Jenkins marched silently through corridors of the Library, mentally reviewing all the items on his to do list. Top of the list – work on making sure all the artifacts had, in fact, returned to their proper place after DOSA’s failed attempt to take over. It had taken weeks to make sure that everything they had removed had actually been returned, never mind checking their condition after being stored in government facilities then being packed up without consideration of their fragility. “Bloody bureaucrats” Jenkins huffed, checking off another item on his list. “No respect for art or history.”
“Let me guess” a sarcastic voice called out from behind one of the empty crates. Ezekiel Jones, master thief and all around smart-ass, popped up holding a roll of duct tape and a crowbar. He tossed the crowbar into the empty container along with the tape and wiped his hands on his shirtfront. “People in general or DOSA and their mindless minions? Because I’m good with both.”
Jenkins sighed. “Those DOSA cretins. They packed priceless porcelain vases like they were dime store purchases. It was a miracle they weren’t broken in transit – or that the magical spirits the vases were made to contain were not loosed on the world due to these foolish government minions. On top of that, many of the other items came back untagged so it’s taken twice as long to find where in the Library they belong.” He frowned, taking in where the young thief had been sitting. “Is there some reason you’re hiding in an empty crate?”
Jones shrugged. “Baird is on a tear. She’s determined to find a way to keep people from constantly breaking into the Library. Since I’m the best thief in the world…”
Jenkins rolled his eyes. “Really, Mr. Jones – a little humility might be in order after everything we’ve been through.”
“Why?” Jones asked, wide eyed. “I’m just being truthful. And Baird agrees with me! She wants me to figure out a way to make a security system work against outside hackers. Cassandra will work on keeping magic users out but really – Baird is counting on me for the big part of this.” He glanced into the crate and frowned. “Hey – what’s this? I thought this thing was empty and headed for the furnace.” The young thief reached in a pulled a rolled up package out of the depths of the crate and handed it to the old knight.
Jenkins eyed the package suspiciously. “A painting, perhaps? Rather small – maybe a manuscript? I’m not aware of any such items that DOSA took from the library that have not already be accounted for.” He turned back to the general area. “I think we need to have Mr. Flinn take a look at this.” The two men turned back towards the Annex’s center, neither feeling the odd, cold wave of power that flowed over and around them as they walked away. Inside the abandoned crate, a lonely piece of paper fluttered under the crowbar which had separated it from the bundle it had been attached to. A tag that read “Beware – changes can come when you least expect it.”
Chapter 2: Happy birthday Rowan
A suggestion - you might also want to read a story called "Different Stories" (one of mine and my co-author). It's not completely necessary (will explain situation as story goes along) and the other story isn't quite finished but it's background information might make this story (at some point) make more sense.
In the Depths of the library
Sounds of battle ring through the deserted corridors, steel on steel, the wet sound of flesh sliced by blades. Voices calling out warnings or in pain. And from behind the door of the ancient chapel, hidden in the depths of the Library itself – a battle scream like no other. Something solid hit the ground behind those doors – something that groans a name – “Gabriel”.
In the Annex meeting area
Flynn Carson looked up in surprise as the back door started glowing. “Are we expecting someone today?”
Cassandra smiled, putting a book marker carefully between the pages of the “unabridged” novel she had been reading. “I think Rowen and her brother might be coming for a visit. I heard Jenkins talking to Arthur yesterday about the possibility of them dropping by.”
“Thought Arthur was taking his sister to that fancy club in Los Angeles for her birthday” Eve said, looking out at her Librarians with a smile. It was good to have everyone back on the same page, all working together as a cohesive unit. Dealing with Apep and DOSA had put everyone on edge. Now that the library was secure and the apocalypse averted (again!) the team could afford a little down time – once everything DOSA had taken was put back in its proper place, that is.
“Did he say which club they were going to?” Cassandra asked, wistfully. After the disastrous encounter with Dorian Grey in Club Effigy she hadn’t been inclined to try the nightclub scene again – but Rowan’s vivid stories of hitting the international bar scene with her handsome brother in tow had sounded like something the petite redhead would have liked to have tried – with her friends solidly behind her to make sure she found her way home again.
“Some place called Lux” Jake Stone replied, looking up from unwrapping yet another artifact. He watched the back door start to rattle as something from the other side started to make a connection to the Annex. “Hear the owner calls himself Lucifer Morningstar.”
“You know” Baird commented. “There was a time I wouldn’t have given that nugget of information more than a passing thought. Now…”
Flynn shrugged. “Nothing about the club has come up through the clipping book so…”
He stopped as the back door swung open and Arthur, the once and future King and his sister Rowen stumbled in, drinks still in hand. Arthur, his blond hair short and spiky, was dressed in his “biker” gear of dark, form-fitting t-shirt, leather jacket, black jeans and hiking boots. Rowan, on the other hand, was dressed to the nines in a dark red, clingy shift and golden sandals. Her dark hair was up in elegant braids held together with golden cords. The upper part of her bare arms was covered by bracelets matching the emblem her brother was wearing around his neck – a woodland hunting scene done in Celtic design. They both looked flushed and happy. “Well hello Librarians!” Rowan sang out, handing her drink to Stone. “Long time no see.”
Arthur tossed his drink back and then sent the glass hurtling through the still open door, watching the portal close behind it. “Right – good to see you. Where is Galeas?” He leaned on his sister’s shoulder for a moment, shaking his head as he did so. “And why is the room still spinning?”
Rowan laughed. “Because you have had enough booze tonight to float the Titanic. As over-priced as those drinks were you still managed to put away almost a liter of assorted alcohol.”
“So essentially he’s hammered” Stone said with a chuckle.
“Oh yeah – he’s toast” Rowan giggled. “I was hoping to hand him off to Jenkins for a few hours until he sobers up. Father will NOT be pleased if I bring him home like this. Though it could be worse. I once had to bail him out of jail in Paris and get him sobered up before a board meeting with the Rothschild family the next day. Rather amusing time actually.” She patted her brother on the head like a well-loved pet “You know – it’s my birthday. I’m the one who was supposed to get trashed not you.”
“Who is trashed?” Jones’s voice floated through the doorway before he and Jenkins appeared. The young thief grinned at the pretty brunette who had just arrived, receiving a quick smile in return. Jenkins rolled his eyes at his old friend’s condition as the strapping young king wrapped him up in an almost painful embrace.
“Galeas! Where have you been?” Arthur roared, trying to simultaneously hug the older man while slapping him on the back. It didn’t work terribly well, succeeding only in almost sending both men to the floor instead. “You missed a great party! Everyone was there – even the Devil himself!” He flashed a crooked grin at his highly amused sister. “I think Lucifer has a crush on Rowan. Couldn’t stop looking at her all night.”
“Really, Arthur” Jenkins huffed, moving to drop his inebriated friend into a nearby chair. “I would think that after that little affair at Coeur de Lions when you and Lancelot challenged the entire court of King Bors to a duel you’d have learned to moderate your consumption of alcohol.”
“He challenged an entire court of Knights to a duel?” Rowan exclaimed, eyes gleaming with mischief. “And Lancelot let him do it?”
“I suspect Lancelot had no choice – he was as inebriated as Arthur was at the time. He had a death grip on our King’s tunic and could barely remain upright while issuing the challenge. Thankfully for all concerned, the knights they challenged weren’t any more sober than either of these two idiots.” He turned with a long-suffering sigh. “I’ll make coffee.”
“Don’t like coffee!” Arthur growled, leaning back in his chair.
“Ignore him” Rowan said, taking a stand behind her brother’s seat and digging her fingers into his shoulders to keep him from toppling over. “He’s done his best all night to poison himself with booze so I think that a little black coffee won’t do him any harm and will do us all a world of good.” She grinned impishly at the others. “And since he’s in the mood to be loud and obnoxious maybe we can pry a few more stories about life in Camelot out of him!”
Jenkins rolled his eyes as the sound of friendly laughter followed the older man out of the room. The happy sound floated away down the paths leading deeper into the library, down to the doors of the chapel where the sounds of battle had subsided – and the sounds of pain had begun.
Chapter 3: The adventure begins - for one
In the old chapel
The man was sprawled face down on the floor in front of the altar, barely conscious with his short sweat soaked hair plastered to his head. In form he was human but the pair of massive dark wings, sprouting from his shoulders, spoke of another lineage. The ebony feathers gave an occasional shiver as the cool air flowing through the room hit ravaged flesh. There was blood everywhere, covering his ornate metal armor and soaking his damaged wings. The being clutched a sword in one hand, knuckles white with the power of his grip, holding it as though his life depended on its weight in his hand. With a groan he managed to rise to his knees, using the blade to help him stand. Leaning heavily on the railing in front of the alter, he wiped the gore from his eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath. He fought to stay conscious as he pulled himself upright, looking around the room. “Where…” he thought, painfully stepping back and dropping into a nearby pew. “A church?”
A voice in his head spoke softly. “A chapel.”
He glanced around, not seeing the source of the words. The genius loci of the chapel, it seemed, was inclined to acknowledge him – even if his Father in Heaven was not. “What chapel? Where?”
“In the Library” the voice whispered again.
The man frowned. “The Library? I don’t understand.”
“The Library” the voice replied, sounding just a little peeved. “The place where knowledge and magic are protected and preserved.”
The man shrugged. “Your words make no sense. I was in a battlefield – why am I now here?” Silence was his only answer. Taking a deep breath he stood to better asses his situation. “Spirit of the Library” he asked, quietly. “Where are my brothers?’
The voice remained silent for a moment then replied “Dead All dead.”
The man fell back in the pew, pain radiating from grief and injury sweeping away what little energy he had left. “No – that isn’t possible. Not all of them! Not Uriel and Rafael. Not… not Gabriel.”
“Dead. All dead” the voice reiterated. “Only you survive.”
The sword he had been clutching dropped with a clang to the stone floor. “It cannot be so. The plan was sound. The Fallen would be distracted by our young ones and we…” He head jerked up, staring into the darkness of the high ceiling. “The young ones… Gabriel’s boy, Uriel’s student, my student Miry…”
“They do not exist” the voice replied calmly. “As you wished for it to be.”
The voice grew stern. “The Fallen asked what you would sacrifice for your Chosen student, to protect Alex. You chose all – and all is what you paid.”
“LIAR!” the man roared. “I would NEVER have abandoned my brothers, never sacrificed the young ones. NEVER!”
“And yet, here you are. And they are not” the voice proclaimed.
“This is a delusion” the man muttered, leaping up and plucking up his sword, slamming it into its scabbard as he moved. He staggered down the aisle towards the main door, leaving a bloody trail in his wake. “This is madness. I must find my way back to the battle, to my brothers…”
“To your home?” the voice chastised. “Or have you chosen to sacrifice it and your almighty Father as well?”
“Be SILENT spirit” he hissed, grappling the door open. “None of this is real. The Fallen has learned to cast a glamour over my eyes. I have only to find my way back and all will be as it was before.” He slammed the door behind him as he staggered down the darkened cooridors.
Behind him, the voice sighed. “And so this adventure begins – Michael.”
In the Annex
The festive atmosphere of the club seemed to have followed Arthur and his sister into the Annex. Even Jenkins was inclined to be talkative, telling stories on his slightly less inebriated friend that set the younger librarians roaring with laughter. “I honestly thought Lancelot was going to have a stroke he was so mad at you” the older man mused, a rare smile on his face.
“That boy lived to be annoyed with me” Arthur snorted, taking another sip of coffee. The room had stopped spinning after the first cup and his stomach had stopped trying to turn over after the second, both a sign his internal healing powers had finally gotten ahead of his alcohol intake and was now working on setting him straight.
“From what I can tell, you appear to have deserved it” Rowan laughed, ruffling her brother’s spiky hair. “I mean really – you kicked in a chapel door, dropped a priest down a well, and made off with someone’s bride!”
“First off – that fat old sod was no more priest than I am” Arthur growled, ignoring the snort of laughter from Jenkins. “And as for the rest – the girl didn’t WANT to marry that pimply faced weasel!”
“Well YOU certainly weren’t going to marry her!” Jenkins replied. “I know your type and she wasn’t it.”
“Really? And what type does he favor?” Rowan purred, wrapping her fingers around her brother’s hair.
“One word from you Galeas” Arthur warned, “and I’ll drop kick your ass all the way to the center of the Library and back.” He swatted at his sister, trying vainly to free himself from her grip.
“Okay – how bout you tell what Jenkins type was when you two were mates?” Jones asked, grinning mischievously at their Caretaker.
“You may have been my king” Jenkins warned, glaring at both the young thief and his friend “but I still have a few skeletons in your closet I can divulge so tread carefully.”
“He’d have to care if you told tales on him” Baird said with a laugh. “I get the impression he doesn’t.”
Arthur sobered immediately. “There is only one story I shared with Galeas that I would be hard pressed to forgive if he revealed. But I know my friend well enough to know he will not.”
“And I never will – not till you release me from my promise” Jenkins whispered solemnly.
Rowan frowned at the two men then shook her head, her braids flying. “Far too serious. Let’s have some music or something interesting to distract us. It’s still technically my birthday and I want to enjoy myself with good friends. Come on Ezekiel, crank up the music and let’s dance!”
Jones grinned and reached over to his laptop and tapped a few keys. Music started pouring form the walls of the library, loud and rhythmic and ready for dancing. “How’s that?”
“My hero!” Rowan purred. “Come on Cassandra, Eve – let’s show the boys how it’s done!” She started spinning around the younger man, bouncing on the tips of her toes as she and the Aussie danced to the raucous club music. Stone, grabbing Cassandra’s hand, dragged her out into the middle of the room to dance, spinning her around like a top. Flynn and Baird found a quiet corner beside Flynn’s desk to sway to a different beat, talking quietly as they did so.
Jenkins and Arthur watched the younger group dance with amusement. “I’m not sure I’d call that dancing” Jenkins remarked, pulling up a chair to sit beside his old friend.
“Looks more like an aerobics class to me” Arthur agreed, draining his coffee cup and laying it on the floor beside his chair. “Ah well – if it makes her happy…”
Jenkins laid a hand on the young king’s shoulder and squeezed it gently. “I never got the chance to say how glad I was that you found her again.”
“I knew you were happy for me, little brother. You have a good heart.”
The two old friends leaned back in their chairs, enjoying the moment – until the music was replaced by the unnerving sound of warning bells.
Inside the Annex
“What the bloody HELL!” Arthur shouted, hands covering his ears. “Someone stop that!”
“What’s going on?” Rowan asked Jones, watching as he ran to his laptop and silenced the alarm.
“Someone’s in the library” Jones said, motioning to his screen. He continued to type, making note of where the incursion seemed to be coming from.” Someone who shouldn’t be here.”
“Again?” Both Rowan and Arthur rolled their eyes at each other. Rowan moved to stand beside her brother. “This place reminds me of a block of Swiss cheese - way too many holes.”
Jones shrugged. “That is why I put some sensors on the walls down in the lower levels. Been trying several systems as a test, see which one would work best with the Library’s internal magical security. Looks like something or someone must have tripped them.”
“Sensors but no cameras?” Rowan commented, waving a hand at the laptop. “All I’m seeing here are numbers – not images.”
“Hadn’t gotten to that part of the system yet” Jones admitted ruefully. “I was just looking to see which motion sensors could be modified for our use. This isn’t exactly the standard business needing security.” He frowned as he matched up the location of the sensors and a rough map of the Library’s lower level. “This is strange. Seems like the first sensor to trip was by that old chapel on Level 10.”
Stone glanced back at Jenkins who frowned. “Maybe Morgan? That’s where you last saw her isn’t it?”
Jenkins peered across the room at the laptop with concern. “No – after her last entrance Lady Rowan graciously offered to ward the Library to keep her out. And besides – the chapel is holy ground. The Library would not allow anything dark to use it as a portal into the facility.”
“I’m good at warding” Rowan commented. “And the one I put over that room should have kept anything out. And what I couldn’t keep out the Library should have. Question is – why didn’t it?”
Arthur rose, suddenly very sober. “We’re not getting any closer to finding out who our intruder is by standing around here. Galeas – you’re with me. Rowan – you take Baird and Stone. Jones, you watch where the intruder goes and report back to us.”
“Are you going to call Excalibur to you?” Jenkins asked, reaching into a large urn and pulling out a sharp Templar sword.
“No need” Arthur replied, holding out his right arm. “Come to me,” he whispered “Albion, sword of the King.” A fiery Crusader’s sword appeared suddenly, dropping into the younger man’s hand. He looked down its length, mentally commanding the flames to die away, leaving the intricate, wavy Damascus pattern visible.
“What do you want us to do?” Cassandra asked, her eyes wide.
“Stay out of the way” Arthur growled, grabbing Jenkins by the shoulder.
Baird looked between Flynn and Arthur with a frown. “The Library’s security is my responsibility. But Flynn is the Librarian and wields Excalibur. He should be with one of us.”
“Eve is right” Flynn protested. “This is my home. I should…”
“Should what?” Arthur said coldly. “There is an enemy at your gates – what do you want done, Librarian? Stand here and discuss it or allow me to do what I’ve been trained to do – track and capture the enemy.”
Rowan sighed. “He can come with us. Perhaps his knowledge of the Library can be of help.”
Arthur shrugged, then reached out and snagged the gangly Flynn by the shirt. “Have a care, Librarian. I’ve lost my sister once because of inattentive mortal eyes. I will not loose her again. Bring her back to me, Librarian, or do not come back at all.” He pushed him off and started towards the door with Jenkins in tow.
Flynn looked at Eve and Rowan with a frown. “Where did that come from?” he asked, smoothing out his rumpled shirt.
“He’s a warlord’s brat, leading armies for his father at a young age. When you were just starting your scholarly studies he was crushing his people’s enemies and wresting his kingdom from dark forces. Needless to say – a Librarian isn’t as impressive to him as a former Knight of Camelot. Especially one he watched become the swordsman he is now.”
“But Flynn can wield Excalibur” Cassandra protested.
“So can Arthur” Rowan replied with a shrug. “So are we going to stand here and debate my brother’s bad mood or try to pin this intruder in a corridor between us?”
Jones looked up from the map, eyes gleaming. “Whoever or whatever it is, they are moving pretty slowly. There is a spot right before that locked room we found Flynn and Baird as statues in and the Room of Celtic antiquities that you might be able to pin whoever this is between you.”
Rowan glanced at the map, memorizing the ins and outs of the level. “Alright, Librarian, time to earn your money. How do we get from this level to the door of that locked room Jones mentioned?”
Flynn thought briefly then motioned the two women to follow. “We can go down the emergency stairs and we should come out right near the locked room. Let me call for Excalibur…”
“Don’t bother” Rowan said, moving towards the door. “Eligor, Queen’s sword, come to me.” Another Crusader sword, almost the twin of the one Arthur had called up, appeared and dropped into the dark-haired woman’s hand. “Albion and Eligor will be the front line of the battle and keep Excalibur in reserve.”
Flynn and Baird exchanged glances then joined their visitor. Jones raised a knowing eyebrow at Cassandra. “I’d lay even money Rowan doesn’t think much of Flynn’s fight style.”
“But neither she nor Arthur has seen Flynn fight!” Cassandra replied, exasperated. “That’s so unfair!”
“Maybe. But if I were about to go into a fight I’d want someone I knew could kick ass behind me – not someone I barely know.” Jones shrugged, unconcerned. “Besides, Baird is with them. What Flynn can’t handle, she can.” He went back to tracking the tripped sensors, watching as they slowly formed a path towards the elevator.
Cassandra sighed. “What can I do to help? I feel so useless.”
Jones looked thoughtfully at his friend. “Well… not that I don’t trust Rowan and Arthur but I’m sure Flynn and Baird are going to want to know more about those magic swords they pulled out of nowhere.”
Cassandra smiled. “I’m on it.”
Sword names from old series "Robin of Sherwood".
Chapter 5: Confrontation
In the depths of the Library
The man moved slowly through the dark corridors. His huge wings, folded carefully and painfully behind him had disappearing from sight as soon as he had set foot out of the chapel. His blue eyes, clouded initially with pain, were now bright and wary as he scanned the path in front of him. The words that the spirit of the Library had spoken to him still rang in his head.
“Dead. All Dead.”
“No!” he growled. “Not my brothers. Not our young ones. Our Holy Father would NOT allow the Fallen to destroy them all. This is not real. It can not be!” He slowly inched down the corridor, leaning occasionally against a wall when the pain of his injuries became too strong. Staring down at his torso, he could see he was still losing blood from numerous sword blows, could still feel the damage done to his now invisible wings. The injuries were healing though not as quickly as they could. “No time to deal with them now” he mused, leaning against a wall.
There were several doors along the path, each different from the one before it. Some had plaques beside them to identify the room beyond – some did not. It reminded him painfully of the training grounds he had sent young Seraphim angels through, a set of mazes with different paths branching off from a center point. The paths always changed, always had something new and deadly along the way towards the end of the road. “Chose a door” he asked himself, examining a brass plate in front of one of them. “Chose a door or go on?”
A sound coming from one end of the path alerted him to incoming hostiles. He slipped into the shadows, flattening himself against a wall, waiting to see what was coming around the bend.
At the elevator
Arthur and Jenkins stopped at the older man’s workshop to retrieve two Crusader daggers meant to be paired with their longer blades. “The halls are narrow” Jenkins said as he dug the two blades from out of a chest. “If we get into close quarters we’ll be better off using these.”
Arthur smiled coldly. “You learned well, little brother. Bigger isn’t always better.”
Jenkins rolled his eyes. “You still love your double entendres don’t you?”
Arthur shrugged, sheathing his sword and strapping it to his waist. “Keeps things interesting.”
The elevator took them quickly down to the lower level and into the darkened path. The older caretaker moved ahead of his friend, acting as guide in the unfamiliar territory. “The chapel is just ahead. Based on Mr. Jones map, whoever this intruder is, he can’t be too far from it.”
Arthur nodded. “Looked like he was moving slow. Maybe injured. Not a good situation to go into. I’d rather not corner an injured animal.”
Jenkins nodded in agreement. He waved a hand towards an ornate door, indicating the entrance to the chapel. He touched a dark, wet spot on the wall beside the entrance, bringing it to his nose. “Blood” he whispered.
Arthur nodded, pointing at other spots in the floor leading from the room. “This way.” He sniffed the air, making note of the sick, metallic smell of blood lingering behind the still invisible intruder. He laid a finger across his lips and started to slowly follow the trail with Jenkins closely behind.
At the other end of the trail
Rowan, Baird and Stone made it down the stairs in record time, leaving Flynn to catch up. The dark haired sorceress had manifested a short dagger as they approached the stairs, strapping her longer blade to her back. Baird had retrieved her gun as they left the Annex meeting area. Neither Stone nor Flynn was armed, though Flynn had ordered Excalibur to stand ready to come if it was needed. “Now where?” Baird asked as they exited into Level 10.
“From here we need to make our way towards the chapel” Rowan whispered, pointing down the hall. “With any luck we’ll catch this guy between us.”
“If it’s a guy” Stone grumbled, catching his breath. “Could be almost anything.”
“Not the time to discuss it” Rowan said quietly, starting down the row of doors towards where she remembered the chapel had been located.
“In a hurry to draw blood?” Flynn said softly, trying not to look winded.
“In a hurry to be with her brother” Baird hazarded, following the woman down the corridor. “I get the feeling those two are very protective of one another.”
Stone shrugged and fell in behind Baird with Flynn taking up the rear. They slowly approached a locked door, eyeing the shadows warily. Suddenly, Rowan held up a hand, halting their momentum. Turning to Baird, she signed down towards the turn in the path, pointing to her ear.
Baird nodded grimly, hearing the sound of the other team approaching them. “Make our stand here” the Guardian whispered. “Let them flush whoever it is to us.”
Rowan nodded agreement, pulling her longer Crusader sword from her back and taking a spot where she would not be in the way of the Coronel’s gun. Stone and Flynn fell back to stay close enough to help but back far enough to keep out of the way of the weapons ahead of them. Suddenly, a battle scream sounded right before them. “Move forward – NOW!”
The group charged forward, Rowan and Baird moving together as a unit. Baird could see Jenkins, dagger and sword in hand, a step behind his friend who had taken up a stance which allowed him to use his sword to keep their uninvited guest off them. As for the guest…
“What the…?” Stone sputtered, stopping so suddenly that Flynn ran into the back of him. “Is that… an angel?”
“No!” Flynn scoffed, stepping around the younger librarian. “That’s not…” He stopped, swallowing whatever he had planned on saying. There, between his team and Arthur stood a creature he had only seen in ancient manuscripts and medieval art. An angel, with a huge dark wingspan and full leather/metal armor, stood in the hall wielding a sword that looked suspiciously like Arthur’s Crusader sword. He was screaming something at Arthur as he batted both Jenkins and Arthur’s weapons away.
“What’s he saying?” Baird called back to Stone, trying to line up a shot.
“No idea” Stone replied, backing up to keep himself and Flynn out of the way of Rowan’s sword. “Not a language I’ve ever heard before. How about you?”
Flynn shook his head, frustrated. “No – don’t recognize it.”
“Screw talk” Rowan snarled. “Hey, pretty boy! Over here!” She hip-checked Baird out of her way and took a stand facing the being her brother was fighting.
The angel turned, the look on his face going from fury to astonishment. “Miry? How?”
“Who’s Miry?” Baird called out, fuming at being put out of the way of the battle.
Rowan frowned, looking at her brother. “I have no idea.”
Baird watched as the angel’s expression went from astonishment to dismay. “Who are you?” she asked, holding out a hand to both Flynn and Jenkins. “How did you get in here?”
The angel looked from one person to another, leaning back against the stone wall. “This is not possible. This madness is not possible.”
“Answer the lady’s question” Arthur snarled.
“Arthur” Jenkins warned, quietly.
“Arthur?” the angel repeated, staring at the young king in confusion.
“That’s my name” Arthur fumed. “Now let’s have yours.”
“Michael” the angel whispered. “I am Michael.”
Flynn’s eyes went wide. “Michael? As in … Archangel Michael?”
The man nodded, his eyes closed.
“Oh come on Flynn!” Arthur snorted. “Just because it has wings and calls itself Michael doesn’t mean…”
Michael lowered his blade sadly. “Angels do not lie. I am Michael, Sword of our Father, and Protector of the Faithful. I am who I have always been.”
Baird frowned. “Okay – let’s start with that. You say you’re Michael. Who do you think she” pointing to Rowan “is? You seemed to know her but you called her by another name.”
“She is Miriam – Lady of the Moon, Queen of the Fay. And my… former student.”
“Now I know you’re lying” Arthur snarled. “My sister may be my Queen but she has never been student to one of your kind.”
“She was my student from the age of sixteen till … till I betrayed her trust but a year or more ago.” Michael’s face went cold as he looked at the young King. “I know you as well, young firebird. Damien, son of the late warlord Vlad Dragón and student-companion of my youngest brother Archangel Uriel.”
Jenkins watched his friend go stiff at the intruder’s words. “The LATE Vlad Dragón?”
“You are misinformed” Rowan said quietly. “Father is alive and well in the family homestead in the Fae realms.”
Michael’s expression remained still but his eyes spoke volumes. “And… your twin brother Andre? My brother Gabriel’s … adopted son?”
“I have no twin” Rowan replied. “And I know no one by the name of Andre.”
“I told you” a voice in Michael’s head, the voice of the Library’s spirit, whispered sadly. “You were willing to sacrifice all for your Chosen – and now you have.”
Michael’s knees buckled and he slid boneless to the ground. “This is madness” he whispered to himself. “This cannot be. The Fallen cannot have taken all from me, my brothers, our little ones. It cannot be!”
Rowan and Baird exchanged quick glances with Flynn, who had come to stand beside his Guardian. “This man is injured, Arthur” Flynn said quietly. “Whatever else he has to say to us will need to wait until he can be patched up.”
Arthur lowered his blades warily. “What would you suggest we do with him then? Pack him up and take him to the nearest hospital? I’d love to hear you try to explain his injuries to the emergency room staff – or to the police they most assuredly will call once they have examined him.”
“Maybe Jenkins can find an empty room somewhere in the Library to put him in” Stone said, moving to flank Rowan. Their intruder seemed a beaten man but he wasn’t taking any chances with either his Guardian or his friend.
“No – that would not be wise” Jenkins said, looking at Arthur with troubled eyes. “The Library is barely recovered from the events of the last year with Prospero and Apep not to mention DOSA’s incursion. But I have an idea where we can take him to recover – at least for now.”
Rowan glanced up, catching her brother’s eye. “I suspect I know where you’re headed with this suggestion” she murmured. “And I concur. I can’t get him cleaned up and healed here without stressing out the Library and my brother even more.”
“Where do you want to take him?” Stone asked.
“The House of Refuge.”
In the Annex main room
“So – any luck finding something on those swords?” Jones asked, bored now that nothing seemed to be happening on Level 10. The sensors had stopped tripping and neither team had communicated with him for some time, something that concerned him though he wouldn’t show it. “No sense” he thought, “worrying Cassandra over what might be nothing.”
Cassandra looked up from a dusty volume she had dug out of one of Flynn’s stack of “to be read” books. “Looks like they were created by a swordsmith named Wayland who is also supposedly created, the Lemegeton or Lesser Key of Solomon. There is a mention of a grimoire that tells of the Seven Swords of Wayland, each of which is imbued with one of the seven powers of light and darkness. Each of these powers is in turn connected to a certain demon or entity. Eligor – the one Rowan referred to as the Queen's sword – is supposed to have the power to discover hidden treasure, cause war, marshal armies, kindle love and lust, and procure the favour of lords and knights. The seventh sword – Albion – supposedly has the power of Scrying or Divination. It was created for foretell the future and to provide military aid and advice.”
“Well that explains why Arthur calls it the King's sword, doesn’t it” Jones replied. “What happened to the other five swords?”
“The book doesn’t say exactly. Just that they haven’t been seen in centuries.” Cassandra carefully closed the book and looked up, a worried frown on her face. “It sounds like those swords might be magic items – I’m surprised someone hasn’t tried to put them in the Library for safe keeping.”
“YOU want to tell Arthur that his sword might be too powerful a magic talisman for him to carry? I’m not sure which one will be more insulted, Cassie, Arthur or Jenkins! You know how he thinks Arthur pretty much hung the moon when he was fighting to be King of the Britons.” Jones glanced back at the laptop then jumped out of his seat. “Heads up – the teams are coming back.”
Both young librarians looked up to see Arthur and Stone dragging another man between them in the Annex area, with Jenkins, Baird and Rowan following close behind. “Cassandra” Rowan called out, stepping around her brother and Stone. “We’ll need to access the House of Refuge for a bit. I think it would be a smoother transition of you joined us – the House still feels beholden to you for your help in ridding it of the evil spirit that infested it.”
“What happened to him?” Jones asked, suspiciously.
“No clue and no time to find out now” Rowan replied, shutting down the conversation. “Eve, I think we can leave the boys to their own devices for a while, don’t you agree?”
Baird nodded, looking quickly at Jenkins for confirmation. The Caretaker nodded, stepping closer to Flynn. “Agreed. Let’s get that door open before this gentleman bleeds out on us.”
“That will not happen” the man’s voice, with a slight British accent coloring his words, slurred slightly as he tried to straighten in the two men’s grasp. “I will heal given time to rest.”
“Time we may not have” Rowan replied, holding out her hand and whispering a word of petition to the winds. The soft sound of wind chimes filled the room and in a blink of an eye – Baird, Rowan, Cassandra and their intruder were gone.
“I HATE when she does that” Arthur growled wearily.
Information on the swords comes from this site - http://www.robinofsherwood.org/swords.html
Chapter 7: In the House of Refuge
The spirit of the House moved silently through the well kept halls, sensing the approach of familiar visitors – and one aura that troubled him. The power approaching was muted but recognizable as a Son of Heaven, someone who had only been in this House once before – when it had been created. He wondered briefly why this angelic being would have need of the services of the House of Refuge then put the thought out of his mind as he prepared for his visitors.
“Here, put him on the sofa until I talk to the Caretaker about a room for him.” Rowan’s voice was calm and businesslike as she gently released him to Baird and Cassandra. The angel’s eyes followed her as she moved out of the room.
“Uh, Eve” Cassandra whispered, motioning the Guardian to a corner of the room. “What’s happened? Who is this guy?”
“I never thought I’d hear myself saying this – but he’s an angel.”
Cassandra blinked then cut a quick look at their prisoner, who was sitting hunched over on the sofa. “An angel?”
“Not only an angel but specifically the Archangel Michael, patron of soldiers and protector of Mankind.” Baird shrugged. “At least that’s who he says he is.”
“An archangel? Really?” Cassandra eyed the man quizzically. “But then, who hurt him?”
“A Fallen” Michael whispered. “One of my brethren who chose to follow Lucifer during the First War in Heaven. Azazel – leader of the Watchers who taught mankind the art of warfare and women the art of deception. He rose up as the First Prince of Hell to take over an alternate reality that I and my brothers were attempting to protect.”
“Attempting?” Baird asked.
“We faced him in battle with our young ones using their own forces to act as a distraction, allowing us to take the war to the Fallen. But we were fractured, at odds with each other. And he used that division against us, showing us what would happen to our young ones if we continued to try to save this world from his forces. I thought…”
Baird eyed their “guest” pensively. “When you say your “young ones” – who exactly are you referring to? Younger angels?”
Michael sighed in frustration. “No. Beings created by our Holy Father, a mix of Fae, human and angelic blood. A type of Nephilim, strong and wise yet without the desire of power and the joy in destruction. They were our students, our companions, our…” his voice stuttered to a halt as the memories become overwhelming.
“So Rowan was your “young one” – your student?” Baird asked tentatively.
“Miriam” he corrected automatically. “Yes, she was my student from the time she was sixteen. Her brother Damien was my youngest brother Uriel’s student from birth. And Miriam’s twin was Gabriel’s adopted son from the moment Andre was born. I don’t understand how they can be alive in this reality yet he is not. The twins were never far from one another from the moment they met until…”
“Until?” Cassandra asked, breathlessly.
Rowan walked in with the spirit of the House following closely behind her. “Okay – we have a bed for you and a bath set up. Let’s get you out of that armor and see to whatever wounds are still bleeding.”
“I will be FINE!” Michael replied angrily. “Leave me be.”
“You will NOT be fine” Rowan said, brushing off his ill temper. “And you won’t be any use to yourself or us if you keel over from blood loss or infection so up you go…”
Michael’s snort of laughter surprised Baird. “Something funny?”
Michael shook his head ruefully. “She doesn’t remember me, yet we still fall into the same old patterns. She argues with me, I respond and we end up doing things her way.”
“And what, pray tell, is wrong with that?” Rowan responded briskly, helping the angel to his feet. “You are simply being smart enough to acknowledge that in this case I happen to be right.”
Michael’s slight smile lit up his somber face. “Yes, little queen, this time you are right. Just as you were that day when I cut my wings off and started us on this path to destruction.” He glanced back at the other two with a shrug. “A story for another day.”
“Seems we have a lot of those” Baird looked over at Cassandra pensively. She watched them walk away then sighed. “Cassandra, when Rowan gets back we need to send you to the Library and have Stone come and take your place.”
“But why!” Cassandra protested. “I could learn so much about Heaven and magic and…”
“I don’t think he’s in the mood to take on another student right now” Baird laid her hands on the pretty red-head’s shoulders. “And besides – we need to get that story he just told us to Jenkins. Maybe knowing the last thing he remembers before appearing in the Library can tell us what’s going on.”
In the guest room
Michael’s eyes watched Rowan’s hands as she briskly undid straps and gently removed his armor. She frowned at the sight of his injuries, most of which were already starting to heal. “Well, not as bad as I thought but still bad enough. You seem to be healing fine on your own. Flex your wings and let me check them. If you’re this cut up under your armor I hate to think what your wingspan looks like.”
Michael looked up into her hazel eyes, his expression inscrutable. He flexed his shoulders and his black wings unfurled, spreading from one end of the massive bed to the other. He watched her as she gently examined them, pulling feathers that were hanging by a thread and gently relocating others. “I had forgotten how gentle you can be when dealing with the wounded. Rafael taught you well.”
Rowan sighed. “Our father taught me how to do battlefield triage. I don’t know anyone called Rafael.” She sank to her knees in front of the injured angel with a frown. “Something has really gone haywire here, hasn’t it?”
Michael nodded. “Something has changed but I cannot fathom what or how. The Fallen was powerful but this…” He waved a hand absently around the room. “This I would have though was beyond even his abilities. And why is it I can remember what you cannot?”
Rowan shrugged. “Maybe someone’s had another go at the Loom of Fate. From what Jenkins told Arthur that had some interesting effects on this reality.”
“Ask the spirit of the Library” Michael whispered, suddenly very tired. “Perhaps it will say more to you than it did me.”
“And how, exactly, am I supposed to do that? Even Flynn Carson, the Librarian, isn’t able to hear the Library’s voice.” She rose and helped the angel to his feet. “Let me work on that while you work on the hot shower I’ve got ready for you. Cleaning the blood from your wings will go a long way to make them feel better.”
Michael smiled down at her. “Yes, my lady. Whatever you command.”
She swatted him gently on the arm. “Don’t be an ass” she said with a smile. “I’ll be back to check on you in a bit. If you need anything…”
“The spirit of the House will serve me. I know. I was here when it was created.” He moved quietly into the bath and firmly shut the door between them.
Chapter 8: Gathering the team
Back at the Annex
“So – what’s our game plan?” Stone asked, looking from Arthur to Flynn in anticipation.
Arthur shrugged. “No clue. You have one messed up angel talking gibberish about my sister and I, looking like he’s been in a street brawl and no word from the Library about anything unusual going on – or have I missed something?”
Jones looked over at the clippings book, still laying peacefully in its cradle. “Yeah, about that. None of us got any warning something was about to happen either from the main Book or our own versions of it. What’s up with that?”
“Whatever has happened, the Library must not see it as much of a threat” Stone said, walking over to leaf through the old tome.
“How can having some scruffy archangel wannabe falling into your lower levels not be considered a threat?” Arthur responded testily.
“You seem certain he’s not who he says he is” Jenkins looked at his old friend, puzzled. Something about this situation was bothering the man but the Caretaker couldn’t quite make out what.
“I just spent the night getting drunk at a club supposedly owned by Lucifer Morningstar. There’s a limit to the amount of Heaven sent creatures I’m willing to admit exist in one 24-hour period.” Arthur sighed, his headache coming back with a vengeance.
“Rowan seems more willing to believe” Jenkins said, pressing the issue.
Arthur shrugged. “You need to take that up with her.”
“Pity we cannot ask the Library directly why it did not warn us of this incursion” Jenkins mused.
Arthur stared at his friend for a moment, a grin forming to replace the frown. “Bloody hell Galais – you’re brilliant! That’s what we need to do – ask the spirit of the place to explain what is happening!”
Flynn, on the other hand, looked anything but pleased with the suggestion. “Unfortunately unless you know some spell, incantation or magical artifact that can channel the Library’s thoughts that’s not likely to happen.”
“I can do you one better” Arthur crowed. “I know someone who can talk to just about anything or anyone. He’s the Abbot of the Dragon Temple, Master Khan, and he’s been very helpful dealing with poltergeists, ghost and left-over revenant spirits from our realm after the War of Reunion.”
“The War of Reunion” Jones asked.
“Not now” Arthur barked. “I’ll be right back – he’s usually up at the breeding grounds looking after the young fire drakes the temple raises.”
“Wait – breeding grounds? Someone is breeding dragons?” Stone’s voice took on “that” tone, the one he used when Jones made some of his more outrageous claims.
“Yes – he breeds dragons. Where do you think he gets the priests for the temple from?” Arthur stared with annoyance at the younger Librarian. “Get a grip Stone – what happens in my realm has no bearing on yours. The guy owes me a favor – and he’s got an interest in the Heavenly realm. I’ll round him up and meet you all back here.”
“How are we supposed to get to get word to Baird and Rowan at the House? We don’t even know where it is right now.” Flynn’s frown deepened as he felt this interesting adventure slipping further and further out of his control.
“Not a problem. I’ll let Rowan know what we’re planning and she can get your Guardian and the pretty red head librarian here. I suspect the “angel” will have to come too. Oh well – can’t be helped. “Arthur looked over at the senior librarian with a mischievous grin. “Don’t be such a kill joy, Flynn. You’ll like the Abbot. He’s young, adventurous and for all intents and purposes he’s also considered a librarian.” Arthur turned and in a blink of an eye was gone.
“Just so you know – I am beginning to hate when he does that as much as he hates when Rowan does it to him” Jenkins muttered.
“You and me both” Flynn and Stone agreed.
In the Fae Lands
Arthur walked up to the high, black lacquer gates of the Dragon Temple and knocked. A panel slid open and a set of red eyes looked at him with suspicion. “Tell your Master I have a job for him. It won’t take long.”
The panel slid back with a slam. “Really needs to spend more time teaching those monks manners and less time teaching them how to kick each other’s asses.” Arthur murmured.
The gate creaked as it slowly opened and a figure, totally covered by its dove grey cloak, walked out. “This better be important” the voice from within the cloak growled.
“It is” Arthur agreed, trying to sound penitent. “Smile, sunshine, you get to finally see the inside of the great Library.”
The figure cocked its head to one side as though carefully examining the man in front of it. “You’re shitting me – right?”
“Language boy! Do your monks know the words you use?” Arthur laughed.
“Should hear what I say to them” the figure admitted. “They are used to it by now. So – the Library? Really?”
“Yeah – I need you to speak to the spirit of the place and find out what it’s not telling us. And when you’re done I wouldn’t be adverse to you poking around the stacks. Never know what they might have we could use later.”
A husky laugh emanated from within the cloak. “You’re the warlord’s brat alright – always scheming.”
“Always ten steps ahead of whatever game I’m playing” Arthur corrected smugly. “Come on – let’s be on our way.”
In the House of Refuge
“But I have so many questions!” Cassandra protested.
Baird sighed. “Look, I know this is all pretty incredible but I think we need to be practical about this. If this is, in fact, an archangel, then we need to be on our guard. Whatever did that to him might decide we’re easier targets. And if it can take down an angel then I don’t hold out much hope for us without more information.”
“I’m afraid I agree with Eve” Rowan said, appearing at the sitting room door. “Our guest is healing pretty quickly, which makes me think he might actually be what he says he is. But at the same time – something damn near killed him so until we know what we’re facing I’m for erring on the side of caution.”
The spirit of the House approached as well, bearing a silver platter with a note. “A message for you, My Lady” he whispered, bowing slightly in front of Rowan.
Eve raised an eyebrow. “Who from?”
“My brother” Rowan replied, reading through it quickly. “He’s roped the Master of the Dragon Temple into helping us talk to the spirit of the Library. Arthur thinks the Library may know more about what is going on then its letting on.” She balled the note up and replaced it on the silver tray. “Wise move on his part. The Temple’s abbot is very bright and an incredible fighter. He could be a good ally if this situation goes south.”
Baird looked past Rowan towards the stairs. “I was going to send Cassandra back to the library and have Stone come here to keep our buddy upstairs company.”
“No – I think the spirit of the House can keep an eye on him. He’s in no condition to make too much trouble right now. Best we leave him here for right now, at least until we can figure out what’s going on.”
Baird shrugged. “Your call. Let’s get back to the library and see what the boys have found out.”
Rowan called the Caretaker over and whispered softly in his ear. As he nodded in agreement, she held out her hand and whispered softly. In the blink of an eye the three women were gone. The Spirit of the House turned and started down the hall, disappearing in a fog. Upstairs, the bedroom door closed softly.
Chapter 9: Back to the Annex
Back in the Archives
Stone paced around the table, sneaking quick glances at his watch at certain intervals. It had been almost two hours since Rowan had taken Baird and Cassandra - along with their unusual visitor - back to the House of Refuge. Arthur had been gone equally as long, promising to return with some religious persona who could talk to the spirit of the Library, a feat Flynn had assured them all could not be done. "So how exactly is that going to work?" he asked, stopping finally in front of Flynn.
Flynn shrugged. "No idea. I would think that if there were a way to talk to the Library as an entity a Librarian would have already found it and left notes on how it could be done. Judson or Charlene would have told me how to do that if they had known. But since they didn't and I've never been able to find anything remotely like that..."
"May I remind you, sir, that Arthur is not only a long-lived soldier but a magic user as well, one that Merlin believed was more powerful even than himself." Jenkins laid another armful of books related to the Heavenly Choirs and angels in front of the Librarians with a sigh. "If it's possible then my friend will do it."
Stone eyed the stack of books with a frown. "How many more of these are there?"
Flynn waved a hand dismissively at the volumes. "Depends on how wide a religious net we cast. Every organized religion has some variety of being that could be interpreted as angels. Since this one specifically identified himself as "Archangel Michael" I'm looking mostly at Christian tomes, Islamic writings and Jewish Talmudic history. Michael is one of the few angels who is actually named in the writing of these religion's scholars."
"And did any of that give you a clue as to how to tell if our visitor really is THAT Archangel Michael?" Jones asked sarcastically.
Flynn closed the book in front of him with a sigh. "Not really. As near as I can tell, angels can present themselves to mortals using varying aspects, including different faces or not using anything physical, depending on their mission. This COULD BE Archangel Michael but since no one actually has ever SEEN an archangel before..."
The air grew colder for a moment and the room rang with the sound of tiny bells. Between one breath the next, the atmosphere in the room shifted slightly then righted itself - just as Baird, Cassandra and Rowan appeared. "Are we early?" the sorceress asked, looking around.
"It's been a couple of hours. Your brother said he would be right back but..." Stone shrugged. "He's still not here."
Miry sighed. "The abbot of the Dragon Temple can be quite... difficult when he wants to be. And he's no fan of my brother's." She glanced at the mound of religious books on the table in front of Flynn and smiled. "Getting in some light reading, Flynn?"
"I find it's always prudent to study up on whatever your about to go up against" the Librarian replied, putting a bookmark into the tome he had been studying.
"Normally I would agree" Rowan said, taking a seat at the table. "But I have a feeling in this situation we maybe better off relying on instinct rather than knowledge. Something has gone terribly wrong here. I only hope..."
The back door began to shake violently as a force from the outside began to push its way in. "Arthur?" Jenkins asked, doubtfully.
"No - he'd just materialize like I just did." Rowan gently eased her dagger out of her boot and turned her chair to stare at the door. "Best you get your people behind you, Galais. Just in case."
Baird fished her gun from out of the desk drawer and took a stand just behind Rowan's chair. She noticed the amused look on her friend's face. "I know this is probably pointless" the ex-NATO officer said grimly. "Guns are not magical weapons. But it makes me feel not quite so useless if I try."
"Well then, by all means try" Rowan agreed.
The door went quiet and suddenly flew open, allowing a tall, slender figure to enter the library. It was a man, dark hair and dark eyes with a perpetual five o'clock shadow of a beard that only emphasized his handsome face. He smiled at the group - a smile that was not reflected in his eyes, which were locked on Rowan. "Well, well. Here you are little niece. I thought I saw you in the club last night but you and that sod of a brother of yours disappeared before I could speak to you. Happy birthday, little hell cat. I would have brought your gift with me but actually finding someone to open this silly door for me took up so much of my time I totally forgot where I left it." The man looked over the group with his insincere smile and bowed slightly. "Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm Lucifer Morningstar, the former Prince of Hell." He grinned at the young woman, daring her to comment. "I've really been hoping to use that lyric one day."
"You're the devil?" Baird asked, skeptically.
"Of course I am Eve Baird. Just as you are a former NATO officer who has been dragged into the silly world of the Library and its useless quest to keep magic out of the hands of those who want to use it." He pointed to Flynn next. "And you would be Flynn Carson, the current Librarian - the brains behind the brawn." He gave Baird a quick look and shrugged. "I can think of better things to do with such a beautiful companion at my side than chase after dusty old artifacts but... to each his own."
"Why call me niece?" Rowan asked, puzzled. She had not risen, sensing the creature in front of them was not there to strike but to talk.
Lucifer's eyes bored into her own, a frown forming on his handsome face. "Because you are my niece, or at least you were the last time I saw you and your brother. You once belonged to my sibling Michael but dear old dad, in his infinite sadistic wisdom, had you reassigned to another brother from the Seraphim line. Either way - you're still my niece."
"If you know her" Stone asked, suspicious "then you know her brother Arthur too. Right?"
"Arthur? No - I know her brothers Damien and Andre. You can imagine my surprise last night when I saw you and that entitled ass of a firebird elder brother of yours in my club, partying like it was your last day on Earth. Considering that I thought you both were still looking to put a blade in the other's back I must admit seeing you both so chummy was a bit of a shock. Which is what reminded me that I might have missed your birthday again so..."
Rowan held out a hand, a puzzled look on her face. "I was in your club with my brother Arthur. I don't know any Damien or Andre." She looked up at Eve. "I told our guest something bad must have happened and it appears I'm right. But why is it both our unexpected visitors are the only two who seem to remember us with these other identities."
