“Marc, stop!” Keith yelled from across the room, and suddenly Marc was being pulled off of the angel by Keith’s telekinesis. Marc was snarling the whole time, his black-scaled form straining against the invisible force, wings and tail twitching in rage. I had never seen him as angry as he was now, except perhaps the time in the school restroom when he had beaten Karl and his cronies.
“Why should I?” Marc snarled as he continued to push against Keith’s mind powers. I looked to Keith and saw that he was actually straining to hold Marc back, and I decided that Keith was the one more in control of his mind at the moment. I activated my own telekinesis and wrapped it around my boyfriend as well, helping to hold him back. Keith looked to me with appreciation, and then returned his focus to the matter at hand.
“I am the victim of mistaken identity here. I had forgotten that Lumial was living among your people, Dae’Marca. Please, he is my twin brother, but as you probably know he has a tattoo on his upper arm of a hawk,” the angel quickly pushed up his right sleeve and showed his own bicep which showed the tattoo of a serpent. “As you can see, I do not bear the same mark, though I do have my own story to tell. Would you please shift back into something more… comfortable? I truly mean you no harm.”
Marc began to calm down after the revelation, and then he shifted back into his human form. I heard a small cry from Alan and I turned to see him burying his face in the couch. Realizing that he had probably never seen Marc transform, I moved over to him and touched him gently. He reacted violently and pulled away from me, flailing his arms at me defensively. Once he realized it was me, and that everything was back to a semblance of normal, he sat up and pulled his arms and legs into himself and tried not to cry.
“Are you okay?” I asked sympathetically. He nodded weakly and then wouldn’t say anything else. I smiled back as calmly as I could and then patted him on the shoulder before turning back to the situation at hand.
My boyfriend was busying himself picking up tatters of his clothing that had been flung off of him during his shift. He was one again wearing very little except the small bit that hung on around his waist. It brought back memories of the first day I had seen him shift, and I couldn’t help but wonder why I hadn’t been as frightened as Alan was when Marc had first shifted for me. It looked like Marc was not going to participate in the conversation any longer, or at least not right away. I knew that his emotions usually took a while to simmer down, so I was not surprised by his reaction. Marc was quick to anger, but slow to cool.
“Well, I’m sorry things happened that way. I’m Damien, and I believe Alan said that you had come to speak with me, correct?”
“That’s right; I’m Belial, second son of Lucifel. Lumial, the other I was mistaken for, was my twin brother and the eldest. I hope you don’t mind, but I would prefer if you didn’t mention his name around my mother. She believes him to be dead, and it would be better if it were kept that way. Better for all of us, but especially him.” Belial answered as he smoothed out his uniform.
Keith nodded in understanding, and replied evenly, “Believe me, Lumial is the only angel I have ever considered to be friend potential. I have no desire to see any harm come to him, so I will make sure that none of us say anything. Keeping secrets from your mother, huh? That seems like a pretty dangerous thing to do.”
“A story for another time, perhaps,” Belial replied coldly. “For now, please just understand that I would do anything to prevent her from finding out. It is perhaps the worst thing that could happen to me. The fact that I am telling you that should be telling enough about how serious I am. Now, I came here for a reason. To discuss how we will be handling your safety.”
“Is there really much danger here? I mean, we are surrounded by your supporters are we not?” I asked, not sure what the big deal was about our security.
Belial nodded, and then explained, “That is true, but what you have to remember is that we are in a facility that is run by angels. Angels work on both sides of this war, and sometimes their loyalties shift as they become attracted to one ideology or another. Most of our people are committed to the cause, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t kept on our toes. We are extremely cautious when it comes to matters of our security. Michael would love to get his hands on the secrets we have here. He attempts to get an agent in here at least several times a year. Usually they don’t even make it past the fence, but I admit that some of his agents are more skilled than others. We don’t anticipate any problems, even though he knows that you are with us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be careful.”
I nodded my understanding and then asked, “So what’s the plan then? Will we have a full security detail? A guard posted outside the room at all times? You said that you can’t guarantee the loyalty of all of your men, can you guarantee the loyalty of the ones that you do use?”
“Yes, I can make that guarantee, because I will be handling it myself. I will be with you at all times outside of this room, and right outside the door at all times you are in the room. I will keep my distance though, unless there is an actual problem, so I assure you that your privacy will be maintained.”
“With all due respect, Belial, I am not sure that your concern is warranted,” I replied evenly, “Marc and Keith are both very capable of defending me, and it’s not like I’m incapable of defending myself. Are you really certain this is necessary?”
