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Seeking Dusk story

Seeking Dusk: Part 15

The wait is unbearable. I can hear their voices in the building, but force myself to not listen. It would be wrong of me to ignore an order from Lord Zadkiel. I can still speculate, though.

What would The Dominion want from a human? I mean, a soldier or messenger might talk to Dr. Matthews for information, but the combined sight of these angels encompasses almost all of creation. And for things they can’t see, they can speak with the archangels, or in extreme cases, The Creator!

Why manifest here themselves? And now that I think of it, where did Kushiel and Ariel take Rand? The human is talented, but the power of The Dominion would crush him.

The door starts to click open. I straighten up from the reclined position I had taken in the air as I played with my thoughts. As much as I’m questioning in my mind, I still feel the need to obey and assist these powerful beings anyway I can. …And, maybe follow the protocols a little more closely while they’re around.  Don’t judge me! I’ve seen enough mortals to know I am not alone in this reaction. I’m not used to them following me around all the time.

Dr. Matthews leads them back here, his face scrunched in thought. What did they talk with him about? What could perplex the good doctor so thoroughly?

“Thank you for your help, Alexander.” Lord Zadkiel came after the doctor. He’s taken to calling the human by his first name, which seems more than a little disrespectful. But then, he’s been like that since he landed…

“Of course, my lord.” Despite responding quickly, the doctor’s voice sounds far away. This is going to drive me crazy.

“If you learn anything else, please, pray to us. We will hear you.” Lady Puriel spoke reassuringly, which was strange to me. In my defense, it’s the first time she’s spoken like that since she landed.

The hosts piled out of the building, while I stood at attention. I thanked the good doctor for his help as they left. He finally looked me in the eye, and I could see more to his expression. He was scared. Terrified. I wish I could help, but all I could do is give him my own frightened look back.

The matters of hosts are rarely simple, but the Dominion are something else entirely. As Zadkiel put it, all of creation must be at risk for all five of them to land. But the secrecy is different. Last time they were here, they fought the threat of the Nephilim. An open war. Glorified in their actions and majestic in their terrible might. So to see them being so… subtle, is jarring.

But it makes me think of the kind of cloak and dagger missions Rand had been engaging. Have I really been the only one to still see this war as it was? To be left behind as my leaders and allies fight a new battle? I never did apologize to Rand. I suppose I now really should when I see him.

“Aluma, thank you for your assistance.” Puriel spoke to me with the same assurance she used with Dr. Matthews. I was still not used to it.

“Of course, my lady. What will we do now?”

Lord Zadkiel looked to his comrades and then to me. “If I remember correctly, you still have your own assignment to complete. You may resume your hunt. If we need you again, we will call upon you.”

I was stunned. But Zadkiel said I would be needed. That they needed someone to help guide them on earth. Did I do something wrong?

“Of course. I wish you well, my lord and ladies.” I took off into the air, too ashamed of the tears I felt. I did not want them to see. Dammit, Aluma! Get yourself together!

I soared over the rooftops of the city, not really looking for anything. Instead I fought with my emotions and questions. It would be wrong of me to disobey a direct order, but…

Was it an order? Zadkiel had said I ‘may’ go back to my mission.

“Piecing it together are you?”

I whip around, shocked at the voice I heard. Lord Zadkiel was right behind me. I didn’t even realize I had stopped flying forward.

“Well, Aluma, you are a loyal soldier. I was right to think I could trust you.”

“My Lord,” I exclaim, bowing as I do, “Where are the Ladies Muriel and Puriel?”

“Busy.” His calm demeanor was actually starting to worry me. “But you need not worry. I am here because I need your help.”

I would like to say I was humble, and not at all proud of his trust in me, but that would be an absolute lie.

“You’ve been a busy host, Aluma.” Zadkiel and I were floating around the city. While I’ve been torn between my feelings, I do my best to piece together what exactly is going on. Lord Zadkiel seems to be betraying the trust of the rest of The Dominion, but at the same time, I have to think that he has a reason for doing so. The whole of creation is in jeopardy, right?

“I suppose so, my lord.” The pride I had felt was gone, and instead replaced with my confusion.

“How many demons have you sent to The Pit in just these last seven missions?”

Was he genuinely curious? Potentially getting me buttered up?

“I am unsure. A few dozen?”

He smiles, “In such a short amount of time. A mere blink of an eye and so many of our enemies fade into the void. It is not just your strength, Firebrand. You can find where these creatures hide. Your tenacity in the face of demonic entities is nothing short of spectacular. This is why I need your help.”

“Of course. I am at your service, Lord Zadkiel.”

We slow to a stop, his eyes still searching over the city.

“Come, we shouldn’t talk in the open.” He floats straight down, almost losing me. I go after quickly, keeping my eye on him. He descends into an alleyway, taking care to examine the area around us. What is he hiding?

“My lord,” I speak calmly, “why are we taking such pains to not be seen or heard?”

When he appeared satisfied that we were alone, he spoke.

“Aluma, were you not listening when we spoke of The Box?”

“All of reality was at risk. I heard you, my lord.”

He sighs.

“It goes deeper than that. The Presence, The Creator himself might be in danger.”

…Excuse me?

“I’m sorry, sir, but that’s not possible. He is-”

“Missing.”

EXCUSE ME?!

Seeking Dusk: Part 14

“Aluma, being so accustomed to the workings of these humans, would you mind showing us to the one called Alexander Matthews? We would have words with him.”

Zadkiel exited his crater as the other of The Dominion did the same. He came right towards me, while Ariel went off to the side, seemingly to speak with Puriel.

“Doctor.” Rand’s voice popped up again, unexpectedly.

Zadkiel looked genuinely surprised. “Excuse me?”

“He has a medical degree. He prefers to be called Dr. Matthews.”

Rand! Now is not the time for semantics!

“Oh, that is cute. Humans giving themselves titles.” Well, that was a bit condescending of Zadkiel…

“He earned it! And his healing proficiency has saved your soldiers more times than I can count!” The fury of the human was beginning to show. Dammit Rand.

