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First pages

Council of the Archangels

Adryel stood on the portico above the Great Gates, looking into Palace Square. The gates rose almost ten meters above the last step in the Grand Stairway and from her vantage point on the floor above, she could view the crowd that carpeted the open square and spilled onto the steps of the buildings on either side. Banners flew from the towers, trumpeters lined the palace steps, and soldiers stood at parade rest beside the gates, their polished, gold armor sparkling in the midday light.

A warm breeze drifted through the square and a deep blue, cloudless sky stretched overhead. The cold season had passed and, earlier that morning, she had seen flowers blooming in the palace garden. A perfect day.

The clock in the tower struck, and, as she watched, the procession of the archangels emerged from the tall, gray Chancery building. Led by the chancellor, himself, dressed in the silver robes of his office, it proceeded in a straight line toward the Grand Stairway. Swinging his verge—a long, black, silver-tipped staff—back and forth before him, the chancellor cleared a path for the eight archangels and their aides, all of whom followed in single file.

Uriel, president of the Council of the Archangels, wearing a golden robe trimmed in purple, led the group. Behind him strode Michael, commander of the army. He was accompanied by Ramael, his aide and second in command. Both wore robes of midnight blue. The red sash across Ramael’s chest identified him as the superintendent of the city’s guard, and, seeing Ramael, Adryel smiled. He looked quite handsome.

She started to raise her hand to wave, but thought better of it. He likely would not see her even if she did.

Lucifer, attired in his black academic gown, a reminder that he was dean of the Institute—the angelic college located in the southwest quadrant of Celestial City—strutted across the square as if he owned it, giving the impression that the others, archangels and spectators alike, were present simply because he tolerated them.

Adryel’s heart was pounding. Even though it had been a decade since she had witnessed the parade from the square itself, she could sense the excitement of those who were there today.

Gabriel was clothed in pure, glistening white. Adonai’s messenger, his movements were fluid and graceful, and he seemed to glide over the pavement rather than walk across it like the others. Raphael wore a green robe, Chamuel’s was pink, Jophiel’s, a pale yellow, and Zadkiel was attired in violet. The colors reminded Adryel of the wild flowers in the meadow she passed each morning as she left home.

The procession crept across the square, the archangels’ colorful robes contrasting vividly with the plain white ones of the ordinary angels who moved aside to allow them to pass. From her perch high above, Adryel imagined the line of archangels to be a multicolored caterpillar inching its way through the tufts of a fluffy white towel. She chuckled at the thought. She would have to remember to tell Ramael.

On this day the procession was for a specially convened meeting of the Council of the Archangels—the group that governed the city and the surrounding territories. No one in the square, including the archangels, knew the reason for the meeting, and gossip ran rampant throughout the city.

Adryel was the secretary of the council. She had been appointed when Lucifer was president, and had been confirmed by Uriel when he had taken office.

When she had laid the books, one at each archangel’s place around the table in the council chamber, and even after reading the title, A Plan of Creation, embossed on its cover, she still had no inkling of what the books contained. She found the title to be rather vague and uninformative, and she’d had the urge to peek inside. She was certain the guard, Dariel, one of Ramael’s lieutenants, had wanted to look too, but they both had refrained.

As the procession reached the middle of the square, the trumpeters raised their instruments, sounding the “March of the Archangels.” The captain of the guard gave the command, and his squadron snapped to attention, raising their hands in salute. As if on cue, the pennants flying from the towers of the palace fluttered as a gentle breeze blew through the square. Attendants swung open the Great Gates, and the crowd began to cheer.

One hundred steps fashioned from flawless white marble led up to the Great Gates, each a replica of the one before it, so that, from her position on the portico, it was difficult to tell where one ended and the next began. Light reflected from the smooth stone, much as it would from polished metal, and Adryel held up her right hand to shield her eyes, tracking the archangels as they left the square and began to ascend the stairway.

The procession began to pass between six pairs of golden candlesticks, each five meters high and spaced at intervals along the staircase. As they reached the third pair, the halfway point, they were lost to Adryel’s view, and she knew the archangels would arrive in the council chamber momentarily.

