Sacred Cups (Seven Archangels Book 2), страница 1
Table of Contents
Gabriel and the other Archangels of the Presence have a new assignment: guard the Messiah through his childhood and ministry. Gabriel still struggles to synthesize the lessons for his year as a man, but he carries the shame of his punishment with him into his relations with the other angels.
When created beings kill the Son of God, mortal enemies suddenly become allies while close friends become enemies, and Gabriel finds himself on the battle field of a war he never wanted to fight.
Boston, MA USA
Other Jane Lebak titles:
The Wrong Enemy
Seven Archangels: An Arrow In Flight
Seven Archangels: Shattered Walls
Seven Archangels: Annihilation
The Boys Upstairs
Honest And For True
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015931561
Kindle ASIN: B00PB4I7BY
Copyright © 2015, Jane Lebak. All Rights Reserved.
By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the author.
Cover: C.K. Volnek
After checking over the infant Jesus’s new house in Egypt, the Archangel Michael was about to leave when Mary said, “Stop. Who are you?”
Michael’s wings flared, and he pivoted.
Mary had been cooking at the fire in the courtyard under a partial roof. Jesus slept in a basket hanging from two hooks.
Uriel looked up from the corner, unruly black hair obscuring wide purple eyes, and seeming just as startled as Michael.
Michael glanced at Uriel, his body language projecting, She can see me?
Uriel projected in the negative, then pressed clenched hands up at chest height.
I wish you’d warned me she’d sense my presence, Michael sent to God.
Uriel concentrated, and in the next instant a Guard formed around the house: no demons would be able to enter or listen through it for as long as Uriel kept concentrating.
Mary stood away from the pot. “Who are you?”
With God’s permission, Michael made himself visible.
Mary lowered her ladle and positioned herself between the angel and Jesus. “What do you want?”
“I didn’t want anything.” Michael edged backward. “I was making sure the house was secure.”
Mary still brandished that spoon as if it were a weapon. “I’m not going to let you hurt him.”
Michael shook his head. “I’m trying to protect him.”
Raphael had slipped down off the roof, his six almond-colored wings tucked at his back.
“You’re new,” Mary said. “I’ve been feeling that one—” and she pointed toward Uriel’s corner, “and that one—” in Raphael’s general direction, “but not you.”
Noting the other two angels’ surprised looks, Michael relaxed a little. He wasn’t the only one caught off-guard here. “I don’t visit all the time.”
Mary frowned. “Why can I see you now?”
“I’m letting you.” Michael shifted his weight. “I can leave if you want. I didn’t mean for you to be able to sense me at all, so this is more than a little awkward.”
Raphael laughed, and Mary turned in his direction. “This is unnerving for me too. I wasn’t expecting to keep seeing things like you after the first one.” She spoke toward Raphael. “Can you show yourself too, or is that breaking the rules?”
After a moment, Raphael appeared before her, brown-haired and brown-eyed. He opened his hands. “It’s a pleasure to greet you.”
Mary looked pale, as if she were only now thinking this might not have been the best idea. Still, she turned toward the other corner. “And you—?”
Uriel appeared, bowing with both hands and wings spread.
Mary looked weak, and Michael urged her to sit. He sat before her, and in another moment the other two joined him.
“Where’s the other one?” Mary’s voice wobbled as she looked from one to the next to the next. “The grey one.”
“I’ll call him,” Raphael said. In the next moment, Gabriel sat on the opposite end of the row so the four archangels sat facing Jesus’s mother.
Mary’s brow furrowed. “Why can I sense you all?”
Raphael said, “Guesses?”
Then Gabriel started speaking, and Michael sighed with relief. Gabriel was a Cherub, and Cherubim were the teachers. Let Gabriel take over the talking.
And he did. “I would suppose it’s your maternal instincts kicking in. Once you spent all that time being close to Jesus in your body, you must have picked up some of his sensitivities. It might be due to his fetal cells having entered your system during the pregnancy. Quite possibly you’ll need to have some awareness of us in order to properly mother a child who might be able to detect us too.”
She thought about it a moment and to Michael’s relief wisely decided not to ask about fetal cells. “And who are you?”
“We’re angels,” Gabriel said.
“I know that.” For the first time she sounded a little irritated, and Raphael chuckled. “Do you have names?”
Raphael bowed his head. “I’m Raphael, a Seraph, Jesus’s guardian angel. This is Uriel, a Throne and your guardian angel.”
Gabriel said, “I’m Gabriel, a Cherub. I’m not attached to anyone in this household.”
Michael said, “I’m Michael, just an Archangel. But they keep me around anyhow.”
Raphael and Gabriel both shot him a disbelieving look.