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic. I am very grateful to one, anyone, who would serve The Presence, but the affairs of the hosts are so far above you humans. Your lifetimes are so short, as is the knowledge you can accumulate.”

“And it’s that very knowledge you now need from a human, so give it a little respect,” Rand sneers.

Oh that is enough!

“If you two would please stop posturing!”

I swear, whether they be hosts or apes, men are all the same. Maybe I should have used more caution around my superiors, but I’ve never been one to make proper decisions.

Still, I gather up my composure and continue my mission. “Now, if you would all please follow me, I can take you to the mortal you seek.”

“Not all of us are going. Zadkiel, Puriel, and Muriel will accompany you. Myself and Kushiel must away to other business.” Ariel spoke floating away from Puriel, their conversation appearing to be concluded.

I give a bow of acknowledgement.

“As you wish, Lady Ariel. Please, let us go. The sun is coming up, and our human friend is not as well shielded from mortal repercussions as we. He likely needs rest.”

“Actually, could we borrow your comrade? The human warrior might be of use.” Kushiel spoke while studying Rand. What could they have in mind for my friend?

“I suppose… Rand, what do you say?”

He walked around, looking over the angelic hosts, inspecting what little trinkets and things he can see.  It was all a show of course. I’ve seen Rand do this before. Feels it makes him seem more perceptive than he really is. Does he really think-

“I’ll go with them. Looks like they could use my help.”

…I think Kushiel just relaxed a bit. How the hell does Rand get away with this shit?

“Then it’s decided! Let us all away!” Zadkiel’s enthusiasm caused me to smile. Just a bit.

As we flew through the air, the three Dominion that accompanied me kept looking around the city and making comments. Some thoughtful, others a bit condescending.

“Look! Most of these buildings are larger than the Tower of Babel! Amazing what humans can do in a few thousand years!”

“The females in these images are barely wearing any clothing… Are such advertisements directed at the men, or the women? And what is the secret of Victoria?”

“The telecommunications implemented are impressive, but seem to be poorly utilized.”

It was exasperating at times, but at others, it was amusing to see such powerful beings amazed at the technological advancements of these humans. They sometimes forget, but Lucifer fell because he couldn’t see their value. And it’s best if more of my brethren could learn to understand these creatures.

We finally reach the home of Dr. Matthews. The sun is fully risen by now, but I can only hope he’s not still sleeping. It was a long night. We land outside the building, in an alley way.

“It’s common human courtesy to rap upon the portal and wait to be invited in before entering,” I explain.

“That seems frivolous! Why not just enter the building! Our matter is of the utmost importance!” cried Puriel.

It certainly didn’t seem that way when you all sat staring at the giant television screen downtown for the better part of half an hour…

“Please, this is their realm. It is best if we abide their customs.”

I focus my energy to push the air in front of the door to give the impression of a short succession of knocks. There’s a shuffling of books and papers from inside as I wait for the man to open the door. When he does, he seems surprised to see me.

“Aluma, what are you-“

He stops as he notices my guests. Another human who’d never seen The Dominion. But unlike Rand, the doctor knew their significance. And he froze, unsure of how to react.

“Greetings, Doctor Matthews. May I present to you, members of the Dominion order of Hosts. Lord Zadkiel, Lady Puriel, and Lady Muriel.” At the mention of each of their names, the angel gave a bit of a nod.

“H-How do you d-do?” The doctor gave a bit of a bow, but kept his eye fixated on the beings of light.

“We are well, thank you Doctor Matthews. Please, might we come in?” Zadkiel spoke with the joviality he so adored.

“Of course!” The human bade us inside, quickly scampering about, attempting to straighten up and clean what he could for his guests. Puriel looked unimpressed, but Zadkiel seemed to delight in the frantic movements of our host. Muriel just kept her affable smile on, not paying attention to much of anything.

“I’m terribly sorry, I wasn’t expecting guests.”

“That’s quite all right, sir.” Zadkiel seems to have taken Rand’s words to heart. At least, I hope so. “Now, if you don’t mind, we have a few questions of you.”

“Anything for the servants of my Lord.” As he spoke, Dr. Matthews moved his hand towards the crucifix around his neck. I could see him mouth a little prayer to himself and his god.

“Thank you.” Zadkiel tursn towards me. “Aluma, if you could please leave us, this matter is private.”

“Excuse me?” I can’t contain the surprise with a hint of anger in my voice.

No but seriously, what the hell?

“The subject of this conversation is not for you. I am sorry.” There was no twinkle in Zadkiel’s eye this time. I was to not know what they talk about here.

I give a quick bow and float out of the house. Despite this, I feel a void in the house, as one of the Dominion shield the room from anyone getting in.

This entire matter is perplexing me.

Seeking Dusk: Part 13

I don’t move. This is not my fight, but I am somehow involved. How could a member of the Dominion threaten another? I’d never heard Lord Zadkiel be so intimidating.

This whole endeavor is quickly escalating into something far beyond my expectations. They should have decided all this before they came. And what is Puriel thinking? If there is such a threat to reality, more help is better than less. It’s why The Presence sent me in the first place, isn’t it?

“Aluma Firebrand, if you would stem this tide of darkness, listen well.” Zadkiel spoke, lifting what felt like a long silence after his threat.

“There is an artifact that has been taken from within the Gates of Paradise. It would for all appearances be nothing of value. A small wooden box. But the power it holds could turn the tide of our war.”

“Do we know who has taken this box?” I ask, my mind cleared of previous doubt. Zadkiel smiles.

“Yes. He is one called Azazel, and he is a former angelic host.”

A fallen angel? How could someone like that have gotten a hold of such an artifact?

“After taking the box, he fled to earth, and has been in hiding beyond even our combined sight.”

“How can something hide from The Presence?”

“Well, The Presence is-“

Zadkiel is cut off by Puriel.

“Absolutely not! You may fight us on telling her why we’re here, but business involving The Creator is far beyond anything I would allow you to share with a mere soldier!”

If what I thought I saw in her before was anger, then there isn’t a word to describe what she’s showing now. The Power in her is leaking out, far more than she means to. And if this is but a fraction of her power, she is not someone I want to have for an enemy.