She hurried inside. Pitchers of water and goblets from which they could drink sat at each place, along with the books. Generally, paper and writing instruments were supplied, but not for this meeting, and the members of the council had been instructed to bring none with them. The only paper was at her place since she would make the official record of the meeting.

The chamber held an enormous wood table, set on a soft green rug that covered the marble floor. The table was round, reflective of how all members were equal and none took precedence over the others. The president’s job was simply to keep order and to make sure the council stayed on task.

The archangels’ favorite chairs surrounded the table. Most were simple armchairs with padded seats. Uriel’s, though, resembled a bench, with no back or arms. And Michael’s was missing just the left arm, so that it was not necessary for him to remove his sword when he sat.

Lucifer’s was massive, with thick armrests and an ornately carved high back. Some of the others joked that it resembled a throne, and, in private, they derisively referred to him as Lord Lucifer, the term of respect which angels used when speaking of an archangel, but which they would never otherwise use among themselves.

Each archangel was allowed an aide, and chairs for them had been placed against the wall behind each place. Adryel was the only one at the table who was not an archangel, and she sat beside the president.

As she checked the room a last time, she realized that she had forgotten the gavel with which Uriel would keep order if the discussion became heated. Hurrying to a cabinet set in an alcove near the entrance, she rummaged through the books and papers that had been stuffed inside. She finally located the gavel at the bottom of a box of quill pens, and laid it at Uriel’s place.

BANG…BANG…BANG.

Adryel jumped as the chancellor’s staff pounded against the door, signaling that the archangels had arrived. Her stomach fluttered and she swallowed hard. Even though she had been appointed secretary of the council a number of years ago, she still felt overwhelmed each time she sat among Adonai’s closest and most trusted advisors. She stood beside her chair, motioning for Dariel to open the door. The archangels and their aides filed in, standing beside their chairs until everyone had arrived.

“Be seated.” Uriel rapped the table with his gavel. “The council is in session.”

The guard and the chancellor departed, the chancellor closing the door behind them. The screech of metal scraping metal as the bolt swung into place assured them it was secured—only those in the chamber were to be privy to the discussion that would ensue.

After the chancellor left, Adryel walked around the room, pushing on the door to confirm the room was secure. As she passed Ramael, her hand brushed across his arm and she gently squeezed his shoulder. He looked up and smiled.

They had been paired for almost a century now, which was a significant amount of time, but to Adryel it still felt new and exciting, as though only a few short weeks had passed. She knew the intensity of one’s feelings could change over time, but she doubted they would feel any differently about each other even after a millennium had passed.

“The council is in session,” Uriel repeated as Adryel took her seat. “Each of you will find a book on the table in front of you. As its title indicates, it contains a plan for creation of…well, we’ll see what is to be created. In any case, Adonai wishes to implement the plan, and he solicits your advice and counsel before he proceeds.”

“Should we not have received these some time ago so we could be familiar with the plan and be prepared to discuss it?” Lucifer snarled.

He was in a foul mood.

Adryel had studied under Lord Lucifer and she now was an instructor at the Institute, so she knew his moods well. As an angel, an archangel at that, Lord Lucifer typically suppressed the weak emotions with which he had been born, but he slipped on occasion, giving vent to anger. His slips had become increasingly common in recent years, his bad moods more forceful. She had learned it was best to avoid him at such times.

“The plan is not long, as you can see,” Uriel said. “We have plenty of time. We’ll read it now.”

Adryel counted the pages as Uriel thumbed through his copy. He was correct, only about twenty-five pages. Either the plan was not complicated, or it was not very detailed.

Thirty minutes passed, and the archangels began to close their books. Raphael’s arms were folded across his chest and his eyes were closed. Had it not been midday, Adryel might have supposed him to be asleep. Michael leaned over to whisper to Ramael. Then he reclined in his chair, his eyes seemingly fixed on the ornate carvings that decorated the dome above them, and he yawned.

