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Son of perdition, p.16
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       Son of Perdition, p.16

           Wendy Alec
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  ‘On Uncle Lawrence?’ Julia walked at a steady pace past Jaeger and Habitat. ‘What kind of information?’

  ‘Did he grow up with your mother?’

  Julia frowned. ‘Strange question.’ She took a long sip of latte. ‘No – they were twins. My grandmother died at their birth; grandfather had died in the war. The twins were placed with social services in London, then separated when they were evacuated in the Blitz. My mother went to Kent, Lawrence to Ayr in Scotland. Mother only met Lawrence again when I was seventeen. He was already a Jesuit priest, living in New York.’

  ‘How old were you when you first met him?’

  ‘I’ve known him all my life, but I only saw Lawrence on birthdays, Christmas, you know, family occasions. He was in Rome as a priest when I was born. Then, when he joined the CIA, he was always travelling. Why?’

  ‘I need you to find his birth certificate.’

  ‘His records were lost in the war.’

  ‘Julia, listen. This is really important. You simply have to get your hands on some certified proof of Lawrence’s birth.’

  ‘Nick, I tried years ago, before the wedding – he gave me away. There are no records for Lawrence St Cartier.’

  Normandy Motorway, France

  ‘That’s impossible!’ Nick sighed. ‘Look, there must be something – orphanage records, school records,’ he persisted. ‘ . . . local authority records.’

  ‘The most plausible explanation is that his details were removed from public access when he joined the CIA. It’s logical. Nicky, what’s the big deal with his birth certificate?’

  Nick looked into the phone’s camera.

  ‘Julia, I need you to answer me something.Something personal.’ Nick hesitated, then took a deep breath. ‘Do you believe in Christ?’

  There was a long silence.

  ‘Do I believe in what?’

  Nick watched as Julia ducked into the doorway of the Designers Guild store. She removed her earpiece and spoke into her mobile.

  ‘Nick,’ she said anxiously, ‘are you on new medication?’

  ‘It’s not the meds, Jules,’ Nick said, softly. He smiled into the camera. Then shrugged.

  ‘Look, Jules, get what you can for me. I’ll see you at the manor on Saturday with Lily at Mother’s Christmas shindig.’

  ‘You’re sure you’re okay?’ Julia asked, still uneasy.

  She held the screen away from her, her eyes searching Nick’s face. ‘You’re looking good, Nick. In fact you’re looking great. The medications are working then.’

  ‘I’ve never felt this good in my whole life, Jules. And I’m clean. No drugs,’ he said, softly.

  ‘Look, Jules, find out what you can. Email me any info on Lawrence. Also an updated list of who’s who on Jason’s board – the VOX board. I’m going to need your help when I get to London.’

  ‘Of course. Anything. Anytime.’

  ‘You’re my leading light, Julia.’ He grinned.

  Julia grinned back. ‘Okay, Nicky. Ciao.’

  ‘Give my love to Lily. Tell Jason . . . ’ His voice trailed off.

  He blew her a kiss, then clicked the videoscreen off and put his foot down hard.

  Chapter Nineteen

  The Rubied Seal

  The Great White Plains of the white poplars radiated with a soft light that hung in the blazing mists rising from Eden’s immense lush lawns of lilies and foxgloves that stretched as far as the eye could see.

  In the very centre of the plains, the High Angelic elders of the First Heaven sat on twenty-four carved silver thrones beneath a great canopy of the finest spun gossamer. Gabriel paced the lush landscape alone. Restless.

  The stately poplars encircled the canopy, their branches hung heavy with glistening white blossoms with diamond stamens filled with spikenard. The exquisite fragrance permeated the First Heaven. The elders sat in silence. At last Jether raised his head.

  ‘He has been sighted,’ he murmured.

  Michael dismounted inside the gates and strode towards Jether. Each head turned in the direction of the magnificent translucent Pearl Gates. The entrance to Eden.

  ‘He is riding the Arc of the West Winds with his Royal Guard.’ Michael removed his silver gauntlets as he walked.

  Jether frowned. ‘How many?’

  Michael sat on a carved pearl throne to Jether’s right, removed his helmet and placed it on the enormous pearl table in front of him.

  ‘A large contingent of his Royal Guards.’

  Xacheriel scowled.

  ‘His thugs.’

  ‘They will remain outside the gates,’ Gabriel said. ‘He is permitted only one witness, as stated by Eternal Law.’

  Jether’s gaze hardened.

  ‘It will be Charsoc,’ he whispered.