Belial shrugged and replied, “No, but like I said, we are very cautious in how we handle our security. We like to have back up plans for everything. That’s how we’ve survived for all of these years. I try to have a contingency in place for every scenario I can think of, especially when we’re preparing for a full offensive.”
“Can we refuse your offer?” Marc asked suddenly, startling everyone. He had composed himself, but he was still standing in the tattered remains of his clothing. He was glaring at Belial, and I knew that he was less than pleased with the thought of having the angel around at all times.
“No, my mother would just assign me to you anyway. What exactly is your problem with the idea? I mean no offense to you, Prince, I am not my mother. I know that she can be a bit… prickly, at times. I honestly just want this war to end. I’ve been fighting on the front lines longer than any other angel. All the others have taken turns being soldiers, but I have been around the death for long enough. I want this alliance to work.”
I tried to read his thoughts, but I became frustrated quickly when I ran into the same problem I had with Lucifel and Shatan. Whatever trick they had for avoiding being read, Belial had it too. Though he was an angel, working for someone that we didn’t completely trust, I did find myself believing him. His eyes spoke of sincerity, and he had yet to give me any individual reason for distrusting him.
“If I may say, Belial, wanting the war to end is not something I would expect an angel to say,” Keith replied coolly. “Angels started this war, and they’ve already gotten control of most of the human population. Only the demon forces and a smattering of human orders still oppose Michael. Angels profit from the war, even Hell has. I know that Lucifel has gained quite a bit of power by manipulating things as she has. I will never trust her, why should I trust her son?”
Belial stared hard at the Druid in response, and then sighed as he explained, “Very well, I guess if I’ve trusted you this far, I can explain the rest. You know Lumial, and that is enough for me. Hell’s position in this war is the result of a family squabble. This is all history to my people, but to you and the demons, you may not know the whole story. You probably know that when the angels first arrived, Michael and Lucifel were a mated couple.”
It was news to me, and my eyes widened in response, but Keith simply nodded and waved for him to continue. Lucifel was starting to make more sense to me, and I was suddenly grateful that Belial had chosen to stop by.
“What you probably didn’t know, is that they had three sons, which is a lot of children to have according to traditional angelic customs. My brother and I were first, and then our other brother, Raphael, followed closely behind. We were the first angels to be born here, and there have not been too many since then. My parents were the perfect couple, and loved each other deeply, another rarity for my people. The problem came in the fact that they had a major disagreement in how to handle our new home. My father, wanted to complete eradicate the inhabitants of this world. My mother had other plans. This is where Shatan enters the picture.”
I had always been confused by the concept of Shatan, and I took the opportunity to gain some clarification. “Wait, so Shatan was there at the beginning as well? How is that possible? Demons only live for twice as long as humans, and if I remember what Keith and Marc have told me correctly, then Lucifel split off from the rest of the angelic hosts around three thousand years ago. How is he still alive?”
Belial smiled politely at me and explained, “Well, demons and humans only have so short of life spans because their medical technology hasn’t progressed enough to extend it. My mother is the foremost expert in our technology, and has built a lot of what we have from scratch, as well as stolen a great deal from the armies of Heaven. She has allowed Shatan to benefit as much from our medical technology as any angel has, and ours is the best there is. Shatan is by far the oldest demon alive, at a little over three thousand years. He is only a few centuries younger than my mother and father.”
“Ah, so he’s not some crazy super demon, he’s just got the benefit of knowing the right people, makes sense,” I replied, smiling now that I finally understood.
Belial would turn it back on me again though as he explained, “Not exactly. Shatan is kind of a super demon. There are things he can do that no other demon can compete with. For example, he is the supreme master of Fae’sharik, the demonic martial art. He literally founded the art, as I’m sure Prince Dae’Marca is very aware. I understand that you are currently the undisputed champion in the world, are you not?”
Belial turned to my boyfriend who nodded slowly. Marc replied in his same cold tone he had used before, “Indeed I am, though if my training has taught me one thing, it is that there is always someone better. Up until now I have been that someone, but I know that someone else will come along and defeat me eventually. Still, I admit that I have always longed to test my own skill against Shatan’s.” My eyes widened at the response. I had known that Marc was good, but up until that point I had not known he was that good. I made a mental note to speak with my boyfriend about being too modest.
“Of course, there is another side to Shatan that makes him incredibly powerful as well,” Belial went on, “Shatan’s many years have given him the time necessary to master more than two forms. He is a master shape-shifter, and in that he is in a class of his own. I have only seen a half dozen of his forms myself, but my mother has told me that he has mastered over fifty. He has applied the principles behind his martial arts training behind all of his forms, making him one very powerful combatant. I have personally sparred with him many times, and he has always won.”
