A chill runs through Nick as he steadfastly makes his way to the maternity ward. His wife, Kayla, has just given birth to his son. The glow from his boy so radiant, besting the lights from the birthing room, that even the nurses in attendance remarked upon it.
Nick knew the reason why.
Kayla shook slightly, her gentle, bird-like hands, overwhelmed at holding him briefly against her chest. His son’s skin shimmering in a way that no light would cause that sort of reflection – a child of the Divine – that Nick couldn’t help his eyes watering up seeing his son breathe ever so softly lying against his mother’s breast, heart to beating heart. Nick’s preternatural powers allowed him to sense the cadence of their hearts in sync with one another. No father could be prouder, he was sure of it.
From the time they met Kayla had always remained the love of his life. Yet that changed the moment he spied his son’s entrance into this world – that revelatory moment when Cassiel Elliot Donahey gasped his first breath – the intake of divinity on Earth causing tables and other loose items in the room rattle or shift. It was not that he loved his wife less, he loved his son more but in a decidedly different way. In ways that no human could understand. Cassiel, the highest majesty of God’s creation in human form.
Well, half-human … he thought to himself.
Nick’s brow furrowed with the memory of his son’s first breath and the stir it caused – alarming the doctor and nurses in attendance, thinking that a small quake must have happened to cause such a shift in the room.
“Sweetie, when you make babies, even God seems to listen.” Nick recalled one nurse saying as she patted Kayla’s shoulder gently.
Kayla nodded, still trying to catch her breath from the birthing. He’d gently wiped the sweat from her face as they both took in the beauty that was their son. Nick knew her labor probably felt intense and hard on her. But he did his best to effect that, bringing his wife as much relief as he dared allow. Others would be watching his every move. Yeah, it was best they thought it a coincidental earthquake.
It was a quake alright, just not the one they’re thinking … Nick mused to himself, his gaze darting to the ceiling of the hospital as if God might have something to say on the matter, while he entered the ward heading for the large window at the end of the hall.
A collection of fathers, aunts and uncles or grandparents were all pressed to the glass. There was barely enough room for a big muscled guy like Nick to edge his way in to see his boy.
A few gave way to Nick’s massive form noting the new father wore sweats, a sweat-stained tank top and sneakers from his morning workout when Kayla called to him from the back porch that her water had broke and they need to rush to the hospital.
Nick’s breaths billowed upon the glass. He pulled back, not realizing he had moved so damned close to the ward. Another father, a light skinned black man snickered, causing Nick to side-eye him.
The guy held up his hands in front of his chest in mock surrender, stalling Nick from saying anything, when the man added, “I did the same thing when mine was born, just reliving the moment.” He smiled warmly, bringing Nick’s edge down several decibels. He offered his hand to Nick.
“Aaron Carter. Which one is yours?” he asked nodding his head in the direction of all the babies in the ward.
“Nick Donahey,” he offered, shaking the man’s hand and clasping a friendly hand on Aaron’s shoulder for good measure. They had a shared fatherly experience after all, didn’t they?
“That one, right there. Fourth over from where I stand. Cassiel. Cass …” Nick paused, he knew the reason for the name choice. He’d told his wife it was his father’s name. A man who died before Nick and Kayla met – or so he said – a lie that festered in him but he had to come up with something to explain why he pressed for the name. In the end they compromised that they would take a name from both their father’s and that would make up their son’s.
“He’s sure a good looking boy,” Aaron commented then sighed the tiniest bit. “Is it me? Or does he sort of glow? It’s me, right?”
A large woman in a floral print dress, her round face barely able to contain the tiniest blue eyes hidden behind cat-eyed bejeweled glasses – as if she were a baked cookie that had swelled beyond the decorations applied prior to baking, replied, “No, he definitely is.”
They all shifted slightly so Nick could stand before his son. Nick nodded to them all, a tight smile gracing his lips for their consideration. Nine people in all crowded around the window to watch the newborns in their cribs. A couple of the babies in the second row were in incubators. Nick knew these were the babies with complications. He silently sent a prayer over them, asking for the Divine to grant them health and prosperity as their little bodies clung to life.
