants me to tell you that if you don’t give yourself up to Michael then he’s going to hurt me. Listen son, I want you to get as far away as possible. Don’t let them get you, no matter what! You hear me, don’t let them…“
The click informed me that the phone call had ended, but that didn’t stop me from shouting into the phone, trying to get my father to hear me when he obviously couldn’t. For the second time that day I was crying, though this time it was hysterically. I felt Marc’s strong arms around me as he pulled the phone from my hand and set it down on the table where I had got it from. He then made me sit on the bed and held me until I stopped crying.
I probably should have been grateful to him, but as soon as I calmed down, I threw his arms off of me and stood up angrily, glaring at him as if it everything that had happened was all his fault. He looked confused, and hurt, but I couldn’t process any of it. My emotions were completely out of control, and I was no longer sure what was real.
All I knew then was that I couldn’t deal with him.
“Don’t touch me,” I said angrily. I could see the hurt in his eyes then, but I didn’t care. I was the angriest I had ever been in my entire life, and my fury was keeping me from caring about anyone other than myself.
“Damien,” he began, but I cut him off with a raised hand. I wasn’t about to let him explain himself. He had already had plenty of opportunities to help me understand what he was going through, and he had shut me out every time. Now it was time for me to return the slight.
“No. You know what, Marc? I’m sick of this. You dragged me into this five months ago, and for what? You, following some ancient legend? Whatever the hell that means. Where have you been these last couple weeks? You went on forever about how much you didn’t like angels, and now you’re consorting with the right hand of one? What gives you the right to think that you can comfort me now, when you’re working with the enemy? Now my father has been brought into this too, and he’s probably going to die, and I can’t do anything about it unless I also risk my life.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what, Dae’Marca, I’ll help you fight your fucking war. But I’m not doing it for you, or for your fucking legend. I’m doing it so that when it’s over I can go back to my father and never have to think about angels and demons again. Now go tell your buddy Shatan that I’m ready. We can leave whenever they want.” As I finished, I turned to leave. Marc called out my name one more time and rose to come after me.
I flashed out with my telekinesis and flung him back onto the bed, holding him in place as he stared back at me helplessly. His eyes were wild and desperate, but again, I simply didn’t care. I was done with him. He had brought me nothing but problems.
I waited until he stopped struggling against my mental hold, and then I turned back to the door. A few seconds later I was out the door and out of the relationship, and walking toward a fate that I knew nothing about.
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