Mary inched backward, the color draining from her cheeks as she faced four multi-winged, many-storied spirits. What did they look like to her, Michael wondered. Creatures of light, human in appearance except for the wings and yet glowing or burning before her. She whispered, “Aren’t you all Archangels of the Presence? As in, God’s top command?”
Michael looked left at Raphael and right at Uriel and Gabriel. “Don’t worry—I feel the same way sometimes. But you have the son of the Most High sleeping behind you, and you aren’t afraid of him.”
“We’re here to serve him.” Gabriel shrugged. “You’re pretty much incidental.”
Mary forced a smile, and Michael relaxed to let Gabriel handle things. Already she seemed more at ease.
“Please don’t be afraid,” Gabriel said. “We won’t harm you, and we’ll strive to keep the enemy from harming you as well.”
Mary glanced over her shoulder at Jesus. “He’ll sleep
Mary looked at the four of them. “How can I help protect him?”
Raphael smiled. “You’re doing just fine now. Your job is to mother him.”
“But beyond that.” She sat forward. “There’s already been one attempt on his life—that’s why we’re in Egypt. But I can’t believe that’s going to be the only one. We’ll be under attack by he enemies of God as soon as they realize how important he’ll be.”
Gabriel sat forward. “Do you know how important he’ll be?”
She looked at him, then down. “No, but I assume he will be, because of the first message.”
Gabriel nodded. “We’re not sure either, but with Uriel as your guardian and Raphael as his, his mission’s going to be big.”
Michael said, “But naturally, the enemy is able to figure that out as well, which is why I stop by every day. To check things out.”
Mary sat quietly for a while, then started. “Oh, I’m being so inhospitable! Would you like something to eat or drink? Wine?”
The other angels demurred, but Gabriel said, “Actually, if you have a little wine, I wouldn’t mind that.”
Raphael laughed out loud.
Michael blistered under the look Gabriel shot the Seraph. “A very little,” Gabriel said. “Like a mouthful.”
“You haven’t seen her definition of ‘very little.’ It would put you in a coma for a week.” He turned back to Mary. “He has no tolerance.”
Gabriel sighed. “How often do we go solid?”
“Don’t listen to him,” Mary said to Gabriel. “You’re in my household, so you get what you want,” and she poured him a cup of wine.
“See,” Raphael said when the cup was nearly full. “She doesn’t do little servings.”
Gabriel took some, and his eyes glistened. “This is wonderful. Angels don’t often taste things.” He sipped again, then passed the cup to Raphael. “Unfortunately, he’s right, and I get sleepy.”
Mary brought out bread and cheese.
“We didn’t come for food,” Michael said.
“Nonsense.” She winked at Gabriel. “Gabriel said you don’t get a chance to taste things often. I’m sorry I haven’t got better, but I’ll offer you whatever I have.”
She passed the dishes to the angels. “Now, I have a favor to ask you.”
Raphael said, “The plot thickens.”
Uriel’s eyes glimmered.
Mary stopped, looking at Uriel. “You didn’t speak, but I can feel you talking.”
“Angels don’t need words,” Gabriel said.
Michael opened his hands and inclined his head. Like this.
Mary laughed out loud. “That’s terrific!” She sat back on her heels. “Is there any way we can redirect the enemy’s attacks so they won’t target Jesus?”
Gabriel said, “We’re here to protect him.”
“They’ve already tried once,” she said, “and you said yourself they’ll figure it out because of the angels around the household. I assume you don’t stop by one house every day for supper?”
“Not for about six hundred years,” Gabriel said dryly, and Raphael tensed.
Mary folded her arms. “Then we need to do more to protect him.”
“In what way?” Michael said.
“I’m not sure.” Mary frowned. “I was hoping you might figure it out.”
Raphael looked over at Gabriel, who seemed to be staring a hundred miles away. “Now you’ve done it.” Raphael chuckled. “Give a Cherub a problem to solve, and he won’t rest until he solves it.”
Michael said, “He could share what he’s thinking and let the resident soldier take a crack at it..”
Gabriel wasn’t even listening. Raphael said to Mary, “Cherubim are the problem-solvers, and if he engages with a question, he’ll either get you an answer or die trying.”
“And since angels can’t die,” Michael said, “he’ll get an answer.”
Raphael said, “Could be worse. We could have two Cherubim.”
Mary said, “What happens if there are two Cherubim?”
“They debate,” Michael said.
“And debate,” Raphael said.
Uriel nodded, hands opening.
Mary chuckled. “Three Cherubim, five opinions?”
Raphael laughed out loud. “I love that!”
Gabriel spoke as if he’d just awakened. “We can spend our energy deflecting attacks once they’ve decided on a target, but our energy might be better spent now convincing them to retarget. What if we can persuade them she is the reason we’re here?”