Nick then trained his gaze on his son. There was little doubt: Cassiel glowed with the gift of the Divine, leaving no other way to explain it.
“He’s certainly a healthy boy. Almost as if God paid special attention to this one, don’tcha think?” The woman continued standing next to Nick on his right, with Aaron on his left. The others crowded around and behind him, all eyes trained on little Cassiel.
The woman’s words, while comforting, also raised Nick’s hackles. Something was threaded in them, a threat of sorts. He couldn’t say why, just a pervading feeling that coursed through him.
Almost as if … he never got to finish the thought.
The window shook, vibrating hard to the point Nick tried to take a step back from it for fear that it would shatter in his face. He bumped into a couple of tall men behind him. All of them pressing a bit too close for his comfort. He shook his head. Pressure seemed to rise all around him.
“Yes, almost as if Divine providence were involved. A glow from above, isn’t that right, Nick?” Aaron added, genteel like. Too soft. The threat loomed larger. Two nurses moved into the ward, unheeding of the vibrating window or that Nick struggled to keep himself upright at all. His son turned his little head and his eyes opened, blue-white eyes that rivaled a perfect crystal blue sky lit themselves from within with a vibrancy that belied his human appearance. Stating in that one gaze his otherness.
Nick started to sink to one knee.
Hands from the others gripped him, holding him up.
“One would think it almost an abomination of the Lord. One so special and radiant …” the fat woman continued, caring little for Nick’s plight right next to her. He looked up at her as the others kept him somewhat aloft. More hands, firm hands, hands that clasped like the shackles of a chain gripped him hard. His head snapped up. The fat woman turned to him, her eyes red hot, blood coursing down her ashen pudgy face. Her voice, darker and deeper than it was a moment ago, “Radiant enough to bring the wrath of the Council for your abomination!”
The walls shook, the nurses in the ward turned and within a flash tore themselves from the skins they wore to reveal demons shrieking with anger as they flew on blackened leathery wings over the crying babies, through the glass, shattering it and taking out a chunk of the wall before Nick, their clawed feet latching onto his biceps, tearing, searing into his flesh.
Nick cried out in agony but no one else came to his aid. Indeed, the others growled with anger the floor vibrated, with a sudden jerk the demons ascended with Nick, hauling him through the next several floors of Mercy Hospital without breaking the building up at all. They pulled him up into the stratosphere.
Behind him he could hear the screech of a demon hoard, the men and women who stood around him in the maternity ward, as they flapped their wings taking him further into the sky. They veered north and within a couple of minutes had traversed to the city of Monterey and made a speedy descent into the round building Nick knew so well – the WonderDome. To humans it was nothing more than a roller rink, but to ethereals it is where Heaven and Hell occupied neutral space on Earth. Sensing their approach, a column of shining light shot into the daylight sky from a six pointed silver star that graced the top of the dome, its brilliance outshining the sun above. One of the demons gripped Nick’s head with their clawed foot, gouging deep cuts into his scalp. He grunted under the weight of that claw. His shoulder length brown hair became saturated, streaked with luminescent white with his angelic blood that coursed over it from the assault.
His gaze moved to either side, accompanying the demons were his brethren, angels of the Lord flew in full battle regalia.
In his anguish, the pain coming from every quarter, Nick knew this would happen. He expected it. Just not so soon. He barely got to see his boy. Now, the Council would do what it thought it must to quash the life of the halfling – the Nephilim that Nick had brought into the world and why he would stand trial on the day of his son’s birth.
As they crossed over into the bright column of light Nick’s automatic body response tried to take over, his wings pushed from his back trying to flex as they should when entering the sacred space of Heaven, only to be grasped by clawed hands, demon claws, painfully stilling them from reaching their full potential.
“We’ll have none of that, Gabriel …” the demon spoke into his mind, calling him by his true name – the Archangel Gabriel. The birth of his son, the highest form of treason for both Heaven and Hell lie at the core of his crime. It was one area where the two sides agreed posed the greatest danger to either side.
