“So, how’s human life been?” asked Asmodeus.
“Uneventful until you showed up,” Azrael replied.
“Is that good or bad?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“How long have you been here?”
“About five months.”
Asmodeus nodded. “Has Chelsea seen you? As in, you?”
“No. And I don’t intend her to.”
“She would never admit it, but she’s still... sceptical about the whole thing, as if it’s a dream – or even nightmare – that she’s about to wake up from.”
“Can you blame her? She’s thought she knows you for five months, then you tell her the truth and it turns her whole world upside down. My presence probably doesn’t help.”
“She thinks it’s a dream where her best friend’s been murdered by a Demon that may or may not actually be real. Her boyfriend’s an Archangel with golden wings, is he real?”
“How do you know what she thinks?”
“I can read her mind as well as you can, if not better.”
“Demons are hardwired with abilities that most of us have to learn. Possession, levitation, telekinesis, et cetera,” said Azrael absent-mindedly.
“True,” said Asmodeus. “So what are you going to do now?”
“Everything. Skyla, Chelsea, Morslammae.”
“How did you know about that?” he asked warily.
“Telepathy. Those are the first things in your mind, even if you don’t realise it. I usually can’t read your thoughts, but you’re drained of magic and can’t build your barrier. The inside of an Angel’s mind,” he pondered, “is a very interesting thing.”
“Why are you here? It’s not to talk, there’s an ulterior motive.”
“I’ve come to offer a truce,” said Asmodeus. “You love Chelsea, as do I. I happen to know some information I shouldn’t. I came here just as your friends were leaving, meaning I could hear their thoughts. They were all thinking the same thing: that they were going to lose you to a mortal. They’re going to take her out, to get you back. I also know that the other Princes are planning to do the same. There may be some other reason why they want her out of the picture but I don’t know any more than this.
“But seeing as their wishes run parallel, they might just join forces. They know our individual strengths and weaknesses. They want Chelsea dead. I want to protect her, I know you do as well. That’s why you’re here in the first place.”
“A truce? Does this involve a contract?” asked Azrael cautiously.
“Then what’s the catch?”
“There is no catch.”
“Whenever somebody says that, there usually is,” said Azrael.
“Granted. If you won’t think of it as a truce, think of it as a request for your help. I can’t do this alone.”
Azrael thought about it for a while in silence. “Alright. Sounds reasonable. But I won’t sign my name, or shake your hand.”
“Didn’t expect you to,” said Asmodeus with a small smile. He sent Azrael a telepathic image. “Bring Chelsea to this place when they let you out. Bring whatever weapons you wish.”
He held out a small vial which Azrael took. “Mixture of aniseed, clover and figwort. It’ll fix you overnight.”
He vanished, and Azrael was on his own again. He drank the mixture and began to feel better within minutes. He picked up the letter from Skyla and read it again. He was still trying to accept that he was going to be a father. Maybe he was already, seeing as she’d survived. He shook his head. He knew he had to forget about Skyla, at least for now.
He closed his eyes and tried to forget everything. He felt himself drifting into the nice kind of unconsciousness. His last thought wasn’t his own.
Good night, Azrael, was the thought. Even after a hundred years, he recognised the voice.
He dreamt of a forest, of a black horse. He dreamt of shapes in the darkness, of impossible things that he knew were real. And he dreamt about a woman, with black hair and grey eyes. Neither had been that colour the last time he’d seen her.