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The fall of lucifer, p.9
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       The Fall of Lucifer, p.9

           Wendy Alec
 
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‘My esteemed friend, Zadkiel.’ Michael drew Zadkiel to his chest.

  ‘Your Excellency, Celestial Prince Michael, full of righteousness and of valour.’ Zadkiel bowed.

  ‘I would see my brother.’

  Zadkiel drew back slightly, his eyes cast to the floor. ‘My master’s express wish is that he not be disturbed, Your Excellency. He is . . . indisposed.’

  Michael stared long and hard at Zadkiel, perplexed.

  Zadkiel looked in Michael’s eyes. His expression was deeply pained. ‘He is . . . he is not himself, Michael.’

  Michael drew Zadkiel even closer, until their faces almost touched. ‘Speak to me, Zadkiel, in the name of our friendship.’

  Zadkiel wouldn’t meet his gaze. ‘He entrusts me with his secret counsels, Your Excellency. He has forbidden my utterance. Even to you . . . ’

  Michael’s confusion deepened. ‘He is tormented?’

  ‘I cannot speak, esteemed friend. I have sworn . . . ’

  Michael held him with his gaze. He flung off his cloak and tore away his vest, revealing his bloody, bandaged shoulder.

  Zadkiel stared, his lip trembling.

  Michael lifted his eyes to meet his. ‘The iniquity devours his soul every waking hour, Zadkiel. I have seen it – I have felt it. But you have seen. You have seen the wretched, malevolent evil that has become his sustenance. I sense it. Zadkiel, you of all must speak . . . before it is too late.’

  Zadkiel’s eyes filled with a dreadful conflict. His breathing was laboured. ‘Yes . . . yes, I have seen, Michael!’ He ripped the gold chain with Lucifer’s ring from around his neck and flung it to the floor. It bounced and spun on the smooth surface. Tears coursed down his face. ‘His soul is damned!’

  Full of dread, Michael bent to pick up the ring. ‘You must go to Yehovah!’

  ‘I have sworn my allegiance . . . ’ His eyes fell. ‘Michael, I have sworn my – ’

  Michael grasped Zadkiel’s hand. ‘Your allegiance to Yehovah surpasses your allegiance to my brother.’

  The heavy gold doors of Lucifer’s chamber swung open.

  Lucifer stood staring at them. ‘Leave him!’ he snarled. He glared at Michael and drew his dagger, then saw the ring in Michael’s hand. ‘His friendship with you clouds his judgment! He is mine!’

  Suddenly Lucifer put his head in his hands and rocked from side to side. Then he lifted his head and stared at Michael, perplexed. A loving smile spread across his face as he recognized him.

  ‘Michael!’ He held out his hand to Michael, as a trusting child might. The dagger fell from his hands and clattered to the floor, unnoticed by Lucifer. He stared in concern at Michael’s shoulder. ‘Why, brother – you are hurt?’

  Michael looked deeply into Lucifer’s eyes, realizing that Lucifer retained no recollection of the vicious sword fight. If he could, Michael would have wept. ‘It is nothing, Lucifer,’ he uttered softly. ‘A foolish accident.’

  Lucifer gazed at him with adoration. ‘I have been longing for you, Michael. Come, soothe me. We shall speak of when we were young.’

  Michael clasped Lucifer by the broad shoulders gently, as would a father with a child, and walked him back through the huge gold doors. They slammed shut in Zadkiel’s face.

  Chapter Thirteen

  Glory

  Obadiah hurried through the doors of the grand Willow Library where the eight ancient elders were deeply immersed in study and reflection. He stood before Jether and bowed, then nervously pushed a monogrammed ring into Jether’s palm. Jether held it up and grew instantly grave. He held his finger to his lips, urging the youngling to stay quiet, and rose to his feet.

  Charsoc opened his eyes and watched intently as Obadiah followed Jether out of the side door.

  Outside, Jether leaned down to the youngling. ‘How do you come to hold the prince regent’s token, Obadiah?’

  ‘His Excellency, Chief Prince Michael, milord Jether.’ Obadiah stared at Jether, twitching nervously. ‘He awaits your presence in the princes’ stables, sire.’ He bowed, his curls scraping the marble floor.

  Jether reached under the folds of his heavy linen tunic and placed the ring in a small brown pouch. He walked down the winding sapphire corridors of the Tower of Winds, through the crystal atrium, into the Palace of Archangels, hurrying past the vast palace orangeries, stopping briefly in front of a small, concealed doorway covered with lichen. Then he vanished, seemingly into thin air.