Nephilim prohibitus sunt per verbum Dei. Nephilim simply were not permitted – by Big Daddy above – absent though he may be for the past couple of millennia.
Nick, or rather, Gabriel, had committed the worst sin of all in their eyes. He needed to atone for that. He didn’t know if that meant his own existence – say nothing of his unprotected son. They could both perish on the same day.
They only think he’s unprotected, Gabriel thought as quietly as he could. Demons and Angels could only pick up the thoughts of others if they became riddled with emotion. He needed to play it cool, be as repentant as possible while his cohorts got his wife and son hidden away from them all.
His only hope was that Uriel and Raphael would be able to pull it off, their master plan to sequester his family until he could return. Only centuries of support and unfailing love for his brothers bought him the confidence he required of them for this most special of plans to be carried out. He had no idea if they were succeeding or not. Any thought or emotional tone to those thoughts could spell disaster for them all.
Keep it in … breathe and still yourself to them, Nick reminded himself.
The arresting hoard continued their descent into the column of light until it became so bright that no human would be able to peer into it.
But they weren’t human. Not by a bloody long shot.
A moment later and they landed, nearly slamming into the floor of the joint Council of Order – where Heaven and Hell had to play nice. It was decreed by mutual contractural agreement signed eons ago.
Nine seats for each.
The arresting demons removed their grip of Gabriel the moment they crossed into the column of light that would bind Gabriel in place. He floated there, his feet bare inches from the floor. In Digito Dei – The Finger of God, it was called. It traversed from above Gabriel, right through him, and far into the expanse of space that glimmered in the floor. The Cat’s Eye nebula taking up the entirety of the floor while the stars of the Milky Way streamed all around them.
Though Gabriel’s wings could spread themselves fully now, he did his best to rein it in. To show them at their fullest would be an act of defiance. He needed to placate as best he could, if anything, to buy his brothers time to make off with his family back at the hospital. He silently prayed they were successful.
He glanced around, taking in the large circular room. The ceiling above, showing the expanse of the universe in all it’s heavenly wonders, mirrored by the same along the floor, making it seem like Gabriel was suspended in space. To his left, the nine council seats of the highest order of Angels – seven for the Archangels and two for the earthly realm of cherubim, with Azreal as the chief arbiter and judge for Heaven.
To his right, nine seats of Hell, with Lucifer himself taking point as chief prosecutor over his demonic dominion. Abbadon, Lucifer’s chief mischief maker, sitting to his right, his gaze pointed though wearing a slightly amused expression. In fact, all of Hell’s representatives seemed to think this entire proceeding was humorous to some extent. Only his Heavenly brothers seemed to regard it with the seriousness he thought it warranted.
Only one chair stood empty along the Heaven’s arc of the room: Gabriel’s. And imbalance of the Council, clearly giving Hell one more vote over Heaven in this matter. By his own action, he’d weakened God’s position of his crime. He knew there’d be hell to pay over that. Literally.
Never had an Archangel been tried before the full Council of Order. Indeed, it had been several millennia since the entire Council had been called at all. The war between them all too cataclysmic for such an event to remain civil. The very air seethed with the tension from both sides sharing the chamber after so long an absence.
Lucifer stood, his staff pounded upon the dais, crackling into the star filled expanse of space, the flame at it’s top spiraling up with all the power the King of Hell radiated, calling the trial to order. Still draped in the trappings of his former favored glorious angelic self, gilt trimmed white broadcloth that wound about his waist and groin only to trail up his broad bare back and over his left shoulder. The edges of it forever singed by his infamous fall. All of the angelic trappings: beauty that would make men weep should they look upon him, grace and monolithic strength that would bring stronger men to their knees in supplication – tarnished – bearing the calamity of his questioning God’s plan burnished into him. Even his wings bore the scorch marks of his fall. All that beauty – the supreme sublime specimen of God’s intended plan for the male form – marred by the one tragic mistake he made and could never find it within him to beg for forgiveness and retribution for his actions. A favored son seeking his father’s consolation and … well, grace. Lucifer’s voice, both soothing and horrifying at the same time, bellowed across the heavens bringing things to order.