  Michael frowned. ‘Charsoc the Dark violated the tenets on his entry into Babylonia through the Portal of Shinar. He is confined to earth. Yet he rides with Lucifer.’

  Jether sighed.

  ‘Charsoc is a master of the interpretation of Eternal Law. Today they journey to us straight from earth. He well knows that the penalty regarding his violation of Shinar applies only to his readmission into the Second Heaven. It is not applicable to his being summoned to the First Heaven. He will suffer no ill effects while he is here.’

  The roaring of a hundred chariots broke the tranquillity.

  Lucifer’s monstrous black chariot descended through the indigo mists of Eden, towards the Pearl Gates, pulled by eight of his dark-winged stallions.

  The chariot tore through the gates, its huge silver wheels ploughing through the white plains, their war blades slashing savagely through the lush lawns of white lilies and foxgloves that grew beneath the poplars.

  It drew to a halt only yards from the table of the High Council. Lucifer stood in the chariot, hands on his hips, staring down at his brothers. And at Jether.

  ‘Your entrance befits you, brother,’ Michael said, striding toward the chariot, his expression grim. ‘Here – in the First Heaven – you make no mark at all.’

  Lucifer followed Michael’s gaze over to the lilies and foxgloves springing up from the jagged tracks of his chariot.

  ‘Ah.’ Lucifer smiled. ‘The wonders of the First Heaven.’ He sprang agilely from his chariot down onto the Great Plains.

  ‘Here I make no mark, brother.’ He walked up to stand directly in front of Michael. ‘But, believe me, in the land of the Race of Men I shall raze, tear down, corrupt – until I have completely annihilated that grubby little orb.’

  Gabriel looked at him in quiet disdain.

  ‘Well spoken, Lucifer,’ he said. ‘How eloquent. An auspicious start to the proceedings. You are in a subtle mood, I can see.’

  Lucifer raised his hand dismissively.

  ‘My mood is good, Gabriel. The First Seal is soon to be broken. My son rises in the World of Men.’

  Michael gestured over to the gate.

  ‘They stay outside.’

  Moloch leered at him from his chariot.

  ‘Michael, my pretty,’ he yelled, ‘we have unfinished business.’

  Unsheathing his monstrous sword, he drew blood from his thigh, then licked the blade. He grinned monstrously.

  ‘Master,’ he growled. ‘Please.’

  Lucifer raised his hand.

  Immediately Moloch fell silent.

  ‘Their manners are still impeccable, I see,’ Michael noted.

  ‘They have other aptitudes.’ Lucifer smiled thinly. ‘They will wait for me here. But I require my witness. Even the Lord Chief Justice would surely agree.’

  Gabriel nodded.

  Charsoc stood up from his litter.

  Lucifer walked past Michael to the table where Jether waited in silence.

  ‘My witness.’ Lucifer bowed dramatically.

  ‘Show them to their respective seats,’ Jether said icily.

  ‘I would sit with my brothers,’ Lucifer declared.

  Jether nodded. ‘As you would have it.’

Michael showed Lucifer to a seat next to himself as Gabriel strode over to the table and sat on Lucifer’s right. Taciturn.

  ‘Gabriel,’ Lucifer murmured. He kissed him deliberately on both cheeks. ‘My presence disturbs you,’ he said, enjoying his brother’s discomfort.

  Charsoc sat opposite Jether, and laid his carpet bag in front of him on the table.

  ‘You are returned from earth?’ He studied Jether intently.

  Jether ignored him.

  Charsoc smiled thinly, inhaling the breeze. ‘Spikenard.’ His eyes closed, his face in rapture. ‘I know you reside on that worthless planet, Jether.’ He opened his eyes, studying Jether closely. ‘I shall yet find your abode and we shall have . . . ’ He removed a glove finger by finger.‘ . . . a little tête à tête.’

  ‘We do not take tea with cold-blooded murderers, Charsoc,’ Jether said, coldly.

  Charsoc’s eyes fell on Issachar.

  ‘Ah, Issachar. How pleasant it is to see you under more auspicious circumstances.’ Charsoc opened his bag and removed a small silver object. ‘A souvenir from our little run in.’

  He flung it on the table in front of Issachar.

  Issachar stared enraged at the silver cross, remembering Klaus Von Hausen and the executed archaeologists.

  ‘Issachar ran into – shall I say – the thin end of the blade.’ Charsoc smiled broadly at Jether and scanned the faces around the table, a malevolent smile on his thin lips. ‘Who else here sojourns on the earth, I wonder?’

