Author's Note: Welcome to book 2! Morningstar is book 1 (story id:2946445). Morningstar and Evenstar are available as e-books over on Amazon(dot)com and they are a part of their book borrowing program If you like this excerpt, please check them out there!
I consider the trilogy to be urban fantasy - dark humor/adventure/romance, less on the romance side than the last book for sure. Also, I play fast and loose with the common "facts" of fairies, demons, demi-gods, and angels. So you've been warned.
Prologue – The Day before Days Began
There was no beginning and there was no end, no up or down, light or dark. Everything existed at once with no distinction. One presence encompassed it all, one consciousness. It saw no reason to continue, for what would continuing bring? No growth could occur; there was no future and there was no past. There was nothing because it was everything.
Beyond all else God was bored, tired of the never changing sameness. It sought an end, or a beginning, something to change what it was now. It decided to split, to divide and build itself anew. It desired to experience itself subjectively, to forget so that it could learn again, so that it could grow. As the thought formulated, the action took place, no distinction from idea to reality.
A fracture formed, a split, a duality in the structure.
Dahlia played with the silver chain at her wrist as hot water rained down from the shower above. She loved her new place. She loved her new friends. She loved her new boyfriend. Thoughts of her nightmares had faded, along with the aftereffects. He wanted to be with her, really be with her, crazy outbursts and all.
She smiled. She hummed and closed her eyes as she worked shampoo into her hair. The notes echoed through the bathroom and the air around Dahlia shimmered. Her eyes turned red as she opened a bottle of conditioner. Her heart fluttered. The bottle slipped from her fingers. "Damn it!"
At her words, the bottle of conditioner burst open. Dahlia sighed. "Shit."
She ceased humming and her eyes turned back to blue. She mopped up the conditioner and cursed her clumsiness. Belial would probably be upset, it was one of her designer brands, but Dahlia was only human after all. At least, that is what she thought to be true.
Andy sat on his unused bed and finished wrapping Dahlia's birthday present. He set the present aside and stared at the door, wondering if it was time yet to get up as a human would. A bird landed at one of his many feeders outside his window. The sparrow chirped and hopped from foot to foot in the morning sunlight.
He smiled. "Hello sparrow."
Belial threw open his door. "Andrealphus, Lucifer has a beard! Come check it out it's totally weird! Come on, come on, come on!" She jumped on his back and wrapped her legs around his neck, her long blonde hair got in his face, obscuring his vision.
Andy grinned and batted at her. "What?"
She leaned over and matched her big blue eyes to his gray ones. "Come on! I'm serious, he's fuzzy! He just showed me!"
"Yes way! He went to see Furcas!"
Andy jumped up. He secured her around his shoulders and ran from the room, giving her a piggyback ride. The pair dove into Furcas' room laughing.
Paimon passed the duo and smiled. He headed downstairs to get breakfast ready. He stretched and listened to his joints pop. Underneath his wrinkled clothing, he was bruised down to the bone. He grinned and thought about breakfast, determined to make a meal that would manage to please Dahlia while irritating Furcas.
Belial and Andy ran screaming from Furcas' room with giant smiles on their faces.
Furcas dove into the hall after them; his normally perfect hair and clothing mussed and crumpled. "Immature, fucking children! Act your age!" He launched a pearl handled razorblade at the two as they fled. The blade sunk in Belial's back, lodging in-between two ribs.
Belial pulled it out and hissed. "You ruined my shirt you asshole and Dahlia could have seen! I'm keeping this."
"No, that was a present!"
Belial shrugged. "Too bad for you!" She stuffed the blade into her bra. Andy pulled her into his bedroom. Furcas ran in after them swearing.
Paimon passed Berith on the landing.
The giant rumbled his hello and headed towards the backyard, he had swords and armor on under his bulky hooded sweatshirt. He looked ridiculous. Paimon gave him a once over and shook his head. "For once someone looks worse than I do."
Berith stared at his outfit as he stepped outside. "I am in disguise. Good morning, Princess."
"Berith?" Apple laughed at him as he walked into the morning sunlight.
In Furcas' bathroom, Lucifer played with the razor Furcas had supplied for him. He eyed the blade and scraped it across his face; it did not do very much. He glanced down at the supplies that Furcas had laid out in neat rows on the countertop, their labels handmade. Lucifer surmised that this shaving was supposed to be a deliberate process, done with care and skill, something done slowly.
