The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1) (4 page)

BOOK: The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1)
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Chapter Six

 

“Griffin’s soul is in Hell. You have to go and get it back so it will ascend to its rightful place in heaven.” My temple throbbed and I rubbed it. “This will be no small feat. Getting in and out of Hell will require your cunning and courage. This is not a job I would have entrusted to anyone.”

Super.
I inhaled slowly. “What does that entail, exactly?”

“There are three relics that will open the gates of Hell. The first is the ring found by your mother.”

I pointed at the Jumbotron. “The one from that night?”

“Yes, that very one. That is the first of the three.”

I swallowed. “What happened to it after she was…” I forced myself to say it. “Murdered?”

He shook his head. “We’re unsure of its whereabouts.”

“Aren’t you
all-knowing
?” Did he seriously expect me to find it when he hadn’t been able to?

He chuckled. “That’s a myth cooked up by your religious fanatics to keep sheep in line. It’s not possible for us to know everything that happens with everyone.”

I waved toward the Jumbotron again. “Then how do you have footage like that? Can’t you just rewind the tape and see what happened to it?”

He shook his head. “We’re connected to certain people. Your mother and I were intensely bonded. She spoke to me often and I was able to visit and guide her. When her life ended, so did my window into that segment of human life. I can see what happened right up until the moment of her death, but from then on, I cannot know what happened to the ring. And, truthfully, it was safe where it was and hasn’t been needed until now. Now you
must
find it along with the other two relics.”

“Right, and open the gates of Hell to save my dead fiancé.”

I choked and swallowed hard, fighting back emotion yet again. Not only did I have to find hidden religious relics that people had killed for, but I was being asked to go to Hell… I still hadn’t wrapped my head around that part of the mission. “Did my mother still have the ring on her when she died?”

“Not
on
her, but near her.”

“Then what happened?”

He stared at me, his handsome face unreadable. “You’ll need to pick up the trail from where your mother left off. You’ll need to start in Jordan. Back at the village.”

I swallowed and looked away. I traveled a lot for work, so it wasn’t the trip to Jordan that bothered me. It was being back in that village, reliving that nightmare in real life instead of in my subconscious. If this didn’t have anything to do with my mother, if this were just another job, I’d ask for all the intel I could get. Metatron had a
video
of the moment I needed.

All I had to do was come up with the courage to finish watching it. My hands trembled and I forced myself to set aside the emotion. If I didn’t get a hold of it before I started this assignment, I’d be a hot mess for the whole thing. I had to treat this like any other job.

When I answered him, my voice was small. “Show me.”

I stood and hugged myself in a ridiculous attempt to keep the pain from fracturing me into a million pieces. I’d watched new deaths for my parents in every nightmare. Would this really be worse?

Metatron made both chairs disappear. “Are you ready?”

I shook my head. “Not possible, but show it to me.”

There wasn’t much more that we hadn’t seen. A group of men caught up with her on the far side of the camp. She looked frantically for Dad and her hands stayed clamped at her sides, not daring to give away the hiding place of the jewelry. Shadows and flames leapt across her face, but she didn’t show them any fear. Pride swelled in my chest as I watched her. A blur of motion flew across the right of the screen. Whoever it was tackled one of the men and took him down. Chaos and disorder erupted.

Mom spun and took off running. My breath caught in my throat. At a thick copse of trees, she crouched and snuck through a tangle of undergrowth. I remembered that spot. It was one of the few shady places and I’d played a million games there with my friends. But tonight it gave solace again, not from the heat, but from death. Groups of men raced back and forth in front of her hiding place, unaware of her and her treasure.

She shoved her hand in her bra and withdrew the jewelry, then lifted up out of her crouch to see if she was still safe. I studied the ring, caught by the simplicity of the oval multi-colored stone in a metal setting. She’d cleaned it, but only to the best of the ability of the tools she had. Dirt and rust tarnished the entire piece, covering what were probably fine details that would help me locate it later. The stone in the center emitted a soft glow in the firelight, and I wasn’t sure if that was a reflection or the ring itself.

All around Mom, hordes of groups warred. The warriors’ screams and shouts were nearly deafening. Digging with her fingers, she pried up tree roots and made a deep narrow hole near the base of one of the trees. A shout made Mom spin and jump up. She dropped the stone in the hole, and used her foot to shove dirt over it as she stared at her attacker.

I didn’t want to stop watching her, I wanted to memorize every single feature of her face, but I knew that I needed all the intel. My gaze swung to the man on the far side of the trees. A slender white man in pressed fatigues and a black beret pointed an AK-47 at her. “Come out of there.”

“No.” Mom lifted her chin and crossed her arms. “I’m no threat to you. I’m here as an archaeologist. My husband is the doctor.”

