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Rated: ASR · Novel · Action/Adventure · #1224799
Michael is forced to bargain with Lucifer for Mihdael's release from Hell
*** *** ***

Mihdael waited until Lucifer finally left him, then relaxed, allowing the healing Light to flow throughout his body. The numerous cuts and abrasions had burned deep and were bleeding profusely. He had managed to heal the deeper cuts, but his strength was fading, and he could ill afford to waste his remaining strength on healing. The Darkness and heat was oppressive, the complete abandonment of all he knew and loved was more than he could bear. He would call upon the angels and archangels for their aid. He knew, as Lucifer had so fervently pointed out, that they could not heed his call, but if any chose to voice their refusal it would be vastly comforting to hear their voices again, to know that he wasn’t completely cut off from the Heavenly Hosts.

He reached up, gripped the jagged peak of a boulder, and pulled himself to his knees. Head bowed, he sent his thoughts Heavenward. “Father, I know Thee has denied me the help of my brothers; I bow to Thee now, and if Thee feels that I have atoned for my past transgressions, then allow my fellow angels to lend their aid. If Thee should decide that my atonement must continue, then allow me the comfort of their voices, even if it is to deny my request. Let it be as Thee wills, Father.

“Archangel Uriel,” he continued, starting with the highest ranking Arch-angel, “forgive my weakness, yet I do beseech thy help on my behalf.”

Uriel’s fiery aura seemed to sweep around him in a comforting embrace, his voice gentle, and kind, “I give thee my forgiveness, Mihdael; yet I cannot grant thee my aid. As Our Father so wishes, I must obey.” The spiritual warmth remained for a few seconds longer, then faded away.

“Archangel Gabriel, forgive my weakness, yet I do beseech thy help on my behalf.”

There was a moment of silence, then Gabriel’s thoughts swept around him, strengthening the warrior’s spirit by his very presence. “Thee need not ask for my forgiveness, Mihdael; for I perceive no weakness in thee. Instead, I ask for thine own forgiveness, for I cannot aid thee.”

“Yes… I understand, and do not hold you at fault, Gabriel.” As with Uriel, Gabriel remained with him for few seconds longer, then he, too, was gone, taking the warmth of Heaven with him.

Archangel Michael, hearing Mihdael’s first call to Uriel, then Gabriel, appeared instantly at Eden’s Gate, hoping against hope that his name would be called soon. Lucifer appeared on the opposite side, his lips pulled back in a taunting smile as Michael listened to Mihdael and Uriel.

“You’re wasting your time, Michael. Believe me, there is no way in Hell that he will ask for your help. He would prefer the destruction of his soul before he would ask you for anything.” Lucifer’s laugh was mocking, “Look at you, all willing and eager to come storming into Hell and rescue him…

“How does it feel to know that he’d rather rot in Hell than even talk to you?”

Michael remained silent, not answering Lucifer’s baiting words. He placed his hand expectantly on the latch, as Gabriel gradually took his leave. He looked steadily at the Prince of Darkness as Mihdael continued.


“Hell, Michael, does he ever address you by name?”

“Commander, forgive me,” he continued, hesitant and uncertain, “I… have not the courage thee would have of me…

“Archangel Sariel, forgive my weakness, but I ask for thy help on my behalf…”

Lucifer laughed outright at Michael’s stunned expression. “Did I not tell you? Seeing that stupid look on your face is almost worth the rule of Hell itself. How does it feel to have one who was your closest friend and ally against you? To know that the longer he is here, with us, the more tempting it is for him to accept us, to give himself over to us.

“He is an Angel, Michael; he can not exist without love and caring; warmth and companionship. First, you shut him out, refusing him the mere courtesy of listening to his explanations; then, our Father and God takes away the fellowship of his brothers, leaving him with no one to turn to.

“Then, God sends him here, to me… I am more than willing to give him all you deny him; and know this, Michael, it is difficult for him to resist me. He is so desperate for acceptance – of any kind – that it is almost too easy to bring him to our side. A word here, a phrase there – simple, direct, effective.”

“Nevertheless, he will not use his power on thy behalf against God.”

“And neither will he use it for you.” Lucifer’s cold eyes studied him, and Michael kept his features expressionless. “It is interesting, though, that you should turn up on my doorstep at such an opportune time. You heard him call to that sanctimonious puppet, Uriel; did you think you would be next? What were you going to do, refuse him in person? And they call me a cold-hearted bastard?”