  Lucifer raised his gaze to meet Jether’s.

  ‘You are peeved by my methods. You feel I am barbaric.’ He grinned maniacally. ‘But this is war, Jether. Issachar was on the wrong side.’

  ‘Your dark slaves commit untold murders in the world of the Race of Men, Lucifer. You contravene the Tenets of Eternal Law. You are not above the Law. You will answer for each violation at the Last Judgement.’

  ‘Ah,’ Lucifer replied. ‘I have been too long in the Race of Men. Their short-lived pleasures are so much more agreeable, don’t you think? No consequences, just do as you please.’ He hesitated. ‘Until they get to the Lake of Fire,’ he snarled. ‘Too late, they will realize their folly.’

  ‘Your concern for the Race of Men’s welfare is simply awe inspiring, Lucifer.’ Gabriel stared at him coldly. Lucifer glared back.

  Jether opened the codex and surveyed the table. ‘Let us address the business at hand. Daniel’s week is finally upon us. In three moons, the Seven Seals of Revelation will be broken. In three moons, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will come forth.’

  ‘They will be removed?’ Lucifer’s eyes narrowed. ‘All those that bear the Seal of the Nazarene?’

  ‘I will spell out the conditions,’ Jether stated coldly. ‘At the traversing of the Kármán Line by the Pale Rider, all those who wear the Seal of Christos will be transported to the First Heaven.’

  He looked Lucifer straight in the eye.

  ‘Relocated from the land of the Race of Men.’

  ‘Each and every wearer of the Seal.’ Lucifer persisted. ‘His subjects. Every subject.’ His eyes grew dark. ‘They damage my kingdom in the Race of Men. I must be rid of them. It is the agreement.’

  ‘The Nazarene’s followers will be removed,’ Jether said slowly. ‘They are His subjects. He is their King. He loves them. He will not in any measure allow them to experience the torment, the distress of all that lies ahead when you wreak your destruction on the Race of Men and the righteous Judgements of Yehovah follow.’

  ‘He is too soft,’ Lucifer snarled. He rose, circling the table. ‘He is prejudiced towards them – He looks out for his mewling pets but discards me, His Seraph, second only to His throne.’

  Michael pounded the table with his fist. ‘Those days are long gone. Lucifer. Restrain yourself. You have lost your estate forever.’

  Lucifer bent over Michael, his eyes gleaming vindictively. ‘They destroy my kingdom.’ He placed his face a hair’s breadth from Michael’s own. ‘Their prayers impede my strategies in the world of the Race of Men,’ he hissed, nodding to Charsoc, who withdrew a ream of sealed papers from his carpet bag.

  ‘Missives from the Dark Underlords, the Darkened Councils of Hell, Powers, Principalities, Thrones, Satanic Princes, Shaman Kings, Warlocks, Witches. Attached legal evidence that their advancement in the Race of Men is greatly impeded by those who bear the Seal,’ he spat. ‘The Dread Councils of Hell demand watertight guarantees.’

  ‘You have the Rubied Seal,’ Gabriel said quietly.

  Lucifer stared at him in astonishment. ‘The Seal of the Rubied Door?’

  Jether nodded to Lamaliel who removed a golden missive from the Codex of Eternal Law.

  Lucifer’s eyes lit up. ‘Yehovah’s Seal.’

  ‘Then it is certain,’ Charsoc said, passing the missive to Lucifer.

  ‘So He rescues His wretched subjects,’ Lucifer hissed. ‘How considerate, but it is auspicious for me. It is promising.’

  ‘If they are so wretched, so ineffectual, why your haste to rid yourself of them, brother?’ Gabriel said softly.

  Lucifer glowered at him.

  Charsoc frowned. ‘They are redeployed to the First Heaven, Your Excellency. But they return to fight at Armageddon.’

  Lucifer clenched his fist.

  ‘The Return. I want the explicit conditions as laid out by Eternal Law. Explicit. No hidden clauses.’

  Jether spoke. ‘On the breaking of the First Seal, the Tribulation of the Race of Men will begin. Eternal Law states that you, Lucifer, Tempter, Adversary of the Race of Men, have been allotted seven years.

  ‘The Race of Men has existed under the Tenets of the First Heaven’s protection these past two thousand years. Seven years with no intervention from Yehovah. No arbitration from the First Heaven.

