Rumors Of War
War In Heaven
Keith stood before the devil grinning broadly, his eyes twinkling in the bright light. Though I still did not share his humor about the situation, I admired his courage, especially when faced with the mask of rage that Lucifel wore. I would not be able to hold the same smile under any circumstances when faced with such eyes, tearing into my soul with unholy fervor.
But when those eyes came to rest upon me, I was surprised to find that I didn't shrink back, but instead I matched her fervor with my own. When my eyes met hers, every memory I had of her, from both my own mind and that of Michael's, came to me in a flood of pain and misery that somehow only seemed to fuel the fire of my courage. I was not going to be cowed by that witch, even if she was about to kill me. Nor was I going to be cowed by Shatan, who had followed us from the brig and now took his place beside Lucifel, who eyed his bandaged wounds with contempt. Not contempt for him, but for us, the source of all her problems.
Even before she said anything, I knew what was coming. This was the moment she had been waiting for, waiting for eons to see come to fruition. I knew as Michael had that she had always wanted to lead the forces of Heaven. She had always seen herself as the Empress, and could not settle for second in command. She was going to make my execution public, a show of strength to those who had exiled her, and she would then have the momentum she needed to seize the control that she craved.
It didn't even matter that she knew I wasn't really Michael. The people didn't know, and that was what mattered. The people would see their beloved commander, the man she despised, torn down like he was nothing. She hated him, surely, but not as much as she hated his image. This was about destroying that more than it was about killing him.
She spoke, and the emotion behind her words confirmed everything that I had surmised. "Ah, the High Druid once again graces my halls. I had extended my hospitality to you once, Master Morgan, and this is how you repay me?" she asked with venom dripping from every word, "You come to assassinate me, and in the company of my greatest enemy no less? We're going to have to make an example out of you."
"Hospitality?" Keith responded incredulously, "if I remember correctly, you took us hostage to protect us from Michael, but we both know that you had different plans. You used us as leverage with the demon king, to get the alliance you needed to draw Michael out of hiding. This was your end goal all along."
Lucifel smirked as she replied, "You're perceptive for a human…"
Keith interrupted her, and smiled wider at the flash of barely contained fury in her eyes as he did so. "Ah yes, bring my humanity into this. Humans have been how you've survived since your exile to Earth," he stated firmly and then sarcastically added, "I'm a little confused as to why you are repaying our hospitality with genocide."
"Humans, all of you, are vile creatures," she replied without missing a beat, "You break your oaths faster that you can make them. Your sexual deviance is without match, but of course, you and the whore Verina know all about that, don't you?"
"Ah, so you're aware of that little bit of information, are you?" Keith answered, refusing to be provoked by her insults, and instead using his sarcasm he tossed another barb her way, "Well, I'm glad I could piss you off with my offspring. The child isn't even born yet and he's already made an enemy of the Devil. You can tell it's definitely mine."
"Yes, I'm sure when we rip the child from her womb it will look just like you," Lucifel smiled wickedly, "Of course, it's not like you're the first deviant in your line. Maybe we should start from the top and work our way down."
"That would be a little difficult, don't you think?" Keith deflected the horrific threat, "I'm the only member of my family left. You'd have to raise the dead if you want to kill them again."
"Hah!" she replied with contempt, "You mean you really don't know?"
"I'm afraid not," Keith answered with a roll of his eyes, "Perhaps you could enlighten me?"
"Well, I already killed the first one," Lucifel admitted casually, "Michael's father tried to rape me, and he died trying. And we already killed the real Michael, though you'll do in a pinch, Damien…"
"How did you know?" I interrupted, though I was only slightly shocked that she had been able to piece it together. After all, with Keith's cover blown it was only a matter of time that she reasoned out my identity. No one else was left to fulfill the role.
"That's hardly relevant anymore, Damien," Keith answered instead, with a nonchalant shrug. Though the grin hadn't left his face, it had weakened somewhat, and his eyes had the sparkle of challenge in them as he went on, "She knows, and that's all that matters. What I'm more concerned with is the lies she's telling me about Michael being my ancestor."
"If Belial had done his duty and killed Lumial like I ordered, then you wouldn't exist, Keith Morgan," she began to explain, and then with the same wicked gleam she clarified, "Or perhaps I should say that Lancelot would have never existed. The man who raped Pen'Arthrun's wife who then gave birth to Morganna."
"That's a lie!" Keith replied angrily, and this time the grin disappeared as he insisted, "He would have told me!"
