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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Turn In Your Codger Here

This is making the rounds in cyberspace. Author unknown. It's what I would expect from government run health care. :)

Addition to Health Care Plan

Legislators, realizing the success of the President's "Cash For Clunkers" rebate program, have revamped a major portion of their National Health Care Plan.

President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Sen. Reid are expected to make this major announcement at a joint news conference later this week. I have obtained an advanced copy of the proposal which is named...

"CASH FOR CODGERS" and it works like this...Couples wishing to access health care funds in order to pay for the delivery of a child will be required to turn in one old person. The amount the government grants them will be fixed according to a sliding scale. Older and more prescription dependent codgers will garner the highest amounts.

Special "Bonuses" will be paid for those submitting codgers in targeted groups, such as smokers, alcohol drinkers, persons 10 or more pounds over their government prescribed weight, and any member of the Republican Party.

Smaller bonuses will be given for codgers who consume beef, soda, fried foods, potato chips, lattes, whole milk, dairy products, bacon, Brussel sprouts, or Girl Scout Cookies.

All codgers will be rendered totally useless via toxic injection. This will insure that they are not secretly resold or their body parts harvested to keep other codgers in repair.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday's new launch: AVATAR

Since MONSTER was so much more fun editing in serial form here, I think I’ll do my Archangel paranormal in the same way. AVATAR has long been looking for an ending. I’ve finally finished it with the ending I’d hoped for. It will be around 125,000 words by the time this last edit is done. It’s again non-PC. Over the years I’ve been more and more disturbed with how evil invariably kicks the crap out of good in books and movies. I decided to round up two Archangels to change that perception. Here is the hook and first five chapters of AVATAR. As always, read what you like, comment if you wish. There will not be a test at the end. :)

What do you think the Lord does if he looks down one day upon the earth, and decides he’s had enough of turning the other cheek to his prodigal son, Lucifer? He sends the Archangel Raphael down to put Lucifer in his place. When Raphael gets his butt kicked and held for extortion, what does the Lord do then? He plays hardball.

To the darkest realm of reality the Lord sends the Archangels Michael and Gabriel to bring back his Avatar from exile: Abaddon, the dreaded Archangel of the Abyss. Forged by an angry God to stop the rampaging Lucifer from decimating Heaven’s host, the black winged warrior did all he was created for. Banished by God’s hand before Abaddon could obliterate Lucifer completely, the Lord’s Avatar passed the eons stoically, his only companionship the unsanctioned visits from his Archangel brothers. Raphael was Abaddon’s favorite. Reunited with the Lord, Abaddon is given a mission: save Raphael, find two tortured nuns who hold the key to exorcising demon kind from human hosts, return the balance between good and evil, and punish Lucifer. The grim Abaddon had four words for his Lord: “I can do that.”

Saved from brutal captivity, Sister Mary Catherine and Sister Angelina begin their journey beside the Seraphim of Heaven with both pure and impure motives. The Archangel of the Abyss makes the two nuns one promise: no force on Earth will ever hold them captive again. Desired captivity would be another matter.

Chapter 1


“Do you feel it, Michael?”

The illusory figure halted reluctantly from speeding through space and time, soaking in majestic colors incorporated by the varying continuum. Unmoving now in star clustered space, the being called on as Michael allowed reality to flow over him. A valiant, biblical form of the Archangel Michael shimmered solidly into view. He sensed amusement in the being responsible for stopping the Archangel’s flight.

“What amuses you, Gabriel?”

A matching figure of angelic majesty materialized: the Archangel Gabriel.

“These forms you enjoy so much.” Gabriel gestured around them with a flourish, his wings expanding on the gesture as he moved. “We have no need of them, yet you revert to the form as if you are clinging to some childish memory.”

“If you have no need of form, my friend, why bother communicating at all?”

“Please don’t give me your how many angels can dance on the head of a pin comment,” Gabriel replied wryly. “It was merely an innocent observation.”

Michael nodded, having traded these familiar barbs countless times.

“Yes, I felt it,” Michael said finally. “All is not right on lowly Earth again, so ripples of frustration eat away at the very fabric of existence. As to these forms I supposedly adore, if you have something better in mind why not express yourself? We fought in these forms. Our power can only be manifested while in these forms.”

“He needs you back, Mike.”

“Are we still allowed our private thoughts?”

“Of course,” Gabriel answered impatiently. “He has never broken his vow. Why would you ask such a thing?”

“Because each time his favorite makes headway down on humanity’s cesspool, all reality is suddenly at risk. He should send Raph down as he did when Asmodeus decided to start killing off all the suitors of… ah… what was the human’s name…”

“Sarah, and you know very well what her…”

“I know,” Michael cut him off with a dismissive gesture. “Anyway, he should send Raphael to clean things up.”

“He did,” Gabriel stated quietly, his words like a whisper of something incomprehensible. “Lucifer is not the favorite by the way.”

“His name means light,” Michael repeated the refrain he always invoked when speaking of the fallen angel. “Does your name mean light? Mine either.”

“Get over yourself.”

“There is no self to get over,” Michael smiled for the first time, and then his smile vanished. “What did you mean he sent him?”

“Ah, you did hear that, did you?”

“Don’t play games. What happened to Raph?”

“The angel of light bound him as if he were some little cherub, hanging on a Christmas wreath. It seems our earthbound brother has managed to eke out a power base amongst the teeming billions of souls who keep reaching for the dark side he dangles out in front of them as if it were the chalice of heaven.”

Michael shrugged. “Our Father could crush him.”

“You know he won’t do it. It’s not his way.”

“Well, maybe it should be,” Michael hinted for the billionth time.

“He won’t ask but he needs us.” Gabriel ignored Michael’s time worn rebuttal.

“If Lucifer has Raph, we can’t afford another loss. What caused this facedown?”

“A woman he has great plans for. What do you mean another loss?”

“You know exactly what I mean,” Michael replied sharply. “Lucifer was our match when he was sent down the first time at a staggering cost. You may entertain selective memory of how this all started. I don’t. We had our celestial butts kicked. Now you tell me he bound Raphael, thereby siphoning off his power. I…”

“You bound him the first time, Mike. You can…”

“Forget it,” Michael cut him off angrily. “We both know I wasn’t the one who cast Lucifer down. If not for him, whose name we cannot mention, Lucifer would have wiped us out of existence, including you horn-blower.”

“There is no reason to get nasty, my brother,” Gabriel admonished.

“I’m only trying to remind you of reality, Gabe.”

“Will you come with me? Cascading through the continuum because you wish to avoid what you sense to be...”

“I’ll go with you,” Michael interrupted, resignation plain in his features.

* * *

Instantly, the two Archangels stood on the grass of a familiar breathtaking vista they knew as their Creator’s simple house - an encapsulated panorama of blue skies, wispy white clouds, gentle waterfalls flowing into threads of streams and small lakes, with mountains and greenery ablaze with flowers and rainbows. In the midst of this heavenly pageantry a Shepherd tended his small flock, walking amongst them in white robes and sandaled feet. Michael and Gabriel exchanged knowing looks.

The Shepherd approached the Archangels with his hands out in greeting, his bearded countenance crinkled into a welcoming smile. He clasped their hands in his, each for but a moment. The celestial Seraphim felt the touch of their Creator rocket through them with a sense of well-being so intense the two fell to their knees in exaltation.

“Welcome, my sons,” the Shepherd said simply, pulling his stunned Archangels to their feet. “It has been far too long since last we spoke.”

“We felt your sadness, Father,” Gabriel whispered. “You have lost Raphael.”

“No, Gabriel.” The Shepherd sat down in the meadow, gesturing with a hand. “Raphael is not lost. Please, sit with me for a time, my sons.”

The two Archangels sat down clumsily on the gnarled wooden bench which sprang up near them.

“It is true I sent Raphael to answer the fervent prayer I could no longer ignore. The blackness of my fallen son hid his intentions from me,” the Shepherd admitted with a slight tremor coming into his voice. “I will not remake existence, nor will I allow this darkness to overcome the Earth. You came, Michael, though I feel in you doubt. What troubles you?”

“Father.” Michael met the Lord’s eyes steadfastly. “I led your hosts against Lucifer once. We left to do battle against the hordes corrupted to Lucifer’s fold unafraid. With Gabriel and Raphael on each side of me we swept down upon the angel of darkness. Our blinding light which was heaven’s host broke on the anvil of Lucifer’s wretched minions. They pursued us in our ignoble retreat to the gates of heaven. The bright shining host I led was in disillusioned ruin. If not for…”

The Lord held up his hand, stopping Michael instantly. “It was not your failure, my son. If not for your leadership I would have lost the host completely. If not for the bravery of my Archangels the entire host would have been destroyed. I underestimated the malevolence because I loved Lucifer so much.”

“Please, Father, let me finish,” Michael begged, with Gabriel shifting uneasily next to him.

The Lord nodded his acquiescence without speaking.

“If not for he who cannot be named, whom you did not send with us at first, Lucifer would have triumphed.”

“You may speak of my son, Abaddon. I asked you and the others to erase him from your thoughts because I did not wish to contaminate the very fabric of heaven. I know now the time has come when I can no longer allow my weakness concerning Lucifer to blind me.”

“Thank you, Father,” Michael gasped in joy at the words, kneeling and covering the Creator’s hands with his own. “I must speak then of my brother, Abaddon, conjured to face the fury of Lucifer as he met your retreating host at the brink of destruction. His fury turned Lucifer’s hordes as no other power but your own could.”

Gabriel pitched to his knees next to Michael in his fervor, reaching to cover Michael’s hands with his own. “We acceded to your wishes never to tell you of what transpired, Lord. We had been cut to ribbons. As the horde poised screaming in triumph for the final assault, Abaddon leapt among them. He raced past us into their ranks with ferocity we could not even grasp. We all carried the swords and shields of heaven. Our weapons were as feathers in the wind until Abaddon struck.”

“The rebels fell before him. No blow from their horde could stop him.” Michael’s face glowed in remembrance of the battle for heaven itself. “A roar of fury grew amongst Heaven’s host. We charged into the midst of the fallen behind Abaddon to die or live at his example. We drove the horde back until Lucifer himself had to take part. I met him on the battlefield. In the instant my sword touched his, I knew I was lost. Still, I battled on until…”

“Lucifer defeated you,” the Shepherd broke in, disbelief evident in his bell like voice. “Lucifer’s darkness had hidden everything from me until I heard the cries of my vanquished host. In haste to save my children I forged the Angel of the Abyss, my Abaddon. I could not bear to look upon the work of my avatar until the end. I did not know I almost lost you, Michael.”

