The Protectorate: Part Two

There was laughter coming from the other side of the room and that made Tom smile. So far, the thing on the other side of the bars wasn’t half bad. A little stuffy maybe, but not half bad. Tom had maneuvered himself so that he was sitting against a wall of his cell, legs stretched out in front of him.

“Your girlfriend sounds like she would be a lot of fun to be around.” The creature said.

“She’s.. something like that. “ Tom said and smiled into the darkness.

“You love her.”

“Yes.”

“So, what is that phrase you humans use now? Ah, there it is in your memories. ‘Whatcha gonna do about it, bro?’”

Tom was so startled by what the creature just said he choked on his own words and stared dumbfounded towards the creatures voice.

“I’m not hearing an answer, Tom.”

“Well, I had a ring.”

“What happened to the ring?”

“Would you believe a ghost stole it from me? He said that wasn’t the right ring for her.”

More laughter came from the other side of the bars. “Oh, that’s good and the truth, from what I can tell.”

“Can you really read my thoughts?”

“Yes.”

“So why have you had me tell the stories? You could have just watched them in my thoughts.”

“It’s not the same as a story being told. You’ll understand when you have children of your own and they beg for stories.”

Tom fell silent for a little while as his mine turned that thought over and looked at it from all the angles he could find. The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea of having children with his girlfriend. He couldn’t see doing it with anyone else next to him.

“Ah, so it really is that deep for you. I’m jealous of you, Tom. That certainly is precious. Congratulations.” There was some shifting around from the creature and then it spoke again; “All the more reason we’re going to help each other get away from him.”

“Three hundred years in the dark too long for you?”

The sound of a third voice, made Tom jump.

“Five minutes in a room with you is too much, Azazel.”

Azazel hissed out a breath. “Watch your tone with me. I’m not the one who’s trapped in chains.”

“No, you’re not. You’re full of pride and can’t stop gloating.”

“That’s probably the nicest thing you’ve said to me. I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“It wasn’t meant as one. Since you’ve got a puppet stick shoved up your bum, I suppose you have to find your pleasure where you can.”
Azazel’s temper flared and the lights suddenly came on in the room. Tom yelped at the sudden introduction of light and hid his eyes until they stopped watering. When he could see, he immediately looked for the thing that he’d been talking to and was startled at what he saw. Pushing himself to stand up and face his captor, stood a man with wings. Tom counted six wings that he could see and then thought back to his Catholic school days.

“A Cherub..” Tom whispered in to the room and immediately got the attention of both men.

“Well, at least you paid attention in school.” said the Cherub. “Now, normally I wouldn’t be so rude as to have my wings out in your company while in human form, but our gracious host likes seeing them while I’m in these.” He shook his wrists and the delicate silver chains that were locked around them chimed instead of clanked the way normal chains would.

Azazel, turned to Tom then and walked to the cage. “Now that you know what he is, do you know who I am?”

Tom turned his attention to Azazel and studied him closely. There were faint markings on the his face, which he could barely make out. When he did, his eyes went round and he pushed back further in to the cell. “Legion Demon and a high-ranking one. A Prince?”

Azazel smiled and flashed a set of pointed teeth. “Oh good. I was afraid you’d insult me by just saying demon. At least you know your shit.”

“Leave the boy alone, Azazel. He’s not that important.”

“Shows how much you know, Cherub. That boy is the most important being in the room. More important that even you are to His Majesty’s plans.”

“How important?” The Cherub asked.

“Ah-ah-ah.. I’m not about to give away the punchline so soon. You’ll just have to wait and find out.” Azazel said as he turned away from the Cherub and back to Tom. “Your sister is coming. She’s also bringing with her the last spell ingredient. By midnight tonight, I’ll have everything I need to complete my work.”

“Did you at least remove the curse from the boy?” The Cherub asked.

“Of course I did. He’s no use to me cursed. He’d bring down the whole damn mountain if I left him the way he was.”

Tom pushed back his fear and got up. He walked to the bars and stood there. “She’s going to stop you.”

Azazel laughed. “No, Tom. She’s going to die.”

With that, the lights went out and both men who were back in the dark as the laughter of the demon echoed off the walls as he walked away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sun was past its highest point in the sky and on its way down when Misty had finally had enough. Her temper was frayed, she was worried about her brother and Hamaliel wasn’t talking to her, just leading the way deeper in to the woods. Frowning at his back, Misty started running through the possibilities of what was happening to her brother.

When she got to the one where Tom was being eaten alive by hungry cannibals, Hamaliel finally said something over his shoulder to her – “Not in this area, Misty. They’re further west.”

“Did I just hear you make a joke?”

His lips twitched when he turned to look at her. “No.”

“That was a joke. I may faint.” Misty said and she put her hand up to her forehead and pretended to fall backward.

Hamaliel was there and holding her before she could stop herself from falling over completely.

“Not funny, Misty.”

“Oh come on, it’s a little hilarious.”

Hamaliel’s lips twitched again and he stood her up. “It is not.”

“I don’t remember you being this much of a killjoy. I remember you being a lot more fun.”

