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Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10
“I’m a reaper,” Elon said. “Sergeant Elon Winter.”
“A reaper?” I asked as I shook his hand. His hand was cold to the touch.
“Wait, like the Grim Reaper?” Colin said, looking to my hand.
I pulled my hand back.
“Well, not the kind that dual-wields shotguns,” Elon laughed. “But yeah, I ferry souls from the living world to the other side.”
“So, that explains the scythe,” I asked, recalling the image of Colin with a bullet in his head.
“What was it we saw in the reflection?” Colin said, concerned.
Elon shrugged., “I’m not sure.” He turned to me. “You tell me?”
I faced Colin. “Colin, maybe ten years older, with a self-inflicted bullet wound to his head.” I frowned. “He looked lonely.”
Colin frowned. “Your head on a spike. Belial was holding the spike.”
“You’ve seen Belial?” I asked.
Colin nodded. “Yes, he haunts my dreams from time to time.”
“Sounds like the most likely way the two of you die if you kept things the way they are,” Elon said as he leaned against the wall.
“What? You showed us our own deaths?” I asked.
“Not me, the scythe.” He held out his hand, the scythe reappearing in it.
The Scythe was translucent and taller than he was. The Scythe appeared as if someone or something three times Elon’s size wielded it.
He smiled at it and looked at me. “It showed you an end for the two of you, likely if you remain apart.” As he released his hand, the scythe vanished. “Brothers shouldn’t fight, shouldn’t be trying to hurt each other.” He walked over to us both. “It’s the world against the pair of you, after all. You can’t have the two of you going against each other.”
Colin turned to me, a frown on his face.
I thought of the image of Colin, alone. Dead, and alone. I wondered how that could have happened, what would Colin do without the Temple? He lived his whole life hoping to get here and now he’s facing being expelled from it forever.
Elon stood there like a statue, not even breathing, not even blinking, as he looked at the pair of us.
I watched him for a moment or two, his lack of breathing very unnerving. “Uh, are you okay?”
He finally took a breath. “Yeah, why?” He then chuckled. “Oh, yeah!” He pushed himself off the wall. “I’m undead. Sometimes I forget that when I’m not doing anything, I kind of freeze up.”
“Do you drink blood or eat people?” Colin asked.
“Only if they keep asking annoying questions.” Elon smiled at Colin.
Colin looked to me, still looking contrite and almost sad.
“My brother Demond would die for me,” Elon began, “and I’d give my life, body or otherwise, for him.”
Colin frowned, looking to Elon. “That big guy, Demond, is your brother?”
Elon nods. “Yeah, you’ve met him?” Elon smiled wide. “Did you piss him off?”
“Yeah… I’ve met him. He… had some stern words about how I handled the whole ‘Tasha’ thing,” Colin cleared his throat. “I think I pissed him off.”
Elon laughed. “If your description of him is ‘The big guy’ I don’t think you got under his skin too much.”
“What happens if Colin pissed him off?” I asked, curious.
Elon continued to grin. “You don’t want to find out.”
I turned to Elon. “Do you know your way around this place? I’m looking for someone.”
Elon smiled. “I’ve explored this place in its entirety, from the top of the spire down to the underbelly, so if you want to find something in here, I’m your man.”
“Someone,” I glanced at Colin who was getting worried about who I was asking about. “Trish, or, well, Lilith. Where is she?”
“Lilith? Like, mother of demons Lilith?” Elon asked.
All I could think to do was nod.
“The Major mentioned something about a prisoner. She looked like a Naga or something,” Elon’s smile faded. “If Timothy or Sofia had someone to lock up, then they’d put them in the underbelly. It’s down past the fountain, lower than the catacombs.”
“Catacombs?” Colin asked.
Elon gave us a grave expression. “I’ve been working in the Catacombs, building mausoleums and memorials to the fallen guardian angels, the ones killed by Ragna and Xyphiel.” He narrowed his eyes. “Do not go in there. While I have quelled the spirits, the bodies of the dead are not
to be meddled with.”
“I’m not after anyone but Trish,” I explained. “I need to speak to her.”
Elon faced Colin now. “I mean it, do not go in there.” He motioned to the stairwell behind us. “If she’s your friend, don’t try anything funny. Timothy and Sofia are the only people who can open any of the jail cells down there.” Elon paused for a moment. “To be honest, Sofia can do what she pleases to anything or anyone within the temple, come to think of it.” Elon addressed me again. “So don’t get any funny ideas of breaking her out.”
“I just want to talk to her,” I explain.
