Lost Angel of Par Amor - The Tree of Knowledge

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Chapter 7 - The Demon Horde

Gabriel watched the enormous, floating cloud with intent and disbelief. On it, a translucent but clear picture of a massive, demon horde bearing down on Par Amor was shown. Standing next to Gabriel within the perfectly white walls of the control room was his closest friend and confidant, Noel the First, like the Announcer, he was cautious and deliberate but also very, very wise. Noel stood there fit and tanned, with the only visages giving away his age were his grey hair and bushy, white eyebrows. Tapping at flat-screen buttons, Noel quickly changed the view on the stationary but roiling cloud to show all angles of Par Amor.

“Do you see that?” Noel asked.

“They’re coming from everywhere,” replied Gabriel. “It’s as though all of Hell has emptied out. But why? And why now?”

“Who knows what that insane demon is thinking?” said Noel. He tapped more buttons making the view scan the inner walls, “Where are Mike’s guardians? If they don’t show up soon we’ll have to send our own folks.” He then sighed, “It’s too bad we can’t put a null-cell over all of Par Amor. Why the Almighty forbade it I’ll never understand.”

“Don’t worry First, they’ll be there,” said Gabriel. “The question is: Will there be enough of them?” Gabriel shook his head and wistfully added, “So many fallen angels. Where did we go wrong?”

The Announcer’s thoughts immediately turned to his daughter, his one and only precious child. Why on the cusp of her mission would these cursed creatures attack the holy foyer? Was there a connection or was it simply the worst of coincidences? Knowing the Almighty, Gabriel did not believe in coincidence or chance, but what would the Almighty be planning with all this? Inwardly questioning his Lord, he always reminded himself that His ways are not the ways of man and even angels.

Gabriel had paced while musing and did not realize he had moved to a far corner of the square room. Turning around self-consciously he looked backed at Noel, who returned a straight-faced stare.

“Worried are we? You can stop pacing; your daughter and future son-in-law are in the building and on their way.”

One heartbeat later, Lily and Harke breathlessly entered the Room of Assignments; the strained look of worry was obvious on their faces. Lily jogged to her father while Harke approached Noel at the control desk.

“Are you aware of what’s going on, Heralder?” asked Noel. The First was short on pleasantries.

Harke bit his lip at ‘Heralder,’ then said, “All we know is what we saw, guardians inside manual-shuttles racing to Par Amor’s walls. Why? I imagine you’ll tell me.”

“There is a demon horde about to breach the walls of Par Amor,” said Noel calmly. “Look at the projected scene.” He pointed to the cloud-borne image.

Harke watched the pictures flashing across the billowing cloud, what he saw frightened him. All around the three immense walls of Par Amor thousands upon thousands of fallen angels – demons – in all twisted shapes and sizes were just reaching the outer parapet. The demons appeared crazed, more so than normal, and a fear for Lily and himself began to grip him. Noel had asked him a question, but he was transfixed by creatures he had never before seen or ever knew existed. Many were scaling the walls; very soon demons would be running amok on the streets of Par Amor.

“Heralder, Heralder!” barked Noel. “Did you hear me? I have an order for you. You have a task to run, outside.”


“Dad, are you okay?” Lily asked, watching her father carefully.

The combination of relief for seeing her and the sense of dread for her mission were two emotions tearing at him inside. Plan or no plan, this was no time for his daughter to leave, she needed to stay here and be kept safe.

“I will call for any spare guardians,” began Gabriel, “to see you to Heaven where it will be safe.”

“What?” Lily replied. It was not what she expected him to say.

“And I’m going to have a meeting with the Almighty,” continued Gabriel evenly, “about your mission. I will ask Him to select someone else. He’ll understand, you’re my only daughter—”

“That’s not your call. You have no right, He picked meand whether you like it or not I’m going.”

“I will not have you talk to me in this manner, little angel. Do you understand?”

“There’s the problem. You still think I’m sixteen. Here’s a message for you, I’m a grown angel. And what makes you think you can change His mind? Because you’re the high and mighty Gabriel, please. Look at me” – she pointed at her head angrily – “I was chosen for this, me, not anyone else, but me.” She turned on her heels and took off for the control desk.

Gabriel closed his eyes and sighed heavily. As much as he did not want to admit it, she was right. It was prideful of him to think he could change the Almighty’s mind, actually comical the more he thought about it. Wiping his mouth and chin with a stiff hand, he followed after Lily slowly, angry with himself for putting an even greater gulf between them.


