Avalon. I had recognized the name from somewhere, but only when Keith and Marc began explaining it to me did I understand where I had heard the name before. It was the location where Merlin had been killed, and the druids had begun to fade into obscurity. It was also the resting place of Pen’Arthrun, and considered hallowed ground by both demon and druid alike.
Its location had been kept secret from most of humankind since the fall of Merlin, and only Druids and demons ever visited there. Michael and the angels would have known where it was as well, but they hadn’t come to the island in just as long. The fact that he had decided that Avalon was the place that they would meet suggested that he was going to make an example out of me. I just hoped that those around me knew what they were doing when they decided to use me as bait.
We didn’t get any more time to tour the palace. Michael wanted to meet us immediately, and he threatened once again to throw the world into total war if we did not arrive within four hours. He knew that we could make the time, even though human technology would not be able to get us there in time. He knew that Hell was with us, and he wanted to expose Hell completely. The only way that we would be able to make it there on time was through using the ship.
It wasn’t long before I found myself once again trudging through the snow, the trucks parked behind us at the point where the slope of the mountain became too difficult for them to traverse. Where there had been only a small group of us before, there were almost a hundred of us entering the ship now. The king had called for his best troops to come to Avalon as well, and Lucifel had readily complied.
The devil was acting differently. She was on edge, which was nothing new, but there was an excitement about her. Whereas some of the members of the group, me included, were looking toward the encounter in the near future with anxiety, I had never seen Lucifel happier. Belial was also in a state of euphoria, though I was certain his was for a different reason. He had just spent the first hour with his brother that he had been able to in many years.
On occasion I would steal glances over at Marc, and usually I would find him looking back at me. I was glad that we had settled our differences, because I wouldn’t have lasted long without his support. We were once again of one heart and mind, and even in the midst of my fears, I was certain that I was happy.
One thing was worrying me even more than my own impending fate. I had tried to call my father several times, but every time it had reached his voice mail. I couldn’t help but fear the worst, and that my father was already gone. I tried to push the fear aside, knowing that going through with the plan was the only possible chance he had. I had to believe that, or I wouldn’t be able to go on.
In short order we boarded the ship and were once again preparing for lift off. Instead of heading to quarters, we went to a large chamber filled with tables. It was some sort of cafeteria, complete with several long rows of tables with benches. We were directed to find a seat, and then Lucifel and the King took their positions at the head of the room. It was time to finalize the battle plans.
I didn’t pay any attention, except when they covered the basics. I would move with the rest of the council, and we would only have a small guard around us; a small contingent of Hell’s angels, as well as King Ikarus’ personal guard. I would follow directly behind Lucifel and the king, with Shatan on one side and Marc on the other. Keith would bring up the rear.
Alan had made a case about joining the group, but no one had listened. Instead he was ignored as if his contribution would be insignificant. It wasn’t exactly a refusal of his want, but simply a dismissal. I didn’t think he had anything to worry about though. If he really wanted to go, I was fairly certain I could bring him with us. If it came to combat, his experience training with Marc would make him far more capable than I would be in hand to hand, and they wouldn’t expect it from his small frame. Personally, I couldn’t think of another person other than Marc or Keith that I would want to watch my back more than Alan. He would be my wildcard. I wanted him there.
The rest of the demons would approach the battlefield invisible, and prepare to meet any resistance with their claws and teeth. They would be the hidden card up our sleeves. They all knew the terrain. Visiting Avalon was a rite of passage for the demons, and many had been there more than once. It was expected that Michael would see such a tactic coming, but there was no reason to disappoint him.
The meeting continued even as the ship lifted off of the surface. There were not any windows in this room, but we could all feel the trembling of the ship well enough to know what was happening. Eve’s voice would have clued us in as well, but she could not be heard over the discussion in the room. When she spoke it was just a distant mumble, and I only picked up on it because I wasn’t paying attention to the discussion.
I noticed the shift that meant that we were accelerating, though this time instead of my feet keeping me upright the bench seemed to take over that role. Alan and I shared a look of wonder as we regarded the benches with interest. I knew that Alan was trying to figure out how it worked, whereas I simply had an appreciation for the fact that it did. I looked around the room and found that no one else had even noticed the shift. They were too engrossed in the speakers.
