The world fell silent as Lucifer stared into the water. Time stopped and nothing moved.
“This cannot be…” He reached up and gently touched his face. “I don’t understand?”
Aurora glanced across the pool at Lucifer’s reflection and her blood ran cold. His golden hair was nothing more than a tangled grey web and his once radiant skin hung like melting wax. No longer a sight to behold, his wings were torn, soiled with mud and ash. He stared in horror at his reflection while around him the Reapers fell on bended knee, their heads bowed.
“But I was perfect,” he whispered. “The most beautiful being in all of creation. How?”
Slowly and carefully Gabriel inched his fingers, one by one, toward the dagger. He had to strike Lucifer down before the pool receded. It was their only chance.
Lucifer peered into the water as a loose strand of silver hair slipped through his twisted fingers.
“My hair,” he whispered. “My face…”
Suddenly he tore his eyes away from the pool and roared up at the sky. “What have you done to me?” His face contorted with rage. “You were supposed to love me and you have turned me into a monster!”
Above them the shape in the sky disintegrated and tiny flecks of ash sprinkled down across the field.
“There is no beauty in greed or perfection in arrogance,” Gabriel managed as his fingers closed around the dagger. “Hate has made you ugly and spite has made you old. You see it now as the world holds you accountable for what you’ve done. In its water you can finally see your true self. You are a monster.”
Lucifer stared at him with raging eyes. No longer cloaked in the beauty of his delusion his beastly appearance was visible to the world.
“And you are one ugly son of a bitch.”
Lucifer reeled and Gabriel took his chance. He lunged forward but Lucifer let out a roar so powerful it blew him tumbling back toward the tree line. The Reapers leapt to their feet swords at the ready.
“This world and everything in it is going to burn,” Lucifer seethed. “For I am the apocalypse!”
He opened his arms and conjured what Gabriel expected to be the end of the world, but suddenly an explosion sent pieces of dirt and debris flying through the air. Reapers were knocked off balance and Gabriel cried out in joy as he caught sight of Harrison leading his army across the field. At the rear two soldiers detonated another bomb and hundreds of Reapers fell, disappearing into the deep crevice. Seeing the army, Aurora’s sisters and the wolf pack burst from the tree line running out at the Reapers.
Lucifer was furious. He swung around ready to strike but a bullet from Harrison’s rifle cut through the skin of his face. His hand flew up to his cheek and he clutched at the wound. “How dare you strike me,” he bellowed. “I am the Morning Star!”
With the sweep of his hand a fire front raged across the field. Flames danced like fire devils and as Lucifer gazed out in admiration Aurora saw her chance. She grabbed an abandoned spear lying on the ground and with all her strength plunged it deep into Lucifer’s neck.
“Damn you and your demons,” she seethed. “I’ll send you back to hell myself.”
Lucifer grabbed the spear and snapped it from his neck. He tossed it to the ground and took her by the throat. “You are going to burn woman. Prepare to die.”
His fingers squeezed tight around her throat and Aurora closed her eyes. She had fought well. Melloch was dead. She had avenged her parents. If it was her fate to die trying to save the Earth then it would be a good death, honourable and humble. But suddenly Gabriel was calling her name and she opened her eyes to see him hurtling toward her through the flames. Sensing his approach, Lucifer delivered a swift backhand that sent him crashing to the ground and Aurora gasped for breath as everything around her faded to black. She kicked out and felt a final spark of hope as Aurel’s rough fur brushed against her ankle. He bit into Lucifer’s leg, the distraction allowing Gabriel enough time to get back on his feet. But a swift kick sent Aurel sailing toward the trees where he landed with a thud. Gabriel stopped where he was and stared across the field, willing Aurel to be alright and when he saw the wolf was still alive he closed his eyes and focused his thoughts. When he looked again Aurel’s yellow eyes locked with his and all of the wolves stopped where they were. Together they howled and the haunting sound distracted Lucifer long enough for Aurel to turn and bound back across the field. When he was close enough he leapt through the air and landed on Lucifer’s back, his body weight propelling them both forward. As Lucifer fell, Gabriel said a quick prayer and thrust the dagger upward with all his strength. The blade penetrated and Lucifer’s eyes widened in surprise. His hand flew up to the dagger and Aurora was released. She dropped to the ground clutching at her throat and when she caught her breath the first thing she saw was Gabriel, down on his knees and still holding the dagger lodged in Lucifer’s chest.
“Gabriel you have to command the army!” She shouted. “Send them back to Hell and let go of the dagger!”
She watched in terror as Gabriel’s body began to vibrate. “Gabriel you have to hurry, there isn’t much time.”
Suddenly the symbol on her wrist began to burn and she fell to her knees as a bright beam of light cut down through the clouds. “It’s happening,” she whispered. “God is here.”
The bright cylinder of light connected with the symbol on the dagger and Gabriel flung his forearm up to shield his face. Lucifer screamed and Aurora shielded her eyes.
“Gabriel you have to command the Reapers!” She cried. “Hurry!”
Around them the flames leapt higher and higher. Heat stole the air and the field rippled like a searing mirage. Aurora clutched at her wrist and glanced back toward the rocky terrace where to her horror, Melloch was getting to his feet.
“That cannot be,” she whispered. “I killed him.”
“The poison has worn off. He was too strong,” Lucius’ voice whispered. “He’s coming for you.”