A shimmering fog appeared in front of the back door, revealing the tall form of Arthur and his companion - a cloaked entity carrying a Bo staff. Arthur frowned at the figure in front of him, recognizing him as the club owner from the night before. "What's he doing here?"
"It seems" Jenkins replied, laying a hand on Flynn's shoulder "that this actually is the Lord of Hell - and he is here to claim you and your sister as his niece and nephew."
The cloaked figure laughed and pulled down his hood to reveal a dark haired, dark eyed young man with a scar running through one eyebrow. His handsome face was marred only by the coldness of his gaze. "Well, that does make things more amusing, doesn't it? Kind of makes you a more interesting Firebird."
Lucifer looked back at the younger man with a frown. "Interesting would be an understatement. Andre, what are you and your sibling trying to pull here?"
The young king, the priest and the king's sister all looked at each other in confusion. "Who is Andre?"
Chapter 10: Once Upon a Time
In the Annex - continued
Lucifer stared, surprised, at the young monk. "What are you playing at?"
"Not playing" the man replied with a shrug. "My name is Khan. Don't know any Andre." He glanced around the Annex, wrinkling his nose at the sight of the card catalog. "Dudes - you do know it's the 21st century right? You know everything is going to the online environment, or a good Integrated Library System."
"See - that's exactly what I've been talking about!" Jones replied enthusiastically. "Why can't we just put this all online and be done with all the paper?"
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Not why I brought you here" he muttered.
Lucifer looked around at the group with a frown. "Why do I get the feeling that daddy dearest is fucking with me again?"
"You refer to God as daddy dearest?" Flynn said disapprovingly.
"Well, considering his back story" Rowan began, rising up from her seat "you could say he's got good reason to be less than enthused about the All Mighty."
"Now THERE is my little hell cat!" Lucifer crowed. "She maybe buried under my father's latest scheming pile of crap but she's still in there. We just have to dig her out."
"Can we talk about that later?" Rowan replied dryly. "I agree with Lucifer, something is wrong here and the sooner we figure out what it is the faster it can be put right. So, Master Khan, time for you to do your thing." She motioned him to stand beside her in the center of the room.
Khan shrugged and took his spot, handing off his staff to Arthur and pulling a string of worry beads from his cloak. Sinking to the ground, he sat cross-legged and head bowed as he murmured over his beads. The silence in the library grew deafening, so quiet that Baird could swear she heard the various heartbeats of the people around her. She saw Cassandra watch, entranced, as the young monk waved his free hand to call up a series of mystic symbols which appeared in fiery runes in front of him. Baird could see the look on Stone's face as he carefully (and rather unsubtly) kept an eye on both the young monk and the man claiming to be the Prince of Hell. Lucifer feigned indifference yet his eyes were riveted on Khan. Most interesting of all was the look on Jenkin's face as he kept an eye on his old friend, keeping Arthur tethered to him with one hand on the younger man's shoulder. It was almost as though...
Khan's fingers stopped their motion, waving the last of the fire sigils away with a grunt. "Okay - first off, the spirit of the Library isn't sure itself what's going on. It does suggest, however, we review 11th chapter of the Book of Enoch for some back story."
"Enoch only has ten chapters" Flynn replied with certainty.
"Dude, what can I tell you? The Library says there is an unabridged version of this book that will tell a story we need to hear." Khan flowed upwards from his feet and looked up at the shelves of books ringing the meeting area. "Should be up there, fourth stack, second shelf up."
"But that's not where we stack religious material" Flynn protested, turning to look up at where the young man was indicating the book should be.
"Yeah, I know. But the Library says that's where someone named Judson put the book for safe keeping. Seems this guy might have been concerned about something happening when he heard Lucifer had bucked his leash and was walking among mortals." He shrugged, unconcerned. "Can't hurt to look."
Stone bound up the stairs and ran to the shelves, scanning the titles as he did so. With a grunt, he pulled a tome from behind a set of leather bond volumes and gingerly opened it. "Well damn, he's right. Here it is - the unabridged Book of Enoch." Stone gingerly carried it back to the group and handed it to Flynn.
Flynn, retrieving a set of white cotton gloves from a drawer, carefully opened the manuscript and quickly found the first page of the additional chapters. Both he and Stone read through it quickly and quietly, glancing back and forth at each other as they did so. "You want to tell this story or should I?" Stone muttered.
Flynn took up his "lecture mode" stance and pointed down at the book. "The book of Enoch tells the story of the Watchers who fell from grace from Heaven..."
"Yes, yes - I know those wankers" Lucifer interrupted impatiently. "Saw some pretty daughters of man and decided to get laid - much to daddy's dismay. Not sure what he was more angry at, the fact that they got hot and heavy with his new pets or the fact they sired some of the ugliest sods I'd ever been unfortunate enough to take into Hell."
"The giants of Biblical lore" Jenkins whispered, appalled.
Flynn frowned at the interruption. "Yes well that wasn't the whole of the story. Seems at some point, God decided that mankind needed special individuals to effect the course of mankind's development. For instance - King David..."
"David - who pulled the twelve tribes together as a kingdom and then flushed it all away after seeing Bathsheba taking her evening bath on her roof top. Lovely choice there..." The sarcasm in Arthur's voice brought a brilliant smile to Lucifer's face.
"Yes, well..." Flynn continued, trying to regain control of the conversation. "Through time, some people - like the Librarians - were selected to fight dark forces and protect the children of Adam. But some things were deemed just too powerful for non-supernaturally created beings to handle. It was then that God decided to create..." He stopped, searing for just the right words to describe what the chapter had mentioned.
"Essentially God created a special ops team to deal with dark forces that mankind couldn't.” Stone picked up the rest of the story, his voice husky with emotion. “The Triad - three children created with the blood of Man, Fae and the angelic host – were selected for this task. One would be the Phoenix, fire spirit and tactician, the leader of the team. One would be the Dragon, the brains of the operation, jack of all trades, able to pick and do whatever task was needed whether it was break into a warded outpost or whip up a spell of concealment. The third" Stone looked over at Rowan with a frown. "The third is listed as the Child of the Moon, the Heart of the operation, the emotional linchpin keeping the other two from flying off and becoming the darkness that they fought. The text is very specific - two men and a woman - brothers and their sister. And for each member of the Triad an angel is listed as their mentor / protector."
"Do tell" Lucifer purred. "I've heard the story before but by all means, enlighten us as to the angels supposed to be part of this "Dream Team" and which unfortunate Triad member got stuck with them."
Flynn took up the rest of the story. "The text says the Phoenix or the leader of the group was to be mentored by Archangel Uriel - The Light and Wisdom of God. The Dragon was to be mentored by Archangel Gabriel the Holy Messanger whose name means "God is Great". And the third - the child of the Moon - was to be mentored by..."
"By Michael" Rowan whispered, stunned.
Chapter 11: Reactions
"Bollocks" Arthur snorted. "We are NOT some sort of religious superhero types. And I know, for a fact, that neither my sister nor I were EVER mentored by anyone other than my father Vlad."
Khan shrugged. "Same here. I was abandoned at the door of the Dragon Temple and raised by the monks. No angelic presence in my life either. Probably for the best - have you SEEN the paintings of Michael slaying the dragon? Not sure I want to have a run in with some Son of the All Father who thinks my brethren should be used as target practice."
Eve watched Rowan's face as the two men scoffed at the story. "You have doubts?" she whispered.
"I don't know what I have" Rowan admitted. "This all sounds like a story told by some drunk Irishman but ..." She shrugged. "Let's just say I'm open to the possibility. Especially since the Library is the one pointing us in that direction."
Jenkins cleared his throat, drawing the rooms attention to himself. "May I point out we still do not know for certain the identity of our uninvited visitor? We only have his word for who he is."
"We only have this guy's word for being Lucifer Morningstar" Stone pointed out, edging closer to Cassandra. "But for some reason I'm willing to believe he is."
Khan looked over at the dapper club owner, narrowing his eyes as he did so. Lucifer looked back, his eyes suddenly turning fiery as they locked gazes. "See anything you like?" Lucifer purred.
Khan smiled grimly. "Yeah - the Prince of Hell wearing a meat suit. A PRETTY meat suit at that. Look guys, I'm going to go on a limb here and say this actually is the Devil - so maybe he can identify your visitor. After all, he should know his own brothers, right?"
"Normally I would agree with you" Rowan mused. "But considering the circumstances..." She shrugged. "Oh well, what can it hurt? At least we might have some clues to follow to find out what - if anything - has happened."
"You've mentioned an unnamed guest several times now" Lucifer said, his red eyes cooling back to their normal dark brown. "Now, it seems, this "guest" might be a relation. So - which one of my many feathery brothers might this one say he is?"
"He says he's Michael" Arthur responded, crossing his arms as he watched the Devil's reaction. "You know - the guy who kicked your ass off the parapets of the Silver City."
Lucifer's smile froze as he stared back at the young king. "Oh there you are, you entitled douche of a Firebird. I wondered how long it would be before you poked your head out from whatever Daddy has done to you. It's not NICE to rub salt in someone's wounds - especially when you're speaking to the Prince of Hell."
Khan threw his shaggy head back and laughed. "Chill man, he's just trying to get your goat. Does it to everyone."
Lucifer glanced back at the young monk with a frown. "Now that is interesting. Very interesting indeed."
"What is" Flynn asked, nervously.
"Of the three, Andre and Miry - or in this case Khan and Rowan - were always the two I liked best of this trio. They were always so much more fun - and polite. Some part of those original personalities are still in there, no matter what someone has done to change up the way this reality is flowing."
Arthur looked at his sister with annoyance. "Great - so now I'm supposed to feel bad because the Prince of Hell doesn't LIKE me?"
"No - what you are supposed to do is stop trying to antagonize him until we know if he can identify our mystery guest." Baird looked back at the Library's caretaker, a plan forming in her head. "Jenkins, maybe you and Arthur should go back down to the chapel and see if our guest left anything behind him other than blood that could help us figure out what's going on."
Jenkins nodded in understanding. "Come along, Arthur. This is more the Librarians part of the investigation than ours." He wrapped a hand around his friend's bicep and pulled until the younger man reluctantly followed. They disappeared into the depths of the Library, leaving the others behind.
"Well" Lucifer said brightly. "Now that that's dealt with - where is my little brother? I'm sure we'll have SO MUCH to say to one another."
"That's what I'm afraid of" Baird remarked.
In the House of Refuge
Michael paced the room he had been confined in, his black wings gently fluttering behind him. He could feel when Miry (he refused to refer to her as Rowan) and the others had left. His minor wounds had healed and those that were more serious he had dealt with using that little trick he had learned in Vega of lighting one of his feathers on fire and tapping the ash into the injury. It had worked instantly here as it had there - but the one thing it couldn't heal was the fog in his mind surrounding that last moment in the battle with the First Fallen.
"I know I pierced Azazel's heart, defeating him and sending him back to Hell. But then, why am I here? And why do our young ones not know me, not acknowledge me?" He paced around the small room for a few more moments then rolled his shoulders back, tucking his wings back into place. He was the Sword of God - not some enemy foot soldier locked away after capture. There was a REASON for all of this and it would not be found in this place of serenity. He strode out of the room and into the hovering form of the Guardian of the House.
"My Prince" the spirit whispered. "You should stay until the lady Queen returns."
"I can not remain" Michael replied calmly. "I must find out what has changed this reality, what has wiped away any knowledge of me in our young one's minds. And I can not do that here. This is a place of peace and solitude. I must be out there, in the Library where this began. Worry not - I will let the young Queen know you could not hold me here. She will not blame you."
The spirit bowed and stepped out of the way. "I know she would not" he replied as the angel walked past him to the stairs. "But I fear what you find out there will not be any less painful than what you are experiencing now."
Michael shrugged, preparing to open a door through the ether back to the Library. "At this point, kind spirit, I am accustomed to the pain. But I must try, if only for my brothers, to find out why this particular agony is being forced on me." A cloud of mist rose up, enveloping the angel and taking him back on the path from the House of Refuge to the House of Wisdom - the Library.
Chapter 12: Getting to the point - maybe
In the Annex
“Alight, Librarians, what do we know and what do we think we know?” Baird began, ignoring the man calling himself Lucifer Morningstar. “Rowan can handle that one” she thought to herself as she placed herself at the head of the table with Flynn.
“What we know is that the Library has acknowledged there is something wrong with this reality though it doesn’t know what it is.” Flynn began, starting to pace around the table. “We know that Rowan and Arthur and Mr. Khan…”
”Just Khan” the monk responded. “Or Master Khan. Or HEY YOU! I tend to respond to any of the above.” He grinned, his smile mimicking Lucifer’s.
“Okay – Arthur, Rowan and Khan are possibly the Triad mentioned in an unknown chapter of the Book of Enoch which identifies them as Guardians of Man created by God himself. And now, for whatever reason, they don’t remember being in those positions. ” Flynn stopped for a moment, his mind whirling with the possibilities.
“Does he always go on and on like this?” Khan drawled, looking bored.
“I’m betting the answer to that is yes” Lucifer replied. “Moving on – something has changed reality but not for everyone. I and your spirit of the Library both seemed to remember it as it was.”
“So does Michael” Baird mused, looking at the tome in front of her, frustrated that she couldn’t read it herself and look for clues.
A coldness filled the room and time seemed to slow as a winged figure appeared in the room. “Oh look, here’s Mickey come to tell us what Daddy dearest is in a funk about THIS time.” Lucifer’s voice dripped with disdain as he locked eyes with the angel.
“You!” Michael hissed, reaching for a blade that was no longer in its sheath. “I should have known you would be responsible for this.” Grinding his teeth in frustration, he launched himself towards his well-dressed brother.
Rowan silently called up her own blade Eligor and took a stance in front of the enraged angel, matching him step for step as he tried to reach around her and strike at the Prince of Hell. “Not going to happen pretty boy. Not on my watch.”
“You would stand against me and defend the Lord of Hell!” Michael gasped, stepping back in shock.
“Get over yourself. Until I know what’s going on here” she replied dryly “I’m not letting anyone take out anyone else. “
“Well played, my little hell cat” Lucifer purred.
“Call me that again and I’ll pin your sorry ass to the wall” she fumed. “Besides which, for all we know you might BE responsible for what’s going on. Or he might be. We don’t know enough yet. You and Michael seem to be the only ones who remember events none of the rest of us do.”
“Lucifer has a long history of deceit and destruction” Michael replied, clenching his fists.
“Funny man” Lucifer sneered. “Since your actions were the reason there was a problem within our family to begin with.”
“That’s enough!” Rowan snarled. “We don’t have time for this.”
“Maybe we should…” Cassandra said hesitantly.
“Should what?” Jones asked, throwing his hands in the air. “Sit here and go through book after dusty book trying to find out what’s changed? You have magic users, an angel and the DEVIL here! Why can’t we leverage their powers and find out what went wonky.”
“We could” Lucifer purred. “But that would require my little brother to admit to his and his brother’s sins.”
“Well, that would be one way to kill some time” Khan said, leaning against the wall in boredom.
Lucifer smiled back at the young man, easing closer to him.” All this talk and no action – so boring. I can think of so many other more “interesting” things to do back at Lux.”
“Lux?” Khan asked, one eyebrow cocked.
“My club. Oh that’s right – whatever has trashed your realities has probably taken your memory of singing at the club with me. Pity. We made a good duo.”
“Singing at a club? Sounds like fun.” Khan leaned closer to Lucifer, keeping his eyes on the Devil’s face. “I like music – keeps the voices screaming in my head at bay.”
Michael turned his vivid blue eyes to the young priest, frowning. “And you, young dragon, would you also take a stand against Heaven? Would you put a dagger in your father’s heart by siding with the Prince of Hell?”
“I don’t have a father” Khan snarled suddenly, going from a comfortable slouch to ramrod straight. “I was abandoned at the monastery and raised by the dragon priests. No angels, no parents, no family except my priests. So you can take your self-righteous attitude and shove it up your…”
Lucifer laid a restraining hand on the young monk. “Much as I would like to see Mickey here get his head handed to him, I’d rather you do it once you know what he’s done to deserve it.”
“So tell us” Rowan said, exasperated.
“No” Michael said, slamming a fist on the table. “I will tell the tale, though I don’t know what any of this has to do with what has happened.”
“Well we won’t know until we hear the story” Baird replied grimly.
Chapter 13: A long and involved story
Michael drew in a ragged breath. “Where do you want me to start?” he asked Baird, refusing to look at Rowan.
“Well, how about we start where every good story starts – Once upon a time, there was a douche of an Archangel who was given a pretty little hell cat to train. And like always, he made a royal mess of it.” Lucifer reached out, pulled a chair over and planted himself, legs crossed with a look of faux interest on his face. Khan dropped down beside him, sitting cross-legged beside the chair. He pulled a silver flask from his robes, took a swig, then passed it to Lucifer who did the same. “Well at least you still have good taste in whiskey” he remarked.
Khan shrugged. “What can I say – I enjoy a good hit at the end of the day.”
Rowan sighed. “This is on you, Eve” she whispered, moving out of the archangel’s way and hopped up on the table, with Baird beside her. Jones and Cassandra sat on the stairs, looking curiously at the angel. Flynn took a chair behind his desk, hefting one of the religious tomes he had pulled to use as a reference - and weapon if the fight he could sense brewing were to actually start.
Michael glared at Lucifer for a moment, then looked up, hearing the whispered voice of the spirit of the Library encouraging him. “Very well. Angels and humans are not normally a good mix. Humans should not be exposed to the divine if possible.”
“Where have I heard that before?” Lucifer remarked.
Michael scowled at his brother for a moment. “The Almighty decreed that three children descended of the Fae realm, born with the grace of Angels and the bloodline of humans would become our link to the mortal world. They would be trained as warriors, scholars, healers, all to make sure that when or if the Fallen slipped their leashes in Hell and tried to make mischief in the mortal realm that there would be someone to find them and stop them.”
“And so you selected Arthur, Khan and Rowan?” Cassandra asked, breathlessly.
“No!” Michael said firmly. “Damien, son of the oldest of the Fae households, child of the warlord Vlad was the first, the pivot around which the other two would move.”
“Question” Flynn asked, curiously. “It sounds like this first Triad member was supposed to be something of a war leader yet he was assigned to Uriel, The Light and Wisdom of God. Why not you?”
“It was our Father’s will that the youngest of our archangels should be put in the charge of the oldest of the Triad. At the time, I thought it was to teach the warlord’s child to think before he took up sword. Then the second of the Triad was created.”
“That would be you” Lucifer said to Khan.
“My brother Gabriel had lost his first Chosen son many years before so our almighty Father decided to put the second of the Triad in his care, to re-awaken the Heart of Heaven and allow him to experience love again. And he did – his child is … was his whole world.”
Khan took another quick swig. “So NOT my story.”
“Then the third child was born – a girl” Michael continued, ignoring the young man’s comment. “For whatever reason, Father chose not to reveal her identity to me until she had reached her 16th year.”
“How old were the first two when their mentors revealed themselves?” Baird asked.
“Infants” Michael started to pace. “Uriel became his boy’s friend, a brother who stood at his side from the moment he could see. Gabriel found the boy only hours after his birth, abandoned on the steps of a Taoist temple and became the only parent the boy ever knew.”
“But not Rowan?” Baird guessed, looking from Rowan to Kahn.
Michael sighed, frustrated. “Her name is…”
“Let’s not argue semantics” Baird said. “Rowan or Miry – whatever you want to call her – why was she so much older than her brothers when you took her on as a student?”
The angel shrugged. “I was never told why, only that it was time for her to be trained. So I approached her …”
“And got your ass smacked for your trouble” Lucifer smirked.
“That has NOTHING to do with this” Michael snarled.
“What happened?” Jones asked, curiously.
“Little brother was dumb enough to startle the girl and got whacked with a pool cue up the side of his head.” Lucifer laughed. “I would give real money to have seen that.”
“Okay – I agree with Michael on this one” Rowan said, trying not to laugh. “So – three archangels take on three “special” students and train them to be essentially special forces operatives for the Heavenly realm. Then what happened?”
Michael shifted uneasily. “There came a time when our Heavenly Father commanded the End of Days for what you would call an alternative reality. Gabriel and I thought it was a test of our obedience. I was ordered break the first seal and lead the Dogs of Heaven, lower angels, to begin the Apocalypse. I chose to disobey, to search for a child soon to be born who would lead his realm back to our Father’s love. Gabriel, on the other hand, chose to obey our Father’s command. He had no love for mortal men after…”
“After what?” Cassandra asked softly.
“After the death of his first Chosen child” Michael replied sorrowfully. “He feared human influences would hurt his second child and so he was more than willing to sweep men away as our Father ordered.”
“So this war is where we should be looking at as a reason for what has happened.” Stone asked with a frown,
“Tell them the rest of the story” Lucifer drawled. “Tell them how you took your young student into an Apocalypse – on the wrong side of the fight no less – and then walked away from her to keep some little human spawn safe on the off chance he might grow up and be the “Savior” of his race.” The Devil snorted in laughter, reaching out and snagging Khan’s flask for another drink. “Well that worked out well, didn’t it?”
“What’s he talking about?” Baird asked suspiciously.
“I did not ask Miry to join me in this fight but she followed me anyway. And yes – I was happy to have her at my side. I told her what our task must be but she unwisely tried to save a young girl from the lower angels and I…”
“You left her hanging” Lucifer snarled. “You were going to let her die at the hand of our little monster siblings because that little nothing of a human was more important to you than the girl you had trained, that you claim to love. But when push comes to shove you were willing to let her die, Can’t say I blame the girl for being disappointed. Of course, that was just the first sin you committed, little brother. Then, of course, there was the sin of lust.”
“This is going to be a long night” Jones said, reaching across and snagging the flask from Lucifer.
If looks could kill, Lucifer would have been vaporized. Michael stared mutinously at his Fallen brother, mentally trying to decide if it would be worth it to end the creature's life now or wait until they were alone. "None of this is getting us any closer to determining what has happened to change this reality" the angel growled.
"No but it makes for an interesting back story" Khan commented, snatching his flask back from Jones. "And there is always the chance that somewhere in your little soap opera we might find a clue as to what is actually going on. So - let's talk about lust shall we?"
Lucifer smiled happily down at the young monk. "Yes - by all means let's talk about lust - and hypocrisy. Let's talk about Mickey here telling his pretty hell cat student that angels and humans could never be intimate and then turning right around and creating a harem for himself in the remnants of the city of Vegas."
"I did NOT..." Michael protested, then threw his hands in the air. "Our Father took Miry from me after Alex, the child I was sworn to protect, was born. Gabriel had injured her accidently. We were fighting and she was trying to pull him off me before he could kill me since without my wings I had nothing to protect me from my angelic twin's power. She got in the way of a blow meant for me. I can only assume Father sent her back to her realm to recover. He gave me my wings back but no word of my student. His silence to me in that regard spoke volumes. I thought it was my punishment for allowing her to defy the Throne with me."
"So let's get back to this whole harem issue" Khan said, a wicked grin (similar to Lucifer's) on his handsome face. "Isn't there some story in one of the religious tomes Flynn's got piled on the table here about what happened the last time angels and humans hooked up?"
Flynn reached across and opened one of the volumes, sliding it across the table to Baird. "It's in Enoch - the story of the Watchers who fell from Grace. The story goes that the Sons of Heaven beheld the Daughters of Man and found them fair. They decided to go to Earth and take them as wives, teaching mankind skills that God had not been inclined to give to humans and creating progeny that eventually became the giants of legend."
"Daddy dearest proceeded to condemn all those wankers to my custody in Hell and had my "good" brothers destroy all their progeny. Now there's a story for a winter's night." Lucifer shifted in his seat, staring grimly at his archangel sibling. "Two hundred of our brethern sent on the express elevator to Hell. But not you Mickey. I guess all things are possible if your daddy's favorite sword."
"Oh lovely, this gets better and better" Rowan muttered. "Glad Arthur isn't here to hear this. I can only imagine his reaction."
Baird could feel her sympathies start to slide away from the angel in front of them. "So, knowing what had happened before you still made out with human women in this alternate reality? For someone who supposed to be a tactician that wasn't really very smart."
"Neither Gabriel nor I would back down to one another, both of us sure of our position in this conflagration. The war dragged on and on for over twenty years. We were both barred from Heaven until this could be resolved, barred from the reality where our young ones resided. My brother could not reach his son, whom he loved more than life, the child he had undertaken this war to protect. Uriel was in Vega under another facade and died at the hands of mortal men trying to protect themselves from Gabriel - a guilt we both shouldered. Rafael, our gentle healer and the only one of us who might have been able to talk us down from our inflexible positions, was not allowed to intervene. I was alone for the first time in millennium, without my twin or my younger brothers at my side. I... sinned against my Father, against my brothers, against my lady" Michael whispered softly.
"You were lonely" Rowan whispered. "Even archangels can be lonely."
"Lonely my ass" Lucifer snorted. "He had quite the rotation of pretty woman and men warming his bed. I'm surprised you didn't scalp him when you found out about it."
Rowan blinked. "I found out about it?" She looked back at the angel, noticing his complexion growing paler as they spoke.
Lucifer leaned back with a self-satisfied smirk. "Oh yes, you most certainly did. Heard this story from you - or at least the you that existed before whatever happened to this reality happened." He waved a hand dismissively. "Too complicated - let's just say I heard the story from someone who doesn't exist right now. That blow-hard scribe Metatron sent you to Vega to find out what was taking these two so long to finish what they had started. As I understand it, you walked in right after one of my brother's marathon orgies. All this time, he'd told you he loved you but couldn't touch you, was jealous when someone else offered you some physical affection and then, the minute you weren't in the room..."
"This has NOTHING to do with what has happened" Michael exploded. "You only speak of these event to rub salt in the wounds and keep us apart."
"New flash" Rowan purred. "We aren't together. And if I was so stupid in that reality to put up with your two-faced, sliding scale of morality then maybe it would be best if we didn't try to fix whatever has happened."
"Wait - so you almost let the Dogs of Heaven kill her and Gabriel, another archangel, hurt her in a fight after this "savior" was born. On top of that you screwed around behind her back with humans after telling her you couldn't be with her because she WAS human." Stone looked from Rowan to the angel thoughtfully. "I wouldn't be surprised if the answer to this puzzle is that she did something to erase you out of her life."
"Problem is" Rowan drawled, "if we were responsible either Arthur or I would remember what we had done. And neither of us do - neither of us is that talented. So unless we were really careless I'd say neither of us is responsible." She jumped up off the table and stood looking down at Lucifer. "Any more little bomb shells you would like to share with us?"
Lucifer smiled up at her. "Only that the leader of the Watchers, Azazel, the First Fallen as the pretentious sod likes to call himself, was in Vega trying to create an avatar of me to bring his siblings up from the pits of Hell to rule that reality. I'm betting whatever changed things here started with you and your team and my brothers trying to send him back to his cage."
Rowan and Baird exchanged glances. Flynn also rose to stand beside his Guardian. "So..." Flynn asked, trying to sound nonchalant. "How did Azazel get out of his prison in the first place? I'm mean - he was in Hell wasn't he?"
The smile left Lucifer's face. "I have no idea" he snarled, staring at the trio looking down at him.
"You left your throne unguarded" Michael said softly, moving to stand behind Rowan. "You took your most senior demon torturer Mazakin with you. That along with the escape of the Goddess and the war between Gabriel and myself created a weakness in walls of Hell - a weakness Azazel exploited to his own advantage. By the time Gabriel and I realized what was happening he had already risen and was forming an army of demons and human turncoats to send against us. That is when we made the plan - to use our young ones as a distraction while my brothers and I took on the Fallen and sent him back to his prison."
"Wait" Jones said, jumping up from his perch beside Khan. "Let me get this scenario straight. You take your "student" into a war zone knowing God is going to be pissed then turn your back on her to protect some unborn kid who may or may not be the savior of his world. Then you screw around on her after stringing her along while you were her teacher. And THEN you put her and her brothers out on the battle field where the possibilities of death or dismemberment by a demon are high just to save some "Chosen" mortal." Jones looked at Rowan and Baird, incredulous. "Have I got it right?"
"Pretty close to it, kid" Arthur's voice sounded from the entrance to the library. He stepped through in the main area with Jenkins close behind. "Which makes me ask one pertinent question. Are you wanting to correct these inconsistencies in the timeline for our sakes or because you need us to protect this Vega environment again?"
Some of the events Lucifer and Michael detail come from the movie "Legion" and from the series "Dominion". Some come from my and my co-author's other fanfiction "Different Stories".
Chapter 15: And the other shoe drops
Rowan glided back to her older brother. "How much did you hear?"
"Enough to know we're on the losing end of this proposition no matter what we chose to do" Arthur replied grimly. "We fix this reality and and we lose our father, our unity and our asses get dumped on the front lines of a war to protect an alternate version of this world that never should have survived. If we don't fix things there is the possibility that whatever was overrunning the alternate will find it's way here - or to the Fae realms, the mirror worlds or any of the other realms outside of this one. So essentially, baby sister, we're screwed if we do and screwed if we don't."
"Wait - back up there a step" Stone said suddenly. "What do you mean something might come through to us from where Michael's been?"
"We found a slight "crack" leading into the Between" Jenkins rumbled, looking down at Rowan with knowing eyes. "That same place where Rowan and Arthur fought that demon when we first were reunited. Only this is... different."
"What exactly is the Between" Cassandra asked.
"The Between is a space outside of reality" Arthur began, putting his hands on his sister's shoulders. "I think it's been called the Void or the Empty space. It can be as simple as a path between places or a road between realities. In the case of what we found near the chapel - it's a link between this world and the alternate reality - something called Vega."
"Vega?" Jones perked up with a smile. "Like Las Vegas?"
"Yes" Michael sighed. "Gabriel and I called it that because the resistance to the End Days was based in what was left of Las Vegas. It was there my Chosen One, Alex, learned to become the fighter he is. It was there he received the marks that were to help him lead his people into the future."
"Marks?" Baird asked, glancing at Flynn quizzically.
"Tattoos" Michael replied somberly. "Messages from our Holy Father to guide him in his quest to bring his people back into the Light."
"Essentially, a reminder from Dad of who really was in charge around here" Lucifer scoffed. "They are written in angelic script in a language he can't read - at least not until he needs to. And then - their message isn't a simple "Do it this way stupid" instruction but riddles he has to figure out before he can see how they apply to the situation at hand." Lucifer rolled his eyes in annoyance. "Typical of the old man to make things as difficult as possible."
"Bloody hell" Arthur snorted. "Could the Old Man make it any harder?" He shook his head in disbelief. "Whatever. I put wards around the crack to try to keep it closed and make sure nothing else dropped in on us unexpectedly."
"It is not your place to question the deeds of the Almighty. My Father had his reasons for what he did." Michael's protested, his voice was stiff and cold, dislike of the young king evident in his tone.
"What's with the attitude?" Baird commented. "You and Arthur haven't exactly been buddy buddy every since you dropped into our laps. Hell - it seemed like Michael was ready to attack you when he first saw you."
"I'm betting it has something to do with why Lucifer thought Rowan and I were at each other's throats." Arthur mused, gently moving his sister aside. "Angels don't lie so tell me ANGEL, what did my other self do to make my sister hate me enough that even the Prince of Hell noticed and was concerned?"
Michael shot a furious glance at his Fallen brother. "Perhaps you should ask him."
"Oh I have no problem answer their questions, Brother" Lucifer purred. He stood with a stretch and started to pace around the room, moving closer to Rowan despite the look his sibling was giving him. "Problem is, I only know what I was told. Seems like there was a prophecy, something like what is written in Enoch, about how three Fae blood warriors would come together and open the Dark Gates, freeing the realm from its Dark invaders. Damien" he pointed to Arthur "that would be you, by the way, found out about it from his Father and accused his parent of adopting the other two into their house only to fulfill this promise and gain power for their house. He never, however, told Miry and Andre - that would be you two - about it. But Miry, clever little cat that she was, found out anyway and told her other brother. They all went into war with this "secret" between them, won their battles but essentially started to lose their war to remain a family. And then, when Mikey and his twin Gabriel brought the Darkness to this reality Uriel, Damien's buddy dumb sod that he was, tried to stop them... well it seems Mikey here put a blade through his heart. And Damien could feel it happen."
"I was overwhelmed with the Darkness" Michael protested. "I would never have..."
"Why would death of Damien's mentor" Stone interrupted "cause a rift between him and his sister? From what I can see, Arthur and Rowan are as tight as any pair of siblings I've ever met."
"Because he blamed her for what happened. Seems having had Mikey here give her the brush off once too often she turned to Gabriel for a little one on one time. And it was jealousy of that which cause Michael to allow himself to be overwhelmed by the Darkness - and ultimately kill our brother." Lucifer finished his story with a flourish, stopping his pacing beside Rowan.
"Crud, sis, I always said you had lousy taste in men" Arthur rumbled, slightly amused.
"Obviously it was far worse before someone made corrections to this realty." she sighed, taking Lucifer's arm with a slight smile.
"One question" Baird asked, slightly annoyed. "What is the Darkness?"
"Nothing you need worry about" Lucifer said brightly. " It was just one of many things that started our pretty trio down the road of wanting to off one another. The kids burned it off a while ago. "
Baird threw her hands in the air. "Not helpful, Lucifer. Not helpful at all."
"Actually, quite helpful. I'm going to assume that it's not the reason why all of this is happening." Flynn stared down at the books on the table, a thought blossoming in this chaotic mind. "What about the Loom of Fate? Is it possible someone has tampered with that again?"
"Again?" Rowan, Arthur and Lucifer echoed, looking at each other, perplexed.
"Yes, about three years ago Dulac..."
"Lancelot" Jenkins corrected quietly.
"Right - Lancelot - used a sword to cut the threads of the Loom of Fate and all the threads of all the realities started to come apart. We were able to weave it all back together again using the ball of string from the Theseus and the Minotaur story." Flynn quickly pulled his journal and flipped back to the date in question. "The damage that was done ripped this reality into three distinct paths, all of which were unraveling when we finally figured out how to stop it."
"Three years ago was when the Darkness started to cover L.A. and you burned to dissipate it." Lucifer glance curiously at the journal. "But I don't remember anything unraveling after that."
"They fixed the threads on the Loom so to us, especially if we burned, it would have been as though nothing happened." Arthur mused, reading Flynn's accounting. "This makes about as much sense as any other possible way things could have been changed. But I'm betting someone did more than just try to rip the fabric apart. It feels more like someone either took out or erased one interaction along the loom, and then Fate took over."
"One interaction" Flynn echoed. "Of Course! You were supposed to be the first to be assigned to an angel as a student. What if the interaction was that the angel never gained access to you? Then the rest of the dominoes would fall into place just as you remember them - with NONE of you having interactions with the Heavenly realm."
"How do we fix one moment in time?" Cassandra asked softly, waving helpless hands at all the materials in front of her. "Baird and Flynn had to figure out how to fix the Loom on their own, without much help from the Library, which was lost in time and space at the time. I'm not sure it will be any more help to us now than it might have been to them then."
"We could always ask the Fates" Khan responded, shrugging. "They have a grotto near the monastery. They are kind of a prickly bunch but if someone is messing with the Loom they might be willing to help."
Flynn stared, open mouthed, at the young monk. "You've TALKED to the FATES?"
"Yeah. Since mankind no longer believes in them the way the Greeks and Romans did they are not as awesomely powerful as they once were. Knowledge of the Christian God - i.e. Michael's daddy - didn't help them either." He smiled boyishly. "Get the distinct impression most of what they could and did do to mankind and the old gods was because people believed in them. No one does now - at least not in that incarnation - so not such big shots. They get lonely sometimes and I take fruit from the monks garden over to them and let them tell me stories about how it was when they were considered greater than the Gods themselves. You know how it is with old women - they LOVE to talk."
Rowan blinked for a moment, trying not to smile. "Okay, that's one avenue of information. I think we should also talk to the Ladies of the Lake. If anyone will know how to fix this then they will."\
Baird and Cassandra exchanged glances. "We've had some experience with them but usually they find us - not the other way around."
Rowan smiled brightly, looking more like Khan. "I know how to find them. We've had a pretty good relationship up to this point even if I don't like swimming much. I think they would like to keep it that way. So" she turned to her brother, patting Lucifer on the arm. "I propose to take Eve and Cassandra and talk to the Ladies."
Khan stepped forward. "I'll take Flynn and Jones with me to talk to the Fates. They'll like Jones - they have a soft spot for young guys." Jones rolled his eyes as Flynn's face lit up with glee.
"What about the rest of us?" Stone asked harshly.
Arthur looked at Jenkins specutively. "I hate to put you in this position again old friend..."
Jenkins nodded somberly. "Mr. Stone and I will guard the Library. Your wards on that crack should keep it closed but just in case there should be someone here to fend of anything that comes through."
"I will join Miry at the Lake" Michael said suddenly. "The Ladies will not dare keep silent if I am there."
"Wrong" Miry snarled. "You and Lucifer are going to stay right here. Jenkins will need your help if anything does crawl out of the Between. And do TRY to keep from killing each other. Things are messed up enough as it is."
Chapter 16: Ease on down the road
Arthur grabbed Jenkins by the arm and dragged him to one side. “Keep them apart if you can. I’m not sure how long this is going to take.”
“Where will you be?” Jenkins asked.
“Not sure” he admitted, flashing his friend a rueful grin. “I think I need to talk to my father about this prophecy and why no angel ever was allowed near me.”
“You think this was your father’s decision?” Jenkins whispered, watching the two warring angels glare at each other across the room.
“Won’t know till I ask.” He glanced at the back door control globe thoughtfully. “One other things…” He stepped out and motioned to Rowan and Khan. “I think you’ll need to use the back door to reach your destinations. Humans traveling the Between usually equals disaster.”
Rowan shrugged. “I took Baird through when we were chasing that demon a while back. She seemed to deal with it well.”
“She did – but Cassandra’s special talents may make the Between too distracting. And as for the other two…”
Khan lifted a hand to stop the conversation. “Never thought I’d hear myself say this but I agree with you. These two would be a nightmare to try to keep close in the Between. But how do we use this “back door” thing to get where we need to go? And, by the way, where are you going? I can’t see you staying behind to referee this upcoming throw-down.”
“I’m going to talk to a man about a prophecy” Arthur replied grimly.
Rowan glanced up at her brother, worried about his tone. “Arthur…” she warned.
“We need to know, Rowan. And he might have an idea of how to fix what the angels have screwed up. As for the door – I think we can each of us imbue the machinery with a bit of our own power as we program the ultimate destination. That should hopefully take us where we need to go.”
“Great – but how do we get back?” Rowan asked.
“Program the machine to return us at a specific time” Khan said, looking back at the globe. “Just like you would if this was a transporter out of a sci-fi story.”
“I’m not going to ask how someone who lives in the Dragon Temple knows about Star Trek transporters” Arthur commented dryly. “But his idea has merit. And a limited time frame will keep us on track.”
“Us – or the Librarians?” Khan replied, looking back at Flynn. “That main Librarian dude looks like a talker to me.”
“He is” Rowan laughed. “Don’t let him get started – and don’t take your eyes off Jones. He’s a thief who might find the challenge of stealing from the Fates irresistible.
Flynn watched as the magic trio whispered quietly in the corner. “Wonder what they are talking about?” he asked Baird, who was also watching.
“I’m more concerned about leaving these two” pointing from Lucifer to his angelic brother “alone with only Stone and Jenkins to watch them. Hopefully the Library will still be standing when we get back.”
Flynn frowned. ‘Maybe one of us should stay behind?”
Baird smiled. “Are you thinking that should be me?”
“Not happening Skippy” she laughed. “I’m not letting Cassandra go to face the Ladies of the Lake without me. If anyone is staying it should be Jones. Stone should go with you in his place.”
“I’m good with that” Flynn said enthusiastically.
“But I am not” Khan called out, a smile on his handsome face as he and the other magic users broke apart and began to examine the back door. “If I were going into a bar brawl then your buddy over there would be high on my list of tag-alongs but the Fates require a lighter hand.”
“You saying I can’t handle a bunch of old ladies” Stone growled.
“Nope – just saying I may need someone to distract them and you are not half as distracting as your little buddy over there.”
Jones frowned. “Hey – I’m not that little!”
Khan shrugged. “Whatever, dude.”
Arthur motioned to Jenkins. “How does this work?” he asked, pointing to the globe.
“You set the destination and so long as there is a door at the other end, this will make the connection.” Jenkins frowned. “I’m not sure it will handle the distance.”
“Let us handle that” Arthur murmured. “Can it be programmed?”
“Programmed?” Jenkins looked at his friend in confusion.
“Give me some time with it” Khan peered into the globe, poking at the various crystals and glass tubes. “I can make it accept a change in programming.”
Arthur and Jenkins exchanged somber looks. “What if you break it?”
“He won’t break it” Rowan replied, patting the monk gently on the back. “He knows what is at stake.”
Michael and Lucifer watched as the two younger magic users bonded. “Looks like even Daddy dearest couldn’t break that connection apart.” the Prince of Hell commented.
“What would you know of emotional attachments?” Michael snarled. “You broke all your ties to your brothers when you rebelled against the Throne.”
“Says the angel who got all his brothers killed to protect his human pet” Lucifer drawled.
Michael glared across at his sibling. “When this is all resolved, I will deal with your filthy mouth.”
“You can try” Lucifer laughed. “But I wouldn’t count on your succeeding.”
Stone watched the two angels gear up for war with alarm. “Flynn” he whispered, nodding to the two combatants.
Arthur looked up. “Galais take Michael on a tour of the Library” he whispered. “Let’s give these two some space to cool off.”
Jenkins nodded and stepped forward, bowing respectfully to the angel. “May I suggest you and I check the wards in the Chapel and make sure this use of magic doesn’t weaken them?”
Michael stared from the old knight to his friend. “I’m sure the Firebird’s spell will hold no matter what else happens in the place.”
Rowan sighed. “Just go, Michael. We can discuss your relationship with your brother later.”
Khan poked at the globe. “I think I know what I need to make this work. If I give someone a list, can you provide the materials?”
Stone stepped forward. “What do you need?
The monk rattled off a list of items then went back to poking at the globe, making mental notes of how it was assembled. Jones moved to kneel beside him, listening as the other man talked to himself about what he was seeing. Lucifer took his seat again, bored by the technical discussion.
A few hours later, the global was in pieces, slowly being returned to its original form. Michael refused to move as he watched the young man he had known as Gabriel’s little dragon re-wire the physical aspect of the globe and re-cast spells to make it all work as he wanted. “Gabriel’s child is more talented than I had imagined” he thought. “He understands how to merge the physical with the magical. I wonder if my brother knew.”
Khan popped the last cylinder into place, muttering a spell of containment as he did so. “Okay – that should be it. Give me your destinations and how long the door should wait until it pulls you back.” He looked up at Rowan and Baird with a smile. “Ladies first?’
“Looks like we’re going to be the guinea pigs” Baird replied dryly.
Rowan shrugged. “Someone has to be first.” She whispered into the young monk’s ear, her long fingers forming fiery sigils in the air between them. The door behind her began its rattling, swinging open to reveal a misty space with the sounds of waves in the distance. “Okay, ladies, that’s our cue. Time to go.” She blew a kiss to her elder brother then took a few steps to stand in front of Lucifer’s chair. Leaning over, she kissed the top of his head. “Behave yourself, uncle. I expect that this place will still be standing when I get back.”
Lucifer grinned up at her. “I make no promises.”
Rowan sighed. “Of course you don’t.” She stepped back and took Cassandra’s hand. “Come along girls, time to talk to the Ladies.” With that, Rowan pulled Cassandra into the mist, followed by Baird, disappearing almost instantly from sight.
Arthur sighed. “How long will they be gone?”
“One hour” Khan responded. “Your next. Address to where you are going?”
“My father’s house” Arthur replied, forming the sigil’s for the young monk. The mists grew more intensely dark, with thunder rumbling in the distance. “Give me an hour on the clock as well.” He stepped through and was instantly gone.
“Okay, boys, we’re up.” Khan’s strong fingers formed the path for the door and the scene changed yet again, the scenery dark with winds howling in the distance. “Time to go.” Khan steered the two mortal Librarians through the door, allowing it to shut behind them.
Jenkins took a deep breath. “Now, we wait.”
Chapter 17: By the Lake
By the Lake
Rowan, Baird and Cassandra spilled out of what appeared to be a small storage hut standing beside a wide, clear blue lake. The fog was curling around everything - thick and damp, giving the landscape an uncomfortable coolness. “Well, at least the new programming worked” Baird said looking past the other two at the vast expanse of water in front of them. The shoreline beckoned just beyond the edge of the fog. “We’re near the lake instead of right in it.”
Rowan scanned the still water. “Yes, well let’s see if we can get someone’s attention before our hour is up.” She trotted past the tendrils of fog, picking up a few round stones from the lake's edge as she did. With a twist of the wrist, she sent the first pebble skimming across the rippling water.
“Do you think you should be doing that?” Cassandra asked, hesitantly. “They may not like it.” She scanned the horizon, looking for signs of the women she had met before.
“Don’t know, don’t care” Rowan replied, sending a second stone flying. “They don’t have a front door bell and I, for one, am not going to swim out there on the off chance they MIGHT decide to pop up and say hello.”
Baird shrugged and took a stone from her traveling companion’s hand. “Works for me” she said, sending the stone flying, watching it skip across the water. Cassandra watched for a moment then shrugged, sitting on a boulder where she could better see the venue in front of her. The other two women walked about the edge of the lake, staying within sight of the hut for a time, sometimes sending more stones skipping across the water, sometimes just calling out a greeting and listening for a response. After nearly an hour had passed the surface of the lake began to bubble up as a figure rose up from its depths and moved slowly towards the women. A slender blonde dressed in flowing white stopped just at the edge of the lake. “Hello, Cassandra Killian, Eve Baird. How did you find your way to our realm?”
“And hello to you too Nimue” Rowan sighed. “Ignoring me won’t make me go away. We have questions and I suspect you have answers so let’s bury the hatchet for a moment and have a little talk.”
Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, blinked in surprise. “I cannot imagine what you think I might help you with, Lady Rowan.”
Rowan shook her head, a rueful smile on her delicate face. "So - you remember me as Lady Rowan. At least we know whatever changed happened affected the other realms as well."
Nimue frowned for a moment, then her face returned to its placid facade. "Something has happened?"
"Yes" Cassandra replied solemnly. "Someone has changed events in our reality, making certain things different from before yet keeping other things the same. At least, that's what we think has happened. Archangel Michael wasn't terribly specific."
The Lady of the Lake seemed to freeze in place, her eyes wide with concern. "You've spoken with an archangel? And survived? I am ... impressed."
"Impressed?" Cassandra asked, watching the Lady of the Lake's calm face closely.
"Yes - most magic users who find themselves in the presence of the Sons of Heaven do not survive the encounter. I am impressed, Cassandra, that he took no action against any of you. Archangel Michael is the Sword of Heaven, the Flood which swept away most of our kind from your world when the Creator decreed it should be cleansed. He is NOT known for his mercy, at least not towards our kind."
"He didn't seem to be so horrid. If anything he seemed upset because things were not as he thought they should be. From what he says, Lady Rowan was once his student - or at least the person she was before someone changed things was his student." Cassandra glanced back at Baird who nodded, encouraging her to continue. "He keeps calling her Miri and is distressed that neither she nor her brother Arthur nor the Abbot of the Dragon Temple seem to know him as well as he says he knows them."
"Someone has leveraged the power of the Celestials to make a slight, subtle change to reality - something that would not create too much of a ripple effect as it progressed down through the ages." Nimue stared at Rowan for a moment, concentrating. "I can see an echo of what you once were, this other identity, hiding just under this one. I'm assuming you want to know how to change things back to the way they were before, to when you were this other person." She sighed, stepping slightly back into the lake. "There is much pain associated with this "other" name - are you sure you wish to remember it?"
Rowan shrugged. "From what Arthur and I have deduced we don't appear to have much choice. Our becoming someone else has resulted in a battle being lost in an alternate reality and the Fallen who has risen there will not long be satisfied with just one victory. If we don't change things back the creature may decide to spread his darkness to other realms - including the Lake. No offense, Nimue, but if this is truly a Fallen angel who has taken hold of that alternate place then nothing - not even your prodigious knowledge of magic - will keep him from destroying this world and all others in his path."
The Lady of the Lake took another step back towards the depths of the water. "You and your brother are willing to sacrifice much. Yet there is little I can say that will help you. The only thing I can imagine that could create this change is the Loom of Fate . Whoever touched the cloth on the Loom must have been powerful enough and clever enough to know they need only make a small change, a slipped stitch, a small tear, and the Loom itself would correct for the imperfection."
"By re-writing their history?" Baird asked.