“A moot point, I would say, as he has no intention of asking for my aid.” The Archangel turned away from the Gate, not wanting Lucifer to see the pain in his eyes, “And if he does not need my help, I see no reason why I should offer it.”

“You do well not to trust him, Michael. For although my hold over him may not, as yet, be stronger than the hold God has over him, it is stronger than yours.”

Lucifer watched as Michael took to the air, flying toward the Spire of the Seraphim. He leaned back against the glowing wall, chuckling to himself as Mihdael’s litany went on…

“Archangel Zagzagel, forgive my weakness, yet I do beseech thy help on my behalf…”

*** ***
“And so you continue to hold onto the slim hope that Michael, in Righteous fury, will storm the gates of Hell to rescue you…? As the other angels stand by and do nothing on your behalf, dear Michael will be honor-bound to retrieve his Second-in-Command from the clutches of Evil; and therein lies the crux of your resistance to us…”

“As you say…” Mihdael was too exhausted to answer further; and the belief that Michael would not bother with him was too painful to express.

“He would be, of course, acting on his own behalf, not yours; he has a certain … reputation to maintain… but I suppose as long as the means justifies the end, it matters not to you…”

“You need not concern yourself about such an event, for it will not happen. Michael is bound by God’s Law, and he will not disobey. I would not expect him to do so.”

“Not even for his Second? For one whom he requested personally? Of what use are you to him, imprisoned here? Would he not find a way? If he wanted to badly enough?

“Is that the best defense you can muster? I expected you to defend him from any slur, as you always do – or, are my words closer to the truth than you care to admit?”

“Michael would do all that you have said – for one whom he needs, who is of value to him, who—” Mihdael broke off, then continued quietly, “No, you have nothing to fear in that regard. For I am no longer Michael’s Second-in-Command; I am no longer the Commander of the First Legion; and I no longer officially hold the Office of Warrior… So you see, Lucifer, I am not as highly a prized captive as you might have thought me to be… I am, instead, the least-valued angel in Heaven…” His gaze was steady as he finished. “All that I had that meant anything to me, I no longer have for you to threaten, to use, to take from me. I am naught but an angel with no status, no authority, no … purpose…

“No one that Michael would bother with. Does that satisfy you? Do you find it as useful to you as you hoped it would be? Are you pleased to learn that I am considerably less than even you thought me to be?

“And does it amuse you to know that Michael would do nothing to change the situation?”

“I had never taken Michael for a fool – but then, considering what you are capable of… Yes, it would be to his benefit for you to remain here forever…”

*** ***

Lucifer was quickly alerted to Archangel Michael’s arrival in Hell; every demon, devil, and dervish rushed, as one, to the point farthest from the Archangel.
Every ounce of power that formed the foundations of Hell channeled through him, and he hurled the green bolts of energy toward the Archangel. Michael staggered under the impact, his flight halted in mid-wing stroke; he glided carefully to the ground, still bound by the arcs of Hellfire. Lucifer stood several feet from Michael, knowing the bindings would hold him for only a short period of time—but perhaps long enough… The darkly powerful trappings of Evil were formidable, but against the Light of God, Darkness would recede in ever widening degrees, as ice retreated before fire, then dissipated into mist. But the time it afforded him, be it minutes or hours, would accomplish what all of Satan’s powers could not: The final, complete defeat of the angel who continually resisted them. “I take it you are here without His sanction?”

Michael was uncharacteristically civil, considering the circumstances. “He did not forbid it.”

“How could He,” Lucifer ventured, playing on a hunch that would achieve his purpose, “when you did. not. ask. Him.?"

Michael’s hesitation, slight as it was, was all the confirmation that Lucifer needed. “I…am not barred from Eden’s Gate – from either side.”

“True enough… But why would you venture here? You place yourself at great risk. What do you seek that would be that valuable to you?” Lucifer approached, halting a few steps away, “Or perhaps I should ask ‘who’?”

“I am here for the warrior that you hold prisoner—“

“He is ours, now,” Lucifer interrupted him angrily. “He was given unto us by our Father and God, and here he will remain until Satan and I are finished with him.”