"Let's bring him here and ask him the truth shall we? He has to be here for his execution anyway," she suggested with a dismissive wave of her hand, and then a glare at Belial to tell him that she was serious. Belial bowed quickly and left, though his face said that he would rather be doing anything else. Lucifel turned her attention back to Keith and asked, "Why would he have done that? Risk his position with the demons just to tell you the truth?"
"No, you're right, he wouldn't do that," Keith admitted, and he was forcing the grin back on his face as he added, "But I have asked him if he knew anything about that time, before. He said he wasn't there. He wouldn't lie to me."
"Lumial lies quite often," Lucifel insisted, "He did it to me, his own mother; do you really think that you're exempt?"
"If that's really the case," Keith replied, this time the grin back in its fullness, "then we should start at the top, right? That means I should start with you!" The guards standing next to Keith were suddenly nowhere near him as he pushed them away with his mind. They hit the wall with enough force that both appeared winded, and I made a quick prayer to whatever gods were listening that they would be kept from the fight for a moment.
I followed suit with a push of my own, but I chose to lift my guards up into the air instead, smashing them first into the ceiling and then dropping them to the floor. It did the trick and they too seemed out of the fight for the moment. As fatigue already began to strike me, I was reminded that I had to pace myself. The fight was far from over.
The rest of the guards in the room had already begun to open fire by the time I recovered, but Keith had already anticipated the move. He was pushing the flaming hot discs back through the air, piercing flesh as he did so. While none of the projectiles were touching him, he was quickly dropping soldier after soldier to the floor as they were pierced by their own bullets. The master of telekinesis was in his element, and I was more impressed than I had ever been.
Shatan was on the move, however. He was dodging the few projectiles that Keith managed to send his way, anticipating their paths before they were even sent. Slowly but surely, he was getting even closer to Keith. Lucifel dove behind her throne for cover, and Keith turned his attention fully to the demon instead.
In a moment of inspiration, I used my telekinesis to pull one of the wounded guards' weapons into my hands, and started unleashing a barrage in Shatan's direction. The demon began to move even quicker, though I was glad to see that his wounds were making him move with less agility than he was used to.
Keith, smiling as he took the hint, grabbed a weapon of his own and did the same, somehow managing to maintain his telekinetic control to push the projectiles coming toward him out of the air. I wasn't able to match that level of skill, and as one of the discs grazed my leg, I yelped in pain and started firing back at the guards, taking my attention off of Shatan.
And that was all that the demon needed to start gaining ground on Keith again, making the druid start to look worried, despite the grin on his face. "Damien," He spoke to my mind, "I don't think we're going to make it. He's gaining on me, and I'm losing steam fast."
"I think I can draw him off," I replied as an idea struck me. I pulled on another one of the guns but held it aloft and at an angle that would be in line to fire at Lucifel. I didn't have the level of control that Keith had in order to be able to manipulate the gun from a distance, but the bluff paid off anyway. Even as I let the weapon clatter to the ground harmlessly, Shatan was diving between the weapon and Lucifel, turning his back on Keith as he did so. The druid took the opportunity and took shot after shot into the demon's back. I followed suit, and soon Shatan was down, his black scales covered in blood and burns.
It took me a moment to realize that he was no longer moving, and for a moment it seemed as if time had stopped as everyone in the room stared at Shatan's unmoving body in disbelief. Everyone except Lucifel, that is. While the rest of us focused on Shatan, she moved forward, grabbing a gun from one of her fallen soldiers and turned it toward Keith, unleashing a sudden stream of the metal discs his way.
He was caught off guard, and before he could even think to start deflecting them several had already pierced his flesh. He went down as the other guards recovered their wits and fired at him as well. Forgetting about anything else, I rushed to his side and started deflecting the projectiles as well as I could, but I was already tired and I knew I couldn't keep it up for long.
That's when it ended. "Stop!" Lucifel ordered, and the weapons fire ceased immediately. I stopped paying attention to them and turned entirely to Keith, his body covered in as many holes as Shatan's had been. Even as the remaining guards surrounded me I kept my focus on him, but there was nothing to be done. He was dead, and we had lost.
For only a moment, I was on the verge of tears as reality sunk in, but then something inside me changed. The guns pointed at my head became unimportant. The pain from where I had been grazed seemed to stop, and I became fixated on one thing and one thing only; the smile frozen on Keith's lips. He had known he was going to die, and he met it the way he had wanted to.
I looked up and met Lucifel's eyes, hers filled with white hot rage that suddenly gained a bit of confusion as I smiled back at her. I understood. It was time to meet my death, but I wasn't going to let her beat me as I did so. By the time I straightened up to face her again, I was grinning just as broadly as Keith had.
This was going to be fun.
