14 Judgment Day

“I should have guessed,” Sam said as he looked around the Temple. Chase had brought them to the Source for information.

Chase looked at him and added, somberly, “The voices have stopped speaking to me…. This is the only place….” Sam looked shocked, but nodded.

Chase walked up to the altar of God and bowed his head, speaking silently to the One. The rest of them waited expectantly as the minutes began to add up. And the anger began to rise in Chase again, both at himself for challenging his destiny and losing his guidance, and at God who would not lead him.

Chase’s hand crashed down on the altar as he demanded, half-crying, half screaming, “Tell me what to do! Tell me what I must do, or I’ll tear this place down brick by brick, until you come down here yourself to stop me!”

Sam, Xavier and Aiden jumped at the furious outburst, but before Sam could reprove him, they all felt a voice shake the ground beneath their feet. “Nothing!”

“Nothing?” Chase demanded angrily.

“It is a sacrifice that has to be made!” the voice said.

Chase’s head fell and his heart sank. Everything seemed to concur on this point: William must be sacrificed for the good of all. He might already be dead. “No,” he muttered softly, so softly Sam thought he was hearing things.       

“What?” the voice demanded with a rumble.

With fierceness in his expression, he nearly snarled, “I said, NO! IT is William! IT is one of your children, not some trash to be thrown away!”

With terrible fury, the voice roared, “Ani adonai eloheikhem (I am the Lord thy God)!” A terrible storm wind filled the room pushing at Chase, tearing at his clothes.

“Is this how you get what you want?” Chase asked, yelling with fury. “Demanding sacrifices and blustering with power? I love him, and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect him, do you understand me?”

As the wind abated, a disturbing calm filled the room, an unnatural light settling on everything. “You have spoken well, my child,” a more soothing voice cooed, as the scent of roses and myrrh filled the room. All eyes flashed to the origin of the voice, the tall angelic figure that appeared at Chase’s shoulder.

“Gideon,” Chase said with a sigh. “Where have you been?”

“I was forbidden to return until now! You had to face Him on your own, little one….” Gideon squeezed his shoulder as he said it. “I return to you now, unlike when I returned to hold back Abraham’s hand when he was willing to make the sacrifice, poor man….”

“What?” Chase asked.

“You have been tested…. And YOU HAVE BEEN FOUND WORTHY…. You understood that the sacrifice should be questioned. But there is precious little time,” Gideon stated heavily.

“We cannot defeat him,” Chase declared sadly.

“No, you can’t,” Gideon said, shocking the three men looking on.

“If only there was some way to bring him here…. We could summon him here,” Chase said.

“No,” Gideon said absolutely. “He cannot enter here anymore….”

Chase lowered his head to the altar and ran his hands through his hair in anguish, his tears spilling onto the altar. The veil behind the altar, guarding the Holy of Holies rustled, and his head shot up as the voices returned. “The gates of sacrifice are closed, the gates of prayer are closed, but the gates of tears remain open,” he intoned, the faraway look returning to his face.

Gideon softly murmured, “Yes….”

With firm resolve, Chase stood and with a sad look on his face stepped away from the altar and walked around it quickly, before any of the men realized what was happening. When Xavier tried to run after the boy, Sam grabbed his arm, whispering, “It’s too late, he’s too close, it’ll destroy you too….”

A supernal glow surrounded Chase with a golden aura, and Sam looked on in awe as the boy reached for the veil and pulled it aside, stepping inside.

Xavier, stunned, muttered, “What just happened?”

“He’s gone,” Sam said simply, a tear in his eyes. “I’ve heard of anyone actually making it inside…. Usually they don’t make it that far before going mad or simply dying….”

“What was he trying to do?” Aiden asked.

“He’s in love,” Sam said. “He stood up to God for that love, but he was foolish to presume….”

HUSH!” Gideon declared, watching the Holy of Holies intently.

Minutes passed like hours, and after what seemed like days, the veil rustled and Chase stepped out, his eyes completely white without iris or pupil, glowing from within.

“Chase,” Sam asked, his voice faltering. Inside, he knew the boy was gone, like all who had gone before him since the days of the high priest, either completely mad or completely hollow.