  Charsoc stood hidden by the ancient willows, closely observing.

  * * *

  Jether arrived in the stables as Ariel, Michael’s groom, was shoeing Michael’s magnificent white stallion.

  Michael nodded to Jether in acknowledgment. He looked drawn. ‘Thank you, Ariel; that is all.’

  Ariel bowed deeply and walked out of the stables. Jether walked towards Michael, and they embraced.

  Jether held out the heavy gold ring, embedded with one huge polished ruby. ‘Lucifer.’ It was a statement. Jether’s bushy eyebrows knotted together.

  Michael nodded, rubbing his forehead wearily. ‘He rang for Zadkiel at three bells. Zadkiel found him sobbing, his arms around Ebony’s neck. The panther was lifeless.’

  Jether stared at Michael, ashen.

  Michael continued. Shaken. ‘He had undergone what is termed as death.’

  Jether turned away from Michael fleetingly, his mind spinning in horror. Jether’s eyes widened. ‘Death!’

  ‘Lucifer killed his own panther, Jether. He strangled it with his bare hands.’

  The blood drained from Jether’s face. He closed his eyes in anguish. ‘Then,’ he said softly, ‘it has begun.’

  Michael ran his hands through his flaxen locks. ‘He is as one at war with himself. He will not rest. He will not be comforted. He asks for you continually.’ Michael shuddered.

  Jether put his hand on Michael’s arm. ‘Who knows this?’

  ‘No one save you and I, and Zadkiel and Ephaniah the manservant. Their devotion is beyond question.’ Michael’s jaw clenched. ‘Something terrible is afoot, Jether.’

  Obadiah came up behind them. He bowed to Jether. ‘The elders await your presence, milord,’ he said.

  Jether slid his own ring, a simple band of gold, from his middle finger and placed it in Michael’s open hand. Then he drew out Lucifer’s ring and placed it there, too. He closed Michael’s fingers around them. ‘Give my token to Lucifer with this request: to meet me in the Tower of Winds in my private cloister at twelve bells. Alone.

  ‘Make haste, Michael . . . it is the fire of free will.’

  * * *

  Jether paced through the corridors of Michael’s quarter of the Palace of Archangels. Here and there clusters of high-ranking Luciferean angelic generals huddled together with their counterparts from Michael’s angelic high command, conversing in intense, strained tones. Whenever Jether approached, each party scattered, vanishing into the lower labyrinths of the palace.

  Disquieted, Jether turned the corner into the great hall. A tall angel in golden armour strode through the enormous golden entrance of Lucifer’s quarter, his features grave. It was Raphael.

  Raphael stopped before Jether and bowed deeply. ‘Milord Jether, I would speak with you.’

  Jether looked into his troubled grey gaze. ‘You may speak, Raphael.’ He studied the noble face intently.

  Raphael fell into pace with Jether as they passed another huddle of whispering soldiers. Raphael stared grimly at them from beneath his golden helmet. They saluted awkwardly.

  ‘It is untenable, milord!’ Raphael exclaimed.

  Jether frowned. ‘Of what precisely do you speak, my forthright Raphael?’

  ‘The whisperings and intrigues that infiltrate the hallowed corridors of heaven.’

  Rapheal removed his golden helmet from his head. His dark hair was hung in two braids. His chin was set, his eyes burned with a fierce fire. ‘I speak of insurrection.’

  Jether stopped in mid-step, the colour drained from his face. ‘Insurrection?’
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  ‘Of treachery in the inner sanctum of heaven!’ Raphael’s voice rang out through the corridors, echoing off the walls.

  Jether clasped his arm gently. ‘Lucifer?’

  Raphael nodded. ‘He who has been entrusted with so much. And yet he would . . . ’ Raphael faltered. ‘ . . . It is too awful to speak of.’

  ‘Yet speak you must, Raphael. It is your hallowed duty.’

  Raphael stared at the marble floor. ‘He charges Yehovah with folly, milord.’

  ‘Folly?’

  ‘He charges that Yehovah would supplant His firstborn creation with that of an inferior race,’ he said, still not looking at Jether. ‘He charges that the angelic host faces a terrible and impending danger so menacing that it threatens the very existence of our own angelic race.’

  ‘The race of men,’ Jether stated quietly. He did not break Raphael’s gaze.

  ‘Who have been the recipients of Lucifer’s dissensions?’

  ‘His high command. I refused his intrigues, and five thousand of his generals followed me. We would have naught to do with his insurrections.’