There was little I paid attention to over the next few minutes except Lucifel. I watched her pained expression as she stared at Shatan's body being removed to the medical bay. She hoped she'd be able to revive him, but I knew that the damage to his body was quite extensive. It might be beyond even Eve's capabilities.
I knew that she was waiting for Belial to come back with Lumial so that she could execute us publicly. There was no need for telepathy to tell me the mix of emotions I could see in her eyes. She was sincerely hurt by Shatan's death, but she was also excited for the upcoming events. It was a mix of everything that she had ever wanted with the moments she had also been dreading. She wanted control, sure, but she was less than pleased with the path that had taken her there.
Like always, she couldn't keep her thoughts to herself for long, but unusually for her, she had none of her close confidants nearby. With Belial dismissed and Shatan dead, she had no one to turn to. I watched her fidget for a moment until she finally addressed me. "You are one stupid human."
"What makes you say that?" I asked sweetly. The grin on my face didn't even feel unnatural anymore. There was a sick joy to be found in taunting her, and I found that I couldn't help myself.
"You thought that you could pull off the guise of an angel," she answered bitterly, "I suppose the irony is that you managed to accomplish something that has been Michael's goal for some time."
"Killing your accomplice?" I replied, though it was more of a jab than a question. It had its desired effect, and her anger visibly increased. Getting her agitated was a lot more fun than I had originally thought it would be.
"Shatan was the only real person I've ever worked with, and you will pay for his death," she vowed, and I knew that she meant it. "It was a pleasure having your father executed and pinning it on Michael, and I'm looking forward to doing the same to you. I think it's time that we started your execution, but let's make it public, shall we? You may not be Michael, but you're wearing his skin, and that's good enough for the angels. They won't be able to tell the difference."
Lucifel made a few quick orders to Eve, telling the ship to broadcast the surveillance from the room to the entire fleet of angel ships. She looked at me with wicked anticipation as she sensed her impending triumph. This moment was the one that would bring it all together for her. The one that would make it all worth it.
I vowed then to do everything in my power to make sure that it didn't turn out the way that she wanted. Especially with the sudden revelation that she had ordered my father's death, I couldn't let her win.
"Now that Raphael has given me the information I needed to expose you for the liar that you are," she began in her most authoritarian voice. Now that the fleet was watching her, she had to convince them that I was Michael and not some imposter, a fact that she attempted to make clear as she added, "my son and I are ready to lead the people you have betrayed, Michael."
"He's a lot like you," I whispered, though the thought was not entirely my own. It came from deep inside of Michael's memories, but I was starting to treat them as my own. It was getting difficult for me to differentiate between what was my thought and what was his.
Lucifel regarded me coldly, her eyes filled with the same chilling fury that she had always had. With a challenge in her voice she replied, "Though I'm sure I won't like it, what makes you say so? Is it our good looks? Or perhaps propensity to do what is called for to create a better future? It is you who indoctrinated Raphael, dearest Michael, not I. You wouldn't let me anywhere near him, if I recall."
I laughed, loudly, and it only infuriated her more. I was done with the entire ordeal. Keith's body still lay on the floor, in a pool of his own blood, and the sight of it brought me back from my madness. There wasn't anything left for them to take from me, and I certainly couldn't handle the ship full of her soldiers without my allies, and the last of them would soon be captured. I had nothing left to lose.
"I would say… the ease with which he chooses who to serve. How quick he is to betray me," I replied just as coldly. I had decided that I would play the role that she had assigned me, and I would play it well, but it was a move that she hadn't been expecting. Her eyes widened in shock and outrage, and I was certain that she was on the edge of killing me where I stood.
"I betrayed you?" She replied indignantly. Her voice carried more anger than I had ever heard from her, in either mine or Michael's memory. If I hadn't already resigned myself to my death, I would have recoiled in fear, but instead I held my ground, even as she continued. "You, who decided that killing me was better than seeking an explanation when you found me with Shatan. You, who allowed the family to be broken up because you couldn't stand a difference in opinion. You, who made love to a human woman just to get back at me! Who is the traitor here, Michael? You brought the High Druid into our midst to assassinate me…"
"No." I interrupted her. While the human side of me understood her side of things, and her perspective, the angel side did not. It was infuriated. "I listened to the entire conversation you had with Shatan that day. I had followed right on his heels when he captured you. I heard you pleading for your life, and that you would do anything, even if it meant selling the entire fleet to the demons. I heard you tell him how you murdered my father just to put us in a better position. I heard you tell him that you'd kill me too if it meant that Shatan would spare your life. You think that I arrived just in time to hear you speak of making the world a better place for angels and demons to live together? Pah! If that had been all that you were conspiring about, I would have heard you out, but that was never your plan, was it?"