The flight was considerably shorter than our flight to Germany. Avalon was about a quarter of the distance back in the direction of home, so it came as no surprise when I felt the shift again, telling me that the ship was slowing down. Eve’s voice was again drowned out, but I wasn’t even listening for her. The fact that we were slowing down meant that we would soon be landing, and landing meant that I would be facing death in less than an hour.
I wasn’t listening to anything at all.
Demons and angels suddenly started to rise from the benches, but I didn’t notice until I felt a reassuring hand on my shoulder. I looked up into Marc’s eyes and saw nothing but support and love for me, and I was filled with his strength, even though I had very little of my own. With him, I could do anything. I stood up, and was surprised with a kiss.
More than anything, that kiss sealed the deal. It was strong and reassuring, and all of my doubts melted away. The love poured into me, and I knew that I would be safe with Marc at my side. As long as he lived, he would protect me.
It was then that I noticed that not everyone was pleased with the kiss. King Ikarus and Kai’Fallon were both staring straight at us. The king looked horrified, and the prince’s look of contempt was stronger than it had ever been before. Several of the demons matched the king’s stare, but none was more horrific than that of Marc’s elder brother. The contempt was bordering on malevolent glee.
I had forgotten what Marc had said around the time we had first met. He had told me that his family would disapprove of our relationship. It wasn’t because it was homosexual, but rather because I was human. It dawned on me that it was for that exact reason that Marc had chosen to show his love so openly. He was proving to me once and for all that his love was real, and he didn’t care what consequences he faced, he would endure it all for me.
“Come on, Marc, let’s go. Let’s not give them time to think about what just happened. Let’s get to that battlefield, and then we’ll face the demons.” I said with as much confidence as I could muster.
Marc smiled at me, and then sneered in the direction of his brother. He then shrugged and said, “If they have a problem with it, it’s their problem. We all know what’s at stake here. They won’t let it get to them until the battle is over anyway, so you have nothing to worry about. But you’re right, the sooner this is over, the sooner we can focus on things that really matter. After you, Damien.”
I wasn’t sure I shared his level of confidence, but the demons were part of his world, not mine. I didn’t know how they worked or how they thought. It was entirely possible that he was right, and we wouldn’t have to worry about it until after the battle. I just hoped that I wouldn’t find a claw in my lover’s back from friendly fire. Still, despite my worry of betrayal, I turned my back to the room and headed toward the ship’s exit.
Less than five minutes later, we stepped foot on Avalon. With it still being located in the Northern Hemisphere, I had expected snow and ice, but instead the landscape was decorated in greenery. A charming forest loomed in the distance to the west and north, and on a grassy hill to the east was situated a circle of standing stones similar to those of Stonehenge. Behind us loomed the massive ship of Hell, where it had landed on the edge of the island. The deep blue ocean was visible by looking to either side of us, and it appeared endless in both directions. It almost felt as if I had stepped onto a different world.
I looked around for the rest of my friends. Marc was with me still, but Keith and Alan had disappeared. I noticed Alan a minute later, walking behind the contingent of angels. He saw me at about the same time, and he rushed over to us. As soon as he arrived I said, “Hey, listen, I know you want to come with us…” I began, but he just put his hand up to stop me.
“Don’t worry, I know. This isn’t the place for me. I really wish I could be there to help you guys though, but Lucifel doesn’t want to allow it.”
I was a little annoyed at his assumptions, but I didn’t let that affect my intentions. “I was going to say, stick with me and they can’t argue. I’m not going anywhere without having you to watch my back. You’ve been with me this far, and you’re the person I trust the most after Marc and Keith. I want you with me.”
“You mean it?” He replied with enthusiasm. I nodded, and he hugged me, and then stepped back with a blush. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that.”
“No, I needed it. Thanks for your support, Alan. I wouldn’t be where I am without you. Now, come back here and give me another hug, only this time, don’t pull away.”
