Celestial Wars Ch. 02byNoble_Truth©
Here we are again.
This story is the direct sequel to "Celestial Wars Ch. 01" and should not be read without reading that first.
This is the second of three parts.
Middles are curious things. Middles are written to bring the reader from an interesting beginning, to an exciting ending. This means middles are often overlooked, even though they make up the bones of a story. Unfortunately, this story is all middle.
In lieu of some emails that I continue to receive, I feel obligated to warn you gentle reader, that this story does not immediately launch into the sex...however, I feel that if you've stuck with me until now, you know that already.
As always, your comments, emails and your votes mean the world to me...so thanks.
Now, come walk the Noble path with me...
The Fourth Sphere of Heaven is a glorious training ground. Sounds of virtuous battle ring joyfully throughout its verdant hills. High Legionnaire Dardihel is the Lord of this Sphere, by right of skill and loyalty. ~Alexander Morningstar's Celestial Matters
With a wan smile, Master's beautiful dark countenance faded away. He took his dream with him. The bed of black silk gave way to expansive darkness.
For a time I floated upon this sea of nothing...adrift...like a lost ship on unfamiliar waters.
It was altogether peaceful... and altogether lonesome.
My mind gently tumbled over stray thoughts and flashes of memory.
The warmth of Sister Maria's hands was suddenly on my face. She was smiling in that way that made her eyes crinkle at the sides. Then she was gone and the Mother of the Abbey was showing me to the door. She begged me to take my vows. When I didn't, it was to the streets for me.
Memory sparked again, and my nose was filled with the stink of the Parisian gutter. An old tavern keeper let me wash his dishes for a bent copper every night. Two coppers could buy half a loaf of bread.
A man approached me one night after the dishes were done. His breath reeked of garlic and stale wine, and what little teeth he had were browned and rotting. He offered me five silvers to 'stick me,' as he called it.
The next day I bought a dress with my new money and knocked on all the doors of all the Parisian brothels I could find. Eventually, the Rosy Garter took me in.
The images faded back into the swelling blackness. Thankfully, no more followed.
My body returned to me slowly... or perhaps more accurately, I returned to it.
It began with a tingling in my limbs, and then a feeling of being warm...much too warm.
I opened my eyes blearily. A dying campfire greeted my visage. Glowing white embers gave off half-hearted smoke as they cooled in the breeze of the forest. In the sky, the purple hues of twilight were giving way to the pink and orange of a new dawn.
A blanket was wrapped tightly around my body restricting my arms, causing the uncomfortable warmth that had roused me into wakefulness.
I sat up, and after an embarrassing amount of effort, I managed to slip from the blanket's grasp.
The cool morning washed over my body, and I sighed.
What had happened? I thought suddenly. The woman, what happened to that strange woman?
The last thing I remembered was being handed that teacup. My dream with Master had made it slip my mind for a moment.
Were we still in danger? I glanced about our little camp.
Blackened splotches of grass dotted the clearing around the well. My nose twitched. There was an odor in the air that smelled familiar.
Two forms lay about the fire, shrouded in the long shadows of the dawn.
Daniel lay perfectly still... his breath was even... and a small smile played about the edges of his face. His rusted sword rested on his belly. I sniffed the air... the smell of magic was emanating from his blade.
I was about to move in closer and look at the strange sword when movement from the second form distracted me.
A low-pitched groan hissed from under the rough blanket. That was Jon's voice. There was no mistaking the pain in that sound. I rushed to him.
His forehead was beaded with sweat.
With fumbling hands, I put my palm over his forehead. He had a fever like none I had ever felt.
He cracked one eye open and gave me an unfocused stare.
"Jon!" I whispered. "What's wrong with you? Are you sick?"
The butler's teeth were clattering together as he convulsed beneath his coverings. I tore the bedding from his body with strength I didn't know I had. Underneath, Jon lay in a tattered shirt. Burn marks glistened on his shoulder... broken only by red, angry wounds that oozed with green and white puss.
"Wound..." he managed to stutter. "Not healing, forgot about... the ring."
How was he wounded? Did they fight the strange lady? How had a woman living alone in the woods managed to injure a five-hundred-year-old swordsman?