So when Chase’s voice spoke with strength, Sam was taken aback, literally stepping back. “No, my dear Samuel….” The old rabbis spirit’s faltered again. The boy was mad.

“No, Sam,” Chase shook his head with an incandescent smile. “We are not mad…. The high priest has submitted himself to us completely.”

“WHAT?” Sam asked.

The glow in his pure white eyes radiated, as Chase began to speak again. “The high priest entered our sanctuary and submitted himself to us…. We are the Crown….” He spoke with royal authority, before his voice changed to a more feminine, smooth voice entirely foreign, “We are Wisdom.” Successive voices emanated from his mouth with each passing claim, “We are Understanding…. We are Judgment…. We are Mercy….  We are Righteousness…. We are Victory…. We are Glory…. We are the Foundation…. We are the Presence….” Sam’s knees buckled and he prostrated himself, head to the ground before the boy, as Xavier and Aiden looked on in confusion.

“What?” Xavier asked, repeating Sam’s question in a terrified whisper.   

“We are the emanations of the One-Who-Spoke-and-the-World-Sprang-into-Being; at Our command, mountains rise and fall….”

“I will not bow before you,” Xavier replied, somewhat angrily and defensively, bringing only a smile to Chase’s lips.

“Have We asked you to?”

Xavier looked at Sam, who was still in his prostrated position, and then back to Chase sheepishly. “No….”

“We DO NOT require or demand YOUR worship, or YOUR devotion, or even YOUR love! It is yours to give freely! You may do well without doing so, as you have! All I ask of all my children is that they treat each other with mercy and justice, and are humble enough to know that they are not the masters of all…. And for doing this, I love you still….” Looking to Sam, Chase said, “Please, rise. It is not necessary….”

“What about,” Xavier began to ask, but Chase cut him off.

“Our children believe so many things, some so strange to us, so many things in Our Names…. But what I have spoken to you is the truth! This is ALL I REQUIRE…. Many of the other things are good, good for those who believe them, but only insofar as they teach how to do this simple thing….” Stepping forward, he held out his hands and said, “Your love has touched so many lives, and will touch so many more!” With that, he clasped Aiden and Xavier each on a shoulder and closed his eyes, each man feeling an extraordinary rush of pure and unmitigated love. Each knew then what Chase had been trying to teach them all, Sebastian, James, Avery, William … about the origin of true and unfettered power, a power that does not drain the life force, a power that doesn’t require blood or hatred. So too they were both jarred from their reverie when Chase’s regal voice said, “The time has come…. We must go now before it’s too late….”

“Go where?” Aiden asked.

“To Sammael…. To the beginning. But first,” he said, pausing and raising his hands. Between them a ball of fire ignited and from it blazed a pillar out into the open cosmos above them, until he released the ball and source and let it fly off.

“What was that?” Xavier asked with timidity.

“Judgment has gone ahead,” the feminine Wisdom spoke from within Chase. “Because of the Bond that one has with the Vessel, we have made a connection too….”

“Where is Sammael?” Sam asked.

“Where it all began,” she replied, but saw their expressions etched with confusion. “In a realm, like this one, outside of the human world…. Gan Eden, the garden of Eden, where humanity first fell to temptation….”

“That’s a myth,” Xavier said, his voice like that of a man on autopilot.

Chase winked at him and smiled like a mother at a child’s ignorance. “Of course it is, dear….” Then he waved his hand and they were all gone.

In the next moment they stumbled into a new land, a verdant hilly field. Before them a vast wall stretched out in both directions to infinity. “The gate is this way,” Wisdom said with a smile. In the distance they could see men walking to meet them. As they closed in, Sebastian, along with Avery and his contingent of wizards, came into view.

“I thought I told you to keep him safe,” Sebastian called. “And WHAT THE HELL is going on?”

William’s uncle’s shrugged and Sam shook his head, answering, “We couldn’t have kept him away…. He’s brought us all here, just as he brought you here,” the old rabbi answered.

“Here where?” Sebastian asked, looking pointedly at the boy.

The woman’s voice surprised him. “Behind this wall is the Garden of Eden. That’s where Sammael has come to wait while the End he has designed unfolds in your world…. Then he will move on to the next, and the next, and so on….”