As we embraced and shared each others’ strength, I again searched the crowd for Keith and finally found him standing with Verina. They were engaged in shouting match, though I couldn’t hear them from where I was standing. Their animated gestures were enough to tell me what was going on. Verina left Keith standing there after using some particularly crude gesture, as she walked off in a huff. Keith just shook his head and strode over to us sullenly.
“What was that all about?” Marc asked when Keith had arrived. Keith just shook his head in reply and shrugged.
“I’m not entirely sure. I’ll tell you about it later. We’ve got to focus on the battle first.” Keith replied with another shrug. I wasn’t so sure he was telling the truth, considering the few interactions I had had with the Druid over the last few days. I had been observing his interactions with the angel as well, and I knew there was something more going on, but I decided not to press the issue. He was right, the battle was more important.
We quickly formed into the agreed upon pattern, and I was pleased to find Alan keeping stride beside Keith. No one more than glanced at him, and I was glad that he had chosen to stick with us. I knew no one would really care that he was there.
Not being able to see the demons that fanned out next to us put me a little on edge. Our group seemed much smaller when more than half of our force was invisible. I only hoped it would be a match for what Michael threw at us. We had yet to see any sign of the angelic forces, but we headed toward the standing stones on top of the hill, which was the place that they had agreed to meet us.
When we crested the rise we got what we were searching for. Michael stood on the opposite side of the circle of stone from where we entered. He was taller than any of the other angels I had encountered, and it was not the product of holographic projection. He was in his natural state, and I could see the resemblance between him and Belial. Unlike the angels of hell, he wore armor, silver and shining. Not like the knights that had roamed the land during the Middle Ages, this armor was formfitting and sleek, but I didn’t doubt it would stop almost any weapon from piercing it. He held what I could only call a sword in his hands, though it appeared as if the blade was made of green flame. I recognized the device that he was using to be similar as the one that Belial held tucked into his belt.
On either side of Michael stood an angel, with its own sword drawn and thrumming. They were the only angels in view, and I knew that it was unsettling to the rest of our group as well. Where was the rest of Michael’s force? Had he come to surrender?
“You have arrived. Good. I was hoping we wouldn’t have to wait too long. I do hate waiting on you people,” Michael began with a sneer. He certainly didn’t look like someone who was about to surrender. His voice carried the confidence of one who knew exactly what they were doing.
“You have no forces here, angel. Do you really think you can face us with only three of you?” King Ikarus spat in response, and then shifted into his true form in only an instant. “If you are that stupid, come face me one on one.”
“You bore me demonling,” Michael replied, continuing his sneer, “You are so young, and foolish as well. Don’t you realize that this fight was never about you? You weren’t even born when the true fight began! No, this fight is about family, though I do appreciate the little twist that Merlin threw on this scenario all those years ago. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it? To pay homage to the only human who actually thought he could stand in my way. And look at the little child who thinks that he can end the war. Well, I admit, it did get you out of hiding. Are you that desperate to find a way to win?”
“That’s it, this ends now!” King Ikarus shouted in response, and roared, which was the signal for his people to advance on their location.
“Oh, you’re right, it does. We can see you, but you can’t see us.”
The world exploded in fire and sound. Screams of demons echoed across the hilltop, their bodies becoming visible as they fell to the ground in agony. I was finally able to see how the angel’s guns worked, as they fired what appeared to be molten discs of metal into our comrades. There were some whizzing by me as well, and I ducked to the ground for cover, trying to make myself as small as possible.
Keith was suddenly next to me, and was pulling me up, creating a telekinetic field around both of us that was stopping the discs and dropping them harmlessly to the ground. He spoke quickly to my mind, ordering me to link my energy to his so that we could expand the effect. Before I could do so, the king took a hit and went down, but our field soon encapsulated his body, as well as Alan who stood behind us.
Marc would have been in the middle of our circle, but I couldn’t find him in the rain of fire and metal. I shouted for him, but I did so in vain. I could hardly hear my own voice over the din. But I did hear another voice shouting something I could understand; Lucifel.
“This farce ends now!” She shouted, and suddenly the rain of fire stopped, and the enemy was revealed. Two dozen angels dressed in suits of shimmering armor tried desperately to fire guns that were no longer functional. They looked up in fear as the demons still standing turned on them in fury, and very soon the tables were turned. Demons with superior strength and agility chased down the armored angels who were no longer cloaked.
