Fallen Ch. 29byNephylim©
We are in the centre of the maze. The summerhouse is before us. There is a clear space, maybe fifty feet wide all the way around and we are spaced out around the circumference. Bridge is to my right, with Mario beyond him and Serif at the quarter position. To my left are Sam, Alex and Taz. Presumably the rest are on the far side of the summerhouse. Everyone looks as dazed as I feel.
"Luma?" Star appears round the corner, running and he doesn't stop until he is in my arms. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure. I don't think I'm the one to ask." I glance over his shoulder and he follows my eyes. As soon as his settle on Serif he breaks free and launches himself at him.
"You bastard! What have you done with Sacha? What did you do to...?"
"Star." Bridge's voice is soft but it stops Star in his tracks. "It wasn't him. It wasn't Serif. It was someone who made himself look like him."
"You've got to be kidding."
"Honestly I'm not. Serif was in the tower room; he was... He wasn't like the rest but he was..."
"I was silenced," Serif supplies. Bridge smiles at him and continues.
"I heard him, when we in the basement. I heard him calling and I found him. He was... I thought he was dead but he wasn't: obviously he wasn't. There was blood everywhere and he-- whoever that is." He nods towards the summerhouse. "He'd bound him. Not with rope but... well, I don't understand how he'd done it, but he had; and then he'd cut his wrists and left him to bleed to death."
I stare at Serif in absolute horror. As powerful as he is, he can die like the rest of us when he's in human form. And if he does... If he dies here...
"It's alright, Lumin'el," he says with a smile. "I called and I knew he would answer."
"Of course I answered. I was scared when I saw all that blood. I was scared and I thought you were dead but then I realised that if you were dead you wouldn't be able to call me. So I got closer and I could see that you weren't dead. You even managed to open your eyes, but you were too weak to speak. I kind of knew what I was supposed to do but Luma had said that my blood is no good for you."
"It isn't," Serif says smiling at Bridge. "Not for them."
"Well anyway; it was the only thing I could do. I couldn't just stand there and do nothing and I figured that if you were dying anyway... So I did the only thing I could think of..."
"You did exactly the right thing, Bridge."
"Well anyway." He turns to me. "When he was feeding from me he started to hum inside my head and I just found myself doing it out loud and the music kind of took me over. It wasn't coming from me it was coming through me." He looks confused. "I thought I was getting dizzy from losing blood but it wasn't that." He thinks deeply for a moment then shakes his head.
"As soon as he stopped feeding, Serif started to hum too and then there were others, there were voices all around... no not around... inside and they were singing and... and then..."
"Do you have any idea what you did?"
Bridge's eyes go wide and he looks scared. "What did I do? Was it the wrong thing? Was it bad?"
I stride across the grass and take him into a bear hug. "Wrong? Bad? Bridge you summoned a choir."
"A choir," Serif says gently, turning Bridge around and smiling into his face. "You are a very special person Bridge; more special than you will ever know. No being other than an angel has ever summoned a choir."
"A choir of angels?"
"Absolutely." Serif lowers his head and kisses Bridge. Bridge's slender body shudders like a reed in the wind and Serif's arm around his back is the only thing that stops him from falling. When he raises his head Bridge stares up at him; his eyes enormous with wonder.
"Is it true? What I saw; is it true?"
"What did you see?"
"You're an angel. You're really an angel."
"Haven't I said as much? Didn't you see it with your own eyes when you held up the wheel?"
"Was that real? Did that really happen? I thought it was a hallucination. I didn't think it really happened."
"Was there really a wheel?" This time it's Ara who tentatively asks. I notice they have all drawn close and are standing in a half circle around us. "Did we really see those angels?"
"Yes, you did." This time they all look at me.
"And the dragon?"
"That was me," Star volunteers, smiling... and then he laughs aloud. "Fuck... that was me. I was flying. I was actually fucking flying. I was a dragon... I am a dragon."
I pull him close and kiss him. "A damn sexy dragon, too."
"And you're an angel? I thought you were a vampire."
"What do you think vampires are?" I ask him, smiling into the beautiful turquoise eyes.
"Well... I kind of figured they were undead monsters."
"Not exactly. We're fallen angels... at least the creatures you know of as fallen angels. Your myths about angels are no truer than your myths about vampires... and your myths about dragons are way off."
"So, the war... the war that Serif-- the person who was pretending to be Serif-- was talking about." Bridge says carefully, turning in Serif's arms to look at me. "That was the war in heaven; the war when God punished the angels by throwing them into hell."
"Not exactly. There was no God, or Hell, or angels really. There was just politics."
"I'll tell you about it some time. For now I think we should concentrate on Sacha."
"Oh my God, Sacha. I forgot..."
Bridge makes to run for the summerhouse but Serif holds him back. "Wait. We have to be careful. He knows. He knows what's happened and he is not going to be happy about it. You saw what he's done. He's set up a barrier around Sacha; so we couldn't reach him from the wheel. The only chance he has is if we can reach him from here. But it's not going to be easy; don't make the mistake of thinking it is."
