When Andre reached the bottom of the cave entrance he found the others had built a ladder of stone in which to climb easily through the opening. “Toss me the sword!” he shouted for Jora before catching it one handed as he started to climb. “Go, go!” Evil was at his back, and he made sure they were running before pulling the sword from its scabbard, twisting and slicing at Abaddon’s vicious face with the full force of the blade.
Evil blocked the blow, roaring with rage as the sword sunk deep into his forearm. Andre kept a tight hold on the handle and ripped it free before scrambling over the ledge of rock and pushing himself into the open.
Cold air filled his lungs, and he stumbled slightly in the thick snow under the blinding light of the sun. “Run!” he yelled at the others who stood stricken dumb with fear in the presence of Abaddon’s fury. They could not see what the prophet saw but did not hesitate to follow his command. The ground beneath their feet rumbled before the side of the mountain exploded in a spray of rock and stone shrapnel. Jora was knocked to the ground by the blast, and Andre fell upon her, shielding her from the falling shards.
“Declan!” Svana screamed somewhere in the choking dust, and Jora looked up in fear.
Andre turned over on the ground to see the shadow of Evil stretch his wings and lift into the air. Abaddon’s yell echoed off the side of the mountain, and the Agabus pushed himself to his feet in haste. Ten feet away, Declan lay flat upon the stone floor with his leg crushed beneath a shard of broken boulder, crying out in pain as Svana scrambled to his side.
“Go, Jora!” Andre grabbed her arm and yanked her to her feet. “Keep running!” Dragging her up the side of the mountain, he pushed her ahead of him on the path to the altar as Abaddon spread his terror and flew with great speed before them.
Havoc locked Kefira in a stiff-armed trap against the Alleluia House roof, preventing her from taking a swipe with her sword. He breathed in her pure scent and let it burn deep within his chest, reveling in the self-inflicted pain and drawing strength from it. He felt without seeing the Messenger approach from behind, and he kicked out with his heel, landing a sharp blow to the Panoplia’s chest and sending him flying off the side of the roof.
Malachi stopped abruptly mid-air and prepared to swoop in for another attack when the Daimons and Panoplia heard the sound of Evil raise his voice. Every head of the dark spirits turned at once, drawn to the power and fury of their master. Those with undamaged wings rose into the air and fled the village; the crawling beasts on the ground ran with great speed to the mountain. Havoc shoved Kefira from him with a howl and leapt from the rooftop, breaking free from the Heavenly Army and answering the inbred call of command.
“Stay on them, Guardians!” Malachi raised his sword and led the charge as Panoplia rose above the rooftops and gave chase at full speed to the uppermost peak of the mountain.
A shiver rippled through the hearts of the people gathering in the market. Komer Costa stood outside the Alleluia House with his eyes on Bethel and his heart pounding a deafening rhythm in his ears. The Koinonians muttered in confusion, unsure of why they had been summoned by the alarm bells, or of the odd sense of weight lifting from Metoche they could not explain. “Listen.” Costa’s voice almost sounded gleeful to those standing close by. “Can you feel it?”
“Lavi!” Andre looked up as the Warrior flew overhead with his eyes on the ground in search of the prophet. Dropping low to the ground, Lavi maneuvered between the sparse tree cover, swooped in, and reached for Andre’s hand. “Chesed, stay with Jora!” the Agabus commanded as the she appeared beside Lavi.
Chesed nodded and landed on the path below the altar rock shelf where the battle commenced under Abaddon’s direction.
“Stay down,” Andre told Jora where she stood stunned against the jagged cliff wall as the prophet was suddenly lifted into the air by the unseen hand of the Panoplia. “Keep out of sight!”
Lavi pulled him swiftly over the ledge and dropped him on the stone floor. The prophet adjusted his grip on his sword and scanned the groups of fighting spirits spread out on the mountain top as he searched for Abaddon.
Lavi landed beside Andre. “You’re not going to get near him, kid. He’s put his whole army between you and him.”
“Then move them,” he responded bluntly. Andre caught Lavi’s grin out of the corner of his eye before the Warrior pushed off from the ground to carry out the prophet’s request. Brandishing his spear, Lavi charged at a Daimon in flight, sticking him straight threw and launching him off the mountain into the sea.
Andre looked up at the very peak of Bethel where Abaddon had climbed and cast his intimidating shadow over the battlegrounds. His brilliance could not be compared beside the splendor of the Messenger. His gaze held the heat of the deepest fires of hell, and his leer was a thousand daggers poised to inflict fatal wounds to the soul. The source of all Evil was great and terrible to look upon.
Sweat poured from Andre’s brow, the sword felt like a dead weight in his hand, and his breath clung to his constricted throat. “Theos,” he pushed the plea through with no more words to speak.
The very utterance drew the gaze of Hatred, and Abaddon found the Agabus standing with his measly toy sword. Sneering from on high, he ordered the attention of his pet with a gesture from his open hand. With his heat of his gaze never leaving the prophet, Abaddon growled a final command, “End him.”
Havoc snarled and snapped his jaws, slithering down the side of the peak and across the rock shelf with the speed of a serpent in the desert sand. He rose up like a menacing wave and bore down upon Andre who fell back with his sword between him and his aggressor. At a shout from the Messenger, Lavi and Shamira dove in and used their bodies as shields, holding the Daimon off with backs turned to the beast’s onslaught. Driving their feet into the ground, they pushed off and forced Havoc back into the stone wall behind them.
Abaddon commanded his forces to overtake the two guardians, and Lavi and Shamira were overcome with dozens of crawling, slashing Daimons.
Havoc picked himself up and gave the Panoplia no time to interfere a second time. Charging in, he made a swipe at Andre, knocking him flat on his stomach with his sword beneath him. The Daimon picked the prophet up by the throat, squeezing with a relentless grip and raising him to equal height with a ghastly leer full of oozing, sickly green fangs.
Andre choked for air and struggled to break free from his hold. Fresh memories swam before his vision of Abaddon crushing his windpipe within the underground cave and flashes of light burned behind his eyes mixed with snapshots of a stunning glimpse of heaven through a window to Theos bathed in brilliant warmth and unshakable power.
Havoc sabotaged his vision of hope and filled Andre’s mind with hellish landscapes. He witnessed his body crushed beneath the weight of the servant of darkness as if he were a spectator to his own ending. The scene quickly changed under Havoc’s control. Andre no longer saw himself, but his father lying subdued under Evil’s influence. Heavy chains bound Aleixo’s wrists as he stood before a sea of faces all wearing similar chains unawares. An unseen force pulled at the chains and brought the entire congregation to their knees as Aleixo’s were wrenched into the air in a gesture of praise.
Before Andre had time to absorb the full meaning of the vision, it was replaced with a blinding flash of light, and the prophet fought to scream through a constricted throat. He forced his heavy eyelids to open, holding out for air, and using the last of his strength to raise his sword. Attacking blindly, he forced the long end of the blade against the Daimon’s skull, slicing down the side of Havoc’s face and ripping it open.
A terrifying wail rent the air, not from the Daimon, but from his master, reacting in rage beyond which he had yet shown. An avalanche of boulder and stone cascaded down the mountain as vibrations ripped straight through its core, deep to its roots beneath the sea.