  ‘But his high command is over ten thousand,’ Jether murmured, stunned. Jether felt sick to the pit of his stomach.

  Raphael nodded.

  ‘It is worse than I imagined.’ Jether ran his palm across his temple. ‘Tell me, faithful Raphael, what reward does Lucifer offer that is so enticing to the angelic host as to cause them to forsake Yehovah?’

  ‘He offers them to be as a master race, milord, untainted by man. He offers them rule and power, the opportunity to be masters of their own angelic destiny.’

  Jether stroked his beard. ‘He offers them . . . glory. They seek now their own glory save that of Yehovah’s. It is the sin of pride.’

  ‘There will be reprisals!’ Raphael exclaimed. ‘Christos was there – at Lucifer’s speech.’

  ‘Christos?’

  ‘Christos appeared in the upper portico. It is said He was there the whole time, listening.’

  Jether stared at Raphael. ‘Have you been so long with Him, Raphael, and yet you still do not comprehend?’ he said gently. ‘Yehovah has allotted free will to the angelic race, and free will must be tested through the fires of temptation. A great sifting occurs as we speak, throughout the corridors of heaven – a sifting of motives and loyalties, of the hearts and souls of the angelic race. The fire of free will blazes in heaven, Raphael. And Yehovah allows it to rage. If He acts – if He brings the reprisals you speak of – He takes away the very free will that He endowed as His greatest gift upon the angelic.’

  Raphael tried to assimilate Jether’s words. ‘But Lucifer . . . ’

  ‘No, Raphael, there will be no reprisals.’ Jether’s eyes held a deep sorrow. ‘The gift He has given He will not take back because it is misused, even when it is misused by those He loves most tenderly.’

  ‘I do not understand fully,’ Raphael said quietly, ‘but as ever I bow my knee to His infinite wisdom.’

  Jether caught sight of Obadiah scuttling down the halls towards him. ‘I have given Lucifer my token, Raphael. He meets with me at twelve bells. I must depart.’

  They embraced. ‘May Yehovah be with you,’ Raphael whispered.

  Jether hurried towards Obadiah and disappeared through the gardens towards the winding sapphire corridors of the Tower of Winds.

  Chapter Fourteen

  Stone of Fire

  Michael galloped across the vast meadows of golden bulrushes and drew to a halt in front of the grand, white columns – the entrance into the eastern Gardens of Eden, Lucifer’s cherished retreat. He dismounted effortlessly as Lucifer’s courtier, Sachiel, took the reins of his white stallion.

  ‘My brother is in the garden?’

  Sachiel nodded. He looked shaken. Michael handed Sachiel his cloak and started to undo his sword belt, then hesitated and left it around his waist. Sachiel watched him intently.

  ‘That will be all, Sachiel.’ Slowly, Michael walked up the gilded steps. He surveyed Eden in wonder.

  A flock of blue griffin-like birds with platinum beaks and talons flew overhead. The massive forests of ancient willows towered over cedars and mangroves. Oryx roamed the open spaces. Jacarandas bowed, heavy with lilac blooms, over beds of cycad, lupin, and foxglove, while vibrantly hued puffins, hoopoes, and birds of paradise flew across the gardens. Unicorns grazed on beds of cowslips. Sabre-toothed tigers and lionlike creatures lay sleeping alongside lambs. Luxuriant vines flourished, weighed down with luminous pale blue grapes and silver pomegranates. Nightingales, linnets, and turtledoves sang like the angelic host.

  An intense, almost blinding white mist rose from the farthest corner of the garden. Three magnificent golden thrones were situated underneath the hundred-foot waterfalls of flowing golden nectar, lined by the ancient willows. Each throne was sculpted of pure gold but was individually crafted and embedded with sardius, topaz, diamonds, beryl, onyx, jasper, sapphires, carbuncles, and emeralds.

  Sprawled on the first throne, his ruby crown resting carelessly on his matted hair, was Lucifer. He held a silver pomegranate idly in his palm. To his left was the lifeless form of the black panther.

  Lucifer gave Michael a dazzling smile. ‘Beloved brother, come and have fellowship with Ebony and me!’ He followed Michael’s gaze to the dead panther. His features suddenly clouded with concern. He looked at Michael earnestly for a moment, then cocked his head and sighed deeply. ‘You have been angry with me of late, Michael. I have sensed it. You are vexed?’

  Michael shook his head and smiled tenderly at Lucifer. With his heart almost breaking, Michael threw off his cloak and sat down next to his elder brother, the one who had for so many years been his mentor, his protector.