"Yes" The Lady agreed sadly. She bent down and pulled something small and shiny from the waters at her feet and tossed it to Cassandra. "I do not know if the damage can be repaired, but if it is only a slipped stitch then this might help. I will hold out hope for you and yours Lady Rowan. We have not always been friends but you and your brother have been good to the creatures of this realm. I would not see that change." She turned and strolled languidly back out to the center of the Lake, disappearing into its depths as the fog rose to surround her.
Cassandra looked down at the item in her hand. "Anyone have any idea what this is?" She held out a little hook made of silver with a mother of pearl handle.
Baird frowned. "Looks like a latch hook - the kind you use in those kits to make throw rugs."
Rowan raised one eyebrow. "I hope someone knows how to use that. Arts and crafts were never my thing." Behind her the door to the hut gleamed, signaling that their time here was done.
Chapter 18: Going home
Arthur stepped from the door into the great hall, looking across at the huge stone fireplace, blazing hot in the damp room. He could see the tall, thin form of his father, wrapped in his favorite cloak, hunched over his ivory chess board, silently contemplating his next move. Neither intense cold nor blazing heat seemed to bother the old warlord, a leftover from his centuries as a soldier for his own sire. Across from him sat Merlin, mage of Camelot and his father’s constant companion. An odd relationship created after Camelot fell and Merlin found himself adrift in time and space. The old man had taken pity on the mage and welcomed him into his household, giving him a purpose again. “Great” Arthur muttered. “Not bad enough I have to confront my father – now I have to deal with that old hedge mage.”
Vlad looked up at the sound of the door closing. “Arthur? You’re home early. I thought you and Rowan were going to visit your Librarian friends.”
“We did” Arthur replied, pulling a chair up to join the two old men. “But something has happened and I need to discuss it with you – alone.”
Vlad’s eyebrow rose in surprise at his son's somber tone. “As you wish.” He leaned forward and moved his knight, knocking over Merlin’s King. “Checkmate. Myrddin will you excuse us, please. We can take up this challenge later.”
Merlin frowned, looking down at the board then up at the two men in front of him. “I don’t know how you manage to always do that, you old leach. If I did not know better I would swear you cheat.” He rose slowly, leaning heavily on his cane. “Another time, warlord. And Good evening to you, young Phoenix.”
“And to you, master Merlin” Arthur said quietly, helping him to shuffle through the hall door. Arthur watched the elderly mage disappear into the depths of the dark castle with a frown. He turned and took his seat, leaning into the light so that he could watch his father’s eyes as they talked. “Father, I need to ask you something and I need you to be honest with me.”
Vlad frowned, annoyed at his son’s tone. “Have I not always been honest with you, boy?”
Arthur shrugged. “Tell me, did you know of a prophecy concerning Rowan and I? Something to do with angels?”
Vlad cocked his head to one side, one finger tapping impatiently on the arm of his chair. “You mean that child’s tale about the Triad and their mentors?”
Arthur’s heart sank. “Then you did know of it.”
“Of course I knew of it – your mother believed in the old ways of our kind and all the old stories passed down through the generations. She went on and on about it from the moment we learned we were to be parents. Lilly was determined that you would be the child mentioned in the prophecy though she could not say why. I pretended to listen but frankly I thought it was total garbage but she was so invested in the concept I didn’t have the heart to dismiss her.”
Arthur frowned. “You didn’t believe the prophecy.”
Vlad sighed. “You, of all people, should know I believe that a man chooses his own fate. I have never been a great believer in the Celestial realm, and having seen what my step-sister was capable of in order to bring some of the stories she heard to life I was not likely to become a believer at the expense of my son.”
Arthur looked down at his hands. “My apologies father, I should know you better than this.”
His father reached out and gently patted his son’s arm. “Tell me what has set you on this path.”
Arthur shook his head. “We were at the Library when an Archangel literally fell into our midst, with a story I could not understand. He said I was to have been mentored by his brother, the youngest of the Archangels, from the moment of my birth, yet I have never seen their kind before this night.”
Vlad leaned back into his chair, looking at the fire for a moment. “Your mother was sure that when she gave birth that an angel would come and take you away. It exhilarated her yet it terrified her at the same time. She had lost so much in the assorted mortal wars we had lived through. I could not bear to see her crushed by grief again so I took steps to protect her. Neither of us had any idea she would die so soon after your birth but I do not regret my actions. Loosing you would have destroyed me as much as it would have her.”
“What actions did you take, Father?” Arthur reached out and gently squeezed his parent’s hand, overwhelmed by the depth of his sire’s love.
“Before she was moved into the birthing chambers I marked the floors, the walls and the ceiling with runes to keep out any supernatural presence that might try to force itself upon her. Any presence – including angels.”
Arthur picked up a chess piece from the board and turned it over in his hand. “So, even if I was the Leader prophesized, your spells insured that no angel could approach me.”
Vlad laid his hands out on his lap, “It was done out of love, boy. If God wanted you, he would have to face me to get you. I did not believe the story she told me, but I was not willing to take the risk that something – angelic or not – might take you from us.”
“Thank you for what you did for me, and for my sister” Arthur murmured. “But if the angel is correct, in the reality he remembers you allowed me to be mentored by an archangel and if we are to protect all the realms now in existence we must find a way to bring back that set of events – even if it means we lose one another in the process.”
Vlad nodded. “I will have Myrddin look through his books and see if he can find anything of use for you. Where will you be?”
Arthur rose, stretching to his full height to loosen his tense muscle. “The Library.”
Chapter 19: At the Dragon Temple
At the Dragon Temple
Jones and Flynn stumbled through a heavy wooden door with Khan behind them. “Wow!” the young monk said happily. “What a rush!”
Flynn straightened his jacket. “When you’ve done it as much as we have – not so much.” He glanced back at the door, his eyes following the line of the wall it was a part of. “Where are we?”
“Dragon Temple” Khan replied shortly. “This is the closest structure to the grotto where the Fates are hunkered down. And I have to check in with my fellow monks, make sure everything is still good.” He stepped back and waved at something on the wall, his dark eyes watching for a response.
“Wait – this is a temple?” Jones said, stepping away from the wall. “Like – a real temple with real, live dragons?”
“You have a problem with dragons?” Khan drawled, eyes narrowing.
“Last time I met an eastern dragon he was trying to start up a war” Jones replied testily.
Khan shrugged. “Those guys and their western counterparts both have sticks up their collective asses. My guys are more chill – most times.” He continued to look up at the top of the wall, scanning for movement.
“Maybe we should go now” Flynn said hesitantly. “We only have an hour and I’ve got lots of questions…”
Khan sighed. “No – you don’t. They don’t take well to be cross-examined especially by strangers.” His sharp eyes caught movement at the top of the wall and a figure waved down at the group. Khan returned the greeting then motioned towards the path leading into the woods. “Okay – that’s what I needed to see. Let’s go. With luck we’ll get there before they settle down for their afternoon naps. They REALLY hate being disturbed during their nap time.”
The monk gently shoved the librarians in the general direction of an almost invisible path leading deeper and deeper into the forest. The further they walked, the darker the atmosphere became, sunlight blocked by the wild trees. The silence was oppressive, no birds or insects singing in the bushes. Flynn walked quickly down the path, keeping his eyes on the ground, watching for signs of the rapidly disappearing path. Jones stuck close to the young monk who seemed more than content to let Flynn take the lead.
“So – the Fates” Jones said, his voice sounding out of place in this silent space. “What are they like? I mean - are they typical scary hags or just grumpy old ladies who can cut your life short with a snip of a thread?"
Khan shrugged, poking at the bushes with his staff. “Clotho is okay. They are all older than dirt but I think she’s considered the youngest of the trio. Lachesis is the middle one, usually the easiest to deal with. I guess it's something to do with being the middle kid - not the baby or the eldest. Though with those three - who could tell? Atropos is the oldest and the most cold blooded. She’s the one I’d watch really carefully as we talk. If anyone is going to know something and not be willing to talk about it – it will be Atropos.”
“Atropos is the Fate who cuts the thread of life” Flynn said, ramping up to lecture mode. “Clotho spun the thread and Lachesis portioned out how much life a person would have before Atropos…”
“Yeah, got it professor” Khan drawled. “That was then – this is now. The All Father dropped their wrinkly asses in this grotto when their egos got too big for their own good. They aren’t Gods, no matter what they tell you. They are just avatars of natural events – birth, life and death. Once people started to not believe in their power they ceased to be of much influence. But they still remember when they were revered so when we get to their cave, you will NOT approach until you have been given permission. And then, only I will go further. They are use to me – and aren’t likely to take on my dragon priests but you two they will gladly eat alive. So whatever you do, little thief, don’t get on their bad side. If you screw up I’m more than willing to leave your scrawny ass in their bony hands.”
“Right, well… how much further?” Flynn asked, shooting a quelling look at Jones.
Jones shrugged, unconcerned. His luck had gotten him out of worse scrapes than a few angry little old ladies. He was confident it would hold up now.
“Listen.” Khan held up a hand, head tilted back as a soft breeze flowed over them. An eerie tune surrounded them, beckoning them forward until they were staring down at a small grotto, surrounded by weeds, flowers and assorted household items. An elderly woman sat in front of the cave, spinning flax into thread. “Aunty Chlotho! May we approach?”
The old woman looked up, a brittle smile on her face. “Oh, is it you, little dragon? Who is that with you? More pretty priests from your temple?”
“Friends from the Library” Khan replied, standing just in the shadows just out of reach. “We have questions only you and your sisters can answer.”
“About the alteration of the threads of reality?” A voice echoed out of the cave as the other two Fates joined their sister, sitting with the tools of their power in their laps. The three women began to weave, portion and clip the ball of thread, silently determining the eventual fate of some anonymous person in some far away land as they had always done before.
“That would be the question” Khan agreed, squatting in place.
“Something has made a change to the Loom of Fate – though why it should affect you I can not say.” Clothos began another new thread, carding it to remove impurities before she began to spin.
Flynn cleared his throat. “May I ask…”
“No, you may not” Chlotho said, testily. She pulled more wool from a bag at her feet and started to seperate the strands, preparing it for spinning.
“Now aunty” Khan wheedled, “Don’t be like that. I’ll send some tasty grapes from our vineyards down for your dinner if you would PLEASE speak to us about what has happened.”
The three women stopped their tasks and leaned together, whispering quietly. “We know nothing about why this has happened, but we have something you might need to make things as they were before.” Clotho quickly spun out a length of thread, portioned out by her middle sister and then handed off to the oldest of the three, Atropos, who pulled silver shears from her pocket and snipped it off the spool. She looked up at the group with watery eyes.
“Let the youngest of you come forward, if he has the nerve, and take this from my hand.” The old woman’s voice had the sound of dry leaves and hidden sorrows. She held the thread out temptingly.
“That's an obvious ploy to catch someone for their amusement. Well, little thief, time to earn your keep” Khan said with a laugh, shoving Jones down the path. “Go and get the thread.”
“Maybe that isn’t such a good idea” Flynn said, nervously.
“She said send the youngest” Jones said, mentally calculating how fast he could take the thread from the old lady without loosing anything off the front end of his life. He moved quickly, bouncing on his toes as he approached the crone, ready for her to make any unexpected moves.
The crone smiled, toothless and wrinkled as the young man sidled up to her. “Here you go, my pretty. A bit of twine to make your world right again.” She held it out by two fingers, waving it slightly as she did so.
Jones hesitated for a moment, than dogged suddenly, snatching the spool from Chlotho's arms. “Got it!”
“What are you doing?” Flynn asked, aghast, stepping back up the path towards Khan.
“Evening the playing field” Jones said, also backing up. “We don’t know what that thread she was offering actually does. Or whose life is going to change if we use it. So…” he held up the spool to Khan. “Just a little insurance.”
Khan laughed. “I knew I’d like you” he crowed. “So, ladies, what do you know and what can you share with us? And no more games, please. Either deal with us or I’ll get the Phoenix to come burn down your temple again.”
The middle woman, Lachesis, sighed. “Give the boy the blank thread already. It took ages to make things right after the Phoenix turned our home to ashes. I don't relish spending weeks trying to clean the ash from my wool or from our threads.”
The other two pouted. “If we must” Chlotho whined. She pulled a length of thread from her pocked and tossed it to Khan. “There – now give me my spool.”
Jones looked over at Khan who nodded. He tossed the spooled thread back at the sisters and took off back towards the temple, Khan and Flynn in hot pursuit, the angry curses of the women following them. In front of them, glowing out of the darkness, the door back to the Library was beckoning.
Chapter 20: Back at the ranch
Back in the Library
Jenkins watched as the angel stalked ahead of him, headed back towards the chapel. The creature had remained in stony silence since the others had jumped through the back door to their various destinations. Staying in the main room with Stone and Lucifer had NOT been an option. Checking on the wards Arthur had put on the crack into the Between hadn’t really been needed, Jenkins had faith in his friend’s magical ability but it had seemed the most expedient way to separate Angel from Devil without anyone getting hurt.
“This was unnecessary” Michael growled, throwing open the heavy wooden door. “The Firebird is more than capable of setting protections in place to keep anything from entering this world from the Void.”
“I agree” Jenkins said quietly. “My King is as good with magic as he is with his sword.”
Michael stopped midstride and looked back at the older man with a frown. “You are no Fae – yet you call the Firebird your king.”
“I was once a knight of the Round Table and Arthur was my leader. I was known in that time as Galahad. You did not know?”
Michael shrugged. “My Father is omnipotent – angels are not.” He looked back at the old night intently. “You have great respect for the Phoenix.”
“Yes – I followed him as he took on the forces arrayed against us to establish Camelot. Merlin made the pact with him to help the real son of Uther Pendragon to take and keep his kingdom and he could have kept it when he was finished, usurping the young Roman since no one other than Merlin knew of the deception - and the old wizard wasn't inclined to speak out. Arthur brought us together in the bonds of brotherhood, with the sure and certain faith that his knights would do for the downtrodden what must be done to protect them." Jenkins sighed, the old memories flooding through. "But he was not Arthur, son of Uther, and the crown was never meant for him. Other men would have kept the reigns of power instead of surrendering them. It might, in fact, have been better for Camelot if he had stayed on as Arthur, our once and future king. But he was too honorable to take what was not his. So he put the young centurion on the throne and Merlin cast the spell to ensure that all, save Lancelot and I, would not remember that the young warlord who had led us to victory was not the same as the young king we now acclaimed. The knights of Camelot would believe that the real son of Uther was their leader and king and history moved on as it was supposed to.” Jenkins moved past the angel and stopped in front of the altar. “When the library took me in, I found this place buried in one of its many rooms, forgotten, unused. It reminded me of the simple faith my brother knights and I had when we took up the quest to find the Holy Grail, the faith my friend had always encouraged in us.”
Michael stared up at the crucifix above the altar. “Damien is a Firespirit, a good king but too proud, too self-involved at times.”
‘Perhaps “Damien” was – but my King is Arthur and he has no such improper pride that I have ever seen. When he was on the battlefield, he lead from the front lines, always taking point when we attacked. When we were at rest, he moved between the camps of the foot soldiers and the knights, encouraging each in the way best suited for their ranks. He was always careful to let his men, lower ranks or higher, know that he was proud of their accomplishments and expected great things of them. I cannot think of a soldier under his command who would not have done ANYTHING for our young warlord, to see that proud smile on his face, to feel the warmth of his approval and to hear the sound of his laughter when he was pleased.” Jenkins pulled a box of long matches from under a pew and started to light the candles surrounding the altar. “There seem to be many differences between the man you knew and the soldier I followed.”
“So it would appear” Michael agreed. He took a seat in the front pew, watching the old knight touch the match to the incense burner, filling the small chapel with that sweet smell only found in a church.
Jenkins reached up to light the tapers above the altar. “And Rowan and Master Khan – are they as different from what you remember as Arthur is?”
“You mean besides the fact that Rowan and Khan are not joined at the hip as the Twins were before this nightmare began?” Michael’s voice was dry, devoid of emotion. “This woman’s eyes do not look at me with sadness and pain. Her wit is quick and her tongue sharp, a fitting companion for the Firebird. She is her elder brother's equal, a worthy Queen for the Fae.”
“And Master Khan?”
Michael sighed. “I know the least about him - my brother Gabriel was loath to share his son with me. I often thought Gabriel protected the boy too much, kept him tied to his side for fear of losing him. The young dragon was bright, a loving soul but I had my concerns especially when Lucifer took an interest in him. Now I see what he is without my brother’s constant love and devotion. The boy is still bright, with a wild spirit not willingly tamed yet without all the pain of watching his father falter and turn from him to support me. And Lucifer can see it too, which concerns me. I wonder…”
“You wonder what?” Jenkins asked, dropping the spent match into a basin with others like it. He looked around the chapel, taking in the twinkling lights and smoke from the candles, giving the room a dreamy feel.
“I wonder whether I have the right to expect these three to take back the reality that has been erased from their minds and hearts. All done to ensure the safety of my Chosen One and his alternative reality, a world they never were meant to support.” Michael sat back, staring as the smoke curled up towards the chapel’s dark ceiling. “My desire to do what I thought my Father needed cost me my lady, my brothers, my place in Heaven. And now, my Chosen maybe dead or enslaved at the hands of a Fallen I thought I had destroyed, the reality I gave up everything for destroyed. I am lost, left to wonder whether this is another test from my Father or a punishment for my arrogance.”
“I think” Jenkins said slowly “that it would be better to wait and hear with the others found before we decide what this is.” He glanced over at the angel with sympathy. “I have faith in my Librarian’s and their ability to find a solution even to a problem like this one.”
“I had faith once, in my Father, in my brothers, in my Chosen. Now I wonder if Lucifer wasn’t right all along, if taking a stand against Father’s plan for humankind wasn’t the right path after all.”
Jenkins reached out and laid a hand carefully on the angel’s shoulder. “Perhaps that is what this is – a test of your ability to find your trust and faith again. The wards are holding, giving us time to find a solution to what has happened. I have faith in that even if you do not.”
Michael looked sideways at the older man. “I pray your faith is well founded.”
In the Annex
Lucifer looked around the meeting room, a bored expression on his handsome face. “How do you entertain yourself in this place?” he asked, watching Stone try not to be obvious about staring.
“It’s a Library” Stone said shortly. “We read, we study, we go out and find things that can hurt people and put them under lock and key.”
“Boring” Lucifer replied. “Pity the young dragon took his flask – I could use a good drink.”
“Why do you call him the young dragon?”
“You mean other than the fact he resides in a Dragon temple?” Lucifer’s voice took on a sharp, annoyed tone. “He has a spirit animal – a dragon – attached to his heart and soul. It gives him his immortality as well as some of his other gifts.”
“He was your brother Gabriel’s student – right?”
Lucifer shrugged. “Student or son – depends on who you ask. Though if you ask me, the boy should have been MY student not Gabriel’s. Especially after his “daddy” abandoned him in his fight to win that stupid war of extermination against Michael.”
“You think his father abandoned him deliberately?” Stone’s voice was strained, mirroring the look in his eyes.
“He essentially did just that” Lucifer insisted, leaning forward in his seat. “Gabriel can make any excuse he wants but just like Mickey he made a choice and pushed away the one being who loved him more that anything in the universe. And when this stupid war didn’t end, Michael chose not to abandon that useless talking monkey he had left his Lady for. Gabriel was left trying to make things right with his son and not loose his connection to his Twin. It all went spectacularly wrong, as you might imagine.” He shrugged, rising to stretch his long legs. “This Triad seems to be in a better mind space, as my therapist would way, than they were before. They are at least talking to one another - and Miry and Damien aren't actively trying to kill one another. And Mickey wants to take that away from them, again to save his useless Chosen.”
Stone blinked. “You have a therapist?”
Lucifer laughed. “All of that and all you heard was I have a therapist?”
It was Stone’s turn to shrug. “I guess I never thought of the Devil needing to talk to someone about anything.”
Lucifer’s face changed, a flash of hurt turning to a cold stare. “Despite what you might have heard, I am NOT evil. I do not force anyone to do anything they weren't already inclined to do. What I am tasked to do, by God, is to punish evil just as my Father punished me. Daddy decided to punish me for not bending the knee to his newest pets. My brothers and sisters, typical bone-heads, never questioned the Old Man’s plan and watched as little brother Michael sent me flying into the depths of Hell. Andre and I understood one another – we both were sons abandoned by our Fathers for reasons they could or would not EVER explain.”
Stone went silent, his mind going back to his last encounter with his own Father. Zeke Stone had always been a hard man, already on his way to be a barely functional alcoholic by the time Stone had been introduced to the library. His son had learned to work around the booze fueled anger, the expectations that Jake would become a part of the family business despite what his son might want, had learned even to hide his intellect behind the facade of a "good old country boy" to please the man. Stone wondered, briefly, how a child of an angel would act out when faced with being left behind by the only parent he had ever known, abandoned because of a war (and his parent's angelic sibling) that he would never be part of. "Okay - so what do you think is happening? Why don't they remember this "other life" that you and Michael keep talking about."
Lucifer shrugged. "Someone's messed up somewhere. I wouldn't put it past dear old Dad to have deliberately done something to see if, without their angelic guard dogs to push them along, if the Triad would still stand up and defend humanity - even if it mean loosing their own lives in the process." The Devil's eyes briefly glowed red as he brooded. "He doesn't care who he hurts so long as his grand plan keeps rolling along."
Stone backed up slightly at the aura of anger and menace suddenly rolling off the handsome man in front of him. "What plan?"
Lucifer glanced up, his eyes settling back to their normal shade. "The only one who knows his plan is God - and he ain't telling us. I've spent the last five years in the mortal realm telling the old man to take his "plans" and go fuck himself. Seems like he's finally decided to answer me."
"May not have anything to do with you" Stone replied cautiously.
"Maybe not. But it's either a slap at me or a slap at Michael - and we all know Michael is Daddy's favorite." Lucifer stood and started to pace the room. "I wonder just what kind of a mess my little brother left in that alternate reality that he so needs to change this one to fix. Pity we can't just take a quick peek and see."
Stone looked down at the books strewn across the table with a frown. "Maybe we can."
Chapter 21: Sharing information
Arthur was the first to return, stepping back through the door with a perturbed look on his face. "What the HELL are you two trying to do?" he snarled, looking across the room at Stone and Lucifer. The two looked back at him, one with guilt and the other with glee. Between them was a large, ornate mirror enclosed in a metal cage, with spiked metal bars surrounding it on all sides. The mirror frame was made of ebony carved in assorted figures of demons and other unearthly creatures. The silver face reflected nothing but a swirling haze.
Lucifer returned the stare with a smile. "Trying to make a window into another reality work so we can see just how fucked up Mickey left that alternate world. Care to help?"
Stone shrugged. "This was supposed to be the basis for the mirror in the Sleeping Beauty legend so we figured maybe we could get the spirit that inhabited it to work its mojo for us - or more specifically for Lucifer. It was worth a shot."
Arthur sighed. "No - it wasn't. I know that legend and the being inside the mirror is anything but cooperative - at least not without a lot of pain-filled inducements. Did it never occur to either of you nit-wits that even if you could make this thing look into that reality that something on the other side could look back at us in here?"
Stone waved a hand at the blank mirror in frustration. "Not until we dragged this sucker all the way from Level 6."
Lucifer squinted at the mirror, leaning back to get a better look at it. "Really though - if there is a demon inside this mirror it should be willing to at least consider what I will do to it if it doesn't do as it's told."
"Lucifer" Arthur said, slowly. "You would have to be willing to sit your throne in Hell to have any influence on that demon - and from I've heard you're not. And if I've heard that than the creature inside that mirror has heard it too. So..."
The door flew open behind the group as Rowan, Baird and Cassandra entered with Baird and Rowan still deep in conversation. Cassandra frowned at the mirror sitting in the center of the room "Isn't that the ...?"
"Yeah it's the Sleeping Beauty mirror. Don't ask." Stone glared at the stand in frustration. "Not bad enough we - or I should say I - had to drag it up here but the thing inside of it won't even talk to us."
"No of course it won't" Rowan replied, amused. "Probably can't. I'm thinking it's not a demon but a dark Fae that inhabits that glass. Look at all the iron around it. Fae don't like iron, it burns them. And there are no binding sigils that speak specifically to the demonic that I can see on the frame."
"There are binding spells that speak to a specific lesser form of the Dark Fae" Arthur said thoughtfully, pointing to some of the more intricately cut designs around the glass. "Whatever is in there , someone didn't want to take the chance of it getting out."
The door rattled and the third team came trotting through, Flynn in full-on lecture mode about the Fates and why they should still be feared. "Does he EVER shut up?" Khan asked, darkly.
Baird shrugged. "Not usually. So, what did you all find out?"
Jones handed Baird the snippet of thread the Fates had given him. "The old girls thought someone might have slipped a stitch on the Loom of Fate. They give us this to see if it could be used to make things right."
"Yeah - they gave that up WAY too quickly" Khan muttered, pulling his flask out and taking a drink. "Those old biddies never do anything for anyone without some form of payback."
Rowan nodded. "Same could be said for the Lake. They handed us this." She pulled the latch hook from her pocket and gave it to the Guardian. "So I suppose we're being led to assume that the string and the latch can be used to correct whatever has been done to the loom." She looked curiously up at her elder brother. "What did father say?"
"That my mother knew that prophecy about the three "special" children to be taught by the angels - and that she was afraid I would be one of them. Not sure why - but then I've never been really big on family history. Obviously something in the old family tree gave her that idea. My father, on the other hand, while being an agnostic wasn't willing to take a risk with his only child. He warded the birthing chamber to make sure NOTHING got in to claim me. Looks like he succeeded." Arthur looked around for a moment, puzzled. "Where is Galais and our feathery friend?"
Stone pointed towards the stairs. "I think he was going to take Michael down to the chapel to separate him from Lucifer. World War 3 was looking like it was about to start if we left them together for too much longer."
Lucifer shrugged, unconcerned. "Not my fault he can't face his mistakes."
Cassandra made a face at the arrogant creature calling himself Lucifer and started to straighten the books on the table, looking for the volume she had been using to research the swords. "Wait - what's this?" she asked, holding up a well-worn package that had been buried under all the research material.
Flynn took the item from her hand and examined it thoughtfully. "I don't remember pulling this when I was looking for information on angels."
Jones looked at the item, his eyes gleaming. "Wait - I recognize that. It's the package Jenkins and I found in that crate that DOSA used to return some of our artifacts. Jenkins didn't recognize it so he was going to bring it to you and see what you thought it might be. It must have gotten pushed aside with everything else that was going on."
Flynn carefully laid it back on the table, flipping the tag reading “Beware – changes can come when you least expect it" as he did so. "We don't tag our artifacts like this. Maybe DOSA found this and just added it to the collection they were returning."
Baird raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "DOSA just GIVE us something new to hold on to? I don't think so. Maybe we shouldn't open it just yet. Might be a trap."
"From DOSA?" Flynn scoffed. "I would believe they lost track of some minor artifact before I'd believe they used one to trap us."
"Says the man who didn't have to sneak into a military installation to free our Caretaker and get our stuff back." Jones muttered.
"In this case" Rowan said thoughtfully, "I agree with Baird. I would prefer not to open it until we speak to Jenkins or Michael and see if they know anything about this. This package is giving me very strange vibes and I'd rather not have to clean up the mess if it really is some sort of chaos bomb." She gently slid it to the center of the table. "I don't know about anyone else but I'm starved. Any chance of food while we figure out just where we stand with this?"
"We could order pizza" Jones offered eagerly.
"Works for me" Arthur said with a laugh. "Just no anchovies. I HATE those little buggers."
"Man after my own heart" Jones agreed, pulling out his cell phone and placing his standard order.
Touring the Library
Jenkins sighed. He'd taken the angel to the chapel, to the Room of Roman Antiquities, to any room containing artifacts he thought the angel might be interested in -even the Large Animal room - anything to keep him away from his Fallen brother. Lucifer and Michael were proving to be a volatile pairing that he was certain the Library would not survive no matter what the Librarians thought. Not that his impromptu tour had made any difference to his companion. The archangel had been frigidly polite, barely looking at the artifacts in front of him, his mind obviously a thousand miles (or several realities) away. Jenkins knew he was running out of options but he had to keep trying if only for the sake of his library. "So - let's see. Perhaps we can..."
"Perhaps, Knight, we can return to the main room and see if the young ones have returned from their journeys." Michael's voice was polite but the Caretaker could hear the faint edge of annoyance tainting it.
"Yes, well, of course. If you wish." He motioned to an ancient elevator at the end of the corridor. "After you."
Michael eyed the device doubtfully then turned and politely waved the older man ahead of him. "No - after you."
Jenkins held his breath, hoping the unused conveyance would not pick this time to stall out as it had on Stone and Jones a few weeks before. He wasn't sure if his immortality would survive the assault of an angry archangel.
In the Annex
Boxes of assorted pizza (meat lovers and pepperoni) lay strewn around the long table. Paper plates, napkins and a variety of beers (courtesy of Lucifer) took up whatever little space remained with empties being tossed into a make-shift recycle bin. Rowan and her brother were settled on the floor, their backs braced against the stone wall, curled comfortably against one another. Master Khan was stretched out beside them, his head in Rowan's lap, lazily creating fiery sigils in the air above him then wiping them away with a swipe of his hand. "Well" the young fighter sighed happily "now I feel better."
"Because you've gorged on pizza or because you've taken up residence on my sister's knees" Arthur replied wryly.
"Yes and yes" Khan replied, taking a swig of his beer.
"Kind of figured as much." Arthur looked back up at the table with a frown. "Has anyone ever told you that you eat like there is no tomorrow? Do they not feed you in that monastery?” He tossed his paper plate like a Frisbee, landing it in the middle of the trash bin. “By the way, did anyone leave something for Galais? Not sure he eats though. Don’t know how immorality by Grail works but he maybe hungry after having to babysit that winged party boy."
Lucifer nearly choked on his Lager, laughing at the younger man's description of his dreadfully serious brother. "I'd give real money to have you say that to his face" the Devil purred, tossing a bottle back into a conveniently empty box.
Arthur shrugged, taking a pull on his bottle of Guinness. "He already doesn't like me - though I'm still not for sure why. How much worse could it get?"
Rowan arched an eyebrow at her brother. "Really? That’s how you’re going to play this? You may be tough, big brother, but do you really think you can take out an archangel?"
Her brother shrugged. "If I understand the rules correctly, angels can't kill humans so what's the worse he can do?"
"I think the rules went out the window nearly a quarter century ago when Michael and Gabriel went to war over that alternative reality" Lucifer said, suddenly serious. "And as you said, he's not overly fond of you. I wouldn't put it past Mickey to come up with some excuse for Dear Old Dad as to why he had to take you down a peg."
"Whatever" Khan growled, sitting up and tossing his bottle in the direction of the box Lucifer had used. "So - are we going to sit here and stare at the package all day or is someone going to just bloody well open it."
"A man of action" Lucifer laughed. "At least that hasn't changed."
Baird reached across the table and hefted the package thoughtfully. "If we were to approach this like a suspicious package sent to some federal official we would first x-ray it to see if it contained anything resembling a bomb or if it contained something like anthrax which could poison the recipient."
"Considering how much handling that thing has gotten since Jones found it I seriously doubt it could be any of the standard booby-traps" Flynn mused, staring intently at the item in the Guardian's hands. "But what if it's a..." He glanced over at Rowan quizzically. "What did you call it - a chaos bomb?"
"Generic term for anything magical that activates when opened" Khan replied. Rowan gave him a quick surprised look. “Know something about that, do you?”
Khan gave her a sly grin, his tanned skin reddening slightly. "What? I spend a lot of time reading up on these things. Not much else to do since I returned to the monastery."
"Returned to it?" Stone's voice was wary as he moved closer to Baird. "Where had you been?"
"Went walk-about as the aborigines say. Needed to see more of the multiverse and what types of dangers were out there so I could better protect my monks. Came back a couple of years ago." He rose, touring over the burly librarian, and stretched like a great cat. "It was fun but frankly I was glad to get back home. World is a crazy place – too crazy for me"
"A few years ago" Lucifer mused thoughtfully. "That would be about the time you and your siblings in this "other" reality burned to save our world from the plague of Darkness. I wonder..."
"Let's not try lining up timelines just yet" Baird said quickly. "We'll end up just making things more confusing then they already are."
Rowan nodded in agreement, taking hold of Khan's arm as she rose to her feet. "Here - let me look at it. I'm usually pretty good at spotting these little traps."
Baird handed the package to her, watching as Rowan held it out at arms length and examined it intently. Khan also examined it, making note of the fairly new ink used in the tag and the metal staples holding it closed - something no Fae would have used. "So - see anything I don't see?" he asked.
"Not a bloody thing" Rowan admitted. She looked down at her elder brother who rose to stand beside her. "I think we should just take the chance and open it. What say you, brother?"
"Agreed" Arthur rumbled. He looked up into the young monk's dark eyes thoughtfully. "And you?"
"Agreed" Khan said quietly, reaching for his staff. "But just in case..."
"Yes, just in case Mr. Flynn let me suggest you and your team move a few steps back. I can pull Rowan out of the way if needed." He shifted position, one hand on his sister's back, the better to yank her down if this thing was a weapon of some sort.
Baird motioned for the librarians, including Flynn, to step back behind her. "Whenever you're ready."
Rowan gently pulled on one side of the package, delicately opening the flaps which held it together. No flash of light, no loud, rending sounds emanated from the package. She frowned as she tipped it over her free hand, watching as a cylindrical piece of pottery dropped into her open palm. "Well - that was anticlimactic."
“It looks ancient and is that Aramaic writing on its sides?” Flynn asked, his voice rising with excitement at this new puzzle.
“No clue” Rowan said, handing the packaging material to her brother. “I don’t do ancient languages.”
“I do” Khan said quietly. “And the Librarian is correct. That is Aramaic.”
“What does it say?” Damien asked, a queasy feeling coming over him.
“It is the Seventh Seal” Michael’s voice rang out across the room. He and Jenkins appeared at the doorway, making their way towards the group. Michael gently took the cylinder from Rowan’s hand and stared at it, remembering when he last saw it. “The Seventh Seal that will be broken to bring about the End of Days.”
Trying to get to the point of this but so much to explain and so much to do to bring all the Librarian characters into the story. With any luck Texas will remain frosty and I'll have time to keep up with this.
“If I remember my Revelations correctly” Flynn said solemnly. “The first four Seals release the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Fifth seal releases the cries of martyrs for the wrath of God, the Sixth seal prompts earthquakes and other types of cataclysmic events; and the Seventh seal…”
The Librarians looked at each other in shock then stared back at Flynn. “The SEVENTH seal?” Jones asked skeptically. “So if this is the seventh, then what happened to the first six?”
“Not now Jones” Baird hissed. “So, what does the Seventh Seal do exactly?”
“It begins the End of Days and pits the angelic hosts against those mortals who have survived the first six seals.” Michael’s voice was low and pained as he examined the pottery cylinder in his hand. “When Our Father commanded that this alternative reality be ended he gave Gabriel this seal and then turned his Face from us. We could not hear his voice, see his countenance, it was as though he had disappeared from our midst. Gabriel believed that until we began the war and destroyed the plague of humans he believed infested that realm our Father would never return to us. I believed differently.”
“What did you think should happen?” Cassandra asked quietly.
“I thought that mankind was just lost – that we should be trying to guide them back to our Father’s love. If we did that then God would smile on us all again.” Michael sighed. “But Gabriel was determined. He and Noma…”
“Noma?” Stone glanced at the books still on the table. “That’s not an angelic name I’ve seen listed anywhere.”
Michael shrugged. “And yet that is her name. She is or was a young Seraphim who followed Gabriel to our meeting in a small bar in Texas. It was quiet, out of the way, out of the hearing of our brethren in Heaven. I thought I could make Gabriel listen. But he thought he could do the same to me, to convince me we needed to stand together as we always had done before, and that Father having given him this seal was a sign of what we must do. It was Gabriel who cracked the seal and brought down the Dogs of Heaven, lower angels, to infest the weak and turn the possessed ones on their fellow mortals. That one moment of anger between us was the cause of the War.”
“Okay – but WHY?” Cassandra asked, sure there was something more to this story than the angel was willing to tell. “Why would he do that? Why did he hate humanity so much?”
“He did not start out hating humanity” Michael admitted. “But God put into his hands one of the special mortals whose lives were meant to influence humanity. A young shepherd boy named David. He was to act as the boy’s father, his guardian, his teacher. But Father never told Gabriel that this boy’s life was to be brief, that he was to live only long enough to fulfill that one great promise and then be brought home. Gabriel loved the child and when he was killed…”
“Wait a minute” Stone interrupted. “If it’s the David of the Bible we’re talking about he didn’t die until he was a very old man.”
“The Bible was written by men. It would not serve their purposes to have the story of the shepherd boy facing the giant end with the child being thrown from a palace window by King Saul and replaced with a more compliant boy. Why would the people need a king if a boy could defeat their enemies?” Michael’s eyes grew dark. “I tried to save him from Saul's madness, for my brother’s sake, but I was too slow. We buried the child and returned to Heaven and did not speak of the event again. Nor did we speak of what my brother did to the boy who took his son’s place in the minds of men.”
Arthur frowned. “So he’s angry at humankind because of Saul’s actions? But wasn’t it God who decreed the boy’s fate?”
Rowan shook her head. “He couldn’t be angry at his Father who is all knowing and all wise so he took his rage out on those who actually committed the offense, the humans who were responsible for the child’s death and for replacing his memory with that of a lesser one.”
Michael blinked, surprised. “Yes, though I wish now I had understood that sooner. Perhaps I could have mitigated his anger, his grief. And then God decided that the heart of Heaven had been dark too long so he assigned one of the Three to Gabriel – another boy. Rafael, my middle brother, said that as a youth Andre was very like David. Raven hair, brown eyes and the gentleness of an artist. I should have seen how desperate my brother had become to shield his son from the mortal world and all its dark forces.”
Khan shuffled in his place uncomfortably. “So essentially you’re saying I’m the reason he went nuts and tried to wipe out humanity. Just to protect the me that existed before all this changed?”
Rowan shook her head. “No – not you. Not even the person he and Lucifer think you were. This is all on one grief stricken angel and one tone deaf Deity who didn’t see the depths of his own son’s despair until it was too late. Or maybe he did. Maybe it was all part of his Master Plan all along.”
Baird held up a hand. “All very interesting back story but we still don’t know how this seal got into the library.”
“Or why it’s intact” Jenkins commented, eyeing the cylinder coldly. “According to Michael’s story his brother cracked the seal to start the End of Days for that reality. Yet this one seems to be fine.”
“A better question is why it is here” Stone said grimly. “In the library, mixed in with remnants of the things DOSA returned to us. And what are we supposed to do with it?”
“Maybe we’re supposed to crack it open and see if there is a prize inside.” Lucifer’s snarky comment floated out from behind the table. He smiled happily as the group turned to look at him. “Oh come on now! If Daddy Dearest were responsible for sending the REAL seventh seal to this reality shouldn’t we have seen the effects of the first SIX by now?”
Flynn pondered that for a moment. “He’s got a point. Even with all the craziness we’ve dealt with here lately I doubt we’ve seen anything even remotely to match what Revelations said would occur if the other seals were broken. Of course, we all know that Revelations was written as an allegory, a way to criticize the Roman empire without being hung on a cross.”
“We do?” Jones muttered, snagging another piece of pizza.
Lucifer beamed at the Librarian. “Exactly! So, for all we know, this is just Daddy’s way to get our attention and not some big, bad announcement of the end of the world.”
“Whatever” Arthur muttered, tired of all the esoteric discussions. “Getting back to our little road trips, looks like neither Khan nor my sister believe that what they were given to “correct” the Loom of Fate will do just that. My father and Merlin are trying to see what else they can come up with about this prophecy and how it matches or doesn’t match what Michael remembers actually happened. I vote we wait till they get back to us before we take action.”
“If we wait too long we run the risk of not changing what needs to be changed and setting the course of your destiny’s right!” Michael replied, glaring at the young king.
“Who says we want it to be set right?” Khan asked suddenly, his voice taking on an annoyed twang. “I happen to have no problem with my life as it is – and I sure as Hell don’t want to change it just because some freak with wings tells me it’s my destiny to help save a world I don’t necessarily believe should exist.”
“Khan has a point” Rowan said, looking between her elder brother and the young monk. “Arthur and I have a good life, with family and friends. Our subjects are healthy and happy with things as they are. Why should we change this because of a world that God had already decreed should be ended?”
“But what about all those innocent people?” Cassandra replied, angrily. “What happens to them if you don’t go back to the way things were?”
Arthur laid his hand on his sister’s shoulder. “Maybe they need to learn to save themselves, just as the Fae world did when we booted the dark forces from our borders.” He glanced over at the young monk with troubled eyes. “And who is to say that this isn’t the way this reality was supposed to be and that the memory of us in Michael’s and Lucifer’s minds isn’t the aberration?”
Lucifer cocked an eyebrow at the trio in front of him. “While it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called an aberration…”
“You know what he means” Rowan interjected.
“Yes, little niece, of course I do.” Lucifer picked up another bottle of beer and, knocking the cap off, took a swig. “I also remember how miserable you all three were going into that last battle, with you and your elder brother at war because of his love for his angel over you and Andre’s anger at what your new guardian had you do to rid this world of the interlopers from the Vega reality. Maybe that seal is just a lure to get you motivated to make changes that don’t need to be made. So, if I have a vote on things, I’d say the Phoenix is right. Let’s wait and see what the old warlord comes up with before we jump into something too hastily.”
“Crap, I can’t believe I’m saying this” Stone began slowly. “But I’m with Lucifer on this one. Let’s wait and see what Arthur’s father and Merlin find out.”
Cassandra and Jones nodded in agreement with their friend. Baird and Flynn looked at Jenkins who moved quietly to his old friend’s side. “I’m going to assume you vote with Arthur?” Flynn asked, quietly.
“He has never set me on the wrong path” Jenkins replied.
Baird crossed her arms and moved over to Flynn. “More intel is never a bad idea.”
Michael gritted his teeth. “You would follow the dictates of a Fallen!”
“He’s not dictating anything, just giving us options. And frankly, this Fallen” Baird said quietly, pointing back at the Devil “has a point. We don’t know enough about what happened, whether the world has righted itself or whether situations have really gone south. We run the risk of making things far worse if we run into battle only half prepared.”
“In the meantime, can we start looking into how to get to the Loom just in case we do need to make corrections?” Arthur studiously avoided looking at the angry archangel in front of him. “Galais told me you found a way to get to it once but I suspect it won’t be that easy a second time.”
“What makes you think it was easy the first time?” Flynn snarked.
I will have to take some liberties with the timeline from both "Legion" and "Dominion" to make this work so bear with me.
Chapter 24: Speculations
Long night rolled into long day with the Librarians all trying to research another way to open the backdoor into the space where the Loom of Fate resided. Arthur, Rowan and Khan had made the occasional comment based on stories each had heard about the reality where the Loom existed. Lucifer had decided to stay out of the conversation altogether.
Flynn put his foot down on trying to use the method they had used before. "Not sure we could pull that hat trick off twice" he muttered, looking at all the items needed. "And besides which - we'd need a willing blood sacrifice."
"Well that kills that idea" Khan had quipped, ignoring the groan from Lucifer.
"Really, nephew? You had to go there?"
"One of us was going to" Khan said with a grin. "And since when am I your nephew? No angelic brands on me. And anyway, you know it's true. No one here is dumb enough to volunteer to donate their lives just to open a portal into who knows where."
"Are you sure?" the Devil asked, glancing back at his silent brother. "I'm sure we could convince Michael to sacrifice SOMEONE to help his precious talking monkey get free from Azazel."
Khan shook his head in mock distress. "You really like to live on the edge, don't you?"
"Because I'd be first on his list of possible sacrifices?" Lucifer replied, dark eyes fixed on the archangel. "According to Mr. Flynn’s notes the sacrifice would have to love him to make it work - so no joy there. But Miry... now that's another story altogether."
"She might have loved him" Rowan said with a yawn. "I'm not in that headspace so - not happening with me either." She rubbed her knuckles across her eyes, trying not to look as tired as she felt.
Arthur leaned over to Jenkins with a frown. "Any chance of finding some place for her to take a quick cat nap?"
Jenkins nodded and motioned for Jones to accompany him. "I think I might have something that will work." They returned shortly with a padded deck chair and a fluffy blanket which they setup in a corner of the room.
Arthur's smile lit up the room. "I knew I could count on you, Galais." He turned to his sister and waved in the old knight's general direction. "Sissy - see what Galahad has found for you? You can relax, take a quick nap and still be close in case Father sends a message."
Rowan stared at the deck chair for a moment then shrugged. "I'd argue but I'm just too damned tired." She stretched out on the seat, snuggling into the cushions. "Hmmm, nice."
"With your permission" Khan rumbled. "I'd like to take a break as well. Need to meditate for a while and since my services don't appear to be needed right now..."
Arthur's smile never wavered. "Of course. Why don't you sit down beside Rowan? That way you're both out of the way but still close enough to be of help if needed."
"Works for me" the hulking monk replied, smothering a yawn. He folded himself, cross-legged, onto the floor beside the deck chair and within minutes they were both fast asleep, Khan snoring as he swayed in his seat.
"Oh dear" Jenkins quipped, looking down at the younger man with a frown. "She'll never get any rest with that noise right in her ear."
Arthur laughed. "You've shared a tent with me, Galais. I know I snored much louder than that and you never opened your eyes. Same with my sister. Girl has the ability to tune out whatever doesn't effect her and sleep like the dead."
Jenkins grimaced. "Yes - I do seem to remember wondering some nights how an angry bear had made its way into our tent. It wouldn't have been so bad but you could change tempo at the drop of a hat - which made it hard to just ignore."
Lucifer watched the teasing exchange between his "nephew" and the Library's Caretaker with interest. "I think I like this version of the Firebird" he commented, knowing his brother was watching as well. "He's not so self absorbed as the other one was. Or maybe that was just the result of having baby brother Uriel around to fawn all over him. I often wondered about those two..."
"Our brother's relationship with his Chosen companion is none of your concern" Michael snarled, snatching up a book from the table and retreating to the stairs.
"Well - that answers that question doesn't it. Looks like you're not the only one Daddy Dearest is willing to indulge. Not that I disapprove. After all, the Firebird is quite handsome. I'm sure Uri enjoyed his time with his companion immensely."
Michael clenched his fists then settled himself on the stairs. The thought of his younger brother dead on the battlefield that he, Michael, had led him to was painful enough without Lucifer's sharp tongue bringing up old pain.
Cassandra and Ezekiel watched the exchange between Devil and Angel with equal parts interest and trepidation. “Maybe we should separate them?” the redhead commented, closing another book.
“I say we let them have at it and be done with it” the young thief said, checking to see if his computer search had found anything of use.
“I don’t think this world could survive the beat down” Stone replied, sliding a scroll across the table to Cassandra. “This is not working. Maybe we should be looking at the seal instead.”
“We know what the seal does” Cassandra protested.
“No, we know what Michael says it DID in that reality. But someone sent it here for a reason. We need to know who sent it and why.” Stone looked over at the glowering archangel with interest. “I think we need to ask Michael a few more questions. There are still gaps in the stories he and Lucifer were telling about the Triad before things changed.”
“Yeah – like how they both mentioned that their brother Uriel died in two different places. Do angels have unlimited lives like characters in a First Person shooter?” Ezekiel frowned as the computer spat back results that had nothing to do with what he had asked for. “Bloody hell – why did it pull up that crap? It’s an ad for some wanker’s “religious” website.”
Cassandra glanced at the search engine he was using with a frown. “That one is but the second site in your search looks familiar. Isn’t that Lucy Lyon’s website? The one she started up as a place for people who were documenting magic occurrences to have a place to talk?”
“Yeah – figured she might have heard of something related to angels or End of Days or that sort of thing.” Ezekiel frowned, restructuring his search. “Ended up getting a whole lot of nothing.”
“You got a message from Lucy” Cassandra said happily. She scanned the message and glanced back at the archangel moodily flipping through a book on the stairs. “She says she’s had messages come in from everywhere since Apep tried to bring about Chaos. Lots of potential new artifacts may have been created while he was rising in power.” She peered thoughtfully over at the cylinder now carefully placed in a nest of papers in the center of the table. “Maybe that is what this thing is – a new artifact.”
“One powerful enough to change reality and pull an Archangel from a battlefield?” Stone scoffed.
“Maybe – though the timing doesn’t seem right but didn’t Rowan say once that time flowed differently from one reality to another? Maybe this artifact, once it was activated by Apep’s rise to power, changed the flow of time and…”
“And what – just randomly chose Arthur and Rowan to use as Guinee pigs?” Stone shook his head, reaching for another scroll. “No, this thing is part what’s happening but I’m not laying any bets on it being the cause of things. At least not the cause of the change in time lines.” He looked down at the cylinder thoughtfully. “But what if it was used to pull Michael from where he was to here. More a beacon than a weapon.”