Elon nodded. “All the way down the steps. And I mean,” he emphasized, “All the way down.” He took two fingers and pointed at his eyes, then to us. “I’ll know if you two mess around in the Catacombs, steer clear, okay?” He then turned and headed back up. “Mortals are not to tread there.”
I started towards the stairs, Colin in tow.
“Why do you want to see her?” Colin sighed. “I don’t mean to hit you with the ‘I told you something was off about her’ but, I mean…”
“I don’t want to hear it, Colin,” I grumbled. “I need to ask her a few questions. Why did she latch on to me? Why did she lie?” I said as I motioned to my ring, “and how this didn’t work?”
“I’d like the answer to those questions too.” Colin added,” I’ve seen what happens when you use that ring on demons, so I’d like to know how she’s immune.” Colin sighed “I blame myself, If you weren’t so desperate for some kind of shoulder to lean on, you would never have found her.”
Colin’s statement wasn’t wrong. But it made me question a lot as we descended the steps past the Fountain. If Colin didn’t do that, Trish never would have found me: was that a good or a bad thing? Would I have survived when that demon found me in the street? Would we have survived Tanner’s? She had been helping me, right?
“Maybe you’re right,” I said as we walked down the steps, lights in the walls illuminating, suspended in mid-air, as we passed them. “But that doesn’t change the fact that she came to me. I need answers.”
As we passed one doorway, the lights changed.
I stopped and looked as blue lights, almost like flames, began to ignite along the walls of a pitch-black room. Inside were huge stone sarcophagi. As the lights continued onward, deeper and deeper, it illuminated one massive statue of Saint Dinah from the front. This one, however, was her not standing but kneeling.
“Woah,” Colin said, moving inside.
I grabbed his shoulder. “Elon said do not go inside.”
Colin frowned. “Why? I can’t pay my respects?”
“The guy is the embodiment of death if he ferries souls from this world to the next,” I pointed out, “Let's not do the exact thing the fucking Reaper told us not do to.”
“Okay, fair point.” Colin looked to the massive catacombs and then to me. “But I’m being exiled out of here anyway, what else are they going to do to me?”
With that, Colin walked into the catacombs.
I grumbled and followed him in. “Colin, again we are doing exactly what Elon said not to-” there was sound not unlike stone falling down on stone, I turned to see the entryway closed, “-do.”
Colin winced, turning to me. “Sorry.”
We were next to about four sarcophagi and over them, blue images wreathed in flame appeared. Each image was a portrait but something had animated the portraits.
Colin approached one, reading a name. “Dolph Mederin, Avatar of Barakiel.” Colin smiled, “Lightning of God.”
The image spoke, “Doth thou find that amusing?”
Colin staggered back. “W-what, uh…”
Dolph’s image looked to the doorway. “The Reaper and the Sword of Samael were still working in this place.” He turned back to us. “You pair are unfortunate to arrive when you did these tombs are not working as intended.”
A woman’s voice came from behind me, “Yes, by being here, you’re communing with the dead,” she sighed. “Not what the young reaper intended at all. Unclean ones.”
“S-sorry we’re… working on leaving…” I said, my nerves getting the better of me. Why my ring wasn’t reacting was bothering me to no end, as I turned.
The face looking me over shook her head. “You both still have sin on you.”
“I’m sorry about intruding.” I glanced at the sarcophagus, reading the name: Reba Yentzi, Avatar of Taharial
. “Wait, both of us? What did I do?”
Colin took a step to the side, moving deeper, and another pair of images lit up. “Shit.”
Dolph sighed. “Now you’re waking the rest of them I see,”
“Colin, come on, man!” I shouted. As I did, hundreds of portraits lit up and all the faces, blue and translucent, were staring at us.
“Unworthy,” a few speaks. “Sacrilegious!” and one shouted, “How rude!”
The large statue at the end of the hall caught our attention. Where previously it was an inanimate object, we watched blue and white flames engulf the statue. All the other portraits faced the statue as the flames rose.
“Enough,” a woman’s voice commanded from the giant statue, a few of the portraits vanished as she spoke.
“Whoa!” Colin shouted as he backed up next to me. His necklace was floating, the ring around it being pulled. “What’s going on?”
An image rose up from the floor at the far end of the hall. It was a woman, her body translucent, like the others, her wings wide and opened. She wore ornate robes, and she seemed to make a motion for us to approach.
Before I could react, something pulled my hand forward, my ring flew off my finger, “Shit! Wait!” I shouted as I ran after it.
Colin did the same, his ring flying next to mine.
Both stopped before the fiery image of Dinah standing before her statue. “My, are you two a couple of trouble makers,” she said, smiling, both hands held out, my ring in her left hand, Colin’s in her right.
