Shattered Walls (Seven Archangels Book 3), страница 1
Table of Contents
Excerpt: THE WRONG ENEMY
By Jane Lebak
Rumours coming out of Hell are that Satan's got a new weapon in development, only no one knows what it is. When the archangels Remiel and Zadkiel infiltrate Hell to learn the truth, they discover that new weapon only to unwittingly set it off. The weapon maims Belior, one of Satan's highest-ranking demons, but also leaves Zadkiel blind and Remiel disabled.
The angels have a limited time to reverse the effects of the weapon, assuming it can be done at all, but that means sneaking back into Hell and confronting old enemies...old enemies who were once even older friends.
Remiel and Zadkiel seek refuge on Earth among the early Christian community and must at the same time avoid or disarm Belior, one of their deadliest enemies. Because like any predator, a wounded demon is twice as dangerous. And Belior knows they hold his only chance to save himself.
In the newest novel of the Seven Archangels saga, Jane Lebak packs action and heart into every page as the angels struggle to save their comrades, even at great personal cost.
Boston, MA USA
Other titles by Jane Lebak:
Honest And For True
Seven Archangels: An Arrow In Flight
Seven Archangels: Sacred Cups
The Wrong Enemy
Seven Archangels: Annihilation
The Seven Angels Short Story Bundle
The Boys Upstairs
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Kindle ASIN: B01E7BUTEE
Print ISBN: 978-1-942133-20-9
Copyright © 2016, 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. So there.
Cover: C.K. Volnek
After I published Annihilation, I set up email addresses for some of my characters, and one day, the archangel Remiel got a letter from a fan. So “Remiel” wrote back, and that began a correspondence spanning the next five years. The fan and I (and “Remiel” and “Gabriel”) would send letters, packages, signed books, ecards, and handknits. She loved my angels, and my angels loved her. She called them her sweet friends, and I’m told their letters were the high point of her day. The angels would sign off with curious endings like, “Live in God’s light” or “Be God’s own,” and she adopted those closings as well.
Last summer, I learned she died after a long illness. As I wrote Shattered Walls, I knew how much she’d have loved reading about Remiel again, and I’m sad that the world has lost such a bright light.
So Chantelle, I’m dedicating this book to you and to your memory, and to your mother, Sarah. Be God’s own. Be God’s, always.
Remiel drew all four of her wings tighter against her body, the inner set flush against her sides while the outer one iced over with Hell’s lashing sleet. Squinting against the wind, she muttered, “They picked the right place to hide their project, whatever it is.”
Ahead of her, Zadkiel shook her head, scattering ice crystals from her curly black hair. Why were they even here? Demons didn’t use the ice fields for research and development. Hell’s elite typically cordoned off the dark caves known as the lab area for their personal office space, and the rank-and-file spent most of their time in the hot interior or on the shores of the Lake of Fire itself.
But the ice fields? Demons hated them. For research and development, or even for just talking, this part of Hell had too much weather. It was certainly too tumultuous for delicate work. The rumors Michael’s informants had picked up gave tantalizing hints about a weapon in development, but no real information. Not even which demons were involved.
Zadkiel with her incredible talent for revealing what was hidden had led them to this spot, which was the last place Remiel would ever have thought to look for demons engaged in delicate work.
Delicate, but secret—and for that, Remiel had to admit, you couldn’t get much better in terms of isolation. Maybe Zadkiel was on the right trail. Or maybe they were enduring this nasty blizzard for no reason whatsoever.
Zadkiel touched Remiel’s arm, and Remiel followed. With her sky-blue wings extended (well, icy silver wings for the moment) and her eyes closed, Zadkiel pivoted a degree, then back, then tucked her wings again and pushed forward against the wind. As long as they kept their angelic signatures suppressed, not even projecting their emotions to one another, no demons would be able to detect them. But that also made it harder to stay in contact, so Remiel struggled to keep her in sight.
Similarly, it would have been a lot easier to go completely incorporeal. Wearing subtle bodies, the angels were vulnerable to wind and weather, but being incorporeal would hamper their ability to search. And that was the reason they were here, the reason their little incursion party consisted of only two angels: a Seeker and someone to protect her.
Zadkiel dropped to the surface and pushed against the snow, raising her wings to provide cover as she dug. Remiel turned her back to Zadkiel, opening her senses for any approaching demons. You could hurry up whatever you’re doing, she thought.
In her mind, Zadkiel chuckled. Soon. And then, Now.
Remiel turned in time to see Zadkiel vanish head-first into a hole. She jumped in after.
She hit a solid surface, and her wings flared as her legs gave out beneath her. At her side, Zadkiel was on hands and knees, slush frozen to her clothes, breath heaving.
