Dantalion was now my guardian…. Our bond as angel and mortal soul was our only link holding us together. When blood poured down the walls of the Courtyard, our names scratched onto stone washed away like rain. Bonds were made to be broken. They were coming for me… Keeping me from him. Luring him into signing the oath and summoning the Four Kings of Hell.
The familiar crimson aura filtered above the lightening clad sky, neutral ground became once again the place where angels and demons would tread. Images raced through me…. A life for a life. I stared at the inked mark on my forearm of a demon who had left me scarred and tainted. I felt claws draw across my skin. Seared into my flesh unveiled the marks of a new brotherhood of demons… ‘the morning star’… the Four Kings of Hell.
Dantalion’s voice settled over the borders of the blood drenched Courtyard addressing Satan and Belial:
“O Day Star, Son of Dawn! How you are cut to the ground, you who laid the nations low. You said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; But you are brought down to the depths of the pit!” *
“And to believe this was once our brother demon….reciting verse from the Bible!” Belial sneered at Dantalion. His claws sliced through his demon form. “Twas I who created the oath…the angel of light and the angel of darkness…the Guardian of the Northern Infernal Realm. Thee must sign it and summon the rightful Four Kings of Hell to reign supreme!”
Beyond them the angels of the third heaven gathered on holy ground, praying for Dantalion’s immortal soul, knowing their protection could not keep him from me…. or his purpose. They feared this day…The Summoning. Their attempts would fail Dantalion.
* The Holy Bible: Isaiah 14:12
Dantalion manifested not in human form but half-demon…Rowan’s body, glaring at Belial through Satan’s barrier. “What pact is worthy of my immortal soul being taken again? The girl remains protected by guardian and half-demon alike. Where are my brothers Lucifer and Leviathan? Are they not here to force my signing of the oath?”
The brands on my arm burned hotter as Dantalion mentioned their names. Was Dantalion going to give in to them and sign the oath? The summoning was something that was kept hidden from him all these years. He was protected so he wouldn’t be coerced to join with his brotherhood of infernal demons. Those whose powers would become not just equivalent to God’s third heaven, but would call forth a new order.
Belial hissed… “My brother, when thou ascended the rank of guardian, the protection sigil on the girl’s arm…yours…was replaced with something more permanent. The brand of the Four Kings of Hell. It can never be removed… nor can her true identity.
Remember Dantalion, she originates from Satan’s creation, though her body was restored by your God, we will possess her slowly, bit by bit. Every day she will become more like us…a part of us. There is nothing you can do to protect her nor the powers of your half-demon. A ritual takes place as we speak. Our brothers, the Illuminated Ones, tap initiates of The Skull and Bones. We will use recruit them into our new order, The Brotherhood of the Four Kings of Hell.”
Satan strode past us, dragging his claws across my seething forearm.
“Everyone the girl knows and loves will now answer to us. Live by the law, die by the law…. Remember the oath Dantalion? We leave now for the initiation ritual. If you do not sign the oath, she dies….slowly…and mercilessly…as you have already witnessed once before, and your duty as her guardian has failed. Either way, you lose your immortality. Why not join the Brotherhood once again? You can have the mortal…or should we say immortal demon… it was always her destiny from the beginning.”
Dantalion needed time. He would have to evade signing the oath as long as he could and prevent my unforeseen fate with this new evil. He returned to his guardian form, shape shifting out of Rowan’s half-demon body, sending us outside the borders of the Courtyard, to the safety of the Realm of Goetia. The transformation happening instantaneously, four shadows moved in closer toward me, and I felt hands grip my arms, guiding me away from the boundaries.
“What’s going on?” I finally caught my breath, staring at Rowan.
“You’re under protection…,” Rowan glared, nodding at Druitte, Halphas, Vine and Sitri . They were watching my every move. “Now that they’re mortal, you can think of it as your own Brotherhood of bodyguards,” Rowan gestured for them to follow.
We knew this was the only way to keep me safe, though I protested.
“Wait! I can’t have four condemned…I mean, “saved” demons watching over me. I thought that’s what Dantalion was for!” I complained.
“If it was up to me, I’d just send you straight back home…back to your friends and school, that’s what should have happened in the first place,” Rowan argued.
“Hey…I’m really sorry I got you into this Rowan. If it wasn’t for me, you’d still be a regular guy, my best friend, not some half-demon!” I reached out to hug him, and his body was more defined than I remembered.
“I’ve gotta get back to Levi, and make sure Belial and Satan stay the hell away from the other demons…” Rowan shook his head.