I looked to Lucifel in awe, but I quickly realized what she had done. She held in her hand the remote for the device that disabled angelic technology. The device she had designed so many years before. She was calm and collected, the only person who had remained in that state in the sea of chaos that had erupted around us all. Even as the screams of dying demons turned to the screams of her own kin, she never wavered in her stance. She was staring straight at where Michael had been standing.
I followed her gaze and finally found my lover. He and Shatan were engaged in hand to hand combat with Michael and his two guards. Somehow in the midst of the chaos the two demons had managed to close the distance on the angelic commander. Both of the martial artists appeared to be wounded, bleeding from several wounds where they had been grazed in the crossfire, but they still had the upper hand in the melee.
The angels decided that Shatan was the bigger threat, and Michael’s two guards began to focus on him while their leader switched to Marc. I put Shatan out of my mind as I watched my lover face off against the angel. My heart was pounding, but it stopped and nearly failed every time the flaming sword narrowly missed Marc. It was obvious that they were both masters, and only perfect execution on Marc’s part would give him the ability he needed to get past the blade and score a hit on Michael.
I started moving forward with intent to help my lover, but just as I did, Michael shouted an order I didn’t understand. He was desperate, and running out of time. His forces had been thwarted, and his only chance of escape was to beat the master he faced. As the words left his mouth, one of the angels that were focused on Shatan turned away from the older demon, leaving him completely open to attack, but giving him enough time to grab Marc from behind and hold him in place. Enough time for Michael to stab his sword straight into my lover’s chest.
It was as if the sword had pierced my heart as well. For a moment, it seemed as if time stopped for me as I tried to process what had happened. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that Marc was gone, but as he collapsed to the ground, with Michael smiling wickedly down at him, I knew that it was true. The angel had killed my lover.
“Bastard!” I shouted, as I charged toward Michael. Shatan had already dispatched the angel that had held Marc down, but was still entangled with the other one. Michael had an open path to retreat, and he was about to take it when he was suddenly held fast, unable to move at all. I focused all of my telekinetic energy on his retreating form, and slammed him against one of the stony pillars. Within seconds, Shatan had ended the resistance of his remaining opponent, and stood next to me as if awaiting my command.
It was a command I was more than ready to give. With all the fury I had ever felt in my life I ordered, “Tear him apart. Make sure there’s nothing left of him for them to bring back.”
Shatan dove toward him before I had even finished the sentence. With every strike of the demon’s claws as they tore into Michael’s flesh, the angel howled into the air. I listened to every painful note as it rang inside my skull, justifying my vengeance with the wrath I felt at having my lover’s corpse laying at my feet. I watched Michael die, quickly but torturously, unable to tear my eyes away, until he was nothing but a bloody mass being held against the tree by my powers. I didn’t stop holding him there until Shatan stopped thrashing into him.
Only then did I release my hold and turn my gaze upon the love of my life. Only after my vengeance was sated did I allow the truth to sink in completely. I gave into hopelessness as I collapsed to my knees at his side, and cradled his scaled head in my hands, with lifeless eyes staring up into the sky.
For what I knew might be the last time, I let myself stare into those eyes, and I reached out to read his thoughts, hoping I could catch one last trace of him in his faded mind. Nothing.
He was gone, but we had won, but what a hollow victory it was. I could not believe that we had gone through everything only for me to lose the one who mattered most at the end. It just didn’t seem right. It was then that I realized it just might not be.
“You can save him, can’t you?” I said with a whimper. I was looking at Lucifel, and she was looking down at me. Her eyes were still hard, but I didn’t feel the same level of contempt that I had seen before. “If I ask you nicely, you’ll save him? Please, Lady Lucifel, please bring him back.”
She looked long and hard at me, meeting my eyes. Hers were unreadable, but I knew that she was considering me, not my proposition. She didn’t decide to help people based off of what help was needed; she helped them if she thought they deserved it.
When she turned away from me, I thought she had rejected my plea, and was about to throw myself at her feet in desperation when she said over her shoulder, “bring the demon prince to the ship. I owe the son of Merlin a favor.”
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