A smile stretches across Zadkiel’s face as he looks at Puriel.

“My apologies. You are absolutely right.” He turns back to me. “This fallen host is hiding from The Presence. That is all I can tell you.” His eyes glimmered as if to add ‘for now’ to the end of that sentence.

Kushiel breaks their hovering formation and quickly flies to the other side of Rand, intensely studying the man.

“Tell me, Mr. Garrot, are you willing to lay down your life and soul for this mission?”

Rand barely moves, glaring at the large angel out of the corner of his eyes.

“Like I haven’t proved that already?”

Kushiel’s eyes narrow.

“Don’t be flippant. This is far beyond your petty squabbles with these lesser demons. You’ll need to be ready to fight a full-blown angel.”

I interrupt this rousing conversation.

“But he is fallen. He doesn’t have access to The Power. And unless he can venture down to the bottom of The Pit, he won’t be receiving any help from the Morning Star.”

“That is where the artifact comes into play,” Ariel says, in her relaxed voice.

“Indeed.” Muriel spoke next. “Tell me, Aluma, have you ever heard the human legend of Pandora’s Box?”

Human legends? What kind of nonsense is this? Rand must have seen my look of confusion because he took this opportunity to step in.

“Pandora’s box, Greek myth of a girl who opened an ancient box and let loose all the ills of the world. But the box also contained hope, keeping mankind ever determined to push past such problems.”

“Yes, in ways, very similar to the story of Eve eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge.” Muriel seemed to know much of human story telling.

I found the courage to speak.

“Okay, so you’re saying this box is real?”

“Degrees of truth, my dear.” Zadkiel took over again. I glance at Puriel, only to see her trying to contain her anger. But Lord Zadkiel just ignores it and keeps talking.

“There was an incident of someone opening a box and releasing something terrible. But the box didn’t contain ‘the world’s ills.’ Instead, it housed power. Tremendous power. Dark power.”

“And our job is to retrieve it from someone who is likely willing to use it against us?” Rand sounded annoyed.

Zadkie’s lips curl into a sly smile. Which is my clue that this is going to be beyond dangerous.

“Of course! Aluma is already tasked with the hunt for demons associated with the theft. What’s one more task for our beloved soldier?”

Seeking Dusk: Part 12

Looking around, the other craters have their own angelic beings float out. Each one is adorned in more ornate vestments than myself. With their staffs, sashes, and crown-like halos, The Dominion looked resplendent.  And I quickly became all too aware of my less than suitable clothing to be standing in their presence.

“Aluma Firebrand. We were not expecting to see you so soon.” One of them spoke.

She was to my far right. Her garments were accented with violet rubies. The small scepter she held was how she poured out the love of The Presence. Her halos burned with holy fire, casting harsh shadows on her face that did not immediately endear her to me.

“I received the announcement of your arrival, and immediately sought for your landing. I apologize if I was not meant to.” I spoke humbly, but with as much conviction as I could muster.

The same angelic host, who spoke before, looked confused.

“We did not send an announcement. Where did you get such information?”

Lord Zadkiel spoke. “I sent it to her. I felt we needed a soldier, one we could trust. And there is no host I trust more than the angel of courage. It is for the best, Puriel.”

The idea that Zadkiel thought so highly of me made me blush.

“Thank you, my lord.”

The other Dominion, whose name I now know is Puriel, looked upset. “We were to look into this matter ourselves before seeking any help. Those were our orders.”

“I agree with Zadkiel’s actions. We need help. It has been far too long since we’ve been on this lovely blue planet, and much has changed.” Another of The Dominion spoke, just to the right of Zadkiel. She was slender, her mouth curled into a playful smile. Her halo sat behind her head, looking like a rising sun.

“He should have consulted us! Do you understand the severity of the situation?” Puriel was not pleased.

“If I did not, I wouldn’t be here. The Five Dominion have not walked this planet together in eons. Please, do not mistake my agreement with Zadkiel as complacency.” The other angel spoke with soft words, that carried an unseen force. I felt more calm just from listening to her.

“Ariel, Puriel, enough! What’s done is done, and cannot be undone. But Zadkiel does not get off so easily. Decide now if we shall follow his plan and reveal why we are here.” The angel to my far left spoke, one I’m all too familiar with.

Kushiel, the angel who lead me through The Old War. He was large, made for battle. His right eye was slashed by the Morning Star himself and replaced with a new glowing eye of pure Light by The Presence.
“They are trying to decide. Let them work it out.” Muriel, a summer angel spoke next. Her sash appeared to float around her, the flowers in her hair seeming to spin.

To see all five of them here together… It is rarer than seeing two of the Archangels. And while it should be their decision, I must admit, I am curious as to why they’re here.
“Are you old dozy nutters going to get on with it? What are we here for?”

My head slow twists to the side, as I try to stare right through the human. Rand! What are you thinking, talking to them like that?!

All five of The Dominion turn to my human companion. Kushiel, Puriel and Muriel had looks of disdain. Ariel was curious. But it was Zadkiel that surprised me. He had an amused smile on his face, like the words Rand spoke came from an infant. Rand himself gave a rather menacing glare back at the group of powerful beings. An ant staring down an elephant.

“Aluma, illuminate us. Who is your friend here?” Zadkiel spoke with a playful melody in his words.

I lay my arm across my chest and bow a little in reverence when I speak.

“My apologies. This is Rand Garrow a particularly impressive human. He has the ability to tap into The Power and fight demons much like an angel. He has proven useful on past missions.”

“Your apologies are unnecessary. I have heard of this human. His reputation is most impressive indeed.” Zadkiel turns his attention back to me. “And more importantly, he is right. Whether or not my cohorts agree, I plan to tell you why we are here. We need your help.”

“Absolutely not! Zadkiel, are you-” Puriel’s words were cut off by the sight of the angel she was yelling at.

He didn’t move much. Just turned his head slightly. His facial expression didn’t even change. But the way his words came out, one had to wonder if he was really capable of it.

