For now, Aurora was safe in Gabriel’s arms, but they were on borrowed time. In less than 24 hours Lucifer and the army would rise with one goal; to destroy the Earth. She cuddled in close, her back pressed tight against his body.
“What if they rise at each of the locations?” He whispered. “I know what the scripture says, but how can we be sure the entire army will surface here? I’m starting to second guess everything Aurora. What if we’re wrong?”
Aurora closed her eyes and thought back to her vision, the one where Gabriel was killed. “We’re not mistaken Gabriel, I’m certain because I’ve seen it. The army needs to be with Melloch, that’s where they draw their power. Lucifer might be in charge, but without Melloch the army is like a snake without its head.”
Gabriel imagined the army side-winding across a vacant field, hissing and coiling, ready to strike. “That vision you had in the woods the day we went to see the Council, was it of the battle?”
Aurora nodded and felt a tear slip over her cheek. She had to tell him the truth. She couldn’t let him fight without knowing how it would end.
“Gabriel - ”
But he interrupted her. “What did he look like? Lucifer, I mean.”
“That’s the strange thing Gabriel, he wasn’t there. It was Melloch, the same demon I saw kill my mother. Something must have changed.”
Gabriel pushed himself up onto one elbow and stroked her hair. “So the visions can change?”
“They can, but it’s unusual. Gabriel, there’s something I need to tell you.”
“There’s something I need to tell you too,” he replied. “Well, ask really.”
She nodded, relieved to delay the conversation even for a few moments.
“Aurora, I love you and when this is over I was wondering if you would do me the honour of becoming my wife?”
She stared up at him, torn between the love she felt and the pain she knew would come. Tears welled in her eyes and quickly spilled down her cheeks.
“I hope they’re happy tears,” he grinned, gently wiping them away.
“Gabriel, I love you more than I ever dreamed I could love anyone. That’s why I have to tell you the truth.”
He sat up and looked at her. “Aurora you’re scaring me. What is it?”
“In the battle Gabriel, you’ll die.”
“You saw it?”
She shook her head and gently touched his cheek. “No, but I felt it.”
“You said things had changed since the vision. Maybe - ”
“No Gabriel, not this.”
He let his head fall back against the pillows. “Well if you didn’t actually see it, then maybe it’s just a projection of your own fear. Maybe it’s not real?”
Aurora wished with all her heart that could be true, but she knew better. The look in her eyes said as much.
“Okay, well if my death means the Earth survives, then it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make,” he told her. “What choice do I have?”
“But that’s just it Gabriel, I didn’t see the end. I don’t even know if we win.”
“We only have to kill the leader, right? We kill him and the rest fall or go back to wherever they came from?”
“Yes Gabriel, but the leader is Lucifer.”
“Right,” he sighed. “Lucifer, and I guess he’s a bit of a bad arse huh?”
Aurora forced a smile. “Gabriel, this is no time for joking around.”
He pulled her close and kissed her, softly at first and then harder. “Is it the right time for this?”
She answered by wrapping her arms tightly around his neck and pulling him in.
Downstairs Harrison and Jasmyne sat quietly at the kitchen table both lost in their own thoughts.
“Time is running out,” she said eventually. “And we still have no idea how to fight this army.”
Harrison wondered how anyone could be so scared and so beautiful at the same time. Just looking at her made his heart hurt.
“I have an idea,” he began. “How about if we just forget this whole thing and you and I make the most of our last hours on Earth?”
But Jasmyne rolled her eyes. “That is so lame, I can’t believe you even said it out loud.”
“Was worth a try,” he smiled. “But seriously, what do we do now?”
Jasmyne stood up and walked over to the kitchen counter. “Coffee?”
Harrison nodded and turned his chair to face her. “Actually, that sounds really good.”
“So tell me,” she began, filling the kettle with water. “How do you fit into all of this Harrison? What’s the relationship?”
He sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, when Chris was killed Gabe just disappeared. I thought he took off because he believed it was his fault, you know that his brother died? But then his father came to me with a pretty wild story and I have to admit, at first I thought he was out of his mind. He was talking about vampires and demons and God knows what else. When I finally agreed to hike up to the cabin, I couldn’t believe it. His father was right and when I saw for myself the things he could do, the strength he had, I was convinced. That’s when his father begged me to help figure it all out. Why Chris died and if Gabe could really carry out the legacy meant for his brother.”
“And did you?”
Harrison thought for a moment as she stirred steaming milk into two mugs. “Well, I have a theory but you’ll probably think it’s stupid.”
Jasmyne placed the mug in front of him and sat down. “Try me.”
“The thing is, I grew up with Gabriel and Chris. Shit, the minute we turned 18 all three of us signed up for duty together. Gabriel was my best mate, but Chris, he was always right there with us too, you know? I knew them inside out. The good, the bad, everything.”