I was almost amazed when the color began draining from her face, and the look of fury in her eyes became something that I had never seen before. Horror. I didn't let it slow me down though, and I pushed forward with my verbal attack. "And I was the one who let the family fall apart? You convinced Belial that your intentions were pure and dragged him with you. You ordered him to kill my son, the son who adored you, just because he had chosen to wait out our squabble instead of following you. Just minutes ago you ordered him brought to you to be killed again! The only family I had left to me was the fanatic who preached holy fervor better than I ever did, and he did it out of his lust for power, which you gave him."
She was pressed far back into her throne, doing everything she could to get away from me, and I realized then that I had taken several steps forward. The guards that tried to step in between us were being held back by some invisible force, and it took me a moment to realize that I was doing it with my telekinesis. I hadn't done so consciously, and the realization almost made me stop what I was doing, but the power of Michael's memories drew me back to Lucifel, who was practically quivering with fear.
Somehow, even though she knew that I was not really Michael, I had her convinced that I was. As soon as I realized the effect recalling those memories was having on her, I almost danced with glee, but I managed to restrain myself and continue to push the advantage I had miraculously found.
"As for that human woman you spoke of, you are right that I made love to her, but it certainly wasn't out of spite to you. Unlike you, I came to the realization that it would be better to find common ground, and so I created some. I didn't love her, I only made that mistake with you, but she was perfect for the cause. She was pure and innocent, and strong enough to raise the child that came from our union. That child became one of the most influential people in history, until you convinced the humans to kill him. It was you who killed my fourth son, just like you killed my eldest, and you definitely did that out of spite. Your plan was foiled when I managed to bring him back, and he became even more of an influence on humankind! Of course, you killed him again, and made sure he stayed dead…" I took a deep breath and calmed myself, and then in a level voice I continued, "I betrayed you? You make me sick, thinking like that. Everything I've done has been for our people, no,my people. You forsook them long ago."
"Every step of the way, when I was trying to create the future you proclaimed to want, where we all lived together and got along, you were the one that was there to throw a wrench in the gears. When I tried to unite the people in one common set of beliefs, tried to get them to love each other, you managed to get them to do the opposite. My youngest son taught them to love one another, and instead you've held on to the old ways, and twisted his words to make them hate each other. Every time I tried to instill the same beliefs, through a new human that I thought could lead the people, you managed to corrupt it. Raphael did the same, with his fanatical belief that he is better than the humans, and I'm not surprised he's turning out just like you. It's too bad you didn't take him with you and left Belial with me. I understand my son now, when I didn't before. He and Lumial should be the ones to lead the people."
My rant was done, but I knew it would be of no use, Lucifel was starting to get herself together for a response even as I stood there, a few feet from her. If I had the heart to, I could have killed her, but it wasn't in my nature, and I was surprised to find that it wasn't in Michael's either. As I stood there, staring down at her, I was filled with nothing more than the pain of what had happened, the pain she had inflicted on me, true, but it wasn't excuse enough to kill her. I didn't see how it would have done me any good, surrounded as I was by her loyal followers. They would just bring her back. She would always be back.
The door slid open, and I sighed as I realized that it was probably Belial and Raphael coming back. My suspicions were confirmed as Lucifel screamed, in a mixture of fear and rage, "Belial! Kill him! Kill Michael, before he kills me!"
"I sincerely doubt that there is any danger of that, mother," Belial replied coolly. She looked at him in surprise and anger, and then took a good look at the angel next to him. The angel who was wearing Raphael's clothing, and although he looked similar to his younger brother, he was anything but. Lumial stared back at his mother, his eyes full of sadness upon seeing the state she was in.
"What! Why is he alive! Belial, have you betrayed me now too?" She shouted, this time entirely in fear. She was entirely too terrified to be angry.
"Mother, I don't know how you slipped up, but someone turned the intercom on for this room. That conversation was broadcast throughout the entire ship. I've never known you to be speechless in front of such accusations unless they were true. How much of what he said is valid?" Belial replied, the dead calm never leaving his voice. Lumial stood silently beside him, the sadness still etched painfully into his features.
Lucifel was silent. At the presence of their commander, the two guards stopped struggling against my telekinetic hold, and so I released them. They made no move to intercept Belial either as he strode toward the throne purposefully. He moved to stand beside me, and flashed me a look of profound respect as he said, "What do you know? The prophecy might just come true. The son of Merlin may have just ended the war… at least he gave me the courage I needed to do what should have been done a long time ago. Thank you, Damien."
