tagMind ControlCelestial Wars Ch. 03

Celestial Wars Ch. 03

byNoble_Truth©

This is the third and final chapter of Celestial Wars, sequel to Celestial Matters. If you haven't read all that, then you should scamper off to read those first. You'll be lost if you don't.

For the rest of you, here we are, again.

We've made it to the end. I'd like to take this moment to give my thanks to Lady Ver for editing this story for me. She remains invaluable to me as I write these little tales. Any errors remaining are mine. I'd also like to warn you, gentle reader, that there is only a smattering of true erotica in this story until the final chapter. You've been warned.

Now, off we go once more.

*****

Chapter 13

Preparing

Many things must the righteous beware,

Lest they slip from the path of Prayer.

Fear a trinket that is ever chill,

And fright that makes a heartbeat still.

Fear darkness that flame cannot break,

And men that death cannot take.

But what the righteous should most fear,

Are the evils not always clear...

~Author Unknown

-Jonathan the Courageous-

Half a Millennium Ago

The dark of the young night held itself still as the demon's words echoed softly amongst the trees. Bitter cold air hung close to my skin, causing my flesh to crawl and my hair to stand on end.

The demon's red eyes gazed at me unblinking. They glowed a malevolent scarlet.

I slowly drew Gloria from her scabbard. The heavy armor that I wore clinked loudly as I moved. Its heavy weight was a familiar and comforting presence as I stood before the creature of evil. The demon's mouth twitched up at the corners. He was smiling at me.

I took a deep breath and centered myself. I thought of my goal. I thought of the songs that the bards would sing of me. I would be a legend. I would be the Undying Knight.

"You haven't answered me," the demon said calmly, his voice soft and mesmerizing.

I shook my head. "You are false, demon, for you have not truly answered me. So I pose the question to you again. I wager my soul in a duel for immortality. Do you accept?"

The demon's smile turned down into a frown. "You may think you are being clever," he said, "but if I accept, a ritual will have been completed, and I will have no choice but to take your soul should you lose."

I blinked. What did he mean by no choice? The black book stated plainly that all demons desired souls. The book said that amongst the Dark, the soul of a mortal was a delicacy.

For a brief moment I was unsure. If the book could be wrong about a demon's desire for a soul... perhaps it could be wrong about other things?

The demon twirled his sword in one hand. The blade was so dark... it looked like a piece of midnight.

It was too late now. The demon was summoned; my courage could not falter. "I ask you again, demon. Do you accept my terms?"

The monster that wore the face of a dark-haired youth cocked his head to the side. His ruby eyes looked me up and down once. Then, he shrugged. "So be it, mortal," the demon finally said. "I, Devnikolus the Unmaker, accept the stated terms."

The wind, which had been completely still, began to blow gently. It was as if the very heavens had been holding a baited breath. The frigid air grew even colder, making my eyes water.

The darkness amongst the surrounding trees deepened... and I saw wisps of shadow materialize on the outskirts of the clearing. Every moment or so I caught glimpses of demonic red eyes peering at me from between the branches.

There were more demons here... flitting about the forest.

"Do not fear," Devnikolus said. "They are here to watch. It has been many years since I have been challenged. The demons of my court are merely curious. They shall not interfere."

I nodded once. They were easy to ignore. They did not radiate power like Devnikolus did.

Devnikolus reversed his black sword in his hand so that the tip faced down. Then, he slowly sunk the point of his blade into the earth. "To begin our duel, touch the taper of your blade to the dirt."

I didn't reverse my grip like the demon had. That would leave me out of my guard, vulnerable to attack. Instead, I merely bent my wrist and gently touched Gloria to the ground.

The book had warned about demonic speed, but I hadn't truly believed until I saw the Demon Lord move.

It seemed as if he simply disappeared.

Suddenly, I felt a soft brush of wind tickle my back. I hurriedly dropped to the ground. My armor clanked loudly as I hit the grass.

I felt a rib bruise.

The demon's black sword whistled wickedly over my head through the space my neck had been half a moment before. I rolled quickly away, trying to reestablish space between us. Using the weight of my armor, I tipped backwards and regained my feet.