Jasmyne sipped her coffee and watched him closely. It was clear Harrison cared deeply for Gabriel and it was touching. Behind his inappropriate jokes and crooked smile, Harrison was a decent man who wanted to help. It was rare, and it was encouraging.
“Chris was an extraordinary person Jasmyne. If you had met him, you would have thought he was one of your kind. He was…” Harrison tried to find the rights words, but they failed him. “He was too skilled to be human. I can’t think of any other way to put it because he sure wasn’t perfect. But he excelled at everything. School, sports, warfare. He was a freak, more like a machine than a man.”
Harrison chuckled. “Gabe was the exact opposite. Not to say he wasn’t smart or capable, because he was. It’s just that he was more, emotional than Chris. He was real.”
“How do you mean, real?”
“I mean he hated killing, and to be honest, I don’t think the Army was for him. He did it for his family but the Gabe I knew would have been much happier as a family man coming home to his wife and kids every night.”
“And this is the person we’re counting on to save the world?”
“Well that’s exactly my point Jasmyne. Don’t you think it’s a bit odd that Lucius and the Council, who seem to know everything before it happens, would let someone as important as Chris be killed? By a cougar?”
Jasmyne had to agree. It was difficult to understand how the Council had ever allowed Chris’ death. That night in their village, Aurora had been spared because of the legacy she was born to carry out. It was her destiny to survive. So why not Chris?
“So what’s you’re theory Harrison?”
“What’s his theory about what?” Gabriel asked as he and Aurora came down the stairs, her hand tucked safely inside his.
But Harrison just laughed. “I was about to tell Jasmyne my theory on why you were such a jackass growing up.”
“Well that’s simple,” Gabriel smiled. “I was surrounded by dim wits like you.”
Harrison nodded and laughed easily but Jasmyne knew better. Whatever he was about to tell her would have to wait.
“So have the two of you come up with a plan for how to kill these bastards?” Gabriel asked.
“Not yet,” Jasmyne sighed. “But there has to be a way. Maybe we need to do more research. What else do we know about Lucifer?”
“Well, we know he’s going to kill me.”
Harrison was immediately up on his feet. “What? How?”
“Not sure I really want to know the details to be honest.”
“No, I meant how do we know that for sure?”
“Because I felt it,” Aurora replied softly. “In my heart.”
Harrison got out of his seat and began to pace back and forth. “Then I was right, it’s true.”
Harrison glanced briefly at Jasmyne before he spoke. He wasn’t really sure why he did it but for some reason looking at her just made him feel better. “I’ve been working on a theory about Chris’ death.”
“What about it?” Gabriel asked quickly. “What do you know?”
“Gabe, you and your brother were so different and we both know that when it comes to skills on the battlefield you could never replace him.”
Gabriel winced. Harrison could be blunt and this time he was pulling no punches. “And this is helping us how?”
“Stay with me,” he urged. “And please forgive me for saying this, but Chris was not the most compassionate person put on the Earth. Would you agree?”
Gabriel had no choice but to nod. His brother had relished hunting and killing and more than once he had done things that would make most men turn away. He had been able to achieve any goal, regardless of how grisly the consequences might be.
“I don’t believe the Council ever meant for Chris to carry out the legacy,” Harrison continued. “I think it was always Gabriel who would fight the army.”
Aurora and Jasmyne stared at Harrison as though he had gone mad. Gabriel leaned over and looked into his mug. “Have you been drinking?”
“Listen to me,” Harrison pleaded. “There is no way the Council would let the saviour be killed. Chris was a ruse, a trick. They couldn’t afford to have this Melloch character find out the truth, so they gave him a martyr. Chris was never the saviour. The Council have been hiding their secret weapon all along. You Gabriel.”
Aurora’s thoughts were racing. There was something about what Harrison was saying that rang true. How had she missed it?
“Think about it,” he continued. “It takes a demon to kill a demon, right? So why not Chris? He had the same bloodline, he was a fighter, he had no qualms about killing and he was the best goddamn soldier I’ve ever seen. But what if that’s not what it takes to kill these things?”
Gabriel stared across the table. “What are you saying Harrison?”
“Gabriel, Chris would not have sacrificed a thing for anyone, you know that, especially his own life.”
“No, but like you said he was a hell of a fighter.”
“Right, but what if battle skills are not what it takes to win this war?”
Aurora nodded and got to her feet. “Demons are responsible for perpetuating sin. Sin is all about self.” She turned to Gabriel. “The most powerful weapon against sin is compassion. Harrison is right Gabriel, you are the chosen one. You agreed to fight, even after you knew you would die. It is the ultimate sacrifice and you would make it for others. That is the opposite of sin. You are the weapon that will kill Lucifer.”