“And your daughter, where is she?”

Mom stiffened and so did I. This wasn’t a random attack on this village. This was someone who’d come for my family. I memorized every feature I could about him. His military background was obvious and the hint of a British accent made me wonder if he’d been MI6, but why would he be after a religious relic?

“Who is that?” I asked the archangel.

“Watch.”

Mom pushed another heap of dirt onto her hole and stepped to her right, away from the hidden ring. She didn’t raise her arms and part of me loved her courage, but the sensible part wanted her to stop antagonizing this guy.

He motioned her forward with the barrel of his gun. “Where did you hide it?”

“There’s nothing here. I’ve been uncovering pottery and bones.” She turned toward the dig and extended her hand. “It’s all there if you want to see. There’s nothing worth terrorizing these people for. They’re good people.”

He snorted. “No, they’re lawless beggars.”

She inhaled swiftly. These people had been our friends. I’d grown up with them and they’d welcomed us. They adored my father and they came to him for everything, welcoming his medicine. Mom had worked hard to teach them about what she was finding and about their history and why she was so invested in making sure the world knew about them and where they’d come from. They’d taught me their language and their customs. I’d been just another teen amongst their own.

The man pulled a knife from his belt and lunged. Grabbing her, he held the blade against her throat. I clenched my jaw to keep from yelling out and my teeth ached from the pressure. I second-guessed my ability to watch this.

“Tell me where you hid the ring.” He growled the command against her ear and I could almost feel the oily heat of his words. She squirmed in his grip and the knife blade nicked her skin. I grasped Metatron’s arm, needing an anchor to anything on this side of the screen.

“I don’t have anything like that. Take this if you need jewelry that badly.” She held up her left hand, twisting at her simple wedding band. “I haven’t found anything other than broken bits of clay, I told you.”

She hadn’t even told me about that ring. How had these murderous people found out about it? Did they know that this wasn’t a simple piece of jewelry, but access to one of the most powerful doors in existence?

He jerked her head backward, exposing more of her neck. My fingers tightened on Metatron. “Do I need to go find Evangelina and ask her?”

Mom whimpered.

Hold tight, mama. I’m safe. I’m safe.

I held my breath and memorized every detail of his ears and his scars—little bits that would set him apart no matter what else he changed about his body. I would kill him. First, I would make him suffer. Tears burned my eyes and I brushed them away.

Another fire erupted on their right as a hut burst into flames. Mom yanked and wrenched from his grasp, then took off running toward the new fire. Only then did I realize it was our hut that was ablaze.

The report of machine gun fire made me cringe. The screen went dark.

I stood there, not realizing for a moment what had happened. Then a sob tore loose from my throat as the wound of her death tore me open again. I allowed the pain to travel through me for a solid minute, and then I took a deep breath and reined in the overwhelming sorrow and turned to the archangel.

“Who is he?”

Rage burned in my chest, and I memorized that feeling. Along with every feature of the man who had murdered my mother.

Chapter Seven

 

“His name is Harrold and he’s one of Azazel’s humans.”

“The Angel of Death has foot soldiers?”

“A surprisingly accurate term. Azazel at his truest is a teacher. From the very beginning he’s instructed humans, just not in the proper way an archangel should. He taught men war, gave them knives and swords and taught them to kill. And where he and his Watchers gave men physical weaponry, they gave women powerful emotional weaponry. Women learned from Azazel the art of deception and how to adorn their bodies to rule men.”

I flinched. Mom had said as much, but I preferred to buy into the theory that we were basic animals, flaunting our shiny feathers to entice men, and the guys fought because that’s what they did. I didn’t like the idea of Azazel and his band of evil angels manipulating mankind since the very beginning, and if I remembered right, the Big Guy hadn’t either.

“But, if I remember my mother’s teachings, Azazel got in trouble for that, right? God didn’t approve of those kinds of instructions.”

“Yes. The Lord commanded The Archangel Raphael to seize and imprison Azazel until Judgment Day.”

“Then how is Azazel still holding class and teaching this Harrold about my mom and the relics?”

Metatron shook his head. “The Lord God wants to believe the best in everyone, from men to archangels. He truly believed that the imprisonment in utter darkness for all time would be enough for Azazel to rethink his choices and make new ones. Better ones.” He
tsked
. “Azazel is consumed by the darkness and he’s grown incredibly patient. He can’t move around like I can, so he has to wait for people to seek him out. And they do. He has no problem recruiting his foot soldiers. There are certain humans who can’t help but be attracted the dark.”

“Great.” This was going from bad to worse in a hurry. “Harrold is one of those types of humans, I guess. One who sought out Azazel?”

“Yes. But only some can find him. Only people like Harrold, all of whom are descendants from a holy line.”