“I was gone, Father. Lucifer swung the killing blow. Out of nowhere Abaddon struck aside Lucifer’s sword. I looked into Lucifer’s eyes when he faced Abaddon. They were as if forged from the same mold but Abaddon fought with a merciless intensity Lucifer could not match. The hordes and your host stopped in the midst of battle. The blows struck by Lucifer and Abaddon rocked the foundation of reality. Lucifer fell at Abaddon’s feet, flinging away his sword and clasping his hands in supplication, begging for mercy. Abaddon looked upon Lucifer with a visceral hatred I recognized at once as the ingredient missing from the rest of us. We could not hate. Abaddon struck at Lucifer with a blow to sweep the Dark One from existence, only to be stilled by your hand, Father. In your mercy, Lucifer was spared.”

“Not so, Michael. You sensed everything correctly except that. It was disappointment in Lucifer and the loss of so many which fired the fury of what I created in Abaddon. Lucifer’s pathetic cries as he begged for what he refused to give convinced me I could not allow darkness to end. I realized the fabric of what I intended to weave must contain shadow as well as light. Now in my ignorance of Lucifer’s dark soul I mistakenly sent Raphael to set right what was far beyond his scope of power.”

“Let us go and ask your avatar to return, Father.” Michael bowed his head before the Lord.

“You have been with him, Michael?” The Lord asked.

“We all have visited him, Father,” Gabriel answered for Michael. “We did not want to hurt you but as Michael explained, we would not exist except for him. Raphael visits him often. He will take it very hard if Lucifer has destroyed Raphael.”

“Raphael is unharmed. Lucifer holds him hostage against me. Please ask Abaddon to come to me here.”

“Father.” Michael raised his head. “Could you not ask him yourself?”

“He has the small touch of shadow within him which allows my son to block his thoughts from me,” the Creator admitted with a shrug of his shoulders. “He must be very bitter at how I treated him as he sought to do what I created him for.”

“Abaddon’s face glows when he asks after you, Father. If ever a prodigal son existed who had sought only to appease rather than rebel, it is Abaddon. He never mentioned the battle again. He passes his time without luxury or manifestation of divine power. Abaddon abides in his own private hell. We will go and bring my brother forth to meet with you, my Lord.”

“Why does he punish himself so, Michael?” The Lord seemed surprised at Michael’s declaration. “I never meant to harm him.”

“Yet Father, you withheld your face from his vision,” Gabriel added gently.

The Lord remained silent, his sadness palpable. After many moments, he bid his Archangels rise with him from the meadow ground. He gestured at the vista around him.

“Lucifer gave me this when he stood at my side. He had such vision. I could feel the hatred Abaddon felt at the moment he held Lucifer’s life force in his hands. In my denial of reality, I have allowed more than the color of darkness. I have allowed the perversion of light. No longer will I abide the imbalance Lucifer strives for. Go now, my sons. I would be alone for a time until I meet with Abaddon.”

In the instant of thought, the Archangels were transported to their exact location when first they decided to seek out the Lord.

“I should have spoken on behalf of Abaddon long ago,” Michael remarked.

“Now who denies reality?” Gabriel smiled. “Remember, even when we have visited our brother, we were never able to mention his name out loud. It is as if a barrier has been lifted. Let us go now and find Abaddon.”

“Does he still reside in that Earth setting Raphael manifested for him as a joke?” Michael remembered the bleak place Abaddon had adopted as his home.

“Yes, I feel it is so,” Gabriel acknowledged, concentrating for a moment. “As you say, Raph meant it as an amusement but once within the manifestation Abaddon embraced it happily. He embraces Earth-bound misery almost as much as Raph.”

“Raphael finds it interesting. He does not envelope himself in it. Are you ready?”

Gabriel nodded. Instantly the two Archangels stood in the midst of a mine, the only light cast from a coal oil lantern suspended from the main beam. Dust hung in the filthy air as if in suspended animation. A huge figure, his clothes and face smeared in black soot, straightened from where he had been swinging a huge sledgehammer into the rock wall. His light blue eyes literally gleamed in the lantern light as he turned to face the Archangels. With a welcoming smile of recognition he threw down his tool and held out his hands. As Michael and Gabriel grasped his extended hands the blackened figure cried out in reverent delight.

“You have been with him, my brothers,” Abaddon stated with joy. “I feel his touch as if he clasped my hands himself.”

“He wants you to meet with him,” Gabriel said. “Come with us now.”

“I…I cannot.” Abaddon pulled away from the Archangels. He grasped his sledgehammer handle, twisting it in his hands uneasily. “Please brothers let us speak of something else.”

“Your exile is over, Abaddon,” Michael stated. “You are needed.”

Abaddon looked disbelievingly at Michael. “It has been eons since last my name passed your lips.”

“Why do you abide in this hellhole, Abaddon?” Gabriel asked. “Raphael was merely having fun with you when he conjured this place. It has been centuries since we found you anywhere else. Have you not tired of this poor attempt at humor?”

“I lose myself here,” Abaddon admitted. “I believe Raph knew this place would suit me, even though as you say, he gets much amusement from finding me here. He tries now to show me all manner of ridiculous places the humans create, but I am content with this artifice. It is good to hear you both speak my name.”

“Lucifer intends to move against heaven again,” Michael explained. “He siphons the fuel for his unholy ambition from the teeming masses of Earth’s human spawn.”

“What is that to me?” Abaddon swung a blow with his sledgehammer which disintegrated the entire wall, ending the illusion. “Our Lord does not wish Lucifer stopped or he surely would have allowed me to finish him long ago instead of banishing me.”

Michael and Gabriel moved involuntarily back. All manner of manifestation dissolved around them until only Abaddon remained with his brothers in the blackness of space. The two Archangels, resplendent in radiant white light, retreated apprehensively from the formidable creature before them now.

“Do not fear, brothers. It has been a long time since you saw me in my true form. I did not mean to startle you. Some thoughts dispel my illusions. Unfortunately I may need Raph to help me get them back. I am not as imaginative as he.”

Michael and Gabriel looked at their brother in awe. Abaddon, encased in silvery armor, the shining shield of heaven lashed across his back, glanced down at the sword in his hand. The massive Abaddon gripped the handle familiarly in his huge hands. He moved the blade longingly from side to side. Muscles rippled in his bared arms with each movement. Shining black wings spread out behind his shoulders. Abaddon’s dark visage, scarred by thousands of demon thrusts parried at the last moment was bordered by a thick mane of jet-black hair. The feeling of uneasiness in his brothers’ thoughts woke the Lord’s Avatar from his reverie. Abaddon sheathed his sword, clasping his hands in front of him peacefully.

“Sorry, brothers.” Abaddon smiled apologetically. “It is not so easy to forget what I am in this form. You see now why I cannot be with our Father even if he wishes to forgive me. My soul rings with the memory of crushing Lucifer’s horde. The eternity of time melts away in my mind and the battle seems but a moment past.”

“If not for you we would be dead.” Gabriel grasped Abaddon’s shoulder. “Thank you, my brother. I have longed to speak my thanks to you and your name, Abaddon.”

“And I more so than Gabe,” Michael added, gripping Abaddon’s other shoulder. “I would have died at Lucifer’s hand if not for you. Thank you for my life, Abaddon.”

Abaddon chuckled, the sound like metal rasps rubbing together. “At least you would have died bravely, Michael, instead of crying out like a woman in childbirth as the coward Lucifer did.”

“You know of such things?” Gabriel asked. “I mean women, children and…”

“Raph has shown me much over time. I know many things about the Earth and something of Heaven’s fabric too. Brothers, it has been an enjoyable visit. I must not stay in my true form much longer. Raphael usually senses when I have lost control. He appears instantly to help me get it back, laughing at me the whole time. He keeps repeating over and over, ‘all this power, dark brother, and no imagination’. Sometimes Raph fills my place with human manifestations. He watches with much amusement at my interaction with them.”

Abaddon grinned happily.

“I think he visits me often because the darkness inside tends to shield anyone around me from the Lord’s consciousness. Raph likes to pretend he is getting away with something. Have either of you seen Raphael lately?”

“The Lord sent him to Earth,” Michael answered.

“Lucifer has him,” Gabriel finished.

Rage flashed across Abaddon’s face in a single lightning like blast. His hands clasped into fists at his side. The war for control Abaddon waged for an eternity surfaced once again. An awful smile appeared as Abaddon’s eyes lost their far away look of hatred.

“I will visit the mighty dark angel now,” Abaddon declared. “Sad for him, my brothers, he has no one to say his prayers to. If he has harmed Raphael, I…”

“Lucifer has bound him hostage against the Lord,” Michael interrupted. “Please go with us, Abaddon, to meet with our Father.”

“It may be the only way to get Raphael back,” Gabriel added.

Abaddon nodded. “I would speak with my Father now.”

Chapter 2

The Mission

“My son,” the Lord cried out in anguish. “You are in pain.”

Abaddon knelt in the meadow his hands clasped in raised supplication, all rage and anger erased in an instant. The Lord grasped Abaddon’s hands in his. Michael and Gabriel watched the reunion with unbridled joy.

“I am well, Father.” Abaddon locked eyes with his Lord. “I ask your blessing to get Raphael.”

The Lord regarded his Avatar with pain filled eyes. The scars of Abaddon’s triumph, his black wings and armored body forced the memory of what the Lord had pushed aside to the forefront. With his own hands, the Creator remembered grafting this powerful weapon kneeling before him, bitterness and loss the fuel with which he had worked. The Lord placed a hand on Abaddon’s head. Michael and Gabriel saw the shudder pass through their brother’s form. The Lord guided the massive warrior to his feet.

“Do you understand now, my son?”

“For the first time,” Abaddon answered with a smile, “I understand your purpose in letting Lucifer live. May I kill him now?”

The Lord laughed - a sound of pure pleasure which reverberated to the tops of the surrounding mountains. Long did the Lord laugh with Michael and Gabriel joining in with him. Abaddon let the waves of joy engulf him, uncertain of why the Lord was so amused, but still willing to absorb the moment without objection. Abaddon remembered making Raphael laugh many times without knowing why. The Lord put an arm around Abaddon, hugging him tightly.

“Thank you, my son. It is not often I am so amused. Please, do not kill him.”

“As you wish, Father, but I must have Raphael back.”

“You will, my son, you will,” the Lord assured him. “I want you to stay on Earth for a time, Abaddon. I sent Raphael to deliver a woman from bondage in the holy land. Lucifer intercepted him. Her name is Sister Mary Catherine. Her captors have tortured her steadily for nearly a year of Earth’s time. Nearly driven mad with pain, she cries out to me still in prayer. She cries not for me to save her but for me to save all around her. I have watched her progress from a harsh childhood where she prayed daily for her uncaring parents, through her young adulthood as she became orphaned and dedicated her life in my service.”

“I wish for you to heal this woman, and stay at her side, Abaddon. Her purity can regain the balance between light and darkness. Many of my human children have been corrupted, and even inhabited by Lucifer’s minions. Catherine will spend her life after rescue exorcizing these demons. No demon can remain in a host body when touched by Catherine. You will protect her, my son. Do what you were created for when the demon exits the host. Wrest Raphael from Lucifer’s grasp and take him with you. He will be weakened but his guidance in Earthly matters will be of service to you in the years ahead.”