Devnikolus hadn't moved again. Instead, he stood still, his eyes watching me closely. He held his sword down by his side in a loose grip. "How did you do that?" he asked.

Now it was my turn to smile.

"I ducked."

The demon returned my smile. His flawless, pale face beamed at me with genuine amusement. "Yes," he said, "so you did."

He came at me again with the same blurring speed. I felt the earth shift slightly to my right... and I waited a split second before spinning away from the thrust that I knew would come at my heart.

Searing pain erupted on my shoulder as the demon's blade bit into my flesh.

Stupid, I thought to myself. A movement that is fast enough to dodge a man's thrust cannot evade a creature like this demon.

I took several quick steps backward. I put my free hand on my wounded shoulder. There was a rend in my pauldron. The demon's sword had punched through the steel like a crossbow bolt.

The strength that would be required to deal this wound is unimaginable.

Blood welled from my injury and spilled through my fingers. Hot throbbing agony lanced its way from my shoulder down my spine. My vision blurred as I blinked back tears.

I heard soft whispers from the shadows of the trees. The watching demons were discussing my injury.

"You did it again," Devnikolus said as he flicked my blood off his sword. "Once can be dismissed as luck. But twice? I am not the type of man to dismiss such things as coincidence."

I gingerly removed my hand from my shoulder. The bleeding had slowed. I was in no danger of growing weak from blood loss.

"I still took a wound," I said as I moved myself back into guard.

Devnikolus shrugged. I could tell my pain was not what interested him. "You knew what to do, and your movement was good. You were simply not fast enough. Your heart should have been run through."

I snorted. "Your arrogance might be considered a weakness."

The steady stream of whispers amongst the shadows grew quiet.

The Demon Lord raised a careful eyebrow. "Perhaps," Devnikolus allowed. "But I know that no ordinary mortal could evade my blows for a single pass... yet alone two."

I knew what the demon was talking about of course. He was talking about my ability to see. Since he had first stepped out of my circle, I had been watching his movements. I knew how he moved. I could somehow sense how the wind cupped his body. I could somehow feel how the earth shifted beneath his feet.

I took a step forward and said, "All I need is a little time to observe... and then I can see the answer to any fight. I can see the answers in the steel."

The demon paused. Then, a slow grin spread over his face. This smile was nothing like the last one. This smile was predatory. "I've just had an idea."

1623 AD

Just outside Dublin, Ireland

-Cariel-

The soulless knight's eyes seemed far away for a moment.

His gaze rested just above my shoulder, his face drawn tight with concern. That was understandable. I had just told him an archangel was outside.

As I looked at him... for just a moment... I realized how many years had passed before those sad brown eyes.

Mortal eyes were never meant for so much seeing.

I nearly asked him what he was thinking about.

Then, my concentration was shattered as Michael's compulsion magic washed over me once again.

Pain mixed with nausea jolted its way down my body. Every pore on my flesh quivered as the unpleasant sensations ran their course. A hard knot of fear settled itself in my stomach as I tried to resist.

But it was hopeless. I was a seraphim of Heaven, and I was being given an order from a celestial superior. My very nature demanded that I obey.

My resistance cratered once again and I found myself trying to take a step towards the door. My traitorous feet hadn't managed to carry me more than half a stride before I could feel my collar's magic flare to life again.

Michael's compulsion magic was washed away as the green magic flared. Where once there had been hot pain, now there was liquid ice pumping in my veins.

I felt like a doll stretched between two quarrelling sisters... each trying to pull me into their own grasp.

My skin felt tight and my head felt heavy.

The part of my nature that still remembered the millennium of loyal service I had rendered unto Heaven urged me to leave this cursed mansion.

But another part... the part that longed for possessive touches and wicked whispers... wanted to curl up and wait for Devnikolus to make the pain go away.

These conflicting emotions felt strange; it was as if two entities were living in my head.

Jon's eyes cleared and he took a hesitant step towards me. "Cariel," he said, "what you did mean Michael is here? Is he outside right now? Tell me what's going on."

Don't tell him anything, one part of my being screamed.

You've already done enough damage. Tell the soulless one you have made a mistake.