“What…. Who?” Sebastian asked.

“That’s complicated,” Sam answered.

But Xavier added, “Turns out Chase is also the High Priest, so he went behind the curtain and got possessed by divine emanations….”

“Alright, maybe not so complicated,” Sam said, shrugging.

Sebastian stepped toward Chase. He remembered the dream he’d had. It seemed like so long ago. The young, blond high priest. He’d always known.

“Yes, you did,” she said, Chase smiling.

Then Chase’s arms wrapped around him, and Sebastian’s eyes filled with tears as a sob welled up from deep in his chest emptying his heart. All the sorrow and loneliness, all the guilt and hatred rode the wave of that sob to his lips. “I’m so sorry,” were the only coherent words to escape his lips, a private whisper to the ear of God’s messengers.

Stepping back, holding him at arm’s length, she smiled at him through Chase and said, “That wasn’t so hard, was it? I love you,” she added with a kiss on his cheek.

Sebastian took a moment to compose himself and said, “What now?”

“Now,” the voice within Chase said, “We find the Destroyer…. Follow me….”

They followed Chase a good distance to a massive gate, which was open, but before it turned two fiery swords, turning so fast they appeared as a solid circle of fire. “How do we get through?” Sebastian asked.

“By faith,” Chase replied, now in his own voice, with a shy wink as he stepped through the fiery swords unscathed. He waited on the other side and for a long time no one followed. But he wasn’t surprised that Matt was the first one through. Chase hugged him tightly while they were still alone. Or so they thought. “How sweet!” Sammael exclaimed from his place beneath the most beautiful tree in creation. “It’s too bad you boys never did the nasty…. That would have been tasty,” the demon leered.

Chase spoke, “You’re losing control, Sammael,” with a little laugh. “You’re weak!”

“But as your world collapses, I draw energy from the fear, from the pain, from the hatred! Soon I’ll be so strong, no world can stand against me…. Oh, you brought friends! Goody,” Sammael added as Sebastian and Sam stepped through, followed by Avery, Xavier and Aiden. None of Avery’s wizards or vampires followed.

“There’s nothing you can do to stop what’s been set in motion…. You may as well sit here with me and wait for it all to end,” Sammael smiled.

“Where are your lackeys?” Sebastian asked contemptuously.

“Free of my service! Enjoying their last hours as they please, though they don’t know how soon the end will come…. Ah, humans…. These ancient vampires know next to nothing of human viciousness and power. They don’t grasp the capacity of human beings to destroy. When the Chinese retaliate against the Russians and the Americans, and nuclear holocaust burns your earth to a crisp…. Sweet music!” Sammael gushed.

WHY?” Chase demanded. “Why destroy everything? Revenge?”

YES REVENGE! GOD TURNED HIS BACK ON US FOR YOU! WE WHO LOVED HIM BEST BOWING BEFORE YOU MONKEYS? WHERE IS THE JUSTICE IN THAT?” Sammael spewed. But then his voice softened and something else was present, “Every moment spent in the void, away from HIM…. It is worse than non-existence. Non-existence would be a relief…. That’s what your friend understood. PETER?”

Peter stepped out from behind the tree and sat down at his side, trying not to look in the eyes of his former companions, Sebastian and Avery. “Peter?” Sebastian asked. “I … after all you’ve done … I understand why you hurt so badly….”

“You hate me,” the boy said too softly to be heard by any but a supernatural being.

“Yes,” Sebastian began, and was pleased to see pain in the boy’s face. Perhaps? “I did hate you for what you did to us, to the world…. But I … think I understand you better now. I … am sorry for you!”

Chase, listening to Sebastian, stared intently at Peter until the boy’s eyes were drawn inexorably to his. “Peter, you don’t know me. My name is Chase…. Sammael took my William, and in that moment I wanted to lash out at the whole world…. But Matt helped me see what William had already reminded me of, that there is so much love in the world, so much goodness. Can’t you see it anymore?”

“No,” he cried, “I can’t,” as tears poured down his cheeks.

“Think of James,” Chase answered him. “You know he never meant for you to get hurt…. He only wanted you to be happy…. He’s your friend!”