“A holy line? But Azazel isn’t exactly considered holy.”

“Correct. But there is something called an Evil Holy Line. Strong, powerful, and protected by the highest of evils. The holy comes from an original connection to God, in which this line made a decision to break from. You’ve heard the story of Cain and Abel?”

“Cain killed Abel, but that’s all I know.”

“There have always been two lines. A good bloodline and one poisoned with evil. Abel was the good one, and Cain killed him. But God marked Cain so he could never be killed and forced Cain to wander the earth for all time, as punishment for what he’d done. But that didn’t stop Cain from marrying and having children, spilling forth his evil onto the land.”

“Harsh. So the good line is from Abel and the bad is Cain’s?” This was a lot to take in, I’d never really figured out the details of Jesus’s holy line and how all that David and Abraham stuff fit together, and now Metatron wanted to throw an entirely new line in the mix for me to keep track of.

“Right. Cain’s sons still believe that they are due the favor of God. Throughout history they’ve been the seekers of righteousness, but they’ve always gone about it in the worst ways, murdering, torturing, starting wars and genocides.” He shook his head. “True evil can never become good. Cain’s offspring will forever bear the mark and they will never prosper against good.”

“Which is why they seek out this Azazel, to learn what he can teach them so they finally can overcome?”

“I’m afraid so, yes.”

“And he teaches them horrible things?”

“Unfortunately, yes. When Azazel and his Watchers first instructed men in the way of war, men worshiped them and the archangels—understandably—liked the feel of their worship. Hundreds of years passed that way, and God trusted his archangels to bring him news of men and what was going on, but Azazel never told God everything, which was part of what angered God so much when he found out what Azazel and his Watchers had done by teaching men the ways of war.

“Now Azazel is still teaching, but he’s gone far beyond teaching simple warcraft. Now he teaches men the gifts of wizardry and sorcery, telepathy, and all manner of what you term
paranormal.

“But why? What’s in it for Azazel?” None of this made sense and it was totally freaking me out. I’d seen plenty of power-hungry men though, men willing to do whatever it took to control the masses and earn their worship—whether by fair or by foul. Azazel was basically a big bully.

“Azazel liked how things were before Noah and the flood. He liked Earth, he liked being thought of as a god, and most of all, he liked earthly women. Lucifer liked that setup as well, and they want it put back into place. God is well aware of what Lucifer and Azazel want. And he does what he must to keep them from returning to power, which is ensuring that the holy souls—Abel’s line—are protected both here and in Heaven. Those souls are precious to God, because they belonged to Abel and he loved Abel above all and looked on him with favor. God keeps the holy souls from going to hell. He hoards the holy lines and ensures every one of those descendants goes to heaven so he can keep track of their souls—keep them safe.

“But Azazel knows that if
he
can intercept and control those souls—grabbing them before they make it to heaven—he can use those souls to leverage his way back onto Earth and the ‘good old days’ when the wicked ruled alongside angels.”

“How?”

“Those souls have power. Because God favors the holy lines, they also carry a supernatural essence far beyond the others. If utilized on Earth during the person’s life, this essence can manifest in spectacular ways.”

“And if they don’t use their powers on Earth?” Griffin was as far from supernatural as a guy could get. He was a plain-Jane, vanilla kind of guy. If he had this holy blood, he’d kept his essence stuffed way down.

“Then when they ascend, that power still resides in them and it can be harnessed. With enough souls like that, Azazel could use their power against God, much like Lucifer tried when he began the war of angels.”

“They’re stealing Griffin’s soul power so they can overthrow God?”

Lucifer had failed spectacularly in his first attempt. I hated the thought of these awful archangels somehow using Griffin as a pawn in a war. Especially one with such huge stakes. The first war of the angels had drastically altered everyone’s future, condemning an entire caste of angels to be kicked out of heaven and forcing Lucifer to rule the underworld and watch all that he’d lost as humans remained on Earth and communed with God.

“Correct. In God’s eyes, those souls deserve to be safe simply because they’re from the
good
bloodline, but Azazel and Lucifer see it differently. They don’t understand doing the right thing just because it’s right. Azazel does things only for the power play, so he cannot fathom God’s reasoning for wanting those souls with Him in heaven. Azazel thinks God is
using
those souls and he wants to do the same. He wants to do whatever it takes to put things back to rights.

“Holy hell.” I took a step back. Metatron was asking me to step into the middle of the holy war of all holy wars. No wonder we humans warred and hated and fought when the angels couldn’t even get it right. “The backlash for this is going to be horrendous, isn’t it?”

He stared intently at me and I could feel him weighing every decision I’d made during my years here—and possibly every one from now on as well as the ones I’d made before I got here. I couldn’t breathe and it had nothing to do with his supernatural powers.

