She’s out there. Somewhere in the east. As a common neophyte, she bears her Soul and it resonates like a beacon across the globe.
Ariel is alive.
I glower, staring out the window of my office inspecting the soldiers running about on the training ground. Their excitement is palpable as they jitter across the yard, passing the word to each other.
The Elders stand in a cluster, motionless, taciturn, eyeing the horizon. They witness the billowing dark clouds, they hear the distant thunder, and as I do, they feel the foreboding Darkness awaken as Mother Nature maddens. One by one, they turn their heads and look at me.
Will I go assist their precious Transcending Erelim?
I draw the blinds and land roughly in a leather chair.
Why did Ariel have to return? Why now, at the moment when I needed this band of Angels to look toward me? She is not their hope! I am. This is supposed to be my moment to shine. Ariel has had her turn and she threw it aside. She ignored her calling.
I’ve had a little slip up, it’s true. My rampage needs to be rectified.
I allow Michael to help repair my quandary. The Newborns are delighted to have him and seem to forget or at least overlook yesterday with him in their gazes. I am neglected and for, this moment anyway, I’m glad. Let the wound I’ve caused heal and their hatred ease. Then I will take back this base, rid myself of Michael, and once more be the Ruler of Earth.
As long as Ariel doesn’t come and ruin everything.
A knock on the door pulls me from the depression I am drowning in. I desire Tessa to step inside and bring a smile to my lips but I know she’s hiding. She’s another victim of my cruelty. Do I chase everyone away that loves me?
I recall Dion saying something like that to me years and years ago. I thought he was saying it just to hurt me. But perhaps, there was some truth behind it.
My eyes roll upon Mario stepping inside, bowing his head. He attempts to suppress his apprehension but I can tell with his twittering fingers hiding behind his back, his nervousness is not unfounded. “I know why you’re here and I don’t want to talk about it.” I tell him quickly. As my Relations Manager, he’s dealt with previous grievances and will have no problem fixing this one. “Matthias failed to protect the Sofitel. It burns because of his lack of judgment. He must be punished. I will not have him a part of this clan any longer.”
He quickly takes a seat, “I do not question your judgment, Mistress. Matthias should have been at the tower to stop this calamity. However, at the behest of your Elders, he was attempting to gain a friendly alliance with Kio.”
The very sound of that clan sends a fire in my veins, “You all are going behind my back.”
“We will never have an alliance! Not with them. Do you understand me? I will bleed Veronica and her little hoard of Fallen on his doorstep. They destroyed my home!”
“Mistress, he has Tessa.”
The flood of outrage recedes and I’m left stranded, saturated to the bone. I fall back against the chair and all I see is Dion coming toward me, empty-handed and grief-stricken. He reaches out to me but I pull away. Gone, he says, Zahra, my little eight-year-old daughter lost to us forever.
Mario licks his lips, breaking such delicate reverie. “Now I have every reason to believe she is safe. Nevertheless, it would be in the NYC’s best interest to disarm against Kio. To trade and seek peace.”
He searches for a response but I give him none.
“The Fallen will be the world’s best asset in this war. Kio is struggling to gain its balance. If they do not find a suitable representation before this war begins, it will affect all of us. If we stage an attack, it will only worsen their situation.”
“You are saying to allow them to do what they please? They brutally assaulted my home! I am an Erelim Elder. They had no right to touch what it was mine.”
“Yes, Mistress. You are right, of course. But it was the act of one. One single house that has hatred spewing from its heart.” Mario bows his head before his fingers delve into his coat pocket. He is hesitant but pulls a piece of paper out and unwilling rests it on my desk. “The Merci asks you to take pity on a Newborn leader. See his faults for what they are. Tymician--”
“Tymician is dead. So is his clan and it is spiraling out of control. We are its target, can’t you see? They will not accept Felix, that asinine child as its king. They will splinter and crack, form coups and mutinies. We are the closest to the fire, Mario. You wish to wait for it to turn untamed and wild and we will burn in its downfall.”