“Puriel, my dear. Reality might cease to exist and I will do whatever is necessary to prevent that. Whether that be letting a trusted host in on the conspiracy, or sending you straight to The Pit, it doesn’t matter to me. Just don’t get in my way…”

Seeking Dusk: Part 11

What am I to do? I ask myself as I float over the city.

My powerful wings flap, pushing on nothing as I am intangible to the air around me. Is that what I’ve become? A superfluous remnant of a time when I used to be necessary?

The war had changed. Mere soldiers were no longer enough, we now required diplomats and spies. We required compromise. I had seen such a thing happen in the realm of humans, but I never considered it would touch the holy war.

Eons of unchanging battle waged against the powers of The Adversary, and it is the introduction of humans to the fight that shifts the rules.

Thinking on it now, why am I surprised? We were told they were special. We were told to bow before the new apes. And it was the unyielding resolve of Lucifer that started all this.

I can see now. So many of the host may obey the command, but they don’t understand it. Humans are still young, weak and prone to far too much sin. But they can overcome that. Angelic hosts have no choice. We are what we are.

But we can learn.

I have to find Rand. I must apologize.

I swoop down closer to the ground, feeling for his energy. The bustling people below me make it slightly easier, since none have the kind of power Rand does. And yet I don’t feel him. He couldn’t be too far out of range, I should get a taste of his power somewhere around here, unless he’s intentionally hiding himself.

I return to the park, hoping he went back there to regroup, or just kill time protecting it. Despite flying all over, I feel nothing. Flying to the bridge, I wonder where he could be. There’s no way Dumah could have done something. He’s far too weak, as most creatures in The Milton are.

My search is cut short when I feel something new. It’s flying low. The energy is unnatural, but barely there. And worse I recognize it. It was beautiful, though I wonder how it found me here. The fluttering of its wings caught the light, refracting it in unnatural ways. As it landed upon my outstretched hand, I almost admired the form of such a creature. The butterfly was not real. It was a message.

The insect burst into sparks of light and faded; its job complete.

They were coming.

They don’t normally come down to earth. They normally speak directly with the Seraphim, Archangels and Principalities. Why they would come down to the planet is beyond me. Unless something were to threaten the very fabric from which reality is woven.

They are The Dominion. And they are my bosses. And they have me scared far more than anything else that has happened tonight.

I take off into the air, looking for a sign of their arrival. Scanning the skies, it shouldn’t be too difficult to see. They can be such drama queens, arriving with a bright light, or…

Off in the distance, I see them. Five shooting stars streaming across the sky. I have to find Rand. I have to warn him. I…

Why am I so scared? What have I done wrong? If the Dominion are here, it must be for another purpose. I’ve slain the first of the escaped demons. I fought and felled many a beast at that club last night. And they know nothing of the deals Rand has made with those lower creatures. I need to not worry.

Though I’d feel better if I knew Rand was safe.

I fly in the direction of the streaming lights. As I travel, my mind begins to wander. How could I have not known all the pain and sacrifice that lurked in Rand’s heart? His power is greater than many of the Host, and he fought hard to obtain it, so how is it when he starts dealing behind my back, I’m oblivious to what he had to fight?

Rand Garrow… They say fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I suppose that makes him a fool.

It flickers. Just for a moment, but a moment is all I need. Rand’s power turned on and off quicker than you could flip a light switch. It’s the perfect little message to get my attention. Which I can only hope isn’t because he’s in trouble. Oddly enough, it’s in the same direction as the stars that signaled the arrival of The Dominion. Why would Rand be over there?

There’s an old junk yard just outside of the city.  The meteors and Rand’s power converge there, from the looks of it. Piles of old cars, broken equipment, and some odd pieces of art litter the lot. I touch down quietly, still unsure if this is a trap. I may also be a little afraid my superiors would find me and while I don’t think I’ve done anything against the rules, I’d prefer to not take any chance with them.

I pull my energy back, hiding as much of it as possible. I can tell a little bit is still leaking out, but it’ll have to do. Skulking around the stacks of old cars, I look for a sign of Rand.

Row after row, I find nothing. No meteors, no Dominion, no sexy, British demon-hunters. This junk yard is just filled with junk, which I suppose is appropriate, but I still feel swindled. I look to the sky for the shooting stars The Dominion were riding. They were getting closer. So that’s one mystery, but where is Rand?

“’ello, Alli!”

“BY THE PRESENCE!” I turn quickly, to find Rand laughing his ass off. “RAND! What the hell is wrong with you?”

“It was too easy. You were so focused on the bright lights in the sky, you didn’t even detect me.”

I punch him in the shoulder. “Doesn’t help that you can suppress your power completely.”

“So what is with those stars anyway?”

“Right, you’ve never met them. You’re about to be special.”

“You mean I wasn’t before?” He gives me a wink. I let it slide.

“They are The Dominion. They’re above myself, and even some Archangels Think of them as-”

“Bureaucratic nightmares?”

“…Sounds about right.”

I turn my attention back to the sky. “So how did you know they’d land here?”

Rand takes a few steps forward, standing in line with me. He looks to the stars with me.

“Good, old-fashioned estimation. I could sense those weren’t natural and thought we might be in for a fight. Finding out we’re about to talk with your boss almost makes me wish that were true.”

“They’re about to land. Try to make yourself presentable.”

The meteors come in fast, crashing into the piles of junk around us. They slammed into the earth, making some brand new craters that this lot owner will have a fun time dealing with in the morning. I run forward to the largest, already knowing who’d I’d find.

He slowly floats up, his sash adorned with blue gems. His gray hair is slicked back into a ponytail. The halo above his head splits in the center, turning back and forth, lazily scanning the horizon.

I run toward him and kneel to his grace.

“Rise, Aluma. We have much to discuss.”

“As you wish, Lord Zadkiel”

Seeking Dusk: Part 10

I couldn’t stay around Rand any longer. I take off, flying into the night air. I need to clear my head and try to figure all this out. Rand was out of his mind.

He questioned The Presence? Willingly threw himself in league with lesser demons in the name of compromise? The words he speaks remind me of someone else. Someone who long ago thought to question our creator. And the Morning Star paid dearly for his transgressions.