“Think of Chris,” Sebastian called. “Chris and Steve…. Don’t they deserve some kind of chance? Not locked up in my house waiting for the end of the world….” Peter’s eyes filled with mist at that.

“This has been interesting,” Sammael said, continuing to devolve, “but you’re turning my apocalypse into something of a downer….”

“We’ll be out of your hair when you tell us where you’re keeping James and William,” Chase said, calmly.

“Out of YOUR reach,” the demon howled.

Chase reached for his amulet and held it up, channeling all his anger through the platinum, which began to pulse with blue light brighter than the nearest star, charged with an incomprehensible energy it never before possessed. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THEM?”

Sammael snarled with rage as he cowered in the light. “They are in that ancient prison that once was my home!” Then he began to laugh, first low and animal, then louder and louder. “They’ll suffer there until the day I end the last world and I return home for Hell itself….”

But he froze when he saw Chase smile. And then Sammael cowered as he looked into his eyes and saw not color but light. “You have broken the Accords and disturbed the balance,” the voice of Righteousness proclaimed, as Chase raised his hands and a radiant pulse spread out from him, peeling back the fabric of reality to reveal the underlying nature of things. Angels, tens of thousands of throngs of angels extending farther than any eye could see in every direction—seraphim and cherubim, thrones and dominions, singing now a hymn of battle. “Michael! Michael!”

The huge, ten-foot-tall figure of the greatest of heaven’s archangels appeared in the midst of those nearest Sammael and from a scabbard at his waist he drew a sword that cut through the air with fire. “Brother,” he said, simply, coldly, and without passion, as he placed the fiery implement to Sammael’s neck.

“Hold them,” Chase said, still speaking in the voice of the emanation of Righteousness. Michael inclined his head in an almost imperceptible bow as he held the demon captive, Peter cowering nearby. Then Chase knelt on the ground and began to chant and murmur and make strange motions in the air. Suddenly the ground began to rumble and shake, until it cracked open and an archway, perhaps forty feet tall, rose from the earth, and within the arch was a massive door.

Chase rose to his feet, looked over his shoulder, and smiled. “Who’s ready to go to Hell?”

***

Deep within the Pit’s archive, Pursan stood stooped over an ancient volume when he heard the knock resound all the way to the deepest depths of Hell. He looked over to Daemon and said, “It is time…. Go to the cell and remain with the boys until the end…. Do not allow anything to harm them!”

“Of course,” the beautiful demon responded before hurrying off to the cell. He found an unexpected sight. William was up and about, quite well, and James was watching him cautiously.

“What happened?” Daemon asked looking suspiciously at James. “You didn’t?”

“Of course not! I thought your people had done something…. His eyes,” James said cautiously.

Daemon looked at William, who caught his gaze, and his eyes, like Chase’s, had no color of their own, but unlike the pure and radiant light that shown in the little blonde’s eyes, William’s eyes looked like two fireplaces, burning furiously with fire. When his eyes locked on Daemon’s, the incubus fell to his knees screaming in pain, until James reached out and grabbed William’s arm, breaking the gaze.

William’s eyes turned coldly to James, and he spoke as if he didn’t know him. “Do not interfere with the Judgment, vampire!” But then the eyes softened in recognition, not William’s but another’s. William’s hand reached out to stroke James’s strong jaw and he said, “I’m sorry…. You’re the one…. The vampire born of love….”

“What does that mean?” James asked softly.

“It means you are a sign to the world of shadows…. Love extends even into the darkness,” the voice speaking through William said.

“Who are you?” James asked.

“I am an emanation of the Most High, sent ahead by the High Priest who bears my kind, the one you call Chase…. And he is near….”

Daemon struggled to his feet, carefully looking at the boy’s feet, not daring to repeat his prior gaze, and he cast another circle around James’s, a circle of demonic energy, similar in power to those James had already deployed, a very effective first line of defense.

***

Hell’s ancient gate began to creak, and all of those in the garden tensed as it swung open, tendril’s of sulfury smoke escaping, the only putrid smell in the whole of Eden. “Who dares summon the ancient pathway to darkness?” the gnarled old troll-looking demon snarled. He couldn’t have been two feet tall, but the power in his form was immense, and the humans, and even Sebastian, recoiled involuntarily.