Lucifer had been the first to finish reading. He sat straight in his chair, his body rigid, a frown spread across his face. He seemed to be glaring, first at Uriel, then at Michael. He absently played with a small wooden disk that he had taken from a pocket, turning it over and over in the palm of his hand. Adryel had observed that he frequently occupied himself in this manner when he felt angry but was trying to hide his feelings from others.

One by one, the others looked up. Finally, Chamuel raised his head.

Uriel cleared his throat. “Very interesting.”

“Interesting?” Lucifer raised his left eyebrow. “Balls of fire and chunks of rock hurtling through empty space. What were they called?”

Chamuel opened his book and scanned the first page. “Stars and planets.”

“Stars and planets. Yes.” Lucifer nodded. “And one of these planets will be special, populated by countless creatures, and these creatures will come in assorted shapes and sizes and abilities and colors and…”

He sighed, and Adryel smiled, having seen a similar reaction during a recent faculty meeting at the Institute when one of the teachers had droned on about the students’ inclination to dye their hair various colors, that week’s favorite being mint green. Unwilling to embarrass the teacher by telling him that no one else in the entire city cared a whit about the color of the students’ hair, Lord Lucifer had sighed repeatedly, rolled his eyes and, finally, buried his face in his hands while shaking his head.

He pinched the bridge of his nose, sighed one more time, and then continued. “So…these creatures…some of them, of course, are like creatures that live here, the horses, for example. Others…well, I was rather taken by those called elephants, creatures with enormous ears and long, tube-like noses…but on the whole I actually found it all to be rather boring—boring and uninteresting and harmless—and I wondered why I was dragged away from more productive activities.” He paused as he looked around the table, making eye contact with each member of the council. “Except for one…small…item.”

He flipped toward the back of the book. “On the twenty-fourth page we find an extended discussion of one of these creatures, the one called human.” A look of distaste blanketed his features and his eyes narrowed. “I find the plan for this creature to be most disturbing.”

The other archangels exchanged puzzled glances.

Michael sat up and leaned forward, resting his forearm on the table. “Why so? It seems to me the humans will be little different from angels, little different from us.” He gestured around the table. “What disturbs you? The prospect of an equal, perhaps?” His quick half-smile indicated that his last question was a tease, but Lucifer did not seem to notice or take it as such.

“An equal? I hope you are joking…An equal? Bah!” Lucifer began to rise, but Gabriel placed a hand on his arm to restrain him.

“He’s teasing you, Lucifer. He’s only teasing.” He turned to Michael. “You know Lucifer doesn’t understand humor. Certainly not when he’s already upset. Please.”

“Of course.” Michael dipped his head apologetically. “What is the problem, Lucifer?”

He glared at Michael for a moment before continuing. “They are to have free will.”

“True.”

“They will be rational. They will be able to reason.”

Michael nodded.

“They will have emotions.”

“All true, Lucifer.”

“And those emotions will be unchecked.”

Maliel, Lucifer’s aide, chuckled. “They sound like orbs.”

Orb was a derogatory term that angels sometimes used for the powers—one of the nine types of beings that composed the host of heaven, angels and archangels being two of the others. While the word wasn’t forbidden, its use was frowned upon, conjuring up images of segregation and superiority.

“They should be so fortunate,” Adryel sniffed. She and Ramael were both powers, the only two in the room.

Lucifer glared at her. “The secretary knows better than to speak during council session.”

“As should your aide, Lord Lucifer.” Ramael was on his feet, his hand on his sword.

Michael reached out to restrain him. Maliel smirked as Ramael resumed his seat.

Michael cleared his throat and continued. “In any case, the human creatures will be like the host of heaven in all of these ways. It is true some of us do not express our emotions, but we have them, even so. I still see no problem.”

Lucifer’s finger ran down the page, stopping halfway. “The humans will have no predisposition to do what is good.”

Looks of confusion crossed the faces of several archangels and they began to speak in unison, their comments flying about the room.

“Where is that?”

“I didn’t see that.”

“Surely it’s a typo.”

Lucifer raised a hand to quiet the chatter. “In the fifth paragraph…The human creatures will be predisposed to do neither good nor evil,” he read, then gazed around the table.