"What do I need to do, Jon?" I whispered.
Jon wheezed for a brief moment. He did so quietly, biting his lip the entire time. We both intuitively knew that we shouldn't wake Daniel.
"You're going to have to cut my finger off, Maria," he said, once the episode had passed. "In my boot there is a knife... should be sharp enough for the job."
With his other foot aiding him, Jon kicked off his right boot and then lay still upon the ground. "Hurry."
Deep breaths, Maria, I thought to myself. Do what must be done.
But deep breaths didn't come, no matter how hard my lungs called to them. All I managed were shallow gasps and frantic fingers. The knife slid out of the boot easily into my trembling hand.
I removed it from the sheath.
A wicked edge caught the dawn's light... a blade for killing more than eating.
Jon extended his hand. The silver ring on his finger was smoking. Every other moment it would spark with red magic.
"My immortality is trying to heal me... but it is trapped... hindered by the ring."
His kind eyes met mine as I sat there too frozen to move.
He smiled lightly. "Just imagine I have the rot in my finger, Maria. The affected limb must be cut off, so the rest of the body may be saved. Be brave."
I nodded once.
With steadier hands, I took him by the wrist and set his hand palm up upon the grassy ground.
"Curl all your fingers but the ring finger, Jon," I whispered, trying to be soothing.
He complied, closing his eyes tight and turning his head away.
"Be brave with me, Jon."
He gave a dark chuckle.
The knife cut through the bone and sinew easily. Dark red blood coated the flat of the blade... and then the deed was done.
Jon jerked his hand away, cradling his maimed limb to his chest.
The finger and the ring remained on the ground. The ring began to glow brightly. A small flash and crack echoed through the clearing. When the light cleared, the ring sat nestled in a bed of ashes.
"What was that?" cried Daniel from the other side of camp.
I scooped the ring out of the ashes and slipped it into my shoe.
"I don't know," I called out to the Monster Hunter.
Daniel climbed to his feet from the ground and twisted his back. "Nothing like sleeping on the ground to make a miserable morning," he said with a winsome grin.
Jon groaned. I moved to cover him with more blankets.
"What's wrong with him?"
"The wound he took yesterday is troubling him," I said quickly. "You might have to drive the carriage today."
Daniel shrugged. "I know some herbcraft. I could maybe take a look at him."
I shook my head. "He said he'd be fine... though you might have to carry him to the carriage."
Daniel smiled widely. "Carry him yourself, Half-Angel. I know you can."
The look on her face was priceless. Her silver eyes widened in shock before rapidly narrowing into cold suspicion.
She opened her mouth and gasped. A small wheeze escaped her throat, like the rattle of a dying man, but nothing more.
I raised a brow. "Trying to lie to me will be quite difficult, Aethling," I said soothingly. "I don't mean you any harm. You are not a monster that I'm hunting."
I didn't mean her any direct harm. Just her lover.
This pale and shaking blonde had not yet mastered the art of half-truths and unsaid omissions. She had tried to lie to me outright, and the words had died before they could be uttered. This is how it has always been for those of the Light.
Slowly, Maria gathered herself, and nodded. "Yes, I suppose it was foolish to think I could hide that I am a monster from a monster hunter."
I blinked. That was shocking. This heavenly creature referred to herself as a monster.
You must understand, Daniel. I suspect that Maria has recently been awakened, Vraiel whispered in my head. She thinks she is a monster because she has been human until now.
I resisted the urge to shake my head in front of Maria. Instead, I offered a small, humble smile. "It is beneficial to my job to be able to recognize supernatural entities," I said softly. "But don't refer to yourself as a monster, Maria, because it's not true."
The mistrust on Maria's face cleared slightly, and she let out a slow breath. "I guess I can carry him then, Monsieur Daniel, though I'm afraid I don't know how to drive a carriage."
Why would such a sweet creature align herself with such evil?
I gave a low bow. "I believe I can be of service in that regard, my lady."
The sun was just breaking over the surrounding trees by the time we set off.
Jon was safely stowed in the back and Maria and I sat upon the driver's perch. Silently, we watched the north-bound road disappear under the horse's hooves. The reigns dangled loosely in my grip; the steeds in front of me required almost no direction.