Lucifel looked between us until the reality sunk in, if her eyes could have widened any further, they would have, as she looked at me and began, "You…"
Belial cut her off with a sharp, "You've said enough, mother. It's time to end this farce, and restore what family I have left." In one quick motion he drew his sword and activated its flames, then thrust it into her chest. It was over almost instantly, but the scream she uttered seemed to echo for minutes after she stopped. It wasn't the same as when I had held Michael down for Shatan. There was no rage associated with my holding Lucifel paralyzed by fear, there was only the sadness I felt coming through Michael's memories.
Belial and I both stared down at her corpse as Lumial came up to join us. "So what happens now?" I asked of the brothers, who stood on either side of me.
"Now, we try to unify the kingdom and bring an end to the conflict, if we can. I can only hope that the angels will follow my brother and I, that is, if you're willing to stay in heaven, Lumial." Belial replied with a serious glance toward his brother.
Lumial nodded slowly, and then turned back to him with a grin, "You know, I probably shouldn't be smiling right now, considering the fact that I just watched you kill our mother, but that prospect is the best news I've heard in a long time. Do you think we can pull it off?"
"I'm with you," A voice piped up from behind us. We turned in unison to see Mephistel, who was one of the guards who had been protecting the throne. He regarded both myself and Lumial with guarded curiosity, but turned back to Belial and said, "You should know, Lord Belial, that most of the soldiers under Hell's command follow your orders, and not your mothers. You were the respected commander that we followed out of Heaven, and we'll serve you to the end. It's your nobility that tied us to you, not love for your mother, pardon me for saying so, but she's always been a bit of a bitch."
The other guard nodded his agreement, and then added his own piece, "Does that mean we're freeing the demons, Lord Belial?"
I was shocked at the fact that I had forgotten about Marc, but a voice I was glad to hear spoke up from the side of the room as another door slid open. "There's no need for that, angel," Marc said as he stepped into the room, his elder brother in tow, "Freedom was pretty easy to achieve when you have a little rascal of a human to help you. Where is Alan, anyway? He mumbled something about the engine room and then ran off."
"Marc!" I shouted as I ran toward him, though he raised his hand to stop me as I neared him, and I stopped in confusion.
"Before we have our touchy feely moment, can I ask what in the world you're wearing? I don't think the Michael skin suit fits you very well," Marc explained then suggested, "How about you change back and then you can have all the kisses you want, until then, how about we just stick to the let's get out of here part?"
I was a little disappointed, but I understood. Marc only saw my disappointment and rushed to explain, "If you have any doubts about my feelings, just do that little emphatic link thing, and you'll know exactly how much I love you."
I considered doing that exact thing when thinking about using my abilities brought something else to my memory, and without responding to Marc I instead shouted, "Keith!" as I rushed to the fallen druid's side.
Marc was soon next to me, checking Keith's wounds. "What the hell happened?" He asked. His voice lacked the jovial side it had held a moment before. I knew that no matter how many times Marc checked over the holes in Keith's chest, or looked for a pulse, our friend would still be dead.
"We managed to get our hands on a couple of their weapons and started a firefight," I explained, trying to keep my voice from quivering, "Keith took out Shatan, but then Lucifel took out Keith. We need to get him to the Abel as soon as possible and see what Lumial can do."
Marc nodded and tried to lift him up, but he was clearly exhausted and struggling. I moved to help despite my own fatigue, but I was surprised to find it easier than I thought it would be. Through my confusion, I hadn't noticed Kai'Fallon come to our aid.
The older demon prince looked between us and offered, "You both look terrible. Let me do something to help out. I've been quite useless in all of this."
"That's unnatural benevolent of you, brother," Marc chided, to which his brother responded with an embarrassed grin.
"There's a lot that I've closed my eyes to, Dae'Marca," the prince admitted, "But I promise you that things will be different when we get home. For one thing, I'm going to have a talk with father about this lover of yours. Anyone who is willing to risk certain death to save a loved one is certainly not of weak blood."
Before I could even blush, a loud siren tore through the air. Belial and Mephistel swore while the rest of us looked to him with concern. "We need to evacuate, now!" he ordered, and as we rushed to follow him he explained, "That siren means that the engine has been compromised, and is most likely about to explode. I don't know how he did it, but I'm sure that Alan is behind it."
As we left the room, Lucifel's body still lying across her throne, I couldn't help but smile at the thought that it was the perfect ending for her. She had thought that everyone had betrayed her, and in the end she had betrayed everyone else because of it. Now, all that she had left behind was going to go down with her.
But when I looked down at Keith's body as it was carried in front of me, the smile slipped as I wondered if it was worth the cost.
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