Chapter 1: Old Acquintances - 1,638 BC
‘There is none chosen. There is only strife and triumph. Journey and destination. They are the tools that make one emerge from many. Prophecy is as illusionary as time itself.’
A hooded figure kept watch underneath a vast cedar tree.
It was rooted at the top of a rocky hill that overlooked a small hamlet. He’d been standing sentinel for the last few nights in anticipation of a significant event that was about to commence. It had been a great number of years since the prodigious waters had swept over the surface of the earth. The remnants of humanity had rebuilt and repopulated in sporadic areas all around an immense, colossal structure situated a few miles to the north in the city of the future. But the clutter of modest mud-brick homes below would play host to a very special, very human occasion.
It had begun.
The stars that had gathered above his head shone unusually bright, and the animals of the forest were deathly quiet. Behind him, another figure was approaching, cloaked in a similar black mantle but whose hood had not been raised to cover his head. He had pale white hair combed neatly back, emphasizing sharp facial features visible from under a young beard, and bright green eyes that had within them an air of foreboding and menace. The forest floor crackled beneath his bare feet as he drew closer.
“Michael, I see we’re both interested in what’s happening here tonight. But why such a squalid location for prophecy fulfillment…sigh… or was there ever really a choice? I’ll never understand.” Michael afforded him a glance over his shoulder.
“Yes, there are a number of things that will remain beyond your comprehension.” Beelzebub, who was level with Michael, disregarded the comment as if it had been uttered by a wardu, and looked out haughtily over the settlement below. Michael removed his hood and revealed an impressive clean-shaven face and light blue eyes that complemented his pale, porcelain skin.
“Why are you here?” he asked, knowing the answer.
“I am here for the same reason you are, my old friend. Just looking after our interests. But why He favors these half-breeds above us is another one of those things that will continue to escape me.” Looking straight ahead, Michael answered plainly: “Because he shows grace toward those with the hardest choices. The majority of their forefathers might have been drawn to darkness, but as I am sure you can remember, there was one among them that was nearly your undoing.”
The fallen angel let out a sigh of poignant nostalgia and answered as if he held some secret piece of information, known only to him and his legion. “Yes, yes I remember... And I also remember that whore couldn’t give us what we wanted either.” Michael cringed at the malice in the daemon’s words and just barely contained the anger that had stirred within him; like a slumbering beast being prodded by the words of a fool. “But history will not be allowed to repeat itself, Michael. The prophecy holds that one of them will change the tide of the war. And I’m here to make sure that the right one stands next to me on the battlefield.”
“Fortunately, it is not up to you. They will make the choice for us.”
“Ah, if only it could be as simple as slaying one of them. But I am forbidden. He wants the prophecy to come to fruition so that we have our advantage. We need both alive to have the one emerge, he says. Else our conflict will only lead to destruction or stalemate. And we grow sick of it. He’s sure our influence will carry the day. As history proved.”
“It proves only your arrogance.” The tone of the conversation was oddly cordial, belying the eons-long struggle that had turned brothers into warrior-enemies.
“Do not underestimate the influence of the Grigori, Michael. Uriel didn’t succeed in eliminating all of them. And the Watchers have chosen their new leader.”
Michael turned to face the daemon. He knew perfectly well what they were capable of. The beast inside was growing impatient.
“And under his guidance,” Beelzebub continued, “their number has grown more than two hundred once more.”
“Yes, their number grew with the manipulation of the offspring they took from this world, but they have become dull and frail in the void. And don’t forget, they only watched until influenced by Samael. Turning Ouza’s charge into something sinister.”
“They are frail of body only, Michael. And talk of innocence? I think not. They took great pleasure in taking wives and dispensing their knowledge.”
“Which was intended to be discovered gradually, over time.”
“So you say.”
“So it is. Or was, at least. Their misuse of power, weaponry, cosmetics, it all became a blight upon this planet. But that’s what you wanted. And why? Vengeance?”
Beelzebub stayed silent for a while before answering: “There is space enough for more than one grand plan, Michael.”
“Yes, and yours necessitates the creation and deception of beings more powerful than yourself.”
“And so does yours. It’s a risk worth taking, wouldn’t you say?” He winked and smiled as if the coming turmoil and bloodshed were a thing to wish for. A shower of crimson he would welcome on his skin like a desert rose longing for the rain. Michael could feel the anger ready to erupt inside him. A rage he last felt when he clashed and expelled the rebels from their thrones. And now, in the aftermath of that first cosmic collision, they were in the midst of an exceedingly uneasy truce.
“Yes, you’re right Michael, those that remained when the Grigori left were all killed. And you call us meddlers. Typical…” Beelzebub didn’t pay any heed to Michael’s burning temper. “But as fate would have it, here we are, witnessing the birth of a new set of hybrids. The sole heirs of a rich heritage.” Well done Azazel, he thought to himself smugly, fully aware that his thoughts were - when he needed them to be - as transparent as cold midnight air to the Archangel standing beside him.
“You just can’t keep a good devil down, hey Michael?”
He could contain the beast no longer and swung around and grabbed Beelzebub’s arm, exerting just enough pressure to ensure that the next words he spoke would take firm hold in the daemon’s mind. “Just stop talking...” The words came out as a whisper through gritted teeth, but the intent could not be mistaken. “...before I rip the voice from your throat.” But Beelzebub was unperturbed. He knew Michael would not risk a fight in such proximity to the humans, especially the two new additions.