“Did you even hear what’s going on? They’re forcing Dantalion to sign the oath…they said is was the New Order….the summoning of the Four Kings of Hell! They’re tapping initiates back at my school!”
“Look Laurel, Dantalion knows what he’s doing. He got you away from them just now…all we have to do is figure out how the hell to get those brands off your arm.”
“I need some time to be by myself, okay Rowan?” I started moving away from him and my four new bodyguards, against their direction to stay put. They eyed me protectively as I slipped away, blocking out the details of the last few months of my life.
Past the boundaries, the morning light filtered through the forest canopy, dancing on the water. My eyes lifted to an iridescent presence waiting for me by the banks of the waterfall. The racing of my heart awakened my spirit once again. I stayed for Dantalion. I refused to leave the boundaries of his world. I couldn’t let go of him. His blood still pulsed through mine, only now, like a poison instead of an elixir. I hated what I had become. Fear rushed through me, my breathing choking me into a panic. This place would always call me back-remind me where I first summoned his spirit to my soul. Only now, his soul was immortal and mine had died with his ascension.
Dantalion appeared in front of me, and I looked straight through him, trying to decipher if it was real or one of my visions. I wanted to tell him I missed him…that I loved him…that I never wanted it to be like this. Instead, I hid my emotions.
“How’s your new found immortality, phantom lover?” I smiled.
“You’re the phantom,” he teased back.
“No… I’m pure flesh and blood,” I assured him.
“So what am I made of?” he questioned me. I looked away, holding back tears.
“I think you’re a manifestation of a beautiful soul that’s really just an illusion…not really here.”
“So beautiful with words…”
“I could be beautiful with you,” my voice empty…fading.
“You are with me.”
I wrapped my hands around my body in an imaginary hug, the kind you never want to let go of. The kind that consumes you whole and your heart skips a beat. I remembered his body hot up against mine, one soul, one lust. The kiss that started out slow and transformed into something passionate and real, where the obsession began and lured me to where I should have never gone. My memories dissipated, reminding me where I was, standing alone, staring blindly at the water.
“No, I’m not with you,” I whispered. My body was eternally cursed from a normal life. The passion that left me blind – vacant – hypnotized, calling me back like a lover every time, tasting for more obsession, only now, Rowan wore the mark of a demon. I stared at the newly etched brands replacing Dantalion’s on my arm and saw something darker, something truly evil. Rowan tried shaking me out of my hopelessness.
“I know you miss him,” he startled me out of my vision.
“Yes… I miss him…not a minute goes by that I don’t think about his sacrifice for me. But he belongs in a world that isn’t mine. It never was.”
“There are always sacrifices to be made, but in the end, they’re worth every risk, every breath… like it was your last,” Rowan preached.
“He was supposed to protect me…a guardian… to manifest human form. But now Dantalion uses you.”
Rowan’s dark hair fell longer now, the blackness of his piercing eyes glaring at me… He had a raw defiance I never saw before.
“I’m gonna have to shape shift out of this love triangle! I refuse to be a part of it!” Rowan sneered. “He’s got me governing his thirty six legions, and it was me who went back to the Courtyard to save you from Satan and Belial. I know about the Summoning… the Four Kings of Hell want to reclaim their realms. With Dantalion back as Guardian, it’s up to the rest of the demons to make sure that doesn’t happen. To be honest, I’m not sure they won’t just join them.”
“What? After being released the demons of the Goetia want to join forces with the four Kings of Hell? I can’t believe they would betray Dantalion after what sacrifice he made to release them!”
“Oh, so now you’re the authority on sacrifices? Rowan argued.
“Well, yea, I guess I am… I’m in the middle of this…and I’m not sure if you know it Rowan, but I think I’m immortal. .. that’s why they want me… my true identity.”
“Yea, well I’ve got a news flash … according to Dantalion, when he was trying to forge the elixir to release the demons, he discovered my blood was immortal…as is yours.” We could both be what they’re after…but they don’t know about me yet..” Rowan confided.
“What should we do?” I was in shock. Rowan’s blood was immortal!
“Laurel, I hate to tell you this, but you’re under my protection for now,” he smiled an evil glare.
“No way! I’ve already been tainted by one demon’s blood… I sure as hell don’t need seventy one more of them to possess me!” I argued.
“Becoming one with a demon means becoming one with us all!” he laughed. “And since Dantalion is still coveted as guardian, you said so yourself… he belongs in a world that isn’t yours. Guess what? We live in your world now Laurel, so get used to it.”