He moved the bottles aside. He spread a towel on Furcas' marble countertop and sliced straight through his left cheek. Blood gushed from the wound and soaked the towel in seconds. Lucifer watched new smooth skin form as the injury healed. The skin was beard free.
Satisfied with the result, Lucifer cut along his throat, coating himself in blood. He severed an artery by accident, spraying the mirror. He wiped a spot free so he could continue to see what he was doing. Furcas could clean up after him later.
Lucifer brought the blade back to his face. Dahlia liked clean-shaven, he would be the cleanest. He smiled at his progress.
He finished his face and tossed the razorblade into the sink. He hopped into Furcas' shower, the silver bracelet and chain on his wrist jingled as it ran across the tile. He washed the clotting blood off his body and hummed to himself.
Dahlia walked out of her bedroom. Her silver chain ran into Furcas' room, the door was closed. Belial's laughter and Furcas' indistinct shouting came from Andy's room down the hall. She shrugged and padded down the stairs, led by her nose to the smell of bacon.
Paimon poked his head out of the kitchen. "Food's almost ready, take a seat."
Helion handed her a glass of orange juice and smiled.
Dahlia sighed and took a seat next to the hung-over trio of her mostly-human friends Tracy, Whitney, and Jacob. She smiled. "I love three day weekends. They're so relaxing."
Twelve Hours Later
Belial screamed in rage. She fixed her gaze on the burning wreckage of the helicopter Andy had crashed into the woods. She cut down swaths of Solomon Soldiers, human men, as she raced to the wreck. Lilliam and humans fought back and forth on either side of her. She could not focus on those that died near her; she only saw the helicopter on fire. She imagined Andy trapped beneath it, suffering.
Belial leapt on the twisted metal and tore. Humans shot at her; some tried to pull her away from the fire. She flung burning pieces of plastic at them.
Belial punched through fiberglass, her skin blackened and bubbled in the heat, but she would not relent. She ripped through the metal frames of seats and chucked the debris into the blue and white forest that surrounded the property.
Andy's broken hand poked through the shredded remains of straps. Belial split the steering console with a punch. Andy lay underneath, unconscious, skin blistering and healing in a repeating cycle. Belial's chest constricted, panic squeezed her heart. She reached for him, grabbed his neck, and hauled him out of the cockpit. She leapt from the helicopter and landed in the grass. She cradled Andy in her arms, ignoring the pain in her limbs and the dying fire on her jacket.
"Wake up!" She dropped to her knees and held Andy's head in her trembling hands. "Andrealphus, please wake up!"
Archangels Michael and Uriel entered the earth's atmosphere; the resulting sonic boom drew her attention from Andy's slowly healing body to the sky above. The Archangels burned like comets in the night sky. Her eyes went wide. "Fucking shit! Andrealphus!" Horror had her in its grips; the Archangels headed straight for Dahlia. "Get up now! Dahlia needs you!"
Paimon's voice rang across the chaos in the yard, "Incoming!"
Belial covered Andy's body with hers.
Michael slammed into the ground. The force of the impact flattened her against Andy's chest. Dirt filled the air. Belial spat blood. Beneath her, Andy stirred and blinked. He opened his eyes as his hair and eyebrows grew back. He saw her, touched her hand, and smiled. "Hi."
Belial slapped him across the face. "Idiot! You could have jumped from the helicopter!"
Uriel hit the ground next to Michael and a shield of white-light blasted from him. Outside the radius of the shield, Belial and Andy were unaffected, but scores of Lilliam were pushed back into them, repelled by the heavenly energy. Fairies and elves toppled end over end, many unmoving where they fell.
Belial struggled to get up as the ground shook. She stumbled to Andy's side and helped him to his feet. Lucifer shouted from somewhere behind them. Solomon Soldiers rushed out of the shielded area, blinded by terror and their desire to kill Lilliam. Belial took a swipe at the first male to get near her. She shoved the bloody body at Andy. "Get dressed! You have to get Dahlia!"
Andy tore off the melted remnants of his clothing. He stripped the corpse and changed, the clothes ill fitting, but sufficient. He punched out a woman as she ran by. "What's going on?"