“Are you certain you wish it to continue in this way, Father?” Abaddon asked hesitantly. “I could…”

“You could plague the Earth in my name until only the good remained,” the Lord interrupted Abaddon with the touch of his hand. “Just as I cannot have you kill Lucifer, I must ask you to work my will in this way I have outlined for you.”

“Raphael showed me much blasphemy and perversion exists on Earth, Father. At least allow me to heal some of the blackness.”

“You are an Archangel of the Lord - the dread Angel of the Abyss. Your touch will spread a holy fire the likes of which no mortal has ever felt, but only as you command.”

The Lord held each of the Archangels in his arms, jubilant at what had finally transpired. He turned to his flock and the meadow they grazed in, a staff appearing in his right hand as he walked. Michael and Gabriel embraced Abaddon, congratulating him on his mission and promising to be there for him through all eternity. The Lord turned back from the meadow toward his Avatar almost as if an afterthought had come to him.

“Abaddon,” the Lord’s voice boomed out with vigor.

“Yes, Father?”

“These creatures who have tortured Catherine in the Holy Land,” the Lord said, anger filling his words with an intensity the Archangels had never heard before. “You will take care of those human demons properly, my son.”

Abaddon, Archangel of the Abyss, smiled grimly. “I can do that.”

* * *

Raphael burned, bound in chains at the pit of a fiery hell, the likes of which could only be vaguely explained by artists’ renderings of Dante’s Inferno. Lucifer watched the Archangel writhe in silent agony, joyfully siphoning Raphael’s power with lust born of darkness.

“Scream, brother, it will make you feel better.” Lucifer laughed, his handsome face enhanced by black robes and ebony wings. Only his cloven feet reflected his true inner spirit. “It looks like our Father doesn’t intend to bargain for his messenger boy. I had hoped he would send that pathetic Michael down to get you. I would bleed him for a hundred years.”

Raphael looked around him, his jaw clenched shut in fury. He felt his power nearly drained. He clamped his eyes closed against the vista surrounding him: thousands of souls dancing in Lucifer’s hellish creation, savaged in unspeakable torment. Lucifer had beaten him almost as if he were without power. Raphael prayed the Lord would not send Michael to the same fate. Raphael suddenly felt soothing coolness. The hellish chains binding him fell away. He opened his eyes to a staggering sight.

“Hello, Raph, I missed you.” Abaddon helped Raphael to his feet.

“Abaddon, look out!”

Lucifer struck from behind at the Lord’s Avatar with a scream of fury.

Abaddon moved faster than thought. His counterstroke shattered Lucifer’s hell-sword as if a sledgehammer smashed into a crystal goblet. The space-time continuum rippled at the unimaginable power brought to bear in Abaddon’s sword stroke. Lucifer plunged to his knees, vibrating from the force of Abaddon’s blow. Abaddon moved in for the kill, his face a rage of emotion at having the dark angel again on his knees in front of him. Abaddon held his blow with an iron will.

“Scream, brother, it will make you feel better.” Abaddon swung his sword in an arc which severed Lucifer’s sword hand off at the wrist.

And Lucifer screamed.

Abaddon put an arm around Raphael. “Let’s get out of here Raph. We have some work to do.”

“But… brother… what of Lucifer?”

“Our Father asked me not to kill him.” Abaddon watched the writhing figure of Lucifer. “He didn’t ask me not to hurt him.”

Raphael hugged Abaddon, feeling the power both light and dark coursing through the once exiled Archangel. “I am very glad to see you, my brother.”

“If I had not found you whole, Raph, I would have been in danger of disobeying our Lord,” Abaddon admitted, holding Raphael at arm’s length, relief at seeing Raphael again evident on his face.

“Lucy heals quickly, does he not?” Raphael gestured at the fallen angel. Lucifer’s missing hand was nearly regenerated completely.


“It’s a shortening of his name he hates, brother.” Raphael approached Lucifer. He kicked him in the head with relish.

Lucifer cried out in pain, scrambling away from Raphael with hatred spilling out of him as if it were a tangible force. Hearing Abaddon had been ordered not to kill him, Lucifer’s cunning resurfaced quickly as he looked at the Archangels with malevolent disdain. He stood up gesturing around him at the hell he had created for its inhabitants.

“What of them, Angel of the Abyss? Do you plan to free all of these creatures too?”

Abaddon glanced unwillingly around him, the sight of so many souls in unutterable torment touching him deeply. He returned his look to Lucifer’s preternatural beauty before turning his attention to Lucifer’s cloven hooves.

“Nice feet, Lucy.”

Raphael laughed at Abaddon’s remark with so much natural vigor, Lucifer’s hands clenched into fists - his rage so palpable a shimmering red haze engulfed the hellish dimension. Abaddon walked calmly up to Lucifer. The fallen angel’s cowardice quickly surfaced at the approach of the Lord’s Avatar. Abaddon snatched the writhing demon up by his neck, the touch of the Lord still within his grasp. Lucifer howled in the pain of the damned. Abaddon leaned his face near Lucifer’s contorted features.

“Know this, dark brother,” Abaddon whispered, “I have been delivered out of exile. I know your realm is your realm, but all else is in play. From this moment forward if you see my brothers flee from their sight as if your pathetic existence depended on it because it will.”

“He will not let you kill me,” Lucifer gasped.

“Ever wonder why you cannot stand for a moment before me in battle? My wings are black, my little Lucy. Never assume to know me or my Creator. Remember what I have said.”

Abaddon cast Lucifer aside as he would an unwanted sack of garbage. Raphael, who had been watching the exchange with unbridled glee, extended his hand to Abaddon’s beckoning one.

“Time to go, Raph.” Abaddon gripped his brother’s hand. “We…”

“Wait, wait,” Raphael interrupted, lowering his voice. He took on a cold cruel visage. “We’re goin’ up thar to set things right.”

Abaddon laughed, more out of delight in Raphael’s assumed persona, rather than the actual human reference he knew his brother studied and aped constantly. Instantly, the Archangels flashed into existence near a bleak stone structure with barbed wire fences and patrolling guards. The guards upon seeing the materialization and appearance of the Seraphim stood in shocked immobility, unable to do anything other than stare. Raphael walked up to the nearest man. He smiled at him in a placating manner.

“Salaam,” Raphael greeted the man.

“Who…who are you?” The man managed to ask. His hands shook so badly he lost the grip on his AK47, causing it to clatter to the ground.

“What would you like to do, brother?”

“I must rely on your judgment, Raph,” Abaddon admitted. “I am not as discerning as you are. I would find the woman and do as our Lord wishes in holding the humans accountable. I feel he wanted me to find you first because I am not yet able to recognize the innocent after so long in exile.”

The guard watched the Archangels in silence, unable to decide the appropriate course of action. The three men with him waited in fear of what the Archangels’ appearance meant. Raphael gestured for the other guards to come closer, which they did.

“I see you have no guilt in what was done to the young Sister Mary Catherine.” Raphael’s words were translated instantly. “Gather your families if they live anywhere near this abomination and leave the area.”

“But…but what have you come to do?” The initial soldier asked hesitantly. “We are soldiers of Allah. We…”

Abaddon joined his brother. Before his true form the soldiers fell to the ground with their heads bowed, paralyzed with fear.

Abaddon reached down and touched the soldier who had spoken. The man gasped. He looked up in amazement at the Angel of the Abyss.

The man turned to lay hands on his fellow guards. The moment their friend touched them they stood up, shaking as if awakening from a dream. The guards left together with only a backwards glance at the Archangels. Raphael turned his eyes to Abaddon with surprise.

“Just a touch?”

“I am to regain the balance. Our Father pressed upon me the power to do whatever I feel necessary. I transferred what power I could to you too, my brother. The ones responsible for the woman’s torment have walked the path of evil too long and must be punished. I reply upon your guidance, Raph. While I do not care to harm the innocent, it may happen without your insight.”

“I am with you, brother. Do you think it would be acceptable to our Lord if we were to enjoy this world fully while working his will?”

“Within reason, Raph,” Abaddon put an arm around Raphael, “within reason. Only you would ask such a thing before all else. I am sure our Father knew you would take some comfort in your stay here. Let us go find Sister Mary Catherine.”

Chapter 3

Chosen of the Lord

Inside the abysmal cell where Catherine lay chained she whispered her prayers in an almost silent chant. No longer capable of clasping her hands together in prayer the almost skeletal Catherine huddled in the filth of her cell. The untreated breaks and fractures on her arms and legs were swollen grotesquely, preventing movement without crippling pain. What was left of Catherine’s once blonde hair which had survived her malnutrition hung in thin transparent strands around her face.

She heard the screams first. Catherine croaked in despair thinking her captors were torturing the prisoners housed in the adjoining cells. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly. The whispered prayers for the poor souls Catherine envisioned being brutalized flowed from her cracked lips in hushed pleas for their deliverance. Screams and wails of agony went on until Catherine began doubting her sanity, wondering if the horrible sounds were originating in her own head. A blinding white light, so bright it registered on Catherine’s closed eyes, filled the dungeon-like cell with illumination to its darkest corners. Catherine heard the door to her cell explode outward. She smiled, believing her captors had turned their attention to her once again. Catherine opened her eyes to welcome her torturers as she did each time they had visited.

Catherine squinted in shock at the two nearly seven foot tall Archangels. The front of her cell lay in ruins beyond the entranceway. The aura of the two Seraphim made Catherine’s heart swell with joy. She recoiled slightly as the black winged armored Angel of the Abyss approached her, his hand extended.

“Do not fear, Sister Mary Catherine,” Abaddon urged. “My brother Raphael and I have come to free you from this hell.”

Catherine looked up into Abaddon’s scarred visage with doubt. The empathy she felt pouring from the Archangel soothed her fear. At the touch of Abaddon, Catherine felt the will of the Lord surge through her shattered body. Catherine floated up in Abaddon’s firm grasp, her body healed instantly, the pain she had endured in year long agony finally ended. Raphael grasped his brother’s shoulder.

“You feel it too, Raph?” Abaddon smiled at his brother as he cradled the young woman in his huge arms as if she were a child.

“She is magnificent,” Raphael whispered, covering Catherine’s hand with his own.

“You…you are the Archangel Raphael?” The relief in Catherine’s voice was almost palpable.

“Yes, Sister Mary Catherine, our Lord has heard your prayers through these long months. Did you feel his will when my brother touched you?”

“I know what I am to do,” Catherine answered happily. She looked into Abaddon’s eyes at last. “I thought at first you were the dark angel.”

“My Lord allowed me to feel the purity of your soul when he bid me come and take you away from here. I am Abaddon.”

“The Angel of the Abyss?” Catherine whispered.

Raphael chuckled, shaking Abaddon’s shoulder slightly in good humor. “Do not be afraid, Sister Mary Catherine. My brother is the only one of us who can stand against Lucifer. If you are ready to leave we can take you to your first trial or give you time to rest.”

