War In Heaven

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Felix

Felix

Humans have a bliss in ignorance when it comes to death. They talk of an afterlife. They wonder about their lives beforehand and dream of their lives after. For them, living is only a beginning and dying is a next step in the ultimate direction of their fate. Yes, they mourn but they seek solace in the facts of their religion, no matter what kind of destiny they believe.

Perhaps that is why I become so angry, so bitter when faced with the demise of an Angel or Fallen. There is no other world for us. We do not get reborn. We do not move on to the next phase of our evolution. This is it, this struggle between Light and Darkness, this is our only chance and we fight to survive together.

The bodies of five Angels lie in front of the infirmary. Their forms torn by malicious claws are to a point of being unrecognizable. The amount of blood hides the color of their skin, the hue of their hair, and any traces of unique features on their faces have been eaten away. Yet somehow, members of the Hunting Ground manage to name them, grieving beside their bodies with shocking anguish.

Despite this discouraging image, we arrived in time to aid. Phil hoisted a Net powerful enough to knock every Vetalas flapping in the air back into Sheol while the ones on the ground ceased their instant feeding. In the presence of such an aged Soul, they flocked toward him with jittering excitement, squawking in communication.

I was prepared to support him. I’ve killed a Vetalas once before. One of Tymician’s random excursions gave me the experience but Phil stepped forward with only a small palm sized blade in his hand. Surrounded as he was, I feared the worst but my anxiety would prove fruitless.

In mere seconds, he decapitated, dismembered, and disemboweled three giant beasts. Black tar soaked the grass in dense, compacted puddles. Transparent wings fluttered and clawed toes twitched. He returned to my side, disregarding the enthusiasm from Eric and Tristan.

I however wasn’t so thrilled by his demonstration of power.

Elders have abilities that I cannot fathom or manage to contrive. As a king, how can I control them and make them obey me? If it’s an impossibility then am I only king because an Elder or two wish me to be King? Why? What can I do that they themselves are incapable of? What does Phil want? What does Misha want?

After leaving Eric and Tristan to aid the Angels, Phil and I journey through the campus searching for the leader. Fires burn intermittently, destruction scatters in random sections of the land indicating that the Vetalas had little objective other than obtaining Light. I scour the tree line, hoping to see Kyla come racing out to me.

Elder Rezon sits against the side of a vehicle. Clan mates gather in the masses, staring at us over vans and trucks. I feel their contempt and hear their whispers of disgust. It doesn’t matter that we saved them from further fatalities. They harbor deep-rooted vengeance against Fallen for crimes I’m not sure we committed. Most of the ones glowering weren’t even alive when the skirmishes between our races began.

Rezon narrows his sight even as he struggles to breathe, spewing blood into a hand towel. He coughs and sputters, sucking in breath, only to puff it out with terrible liquid bubbling over his lips. He wipes any trace, pointing a crooked finger at me, “Bow.”

My fingers curl into a fist but I prepare to do as instructed.

Phil seizes my shoulder, “No, I don’t think so. My lord Felix is the future king of Kio. Despite his age, he does not bow to Elders any further. And since you no longer own these lands, you will not make any more demands.”

Rezon curls his lip, “My request for aid--”

“Ended any ownership you had to these domains. When you prove yourselves unable to protect your own people, you are unfit to rule, sir. That is made very clear in the deeds to property. Since we arrived first and we terminated your foe, the land becomes ours.”

“If you think I’m going to give you this land--”

I interrupt, “You are not giving anything. I don’t want your home. You should guard it better though. Vetalas don’t attack for nothing and if you had proper shields they wouldn’t be able to enter your estate at all. Why’d they come here?”

A smile tugs at his blood-stained lips. He hides it with the soiled cloth but I hear his watery chuckles nonetheless. “I know what you’re after.”

“Felix!” Tristan’s sharp yell spins my attention around.

I race back over the hill, following the sidewalk to the fractured medical facility. As I observe the new arrival, my footsteps slow, no longer so anxious to get to his side. I latch onto his shoulder and pull him behind me and quickly order Eric to my side.

We stand beside the pile of Vetalas body parts. Already they rot and stink up the air with a tangent acid that curls the lip. Yet I’d much rather them near me then be any closer toward Erelim Elder Isis.

Isis grins, smug and self-righteous dressed as a military officer ready for battle. Behind her is a well-trained army of thirty, structured and assembled with valor, fearless and equipped with enough firing power to destroy a city.

The animosity that builds inside my chest becomes a teetering tower, ready to collapse and burst. She is a false deity if I’ve ever seen one and I’m ashamed to know so many worship the ground on which she walks.