“Why would someone want to bring Michael here?” Stone asked, puzzled.
“I think we don’t know enough of the story the archangel’s relationship with that trio of Guardians that God created. I think if we did – we might have an answer to why bring him here.” Stone looked up at the solitary figure for a moment, piecing a theory together in his head. “Because it feels very much like someone’s trying to make him hurt by taking what he most loves away from him – his brothers, his “young ones” and his chance to make things right with God.”
Chapter 25: Dreams - and what hasn't been talked about
Lucifer watched the young librarians gather around the laptop, speculating on possible scenarios. “So MUCH they still don’t know” he mused, wondering if it would be worth it to volunteer the information they still needed. This version of the Triad was so different, he wondered how they would react to knowing some of the “other” events that eventually led them to this point in time. “And, of course, there is the issue of Seraphiel” he mused, wondering if Michael would bring up THAT subject.
Across the room, Rowan’s breathing had begun to grow ragged as she drifted further into the nightmare realm. All around her was darkness with faceless voices screaming at her from all sides. She crouched in place, trying to get her bearings in this unnatural world, attempting to hear what messages the voices might be sending. “They’re too loud” she whispered. “Stop screaming – I can’t understand you!”
“Don’t listen to them” a soft masculine voice whispered in her ear. The accent was mellow and soothing, an Irish tinge reminiscent of the people she had known when she had visited Belfast. “Ignore them - they haven't anything to say you need to hear. This isn’t reality, girl, this is a dream. Nothing in this place can hurt you but everything here can kill you.”
“If it can’t hurt me then how can it kill me?” she asked, annoyed.
The voice laughed softly, a soft puff of warm breath lifting her hair. It smelled of whiskey and scented woods, pleasing yet just acrid enough to be remembered. “There’s my girl – always asking questions. Ask that sod of an Archangel more questions, girl. He’s not told you everything. Neither of them has. Ask Michael why you and your brothers were estranged. Ask him about Lyrae, ask Lucifer about the Goddess and how this all led to your battle against Azazel.”
“Why should I listen to you?” she asked, suspiciously.
“Because I’m your guardian, your teacher and your móraí. I am Seraphiel.”
Seraphiel. The name rang through her mind like a bell, bringing up snippets of memory, memory that didn’t belong to her and yet did. Scenes of running through an obstacle course with live ammo firing above her head with someone besides her urging her not to stop, not to panic, to just plow through. Music, a violin, Gaelic songs playing in a shaded grove with that same accented voice teasing her about worrying too much about her cats. A presence comforting her when her world seemed to crumble around her. “Móraí” she muttered, gripping the chair tightly as she kicked off the blanket, trying to break free from the darkness.
Arthur looked over, hearing the distress in his sister’s voice and knelt down, running his fingers gently over her forearm. “Sissy?”
Rowan’s eyes shot open as she all but leapt from the chair, rolling to take the same positon she had been in during her dream. Her sword appeared in her hand as she took a fighting stance. “Don’t touch me!”
Arthur fell back, scrambling to get on his feet. “Rowan! Stop!”
Michael leapt from the stairs, his dark wings unfurling as he landed between the siblings. “Miri, stop!”
“Get back from her, Michael” Lucifer snarled, suddenly inserting himself into the mix. “We wouldn’t be in this mess if you hadn’t decided Metatron was right – that she and her brothers were nothing more than tools to fight Dad’s wars.”
Khan, awakened out of a restless sleep, rose up on his knees and ignoring the coming war behind him crawled over to Rowan, eyes fixed on hers. “Hey, it was only a dream. No need to skewer anyone over a dream.”
Rowan’s eyes fixed on the monk, frowning. “A dream?”
“Yeah, I have it all the time. Dark place, screaming voices, someone trying to talk me down from the ledge.” He shrugged, his robes rippling as he did so. “Same old, same old – nothing to get too wrecked about.”
The dark haired woman took a deep, ragged breath and willed her sword back to its place of concealment. “Seemed so real.”
“Okay – now I’m a little scared” Arthur said, glancing back at Jenkins. “Have you been having the dream he described or is this the first time?” He brushed past Michael as though the archangel was not even there and helped his sister and the monk to their feet. “A dream about a dark place where people are screaming but you can’t make out what they are saying?”
Rowan and Khan blinked, looking from Arthur to each other. “First time but it’s a pretty standard nightmare – right?” she asked, shrugging.
“Not really” Arthur admitted, somberly. “Because I’ve been having it too.”
Chapter 26: Explinations - maybe?
Rowan, Khan and the Librarians stared at Arthur in surprise. “And when, exactly, were you planning on telling me about it?” Rowan asked, grimly.
“Once I determined it was NOT that spicy Moroccan food you keep trying to shovel down my throat trying to reassert itself” Arthur quipped, unconcerned. "The last thing I needed was you freaking out on me and telling Father I was having night terrors. We both know what his reaction would be."
“I’m SERIOUS, Arthur” Rowan shot back, punching her brother lightly on the arm. “How Long?”
“I’m telling you the truth” Arthur protested, rubbing his bicep. “First time was when we ate at Mansouria in Paris about a week ago.”
“Weird” Khan muttered, looking between the two siblings with concern. “I say I’ve have it all the time but now that I think about it – I’ve only had that particular dream for about a week. Thought it was because I’d been stupid enough to agree to eat dinner down in the grove with the Fates. Figured those old biddies had roofied me or something.”
Lucifer’s mouth dropped open, about to comment when he felt the sharp jab of Baird’s elbow in his ribs. “Not a word from you” she hissed. “I want to hear this without comments from the peanut gallery.”
Lucifer frowned. “All right, no need for violence.”
Rowan stared up at the two young men beside her. “So, did you also hear a voice trying to help you out?”
Khan shrugged. “Heard a voice but couldn’t quite make out what it was trying to say to me. Other voices were too loud.”
Arthur nodded. “Same here.”
“Interesting” Rowan turned towards Michael, a speculative look in her eyes. “So – who is Seraphiel?”
Michael blinked. “Seraphiel? Where did you hear that name?”
“The one voice I could make out in my dream said he was my guardian, my… what was the word he used… oh yeah, my Móraí and that his name was Seraphiel?”
“What does Móraí mean?” Jones asked, puzzled. “Is that some sort of angelic term?”
“No – it means grandfather in Gaelic.” Stone replied absently. “So – he was telling you he was your grandfather?”
“No” Michael said softly. “It’s just a term of affection she – Miri – used for him because he treated her like she was his child. Like Gabriel treated Andre. How is it he can reach your mind, your soul and I can not?”
“Wait – wouldn’t he be grandfather to both of Arthur and Rowan?” Cassandra asked.
“Not necessarily” Arthur admitted. “Father took Ro into our house to raise as my sister when her family died. As I understand it, her mother was a relation of his.”
“That is what Uriel told me about Miri” Michael said, looking at the Trio. “So not all the events in this timeline have changed.”
“I’m going to ask this once and then I’m going to start getting really annoyed” Baird growled. “Who is Seraphiel and why is he trying to reach out to Rowan.”
“My Father took Miri from my care after the events surrounding the Darkness in their reality and made her Seraphiel’s student. He is the eldest of the Seraphim, a great soldier and teacher of the warrior’s of Heaven. He was my first student, the first of his line created by our Father to guard the Silver City.” Michael’s eyes narrowed as a thought worked its way out of the fog still clouding his memories. “He had no love for me because of the errors he believed I’d made with Miri. She reminded him of a young sister of his line who died in the first War in Heaven, the war that sent this Fallen to his well earned punishment.”
“Looks like Lucifer isn’t the only one with a bone to pick with you” Jones called out, cheerfully, ignoring the exasperated look from the angel.
“Could he be the reason this has all happened?” Stone asked carefully. “If he thought that changing this reality so she wouldn’t have to go through whatever it is you all put her through, do you think he would have done it? And does he have the power to make it happen?”
Lucifer snorted. “That Irish mutt would have done just about anything to keep Miri away from Michael. But can he actually do it? I never thought he had the power or knowledge to pull something like this out of his wings.”
Cassandra cleared her throat. “But if he had – would not liking Michael be enough of a reason to risk so much?”
Lucifer shrugged. “Gabriel and Uriel saw their students as family. But Seraphiel thought that my little brother, like that sod Metatron, saw the girl and her brothers only as weapons to be used against whatever Daddy wanted eliminated.”
“That’s untrue!” Michael turned on his brother, fists clenched. “I never…’
Jenkins stared in disapproval at the archangel. “You’re willing for them to take back a history that somehow left Arthur and his sister estranged and Master Khan estranged from what should have been his siblings. That does not seem like the actions of an angelic host with love for his companions.”
Flynn waved his hand, trying to get the group’s attention. “Who is Metatron? You’ve mentioned him twice and still haven’t explained who he is.”
“The Almighty’s scribe – he was tasked to send the Triad on their missions for Heaven. Seraphiel was once his guard but after the Darkness was burned away from Los Angeles, the old Seraph stepped away from that task, something he was happy to do. There was no love lost between them.” Michael’s eyes bored into Lucifer’s, daring him to speak. “While we are on the subject of Heaven, brother, tell these good people about how the Goddess escaped Hell and how her actions lured the Dyad Lyrae to this realm.”
Rowan’s eyes swiveled to stare at Lucifer. “Lyrae? That’s a name I heard in my dream. And I’m supposed to ask Lucifer about the Goddess. So, Prince of Hell, want to explain who or what these people are and why we need to know about them.”
Lucifer sighed. “If I must. The Goddess of all Creation – otherwise known as “Mum” – escaped from her cage in Hell just a year or so ago, and plotted to return to the Silver City and overthrow the Throne. I had to deal with her and deal with that Dyad Lyrae who appeared to try to support Mum’s actions. Luckily you lot dealt with Lyrae for me, sending the sod back to Hell. Unluckily for you, little hell cat, taking that Dyad down cost you one of your nine lives. Obviously, Daddy dearest decided to bring you back just in time for little brother to cycle you back into his war to keep his pet in line to be the “Savior of Vega”.
Khan looked around himself at the group quizzically. “So – ANYONE know what he just said?”
Chapter 27: Moving forward - perchance to dream
Everyone looked at the young monk in varying stages of confusion. “No clue, mate” Jones admitted with a shrug. “Sounds like Lucifer here had a very bad time of it recently.”
“That’s one way of putting it” Arthur drawled, looking from the Devil to the angel with interest. “So…Mum? Goddess of all Creation? Do I WANT to hear more about that?”
“Not really” Lucifer said somberly. “She’s gone now so not likely to be behind whatever THIS is. Now Seraphiel – that’s another issue. I wouldn’t put it past that Irish mutt to have figured out a way to erase all of you from Miri’s life while keeping a firm hold on her unconscious mind.”
“That’s the second time he’s referred to a brother angel as Irish” Stone said suddenly. “What’s up with that?”
Rowan shrugged. “Irish accent to his voice. Kind of reminded me of the IRA lads I knew when CIA had me digging up dirt on guys who had fled to Boston from Northern Ireland.”
Baird turned to Flynn in frustration. “This is getting more and more complicated.”
Flynn cocked his head, looking from one “Triad” member to the next. “Not really. Whatever the back story for these three is essentially just noise. The main problem right now is that there’s a war going on that they needed to be a part of with their memories intact. Someone wants to make sure they don’t show up for the last act of that bloody battle and it’s up to us to figure out what we can do to make sure they get to where they need to be before whatever Big Bad they are supposed to fight figures out how to slide in and try to take down our world as well.”
“Well, when you put it that way” Jones said sarcastically. “Sounds so much simpler. Except we still don’t know how to get their memories back, how to get them from this reality to the next and how they are supposed to fight this war when they get there.”
“Or maybe we do” Cassandra replied softly. “Rowan can hear this other angel’s voice when she’s dreaming. Maybe he’s the key to helping them find their “other” selves.”
Khan cleared his throat loudly, adjusting his robes as he did so. “How about we find out if we even WANT to get our other lives back? Anyone think about that?”
“In your other life, young dragon” Michael began softly “you have a father who adores you, who would fight even the Throne to keep you safe. Is that not reason enough to become the man you were?”
“Yes – a father who parked you in your monastery while he fought a pointless, bloody war for twenty-five years just to prove that Chosen Ones, when faced with the extinction of the race they were created to protect would selflessly lay down their lives to protect talking monkeys who weren’t worth the effort.” Lucifer stalked up to his brother and stared angrily into the angel’s eyes. “That’s the whole point of this, isn’t it Michael? To get them to lay down and die for your precious Savior? A boy who can’t figure out how to save his world without his angel whispering in his ear.”
“Our brother loves his child” Michael protested angrily.
“Does he? Or does he just loves his newest toy. Maybe he's Just like dear old Dad - loves his children so long as they toe the line right? Well news flash little brother – both Dad and Gabriel have funny ways of showing they care.”
Cassandra looked hesitantly at Baird for support. “Maybe we can find a way for Rowan to talk to this Seraphiel and having him give his perspective on what’s going on. That way we’ve got a better overall view of the situation.”
“If you’re going to do that then why not just try to contact Uriel for his view of things too.” Lucifer’s voice was tinged with sarcasm as well as anger. “I’m surprised he hasn’t found a way to force his feathered ass into this stupidity as well. After all, everyone knows he’s as obsessive about his Chosen one as Gabriel is.”
“The Spirit of this place says our brothers are dead” Michael replied quietly. “Only I survived the battle. “
“Oh! I’m so sorry! Does that include Seraphiel? He's considered your brother too, right?” Cassandra’s voice was soft and comforting, trying to ease the tension that was being ratched up by the brother’s grievances. “But if he’s dead then why can Rowan hear him?”
“Because my sister can hear the dead” Arthur replied somberly. “It’s one of her many gifts.”
“But she can’t hear the Spirit of the Library?” Flynn asked, confused.
“The Library isn’t dead. She’s better with beings that have passed beyond the veil than spirits created to protect inanimate objects.” Arthur frowned at Lucifer and Michael, clasping his hands firmly behind his back. “What do you mean Uriel was obsessed with his Chosen? He was obsessed with my alternate identity?”
Lucifer flashed the man a lecherous smile. “You two were quite the pair, if you get my drift. I’m sure that four inches difference in your height made things quite interesting in bed. Pity little brother isn’t here for me to ask. I have SO many questions.”
Rowan and Khan turned to look at Arthur quizzically. The young king shrugged, unconcerned. A slight smile formed on his previously somber face. “Was he at least pretty? I’d hate to think I was sleeping with a dog. Someone has to have standards around here since it’s pretty obvious my sister didn’t if she was sleeping with this mutt.” He jerked a finger at Michael then smiled peacefully down at Rowan – who promptly burst out laughing.
“Goddess! I TOLD Father you’d screw anything that moved. Nice to know I was right!” She grinned mischievously at Khan who was roaring with laughter as well.
“Yes and I’m sure he probably gave you that “Look” and told you it didn’t surprise him in the slightest.” Arthur grinned, wickedly. “After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – and I’ve SEEN some of the characters he’s bedded so really…”
Baird looked down at her feet, trying to hide the smile forming on her face. “Okay – TMI. Let’s put your love lives to one side and talk about what Cassandra’s question. Is there something in the Library which can help you to contact this Seraphiel character and get another side of this argument?”
Lucifer shook his head in amusement. “Really, you should just keep these personalities. They are much more fun! Damien, your alternate persona had a really hard time with the thought he was attracted to a male angel – at least until he nearly lost him to the Dyad. Then he was willing to lose everything else to keep him. Everything - including the sister he had sworn he adored.”
Arthur shrugged, unconcerned. “Tad excessive. Guess my alternate was a dick. Kind of strange that I would have a problem with it but that’s him and not me. At least, not the me of right now. Way too confusing. Right now though we have more pressing issues then who I was hooking up with. So…” he turned, pulling his sister from her place on the floor “let’s get this over with. Sissy, time for you to contact the dead.”
“I have a better idea” Cassandra said suddenly, looking back at the caged mirror they had pushed out of the way. “Maybe we can use the mirror to show us when she does find and talk to him. That way there is no doubt, no misinterpretation of what is said.”
Khan eyed the mirror and the pretty red-head with interest. “Bet I can rig something up. But not with that mirror – too much of a chance of the Jinn trapped in it seizing the moment to make a run for freedom.”
“What about using my laptop as a projector?” Jones asked. “You could maybe cast a spell to turn it into an new artifact – one that links to the unconscious mind and shows what’s happening.”
“I hate magic” Stone muttered, glaring at the young thief. “There has to be some other way.”
“Sadly, I have to agree with Mr. Jones” Arthur replied, suddenly somber. “We need to hear what he says but I’m not willing to risk my sister’s mind or soul on an old artifact we have no control over. Casting a spell on that machine means we control the magic – it doesn’t control us.”
Khan reached around and dragged the laptop over to him, sitting cross-legged on the table as he did so. “This should be easy enough” he murmured, ignoring the voices around him. One voice, the spirit of the Library, questioned the wisdom of their plan, a feeling of unease floating from the very walls themselves. Khan shook his long hair out of his eyes, muttering a request that the Library’s consciousness “Find a corner and stay out of the way.” He poked around for a moment. “Do we have a screen it can use?”
Jones dragged out the old pull-down screen Jenkins often used during mission debriefs and set it up against one of the stone walls. “This work mate?”
“Perfect” Khan replied, pointing the device towards the wall. “Now all we need is for her to go back to sleep.”
“Great. But now I’m not sleepy” Rowan protested.
“We could use the flutes of Pan to lull her to sleep” Flynn offered.
“No thank you!” Rowan replied with a shudder. “The tunes they play are so NOT my cup of tea.”
“There is one other way” Arthur said slowly. “Trust me?”
“Always” she replied with a frown.
Arthur leaned over his sister and whispered softly in her ear. She closed her eyes than sagged, boneless, into his arms. “What happened?” Cassandra asked breathlessly.
Michael surged forward, ready to take her from her brother’s embrace. “What did you do?” he hissed.
Jenkins stepped between the two quickly. “My friend would not hurt his sister” he said quietly. “No matter what his alternate persona might have been like, Arthur loves Rowan and will not willing cause her harm.”
Arthur shrugged, laying her on the table and placing the pillow Baird handed him under her head. “I just told her it was time for bed” he murmured. “Same thing my father use to do to me when I was too wound up to sleep before a battle. She can wake up if she wants. But first…” he pushed the laptop close to her and laid her hand on the keys. “Let’s see what we can see.”
Chapter 28: Into the Dreaming
In the mist
Rowan walked aimlessly towards the sound of voices screaming, not enthused by the idea of actually finding the source of the noise. All around her was grey fog, damp and clinging to her bare warm flesh. "How stereotypical" she mused, kicking at an invisible rock. "Why is it that all parts of the Between are always foggy and cold." She shivered as the mist moved with her. "Should have worn a jacket."
"And how many times have I told you THAT?" an amused voice commented from behind her. Whirling she found herself face to face with a pair of the most intense blue eyes, bluer even than Michael's. They looked out of the rugged face of a man around Jenkins perceived age, taller than herself and slightly balding. He stood ramrod straight, emphasizing his muscular build hidden only slightly by the leather armor he wore. On his back he carried a curved blade in a sheath with matching daggers at his belt and peaking out of the top of his boot. His black wings were impressive, spreading out almost as massively as Michael’s did, a combination of soft and hard just like the archangel’s. "You always forget and then complain that you're cold."
Rowan examined the face in front of her, feeling memories stir that had been pushed down to the basement of her soul but now were roaring to the forefront. "I know you" she whispered. "My Móraí - Seraphiel. How could I ever forget you?" She walked slowly to the figure and let herself be wrapped up in his embrace, his dark wings folding across them both.
"Not your fault A leanbh - my child" he purred, cradling her head against his shoulder. "One of my brothers is lashing out at the Heavenly realm and at me for throwing him from the parapets of the Silver City for something he does not see as a sin. He is trying to tear you and your boys away from your proper places in my world and in your own. But he can't tear you from me - not again."
"Not again?" she murmured, leaning on the older man for warmth.
"We'll talk about that later” he replied solemnly, gently rubbing her arms to warm her.
"Who is doing this Móraí? Who hates us so much that they would steal our past and sully our present and future?"
Seraphiel sighed. "One who thinks he is right and that the rest of us are wrong. One who thinks even God himself is mistaken in his regard for you. The angel I once acted as guard for - Metatron."
"Metatron?" Rowan frowned, remembering what Lucifer had said about a celestial creature with that name. "God's scribe?"
"Ah girl, and in his twisted mind so much more than that. He believed that our Heavenly Father would take his side when he manipulated you and yours to burn to save humanity. He saw you not as our young ones, as our children put in our care to teach and love. He saw you only as weapons to be used and discarded. And when the Throne condemned him for his actions, he began to sour inside, plotting a way to prove himself right and God wrong. He thought himself able to manipulate time and space itself to rearrange your fates. What he had not counted on was that by taking you from the Archangels who loved and protected you that he would create stronger variations of the beings he most despised. It is important for you to know that it is he who is responsible for what has occurred. But for now there is a more immediate conversation you and your siblings must have. You and your brothers must make the choice."
Rowan looked up into the angels blue eyes with a frown. "The Choice? You mean to return to the people we were? From what I've heard of our alternate personas they sound so broken - I'm not sure I WANT to be that woman again."
"And so you won't be. I’ll help you with that if you will let me. But that's not the choice I mean. Without your forces helping to take down the followers of the First Fallen, the Archangels can not send that licentious sod back to his cage in Hell. Lucifer can not force him to return - not now that he has run away from his throne. He maybe powerful among mortal men but he is losing his power over the vermin that are trying to crawl up from his former kingdom. The Archs can’t correct this alone – they are divided as well. Michael believes he is right in protecting this “Savior” in Vega, that he is giving Father what he needs – an example of the good in the creatures he created. But Michael’s brothers are divided both from him and from each other. You three are the only ones that can bring unity to them thru their love for you.”
“From what I’ve heard their “love” for us is part of what has created this mess in the first place.”
The older angel sighed. “Yes – my brothers have not done the best job of being your mentors, you teachers or your friends. They mean well – Gabriel especially truly loves his son and has done his best to guide him in the ways of our Father. But they are all now torn apart by Michael’s need to make things right in a world that should have died years ago. It is up to you and yours to make the difference. You must choose to fight in Vega - memories or no - or wait for Azazel to make his move on your reality and fight him there. I fear that the loss of human life with the latter will make it an almost impossible war to win." He ran his fingers through her long dark hair, leaning forward so their foreheads touched. "If there were any other way I'd hide you in one of the vast uncharted realms of the Fae but because of what my brethren have done I exist only here - in your mind. I can only lay your choice before you and pray to my Heavenly Father that I have taught you well enough for you to make the best decision possible."
Rowan looked up at the older angel thoughtfully. "Fighting without our memories of the lives we lived before isn’t as much of a problem as it sounds. We’ve all fought wars – winning the battle is just a matter of preparation, a good strategy going in and the flexibility to change up your attack when things go wrong.” She tapped his leather armor thoughtfully with one finger as she ran various strategies through her head, starting with how she was going to explain this all to Arthur. Looking up into the angel's intense eyes she smiled slightly. “Why is it I can remember you but the boys can't remember their mentors? Arthur's alternate was intimate with his angelic companion and Khan's other personality considered his mentor a father – one that both you and Lucifer said loved him dearly. Yet neither of them hear the sound of their angel's voices like I hear you."
Seraphiel smiled. "Well sure and it's because your my girl aren't you? My little sister sent back to me by our Father so that I can protect you as I didn't before. I told you that story a long time ago, when first you were put into my care. It’s why this representation of my soul could hide itself away in your mind, waiting for the moment you were ready to hear me." He held up a hand as Rowan began to protest. "Girl - I know you're going to say you are not the angel I called sister who fell during the First War in Heaven. And I agree –to a point. That one’s gone on to whatever reward an angel receives when they have finished their service to the Almighty. But in every way but your lack of wings you ARE the youngest of my line, the one I swore to watch over and protect. I see her grace in you in every action you take. If we survive this test, then you and I will revisit many of these subjects. I'll tell you about my baby sister and the First War and let you judge whether I am right in my belief about you or simply a broken soldier reaching for whatever comfort he can find in a mad world.” He gently pushed her off, stepping backwards to allow his wings to return to their extended state. “Now go on - wake up and talk to your boys. And tell that fool of a Firebird that his reputation is safe - his angelic lover IS a pretty one. Far too pretty for the likes of him." He grinned mischievously as he stepped back into the fog and disappeared.
Chapter 29: Time to wake up
In the Annex
Baird watched the screen, assessing the events occurring in Rowan’s head thoughtfully and wondering what the angel beside them was thinking about what he was hearing. “So – it’s God’s scribe we have to worry about. Interesting.”
Cassandra eyed the screen thoughtfully. “When you say he’s a scribe – is he just taking down God’s actual words or is he making things up too? What kind of power does the recorder of the All Mighty’s words have that doesn’t come from God?”
Michael shrugged. “We – my brothers and I – never considered him a threat. He was always hunched over his scrolls, even during the First War.”
Lucifer chuckled. “I remember that wanker. Scared of his own shadow but so VERY proud of the fact he could take dictation from Daddy Dearest. Nothing but a poser.”
“A poser that managed to reroute reality to suit his needs” Flynn said dryly.
“One that will not leave anything to chance” Michael added, watching the girl on the table carefully. “Even if we find a way for the Three to go to this Loom of Fate, Metatron will not have left it unguarded.”
“Lovely” Baird groaned, remembering the LAST time she had seen the Loom. “Hopefully they’ll have better luck than we did with that.”
Khan glanced over at Arthur, gauging his reaction to the mystery angel’s last words. “So – guess you do have better taste in lovers than your sister” he teased.
Arthur lifted one eyebrow, a small smile playing over his face. “As if there was any doubt” he replied airily. "I am, after all, a King. And hot. Did I mention that I'm Very Hot." He leaned on the table, pushing books out of his way as he waited for his sister to wake.
Khan chuckled. “Man, you really do have a high opinion of yourself, don’t you?”
“Not opinion” Arthur protested in mock dismay. “Simply fact.”
“The simple fact is you’re full of yourself and we all let you get away with it because you’re so pretty.” Rowan’s tired voice floated up from the table as she sat up, pushing the laptop away. “Have I mentioned how much I hate naps? Always feel more tired when I wake up than when I fell asleep.” She glanced around at the interested faces for a moment then slid off the table. “So - you heard?"
Baird nodded. "Interesting conversation. This Metatron guy really seems to have it out for you."
"I doubt he even thinks of the effect it's having on anyone but himself." Khan took up a space on the other side of Rowan, bumping her gently with his shoulder. "After all - would you care if you hurt your gun when you used it? Sounds like that's all we are to this particular angel. Just guns to be aimed at something."
"Weapons" Arthur rumbled, no longer looking amused. "I am NO weapon, not for Heaven, not for Hell. I am the Phoenix, Firebird, King of Fae."
"Stay calm, young Firebird" Michael said forcefully. "If this avatar of my younger brother is right then we must find a way to deal with Metatron before anything else."
"Younger brother?" Jones looked at Flynn quizzically. "Guy looks older to me."
"Angels have different aspects - remember?" Flynn replied. "That's the aspect he's shown to Rowan but it's probably not his true face just like this maybe only one of Michael's aspects."
"True enough" Lucifer quipped. "He's got all sorts of faces - pretty boy, soldier, hypocrite..."
Rowan started to bounce on the tips of her toes, looking at the two men beside her with interest. "I need some air – you guys up for a run?”
Khan and Arthur glanced at each other quizzically then both shrugged. “You don’t want to talk about what that voice in your head just told you?” her brother asked carefully.
“No – I want to run. And maybe climb up something. Bounce off a few things and then run some more. Anything other than just sitting here for another few hours trying to figure out what the imaginary playmate in my head wants from me.” Her nervous energy propelled her towards the door only to find herself running right into the glowering Archangel. “What now?” she asked.
“Miri we have to talk about what he said” Michael insisted.
“One – my name is ROWAN not Miri. Two – I don’t have to do ANYTHING unless I want to - that whole annoying free will thing, remember? Three – I don’t care if you’re an Archangel. You're not the boss of me. Finally - I’m going out that door and getting some fresh air even if it means I go through you to do it. DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?” Her normally soft voice had risen with each syllable, anger growing with each word.
Baird stepped forward gingerly. “Maybe we should all take a break. It’s been a long day.”
Lucifer snickered. “Oh no – I think it would be highly entertaining to watch little brother get his head handed to him by a girl. After all, she almost succeeded the last time. Pity she only had a pool cue...”
“She’s the one likely to get hurt” Stone hissed, staring at the visibly upset angel with concern.
“Naw” Jones drawled, shutting down his laptop. “I get the feeling he’s not the type to hit a girl.”
“Not unless he has a sword in his hands” Lucifer agreed, a sharp tone to his voice. “Then all’s fair in love and war – right Mickey? Or should I call you The Flood - Daddy's favorite world killer.”
“ENOUGH!” Rowan yelled, reaching suddenly for a book to throw at the Devil’s perfectly quaffed head. “I have a headache, I need some air and I don’t need you Celestial types hanging all over me. Get the hint – NEITHER of you is on my friends list today.”
Arthur glanced over a Jenkins and shrugged. “Low blood sugar” he said, grabbing the book out of his sister’s hands. “We’ll be right back. You coming?” he asked, looking at the young monk.
“Yeah, why not? Gives me a chance to work on my Parkour skills set.” Khan smiled wolfishly at the Librarians. “And maybe we can stop and get donuts on the way back.”
“Sounds like a plan to me” Arthur agreed happily, shoving his younger sister towards the door. He shot a warning glare at the angel in front of them who reluctantly stepped back out of the trio’s way. “We won’t be long.”
The Librarians and their “guest” watched as the odd threesome literally ran out the door, Khan bouncing off the walls on his way out. “So…” Jones drawled. “Anyone notice that someone pocketed that Seal of Doom we were looking at?”
Chapter 30: The teams go their own ways
Outside of the Annex
“Which way?” Khan asked, looking at Arthur and Rowan quizzically, his eyes darting from one to the other for direction.
“Doesn’t matter” Rowan replied anxiously. “We just need to run. Quick – before they find out.”
“Find out what?”
“That you pocketed the Seventh Seal while you were helping Jones with his laptop” Arthur said, slapping the younger man on the back. “Which they probably have figured out right about…”
“RUN!” Rowan yelled, taking off across the lawn and into the wooded area in front of the annex, the two young men at her heels. They sprinted down an overgrown path, ducking under low hanging branches and leaping over boulders and fallen trees. They rolled off the path and into the denser part of the woods, never looking behind them, running like deer from a predator, quickly and quietly. After a while they slowed their momentum, picking through less traveled parts of the wood until they broke through and found the road leading out of the area.
Arthur stopped, in the middle of the lane, looking from one end of the road to the other. “Okay – this is far enough. Screw running” He waved his hand, forming a sigil which opened a way into the Between. “Let’s see what Father and Merlin have to say for themselves.” He looked back at the young monk with a smile. “Nice sleight of hand with the Seal by the way. Where did you learn it?”
“Told you – went walk about for a while. Man has to eat, and some people are just WAY too careless with their stuff.” His smiled brightly, a smile that didn’t quite make it to his eyes. “Besides, I had kids to feed.”
Khan shrugged. “Same story everywhere. Kids get abandoned, someone’s got to look out for them. I ended up with a little gang of street kids practically every place I stopped. Figured I’d do for some of the ones I ran across in my travels what my parents didn’t do for me – make sure they had a decent meal and a safe place that was off the streets.”
“Good man” Arthur whispered, clasping a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “My father will be very pleased to meet you. That sounds like motivation he could really appreciate.”
“So true. And while we're home I’d like him to see this Seal” Rowan said breathlessly. “I have a bad feeling about all of this.”
Khan shrugged. “We could always ask my old tutor about it as well – Master Christoph. He’s a necromancer but the most principled magic user I know. Lives near the temple so collecting him wouldn’t take long.”
“I’ve heard the name” Arthur said, motioning the two to precede him into the Between. “And I’m betting Father has already summoned him for advice. Quick now – before those Librarians figure out where we’re going.”
Khan smiled. “Let them. They can’t make the backdoor open into your father’s house without the correct fire symbol – or the correct magic user to create it.” He looked at his companions with a grin. “That would be us.”
The sound of laughter followed the trio into the mists as the door closed behind them.
Back in the Annex
Flynn frantically tore through the books and papers on the table, searching for the Seal. “It’s not here! How did one of them manage that without us seeing them?” He looked at Baird with frustration.
Baird shrugged. “I can usually catch Jones in the act but wasn’t expecting it from Arthur or Rowan.”
Stone glared at Jones. “Which one of them was it?”
“Khan” Jones replied with a grin. “Saw him pocket it while we were messing with my laptop. Good technique but you can’t fool a thief. Saw him roll it under some scrolls then collect it while everyone else was watching the screen.”
“And you chose not to say anything?” Michael growled, fists clenching in frustration.
Jones shrugged. “One thief doesn’t rat out another thief, mate. Besides – isn’t he one of the “good guys”?” He looked over at Lucifer, who was watching everything with hooded eyes.
“Yes – this iteration of my nephew is quite interesting. Pity his “father” wasn’t here to see it.” Lucifer leaned back in his seat, forming air quotes around the last part of his response. “I’m sure Gabe would be so proud. And before you go off on your normal “it’s all Lucifer’s fault” tangent let me remind you I, evidently, have never met this iteration of Andre before. So his predication for being light fingered is all on him.” He rose and stretched. “So – now that they’ve absconded with your seal, I think it’s time I went home and tended to my bar and waited for the next bomb to go off. I’m sure I won’t have to wait long, will I Mickey?”
Michael closed his eyes, marshelling his dwindling control. “Yes – go home Fallen. In fact, do this world a favor and return to your real home. Return to your throne in Hell before you destroy anyone else’s life.”
“Funny man” Lucifer snarled. “Since it seems all of this started with you – not me.” He pointedly turned his back on his angry sibling and gestured to the door. “Well come on – one of you make this silly contraption work so I can get back to doing what I do best.”
“Tempting people to sin?” Stone replied, sarcastically.
Lucifer’s eyes glowed red for a moment. “I NEVER made any of those fools in Hell do anything they didn’t want to do. I just presented the scenario and most of Daddy’s little pets jumped for the most obnoxious, vile outcome they could imagine. Hardly my fault if they didn’t have the strength of will to resist.”
Jenkins quickly dialed the globe and opened the back door gesturing towards it. “If you step through you will be in your establishment again.”
Lucifer smiled. “Much obliged. And Mickey” he turned back for an instant to meet his brother’s eyes with a cold smile. “I’ll expect you to let the kids come back to me if they decided your precious “Savior” isn’t worth the blood they will have to spill.” He smiled and backed through the door, waving a jaunty goodbye as he disappeared.
“I will kill them first before I will let him destroy their souls” Michael fumed.
“You’re putting conditions on your love for them” Cassandra added, pulling her chair back up to the table and starting to sort through the books. “Do it my way, sacrifice because I say you should or I will kill you rather than let you have a life I don’t approve of. That’s just wrong. Lucifer maybe our image of evil – but even he wants them to be happy.”
“Yeah – and isn’t that confusing as heck” Stone muttered, picking up the packing material the seal had been found in. He examined it again, turning it over and over in his hands. “No sign it’s been mailed or a delivery service used. Jones says he found it in a crate that DOSA sent us. Maybe we should see if there was anything else in there.”
“What about Rowan and Arthur?” Cassandra asked nervously.
“I suspect I know where Arthur has gone with that seal” Jenkins mused, closing the top of the globe. “His father and Merlin were going to find more information for him. What better place to take our elusive clue than to them?”
Michael flexed his massive wings, preparing to take flight. “I will return once I’ve found them.”
Jenkins shook his head sadly. “I think not, Archangel. If my King’s father is as security conscious as his son then the odds are that he will have warded his home the way he warded his wife’s birthing chamber. You won’t be able to enter his realm – much less his home.”
“Okay” Baird strode past the angel with a determined look. “While they find what they can about the seal let’s see if we can’t find out where it came from. Either someone put it in the crate with the other artifacts from DOSA or…”
“Or someone got into the Library to leave us a breadcrumb for this search.” Flynn looked at his young Librarian’s thoughtfully. “I’m not sure which would be worse.”
“Both” Michael said with a sigh.
Chapter 31: Conversations while waiting
The librarians scrambled to try to find more information on how the ceramic seal had come to be delivered to the Library in a crate ostensibly sent by DOSA. Baird watched them, glad to see that despite Flynn’s usual disdain for “teamwork” he was allowing the others to search in their own ways while he brought the information together in a cohesive style. She looked back at the archangel, who was staring at the exit door with an inscrutable look on his face. “So” she began, walking around him, careful to stay out of reach of his wings. “Three children descended of the Fae realm, born with the grace of Angels and the bloodline of humans would become the link to the mortal world... Why those particular parameters? Fae blood I can guess at – they are magic users with powers to protect themselves and others. But why human blood? And what exactly did you mean by them having angelic grace?”
Michael glanced down at her, frowning. “Does it matter?”
“Maybe not” Baird replied calmly. “But Arthur and Rowan are our friends and I’d like to know more about what you think they are. It might help me to help them find a path back to what is expected of them – and us.”
Michael continued to stare at the door. “As I understood it, the human component was to make them more receptive to protecting those whom our Father had created. They would have more empathy, more understanding of mankind’s foibles, their faults and strengths if they had some link to them.” He shook his head ruefully. “I saw that as more weakness then strength but it was God’s command and so it was done.”
Cassandra looked up, hearing Baird’s question and the angel’s answer. “I can sort of understand that but like Eve I don’t understand what angelic grace is. Or how it makes them better protectors then if they had only been Fae / human hybrids.”
Michael sighed, reconciling himself to the fact that these two would not stop until he gave them some sort of answer. “Angelic grace is our version of a soul. It gives us strength, it defines us as sons and daughters of the Almighty. We, my brothers and I, were never told where the angelic grace given to the Triad came from. Some of the choirs thought it might be from those who fell in battle during our First War – a way for them, or at least their grace, to live on. Some, like my younger brother Uriel thought the All Father had simply given them grace to tie the Three to their mentors.” He stepped away from the door, arms crossed in front of him, to look at the two women questioning him. “You are correct in your assumption about their Fae bloodline. All three are descendants from the first Fae created by my Father after he made the angelic choir. That Fae and his household were strong in their magic – almost as strong as the angels they interacted with. Strong also in their faith and loyalty to their creator. Rafael…” his words caught in his throat at the thought of his boisterous younger brother, now lying in a field somewhere with a demon’s sword through his heart. “Rafael called the Fae our cousins, made to help light up the universe with their love of beauty. But when the First War came Lucifer’s demons tried to use their weaknesses against them, tried to find a way around them back to the Silver City. Their ancestors deliberately locked themselves into their kingdom with the horrors who were trying to destroy them rather than let those demonic hordes infiltrate Heaven. When the war ended the Jinn had so ravaged the Fae lands they refused to open the gates again, even to our kind. It pained my little brother because his friend, the Golden Dragon, was locked behind the Black Gates of the Fae world and he could only speak to him when they met outside of the borders of the magical realm.”
“But if all the Fae were locked behind their walls, refusing to come out, how did Rowan and her brother’s family come to be in the mortal world?” Cassandra’s voice was horrified, imagining the life these beings had been forced to endure because of their loyalty to God. “And how did they get back in?”
Michael shrugged. “I know only what Rafael had from his friend. Some of the high Fae tried to break out of the Black Gates, thinking to take the war to the demons who were trying to end the lives of Father’s newest creations – mankind. When the other royal houses locked the gates behind them, they had no way to return and so made their home among mortals. Some chose to stay hidden from mortal eyes and kept their bloodlines pure. Those, I think, were the ones that the legends of fairy folk come from. Others chose to integrate with the ones they had given all to protect. A schism arose and Damien’s father, a fierce warlord who was born to the line of Fae who believed in the purity of their blood, was the eventual winner. He took as a bride a woman of the other side – one who had mortal blood in her pedigree – and so healed the breach between the clans that lived outside of their home realm. Once the breach was healed they could come together to find a way back to their ancestral lands. Damien was a child of both sides of the war and stronger in his magic then any child before or since. His light drew a Phoenix spirit to him, merging with his Fae soul and creating the leader of the Triad. It was that light that identified him to … my youngest brother Uriel” Michael’s voice chocked in his throat at the name.
“And Rowan and Khan? Were their family stories the same?” Baird examined the angel in front of her with interest, noticing he still refused to call the young King by his “current” name.
“In a way. Both Miri and Andre are descendants from the same original High Fae princeling that Damien was. And they, like the young Phoenix, were born with mixed blood and strong magic running through their veins. Not even the pure bloods of the Fae world could stand against them. Even the monsters of the Dark Gates bowed when Miri approached them, ready to do her bidding and open the gates for heirs to the old throne.” He scowled at the floor, memories flooding forward. “My Fallen brother chastises me for making the choices I made to protect my Chosen One yet he neglects to mention what the Firebird’s father was willing to do to gain a crown for his son. The old warlord knew of their history and set about to make sure his whelp would sit the throne of the Fae – even if it meant using two young orphan Fae children as bait for the creatures who still guarded their gates “
Cassandra shot a surprised look at Baird. “But I’ve MET Arthur’s father and he’s not LIKE that at all! He’s really very nice!”
Baird sighed. “Yes, this Vlad maybe a sweet old gentleman but considering how screwed up these guys sound like they used to be it wouldn’t surprise me if Vlad’s alternate persona was just as twisted in that turn of the wheel as Michael describes.” She examined the angel’s closed off expression carefully again. “So – you might as well tell me the rest of the story of what you did to Alt-Rowan. Lying to her about not being able to be with her as more than a teacher was bad enough but Lucifer made it sound like you did something worse.”
“I would never hurt her” Michael snarled. “NEVER! She followed me into exile, ignoring my orders as she ALWAYS did and was accidently hurt by Gabriel’s blade. Neither of us meant it to happen and we have both grieved the event ever since.”
“As she always did?” Baird probed thoughtfully. “Sounds like she didn’t believe in chain of command much.”
Michael’s jaw clenched. “She never heard an order she didn’t question – especially if it came from me.”
“Yet Miry followed you into that war” Eve said quietly. “Even though you told her not to. Must have made you mad.”
Michael huffed. “She excelled at making me angry. And then being annoyed with me when I was. That night was no different. But…” he stared off into space, remembering those hours in detail. “My wings were gone – I had cut them off, determined to fight this battle as a mortal man but I had forgotten the frailty of human form. I started to bleed badly. I was trying to sew up the wounds I had created when I heard her voice, chastising me for not cleaning the area first so that it wouldn’t become infected. Everything in me should have been screaming for her to return to her lands, to turn away from my mad plans – but when she put her hands on me all I could feel was relief. Relief I wasn’t alone, that my light had chosen to stand with me in this dark time. Her hands were cool and gentle as she cleaned the wounds and sewed up the cut flesh. For a moment I wanted…”
“You wanted … what?” Cassandra asked softly.
Michael bowed his head. “To tell her how much her presence meant to me” he whispered. “How good it felt to have her at my side, to know after all the arguments, all the turmoil in our relationship she would still stand with me. I wanted to say those things to her, to say that and more. Gabriel would have found the words but I… I stood there, mute, and let her pack my wounds and help me get cleaned up. We had to be move on quickly, be on the road before the Dogs of Heaven, the lower angels, could find me. I knew the child would be born soon and if I knew – then they would as well. They would swarm the woman about to bear the savior and tear her and her child limb from limb, all in the name of fulfilling my Father’s command to bring about the Apocalypse. I had to be there to prevent that – even if it mean taking my girl with me into Hell.” He stared off into the distance for a moment. “She curled up in the passenger seat of the police car we liberated, sitting beside me and sleeping all the way out to our destination. So the opportunity to tell her what I felt slipped away. I remember looking over at her, seeing how delicate she was, how beautiful, and wondering how I could have been so selfish to keep her close to me when I should have sent her away the moment I set eyes on her.”
“Is that the decision that Lucifer holds over your head?” Baird asked. “Risking her life in what might have been a losing proposition? Because I have to say – sounds like it was all Miri’s decision and not yours.”
“No” Michael said hoarsely. “It was my actions later that he blames me for. We found the woman before she went into labor. Charlie and her friends were hiding in a roadside diner called Paradise Falls.” He looked up at the two women with a shrug. “A somewhat appropriate name. But as I feared – the lower angels had found her as well. They surrounded the establishment, hoping to drive us out with hit and run raids. One of those raids caused a young girl – Audrey – to run out in their midst, trying to save a friend who was already dead. Miry ran out after her, trying to stop her, trying to drag her back into the relative safety of the diner. I WARNED her! I WARNED Miry that the child must be our priority – that none of the other humans in that diner were likely to survive. But she couldn’t bear to see the girl killed for nothing. So she went out into the midst of those animals to save her.”
“And?” Baird frowned, sensing something was wrong, some detail hadn’t been shared yet, something that would explain why the guilt was pouring from the angel like water through a sieve.
“Charlie demanded I go out and save them – and I refused. I told the woman from the moment we arrived she was my priority – she and her child. I could not risk leaving her unprotected to save Miry and Audrey. Even though it tore at my heart, at my soul, I turned away from the door, resigned to leaving them to their fate.”
Cassandra and Baird quickly hid their shock, not wanting the angel to stop in the midst of his story. “But they survived or at least Miry did.”
“Charlie threatened to go out herself to get them if I would not – so I stormed out and fought the lower angels back, allowing Miry to get Audrey back into the diner. I grabbed her by the arms once we were safe and shook her, angry that she had made me do this. She believed I was angry because she had disobeyed me again – not realizing that my anger was guilt at what I nearly allowed to happen to her.”
Baird took a breath, wondering if she should ask the next question. It might be one risk to many with the angel already agitated over his “Fallen” brother’s insults, this story still didn’t feel complete. “Did she ever find out?”
Michael’s hands clenched together in fists. “Yes. Metatron – the scribe to our Holy Father – told her before he sent her back to Vega to find out what was taking Gabriel and I so long to resolve this conflict. He had always claimed he “liked” her best of the three but in truth he saw her as nothing more than a means to an end. A weapon aimed at both Gabriel and I. So he told her how little her life had meant to me on the pretext of arming her for war. She said nothing to me until this last battle in Vega, this horror which only I seem to remember. When they had returned from Burning away the Darkness that followed Gabriel and I from Vega none of the Triad were speaking to the others. The boys were angry at each other for petty reasons too numerous to mention – and they were angry with her for being the catalyst for all they had lost during the fight against the weapon our Father had created that nearly destroyed their world. She told me why she had lied to us after the burning, why she couldn’t trust me with the truth of their plans, hers and Seraphiel’s, to protect this reality from the things that had found a way from the alternate reality to this one. The boy born that day, Alex, was there in Vega, struggling to bring order in the face of an incursion by a Fallen and its minions. And she knew if things went badly I would be forced to make that choice again. There would be no Charlie here to save her if I were forced to decide between saving Alex and her. She … didn’t think… didn’t want to risk…”
Cassandra took a deep breath. “She didn’t want to put you in that position again, of choosing between this Alex person and her.”
“She believed I would chose Alex over her. I had done so before – why would she believe I wouldn’t now?” Michael looked down at the floor, a slightly sick look to his face.
Baird alternated between anger and horror with anger winning out. “And yet, with all this negative history between the two of you, you still expect her and her brothers to lay down their lives to help you save a world that should have died. Yeah – I can see why Lucifer has it out for you. You say Metatron thought of them as only weapons. News flash buddy – if what I’ve just heard was even halfway accurate then you’re no better than him.” She turned and walked stiffly away, cursing the curiosity that had led her to ask questions about things it would have been better she had not known about.
Cassandra gathered up her scrolls and started to move to the other end of the table. She looked at the bowed head of the angel in front of her. “It should be their decision – and I suspect it will be” she mused, hoping he was still listening. “Arthur and Rowan would never allow innocents to be hurt if they could help it. So I guess, in a way, it’s not your fault if they were raised to be the good guys. But it’s still not right.” She wiped the back of her hand across her eyes and moved to sit by Ezekiel, leaving the angel to his tortured thoughts.
Chapter 32: War council in the Fae Realm
Back in the Fae lands
Arthur, Rowan and Khan strolled through the mists of the Between, following the light Arthur had identified as his father’s beacon. “Looks like the old man is waiting for us” he mused, shooing the other two ahead of him.
Rowan sighed. “He’s always waiting for us. No matter how late we stay out, he’s always awake when we get back.”