“What of the screams I heard? Please! We must help them.”

“The screams emanated from the men who tortured you all this time,” Abaddon answered. “The Lord gave me a second mission: to punish your torturers.”

“I…I understand.” Catherine shuddered at what punishment would evoke the screams she had heard. “What of the other prisoners held on each side of me?”

“They are still there,” Raphael stated.

“We must free them too,” Catherine insisted.

“It will be done,” Abaddon agreed readily. “What manner of clothing would you like, Sister Mary Catherine?”

Catherine for the first time realized she lay naked in Abaddon’s arms. She blushed but met Abaddon’s inquiring gaze directly.

“Can you acquire the traditional habit of a nun for me? I…I am very partial to the traditional church trappings.”

Abaddon glanced over at Raphael. His brother communicated a picture of what the traditional nun’s garb would look like. Catherine was instantly clothed in the flowing black robes of her calling. Even her feet were sheathed in the prim black shoes she was so familiar with. Abaddon allowed Catherine to stand, steadying her in the rubble of the entranceway. She quickly strode to the cell door adjacent to her cell on the right.

“This cell and the ones on my left hold the only survivors from our volunteer group.” Catherine bowed her head. “We came to the holy land with such hope and…”

“Think no more of those times, Sister,” Raphael interrupted her.

Abaddon moved past Catherine. He pulled the cell door from its moorings as if it were a tissue paper curtain, setting it aside gently so as not to have loose debris injure Catherine. Inside the cell, a skeletal figure huddled in fear, covering her face and cringing at what she anticipated to be more torment. Abaddon grasped the woman’s hand as he knelt next to her. The transformation, as it had been with Catherine, was instantaneous. Abaddon drew the woman to him, allowing his healing power to gradually seep into her consciousness, slowly overcoming the shock of his touch.

Catherine watched Abaddon’s healing gift in her own state of shock, glancing wide-eyed at Raphael. The Archangel grasped her hand reassuringly.

“He…he is very impressive,” Catherine managed to say.

Raphael laughed. “He is the man as you say. Make no mistake, Sister Mary Catherine, the balance between Lucifer’s forces and our Father in heaven still rests in your hands. My brother and I must support you without interfering in this delicate dance.”

“I…I do understand the importance of my part.” Catherine watched her friend’s miraculous recovery in Abaddon’s arms. “It’s just… well… I feel so…”

“Don’t think about it, Catherine. Accept it and go on as if you were following your calling, because you are,” Raphael coached her. “We have a long journey before us. Just as your faith has been miraculous, you must accept the answer to your prayers to be every bit as miraculous.”

“I will,” Catherine said, her determination taking over. “It seems my friend Angelina has embraced our new circumstances willingly.”

Angelina, her body whole and healthy again in the grasp of Heaven’s most powerful Archangel, trembled unbelievingly in Abaddon’s gentle grasp. The joy of her first pain free moment in over a year obliterated all other thought. She grasped Abaddon’s face with both of her hands. She kissed him, overcome with the relief coursing through her body. Catherine looked questioningly at Raphael. Surprise registered on his face. He felt Catherine’s questioning gaze and turned toward her with a shrug of his winged shoulders.

“It seems my brother will have many temptations to face here.” Raphael grinned appreciatively. Abaddon’s arms tightened around Angelina’s body involuntarily. “Just out of curiosity, Catherine, is Angelina a nun also?”

Catherine watched Angelina’s nearly naked body writhe in apparent ecstasy within Abaddon’s grasp. The relief from torment, coupled with her instant attraction to Abaddon’s power, fueled an embrace beyond the moment. Reality shimmered for an instant. The time continuum reacted to Abaddon’s momentary abandon to earthly attraction. Angelina drew back, her breath coming in short intakes of air as she stared into Abaddon’s eyes with desire she had never dreamed of feeling. Abaddon set her down gently, dressed head to toe as Catherine had asked for in explaining the garb she wished to be clothed in. The Archangel’s visage shone with a need so blatant his black wings virtually glowed as they flexed in a panorama around the two. Angelina glanced longingly at Abaddon, reaching for him again before noticing Raphael and Catherine’s staring at her.

“Oh, Catherine, what does this mean?” Angelina’s gaze darted back and forth between Abaddon and Catherine. “How…how have we been delivered? I…I never…”

“I am Abaddon,” the Archangel of the Abyss said simply, clasping Angelina’s hand in his. “Do not be afraid. This is my brother Raphael. We have…”

Angelina threw herself back into Abaddon’s arms, clasping her hands tightly around his neck and kissing him with an intensity Abaddon returned until Raphael grasped his brother’s arm. Abaddon pulled away, his eyes betraying the violent emotions battling for control of his being. He held Angelina at arms length, disbelief evident in his features. Angelina looked unabashedly at him, all earthly platitudes swept aside.

“We…we must save your fellow captive.” Abaddon released Angelina into Catherine’s sympathetic grasp, allowing Raphael to draw him toward the other cell.

After Abaddon pulled the adjacent cell door back from its moorings, Catherine rushed in, calling out in joy to her fellow captive.

“Sarah,” Catherine called out haltingly, rushing forth to embrace the emaciated corpse in the corner of the dank cell. She hugged the unmoving body in her arms, beckoning with her eyes for Abaddon to hurry.

Abaddon grasped Sarah’s hand in his, looking into her sightless eyes with an almost human dread. He held her hand for a long moment before placing it again by her side. Abaddon met Catherine’s imploring look with resignation.

“She is with our Father.”

Catherine held Sarah tightly to her as she knelt beside the Archangel. Catherine could not hide the anger welling up inside. “Can’t you…”

“Do not ask it, Sister Mary Catherine. I cannot do this for you.”

“You are an Archangel. You…”

“I am not the Creator,” Abaddon interrupted. “I cannot give back life, Sister. Your Sarah is in a much better place and has been for nearly a day.”

“How do I know any of what you say exists?” Catherine’s bitterness at not having arrived in time to save Sarah spewed forth in her words. “Just because you sucked face with Angelina, doesn’t mean…”

“Enough!” Abaddon ordered, the darker aura around him heralding his rage. “My future for years to come will be entwined with yours, Sister Mary Catherine. Please accept what I can and cannot do. I do not lie.”

Angelina ran up to Abaddon past Raphael’s grasp, wrapping herself around Abaddon’s leg and holding on tightly. Angelina held her eyelids clasped shut in quiet supplication. Abaddon’s anger dissolved instantly at Angelina’s touch. He turned to Raphael almost accusingly which prompted a laugh from his brother.

“What disturbs you, brother?”

“How is it, Raph, I had no warning of this girl’s attentions?” Abaddon gestured impatiently for Sister Mary Catherine to be silent a moment longer.

“God works in mysterious ways, my brother,” Raphael answered curtly.

The two Archangels stared at each other for a moment before both of them surrendered to raucous laughter.

“Oh, Raph,” Abaddon blurted out in the midst of his amusement, “I am so happy to have you here.”

“As am I, my brother, as am I.” Raphael considered Catherine’s flushed, highly perturbed face blend into the moment. “I would council magnanimity in this instance.”

“My friend was not a joke.” Catherine clutched the dead woman to her. “Sister Angelina, please stop acting like some…”

Angelina released Abaddon suddenly and covered Catherine’s hands with her own. Catherine looked away. She began to cry softly. Angelina brushed her hand over Sister Sarah’s unseeing eyes, closing them gently. Easing Sarah from Catherine’s grasp, Angelina lowered the body to the floor. Catherine sobbed piteously, hands covering her eyes. Abaddon and Raphael stood together, silently glancing at each other uneasily as Angelina put her arms around Catherine for a moment. Angelina then pulled Catherine to her feet.

“Catherine,” Angelina whispered softly, “they are not laughing at Sarah. Come, let us leave this awful place.”

Abaddon placed his hand on Catherine’s shoulder.

“Sister Angelina is right. I am sorry if you thought we were making light of your friend’s death. Her trials are over. She is with my Father. Please come with us.”

Instantly, the Archangel’s and the two women were standing outside the small hellish prison.

“Let me show you something, Sister Mary Catherine.” Abaddon waited until Catherine looked up at him before taking her hands in his own.

Catherine’s face took on a look of bewildered awe as the very fabric of reality shimmered into visibility for her to see. Catherine’s hands gripped Abaddon’s desperately, needing his touch to keep her sanity. Angelina looked on fearfully, letting Raphael steady her in the midst of Abaddon’s revelation of existence. When Abaddon allowed the glimpse of eternity to fade, the two women gasped breathlessly in shocked realization. Catherine met Abaddon’s inquiring look tearfully before bowing her head.

“I…I am sorry I doubted you.”

“It is nothing, Sister. I only wished to comfort you in your loss. Sister Angelina, are you well?”

Angelina fell to her knees, bowing her head and raising her hands in supplication. “I am a nun no longer, my Lord. I wish only to serve you.”

“Sister Angelina!” Catherine admonished.

Abaddon grasped Angelina’s hands and lifted her up. Angelina stared defiantly into Abaddon’s eyes.

“I am not our Lord, Sister.”

“You are my Lord.” Angelina ignored Catherine’s hand gripping her shoulder. “They tortured Sister Mary Catherine mercilessly and all the while she prayed for them. While the rest of us were screaming in agony, she cried out as if she herself were being tortured. She is a saint. God rightfully answered her prayers. I prayed too.”

Angelina paused, her face taking on a cruel set as she remembered her captivity. “I prayed for God to strike my captors dead. When day after day my prayers went unanswered, I lost my faith.”

Abaddon remembered his Creator’s final wish before Abaddon’s departure. “I believe you are mistaken, Sister. Let me show you.”

Abaddon cupped Angelina’s face with his huge hands. She closed her eyes. In seconds, Angelina saw and heard the Creator’s wish to see the nuns’ captors punished. Angelina witnessed Abaddon fulfilling the Lord’s request in the cruel guards’ last moments of hell on earth. Angelina did not cringe at the ghastly deaths. She smiled happily.

“Brother, Sister Angelina has a warrior’s look,” Raphael observed.

Angelina opened her eyes, a look of willful contentment still apparent on the nun’s face. “I am grateful to have seen this but it changes very little, my Lord. I am not the same woman I was. I want to be with you always in any way you will let me.”

Catherine spun her friend around. She gripped Angelina’s arms tightly. “You don’t mean that. Please, Angelina, don’t say such things until you’ve…”

“Sister Mary Catherine,” Angelina interrupted her. “Each of us must do what we feel is right. I love you with all my heart. It was only your voice which kept me alive all these long months. My Lord Abaddon will be with you and I will be with him.”

Catherine released Angelina, seeing her friend’s mind was set. “Very well, Sister but these two are Archangels, the Seraphim of Heaven itself.”

“I will not hold that against them.” Angelina smiled at Abaddon and Raphael.