“I was younger and so were you.”

“You’re as old as the dirt we’re standing on. You just like pretending to be one of us occasionally.” Misty said as she brushed by him to find a place to sit down. Her back and feet ached.

“Can you blame me? You humans are so damned interesting.” Hamaliel said with a frown as he watched her look for a place to sit down. “Are you accusing me of being one of those – what do you call those people who like children inappropriately?”

“Pedophiles and no, I’m not. You were a perfectly behaved boy back then. All mischief and just a hint of wickedness that made it fun.” Misty said as she found a boulder to sit on in the shade. She looked at him and sighed. “Enough about that. What about my brother? Can you feel him? Read his thoughts yet?”

Hamaliel shook his head and sat down on the ground next to the boulder, leaning back against and resting his head against the coolness of the stone. He ran a hand over the jeans he was wearing and was pleased to discover they were almost dry.

“No, but I can tell we’re getting close.”

“How?” She asked.

“You give off a soft buzz whenever I’m near you. Like one of those machines you’re so fond of using at night.”

Misty blushed hard and glared at the back of his head, but said nothing and let him continue on.

“Now there’s more than one buzz in my head. That’s how I can tell we’re getting closer.”

“Well that’s good news. Now that we’re out here, do you think we’ll make it out alive? Whatever has my brother certainly had a good reason for taking him.” Misty said. A burst of anger came out of her and she shouted “and none of this makes any kind of sense! Who would take my idiot brother?”

“Your brother’s not an idiot, Misty. He’ll be fine.”

“Of course you’d say that, you’re an Angel. You know everything.” she practically shouted at him while sliding off the boulder to pace.

“You’re panicking. Why are you panicking? Nothing has happened yet.” Hamaliel said as he stared at her, eyebrows up and looking bewildered.

“That’s exactly why I’m panicking.” Misty said, pushing her red hair back away from her face.

“But you’re fine. Nothing has happened to you besides falling in to that river.” Hamaliel watched her as she paced. “You do know that he’ll be okay, right? I’m here.”

“No, no I do not know that he’ll be okay just because you’re here.”

“That hurts, Misty.” Hamaliel said. His face went blank as he looked at her.

“You were gone for nearly twenty years. You let your memory become so faded that I actually managed to convince myself you were an imaginary friend, that Angels and magic weren’t real and that I wasn’t special except for when I picked up my camera.” Misty said and as she paced. When she got back in front of him, she stopped and rounded on him, her temper and ‘Just go with it’ attitude had finally snapped.

“How could you just go away like that?! Just because I finally had a brother didn’t mean you got to go away and not talk to me again! Why the hell are you back? How the hell does that hoodoo bag figure in to all of this and why the bloody hell is going on!?”

Hamaliel sighed. “Well, at least you snapped before we got to the rescuing your brother part.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means, Misty, that I’m so used to rescuing people- I’m actually glad when they snap before we get inside where ever their loved one is being held. At least then there’s a chance of getting out without having a shouting match as whomever is trying to kill us, is actually trying to kill us.”

“Again, there you go with the not making any sense. I need context, Ham.”

“Your brother was taken because of who he is and who he loves. We’re on our way to go get him from the thing that snatched him, because he’s important.”

“You mean that girlfriend he’s always talking about? The one I’ve never met?”

“Yeah, her. She’s important, Misty. So is your brother.”

“But, how?” When Hamaliel went to answer her, she cut him off. “No, never mind that. I still want to know why my brother, of all people, is that important.”

“He’s going to father the child who will stop the apocalypse.”

Misty was silent as she stared at him, mouth open. She watched Hamaliel stand up and walk over to her. He put his hands on her arms and looked her straight in the eye.

“My brother? You have got to be joking.”

“You can’t see it, because he’s your brother. You’ve grown up knowing that he was clumsy, more interested in books and mythology than in people, until he got that job at a library and met his girlfriend. You’re too close to him to see just how much he’s grown. He’s important, Mist. So are you. I can’t tell you just how important you are, how important everyone is. You think you’re here just because you got lucky? No. It’s all a plan and we’re reaching one of the final steps.” Hamaliel stopped then and let go of her.

Running a hand over his face, Misty watched him search for more words to explain. She didn’t say anything as his eyes darted back and forth and his face made facial expressions like he was arguing with himself. Wrapping her arms around herself, she finally noticed the sun had set and the light was going out.

Shivering, Misty looked at Hamaliel who was studying her. She finally got the courage to ask the question she’d been holding on to all day. “Why am I so special? I get why Tom is, You wouldn’t lie to me about that, but why me?”

Hamaliel shook his head and smiled. “I wasn’t shown that. Just what could be if I don’t pull you both out of this mess tonight.”

Misty huffed out a breath and rubbed her arms. “Okay then. Let’s go.”

“Just like that?”

“Yeah, just like that.” Misty turned on her heel and started walking in the direction they were headed in before she stopped to rest. Hamaliel smiled as he followed after her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Misty was cursing at the backside of one particularly troublesome angel when he came to an abrupt stop and she smacked in to him.