“I have come for two innocent souls being held captive in your realm,” Chase said with a forceful voice.

“There are no such souls in the infernal realm…. Any such captivity would be ill-advised!”

“And nevertheless,” Chase responded, “your lord has abducted a human and a vampire and is imprisoning them in the pit!”

The demon squinted at Chase and responded, “Our former lord is no longer in residence, boy….”

“I know this! I have him captive, CHORONZON,” Chase’s voice thundered through the infinite expanses of both Eden and the underworld, driving the guardian of the abyss to his knees.

HOW DO YOU KNOW MY NAME?” the demon asked in a scream of pain.

“Before you fell, I knew you,” the voice of Wisdom answered in a sad, soothing voice.

Choronzon had begun to look up but stopped. The light emanating from Chase’s eyes was as terrifying to the evil guard as it was familiar. He had enjoyed an eternity bathing in that light before the war. “NOTPOSSIBLE….”

“Sammael has disturbed the order of things, and because you have turned your back on him, he dragged all of hell into this battle with him, though hell chose to stand aside…. He always was the most brilliant of you…. If he could not overpower hell, he’d rub hell in the face of my allies…. Little did he know that the prophet was the High Priest,” Wisdom reflected through Chase with a lighthearted laugh. “NOW STEP ASIDE,” she added coldly.

The demon crawled from his path, and Chase stepped through the arch into the huge, open chasm where the major demons gathered, and where his grand entrance was causing them to gather yet again. Sebastian and Sam flanked him, while Aiden and Xavier stood behind him protecting Matt, who wasn’t so much bold as intimidated by the angels in Eden and more comfortable staying in Chase’s presence.

Belial, one of hell’s ancient lords, looked across at the new arrivals with contempt, hatred, rage and a touch of fear. But like Choronzon, he recognized the energy flowing off of Chase in waves, and knew well enough not to meet the eyes. In hell’s gloomy darkness, the new souls, even the vampires, stood out like torches in deep caverns. “You have no right,” the demon charged in a howl.

“I have the right to every righteous soul, Belial!” Chase replied with the voice of Wisdom, and even this powerful lord was ripped with pain to hear his name in the Voice. “We shall pass through your realm unharmed…. You know WHO I AM?”

“Of course,” Belial hissed angrily.

“Then you know I speak truly and I need not make any threats,” Wisdom responded. But then Chase smiled weakly and a blast of bright, pure light pulsed from his inner being in all directions. Never since the angel’s fell was such an outcry heard in the eternal darkness.

“We … will not resist,” Belial gasped when he could speak. “Take your chattel and go!”

“Gladly,” Wisdom spoke before leading her cadre down the long corridor to the ancient staircase leading to the Abyss proper. Nothing came within a hundred yards of them or attempted to obstruct their path, so overwhelming was Chase’s presence.

After a long time, they arrived in the ancient repository of dark knowledge which was the abode of the demon Pursan, where he sat at a table writing in a scroll. He never looked up as he said, “My LORD….”

“Hello, P,” Wisdom said through Chase and with a bemused smile, careful not to say the demon’s name, a fact Pursan noted with what passed for a smile.

“Thank you for that kindness,” Pursan nodded, carefully avoiding Chase’s eyes. “I’ve kept your boys safe….”

“A favor which, I’m sure, has its own utilitarian calculus,” Wisdom said, Chase’s face lit with a grin. “Nevertheless, my host insists I offer you something…. A favor that doesn’t violate the Accords?”

“You are very kind, Chase,” Pursan smiled, his rotting visage cracking. “Daemon guards them … in Sammael’s cell. We could not risk transporting them through the Pit, so escape was quite impossible. Stop by on your way out … I’ll ask my favor, then….”

“Very well,” Wisdom said, and led her group down Hell’s darkest corridor to an ancient door with a most intricate lock. But when Chase touched it, the entire door exploded beneath his skin.

“Fuck’s sake,” Daemon yelled as the smoke and debris cleared. “Don’t come any closer….” he began before he recognized them. “So the posse has come to the rescue!”