Our nature is to do good, but the humans will be different. Their nature will be…variable.” As he shrugged, indicating he could be no more specific, his eyes lit up, as if an idea had just occurred to him. An evil smile crossed his face. “Perhaps this will help.”

Lucifer reached into the pocket of his robe and withdrew the wooden disk. “See this disk? On one side, there is an X. On the other, we find an O, a circle.”

He held it out for all to see. It was about an inch across, and he turned it to show a black circle inscribed on one side while the other side bore a large black X.

He flipped the disk into the air and it landed on the table, bouncing twice, ending with the side bearing the X facing up.

“Surely, Lucifer, you don’t mean…”

“I mean this…Suppose I were one of these human creatures.” He visibly shivered as he spoke. “Further suppose that I were to encounter a beautiful female…such as our secretary,” he nodded toward Adryel, “walking in the palace garden early in the evening.”

All eyes turned to her. She could feel her face growing warm and she dropped her eyes.

“I do not mean to embarrass her, but suppose I encountered her as I said…what might I do?” He paused, stroking his chin as if deep in thought. “Now, it is my nature to do good, so I would wish her a good evening. If I were human, though, with no such predisposition, what would determine my behavior?”

Michael began to reply, but seemed to change his mind. Zadkiel shrugged and shook his head, as if he could think of no strategy the human might use make such a decision. Gabriel pursed his lips and frowned as he considered the question.

Adryel was not certain that the others understood the problem, because the rest of them simply stared at the table, waiting for Lucifer to continue.

He tossed the disk again. This time, the large O was visible.

“I can do good, or I can do evil. An X or an O. Adryel, what are the odds I would do good? You know the answer.”

“As you noted, she is not a member of the council…” Jophiel began.

“Let her speak,” Michael said.

After a long pause, Adryel turned to Lord Lucifer. “In the absence of any other influence, the likelihood of good behavior is one of two. Half of the time you would do good.”

“Circle, I wish you a good evening. X, I ravish you.”

“Lucifer, this is—”

Lucifer ignored Gabriel and flipped the disk into the air once more. It landed with a thump, X facing up. Lucifer smirked.

At that Ramael sprang from his chair again, his hand clutching the hilt of his sword.

“Lucifer, enough.” Uriel’s voice thundered through the room.

Lucifer smiled wickedly. “And the next time I should meet her, or another beautiful female, the probabilities would have changed. If I had ravished her, and if I had enjoyed it,” his eyes flicked toward Adryel, then back to Uriel, “the disk would be loaded, and the probability of evil would be greater than that of good.”

He stood and looked toward Ramael, who had not resumed his seat. “She is paired to you, Ramael. What would you do if I were to accost your pair?”

Ramael took a step forward, sliding his sword from its scabbard. “I would slit your throat.”

“Hold, now.” Uriel held up his hand. “Michael, control your aide.”

“Control him? I’d likely assist him.” Michael chuckled, seeming to enjoy the prospect.

The sound of a second sword sliding from its metal scabbard rang out as Maliel jumped to his feet. “I would defend you, Lord Lucifer.”

“And you both would die,” Ramael growled.

Lucifer grinned. “Do you think so?”

“I do.”

For a moment the two postured, adopting threatening positions, neither backing down. Lucifer was larger than Ramael, and Maliel stood beside him. Ramael, though, was a warrior. The muscles in his arms bulged beneath his robe. His battle sword was easily twice the size of Maliel’s blade, and he held it as effortlessly as a cook might hold a paring knife.

“Perhaps we would.” Lucifer stepped back as laughter rang out around the table. “But the point is clear,” he roared above the din. “Evil choices would be inevitable. Evil would follow evil,” he motioned at Ramael and Maliel, “and more evil would follow that. Chaos would be close behind.”

He sat, leaning back in his chair, but his red face and heavy breathing showed him to be anything but relaxed. “The plan is flawed. Fatally flawed. It must be withdrawn.”