A pitiable Angel is at her side, an ignorant Newborn barely four hundred years gaps at all the destruction and death. She doesn’t know that true horror is the person beside her. Perhaps I can open her eyes and save her from the future of Isis.

As protocol demands it, I order Tristan and Eric to their knees as I do the same. Phil bows with his fingertips pressed to his forehead, whispering a slight warning to be civil.

“Well,” She begins, “if it isn’t Prince Pauper and his two-bit band. Your King is three days missing and I hear you are already reaching for his crown.”

How she knows I am trying to become Kio’s leader is unsettling.

“Though you will have to use a mighty tall ladder, won’t you?”

“I have yet to meet someone capable of matching Erelim Tymician’s caliber.” Her smile doesn’t falter upon the slur. “I haven’t a desire to take his place but I will lead Kio in his absence as is my duty as Second.” I state who I am for all ears to hear. If Isis does something irrational, I will have witnesses. “I thank you for coming, Madam Isis, but as you can see, it is unnecessary.”

“No, sir, we thank you.” She forces through her tight lips. “But as you can see, your help is excessive and unwanted. Leave the compounds immediately and I will gladly forget you were even here.”

It takes only a moment for realization to dawn on me. She is stealing the territory from me. How can I stand up to her? There are four of us and an outrageous number of them. It’s apparent she doesn’t fear the Ruling’s disapproval and the Ruling allows her to get away with numerous unlawful things. It was the same with Tymician. Erelims are above standard rules and regulations.

Eric pierces through before I can stop him, “We were here first! ” I swing back, silencing him quick with a look of reprimand.

Isis rotates to the gathering of Hunting Ground Angels. “Rezon.” She calls pleasantly.

Through the number of people having come to watch the spectacle, the Hikmah Elder of the Hunting Grounds emerges. With the aid of attendants, he manages to come close enough to bow.

Isis ignores his distressed state, “Did we or did we not expel your rat problem?”

He doesn’t even glance in my direction despite my hard stare. “I am humbled and honored, Madam, that you’ve saved this clan. All of us will spread your self-sacrificing services throughout Heaven. Won’t we?” Rezon catches the eye of each individual near to his person and though they at least have the decency to glimpse at my upset, they nod their heads nonetheless.

I stomp forward, heedless as Phil calls me back. Isis makes no move, smiling at me in triumph. Her soldiers raise their weapons, daring me to attack.

Even though I’m furious, I keep my voice low guarding against anyone attempting to listen. “Are you after Kyla? Why? She’s a young girl and belongs with her family. What is she to you? What is she to Lucius?”

False pity twists on her black brows and I’m sure if I were standing only a few inches closer she would have reached out to touch my cheek to play a part in her game. “You poor boy. You are out of your league. Step down, child. Save your Soul while you still can.”

She steps closer, her height becoming apparent as her eyes lower to keep in contact with my own. “I warned you little boy, to stay in your clan. Now here you are out, without much of a babysitter. I wonder how much you are worth to your clan.”

Panic flickers across my face and I notice the Newborn Angel widening her own set of green eyes.

“I could keep you in my dungeons, watch Kio Elders bicker and banter over the price of your head. It would keep you out of my way and give me much entertainment. And a little money never hurt.” She snorts as if the tempting offer no longer suits her fancy. “Then again, they’d probably be thankful. They’d pay me to keep you rotting beneath my floors as they find someone more suitable for Kio’s King. Either way, taking you as my hostage can only be beneficial.”

The Newborn gapes with horror.

“Do you see, girl?” I sneer. “ Do you see the twisted witch she truly is?”

Isis flings her head around seeing her ward frightened and snaps back at me, preparing to strike me.

“Isis.”

I locate Master Dion comfortably plopped upon the piled bodies of the Vetalas. His long hair screws with careless knots. His medallion dangles, hiding the protruding Death Scar from our sight. He rests his lazy brown gaze upon his Soul Mate with humor mingling on his lips, “You aren’t trying to steal this land from Kio, are you?” His Russian is thick and welcoming.

Relief pours over me at the sight and I can’t stop my grin.

Isis doesn’t find the humor, sadly enough, “Dion-”

“I can’t have you toying with my subordinates so openly, Isis. It looks bad. It might just start a turf war if word got out.”

She steps up to him, forgetting my existence, caring little for the dead beasts that he sits on, “Your subordinates?”

His hands fold out, “Am I now not the most powerful Fallen on the Earth plain? All Fallen are under my sole protection as was Tymician’s duty as is now my duty. Since I just happened to be in the area,” He grins, chuckling low in his throat.

