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?”