Belial decapitated a man. "Michael and Uriel landed. We're on Plan B; which means you need to go now!"
"Understood!" Andy grabbed Belial's hand and picked her up. He jumped towards Michael; they soared through the air and hit the shield with a thump. Both jerked in shock, expecting to have continued to the ground. They flailed their arms and slid down the domed surface. They landed in the grass and stared.
Belial stabbed at the wall of light. "It's solid. What is this?"
"Some new invention of Gabriel's no doubt, it's just like the pendant." Andy slammed his palms down on the transparent shell. "Michael has Dahlia!"
Belial stared at Andy. "What are we supposed to do now? What about the plan?"
Andy peered through the shield. "We'll make it work somehow!"
Tokala ran up and leapt at the shield, his long black hair whipped around his face. The Lilliam prince hit the bright surface and fell back. He rubbed his head. "Only humans and angels can get in, it repels any related to Lucifer."
Andy grimaced. "There has to be a way inside! Maybe there's a weak point or a hole?"
"We don't have time to search! Michael is going to kill her!" Belial shook her head. "Where's Helion?"
Andy and Tokala turned, looking. Andy pointed. "Whitney's inside the shield, the blast must have parted them."
"Then find Helion! He can get in." Belial climbed up the side of the dome. She fixed her gaze on Dahlia. Michael tossed her down like a doll. He held his spear towards her heart. Belial held in the scream that wanted to burst from her lungs. She watched in horror as Lucifer lost his body of flesh and passed through the shield, his ethereal form a blur of light. Lucifer threw himself in front of Dahlia. Michael lunged and impaled him on the end of the spear.
Belial raked her nails on the light. She was not a Primangel, she could not lose her flesh as Lucifer had, but she was damn well going to try. She closed her eyes and went white, becoming less opaque, her skin shone silver.
"Belial no!" Andy leapt and grabbed her by the ankles. He tore her off the shield and threw her to the ground. "Don't even think about it!"
She scratched at his face. "I have to try!"
Andy sliced his arm open with one of her nails. He pulled out a pendant; her sigil inscribed on the metallic surface of the lamin. He held it over her face. "I order you not to."
Belial's luminescent body lost its glow. "Andrealphus!" She reached for her lamin, but he jumped back and pushed it into his healing arm. She shook with rage. "Why?"
Andy's face fell. "You'll die if you succeed and I can't lose you. I just can't." He took off around the perimeter of the glowing shield to put space between them. Belial screamed in impotent rage and threw herself at the net. She was unable even to try the trick again, compelled by the lamin to obey his order. She pounded at the light, frustration made her movements frantic, uncoordinated.
Through tears, Belial watched Dahlia stab Michael in the eye with her hairpin. The Archangel howled. A crazed smile lit up her face. "Stab him again! Fuck him up, Dahlia!" Belial cheered as Dahlia punched Michael, throwing him across the lawn. Dahlia ripped the spear from the ground and heaved it. The spear flew through the net and over Belial's head. She whooped and raced after the weapon. She tore through the phosphorescent forest following its brighter light.
The spear sailed through trees as if they did not exist, its point so sharp it cut and bent light and sound. Belial watched it strike the earth, shining like a beacon in the bluish shades of the empty forest. She was close, but she was not alone in the chase. The flapping of wings accompanied her overhead. Belial flinched and ran faster.
Uriel leered. "Little Belial, darling, I see you down there lovely as ever, but I like you better naked and winged. These clothes you wear do not please me at all."
Belial snarled, but did not look up. The spear had hit the earth, standing straight up. She sprinted for it.
Uriel landed on her back, flattening her to the ground. Belial was teeth and claws, but the heavenly forged pendant around Uriel's neck made him invulnerable to her attacks.
Belial tried to throw him off. "Fight me fairly you coward!"
Uriel flipped her over and grabbed her jaw. He pried her mouth open. "Such filth has always come from this orifice. I do not like it." He bent down to whisper in her ear. "Let me remove it darling."
Dahlia's wail ripped through the forest. Archangel and Fallen froze in agony. Belial threw Uriel off her and crawled away as the sound buffeted her ears. Her mind was awash in fear, pain, and regret. She thought of Andy.
