So it was, once again, off to see my peculiar host. As we ascended the gentle incline toward the citadel I noticed that things were decidedly a lot more active than was usual. Terran guards were everywhere with Valparta soldiers underfoot. Even the Seraphim, those most stoic of warriors, seemed somehow unsettled as they assisted in whatever was going on. I knew about the murders of course but I had been led to believe they had occurred within the citadel grounds proper. Not this far down the hill.
Within minutes I saw what the ruckus was all about. Several bodies blocked our way and the Constabulary was only partially succeeding in redirecting foot traffic away from the scene. As we drew closer, two Cherubim rushed up to Amara, talking in hushed, hurried whispers. The next thing I knew I was yanked dead center of my escort, all of whom had drawn weapons and where looking keenly about. But not before I saw one of those lying dead in the road.
I went cold at the image of the terrible warrior lying there; nothing left but smoking ruin. Without thought for personal safety, I tore my way through the Cherubim ranks and rushed over to the body, only to be lifted off my feet and wrenched back by none other than Amara.
Her eyes blazed in an excellent imitation of Tiny’s glowing orbs and her muscles were as tense as steel. I could tell from the way she had grabbed me. I was being continually reminded of how strong these Cherubim really were. I snarled back at her and stopped. The look on her face told it all. Grief and fury were written there for all to see. Then the world exploded behind me. In a blinding flash with no sound, Lucifer’s corpse vaporized into a human silhouette of smoldering ash.
“That is how we protect our secrets in death. Nothing remains for an enemy to exploit.”
The voice was choked in fury, grief and disbelief. I turned, expecting Amara to be that voice but it wasn’t. It belonged to another warrior standing to my left. Another golden Amazon I really wouldn’t have cared to cross swords with. As for Amara, she was once again calm and, seemingly, under control. The scarlet fire in her eyes betrayed her. She strode over the one of the Cherubim and was demanding an explanation. Thus satisfied she returned to our ranks and spoke to all of us.
“Our Captain (she nodded to the black form on the road) and some of his Seraphim guards were on their way to meet us at the Roman camp. No one knows for certain except that it may have been to reinforce our party. Why that is, I don’t know. As he descended the hill he was struck by a bolt of energy from a then unknown source. It was powerful enough to actually ionize the air in Lucifer’s immediate vicinity. His guards were killed instantly. He staggered and was able to return fire, but two more strikes took him down. Several other Seraphim returned fire but struck only buildings. (I could see the smoke and steam rising from several holes in nearby walls.) Upon arriving at the shooter’s location, they found a heavy weapon. Subatomic scans revealed the assassin.”
We all held our collective breaths as we waited for her to continue. It was only seconds in coming. Amara seemed truly stunned at the killer’s identity. She uttered only one word through clenched teeth.
A cry of rage erupted from those around me. It took a moment or two for Gus to fill me in and, for an instant, I regretted getting the information. It seemed, according to Gus, that the Sevadrassa were renegade Cherubim who had joined Abraxas in his quest for power. Great! Now I had hostile Cherubim to worry about as well.
In the next instant, all Hades broke loose. There was a roaring, crackling thunder and a blaze of blue light. The guard who had spoken to me earlier landed on top of me, throwing us both violently to the ground. As I rolled her off I saw that she wouldn’t ever be talking again. Her head was missing. Only a charred stump of a neck remained. The rest of the squad was returning fire and the area was ablaze with the beams of multiple weapons firing at whatever had opened up on us, I meanwhile had grabbed the Amazon’s holstered weapon and was doing quite a bit of shooting myself. I don’t think I hit anything, or anyone, though. Within seconds it was over, though, to me, it had seemed like the better part of an hour from start to finish.
There were more bodies when the thunder died down. Several Seraphim and at least two Cherubim, that I could immediately see, were dead and several more of each group wounded. I stared at the weapon I still clutched in a clenched fist and shook. My native view of things was clashing with my new-found knowledge. To my Roman view, I had just wielded the lightning of Jupiter, while Gus was trying to explain to me that I had simply fired a standard Cherubim blaster. Golden fingers gently pried the weapon from my frozen hand and a husky feminine voice reassured me.
“Are you all right General? Open your fingers and release the weapon please. We don’t want it going off accidently do we? Breathe. That’s it. all is well.”
My senses started to troop back to their assigned positions and I found myself looking into the eyes of Amara. Concern shone in her face as she gently took the blaster from me and shoved it into her belt after making sure the safety was on. How I managed to unlock the safety and fire that thing I was never quite able to figure out until sometime later. I would use such a weapon again.
Amara helped me to my feet and, as I dusted myself off and determined that everything I had started with was still there, explained.
“Four more Assassins. These didn’t get away. Someone must want you dead in a really bad way General. I was right. They were Sevadrassa. Damn them!!”
Now I was really pissed! I was quite sick and tired of my Titans and I being the targets of every nutcase in the Underworld. I said so through gritted teeth.
“Tell . . . Merlyn . . . to get . . . his ugly . . . face down here. NOW!!!”
My voice does carry, especially when I’m really angry. Heads snapped up and even Amara jumped back a bit. I stood there, a granite column of sheer, cold, shaking rage. my muscles bunched and the veins stood out on my arms. Not even Amara, it seemed, wanted to get within range of my hands.
My only though of the moment was ‘damn you Merlyn! I’m gonna get answers NOW!’ Those answers, unknown to me, were only moments away.