6.0 - PERSONAL GRIPES
The pier had proved too busy with festival goers and various attractions so all six of the Fallen had converged on the Abbey. It was closed to the public certainly but provided the perfect place for the angels to convene and discuss the situation with Cain. The ancient ruin was floodlit for the festival and the angels stayed close to the perimeter wall so as not to be detected by security.
“You lost them?” Samael growled, circling Zepar and Xaphan.
Menacing although their leader’s tone was, the Mad Hatter did not even flinch, he stood his ground, scowling at Samael’s back as he passed before him. Zepar on the other hand, shrank as their General loomed over her. “Apart from myself, you are the most attuned to him. How could you lose him?”
“I do not know, Samael,” she replied, constrained, eyes wide. “One moment I could sense his presence, the next - it was as if he had... vanished!”
“He can’t just vanish!” Samael moved away, furious, hiding his face from the others.
Lahash leaned against the wall, arms crossed, watching Samael closely. He wore a sly smirk. Their leader was nearing boiling point it seemed. He pushed himself away from the wall and strolled over to the Zepar and the Mad Hatter. “Perhaps Lady Cupid wanted them to have a little romance first,” he announced.
Samael scoffed, the irritable sound spreading out over the Abbey grounds. Still, he kept his back to them all, hands deep in pockets, shoulders tense as he stared out over the sea.
Zepar’s eyes burned, the blue flames flickering in her irises. “Not funny!” she hissed as Lahash passed in front of her, giving her a wink.
“You do have a soft spot for him, Zepar, let’s face it. No-one dare speak ill of the little bloodsucker when you’re around, isn’t that so? I wonder why.”
“Mind your tongue before I mind it for you!” Xaphan growled, stepping forward, warding Lahash off.
“Oh wake up, Firestarter! Your infatuation with her is pathetic. It’s not you who she favours.” Lahash looked purposefully towards Samael, long enough to get his message across. He turned back to meet the Mad Hatter’s deflated expression.
Xaphan snarled at him, his top hat taking an unexpected tumble. Zepar grabbed his arm, blue fire leaking from her skin. “Pay him no heed,” she voiced. “He just likes to stir things up.”
Xaphan stepped back, then stooped to collect his hat. Irritably he dusted it down before thumping it back on his head, his mood sour.
Beelzebub’s deep voice intercepted the simmering tempers. “The question is, will Cain be with us? Or against us?” He looked at each of his comrades in turn. Lahash merely cocked a disbelieving eyebrow and looked away. Zepar held the Prince of Demons’ gaze, a look of quiet desperation behind the blue flames. Xaphan folded his arms and glared hatefully towards Lahash, and Apollyon, as always, looked bored.
Beelzebub’s silvery eyes shimmered like mother-of-pearl against his dark skin. Finally, they rested on Samael. The leader of the Fallen still refused to face the group. “What say you, Samael?”
They all waited; a mixture of uncertainty and anticipation. Eventually, he turned to them. “We have to push the right buttons and I know exactly which ones they are.” He rejoined the group, looking directly at Zepar. Her eyes held his, her lips slowly peeling apart as she waited for him to say more. He gave way to a small smirk. “For once Lahash has a valid point.”
The Deceiver scoffed. “My! Such praise!” he muttered under his breath.
Samael looked askance. “Lap it up, it’s all you will ever have from me.”
Lahash sneered and turned away quickly, annoyed his utterance had been heard.
Zepar waited expectantly and their leader focused on her once more. ”Have you been casting your little spells?” he asked her. He stroked her cheek and jawline then pushed her hair back behind her ear. She flinched and shook it free again; she hated the old scars being exposed.
“No,” she breathed.
Samael grinned. “Then it seems Cain’s heart has been bewitched in the old fashioned way. He covets the woman.”
Zepar’s lips twitched at the corners. She continued to hold his gaze, the odd ripple of blue fire licking her irises. “Most certainly not my doing then.”
Samael traced her mouth with his thumb, tugging gently at the corner. Squinting, he studied her, wondering what really lay behind those pretty eyes. His jaw tightened and suddenly flicking her chin, he pushed her away, dismissing her as if she were a petulant child.