Uriel grabbed her ankle and pulled. He dragged her back under him, fighting against the sound of Dahlia's scream. Uriel got a hand around Belial's throat; his fingers tore at her skin.
The sound ceased. The forest went quiet. Uriel grinned, triumphant. "Belial."
Berith smashed a meaty fist into Uriel's chin, throwing the Archangel into the air. Uriel plowed through trees, disappearing into the forest. Berith hauled Belial to her feet.
Apple was behind them, closed lipped with red eyes blazing. She held her bow ready. The crimson-eyed Lilliam princess scanned the forest for Uriel, but the Archangel did not appear.
"Thanks!" Belial ran to the spear.
Berith called after her, "You cannot touch it!"
"I know that!" Belial broke a branch off a tree and flipped the spear further into the woods. She followed, tossing the spear farther away with each strike.
Uriel blurred through the trees after Belial.
Apple fired an arrow at him, drawing Berith's attention to the movement.
Berith snarled and intercepted the Archangel in the air. The brothers crashed to the ground in a pile.
Uriel spread his wings and jumped up, landing a fist in Berith's stomach. He laughed. "Big brother, does your back still hurt?"
Berith struggled to reach the pendant at Uriel's neck. "I have never felt better little brother!"
Uriel pushed Berith's hands away. "No, that is mine." An arrow glanced off his cheek. His invulnerability held. Uriel looked up and noticed Apple for the first time. "Ah, what is this?"
Berith threw the Archangel back. "Do not look upon her!"
Uriel kicked his brother in the stomach, sending Berith flying. He grinned at Apple, his teeth sharp. He salivated. Apple pulled another arrow from her quiver. Uriel took a step closer, his eyes locked on her. "You love Berith."
"I take love. I take what is his."
Apple smiled. "I have heard, but I am my own. I am no ones."
Uriel smirked. "Not for long." He dove for her.
Belial leapt on Uriel's head. She raked his face with her nails. "You siblings, and your second best syndrome! Always stealing what isn't yours! You'll never be anything but poor copies!" She scratched his chest with her black talons, trying to catch the pendant.
Uriel grabbed Belial's arm and twisted, breaking the bone. Uriel laughed. "We just take what is rightfully ours darling, what you were never good enough for!"
Uriel swung her into a tree. Belial ribs broke, puncturing a lung. Uriel snapped a leg bone like a twig. "But Belial, you are good enough for me, though I will need to break you again." Uriel lifted her over his head and threw her with every ounce of strength he possessed.
Belial's body smashed through the forest, she reached for trees, anything to catch her, but the force of the throw was too great. She had time enough to close her eyes before she slammed into the side of the manor. Her body crashed through room after room, bones shattered on impact, her skin and clothing torn. She broke through a window and fell into the backyard. She landed in a limp heap on the grass at the feet of Jacob, Tracy, and Celeste. Belial's body was mangled, almost unrecognizable. Her legs were torn down to the bone, her clothing blood splattered and in tatters. Her chest did not rise or fall, she had no pulse.
Tokala broke off from battling humans and ran to her. He touched Belial's face and looked at Dahlia's terrified human friends. He grabbed Tracy's hand and placed it on Belial's lacerated chest. "Stay with her, luck charm."
Tracy nodded numbly and made no move to get away.
Tokala touched Belial's legs and closed his eyes to aid in her healing process. A boom made him look back at the scene beneath the shield. Furcas floated above the ground, surrounded by light and halos, the Fallen guardian angel held Michael's spear at bay. Furcas stood between the Archangel and Dahlia. His face bore a grim determination. He watched the Archangel's every movement. Michael raised the spear and swung; the blade tore through Furcas like paper.
Tokala cringed, looked away, and concentrated on Belial. An iron knife plunged into his upper back. Tokala spun around gasping. A lone human Solomon Soldier stood behind him, grinning even as he bled to death from other wounds.
Jacob knocked the man to the ground. He punched him out of fear until the man stopped moving.
Tokala's limbs went numb and lost mobility. "Knife…out…get it out."
Jacob pulled the knife out of Tokala's back and tossed it away.
Tokala blinked as his vision blurred. Iron poisoned his blood. Slow cold ooze filled his body, pulling him into dreams. He coughed and slumped down next to Belial. Tokala looked up one last time as his world went dark.
