Shatan picked up Marc’s body and started moving in the direction of the ship. I moved to follow, but Lucifel raised her hand to stop me. She turned to me and said firmly, “There will be too many people bustling about the ship. There are more wounded to handle than Dae’Marca. I will not have you in the way. Stay here.”
I was about to argue, until I realized that I was pushing my luck as it was. I wasn’t going to let anything interfere with her bringing Marc back to life, and so I stopped following them, and let Shatan carry my lover’s body away from me.
Strong arms enveloped me from behind, and as soon as they relaxed enough for me to do so, I turned around to return Alan’s embrace. Now that I had support, I let my emotions flow freely, and I was soon crying into my young friend’s shoulder. He didn’t seem to mind and just held me tighter. I don’t know how long we remained like that, but when I finally stopped crying I was glad he had put up with it.
The entire encounter ran through my mind, from the clash of egos between our side and that of Michael’s. We had come expecting a fight, and had prepared for one, but Michael had outsmarted us. At least, most of us. Lucifel had had a contingency prepared, and she had saved all of our lives. If she hadn’t thought to bring the device with her, we would have been gunned down by an invisible army.
If Marc didn’t come back to me, I was going to wish that I had been gunned down. Watching him die had also killed me, and I was holding on to the hope that Lucifel would make good her words, and I would be embracing my lover again in no time. Once again I viewed the bloody mass that remained of Michael, and the anger I had felt began to return, but it brought with it a new feeling. Disgust.
It took a moment to realize where I was standing, that I was surrounded by more death and pain than I had ever been before, the carnage of a short but gruesome battle. Bodies of demons and angels lay strewn about the circle of stones, and there was a stench of blood and singed flesh. My disgust multiplied what seemed to be a hundred times, and I pushed Alan away from me as I fell to the ground and vomited. It was definitely the first time that I had been in a battle, and I did not like what I saw.
The war we had been fighting was suddenly very real, and it was no longer in the background, as if it were a passing rumor. We had not been the soldiers, who were fighting in the war every day; we were the civilians who had been dragged to the front lines of the war of hell. I didn’t belong on that battlefield, and neither did my friends. Even those who were capable of fighting hadn’t belonged.
Alan had held me afterword, and given me his strength. It was true that he was able to put on a brave face, but I realized that he had been crying as well. He had strength, but he didn’t belong either. Marc may have been a fighter, but he was also a caring individual who I had seen the true depth of. He may have belonged as a protector, but not as a soldier. That left Keith, of those I had considered friends for a long time. He was a teacher, a mentor. He had the harder edge that showed that he had seen his fair share of horror, but I knew that he wanted to see an end to it all. Keith wanted the pain to end.
And had it? Was the war over? Were the pain and the loss going to stop? I wasn’t sure. I took another look at Michael’s mutilated corpse and couldn’t help but wonder if I had done as promised. Had I ended the war? I had heard the old adage that if you cut the head off a snake, the body dies, but was it really that simple?
Once again I scanned the battlefield. I knew this wasn’t typical of a battle. Usually there were more bodies when two armies collided, but if this represented a small bit of what war actually was, I sure hoped that it was over. Half of the demons had fallen in the first moments of the battle, while Michael had the element of surprise. All of the enemy forces were down and dead, at least as far as I could tell. Why did there have to be so much pain for all those involved? Wasn’t there a better way to settle our disputes?
I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen now. I wondered how the angelic forces would react. I didn’t think they would just give up now that their leader was dead. None of what had happened seemed to make sense to me. There was no way that the war was actually over. It couldn’t be that simple.
I noticed Keith standing next to one of the demons, and when I recognized who it was I was shocked out of my musings. King Ikarus was lying on the ground, unmoving. I jumped to my feet, forgetting my troubles for an instant, and rushed to the druid’s side. Alan was right behind me, but his training had made him faster, and we reached him at the same time. I was relieved to find that the king’s chest was still rising and falling as he breathed, though they were shallow breaths. The hole in his chest made me wonder if he had perhaps injured a lung.
“He’ll be okay,” Keith said quietly as he glanced my way. I knew he wasn’t talking about the king. His voice had far too much brotherly concern in it for that.
I nodded as I bit back my tears. “I hope so, but right now I need to keep myself focused on other things or I’ll drive myself crazy, and it looks like there is plenty to distract me. I don’t know anything about first aid, but I would love to help. What can I do?”
“Right now, the king just needs to stay still, but there are possibly other demons that need more help. We can’t do much for the king until we get him back to Lumial.” Keith replied as he turned to survey the rest of the battlefield.
“Maybe Lucifel could…” Alan started but was cut off by a shake of Keith’s head and a helpless chuckle from the Druid.
“No, the alliance doesn’t cover helping the demons beyond this point. She only agreed to help Marc because Damien requested it, and she owes him a favor. Otherwise, she would have left him in the dirt. No, they are busy taking care of their own. Look.” Keith explained as he gestured toward the ship. Sure enough, the angels were busy loading their dead and injured into the ship, while a guard had been established around the entrance, looking warily at the demons who were gathering their injured and dead up at the top of the hill. It was clear that there would be no further assistance from the angels. I instantly realized how lucky I was that Lucifel was willing to treat Marc.
All of Hell’s angels were at the ship already, except for the one that was heading back toward us. Verina was making her way up the slope, a look of determination on her face. She wasn’t looking at any of us except Keith, and he was returning her determined stare with a hard look of his own. He did not look amused.