Harke snapped back into the moment, Noel had just yelled at him. Trying to get a grip on himself Harke turned wide-eyed and appeared apologetic.

“I’m sorry Noel, the images they’re…fascinating. What’s that you said?”

“I have a task for you,” said Noel, after pursing his lips, “but it requires you to go outside.”

“Okay, what is it?”

“We need you to check on the cherubs and the entrance to Heaven. Ensure they’re aware of the situation, they have closed the Gates, and are defending both sides. Then return and report back.”

“Why not send a cloud-born message; it’ll be faster—and safer.”

“We are at war” – Noel pointed with his head to the roiling cloud – “no doubt the Deceiver and his minions are trying to intercept all transmissions. We’re going to do this like we did right before the Fall of Angels—”

“Old school,” interjected Harke, nodding his head. “We’ll use messengers to send—messages, I get it.” He smiled.

“What’s this about messages?” Lily asked. She showed up at the control desk with arms crossed and visibly irritated.

Harke reached for her and put a hand on her back, then said, “Everything okay, hon?”

“Yes. What’s this about messages?” Lily’s tone was very curt.

Now arriving at the control desk was Gabriel, looking like someone ready to explode from stress. His voice though sounded amazingly even as he answered Lily’s question.

“Noel’s sending Harke to make sure the cherubs at the Gates are aware of what’s happening and are preparing accordingly.” Gabriel glanced at Noel, who nodded in agreement.

“I’m going with you,” said Lily, staring at Harke.

“Oh no you’re not,” said Gabriel, standing properly with his hands clasped before him. “You have a mission from the Almighty, remember, you just said you were going no matter what. Therefore, you will need to prepare, not go off on some minor task beneath your status.”

Harke and Noel traded glances, suddenly feeling awkward amidst the stinging words exchanged from father to daughter.

“‘Beneath me’, huh?” said Lily sarcastically. “That’s what you think” – her face was turning red – “well, I’m not staying here. Harke and I will do the task together.” She glared at her fiancé, daring him otherwise.

Feeling as though caught in the middle of this family argument, Harke raised his hands and slowly said, “Lily, I think your dad is right, you should stay here, but I can tell your mind’s made up, so—” he shuffled his feet and addressed the Announcer “—Gabriel, she’ll be with me. Together we can get this done faster and be back before long.” Harke had used some facial expressions to get his point across.

Gabriel glanced toward Lily, who was looking at Harke, who was looking at him. He turned to Noel, who pretended to do something at the control desk.

“Don’t ask me, I’m not getting involved, it’s your call, boss.”

A few tense seconds passed as Gabriel mulled over Harke’s suggestion. Gabriel was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On the one hand, he did not want his baby angel going anywhere; he wanted Lily here, safe with him. Yet, she wasn’t his baby angel any longer; she was a grown angel – beautiful, smart, stubbornly independent, and engaged. Although he had never told him, Gabriel had the highest of regards for the Heralder. Not only was Harke becoming one of the better messengers, but he was personable, level-headed, and really best of all, truly in love with his precious daughter. What more could the father want? Well, he knew what he really wanted, but he also knew he really wasn’t going to get it. Lily was so angry (he was so angry) there was nothing to keep her here. Gabriel realized he had seen to that. The next best thing was to let her go, and let her go with Harke, who he hoped would protect her with his own life.

Taking a deep, ragged breath, letting it out in one long, tired sighed, Gabriel said, “Fine, take the auto-shuttle, we’ll have it waiting for you downstairs.” He motioned to Noel, already starting to tap commands, and added, “Please, stay together and hurry back.”

Harke nodded ever so slightly and said, “May we use a manual-shuttle, so we can get there faster?”

“No,” answered Noel, “they’re all taken by guardians. An auto-one is waiting for you I just programmed; it’ll get you there fast. Once you’ve talked to the cherubs you’ll be back in no time.” This last statement was for Gabriel’s benefit.

“Let’s go already,” said Lily, walking toward the room’s exit. Her clothes then began to morph into her white, work robes.

Harke mouthed at Gabriel, ‘Don’t worry,’ then quickly followed right behind as his clothes changed as well.

Bursting out the front doors of Messenger Headquarters the distant sound of cries and shrieks momentarily stopped them in their tracks.

Lily’s attitude changed like a light switch, she now sounded scared, “Harke, do you hear that? Are those sounds of angels suffering?”