I don’t want to see a good man, my friend, go through all that. But talking with him was impossible! He countered every argument I made, in his on twisted way! Dammit! He’s probably still mad. Still cleaning that mess. If only I could show him. Or talk with someone about it.

Actually, I do think I can do that second one.

The question is whether he will see me. I change direction and fly back to the office of Dr. Alexander Matthews.

I touch down just outside the doctor’s office. It was a strange sensation. Humility. I had angered him and been angry in turn on my last visit. That was a mere day ago. And here I am, already having to come back and ask for help. My foolish pride was going to bruise on this one.

I slide through the door, my spiritual form allowing me to bypass the wall. I’m sure he knows I’m here, it’s not like I’m hiding the energy flowing out of me. He’ll be down shortly.

The office still had all sorts of books and artifacts thrown about the room. The man might have acted all high and mighty, but he’s one hell of a pig. His bookshelves are a different story. Each and every volume was specifically chosen. Each one contains some of the most important information we’ve ever utilized. And a select few shelves contain the only pictures of friends and family he has. It’s actually a little sad. All those memories in his head and-

“Aluma. Back so soon?” The doctor had entered from the hall while my back was turned. Looked like he hadn’t changed out of his clothes from yesterday. Polo shirt tucked into some old jeans all partially hidden under his white lab coat.

The man retired years ago and patching up angels doesn’t exactly get you dirty. I suppose it’s habit. Though that means someone else was just here. Hell, they might still be.

“Of course, doc. You know I can’t stay away.” I walk over and take a seat in a chair he had in the corner of the room. I need to be calm. No insults. I need his help. Be modest, and apologetic.

“How’s the investigation with Rand going?” The doctor moves to his desk, sifting through the drawers. I can’t tell if he’s actually looking for something or just making it seem like he didn’t come in here for me.

“Hard to say. On one hand, we’re talking with someone who might know where to look. On the other, Rand has been making deals with this informant for some time.”

“Is that so? Who’s the informant?” His eyes never leave his desk. Is he really being this petty?

“A shame demon. He runs The Milton.” And here’s the reaction…

“Ah, yes, Dumah. Lucky he’s a coward, or many of your missions would have failed.” …You’ve got to be kidding me.

“You knew about this?” I don’t think it is possible for me to be more incredulous.

He finally looks up, straight at me, like I was the one who just said the completely crazy thing.

“Of course I did. I’m the one who told him where to find Dumah.”

“…I think you broke my brain.”

The old man gives a sigh.

“Aluma, I understand that you were created with the specific purpose of killing demons, but haven’t you ever wondered how we found out where their most secret compounds are? Haven’t you wondered why, despite proving so useful in The Old War, you haven’t moved up in rank?

“You are so narrow minded, and want to kill everything labeled ‘demon.’ There’s a big difference between demons and the fallen. Though they take similar paths to get there, demons started off as humans. Which gives them that freewill we were so special for.”

I can feel myself instinctively roll my eyes.

“So you’re trying to say demons aren’t all that bad. Oh gee, why didn’t I ever think of that? Thank you so much for showing the error of my ways. I’ll be sure to give the next demon I see a nice big hug.” I start to get up.

Desine

And I immediately freeze in place. Damn.

“Please sit.” The biggest downside to being an angel, is that you were made to serve.

I resume sitting, and the doctor continues his lecture.

“Aluma, you have to understand, as much as I wish we could just run out and kill every last bit of evil on the planet, that is not our duty. Ours is to hold back that tide of darkness for as long as we can.”

“I fail to see how protecting them helps us accomplish that…”

“We’re not letting them do as they please. Aluma, there will always be evil in this world, from now until judgment day. So in turn for letting small fish roam free, we can put our efforts towards stopping the bigger fish.”

“Well, even if I did believe that, that’s not the biggest issue I have. It’s Rand. He’s talking about wanting an end to the war.”

“Well my goodness, that most certainly does sound horrible.”

Okay, it kind of stings to have your own sarcasm thrown back in your face.

“Well, it’s just… I…”

The doctor finally sits at his desk and addresses me directly

“Tell me, Aluma. Why did you come here?”

I think over the question, genuinely wondering the same thing. What is it about Rand that bothers me? If he still has use of the Light, shouldn’t that mean he’s doing something right?

“… I’m lost.” It was painful to admit, but it needed saying. It was what Dr. Matthews was looking for. His proud little smirk tells me that.

“You’re a host of heaven. Not the Lord himself. It’s natural to lose your bearings and need guidance.”

I didn’t want him to be right. The Great Aluma reduced to this. Asking a human for help.

“What has Rand done to shake you? What of it has made him so compromising?”

“It’s the callous way he so quickly became trusting of those we considered enemies. Maybe they can be of use, but to me, they were just things we killed not too long ago. I haven’t been sneaking around the backs of other angels to get what I need. I’ve entered a new world where allies, enemies and tools can spring from nowhere, and just as easily switch what they mean to me. And somehow, I’m just supposed to accept all this?”

The doctor shifts forward in his chair, his face showing concern. This hasn’t been easy for him either.

“It takes getting used to, but I can speak from experience on this matter. You want so badly for things to be one way. Black and white. But time with the angels of our Lord has taught me of the shades of gray plaguing my previous assumptions. While I might not always claim to understand the actions taken by such heavenly beings, I can tell you I either trust them, or call them out. Which do you think this deserves? What has Rand done?”

I can’t answer. I can’t say he’s compromised his ideals, since his first and foremost goal was protecting mankind as I have. I can’t say hiding these dealings from me, since even I can see, and am currently proving, I would take the news so poorly. I can’t respond.

“Aluma, why don’t you go get some air? I’ll send for you if I hear movement on more of the demons.”

I obey.

Seeking Dusk: Part 9

Most of the creatures are smart. They fled off into the night after the death of the lead vampire. The few scragglers who wanted to stand their ground would soon know why I am feared among their kind. Why my sword is the bane of their masters. And why my temper is something not to be trifled with.

I grip the hilt of my sword tighter and prepare the descent to-

“ALUMA!!”

Dammit. It’s Rand. He’s standing just out of the door of the club, arms crossed, wearing the face of a disappointed parent.