“Dion--”

“If you wish to talk,” He points to a body lying before the infirmary, “The Ruling just happens to be nearby. We can have a big sit down on proper etiquette and law and what it means to forcefully steal away a won territory from Kio’s young Fallen heir. I wonder what will happen considering your last infraction. Let’s see if I remember…That’s right, you kidnapped and tortured a Newborn Fallen because you thought he had information of Ariel’s whereabouts. That’s not a very nice thing to do, dear wife.”

There is nothing but jubilation in Dion’s triumphant. He can’t stop grinning. I doubt Isis gets caught during such a malicious act of tyranny often and for her Soul Mate this is one lucky occasion for him.

Wordless, Isis opens the Dust and abandons her soldiers. I watch as they all hustle to follow after. The girl seems lost in the transaction and doesn’t quite know what to do. She wants to help the Hunting Ground but she’s required to follow. Pity swells. I shouldn’t have brought her into the conversation. It’s not my place to shake her loyalty. She’s a Newborn, too easily persuaded and naïve.

She turns and I rush toward her, gracing her fingertips with my own but pulling away when she yanks back her fingers, turning to me.

“Hey.” I give a genuine smile, appearing as friendly and unthreatening as I can manage. “I shouldn’t have… I’m….Isis…She’s intense.” Her silence only increases my guilt. What if she Falls because I’m a wrathful idiot?

“Did I scare you?” When she shakes her head, I relax a little. “Is it...” I point to the creatures. Her eyes slip to the sky, nodding. “Oh good.” I sigh in relief before realizing how that sounded, “I mean, I’m glad it’s not me. Not that I’m glad you’re scared. Or I mean. Alright. Well. Bye.”

I hurry to Eric, glancing back as she steps into the dust and disappears. I hang my head, feeling like an idiot. Eric latches a hand on my shoulder, “Smooth.”

Dion plucks himself off the pile of vile beasts. “Good to see you, krasnyy.”

Tristan and Eric quickly come to his side, enchanted as always in the presence of an Erelim but I’m pretty sure they are simply happy to have someone that knows that the hell they’re doing. I’m a poor substitute for a father.

“Rezon.” Dion calls as we climb the hill. “Won’t you clean up this mess? I believe it’s scaring your charges.”

They’re scared because of Dion but I think he knows this and I laugh.

He looks down on me, which only highlights the unfairness of his height, “Why are you here at this cursed place anyway? Lilith’s children breed in these woods.”

“I’m looking for a clan mate. I think she was abducted by an Angel and the Vetalas seem to follow him.”

“Let me guess: Kyla?”

I glance at him. Suspicion knits my brow. “How did you know?”

He waves a careless hand, “Tymician mentioned something about moving her.”

Tristan comes up between and begins throwing random questions about Tymician. As I silently observe, it appears he dodges each inquiry with skill. It further irritates my suspicion and when Tristan looks over at me with apprehension creasing his black brows, I become nervous.

Tymician and Dion were close but rumors are usually based on some sort of truth. Their friendship withered as the years continued to reveal Dion’s brutish behavior. There are reasons that the clan Tiya is considered the Devil’s Advocate.

Noises from behind stall us from entering the Dust and I watch a woman detach from her friends and race up the hill. She’s brave confronting us even as tears smear the dirt on her cheeks.

“Are you the guys that are after her?”

I step forward, eager for any clue to finding Kyla. “Yes.”

“Leave her alone.” She pleads desperately. “It’s because of you that my clan mates are dead. Alex will protect her. He’ll kill Angels to protect her. Rezon didn’t believe him and now look at us. So leave her alone before he does something even worse.”

I look passed her disheveled appearance and move on to the grieving friends and family lying beside the empty bodies that once contained Angel Souls. More wounded collect in front of a makeshift shelter, seeking aid and comfort. Uninjured rush to put out fires and assist anyone trapped beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings.

This stranger is asking me to leave my ward with a man who caused this immense devastation and heartache. How can I allow Kyla to be subjected to such a creature who is careless to murder? Even if he is able to shelter her Soul from Isis and all those that seek her, is it worth this?

Yet even as I judge him, what if that judgement is wrong? What if Tymician left Kyla in this stranger’s hands for a purpose? Perhaps Ty knew how far this Angel would be willing to go and how limited I would find myself. Is that why Ty didn’t trust me? Is it because I wouldn’t be able to kill for her?

“If you meet Alex again, tell him,”

There are multiple things I want to say. I want to tell Kyla that Ty’s absence isn’t her fault. I know she must be grieving. I want her to know that even though she’s not with us, we still think of her as family. And to Alex I would tell him to fight. He can do what I can’t and he seems to know there is something about Kyla, something so grand that the Light and Darkness desire her so I pray that he doesn’t stop running and fighting.