“Hon, it could be the demons making those noises,” said Harke, as convincingly as possible. He softly grabbed her arm and without another word led her into the waiting auto-shuttle.

The trip from the center of Par Amor to the Pearly Gates normally took a good twenty to twenty-five minutes, but among streets with no traffic to orchestrate through they would be there in record time. It was strangely eerie to drive on the deserted streets and even more unnerving knowing most everyone else in Par Armor was huddled away in their homes – praying for the guardians to protect the holy foyer.

Halfway to the Gates Harke noticed his normally chatty fiancée was short on words. She sat there quietly, holding him tight, shivering every so often.

“Lily, there’s still a little while before we get there, is there anything you want to talk about?”

“My dad,” replied Lily, without further coaxing, “he just makes me so mad. Why does he have to treat me like a child?”

“Well, hon, you are.”

What?” Lily sat up and pulled away from Harke.

“No, listen. You are his child, his only child. The one and only thing, other than the Almighty that matters to him in the whole universe.” Harke then pulled her softly back to his side.

Oh how she did not want to admit it, but Harke had made some sense. Although on some level she knew this already, it was different when you heard it from someone else. She snuggled closer to Harke and said, “I know, but he just doesn’t give me any credit. He’s constantly calling me, wanting to know what I’m doing, where I’m going...” Lily mused for a moment and added, “You know he handpicked my assignment to Mary, don’t you?

“Nope, never knew.”

“Well he did, and he thinks I don’t know he checks on me behind my back. It’s just, just irritating.”

“Let me ask you something,” said Harke wryly. “You want to have children, right?”

“You know I do.”

“Okay, let’s say we have a daughter, beautiful like you.”

“C’mon, stop that Harke, I know what you’re getting at.”

“No, no, now listen. For argument’s sake, something happens to me.”

“Stop it,” said Lily, “nothing is ever happening to you.”

“Hold on, I don’t want anything happening to me either,” chuckled Harke, “but let’s say it does. How would you feel about your daughter? You’re only daughter. The one and only thing, other than the Almighty, you have in this whole universe. How would you feel?”

“Do you know how much I hate you and love you right now? What do you expect me to say?”

“Well…?” Harke pressed, smiling.

“I would probably be very scared for her, want to watch over her carefully but…I wouldn’t. I know it would only smother her and drive her away from me. I know better.”

“Oh you do, do you? Come on, don’t you think—”

BANG!

Something large and heavy dented the roof of the auto-shuttle.

BANG!

Lily squealed and Harke jumped in his seat.

BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG!

More crushing blows to the auto-shuttle’s roof.

The car began to slow.

An almost paralyzing terror gripped Harke realizing they were still several blocks away from the Gates – and any help.

Suddenly the car jerked, fish-tailed, then spun screeching to a halt. The sound of metal grinding and twisting was followed by the roof tearing off as though it were paper. Looking down into the car at Lily and Harke were demons of various shapes and sizes. The biggest one, whose face appeared slimly and had a large, rhinoceros-like horn, reached for them with long arms ending in scissor-like hands.

Although their purpose was not to guard or fight, messengers were trained to defend themselves. And with his fiancée by his side (the training he had just recently brushed up on) went into effect.

Sharp demon-hands reached in to grasp their prey, in response Harke conjured a long, silver broadsword for his right hand, and a thick, edged shield for his left. In the cramped quarters of the shuttle’s back seat, he slashed at the claw reaching for him, cutting off a thumb, and with the shield he smacked the other hand from grabbing Lily. With all his might (and a little panic) he kicked a backseat car-door right off its hinges. The door bounced off the leg of the rhino-demon, causing the creature to wail in more pain for its thumb and thigh as the door slid sparking down the street.

The surprise commotion from inside the auto-shuttle caused the other demons to pull back. Seeing the opportunity Harke yelled, “Come on!”

Together they jumped from the car and distanced themselves from the auto-shuttle. Away from the vehicle, Harke turned around and swept Lily behind him with the shield. They looked at each other and knew exactly what to do but…nothing happened – they were unable to teleport.

“Why can’t we gust outta here?” Lily asked, panicked.

Harke ignored her and quickly assessed what he saw – it wasn’t good.

The auto-shuttle had ended up at the mouth of some random, dead-end alley, which of course in their haste they had run straight into. The demons, six of them, slowly crept into view. Two of them had spiky and leathery wings, one looked like a thin Minotaur, another had the legs of a dog, arms of a man, and head and chest of a wolf, a fifth crawled on all fours looking like a dung beetle, and of course, there was a very angry demon missing a thumb. The huge rhino-demon grabbed at the car with his good hand and tossed it aside like a toy. The horrific creature roared a terrible monster-howl, thick globs of spittle flying out of his mouth.