“I fear I cannot be all you wish,” Abaddon said finally to Angelina. “My course here on Earth will be with Sister Mary Catherine. My Creator gave me a darker side I am barely in control of. Now Raph here is an angel of light. He…”

“Do not wave me around as if I were a flag, Dark Brother.” Raphael pointed a warning finger at the smiling Abaddon. “Perhaps Sister Angelina here was meant to temper some of your darker urges. Our Lord probably knew it would take the three of us acting upon our individual strengths to keep you in check.”

Angelina moved into Abaddon suggestively. “See, my Lord, you are the darker brother while I am the darker sister.”

Angelina stroked Abaddon’s left black wing with reverence. “Perhaps my Lord Raphael is right. I have survived to fulfill a purpose Sister Mary Catherine cannot.”

“Come,” Raphael gestured with a wave of his hand, “let us talk this over somewhere my brother may taste coffee. It has been ages since I have had a cup of coffee. We must take on less daunting appearances. How about these?”

Instantly, the two Archangels were clothed in khaki military cut clothing, with black jump boots. Raphael eyed Abaddon’s dark visage as if figuring what to do about it. Finally, with a wave of his hands, both he and Abaddon wore headdresses of white, with a dark band. Raphael nodded, satisfied with his work. He held his arms up in a questioning gesture to Abaddon.

“What do you think, brother?”

“No robes and sandals?”

“Too casual,” Raphael answered. “What do you think Sisters? Are we inconspicuous enough?”

“You both are very handsome.” Angelina clung to Abaddon’s arm. “I liked your black wings though.”

“They are still there, Sister,” Raphael explained; “but not quite in this moment.”

Catherine looked closely at Abaddon’s scarred visage. “You still look like the Angel of the Abyss.”

“That will not change,” Abaddon replied. “Some things cannot be hidden.”

“You both are far taller than average. What of those scars?” Catherine continued appraising Abaddon and Raphael.

“They were formed by the blows of Lucifer’s horde, during the battle for Heaven,” Raphael answered for Abaddon. “He was our shield. Such scars will seep through any attempt at disguise, Sister.”

“They are glorious.” Angelina stroked Abaddon’s face softly with her fingers.

“Sister Angelina, you will need to quit fawning over our protector. Can you not control yourself even a little?”

Angelina turned away from Abaddon to face Catherine.

“No, but I will try not to embarrass you in public.”

“Thank you.” Catherine turned to Raphael. “I would very much like a cup of tea, ah…”

“Call me Raphael, or Raph, if you like Sister. We’ll have to come up with a nickname of some kind for the Angel of the Abyss here. Abaddon is not a common name anywhere on Earth. Such was our Lord’s will until recently.”

“I would ask you to use my name even if it is rare. It has been an eternity since I heard my name spoken. I do not wish to have it dismissed on a whim, Raph.”

“As you wish, brother. Let’s go.”

“I have but one more item to take care of here, Raph.” Abaddon disengaged himself from Angelina and walked a few steps away.

Abaddon raised his left fist. Where once the fenced off prison stood, a barren black circle of sand lay in its place. It was as if the complex had instantly ceased to exist. The Angel of the Abyss stared at his work of destruction for a moment, sensing he should do more, but unsure of what. He turned to Raphael who had placed his hands comfortingly on the nuns’ shoulders as they averted their eyes from the act of raw power.

“Something’s missing, Raph. I feel it, but I just…”

Raphael held out his hands toward the devastated area. It was instantly covered in lush green grass and wildflowers, fed by a newly routed underground spring.

“Better?” Raphael asked.

Abaddon smiled in satisfaction, nodding his head in enjoyment of Raphael’s addition. “Very nice, Raph, I will try to emulate this gift you have for beauty.”

“I don’t know, Abaddon.” Raphael patted his brother’s shoulder. “I tried for an eternity to get you out of that hole in the ground I showed you as a joke. Now you want to grow gardens? I have my doubts, brother.”

“I would have…” Abaddon began to protest as he faced Raphael. Upon seeing Raphael’s mischievous look Abaddon sighed. “Another joke, right?”

“You are such an easy target I cannot resist yet. May I suggest allowing our wards a little warning before you lay waste to something in front of them in the future?”

Catherine rushed up to Raphael, her frightened look at Abaddon’s devastation quickly replaced by anger at Raphael’s gardening touch.

“I thought you could not create life, Raphael,” Catherine said. “Why…”

“Sister,” Abaddon interrupted her, “Raphael redirected life already present. He did not create life out of whole cloth. Let us walk for a time until we are away from here. It feels good to walk on this earth and feel the sun’s warmth.”

Abaddon walked off slowly toward the small village visible in the distance. Sister Angelina immediately hurried after him, taking his arm with both her hands as they walked. Raphael waved Catherine ahead with a smile. Raphael took up a position to her right and slightly behind.

Chapter 4

Brief Respite

“The powerful Abaddon can surely destroy.”

“Thank our Lord my brother has restraint, Sister Mary Catherine.” Raphael showed impatience for the first time. “It is within the Lord’s mission for him to have wiped out not only the prison but all the surrounding villages. Abaddon was exiled in nameless obscurity for a time you humans would think of as eternity. We see the driving force of your power - innocence and purity so strong even our Lord took notice. I wish to help you, but never speak ill of my brother again in my presence, Sister. Do you understand me?”

“I’m sorry, Raphael.” Catherine fell to her knees in front of the Archangel, grasping his right hand with both of hers. “I had no right to speak so. Sister Angelina and I owe you everything.”

Raphael pulled Catherine to her feet, setting her on a path toward the village. He again took up a position near her right hand. “We will do everything in our power to help you in the years ahead, Sister. Some of what we do will be hard for you to grasp. I welcome your input, but I caution you to remember what my brother and I can and cannot do.”

“I will remember, Raphael,” Catherine promised, looking ahead at the huge figure of Abaddon walking ahead with Angelina practically attached to his side. “Does Abaddon realize how taken Sister Angelina is with him, I mean, would…”

“Would he take her as his concubine, you mean?” Raphael chuckled appreciatively at the thought. “I am not sure how he would react to Sister Angelina attempting to seduce him. Why do you ask? Abaddon will not harm her.”

“I find it disturbing to think of the hierarchy of heaven engaging sexually with humans, especially a nun like Sister Angelina.”

“I understand the rules of your faith and the bible,” Raphael stated solemnly. “You must try to understand we do not come here to desecrate what you believe. You don’t understand all the intricacies of existence. Abaddon tried to show you the complex threads of reality to ease your grief. My brother and I are not sexual predators or deviants. When we walk upon the earth we are drawn inexplicably to human wants and needs.”

“What of you, Raphael?”

Raphael laughed. “I have had more practice at resisting temptation, Sister. Besides, I do not have the darker side my brother does. Even in earthly guise, Sister, we are very empowering beings. You may find our attractiveness unnerving at times. Does Sister Angelina’s infatuation with Abaddon bother you?”

“A little,” Catherine admitted. “We take vows of chastity. As nuns we are married in faith to the Lord.”

“After all you and Sister Angelina have been through I would suggest taking a more open view of what she does.”

“But she wished to renounce her vows as a nun.”

“Easy, Sister Mary Catherine.” Raphael slipped his arm around her shoulders. “Let us not assume sin where none yet exists.”

Catherine sniffed the air.

“I smell vanilla. Are you doing that, Raphael?”

“Guilty as charged. I saw it once in a movie where this supposed earthly manifestation of the Archangel Michael came to earth. Wherever he went women would be attracted to him and suddenly smell their favorite odor. I ragged my brother Michael mercilessly over it. I made him watch it with me twice.”

“I can’t believe you watch movies.” Catherine smiled happily for the first time, which had been Raphael’s purpose in telling the story. “Vanilla is not my favorite smell.”

Raphael sighed. “You are as dense as my brother. It doesn’t matter what smell is your favorite, only… ah, never mind. Humor loses something when it must be explained.”

“I’m sure it was very funny,” Catherine said, not sure at all. “We have a very hard road ahead of us, don’t we, Raphael?”

“It could be a lot easier if we simply turned the Angel of the Abyss loose. Staying within the boundaries set out by our Lord may prove very interesting. One thing I can guarantee, you will never see the inside of a prison again, Sister. We will do our work. It will be a bad day for anyone trying to stand in our way.”

“I am most happy I will never be in prison again,” Catherine replied earnestly. “Can Abaddon truly defeat Lucifer?”

“Abaddon could snuff old Lucy out like a day old candle if the Lord permitted it. Abaddon showed me the Lord’s plan. I understand the complexities require Lucifer’s survival. Good and bad are essential for life in spite of the painful conflict. Lucifer has grown too powerful and the forces of good too passive. We will remedy this imbalance.”

“It is very uplifting to hear this struggle spoken of as you have.” Catherine’s excitement manifested itself in her suddenly grim countenance. “In recent times it seems we had no weapons in which to fight evil.”

“You do now, Sister Mary Catherine.” Raphael watched Abaddon fend off a laughing Angelina as she tried to climb up on his back. “You do now.”

* * *

As the four companions walked into the outskirts of the Palestinian settlement, armed guards rushed at them from the ramshackle houses at the perimeter of the village. Angelina, her captivity still fresh in her mind, huddled behind the massive Archangel Abaddon. The militiamen screamed at Abaddon while taking aim with their AK47’s, ready to simply execute the strangers in front of them. Their leader, a squat bearded man in his middle forties, strode forth confidently as Raphael and Catherine joined their compatriots. Raphael held up his hand to the men, greeting them in traditional Arab form and Abaddon mimicked him.

“What do you want here?” The squat man asked angrily.

“We merely wish to visit one of your café’s,” Raphael explained.

Suddenly, Angelina cried out from where she hid behind Abaddon. Catherine rushed to her side, hugging the terrified nun to her. The squat man peered around at the two nuns. He smiled with a leering anticipation.

“You have two escaped prisoners,” the squat man stated. “I recognize these two infidel women with you. They are blasphemers of Allah.”

Raphael looked at the man curiously. He glanced down at Catherine as she held a sobbing Angelina. “Do you know this man, Sister Mary Catherine?”

Catherine nodded solemnly, meeting the squat man’s leer with sadness. “If there are truly demons in the form of man upon this earth, Raphael, then this man is one of them.”

“And these other men, Sister?” Abaddon gestured at the squat man’s companions.

“The others are unfamiliar to me.” Catherine did not look away from the man’s belligerent stare. “He was the last one I heard with Sarah.”

“Kill these two and strip the two women,” the leader ordered.

Raphael waved his hand and the men were weaponless. Abaddon moved too fast for the human eye in grabbing the startled leader up by his shirt. Abaddon glanced at his brother. Raphael nodded grimly.

“You have been judged.” Abaddon’s strident voice carried powerfully in the afternoon air. The man dangled from Abaddon’s right hand, clawing at the Archangel’s fist. “The punishment is death.”

The squat man burst into a hellish black flame, his hideous screams carrying on minute after minute. Angelina had quieted, watching the execution of her tormentor stolidly, her mouth set in trembling acceptance. Catherine released her, running forward to plead for mercy. Raphael caught her up before she could approach Abaddon.