I can detect a whiff of magic through the wood of the carriage, Vraiel whispered in my ear.
I know, I replied silently.
It smells exactly like your demonic core's magic. It has the same stink and tenor. Like a man with bad breath, whispering sins in your ear.
I stifled a small grin. I had no idea I smelt that badly.
Humor aside, Daniel, we must assume Devnikolus has granted this man immortality, Vraiel said.
But how would he have won the duel? I asked. He's just a human.
Vraiel didn't respond, and I knew that it was because he was still turning his theory around in his mind.
Maria stirred next to me and leaned back against the driver's bench.
"Not very comfortable, is it?" I asked with a forced smile.
She forced a smile of her own. It oozed a sticky, barbed sweetness. "Not as uncomfortable as being visited by Pierre the Giant, one of my old regulars."
I didn't understand the reference, but five hundred years of being a man insisted that I shut up.
Salt hung in the air.
At first it was subtle, like a taste at the back of the throat, a tingle on the lips. Then it grew stronger, and it filled my nose with its acrid, tangy presence.
We were drawing closer to the sea. Our journey was nearing an end. An hour later, the smell of salt was joined by the low din of the breaking waves, and for a moment, I was back on The Jezebel sailing toward the continent and the Holy Land.
The port town bustled with the natural restlessness of humans. The frantic activity was undercut with the slight edge of panic of men and women who didn't quite know where their next meal would come from.
Fish guts and human sweat were the odors of the docks. A small dirt road skirted the small town by half a league, allowing us to lead our carriage directly to the waterfront.
Three small ships moored at port this morning bobbing gracefully in the afternoon's calm waters.
Eyes followed Maria and me as our carriage rolled to a halt.
"We should find a place to sell our carriage and horses before we book passage," I said to Maria as I helped her down from the driver's perch.
"Perhaps," she said, her brilliant silver eyes peering into mine before darting to the carriage. "I'm going to go check on Jon," she said after a pause. "He will hopefully know what to do."
I left Daniel to stand with the team of horses and nervously approached the carriage.
Throughout the entire drive, the intoxicating smell of Master's magic had been drifting from Jon's resting place. My body tingled slightly and tightened. All it took was a hint of his presence and I longed to both whimper and worship him.
Before my hand even grasped the handle of the carriage door, it turned. Jon stepped out looking hale and hearty.
He treated me to his full, mischievous smile, his brown eyes twinkling.
"Jon!" I said. I flung my arms around the manservant before he could even speak.
He chuckled lightly and patted me on the back.
I drew away, unable to stop grinning.
Jon refused to let Daniel sell the carriage.
"But it makes no sense!" Daniel said, still shaking his head in confusion. "These horses alone could pay for our fare on the most regal of ships."
Jon dangled the jewelry pouch on his fingers. "I assure you, Master Monster Hunter, that the price of voyage will be no obstacle. Now, I must return the carriage to its resting place." Jon turned and whispered into the lead horse's ear. The black stallion nickered as if in understanding.
Suddenly, the carriage lurched into motion as the team of horses galloped away along the earth-packed road. Daniel watched silently as they turned and disappeared into the maw of the forest.
I smiled lightly at Daniel's expression. I patted him on the back gently. "I've had to get used to these sorts of things. You'll figure it out eventually."
His face turned down into a scowl. "Talking to a Monster Hunter like he's green behind the ears... really," he muttered as he shook his head.
Jon cast his gaze about the moored ships and picked out the biggest one. "If you two would excuse me, I'm off to have a chat with the captain of that lovely vessel."
Daniel and I watched the butler's retreating form and sighed.
We looked around for a place to wait.
The ship was called the Adrienne.
The captain's name was Adrien.
The latter was a fat, squat man with beady eyes and a beard that looked like it was made of rat's fur.
"This man has been kind enough to make room for us on his vessel," Jon said as he gestured to the captain.
Adrien bowed as much as his stomach would allow. "It is an absolute pleasure to make your acquaintance, friends," he said in a surprisingly articulate and cultured voice. "I know my business and these waters like the birds know the sky. Your journey will be a pleasant one."