“Ham, what the-” Hamaliel covered her mouth and pulled her down next to him, putting a finger over his lips.

Misty nodded and he took his hand off her mouth. Lifting up and looking over his shoulder, she saw what he did. There were a pair of creatures guarding what looked like a cave opening. These weren’t like any creatures she’d ever seen before. They were as tall as Great Danes, all black and their heads shaped like a bull with large sharp teeth. They had glowing read eyes, but what Misty couldn’t get over – was the fact that they had three heads.

Her eyes widened a little and she was about to make a noise when Hamaliel’s hand went over her mouth again. Hamaliel pulled Misty deeper in to the trees surrounding the cave entrance and when they were far enough away, he pulled his hand off her mouth.

“Well, that isn’t good.” He said and paced back and forth.

“What were those things?”

Hamaliel looked up at her, a little distracted. “What? Oh. Just hell hounds.”

Misty sighed. “Just hell hounds you say. Well that’s perfect. What are we supposed to do now?”

“Well, you could ask me for help.”

Misty yelped and kicked out before Hamaliel could tell her to stop and connected with the stranger’s groin. Doubled over and panting for breath, he laughed a little.

“Oi, Hamaliel. I can see why you like this one most of all.”

“She’s fire, all right. You okay there?”

The stranger waved Hamaliel off and sat down. “Yeah, I’ll be okay. Just promise she won’t kick me again.”

Misty blushed. “I’m sorry, you startled me.”

“Yeah, I can see that.” he sighed and looked up at Hamaliel. “Didn’t the old woman tell you I was coming?”

“She did, I was expecting you before now though.”

“About that, I got hung up with some business”

“What kind of business?” Misty asked while looking the stranger over. He was dressed for the woods with khaki pants, an olive-green shirt and boots. Sensible.

“Thank you, I try to be.”

Misty sighed. “Not another one. I’m surrounded by mind readers. Tell me, are you another Angel too?”

“Well, not exactly.” The stranger said with a grin. “I’m a Fallen.”

“And who or what did you Fall for?”

“That is a very long story and one I don’t have time to tell.” The Fallen said. He looked at Hamaliel and sighed. “Seeing you makes me ache for home, brother.”

“We miss you too, Eric.” Hamaliel said and he embraced his brother, even as Eric flinched.

“You could at least call me by my name.”

“You don’t have one anymore, remember? It gets taken from you when you Fall.”

Eric sighed. “Always takes things so literally.” He clapped his hands together. “But that is no matter because I have goodies.” Eric pulled a bag from his back pocket and reached in to it, stuck his arm in to the bag and dug around. When he pulled out a silver-handled short sword in a black leather scabbard and handed it to Misty, her eyebrows went up and her mouth dropped in to a little o.

“This is yours. You’ll need it for those hounds at the gate.”

Misty took the sword from him and pulled it out of the scabbard a little. “I’ve never used one.”

“You’ll be fine. The pointy end goes in to the bad guy.” Eric said.

He dug back in to his bag and pulled out a bow and full quiver of arrows. Misty eyed them with pure lust and passed the sword to Hamaliel.

“Now that I can use.”

When Eric passed them to her, she wasted no time in putting on the quiver properly and stringing the bow. When she was done, she pulled out an arrow and knocked it, aiming for a tree and getting a feel for the pull of the bow. She didn’t notice when Hamaliel put the sword around her waist.

“She looks good, dressed in our weaponry.” Eric murmured to Hamaliel.

“Don’t even think about it, brother.” He murmured back.

“I wasn’t going to say a word.”

“Of course not.” Hamaliel said with a smile. “What do you have in that bad for me?”

“Just this.” Eric pulled a long dagger out of the bag and handed it over.

Hamaliel studied the dagger and nodded. “I like it.”

Eric dug something out of his pocket and handed it over. It was a silver cylinder, about three inches long with what looked like pieces cut out on one end.

“Is this what I think it is?” Hamaliel asked.

“Yeah. They’re holding one of you in there. In chains.”

Hamaliel nearly swore then as he stared down at the key.

“How did you get the key?” Miskty asked. They’d forgotten about her.

“I am an excellent thief.”

Misty studied the man in front of her for a second, thinking back to watch the old woman had said to them earlier in the day. “You’re No One, aren’t you?”

Eric flashed a bright smile at Misty. “Oh now I really like you. I don’t even have to explain it.” He bowed to her. “Yes, I am Eric NoOne.”

Misty looked over at Hamaliel. “Are we ready to go?”

“Ouch. That hurts.”

“You’re not my brother. My brother is trapped down there. I want him back.”

“It still stings.”

“I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re not. That’s okay though. I understand how you feel.” Eric said with a small smile for Misty as he turned back to Hamaliel. “Bring him in to the sun, yeah?”

“You’ve my word that I’ll try.”

“I guess that’s all I can ask for.” Eric stepped back from Hamaliel and stuck his bag back in to his pocket. He whispered a word, gave Misty a wink and then vanished.

“Did he just–?”

Hamaliel laughed. “Yeah, he did. The show off.”

“Okay then.” Misty said with a grin at Hamaliel. “Lead the way.”

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