A moment of silence followed. Adryel glanced at the faces of the archangels. Did they agree with Lucifer? Did they at least recognize the danger in Adonai’s plan?

“Michael, I know you had prior knowledge of this plan.” Lucifer thumped the book. “Is there no strategy to contain the chaos?”

Adryel detected a note of desperation in his voice, as if Lucifer needed Michael’s reassurance that his fears were for naught.

Michael held up his empty hands. “I saw a summary last night. Uriel thought I might want to increase the number of guards around the city.”

“You see?” Lucifer gazed around. “Uriel believes the ordinary angels will see the problem. They will see it and object. This issue is not an academic one then. It is very, very real.”

“Adonai does not judge the potential problems to be as serious as you seem to believe,” Uriel said. All eyes turned to him.

“Yes, I discussed the plan with Adonai. He tells me that Lucifer’s disk would not simply be loaded with the enjoyment of evil, but with good influences too. He wants the humans to choose the good, to freely choose to love and follow him. He hopes that they will.”

“Lunacy!” Lucifer sprang to his feet. “I care nothing about the planets or the stars or the other creatures on that planet, but the humans must be stricken from the plan or contained in some manner. We must oppose this proposal and do so with force.”

“We, of course, have been asked for our counsel on this matter,” Uriel replied. “Lucifer makes a valid point, I believe. Is there any disagreement?”

“So, we give counsel? We simply say bad idea, and let it go?”

“Lucifer, why are you convinced Adonai has no plan for containing the chaos you are so certain is coming?” Michael asked.

“Because it is not in the plan.” He picked up the book and shook it, and, for a moment, it looked as though he might toss it across the room. “When have we ever been presented with an incomplete proposal?” Lucifer awaited a response, but no one spoke. He dropped the book back onto the table and crossed his arms. “Never. To be incomplete is not in his nature.”

Michael nodded. “Good point.”

“Do as you wish with this plan,” Lucifer snapped. “You may clap and cheer. You may utter a feeble protest. You may sit on your hands and say nothing. Unless your response is one of strong opposition, though, I will not be a party to it.” When no one responded, he turned to Maliel. “We’re leaving.”

Lucifer’s cape swooshed as he flung it about his shoulder, and the floor shook as he marched across the room, trailed by Maliel. He spun around as he reached the door.

“Adonai has gone too far this time. His plan is dangerous, and if he will not see reason—and you know he won’t—well, he must be made to see it, by force, if necessary.”

He flung the door open, the lock shattering and clanging as its parts hit the floor. Adryel saw the expression of shock on the face of the guard as he jumped to his feet, barring the path, only to be kicked aside. The door closed with a bang.

The room was utterly silent for a moment. Everyone seemed to be processing the level of anger in Lucifer’s words and actions.

Finally, Uriel looked anxiously at Michael. “What should we do?”

“Lucifer is overreacting. His analysis simplifies what would actually be a rather complex process that Adonai seems to have already considered. We should, however, raise the question. Acknowledge the possibility of chaos and ask what would be done if Lucifer’s scenario were to play out.”

“What about Lucifer?”

“He will come around. He will stomp about and complain for a few days, but when we receive a response, he will realize there is nothing to fear.”

“I hope you’re right, Michael. Lucifer can be so hotheaded.”

“Yes, Uriel.” Michael laughed. “Difficult to believe he is an archangel.”

Uriel snorted, then looked around the table. “Are there any other issues?”

Michael shook his head. No one spoke.

“I will draft our inquiry and our secretary will distribute copies.” Uriel banged his gavel. “The council is in recess.

Palace Garden

The archangels filed out, but Adryel and Ramael lingered. As she gathered her notes and collected the copies of the plan—all had been left behind as required, except for Lucifer’s—Ramael slid up behind her and kissed her on the back of her neck.

“I seldom get to see you during the day.”

“Too seldom.” Adryel turned, placed her arms around his neck, and returned his kiss. “Did you see me standing on the portico, watching the procession?”

“I did.” He chuckled. “I started to wave at you, but—”

“I did too,” she exclaimed. “Probably not really appropriate?”

“Probably not.”