Together they spun around in surprise as Lucius stepped out of the shadows slowly clapping his hands. “Bravo, but you all missed one small detail.”
“Lucius!” Aurora gasped. “How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough to hear Harrison’s splendid theory, and I have to say, well done. You are quite the scholar.”
Harrison stepped back toward the kitchen and as far away from Lucius as he could.
“You said we forgot one detail,” Aurora said. “What are we missing?”
Lucius glanced down at a black leather box he held in his arms. Aurora blinked just to make sure her eyes were not playing tricks on her. Only a moment ago his arms had been empty. Lucius. He was always full of surprises.
“Gabriel may be the chosen one, but he cannot slay Lucifer with is bare hands. He will need this.”
Together they peered down at the box. It was old with bevelled edges and a strange looking symbol embossed into the leather. Lucius flipped open the clasps and lifted the lid to reveal a silver dagger with a glimmering blade. Its handle was decorated with blue gemstones and a symbol that resembled an upright pentagram with a dot in the centre.
Aurora reached in and traced her finger over the pattern. “I’ve seen this symbol before. What does it mean?”
“You have seen this seal in the story of Solomon,” Lucius told her. “It is often referred to as the ring of Solomon.”
“The ring of Solomon, you mean like in the Bible? I thought that was sent by God in the form of a talisman?”
“To King Solomon yes, but this is God’s original seal. This is the dagger used by the archangel Michael when he defeated Lucifer and cast him from Heaven.”
“The actual dagger?” Jasmyne asked. “That’s incredible. But what does Solomon have to do with any of this?”
“A very long time ago King Solomon discovered demons were wreaking havoc with the construction of his temple. It was an interruption he could not tolerate and so he prayed to God for help. God heard his prayers and sent him a talisman containing the sacred seal. The seal allowed Solomon to command the demons and not only did it stop them from harassing his workmen, he also had them build his temple.”
“So you’re saying that the seal in this dagger, God’s original seal, will allow Gabriel to command the army? The same way it was used by Solomon?”
“The blade can kill Lucifer and allow Gabriel to command the army,” he replied. “But there is one condition. The seal will only work if it has been sanctioned by God. Otherwise this dagger is no different than any other weapon.”
“So what does that mean?” Gabriel asked. “Will it work or won’t it?”
“Well that depends - ”
“Goddamn it!” He shouted. “Just tell me for Christ sakes, enough games.”
Lucius raised his eyebrows as over in the kitchen Harrison quietly tucked a knife up under his sleeve.
“Oh, for goodness sake,” Lucius scoffed without even looking over. “Do you really think you can kill us all with that silly utensil?”
Gabriel glanced over at Harrison and when he looked back the entire Council was standing in the dining room.
“Jesus Christ!” He shouted. “Where did you all come from?”
Lucius stepped forward and took his usual place in the centre of the group. Aurora and Jasmyne exchanged nervous glances.
“Why are you all here?” Gabriel demanded. “What’s going on?”
“Why we are here for the great battle of course,” Armain smiled. “You didn’t think we’d miss it?”
A wave of relief washed over Aurora. Having the Council fight in their corner would be a great asset. But her excitement was short lived.
“We have front row seats to the greatest battle of our lifetime,” Roman continued. “We wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
“You mean, you’re not here to fight?”
“Fight?” Siegfried chuckled. “No child, we are far too old for that kind of exertion.”
Aurora sighed and rubbed at her forehead. “Well there must be something you can tell us that will help. Anything…”
Lucius held the dagger out to Gabriel. “I do believe I’ve given you all the help you need.”
Gabriel took the dagger from its case and rested the shining blade across his palm. “So how do I ask God to sanction the battle?”
“You can’t,” Lucius shrugged. “God would never give his blessing directly to a demon, even one as far removed from the bloodline as you.”
Gabriel held the dagger out in battle position and then placed it back down inside the box. “Then what was the point of all this? Why did you even come here?”
“Because you may not be able to receive God’s sanction to activate the seal, but she can.” Lucius turned to Aurora. “There is a reason you were chosen Aurora. You are the first descendant of the strigoi and Scythian race. You are a child of the Earth, of the heavens and of human blood. Your ability to connect with the energy of the universe is stronger than any other creature on this planet. Pray and God will hear you. Ask and you shall receive.”
Aurora stared at Lucius. She would ask God to sanction the battle? And He would hear her?
“If Aurora asks God to sanction the battle and He gives her His blessing the sword becomes active? I can kill Lucifer with it?” Gabriel asked.
“And if I kill Lucifer the rest fall?”
Again Lucius nodded.
“And this Melloch character, the one who was supposed to lead them out. What happened to him?”
“Ah…” Lucius grinned. “Melloch. That is where things become very interesting.”