Keith tore his eyes away from her a moment later and began a quick explanation of some basic first aid we could do to help out. He then directed us over to the demons that were busy at work on some of the more seriously wounded. We moved off in that direction, and I almost expected him to follow, but he had turned his gaze back to the approaching angel and waited for her to arrive. I wanted to stay and listen in, but I knew that Keith wouldn’t appreciate it, so I grabbed Alan by the arm and pulled him with me to help with the wounded.
As I helped some of the demons close wounds and bandage them up, I couldn’t help but glance over at my mentor from time to time and see how his conversation was going. They seemed on the verge of shouting, but I still couldn’t hear a word they were saying. It didn’t matter though. Anything to distract me from worrying about Marc was going to be a blessing. I felt a little guilty that I was taking comfort in a situation that was obviously uncomfortable to my friend, but I watched anyway.
When we were halfway through helping the wounded that we could, a sudden trembling began to shake the ground, and Alan and I shared a look of surprise and alarm. We stood up as best we could, and clung to each other for balance as the shaking of the ground almost took us back down to our knees. The trembling lessened, but my heart began racing even faster as a large shape rose into the sky. The ship was taking off, and as far as I knew, Marc was still on it.
I stole a quick glance back at Keith and was surprised to see that he too was looking at the ship in alarm, and Verina had outright horror on her face. My heart fell even further, and I looked down the slope to where the angels had been guarding the entrance to the ship. No one was there. They had taken off without warning, and without us. They had taken Marc away from me.
I once again collapsed to the ground, only this time it wasn’t in disgust or anger, it was despair. I had endured all of this in a hope to end the war, and to finally get back to a life that was more familiar. There was no hope left for me, no way out of the situation. Now I was trapped on an island in the middle of the Atlantic and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. Lucifel had abandoned us, and I could only assume she had abandoned her words to me as well.
There was no perception of time passing; I just knew that it had. I didn’t know how long I had lain in the grass on the crest of that hill top, or how many times Keith or Alan had tried to get me up. It seemed like I had been there for only a few moments, as lost as I was in replaying the events in my head that had led me to Avalon , but when I finally came to my senses, I saw that there were stars shining above me, and I looked over to the circle of stone to see that a fire had been built in the center, and Keith, Alan, and Verina were sitting on some sort of bench near the fire, and several other people I didn’t recognize were also with them, but there was one person I didn’t expect to see that was also among them; Lumial.
Keith jumped to his feet as soon as I lifted my head up from the ground and helped me to my feet. For a moment I hoped that everything had been a dream, but then I noticed the stench of blood and burning flesh had only lessened, not gone away. I almost lost it again as the stench hit my nostrils, but Keith held me up with his strong arms, and made me meet his eyes.
He voice was soft, but firm as he said, “There is something you have to see. I don’t want to explain anything else, but I think it will help you feel some relief. Come on, Lumial has what you need.”
I followed him numbly, letting him pull me along rather than walking much on my own. I didn’t have any motivation left in me to continue walking, but my feet were willing to keep me upright as long as Keith kept pulling me forward. In no time, we had arrived at the benches, and I was sitting next to Alan, who smiled at me weakly. Keith nodded to Lumial who handed him a device that was similar in design to a tablet, though I knew it was angelic technology and was probably much more advanced.
Keith handed the device to me and I took it just as numbly as I had walked. The Druid touched the screen and a video began playing. I didn’t pay much attention to it, just watched as Lucifel was spouting something I didn’t quite understand, but then the video panned out and I was greeted with the very familiar sight of my lover. Marc was alive, though he looked like he would prefer to be anywhere other than where he was. He was in some form of shackles that held him spread-eagled against the wall. Next to him was another demon in a similar position, though I didn’t recognize who it was.
I didn’t care either, Marc was alive in the video, and I started crying and almost dropped the device, but Keith quickly caught it, and to my surprise he pulled me into a hug. It was first time he had shown that level of affection, but I was too lost in my own emotions to process what was going on.
At first, I thought that there was some cruel joke going on. I had just started to understand the fact that I would never see Marc again, and I was suddenly presented with evidence that he was alive, if not exactly completely well. I didn’t know what to think, but at least there was one thing I did know, the pit in my stomach still hadn’t gone away.
“So what does this mean?” I asked as soon as I pulled myself together enough to say something.
“Well, since I’m sure you didn’t quite grasp what was going on in the video, being in the state that you’re in, I’ll try to sum it up for you,” Keith replied patiently. “Lucifel is on her way to rejoin the angelic fleet in an attempt to gain control of their armies. We don’t know what she is planning after that, but she has made it clear that she will not be interfering with the demons as long as they do not interfere with her. That being said, she is holding on to Marc and Kai’Fallon as a bit of insurance that the demons won’t interfere. If the demons act against her, she’ll start killing princes.”
I let the news sink in, and then I realized that the main question I had had been answered. Marc was really alive, though he was being held prisoner. All I had to do now was figure out how to get him back. “So, all we have to do now is rescue Marc from Lucifel.” I stated simply, which gave me wide-eyed looks from everyone in the group except for Alan, who nodded enthusiastically.
“It’s not that simple…” Keith began, but one look from me showed him exactly how serious I was. It didn’t matter if it was simple or not, I was going to do it.
“Well, I didn’t say you had to come, Keith. But whether it’s the most difficult task in the world or it isn’t, I have to try. Marc has rescued me in the past, and now it’s my turn to rescue him. Are you with me, or aren’t you?”
I wasn’t surprised when Alan immediately voiced that he was in, but I was surprised when Keith nodded almost immediately. I had expected him to protest more, to make sure I knew that it was a long shot for us to succeed, but instead he simply said, “I owed Marc three favors, and I’ve given him two. That means I still owe him one more. I’m in. It’s time we took this war to Heaven.”
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