“Tell him, good luck.”

-

At home, Leon and the twins meet us at the door eager for information. I send them out for groceries and though they protest as per usual, once I hand them my debit card they chase each other to Leon’s car.

Phil excuses himself to shower and change. Vetalas blood stinks and burns to a point where even Elders begin to feel its sharp sting.

On the pool deck, Dion and I saunter with meaningless talk until it breaks off awkwardly and he glances around, searching for any soldiers listening to our private conversation. Then Dion rests his narrowed gaze upon me, chastising, “Isis is afraid of very little. She finds weakness very easily. She attacks very quickly. She is not an enemy you want, Felix but one you have. Why?”

I scratch my scalp. Being reprimanded hadn’t been exactly what I wanted from him. I need encouragement and perhaps help. “When Ty disappeared I got a little ahead of myself. I may have threatened her.”

He guffaws.

“She came at me first-” I stop from sounding like a child.

Dion plops himself unceremoniously on one of our many lounge chairs, stretching out his bulbous legs which bypass the length of the chaise by a foot. I take a seat beside him, blankly staring at my feet.

“You were raised better than that.”

“I know. But I panicked. Tymician disappeared so suddenly. Do you know anything?”

He rests his head back enjoying the beaming rays of the sun. “Mother Nature is happy, haven’t you noticed?”

I look toward the clear blue sky, “That’s what Phil said.” I suppose it means something to Elders but to me, it’s weightless.

“Why are you searching for this girl? Don’t you have better things to do?”

I play with my fingers unsure how to express my concerns. Phil reacted to Lucius’ contract with terror, telling me to do whatever Lucius wanted. What advice will Dion give me?

He chuckles deeply, “Place a Net, if you are afraid of listeners.”

“I don’t know how.” Instead I lean close to him, gaining his eyes, “Lucius forced a contract on me. I’m to give him Kyla or he’s going to take Eric.”

Dion looks out to the water, a taciturn visage that Phil would be envious of. “Eric. The boy is slipping. That it is easy to see.” He says it callously and surely, like there is nothing to be done about it. My Soul quivers at the carelessness of Elders. “So Lucius knows about Kyla.” He murmurs. “I wonder what he means to use her for.”

“I don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure that out. The only hint Lucius gave me is he called her a key to the war.”

He sits up, spreading his legs and placing a foot on each side of the lounge chair. Dion’s sight is un-seeing, staring at the cushion beneath him. “The war is approaching, but what has she to do with it?”

My brows knit in earnest. I haven’t heard a single word about the war except from Lucius. I figured there was something going on with the Demons or the Souls in Second Hell. There is always a rebellion or an uprising. Why would this concern Dion, an Earth Erelim?

“Lucius is silent. His grief is thick. Tymician was his closest confidant. I cannot get a word out of him as the masses build.”

“Dion--”

He latches onto my shoulder, cackling as if nothing troublesome ever past his brow, “If you are to lead Kio, Felix, you mustn’t show so much.”

“I don’t want to lead Kio. Ty--”

“Is dead. That is what the Elders have decided.”

I lean back, my hands falling useless in my lap. It’s as if no one else in the world believes in him. How can I be the only one that knows Tymician so well? He’s not dead. He has too much left to do.

“Listen to me.” Dion swings a leg over and fully faces me, “Tymician’s last battle was against the Sins. Sloth and Wrath. Taking on one, he would have been fine. But two is impossible. He was never a warrior. He was a diplomat and Sins do not deal in politics. Lucius cannot find him and it means only one thing. The Sins have taken his Soul. So it’s time to move on. You are now the new leader of Kio.”

If I could have a panic attack or cry or some human response I would. But it’s impossible for Fallen to grieve. I can only numbly stare at this man that coldly gives me orders in which I have to follow.

Bowing my head I murmur, “I can’t do this, Dion. I wasn’t supposed to be a leader for another thousand years. I don’t know enough.” My fingernails dig into my skin as I fist my hands, “I’ve just finished learning everyone’s name and face. I don’t know their positions. I don’t know any of our connections. No one knows who I am. No one respects me like they respect Tymician.”

“Felix.” His bracelets clatter together as he rests his hands upon my shoulders. “If nothing else, trust in the fact that Tymician always knows what he’s doing.” He smirks wickedly, slapping my cheek. “Now, order an Elder gathering. It is there you will make your debut. I will come and make sure they treat you well. It will be fun.” He rises, “About that girl.”

I watch as he walks away, throwing up a hand in farewell.

“I will find her for you. Lucius must have her, mustn’t he?”

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