“This part is not yours, Sister,” Raphael whispered.

“I…I should not have told you about him,” Catherine said, unable to look away. “No one deserves such a death.”

Raphael saw Angelina stand and move closer to the flaming human monster. “I think Sister Angelina would disagree. It is as our Father requested. This man must pay as the Lord assigned to Abaddon.”

Only when ashes flowed from Abaddon’s hand to be blown away by the wind did the Archangel of the Abyss lower his arm. He towered over the other soldiers prostrate on the ground in fear, their trembling hands over their heads. Abaddon reached down and grasped the first man by the arm. The man’s countenance changed instantly. He clutched Abaddon’s hand in joy. He in turn gripped his fellow soldiers. They reacted similarly. In moments, all looked to Abaddon expectantly.

“I am Abaddon, Archangel of the Abyss. You will carry this with you all the days of your lives so others may know,” Abaddon told them.

“We will do your bidding, my Lord Abaddon,” the first man exclaimed happily.

“Can you guide us to the nearest café?” Raphael asked.

“Of course, Sir, follow us.”

“Wait here while we gather our companions.” Raphael and Abaddon rejoined Catherine and Angelina.

Abaddon allowed Angelina to come into his arms. He stroked her back gently.

“I saw what he had done to you, Sister Angelina,” Abaddon said. “I would take such memories from you if I could.”

“There is no need, my Lord.” Angelina stepped back, grasping Abaddon’s hand in hers. I…I’m sorry I screamed. Seeing him… I…”

“Think no more of it, Sister. His fate was cast.”

Raphael and Catherine waited near the soldiers for Abaddon and Angelina to join them. The soldiers took turns grasping Raphael’s hand, awestruck at the power emanating from the Archangel. Raphael gently disengaged from the group when Abaddon approached. He gestured at the men who had turned their attention to Catherine with reverence.

“Let’s get that coffee, brother.”

“Of course.” Abaddon pretended not to notice as Angelina climbed onto his back, hugging him tightly as if he were a pony ride.

“Would you like a horsey ride too, Sister Mary Catherine?”

“I’ll walk, Raphael.” Catherine answered, looking disapprovingly at Angelina. She glanced at Raphael after a moment with a smile. “Perhaps another time?”

“Now that’s funny.”

The odd looking group walked into the settlement without further notice. The soldiers guided Abaddon, Raphael, and the two sisters to the only café inside the settlement. Although rundown on the outside with a battered awning to shield the sunlight, the open-air café was a joyous sight to the two sisters after so long in their bleak prison. The soldiers seated them at two tables they pulled together quickly. The soldier Abaddon had touched shook hands with the scowling owner. A look of understanding flashed over his countenance. The café owner shook his head with a look of sadness.

“I have been an idiot,” the owner stated with a shrug of his shoulders.

The soldier grinned. “I as well, but no more, thank Allah. Please serve my new friends, Ahmed. My comrades and I are going home to our families.”

The owner clapped the soldier on the back.

“It will be as you say, Mohmar. I will serve everyone well.”

Mohmar embraced Ahmed before gesturing for his men to follow him. The owner approached the Archangels’ table while greeting and putting a hand on each of the confused customers sitting at the other tables. Each patron the owner touched shared his enlightenment. Finally, the owner stood in front of a seated Abaddon, who looked doubtfully at the chair straining under his bulk.

“I am Ahmed. How may I serve you?”

“Would you bring three coffees and one tea?” Raphael gestured toward Abaddon’s chair. It became solidly stable. “Sister’s, will you eat also?”

“I am very hungry,” Catherine answered, suddenly aware of how famished she actually felt.

“Me too,” Angelina agreed. “I could eat anything.”

Ahmed laughed. “I will bring you a feast, young woman, but first your coffee and tea. I will be right back.”

“He speaks perfect English,” Catherine marveled.

“No, Sister Mary Catherine,” Raphael replied. “You hear English when he speaks. Abaddon has given you and Angelina power over your earthly Tower of Babel so we may do our work more easily.”

Ahmed served the coffee and tea in clear cups with a flourish before hurrying off to prepare the food.

Abaddon took a sip of the strong coffee. He smiled at Raphael. “This is very good, Raph.”

“Yes it is.” Raphael sighed as he sipped his with pleasure.

“When must we leave to visit our first victim?” Catherine asked. “The little boy is very close to this settlement. He was the reason Father Joseph brought us to the Holy-land. Soldiers guard the hovel where the child resides. We were imprisoned before we could step inside.”

“Father Joseph had read of the child in the papers. He requested permission to visit him from our Archdiocese in Boston,” Angelina added. “He asked Sister Mary Catherine, Sarah, and I to accompany him. I believe Catherine was the one he would not have left without.”

“He died horribly in prison.” Catherine stared unseeingly toward the street as she remembered hearing Father Joseph’s unending screams.

Ahmed brought their food with the help of his wife. After placing the food on the table, she grasped each of the Archangel’s hands, smiling at them without saying a word. She and Ahmed then walked to the kitchen hand in hand. Raphael jolted upright. Abaddon, who had his back to the street tensed in anticipation.

“Well, look who came to see us,” Raphael exclaimed. “That’s far enough, Lucy.”

Dressed in all black robes and headdress, Lucifer stopped ten feet away from their table. The other patrons, sensing after their enlightenment the evil Lucifer had always been able to hide, quickly fled from their tables away from the handsome figure in the street.

Abaddon turned his chair so he faced Lucifer.

“You morons are poisoning the balance.” Lucifer seethed, eyeing Catherine and Angelina appraisingly. “This is not as it should be. You two must…”

“Silence!” Abaddon barked in fury. “It is you who have poisoned the balance. We are merely restoring it with truth. It was not heaven injecting foul creations of your evil into helpless souls.”

Lucifer smiled for the first time.

“Very well, Abaddon, but know this - my creations are not bound by any rules. They absorb light. The first I know you seek to exorcise will wipe you from existence as a man might swat a fly.”

“We will heed your warning,” Raphael replied, “since after all, you are Lord of the Flies.”

Abaddon laughed, looking at Raphael fondly. Catherine and Angelina observed the exchange tensely, knowing they looked upon the devil himself.

“Laugh now oh mighty Angel of the Abyss!” Lucifer screamed in fury, pointing angrily at Abaddon with his left hand. “Soon, you and Raphael will be gone. Your precious little nuns will be having their skin flayed from…”

Abaddon leaped from the chair, bearing the dark robed Lucifer to the street surface. Abaddon’s dark wings and trappings appeared as Lucifer squirmed helplessly beneath the Archangel. Abaddon lost all illusion of human appearance in his passion.

“Leave now and speak no more,” Abaddon whispered in Lucifer’s ear so intensely his words were like physical blows. “Pray your demon is my match. If he is not I will come to gather pain from you in payment.”

Abaddon moved smoothly to his feet, releasing Lucifer reluctantly as if his hands at the Devil’s throat acted on a whim of their own. Lucifer fled the moment Abaddon no longer restrained him. With a wave of his hand Raphael returned Abaddon’s illusion of humanity. Angelina rushed over to take Abaddon’s hand, holding it to her face and kissing his palm. Catherine stared at the Angel of the Abyss with renewed awe.

“He…he can wipe the King of Hell out at any time he wishes and yet…”

“Not true, Sister Mary Catherine,” Raphael broke in gently. “He cannot.”

“But…but he could,” Catherine protested excitedly. “I am even more confident of our mission. Why did Lucifer think this demon inhabiting the little boy would be a match for Abaddon?”

Raphael met Catherine’s gaze squarely. “The demons Lucifer created to plague this world were conjured from pure darkness. They have no fear. Their sole reason for existence is to cause pain and anguish. Lucifer forged them to feed off the palpable evil earth supplies in abundance. Lucifer was created from light with free will. His very name means light. Because of that he can fear. He is a coward.”

“But…but you just said he created the demons. Surely…”

“They have no other will besides his,” Raphael cut in. “Our mission is just as dangerous whether Abaddon can eat Lucifer’s lunch or not.”

“He is a fearsome one, just the same,” Catherine replied, mildly annoyed at the way Angelina embraced and drew Abaddon back toward their table.

“Watch this, Sister.” Raphael reached over to take her hand.

Catherine’s body jerked, her muscles and tendons contracting in reaction to Raphael’s brief glimpse of the war for heaven. She watched Abaddon breach the line of Lucifer’s host with terrifying abandon. Raphael released her, ending the vision before Catherine’s consciousness was blasted from her skull. Catherine’s eyes blinked rapidly. The world she knew swam back into recognition. She glanced furtively from Raphael’s reassuring smile to the approaching Abaddon.

“My brother is indeed formidable. These demons have none of the weaknesses Lucifer’s host had that day.”

“I…I think I understand. Thank you for showing me, Raphael.”

“Show you what?” Angelina asked.

“Yes, Raph, show her what?” Abaddon sat down, allowing Angelina to sit on his lap. She began picking at her food.

“He was trying to make me understand why these demons we must face are far more dangerous to us than Lucifer himself,” Catherine answered. “Raphael also showed me a brief glance of your battle against Lucifer’s host long ago.”

Abaddon’s eyes blazed for a moment, not in anger, but in regret. He nodded his head in understanding. “It was my sole purpose - yet so brief a moment. If not for Raphael’s guidance over these past eons, I doubt I could have survived. Lucifer may be right. Raphael has probably told you our success is not a foregone conclusion.”

“May I see too, Raphael?” Angelina leaned over the table with outstretched hands to a suddenly reluctant Raphael.

“Very well, Sister Angelina.” Raphael clasped Angelina’s hands.

Angelina’s eyes closed tightly. She shuddered as Catherine did before her. Raphael tried to pull away but Angelina clutched his hand tighter. Raphael looked at Abaddon in surprise. He forced Angelina’s hands away. Angelina collapsed against Abaddon, her breath coming in trembling gasps. Abaddon stroked her face, his hands a cooling balm.

“Oh, my Lord,” Angelina whispered. “You were magnificent.”

“Raphael told me Lucifer’s creations may be much more difficult for you to defeat,” Catherine said.

“My brother is right. It is what our Father created me for. Sister Mary Catherine, you must get away quickly once you expel the demon. Sister Angelina will help you bring the child out to Raphael.”

“It will be very bad once the demon is free,” Raphael added. “The child’s life depends on how fast you two can bring him to me.”

“Why can’t you both be right there with us?” Catherine asked.

“Our touch would kill the child immediately,” Raphael answered. “You must expel the demon and get clear, Sister. The exorcism will be unavoidably dangerous.”

“Raph can heal the child of anything if he still lives. Since I have no prior experience in battle with Lucifer’s new flock, I will be the unknown entity in this.”

“You will not be defeated, my Lord,” Angelina stated.

“Sister Angelina, please remove yourself from Abaddon,” Catherine directed. “You wear the robes of a nun. It…it is sacrileges to paw over him.”