“Daemon,” Chase smiled crisply before Wisdom took over. “Lower your circle, Daemon.” She mispronounced his name to save him the pain of hearing it from her lips. He knew then who she was and averted his gaze, dropping his circle. James quickly released his and rushed to Sebastian, gathering him into his arms and kissing him.

Sebastian began to explain, but James shushed him. “William, or whatever he is, explained already,” James whispered, as all eyes, except for Daemon’s turned to Chase and William.

Chase raised his hands and William stepped forward and placed his hands on Chase’s. The energy arced between them and an inaudibly loud roar filled the room and echoed through every corner of the ancient prison.

Angry and loud, the voice of Judgment spoke. “We should rob him of his victory! Undo what we have done and begin again!” William’s handsome face was harsh and cold.

But Chase’s face smiled and his head shook. The feminine voice of Mercy, sweeter, younger, more playful than wisdom rose to the fore, and Chase put his hand playfully on William’s chest. “So full of fire! So resistant. And yet we love them still, my love!”

“The decision is mine,” Judgment answered, surly. But he put a hand on Chase’s soft hand over William’s heart and said. “Let Sammael speak for himself, then…. Let us go….”

“First, we must deal with Pursan,” Mercy smiled.

“You made a deal with that vile serpent?” Judgment exclaimed.

“Not I,” Mercy replied playfully. “But my host offered him a gift. I could hardly refuse!”

“Of course you could,” Judgment replied, shaking his head. But he followed Chase’s form back up to the archive, Daemon following them all at a safe distance.

When they arrived, Pursan was standing looking appropriately deferential, and Judgment scowled at him openly, a perfect mirror to Mercy’s smile. “Well?” Chase asked knowingly.

“A new balance must be struck,” Pursan began. “Sammael cannot return here….”

OBVIOUSLY,” Judgment replied.

“Therefore, another must be appointed in his place to rule here. None has his strength, so another must be empowered….”

“Ah,” Judgment answered haughtily. “And you’re that demon?”

Mercy looked at him and rolled Chase’s eyes with a laughing sparkle. “Pursan understands us, and we him…. You know that! There must be another….” Pursan nodded. “And not one of Hell’s titans either!”

Pursan nodded again. “In order to avoid any future … misguided attempts, we need someone who would never dream of striking out on his own to destroy everything…. Someone who absolutely revels in the world!”

Matt looked over his shoulder at the demon who bewildered even him and muttered, “Daemon….”

“Brilliant idea, boy,” Pursan clapped, delighted. “I couldn’t have chosen better myself!”

Mercy looked over her shoulder at Daemon and motioned him forward. But before she could begin, she found herself surprised as she lost control of Chase. Then he was himself again. “Remember what I said to you that day, Daemon? When I destroyed Katrina?” Daemon’s eyes widened. “If you ever harm, or now allow any of yours to harm any of mine, I’ll hold you personally responsible. And now you know there is NOTHING I WON’T DO to right that wrong….” Daemon would have trembled if he were in physical form, but he nodded. “Remember who allowed you to be raised up….”

And then Mercy reached out one hand and placed it on the demon’s forehead. His screams would have curdled human blood, and Hell had no idea what was coming to it. Daemon was so weakened by such close contact with the divine that he collapsed to the ground, and Mercy turned to Pursan and said, “He’ll be fine in a little while….”

“Thank you,” Pursan said softly, nodding deeply.

“Remember what the boy said, and guide your man well, P! He meant what he said….”

“I know,” Pursan said. “Time is short,” he urged.

Mercy nodded and led his cadre away, toward the gate, making haste. When they emerged, they found the world largely as they had left it, though two angels held Peter in place now. Chase banished the gate and said, “What’s going on here?”

“The human tried to escape, Master,” Michael said simply.

Chase nodded, and the voice of Wisdom proclaimed, “The hour of judgment is at hand! Three things are in the balance. The boy,” he said, pointing at Peter, “the angel,” pointing at Sammael, “and the rest,” meaning the human earth.

“Guilty all,” Judgment answered from William’s lips.

“Normally, the decision would be yours, my son,” Wisdom said softly. “But today is a special day, decided by two! The vampire sired by love will decide for the boy, the prophet will decide for the angel, and what they decide will make up my mind for the rest….”