Marc snorted and replied, “I find that hard to believe. Even if he’s had the time, keeping track of just one extra form is incredibly difficult. In the entirety of our history there have only been a dozen or so that have had more than two forms. We store the genetic information of our alternate selves in a place that would make it nearly impossible to keep two different sets separate; a little pouch in our brains that holds the DNA. Changing between forms involves reaching into this sack and pulling out the information on what we are trying to become. Having more information inside would mean you would never know which genetic material you were going to grab, and your shift would always be random. Pen’Arthrun was able to shift between his demon form, his human form, and a third form termed a dragon form, but when he was studied after his death, the reason was easy to discern. He had an extra pouch. We’ve assumed that everyone else who has had an extra form has also had extra pouches, but for Shatan to have over fifty, it would mean that he’s got over fifty pouches. There isn’t room for that!”
Belial shrugged helplessly and explained, “I really don’t know what to tell you, Dae’Marca. As I said, I have not personally witnessed that many forms, I only know of a half dozen that I’ve seen. Maybe he has six pouches and my mother is a liar? It wouldn’t be the first time that she has stretched the truth in order to meet her goals, though she has rarely lied to me, especially about something as frivolous as this. Enough about Shatan, do you have any more questions regarding our security here?”
“Just one,” I said before Marc could press the issue. His thoughts told me that he wanted nothing more than to fight Belial on everything, and I wasn’t going to let him. “This will mean admitting that I have tried to do this, but I honestly believe I can trust you. You know, of course, that I am a telepath. As a natural defense, I try to read the thoughts of anyone that I meet, in order to make sure they are not trying to harm me. There are three individuals on this ship so far that I have been unable to read; you, your mother, and Shatan. How is this possible?”
“Normally I would not reveal this information to a Druid, but to show my commitment in making this alliance work, I will explain the basics,” Belial answered with a quick glance at Keith, “There is an implant developed by my mother that has been placed in our brains. It allows us to create a field around us that stops all telepathy or telekinetic energy from affecting us. Don’t ask me to explain the science; I’m a soldier not an engineer. You would be just as hard pressed to move me as you would to reading my thoughts. Go ahead, try it.”
I activated my telekinesis and let it ripple toward him like Keith had taught me. I felt my ability touch everything on its way to him but then it was like it hit a wall, a couple inches out from his body. I searched over his entire area for something to manipulate, but it was like trying to walk on incredibly slick ice. I could find nothing to grab on to which would allow me to affect him. I was about to admit defeat when one of the vases from the end tables came hurtling at him. I felt it collide with the field, and it cancelled the telekinetic control that Keith had over it, but it did little to cancel the momentum. It smacked Belial hard in the chest and then fell to the floor, shattering when it met the metal surface.
Belial rubbed his chest and glared at Keith. I followed his gaze to find the High Druid smiling widely. Keith shrugged and said in explanation, “If I can’t move you, that doesn’t mean I can’t affect you. There is more than one way around a problem. I’m glad to know that it doesn’t cancel momentum as well. Now, before we got sidetracked to this, I believe you were telling us why the war started.”
The angel nodded and apparently forgave the druid for his action, and then continued his story. “Yes, I was explaining why Shatan had such an effect on my mother. Another thing that is generally unknown about that time is that Shatan was one of the Demon princes. The war was going badly for the demons, and he acted out of desperation. He personally infiltrated Eden, our base of operations on Earth at the time, and managed to get to my mother. He had every intent to kill her, which would have crippled Heaven’s forces considerably. She surprised him instead when she explained that she disagreed with her husband’s intent to kill everyone on the planet, and instead wanted to form a compromise.”
“He didn’t believe her, and he asked her to prove it. If she came away with him as a hostage, he would spare her life and hear her out. She agreed to his terms, and was taken captive. My father was livid, and followed them personally, vowing to kill Shatan if it was the last thing he did. He left Lumial and myself in charge of Eden, and went after them alone.”
Belial sighed and then shrugged helplessly as he continued, “This next part I only know the cliff notes on, because that’s all my mother has told me. She told me that Michael caught up to them when she was explaining her position on the war, and he took the time to eavesdrop on their conversation. He overheard everything that she had planned, and it sent him into a rage. When he showed himself, he came straight at Lucifel, not Shatan, with every intent to kill her for what he saw as betrayal. Shatan defended her, now knowing that she wanted peace. At the time, my father was a stronger combatant than the demon, though not by much. Their battle was long and hard, but in the end Shatan won when Lucifel came to his aid, not her husband’s. That is what began their partnership.”