"What should we do?" David asks anxiously.
"You should wait here. Luma, Star, Bridge, Taz and I will go in; the rest of you stay here."
"But we want to help."
"You can help by staying here. We can do this but only if you keep safe. He wants us to be less than focussed on him. He wants us to be scattered, fragmented. He wants us to have other things on our minds... you. That's why he did what he did to you; to us... We need to not have to think about anything else; because this is not a question of whether we get Sacha out of there; it's a question of whether any of us get out of there."
"I... Be careful."
Serif smiles. "I am always careful, and that's why you are going to stay right here. You are safe here. Don't leave this place. Don't go back to the house."
"But what if you don't come back?"
"Then it won't matter where you are and we won't care. But for as long as we do care we need to know you are safe here."
"Alright," Chancey says bravely, "you go ahead and I'll take care of everyone here. We'll stay here... until you get back," he says firmly.
Impulsively I hug him and hold him close for a few moments then let him go and walk towards the summerhouse, without looking back.
We pause at the door. "Do you know who it is?"
"I have a fair idea."
"Abdi'el?" I supply grimly.
"Who else?" He chuckles. "Okay... maybe it could be someone else but it has his name written all over it. One of the more powerful beings would have been more direct; the lesser ones more careful. He's the trickster... the total prick."
I can't help myself; that makes me smile. "He always was a slimy creep."
"Quite a few of them were. They've been low key for a while but with the Council in shreds they're crawling out of the woodwork."
"Not my woodwork."
He turns and grins at me. "What's so special about your woodwork?"
I return his grin. "It's mine."
Laughing out loud he reaches out his hand and the door of the summerhouse explodes inwards in a rain of glass shards and toothpicks.
I hold Bridge close to me as we enter. I am not easy about him being here, although I know why. Star protects his other side while Serif and Taz precede us. I feel bad about that; especially about Taz being in the frontline, but I have to take care of Bridge.
The interior of the Summerhouse has radically changed. The foliage is blackened and burned; the riverbed is dry and the whole building is filled with acrid smoke that burns our eye and makes us cough. As we move further in, the smoke grows thicker and moves in turgid swirls of oily blackness.
When we reach the banks of the river we can see movement on the far side but we can't see who or what it is.
"I think it's time we get rid of the cover," Serif murmurs almost to himself and raises his arms. "You might want to close your eyes for a moment." Even closed tightly, the light sears my eyes and when it dies they ache and water when I open them.
The smoke has gone. When my eyes readjust I can see clearly. There are three of them. They are no longer attempting to conceal their identities.
"Hello Abdi'el, I see your lapdogs are still snapping around your heels."
"At least I'm keeping better company that you are Rapha'el."
"If you really believe that you're more of a fool than I thought you were."
"Forget the niceties, Seraph. Don't think I don't know what you are doing here; skulking, licking your wounds like a kicked dog." Serif growls softly but retains his rigid control.
"Rapha'el?" Star murmurs softly.
"Ssh." I pull him close to underline my request.
"You know what I want," Abdi'el hisses.
"I do." Serif... Rapha'el, says softly. I'm going to have to get used to using his name again. I laugh internally. Serif? I have been such a fool. "You want freedom-- and this is the last place you are going to find it."
"Oh I think you'll find you're wrong." I shiver as his eyes run over us and settle on Bridge who shrinks against my side. "You have great taste in plaything, Lumin'el. Do you realise what you have there?"
I put my arm protectively around Bridge. "They are not my 'playthings' Abdi'el; they are my family."
Abdi'el snorts. "Family? What do you know about family? You haven't had a family in millennia."
"And what happened to the one I did have, Abdi'el? What happened to my wife and son?" I say, my voice deadly cold.
"Your whore and her brat got what they deserved... and so did you."
If he thought his words were going to hurt me, he was right. If he thought they were going to provoke a reaction he was very wrong; at least the kind of reaction he was soliciting. The images of Astaria, crumpled on the ground, our son dead in her belly, weeping for us, all of us, have long since died, calmed by her words and my own efforts at numbing and thrusting down the feelings. Now, thanks to Abdi'el they are back and I will have my revenge, but I will take my time to extract it
"Of course we did, Abdi'el... and pray tell me what you think you deserve? I defied the Council: you overthrew it."
"What can I say...? I had the balls to go all the way."Abdiel grins, showing his sharp teeth.
"You toad," Taz spits out. "You hid under a rock until the Council fell and then you slithered out to pick over its bones. You don't deserve to be in the same room as Lumin'el."
Abdi'el turns his eyes towards Taz and peers at him. "And who is this pup? He has the smell of that slut Tazi'el. If I recall you two had quite a fling at one time didn't you, Rapha'el? And he tossed your woman too didn't he, Lumi'el?"
"Tazi'el was a great soldier," Rapha'el grinds out, "and if he was universally loved then it was far more than you ever were."
Abdi'el gives him a nasty smile. "Thank you for reminding me of that, Rapha'el. Universally loved? The boy was a whore."