The other beasts notice the second holy warrior and run away.

“Don’t you ‘Aluma’ me! These creatures laid a trap for us!”, I cry out.

“That you willingly walked into. Did you even consider asking for help? Did you think when you maimed a dozen human souls without the mercy of a swift death?”

I float down slowly, my anger far too focused on my friend for me to go faster.

“You don’t get to judge me, Garrow! How long have you been coming here?! How long have you been making deals with the darkness? You offered what I could never condone. Was I to ignore that? I leave and they ambushed me. They wished to cause me harm. Yes, the vampire gave them courage to attack, but they’re the ones who wanted to. I refuse to let a mortal judge me for defending myself, especially against such an attack by the lowest of beasts.”

I touch down right in front of him. He’s thinking. Thinking about what happened here. About my words. He’s trying to find a way to turn this around. To find a way I could have avoided violence. But he knows there is none. Humans. Ever hopeful.

“You still could have come and got me.”

“I didn’t think I had the time with a wendigo at my throat.”

“No, you just didn’t think.” He turns to one of the wounded creatures. He points his hand at the beast and lets his energy pour out. The bright white beam shooting out his hand envelopes the monster and when he’s finished, there is no more.

“I’m going to take a while cleaning up here. Go patrol. We’ll rendezvous-”

“No.”

He turns and faces me.

“Excuse me?”

“You’ve been acting so morally superior all day.  What is wrong with you?”

He looks around, slightly annoyed. He doesn’t get to play this game.

“Tell me Rand. Something happened between last night and this morning. Hell, something happened in the last few years. When I was last on assignment, you never would have gone to The Milton alone. You never would have defended these monstrosities.” He turns back around. I won’t let him escape so easily. “You never would have lied to me.”

“I didn’t-”

“Don’t start. Those marks on your arm this morning weren’t from a dog. It’s my turn to tell you to stop being stupid and tell me what’s wrong.”

He sighs. His head moves from left to right, surveying the carnage I wrought.

“I’m tired, Alli. Tired of fighting. Tired of this war.”

Is that all?

“You’re only human. An absolutely amazing one, but still human. Been fighting for, what, 10? 15 years? I’ve been at this for eons. Since the Morning Star first fell. The doctor isn’t as active-”

“No. I’m tired of this war. Tired of seeing pointless blood be spilled.”

Surprise doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.

“Rand… this is far from pointless.”

“Sure it is. One ideology versus another. Good and evil are merely-”

“Don’t you dare blaspheme around me, Garrow!”

“Alli, we want to protect humans, yet here are souls, wounded by your own blade. I can only purify so many before I get exhausted. Our God chooses to leave them to the wolves.”

“He leaves them to us. And we are-”

“Warriors. Spillers of blood. Violence is our nature, and he expects us to be equipped to heal the very warped souls he orders us to destroy?”

“He expects us to do our best.”

“Then I will. And if that involves me making deals and allies you don’t like, don’t complain to me.”

This is insanity. How could he have lost so much faith in The Presence? 

“Garrow…”

“Don’t you ‘Garrow’ me. Humans are born into a trap. Our world pains us. Teases us. Brings us down.”

“You at least have freedom.”

He walks over to the next creature and extends his hand.

“Freedom to choose how we die.”

The white energy fires from his hand.

Seeking Dusk: Part 8

The lead vampire puts his hand stretched out into the air. I could feel him gathering energy into it. Absorbing bits of power from the other creatures. Three vampires, a wendigo, and two animali. Those would inspire lots of fear in any other hunter.

I start trying to tug out of my body. This is going to take a bit. Picking this fight was a bad idea.

Without warning, one of the animalus shifts into his true form, a wolf, and starts jumping down from the fire escape he was perched on. My attention is focused on the beast as it descends, but I forgot about the vampire. He throws the ball of destructive force at me, leaving barely enough time to react. I jump to the side and fall behind a dumpster as the energy explodes and sends chunks of concrete in the air.

This body is so damn annoying. I’ve got my head and shoulders out, but the rest of me is still stuck in here. The wolf is on the ground, but where is his companion?

“CRAHHH!”

Oh wonderful. He’s an eagle. And he’s divebombing right for me. I get up and run towards the wolf. He roars at me and lunges. Got to time this just right…

I jump and step on the wolf’s head for added momentum. Pushing with all my strength, I break free of the false body. It falls to the ground. Going to be pretty dinged up when I return it. If I return it.

In midair, I extend my free wings and quickly spin around, drawing my sword. Holding it out just in time, I block the bird from hitting me. He knocks me back a bit. Even without drawing on The Power, he shouldn’t have been able to do that. Still, just a shrug.

“GRA-ha! I wonder what Angel tastes like?” The other two vampires tackle me while I was dealing with the eagle, and latched onto my body. The air isn’t safe when four of the things I’m fighting can fly. They pulled me down a little. This is getting to be too much. One started going for my neck. Dammit.

My body lights up, engulfed in holy fire. The vampires are thrown back, burning to ash from the experience. My armor materializes. While I should now have the upper hand, this shouldn’t have been necessary.

“There it is. That’s what we came to see.” The last vampire was laughing from atop the building. I shoot a dirty look to the monster. He just smirks back.

I aim straight for the ground and slam my sword as hard as I can into the wolf. He dodges at the last minute. Something isn’t right. These creatures should know that with this power I could annihilate them all. Why aren’t they running?

“The prototype can’t give these beasts enough strength to bring you down, but I have a feeling I know what will.” The lead vampire puts two fingers to his lips and whistles. A group of about a dozen and a half more supernatural beasts pile outside from the door. He had backup hiding in the club.

They should still be nothing, but then that eagle was supposed to be nothing. The doctor’s words echo in my head. Courage doesn’t have to mean stupidity. Damn humans…

A good number of those reinforcements can fly. And if they’re as unnaturally strong as the vamps and animali, I have less than a second. A thousand and one ideas all go rushing through my mind. And the simplest one sticks out.

Take out the ringleader.

