Fear is the Key
Adriel hefted the axe over her head as her fanatics held Abby’s head to the chopping block. The crowd was awash with a melange of cheers and jeers. Some threw food and debris. Adriel basked in the adulation, grinning and grandstanding, stalking the dais with the axe resting on her shoulder. She flitted her hand in the air like she was teasing a bubble aloft, ginning up the furor of the mob. She bowed then, grabbed the axe with both hands and hoisted it aloft.
“This will be the blood that galvanizes the movement,” she shouted.
A thunderous explosion rang out. The crowd quieted and directed their attention toward the disturbance. The Seraph Michael stood, engulfed in flames, his fiery sword plunged into the cobblestone street. Lucifer peeked out from behind him.
“You know, you didn’t file the requisite registration forms for this demonstration, Adriel,” Lucifer said. “This infraction carries heavy fines and possible jail time.”
“This is a demonstration of free speech and our rights as Seraphim,” she replied.
“Murder isn’t a protected right. Nor is rabble rousing.”
A bulk of the crowd booed.
“Tell me, Luci, is it murder when it’s an animal? Is that illegal too?”
“Well...yes. In public without the proper licensing and review from the Agricultural Standards Bureau.”
“And are you going to arrest me, little man?”
“Yes,” said the full booming voice of Uriel, pushing his massive frame through the mob.
“Yuri, Mike, Gabe and Ray,” Adriel said, grinning.“Are you boys getting the band back together?”
“Maybe for a short reunion concert,” Ray said.
“God, I hate nostalgia acts,” she said and Harut and Marut closed ranks around her and raised their staves.
Michael pulled his sword from the ground and pointed it at them. A stream of fire poured from the tip. Harut and Marut crossed staves and blocked the flame. Abby reached out and absorbed the flame. It wrapped around her arm and she swung it like a whip and burned the legs of the two sorcerers, dropping them to the dais. Adriel rushed forward with her axe. Several small explosions went off at her feet. She saw Cletus, who had taken a position on a nearby balcony, firing his crossbows at her. The little vials shattered around her, surrounding her in flame. Adriel’s enthusiastic audience scattered.
“What is this nonsense?” she howled. “Harut, Marut, get us out of here!”
They crossed staves again and a bubble formed around them and Adriel. Abby threw a volley of fire balls, one catching Adriel on the shoulder. She shrieked as she and her attendants disappeared. Michael stepped scowling toward Abby and stood towering over her. She looked up and him and offered a sheepish grin. Michael looked at her hard and then burst into laughter.
“Excellent work, little one,” he bellowed. “High five.”
Abby obliged and he gave her hair a rough tousle, shaking her head back and forth.
“Thanks,” she said, grimacing.
“Well, this is quite the mess,” Lucifer said, fretting.
“Does anyone want to take these bindings off?” said the muffled voice of Bart.
Abby singed through Bart’s and Pietro’s bindings. Bart stood, rubbing his wrists. As Pietro was freed he ran over and hoisted himself onto Bart's shoulder, flashing hand gestures. Pietro nodded in reply.
“Ray, Abby, and Wensleydale,” Bart said. “Three faces I thought I’d never see again.”
He waved at Cletus on his balcony and hugged Abby. Pietro clutched her around the waist, then scaled the wall to Cletus’ perch, climbing on his back and wrapping his arms around his neck. Cletus reached up and patted him on the head.
“Why is that human child climbing the side of the building?” Lucifer wrung his hands. “That’s a clear safety statute violation.”
“Not for him,” Ray replied.
“Raphael, you know these humans as well?”
“Bart and Pietro Conti. They’re friends of mine.”
“This just keeps getting worse,” Lucifer shook his head at Ray.
“Knock off the moral indignation. I didn’t bring them here.”
“Good question,” Ray said. “Bart, can you shed any light on this?”
“One minute we’re escaping the constabulary and the next, we’re in this strange place.”
“Welcome to Parthus.”
“Adriel is now importing her boogeymen?” Gabe said. He looked at Abby and his face dropped. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m meant no offense.”
“None taken,” she replied, engrossed in a strange, fiery variant of rock, paper, scissors with Michael.
“You didn’t teach her how to do that?” Lucifer stepped toward Ray.
“She was already doing that when I got there,” he replied.
“What’s his story?” Lucifer gestured toward Cletus.
Lucifer buried his face in his hands. “How do they know alchemy?”
“You. You gave them science and art, it was only a matter of time before they merged them.”
“We’re never going to live this down.”
“No. And ignoring them isn’t going to help, either.”
“But getting involved…”
“We were already involved. Just because we stay away, it doesn’t un-involve us.”
“That’s not a word.”
“Yalda sure stayed involved. And now Adriel is kidnapping them to rile mobs.”
“What are we supposed to do? It’s damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”
“Help them,” Gabe said. “But only when absolutely necessary. We can’t have them become dependent.”
Lucifer bit his lip as he thought. “Okay. I’ll make formal proposal and present it to Metatron in the morning.”
“In the meantime, I’ll look into Adriel,” Ray said.
“What about your humans?”
“I’m right here. I can hear you,” Abby said. “And I’m going with Ray.”
