Heaven’s Shine – Chapter 23
August 13, 2011
Sarah moved away from Tawny and, taking Roni’s hand, put him next to her friend. “Guard her,” she said.
Roni’s brow furrowed with worry, but he inched closer to Tawny and leaned against her. He glanced at the surrounding demons and snarled.
Ruffling his white hair, Sarah said, “Whatever happens to me, you guard Tawny, okay?”
Roni threw his head back and howled briefly, inconsolably, then leveled his azure gaze at Sarah again.
Sarah stepped toward the battling angels. “St. Michael defend us,” she said in a steady voice. Her eyes were locked on the glowing Archangel. “St. Michael defend us in battle. St. Michael defend us from the wicked and protect those we love.”
Michael froze with his sword in mid-arc. He looked over his shoulder at Sarah in surprise.
“St. Michael, protect those who fight for our preservation,” Sarah continued. “Hear my prayer, blessed guardian of the embattled. St. Michael save and defend Gabriel.”
A murmur of shock and consternation rippled through the half-circle of Archangels standing around Shine. The demons were more vocal about their displeasure.
“Don’t listen to her!” Moloch cried. “Kill him!”
“Spill his guts!” Belphagor screamed.
Az looked on, puzzled. “What the fuck, man?” he muttered to Tawny. “What the fuck is she doing?”
Tawny glanced sideways at Az, then did a double-take. His dark membranous wings stretched protectively up and around them both. She touched his shoulder once, tentatively, before Roni wedged himself more insistently between her and the demon. She tried to reach around the tall man to touch Asmodeus again, but Roni deftly kept himself between them.
Az looked at Tawny’s in surprise when she touched him. He reached out to her, but Roni snapped viciously at his fingers.
“Okay! Damn! Chill the fuck out,” Az hissed.
Michael stared at Sarah for a moment, then turned back to Gabriel and lifted his sword again.
“St. Michael, save us from the wicked and preserve those who would defend us,” Sarah prayed loudly.
The archangel swirled around again. “What are you doing?” he shouted at Sarah.
Gabriel scrambled out from under Michael’s sword and fumbled on the ground for his weapon. The sword vibrated with power under his touch and he grasped it with two hands.
“I’m saying the only prayer I ever knew,” Sarah told Michael.
Michael turned in time to parry Gabriel’s sword. He took a step back under the force of the blow.
“I told you that you’re not a fit guardian,” Gabriel spat. “In fact, as guardian angels go, you pretty much suck right now.”
“You tell him, Bro!” Az yelled.
“They are tricking you,” Moloch growled at Michael. “It’s only a distraction, a cheap ploy. Kill him, Warrior Angel! Kill the traitor!”
Covered with his own blood and swinging wildly, Gabriel advanced on Michael, driving the golden angel backward the way Michael had done to him earlier. Michael parried every blow, his face set in concentration.
“You said you saved her,” Gabriel continued as he swung repeatedly. “Is that why she was battered and raped and torn when she came to me? She would have died, but it was me who saved her. Me. Is that the measure of how you save those who pray to you? And what about the dog? What about the dog, Michael? Did you save him, too? Yes, I’m sure you did. He bears the scars of your brand of ‘salvation’.”
“I am not a guardian of dogs,” Michael shouted angrily.
Locked in fierce battle, the angels moved around the center of the crowd. The group of demons stirred eagerly, incited by Gabriel’s blood. The demon Rangda, smelling of incense and spice, leaped forward and grabbed at Moloch’s arm.
“Why are we waiting?” she screeched. “Let’s take the women now. I will have a piece of each.”
“We are constrained by agreement,” Moloch said, pushing her away.
Rangda’s long tongue hung from her mouth and slithered on the floor. “I will not wait!”
Without warning, Roni rushed the demon and they fell to the ground together.
“Roni!” Sarah cried.
Tawny turned to Az and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Help him!” she pleaded. “Please, help him!”
Az stared Tawny’s hazel eyes. “Ah, shit,” he whispered. “I am so fucking screwed.” He pressed his lips against hers quickly and briefly, then pushed her toward Sarah.
Gabriel could only glance in the direction of the demons as he and Michael engaged. He saw Az leap into dizzying fray of limbs and wings, and then step back holding Roni by the arm. Bloody and torn, Roni snapped at Az, trying to free himself and get back to the fight. Gabriel knew that the demons would tear the dog to pieces. In his man form, the dog was even more vulnerable. He heard Sarah wail Roni’s name.
He glanced to his left and saw Shine still standing quietly between the archangels. Their eyes met and he saw the depth of fear in her. The sudden rage that swept through him made it hard to breathe.
Lifting his weapon and swinging with all of his power, Gabriel knocked past Michael’s upraised sword and landed a blow across the archangel’s armored chest. This time, the blow staggered Michael. The golden angel fell and a gasp went up from the company of angels around them.
Without a moment’s thought, Gabriel jumped over Michael’s prone form and ran to Shine. He scooped her up and rushed over to Sarah. “Stay together,” he told them.
Sarah stared at his wounds in dismay. “Gabe – “
He cut her off. “Just stay together, Sarah! Tawny, you too.”
Gabriel waded into the mass of snarling, writhing demons. With Az by his side, he found Roni fighting savagely under several Dark Ones and together they pulled the white man to safety.
He waved his sword at the demons. “So help me, I’ll gut the next one who moves,” he shouted.
Az and Gabriel, their backs turned defensively to each other, edged themselves and Roni over to join the women.
“I hope you realize how fucked I am,” Az muttered. “I’ve pissed everybody off now.”
Gabe nodded. “Join the club, my friend.”
The group formed a tight knot in the center of the crowd, the women and Roni protected by the upraised wings of the angel and the demon. Shine broke away from Sarah and pushed past Gabriel’s bloody wings to wrap her arms around his waist. “Gabriel,” she sobbed, “Gabriel! You’re dying, you’re bleeding to death.”
Michael got to his feet and, together with the rest of the archangels, advanced. The Dark ones, unable to attack the others in the presence of the fiery archangels, howled and gibbered and cursed on the periphery. Gabriel knew that if just one of the archangels backed away, nothing would hold Legion back except whatever fight he and Az could give them. He felt weak and dizzy as his blood pooled on the ground around his feet, but the sword still vibrated in his hand. He hoped Az would take the women and run if the fight ended the way he now believed it would.
“The child is correct, Brother,” Camael said. His face was twisted with sorrow. “You chose to live as a human and now you’re dying like a human.”
“What is wrong with you?” Michael shouted at him. “Why didn’t you smite me while you had the chance? Have you lost your courage? Have you lost your heart?”
Gabe nodded. “Yes, Michael,” he panted. “I’ve lost my heart. I lost it to these humans you’re so scornful of.” He smiled painfully. “And I would do nothing differently if given the chance to begin again.” He gestured at the archangels. “Come on, then. Let’s end this.”