“Oh look, how cute,” said one of the winged demons, “a messenger playing guardian.” Turning deliberately to face the rhino-demon, he added, “Watch how it’s done, big boy.”

The winged demon spun around and soared at Harke like an arrow, arms and claws slicing through the air. Right before he reached the two huddled messengers Harke pushed Lily aside and pivoted, swinging the sword from overhead – he timed it perfectly – cutting the demon in half. Black, syrupy blood spurted everywhere as the two pieces of winged demon flailed through the air landing far down the alley.

Harked turned to check on Lily and quickly said, “They’ve probably had us in a null-field the moment they jumped on the roof. Lily, go look for a way out of here, now.”

“I’m not leaving you here all—”

“Curse you to hell messenger that was my brother!” cried the other winged demon. “I will now send you to the true-death.”

The winged demon took off for a now tensing Harke but was grabbed in mid-air by the hoof. Throwing it back to the ground with a snap of his wrist, the rhino-demon growled, “Wait idiot!” The massive creature addressed the others when he continued, “Look at the girl.”

The other demons all moved a step closer.

“Lily, go hon,” whispered Harke. “I’ll hold them back.”

“No, I can’t,” begged Lily, she was close to tears.

The beetle-demon tottered crazily in circles, “That’s her!”

“Get her,” said the wolf’s head.

“Wait I said!” barked the rhino-demon. “I will capture the female – ” he shot a deadly glare at Harke “ – the rest of you, kill the messenger and bring me both of his thumbs.”

Cackling, buzzing, and howling the demons raced toward the messengers. Harke begged Lily to go, but she would not. They were going to face this fate, together.

Under his breath, Harke prayed, “Lord, give me strength.” He raised his sword to at least get in one swipe when—

From nowhere several blurred objects shot in, each crashing into a demon, tackling them before reaching Lily and Harke. The demons were thrown everywhere along the alley, they appeared dazed and confused, not knowing what had hit them. Harke quickly swiveled his head scanning the alley for what the blurred things were when one of them made himself known.

“Hey pal, you’re welcome.”

The voice came from almost ground level, he looked down and saw the source – it was a cherub. But not the cute, baby kind, this cherub was more the size of a little person, paunchy, carried a half-smoked cigar in his mouth, and had a dark, five o’clock shadow across his cheeks and jaw. Bald with a bad comb-over, this cherub was hairy – along the chest, arms, legs, and from Harke’s higher point-of-view, his back as well. Wearing a white toga that fit as a loose tank top at the shoulders and puffy shorts around the waist and hips, it had gold-strung sandals for shoes and carried a ridiculously small shield to go with a ridiculously long sword. Looking around, Harke saw there was at least one cherub for every still groggy demon, he also noted their swords were not play things – they were longer than the cherubs were tall with a blade narrower at the hilt and wider at the tip. The swords looked heavier than the one he carried and he wondered how they were able to handle them. The cherubs were all of different shapes, sizes, and ages, but there was one thing in common to each – actually in common to all cherubs – their faces looked as though they had gotten out of the wrong side of bed.

“Well yeah, of course, thanks,” stammered Harke. He noticed the demons slowly getting their wits about them and added, “How’d you guys get in?”

“Didn’t they teach you anything in messenger school?” replied the gruff cherub. “We can move through the null-field, but just like you we can’t teleport in or out. Anyway, what are you two doing out here? You know we’re under assault.”

“We were sent by Gabriel to make sure the cherubs were aware of the situation,” interjected Lily firmly, she did not appreciate the tone that the cherub was taking with them. “We were in an auto-shuttle when we got attacked and ended up here.”

The little angel took a puff of his cigar and said, “Well you can tell him the Gates are closed tight and there’s plenty of cherubs on either side defending it. Ain’t no stinkin’ demons getting through there.” He blew smoke circle into the air and added, “And we are?”

“I’m Lily the Sweet, this is Harke the Herald, and you are?”

“Phil of Rugged Strength.”

“Okay, Phillip—” said Lily.

Phil.”

“Alright, Phil,” repeated Lily, shaking her head slightly, “we appreciate you saving us and all, but can you get us out of here?”