I push The Power just a bit more, the wave of light shoving the beasts away from me. I speed towards the top of the building keeping out of reach of the now ascending monsters. I ready my sword to rend that vampire’s head from his shoulders. I barely noticed the oddly cold wind brushing against my face….

I’m hit and knocked to the side. The wendigo tackled me in midair.

“They aren’t very bright, but they do make such lovely pets, wouldn’t you say, Host?” I hate vampires. Always so damn cocky.

I struggle with beast during the descent, which I was able to slow just a bit. The deranged human looking fiend kept gnashing at me. I finally spin and throw him off, just in time to see the group of monsters flying up at me.

I am not prepared for this. I should have ran. I should have called for Rand. I never should have agreed to this idea in the first place. I should never have sat there wishing for the bar to attack just so I could wipe them out.

The beasts finally reach me. I start slashing. Each cut is made without conscious thought. Instinct kicks in. It feels like it did during the war. That horrible war. Battle after battle.

It was cruel. I didn’t kill most of them. Sliced off an arm here. A leg there. I finally did stab that harpy at the end. It didn’t last long. One second, they were charging me. The next they were falling out of the sky. That harpy looked at me with a tear in its eye. But I could feel no pity.

“You realize they’re all part human, right? That each one is a soul. And because of your sword, none of them will reach your beloved heaven.”

I look up to the vampire. I see him smile that damned smile.

That did it. I point my sword back up at the vamp. I didn’t say a word. I didn’t make a sound. I manipulated The Power in a way I haven’t in so long. One instant ago I was halfway between the top of the building and the ground. No time passed. I was just there. Behind the vampire. My sword already sliced through his neck. His head fell the long way down towards the other beasts. They lost their leader. They lost their controller. And they knew fear of me once again.

Seeking Dusk: Part 7

“Are you two done?” Dumah said as we re-entered the room.

He looked annoyed. Or at least I think he did. It’s difficult to tell emotions under that slime.

“Dumah, we can discuss terms. But how do we know you can make good on your end of the deal?” Rand crosses his arms, trying to look tough, but I bet we’ve lost ground.

“You’ve got no choice. You’re desperate if you came to me for help.”

Rand scoffs at the suggestion.

“You’re stop number 1, mate. Don’t get me wrong, I figured you most likely had the information, but we haven’t knocked on any other doors yet. We’re far from desperate.”

Dumah scans Rand’s face, trying to detect any hint of lies. He shifts to me, almost imploring me to tell him the truth.

“He’s honest. We’ve not questioned anyone else yet. But Rand guessed you’d be our quickest option.”

Dumah sets his drink down and curses under his breath.

“Fine. You want proof?” He reaches into his jacket’s inner pocket, pulling out black smoke. He lays it on the bar.

I step closer, trying to figure out what it is, when Rand puts his hand in front of me.

“Don’t. It’ll make you sick.”

This human is getting on me nerves.

Rand steps forward and holds his other hand out. As he does, a light shines out from his hand, purifying the energy surrounding the item.

The smoke dissipates, revealing a stone totem. Enochian runes are carved into it, denoting a demand for payment.

“Someone is calling in a favor?” Rand asks.

Dumah sighs.

“I don’t know the three demons you’re looking for. But I know who called them. Because he called me too.”

Rand takes another step forward, when Dumah, snatches the stone up and puts it back in his pocket.

“You have my proof. Now I need your word. My person. My establishment. Both under your protection.”

I shake my head.

“I can’t give my word about that. It’s not possible for an Angel to swear to protect a demon, even one as lowly as you.”

“Then you have nothing for me. There’s nothing you have that I want besides to live.”

I’m about to make a threat, when Rand steps in again.

“What if we do?”

Dumah and I are surprised and each of us gives Rand a strange look.

He continues.

“What if we have something you want more than protection for your bar?”

Dumah laughs at the suggestion.

“You’re looking to stop a war, and will probably start one instead. What could I possibly want more than survival?”

His phrasing intrigues me. I’m just here to hunt demons. What makes him think it will start a war?

“A source of true obsidian.”

Dumah stops laughing. I stand up. Rand, you cannot be serious.

“You’re lying.” Dumah is quiet, but curious.

“You could outlast whatever war you’re afraid of. You could outlast even our winged friend here.”

I don’t move. I can’t. How did Rand find it?

“You’re promising me the source of the Devil’s Mirror?”

Rand takes a seat and puts his feet on the table.

“No. I’m offering to get you a piece. A very small one. Enough that you can weather the storm.”

Dumah considers it. Even if he doesn’t use it all, a small piece would be more than enough to buy him a piece of the pie.

I can’t stay here. I start walking to the door, when Rand notices me.

“Alli! Where are you going?”

“I need air. And I have nothing I can offer. Get our information and don’t do anything stupid.”

Rand looks down and back up. Before he can say anything, I speak again.

“You better know what you’re doing. Because if this goes south, it’s on you now.”

I leave the room and cross the club to exit again. The whole building is awash in dark energy and it’s making me sick. I finally make it back out to the alley and take a seat next to the wall. Feels good to breathe again.

The idea of Rand cutting deals feels horrible. How long has he been doing this? Has he given them true obsidian before?

And why do I feel like shit?

I have to wonder if I ever really knew him at all. I’ve lived for millennia and known Rand for only ten years. Why does this feel like a betrayal of a brother?

He isn’t even doing anything officially wrong. If he was, The Presence would have stripped him of his powers. So he has to be doing something right, right?

Damn it, Aluma. Stop being so melancholy.

“Out for a nice stroll, host?” a voice yells in the distance.

That’ll do it. I jump to my feet and look around for the source of the voice.

“Up here!” it calls out.

Up on the building across from me, stand shadowy figures. Looks to be about six of them, though more might be hiding nearby. They’re all low-level creatures and shouldn’t be able to sense me. Dumah barely could and he was suspicious enough to suspect me. Something isn’t right.

“Well boys, you found yourself an angel. Now what are ya going to do?” I shouldn’t be taunting them. It’ll take me a bit to get out of this body. They have the upper hand.

“I think we should play a game. What do you all say?” Vampire was doing the talking. The fact they knew I was here should put me on edge, but all I could do was fight back a smile.