"Don't you say that about my father." Taz takes a step forward but Rapha'el stops him.
"Father? Oh how delightful. A whore's bastard. What delightful company you keep Rapha'el; how the great have fallen."
"Better fallen than pushed, Abdi'el. Now; as delightful as it is to reminisce with you, I have better things to do so if you wouldn't mind getting the hell out of here we'll all go about our business."
"I'm more than happy to leave... but if I do I take the human with me."
"That would not be a good idea," Rapha'el says quietly and evenly but with a definite edge to his voice.
"It seems like an excellent idea to me. You want something; you want it badly and I have the means by which you can obtain in."
"There are other humans, Abdi'el."
"Not like this one; and you know it."
"What does he mean?" Star is looking at me and I shrug, as confused as he is.
"He's completely pure." We all turn to Bridge in surprise. He is staring at Abdi'el, his eyes wide and blank as if he is looking at something other than what is there. Abdi'el frowns at him and narrows his eyes but Bridge is oblivious.
"Over the years," he continues in a strange; distant voice, human blood had been mixed with that of other races so very few are born pure, untainted, with the blood of the ancients in their veins. Sacha is pure. He is the only one."
"The only one? The only one where?"
"The only one here. There are others in other places but Sacha is unique. He is the key."
"The key to what?" Star's voice is excited as he rounds on Bridge.
"Bridge; that's enough," Rapha'el says softly and Bridge blinks at him for a moment frowning, then he gives his bright smile.
"I'm sorry; I didn't think. They aren't supposed to know are they?"
"No, Bridge; not yet."
Bridge smiles and nods, then turns back to Abdi'el and the look on his face almost makes me take a step back. I've never seen Bridge look cold but in this moment his eyes are like chips of green ice and when he speaks his voice sends chills down my spine.
"It is time; child of the stars. This earth; this spoke of the wheel is mine. Return to the hub and take the gateway home. You and your kind are no longer welcome here."
To say I am shocked would be to say the sun is warm. I've never seen Bridge so... powerful; and the things he is saying...
"Foolish child. What makes you think you have the power or the right to order me to leave this place?"
"The power and right of birth. This is my world angel; not yours. It always has been. You have polluted the energy of the wheel for too long. Step off or be expelled."
"Expelled? You think you have the power to expel me?"
"No... but we have." He looks at Rapha'el who nods slightly; then to Taz who does the same. Reaching out he draws me and Star close to him. He doesn't need even to ask us.
"Oh very nice; very sweet. Play all you want little one but you won't take a step across that river because you know what I'd do if you did."
Abdi'el glances to the side and his cronies drag Sacha from the mist; slung between them, still unconscious. Making a great show of it Abdi'el runs his hands over Sacha's body and raises his head by the hair to kiss him. Sacha doesn't respond to any of it.
"Let him go, Abdi'el," Rapha'el says softly. "Let him go and we will let you leave here."
"Leave? Why would I want to leave? And as for letting him go... he is not a prisoner. If you want him come, take him. What you do with him afterwards is up to you, but you won't have long to do it." He raises Sacha's head by cupping his hand under his chin. "Even now, my venom courses through his veins; invading every organ, every cell; changing him irreparably. Within the hour he will be consumed. He will be mine, a mindless slave with no conscious thought or desire other than what I put into his head. Such a pretty little plaything. I will have fun with him, I think."
"Release him, Abdi'el." Rapha'el commands.
"I told you-- he is not a captive and therefore cannot be released. Come take him if you wish. You can watch his life ebb as you celebrate your success."
"Bring him to the river and retreat." Rapha'el says softly.
"Do you think you can defeat me? Do you really think that in your hands he will live?" There is a slightest note of hesitancy in Abdi'el's tone now and his eyes shift from Rapha'el to Bridge.
"This is your last chance. Release Sacha or we will take him."
"Take him?" He laughs. "You ragged bunch of nothings take on the might of an Imperial Throne and two Principalities?"
"You would dare to ask that? Even knowing who and what we are, you would doubt us?"
"What you are is nothing - an exile; a misguided Seraph; the bastard son of a whore; a pretty baby who thinks he's a dragon... and a freak." He spits out the final word and even as Star and I brindle Bridge smiles a dreamy smile and walks forward.
I would have held on to him but I couldn't. It was as if he had turned to smoke and slipped through my hands. Slowly, he walks past Taz and Rapha'el, who seem either disinclined or unable to prevent his advance.
"Bridge, no." I am powerless to stop him as he walks across the dry river bed and stops directly in front of Abdi'el. He tilts his head to one side and stares him silently in the eye. I'm scared, so scared. He doesn't know what Abdi'el is capable of; I do. At first Abdi'el smirks and stands tall but, as Bridge comes to a halt before him, he takes a half step backwards and his eyes flick to us showing fear for the first time.
"What is this?"
"This?" Bridge reaches out his hand to touch Abdi'el's cheek. He jerks back but then freezes and Bridge moves close again to caress his face. "This," he says, brushing his lips over Abdi'el's, "is an invitation. The question is... will you take it?"