Jon reached out a tentative hand and placed it on my cheek. I realized how I must look. My face was rigid... and tense. One hand had unconsciously gone to my collar. I was unsure if I had been trying to rip it off... or if I had been seeking the comfort of its touch.

The golden rays of the morning had filtered in through the window. The light illuminated swirling wisps of dust as they floated gently around the bedroom.

The soulless one looked very pale as the light of the new day touched his face. His scars looked like silver lines about the graceful curve of his face.

A moment passed... then two.

Michael must have realized that I wasn't coming... and the burning weight of his compulsion faded.

Before the last of the pain flickered and died, I was already speaking. "Michael just tried to compel me to leave the mansion and the Master," I said. "He has just descended from Heaven, and he has landed five miles from here... in a clearing that has recently witnessed much death." As I finished speaking, my collar warmed slightly... and tiny pinpricks of pleasure danced across my shoulder blades.

I both shuddered and rejoiced as I realized my collar was "rewarding" me.

The soulless one was already out the door.

-Jon-

Old wooden floor boards creaked their protests as I sprinted down the hall to the master bedroom.

Please don't be asleep, I thought desperately.

Then my stomach sank as I had a new thought.

He might have left... he has always moved where the breeze has blown him. Perhaps he went to tend to other things after spending some time with Maria.

I spared no time to knock as I flew through the door and into my Master's chamber.

Sweat that had beaded on my forehead from fear, not from exertion, slipped into my eyes and stung them with their salt.

I blinked as I looked around frantically. For a moment my gaze was blind and unseeing. I didn't know why I was so afraid, but the look on Cariel's angelic face before I had sprinted from the room had shaken me.

My vision cleared and I saw Lord Devnikolus sitting with his eyes closed in the center of the room.

The faintest wisp of a smile twitched at the corner of his face.

"Hello there, Jon," he said softly. "Close the door behind you and keep your voice down. We wouldn't want to wake Maria... now would we?"

I took a deep belly breath and exhaled slowly. He is here... He is right here.

A small slightly hysterical sounding chuckle escaped unbidden. I could not help the large grin on my face and I tried to hide it by turning to close the door slowly.

When I turned back around, Devnik's eyes were open and staring at me.

For a brief moment, my mind skipped back to the memory I had just relived... back to the first time I had seen those eyes. Then, it was gone again. "Master, I'm sorry to come bursting in like this, but I have some urgent news," I said, reason slowly reclaiming my mind.

Devnik held up a hand. "I already know, Jon," he said. The brief smile he had worn was gone. His face had hardened, and his brow was furrowed. "This was all part of the plan."

I blinked. "Are you sure we're talking about the same thing?" I asked. I didn't know much about Michael, but I did know that I had never seen Devnik pit himself against an entity as universally feared by the Dark as Lord Michael the Valiant.

Devnik shrugged.

"We are both talking about Michael, aren't we?" he asked in a voice that was much too calm.

This was getting to be too much. Over the past few days I had watched Cariel cut Devnik across the chest. I had been on the receiving end of a spell from an Afflicted woman. I had had my finger cut off. I had to stare down an entire ship full of bloodthirsty sailors. And finally, I had been struck by a Judicar and had my skull cracked.

Now, after all of that, Michael was coming to kill us all.

I wanted to go back to the chateau.

"Do you mind if I sit?" I asked as I pointed to a chair pushed against a wall. "I'm feeling rather tired all of a sudden."

"Be my guest," Devnik said with a wave of his hand.

I sat and put my head in my hands.

Through my fingers, I saw Devnik close his eyes again.

I recognized this as he "thinking" face.

Minutes slowly ticked by. Over on the bed, Maria turned over and muttered something in her sleep. Outside the window, the light of the day grew from the luminous orange of late morning into the bright yellow of high noon.

Finally, I couldn't keep quiet any longer. "Would you mind telling me what plan you're talking about? Things have obviously changed since we were separated."

Devnik reopened his eyes and sighed. "It's a long story and I don't have time to tell you all the finer points."

With a bit of effort, I pulled my face from my hands and sat up straight. "I'll settle for the broad strokes. I'm too tired to deal with anything more."

Devnik flicked his fingers, and two snow-white candles appeared on the floor in front of him. He passed his hand over each of them. A flame blossomed on each wick.