Khan grinned. “Fathers – got to love them. Not that I would know from personal experience, mind you. Just something I’ve heard.” He looked around the massive stone entrance and whistled. “You know, the Temple runs cold and drafty in mid-winter and it’s not half the size of this place. Bet it’s a bitch to heat.”
“Not as bad as some of the places we camped during the war against the Jinn but still…” Arthur agreed ruefully. “It reminds the old man of home so we put up with it. Nothing a nice, roaring fire won’t make right.”
“Says the man who has a Phoenix spirit attached to his soul” Rowan huffed, rubbing her arms at the thought of the castle’s chillier nights.
“And just who, pray tell, are you calling old man” the silky, cultured voice of Vlad, father of the rulers of the Fae realm and advisor to the throne, drifted out of the shadows. His deep voice seemed a perfect match for his lean, muscular 6’5” frame. The old man’s hair was silvery and his neatly trimmed beard and mustache emphasized the sharp planes to his angular face – and the long canines that flashed when he smiled.
“Guys” Khan said with a bemused smirk. “Anyone tell you that your dad’s a…”
“Yes – numerous people. We don’t speak of it” Arthur interrupted briskly. “Especially not today. Father, have you and Merlin found anything that can help us with this strange turn of events?”
“Perhaps” Vlad mused, looking the young monk with interest. “But first, introduce me to our guest.”
Arthur smiled. “This is Khan, the abbot of the Dragon Temple. Master Khan, this is my father Vladimir.”
Rowan looked between their father and their new friend with a smile. “Wow – he’s almost as tall as you are. That’s got to be some kind of strange for you. Even your manservant Draco is only around Arthur’s height.”
“You have such a peculiar obsession with height” Vlad murmured, enveloping his daughter in a hug. “I cannot imagine where that comes from.”
“Can’t you?” Arthur said with a laugh. “And just how many potential suiters for my sister’s hand have you had thrown out our gates because they couldn’t look you in the eyes?”
“One must have standards, Arthur” Vlad said airily. “After all, she is the Queen of our realm.”
“I suppose one of us must because the two of you have no taste at all.” Rowan grinned mischievously at Khan who burst out laughing.
“Oh, I’m going to LIKE this family” he chortled.
“Good, since it appears you were always meant to be a part of it” Rowan replied. She looked up at her adopted father with a frown. “Khan managed to nick something I think you and Merlin…”
“And Master Christophe” Khan included helpfully.
“Yes and Master Christoph” Rowan echoed, giving her guest an exasperated look. “Something you all should see.”
Khan reached into his robes and handed the ceramic seal over to his host. “Supposed to be the Seventh Seal which starts the Apocalypse but I have my doubts.”
Vlad detached himself from his daughter and took the seal, turning it over and over in his hand. “Hmmm, I’ve seen drawing of the item you mentioned in some of my wife’s books of magical lore. But this, while similar, seems a bit off. Come, we’re all in my study. Master Christophe was kind enough to bring some of his own books and paraphernalia with him. Let’s see what he and Merlin have to say about this unusual piece of pottery.” He turned abruptly and disappeared into the shadows, leaving his children and their new friend to follow him into the castle.
Arthur looked back at his sister as they made their way to the study. “Something about that cylinder unnerves Father.”
“Yes, I noticed” she whispered, keeping one hand on Khan’s sleeve to keep him from wandering down the wrong corridor in the huge and empty castle. “Makes me wonder what else about this story we haven’t been told.”
“Think flyboy Archangel Michael isn’t giving up all his secrets” Khan looked into one dark, open doorway and frowned at the dust twinkling in the moonlight. “By the way – do you guys not have a cleaning service? I swear one of those dust bunnies in there was bigger than my pet falcon.”
Arthur sighed. “The little Fae are supposed to keep the place neat but they spook easily. Father has a light step and tends to walk up on them without their hearing him until he’s right there in front of them. Kind of makes keeping things neat a real pain.”
“That’s only because you won’t be firm with them” Rowan laughed. “You keep trying to bribe them with sweet milk and bread. They know you won't punish them for not doing their duty so they don't. I’ll talk to them after this is all said and done. Now, can we just get to Father’s study and see what we can find out about this idiocy the angel has us roped into?”
“I’m not roped into anything” Khan insisted. “Don’t see my name on any contract saying I have to help him.”
“And yet you will, little brother” Arthur whispered, stopping in front of an ornate wooden door. He laid a hand on the young monk's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. “Because the consequences to innocent lives just might be more than you can live with – just as it will be with us.”
Khan frowned, looking from Rowan to her sibling. “Yeah” he mumbled grudgingly. “Guess you’re right. But doesn’t mean I’m happy about getting blackmailed into it.” He bit back a comment on being called “little brother”, finding the acceptance being offered unnerving but somehow comforting considering the current situation.
“Nor am I” Rowan admitted, reaching to open the door. “But here’s the thing – if Michael and this mysterious “other” reality want our help they will have to accept it on our terms. Which means no whining about our methods especially if we don’t decide to play nice. Are we agreed?”
The young men with her smiled wolfishly. “Agreed” they sang out, laughing as they followed her into the room.
Inside a trio of old men were gathered around a stack of books and scrolls, pushing one aside as another caught their attention. Merlin, the old hedge mage of Camelot, sat on a pillow on the floor, staring across the table as the other two opened another tome. Master Christoph, necromancer and wizard tutor to many young magic users in the kingdom (including the Dragon Temple’s young students), waved a finger over a book covered in delicate calligraphy, watching as the pages turned on their own. The three made an unusual tableau with Vlad’s elegant figure at the head of the table, Merlin’s wild hair and over bright eyes to his left, and Christoph (who resembled a merchant more than a magic user) to his right. “Ah, gentleman” Vlad purred. “Here are the children. Let us see what we can see for them.”
Arthur sat himself at the other end of the table with Rowan seated beside Merlin and Khan beside his teacher. “So, I suppose Father has told you what I told him?”
“Someone has played a nasty trick on you and changed your fates” Christoph intoned, patting the arm of the young monk at his side. "Rather odd considering that if the idea was to bring down the royal house of the Fae there were easier ways to go about it."
"So striking at our throne is probably not the ultimate goal" Rowan mused, her eyes locked on her brother. "In that case - perhaps the plan is to bring down this alternative reality and with it the one we were attached to."
“Perhaps” Arthur drawled. He leaned back in his chair, fingers intertwined in front of him. “The Archangel seems to think our current situation has changed, that we are no longer the individuals he once knew. I’m not sure that changed would be the proper description. Enhanced maybe or improved. Let’s go about this as we would any other campaign. Start with the prophecy. We were meant to be these “unique” fighters, bound to an angel as their students. Something changed – what?”
“Lucifer said something about our Burning to drive off the Darkness” Khan mused, stretching out his long legs under the table. “Maybe that was the start of the change.”
“You talked to Lucifer?” Christoph asked, arching one eyebrow.
“Yeah – dude owns a bar in L.A. Fancy dresser with a real hard-on about his brothers. Can’t say as I blame him – getting kicked out of your house by your siblings has got to sting.” The young monk reached across the table and snagged one of the ancient books, lazily leafing through it as he talked.
Arthur grinned. “Yeah – got to admit. I kind of liked the guy even if he didn’t much seem to like me.”
“I think he was reacting to the person you were as opposed to the person you are now” Rowan protested. “But while I suspect that event might have been a catalyst for what happened, I don’t think it’s the only thing.”
“Nor do I” Vlad agreed. “But the why is right now not so important as the how of the thing. And how we can make it right.”
“Okay, I know I’m sounding like a broken record but why do we need to make anything right?” Khan leaned forward in his seat, eyes intense. “I agree, in theory, we probably should find a way to make sure this “Fallen” character doesn’t get beyond the alternate reality he popped up in but other than that – why do we need to change anything about ourselves? I LIKE what I am.”
The silence around the table was almost deafening. “Maybe changing things back to the way they were isn’t the objective” Rowan mused thoughtfully. “Maybe the objective is to take what we are given and make things work.”
“Speaking of what we are given – let’s look at the seal we stole from the Library” Arthur said suddenly, shooting a glance at his father.
“We – hey! I stole it” Khan protested.
“Whoever stole it – let’s see if we can make out what it really is” Vlad replied, laying the cylinder on the table. The group stared at the pottery vessel quietly, trying to put this odd piece in its proper place in the puzzle.
Merlin snapped his fingers suddenly. “I think I’ve seen something like this before.” Jumping up, he knocked several scrolls and books out of his way, ignoring the old warlord’s mild protest. He finally found the scroll he had been searching for and laid it out with a flourish. “Here – this is what I thought I saw. This scroll speaks of the final days of the old order – when the high Fae lost power in their own world and retreated to the shadows and hills. I think this might have been written by the last of the gatekeepers – the first Fae King that Arthur and his father are descended from. The story relates how the old King, knowing he was going to die, took all of his memories of the world as it was before the First War in Heaven and put them into a cylinder, sealing it with his family’s crest and tossing it into the well beside the Dark Gates where none would be brave enough to find it. Does this vessel look familiar?” He pointed one grubby finger at the drawing at the end of the story. It was a duplicate of the one now sitting on their table.
“Well that would make sense” Arthur replied. “Someone has put information, perhaps memories, into this cylinder and labeled the Seventh seal of the Apocalypse to keep someone from accidently opening it until the contents were needed.”
“Great – so does this mean we’re opening it anytime in this century?” Khan’s voice took a sarcastic tone as he eyed the seal.
“No” Rowan replied, pushing the scroll away. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t find out what’s in it.”
“I seriously doubt we can x-ray the thing and find out what it contains” Vlad protested.
“Of course we can” Khan crowed, looking over at his teacher for acknowledgement. “We just don’t use a machine – we use magic.”
Christoph sighed. “This is going to be a long night, my Lord. I hope your kitchen staff is well supplied with coffee.”
Vlad shrugged, a thin smile on his pale face. “They usually are.”
Chapter 33: Back in the Library
Back in the Library
Baird hung up the phone with a sigh. “General Rockwell says as far as her people know that crate was only supposed to contain the war shield of Achilles, a small jar of tears from Cassandra of Troy and some random little bottles that might have included the blood of a Hippogriffs. Nothing about a ceramic seal.”
“And we’re taking her word for it?” Jones asked skeptically. ‘Because, of course, DOSA has such a fine reputation for being honest…”
“I seriously doubt she would lie to me about something like that” Baird protested, keeping her fingers crossed behind her back. She wasn’t any more certain than the rest of her librarians that the general wouldn’t keep something from her especially after the last time they had interacted. But there was something in the other woman’s voice that told Eve that Rockwell was truly mystified by her question. And then, there was the other little nugget of information she had provided. “She did say, however, that when they were loading the trucks for that last shipment her guards did have to chase off someone who was seen loitering around the trucks.”
“Did they get a good look at the guy?” Stone asked, looking up from the list of items that DOSA had “returned” to the Library.
Baird shook her head in frustration. “No – just a shadowy figure hanging around the truck. Never occurred to any of those meatheads that they were in a secure facility so there shouldn’t be ANYONE without proper authorization hanging around at that time of night.”
Michael, who had retreated to the stairs with a book, looked up with a frown. “Odd. How would a human have access to one of the Seven Seals? It makes no sense unless…”
“Unless it wasn’t a human who inserted that item into the crate” Jenkins replied, putting his tea service on the table. “Which would make this situation even more complicated. If it was, in fact, a supernatural creature why would it want that cylinder sent to the library? Surely they must have known we would have seen it did not originally come from here and attempt to ascertain what it was and where it came from?”
“Or maybe they figured with all the little stuff DOSA took out of here and all the stuff they had already hoarded away we would just assume it was something new and put it in storage until we had time to deal with it.” Baird picked up a delicate cup, her eyes following the intricate details on the china in front of her, giving her mind time to wander through the list of possibilities.
“Earth to Baird” Stone’s voice interrupted her thoughts as he waved away a cup. “None of this makes any sense – why send it here? Why have us hide it? And was the same being responsible for Michael dropping into our chapel like he did? Oh and what has any of this got to do with a time line that’s gone whacko, changing up people’s fates?” He turned and looked up the stairs at the quiet angel. “Is this aimed at you and Arthur and Rowan are just collateral damage? If so – who wants to hurt you so bad they are willing to risk God’s wrath by hurting creatures he created to protect mankind?”
Michael grimaced. “I suspect my Father isn’t particular concerned about the Triad anymore. Or my brothers and I for that matter. If he were, none of this would be happening." He stood and moved off into the upper level of the work room, book in hand, not prepared to speak anymore on the subject of what had happened in the past.
“Well that was incredibly helpful – NOT” Jones muttered.
“Jake may have a point though” Flynn mused. “The Lucifer we met previously had a major grudge against his brother for kicking him out of Heaven. He can’t be the only one though. Surely there were others who fell from grace who would have an equally good reason to hate the Archangels. What if one of them found a way to influence the Loom of Fate, aiming their artifact or spell at the beings the angels most wanted to protect – their human family?”
“I seriously doubt that giving Arthur and Rowan a chance at a wonder full life not smothered by their angelic guardians would be ANYONE’s idea of revenge” Cassandra protested. “I mean, they weren’t suffering, they weren’t in any danger until…”
“Until flyboy up there drops into the library like a sack of potatoes and brings up this whole “alternate reality is in danger unless you come and fight” scenario” Jones pushed aside his tablet with a snort. “If he hadn’t shown up we’d all be dancing the night away at that club in L.A. and watching Arthur crater from excessive alcohol consumption while Rowan sweet talked the bar owner into getting his grove on with her.” He looked around at his fellow librarian and shrugged. “Sounds like a good time was about to be had by all until…”
“Until our guest arrived and put a stop to it.” Baird looked at Cassandra and sighed. “I’ve got some details to the story Michael told us – it may have nothing to do with why this all happened but it does bring into focus a couple of players we haven’t seen yet who might just be responsible for the events we’re seeing.” She quickly related the Archangel's tale of his student following him to war, how he had almost abandoned her to the enemy and how she had later been sent to him by God’s scribe to hurry him along on his task – only to find him in the midst of activities that had caused other of his brethren to Fall. And she related his emotional attachment to the girl who had followed him, the woman he had been willing to allow to die for the sake of a possible savior for the alternative reality.
Stone frowned. “Yes we sort of heard most of that when he and Lucifer were quarreling. What’s that go to do with the cylinder and how their fate might have been changed?”
“It gives us other suspects” Flynn replied, sitting on the table in the center of the group. “Suspect one – Metatron. Maybe he’s trying to make a point about the fallacy of angels loving mortals as family or thinking that mere immortals could ever be anything but weapons.”
Jenkins chimed in. “Another suspect would be Lucifer. He seemed quite attached to both the young Abbot, Master Khan, and Rowan in their previous personas and as the Lord of Hell he would have the power to make the changes that are being described to us. He might have thought that changing their fates – despite the danger it put his brothers and the people of that other reality into – would be worth it to have more access to the members of the Triad he enjoys. Unfortunately he didn’t factor in that only Arthur and Rowan would be traveling in this reality and not Khan.”
“What about the Fates themselves?” Jones threw in, holding up the long piece of thread the old women had grudgingly given them. “Khan said they were not as powerful as they used to be but I’m betting those old biddies would be just mean enough to screw with the Sons of the God who pushed them aside – and the Fae creatures he created to keep things on an even keel.”
Cassandra stared at her books for a moment before hazarding a comment. “We could make the same argument for the Lake. They might have found a way to influence the Loom without destroying reality and decided to see if they could make it work. Or what about the Fallen that Michael said he was fighting when everything went sideways? Maybe this was his plan all along – when he couldn’t win a physical fight with an Archangel he arranged to win the psychological one. Make him suffer the thought his actions had resulted in his sacrificing his brothers and their “young ones” to save his Chosen One.”
Baird took up the count. “Two more suspects – Alex, the person Michael’s sacrificed all this for. Maybe he somehow found a way to make sure Michael would never be distracted from helping him to put his world back on track. He’s the dark horse of this so I’m not putting too much on it being him – but we can’t overlook anyone.”
“You said two” Flynn asked, a serious tone to his voice.
“One really, really out there. One of his brothers – maybe Gabriel or Uriel – trying to teach their brother the consequences of his self-centeredness and his pride. From the way Lucifer was talking – both of them were as obsessed with their companions as Michael is with this Alex character. And we only know what Michael heard the Library say about his brothers being dead on the battlefield – no actual proof that is what happened.” Baird cast a quick glance up at the book cases, hoping the angel wasn’t listening. “Like I said – long shots at best but not something we can ignore.”
“Great” Jones snorted. “All our suspects are powerful, immortal beings except one – and he’s some sort of Messiah. This should be easy! Have it all wrapped up with a pretty bow by dinner time.”
Jenkins poured himself a cup of tea and glanced up as well. “Hopefully Arthur and his family will come up with a better answer and soon.”
On the upper level, Michael braced his back against the wall, carefully placing the book he had been holding on the nearby shelf. He had heard every word of the Librarians’ conversation. “How human” he thought wearily. “To try to find someone to blame rather than try to find a way to fix the problem.” He dismissed their suspicions of his brothers quickly. He and Gabriel had begun this war at each other’s throats but marching out to challenge Azazel he knew they were as they had always been – loyal and devoted twins. Gabriel having even a few moments with his child had made him determined to fight for all their lives even if it meant sacrificing his own. The same for Uriel whose obsessive love for his companion had been put aside for the battle. The youngest of the archangels had known that if Azazel won the fight then Uriel’s Firebird would be the Fallen’s first victim. To suspect Alex was almost laughable. While the young man was a formidable fighter among his own kind, he did not have the power to bend magic to his will. Not like the Triad did. If the Librarians were going to suspect him then they might as well include the Fae King and Queen on their list as well.
Michael wondered, briefly, why they had not added Seraphriel to their list of suspects. The old Seraph had a dislike for the archangels stemming from what he saw as their mistreatment of his student “MY student” the Archangel thought viciously. “Not his – MINE.” But in hindsight he had to admit – this was not the old warrior’s style. On the battlefield he would gladly and with little remorse have cut the archangel’s wings from his back if he could but this smacked of a level of deviousness the warrior did not have. The others’ on their list…
“I would not put it past Lucifer to have tried something this foolish without thinking how it would affect the one member of the Triad he most wanted to keep close" he thought, grimacing at the scenario Jones had mentioned - of his young Fae queen becoming intimate with his Fallen brother. "She would not dare but he would dare anything for pleasure. I would blame him for this if I could. And Metatron has already proven himself no friend to either our young ones or my brothers.” Michael stared up at the ceiling, willing the spirit of the Library to hear his thoughts. “What more do you know, spirit, what have you not revealed to me?"
"What about Michael?" Cassandra's voice wafted up to Michael's corner, causing the angel to freeze in place. "It's the elephant in the room isn't it? We all know he's an Archangel, that he's got history with the Triad. He's more than capable of being cold-blooded enough to sacrifice everything and everyone to make sure this person - Alex - survives. And we have no way of knowing what actually is happening in this other reality he talks about. Maybe he's the reason they don't remember - because he sacrificed their identities as the Triad to keep his other Chosen safe from the creature from Hell."
"No!" Michael's mind screamed as he slid to the floor in shock. He could hear the voice of the Library - “The Fallen asked what you would sacrifice for your Chosen student, to protect Alex. You chose all – and all is what you paid.”
He looked down at his shaking hands, feeling the horror spread through him. "No - it is not possible. Did I do this? Did I say or do something that allowed this to happen? I would remember! Surely something so heinous I would remember!" Yet for a moment he wondered if the fog still clouding his mind was his heart trying to protect him from the actions he had taken to protect his Chosen.
Baird's voice pierced through his fog. "Okay - if the three members of the Triad were dead I'd say that Michael was a good suspect. But what does he gain by putting them into this reality and changing the path of their fates so they become three completely different individuals from what he's described? I don't know about you but I can't see Arthur EVER treating Rowan the way both Lucifer and Michael have described this Damien character treating his sister. Our friends are beyond silly about one another. I don't think you could pry them apart with a blowtorch."
"Guess makes double dates a real blast" Stone quipped.
"Maybe that's the point" Flynn interjected. "Maybe what they originally became was too broken, to human, to make sure his war got won and his boy got saved. Maybe putting them here, letting them evolve differently away from the influence of Heaven, was all in an attempt to make them better soldiers that he could turn lose on this Fallen character."
"Like you would video game characters" Jones quipped. "If one dies off because you didn't create him good enough to survive the first level you just resurrect him and change the parameters."
Michael ground his teeth in anger. "The are our family - not characters in some electronic game. I would not, I could not do that to them."
"But someone did" the Library's voice whispered in his ear. "And when they were done the Triad individually were stronger then they had ever been but still apart - until now. Until you came to pull them back into a war that is not their responsibility to fight."
The archangel leaned his head back, swallowing painfully. "If they do not return the battle will be lost, my brothers will be dead and Vega will fall to the Fallen. Vega - and Alex. And yet, if they return with me there is no guarantee that any of them will survive. Father may again take their immortality from them for my sins - or they may simply walk away from the angels who love them rather than deal with being used again. There is no easy solution, is there spirit? Even if we find out the how of this and the why someone will be hurt. Someone may die."
The Library's disapproving sadness coated the silence around the angel, leaving him lost in thought, lost in regrets. And wondering how far he could go along this path to the reunion or destruction of his little family.
In the Fae realm
"So, according to this scroll your mother acquired, this vessel" Vlad said, holding out the ceramic tube "was called a memory vault. It was used to store the memories of events held in the minds of only the oldest, wisest and strongest of the High Fae families. It was meant to be used as a teaching device for those that would come after them, so that both the heroic actions and unfortunate mistakes of those people would be available for their descendants to learn from. The High King of Fae was said to have used one like it, right before his death at the hands of the Jinn, to preserve the knowledge he had acquired from his creation till that moment."
"Was that one ever found?" Rowan asked.
"No - at least not that I've ever heard" Vlad admitted. "It is said he hurled it into one of the bottomless wells near the Dark Gate. It is said the wells are entrances to Hell, created during the First War in Heaven so that the angelic warriors could fling the bodies of their fallen brethren away from those who still remained uncorrupted. No one is insane enough or power hungry enough to risk being trapped in one of those pits forever. This one, however, is slightly different."
Christoph took the cylinder from his host and hefted it thoughtfully. "I've studied the theories of how such items were created though I must admit I've never actually seen one. Memory vaults were never meant to hold more than one person's memories. This one, if I'm reading the spells on the end caps and center ring correctly, holds the living past of three individuals."
"And I'm guessing those three people are sitting at this table" Arthur said with a sigh, looking across the mound of books and scrolls at his sister and their new friend Khan. Rowan frowned at the cylinder while the young monk stared at it thoughtfully, tucking his hands inside his long robes. At the other end of the table, Merlin was staring at anything but the item in question, randomly stacking and restacking the books and scrolls in front of him. It was almost as though the old man were afraid of the ceramic holder, afraid of what it might reveal. Arthur watched the old mage's odd behavior solemnly, a dark thought forming in his head. Merlin had taken residence in the castle for years, never venturing far from the warlord's gardens. It had seemed, at the time, that the old wizard was simply tired of the complexities of living in the mortal world. Now - Arthur wondered if there was something more to his former ally's self-imposed isolation. He glanced up at his father with a frown, to see the old warlord was also watching the participants in this discussion closely, like a hawk watching for a mouse before it pounced.
"I think that's a good guess" Christoph admitted, wondering at the looks passing between the young King and his father. And wondering what was happening at the other end of the table to make the old mage so nervous.
"So someone changed one event to change our fate but then decided to keep our memories of that prior existence in a vault?" Rowan looked at the mess in front of her with a frown. "To what end? Why keep these events if the point was to change our futures completely?"
"Maybe a permanent change wasn't part of the plan" Khan mused, shifting from his chair to the floor, sitting cross-legged at Christoph's side where he could keep the room and its inhabitants in view. There was something in the air in this chamber, something he could not put his finger on. Something that felt - spoiled, twisted. He glanced up at his teacher, wondering if the old necromancer could feel it to. and was gratified to see a twitch under the old man's eye - his "tell" that he had seen something but wasn't ready to reveal what.
"Another thing to consider is when and how this was done" Vlad replied quietly. "If I'm reading this scroll correctly the mage responsible for this had to be very close to his subject in order to scrape these memories into the vault."
"Would we have felt it?" Rowan asked curiously.
"No - most probably not." Christoph gently rolled the cylinder in his hand, watching as the hieroglyphs on its surface changed as he moved it closer to Khan and then changed as he pointed it towards Arthur. "I suspect you would not have even noticed. But both events had to have occurred around the same time. At some point, the spells would have come unraveled if the change to our Fates had not occurred."
"Interesting" Arthur whispered, leaning forward on the table to better scrutinize the people seated around it. "I know I am not the most social of beings, despite my sister's best efforts. My only constant companion is Galais in the library and my man servant Drogo. Neither of them have given me any reason to doubt their loyalty or love. It would seem that would limit the amount of people who might get close enough to me to do this."
"I'm not the social butterfly my brother makes me out to be" Rowan protested gently. "And even if I do run with a larger crowd than Arthur does, I rarely let anyone get close enough to me to be able to do something like this. The only beings who would be that close to me would be Galais from the Library and my manservant Draco who is father to Drogo. And like Arthur I have no reason to doubt either of their loyalties."
Khan shrugged. "Only time I was not in my temple was when I went walk-about. And trust me, I wasn't letting anyone get close to me then. Only Christoph and Eric - my second in command in the temple - ever see much of me now that I'm back as abbot."
"Yes but that is the you of today" Vlad pointed out quickly. "What about them? Were they as anti-social as the three of you appear to be?" The blank looks from the three young Fae in front of him answered Vlad's question.
"The only way to know for sure it to see those memories" Arthur replied slowly, not liking what he was about to suggest. "So, maybe it's time to open that damn thing and face the consequences of our past lives."
"My King, I must protest." Merlin jumped up from his chair, waving a scroll in the air for emphasis. "From what you have heard the man you were is not the strong, resolute warrior you are now. You risk putting all the Fae realms in danger by taking back that life for the sake of one ungrateful angel."
Arthur cocked his head sideways, his eyes narrowing as he watched the agitated mage pace around the room. "Now that is interesting" he whispered to his father. "I've never seen Merlin so vehement in opposing my choice to take action in an impossible situation, not since..."
"Since when?" Vlad asked quizzically.
"Since I told him I would not continue to play the part of Arthur Pendragon and put aside the bastard Roman son of Uther. He was sure that my decision would bring down upon the kingdom."
"Yes and we all see how that turned out" Merlin snarled. "The Roman was unable to see the rot forming right at his side, his best knight and his wife betraying him, his enemies sensing weakness and forming behind his traitorous sister Morgan. Even his own son turned against him."
"I suspect after Morgan had worked her wiles on her son he would have believe his father capable of anything" Arthur protested mildly, cutting a quick look back at his father. The old warlord calmly drifted over the side table and poured himself a cup of wine, moving a set of chess pieces to one side as he did so.
Somewhere in the castle, a bell rang.
Short chapter for right now. Things are about to start rolling downhill in several areas.
Chapter 35: Around the table - still
In the center of the castle
An older man sat at an antique roll-top desk, sifting through one document after another. His longish, silver hair was pulled up into a ponytail and his beard and mustache were carefully trimmed to emphasize his ruggedly handsome face. The pale sunlight gleaming through the narrow window above the desk caused a halo of gleaming mites to appear around his head, a sign of the veil he was wearing to mask his true form – that of the great Golden Dragon. ”I sincerely hope my King appreciates this” he huffed, dropping another scroll into a pile. “My young ones still find the concept of signing mutual defense treaties between realms passing strange. We’ve become so use to just chasing malcontents down and setting fire to them.” He looked over at the tray of meats the kitchen staff with a frown. “I really am going to have to speak to those little brownies. They have to learn to better sear and season their food. My Lady will be massively displeased if they serve that slop to her brother and his sire again.”
A younger, dark haired man sauntered in, hands behind his back. His eyes were dark and soulful and his mustache was more a suggestion but his resemblance to the older man was still obvious including the faint gleaming from sunlight hitting the veil he was wearing to hide his own form – that of the Black Dragon. “Father, where is everyone?”
“I have no idea” his father muttered, tossing yet another treaty onto the pile. “I’ve been down in this infernal dungeon all day. The Warlord asked me to read through these old agreements to see if there are any that can be renewed.”
“I think burning their cities to the ground would be easier than trying to resurrect these treaties. And a more productive use of my time.” The older man sighed, then straightened suddenly in his chair, head cocked. In the distance, down the long corridors of the castle, he could hear a sound. A sound like a hunting horn blowing, calling to him.
“Do you hear that?”
His son looked down at the ground, a serious expression on his handsome face. “It’s the Warlord’s alarm. Something is wrong.”
His father leapt to his feet and dashed for the door, his son running behind him.
In the study
Arthur looked across the desk at the old wizard who had followed him through multiple bloody campaigns, never showing as much emotion as he was doing now. “So” the young king drawled. “Tell me Myrddin Emrys, wizard of Camelot, what exactly do YOU think has happened?”
Merlin squinted at his host with a frown. “Isn’t it obvious? This was meant to put you back on the path to controlling the Fae realms. It has taken away that false start at an eternal life where you would be forever chained to some random angel and given you all second chance to do what must be done for you and your kin.”
Khan looked at his teacher then rose and moved to a chair closer to the young King. “First off - don't think the choice of angels was random. I mean - we're assigned to Archangels for Hell's sake. Second off - even if this mage's theory is correct, is finding out why as important as finding out how? Or by who? What is it in those memories someone doesn't want us to know? I don't know about you but I don't like having secrets kept from me.” He pulled his worry beads from his sleeve and started to running them through his calloused fingers, his dark eyes never leaving the hunched over form of the mage at the end of the table.
Rowan glanced over at the young monk and shrugged. “You are probably right. I don't care for secrets either. But for now I’d still like to know more about the memory vault. How do we access the contents?”
Christoph examined the cylinder again. “If this includes your memories from this previous reality then you should be able to lay hands on it and let it return the contents to where they belong.”
Arthur shook his head. “Not happening. From what I’ve heard I don’t want any of us to revert to those personalities again. Far too weak and dependent on the angelic.”
Rowan tapped the table thoughtfully. “Is there a way to see the memories without assimilating them?”
Vlad returned to the table, laying his hands on his son’s shoulders. “That might be a good alternative.”
“Why do you NEED to see them?” Merlin snarled. “Some fool of an angelic comes to you with a sob story about a war you were SUPPOSED to fight in and you are willing to lose all that you and your family have built! It is madness, pure and simple. The power of the angel's personality has wiped away your common sense.”
Across the room, a door opened and the two dragons rushed into the room. “My Lord?” the older of the two said, bowing first to Arthur and then to his sister.
Rowan leaned back and smiled at the old man. “Drago” she purred, motioning him to come to her. “I am glad you are joining us in this mad discussion. I think a neutral observer is needed. Merlin, it seems, thinks we are quite insane.”
The younger man stepped beside the warlord laid a hand on Arthur’s arm. “What is the issue here, my lord?”
Khan looked at the newcomers with a smile. “And hello to you too Drogo. Been a while since you’ve been to the temple.”
Drogo smiled, glad to see the Dragon temple’s young leader was here as well. “Been a while since you’ve been outside its walls, Master Khan. My young brethren miss your lessons.”
Khan shrugged. “Things have been busy at the breeding grounds. Whole new set of young drakes are about to leave their shells – hoping we can save more of them than we did the last time.”
Drogo nodded solemnly. “My kind hope for this as well.”
Draco looked around the table, nodding to Master Christoph, “What is the debate?”
Arthur waved at the cylinder on the table. “Tell me something, old dragon. When you look at us – what is the first memory you see? Or more precisely, have you ever seen my sister or I in the company of one of the Heavenly Hosts?” He waved a languid hand towards Khan. “And you Drogo – you know Master Khan. Have you ever heard him claim one of the Sons of God as a Father?”
The two dragons looked at each other with a frown. “No, my King” Draco said quietly, his Scottish accent growing deeper with each word. “There have not been angelics in this realm since its creation. And I know for a fact neither you nor your sister has ever been in the presence of the Sons of God. I was created when they were and would recognize their scent if I caught it.” He took a discreet sniff and his frown deepened. “Sire – has someone come to you and identified himself as an angel – specifically the Sword of Heaven, Michael?”
“I would have thought his scent would have dissipated from my clothes by now” Rowan sighed. “Had to practically carry him to a room to recover from his injuries and I haven’t had time to change. Still have traces of him on my shirt.”
"Someone injured the General of the Almighty's army?" Draco asked with concern. "What manner of creature would have such power?"
"One of his fallen brothers" Rowan replied, brushing at invisible specks on her dress. "One we were supposed to help him defeat - when we were someone else. Far too complicated to explain."
Arthur shrugged. “I’d suggest you take a hot bath before we return to the library but we may not have time for that. And the answer to your question, old dragon, is yes. The General of God’s armies has made himself known to us as well as his Fallen brother Lucifer. A strange pairing indeed. And each with a story to tell about us that I would have you hear so that you can advise us better. Seems someone has changed the path of our lives. In front of us is a memory vault which holds the events of the people we once were – weak, emotional and shattered. Under any other circumstances I’d drop the thing into the deepest, darkest well as my ancestor did. But something has come up that makes that not possible. So – our options are as follows. We either open the cylinder, take back those memories and live with the consequences or find a way to view what is in that vault and see what might be useful in solving our present situation. Which would you suggest, Draco? Which would you advice against, Drogo?”
Christoph held out a hand. “Before you make any decisions may I ask a question? If what I have read was correct, vaults like this are tuned to the person whose memories are enclosed. But you’ve all held this cylinder at some point, yes?”
All three young Fae nodded. “We’ve passed that thing around between us like a soccer ball.” Arthur replied.
Christoph looked up at the ceiling, “Perhaps it’s setup to only open if all three of you are touching the item. I wonder…”
“Master Christoph” Drogo interjected, leaning over to get a better look at the cylinder. “You say that this is a vault of memories. Are not memories merely stories told from the perspective of the one experiencing them? Could you not then find a way to read them, like you would read pages in a book, story by story without taking them in permanently?”
“You mean read the programming language but not install the program?” Khan asked thoughtfully, ignoring the blank stare from the two dragons. “You know – that just might work.”
Arthur glanced over at his sister. “Do you have any idea what he just said?” he asked with an amused smile.
“Yes – and I think he might have a solution we can use to find out just what all is being hidden from us without making it a permanent part of our psyche.” She rose, taking Draco’s arm for support. “Let’s give him and Master Christoph some time – and space – to work. I suddenly have this urge to return to the library and talk to our friends there.”
“Perhaps I should join you” Merlin began, starting to come around the table. "I may be able to block this glamour the angel is using on you both."
Arthur lifted a hand and blew a breath across his fingers in the direction of the mage. The old man’s form slowed suddenly, an icy wall forming around his raggedy form. From behind the formidable shield, his eyes grew wide, startled and afraid. Khan and Master Christoph watched the enchantment wrap up the old mage without blinking an eye, returning to their conversation about the spells they would need once the ice had bound Merlin to his piece of floor. Arthur dusted off his fingers and shook his head with regret. "Not this time, old mage. Not this time."
“Arthur?” Vlad asked softly. “Was that necessary?”
“Yes” Arthur replied sadly. “I truly fear it was”
Chapter 36: Still thinking - not fighting
Back in the Library
Flynn held a theoretical physics book in front of him and sighed. "I'm still not seeing how this re-write of reality could have been done. There are too many anomalies in the events to even try to speculate. Even with magic the odds of getting three people's lives re-written to erase such important actions would require massive amounts of power."
"Maybe God had a hand in it" Jones snarked. "From what Lucifer was muttering seems like he's got it in for all his kids - not just his angelic ones."
"God wouldn't do that" Cassandra protested.
"How do we know what God would do?" Stone said suddenly. "No matter how smart we all are collectively and singularly we still wouldn't have even a speck of God's infinite wisdom."
"Never pegged you as a believer" Baird commented.
"Never was" Stone admitted ruefully. "But being a Librarian and seeing the things I've seen - let's just say I'm open to all possibilities."
"God's plans aside, Jones may have something" Flynn responded, suddenly enthusiastic again. "We need to know more about how and why the events that preceded the arrival of an angel in the library. Where's Michael?"
"Upstairs in the stacks" Stone said, pointing to a shadowy alcove above their heads. "Been there for a while... Why?"
"We need to get a better handle on what was happening when he got dumped into the chapel." Flynn bound towards the stairs, only to be stopped by the worried faces of both Baird and Jenkins. "What? We need to ask him for more data!"
"Let me ask" Jenkins said softly, moving to stand between Flynn and the stairs. "One soldier to another - I think he will be more forthcoming if the questions come from me."
"I agree" Baird looked up at the shadowy stacks. "Let Jenkins talk to him or let me. He's not likely to respond well to your enthusiasm for something that's deeply personal to him. And I'm still not sure he's as innocent of these events as he says he is."
Flynn frowned. "We don't know he's guilty of anything other than getting backhanded out of a fight. And neither of you will know what to ask!"
"What is it you need of me?" Michael's voice echoed down the stairs as moved slowly to rejoin the group. His face was stony, unwilling to show weakness anymore to these mortals.
Flynn looked around for a moment then mentally shuffled the questions he had in his mind. "First thing - this 'other' reality where the war is going on. What can you tell us about it?"
Michael shrugged, eyes fixed on Baird. "The Almighty created it as a shadow of this world so that we might test the concept of Chosen Ones giving their lives to save even the most unworthy of our Father's creations. That it still exists at all, considering all the errors in judgement my brother Gabriel and I have made still confuses me."
"Essentially - it was a test bed to try out something new" Jones said, closing his laptop and sitting on the table. "Do you know what would have happened if you got all the parameters of the game right?"
"IT WAS NOT A GAME!" Michael's voice hardened as he stared out at the mortals in front of him. "It was a test, a test of faith and obedience that we failed miserably."
"Every game has an end" Jones continued, ignoring the angel's anger. "A final chapter where everything comes together, where characters either die or get saved for use again if the player decides to run the scenarios again. If this 'other" reality was created as a test bed - what happens when the test is over? Do the people cease to exist? Does everyone get folded into another, existing time line? Does it continue into a sequel of the game?"
"I wonder" Cassandra mused, hopping up on the table beside Jones. "Maybe that's what's happened here? Maybe the original timeline that Michael and Lucifer remember was Arthur and Rowan 1.0 and this is iteration 2.0. A test of what the Triad would be like if they DIDN'T have angelic mentors but still had their own, unique powers?"
"So, like Jones asked - what happens when this test is over?" Stone asked, staring back at the agitated Michael. "And what would constitute a passing grade on this test - their sacrificing their freedom and happy lives to save your alternate reality? Or seeing it as a lost cause and standing firm to prepare for an attack on their own home or this world? Isn't that something we should be asking?"
"All valid questions" Flynn said thoughtfully. "And none we can answer until those three come back with that seal."
"Pity we can't just ask God" Cassandra said quietly.
"My Father has not seen fit to answer my questions since this war began" Michal replied, sadly. "I begin to see now why Lucifer did what he did. It can be hard to have faith when you see no response to your most ardent, heartfelt pleas."
"I think that's why they call it faith" Jenks said, turning to return to his workspace to pray for the quick return of his friends and to hope they would bring answers along with them.
In the Fae realm
“You suspect Merlin of being involved?” Rowan asked, quizzically. “That doesn’t seem his usual way of doing things.”
“No, normally he would just badger me until I have had enough of his whining and walk away. I think after all these centuries he’s finally figured out his old tactics will never work on me and is trying something new.” Arthur stepped around the table and eyed the now still, icy figure of Camelot’s once powerful mage. “And I may yet be wrong – but he seemed very anxious that we NOT see what was in that memory vault. And I have to wonder why.”
Vlad nodded somberly. “He’s been quite over anxious about your return from the Library since he arrived for our chess game. His reaction to the vault only made things more… interesting.” The old warlord looked up at Draco, one eyebrow raised. “Old Dragon – you were created around the same time as the angelic host. What do you remember of them?”
“Mostly that they had little time for me or for the Fae realm the Almighty created shortly afterwards. Most were too busy doing whatever task they had been created for – Seraphim as warriors, Thrones were meant to mete out divine justice, and the Archangels were the greatest of the Almighty’s sons.”
“So Michael and Lucifer – top of the pecking order. Do you remember them?” Arthur watched as Khan and Christoph signed to one another, fiery symbols passing between them.
“Vaguely” Draco admitted. “Before the great war, neither they nor another brother of theirs, Amenadiel, seemed terribly interested in my creation. I saw more of their younger brethren, Uriel and Rafael. Rafael was the healer of the lot and his twin Uriel was the scholar. I was not involved with the angelic realm during their War against their brother other than to stand guard at the borders to the Fae realm. Their quarrels, other than as they affected our lands, were no concern of mine.”
“What about this Metatron that Seraphiel mentioned?” Arthur asked, gently pulling Merlin’s frozen form into a more convenient place in the room – away from the roaring fire in the hearth.
Draco frowned. “Metatron I know a little more of – he was a scribe for the Almighty. A minor position he took far too much pleasure in holding over his fellow angels heads. I thought at the time it was odd for God to allow such a shallow creature access to the throne but…”
“When you’re the Lord of Hosts, a petty little secretary probably doesn’t register very much on your radar.” Drogo shrugged, pouring his King a drink from the silver pitcher that had appeared (magically) in the center of the table. “My Lord?”
Arthur took the cup and sniffed at it appreciatively. “My favorite Bordeaux – nice.”
Rowan sighed. “You’ve already had more alcohol in the last 48 hours that you normally do.”
“It’s just wine, Ro!” Arthur protested. “Besides, I’m thirsty.”
“And probably famished” Vlad observed as plates of food appeared on the table. “Seems the little Fae are finally cueing into your needs without our having to chase them down.”
Draco eyed the food dubiously. “I wouldn’t if I were you, my King” he commented, watching Arthur spear a slice of beef. “They still haven’t got the cooking of meat quite right.”
Arthur took a bite anyway and made a face. “On second thought, maybe I’ll pass.”
“You didn’t say whether you remember Seraphiel” Khan sang out, jumping up to snag a few slices of bread and cheese for his mentor.
“I never met that particular angel” Draco said, staring into the fire. “But I heard many impressive stories about him. It was said he and his line held back the demons of the pit from defiling one of the lower levels of Heaven until Lucifer could be captured and sent to Hell. The story, as I heard it, was that all his soldiers were either dead or wounded by the time the Archangel’s were able to relieve them. Only Seraphiel and his shield brother, a Throne by the name of Zaphiel, were still standing. And Zaphiel was badly wounded, barely able to hold his shield in place to protect them both. If half that story is accurate – the Seraph was a very impressive fighter indeed.”
“And his essence is somehow stuck in your head, little sister” Arthur mused, reaching for a piece of cheese. “Interesting. Wonder what Michael did to have God replace him with this old soldier?”
“Funny” Rowan whispered, drifting closer to the fire. “That’s what he called himself in my head – an old soldier.”
“Not so funny” Vlad followed his daughter to the hearth and kissed the top of her head. “God obviously wanted you to learn from the best, someone who wouldn’t be put off by your looks and would push you to learn more than your brother and I did.”
“As I recall” Rowan replied sarcastically. “You and Arthur had an unfortunate habit of dropping me into any random cluster fuck you could find and expecting me to fight my way out of it.”
“Language, child, language” Vlad scolded mildly.
Rowan rolled her eyes as the men in the room, with the exception of Draco, all snickered. “I’ll watch my mouth when my brother does – which will be this side of never.”
“Sire” Draco interrupted, shooting his son a quelling look. “What exactly is the issue you are debating here? And how does it relate to the scribe Metatron?”
“You want to tell him or should I?” Arthur replied, looking back at his father.
“Perhaps I should. In the meantime you and your sister can run up to your rooms and get cleaned up for your return to the Library.” He glanced over at Christoph and Khan, still working with fiery sigils between them. “Master Khan, if you wish, there is a guest room you can also use to clean up in. I’m sure I have something you can change into.”
Khan looked up at the lanky old man with a grin. “That’s okay. Creating something from nothing was one of the first spells I learned. But I sure wouldn’t say no to a hot bath.”
Vlad smiled. “Be welcome to my house, enter it freely of your own will.”
Khan frowned as both Arthur and Rowan giggled. “Now I’m nervous.”
Vlad turned, the smile never leaving his thin lips. “Wise man.”
Chapter 37: Back with a plan
Sorry - slight edit. Need to remove something from the story so that it can come in later.
Back in the library
Flynn pushed back a stack of reading material with a sigh. “Not helpful at all.” He had been searching for what seemed hours after Michael had ended their conversation and returned to whatever shadowy corner he had claimed for his own among the stacks. The Librarian had dived back into another set of religious tomes, hoping to find something that would make this puzzle clearer – only to find there was nothing said in any of them to explain what they and their friends would have to do about this change in their reality.
Jones looked up from the phone app he had been working on. “Does it occur to anyone that the Clippings book never warned us of incoming danger? So maybe whatever “this” is isn’t really any of our business.”
“It is now” Baird corrected, laying out her gun cleaning kit on the table. “Arthur and Rowan are our friends. They would drop everything to help us no matter how confusing the situation. We should be able to do the same for them. Which brings up another question – at least for me. We keep talking about them deciding to take back their original personalities and go back with Michael to fight a battle to protect this alternative reality. We all have the idea that if they don’t then the Fallen angel trying to take over will destroy mankind there and move on to our world. But if Michael’s been shoved through time and space to land here – doesn’t that mean the battle is over and he lost? So what are they supposed to do if he can even get them back there, start up a resistance movement? Or is Michael planning on trying to go back in time and stop his failed attempt to defeat the Fallen angel from happening by using Arthur’s forces as reinforcements for his own?”
The Librarians fell silent. Flynn frowned at Baird for a moment as her words brought up a host of new scenarios he had not considered before. “The latter would be difficult to pull off - difficult but not impossible. I mean – look at what we had to do to travel through time to Shakespeare’s era and back. But we succeeded so it's not impossible considering we're talking about an Archangel of God and Fae warriors with magical gifts we haven’t seen in any of the artifacts or beings we’ve fought up to this point. With Arthur, Khan and Rowan in the battlefield, along with whatever fighting force they take with them, that war might have a totally different outcome. Maybe. We don’t know what else Khan might bring to the picture other than being able to talk to spirit of the Library and being as technologically addicted as Jones.”
“I like Khan” Jones said cheerily. “He’s got attitude. Make a good thief. Not as good as me but…”
"But no one is as good as you" Baird said with a laugh. The rest of the group chimed in, gently teasing the young Aussie, who took their jibes with his typical good humor.
"Wonder when they are going to come back" Cassandra sighed, wiping away an image of the seal she had created in her mind to better analyze it.
"I'm more concerned about Lucifer showing back up again" Stone said, glancing up at the book stacks above them. "Last thing we need is another throw down..."
A sound like distant wind chimes filled the room. Arthur, and Khan appeared suddenly, joined by an older man dressed in plain khaki colored clothing. The young warlord and his companion had obviously taken a moment to clean up while in the Fae realm, each man sporting dark jeans, leather boots and colored t-shirts. Arthur shirt was blood red while Khan had gone for all black and almost obscenely skin tight. “Librarian! Good to see you again" Arthur called out warmly. "May I present our friend Master Christoph, one of my realms best Necromancers and teacher of magic lore and history to the young Fae. Master Christoph - may I present the Librarians.” The older man nodded politely, his eyes roaming over the stacks of books on the upper level with interest.
Baird watched the two young men step away from each other, moving almost in unison as they circled back to the table with their friend between them. Though both men appeared relaxed and happy to be back, she noticed quickly that this time they wore their weapons openly, as though to make a point. Khan had two kris blades hanging at his hips. His hardwood Bo staff rested lightly in his hand as he walked, using it to sweep randomly in front of him as he walked. Arthur had his “Kings Sword” strapped to his back with a set of parrying blades, one on his hip and another in his boot. “Missed us?” Arthur asked, his eyes looking automatically for Jenkins.
“We were just talking about you! Where's Rowan?” Cassandra asked, looking around for the pretty Fae Queen.
“I think she’s drowned in her tub” Arthur replied with a snort, his smile negating the roughness to his voice. “That girl will be late for her own funeral.” He sighed in mock annoyance. "If she weren't so damn pretty when she finally crawls out of the water I'd be more annoyed."
Stone rolled his eyes. "You know, you talk about her like she's your girlfriend and not your sister. What's up with that?"
Arthur shrugged. "She's both. She's my Queen, my baby sister and my child. Kind of all things wrapped up into one pretty and ruthless package. God help the Grim Reaper who tries to get past her charms or her blades."
“Yes, I can see it now” Christoph commented dryly. “The Angel of Death will appear at her door in all his skeletal glory and be told to come back later as the Lady of the Moon has not finished her bath. From what I know of your sister, she just might succeed in keeping the specter from the door indefinitely. She is your own personal Shahrazad.”