Colin swallowed hard and got to his knees. “I’m sorry, Saint Dinah, I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“You very much meant to intrude,” Saint Dinah said, looking down at him.
Colin looked at me. “Kneel, man! Look who it is!”
I turned to Saint Dinah’s image.
“If you don’t kneel for my grandson, do not kneel before me,” she smiled warmly. “You can stand.”
Colin got to his feet. “I’m sorry.”
“A good start,” she nodded to him.
“Why did the doors shut?” I asked.
Saint Dinah smiled. “Oh, that might have been me. You two have been traipsing about my temple causing quite a stir. I figured if you will walk into the only place wherein I have a shred of influence, I should help.”
Colin frowned. “Again, I’m very sorry to have disturbed you. I just wanted to pay my respects.”
I turned to Colin. “Colin?”
He continued, “Saint Dinah, I’ve worked with the Church and we all feel your absence.”
Saint Dinah nodded to him, listening.
“Every day, we see atrocities inside our own walls, war, famine, hate, I just--,” he cleared his throat, “--I just want to help to bring this place back, so the angels can come back. It’s all I wish to do.”
Saint Dinah’s smile grew wider and the stares from the others grew less accusing. “Young Colin of the Palatine, when my grandson reached out to your father, all those years ago, your father helped him to restore this place far more than you can ever understand.”
“I thought Timothy helped my father?” I asked.
A few chuckles came from the portraits. Dinah turned to me. “Yes, Timothy guided your father in casting out the demon Belial from his world. But without your father, Timothy never would have gotten the guidance he needed to help your father..”
Colin asked, “Who?”
“You know Him as Jorge Chavez.” she smiled.
“Jorge?” it surprised me.
Dinah nodded. “Without Jorge, my grandson would have been lost. Jorge guided Timothy to God, guided him to find himself, his true purpose. Jorge was committed to aiding Timothy in every spiritual endeavor he faced.”
Colin and I turned to one another in shock.
“But it was your father, who brought Jorge here,” Dinah said, looking to the rings. “Speaking of guidance, I will offer you some of my own.”
Each of our rings rose high into the air.
“Do you know what these are, young men?” she asked us.
Colin spoke. “They’re made from the iron of the nails that held Christ’s hands to the cross.”
“Wrists,” I corrected. “They nailed your wrists.”
Dinah nodded. “Much in the same way that if I asked you ‘What is a river?’ and you said, ‘water’, yes: You are technically correct.” The rings floated in front of each of us. “But why was Christ put on the cross in the first place?”
I frowned. “They betrayed Him?”
Dinah shook her head, “No, He was not betrayed.”
Colin raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“Ask yourself: Was He asking Judas to betray Him, or telling him to?”
“Why would He ask Judas to betray Him?” I asked.
“So they could execute Him alongside sinners,” Saint Dinah began. “And so He could be the sacrifice, to bring about a new world for humanity. Do you know what that new world entailed?”
Colin and I were at a loss.
“It entailed forgiveness. He died, and even as He did, He forgave them for the wrongs humanity did against Him.” The rings floated downward.
Colin and I each took them in our hands, but they had shrunk!
Try as I might, I couldn’t slide it onto my finger. I looked to Saint Dinah.
“Trevor,” she turned to Colin. “Colin. To forgive grievous wrongdoing is no easy task. It must come from the heart because it must come from a place of love.” She smiled, “He loves all of us, and so as He died, He forgave all mankind.” Her hands touched each of ours; the sensation was like a cool mist on my fingers as the blue flames danced across my palm.
I looked to the ring and then to Colin. I placed my free hand on my stomach and heaved a sigh. “Colin, I forgive you for what you did. I wanted to before but, I was trying to make you suffer.” I looked at Saint Dinah. “That was my sin.”
Colin smiled at me. “I’m sorry I made this hard for you. We should have been in this together like Elon said.”
The ring grew in my hand and I slipped it on. I noticed Colin had slipped his ring on.
There was clapping coming from a few of the portraits and each vanishing one at a time.
Only one remained, and she leaned over, a sweet smile on her face, “My patron, Shekinah, would love to find new Avatars… you two are excellent candidates.” With that, she vanished.
I turned to Saint Dinah. “Who’s Shekinah?”
Saint Dinah smiled. “We call her the Angel of Unity.”
“Mary Magdalene, Avatar of Shekinah,” Colin said, reading the text. “Bride of the Lord?”
Saint Dinah smiled and her fire vanished.
She left us in the darkroom.
Soon we heard stone sliding against stone as the door to the catacombs opened. Colin and I were right next to the door as if we never had stepped deeper inside, none of the lights were on.