Adryel placed the copies of the plan in a basket. “Not much to clean up today.” She gazed at Ramael. “What do you think?” she asked.

“About the plan?”

“Yes, about the plan. Lord Lucifer’s argument made sense, don’t you think? He understands the problem better than do some of the others.”

“Everyone saw a potential problem, Adryel.”

“But he was the only one to object, the only one who wants to oppose it. The others seem ready to simply accept the plan, problems and all.”

“No, they are asking for more information. That’s not the same as acceptance.”

“But Lord Lucifer—”

“You always defend him, don’t you? If I didn’t know better, I’d be jealous, especially after his example of what would happen if he were human.”

Adryel turned, smiling. “It was sweet of you to come to my defense. You challenged Lord Lucifer, an archangel, and he backed down. Wait until that news spreads through the city.” She stroked his cheek. “You know perfectly well I love only you.”

“I said if I didn’t know better.”

“I know.” She kissed him again. “I need to run. We’re still having our picnic tonight?”

Ramael nodded. “I’ll meet you in the garden at six.”

***

Lucifer had returned to his suite of rooms at the Institute. Wanting to be alone, he’d dismissed Maliel, locked the door, poured a full goblet of wine, and lowered himself into his favorite chair beside a window. Try as he might, he could not turn his thoughts to pleasant matters. The other archangels’ reactions to the plan crowded out everything else. He sensed that only Michael grasped the significance of what he had pointed out, but even Michael had not felt the need to lodge a protest of any consequence.

“They’ll ask for a clarification,” Lucifer grumbled as he sipped from the goblet. “What did you mean? What will you do?” he mimicked the other archangels in a singsong voice. “And when he replies, ‘What? No change?’ They will bow their heads and agree.”

He slammed his fist on the table. In his memory, the council had never actually objected to any proposal to come from Adonai, not even the move, an eon ago now, to admit females as students at the Institute. They’d all had questions then, but, as at today’s meeting, he had been the only one to speak out.

He sighed. Actually, the admission of females had not been the disaster he had expected. A few of them were very bright. He thought of Adryel. One of the best. Better than almost all of the males.

He stared out the window, picturing her. She was different from the other females. Smart, logical, goal-directed. He had been pleased when an opening had occurred in the philosophy department and he had been able to offer her the position. She was an excellent teacher, and his appointment of a female had enhanced his reputation as a forward thinker, someone not afraid of change. Besides, he liked having her around.

If only she were an angel.

There were nine orders among the host of heaven. Adryel was a power. Angels, archangels, principalities, and powers were the four lowest orders, the least spiritual of them. The powers were warriors, and the army of heaven was composed almost entirely of them. They were strong and muscular, formidable in a fight. He had once seen a small power stand up to five angels during an argument in the Institute’s quadrangle. The angels had all fled with their tails between their legs.

Lucifer recalled his confrontation with Ramael at the council meeting. He was Adryel’s pair, and, like her, he was a power, Lucifer decided it had been wise to stand down.

Creation of the powers was another of Adonai’s poor decisions. It was not that an order of warriors was a bad thing, not at all. Of the archangels, only Michael had any inclination to dirty his hands in combat, and few ordinary angels were so inclined. Adonai’s error had occurred when he realized that the other orders were unemotional. Only powers were truly emotive—Adonai had used the creation of them as an avenue for expanding emotions to the heavenly host.

Although…it was not strictly true that only powers had the ability for emotive responses. In the most primitive regions of their brains, the others—angels and archangels, at any rate—did have simple emotions, but had developed in such a way as to ignore the twinges of feeling that popped out at random times. It took a major event to elicit any passionate expression from an angel. Furthermore, many angels had disciplined themselves to completely suppress the feelings they did have so that they could freely use the intelligence with which they had been blessed.

Powers, on the other hand, gave full vent to their emotions. They laughed, they cried, they screamed when they were angry.

Robiel, one of Lucifer’s mentors, had actually led an uprising when the powers first appeared. Lucifer had had the sense to bail out before Michael’s army had quashed the rebellion, before Robiel and his followers had been sent to the pit—a shadowy place far away from the city, a place from which no one ever returned.