“You don’t have anyone left to lose.”

I bent in half, as if he’d sucker-punched me right in the diaphragm. “Jesus,” I wheezed and grabbed my knees.

“Well,” he said, matter-of-fact.

I was still gasping for breath. “You’re a jerk.”

He shrugged. “You’re the one who asked for details.”

I straightened and forced myself to get back into work-mode where emotions didn’t exist. “Why now? Azazel’s been around for millenniums.”

“Good question.” He took a step closer and reached for me but I dodged him. I needed to stay focused. “Azazel knows that Judgment is near and if he’s to overthrow God, it must be now.”

“Why?”

“At Judgment, Azazel’s imprisonment is over.”

My breath caught in my throat. I wasn’t sure I wanted that guy roaming around sexing up anyone again.

“He’ll be thrown in a fiery pit for all eternity.”

I let out a loud breath. “What?”

“Azazel told Harrold about the relics and where he thinks they are.”

“Great, where’s this guy so I can off him? And where are the other relics?”

“I wish it were that easy. I cannot know everything about your realm and Azazel knows it, which is why he’s worked so hard to teach humans his ways. Harrold travels undetected by myself and other archangels. He’s strongly protected by the evil realm. That means I can’t tell you where he is or what he plans to do next. Your mother’s interaction with him was the only way I knew he existed.”

“Well that’s helpful.” Seriously, he wasn’t giving me a damn thing, and Azazel had imparted all the wisdom of the entire Watcher realm. Bad guys always had the advantage.

And yet, I still managed to kill them and save the day.

This time wouldn’t be any different. I didn’t lose.

“There’s more.”

I threw my hands up.
“Really?
Is there any good news coming?”

He crossed his arms and stared at me. “You don’t know how to take the easy jobs, Lina. You secretly like that this seems impossible. Don’t kid me.”

I stared at my shoes, not denying what he’d said. The extra layer of supernatural surrounding this mission would have sent the best running, but I wanted to dig in deeper. The higher the stakes, the more I wanted to prove it could be done. Granted, the personal stakes were high, too. My love’s soul hung in the balance. This was the ultimate mission. I blew out a breath and admitted he was right.

Metatron nodded crisply, pleased that I’d finally quit pretending. “There is a way for you to arm yourself against Azazel. Knowledge that I gave to Noah and Abraham, knowledge Azazel doesn’t even know. In
my
book—”

“The Book of Enoch,” I whispered as Mom’s history and theology lessons came racing back from where I’d hidden them along with all my other memories of her. I recited one of her favorite lessons: “
Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away
.” I stared at him. “She always liked that part, that God
took him away.

“Well, it was certainly my favorite.”

I laughed. “Yeah, I’ll bet.” More of the memory came back. “You were Enoch before you ascended. As a human, you wrote down your visions of things to come, both good and bad. Then they took you to them, showed you those places so you could catalog it all for future generations ... and past.”

I couldn’t remember all of it, but there had been descriptions about heaven and hell and the throne room, the deeds of angels, the powers they bestowed when they interacted with early humans ... and how those acts caused the great flood....

“That’s right.” He seemed excited that I knew about his book. Mom was enamored with it. I’d forgotten. My heart ached.

“I loved your mother, Lina. She was my favorite and I tried my best to help her where I could. The first day she reached out to me, I was quite shocked.” He looked away and blushed, which shocked
me
. “Few ever asked for my aid, and I was okay with that because I knew that was not my calling, but your mother was so earnest in her plea that I could not resist her. Our long discussions were some of my favorite moments.”

“You had actual discussions with my mother?”

“Exactly like we are having now. She was divinely connected.”

I tipped my head to the side. “Wow,” was all I could say.

He chuckled. “Your mother called my book a supernatural book of secrets.”

“Why?”

“When God gave me the task of keeping the archangel history, I didn’t suppress any of what I saw. I thought God meant to give that information to more than just a few humans. I thought I was creating something that would lead mankind into a new generation of intelligence. I—mistakenly—thought that God wanted mankind to have the knowledge bestowed by the Watchers, as long as he knew what was being taught, which were the lessons I thought I was documenting in my book. My
supernatural book of secrets.

“Great!” I held out my hands. That sounded exactly like what I needed to arm myself with for this upcoming war. “Give it up.”

He stepped away and bumped into a frozen tourist, knocking her askew. He reached up and adjusted her, pulling her camera down from her face and tipping it so she’d be looking at her daughter when he unfroze her.

“I’m bound by a different set of rules than Azazel. God decides when I can impart this knowledge, and He’s chosen to stay out of this.”

My eyes widened. “He’s going to stand by while some guy flings open the gates of hell?”

BOOK: The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1)
9.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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