“Boy, you’re a pushy broad,” said Phil. “Is that the best ‘thank you’ you can come up with? You know blue-eyes, we just saved your life.”

“Listen here cherub—”

Harke had put down his sword then softly reached for Lily, interrupting her, “Phil, I’m guessing one of these demons has the controller for the null-field.” He noticed the other cherubs were standing watch over the demons, swords ready to plunge into heads if they made a wrong move.

“We checked, none of them has it,” said Phil matter-of-factly.

“When?” Lily asked, disbelief written on her face.

“When we zipped in,” returned Phil. “We’re quick and efficient that way.”

“Oh, please,” retorted Lily. She turned to Harke and added, “So now what?”

Phil answered for Harke, “It’s obvious blue-eyes, we still have to find the demon with the controller, out there somewhere.”

“Don’t call me ‘blue-eyes,’ I told you my name is—”

The low, growing rumble of a growl grabbed everyone’s attention. Appearing without warning was a large group of winged and hoofed demons brandishing a bloodied collection of maces, clubs, and axes.

“How in all heaven…?” said Harke incredulously.

“And right on cue,” replied Phil, flicking his cigar to the street. “One of them has to have the controller, they must’ve turned off the field without us noticing.” He glared at the cherubs and said, “Boys, do it now.”

“Hold on,” said Lily, “they can’t…”

But before she was able to finish each cherub raced around the demon they guarded with blinding speed. When they were done, the demons were wrapped from almost head to toe – repeatedly – with what looked like a thick and wide rubber band. Even the rhino-demon was wrapped tight, laying there and struggling against the bands.

“You think we were actually gonna kill these traitors?” Phil said, shaking his head at Lily. “We may not be messengers, but we know it’s the Almighty that makes the call.”

“I’m sorry,” said Lily, “it just looked like…” She trailed off.

“Yeah, yeah,” retorted Phil. “Don’t worry, we’ll be taking them to the guardians, then the Head Honcho takes over from there.”

After picking up his sword, Harke cleared his throat and said, “And how are you going to do that with these guys in the way?” He pointed with his shield to the group of demons. “Even with the others wrapped up, it looks like we’re still outnumbered two-to-one.”

Phil laughed as he pulled a cigar, this one with a matchstick, out of his toga, “You haven’t seen many cherubs in action, have you?” After swiping the match across his jaw, he lit the cigar and took a puff, “Stay behind me and protect the girl, and—don’t get yourself hurt.” He turned to his fellow cherubs and nodded, signaling them to start walking toward the demons. Chewing on his cigar, he called out to the demons and said, “In the name of the Almighty, I order whoever has the controller to hand it over right now.” The cherubs walked to within several feet of the large group and stopped – shields and swords at the ready.

The demons all chuckled, some of them pointing and snickering. The one which stood front and center replied, “And who in the name of your Lord demands this?” The demons continued to laugh as they jockeyed into position, revealing the true size of their mob.

“The name’s Phil of Rugged Strength.”

The demons stopped laughing.

You are Of Rugged Strength?” said the front and center demon, making a face. “The same one that—”

“Yep that one,” interrupted Phil, as he drew on his cigar then blew a long stream of smoke at the creatures.

“Forget it,” said another demon, “let’s get the girl.”

Gripping its mace tighter, the front and center demon replied, “Don’t worry, we’ll get the girl. But no one kill the cherub, we are bringing him back as well. The Master will reward us for him.”

Phil was about to laugh it off when he realized something – they had specifically talked about the girl, Lily. He wondered, What do they want with her? When he turned to warn the messenger, the demons attacked.

Phil nearly had his head clocked when he ducked just at the last second from a swinging mace. Using their superior speed, Phil and his fellow cherubs avoided injury while holding back the massive onslaught. With a slash here and a parry there, the little angels surprised the now frustrated demons, pushing them back. After regrouping, the one who had stood front and center barked new orders.

“This half – ” motioned the demon to his left “ – attack the cherubs. The rest of you with me – ” motioning to his right “ – now go!”

The demons assaulted the cherubs with renewed vigor, almost overwhelming them. The separate group easily slipped by and raced toward the messengers, now cornered at the alleys dead-end.


Watching this whole time in amazement was Harke and Lily. Although cherubs were known as the fierce defenders of heaven, never had they witnessed the little angel’s abilities. They watched at first with awe as the smaller group of cherubs beat back the larger group of demons. But once the traitors pulled back and reorganized, it became obvious there were just too many. Half the group, about six, came barreling at them, all Harke could do was brace himself to protect his beloved fiancée. The nearer the group reached, the more Harke heard disturbing statements.