Suddenly Melloch was storming across the field, stepping over fallen Reapers and shouting orders.
“Remove that fool and his blade,” he shouted to the remaining Reapers. “Do not let Lucifer perish at his hand. He will shame every one of us.”
Aurora spun toward Gabriel as the Reapers closed in. They raised their spears and she closed her eyes, unable to watch what was about to unfold.
“Melloch, my brother…” Lucifer managed as the light grew even brighter. “The dagger, you must remove it from my chest.”
Aurora’s mind was spiraling. Gabriel was about to die. Melloch was alive. She glanced over to where her Aria, Amelia Jada, and Jasmyne continued to battle alongside Harrison’s soldiers. They were hurt and they were in pain. Reaper’s spears had split their skin, they had cut lips and bruised faces, but they were fighting. She could not let Melloch win. They had fought too hard and risked too much. As she struggled to her feet, Aurora felt something scrape against her leg. A single arrow stashed away in the side of her boot. It was still there and it was all she needed. She found her footing and lifted her mother’s bow one last time.
“Sisters,” she shouted. “Take aim.”
“I’m taking you to Hell,” Melloch hissed as he closed in. “Prepare to meet the Beast.”
“I don’t think so.” Aurora stretched her last arrow back in the bow. “Fire!”
Together the five sisters released their bows and like guided missiles the arrows sailed across the field and simultaneously struck Melloch in the chest. He bellowed and fell back, his body crashing into the wet snow and sludge.
Aurora stepped forward and peered down at him. “I could not save my parents because I was a child when you murdered them. There was nothing I could do, but much has changed Melloch. You planned to take our world and burn it to the ground. You thought no one would be here to save it but you were mistaken, because I am here.”
Beside her Jasmyne leapt from her horse and handed her a quiver of arrows. “And I am here.”
“And we are here,” Aria, Amelia and Jada chorused as they took their place beside her.
Aurora reached for an arrow and stretched it back in her bow.
“You stupid woman,” Melloch gasped. “Look around you, you have not won. Your savior is about to die, for good this time.”
Aurora cast her eyes across the field and saw the circle of Reapers standing over Gabriel, their spears drawn.
“I can save him,” Melloch whispered. “Remove these arrows before the poison takes hold and I will spare his life.”
Aurora watched as Gabriel battled to withstand the power of the light. His teeth were clenched and his eyes rolled back. He was dying.
“Soon he will perish, he has but moments. Make your choice.”
Aurora turned to her sisters. She knew they would not allow Melloch to live, but refusing him meant Gabriel would die.
“Aurora no,” Jasmyne pleaded. “Gabriel will still die. You can’t…”
“I know sister,” Aurora nodded. “It’s time to let him go.”
As she battled to accept Gabriel’s fate, Melloch kicked out and she fell back. Quickly he flipped himself over and began clawing his way across the snow toward Gabriel and Lucifer, but Aurora lunged after him, trying with all her strength to hold him back.
“Gabriel command the army!’ She shouted desperately. “You have to do it now!”
Fighting the pain, Gabriel gathered all his strength and shouted at the top of his voice. “I command this army of Reapers back to Hell. Go now and never return you bastards.”
The Reapers stopped and instead of plunging their spears into his body, they stood at full attention, relaxed their weapons and turned back toward the cave.
“You need to command Melloch,” Aurora shouted. “Gabriel, he’s coming for you!”
She grabbed at Melloch’s legs but he kicked out, slamming his cloven foot hard against her cheek. Her head reeled back and her vision blurred. All around her sounds echoed like muffled sirens. She clutched at the loose snow and clumsily tossed it onto her face. “Gabriel…” she mumbled. “Jasmyne…”
As the impact of the blow began to subside, Aurora saw coloured shapes rising up beside her. The blurred images melted together and she realised they were her sisters. The sounds she heard were coming from their mouths. They were screaming.
She opened her eyes and saw Melloch lunging at Gabriel. The demon’s entire body weight slammed against him, knocking him off balance. Gabriel’s hands slipped from the dagger as he fell sideways into the snow.
“You cannot let Melloch get the dagger,” Aurora managed. “Stop him.”
But Melloch was already in place. “To die at the hands of that fool would have been a disgrace upon us all,” he hissed at Lucifer. “I cannot allow such embarrassment to fall upon our Dark Lord.”
Lucifer lifted an eyelid but before he could speak, Melloch plunged the dagger even deeper into his chest. “Look upon me in awe my brother as I end your reign,” he smiled. “Our Master has whispered into my ear and glorious is his voice that is carried upon these ashes. You know not the glory of servitude and you know not the power of adoration. You have loved only yourself for too long. No longer will you shine Morning Star for evening has fallen upon you my brother.”
Suddenly the beam of light exploded, throwing Aurora back onto the snow. The earth trembled and the field became engulfed in bright white light. Disorientated, she crawled through the snow and mud searching until she found Gabriel lying on the ground.
“Gabriel,” she cried. “Gabriel, wake up.”
He stirred slightly and opened his eyes. “Aurora…”
“Gabriel…” She grabbed his hand, but his fingers did not close around hers. “Gabriel, you’re alright. You let go in time.”
He stared up at her and a single tear slipped from his eye. “I’ll love you for always Aurora.”
“Gabriel no… You’ll be alright. You let go in time, just hold on.”
But his eyes closed and all she could do was watch, as there on the battlefield the man she loved took his final breath.