He is silent but it is loud in its betrayal.
“The Merci decided. I see I have no choice. Go. Tell them you won me over with your sympathetic plea and my heart melts in your hand.”
My head lies against the back of the chair and I blink unseeing. I don’t know why I care. I have lived nine thousand years to seek the purpose for the deaths for ten innocent lives and I have yet to discover its reason.
When I was young, I used to think there had to be a purpose. Why bring children into my life if only to snuff them out in such brutal manners? Abasi savagely slain, Zahra kidnapped and lost, three of my boys doused in flames; the list is never ending yet still I search for their purpose.
Was it to make me strong? To teach me a lesson? To drive me insane?
Any of these would give their lives some reason.
Yet losing them had done nothing but give me grief, a grief so thick nine thousand years couldn’t taper.
It makes me wonder, how many more lives come into this world and serve no real function? They are just modes of dust, easily blown away.
God says our objective is simple. Love. Live. That is all He desires for us.
When I was alive, when I was human, my purpose was much more specific and so easy to follow that I seemed destined for it.
The day Dion and I conceived Abasi, our first son, we laid beside the Tei’ag-e, our name for the Nile, underneath different stars than viewed today. I was thirteen and virgin while Dion was fifteen and talented in female wails. He was a mammoth to me despite being half of what he would become. Though he was no stranger, I was terrified and my body shook through the whole ordeal. I said not one word or voiced any protest, my lips clamped tight if only to make my mother and father proud.
When it was through, I was motionless and would be so for the remainder of the night. It is the tradition of our people. To conceive a child it must be done underneath the stars, in the eyes of the gods, beside the fertile river. Dion would leave me and I would suffer through the cold alone. It was my duty.
He washed in the water and I cleared my face of tears. I could feel blood and semen drip down my thighs but it was forbidden to move my lower regions until the sun rose. I tortured myself with thoughts of failure. He’d never desire me again.
Dion landed on his knees beside me, shocking my nerves and my eyes fastened on him. He brought a palm leaf full of water and coconut skin at which he began to clean my skin. I watched him with wide set eyes. He was silent through the procedure, diligent and dedicated; washing away every bit of dirt and grime to leave me pure and beautiful. When he finished and my body shook from the cold, he draped a thick hide over my form.
His eyes landed upon me. I found I was embarrassed to meet his but he gripped my hand and laid it upon his sword that rested beside us. I connected my orbs with his and there was a great conviction I had never seen before. “Grant me a son, mate and I swear two things to you. I will guard you against all enemies great and small. You will never fear any foe. And my body will be only yours. I will know no other woman. Grant me a son and you will have served me well.”
Dion gave me purpose. It may seem so trivial and meaningless but it was the only thing I desired. With all my heart, I prayed and yearned. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t have a boy and when Abasi was born, I succeeded and my happiness was endless. I couldn’t love Abasi more. He was my purpose. He was my sole meaning.
And he was taken from me.
Every child I ever had slipped through my fingers.
I am here for some reason whether Father gave me purpose Himself or not. Someone out there did and I mean to figure out if it was all worth it. It has to be worth it.
Another knock at my door and I find tears present in my eyes. I am sitting here in self-pity. It is disgusting. I clean up my face and find a soldier waiting. Michael wants me to come visit the grounds. How nice of him to send a lackey to my office.
I scoff, cursing under my breath. This is my base. I run its facility, not him. How dare he order me? I will come if only to put him in his place. I pin my black curly hair tight, cringing every clip I place in it.
I follow the private down to the training grounds, taking my leisure, which annoys the soldier that is used to rushing everywhere he goes.
Michael rushes to my side as a dog greeting its master. He is a young boy at a playground. It is unseemly for an Arch to act reposed in front of so many. Where is his dignity?
“Madam Isis. I wish to show you the battle plans, if you would please follow me.”