"Basically," Devnik said, "since we were separated, I've been spending my time trying to lure a greater entity of the Light to my mansion."

I didn't have the energy to muster up any shock. "Why?" I asked wearily.

Devnik placed a hand on the floor, and a bright demonic rune burst into existence. It glowed a deep crimson before fading into a softer dull red.

"Truth be told," he said, "I'd like to know that myself. This little mission is what prevented me from fetching you both from France."

He paused, then said, "All I was told is that Lucifer needed this entity distracted so that he could swoop in and make some mischief on whatever it was guarding."

That perked me up slightly. "Lucifer? He was here?"

"Ha!" Devnik barked. He was smiling fully now. "No... by the Dark, no." He shook his head. "If Lucifer had taken so much as a breath nearby..." Devnik trailed off for a moment, then said, "If Lucifer had come to my manor, all the battalions of the Light would have razed this place to the ground by now."

Some old part of me was uncomfortable discussing the King of the Dark.

"Did some lesser creature pass the message along then?" I asked.

Devnik unclasped the ruby that he always kept pinned to his cloak and set it down on top of the rune. Then, he carefully arranged the two candles next to the rune. He looked like he was setting up some sort of summoning ritual, similar to the one I had performed all those years ago.

"Orias came and told me," he replied. "I guess our King must have thought I'd be the most amenable to him... though I probably would have listened to Caim as well."

"It is probably harder to ignore someone who can see the future," I said lightly.

This conversation was beginning to feel surreal. I had met Lord Orias on one occasion before; however, I wasn't used to talking about the Princes of Hell like they might stop in for tea at any moment.

Dealing with one Prince was enough of a headache.

"It makes him damn annoying is what it does," Devnik replied. He narrowed his red eyes in annoyance and subtly shifted one of the candles at the edge of the rune.

"May I ask what you are doing?" I said. "I'm hoping these candles are part of the plan to deal with Michael."

Devnik peered up at me from his place on the floor. He gave me one of his rare boyish grins.

"Oh, you needn't be too worried," he said. "We don't have to actually 'deal' with him."

I cocked my head to the side. "Cariel said he's barely five miles away."

"What I mean," Devnik said, "is that we don't have to kill him. That would be an entirely different matter. We've just got to keep him here and distracted for the space of half an hour."

"He's already technically here," I said sarcastically.

"I know. I'm hoping Lucifer is already bustling about his business. I doubt I can keep our guest suitably entertained for that long face to face."

My nerves, which had begun to dissipate, came roaring back.

For as long as I could remember, standing next to Devnikolus meant that you were standing on the side with the most firepower.

"Wait," I said, "You don't think you can match him?"

Devnik gave me a small shrug. "I don't know. I've never met him before. He does have quite a reputation, though. Apparently Soneillon still has nightmares about a wound Michael dealt him back in Egypt a few centuries ago."

I needed to stay grounded. Devnik normally didn't talk about his fellow demonic gentry... I was beginning to feel truly out of my depth.

"You never told me what the candles were for," I said.

Devnik looked down at what he was doing. "Oh... well, you might have noticed that it's daylight outside," he said, pointing absently out the window.

A small sparrow landed on a tree branch bathed in sunlight just past the window's glass. It trilled a soft little tune and then fluttered off.

"I noticed," I said simply.

Devnik rolled his eyes. "Yes, well, you might have forgotten, but I don't do to well out in the sunlight."

I nodded.

"Well," he said, "that's what this is for." He tapped the ruby he had unpinned from his neck.

I had always wondered why he wore that thing. Devnik's clothing changed depending on what was fashionable among the mortals... all except for that ruby.

"I thought you just liked jewelry," I said dryly.

"It was a gift for services rendered a long time ago," he said, his voice taking on a wistful tone. "There was a cadre of fae that lived in a place that mortals called The Black Forest. Today there are some united provinces that claim these lands... but twenty-five thousand years ago, there was but a scattering of primitive mortals."

Devnik looked up at me.

I had leaned forward, and I caught myself staring just a little too pointedly. I was always starved for stories of the distant past. They reminded me of why I wanted to live forever.

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