“If you really want to play, I’m game.”

Seeking Dusk: Part 6

This is a horrible idea. My wound has pretty much healed, enough so that Rand removed the spirit thread. Still, I’m not at full power and don’t like the idea of being ambushed.

I also don’t like the idea of Rand dealing with demons. Lesser demons are borne of negative human emotion, while stronger demons used to be human souls themselves. They represent a deep corruption of everything The Presence had made. And Rand cuts deals with them like nothing.

Rand went inside the building, while I sat on top of a neighboring roof looking down. We can’t risk any of them being strong enough to sense me, so I hide inside the false body. He gave me a little radio to listen to him inside, his silly gadgets proving useful for once.

It crackles on, his voice coming through a little grainy.

“If you’ll just step out here, we can talk.”

“This is very annoying Garrow! Why couldn’t we just speak inside?”

And there’s Rand. He was exiting the back of the building with what looked like a normal human. But I knew better. The slimy aura coming off him was unmistakably a Shame Demon. As Garrow leads him outside, I start my descent. I jump from the roof and grab on to a fir escape on the opposite building. I slide down a little before jumping back across touching on a windowsill and pushing off to take a few steps off the wall. I’m behind the demon, hopefully keeping myself hidden, and overhear their conversation.

“Well, you see Dumah, we have a bit of an issue.”

“I have no issue.”

“You weren’t part of the ‘we’ I’m talking about.”

Oh, thank you, Rand for setting up such a perfect introduction. I take another leap off the wall, close enough that I can land. While the false body replicates being human, it’s a little more durable. I land behind Garrow, hoping to spook our friend.

Instead, he is thoroughly unimpressed.

“What do you want, host?”

I was really hoping for a bit more cowering, but I suppose we can’t have everything.

“You don’t seem surprised?”

“Your power flows through the air, even when you think it concealed. Took me a minute to figure out what it was, but I understood once Garrow here started acting suspicious.”

“Aw, and here I was thinking I was so sneaky.” Rand has a weird smirk on his face. He knows something I don’t. Hate when that happens.

“So, what do you two heavenly warriors want with a worm like me?”

I guess Dumah doesn’t have too high an opinion of himself.

“Well, my lovely winged friend here was wondering if you’ve heard of anyone wanting to escape the pit.”

Dumah’s face barely changes, registering our query. He’s thinking, probably wondering if we’re deadlier than a higher demon. Maybe we aren’t but we’re the ones who can kill him right now.

“What, in particular, are you referring? Plenty have schemes for what they’d do if they escaped, not realizing you would send them to the void if they did.” He gestures to me. “So, if you could narrow it down for me, I’ll see if I can be of some service. And make it quick, I have customers waiting in there.”

This time, I take the initiative. “How about something along the lines of three demons with enough power to warrant me willing to talk to you and some unknown way to hide their power while possessing a human?”

Dumah’s eyes go wide. Almost afraid they’ll pop out of his head.

“Ah, shit…”

“I take it you know something, then?” Rand is far too pleased with himself. I can’t blame him, it’s good we have someone who knows something.

“We can’t talk out here. I have a sealed private room. Come with me.”

He leads us inside the club, the security guard inside giving me a dirty look until Dumah waves him off. While I got some better fitting clothes, I still don’t think I’m properly dressed for a night on the town.

Walking through this place makes me sick. It’s not just demons. It’s vampires, werewolves, sirens. A chill in the air tells me a wendigo is somewhere among them. These perversions of humanity were just here, pretending to be human. Hell, some people might actually be human and unaware of what stands around them, but most of the humans have to know.

There’s a private back room, spiritually sealed from attack and eavesdropping. I’m rather impressed. I can’t sense anything through it. I suppose this is why Dumah wanted to bring us in here.

In the private room, is an office, set up with a private bar on an opposite wall.

Dumah walks behind and pulls a bottle out.

“Drinks?”

“I’m fine.” I quickly state. By now, Rand has noticed me fidgeting.

“I’ll take a shot of whiskey.” Really?

I shoot him a dirty look.

“What?” he says. “If I’m going to be stuck with your bad mood, I may as well enjoy myself.”

“Surprised you don’t drink around me more, then.” I turn my attention back to our demon. “Tell me, what do you know about the demons I’m hunting?”

Dumah sits down and slides Rand’s drink over. The demon is drinking what looks to be pure Everclear.

“You two are a little in over your head.”

Rand downs his shot and wipes his mouth. “So we’ve gathered. Skip the warning and get to what we’re here for.”

“I’m going to need more than some idle threats.”

“I can make them less idle if you want.”

“Quiet, Alli.” Rand shoots me a dirty look before turning back to the demon. “What are you looking for exactly?”

He glances at me before addressing Rand. “I need assurance of protection for myself and my establishment.”

“Like hell we will!”

“Aluma…”

“No! I refuse to protect this slimeball-“

“Well thanks. I’m right here…”

“-and this horrid place he operates! All his clientele are the worst kind of scum in that they not only commit unspeakable acts, but lie through their teeth to escape retribution!”

“I’m sorry Dumah, please excuse us.” Rand gets up, grabs my arm and leads me out the door. If I weren’t trapped in this damn doll I’d make him pay.

“Alli, what are you doing?”

“Chewing out a demonic being. See how I didn’t slice his head off? I think I’m showing a lot of restraint.”

“We need his information.”

“And I need to kill some demons.”

“You agreed to go about this the smart way, did you not?”

“…yes”

“Now, can you do me a favor and let me do the talking?”

“You know I’m bound by my word. And I don’t want to protect this piece of-“

“Then don’t! We’re here to bargain. So bargain. Make your own demands. Set your own terms.”

I pause. I guess that makes sense.

My look of confusion must have given away my thoughts.

“Have you seriously never considered that?” Rand asks, incredulously.

“I’m a warrior. I’m not often in situations to bargain!”

“I can’t believe you’ve lived for millennia and never considered…” He trails off, but quickly comes back, “Let me do the talking. I won’t make you agree to anything you don’t want to do.”

“Fine. Just don’t expect me to not come back here when this is all over and wipe out every monster here.”

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