I realize there is no stutter to his tone. He believes he is in his territory and there is nothing to fear. He is king here and I am a dutiful soldier. I keep my feet as he moves to the vehicle that awaits our transfer.
I flip my gaze out to the many soldiers lined up stiff and straight. Their eyes flicker to me and then return swiftly sightless again noticing my wondering. There are Elders mixed in with the lot. I cannot tell by their power because of my necklaces but I know faces if not names. Michael apparently does not care for proper positioning.
I saunter up between the lines. The tension rises. Whispers formulate. They may act like soldiers all they like but I know who and what they are. They are not warriors. They are Angels and they will break the moment a force is put before them. Allow Michael to see them for what they truly are. Maybe then, he will see what I am dealing with. I am not a failure but I am given failure.
“Many of you wish to talk about yesterday. You whisper and jabber to yourselves. None of you have the gall to speak out and broach the subject to me directly. So I bring it to you. Let’s talk. You speak of my unyielding temper. You bash my name, you blame my overreaction. You scorn me. You judge me. I see your point of view. If I was young and weak riding the waves of a more powerful force, I wouldn’t blame myself for my fallacies. But let me change your view. I rely on others, ones I respect and care for, to cherish the Light that I have gathered for NINE THOUSAND years to protect me. And when you FAIL and a Fallen has a knife to my THROAT, there is little sympathy left in my heart. This war will come and I will be your secret weapon. You’ve seen what I can do. So guard my Light with your life. You don’t have to like me but you will die for me.”
I walk to the vehicle Michael stands next to. His eyes, downcast, will have some sort of disapproval but he won’t dare say it to me, just as the Angels behind lay dormant.
I hear it distantly, an Angel speak up, “Is that what you think?” I turn around and find an Elder staring at me. I don’t know her name but I don’t care to know it. “Have you wondered yet why all seventy of us just stood by and watched, Isis?”
The audacity to use my name so familiar shows me her boldness.
“Matthias was the only one to attempt and you nearly ripped his arm off. We see what you do to your own. You are not worth saving. God can love you but we will not. And I won’t put up with your comments. Forgive me, your grace.” She bows to Michael, “But as long as she is here, I won’t be.” She struts off and it’s hard to say how many will follow her.
I’ve lost all manner of caring and I turn my back and enter the vehicle.
Michael sits across from me and stares out the window, “Madam Isis.”
I wait for him. Will he berate me for my audacity? Does he think himself so grand?
His fingers unfurl, spreading out on his thick thigh, “Will you return me to Heaven?”
I suppress my satisfaction, “What about all your plans, Michael? I didn’t upset you, did I?”
His crystal blue eyes keep to the outside, “I have done enough, I think.”
I lean back, “The Merci will be proud of your work, I’m sure. You stand up to the Arch name.”
Bowing his head, he licks his lips, “The Arch Family disapproves of me. My brother Uriel most of all. His words from earlier though cruel were candid.”
“Why do you stay, if you know they don’t want you?”
A sadness knits his brows, “They praise me, in human history, three times as the greatest warrior that ever lived. They mark my achievements and applaud my triumphs heedless to the way I acquired them. I was a selfish man in each life. I murdered millions of God’s children and for what? For their appraisal? My human lives did not matter and I wish I had known that.” He points passionately to the floor, to the Earth. “This is what matters. Everything I do here is significant. I make an impact here.”
My attention fades. Had I known he was attempting to lecture me, I wouldn’t have begun to listen in the first place.
“Why do you stay, Erelim Isis? What keeps your heart beating?”
I cannot get rid of him fast enough. Newborns have blinding convictions and they turn their ignorant mouths on those that know better. He will one day be in my shoes. He will understand that the heart plays little part in our society. It is about rage and how powerful one becomes because of it.
Our feet touch the entrance of Heaven and Michael and I split ways most happily to be rid of each other. Not to my surprise, Uriel steps out of his office when I walk by. His thick black brows knit in confusion, “You return so soon. Is Michael well?”