“Absolutely not. It’s too dangerous,” Lucifer said. “You’re the state’s responsibility and therefore my responsibility.”
Abby lit her hands on fire and asked evenly, “Is it ‘Yaldabaoth traveling through time’ kind of dangerous?”
Michael roared with laughter; Lucifer shot him a glance.
“You’re still the responsibility of the state.”
Ray waved his badge, “You still haven’t taken my badge.”
“Ergo, the state. The humans are with me. They’re more than capable.”
“I’ll go. I gotta go,” Michael said through his laughter. “I have to see this.”
“Lucifer, the safety of the humans is our utmost priority. I’ll offer my services, as well.”
“I see what’s happening here,” Lucifer said. “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it.”
“Yuri?” Ray said. “Like old times?”
Uriel stood staring, arms folded. Ray stared back. Pietro skittered down from the balcony like a gecko and planted himself in front of Uriel, staring up at him. Uriel stared back. Pietro nodded once and Yuri nodded back. Pietro pointed to Yuri’s shoulder and Yuri nodded in reply. Pietro darted up Yuri’s side and alighted on his shoulder. They once again nodded to each other. Ray tapped his chronometer.
“I like this one,” Yuri said in his low, hollow voice. “The rest of you talk too much.”
Uriel plodded over to the group.
“Please, just one of the seraphim consider staying behind? I don’t trust the four of you together. Additionally, you have this herd of humans with you.”
“We’re older and wiser now,” Michael chuckled.
“No, you’re not. You’re really not.”
“What was that? How was a human able to control fire like the wretched thing was Michael himself? And why didn’t either you detect that power?” Adriel admonished her attendants.
“We’re just as confused as you,” Harut and Marut said together, but out of sync.
Adriel slapped them both. “Your timing is off.”
She stalked around her apartment looking for something expendable to throw. She settled for a frustrated roar. She stopped and composed herself, smoothing out her gown and fixing her hair.
“And now the Watchers have reunited,” she said, tucking an errant lock behind her ear.
“We predict that’s temporary.”
“‘Temporary’ as in they’ll disband again after they ruin my plans?”
“Make it clear. In the meantime, contact Devanna the Magehunter.”
“She’s unresponsive. She’s made it clear that she’ll never set foot on Parthus again.”
“Whereabouts unknown since Raphael uprooted his operations on Earth.”
“It’s fine, I can’t stand that misogynistic prick.”
Harut and Marut closed their eyes. After a few seconds they snapped back open and said, “Lovelace is available.”
“Nerd. What’s she going to do? Tell me to clear my cache?”
“Making a killing as a self help guru.”
“We’re running out of available allies.”
“Looks like we’re on our own.”
“We’re gaining the support of the people. More and more everyday.”
“You’ll see how fast that goodwill evaporates if we let the Watchers keep embarrassing us like that. We should consolidate that goodwill. Reinforce it. Build a People’s Army. Organize a rally for this weekend. And make sure you file all the correct paperwork so Lucifer has nowhere to toss his wet blanket, this time.”
Harut and Marut tamped their staves on the ground and vanished. Adriel gazed out of her apartment window at the seraphim below, going about their daily routines.
“Get ready for a show, Parthus,” she said.
A seraph dressed in a grey jumpsuit entered. He had a black armband with a stylized representation of Parthus in middle. Inside the image of the planet was the generic face of a seraph. Around it in Seraph text was the phrase:
Ulvn uth, Em uth
(One world, one people)
“Adriel, your shipment has arrived,” he said.
Behind him, a stream of humans entered led by several more seraph in identical garb.
“Oh, the main event is here,” she said, her eyes widening with delight. “Prep them for the show. It will be one that Parthus will never forget.”
Adriel and her men stared at one another.
“Why did you bring them all to my apartment?” she said. “Now I’m going to have to fumigate.”
“Sorry, Adriel, ma’am,” the Seraph said, as he signaled the others to lead the humans away.
“Wait,” she said, as she perused the selection. “Leave this one and...this one.” She pulled two humans close to her and began to disrobe one.
As she leaned in to kiss one of them she noticed her men hadn’t begun herding the others humans out.
“I don’t need an audience,” she snapped. “I’ll let you know when I do.”
“She can be so confusing sometimes,” one Seraph said to another as they led the humans to their
cages. “Stay and watch, don’t stay and watch. Make up your mind, lady.”
“Why are we supposed to hate humans? I’m getting mixed messages, here.”
“I don’t know, something something racial purity.”
“That’s what I mean. It’s not like we can procreate with them. And they’re not exactly flooding our shores, they haven’t even achieved atmospheric flight, let alone interstellar travel. The only ones who’ve been here either came by accident or Adriel had us ship them in.”
“Beats me. All I know is the paycheck is good. Best job I’ve had in centuries.”
“Ahmun, brother. Say, you don’t think she’s gonna want us to fight the Watchers do you? I didn’t sign up for that shit.”
“The Watchers are probably remembering how much they don’t like each other as we speak. Michael has probably thrown Ray out a window by now. That, or Lucifer will tie them up in red tape. Either way, I wouldn’t worry about them.”