The sailors around us scurried about, tying knots and securing barrels. They would pause briefly to stare at us through slitted eyes.
"Thank you, Monsieur," Jon said smoothly. "As agreed, here is half now." Jon poured six golden coins into the Captain's outstretched hands. The large man smiled. He gestured to a man standing nearby. "First mate Enzo will show you down to the guest quarters."
Daniel edged up next to Jon. "Are you sure about this, Jon?" Daniel whispered as he glanced around at the rugged crew members. "They seem as likely to feed us to the waves as carry us over them."
Jon just smiled. "I've made this trip more times than you'd think, Daniel," Jon said. "I'll warm the crew to us after we've been settled."
I personally shared Daniel's opinion. Their eyes crawled over me like hungry insects. It took all my willpower not to cross my arms over my breasts. A sea breeze blew some of my blond locks in front of my face. I decided it would be best not to adjust my hair.
"Right this way," said first mate Enzo.
The first mate didn't look quite as intimidating as the rest of the men. He had a shaved head with a scar on it, but his eyes were kind.
We followed him down into the bowels of the ship, to a small room underneath the foredeck. A single lantern swung unlit on an iron chain.
"This is all the room we have for guests, I'm afraid," Enzo said, sounding slightly apologetic.
The room was no bigger than a generous broom closet. We would be sleeping right on top of each other.
I had been hoping for some privacy with Jon. I needed to let him know that Daniel knew about my true nature. There was also the matter of Jon's missing finger. Daniel hadn't commented yet, but he had sharp eyes.
"Thank you very much, first mate," Jon said cheerily. "We'll be up on deck to acclimate ourselves once we've shoved off from shore."
Enzo stiffened. "I'd be happy to show you to the mess and tell you when Cook will have food set aside for you... but it would be best for everyone if you avoided the crew. We picked up a rough group of lads in the English ports this summer."
"Don't worry about us," Jon said as he waved Enzo out the door.
The first mate looked confused, but withdrew without comment. His eyes lingered on me as he shut the door. I was a woman on a ship full of men. I could feel the heat of their desire beating at me.
Maria's eyes darted back and forth between Jon and myself. She looked nervous, like a whore who knows she's poxed.
But I didn't detect any fear directed at me. My revelation that I knew her secret might have rattled her, but she still trusted me. It must be all the crew members.
She probably wants to tell Jon that you know she's an Aethling, Vraiel whispered.
I smiled to myself. Our little party was so full up of lies and half-truths you could bathe in them.
I was traveling with an immortal and a half-Angel, and we were on our merry way to see their foul master.
They will sing songs of our victory.
Only HE can force an Angel to enter Hell. Once a being of the Light has walked within the Halls of the Damned, there is no saving them. The Dark always keeps those who embrace it.
Her breath went out slowly... and with it came a whisper.
The words were soft and muffled... and they were lead-heavy and full of a woman's emotions. The sound of it was utterly foreign to me. I didn't understand it... not even a sliver.
I drew her closer and softly trailed the pad of my thumb across her temple. The hot tips of her breasts lightly brushed against my stomach. I was about to say something... most likely words full of vitriol and dark promises... but she shifted lightly against me, and I knew she slept.
I collapsed us into formless Darkness and pulled our joined embrace through the rock of my underground room. We materialized in the master bedroom. The faint glow of sunset was visible from the windows, but direct daylight never found its way into this room.
Cariel spilled out of my hands and onto the bed like she was boneless. Her red hair fanned out upon my black silk sheets as her head fell to one side. I couldn't help but follow her pale jaw line with my eyes until it ended at her full lips, still moist from our joining.
My gaze wandered further.
Her sex was still slick and red with arousal. She looked strangely wanton as she lay naked upon my bed. Like a creature made for nothing but soft kisses and rough hands.
I had just taken my pleasure, and still she drew me.
But it was not time for that now. The last time I had seen Orias, he had said he would call on me this night. I needed to be kept abreast of the latest news. I needed to know if I was properly baiting the trap.
With a gentle hand, I pulled the sheets out from under the bed at the sides and wrapped them around the sleeping angel. I tucked the silk in underneath her and stepped back. She was swaddled like a babe.