I lean against his doorway, “For someone who loathes his brother so fervently, you are ardent in your caring.”
His facial features sharpen in a scowl. It brings a wicked smirk to my lips. “He is my brother until he is not. I am forced to fret.” Uriel turns into his office, leaving the door wide open for invitation. I submissively follow, closing it behind me. He is at a drinking station, pouring bourbon from a shining crystal into two short glasses. “I did not have time to contemplate your gift. Perhaps a drink will suffice for now.”
“A drink with you, my lord, is an ideal reward.” I grasp the glass, intentionally touching his fingers in the process.
“I trust his attendance was not an encumbrance.” Uriel leans against his desk, taking a short sip of the sharp tasting liquid.
“I am tired of such a subject. What is interesting to me is Ariel.”
He nods his head, the bells on the tips of his thick braids twinkling only distantly. He drops his gaze to stare at the golden substance, twirling it about, deciding on his words. “Her return is odd.” His words are surprising and if we were in the presence of anyone else, I’m positive they would be completely different but as it is we are alone and he shares what he wouldn’t with anyone else. “She bears her Light, she must do it for a purpose. It has Heaven in an uproar. The Seraphim desire the Merci to retrieve her and the Merci seem hesitant to do so. It is madness. I do not doubt Sariel knows something about it. He tends to always know more than he lets on.” He drowns the rest of his drink and drops the glass on the desk, glancing at me.
I take my first sip of bourbon. “You seem disturbed, sir.” I take a step closer. “As it is, I’m disturbed myself. Perhaps we can distract each other, for a time.”
Uriel snatches my hips, jerking me into him. Shock drops the glass and it shatters at our feet. “I thought you swore off men?”
My fingers play with a bell while my lips barely grace his as I whisper. “I don’t want a man. I want a beast.”
In my second human life, I had been beaten so much and often by my first owner, I couldn’t have children anymore. Dion came into my life and saved me from my enslaver, I desired only to give him a child to show my gratitude. As time stretched and I produced no heir, I could have curled up and died out of humiliation. Dion wouldn’t let me. He gripped my face in the immense size of his palms and forced my gaze upon his. “I did not betray my people for a squawking babe. It is you that I breathe.”
I was distant and silent the entire year we lived together in a remote village. Then Dion’s people found us. As their knife slashed my throat and I watched Dion’s body die, I found my purpose. I hadn’t realized until then but it was there the entire time. My reason for being was to love him, to cherish him, to fill his days with happiness. Despite death being upon us, I think I managed it somehow. Two life times, Dion gave me purpose. I wondered how I would meet him in the next and I prayed that I would make up for all the wrongs I’d done him in this one.
I lay stretched out on Uriel’s mattress, naked and gloriously content. Fingertips dance along my tanned skin, poking and prodding swelling areas, red and bruised. I smile and bite my lip, basking in the euphoria of the pain. There aren’t many creatures in this world that can give me such amble wounds. Uriel is exactly what I have been searching for the past millennia.
I hear him distantly as I watch each action of my skin, pecking at its injury. He sits at the edge of the bed with his back towards me, strapping his sandals back into place. It’s a drawn out process that takes several minutes. I needn’t look to know what he’s doing. He’s been silent as he’s been dressing. I’ve upset him greatly but I don’t care. I’m content and I bask in this moment of sweet serenity.
He ruins it however, “There are other ways to self-destruct.” He nips. “Quietly. Privately.”
I press on a rather large welt on my thigh and hiss. Grinning, I glance over and find his gaze as he looks over his shoulder. “Yes but I am an Earthly creature and we do nothing quietly.”
Uriel slips a hand out and pulls at my arm, dragging my motionless form into his lap. I am a doll and he is my master. He holds my head in one massive hand, while the other is too afraid to touch any other part of me. Turmoil boils on his brow as he looks over my skin. He reaches behind and covers me with a blanket. “When is it justified for a man to harm a woman?”