His voice lowered, eyes and tone accusing. “You had your chance at him. You said nothing on his behalf when he stood before Them—

“Tell me, Michael, what was his crime, that he should be sentenced here? What great and unforgivable sin did he commit, that he should be punished so? Your Father, their God, chooses to punish the innocent for the wickedness of the race He created; has done so many times… Yet, what has such sacrifices accomplished? Does not Evil still flourish, unabated, on Earth, given ample, fertile ground in the heart of Man?

“He has sacrificed His Angels, Archangels, and even His Own Son – and to what purpose, what result? More than ever, Man denies Him; shuts Him out of their daily lives…even to the point of enacting their laws forbidding His name to be spoken, forbidding His teachings among their young, forbidding, even, that His Book be read openly and freely in their assemblies. The more He gives up – the more you and your angels give up – the less Man notices, and push God further from them. And more than ever, we, myself and Satan, are invited, invited, into the hearts and lives of Man. You and your angels are subject to their command; and they, they are subject to us, by their own greed, their own cruelty, and their own desires.

“For they are born into sin, and they truly do not wish to leave it; they truly do not wish redemption…”

Michael made no attempt to break free of the bindings, seeming content for the moment to let the conversation run its course. “You have sought to use the Original Sin – the disobedience of Adam and Eve – to your own purposes in a convoluted, perverse means to twist religion to your benefit.

“Man was not created to be guilty and sinful, as you would have them believe. They were created pure and innocent, as we were; and given Free Will to decide if they wished to remain that way, also as we were. Satan’s insane jealousy drove her to lie to Eve in the guise of a habitant of Eden; Eve had no cause to disbelieve another creature of God. She was basically good and moral, as Mankind is now.

"It is because Mankind is fundamentally good that you and your kind seek to corrupt them by using their basest desires against them, preying on the weakest part of their natures. You try to pull them away from God and Heaven, down to your Dark Domain, to your evil desires, to satisfy your need for revenge. You cleverly allow them to think it is their own doing, when in fact, it is not. For remember, Lucifer: Angels fell before Man; then the Fallen Ones caused the Fall of Man. That is why we – Angel and Archangel – are sacrificed for their salvation; why His Son was sacrificed on the Cross to bear all of Humanity’s sins.

“So that no matter how you tempt, cajole, or threaten; no matter how sinful their natures and hearts, Man is still redeemable through His Son – no matter what name they call him. And none of your lies or actions can alter that fact.

“Your lies can not change the truth, but only disguise or conceal it from those who do not wish to see it. Yet it still remains – clear and sharp, for those who care to search for it, to see it, to—“

“To pray to it?” Lucifer broke in, bringing the conversation back to its original subject. “You should hear the prayers of you own warrior, Michael. You should see him, on his knees, before a God who will not hear him, will not touch him—“

“His voice is heard.”

“As you say. But that does not trouble him; it is the lack of response that troubles him.”

“He well knows that God’s Covenant with Satan prevents Him from any contact with anyone in Hell.”

“With no exceptions?”


“Typical. All the way with God, or no way—“

“You would do well to guard your tongue.”

“Why? Is He going to punish me? Condemn me to Hell?” Lucifer laughed, a bitter, mocking sound. “What could He do to me that could be worse than…

“…Than standing here enduring your self-righteous condemnations? Get on with this charade: Why are you here?”

“As I said, I am here for your prisoner. You have already determined that Mihdael is of no use to you. I am willing to… bargain for him, if your terms are within reason—“

“You offer to bargain with me?!” The Fallen Angel was incredulous, uncertain whether to be angry or amused. “You do not dictate terms to me, Archangel. Look around you, this is not Heaven’s Realm. You have neither power nor authority here. And, I assure you,” he added, voice lowering suggestively, “your warrior can be very useful to me. Each time, he weakens, until he no longer has the strength to resist me. I assume he will be worth the effort – and the wait.”

The carefully held fury leaped into Michael’s eyes, “No, you will not have him. I will bring Hell itself down in smoking ruins; every creature in this Hadean domain will be reduced to ash. There will be nothing left for you to rule.”

“You’re so damned high and mighty, so accustomed to giving orders, to having others jump when you speak. Very well, then, a bargain. How well do you, Commander, take commands? You give them easily enough; can you accept them as well?”

“Your terms, Lucifer,” Michael’s gaze was steel, the green-black arcs beginning to flicker as his Light filtered through in brilliant blue-white rays. “Your attempts at dissimulation do not interest me.”