It’s begun … Gabriel thought.
“Potuisse adduci consilium quare scis, Gabriel?”
Nick shook his head the tiniest bit, getting used to the shared tongue of God’s own children, each from their own domain, but with a common tongue – that of the church – only in reverse. In his own act of defiance he spoke to them all in English, ruffling some feathers and leather in the process. A small extraction of pride to hoard for himself in these proceedings.
“Yes, I know why I have been summoned thusly. I am here to attest to what I have done and what penance shall be meted out for my transgressions against man and God.”
“Deo In?” Lucifer smiled, clearly enjoying Gabriel’s snark in speaking to them in the human tongue.
“That is what we’re here to discuss, are we not? Whether what I’ve done is truly against the eyes and wishes of our Father or whether or not because our father hid it from you that he has condoned the birth of my son.”
“Silentium! Tua anima detestatur omnis aures nostrorum verborum multo!” Lucifer flew from his chair to come before Gabriel directly, slamming his staff powerfully into the floor, the flame spiraling into an inferno of tremendous height. It was all for show. It’s what they did to intimidate each other. Gabriel only wondered why his brothers on the Council remained silent, letting Lucifer have his say unchallenged.
Were they already of a mind to condemn him?
Lucifer moved to his right, watching his demonic half of the council carefully. Every eye on his side trained to him should they be called into action. The moment was so taut it seemed but the beat of a butterfly’s wings would shatter it completely. Lucifer’s right hand came to caress Gabriel from under his chin lifting his head so their gazes could meet one another. Even in his banished realm of Hell, Lucifer’s beauty was undeniable. Gabriel still found it within his heart to recall the love he had for his brother before his tremendous fall from Grace. Something lingered in Lucifer’s gaze, almost as if he were debating inwardly if he felt as strongly about Gabriel’s crime as the others felt. Perhaps he had an ally in his brother with that look that seemed to question the sincerity of his assertive claims.
.:Careful, brother, do not press the issue. All of this is for show. But make no mistake, your son’s life, the feared Nephilim, does hang in the balance.:. Lucifer’s thoughts caressed his mind as softly as his hand did his face. Lucifer leaned in and placed a gentle kiss upon Gabriel’s right cheek. In that tender moment Gabriel could almost smell his son. A whiff of something that he recalled from the birthing room. Had Lucifer been there in disguise? Had he witnessed the birth and was signaling to Gabriel his allegiance with this kiss?
Lucifer pulled back, smiling with a grin that bore no warmth or affection. In the next instant his left hand backhanded Gabriel across the face, sending blood from his split lip flying into the chamber. Lucifer’s hand swiped at Gabriel’s tank top, pulling it from his body only to press the lower end of his staff against the cleft of Gabriel’s pectoral muscles, right over his angelic heart which blazed white hot with Lucifer’s staff mere inches from it. Gabriel cried out in agony, feeling the blinding scorch from Lucifer’s staff slowly piercing his chest.
“SUFFICIT!” Michael flew through the air brandishing his sword burnishing with an angelic power all his own, his wings fully expressed behind him, his shield held battle ready should Lucifer not comply.
Lucifer immediately withdrew spinning around to face Michael’s challenge and hissed into the chamber so loudly that it could almost be mistaken for a roar. His tarnished white wings flapping loudly in defiance of being robbed of his moment of extraction for Gabriel’s crime – an extraction that seemed he was promised by the Council from the way Gabriel watched the exchange between Michael and Lucifer.
Michael descent from the grand bench to stand opposite Lucifer to Gabriel’s left declared Heaven’s opposition to Lucifer’s first volley in this convoluted matter.
“Peonitendi non pensi qua de, cogitare humus hic, Gabriel,” Michael issued softly but with no lack of purpose to his words. Indeed, his sword crackled with power to put teeth into them lest Lucifer wanted to challenge one of God’s most favored sons directly.