And then Chase was himself again, staring into William’s fiery eyes, the eyes of the Judgment seat. Then he glanced over at James, who looked terrified. “You first,” he said softly, his voice small and boyish again.

James smiled weakly before walking over to his old friend and kneeling at his side. For a long time, or at least a long time considering that at any moment earth could be burned to a crisp, they whispered, and Peter cried and cried. Then James walked to Sebastian and they whispered between themselves for a while. Sebastian looked shocked and then nodded.

“Have you decided?” William asked. James nodded, and William turned to Chase. “And YOU?” Chase was chilled at how absent the look was of anything familiar, beyond the fearsome presence of Judgment which he himself had borne.

“I would like to consult with a friend,” Chase said softly and William nodded.

“Gideon!” Chase called and William’s brow wrinkled.

“Not him!” Judgment replied angrily.

“You already agreed,” Chase replied in the same tone. And the angel appeared before him, turning back and forth between Chase and Sammael.

It was apparent to all present that the angel was torn between wanting to grab Sammael into his arms and wanting to tear him to pieces for all the pain he had caused. At last, he gasped, “I … what?”

“What should I do?” Chase whispered. “It’s too big for me to decide….”

“What does your heart tell you?” Gideon whispered back, raising his hand so that none could hear them. Because Chase willed it, even Judgment did not know what was passing between them.

“He’s not all that different from Peter. He’s hurting and he’s angry, and he doesn’t really understand! He’s been away so long he doesn’t remember how beautiful it can be…. I … I want to … I can’t even imagine! It probably can’t be done!” Chase tried to explain.

Gideon smiled and shook his head. “They’re inside of you now…. You know what can be done, you can feel it….” For a while more they talked privately and then they emerged.

“Well,” William/Judgment asked.

“I’m ready,” Chase said. Then the voice of Wisdom asked, “What say you, James? What shall be done to your friend for his crimes?”

“I … I want you to heal him,” James said softly, and silence was heard throughout the endless throngs.

“Preposterous! Where is the JUSTICE?” Judgment asked.

“Where was the justice when an innocent soul was corrupted by the pain inflicted by the rising of an unimaginable evil? Peter was no part of any of this, and he got caught up in Sammael’s game through no fault of his own!” James answered angrily, and William/Judgment was silent, brooding.

Wisdom smiled and nodded. “And yet there must be punishment, for every man is free!” James began to speak, began to challenge that if Peter took the punishment so would he, but she smiled and shook her head. “No need for bravado boy! You do not set the terms here! Peter! Come here, boy!”

The angels released him and he walked hesitantly up to Wisdom, in the form of a little blond he towered over. Chase reached out and put a hand on his shoulder and he fell to his knees. He placed a hand on the boy’s broad chest and leaned in to whisper in his ear, “I’m sorry, my son, for what you have suffered.” In that moment, Peter felt a lurch in his chest and his stomach heaved in pain as his emotions flooded into his heart, the good and the bad together now. Love, anger, hope, self-pity, pain, all a swirling torrent now. Not black nothingness anymore. Then he placed his hands on Peter’s head and healed his mind. Again, it was a cyclone, but no longer the single-minded madness.

“Where is the punishment, then?” William demanded.

Chase looked at him sadly and shook his head. “I healed his mind and his heart, but he has his memory…. He feels like a normal man now, and he has to live with the memory of what he’s done to his friends, to us, for as long as he lives! Which reminds me, I can heal you in one more way, if you like?” Chase offered. Peter was in tears as Sebastian and James held him in their arms. Peter thought for a moment and then nodded. Chase was about to ask ‘Why’ but then he knew and smiled. With a wave of Chase’s hand, Peter gasped, and then he felt himself begin to warm. He was alive.

Judgment, looking very dissatisfied, said, “Now, HIM!”

“I would destroy him,” Chase began, and William smiled until the boy raised his hand, “but there are a few problems with that! But chief among them is that this is what he’s wanted all along! To sink into nonbeing, to escape! That’s what this is all about. The rest was just vengeance!”

“It matters not! We cannot let him go, and we cannot send him back to hell and disturb the new balance YOU helped create,” William said, satisfied.