  Seven years during which, according to the Tenets of Eternal Law, you and your dark disciples shall have free rein to wreak your havoc on the Race of Men. Yehovah’s presence will be removed from them.’ Jether paused. ‘Unless He is called upon.’

  ‘And the Nazarene?’ Lucifer snarled. ‘He will no longer visit the Race of Men?’

  ‘He visits only those who are His subjects. Those who seek His cause.’

  ‘There will be none left.’ Lucifer looked around in triumph. ‘Not one! They will be too busy blaming Him for the anguish and torment I am about to rain upon them. Even the seven bowls – Yehovah’s execution of Judgement on my reign. They will lay it all at His door. An Act of God!’ he cried, a maniacal gleam in his eye.

  ‘And if any try,’ he hissed, ‘If any remnant seek Him as their King, I shall force them to take my mark under threat of death. You know the Race of Men. Expediency comes easily to them. My disciples already prepare the death camps. I shall incarcerate everyone who resists. They will not sacrifice their lives so readily for Him. You have answered my question. I am satisfied.’

  ‘And Armageddon?’ asked Charsoc.

  ‘At the end of seven years, the Great Battle will be fought,’ said Jether.

  ‘My status if I win?’ Lucifer queried.

  ‘If you win, you reign as Eternal King over the Race of Men. Your incarceration in the Bottomless Pit and your demise in the Lake of Fire will be a distant, fast-receding memory.’

  ‘A nightmare,’ Charsoc muttered.

  ‘And if I lose?’

  ‘You will be held in the Crypts of Conflagration until Michael delivers you to the Abyss where you will be incarcerated for a thousand years. After one thousand years, according to the Tenets of Eternal Law, you will be released for a short season. Then meet your fate at the White Gorge of Inferno, on the eastern shores of the Lake of Fire.’

  Jether turned to Charsoc, his eyes gleaming like steel.

  ‘As for you, upon your defeat at Armageddon you will be delivered straight to the Lake of Fire.’

  ‘Just as an afterthought.’ Charsoc cleared his throat. ‘In the event of our actual defeat, what are my visiting rights in the Lake of Fir
e?’ He smiled thinly at Jether who refused to meet his gaze.

  ‘And,’ Charsoc continued, enjoying Jether’s discomfort, ‘please note that there are several . . . indulgences in the Race of Men I’ve grown partial to. Minor comforts.’ He dabbed his face with a harlequin-patterned handkerchief. ‘Earl Grey ea . . . Sushi . . . ’

  ‘What do you want, Charsoc?’ Xacheriel glared from under his crown. ‘A Harvey Nichols hamper’

  Charsoc regarded Xacheriel with thinly disguised loathing. ‘You seem au fait with the commodities of earth, Xacheriel. You wouldn’t by any chance have taken up residency there yourself, would you?’ He looked in disdain at Xacheriel’s unkempt thatch of coarse white hair. ‘If the tables are turned, I’ll be sure to send you a Mason Pearson hairbrush.’Jether sighed in frustration.

  ‘Please. Please, compatriots. We speak of weighty things. This is no time for frivolous entertainments.’

  Jether followed Michael’s gaze to Lucifer.

  Lucifer was staring at the blood trickling from his right palm onto the table in front of him and seeping onto his white silk robes. He stared in horror at the darkening red stain.

  ‘Christos,’ he muttered and rose from the table, sweat glistening on his forehead, and walked away over the plains past the groves of poplars. He stood, a lone figure, bathed in the soft light that hung in the blazing white mists, his gaze fixed ahead on the Eastern Gates of Eden.

  Jether looked gravely after Lucifer. His soul seeks still for that which it can never have,’ he whispered to Michael.

  ‘He goes to Christos’s garden.’

  ‘No!’ Michael rose to his feet, his hand on his sword. ‘I shall put an end to his folly!’

  Jether laid his hand gently on Michael’s.

  ‘No,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘It is Christos Himself who draws him.’

  Michael walked to the edge of the great plains, staring after Lucifer.

  Lucifer turned, stared at Michael distractedly, then walked through the Eastern Gates.

  He followed the familiar path that wound towards the Gardens of Fragrance that grew far below the plains. He walked under the narrow pearl arbour covered with pomegranate vines laden with lush silver fruits, his breathing shallow, treading frantically over beds of gladioli and frangipani trees, across lawns of golden bulrushes and buttercups with fine crystal stamens, towards the intense shafts of crimson light radiating from far beyond. Across the vale, he came to an inconspicuous grotto at the very edge of the cliffs of Eden, surrounded by eight ancient olive trees.

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