Tasha stood there, beaming to the both of us. Standing next to her was Elon.
“You tell someone to not do one, simple thing.” Elon laughed and grabbed Colin, pulling him out. “You’re an easy read man!”
I walked out, looking to Tasha.
Tasha continued to beam to me, “It’s nice to see you two made up.”
“What was that?” I asked, looking back inside.
Elon chuckled. “Tasha said if we shut you two into a closed-off room, you’d be more likely to make up. Why, did something weird happen?”
I turned to Colin, and we both looked to Tasha, who chuckled under her breath. “No, just…” I turned to him. “I found my brother.”
“Cheesy,” Elon grinned. “But good. Don’t lose him again, otherwise, we lock you in the catacombs for a week!”
Colin shook his head. “Nope, not doing that again.” He cleared his throat and turned to me. “You still want to talk to Trish, right?”
I looked to the right, the stairs continuing downward. “Yeah.”
“Elon, why don’t you take Colin to Timothy and explain to him why I think he’s more than worthy now?” Tasha asked, “Who knows? Timothy just may let him stay with us,”
Colin’s eyes lit up, but he pulled his excitement back. “Really?”
Tasha nodded, “Yes, I think Trevor needs to handle this next trial by himself.”
Elon slapped Colin on the back and started escorting him up. “I have to ask, what was the plan if you couldn’t get out?”
“Honestly?” Colin chuckled as they both walked up the steps, “I have no idea.”
Tasha faced me. “After you.”
I nodded and made my way downward with her. “Is Jorge still in the temple?”
“Oh, he is always here, yes. He is the curator,” Tasha informed me.
“Is he an angel now?” I frowned. “I’m just curious.”
Tasha shook her head as we reached the bottom of the stairs. “No, Jorge serves best as a mortal man and he prefers it that way. He is a man of faith and a very diligent man, one of my closest friends, to be honest.”
At the bottom of the staircase, the room lit up again with white lights. Countless cells lined either side of the massive corridor. All were dark but one a few rows in.
Tasha smiled at me, pulling out her staff and leaning on it. “I’ll let you go from here.”
“When I saw Samael, I saw another angel.” I turned to her. “They said you were their avatar. Who are they?”
Tasha placed her hand on my shoulder. “Did they speak their name to you?”
I shook my head. “No, but you move like her.” I frowned, “Are you her?”
“Seraphiel is not a woman nor a man,” Tasha explained. “Not every angel assigns or prefers a particular gender. Saint Michael prefers to be male because he favors strength and power over grace. Ariel prefers to be female, as she feels it helps her connect to nature. She feels more motherly, so to speak.”
“When did Seraphiel come to you?” I asked. “She, er, he…”
“They,” Tasha corrected.
“Er, they? Okay.” I cleared my throat. “They said you were their avatar for a long time.”
Tasha looked down the cellblock again. “When Belial was trying to tempt me, demanding I serve him, I asked God to send me an angel to save me from his torment.” She smiled at me. “Seraphiel came to me and helped me.”
I heaved a sigh. “I can’t ask an angel to help me now, can I?”
Tasha smiled. “Your angel could be waiting in that cell, for all you know.”
I cracked my neck, rolled my shoulders and wished I could light a cigarette up before I walked down the hallway. The sounds of broken glass emanated from one cell.
As I approached the cell, I saw Trish/Lilith. She curled her tail up under her before a small vanity, she had shattered the mirror on it. Under her was some kind of bedding. She was toying with the broken pieces of glass, looking bored. Trish/Lilith had her black wings tucked tight against her back, her hair a little less wild, but still in dreadlocks.
She must have caught me out of the corner of her eye because she smiled at me, a rather sharp toothy grin. “Trev!” She’s still Trish.
I smiled weakly. “So… hi.”
Trish/Lilith grabbed the bedding under her and covered her tail as best she could as she slithered to the bars. “I’m sorry, I’d put the tail away but this place--”
“Removes illusions,” I informed her, looking over her wings. “Can you fly?”
Trish rolled her eyes. “With the tail? I can glide, kind of like a maple leaf… it’s not graceful.”
I search around for a chair but didn’t see one, so I just looked over her cell.
Besides the vanity and the bed, there appeared a small alcove which likely had a toilet.
Trish/Lilith turned to the corner I was investigating and turned back to me. “Surprisingly, there’s a shower in there too. Seems the accommodations in an Angel Prison aren’t too shabby.” She sighed. “Still boring. I wish I had my Switch.”
I nodded. “Yeah.” I fixed her with a stern gaze. “Trish, why did you try to break