“Agreed,” Chase said with a twinkle in his eye. “Destroying him is problematic too in terms of eliminating that much power. Destroying him is out. Keeping him captive is out. So there is one last option. It’s elegant, it’s ironic, and you’re going to hate it!” William glowered but waited for him to continue. “I am going to ask that he be transformed into a human being!”

WHAT?” William demanded angrily.

“His anger at our kind is why he turned against you in the first place. What is more fitting than that? It also transforms his vast power into being, a convenient way to deal with that ancient spiritual energy….”

“But the fallen cannot become human!” William exclaimed, self-satisfied.

“I ask that he be forgiven,” Chase said.

William’s smile made him shiver. “We had assumed you would use your gift to restore your sight,” he said seductively as if the thought had never occurred to Chase. This must have been the tone the serpent used on Eve in this very spot, it occurred to Chase.

Sammael cried out, “Please, destroy me! Anything but that…. I cannot be a man, a grotesque ape! Never!”

“See,” Chase said to Judgment, “isn’t it perfect?”

Frustrated he could think of no adequate response, Judgment angrily replied, “I will not allow it!”

“The boy has decided,” Wisdom exclaimed angrily.

“But it is only by my power that such could be done! I won’t allow it!” Judgment railed.

Wisdom frowned, but yielded as Chase took control again and walked over to the form. Judgment tried to hold him at bay, but in the end could not resist him. Chase wrapped his arms around William and said, “William, I know you’re in there. I love you…. Please, trust me…. Reject him!”

Chase got on his tiptoes then, and kissed the boy on the mouth. Slowly, gradually, William began to return his kiss with growing hunger, until it was clear Judgment was no longer in control. Indeed, he was free, and Chase once again bore the full weight of the emanations. “Trust me?” Chase asked. “There’s no time left….”

William nodded, “I love you….” Chase took his hand and led him to where Sammael knelt before Michael.

Chase stood on his right, William on his left, Gabriel behind him. Then Chase reached out and took a dagger silently from Gabriel in his right hand, William’s hand in his left. “Sammael, as the prophet of God, I beseech your master to forgive you all your trespasses on the weight of my merit….”

Sammael began to heave and sigh and sob, “No, please no….” Gabriel, unable to help himself, looked away.

Then Chase began to chant in angelic tongue, “By the great and ancient power by which you and yours were created, I channel your energy into flesh, your power into blood, your intellect into mind, your urge into feeling. Great ancient angelic force, I make you man; from the highest pinnacle of heaven, I set you on the earth.” Chase looked around at all the humans and vampires and suggested, “Duck and cover!” When he saw they had taken his advice, he raised the knife and struck. The light spreading out from them obscured what happened next to even the nearest angel, and wave after wave of light and sound pulsed out of Chase as the emanations did their work, a work never before accomplished in the history of creation, and took their leave of their host.

***

A strange thing happened on earth that afternoon. Indeed, a strange thing happened in all the worlds that day, though the more distant spaces scarcely registered the flow of divine influences. In some worlds, a general swelling of fellow feeling occurred. In others entire nations received prophecies. In yet others, miracles occurred. But on the world of earth, the world nearest to Eden, all of these things and more happened.

A light filled the sky of the whole world, a pure and radiant light, for twelve hours, coinciding with the spirit of the emanations pouring forth from the frail form of a boy in Eden and returning to their place in another more distant abode. Night and day were both alike the whole world over. The light throbbed and pulsed, and all who looked into it were pierced to the core, some hearing words, some seeing sights, some merely feeling. Other’s read words in the light. The blind ‘heard’ it, and the deaf read it. The missiles in the air fell dead from space, destroyed in the light. Satellites failed, military communications and systems worldwide were disrupted. For twelve hours there was no more war, and people around the world got a glimpse of a greater peace.

In days and weeks to come, there would be many questions about the precise nature of what had happened. What everyone agreed on was that it was not to be explained by the normal course of things. And there was a near universal recognition that this was a singular opportunity to change. Nations stepped back from the brink, and neighbors became a little more neighborly. No one expected this influx of sanity to last forever, but for the time being, earth basked in a new birth of freedom and order and harmony.