“But we can’t find either of them,” Billy said, not sure what Hugh meant about Rabdos being the greater threat. Certainly he was scarier looking and had that nasty axe that shot fire. Now that he thought about it, perhaps the demon was the greater threat. He’d been thinking about this all from the human perspective, but what if the new players were actually the more worrisome? First Sergeant Wilcox apparently had the same thought.
“Okay, so say I believe this little guy is really a demon,” the first sergeant began. “Which I don’t, but say I do. What next? Why fight him when Dante is the one trying to blow up baseball stadiums filled with people? Shouldn’t we focus on that?”
“You must first understand why Dante is doing this,” Hugh de Payens said. “What is his motivation?”
“He thinks he’s going to get kudos in paradise?” First Sergeant Wilcox said as though stating what everyone at the table already knew.
“No,” Planche said plainly.
“No?” Billy mimicked.
“No,” Hugh repeated. “He is doing it because that is what his master, the demon known as Rabdos the Strangler, has instructed him to do. Unfortunately, at this point he will no longer be so open or public about his actions and that will make him harder to locate.”
“Good!” First Sergeant Wilcox said loud enough to draw attention from everyone in the barracks. He dropped his voice and continued, “Good. Not blowing up Americans is a good thing.”
“Yes, but it means the cockroaches have crawled back into the walls and will be harder to locate to exterminate,” Hugh said.
“Why can’t we find him like we did before?” Billy asked. He thought it was an obvious question and wondered why no one had asked it before now. “Where is he?”
Hugh and Planche exchanged a knowing glance and then regarded the table intently. Billy looked from one man to the other and then to First Sergeant Wilcox. His protector regarded their table companions with a sidelong stare that seemed to indicate he didn’t trust them right now, and Billy wasn’t sure why.
“What’s wrong?” Billy asked the first sergeant.
“They don’t want to tell us something,” the first sergeant said as he leaned toward the two men. “What are you hiding?”
“We hide nothing First Sergeant,” Planche said, but he averted his eyes as he said it.
“Hiding is the wrong word, mon ami,” Hugh added. “We are reluctant is all.”
“Why?” Billy asked. His curiosity was peaking. Just knowing they had something they didn’t want to share caused him to want to know what it was like an itch he couldn’t scratch. “Tell us. Please?”
“What’s the matter, don’t you trust us?” Wilcox asked.
“You did arrest us and put us in handcuffs,” Planche accused by way of explanation.
“Well…” the first sergeant began.
“Trust is not a factor,” Hugh said flatly, laying a calming hand on his companion’s arm causing Planche to sit back in his chair. “We are not certain you will believe us.”
“I’ve seen demons shoot hellfire from axes and angels pull flaming swords out of thin air, while our people fly around like superman in a dimensional realm overlapping our own like something out of a science fiction movie,” the first sergeant said forcefully. “Try me.”
Hugh and Planche looked at one another and Hugh said something in French Billy didn’t understand. The first sergeant looked at him with a quizzical expression indicating he didn’t understand either. Planche responded in kind and the two descended into a whispered, rapid-fire discussion in French.
Billy started to puzzle through all he’d seen inside wherever they had been when everyone got sucked into Robert Dante’s chest. Hugh had said they were inside the man’s heart, but Billy didn’t see how that was possible. However, the first sergeant’s statement of a moment ago struck him and he had to admit given the circumstances being inside someone else’s heart wasn’t all that farfetched.
The images of the demon swarm and lemurs attacking came to him. The hallway with the doors and what lay behind them swam through his mind too. The women who transformed into some kind of monster didn’t seem to be helpful, and he dismissed her along with the swarming demons. The last door though, that seemed to be more stable, more concrete an image than all the others despite him having only seen it for that briefest of moments before Julie Payne had been attacked. The image of that desolate plain with the lake on fire far in the background and all those naked people carrying huge stones to that tower were as clear in his mind as anything he could remember.
He focused on the tower and began to recall additional details, like the hint of a wooden fence of some kind on the far side that sort of arched out and back, maybe a pen of some kind. Likewise, as he focused his thoughts on the people he began to see details he couldn’t consciously explain, like odd patterns on the stones the people carried, almost like they had faces carved on them or something. As he tried to focus in on the stones to figure them out his mind’s eye snapped to the foreground and the form of the demon leveling his axe to blast Icarus with hellfire. He watched the scene reenact in slow motion, watched the bolt of flame slowly emanate from the axe head. A slowly spreading flash of light erupted from his left hand, forming the shield that had deflected the brunt of that bolt, and he felt a warmth spread across his body just as the shield finished forming that caused him to smile. Then, the image focused on the face of the demon and his expression of pure hatred, and his smile turned to a thin line of determination. He could see every pore in his stony skin, every detail of every knob and horn. The entire scene disturbed him, but one thing became very clear to him. He could remember that place more clearly than any photograph he’d ever seen.
“The last door we opened while we were in his heart,” Billy said, not paying attention to the Frenchmen’s conversation. They stopped talking instantly and turned to look at him. “There was a place behind it, not a room like the other doors. Where was that?”
“William, why do you ask about this place?” Hugh asked, slowly and deliberately. He noticed Planche’s face had gone pale.
“I can see it in my head clearer than I can see you both right now. I can see every detail, every stone. The face of that demon that almost killed Julie, I can see it and that place like I’m standing there right now,” he said. “Where is that?”
“Dieu dans le ceil il est un paladin,” Planche whispered.
“When a novice manifests his first shield of faith in the spiritual world he is sometimes granted a vision, a snapshot of something. It is usually something in his surroundings that mirrors the path God has laid out for him in this world,” Hugh said. “For a Templar of our order, that snapshot becomes the basis for his ministry.”
“Where is it?” Billy asked more forcefully. Hugh continued ignoring the question.
“When it occurs in battle it means that novice has been chosen to become a holy warrior, set apart from the other Templars to a special service for God. We call them Paladins.” Billy didn’t care what they called them, he just wanted to know where that place was and why he could see it so clearly.
“Where is it? Why can I see it so clearly?” he shouted as he stood. He didn’t care if everyone in the barracks stared at him now. He had to know.
“It is Hell William, and you have been called to take the battle to the enemy,” Hugh said, quietly crossing his hands in front of himself on the table.
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 web site or purchase the compilation, Guardians of the Herald Issues 1-45: Angels and Demons for the Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Herald-Issues-1-45-Angels-ebook/dp/B00IJIFXSY.
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