“I’ll enjoy knocking you off that ivory pedestal from where you look down on all others…” Anger threaded through Lucifer’s voice as Michael’s Light disintegratedthe coils of Darkness. “You will, in exchange for the warrior, take orders from me.”

“I will not do your Evil—”

“Nor will I ask you to,” Lucifer interrupted smoothly. “But for once, this time, I will speak and you will jump.”

“And what are those…’orders’ to be?”

“First, and foremost, you will do nothing against me, either verbally or personally. And as a token of this pledge, you will give over your sword to me. It will be returned to you when you leave.”

AngelFire swirled around the hilt of the sword, locking it into the scabbard. “You are fool to think that I would give up my sword to one such as you. I give my word that I will do nothing against you, so long as you honor our agreement. If that is not enough, then I suggest you prepare for total destruction.”

Lucifer shrugged. “Oh well, can't fault me for trying. I accept your word. Now, second, you will say nothing to the warrior. At your slightest word, or sound, I will cut him down with your own sword. And you well know the result if he should suffer a fatal wound here.”

“He is to be alive when you give him over to me – else I have no reason to agree with anything.”

“That is understood. You’re not dealing with one of your moronic lieutenants; I know better than to cross you.”

“Then… I will say no word to him.”

“Or acknowledge him in any way.”

“Or acknowledge him…in any way.”

“Before I can allow him to leave, Satan’s decree of punishment must be carried out. So far, I have been…unable to complete that punishment. You will aid me in this; you will do, without question or hesitation, what I tell you to do.”

“And that is…?”

“You will be told at the proper time.”

“I will not go against God’s Laws.”

“Are you his Guardian?”

“No – no, I—” Michael was taken off-guard by the unexpected question; he recovered quickly, straightening. “But I am his commander, and responsible for his…well-being.”

“Then, you will not be breaking any of His Laws.”

“I will not place him in danger.”

“He will not be in any more danger than he is already.”

The Archangel was silent for long moments, gauging Lucifer’s sincerity –and motives. “I do not trust you, Lucifer. Your words are smooth, your voice sincere – but with what? Yet, you must keep to the terms of your bargain, by your own unholy oath.

“I will do what you ask.”

*** **** ***

As they approached the chamber holding the angel prisoner, Lucifer gave a partial explanation, “I grow weary of trying to complete such a simple task. He continues to fight me, to overcome and defeat my demons. His strength, though failing, is still great enough to overpower any demon that I order to restrain him. I have no further time, or patience, to waste on him. The punishment will be carried out; you will restrain him.”

Michael gave Lucifer a hard look, but remained silent. They came to the iron door as Lucifer spoke, and it swung open at his command. Flames roared inside, lighting the Darkness in flickering rays of orange and yellow. Michael’s searching gaze found his lieutenant in a far corner, among blackened, jagged slabs of stone; he was on his knees in the black sand, face buried in folded arms resting against a large boulder. His grayish-white wings fanned out over him, protecting him from the heat and flames that surged through fissures in the floor and walls. His Light was faint, hardly discernible, his back and shoulders were covered with welts, his tunic dark with blood and grime.

Michael heard the sharp snap of a whip behind him, saw the warrior’s body stiffen at the sound, his head lifting from the curve of his arm.
The lashes swept past him, glowing with Hellfire. The Archangel cringed inside, realizing now what had caused those welts.

“Hold him down, Michael,” Lucifer’s voice was coldly imperious. “Hold him until I am finished. Then he is yours.”

At the sound of Lucifer’s voice, the angel forced himself to his feet, turned to face him. And his gaze fell on the Archangel, dismay crossing his pale features, followed immediately by disbelief, “C-Commander…?” He advanced a few steps, then halted as he recognized Michael’s aura, the blue-white Light penetrating the roaring flames and Darkness; and disbelief gave way to…apprehension. He looked from the unFallen Archangel to the Fallen one, then back to Michael, “It…it
is you, but—” His voice broke off in confusion, and he looked again at the Prince of Darkness.

The whip cracked once more, and Mihdael lunged across the chamber, in a renewed surge of strength and hope.

“Michael, stop him; strike him down!”