Arthur laughed. “Please, knowing my sister she won’t even be that polite. She’ll tell the Grim Reaper to park his scythe and she’ll deal with him when she’s good and ready.”
“That sounds like something Miri would do” Michael’s voice floated down the stairs as he rejoined the group. He cast a appraising glance at the young king's guest. "She had no fear of Azreal, the Angel of Death, or any of her brother who acted as Reapers. It was unnerving to say the least.” Michael’s eyes narrowed as he watched Master Christoph spread out a scroll on the table, quietly ignoring the Angel in the room. “Why did you bring one who speaks to the dead? We have no need of someone with his dubious talents.”
Arthur’s eyes turned stony. “Master Christoph is a mage of good reputation and loyal to our realm. I’ll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head when speaking of him, especially in my presence.”
“Mind your words young king." Michael replied coldly. "I have been my Father’s Sword since before mankind was ever a thought in His plan. Your gifts might be impressive to some but not to me. I can see your mentor obviously neglected to teach you manners. Perhaps he was more interested in your other talents to bother.”
Stone grabbed Cassandra by the shoulders and thrust her behind him. “Are they both nuts? Arthur trying to start a throw down with an Archangel and Michael egging him on?”
Khan eyed the angel with a predatory smile. “If I were you, archangel, I would back down from this. I have no doubt my friend here could make you regret your words. Hell, I’d be willing to back him up on it if push came to shove just because… And I'm betting his sister would be just as mean. I seriously doubt she would not fight to take out anyone who harmed her brother.”
“That would be a safe bet” Rowan’s cold voice echoed from the entrance. She stepped lightly between her brother and the angel, her black leather biker jacket swinging in her hand as she walked. “Back up, buttercup, or we will have issues.”
“Miri…” Michael’s voice warned, backing up to better his chances of not getting hit.
“How many times do I have to tell you my name is Rowan? Either get it right or go home and whine to Daddy. You might have been able to push the me that existed before around but I ain’t her, Sunshine. No one touches my brother but me. Get it?” Rowan moved almost in lock step with the angel, staying almost in his face to reinforce her message.
Michael stopped and sighed. “You were always too protective of him – even when he ceased to be so of you.”
“He’s my family. Family fights for family – something you might consider remembering when and IF you go back to this cluster fuck you and your brother started. Maybe if you had remembered the adage of family first none of this would have happened.”
“Somehow I doubt it” Christoph commented wryly. “Angels were created to serve the Almighty. If he commanded a thing to be done – it would be done without question, even if questioning would have been the better option. That’s why mankind is so “unique” in the eyes of the Throne. We were gifted with Free Will – and we’ve taken advantage of it for good or ill ever since.”
"Now there's a lovely thought" Jones said, putting his cell phone into the desk drawer. "The thing that makes us unique is the thing that makes us dangerous to ourselves and everyone else. Good going there God!"
Rowan laughed. "Kind of counter intuitive isn't it?" She looked back at the archangel who had stopped, taking up a parade rest stance in front of her. "Look, I don't want to fight. I just want this all to be over so we can all get back to doing what the All Father expects of us. Truce?" She held out one slender hand, waiting expectantly.
Michael stared down at her, his expression never changing. "I also do not want to fight, despite our long history of doing so. Or at least, my history with the person you were before." He gently enclosed her hand in his and raised it to his lips, brushing a gentle kiss across her knuckles. "Truce."
Arthur and Khan looked at each other and simultaneously rolled their eyes. "What were you saying about Shahrazad?" Khan murmured.
"My father will have a fit if he EVER finds out she's trying her charms on an angel, much less an Archangel." Arthur shrugged, a rueful smile on his handsome face. "Can't blame her for trying though."
Rowan gently pulled her hand free from the angel's grip. "So, anyone found anything useful in this pile of paper?" She turned and waved a hand towards the table, where a gentle wind picked up the materials and set them back down organized by subject, material type and size.
"Crud" Stone whispered to Cassandra. "Maybe the Library should have recruited her to take care of it."
"Heard that Jake" Rowan replied with a laugh. 'But really - if you don't have anything then we might."
"It's a long shot but might work" Khan waved nonchalantly at Master Christoph as he filled in the Librarians on their plan.
"So let me get this straight" Baird said cautiously. "You three want to scan the contents of that pottery cylinder, read your "other selves" memories like you would a book, and then make a plan based on what you learn? But you're not sure you can do it without frying something in either your brains or the seal and you aren't sure that even with knowing what you were before you can figure out who is responsible for all of this or why it was done? Am I somewhere close to accurate?"
Arthur shrugged. "Pretty spot on."
Michael ground his teeth in frustration. "No - it's too great a risk."
"Says the man who wants to send them into a war zone without any memory of what the plan was, who the enemy was or why they should be fighting in the first place?'' Jones hopped up on the table watching Rowan step away from the angel and back to her brother.
"Doesn't matter anyway" Khan growled, fishing the cylinder out of his back pocket. "It's not his decision to make. It's ours. Free will and all that jazz."
Michael turned suddenly to Arthur, hands clenched. "I need your support in my war to bring down the Fallen. That is true now as it was before all this madness took place. But the plan was sound and neither you nor your siblings were alone in your fight. If you break open that seal, those memories are yours and yours alone. Neither I nor the necromancer nor any of these good people will be able to save you if things go badly."
"Like my about to be new brother says" Arthur drawled, stepping back to Khan's side. "It's our choice to make - not yours."
Chapter 38: So much for the truce
Master Christoph and Khan stepped aside and began to set up for their little “experiment in mind control” as the young priest called it, roping Cassandra into their preparations. “What exactly are you going to do?” she asked, curiously.
Christoph stared at the seal for a moment, hefting it in his hands. “If I’m reading the sigils on the center of the vessel correctly, all that is required is that all three people whose memories are encased in this cylinder put a hand on each end and the center. Once all three are in contact with the surface, the containment spell will release and all that is within will be released to the rightful owner. But my King wishes to view those memories, not relive them or reintegrate them into his or the others minds. So, we must seamlessly add the filters and restraints into the original spell which will keep the contents more as tales to be read and not memories of events and emotions once experienced. Master Khan and I have worked out the spells – we just need to weave them into the design of the original.”
“Weave” Cassandra mused. “Would a latch hook and a piece of thread from the Fates help to attach your spells to what is already there?”
Khan smiled. “Told you she was smart – and cute.”
Cassandra blushed. “It’s just that – well we never did figure out why the Fates or the Ladies of the Lake gave us those things.”
“And the thread is blank – no life essence on it that I can detect” Khan commented. “So using it to bind the seal should work.”
Christoph nodded approvingly. “A good thought, young Master. We can form a physical representation of the net we will create with our spells for the cylinder to be cradled in as you and our King and Queen lay hands on the object. The focus will be that visible net, the power will be in our spells and our outcome…”
“Will be access to the contents of the cylinder without being infected by it” Cassandra finished his thoughts, her eyes glittering at the prospect of being part of this magical circle.
Baird watched the magic users converse thoughtfully. “I’m not concerned that their spells will work. Between Cassandra’s mathamagics gift and Khan’s enthusiastic confidence I can’t imagine any magic not bowing to their wills. But…”
“But I’m worried about what happens to you all once knowledge hits your senses” Stone said suddenly, parking himself behind Baird and Flynn. “You may think that these ‘filters’ they are constructing will keep the worst of it out but emotion is a funny thing. And from what I’ve heard here in the last day or so – I’m guessing there is a lot of strong emotion locked up with those memories. What if one or all of you lose focus? Can you be overwhelmed despite their magical barriers?”
Rowan and Arthur looked at each other, both frowning. “It’s possible” Rowan admitted slowly. “But I’m not sure what else we could do to protect ourselves.”
Arthur’s head dipped as he stared at the ground, an uncomfortable thought playing in his head. “What if we had someone stand at the ready to pull us back out of the spell – someone to absorb some of the power of the memories we’re going to be seeing?”
“Rather dangerous idea” Rowan replied, looking at Baird with troubled eyes. “No one here really capable of that kind of emotional and magical support.”
“Christoph would stand behind Khan” Arthur continued, staring out into space and ignoring his sister's concern. “His connection to our young abbot and his magical ability is strong. Galais could stand behind me…”
“Sire, I am an amateur magic user at best.” Jenkins huffed. He had only just entered the room with the tea caddy when he heard his friend’s words and was surprised and yet a little flattered to be considered.
“You’re a better mage than you give yourself credit for” Arthur replied quietly, looking back at his old friend. “And you're immortal, touched by the Almighty because of your faith and incorruptibility. That should be all the protection you will need – and me as well.”
“And what of your sister?” Michael’s voice was low and dangerous as he moved to join the conversation. “Who did you have in mind for her?”
“Not you” Arthur snarled. “You’re part of the problem here.”
“Ask father to join us” Rowan said thoughtfully. “He’s certainly strong enough to take the kind of hit we’re talking about.”
“What about Lucifer?” Baird asked suddenly, not exactly sure why his name suddenly popped into her head. “He, at least, seemed fond of you. Do you think he'd be willing to help?”
“NO!” Michael roared, forcing himself between Arthur and his sister. “You will NOT put yourself into the hands of that Fallen! I forbid it! You are MY STUDENT. You will, this once, do as I command!” Michael’s voice rang with fury and fear.
"And so much for a truce" Rowan sighed, waving off her brother. She put her hands on the rigid form of the angel in front of her and forced him to turn to look at her. "You know - it's a good thing you're pretty because otherwise I'd launch your ass out of this library." She rolled her eyes at Baird, a slight smile on her lips as she stepped back towards her brother. "Men! Really, you can't live with them and you can't kill them. And it appears that angels are no better."
"Why can't you kill them?" Baird asked, playing along, hoping Rowan's nonchalant attitude would ease the tension in the room.
"Police take a dim view to bodies turning up" Rowan said with a shrug. "Anyway - not Lucifer. That boy can't hold a thought in his head longer than two seconds. Worst case of ADHD I've ever seen in an immortal. Hells bells, Arthur, your OCD seems normal next to Luci."
"I'm NOT OCD!" Arthur protested, trying not to laugh at the thought of the Devil being diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder. "I just like things to run smoothly."
His sister smiled, glad to see her over protective sibling was starting to calm down. "Says the man who lined up glass bottles by size and color when we were at target practice."
Khan jovial laugh filled the room, the young monk unable to hold in the mirth anymore. "Dang! And I thought I was bad! I guess that settles it - we must be related. My monks complain about my organizing our weapons by size and color even after they have been used. Now I can just point at you and say it could be worse!"
Cassandra couldn't help the giggle that escaped her at the thought of the muscular young fighter carefully lining up blades by their shapes. Jones shrugged, a grin on his face. "What's wrong with being organized?" he quipped.
"Anyway... not Lucifer. So who then?" Baird asked, chancing a quick look back at the archangel. Michael was still standing close, glaring at Rowan and her two 'brothers', frustrated that she had, again, chosen to ignore his wishes. She sighed and turned away.
"Why anyone?" Stone questioned suddenly. He jerked a thumb at the young thief's now enchanted laptop for emphasis. "Whatever or whoever that is was Rowan's head during her nightmare was smart enough and strong enough to make himself heard over the other sounds in her dream. Why can't he stand guard over her psyche and Baird and I can stand behind her to catch her if she falls?"
Rowan and Baird looked at each other speculatively. "That might work" Rowan admitted. "He seemed likely to want to make sure I didn't get roughed up worse than I already was. And he'd know what to push off if he saw me being overwhelmed."
"Well it works for me if it works for you" Baird replied with a shrug.
"How do we tell him what we're going to do so he can be ready?" Khan asked, head cocked like a bird as he studied his new "faux" sister.
"I suspect he'll figure it out when things start to go south" Arthur replied, pulling his blade and its sheath from his back and laying it on the table. "An avatar that in tune with the mind it's inhabiting will be watching for any threat." He glanced back at Jenkins with a smile. "So, little brother, ready to watch my back again?"
Jenkins smiled. "As always, my friend, as always."
Chapter 39: Talking down Michael
Baird could tell Michael's patience was well past its breaking point. The archangel was glaring at Arthur with a look of rage that should have melted the young warlord into a pile of sludge. Instead Arthur continued to blithely talk to Jenkins, giving him quick hints on how to protect himself (and Arthur) in case things went wrong. "This is going to be fun - not" Baird whispered to Flynn, who had for once wisely decided not to join in the conversation.
Stone, standing beside Rowan, shrugged. "We still don't know where in that other timeline they are going to have to appear to be of any help to that war effort. Maybe knowing what happened before came help make that decision."
Rowan glanced over at Stone with a frown. "You know, I don't think that ever occurred to either Arthur or myself. I guess we both assumed we'd just jump into the fray at the most current juncture but if you think about it..."
"If you come in before this final battle that sent Michael here - maybe you can stop everything from going to Hell." Stone finished, watching the angel's reaction to his words.
Michael's knuckles were white from tension as he rounded on the young queen and the Librarian. "This is not a story in one of your books to be analyzed and picked apart. My brothers are dead because of this battle, the humans I swore to protect are dead or enslaved all because I failed in my duty to my Chosen One."
"We don't know you failed" Rowan replied quietly. "We only know that at some point you were thrown out of that reality and into this one. Doesn't mean you failed - doesn't mean you won. Just means someone wanted you gone."
The angel turned stiffly and made for the corridor. "I need some air. Call me when you are ready for this mad plan of yours to be put into place." He disappeared quickly into the darkness beyond the door.
"Problem?" Arthur called over his shoulder, watching from the corner of his eye as Michael made his exit.
"Probably" Rowan admitted. "I think I need to talk him down. Can you give Baird and Stone some ideas of what to do if we crater while I try to find our fine feathered friend before he takes his frustration out on a defenseless wall?"
"If I may" Jenkins said, looking at the doorway thoughtfully. "I would suggest you look for him in my chapel. It seemed to be a comfortable spot for him."
"Got it" Rowan replied, making for the door. "Don't start without me!"
"Couldn't if we wanted to" Arthur muttered, turning to the Librarian and the Guardian. "So - what do you want to know how to do?"
Michael sat in the pew closest to the altar, still shaking with rage. She was determined to get herself killed, determined to ignore his advice and do things her own way no matter the consequences. "Why do I even try?" he thought bitterly.
Rowan strolled down the hall, working out what tactic would work best with this agitated Son of God. On her way to the chapel she had stopped and retrieved Michael’s sword, examining the blade closely as she raised it to the light. Black blood stained its length, dried now after all the hours of being left in the hall. “I wonder” she mused, peeling off a flake of the ochre with a fingernail. “Maybe he didn’t win but I’m betting he didn’t lose either. Someone wants us to make sure of the final outcome – and I’m betting it’s not Michael or this mutt of an angelic scribe. Dang it, what did Merlin get himself and us involved in?” She waved her hand and formed a sheath for the blade, throwing both over her shoulder as she continued on her way.
It didn’t take long to find her way back to the chapel. The scent of smoke and incense beckoned to her before she could see the ornate door. Rowan strolled silently into the room and perched at the opposite end of the pew, leaning back in her seat to look up at the alter piece. "I didn't get a chance to admire the work the last time I was here" she said, deliberately not looking at the creature with her. 'I was too busy making Morgan le Fey regret her strike at Galahad. I must admit - this is a pretty place. Not, I'm sure, as beautiful as Heaven - but still pretty."
Silence was the only reply she received. The angel refused to even acknowledge her presence. Rowan sighed, knowing this was going to be a hard case to crack.
Michael kept his eyes fixed firmly on the altar, working his way through his varying levels of anger, fear and exhaustion. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed the young queen had seated herself on the pew, leaning one of his swords against the bench. She was fingering a crucifix hanging around her neck, her eyes roaming over the beautiful wood carvings that made up the chapel's center. "Where did you get that?" he finally asked, unable to stay silent any longer.
Rowan shrugged, not looking his way. "No idea. Father says it was in my baggage when he took me into his home. I suppose we all assumed it belonged to one of my parents. I made a few modifications to it when I got older - new chain, mystic engravings on the back, etc... I never can seem to leave well enough alone."
"Miri..." he started, then bit back a curse, waiting for the inevitable correction.
Rowan sighed. "Look, at this point you're never going to get the name right so you might as well keep calling me Miri. I've had a lot of practice answering to different names over the years." She glanced over at him with a smile. "Do you know what Rowan means?"
Michael shrugged. "No. Such trivia was more Uriel's interest than mine." He pushed back the pain at the thought his little brother was dead, killed by a Fallen brother neither had ever thought to see again, the Light of Heaven finally extinguished.
"It's a form of the name Rhonwen which means 'good spear'. Someone obviously thought I was supposed to be a soldier. Did you think that of the other me?"
"I thought if you could win a battle by force of verbal argument you would have conquered the world" he replied curtly.
Rowan laughed. "You've said that already. But was I argumentative with everyone or just you/"
"You'll know soon enough" he growled, lifting his eyes back to the altar.
Silence again. Rowan thought about the last question Stone had presented to her and decided to use it to her advantage. "So when exactly in the time line did you plan on our dropping into this alternative reality?"
Michael turned and frowned at her, the question odd to his ears. “What are you talking about?”
“Stone was asking when exactly in the battle you planned on our dropping in to and it got me thinking. What if we were able to appear before the final push – before you took on whatever his name is that came up from Hell?”
“Azazel” Michael corrected absently. “His name is – was – Azazel.”
Rowan shrugged. “Whatever. Targets don’t have names and he’s just another target as far as I’m concerned.”
“But not as far as I am” Michael growled, impatient with her flippant tone. “He is First Prince of Hell, as near to Lucifer’s power as any of our Fallen brethren. More so now that the Morningstar had chosen to abandon his throne for Earth. Azazel is evil incarnate, a power you could not stand against alone or with your brothers.”
“And yet you want us to fight in the war against him.” Rowan eyes slid over his still tense figure, a slight smile on her lips. “I really must have pissed you off to be willing to throw us into that particular meat grinder.”
Michael turned away, refusing to be teased. “It had nothing to do with you. There were other forces, in alliance with the Fallen that my brothers and I knew would only make the situation even direr than it was. It was those forces we sent you against so that they could not rally to the Fallen’s side. The Army of Helena with its hidden Dyad’s directing their every move. The forces in Mallory and the abomination that was being created there to be Azazel’s weapon against humanity. Even the forces coming from New Delphi, with their mix of the possessed and traitors to humanity. Those were the armies we needed you to deal with while my brothers and I fought Azazel.”
“All the more reason for us to consider dropping into the mix before your final battle. Time isn’t linear – at least not in the Fae realm. If we can work out the where and when then I’m betting Master Khan and my brother can come up with a way to drop us into the flow of time right before everything goes belly up and keep that from happening. But we can’t do that until we know what’s in that memory vault.” Rowan slid across the bench, dropping to her knees in front of the archangel with her hands on his knees. “Michael, look at me. We’re both soldiers and we both know that we can’t risk sending troops into a battlefield without proper intel. I’m not any happier about rummaging around in that vault than you are. They are OUR memories, from a life none of us remembers ever living and they sound hellish at best but if we are to know exactly what our former selves had planned for this fight than maybe we can keep whatever went wrong from happening again.”
Michael blinked, looking down at the young woman, her slender fingers intertwining with his own rough ones. It was time to admit this wasn’t the Miri he had tried to teach, had hovered possessively over, the woman he had finally driven into his brother’s arms because the Sword of God hadn’t found it in himself to tell her what was in his heart. This was the Fae Queen, the right hand of King Phoenix, Ruler by her own hand and best loved monarch of the magical realm. Everything the Almighty had wanted her to be and more. Everything the archangel had not been able to help create brought to life without the influence of the angelic host. “What do you want of me?” he asked sadly.
“Just come and stand behind the Librarians until we can open the vault” she said, looking up into his crystal blue eyes. “Be there for them, be their strength. Neither Arthur nor I will be in any position to help them if things go sideways. Khan will be in as bad a situation as we are. These Librarians, they are good people, smart and imaginative and the best of your father’s creations. They do not deserve to be made to pay for whatever idiocy someone has put into play against us.”
Michael untangled one hand from hers and gently tucked a lock of her dark hair back behind her ear, gently caressing her cheek. “As you command, Queen Rowan. I will obey.”
Back in the library
Flynn and Baird watched the younger librarians as they flitted between Arthur and Khan, preparing for what was about to happen. “What do you think of Arthur’s plan?” Flynn asked hesitantly.
“I think it’s the only move they can make if they plan on taking on whatever enemy Michael was dealing with.” Baird’s hand flexed open and shut, cracking her knuckles as she waited. “Not enough information going into a battle usually means things happen. And as attached as Arthur and Rowan are to one another, what effects one will affect the other.”
“Think that angelic representation in Rowan’s head will keep her safe?” Flynn’s voice took on a worried tone as he watched Jenkins hover over his oldest friend.
“Don’t know. From what Michael said about him that particular angel was tough, a fighter and attached to his student. Whether that strength and attachment transferred along with his avatar is something we’re about to find out.” Flynn watched Arthur and Jenkins huddle in quiet conversation. Whatever the topic, Jenkins was looking progressively unhappier. “Wonder what that’s about?”
Baird and Stone had also been watching the huddled men, now joined by Khan. “Something Arthur wants from both of them is making Jenkins really, really uneasy. Which doesn’t fill me with confidence either.”
Cassandra drifted into the conversation, mentally still calculating what would be needed to attach the cradle to the spell woven on to the cylinder. “We may have this ready by the time Rowan finds Michael. Just a few more points to the spell and we can almost be certain of success.”
“Almost?” Stone asked, dubiously. “What do you mean – almost?”
Cassandra glanced back at the old necromancer as he sat watching the thread be woven into a cradle in front of him. “Master Christoph won’t say but I think he’s afraid that if they hit a really sticky emotional point to those memories their combined mental and magical power might just overwhelm the protections he, Khan and I have worked up.”
“So Michael’s right to be concerned” Baird huffed, wishing her young friend would return and weigh in on the conversation.
“Maybe” Cassandra hedged, unwilling to say for certain. “Master Christoph says that most of what is in these types of vaults are just old childhood memories meant to act as a genealogical timeline for anyone coming in behind the person whose memories are being preserved. But this one is different. He’s concerned since he’s NEVER heard of a life being completely overwritten and yet still have some access to the memories of their previous existence.”
“Which makes me wonder if this mook Metatron is really the Big Bad we should be concerned about.” Stone’s eyes narrowed as Arthur waved Jenkins and Khan off towards the old Caretaker’s work shop and dragged Master Christoph into a corner for more private conversation. “Okay – this is feeling really familiar.”
“Like the time Arthur and Rowan tossed us out of the Between to save us from the demon that had committed all those murders” Baird agreed, frowning.
“Yeah” Stone muttered. “Just like that. He’s up to something and not wanting to say what.”
“Maybe one of us should talk to Jenkins before this goes any further” Flynn whispered.
“Too late.” Stone’s voice grew raspy as Rowan reentered the room, followed closely by the now armed archangel Michael.
Chapter 40: Down the rabbit hole
Very short chapter as I intend to do one for each set of memories that are called up. It will get a little more difficult for our Fae characters - and their Librarian friends - after this.
Baird watched as the stoic angel took his place in the corner of the room, near enough to the gathering to jump in if needed but far enough away to not interfere. "So - we're doing this?" The Guardian asked, glancing back at Flynn. Flynn nodded absently, still trying to work out what Arthur and Jenkins had planned, what they did not seem to want to share with everyone else. It wasn't like the Caretaker to be secretive but when it came to Arthur things became more complicated. The Librarian hoped that the young king knew what he was doing - and what he was dragging Jenkins and the others into as well.
Rowan shrugged. "I've always been a "rip the Band-Aid off" type of girl. It's not going to hurt any less if we keep procrastinating about it."
Master Christoph held out his hand and floated the cylinder, now encased by a net created from the Fates thread and being held up by the latch hook provided by the Lake. "It's done as best as I can make it. Each of you need only touch the item together for the spell to begin."
"What is likely to happen?" Stone asked, stepping up beside Baird. He, too, was uneasy about the conversations he had not been a part of, the whispers between Jenkins, Khan and Arthur. What worried him most, though, was that Arthur had not tried to take his sister aside and let her know what he was planning. Stone glanced at Baird, seeing she was also maneuvering to stand as close to Rowan as she could in preparation for whatever was about to happen.
"In truth, young man, I am not certain. I have never read of an vault containing the memories of three individuals at once. If this were a normal construct, the first things that would be seen would be individual childhood memories. Hopefully each of you had a peaceful upbringing?" Christoph eyed the little clay tube in its cats-cradle thoughtfully then looked at the archangel. "Is there something in those early memories we should be wary of?"
Michael shrugged. "I know nothing about Uriel's charge and Miri was a teenager when I first met her. Rafael has told me enough about Gabriel's son to know his early years were probably peaceful and filled with grace."
"Well isn't that special?" Khan drawled. "Guess I drew the lucky card in that hand."
"I will pray it is the same for the others, young Master" Christoph replied. "Because as you get closer to the last memories in the archives it is possible that the emotional impact of whatever was happening in your lives at that time will start to put pressure on our filters and barriers. It is then that we must be watchful, careful to pull you out of the readings before you are overwhelmed."
"Figures" Rowan muttered, straightening her back. "Those are the memories we most need to see."
"Noting is easy in this world, Sissy. Father taught us both that. Looks like we're going to see just how right he was." Arthur glanced back at Jenkins with an inscrutable look. "You remember what I told you?"
"I remember" Jenkins stepped up behind his friend and laid a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "I wish I could convince you not to do this but..."
"But we need to know" Arthur finished his statement for him, patting the Caretaker's large hand absently. "You worry too much."
"You don't worry enough."
Rowan looked between her brother and his friend with a frown. "Anything you want to share with the group?"
"Do you trust me?" Arthur replied somberly.
"Foolish question" she shot back. "You're my brother. I trust you with my life and my soul."
"Then trust me now. Everything will be fine as soon as we've seen what we need to see here."
Flynn glanced back and forth at the Fae. "Will they see only their own memories?"
Christoph shrugged. "This is more guessing than knowing but I'm going to assume that if the memory is relevant to all three, then all three will see the events. If not - then they won't."
"Will we see them?" Jones asked curiously. "Not that I'm all into seeing memories of baby Khan being bounced on his daddy's knee or anything..."
"KId, keep it up and I'll bounce you off the nearest wall" Khan snarled, smiling to take the edge of his tone.
"Only those directly in contact with the Three will see anything - and that will only be if things go spectacularly wrong." Christoph cocked an eye at the young thief. "So perhaps we should all say a prayer to the All Father that nothing unforseen happens."
"Well at least we'll be able to see how the three of us interacted before... whatever it is that happened to us happened." Rowan took a deep breath to steady her nerves. "So, does it matter where we touch it?"
"No" Cassandra responded, glancing at the necromancer for support. He nodded and she continued. "We think that since some of those stories contain all three of you they exist intertwined within the archive and not in separate compartments. It won't matter where you lay your hand - just that all three of you do it at the same time."
"Okay then" Arthur said, gesturing to his sister and Khan. Let's get this over with." The three Fae warriors each raised a hand and touched the cylinder in unison, Rowan on the right edge, Khan on the left and Arthur in the middle. All in the room held their breaths as a glow began to envelope the trio as each began their journey through their past lives. For a moment all was peacefully quiet. Which made the meltdown all the more disturbing.
Chapter 41: Down the Yellow Brick road
Flynn, Cassandra and Ezekiel watched as the three Fae sank to their knees, heads bowed over the clay cylinder they were each touching. Behind them, Jenkins, Master Christoph, Baird and Stone also sank down, just behind the person they were watching. Master Christoph and Jenkins both had their hands on the shoulders of their respective charges, ready in case something went wrong. Behind Rowan, Baird and Stone took the hands off approach, fearing their touch would shock their friend out of her trance. Michael, seated on the stairs, leaned forward, eyes intently on Rowan, waiting for her reaction to whatever memory first floated up. “Wonder what they are seeing?” Flynn mused quietly.
“Better question is do we REALLY believe that one glorified secretary / angel and maybe one mage totally erased three people from the time line then brought them back as alternates of themselves?” Cassandra’s voice was not so bright and cheery as it usually was but pensive and somber. “I suspect Arthur doesn’t believe that.”
“Neither do I” Flynn admitted somberly. “Remember when Jenkins first told us about finding out that his Arthur wasn’t Uther Pendragon’s illegitimate son? Arthur told him that Merlin could and would cast a spell on the Knights and foot soldiers to make them believe that the Roman that was presented to them as King was the same man as they had fought with all those years. Essentially – he erased one Arthur from their minds and replaced him with another. I’m wondering if that isn’t what has happened here – only on a grander scale.”
Cassandra looked cautiously over at Master Christoph. “That’s what I’m beginning to think. I wish we could have talked to Jenkins before this started. I’m guessing that’s why he was so unhappy about their going through with this. Merlin only had to erase one man’s existence from the minds of maybe a hundred men. Whoever did this literally had to erase three people’s memories and the memories of untold numbers of family, friends and subjects. That’s got to be someone with great power – more than I would suspect one minor angel would have. And if that someone went to all the trouble to erase them from everyone’s memory (including their own) – what would that being do if they remember?”
Flynn frowned as he watched the group in front of him. “Hopefully we won’t have to find out.”
Memories of a soon-to-be Dragon priest
Khan found himself walking down a misty road, hands in his pockets. He was not dressed in his standard temple robes but jeans, cotton shirt and denim jacket – his standard wardrobe for walking outside of the Fae realm. “Great – talk about stereotypical! I get to “observe” my former life’s memories by walking down a cold, dank road. For ONCE I’d like these things to start with something sunny and bright, like maybe taking a stroll on a beach in Hawaii.” He stopped and squinted in front of him, seeing the walls of a bustling metropolis suddenly loom up in front of him. “I know this place. This is where the temple is, the one I was abandoned in front of as a baby. Weird that I actually remember that.” He stopped as a rustling sound and feeling of something crawling under his skin. He grimaced at the feeling, recognizing it for what it was, his spirit animal reassuring him he was not alone in his quest. “Okay, I get it. It’s you, my Dragon spirit Mulan, that remembers. I know you keep reminding me that you’ve been following my ass since before I was a gleam in my father’s eyes. Really don’t need you to pop up now.” The rustling subsided as the animal spirit settled in for the journey down memory lane.
Khan continued along the now visible road into the city, deftly avoiding the bustling crowds who didn’t seem to see (or care) that a stranger in odd clothing was walking alongside them. He made his way to the steps of the Taoist temple his master’s had always told him they had found him at, swaddled in silks with the emblem of one of the high Fae families embroidered into its hem. Sure enough – there was a woven basket perched on the top step with a strip of russet colored silk poking out over the edge. He could hear a baby (himself) whimpering as the wind picked up, making the roadway colder by the passing moment. “Dang it, where is Master Lao” Khan fumed, tapping one foot impatiently. “He should be showing up about now to take me home.”
Suddenly a cloaked figure appeared out of the mist, steadily approaching the basket on the steps. A figure that was NOT a Master Lao or any other type of Fae or Dragon priest (at least as far as the younger man could tell). The man (if it was a man) was no happier to be where he was than Khan was, with a scowl on his handsome face that emphasized his angry frame of mind. He was slightly shorter than Khan, though well-muscled, with dark hair that seemed determined to flop into his eyes. He was wearing what appeared to be leather and brass armor and most notably a sheathed sword on his back, something the crowds didn’t seem to see. Behind him another figured emerged from the fog – this one far taller and broader than the first. Where the first wore a white cloak over his armor the second wore green robes though he also appeared to have a weapon strapped to his back. The other man looked like one of the dockyard roustabouts that Khan had met during his “walk-about” period, with dark hair that seemed never to have met a comb it liked and a smile that warmed the space around him. Not that he was smiling now.
“Gabriel, what do you intend to do?” the taller man growled, crowding into his companions personal space as they walked. “You haven’t said a word to anyone, not even Michael, since Father charged you to look after another Chosen boy.”
‘Gabriel’ stopped suddenly, forcing his companion to stumble back rather than run him over. “Rafael, I said you could come with me only if you would keep quiet. If you can’t keep that promise than return to the Silver City. I do not want to discuss Father’s dictates or his Grand Plan. Not now.”
Khan grimaced. “So that’s Gabriel – my alternate life’s mentor/father. What a grouch!”
Rafael, it appeared, agreed with the younger man’s assessment. “You keep this snarly attitude up and you’ll scare the child” he protested, waving a hand at the basket on the steps.
“Maybe he should be scared” Gabriel retorted. “Maybe he should be terrified that he’s about to be offered up by the Almighty as a sacrifice to God’s eternal plan for his new pets.” He walked a few more steps and peered into the basket with a frown. “Father’s sense of humor is as cruel as ever. The child looks like David – Father’s way of reminding me of what I have lost because of his precious creations.”
Rafael also peered into the basked, a slight smile on his face. “He’s just a baby, Gabriel. They all look pretty much alike at this age. I have to admit though, this one’s cute.”
Gabriel looked again as the child in the basket began to fuss. “He probably needs changing. If you’re so enamored of the brat, you take him on as a Chosen – I’ve done my time in that circle of Hell.”
Khan frowned. Michael’s words had led him to believe the archangel assigned to his alternative life loved him as a son. This angel didn’t seem to want anything to do with him or anyone else. “Stranger and stranger” he muttered.
The baby in the basket decided to let out a wail, determined that everyone should know how unhappy he was with his current situation. Gabriel grimaced as his brother backed off hurriedly, looking at his sibling with concern. “He’s only crying, Raffi. Babies cry – doesn’t mean the world is ending.” The angel sighed and bent over, taking the bundled child out of the basket and pulling back some of the blankets to better see what he held.
Khan watched carefully as the archangel stared down at the now wide open eyes of the child in his arms, frozen for a moment in staring contest with the infant. He watched his younger self reach out one chubby fist to the angel, the crying suddenly halted by the child’s interest in the new arms holding him and new face barely visible above him. He watched as Gabriel’s angry, bitter expression changed slowly to puzzlement then a gentle smile. “Guess I was a charmer even then” the young priest thought to himself, smiling as the angel slowly started to gently rock the infant in his arms.
The other angel, Rafael, also smiled as he watched his brother’s expression change. “Like I said, he’s cute.”
Gabriel looked up at his brother with a long-suffering sigh. “Alright, yes. He’s a beautiful little boy.” He gently pushed away an unruly lock of hair from the child’s eyes with a sigh. “Long dark curls and big dark eyes – he’s going to be a charmer.” He froze as the infant grabbed onto his finger, holding on with surprising strength. “A beautiful child – and one that Father will sacrifice to protect his pets. He deserves better than that. He deserves better than me. I couldn’t protect David – how can I protect him?”
The baby began to fuss again, sensing the angel’s turmoil. Gabriel repositioned his hold on the infant and began to sing softly, a gentle lullaby to ease the child into sleep. Khan stared at the angel in surprise. “Hey! That’s MY song! The one I use to get the new kids at the temple to relax enough to sleep. I’ve been hearing that melody in my head forever. How come he’s singing it?” A hissing sound in his ear warned him his Dragon spirit was trying to speak, to move him off this memory and on to the next one. “Great – one story read and one mystery sort of solved. What’s next?”
Chapter 42: Still Dreaming
In the library
Cassandra watched the changing micro-expressions on Khan’s face, going from bored, to puzzled to finally a smile. “Whatever memory he’s seeing it must be a good one” she commented.
Flynn nodded. “Christoph did say their first scenes would be from childhood. I guess he had a good one.”
“My brother was a good father to his son” Michael whispered, his voice sad. “Rafael often spoke of how loving their relationship was, how much he cared for the boy.”
“Lucifer said something about him locking his child up in his monastery while you two fought this pointless war.” Cassandra dared a quick look at the archangel to find him staring grimly at her. “Well, he did!”
“I am aware of what my Fallen brother has said. Gabriel meant always to reunite with his child after he had completed his task. But things became… complicated. The boy never understood why his father could not just back away from me and what he and his siblings considered my hopeless quest to keep that alternate reality alive. He blamed me for the pain I put my twin through and he blamed his father for the feelings of abandonment he felt. And when my brother turned to the young dragon’s sister for comfort it grew even worse.”
“I’m betting things would be just as complicated now” Jones replied, bored by the quiet. “After all, have you SEEN Arthur with Rowan? Most times they are attached at the hip. I have two sisters and NEVER in my worst nightmares would I be as touchy-feely with them as he is with her.”
“He is her elder brother” Michael growled. “That is all. There cannot be anything improper in their behavior or the Almighty would have struck them down.”
“Ever thought that’s what he’s doing right now?” Jones quipped.
Michael snarled and turned his attention back to Rowan’s bowed head, tuning out the thoughts the young thief’s words had called up.
Memories of a soon-to-be- Once and Future King
“Father’s cavalry are in place, Uri. Come on, if we get to the top of the hill we can see more!” Arthur could hear his own youthful voice ahead of him, urging someone to join him. The young king found himself in a place he remembered well – the fields where he had joined his father in breaking the last bits of resistance from the pure-blood factions of the exiled Fae. It was in this battlefield that he had lost his blood innocence, where his father had obtained his “unusual” condition and where those of the magic realm had first begun to see Arthur as their future leader.
“Wonder why this memory?” Arthur mused, walking up to the stand of trees he remembered from that day. Looking down he could see he was dressed in his “formal” attire from when he had identified himself as Arthur of Briton – a russet red tunic, cotton pants and dark leather riding boots. He could feel the weight of the crown Merlin had created for him on his head, a crown meant to control the magic sword Excalibur. A crown he had never chosen to wear, partially because it was unnecessary and partially because it wasn’t his by right. Arthur reached up and plucked it off his head and looped it over the grip of the sword hanging from his hip. “Better” he murmured. “Bloody thing always did give me a headache.” He could feel the warmth of his spirit animal, the Golden Phoenix, on his back as it moved under his skin, quietly singing its strange little song. “Yes, yes” Arthur muttered. “I know – we’re not supposed to be here. This won’t take long.” He strolled along the tree line, following the sound of his young self’s voice, wondering who he had been talking to that day.
Ahead, two young teenagers were sprawled, hidden in the tall grass as they watched the cavalry assemble. Both were tall, with that coltish lankiness that young boys have when they are on the cusp of becoming men. Both had honey gold, sun bleached locks that fell past their ears and azure blue eyes the color of a summer sky. Laying side by side in the grass in matching tunics and pants they looked enough alike to be thought brothers – if one overlooked the ethereal aura surrounding the one on the left. “We shouldn’t be here Damien” the second boy murmured nervously. “You’re father told you to stay with the horses.”
Arthur could see his younger self shrug with that overweening self-confidence only teenagers could have. ‘Damien’ reached over and rumpled his friend’s hair playfully. “We’re fine here Uri. No one can see us. And how am I ever going to learn battle strategy if I never actually see a battle!”
“There will be time enough for that” ‘Uri’ replied, his eyes fixed on his companion. “You’re barely sixteen. I still have loads to teach you.”
Arthur sighed in time with his younger self. “Come on, Uri! That’s just book learning. This is a real battle. You said one day I’d have to take up a sword to become a King. This way I can see what all I’ll have to deal with. And besides, you know you wanted to watch this as much as I did.”
“I only agreed to come to keep you out of trouble” the other boy grumbled.
“So who’s going to keep you out of…Uri! Move! NOW!” Arthur could hear the sudden fear in his own voice as the sentry – a disfigured creature out of his worst nightmare – suddenly appeared behind them. With a roar, the thing wearing the snake sigil – symbol of his father’s hated step-sister – swung a huge broadsword at the spot where Uri’s head had been. Uri, however, had already rolled away, scrambling to his feet just out of the creature’s range. Damien scrambled backwards on his hands, trying to stay out of range while getting to his feet. The creature, seeing one target scamper out of his clutches, turned on the other with a growl, slicing at the young man still on the ground. It stood towering above the teenager preparing for its next strike when….
“NO!” a voice boomed across the glade. Uriel was suddenly in front of his friend, sword drawn and a massive set of black wings extended in protection. “Back away, creature. You will not touch him. He’s MINE!”
The demonic sentry sneered at the young angel and rose up to strike when a sound like raw meat hitting a stone echoed between them and its eyes suddenly glazed. It fell, gracelessly, in front of the angel with a solid oak crossbow bolt tipped with steel protruding from its ribs. Behind it, coming out of the shadows, was the tall, lean form of the old warlord and his men at arms. “Point of fact, young archangel” the warlord drawled coldly. “That is MY son you’re standing over. He belongs to ME – not you, not your Heavenly Father but to me. And I’d appreciate it if you would help him up so that he can return with me to face his punishment for his disobedience.” The old man turned and walked away. “Do not dally” he called out as he disappeared back down into the glen. “It will only make your punishment worse if you make me wait.”
Damien scrambled to his feet, his face pale. “He’s angry” he whispered to his angelic friend. “That doesn’t bode well for me. Last time he was that angry I couldn’t sit for a week.”
Uriel glanced, appalled, back at his friend. “He beat you? You never told me! How could you hide that from me?”
Arthur could almost see the curtain of teenage angst falling over his juvenile self. “What good would that have done? You two don’t like one another anyway and you making a fuss would have only pushed him into forbidding me to see you.”
“He wouldn’t dare! Your place as my companion is commanded by the Almighty!”
Damien looked up at his friend sadly. “It’s never as easy as you make it sound, Uriel. He’s my father and I must honor and obey him. You’re my best friend in all the world but… in the end he’s right. I do belong to him. I disobeyed his orders and he can punish me for my misdeeds anyway he desires.” The boy shrugged and enveloped his angelic companion in a bear hug. “It would be best if you went home at least for a while. I can manage him better if he doesn’t see you constantly hovering over me. He already thinks you protect me too much.”
“I don’t hover” Uriel replied, clinging to his friend. “I just like to be around in case I’m needed. I’m sorry, Damien. I should have foreseen this might happen, should have tried harder to talk you out of this adventure. I should have protected you better.” He buried his face in his friend’s shoulder, trying desperately to think of way this would not end badly. “I shouldn’t have let you talk me into this.”
“You always let me talk you into things, Uri” Damien said, shrugging as he gently pushing away from his friend. “And sometimes it works out fine. This time it didn’t. He’ll get over it once this war is done. I promise we’ll see each other again soon. But for now…” He moved around the angel and started back down the hill towards the encampment, shoulders sagging.
Uriel watched his friend go with concern than looked up at the sky. “Father, PLEASE! Don’t let his father hurt him. Soften his heart towards his son. He’s pushing too hard for Damien to be ready to take the field. I… I’m afraid of what will happen when he finally does shed blood. I don’t want to lose my friend.”
Arthur’s frown deepened. “This was so NOT what happened that day. I was on a horse beside my father when that creature charged out of the tree line. I remember putting my stallion between him and the beast and stabbing it with Albion, the sword Father had found for me. I lost my blood innocence on that field and dang near lost my leg in the process. In the end, despite my injury I rode at the head of father’s forces when he was struck down and we won the day. Our men saw me as my father’s heir and a warlord in my own right that day – not some little boy that has to have a minder to keep him out of danger. And what the bloody hell is wrong with my Father? This is NOT the man who raised me! My father disciplined me when I got out of hand but he NEVER beat me! It’s no wonder my alternate self was so screwed up.” He looked back at the approaching mist and shivered, glad now for the warmth of his Phoenix. “Let’s move on then. Sooner we get through this the better.”
Chapter 43: Coming together - coming apart
In the library
Cassandra watched the frown form on Arthur’s face, his head cocked as he watched something that obviously displeased him. “Wonder what he’s watching?” she murmured.
Flynn shrugged, intent on the scene in front of him. “Arthur’s older – maybe what he’s seeing is something from a past that wasn’t as pleasant as his siblings.”
“Uriel watched over the young king incessantly” Michael commented dryly. “Both he and Gabriel were obsessed with their Chosen. I cannot imagine a time that my younger brother was with his companion as a youth that wasn’t pleasant.”
“He can” Jones commented, bored by the lack of action. “You don’t make that kind of face if you’re watching something happy.”
Michael sighed and leaned forward, waiting for Rowan’s memory to bubble to the surface. He had a sinking feeling he knew which one would make itself known first.
Pool room – Dragón family compound – Romania
Rowan walked through the old family compound, looking at the paintings on the walls with interest. She was in her usual hunting attire, khaki pants and jacket with bright red sleeveless shirt, her long hair up on a ponytail. A light mist filled the corridor, following where ever she walked “Well at least Seraphiel can’t say I didn’t bring a jacket” she thought grimly, stopping to examine a painting on the wall she did not recognize. “Wow! Cluttered much? I don’t remember our old hunting lodge being filled with so much junk.” She sniffed at the antique frames on the walls surrounding portraits of people long dead whose names no one remembered – least of all her. The clicking of billiard balls caught her attention as she drifted through the fog of this particular memory, taking her into what would eventually be called the “game room”.
Entering she saw herself at sixteen, tall, thin, long legs and long hair expertly put up in a braid, dressed like a young boy in long pants and rough cotton shirt. “Well at least our taste in comfy clothes was similar” Rowan thought, leaning on a wall as she watched the memory unfold. The girl in front of her lined up a shot, bouncing the ball off the cushion and sending it straight into the pocket. ‘Miri’ stared at the perfect shot with a frown, obviously not feeling the usual satisfaction. Something was on the teenager’s mind.
“All this time” the girl said softly, talking to no one that Rowan could see. “All this time I thought they actually wanted me here, wanted to give me a home, wanted to love me. It was all a lie. Uncle just needs me to open the Black Gate so Damien can enter our homeland and become king. Even Uriel was lying to me – and he’s an angel! Angel’s aren’t supposed to lie.” The girl racked up the balls again and tossed the frame in the corner, staring down at the pool table with a look of concentration.
“She’s using planning out the game to not have to face what she’s heard” Rowan thought sadly. “Poor kid. Finding out you’re nothing but a pawn in a greater game can be tough – especially if the players using you are people you once loved.” She wondered if there was any way to interact with her “memory” self, to offer comfort to her distressed alternate life. The chill of an opening from the ether distracted her from that thought even as another being seemed to magically enter the room. Michael, Archangel and Sword of God, was making his first appearance in this Guardian’s life.
“Child of the Fae, I am…” was about as far as he got. Rowan tried vainly not to laugh as her teenage-self whirled around and smacked the armored angel in the midsection with her pool cue. The angel grunted as the unexpected strike landed, grabbing the stick out of the girl’s hands and hurling it behind him. “Why did you do that?” he growled, flexing his ebony wings as far as the enclosed room would let him.
“You startled me” the girl replied mutinously, glaring angrily at the being in front of her. “Haven’t you ever heard of knocking?”
“No wonder he hates hearing the story” Rowan thought with a chuckle. “That was just plain stupid to startle her like that. If it had been me I’d have tried to shove that pool cue up his ass.”
A laugh bubbled up from the other doorway as a handsome young man leaned into the room, eyes gleaming with mirth. The person was blond, blue eyes like Arthur but taller and with a light that enveloped his figure that spoke of the heavenly hosts. “Must be Uriel – the mentor of my brother’s alternate persona.” Rowan admired the handsome figure in front her for a moment. “Seraphiel was right – he’s too pretty for my sibling.”
Michael scowled at his brother, brushing off the slivers from the broken stick. “You are NOT helping, little brother.”
“Just WAIT till I tell Rafael about this” the younger angel chortled. “He’ll laugh himself silly!”
“So glad I’m entertaining” the girl muttered, stalking behind the armored angel in front of her and dropping the broken half of her pool cue into the trash.
Michael glared at the teenager, annoyed at her response. “Young Fae, I am Michael, Sword of God and am here to begin your lessons in warfare so that you maybe a more efficient soldier in our Father’s army.”
The teenager rolled her eyes with a sigh. “Too late for that. My foster father and brother have been teaching me how to gut a man with a pen knife since I was ten. And your brother Gabriel’s son, who has evidently slipped his leash and run off from his daddy, has begun teaching me the finer points of killing with my bare hands. So really, what do I need YOU to teach me that they haven’t already covered?” She started to rack the balls up on her end of the billiard table, ignoring both angels. “Of course – no one asked ME if I wanted by become a killer. The Heavenly Father forbid that I MIGHT actually have other plans.”
Uriel looked immediately repentant. “I’m sorry Miri. I know this has all been very…”
She picked up the eight ball out of the corner pocket and hurled it right at the blond angel’s head, frowning as he ducked. “You don’t get to make excuses for him. Or for Uncle. Or for the Universe. Not now. Not now that I know you’ve been a part of this conspiracy from day one.” Rowan’s younger avatar glared up at Michael, who was staring at her quizzically. “Well – what are you waiting for? Aren’t you here to train me? Get on with it then or go home! Either one is fine by me!” She tossed the wooden ball rack across the table and made for the door, shoving both Michael and Uriel out of her way as she went. The angels both stared at each other in silence then disappeared.
