Aurora was striding across the field and from the look on her face, Gabriel knew she meant business.
“We have His blessing,” she said firmly. “Now let’s kill these bastards.”
“Wait, we what?”
She held up her wrist and Gabriel saw the symbol burned into her skin.
“He sanctioned the battle Gabriel. We have God on our side. There’s no way we can lose now.”
“What’s all the fuss about?” Harrison asked as he walked up, an M24 sniper rifle slung over his shoulder. “What did I miss?”
“God sanctioned the fight,” Gabriel told him. “Look at her arm.”
Aurora held out her wrist and proudly showed Harrison the symbol.
“Aurora, this is incredible news.”
“I know, I was just telling Gabriel the same thing. I really feel like we can win now.”
Their enthusiasm was building but Gabriel failed to share the jubilation. Not only was God allowing them to fight His battle, now He had carved His approval into Aurora’s arm. He couldn’t help wondering where God was in all of this. Why wasn’t He doing more to help?
“Does it hurt?” Gabriel delicately touched the mark on her arm. “Are you in any pain?”
But she just stared at him as though he was crazy. “Hurt? No, I mean, it did but not anymore. Besides, it doesn’t matter if it hurts. Gabriel, I spoke to God. He sanctioned the battle. That’s all that matters.”
“So what was it like up there?” Harrison was asking. “What did He look like?”
Aurora thought back to the tiny field mouse and smiled gently. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Then just tell me this. God was a He, right?”
Aurora couldn’t help grinning. “Actually, God was a beautiful woman and you know what she told me? After we win this battle, women will rule the Earth and all the men will become our slaves.”
Harrison chuckled and tossed his head. “Yeah, right.”
“Seriously,” she grinned. “You better start practicing you curtsy.”
“You’re joking,” he shook his head. “I mean, you are joking right?”
“Maybe. Maybe not.” But her smile faded as she caught sight of Amelia and Aria hurrying toward her, a grim look on their faces.
“The sun is rising,” Aria managed, her bottom lip trembling. “We’re out of time and I’m, I’m not ready for this Aurora. I’m scared. Are we all going to die?”
Gabriel watched as Aurora’s youngest sister burst into tears before them. Enough was enough. He hated these demons and he hated this war. It was time to teach these bastards a lesson.
“Now you listen to me Aria,” he began. “In fact, everyone gather in. I have something to say to all of you.”
At his request Harrison took a knee and Aurora and her sisters moved in close.
“There are a lot of reasons to be afraid,” Gabriel began. “Believe me, I know. Apparently, there’s a decent chance I won’t make it out of this and the funny thing is, there was a time when I would have been alright with that, but now…” He took a moment and considered what he wanted to say next. “These things that are coming, they want to take what’s ours, but I say to hell with that. It’s true humans have made mistakes. They have no idea what they have unleashed, but it’s up to us here today to make it right. Is that fair? Hell no, but it is the task that we’ve been given.” He paused for a moment and then continued. “I was human once. I remember what it’s like to get overwhelmed, to forget what’s important. As a human, some days you can look at the people and places you love with overwhelming gratitude and other times you get so caught up in all the bullshit that you don’t see them at all. But that doesn’t mean people don’t care. They just need to learn and we need to give them the chance to do that. By saving their world we’re also saving our own.” He lowered his voice and looked at Aurora. “We never love anything as fiercely as when we fear we’re going to lose it. We never hold on as tight as when something is being torn away. There’s a saying that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all and that may be true, but not today. Today we are going to fight for what we love and to hell with losing it. Today we are going to win.”
“Too right we are,” Harrison echoed. “They want to come and take what’s ours? They’re going to have to come through me first.”
“And me,” Aurora added.
“Then it’s settled,” Gabriel nodded. “We fight like hell. They think they can destroy our world? Let’s see them try. We may be few, but if we don’t give up and we don’t give in, we can change the course that has been set. We can give everyone a second chance.”
Above them, the first ray of light cut through the clouds and Aurora nodded. “It’s time. Let’s move.”
Everyone knew where they had to be and what needed to be done. When the Reapers breached the cave there would be no time for mistakes. It had to run perfectly.
Aurora stood by the edge of the field and looked around. Soon the entire place would be overrun with demons. They had one chance. They had to get this right.
“If you’re going to help us, now is the time,” she whispered, hoping God was still listening. “This Earth is my home and I have loved it as though it were my own child. Give us the strength we need to protect it and every life it harbours. Give us the chance to show you we can get this right.”
She knelt down and closed her eyes. For Gabriel to fight there could be no sun. She trained her mind and whispered to the sky and soon a deep shadow fell across the field, slowly at first and then faster until steel grey clouds suffocated the sun.
Behind the cover of the forest Gabriel took a knee and trained his eyes on the mouth of the cave. He would have felt more comfortable positioned closer to the opening, but he couldn’t risk being taken down by Melloch or a Reaper before Lucifer showed. He tightened his grip on the dagger and thought about the vision Lucius had shown them at the castle. He had to brace himself for what the Reapers might look like when they came out. The only demons he had ever seen were Lucius and the Council and they were more like men than monsters, most of the time anyway. He had to be strong. He couldn’t let their appearance affect him. Whatever came out of that cave had to die. It was as simple as that. He lifted the dagger to let Aurora and the others know he was in position and she responded, shooting a single arrow up into the air. They were ready. When the Reapers breached the cave it would begin. There was no turning back now.
As if on que, the ground rumbled and Aurora heard the same rolling drum beat that had echoed through the clearing in the Congo. The pounding fell in time with her heart and she took a deep breath. Inside the cave a flickering shadow crawled along the walls. They were coming.