Mihdael charged directly toward Lucifer, wings flung back for least wind resistance, his form a blur of motion. His forward impetus was unexpectedly brought up short by a blast of blue-white force, the energy crackling around him. He fell heavily to the ground, rolled to his feet; he lunged again at Lucifer, and another, stronger blast of blue-white energy struck him, followed by a hard, solid backhand that sent him reeling backwards, into the boulders—a staggering blow that had not been dealt by Lucifer.

Even as that implication sank in, he lurched to his feet, eyes blazing at Michael, “If thee are not with me, then get the Hell out of my way!” He lashed out, and his wrist was seized in a grip of iron. He looked up with surprised horror into Michael’s silvery eyes, eyes that seemed to look right through him. He was dragged, hardly resisting, within range of Lucifer’s whip. He tried to pry the fingers loose with his free hand, as the lashes tore across wings and shoulders, searing both flesh and feathers. He recoiled from the impact, hardly aware that both wrists were now tightly held. “Commander, wilt thee… not fight with me…?” The lashes struck again, and his shoulder slammed against the Archangel’s solid frame, attempting to knock him off-balance, to wrench free…to no avail.

In the few seconds he had, as the whip was pulled back, he rested his hands against the cool, solid surface of Michael’s armor, letting his perceptions reach past the mortal form, assuring himself that the Archangel was no illusion. He shook his head, not wanting to believe that Michael was forcing him to endure this. “Commander…,” his voice was low, strained with confusion and anger, “why…? Has God sent you to ensure my—” His voice broke off in a gasp of pain as the whip burned through him, the lashes wrapping around his waist and chest. Even as the fire burned through his soul, he waited for Michael’s answer -- an answer that never came.

The whipping continued, unabated; he felt strength and will drain from him, felt his knees buckle under the onslaught, too weak to support him. He fell against Michael’s solid frame, the agony tearing through him; he was trembling with the effort to endure the searing pain. But even an angel, even a warrior, could endure only so much… Awareness faded away, his last coherent thought consumed in the torturous flames of Hellfire… That Michael had done nothing to aid him, and, for whatever reason, believed he deserved this punishment… deserved it, and ensured it…


It was all Michael could do to hold true to his promise as Mihdael’s tortured eyes gazed up at him, their color dulled to gray-blue as awareness faded from them. He held the warrior up, letting his smaller frame rest against him. The six lashes continued to flay the angel’s back and shoulders, blood flowing freely, sizzling whenever the energies of the whip touched it. He looked into Lucifer’s implacable eyes, black slits ringed with red-orange. His hands tightened on Mihdael’s wrists as the warrior sagged against him, head down, blond hair flecked with blood. He could sense the angel’s life-force ebb, could see the Light wavering, and fade as the whip struck again and again. Unable to physically retreat, Mihdael retreated from within; away from Lucifer, the whip, and Michael…he blocked it all out…
Without thought or intention, the Archangel brought his great wings around, and the emerald feathers, alive with a golden Light, curved protectively over Mihdael’s torn back.

The whip halted before executing another arc, and Lucifer’s eyes blazed a cold flame. “You break your word, Archangel, not to interfere?”

“Not before you break yours. You can see as well as I that he cannot endure. Your own bargain guaranteed he would be alive when you finished and gave him over to me. If those terms are to be met, this…punishment can not continue.”

“One hundred lashes I was commanded to mete out; there are twenty still to go.”

“He cannot survive twenty. He is only an Angel, Lucifer.”

There was a smile at Michael’s words, a smile that only emphasized the Prince of Darkness’ cruel nature. “…’More than Angel. For You, and Michael, are asking more of him…’ Remember my words, Commander? I, I, gave him strength and power—he was second only to you. And you, you made him weak and submissive. Ironic to discover that his strength and power was used against me; and his weakness and tractability was used against you…

“He would never submit to me, and he would never stand up to you.

“He will survive. I will not say for how long, but his own pride will not let him yield to me – in life or death.

“Either stand away, or leave now – without him.”

Michael was silent for a moment, using the brief respite to channel his strength to the warrior; Mihdael hovered just below the surface of consciousness, the additional strength starting to revive him. Michael spoke quickly, his silver eyes flashing a challenge. “Let me, then, take the last twenty lashes. You cannot deny that the prospect of me at the end of your whip is far more… gratifying than a lowly angel.”

“You would do that? You would take his place…willingly? You would humble yourself to Hellfire, to allow your enemy – your archenemy – to degrade and humiliate you? For the sake of a lowly Warrior?”