“The hair that’s her.”

“Look, kill him, but do not harm the female.”

Why are they after Lily? Harke thought. Then he realized with horror, Somehow they know about Lily’s mission. They’re not here to attack Par Amor, they’re here to take her to him.

In an act of desperation, Harke ran to clash with the demons, “Phil! They’re after Lily. I need help!”


The cherubs were now holding the upper hand having wrapped up most of the demons. Phil had heard his name called with the accompanying plea, instinctively he barked an order to the nearest cherub.”

“Lashah, go protect the girl!”

Like a shot from a cannon, the cherub took off from over a hoofed demon and rocketed straight for Lily, Phil close behind.


Harke reached the group of attacking demons and fought with all his might. Swinging his sword and pirouetting, he nimbly blocked a mace attack while slashing a neck then whacked a head with his shield. Surprised, the demons stopped. The one who had stood front and center, pushed at the creature nearest to him.

“Go get her.”

The demon took off on a run.

Harke turned and called, “Lily, watch out!” And for his moment of concern he was clubbed over the head. Crumpling to the floor as though lifeless, Harke never heard Lily scream after him.

“Should we kill him?”

The answer came at once, “Go ahead.”

But before anyone made a move they were bowled over, falling hard to the ground. Standing over them was an angry looking, cigar-chewing cherub.

One demon yelled, “It’s Of Rugged Strength, grab him!”

“Not today pal, not today.”

The cherub moved even faster than the demons expected. Outnumbered five-to-one, Phil hacked at arms and legs, first disabling then wrapping demons. Before any of them was able to stand, they were bound and bleeding.

With the controller now in hand (having relieved it from the one who had stood front and center) Phil scurried to Harke expecting the messenger to be dead. Thankfully though he found him still breathing. Lightly slapping his face, he said, “Messenger, messenger! Wake up.”

WhaWha…” said Harke groggily. “Lil…?”

The girl, thought Phil. He looked at the end of the alley and saw a cowering Lily between Lashah and the last standing demon.

“She is ours,” said the demon, fire appeared to blaze from her eyes.

“No she’s not,” retorted Lashah, the cherub’s eyes bright with light.

“I have the controller!” Phil yelled. “Lily, teleport!”

“What?” replied Lily. Her body began to glow.

She stepped eagerly to Lashah for protection as the cherub and demon lunged for her.

A flash of blinding light and then – KA-BOOM!

A heart-pounding explosion knocked Phil and the other cherubs off their feet. Glass shattered and cement cracked as the aftershock of an earthquake rumbled. For a moment it seemed the sides of the buildings around them were about to come down on their heads.

Once the tremors stopped, Phil sat up and said, “What the heck?” Blinded from the explosion, his vision slowly came back to notice the fuzzy shape of a sitting-up Harke.

“The explosion,” said Harke, holding the back of his head, “what was it? And where’s Lily?”

Phil squinted, looking to where Lily, Lashah, and the demon had stood. He couldn’t make out any figures and wondered where they had gone. “They were there – ” he pointed to the end of the alley.

“Oh, no,” said Harke.

Phil heard the messenger scramble to his feet and take off running.

“Hey, take it easy, pal” said Phil, after him. “You got a nasty bump on the noggin.” He reached the messenger to find him on his knees sifting through what looked like black soot and ashes.

“Lily, where’s Lily?” said Harke desperately.

His vision becoming clearer, Phil noticed the soot contained pieces of toga, the charred remains of a sword hilt, and the axe the demon had carried. Fortunately, or unfortunately, he did not see any remains of the female messenger.

Harke grabbed Phil by his toga and said, “Where is she? Where’d she go?” He looked maniacal.

Taken aback, Phil pulled Harke’s hands off of him and said, “I don’t know. I had the controller and I told her she could teleport, I saw her glow and then bang.”

“LILY!” screamed Harke, ignoring what Phil had said. Sifting through the soot, he repeated, “LILY!”

The remaining cherubs were now standing behind Phil, who had put a hand out stopping them from coming further.

Demons began to laugh, the sort of laugh when someone makes fun at your expense.

Covered and smeared in soot, a tear-streaked Harke stomped crazily where Lily had last stood. Beside himself and not knowing what else to do, Harke bellowed, “LILY, WHERE ARE YOU? LILY? DARLING?! LILYYY!!!!

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