Helion saw Belial smash through the house. He felt Whitney's pain from where Uriel had flung her like trash beneath the shield. He looked between the two, Belial his injured twin sister and Whitney his wounded lover. Helion did not know what to do. Everything was going wrong. He looked at Belial and guilt consumed him.
Paimon shouted in the background, his howls drowning out the sound nearby. Helion covered his ears. Everything felt like the war again, confusing, bloody, pure anarchy. A low whine escaped Helion's lips. He looked to Whitney and whispered, "I am sorry." He ran for Belial.
Andy tackled him. "Where are you going?"
Andy saw Belial over Helion's shoulder. His eyes took in her ruined legs and face, gouges running up and down her body. Andy wanted to scream, to run to her, but he could not. He tore his eyes away. "She will heal on her own. We need inside that net!"
Helion reluctantly looked back at the dome. "How?"
Andy pulled Helion to his feet. "You're still an angel. You're not one of the Fallen. You can get in. Just get me in there too!"
Andy jumped on the guardian angel's back and wrapped his legs around Helion's waist. "Fly! Get me as close to Dahlia as you can!"
Helion spread his wings, trusting Andy. He leapt into the air. Helion gained altitude and held onto Andy's legs. "Hang on please." He folded his wings and dropped like a rock. The pair breached the net. Andy screamed as the shield pushed at him, but Helion kept his grip firm and got them through. The pair rammed into Michael.
Helion latched onto Michael's head. The Archangel screamed in frustration and anger, the angel in the way of him and his goal of finally killing Lucifer. Michael bucked.
Helion's vision shifted with each movement. Through the shaking Helion saw Whitney upright and mobile, he managed a smile. Pain like fire ripped through his stomach as Michael tore at him with his hands.
Helion drove his thumbs into Michael's eyes. He opened his wings to confuse the Archangel, he pumped them making Michael lose his footing.
Andy took his chance to jump. He hit the ground and swept Dahlia into his arms in one motion. Andy could no longer resist the pull of the net; he was thrown out of it and beyond Helion's sight.
Lucifer watched Dahlia go. A smile briefly passed his lips as she escaped to safety. The smile turned to a grimace. He doubled over in agony. His spear wound burned and ate away at his flesh, though Dahlia's healing had slowed the decay. Whitney grabbed his arm and pulled him across the grass in painful jerks. Lucifer fought the urge to howl.
Helion tore at the pendant around Michael's neck.
Michael caught hold of Helion's broken wing and flipped him to the ground. Helion felt the bones in his wing break, the pain barely registered. Michael put a foot to Helion's back and pressed him to the earth.
Helion shuddered; he knew what was to come.
Lucifer covered Whitney's ears and made her look away. He met Helion's gaze. "You will survive it."
Michael twisted and tore, ripping Helion's left wing from his back.
On the grass, Belial's eyes shot open. "No! No!" She crawled across the grass, her legs still down to the bone. Her eyes fixed on her twin brother. She reached out to the blurry figure beyond, his cries driving thoughts of her own pain aside. "Helion, you'll be okay! Helion, it will be all right. I'll help you." She coughed up blood. "Helion!" Weakness overcame her and she fell unconscious.
Michael threw Helion's wing in front of the angel's face so that he could see the bloody and broken feathers. Helion could not think or breathe. There was only pain. He heard Belial and fell to his side crying, reaching for the wing and sister he had lost.
Michael stomped on Helion's hand, breaking his fingers. "She will be next, believe me."
Helion cried in frustration.
Michael leaned down and grabbed Helion's hair. He put his lips to his ear. "Uriel has many things planned for your sister, just like last time."
Red light erupted at the side of the shield. Uriel was thrown back onto the grass. Paimon pounced on Uriel and pounded on his face with a glowing red fist.
Michael stepped away from Helion, staring in shock. "How did he get in? What is going on?"
Paimon ignored Michael's questions and smashed Uriel's nose into pulp. "Motherfucker! I notice you're not smiling anymore Uriel!" Uriel's face looked concave beneath the blows. A blood spattered Paimon hefted Uriel's deadweight over his head. He smiled and threw Uriel into Michael, knocking both Archangels to the ground.