Lucifer shivered at the recollection of the stories that were told about life in the pit.

He took a long, slow sip of his wine, contemplating. Emotions were fine for soldiers, he supposed, maybe beneficial even, but they interfered with one’s ability to think. That was why so few powers were admitted as students at the Institute. That was what made Adryel so unusual, why she was the lone power on the faculty.

Lucifer believed her to have angel ancestry. There were stories—true ones—of angels who had actually paired with powers. It had happened eons in the past, but genes, he knew, never completely died. Adryel’s mind was too sharp to be swayed by breezes of emotion, her reasoning too clear for her to be a pure power. Her rather small wings, the red tinge to her hair, and her eyes that could shift from the palest blue to that of the dark sapphires set into Adonai’s throne gave her away.

Although appearing to be rather dainty, she had the powerful arms that were typical of her order. Once, when she was in her first year at the Institute, she had accepted a challenge to arm-wrestle one of the older, male angels. Even though he’d never actually encountered a female power before, the angel had heard tales of their strength and he’d wanted to prove he was her equal. In a matter of seconds, his arm had been slammed flat on the table. She’d bested over twenty seniors that day, losing to none.

Adryel, however, had never attempted to completely rid herself of her emotions as some powers had. As a result, from time to time, Lucifer would hear her laughter float through the halls or see her smiling face glowing in the dining hall.

When he had first known her, the combination of her superior intelligence and her seductive personality had been almost too much for him. In the end, though, she had latched onto and paired with Ramael—the power who followed Michael around like a pet dog. It was for the best, he knew, but in his weak moments he would imagine…

Lucifer slipped his hand in his pocket and withdrew the wooden disk, idly flipping it into the air. He should have used a different example at the meeting, but he’d made his point, and, well…

Lucifer smiled. Adryel had been so attractive when she’d blushed, and the idea was definitely interesting.

He snapped his head up. No. That was not the thinking of a scholar. He should be above such fantasies.

Lucifer returned to the issue of the humans. If the other archangels did not understand the danger that lay in the plan, then the ordinary angels would be absolutely clueless…unless someone made them aware of what was about to happen.

As he considered the matter further, he realized the humans would actually have little effect on him, personally. He never planned to set foot on their ball of rock, their planet. He would never meet one of them, since no human would ever darken the gate to the city, much less the halls of the Institute. Certainly they would cause no end of problems for the angels assigned to them, but not to Lucifer himself.

He refilled his goblet, leaned back in his chair, and rested his feet on a stool. If the angels could be aroused, they would join in a protest. The protest itself would have no effect on the outcome, not directly, not immediately, but the order of the city, its peace, might be disturbed. Chaotic times were times of change—times of opportunity.

Perhaps the dolts on the council should be replaced by a…a chief deputy. Maybe the army should be commanded by one with superior intellect, and perhaps old customs, pairing for life, for example, were outmoded and should be replaced. Maybe Adonai, himself, had outlived his usefulness.

Lucifer grinned wickedly. Perhaps the day was not as dark as he had thought.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

We recently moved to our new home near Charleston, South Carolina. Three of my four books are set in here, and I’ve always loved the Carolina beaches. I enjoy photography, and I have photographed subjects as varied as prehistoric ruins on the islands of Scotland, star trails, and a Native American powwow. I went to school for much longer than I want to admit, and I have degrees in psychology and education. In an “earlier life” I was director of research for our state’s education department.

Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
On the cover, Adryel stands indecisively between the clouds of heaven above and the fires of hell below.Finding herself pulled in both directions, she must decide between her love for Ramael and her belief in Lucifer's cause.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
Love is eternal and it never ends. No matter how much evil you may have done, forgiveness is always possible.
Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
A.
Adryel is a strong, warrior angel, a young angel who is head-over-heels in love, and a coolly logical philosophy professor, all rolled into one. Lucifer is evil, cold-hearted and calculating. I would cast Keira Knightly as Adryel. Michael Rhys would make a wonderful Lucifer.

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