The research complex was under assault and the scientists were abandoning their posts. Demonic guards of all kinds rushed around in a panic as orders were shouted at them. The angels had come in force, and the demonic facility was wildly unprepared for the sizeable army before them. The demons were armed with military grade human technology, and of course their magic. The battle raged outside while Orchid lay quietly strapped down to her hospital bed. The induced images were fading and she was slowly growing aware of her surroundings.
“Are you there Clarisse? Anyone?” Orchid struggled with her bonds but her drug laced body couldn’t put any force behind the attempt. Tears flowed along her cheeks from the confusion that her situation merited. She hadn’t felt this mortal, this vulnerable, in longer than she could remember.
Waves of magical energy bombarded the area in an attempt to break down the wards which protected the complex. Orchid could feel the essence of celestial magic resonate deep inside of her bones. Something terrible was going on out there.
The wards barring entry to the lab fell after a few full minutes of being overloaded. There was a sudden flash of mystical runes, replaced almost immediately by a person. It wasn’t just any person; it was Rael. His entrance was followed by one massive collision after another. Jelaste burst through the wall in a furious charge that sent splinters of concrete flying. Orchid didn’t recognize him, but she recognized the armour and giant sword he wielded. He numbered among the few Sentinels in the celestial army.
“Flee for your pathetic life demon! The girl will offer you nothing else!” The sword he held burst into divine flames, a bright white that singed at the conviction and emotions of those in the room. The presence of an impassioned Sentinel was awe inspiring in both the minds and hearts of those who witnessed it.
Rael took out the leather pouch from his jacket. In the other hand he held a small charm that looked like a petrified eyeball. Jelaste waited, expecting a weapon of some sort. He felt that waiting to see what surprise was coming would play to his advantage, rather than acting rashly. In that time Rael emptied the pouch of crushed blue rock onto the eyeball. A faint chant emanated from his lips, rustling through the room… and suddenly… his form shifted and grew.
Standing now eight feet tall as a veritable wall of sinuous muscled demon, Rael beckoned Jelaste forward with a massive clawed hand. “You’ll not touch the girl while I still breathe.”
Orchid tried to scream and fight against her bonds but was far too drained. She didn’t know what this was all about... on one hand there was the man she was falling for and on the other a Sentinel, one that she assumed to know as well. A ferocious craving for freedom glazed over her eyes and her clawed hands tried to pry their way free... pulling, yearning… but the bonds wouldn’t break. They were going to fight to the death and she couldn’t stop them. Enough! She thought she said the word, but her mind was so foggy that it never actually escaped her lips.
Rael lunged forward and swung furiously, once, twice, thrice… but Jelaste was light on his feet, ducking and rolling around the blows. He found himself at Rael’s back within a few seconds of combat and slashed deep from Rael’s shoulder to his tailbone. The hulking demonic Rael lurched forward and spun, letting out a roar that shook the room. Both fighters squared off again for another round.
This time Rael took a new approach, while remaining the aggressor. He breathed out a cone of fire which splashed up against all kinds of flammable chemicals in the room. Jelaste, who was caught in the blast, yelled a war-cry and plunged headlong into the fray. “The weight of conscience will prevail!” Through the blaze, Jelaste plunged his sword deep into Rael’s chest with flecks of blood spurting out. Orchid’s cheek was no exception, splashed with a line of sanguine spatter.
The rage grew inside her as Rael fell limp. In one triumphant moment, Orchid tore herself free from the bindings that constrained her. She released a feral growl that caught Jelaste off guard. “Are you alright Orchid? I’m here to save you.”
She dragged herself a few paces forward with all her weight bearing on her one good leg. The air snapped with the violent tone in her words. “Save me from what? There’s no pretending I have a clue what’s going on... but that demon over by your feet? He was my man.” A flash of cold, heartless consideration swept over her vivacious red eyes. “Contrition demands you take your own life or I’ll do it for you.”