Angelina sat up and turned her attention to Raphael. “Put me in the clothing of a simple concubine, Raphael, so Sister Mary Catherine is no longer offended.”

“What of your mission, Sister Angelina?” Abaddon’s liked the young nun’s spirit more with each passing moment. “The ones we are to save will take comfort in your appearance as representatives of the Lord.”

“Very well.” Angelina reluctantly shifted to her own chair. Raphael chuckled over the exchange. “When will we go to the little boy, Raph?”

“At dawn tomorrow, when amber light first breaks over the horizon. We will ask for a place to stay until then. You two must rest while Abaddon and I stay on guard.”

“Why not go now?” Catherine asked. “Why give Lucifer time to prepare?”

“Dawn is his weakest time. He cannot prepare,” Raphael reasoned. “Lucifer has nothing to base any preparation on.”

“According to the bible, the Lord sent you to expel the demon Asmodeus from Sarah. Why…”

“Asmodeus was one of the fallen,” Raphael interrupted with a short laugh, “and a horny one at that. He followed Lucifer but was not created by him in a cauldron of evil. Lucy has gained immense power since those days. He hid while I bound Asmodeus back to his realm. I was probably a little overconfident when I came down this time. I paid for it. It wouldn’t have mattered much though. He kicked my butt.”

“With all the legends of exorcisms, I thought some of them might be true,” Angelina said.

“Humans conjure their own demons,” Raphael replied. “They are very adept at torturing themselves. I imagine they can also exorcise their creations.”

“Hello, Raph?” Angelina waved her hand in good spirits with her mouth half full of food. “Sister Mary Catherine and I are human.”

“Right you are, Sister, my apologies. In any case, no exorcism has been done on any demon created by Lucifer. They are far too ambitious and powerful to be cast out by just anyone. That is why my Father sent us to help Sister Mary Catherine. Her purity and selflessness is a powerful weapon.”

Angelina took Catherine’s hands in hers, tears starting at her eyes. “I am sorry, Catherine, for upsetting you with my behavior. Raphael is right. You are a saint on earth if ever one existed. I owe whatever sanity I have to you. I will be more circumspect with your guidance. I confess I desire the Archangel Abaddon more powerfully than I can say in words, but I will not betray you.”

Angelina grasped Catherine’s hands tightly, holding them to her face as she knelt. Catherine, at first surprised by Angelina’s honesty, then knelt with her.

“It is nothing, Sister Angelina,” Catherine whispered. “I’m sorry to have been so arrogant in my posture toward you. The Archangels’ presence has thrown me off too. I think what we have before us dwarfs all our petty personal differences.”

Catherine stroked Angelina’s tear stained face. “We must be strong though in what we do. Let us put these other things behind us. I will need you if we are to save the souls inhabited by Lucifer’s demons.”

Angelina met Catherine’s steady gaze. “I will not falter, Sister.”

“Do you think it tacky if I continue to make sarcastic remarks when you backslide, Sister Angelina?”

“Not at all, Sister Mary Catherine, as long as you are not offended when I answer in kind.”

“I welcome it, Sister Angelina.”

“We are so going to kick demon butt,” Angelina said excitedly.

“From your lips to God’s ear, little Sister,” Raphael declared.

Chapter 5

It Begins

Catherine clutched the little boy’s body to her tightly, her eyes closed and her lips reciting familiar prayers over and over. Angelina gripped Catherine under the armpits, glancing up at the apocalyptic battle enjoined above their heads. She dragged both bodies out of the demolished hovel. Angelina risked short glances at the battle enjoined over her head as she pulled the crying child and Catherine toward what was left of the entrance. All had been calm only moments before.

Angelina had clung to Catherine’s hand tightly. Raphael silenced the guards around the hovel as they approached at dawn, rendering them unconscious. Abaddon waited, his hands twisting around the handle of his sword in anticipation of fulfilling what he had been created for. Gone was any vestige of human simulation. The Angel of the Abyss struggled for patience, his glistening black wings arching powerfully around him. Abaddon hunched forward, his scarred visage pulsing with need. Angelina kept sight of him until the two nuns entered the little boy’s abode.

Angelina mouthed small prayers inside the small room to ease her nagging doubt. Everything appeared neat and clean with no indication of anything out of the ordinary. A small boy clothed only in a loin cloth sat on a divan in the middle of the room. He smiled at the two nuns with innocent curiosity, his brows knit handily as if surprised. Catherine returned his smile, bowing in greeting.

“I am Sister Mary Catherine. This is my friend, Sister Angelina.”

Catherine, with Angelina close behind, moved step by step closer to where the little boy sat, his countenance unmarked by anything hinting at demon possession. As the boy straightened in his chair, Catherine ran forward, wrapping her arms around him and bearing him to the floor. The little boy screamed in pain. Seconds later, Angelina rushed forward to Catherine’s side. The small housing burst outwards in splintering waves.

Something writhed from the child’s body, its screams enhancing the child’s as the boy collapsed into Catherine’s arms. Catherine sobbed, gasping for breath, tears streaming from her eyes. Angelina pulled with all her might, moving the two entwined figures backwards. Angelina risked another glance upwards, sweat dribbling from her brow. The manifestation sported four appendages working as arms and legs. A head of nightmarish proportions jutted from the mammoth neck attached to its huge torso. The creature balanced itself upon mangled hooves of entwining tendons and muscle. The mawkish coloring of its body pulsated with red highlights of mottled tone. It reached toward Catherine and her burden with a rage never witnessed by anything human. Angelina stepped between the creature and Catherine without hesitation, her hands lying gently against her sides, knowing she could forestall the demon only a moment longer.

* * *

“No! Don’t drop your sword, brother,” Raphael screamed out, his eyes darting in frustration between Abaddon and the creature.

Abaddon had watched the unfolding drama in mesmerized fascination as first Catherine gripped the child with Angelina attending. When her touch expelled the demon Abaddon did not blink as the dwelling burst into dust around him. The Archangel of the Abyss grinned in admiration as Angelina stepped between the creature and Catherine. A ferocious growl issued from the depths of his throat so intense four legged curs howled a mile away. The demon arched a clawed hand toward Angelina which would have decapitated her. Abaddon dropped both sword and shield in his fury to reach the demon. His body smashed into the creature with a force so powerful the combatants catapulted a hundred yards beyond the splintered dwelling.

It was that vision Angelina glimpsed as Raphael rushed forward to take her burden. Angelina released Catherine and the child, only to run headlong toward Abaddon and the demon. Raphael called out to her, his voice carrying in the cool dawn air stridently. Angelina turned only momentarily. She waved at the beleaguered Raphael briefly before continuing on to the battle. Raphael cursed her as he gripped both Catherine and the child in his arms. His healing power coursed through him into both the child and Catherine. Raphael smiled ruefully at the rebellious Angelina, mouthing a plea for God to spare her ignorant life.

The demon howled in dreadful bliss as Abaddon bore him to the ground, narrowly missing a host of identical slum hovels surrounding the child’s abode. Demon claws raked Abaddon at frightening speed, leaving gory tracks down the Archangel’s face. Abaddon caught the demon’s wrist in one hand, breaking it in half as if it were a rotted twig. Howling in pain, the demon lurched away from Abaddon. The Archangel beckoned to the demon, his face aglow with completion. Every fiber in Abaddon’s body vibrated in anticipation.

Tendons and bones knit in the demon’s wrist, even as the furrows disappeared from Abaddon’s face, leaving only the layered soul scars. Angelina knelt not twenty yards from the battle, her hands clasped absently in front of her. She was pitched backwards to the ground as the demon and Archangel clashed like continental plates beneath the earth’s surface. She crawled with her arm upraised against the falling debris, trying to focus on the intricate template of death before her. Hours passed as moments until the air itself began to shimmer in protest. Angelina lay immobile, her body drawn up into a fetal position as she squinted out from her upraised arms at the cataclysmic movements.

The demon, its body dripping gore, screamed as yet another of Abaddon’s thunderous blows ripped upward into its ribcage. It looked around wildly for succor not forthcoming before noticing Angelina’s sprawled figure. Launching toward the helpless nun was the last act of Lucifer’s creation. Abaddon cried out, victory echoing from his throat like the bell on judgment day. He gripped the monstrous head with his massive hands, wrenching the creature’s head from its shoulders. Abaddon leapt from the demon’s back, black wings flapping in exaltation, his gore covered body throbbing in the excitement of the kill. He raised his arms up and his sword and shield whipped into his grasp in a blur of frantic power.

“Uh oh,” Raphael whispered, shielding Catherine and the crying child with his body.

* * *

“Who is next?” The Archangel of the Abyss challenged. “Come Lucifer with all your hallowed demons of darkness! Come, oh mighty cowards of shadows! Face me - all of you at once!”

Abaddon raised his right fist and lowered his head. The threads of reality became viewable to the naked eye as Lucifer’s form plunged into view. Abaddon bellowed in triumph. He reached Lucifer’s body instantly. Dropping his shield, Abaddon plucked the Lord of Hell from the earth in one shaking fist.

“Time to pay in the coin of the realm, Lucy,” Abaddon mocked the Lord of lost souls.

Abaddon flung Lucifer to the ground again, raising his glowing sword up slowly to strike the last blow of eternity.

“Mercy!” Lucifer screamed in anguish.

“No mercy this time, my brother,” Abaddon answered through gritted teeth.

Raphael closed his eyes. Angelina’s body shivered at Raphael’s psychic touch. “You must stop Abaddon, Sister. All of reality rests on you.”

Angelina lurched to her feet. She ran headlong toward the poised figures, Lucifer in supplication and Abaddon prolonging the blow to end all creation. Angelina ripped open her robes and straddled the body of Lucifer, her hands clasped in prayer. Abaddon paused in rage at the sight of Angelina. The nun threw aside the rest of her robes, opening her arms to Abaddon, her naked breast heaving.

“Sheathe thy justice in me, my Lord,” Angelina cried out, her eyes sparkling in anticipation. “I will quench the fire of thy righteous anger with my blood.”

* * *

Angelina knelt across the prone body of Lucifer, hands lowered, head bowed. Raphael, nearly a hundred yards away, shook his head in awe at the young nun’s act. Catherine grasped Raphael’s hand.

“Sister Angelina is formidable, Raphael.”

“She is indeed.” Raphael nodded, unable to look away from his still seething brother.

* * *

Abaddon lowered his arms, the seemingly unstoppable rage built within him, spilling out in a steady flow of desire. After a long moment Abaddon reached down and ripped the Lord of Lies from beneath Angelina’s off balance body. Abaddon shook the helpless Lucifer with disgust.

“You owe me pain, Lucy,” Abaddon said finally, flinging the devil as if he were a small rock toward the horizon.

Abaddon gathered Angelina in his arms, shield returned to its place at his back and sword sheathed. Angelina lay passively in Abaddon’s grasp, lightly touching his temple with the fingertips of her left hand.

