Billy ignored Julie’s sarcastic jab and locked Angela with a gaze of pure encouragement. He knew she could do it if she thought she could. The demon taunted them with what he thought were demoralizing words, but Billy knew Angela better. She looked away from him and creased her brow with determination as she took hold of both ends of the wounded leg. The motion caused her pain, but she closed her eyes and began focusing anyway. Billy stole a sidelong glance at the demon, but he seemed interested in letting her try. A familiar flash of light bathed them all and when it receded, Angela’s leg was just fine. Billy smiled and Angela smiled back. Rage flashed across the demon’s face as Billy and Angela stared at him in triumph.
“You ventured into my realm where I hold sway. Your souls are forfeit to the Lake of Fire. I claim the victory this day.” A gout of fire erupted from the demon’s axe head and shot across the short distance before Billy could do anything, but at almost that exact moment another blinding flash of light erupted directly in front of the party. The fiery blast struck something where the flash occurred and split sideways. The worst the three felt was the uncomfortable heat from the hell-fire.
The flames quickly reduced to wisps of smoke. Two men crouched behind full kite shields, clad in medieval armor and covered with the tabard of a crusader, a red cross on a white field, resembling knights of old. The two knights recovered, standing to face the demon.
“These souls are under the protection of the Dernier des Templiers, demon,” the voice of Hugh du Paynes said, muffled by the lowered visor of his helmet.
Billy thought he saw a look of genuine surprise flash across the demon’s face.
“You may be clad as those warriors of old, but you are a pale imitation of the true Templars, charlatan,” the demon said, through a sneer, but his step back toward the safety of the castle betrayed his true feelings.
“I am no mere novice and your retreat belies your fear. Face me as of old with your true name and I will give you mine,” de Paynes said, taking a defiant step forward. The demon sneered and shot a focused gout of flame at de Paynes. He expertly spun to one side and allowed the flame to be deflected by his shield in a burst of white light as it spun to face the demon.
“There are five now Rabdos! Get them out of here!” Robert Dante’s voice screamed across the landscape. The demon hissed at the sound of his name screaming obscenities at the sky.
“Ah, Rabdos the Strangler is it? I am Hugh de Paynes, third of that name and Grandmaster of the Last of the Knights Templar, and this is my squire Planche. Today you pay for your crimes. Sur ses gardes.” De Paynes drew the sword hanging at his hip and stalked forward to engage his foe.
“It won’t help you Knight. This is my domain. Enter at your peril, if you can,” he said, sneering at de Paynes and Planche, then turned and ran through the gates of the castle, which slammed shut sealing off his retreat.
“The three of you get back to your base and out of this man,” Planche said over his shoulder.
“We can’t leave you here alone,” Angela said, standing and testing her newly healed leg.
“There’s nothing you can do here. Your skills are not strong enough yet,” Hugh said, turning and walking back to the group, raising his visor as he did.
“They hell they aren’t,” Julie said, clenching both her fists.
“Hell is somewhat accurate, but your assessment of your abilities is faulty,” Hugh said softly.
“I’m as strong as either of you,” Julie insisted. “I’m coming with you.”
“You would only be putting yourself in harm’s way, I promise you.”
Julie Payne refused to budge or turn away from the Templar.
“D’accord. Then take the others out and get back here,” Hugh said, resting the tip of his sword on the earth.
Julie gathered both Billy and Angela together, mustered her resolve, and nothing happened.
“Why haven’t we gone anywhere?” Billy asked.
“It, I…” Julie started. She stopped then closed her eyes and furrowed her brow in concentration. Still, nothing happened.
“You see, you can’t even return to your world,” Hugh said.
“I don’t understand,” Angela said.
“It’s simple. You are inside the heart of a creature who has given himself over to Satan. His master holds sway here. You cannot depart of your own power without the permission of Rabdos the Strangler,” Hugh explained.
“Then how do we get out?” Angela asked.
“Through truths and ways you are not yet aware of,” Planche said without turning around.
“We will engage the demon in yon fortress. While he is engaged and distracted, his mind will be elsewhere affording William the opportunity to get you all out,” Hugh said.
“If I can’t the Cherry certainly can’t,” Julie said, through a snort of disbelief.
“Do not underestimate the young man, my dear. He has abilities you are not yet aware of,” Hugh chided.
“My lord, he is entrenching his position. We must go,” Planche said, advancing on the gates of the castle. Hugh dropped his visor and turned without a word to join his squire’s advance on the gates.
“Good luck with those. I couldn’t even scratch them,” Julie said.
“We couldn’t even stop the collateral blast from one of that demon’s fireballs, and they deflected a direct hit,” Angela reminded Julie.
The two knights stopped thirty feet before the gates, took a knee and inverted their swords, and bowed their heads. Moments passed, stretching into long minutes of silence without either of the two knights moving. Suddenly, both men rose in unison, raised their sword hilts toward the gates and shouted a war cry. There was a pause and both men shouted a second time. Billy watched as both men shouted at the gate again, but this time they took a step forward. They shouted a fourth time stepping closer again. They made a fifth and sixth shout stepping both times and on the seventh shout they stepped forward with their right foot, thrusting the hilt of their swords forcefully at the gates. Beams of force shot from the cross guards of both swords, striking the gates and exploding the wood into the courtyard beyond.
“Remember William, when Rabdos is distracted you make good your escape,” Hugh said as Planche dashed through the breach.
“How will I know?” Billy asked.
“Concentrate on my face, on Planche’s and you’ll know,” Hugh said, then he disappeared inside after his squire.
“We’re not really going to let them go in there alone, are we?” Julie asked.
“He asked us to stay here,” Angela said. “Archangel, what are your orders?”
“We’re cut off,” Julie said. “I’m not letting them take over this operation. Hell, they aren’t even supposed to be in here.”
“Wait,” Billy shouted, though he doubted she’d listen to him. “Angela, I can’t get her out and you if we’re not together.”
“You don’t even know how to do that,” Angela insisted. Billy started to walk after Julie. “Billy, wait.”
“We have to stick together, Angela. It’s the only way. Hugh said I’d know what to do when the time came,” Billy said, stepping up the pace as he followed Julie. He slowed down a little as Angela took one hesitant step and stopped. “You just reattached a severed leg. Doesn’t that give you any confidence at all?”
“Yes, but that’s the point, that I had a severed leg to begin with from that demon in there,” She said, but she hurried her pace and caught up to Billy.
“Don’t worry, we’ll stick together and we’ll be okay. I’ll watch your back and you watch mine,” he said as they both scrambled through the shattered timbers of the gates to catch up with Julie, who stood in the courtyard beyond.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. To catch up on the first 45 issues you can either read them for free on the website (www.firstchevalier.com) or purchase the compilation, Guardians of the Herald Issues 1-45: Angels and Demons for the Kindle at http:/
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