There was silence. Ice and silence.
Shifting to a stand, Remiel rested her hand on her sword (although for all she knew, the weapon was frozen to its scabbard.) She extended her senses through the cave but felt only distant prickles. There were demons nearby, but not close. Cautiously, she started to glow.
They’d taken shelter in a cavern of ice, barely large enough for two angels and their wings. Drawing her sword wasn’t a concern after all: there was no room to use it. Still, she rested her hand on the hilt and projected heat down the blade until the ice melted.
Beside her, Zadkiel flared heat all over her body, dissipating the ice and drying off. Can you feel their residue?
When Remiel shook her head, Zadkiel edged to the walls of the cave. Lo
Above them, the opening had already sealed over with sleet. Remiel frowned. The pair of them could get jumped very easily, and anything Remiel could think of to improve their chances would only increase the chance that they’d be detected. It would be very easy to cast a Guard in this little hollow, letting her power form the spiritual equivalent of unbreakable walls, but if the demons had any sentries posted at all, a Guard was as good as a signal flare. She and Zadkiel might be able to get free if attacked, but afterward the demons would more tightly protect, or move, whatever this mysterious weapon was.
In other words, if the angels tipped their hand right now, they needed to tip it fully and finish the job in one go. With a strike force consisting of exactly one Dominion and one Virtue.
Stranger things had happened. Remiel sent, Can you feel how many there are down there?
In a hundred years, Remiel wouldn’t herself have tried scanning outward to detect and count guards who were themselves scanning out to detect intruders. For a Seeker, though, it might be possible, and Zadkiel was one of the best. She rested a hand on the ice. A half-dozen. One of them… Zadkiel yanked back her hand and whispered, “Asmodeus.”
Remiel grimaced. Asmodeus was one of the Maskim, a Seraph second in power only to Satan. And his involvement pretty much guaranteed the participation of another member of the Maskim: Belior, Asmodeus’s bonded Cherub.
Zadkiel frowned at her. We should bring Michael.
Not yet. He needs more information than we’ve got. Remiel considered the ice chamber. Are there any other exits?
Zadkiel pressed against the floor with her eyes shut, then spread her wings. Remiel stood over her, shivering. This position was entirely indefensible.
It took minutes, minutes during which Remiel’s wings numbed over from the cold. Then Zadkiel edged toward the opposite corner, put her hand to the ice, and started producing heat.
Remiel clenched her sword hilt. Keep doing this and they were sure to attract demonic attention.
When Zadkiel pulled back her hand, she’d left a palm-sized impression in the ice, as deep as her hand. Beneath that was a fissure in the ice wall.
“Perfect,” Remiel whispered.
Zadkiel dissolved her subtle body, making it completely incorporeal. Without any form, she was able to flow down the crack in the wall, pausing just inside. Remiel took a deep breath and then she herself returned to her fully angelic form, losing her pseudo-body’s shape and existing as a pure spirit. She attached her attention to Zadkiel, who drew her into the fissure. Before penetrating further, Remiel paused and created heat, melting and smoothing the area of ice Zadkiel had just cleared. Now they were sealed in.
Pulling Remiel along, Zadkiel descended, creeping like water in a steady drip through stone. No, not merely like water. They were water. The two of them were free-flowing energy, etchers of stone and makers of caverns. They were motion and they were slipperiness. And then they were free.
Zadkiel let go, and Remiel found herself in a niche just outside a larger cavern. And there, two wingspans in front of her, stood Asmodeus.
Asmodeus wasn’t paying attention to them, fortunately. His fury was focused entirely on the Cherub before him, shorter and decidedly nervous. Low-level demon soldiers ringed the room, but instead of guarding the location, they were watching their commanding officer. Bad form. When Remiel guarded someone, she looked everywhere but at that individual.
“This isn’t going anywhere near fast enough,” Asmodeus was telling the Cherub. “I don’t care what Belior said to you. We need this finished soon.”
“Foreshortening procedure leads to preventable mistakes.” The Cherub, for herself, didn’t seem fully engaged in the conversation, something Remiel found both impressive and incomprehensible. If this was who she thought it was, then Asmodeus had a primary bond with her. He might be filling her soul with fire right now, and no one else would know it. The Cherub (what was her name?) only said, “We have very little material to work with, so I need to be sure before I commit.”
“That’s not my fault.”
The Cherub narrowed her eyes, still not looking at him. “There’s no reason for your defensive response. I’m only stating that given the scarcity of working material, our situation warrants caution. You can infer from that whatever you like. You could also,” she added, “send additional units to scour for raw materials.”
“We can’t get caught.” Asmodeus folded his arms, and his eyes burned. “I thought you were better than this.”