Michael took a deep breath. “How would we do that?”
“None of them were around when I first told Mary about Jesus,” Gabriel said. “They have no information regarding what I said to her about him. Since she’s able to sense us, I assume she’ll be able to sense them as well.”
Michael said, “Have you sensed them?”
“Sometimes.” She swallowed hard. “Briefly.”
Uriel met Michael’s eyes, projecting concern: Asmodeus. Mephistopheles. Belior. Three of Satan’s top four demons had been investigating, and it was a certitude they would call in the fourth to confirm their suspicions before bringing in Satan himself.
Uriel’s eyes lowered, but the Throne’s wings half-spread as if for a fight.
Gabriel said, “Uriel’s a powerful enough angel that they might think Mary is the point of it all, but only if she can play into their expectations.”
“Meaning?” Raphael said.
“She needs to order us around.” Gabriel looked right at Mary. “You’ll need to act as if you own us and we’re your slaves. Would you be averse to that?”
Mary’s eyes widened. “Are you kidding me? How could a person give orders to…you?”
“That’s not an issue. You’d call for us,” Gabriel said. “Then when whichever angel arrives, it’s, ‘Gabriel, fetch me some water,’ or ‘Gabriel, bring back the lost sheep.’ Whatever you need doing.”
Mary shook her head. “I couldn’t do that.”
Gabriel said, “A charade of that sort would convince them you have a great deal of power. Specifically, some kind of power over us.”
“Is there anyone you would take that kind of treatment from?”
All four angels looked at the sleeping baby.
Mary’s eyes brightened. “Really?” She sat back. “I’ll make sure he isn’t rude about it.”
Gabriel leaned toward her. “But you had better be. Maybe not rude, but certainly authoritative. No please, no thank you.” He grinned. “Occasionally you’ll need to criticize: ‘You call that water hot?’”
Mary knit her fingers. “Could I maybe give you a blanket thank-you once a week?”
“No, and I don’t like this plan.” Michael bit his lip. “It would only take one time for you to say, ‘Is it okay to speak freely?’ for Mephistopheles to figure out the entire game. At that point, you'd be in danger.”
“Mary knows how to be circumspect.” Gabriel looked at her. “But for that reason, no, no expressions of gratitude. As far as you’re concerned, we have to look as if we’re doing this under duress.”
Mary still wavered. “But how would I know if you got angry?”
Gabriel said, “We’ve existed since the formation of the earth. There isn’t any domestic job we’d find either challenging or disgusting.”
“At least let me have a code word.” Mary nodded. “So after you fill the water jars, I can tell you ‘That was satisfactory’ and you’ll know I mean ‘thank you’?”
Gabriel considered. “That would work.”
Mary said, “But how will I know if I’ve overstepped my bounds?”
Gabriel said, “I won’t smile when I blow the roof off your house.”
Mary startled, but Raphael was laughing, and then Gabriel’s deadpan broke. “I trust you wouldn’t overstep your bounds, and even were it
Mary glanced around. “Would you like some more wine? Fruit? Water?”
“We’re fine,” Raphael said.
Uriel sat forward. “One more consideration, Gabriel. When our enemies make themselves apparent to her, what then?”
Gabriel said, “Flag her to alert.” He looked at Mary. “Uriel will want you to put on an act for them.”
Uriel said, “Order us around. Make demands.”
She looked uncertain. “Wouldn’t that be the best time to keep a low profile?”
“That would be the best time to give them pause, because I assure you, the last thing they’d want is to be in thrall to you, and they won’t want to take any chances that you can do to them what you’ve done to me. Actually, that may be a better way to handle this: I’m the only one in your control.” Gabriel gave a small smile. “I may act resentful if they’re around, just to convince them it’s for real. Don’t be afraid. Just keep up the act. They might stick around for a time observing.”
Michael said, “It would never occur to them not to order someone around if only they had the power to do so, just the way it would never occur to them to take orders from someone they didn’t have to. If you can keep Gabriel in thrall to you, or at least seem to, they’ll buy it.”
Uriel said, “They’ll attack her, though.”
Mary turned to Uriel. “But it’s for the baby. I don’t care what they do to me. That man already said I’m going to have my soul pierced by a sword—if that’s what God wants, then what better way for it to happen than mothering my son?”
“They’ll still attack him,” Raphael said.
“But as a hostage.” Mary sounded earnest. “It’s better than having them attack him directly.”
The angels stood, and Mary stood too. “Just call for any of us,” Gabriel said. “Michael and I are a word away, and Uriel and Raphael are with you always.”
Mary nodded, and the angels vanished. Gabriel and Michael returned to the Ring of Seven before God.
Michael swallowed hard. “Will this work?”
“I have no idea.” Gabriel grinned. “But I like how she thinks.”