“How touching, and tempting. But I fear I cannot take you up on your selfless offer. Mihdael already thinks the Universe revolves around you; I will not give him added incentive to continue to think so. On the contrary, I think this incident will bring you into much clearer focus in his eyes.

“Now, do I resume, or do you abandon him yet again?”

Michael closed his eyes tightly, willing more strength to Mihdael as his wings retracted; he wasn’t at all certain that the warrior’s stamina alone would suffice. Mihdael flinched at the first five lashes, made a weak attempt to pull away at the next five. The following five cut deeper than any of the previous ones, and he cried out through clenched teeth, collapsing at Michael’s feet as the final five lashes burned deep into his soul and he surrendered, finally, to the merciful embrace of oblivion.

Lucifer turned away, coiling the whip; Mihdael would not survive. Satan had not intended for the warrior to leave Hell alive; Michael’s unexpected appearance was … well, a Godsend (he managed not to wince at that thought). He had not wanted to be Mihdael’s executioner, and Michael had unwittingly relieved him of that burden. Setting his features into their familiar stern, unforgiving lines, he stepped forward, flinching in Michael’s Light. “Wait a moment—“

Michael’s gaze was cold steel as he glared down at the demon. “There is naught more thee can do to him, Lucifer; stand aside, for our bargain will be complete only when we are safely past Eden’s Gate.”

“I mean him no harm. Never have I sought to do him injury; it was always the will of others, whom I was compelled to obey. Do you not remember our Father’s Words? How could I harm someone who is so much a part of me? The best of me? No, I want only to give my own farewell.” He reached out, touched Mihdael’s forehead just long enough to cause Michael additional irritation.

Lucifer stepped back and watched in quiet Darkness as Michael carefully gathered Mihdael’s unconscious body into his arms; he could see the concern, the caring, in Michael’s eyes, emotions that Lucifer had rarely seen in the Archangel. Everything that Mihdael had wanted to see for himself, and probably never would; everything that Lucifer had wanted to express, but never could.

He withdrew, and the demons of Hell retreated with him. He waved a hand toward the open door. “Take him, Michael; take him and leave this Hell of Hells…”

He pulled the Darkness around him, but found no comfort, no warmth, in it, and watched as Michael’s primary wings extended, the secondary wings curved inward around the warrior. An embrace, almost – if Michael was capable of such…
Without another word or look, Michael took flight, their forms merging with the emerald blur of wings and golden Light as they swept upward, and were soon out of sight.

“I never wanted to harm you, Mihdael,” Lucifer’s thought followed them. “I wanted only to…to give you my companionship, my caring…my…love…”

*** ***

Michael halted a few feet from Eden’s Gate; knowing there was one condition he could not circumvent. He could not bring Mihdael from Hell until the Warrior asked for his help. And at the moment, Michael considered that to be very unlikely.
He knelt, placed Mihdael carefully on the uneven, rocky ground. Michael touched the angel’s forehead lightly, establishing a surface mental link. Seconds slipped by as he waited for the warrior to become aware of him, and to acknowledge his presence therefore allowing him this mental contact. Mihdael’s blocking mechanisms instinctively slipped into place, and he resisted the impulse to break through the weakening defenses.

Mihdael shored up crumbling defenses, too weak to block Michael out completely. He could sense the Archangel’s presence, was vaguely aware of the cool fingers resting against his temple. With the awareness came the memory of the recent events; and the realization that Michael could very easily tear down any mental defense he could devise and learn everything he desperately needed to keep from the Archangel. Yet the contact was two-way; there was a sense of Michael’s true motives, no details, just impressions and vague feelings… To search further into Michael’s soul would open his own mind to the Archangel, something he wasn’t ready to allow.

He pulled back, his inner perceptions just now gaining knowledge of how seriously he was injured; it was more difficult to cling to existence than to just let go…leave the pain and humiliation behind and slip forever into oblivion. He needed help, the injuries were too much for him to deal with; he needed the healing touch of another angel… But no angel could answer his call, not even Raphael. None of the Heavenly Hosts had answered him before, he could not expect any to do so now. Michael remained still and silent, as if waiting. Waiting for him to ask? To ask that he defy God’s Will? To risk this last rejection, the final condemnations that he had managed to avoid for so many decades…?