“Poor kid” Rowan mused, turning to follow her out. “Everyone has plans for her. She can feel the walls closing in, feel the trap being sprung around her but can’t find the way out.” She stopped and watched as her younger doppelganger dashed out into the garden, running straight into a tall, dark figure.
“Andre!” the girl choked, flinging her arms around the lanky figure of a much younger Khan.
“Hey!” the young man replied, wrapping his arms around the distressed young girl. "What's wrong?" Beside her, Rowan could feel Khan’s presence as he made his way to this shared memory.
“They want us only because we can open some bloody stupid gate!” the girl said furiously, fists clenching in front of her. “And now some damn, stupid angel has dropped out of nowhere to tell me he’s going to “train” me in warfare. As if I don’t know what that means.”
Khan glanced at Rowan quizzically. “Let me guess – Michael?”
Rowan shrugged her shoulders. “His timing in this case was beyond bad. Seems the kid just found out what she had been taken into the household for and is still grieving the death of her dreams.”
“What dreams?” Arthur’s lanky frame appeared out of the mists beside Rowan – just as his “other” self came charging out of the house. “This doesn’t look good.”
“It’s not” Rowan agreed, watching the threesome square off.
“Miriam – come inside this instant! Uriel said…”
“Let me guess – your buddy told you I swatted his brother and now you expect me to apologize to the angel and promise to be a good girl and learn everything he has to teach so I can be a better soldier for when we stand in front of the Black Gates.” Miri glared at her brother with her “twin” standing at her back. “Well I won’t do it. I’ll … I’ll run away first!”
“We’ll run away” Andre’s deep voice rumbled from behind her. “I’ve stayed out of my father’s sight this long, I can do it again. And if she wants to come with me…”
“She doesn’t” the other Arthur said angrily. “She’s just being childish.”
“Oh crap” Khan whistled.
“Yeah – crap is right. Let’s move on before this turns ugly.” Arthur’s voice was strained, still reeling from the previous memory of his father’s coldness. He shook his head, trying to remember if he had EVER been so cold towards his beloved Rowan and thankfully coming up blank.
Rowan glanced up at her brother in concern. “Everything okay?” She laid a hand reassuringly on his arm.
“Nothing is okay” Arthur replied, gently turning his two companions away from the argument about to explode in front of them. “And I have the feeling we’ve not yet seen the worst.”
Chapter 44: The last memory
In the Library
Cassandra frowned at the scene in front of her. Arthur’s face had taken on an angrier frown, Khan and Rowan looking equally distressed. “Well, whatever memory that was, none of them were happy to see it.”
Michael sighed. “I think it was a memory of the night I claimed her as my student. She was so angry. Uriel told me she threatened to run away rather than be part of the old warlord’s plans for opening the Black Gates. Gabriel’s son had only just become part of the household – more attached to his sister than to Damien, he had offered to go with her if she ran, to help her stay out of Heaven’s sight.”
“Now that’s just strange” Jones commented, watching the expression on Khan’s face as he moved through the current memory. “Rowan and Arthur are inseparable. And their father, what few times we’ve seen him, has always seemed such a nice bloke. Don’t know Khan well but he doesn’t appear to be someone who runs from anyone. Got to think that their former selves were really messed up, weren’t they?”
Flynn glared at Jones for a moment then pulled his gaze to the back of Baird’s head. “I’m assuming since they all three reacted to something that it was a shared memory. If they are past the “little” bumps in the road what’s going to happen when they get to the big arguments? The things that really tore them apart from one another?”
Ruins of the alternate reality
Arthur, Rowan and Khan strolled down the wreckage of the Vegas strip, poking absently at shadowy remains of what had once been called “Sin City”. The fog that had followed them from memory to memory was thick in this place, clinging to them damply. “Guess we’re closer to the present than we were before?” Rowan mused, looking at the remains of what had once been an elegant hotel.
“How can you tell?” Khan sniffed, peering intently down a darkened alley.
“We’ve been in and out of Las Vegas in the last few years. It’s been a good place to do business with all sorts of characters – shady and otherwise. I recognize this structure. The hotel was renovated about five years ago” Arthur commented, looking up at the destroyed structure. “It would look considerably different if we were any further in the past than that.” He glanced over at his sister and new brother with interest. “Since we’re all three here – whatever this memory contains it belongs to all of us.”
“Lovely” Khan growled. “Frankly, I’m not liking our “mutual” memories much.”
“Neither am I” Arthur agreed sadly. “The last one was heartbreaking. Hope this is the last one we need to see but I’m not holding out much hope for that.”
“Looks like World War III started here” Rowan stared down the street, her eyes focusing on shadowy figures emerging in the distance. “Maybe a byproduct of this final battle scenario Michael wants us to fight?” She stopped and gestured ahead of them. “Wonder what’s going on up there?”
“Probably the memory we need to see” her brother replied, motioning his two companions to move closer so he could put his hands on them, keeping them from getting lost from each other in the fog.. “I’m not liking this – something feels off. You can feel the tension all the way back here.”
“Listen – sounds like someone’s not happy.” Khan looked at his new friend with a frown. “Sounds like you.”
“Yes, it does” Arthur replied grimly, moving just short of the end of the alley to get a better look.
Up ahead the trio could see a group of people and angels, huddled around two particular figures – Rowan and the physical form of the avatar they had seen in her head, Seraphial. It looked more like enemy combatants choosing up sides than a family reunion.
“I think you enjoyed holding secrets over our heads” Arthur’s “other” personality Damien laughed cruelly, stepping forward to insert himself into his sister’s personal space. “You enjoyed watching us suffer because I called you out on your actions being responsible for the release of the Darkness and our Burning.”
“Back up boyo” Seraphiel ordered, suddenly putting his blade in the Phoenix’s face. Behind him a tall blond angel growled, only to find another dark-haired angel in his path, holding him back.
“The blond is archangel Uriel” Rowan whispered to the men beside her. “He was there when Michael made his entrance into my last memory. The other guy must be Rafael – the brother he said would laugh himself sick at knowing I swatted his brother with a pool cue. Or maybe he’s Gabriel, not sure.”
“Yeah – the big guy with dark hair is Rafael” Khan agreed. “Saw him in my first memory. Shorter guy beside him, holding on to my alternate self’s arm is Gabriel.” He looked over the group once more with a frown. “So where is Michael?”
“Probably the somber one in black standing in the background. Remember, angels can take on different faces. Just because he’s a tall, blond while talking to us in the Library doesn’t mean that’s the face he showed to this reality’s humans.” Arthur looked down at his sister with a smile. “So you really did swat an angel with a pool cue?”
“Yeah – and it was as pretty funny until you realized why she…I… oh hell, whatever. Until you realized why Miriam did what she did.”
“Which is what we all saw at the end, right?” Khan eyed the group for a moment. “Wonder if they really did run off like she was threatening to.”
“Probably not” Rowan replied, leaning against a wall. “From what I’ve heard I’d say they fought our War of Reconciliation – just not with as much fervor as we did.”
“Hush” Arthur whispered urgently. “I want to hear this.”
“No, little one” the angel identified as Rafael whispered. “This quarrel is between the two of them. Let it play out as it must.”
Uriel’s eyes flicked rapidly between Rafael and Damien. “If Seraphiel hurts Damien…”
“Boy if I wanted to hurt this entitled, spoiled little brat I’d have taken his head the first time we met. His father was twice the man and ten times the soldier he'll ever be. The old warlord wouldn't be whining about what his child had done. He'd be celebrating her victory” Seraphiel said coldly, not bothering to look at the enraged angel.
“What I think” Miry continued as she smiled without emotion, waving off her protector’s weapons. “Is that, as usual, you and your other half didn’t think about anything or anyone but yourselves. Uriel, for instance, went into a trap, knowing it was a trap, no backup, no plan B in case shit it the fan – and then had the nerve to complain about how his pretty ass got rescued. My brother, dumb fuck that he is, decided to stay with him rather than get out and get help.” She waved a hand in front of the enraged Firebird as though waving a cape in front of a bull. “Don’t ask me how I know that you did – I just do. Besides, it sounds like the sort of bullshit you would pull. So noble, so gallant – so totally absurd. You know - I could have sat in the ether while you were being beaten. Not like either of you were in any condition to stop it. I could have waited for my doors to open, for my backups to arrive while you two were run through the wringer. It was getting close to that time, when your torturer would decide on going from pain to deviancy. I recognized the signs from when the rat in the cage was ME – when I was the prisoner of that lovely little human trafficking ring. Remember that, pretty boy? No – of course you don’t. You weren’t there. You didn’t hear the girls, the children being tortured, being used like … “ she stopped, taking a deep breath “and just had to sit there and hope the plan came together, that my brother would bring the troops like he said he would and not get distracted with something shiny – like his best buddy coming for a visit.” She jerked her head towards Khan’s doppelganger, who had jerked away from Gabriel’s protective grip. “This one I could trust to come for me. I was in his mind and he was in mine. I knew that the sounds I was hearing were ringing in his head just like they were mine, that the horrors those children were experiencing would bring him running. But you, Damien – I guess that’s when I should have known I wasn’t your one and only anymore.”
“You DARE to say I would have left you to those animals!” Damien roared.
“You were at dinner with Uriel when the plan had gone to hell, little firebird.” Seraphiel snarled. “You should have been watching over your baby sister, keeping her from harm. Instead you were having drinks with your pretty friend over there while my girl was fighting for the lives and souls of innocents and was nearly shattered, nearly killed. And my dear brother Michael – too busy running after this boy and his world that the Lord Almighty had decreed should be ended to keep eyes on the Queen our Father had tasked you to watch over.”
“You assumed Andre would pull me out if things got crazy. Normally a good assumption – but not this time. This time things rolled ahead of the plan before we could lock things down. The only reason you were there at the end was because the Task Force Leader called, frantic that Andre was going to kill anything that got in his way to get me out of that lock box and he wanted you to deal with him.” She shrugged, unconcerned. “He told me about it after the fact – said you were at dinner with a friend.” She glanced over her brother’s shoulder at Uriel who, for the first time, had the grace to look ashamed. “And when it was all said and done you read me the riot act for such a sloppy operation. You didn’t even notice that I was shaking as you reamed me for putting the team in danger by letting myself get captured, even though that had been the plan all along. So, tell me again, BROTHER, how much you loved me when you couldn’t even see me going into shock right in front of your eyes.”
Damien snarled. “Maybe it was because I had already started to see what a duplicitous little…” He choked as Miry waved a hand in front of his face, using Fae magic to take away his power of speech – something, from the look on everyone’s faces, she had never dared to do before. His eyes narrowed in fury, gripping at his throat.
“I think I’ve heard enough of your filthy mouth to last me a lifetime” she purred. Her eyes glowed as she waved her hand back and forth in front of the Firebird, smiling as he choked on his anger.
“That’s enough, little one” Seraphiel, sheathing his sword and pushing Miry gently to one side. He stepped forward quickly and snapped his hand forward, pushing the Firebird stumbling backwards almost off his feet. “Back off, little boy. You’ve said enough.” He turned back and opened a portal behind them. “Come with me, girl. We’re done here.”
“Yes, Móraí” Miry replied with a small smile. “Nothing more left for me here except this…” With a sudden burst of speed she closed the gap between herself and her elder brother and punched him hard, blood flying from his nose and knocking him to his knees in shock. “That is for all the times you “assumed” you could treat me like a subject. For all the times you broke my heart and didn’t know or care that you did so because you’re an entitled ass who thinks of nothing but himself. Your father would be ashamed of you for what you have become.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a delicate, filigree Claddagh ring, the symbol of her role as Queen of Sidhe, the same ring Rowan had on her finger, given to her when she and Arthur had taken the thrones of Sidhe. She tossed it at his face with a snarl. “One last thing, brother, and we will be done. With this I do, in front of witnesses, abdicate the throne of the Unseelie court. I am no more ruler of the wild Fae, no more Lady of the Moon and Queen of Sidhe. My people will be better served by an empty throne than a war between crowns.” She turned on her heel and walked back to her guardian. “So let it be written that the time of the Triad, the rulers of Fae are no more.” She moved gracefully around her angelic teacher, headed for the portal. “Time for us to go.”
The Seraphim nodded grimly, following his young charge through without a backwards glance.
Andre turned, snarling at his brother. “WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO!?!”
Damien turned, raging, towards his sibling. "Don’t you use that tone of voice with me, little boy. You weren't there! You didn't see what she did to Uriel or to me. You didn’t see the way she acted, the things she said..."
"Yeah - well where was that high and mighty outrage when that prick trafficker had their hands all over our sister, all but raping her in front of the unit before she was caged. So it's okay if some stranger tries to take her over a table just because he can but it's not okay if she runs a con on you and your angel to try to save both your lives!!! Man, I always thought you had a stick up your ass about her but this.... She was right. You never gave a rat's ass about her - it's always been your bloody angel. At least I had the honesty to admit, if only to myself, that what happened to Gabriel with the Darkness wasn't her fault but mine. You and Uriel knew better than to do the things you did, to put yourselves in the position of allowing yourselves to be used as bait. You were responsible for what happened, what she was forced to do to protect you. You whined to me about how much you missed her, how much you loved her when she was gone. And the minute we get her back you unload every ugly thought, every ugly word you can find just because your boy toy gets shaky around his memories of her. Go on back to your precious Guardian and hide behind his wings - maybe then you can make yourself believe none of it was your fault. Go back to Sidhe and explain to the wild Fae how you screwed over your sister because of your angel and see how quick they disappear into the shadows. You think their loyalty is to you, that they will stay true to the throne without their Lady on it? Yeah - good luck with that." He pulled his own ring from his pocket, a hefty yang/yang symbol with a stylized dragon across its face. With a growl, he hurled it at his brother’s eyes. “Here. Let’s make it a clean sweep of the thrones. See if you can figure out how to explain to my monks how you managed to screw this up and leave them without someone to protect them. And one last thing big brother. You ever come NEAR me or our sister again, I’ll put you into the ground myself.” Andre shoved away from his father and brother and took off, dodging around the ruined buildings and cars.
The trio standing in the shadows watched their little family unit shatter, open mouthed in shock. “The stupid sod” Arthur muttered, eyes locked on his alternate persona. “That ignorant, entitled prick! How dare he! How dare he treat his family like dirt, all for the sake of a good shag?”
Rowan grabbed her brother’s arm. “Arthur, stop. If we lose control these memories will cease to be just stories. They will overwhelm us, overwhelm the truth of who and what we really are.”
“What are we, then, really” Khan asked somberly, watching as Gabriel took off after his duplicate. “Are we them – or are we us?”
“We are who we choose to be” Arthur replied grimly. “And I, for one, have had enough of this nightmare. Time to wake up, children. Time to go to war to protect our right to choose.”
In the library
Michael shifted uncomfortably in his seat, watching as the trio went stiff as a new memory flooded over them. “The Firebird loved his sister but sometimes he… he was too…”
“Strict?” Cassandra guessed. “Or too possessive? Or too dismissive? Because from what Lucifer said…”
“The Fallen knows nothing about our young ones!” Michael growled. “He only knows that if he can put a wedge between us he can steal them away from Heaven’s plans – especially the younger two. They have … had … the best and worst of the Fae attributes. Both wild, beautiful and head strong…”
“And why, exactly, is that a bad thing?” Jones asked. “I mean – sounds to me like you would be happier if they were all like their elder brother. Arrogant, entitled, and easy to control – make for GREAT pawns in the game, right?”
“Miri was NO PAWN” Michael snapped. “She was…”
“What?” Cassandra asked, upset. “Just from listening to both you and Lucifer, I get the feeling you were angry with her when she stood up to you and annoyed if with her if she just folded every time you gave her a command. She just couldn’t win, could she? Damned if she did, damned if she didn’t. And her brothers… one so wrapped around his father he couldn’t see anything but him and the other wrapped around a friend who became a lover. Neither of them could see how badly they were hurting their sister until it got to be too late – that’s what this is all about. That’s why your Father hit the reset button. To make up for what you and your brothers didn’t do to help them learn to stand on their own feet without you lot always propping them up.”
“And from what Lucifer said – looks like you’re doing the same to this bloke in the alternative universe.” Jones said quietly, eyes still fixed on Khan. “Just can’t leave him to make his own decisions, good or bad. Ready to sacrifice anything – including your former students – just to keep him from failing.”
“That is NOT…” Michael protested. It was the last thing he said before all hell broke loose.
Chapter 45: End of memories - start of something else
It started with Khan, a low, dangerous growl that seemed to rumble up from the younger man’s chest. His grip on the pottery cylinder tightened, knuckles white with exertion. His face was twisted into a frown, as though he was battling pain. “This is not good” Master Christoph murmured, shifting his stance slightly behind the young priest, his hands hovering just over the young man’s head. “Something has happened that is not to his liking – and he is losing the battle with his temper.”
“His temper?” Jones asked, frowning at the tableau in front of him. “Didn’t think he was a “temper” type of guy.”
Christoph shrugged. “He puts on a clown’s mask at times – but there is a fire spirit in his soul that fights to dominate his gentler heart. Sometimes his temper roars to the surface but he usually is able to control it. Something in that cask is causing his control to slip. Not good.”
“What’s likely to happen?” Flynn asked, worriedly looking over at the now even tenser archangel staring intently at the back of Rowan’s head.
Christoph shrugged, an unhappy look on his face. “Not sure. It depends on how the others react. And how tied he is to them.”
Now Rowan began to exhibit signs of something that was not going right – trembling, breathing hard with her face flushed and tense. “Whatever is hitting Khan is effecting her too” Baird muttered, shifting her stance slightly with Stone doing the same. “What’s going on?”
Jenkins stiffened, his eyes watching the micro expressions change rapidly on his old friend’s face. “Whatever it is we had best be ready. If it effects Arthur then all three will be taken down. He is the anchor for this family – once his control is gone…”
Khan’s low growl was suddenly drowned up by a louder, harsher sound of distress coming from Arthur. Jenkins and the others watched in horror as their friend began to shake, his one free hand clenching as though he were trying to keep hold of something in front of him. Tendrils of flames appeared from nowhere, creeping up his shirt towards his face. Strangely, the fire didn’t seem to burn the man - instead it appeared to be trying to cover him protectively, flowing more like a golden cloth up from his feet towards his face. Jenkins tried desperately to extinguish them, brushing them off his friend’s clothes as though they were insects. But the flames had a life of their own, intent on crawling up to Arthur’s blond hair, settling like a rosy crown around his head.
“We have to wake them up!” Baird called out, preparing to grab her friend’s shoulders and pull her back.
“No!” Christoph replied tensely. “If you try to bring them out of this you will only make things worse. They are tied to the memories in that cask. Only they can bring themselves out of whatever hell they are viewing.”
“Enough of this” Michael snarled, leaping from the stairs to land beside Baird. “If you will not act, necromancer, than I will.” He reached out…
In the memory vault
“Damn!” Khan gasped, grabbing at his temples. “What the fuck! My head!” He staggered into Arthur, who instinctively grabbed the priest to keep him upright.
Rowan grabbed onto her elder brother, a shooting pain running through her. “Me too! Something’s attacking us!” She shook her head, desperately trying to shake loose whatever was trying to invade her mind.
“Not something” Arthur growled, reaching out to pull his sister and new brother to him, ignoring the sudden headache that was almost overwhelming. He moved to stand between his siblings, tucking Rowan under his right arm and wrapped Khan up with his left, gripping them both tightly to ensure they wouldn’t be separated. “It’s us – the memories of our alternate lives. We opened a door by letting ourselves get too emotional about the scenes we were watching. Whatever is powering those “other” memories is causing them to come too fast, trying to overwhelm us. We need to get out of this – fast!”
“How?”! Khan growled, trying to shake off the pain. He could see flashes of memories around him, events that were half-way familiar yet not. Some views included Arthur and Rowan (hunting in a overgrown forest, climbing up a sheer cliff to find their sister had cheated and driven to the top). Scenes of laughing, crying, arguing. Some were achingly sweet - scenes of life with a man (angel?) who could go from grim faced and stern to silly in the blink of an eye, a father figure who seemed to reserve his smile for a younger version of Khan. Most seemed more painful than happy – arguments over decisions the angel didn’t seem to think his “other” self could or should make. All seemed to be determined to crowd back into his already aching head and wipe away his current life. “It’s like they have a life of their own! They keep trying to crowd out thoughts and memories I KNOW are real.”
“Real for our lives now” Rowan gasped, gripping her brother’s arm tightly. The guilt, the sadness of her previous incarnation was wearing her down, tearing at her carefully built mental and emotional defenses. Guilt over finally deciding this far and no further flowed through her, trying to push away her self-confidence and strength of character. “If we let them in – we become who we were before – and all that we have learned now will disappear.”
“We end up major PTSD cases” Arthur snarled, denying thoughts and dreams that insisted on imprinting themselves on his psyche. Thoughts of a tall, blond, incredibly handsome young archangel who had loved him and for whom he had almost surrendered his throne, his family, his whole being. “Start backing up, we have to find the path back out! Don’t let go of me. We move together – one falls then we all fall.”
The mists around them started to whip at their legs, chilling them to the bone. The three backed slowly, carefully staying in step to keep from being separated. Arthur tried vainly to call up his Phoenix spirit, willing it to bring flames to bear on whatever was driving them back only to find his fire spirit was nowhere to be found. He grimly held onto his sister and new brother, trying to keep from succumbing to the overwhelming emotions trying to drown him, trying to stay upright and keep his younger siblings from falling with him.
Rowan muttered every spell and incantation she could remember, trying to bring up the old magic, the power of the Dark Fae, to keep herself and her brothers intact. Memories of two Michaels – the blond soldier she had left in the library and the dark haired warrior in the alternate world – battered at her, intermixed with memories of another angel, with messy brown hair and bangs that insisted on flopping in front of his eyes, an angel with a voice like silk. “Gabriel” she muttered, holding out her free hand to keep the visions at bay "No - I won't go there! I won't! He's not mine - not real!".
Khan too was muttering incantations, willing his dragon spirit to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, to help. “Now you’re quiet” he cursed, clinging to Arthur’s arm like a lifeline. “Couldn’t get you to shut up before and now, when I need your fire, you go silent. Just bloody wonderful.” He clutched at his temple, the pain of keeping the flood of memories feeling like an icepick through his skull.
“ENOUGH!” a voice called out. Light streamed from above as a winged creature landed in front of the trio, sword and shield extended. Seraphiel, the avatar of the warrior angel they had last seen in Rowan’s dream, straightened as he faced out to the dark mists in front of him. “Enough – let them be.”
“Móraí” Rowan whispered, glancing quickly at her brothers. “What are you doing?”
“What I’m meant to do, mi girl” he replied, falling into a defensive stance. “Protecting you so you can move on to protect others.”
“We need to get out” Arthur growled, resisting the desire to fall in behind the angel. “How do we get out?”
“You wake up, boyo” the angel stepped carefully back, luring the mists closer. “Wake up! WAKE UP!” With a roar he charged forward into the darkness, his light overwhelming everything and everyone…
With a start Arthur’s eyes flew open as he fell back into Jenkins arms, tearing the cylinder out of his sibling’s hands. With a snarl, he tossed it across the room, shattering it against a wall, a stream of extremely profane comments following his movements. The flames that had been crowning his head streamed down his arm and flowed out towards the shards, igniting them and destroying whatever had survived the impact.
Michael swallowed a curse as he shoved Baird imipatiently out of his way to cradle his former student in his arms, catching her as she slumped to the floor. “Miri?” he whispered, running a trembling hand over her dark hair. “I should never have allow this.”
Khan also fell back into the arms of his elderly teacher, catching himself before he took them both to the floor. “Fuck! What the…!” He looked over to see Rowan in the angel’s arms with Baird and Stone beside her. “Hey! Arthur! She’s down! Rowan’s down!”
Arthur shrugged out of Jenkins’s grip and crawled on his hands and knees across the floor to kneel beside his sister, giving the archangel an angry shove to move him out of his way as he did so. “Sissy?” he whispered, pulling her limp form close. “Sissy?”
Rowan’s eyes opened, then filled with tears. “He’s gone” she whispered, leaning against her brother’s broad chest. “Seraphiel is gone. I think he sacrificed his existence in my mind to save us.”
Arthur wrapped himself around his sister, holding her close. He glanced up as Khan slid over to put one arm around his shoulders, leaning his shaggy head against his brother’s blond locks and putting one large hand over Rowan's arm. “We need to talk” he whispered.
Jenkins leaned over the siblings, catching his friend’s eye. “Sire – I think you all would be more comfortable somewhere else. May I offer my lab for you to rest in until you can catch your breath?”
Arthur nodded wearily. “A good thought, my friend.” He helped Rowan and Khan to their feet and waved Jenkins before him. “Lead the way.”
Chapters are working themselves out rather slowly - sorry about that - but we're coming to the final push.
Chapter 46: Beginning of the End
Michael scrambled back his feet as well. Planting himself in front of the trio and their guide, he glared at the two young men, daring them to try to move around him. "No - no more. We've done things your way - now you will listen to me."
"Bloody hell we will" Khan growled, stepping in front of his companions. "If you hadn't dropped your feathery ass into our reality none of this would be happening. We wouldn't be stuck with someone else's memories echoing in our heads, trying to crowd out our current existence." He smiled a cold smile, reminding Michael unnervingly of Gabriel at his worst Darkness possessed moment. "My brother, sister and I need to get some space from what happened and you are going to step aside and let us do it or I'll..."
"Or you'll what, little dragon?" Michael sneered, readying himself for the charge to come. "You think you can move me? You who are only a Fae blood? You think because you were once my twin's beloved son I would not put you down as easily as I would any other enemy in my path."
"I think that both he and I together can make a mess of your day" Arthur's voice sounded cold and calculating as he waved off his still unsteady sister and stepped up beside his new brother. "So unless you're willing to take us both down I suggest you move aside."
Baird chanced a look at her friend's face and stepped back at the anger reflected in the other woman's eyes. "Guys - maybe this is not the time." She glanced over at Flynn, silently willing him to stay quiet and not try to “help” the situation.
"Oh no - it's definitely the right time" Rowan's silky voice filled the room as she slowly rose from the floor, turning away from the Librarian’s guardian and stepping resolutely between the two sets of combatants. "I have had enough of the bull that’s being slung around here. It's time for this nonsense to stop, right now! Arthur - we are returning to our Father's home and taking Khan and Master Christoph with us. Galahad as well – poor man needs a rest from all this stupidity. That war in the "other" reality isn't our problem - not anymore. And even if it were we aren’t going to be able to do anything about it right now. This winged party boy can figure out a way to save that retched "Chosen One" of his all on his own - without us."
The Librarians took a step back, appalled by Rowan’s tone. "I thought" Flynn said hesitantly, "that if you didn't stop the Fallen Angel they were fighting against in that alternative reality he might decide to take his war here – to us."
"Let the son of a bitch try" Rowan said coldly, rolling her shoulders to ease the stiffness and straightening her back, reminding Michael uncomfortably of Seraphiel. "I think he, like his precious archangel brothers, underestimates what he's likely to find. And I'm sure he, like everyone else in this sad little soap opera, will start whining about how everything that went wrong in his miserable existence was someone else fault. Just like the little pricks who started this absurdity to begin with. And speaking of those little toads…" She gestured towards the back door, calling a destination in the old Fae tongue. The door opened quickly, without all the usual sparks and noise, revealing the bright, happy lands beyond. "I think I’m in the mood to pound someone flat for starting us down this idiot path – starting with Merlin. Anyone with me?"
Arthur turned and looked at the door then at his brother. "Have anything for a headache back at the temple?' he asked somberly, exhaustion finally getting the better of him.
"Yeah - some things that even work. Or we could just get blitzed drunk and worry about this all later." Khan shrugged, his temper mellowing as he wrapped an arm around his brother and started towards the door, pushing the silent Master Christoph ahead of him.
Michael lunged for his former student, grabbing her by the arm. "Miri, please! Wait! At least talk to me! Tell me what you saw!?
Rowan balled up her free hand and struck hard, aiming a blow for his abdomen that shoved him slightly back. "Get off!" she hissed. "You know exactly what I saw. My pitiful history with you ready to put EVERYONE ELSE on the line to save your bloody Chosen One. Even now, with so much at stake, you're willing to put down you brother’s kid if it means you get what you wanted. Well I, for one, have had enough of you trying to manipulate your way out of this situation. You did it in my first incarnation and now you're trying to do it in my second. Sorry – not sorry - not happening. I'm not your student anymore. The angel who could claim that title was Seraphiel - and his avatar died trying to help us escape from those bloody memory traps. Which is more than I can say you EVER did for me." She turned and ran for the door, grabbing Jenkins arm as she did so. "Come on, Galahad, time for you to see some new sites and sounds." The young queen and the older Knight disappeared through the doorway in a flash, the entrance to the Fae realm closing behind them with a snap.
"Well, not like we didn't see that move coming" Jones sang out, hopping off his chair and heading for the exit. "Anyone up for pizza?"
Lucifer watched his inebriated customers sway and come together with a jaundiced eye. Coming back to Lux had seemed like a good idea at the time - but now he wondered if it would have been better to stay in the Library place to watch the fireworks. Because, of course, there had to be fireworks. "Those three could light up the Empire State building with the power of their issues with my brothers and dear old Dad." He looked down at his glass of scotch, watching the amber liquid whirl around and around his glass…
The sound of wind chimes and the slowing of time announced the arrival of something, or someone, not of this reality. Several robed figures glided through the suddenly still club, aiming straight for the Lord of Hell. “Morningstar!” one called out, holding up a staff to stop his brethren. “I am Lieu of the Old Order. My Master, the Dragon of the Temple, would have words with you.”
Lucifer stared intently at the figures for a moment, then smiled. “Well, well – then by all means. Lead the way.” He slid his drink across the bar and sauntered over to the figures, wrinkling his nose at the smell of Sulphur emanating from one of them. “Where exactly is your Master now?”
The first creature waved his gloved hand in front of him, gesturing towards the rising mist flooding through the club. “Step into the Between and you will see.”
The Devil frowned, displeased. “Your Master needs to work on your people skills. I’m really not in the mood for mysterious…”
“Oh just come ON, uncle!” Khan’s voice called out from the depths of the mist. “We haven’t got all day!”
Lucifer shrugged then smiled coldly at the priests. “Well, if you insist.” He stepped forward into the darkness, with the cloaked figures moving silently behind him. Time moved forward as the last of the mist cleared from the floor, leaving the club’s customers none the wiser for the experience.
In the Dragon Temple
Lucifer blinked, blinded by the sudden sunlight as the gloom of the Between disappeared. He glanced around the open courtyard, spotting the older Guardian he remembered from his brief visit to the Library. “Well – fancy meeting you here!” he called out.
Jenkins glanced over the Morningstar, his face carefully neutral. “I wish I could say it was a pleasure to see you again sir but under the circumstances…”
“Under the circumstances…?”
Jenkins shrugged and pointed towards the three Fae rulers who were huddled around a dark, cloaked figure. “It appears that Arthur has a plan. Which, by the way, does not fill me with confidence. His plans tend to be painful when he’s upset. The last time I followed him into battle he was merely annoyed with our opponent - and still managed to eliminate all that warlord's finest horsemen and most of his best front line soldiers before Lancelot and I could convince him we had won.”
"Really? Sounds exciting. Who is the boy upset with this time?" Lucifer sauntered over to the Caretaker, finding a spot where he could watch the huddle Triad and the Immortal Knight at the same time. "And who is that interesting creature they are talking to?"
Jenkins raised one eyebrow. "That is Arthur's father Vlad. I would have thought you would know him."
Lucifer shrugged. "My memories say he died long ago - but trust Daddy Dearest to through another spanner into the mix. I wonder if they know..."
Jenkins sighed. "Yes and they don't speak of it. According to Arthur it's not considered polite."
Lucifer considered that for a moment. "Well, at least I don't have to pretend. What are they talking about?"
"Probably how they will get from here to the "other" reality just before the great battle that is waiting for them. And how they will deal with what must be done once they get there." Master Christoph's voice was slightly amused as he stepped up beside the old knight, holding a scroll in one hand and a staff in the other. He handed off the scroll to a young monk and shooed him away as he settled in to watch the discussions. "This will take some serious crafting on their parts. But they will first need to find a way to that antechamber of the Great Empty where the Loom of Fate resides and verify what they suspect has happened – and make sure no one else is there looking to create more complications. Then, they must drop from a spot in the ether at least a week to ten days before the battle that loosed Michael into the Great Library. Fortunately they are all accustomed to time not being linear. Jumping back and forth between then and now will have little impact on them. Once they are in that alternate place they can get a better lay of the land and see what is still possible for that world. And all the while they will have to find a way to hide their respective personal housecarls in the Between while they lock down their targets and make their final battle plans." He glanced back at the trio and their companion thoughtfully. "On second thought - that part might actually be the easiest part of their battle strategy."
Jenkins sighed. "Yes - Arthur is very good at hiding in plain sight even if does have a hundred men at his back. Hiding three battle units in the Between will be child's play in comparison to some of the madness he's tried."
Lucifer's jaw dropped. "Their house guards? Really? Did little brother Mikey actually ask them for their army in this war?"
"No - I think that was the Triad's idea" Jenkins replied curtly. "Something to the effect of they didn't want to stay in that reality longer than needed but also didn't want to leave it completely defenseless when they did."
"I suspect that was the polite explanation" Christoph said with a sigh. "They are all three spoiling for a fight and bringing their respective personal guards with them just makes it all the easier to get one - either with the Fallen's supporters or with what remains of humanity. I think they have no problem taking on either - no matter what the Archangel says." The necromancer glanced at the group still huddled around the tall figure of the old Warlord. "So they will take three units of their best fighters, choose their targets and eliminate that realities supernatural problems with the hopes that the humans can start to take their destinies in their own hands or die off and not bother the Fae again." Master Christoph glanced over at the towering young monk with a smile. "A very hands on approach to a very messy problem - don't you agree?"
"I think they are all three of them insane to bother with this" Lucifer replied coldly. "And how does Michael fit into all this? Surely he's not going to let the "love of his life" go to war without have some sort of leash on her?"
Christoph laughed. "I do not know, old devil, what the lady was like before this realignment of their destinies but I know that my queen will broke no chains on her, especially in a combat situation. And considering the mood she's in right now - let's just say restraint is not an option. Archangel Michael would do well to stay out of her way and let her clean up the mess he and his brothers have created in this alternate world."
Arthur looked up and waved to the three beings watching them. "Get over here. You might as well hear this from us."
Jenkins sighed. "Here we go again."
Lucifer sauntered over to the trio, nodding briefly to the old Warlord beside Arthur. "So - little brother finally talked you into fighting his war for him, did he?"
"Not exactly" Arthur replied, motioning his siblings to take their places on either side of him. "Let's just say we've "Seen the Light" - and have decided to shut the bloody fucker off before we all end up with third degree burns."
The Lord of Hell eyed the young King in front of him quizzically. "Why do I have the feeling something very interesting has happened while I've been away?"
"If you call someone else's memories trying to drill a hole in your head and replace yours with theirs "interesting" - then yeah, Uncle, something really fun happened while you were away." Khan shifted into his place on the right side of his new brother. "You remember that little pottery cylinder we were all talking about when last you saw us?"
"The one you nicked just before you all bolted from the facility" Lucifer purred in approval. "Quite well done, by the way. I never saw you do it - and I usually can catch a thief in action."
Khan grinned. "I suspect Jones probably did see me but being he's a thief as well didn't want to rat me out. Anyway, that little clay number was a memory archive containing the history of our previous incarnations. And let me tell you, we were a truly fucked up bunch."
Lucifer shrugged. "I have to agree with that sentiment. But tell me - you didn't actually take back all those memories did you?"
"How stupid do we look?" Rowan leaned for a moment against her elder brother, rubbing his back gently. "It didn't take too many of those memories to tell us that what we are now is infinitely better than what we were then - even if it does mean we're without our angelic guardians." She sighed, shaking her head. "We don't even have the avatar of the angel Serephiel anymore. He gave his existence to help us escape from being overwhelmed by visions of those other lives."
"And that, on top of everything else, is why we're going to rain hell down on this alternate universe. And hopefully send your Fallen brother back to his cage for a good, long time." Arthur leaned over and kissed his sister's hair, wrapping one arm around her waist to keep her close. "First - we find our way to the Loom of Fate and make sure those paths are closed for good. Then we drop out of the ether into the Vega reality, hopefully far enough before the battle Michael was injured in to make a few, subtle changes in how things are setup. Once that is done - we return to our realm, regroup, pull up our borders and locked down our world - at least for a while."
“And what is my part in all of this?” Jenkins asked, dubiously. “It’s not that I don’t trust you Arthur but I’ve seen enough of your mad schemes to be wary.”
Arthur shrugged. “All I ask that when you hear my command that you open that back door you’ve created for the Library. That’s all.”
Jenkins eyed his old friend dubiously. “Really? All you want is for me to open a door?”
“Let’s just say” Khan replied in amusement “that you would be opening a passage way to the start of an adventure. And then, of course, you’ll slam the door shut, pull out the crystal and make sure that particular passage is never opened again.”
Jenkins sighed. “I was afraid it was more complicated than you were letting on.”
"Seems a shame" Lucifer drawled. "You could always return to me at my club and let that "other" reality just die. After all, from what I was told - by all of you at one time or another during your previous incarnations - the place was never supposed to exist anyway. The only thing that's kept it afloat has been Michael and Gabriel being their usual, stubborn selves."
"Can't do that, uncle" Khan replied. "Your Fallen brother will probably win his battle since it appears that without us there this Chosen of Michael's will be out-manned and out-gunned.
“Besides, Uncle” Arthur drawled, a cold smile on his face. “We saved the best part of this plan for you.”
“Really?” Lucifer replied, eyeing the young King dubiously. “And what, pray tell, did you think you were going to talk me into doing in furtherance of your mad plan?”
“Simple – we just need you to be ready when we jump into that space where the Loom resides so that on my signal you can kick your little brother’s ass through the doorway out of the Library and back into his “reality”. That’s all.” Rowan’s smile eerily matched her older brother’s. “Think you can do that, Uncle?”
Lucifer smiled. “Oh yes – that I definitely think I can do.”
Chapter 47: Plans within plans
Back in the Library
Flynn winced as Michael slammed his fist down on the main table, cracking it neatly in half. “Maybe this would be a good time for us to take a break?” he said hesitantly.
If looks could kill Flynn would have been toast right along with Ezekiel who had hastily slid off the table before its destruction. “Be SILENT! For once in your miserable life, say NOTHING!” The archangel stalked over to the globe and the now closed broom closet door. Getting a firm grip on the globe he proceeded to set it spinning madly. “I have had enough of being disrespected and ignored by my own Chosen. Whatever has happened, I am still the Sword of God, still general of Heaven’s armies and I will not be dismissed like some lowly foot soldier. Not by her.”
The back door started to spin madly, glowing with an almost unearthly light before it flew open, revealing a misty path to nowhere. Cassandra shot a frightened look at Baird. “I don’t think that’s a good idea” she whispered fearfully.
“I no longer care what anyone thinks” Michael growled, taking a running start for the path – only to be sent flying backwards into the library by a bright, golden light. He landed hard on his back, sliding into the corridor outside the center room, crumpled in a heap against the far wall.
Baird looked at Cassandra, one eyebrow raised. “Did anyone know that would happen?”
Jones shrugged, his perpetual smile still glued to his face. “Khan might have mentioned something about border defenses when we were talking early on. Something about the monks being a tad paranoid about old enemies trying to sneak across their borders and having put something in place to keep that from happening”
“That makes sense” Cassandra mused, staying close to Stone as she watched the archangel dragging himself to his feet and limp back into their presence. “The Fae realm would be considered sovereign territory. They wouldn’t want just ANYONE accessing their world so it only makes sense they would have pretty tight security at their borders. And since Arthur and Rowan have never interacted with the angelic choir before…”
The young thief glanced over at the still figure of the angel. “Not that Khan mentioned exactly what that security was, mind you, or how hard a punch it had if you ran straight into it. Shouldn’t a General of God’s army have figured there were be barricades to keep things out of someone else’s home?”
“Their realm’s barriers have never seen me as an enemy” Michael replied, glaring at the still open back door. “I have gone over that border without complication for over a hundred years yet now, because someone had changed their fates, I am barred from it as though I were some Fallen…” He stopped suddenly, clutching the wall for strength and frowning. He looked back at Baird, eyes narrowed. “I must find a way to locate the Prince of Hell. You sent him back to his club. Can you find a way to contact him at this establishment?”
Baird snorted. “Why should I help you? Rowan is my friend and from the way she bolted out of this Library I have a hunch the last person she would want me to help would be you.” She pushed one of Flynn’s numerous reference books aside with the toe of her boot. “Besides which, you broke our meeting room table, sent our research material flying and…” she squinted into a dark corner with a frown “you may have damaged our Clippings Book – the one thing we have to warn us when trouble comes up.”
“Not that it help warn us about him” Stone muttered, ignoring Flynn’s warning look.
Michael’s hands clenched as he swallowed his anger. “I must find my Fallen brother before he finds the Triad or they find him. This madness is Lucifer’s way into the young ones good graces. Once he can influence them he can turn them against my Heavenly Father – and against you and your kind.”
Jones shrugged. “Not sure about that, mate. Got the distinct impression that no one tells Arthur what to do and Khan’s pretty much the same way. Besides, Lucifer seemed a decent enough bloke – and Ro liked him better than she liked you which is a plus in my book.”
Stone gave his associate an exasperated look. “Since when do you call the Queen of Fae “Ro”?”
“Arthur calls her Ro so figured what was good for him was good for me.” The Aussie winked at his friends and started cleaning up the mess from the broken table. “Besides which – she thinks I’m fun. More fun than you are, mate.”
Michael lowered his head, muscles tightening in frustration. He was seriously beginning to have doubts about his vow to preserve and protect his Father’s creations. “Gabriel would laugh himself sick if he could see me now” he thought, swallowing the sudden surge of grief at the thought his twin might NEVER have the chance to say “I Told You SO”. “I wish only to understand what they saw and what they will do now that they know what they were” he said quietly, steeling himself for more insults from the human caretakers of the Great Library. “Please – help me. Take me to Lucifer before he has a chance to turn them against us all.”
Baird looked at her Librarian and their young cohorts, calculating the risks of helping. “Flynn? You’re the Librarian. What do YOU want to do?”
Flynn examined the less than pristine angelic form in front of him and sighed. “Open the door to Los Angeles. Let’s see what this club Lux is all about.”
In the Fae Realm
“Ad vacui ad angelum perspiciunt lapsum, (return to the void, fallen angel)
ego mittam te ( i cast you out).” Master Christoph’s deep voice intoned as he went over the spell, set to a Gregorian chant, with Master Khan, Arthur and Rowan singing along. “Per verbum Dei enim inanis est et revertetur (by the word of God you will return to the void). Ad imperium Domini Dei vestri et revertetur ad vacui (by the command of God you will return to the void).” He stopped and nodded approvingly to his student. “Well done, young master. That should take care of any of the lower angels inhabiting human forms that might get in your way. Though I’m not sure how you know such creatures will be found in this reality.”
Khan shook his dark hair out of his eyes and tucked his beads back into his pocket. “Some random memory from my previous incarnation. Lower angels possessing humans that are called Eight-Balls and higher angels who are merged with a willing human host called a Dyad. Neither are anything I’m looking forward to meeting unprotected. He glanced over at his “brother” and “sister” and grinned. “Be better if I had a guitar. Makes the song go over better And you two should better just keep your day jobs. Music is SO not your forte.”
Arthur laughed. “Little brother, just keeping me from singing out of tune will be a miracle. I usually don’t use songs as weapons.”
Rowan rolled her eyes in annoyance. “It wasn’t that bad.”
“Oh yes it was” both young men replied in unison then broke out laughing.
“Actually, my dear, it was worse than bad” Lucifer commented, looking up from his conversation with Arthur’s father Vlad. “You and Arthur really need to not stand next to one another when you sing, it throws you both off. I, on the other hand, have an excellent singing voice if I do say so myself. Maybe I should just pop into this reality with you and jam along with you.”
“Oh HELL NO!” Rowan replied forcefully, playfully straightening out a non-existant wrinkle in Lucifer’s jacket. “You like to play with your toys a little too roughly. These poor sods are already on the brink – last thing they need is you seeing how much it would take for you to break them. No, we’re taking our house guards with us to make sure things go as planned, Uncle, and you wouldn’t fit into any of our units.”
“Not even yours?” he purred, looking across the field at the assorted women warriors assembling their weapons for the upcoming assault. A few looked back, staring at the handsome figure of the Lord of Hell with varying levels of interest.
“Especially not with mine” Rowan said, tapping his nose with her finger to make her point. “That lot has a battle to wage and it doesn’t include wrestling with you in the sheets. At least – not yet.” She grinned mischeviously. “Never say never.”
“Besides which” Arthur commented, watching as his own house guard assembled beside the monks of the Dragon Temple, each group comparing weapons as they prepared to go to war. “We still need you to send Michael back to that reality so he doesn’t get in our way when we step through.’
“Betting the feathery sod gets the Librarians to take him to your club” Khan said suddenly, tucking a shurikin his boot. “So, first things first. How do we get to this alternative reality and how do we get Lucifer here to put Michael through at just the right moment in time so he doesn’t remember what has happened here?”
“First thing, little brother, is for us to enter the alcove where the Loom of Fate resides.” Arthur’s voice had gone deep and cold. “I want to see if I’m right about who Merlin had help him with this absurd plan.”
“You seem sure that the old hedge mage is responsible for what was done to you.” Lucifer inserted himself back into the conversation, tearing himself away from admiring Rowan’s amazon guards. “Why would he do something like that – even if he could?”
“I don’t think he has the power himself to re-arrange realities like this” Arthur admitted, donning his well-worn leather gloves and tucking his gauntlet into a bag. “But he’s more than persuasive enough to have convinced a few other power users to try to make this work along with him. And I wouldn’t be surprise, Uncle, if it only worked because the Almighty had already decided to change our fates and used this little insurrection to move his plan along.”
“I would not be surprised if you’re right” Lucifer snarled, his eyes turning hell-fire red. “Dear old Dad just loves fucking with us all, doesn’t he?”
Rowan tapped him on the arm, forcing him to look down at her. “Uncle, mind the eyes. Some people around here might be concerned by them. And yes, I suspect the Almighty probably laid the trail of breadcrumbs for Merlin and his not-so-merry band of instigators right into creating this new reality. But that’s neither here nor there. My suspicion is that when we get to the Loom we’ll find the angelic power behind this plan. The one angel Seraphiel’s avatar warned me about before his sacrifice – Metatron.”
“That useless little wanker?” Lucifer laughed almost manically. “He couldn’t be bothered during my stab at the Throne – why would he come out of hiding now?”
“Well, he really hasn’t, has he?” Khan mused, taking his staff from one of his priests and passing it absently between his hands. “Arthur only suspects its Merlin because of the way he was acting when we had the memory archive at the castle. Rowan and I suspect both the Ladies of the Lake and the Fates just because they gave up a “little” help way too quickly and didn’t ask for anything in return. That’s SO not the Fae way of doing business.”
“Or maybe” Vlad’s silky voice wrapped the group up in its musical tones. “Maybe it’s all four of them. Merlin is strong – but not strong enough to overcome Arthur or his fire spirit’s protections. The Ladies could not sweep away the power of Nature which protect my daughter and you, young dragon, are like my son. You are protected by a fire spirit that the Fates would fear would turn on them if they tried to erase you from history. They are all strong in their own ways but separately they, even the angel, could not change reality, not even if they used the Loom. But together…”
“Lancelot was able to change realities when he tore at the Loom” Jenkins protested, stepping up behind Arthur.
“He tore the fabric but did not stitch it back together to form the reality he wanted to create” Vlad pointed out, tucking his own black leather gloves in his belt. “This lot has gone one step beyond what he did – they actually melded the torn histories of three Chosen by the Almighty and made their histories different from what they had been.”
“Made them better” Khan commented, watching with interest as small, fairy creatures appeared carrying Vlad’s black kite shield and placing it on the ground with the rest of his chainmail armor. “Can I ask – are you planning on a fight or just taking inventory of your gear?”
“I maybe old, Master Khan, but I can still lead a fighting force” Vlad’s smiled, his pointed teeth gleaming behind his mustache. “And besides, it’s my son and daughter – and my new foster it would seem – that are going to war. I’m merely… supervising.”
“Well this should be fun” Arthur sighed.
Chapter 48: Step one - getting to where you need to be
Michael grimaced as he was propelled through the entrance of Lux, the hot nightclub Lucifer had left Hell to reside in. “Is it like that every time you use it?” he hissed.