There is still the Sentinel’s call in her; she’s still redeemable. Jelaste thought even while raising his blade in defence. “He’s a demon Orchid. Don’t you recognize me? It’s Jelaste, I taught you the ways of angels, the ways of war…”
Orchid stopped him there using words that teemed with venom and hate. “Let’s hope you taught me well then.” One hand rested on a cart containing medical tools for support, while she held the other up in a martial pose. Unarmed she knew there wasn’t much hope; Rael knew it too and with his dying breaths he conjured a blade of hand-and-a-half-length, formed purely out of Orchid’s ire. The blade expanded within Orchid’s grasp as though it spawned from her grip. Rael’s eyes closed and with a last gasp for air he left them both with a few choice words. “Duplicity clouds us into fighting.”
The warning didn’t register; she was already lost to rage. Orchid sprung forward off her one good leg with a speed only matched by the intensity of her feelings. The blade forged out of pure emotion came down in an arc and then crosswise leaving two craterous wounds along Jelaste’s chest. He seemed stunned that Orchid actually went through with it; the surprise faded along with the light in his eyes, he died alongside Rael. The instrument of death in her hands dissipated as quickly as it had formed.
Orchid stopped to think about what had just happened. Why would Rael give me a means to fight if he felt they were part of some game? Did he want to be avenged in spite of that? And Jelaste… if he was prepared to fight then why didn’t he defend himself? What were they both seeing that I didn’t? She continued to ruminate on it for the brief time it took her to become aware of the alarms blaring through the complex. First I need to escape; worry about the ramifications later, Orchid. She told herself.
Quickly, Orchid did a search of the room. She wanted her weapons and something to wear other than the hospital gown she was clothed in. There was a locked cage at the far end of the room which contained storage lockers. She took a chance, and tore apart the cage door after a near crawl there. Inside one of the assorted lockers were her clothes. The bracers, with chains and blades were laid down, coiled inside of a box at the bottom. Getting dressed proved to be a challenge with her festering leg wound, but she was managing. Meanwhile, the sounds of battle outside weren’t dying down.
She hobbled along back to the main area of the lab she was kept in, over to Rael’s body. “I never properly thanked you for the gifts you gave me. Everything tasted great: The meat, the sky… and now, your lips.” Kneeling, she took a quick kiss from the lifeless demon she saw a future with, however warped it might have been.
Standing at the gaping holes in the wall she found herself staring down at an island. From what Orchid approximated it was the seventh floor of what once was a prison. Angels and demons were fighting all across the small island; to what end she didn’t quite know.
A celestial landed on the ledge of the broken wall alongside Orchid. Her long blonde locks covered part of her face and were quickly brushed back. The sheen off her breastplate was blinding but didn’t obscure the only image embossed on it. One angel standing over a darker etched one. She sheathed both of her short swords speaking in an enthusiastic tone. “Is it really you?! After all this time... nobody knew what had become of you until the visions came… I… There’s so much that needs saying... but not here!”
Orchid pursed her lips nervously and took one look down, knowing that she’d never survive the trip on her own. Their gazes met and Orchid perceived a soul so familiar contained within a world of conflict. There was love inside along with guilt. “Colour me crazy but there’s something about you that I just can’t put my finger on…” Orchid spoke while running her index finger along the image on the woman’s breastplate.
Bearing a somewhat shameful look she waited for Orchid to finish. “I’m Evalle. A long time ago we were close friends, and we had a falling out... umm... If you don’t mind, I think it’s time we left this place. Where is Jelaste?”
“Jelaste… He claimed to be a teacher of mine. The short version is he won’t be joining us.” She considered the name again a few times and wondered if she had made some kind of huge mistake in exacting vengeance upon his person. She gestured to the bodies on the floor in the room just beyond. Evalle stared to Orchid with considering eyes and understood, at least in part.
Orchid wrapped her arms around Evalle’s waist and they took off. Mid-flight, the celestial woman threw out a green stone, which exploded like fireworks not far off. A flash in Orchid’s memory broke through the barriers that had been formed around them when she fell from grace. It was a device for a commanding officer to call retreat. As quickly as she had been captured Orchid was whisked off to the celestial realm; in part for questioning, and in part for recovery.