“Michael, hatred is such an ugly emotion,” the words sprayed like venom from his mouth, “and you should be careful, you just might like-” But before he could finish, Michaels’ prehensile arch wings appeared by his side from the thick shrubbery, and attached itself to the armored breastplate beneath his cloak. In an instant, they were propelled into the air at immense speed. Higher and higher up toward the heavens, leaving a swirling gust of dust reaching up after them like two praying hands.
Michael came to the same conclusion that Beelzebub had reached a few moments earlier. If he wanted to make sure the fallen angel knew to yield when the Archangel leader speaks, he would need to find another location.
Miles up in the stratosphere, the possessed body broke loose from Michaels’ vice-like grip and pushed himself away. “You do not frighten me!” he yelled in the thinning air, struggling to maintain his ability to defy gravity, albeit only telekinesis exerted on air particles, along with some of his other powers. But regardless of his concentration and determination, he knew the natural drawback of a human vessel would remain. Flesh and bone are not unyielding, and once destroyed, the daemon’s soul must return to where its original host lay dormant.
Michael, in contrast, had used his halo to diminish his frame, and so too his powers, to remain as inconspicuous as possible while keeping vigil. The golden disc, always at the back of the bearer, was used to alter his appearance, provide protection from impending harm, or move between local points in space and time when a throne wasn’t nearby. Michaels’ was somewhere between the Moon and Earth and had initiated its descent toward the golden beacon when the scuffle began. Ending the confrontation quickly would require transformation into his full angel form, and that would take time and energy - neither of which he could afford to waste. And with the anger coursing through him, he was sure he would have enough resolve to put Beelzebub down, even with restricted power at his disposal.
“We both know there’s another in your rank that walks the earth, Michael! Be careful you do not waste too much time with me while he is down there scheming and dispensing his own justice. I could smell his stench in the shadows. So eager to correct his past mistakes!” They flew in circular motion around each other like fierce creatures ready to strike.
“Enough of your lies, daemon!” Michael lunged toward Beelzebub and thrust his fist hard into his face, savoring the crunching of bone beneath his knuckles. Beelzebub hurtled closer to earth, and through the haze of the blow, slowed his descent by grabbing onto the invisible surface of the sky. It seemed as if he had dipped his fingers into nothingness and energized his body from what lay beyond. Trails of four scintillant lines followed him down and his hand and upper arm blackened and crusted the longer his fingers remained submerged in the darkness. When his falling stopped, he conjured blue flame from his fingertips and shot toward Michael, scorching his cloak and inducing a cry of agony. Beelzebub thrust forward once more and swung his sharp nails toward Michael’s throat. The Archangel strafed instinctively to the left and missed what could’ve been a dangerous blow. Beelzebub attacked again, but Michael managed to grab the back of his robes and unleashed a strong energy blast to the daemon’s back. A loud crack echoed through the midnight air as his human spine surrendered under the force of the discharge.
No longer able to endure his injuries, Beelzebub’s limp body descended to the ground beneath them. Michael rushed after and grabbed him by the hood of his cloak and set him down quietly on the forest floor where they stood calmly only moments before.
“I forgot how peaceful it gets just before death... It’s been quite a while... I thank you, Michael.” Coughing out blood and the last vestiges of his brief human excursion, his muttering continued: “The prophecy... it is ours... you will never…” Michael knelt beside the slain body and bent down further to whisper in his ear.
“Your kin will betray you again, Beelzebub. Just as they did in the great war, for it is in evils’ nature to implode unto itself.”
Barely able to move his lips, his eyes fixed on Michaels’, Beelzebub answered: “This time, Michael… This time there are two. Balanced in power. Balanced in conviction. Where one chooses good, one will choose sin. Where one embraces love, the other will be devoted to death. Unified by spirit, separated by flesh, torn apart by fate.” His words were followed by a malevolent laugh that sent a bitter echo slicing through the cold air.
Unfazed by the daemon’s declaration, Michael stood and looked down at the dying body that was convulsing horribly; the daemon’s curdling laughter still lingering in the temporary space between them. Then, from the pours on his skin, tiny flies emerged and multiplied in seconds from tens to hundreds to thousands, until his entire body was enveloped in countless six-legged fiends so that no trace of the battered body was visible. As if of one mind, they lifted from the ground in a uniform, swift motion and delayed only for a few seconds before scattering with a dull buzz and dispersing into the dark of night.
With the body consumed, and the swarm of evil gone, Michael returned his attentions back to the tiny hamlet that still lay sleeping before him. He decided that he should pay a silent visit to the two upon which such high expectations had been placed. He returned his hood to its original position and moved downhill, rubbing the fading wound that had been inflicted by the Kala.
The only way he could heal his injury fully would be to transform into his full angelic body. The energy it would generate would remedy all ills, but it could also attract unwanted attention. And there weren’t any angels nearby he could beckon to restore his health.
They are almost here. I can feel it.
As he made his way down the dusty village road, his thoughts returned to what Beelzebub had said just before their brief semi-mortal tussle. No daemon, Uriel loves them as we do. Some of the humans will aid in your cause, but I am sure that that too will have its part to play.
As he finished the thought, he stopped next to one of the smallest houses in the village. He moved toward the window and inside he saw that it had begun. In fact, it was almost over. From under the muffled screams of the mother and the bloody cloth of the physician, he noticed a tiny head and saw the baby placed in a crib next to the father; who’d been pacing worryingly up and down the room. Then, from underneath the same bloody cloth, from under the now fading cries of the newly born baby’s mother, a second head appeared. The twins had arrived, and the wheels of fate were in full motion.