“Only if you’re not Arthur and Rowan” Ezekiel quipped, checking out the bar with interest. “Always seems a smooth ride when they walk through.”
Stone shrugged. “You get use to it.” He glanced around the empty club, keeping an eye out for any of staff who might be preparing for that night’s business. “Pretty fancy night spot. Figures Arthur would bring his sister to someplace like this to celebrate her birthday.”
Michael stared off into space for a moment, a small detail from his Chosen’s life coming to the fore. “It was both his and his sister’s birthday.”
Cassandra glanced at the angel with interest. “It was?”
“Yes – they were born on the same hour, same day of the same month only several hundred years apart. Gabriel’s boy – was also born at that moment one hundred years after his elder brother and before his sister. It was in this way we all realized that they were the Triad foretold by prophecy.” The archangel looked around with a grimace, taking in the waves of self indulgence that emanated from his brother’s new home.
“Wonder why Arthur didn’t mention that?” Cassandra asked, trying to at least LOOK like all of this opulence didn’t fascinate her.
“Uriel could never convince his charge to celebrate the day of his birth even when his sister did. And Gabriel’s boy never seemed as interested in his own day as he was making Miri’s day special. The young dragon was always closer to his sister than his brother.” The angel took a deep breath, ruthlessly pushing down the memories of his little brother trying vainly to find a way to get his beloved companion to enjoy his “special” day.
Cassandra watched the angel’s expressions change as he spoke. “Guess this time around it’s Arthur’s turn to spoil her.”
Michael shrugged, disinterested. “This place reeks of carnal lusts – my brother’s favorite self indulgence.”
“Says the man who screwed who knows how many women in his other reality” Stone muttered, ignoring the glare from both Flynn and the angel.
Baird looked around with interest. “This place looks kind of like the bar we found Dorian Gray in – what was its name again?”
“Effigy” both Stone and Cassandra replied with different levels of enthusiasm in their voices.
Michael frowned. “Dorian Gray?”
“Not up on the bad guys in this reality, are you?” the young Aussie snipped. “He was a Magic user, had a portrait that aged in place of him, figured out how to live forever by pushing off all the consequences of his sins on other, innocent people,” Jones shrugged. “You know – all that jazz.”
Michael eyed the younger man quizzically. “Mortal users of supernatural power are not usually my concern. I am, however, surprised that Arthur did not intervene. I thought protecting this reality was his duty.” His voice laced with dislike seemed to echo in the open space.
“Jenkins would know why he didn’t get in the middle of things – but I’m betting he assumed that once we were involved there would be no need for their help.” Baird glanced behind the bar, making note of the rows of expensive liquor lined up under the mirrored wall. “Arthur had faith in Jenkins at least. He knew if we got into something we couldn’t handle our Caretaker would move Heaven and Earth to get word to him, asking for help.” She stared at the angel with a frown. “Obviously he was right. We’ve held our own so far, without him holding our hands. Maybe you should consider doing the same for your “Chosen” back in Vega.”
“If you say so…” Michael replied, noncommittally. “Lucifer’s residence, I believe, is above the bar. Perhaps that is where we will find him.”
“I don’t think he’s here” Stone said, running a hand appreciatively over the beautiful baby grand piano on the dance floor. “If he were – wouldn’t he already know we had arrived? He’s the Devil; after all, wouldn’t he have the best Security System available in any realm? Maybe a Hell hound to guard the doors, a demon to act as a bouncer…”
“Funny you should mention demons…” an amused voice echoed from the back of the club. A tall, elegant figure stepped out of the shadows, a curved blade in each hand.
Stone’s mouth fell open as he stared in horror at the black clad woman. “Lamia?”
In the Fae Realm
“I don’t suppose there is any way I can talk you out of going to war with us?” Arthur asked his father, resigned to the inevitable answer. He glanced around, looking for Master Christoph to back up his argument – only to find the old necromancer had disappeared.
“Not likely” Vlad agreed with a predatory smile. “I’m in the mood for a fight and this one will do quite nicely.”
Khan shrugged. “Hey, if he wants to fight then let him. Not like you could stop him at any rate. Besides, you don’t get to be his age without learning how to stay alive. I’m good with learning from a master.”
“Very funny little brother” Arthur snorted, watching his father pull a battle axe out of his bag and examine its length carefully. “You already have a teacher – and from what I remember of you on the battlefield during the Reunification War, there isn’t much more you need to know. Besides which, my father’s condition…”
‘I know, I know – we don’t talk about his current state of being but how bad can it be? Cast a glamour over him to protect him from the desert sun, turn him lose with some of his own house guards and we might just actually survive this little meet and greet Michael’s wanting to drop us into.” Khan moved closer to the old warlord, casting an appreciative gaze on the ax in his hand. “Nice blade there.”
“Do you like it?” Vlad purred a pleased smile on his face. “It’s one of my favorite weapons.”
“Me too” Khan admitted happily. “Love axes, especially the ones I’ve charmed to return to my hand once they have hit a target.” The two moved off to huddle over a stack of weapons, commenting on the effectivity of each one.
“Lovely” Arthur groused. “Another ax wielder. I really need a good archer or a swordsman – not another bloody Viking berserker.”
Rowan grinned. “I so want to see you tell our father you think of him as a berserker. I’ll even make sure you have a running head start before you say it.”
Jenkins gripped his friend’s shoulder, turning the young king towards the Prince of Hell and himself. “Arthur, it’s not like you to go into war without a detailed plan.”
“How do you know I don’t have one?” Arthur countered, crossing his arms across his chest.
“Well if you do, nephew, you haven’t chosen to include us in it. For instance – how the bloody hell do you expect me to launch my little brother back into an alternate reality whose location we’re not sure of much less succeed at doing it without his taking my head off? He’s tried that before, you know, and the only thing that stopped him was our Father wanting to see me suffer in Hell more than he wanted to see me ended.” Lucifer watched out of the corner of his eye as Khan and Vlad compared ax handles, throwing postures and sharpened edges. “And of course, you haven’t mentioned what this old knight is doing here or how he fits in to the equation.”
“Thank you but I can speak for myself” Jenkins growled, glaring at the handsome Devil beside him.
Arthur sighed. “Look, this is all pretty much riding on getting us to the Loom. Master Christoph will hopefully be helping with that soon. The other part of this is getting Michael back to Vega. The spirit of the Library can help us with the latter part of the equation, ” He stopped a moment and grimaced, shaking his head in pain. “Ouch! Dang it!”
“You alright?” Rowan asked.
“Yeah – fine. Just a twinge. I’m thinking that the Archangel has already figured out our borders are locked down against him, Since going through our gates isn’t an option now I’m betting he’s gone to your club looking for you thinking you might be able to get to us.”
“How would he know about your gates being shut?” Lucifer asked, confused.
“I forgot to cut the link between the protection spell over the Dark Gates and myself. So, that little twinge was just the Gates letting me know someone tried to go head first into the barrier. Three guesses who that might have been and the first two don’t count” Arthur replied, glancing over his sister with a knowing smile. “Needless to say – that maneuver didn’t end well for him.” Both Rowan and Arthur grinned happily at the thought.
“You locked out an Archangel of the Lord!” Jenkins gasped. “Have you both finally lost what little minds you still have?”
“Chill out little brother – we know what we’re doing.” He glanced back as Drogo approached, holding his King’s black gambeson and chainmail shirt. “By the way – Galais this is Drogo, my Black Dragon. He stands at my right hand as you used to do in Camelot. Drogo – this is my friend Galais – also known as Galahad.”
“The Grail Knight?” Drogo replied, looking impressed. “A pleasure, sir. My King has told me many stories of the Knights of Camelot in general and you in particular.”
“I would take everything this madman says with a large grain of salt” Jenkins huffed; managing to look put out and pleased at the same time.
“I know” Drogo replied with a grin. “I’ve been at his back since the Royal House restored the realm. I’ve gotten pretty good at telling when he’s “embellishing” a story.”
“Which makes him better at it then you ever were” Arthur laughed. “Took you forever to figure out when I was lying and when I was dead on serious.”
“That” Jenkins growled “was because you never changed expression. Always had that damned smile on your face no matter what you were saying. Even when you were threatening to burn down some madman’s castle when you knew we only had a handful of archers and no way to make a fire.”
“Something he gets from me” Vlad interjected, walking up on the group with Khan trailing behind him. “One learns to put the fear of God – or something – into the enemy even if you have to lie to do it. But that’s neither here nor there. Tell them what is required of them Arthur, so we can get our forces moving into the Between.”
Arthur inclined his head to his sire. “Yes Father.” He stared at the Devil and the Incorruptible Knight, standing side by side, with the unblinking gaze of a bird of prey. “Draco, Drogo’s father, is even now searching for the way that Merlin managed to get to the Loom. The spell your Librarian’s used to enter that reality is not something I am willing to try – and we all know if there is one path to a thing there probably are others. Master Christoph is with him to take down as many of Merlin’s concealment spells as he can find. Whatever he’s hiding shouldn’t be an issue after that.”
Jenkins sighed. “He never could hide anything from you.”
Arthur smiled coldly. “Old fool should have learned that lesson the first time around. He should also have learned what happens to people who try to lie to me. Not a good scene.” He looked over Jenkins shoulder at his forces, making note of Khan’s priests gathering in a circle behind their young Master of the Temple. Rowan’s women and his own house guard were stretching out, dragging capes and other items of armor out of bags in preparation for the cold of the Between. Vlad’s personal housecarls, mostly two-natured creatures and dark Fae, were milling around, talking in low tones as they prepared for battle. “Right now our advantage is time is not linear while in the Fae realm. No matter how long it take him to find what I have sent him for we can still start this march at a particular moment in the time stream. Once we determined the path to the Loom, I’ll open a door back to the Library for myself, my siblings and the two of you. Khan can talk to the spirit of the Library and get a bead on where we need to send Michael while I pick up something from the Library to aid in this quest. We’ll make our leap to the Loom from there. Once we’ve done what we must there we’ll move on to the alternate reality in such a way that we close down the first path and arrive in Vega at least a week before the battle takes place. Time enough for us to get the lay of the land and my father to arrange our forces in preparation for battle. In the mean time I’ll use the Library’s back door to send you, Uncle, back to your club. If I time it just right you should be able to get the jump on your brother before he has a chance to make a break for it. Once you are through the door I’ll turn it around – switch its location. It will essentially go from a door INTO Lux to a door OUT TO Vega. All you need to do is grab Michael and shove him through.”
“Oh is that all?” Lucifer snarled. “In case you hadn’t noticed he’s still in Daddy’s good graces – which will make a wrestling match with him slightly one sided and not on my side.”
“I’m betting you might have some backup at the club – right? I have a memory from my previous incarnation of a demon that came up from Hell with you?”
“Mazakeen” Lucifer admitted slowly. “She and I could probably give Mikey a run for his money.”
“Get your demon or the Librarians to help you wrestle him thru or use your powers of persuasion into getting him to step over that threshold. Don’t care which you use just so long as he goes through that door. Once you have Michael sent off the spell Khan and I are casting will change the direction of the door again and allow the Librarians to return to their home. Once they have returned, Galais, you will remove the crystal containing our spells from the globe and smash it, ending that little back and forth path.” Arthur looked up just in time to see Albion, his King’s Sword, as it came flying over Drogo’s head and land in his hands. “I’ll need to collect Excalibur while I’m in the Library, just in case.”
Jenkins blinked. “Why do you need Excalibur?”
“We’ll need the sword when we get to the Loom” Rowan said, inserting herself back into the conversation. “From what you all have said – Metatron isn’t much as an angel. But he might just be enough to delay or injure us. Excalibur will even the playing field.”
“And we’ll get to see if that little issue of wounds dealt by Excalibur never healing works on some snot nosed angelic secretary” Khan’s voice boomed across the glade. “Arthur will use it to take the sod’s wings and end his interfering ways permanently.” He sauntered across the field, twirling an ax in one hand.
“Arthur! If you attack this angel will you not be attacking Heaven itself?” Jenkins asked panic stricken. “Even if the creature is responsible for what has occurred, will not God take action against you for striking out at one of his own?”
“That’s a chance I’m willing to take” Arthur growled, strapping his sword to his back. “But I have a sneaking suspicion that God may have had something like this in mind when he allowed the changes to time and reality to occur. So I’m going to just go with the flow – and make sure that nasty little sot is in no condition to get in my way again.”
Lucifer’s smile grew even brighter. “I take back everything I said about you, King Phoenix. Machiavelli couldn’t have come up with a more twisted plot.”
“And that’s just the start of it” Arthur agreed with a smile. ”Just wait till you hear my plans for the battle.”
Chapter 49: Have we got a story to tell you!
Back at Lux
“Nope – not a lamia. Those sad little bitches aren’t good for anything, Child-eaters, the lot of them.” The woman moved slowly towards the piano, keeping the angel in her line of sight. She was the spitting image of Lamia, DuLac’s deceased henchman, who had died in Stone’s arms. Even her choice in clothing, tight, black and alluring, was the same. The only difference was the pair of curved blades she was holding, twirling them between her fingers as she walked. “I’m a Lilliam – child of Lilith. Name’s Mazikeen.” She glared across the space at Michael, who shifted his feet in preparation for an attack. “You I know – Archangel Michael, Sword of God, General of the Angelic host – and the prick who kicked his brother out of Heaven for leading a revolt against your Father.” She smiled coldly, twirling her blades between her fingers. “Who are your little buddies here? Cannon fodder for your fight with Lucifer?”
Michael’s face was impassive. “Mazikeen – Hell’s torturer. I had heard my brother had brought you to this reality with him. I am surprised to see you walking about unchained. Surely Lucifer knows better than to keep his rabid pet unbound around mortals?”
Baird rolled her eyes as the two supernatural creatures began to square off to one another. “Time out – the pair of you! We’re here to find Lucifer and the Triad – not start World War III!”
The combatants ignored the Guardian's words as they circled one another, each looking for advantage. Michael's wings, fully healed and razor sharp, rustled behind him, pushing tables, chairs and any other obstacles out of his way as he slowly stalked the demon in front of him. Mazikeen paced just out of the angel's reach, twirling her blades as she moved. "What are you doing here, archangel? Daddy get tired of your ass in the Silver City?"
"My Almighty Father is no concern of a lowly demon. Tell me, where is your Master? Where is the Fallen Prince of Hell?"
"He's not here" a deep voice rumbled from the doorway. A handsome dark-skinned man in casual clothes appeared suddenly at the stairs, moved quickly to place himself between the two fighters. He waved Mazikeen off, approaching the angel with palms out in a posture of peace. "Michael - why are you back in this reality?"
Michael cocked his head with a frown, eyeing the new actor in this painful little play. "Amenadiel? Why are you here?"
Amenadiel shrugged self-consciously. "I live here, at least for now. Last I heard - you had returned to your Chosen in an alternate reality. You shouldn't be here."
“My reasons for returning are my own. The better question is why you are here, in the Prince of Hell’s abode, protecting his demon servant.”
Amenadiel sighed. “My actions, of late, have led our Father to sentence me to live among human kind. My tasks now are to watch over our brother and move him towards salvation – whether he believes he wants it or not.” He glanced over at the humans now lined up behind the overturned tables and chairs. “And who are these people?”
Flynn gestured to his associates with a smile. “We are the Librarians.”
The man looked at them for a moment with a frown then back at Mazikeen. “From the Great Library? Why would they be here of all places?”
Stone grimaced. “Why is it he’s the only one lately that sort of works for?”
Mazikeen shrugged, angling to get around the burly angel. “Don’t know – don’t care. Just get them out before Lucifer gets back. And make sure they take HIM” pointing to Michael “with them.”
Amenadiel returned his gaze to his higher angel brother and eyed Michael quizzically. “Have you heard that Mother escaped her cell in Hell? Is that why you are here?”
"No – I had not been informed. She maybe the Goddess of all Creation in her own mind but she was never a Mother to me or to my brothers" Michael snarled. "She was put away in Lucifer's kingdom for crimes against our Father’s human creations and against the heavenly hosts - why is she now free?"
"She isn't, at least not anymore" Amenadiel replied sadly. "Lucifer had been tasked to put her back in her cell by Father in payment for His protection of our brother’s human friend and her child. But in the end, he found a different way to deal with the situation – one I’m not sure our Father disapproved of. Lucifer sent her away to start her own universe to keep her out of Father's plans and away from her children – most of which still view her as you do. But the short time her essence was here started something, events I'm still seeing unfold even though she is no longer with us. So again, brother, I ask you if it is not to deal with Mother then why are you here?"
Michael's expression remained cold and unyielding. "You are no brother of mine" he snarled. "You think because I have been away from the Throne I do not know you have Fallen - become the consort of this demon you are trying to shield,. Were you also willing to help that creature you call Mother assail the Gates of Heaven to re-start the insurrection that Lucifer started? Is that why The Goddess was able to escape from her cell? Because YOU and your actions gave her the strength to open the door?"
"Neither Lucifer nor I truly ever understood how she could have escaped - not that it matters now." Amenadiel shifted his feet, trying to find a stance that was strong yet not threatening in front of his brother. "I am well aware of what I have done - and how Father has chosen to punish me. Hopefully I will soon understand the lesson he is trying to teach me so that I may return home."
"Home" Michael echoed hollowly. "Home is a place none of us can ever go again. The gates are barred to me because I tried to give Him what he needed - faith in his creations despite their short-comings. Barred to Gabriel because he become the Flood in my place and spilled blood despite the promise of salvation for the humans we were watching over. Barred to my younger siblings Uriel and Raphael because they loved me enough to follow me into a battle I should have know we could not win." He stood back, his wings returning to their resting position and disappearing behind his back. "And now I found even our young ones have been taken from us - taken and replaced with others who see me not as a mentor but as an enemy."
Amenadiel looked in confusion at the humans standing well out of the way of the impending fight. "What is he saying? I saw Damien and his sister Miri here a few nights ago."
"Notice anything different about them" Ezekiel asked. "Maybe the fact they weren't trying to kill one another?"
Amenadiel and Mazikeen shared a confused glance. "Now that you mention it..."
Flynn pulled a chair from out of the rubble left by Michael's wings and sat down. "Pull up a chair, the both of you. We have one Hell of a story to tell you - no pun intended."
Chapter 50: Explinations - and travel plans
An hour later
“Wait – what? The Triad has been changed?” Amenadiel looked over at Maze in confusion. “How could anyone re-write the destinies of our Heavenly Father’s favorite guardians?” He shook his head, brown eyes showing his disbelief. “I’m not buying that. There must be another explanation.”
“Right now I wish there were” Baird replied, leaning back in her chair. The demon Maze had reluctantly agreed to stand down, stationing herself behind the bar where she could listen to the conversation and be in position to strike if need be. Amenadiel had produced some bottles of expensive craft beer for Stone and Jones and aged bourbon to pass around between the rest of them as Flynn (with help from Baird) had gone through what little they knew or suspected about what was going on. “But after seeing the memories of their previous incarnations, I suspect Arthur, Rowan and Khan might have an idea about what was done and where to look for the answer to why it was done. And I wouldn't put it past them to be preparing to do something about it.” Baird looked at her Librarians thoughtfully. "Both Arthur and Rowan are pretty hands on types - once they know what and where their target is they will go for it."
“The Loom of Fate” Flynn intoned, taking a quick sip of the drink in front of him. “Once they get to the Loom they can verify what they think they know – and decide how to respond after that. Problem is – I’m not sure what that response could be. They seemed pretty adamant that they liked their lives as they are now and were not interested in changing back to what they were before. Can’t say I blame them. I can’t imagine being faced with the prospect of having someone erase the totality of your life experiences and making you live those moments, minus certain variables, to see if things would change.”
"I can" Baird said softly. "It happened to us when DuLac cut the Loom. Remember? Four different realities, different versions of the Librarians - and I died in every one of them. I told Rowan about it once. I'm betting that's part of what is driving her to keep her life as it is now. Especially..." She sighed, wishing her friend had told her what she had seen, what about her previous life had been so raw she was willing to run away from it, to fight to keep the existence she had now.
“Things changed big time for them” Stone snarled, taking a pull from his beer. “Starting with all the “experiences” in their lives being lived without some angel hovering over their shoulders and whispering in their ears.”
“We were mentors and teachers” Michael snarled. “Not prison wardens. They had free will while with us.”
“That’s not the impression I got” Baird commented dryly.
“Gabriel loved his son” Michael protested angrily. “He never forced the boy to do anything.”
“Yet you tried to guilt trip him into siding with you when it became apparent he was willing to listen to what Lucifer said.” Jones slid his empty bottle across the table, fingers tapping a nervous rhythm as he did so. “Sometimes you don’t have to use physical force to make someone do what you want them to do. Sometimes – all you need is guilt.”
“Or love” Cassandra whispered. “Remember Arthur was laughing about his alternate personality sleeping with Michael’s younger brother? To Arthur it was funny but what if it wasn’t to … what was his name again?”
“Damien” both Maze and Amenadiel replied.
“Damien” Cassandra said quietly. ‘What if this other Archangel loved his charge so much he couldn’t or wouldn’t let him take risks, even if they were risks he needed to grow into a better warlord and King. What if that angel’s love was so overwhelming Damien was unable to risk losing it? I can’t imagine Arthur ever turning on Rowan over something like a sexual liaison but…”
“That isn’t the way it was” Michael protested.
“Wasn’t it?” Baird replied. “Yet when they left Rowan essentially told you the only angel who had the right to call himself her mentor was an avatar planted in her head by who knows whom. She was more upset about losing that piece of an angel she didn’t even remember than losing you. Maybe things weren’t as bad between the lot of you as we’re making out but…”
“Maybe they don’t want to be found” Maze purred, knocking back a shot from Lucifer’s “special” stock from behind the bar. “Maybe they’ve had enough of being used like puppets in Heaven’s little soap operas and have decided to do something about it – like Lucifer did.”
Michael leaped up, his chair flying backwards. “They would not Fall – not our young ones. They would not turn against the Almighty in that way.”
“Sure they would” Maze countered, eyes glittering. “Being God’s favorites haven’t won them any concessions – why not try being on his hit list? Worked for his Light Bringer didn’t it? Lucifer ended up with a world to rule that didn’t include bowing and scraping to his old man. I can see that arrogant, Son of a Bitch Firebird wanting something like that for himself. And the young dragon – well we all know how self-absorbed dragons can be. I can see him wanting to get out from his daddy’s wings and make a name for himself – even it is a bloody one. As for Miri – well I’ll just bet her and my sister Lilliams would get along famously. All that sexy goodness wrapped up in a steel package – she’d fit right in.”
Amenadiel glared at his former lover, wondering if Father had left him enough strength to deter his Archangel brother before he tried to rip the demon apart. “We’re getting off topic here. Why did you come looking for the kids here? If their life paths were changed why would they come looking for Lucifer for help?”
“He showed up in the Library” Cassandra replied. “Somehow he found a way to open a door to us so he could wish Rowan a happy birthday. He was surprised when she and Arthur didn’t recognize him.”
Amenadiel frowned. “Opened a door? How? Lucifer is without his wings, without much of his power. How could he open a door to the Great Library from here?”
“No clue” Baird admitted. “And frankly not important to our current situation. Its obvious neither Lucifer nor the Triad is here. So where would they be if not here?”
“Try their realm.” Maze’s voice dripped with annoyance. “That’s where they usually retreat to.”
“Little hard to do” Ezekiel quipped. “They seem to have locked the doors and put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign. No one is going through that way.”
“They locked to gates against Michael?” Amenadiel whispered, shocked.
Maze smiled coldly. “Never would have thought that bird brained Firebird would have the stones to try that. Good on him! Guess no one will be sneaking up on his ass anytime soon.”
“At least no archangels” Stone conceded, eyes on Michael. “Maybe one of us should have tried after he got his ass shoved back.”
“That would have been a bad mistake even if you could find a way to do it” Amenadiel said, shaking his head. “Mortals are not allowed through the Black Gates. The Fae realm is sovereign territory so its King may close the borders as he wishes. You would have been hurled away just like Michael was.”
“So…how do we get a message to them” Flynn asked, keeping worried eyes on the angel and the demon who were glaring across the room at one another.
“You don’t” Amenadiel admitted ruefully. “Once behind their gates only our Father could reach them. At least, not without some major effort.”
The rattling of the club door broke the tension. As one, the group turned to see Lucifer, Prince of Hell, step back into his club with a bright smile on his face. “Well, well -
Good to see you brother. Makes this so much easier.”
Moments before - In the Fae lands
Master Christoph appeared, with Draco (in his normal dragon form) flying above him. Once the golden dragon’s clawed feet touched the ground his “veil” or spell of concealment kicked in, reverting him to his human appearance. Not that any of the warriors around him noticed. In the Fae realm – nothing was EVER exactly as it seemed. Not even elder dragons. Most of the house staff were accustomed to the old dragon’s massive wings blotting out the sun as he took a spin around the castle. All had seen him take his “human” form when it was time to be of service to his King. “Sire” Christoph called out. “We found what Merlin was trying to conceal.”
"With your permission, Sire, I'll join my son" Draco rumbled, looking across the fields at his eldest hatching.
The young King nodded his consent, eyes locked on the magic user in front of him as his oldest servant strolled back towards the soldiers on the field. “Of course you did” Arthur said with a sigh. “I wouldn’t have sent you looking for it if I didn’t think you could. So…what path did Merlin take to get to the Loom? And don’t tell me I have to sacrifice someone who loves me – that’s just the most absurd use of blood magic I’ve ever heard.”
Christoph ducked his head, trying to hide his smile at his young sovereign’s exasperated tone. “No – no blood sacrifice needed. The spell can be cast from either side of the black gates, allowing you entrance into the realty where the Loom resides.”
“So we don’t have to cast from here?” Rowan said with a frown. “Good – That was going to be awkward.”
“Actually my Queen” Christoph assured. “If I’m reading this spell correctly you can use the Black Gates as an anchor point and cast from inside the Great Library. The pocket universe the Loom resides in can then be accessed fairly easily. And when you are ready to leave it the Gates will simply light a path and bring you back here.”
“Fairly easily?” Jenkins asked, skeptically. “What do you mean “fairly” easily?”
“Well – again if I am ready his notes correctly” Christoph admitted, pulling a small, leather bound notebook form his pocket “and there is no guarantee I am considering his atrocious handwriting – the Loom exists in a small “room” as it were located in the Between. He was able to access it using the combined power of the Fates and the ladies of the Lake.” The necromancer peered up at his King with a frown. “It also indicates that there was another force in that universe that helped pull him in when he felt the combined powers he was “borrowing” start to fail.”
“Most likely that wanker Metatron” Khan snarled. “Which leaves open the question – how do we get in if he’s not willing to help prop open the door?”
“We get in” Rowan said softly “because we aren’t three random sets of energies trying to force open a door. We are family, the Triad, soldiers of the All Mighty. We will do this because we can do it – and because if we don’t the consequences to our people, to our extended family – will be too horrible to think about.”
Khan and Arthur stared down at their sister, frowning. “Have I ever mentioned you give the worst motivational speeches ever?” Arthur drawled.
Rowan grinned. “But it will sound so stirring when someone writes our obituaries.”
Khan shook his head, laughing. “Worst pep talk ever.”
“No – could be worse” Arthur snorted, his mood lifting. “Wait till you get out on the battlefield with her. Her idea of a “pep talk” is something to the effect of Get Your Lazy Asses Up and Kill that Fucker Before He Kills You!” Arthur’s voice morphed into a startling imitation of his sister’s husky voice. Khan’s laugh carried over to the gathering army who stared around then shrugged, returning to their preparations.
Lucifer hid his smile behind his hand, “So – you have part one of your itinerary set, nephew. How do we get the other part?”
“Now uncle” Arthur said with a smile. “Now we go back to the Library.”
Chapter 51: Travel plans pt. 2
Back at the Library (before the confrontation)
Jenkins – along with Arthur, Rowan, Khan and Lucifer - strolled through the back door with Arthur in the lead. The young King and his sister were in their black traveling leathers with their longer blades strapped to their backs and guns on their hips. Rowan was carrying her English longbow and a quiver of black arrows, each tipped with Emperium steel heads. Khan was in what looked like “Ninja” gear – loose leggings tucked into his boots, his katabira (jacket) made with armor hidden between layers of cloth, along with Shin and arm guards and his tenugui, a piece of cloth to wrap over his face. Only his eyes, cold dark pools, were visible. He carried a small bag holding the crystals they would use to set their various journeys in motion.
Jenkins stared in concern at the remains of the table and the books strewn around the room. “What happened here? Where are Mr. Flynn and Col. Baird?” He rushed to his desk, looking for anything to tell him what had happened while he was in the Fae realm. Atop a stack of books he found a message in Baird’s careful handwriting, explaining they were going to Lux in search of Arthur and his sister and would be back soon. “Well –it seems they have all gone to Los Angeles to Lucifer’s establishment. No mention at all of what happened her to motivate them to make this leap but I’m assuming the Archangel’s inability to get past your locked gates motivated this display of anger. I can’t imagine why Mr. Flynn or the Archangel would assume that Michael would have better luck reaching you lot from there since it had to be obvious where you had gone.”
Lucifer shrugged, unconcerned. “Probably little brother had a temper tantrum and took it out on your furniture. Rational thought is not high on Michael’s list of talents. Unless of course it pertains to a better battle strategy or a more efficient way to kill someone.” He poked at the remnants of the table thoughtfully. “No blood – pity. Guess it was too much to hope for that Mikey might actually hurt himself during his tantrum.”
Arthur rolled his eyes at the Devil’s never-ending, insulting commentary about his sibling. “Little brother” he intoned, facing Khan. “You will need to get what you can from the Spirit of the Library on what direction we need to aim Michael so he gets back to where he was before. Don’t let it tell you it doesn’t know – knowing is what it was built to do.”
“Got it” Khan replied, dropping his bag beside the back door globe. He sank down, cross-legged, his beads in his hand as he quietly sent out a message to the spirit of the Library, asking for its guidance.
“While he’s doing that” Arthur said, turning to the others “I’ll retrieve Excalibur.”
“I’m still not convinced that attacking an angel of the Lord is the best solution in this case” Jenkins protested, resigned to the fact that his friend was no longer listening. “I know you don’t want to hear this from me…”
“Then don’t say it” Arthur growled, arms crossed as he glared back at his oldest friend.
“Gentlemen” Rowan took a stance between the two men, waving Lucifer off to the side. “Now is NOT the time to argue. We have a difficult enough task ahead of us without debating the merits of our plans. What we have planned will work – we just need to find the last few tidbits of information to bring the scheme together.”
“I’m NOT debating” Jenkins huffed. “I’m trying to get this madman to see that attacking an angel with a magic sword is like lighting a firecracker and aiming it at a pile of explosives. The first action might not be all that dangerous but the second will certainly kill you.”
“Won’t kill me” Arthur replied, a cold grin on his face. “I LIKE fire.”
Lucifer cleared his throat nosily, waiting till the others looked back at him. “Metatron is a royal pain in the ass, thinks much too highly of himself and was too much of a coward to even poke his nose out of the gates of the Silver City when I led my somewhat ill-thought out rebellion. Trust me – no one, not even Dad, will care what you do to him so long as they don’t have to deal with him themselves.”
Rowan sighed. “I hope you’re right. Because going through this type of reboot again is not high on my bucket list.” She turned and smiled at Jenkins. “Don’t worry Galahad. I’ll keep an eye on my brother for you.”
“Who are you planning on keeping an eye on you?” Jenkins muttered, glaring at his old friend.
“Trust me, little brother” Arthur laughed. “I may keep her close when we are playing at being civilians but on the battle field she makes the Morrigan look tame.”
Rowan gave her brother a lazy smile. “I thought you said I was a cross between Anut and Bast?”
“If Morrigan weren't a bloody crow I'd say you were her reborn. But you have too much of the feline in you. And way too over protective of everyone - father and I included. Anut was the Egyptian goddess who defended the Sun god and protected the King in battle – which is so you when your fighting along side me. And with all those bloody cats of yours some part of you had to come from Bast.” Arthur grinned at his sister unrepentantly. “Besides – it was father that said you reminded him of the cat goddess – not me. And he should know – I swear she was one of his many “friends” before he married my mother.”
“Your father bedded a goddess?” Lucifer enquired, intrigued. “Bloody good for him!”
Jenkins huffed and walked away.
“I think Galahad doesn’t think we’re taking this seriously enough” Rowan said, leaning against a wall.
“He should know better than that” Arthur replied. “I was always at my most irreverent right before a battle. Kept all the ugly truths of medieval warfare from overwhelming me.” He closed his eyes and held out a hand, sending out a quiet command. From out of the depths of the library, Excalibur swooped in, dropping into his hand like a stone. “There you are” Arthur cooed. “Yes – I’m glad to see you too. Up for a hunt?”
‘You’re talking to your sword” Lucifer commented.
“So? It understands me. Probably better than some of those bloody felines of my sister’s.” Arthur reached behind him and pull Albion from its sheath, tucking Excalibur in its place. “As for you – I have a job for you.”
Khan rose from his crouch, a cold smile on his face. “You were right – the Library’s spirit did know more than it had been willing to admit. I’ve got coordinates for where we’re going to have to launch Michael to get him back to Vega.”
“Good. And by the way, little brother, take this” Arthur handed his Kings Sword off to the young monk. “The blades you’re wearing are good for close-in work but I need you to have something to keep the monsters at bay. Albion will do for you what its always done for me – defend your hide and protect you from yourself.”
Khan frowned, hefting the sword with one hand. “What are you planning on using?” He created fiery symbols in the air in front of him, fashioning a plain scabbord to put the long blade into before he slung it over his back.
“Excalibur will work with me this one last time. After this – Excalibur will belong to Mr. Flynn again, I will retrieve Albion from you and find a new sword for you to carry. Maybe one of Wayland’s other blades will work for you. If we had time – I’d line them up for you but right now…”
“Right now we need to program that door” Rowan reminded them, waving at the globe.
Khan pulled out his bag of crystals and sang to them softly, imbuing each with the power to open a specific door into a particular place. Pulling open the globe he set them on the frame he had constructed when he had set the back door up to open into the Fae lands. Each crystal glowed eerily as they made the connection with the Library’s power, each prepared to initiate the spell embedded in its depths.
“Galahad – time for you to do your thing.” Rowan called out, gently moving Lucifer to stand in front of the door.
Jenkins bowed slightly, avoiding looking at the young King he had once served. “By your command lady. Let us by all means start this madness towards its eventual end.”
Khan pointed to each crystal in turn. “Red sends Uncle here to Lux. Soon as he’s through the door, pull it and green will take over, setting the door to open to Vega. I’ve set the spell to automatically recognize when someone’s gone through the door and go dark so you shouldn’t have to pull it right away. Once the green goes dark then black takes over – letting us know it’s time for us to go through to the Loom. Once we’re through blue will take over – opening the door back to the library for Flynn and the others. As soon as they are through pull all the crystals and smash them. That will ensure that no one will “accidently” get sent through to that alternate reality.”
“How will you three get from the Loom to Vega?” Lucifer asked, curious.
“Getting there is easier from that part of the Ether – I can open a passage from the Loom to any alternate reality I need to. At least – that’s what the Library says. From what Master Christoph found n Merlin’s little library I think we can believe its words.” Khan waved a hand over the crystals, starting the process. The Library’s back door began to swing wildly, then opened, with the entrance into Lux visible beyond. “Here you go Uncle – have fun!”
“Oh, I will” Lucifer snarled as he stepped through. “I will.”
Chapter 52: Lull before the storm
Back to Lux
“Well, well” Lucifer snarled. “Good to see you brother. Makes this so much easier.” He barreled straight at his archangel brother, aiming a right-hook at his face as he did so. Michael, surprised, responded in kind then, grabbing is fallen sibbling, fell backwards into a table, rolling with his brother as they both hit the ground. The two wrestled for a moment for control, each pummeling the other as they tried to get the upper hand before Michael's dark wings were able to open freely, slashing at the well-dressed devil. To everyone's surprise, Lucifer suddenly produced blindingly white wings which also slashed at his battered sibling, striking at the archangel's dark wings as they fought.
“What the...” Amenadiel stood, stunned, watching Lucifer and Michael engage in winged combat. "Damn it Luci, now is not the time for this!" He glared back at the demon beside him, who shrugged.
"When do you think would be a good time?" Maze snarled, moving sideways and circling the combatants, looking for a chance to slash at the archangel with her hell-forged blades. "Before or after your brother makes sushi out of Lucifer?"
"Maybe that's how he was able to open a door to the Great Library" Stone muttered, trying to maneuver towards the bar to get a safer view of the fight. He frowned as Lucifer head-butted his brother, trying to keep him off balance and unable to draw his weapon. Michael, annoyed, proceeded to return the favor, staggering his sibling. "We never did get a clear answer from him on how he did that."
"Now is NOT the best time to discuss this" Baird snarled, ducking as a chair was kicked in her direction. She slid across the floor towards Stone, ducking as yet another piece of the dance floor came flying towards them. “So much for getting cooperation from Lucifer!”
Stone frowned back at her. “He came in here looking for a fight. He was pissed off in the library but now... What the hell changed after he left us?”
Flynn, Cassandra and Ezekiel now huddled behind the piano, listened intently to the conversations floating their way. "So... Anyone have a clue why Lucifer picked this moment to unfurl his wings and not in the Library?" the thief asked, curiously. "Not that I mind much. After all, if he wants to get the crap beat out of him then more power to him - but why pick now?"
"Maybe he didn’t need to" Flynn replied grimly. “Or maybe he thought Arthur would try to carve them off his back since it seemed like those two were not exactly on the best of terms.”
"Seems pretty happy to have them now" Ezekiel quipped, watching Lucifer try to sweep Michael’s legs out from under him then dive sideways as his brother did the same to him. He winced in sympathy as the Devil slid into a pillar, one of his brother’s dark feathers still clutched in his hand. “Fight’s not going his way – maybe someone should…” He stopped, pretending not to see the appalled looks from his companions. “Never mind – forget I said that.”
"Luci, what are you doing?" Amenadiel shouted, finally able to grab his brother by the arms and pry him loose from the now thoroughly enraged Archangel. Michael aimed a backhanded slap at the dark-skinned angel, who fell backwards with Lucifer still firmly in his grasp.
“Trying to teach our brother a lesson in manners” Lucifer snarled, trying to get loose from his sibling’s grasp. “And get a little of my own back. Now let me GO!”
“Yes – let the Fallen go” Michael growled, rising up with wings fully extended and hand on his sword. “I should have done this millennia ago when he was first defeated.”
“If you end Lucifer’s life you will be going against Father’s will!” Amenadiel shouted, trying to drag the still angry Devil with him.
“Father has not spoken to me, not acknowledged me since the start of the war in Vega” Michael whispered coldly. “I seriously doubt this will make things any worse than they already are.”
Stone looked back at the door Lucifer had stepped through. “Hey guys” he whispered, moving backwards to stay out of the way of the brawl happening on the dance floor. “Look at the entrance to the club. Notice something?”
Flynn, who with Cassandra and the young thief had skittered from under the piano to join Baird, stared intently at the door with a puzzled frown. “Why does the light coming from it look green?”
In the Library
“Come on, come ON!” Khan muttered, staring at the crystals with a frown. “Get a move on Uncle! We haven’t got all day!”
“Technically we do” Arthur remarked, leaning on the far wall. “But he is taking his own sweet time about moving Michael through the door.”
Jenkins sighed in frustration. “They HATE one another. Did you really think that sending Lucifer to force Michael back to a place he clearly wasn’t happy in was going to be easy?”
“Galahad has a point” Rowan said, looking up from her spot on the floor. She had sat down, cross-legged, near her brother where she could see the door (and everyone in the room) with the least obstructions. “Maybe one of us should have gone with him.”
“Oh yeah – that would have worked” snorted Khan. “Dude already hated both Arthur and I so only one that could have gone was you. Then Galais and I would have had to deal with big brother over there having a nervous breakdown until you came back.”
“I would not…” Arthur protested.
“Yes you would” Rowan sighed. She patted his leg affectionately, a wry smile on her face.
“Besides which” Khan continued, staring intently as the globe. “She would have had to muscle that sucker through a door he didn’t want to go into. She maybe strong and fast but if he didn’t want to be moved I highly doubt she could have made him. Hell - not even sure we could have made him move short of picking him up and throwing him through.”
“Oh darling” Rowan purred. “I wouldn’t have used anything as primitive as brute force.”
“No, she would have cheated” Arthur laughed. “Probably kissed him, startling him so much he wouldn’t have had time to brace himself before she pushed his feathery ass through the doorway.” The brothers laughed as Rowan blinked her eyes in faux seduction and smiled.
“As disrespectful as that sounds” Jenkins growled, “it might have been a better idea then sending Lucifer after the brother who threw him out of Paradise.”
“Too late to think about that now” Arthur drawled. “One thing I have been thinking about though is that exorcism Master Christoph taught us. Seems an awful lot of work just to push out a couple of stray lower angels. Isn’t there some way we could spread the pain?”
Rowan smiled at her brother. “You really enjoy doing that don’t you? Such a mean creature – one of the many things I love about you.”
Khan glanced back at his siblings, a wolfish grin on his face. “Actually I had been thinking about that. If this place is a burnt out representation of Las Vegas then somewhere in the city there should be something like a radio or television station with some of its hardware still standing. Doesn’t actually need it to be working – all I’ll need is the machines to act as representations of the communication devices they were. Then, with a little luck, we get the rules of magic to kick in. Power, focus and effect. The power is in our voices singing the exorcism, the focus is the communication equipment and their receivers out in the city. The effect… a whole lot of things, broken or not, strung together to carry the message our voices are giving off. And a whole lot of lower angels getting their asses kicked to the curb at the same time. All I need is one functional unit and I can send this song all around the watchtower – or the city if you prefer.”
Arthur laughed softly. “For someone who spends most of his time in a temple you are quite the techno geek. You and Galais would have made quite the team. He’s quite the inquisitive beast as well. ”
“I really wish you would start taking this seriously” Jenkins huffed, glaring at the still green-tinged door.
“I wish you would stop worrying so much” Arthur snapped, his easy smile vanishing. “I’ve been to hell before, little brother. Worrying about how I’m getting there and what I’ll do when I land won’t make things any easier.”
“Enough, both of you” Rowan admonished. “This is taking far too long. One of us is going to have to go through to Lux and get that idiot Devil to move things along.”
“That won’t be easy.” Khan glanced back down at the crystals in the globe with a frown. “These little suckers are programmed in a precise order. We’d have to interrupt the flow to get one of us into the club and then back out in time to recon the battlefield.”
“So – that’s a no then” Arthur murmured.
Rowan sighed. “You are so tech clueless. Even Father is better at technology than you are – and he’s old enough to have screwed elder goddesses.”
“Hold up” Khan said quickly, eyes darting from the crystals to the door. “Looks like we may have movement on the door to Vega front.”
All eyes turned towards the shimmering portal – which was now an inky black.
Arthur straightened, hauling his sister up from the ground. “Time to go.”
In Lux – battle still in progress
Lucifer struggled out of Amenadiel’s arms, wiping the blood from his face with the back of his hand. “Oh come ON, Mickey” he sneered. “You can do better than this. Or is it not so easy without our brothers backing you up?”
Michael stopped in his tracks, the Library’s pronouncements of his brother’s deaths ringing in his ears. “You do not speak of them – you are not fit to even speak their names” he hissed.
“Oh yeah – really great bunch there” Lucifer snarled. “Baby brother Uriel was so wrapped around his student he didn’t even notice Dad’s favorite hit squad tearing itself apart. And of course – there is Gabriel. Your twin locked his kid up in a monastery to keep him out of the way of this stupid war you both were determined to wage with one another - and then when everything went belly up he left the kid to his own devices while he followed you around like a whipped puppy trying to make up for your fight. On top of that he was having it on with your student, right under your nose, and the girl had to burn along with her brothers to clean up the mess your jealousy caused. Lovely family we had there – wasn’t it?”
"Enough!" Michael snarled through gritted teeth. "Your serpents tongue will not sway me from retrieving our young ones..."
"Yes - by all means. Retrieving them so you can feed them into the meat grinder against Azazel's minions while you prance off and try to put our ruined sibling back in his cage. Really not getting that loving feeling from you on that, bro. I’ll give Azazel this much – he’s a mean, vindictive son of a bitch but at least you can see the darkness coming when you’re with him. You? You hide it behind duty and honor and obedience to Father’s Great Plan. I'm betting the kids figured you out the moment they set eyes on you. They always were brighter than you gave them credit for. What grates on you more, little brother? That in this incarnation they have slipped their leashes and are not your personal cannon fodder? Or that maybe, just maybe, that the pretty little hellcat you’ve been pinning after all this time might have finally found herself willing to be bound to someone, ANYONE, else but you!" Lucifer snatched up a chair and launched it in his brother's direction.
“What is he doing?” Cassandra asked in a worried tone. “Why is Lucifer trying to push all of Michael’s buttons like that?”
“Especially if you consider” Ezekiel commented, snaking over the bar and fishing out a bowl of nuts. “That if the Triad’s fates were changed then it’s quite possible that none of the events they are going on about might actually have ever happened quite the way we’ve been told. Remember – neither Arthur nor Rowan had ever even SEEN an angel before flyboy over there dropped in on us. So how could any of them have screwed the Triad over if they never actually met them in the first place?” He popped a handful of cashews in his mouth, chewing thoughtfully as he watched the battle continue.
Baird looked at Flynn with surprise. “Wait – he’s right. Nothing they are fighting about, nothing Michael’s being held responsible for actually HAPPENED to Arthur and his sister they way they remember it. The only memory of any of those events is in the minds of both Lucifer and Michael.”
“And evidently in that other angel – what was his name again? Amenadiel?” Ezekiel added, pulling out a jar of olives from the bar fridge and starting to snack on them. “He seemed pretty surprised to hear that their students weren’t their students anymore.”
Baird glared back at the young thief for interrupting. “Right. So why is this, any of this, staying so personal? Lucifer isn’t stupid – at least I don’t think he is. He’s got to have figured out he’s talking about things that their kids didn’t experience yet he’s pushing it like…”
“Like he’s trying to keep Michael from realizing something else is behind his return here – without the others.” Stone conjectured, watching the fight closely. “Michael’s injuries when he dropped into the library probably kept him from looking too closely at the ramifications of the Triad’s changed history. And having to deal with his brother, with all the baggage that comes with, is keeping him from seeing beyond the here and now of him needing Arthur and Rowan to go fight his battle with him. He’s reacting like he believes that their memories are still in there – just buried – and that at some point Arthur and Rowan will remember what Lucifer is blaming him for and react accordingly.”
“Arthur and Rowan didn’t seem to care about it much either way” Flynn added, inching back towards Baird as the combatants widened their battlefield.
“They don’t REALLY remember this alternate time line. The only reason I remembered when it happened to me at the Loom of Fate was that I’d already experienced seeing multiple realities at once during Christmas when we saved Santa. But the Triad, despite being magical beings, didn’t have that advantage. Their reality got folded over and smoothed out without any way for them to remember what it had been to begin with. I think Arthur just dismissed it all as being not important but Rowan latched onto the idea of what all else might have changed and what has stayed the same.” Baird cut a quick look at the door herself, a plan forming in her head. “God may have changed her timeline but I’m betting ever since she learned what must have happened she’s been trying to work out what they were supposed to do within this new environment.”
“And Lucifer probably has been itching to have a reason to slap his brother around a bit” Stone suggested, watching the door carefully. “And all this has given him exactly the opening he needed to make his brother pay for throwing him out of Heaven. And a chance to pull the kids into his web without interference from above.”
“Why hasn't Jenkins closed that door?” Cassandra whispered, crouching behind Stone to make herself a smaller target. “And what is that light that is covering it? Usually we can’t see the Library because the door is closed but...”
"But the door is wide open. Which makes this even stranger" Baird whispered thoughtfully. "Because looking through it at this angle I'm seeing something that looks like a war zone – not the library. Los Angeles may have some bad neighborhoods but what I can see looks more like Sarajevo after the siege."
Ezekiel laughed suddenly. “Guys – remember when we had to go to talk to the Fates and to the Ladies of the Lake? Khan had to re-program the door to allow us to travel into those other realities. I’m betting that light is him opening a door to that "other" reality - the one Michael came from - using the Library’s portal as his starting point. Makes sense if you think about it.”
“Yes it does” Flynn’s eyes lit up at the idea. “Which would also explain Lucifer’s actions. He’s trying to get his brother through the door and back to the alternate reality before Michael realizes what’s happening, all the while getting a little of his own back for Michael’s actions during the war against Heaven.” He waved frantically at the only other combatant in the room not actively trying to kill the Archangel – Amenadiel. “Hey, over here! We need to talk!”
For anyone still reading - this story is coming to something of an end soon. I may end up giving a synopsis of what happened after everyone went where they were supposed to go as soon as I get everyone through their respective doors.