Xaphan, concerned and confused by Samael’s behaviour, moved in to comfort a clearly humbled Zepar. She shrugged his hand away when he reached for her, turning aside, her head inclined keeping watch on the others.
With a grunt, Samael faced Beelzebub.“I want you to provoke Cain’s true nature,” he said to the Prince of Demons.
The tall, mocha-skinned seraphim stared at his leader. Although his lips curved in a malevolent smile he still bore a perplexed frown. “You know I cannot reach him. I have tried in the past...”
“Then ramp it up!” The leader of the Fallen snapped.
Beelzebub’s eyes darkened, the hooded lids almost obscuring the pearly tint of his irises. “He is impossible to penetrate, Samael. I don’t understand why. Others like him were easy...”
“They went mad though. Perhaps had you left them alone...” Zepar said cautiously.
“It was their condition which drove them insane, not Beelzebub’s intervention,” Apollyon injected. His contribution surprised everyone. He looked around their faces, then simply sniffed and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, they couldn’t hack it! They perpetually seek a fountain of eternal youth but when longevity is gifted to them they see it as a curse! The talking monkeys are not equipped to cope with such things.”
Lahash chewed over their words. He saw an opportunity. “Cain is doing quite well, oddly enough,” he said, his tone pragmatic.
"He is not a feeble human!” Zepar growled.
“Our esteemed leader fucked an earth woman. That makes baby Cain one of them!”
The General stilled and glared, his quietude more menacing than his rage.
“Leave it be!” Xaphan warned Lahash.
“Why? Don’t tell me you are not all wondering the same thing!” The Deceiver surveyed the group. They all stared back, impassive, except for Zepar whose eyes showed a hint of fear. “I ask you, how is it the others lie under the dirt, emaciated, dry and broken yet Cain has survived all this time unscathed?”
“Cain is not a talking monkey! His mother was but a vessel, an incubator! ” Samael said, his eyes as hard as stone. “He is my son!”
“As were all those who you charged Beelzebub to manipulate.”
“But, we all manipulate, Lahash.” Xaphan sneered. “It is our job. Although you’re taking it a step too far right now!”
Lahash scoffed. “Aww, are you still stinging from before? Did I burst your little love bubble, Xaphan?”
In the blink of an eye, Xaphan flew at Lahash gripping him by the throat. With his face contorted in a snarl, the Mad Hatter forced him back to the perimeter wall. Lahash’s mocking laughter tormented him, fuelling his rage.
Zepar squealed and rushed forward. She tried to intervene. “Stop! This is madness!”
Lahash gripped Xaphan’s wrists and pushed back. Straightening, appearing to have the advantage he shed his earthly attire, wings unfurling, revealing him in his celestial state.
His transformation triggered the stoker of Hell-fire to do likewise and before long the two angels were grunting, roaring, wrestling and punching. Like two animated chess pieces vying for the upper hand, the angels fought back and forth - one with tawny, majestic wings, the other, red phoenix-like plumage, buffeting and swiping at each other.
Samael’s voice then boomed. “Exercise some restraint! The town will bear witness to this folly and your squabble shall draw attention.”
They continued to scrap, feathers flying, thin spatters of blood landing across Apollyon’s face. The crooked one ran his finger over his cheek, smearing the crimson. A slow grin stretched his mouth.
“Enough with your personal gripes. You are becoming more like humans every day!” Beelzebub shouted.
The angels gradually ceased their skirmish, both still furious but adequately shamed by the Prince of Demons’ metaphor. Wings slowly retracted and were concealed once more in the guise of human attire.
Lahash resumed his position at the wall, Xaphan walked over next to Zepar. It was his turn to shirk her touch.
Once tempers were adequately cooled, Samael moved to a central point. He looked at each of his troop in turn, his fingers trilling off each other as he assessed each and every one of the angels. “I will have my army,” he announced. “Cain will do my bidding, not God’s! His power has lain dormant far too long. And I don’t care how many go mad or suffer from the transition.”
“Once we find him again, of course,” Zepar said, huffily.
“Yes,” Samael retorted, his lips set in a sneer.
“So we can taunt him? Play with him? And this woman too?” Apollyon ventured.
“Do you what you will. But, he must see God for what He truly is. The most deceptive tyrant of all.”