Lucifer took his chance. He crawled to Helion, ignoring the pain in his chest. Lucifer covered Helion's mouth and whispered in his ear, "Whitney needs you, you are her guardian angel. Do your duty despite your pain. Retreat and follow Andrealphus."
Helion's pupils were pinpoints. With Lucifer's help, he managed to stand. His remaining wing flapped feebly, blood from the stump of the other painted his back red.
Whitney ran to him and wrapped her arms around his neck. Helion picked her up and dashed out of the net. He sprinted in the direction that Andy had taken off from. His steps were uneven, half flight half jumps. Helion ran in a daze, pain blinded him. He knew nothing but agony. He babbled. Tears ran down his face, he was unaware of what he said, "Retreat, find Andy. Find Andy and Dahlia. Find. Retreat." Whitney clung to his neck, unable to stop his pain or offer any solace.
Michael threw Uriel off him and roared.
Paimon screamed in response and leapt onto both of them. Michael could not see through the blood red glow that engulfed Paimon, and his blows were easily dodged. Paimon's were not.
Paimon grabbed Michael by his hair and lifted him off his feet. He shook him like a rag doll and slammed him back into the ground. He broke Michael's arms and sat on his chest. He unwrapped Dahlia's pendant from around his fist and held it in front of Michael's face. He looked Michael in the eye. "Tell my brother hello."
Paimon stuffed Dahlia's pendant in his mouth and bit down. The unspent energy inside was released in a split second burst. Pillars of red light and fire erupted from the spot. Ladriam's energy overpowered that of Heaven and tore the net asunder. The force launched Paimon into the air. The pendants the Archangels possessed dissolved, rendering them vulnerable. Uriel and Michael flickered into the physical realm. Their bodies took on flesh. They stumbled and crawled away from the fire.
Above them Paimon laughed and called down, "No longer very strong without your trinkets are you?"
Uriel unfurled his wings and took off. Michael grabbed the spear and followed after him. The Archangels flew for space. They raced against the growing ache in their bodies as they passed into mortal flesh. Their pores bled, throbbing waves of pain and nausea overwhelmed their senses.
Paimon watched them go and launched red fireballs after them, conflagrations that burnt their skin and wings. The Archangels crossed into space, past Ladriam's shield, and disappeared back into the ethers of Heaven.
Paimon's light went out and he plummeted towards the earth. Berith caught him and set him on his feet. Paimon shook himself off. He spit out the remaining pieces of Dahlia's pendant. "See you in the City." He pushed away from Berith and ran to Furcas.
Berith and Apple picked Lucifer up from where he lay on the ground. Lucifer kept in a scream, the wound in his abdomen excruciating. His vision blurred. Lucifer gasped. "Follow Andy, now."
Berith shook his head. "You need to get to the City, you need a healer."
Lucifer ignored the obvious. "She does not have an escort. They will not make it."
Berith grunted. "Andy will find a way. You need a healer now. You will die from the spear wound. We must stick to the plan."
Lucifer grabbed Berith's shirt. "I do not care about the plan any longer! Follow Andy now!"
"No. We go west."
"No!" Lucifer struggled. Apple wrapped cloth around his face to muzzle him. Berith repositioned Lucifer in his arms.
Lucifer threw punches.
Berith smacked Lucifer in the head until he passed out. Apple drew an arrow and took point, wary. The pair took off towards the west, heading into the woods and leaving the grounds behind.
The grass was full of moaning and dying men and women, but in one spot, there was silence. Paimon dropped to his knees near Furcas' body. He touched Furcas' torn and bleeding cheek and looked away. Paimon left him on the ground and hunted for his body parts, stuffing them in his coat pockets as he went.
He concentrated on the task, unwilling and unable to think rationally about the state Furcas was in. He reached Furcas' dismembered forearm and broke into disabling sobs. Paimon crawled back to Furcas and held him to his chest.
Belial and Tokala's bodies were hidden behind the remains of lawn furniture and human corpses. The three humans with them rocked in terror, not understanding what had just happened. They blindly followed their last order to stay with Belial. They waited in a silent vigil.
Author's Note 2: Just a tad of backtracking to cover the half of the battle you didn't see at the end of book 1. Do not worry (too much), the Fallen have fantastic healing abilities (normally). ;)
Side note: It gets more violent and darker than this, so you've been warned.
And the race is on!