Even my brother Lucifer would not be so bold to challenge in Council, Gabriel silently thought to himself during the respite in the assault Lucifer started. To do so would bring war here on Earth. Something that, if broken, would be catastrophic for everyone involved. Breaking that contract with … well, it would be bad. Gabriel pondered his options.
“Can we please,” Gabriel panted, “speak plainly in the human tongue so I don’t have to keep translating it in my head?”
Lucifer leaned in, smiling with all the warmth of a viper, “Had a big day, have we? Too much time with the humans that our tongue has withered on the vine for you?”
“Gabriel knows why he’s been summoned. We don’t have to explain it,” Michael added.
Gabriel’s eyes scanned the seats along Heaven’s side. A slight shift in Raphael and Uriel’s image spoke silently to Gabriel that they’d fully returned from their agreed plan. His family was safe from either side finding them. Even Gabriel would not know of their whereabouts until he could regroup with his brothers at a later time, provided he survived the night himself.
No guarantees given Hell’s advantage.
Yet, Lucifer’s thoughts to him suggested that Hell might be willing to play along.
A proverbial deal with the Devil.
Still, he didn’t have many other options available to him. Best to move quickly if he wanted to save himself. He turned his gaze toward Lucifer while Michael and he argued the merit’s of Gabriel’s crime and the penance he would have to pay. So far, Lucifer was arguing for a full demotion of Gabriel’s Archangel status to keep the status quo between both sides. This would give Hell the upper hand in such matters for millennia to come. A ground that Michael wouldn’t concede if he could spare it. So, Gabriel made his pact with Satan while they argued.
.:What do you want to ensure the safety of myself and my family?:.
Without turning his head or stopping his argumentative strategy of Gabriel’s demotion within the realm of Heaven he replied.
.:There’s a good brother. Play along. Let’s see where this little adventure takes us, shall we? You’ll just owe me one when the time comes and we’ll call it even. Now, let me get on with the show for my little crew here so no one is the wiser on either side. Fear not, brother, I am not truly after your demotion. It is merely a ploy to keep your brothers engaged and enraged with my words so we can have this little moment to ourselves. Do we have a deal?:.
Gabriel pondered his options. He didn’t have many. Actually, none at all the way he saw it. Sure, his family was sequestered away where only Raphael and Uriel knew of their hiding, but he needed to be with them, to cradle his son to his chest and speak the angelic words of a father to his Nephilim son, thereby granting his son his birthright when he reached adulthood.
.:Most excellent … but you know the rules.:.
In that instant Lucifer snapped his fingers, his staff hammered upon the floor, shattering it and Gabriel fell through, descending into the ninth level of hell, where Lucifer dwelled.
To the Council they were both still in chamber, locked in a heated verbal battle over Gabriel’s crime. But even as Gabriel descended, hearing Hell calling for a vote on his crime ringing above him, he could hear Lucifer’s wings beating powerfully to his right. Lucifer spun around so that his back faced his domain enabling their gazes locking upon one another. In that fiery descent, Lucifer reached out and kissed Gabriel on the lips, his hand forcibly holding his brother to him, sealing their pact with the most sacred of Angelic ways.
Osculum Angeli Quod – The kiss of Angels.
Lucifer released his brother from their embrace and completed the landing in the throne room of Hell. Not of lava and fire as one might expect from Biblical verse. No, the ninth level was absent of much light. It was cold and brutal upon the skin. No warmth, no promise of life. Shards of ice, obsidian and iron formed the massive chamber. In the center on a throne of ice with a captured dwarf star burning brightly within it sat in the center of a large dais, the only smooth part of the entire room, with radiating angular grooves and razor sharpened stone to cut upon flesh pushing outward from the dais out to the edges of the room.