“When my brother and I learned the truth of what had happened, I chose to side with my mother, and I left Eden. Lumial was upset that the family was breaking up, and did not choose a side, though he remained in Eden while he tried to figure things out. You have to understand something; Lumial was my mother’s apprentice. He had followed in her footsteps in every way imaginable. When she learned what his intent was, she was convinced that he had betrayed her, and was siding with Michael. In her rage, she ordered me to kill my brother.”
I nodded as I came to understand his fear. “But evidently he is not dead. You didn’t kill him; you let him go didn’t you? And if your mother ever found out that you had let him live then she would take it out on you. I can see why you wouldn’t want that.”
The angel nodded slowly and replied, “You’ve got it right. Now that I know he’s alive, I’m hoping that after the war we might be able to fix our family, at least the side that survives the war. I do not think that my father will make it. It’s funny though, after we left he apparently decided that we were at least partially correct. He stopped trying to annihilate everyone on the planet, and instead decided to enslave them. Most of humanity is enslaved without even realizing it. Honestly, I don’t know what my mother thinks about what has become of the war, but she is still consumed by her need to defeat Michael. I, on the other hand, am ready for it to be over. Keith, you said that all the angels profit from the war. I find little profit in this arrangement. All I find is a continuation of pain; old wounds that have never fully healed and have been allowed to fester. I want my brother back.”
I was about to reply when Keith took the words right out of my mouth. “Then I consider you an ally. I think you’ve proven yourself, even if Marc doesn’t think so.” Marc grunted and walked away, heading back to our room. I couldn’t help but chuckle, because I knew Marc would get over it. It would just take some time for him to get over his temper, and then he would trust our judgment as he had many times before.
“I agree.” I added, and then walked toward Belial, careful not to step on the broken pottery at his feet. I extended my left hand toward him and said, “As far as I’m concerned, you’re the first angel I’ve ever met that had any amount of sense. I do have one question though, if you’re going to be following me everywhere. The answer to that question will probably go a long way in helping Marc become comfortable with you.”
He took my offered and shook it, and then said pleasantly, “Of course, please, ask me anything.”
“Verina said that your culture has a longstanding disgust for homosexuality. My boyfriend and I will be with you everywhere. Are you going to be comfortable with that? Or are you going to eventually make your disgust known and ruin this new friendship between us?”
He chuckled, heartily, and I was glad to see that there was nothing but mirth in his eyes. “There are some things that are definitely outdated in my culture, and our moral beliefs are one of them. Why do you think the Bible is written the way that it is? My father understood that our beliefs enslave the minds of the angels, why wouldn’t the same work on humans? The reason I decided to follow my mother instead of my father was because she thought our religion was a bunch of nonsense. If there is anyone in the entirety of the race who doesn’t give a shit at all about your relationship, it’s me. I just want us to stop killing each other.”
“Then I think this is going to work out marvelously.” I replied with a smile and then nodded to the mess at his feet. “Now, I don’t know if you would be the one to handle this, but would you call someone to clean up the mess in our room? We also need a set of clothing for Marc to wear. I’m positive he didn’t bring anything else to change in to. Perhaps something in black?”
Belial nodded and grinned, and the smile was reflected in his voice. “I’ll get right on that. I’ll call them from the panel outside. Although I think we’ve accomplished a lot here, I think I’ve also worn out my welcome. Please apologize to your lover for me; I had no intention of causing him that much grief. Alan, thanks for showing me the way here. Keith, thanks for keeping me on my toes. I’ll be outside if anyone needs me.”
We shook hands one more time and then he left, and I turned toward Alan. I knew he needed another explanation, and I figured it was about time we gave him one.
“Are you going to be alright, Alan? I know it can be frightening the first time you see Marc shift, but you’ve just got to remember that it’s him, alright?” I explained as I took a seat next to him again. He unfolded himself and leaned in to me, and I pulled him into an embrace, trying to give him all the support I could.
“I know.” He responded carefully, his voice slightly weak. I knew he was trying to keep his emotions inside, for when I extended my telepathy out to read him I felt them almost immediately. A tight ball of confusion, fear, and anxiety that was right at the surface of his mind. “It was just a surprise, you know? I wish you guys would have told me that it was a possibility earlier though. I had no idea he looked like that. Now that I’ve seen him, I just think it’s really cool. Do you think he’ll do it again for me?”
I smiled as I patted his shoulder and gave him another squeeze. That was just like Alan, easily distracted from danger and fear, and quick to accept the world for what it was. “I think he just might, if you ask him nicely. Come on, let’s go find him.”
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