“When she begs for it.”
He shakes his head, the jingling of his bells sounding in the emptiness of the room.
I touch his face, reassuring, “You seemed to enjoy it and eager to give it. Why this guilt now?”
Uriel stares at me. His eyes flickering over my features as if he can read what boils beneath. I despise the attempt. “Stop this hatred, Isis. End your reign on Earth. Come to Heaven.” He hardens and grits his teeth. “Marry me.”
It’s an order that wakes me from my blissful delirium. I bolt from his arms and hold the blanket tight to my bosom, feeling more naked than just physical.
He refuses to look at me, staring at his hands that dangle between his knees. “I am leaving the Arch Family. I will join the Seraphim as a Duke. My burdens will be no more.” Uriel looks behind him toward me, “Come with me.”
I push off the bed, forcing the blanket to cover every part of me, searching for clothes. My breath is wild and my heart is worse than panicked. I flick my gaze everywhere, bewildered and silent. It doesn’t make any sense. He’s setting me up for something. I am nothing to him. I mean nothing.
Does he wish to kill me? Is someone paying him? What will be his gain?
The question crushes his features and he stands up from the bed to face me.
“What do you want from me? Do not confess your undying love. You and I both know we are made of stone and ice. I will not hear your lies. The truth, sir, as best as you can manage it as a man.”
He is tentative. He searches for ways to soothe me but I am not an imprudent adolescent virgin to believe paltry words. I am an Earth Angel and I know what vengeance means. He plays with the wrong person.
Uriel speaks gently. “You are in danger, Isis.”
“And you mean to save me?” I reply condescendingly, latching onto my dress.
“Your self-destruction hasn’t gone unnoticed. Do you recall Egypt?”
My movements cease in horrid memory.
“Two weeks ago five undead were killed by a human puppet. You erased its memories well but not enough. His Soul remembered you.”
My legs weaken. I grap for the bed and manage to get to it before I collapse.
“It hasn’t been the first time you’ve used your Light for malicious purposes but the Merci stood up for you in the past. After what happened at the base, they no longer consider you a viable asset to Earth. Dion was included in their discussion since you both are of the same degree. Sariel came to me. He knows that I consider you my equal. He postpones the decision.” Uriel rounds the bed and rests beside me, grasping my hand, jolting my attention. “In less than twenty-four hours, you will be on the list of the Gloria Patri. They will hunt you down and imprison you for eternity. If the Ruling gets to you first, they’ll use you for the Nephilim cages. You are a threat to humanity now. By showing off your muscle, you exposed how powerless the Elders are against you. They wonder what else you are capable of and what powers you have that they cannot control. They fear you, Isis.”
“I am an Angel of God.”
“And what is your purpose?”
Words catch in my mouth as my eyes search the ground for the answer he wishes to hear but I have none. I’ve been searching for that answer for too long, I have no idea what he wants me to say.
“It is an easy answer, Isis.”
I shove him away, getting to my feet but I move only to the edge of the bed before my knees wane and I have to sit again.
“Metatron cannot save you in this. Even if he could be reached. They will want to move swiftly before you can gather any of your allies.”
“Allies. And who are they?”
He stands tall, a man of dignity and reform, proud of his Soul and his own purpose. I do not find myself abhorring him however. I am covetous.
“I know little of your life, Isis. But I trust in the fact that you are an Erelim of Earth and the Angels that hold no political bias will care for nothing else. You have many. Anyone can point out their foes. It is as easy as pointing out ones flaws. It is harder yet to distinguish those that love us for those imperfections.” Uriel tightens his fingers. “You do not have to worry about any of this if you chose to marry me. I can protect you. The Seraphim will protect you.”
My eyes drop to the yellowing welt on my thigh. It swells and contorts. The blood pulses against my tan skin. I shift my dress over it, attempting to cover its sordid sight.