  Lucifer rose and ran in a full, clean stride across the pale gold meadow, his countenance shining, drawing Michael behind him.

  They ran until they stood together, silent, at the very edge of the towering, pearlescent cliff face. The light from Eden’s pale eastern moons illuminated the endless white sand. Beyond, the amethyst ocean stretched, it seemed, into infinity.

  Lucifer gazed in wonder. ‘You remember when we were young, how we used to ride the lightning bareback on the sea?’

  Michael nodded gently. ‘I remember well, dear brother.’

  Lucifer smiled. ‘And how Zadkiel the upright would chide us for weeks afterward.’

  Michael tried to restrain a smile. ‘It is true, dear Luce, he would have us learn more discretion.’ Michael looked into Lucifer’s beautiful sapphire eyes.

  Lucifer gazed back lovingly at Michael. ‘Michael, look!’ he cried, his face lighting up with exhilaration.

  Michael followed the direction of Lucifer’s strong bronzed arm. He was staring at the western slopes of the Holy Mountain, its seven golden spires wreathed in mists and lightning.

  ‘The Holy Mountain,’ Lucifer whispered in awe.

  ‘The Holy Mountain,’ Michael echoed.

  Lucifer deftly undid the ribbons of his shift and unclasped the heavy silver chain. In his palm sat a small, silver amulet. Slowly he opened it. Immediately the sky was filled by a blinding sapphire light. Michael and Lucifer hid their faces with their forearms, and Lucifer laughed in elation.

  Slowly Michael’s eyes became accustomed to the shimmering glare. ‘Lucifer!’ he exclaimed. ‘No!’

  But Lucifer only laughed exultantly.

  Michael stared in awe. ‘A stone of fire – a sapphire stone from the vaults of the cherubim!’

  Lucifer’s face was bathed in radiance, his mouth moving in worship. ‘From the sixth spire,’ he whispered.

  ‘When you were there with Jether?’

  Lucifer nodded. ‘I was but seven moons when I walked up and down amidst the stones of fire. I could not bear to be away from Him even for a moment.’ Lucifer stared in awe at the stone of fire. ‘It is His presence.’

  He refastened the amulet. The light and presence immediately disappeared. He sat and put his head in his hands, rocking to
and fro inconsolably. ‘My mind – it pains me greatly, Michael . . . ’ Distractedly Lucifer ran his hand through his tangled raven hair. ‘He has abandoned me for this . . . man.’

  Great, heaving sobs racked Lucifer’s imperial frame. Michael stared at Lucifer, visibly distressed. Lucifer grasped Michael’s hand and looked at him imploringly. ‘You and I together. We have always been together. Don’t let me do this alone.’ He looked blankly out at the Holy Mountain, disoriented. ‘You followed me everywhere, Michael, as a youngling . . . I was your protector . . . keeper.’

  He swung around dramatically, his eyes flashing. ‘Follow me now, Michael.’ His voice dropped to a deranged whisper. ‘A third of the angelic force have sworn allegiance to me.’ He stared at Michael with a look of insane exhilaration. ‘With your third aligned with mine . . . ’ Lucifer looked fervently into Michael’s eyes, never breaking his gaze. ‘Brothers . . . for eternity!’

  Ever so gently Michael untangled Lucifer’s hand from his own, stunned. He looked deep into Lucifer’s eyes, searching for some remnant of the mentor who had once been so zealous in his quest for truth and righteousness, who had loved Yehovah and even Michael himself with such fervency. ‘You would betray Yehovah?’ Michael uttered, his voice barely a whisper.

  ‘Yehovah!’ Lucifer hissed the name. ‘I pleaded with Him, “You have the entire angelic host at Your command, ministering to You day and night,” but still He wanted more. “Man will fail You,” I warned Him. “They will be Your great regret.” Then He turned to me. “Lucifer, Lucifer,” He tenderly admonished me, “I long for fellowship with that which is created in My image.”’

  Michael watched as Lucifer paced up and down the lush blue undergrowth, his eyes flashing fervid with his ravings.

  ‘And then erupted a deep, dark fury in my soul. For out of His own mouth He had admitted it! I, the shining one, the daystar, second only to His throne, was not enough for Him. No matter if my whole eternity was spent loving Him, I could never be as this man!’

  Michael stared at Lucifer, a terrible sickness engulfing him. He realized that he who had been so loved and adored by heaven was gone, and in his place was a cunning malevolence that made Michael yearn for the brother he so loved. Tears coursed unashamedly down his cheeks. ‘Brother, I cannot.’

 
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