“Given the importance of this project both to you and to Belior,” said the Cherub, “I need to be better than better-than-this. Your harassment doesn’t improve my ability to function.”
She turned to him at last, and she extended a hand. Remiel could detect nothing, but she knew what was happening because she’d seen it often enough between Gabriel and Raphael: the Cherub was drawing off the Seraph’s fire. It would energize her, and at the same time, she’d flood Asmodeus with Cherubic calm. It took a moment, but the flames licking around Asmodeus’s wings lowered, then winked out. The Cherub’s eyes brightened correspondingly. “I want Belior to succeed. There is nothing I want more. You know that.”
Beside Remiel, Zadkiel leaned forward. Remiel followed her focus toward the work area. Oh, for five minutes to explore those containers, the notes, the implements. Not even five. Just get enough of a glimpse so she could report back to Michael. Why did they say they didn’t have enough material? What material could they be talking about?
Demons didn’t like matter, but they also didn’t hesitate to use it when it suited their purposes. The Psalms said God saved His children’s tears in a bottle, but that was just a metaphor: Remiel sometimes joked about endless storage rooms filled with oceans of tears separated in thin glass tubes, each labeled and dated. What if the demons were capturing something like that? The blood of the martyrs, for example, since the Roman Empire whipped or even crucified the Christians far too often. Maybe the material was bits of the Holy Bread the Christians used whenever they renewed the New Covenant during their worship.
Well, whatever material they were talking about, they’d been harvesting it without detection, but it was limited.
And it was, apparently, weaponizable.
Remiel steadied herself. Okay, so based on this conversation, Belior was the chief driver of the plot. Asmodeus wasn’t saying Satan wanted this done, so that left one delicious scenario. And boy, was this a good one.
Twenty years ago, right after the Resurrection, Satan had demoted Asmodeus and Belior within the Maskim. Although they’d been his top advisors, after everything went down, they’d been put in command of Hell’s army instead. And here they were now, were making this weapon in secret, so it must be meant as a gift to Satan. A really amazing gift that would raise their standing and win back that top position. This Cherub what’s-her-name must be helping because as Asmodeus’s primary, she’d benefit too.
So: highly motivated demons, keeping to something like a timetable, and experimenting with very limited resources. Based on the low number of guards, they were working in extreme secrecy but didn’t fear immediate detection. And given the setup, the demons were unable to move everything on a moment’s notice.
Well, this could get fun in a hurry. In fact, she had something of a duty to make sure it did.
Remiel squeezed Zadkiel’s hand. Zadkiel met her eyes, and she stared her down.
Zadkiel looked unnerved. But even though neither angel had projected anything, Remiel knew she’d understood. Zadkiel would stay put.
Remiel slipped back up the crevice, maneuvering through the walls with the gentleness of an air current until she unsealed the fissure and slipped back into that first small shelter.
Well, here we go. Sword drawn, she shot down the hidden entrance tunnel toward the cavern.
A demon guard collared her the instant she burst inside, but she slashed him and then detonated with light and heat.
And Zadkiel, Zadkiel who was cautious and brave and so perceptive, Zadkiel stayed hidden. Exactly as she was supposed to.
All five guards rushed after Remiel, but she blew them back. And then she did the dumbest thing she could think of: she charged the work table.
Asmodeus exploded toward her, fire blowing out like projectile vomit. With a shriek, the Cherub encased the work area within a Guard (perfect) and now Asmodeus discharged even more energy at Remiel without fear of harming their work. Remiel fled back toward the wall, and he pursued. The soldiers blocked the entrance, but they hadn’t cast a Guard over the whole cavern yet, so she flashed out into the sleet and wind.
Asmodeus followed, and once outside, he called for backup. Again, perfect.
Remiel streaked through Hell, streaming light as she flew. She hurled her sword back at Asmodeus, and it didn’t even slow him down. She flashed through multiple spots in the interior of Hell, reappearing in the labs, over the Lake of Fire, in the upper levels, and finally in the entry portal, the only means in and out of Hell.
Asmodeus had filled it with soldiers. With a shout, Remiel emitted a flare of light, then summoned another sword from the fabric of her soul. As a battalion of archers loosed flaming arrows, she gathered herself and flashed out into Creation.
Asmodeus was after her—he and a hundred soldiers—so she fled, pushing as hard as she could. She tucked her head, but something slammed into her back, driving her into the side of a mountain and sending a shower of snow up.
She looked up to find Asmodeus glowing like a super nova, his sword flying toward her neck. She rolled sideways, and he nicked her wing. Again she flashed away, reappearing over a tropical forest. This time Asmodeus reappeared with Belior at his side to fill him with Cherub energy, energy Asmodeus released like a lightning blast.