They landed on the main portion of the dais where Lucifer held court. With the snap of Lucifer’s fingers a small iron table rose from the ground next to the throne. A quill and parchment lay on top. No doubt the agreement his brother would insist upon. His brother was ever the one to press for everything to be in contractual form. It’s why he was undeniably, even if Christians would never hold to such a position, the Guardian of the legal system.
Lucifer dispatched with his staff, flinging it into the expanse of the cavernous room to where it flew to its place above the throne to join a trident and sword in a unholy triumvirate of weapons against God. He casually walked toward the small table flinging his left hand from the wrist making the table elongate itself to the size of a workable desk.
“We’ll dispense with all of the usual mumbo-jumbo we have the humans go through,” he turned his gaze, full of lascivious intent upon his brother. “You already know the drill, as they say.”
He turned around to face his brother as Gabriel closed the distance to the desk, Lucifer leaned his backside against it in the most casual of manners. He knew he’d won big time in this little game of his. He was here to establish his future prize.
With another flick of his wrist the parchment flung outward toward Gabriel who to had to quickly side-step it as it spiraled into the near infinite distance on the other end of the room.
“Just the general falderal legalese stuff that keeps things tidy. I’m sure you don’t need to go over that. Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?”
Of course it was written backwards, Gabriel thought.
The header now lost in the distance of the chamber where the signature line finally came into view at the top of the document.
“You know what you have to do,” Lucifer smiled, picking up the icy looking quill, the strands of it glistening in what ambient light came from the star trapped within the throne.
“Sign here …” Lucifer pointed to a line in the document.
Gabriel eyed the table. No ink well occupied a space there for him to sign with. Then it became apparent to him. It must be signed in his own blood.
Lucifer moved behind his brother, his arm slinking around Gabriel’s narrow waist, his mouth inches from Gabriel’s right ear, his breaths – so cold upon his skin – buffeting against him as he spoke. His muscular bare torso pressed gently to Gabriel’s broad back – brotherly skin upon skin.
“Just press the tip to the paper. The quill knows what to do.”
Gabriel leaned forward and pressed the quill to the paper and took in a controlling breath, unprepared for how his brother would extract his blood for the signing. He began to write his angelic name upon the parchment, bringing a guttural groan from deep within him as he saw blood flow from the indentation in his chest that Lucifer put there earlier. His angelic blood flowed in a steady stream, white with the grace of God, a glistening strand of himself in a gentle but purposeful line to the top of the quill, filling it along the quill’s shaft to reach the nib and bind itself to the parchment below. He completed the first couple of characters when he felt his brother’s grip around his waist become quite forceful and with one thrust he felt his brother tear through his sweats and burrow himself within Gabriel.
“SIGN BROTHER! RESIGN YOUR WILL FOR THE POWERS OF HELL TO PROTECT YOUR FAMILY!”
He thrust into Gabriel again angering Gabriel into trying to stop from completing his signature say nothing of his brother’s defilement, only to find the pain and pleasure centers of his mind and body revolt – pressing him to finish. That was Lucifer’s doing.
Lucifer continued to thrust into his brother, defiling him as he committed himself to the protection of the Lord of Hell so his family would find shelter from those who would hunt them down when the room rattled, resoundingly shaking it to its foundation, stopping the commitment from being completed. The Finger of God entered the room shrouding Gabriel from Lucifer’s assault, casting him into the expanse of the room sliding upon the razor thin blades of the floor that shredded his wings further.
The whole room vibrated with power and then became silent and dark taking Gabriel with it. The quill clinking to the dais floor, breaking into icy shards, traces of Gabriel’s grace pooling there.
The parchment still only contained the first three characters of Gabriel’s name – not nearly enough to seal the deal.
Lucifer howled into the chamber all his anger and rage at his father’s intercession. Black ice and iron filings fell from the ceiling of the great room. His deep breaths, infused with indignation being so violated within his own realm bellowed from his lips, large plumes of icy air drifted from him. In his frustration, he growled, and with a darkly rasping voice and looking skyward from under his brow, he cursed his father, promising in the darkness of his realm that he would seek vengeance for his father’s intervention.
Silence was his only reply.