He flinched away, but Michael’s calm voice swept soothingly over him. ~~“Mihdael…thee still refuses to ask of me what thee so readily ask of the others? Was their denial so painful to endure, that thee will not risk another one?

”I heard your voice, calling out to them – to all of them; yet, not to me… Does thee loathe me that much, that thee will not ask for my help?”~~

~~“No… but, I… cannot. Thou art not just my Commander, thou art the most powerful Archangel in our Father’s Realm. I… cannot ask thee to go against His decree, for thee has never disobeyed Him. I cannot ask thee to do so now.”~~

~~”And so you place me above all the other Archangels in Heaven. But is this done out of respect…or pride? Is it respect that keeps you silent, or pride that turns you away from me?

”If thy words are true, then allow me the same regard as the others; allow me that same choice.”~~

~~“I cannot.”~~

~~“By all the demons of Hell, thou art stubborn! Wouldst thee have me beg? Ask it of me!”~~

Michael’s vehemence startled him; the Archangel rarely swore…hardly ever, in fact. Whatever it was, anger or frustration, or both, Midhael no longer had the strength to argue with him; it took all he had just to relay his last few thoughts. ~~“I have felt the coils of Evil tighten around me, and I cannot loosen them. I cannot endure alone…” ~~He lifted his hand toward Michael. ~~“Will thee pull me from the clutches of Evil; will thee… help me?”~~

Michael took Mihdael’s hand, pulled him close. ”Embrace my strength, make my power your own, for I give both to thee freely…”

His wings unfurled, extending to their full, impressive width; the golden sheen over the emerald green was more vivid than ever – the markings on the inside of the wings, ovals of blue-green rimmed in gold and bronze, glowed with a healing effulgence. Then the huge wings curved inward, covering Mihdael completely. Rays and beams of Light – blue, gold, and white – shone through the lower edge of the primaries spread out over the rocky ground. Light flared with vivid intensity, rivaling the blinding brilliance of Earth’s Sun; it blazed blue and gold the energy combining, then separating, in a dazzling splendor that defied description, or comprehension.

It was more than Light, more than a simple transference of energy; it was a communion of angelic souls…

Chapter XX

Eden’s Gate opened at Michael’s approach, and closed silently behind him. He alighted and, with gentle care, lowered Mihdael to the thick grass. The warrior looked worse in the light of Eden: gray, drained, …lifeless. The welts were deep and varied; the lashes had seared into his very soul, leaving blackened scars. The injuries were outside of Michael’s healing abilities, but he could provide some comfort, if Mihdael would allow it. And, as weak as he was, the warrior had selectively shut him out.

Although the surface link was shallow, Michael skimmed quickly over Mihdael’s consciousness; he quickly and expertly ascertained the Warrior’s status, both physical and mental. Neither was encouraging, and Mihdael was not allowing an in-depth analysis for ‘cause and effect’ – at least, not by the Archangel. ‘Mihdael… do not let pride prevent me from helping thee. I see all of Lucifer’s aspects within thee… do not let his influence on thine nature over rule reason, and dominate thy character. Such is not the way for Angels of God…’

His surface mental message only resulted in another wall being thrown up, and reinforced with what little strength and will that remained to him.
The strength that Michael had given him was now enabling the warrior to prevent any further mental contact; the Archangel would have to force the mental link, and he stopped at crossing that line.

Michael summoned Raphael, and the younger Archangel appeared immediately.
“Tend to him, Raphael; there is naught I can do for him.”

“Mihdael? He is back? I was not aware that he had returned.”

“I…brought him back. But he is badly injured, far beyond my capacity to heal him. Thou art the healer, Raphael; use thy skills and knowledge to aid him.”

Raphael knelt beside Mihdael, and a shim-mering, blue-green aura enveloped the warrior. Several of the surface cuts closed and healed; but the deeper, inner scars remained, and Raphael withdrew. “I cannot complete the process; he resists my efforts, and I cannot reach him.” His dark green eyes looked up at him gravely. “He does not wish to return.”

“Thee must help him. I cannot reach him; he will not allow it. Thee must try again: ask, beg, demand, insist – whatever thee must do to get through. Thee has the words, the means; thee has his trust and respect.

“Bring him back to us, Raphael; bring him back…” Michael’s voice lowered, “…to me.”

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