“You have done what no other power on earth could, little sister.”

“You want me, my Lord.” Angelina leaned her head against Abaddon’s chest. “I am yours now and forever. I did what I had to do.”

“I know,” Abaddon acknowledged. “I hope you will not live to regret it.”

“I already regret it.” Angelina looked into the Archangel’s eyes.

Abaddon laughed in unsuppressed joy, spinning the delighted Angelina around in circles.

* * *

“Another Armageddon avoided.” Raphael cradled the sleeping child in one arm while assisting Catherine to her feet with the other.

“Trappings of décor aside,” Catherine replied, watching the cavorting Archangel of the Abyss clutching the naked Sister Angelina in his arms. “We do make a good team.”

“We better. That was a close one.”

“You mean the demon was nearly a match for Abaddon?”

“No, Sister, I mean I felt Lucifer’s death right down to my toes. We need to keep my brother clear of Lucy at all costs. His original purpose obliterates everything when he reverts to true form.”

“It seems we have a secret weapon for just that purpose, Raphael.”

The two figures of Abaddon and Angelina were no longer visible.

“Oh boy.” Raphael witnessed what was left of the child’s demon burning up in the black flames of the lost. “Let’s return to the café and see if we can get this child something to eat and drink. I will wait a couple of hours and project our whereabouts to Sister Angelina. Perhaps she will be done with the Angel of the Abyss by then.”

“You could transport us to where Abaddon is. They are probably at the small dwelling you took us to last night.”

“I believe I will give my brother his privacy for now.” Raphael held out his hand to Catherine. “Come, I would like another cup of coffee.”

“What of payment for our innkeeper friends, Raphael? They would bear the financial loss gladly, but I am not comfortable with taking advantage of their generosity.”

Raphael reached into his pocket. He removed a small number of diamonds, holding them out for Catherine to see.

“I thought of payment. I picked these up on the way over here. Of course they were black pieces of coal at that time,” Raphael explained.

“We will be most welcome with payment like this. You cannot create things from nothing so how is it you can create clothing for us?”

“Actually, it is an illusion, Sister. You can see, feel, and even rend it. In reality, your robes are but an illusion.”

“You mean I’m naked?” Catherine gasped, her arms automatically trying to cover herself.

Raphael laughed. “No, you are clothed in illusion, but you are still clothed. I do not believe we can simply walk into a market around here and buy nun’s apparel. Did you not notice the fact your robes were not getting dirty?”

“I…I didn’t even consider it.” Catherine let her hands fall to her sides. “I will buy some real clothing as soon as I can.”

“Why do that?” Raphael appeared confused. “We would have to clean real clothing. I will not jokingly remove the illusion if that is what worries you, Sister.”

Catherine blushed. “I am sorry I thought such a thing, Raphael. Of course you are right. It would be easier if we didn’t have to worry about everyday issues like laundry.”

“You and Sister Angelina deserve a few advantages. Come, let us go have some refreshment.”

* * *

Raphael straightened suddenly, with a grin. He had his back to the street.

“They’re here, Sister Mary Catherine.”

Abaddon strode across the street with Sister Angelina trailing him to his right, her hands clasped in front of her. They were both dressed as they had been before the battle.

“Hello, my brother,” Raphael greeted Abaddon. “How are you and Sister Angelina? I see you have mastered the clothes illusion adequately.”

“Yes,” Abaddon said proudly. “I was hoping you would notice, Raph. It took a couple of tries. Sister Angelina held my hand. With our thoughts joined, I was able to visualize well enough to accomplish the task. We are both well, thank you.”

“You must be hungry, Sister Angelina.” Raphael tried to lean down far enough to peer at Angelina’s face. “I believe you are blushing, Sister. Speak to us.”

Catherine stood up. She reached across the table, taking Angelina’s hand and pulling her toward the table. “Pay no attention to Raphael. Sit down. Have something to eat and drink.”

Angelina glanced up furtively at Raphael, her face flushed. “I…I didn’t mean to ignore you, my Lord Raphael. I feel very well. I am hungry.”

“Call me Raph, Sister,” Raphael directed as the café owner rushed over.

“Sister Angelina and my Lord Abaddon,” the café owner exclaimed. “May I bring you coffee and prepare a meal for you?”

“I would very much like some of your coffee, Ahmed,” Abaddon answered. “What of you Sister Angelina?”

Angelina looked at Abaddon for the first time since they had rejoined Raphael and Catherine. Raphael grinned appreciatively at the unqualified adoration lighting Angelina’s countenance. He noticed Catherine’s awareness of the subtle change. Catherine smiled and looked away.

“Coffee would be fine, Sir. Anything Sister Mary Catherine ordered to eat would be wonderful.”

Ahmed bowed. He hurried off in the direction of the kitchen. His wife came out immediately with coffee for the new arrivals. She placed the coffee in front of Abaddon and Angelina with a flourish before grasping Raphael’s hand momentarily.

“Thank you so much, my Lord.” Ahmed’s wife then retraced her way inside the restaurant.

“You are very popular today, Raphael,” Abaddon noted, sipping his coffee with relish.

“As you see, the child is no longer with us. When the café owner and his wife realized the evil was gone from the little boy they immediately wanted to adopt him. They are childless. The boy’s parents were killed right after his possession.”

“I think the diamonds you gave them had a little to do with it, Raphael,” Catherine observed. “I hope you saved some to reward our innkeeper.”

“Of course, Sister,” Raphael replied. “I will endeavor to acquire currency so we are not singled out in our travels. We will also establish banking connections so we may attain some of your plastic card money. We must travel whenever possible by human means. Our missions will attract enough attention without the added flying Archangel sightings.”

“If all our battles are as the one today, it will be difficult to hide what is going on,” Catherine noted.

Ahmed approached with Angelina’s meal, arranging it in front of her.

“Please let me know if there is anything else you wish.”

“We will, Ahmed, my friend,” Raphael assured him. “The inn you sent us to is very nice.”

“I am glad.” Ahmed gave Raphael a little bow.

Angelina ate hungrily, while Abaddon, Raphael, and Catherine enjoyed their coffee and tea. Angelina looked up apologetically.

“Sorry, I was just so hungry. I…I guess we should talk of what happened this morning.”

“It would be a good idea to go over what went right and what went wrong,” Raphael agreed.

“The child didn’t look possessed at all,” Angelina said.

“Lucifer cannot gather power by sending these demons out into the world and then not have them interact,” Raphael explained. “Sister Mary Catherine has mentioned the popular version of possession amongst humans. I have seen the Exorcist movie. While very entertaining, the possessed child in the movie would have difficulty gathering anything resembling influence or power in such a state. The child you freed from Lucifer’s demon had already attracted a small army around him. He would have grown in stature, wrecking havoc in this area.”

“And somehow harvesting the evil he created in others?” Catherine asked.

“Exactly, Sister,” Raphael confirmed. “These demons survive perfectly in the midst of any society. They will say or do anything to ingratiate themselves into a position of influence using the tantalizing attraction humans have for the dark side of their psyche.”

“They sound like our politicians back home.” Angelina moved closer to Abaddon. She covered his hand where it lay on the table with both of hers.

“I would imagine we will have to liberate a number of those in our work, Sister Angelina. Now, let’s discuss this morning.”

“We won,” Abaddon stated, knowing with certainty Raphael would make him the target of any criticism about their successful mission.

Raphael leaned forward attentively toward Abaddon. “May I ask brother why you felt it necessary to drop both shield and sword before attacking the creature with your bare hands? Was this a new strategy of yours I am unfamiliar with?”

Abaddon looked around at his three companions uneasily.

“I…I was excited.”

Raphael laughed appreciatively. “Sister Angelina, perhaps you may enlighten me on why after your brave intervention between the demon and Sister Mary Catherine you chose to run directly into danger after the erstwhile Abaddon.”

“I…I was excited.”

This time everyone laughed except for Angelina, who blushed and looked down at her coffee cup. After a moment she met Raphael’s gaze with an air of confidence.

“I needed to be in a position to save all reality when my Lord Abaddon decided to end it by hacking Lucifer apart?” Angelina offered.

“Well said, Sister,” Raphael complimented her, turning back to Abaddon. The Archangel of the Abyss leaned away from the table. “This brings me to the next point of confusion, brother Abaddon. You did remember we are supposed to preserve Lucy for future balance in this particular thread of reality, right?”

“I was caught up in the moment.” Abaddon shrugged. Angelina embraced the Archangel and rested her head against his chest in solidarity.

“You were excited and in the moment before the gates of heaven long ago,” Raphael reasoned seriously, “yet you managed to retain your sword and shield.”

“I…I was created for battle,” Abaddon replied hesitantly, trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for his actions. “For eons, I was unable to fulfill any part of my purpose. You helped me through it, Raph, making me realize I could control my nature. When the demon appeared this morning I…I just lost it.”

“Well, on the bright side, you ripped Lucy right out of his hiding place. That should give him pause in the future. When I contacted you psychically, Sister Angelina, I meant for you to intercede on Lucifer’s behalf by oh… I don’t know… maybe yelling hey, Abaddon, ease up… or shouting don’t kill him. Ripping your clothes off was imaginative but we must keep up appearances.”

Angelina sat up straight, her face red right to the roots of her hair. Raphael, who had been giving her a serious look of admonition, began laughing uproariously at the startled nun. Raphael shook his head finally, gesturing with his hand in a calming motion.

“I was only kidding, Sister Angelina. You and Sister Mary Catherine were wonderful. I think once we harness the Archangel of the Abyss we may make a nearly invincible team.”

“Sorry, Raph,” Abaddon said.

“Hey, like you said, we won. There will always be room for improvement. Did you two leave our room at the inn relatively in one piece?”

“Raphael!” Catherine exclaimed accusingly. “I think you’re taking your humor a little too far.”

“Yes, Sister, if I don’t ease up, Sister Angelina’s face will never attain her natural coloring again.”

“Where do we go from here, Raphael?” Angelina realized Raphael had still been kidding her.

“A very astute question, Sister Angelina, I don’t know,” Raphael replied honestly. The nuns exchanged looks of confusion. “I assumed Sister Mary Catherine would receive a vision of our next mission. Did you two think Abaddon and I had a list?”

“Yes… I guess we did,” Catherine admitted. “I never had a vision about the little boy we freed today. Do we just wait for a sign?”

“This was never going to be one continuous battle, Sister. We need to allow our adjustments to ripple across reality for a time before we gallop off to slay the next dragon. When our Lord thinks we should proceed we will receive word in some way. It may not come through you as I surmised, Sister Mary Catherine, but it will come. In the meantime we must attain what we need to move unimpeded to our next destination.”

“If we are to travel anywhere in the world we will need a vast amount of paperwork.” Catherine sat back in her chair tiredly. “My full name is Mary Catherine Deering. Angelina’s last name is Simmons. They took all our visas, passports, and paperwork when we were imprisoned. It will be nearly impossible to travel without them.”